Monday, December 31, 2012

DIY Disney Autograph books that can turn into a scrapbook

For our Christmas family vacation, I made all the kids Autograph books. From our last visit in 2005, I remember seeing autograph books going for upward of $15 and they were small.

The first thing I did was search Google for Disney clip arts for the kids' favorite characters and saved several different ones if I knew more than one kid like that character. Then I used Pages to set up an 8x8 border. I have a Mac and Pages was awesome for this. You can do the same thing on other graphic apps for PC too.

I situated the 8x8 border toward the right with about half an inch margin on the 3 edges (right, top, and bottom). I then just dragged one character clip art and put it in any corner that looks good. For some, I also put the name of the character somewhere on the page. But because did this days before I trip, I ran out of time and just put the characters. For other ideas, you can also get seasonal clip arts - Christmas, valentines, etc.

Once the pages were set up, I printed them on stock paper. I grabbed several packs at the craft store. Although , I advise you pay attention to the thickness, as some are thicker than others. I fed the paper one at a time because it's thick and I didn't want to have to jam the printer.

After printing about 10 characters for each child (many are repeated), I also made 3 blank ones for each (only the 8x8 border) for any unexpected character encounters.

Once the pages were printed out, I hopped to the car and hurried to Staples. We were leaving the very next day, so you can imagine the panic I was in at this point. I told the Staple lady I wanted 4 booklets bound and she gave me a choice of the binding. I picked a spiral and a clear cover. She out a clear front cover and a thick black board on the back. I had to tell her to trim the left side as it was about 2 inches from the boarder. At this point I told her that as long as she didn't touch the black border, she could trim whatever was needed for the spiral.
For all 4 (14 pages each - I made a cover with each child's name) I paid $17. Pretty awesome, I think. :)

Each of my 4 kids had a small cinch sack with them with their own autograph books. I kept the sharpies. The corners curled in, which was not a problem because of the 1/4 - 1/2 inch margins.

While at Disney, I saw a scrap booking kit that I bought for $25. It had a lot of the mainstream characters. Once we got home I ordered 8x8 scrapbooks (with top loaded protective sheets) from Amazon. Once I got them, I cut out the autographed pages on the boarder and they fit perfectly inside. I added stickers, boarders, etc from my Disney scrapbook kit. I am actually not done making them. I want one page to have a picture of my child with the character and the page next to it, the character's autograph. I anticipate these scrapbook to be handled pretty good, especially by my twin 5-yr olds. :)

The great thing about this DIY autograph book is that the pictures you print on the page is a "conversation" starter with the characters themselves! Mickey was beside himself seeing his picture, and so was Ferb (from Phineas and Ferb). We had a great laugh at him running around and showing everyone that it was him on the page. The kids loves the antics!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Acid reflux on a 2-year old

We have been referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist by our pediatrician back in September, for Little M. He has been vomiting since July and we can't get it in control using Zantac. The problem was, there is only 2 specialist near us. The first one cannot be reached by phone. The other is Albany Medical Center, who do not accept Aetna. Albany Med's procedure is to wait for the medical records to arrive in their office and then they call the patient for an appointment. A month of waiting to be called, I finally called them to check and see if they took a month to call back. I was told that they usually call within 24 hours of receiving the medical records and when the person checked, Little M's record wasn't there.

The logical conclusion for me was the follow up with our pediatrician, who then told me that they did fax the records. So I asked that they please fax again because Albany Med never got it. After they promised, I waited. After a week, I called Albany Med again and again they said they never got the records.

I called our pediatrician and pleaded for someone to follow up with Albany Med after faxing the records, and someone there took pity on me and said she would do it. Later that day she called and said, Albany Med doesn't accept Aetna and that's why no one is being assigned to my son to handle the appointment-making. My next action was to call Aetna to tell them, because upon searching online, I couldn't find any pediatric gastroenterologist listed in their website. An Aetna rep told me that there wasn't one participating with them within 100 miles, but they would authorize a visit with Albany Med.   I was finally happy at this point because it seemed that now I could get my child treated.

I called our pediatrician once again, and asked that they fax our records to Albany Med. The lady said, they don't accept Aetna so I should checked with Albany Med first to let them know. So I did. I talked to Albany Med and explained that we are willing to pay for treatment out of our pockets and they wouldn't have to deal with Aetna. The rep reiterated several times that if this was the route we are to take, they need money in advance. I said, yes, I will pay.

To make the story short, there were several more times when our pediatrician faxed our records, but apparently Albany Medical Center kept discarding them upon seeing the insurance name. By this time, it's already November and we're not getting anywhere. I twitted about my frustrations and Aetna social media team came to my aid. I asked them for a list of pediatric gastroenterologist even if it's far from my area, and they immediately emailed me with a list. With Daddy's help, we picked Fishkill as the place to go. It's a 100-mile drive, but at this point, I would rather make the drive then rely on Albany Medical Center. Daddy did some Google searches and found that Aetna and Albany Medical Center had a riff about 2 years ago when Albany Medical center demanded a higher rate of pay (higher fee schedule) than the national average. So their contract was severed. It's a good thing at this point that we have decided not to pursue Albany Med any longer. If all they cared about was money (which we agreed to pay in advance), then who is to say they will do their best to treat my child? If at any point they fear of our ability to pay, they may skimp on any necessary test and treatments. So good riddance.

