Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fleeting joys

Ethan finished his lesson book, "Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons" According to the manual, his fluency is at a 2nd grade level. I was working in the kitchen when I happened by and saw Ethan reading to Hunter on the couch. It's one of those moments as a Mother you feel so full of joy.

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible when I took this picture so I could capture the moment without disturbing it.

Hunter is very impressed by Ethan being able to read he's started asking me to do the lessons with him. HURRAY!!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Buyer Beware

So, I've had my first unpleasant experience with shopping online. I came across a website that I wanted to buy from , but it wasn't one of the big names like Amazon or an online version of a brick and mortar store. I was a little nervous, so I went looking for a one-time use credit card number I could use to hedge against the risk. I did a Google search and found that PayPal offers a one time use credit card.

According to their website:

Secure Cards let you pay online almost anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

We offer two types of Secure Cards:

Single-use cards. You generate a MasterCard debit card number for a single purchase. Once the purchase is complete, the card is closed and can’t be used again by anyone. These cards can be used for up to two months, unless you close them

Multiple-use cards. You generate a MasterCard debit card number that you can use again and again for purchases on one website. These cards can be used for up to two years, unless you close them.

So, I downloaded the plug-in, generated a single use number and made my purchase.

Five days later I get another e-mail confirming my secure card purchase for six times the original amount from the same website. I flipped out! I called PayPal asking how this website could have defeated their system and gotten a new number for a second purchase.

PayPal informed me that their ONE TIME USE card can have up to FOUR authorizations from the same vender before it closes.

Did everybody catch that? We now officially live in Crazy-Ville where ONE= FOUR

"So you mean I'm exposed to fraud three times before the card turns off?!? What if they charge me again only for a lot more and then I've got bouncing checks in my account all because ONE TIME USE doesn't actually mean ONE TIME USE"

I told them to turn the card off before it could get worse, but then they said that they couldn't refund the money if the card was closed.

"That's PayPal's problem. Turn it off. It wasn't supposed to work after the first time I used it!"

I called Wells Fargo and explained what was going on and they put a stop payment on all transactions to and from PayPal. Unfortunately I didn't find out about this until Wednesday night, the request wouldn't be finalized until Thursday, so PayPal's fraud and the stop payment were processed at the same time and the money went out.

I filled a fraud claim with Wells Fargo on Friday morning. They said it will take 10 days to get everything sorted out.

I removed all our credit card numbers from the PayPal system and as soon as this fiasco gets sorted out I'm closing the account. I found a website with PayPal horror stories of them emptying people's bank accounts out and then taking 6 months to get the money back. I don't need that kind of exposure. Yikes!

So...just so EVERYBODY knows...buyer beware when you're using PayPal.

paypal sucks

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A box for your pennies

I took the kids to the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Ethan made a special request to go. The last time we went he discovered the ship wreck sand box where they plant pennies for the children to find. Ethan came prepared with an empty baby wipes box to collect his treasure in.

The museum is mostly outdoors, so sunblock is a MUST! For the boys it was a veritable paradise of things to do. They ran up along the nature trail and rang the bell then dug in the sand, played on the boat ran through the trees. All the while I'm thinking to myself..."They're going to SLEEP TONIGHT!"

I put the beeper bear on Hunter so I could call them if ever I lost sight of them. I went around with Elle in her sweet tender way and explored all the water exhibits and flowers. She liked to splash and play with the fishes, climb on the spiderweb. We even found some frogs that when you stroked their backs with a stick it sounded like a real frog croaking.

When lunch time rolled around I gathered them all together and sat down. No sooner did I get settled than a mom and a crying boy (about 3 or a young 4) came up to the table.

"My son said that your son (pointing to Hunter) hit him" Hunter had his back to the mom and her son. I asked him if he hit someone. Without even turning around he said, "The boy with the jacket?" Sure enough the boy had a jacket on.

Well, at least he owned up to it. I walked around the table, stood Hunter up on the bench so I could look him in the eye and said, "What happened?"
"Well, he was beating up a little guy and so I hit him" I had to make a FAST judgement call since the other mom was right there and expecting satisfaction. "You are NOT the police. You apologize to him." He did and I apologized to the mom as well.

I wonder if I made the right call...

We asked him more about it later at dinner. Apparently this boy was beating up a littler boy and according to Hunter, "he lost". Hunter is a very sensitive person, but also very physical. He felt obligated to defend the littler boy and so he hit the aggressor. But, then the bigger boy went running to his mom, 'cause now HE's the victim.

It's a hard call to make. I think there is almost a double standard. Children are required to get an adult for resolve, but adults are expected to step up and do something when it's their peers. That's what a real hero does, anyway. Unfortunately after years of training to 'get somebody else', those children grow up to adults who are paralyzed to act when it really matters.

