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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #445


When You Get Back Box – Tip #445

My husband is about to leave again for at least 2 months there are some news things that we are going to give a try.  They aren’t going to make time go faster or change the fact that he is going to leave a big hole that we won’t be able to fill but it may help us with the re-integration and give us a chance to focus on thinking on something positive.  There are often times when my husband is away and we will sit at the dinner table and talk about all the things we will do when he is back.  Many of these are good ideas but also slip our minds as the weeks pass by.  We have decided to make a “When You Are Back” box.  It is going to be set up in the kitchen with cards/paper beside it and when we think of something that we want to do when he is back, we write it on the card.  When he is back he can draw cards and choose things that he wants to do with everyone.  It will be a great way for everyone to reconnect and take some of the pressure off of having to come up with ideas when he is back and life is in full swing.  By also setting a limit of 1-2 to draw a week it will not overwhelm my husband either and make him feel as though he has to make up over 8 weeks of time all of a sudden and be all things to all people instantly.

When You Are Back Box

When You Are Back Ideas:

* Go hiking

* Read ___________ together

* See the movie _________________ together

* Take a dance class together

* Play latest version of ______________

* Go for a bike ride

* Make all our favourite foods type dinner

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #443


Carve Out Time – Tip #443

Maketime

Each year I make the resolution that I am going to get in shape and lose weight. This past year was the first time that December arrived and I was ending a year lighter than I started and didn’t wheeze going up a flight of stairs (not exactly what I wanted but a definite step forward). My kids could still out run me without even breaking a sweat but I am getting out and making a point of being active – not something I had managed to consistently do in previous years. But as I approached 2013 I began to ask myself what made 2012 different from the past 25 years that I had made the same resolution (yes, I had the same resolution for the last 25 years!). I still have an incredibly busy life, we are still a military family and take on all the crazy ups and downs that come with it, we still have trouble not spending money we don’t have, my kids are as self centred as ever and I still have all the demands that family life brings.

I have come to the conclusion that in 2012 I made myself a priority. This is my 2013 resolution too – I will continue to carve out time for myself. I will make time to get the groceries that I need, make time to eat good meals rather than ones on the fly, make time to exercise, make time to get to bed earlier (it sounds silly but that is also time that I wasn’t making for myself), make time to do things that I enjoy doing and take the time to decide what I need to do, want to do and should say no to doing. This has made me a happier, lighter and a healthier person and I am hopeful that this will be the key to losing the next 40Lbs. Carving out time for yourself consistently is going to be met with resistance by some so be prepared. You are going to have to get comfortable with the word “no”, risk have some people think your selfish, annoy your children at times and leave your friends and family to do things for themselves at times and perhaps solve their own problems. This is not easy but the rewards are too great for me not to continue and make this my new resolution for the next 25 years.  Military life is always busy and there will always be reasons to not make time for yourself – this year challenge yourself to make time for yourself to feel better. 

Tips:

* Look at what foods you eat when you are in a hurry and how they make you feel

* Re-assess your schedule and find out where you are spending time 

* Categorize your time into MUST DO, NEED TO DO, GOOD TO DO, CAN MANAGE WITHOUT

* Let people know why you are making time for yourself

* Stick to it – show everyone what consistently looks like and feels like.  Don’t give in to the demands of others automatically

* Try to plan a time when you can go grocery shopping without running down the aisles in a mad panic

* Find a time in the day to exercise that is going to be the least interupted (for me, sadly, this is 5:45am)

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – # 436


Back to School – Tip # 436

It is hard enough but trying to get your kids ready for heading back to school but when one of you is away, you have been posted, they are starting a new school, etc. it can be even rougher and tougher. Whether your children are 6 or 16, there are feelings (good and bad), anxieties, fears, excitement, nerves and many stresses that come with the start of any school year.  It is also an expensive time of year for parents and that can be an additional stress for everyone.  Below are some tips that will help you and your child(ren) to survive the transition from the lazy days of summer to the routines of the school year.

Tips:

* Check with your child’s school (call or visit their school website or the school board website) and see what things are actually required. Often when my children tell me they have to have it for school it can be translated to they want to have it. It helps to know in advance what are needs and what are wants.

* If your budget is tight and you aren’t able to get information about what your child will need,  put a note in their bag, to their teacher, on the first day of school asking them to send you home a list of things that they will need and that way you won’t be blindly buying things that may go unused or be wasted. Buy what you can and let the school know that finances are tight.

* If you have the luxury of knowing, in advance, that a family member is going to be away during this time, shop in advance and hide it all in a bucket until they need it. Your absent family member could leave a note in the bucket giving their best pieces of advice for the first day of school or something funny that happened to them at school when they were younger.

* Before leaving to go shopping ask they to make a list with three columns – Must Have/Would Make Life Easier/Luxuries. This will give them and you some perspective.

* Let your children know well in advance what stores you intend on going to and what the budget is.

* If you want to avoid taking your children, ask a friend to trade with you. You’ll take their kids while they go and they’ll take yours while you go. It will be faster, you’ll get what they need and you can even take a few moments to wonder around the store in peace and quiet.

* Let the school know of up-coming, current or lengthy absences of a significant family member. It will also be important to let the school know how your child handles stress and absence. It is also extremely important that you let the teachers and school know about when your family member is returning as that can bring change and stress too.

