Affordable Care Act: Good For Women and Kids

Gianna at the Park

In researching more affordable health insurance options yesterday morning, I learned that we’ve been being screwed by our insurance company.

On one hand, we’re to blame for not bothering to look into better options sooner, but basically it comes down to this: the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, forces insurance companies to pay for well checks for women and kids from age 0-21.

Of course there are a few loopholes, like in our case. If your policy started before the law took effect in March 2010, you are “grandfathered” in. We didn’t change our plan once we had Gianna, especially since after her birth our deductible was met through the end of 2011.

If your plan is old, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for “well checks.” If you don’t have kids or aren’t a woman, you may not know how damn expensive that stuff is. Gianna’s first round of shots and one office visit cost $700. That’s right. $700 for maybe half an hour and a few shots.

I’m not talking about whether or not you think it’s fair that the law works this way. But I do want people to realize that their well checks are covered by their insurance.

So hey, educate yourselves and don’t trust your insurance agent to let you know that your old plan sucks and you’re not taking advantage of a better plan.

Re-reading The Hobbit

Gianna's Lord of the Rings Poster

I just finished re-reading the Hobbit.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read it, but it still holds a lot of magic for me. When I was really little, my mom used to sit me down with fairy tales and myths, and when I was about 4 or 5, we read the Hobbit together. I continued to read stories filled with magic and fairies and elves . . . and still do today, obviously. I doubt I would have become so enthralled with the fantastic if my mom hadn’t instilled a love of wonder and mystery in me from an early age.

Of course since I have Gianna, I think about stuff like this nowadays. She’ll probably be a fan of fantasy to some extent, but who knows? She’ll certainly grow up being surrounded by it. I mean, she was both a princess and Ary Stark at MisCon 26 and at 19 months old has already attended a couple science fiction conventions. She doesn’t really have a chance, I guess.

Fantasy will probably be her sports team.

So a few days ago, I got out my Nook, and downloaded the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one volume. I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings since the movies came out. It’s been a while. Unlike many people who have good memories, which I usually do, I tend to forget a lot of parts of stories that I read.

In terms of rereading, this is excellent. The HOBBIT was sort of fresh read for me, even though I generally knew what would happen. In terms of discussing the Hobbit with friends, it’s not so good, but I don’t care about that.

I didn’t intend to reread the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy but I guess I sort of am. I’m surprised about a few things that I’ve encountered so far and I think it’s because of seeing the movies enough times without having to reread the original story. The first thing that jumps out at me is that from the time Bilbo vanishes on Frodo’s 33rd birthday, 17 years pass before Gandalf returns.

That’s a long damn time!

I also forgot all about the Sackville-Bagginses and Frodo getting his affairs in order as “Master of Bag End” after Bilbo’s vanishing. And they spend a lot more time escaping the Shire than I ever remembered.

In the movies, it’s easy to get caught up in Elijah Wood’s youthful Frodo with his big blue eyes and desperate expressions. The novel Frodo doesn’t seem like that to me (although I loved the movie Frodo).  And in my reread, I can’t help but see Sam Gamgee as Sean Astin, but that’s fine because I really thought he did a great job as Sam Gamgee.

Anyway, so far I’m enjoying my reread of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Hobbit, even though when I see some of the dwarves in the movie, they don’t remind me of Fili and Kili and Bombur and Bofur.

Huh. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll reread the Hobbitt and Thorin is going to look, to my mind’s eye, just like the actor in the movies.

Gianna’s First Parade

Gianna Watching the Parade with Grandma

Yesterday we went to Gianna’s first parade, the University of Montana’s Homecoming Parade.

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I’m not at all a football fan, nor am I a fan of annoying sports-crowds. But I agreed with Melissa and my mom that Gianna would like going to a parade, so we took her. For the occasion, I dressed her in her princess dress from MisCon and her Christmas hat from last year. It still barely fits.

She was scared of the first marching band (it was noisy), but she quickly got used to what was happening and had fun.

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Be Silly!

Goofball!

Silliness is probably a good quality to have.

If you embrace the silly, you’re taking a step toward not caring what other people think.

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In general, I’m not a very silly person (except for when my brother and I are working–we’re both pretty silly with each other). As you can see, I’m dressing Gianna up to be a goofball a la Punky Brewster circa 1985. I think her hair lends itself to goofiness, though, so maybe that’s where it started.

I dressed her in these outfits:

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I particularly love what ended up being a wrestler sort of outfit:

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I took this last shot this morning while I went outside to see what the dogs and Gianna would do. As expected, they lined up to see what I was doing outside. Clyde had been sleeping, and since he always gnaws holes his blankets, he created a nice outfit for himself. We didn’t put it over his head–he did it himself!

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He is a true clown.

So today, try to be silly at least once. Of course choose an appropriate time for it. Being silly to your boss might not be the best idea. When you’re doing this silly thing, remember that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you.

