1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #469

The Kindness Challenge

If you are anything like me, December is spent in a mad dash to buy things for people that I hope they will like and will show them I care.  However, I think that the Grinch had a serious “Ah Ha” moment when he discovered that Christmas isn’t from a store or in a box.  In fact, this was the inspiration for the December challenge.  Rather than the focus just on buying and wrapping, lining up and getting generally frazzled just trying to find a parking space at the mall - I will do that but… I wanted us to focus on being good to ourselves and each other too.  If you are posted somewhere without family and a lot of friends, have someone on a deployment, etc. this is a good way to refocus you too!

Click Here for our December Kindness Challenge Calendar: December Kindness Challenge

Kindness Challenge


Alter it to suit your family and feel free to share yours too!  Good luck and I hope your December is filled with a little more kindness and family fun and less having to follow someone with shopping bags leaving the mall to get a parking space.

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1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #467

Thankfulness - Not Just A Temporary Thing!

Each year at Thanksgiving, we go around the table, talking about the things we are grateful for - as I know many do.  This feeling of fortune and happiness often extends beyond the meal times because we leave the table not only full but also focussed on what we are happy about rather than all the things that aren’t working in our lives and I like it.

Being a part of a military family means you often have to go without - family, friends, homemade treats only certain people can make, etc.  It got me to thinking that perhaps we should  list things that we are grateful for each day until Christmas (or American Thanksgiving or New Years) and keep that feeling of gratitude for a little longer than at just one dinner or day.

This year I bought a second hand tablecloth from a thrift store.  Each day we are going to write something on it that we are grateful for having had happened this year or something/someone in our lives that we are grateful for.  Then we are going to use it as our Christmas or New Years table cloth - it will not only remind us of how lucky we are but there will be some great conversation starters in there too.

How To:

  • Buy a material tablecloth (wash before using)
  • Buy Sharpie Markers (all colours)
  • Have a flat piece of cardboard under the cloth to ensure that if the marker goes through it isn’t on your countertop or table
  • Commit to adding to it on a regular basis (have it on the table before meals or fold it into squares and place the cardboard underneath there is an exposed square for people to write on easily without taking the whole thing out
  • After completed, throw into the dryer on high heat for 10-20mins, leave for 24 hours and then wash only in cold water (some people also recommend throwing a cup of salt into the cold water too)
  • Use at your next big event/dinner!

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

1001 Tips For Military Families - Tip #452

Daddy Dolls - Tip #452  

Chilling out by a cosy fire

Chilling out by a cosy fire

When my kids were younger they would have loved to have cuddled with a doll that had their Dad’s face on it.  I realized that they are older now and that might not be considered ‘cool’ but I still loved the idea of having something with his face on it to take on trips, to eat with us, to put into pictures and have fun with so… I ordered an Daddy Doll to have some fun with!  This doll is going to be on a lot of adventures with us while their Dad is away and we are going to keep track of them all through photos.  We have also started pinning ticket stubs, momentos, receipts, etc. onto the back of the doll.  When their Dad is back we will be able to talk about all the adventures our Daddy Doll went on while he was away.   It was $100 including shipping and taxes and has been one of the best things we have ever purchased for absences!


Texting together!

Texting together!

A day in the principal's office!

A day in the principal’s office!

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

Daddy Doll link: http://daddydolls.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=83

1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #453

Responsibilities Chart

In our house can be painful trying to get my kids to lift a finger at times (okay, a lot of the time).  I am usually greeted with things like, “I have too much homework”, “I am so tired”, “_______ never does it.”.  It is frustrating and when my husband is away it leaves me to be the only one nagging which frequently sends me over the edge!  There was always a potential argument brewing about who walked the dog last, whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher, putting away their laundry, help with dinner, etc. until we started marking it all on a calendar I got in the after Christmas sales (you need to get one with big boxes for writing).  It is so exhausting having to ask and ask for things to be done that I am often tempted to do it myself to save the aggravation but I don’t want my kids to grow up believing that if you complain enough, someone will do it for you.

The only thing that has stopped the discussions (mostly) is our chore chart and dog walking schedule.  It is in the kitchen, written out for everyone to see so that we can avoid having a lengthy “debate”.  We make it together each month, agree it is fair before posting it up and stick to it whenever possible (my next goal is to work on teaching them to pitch in even when it isn’t written down or jump in when you see someone else is overwhelmed but I think that might need to be a long term goal!).

It has marked on it dog walking, their activities, help with dishes or dinner.

It stands out as we use different colours for things and I put it on the fridge as it is a high traffic area where everyone in the house goes regularly.

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

A whiteboard calendar will also work!

