At least my 5 year old son isn’t pregnant…

Last week we had the joy of a visit from the stomach flu. Yikes, my normal bouncing, loud, energetic, hyper, busy (you get it yet?) five year-old turned into barf-a-saurus Rex. To my delight he is the least dramatic barfer I have ever met, merely turning his head to the side, doing his business and the continuing on. The downfall to this is that he doesn’t happen to care where “the side” is, and will throw up on/in anything.

After 12 hours of nothing staying down I realized that dehydration was quickly becoming a threat. Being an emergency medical professional, I know how hard it can be to access care after hours without a visit to the emergency department, so I gave the doc a call and asked for some anti-nausea medication before things got out of hand.

Blessedly, we were quickly ushered into the clinic, where my son informed the doctor he was “fine, just throwing up a lot”. (His definition of “fine” is different than mine.) Doc declared what I suspected: a touch of the stomach flu and ordered the meds to be picked up at the town pharmacy.

Once in the pharmacy I filled out all of our new-patient paperwork and plopped down in the chair with my now-crabby 7 year old and my sickly boy in my lap. The pharmacist said it would be a bit because we were new, he had to call the insurance company to verify coverage. He suggested some ginger loli-pops to settle tummies while we waited, and of course Sickly was thrilled with having “candy” to eat while we waited.

Twenty-minutes later the pharmacist was starting to (loudly) argue with someone on the phone, and then turned to me and asked if I was “certain he didn’t have other health insurance?”

I asked to speak with the insurance company, and before I could even say hello, the woman on the other end of the line informed me that she “didn’t know what kind of game (I) was trying to play, but federal fraud was going to land (me) in prison!” Ummm, yeah. I am not real fond of the idea of rooming with our favorite DIY/homemaker/chef Martha What’s-Her-Name, but I am also pretty sure I haven’t committed any federal crimes lately.

I politely asked this woman what she was talking about, and she informed me that she had “proof” that my son has other health insurance, and that I am running a scam. She continued a lengthy diatribe about “people like you” and my “free” health insurance.

So now I am standing in the pharmacy talking on a phone from 1983 with its twisted-up cord stretched over the counter while this woman accuses me of random federal crimes and my 5 year old sits on my hip and rests his head on my shoulder. Finally I get out her what this “proof” that she has consists of.

Wait for it…

She tells me she has a copy of the statement showing that he used his state medical coupon to pay for his birth control pills, in July.

(About this time he throws up ginger-lollipop down my back.)

I asked her why she thought my 5 year old boy would be on birth control? …She not-so-politely explained that is how she knew I was a fraudster.

I hung up on her, apologized to the pharmacist who was now mopping up the ginger-scented puddle off the floor, and proceeded to pay cash. (Good reason to have an emergency fund, because you never know when your son’s birth control pills will cause a financial crisis.)

While the problem was very quickly resolved the next day, with the assistance of the Federal Recovery Coordinator, I was still rather upset that my family had to experience it. (and there was no “proof” of anything, but rather a rogue employee)

The moral of this story is: Have a back-up plan in place! I will get the money refunded to me by the insurance company, but it was the emergency fund that saved our hide in this case. Even federal health insurance is not bomb-proof, and while CHAMPVA and TriCare are good, they tend to have more problems than the private sector, so be prepared for an uphill battle.

25 ideas for keeping more money in your pocket

I noticed today that one of my favorite bloggers, Patrice Lewis has challenged readers to come up with 25 frugal tips for everyday living.  We all know that you don’t join the military to get rich, and if you are now living on disability because of your service, you are probably catching on that you will never be monetarily rich.  We all know why the commissary is empty the day before payday-everyone is out of cash.  So here are my favorite ways to make those dollars stretch:

  1. Make it at home.  Bread, Laundry Soap, greeting cards, birthday/Christmas gifts and much more can all be made at home with a minimal amount of time and effort.  If you don’t know how to bake or cook, now is a great time to pull up youtube and start learning new skills!
  2. Repair it!  Many things can be fixed at home, by you without much expertise.  The lamp with bad wiring?  You can buy a complete wiring set at the local hardware store, and you don’t have to be an electrician to install it.  Button popped off?  Check out youtube and learn how to sew on a button (and now is a good time to pilfer through your husband’s sewing kit that he hasn’t used since bootcamp!)
  3. Plan ahead: it is much cheaper to carry and sandwich bag of dry cereal in your purse than it is to fork over a dollar (or more!) for candy bar out of a vending machine.  It is also healthier for you and sets a much better example for your kids.
  4. Store a case of bottled water in the car for those dying-of-thirst moments where you are tempted to stop for a beverage.  Healthier than soda, and much cheaper!  I pay less than $3.00 for a case (24 bottles) of water, instead of spending $1 per water at a convenience store or fast-food place.
  5. Buy it used!  January is a great time for shopping for like-new appliances, barely worn dress clothes and more.  Some many Christmas gifts end up at the local donation center after the recipient realizes that the rice-cooker from Aunt Edna will only be used twice a year, and those matching sweaters for the Christmas picture were only flattering for Cousin Phil!
  6. Leave your debit card at home.  Seriously.  It is much less tempting to buy that cute little sweater that catches your eye, if you know that you only have enough cash with you to buy the things you need.
  7. Search online for free movie rental-codes.   Redbox and Blockbuster rental kiosks regularly have codes for free rentals if you sign up for their newsletters.
  8. Check out your local library!  While many bases have libraries, don’t forget your civilian options too.  Libraries are not just about books anymore: many offer DVD’s, CD’s books on CD, and Kindle Lending services.  While you are there ask if they have children’s story time or any other events.
  9. Skip the pets.  Yes, this might be a little radical for some, but if you are thinking about adding a furry relative to the family, remember that it isn’t just food (and litter) but also routine vaccines, vet trips, annual licenses, emergencies and any damage they may cause.
  10. Drive less.  That doesn’t mean you have to become a homebody, but plan all your outings for one trip, or try carpooling.  If you only need one thing at the store, try asking a neighbor if she will pick it up for you when she goes.
  11. Volunteer more!  Keeping yourself busy means you will have less time to think of ways you can spend money.  Volunteering doesn’t mean leaving your house, many non-profits can use blog writers, envelope stuffers, web designers, etc.  Bonus: helping your community while saving money!
  12. Use it up.  I know you have done it: you are almost out of shampoo/dish soap/laundry detergent so you pick up more while you are out, and when you get home you toss the old bottle because it only had one more serving in it and you needed a place for the new one.  Assuming you use a bottle every 2 weeks, that is 25+ uses  a year that are thrown away.
  13. Ditch the paper towels.  Invest in a bundle of your favorite color washcloths (Target is a great place to check for these) and use them for napkins, cleaning up spills, etc.  For really gross things, like potty accidents, keep old t-shirts, town towels, or other rags on hand that you can throw away without guilt.
  14. Price compare for healthy foods.  Many places like VitaCost (Vitacost is also offering $10/off your first order right now!) and Green Polkadot Box offer good prices on healthy foods delivered to your door.  This is especially good if you have special dietary requirements, like gluten or dairy free foods.
  15. Buy your special kids clothes at consignment or thrift stores.  Most consignment stores have very high standards and only accept “like-new” items.  ThredUp is an online consignment store, and from my experience their products are the highest of quality.  Look in the phone book for consignment stores in your area, or check out ThredUp for a $10 credit to new customers.
  16. Investigate your coupon options.  Many websites offer couponing tutorials, and a pretty good idea what kind of products you can get free or cheap with a few minutes of clipping each day.  Charlene over at MyFrugalAdventures has a great couponing tutorial.  Beware of the excitement of coupons, and don’t be tempted to buy things that you won’t use, just because there is a coupon.
  17. Buy in bulk.  Warehouse stores, like Costco and Sams can be useful if your savings are greater than your membership fees.  You can ask to visit a store and look around before committing to a membership, just tell the person at the door.  Many regular grocery stores also offer bulk food bins where you can purchase just enough pasta, spices or cereal for a single recipe, and eliminate waste.
  18. Trade goods/services with your neighbors.  Especially if you live on base it can be easy to find other families to exchange childcare, carpool duties and more.  Don’t be afraid to offer lawn mowing, housecleaning, pet sitting, or other services in exchange for what you need.
  19. Group buying sites, like Groupon and Living social offer everything from discounted race entry for runners, to half off home goods.  Keep a list of items/events that you are interested in and watch the deal sites.  Remember only to buy the deal if it was something you were going to get anyway, don’t be tempted by a deep discount on Polka lessons if you hate dancing!
  20. Become a staycationer!  Check out the local museums, amusement parks, and natural wonders in your area.  Pack a lunch and stay local, save yourself the cost of hotels and dinner out, and if you are blessed to live in an area with public transportation, use it.
  21. Barrow what you can.  This doesn’t mean being the pesty neighbor who constantly asks to use things, it means not buying what you don’t have to!  If you are only going to use a punch bowl once in your life, see if you can barrow it from a friend or neighbor.  If you are only going to use an edging tool once per season, see if you can rent it from the home improvement store.
  22. Sell the things you don’t need.  Craig’s List, base classified ads, yard sales and online auctions are all viable options for getting rid of seldom used furniture and outgrown snow-suits!  (And if you can’t sell it, don’t forget donations to Goodwill are tax deductible!)
  23. Clear out your clutter!  If you have to buy a new potato masher because you can’t find your old one, you aren’t saving any money!  Save yourself even more money by keeping your refrigerator clean, and you will have less waste.
  24. Investigate Season passes to local attractions.  If you live buy a zoo that your family likes to frequent, it can be much cheaper to purchase a season pass, and if you have a season pass, you will be less tempted to spend money on random activities when your kids ask “What are we going to do today?”
  25. Ask about a military/Veterans/AARP/AAA/Whatever discount everywhere you shop!  Many places offer unadvertised discounts to military, fire, law enforcement, seniors or club members.

