1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #471


Making Time

As the holidays draw closer and closer for many of us there seems like an endless list of things to do, buy, wrap, make, go to, etc.  It tires me out just thinking about it (and then I flop down and watch a couple of hours of Netflix and accomplish nothing)!  This time of year I always try hard not to get caught up in the gifts and things but more in the time with friends and family, doing things with the people I love and letting them know how I feel.  This is always easier said than done, however, here are the tips that I have followed for the last few years and they have really helped me to retain my sanity and have a lot of fun too.

Holiday Sanity Savers –

  1. Bake easy things – I looked through my cookbooks and chose cookies and desserts that are easy to bake and not going to require a ton of steps or days of planning and prep.
  2. Hire a wrapper (not rapper) – My teenager did the majority of the wrapping and this alone gave me hours of additional time!  It also forced me to carefully sort through everything so I knew exactly what I had.
  3. Shopped for it all in one weekend –  In the past my shopping has been spread out over a couple of months.  I think that I spent more (forgot what I had already bought) and wasted a lot of time going back and forth.
  4. Electronic Christmas letter and photo – I know that some people really prefer paper so I did 10 of those and everyone else is getting the electronic version.  It saves money and a lot of time but I am still able to keep in touch with people and share our year.
  5. Made a meal plan for the week of Christmas – this way there is little thinking or prep to do and more time to be spent having fun with the kids
  6. Combining Events – Rather than having 2, 3 or 4 dinners we have invited people to one.  This way we get to see all the people that are important to us but also aren’t cooking and cleaning the holiday away but have time to do other things with our kids and just relax together.
  7. Reality Break – Our kids are in competitive sports and while it is wonderful for them and they love it the holidays are a good time to take a break for all of us.  Even though we aren’t going away, we are going to behave like we are and mark ourselves as busy for two weeks.  Everyone needs a break from reality (and from being a taxi service).  I have put an auto message on my email and stepped away from work until the new year (I know everyone is not as lucky as I am to have 2 weeks off but step away for the time you do have).
  8. Nothing Day – Over the holidays have a day scheduled and planned where no one has to do a thing.  There are no commitments or obligations – no one even has to get out of pyjamas or brush their hair.  Eat leftovers and only do things that you want to do.
  9. Make a list – Everyone makes a list of things that they really want to do, must do and really don’t want to do.  This way we get a sense of what is important, can prioritize as a family and let go of some things that no one wanted to do in the first place.  Having said this – a large portion of my family would love not to have to decorate the tree.  As a parent, give yourself veto power so you get the tree you want and everyone slaps a smile on their faces as they decorate it!
  10. Take Photos – On Christmas day, to make your life easier, use your phone to take photos of gifts & the tag so that you remember who gave what to you and your family members.

  

 
Happy Holidays!  From my family to yours. 

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #470


“I Love You Because…” Frames

Our lives as a family are busy.  We have chosen to do the things that we love to do and are having fun but most mornings I don’t really don’t see my kids very much.  In fact, most mornings I wake them (after turning on lights, telling them to get up 5 times and then move to panicked pleading) but then I have to leave for work.  Being a teenager is hard, really hard.  I want my kids to know that they are not only loved but why they are loved – at this age they want facts and evidence or they don’t believe it!  I know that they really don’t hear much that I say with their morning and pre breakfast brain.  I decided that I would make something quick and easy that they could read while they were getting ready and try to start their day off right.

Being that we are busy, I can assure you that these were EASY to make, are easy to do and cheap!  All you need is two frames, paper, and a white board marker.  You can change it every day or once a week.  It is up to you.

 
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1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #469


The Kindness Challenge

If you are anything like me, December is spent in a mad dash to buy things for people that I hope they will like and will show them I care.  However, I think that the Grinch had a serious “Ah Ha” moment when he discovered that Christmas isn’t from a store or in a box.  In fact, this was the inspiration for the December challenge.  Rather than the focus just on buying and wrapping, lining up and getting generally frazzled just trying to find a parking space at the mall – I will do that but… I wanted us to focus on being good to ourselves and each other too.  If you are posted somewhere without family and a lot of friends, have someone on a deployment, etc. this is a good way to refocus you too!

Click Here for our December Kindness Challenge Calendar: December Kindness Challenge

Kindness Challenge

 

Alter it to suit your family and feel free to share yours too!  Good luck and I hope your December is filled with a little more kindness and family fun and less having to follow someone with shopping bags leaving the mall to get a parking space.

