Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday things . . .

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?  I always answer that question the same . . . give me the bad so I can get it over with and focus on the good.  

I won't be sad to see this week go for so many reasons.  Life can't always be about the peaks . . . sometimes you just have to trudge through the valleys, learn some things in the process and focus on the good things to come.  I would encourage folks to not to compare themselves or their lives to others because as we well know, all that glitters isn't gold.

On top of several trying situations this week, heaven gained a new angel . . . a beautiful soul left this earth much too soon.  As we all know, cancer sucks.  Fall break can't come soon enough.  
It's time to turn the frown upside down and recap a few life happenings of late.  

My son's high school cross country team hosts a 5K fun run as it's annual fundraiser.  Of course our family signs up to support the team, but as my alarm clocks goes off way too early on a Saturday, I always wonder what I was thinking.  But then you get there and the energy and excitement make it all so much fun, and I'm always thankful I signed up!

The team was instructed to just have fun and not run too fast so the folks in the community could qualify for the medals!  Apparently my son 'Facetimes' his cousin during the race, while on the trails, and I get a call later about how funny it was.  That kid . . . he does make us laugh all the time. And as you know, laughter is so good for the soul.  
This picture makes my heart happy for a bunch of reasons.  One, we're all together for a race . . . how cool is that?  Two, Getzy won 2nd place for his age group.  That dude is fast.  He hasn't trained lately but still killed it.  Three, Amanda won for her age group and even did an additional 1K after completing the 5K . . . and her sport is currently dance.  Get it girl.  Four, this is the first picture where I see how fast Kyle is gaining on me and just how much taller Ryan is than me.  They are still sweet little boys in my head though.

And speaking of sweet fellows, I was so proud of our friends for also earning medals in their age group!  Winning medals sure makes for a more fun race experience!
Up next, my Amanda has complained to me a few times in recent weeks that she's having a hard time seeing the board at school.  Like the good mother that I am, I ignore it the first couple of times thinking maybe it's a fluke.  In my head I just took her to the eye doctor.  So I tell her that I'll call, but if she's been seen in the last year, we weren't going.  Yeah, it was September 2013.  Mom game is strong here.
Isn't that air puff the worst?
So I promptly make an appointment for her, and I'm sure you can guess that she does, in fact, need glasses.  Apparently she has a very common condition called Latent Hyperopia where her eyes constantly go in and out of focus.  This also explains why she doesn't enjoy reading as much as she used to . . . it wears her brain out to try and focus on the page.  

Her prescription is light so the doctor recommended she try 1.25+ reading glasses to see if they helped.  They do so we will get child size glasses made, but she does look pretty cute in her specs . . . as seen in the picture below!  
This picture makes me happy and sad . . . this was the morning Zeus left for K-9 Academy.  Some folks are wondering about this . . . why we chose this route for him.

We knew if we welcomed a German Shepherd into our family that he was going to get formal training.  Sure, I can teach him to sit and down and other basic commands, but I want more for him than just the basics.  I want him to have the best life possible so making sure he is well trained ensures that.  I want him to be able to go where we go and join us on family outings without fear of his behavior.  

Let's face it . . . there is a stigma associated with big dogs, GSDs specifically.  I didn't quite realize how scared some people were of them until I had one of my own.  I'm way more scared of a Dachshund than a GSD, just saying.  

So he is at "away camp," as we like to call it, for immersion training . . . then he comes home.  We are trained to be his handlers, and we will be tested twice with him before he receives his certificate and can move on to Advanced and Elite training.  He is learning voice and hand commands, which is pretty cool.  And no, this is not protection training . . . that's a whole different level.  

I miss him terribly and cannot wait for him to be done . . . he has a Flickr page that I stalk every hour.  I also have called several times to check in on him.  There are approximately 10 shepherds there this week so he is in good company and having a blast!  

A because I can't stop, won't stop . . . here are a few cute pics of my handsome boy!!! 
I love you Abby!  Do you love me?
I love you too mom!  Am I too close?
Fine . . . I'll sit over here.
Keeping an eye his boy Kyle . . . look at how the color of his coat is changing?
That last one makes me giggle because there is my Kyle playing lacrosse . . . he's the kid right between his ears with the bight blue shorts!  

