Living It – Week Seven

Create Top Ten Lists – Tip #54

Keeping Life Interesting

Keeping Life Interesting

 After doing a “summer to do list” (see week three of Living It for details and the nearly completed list below) we decided to make some goals for the next 4 months.  We had originally planned to do some top ten lists but we had so many things that we decided not to limit ourselves.  Our summer goals were only 8 weeks in length and since we didn’t complete them all we decided that we would let go of some, carry some over to the next list and create some new challenges for ourselves.

Rather than waiting for New Years Eve to make resolutions we decided to squeeze in another 100 challenges before 2015 creeps up on us.  I am, by nature, a home body that would happily watch movies and pop popcorn.  As the cold weather approaches, I resemble more of a bear than a human.  I eat more, sleep more and am less motivated to do things that require me to have enthusiasm, drive or energy.  I am hopeful that this list will change all that as the summer list really did motivate my whole family to take on new challenges, try new foods, take risks and do things other than play Minecraft and sit around the house listening to my kids tell me they were bored (I think I only heard that a record 3-4 times all summer)!  The other, unexpected, thing that happened was that I realized I was teaching my kids to also focus on the journey.  We never talked about getting all 100 done or even had that as a goal.  Instead, we focused on the activities and checked off the list each week at a time we were all together.  I also learnt a lot about enjoying the moment and learning that is okay not to do it all.  I often try to be all things to everyone and love nothing more than seeing a completed “to do” list (a sickness – I know!).

So, if you are looking to talk to your kids about their hopes, dreams, encourage them to take risks and step out of their comfort zone this activity is definitely for your family and perhaps just for yourself.

Some suggestions:

* Make the list together

* Post the list in a high traffic area for everyone to reference it

* Focus on the activities rather than having the goal of accomplishing it all

* Include things that you were going to do anyway, things that are quick and easy, a few things that you have always wanted to do and a few things that will ensure you all spend time together

* The list isn’t carved into stone, edit it as you go if you need to (you can see our summer edits below on Summer To Do list)

Our 'Expired' Summer To Do List

Our ‘Expired’ Summer To Do List

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

Coming Home – A Recommended Read

Coming Home

By Greg Ruth


Children's book about reunions

Children’s book about reunions

From time to time I am lucky enough to be sent previews of books.  This is one I was looking forward to as I am a fan of any books that can highlight military life for children.  It is hard to find books for military families that their children can directly relate to and that are so beautifully illustrated.  With a few simple words the author highlights the pain and excitement of waiting to see your family member again.  I also liked that the boy was waiting for his mother.  Many of us can easily forget that Moms get deployed too!  If I was reading this book with my children I would use it to start conversations about what the reunion will be like, let them know that other people feel just like you do with the waiting and start asking them questions about what they are looking forward to, what they are worried about and what they aren’t going to enjoy.  This book can easily be the start of important conversations with your children and could lead to activities such as making a welcome back poster, making a list of things they’d like to do with their returning family member and/or making a picture of everyone back together again.  I would recommend this book for children ages 3-10yrs old.  Having said this, as an educator, I would also use this book with older children as a model for how you can create a story with pictures and simple text.

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

Living It – Week Six

Comfort Blanket – Tip #66

Sometimes I think that I could really do with a comforting blanket after a long day of work, kids, dog, housework and all the things in between!  Having said this, I did follow up own advice and this has been something that my kids have used, loved and found to be a great source of comfort.  Their blankets were a gift – a friend of their Grandma did one for each of my kids when their Dad was deployed to Afghanistan.   They LOVED these blankets.  My daughter used to say she was going to bed to talk to Dad!  Fabulous pictures of him with them were all over it and on the other side it was soft and just the right type of material to snuggle up to.  Those blankets wore and washed well and they went with us everywhere.  It has only been in the last year that the pictures have faded.  My son said that it meant a little part of their Dad was always with them.   He still has his on his bed (although he would not want me to be telling people that!) and now that his Dad is away so much I think it is something that he associates with feel safe and comfortable.

Ethan's deployment blanket

Ethan’s deployment blanket

I was lucky enough to have someone who could have these made for me but if you aren’t…  I have researched a few options for you.

Shutterfly has an online service that you can simply send in your photos and they will send you the blanket:

Walmart has on line and in store service and they are cheaper but some families have reported to me that they don’t wash well.  Having said this, the price is probably the most competitive:

Snap fish is very user friendly and the blankets look fabulous.  They even have a military one:


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

Living It – Week Five

Tip # 46 – Emergency Kits

So…  I did follow my own advice when I wrote the book but since then life has zoomed by and I have never updated the kits!  Recently, I discovered that most things were missing or useless. Of course, I discovered this when a short, but violent, storm came through our area we were without power for several days. Over the years people in my family had obviously helped themselves to the batteries, the water had expired (didn’t even know water had an expiry date), the flashlights had been used for camping and never returned and the entertainment type things I had added would have been great when they were younger… Needless to say that scrambling around in the pitch dark, listening to complaints about how bored they are and trying to ignore questions about when the power is going to come on nearly sent me over the edge.

