Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Etsy Seller AmericanDecal Personalized Cup

Last Christmas I was in search of a personalized gift for a friend for a Secret Santa. My partner is an on the go mom who works outside the home and runs her kids to and from school as well as many extra curricular activities. Once again, I found myself on my favorite website - Etsy. It was there I found the shop AmericanDecal.

AmericanDecal offers many different items personalized with vinyl lettering. When I saw her 20 oz personalized acrylic cups, I knew I'd found something perfect for my gift. I purchased two cups for her for the gifts, and made a mental note that I'd be back to purchase one for myself too.

After the holidays, I was ready to purchase my own cup. Knowing from my previous experience that AmericanDecal is very easy to work with, I knew that personalizing my cup would be an easy process. I had decided I wanted a "firefighter's wife" cup. When I had initially messaged her for my custom order, she gave me a variety of options. When she mentioned being able to use a flame print vinyl, I was very excited. We decided on the cup saying "Firefighter's Wife" on one side, and 374's station and badge number on the other side. We also agreed on black and flame hearts and dots. I love that this seller is very accommodating and will try everything in her power to make your vision come to life.

When I received my cup, I was genuinely pleased. It came out just as I had pictured it in my mind. The vinyl is great quality. I like the size of the cup - at 20oz it's bigger than most reusable cups on the market. I use this cup on an almost daily basis, whether I'm at home or on the go. It is not recommended to run these cups through the dishwasher. A light hand washing has kept my cup and it's vinyl looking like new.

The only downside to this cup is I've had a hard time finding a reusable straw that is long enough to fit this cup, as it does not come with a straw included. It's not enough to cause me any stress though. I make use of what I have. I love sporting this cup where ever I go. When I'm at home I usually use it without the lid, so the straw is a non-issue.

I will definitely purchase from this seller again. Shipping is very reasonable in regards to price and time. She also offers a variety of other items - vinyl lettering for the bottom of shoes to be used in engagement/wedding photos, vinyl decals, pencil cases, wine glasses, and mailbox decals just to name a few!

I am a very happy repeat customer!

Review: - Poor Customer Service

This experience took place last December (2011) as I attempted to purchase a Christmas gift for 374.

Last summer I found a website - Our Designs, while looking for a Father's Day gift for my volunteer firefighter husband. After making that initial purchase on their website, I made two or three more purchases through the summer and fall. Shipping was always a bit slow, but it was coming from the west coast and I was receiving free ground shipping.

When I started asking 374 what he wanted for Christmas, I would often get the same response. He really wanted a nice flashlight and bracket to mount to his fire helmet. Being a volunteer firefighter, we purchase a lot of his tools and gear, aside from the obvious bunker gear that the station provides.

I started looking around mid October, trying to find the website that offered the best product at the lowest price plus shipping. I found a handful of sites that offered competitive prices, including Our Designs. Their price was not the cheapest I had found, but I had ordered from them before so I felt safer ordering from them.

On December 6th, 2011 I was ready to order the items. I called their customer service number before ordering online to insure I purchased the shipping option that would guarantee an on time delivery before Christmas. The gentleman I spoke to was very helpful and directed me to the appropriate shipping option. I then went online, and made my purchase. Before checking out, a screen came up with last minute items you may want to add to your cart. I saw an option for a firefighter stein, that I knew would be perfect for 374's stocking. I went ahead and added it to my order, and proceeded through checkout.

Later that afternoon I received my order confirmation email. The email broke my order up into two lists. The first list was an invoice of all the items in my order - the flashlight, the bracket and the stein. The second list had a heading that read "OUT-OF-STOCK-ITEMS SHIP WHEN AVAILABLE" and underneath it listed the firefighter stein. When I read this email, I was under the impression that the stein was out of stock, and that item would ship when it was available. It wasn't a big deal to me, as it wasn't the main item I was wanting. It really didn't matter whether that came on time, I could use it for another gift at a later date. No where in the email did it say anything about the other items not shipping out on time.

Around the 4th day after I placed my order, I realized I had not yet received a shipping confirmation email. Usually they were pretty quick on shipping items out in a timely manner from the time you placed your order. I took into account that it was the holiday season, and those times may have been a bit delayed. I made a mental note to start watching my email account for the shipping email.

On December 13th, 2011 (one full week after I had placed my order) I called and asked customer service what the delay in shipping was. The lady I was speaking to told me that the firefighter stein was on back order, and it's their policy to not ship an order until everything is in stock. She also informed me that a customer can request items be sent separately, but there will be separate shipping charges for each shipment. I immediately asked her to cancel the stein. I also told her that had I been aware of this policy, I would have cancelled the stein the day I got the email stating it's back order status. I mentioned to her that no where in the email I received did it state a policy like that, and that in fact I got a completely different impression from the wording of the email. She cancelled the stein for me and assured me that because it was later in the business day my items would not ship that day, but would ship out the very next day.

