Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Small Stuff

I previously blogged about my hopes for 2009. In a nutshell, not sweating the small annoying stuff and appreciating the small sweet stuff. So instead of being exasperated by my phone calls with the health claims offices of Sun Life, I am choosing to be amused by it.

In December I did what I had been putting off: I compiled a large extended health claim. If it were only as easy as adding up receipts and stapling to a form for mailing, I might do it more often. But Husband and I both have extended health coverage (for those that don't know, it's for things not covered by provincial health, like prescriptions drugs, chiropractor, glasses etc). And we can both claim on each other's forms for anything not covered under our own. Honestly income tax returns are easier to prepare.

So I submit one form to my insurance company, Sun Life, under my plan. Then I attach another claim for for the same amounts to Husband's insurance company, also Sun Life. I include the childrens' claims under my plan because my birthday is earlier in the year and that is the rule that all the insurance companies agreed to live by. Then I submit one form to Sun Life for Husband's claims and an identical one to Sun Life under my plan. 4 forms so far.

It's not quite that simple as that as Husband gets his prescription coverage at the point of sale by presenting a card. So I include only his prescriptions on my claim has he has already claimed for them under his plan.

So I spent an afternoon sorting out our claims, calculator in hand. I called Husband's claims people (who are in Edmonton) and asked some questions. Then I called my claims people in Ottawa and got a different answers, which to me made more sense than the Edmonton answers. Then I called back to Edmonton and gave them a choice of the 2 available answers and thankfully they agreed with the Ottawa answer, and I thought we were set.

Then I started receiving back the claim forms, with 8 different reasons for why they were rejecting various things.

So I first called Ottawa about my claim:

Me: I'm calling about why my Husband's prescription claim was rejected on my claim form.
Ottawa: [Reads to me from claim form that I should have submitted under Husband's plan first.]
Me: I understand that but ...
Ottawa: [Not believing that I actually did understand, proceeds to paraphrase, speaking very slowly, what the form says.]
Me: He DID claim under his own plan when he went to the pharmacy.
Ottawa: He presented a card or something?
Me: Yes, so his plan has paid as much as they are going to pay.
Ottawa: How are we supposed to know that?
Me: Well it shows on the receipt how much was paid under his plan and how much was left over. We're just claiming the leftover.
Ottawa: I'll have to have someone pull the file. Is there anything else?
Me: Yes, I was wondering why for this particular practitioner only half was eligible for payment?
Ottawa: [reads from claim form regarding maximum per year]
Me: Yes, I read that, but we are under the maximum allowed.
Ottawa: The maximum is for the WHOLE year.
Me: This is the only claim for the WHOLE year.
Ottawa: [Reads from form about only allowing the amount typically charged by health care professionals]
Me: I understand that but I read the plan and I couldn't find any mention of that.
Ottawa: We also have an hourly rate maximum.
Me: What is the hourly rate maximum?
Ottawa: It depends on the province.
Me: What is the hourly rate maximum for BC?
Ottawa: $185.
Me: The bill indicates $160 per hour was charged.
Ottawa: But we can't know how many hours are billed for.
Me: It shows the number of hours, the rate of $160 and all the dates.
Ottawa: I'll have them pull the file. Anything else?
Me: Sun Life in Edmonton rejected my Husband's claim because they want the original receipt and you have it. Can you tell them you have it?
Ottawa: No. You need to get another "original".

So then I called Edmonton:

Me: I'm calling about my husband's claim that was rejected.
Edmonton: [Reads from claim form that they need original receipt]
Me: I sent the original to Sun Life in Ottawa, do you have access to it?
Edmonton: No, we are completely different and we have no access to their files. We are like completely different companies.
Me: I'll get another original. Is that all you'll need?
Edmonton: Yes.
Me: Will it matter if the new original says "duplicate"?
Edmonton: No, just put a note that the other original was submitted with your claim.
Me: Thanks for your help.
Edmonton: Actually, why don't I try to get your claim in Ottawa sent here and then we could just look at that original.
Me: You can do that?
Edmonton: That should be no problem.

See, I'm not annoyed, I'm amused.

