Living It – Week Two

Short Term Goals – Tip #4

I am a list maker. I always have been. When I was a tween I wrote lists about boys I liked, things I wanted to buy, movie stars I thought I should at least date and things I wanted to do when I was older (own a Mini, eat chocolate every day and have lots of money – wasn’t the most interesting or focused tween). As a teenager the only way my, constantly on the go, brain could get anything accomplished was to write ‘to do’ lists. I can’t say that I ever spent a lot of time going back and referencing them but there was something about getting it all down on paper that helped me. Since the teen years I have used lists to set realistic goals and help me to stay positive and on track and sometimes just to look at and remind myself of why I am so tired all the time! They are mostly on scrap, on my iPhone or posted on the fridge – but they have all helped me to not only stay organized but have things to look forward to and feel good about what I juggle and can manage in a month.

This week I decided to follow my own advice from “101 Tips for When They’re Back”.  I wrote it to help families with the difficulties that come from reuniting after an absence but the truth is that short term goals have really helped us through a potentially boring and long summer, a difficult year at school, absences of their Dad, etc.

This summer my kids and I sat down and made a summer to do list.  We had a lot of expensive repairs to do on our home and couldn’t afford a vacation and their Dad ended up on a month long exercise on the other side of the world so it was a ‘staycation’ and an absence for us!  This list has been great for us.  I was determined to make the most of where we lived and not have any of us sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves or glued to a screen (Minecraft is addiction!).

Short term goals for the summer

Short term goals for the summer

We have now completed 67/101 things and I really don’t feel any pressure to complete the list (if you would have that compulsion then I suggest making a smaller list as the last thing you want is to stress yourself out more).  I have also reminded myself that summer doesn’t officially end for us until September 21 so there is still time!  When making the list I ensured that there were a mix of easy to do, things we would do anyway and things we have talked about doing but never got around to.

I am going to continue to do this with the kids now.  With only 4 months left of 2014, I have decided to make the next one… “101 Things to Do Before 2015″.  Since their Dad is going to be away Monday to Friday, it will be a great way to keep us active and not focusing on what we are missing but on all the things we can do.

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A Year of Following My Own Advice – Week One

Living It – Week One 

Tip #43  – A Photo A Day

This past year I survived the first year of being on IR (Impose Restricted – my husband lives and works in one city and I live and work in another with the kids – we see each other on weekends when he isn’t on course, training or deployed).  It wasn’t a difficult decision for us as I have given up jobs I have loved for years and didn’t want to again, many of my closest friends and family are here and the kids really wanted to stay put too.  So… the decision was easy but living it was another story.  Now we are experiencing another absence (he is on a longish exercise half way across the world) and we are about to head into year two of IR, I got to thinking that it would be good to reflect on my own advice and some that others have given me along the way.

People often write to me asking if I actually do the things I write about in my books and blogs.  So I thought that I would share my experiences and continue to provide tips along the way.  The tip I took on this week was to take a photo a day (from my 101 Tips for When They’re Back book).  This one may be of the easiest of my tips to do that has a one of the largest impacts.  There are seemingly insignificant, small and big things that happen in a day.  Capturing them is helpful to not only remind you of the funny, interesting, frustrating, irritating or crazy things that happen each day but also to keep a connection going with your absent family member – they want to know about the little things too as sometimes they end up being the ones that mattered.  For me, it was a quick and easy way to keep my husband up to date with the goings on in our worlds.  Now the kids are older they will often point out things we should take pictures of too.  

Our world this week…

Selfie on our deck

Selfie on our deck

photo 1 (1)

His first ever frosted mug root beer

photo 1

Taking a day off to go to Canadian Open.

photo 2

Never happier than on a horse!

photo 2 (1)

Riding the ferry to Wolfe Island

photo 3 (1)


photo 3

Of course… the appliances stop working the day he leaves!

