2

Stranger On The Road

Posted by idawrites on May 5, 2011 in Charity, Family, Memories |

This afternoon, on Facebook, a friend of mine wrote about a knapsack and a cardboard sign beside the road on her way home from work.  Just those few words reached into my chest and pulled out a memory so strong and poignant that tears filled my eyes the same way they did on the day it happened.

It was June or July in Georgia, so it was blisteringly hot.  I was driving to see a friend and when I pulled off the highway exit, there was a man with a large green army duffel bag, dirty blue jeans, a heavy jacket, and a hand written sign.  It’s been a few years and I couldn’t tell you what that sign said, but I can tell you that it didn’t matter.

When I saw him there, tall and thin and looking just as worn down as one of my uncles after a long tobacco season, I knew I had to do something.  With tears in my eyes, I headed straight for the closest gas station.  I bought the biggest bottle of cold water they had in the case, took $40 out of the ATM machine and drove back to the interstate to loop around and get off at the exit again.

When I pulled up beside him and rolled down my window,  he came over to the van.  I handed him the bottle of water and he smiled, thanked me, and started to back away because the light had turned green.  I stopped him though, took his hand, and put the money into it.  When he looked back up from the money in his palm, his eyes were full of tears and he swallowed hard a couple of times.

The man thanked me and asked my name.  He told me that his was Brian, and then he said that he would pray for God to bless my family as much as my kindness had blessed him.  I cried all the way home that day.  I cried when I told Mark about it.  And I have to admit that I have to swallow hard and wipe my eyes whenever I remember how that worn down man was startled to tears by the kindness of a stranger.

I don’t remember where he was going or even if I asked… but I do know that in 10 minutes one summer, a man named Brian (who looked so much like my Uncle Pete) changed the way I look at strangers on the road.

I sure hope he got home.

2

Last Week, You Learned To Walk

Posted by idawrites on April 26, 2011 in All Moms, Children |

I have no idea how time passed so quickly. They were laying you in my arms for the first time ever, just a few short months ago… surely it couldn’t have been longer than that.

And wasn’t it just last week that you were learning to walk?

 

And making everyone fall in love with those round little cheeks…

And developing your comedic timing (I think you peaked at just about this moment)…

And becoming the big sister that your little sisters have always looked up to…

How is it possible that you became a young lady…

And achieved so many milestones…

And had such fantastic experiences in such a short amount of time?

To my dearest Anna Marie,

If I had done all the “right things” as a teenager, my life would never have held the richness, the love, the laughter, the tears, the memories, and the dreams of a bright future that having you has brought to it. I’m so thankful that the universe chose me to be your mom; and I’m stunned at what an amazing, beautiful, smart woman you have grown into.

It’s your time now… your time to go out and chase your dreams, make your mistakes, and achieve your successes. We’ll be waiting right here to catch you if you fall… now go spread those wings!

Happy 18th Birthday Anna!!

0

Ida TV: Overslept Episode

Posted by idawrites on April 14, 2011 in Faitha, Ida TV |

I found Faitha still asleep at 8:22 this morning.

WIN: I got her showered, dressed, groomed, fed, and out the door by 8:45.

LOSE: The bus ran 5 minutes early and I still had to take her to school.

9

Buying Prescriptions at Costco – How Much Can You REALLY Save?

Posted by idawrites on April 7, 2011 in Frugal Tips, Health, Prescription, Spending |

I’ve written a lot about my love affair with Publix. Their stores and sales matched with my coupons make me feel like a conqueror every time I hit the checkout line. Since we’re there at least once a week anyway, when it came to prescriptions we’ve just always gone to Publix.

I mean… I’ve been telling people for years to go to Costco for their prescriptions and reminding them that they don’t have to be a member to use the pharmacy. But actually go there myself? Why would I? I have insurance and the copay is the copay no matter where you go… right? NOPE!