It kills me I don't have a better lacrosse picture . . . next practice!  I'm so proud of Kyle for trying a new skill . . . that's not easy when you're almost in high school.  I predict he will go back to running, but we shall see!

My handsome boy did get some new hardware this week . . . braces . . . the teenage rite of passage. Here's his before and after smiles!
I just love this kid's freckles!
I know they've been hurting him, but he's powering through!  Hopefully they will only be on for about 18 months . . . not too bad!

At our last Girl Scout meeting, we were working on a badge but I needed to fill some extra time.  I thought it would be a good idea to make sure each girl knew how to cook an egg . . . learning life skills is important.  
Egg-celent job!
We had several activities going so one by one I called each girl over and taught them how to make a scrambled or fried egg, their choice.  The coolest part is that every day since, Amanda has not only made herself an egg for breakfast, she's offered to make them for the rest of us.  As I told my Girl Scouts . . . eggs are cheap, and you'll never go hungry if you know how to cook an egg!

Well, that's it for this Friday . . . I sure hope you have a good one . . . I've never been so happy to say cheers to the freaking weekend!

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, Andrea, Liz, and Tif!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fall Goals . . . Let's Do This

Let's give it up for lists of things to accomplishment . . . they make me feel so organized and centered!  I'm setting some fall goals to hold myself accountable and to focus my efforts on things that are important to me.  
Life According to Steph
Here we go . . . 

1.  Have a fire pit night or two!  What the heck do I mean by this?  Well, we have a fire pit, fire wood and a back yard . . . why do we not sit out there and chillax with friends, s'mores and a beverage?  Beats me . . . it's on for fall!

2.  Visit a pumpkin patch and/or apple orchard!  My kids are pretty much too old for this "stuff," but I love it!  Plus, this is where memories are made so we are going somewhere in the next few weeks!

3.  Accomplish at least one house update!  Alas, we are not moving.  It seems like a great idea to start over in a new house but really, it's just more work so we are going to begin tackling our home update list.  Honestly I think the hardest part is just making phone calls to get quotes . . . time to get on it.  

4.  Figure out my decorating style!  This seems odd, but I feel like I need a style direction for our main floor as we start to make updates.  I don't have the gift of interior design . . . anyone want to offer their opinions?  I'm perusing websites like Pinterest and Houzz . . . it's all so overwhelming.

5.  Organize the storage room!  Eeewww.  This has to be done because I need to get to my fall decorations.  I know this task is worse in my head than actually doing it.  

6.  Reduce the 2nd digit by one in my 3 digit weight!  This is self explanatory (or did I make that confusing?) . . . and not easy as we enter the season of eating, but I'm going to try!

7.  Make the Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls to give away to friends!  I love to bake, and I love the smell of cinnamon!  These are so easy and delicious and the recipe makes a ton of them, thus the need to give them away.  I did this a few years ago and still chuckle at my Columbian friend Natalia's text to me about them . . . something along the lines of "there is excitement in the house . . . we've never had these before . . . how do we eat them?"  So funny!  Who needs some?  I even deliver!

8.  Start my oldest son's Scout scrapbook!  He will (fingers crossed) hopefully make Eagle Scout soon, and I want to have a scrapbook on display at his Eagle Court of Honor.  I suspect this will take way more time and effort than I want so it's best to get started now.  Anyone have pictures to send me of him from scouting trips and activities?!?  Help a sister out!

9.  Finish Christmas shopping by November 30th!  I don't want to be running around last minute and buy things just to check the box.  I've already started because I like to spread the expense over several months as well. 

10.  Get updated family pictures!  Last time we had them done was June 2014.  I need new ones that are better than school photos.  

11.  Find our wedding video and get it converted from VHS!  Yes, I am that old.  Getzy just randomly asked me where is was and suggested we get it converted so now I get to find it!  I'm sure it's somewhere safe and sound.  