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1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #468


Tell Your Story – Tip #468

Everyone has stories inside of them to share about their experiences during a deployment, re-integration, posting or their lives as part of a military family.  Whether you were the one on a deployment or at home waiting for the deployment to be over, tell your story – a lot happens to you!  You don’t have to write a public blog or have a published book but you do need to put your thoughts out there – write them or record them somehow.  By sharing your experiences you are processing your thoughts and feelings, letting others understand your experiences and taking the first step in letting go and moving forward.  This is also a great way of sharing all the things that happened to you while your family member or friend was away.  They can look through it or read it at their pace when they return and it will help to fill in the gaps while they were away.

Tips:

* If you don’t enjoy writing, tell your story through a video journal

* Take a photo of something or someone every day

* Decide in advance whether or not others are going to be allowed to read it/see it

* Remember to record dates and times (you think you will remember but time really does fly)

* Make time to do this every day – it will be time just for you (which we all don’t do enough of)

* Another option is to consider using StoryWorth.  For Veterans/Remembrance Day,  StoryWorth are launching the Military Stories Project to help veterans across the country share their stories with their families. From November 1st until November 11th, they are offering free accounts to active service members, and 50% off subscriptions to all veterans and their families. Additionally, for anyone else who purchases a subscription during that time, we’re donating $10 to an organization working with veterans (Wounded Warriors).

However you decide to share your stories, make sure you do.  You may feel as though what you have to say is important, not necessary, not worth talking about or too difficult but those that love you will definitely disagree and the benefits of letting it will flow over into every part of your life.  Writing this blog has been one way that I have been able to share my experiences and it has strengthen me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

For more information about our blog, tips or resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

To use Storyworth and make a donation to the Wounded Warriors Project click:

https://www.storyworth.com/veterans?utm_medium=blog&utm_source=whileyouwereaway.org&utm_campaign=Veterans+Day+2015&utm_term=Wounded+Warriors

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #467


Thankfulness – Not Just A Temporary Thing!

Each year at Thanksgiving, we go around the table, talking about the things we are grateful for – as I know many do.  This feeling of fortune and happiness often extends beyond the meal times because we leave the table not only full but also focussed on what we are happy about rather than all the things that aren’t working in our lives and I like it.

Being a part of a military family means you often have to go without – family, friends, homemade treats only certain people can make, etc.  It got me to thinking that perhaps we should  list things that we are grateful for each day until Christmas (or American Thanksgiving or New Years) and keep that feeling of gratitude for a little longer than at just one dinner or day.

This year I bought a second hand tablecloth from a thrift store.  Each day we are going to write something on it that we are grateful for having had happened this year or something/someone in our lives that we are grateful for.  Then we are going to use it as our Christmas or New Years table cloth – it will not only remind us of how lucky we are but there will be some great conversation starters in there too.

How To:

  • Buy a material tablecloth (wash before using)
  • Buy Sharpie Markers (all colours)
  • Have a flat piece of cardboard under the cloth to ensure that if the marker goes through it isn’t on your countertop or table
  • Commit to adding to it on a regular basis (have it on the table before meals or fold it into squares and place the cardboard underneath there is an exposed square for people to write on easily without taking the whole thing out
  • After completed, throw into the dryer on high heat for 10-20mins, leave for 24 hours and then wash only in cold water (some people also recommend throwing a cup of salt into the cold water too)
  • Use at your next big event/dinner!

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #466


Selfish Day

Many of us think of the word selfish and automatically think of it as a negative thing.  After all, it is often used by people to describe someone that thinks only of themselves, is thoughtless and mean.  I am, more often than not, guided by doing what is right rather than what makes me happy.  I think many of us are.  That is okay (most of the time) as, living in a military family means there are things that always need to get done BUT… I also think that we have forgotten how to slow down, take care of ourselves and take uninterrupted “fun” time doing things we want to do, things that relax us or bring us joy.  These moments don’t happen often as you are either planning a move, trying to settle in after a move, waiting to hear about trainings and deployments, trying to get through deployments, etc.

For the past 2 years I have been Mom (and Dad most of the time) and had to put a lot of my needs aside to look after the kids, the house, the dog and all the things in between including a full time and demanding job.  Being a military spouse often means that you don’t get a lot of time for yourself unless you take on an epic coordination the size of a small deployment!  I took on the coordination this weekend and it was worth it.  My in-laws took the dog, my kids went to friend’s houses, I put the phone away and didn’t answer emails, I ordered in for dinner, etc.  It was soooo worth it!

