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Traveling Solo (with the kids!)

 Posted by on July 16, 2018 at 15:05
Jul 162018
 

Spring break 2018 was a big one for our family. This was the year that I got to take the trip I’d salivated over my entire adult life. I went to Bali. But, after returning home to Japan, explaining the trip highlights to friends and family wasn’t exactly how I pictured. Instead of, “I can’t believe you went to Bali!” I got more of these reactions, “I can’t believe you went to Bali by yourself with the kids!” For some reason, traveling solo with the kids is considered some heroic, death-defying leap of faith, but here’s the thing: It’s really not. If you’re willing to do your homework, you can rock a solo trip, too.

Kristi

Getting There

Before we could get there — as in Bali — I had to get to the point where I felt comfortable traveling solo overseas. I got a lot of strange looks and cautionary tales from my parents, husband, and people I talked to in line at the commissary for various reasons — some valid, some I can only assume stemmed from wishing they could take the same trip.

Our original spring break travel plans were squashed (as they so often are) by a change in mission. My husband had to attend a month-long course back in the states that just happened to start the week of our kids’ spring break (aka one of three viable vacation times). As I saw it, I had three choices:

  1. I could carry out our original travel plan — a seven-day Japanese road trip. My hesitation with this was being down a navigator and a set of hands to lug baggage and kids to and from different hotels.
  2. I could cancel the road trip and stay local for spring break. I refused to seriously entertain this idea because my travel wish list is long and our time stationed in Japan is short. I couldn’t accept wasting an entire week just because the Marine Corps switched up the plans on me.
  3. I could make new travel plans that I was comfortable handling on my own.

I ultimately decided that the road trip was too much to handle on my own. I wasn’t going to have fun, so what was the point? Instead, an all-inclusive resort in Bali seemed manageable. All I had to do was get us there and back. I booked three plane tickets.

As I mentioned, there were travel concerns, many of them mine. The only way to ease those fears, and to truly be prepared for a decent number of what-if scenarios, is to do your homework. This wasn’t my first time traveling solo with the kids, but it was my first time traveling from one foreign country to another foreign country. This wasn’t just a day trip from Monterey to San Francisco.

First, I checked the State Department’s website to confirm that we did not require a visa and to check for any travel warnings for Indonesia and the Philippines where we would have a hefty layover. We did not require a visa for Indonesia which kept things simple, but there were travel warnings. Luckily, Bali was not the site of the more severe, recent threats, although pickpocketing, theft and break-ins are widespread. The State Department does an excellent job specifically naming the threats and entry and exit requirements, which was exactly what I needed to feel confident before traveling.

My next step was enrolling in STEP, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Once enrolled, you receive alerts (should any surface) prior to and during your trip. You also input your travel information — dates, number of people traveling with you, ages, where you will be staying — so you are identifiable and easier to locate should something arise. It’s morbid, I won’t deny that, but I felt better after enrolling, and it certainly made my husband feel better knowing that I was on the U.S. Embassy’s radar (even if I was one of many). Enrollment is free, and if you have your passport numbers handy, it just takes a couple of minutes.

Next, I did what military spouses do best — word-of-mouth research. I talked to people who had made the trip. I set some particularly grim expectations about the Manila airport where we had a layover. (It wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be.) I coordinated an airport transfer with my resort in Bali to avoid the nightmare of getting a taxi at the airport.

Packing

I packed simply, knowing I was the only muscle in our party of three. My concern while traveling was being able to keep a hand on the kids and the luggage at all times. The kids each carried a backpack with a portion of their clothing (in case we lost a suitcase), snacks and a couple things to do on the plane. I brought my carry-on (with a couple outfits), and we checked two small, rolling suitcases.

I purchased a travel wallet — and used that in lieu of a purse — to keep all our passports, cash and my identification and credit cards in one spot. I never wanted to find myself distractedly digging through my bag. While off the resort, I used a belted wallet (that I refuse to call a fanny pack). It was slim and fit right inside the waistband of my skirts. I just carried my credit card and a small amount of cash. Everything else was in the safe in our room.

A word on what I packed — for an American abroad, the goal is to blend in as much as possible. I packed clothing that kept me covered while we were off the resort, especially my shoulders on the days we visited temples. This was not just respectful of the culture, it was a requirement.

