Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Back to School & Mini Fireman

Sassy's last first day of preschool!

Bubby helping 374 spray out the foot stand at the park, prepping for Labor Day weekend festivities!

Happy Wordless Wednesday!

Friday, August 24, 2012

One Last Time - Part 2

When Bubby got home from school today, I asked him if wanted to go up and say "goodbye" to the truck and take a couple pictures with it too. He said sure. Little did I know he was going to play GQ model once we got up there! He hammed it up for the camera the whole time. Apparently he moonlights as a model?

Farewell Engine 38...

One Last Time...

We received word yesterday that Engine 38 cannot be saved. 374 and I took Sassy up to the station this morning and snapped a couple pictures with the truck. Blaze the fire dog even made an appearance, seeing as the first few pictures we ever took of him as a puppy were with him standing on 38.

Sassy and Blaze the fire dog...

She decided to pose like this.... silly girl.

As I walked around the truck, certain things caught my eye... like this handle. My mind was filled with thoughts about how many firefighters grabbed this handle to jump in - what kinds of calls did they respond to, how many hardships had they seen?

My fireman saying goodbye...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Q&A - Volunteer Wife

Over the next few months I would like to offer a peak into the lives of a fire spouses. Before 374 joined the department, I had NO idea how much it would change our lives - he wanted to become a firefighter, I didn't realize I would become a fire wife. Firefighting isn't just about him, it's about us as a family and how we live the lifestyle. These first few weeks will feature volunteer spouses.

Being a firefighter's spouse can mean many different things depending on who you are talking to. Some women are married to or dating a full time firefighter who's shifts are scheduled and she knows when to expect him home and when he will be at work. Planning things is easier because you have a shift schedule to go off of. Those married to wildland firefighters deal with their spouses being on a fire for weeks, sometimes months at a time. Some go without phone calls for weeks depending on what kind of duty their firefighter is on. Then there are volunteer wives. I am a volunteer wife. You have no idea when their next call will be. The pager can go off at any time - day, night, birthday party, date, Christmas dinner. It is their duty to answer when those tones go off. Each lifestyle poses different hardships as well as perks.

I recently interviewed Tracy. Tracy and I are members of a fire wives group on Facebook. I asked her a few questions about what life as a volunteer wife has been like for her.

*How long have you been a volunteer spouse?
8 years. FF joined his first volunteer department in 2004.

*Did you have reservations about being in a relationship with a firefighter?
Not exactly. For a couple of reasons. The first being we'd already put in 2 years when he decided to join a VFD. Things were already "serious" so I wasn't going anywhere. Secondly, I was just as excited about it as he was. It was an opportunity to meet new people in a town were we barely knew anyone. I respected his desire to help others. The whole 'man in uniform' thing I suppose. Beyond that I didn't know what being the girlfriend/wife of a volunteer firefighter really meant. I was completely naive about the life style. And you can't have reservations about what you don't understand. 

*What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to? 
Do you still have any reservations about it? I've had to adjust to different things as our relationship changed. After we got married I had a hard time sleeping if he was gone at night. Not only because I was worried about him, but also because I'd just gotten used to him being there. Becoming parents in the VFD world required adjustment too. At first I asked FF to turn off the pager at night so it wouldn't wake our son. Now I have to explain to a two year old why Daddy randomly runs out of the house once in awhile. I expect there will be more adjustment when our son gets active in extra curricular activities that FF may have to miss. I wouldn't say I have reservations about our VFD life. It's part of the man I love and I have no reservations about that. Are there things that frustrate me? Most definitely yes. Even after 8 years I still feel like I take second place to fire sometimes. There are department politics and the occasional drama. I could do without that, but I can't do without him. And fire is who he is. 

*I know for me personally, I still have some resentment sometimes when his pager goes off and out the door he runs. Did you have similar issues in the beginning? Do those still come up from time to time? How did you learn to deal with it?
For me, the resentment came over time. Eight years ago it was all new and exciting. Just like a relationship, joining the VFD had a "honeymoon phase". After awhile, it wore off. Not only was I over the novel idea of my man rushing out to save someone's life, he got more involved in the department. Which meant more time. More meetings. More trainings. More events. More time away from home. Not to mention the pager interrupting our daily life on a regular basis. The more he missed of OUR life the more I felt jealousy take over. Fire had definitely become the mistress in our relationship. Followed by guilt. How on earth can I resent him for leaving me to pull someone out of a car wreck or put out a fire? In fear of sounding like a horrible person, I didn't say anything. Bad idea. Eventually I exploded and poor FF had absolutely no warning because I'd never so much as let on that it bothered me. And it resulted in a pretty ugly fight. But it had to happen. Eight years later, if we're in the middle of something when the pager goes off, he'll politely ask if he should go. More than 90 percent of the time I've said yes before he's even finished asking. But in those instances when I feel the Mistress creeping up too close, it gives me an opportunity to say no. 

