Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crafting For Good

Almost a year ago, through The TomKat Studio, I stumbled across the story of a sweet little girl named Kate McRae who was battling cancer. As a human, stories of anyone going through a difficult time are hard for me to read about. As a mom, reading about a child going through something such as cancer is unbearable.

I have followed her story since. Praying daily for her, rejoicing when they have received good news, crying when the news wasn't so great. I have mostly followed through their Caring Bridge journal. Recently Kate's mom posted about Kate's Crazy Cool Christmas.

Through Kate's Crazy Cool Christmas we will be adopting families that are battling pediatric cancer, and a few who are battling it's aftermath after the death of their child this year. Please consider joining us in this. You can give in a few ways....

1. by donating any assortment of new toys, movies, or games for the families. Everything must be new.

2. by donating gift cards to grocery stores, gas stations, and various stores for the families (ie. Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Visa, Clothing Stores, or Sporting Goods stores, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and various Restaurants). We need lots of these to provide for all of the families.

3. by following the link to Sign Up Genius to sign up to donate a very specific item for a family. MANY more items will be added in the coming days and weeks.

Cody and I decided to pick a few items off of the wishlist, to send to the kids and families participating. One of the items we chose was a book, and when I saw this Monster Page Corner Bookmark on Pinterest I knew I had to make one to go with it.

And voila! The googly eyes were Cody's idea! I'm hoping it will bring a smile =)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toy Story Birthday Party - Peanut and Egg Free!

This past weekend we celebrated Luke's birthday with our extended family.

We chose a Toy Story theme for Luke because he's pretty much obsessed with it!

I admit, I probably go a bit overboard with indulging his interest in Toy Story, but what can I say?  It makes him talk!  Of the words that he has, many involve the Toy Story characters.  "Wewe" for Woody.  "Rek" for Rex.  Yee-haw was one of his first phrases.  A stuffed Rex and Alien live in his crib, they keep him company every night.  He loves his Toy Story peeps!

My original plan was to use pictures taken by a pro photographer to have invitations made, most likely by a seller at etsy.  But, the photographer took longer than I expected to get the pictures back to me, I waited until the last minute, and I ran out of time.  I ended up using Picnik, and my own picture, to make the invitations myself.  I was pretty happy with them considering it was the first time I'd ever done anything like that.

I went with cupcakes for Luke's party, using liners in green and blue.  I originally planned to use this recipe, Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling.  I made them this summer and they're amazing.  That was back when we thought eggs were ok though, so I had to either make the recipe egg free, or use something else.  I ended up using Food Allergy Mama's Classic Chocolate Cupcakes instead for the base, and the ganache recipe from the original one.  It worked out very well.

I made Luke's birthday shirt!  Well, ok, I bought the tshirt but I added the applique :)  I used the On the Go Children at Play collection in Navy, which I found at ...Etsy

 Printed a huge 3 on card stock, and used it as a pattern for the shirt.  A little Heat n' Bond lite to attach, sewed all around, and voila!

On the egg/peanut free menu...

Ham and Cheese Sliders (without the mayo)
Buffalo Chicken Bites (I didn't care for these, but I'm not a big blue cheese fan either.  Other people seemed to love them)

Happy Birthday Luke

  Three years ago today...

I went from this....
....to this....(meeting for the first time)

Three years ago today I finally got to meet my second son, Luke.  For this child I prayed...: 1 Samuel 1:27
Three years ago today, Cody became a big brother.  "Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero." Marc Brown                

They haven't always been the easiest three years.  Luke has had to deal with more things than most adults.  

Luke was born with positional clubfeet.

And spent many months in either full leg casts or corrective shoes  

First Christmas, 5 Weeks Old

First Easter, 4 Months Old

One Year

Luke endured an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, and an overnight stay in the hospital, at 15 months old

Between November 2009 and October 2010 Luke had pneumonia 5 times.

 Food allergies.  Immune deficiency.  Anaphylactic reactions.  Apraxia.

But nothing can stop him from smiling, Luke at two years old.

Luke is a rockstar.  He's one tough little man.  

He is my hero.

I thank God every day that I was lucky enough to become his mama.

Happy Birthday Luke.  You make me so proud.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apraxia - Insurance Coverage

Our insurance company brought me to tears this morning....but for a good reason!  I logged on to check our list of claims, and learned that they covered 80% of Luke's September session with his PROMPT therapist!  So we have 90 sessions per calendar year at 80% covered.  They even covered a small portion of the claim I sent in for the developmental pediatrician.  That bill was $570, and they're reimbursing us for $100.  Not a lot, but I'll take it!

Tomorrow I'm calling Child Find and withdrawing Luke from the program.  I was going to no matter what, but knowing that we can take him to PROMPT twice a week, and have the majority of it covered, sealed our decision.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Public Service - Watch for Third Party Billers


I'm so mad, I'm almost in tears.

I noticed tonight that our current phone bill is higher than normal. We do paperless billing, so I logged in to see what the issue was.

I almost didn't notice, but finally did...there were two $13 charges from the same company. There's a blurb from Verizon stating that not paying those charges won't result in the phone being cut off. I googled the company name (I'd never heard of it), and found many results for them. It's a scam, called "cramming". They get your info, and bill you through your phone company as a 3rd party. It's typically smaller charges that most people don't notice, at least not for awhile. Ours is ILD Teleservices, INC, on behalf of Compufix, INC.