12.  Test out as a handler with my Zeus!  My sweet little baby is leaving on Sunday for K-9 academy.  He will learn his stuff, and we have to learn his stuff.  And then we have to pass two tests as his handler before he can advance.  More to come on this in a later post.  

Whoa, that felt good.  I didn't really have much in mind, but then the juices started flowing and I decided a dozen was enough.  I'll check back on how I did when it's time to post winter goals. What are your fall goals?  Do share . . . because I'm nosey and like to know things! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

9/11 - Helping my kids understand

I'd venture to say all of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when the attacks on 9/11 happened.  
I remember that it was a beautiful sunny day and business as usual at work.  Then my phone rang and Getzy told me to go watch the news.  I'm not much of a news watcher because I feel like so much of it is negative and manipulated. Getzy and I have an agreement that he will let me know when something important is happening.  

At the time I was working for a media company in Dunwoody, Georgia.  I went into my boss's office to watch the coverage just after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  Originally we thought it was just a terrible accident . . . then the second plane hit.   I think it was then we began to realize that life as we know it would never be the same.

I was pregnant with my oldest son, Ryan.  Oddly enough, I remember I was wearing a black maternity maxi dress with tiny red roses all over it.  I still have the dress . . . I couldn't part with it when I let go of my maternity clothes because it had such significance to me.  And I remember thinking what kind of world am I bringing a child into . . . thoughts I hadn't really had before then.

I suppose until you live through something, it doesn't have as much meaning to you.  It wasn't until I visited Pearl Harbor and toured the Dachau concentration camp in Germany that I truly felt like I could understand the magnitude of those events.   
A motley crew for sure . . . we fed the high schoolers right after
cross country practice and told them to get in the car . . .
you never know what the day holds in our house!
To help our children understand, my friend Michelle and I took them to a nearby battlefield where every five years they display 2,977 American flags to represent the lives of each person lost in the 9/11 tragedy.  Until we can make it to the actual sight in New York, this local memorial helps our kids get a sense of the significance of what happened that day. 

To say the flag display was moving is an understatement.  From the minute I saw them, the tears flowed.  To see the volume of flags and to know what each represents was overwhelming. I think the visual made it much more real to all of us.  

It's hard to believe that it's been 15 years.  A lot has changed since 9/11, but I'm choosing to look on the bright side.  So much good in humanity came from the tragedy . . . so much patriotism. America is the land of the free . . . and the home of the brave.  That was never more true than after 9/11.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Insurance Rage

Y'all . . . a rant is coming.  I can't help myself.  I need to vent.
I know I can't be the only one that just shakes her head about the state of the healthcare and insurance industries in our country these days.  I go from being totally disgusted, to having the full on rage, to really just being saddened by the state of affairs.   

To be honest, I'm not super well educated on Obamacare, the healthcare industry or the insurance industry.  What I am well educated about is how much it costs our family, what level of service we receive based on what insurance dictates, and how doctors make choices based on whether they will get paid for services . . . regardless of whether it's in the best interest of the patient.  

As a for instance, let's discuss my recent doctor visit.  My appointment was for my bi-annual breast ultrasounds, or so I thought.  I see my very friendly doctor and everything is going along as per usual.  She reviewed my mammogram films and felt me up . . . pretty thoroughly I might add. Then she lets me know I can sit up, shakes my hand very sweetly and tells me to have a nice day.  
I look at her all confused and ask if I'm getting my ultrasounds . . . because last I heard that was the point of being there.  Well guess what?  I am no longer allowed to get those twice a year . . . insurance says once a year will suffice.  

It should be noted that my mammogram films were already reviewed by a radiologist, and I've already received the letter that they were normal.  Listen, when it comes to things like this, you just can't hear the word normal too many times . . . but come on, does having them read twice seem efficient?  I'm going with a big fat no.

Why have I been getting bi-annual ultrasounds?  Oh, I don't know . . . maybe because both my grandmother and mother survived breast cancer and because it doesn't involve radiation.  

