1001 Tips for Military Families – #457

Spaces – Tip #457

It never surprises me that I quickly take over many of my husband’s “spaces” when he is gone.  I already sleep in the middle of the bed, have filled the closet with my clothes and moved in on his office space now – there seems to be no stopping me.  I also have a tendency to be MUCH tidier than he is and clean up and throw out things without a second thought.  This year I decided to not throw anything out but I did pack up some things that were just gathering dust.  What I am going to have to try hard to remember is that when he gets back he needs to have places and spaces that are “his” too and that all the things he left are still there when he returns!

Before he gets back I will:

* Move out of places (like the office area he loves) that he uses daily or at least make it a shared space

* Put all the things that I “tidied” up (packed into buckets) back where I found them

* Start sleeping back on my side of the bed a month before he returns

* Make sure that there is plenty of closet space for him to ‘move back in’

* Make areas for his things, reorganize myself and create spaces that he can ‘fill’ comfortably


The bottom line is that I know that it is important for any returning family member to feel like they belong and ‘fit’ into their home and family’s life when they return and taking over all the entire house isn’t going to help at all with the already difficult task of reuniting.

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

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


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

1001 Tips for Military Families – #33

Tip #33 – Family Night

I know that military family life can be incredibly busy but…our kids have grown to love our Friday nights together.  It has become a part of our routine and by Thursday we are making plans for what we are going to all do together.  We do this every week, whether or not my husband is away or here.  This is the one night that my kids know I will be home and spending time with them and that is consistent.  I put my Blackberry on quiet and plug in it in the corner of the room (somewhere I can’t see the flashing red light), I check call display before answering the phone (only answering if it will be truly important and urgent – it has to be both!), I stay away from the computer and I give my kids the gift of my time.  Choose any night of the week that would work for your family.

Family Night Suggestions:

* Spa night (do hair, nails, facials, read magazines, etc.)

* Board games (the winner gets a free pass on dishes or another chore)

* Play on the Wii with them (they like it because I always lose!)

* Watch a movie, pop some popcorn

* Scrapbook

* Build a lego village (houses are fairly easy to build)

* Make cookies or do a craft together

* Make a package for an absent family member

* Pottery or ceramics (some bases have craft centres and they are amazing and often empty or under used)

* Swimming, skating or another sport you enjoy (you have to commit to doing it too so choose wisely!!)

* Paper mache (if you are brave and don’t care about how your house looks afterwards)

* Karoke (it is a good laugh for family members of all ages)

* Make a video for an absent family member or family that lives miles  away

* Read books together (my kids each choose one and I also pick one that I want to read to them too – it usually has some point I want to make about sharing, caring or listening)

* Go through family albums and make slide shows or send some of the latest photos to out of town friends and family or to a family member that is away

* Eat dinner on a tray in the living room (if that is what you normally do then change it up a bit and all eat at the dinning room table with some fancy dishes)

* Go to the park and actually get on the play structure with them (the first time I did it my kids were silenced – not an easy thing to do)

OR… Think of something your kids have been asking to do for ages and that you always put off or avoid and do it.

It isn’t really about what you are doing but that you are doing it together.  The most valuable thing you can give them is your time and it becomes especially important when a love one is away.

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

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

More Tips for Military Families – #176

BONCO – Tip #176

Several years ago, when we were newly posted, I was given an invitation to attend a BONCO (also spelt – Bunco) party for wives.  At the time, it felt like just one more thing that I had to do, plan for and would not feel comfortable doing.  I was completely wrong (happens a lot)!  It was probably one of the best things I did for myself.  I attended with other wives that had military members deployed, away on training, at home getting on their nerves, etc.  It was the first time I had felt a part of a military community/family and I ended up looking forward to those monthly games not to win a prize or scream “BONCO!” (I liked that too) but more to get together with people who had a shared experience, who would understand what I was thinking or feeling.

The difference between getting together for dinner or coffee or for a chat and playing a game together is that there is a fun distraction.  The important things come up over the course of playing but it is hard to harp on the awful parts of military life when you are together playing a fun game.  You come together and laugh together, remind yourselves that you have each other and that there are still opportunities to enjoy life.


