Archive for the “Family” Category

I’ve entered Hopewell Elementary School in the Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress Contest.  Grand prize is a $20,000 grant for the school.

Go ahead and register and vote for the school here!

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I’m not sure where all the angst was coming from yesterday about President Obama’s Speech to students.  Have we sunk so low as a nation that the thought of a Presidential address to our children is cause for banning said address?  Are we so narrow-minded that there was a reason to be concerned to the point of not allowing our children to hear our elected leader?

Here’s the thing.  I did not like our previous POTUS.  I wasn’t enamored of the man, and, most certainly, I disliked his politics.  But had he chosen to make a national address to our children, I still wouldn’t have thought it reasonable for school systems to decide not to broadcast his speech during school.  I’d listen to it, watch it myself and just discuss it with my children later.  But as much as I didn’t like the previous President, I still would not have had the expectation that he would, in an address specifically for children, say or do anything overtly harmful.

President Obama obviously has some nerve.  I mean, how dare he suggest to our children that they hold some responsibility for their attitudes and effort in school?  How dare he suggest that they are the future of this country and that a good education will aid them?  How dare he infer that they find the things that they are good at?  Or that failing is not an excuse to quit?  Or to work hard, keep trying and ask for help if they need it?  How dare he tell them that their government, parents and teachers consider the education of our children important?  What horrible, terrible tenets to teach our youth.

I don’t know if it was prejudice of the man, his race or his politics that caused the outcry in some areas, but it certainly was prejudice rearing its ugly head.  Random House Dictionary’s first listed definition of the word is:  an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.  Sounds about right to me.

John and I discussed the issue last night at dinner.  He made the observation that he wasn’t sure if some of the parents weren’t more concerned that they hadn’t taught their children well enough to be free and critical thinkers to view the President’s speech in the “right” way…or maybe that they had taught them well enough.

Our twins are preschool age and we watched the address on YouTube last night.  I doubt they got a lot from it, due to their age, but we used it as a teaching opportunity…try your best, don’t give up, and you can do or be anything.  As a parent, I feel the more adults that can reinforce those concepts to my children the better.

Oh, one more thought, for those parents of older kids that felt it prudent for their children’s school system to not show the President’s address and were successful in obtaining that goal, all you did was make it “forbidden” and more of a temptation for them to watch it on the sly.  I can only imagine how disappointed they will be to find that President Obama says many of the same things you’ve hopefully said to them over the years.

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Last week, I was investigating booster seats for the kids and I really wanted something with a 5-point harness that they could use as long as possible.  If you care to know, I think we’re going to upgrade from the Britax Marathon and go with the Britax Frontier.  In the middle of it all, I was listening to the radio and the lyrics of Different World by Bucky Covington and it reinforced to me how much has changed since I was a girl.

We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead-based paint
No childproof lids
No seatbelts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets
And still here we are
Still here we are

We got daddy’s belt when we misbehaved
Had three TV channels you got up to change
No video games and no satellite
All we had were friends and they were outside
Playing outside

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

School always started the same everyday
The pledge of allegiance, then someone would pray
Not every kid made the team when they tried
We got disappointed but that was alright
We turned out alright

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

No bottled water
We’d drink from a garden hose
And every Sunday,
All the stores were closed.

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

It was a different world

I guess it hit home a little harder since I’ve been hearing my 4-year olds say things like “I’m going to check my email” as they head for the desktop to surf their favorite websites (Playhouse Disney, PBS Kids, YouTube and Starfall).  And watching them spell words like “blog” and “computer”.  Or fighting for the stupid remote control for the television or DVD player and decide whether they want to watch Little Einsteins or Phineas and Ferb.  They flip-flop between Winnie the Pooh and Hannah Montana.  I sometimes get the impression that they’re toddlers on the brink of adulthood.