Making Sure Everyone had a Good Time

I shared my travel itinerary with my husband and parents and sent a text during each leg of the trip to keep their fears at bay. To make sure the kids had the time of their lives, we spent a lot of our time at the resort pool and beach — they would’ve done this all day, every day if I let them.

To make sure I got my own vacation, I scheduled a few tours that took us to the iconic temples, rice terraces, beaches and shopping districts. That’s what I enjoy when I travel — getting to know the culture, the food and the people. My kids were miserable these days — it peaked when my daughter puked red Fanta all over the back seat of our SUV. So, don’t feel like it was peachy all the time. It was a lot of compromise, but I got exactly what I wanted out of it. My kids still ask on a weekly basis when we can go back to Bali. And we made it back safely with nothing but fond memories of spring break 2018.

Moral of the story is – don’t be intimidated by traveling alone with your kids. It is possible to have a great experience that allows the kids to have fun, and for you to have the vacation of your dreams.

Jul 102018
 

Once again, it’s PCS season — a time when thousands of military families find themselves as temporary nomads, moving from one duty station to the next. Some drive, others fly. We pack up kids, dogs, cats and all our furniture. We sleep in hotels, RVs, friends’ houses and sometimes in tents at campsites. But no matter how we choose to PCS, there are some experiences that will be the same with every move.

Lizann

During my husband’s military career, we have completed most types of PCS moves. We have moved cross-country and overseas, do-it-yourself moves and moves with children in tow. With each experience, we’ve learned a lot and made plenty of mistakes. All these learning experiences helped me become the seasoned spouse that I am today. Now I’m able to share our moving tips with you. Here is some advice that rings true no matter what type of move your family is going through.

  1. Start early. You can begin months ahead of time to prepare for a big move. It’s true that you can’t do anything official without hard copy orders. But even before you have them, you can think ahead about what you need to get rid of in your house. Clean out and get rid of old clothes, toys and furniture. Either donate it or host a yard sale. If this is your first move, you should attend a PCS class on your base that will walk you through the steps of a government move or speak with your relocation assistance point of contact at the Military and Family Support Center. Don’t forget about your budget for the move. You’ll want to start saving money and to cover household expenses and non-refunded moving expenses.
  2. Get organized. Moving can be hectic, but don’t let the responsibilities overwhelm you. Make lists and create a schedule to spread out tasks so you won’t be rushing during the final week. Your Relocation Assistance Program specialists can help you with this. You can talk to them about your moving location and date and they will help you plan out everything—from job and house hunting, to government paperwork, to deciding how to move your POV (your vehicle). They can help you locate and think through checklists of travel plans, items to hand-carry and official paperwork the service member needs to complete. It takes the guesswork out of a PCS move and helps you stay on track.
  3. Do your research. You can learn a lot about a new base before you move. Look into housing options to see if there is a waiting list and how to get on it. Know the school options for your kids. Look for jobs for yourself and start making professional connections in the area. All this can happen before the move. MilitaryINSTALLATIONS will show you what is available at your new duty station and connect you to their website, so you can easily find numbers for important offices like base housing and the base school. The more you learn ahead of time, the better you can prepare your family for the move. Also, if you have little ones and need child care, don’t forget to register by visiting MilitaryChildCare.com
  4. Work together. The whole family moves, so things will be less stressful when the whole family works as a team. Make time to talk to your kids and answer their questions about the move. Find ways to take breaks or make the moving process fun. Let older kids be involved in some of the planning and decision-making. Communicate with your spouse so you are working together, not against each other.
  5. Ask for help. Ask friends to help you pack and move if you are doing things yourself. Accept offers from neighbors to watch your kids or share a hot meal. Borrow bedding or sleeping bags for the last night when you are sleeping on the floor of your house. When you are planning your PCS trip, consider staying with friends or family along the way to save money.

Whether you are moving within the same state or relocating overseas, any military family can follow these moving tips to have a smooth PCS experience. Share your tips with us!

