Friday, February 26, 2010

Venting: Military Health Care

I try not to 'vent' too often ... Momma always said nobody likes a whiner, but ... ugh! I get so frustrated with military health care sometimes. In our time in the Army, these things have actually happened (either to me or to a close friend):

Exhibit A: Five year old child goes to the ER with a swollen ear. Yes, swollen. As in, inflated a full inch away from where his ear SHOULD be located on his head. After sitting and waiting for over an hour (or two or three, time seems to stop inside these clinics), one quick review and the technician says, "Yep. It's an ear infection. I'll get you some antibiotics and you can schedule a follow up in three weeks." Fortunately, Momma won't take no for an answer in this situation (she KNOWS ear infections and this is something else). After a second opinion, the child is taken for a CAT scan to "check for an infection in the brain." Really?? We've gone from "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" to "Your child may have a serious issue .... with .... his .... brain!?!?!?" The child ends up being admitted into the hospital and being pumped with high-octane antiobiotics for three days before being released.

Exhibit B: Army wife is seeing her primary care physician and is asked the standard "depression" questions. Some variation of: Have you felt sad or hopeless in the past two weeks? Have you lost interest in activities you once enjoyed? Have you cried uncontrollably during the past two weeks, etc. etc. Her husband has been deployed for over six months, she's tired, she's down, and ALL of these questions apply to her state of mind at this time. She bravely answers "yes" to all of the questions ... to which the technician says, "Okie-Dokie. I'll go see if your PCM is ready for you." Nothing else was ever mentioned at all! She said later, "I'm glad I wasn't suicidal when I got there ... because THAT certainly wouldn't have helped."

Exhibit C: Exhibit C is my own story of EVERY TIME I VISIT OUR CLINIC. I am not sure what ailment I would need to impress somebody there, but they always seem to treat me like I am some kind of nutcase who just needs a pat on the back to make it all better. To be clear, I am not sick often (really. hardly ever.) and the times that I am sick, I really wait until there is an obvious issue that over-the-counter medications are not resolving for me. I am not a frequent visitor and I am a courteous patient. I arrive on time, answer all the questions succintly, and try to be an overall pleasant person during these visits. So why is it that I am treated like I have a mental condition instead of a physical one? Many of the PCMs I've seen are condescending, arrogant, or just plain uninterested. This is not what I want for the person who is supposed to be responsible for my health and well-being.

Let me caveat this by saying that every specialized department I've ever used is completely the opposite. The EENT clinics that my son has seen (on numerous posts, with two surgeries in two different places) are highly professional and take the time to make sure you understand the ailment and treatment options. Both prenatal, labor-and-delivery, and mother/baby units that I encountered (with the birth of both boys) were fabulous! These providers were helpful, friendly, and (gasp!) interested! Is this so much to ask of primary care providers?

I've decided that these PCMs have several things going against them ... one, the sheer volume of people they must see each day. I think most are over-worked, probably underpaid, and deal with a lot of people every single minute of every single day. Two, there are lots of crazies out there who will blame the doctor, the nurse, the technician (and anyone else around) for the slightest inconvenience ... and you might have the appointment right after them! Three, because they do see so many people, developing one-on-one relationships are difficult. The PCM will not necessarily know you, your kids, your job, or your history. This must make it more challenging to always prescribe the best care.

If you're new to the military, please don't let me discourage you. I know there are dedicated professionals out there who are not jaded by the sheer volume of people they must see each day. And if you are new, here are some things I've learned (and am working on) to ensure my own well-being ...
  1. Arrive on time. On-time in military clinics means at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. They will write down your arrival time and nothing says "I'm here to waste your time" like a late arrival time.
  2. Write your ailments down, adding as much detail as possible. It's less likely that anyone can make you feel uneducated when you come armed with facts. Specific symptoms, remedies tried, dates, times, and notes on what helped/didn't help all help you keep yourself straight and prove that you are taking this appointment seriously.
  3. Write your questions down and ask them. If they make you feel rushed, tell them the number of questions you have and don't let anyone sweep you out the door. Say, "I have four questions for you before I go" and make sure you get answers.
  4. Follow your instincts. If something doesn't sound right (like "Oh, it's just an ear infection") and you know it, stand firm and request a second opinion. Be polite, but don't back down. Sometimes, big things can be missed and you should be prepared to demand appropriate care.
  5. Keep a good attitude. This one may sound odd after reading my earlier complaining, but I do think this one can go a long way. People are generally more friendly and helpful to those who present themselves as generally pleasant and competent. I will always give the benefit of the doubt to the provider and know that I did what I could to make the meeting positive and productive.
Okay, I'm trying to turn my frustration into something helpful. Does anyone else have advice for me? Let me know ... and in the meantime, I'm off to take my OTC aspirin for the night ... and pray that my 'allergies' (which I've never had) are not really some sort of pneumonia. =)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Life in the Great State of Texas

Photo:  The day after our snow storm, my oldest son stands with the remains of his snowman.

