KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Roaring Mothers Get Results

An update about the bullying of my first-grader, Jared, on the school bus:

Friday (26 October) morning, Jared's teacher, Mr. D, talked with the assistant principal, Ms. E. The two adults pulled Jared and "Joe," the other boy, out of class briefly to hear both sides. Jared confirmed what was happening, but being reluctant to get Joe in trouble—because he likes Joe when Joe isn't hitting him—he said that the bullying had happened only recently, instead of since September.

That afternoon, both the teacher and Ms. E called me. Ms. E told me what Jared had said, and I told her that no, the bullying had been going on all school year. She called Joe's parents and spoke with them, stipulating that if Joe hit, poked, or tripped anyone on the bus, he would no longer be allowed to ride the bus; his parents would be required to drive him to school.

My husband Ed spoke with Joe's parents face-to-face Sunday, and it went well. (Ms. E had warned me, however, that in her experience, nearly all parents react defensively in these situations, even more so when speaking with the parents of the alleged victim than with school officials.) The parents promised to have a long talk with Joe about not hitting Jared or anyone else. Joe's older brother, "Tim," volunteered to his parents that he had seen Joe pick on Jared several times earlier in the school year. (Tim himself has been a victim of a school-bus bully in the past; instead of talking with the bullying child's parents or with the school, Joe and Tim's parents simply stopped letting Tim ride the bus and started driving him to school.) Ed says that the entire conversation was calm and not defensive or accusatory. We felt that because Ed had befriended Joe's father through past walks in the neighborhood, he should talk with him in addition to Ms. E calling the parents; we didn't want to put the entire burden on the school to handle the situation. Plus, we like to set an example for our children about speaking up for oneself civilly.

This week on the bus, Joe has not hit, poked, or yanked on Jared until Jared fell off the seat. Jared is happy and is now pleasant, rather than growly, when he gets off the school bus in the afternoons.

Jared did admit to us that he hit Joe back once in the past after Joe hit him. We explained to him that hitting someone won't stop the other person from hitting, that we do not approve of his hitting anyone, that the proper response to being hit is to ask the other person to stop and then to tell the bus driver (if applicable) and his teacher, and that if he does hit back, that will likely be the time that the bus driver/teacher turns around and sees what is going, thus landing Jared in trouble.

Jared is very grateful ("because Mr. D sticks up for kids"), and so are Ed and I. We have e-mailed Mr. D, with a copy to Ms. E, to tell him so.

Updated at 2:31 p.m.: As soon as Ed and I found out about the bullying, I had a very strong urge to find a way to ride the school bus with Jared and put a force field of protection around him just by virtue of my being there and being identified as his mother. Not that my being on the bus would be allowed, mind you.

Jared's being bullied pushes so many buttons for Ed and me. We were both misfits, in different ways, as children in public schools, he here on Long Island and me in Texas, and we were both bullied in school. And I was bullied by my parents, as were my siblings. Ed and I are determined to stop the cycle of violence, at least for our family. We'd like to stop it for others too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anecdotal Evidence Regarding the Persistence of Capsaicin

Dangerous to delicate membranes
I can confirm that it is a very bad idea to touch delicate bodily membranes, such as those contained in human eyes and noses, within 24 hours of dicing jalapenos or chili peppers of any kind.
Dangerous to delicate membranes
I ordered some chili peppers with the last batch of groceries, wanting to include small bits of them in my daily huge plate of salad. They're quite tasty additions. But know that even two surgical-style scrubbings of the hands after chopping chili peppers does not completely erase the capsaicin, the "heat"-producing substance in them, from the fingers. And know that until the capsaicin dissipates a couple of days later, you should touch neither the caruncula lachrymalis nor the nostrils.


Breastfeeding Does Not Cause Breasts to Sag

If you've ever thought that once you give birth, you won't want to breastfeed because it will make your breasts sag, physicians have news for you: Breastfeeding does not cause sagging breasts!

