Monday, June 13, 2011

They came!

Guess what, to our wondering eyes, appeared in our mailbox today?  Our new passports!  We bought our honeymoon plane tickets months ago.  It seemed logical that we should purchase our honeymoon plane tickets in our married name, and we figured that we had several months to request the new ones.  Enter procrastination, and applications sent much later than we planned.  We were beginning to fear that they would not arrive before our trip, which would pretty much be an epic disaster.  In the back of my mind I was afraid that what we had read about dealing with the same-sex marriage and the name change (i.e. that it was completely uncomplicated) would turn out to be completely false.  But it was true!  They're here! 

The to-do list for the trip is getting longer and longer as the trip is looming closer and closer and it is starting to get scarier and scarier.  I keep adding things to the list rather than just doing some of them.  Events that I mentally associated with the trip, such as the ending of the parenting group I've been running at work and the start of the summer weather, are suddenly happening.  Thankfully the State Department is keeping pace with the calendar even if my brain is not! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer, whether the weather likes it or not

My sister, Jen, and our nephews came to visit us again this weekend.  Jen reports that the travel was much smoother, thanks to her choice of riding in the car rather than the train.  While we were driving around on Saturday the boys demonstrated what Jen told us they did for most of their awake time on the drive to/from home: "bus! bus!  my side!  big truck! my side!"  They are both absolutely enamored with cars and trucks and things that go.  At one point Thomas was looking at a photo of the boys and their aunties and he pointed at the car-shaped play structure in the background and said "truck!" as if it was obviously the most interesting portion of the photo.  Matthew still frequently refers to a car or truck as a "vroom," which is quite cute.

We had all kinds of outdoorsy water based plans, but the weather forecast was calling for upper 60's and raining.  This was particularly disappointing after we endured a long work week of boiling 100 degree weather.  The forecasted temperatures came true, but the rain held off enough for us to summon our inner hardy Midwesterners and complete our plans anyways. 
Saturday we visited our favorite beach.  We were almost the only people at the beach, and definitely the only ones who were daring to venture in the water.  The tide was just right for toddlers, with a very shallow and calm area along the edge, where the water was actually fairly warm.  Thomas didn't seem to care at all that it was overcast or cold, and plowed into the ocean with a glee that only a toddler can muster.  Matthew was more cautious, several times wanting to spend his time on the "sandbox."  But he loved to fill up his bucket with water, carry it a few feet onto the sand and dump it out, and then repeat, over and over and over.  
Thomas and his toy truck
Matthew and his bucket
We changed clothes, warmed up, and blew bubbles on the boardwalk.
 While we were waiting for a lunch table we happened upon a vintage car show.  Thomas learned the word "engine."  Thomas was still a bit cold from the swimming, so we ended up draping my sweatshirt over him to help him warm up.  The boys also showed off how much they love holding hands right now, with adults or with each other.

In the afternoon we went to a place Becky found on the internet called Kidz Village, which was one part indoor playground and one part children's museum.  There was a series of themed rooms, such as the diner, the grocery store, the hair salon, and the construction room, filled with tons of kid sized pretend play props.  Plus of course the giant playscape with tunnels and slides and climbing platforms.  I think Becky and I might have had more fun climbing around in there than Matthew and Thomas did (two year olds are too young to go themselves you know!), although they loved it too.  At one point I was following Thomas around and he went down a slide before me (which incidentally resulted in a few scary moments where we couldn't find him), but while I was still at the top a little girl gave me that snotty wannabe pre-teen girl look and asked "aren't you a little old to be in here?" 
Sunday we returned to a sprinkler park/kiddie pool that is close to our home.  Long-time readers may remember our visit there last summer.  Once again it was chilly, and once again we were the only people playing in the water.  And if I thought that Thomas was happy to be at the ocean, I don't even have words to describe his excitement for the sprinklers.  He was sprinting through the sprinklers giggling and squeeling with his arms spread out.
We also spent plenty of time hanging out at home, playing with Mr. Potato Head, and enjoying some adult beverage after the boys went to bed.  I almost can't believe how much easier is has become to manage the boys in our not childproofed apartment.  Last summer having them play inside for even a few minutes was stressful, between protecting them from our stuff and protecting our stuff from them.  Both of these recent weekends they've been so well behaved and had a good time with the toys we offered them (plus of course the ones their mom brought from home).  Hanging out with Jen was fun as always too, but my apologies Jen, but your sons make for cuter blogging!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Health Insurance

Can I just vent about health insurance for a few minutes?  Of course I can, it's my blog.

I received a bill today for my co-pay for the surgery I had a month ago.  I was expecting this bill, so that's annoying, but the way life goes.  I was also expecting the hospital to be attempting to bill my insurance some ludicrous amount and then accepting it when my insurance offered three cents in return.  But nonetheless it is shocking to see the actual numbers.  For the whole surgery shabang they charged my insurance $11,329.  On the day of my surgery the hospital billed $600 for two iterations of a blood type test (do they really do the same test twice?).  My insurance paid $2,730 total.  Furthermore, in the past 60 days (i.e. including pre-op blood work and screening and such) doctors have billed my insurance over $30,000.  And you know what they've paid?  Just over $5k. 

