Things are really coming together, and the countdown is on!
We have a closing date of February 14. I can’t think of a better Valentine’s Day present than to be in our new house.
The latest progress: the air conditioning system, carpet, appliances, and fencing.
The AC isn’t too pretty, especially without the grass around it, but it is a necessity. It’s hard to imagine needing it right now, with the brutal “winter” we’ve had in Houston (yes, all you Northerners can laugh. I know we are winter wimps).
Guys were installing the side fencing as took these photos yesterday.
The back fence will be shorter and wrought iron, to give us a view of our bayou and woods. Once this brutal “winter” ends and the trees leaf out, we won’t be able to see the houses on the other side of the bayou.
My favorite girl, aka The Little Chef, was uber excited about the ovens, and in her excitement she didn’t realize that the blue color comes from the plastic shield covering the stainless steel. She thought we were getting blue ovens! That’s her, on the left, reflected in the ovens. She has already claimed this spot of the kitchen and will spend many hours baking up deliciousness.
Come on, February 14th! We can’t wait!
From time to time, I like to provide a public service announcement for the greater good. In other words, I learn the hard way — the expensive way — and share my lesson in hopes that some diligent reader out there in the blog-o-sphere heeds my words and avoids the painful/stressful/costly conundrums in which I tend to find myself.
Today’s PSA does not concern courteous driving (although perhaps it should, based on the overwhelming number of idiot drivers I’m surrounded by every time I venture out of my house). Today’s PSA will not address healthy living or how to fortify your liver for maximum alcohol consumption. Today’s PSA won’t even mention Pinktober, pinkwashing, or how misguided The Susan G Komen for the Cure organization has become. Today’s PSA doesn’t have anything to do with our little piggie (pity that, as she is infinitely entertaining).
I recently had a surgery that, lo and behold, had absolutely nothing to do with breast cancer or breast reconstruction or breast reconstruction revision. How refreshing! I did my due diligence in researching a specialist who was the right guy for the job. I asked before I even made the appointment if he accepted my insurance. I provided all the nitty-gritty details insurance details before I saw the doc (ID number, group number, 800 number for claims). The benefits coordinator at the surgeon’s office reviewed everything on her checklist and assured me that we were good to go.
I saw the doc, he confirmed that the surgery was medically necessary and with just cause, and we scheduled a date. I paid my co-pay for the office visit and filled out all the paperwork, including multiple recitations of the insurance company details. I paid for my portion of the surgery well in advance. I followed all the rules (so I thought), and like a veteran soldier readying for battle, I eschewed any aspirin or blood-thinning products that can promote bleeding during surgery; I drank plenty of water the day before surgery to aid the anesthesiologist in finding a good, plump vein; I ate a healthy meal that would hopefully see me through being NPO the night before surgery; I washed the area to be sliced & diced with Hibiclens in my paranoid ritual of warding away any bacteria that might host a party in my surgerized body; I procured prescriptions in advance for the 2 antibiotics that are forever a part of my arsenal since that pesky post-mastectomy infection; I showed up before the crack of dawn on surgery day with an empty stomach and a powerful ache for my usual cup of coffee. I know the drill; been there, done that, multiple times. I got this.
Surgery was uneventful, recovery was long for my impatient self, but there were no complications.
Until I got a bill from the surgery center for more than $20,000.
20,000 clams for a surgery that was on the up-and-up and had been cleared for take-off well in advance.
After suffering a minor heart attack, I called the surgery center and was told to take it up with my insurance company. I called my insurance company and was told to talk to the doctor’s office. I called the doctor’s office and was told to retrace my steps and start over with the surgery center. Egads.
After spinning my wheels and listening to untold atrocious Muzak songs while on hold for what seemed like forever, I remembered that my insurance company provides a patient advocate service. I’d used this service with my previous insurance company and was forever grateful for my advocate, a former RN, who checked in on me post-mastectomy and throughout the course of the year-long infection battle. She intervened when the insurance company said it didn’t want to pay for the $5,000 Oncotype test, which dissects my particular cancer to determine the best way to treat it and determine how likely it is to recur. She helped me navigate the pages upon pages of medical bills that weighed down my mailbox in the early stage of my cancer “journey.” She was very helpful.
The new insurance company could take a lesson from her. Their patient “advocate” department sucks. I can barely stand to use the word advocate in relation to them (hence the quotation marks).
The first “advocate” I dealt with on this issue did some research and determined that the surgery center my in-network doctor used is out-of-network. So my surgeon is in-network but the surgery center is not.