December 14th, 2011 I waited for the shipping email. The day came and went with no email. So on December 15th, 2011 - the ninth day after ordering, I called and asked if my order had shipped. The gentleman I spoke to informed me that my order had not yet shipped. I began to express my frustration with the situation. I told him that I originally had called before placing the order to ensure that the shipping I purchased would get my items to me before Christmas, as this was an important gift. I asked him if there was anything he could do - refund my shipping, upgrade my shipping option, etc. He informed me there was nothing he could do because my order "was already on the floor". I asked him to then please inform someone that the wording in their emails needs to be changed because had I been aware of the situation from the beginning, I would have taken the appropriate action the day I had received the order confirmation email. He told me he would pass the feedback on to the appropriate people.

On the 10th day I called again because I still had received no shipping notification. This was now Friday December 16th, 2011. The gentleman I talked to that day told me my order had shipped. I was out and about that day running errands. I had multiple things on my mind that day, and didn't even think to ask him for a tracking number or shipping information. I just figured I would get home and check the email that I should have had waiting for me in my inbox since my order had now shipped.

When I returned home that evening, I had no email waiting for me. I checked my online bank statement, and I had not yet been charged. At this point frustrated was not even close to the emotion I was feeling. Why had this customer service representative said that my order had shipped? Of course this had happened on a Friday, so there was nothing I could do about it until Monday. Add in the fact that they are in the Pacific time zone so I had to wait even longer to call them, and you have one very disgruntled customer.

Monday rolled around and I called customer service AGAIN. I was put on hold. I was disconnected a few times. At this point it's getting comical, because laughing was all I could do to suppress my anger. Finally I got in touch with a live person, who was the first to take a moment to start looking into my problem. She sent an email to the shipping department and informed me I would have an email from them with answers by the end of the afternoon, or at the very latest the next morning. She said the only thing that made any sense to her was that their inventory counts were off when I placed my order for the flashlight and bracket, or that after the hold up over the stein and my order finally got to the floor for packaging the flashlight and bracket had become out of stock.

Tuesday morning came and no email from the shipping department, and no shipping notice. So I called them AGAIN and was informed that, of course, my items still had not shipped. No one could give me ANY explanation of the situation. I asked the man on the phone to cancel my order because I was disgusted with the lack of customer service at this point. There was no reason that 14 days after I had placed my order that it had not shipped, and that no one could give me any insight as to why.

Looking back, the only thing that makes sense to me is that they HAD my items when I initially placed my order. But in the days that passed before I realized my order was on hold due to the stein, the flashlight and bracket had to become out of stock. I am appalled with their lack of customer service. The first time I placed an order with Our Designs, I even paid an extra fee to have a V.I.P. membership which gave me discounts on items and free ground shipping.

Because of their lack of customer service, my husband did not receive his Christmas present. I had to spend the last few days before Christmas scrambling to find something for him to have under the tree Christmas morning. I am the first to admit that Christmas is not all about the gifts - but when you have a man who works a full time job out of the home and in his free time off volunteers to serve and protect his community, you just really want to show your thanks and admiration any way you can. Had this situation happened any other time of the year, I would have been equally disappointed. My frustration was not over the missed Christmas gift, it was all about the poor service I received. I felt like, and still do, that my problem did not warrant anyone's time and energy to remedy.

I took my issues to their Facebook page, and was surprised to see there were many other comments left on their wall just like mine. I was even more frustrated to watch these comments be left unanswered by the Our Designs team. I have never received an apology, explanation, or offer to make the situation right. I will never again make a purchase from this website. I have never been treated so poorly as a customer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Etsy Seller LiCa Hawaii Firefighter Helmet Hats

About a year ago, I stumbled upon the cutest hats made for children and babies. Little knit hats that are made to look like fire helmets, complete with a badge on the front - and sometimes a badge number. I am not one who is at all artistically inclined, therefore I would have to find someone to make them for me.

If you saw my previous Etsy seller review, you will know I'm a big fan of all things handmade. I had periodically searched Etsy for a seller who could make two of these hats for Bubby and Sassy. I understand that you will always pay a bit more for handmade items, but I could not afford to pay $50+ for one hat, when I needed two. 

When I found out my dear friend Stacia was opening her own Etsy shop - LiCa Hawaii, I was thrilled! She's an amazing crafter, and I knew I would get amazing items from her. I enlisted her help with the fire helmet hats. I wanted them personalized with 374's number. Much to my pleasure her prices are extremely reasonable, even with shipping from Hawaii.

The turn around time for our hats was great. We received them in great time. Her products are amazing. The material is not light weight, these were perfect hats for them to wear this past winter. The stood up to daily use, and still look brand new. 