*Does it ever get less scary? Do you still worry every time the pager goes off?
After 8 years I can honestly say I don't worry much at all anymore. He's well trained. He's gotten valuable first hand experience. And he's extremely safety conscious. I'm more worried about him getting hit by a car working an accident on the interstate than I am about him getting hurt in a fire. That's also a testament to the sort of calls our department experiences. The majority of them are medical or accidents and not fire.

*Are you involved in station life (Auxiliary, help with fundraisers, go up for work nights, etc) or do you let him do his thing and just support from home? What is his station's "opinion" on families at the station?
Our VFD doesn't have an Auxiliary. I have supported the VFD in the past in informal ways. I enjoy photography, so I take photos and help out at their events. I've helped them write grants and press releases. But for the most part I support my FF behind the scenes. The station is very welcoming of families. All of his fellow FFs know me and our son. We've hung out while they check trucks and gear before their regular meetings. I'm cognizant of the fact that it is a serious place though. I'm careful to make sure we leave so any official business starts on time. Considering the majority of the firefighters in the department have families, it's a place where we all feel comfortable. 

*What do you love most about being a fire wife?
Aside from my husband, we have met some of our very best friends through fire. 

*What advice would you give to someone whose spouse/significant other is thinking about becoming a firefighter, or to someone who is considering a long term relationship/marriage to a firefighter? 
Looking back to when my FF joined 8 years ago my mistake was thinking it was HIS decision. I didn't realize it should be OUR decision. So my advice to anyone in love with a firefighter or someone thinking about becoming a firefighter would be to ask a lot of questions. When their regular meetings are held, how often they conduct trainings, roughly how many calls they get a year, what annual events they host, etc. All of those things will help you understand how much your FF will be gone. I would even go a step further and ask your FF to see if any wives would be willing to meet you for coffee. If not turn to the internet. Facebook and Twitter have tremendous groups for fire wives. The only way to know what you're in for is to find out from the original source.

I also asked Tracy to share a little bit about herself and her firefighter. Here's what she had to say:

My FF and I met in college through mutual friends. We got married three and a half years later. This fall we'll celebrate our seventh anniversary. We have one son who just turned two. In addition to being a volunteer firefighter, my husband's full time job is a fire specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. He oversees the wildfire program for the state. In addition, he has built a wildfire engine that is contracted with the federal government. So our house is all fire, all the time. When he gets some down time he enjoys hunting and fishing. I'm a marketing director for a non-profit by day and run a photography business on the side (www.tracyannephoto.com). I like to write, scrapbook, and target shoot. I'm also on Twitter: @TracyAnne_

I would like to thank Tracy for taking the time to answer my questions and let us peak into her life. If you have any other questions for Tracy, please leave them in my comments and I will be sure to get them to her!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - My First Grader

My little man all ready for his first day of first grade yesterday. He's rockin' the mohawk his grandmother allowed him to get a week before school started. I won't go there. This is supposed to be wordless. 

Leave your link in the widget below! I'd love to see your Wordless Wednesday posts! Leave me some comment love! Happy Wednesday!

Fracking PSA by Bloggers Inspiring Change

For the past few weeks, I have been following a couple of my blogging friends - Lee Allport of MySentimentExactLee and EntertainmentExactLee, and Marianna Nichols of Mariana - on their newest project. They have started a grassroots environmental cause blog called Bloggers Inspiring Change.

Bloggers Inspiring Change is just what the name describes - bloggers who are trying to spread the word on various environmental and health hazards. The website currently trying to spread the word about the dangers of fracking.

What is fracking you ask?

Hydrolic fracturing (fracking) is a method of natural gas extraction that requires drilling into shale deposits. Millions of gallons of water mixed with harmful chemicals are then blasted underground to break up the deposits, resulting in pockets of natural gas.