Tips to Keep your Kids Reading This Summer

 Posted by on June 26, 2018 at 11:21
Jun 262018
 

When my boys were younger, one was an avid reader and the other was not. During the school year, the natural progression of their curriculum kept them engaged in reading. But summers were another story. Even my read-a-holic rebelled against daily reading as he got older, especially when the pool was calling his name. I had to find creative ways to keep them reading over the summer. Here are some of the tricks that worked for us.

Cassie

  • Find Good Reads. I cannot tell you how many trips we made to the installation library. We saw it as an adventure. In middle school, we would scour the aisles to find the popular series of the day. When they were younger, we would scour the kid’s section for a hidden treasure. Installation libraries have always provided a destination that is out of the house and full of possibility. It was rare that we would return only with what we were looking for when we arrived. We always found something better. Summer is the time to let your kids explore books they wouldn’t typically choose during the school year. Reading outside their comfort zone might be precisely what they need to be bitten by the reading bug.
  • Start a Kid’s Book Club. This works well, especially if the service members are deployed. Book clubs don’t have to be an adult-only activity. Gather a group of families from your unit, or a group of friends and their kids, and pick a book together. When my husband was deployed to Iraq, we had a Friday supper club where five families gathered together for food and conversation. Why not throw in a book too, especially if the kids are small? There is something to be said for gathering the unit kids around a book – and each other. The simple act of togetherness can go a long way.
  • Explore the MWR Summer Reading Program. Enroll in the DoD Morale, Welfare, and Recreation’s summer reading program. This year’s program offers new and exciting activities including crafts, STEM events, recommended reading lists, incentives, films and more for children, teens and adults. If you’re a member of the Guard or reserve or don’t have access to a local installation Summer Reading Program, you can still participate in the Summer Reading Program virtually.
  • Create a Reward System for Reading a Short Period Each Day. This will look different for every family. Different types of rewards motivate kids; try stickers, screen time or maybe a sweet treat. Set an age-appropriate goal for reading each day. If you aren’t sure how long your child should be reading, ask their teacher before the school year ends. Make a chart or special journal you can use to keep track of reading goals achieved. And when they achieve or surpass their goals, be sure to celebrate their accomplishments!
  • Keep a Consistent Schedule. Set time aside each day for your child to read, at the same time every day. Make the library a regular part of your summer by planning out weekly trips. Be mindful of the time of day you choose. It may be a good chance for you to discover at what point in the day your child is most engaged. Maybe they are an after-breakfast reader, or maybe they love reading before bed. Setting a schedule with your child instead of for offers consistency and can reduce the frustration you might receive from them when it’s time to read.

Keeping your kids’ reading during the summer can be a real challenge. Everyone wants a break, but regular reading over the summer can keep little brains focused on more than just the pool. Good luck!

Seven Mistakes to Avoid as a Landlord

 Posted by on June 19, 2018 at 12:11
Jun 192018
 

When military families buy a home near one duty station and are sent somewhere new, renting can be a great alternative to selling the property. Renting your home may be option If the property is rented at a price that covers the monthly mortgage payments, the family can live on the BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) at their next duty station. Having a rental property essentially allows you to build equity in your home without paying for housing at both locations.

Lizann

However, becoming a landlord is not always an easy adventure. When considering renting your home, keep these things in mind.