There's nothing like Texas weather.  The famous saying is ... "If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a few hours.  It will change."   Being a native Texan -- only spending a few years out of Texas courtesy of the United States Army -- I can attest to the validity of that.  In Texas, you never pack away a wardrobe.  You're as likely to need shorts and flip-flops in December as any other month.  You only need sweaters a few days of the year and breaking out a heavy coat is an annual event at best.

Besides the weather, there's a specific lingo in Texas that you should know about.  Here are my top five Texas words you need to know:
  1. Ya'll (plural = All Ya'll)
  2. Howdy
  3. Fixin' To
  4. I reckon
  5. Over Yonder
For some more fun Texas Talk:
Enjoy, Ya'll!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beware of the Yellow Snow!

As I write this, yesterday's snow is melting so fast in the 48 degree sunshine that it looks and sounds like it's raining outside. Add to that the artillery that is ba-bamooming out of Fort Hood and you'd think it was a regular thunderstorm ... until you look outside. After yesterday's grey, snowy day, it is bright and sunny today. Snow is melting fast and only one of our three snowmen still stands. The boys will be slushing around in the mud after school today looking for remnants of their frozen playland, but I fear all they'll find is a big mess.

I'm amused by the amount of hot chocolate we went through yesterday ... as if trying to stuff an entire winter season into one twenty-four-hour-period. My boys and their dad spent a vast majority of the day outside in the snow, with me popping into and out of the scene, taking photos, replacing soaked winter gear, gathering snowman couture, and yes, making more hot chocolate.

In a twist of humor, one of the funniest moment yesterday during our early-out-snow-day was actually captured on film. The boys were playing the backyard with the dogs ... our puppy LOVED the snow, incidentally, and hated to come in, even when overtaken by full-body shivers. My youngest son is running in the yard and suddenly halts and says, "Is that yellow snow?" ... I'll let you watch the rest. I thought it was hilarious. And, to my knowledge, no one ate or otherwise engaged the yellow snow. =)

Stay warm out there ... and, as always, beware the yellow snow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Day!

The boys' wish came true today ... not that school was cancelled (although that would have avoided a lot of hassle) but that school was released early for SNOW! It hasn't snowed much here since that infamous snowy Easter several years ago (I did get some really great photos of bluebonnets -- the state flower of Texas that only blooms a few months each Spring -- covered in snow), so today was a truly special treat for us.

We saw a little snow on Christmas Eve this year in Dallas, but here ... HERE it's a full day of snowman-building, snow-fort constructing, snowball fighting, sledding down driveways and lots of hot chocolate and snuggling in between. Enjoy the show!

Thanks for stopping by to read. Hope you're all having a wonderful and warm Tuesday out there!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Puppy Update

If you are a die-hard dog-lover, I should have some great posts for you as I gush about our precious new puppy. If you're not, you may want to just skip anything tagged "puppy" or "Leo" ... it'll save you some time. =)

New puppy Boxer Leo and fifteen-year-old Cairn Terrier Shadow are really getting along well ... Shadow is showing more spunk with a puppy in the house than she has in years. She often initiates play, grabbing one of Leo's toys and running off with it so he'll chase her (which he always does). Leo, for his part, is a wonderful addition to the family. He is learning his place in the hierarchy well and makes life very fun for all of us.

It's funny to me how dogs, pack animals that they are, instinctively know things like: Daddy is the alpha male, the current dog rules over me, and I have to find my place to fit in with my new 'pack.' Leo understands that Daddy is alpha male, that I rank next (and that I am his primary source of food!), and that Shadow is his elder. He is respectful of her and one bark or growl from her causes him to sit and listen immediately.

He's still working out his place with our boys. One boy is more timid than the other so Leo still tries to show some dominance over this one. We're working with them both to get that straightened out, but it's still funny to see this little puppy problem-solving in his own way.

In this video, Shadow and Leo play outside in the backyard.