Fashion Show

Wanna know what the kids did last night? Wanna know Canada's next top model?

As I was filling the bathtub for them, I thought they were playing in another room. Turns out they were in our closet, prepping for a fashion show:
I have 3 unanswerable questions:

1. Where did S learn those moves (hand on waist, arched back)?

2. Why does S look better in my clothes than I do?

3. Who is going to clean up the heap of clothes in the closet?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toy Tiger

Lest I be accused of focusing on the challenging days requiring patience, calm and creativity or strong resolve, let me tell you about the Toy Tiger.

J Boy announced a new family tradition tonight. He let it be known that one day every month the Toy Tiger would visit each member of the family. I think the idea was that the Toy Tiger would visit on the day of the month that each person was born. But when J noticed that today was the 24th and his birthday is on the 23rd, the tradition shifted even before it started.

The Toy Tiger comes on a random day and brings toys for everyone in the family. He leaves them under pillows. Santa meets the Tooth Fairy.

He gave me the fantastic news and then went up to tell his Daddy and his sister. J Boy can't just share such great news once so we were all treated to multiple visits with his excited tones as he expounded on the wonderfulness of the Toy Tiger.

When the news was finally getting old, he told us that we could write notes to the Toy Tiger and make requests for toys. So S and I dutifully wrote notes and left them by the front door.

This may have everything to do with it being 11.5 months to Christmas and a small lament that Valentines isn't really much of a toy giving and receiving holiday (yet).

But the boy was quite excited about the giving and not the receiving and so I was charmed by his enthusiasm and look forward to sleeping on a lumpy pillow tonight.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Resolve

I started the day with iron resolve, we were going to have a great day. We are healthy, have a roof over our heads and much to be thankful for. Bring on the day.

The kids were off school so that the teachers could professionally develop themselves. We had skating lessons for S in the morning. J has been looking forward to watching her skate as he'd heard me gush about how well she is doing.

J has skating lessons in the later afternoon so we also made plans to go early and enjoy a little swimming and finish off in the hot tub after J's lesson. It's a risky move as I've had some difficult times convincing certain people (whose name begins with J) to leave the pool when we've tried these add-on swimming trips before. But I'm all about second chances (and third and fourth) and no one should be burdened by their past misdeeds. I was all in for this plan.

The kids let me rest till past 8 when the plaintive calls for food sailed up the stairs. As we had breakfast, I noticed J's cough, which has been infrequent, but a little barky (I refuse to say croup-y), was now kind of wet and barky. This cough that makes you cringe when you're in the grocery lineup and you hear a kid with that cough and you shuffle your card a few inches away to stay out of the spray zone.

S said quite nonchalantly "my neck hurts when I swallow."

Two semi-sick kids (though they weren't complaining or acting sick) and a long day stretching ahead. Still, I resolved we were going to enjoy the day.

When J informed me at 8:30, about the time we would be normally be leaving for school, that he was bored, I found diversions for him.

When the kids were running wild as I attempted to shepherd them into the van for skating, I was patient.

When J wanted to go on an exploration trip around the brand new recreation centre after skating, I agreed and even relented on the third trip to the jogging track.

I ignored S's hour long whine for tacquitos for lunch as she just had them for supper last night. She ignored my suggestions for grilled cheese, her usual lunch request, and made J his grilled cheese. Once hunger overpowered her need to be contrary, I made her a grilled cheese without complaint. And then threw it away when it was "too hard", as I figured, it retrospect, it might had not been the best thing for a sore throat. I made her something with a soft bun.

I did my best to suffer through 16 "Mommy I need you!!!" during a phone call where I was trying to sort out a denied extended medical health claim.

When the delicate matter of the swim outing had to be addressed, I barely flinched when I realized S started running a low grade fever. I floated the trial balloon. "I'm not too sure about swimming ...".

I tried several compromises.

Swimming lesson only, no extra swimming: unacceptable.
Swimming only for J, no lesson: unacceptable.

When compromise failed to work I tried full capitulation:
Swimming and lesson: unacceptable.

Finally, I dug deep, I realized with the current mood, swimming was unwise not only from the germ spreading perspective. Our ability to control our emotions (myself included) was waning.

