The Unwanted Adventures of Motherhood

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Sparkly, ice-covered plants.

I had a lot of tasks to catch up on this week before I could find time to write this. It’s a narrative of my unexpected adventure last week. Spoiler: we’re all okay now.

It’s late Monday afternoon and I’m working my noon to 9 p.m. shift at the library. I’m on a project hour, away from view of the public services desks, so I’m able to glance at my cell phone when it buzzes. My 23-year-old, who lives ~240 miles away, has been battling a virus, but felt he was over it enough to go to work. He’s messaging me for advice.

He has chest pains. Bad chest pains. Trouble breathing. Do I think he should leave work and go to the ER?

YES! Child of mine, go to the ER. Now. Continue reading “The Unwanted Adventures of Motherhood”

Grown Siblings, Mothering Them by Text

For the past hour, I’ve been having two simultaneous, but extremely different text conversations with my two kids. I worried I would accidentally send a comment or emoji to the wrong one, as I alternated answering one and then the other.

Kid number 1, who lives a few hours away, has spent the morning at urgent care and is feeling terrible, plus worried about not being able to go to work tomorrow. Kid number 2, who still lives with me, just finished participating in a game jam* with a local game developers’ club. He’s flying high with exhilaration over what his group accomplished this weekend.

It’s one of those situations where I want to be present for both, and I guess the technology makes that possible. But I’m dizzy from the back and forth.

“My whole body aches.”

😦 I hope the medicine helps soon.

“Here are the coolest features of the game we created this weekend.”

🙂 That’s amazing. So cool!

Back and forth, back and forth — celebrate, commiserate, celebrate, commiserate. Never letting on to either that I’m having a conversation with their sibling, or what it’s about. Why remind the sick one of other people having fun? And why deflate the happy one by bringing up worries about the sibling?

And if this doesn’t epitomize being the mother of more than one child, I don’t know what does.

*Participants break into teams and have a weekend to create a computer game on a given theme.

 

Tacos and Corn on the Cob and Unsliced Apples

IMG_3808A 12-year dental odyssey has reached its conclusion. We hope. As an 8-year-old, my son had a school playground mishap that left both of his top front teeth chipped. We would not discover for a few more years how severely the one on the left had been injured. Eventually it had to be removed. I never imagined he would still be dealing with recovery well after graduating from high school.

Meanwhile there were braces and other dental issues, as various fake and non-functional tooth substitutes held the space for his eventual implant. The implant couldn’t happen until he was no longer growing. Even then it was a months-long process involving repeated visits to both an oral surgeon and his regular dentist.

I am thrilled to announce that after 12 years, he once again has a functional front top tooth. It looks good, too. You wouldn’t know it wasn’t the original.

To celebrate, I am repeatedly serving foods he could only gaze at longingly before. Tacos! Corn on the cob! He’s also eating his apple a day, because he no longer has to slice it up. He can bite right in. And he no longer has to be that weirdo who cuts up his pizza with a knife and fork.

Hurray for front teeth! (Knocking on wood.)

I’m Going to Need the World to Stop Changing So Much

Hey there. I’m trying to teach my son how to adult. So I’m going to need the world the stop changing how things are done, please.

In recent weeks it’s come to my attention that I don’t really know how the world works any more. I went to a walk-in hair cutting place and they asked me if I’d checked in yet. Uh no, I just got here. It’s a walk-in establishment, right? Apparently you are now expected to get in line online before walking through the door. Which, to me, cancels out the walk-in aspect.

Then my son forgot the PIN for his debit card. He seldom uses it in a way that requires a PIN, but got stymied trying to put gas in the car. Getting his PIN reset required going to the bank in person, something he found daunting. I offered to go with him as he learned how to navigate a face-to-face banking matters. It turns out I don’t know either.

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I’m not sure how I’ll deposit the contents of my loose change jar now. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve used the same bank for 20 years. But since the last time I walked inside, they’ve changed everything. We went through the doors and I was shocked into a dead stop. It didn’t look like a bank at all. There were no teller stations. No other customers. No table with deposit and withdrawal slips and those pens on chains. In fact, there was not much of anything or anyone at all. Maybe four employees were visible at various places, doing indecipherable tasks. Nobody who looked like they were there for customer service. I felt like a new immigrant to my own life — one who hasn’t yet learned the local customs.