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1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #487


Instruction Manual – Tip #487

When I was teaching I asked students to all write an instruction manual for themselves at the beginning of the school year.  They had to come up with instructions on how others should operate around them, their best features, all the things you get from having them in your life and what others need to do to support them in functioning to the best of their abilities.  Basically, students create a ‘how to’ manual for others to follow, a guide to help you ‘maintain’ their health!

I got to thinking about when we have a family member absent or deployed there are often a lot of new people that come into your family’s lives or family members that aren’t around as much for the day to day operations and they don’t always know things that would be helpful and make life easier for everyone.  I also realized that I probably don’t ask enough what things my kids think I need to do to support them.  Before an absence or deployment I think that this would be an ideal activity to do so that other people looking after your children or working with your children know more and you would have insights directly from the source that could be invaluable.

Instruction manual

Tips for Creating An Instruction Manual:

* Create a fancy cover with a recent photo

* Give basic information on the first page – full name, date of birth, address, phone numbers, siblings

* Things to Keep Me Running Smoothly – list things that they like to do

* Things to feed me – favourites, foods to avoid, etc.

*Things I would fail to function without – essentials that they sleep with, take on trips, etc.

* Favourite People – a list of people they know and trust (this will also remind them of what their support system is and let you know if you need to create a bigger circle)

* My operating routine – daily things that need to be done, should be done and would be a bonus if they were done.

* What to do when there is a system failure – when there are bad days or things go wrong what will help?  What will make it worse?  What do you need?

The more fun you make it, the more likely they are to buy into it.  Keep it out on a coffee table or on the fridge so that people can reference it, your kids can add to it, etc.  Make one for yourself too.  It is not only an important way to reflect on what you need but a great way to tell your family that you need handling with care instructions.

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1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip # 451

The Gift of Undivided Time – Tip #451

Most 21st Century kids are used to talking, texting and doing something else all at the same time.  In actual fact, doing only three things at once is rare for kids.  We now live in a world where everyone is multitasking (driving while texting and listening to the radio, eating lunch while talking on the phone and emailing someone at the same time, etc.  The downside of this multitasking life is that your children, friends, co-workers and significant other can all feel as though they are not important enough or not really being heard and/or understood.  How many of us can really say that we make the people most important to us know they are important by giving them 100% of our attention for even 20mins a day?

This holiday season I would suggest that the largest gift that you can give your children is to them your 100% focus and attention for part of the day each day.  This would mean watching a movie and only watching the movie (no answering calls, emails or texting).  It would also mean that when you had a meal together that your cell phone was no where in sight and the TV and computer were both off.  We are losing the art form of connecting meaningfully with others and this means that people are feeling less and less connected and important to others.  I find myself often realizing that I am having a face to face conversation with someone and I haven’t even looked them in the face!  The challenge I put to you is that this holiday season, give the biggest gift of all – your complete and undivided attention for at least 20mins a day to those that matter to you.  This is a gift that will also give back.  Your kids, husband, friends, co-workers, etc. will feel the benefits of your undivided time and if you are really lucky, give it back to you and other people that are important to them.

Cell phone


  • Spend an hour a day uncomplete disconnected from technology – ignore the emails, texts, calls etc.
  • No screens when eating meals
  • Decide what is urgent and an emergency – there are few things that you truly need to be reached immediately.  Remind yourself of what an actual emergency is – we have forgotten.
  • Let family, friends and work know that you are going to be “unplugging” at certain times in the day
  • Take the phone out of your bedroom at night
  • Pay for a messaging service and record a message that will let people know who else they can reach and how to contact you in an emergency so you don’t feel that you have to talk to everyone right that minute

This tip will truly benefit you as much as it will benefit those that need you, care about you and just want to spend time with you.  “Unplugging” will give you freedom, perspective and time that counts with the people that matter.