* Organize a monthly game (whichever game you choose although I have a love for Bonco!)

* Encourage your spouse, brother, father, mother, cousin, friend, mother, etc. to do this too.  Everyone in your family can benefit from this type of experience

* Set the time a month in advance so people can put it in their schedule (last Thursday of each month)

* Invite a wide group of people (perhaps the only thing you will have in common is military life)

* Take turns doing it at someone’s house (you don’t want to always be the host then it will be an obligation and a lot of work and not as fun)

* Set start and end times so that you don’t have people staying for hours on end when you are already tired

* You don’t have to play the same game each time, you can switch it up each time if you like

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

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

More Tips for Military Families – #171

Photograph A Day – Tip #171

Military family life can be extremely busy.  While I love to write, there isn’t always time in the day to record the day’s events.  It may also be that your returning family member won’t have time to read it all anyway!  Having said this, it is also important that days events, changes and happenings are recorded so that you can talk about experiences that happened while they were away, reconnect and gain a better understanding of what has happened in their absence.

Taking a photo a day is a quick and easy way to record and share your life experiences.  You don’t always notice the subtle changes that take place each day but when day after day becomes month after month those little changes can become really big and are important to acknowledge and record.


* Keep a camera out on the counter and easily accessible so that you won’t forget to take pictures

* Make a separate folder on the computer for the photos so that they are easy to find and look at

* Ask others to send you their photos too so you are in the pictures and not just behind the camera

* If you can afford it, put a cheap ($20-25) camera in your car so that you will have one when you aren’t at home

* Take just a couple of minutes each week to label and date the photos (if you have older children, give them this responsibility or do it together)

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

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

Book Recommendation of the Week

Guess How Much I Love You

By – Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

All children want reassurance that their parents’ love runs wide and deep and this is often even more so in a military family as there is constant change and they are looking for things that are always the same no matter what.  One thing you can guarantee to your child that will be constant is your love.

In Guess How Much I Love You, a young rabbit named Little Nutbrown Hare thinks he’s found a way to measure the boundaries of love. In a heartwarming twist on the “I-can-do-anything-you-can-do-better” theme, Little Nutbrown Hare goes through a series of declarations regarding the breadth of his love for Big Nutbrown Hare. But even when his feelings stretch as long as his arms, or as high as his hops, Little Nutbrown Hare is fondly one-upped by the elder rabbit’s more expansive love.


* You can record yourself reading this book

* Read the book on a regular basis and ask your child to tell you how much you think they love you and reassure them

* Make up a little saying just between your family that follows the “Guess How Much I Love You…” theme (“I love you more than chocolate”.  Then they can say, “I love you more than my X-Box”)

* Each day write a note and put it in their lunch box or bag or under their pillow or say it (I love you more than…)

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

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

More Tips for Military Families – When They’re Back #109

Date Night – Tip #109

Whether or not your wife, husband, brother, mother, father, sister, son, daughter, cousin, friend, etc. you need to carve out time to re-establish and strengthen your relationship.  When your family member or friend comes home everyone will want a piece of him or her.  There is also the natural tendancy to feel guilty if you ask for time together all to yourselves as there may be a lot of other people who want to spend time with your family member.  Try to let go of the guilt and make time to have one dinner, breakfast, movie night, etc. together to reconnect on a regular basis.  Ultimately, when you spend time reconnecting, reuniting and re-establishing your relationship you are also strengthening your family.


* Make a night that is set in stone for you both to spend uninterupted time together having fun and getting to know each other again

* Put it into our schedule on a weekly or bi-weekly (at the least) basis

* Choose an activity that you will both enjoy (go for dinner, attend a conference, bowling, golf, etc.)

* Let others know that this is your time together and part of your committment to build and strengthen your relationship

* Try to have it at a set time so that others do not plan or book things that will interfere with you being able to spend time together

* Choose activities that don’t require a lot of prep work or clean up so that you can spend your time together having fun not doing more work

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

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


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