Adjusting - Tip #447

Getting Another Groove: Adjusting To Their Return - Tip #447

My husband has just returned from being away for over 2 months. In 2 months I have created new systems and/or routines - I don’t trip over rucksacks and combat boots left right at the door, the butter knife is not lying in the sink rather than being put in the dishwasher and I happily moved to sleeping in the middle of the bed to name just a few subtle changes! In previous years the adjustment back to life together has been challenging at times. I usually blamed it on him being away and then wanting things to go back to how he wanted them or my being incredibly resentful that he got a break from everyday life (although I would not call what he is doing a “break”). This time I thought this through a little more (for those who know me, this is not my strong point). I decided to be pro-active and get things in the house ready for change (and hopefully myself too). They were little things but I have decided that they made a big difference.  The last thing you want is to have your family member returning home and feeling unwelcome and unwanted.



* If you moved where the mail or where something else goes, move it back (they will probably move whatever it is back anyway!)

* Clear an area by the door for them to put their combats/gear (for you to trip over when you come through the door) :)

* Make a welcome back sign and post it up (I left this for my kids to do)

* A couple of nights before he/she returns, start sleeping on your side of the bed again

* Get some of their favourite things to eat and drink and put them in the fridge and cupboards

* Leave the calendar as empty as possible for the first week back so they can fill it with you

* Print a few good pictures from your phone or camera of things that you did while he/she was away so you can fill them in

* Make a list of all the things you missed about them and post it on the fridge

* If you were using a space that was considered “theirs” tidy it up and let it be reclaimed

* Get out all the bathroom things that you put away while they were gone

* Clean up the bedroom of your clutter and make it a welcoming place (despite your sadness that you cannot take up the whole bed anymore)

* If you were letting a pet sleep on the bed, begin at least a week in advance, training them to sleep elsewhere


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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

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1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #426

Keeping Yourself Busy - Tip #426

Many people who have written or spoken to me about this.  They have a lot to say about my tip #7 - “Keep Busy” from my book.  Of course, I should have written “Keep Busy With the Things That You Love or Make You Feel Better About Life In General”.  Most of us have no problem being busy (there are always things like; laundry, dishes, phone calls, appointments, work, birthdays, etc.) but it is what we are filling our time with that we need to be mindful of.  Keeping busy doesn’t mean watching TV for hours on end (living someone’s real or imaginary life), doing piles of laundry or running errands for other people.

The point is that you find something that you really enjoy and go for it.  Surf the internet for ideas and suggestions and then look to see what is offered in your area.  Make sure it is easy to get to and works with your schedule.  Keep busy with things that you enjoy doing as well as all the other things that life throws your way.

Until recently, I had always thought of myself as someone who really wasn’t a big hobby person.  I had tried scrap booking, stamp collecting, coin collecting, making various crafts, etc. all without being able to really stick with it for very long.  I have now realized that I just hadn’t found something that I was passionate about.  I now realize that most people who have a hobby, whether it is flying mini-planes, mountain climbing, going to air shows, are into car racing or comic book conventions, scrap booking, etc. are passionate about it.  They got lost in time and in the moment and really enjoy it.  I have fallen in love with pottery and two hours each week will go by without me thinking about my work, issues with the kids, lunches for the next day, appointments, laundry, the overgrown lawn, etc.  It is the place where I lose myself and it feels so good.  Everyone needs to keep busy by being lost in something for at least a part of their week if not a part of their day.  So… think about all the things that you have an interest in or at one point in time have thought that it would be a great thing to try, list them and then make some time to get out there and try them.  On many bases there are facilities just waiting to be used and if there isn’t pop into the nearest city or town over and get to their community centre, library, or post office and find out where and how you can keep busy doing something you enjoy and are passionate about.

Some Ideas To Consider:

Rock climbing

Stamp or coin Collecting

Scrap booking



Sketching/ Art classes


Scuba Diving




Walking Club

Book Club


Jewelery making

Music lessons

Stained glass




Car resortation




Just to name a few…

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1001 Tips for Military Families - #415

Be Present - Tip #415

I don’t mean “be a present”!  I mean be present in the moment and with what you are doing with friends and family when you are with them.  Too often I will say to my kids that I will spend time with them only to hear the exasperated sigh when they lean over to tell me something about the and I am answering an email on my Blackberry.  It isn’t okay.  Yesterday I was out for dinner and I look over at a family all out having dinner together and one parent is watching the TV over the bar area (don’t get me started about TVs in restaurants) and one parent is texting - for nearly the entire meal no one spoke.  What was the point in going out for dinner together?  Your families, wives, husbands, friends, etc. want to spend time with someone that is listening, living in the moment and attentive.  Being a part of a military family is hard enough when there are absences but it can feel worse and cause much bigger problems when you are all back together but one or more people aren’t really paying attention, showing any interest or too busy doing other things to get plugged in to what the people around them are doing.


