Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Here

"Um, is that all?"

First Christmas

"Thank God, you found more"

The Boy

The unhappiest little Girl in Toyland

"Pumpkin Pie!!"


Thursday, December 24, 2009

From All Of Us...

Our best wishes to all of you for a safe and happy holiday and a very bright New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And If You Ever Saw It...

A moment of substantially selective scepticism from the Boy was displayed tonight when he expressed his total belief in Santa, but denied the existence of Rudolph - "He's just made up for a movie. He's not real."

Not to be denied, I suggested that when we leave cookies for Santa tomorrow night, might we leave a carrot for Rudolph too. "If it's gone in the morning won't that prove that Rudolph exists," I offered.

"No," said the Boy.

"But if it's gone then Rudolph ate it, right," I countered.

He shook his head, "Nope, it just means one of the REAL reindeer did."

Kids are so jaded.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Accidental Attraction

After this morning's emotional turmoil I was left to haul the Boy to a birthday party for one of his "girlfriends", the delightful Brienna. As we left I dropped the address into the GPS and it didn't show up so I called to get directions. Brienna's mother said she was glad to hear we were coming and added that she had been worried the girls would be disappointed if the Boy hadn't made it (the baby was seriously ill over the weekend and I had called then to say we might not make it if she ended up in the hospital).

We arrived a little early and the Boy was the first guest. He and the birthday girl played as I made small talk. As the other guests began to show a curious pattern emerged. First, all the guests were preschool girls. Second, almost every one that arrived entered the door with the phrase, "where is he?" or something similar. They would then race through the house until they located the Boy. They were accompanied by their mothers and as I introduced myself the moms would say, "Oh yes, Arlo's dad."

The Boy was the only representative of his gender at the party - a swarm of preschool girls and him. Later another boy - 7 or so - showed up, brought in tow with his younger sister, but he only cared about the pizza. I got the distinct impression my son was the "entertainment".

As I stood in the kitchen chatting with the moms I happened to notice the refrigerator. It was like ours, covered in photos and kid artwork. And then a small construction paper xmas tree caught my eye. It had the Boy's name on it. "Is that my son's artwork," I asked. Brienna's mom looked and said, "Yes, he made that and gave it to Brienna. She insisted we put it on the fridge."

Later I told the Boy that it was nice of him to have made that for her. He said he hadn't actually. He said he had done it at school but didn't like it and was going to throw it away. Brienna had asked for it. He had said sure. I told him it was nice anyway and he smiled his sweet smile.

I have written about his apparent ability to inspire an odd degree of fandom (for lack of a better term) amongst the girls his age, but today took it to a whole other level. If I could figure out a way to hire him out, trust me, I would.

In the meantime, he remains oblivious regarding his legions and just has himself a grand time. His biggest thrill today was the pencil and eraser he got as party favors.

Hell Hath No Fury

I have heard over the years stories of insurance company evil - we all have heard them. I was always thankful that I didn't deal with that kind of company. Surprise! Our turn came around.

The Girl has an appointment on January 4 at a clinic that specializes in developmental disabilities. The clinic has been doing this for 60 years so one can assume they've got their act together. The doctor heading up the Girl's evaluation is a developmental psychologist who is affiliated with Stanford's Lucille Packard clinic for children. She is a graduate of McGill, did her residency at Yale, is board certified in developmental disabilities, and actually teaches seminars on how to diagnose speech disorders. In other words, she is exactly what we are looking for.

Sadly the developmental clinic does not take insurance. We will need to get reimbursed by our insurance company for the very expensive daylong evaluation ($3700!). In order to get the reimbursement we must get a preauthorization for it. The request was sent in to the insurance company by our pediatrician with the important details. Yesterday the insurance company informed us they were denying the authorization, saying that there are doctors in our network we can see and so we can not see one that is "out of network".