This time we had to weigh the cost of buying a generator with the cost of replacing all the food in the fridge and freezer. We bought one and while it was an expense we can’t really afford, we couldn’t afford to lose all the food. There is also,now, the comfort of knowing that we have it now for the next emergency (hopefully there won’t be one but the weather in our world today is definitely changing and causing havoc no matter where you are).  This weekend we are going to go through our emergency supplies and re-do the bins so that I am actually back to following my own advice!

Emergency Kit Suggestions:

- Waterproof matches

- Flashlights

- Additional batteries

- Plug in phone (it works in a power outage)

- Battery powered or wind up radio

- Candles

- Pack of cards/board game

- Hard candy or gum (helps to distract)

- Non perishable food

- Emergency blankets

- Glow sticks

- Headlamps

- Pen and paper

- Extension cords (need them to use the generator and keep it outside)

- Ziplock bags, garbage bags

- String

- First aid kit

Emergency Kits

For more information go to:


Living It – Week 4

Money Jar – Tip # 78

Our absence jar!

Our absence jar!


Saving money has always been something that other people do really well with!  We spend money like we just won the lottery (and the most I ever win is a free ticket or $2!).  I thought that this would be a good one of my tips to follow and started it a month ago.  My husband was away on exercise for 4 weeks (just arrived home this week) and I decided to follow my own advice and put money in a jar for each day that he was away.  We are going to sit down together this weekend and decide on what fun thing we could all do with the money. My kids think that four weeks of saving $2 a day means that we can take an all inclusive vacation to Mexico or head to Europe!  It was a harsh reality check when we said that it was only $60 and that we would need to add several zeros to reach a beach resort anywhere.

Needless to say that this experience  made me realize that my kids are definitely old enough that they should have a better sense of money than they (and we) do.  They also need good spending habits and even better saving habits modeled for them.  I decided to get out the money jar for the next year of IR (Impose Restricted – my husband lives and works on another base and comes home on the weekends).  I also decided that we needed to have a goal in advance so that we know what we are saving for – we have agreed that we should use the money to have a holiday somewhere we have never been before (it will all depend on how much we save as to where we go).

Some of the challenges of this goal already have been that I don’t always have the correct amount (or any money at all) to put into the jar.  I went to the bank after work today and had them change a $20 for me.  I will then be able to quickly give one of my kids the money to put into the jar for a few days in a row.  Another challenge has also been not ‘dipping’ into the jar.  My son needed money for school and it happened to have the perfect amount of money that I needed.  It was soooo tempting so we glued the lid on and put a hole in the top of it!  I figured it will be filled for a year before we need to crack it open (literally) and this will stop me from ‘borrowing’ from it.  Lastly, we started with a jar that you couldn’t see through and it meant that we could see the money piling up so we went to the store and bought a clear jar and decorated it ourselves.  The whole thing cost us under $4.

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

Living It – Week Three

Get Organized – Tip #1

I was one of the most disorganized people I knew as a child and teenager.  Now, my only little act of rebellion is that I always have a pile of clothes somewhere in my room that needs cleaning, sorting or putting away and I never make my bed.  I am not sure what the exact events were that caused me to begin to organize myself but I know that since having children and being a military wife it is one of the main things that saves my sanity (to be clear, it is sometimes temporarily lost no matter what I do…).  One of the things that I advised people to do was create a ‘year box’ and put birthday, anniversary cards, etc. in it by month… okay, I have never done that… My mother did it and was always so thoughtful about sending family and friends cards and little notes (it is where I stole the idea from).  I always feel a little sense of disappointment when I get a birthday reminder on Facebook (or just remember the date when it arrives or has passed) that I couldn’t get my act together enough to send a card and then I post a Facebook message which feels like cheating.  I always have good intentions but they don’t lead to actual action.  So…  this week I went on a card shopping expedition and have organized a year of birthday cards (get ready friends and family!).  What I realized is that if I am going to really follow through on this I am also going to end a good selection of stamps too… regular trips to a post office aren’t going to happen! So, I have confessed what I wasn’t doing but below are my organization tips that I do actually follow through with…