I figured, correctly as it turned out, that J had been enduring a low key day with only swimming to look forward to break up the boredom. I suggested that we all needed to do something fun to get over our disappointment over not being able to swim. J was quite amenable to a snack at Starbucks and finding some DVDs to rent.

If you can't tell, I'm a little proud of myself. Though I admit I did run a little low on patience a couple times, I persevered and it was a good day. We were together.

And now the semi-sickies are busy watching movies so Husband and I can enjoy the dinner he just made me. With wine, of course.

The Perfect Satchel

The perfect satchel has many requirements. I don't really call it a purse as my bag must functions in addition to purse including child accessory tote, lunch bag, book bag, commuter bag and holder of all things the family may require on any trip over 5 minutes.

Required Elements:

1. Big enough to fit all the stuff I need to carry, but not so big that my kids would fit in.

2. Must have at least 2, preferably 3 main compartments as I discovered one main pocket translates to black hole where nothing can be found.

3. Small zippered pocket inside to put the very few beauty products I carry (lip gloss and eyeliner) so as to avoid lipglossed iPod.

4. Shoulder strap: must keep hands free to pick up things my children drop as we make our way to van.

5. Small outside pocket to put train card and bus tickets as I detest hunting for those at darkened bus stop in the morning.

6. Must have proper dimensions to carry a few work papers for reading on commute to work. Papers must not scrunch so as to resemble old grocery lists also at bottom of purse.

7. Must look kind of stylish or at the very least not butt ugly and not cheap. Also, not too shiny, though I know that shiny patent is in now.

8. Must not cost more that $75.

It would be kind of nice if it were also an interesting colour, have a dedicated place for water, coffee mug and lunch. But I know when my sights are set too high.

I have tried backpacks, leather pursy type back backs, messenger bags, briefcasey bags. None have fit the bill.

After an approximately year long search, last spring I found the purse of my dreams, a David Jones bag (not that I'm dropping names or that David Jones is fancy designer. Just passing on a good name in bags):
It met all my requirements plus was an interesting colour. It didn't have anything else on my dream list (place for water etc) but I was thrilled. I found it at Sears. On sale. For $50.

Even more thrilled when I got compliments from friends and work colleagues. But I figured they were just used to seeing me schlep old frayed bag around and a fresh paper bag would have been an improvement worthy of compliment.

When I started having people approach me on the street, in stores and on transit, I knew that I had hit the jackpot. People complimented, gushed and, I dare say coveted my perfect satchel. One of my sisters, who is also always on perfect satchel hunt, even eyed it. Very closely. She's one of the bad cops, so I kept my eye on her pretty closely.

A few months ago, I decided my yellow bag was just not appropriate for winter so I bought a basic black one at Payless. It turned out to be too squishy for papers, and is a giant black hole from which I can never find anything. And I found lip gloss on my cell phone. On top of that my wallet is constantly dumping out inside my purse so it takes me 12 minutes to find my Starbucks cards to buy my Americano Mistos.

So this week, I went on a search. Funnily enough, the one most liked I found was also in Sears and also a David Jones bag. It met all requirements except that it was a bit shiny. It wasn't on sale but at $65, was within the budget.

Then I decided that with the economy the way that it is, the most responsible thing I could do, was save my money, make do with my black hole purse for another month until the tulips and daffodils can be seen and then go back to my yellow wonder-kind. So that's what I'm going to do. In the name of the economy, practice austerity. Make do. How many perfect purses does one girl need?

Unless I decide the economy needs stimulus, in which case I might sneak back for that bag. Which by the way comes in very interesting colours: bronze, red, copper.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Patience Calm and Creativity

That's the powerful trinity of parenting that can help meet many a challenge in the day-to-day trenches of child-rearing. The flip side, impatience, upset and inflexibility are a virtual guarantee for cross words, frustration and confrontation.