I called the insurance company and asked for a list of of developmental psychologists that were "in network". The woman I spoke to, Christy, put me on hold and after a bit returned and gave me the name of a psychiatrist. I told her that was not the same thing - we want a developmental psychologist. Christy put me on hold again, longer this time. When she came back she said that she was certain that Children's Hospital in Fresno had one on staff and I should call them. I asked her for a name. She said I would have to call Children's, that it wasn't their job to find me a doctor. I said that since they were the ones claiming there was a doctor "in network" they should prove it to me by giving me a name - it was impossible for me prove a negative (that there weren't doctors in network) especially without a list; it was their job to prove there were. She said she did not have access to a list; only their medical director did and he did not speak to patients. He only spoke to providers. I told her that was nonsense since she had just given me the name of a psychiatrist with no problem. She essentially told me, tough - call Children's.

So I checked. Children's hospital is a first rate facility dealing with many issues and we have availed ourselves of their services before. However, even though they have four psychologists on staff, none of them are developmental psychologists. In fact there hasn't been a developmental psychology department at Children's for five years. Some additional investigation showed there is only one developmental psychologist in our entire area, and she only takes patients assigned to her by the state. That's it.

Insurance company lied. End of story. They compounded their lie by covering it up. This little sham of theirs is the equivalent of me needing heart surgery, them having no cardiac surgeons in network and so requiring me to see a general surgeon for my bypass... or a dermatologist. And they would claim the general surgeon or dermatologist was a cardiac surgeon.

They are scum of the first order.

Though I can fight them, it won't be in time as, sadly, by the time I do ultimately win the appointment will have taken place and they will be able to deny the claim because it wasn't "pre-authorized". Nice little scam they've got, huh?

We are dealing with my child here so mark my words: You don't want to mess with my kid.

I'm coming for you and, to quote a movie, I'm bringing hell with me.

The battle royal began this morning with phone call after phone call to no end. Recommendations for child psychiatrists were the best thing offered. Finally I was provided with the phone number of the CEO of the insurance company. He took my call and listened patiently as I told him the story from beginning to end. He asked me two questions and when I had answered them he told me that he would approve the payment and it would be taken care of within the hour.

I was stunned for a moment and then, through my tears, I thanked him and told him to have a merry christmas. I don't think I have ever said it with more sincerity.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Seriously, Knock It Off

For those of you keeping track, first there was this incident, and then this one. Today was the third abuse.

While at the carwash, the Boy in tow, I approached the cashier to pay for the auto-cleansing. She bantered with the Boy: "Are you excited for Christmas? Are you getting lots of toys?" She then turned to me, "Is he your grandson?"

"No," I said, and left it at that.

And this woman was my age, with, as she told the Boy, two kids of her own, aged 9 & 11.

Helpful hint: If you're going to ask the question, err on the flattering side - "Is that your son? No?! Why you're too young to have a grandson."

I'm losing my sense of humor, people.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I've been saying the Girl is bright, that were it not for the speech issue we would have ourselves a regular genius on our hands. Actually that's not accurate. We DO have a genius on our hands. It's just hard to know it when her ability to communicate is so diminished.

Yesterday the speech therapist began to administer an assessment of the Girl called the PLS-4 (Preschool Language Scale.) It's used to determine cognitive skills and both receptive and expressive language ability. The first portion yesterday was cognitive and receptive language. My wife took her to the appointment and gave me the report. The Girl began to run out of steam toward the end, no doubt the result of her recent illness, but the results were rather astonishing.

The test can be used for children 3 to 6 years of age. The Girl is not quite 3 yet so expectations were a little low. Surprise! She showed stunning ability. The speech therapist has been administering the PLS for quite a few years, but she had never had a child reach the level the Girl did before they called it quits for the day - never. When they left off she was already testing at a five year old level of cognition, reasoning, and understanding of instructions. Again, the therapist had never even administered that portion of the test because no child had ever gotten that far. She was blown away. She speculated that the Girl's reasoning skills had actually been enhanced by her diminished skill with speech: the Girl must figure out alternative ways to express herself and that had developed her problem-solving skills far beyond her age.

What does this mean?

Expressive and receptive language skills should go hand in hand, with expressive ability lagging somewhat behind receptive ability. That's typical. There should not be more than a 6 month deviation between the two. If the child is only understanding at a 3 year old level than that's where their expressive skills should be as well (minus no more than 6 months or so.) As long as they are together it indicates (though doesn't assure) a simple delay and not a major problem. The school district wants this assessment done to determine her eligibility for services. The fact that her understanding and reasoning are far beyond her age and that her expressive skills, when tested, will probably be a year or so less than her age will mean a gap between the two of 3 years (or more); not the standard 6 months.

