Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is There A Pill For This?

It's 4 in the morning. I don't really know what woke me up, but once my mind turned on, it's been impossible to stop. And you know what I've been thinking about for the last 45 minutes or so? Health care reform. That is the worst, thinking about something problematic that I have zero control over, so I end up laying in bed pondering what unique, end-of-the-world scenario Satan is cooking up that begins with Big Government controlling our access to medicine.

You'll have to excuse the hyperbole - I tend to get a little hyperbolic in the middle of the night. Hyperbolic? Isn't that some kind of curve from geometry? I also tend to ramble and lose track of my train of thought. Where was I? Oh yes, health care reform.

The reason this topic is keeping me up at night is that every time I think about it, I start to get the same panicky, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the exact same feeling that I had when the government bought out General Motors. The feeling that says, "Wait a second, am I the ONLY ONE who sees that this is a bad idea?" A feeling not unlike being on a really jerky roller coaster, one made out of wood and it's all creaky and you're so afraid that the whole thing is going to collapse and they'll have to dig your broken body out and call your parents and tell them you died in a freak roller-coaster accident, so afraid that you can't enjoy it. And the real problem is that you can't get off the roller coaster - they only hope you have is that in 4 years, maybe a new operator will take over, but that guy is going to have his own ideas about how the roller coaster should run, so you're not out of the woods then, either.

Apparently I'm a big fan of run-on sentences in the middle of the night, too. I wonder if this is going to make any sense at all when I read it again tomorrow. I mean later today.

So back to health care. I've felt this panicky feeling before, but usually I can say, "This isn't the end of the world. So we buy an obsolete car manufacturer, hand it over to labor unions, and the most I'll get from my tax dollars is the chance to buy a crappy car with the employee discount. So what?" I can't so what health care, for some reason. The country is rushing headfirst into a giant canyon, and I'm fairly sure lawmakers believe there will be a massive pile of cash at the bottom to cushion our fall. Don't you think if there were cash canyons still around in America, the Chinese would have bought them and started mining months ago?

There will be no mound of dollars to soften our fall. As the person who handles the budget for our family and our company, I have come up with a hard-and-fast rule that I live by: don't spend so much money. See? It's not that hard! Sometimes there are things that the family wants, like new couches that don't have a wobbly leg that occasionally collapses underneath you. But since the river of money that used to flow through our backyard dried up (I suspect the neighbors of siphoning it off), we are putting off the couch until a little later. The last thing I would do is spend money we don't have in order to buy a bigger couch that seats more people but still has a wobbly leg!

Okay, I know it's the middle of the night, so let me try to be a little less vague about my health care reform beliefs. Expansion is not the same as reform. Expanding Medicaid so that it covers millions more people is going to exacerbate our medical problems. For example, did you know that it is Medicaid recipients that clog up hospital ER's, not the uninsured or illegal immigrants. That's because Medicaid recipients don't have the $100 copay to use an ER like I do, so there's no incentive not to go there. Plus, 40% of doctors don't accept Medicaid patients because the reimbursement is too low. So let's see - if I was a lawmaker and had the chance to leave my mark on the world, would I do it by coming up with a new, efficient health care system, or would I take the same, broken system and cram an extra million people into it?

Why, why don't they come up with something more creative than this? Really, is this the best they can do? Where's the big, round table with a seat for everyone involved so they can come up with creative ideas to solve a lack of affordable health care? I am loathing the rush to make a decision - it seems like this presidency has been all about spending political capital to push through as many Democratic projects as possible before the country realizes it was duped by a message of "change." Yeah, I'll give you change all right - all we did was switch from Republican to Democrat, there's no change here. This is business as usual, with a more charming guy than usual at the helm.

Is this how Democrats have felt the last eight years, that the man in charge doesn't actually care about what's best for the country, just what's best for him politically? I feel so neglected by the ruling party that it's like I no longer have a voice. And where the heck are the Republicans with their alternative ideas?? Why is there no coalition of hospitals/economists/businesspeople with a no-government plan? I've never liked the idea of a single-payer plan, but I'd rather take that, with it's simplicity and transparency, than what I'm hearing now.

Since nobody is asking, here's my brilliant idea about how to pay for a health care plan. Take the entire government budget, and reduce it by ten percent across the board. No special exceptions for anyone, and anyone complaining gets reduced more. You cannot possibly tell me with a straight face that government agencies are already lean, efficient spenders and that there's no way they can find 10% savings out of their budget. Let everyone who takes government dollars (Defense, Health, whoever is in charge of NASA, etc) do what regular families do: spend a little less. One of the beauties of difficult economic times is the creative solutions that entrepreneurs come up with in order to solve their problems with less. Let's show the world that we believe in ourselves and our ingenuity enough to be successful without needing to spend ourselves into oblivion. Let's try for some quality governance instead of just quantity.

