First Day of School

And…it’s done! I’m happy to report that the first day of school was a rousing success for all. Boys didn’t cry, Mommy didn’t cry (too much), and we had 6 solid hours of a quiet house and no staggered pickup/dropoff duties!  After spending much of last school year burning up the road between D’s kindergarten and A’s preschool, having them both in the same school is wonderful!

First day of school 2011










I wanted a picture for this blog, but I purposely don’t use pictures that show their faces (for the same reason I don’t name them on the site — I admit, I might be overly cautious when it comes to my kids and online privacy).  So, I couldn’t use our normal “First Day of School” picture.  Then I got the idea of capturing them from the back…and I love this picture.

Hope everyone has a great school year!



Tomorrow, A starts Kindergarten, and D 1st grade. D is 7, A turns 6 next week. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, in the midst of the never-ending sleepless nights, diaper changes, feedings, potty training, and learning to talk, my boys grew up in a blink of an eye.

I’m so proud of them both. They’re bright and curious, mischievous and funny, adorable and infuriating, all at once. It’s hard to believe 7 years have passed, and yet, I can barely remember “Life Before Kids.” It was certainly more boring. 🙂

So we’ll take them to the same school tomorrow morning.  A is SO EXCITED about going to brother’s big school — I’m sure there will be no tears from him!  I can’t promise the same from me.  But they’ll be happy tears…happy, joyful (okay, a teeny bit sad) tears.  No more babies in our house, just little big boys.

Oh, and tomorrow we also celebrate Biscuit’s first “birthday” — the anniversary of the day we adopted him into our family. I can barely remember life without him and Bryce too.  Also more boring.

We have lots to celebrate.  I thank God every day for ALL my boys — human and canine alike.

Furbaby, Kids, Parenting, Random Musings , , , , , ,

I am that mom

I don’t know how I missed this when it happened on April 13th, but I just heard about the uproar over J.Crew’s email that featured a picture of a mom and her 5-year-old son.  What’s so awful about that, you ask?  Oh, did I forget to mention that the boy had his TOENAILS PAINTED PINK???????  Cue horrified response: “What is this world coming to?  Obviously the world is about to end because this is the worst thing ever.”

OH MY GOD, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  REALLY???  Well guess what?  I have a secret, are you ready to hear it?



Oh wait, that’s not a secret.  Anyone who knows me knows that my 5-year-old son A loves pink and occasionally has asked me to paint his nails pink, purple, and yellow.  Which I did.  *double gasp* Clearly, I’m a horrible mother.  And anyone who has read my blog knows that my most popular post ever is The Power of Pink, in which I revealed how his love of all things pink helped him be brave while getting a shot.

Listen up, idiots.  As my very wise son will happily tell you, there are no boy colors and no girl colors, there are just colors.  Are you equally worried about girls who like blue?  Liking a particular color doesn’t predetermine the course of your life, nor does painting your nails.  In fact, as Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show, if you follow that warped logic, don’t ever let your children get their faces painted, because they might grow up to be CATS…or TIGERS…or UNICORNS.

Grow up.  Nail polish can be removed.  Hair grows back (and color washes out).  Temporary tattoos disappear.  And none of that actually matters in the long run.

There are a LOT of awful things in this world.  A boy who loves pink and a parent who accepts (and allows) that — not even close to being one of them.

And if you don’t like it…well, I’m sure glad he’s my son and not yours.

So well done, J.Crew.  I remain a big fan.

Kids, Parenting, Random Musings , , , ,

The New Puppy

I needed a second dog like I needed a hole in the head, so when I heard the words “Andy, I want this dog” come out of my mouth, I was as surprised as my husband was! Since I’ve posted about Bryce, our first dog, several times, I figured it was time to introduce the world to his new brother, Biscuit.

Last August we found a stray puppy at our local gas station. Employees there said he had been around for nearly 2 months.  They figured someone dumped him out there.  I figured the special place in Hell reserved for those who abandon and abuse animals was preparing a new corner for that someone.

No one had been able to catch him, but he came up to me and ate from my hand.  And that’s when I saw it.  He had the same eyes as Bryce.  The battle was over before it began.  He was meant to be our dog.

Andy fed him for several days until finally he was able to catch him.  Biscuit was scrawny, hungry, and covered in fleas and ticks.  He had intestinal worms and heartworms and hadn’t yet been neutered.  He also had, in the words of our wonderful vet, “soft eyes.”  The vet believed Biscuit would turn out to be a good dog.  He was right.

Biscuit is about a year old and is only 17 pounds.  He does stupid puppy tricks and happily accepts his role at the bottom of the family totem pole with Bryce as acknowledged King of the Furry Children.  Biscuit can also jump our 5 1/2 foot backyard fence.  SO…we now have an invisible fence as well.  Hopefully it will enhance the house value someday! 😉

I wasn’t looking for a second dog, and I certainly didn’t need one.  Thankfully, God didn’t agree.  Love you, Biscuit.