Hello, real problem, and hello services (we hope).

She is one smart cookie and my sadness that this bright and well-reasoned view of the world can not escape from her is overwhelming.

The only greater tragedy would be if no remedy was offered.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Better Writing

You know I write this blog with a little of this and a little of that. I try to do it well - try to tell the little stories about myself, my life, my kids. I have, I think, upon occasion nailed it with a nice bit of wordsmithing (though I doubt I've done so recently) and I've been satisfied, but there are days when I just want to throw my hands up in the air and chuck it. One of those moments was this morning when I read a recent post on Sweet Juniper. It was simply dazzling and wonderous, so much so that I am rather awed by its beauty and honesty.

If you want to read a really good blogger, this is your stop. Read as he takes a funny, "god, how kids can kill you" tale and makes it so much more without ever cheating it for effect.

A portion (his daughter threw up on his laptop the night before visiting family for Thanksgiving):

In the morning the laptop is dead.

Overnight the acids corroded something essential. My brain can't help working through the justifications and rationalizations of replacing it. I hate nothing more than spending money. I mope for a bit on the couch and my daughter comes over and snuggles up to me and sits there for a while, vaguely patting me on the head and singing me a song. It was quite touching. And it was time I would have ordinarily spent typing...

...We keep our eyes on the kid every time she makes a sound, knowing that the only way this could get any worse is if she fills the car with that sickness. It turns out she's already over it, but when we get to Pittsburgh no one's there for dinner because my wife's stepbrother has overdosed on heroin and everyone is with him in the ICU. When his mother returns she sits with my wife in the kitchen over cold stuffing and an uneaten turkey and I listen to her fall apart, a bit drunk, her son in a coma with machines breathing for him, at a loss for what to do with the child she found choking on the vomit in his lungs and a needle still in his hand.

* * * * *

It's just a goddamn computer, says the universe. You complain to the universe that she could have done it a few steps away; her aim could have been a bit to the right; she could have skipped the strawberries altogether. The universe gently presses your lips together, shushes you. You could have put the computer down for once.

You watch your children sleeping in the car on the way back home. Your brain returns to the $1700 emesis. Years ago something like this might have made you angry. If your college roommate had done it, you might never have forgiven him. But how could you be mad at her? You might as well be mad at the wind.

They will change you in ways you'd never expect. They will puke all over everything and it will do nothing to change the fact that you would tear out your own heart to see them go unhurt.

The lingering odor of dried vomitus. You never knew love could smell this bad.

But read the whole thing.
He really is that good. I hope he knows that.

Blow Out The Candles

And a big Happy Birthday to my lovely and extraordinary wife. 29 years old... again.

Where would I be without you?

Love you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Theocracy

This is one crazy country.

It seems that 6 - count em, 6 - of the states in our "United States" have laws on the books that ban anyone from taking elected office, or in some cases even testifying in a state trial, if they deny the existence of God. Seriously.

North Carolina is one of them and a recently elected city councilman in Asheville has some citizens trying to keep him out of office by using that old law because the guy is an athiest.

It doesn't stop in the Carolinas though. From the Arkansas State Constitution, Article 19, Section 1:

"No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court."

Of course the Supreme Court of the U.S. struck down all such laws in a ruling against Maryland in 1961. They said in part (and rather emphatically):

"We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person 'to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.'"

They based that decision on Article VI of the Constitution, which says:

“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Don't see any wiggle room there. Thank you, Founding Fathers!

The fact that the laws are still on the books is one thing, but that there are folks out there still trying to enforce them is just batshit crazy.

Welcome to the Dominion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


The Girl has it.

The rapid mono test came back negative, but the doctor warned me before we did it that they have 25% false negative rates - even higher in kids. All the other symptoms (swollen tonsils, high fever, puffy red-rimmed eyes) and blood work (atypical lymphocytes with high white cell count) point to classic mono. The titers for Epstein-Barr will be back by the end of next week which should settle the matter (probably) and more blood work in three weeks should show the antibodies and confirm it once and for all. In the meantime our pediatrician is treating the Girl as if it is... because that's what our pediatrician thinks it is.