I was hoping that if I got this off my chest, it would make me feel better and I could go to sleep. But I think all I'm ending up with is a bunch of rambling, incoherent anti-government rants that kind of leave a bad taste in my mouth. The reason that I can't just let health care reform go is that I'm writing a 10 page paper about it for one of my classes this semester. Once that is done and turned in, I vow not to think about health care reform ever again. Not if it leads to this kind of middle of the night insanity. There are other people whose job it is to stay up worrying about health care reform. Besides, being awake at 4 in the morning makes me hungry. And no government agency is going to be cooking me breakfast. At least, not yet. Let's hope Denny's doesn't need a bailout.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Days Crawl, But The Years Fly

Brad was spinning around on the computer chair and accidentally whacked his pinky toe really hard into one of Darcey's toys. I was sitting upstairs on the couch when I heard the whack and the accompanying howl. A minute later Brad limped upstairs and plopped down next to me. He told me what had happened in a voice that sounded a lot like he was trying not to cry.

I rubbed his back and told him it would be okay, and that he's not too old to cry. He said, "I'm not going to cry," but then he laid down on the couch and put his head in my lap, while I continued to rub his back. It was such a small gesture, the need of a little boy for his mom to make everything okay. At that moment I thought, What if this is the very last time he lays his head on my lap like this?

He may be too tough to cry anymore, but that doesn't mean I can't.

Next week is Brad's 12th birthday. He is growing up, and soon he'll be too big/manly/whatever to cuddle up with mom like this. Sure, he'll always sit next to me on the couch and let me scratch his back, but there was a childlike vulnerability today that won't always be here. We're walking the fine line between childhood and adulthood - one day he's going to stand firmly in the other camp and leave me with one less cuddly little boy.

How does this happen so fast? How do 12 years pass overnight when there are days that feel like they will never end? No scientist can convince me that time is linear - time plays hopscotch, it bounces around and doesn't ever let you catch it. Time is the ball in a pinball machine, zipping back and forth, sometimes shooting ahead and sometimes stuck in a corner, waiting for a flipper to send it off in another direction.

Brad is turning 12. In two years, he can go to church dances and EFY. In three years, he can get his learner's permit. In four years, he can start dating. In five years, he'll be taking college entrance exams. In six years, he'll graduate from high school. In seven years he'll be on his mission. I'm old enough now to know that seven years is nothing, it's no time at all. I might as well say Tomorrow he'll be on his mission, because that's almost as true.

But it's not really tomorrow. He's still a little boy that plays with Zack's legos during church and loves Hot Wheels and watches Darcey's shows on PBS. He still rests his head on his mom's lap and tries not to cry when he hurts himself. But I don't know if I can stop myself from crying when he does it, knowing that I'm watching a species headed for extinction.

Sometimes it hurts to watch your little boy grow up right in front of your eyes. My only consolation is that, if this was the very last time he laid his head on my lap and let me rub his back, at least I paid attention to it.

Join me in a little walk down memory lane. Here's Brad last month at Disney World.

Easter 2008.



Birthday 2004. He was turning 7.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Deep Thought

I'm kind of bummed that all of the easy stuff has been discovered already. Like the guy, Blaise Pascal, who discovered that air pressure decreases with altitude. You know how he figured it out? He stood at the bottom of a mountain while his brother-in-law climbed to the top, and at the same pre-determined time, they both checked their barometers. I totally could have done that! I was born 350 years too late, is the problem.

Nowadays, all the really good discoveries require PhD's and complex laboratories burrowed inside mountains in Switzerland. There's no chance that some nobody like me is going to finally crack chaos theory or whatever it is that super-geniuses work on. It's too late to be immortalized for finding the double-helix pattern of DNA, or for figuring out gravity, or knowing that water boils at 212*. Basically, anything that could be discovered by thinking really hard, it's been done, and now you have to know math and science and own a microscope to do ground-breaking work.

Maybe I should buy a microscope.

Staring Contest

The trickiest part about raising kids is coming up with punishments for them that are more painful for them then they are for you. This is a challenge, because kids are creative and they can make anything painful for adults, even rewards. I'm pretty selective about what I threaten to take away from the kids because I know that most of the time, I'd rather put up with their current (rotten) behavior than experience their heightened, punishment-induced behavior.

The past two days, I've woken up to hear various combinations of children fighting. I hate this. I loathe this. Fighting is the worst alarm clock ever. I'd rather wake up to a screeching beep sound or to music that lodges an annoying song in my head for the whole day than wake up to screaming, yelling, crying, etc. Yesterday's battle royale was over a computer game. Today's was about who got to sit on the couch while watching tv. Yesterday I took away the computer. Today I took away the tv.