After reading the description, you may be wondering what would make this process harmful. The chemicals that are used in this process are being introduced to our groundwater. The drilling penetrates the Aquifer, which is where our groundwater comes from. At least 650 of the chemicals used are known carcinogens. Not only that, but because the shale is radioactive the waste water produced by fracking is radioactive.

There are other environmental issues linked to fracking. Head over to Bloggers Inspiring Change for the full story. There is a lot of great information there to educate yourself on the issue.

I would like to share with you a PSA that my good friends Lee and Marianna put together along side some pretty well known names. In this PSA you will find Raphael Sbarge from Once Upon A Time and the very well know Ed Begley Jr. Below the video you will find a press release from the group.

Please take the time to educate yourself on this issue. Before my friends started this venture, I had no idea what fracking was, or how it would impact our lives and environment. I am a huge proponent on leaving my children with an environment that will be a healthy and safe place for them to live their lives. Fracking is not the answer.

Bloggers and Celebrities Unite to Educate Public On the Effects of Fracking

Participants Include Ed Begley Jr, Raphael Sbarge, Lee Allport, Marianna Nichols, Nichol Haskins, Jackie Pletsch, and The Mom Bloggers of ErieRising.com

(Los Angeles, CA August 21, 2012)- Bringing together the voices of actors and celebrities such as Ed Begley Jr. and Raphael Sbarge with bloggers and online influencers, BloggersInspiringChange.org and ErieRising.com have created a PSA to help educate the public on exactly what fracking is and how it can harm their communities.

“Fracking is a method of natural gas extraction that has the potential to poison our families. However, few people even know it’s happening, and that means there is something wrong with this situation,” said Lee Allport, Creator of BloggersInspiringChange.org.

"I'm so happy to be a part of the initiative," said Raphael Sbarge, an actor and founder of the environmental awareness organization Green Wish. "Fracking is of great concern to those of us in the environmental movement, so it's so wonderful to take part in a grassroots effort led by many of those most directly affected by the practice. These are the voices that need to be heard."

Beyond this PSA, BloggersInspiringChange.org and the various participants ask that viewers at home get involved in fighting fracking in their communities by writing to your elected officials or supporting organizations such ashttp://www.ecowatch.org.

The PSA can be viewed online here http://youtu.be/qX8OBdiWyz8. For additional information on Bloggers Inspiring Change, please visit http://www.bloggersinspiringchange.org and to learn about how fracking has affected people by visitinghttp://www.erierising.com

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fire Families and the Fire Station

I was talking with some other fire wives the other day, and the subject of the opinions of families in the fire house came up. The topic of conversation was "How does your husband's station feel about families coming to visit during a shift?" 

All the different answers the wives gave opened my eyes to the fact that not all stations are like ours. Things are different for full time stations. These stations are second homes for these firefighters. There may be foul language, guys just wanting to watch tv and relax, and commotion when a call comes in because it is their workplace. 

We are very fortunate with 374's station. The Chief welcomes spouses and children of the firefighters at the station. Since 374 is a volunteer, it's not like we are walking in on guys in their second home during a shift. We usually go up for things like work nights, certain trainings, and when they are cleaning up after a fire. The kids are allowed to help as long as it is safe for them to do so. The kids like to help with the hoses when they are filling the trucks up with water. They like to help wash hose after a fire. They've been known to help sweep out the bays and run the vacuum in the meeting room. 

One of their fondest memories is the night Samaritan landed behind the station for a training. We were watching from across the road when the Chief waved us over. The kids got a front row ticket that night. Not only did the EMTs and firefighters use the kids to strap to the board and practice loading a patient in the helicopter, but they actually got to sit IN the helicopter and get a grand tour from the flight nurse. 

Our station also does family potluck nights from time to time. Each family brings a dish and we all sit around the station eating and hanging out. Usually there's a card game or two going and DVDs for the kids. Our station is very family oriented. There are quite a few families with kids - specifically young kids. It's nice to know that not only as a wife there are other spouses in your shoes, but the kids also have other fire kids to grow up with who understand the lifestyle.

There are a few firefighters at the station who frown on the kids around all the time. These are generally the older guys. There's only a couple of them who share this opinion. While I understand that it can be a dangerous place for the children, and spouses too, as long as they are supervised and follow rules it's a great learning experience for them. There is a time and place for families at the station. I believe that as long as those boundaries are established and respected, the presence of families at the station is a positive one for both the firefighter and his family.