A couple of months ago, I had to figure out how to squeeze another expensive, ongoing prescription copay into the budget (above the $100 in copays we already shell out per month). So, I gathered up everything and did a side-by-side comparison of our current copays to the Costco pharmacy price list. I was stunned at how much less our prescriptions would cost if we just picked them up at Costco when we do our normal monthly milk/eggs/cheese/dog food run. Not only would our out of pocket amount go down for Mark’s prescriptions, but we would now pay $35 LESS for all of the prescriptions (including the new expensive one that we were trying to budget around).

To share with you the prescription price comparisons, I pulled the list of America’s Most Popular Drugs from Forbes and compared the United Healthcare standard copay list with the Costco list price.

Medication – 1 Month

(Standard Dosage)

Prescribed For

UHC Copay

Costco Regular Price

Hydrocodone Apap Pain Reliever

$ 10.00

$ 13.87

Simvastatin High Cholesterol

$ 10.00

$ 5.90

Lisinopril High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 7.41

Levothyroxine sodium Thyroid Issues

$ 10.00

$ 9.33

Azithromycin Antibiotics

$ 10.00

$ 9.63

Metformin Diabetes

$ 10.00

$ 6.30

Lipitor High Cholesterol

$ 35.00

$ 110.18

Amlodipine High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 50.52

Amoxicillin Antibiotics

$ 10.00

$ 5.90

Hydrochlorothiazide High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 5.90

Omeprazole Heart Burn

Not Covered

$ 166.59

Alprazolam Anxiety

$ 10.00

$ 9.43

Furosemide High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 8.52

Metoprolol tartrate High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 5.90

Atenolol High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 6.50

As you can see, in the chart above, the list price from Costco is almost always less. If you don’t have insurance, you’re going to save a ridiculous amount of money on necessary prescriptions. If you have insurance, you’ll pay whatever the cheapest price is between the standard list price and your copay. At standard pharmacies and grocery store pharmacies, the prices are almost always higher and fluctuate wildly between locations.

Basically, whether you have insurance or not, moving your prescriptions to your local warehouse club is probably going to save you money on prescriptions. In some cases… a LOT of money.

0

Two Words: Panda Converse

Posted by idawrites on March 28, 2011 in Children, Shopping |

Last week, I told you that I did the unthinkable and patched my daughter’s shoes with cardboard until we could shop for a suitable replacement pair. Sierra and I set out on Saturday morning to do just that. On our way out the door, Mark asked if she was going to get another pair like the old ones. If she doesn’t have eye strain from how hard she rolled her eyes at him, I’ll be shocked. “Why would I do that?” was the response. (Uh, because you were almost crying when they broke?? … obviously parents just don’t get it.)

Luckily, the girls’ favorite place to shop for clothes and shoes is one of the easiest stores for our budget, Plato’s Closet. I love that their prices are reasonable and I don’t have to navigate 10 different stores to get a decent selection. Sierra loves that she can get funky/cute/unique stuff that suits her style… and her sisters can easily suit their own styles as well.

I thought we were going to strike out this time, since all the shoes we saw were dress shoes or too small. But there, shining like a tiny beacon at the back of the store, she spotted these. Sierra: “OMGPandaConverse!!!” Me: “Wahoo, they’re brand new and only $18!!”

That’s right… never been worn, fantastically amazing Panda Converse ($50-$80 shoes) for $18. You can’t even get the Payless plain generic version for that. Once again, Plato’s Closet saved me a million hassles in the shopping department. These shoes nothing like the last pair, yet still completely Sierra.

Sleep well tonight, my friends. Sierra isn’t wearing cardboard reinforced shoes out there in the rain today. She has OMGPANDACONVERSE.

4

Is it still being cheap if it isn’t about the money?

Posted by idawrites on March 22, 2011 in Children, Frugal |

My husband officially thinks I’ve gone “Too Far” on my quest to save a buck. And really, if it was to save money, I’d have to agree. But this time, my skinflint ways are not about money at all.