This is drastic, I know. This is Parenting Extreme, a level that good parents don't have to resort to, because they don't let things get out of control to the point where reactionary punishments have to be initiated. To my kids, this is one step away from child abuse. Frankly, I don't care anymore, and that's a sign that whatever retaliatory punishment they dish out, I can take. Brad, so far, is the only kid complaining, and he's taking out his anger by slamming every door in the house. Noah and Zack both popped right up and found things to do, although Noah is making the potentially fatal mistake of being in the same room as Brad.

Right now I am full of wrath and righteous indignation. The dangerous time will be later in the afternoon, or tomorrow, when Darcey is in desperate need of chilling in front of Sesame Street for an hour. That's when it's going to be hard to stick to my guns. In fact, I'm counting on Brad testing my limits on a continual basis about this - for him, this punishment is a staring contest, and he's pretty sure I'm going to blink first. We'll see who wins this battle.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Good, Old-Fashioned Fun

Living in Utah, you can't escape the pioneers. They were hard-working, industrious, righteous people who raised a dozen kids apiece while dragging their worldly belongings across the country in a handcart. Their specter is always hanging over modern families like mine, mocking us (solemnly, of course) when my kids refuse to, say, help unload the groceries from the minivan. You can almost hear them saying, shaking their heads in ethereal disgust, We crossed the Rocky Mountains on foot for THEM?

So I feel this burden to live up to our pioneer heritage. Well, not MY pioneer heritage, of course - my ancestors were pilgrims and immigrants from various European countries. But even with that stock, I've got the Puritans, and I'm guessing they would be as disgusted as the pioneers by my children's lousy work ethic and reliance on modern conveniences.

Today I assuaged my guilt by taking part in the ultimate pioneer tradition, weeding. Weeds are timeless, they are eternal, they are from the Devil himself, so you know the pioneers would want them stamped out with vigor. Ryan and I could have pulled the weeds ourselves, but we didn't want to deprive our children of the growing experience. There's not an LDS church leader in existence that doesn't have a story about how working in the yard made him into the man he is today. On the off chance that our kids can overcome their parentage and actually make something of themselves, this will be an important moment in their development. Resume-building, if you will.

There was surprisingly little complaining when I announced that it was Family Weeding Time. The boys trooped out there, put on some gardening gloves, and got to work. Well, got to work at their own pace. The sun, which had been lurking behind clouds until the very second we herded the boys outside, was beating down on us with intensity. Ryan and I have done this kind of job before, so we knew that the faster we got it done, the sooner we could get inside and cool off. Brad and Noah have devised a better theory, and it has two parts: 1)The slower they work, the more weeds will be pulled by other people, and 2)Invite friends to help. Sneaky as they may be, they're on to something with step 2. Brad had a friend over when we started weeding, and that kid pulled more weeds than all of the kids combined! Plus, and this is huge, he never once complained, ever. Wow! I didn't know kids like that existed! I'm sure it's because he wasn't at his house, being forced to do this by his mom, but still. He's going to make his ancestors proud.

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you'll know that in April of 2007, we made another attempt at kicking it old school, when we gave up our potentially-but-as-yet-not-dangerous trampoline in favor of a classic wooden swingset. (You can read the original long-winded post here.) What could be safer than a wooden swingset, crafted (from a kit) by their parents loving hands? That is what the pioneers would have made for their kids, if their kids had any free time after baling the hay and milking the cows and fishing in the crick.

Within the first 24 hours, we had one bloody nose, one breath-knocked-out, and one trip to Instacare to get his head stapled. Last year, one of the monkey bars broke while Noah was on it, a nail scraping his arm on the way down. We not-so-affectionately refer to the swingset as the death-trap, although the major injury was done to our wallet, since we paid $750 for this thing that has done nothing but fall apart. I've mentioned my theory on Pain Units; there may not ever be anything in our life that causes more ongoing Pain than this swingset.

The area we were weeding was around the woefully unused swingset. When we went out there today, this is what we found:

Is it really so hard to have good, old-fashioned fun? Shouldn't a $750 swingset, admittedly on the low-end price-wise, last at least three whole summers? This is how I know I'm not a pioneer, because a pioneer wouldn't complain about this. They'd probably pray for the crooks at Adventure Playsets and anyone who bought their products at Toys R Us. They wouldn't still be holding a grudge after 27 months of crappy-swingset ownership. What they WOULD have done, I'm convinced, is torch the thing. Now THAT'S some good, old-fashioned fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Blog About Nothing

I've been needing to write a blog entry for a week now, and have found myself with nothing to write about. I haven't been doing anything interesting, nothing interesting has happened. My brain appears to have taken the summer off. The best blog fodder is when something out of the ordinary happens, or when I can think novel thoughts about ordinary stuff. It's SOOO easy to write about catastrophes, but try writing about how your swamp cooler seems to be working rather well this year. Trust me, no one wants to read that.