I hope that John and I can balance giving them what they’ll need as adults to function in the future with their need to just be kids now.  But I admit that I worry sometimes if, despite our best efforts, the digital age we live in is going to rob them of some of the innocence that every child deserves to have.  And then I worry that I’m worrying too much.

But I think that while the details of what concerns us may be different now than in the past, parenthood itself really hasn’t changed all that much at its most primitive level.  In the meantime, I’ve got a little girl who just brought her blankie and stuffed bear to me wanting to cuddle and a little boy wanting kisses and hugs.  It’s time to remember to enjoy it.  As Darius Rucker sings – It Won’t Be Like This For Long.

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I had a few moments to search online for the costs of raising a child, as the subject has been on our minds quite a bit lately. There are a bunch of different calculators/charts online. Check out here, here, here, here, here, here or here. LOL! Anyway, the figures come up anywhere from about $150,000 to about $600,000 per child.

With the twins being a bit advanced academically for their age, we’ve been considering an excellent private school…that we so totally cannot afford. Our son B is correctly spelling 5th-7th grade words – on the computer and writing them. Don’t believe me, look at this video from a year ago when he was 3. His sister A is reading as well, and loves to take things apart and “fix” them. They prefer to watch movies with subtitles and closed captioning on TV shows and recently decided that they need to watch Tinkerbell in Spanish…with Spanish subtitles. Even if John and I had the desire to homeschool, the truth is I’m not sure we could meet all their needs in that area.

Back to costs, I’d go with the higher end figures myself. Nowhere in the calculators (unless, of course, it’s under miscellaneous expenses which seem far too low) do I see the costs you don’t think of before you have children. Cribs, check. Diapers, check. Car seats, check.  Child care, check. Clothes, check. Food, check. Toys, check. Books, check. But I didn’t see the following:

Cases of clear packing tape – for taping up the ripped books, pages and anything else that you need to try to fix for them so they’ll just stop crying.

Locking hook and eye fasteners – for the oven door you can’t afford to replace after the children decided to open and use it to climb up on the kitchen counter, the doors to the attic crawlspaces, outside doors, computer desk drawers, etc.

Light bulbs – since they need to turn the lights on and off…over and over again.

Furniture – the couch, beds and anything else they can “bounce” on. That doesn’t even take into account the Scotchgard necessary to keep it clean or the slipcovers to cover the holes in the fabric because they’ve decided to poke sharp things into it until you can afford to replace the abused furniture.

Small appliances – for when they drop them and break the handles off the crockpots or when they try to take the rice cooker apart and lose the rubber thingy or bent the metal bowls to the mixer out of shape drumming on them.

Belts and repairman costs – to replace the belt(s) in the washer and/or dryer because you’ve overloaded it too many times trying to keep up with the dirty clothes and don’t have a lot of time to do so.

Heating vent covers – to replace the ones they figured out how to remove and then bent out of shape. Really don’t want to lose a pet down the ductwork.

Carpet cleaning supplies – to steam clean those carpets with a greater frequency to get out the juice, ground-in cereal bars, Playdoh, etc.

Bottles of shampoo/bubbles/juice or any other liquid – to replace the brand new ones you just bought that they decided to pour out…or spill.

Bandaids – need a box for most every room to hurriedly cover those barely discernable boo-boos that the kids insist require more attention than a kiss.

Emergency room visits – less for the kids, but more for the parents who’ve twisted/broken ankles, arms, wrists, or whatever from tripping over those toys.

Replacement DVDs/videotapes/CDs – because they’ve used them as Frisbees and scratched them or in the case of the videotapes, they’ve discovered that the insides make a real cool noisemaking boa.

Paper and ink for the printer – for when the kids discover the print button on the computer…and use it repeatedly.

Goo Gone – to remove those stickers from the hardwood floors, tables, any anything else the kids have decided to decorate.

Picture frame glass – to replace the broken glass when the kids bounce off the walls and the frames fall to the floor.