Come on.  Why wouldn't insurance want to me to get them more often?  Wouldn't it be a whole lot cheaper to treat cancer when it's caught early versus waiting until it has done more damage?  Not that I'm assuming I'm getting cancer, but you know what I mean.  

Perhaps I should also point out that the f'ing insurance company doesn't even pay for my ultrasounds because my deductible is outrageous . . . so I write a check to the doctors office every 6 months to cover them.  Okay, fine . . . I usually pay it over the phone with a card but stating that didn't seem to have the same umph!  
I may still just go ahead and have them done in the future and pay outright . . . I'm going to see how much this appointment costs me as opposed to the ones in the past and go from there.  

We, as a family, pay thousands a year to have insurance that doesn't even kick in until I've spent thousands more.  OMG.  I can't even.  Most companies can't afford to offer plans that don't have high deductible coverage because they are getting gouged by the insurance companies too . . . so I'm not blaming my husband's employer.  Lucky them I guess.  

Shall I go on?!?  Why yes, yes I will.

How about a couple of weeks ago when I take my littlest to her 11 year old check up.  She's mentions that she can't see the board as well as she would like at school.  I ask if they review her vision at that appointment . . . a check up . . . but alas they do not.  The personality-less nurse asked me if I wanted them to check it and I joked, not if it's going to cost me another $40 because it's not included.  

Her reply?  "Yes, actually that sounds about right since we aren't sure insurance will pay for it."  I look at her like she is an alien and say, "Forty dollars for you to see if she can read the Big E?  No thank you.  For that I'll take her to an actual eye doctor."  Her response.  "Okay."  I saw red.  I felt my body have a physical response so I just sat their quietly willing my blood pressure to go down.  
Side note about that appointment since I'm letting it all out . . . my daughter was stressed out about getting her 11 year old shots, as most kids would be.  They doctor leaves and tells her the nurse will return to give them to her.  After more than 15 minutes and me sticking my head out of the door twice, the nurse shows up to give her shots.  Who freaking leaves a child sitting in a room stressing over her shots for that long?!?  I'd switch to a different office, but they are all the same.  We switched to this one feeling like we weren't getting treated like we wanted at a previous office.  

I am ever so thankful that my children are older and less prone to illness.  I am also so thankful that when they were little and we were going through the asthma and ear infection stages that we had better insurance with a copay.  

The doctor mentions in Amanda's appointment that she didn't have any sick visits since her last appointment.  I told her that's because it was way more affordable to take my children to an urgent care and pay a flat fee than to come to their office and pay their negotiated rates.  She had no comment.  Shocker.  
Anything else you ask?  Yes, how about this one . . . don't mind if I do.

So back in the winter and within days of each other, both Kyle and Amanda had to have X-rays from school related incidents.  We went to the area children's hospital urgent care located near us. I was super impressed with the facility and everyone we encountered there was fabulous . . . just thought I'd throw that in there.  

We saw a different doctor for each visit but for about the same length of time . . . less than 5 minutes for sure.  The only differences between the appointments were that the wait time was longer for Kyle . . . and it was his arm and Amanda's leg.  

So the bills for each visit come within days of each other.  And guess what?  Kyle's was over $200 more than Amanda's.  Why would this be unless an arm literally costs more than a leg . . . which seems counter intuitive, right?
So I call and it turns out the doctor's coded the length of the visits differently.  Amanda's coded it for a 20 minute appointment, but Kyle's coded it as a 40 minute appointment . . . that's an expensive 20 minute difference.  I explain that they length of time we saw the doctor was basically equal . . . we just waited longer for Kyle to be seen.  

So this gets sent up to the powers that be for discussion and a decision.  Thankfully they realized that both appoints should have been coded as 20 minutes, the lower amount.  They patient advocate I dealt with was fabulous . . . beyond fabulous.  She instructed me not to pay Kyle's until it was corrected, and I got a new bill.  He was seen on February 3rd . . . I still haven't received a corrected bill.  It's been 7 months.  No seriously, take your time.  I'll wait. 
If I didn't have the "benefit" of both children having injuries within days of each other, I wouldn't have known to call and argue the amount for Kyle's bill.  How often is this happening?  Probably more than we'd like to know.   