We got so much great feedback on our hats. All the firemen at the station loved them - and the other fire wives wanted to know exactly where I got them. My kids love having a hat with Daddy's number on it. They can remember Daddy's badge number better than they can remember their house number! Priorities, priorities!

I have since ordered other items from LiCa Hawaii - both for us and my new baby nephew. I'm always very pleased with the items I receive from Stacia. She always hits the nail on the head. If you are ever in need of a custom item, she can meet your needs! She does more than just hats. Her store usually has items like coffee cuffs, headbands, bracelets, etc. She comes up with new items every now and then too!

Thanks Stacia for sharing your wonderful talent! You will always have a repeat customer in us!

Wordless Wednesday - Black Helmet Apparel Firefighter's Maltese V-Neck

I'll Show You A Volunteer

I'll Show You A Volunteer

Show me a person who spends endless hours in training without pay
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person where a cry for help brings split-second dispatch
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person who is devastated when lives are lost or maimed
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person who is graciously welcomed as a next-door neighbour
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person who takes ridicule more than compliments
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person whose car is garaged with the grille facing outwards
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person who sacrifices home life, TV... even tender moments
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person visibly moved at the strains of our National AnthemAnd I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person who may be asked to give more than just dedication
And I'll show you a volunteer
Show me a person who is asked to give more...and more...and more
And I'll show you a volunteer.
Author Unknown

A Firefighter's Spouse

They dread the pager or the call;
their heart becomes a grave.
Their loved one called out again,
to extinguish or to save.

The shower was hot, the food was served,
they were about to eat,
their loved one has gone, the food goes cold,
Sadness and loneliness they greet.

Worry and Hope, a battle rage,
within a proud heart,
for important things are happening,
they must be brave and smart.

They know the drawbacks of the job,
they accept them in their stride,
Knowing their mate may save a life,
has given them lots of pride.

The raging fires, the gusting winds,
God, preserve them from that fate,
Please Dear God, Help me,
to be reunited with my mate.
 David J Ferricks 2002

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Etsy Seller Avery Rayne Firefighter Badge Necklace

The kids and I love to support our firefighter daddy and husband. We look forward to gift giving holidays so we can shop through all the fun gadgets and gifts geared towards the profession. But, I have to admit I'm guilty of sneaking in a purchase or two for myself now and then. I'm proud of the work 374 does and I want him and everyone else to know it.

The first time I decided to shop for myself, I knew I wanted something personalized. I am a HUGE fan of the website Etsy. I love handmade, personalized items. There's just something about knowing that the piece was created specifically for you that makes it so much more special for me.

I am guilty of typing "firefighter" into the search box on Etsy on many occasions when I'm bored or can't sleep, so I already had a few pieces in mind when I sat down to make a purchase. One piece in particular was by an Etsy seller named Avery Rayne. She makes wonderful pieces from metal and wood - necklaces, key chains, and other accessories.

After going back and forth I settled on a piece from her shop. It was a necklace/rear view mirror hanger shaped like a fireman's badge or maltese cross. It's a 1'' long piece of aluminum hand stamped with a fireman's badge number. There are two different fonts you can choose from - a plain or swirly font. I chose the plain font. You also have your choice of color for the swarvoski crystal or a freshwater pearl which hangs over the badge. I went with a blue crystal - for 374's Sapphire birthstone. It comes hung on a 24'' stainless steel ball chain. I was so excited to order it.

Communication with Avery Rayne is great. I had originally wanted the crystal in the color of our anniversary month, but changed my mind at the last minute. She was easily accommodating, and the switch was made. It did not take her long at all to fulfill my order. Her shipping charges are very reasonable, and it did not take long at all for the item to arrive.

I have been very pleased with my purchase. It has been almost a year now, and it has held up very well. The metal is not bulky and heavy, but it's not thin. It's a good weight and quality. I love having the crystal with it - it adds a bit of girlishness, and a little more personalty to it. There have been no issues with the crystal either, it is attached very well. I use mine as a rear view mirror hanger, and have gotten many compliments. I've had other fire wives ask me where I found it, and I never hesitate to share the link. I love getting into my car and being reminded of my hubby even when he's not in the car with us.

I would purchase from this shop again in the future. I have been wanting something with the kids' names on it for a while now, but I just haven't settled on one design yet. However, I do know it will probably come from Avery Rayne!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Black Helmet Does It Again! Bunker Gear Wallet Part 1

The people at Black Helmet Apparel saw my post last week on their awesome t-shirts, and were happy to receive an honest review of some of their products. So happy, in fact, that they offered to send another product to me to review! I let 374 browse their website and pick out the item since he loves their gear so much.

I was not at all surprised when he picked an item that was at the top of his and my wish list - the Bunker Gear Tri-fold Wallet. This wallet is made from decommissioned bunker gear from the London Fire Brigade. I absolutely love the fact that the gear that protected these men and women is still being put to use today.

