Thursday, September 24, 2009

LCM Has Not Left the Building

I haven't closed up shop, really. I've just been a tad under the weather and still trying to manage the girls' new and overlapping schedules.

Left Coast Mom will soon return to a quasi-regular schedule.

Now poor, neglected Bipolar Gemini is another story.

Check back here on Monday!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And This is Why You Need Sunscreen

The BlogHer '09 Expo was packed with vendors hoping to win over the hundreds of bloggers who strolled its aisles in between sessions, many of them hawking wares I wasn't really interested in (McDonald's, Tide, Mary Kay Cosmetics) and some I visited just for the freebies (Who am I to turn my nose up at a chocolate star on a stick just because it was handed out by the Bounce laundry fairy, a soft-ish man wearing a diaper and wings?)

My favorite booth turned out to belong to Eucerin, because they had the most useful demonstration and one they personalized and sent home with you. They were promoting their Everyday Protection with 30 SPF and had flown a special camera in from Germany to help drive home the point that, really, you ought to wear your sunscreen (and really, I ought to have posted this a couple of months ago!). Oh, and no smoking, either.

The following photos are 1) what I looked like at 9:00 a.m (after being awake until 4am, putting on almost no makeup and being told not to smile); 2) what I will look like at 72, given that I do wear sunscreen and no longer smoke; and 3) what I would look like at 72 if I didn't wear sunscreen and/or started smoking again.

Eh, not too bad. Next time try getting a little more sleep first.

Seriously? Not even a hairstyle change?
I do like how they got the whole bottle in this shot.

I thought they killed the Emperor at the end of Star Wars/Return of the Jedi?
Maybe this is his sister? She should look into that whole cloak thing.

So wear your sunscreen, even in the winter, even if you do live in an area more apt to be rainy. And I'm sorry if the last photo made you a little queasy.

Monday, September 14, 2009


While we were having breakfast this morning, Zsu Zsu the chicken started squawking.

Be quiet Zsu Zsu! Bad chicken!

Zsu Zsu really is annoying but Sophia is being very good today!

Hannah, um, Sophia is dead.

I know! And so she's being really quiet, isn't she?

After an altercation with her friend Jack:

Well he started it!

No, she started it!


Well then.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Confessions of an Ex-Peet’s Girl, Or: I Heart Philz

My near-obsessive love of coffee came a bit late, which may surprise those of you who assumed that my mother put café au lait in my sippy cup.

In college, I didn’t have extra money to spend on the good stuff, so the coffee was whatever was on sale and the pots of it I drank while waiting tables. In other words, not exactly the finest. There was the occasional splurge at Mischa in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. But it was Thomas who introduced me to Peet’s Coffee. Having lived in the Bay Area for a couple of years, he had become addicted enough to make sure that he received a steady supply once he'd moved to the East Coast. It was not a luxury he was willing to give up.

And then we moved to California and there was a Peet’s within walking distance of our house. The Starbucks was closer but, as Hannah once told a barista there, “Mommy doesn’t do Starbucks.” (She was three years old.) Both Hannah and Charlotte spent not small-ish amounts of infancy and toddler-hood smelling of freshly brewed coffee.

Charlotte’s pre-k is two blocks from a Peet’s. While she was still adjusting to preschool, I’d skulk outside the door for the five minutes it took for her screams to fade away, beat a hasty retreat to the end of the typically long line at Peet’s and then vulture for a table where I could work for a couple of hours.

Being a tad predictable in my coffee habits, I always ordered a non-fat café au lait and a plain croissant. After two years of this, one of the guys at the counter, Mike, started to just ask “café ole with a croissant?” But as the wait for a table got longer and longer, I began to think about finding a new place. And then my friend Elisa told me about Philz Coffee, which had opened down the street.

Philz is an independent coffee shop, founded in San Francisco in 2003. They have five stores there and have finally branched out, with cafes on the peninsula (Palo Alto), in the South Bay (San Jose), and the Easy Bay (Berkeley). I’m lobbying for another in Redwood City. There are currently 20 blends to choose from, which may seem intimidating at first, but the staff are able to suggest a coffee blend based on your usual coffee drinking habits. They also take care of the cream and sugar, so ensure a perfect cup of coffee. Oh, and if you don’t like it, they’ll make you something else.

I felt guilty about it at first, almost as though I was cheating on Peet's. But now I spend a bit of time at Philz, and as soon as I walk in, they ask if I want large Ambrosia. Yes, yes I do. Low-fat and no sugar, right? Yep. One day I’ll branch out, but for now, I like that someone knows what I want. Even if it’s “just” coffee.

The only problem I have with Philz, at least the Palo Alto cafe, is that if you have a Mac you generally can’t get on the network—free WiFi isn’t exactly helpful if you can’t access it. But I’m not going to blame this on my new favorite coffee shop. I’ll blame it on AT&T instead.

If you’re not fortunate enough to live in the Bay Area, order a pound or so. You won’t be sorry.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Again With the Potty Mouth

I'm so glad that the girls are not what you'd call light sleepers.

Last night I was having issues with Facebook, Blogger and Wordpress and so was using the "driving words"*, and not quietly, right there in the dining room.