Results for this scam go back to at least 2008. People don't get their money back. I spoke with a woman named Karen Marks (at least that's what she told me) with Compufix, who said the account was canceled and "every cent" will be refunded. I'm not holding my breath. I called Verizon and requested a 3rd party biller block be put on our account. Verizon, other than issuing the block, was less than helpful. I'm trying to figure out where these companies are located, so I can file a complaint with that state's State Attorney General, but it seems that they move around a lot, so I'll just file with Virginia's AG.

I'm so MAD. How can people be so horrible? Targeting people who are just trying to survive. People who are struggling to get by as it is. Senior citizens, families living on 1 incomes, people dealing with high medical costs. There's a special kind of hell for people that are that heartless. They've gotten at least $100 from us since May. I need to dig out my previous paper phone bills to see if it went beyond that. That's at least $100 that could have gone towards us taking care of our children. How dare someone swoop in and steal it?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Field Trip #3 - National Museum of the Marine Corps

There are things that I complain about when it comes to living in Northern Virginia.  The traffic.  Rude people.  The traffic.  But there are also many things that I love.  My favorite thing?  The history of this area, and the museum and opportunities that come with it.

Yesterday we took an unplanned field trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located just outside of Marine Corps Base Quantico.

I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the Marine Corps.  My husband spent four years as an active duty Marine, stationed at Camp Pendleton.  The best two years of my time as a federal employee were spent at Quantico, working for the Assault Ampbibious Vehicle command as a lowly GS-4.  Working with, and just being around, Marines is an amazing experience.  No where else will you find a more dedicated (and fun) group of men and women.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps most definitely reflects that.  We live very close to the museum, and this was our third time visiting.  The first time Cody was less than a year old, and the museum had just opened.  The second time, Cody had just turned 4, and Luke was just over a year old. 

One of my favorite aspects of the museum is that they change the displays.  Obviously there was some time between our visits, so I can't say for sure how often it changes, but  I would say that going once a year would give you the chance to see different displays.

Walking into the museum, which is free (donations accepted), you are greeted by a large room with airplanes suspended from the ceiling, and various large fighting vehicles set up in a semi-circle around the room.  This week happens to be the 236th birthday of the Marine Corps, so the room was missing a couple of their normal displays.  They seemed to be setting up for the ceremony (the birthday is Thursday, November 10th, and the museum will be holding a traditional cake cutting ceremony to celebrate.  I'm taking the boys!), so I'm assuming the displays were gone because of that.

From there, you go into the Galley, which holds the bulk of the museum.  Each section is grouped by year, in chronological order from the beginning in 1775, to the current day's fight against terrorism.  You can choose to go into all sections, or bypass one if you like.  Another of the beauties of the museum - you're not trapped in a maze once you go in.  If for some reason you need to go back to the entrance (say, a child needs a bathroom break), it takes only a couple minutes to get back to your starting point.

What is so special about the displays is that they include life like human figures.  Actual Marines were used to create the figures.  So when you see a wax figure of a Marine, you know it was an actual Marine that was used as the mold.

Throughout the museum there are various film stations, one included actual footage of the landing on Iwo Jima, which was rather moving.

There was a room, cooled drastically from the rest of the museum, set up as the Frozen Chozin, during the Korean War.  Another room set up to depict what it was like walking off of a helicopter (you walk through an actual helicopter, down a ramp) into Vietnam.  Hot and humid is the way I'd describe that room.

There are lots of guns and other forms of weapons on display.  Tanks, AAVs (amphibious vehicle, my former employee!), cannons, Jeeps.  Pretty much anything and everything that you can think of. 

One warning, the scenes with the wax figures are accurate for the fighting that they did.  There are several showing a scene where someone has been shot or other injuries, another where two men are engaged in hand to hand combat using a pistol and knife.  However, they are not gory, and I think it would be easy to pass these or give a simple explanation to a child.  We had no issues going through those displays with our almost 6 year old.  He was way more interested in everything else.  Some parts of the museum, such as the helicopter landing scene, are fairly loud.  Not ear splitting by any means, but there are sounds of cannons and guns being fired, people talking.  Again, we had no issues with either the almost 6 or almost 3 year old being bothered by the noise level.

The museum also includes a gift shop, and a 2nd story with two restaurants (one a sit down, called Tun Tavern, another a cafeteria/mess hall).

While visiting the museum, you're sure to run into many Marines.  Past and present.  Some current Marines that were injured in Iraq or Afganistan.  Be sure to give them a smile, a thank you, even a hand shake.  They all deserve it.  There is a true brotherhood felt within the Marine Corps community, even to people like my husband and I that aren't currently directly involved.  There are no former or ex-Marines.  I can spot a Marine from a mile away, and it was obvious yesterday that the other Marines knew that my husband was one of them.

Finally, when you're done, there is an amazing playground for the kids just outside of the museum.  As you exit, walk along the far left hand side of the parking lot, and you'll come to it.  It's in the trees, so it's not completely visible unless you're looking for it.  They have a good size playground for both the little kids, and the bigger kids, plus picnic tables and a fitness trail.

As I said, the Marine Corps is a very dedicated bunch, and the Marine Corps Museum, as well as the playground and grounds that they stand on, truly reflect that.

Outside the Museum
They had several time period cutouts that the kids could pose with

One of several in the Museum

This display is a simulation of waiting to board a bus to be shipped off to boot camp

Climbing the rock wall at the playground outside of the Museum