4/24/2015

They're Called HOT Lanes Because They Make Your Life Hell

So here in the good old DC Area, they've been transitioning lanes on both Interstates into HOT lanes. For those not in the know (you lucky creatures, you) that stands for High Occupancy/Toll. Which means that you either have to have a specified number of people in your car (the High Occupancy option - 2 or 3, depending on which road you're using) or you pay a Toll. How much toll? Well, that depends on how bad traffic is. The worse traffic gets, the higher the toll.

I'll admit, we didn't pay a whole lot of attention when 495 went this route because it didn't impact us. However, when 95 started implementing them, we paid attention. Our initial thought was that it might not be so bad.

Until recently, there have been HOV lanes on 95 (high occupancy of 3 people required) and the hubs has availed himself of these by slipping into them early in the morning (the HOV part turned on at 6am, so if you got on at 5:30, you could be past the last exit, and therefore able to continue to your destination, by the time HOV clicked on) and repeating the process coming home (they turned on at 3:30 - so again, if you got in by 3:10ish, you would be past the last exit before your destination when the penalties for not having 3 in the car started.) And while he didn't love the "early schedule," it meant that he spent only ~40 minutes on either trip to or from work and when you live 27 miles from your office, that's not a terrible commute time. There were alternatives - a "late" schedule (go in after HOV turns off at 9, come home after 6:30 when it turned off) and "slugging", wherein you pick up random strangers during prime commute time and drop them off at specified locations. The problem with slugging is the extra time added to your commute - it makes it a solid hour and fifteen by the time you've gone to the commuter lot, gotten people, dropped them, and then wiggled through the horrific off-Interstate traffic from the drop off point to your office. But still, in a pinch when you needed those prime hours, it worked.

Now? Now, you are well and truly f'd, no matter what you choose.

Slugging works basically the same way - and (bonus?) it's still free. But it's also still 75-80 minutes door to door.

The early and late options are gone. Poof. Because the toll is always on. Always. On. So while the price may be lower super early in the morning, you still pay a minimum of about $3, which will translate to a minimum of $30 a week. And that's if they don't decide that traffic is bad enough to hike up the price. Which they inevitably do. So realistically it's $50-$80 a week, and I don't know about you, but we don't happen to have that much extra dosh just lying around to throw into VDOT's coffers.

Throw in the bonus that the a-holes in Arlington didn't get on board with the HOT lane project and so half-way up, you're back in the main lanes with all the traffic unless you have three people in your car.

So, the new and current plan is for him to go in around 10:30 and leave for home around 7:45. Which, if you're keeping score, means he'll only see the kids in the morning, since they get up at 7a.m. But if you have a brain that you use, you'll piece together that when one gets home at 8:30 at night, you don't go to bed at 10 so that you can be up at 7. No, you stay up til midnight or one and then sleep 'til 8:30 or 9, at which point you have to throw on clothes and rush to work, so there's no quality time with your family in that circumstance.

And if the undercurrent of my post that you're picking up on is frustration, you'd be right. Is there a solution? Other than moving out of the area, I'm not sure what it'd be.

4/02/2015

On Diversity

So I'm browsing headlines and stumble across this little gem: "Furious 7" has an unusually racially and ethnically inclusive cast including actors who are white, black, Asian, Hispanic, male and female."

Why is gender included in a sentence talking about racial and ethnic diversity? One would assume that the female actresses have a race/ethnicity in addition to being female. At least, last time I checked I was both female and Caucasian. Maybe being female, the other becomes less important?

Even more, one has to ask...why is this considered newsworthy? Even for the entertainment section of CNN?

Sigh.

3/21/2015

Just Keeping You On Your Toes

I'd like to say there's a plan to posting and then disappearing and then posting again but, alas, there isn't. Really it all boils down to having very little of interest to say (honestly, you don't care about potty training. I know this. For what it's worth, the three year old doesn't seem to care all that much about it himself. Though we've made enough progress I'm calling him "trained", we just still have accidents when there's something more interesting to do than pay attention to such things.)

Beyond that, the grass is showing signs of wanting to green up. The maple trees are spewing forth their pollen making me miserable. And robins are hopping about on the lawn. All signs point to spring.