Storage bins – to pack away everything of sentimental value that you own so that it doesn’t go the way of those picture frames.

Computer repair/maintenance contract – for when they spill juice on the keyboard…or drop the laptop.

Gallons of ketchup – no explanation necessary.

Transportation costs – for those extra trips you need to make for any/all of the above.

And those are the just the unmentioned costs that immediately come to my mind. I know there are more.

Enjoy the Superbowl!

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Open Season for changing health benefits for federal employees was originally slated to end on December 8, 2008, but has since been extended through January, 2009 based on a review of one carrier’s non-emergency surgery coverage.  But since I was unhappy with the rising costs of health care and decreasing coverage, I investigated a change and actually made one before the original end date.  Doesn’t seem to matter much, since according to the health insurance company, my family no longer has health insurance coverage.

Despite my receiving a confirmation of the change I made, it seems my employer neglected to send my enrollment information to the insurance carrier for the new plan.  What makes this even more irritating, is that it is the SAME insurance carrier, just a different plan.  I only found out about it when I went to pick up John’s monthly prescription.  So if it doesn’t get fixed by tomorrow (he runs out of his medication tonight), I’ll have to pay $110 out of pocket for a generic prescription.

But that really isn’t the conundrum mentioned in the title.  You see, when I was looking at plans, I considered a number of factors.  First, my health insurance premiums have close to doubled in the past 4 years, but my coverage has decreased.  Our doctors’ visits and prescription co-pays have increased over the past few years as well.  Take a look at my old Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan:

2005 bi-weekly premium: $136.11 (x 26 pay periods=$3,538.86 annually).

2006 bi-weekly premium:$166.55   (x 26 pay periods=$4330.30 annually).

    A premium increase of $30.44 per pay period, but I received a base and locality pay increase of approximately $118 per pay period.

2007 bi-weekly premium: $189.32  (x 27 pay periods=$5111.64 annually).

    A premium increase of $22.77 per pay period, but the only pay increase I received was a gross of $26 per pay period in locality pay.

2008 bi-weekly premium: $236.57  (x 26 pay periods=$6150.82 annually).

    A premium increase of $47.25 per pay period, but the only pay increase I received was a gross of $19 per pay period in locality pay.

2009 bi-weekly premium: $261.34 (x 26 pay periods=$6794.84 annually).

    An increase of $24.77 per pay period.  I haven’t received word yet on what my locality pay increase will actually amount to.

The 2009 HMO plan also now comes with a deductible of $200/person, $400/family (an increase of another $15.38 per pay period), only 90% coverage of hospital admissions, including room charges and 90% coverage of doctor outpatient surgeries.  An HMO plan with a deductible?

So if I had chosen to stay with the HMO, my health insurance premiums (and deductible) would have increased $3655.98 annually over 2005, and my coverage would have significantly decreased.  Obviously, I went looking into other plans.

Now, isn’t this interesting.  Same insurance carrier with a new High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).  2009 cost is $106.82 per pay period.  That’s $2777.32 annually…less than my premiums in 2005.  Of course it has a high deductible (hence the name).  Hmmm, $1250/person, $2500/family.  Once the deductible is met, 100% coverage for all those things that the HMO plan will only pay 90%.  Prescriptions go up for brand-name pharmaceuticals from $25 to $35 (and an increase for mail order prescriptions).

Now you get a Health Savings Account with the HDHP plan.  Of which $1250.04 of the premiums I pay go into.  Which, in effect, means that the family deductible has come down to $1250.  $2800 plus $1250 equates to $4050 annually – less than my premium costs in 2006. I’ll have to put money into the account to preplan for the deductibles, but I can contribute the difference in my 2008 premiums and the new premiums and still come out ahead in the short and long term over last year.

