1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #464

Fitting Back In – Tip #364

For us, reintegrating back together after a deployment is so much harder than the deployment itself.  You would think that after countless absences and three major deployments that we would be pros but we aren’t.  This time my husband and I are struggling trying to find the balance between the kids, work, things we want to do separately and making space and time for each other.  Fitting back into each others lives after months and months of not having to communicate or consider the other person’s feelings on a daily basis is so hard and it isn’t something that can be fixed quickly.  As many of you also know it is challenging for people that aren’t in the military to understand that you need this time without taking it personally and those hurt feelings only add to the stress you are already under.  Then there is the tiredness.  The person who was at home is exhausted from having to do it all solo and for the person returning after working 24 hour days 7 days a week for months on end under less than ideal circumstances.  This is like the perfect storm and the best advice I have been given and do give is to find out how you both fit again and do this on your schedule and not other people’s.

Tips to help “re-fit”:

  • Talk everyday even if it is only for 10mins
  • Make short terms plans to do fun and easy things together as a family that don’t require a lot of planning, work or money (bike ride, swimming, mini putt, etc.)
  • Reduce commitments and focus on spending time getting to know each other again
  • Do some every day things together (grocery shopping, walking the dog, gardening, etc.)
  • Be honest about the things you don’t want to change or give up
  • Even when you aren’t feeling generous or patient, try to be as much as possible or walk away and take a minute until you can be
  • Say less, listen more
  • Work hard on letting go of resentments – you both had it hard and there really is no way to compare or come to conclusions about who suffered more
  • Eat at least one meal a day together as a family
  • Give each other a mini holiday.  Each person should get at least one day to be completely selfish and do whatever they want away from the responsibilities of kids, work, the house, bills, etc.
  • Laugh together as often as possible.  Go and see funny movies, tell jokes, talk about funny things that have happened and bring laughter into your family every day

I don’t want anyone reading this to think I am doing all of these things well but I am still trying to do them.  I still get annoyed about the piles of shoes I trip over by the front door, the lights left on, I forget to tell him plans and activity schedules and sharing the bed is REALLY hard.  It will take months, not a few days or weeks to get back on track as well as being patient with your family member be sure to remember to be patient with yourself too!

For more information about my books, resources and tips go to:  www.whileyouwereaway.org 

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip#463

10 Quick Things To Do Before A Deployment

  1. Take pictures – and get them printed before they go (you’ll get busy once they have left and they will not get put up)
  2. Talk to each other about worries and fears – make a list of all of the things you are worried about and then talk about each one and come up with some things you can do or just acknowledge that it will be tough.
  3. Do a walk through your home: talking about shut off valves, fuse box, etc. – bring a note pad (and phone or camera) with you and just make some jot notes and take pictures so that when they are away you have something to reference
  4. Make emergency kits for the house – go to: http://www.redcross.org or http://www.redcross.ca to get more information- do a search under emergency preparedness guide
  5. Make a list of contact information for the fridge – friends, family, emergency contacts, unit information, how to get a message to your absent family member and most importantly (which people normally forget) is your own contact information at the top.
  6. Organize bill payments and schedule appointments – put on a large calendar in central area where everyone can access them and add to them when necessary.
  7. Make sure you have all the legal documentation you will need while they are away – ID cards, birth certificates, power of guardianship, powers of attorney, copies of insurance info – if you are traveling alone with children you will need additional documentation to identify that they are permitted to leave the country in your guardianship (I nearly couldn’t get back into the country once with my kids because I was missing this documentation!).
  8. Complete a calendar of events or update your phone calendars  – include birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions you normally acknowledge – this way you will both have the information.
  9. Hide notes in their bags/luggage and they should hide notes around the house for you to find when they are gone – come up with your own, use Post-its that are already made for you or other notes like the ones on: http://www.sayplease.com (you may have noticed that I LOVE these!)
  10. Make lists of short and long to goals for yourself while they are away to keep you busy, learning and doing new things and not always focused on their absence – Top Ten Things I Will Do, While You Are Away

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #461

Dividing Time 

Taking a few days off to camp with Dad and eat bacon!

Taking a few days off to camp with Dad and eat bacon!

My husband came home for 3 weeks after being away for 8 months.  My kids had lists of things that they wanted to do with him that couldn’t humanly be accomplished in 21 days unless he chose not to sleep or eat.  I was quickly reminded of a phrase that I live by – What is fair, isn’t always equal.  I had spoken to my husband ahead of time to warn him that he and I would have little time together given the needs (and wants) of our kids on his time and that there was only three weeks.  We also said no to a lot of other visits and family time – I am not sure we were overly popular with this but it was the right thing to do. I think it was helpful to talk about all of this ahead of time but it was still a 3 week long juggling act!

 We decided to base our time decisions around three things:

* Is it important to our kids?

* Will it happen again at a later date when we have more time?

* Will it be time well spent together and fun?

Of course, there were things we couldn’t do and wanted to but in three weeks a lot of fun was had.  In the end, it was three weeks of trying to do things the kids had been dreaming of doing with their Dad in 8 long months.  Of course there was a list a mile long of things we needed to get down around the house, papers signed, bills, etc. but in the end we have no regrets as our kids got the only thing they ever really want – our time.  Don’t get me wrong, now that he is gone again I can often be heard muttering around the house about the things that should have been done or feel frustrated that I didn’t ask about one thing or another.  There is no perfect answer to these quick breaks but I think we came close as our kids were a lot happier for it.

