A lot about a little

I’ve noticed that a few times a day, someone out there clicks on that little link over there on the right. I imagine those people might have been disappointed to find that there wasn’t anything to read there, because I never quite got around to writing about myself. I tend to have a hard time summarizing myself, which is the whole intent of ABOUT pages, yes? So I figured that might be a good place to put one of those infertility history rundowns that some people have in their sidebars. I find those to be convenient when I drop in on a new blog because I can get a snapshot view of their history and don’t feel quite so lost when jumping in midstream. So, now there’s something over there on the ABOUT page. Fair warning – there are typos abound in there, but I don’t have the time it takes feel like fixing it right now.

The school year is drawing to a close and I’m all too happy about it. There are only 17 days with the kids here, then two days of post-planning on the Tuesday and Wednesday after Memorial day left to go. Chances are good that I won’t be here for post-planning due to the transfer, so I’ve been busy pulling posters and student work off the walls and packing my classroom up for the summer. Students ask, "Are you in a hurry to get out of here or something?" They have no idea. I think I might beat the school buses off campus when that last school bell rings on May 23.

Party Planning
We’re planning Jordan’s and the Twinz’ birthday parties. Jordan’s birthday is May 22 and Kyra and Jaiden’s is June 18. Originally, we had planned to have Jordan’s party on May 24, the day after the last day of school. Now this is likely to interfere transfer, and we can’t have his party the weekend before on the 17th because I’m hosting the Peach Meet (see below) that day. Our only other option is to push Jordan’s birthday party back to the week after his birthday.

As for the twins, their birthday is a couple of weeks after the end of school, so the past two years we’ve sent invitations home on that last day of school. We’ve had plenty of family friends at their parties, but not many school friends have showed up, likely because a.) kids have gone away on vacations by the time their party rolls around and b.) their parents probably forget about it in the three weeks between the time they get the invitation and the day of the party. Last year, we decided that this year’s party would be couple of weeks early so that most of their friends from school could come before they headed away on vacations or their parents forgot we existed.

So, this leaves us with either having both birthday parties on Saturday, May 30 or one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I think I’m leaning in the direction of having both simultaneously on Saturday. It’s not likely that everyone will show but if they do, this gives us the chance of having 33 (!!!) kids ages 5-8 in one location all at the same time, not to mention siblings et al. Valium, anyone?

Peach Meet
Every few months the Georgia-area surrogacy community likes to get together and meet face-to-face. As most GA surrogates and IPs live in the northern part of the state and I live in the southern part, I’ve been to only three Peach Meets in the past few years, one of which was down on this end in Savannah. This time, we’re having the Peach Meet at my house and I cannot wait to meet this special group of ladies and their families. There are a couple who I’ve met before, but this time I’ll have the opportunity to meet people I’ve been talking to on SMO for a few years.

I’m renting a huge Moonbounce for the kids, the husbands can bond over the Wii and the grill (Frank is making his slap-yo-mama deliciously sinful tequila lime ribs, among other things), and we can blab about things like stretch marks, the effects of hormones on your size of your butt, and the magic of surrogacy in general.

A personal friend/colleague of mine who has been considering becoming a GS is coming. She’s ready, but is having some trouble getting her husband on board. Hopefully we can play a role with getting him there. At least one set of prospective intended parents will be there, so maybe hearing about surrogacy from their point of view will make it more real for him. Or, perhaps we can convince our husbands to beat him into submission.

Frank and I have decided that we are definitely going to move to northern Georgia, and are planning to make the grand manifest in four years. I love our town; I’ve been here for nearly 18 years and Frank has been here for 20. We’re military brats and lived all over everywhere when we were kids, so this is "home" to us. But the real estate market here is crazy and the cost of houses is getting ridiculous. As an example, we had our 4 bed/2 bath house built in late 2003 for just $118K. This exact same floor plan is currently being built in another subdivision for nearly $200K. As much as we love this town, we love our house. It works for us now because the kids are young and they like sharing rooms, but it is our priority that they each have their own space when they get older. 

There aren’t many 5 bed/3+ bath houses down here, but the general trend with home construction is starting to head in that direction. Those houses are starting at $230K. Number one- we need at least six bedrooms, not five. Number two- see number one. We are sensing that our nephew TJ will be a permanent vs. temporary addition, so 6 bedrooms it is. Houses that large are a rarity here in the buttcrack of Georgia, and if you find one (or build one) you’ll pay through the nose for it. Hence, our move up yonder. Larger houses are almost a rule, not an exception up there, and surprisingly, you get more bang for your buck. We have had our eye on two developments in the area to which we hope to move. In both, there are 7 bed/5+ bath houses for $220-$250K+.