We put in the order for the wallet on Sunday May 20th, and on Thursday May 24th it had arrived. Yet another rave I have in regards to Black Helmet Apparel is their quick shipping. I have ordered from other firefighter websites, and it takes upwards of two weeks to receive their merchandise. However the wallet arrived a day earlier than anticipated. That's my kind of shipping!

374 works third shift at his full time job, so when he gets home he goes straight to bed. Our mail comes first thing in the morning. See the problem here?? Luckily I was not expecting the wallet until Friday. So Thursday morning I went about my day as normal, and didn't check the mail until later in the afternoon. Around 2pm when I went out to get the mail, I squealed when I pulled out the package marked Black Helmet Apparel. Then I tried to figure out how I was going to refrain from waking 374 up for another hour or two - as it wasn't yet time for him to get up.

Long story short, I couldn't resist. I woke him up and couldn't wait to show him the wallet. He was equally impressed. The word that comes to mind when I think of this wallet is awesome. I know, not the most professional or polished word. But it is - this wallet is just plain awesome. I'm not a firefighter myself, but holding this wallet in my hand, knowing that it was a piece of gear that helped protect a firefighter's life is just remarkable.

The wallet is maroon in color - the color of the London Fire Brigade gear. Because these wallets are custom made from the gear - they all are the same color but some variations may occur. Each has a piece of reflective material. On the inside, you will find two pockets on the left, and two pockets on the right. I love that they made a tri-fold. When the wallet was first introduced, they offered it as a bi-fold wallet with a cut out to hold a badge. This tri-fold wallet features the Black Helmet logo and another pocket in the center instead of the badge cut out. The money compartment is sectioned. 374 appreciates a wallet like this because he keeps receipts in one half and his cash in the other. It also comes with an insert to hold pictures. 374 uses it for pictures and business cards. The leather on the inside is genuine leather. 374 commented on the softness and texture of this leather. It's not stiff at all which makes for easy closure even when the wallet is loaded with your essentials.

Much to his pleasure, the wallet arrived Thursday - which was also training night at the station. The wallet made it's rounds with the guys who all were completely impressed. It's a very unique piece that any firefighter would love to have. The quality is amazing. It has ample storage and is not bulky. I'm very much excited to see how it does over the next few weeks as it gets broke in. I am sure it will stand up to the wear of every day use because it's a Black Helmet product!

Will I continue to by Black Helmet? Of course! Not once have I been disappointed with this company. Not only do they produce unique, high quality products but they also give back as I was reminded when removing the business card from the wallet. Black Helmet gives a portion of their proceeds to the Fallen Firefighters Foundation. I love companies who do what they can to give back. It means just making a dollar is not their sole purpose. It makes me feel good to know that when I purchase these products, a portion of my money is going to help someone in need. It's a win win situation when you purchase Black Helmet products.

I will post an update in a few weeks on the wallet after 374 has put it through it's paces. Stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Web Find - Firefighter Anthem Video / Making Memories

I came across this Youtube video while looking through firefighter stuff online. I must say it's pretty cool!

With 374 being on a volunteer department, a lot of the time when they do trainings and have work nights, there are a few spouses and kids hanging out in the wings. If my kids catch wind of something going on at the station, they are always right there. I am usually snapping pics along the way because I run the station's Facebook page. I'd love to compile enough images to be able to set them to music in the future and have a video of memories for the guys at our station.

I think one of the coolest things my kids have gotten to experience so far was the night one of the air ambulances came and did landing zone training with the guys behind the fire station. Being that we live four houses from the station, the kids obviously heard the helicopter fly over the house. They blew out the front door - only dressed in pajamas and no shoes. They saw it land behind the station, and when they put that fact and the fact that they knew Daddy was at the station for training together - they all but drove themselves to the station. They ran out to the car - no shoes - and just expected me to follow suit.

They got to be part of backboard trainings, and even got to sit inside the helicopter and get a tour from the flight nurse. It's memories like this that I wouldn't trade for the world. They will have all these photos taken of them right along side the guys. I know this will be especially nice for Sassy because she was barely 3 when 374 joined the department.

I've also started saving newspaper clippings, pictures of them that have been published in local flyers, programs from the church service they attended last Sunday, etc for 374 to have in the future. I'd like to find a nice scrapbook album or picture album to start putting them in before the box I have them in gets misplaced. I guess you can say I'm sentimental. I say I just love to support those I love!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Everyone needs more Black Helmet in their lives!

After writing the review of the Black Helmet Apparel shirts, I shared the link to the post with Black Helmet on Facebook. I wanted them to know that we appreciate their products, and be able to receive some positive feedback from completely satisfied customers.