I love that my children get to see their father, and the other firefighters, donating their time to help others. They see Daddy jump up from the dinner table and leave the meal he was so looking forward to eating to run out and help save someone's home. I believe they will pick up on the selflessness and dedication this job takes. They beam with pride as they watch Daddy drive by in a truck, or when he returns home from a call.

I think allowing spouses and children to be a part of station life - whether volunteer or full time is key. What makes a good firefighter? A good man. A good man is going to have a support system at home. Whether a younger firefighter has the support of his mother and father or possibly a significant other, or a married firefighter has the support of his wife and kids, there is someone at home missing that firefighter and hoping he's safe within his job. Sometimes a quick visit to drop off dessert, or a quick visit while they are cleaning up from a fire is just the recharge that a family needs. The less stress there is on a fire family at home, the better focused a firefighter's mind can be on his job as he walks up on a scene.

If you are a firefighter or a firefighter's wife, what are the "rules" of your station - whether written or unwritten? Do you visit your firefighter regularly while he's on shift? How do your fellow firefighters feel when families stop by for a visit, or to share a meal? Please share your experiences by leaving a comment!

Exciting News for Life Between the Tones!

You might notice things look a little different at Life Between the Tones. This is a sign of the good things that are about to take place here. Have you noticed something new to the side bar? Wonder what that's all about?

About two weeks ago, I came across a Facebook page for The Black Hat Radio Show. The Black Hat Radio Show is an online radio show done by a firefighter named Mike. It was a no-brainer to check this out, I was excited to pass it on to 374. A few days later I saw a post on my Facebook feed from Mike asking for pictures of firefighters and their families next to rigs or in their firehouses. He's putting together a "Pride, Ownership and Tradition" video with all the submissions. Since I had a picture of 374 and the kids on 38 handy after the accident, I emailed one right over to him. We had a quick chat about the fate of the truck. He thanked me for my submission.

Then last week, I saw another request in my feed from Mike. This time he was asking for websites that would be interested in embedding his radio show on their site. I had already heard a few of his podcasts, and knew this was something I'd like to do. I sent him and email, and was surprised with a quick response.

We chatted on the phone for a bit, and realized we have the same goal - to grow our projects. Mike's show is centered around family - a firefighter's brothers and sisters on the job and his or her family who supports them at home. These are all very similar to the things Life Between the Tones is centered around. We agreed that Life Between the Tones would be a great place to host the Black Hat Radio Show player. We will be in contact again very soon to bounce ideas off each other to help us both keep taking steps to achieve our goals.

Now you can listen to The Black Hat Radio Show right from Life Between the Tones! From now on, there will be an embedded player in the side bar that allows you to listen to not only the most recent podcast, but all previous shows as well. You will find product reviews, opinions, interviews of fellow firefighters, social media links in relation to firefighting - basically if it has to do with firefighting you will probably find it at one time or another on the show.

If you would like a direct link to the podcats, you can find them on The Black Hat Radio Show PodOmatic website. If you poke around his PodOmatic site, you will find a Paypal button. Mike is currently expanding his venture - more bandwidth, equipment, and maybe a website! All funds raised from supporters will be used directly for the expansion of the radio show. So if you love what you hear and look forward to future shows, send Mike a little love!

You can find Mike and The Black Hat Radio Show on Facebook. Click the link and "Like" his page, tell him Life Between the Tones sent you!

While you're here, let me know what you think of the show! If you are a firefighter, pass this on to your fellow jakes. If you are a fire wife, pass it on to your smoke eater! Either way, leave Mike and I some feedback here in my comments!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I just want my service back!

Since the storm blew through our area the end of June, knocking power out for a week, our Verizon service has been minimal. This has been an ongoing saga for the past month, and I've reached my breaking point. 

We live in a low lying area, and our service has never been the best. However, Verizon is the best cell provider for our area. I never had an issue making calls, or sending texts from my home. With the amount of money we pay for our cell phones, we dropped our land line. It was a choice we were comfortable making, given the service we had at home via the cells. 