The Girl can expect misery for another week and general unhappiness for as long as a month.

Fortunately it's not an easy virus to casually share, so most people need not worry. Odds are my wife and I have been exposed in our lifetimes (most adults have) and so we should be relatively immune. The baby is still breastfeeding so she is getting her immunity from mom. The Boy is the problem. Since he and the Girl frequently share a bath, and all its intrinsic water fountain spitting at one another, I suspect he might get nailed as well. The damned virus has a 7-8 week incubation period so it could hit him in February for all we know.

As for the Girl currently - she's a trooper. From hardcore sweat it out fevers to teeth-chattering chills; from tonsils so swollen you can't see past them to eyes so sunken she looks dead; from a pale ghastly complexion to one nasty snotty nose (she has a secondary sinus infection), this kid is suffering, but taking it all in stride, and pretty grateful this means popsicles and apple juice. She doesn't even complain or whine. I'm just falling in love with my daughter for her hang-in-there spirit.

She napped for 4 hours this afternoon and wanted more when I woke her. She was off to bed an hour early tonight and asleep before I turned off the light. She is one tired 2 year old.

And I'm a pretty tired dad.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Anvil

A weekend with big plans deteriorated swiftly. We had scheduled our annual tree grab for Saturday, but the poor health of the brood postponed it till the next day. By mid-afternoon Saturday the baby was utterly miserable, tugging at her ear and screaming. The wife bundled her up and made her way to the Urgent Care facility. After a relatively brief wait they confirmed our suspicions that the baby had a nasty ear infection - the second one in a month. More antibiotics, please.

Meanwhile, back at the homefront, the Girl spiked a nice fever for the second day in a row. We knocked it down with tylenol and ibuprofen and decided to keep our eye on her.

Sunday the baby's misery continued, as did the Girl's fevers, so the tree hunt was again postponed. By noon, the Girl's fever was climbing and fearing another bout of kidney infection it became my turn to bundle a kid up and head off. I opted for the ER knowing that they would be able to check her urine.

Four hours later we left - no kidney infection, but a nasty set of tonsils. Kissing tonsils is the term used when they are so swollen they touch one another. That's my Girl. Strep came back negative, but the rapid test can give false negatives 15% of the time. In any case, there was more amoxocillin added to the kitchen counter in addition to the steroid they gave her in the ER to reduce the swelling.

Today her tonsils are just as swollen and her misery index (self and inducing in others) is pretty high. My great fear is that she has mono.

As she and I sat in the waiting room yesterday amongst the sick and wounded, a father carried in his son. The kid was roughly 9 or 10 and had a bloody towel wrapped around one foot. A sister, perhaps a year or two older than the kid, accompanied them. There seemed to be no sense of panic amongst the three and they waited to be seen with the rest of us.

In the exam room later, seperated from others by the complex of curtains, the Girl and I awaited the results of her various tests. The kid with the bloody towel was wheeled in and slipped into his partition, his father and sister by his side. Eventually, they began to treat him and it was obvious from the overheard conversation they were going to inject a local anesthetic to start the process. As they inserted the needle the kid began whimpering horribly, "Daddy, Daddy!" It was gutwrenching to hear. The medical staff and his father tried to calm him, but it sounded pretty painful and his cries continued. It almost made me weep for the kid. When they finished, one of the staff asked the father what happened - "Did he drop a bowling ball on that toe?" "No," said the father, "It was an anvil." There was an audible gasp - "An anvil?!" The father added, "I told him it was too heavy, but do kids listen?"

I was so glad the towel was wrapped around that toe.

And despite the cries from him when he got the injection, I stand in awe of that boy's calm demeanor for the whole time he waited. That was one tough kid.

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Way Lies That

Life creeps by on a day-to-day basis and you just don't realize that, in spite of the seemingly slow crawl of minutes in those days, it is moving really swiftly. It just doesn't seem that long ago - half a lifetime?! - that I graduated from high school or indulged my (semi) punk life. That is the disturbing nature of time.