Much to my surprise, I received a message back on Facebook from them. I am so excited to announce that within the next week or so there will be another Black Helmet Apparel review to share with you all! They have so generously donated an item for us to test and review. Interested in seeing what item 374 picked from their pages of totally awesome fire gear?? Stay tuned, I'm super excited for this one!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Fun Day!

Today was a beautiful Sunday! We couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather was amazing, as was the company.

374's station and EMS squad were invited today to a special church service at a local church. The service was followed by a wonderful luncheon put on by the ladies of the church. The service was very nice. It likened Jesus's compassion and mercy as a rescuer to sinners to that of the compassion and mercy of those who serve their community on the fire department and EMS. Each member of the crew was given a certificate of appreciation from the church, and pictures were taken. It was nice to see everyone honored for the sacrifices they make and commitment to their community when sometimes this can be a thankless job.

It was also extra nice to see 374 in his dress uniform. It's the first time he's had the chance to wear it, and boy it sure fit him well! I think one of my favorite sayings that pertains to firefighters, or any uniformed worker is "The uniform does not make the man, the man makes the uniform." So very true of all these men and women who put their lives and schedules on hold to offer aid to those in need.

On the home front today, the kids spent their first afternoon in our new pool. Having a firefighter as a husband and daddy has it's perks sometimes! In this instance, it made filling the pool easy as pie. Especially when you add in the fact that we live four houses from the station! This picture was taken yesterday while Bubby and Sassy supervised 374 filling the pool. The enjoyed the three truck rides to and from the station to the house too!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Black Helmet Apparel T-Shirts

One of the major pluses of being married to a firefighter is all gift giving occasions have become a million times easier!!! There's always some gadget, a cool shirt, or some novelty decoration that has been requested. I must admit too, it's pretty fun shopping for fire related stuff.

Last Father's Day I decided to purchase some t-shirts for 374 - one from me, and one from the kids. He hadn't had a chance to order any station shirts yet, and I knew he was itching for some fire gear to wear around the station. Who am I kidding? Any fire wife knows once they build a collection of fire shirts, it's all they wear anymore!

In my search for two perfect shirts for hubby, I stumbled upon Black Helmet Apparel. Prior to that, all I was finding were your generic fireman t-shirts with semi-witty sayings and pictures of flames/hoses/helmets, etc. While these are all and good for most, I knew it wasn't quite what I was looking for. When I found Black Helmet Apparel, I knew I found something special.

Black Helmet Apparel was founded by a fireman. The products are created with firefighters in mind. They use high quality materials. The Black Helmet Apparel  website states: "You will find no clip art here. You will only find images that relay the fearless, but frightening side of our job. No cheesy sayings. This is how we live. It's what we love." The company has been around since June 2008. I must say, I hope they are around for a long long time because their products are truly worth every cent!

For that Father's Day 2011, I purchased one Black Helmet shirt. The Keep Back Leary Foundation Shirt to be exact. I also purchased a cliche, clipart volunteer firefighter shirt from another site, but the Black Helmet Apparel shirt was an obvious favorite as soon as he opened his presents. The material is a good weight. It's not too heavy of a shirt, but it's also not super thin like a lot of shirts you find on the market these days.

This shirt got a lot of wear for many months before more shirts were added to his collection, and it's held up just fine. I will say that I do not dry any of our tops, so I can not vouch for their no shrinking claim but it's definitely held it's shape and size through all the washing. There's been minimal, if any fading to his shirt. To me it still looks like it did after the first few wears. Their sizing is pretty true to size. I usually buy 374 an XL for tops, because he is 6'5''. They run pretty true to an XL size, maybe even a bit larger.

One of my favorite features of their shirts is their printing. They call it a discharge printing, which is soft and doesn't fade or crack. This is what makes these shirts stand out from the generic clip art shirts I bought. Even with no drying, the generic shirts's printings have begun to crack a bit. Not at all with the Black Helmet Apparel shirts. Besides his station shirts, his Black Helmet Apparel shirts get the most wear. The printing and coloring will not show that. If I lined up all the firefighter shirts, you'd swear he wore these the least!

The company does more than shirts. They have shorts, hoodies, hats, as well as a line of women's and children's clothes. You will also find accessories and decals, as well as some gear items. They offer a smoking hot gear bag that is on the top 374's wish list. Also found on their website is an awesome tri-fold wallet made from decommissioned bunker gear. Don't tell 374 but that's at the top of MY list for the next gift he receives!

We have since added the Firefighter's Maltese V-Neck and the Force Entry Classic T-shirt to our collection. All I can say is HOT HOT HOT! I love my firefighter in these shirts. I know there will be many, many more Black Helmet Apparel products to his collection.

Thank you Black Helmet Apparel for offering top quality products for these guys who do so much for the communities they serve. My firefighter LOVES your products, and I LOVE seeing them on him. They are a young, unique way for him to show his pride in his job. He gets SO many compliments on them everywhere he goes, and we've turned a few guys, (and a gal cadet!) into customers. Please continue to offer these amazing products, you have a customer for life here!