A whiteboard calendar will also work!







1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #487


Instruction Manual - Tip #487

When I was teaching I asked students to all write an instruction manual for themselves at the beginning of the school year.  They had to come up with instructions on how others should operate around them, their best features, all the things you get from having them in your life and what others need to do to support them in functioning to the best of their abilities.  Basically, students create a ‘how to’ manual for others to follow, a guide to help you ‘maintain’ their health!

I got to thinking about when we have a family member absent or deployed there are often a lot of new people that come into your family’s lives or family members that aren’t around as much for the day to day operations and they don’t always know things that would be helpful and make life easier for everyone.  I also realized that I probably don’t ask enough what things my kids think I need to do to support them.  Before an absence or deployment I think that this would be an ideal activity to do so that other people looking after your children or working with your children know more and you would have insights directly from the source that could be invaluable.

Instruction manual

Tips for Creating An Instruction Manual:

* Create a fancy cover with a recent photo

* Give basic information on the first page - full name, date of birth, address, phone numbers, siblings

* Things to Keep Me Running Smoothly - list things that they like to do

* Things to feed me - favourites, foods to avoid, etc.

*Things I would fail to function without - essentials that they sleep with, take on trips, etc.

* Favourite People - a list of people they know and trust (this will also remind them of what their support system is and let you know if you need to create a bigger circle)

* My operating routine - daily things that need to be done, should be done and would be a bonus if they were done.

* What to do when there is a system failure - when there are bad days or things go wrong what will help?  What will make it worse?  What do you need?

The more fun you make it, the more likely they are to buy into it.  Keep it out on a coffee table or on the fridge so that people can reference it, your kids can add to it, etc.  Make one for yourself too.  It is not only an important way to reflect on what you need but a great way to tell your family that you need handling with care instructions.

For more information on our books, resources or tips please go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip # 451

The Gift of Undivided Time - Tip #451

Most 21st Century kids are used to talking, texting and doing something else all at the same time.  In actual fact, doing only three things at once is rare for kids.  We now live in a world where everyone is multitasking (driving while texting and listening to the radio, eating lunch while talking on the phone and emailing someone at the same time, etc.  The downside of this multitasking life is that your children, friends, co-workers and significant other can all feel as though they are not important enough or not really being heard and/or understood.  How many of us can really say that we make the people most important to us know they are important by giving them 100% of our attention for even 20mins a day?

This holiday season I would suggest that the largest gift that you can give your children is to them your 100% focus and attention for part of the day each day.  This would mean watching a movie and only watching the movie (no answering calls, emails or texting).  It would also mean that when you had a meal together that your cell phone was no where in sight and the TV and computer were both off.  We are losing the art form of connecting meaningfully with others and this means that people are feeling less and less connected and important to others.  I find myself often realizing that I am having a face to face conversation with someone and I haven’t even looked them in the face!  The challenge I put to you is that this holiday season, give the biggest gift of all - your complete and undivided attention for at least 20mins a day to those that matter to you.  This is a gift that will also give back.  Your kids, husband, friends, co-workers, etc. will feel the benefits of your undivided time and if you are really lucky, give it back to you and other people that are important to them.


  • Spend an hour a day uncomplete disconnected from technology - ignore the emails, texts, calls etc.
  • No screens when eating meals
  • Decide what is urgent and an emergency - there are few things that you truly need to be reached immediately.  Remind yourself of what an actual emergency is - we have forgotten.
  • Let family, friends and work know that you are going to be “unplugging” at certain times in the day
  • Take the phone out of your bedroom at night
  • Pay for a messaging service and record a message that will let people know who else they can reach and how to contact you in an emergency so you don’t feel that you have to talk to everyone right that minute

This tip will truly benefit you as much as it will benefit those that need you, care about you and just want to spend time with you.  “Unplugging” will give you freedom, perspective and time that counts with the people that matter.

Undivided Attention

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1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #441

Before the Year is Over - Tip #441

Rather than waiting for another new years eve to set some goals, try doing some right now.  On your own or with your family take a look back at the year so far, things you accomplished and didn’t get to.  Use the next 6 weeks to re-evaluate what you want to accomplish before saying good-bye to 2012.  Create a fun list of things you want to do before the year is through.  Create a challenge a day or one a week and ask others to support or join you.  We can often get caught up in the chaos of Christmas and the holidays and forget to do things for ourselves each day that will bring us happiness, relaxation and a sense of accomplishment.  Some ideas could include; take a different way to work each day for a week, exercise 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks, listen to music you don’t normally like, learn all the words to __________’s favourite song, try cooking a new recipe each week, etc.

Things to do, before the year is through!






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


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