In a convergence of both (high school and punk) comes this brutal slap to the head - a reminder that those days are further behind than I remember.

Seattle punks photographed by Lavine in 1983

Michael Lavine and Thurston Moore have released a new book, Grunge. Moore supplies the essay for the piece and the photos come from Lavine's shots of street punks in Seattle during the early 80's and from his work shooting the Subpop bands that followed in their wake. It's a little bite of history - the taste of bittersweet nostalgia.

Moore is, of couse, the leader of the deified, Sonic Youth. Lavine is a leading commercial photographer having shot numerous album covers for Nirvana, Soundgarden, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., White Stripes, and Sonic Youth, among many, as well as being a video director. He has in recent years become a much sought after advertising and magazine shooter for Vogue, Esquire, Outside and the like. The two of them, Moore and Lavine, are neighbors in Soho and the idea for the book came to them one day when Moore stopped by to borrow Lavine's fax machine. An old portfolio of photos was sitting out and one thing led to another.

Nirvana photographed by Lavine in 91

Michael Lavine and I went to high school together (the other half of the convergence). I doubt he would remember me, but he and my brother were pretty good friends - fellow photographers and classmates who shot together often. Over the years I had heard that Michael had found some success in his field - that he was described as "the guy who shot Nevermind" - but I wasn't aware he had reached the "top of the call list" level.

Mike, then

The fact that I recall Michael as just a young friend of my little brother in a time long before the one we currently live within has a certain absurd dissonance when I try to reconcile the memory and the present. We were young together, shaped by many of the same cultural changes (though he was much closer to those forces than I), and our lives - mine, his, and those of our peers - have become fat and padded since those days. I feel out of sync with how much thread has wound around the spindle of our lives, how long ago so much of what seemed to matter took place, and how strangely sad that fact is.

Michael, now

I am not alone in my inability to reconcile the space between what was and what is. Michael gets it too. As he says regarding Kurt Cobain:

"My association with Kurt has been so potent that much of my career has been framed in his shadow. I am regularly introduced as “the guy who shot Nevermind”. I am trying to figure out a way to develop a legacy that is not dictated by my connection with him but it seems highly unlikely that I will manage. Not that its so terrible to be in my position but I do wonder if I will ever be able to accomplish anything of any greater value. I had my 15 minutes already. The reason that I bring this up is because I am feeling guilty about the prospect of landing a book deal with Abrams partially because they will be able to put Kurt on the cover."

In any case, it's a beautiful book. So think about it as Christmas approaches for those whose lives might be as distinctly out of sync as mine.

Michael also has an interesting blog, My Aim is True, that's worth a read.

Poison Ivy and Lux Interior shot by Lavine in 91

A gallery of more mainstream Lavine portraits is here. (Lest you think him an egomaniac, the title of the gallery, Michael Lavine Knows More People Than You Do, is not of his making. The gallery was put together by a third party.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Prohibited Items

Been doing some research regarding a cruise for the family (pretty pedestrian, I know). The Disney Cruise Line has a helpful FAQ that includes some answers about prohibited items and, more specifically, prohibited toys on board. It included this passage:

"Balloons are not permitted on board the ship due to environmental concerns. If a Guest arrives with a balloon, the balloon is tagged with the Guest's name and can be picked up after the cruise. Disney Cruise Line is not responsible if the balloon is deflated upon pick-up."

I have this vision of a locked room filled with sad balloons hovering low to the ground, strings entangled, awaiting their young owners' return.


We really never ran into it with the Boy. He seemed happy to go with the flow - whatever. But the Girl is hitting the phase. She is making demands. She is getting choosy. She wants what she wants.

She now has favorite clothing and everything else sucks.

The horizontal striped shirt of of yellow and red is a must have. Almost all the time. Put together with overalls it is her go to ensemble. Sure the lime green pants and the mushroom shirt are great fallbacks. The purple pear shirt works as well. But God forbid you get between her and that shirt. Hell hath no wrath as a toddler scorned.

It isn't so bad - kinda cute - but it does get old. Really old.