Though, if I was having problems with Facebook, Blogger and Wordpress, perhaps the issue wasn't with Facebook, Blogger OR Wordpress after all.


* Driving words are those that you are not allowed to use until you are old enough to drive. No matter where you hear them.

Wading into the Healthcare Morass

A few days ago, thousands of Facebook users posted some version of the following as their status:

“No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status.”

I’ve been meaning to do a post on the whole healthcare mess anyway, but one friend pushed me to finally get around to it, and with just two basic points of his argument. The first: In Canada, often cited by proponents on both sides of the issue, it’s not as easy to get an appointment and can in fact, take an absurd amount of time; and two: In the U.S., anyone can go into an emergency room and get treatment. They cannot be turned away.

I can’t speak authoritatively to the Canadian side of the argument, though the Letters to the Editor page of the San Jose Mercury News and many other papers include testimonials from Canadians and former Canadians praising the Canadian healthcare system. There are, of course, also letters from those Canadians who prefer the U.S. healthcare system.

As to the second point, that anyone can go to an emergency room and be treated, that is true. It is also true that waits can be long. It is also true that someone still has to pay for that care. Patients without insurance will be sent the bill, and most likely for a much higher rate than the rates negotiated with the insurance companies.

As you may have read in an earlier post about our recent trip to Wyoming, Charlotte ended up in the emergency room due to altitude sickness. The frequent vomiting had led to a small esophageal tear that caused her to start vomiting blood. The hospital kindly mailed us a copy of the bill they had sent to the insurance company, in case it was denied and we had to pay out of pocket. In addition to a co-pay of $35, the charges included a $135 physician fee and $400 for the four anti-nausea pills they sent us home with. And there is also the matter of the ambulance. The Park Service sent that bill off to the insurance company and we still don’t know if it’s covered or not.

In contrast, a friend of Thomas’s was climbing Mont Blanc in France—another country whose healthcare system is continually reviled by many conservatives—when he also ended up with altitude sickness. He was taken to a hospital where they treated him right away, for the exorbitant cost of 20 euros (about $28 U.S).

I think that what a lot of people don’t understand is that those without insurance are still expected to pay. Every day newspapers carry articles on people who lost their homes or who have to choose between medication and food. Medi-Care will pick up some of the costs, but who pays for the Medi-Care itself? You do. As do the Medi-Care recipients.

From the Medi-Care website:

Medicare Premiums for 2009:

Part A: (Hospital Insurance) Premium

* Most people do not pay a monthly Part A premium because they or a spouse has 40 or more quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

* The Part A premium is $244.00 per month for people having 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

* The Part A premium is $443.00 per month for people who are not otherwise eligible for premium-free hospital insurance and have less than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

Part B: (Medical Insurance) Premium

$96.40 per month*

Medicare Deductible and Coinsurance Amounts for 2009:

Part A: (pays for inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care) For each benefit period Medicare pays all covered costs except the Medicare Part A deductible (2009 = $1,068) during the first 60 days and coinsurance amounts for hospital stays that last beyond 60 days and no more than 150 days.

For each benefit period you pay:


A total of $1,068 for a hospital stay of 1-60 days.


$267 per day for days 61-90 of a hospital stay.


$534 per day for days 91-150 of a hospital stay (Lifetime Reserve Days).


All costs for each day beyond 150 days

Skilled Nursing Facility Coinsurance


$133.50 per day for days 21 through 100 each benefit period.

Part B: (covers Medicare eligible physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment)


$135.00 per year. (Note: You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for services after you meet the $135.00 deductible.)

Also: Except under special circumstances, you are not eligible for Medi-Care until you’re 65. Exemptions include being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or if you are disabled.

NOTE: There are 35 pages of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to wade through. notes that “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allocates approximately $800 or more each month per Medicare recipient to pay Medicare benefits. The amount varies by geographic region on a yearly basis.”

Which means that, for a lot of people, there is still going to be extra to pay every month.

Let’s use me as an example again.

A couple of months ago, our insurance company inadvertently dropped our prescription coverage. I found this out on a Saturday. We were at the pharmacy because the auto-fill on Charlotte’s anti-seizure medication hadn’t gone through, and I didn’t notice until we were down to one dose. The insurance company very kindly gives its employees Saturdays and Sundays off, so either Charlotte would be out of medication for a couple of days, or I would pay it out-of-pocket.

“How much?” I naively asked.

$609 for a 30-day supply. $609. And that’s for the generic. Although we’re fortunate enough that we could have paid for it if absolutely necessary, I panicked. But because I take the same medication (though in my case it’s as a mood stabilizer) in a higher dose, I decided to split my pills, assuming that we would be able to straighten out the problem on Monday. How many people have to split their pills on a regular basis, just because it's medication or food?

$609 for the month. Add to this $482 (retail value) for my medications and you’re looking at almost $1,100 a month, just in prescriptions. I don’t know about you, but $13,000 a year would be a little hard to swing. Of course we could cut that down by almost half because I would drop as many of my pills as possible. After all, Charlotte has seizures. I’m just a little crazy.

This is a seriously long post, so I’ll just close with “More to come.”