I took the kids around to all the indoor activities after lunch. One of the rooms is a play model of all the marine-type BayArea spots, like the wharf, the docks, the bridges... and I laughed at their toll booth. $1.50. YA! Try again! At $4 a pop, I would LOVE for the bridge toll to be back down to $1.50. But, then again we get the free carpool lane if I time it just right.

After we had seen all the inside stuff, Ethan and Hunter insisted that they wanted to go dig for more pennies. I told them I expected them to stay at the boat and it would be OK. I took Elle around the nature walk. As we came out and I went looking for the boys at the treasure boat...they were not there. Before I could push the button to signal that I was looking for them I heard over the walkie-talkie of an employee walking by, "We've got two curly headed blond boys looking for their mom at the tot-spot." I turned around and said, "That's me." The boys had given their names and mine and told them I had black hair. Well, close.

Ethan had collected 32 pennies. He carried his 'treasure chest' around with him all day. Unfortunately the cheapest thing in the little store was 39 cents. So, he took his pennies home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Uncles are fun

My two youngest brothers, Mikey and Daniel each came up from Southern Cal recently on different occasions to take care of a few things. The kids LOVE it when they come. Uncles are good for running and screaming... which gets the kids all riled up. Plus, Uncles don't tell you to clean up or get dressed or put your shoes on. They wrestle with the kids on the floor and become a human jungle gym. I'm sad I didn't get a picture with Daniel, but this one was taken on the 9th.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hurray for Capitalism

Ethan has a new molar erupting in his mouth. He's already had a shard of tooth come through and fall out, last night he had another piece of tooth break off. We looked in his mouth and the tooth looks like it's coming through the gums broken and rotten. How exactly that happens is beyond me, except that I know he grinds his teeth at night.

Our first thought is....KA-CHING! This is going to be expensive! The kids have a dental plan they got as a free addition to the medical plan they're on which provides full coverage on dental work. The most we would have to pay is $25.

It occurred to me that his regular dentist might take this new insurance even though they're not on the list, but I'd have to ask. I called them this morning and explained what was going on and asked if they took this particular insurance. Unfortunately not. It's through a state sponsored program and this very good dentist that we've been seeing does not accept any state sponsored insurance.

We looked over the provided list, did some homework and picked two candidates.

I called the nearest one and the stupid that came over the phone was deafening. She said that Ethan's tooth sounded like a normal eruption. WHAT!?!?! She also said I couldn't come to that office unless I was assigned to them. Kind of like we're assigned to our government school that can't turn out literate students after 13 years? Oh ****, if that doesn't sound like a precursor to a communist bread line....

I called the DeltaCare 800 number and was first greeted by a recording asking me to pick my language preference. They had mandatory government messages I had to get through, but I finally figured out the office to which we were assigned; Smilecare. Sounds like the Supercuts of the dental industry. I called them and was told that they wouldn't accept Delta....

"Oh, no. I just called and this is the office I've been assigned to."
"There is only one dentist who accepts that insurance and she is on maternity leave until January. No one else here will accept that type of insurance."


I called back to Delta to get assigned to a different office. The automated system even in English was barely intelligible. If I didn't already know they were saying "Smilecare" I would have no idea what this computer was saying. I got on with a live person and explained that my son needed to be seen today and my "assigned" dentist wasn't available until January. The woman who took my call said that we were assigned to Smilecare.

AUGH! Did you not just hear what I said?!?! I repeated the ASSIGNED dentist is out until January on maternity leave.

"Well, you're going to have to stay on the line while I call them."
"I JUST talked to them. Nobody else at that office takes Delta. I need to be assigned to another office."
"I'm going to have to call them"
"WHAT!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS! I'LL JUST GO....(couldn't get the rest out but I meant to finish 'to his regular dentist') I'll PAY FOR IT MYSELF!!!" I hung up.

This is what we have to look forward to with universal health care. There's no competition with assigned providers therefore there is no incentive to innovate, streamline, build in efficiency and cater. The dentist we have been seeing, Dr. Nutter, has a whole room full of kyosk video games for the kids, movies playing on TVs all over the place, several wall mounted busy boards for the younger children. Everything is clean, inviting, well decorated and put together.

But even incompetent dentists need love too so they'll play into the state and government programs.

I called Dr. Nutter's office back and spouted off about the ridiculous run around I got with the state program and how much I FEAR universal health care just based on my experience today. The receptionist empathized with me and said that whenever they've had a patient transfer over and she's tried to get the records it's been so bad that she's finally like, "Look, I don't want them anymore." And yet, all of the politicians think such an atrocity will save the world. More like lower the standards so that everybody has to get crappy care.