Two days ago, Sierra (who is now 15) came to me to tell me that her insole came out of her FAVORITE shoes of all time. When I say favorite shoes, I mean that when she spotted them from three aisles over, she jumped up and down, screamed, ran to them as though they were star crossed lovers sprinting toward one another in a flower filled field, and clutched them to her chest. They were the only pair in the store, and obviously it was meant to be because they were the right size.

Last night I sent her to the store to pick up some new insoles to stick in them so she’d get a little more wear out of them before we had to toss them out. When she got home and tried to put them in, she came to me with her shoulders slumped and said “It doesn’t matter… the shoes are falling apart and I didn’t know they were this bad.” I peeked inside the shoes and, sure enough, she’s worn a few holes in the soles of her shoes. Like, I could look into the shoe and see Mark on the other side.

All in all, this is nothing new to people who have teenaged children. They find a couple of CRUCIAL wardrobe pieces and then wear them until they fall off. That she has worn these shoes into the ground (heh… pun) in a matter of 3 months is also not shocking. From what I hear, her father had to have a new pair of shoes almost every pay period at this age. Darned active hyper genes!

No, the shocking part is what I did next. I grabbed a cardboard box, cut off all the flaps, traced her shoe on each of the pieces of cardboard, and cut out 4 thick layers of cardboard to fit into the bottom of her shoes. Then I cut down the new insoles and slapped those in there too. Mark watched me from the other side of the sofa… blinking at me and saying “you know we can afford to get her another pair of shoes, right?”

Yes, these are the shoes…

Of course I know! But THESE shoes make my baby smile. THESE shoes are not cheap to replace and THESE colors and HER size are difficult to find. I hope the cardboard holds out a few days while Sierra and I try to find a suitable replacement. Wish us luck that we find something she loves just as much.

4

Of Music and Dreams

Posted by idawrites on March 21, 2011 in All Moms, Children, Getting It All |

There was always music in our house growing up. No matter where we were or who we were with, music was always a part of our daily life. To say that I had a diverse exposure to music would be putting it mildly.

Granny taught us to sing as little children from old church hymnals. My cousin and I cut our teeth on old 8 track tapes of Kenny and Dolly, trucker music, Conway Twitty, and Hank Sr. We were always singing at Granny’s and even now I think she had the sweetest singing voice I have ever heard.

At Uncle Doug’s house, where my older cousins controlled the tapes (Cassettes ya’all!), it was Motley Crue and … ok, so thanks to my cousin Tim it was mostly Motley Crue! I still get excited when I hear the motorcycle rev at the beginning of Girls, Girls, Girls. Sad, yes?

Spending the night at my best friend Angel’s house meant that I would get to enjoy Meatloaf, the Eagles, and Nancy Sinatra. I used to think it was ridiculously cool that none of our friends had any idea these people existed and we knew all the words on all the albums.

In my dreams, I was going to have a career in music. I sang constantly and was told over and over again how talented I was. I just knew I was going to be the next best thing since The Judds. Of course, those dreams have changed and evolved over the years, but the music has remained a fixture.

So when my daughters all expressed an interest in singing, I encouraged them to participate in chorus and follow their dreams. Last Thursday night, the musical theme in our family brought about one of my happiest moments as a parent. Anna stood in front of a theater of people at her Senior Recital and entranced us all with her voice. Her talent, hard work, and dedication have brought her dreams… once the dreams I thought were mine, but were generation too soon… into the realm of the possible.

Wherever she decides to go in life, I hope she takes my love of 80s hair bands and Mark’s love of Elton John and Stereophonics and all of the other musical influences in her life and keeps heading toward her dreams.  I may just be a proud momma, but I think she’s going to go a long way.

3

Fair Weather Friends

Posted by idawrites on March 1, 2011 in All Moms, Friends |

Over this past weekend, I realized that I’m a really crappy fair weather friend. I know that people generally see the term Fair Weather Friend as a negative… someone who is only around when times are good. But what about the friends who only make time for you when times are not? Is that just as bad?