For the first time in over 2 years I took a completely selfish day this weekend – not without wrangling with some guilt but I still took it (I worry it makes me a bad mother if I just do things for myself).  I stayed strong.  I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do, I resisted the urge to do baking, cooking, cleaning and work and I didn’t give in to my family’s requests to ‘just do this or that and it will only take a few minutes’.  The world didn’t come to an end.  I just took care of myself and made a plan to do something fun, something a little out of my comfort zone and a little bit of absolutely nothing (a few hours of mindless Netflix).  I also think I modelled for my kids what self care looks like.  I am not going to say they were happy about it but I think they understood in the end that this is what I needed.  As adults we don’t often come right out and say to our kids “I need this” so when I did, they listened (until they needed something!).

I have written a lot of tips over the years and always live it before asking others to.  I forced myself to do this partly for me and partly to complete this tip!  Now though, I will be taking a monthly selfish day (yes, once a month)!  I will be doing this more often as I deserve a break and truly believe that I have earned the right to have some time doing things that I want to do.  Military life is hard but this can’t be used as an excuse for why I don’t take care of my needs too.  There will always be a reason not to do it but, as I discovered this weekend, there are so many more reasons to do it.  All you need to do after reading this is go to your calendars and book your own selfish day!

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #465


Focusing In – Tip # 465

When my husband was away I focused on spending time with my kids.  I became my son’s soccer team manager (had no idea what I was getting myself into but best thing I have done with him), went to my daughter’s practices and swim meets, drove them to school once a week, had sleepovers, took them out on the weekends and just made sure I was present and available.  This seemed to have worked for them (although this did not stop them from missing their Dad and nor was it intended to) but I am writing more about what it did for me.

While I was truly exhausted by this latest deployment, I think it was by far the easiest.  Initially, I had put this down to my kids being older and able to help a little more.   I have since realized there was more to it mainly because having to ask for something to be done 10 times does not make it easier.  Often it was easier to just do it myself and they had more complex thinking, knew more about what was going on in the world and had real life problems with friends, school, etc.

The bottom line is that I learned to focus in on what was important – the kids and making sure I was okay too.  I did this by setting new limits at work, I was honest with friends and family when I couldn’t do things and took care of myself in a way that I hadn’t before.

Lessons Learned:

  • I stopped emailing people after hours and on the weekends whenever possible.  This practice alone reduced my workload by at least 20%
  • I got into a good sleep routine.  There were nights I even went to bed when the kids did!
  • I made family holidays different and relaxing events and reduced our commitments.  We also tried to have different experiences over significant holidays or events to distract a little from the fact that their Dad wasn’t there to enjoy it with us
  • I put away my cell phone, computer and didn’t answer the phone during meal times and after dinner when we were talking and hanging out.  I made us the focus of this time.
  • I never let a day go by without finding something to appreciate or laugh about.  While deployments are hard there are many other things that are much harder.  Overall, we lead a privileged life with a home to come to, food on the table and people that love us.  We looked at the world feeling fortunate and grateful rather than spending a moment of it complaining about what we don’t have.
  • I remained organized throughout the deployment and this really saved my sanity and numerous times it also allowed me to take a nap or have time for myself.  I had a paper copy of a calendar for the family to reference, one on my computer and phone, when I cooked meals I usually made double and froze them for an easy meal the next time, etc.
  • We created fun To Do Lists of 100 things to do by a certain time (see blog about those here: http://wp.me/p10tfJ-Fq  ).  These kept us doing fun things and challenging ourselves but also ensured we had a pyjama day or lazy day thrown in too
  • I missed my not being able to go out as much with friends and having a husband who would take over so that I could go and do my thing but I also discovered that true friends understand. They will also be right there waiting for you when you are done with the crazy deployment!

Doing some or all of these things can really alter the way you approach and how you cope through a deployment.  I am not suggesting that everyone has to give up going out as much (perhaps that is how you unwind) or that you need to always go to bed when your kids do either.  Deployments aren’t fun or relaxing but they can be made a lot easier when you focus on the ‘Big Rocks’.  Stephen Covey has a great video that I often use with teenagers about focusing on what is important but it applies to us all and this deployment I really looked at what my big rocks were.  Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_N_uvq41Pg

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

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