At the 2007 conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, results of a recent study were
... breastfeeding alone has no impact on a woman's breast shape, according to a first-of-its-kind study. ...

"Many women who come in for breast surgery tell us their breasts are sagging, drooping or are less full because they breastfed," said Brian Rinker, MD, ASPS Member Surgeon and study author. "Although the amount of sagging in the breasts appears to increase with each pregnancy, we've found that breastfeeding does not worsen the effect."

The study examined 93 women who were pregnant one or more times prior to having cosmetic breast surgery. Fifty-eight percent of patients reported breastfeeding one or more of their children. The duration of breastfeeding ranged from 2 to 25 months, with an average of nine months. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported an adverse change in the shape of their breasts following pregnancy.

As the first study to examine what impacts breast shape in connection to pregnancy, plastic surgeons found that a history of breastfeeding, the number of children breastfed, the duration of each child's breastfeeding, or the amount of weight gained during pregnancy were not significant predictors for losing breast shape. However, body mass index (BMI), the number of pregnancies, a larger pre-pregnancy bra size, smoking history, and age were significant risk factors for an increased degree of breast sagging.
It's genetics, ladies, not breastfeeding, that determines how much your breasts will sag.

I can't wait till researchers prove that bra-wearing doesn't prevent sagging. I wore bras for decades, and they did nothing to prevent sagging. Trust me—I'm middle-aged and large-breasted. Enough said.

And I hope mainstream researchers soon prove what I've long suspected: that bra-wearing may cause cancer. I read the book Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras a few years ago, and though the researchers who wrote it have not found acceptance of their findings by mainstream medicine, what they found sure makes sense to me—enough to make me stop routinely wearing bras. But that's another post.

One less excuse for feeding babies formula! Hooray!

Hat tip: Katie Allison Granju.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Am Mother, Hear Me Roar

Don't bully this childOur 6-year-old first-grader, Jared, told us last night that he has been being bullied on his school bus for some time now.

A boy I'll call Joe, whom Jared says is a first-grader, has been tripping Jared, flicking him with his fingers, and hitting him in the chest. Jared has a lump near his temple because, he says, Joe grabbed Jared's legs on yesterday's ride home, which made Jared fall onto the bus floor between the seats and hit his head on the metal back of a bus seat. Jared says the leg-grabbing happens quite often. He says that occasionally, the bus driver sees what's going on and tells Joe to stop but that Joe just starts up again when the bus driver doesn't see him.

My husband, Ed, remembered that Mr. D., Jared's teacher, said at the school open house that he detests bullying and will do anything he has to to put a stop to it, and he wanted parents to let him know if their children are being bullied. So I e-mailed Mr. D. this morning and asked for his help. I mentioned that Ed and I would like to see two adults be paid to ride every full-size school bus to keep the children safe and to make driving safer for the bus drivers. He responded immediately:

I am on the case. Would you like me to inform the assistant principal? She will be right on top of this. She is wonderful with the bus situations.

I also e-mailed the chairperson of the safety committee of the school's PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She wrote back:

I am sorry to hear your son is having a hard time. I highly recommend that you immediately contact [the principal] or [the assistant principal] yourselves. I know that they take the matter of bullying very seriously, and would want to hear from you.

As far as your proposal for aides to ride the buses, I am sad to say that in our current budget climate, this is not at all likely to happen. Programs and instructional staff are being cut left and right. I do not think a PTA meeting is the right forum for your concerns. I urge you to call the principals about this, as it is really, really beyond the scope of the PTA's safety committee. We are asked only to provide support on school grounds for snow days, early dismissals, concerts, etc.

Not the right forum?! I'm sure that if it was her child having his head banged into the bus seat, she'd think that the PTA was the proper forum. I think I feel an urge to attend a school board meeting coming on.

