Wednesday, August 3, 2011


My toddler thinks ice cream trucks are fire trucks (he also knows that actual fire trucks are fire trucks).  He heard it going by one day, playing its music, and said, "Fire truck, Mommy!"  And then I agreed with him.  This has provided me with significant ice cream savings.

This has also provided me with significant judgement from my husband every time the ice cream truck goes by.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Couponing drama?!

I can't even type the above title without giggling, but it's true....when you coupon, sometimes there is drama.

I got my first taste of the theatrics when I came across an internet coupon that would give me free band-aids.  Free band-aids!!  Most internet coupons only permit you to print two, but every now and then you'll come across one that lets you print unlimited amounts and the Nexcare band-aids coupon was one of them.  Tons of free band-aids!!  Now this leads you to actually ponder how many band-aids one truly needs.  Surely, more than two boxes.  I have a kid, after all, and intend to have another.  Cuts, scrapes, nonexistent boo boos that just need to be covered to feel better.  Four boxes?  Hmmm.  Was I going for a lifetime supply of band-aids?  They do take up very little space.  It's not like my house would be filled to the gills with band-aids.  I settled on eight boxes.  Eight felt right.  A substantial amount but not enough to get me on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive (I love that show, by the way, but that's a whole other post).  Eight it was.  I headed to my local Shop-Rite.

I walked up to the register with my wide variety of eight boxes to suit all my band-aid needs.  Waterproof, comfort fit and active fit, of course, since exercise is very important to me.  It consists of walking at approximately 1.5 mph with my son as he demands that he push the stroller.

"Ummm...." the cashier says and she looks over the coupons and turns her on light to blinking.  Sigh...and we're blinking.  But still, I'm not worried.  My coupons are legit (they always are, that's how I roll).  

Enter the front end manager, douchebag extraordinaire from hell.  She looks me and my coupons over, all judgemental and then tells me the coupons are fake.  She proceeds to tell me that I copied them from a circular which is not permitted.  I calmly and politely (you have to be super polite when you coupon because some people find your coupons annoying right from the start) explain where I got my coupons.  She tells me they're fraudulent.  She keeps going on and was just being such a b!tch about it. band-aids were a no-go.  I should've thrown them at her, but I politely walked away with my head held high.  

I head to customer service to talk with them.  We put our heads together and concluded that I should come back with the coupon printed out in color instead of black and white and intact rather than cut out of the 8 1/2 X 11 paper.  Okey dokey.  I go home, follow my instructions and come back with said coupon (now #9) in hand.  Customer service looks it all over, initials it as okay, but tells me I can only use four of the same coupon at a time (that's an optional rule the store can use as its discretion).  I thank the customer service woman, tell her to have a great day and go back to retrieve four boxes of band-aids (two of them being active fit due to my extreme exercise regimen).  

Up at the registers, I am now faced with a dilemma.  Which one do I go to?  I decide to go to the same girl as before because I don't want anyone to think I'm sneaking around, trying to pull a fast one with my so-not-fraudulent coupons.  I say hi, show her the golden initials and on goes the blinking light again.  She quietly explains that she doesn't want to get in trouble with the front-end manager so she has to have her approve it.  I take this as exhibit B that front-end manager is in fact the b!tch that she appears to be.  

Enter the manager, who proceeds to tell me that she still thinks the coupons are fake.  And how did I get more than two of them if I didn't make copies which is illegal?  And how come this one's in color when the rest are black and white?  After she has exhausted her Nexcare interrogation, she tells the cashier that she has to accept them anyway if customer service ok'd them but that she was going to go look them up online tonight when she got home.!tch.

But guess what, b!tch?  I've got free band-aids.  And tomorrow, I'm coming back and getting four more boxes of glorious, waterproof, comfort fit, active fit, soothing, healing, bacteria-blocking goodness. 

So there.

