Thursday, March 17, 2011

Resource Thursday: WIC

Part of the reason I created this blog was to compile info about military resources, and share them with other spouses. I've decided every Thursday will feature a new resource. Previously I have written about ITT/Travel, The USO, how to give a Military haircut and the PEERS free childcare in Jacksonville. Today's spotlight in on the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program. This is a government program, not just a military resource, so it can be found in every state, even if you are nowhere near a military base. WIC encourages "Healthy Habits and Healthy Families" by providing women who are pregnant, nursing, and/or have children under the age of 5 with vouchers for specific healthy foods. Qualification for the vouchers is intended for low-income families. (Hey, that's half the military!) I don't know the exact salary cut-offs, but as a Sergeant's wife with only 1 child, I was just above the maximum salary. However, once I became pregnant with the 2nd child we did qualify, and have stayed on the program even after he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

You have to go to a WIC office for a health screening, and to present paperwork showing income (LES) and proof of residency. Ours is located on Terrawa Terrace: 910-450-0081. After that, you only have to go back a few times each year, and they will screen you or your children and give you 3 months of vouchers. The visits are annoying, and take 2-3 hours each time (mostly sitting in a waiting room with other exhausted parents and cranky children) but the money saved with the vouchers is pretty significant. You can use the vouchers at the Commissary or most grocery stores, but you have to get the correct brands, sizes, and number of items on the list.

A pregnant woman gets $10 of fresh produce, 5 gallons of milk, 1 pound of cheese, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 3 bottles of juice, 1 loaf of bread, 1 jar of peanut butter, and 4 cans of beans for free each month. A nursing mother gets similar quantities, except even more milk, and 30 oz of canned fish for herself, as well as TONS of baby food (cereal, veggies, fruit, and meats) once the baby is 6 months old. They will cover some formula and baby food for bottle-fed infants, but they really encourage breastfeeding. After the child turns 1, they qualify for $6 of fresh produce, 3 1/2 gallons of milk, 1 pound of cheese, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 2 jugs of juice, 2 loaves of bread, and 1 jar of peanut butter every month. So a woman who is pregnant or nursing and has another young child will easily save $200 a month in groceries. Sure, it's a little frustrating to find all the correct items in the store and ring them up separately from your other groceries, but I see it as my contribution to my family, since I don't have any other source of income right now. If you haven't applied, it is worth a phone call to see if you are eligible!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Idiot's guide to vacuum maintenance

Like many people, I use an upright, bagless vacuum cleaner. We bought it when we were first married, and paid several hundred dollars for it, so we expect it to just work all the time, right? I dump out the filter when it is full, and that's about it for "routine maintenance". Well, in the past few weeks, I have learned a lot about vacuums, and here are some basic tips everyone should know.
- every vacuum has a beater bar on the bottom that sweeps up the dirt into a suction hole. The beater bar should be cleaned regularly, especially if anyone in your house has long hair. When hairs get wrapped around the bar, you should pull or cut them off. You should also check that your beater bar spins easily with your hands when it is unplugged. If the ends wear or get damaged, it will not turn and can break your machine. The beater bar should be replaced every 2 years (and you can order a replacement online for about $40).
- every beater bar is turned by a belt. If your vacuum dis not picking up dirt, check if the bar is spinning. If not, it's probably a belt problem--especially if you see smoke or smell something burning! The belt is made of rubber and wears out. It should be replaced every 1 year (and can be ordered online for about $4.) It's easy to replace on your own if you open up the bottom of your vacuum. It will loop first over the small bar in the back, then over the beater bar.
- if the vacuum isn't picking up, but the bar turns easily, you may have a clog. Check the hole just behind the beater bar, before the main part of the engine. Debris can accumulate there, right where the pipe makes a sharp turn toward the main filter.
- many vacuums have more than 1 filter. You empty out the main filter when you see it is full of debris, but also check for pre-engine and post engine filters that may be located on the side or bottom of your machine. Sponge filters can be rinsed out and reused once dry. Paper filters (such as the anti-alergen kind) can be shaken out, but should be replaced every 1 year. Filter replacements cost around $10 online.
- finally, if your vacuum has a height adjustment for different floors or carpets, you are using the proper setting if the machine travels easily over the surface. If it is hard to push or you feel any resistance, use a higher setting to save wear and tear on your machine.
I hope this helps someone keep their machine running cleanly! I have had mine for 3 years, and just had to replace all these parts at once. Oops! But now I know, so I hope someone else benefits from my experience. :-)

Sleeves up-- it's Springtime!

