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Because My Laptop Battery is About to Die ThisVerySecondWhoops

By Amalah

I am writing this week’s column on the plane, while on my way to BlogHer. Whooo! Dedication! Multi-tasking! The guy in the seat next to me repeatedly whacking my elbows and reading over my shoulder! (HI. WHAT. STOP LOOKING AT MY BOOBS.)

This also means, however, that I had to select questions that I could answer solely with the power of my mind as opposed to the power of Google and So basically: be prepared to say “duuuh” a lot.


I am adopting a cat in a few weeks, and while I am of course incredibly excited to finally have my very own pet, I am also a little concerned about something happening that requires ridiculously expensive veterinary bills. Since I didn’t even know what pet insurance was until I read your blog (and as I am still pretty clueless about it all), I thought you might be able to point me in the right direction…


A long time ago, I thought pet insurance was one of those things that only crazy pet owners went in for, you know, the people with the custom-made velvet doggie beds and rhinestone collars, who probably watched last week’s Project Runway in panting excitement (“Coordinating human/pet haute couture! Finally!”).

But this is pretty much the opposite of true, as these people have the bajillions in disposable income to spend on x-rays and ultrasounds and surgery and whatever the hell else. But the rest of us, sometimes don’t, and it can lead to really, really tough decisions.

In college I had a little shelter cat named Sabrina. Oh God, I loved that cat. Loved! I brought her with me when Jason and I got married, but by that time she was already sick. The vet said it was either a treatable chronic bowel disease, or lymphoma. We went with option A and she was okay for awhile. And then she wasn’t. And then an x-ray revealed tumors in her stomach. We were offered two choices: chemotherapy or euthanasia. Since I’d had to ask my parents for money to cover the damn x-ray, it was pretty obvious that further testing or kitty chemo was out of the question.

We put her down. She was only five years old. The vet said she’d probably already had the cancer when I adopted her as a kitten.

Everybody told me it was the best thing: she was too sick to handle chemo, it probably wouldn’t have worked, sometimes you just need to know when to let them go, etc.

But I swear to God, it made it SO MUCH WORSE knowing that even if there HAD been more options, I probably couldn’t have paid for them. That there was the faintest hint of “I put my cat to sleep because I couldn’t afford XYZ for her.” And to this day, every time I hear a story of chemo or surgery saving a cat with lymphoma, I still sort of die a little inside.

Fast-forward a few years: Max comes down with back-to-back-to-back urinary tract blockages. Many hundreds of dollars later, he’s fine. We were fine too, we just didn’t take a vacation that year.

When we adopted Ceiba, the breeder included some brochures for various pet insurance policies, saying she highly recommended we look into it. After discussing them with our veterinarian, we went with VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance, durrr) and insured both Max and Ceiba.

Of course, Max has been as healthy as a damn horse ever since, but Ceiba, OH MY GOD CEIBA.
In the two years since we brought her home, she’s injured her eyeball, contracted an explosive mystery stomach ailment and broken her leg. We’ve submitted, no lie, about $6,000 in vet bills to the insurance company.

We’ve paid about $1,300 out of pocket, plus $250 a year, per pet, in premiums. Yikes. I know. But, still.
I think dogs, in general, tend to be more prone to the mega-expensive medical disasters and injuries, so it’s all about your risk-comfort level. Some pets are never sick a day in their lives before passing peacefully in their sleep at 20 years old. Some pets get sick a lot. And some pets get lost and into fights and hit by cars, no matter how careful their owners may be.

Personally, I just never, ever, ever, never want to be in a place where I have to make a choice between my pet and my pocketbook, so pet insurance it is.