Just be happy.

Dogs and Kids: Peas and Carrots

Since Gianna is going to be an only child, I’m glad she’s growing up as a member of a dog pack. She’s around some kids, and she really likes them, but I think it’s good that she has a couple beasts to hang around and play with.

She’s pretty interested in Clyde most of the time.

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And Gretel and Gianna always play tug of war with her toys, socks, books, you name it. They both initiate it.

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Sometimes Gianna gets this funny Frankenstein-like determination as she pursues Gretel. I love it.

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Gianna has been a good addition to the pack, especially for Gretel, since they play together so much.

Peas and Carrots.

The End of an Era: Reflecting on Life, Death, and Creating Things

Gianna in her Pants Hat

The only real benefit of losing someone you love (our Minitaure Pinscher Sally just died) is that it forces you to reflect on your own life.

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Sally was the last of our first generation of pets: Dulce the Chihuahua, Sally the Miniature Pinscher, Ivan the super Doberman, King the Akita/German Shepherd, PJ the Poodle, and Monster, Chewie, and Jihad the cats are all dead now. It seems like it’s the end of an era in our lives, I guess, now that they’re all dead and gone.

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I was devastated when Ivan died 4 years ago (read what I had to say back then in my post, My Ivan is Dead and Gone if you really want to see me feeling terrible. I still can’t read it without crying). But after he died, we still had Dulce and Sally and life carried on. Later that year, we picked up that biggest of doofuses, Clyde. Then Dulce and Jihad died and we found Gretel of the Crazy Hair.

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Even though Clyde is already 3 and a half, he’s still an idiot freshman in my mind, and Gretel is like a 6th grader. There isn’t any Sally left to stumble up and snarl them into submission. They’re the old guard now. They’re moving on. They’re not dwelling on the past or old friends. They just are.

Now that Sally, bravest of my beasts, that tiny courageous hero, gobbler of all food, lover of the good life, is dead, I’m moving on too. I have to.

Death is like a slap in the face that reminds you nothing stays the same forever. We’re all getting older all the time, obviously, but it’s easy to lose sight of that on a daily basis and just run on cruise control.

We’re all born, live our lives, then we die. It’s going to end some day, so you damn well better get out there and do meaningful things. Make the world a better place. Create something. Improve other people’s lives.

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I need to get back into the swing of writing my own stuff. I have been spending a huge amount of time on MisCon lately, especially the last few weeks. I’m trying to get George R. R. Martin’s airline tickets lined up, which is proving to be troublesome, and I’m trying to get the schedule out of the way. It’s all a pretty big undertaking, and it takes time.

One of the reasons I spend so damn much time working on MisCon is that it’s a way for me to do something nice for other people. I like helping make the convention as good as it can be, and I enjoy making people happy. It’s also a creative outlet (not that I need any more of those, but still).

All the work I put into MisCon is worth it to me, but I wish I could get down how to have it affect my fiction writing less than it does. I need to get better with my time these days, I guess. Part of my deal is that I’ve been staying home with Gianna this winter, and I’ve been trying to maximize my time with her. It’s sort of tough to figure out how to manage time with a little kid running around.

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Today, in the spirit of this post, Gianna and I played outside for a few minutes in the wintry sunshine. She was very excited to get outside on her own 2 feet, and it worked well until she insisted on  heading into the snow everywhere she could. She can’t make it over much snow, so she kept falling down and getting cold hands.

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So try to remind yourself that life isn’t forever. To make a difference in the world, you need to work at it. So get out there and do something creative, positive, generous, whatever. Make somebody happy.

And give your pets, parents, kids, grandparents a special love for me. We won’t be around forever and you’ll sure as hell wish you had more time. I know I do.

They Grow Up Too Fast! Part 2

Gianna Crawling Toward Gretel

So yesterday I was taking about how kids grow up too fast (They Grow Up Too Fast!). Not long after I posted that, Gianna started saying Mama and Dada on command. For months, she has been able to say Mama and Dada, but rarely would she actually say them (and almost never when we’d ask her to).

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This morning she keeps doing it on command. And she managed to flip her bedroom light switch up and down a bunch of times. She couldn’t do that yesterday either.

It happens way too fast.

So what do I take away from this? Get to it. Live your life. Do what you can while you can. Tell your people that you love them. Make the world a better place. Write that story, paint that picture, do something you loveGianna in the Backyard.

They Grow Up Too Fast!

Gianna in the Sunroom

It may surprise you, but I’m too damn sentimental.

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Gianna and Clyde looking into the sunroom before she could get in there on her own.

I am. I may not tell everyone about it all the time, or show it, but I choke up way too often for my liking. All sort of things make me do it, but one of them is seeing Gianna reach milestones.

She’s growing up way too fast.