Here is real life scenario of how PCC can work:

Pick up children from school and cheerfully remind them about swimming lessons (calm). When adorable one runs in opposite direction to find big mound of snow to crunch, request that she proceed more directly and less circuitously the car (patience - but use 5 year old appropriate language). When the adorable one tries to walk in knee-high puddles coax her to dryer land by distracting her with mention of yummy snack (creativity). When creativity backfires and adorable one asks for candy from machine at swimming pool for snack, tell her about yummy granola bar with rainbow sprinkles (calm). When adorable one is less adorable with constant cry/whine/moan of "candy from machine" dig fingernails into steering wheel and ask how school was (patience).

Once at pool had animated conversation with re-composed adorable one as you walk by candy machine (creativity). Once at change rooms, allow older precocious one at least 5 minutes to play with door of change cubicle (patience). Request that adorable one choose a locker (creativity) and do not complain when she chooses the furthest one away that is almost over one's head. When precocious one has finally started removing his jacket, do not be concerned when he is distracted by adorable one (patience). When socks end up in puddle on floor be thankful at least the socks are off and coax precocious one into taking off pants (calm and patience).

After swim lessons are over, take deep breaths as precocious one plays with cubicle door for 5 minutes (patience). Ask adorable one to shuttle piece of clothing to precocious one as they are retrieved one by one from overhead locker (creativity). When precocious one claims he cannot get out of change cubicle as the lock is too sharp, don't argue with the unlikeliness of the statement and hand him a glove to protect his hands (creativity).

On walk to the car allow adorable one to walk on snow piles and wait for her to complete her mission (patience). When precocious one picks up a precious rock, which is actually filthy piece of asphalt make descriptive non judgmental statement like "I hope that rock won't get your little doggy dirty" (calm). When precocious one does not recognize the non-judgmentalness of prior statement and throws rocks and then immediately gets upset that he has lost rock, help him look for it even though no rock in the gravel lot appears to be the lost lamb (patience). Once both adorable and precocious ones have found suitable rocks, excitedly tell them they can clean them with wipes in the car (creativity) which and congratulate yourself that you actually get them the TO the car.

No one said it would be easy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

First Lessons of 2009

On the eve of going back to real life, we had an unpredicted snow storm. Once again we got our money's worth from the best snow tires and a great winter driver (Husband). We all hit the slopes, the slopes of our sidewalk and driveway for the last-shovelling-of-snow.

I learned not to listen to Husband when he prognosticates the last shovelling of snow. I don't blame him, it's the meteorologists who fail to predict the snow squalls or Mother Nature who disguises them as innocuous clouds.

Monday morning the snow had turned to rain. I learned that schools "open" is really only a technicality. Gridlock does not begin to describe the traffic around the school. The parking lot was not plowed and was open only to teachers and staff. The 4 foot wide and high snowbanks eliminated street parking. Even the double drop off lane was down to one snowy track which made dropping off decidedly slow. You add to that people who decided in the absence of a parking lane, they would park in the driving lane, leaving the rest of us to negotiate several tight single lane , made for a round trip of almost an hour (vs. the normal 5 minutes).

By Tuesday the parking lot has been cleared but several spots were piled high with snow. At pickup time, when I must park and pick up S, I learned that getting one of those few precious spots in the parking lot require one to come at least 45 minutes early.

On Wednesday, my first day of 6:00 a.m. wake up call since December 18th, I learned that I can get ready completely in 12 minutes. This includes blow drying my hair to semi-dry state and grabbing something to eat for breakfast on the train.

On Thursday I learned I may have to try to find activities for J Boy in the middle of the night. He climbed into my bed at 4:05 a.m and told me "I'm bored, there's nothing to do in my room".

On Friday, I learned my 12 minutes to get ready does not apply to J Boy. I had my clock radio volume on minimum and only woke up when Husband happened to call at 7:50. I already conceded that S and I would go to school in our pj's (we stay in van) so really I only had to get the J Boy sorted and I had about 12 minutes for that. He came down dressed in yesterday's clothes so I did a quick change of the essentials and guided him to table for breakfast. It was all going well and I thought we might actually be on time, when J decided he MUST watch the end of Scooby Doo. I recorded on PVR and advised him of the usualy consequences for not getting his skinny butt to the basement (no allowance if he gets late slip by his own misconduct; no TV before school next week if he can't leave on time).