I've started watching Blue Bloods on Netflix - enjoying it quite a bit (for all I'm three episodes in) - though I found episode 3 rather jarring as the word "forthwith" reared its head not once, not twice, but three times. How many New York City cops actually use the word forthwith, I ask you? I'll forgive them and watch more because, well, Tom Selleck. But really. Forthwith? This isn't Downton Abbey.

Speaking of Downton, I never could get into that - tried for a bit. Decided it wasn't worth it. And really did a little happy dance to see their next season is their last. One less annoying thing to fill up my Facebook "news" feed. (Now if only we could get football to decide on a final season, all would be well.)

In other TV-like news, we've tried an episode of The Walking Dead (too creepy for me, though I suspect I'd enjoy it if I could get past that. Hubs will probably watch it at some point, though of the two of us, he rates TV watching somewhere around the same priority as lint rolling the carpet.) We've tried two episodes of Breaking Bad (not opposed to watching more, but as with TWD, so incredibly not child friendly that it could only happen after bedtime and, well, TV doesn't hit a lot of priority once that happens.)

Finally, I'd been enjoying the fact that House Hunters International had a "selected favorites season" on Netflix as it's a nice "mommy needs to relax for 30 minutes" show that I generally don't mind having on now and again. Except that the majority of the episodes that made the cut are gay couples and, while I'm happy for them to go off and buy houses internationally, those aren't the episodes I want to have showing when my impressionable kids are hanging out in the room. So instead it's been Man v Food and Good Eats. Nothing wrong with either, but they're starting to rank right up there with Mickey Mouse in terms of things I have watched too often.

And now I will resume radio silence until next time.

3/05/2015

Living Life Fifteen Minutes at a Time

It's time. It's actually past time. But it's a day I've been dreading and procrastinating for the last year (after my first horrific failure at it). It's...potty training time.

If you cast your brain back with me four years, you might recall that I used the 3-Day Potty Training method with the eldest boy. He was 25 months old and he needed to be out of diapers for a cruise the family wanted to take and...though it was 3 days of literal hell, when all was said and done, he was potty trained.

So, when the youngest hit right around 25 months, I dug out my pdf, re-read it, geared myself up, spent 3 days in hell...and then 4...and then 5...and then realized that at some point I needed to be able to a) leave the house and b) say things other than "tell mommy when you need to go potty." So we bought a new box of diapers and decided to wait a bit longer.

We tried again about four months later. Same result.

We played around with pull-ups to no positive effect.

At the end of the day (well, really, last week at swimming lessons), I had an epiphany: this child is more stubborn than his brother.

See, at swimming, now that I don't have to be in the pool with him (and the angels burst forth into song), he wasn't doing any of the things that he knew how to do because the coaches are sweet girls who say things like, "Don't you want to blow bubbles with me?" He's three. If you ask an open ended question, he will say "No." He will also stoutly refuse to do whatever it is. I have asked him if he wants ice cream and he says "No" and honestly means it. Because, hello? The power of no is irrefutable. So, last week at swimming after watching them act as though he didn't know how to go underwater I finally said, "Just make him do it. He knows how. He loves it. You simply can't give him a choice." And hey, what do you know? He graduated two levels last week.

As Gru would say, "Light-bulb."

And so, I filed my gentle, give-your-child-ownership-of-the-process potty training method away, stuck the kid in underwear and set a timer for 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes, we went to the potty. If he did something, great, if not, great. Set the timer. Lather, rinse repeat. We had ZERO accidents of the "crap, now I have to scrub the carpet" variety (which is what we had tons of with the 3-day miserableness.) We had two wet pants that stopped before much wetting happened and he said, "Mommy, I go potty!" and we ran and he finished. And...I think we might make it. Tomorrow we'll do the same thing (I might live on the edge and move it to 20 minutes - we'll see.) But I begin to think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and he won't, in fact, be going to college in diapers.

So there you have it - my newsflash of the day: Every kid needs different things. (Yeah, I know. I said "duh" too.)

3/02/2015

Radio Silence

So...apparently I dropped off the edge of the earth there for a minute. Sorry about that - there's been much family drama 'round these parts of late. None of which I can really discuss. But it's sufficient to say I'd appreciate your prayers (my immediate little world of four is fine).

And I'll do what I can to be back semi-regularly again.

2/11/2015

Warning: Here Be Cussing. Lots of it.

Insurance.

Oh for the love of web footed friends in the forest.

Insurance.