Find Black Helmet Apparel on Facebook!

Looking back through my photos I realized I don't have any that show him in these shirts well. Being the busy full time worker, and volunteer firefighter he is I did not have time to snap pictures of him before writing this post. I will use next week's Wordless Wednesday to showcase his Black Helmet Apparel!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Going Back to Our Roots

Family is a HUGE part of my life. Now that I have a family of my own, that's something that I want to instill in my children.

Growing up without knowing my biological father had always left a curiosity for the family members I knew existed, but knew nothing about. Two short years ago when I found my birth father, the curiosity didn't stop. I still have a strong sense to know "where" I came from. I am very much an observer, I'm curious about people. I love to learn new things. So it comes as no surprise that I am deeply interested in my ancestry.

One night while 374 was at fire class, the bug was biting hard that night. A friend of mine had been posting some information on Facebook earlier that day that she had dug up on her own family via I settled in on the couch after the kids had been tucked into bed and sang a medley of requested songs. I opened up the laptop and typed in the address to the website. I played around a bit with the free portion of the website, but quickly realized I was not going to get the information I was after that way. I signed up for the free trial, and then the information came pouring in! I felt like I had hit the jackpot!

I found many, many generations on my mother's side of the family. I was so giddy, saving pictures and documents to my computer. I just couldn't wait to share them with my husband, children, and mom.

Two family members really caught my attention. One of which is Samuel Calvin Wright. If you can follow, he is my mom's mom's dad's dad. He's my great great great grandfather. What piqued my interest with him was the fact that he served in the Civil War - more specifically 10th Independent Battery Ohio Light Artillery.
He is pictured here with his wife Sarah Talithia Fryman/Wright.

I was also quite excited to learn he is buried less than 10 minutes from my house! For about a month now, I've been wanting to take some time to go over to the cemetery and find his grave. Whenever I remembered, I didn't have the time or it was raining. 

Last night, Wednesday night, 374, the kids and I were all at the park near the cemetery with some friends. The kids played all afternoon and we had a pizza dinner under the shelter house. The weather was gorgeous, and I knew that evening would be perfect. 

We stopped on our way home, I eagerly parked across the street in the newer area and then we all walked over to the older portion. I was kind of annoyed because there were people there weed whacking and I really didn't want the kids getting hurt, so I was trying to hurry and didn't feel the leisure of being able to take my time. I was looking through the first few rows with Bubby, while my husband and Sassy were looking through the back rows. We both got to the other end with no luck. I knew it had to be there, I have a picture saved to my computer of this stone and had read on multiple ancestry sites that he was in fact buried in this location. 

I pulled the picture up of his stone on Facebook on my cell phone, and showed it to 374. We looked again all the way across that section of the graves, and still nothing. I was so bummed. Sassy was getting really tired and cranky, so I decided we'd come back and try another time. I kept looking at the picture of the stone on my phone while I walked back to the car. 

Sassy climbed in the car, and Bubby had just got his car door open. I opened my door, and before I got in the car something compelled me to turn back around and look at that section of graves again. Being across the street from it, it was easier to see the bigger stones for what they were. As soon as I looked across the street my eyes met it! It was clear down at the end, in one of the front rows. I yelled at my husband, "Wait! I think that's it!" He offered to walk back across the street and see if it was. Bubby insisted on following his father. I asked Sass if she'd like to walk back with us. At that point she was already buckled in and refusing. I told her I'd be right back, and reminded her she could see us from the car. (We are out in the country, so it's just a small country road that we walked across, I didn't leave her any great distance by herself.) I jogged across the street, and we all walked up on it at the same time.

There it was! I was so excited. Bubby read what he could of the stone, and I told him this was his great great great great grandfather. He was immediately curious. I shared with him the little information that I know so far. I asked him if he wanted to take his picture there, and he immediately said yes. 

He has since been asking non stop for more information on his "great grandfather." I would like to set aside some time to look further into this man - who he was and where he came from. I do know he had two wives. The stone to the left in the picture above is of one of his wives. In all excitement of finding his stone, I only glanced at this one. I believe this is his other wife Mariah Velinda Woodrow. Next time I go back I plan of trying to get a good look at that stone.

I am so thrilled that Bubby is showing an interest right along with me. I think this will be one of our summer projects while school is out. A little history lesson, paired with family research. Sounds like a great time!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fire Wife to Fire Life...

In addition to being a supportive fire wife to 374, I have also become an active member of the Ladies Auxiliary at his station. Years ago, the Auxiliary was very active, but over a period of time they disassembled and not much was done.