Furbaby, Parenting, Random Musings , , ,

New Website!

I’ve moved! Welcome to the NEW Storming the Castle. Not that much has changed: all my previous posts are here, with a slightly new look and some new features. Mostly I moved because I wanted to own and control the website.

There’s no way I could have (or would have) made the switch without the help of the team at Dash Web Consulting. I can’t thank them enough for all their help, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. If you have (or want) a website of your own, whether it’s for personal or professional purposes, talk to them. They walked me through the process step-by-step and made it EASY.  Which is good, because with my schedule and short attention span, it had to be easy or it wasn’t going to get done.  Let’s face it, I hardly have time to post, much less create and move a website.  So thanks again to Karen, Nicolas, and Asher!

One note: If you don’t like something on this site, blame me.  I chose everything, they just provided the technical advice on how to do it.  In other words, don’t judge their talent by my meager skills! 🙂

Thanks for visiting, and please let me know what you think of the new site.  I’ll still be posting my random musings on kids, parenting, traveling, and whatever other subject catches my attention, and yes, it will still be on my uniquely erratic schedule, so come back soon!

Random Musings ,

Practice or Business?

Let me begin by saying, I’m the daughter of a doctor and a nurse.  I grew up in a medical family, so I have nothing but the deepest respect for medical professionals and the difficulties they face having to deal with both demanding patients and (adjective censored) insurance companies.  HOWEVER…

This week we faced a situation that has made me SO ANGRY that I can’t think of anything to do but write about it, in the hopes that I’ll exorcise these feelings of rage and maybe help someone else become a better consumer of healthcare.  So be forewarned, MAJOR rant ahead.

Last November, my husband was told he needed shoulder surgery.  As it was the end of the year, our insurance deductible was already satisfied, but we had no money remaining in our Flexible Spending Account.  That meant anything we had to pay would come out of pocket, after tax, but would likely be substantially less than we’d have to pay at the beginning of 2011 when our insurance deductible reset (and incidentally, increased).  So we faced a decision: Do the surgery in November, or wait until January when we’d pay more, but when everything we paid would go towards our new deductible AND would all be reimbursed from the pre-tax funds I put into the Health Savings Account each month.

When the doctor’s office called to schedule the surgery, I explained my dilemma and asked how much the surgery would cost.  I gave them all my insurance information and was told they would check with Aetna and get back to us.  Get back to us they did, with an estimate of $179.  Really?  That sounded WAY too good to be true, so I questioned, as any good consumer would. What did that include?  What wasn’t included?  The clerk told me that was the estimate for the surgeon, and that it didn’t include the surgery center, but that the surgery center “certainly wouldn’t charge more than the surgeon, so you can assume double that estimate.”  Okay, I thought, $400 vs. thousands next year.  Even with after tax dollars, I thought that made sense.  So we went ahead with the surgery.

Two months later, the bills have started to come in, and much to our surprise, the surgeon’s estimate of $180 has turned into a bill for $257.  The surgery center charged our insurance $13,000, more than DOUBLE what the surgeon charged, and we haven’t gotten the bill for that yet, but it’s likely to be around $450.  And we also received a bill from the anesthesia practice for another $250 that was NEVER mentioned when I requested an estimate.

Furious, I called the doctor’s billing department who acted as if there’s no way they could possibly have given us a better estimate than that.  “Well, we can’t know if the surgeon might use a PA (which is why his “estimate” increased).  We can’t know what the surgery center will charge. We can’t tell you what the anesthesiologist will charge.”  REALLY?  REALLY?????  It’s not like I hired you from the Mayo Clinic to come to North Carolina, to a surgery center you’ve never used, and do a procedure you never do.  NO, this is a procedure you do EVERY WEEK, at the surgery center you ALWAYS use, with the same doctors who are always there.  Even if you aren’t responsible for those portions of the bill, you should have standing estimates from those groups or at least you should inform me that in order to receive an accurate estimate I need to call the offices of X, Y, & Z.

Hear me: You didn’t give us an ESTIMATE.  You gave us a FAIRY TALE.  You LIED to us.  And congratulations, you got another surgery out of it.

When Andy told his surgeon about the problem with the so-called estimate vs. reality, the surgeon responded “You know, I hate to say that I don’t know as much about the “business-side” as I should, but I really don’t.”

Well, Dr. Chandler, let me give you some news: I realize you went to medical school to practice medicine, not to run a business, but in today’s environment your practice IS your business.  And your patients are your CUSTOMERS.

And guess what we are?  UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS.

Do you know what happens when customers are unhappy?  They tell their friends.  It’s true in retail and it’s true in medicine.  When friends and family ask us how Andy’s shoulder is doing and who performed the surgery, what do you think we’ll say?  No, don’t guess, let me tell you.

We’re telling people: “You know, Dr. Chandler did a great job on Andy’s shoulder, but watch out for his finance department.  You can’t trust any estimate they give you.  Make sure you multiply that number by at least FOUR.”