I took this shot a weeks ago when Gianna first figured out how to climb down the couple steps into the sunroom. She has been going up and down carpeted steps for months, but up until the moment I took this picture, she hadn’t tried to go down these ones. It was always a safe haven for the dogs and their loot.

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Her first time climbing down the steps took about 30 seconds–and once she got down there, she was so damn happy that I had to laugh out loud with her. The second time took about 20 seconds (which occurred immediately after she explored the entire room as if she had never seen it before).

By the end of the day, she could climb down the steps in about 1.5 seconds.

Now her new pastime is recapturing her socks and wash rags (which Gretel has been stealing for months and taking in there to lick and bite).

Of course now Gianna is in the sunroom all the time, looking out the windows, licking the glass, harassing Clyde (apparently it’s a very fun room to spend time in). This morning I caught her pulling handfuls of dirt from a planter and feeding it to Gretel. At least she didn’t eat any.

I took this picture through Clyde’s legs (he walked into my shot).

Gianna in the Sunroom

It’s fun to see her reaching milestones right before my eyes. I never thought I’d be doing this or that it would be so much fun. She is certainly growing up too fast. I can see how people feel bittersweet about their kids growing up.

Time freaking flies! I have to say that nothing has ever really brought it home to me every day so much as watching Gianna grow, especially this winter. I have been home a lot since Christmas, so we’ve been spending the days together. I think that has really accelerated  how much I notice her changing. With spring coming, that will change. We’ll get back to work outside every day, and she will go back to my mom’s all the time. I’m curious whether I’ll notice the changes more or less.

We’ll see, I guess.

Check out my follow-up post here: They Grow Up Too Fast! Part 2

What Have I Learned in a Year?

Gianna Birthday Laughing

Last Saturday, my daughter Gianna turned one-year-old.

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I can’t hardly believe it. I find myself saying this a lot, but time flies! You really see it when you are raising little kids, something I never thought I would be doing. They just advance at such fast rates, learning new things every day, and you’re constantly reminded that you yourself are getting older too.

One year.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were content to never have kids. In fact, Melissa and I have been together since 1993 (we got married in 1995) and never planned on having them at all. People had stopped asking us about it years ago, so it was a pretty big Gianna as an infantsurprise in general that we decided to go for it and see what happened. And once we made the decision to see if we could get pregnant, it happened almost instantly: Melissa stopped taking the pill and was pregnant 2 weeks later.

Boom!

Gianna was on the way.

If you can handle swearing and some harsh words, check out my post from about a year and 8 months ago, when I announced to the world that we were about to have a baby. Prepare to be offended, but you can read it here: And now we join one of my least favorite segments of society . . .

My viewpoint hasn’t changed at all in the intervening time. I still generally dislike many parents, although I guess to use current terminology, I tend to dislike their “parenting techniques.” I haven’t mastered parenting (there is no such thing, I’d say). But being as I deal with kid issues every day, I now have some practical experience with what works with Gianna, and I think I have a pretty good understanding of how easy it is to just let your kids to whatever they want. I still don’t like terribly-behaved little kids or lazy parents who think you should love their kid’ bad behavior like they do. Or who think you should also suffer through such crap like them.

Okay so on a more positive note, I do appreciate having a far better understanding of the huge commitment it takes to be a good Gianna and Clyde Watching Gretelparent. Once you have the responsibility of raising your very own human, and you spend a LOT of time watching them grow, learn things, interact with the world, etc.

Inevitably, it changes you, and I’m no exception.

I just hope it’s a change for the better and not for the worse. Thus far, in examining myself, it’s positive. One thing I’m pretty sure about is that I am a bit more empathetic. Contrary to my expectations, I feel bad when she gets hurt and I feel compelled to let her have fun, even when it wouldn’t be the best thing for her development. An example of this is letting her watch tv shows like Yo Gabba Gabba, which she loves. I’m surprised to find that I would like to make her happy by letting her watch some damn show, but I do want to. Often, this means I turn off the tv.

Another thing I’ve learned, is that regarding children, not everything is a battle you can win. You can try to always do everything right, or to have all the answers, or do the right thing, but sometimes, you just fail. In general I think I would have previously thought you could “win” interactions with your kid more often than you can, when winning isn’t the issue.

Good parenting is more about being consistent over time in how you raise your kid(s) so they become respectable, responsible, creative members of society. There are a bunch of other adjectives I’m shooting for, but those 3 are good ones.

I have always been introspective, but raising Gianna has also caused me to think a lot more about my actions and what effect I have on the world. It’s interesting to be put in a position where you really do influence someone else’s development–I think I weigh my actions a bit more than I did before (still making lots of impulsive mistakes of course, but I said I changed, not that I was transformed!).

This first year has been a good one, and I’m looking forward to watching her continue to develop.

You can check out my gallery of Gianna’s First Birthday Party

As always, I’m curious what you guys think. What are your experiences?