Living It – Week 11


Hide Pictures – Tip #68

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This is advice of mine that I followed just last week.  I had my husband pull four faces as I snapped pictures and then had multiple copies printed of each.  I got card stock cutouts and spent a few minutes writing phrases, comments and requests and attaching them to the different faces of their Dad!  I not only had a big laugh doing it but already it has paid off!  There is one in the fridge reminding them to listen to me, one by the recycling asking them to take it out, one in the linen closet reminding them to put their laundry away, there are ones in their rooms telling them how much they are loved and I have even hidden some in winter coat pockets for them to find in a few weeks time.  There have already been several smiles and laughs about it.  It is just another fun way of reminding them they are loved, that he is never too far away and that he can nag too!

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This one is in the bathroom on the inside of the cupboard – I hear giggles on a regular basis!

 

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

Living It – Week 10


 Display Photos – Tip #22

This week the  Living It advice I am taking from my tips books is about displaying pictures (not just selfishly enjoying them on my IPhone!). My husband is leaving this week for a longer deployment.  I have taken a few deep breaths, eaten my body weight in chocolate, went to look at all of my own advice for preparing for a deployment, have kept my pre-deployment checklist close by (see tip #449 on the blog) and then asked for help.  In the past we have had a little more notice so there was time to do more to prepare.  This time we have days to prepare so I had to prioritize what was important – photos came first.  We hadn’t had proper family photos taken in a couple of years so I asked a family friend to come and take some – he was amazing and dropped everything to come and do this for us and they are fabulous (another tip – I printed out more than I needed so that they were ready to give as Christmas presents too!).  I then went out immediately and had them printed and got frames right away.  I know myself – if I waited a few days it would never get done.   They will be displayed in high traffic areas and I have printed out a variety to also put on the fridge.  I also made sure we had some funny ones that are really “us” to put up (and send with him) as those are true to who we are and I want the kids to remember to laugh every day and my husband will then have something to laugh about while he is away too.

 

Our 'real' family photo!

Our ‘real’ family photo! For more information about our resources, tips and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

 

Us being us!

Us being us!

 

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

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: http://www.shutterfly.com/photo-gifts/fleece-photo-blankets

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: http://photos.walmart.com/walmart/storepage/storePageId=Blankets

Snap fish is very user friendly and the blankets look fabulous.  They even have a military one: http://www.snapfish.com/snapfish/photo-gifts/personalized-photo-blankets

 

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

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:  www.whileyouwereaway.org

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.

For more information go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

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

Tips:

  • 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

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

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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

Tips:

* 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 (JibJab.com)

* 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.

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

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