1001 Tips for Military Families – #456

Sanity: Keeping It or Getting It Back!

Losing it!

Losing it!

Keeping your sanity during a deployment is no easy feat (it is actually a challenge for me even when I am not going through a deployment). This week I’ve totally lost mine – I realized this when I was standing in a parking lot yesterday with a cart full of things and crying uncontrollably as I looked through the window to see my car keys locked inside (for those of you old enough to know this reference – I looked like Alice Cooper).  This week I have had to juggle work, kids, no kitchen (reno happening because of a flood), a basement in chaos, water heater not working, Christmas shopping, taxiing my kids to and from things, getting groceries, cleaning the house and so many other things I will not bore you with.  Locking my keys in the car was the final straw.  Many of my readers lately have asked me how I can be so positive and optimistic all the time.  Well… I am not!  I think the only positive thing I can muster up about the last few days is that there was no bloodshed (it is actually miraculous)!   Last night as I crawled into bed after making lunches in the living room, filling out trip forms and trying to find a place to hide Christmas presents, I thought about how I was possibly going to keep remotely sane over this holiday season and throughout the rest of this deployment.  Here is my sanity saving list!

1) Ask for help – I have asked my in-laws to take our dog during our crazy house renovation and I even put a plea out on Facebook for help with painting my basement.  I know that people are often happy to help and it is nice to have others taking some of the pressure off.

2) Say “Yes” – When people offer to do things, say yes.  Try not to worry about the burden you are putting on them (this is hard for me to do).  Two of my favourite people on the planet offered to drive and get my husband’s car (that was 2 hours away) and I didn’t want to let them but I realized it was my sanity or a little guilt – I went with feeling a little guilty!

3) Cry – I found myself crying twice in the last week and I haven’t cried before then in weeks and weeks.  It felt good and now I am able to move forward.  While I don’t think sobbing uncontrollably regularly is a good thing, a good cathartic cry every now and again is healthy.  My son saw we sobbing into a paint tray on the weekend and it was good for him to see that I am human too, that things get to me and I need TLC like everyone else (he was also extremely helpful all day which was an added bonus!).

4) Go to Bed Early – One night last week I went to bed when my kids did (8:30pm).  I realized that I had a huge smile on my face!  I got out my book (that was gathering dust) and actually read for 30mins before going into a virtual coma.  I woke up feeling so much better.  Once a week I am going to forget all the other things I should be doing and just get on my pyjamas and go to bed!

5)  Vent – While I really do believe that I am a very fortunate person and that many, many people have it MUCH harder than I do, I am so lucky to have a friend that I can vent to.  There are times when I just need someone to feel sorry for me, get something off my chest and then laugh about the craziness that is my life!  Find that person you can vent to – search until you do.  My best friend is sometimes the only thing between me and a straight jacket.

6) Do Things That Make You Happy – I spend a lot of time trying to make everyone happy.  I like being a caregiver and wouldn’t trade being a Mom or working in a school for all the money in the world but I also have to get better about doing things for myself too.  The most affordable thing that I could do to make myself happy would be to have a day in pyjamas, eating whatever and reading my book with a cup of tea.  I have marked on the calendar, “Mom Day” and over the holidays I am going to take it… no matter what.  Do the same – take a day that is just for you doing something relaxing, selfish (selfish shouldn’t be a dirty word) and that makes you happy!

The other things I do to create a healthy level of sanity aren’t as proactive or healthy (eating chocolate, having a lovely glass of red wine or watching movies until my eyes hurt).  The bottom line is that everyone feels stressed out, drained, and insane during a deployment.  You are not alone and just because I normally write some lovely proactive, positive tip doesn’t mean I don’t live with a healthy level of insanity myself!

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

Living It – Week Seventeen

Breakfast for Dinner – Tip #85

Breakfast for dinner

It may be considered slightly sad that my idea of shaking it up a little is to have breakfast for dinner!  Having said this, when we do shake it up and have breakfast for dinner there is always something a little lighter and fun about this meal.  The kids laugh more, we all eat everything on our plates and it usually comes as a welcome relief not to cook another dinner that someone will find something to complain about.  I am not going to lie, it is also nice to hear the supportive cheer about what I am making.

Some of my suggestions for this tip were:

* Pour the pancake batter into large cookie cutter shapes - they turned out quite hilariously and not at all what they were supposed to be!  We had fun trying to guess what they actually were.