Mid July, after power was restored, we got back into our home, and life resumed as normal we noticed one thing had not. Our cell service. We now fight to make a phone call. Sometimes it takes me upwards of 25 minutes to get a call to even DIAL OUT. Texts will not go through. I ROAM. I've never had these issues with Verizon from my home. I made the first call to Verizon right around the third week of July. They assured me they'd look into it, and I'd hear back. I never did hear back from the representative as he'd promised.

A week later I made my second phone call to Verizon. The representative I spoke to this time explained that the issue I called in about previously had be resolved. I stopped her in her tracks. Resolved? No. I informed her I was still having the same issues. Issues that I never had before in our area. Again, I explained I am fully aware of the service issues in our area. I don't expect to have 4G coverage out here, but I do expect to have the service I previously experienced, up until the storm. I also informed them that I know at least a dozen other people who are having the exact same issue, which started at the exact same time. Because they were experiencing heavy call volumes, and I did not have time to sit on the phone and wait for what could have been an hour I had to call back a THIRD time to request a trouble ticket.

Round three. Third time's a charm. Unfortunately not. I finally talked to tech support and had a trouble ticket made. The results of the third call? There are issues in our area, and they appear to be issues that we had before the storm. She mentioned a network extender being available. I did not even explore that option. Why would I pay more money for a device to get me the service I used to have?

Fast forward my story to last night. My nerves are high. 374 went into work last night at 10pm. This left me home alone with no car, and two kids. One of those children just had surgery earlier in the day. What was I supposed to do if she declined and had to be taken back to the hospital? You are probably thinking I could just call a friend or family member, or 374 home from work. That's where you're wrong. I had NO service last night. It took me 25 minutes to make a phone call or get a text through to 374 last night. I walked around my driveway searching for service. It was straight out of a commercial. Only it wasn't funny in the slightest. 

After I finally reached 374, I was on the phone with Verizon. Again. He took a very detailed trouble ticket and submitted it with a higher priority. He informed me I should hear from him today, as the priority bump meant faster service. Too good to be true. I had not heard anything as of an hour ago. So I spent the last half hour relaying the story AGAIN to someone who really can't do a dang thing for me. All I can do is wait for an answer back from the service people.


None of those words even begin to touch my emotion about this issue. I am tired of feeling like I'm being blown off. I feel like they are using the excuse that we live in a less than optimal service area to explain the problem. I refuse to believe that with everyone's problems being identical and starting on the same day is a direct result of "just the area you live in." Tonight the representative even had the courage to AGAIN offer me a network extender "that usually runs around $250.00 and plugs right into your home internet" to fix my issue. He assured me it was just like having a tower in my home. 

What part of "I just want to experience my service as it was PRIOR to JUNE 29th!" can't they understand? Dropping Verizon is not an option either. They are the best provider for service in our area. So I sort of feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and it's becoming very tiring. Tonight's representative assured me I should be hearing from them by Monday. If I do not hear from them tomorrow, I will make YET another phone call. However, I will be requesting someone higher up. I can not believe it's been just about a month and they can not tell me what's going on. I really feel like their service department is lacking in a big way. I do not understand why they can not figure out what's going on and fix this issue, or at least make me feel like they are making a decent effort. 

If I had to rate their efforts to date: D- Verizon. D-.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Backpacks, Sleeping Cat, and Cars that are Phat!

The kids' choices for backpacks for this school year. 

Hitch the cat's new favorite sleeping position.

A couple of my favorite cars that we saw at an Antique Car Run last week.

Monday, August 13, 2012

RIP 38

When 374 came to me and asked me how I felt about him becoming a volunteer firefighter, I never envisioned just how involved the lifestyle would become. Not only do the kids and I have to deal with him leaving at the drop of a hat - or really the beep of his tones, I also have to be supportive. I am supportive of not only the choice he's made, but there's also emotional support to lend. I never really bargained for how emotionally attached to the lifestyle I'd become, and how quickly it would happen.

Last Thursday evening, 374's department was called out for mutual aid. While they were at the scene, the engine he took out would not draft water properly. They were not able to fix the problem on scene, and planned on testing it out the next day.

Friday morning the kids and I were laying on the couch, and saw the engine pass our house, heading towards the park along the river. They were going to test the pump in hopes of remedying the problem. I'm not sure of the events that took place after they reached the park, however I'm quite familiar with how the afternoon progressed. 