Is that what you want prospective customers/patients to hear about you?  Is that how you want your practice represented?  If not, you’d better learn about the “business-side” of your practice and put business processes into place that actually HELP your patients navigate the insurance labyrinth.

You’d better realize quickly that medicine, like retail, is really all about customer service.

FAIL, Medicine, Random Musings , , ,


Tonight produced some statements, so hilarious, so profound, that I could think of nothing better to do with them than to record them in my blog.  This way I’ll have them to share with the boys when they’re older, because I’m frankly in awe of what their little minds produce! Boys, I love you, and this post is for you.

D (6 yrs old): “If God is Jesus’s father, and Jesus is God’s son, then doesn’t that mean God should be married? Because how else could He have a son?”

A (5 yrs old): “There’s only one mermaid that’s real, and that’s the Little Mermaid. I know because we saw her at Disney World.”

A (discussing how he currently has a bad cough and D has a bad stuffy nose): “Maybe the cough germs and the nose germs are best germies and they always want to go into the same house together.”

Kids, Random Musings ,

My Surprise

2005 was a year of surprises for me.  At the beginning of the year, we found out we were pregnant with our second child…just 7 months after I gave birth to our first son, who was conceived through infertility treatments.  SURPRISE!

At the end of August (the 31st, to be exact!), said child decided to arrive nearly 5 weeks early.  You see, he was anxious to join his big brother, and just didn’t see the point of waiting any longer.  No matter that all our baby gear, including the car seat, was still in storage in North Carolina and we were in Georgia.  Nope, little A decided he was ready, and everyone else could work on his schedule.  SURPRISE!!

Since that day, A has surprised us in new and wonderful ways…

With his giggle, which is so infectious and full of joy that you can’t help but laugh with him.

In his ability to scurry across the monkey bars at age not-quite-2.

How he practiced and practiced until he could stand on his head anytime anywhere and then carry on a conversation with you.

In his newly discovered family role as the King of Uno.

With the way he clarifies superlatives so as not to offend God: “I’m going to be stronger than everyone….except God and Jesus.”  “I love you more than anything…except God and Jesus.”

And so, on this day, I wish this beautiful, precious, brilliant boy a very happy 5th birthday.  May he continue to surprise us evermore.  We love you, A.

Kids, Parenting, Random Musings , , ,

Guess who is 6 years old today?

Six years ago today, our miracle was born.  Someone told me at that time that the days would drag on, but the years would fly by…and they have.  Six years have passed in the blink of an eye.

Today, D is happy, healthy, bright, curious, funny, stubborn, willful, physical and smart.  He’s everything I hoped he would be…and nothing like I imagined.

He’s a true gift from God.  I’m so glad he’s mine.

Happy 6th birthday, D.  May this year bring you joy and surprises galore.  We love you.

Kids, Parenting, Random Musings , ,

Say Nothing

There’s a song my friend Karen taught me, which we teach the preschoolers at church.  It goes, “If you can’t say something nice, SHHHHH, say nothing…”  It occurs to me that although this is a great lesson for young children to learn, many adults need to take it to heart as well, especially when it comes to online behavior.

I’ve always thought if you wouldn’t say/do/support something in real life, in front of your friends, family, coworkers, church, why would you say/do/support that online?  And yet, that’s exactly the standard many people seem to hold…online counts less than real life.  There are accounts of children being bullied online by peers and parents — sometimes with horrific results.  And there are Facebook groups that “jokingly” ask God to take the life of the President of the United States.  I don’t care how you feel about the President, this is NOT OKAY.

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, I will be joining other like-minded individuals who are logging out of Facebook for 12 hours to protest this lack of civility online.  Everyone has a slightly different reason for supporting this cause — some people believe Facebook should take a more active role in deleting groups like the one I referenced above.  That’s not my reason, because to me that smacks of censorship, and I do believe in free speech.

No, my reason is this: Facebook shouldn’t have to make a decision about deleting such groups, because common human decency should prevail in the first place.  I realize this makes me an idealist and a dreamer (two things I’m rarely accused of being!), but that’s what I believe.  BE AUTHENTIC.  If you wouldn’t say it in real life, don’t say it online.  There are human beings on the other end of that online connection — too often we forget that fact.

(Sadly this isn’t directed towards the barbarians who are just as awful in real life as they are online.  They wouldn’t listen anyway.)

So, please join me, if not in the Logout for Civility that occurs tomorrow, then at least in a second thought before you post something you wouldn’t ordinarily say out loud.  Because…

If you can’t say something nice, SHHHHH, say nothing.
Take a bit of good advice, SHHHHH, say nothing.
Think of something good to say, that’s the way to follow.
If you think unfriendly thoughts, just close your lips and swallow!
If you think it over twice, and you can’t say something nice,
Then don’t say anything at all!

Parenting, Random Musings , ,