Finally, a woman came out from behind a desk and asked whom we needed to speak with. Though polite, she did it with the manner of someone who was making an extra effort and going outside their usual job role. A different employee eventually helped my son get his card straightened out. But I saw no other customer the entire time we were there. I guess going into the bank isn’t done any more?

It looks as if I need to be the student and not the teacher in this matter of 21st century adulting. I find myself bewildered at many turns. I have considered telling my kids not to ask me anything any more. They’re probably better off figuring it all out on their own.

But last night, kid one, who has moved away, messaged me asking if I could offer some mom advice. I braced myself, not knowing what to expect as I answered that I would try. The next message I got was a photo of this avocado, with the question, “Is this okay to eat, even though it has spots?” Avocado

Finally! A question I’m equipped to answer. I would eat that, I replied.

At the very least, world, don’t go changing the avocado rules on me now. I still have one area of competence.

 

 

Random Advice to My Firstborn Upon Their Second Leaving

My firstborn has left the nest for the second time, moving 230 miles away. This attempt looks like it might be more permanent than the first try. This time, there’s a job lined up, a lease signed, a car owned, and roommates who seem less sketchy than the previous group.

The two of us drove up last week with two loaded vehicles. And I returned alone with an empty minivan, after having carried  many boxes, surreptitiously recorded the license plate numbers of the roommates, and inspected the rental house, declaring the basement suitable for tornado sheltering.

The last couple of weeks before departure, I fretted over whether I had given all of the advice I needed to for navigating adult life. I became prone to randomly blurting out directives as they popped into my mind:

Oil changes every 5,000 miles.

Late fees are expensive. Pay your bills on time.

Don’t bank with Wells Fargo!

Calculate the price of toilet paper by the square foot and not by the roll.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. And don’t buy romaine lettuce until they give the all clear.

If you see Pyrex anything at a garage sale, snap it up.

Voting is a super power. Make sure you use it for good.

I’m sure more will occur to me as time goes by. But ultimately, I’m sure my kid will figure life out by living it, as the rest of us do. Then, too, we’re still on the same family phone plan and can make liberal use of messaging apps.

Gotta go. I need to fire off a text about duct tape before I forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Son Emerges From His Room

My 19-year-old son, who is living at home while taking college classes, has started coming out of his room when he’s home. And he talks to me. I mean, he initiates conversations. It feels like a bridge crossed. Or a bridge rebuilt. Or something about bridges.

In the year before he graduated from high school and for the year or so since he moved back home, he kept mostly to his room when he was in the house. He’d come downstairs if I used my phone to message him that I’d cooked some food, or to briefly take care of whatever household chores he was assigned for the day. Otherwise, I had to make an effort to make sure I saw and talked to him each day.

He tended to leave his door open, at least, so it was easy to pop in and say hi. The conversations generally went something like this:

Me: “How’s it going?”

Him: “OK.”

Me: “Keeping up with your schoolwork all right?”

Him: “Yep.”

Me: “Well, see ya.”

But lately, he’s been bringing his laptop downstairs into the living room or dining room to do his work. He comes and sits next to me on the couch and starts conversations. Granted, he somehow manages to do this just at the moment I’ve decided I’m exhausted and need to go to bed. But I’m so glad he wants to talk, I stay up anyway.

My son is having some struggles at the moment, with health issues and with decisions about the future. The amazing part is when he says he wants my advice. We sit and talk about his life, his concerns, sometimes deep, philosophical issues, and other times more light-hearted topics.

The other day he even gave me a compliment, one that touched me at the very center of my thrifty core. I had shared my excitement about the deal I got on crackers at the grocery store. “If you bought a single box, they were $2.50 each, but if you got five, only $1 per!” At our house, we go through crackers like mobile apps go through updates, so five boxes is not overkill.

My son, rather than rolling his eyes, said, “I have a feeling that if anyone else were managing the money in this house, our standard of living would be lower.” He acknowledges and appreciates my accomplishments as a penny pincher! What more could a mother ask?