Leo has now been with us for two weeks and seems to grow by the minute. I swear sometimes he'll wake up from a nap and be bigger than when he fell asleep! Here's to many more fun puppy days!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kids These Days

I guess you're officially old when you start thinking things like "Kids these days ..." but really! Kids these days! I am amazed at the world they are growing up in. A few weeks ago, our family is sitting down to dinner when my first grader turns to me and says, "Mommy, have I told you about my blog?" Really!?! I just figured out blogging (sort of) myself! He does indeed have a blog (along with his entire 1st grade class) and it's wonderful.

Today, my eldest son and I travelled with my brother-in-law and his family (including my fabulous sister-in-law and their three beautiful girls, a six year-old and twin four-year-olds) to Dallas for another cousin's birthday party. The party was wonderful and we had a super time rollerskating, opening gifts, and visiting with family. On the three-hour ride back, we had more fun entertaining each other in the car. At one point, one of the twins asks me, "Aunt Traci, Can I use your iPhone to text Uncle Nate?"

Wow. I was in a state of shock. First graders blogging, four-year-olds texting ... I am now officially old! I remember the absolute joy of receiving an electric TYPEWRITER for Christmas when I was in junior high school and thrilled that it had self-correction tape! How the world has changed. Here I was thinking myself so edgy for having a Facebook, Twitter, AND GoodReads account! =)

I can only imagine what my kids will be teaching me in a few years ... and I look forward to blogging about it!

Oh, and I did let my niece text my hubby ... Here is what she had to say:

dkyutnn,eooo lseifuyodll jdieiiia;wii a'///12//1//


112k39adk oiiiii aleiiipp[whakakk akd

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sweetheart roses, fabulous chocolates, wonderful day with wonderful family and friends ... plus two amazing boys, a cute new puppy, and the most incredible husband ever HOME with me. This was a really good Valentine's Day!

All in all, I think Valentine's Day is a pretty hokey holiday ... largely dreamt up by retailers and restaurant PR teams. Sometimes I think it's pretty amazing what we can find to spend money on in this country. But I fall for it all and get all the cutesy gifts and snacks for the day. We had pink sprinkled cinnamon rolls with blackberries for breakfast (on our red and pink heart paper plates) and gobbled up pink heart-shaped marshmallows for a snack on the way to church. We all wore red and exchanged cards and gifts to demonstrate our undying love for one another. Yep, I know it's hokey but I play along anyway!

We started the day with our Valentine's exchange. I always like to get the boys a collection of fun stuff ... a book, game or toy, stuffed animal, and something really sweet and really unhealthy to eat. This year, they each got a kids' cookbook so they can pick out dinners for our family meal plan (this is more fun for them than it sounds in print, I promise), some Valentine Hot Wheels, a red puffle (from Club Penguin, don't ask, that's all I know), tangram puzzles, huge marshmallow lollipops and a small collection of chocolates.

Our big Valentine this year was our new puppy and even though he arrived a few days early, we are still enjoying him very much. The boys have never had a puppy before (our dog was already an adult when the first baby came along), so they're learning a lot about training right now. Lots of "Good Leo!" and "No bite!" and "Sit!" can be heard around our house these days.

At the end of the day, I am happy to be home, have my wonderful Soldier home, and be in a house with two sleeping boys and two sleeping dogs. I'm signing off and hope you all had a wonderful Sweetheart's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's in a Name?

So we have the puppy, the kennel, the collar, leash, toys, treats, and new boxer books. Next on our checklist is a name! We've brainstormed lots of boy puppy names -- everything from Mr. Paws to Rocky to Cannon -- but needed to meet our puppy before making a final choice.

The boys began our search by throwing out the names belonging to some of their favorite games. This gave us choices like Pikachu, Wartortle, Pidgeotto, and Dragonite (from Pokemon) and Bakugan names like Tuskor, Griffon, Juggernoid, and Terrorclaw.

As they continued to shout out crazy names, I picked up on the name "Leonidas." I asked them about this name (a dragon Bakugan that happened to be one of their favorites). I liked this name so we looked it up online (to ensure there were no negative connotations or satanic worship links) and found that it was also the name of a King of Sparta! We even found this summary of the movie "300":
In the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy.
Okay, so the concepts of valor and courage and democracy were appealing to us ... we were sold! The boys had picked "Leonidas" -- their favorite Bakugan and Hubby and I like it for its King of Sparta reference -- so either way, he's Leo!

Simba ... now officially "Simba Leonidas" aka Leo ... had a good night last night. He loved playing with the kids and checking out his new home. He slept in a kennel in our room and he and I visited every couple of hours through the night so he could go potty.

Our older dog, Shadow, has been wonderful with him, already 'teaching' him how to potty in the grass. He definitely missed his brothers and sisters last night -- if the brief howling was any indication -- but was able to sleep pretty well besides. It's Day One of the Puppy Chronicles and we're loving it!

