Living It Week 30 and 31

Short Term Goals – Reunions!

Sharing the bed

It has been a long couple of weeks with some unexpected twists and turns.  Now that we are coming to break in the deployment and a three week visit, we are all tired and ready for a change of pace and desperately in need of an extra set of hands to help out with things.  This weekend I was a taxi driver, homework helper, gardener, baker, laundress, grocery shopper, party organizer, dog walker, and so much more! I nearly sat down and openly wept at the lack of “me time” I have for anything but then I remembered that we are three weeks left to go until I get a break and pulled myself together.  After all, I have made it eight months!  :)

This reunion I am setting some goals for myself that will hopefully support our whole family.  In past deployments, reunion has always been the hardest and I am hoping that doing a few things differently will make coming back together a bit easier…

Short Term Reunion Goals:

* Constantly remind myself about what is important – if some things don’t get done when he is back for a couple of weeks, they don’t get done and the world won’t stop because the fence wasn’t fixed.

* Making a small list of things that are priorities but with the expectation that it isn’t going to all get accomplished in three weeks and only putting things on the list that are driving me nuts.  The list can also overwhelm my husband in that he feels like he has to do it all and that puts pressure on him that isn’t necessary

* Inviting friends and family around all for one big event – this allows everyone to have a visit and for us to spend a lot of family time together too without trying to schedule in tons of different visits.  The last time we spent the entire time going from one event to another and it was tiring.

* Keeping his return low key – we will make a banner, we will get excited, we will get his favourite foods in the house but not make it into the biggest event of the year.  It reduces the pressure on all of us and gives him time to settle in quietly without tons of expectations and obligations

* Set limits with people – many people will want us to do things and go places and we have to be willing and comfortable saying no.  He is only home for three weeks.  We all need a slower pace, low stress and family time (I may be sleeping non stop but I will be physically there)

* I will keep my resentful comments about him not having to run a house, take care of kids and a dog, and have a full time job to myself (at least try to)!  Rationally, I know that we have both had it hard and to compare would be crazy as it is truly like comparing apples and oranges but I do tend to get caught up in the who had it harder game and am going to work hard not to

* I am a person that only feels relaxed when things are tidy and clean – I know on one level it is sad but it is me.  I am going to work hard to not ‘lose my noodle’ when my husband begins to spread like a fungus all over the house.    I am going to remind myself that it is three weeks and don’t want to spend them nagging about cleaning up.

* Selfish “me time” – As I have said before, being selfish is not a horrible thing that you need to feel guilty about.  I am going to have a selfish day before my husband comes home so that I am not burnt out and bugging him to give me time.  I will still bug him to give me some time but I won’t be quite so desperate.

A lot of my goals are either about being self aware or mentally preparing myself to share my life, our kids, the house and bed again (I still am waking up sprawled across it!).  My ultimate piece of advice is to take some time to pamper yourself and think about what it is you want and don’t want before your family member comes home, be prepared to give up some things and set limits!

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Living It – Week 29

Tip # 445 – When They’re Back Box

When You Are Back Box

It is now at the point where my kids can see the light at the end of the incredibly long tunnel. They are beginning to talk about plans and what they want to do when Dad gets home. I will admit that I have started a list of things that I can’t wait to hand over. But… I also have had to remind the kids (and myself) that my husband was working long hours, was away from all the comforts of home for a long time, didn’t get holidays or weekends and will be tired.  We have decided to take my own advice and we have dusted off the When You’re Back box.  We have used it a few times with great success and we also take the cards when we have done them and put them all up on the wall for awhile to see what we have accomplished.

The idea is that the box sits out on the kitchen table with cards beside it and a couple of markers.  When I or the kids think of something that they want to do when their Dad gets back they write it on the card and stick it in the box.  Then when my husband gets home he randomly chooses a few cards at a time and they set times to do some of them in the week.  This way the kids get things to look forward to and my husband doesn’t feel like he has to do it all the very week he comes home.  We also try to think of a lot of things that have no cost associated with them and mean we will get to just spend time together.  I have already thrown a few boring ones from me of things I have been dying to get down around the house!