* Make a smoothie or punch to go with dinner – I made smoothies as I was able to sneak in more fruit and some greek yogurt for protein

* Use fancy or paper plates – I used paper plates and while I know this makes me a horrible environmentalist for the day, it was an easier clean up and I am all about that when attempting to survive a deployment!

* Eat in a different room – We have no choice – just before my husband left we had a flood (something like this always happens over a deployment with us, I think it is a rule) and now our kitchen is in utter chaos!

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


1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #455

Board games – 

Board Games

While I fully recognize (and acknowledge that I do it from time to time) it is easier to send your kids to the nearest electronic device and grab some “me” time, it is equally important to play a game or two with them.  Board games have made us laugh together, given great opportunities to talk about things that wouldn’t have come up otherwise and to spend some quality time together (I turn off my phone, don’t answer the landline and give them my 100% attention).

During this deployment, I have committed to having one ‘board games’ night a month.  We have also used this as an opportunity to clean out our board games and add a few new ones to our Christmas wish lists.

Our recommendations are:

* Apples to Apples (not sure I have ever laughed as much with my kids as I did playing this one)

* Pictionary (There is an adult and kids version.  You don’t have to be an artist to play and in most cases it is better if you aren’t)

* Cranium (Each category appeals to a wide range of skills but, I think, you need a group of people so you can make mixed ability teams)

* Monopoly (Honestly, this is my son’s recommendation – he loves this game.  I find it looooong and a bit painful!)

* Taboo (Funny for kids to watch adults struggle to find the words and a great vocabulary builder as a bonus)

* Heads Up (Popularized by Ellen and it is also a great App on your phone it also helps when in line ups, waiting for food at a restaurant, at the doctor’s, etc.)

* Chess (It is not always possible to get a group for games and chess allows for quieter moments together too.  There is also an online version that you can play.  While his Dad is deployed they are playing against each other online.  Sometimes my son will wake up and be so happy to see that his Dad has made a move!)

The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter what game you play with them.  The important thing is that you are laughing together, talking and coming together as a family even if we are one family member short!

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

Living It – Week Sixteen

Top Ten Lists – Tip #54

Our first few top tens!

Our first few top tens!

November has felt long and the grey days and cold temperatures haven’t helped.  I was, once again, looking for something to change things up a little and record a few of our thoughts, feelings and to help fill in the gaps for my husband as he does miss an awful lot and this is a fun way of filling him in.  This deployment has already been exhausting and I am trying hard to find things that are easy and fun to do together so… top ten lists began again.

Here are some titles of ones we have done (our top ten of top tens!) – 

* Top Ten Things We Miss About You

* Top Ten Most Annoying Things that Happened this Month

* Top Ten Best Things that Happened this Month

* Top Ten Terrible Meals We Have Eaten This Month

* Top Ten Movies We Want to See

* Top Ten Things We Are Looking Forward to

* Top Ten Animals We Wish We Could Have As Pets

* Top Ten Songs

* Top Ten Funniest Moments Since You’ve Been Gone

* Top Ten Junk Foods To Eat

Doing this together made us think about all the things we have survived, accomplished and got us thinking positively about the months to come – it was also super easy to put together (which is always a bonus!).  Deployments are life sucking and being able to sit back and laugh, plan and be positive about the future are no small feats when there is so many things that we could openly weep or get down in the dumps about!  Each week we are going to take a picture of them and by the end of the deployment we should have a book worth of top tens to talk or laugh about when their Dad gets home!

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #69

Teach the Art of Taking Risks

Some of the greatest rewards I have ever encountered came from taking a risk.

Some of the greatest rewards I have ever encountered came from taking a risk.

There is definitely the false notion that all teens are risk takers by nature and that they don’t need encouragement.  But after working with teens for over 18 years, I would say it is a myth.  In my 101 Tips for Military Families with Teens I suggest that taking a risk or two is something that many people and, especially teens, need to learn how to do.  Teens will take risks on silly things or things that their friends pressure them into but what about getting them to take risks with things that matter, bring them happiness or get them to challenge what they thought they knew about themselves?  The benefit of being a part of a military family is that there are often more opportunities to take risks as your family is moving to new places, changing schools, experiencing absences, friends are moving and changing and there are constant opportunities to experience new things.  Unfortunately, they don’t see those always as benefits.  It will be up to you to not only point out the advantages but also encourage the ‘good’ risks.  Teach your children the difference between foolish and responsible risk taking.

