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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: www.whileyouwereaway.org


Living It – Week Sixteen

Top Ten Lists – Tip #54

Our first few top tens!

Our first few top tens!

November has felt long and the grey days and cold temperatures haven’t helped.  I was, once again, looking for something to change things up a little and record a few of our thoughts, feelings and to help fill in the gaps for my husband as he does miss an awful lot and this is a fun way of filling him in.  This deployment has already been exhausting and I am trying hard to find things that are easy and fun to do together so… top ten lists began again.

Here are some titles of ones we have done (our top ten of top tens!) – 

* Top Ten Things We Miss About You

* Top Ten Most Annoying Things that Happened this Month

* Top Ten Best Things that Happened this Month

* Top Ten Terrible Meals We Have Eaten This Month

* Top Ten Movies We Want to See

* Top Ten Things We Are Looking Forward to

* Top Ten Animals We Wish We Could Have As Pets

* Top Ten Songs

* Top Ten Funniest Moments Since You’ve Been Gone

* Top Ten Junk Foods To Eat

Doing this together made us think about all the things we have survived, accomplished and got us thinking positively about the months to come – it was also super easy to put together (which is always a bonus!).  Deployments are life sucking and being able to sit back and laugh, plan and be positive about the future are no small feats when there is so many things that we could openly weep or get down in the dumps about!  Each week we are going to take a picture of them and by the end of the deployment we should have a book worth of top tens to talk or laugh about when their Dad gets home!

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #449

As our family gears up for another deployment it was definitely time to update our pre-deployment checklist!  I hope you find this as helpful as we do.  Some of the items may not apply to you or your family but I have tried to make them as general as possible.

Here is the link to it in a printable format:  http://wywa.ca/DEPLOYMENTRESOURCES/Pre_Deployment_Checklist.doc

Pre-Deployment Checklist

To Do

Additional Info


Walk through of house to locate:1) Fuse box2) Water Shut off3) Breaker

4) Gas Valve

Health Insurance Information, Policy number, etc.      
Mailing address during deployment       
Military Family Resource Contact Information during the deployment      
Contact info for:Rear Party: ___________Unit Contact Information:_______Email: ____________________    
Update Contact information for schools     
Update family and friends with contact information      
All bills and payments are on prepaid schedule or set up and accessible      
Updated will & power of attorney       
Power of guardianship completed       


Marriage certificate, birth certificate, health cards, etc.  all accessible     
Location of mortage or rental agreements      
Household budget agreed upon and summarized      
Emergency Contact Lists done – phone tree created      
Authorization to access accounts and information      
Pay office information and pay allotments organized      
Passwords available – computer, internet, etc.   Computer: ________________Alarm: ___________________Internet: __________________Other: ____________________  
Update calendar with important events and dates and give to each family member or have an online calendar everyone can access    
Create first aid kits and emergency kits      
Give set of house and car keys to friend or trusted colleague      
Car Maintenance and Insurance all done and up to date   Name of mechanic/ contact info:____________________________  


Get CAA/AAA  Membership # ________________    
Permission to travel with children form completed     
Organize yard maintenance, snow removal, grass cutting  Contact #’s:     
Create a “need to know” sheet for the fridge     
Get family photos taken      
Vet Information      
Emergency Car Kit    
Create a countdown calendar for the kids or candy jar     
Put up pictures in the kid’s rooms      
Create a set location to put mail & make an agreement on what to open and not open     


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

1001 Tips for Military Families – #449

Read to your children – Tip #449


Being an educator and mother, I am a avid reader and especially of children’s books.  They don’t have to say the words deployment or military to be well suited to military families, educators or support personnel.  I am not suggesting that you go out and spend a lot of money and buy all of these but most of them will be in your children’s schools or at your local library.  I highly recommend ending each day with a book as there are some strong and important messages that you can give to your children through these books – one of the most important is the message you will pass onto them when you drop everything for them and take the time to enjoy a good book.  Here are my top choices…

Great books for reading and recording onto your computer, IPOD or CD by a family member who is leaving:

* Gregory, the Terrible Eater – Mitchell Sharmat

– It tells the story of a goat that loves healthy, human food and his parents aren’t happy.  If you have a fussy eater this is a perfect read!

* I Love You Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt

– A book that teaches children about unconditional love.  You could finish it off with telling them that there is nothing they could do or be that you would stop loving them for and time or distance won’t change it.

* The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies – Stan and Jan Berenstain

– A timeless classic of shopping with your children.  A good one to remind them about appropriate behaviour even when you are away.

* Some Things Are Scary (No Matter How Old You Are) – Florence Parry Heide

– A great book to talk about everyone having fears and it would be a good chance for you to share what you do when you are worried or scared.

*  I Love You, Little One – Nancy Tafuri

– It is the perfect book to tell your child you love them and why

Great Books for Reading to Them At Night to remind them of their own strength and courage:

* Oh, the Paces You’ll Go – Dr. Seuss

– This book will remind your child that even though they haven’t left home they are on their own journey

* The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein

– This book demonstrates how the gift of giving can affect people and things

* Today I Will Fly – Mo Willems

– It is a good book for teaching your child about never giving up and persevering even when you don’t do things the way you’d planned.

* Little Beaver and The Echo – Amy MacDonald and Sarah Fox-Davies

– It tells the story of a lonely beaver who finds friends when he is looking for someone that doesn’t exist

* Imagine A Place – Sarah L. Thomson

– This book is perfect for sitting and looking at together and talking about what  you see and why or why not it could be possible or impossible.

* David Gets in Trouble – David Shannon

– He has written an easy to read book about admitting when you have done something wrong and being loved anyway.