I told them I'd pay for it out of pocket. They got me an appointment for 2:30. I guarantee that's better than the other crappy Delta socialist system could have provided.

Hurray for Capitalism!

Post Note: Apparently Ethan has what's called a bony sequestrum, or "island of bone". As his molar came through the jaw bone it made a little island of jaw bone in the middle of the tooth. As the tooth erupted through the gums that piece of bone just fell out. The dentist said that it's REALLY rare and he was completely baffled when he first saw it. The good news is, that his tooth is fine, we didn't get charged for the office visit and only ended up having to pay for one set of x-rays.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Which Zoo? Zeum!

This morning we decided to go to the zoo. We invited Daddy along and he drove. We packed lunches, lathered up with sunblock and confirmed that we had passes to get in.
When the time came to split for Oakland or San Fransisco, Daddy went towards San Fransisco and I started objecting and telling him to turn around. Unfortunately we were committed, so into San Fransisco we went. Apparently we had a slight miscommunication. I have passes for the Oakland Zoo, he thought we were going to San Fransisco. Oh, well. Let's see what there is to do.

We haven't ever been to Zeum, and it was right off the bridge so we stopped there to check it out. We parked in the Metronome parking garage...again we were committed...and walked down the block to Zeum. They didn't open until 1pm. It was only 10:30. OK. Let's walk to the Academy of Sciences. They were closed due to their move back into the Golden Gate park. AUGH! FOILED AGAIN!

We killed some time in the mall, where it was discovered that our Oakland Zoo passes expired two days before. I guess it was a good thing we went into San Francisco after all.
We went to Burlington Coat Factory and got Elle some pretty nightgowns. She loves to wear dresses and has, on many occasions, gotten out of bed to put on a dress.

We walked back over to Zeum, let the kids go on the merry-go-round had our lunch in the rotunda and then let the kids play in the park right there. The slides were AWESOME!

We got right in when it opened.

There were several green screen production areas where you could make a commercial, or music video or news cast. After you were done you had the option to save your project and produce it to a DVD to take home.

We got into the lower green room, but didn't realize we were supposed to pick a project first. By the time I got that set up, their interest had waned and moved on to something else. They made masks, tried on costumes and worked briefly on sound effects. It was a great museum, but I think more suited for older children who have a longer attention span.

There was a field trip there, and when they were done making a clay-mation, we got to go in and use it. Ethan made a Superhero and I helped Elle make a person. We set them up on a stage and did a frame by frame and produced the following three second video.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Seeing Angels

Elle snuck down to our bed at about 2am this week. Apparently she didn't get her full dose of snuggles during the day because she wanted to lay right with me and hold my hand. In the morning she was looking at the family picture on the wall from when I was about 17, before my Dad had a beard.

She pointed and said, "Papa!"
She was only 4 months old my my Dad died and I knew that she couldn't possibly remember him from that far back being so little.
I asked her if she saw Papa or visited with him.
She said, "Yes" and then, pointing to Michael said, "Daddy Papa". Meaning, Dale, whom she has never met. Just to make sure, I asked her if she's seen Daddy's Papa, and she said "Yes."
I asked her what he was doing.
Temple or missionary work, maybe.
I asked her what my Daddy was doing and she said,
Mom is going through a trial by fire at the moment the details of which are very personal and since we're not the type to trumpet our drama, that will suffice. It's no surprise that Grandpa would be actively engaged on her behalf right now.

Not too long after that morning we made a trip to the store. We were in the parking lot and I was getting Elle unloaded. There was an older man and his wife a few spots over getting out of their car too. Elle's eyes got really wide and she started pointing and yelling, "Papa! Papa!" I turned around and caught my breath. The man she was pointing to had the same height and stature as my father, had a full grey beard just like my father and was even wearing a blue plaid shirt like he so often wore. The couple was looking back at us now wondering what all the fuss was about. I turned to Elle and said gently, "No, that's not Papa. But it sure does look like him, doesn't it?"

Today is my Dad's birthday. He would have been 59. It strange that even though we are approaching the two year anniversary of his death he really doesn't seem that far away. But, it's strange to look at Elle and Hunter and realize that they are now where Hunter and Ethan were when it happened. They were so little.

Happy Birthday Daddy. The boys sung the Happy Birthday song to you on the way home from church when I told them what today was. I miss your hugs.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hunting for Ladybugs

We went to Grandma's house for her birthday and the children discovered that there is a whole community of ladybugs living in her lawn. They caught one and put it on the window so I could take a picture of it.

Amidst the ladybug hunting they took turns locking each other out of the sliding glass door. Each in turn thought it was hilarious when they were on the inside of the glass, but not so much when it was them who was locked out. Funny how that works.