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan what you need to get done.  This is a good time to think about errands (can you combine them into one or two trip?) Plan a menu around what you have in the freezer, and make any needed arrangements for childcare or transportation.  You can save yourself the last minute costs of eating out or calling a cab by planning ahead.   Little things can add up very quickly and make the days before payday a lot less desperate!

What Happens When The Super Highway of Life Turns Into a Dirt Road?

We have all been there.  Cruising down the highway of life at 90 miles per hour 70 MPH (because we always obey the speed limit, right?) everything is going as it should, minor bumps are soon passed and we are enjoying the scenery.  All of the sudden there’s a detour, not an exit that takes you to paradise, but rather an exit that isn’t on the map, and has your GPS yelling at you in a strange British accent, telling you that “you are now traveling in the wrong direction!  Recalculating”

trying to navigate this?

When my husband was injured we took that exit.  Gone was the fresh new pavement and reflective green road signs telling me which way to go.  We were now cruising down a dirt path in a covered wagon (I think it may have only had three wheels!) trying to read Boy Scout trail markings from the 1800’s, with no one else in sight…

So what do you do when the super highway turns into the Oregon Trail?

1)      Cut yourself some slack.  Or a lot of slack.  However much slack you need to get through right now.  Things are not ok, and might not be for the foreseeable future.  Let go of everything that is not essential to the wellbeing of your family.  No one is going to die if you wear yoga pants and skip the makeup today.  Shockingly, your family will survive if you have to eat frozen dinners or take out this week (or month!).  As long as everyone is clean and fed, you can survive.

2)        Write it down!  That means everything.  You aren’t going to remember every single thing, and you will only beat yourself up for forgetting (see #1 above).  Buy a notebook, steal a stack of sticky-notes from work, swipe a roll of TP from your neighbors, but find something to write down everything you need to do or might need to reference later.  Getting yogurt and diapers may seem easy to remember right now, but when you are in the market and have just answered your seventh call in ten minutes, it might be a little more challenging to remember!  (Also, try remembering those seven phone calls after you make it home with your yogurt and diapers.)  Write. It. Down.

3)      Call in those favors!  The neighbors that you always let use your parking space?  Let them know that for now, you need it.  The coworker who asks if you want a coffee while she is out?  Take her up on it!  The friend who asks if you need anything while she is at the warehouse store?  Yes!  Right now it would be great if she could bring you a 55 gallon drum of peanut butter!  When people offer, let them help!  Now is not the time to be pressing your super-woman cape and stuffing yourself into leotards you haven’t warn since 1998, let other people do some grunt work for you right now!

4)      Don’t make things harder on yourself in the long run.  Watch you funds.  When we are in crisis mode we tend to forget about the long-term impact of our situation.  Maybe this means only spending cash, and locking up the debit/credit cards to avoid those “feel good” purchases.  Maybe this means breaking out your emergency fund to avoid the stress of worrying about how you will pay for _____ right now.  Either way, you need to plan for how you are going to deal with the financial impact of your current detour.