See?  I can be a bitch, too.  I'm just polite and smile at you while I do it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Updates and anger

I've posted previously about the work I've been doing to pay down my family's debt.  It's such a slow process...boy, is it slow.  But I'm proud to say that since starting this process back in mid-February, we have paid off $3,500 in debt AND acquired no new debt.  We could've paid off significantly more had we been prepared for me to not get paid through the summer, but we weren't, so we didn't.  At this point, it is what it is.  Now we take a pregnant pause as we await September and getting back into the swing of things.  

In the last week, there have been developments here in New Jersey that have been so difficult to swallow.  Our Democrat-dominant state with our Republican governor, Chris Christie, passed legislation last week that will further cut my take home pay next year.  It was already cut this past year.  In addition to this, I taught without a contract last year and I don't see a settlement in the near future.  

Wisconsin came to New Jersey this past Thursday as a bill was passed crushing public unions' abilities to negotiate their contracts.  And I rallied outside my capitol building, I made signs, I called my legislators...I did all I could and still I will make less next year than I did this year which was less than last year.  I am now required to pay more into my pension and more towards my health insurance.  In addition to this, any future raises (generally spread across 3 years) cannot exceed 2% and I as make more, I will be required to pay still more for my benefits.  Worse off are retirees, whose cost of living adjustments have been suspended for 30 years.  30 years!  I can't even wrap my head around that.  

How did this pass in a Democrat-led state?  I was baffled until I started reading up and learned that a key Democrat, to whom many other Democrats owe significant favors, is in cahoots with our Republican governor.  Favors were owed, votes were cast and this sh!t passed.  The more I begin to understand all the politics involved, the rich getting richer on the backs of the working class, the sicker I feel about the whole thing.  It's disgusting.

So what now?  What happens next to the paycheck-to-paycheck family who is waiting for their income to drop still further?  Honestly, I don't know.  We pray, I guess.  That the cars keep running okay, that there are no major health issues, that we can maintain the status quo for a little longer.  And we keep going because we don't have a choice.

But I can't let go of the anger.  Not yet.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The not-so-relaxing weekend

The hospital wasn't able to fit Mr. Jaguar in the schedule that Friday.  His inferior vena cava would have to wait to be installed until the following Monday.  I would spend the coming days intently staring at him, watching him for any signs of trouble.  The tiniest sputter from him would be followed by the question from me, "Are you okay?"  I must've been really annoying that weekend, but I was so terrified that he would drop dead in front of me.  I spent Friday in a kind of denial, repeatedly convincing myself that everything would be fine.  What's 48 more hours?  No biggie.

I spent Saturday fixated on what it would look like if my husband had a pulmonary embolism in front of me.  Every time, I would try to block the thought out but the visualization kept returning.  One of the doctors who had treated my husband earlier had said there would be a lot of blood.  Would BabyJaguar be in the room?  Would it be quick?  Would my husband be terrified?  Would my son be hysterical crying?  The questions just kept coming.  Saturday was a really bad day for thinking. 

I can't even really remember Sunday.  I was emotionally exhausted by that point.  But I assure you it still consisted of interrogating my husband whenever he made the slightest sound.  It was just such a strange weekend.  Surreal. 

The filter was put in place that Monday.  It took a week or so for my head and heart to really wrap around the fact that my husband should be okay.  The filter has stayed put and is doing its job.  Mr Jaguar continues to take his blood thinners.  My only worry now pretty much revolves around him getting into some kind of accident that causes him to bleed to death, but I'm rolling with that fear.  That's so odd to stay, but that concern is just part of my new normal. 

My husband and I are still discussing what to do in terms of testing BabyJaguar for the mutation.  The hematologist has said to wait on it.  The pediatrician doesn't really have an opinion on it.  They just refer you to a pediatric hematologist.  I'm debating scheduling that appointment sooner than later.  Before testing him, I have to consider whether we want to get a life insurance policy for BabyJaguar now as a positive result could result in insurance difficulties for him later on down the road.  We'll see how this all unfolds, but for now, I'm just tremendously grateful for my little family of three remaining a family of three.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Greatest fears

They never did an ultrasound of the clot in his leg. 

If they had, they would've confidently made the diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism (a small one, thank God).  They would've seen that the once stable clot they had examined a few weeks ago was no longer stable and in danger of going to his lungs.  But they didn't.