One way to get them inspired is to create a weekly challenge in the house.  You can all enjoy creating a list of challenges.  I would definitely ensure there is a mix of easy, quick, high risk and low risk so that depending on the mood in the week one can be accomplished without too much stress or hassle.

Sample Challenges:

Go on a mountain climbing course

Try out for a team

Ride a horse

Submit a sample of art, writing, etc. to a publication

Start a conversation with someone you think looks interesting

Tell someone why you love them

Go in a hot air balloon

Enter a competition

Tell the truth all day

Cook a meal from scratch

Climb a tree

Go to a scary movie

Tell someone a secret

Volunteer at a homeless centre or seniors home

Snowboard or water ski

Invite people you would like to get to know better to do something

Ask someone out on a date or tell someone how you feel about them

Learn to drive

Introduce yourself to 5 new people a day for a week

Give a speech

Be in a play

Join a club

Those are just a few examples.  Make sure you are willing and prepared to do anything off the list as well.  Once you each complete your challenge talk about what was rewarding, annoying, difficult, etc.  You’ll be amazed by what your teen learns about themselves and what they can accomplish (not to mention what you can do too!).

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

Living It – Week 15

Listen – Tip #41

Using your ears!

Using your ears!

Active listening is a skill.  Some people are born with it, some people have to work hard on it and some people may never get it.  I am hopeful that I fall under the category of having to work on it rather than never getting it.  Having said that I am often shocked at how many people don’t really listen or give their 100% attention when people speak.  They are either thinking about what they are going to say next, thinking about all the things they have to do, or simply just watching the person’s lips move!

A few months ago I was stressed out, busy with work and trying to prepare for this deployment.  I found myself getting caught into the trap of not listening to my kids properly at least 75% of the time and multi-tasking when I should just been listening!  I began to realize that they were taking this to mean that I didn’t care.  Their Dad is a great listener so I always had him to fall back on if I was too tired or busy with work but now that he is deployed, I have made a commitment to be a much better listener and follow my own advice.


* I have set aside time just to be with the kids uninterrupted (dinner time).

* I don’t answer the phone or even have it close by throughout dinner

* The TV and all devices are off

* I no longer multi-task the same way – even when I am making dinner I stop to listen more

My new tip for listening is also to try to be less reactive to what they are saying.  By doing this, I think that they are sharing more with me.  They are less and less worried about what my reaction is and more concerned with getting it off their chest.  I believe it is crucial that we know what is happening in our kid’s lives – the good, the bad and the ugly.  Our reactions determine whether they tell us more and things later on.

For more information on our tips, resources and books: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #102

Find Out & Use What You Have


Ask some questions, do some digging and use what your community has to offer.

Ask some questions, do some digging and use what your community has to offer.

Today I read my email from the Kingston MFRC about giving parents time (a true gift) and programs available, I have had the priveledge of posted to Petawawa (yes, I said it) and have been on bases across North America from Fort Drum to Mayport Navel to Nellis Air Force bases.  We were often able to visit or use a number of facilities and each time we went we were warmly greeted and the same comments were made at each place we visited – “If only more people would use us…”, “A lot of people don’t know we are here…”, “We struggle to get people to come and use our services”. When we lived in Petawawa I was always surprised that the pool wasn’t crowded or that the tennis courts weren’t used.  I also had little difficulty booking same day daycare (free daycare) to go grocery shopping or just go home and sleep.  I know first hand that moving, going through a deployment or military life in general can drain the life right out of you.  It often feels easier to stay at home and hunker down but what I have discovered is that in the long run it is a lot easier to make the most of where you are and have an adventure or two.


* Find out what is on your base or in your community

* Ask your neighbours

* Walk or drive around the base/town and check things out (we drove around and found one of the most impressive parks with play equipment most schools can only dream of having)

* Go to your local library or schools and find out about the events happening in your community

* Ask your family about the kinds of things they would like to do or participate in and then ask around about how to get involved or sign up

* Visit the local stores and look at the postings people or organizations have put up (I am usually the type to walk right by with the single minded purpose of getting what I came for).

* Local coffee shops and restaurants have advertising for camps and deployment information

* Read the newsletters or local newpaper to get ideas of things to do in your community – the busier I am doing things the easier the deployment is for myself and my children

Make sure that you are well aware of all the things your community has that can support you.  Take a few minutes and you could end up saving yourself time and energy.

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


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