Oh, and by the way, it’s my responsibility to check to be sure the surgery center is in-network.
Again I say Huh??
After all the checking and double-checking and verifying and pre-qualifying and certifying, I’m supposed to ask about the surgery center? How in the world would I even know to ask about this? What fresh hell is this?
Oh, yes indeedy, the “advocate” told me, I should have checked on that. And I should have known to check on that by reading the Standard Plan Description, a bazillion-page online document that details the ins and outs of my coverage.
While I’m grateful for the coverage I do have, I’m pretty sure my insurance company hates people like me who ring up millions of dollars in expenses for a disease they did nothing to cause and for which they actively tried to prevent. I imagine my file has a big red X on it to denote all the trouble I’ve caused and money the company has had to spend on my behalf. I’m guessing that when I call the insurance company with a question, the phone has a special ring, sorta like the Bat-phone, to alert the poor sap who answers it that I’m a raucous troublemaker who is bleeding their employer dry.
I get it. I’m not the ideal customer. But expecting me to verify that the surgery center is in-network is absurd. I don’t care what the bazillion-page online document says. If the doc is in-network and no one raises a red flag about the surgery center, then I assume I’m all clear.
A $20K bill and an instant heart attack are rather the antithesis of all clear.
And that, dear readers, is why I’m here today — to lead by example, to inform by the hard lessons learned. The word to the wise, learned expo-facto, is this: even if your doc is in-network, the surgery center may not be. Even if the doctor’s office staff have dotted every i and crossed every t, it may not be enough. Your insurance company my turn on you like a hungry dog on an alley chicken-bone and try to chew you up and spit you out. Consider yourself forewarned.
Yes, our little piggie has been hard at work.
My kids’ elementary school has a fundraiser every year, like most schools. Instead of selling wrapping paper or cookie dough, our school puts on a Walk-a-Thon. It’s a big event that raises anywhere from $40K to $50K-plus. Yes, you read that right: many thousands of dollars. Money comes in via pledges gathered by the kids for walking laps inside the school (it’s much more festive than it sounds); a live auction with prizes such as Principal for the Day, in which a kid gets to be the boss of the school for one day, and a silly string war with the counselor; a silent auction with items ranging from a homemade meal delivered to your doorstep to a pair of handmade earrings; food; carnival games; and novelty sales.
Last year our amazing Walk-a-Thon chairlady Amy came up with a brilliant idea for another element for fundraising: Kiss the Pig. At that point, we didn’t yet own our little piggie, so Amy rented a piglet from a petting zoo. That may have turned out be the longest 24 hours of her life: that poor piglet had not yet been weaned from its mama and bawled like the baby it was.
This year, Amy enlisted the help of our sweet Piper, and she rocked the house. One day last week Piper headed up to school to hang out on the stage during each lunch period and get the kids all lathered up about the Walk-a-Thon. The idea was simple: each teacher and office staff member would have a collection jar (with a custom-designed label, of course) and for the week before the fundraiser, kids would drop pocket change into the jar of the teacher they wanted to see kiss Piper at the Walk-a-Thon.
Piper was a good little piggie during the lunch periods (we were there from 10:45 until 1:00). She milled around onstage, stood on a table for better viewing, ate her snacks, and visited with teachers. Some teachers loved, loved, loved her, and others kept a safe distance. Kids being kids, they picked up on which teachers were leery of Piper and promptly filled those jars.
The day of the Walk-a-Thon found me at school to count the money in the jars. I expected to be there for a couple of hours, knowing the task would be made easier by the digital coin counter our thoughtful PTA treasurer provided. Silly, silly me. There was SO much money to count, I was there from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., without a break! One teacher alone brought in more than $60–all in change.
The big winners were announced live, at the fundraiser, and the crowd was whipped into a frenzy. The kids were chanting, “Kiss the pig!” and screaming, parents were straining to catch a glimpse of the pig on the stage, and cameras were flashing. We have a big school — nearly 800 students and close to 70 teachers & staff — so the crowd was Texas-sized. Piper took her rock-star experience in stride, calmly munching on cucumber slices and wasabi peas as the crowd adored her. In keeping with the luau theme of the fundraiser, she sported a hibiscus leash and a lei around her neck.
When it came time for the kissing, the teachers came on stage one at a time and got up close and personal with Piper. Sadly, it went by so fast I didn’t get a picture of each teacher. By the time I got my camera ready, we’d blasted through the kindergarten, first and second grade teachers puckering up with Piper. Here’s the third grade winner giving Piper a big smooch.