What’s the catch?  Ahh, there it is – preventive care office visits aren’t subject to the deductible, but if you are sick and head off to see the doctor, the deductible applies.  The point is to keep subscribers from going to the doctor because we’ll have to pay out of pocket up front.  As I’m in a profession that I need to address potential health issues earlier rather than later and can’t take over the counter meds for colds and the like, this can create a problem.  As you can see, I haven’t received a base pay increase since 2006.

So, can anyone give me a reasonable explanation why, if you’re willing to pay the extra money for an HMO, you get less hospitalization coverage than if you pay for a HDHP plan?  I would hope we wouldn’t need it, but with twins and both John and I getting older, I’m not willing to take the risk of getting hit with a huge hospitalization bill.

I just don’t understand.

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Obviously, I’ve not written in quite a bit, I just have not had time.  I recently lost the election for NATCA Rep at our facility, but now I’m finally able to concentrate on things like getting the kids fully potty-trained, my genealogy research and my personal blog posts…LOL!  I know that there are more than a few people who are awaiting responses from me for questions they’ve sent from the genealogy portion of our website.  I promise I will be responding sooner rather than later now that I’m free from my duties of facrep.

While I work on catching up on some things that I’ve been putting off at home and here, take a gander at this video of the Mom Song from a blog at Northland Church, located somewhere in Florida.  I promise that anyone who has ever lived in a household with children, mom or not, will find it well worth the time to watch.

Hmmm, maybe I’m not as free as I thought.  But that’s more than okay with me.

Happy New Year, all!

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This past week I’ve been a single mom.  The timing worked out well, since I had a number of midshifts in a row and was able to get leave on one of them, so we only needed some help watching the kids for an hour or two on one night.

You see, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition did an episode in Pittsburgh and John was involved with that project.  I estimate, between the preparatory meetings and the actual job, he put in over 100 hours.  All of that was on a volunteer status, and I’m sure the Slaughter family, while never having met him, appreciates all the work that was done by everyone on their behalf.  We don’t know when the entire episode will air (I’ll be sure to post it when we know), but here’s a short video of the “Move that bus” segment being filmed by a local news station.  Might even be a clip of John catching a cat nap in a skid loader with a hardhat over his face in the final episode. He was showing up at home every 36-40 hours to catch a couple hours of sleep before the phone would ring and someone asking when he was coming back.  He said the entire event was like the OshKosh of the building construction industry.

Meanwhile on the home front, I’ve decided that women who stay at home 24/7 with their toddler children without losing their cool deserve sainthood.  I twisted my ankle and foot pretty badly on Monday (tripping over the myriad items the children believe belong strewn on the floor) and never quite realized how many times I get up and down and try to chase down the kids until I was in pain every time I did so. And the little imps knew that they had those few extra seconds to get into even more trouble before I could catch them!

Even worse, though, was the fact that the furnace quit.  So I called a repairman, they needed to order a part and it was close to two days without heat in the house.  I got a call from John tonight – the part finally arrived and was installed, but it seems there’s a crack in the heat exchanger and we need a new furnace.  Ugh!

Contrary to the title of this post, I really don’t regret John putting in all that volunteer time.  (Although if my fairy godmother were to show up here with a nice 120,000 BTU gas 2-stage variable speed furnace by Trane that I didn’t have to figure out how to afford, I certainly wouldn’t complain.  ;-) )  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, not only for him, but a number of people he knows.  And it was more than local people helping out, from the builders to the caterers that supplied the volunteers food, people came in from other parts of the country specifically to work on the project.

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This past weekend John and I attended his 35th (shhhh!) high school reunion.  From a female point of view, the majority of men in his graduating class (an all-male high school) are aging particularly well…or at the very least, they clean up nicely.  LOL!  Pretty impressive stats, too.  A number of varied and interesting accomplishments and careers came out of that class, running the gamut from working at the United Nations, running the London Underground, airline pilot, pointing brick, manufacturing medical supplies, teachers and a whole host of others I didn’t even get a chance to discover.