You guys.  Don't even get me started on over prescribing of medicines.  Doctors don't have time to look for the root of the problem . . . they have to see more patients to get paid . . . by the insurance companies.  What a vicious cycle.  

I should point out that I really do like our doctors . . . I think they are good people who are equally as frustrated by the state of affairs as I am.  I'm sure doctors endure the years of school and hard work because they want to help people . . . but I also suspect the paperwork and legality ties their hands a lot of times.  

Are others as angry as me?  How many upstanding, tax paying citizens make unfortunate healthcare decisions based on the outrageous costs these days?  Gah.  I could take a more political route on this topic, but I have no desire to debate politics here.  Good day sir.
It may sound defeatist, but this is all big business and the little people making rational sense are not going to be heard.  I could go on and on with my rant, but what purpose will it serve?  I need to let it go, ignore the stupidity of it all and work on keeping my blood pressure at a normal level . . . Lord knows I would like to avoid going to the doctor.  

Okay rant over.  I'm not sure if I feel better or not, but I think it's time to go hug a puppy and have a margarita!  Or three.  Cheers!  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Three Things I Can't Live Without

I thought it would be fun to do a Show & Tell link up today to change things up a bit . . . check out Momfessionals!

It goes without saying that I can't live without my family, my friends and my dogs.  Those are obvious and boring so let's go with a more light-hearted approach.  


Lip Balm . . . I am addicted.  Specifically to this one . . . it's my absolute favorite although any Burt's Bees 'flavor' will do.  
Image result for burt's bees menthol lip balm review

I know they, whoever, "they" are, say that lip balm is addicting and you know what?  That is absolutely correct.  

I have them stashed every where . . . in my car, in my purse, in my wallet, in my nightstand, in my desk, in Getzy's desk . . . any where that is convenient because I need it all the time.  I can't sleep unless I put it on either.  

Getzy ususally hooks me up with a bunch in my stocking at Christmas so there is no fear I'll run out.  In fact, Amanda just bought a two pack and gave me one as a surprise!  I was legit excited!!  


Amazon Prime . . . it is the best thing in the history of ever.  I fought the good fight and didn't get this for awhile because I thought the $99 annual fee was stupid.  But I promise you . . . it's worth every penny.  I was stupid for doubting them.
Sometimes you order stuff, and it will show up THAT day.  It is some serious voodoo magic.  Lots of times I'll be out shopping and will look up the Amazon price as compared to the store price. Many a time I have 'proceeded to checkout' while staring at an item on the shelf because the Amazon price was cheaper, and I know I'll have it within a day or so.  

I have been know to loan out my prime privileges to others, kind of like a public service because I'm a giver.  Also because I feel sorry for you for not having Prime.  

Honestly I think it saves me money because if a kid needs something like shampoo, I'll just hit up Amazon . . . click boom and it's on the way.  If I go to Target, I'll saunter the aisles and the most random, unnecessary shit will end up in my cart.  On accident.  So yeah, love me some Prime.  


Sunglasses . . . these are also a real problem.  I have to have them in my car, in my purse, in our other cars and in the house for when I have to take the dog out.  
I usually have a pair on my head and then will panic looking for them.  Sometimes I have a pair on my head and a pair on my face.  Guess it's good to have a back up.  

I have light eyes so the optometrist says we have to be extra careful because we have less protective melanin pigments.  So basically I have a professional telling me to buy fancy sunglasses.  That may be slightly interpretive, but I am careful to follow doctor's orders, obviously.

I'm supposed to only do three but I feel a few things deserve honorable mentions . . .

Sunscreen - the higher the SPF, the better
Epsom Salt baths - nothing is more relaxing
Coffee - duh
Eye cream - nobody's got time for wrinkles
Margaritas - self explanatory
My Kindle - reading anywhere, night or day
The Internet - because I remember encyclopedias and actual maps

What about you?  Got any must haves that I need to get in on?  Tell me all the things!