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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I was at work today while our 44th president was inaugurated.  A coworker and I made a deal about how to arrange our breaks; he’d get to watch the swearing in and I’d get to watch our new President’s first speech.  I think I got the better end of that deal.

I heard President Obama make a speech I was proud to hear our nation’s leader make.  It struck me as honest.  I can’t always say that about our politicians.  What I heard is our President expecting us to own our contributions to this country and its change.  Don’t expect it all to be done for you; pitch in and help.  Don’t just complain, don’t give up; come up with solutions, and help implement them.  Claim it, work for it, be proud of it, be cognizant of what you’ll pass on to your grandchildren.

My suggestion is to start here.  Sign up for the updates, be informed, offer opinions.

But it’s funny the things that catch your eye and make an impression.  Two things I’ll remember most from today’s speeches and immediately afterward have absolutely nothing to do with the dichotomy of the fervor and solemnity of the celebrations, the hope for our country’s future, or even the history in the making with our first black president taking office.

The first was seeing Vice President Joe Biden taking the time to snap a photo from his vantage point for Malia Obama with her camera and handing it back to her with a real – not a “I’m just being polite” – smile.

The second was observing Michelle Obama being a mom, keeping an eye on Malia and Sasha, ensuring they behaved as well as you can expect children their age to behave in public.  Seeing her send the reassuring and encouraging smiles to them touched my mom’s heart.  Knowing that no matter how proud she is of her husband, some of her attention was rightfully (and inevitably) diverted to their kids.

My personal opinion is that our First Lady has the tougher job right now.  She needs to aid her children and husband to transition to their new roles without any of them losing sight of their family and their family values.  She needs to be the rock and earth that grounds them all and keeps them focused on the most important thing in their lives – their family.  Because without that personal nexus, President Obama will not be the best POTUS that he can be during these trying times.

In other words, she needs to continue doing what every other wife and/or mother does…only on a grander, more public scale, but with less recognition for her contribution than most. Keep them human and real, Michelle.  I wish you the best of luck.

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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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The episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with the house that John worked on this past October airs this Sunday, January 4, 2009.

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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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Polls opened at 7 am here in Pennsylvania.  Reading the news reports of the lines and waits around the country for the states that allowed early voting, I decided to get there early.  I arrived at 6:15 am.  First one there, but sat in the car until people began standing in line to get in.  My vote was probably the fifth one cast in the precinct.

The plan is for me to go vote (Done! – Check that off the list for today), come home to stay with the kids so John can vote and head off to work afterwards.  It’ll probably take him longer to walk the distance from where he’s now going to have to park than it will take him to actually cast his votes.  It’s a small parking lot and people are parking along the side of the road; might even be resorting to parking on the crossroad by now.

I spoke with a volunteer while waiting in line.  Our precinct has 1100 registered voters.  I estimate 4-5 percent of them were there waiting in line before the doors opened for voting!  According to the volunteer, our precinct normally runs about 5% higher than the state average for voter turnout.  The good news is that if people are getting there early, those that have to wait to vote until they get out of work this afternoon should have shorter lines.

My personal opinion is that GWB is going to go down in history as the president most responsible for motivating the highest voter turnout (percentagewise) for a presidential election.  If so, then at least we can say he had something good come out of his two terms in office.

Someone in line made the comment that a vote counts more if less people show up.  I don’t know about that.  What I do know is that it is my right to vote and if I choose not to exercise that right, then I forfeit my right to complain about the results.

Regardless if you want to vote for change or vote for more of the same or somewhere in between, get out and VOTE!  Let your voice be heard.  Your/our chosen candidate(s) may not win…but the odds are higher they will if you vote than if you don’t.

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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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…to write anything.  :-(   How ’bout I just tell you to check out Don Brown’s Clean Up On Aisle Eight from a couple days ago?  Hopefully, I’ll feel better soon and be able to put something new out.

Enjoy!

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Well, what a week.  Most of us have returned home after a long week of hot, humid weather.  Some of our brothers and sisters from the Houston area have probably still not been able to return to their homes due to Hurricane Ike.  If you guys need any help, give us a shout; you know NATCA will be there.

We worked hard, we argued, we compromised, some “won” on issues and “lost” on others, and we partied just as hard!  I hadn’t been to a NATCA convention since Seattle in 1998 and this was the first time I didn’t have to suffer through a division of the house.  I don’t agree with all the decisions that were made, but that’s the way it works sometimes.  I’m still digesting some of what occurred.

Some pictures can be found here.  Anyone that wants to add links to their own pictures, just let me know.

The Convention Committee did a great job as did the Communications Committee (or I guess they’re now the Information Technology Committee).  We suffered a huge scare when one of our sisters had a serious adverse reaction to some prescription medications and all breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief when we discovered that she was going to be okay.  I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen in years, put faces to names I’ve corresponded with via email and telephone and meet some of the newer generation who will be carrying the torch after we retire.

I’m literally speechless – going through a bout of laryngitis.  While I can still type, I think I’m going to keep the majority of my thoughts and opinions about the convention and its results to myself, at least for a little bit.  Nothing profound coming out of this keyboard today.

One important thing, though, I think needs to be said.  Our energies need to stay focused on the upcoming Presidential election, not internal issues.  Let’s wait until after November 4th before we make snap judgments and say things we may regret later on.  The Presidential election is of extreme importance this year, not only for NATCA, but for the entire country.

The bottom line is I had a great time with my NATCA family, but I’m happy to be home again with my husband and kids. Oh, and I got to hear Barry K. say he was “less than correct” twice (too bad it was during executive session).  That alone made it worth the trip!

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