Of course, everyone asked how things have been and John’s answer was that everything important is going extremely well and everything that is going well isn’t important.  I was pleased to find out that my husband was a pretty good judge of character way back when; those closest to him in high school are still fun, interesting, witty and personable individuals…and they married women who are just as fun, interesting, witty and personable.  We had a great time, even though we didn’t win the raffle for the football signed by Ben Roethlisberger.

You see, the reunion was held at Heinz Field.  Oh, didn’t I mention one of the graduates works in some capacity there?  And it was also held on the night of Pittsburgh’s 250th Anniversary fireworks display.  I found this footage by an amateur and it in no way does the display justice!  Fireworks were set off from eight barges, 5 buildings and some bridges totaling 17 locations.  The reunion committee was able to arrange for us to watch the fireworks from the North Rotunda. There was so much going on and so much to see that it was almost too much to take in. It was incredible to watch. I’m not sure we actually were able to see all 17 locations even from our vantage point.  In my opinion, the multi-dimensional effects created by the various locations really showcased the talents of Zambelli Fireworks Internationale.

The reunion committee was not aware of the timing of the fireworks at the time they booked the accomodations at Heinz field, but as John said, they’ll have a hard time in the future topping this year’s event after the fireworks we saw.  As some of our regular readers are aware, we never got to see fireworks this year around the Fourth of July.  I’m only sorry the twins didn’t get to see these fireworks.

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I’m on leave this week and my best friend visited from Florida this past weekend. We had a great time catching up and she was glad to see the kids. The kids adored her..and her presents!

Since my daughter loves Doritos, I thought it was time to introduce her to the time-honored tradition my friend and I have had since middle school…pigging out on Doritos and Dr. Pepper. I have no idea why we started that (we just can’t be like other women and dig into a pint of ice cream), but I can’t tell you how many trials and tribulations we’ve shared munching on that combination over the past 30 years. Boyfriends, friends, coworkers, jobs and dreams have come and gone over the years, and her boys are now teenagers while mine are toddlers, but the sharing over D&D has remained a staple in our friendship.

So we all played in and around the pool and the women took a break sitting and sharing on the deck. I doubt my daughter A has quite grasped the significance that D&D may play in her life, and maybe she and I will find a different combination that suits our mother/daughter relationship better, but yesterday she took a baby step into the realm of girls and women and the friendships that last a lifetime.

I can only hope A’s as lucky as I have been and finds a friend that loves her no matter what happens in her life. Like in the movie Beaches, my friend knows everything about the core of who I am – good, bad and indifferent – and she’s got a long memory. Likewise, I’m sure. :-)

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Now that I’ve got some of the software upgrades completed and back to the normal craziness here (John returned from a trip Boston on Sunday morning and I just walked in the door a few hours ago from a class in Cleveland), let me get back to last…well, last last weekend. John had asked me months ago about going to the Historical Construction Equipment Association’s (HCEA) show since it was one of the last weekend days I’d have off for the remainder of the summer. I said sure, why not?

So off we went on the Saturday of the event. Now for me, it was interesting to see the old equipment moving dirt with their pulleys instead of hydraulics. A couple hours worth of interesting. For John, his face lit up like a kid in a candy store and he had to restrain himself from begging the various operators to let him run the machines. He could’ve slept out there between the old earthmovers and started all over again on Sunday. Actually, if we’d let him, he’d have probably gone home with one of them.

The kids enjoyed playing in some of the areas set up for their enjoyment and Mommy taught them to listen for the “music” of the machines to keep them entertained while Daddy was off gawking and grinning. Food was reasonably priced. And there was literally dirt in the air. I guess I was expecting more of a static display. If I had known they’d have demonstrations, I would’ve worn my ratty sneakers.

I suggested to John that he write his first blog about the day, but it obviously hasn’t happened yet. Maybe he’ll wax enthusiastic in the comments section instead. LOL! If you’re interested, pics of the day can be found here on our site.

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