Our ‘When You’re Back’ ideas so far:

* Go hiking with the dog

* Read Lord of the Rings together

* See the Matrix movies together

* Go camping

* Play chess

* Go for a bike ride

* Make a big Thai dinner together

* Do a 3km run each week together

* Sign up for an adventure race

* Go out for breakfast together and then drive us to school

* Make a fort in the backyard

* Set up a movie in the backyard

* Have an unChristmas party

* Clean out garage (Mom’s)

* Have a chocolate fondue

* Have a picnic at the park

* Go for ice cream

* Play a round of mini golf

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

Living It – Week 27

Tip #99 – Be Organized


When I wrote “101 Tips for When They’re Back” I had a fair number of suggestions for making life easier for their return by being organized.  Since we are in the final 60 day stretch I decided that it may be good to start going through the reunion book and living some of my own advice from there too.  I still stand by all of what I said and truly believe that there is a certain loss of control that I have to be willing to give up again.  For the most part, I have been the one making the decisions about what we eat, what things we do in the evenings, where we go, when we go to sleep and so on and so on.  Now I am going to have to readjust to sharing those decisions with someone else.  Being organized will help me feel less out of control (yes, I am one of those people that finds coming home to a clean house one of the greatest feelings in the world – EVERYTHING REALLY DOES HAVE A PLACE!  Despite what my husband and kids say…).

By the time he gets home I will have…

* Cleaned out the areas of the house that were my husband’s and make them ready for him to invade again (or… to make a mess of and frustrate me but everyone has to have a space to do what they want with)

* Organize the fridge and freezer so that I not only know what we have but that I know we have things he likes too – it will also take the guess work out of meals and make life easier

* Do some bulk shopping for boring things like toilet paper, soaps, etc. – less time in the stores and less hastle

* Sort through and prioritize the mail that is stuffed into a box the door (this has not been a good example but with so much to deal with, if it was addressed to my husband and didn’t look like a bill or urgent, it got shoved into a box)

* Try to get some work done ahead of time so that I can take a few days when he gets back and not feel overwhelmed with a long list of things to do on top of getting used to having to go back to sleeping on my side of the bed!

* Go through the calendar and see what things are going to be happening and try to do things in advance to help reduce the amount of running around when he first gets home (I am going to buy some birthday cards in advance, get some birthday presents and wrap and label them, get postage stamps, etc.)

* Send a copy of our calendar to my husband so that he knows some of what he is coming home to as well

* Write ahead of time and ask what things he is missing the most (besides his favourite wife and kids).  This way I can pick them up when I have time rather than dashing around in the last few days

Regardless of whether or not I am totally organized or a complete mess, reunions are hard.  I really believe that being organized will only help with a smoother reintegration for everyone.  People often tell me that it must be so hard to have my husband away so much – it is but…  it is very hard to get used to sharing a life again after a long deployment too and many times for us, it has been the hardest part.  My husband has been at home with us for a total of 67 days in 2 years.  Getting used to life together again is going to be something I need to begin preparing for and living my own advice!

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Living It – Week 22

Sleep – Tip #59


When I wrote this tip I was trying to work through a reintegration with my husband after a long deployment.  I was sleep deprived (working full time and trying to look after 2 children – under 3 years old at the time).  I knew that sleep was important and once I followed my own advice the world seemed like a much better place and my husband instantly became more reasonable!  Jump ahead now to our current deployment and I am still struggling to get enough sleep so that the people around me love me rather than fear me.

I know that sleep is something that needs to become a priority when trying to survive a deployment but is MUCH easier said than done.  There are nights when I am totally committed to getting to bed and actually turning off the light and going to sleep early.  I am struggling to move from thinking about doing it to actually doing it…

Over the years I have discovered that not only am I more sane when I have slept more but also that I eat better and this results in me not gaining tons of weight and feeling even worse.  The National Sleep Registry says that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.  9 hours of sleep makes me happier, I eat less, I react less and I am generally a more reasonable and pleasant person to be around.  Knowing this doesn’t seem to help me though and on average I am only getting 6-6.5 hours of sleep right now.  This past week I decided that my “Living It” should be to commit to my own advice of getting enough sleep.

Things I accomplished:

*I turned off my phone rather than just plugging it in (I often hear the vibration and then check it so that stopped that bad habit)

* I have stopped using my bedroom to watch TV in – I will often fall asleep watching a show and then wake up at crazy hours

* I have reinforced a regular nightly routine with the kids (there were nights this week when I was ready for bed before they were!)

* I have been cooking dinner 30mins earlier so that I can get things done after dinner a few minutes sooner and I am not awake because I still have energy from the food I ate at dinner

* I stopped eating or drinking anything after 7pm

This week I definitely felt better, was more cheerful and I wish I could tell you I ate less but… I am a stress eater so that will continue to be a work in progress.  The bottom line for this tip is that sleep is something we need to make more time for as it makes the times you are awake so much nicer – if you truly follow this tip, it will also help you to survive deployments, reunions and all the other things military life throws your way a little better.

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

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:

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


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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.

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