Early June, Frank and I are going up there to spend a few days with my friend Sarah so that we can explore the area, tour the model homes, and perhaps sit down with a few sales agents. This might seem fairly preemptive for a move four years off, but we need a clear idea of what we need to plan for financially so that we can carefully negate budgeting and saving differently between now and then. If we were a two-income family this might not be quite as daunting, but as I am the only one working, we really have to be precise about how we prepare. Frank does have plans to reenter the workforce after Kaelyn starts school, but given his multiple sclerosis, him working is not anything we ever want to depend on. Any money he brings into the house (outside of his VA disability pay that he will always receive) is icing on the cake, and we intend to keep it that way.

I am looking forward to making the move but I am also a bit wigged at the prospect of leaving. I have been working in this school system since I graduated high school and have known most of my colleagues for at least that long. I have a solid reputation built up as an educator and am often called on to do major curriculum-related work for the county. This will help with building my resume (which I’ve never had to actually use since this job was basically handed to me on a silver EZ Grader), but still, I’ll have to reestablish somewhere else and that does make me a bit nervous.

Frank’s retirement benefits
Without getting into a bunch of military-speak, upon Frank’s 2001 medical retirement from the Army he was awarded 30% disability from the Veteran’s Administration. 30% is the "magic number" for medical retirements because it allows the soldier to receive a level of lifetime benefits vs. a one-time, lump sum compensation. The monetary compensation is figured by taking the disability percentage and factoring it into some mathematical formula which also takes rank and years in service into consideration. There are also non-monetary benefits, such as VA home loans, educational benefits, medical, etc. The higher disability percentage rating given, the more benefits there are awarded.

Frank was retired in 2001, but was placed on TDRL. Memory fails me, but it stands for Temporary Disability somethingorother. Basically, TDRL is a 5-year period in which a medically-retired soldier is given a 50% temporary disability rating while the government assesses and reassess his or her condition until it stabilizes enough to award a permanent disability rating that is in correlation to the level of determined physical disability. The soldier does receive the benefits through this phase, and after the 5 years is over, the benefits will either increase or decrease to whatever the given permanent rating is.

Frank’s TDRL phase ended early 2007, and was awarded just 30% disability, which is the base rating for MS. People who get out with shoulder problems sometimes get higher ratings. Frank’s dad medically retired after having a surgery to put a pin in his toe and got 60%. MS is an incurable, debilitating, potentially life-threatening disease, and he only got 30%?

We have been very blessed where Frank’s health is concerned. When he was first diagnosed in 1998, he used to have 2-3 major exacerbations a year, each worse than the one before. In comparison to what other MS patients deal with, his exacerbations were comparatively minor, but they still scared the shit out of me. The last one he had was October or November of 2002. He woke up and couldn’t feel his feet, and by the time I got home from work he was partially-numb from the neck down and could hardly see out of his right eye. The next day his neurologist sent him to the hospital for a rapid solumedrol steroid IV infusion and a repeat MRI, which showed growth of the lesions in his brain and the new development of lesions along his spinal column. For the next three days, a nurse came to our house to administer additional IV steroid infusions. After that exacerbation, his neurologist also changed up Frank’s medication from Avonex to Rebif, which is an injection that I give him three times per week. Since then, he’s been the image of health and at his twice-yearly visits, his doctor actually cheers because she has a patient who can still walk.

Now that we’ve completed our family and Kaelyn is just a couple years shy of starting school, he’s been considering his options for workforce reentry. Neither one of us want him to pursue a career that would be a detriment to his health, so at his last check-up in October (September?), we asked his neurologist if she thought Frank’s SAHD status had anything to do with his then almost 5-year remission. She said that aside from his medication, it probably has everything to do with his health. Sure, staying at home with the kids is lots of work, but he is also able to rest when he is feeling fatigued which is a huge advantage for MS patients. We asked her if working, in any capacity, would be acceptable and her face scrunched up a bit and she said, while see-sawing her hand, "Weeeelll… we won’t know how work will affect him until he actually does it, sooooooo…something low-impact and climate-controlled might be okaaayyy…" Financially speaking, Frank working would be great and would give us a lot more wiggle room. We’re comfortable now, but like I said somewhere up there in the drivel about moving – precision is key. The additional income would be great, but I would much rather keep Frank at home cooking ribs and pastries in the air conditioning (excessive heat can trigger exacerbations) than have him work a full-time, or even a part-time job and end up in a wheelchair or worse for half the year.

So, to hell with that 30% disability. We’re trying to figure out what we have to do about appealing it. There is a process, but it is long and complicated. Frank doesn’t always find information as quickly as I’d like him to, so I’ve taken that task on for myself.

Faculty meeting
I have to go to one right now.   

3 thoughts on “A lot about a little”

  1. I couldn’t have said it better, k77! Love you guys, Moxiemie, and miss you terribly. We’ll talk this weekend, but in the mean time, please email me birthday ideas for the babes!

  2. Sounds like you guys have a lot going, how do you find the time for it all? I hope the next few weeks go by quickly so that you’ll be done for summer. I really like the new About section. It is helpful to see a snapshot of how people got to where they’re at. The moon bounce sounds fun, I wish it were me bouncing in there!
    I have to agree with k77, 30% when other things are 60% – what the hell. Makes me so made I want to vomit!

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