Last fall, the fire chief wanted to get the spouses together, and those interested to start the Auxiliary up again. As I said before, I'm always 100% supportive of my husband. I may not always agree with absolutely everything he does, but I do my best to stand behind him - or really, beside him. So when he came home and told me of the first meeting date, I could tell he was excited and wanted me to attend.

I wasn't sure what to expect, as I was only acquainted with some of the wives. I jotted down some notes - some things I thought would be fun ways to raise money, or help build the bridge between the station and the community. I nervously attended the first meeting, and was pleasantly surprised with the group that had assembled, and how open everyone was.

Since that first meeting we have successful ran two craft and vendor shows, put together a gift raffle for the kids who came to visit with Santa at Christmas, and been able to donate money to a fellow firefighter who recently lost his home to a fire.

We have many more events in the works - most recently we hosting our town's community garage sale date. We are offering food at the station, as well as providing advertising and spaces for rent at the station. We have yet another winter craft and vendor show in the books for this coming December as well.

I love being able to help others, meet new people, and form stronger bonds with the fire spouses who are on the Auxiliary. I have seen myself become more outgoing, and more confident in myself. 374 is so glad to have me be a part of his fire life, too. I love that as becoming a member of the fire department, our circle has grown. Not only did hubby gain many new friends, but the kids and I have too. Friends that have quickly become a big part of our lives. Friends we wouldn't trade for the world!! It's such a family mentality, and that's not something I expected when he signed up. I'm 100% grateful for that!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Am I a Mom, or a Taxi??

I'm thankful every day that the tones don't go off - never would I wish for anyone to lose a home, or property, or life. However, it's days like today I'm extra thankful it was a quiet day. I don't think I could have packed more into my day if I tried.

We got up this morning, and got the kids off to school. If you saw my previous post, then you know it was our son's seventh birthday today. After dropping the kids off at school, we came home and got ready for the day. We headed into town, having to be home by 10:45 to get our daughter. We needed to pick up a birthday present and supplies. Bubby requested an Angry Birds birthday, but after searching a few stores we settled on Avengers. Bubby is obsessed with fishing these days, so we knew a pole who be the most appropriate gift for him this year. We got everything we needed and headed back home just in time to pick up Sassy.

I dropped 374 and Sassy off at home, and I was off to work. I left work halfway through my shift so we all could go to Bubby's school and surprise him by having lunch with him. As soon as we were done, I was back to work.

Next on the to-do list was taking Sassy to get her hair done for dance pictures. I got to visit with a friend, and fellow fire wife. She's a hair dresser, and worked her magic on Sassy. I have no patience or talent when it comes to hairstyles, so we left it to the pro! I must say, it turned out beautiful! All the dance moms raved over her, and asked to get set up with appointments for recital day!

Pictures went off without a hitch. All the little girls looked so cute. I can't believe our dance season is almost over! Or how much our girls have grown since their first season dancing together last year.

After all pictures were snapped, it was back in the car to head back home. We ordered dinner on the way. We had been planning a surprise birthday party for Bubby since last week. My grandfather just had hip surgery, so we decided to bring the party to him. We decorated his house up for Bubby in full Avengers mode. I was beaming with excitement for him to walk in. 

I picked Bubby up from our house - he had been staying with my sister while we were at dance pictures. 374 took my sister home, while I told Bubby we had to go pick up his birthday dinner. We picked up our pizza. I played it off as my mom had a pizza order too, and wouldn't Granny be so happy that we delivered her pizza so she didn't have to pick it up! 

The look on his face was priceless when we arrived. There were a few balloons out front, and he was curious as to why. My husband was waiting on the porch with a camera....
Here he is pointing out the balloons. Not at all catching on to what's going on. The poor kid didn't even think we had got him a birthday present. I felt bad, but I was so excited to surprise him. I had a surprise party when I was younger, and it's one of the birthdays I remember the most.

The night ended the best way it could - food, cake, presents, family .... and most important one happy birthday boy. Here's a shot of him enjoying his birthday gift....
I'm so glad 374 was around to lend a hand, and enjoy the festivities. I'm not quite sure how I would have made it through the day without his extra set of hands!! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where Has It Gone??

Tonight we put our Bubby to bed for the last time as a six year old. We were so wrapped up enjoying the wonderful weather today, celebrating Mother's Day with friends and family that I absolutely spaced the fact that today was the last day of six.

We came home this evening, did the normal Sunday routine of baths and getting ready for the next school week. I took extra time to lay with Bubby tonight at bedtime. We sang a few extra songs, and talked about the day I went into the hospital to have him. Ironically, as we laid in bed talking about that Friday May 13th, 2005, it was the exact same time as 374 and I were arriving at the hospital seven years ago as I was in labor.

The last seven years have been filled with good times, and hard times. Neither that we'd trade for anything. Bubby was born with a cleft palate, so the past seven years have been scattered with various doctors appointments, cleft clinic appointments and three surgeries - two on his mouth, the most recent being August of 2011 and ear tubes being put in at five months old.