Before choosing a plan, talk to your vet. Most vets can recommend a company they’ve worked with, and some larger animal hospitals even offer their own coverage or payment installment plans (which will at least help you break up those huge, heart-attack-sized bills). Some policies will cover everything from vaccinations to annual check-ups, or you can just get a policy for illnesses and injuries (this is what we have, plus coverage for cancer). Ask about deductibles. And treatments of conditions that tend to run in certain breeds (we’re up the creek for Ceiba’s luxating patellas). And the younger your pet, the cheaper it will be. (Max costs more to insure than Ceiba, and we got nailed with a pre-existing condition clause for the urinary tract blockages.)

Good luck, and they are worth it, I swear.

Wise Amalah:

As a fellow straight hair gal I need your help. I moved to Texas last summer from California (I could post for hours just on that topic but we will save the cries of help for later) where it is much more humid than I am used to. Anyhow, I have fairly long, layered thick hair that is pretty straight. I usually blow dry (and flat iron if I am feeling really saucy) and I curl a bit for some body. I am noticing the new trend of the long “not-really-curled-yet-more-than-a-little-wavy” look on celebrities and can’t quite figure how to do this, especially what with the moisture in the air that my hair my so unaccustomed to. Do you have any tricks to use rollers, curling irons, product to get this look. I am tired of my curls looking so “done”. Help!! And by the way, you rock! (OK, I realize I just sounded like a 12 year girl and I apologize.)

Thank you,

OH MY GOD! I can really, honestly 100% help with this question! I have a System! And the System works! I have testimonials and everything.

(Note: I did not create the System. My hairdresser taught me the System, and then I get all the credit on the Internet for the System, which is why I tip her really, really well.)

The best part of the System is that humidity actually becomes your friend. The System works with the humidity and the natural frizzy waviness that it creates for us otherwise supah-straight-haired girls.

Okay, there are actually two Systems: the low-maintenance way, and then the, wait for it, high-maintenance way. The low-maintenance one is a little more hit or miss, while the high-maintenance approach is pretty much guaranteed to rock your world, but, yeah. High maintenance and you also run the risk of searing the flesh off your fingertips. (Oh, THAT. Pshaw. Who needs fingerprints when you have great hair?)

Let’s start with the high-maintenance System:

First, you blow dry. Use any prepping product you need (tonic, detangler, thickening spray, root lift, etc.) and blow dry fairly straight, lifting at the roots as much as possible. Then heat up a regular old curling iron to however hot your particular breed of hair seems to respond best to.

And now you curl. But you do not curl in the normal, traditional fashion. Oh no. We are much too awesome for that. We are going for what my hairdresser calls the “modern ringlet,” which is exactly what you described in your question: the long “not-really-curled-yet-more-than-a-little-wavy” look. This is achieved by wrapping small pieces of hair AROUND the ENTIRE barrel of the curling iron. Don’t open the”flappy” thing. Wrap your hair, root to end, around the iron and hold the ends of your hair as close to the iron as you can without singeing your skin.

Like any look with ringlets or curls, it works best if you have the patience to curl all your hair, in fairly uniform pieces. But you can definitely take shortcuts and curl larger pieces on the bottom and then make smaller waves with your shorter layers.

Once you are sufficiently ringleted, shake your head to loosen the waves just a bit, and then scrunch them in your hands, moving from the ends to your roots. I use either Bumble & Bumble’s Surf Spray (which works so, so good but costs so, so much) or Catwalk’s Frisky Scrunching Gel (which works pretty darn good, but not quite AS good, but still good, okay done now) to aid in the scrunching and setting. If you have a lot of natural wave to begin with, you could probably just use something like Catwalk Curls Rock Curls Booster.

(The Surf Spray, by the way, adds a little bit of actual salty “grit” to your hair, so keep it AWAAAY from your roots. But if you’ve got the kind of hair that behaves better when it’s a little dirty, or always looks mysteriously awesome at the beach, this is pretty much the product you’ve been looking for your entire life.)

Ta-da! You are done.