* Set aside time everyday to focus on spending quality time together that is without any electronic devices or distractions

* If you are going out to do something together - set limits around answering the phone, texting, emails, etc.

* Unplugging a headset from one ear and leaving it in the other is not giving your full attention

* Put phones on vibrate and explain your thinking about answering particular calls (ex. I am answering the duty phone tonight so I am going to take it with me, I will only answer if ________ calls as they are in the hospital, etc.)

* Look people right in the eye when they are talking to you and really listen to what they are saying, don’t think about what you are going to say next

* Have the same expectations for everyone that is doing something together and make sure they are clear before you start

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1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #413

Find a Family Pet That Fits - Tip #413

Having a pet can be a tremendous source of comfort and joy but it can also feel like an incredible burden or another thing to stress and worry about.  A  family pet can be the most consistent and reliable member of your family (no offense) - it can provide stability in the up and down world of military life.  Studies have conclusively shown that having a family pet can reduce stress, emotional trauma and anxiety.  A pet can be especially beneficial when you are being posted, preparing for a deployment, going through a deployment, experiencing a re-integration/reunion, etc. and provide the comfort that no one and nothing else quite can.  With a pet can also come a tremendous amount of responsibility and additional work depending on the pet you choose.  Here are some things to consider…

Prior To Having A Pet:

* Take a good look at your schedules and routines and see how a pet would fit into your world

* Think about your long term possibilities - upcoming moves, tours, trainings, etc. and ensure that your pet will fit into this

* Consider who would be able to care for your pet in the event you go on holiday, away visiting family, are late at work, deployed, etc.

* Cost out how much your pet would add to your monthly bills - food, supplies, toys, etc.

* Assign responsibilities to each family member prior to getting a pet and have them agreed upon

* Take a pet for a weekend/ trial basis - some pet stores or shelters have a plan where you can babysit a pet to see if it fits with your family

* Make an agreement on a budget for medical costs and other unexpected expenses

* Look at different pets and what each one has as an average time committment

* Consult with everyone in your family - including ones that may be absent

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Tips for Military Families - Tip #1001

Take Your Own Advice - Tip #1001

I am taking some of my own advice for the next two weeks….  I am making time for family, prioritizing, being adventurous and trying new things, eating well (perhaps too well), getting out and doing some exercise, appreciating that this Christmas we are all together and making the most of it and taking a holiday away from the day to day routine.   I spend enough time dishing out my tips and advice (as many of us gladly do) that I thought it was a perfect time to follow it.  We will often tell people all the things that they ought to be doing to feel better, take better care of themselves, or do for someone else but (I am bad for this too) don’t often treat ourselves with the same kindnesses!

I will not be back writing tips until January 9th - I will be doing all of the above mentioned.  Until that time please feel free to read the over 300 tips that I have posted in the last two years, send feedback or your own tips or do what I am doing and step away from the computer and jump head first into the holidays.

I would like to take this time to say thank-you for your support, reading my tips, writing to me, sending me information or tips of your own.  I love being able to write for so many people and appreciate that you all have busy lives too so am especially honored that some your precious time each week  is spent reading what I have to say.

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1001 Tips for Military Families - #406

“1001 Things To Love About Military Life” - Tip #406

Normally I don’t promote a lot of books that are similar to mine, as I would love my readers to buy my books but this is a book that every military family should read and enjoy.  Staying positive isn’t easy when you are in the middle of a deployment, exercise, move, or just trying to make the most of all that military life throws your way.  “1001 Things To Love About Military Life” makes it easier to focus on what makes military life fun, different, exciting (at least never dull) and why you should feel very proud to be a part of it.  These authors have captured so much about what makes military life so different from civilian life.  How quickly I have forgotten that I didn’t know the 24hour clock and now I even use it!


* Read this book (it doesn’t have to be in order, just flip it open and enjoy!)