We have a puppy!

After weeks of research, days of debate, and a couple of hours of prep work ... we have a puppy! We adopted a boxer puppy today and love him already.

We used to look at lots of adorable puppies. It's one of the best websites I found in my search and we are so excited to have found our new family member there.

The breeder is in the local area. She was fabulous with us, sending us emails, photos, and giving us lots of fun tips on our new puppy's personality traits. We met her tonight just to see "Simba" ... but came with a new kennel, leash, collar, dog food, and chew toys, um, 'just in case' we wanted to leave with him. She brought one of his litter-mates along for the ride and I seriously considered coming home with two new puppies. Sanity won out in the end, though, and we only have one.

Our 15-year-old Cairn terrier, Shadow, was very patient with him when she met him tonight. I've been worried about her reaction. She was our first 'baby' and we didn't want to stress her out with a rambunctious new addition to her life ... but we decided to gamble with this puppy. She’s very sharp, though, and I honestly think she knew he was ‘ours’ and treated him with tolerance.

Our boys are beyond thrilled. My older boy kept saying, “I just can’t believe he’s really ours!” They have played to exhaustion tonight but still didn’t want to go to bed when it was time. All is quiet on the home front now, though, and we’re looking forward to introducing our puppy into our lives. Wish us luck!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Our First Puppy

We've always been dog lovers. With both mothers-in-law allergic to cats (and neither of us with a great affinity for cats), dogs have always been our option for household pets. I grew up with a variety of mix breeds ... "Trampus" who looked just like the dog Benji from the movies (we think he was taken from our yard because of this resemblance), then "Aggie," a black-and-white terrier mix. My husband grew up with dogs as well ... a beagle then later a dachshund.

It seemed logical to us, then, after we were married, to get a dog of our own. We wanted a smaller dog since we were living in an apartment then, and spent lots of time searching at local shelters and in the classified ads. (How old do I seem when I say that the internet was not an option for us then?) Finally, we got a call from the local rescue shelter with just the right dog for us! The previous owner of this dog had dropped her off, saying she just didn't realize she was allergic to animals until she'd brought one home. This dog was healthy, small, young, and ready for adoption ... all we'd asked for.

The manager of the shelter had even taken this particular dog home, thinking she'd keep her. She found that the dog didn't get along well with her current dogs but still had her at home. She gave us her home address and we planned to stop by on our way out of town to take a look. When we drove up, we saw an adorable fluffy puppy on a leash in the front yard. She was obviously quite annoyed with the leash and, as we parked, she chewed through the last of the leash and took off running ... away from the house! I immediately loved her ... and she became ours.

Her name was Shadow, a full AKC-registered Cairn Terrier, and she was just 6 months old. We loved her immediately and took her with us on the spot. Now ... after fifteen years of pet ownership (yes, she turns 15 this month!!) ... we decided we're ready for a new puppy.

The big debate? What kind of puppy?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Birthday Boy Hits Double Digits!

My precious first-born turns ten years old today. Since I tend to be gushy and sentimental, this one was bound to hit me hard.

I guess all moms can remember every detail of their babies for decades after they are born? I reminisced through finding out we were pregnant (just home from a year in Korea and complaining that "I just can't get used to the time change ... I'm exhausted all the time!") to delivering him (sparing the details, it was a quick delivery but a high-risk one with both of us on Magnesium to curb preeclampsia-induced seizuers) to his life highlights (learning to crawl, walk, getting -- then losing -- his first tooth, first day of Kindergarten, learning to read, ride a bike, joining scouts, and on and on).

We've always enjoyed celebrating birthdays, too. In fact, each birthday starts with the birth video (don't freak out; it starts just after the baby is born and shows his first hour of life). Next comes a remembrance of all birthday parties past ... for this child:

One: Puppy Party at home
Two: Train Party at home
Three: Jungle Party at Flippin' Frogs in Savannah
Four: Dinosaur Party at Skukuzoo in Savannah
Five: Science Party at Science City in Kansas City
Six: Fossil Party at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco
Seven: Pokemon Party at Gatti-Land in Round Rock
Eight: Bounce-House Party in Temple
Nine: Star Wars Party at Texas Tumblers Gym
Ten: Rollerskating Party at the Roller Rink

Whew! I'm hoping we move someplace really cool next to add to his list of fun parties. We've pretty much exhausted our options here, I think. =)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?

PHOTO: Hubby and me during our high school football match-up ...