So, the littlest one has a mild speech delay. And, pushing aside the mommy guilt (unfounded, yes, I know) that I have  because of it, I've got him in speech therapy twice a week.

Let's back up a bit, shall we? The husband's company moved locations last year, about half-way through the year. And, insurance companies being the pieces of poop that they are, decided that their current company/plan was no longer an option owing solely to the address of record for the company. They moved all of maybe ten miles, within the same state, so it's not as if they moved into DC or anything like that. But ok, fine. Whatever. They switched to another company and plan, one we'd had before and liked. But of course, we'd had it before and liked it prior to the current clown in the white house and his bend you over the barrel and stick it to you care act.

So of course, the new plan is nothing like the old plan for all they share the same name.

Now, our old insurance was pretty straight forward. They don't cover speech therapy, period, unless it's caused by medical trauma. So, I don't agree with that but whatever, it was clear. So we've been self-paying at our current place and they have a semi-reasonable self-pay option so, fine. (I'm not sure I believe that speech therapy is worth spit on a tissue, but that's a post for another day.) When we switched insurance, I took the info in because everything online said that oh, of course it's covered, X visits a year and so forth. Well, the place we're going is out of network for the new insurance.

Fine. But since we *could* have it covered, it makes sense to go somewhere that takes our company. So I find a place and get an evaluation appointment and yesterday we have the chance, finally, to go in and do that. And everything is good and I have appointments all set up and am planning to tell our current place that we're done when we go in today.

And then they call this morning to say that they've been told that developmental delays aren't covered.

But...what? All the documentation for the plan clearly spells out the coverage for speech therapy. With no mention of any exceptions that the therapy can't be because of a developmental delay. You'd think that, knowing that insurance companies want people who FREAKING PAY THEM MONEY to know how and why they are getting benefits, you'd think that they'd be very clear about the 9 zillion exceptions to any benefit that they so happily state. Of yes, of course we cover speech therapy. Unless you mean speech that comes out of a person's mouth. We don't cover *that* kind of speech therapy. We just cover therapy for talking asses. (So hey, all the people in the White House are good. It's just us little people who are hosed.)

So I call up the member services number and talk to "Mike." Now, if this person in India's name is Mike, my name is Bathsheba. But ok, fine. It's a call center. Welcome to 2015. So I wade though his horrific accent and, after clarifying that no, he's not talking to my three-year-old with a speech delay, but is, in fact, talking to his mother (really, I should have known it was going to all go bad when he asked why the boy couldn't be having this call. Um. Look at the birthdate, man, he's 3) I ask about the coverage. And he gives me the same info that's online. So I mention that the lady at the therapy center mentioned that she was told there was a Clinical Services Memo that made it un-covered. And he says, "That memo doesn't apply to the type of plan you have."

I push a little more cause I know that at the end of the day, he's just some idiot hired to answer the phone and read me the website but that he might have a little more information than the average person can get and he gets the therapy center lady on the line and she mentions a code and he says oh that diagnostic code triggers the memo.

"But the memo doesn't apply to my plan?" Isn't that what he just said?
"Well, but the code..."
"Shouldn't matter if the MEMO DOESN'T APPLY TO MY PLAN. PERIOD."

Oh, there was a misunderstanding? Oh. My bad. I misunderstood that when your lips were moving you were talking out of your ass.

But hey, at least YOU qualify for speech therapy.

1/26/2015

I Love the Sound of Little Boys in the Morning...it Sounds Like Silliness

Usually around here, the littlest is up first and is calling out, "Mooommmyyyy" hoping that I will come and free him from sleepy time. Of course, he's in a big boy bed these days and his door is cracked open, so he could totally get out of bed and come find me, but I'm enjoying the fact that, so far, he hasn't realized how free-range he could be. Going and getting him typically then results in the elder boy awakening and the day beginning in earnest.

But this morning, there was the typical, "Moommmyyy..." followed by a moment of silence and then there was a "Pbbbbt"

It didn't sound like the younger (though he's perfectly capable of making that awesome noise.) I lay in bed and the littler says the elder's name.

"Pbbbt." From the elder again.
"Pbbbbbt" and a giggle. From the younger.
"Pbbt pbbt." Elder, giggling madly.
"Pbbbbbbbbbt pbbpt pbbt" Younger, with more giggles.

And so on for about five minutes.

It's a surprisingly pleasant way to wake up.