The fifth grade teacher was the most freaked out, by far — which is why the kids filled her jar with every coin they could shake from their piggie banks and gather from the couch cushions.
Come on down, Mrs D! You’re the next contestant on Kiss the Pig!
She’s working up the nerve to move in for the kiss…
and Piper’s work was done.
Nice work, Piper.
Our little piggie Piper turned one on Sunday, and we went a bit hog-wild celebrating her first birthday.
My favorite girl is quite the party planner, and this shindig was top-notch. She started planning the menu a week or so in advance and it underwent several revisions before she settled on grilled fruit kebabs, BBQ chicken sandwiches, twice-baked potatoes, Ramen-almond salad, and carrot cake.
Now, if you’re inclined to leave any comments pertaining to bacon bits or pulled pork, resist the urge or I’ll set the birthday pig on you, and let me assure you that she has no mercy when it comes to porky jokesters. She’s vicious when it comes to that.
Party preparations started early and lasted all weekend. The first order of business was to make a party wreath for the front door. We are fortunate to have an artist at the ready, and he created the focal point of the wreath. He’s also the creative genius behind the logo that graces the front page of this little blog.
Next came the gathering and placing of various pig-related decor:
And the custom-made bow for the birthday girl. Amazing how cute it turned out considering it was made from a $1.50 bow from the grocery store, a flower clip from the clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby, and a candle sticker from the scrapbooking aisle.
Making the party favor goodie bags kept my little social butterfly busy for awhile, and she was quite pleased with the results. She decorated the cookies herself with a pig snout and pig-shaped sprinkles delivered across state lines from Pennsylvania to Texas by our uber-thoughtful friend, Debbie.
Birthday gifts for our little piggie included all of her favorites: cucumbers, wasabi peas (yes, she likes it spicy!), and strawberries. Part of her birthday feast was a chunk of watermelon, which she thoroughly enjoyed and hastily demolished.
Two thumbs up for the twice-baked potatoes, which disappeared before I had a chance to snap a photo. My favorite girl has always had a huge love affair with potatoes, so it was no surprise to find them on the menu.
And then came the highlight of the evening: the birthday cake! We scooped out a little of the cake batter and added extra carrots to bake a special (and portion-controlled) cake for the birthday pig. Miss Piggie needed a little help blowing out the candle; we were afraid she’d eat the whole thing, flame and all!
Friday was a very exciting day for my favorite girl and her little piggie. They were asked by our fabulous school counselor, Mrs Prine, to be the Grand Marshals for the annual kindergarten Pig Parade at our school.
This is a big deal, as everyone in our school looks forward to the Pig Parade. We have a rather large school, with more than 800 kiddos, which meant a lot of exposure for our little piggie. Lucky for Macy and Piper, Mrs Prine is an animal lover with great ideas! Sadly, Mrs Prine missed the parade because she was a teeny bit busy welcoming her first grandbaby into this world. So Mrs Prine, this blog is for you; one day when Baby Jude is a little bit older, you can show him these pictures and tell him that this is what was happening in one corner of the world on the day he was born.
I had hoped to chronicle this special day earlier, but am having epic computer problems. I’m a Mac girl through and through, and something is seriously wrong with my iPhoto. This troubles me greatly; :iPhoto won’t import my latest photos because it doesn’t recognize them. Before my in-house IT guru could figure out the problem, I resorted to emailing myself each and every photo you see here, then manually importing them into my blog. Tedious and time-consuming, to say the least, so please…humor me and gaze upon these photos.
Letting our little piggie loose at school could have been a big ol’ mess, but instead it was a great time with just a little big of mess involved. This is a live piggie, after all, and our little piggie is a bit opinionated and sassy (we’re still trying to figure out how that could have happened).
So the deal is that every year, the kindergarten classes at our school have an at-home project to create a pig. Once everyone has created their porcine masterpieces, the piggie projects are carted up to school and the kindergarteners parade through the entire school carrying their creations while the rest of the school gazes appreciatively from a seated position in the hallway. Every single one of the kids in grades 1 through 5 sit in the hallway in a single-file line and watch the kinder kids proudly walk by with their pigs.
When it was Macy’s turn to take on this project, nothing could have tickled her more. She’s been a pig-lover her whole life, so having the chance to make and present a piggie was her idea of heaven. Being the queen of accessories, she gave her pig big hoop earrings and giant kissy lips.
This year’s crop of pig projects were mighty fine. I especially liked the eyelashes on this one.
This guy was very proud of his curly-tailed pig, and wanted to be sure I noticed his pig’s fluffy legs. He told me in a very loud voice that his pig has THE FLUFFIEST LEGS IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL! Indeed it does.