Fire trucks do not belong in the river. Unfortunately that afternoon 374's station lost an engine. No one is quite certain what happened. It's apparent that something malfunctioned with the engine, causing it to roll into the river. There was nothing anyone could have done. Very fortunately, no one was hurt. Things could have been much, much worse if there were any people injured. Everyone is very grateful for that.

It's been a somber time for the firemen and their families. There's a bit of a shock factor. You'd never dream of something like this happening. Bubbie and Sassy are sad to know that their favorite truck is probably a complete loss. It took the better part of the day to get it out of the river. As the wrecker pulled it past our house, the kids watched with glum faces. We've gone up to the station and showed them the engine. It's hard to think that it will probably never return to service. 

Even though we've only been a fire family for two years, we've had a lot of memories with this engine. We propped our dog up on the truck the day we got him when he was two months old and snapped pictures. The first time we took the kids up to the station to see the trucks, and see Daddy's gear, it was the truck they sat on and wanted their picture taken with. It was the backdrop for all the product and review pictures I've taken for this blog thus far. Our Father's Day 2012 picture was taken on this engine. It was the first engine I rode in, just 374 and I - we delivered fliers containing information about the station's services during the week long power outage in June. This was the truck that provided hours of relief and enjoyment for the children in the community during the power outage - they spent all afternoon that day running and laughing in the water streaming from it. We will be sad to see it go if the only option is to replace it.

Thank you for your service 38.

Who knew you could become so attached to an apparatus? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

16 Days of Giveaways!

Today is day two of the HUGE giveaway on The Fire Critic's Facebook page! Rhett is celebrating his 5000 fans on Facebook with this awesome event. There are many great firefighter items that are up for grabs. You can enter once daily. A winner is announced each day.

Click here for a chance to win some really awesome items!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pretty Cool Blog Mention!

Rhett at The Fire Critic asked for pictures of rigs for a column he was doing. I sent the only one I had on my phone due to lack of internet.
So wasn't I excited to see not only my picture, but also my blog link in his post tonight!!!
You can see the post HERE

Review: Black Helmet Apparel Bunker Gear Wallet Part 2

It's time again to talk Black Helmet Apparel. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy talking about Black Helmet Apparel!

It's been two months since we received the Bunker Gear Wallet from Black Helmet Apparel to review. Honestly, I think this wallet looks better now after riding around in 374's pocket than it did the day we received it. It has really worn in well. The stitching is holding up wonderfully. The bunker gear material was a bit stiff at first, which is to be expected. However it is now worn in and fits comfortably folded up in 374's back pocket. The leather is a great quality and has worn in nicely. It's still as soft as it was when we received it. All the compartments allow plenty of room for bank cards, his driver's license and of course fire certification cards.

This wallet has made its rounds. 374's fellow firefighters at the station were very impressed with the idea of the product itself and the quality. When 374 pulls it out to make a purchase it always starts a conversation, and on more than one occasion has allowed for a "firefighter discount."

The Bunker Gear Wallet is a great item. I'm very impressed with the quality of the wallet. 374 loves having this wallet to carry around. He's very proud of his job, and this lets him show that off. Any firefighter would love a unique item like this. You wouldn't expect anything different from Black Helmet Apparel.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Around the Fire House

Can anyone name the object in this photo?

Review: Kidde 10 Year Smoke Alarm

Recently I won a Kidde 10 Year Sealed Battery Smoke Alarm on their Facebook page. I received it a few weeks ago. 374 and I finally agreed on a spot in our house to install it.

Even before I became a fire wife, I was always fire conscious. I never leave anything on or running when I leave the house, even for a few minutes. I unplug most appliances and devices when they are not in use. Installing new and more smoke alarms was at the top of my to do list when we bought our home. So when I won this new "toy", not only was the resident firefighter excited, I was as well.

I hope I can never attest to just how well this smoke alarm performs. However I can rave about it's features. The main feature of this smoke alarm is it's ten year battery. How many of us are on top of changing the batteries in the smoke alarms on a regular basis, not just when it chirps as the battery is dying? This model's battery never needs replacing. Additionally, you can't even get to the battery without breaking the device open, causing it to deactivate permanently. There's no random chirping inconveniently in the middle of the night, or just as you've laid you little one down for a nap. This alarm will only chirp at the end of the ten years when the battery is about to expire.