My husband and I returned home and discussed the doctors' conclusions or lack thereof.  We both felt he'd had a pulmonary embolism.  It was the only thing that made sense of all of his symptoms.  Within a few hours of moving around, Mr Jaguar began complaining that his chest felt just slightly tight.  Not as bad as before but still there.

By the grace of God, my husband had a previously scheduled appointment with his hematologist two days later.  The doctor was quite unimpressed and frankly, pretty pissed, that the hospital hadn't taken my husband's high risk factors for a pulmonary embolism seriously and he was shocked that they hadn't gotten another look at the clot in his leg.  He ordered the ultrasound.  

My husband got the ultrasound Friday morning.  As he left the imaging center, his phone rang.  His doctor on the other end shared the findings.  The clot was unstable.  He was now certain Mr Jaguar had had a pulmonary embolism and he was in danger of having another one that could be fatal this time.  My husband would need an inferior vena cava filter installed as soon as possible to prevent this.  The doctor would call the hospital and try to get it set up for that afternoon.

My husband pulled over to the side of the road and cried, his only thought was what if he didn't get to see Ben grow up?

Too close for comfort

I haven't talked much about the last few weeks and figure I probably should. I especially need to get the last week off my chest.
Around mid-March, Mr Jaguar was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg. He'd had a clot in his bicep late last year but it was due to an injury so no red flags were raised at the time. He was closely monitored until it resolved on its own. But this one in his leg was different. We couldn't think of anything that would have caused surgery, no extended rest periods, no injuries. We wracked our brains and the only thing we came up with was that about a month before Mr Jaguar had fallen down our hardwood steps. He had gotten seriously banged up but didn't injure his knee in the fall.

Anyway, the doctor actually thought this clot was a cyst and sent Mr Jaguar to have an ultrasound just to be safe. To rule out a clot. But it was a clot. And the doctor called my husband while he was still in the ultrasound room to say go immediately to the emergency room. Do not stop home. Do not go anywhere but the emergency room. She was calling ahead to the ER to let them know he was on his way. He would be admitted to the hospital. The husband called me and relayed all this to me. I, at home with BabyJaguar, quickly made arrangements for someone to watch the baby while frantically packing an overnight bag for my husband. I raced to the hospital where my husband and I then impatiently sat in the waiting room for nearly 3 1/2 hours until he was seen. They were packed and my husband wasn't having chest pain. Chest pain trumps blood clot.

Eventually he was examined and the doctor opted to send him home on injectable blood thinners. A visiting nurse would come over the next morning to go over giving the shots. Except they never actually gave us the prescription for the medicine (they gave us a Lovenox starter kit that contained no Lovenox. It wasn't supposed to but they never told us that or gave us the actual script). My husband needed to take his next shot by noon the next day and we had no meds. It was 2:30 in the morning. Not the time that I want to be solving problems like this. Also, they never set up the visiting nurse. Mr Jaguar figured out the giving himself shots part (thanks, infertility shots).

In the coming days, my husband had bloodwork done and was diagnosed with Factor V Leiden Mutation, a hereditary gene mutation that makes your blood more likely to clot. I'll be talking with BabyJaguar's pediatrician about it at his well visit next month to see about testing him. My husband continued with his blood thinner medication, notified his family so they can get tested, ordered his medical identification necklace and we settled in as his bloodwork revealed that his clotting levels were slowly getting to where they should be.

A few weeks later my husband was out helping me in the garden. He overdid it and suddenly his heart started racing, he began shaking and his leg was throbbing. Mr Jaguar attributed it to lack of activity since the clot diagnosis and that his blood pressure was up, putting pressure on the clot. He sat down, drank some water and settled down. Later, he went in and laid on the couch for a bit. He said he felt better but, also, still felt a little off, not quite himself. He ran to the market later and that's when the cough started. He got home and that was when he realized he had coughed up some blood. He showed me his reddened palm.

I would love to say that this was the moment when I was calm, cool and collected. The Grace Kelly of medical emergencies. But I can't. Because I was anything but.