5)      Breath.  Nothing lasts forever.  Whether or not this chapter in your life has a happy ending, the pain you are facing right now will not always be the all-consuming nightmare you are currently in.  Things will never be the same, and you will always carry the scars of this trip down the rutted trail, but that doesn’t mean that things are not going to get better.  Maybe better than before—but you will have to keep going to find out.

6)      Don’t be afraid to get professional help!  You can’t handle everything.  That’s ok.  Counseling, support groups (online or in person), childcare, lawn maintenance—if you need help get it!  If you are active duty or retired, call up Military Onesource and ask for help, they can connect you with the right people.  Civilian?  Call your local United Way, Church, Synagogue, or community action program and let them know you need help, even if they can’t help, they usually know people who can.

We all experience crisis in our live; big ones, small ones, short ones, long ones.  Some we leave behind, some we work through, and some we just have to live with.  Remember, that no matter the crisis, you can move forward.  Whether you spend a day, a month or a decade on the Oregon Trail you will eventually get back on the highway.  …Just don’t die of dysentery while you are looking for the on-ramp.  (And if you don’t understand that, pretend that you do, because I don’t want to feel old.  Mmmmk?)

Top 12 Most Supportive Organizations for Military Spouses

MilitaryOneClick’s Top 12 Most Supportive Organizations for Military Spouses
According to MCCS folks at Camp Lejeune, NC
1. Inc. Magazine & the Military Entrepreneurial Program http://www.inc.com/

2. SCORE: http://www.score.org/

3. iRelaunch: https://www.irelaunch.com/

4. MomCentral: http://www.momcentral.com/

5. The Joining Forces Program: http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces

6. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers/Congressional Military Family
Caucus: http://mcmorris.house.gov/#dialog

7. The Military Spouse Employment Program:
https://msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil/

8. Military Traveler, LLC: http://miltraveler.com/

9. AnyBill: http://www.anybill.com/

10. Nelson Mullins: http://www.nelsonmullins.com/

11. Hugh Hewitt: http://www.hughhewitt.com/blog

12. Dr. William Bennett and Team: http://www.billbennett.com/

Books about Military Wives…

So I’ve been reading the latest books out there regarding being married to the military and how to cope with our lives in this environment. All I can say is WOW! There are a few pretty good books out there! Most if not all are just very vague as to simply stating ‘military’ or ‘soldier’ and from their point of view being in just their husbands MOS but still vague and sometimes inaccurate pertaining to the masses. If you or someone you know isn’t aware please inform them that our guys are Marines and NOT soldiers! Depending on how moto your Marine is he may rudely correct the unsuspecting individual of how strongly these men feel about going through the toughest boot camp around and a part of the few and the proud. Marines may be the smallest but have been a part of every major war requiring the strongest punch in the face and show of force for the United States or our allies.
I read where one author told her readers if they have a problem with their husbands pay and he is deployed that they should go to the NMCRS or Army equivalent to get money. My problem with this is that if any problems with pay go on for very long it will be a nightmare to unravel and correct so why wait? You can fix this! It happens and sometimes more than once. Your husbands pay is incorrect, off by a few hundred dollars but if you have pre-planned and gotten the POA’s prior to his deployment like the command instructs you to do so then this is a problem you can handle. Typically it’s just a human error and is pretty easily corrected if you’re close to a base. You’d go in, show them your military ID and POA and they’d check his LES and fix it in order for the following pay to be accurate. In case you don’t have a POA your deployed husband can still fix it but it will just take longer and he’d have to hunt down a location to see the admin about the situation.
One author in particular really had some intense conversations going on in my household due to the choice of information she put in her book. She stated that you and your husband can choose his career plan that improve your chances of meeting family needs and goals, such as relocating to specific bases (whether its back home to your family or a spot in Hawaii) or limiting how often your service member is required to deploy. She also said that his career plan will determine the type of job he’ll have when he leaves the service which he will do no matter how often he wears his boots to bed. Also as fun as playing with stuff in the field is; is that infantrymen will not be able to find a variety of civilian jobs once they are no longer in the service and may have to settle for security or law enforcement. This is also the lady who referred to the traditions and abbreviations our husbands use on a daily basis as ‘really stupid acronyms and jargon’.
Well, where do I start with all of THAT? ARGHHHHHH!!! OHHH GOODNESS!!!! First of all, the official definition of a Career Planner for the Marine Corps is that he’s under the directive of the CO of the unit and must be familiar with Marine Corps provisions, associated orders, publications, and directives. As well as they are responsible for accurate completion of all forms pertinent to career planning, to include the reenlisted contract (DD Form 4), Selective Reenlisted Bonus Program (SRBP) forms, the career planning contact record, extension agreement and appropriate Service Record Book (SRB) page 11 entries. He isn’t a miracle worker, he doesn’t answer to your husband and have to do what your husband says. There is no way to determine by any job whether your Marine is going to deploy or not. If he works as a postal or law clerk he pay not deploy as much as a grunt unit but he will eventually deploy. I would never say that your Marine isn’t going to deploy if he does any particular MOS because first and foremost they are all Marines so if they need the men they will take them.
Why would she say that they all leave the Marine Corps? So many Marines have come through and done 20, 30 and many moons ago even 50 years so don’t tell my husband that he’ll eventually get out because ‘they all do’! That’s CRAP! The old man of the Marine Corps who died while still in the Marine Corps at more than 70 years old would roll over in his grave hearing that ridiculousness! I am wondering if her husband was a grunt and wasn’t able to find employment after he got out or if her comments were just hear say and she needed to fill space in her book.
I was completely flabbergasted and kind of pissed off to read her book! Thank goodness it was only for informational purposes only. I don’t understand how she could say that the grunts aren’t able to find work in the civilian world if they choose to get out. Firstly these Marines take countless classes on everything from second languages and intelligence training to financial management so this information and knowledge could lead them anywhere. Not all who get out of the service intend to find work right away and have the option of going to school to better themselves and their employment options are only limited to their imagination! They could teach, instruct others in martial arts or weaponry, they could test weapons and equipment for the government, there are too many programs to mention that work with the military that they could apply for, ect. So come on now be for real and don’t rag on a specific MOS that you apparently aren’t completely involved in or are aware of. I took that one personal! Sorry, I think I am done venting and sticking up for those men and women who may or may not have known about this book and its inaccuracies!
My hope and prayer is to put out more clearly defined information which helps everyone that has anything to do with the Marine Corps a better understanding of why our lives are the way they are. As the Marine Corps have proved time and time again this organization is unique and is set apart from all the rest. So our traditions, views, organizations and ways of life are just as different. We are proud, patriotic, close knit and take care of our own at all costs. I’m off to go and do some more research!