Updated 31 October, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ana's First Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

My husband and our sons Neil and Jared and our 5-month-old granddaughter, Ana (Anastasia), are back from the periodic neighborhood trip to a local farm for picking pumpkins. Ed says Ana is one easy baby. I know he's right; I had her all to myself one day when Ed, the boys, and our son-in-law, Li, went fishing on our boat. (Click on any thumbnail to see a larger version.)

Ana riding pumpkin trip bus

The bumpy bus ride puts Ana to sleep

Ana riding on Grandpa in a sling carrier and wearing Grandpa's capAna enjoys her first hayride
Ana's first pumpkin, which is really a gourdUncle Jared, left, and Uncle Neil enjoy some pre-Halloween candy

Jared and Neil with their pumpkins

P.S. Those aren't tears of sadness coming out of Ana's one eye in the top photo. She has a immature tear duct, which her pediatrician says should eventually stop leaking on its own.

The Good Grandfather

Grandpa feeding Ana

Ana sleeping on Grandpa

While I'm working today, my husband, Ed, and our sons will go pumpkin-picking at a nearby farm, and they'll take Ana (Anastasia), our granddaughter, with them. Our daughter, Becky, and her husband, Li, dropped Ana off at 9 this morning because one of Li's cousins is having an early-morning wedding. Of course, just an hour before it was time for Ed and the kids to go to our next-door-neighbor's house to catch the bus for the neighborhood pumpkin-picking trip, Ana got sleepy and hungry. Here are two adorable (if poor-quality) photos of Ed rocking Ana and feeding her breast milk that Becky had pumped and of Ana asleep after eating. She's out like a light right now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Actual Good News About Health Insurance

Here's a happy-Friday update to all of the ridiculousness that my husband Ed and I have had to go through to have health insurance coverage.

Ed spoke directly with the New York State Insurance Department. Yes, it is legal for an insurance company to immediately cut off employee coverage as of the date that the employer specifies as the employee's last day of work. Because my husband's former employer wanted to cover us through 31 October even though Ed's last day there was October 4, the boss assumed that COBRA was the way to go and so told the insurance company that Ed's last day was 4 October and had Ed file for COBRA. But COBRA doesn't apply, even with New York's special exceptions, when there is only 1 employee in a company covered by the insurance company in question. So even though I would like to avoid giving HIP (the HMO) any credit (because they usually mess things up to our disadvantage), what they did was correct in this instance.

But Ed's boss shouldn't have assumed and should have asked the insurance agent who handles all the policies he offers his employees to check into this special case. The insurance agent was asleep at the wheel, too; if she'd taken 5 seconds to look into her files, she'd have foreseen a problem and alerted Ed's former boss.

The good news is that the boss has now filed paperwork saying that oops, he meant to put down Ed's last day at work as being 31 October, so we are now covered again temporarily. The mail-order prescription medication service that the HMO requires us to use, however, still has to put us back in the system so that we can order all the maintenance medications that we need to right now.

More good news: As soon as we get the official paperwork in the mail from the State of New York showing that we are indeed incorporated—and as soon as we obtain an EIN (employer identification number, aka taxpayer number) from the IRS, which our accountant can get for us within 1 day of requesting it—we can obtain the same exact insurance plan, so we won't have to change physicians. And the monthly premiums that we will pay will be just about exactly the same that Ed had had taken out of his paycheck as an employee.