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner and I'm really excited. Having grown up in Texas, football has been a part of my life since I can remember. In fact, rumor has it that my first word actually was ... not "mama" or "dada" but ... you guessed it! ... "Football!" My parents were equally enthusiastic about the game. He played ball, she was in the drill team when they were high school sweethearts. He is now a faithful fan of the Cowboys and the Longhorns. She never missed a game; whether watching her daughters cheer or her son play on the offensive line.

My grandmother was a cheerleader who dated the high school football star (in fact, he went on to play college ball until he was drafted in WWII) and she went on to teach and coach cheerleaders and drill team. My grandmother remained true to her high school alma mater throughout her life ... graduating, teaching, coaching, and then substituting after retirement for the rest of her life. She even drove herself to the state play-offs several years ago when she couldn't find a ride to the game. Her team won the state championship that year and she wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I was a cheerleader in high school and dated my own high school football star, except in a strange twist of UIL fate, his school was placed in our district our senior year, making us rivals. Our fledgling relationship survived football season (his team, 45, my team, 0, at our senior year football match up ... ugh), then through college several states apart, and now is a wonderful 15+ year old marriage.

It seems that our household has spent many a gathering in front of the TV, cheering on one team or another ... and spent countless hours driving to, cheering at, and driving home from high school games. When I was young, we would attend almost all of the high school games and often ate with the team after the game. We would enjoy reliving each play and alternately cursing or praising the referees, largely dependent upon the outcome of the game. Obviously, if we won, the referees were dedicated, professional geniuses, and if we lost, needed an eye check-up and a kick in the seat of the pants.

We've sat in rain, snow, and sleet, and been forced to leave during lightning storms. I vividly remember being half-frozen at one playoff game when I was about eleven, and trying to defrost my fingers under the bathroom hand-dryer. But we were dedicated to cheering on our young heroes to victory! So heroic were these players to me that, at around age 8, I asked a high school player for his autograph after the game!

During our first few years of marriage, both of our younger brothers were playing high school football. Since we were stationed close to family, we spent most weekends in the Fall travelling to cheer one team or the other.

The Army-Navy game is always big for us (we'll be glad to break the losing streak to Navy one day!), we love to watch the college season; especially the National Championship game, and the Super Bowl is always a hit. We’ll be watching it at a friends’ house this year and look forward to the fun, food, and camaraderie. Anybody have a great Super Bowl snack recipe to share? I need to decide what to take.

Happy Super Bowl Weekend!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Little Mini-Me

Does anybody else have one child who is a near carbon-copy of themselves? My little mini-me is my almost-ten-year-old son. Since he was a baby, he has physically resembled me ... except his gender, of course, and his eye color (I share that with my youngest). In most other ways, though, my eldest child and I are very much alike.

I taught at a junior high school parttime when this child was three and four years old. Even then, our resemblances were striking. The custodian at this school would always ask me, "Where's your twin?" talking about my toddler boy.

I also learned early on that we shared an emotional tie as well. His personality, quirks, and tendency to have overwhelming emotional moments ... that's all me. Isn't that crazy? Who knew the DNA strands that would replicate in our offspring?

We are both book addicts (to the point that it's sometimes debilitating), highly emotional, forgetful, and math-phobic. In fact, it is eerie to me to watch this male child replicate my elementary school life! He's so ... me!

We're alike on the sports field as well. As an athlete, I'm a little flighty with just a touch of klutz. He's more coordinated than I am, but just as spacey when it comes to competition. He's tried lots of different things ... tee-ball, baseball, soccer, basketball ... but really enjoyed visiting with teammates more than actually playing the sport with them. Yes, my child was the one picking flowers and chasing butterflies in the outfield!

Another quirk we share is an anti-competitive streak. I was never interested in any kind of sports competition as a kid and became very nervous when asked to compete in any form ... math board races, spelling bees, kickball, board games, you name it. He is very much the same -- multiplied by about a billion. He is truly competition-averse, but we're working on it, one win/lose game at a time.

Today, I was reminded (again!) of our endless similarities. We were in the car listening to a song by Lee Ann Womack titled "There is a God." She is singing about the things that remind her that there is a God, including "Find the heartbeat on your baby's ultrasound ..." which brought me to tears. After he handed me a tissue, my sweet son said, "Mom, why does this song make you cry?" By the time I finished explaining the preciousness of life and how amazing I felt the first time I heard his little heartbeat and realized for the first time that I would be a real Mommy and he was a real little person and that I would love and adore him for the rest of my life ... he was teary too! LOVE that kid! My little mini-me.

I looked up the song on YouTube and posted this video here ... enjoy our emotional moment with us!