Just under the wire he heads to basement when I have to negotiate the jacket situation. He has TWO jackets which the zippers recently broke and a third jacket with a dodgy zipper. This only leaves his winter jacket which he finds "too cold". It's not cozy and he needs a hoody inside to "make it warm". Usual hoody is no where to be seen (but found in lost and found at school later) so I scavenge for back up hoody, which is the one with the dodgy zipper. At some point J gets frustrated and takes off all outer wear and throws to ground. I very maturely grab him and his clothes and deposit into van infuriated that I should have to negotiate so much in the first place PLUS get him dressed twice.

Final lesson, must have coffee for mornings like this!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Back to Life

It has been over 2 weeks away from normal life. Activities, school, work have all taken a back seat to sleeping in, reading, playing with toys and taking shifts on the computer.

The kids have been constant playmates and have gotten along extremely well. They have played in the snow, watched far too much TV, played games, created imaginary worlds and had sleepovers in each other's rooms.

Because they were such good pals this holiday, I spent the most time with Husband since our honeymoon. We actually got to discuss plans for each day, spring break and even our summer holiday. Another week of Christmas vacation and we would have had our retirement mapped out.

Husband's favourite activity has been watching the weather. He's been monitoring high and low pressure areas, probabilities of precipitation and all incoming weather systems. He, of course, has been on top of the almost daily weather warnings: heavy snow fall, wind or black ice. He compares the forecasts in three websites and also monitors satellite pictures and current conditions on Vancouver Island and Washington State to see what systems might be moving here. It's kind of handy to have our own weather reporter on sight. Especially this Christmas.

The J Boy's favourite activity has been playing on the computer. He got 2 new computer games from Santa, and well, Santa knows our boy. He has completed both games. One of them, 3 times and then helped S finish as well. This has lead to some issues over computer sharing: a few snits, sharp words and pouts. But I'm getting better at sharing.

S has spent most of the holidays stalking her Daddy to "cuddle wiff me". Seriously. Daddy has had other things to do. Like monitor our weather. And shovel snow. One night she asked if she and her brother could stay up late to watch Wayside, some cartoon that is only appealing because it comes on after their normal bedtime.

I replied: "Okay, if you promise you'll let Mommy and Daddy watch the hockey game upstairs". She readily agreed. A little too readily, in fact.

"Mommy, can you ask Daddy if he'll cuddle wiff me and watch Wayside?"

I have been checking my email on my new iTouch. Now I normally monitor email pretty closely. But with my iTouch (THANK YOU HUSBAND!!!) I can be working on a puzzle and check email every 40 seconds. I have also, when J granted me an audience with the computer, been checking out which podcasts I like. I have been very quick to point out to Husband that I too can monitor weather as I have a weather icon. Husband points out that it's only the Yahoo weather forecast, even if the graphics are pretty cool. I would be remiss if I didn't admit to iTouch surveillance most days was done in my pyjamas. The first few lazy days we had S would ask "Mommy, is it nighttime? You have your pyjamas on!" I have also shovelled my share of snow (also in my pyjamas). You may have noticed that I also have had a lot of time to blog, 14 blogs to be exact.

Monday may be a bit of a rude awakening.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Putting Away Christmas

January 2 and we're taking down Christmas. I normally have very strict rules about de-decorating on December 27th, but since we had a family gathering on December 28th, we couldn't do it. Not that the house had to be decorated for family. It's just that we didn't have time to spend a day doing the Christmas decluttering plus our usual stash and dash to get ready to have people to our house.

With 2 gigantic Rubbermaid, 2 large, 2 small plus big boxes for our two trees, I am forced to admit we gotta lotta Christmas decorative items. We have Christmas linens, aprons, dishes, bowls, serving plates. We have stockings and garland and houses and Christmas stuffies. The most precious things are the kids' projects from years gone by.

The genesis of this sizable collection came before I was married. I would exchange gifts with several girlfriends (before we got the idea that we should skip the gifts and enjoy a Christmas meal together instead as none of us needed anything). Invariably I would get a few tasteful decorations (I'm lucky that my girlfriends all have the same excellent taste as me). So I blame my 2 decades of adult spinsterhood on the glut of Christmas stuff.