So this Mother's Day has had a little more sentiment to it. Reflecting on the child that made me a mother and how proud we are of the young man he's becoming. He's kind, considerate, and so willing to be helpful. He puts others before himself, and it makes my heart beam with pride. I hope you have an extraordinary day tomorrow Bubby, because you are an extraordinary boy. Mommy, Daddy and Sassy love you so much. We couldn't ask for a better son!

Bubby - Winter 2005

You Know You Are A Fireman's Wife If...

I found a similar post on Stop Screaming I'm Driving! and got a good laugh. I've decided to write some of my own that apply to our life as a fire family...


You can't stand a quiet house. The scanner is on whether or not hubby is home or at his full time job.

The smell of fire smoke on your hubby has become an aphrodisiac. 

You have acquired enough Christmas ornaments (even in our two year's time) to start your own fire themed Christmas tree.

After being your hubby's study buddy throughout fire school, you now completely understand things like pyrolysis, overhaul, what a cockloft and scuttle hatch are, and what things like SCBA, NFTA and AFFF mean.

Your hubby wears his pager even if you are going far enough away from town that he won't make a call in time, just so he knows what's going on.

When you make a hair appointment, you get "What do I do with the kids if I get a call?" instead of the normal "What time will you be back?"

"Honey, I'm running up to the station real quick" translates into "I'm going up to play around with my gear, I'll be back in an hour or so."

Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthday dinner are ate holding your breath hoping the tones don't go off.

Your whole family's wardrobe has been taken over by t-shirts with fire trucks and his station number on them.

Your kids know which truck a fireman is talking about by just hearing it's number over the scanner.

Your pets have fire themed names - Blaze (Chihuahua) and Aerial (Lab/Retriever). Too bad the cats came before we were fire.

I'm sure more of these will come to me in our day to day life. Keep your eyes peeled for more fire family humor!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

And So It Begins...

My first post for this blog! It's hard to narrow down what you want to say, there's so many angles I could take.

I'll start by saying I'm 374's wife - Brandi. I have been married to 374 for six years this coming October. We have two beautiful children - our son Bubby will be six on Monday (less than 41 hours... but who's counting?!) and our daughter Sassy is four and a half. We live in a small rural community that I was born in. Firefighting, volunteer at least, runs in my family. My grandfather was a firefighter for a while, as was his brother and other close family friends.

We haven't always been a fire family. I never even knew this lifestyle would be a part of our life. I remember the day my husband brought up the idea. He had been in the kitchen, and I sitting on the couch. He came into the living room and asked, "What do you think if I said I wanted to join the fire department?" I had never heard anything about it before, and I wasn't sure how to take him. I am always behind him 100% in anything he wants to do. I remember telling him it was his choice - if it was something he really wanted to do, it was okay with me. I think at the time I hadn't realized just how much thought he had already put into this. The topic came up a few more times over the next few weeks, and I realized it was time for a sit down talk about the decision. Little did I know how much this decision was about to change our lives.

We were homebodies. 374 went to and from his full time job. I worked part time at a local grocery store. We'd make the normal runs to and from town for groceries once a week, we might take the kids to dinner one night, or go visit family members each week. That was the extent of our calendar, throwing in the odd doctor's appointment or teacher meeting. We were always together. We've always gone everywhere with our kids - hardly have they been left with a sitter. This is where one of the biggest changes has come in our lives. We schedule things around work nights, trainings, business meetings, and Auxiliary meetings (more on that later.) Plans change in the blink of an eye when the pager goes off. Dinner plates are kept warm in the microwave. Family trips to town for dinner and groceries have turned into me toting two kids along my self trying to keep them civil while remembering everything on my list. Some days I long for long weekends with nothing to do, knowing we can lock ourselves in the house and not go anywhere, but most days I wouldn't trade our life now for anything.

I often asked my husband why he made the choice to join the department. The answer is usually something like "I wanted to be more than someone who worked a 9-5 job. I wanted more from my life. I wanted something that my kids and wife could look back on and be so proud of me for doing. I wanted to make a difference." I assured him no matter what he did in life we'd be proud of him. If he felt this was the path for our family to take, I also assured him we'd be behind him every step of the way.

I'm extremely proud to announce that he's made it through his first set of classes and passed his state exam. It took a long time to find a class that was offered at the right location (not too far of a drive from home) and at the right time (meshed with his work schedule.) He is currently on a volunteer department. We have been toying with the option to take a basic EMT course and be able to be hired on with a full time department. I think right now we are staying put. He loves the station he's at. Not to say that he couldn't be a volly while working a paid department, but right now I think he wants to enjoy the volunteer job without the hassle of classes and tests. I don't blame him.