So here are the things that have happened recently that are too uninteresting to write about:

I got a haircut that I don't hate.
Our ant problem seems to have resolved itself, or at least the ants have gotten better at hiding.
Darcey found a cup of milk ripening in the backyard, but she didn't drink it.
I listened to one great, two mediocre, and one truly awful audiobooks.
I am neglecting my homework like a true Mudgett; however, the classes are so easy that all I need is one good effort and I'll be caught up.
The kids have a cough, but it's not the swine flu.

Is it horrible that I wish we had the swine flu just so I can have something interesting to write about? Yes, because so many people have the swine flu now that even if we get it, it'll be prosaic, done to death. We've missed the window for swine flu being cool and original - when we get it, we'll just look like attention-seeking wannabes.

I would never have pegged myself as a Drama Queen, but I know for sure I don't want to be the Boredom Queen, either. If I had to have a title, I'd want to be the Queen of Quirk, the Sovereign of the Slightly Interesting, the Amusing Yet Charming And Slightly Off-Beat Monarch. You could call me Princess Pithy for short.

It looks like I need to start manufacturing interesting experiences in the name of blog production. Maybe a road trip, or a home improvement project. If I wanted to get REALLY interesting, I would take the family camping, or start potty-training Darcey. Or both on the same weekend! Of course, I doubt I'd survive a weekend like that with my mind intact, and I don't know what the internet connection is like in the loony bin, so maybe I should take it easy on myself. I think I'll wait until my brain comes back from vacation and see if it has anything interesting to say.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Room Of One's Own

If you want to see me get so angry that my skin melts off in a puddle of fury and my teeth grind down to stumps and my reply comes out like I'm breathing acid-laced fire, say something like this to me:

"You don't need your own room; you've got the kitchen!"

Fortunately, no one's ever been foolhardy enough to say that outright, but I've sensed that sentiment lurking beneath the surface a few times, and that was enough to make me just about belch flames at the offender.

When we bought this house, my one requirement was a room of my own. Not my own bedroom, and definitely NOT the kitchen - I wanted a room that was mine, with a door on it and a lock and places to keep things that sticky, little fingers wouldn't touch, that I didn't have to share with anybody. I imagined such a room as a combination craft room/library/place to relax. I would decorate the room to have the feel of a spa room, where you walk in and instantly breathe slower, because you are relaxing already. And at the end of the day, I could retreat there for some quality time with myself, a good book, and a bowl of ice cream.

I might as well have wished for a room full of pixie dust and thousand-dollar bills. I got the square footage, technically, but I never got the room that I wanted. I never got the Sanctuary. Over the years, my room has been, at various times, a craft room, a computer room, a toy room, a guest room, Tim's room, an office, and a tv room. Several of these themes have reappeared more than once, making this room the most versatile room in the house. But rarely has it been MY room.

Even in the moments when the room was neither playroom nor guest room, it's been hard to stake my claim. Yes, it might be called "mom's craft room" but as soon as my back is turned, the squatters move in, bringing with them their toys and legos and candy wrappers. At one point, Ryan suggested that I keep the door locked and don't let anyone in. Which would be a fine idea if the room was empty, but I don't think I'll be able to find serenity in a locked room while the kids are banging on the door. After the kids go to bed, Ryan and I finally have some time to talk without being interrupted, something that we have grown quite fond of doing (I know, crazy), so that also precludes the quality time with myself and a good book.

The room is currently Ryan's office. He needed a place to work, and it made sense for him to move into that room, since it was, by that time, only being used as a tv room and giant garbage dump. I do most of my writing/time-wasting while sitting on the couch, and when I need to escape the kids, I go into my bedroom. If I think they'll find me there, I have been known to lay down on the floor on the far side of the bed, so they won't see me. I would like to repeat, once again, that there is no dignity in motherhood. I would hide under the bed, but I don't fit.

Hiding behind my bed to escape my children is a far cry from the relaxing, inviting room that would be my Sanctuary, but I think the idea was impractical to begin with. Sure, I could have the perfectly decorated room, complete with soft Enya music in the background, and that would be very relaxing - but when would I ever, ever use it? What I should have asked for, all those years ago when we were house shopping, was a room of my own AND some alone time every day to enjoy it. Although pixie dust and thousand-dollar bills might have been more realistic.