Undivided Attention

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1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #551

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Everything In Between – Tip #551

Balancing my life without holidays is a daily challenge.  When you throw in holidays it can often send me over the edge.  I was blessed to have had a childhood filled with happy holiday memories – there would be parties, baking, family board game nights, and lots of laughter.  I want all of this for my children too but am trying desperately not to lose my mind or go bankrupt trying to do it.  As a child I had no idea that this required so much effort, in fact, I don’t think I gave it much thought at all until I was a parent!  Now that I am a parent, have a career and a husband that is now away Sunday night to Friday night, I realize that their holiday accomplishments were nothing short of miraculous!  For the next few months I am sure that all of us are going to be scrambling (even if you have a calm demeanor on the outside it can’t possibly be that way on the inside if you are part of a military family or any family for that matter).  Then add in that we struggle with our finances (like so many of us do) and always end up spending more than we have.  This makes for the perfect ‘stress storm’ which runs the risk of spoiling special occasions and holidays.  Last year I tried a few things to try to combat stress and over spending and they worked so I thought I would share them.

Holiday insanity


* Do all holiday shopping in one day (per event).  Buy all Christmas presents in one weekend (it was exhausting but worth it). What happens is we get things at different times and then pick up more along the way and forget what we have and over spend.

* Get storage buckets for each holiday and only keep what you can fit into the bucket – this makes it easy to get out and easy to put away

* Wrap presents at least three weeks in advance – that means that you can be worry free and enjoy family gatherings

* Make family “To Do” lists and post them on the fridge – this way everyone sees and knows what needs to be done and who you want to do it

* Make ‘Holiday Bucket Lists’ – This will give you a sense of what is important to everyone in your family and prioritize what you all want to do

* User the “Saver” app on your phone.  Put in a budget and track all of your spending.  Stop when it says you stop so that when the holiday is over you are paying for it for months

* Make a “Jib Jab” holiday ecard for everyone – it is quick, easy and gives everyone a good laugh (

* Do a weekend baking session – tell everyone (that will be helpful) to dedicate a weekend to baking and helping and get all the baking done and out of the way with a lot of helping hands

For me, the key to any holiday success is a lot of organization and planning well in advance.  Once I got into the habit of being better organized and prepared it meant that I could relax and enjoy the holiday more too.  I am not going to pretend that all stress disappears (it doesn’t), that I now stay right on budget (I don’t) or that I don’t have a good old fashioned meltdown at times (I do) but doing these things means I get more than a few seconds to see everyone else enjoying themselves and don’t end the holiday panicked about how we are going to pay for and survive the next one.

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1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #450

Patience… with yourself! – Tip #450


For our family, the toughest part of the deployments is when my husband comes back.  It wasn’t because we weren’t happy to see each other (we were) or that he hadn’t been missed (he had been very missed) but almost everything had changed – we had changed, routines had changed, the kids had changed, likes and dislikes were different, and he had changed and had experienced things we couldn’t understand and vise versa.  There were big gaps to fill, some changes to be made (once again) and some things couldn’t go back to the way they were before.  This made our relationship and our family life challenging for longer than I would have expected (I thought we would be back in the swing of things in a few months, it actually takes us just over six!).

Being patient with others sometimes is much easier than with yourself.  We can often forgive others for things we have never considered forgiving ourselves for.  When your family member comes home it is once again another change and adjustments need to be made.  Many families think that it should just easily flip back to the way things once were but it can’t because a lot of has happened and not only have things changed in the home, you have all changed.  You have learned things about yourself, discovered different ways of doing things and had experiences and feelings that others have not.

Tips for taking care of yourself:

* When you are angry, frustrated or annoyed with yourself – ask “Would I be this way if it was someone else?”

* Take time each day for yourself, to be honest with yourself and how you are feeling and forgive yourself if they are not the nicest of thoughts (we all have them)

* Don’t respond to people or demands immediately – take at least a few minutes to think about whether or not it is something you want to do, need to do or could say ‘no’ to

* Before you even get up in the morning tell yourself that it is okay if you make mistakes, get frustrated, angry or annoyed – you are human and everyone feels these things

* Ask others for help and don’t let people assume that all is well because your family member is home.  Share the frustrations and other emotions you are experiencing.