The first official day of spring might not be until March 21, but on base you know spring is here because we have switched to desert cammies with sleeves up! It is always interesting to me how the military makes their own seasons and holidays regardless of the civilian calendar. Here are some of the interesting USMC holidays I can think of:

1st Day of spring: March 1, switch to desert cammies, sleeves rolled
1st day of summer: May 31, when the base pool opens
1st day of fall: September 1, when the base pool closes
1st day of winter: November 1, switch to green cammies, sleeves down
New Year's: October 1, the start of the fiscal pay changes
Anniversary: October 8, the day my husband's enlistment started
Birthday: November 10, the Marine Corps birthday
Christmas: the 1st and 15th of every month-- Payday!
Graduation: when the annual SNCO and Officer select grade lists are published

In what ways has the military affected your view of time and the passage of the seasons? Anyone want to add holidays to this list?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catholic Media Promotion Day

It seems March 15th is a good day for Catholics to share their favorite media resources with each other. There are TONS of great links on the Facebook page that created this event. Here are some of my current favorites:
Best Catholic Website: US Conference of Catholic Bishops. You can find tons of resources here, such as the readings used every day at Mass, information about Catholic current events and politics, and more info about saints, prayers, and devotions. There is also a search-able bible if you can remember certain words but not the exact verse citation.

Best Catholic Blog: Catholic Icing . This is a great site full of crafts, recipes, and ideas for teaching kids about different Catholic traditions and holidays. The writer makes it clear that it is not a "meat and potatoes" site with lots of theology or discussion. It's the "icing" that makes Catholicism more fun and teachable for our kids.

Best Catholic Ap: The confession ap! I don't have a smart phone, but at Mass last weekend our priest told us all about the ap that helps you record or keep track of your sins as they happen, so you can easily review them and prepare yourself for Confession, whether you go once a week or once a year. It also asks you questions to help you with the Examination of Conscience so you can go into the confessional ready to make a full confession and walk away with a clean soul. Obviously, no ap can replace the sacrament itself, but this seems like a great tool!

I don't get a chance to listen to much radio or music besides Kids Songs these days, but there are many talented Catholic musicians and speakers out there. Would anyone else like to share their favorite Catholic or Christian media? I'd love to know what everyone else reads/follows/listens to!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kind of a Funny Story...

My husband has moments of terrible judgment. Last night was, unfortunately, one of them. We were all outside playing with the kids, and he thought it would be fun to practice some roller hockey with our 2-year-old. She has her own mini hockey stick and everything, and usually she likes chasing the ball around and trying to hit it back to him. Well, he sets up a plastic bin to use as a goal-- and he puts it right in the driveway, directly behind our cars! Everything is going great until... the ball hits the rim of the plastic bin, bounces straight up into the air, and lands on the back window of our minivan. I'm watching it in slow motion, too far away to stop it, thinking, "I REALLY hope the ball will bounce off that window!" No. The window immediately shattered into thousands of tiny tinted pieces from the impact.

Interestingly, I wasn't angry. It was done, we couldn't undo it. We were both annoyed and frustrated, but I realize it was an accident, and all that was left to do was call the insurance company and find out how much it would cost to fix. About $250, in case you're wondering what the cost of stupidity was that day. And unfortunately, they can't come out to replace it until Wednesday. So we are home bound the next few days, and hoping it doesn't rain!
My husband never does these things on purpose. But he certainly seems to break/lose/destroy things a lot more often than I do! Does anyone else have a slightly amusing story about a recent accident at your house?