The low-maintenance version of this look basically skips both the blow-drying AND the curling and goes right on to the hair products, applied to wet hair. Then you scrunch scrunch scrunch and allow your hair to air dry, scrunching pretty much every few minutes until it’s dry. This technique, like I said, can be pretty hit or miss, even for the same head of hair. Some days, depending on the humidity and how quickly my hair dries, it looks every bit as wild and wavy as the high maintenance system.
Other days: flat roots, product residue, frizz central. (Guess what kind of day today is! Go on, guess!)

However, the low-maintenance technique is a handy one to have in your arsenal, should you ever get caught in the rain or need to change your hairstyle mid-day without washing it. If you look at the photo heah, you might not ever know that about 20 minutes before I’d been caught outside in a drenching, relentless rainstorm that COMPLETELY demolished my hair. Some flipping, shaking and scrunching with the B&B Surf Spray (don’t ask why I had it with me, just DON’T ASK) and I was able to upgrade from “drowned rat” to “just woke up after a three-day bender” just like that! Whee!

Amy, I’m almost three months preggers with T*W*I*N*S and I have some basic space issues to solve (duh). I have always wanted to get new living room furniture. Ours is overstuffed and we need more space. Bad idea to splurge on new furniture at the same time we’re getting new sources of vomit and drool? If it’s not a bad idea, what fabric is the best way to go?


Yeah, it’s a pretty bad idea. My God, when I think of all the crap (AND I MEAN ACTUAL LITERAL CRAP) that’s been dumped all over our sofa over the past 10 months, I get more than a little squicked out. Vomit, poop, drool, formula, Cheerios and even a couple rubber-tipped spoons coated in pureed prunes have all repeatedly found their way onto our lovely microsuede couch.

Which brings me to the point where I kind of waffle a bit: You can’t really TELL that all that stuff has been spilled on our couch. I was pretty unsure of the microsuede fabric when we bought it (I wanted real leather, Jason wanted That Which We Could Actually Afford), but damn, is it easy to clean. A wet paper towel gets pretty much anything out. Woolite or Ivory soap gets rid of the rest. It is starting to show a little wear and tear, however, so I’m glad we didn’t splurge too much. But since it’s a sleeper sofa and allowed my mother to stay with me postpartum, I’m SO GLAD WE BOUGHT A NEW SOFA.

I tell you this just to give you some wiggle room on the “we need more space” issue. If this issue becomes more important to you (like possibly to the point where the I NEED NEW KITCHEN CABINETS GAH GAH GAH obsession was for me), opt for an INEXPENSIVE sofa. Check out Ikea first. Or consider one with a washable slipcover. Or the microsuede. In a damn dark color.

Then buy a LOT of paper towels.

Dear Amalah,

I have a query for you. But you probably could have guessed that. This query, however, does not have anything to do with delicious babies or tragical hair/make-up. At least not directly. I’m sure they could both be worked into this situation. ANYWAY, this question is about tickets. Tickets that you get when you allegedly run stop signs. I have chosen to fight “the Man” on this and have requested and received a court date. Hurrah! But also, scary. Very scary. Although I watch a lot of Matlock (thank you Hallmark Channel), I really have no clue about real! live! court proceedings. At least relating to pissed-off citizens who are trying to get out of tickets. I know that if the officer doesn’t show up to court, I have nothing to worry about! No time in the pen for me. And I’ve heard that like 99.9% of the time, they don’t show. But then my stupid friends pipe up with stories about OH YES THEY DO SHOW UP AND THEY MAKE YOU PAY COURT FEES, BE VERY SCARED. So, to make a very long question short-ish, I am asking you to be my own personal Mythbuster. Do cops really show up to court? Should I be worried? What Would Amy Do? Please feel free to incorporate babies and hair/make-up into your response.

Mucho thanks,
R, who would rather spend that $150 on some highlights

Hmm. Not so much with the gobs of personal experience on this one, as both times I contested a ticket (one speeding and one red light, both done via automated traffic cameras that were clearly on the fritz) I did it through DC’s handy dandy “mail adjudication” system, which lets you send in a letter that basically says, “Uhhh, nope.” And both times I received a letter back that basically said, “Whoops! Our bad.”