Shout out to parents who have a teenaged son shut away in his room right now. Some day he will emerge, and you will get re-acquainted.

 

The Messy Art of Disputing Medical Billing

My firstborn (FB for identification purposes in the rest of this post) is 22 years old. I thought I would have taught them everything I could by now, life skills wise. It started with things like tooth brushing and pouring drinks. I turned over laundry duties nine years ago. A driver’s license has been in hand for five years. The kid has held a responsible, paying job for fifteen months, and even managed tax filing without my help this year.

But life is always throwing something new at you. I currently find myself in the midst of assisting Kid A with the messy art of disputing medical billing. Perhaps you’ve read some articles recently about surprise emergency room charges. We’re living it.

It all stems from a late-night sudden illness last June. The insurance benefits posted on-line made it look like a trip to the ER should cost a total $100 copay. I offered to split the cost of the bill. Going to the ER turned out to be the right medical decision, but a second trip was nearly induced a couple of months later for heart issues when the health insurance statement showed up, claiming the total patient responsibility was $401.92. Whoa Nelly!

FB tried calling to straighten it out, but quickly became overwhelmed by the bureaucrat-speak, and gave permission for me to handle the issue. I made sure they knew every at step what I was doing, because dealing with health insurance snafus is sure to be a recurring issue in every American life.

I wish I could say I resolved the problem, but it’s still ongoing. In fact, I have a formal complaint filed with our state’s insurance commission and have also contacted the attorney general’s office to see if they can offer advice.

I did teach my kid some specifics for handling communications, though. Document all phone calls, taking names and writing down what was said. When the recorded voice tells you this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes, keep that in mind. Don’t inadvertently go on record sounding like you agree with anything you really know is wrong. For a Midwesterner raised to be agreeable and pleasant at all times, this is hard. I keep wanting to say, “Okay. I see.” Instead I say, “No, that’s not right.”

Of course, the insurance company gave me the run-around, saying they would send the claim back for review, followed by radio silence until I initiated contact again. Then all of their stories changed when I talked to a second, different person. The real kicker is that, in the meantime, the hospital bill arrived and it was $501.92, even a hundred more than the surprise amount on the insurance statement.

I thought at least that extra hundred would be easy to straighten out. Simply show the hospital billing office the EOB we received. Nope. In November, I called and agreed to pay the $401.92 (FB kicking in the original $50 they agreed to), with the understanding we were still working on the insurance company to get things fixed and we would expect a $300 refund eventually. I worry about bad credit. I was told yes, to pay that amount and fax them a copy of the EOB I had. I did as told and assumed we were finished dealing with them until we could harass the insurance company into doing the right thing.

Nope. A couple of weeks ago, FB got a rude young adult awakening with a letter out of the blue from a collection agency, stating they owe an unpaid bill of $100 to the hospital. I got on the phone with the hospital again, with FB listening, and was able to read them my notes from all previous phone calls to them and insurance company. I said I would once again send them copies of the insurance statement we received, which clearly said “Total patient responsibility: $401.92.” I got an email address this time and scanned the letter to them.

The next day, FB and I were both off work, so we drove to the hospital billing office and presented the paperwork in person, proof it hadn’t been altered in any way. The woman who helped us was as confused as I. She said, “That’s sure what they told you, but when I look it up online, it tells me $501.92.” I talked her into calling the collection agency and putting a hold on their collection efforts until we got the bill straightened out.

After providing proof three different ways, we walked away expecting a phone call from the hospital stating their bill had been corrected. Guess what, though? Right – radio silence again. I finally called back a week later and ended up with a manager, who insisted the higher amount was correct because it’s what they see on the computer. The only way they could change their bill was to get a new, revised EOB from the insurance company.

But when I called them, the representative refused to issue one, saying, “I’m looking here and it says $501.92.” I also emailed them scans of the statement they sent me. Back on the phone with the billing manager, she said she talked to someone at insurance who told her basically that I was lying, that I had simply withheld pages of our insurance statement from her, and if I looked on the very last page, there it said we “might” owe $501.92. I apprised my kid of the latest developments and showed them how to dig in. I went back to the hospital in person again on my day off and presented in person the entire insurance statement I had received, which had the number $501.92 nowhere on it. In fact, the last page was only a list of how to get information if you speak a language other than English.