* Know your child’s teachers – whether your children are in Kindergarten, middle school or high school you should make a point of knowing the names and contact information of your child(ren)’s teachers. Your kids need to know that you can get in touch with them easily and it will be important for you to keep them up to date with what is happening in your household (ex. absences, deployments, re-integration, moves, etc.).

* When you have an absent family member contact information also needs to be changed at the school (One of my children was hurt of the play ground and it took them over 20mins to get in touch with me as they had been trying to get in touch with my husband – he was in Afghanistan!). Ask someone to be the second contact while your family member is away and then send in a letter to the school with that information.

* There are also excellent books for younger students that you can read in advance of school starting to help reduce the anxiety (The Kissing Hand and The Invisible String).

* If you are starting a new school and your child has additional medical needs or academic information that it would be helpful for the school to have, make a copy and drop it off the week before school starts (all school offices are open one week prior to the first day of school)

* If your child has allergies or medication that will potentially need to be administered at the school, go online and get the forms you will need and ensure you have the right people signing and authorizing them (schools often need a family doctor to sign off on them)

There is something magical about the beginning of the school year and the ‘back to school frenzy’ although it can be an exhausting ride. Ask for help and try to make it as fun and stress free as possible for everyone. Check with your military resource or your base social workers to see what they are offering in terms of support and/or resources too.

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

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1001 Tips for Military Families – #429


Pre-Deployment Pampering – Tip #429

If you are one of the primary care givers in your relationships and family then you are often so busy making check lists, running around trying to cram in special events, lasts of everything and anything, and preparing family and friends for their departure that you probably forget to take care of yourselves and before you know it, they are deployed and there is no time to take care of you. Self care is undervalued and we often put ourselves last. This is a mistake as when we are feeling better, more rested and sane, those we look after will be the same. We will have more patience, attend to things faster and more efficiently and have a more positive outlook which rubs off on others.

Things to do for yourself before they’re deployed:

Go out to dinner or lunch with a group of friends

Get a pedicure or manicure

Go to someone else’s house for dinner

Get take out that you like

Sign up for a course you’ve always wanted to take

Go to the movies and maybe stay for another one afterwards

Have a long bath and take a book or magazine with you, put a sign that says “Only disturb if you see blood or vomit”

Call friends or family members and have a good long chat

Take a personal day or book a day off and do nothing but put your feet up

Go through photos or other piles you have been dying to get to

The bottom line is that you need to take time before they leave to pamper, renew and treat yourself as a deployment is filled with doing a lot of things for other people and you will be better for everyone around you if you are somewhat rested heading into it.

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #413


Find a Family Pet That Fits – Tip #413

Having a pet can be a tremendous source of comfort and joy but it can also feel like an incredible burden or another thing to stress and worry about.  A  family pet can be the most consistent and reliable member of your family (no offense) – it can provide stability in the up and down world of military life.  Studies have conclusively shown that having a family pet can reduce stress, emotional trauma and anxiety.  A pet can be especially beneficial when you are being posted, preparing for a deployment, going through a deployment, experiencing a re-integration/reunion, etc. and provide the comfort that no one and nothing else quite can.  With a pet can also come a tremendous amount of responsibility and additional work depending on the pet you choose.  Here are some things to consider…

Prior To Having A Pet:

* Take a good look at your schedules and routines and see how a pet would fit into your world

* Think about your long term possibilities – upcoming moves, tours, trainings, etc. and ensure that your pet will fit into this

* Consider who would be able to care for your pet in the event you go on holiday, away visiting family, are late at work, deployed, etc.

* Cost out how much your pet would add to your monthly bills – food, supplies, toys, etc.

* Assign responsibilities to each family member prior to getting a pet and have them agreed upon

* Take a pet for a weekend/ trial basis – some pet stores or shelters have a plan where you can babysit a pet to see if it fits with your family

* Make an agreement on a budget for medical costs and other unexpected expenses

* Look at different pets and what each one has as an average time committment

* Consult with everyone in your family – including ones that may be absent

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

To submit a tip of your own or request a topic to be covered, write to: Megan@WhileYouWereAway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – #403


Car Kit – #403

Although some of us are approaching winter and we tend to think more about car safety kits, there should be one in your car no matter what the season or the climate you live in.  When you have a family member deployed or absent, you may not have time to get the car serviced, have anyone else that you would call if you were broken down or think about taking some time to put a few essentials into your car.    Taking the time to do this now can save you a lot of headache, time and potentially keep you safe later on.

Tips:

* Water

* Booster Cables or Mini Battery Booster

* Candle  & Matches (waterproof)

* Spare Tire

* Energy Bars

* Air Pump

* Safety Blanket

* Help/Call Police Sign

* Flashlight

* Windshield Fluid/Power Steering Fluid

* First Aid Kit

* Sand/Salt (small container)

* Mini Shovel

* Medication (if you take a serious medication and need it at particular time – keep at least one dose)

* Glass and Seat Belt Cutter

* Road maps (your GPS won’t work if your car isn’t!)

* Clothing (if you are in a colder climate, an extra coat, hat, mittens, etc. or even just a sweater)

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: Megan@whileyouwereaway.org

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