The Kissing Hand – Audrey Penn

– I challenge you to find a better book to read to your children before their first day of school.  I have been reading this book to my children every year since Kindergarten.  It is about a mother raccoon and her child having to be separated but only physically. If there was any book in this list to buy…  this is it!

Books to Discuss Friend Or Self Esteem Issues:

* The Ordinary Princess – M.M. Kaye

– A book that teaches the reader that there is no such thing as ordinary

* The English Roses – Madonna

– A story about accepting and having friends not only for the things you have in common but the things that make you different

* My Secret Bully – Trudy Ludwig

– In my opinion, the best book published that talks about the ways girl’s bullying and treat eachother.

* Just Kidding – Trudy Ludwig

– In my opinion, the best book for boys about the way they treat each other and then call it a ‘joke’.

* The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds

– The story of a boy that learns from his teacher that he is capable of anything if he just tries.

* Scaredy Squirrel Makes A Friend – Melanie Watt

– There is a bunch of these Scaredy Squirrel books now and they all deal with overcoming your fears so that you can discover the world.  They do it with humour and fun.

I hope you enjoy all of these as much as I have and would welcome your recommendations too.

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

Tip #446 – Summer to Do’s


Summer Goals – Tip #446

Summer fun

With the exception of my readers living on the other side of the globe (in this case make it winter goals), summer is coming up fast. One of the ways we make time pass in a fun way rather than a “when is he going to ever come home” way is by setting some fun “Summer To Do’s”. These short term goals give our family things to look forward to, things to work towards and do together. In the past, we have discovered that the summer has come and gone before we have even remembered all the things we promised we’d do. Here is our list below to inspire you…

Before the end of the summer we will…
* Go on a road trip for good ice cream
* Play mini golf
* Go swimming at least once a week
* Learn a new sport
* Do a bargain shopping day
* Play baseball
* Have a backyard BBQ party
* Read 10 books
* Go to the movies
* Have a picnic
* Ride our bikes (at least once a week)
* Visit __________
* Clean out our rooms
* Go hiking
* Do a scavenger hunt
* Go camping
* Go on a canoe camping trip
* Make spider hot dogs
* Roast marshmellows
* Play tennis
* Have a sleepover with friends in the backyard
* Go to 10 different parks in the city
* Find a good outdoor pool to go to
* Make a summer song mix
* Go on a scavenger hunt
* Try a new sport
* Go canoeing
* Re-do our rooms

For more tips, ideas and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #444

Surviving Car Trips  – Tip #444

Surviving car trips is an art form and particularly if you are doing it alone.  As a military wife, I am often “flying solo” and refuse to let life pass us by or not go on trips until my husband is home (we could be waiting for months).  Having said this, I don’t go away without some planning and prep time to ensure everyone’s survival.   It is this planning that often saves my sanity and allows my kids to see their next birthday! 

My basic must brings:  snacks, wetnaps, klennex, books, map (for them to use), pencils, markers, paper, neck pillows, tic tacs (play game of seeing who can make theirs last the longest), change (in case of toll booths), IDs and travel permissions, bottles of water, first aid kit, emergency car kit, blanket, stories on CD, music, fruit/veggies (not always easy or cheap along the way), chargers, flashlight, games, plastic bags, extra pair of shoes and socks, box of ziplock bags and camera. 

When my husband is away I also make a habit of having the kids take pictures of silly things along the way.  When we are on a trip we often get the big moments but they aren’t always the most memorable so by taking silly things along the way we can connect with their Dad in a fun way too.  When we are going on long trips we also take a poster board size picture of Dad and insert him into our pictures for fun.  It is another silly way of us keeping him a little closer.

I am also not a parent that loves to constantly just turn on a movie or have them play with their gaming systems for hours on end.  I remember car trips with my family as a time that we would talk, argue, laugh and discover different things about each other and the world (by actually looking out the window).  When I do give in the “electronic pleas” from the back seat I give a time limit or say that they can do it until we reach a certain point.  It doesn’t stop them from asking for more time but this is when I pull out the travel bingo.  It is the one game we can all agree on.  It gets them looking out the window, laughing, talking and time flies by.  Now that they are older they make their own cards too.  If car bingo doesn’t work then just find something your family can agree on and have fun with it.  The idea is really to find things to do to make time pass that don’t always include electronics. 

Until I was a parent and military wife, I never knew how exhausting going on a vacation could be! It is always worth it in the end and the memories we create are priceless but the preparation and planning are what ultimately saves me and my children!

Car Bingo

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org  (I will also post the full sized bingo sheet)

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #442

To Do Wreath – Tip #442

Whenever my children tell me all the things that they love about the holidays there is very little talk about presents or things that they can’t wait to get or want.  Most of their talk is around what we do over the season – the time we spend together, the traditions or holiday events that we always take part in.  It got me to thinking that perhaps we could do a holiday countdown for the month of December and put down all the traditions and events we love doing and then do a couple a day.  Then I thought about it…  my husband is away a lot at the moment, I work full time and have to do a lot of the running of the house, taking the kids to events, sports, etc.  I decided that we would write down a list of all the things that we love to do and then rank our top 25 (of course I carefully edged them away from things that were incredibly time consuming or overwhelming to complete and tried to have a balance of short and longer time committments).  Once we had the list, we ranked them and chose our top 25.  Each day we will do one until the holidays.

I made some cards…

To Do Wreath 1

Made a wreath (coat hanger, spray painted clothes pegs, red beads and a bit of ribbon)

To Do Wreath 2

Then put the cards on the wreath for us to take off each day and do

To Do Wreath 3

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with family and friends and get the gift of time together to relax and have some fun. 


Megan & the While You Were Away team