After hours worth of phone calls, with ever shifting stories from our health insurance company, my temporary, wimpy resolution of the issue was to drive a third time to the hospital billing office, agreeing to pay the $100 only to get the account out of collections and save my child’s credit rating here at the beginning of their adult life. But I also filed a formal complaint in writing to the insurance company and to the insurance commission, and insisted on a note being put on the account stating we didn’t agree the amount was owed.

My biggest concern was that, if they’d already moved the goalposts twice, they could move them again. I was afraid we’d hand them another $100 and then in three months, they might decide the total owed was actually $600, or $800 and ding us again. So I paid the hundred only under the condition that they cancel the collection agency altogether while I was sitting there to witness it and they print me a statement showing a zero balance on the account.

Now, we are waiting to hear back from the insurance commission or attorney general’s office. The thing is, if they had only been a large amount greedy, I would have let it go at 400. But when they went from large greedy to huge greedy and threw in some gaslighting on top of it, they transformed the whole issue into the hill on which I was willing to die. Now I’m working to get a full refund.

I know it’s most likely we’ll get nothing, but I hope at least I’m showing my kid that you keep standing up for yourself. If a bureaucrat is going to swindle you, you should at least make them work for it.

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My Baby Off to the Jury

Sniff. Yesterday was my baby’s first day of jury duty and I didn’t even manage to get pictures.

I guess I have to admit my child really is grown up when they get summoned to sit on a trial. And I don’t get to go along to offer moral support or take pictures of how cute they look sitting with the group in the courtroom.

This was federal court, too, so not even in our city. They had to drive to the state capital, thirty-five miles away, where the U.S. District Court is located. During rush hour. On the morning when a lot of out-of-town visitors were leaving after eclipse viewing.

As it turns out, after half a day of vetting, my kid was not selected and got to come home. I have received jury summonses approximately every three years going back to the dawn of time, yet never actually had to report to a courthouse. I’ve only had to make the phone calls to find out whether to go. So I was full of questions.

Thing 1 (nickname for my firstborn) reported that the case was “Some old super rich guys suing each other because no amount of money is enough for them.” It was a property dispute of some sort. Apparently many high-paid attorneys were involved on both sides. Thing 1 was dismissed when the judge asked if anyone in the jury pool felt uncomfortable with the amount of money being sought – $80 million dollars.

So, there we go. Another milestone achieved. I need to remember where I put the baby book, so I can write it down.

 

My YA Offspring Handling Things

Even though my children both live with me at the moment, and even though I sometimes find myself wishing they both were more independent in some ways, they will occasionally surprise me with what they handle on their own.

This is Captain Marvelous (Marv for short), in his heyday:

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R.I.P. Captain Marvelous

My firstborn, C, has had a succession of little pets over the years — rats, gerbils, hamsters and mice who are treated to the best life and care a rodent could ever hope for. (Rats make excellent pets. They’re pretty clean and usually very affectionate and well-behaved.) Unfortunately, even the best cared-for rodent has as shortish life span. Marv was not quite three years old, elderly for a rat, and we knew his time was drawing to a close. He’d been having breathing difficulties for several days.

This morning, C told me Marv passed during the night. I expressed my condolences and started to talk about what to do with his body. That’s when I discovered everything was already taken care of. My two kids had taken him out and buried him in the yard at first light, while my husband and I slept. They put a large rock over the grave to keep other neighborhood animals from digging there.

This feels like a big milestone. They didn’t even wake us up. Or wait for us. They simply took care of it. Is burying your own deceased pet without parental help a marker denoting childhood’s end? Maybe? It’s just not one I had considered.

A Whiff of Schadenfreude in the Air

Is it wrong of me to take a little joy in hearing my firstborn vent frustrations with the difficulties of supervising a teenaged employee at work? There was no breach of manager/employee confidentiality, in case you’re wondering. Just a generalized statement about the struggle of getting a young person under your authority to see and accomplish needed tasks without being prompted every step of the way.

I can sympathize. I really can. (Laughing up my sleeve.)