1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #470


“I Love You Because…” Frames

Our lives as a family are busy.  We have chosen to do the things that we love to do and are having fun but most mornings I don’t really don’t see my kids very much.  In fact, most mornings I wake them (after turning on lights, telling them to get up 5 times and then move to panicked pleading) but then I have to leave for work.  Being a teenager is hard, really hard.  I want my kids to know that they are not only loved but why they are loved – at this age they want facts and evidence or they don’t believe it!  I know that they really don’t hear much that I say with their morning and pre breakfast brain.  I decided that I would make something quick and easy that they could read while they were getting ready and try to start their day off right.

Being that we are busy, I can assure you that these were EASY to make, are easy to do and cheap!  All you need is two frames, paper, and a white board marker.  You can change it every day or once a week.  It is up to you.

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

Join us on Facebook: While You Were Away

Join us on Twitter: @whileyouwereaway

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #466


Selfish Day

Many of us think of the word selfish and automatically think of it as a negative thing.  After all, it is often used by people to describe someone that thinks only of themselves, is thoughtless and mean.  I am, more often than not, guided by doing what is right rather than what makes me happy.  I think many of us are.  That is okay (most of the time) as, living in a military family means there are things that always need to get done BUT… I also think that we have forgotten how to slow down, take care of ourselves and take uninterrupted “fun” time doing things we want to do, things that relax us or bring us joy.  These moments don’t happen often as you are either planning a move, trying to settle in after a move, waiting to hear about trainings and deployments, trying to get through deployments, etc.

For the past 2 years I have been Mom (and Dad most of the time) and had to put a lot of my needs aside to look after the kids, the house, the dog and all the things in between including a full time and demanding job.  Being a military spouse often means that you don’t get a lot of time for yourself unless you take on an epic coordination the size of a small deployment!  I took on the coordination this weekend and it was worth it.  My in-laws took the dog, my kids went to friend’s houses, I put the phone away and didn’t answer emails, I ordered in for dinner, etc.  It was soooo worth it!

For the first time in over 2 years I took a completely selfish day this weekend – not without wrangling with some guilt but I still took it (I worry it makes me a bad mother if I just do things for myself).  I stayed strong.  I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do, I resisted the urge to do baking, cooking, cleaning and work and I didn’t give in to my family’s requests to ‘just do this or that and it will only take a few minutes’.  The world didn’t come to an end.  I just took care of myself and made a plan to do something fun, something a little out of my comfort zone and a little bit of absolutely nothing (a few hours of mindless Netflix).  I also think I modelled for my kids what self care looks like.  I am not going to say they were happy about it but I think they understood in the end that this is what I needed.  As adults we don’t often come right out and say to our kids “I need this” so when I did, they listened (until they needed something!).

I have written a lot of tips over the years and always live it before asking others to.  I forced myself to do this partly for me and partly to complete this tip!  Now though, I will be taking a monthly selfish day (yes, once a month)!  I will be doing this more often as I deserve a break and truly believe that I have earned the right to have some time doing things that I want to do.  Military life is hard but this can’t be used as an excuse for why I don’t take care of my needs too.  There will always be a reason not to do it but, as I discovered this weekend, there are so many more reasons to do it.  All you need to do after reading this is go to your calendars and book your own selfish day!

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

Living It Week 35 and 36


Calendar – Tip #25

When my husband was away, I was great (if I do say so myself) about keeping a calendar with everything and anything on it.  The kids even got into the habit of looking at it (I know you may be thinking that is a small accomplishment but it really isn’t in my world!).  It really helped to keep us organized and maintained some sanity.  Then my husband got home and all routines fell apart and the calendar was just taking up space on the board in the kitchen.  After two weeks of missing appointments, never knowing where everyone was, being totally out of sync and becoming really frustrated we quickly realized that it was something small that made a huge difference!

IMG_4102

I took my own advice and…

1) Asked that everyone put their things on the main kitchen calendar (it isn’t overly helpful to me to know that it is in your phone calendar…) and did the first input with everyone right there to get them started

2) Colour coded the calendar for people so that you would know which things were yours by quickly looking

3) Went over the calendar once a week at dinner (for the following week) so we all knew what was happening, who needs to be taken places, etc.

4) Printed out 3 months at a time so we also knew what things were coming up in the next months that were important too

5) Took a picture of the calendar and texted it to everyone

While I know that we are all in the era where we generally believe that technology can do it faster and more efficiently, this printed calendar in the kitchen may have actually saved the lives of my husband and children as I was teetering on the edge of insanity with the chaos!

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

Living It – Week 34


Tip #18 – Ask Questions

COnversation Cards

I can honestly say that at this point in the deployment there is little extra I am willing to or wanting to take on – I am beyond tired and just want to spend a solid week sleeping.  I know that when my husband gets home he will be tired (I have to constantly remind myself that he has been working for 8months solid with no breaks so it hasn’t been a picnic for him either).  One of the things we struggle with is what to do as a family to get conversations starting again and begin filling in the gaps of missed time.  My husband isn’t the best conversationalist and the kids haven’t seen him for 8 months so this reunion I decided that we would do Meal Question Cards.  This takes the pressure off everyone to have to come up with their own questions and keeps us laughing and talking.

Tips:

* Make a mix of silly and serious questions

* Give incentives to people with the best answer (no dishes for the best answer, chore free day for the most thoughtful response, extra dessert if everyone laughs, etc.)

* Choose one meal a week to do them at so that it isn’t a pressure at every meal or everyday

* Put a few “Pass” cards out too so that people have the option not to answer something they aren’t comfortable with

* Hide them under their plates so they can’t cheat and plan their answers ahead of time

Hopefully your family will have fun with this, begin to reconnect and start talking about the big and little things that matter to them!

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

Our Reunion Handbook can be found at (conversation cards on page 26-33):  http://wywa.ca/DEPLOYMENTRESOURCES/Reunion-Handbook-Ver5.pdf

Living It – Week 33


Tip #61 Seek Support

Support

Most people don’t reach out for help until they are in a crisis.  We aren’t going to wait!  I have been 8 months without my husband and have only shared a house, kids and room with him for just over 150 days in 3 years.  I know that we are going to need counseling so I am not going to wait or feel embarrassed about it.  I am also not going to fall into the trap of saying we don’t have enough time to go – we have to make the time.  I have time to watch TV so I have time to go to counseling.  We also cannot use the excuse that it is too much money as there are tons of free services for military members and families – we are going to use the services offered to us.  We are both committed to making the time.  I know that there are definitely families where both couples aren’t committed and ready to go but at the least make an appointment for yourself so that you can have a neutral person with no emotional ties or investment in your relationship to talk to.  I am lucky we are both ready and willing but if my husband wasn’t, I would go anyway.

Great Websites:

These are a few that I found and have used but please feel free to add your own if you know of any.

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

www.whileyouwereaway.org

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!

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

 

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