Ten years. Why does the battery expire in ten years? Why isn't it five years, or fifteen years? The NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) recommends that you replace your smoke alarms every ten years. Yes, even smoke alarms have a life span. You may be a family who regularly changes their smoke alarm batteries, but your smoke alarm itself may fail if it is an older unit. Those fresh batteries do no good if your device is out of date. To ensure you get the entire ten years out of your battery, the battery is not activated until you install it on the provided mounting bracket.

What's another feature I love? The Hush control. We've all had those moments in the kitchen when you leave the pizza in the oven just a bit too long, or set the setting on the toaster a little to dark. This results in you frantically waving a dish towel or pot holder in front of the squawking smoke alarm to fan the smoke away. With this model, if a known smoke condition is causing the alarm to sound, you can push the Hush button to desensitize the alarm for 8 minutes. However, if the smoke becomes more dense the alarm will override the Hush feature and sound continuously.

We installed the alarm in our office. It was one of the few spots in our home that did not already have an alarm. Installation was easy. Two screws are needed to secure the mounting bracket to the desired location. Then installing the alarm to the bracket is complete by rotating it clockwise on the bracket until it ratchets. This also activates the battery.

Would I actually purchase this model for use in my home? Most definitely. 374 and I are currently looking into doing a complete overhaul of our existing alarms. This Kidde model is at the top of our wish list.

I would like to thank Kidde for the opportunity to win this alarm. This past June they gave away one of these alarms every day of the month. That's 30 smoke alarms to 30 different households. I think of all the homes that received this alarm that may not have had even one alarm in any location in their home. Or the people who may not have been aware of the need to replace their smoke alarms. I'm sure they inspired more homes to be more fire conscious. To this fire family, that's amazing. It's one less burning building a firefighter has to run into, risking his life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Web Find - Picture from IAFF Memorial via Fire Critic

I was browsing Rhett's pictures from his trip to Colorado for Fire Rescue International. I came across one that really caught my attention. I wanted to share it here. For more of Rhett's pictures, you can check out his Facebook page, and his blog - The Fire Critic

Again this is not my pic, this picture belong to The Fire Critic

Where Has Summer Gone?

"Three weeks?! THREE weeks?? Mom are you KIDDING?"

This is the response I got when Bubby over heard 374 and I discussing the fact that school starts again for our kids in three weeks. I've got to agree with him though, I have no idea where summer went.

We had such a list of things we wanted to do as a family this summer. Some of them have been completed and crossed off, others are going to have to be put off until next year. It didn't help that we lost a whole week of time to the power outage after the storm on June 29th. All the lost wages that week really added up.

Camping was probably the highlight of the summer. We had never been as a family, and it was so nice to get away and not have to worry about anything, including those tones that send 374 flying out of the house.

One of my favorite accomplishments of the summer is Bubby mastering riding his bike sans training wheels. He was so so shaky last summer, and even at the beginning of this summer. He is such a confident rider now, he begs to ride up the street to the station when he knows 374 is back from a call.

Another big accomplishment has come from Sassy. She's always been a very headstrong child, and whenever I'd sit down with her to do any kid of practice on her letters and numbers she'd act like she had no idea what I was trying to get her to do. We have been working in her preschool workbooks, and someone seems to be a math whiz these days! She will sit down with me, and can write and identify all her numbers. She's becoming interested in wanting to learn her letters now too. I'm hoping to have her start reading in this last year of preschool. I know she's a very smart kid, she just wants to do things on her own terms - even more so than most children her age.

We wanted to take the kids to the Indianapolis Zoo this year, but I think that's going to be one for next summer. We also had plans to take a trip to Montana meet our new little nephew, and witness 374's sister marry her best friend. Not being able to make that trip was a huge bummer for all four of us. Hopefully we will get to see them in the near future. The kids can't wait to meet their first cousin!

The end of summer vacation is bittersweet for me. I hate to see my kids go back to school full time (Can someone remind me of this tomorrow when I'm at my wits end?) I can't believe Bubby will be in first grade, and it's my last year with Sassy. She attends half day preschool for the last year this year. Next year is Kindergarten for her!

The start of the school year means fall is on it's way. There's the sweet part for me. I love fall. I just can't believe it's already almost here...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What's One More Project?

As if I don't have enough things to keep me occupied these days, I recently accepted a spot as a Nation Consumer Panel member.