ASYMCA

One of my favorite organizations around Southern California!  It has nothing to do the YMCA really, there are gym or no free gym memberships through this organization. (By the way the ‘field houses’ aka gyms on base are outstanding and offer free personal trainers & group exercise classes)
 
Enjoy looking through all of the awesome events! We’ve participated in ASYMCA day event & camps on base, sailing summer camps, summer horse camps, comedy club tickets, sports ticket giveaways, free dinners at OutBack Steakhouse, ect and all for FREE.  They’ve given my girls every opportunity possible & I’m glad they’re growing up with such an amazing organization supporting military families!
 
ASYMCA
“Since 1942, it has been the ASYMCA’s mission to enhance the lives of Camp Pendleton Marines, Sailors, and their families by offering programs and services that focus upon Spirit, Mind, and Body. This philosophy strengthens families and encourages individuals to achieve their full potential. The ASYMCA works collaboratively with all Camp Pendleton commands to identify avenues of service for active duty personnel and their families which are not resident within the base’s existing functions and organizations. “– from their website…
 
There are different chapters of the ASYMCA (Armed Services YMCA) depending on which state you are in and base you are on or closest to. With that said there are many different programs and services that the ASYMCA’s may or may not all have; it all depends on the sponsors and communities in the area.
 
Some of the programs they offer are assisting with grade school child mentoring, childcare and toddler programs, transportation programs, junior enlisted families seeking leisure and family time. I’ve seen chapters that give away sporting event tickets, Father-Daughter Dances, and even family camps.
 
Our ASYMCA has a Ball Gown giveaway (which ladies line up sometimes two days before to pick out a free Gown for the Ball) as well as a Free Bicycle similar to the above Giveaway. They also sponsor the Operation Appreciation which is a huge event on Armed Forces Day on the beach. This is a great day for all since all service members get free food, entertainment, activities and carnival rides! I also sign my girls up for summer camp during this day as well! Secret Santa is a program specifically designed to provide assistance for E5 and below with children. This is another really great program.
 
 
 
Most if not all of the chapters have their own websites, twitters and Facebook pages. After registering to become members or liking their sites they can all keep you up to date on all events and special programs going on.