I forget to return phone calls and emails, can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reschedule lunch appointments and just quiet hanging out time, and can’t be found on sunny breezy days. Is your life falling apart? Need an emergency babysitter or a place to crash or help with a crisis? I’m SO there.

I had to stop and wonder if that makes me a rubbernecker. You know the people I’m talking about… the ones who seem to ALWAYS be around whenever something bad happens. Do I just enjoy the train wreck? Is it that I’m ridiculously curious about other people’s bad luck?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that every single person that I count on to be there when I need them… the ones who come hold my hand in the hospital… the ones who helped shovel out my parents belongings after the 500 year flood… are the friends that reschedule lunch, forget to return my phone calls and emails, and can’t be found on sunny breezy days.

I think it boils down to this… everyone I think of as a good friend shares only one trait. They all need to bring something of value to the table. If they can’t lend a hand, lend their experience, lend their knowledge, or lend their shoulder, chances are that I’m going to spend more time thinking “I haven’t seen her in a while, it’s been too long” instead of saying “It was great seeing you today. Same time on Thursday?”

I’m sure there are some people who manage to find a balance… who manage to be there often during sunny times and just as often during storms. Maybe they don’t live between 10 and 75 miles away. Maybe they have better time management skills. Maybe they try harder at it. Whatever it is, I am certain I’m never going to achieve that balance… so I’ll just be thankful to have my stormy weather friends and our sprinkling of sunny days together.

22

Cobb County School Board – Common Sense is DEAD

Posted by idawrites on February 22, 2011 in All Moms, Children, education |

Today is a rare occasion… when my political opinions intersect directly with my parenting opinions and my PTSA President opinions.  In Cobb County, GA (where we live) the school board held a vote last week and 4 to 3 voted for a 2011-2012 school calendar that went against the (VERY VOCAL) wishes of the parents, students, teachers, and administrators of this county.

Last year, the CCSB voted for a calendar that pissed off a LOT of people.  They called it a Balanced Calendar and it forced the children back into the classroom on August 2nd this past Fall.  Everyone was up in arms about this calendar because in return for the early start to the year, the children AND teachers received:

  • 1 week off in September (Fall break)
  • 1 week off for Thanksgiving (as opposed to just Wednesday/Thursday/Friday)
  • Standard break for the Winter holidays
  • 1 week off in February (Winter break)
  • 1 week off in April (Spring break) as usual.

To say that there was a lot of opposition to this new calendar would be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.  People screamed that childcare for those weeks would be difficult to procure (although, I’m sure that daycare centers are happy to take your money in February and September just like they do in August).  People screamed that the facilities costs for air conditioning would be ridiculous.  People screamed that the children would have a harder time learning with all those breaks.  The truth is… PEOPLE BITCH ABOUT EVERYTHING AND HATE CHANGE EVEN WHEN THE SYSTEM IN PLACE SUCKS!!!

Anyway… fast forward to today.  Board members were voted in on the promise that they would revoke this calendar the moment they could.  And shock of all shocks if they didn’t.  Citing voter preference (which was true last year) and lower facility costs for the “old” school calendar, the board kicked the balanced calendar out.

Except… between last year’s elections and last week’s vote, some things happened that they didn’t expect.

TEACHER SICK DAYS:

(This section has been updated to reflect real numbers and not assumptions, as I’ve located actual documentation):
The new balanced calendar has resulted in a reduction of 8740.5 teacher sick days in ONE semester.  Wait… what?  You read that correctly.  Teachers did not feel so burned out and exhausted because of these added vacation weeks that they didn’t call in for as many Mental Health days.  Let me break this out for you:

  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that 8740.5 fewer substitute teacher days were needed.  Saving the county $651,342.06 IN ONE SEMESTER (Putting us on track for saving over $1 Million for the full school year), on just the base salary of the substitutes alone.  This number does not include any employer side costs or Human Resources salaries to manage substitute teacher days.
  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that there were 8740.5 fewer classroom days spent watching videos and having Free Day because the students had a substitute.  In other words 8740.5 TEACHING DAYS got added back to this county’s students, at no extra cost.
    • A little side note on this one: At Pebblebrook High School, one substitute teacher spent Sierra’s ENTIRE CLASS (Math) talking on her cell phone… and when the student chatter got so loud that she couldn’t hear, she left the classroom to talk in the hall.  A few weeks later, this same teacher spent the entire Choir class spewing propaganda at Anna.  She even made a reading recommendation: The Militant. (Folks, I can’t even make this crap up.) EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED FORTY POINT FIVE LESS OF THESE DAYS PEOPLE!!!

STUDENT IMPACT:

  • Yep, you guessed it.  Student absenteeism was down ALMOST 50%.  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student attendance.
  • Students come back from these vacations well rested and ready to work too.  WHO KNEW?  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student achievement.
  • Students get a chance to spend time on these breaks studying for subjects they’re struggling with, work on projects, and work with tutors to help then when they’re struggling, BEFORE it’s too late to do anything about their failing grades.

OTHER STAFF MEMBERS:

I don’t have any actual data for the other staff members, but I’d be surprised if the levels of absenteeism and productivity have not been just as impacted as they are for the teachers and students.  To quote one of our county’s school bus drivers this morning:

The (winter) break is almost over. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about this week off, but I for one am really happy we had the break. Even with cut in pay, I feel ok. Just when you feel like you are freaking out – there’s a break. Proof for me – I’ve not really been sick this year. Last year I had pnuemonia and the flu so missed two weeks right there. These were a much more enjoyable two weeks. – Tracey

THINGS CHANGE:

Guess what else?  Things change.  People get so worked up about things they FEAR will happen that they knee jerk and do stupid shit like oh… vote in a school board that is also knee jerk and not willing to listen to facts… and then when things calm down and the true impact of the change is seen, realize that they’ve already screwed themselves by being Chicken Little in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong.  Not everyone was happy with the balanced calendar.  Some people liked the old calendar and voted for it.  But you can’t make everyone happy all the time.  Just how much of a “majority” did the Board vote against?

Responses in favor of the Balanced Calendar:

  • Students – 79.2%
  • Parents – 66.8%
  • Teachers – 82.1%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 81.3%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 73.6%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 77.2%

Responses in favor of the Traditional Calendar:

  • Students – 13.6%
  • Parents – 21.7%
  • Teachers – 10.6%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 13.6%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 14.3%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 14.7%

So… way to go Cobb County School Board… you made good on your campaign promises, even though people overall decided that their fears were unfounded and that the balanced calendar has been great for the district as a whole.  Way to continue the short sighted, rigid, and self destructive methods meant to prove to us you have only your own best interests at heart and NOT the interests of the education of our students.

OH and thank you for saving us some money on air conditioning. **Except, that’s not true either.  The “Traditional Calendar” costs $62,333 more in utilities just by being open those extra two weeks in September and February instead of August.

**Edited to add quote from one of our bus drivers and to note that this article, along with my comments, was sent to both David Morgan and Tim Stultz (the board members representing Pebblebrook High School and Lindley Middle School, where my children go) and there has been no response.

2

Forever Changed

Posted by idawrites on February 8, 2011 in Children, Humor |

Occasionally, when you’re all alone and the house is quiet, you have blinding moments of realization that your children have infected your brain in ways that you can’t even comprehend.

If you ever wanted to know what really goes on in my house when nobody is home but me… it’s this.  Just now… on my way to the kitchen to clip coupons… I stopped in my tracks when I realized I was doing the conga (YES ALONE) through the house quoting a Disney movie.

Dory“No eating here tonight, no eating here tonight, no, no, no, eating here tonight, you’re on a diet!”
– Dory, Finding Nemo

Right… so on to the coupon thing.

Just now… on my way to the kitchen to clip coupons… I stopped in my tracks when I realized I was doing the conga (YES ALONE) through the house quoting a Disney movie.

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