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org



1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #462



As we head into the last weeks of going it solo I am now spending a lot of time thinking about how we are all going to come back together as a family and some of the things that need to be said. We have lived in the same house for approximately 100 days in 3 years. In that time the kids have grown and changed and we both have too.  There are a lot of things that were awful and difficult about all the time away but there were also a lot of things I enjoyed too.  All of this needs to be talked about.

Tips for communication:

* Don’t take on any heavy topics for the first few weeks. Focus on fun and spending time together.

* Carve out time to talk each day once you have begun to settle into a routine of some sort. Even if it is for 5-10mins this is important and will truly help.

* Try to choose one or two things to tackle at a time.

* Be prepared to hear things you don’t want to.  No one enjoys hearing negative things about themselves or about all the things we are doing wrong but we aren’t perfect and if you don’t know what is bothering someone you can’t move forward.

* Be honest and courageous in your conversations not angry and spiteful.

* Set some common goals – we are talking about this because we both need/want…

* Listen to understand, not to be understood.  There is a huge difference and it will make a difference if you really try to understand what it is they are saying.

* Start and end conversations with something positive even if you have to dig deep!

* Take time outs when you get emotional. Talking when you are in a heightened state will accomplish little and may take you back a step or two.

* Conversations should not take place in front of children or family members. Go for a walk, sit outside, wait until the kids are out or have gone to bed.

* Don’t try to have discussions when either of you have been drinking or are exhausted. I don’t believe this has ever been a successful technique particularly as the other person may wonder if it was said because of intoxication or if it was even true or they just wanted to get to sleep.

* Turn off phones, TV, etc. I am not sure I know of anyone that appreciates someone watching the TV, texting or answering the phone in the middle of an important conversation.

Feeling anger, frustration, sadness and so many other emotions is normal and natural but… To have a healthy relationship you will have to let go of these things (eventually) and you can’t let go until you let them out!

For more information about my tips, resources or books go to:  www.whileyouwereaway.org

Living It Week 35 and 36

Calendar – Tip #25

When my husband was away, I was great (if I do say so myself) about keeping a calendar with everything and anything on it.  The kids even got into the habit of looking at it (I know you may be thinking that is a small accomplishment but it really isn’t in my world!).  It really helped to keep us organized and maintained some sanity.  Then my husband got home and all routines fell apart and the calendar was just taking up space on the board in the kitchen.  After two weeks of missing appointments, never knowing where everyone was, being totally out of sync and becoming really frustrated we quickly realized that it was something small that made a huge difference!


I took my own advice and…

1) Asked that everyone put their things on the main kitchen calendar (it isn’t overly helpful to me to know that it is in your phone calendar…) and did the first input with everyone right there to get them started

2) Colour coded the calendar for people so that you would know which things were yours by quickly looking

3) Went over the calendar once a week at dinner (for the following week) so we all knew what was happening, who needs to be taken places, etc.

4) Printed out 3 months at a time so we also knew what things were coming up in the next months that were important too

5) Took a picture of the calendar and texted it to everyone

While I know that we are all in the era where we generally believe that technology can do it faster and more efficiently, this printed calendar in the kitchen may have actually saved the lives of my husband and children as I was teetering on the edge of insanity with the chaos!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

Living It – Week 34

Tip #18 – Ask Questions

COnversation Cards

I can honestly say that at this point in the deployment there is little extra I am willing to or wanting to take on – I am beyond tired and just want to spend a solid week sleeping.  I know that when my husband gets home he will be tired (I have to constantly remind myself that he has been working for 8months solid with no breaks so it hasn’t been a picnic for him either).  One of the things we struggle with is what to do as a family to get conversations starting again and begin filling in the gaps of missed time.  My husband isn’t the best conversationalist and the kids haven’t seen him for 8 months so this reunion I decided that we would do Meal Question Cards.  This takes the pressure off everyone to have to come up with their own questions and keeps us laughing and talking.


* Make a mix of silly and serious questions

* Give incentives to people with the best answer (no dishes for the best answer, chore free day for the most thoughtful response, extra dessert if everyone laughs, etc.)

* Choose one meal a week to do them at so that it isn’t a pressure at every meal or everyday

* Put a few “Pass” cards out too so that people have the option not to answer something they aren’t comfortable with

* Hide them under their plates so they can’t cheat and plan their answers ahead of time

Hopefully your family will have fun with this, begin to reconnect and start talking about the big and little things that matter to them!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

Our Reunion Handbook can be found at (conversation cards on page 26-33):  http://wywa.ca/DEPLOYMENTRESOURCES/Reunion-Handbook-Ver5.pdf

Living It – Week 33

Tip #61 Seek Support


Most people don’t reach out for help until they are in a crisis.  We aren’t going to wait!  I have been 8 months without my husband and have only shared a house, kids and room with him for just over 150 days in 3 years.  I know that we are going to need counseling so I am not going to wait or feel embarrassed about it.  I am also not going to fall into the trap of saying we don’t have enough time to go – we have to make the time.  I have time to watch TV so I have time to go to counseling.  We also cannot use the excuse that it is too much money as there are tons of free services for military members and families – we are going to use the services offered to us.  We are both committed to making the time.  I know that there are definitely families where both couples aren’t committed and ready to go but at the least make an appointment for yourself so that you can have a neutral person with no emotional ties or investment in your relationship to talk to.  I am lucky we are both ready and willing but if my husband wasn’t, I would go anyway.

Great Websites:

These are a few that I found and have used but please feel free to add your own if you know of any.

For more information about our tips, resources, and books to go:



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