Now, of course, I am glad that I did not have to pay anyone $5k, let alone $30k.  Compared to these numbers my copay is insignificant.  I am thankful that I have health insurance, and I know that many people are not so fortunate.  But is this bizarre system really the same system that health care reform opponents are so determined to fight to the death to defend?  Are these numbers based on anything?  If I didn't have insurance would they actually be billing me these ludicrous amounts, and I would therefore be paying several times more than insured patients?  Or are these numbers just pure fiction and some uninsured discount would appear? 

I know that health care costs money.  I know that it is a major issue that some people don't understand that it is an expensive commodity.  I'm sure that the medication I received and the cost of the operating room and the services of the surgeon and the anesthesiologist and all of those things genuinely cost a lot of money.  But why is the price for them something that is determined by a complicated closed doors political negotiation between my insurance company and some Medicare government employees and the hospitals and probably the CEO of  Exxon Mobil? 

These questions are rhetorical, although I'm sure some of you reading know more of the answers than I do.  I'm not well enough informed to have a strong opinion on the health reform that passed or most of the alternative proposals that were made or may be made in the future.  But I think the current system is ridiculous and I have no idea why health care reform opponents suddenly became so enamored with their current health insurance companies, because personally I'm convinced that mine is out to get me.  (They already got my gallbladder!) 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Badger State

My apologies again for the lack of blogging recently.  We keep resolving to do better, but the follow through has been lax.

Last week we spent the holiday weekend jetsetting our way to visit Becky's family in Wisconsin.  I am told that Wisconsin is not everyone's dream weekend getaway, but for us it's always fun to go to the Midwest.  Sunday was Becky's dad's final Sunday as choir director at his church, after many many years in the position.  Becky's mom threw a party for him and invited several surprise guests - including us!  If our traveling had gone as planned we would have arrived at Becky's parents' home just after 10pm.  However, due to "weather" (definitely not holiday traffic or airline or air traffic control error!) our plane didn't even take off from New York until around 11:30pm.  We surprised a very sleepy pajama-clad Becky's dad at 2am.

But we are not ones to let a short vacation go to waste!  Despite our exhaustion we hauled ourselves out of bed early Saturday morning in order to drive to Madison.  Motivation: fresh local cheese curds!   The only place we've found in the tristate area to get cheese curds is Trader Joe's, and while decent, they cannot compare to the fresh local variety.  Madison has the largest farmer's market I have ever seen, which covers the entire block around the state capital building.  Like any farmer's market there are fresh local vegetables and organic crafts.  There is also an over representation of delicious baked goods.  Unique to Wisconsin though are the dozens of cheese shops, most with plentiful sampling options. 

On the way in we stopped at Michelangelo's Coffee House.  I got fair trade coffee; Becky ogled baked goods (but chose to save space for the market).  Yay for cute little independent coffee shops!  My friends and I used to frequent several of these in the Twin Cities back in high school and breaks home from college, but I haven't found (admittedly nor have I looked very hard) around here to love. 
Bad photo of me in front of the capital
We ate and bought an excessive amount of cheese curds and toasting cheese.  Becky's coworkers have fallen for them, so now whenever she (or her fellow Wisconsinite coworker) goes home cheese curds must be brought to work.  By the time we made it around to Stella's we were already quite full.  The crowd/line around the stand was enormous, and we debated skipping the spicy cheese bread.  But the power of the crowd overcame me and I declared that whatever that many people were willing to wait for must be good.  Miraculously, soon after we joined the crowd, a truck full of fresh steaming spicy cheese bread arrived.  This bread is magical.  It is like challah and cheese curds all rolled together in one doughy amazing ball.  I declared it the best thing I have ever eaten, and I think I might stand by that.  
Doughy insides of mostly consumed hot & spicy cheese bread.
Madison still felt alive with the memory of the recent protests.  There were signs plastered in the windows of the capital, people passing out leaflets, "union thug" organic onesies for sale, and a People's Brat Fest in opposition to the usual Brat Fest sponsored by Johnsonville (a supporter of Scott Walker).  I think it renewed Becky's sadness that she wasn't able to be in Madison for the protests, but it was fun to see the spirit is still alive.  Hopefully this will translate into some political change.

On the way back to Becky's parents' home we stopped at a favorite non-farmer's market bakery, Greenbush, to pick up chocolate sour cream donuts.  Yum.  We were too full to eat them immediately, but they were as heavenly as ever when we got to them. 
After our whirlwind trip to Madison we headed back to Becky's family.  We helped a bit with the party preparation and lounged around with her family.  Saturday night we ate at an Italian restaurant and were able to order Chicago style pizza - another of the very few foods we have found to be unavailable in New York. 

Sunday we had a lovely time hanging out with Becky's family and family friends, celebrating the final choir Sunday.  Becky joined the choir, as she usually does on Christmas Eve (I guess this is a benefit to being related to the choir director!).  After church Becky's mom hosted a potluck party for the choir and all of the special surprise guests.  That night Becky and one of her sisters and I played ping pong, which gave me a splendid opportunity to show off my spectacular lack of coordination.  Monday we packed up, said our goodbyes, and jetted ourselves back to life in the big city.