Just before the parade began, this guy was crying on the couch,unable to find his pig head-dress. After I inquired about his wooden pig, he cheered up and even managed to smile, although he never did find his head-dress.
At long last, it was time for the parade to start. Getting multiple classes of wiggly, excited 5- and 6-year-olds lined up and orderly seemed like an impossible feat, but those wonderful teachers at Austin Parkway Elementary know what they’re doing, and in short order the kids were ready to march. Note the long line of pig owners decked out in their head-dresses behind the Grand Marshals.
Piper was nonplussed about the whole affair. She was likely wondering how to get back into the hallway that contains all the lunch boxes and snack bags.
Hold the phone — in addition to the Grand Marshals, there’s another special guest: a certain middle schooler who made a return visit to his alma mater for the big occasion. This Big Kid walked the entire parade route in lockstep with his little sister, stopping to greet his former teachers and answer questions such as, “You are making straight A’s, right?” and “How many girlfriends do you have?” The best moment for him, however, came when the parade passed by the 2nd grade hallway, and one bold second-grader called out to the Big Kid, “I like your pig, little boy!” The Big Kid and I are still chuckling about that.
The parade meandered by each grade’s hallway, with our little piggie leading the way. Macy carried her most of the way, and yes she is a bit of a load. Our little piggie walked some on her leash, but made too many unscheduled stops to sniff and root at the carpet. She also proved to be a bit too tempting for some of the audience members to resist, and more than once a pair of small hands reached out to touch her before being reprimanded by the sharp-eyed teachers.
One of the moms directing traffic for the photo shoot decided it would be fun to have Piper in the picture, too, so she joined the kids on the hay bale. She was a very good sport about it and wasn’t the least bit bothered by all the hub-bub. In fact, she was so relaxed she took care of her morning doody off the back of the hay bale without hesitation. A bit later, she relieved herself on the hay bale, as well, thankfully in between photo opps and discreetly enough that no one noticed, and no one asked why I was flipping the hay bale over, either. Once her business was concluded, it didn’t take her long to realize she was on a giant block of hay, and she started chomping away. Each photo snapped by the kinder moms shows her stuffing her face with hay. She is a pig, after all.
A girl walks into a bar with a pig….
My latest adventure had all the makings of a great joke. Except it was reality.
Our little piggy needed to be spayed. Not because we worry about roving male pigs bursting in on her unannounced and leaving a litter of bastard piglets, but because female piggies can come into heat at 12 weeks of age (yes, you read that right — 12 weeks old; talk about babies having babies) and because they can come into heat every 3 weeks. While there was no need for piggie hygiene products, being in heat was bothersome nonetheless; there was the uncharacteristic bitchiness and the restlessness and the excessive friendliness on her part.
Our quest for a piggie vet was long and complicated. You’d think that living in the 4th largest city would make it easier to find a pig vet, but you would be wrong. After a tiresome, stressful, mostly unfruitful search, we hit pay-dirt, and scheduled our piggie’s hysterectomy. Silly me, I thought the worst part of this process would be surviving the period during which Piper was NPO–that girl likes her chow. I was rather nervous about making the 44-mile drive alone with a ravenous pig on her way to a painful and permanent sterility.
So focused was I on getting Piper to the vet on an empty stomach that I didn’t even think about getting her home. That was a whole ‘nother ordeal. Getting her to the vet was surprisingly easy. She’s like a tiny baby — wait, she is a baby — who falls asleep as soon as she gets in the car. So even though her tummy was rumbling, she snoozed all the way across town to the vet.
The vet techs swarmed around her and nearly came to blows over who got to hold her first, so I left her in good hands and with minimal trepidation. Even though I knew she was going to have to endure an unpleasant procedure, she was going to get plenty of love, so it was ok.
The pig-crazed receptionist called after a few hours to say the surgery was over, the piggie was awake, and all was well. She would be ready to go home by 5:00. I’m not sure how it is where you live, but 5:00 in Houston can be scary and treacherous.
It’s a big ol’ city, y’all. Stretching some 60 miles across, my fine city has some serious freeways, loops, toll roads, and beltways, but every one of them is jam-packed at rush hour. My 44-mile one-way trip from my humble abode to the piggie vet was a breeze this morning, but making that same trip at rush hour was a bear. A big, hungry bear with a slobbery mouth and razor-sharp teeth.