* Go through it and read all of the “You Know You Are A Military Spouse When…” and mark the ones that you agree with

* Make notes in the boxes they give you and then have your family member read it with all of your notes and marks throughout it

* Try to come up with 10 things to love that the authors haven’t thought of

* Highlight some ideas you haven’t thought of and challenge yourself to do them (like Cake in a Jar)

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1001 Tips for Military Families - # 408

Counting - Tip #408

I have written many tips about how to countdown during an absence or deployment but there is also some value in counting the days rather than counting them down!  Make the days count as opposed to count the days away is one of my mantras when it comes to surviving a deployment.  One problem with counting down is that we often we don’t know exactly the number of days absent our family member will be and there are also delays and it is frustrating.  We also may look at each day as something just to get through rather than enjoyed.  By keeping track of each day that you made it through without each other you will give yourself a sense of accomplishment and it is a way of acknowledging that time is passing in a positive way rather than wishing the time away (even though we do that too!).  Find a way to count the days that is fun and interesting or will benefit you and/or your entire family.


* Put a dollar in a jar for each day they are away and then spend it all on doing something together when you are together again

* Make a daisy chain each day with paper and use it to decorate the house when they return

* Have your family make a design and each day add another symbol or picture to it until they are back and it will be a huge poster for them to enjoy and look at with you.

* Paint a square with chalk board paint and then mark each day absent

* Take pictures each day of the number of days you have been apart.  Make it a personal or family challenge to find the number already printed on a sign, box, billboard, etc. and take a picture.  Then post the pictures up on your Facebook, blog, or email them each day with a brief message about what the day was like

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1001 Tips for Military Families - #402

Middle of the Deployment - #402

There are a lot of tips that I have for before and after an long absence or deployment but I often forget to give tips for when you are right in the middle of one.  Often in the middle of a deployment you are into a good routine, you have gotten used to life without your significant family member or friend but you are also feel as though the days go on forever with no end in sight.  These tips are for when you have come a long way but it still feels as though there are way too many lonely, frustrating, tearful days ahead!

Tips for the Middle:

* If you have not counted down the days make a chart and cross off all the days you have already done (it will make you feel good, trust me)

* Each day complete the sentence, “From this day on I am going to…” (try to come up with a new goal each day)

* Drive a different way to work, the grocery store or school (seeing new sights can really make you feel better)

* Get a local paper and look up three things you can do in the next month and then invite a different person to each (even if you don’t feel like it, make yourself - break out of the rut)

* If you set a bunch of goals for yourself at the beginning of the deployment and are feeling blue because you haven’t accomplished them, write new ones and forgive yourself for not being perfect (no one is)

* Take pictures of anything and everything that has changed or is different in your world since your friend or family member has left and make a since you have been gone book or album for them and send it

* Clean out one area of your house/apartment that you have been meaning to for ages (the more organized you are, the better you feel)

* Review your budget - where you are and what additional or unexpected expenses you have had since the deployment and get a real picture of what your money situation is (hiding it to even yourself only works for so long and the stress of financial strain can affect every area of your life)

* Have a ‘Half Way There’ celebration with friends or family - have people bring one item to put into a care package for your family member or friend  (Video the event and send it to your absent family member or friend)

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1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #401

To Don’t List - Tip #401

I am a person that writes ‘to do’ lists.  I need them to remind me of pretty much everything.  I don’t obsessively reference back to them but they help me to organize my thoughts.  When I do finally get back to looking at my list it always feels so good when I tick something off  it.  I feel as though I have accomplished something and another weight is lifted off my shoulders.  I was lucky enough to attend a conference with Daniel Pink (author) and he really got me thinking about a ‘To Don’t’ list, creativity and motivation (I sometimes really lack it!).  The idea is that you write down all of the things you don’t want to spend your precious time doing.  As military families we can get caught up in a lot of those ‘could a, should a, would a’ as military family life throws a lot of different curve balls.  These to don’ts are usually the time wasters that keep us from doing the things that will make our lives more interesting, enjoyable and productive.  I think his thinking (and my hope) is that if you write down the ‘to don’t’ things you will be more aware of them and less likely to spend a lot of time on them, your to do list will have more things that benefits others and yourself, you’ll be less stressed, it will be easier to say no as you know what you don’t want and your priorities will be clear.

To Don’t Suggestions:

* Don’t get lost surfing the internet for hours (you can spend way more time than you need or want to)

* Don’t eat while doing other things (you can consume 3x as many calories that you may not need)

* Don’t spend more than 30mins getting ready to go anywhere

* Don’t use the ‘to don’t’ list as an excuse not to see family or friends or avoid doing things that are important to you

* Don’t put off having a difficult conversation with ______________ as it takes up a lot of your thinking time

* Don’t spend hours on Facebook reading about what your ‘Facebook Friends’ are doing

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