* Teach your family to be patient by talking about your feelings, reactions and how you are learning to be patient with yourself

* Time does heal all wounds but it will take until the end of time if you don’t practice patience with yourself and with the other people re-adjusting too


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1001 Tips for Military Families – #449

Read to your children – Tip #449


Being an educator and mother, I am a avid reader and especially of children’s books.  They don’t have to say the words deployment or military to be well suited to military families, educators or support personnel.  I am not suggesting that you go out and spend a lot of money and buy all of these but most of them will be in your children’s schools or at your local library.  I highly recommend ending each day with a book as there are some strong and important messages that you can give to your children through these books – one of the most important is the message you will pass onto them when you drop everything for them and take the time to enjoy a good book.  Here are my top choices…

Great books for reading and recording onto your computer, IPOD or CD by a family member who is leaving:

* Gregory, the Terrible Eater – Mitchell Sharmat

- It tells the story of a goat that loves healthy, human food and his parents aren’t happy.  If you have a fussy eater this is a perfect read!

* I Love You Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt

- A book that teaches children about unconditional love.  You could finish it off with telling them that there is nothing they could do or be that you would stop loving them for and time or distance won’t change it.

* The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies – Stan and Jan Berenstain

- A timeless classic of shopping with your children.  A good one to remind them about appropriate behaviour even when you are away.

* Some Things Are Scary (No Matter How Old You Are) – Florence Parry Heide

- A great book to talk about everyone having fears and it would be a good chance for you to share what you do when you are worried or scared.

*  I Love You, Little One – Nancy Tafuri

- It is the perfect book to tell your child you love them and why

Great Books for Reading to Them At Night to remind them of their own strength and courage:

* Oh, the Paces You’ll Go – Dr. Seuss

- This book will remind your child that even though they haven’t left home they are on their own journey

* The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein

- This book demonstrates how the gift of giving can affect people and things

* Today I Will Fly – Mo Willems

- It is a good book for teaching your child about never giving up and persevering even when you don’t do things the way you’d planned.

* Little Beaver and The Echo – Amy MacDonald and Sarah Fox-Davies

- It tells the story of a lonely beaver who finds friends when he is looking for someone that doesn’t exist

* Imagine A Place – Sarah L. Thomson

- This book is perfect for sitting and looking at together and talking about what  you see and why or why not it could be possible or impossible.

* David Gets in Trouble – David Shannon

- He has written an easy to read book about admitting when you have done something wrong and being loved anyway.


The Kissing Hand – Audrey Penn

- I challenge you to find a better book to read to your children before their first day of school.  I have been reading this book to my children every year since Kindergarten.  It is about a mother raccoon and her child having to be separated but only physically. If there was any book in this list to buy…  this is it!

Books to Discuss Friend Or Self Esteem Issues:

* The Ordinary Princess – M.M. Kaye

- A book that teaches the reader that there is no such thing as ordinary

* The English Roses – Madonna

- A story about accepting and having friends not only for the things you have in common but the things that make you different

* My Secret Bully – Trudy Ludwig

- In my opinion, the best book published that talks about the ways girl’s bullying and treat eachother.

* Just Kidding – Trudy Ludwig

- In my opinion, the best book for boys about the way they treat each other and then call it a ‘joke’.

* The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds

- The story of a boy that learns from his teacher that he is capable of anything if he just tries.

* Scaredy Squirrel Makes A Friend – Melanie Watt

- There is a bunch of these Scaredy Squirrel books now and they all deal with overcoming your fears so that you can discover the world.  They do it with humour and fun.

I hope you enjoy all of these as much as I have and would welcome your recommendations too.

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