Much of the trip to pick her up was spent putzing along at speeds of less than 30 mph alternating with coming to a complete standstill. Any time an interchange loomed, the creeping and crawling slowed even more. I started to wonder why so slow? Don’t most of these drivers know where they’re going? Don’t they drive this route most every weekday? Don’t they know which lane to be in before they face the concrete jungle of freeway fly-overs?
All right, fine, it’s rush hour, and I’m resolved to it. I’ve got some good tunes and a full tank of gas, and plenty of cool AC to combat the 86-degree spring day. I’m not in rush-hour traffic often, so a little bit of patience was easy to muster. After an hour and 20 minutes, I arrived at the vet’s office ready to collect my pig and get on my merry way.
After the money changed hands, I took my pig and bid the vet techs good day. I bundled Piggie into a blanket and placed her quite gingerly into the passenger seat. I thought I was a mere hour’s drive away from a cold beer and the beginning of the weekend, but instead it was a slow descent into hell.
Piggie decided that she needed to ride in my lap, as she is wont to do. Fine, but let me get the blanket too, so she’s comfy for the long ride home. Doh! I didn’t realize that the blanket gave her a cushy 12 inches or so to project from my lap. My arms struggled to get around her and grip the steering wheel. I looked like a T-Rex trying to steer my little car with Piggie and her cushy bed in my lap.
If my steering radius was bad, my visibility was worse. With the porcine dumpling in my lap, I struggled to turn my head and shoulders enough to see the other 900,000 cars on the road, all of which seemed to be whizzing by me and changing lanes abruptly. Between little piggie groans and snores, I navigated the traffic on my stumpy arms, cursing the slowdowns and flying through the open stretches in a balls-out effort to get home ASAP.
At one point, about halfway home, Piper started acting like she needed to use the facilities. With no facilities in sight, I began to sweat. If she relieved herself in the car, it would be a really long ride home. No sooner did I start worrying about her needing to go, then I began to worry about needing to go myself. The last thing I wanted to do was try to swivel my head around my porky parcel to exit the beltway and find a restroom. And then what? Take her with me? I couldn’t very well leave her in the car, but nor could I imagine hauling her into the gas station to request the ladies’ room key. Better to just hold it and hustle home.
While the trip home seemed endless, it did finally end, and both Piper and I made it without incident. In her groggy, anesthesia-riddled state, she was actually in better shape than I. A bit rattled and rather cramped from driving with the use of just 6 inches of arms, I was very happy to be home in one piece. Just a day in the life, people.
This weekend,I was too busy squeezing every ounce of fun out of spring break to get back to the pig races. Fear not, faithful readers: pig race coverage begins now.
May I just say that one hasn’t lived — really lived — until one has witnessed a spectacle such as the annual pig races at the Houston Rodeo & Livestock Show. Just as this wasn’t our first rodeo, it wasn’t our first pig race, either. It was, however, our first pig race since we became owners of a pet pig, so the races took on a bit more significance now that we know and love a little piggie. Naturally, we thought of our little Piper while at the piggie raceway.
So here’s the set-up: a grandstand full of spectators, the pit crew, the emcee, and of course, the piggies. The emcee spoke of the fierce competition among the piggie racers for the big prize: an Oreo cookie. Macy & I nodded out heads knowingly at the flat-out determination and light ing-fast speed a piggie would display in pursuit of an Oreo. We giggled among ourselves at the idea of our little piggie losing her piggie mind over an Oreo.Our emcee. What a gig, right? Calling the pig races every hour on the hour, every day for 18 days.Each of the three races featured four piggie racers. In race #1, it was a fierce, four-way matchup between Kevin Bacon, Brad Pig, Simon Sowell, and Justin Bieboar.
The girls in the black t-shirts escorted the piggie racers to their gates. I know the pictures aren’t great, so just focus on the little pink blob coming down the ramp, just underneath the first girl’s hand.
The next race featured Jennifer Lo-pig, Britney Spare-Rib, Lindsay Lo-ham, and Christina Hogulara. I gotta give some mad props to the person who named the racers. They must have run out of clever names by the third race, though, because instead of hoggy celebs it was a college bedlam battle with the mighty University of Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and the Oklahoma Sooners. Not sure why they didn’t have the Arkansas Razorbacks, whose battle cry is Sooooo-ey pig.
After the third race, it was showtime for Swifty the Swimming Pig. We’ve been wondering how our little piggie will take to water, once it warms up enough for her to dip her hooves in the pool. If Swifty is any indication, Piper will do just fine You’ve heard the expression, when pigs fly, right? What about when pigs swim?
Here she is, ready to take her place at the edge of her pool.
She’s in place, ready to dive in.