He is now well on the road to being fully self-employed; he's already produced estimates on two projects and is the subcontractor of choice for a third, even though he hasn't yet bid on it; it's a refinishing job that he needs to see in person first. He's in demand, so we will do okay financially. The wood shop has just about been completely cleaned out, along with the barn where he does lacquer-spraying and three—yes, three—attics. His parents, who share our home, have managed not to spontaneously combust over having to get rid of some of their junk. Ed and I have adjusted to each other's work styles, and our almost-13-year-old son has adjusted to his dad's schedule. The only one who's still working on adjusting is our 6-year-old son, who wants to glom Daddy's time the instant that he (the son) gets off the afternoon school bus.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keeping an HMO Honest

One of the agencies I e-mailed about the health-care insurance problem that my laid-off husband and I have encountered is the New York State Insurance Department. I e-mailed the department pretty much the same thing I posted here on Monday. I got this response today:
In order for the carrier to terminate a member, the request has to come from the employer. We have forwarded your e-mail to our contact at HIP [the HMO through which we had insurance] to address.
This is excellent, because my husband's former boss did not request that he be "terminated." (Sounds murderous, doesn't it?) Now HIP knows that the New York State knows what it did. [insert evil cackle here]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

About That Health Insurance Snafu ...

I just realized something that cheers me up tremendously.

My husband's former boss gave him 4 weeks' severance pay—and deducted from it, as usual, 1 month's health-care insurance premium. The boss told Ed yesterday that he's trying to find a way to get Ed (and our whole family) coverage through the end of the month under the same policy, even without stupid old COBRA. But even if he can't, he'll owe Ed the premium amount because we haven't had coverage since October 5! So we should have funds shortly for the first month's premium for whatever new policy we can get through our own new little corporation of 2 employees—Ed and me. Yay!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why Tying Health-Care Coverage to Employment Is Stupid

Grrrrrrr! I have steam coming out of my ears and feel strong enough to best a sumo wrestler just now.

I've posted about my husband's being laid off from a tiny cabinetmaking firm and getting ready for self-employment. As soon as we found out that he was going to be laid off, we took every step we could to ensure continuing health-care insurance coverage. He signed the paperwork indicating that he wanted our policy to continue under COBRA.

We've heard from our attorney that our incorporation paperwork for Ed's new company, Master Cabinetworks, Inc., has been duly filed and that his company officially exists in the state of New York now, but we haven't yet received our copy of the paperwork so that we can trot to the bank and get a business loan, which will cover, among many other things, the first month's premium of whatever health-insurance policy we can get for Ed's company. Meanwhile, Ed's former boss had promised that he would cover 1 month of insurance premiums for us, from October 5 to November 5, after Ed's layoff.

This morning, I blithely tried to log in to the web site of the mail-order company through which our erstwhile policy requires us to obtain maintenance medications, and I was locked out. Headed over to the insurance company's web site to log in, got locked out there too. Our coverage has been canceled! We didn't even get any notice, and neither did Ed's former employer. As of this moment, we're completely without health-care and medication coverage. Three of four of the still-at-home members of our family take maintenance (long-term) medications that are incredibly expensive without insurance coverage. Right now, we need to order refills of one of the drugs and send in new prescriptions for several others.

Ed made some phone calls to see what is going on. It appears that Ed was the only employee to be covered by the policy we had, so if no other employees at the company are covered under the policy, the insurer isn't required to continue the plan through COBRA. And the employer's secretary-bookkeeper didn't know that when she gave Ed the COBRA continuation forms to complete. But we still should've been given some notice by the insurer.

Situations like this are exactly why health-care insurance should not be tied to employment. It's a damn good thing that I'm eating right and exercising, because that's apparently the only health care I'm going to be able to afford for a bit. If you hear a loud explosion, that'll be me going kaboom once my blood-pressure meds run out.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A 19-Year-Old Soldier

Just got word from my sister that my 19-year-old nephew, Jordan, who is in the U.S. Marine Reserves, is now in Iraq. He just recently married, but he's just a baby. He signed up with the reserves to make his mother proud. I can only hope that he eventually comes home alive and not physically or mentally wounded. I would very much appreciate your good thoughts or prayers on his behalf.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sparse Blogging These Days

While I'm helping my husband finish the setup of his own company and while I'm in the middle of editing two medical textbooks at once, I'm going to be rather quiet here. I simply don't have any spare time or much spare brain power. I'll pop in here as often as I can.

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