The National Consumer Panel offered me the chance to share information about our household's purchases in exchage for points towards gift cards, home goods, and entries in their giveaways.

NCP sent me a scanner that I use to scan all the products we purchase each week. Not only do we record food purchases, but also gas purchases, meals eaten out, clothing and home goods, and online purchases. Basically anything that we pay for and bring into our home is scanned and transmitted to NCP. I was very excited to be chosen, as I'm always a fan of opporunities to earn things for free.

This last week was the first week we scanned in our purchases. I'll be honest, it's a little more involved than I thought it would be - you not only scan barcodes, but also list them by the store you purchased them from, enter the quanity and price purchased as well. You also have to record if you used a coupon on the item, or if it was on sale. Luckily I'm not a die hard couponer!

I'm sure once we get in the habit of scanning, it won't be so much work. I plan on scanning items as we put our groceries away each week. We live about 20 minutes from the town we shop in, so shopping trips are usually all done in one afternoon to save on gas. Scanning will all be done on our shopping day. I know some people who participate in the program actually take the scanner to the store with them and scan as they put the items in their cart. That defintely would not work for me - juggling two monkeys fire children while shopping AND trying to scan items doesn't sound like a day in the park to me!

I've already got a few items in the catalog picked out as prizes for my points I will earn. I figured this will ensure I scan and transmit each week to earn my points. To transmit our purchases, I connect the scanner to the computer and transmit my purchases to NCP online. It takes a few extra minutes out of my week, but in the long run it will pay off.

Is anyone else also an NCP member?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Life Lessons - Cleft Parents

While I was writing my last post about Sassy's upcoming surgery, a flood of emotions came over me. As parents, 374 and I are no strangers to medical procedures, doctors' offices and hospital stays. We had more doctor appointments in our first year as parents than most probably have in their first three or four years.

Bubby was born with a cleft palate. We did not know about it right away. It was almost 16 hours after his birth before everyone figured out why it was so difficult to get him to feed. To be completely honest, I knew about cleft lips however I had no idea there was a cleft of the palate. No one in either of our families was born with a cleft palate nor lip.

We were very lucky. Bubby could have been born with a cleft lip and plate. The cleft could have come through his gums and caused the need for major orthodontic work. It could have been much, much worse.

After bringing our sweet boy home from the hospital, I spent what little free time I had as a new mother immersing myself in any cleft information I could find. When you add in all the extra pediatrician appointments to monitor his eating and weight gain, sick baby visits for ear infections, and appointments with the plastic surgeon who specializes in cleft repairs, my brain was a frazzled mess those first few months.

Bubby's cleft repair was not his first surgery. We got a practice run for that big surgery at five months when he had ear tubes inserted. The cleft repair came at 18 months. The repair was a success - the surgeon was able to close his palate and it healed perfectly. Again, we were very lucky. For a cleft kid to have their FIRST surgery at 18 months is pretty unlikely. Most kids have had multiple surgeries at that point. He was scheduled at 12 months, but they needed to give his mouth more time to grow. Bubby did not require another surgery until last August. He was not progressing as he should have with his speech therapy and he was very nasally when he talked. This second procedure was elective. It was hard to make the choice to put him through another procedure, however it has paid off immensely. His speech has drastically improved in this last year.

"It could have been worse" is the mantra that 374 and I have adopted over the years. Every time we felt like things couldn't get much worse, we reminded ourselves that in fact they could be much worse. The birth defect could have been greater, the feedings could have been harder, the first surgery could not have been as successful and required followup procedures. Fortunately none of those things happened. I think it is very important to look for the positive when things get tough. Without the positive, there were many times things could have been much harder to deal with.

As parents you never want your child to face any kind of hardships. To see the strength this little boy has had in his first seven years is inspiring. He used sign language to communicate before his surgery when he was unable to form sounds. He developed extraordinary coping skills to deal with strangers or those who did not converse with him on a daily basis to help them understand him when he spoke during the first few years of speech therapy. He was a trooper through all three surgical procedures.

It is inevitable that there will be many more doctor visits to come. There may even be more surgeries, depending on how his mouth grows and the previous procedures hold up.

I wouldn't trade these last seven years for anything. I can't imagine a different road with this child. He has taught 374 and I both so much about life and what is really important. The strength he has shown has taught us that if this little boy can do it, so can we. He is our little fighter, and we couldn't be more proud.