My 2-year old vomits everyday, sometimes several times a day. He is so used to it he runs to the trash can on his own and it breaks my heart. We travel with a little bucket so we don't have to run to the nearest (sometimes very far) restroom. So yesterday, we made the 2-hr, 100-mile drive south to see a specialist. We were seen and we headed to a new treatment plan with stronger medicine and should this course of action not stop the vomiting, we will pursue more test and perhaps find possible food allergies.

It was an exhausting day for my Little M and I yesterday. Daddy had to be available for the other 3 kids, in case of any emergency that might occur. But through the exhaustion, there is elation. I am happy that we no longer have to settle for a medicine that clearly wasn't helping my boy. The doctor said just like adults, kids can be on Prevacid and or Prilosec. So we were prescribed chewable Prevacid. The doctor advised me that the insurance might not cover this medicine, so he thought we should opt for Prilosec, which is a liquid that some company in Boston mixes up and then ships to us. It must be refrigerated, but is much cheaper than Prevacid.

We are going on a family vacation to Florida next week, so I asked the doctor to go ahead and give us a prescription for Prevacid, as it is a lot easier to carry than a liquid that must be refrigerated. So after being exhausted and barely staying awake on our drive home, I went to the pharmacy and picked up our new medicine. The medicine is a solu-tab and after the insurance paid for just a bit over half, we had to pay $100 out of pocket for a 30-day supply. Daddy and I have decided this is acceptable, especially that we are traveling next week. Considering that just a little bit over a year ago, we paid over $500/month for our family's asthma medication, that $100 is acceptable. We had BCBS last time and they barely covered asthma medication. This year we have Aetna and they cover asthma medications pretty well, so the $100/monthly copay for Little M's medicine is something we can handle.

So this morning was Little M's first dose - and this is the first morning he hasn't vomited. Usually every day when we take his older siblings to the bus stop, because of the cold and the running around they do, it triggers vomiting in him. Today it didn't, and for that I am very grateful. Hopefully this is a sign that the medicine is working, though I do know it's too early to tell after only 1 dose.

Another blessing about seeing a specialist, is that I found out that the 1st line of medicine to try that our pediatrician gave us months ago, was apparently not recommended for children. Our pediatrician told us to try metoclopramide  (Reglan) first to see if helps the vomiting and after 3 days, use Zantac. After using Metoclopramide, Daddy and I decided it didn't work so we started Zantac. The pediatric gastroenterologist said that Metoclopramide is known to cause neurological side effects so it is not the first medicine he prescribes for an otherwise happy healthy baby who is gaining weight well. Generalist doctors might know a lot about everything, but they are do not know much when issues are more in-depth.

So I am hopeful for my baby that he would eventually stop vomiting. If not, then at least we know that there is a course of action and that we don't need to be satisfied with treatment that was barely helping him out.

It is my hope that with this blog, I can share my experience with Albany Medical Center. When you are worried about your child's health, you don't want to rely on a facility who puts money ahead of their patients.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Headbands with wool or felt flowers

I have decided to sell crochet headbands and fold over elastic headbands with wool or felt flowers in my shop next year. They are adorable and my girls are enjoying them. The flowers will be in a clip so it can be worn with or without the headband.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


We had snow last week, the first if the season. There were neat-snow that produced nothing a few days before this day so when the kids woke us up excitedly, in didn't believe them.

We had about 3-4 inches, which is nothing by NY standard, but it was plenty enough fun for the kids. Yesterday the temperature went up to. 55 so I know that there will be a white christmas for us. The kids would be so excited if there is snow on the ground when we return from our Florida trip.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2nd grade writing homework

It was education week a couple of weeks ago and the parents were invited to the classrooms in order to see what the kids have been doing. I attended K's and J's class, one after the other. They did crafts, played math and spelling games. Both are excellent. They are both social and not at all shy. I have said time and again, I am very thankful for that!

Daddy attended Big M's class later in the afternoon. He filmed Big M reading his writing project. I am quite impressed by this writing. I don't remember writing like this at 2nd grade. Later that week, I attended his parent-teacher conference, and his teacher mentioned that though he helped Big M in certain areas of his writing, most was done unassisted.

K's and J's parent-teacher conference were attended by Daddy and he was very happy he did. He was very impressed by their writing and reading ability. Both are quite artistic, apparently, drawing in great detail. Daddy was especially proud and emotional when J's teacher showed him her journal. There is a page about her real hero and it was a drawing of Daddy. "Why?" it says, "because he loves me." Daddy couldn't even keep a straight voice telling me about it on the phone. J's teacher took note of his reaction and sent a photocopy of that page for Daddy. :)

We are very proud of our children. It may not show based on the amount of daily frustration we deal with, but we are very very proud of all of them.