Our latest selection of cards

Our family’s latest selection of cards

1) I keep a weekly calendar for meals and activities that is on our fridge.  Each Sunday night I do one for the week. We don’t always stick to all the meals but it is there as a guide when I don’t want to think.
2) A weekend a month and on holidays I carve out some time to bake and cook. I always double or triple recipes and freeze them so they are available during busy weeks.
3) Mornings are not pretty for our family so anything that reduces time and energy in the mornings seems to work. We sort out what we wear the night before. This small thing reduced time in the morning and thinking that often led to arguments.
4) We have a calendar in the kitchen that has all important dates and activities marked in advance and everyone can add to it. It is also in our high traffic area so no one can say they didn’t see it. Once a month we all sit down and go over what the month looks like (it isn’t as if anyone remembers the discussion but they all feel consulted and I have a chance to hear what they are and are not looking forward to – I can prepare for battle!)
5) There is less wasted time, fewer arguments and everyone feels calmer when bedrooms are clean and organized. Once every two weeks rooms are sorted out. Once every 6 months we go through their clothes (our kids grow like weeds).
6) We have a divided box for mail, magazines, coupons and bills. It helps us not to lose mail and other things that we need to action. Before doing this there were 10 different places to find things and it used to send me over the edge more than getting the actual bill!
7) We used chalkboard paint and made a chalkboard above the phone in the kitchen. It keeps phone messages and my grocery list. Before I go grocery shopping I take a picture of the list on my phone.

Our kitchen information area!

Our kitchen information area!


Being more organized has really given me more time – time to sleep more, time to relax, time to make better choices or do something selfish (today I went and had a massage and it was an hour of magic!). It is also one of the main reasons that I am still able to get up in the mornings and function despite deployments, exercises, IR, work, children’s sports/school/social calendars, laundry, the dog ,meals and life in general.  You don’t have to be an ‘organizing fanatic’ but doing a few small things ahead of time can make military and family life so much easier.

For more information about my tips, resources or books go to:

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #448

Back to School List for Parents – Tip #448

First day

For many of us in North America this is the time for our kids to return or start school.  If you haven’t already noticed, I am big on goal setting, lists and being prepared – I believe that some weeks it is all that keeps me sane.  I believe that these things set, not only you but, your child up for success throughout the school year.  Parents are often less resilient, open to change and flexible than even our most stubborn of children.  For most kids, the back to school adjustment takes less than 10 days. It is twice the time for adults.  We often believe our kids won’t handle something and then wonder what it was we were worried about (of course they always teach you a lesson by being thrown off (completely) by something that you didn’t foresee as being an issue at all too but we can’t predict it all!).  If a family pet can sense when we are anxious, sad or stressed then isn’t it not too far of a leap to think that our children can sense it too.  Here are my tips for not only helping your children feel better about starting school but for you too.
Tips for parents:
1) Begin to discuss with your children the changes that are coming by asking them what they are excited about first, focus on the positive and do not share your worries or concerns. Asking them if they are worried makes them think there is something to be worried about…they know nothing about the harsh realities of our world
2) Highlight what you think they will enjoy most and tell them about all the new things they have to look forward to. Show them pictures and read “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” or other kinder like books that will get them asking questions and excited about school
3) Take them to the school yard over the holidays and let them play without the crowds and just get comfortable using the space – this will make you more comfortable too
4) Drive, walk or bike their route to school and point out interesting things on the route
5) Adjust school sleeping routines at least a week before heading to school so there isn’t the added stress of being tired
6) Do lunch practice – teach them how to open containers, what to eat for snack, what to eat for lunch and what to throw out by doing a week (at least) of the lunch kit before school starts
7) Read “The Invisible String” and give them a piece of string for their pocket or backpack (“The Kissing Hand” is another great one too)
8) Know about the school your child is going to – go to their website, visit the school and/or get a school handbook
9) On the first day… show no fear. Be upbeat and confident. By being confident, your child will be more comfortable and develop a trusting relationship with staff much quicker (this will help with the tears and clinging to you for dear life).  Being confident means that you leave quickly (regardless of begging, tears, screaming, etc.).  When you leave, you are telling your child that you trust who they are with to look after them.  When you hesitate, given in and stay you are telling them that you don’t know if they are safe, aren’t sure they will be okay and don’t believe that they can manage.
10) Before leaving them at school (this is good for all kids – no matter what the age), tell your child when you will specifically see them again (eg. ‘Have a great day, I will see you at dinner and we will…’, ‘I will be at the bus stop by our house’)

Below are some books I recommend for ages 3-8 year olds.  For more information about my tips, books or resources go to:


Another great read if you or your child are anxious.  All you will need afterwards is a piece of string!

Another great read if you or your child are anxious. All you will need afterwards is a piece of string!

A good book for helping to ease separation anxiety

A good book for helping to ease separation anxiety



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