I did go to traffic court once. I was subpoenaed by the glorious state of Maryland to testify against the jackass motorcyclist who changed lanes without signaling. Smack dab into my car. He pled “not guilty” to unsafe lane changing. He claimed that I had rear-ended him, despite the motorcycle-shaped smash-up on my passenger side door. He showed up wearing a neck brace and brought a lawyer.

He was screwed, because I showed up. Jason showed up. A woman who witnessed the accident showed up. And the cop showed up. Whoops.

But I did get to observe a lot of other more run-of-the-mill traffic court proceedings. Yeah, the cops do show up. Sometimes. It seemed to be about 50-50, actually.

Yet the judge seemed to be lowering fines and dropping points left and right anyway. (Seriously. She lowered Mr. Jackass Motorcyclist’s fine too.) People who pled “guilty with an explanation” seemed to fare the best, provided they acted sorry and had an otherwise clean driving record. People who tried to deny the offense altogether were only successful if (yep) the cop didn’t show up.

So. What Would Amy Do? I would contest a ticket if I were actually innocent. Or if I had a perfectly clear driving record. Or if I could use a paid vacation day. Or if the fine was so outrageous that a missed day of work and the court fees would still be worth it even if I only succeeded in getting the fine reduced. Or if there were points associated with the fine.

Oh, and I’d wear a suit and be very, very polite. I would also bathe. (HINT HINT, MARYLAND TRAFFIC COURT PEOPLE. GAWD.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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*LOVE* the new look!!


Love the new design.

Rachael Ehlich

Holy cow, you answered my question! And you were so right – dressing up totally paid off, even though my cop showed up and I had to pay many dollars. Bah. Oh well, live and learn. And then pray that Indiana wises up and gets one of those mail-in ajudication systems.


H — If you are looking for a nice looking but fairly inexpensive couch, check out Home Reserve. You choose the style and the fabric and they ship it in three boxes via UPS (so cheaper than most furniture delivery). The catch is you have to put it together, but my boyfriend put my couch together in under an hour. And each piece comes individually numbered in the order they go together so it’s super easy to follow the directions. They have a zillion fabric options and I chose one of the kid glove fabrics, which is a microsuede, supersoft,… Read more »


Why not pay a ticket clinic to take care of it for you? For anywhere from $69 to $99 (depending on where you live, I guess), these lawyers represent you in court and take care of everything for you. We use our guy like once a year (my husband the bad driver does), and he always manages to get him out of it with no points to his licence.


Pretty, smart, transcontinental Amalah,
Love the new design!! It totally rocks.
Thank you for the info about VPI – that’s awesome! We have four kitties (the Spice Girls – Sugar, Mocha, Cinnamon & Pepper) and somebody is always in need of a vet appointment.
Also thank you for sharing the secret System with us! Have a safe trip home!


Hey H — Some thoughts for you re: kid friendly furniture. (I have two — ages 5 and 2.5, so trust me, we are allll about the kid friendly stuff.) First up — leather. Seriously, leather is your friend. Aside from ball point pens and scissors, there really isn’t much a kid can toss onto leather than can damage it. Just wipe off the juice and you are good to go! Cons — can be expensive, as the lovely Amalah points out. Second — custom furniture with sunbrella fabrics. I know you’re thinking, “what, sunbrella is for outside, silly!” And… Read more »

the ass editor
the ass editor

Figures that it takes kittens to lure me out of the shadows. I have been lurking there ever since a coworker sent me a link to your brilliant and hilarious post about the cookbook you came across at work that consisted entirely of casseroles made out of orange cheese and jello. We work in publishing too, but have to make do with making fun of boring textbook manuscripts (and other coworkers, of course). Anyway, Hillary should check out if her new cat is a kitten. I was quoted over $1000 for getting my two kittens neutered/spayed at the fancy… Read more »