Of course once I accumulated Husband, family and house (in that order) I had more surface area to cover and could seriously develop a theme. I knew even when J was a baby that I wanted to go light on Santa, and so came the snowman theme. And my theme of blue along with the red and green.

We had so much that the kids each took armfuls of things up to their rooms to create their own Christmas wonderlands in their rooms. When we asked J Boy to bring down the treasures, he blew a gasket (happily, one of few gaskets blown this holiday season). It seems he wants to store his stuff in his own closet. But no, these things all have homes in my appropriately labelled Rubbermaids. We eventually compromised and he is housing a few of the less precious things (which is to say stuff Husband brought to the family) and the rest is happily ensconced for another year.

With all the things are tucked away and we await the Valentines decorating season.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Great Inventions for 2009

I have compiled a list of inventions that I believe would better the human race. If you have any entrepreneurial spirit and a modicum of engineering know-how, I urge you to be the first to invent one of the following and make your own personal fortune:

1. Affordable micro GPS units. These must be very small (size of watch battery) that could be affixed to car keys, cells phones, iPods, TV remotes, stuffed animals, cordless phones. They must also be sold in multi-packs of at least 12.

The kids and I all got iPods for Christmas which is just one more thing to keep track of. Anyone that calls us with any frequency knows that they get our machine more than half the time only because with the whole family on the scavenger hunt, none of us can locate any of the FOUR cordless phones we own. Our search for stuffies and lovies at bedtime is well documented.

2. Self-shoveling sidewalks. Granted we have had an abundance of snow this year but until last night we had a stretch of 6 days with no snow. Yet, most of our neighbours did not clear their sidewalks. Husband needed snowshoes to retrieve our mail yesterday (about 4 houses away).

Now I could be mistaken, but in my school days in Edmonton, some people had sidewalks that bore neither a flake of snow nor a hint of ice. Legend had it that some people had heated sidewalks and driveways so that they didn't have to shovel. There's a place for someone to start.

3. Poo-less dogs. Now I have mentioned this before but some people cannot seem to manage the dog poo situation. In the aftermath of one large dump of snow, one rather unneighbourly neighbour walking his dog watched as his dog deposited a mound of poo on our neighbour's sidewalk. It was a brown (and steamy) dot on the otherwise white landscape. His solution? Kick some snow over it. Yeah, like that's going to make it go away. I ran to the door and was going to offer him a plastic bag, but he was already out of sight.

I will be the first in line to purchase a poo-less dog as I have no interest in managing puppy poo. Especially since we are currently working on (again) bum sparkle issues with the girlie goo. Come to think of it, she poos a lot less with a bum sparkle, so maybe that is the genesis for the poo-less pouch: doggie bum sparkles. Which brings me to my next invention.

4. Bum sparkle remover. Granted first one would have to discover what exactly a bum sparkle is, but S just went 10 days without pooing, which is one day short of her all-time record. We really need someone to get on this (and yes, we have consulted doctors and tried all the regular - pun intended - things).

5. Hot spot alarms. I once read that every house has it's "hot spots", places where stuff accumulates: unopened mail, pens, coupons, old grocery lists and magazines. Our hot spot is the kitchen table. We at best have 60% of our kitchen table to work with. The rest is piled high with school notices, craft projects, scraps of paper, food wrappers, fliers and little unidentified parts that I'm sure are crucial to the operation of something.

Despite considerable effort at the beginning of the week to clear the decks, by the end of every week, the hot spot has become a magnet for more and more miscellanea. I've tried quite a number of organizational systems and gadgets (I am Queen of the Basket) but to no avail. The only time the table gets cleared is when we invite people over, which we did a couple days ago.

So the past 2 days we've enjoyed a clear table and I've decided we need some kind of sensor alarm that will ring when we attempt to put a cordless phone (is that where they go?), empty Ziploc bag or coffee cup in the dead zone.

***

All I ask for in return for these fantastic and lucrative ideas is to be a product tester so we can find more time in the week for new hobbies such as timely laundry and banishment of dust bunnies.