I jammed the just purchased bags of groceries in the fridge and threw BabyJaguar in the car (the poor guy had just pooped and I didn't even change his diaper). My husband got in and I raced to the hospital. I was driving like, I needed to get to the hospital. This would be a funny time to mention that I have this little thing from my insurance company hooked up to my car to monitor my driving habits so that I can potentially get a good driver discount. I'm not so sure I'm going to get that discount now. Damn clot.

I was freaking out. Tears streaming down my face, my whole body tensed up like I was driving in an awful snow storm. I think I was talking a lot but don't remember what I said. I dropped Mr Jaguar at the doors to the ER just as my friend Kristen called to tell me she was pulling into the hospital lot. She was going to take BabyJaguar for me. I don't even really remember calling her to set that up. We pulled up next to each other, I basically threw my child at her (I didn't even say goodbye to him which I felt terrible about later) and raced off to find a parking spot which was frustratingly far away. Apparently, I unknowingly left my flashers on at this point, but fortunately my car battery didn't die.  Then I ran full speed to the ER in tears. We didn't have to sit in the waiting room this time. They took Mr Jaguar back quickly. At some point during this, I went to use the restroom and ended up in their sobbing aloud. I took a minute to pray in there. Funny, you'd think I would've been praying from the second the whole thing started but I could barely get my mind still enough to do it. I figured God would know that I was praying in spirit. And then I smiled as I realized how ridiculous that sounded but figured He knew what I meant.

After some tests and exams, the doctors felt that my husband was not having a pulmonary embolism, but they weren't really sure what he was having.  They opted to admit him so that he could be seen by a pulmonologist the next day.  Mr Jaguar, after resting for a while, was feeling better but still not quite like himself.

The next day at the hospital, we waited and waited for a pulmonologist to come see us.  I kept wondering how much it was costing our insurance for my husband to lie in a bed and get his vitals checked every few hours but, other than that, receive essentially no medical care.  Later in the afternoon, after several polite requests on my part, a pulmonologist came down and asked my husband ample questions about drug use and exposure to chemicals but continued to dismiss the possibility of a pulmonary embolism because Mr Jaguar's chest CT with contrast did not show evidence of one.  Eventually, the doctors basically said that they weren't really sure what was going on with Mr Jaguar but that, since he was feeling better, he could go home.

They never did an ultrasound of the clot in his leg. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An Irritating Pause

I don't get paid in the summers. Because I'm a teacher. And because we have never reached a point in our finances where I can set money aside from each check that is earmarked for summer.

And so every summer we're kind of....well, screwed. My husband receives a quarterly bonus check and we also have our tax return. Those things generally go to the summer-stay-alive fund. And other money pops up at different points that goes in the same direction. But still, every summer, any savings that we have established seem to get devoured.

I've really got to change that. It truly is a sh!t plan.

To be exact, I lack my regular paycheck from July 15-September 15. I work during the summer for my school district for 4-6 weeks. However, I don't typically get paid until September 1. I know, that makes for one hell of a summer job. Still, I can't beat the money for the number of hours I work. On the days I work for the district, I pay half day daycare for BabyJaguar, but that's a good deal, so we save a good deal of money on daycare throughout summer. Also, with the debt that should be paid down before summer (crossing everything), we would save $175 every month. So there are bright spots in the summer budget where we will save on bills a bit.

But we have a wedding in August. In Boston. And while I'm so excited to see a great friend get married to the woman of his dreams, I'm a wee bit (a ton) freaked out. It's going to be a costly trip. Boston is by no means known as an inexpensive city. Also, I think it will be the first (and second, two nights probably) time that I have to leave BabyJaguar overnight. Ever. (Insert visual of me looking like I'm going to vomit here.) The other bummer is that we have some really great debt reduction momentum going right now and I hate to have take time off from it. It's just a bummer.

A goal I am thinking of setting for next school year is that I take $100 out of each check to go to summer savings with the long term goal, once more debt is paid off, of gradually increasing that amount to $350. That would adequately prepare us for summer and alleviate significant stress.