  1. Hire a property manager. If you have a newer home, the regular maintenance and upkeep should be minimal. You may be tempted to manage it yourself from a distance, especially if you are renting it to an acquaintance or colleague. What could go wrong? Many things. If there is an emergency water leak or heating failure in the middle of the night, you can’t waste time using Google to find a plumber or repairman. If there are legal issues with the tenant or the payments, you don’t want to go through the eviction process on your own. Property management companies will take a portion of your rental income (typically around 10%), but in return they will handle emergencies and repairs. They also take care of legal issues like designing the lease, conducting credit checks for prospective tenants, and filing eviction paperwork when payments fall behind. Finding the right company can make your landlord experience more successful.
  2. Take credit scores seriously. When screening potential tenants, pay attention to their credit. A low score is a huge red flag! These tenants can present potential problems: late payments, property damage and other unpleasant issues.
  3. Reinvest your rental income. Ideally, your monthly rent should cover your mortgage payment, property management fees, taxes, insurance and additional costs. If you are making a profit on the property, don’t use it as spending money. Instead, I highly recommend that you save the extra money in a special account for long-term repair projects. You may not need to paint, replace carpets, repair the roof, or stain the deck this year. But when those repairs are needed, you’ll want to have funds saved to cover them.
  4. Ensure renters are following their contract. Just because the contract says “No pets allowed” doesn’t mean the tenants are following the rules. A property management company should conduct screenings of the exterior and interior of your property, then send you photos of the current condition. Not only will this alert you to lease violations, but it will also help you plan long-term repair projects.
  5. Don’t rely on a local friend. When you move, it might seem easy to have a friend drive by the house to check on things. Maybe they are handy enough to be on-call for repairs. But unless your friend is listed in the lease agreement, they don’t have any authority on the property, and the tenant can deny them entry. Plus, if your friend is in the military, they may get orders to move. Using a property management company will ensure consistent maintenance on your home.
  6. Make sure you have good insurance. As a homeowner, you are required to have property insurance. In some areas, you may need additional coverage for floods, wind and hail. Insurance costs are typically paid through your mortgage escrow account, but don’t ignore them when planning your annual budget or filing your taxes. Check with your lender about necessary coverage!
  7. Don’t rely on the rental income to pay the mortgage. It’s wonderful to have renters whose monthly payments cover your mortgage. However, a landlord should always have enough savings to cover at least two months’ mortgage out of pocket. Your tenants may fall behind on payments. They may break their lease early because of military orders. Or the property might sit empty for a while in between tenants. Your BAH probably won’t cover both your current housing and your mortgage payments, so it is your responsibility to have a cushion of savings.

Part of military life means moving– and renting your home might just be a good fit for your family. Making sure you’re protecting your investment and avoiding common pitfalls will help make your experience a pleasant one. Share your landlord tips with us in the comments!

Navigating PTSD with Your Spouse

 Posted by on June 12, 2018 at 13:35
Jun 122018
 

For far too many people, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and military service go hand in hand. Like many things in life, there are varying degrees of PTSD and sometimes it can be hard to understand exactly what you’re dealing with. As a MilSpouse, it is important to be able to recognize the signs and learn how to best navigate them with your partner.

Lee-Anne

So, what is PTSD exactly? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD comes after a situation in whichh the body’s “fight or flight” response is triggered – a traumatic event or a series of events that cause the person to have a significant reaction. The second part of the equation is the body’s continued response to the event. PTSD sufferers will re-experience events over and over, even after significant time has passed since they occurred. Sometimes these reactions manifest themselves as dreams, flashbacks or intense thoughts. They can be triggered by anything: places, people, words or noises. These re-experiences interfere with their daily lives.

As a spouse of a service member with PTSD, you play a significant role in the healing process – perhaps an even bigger role than you may realize. Here are some things I found helpful with my own husband when he returned from a recent deployment:

  • Be available. I let my husband know that I am here – and that I’m willing to talk about anything and everything. No topic is off limits. Once a week, after the kids are in bed, we have a standing “talk session.” I always make it a point to ask him how he is doing and if he needs anything. I don’t pressure him to talk if he doesn’t want to, and I let him know that even if I don’t understand what he went through, I can understand its effect on him.
  • Encourage him to talk to others. When my husband returned from deployment, he went through several tests, and it was recommended that he see someone with the VA to talk about his experiences. He was resistant at first because, like most service members, he prided himself on being able to “handle it.” He put off that first visit for months, but luckily, they kept insisting. I never pushed him, but I let him know that it was OK to go, and if nothing else, maybe they could chat with him and tell him he doesn’t have PTSD. Turns out he does, and they can help!
  • Be mindful of overwhelming situations. Noises and places are two big triggers for PTSD symptoms. When my husband first returned home, I talked with my kids about why it was important to not make loud noises/scare/jump on daddy. I also tried to ease him back into society – it’s tempting to want to go places and do things right after your spouse returns because you have missed out on so much while they were gone. But I realized that I didn’t need to have him come to the store with me or go to a busy restaurant during his first week back. One thing he has shared with me is the difficulty of understanding what is and is not a threat. During his deployment he was in an area where everything was an active threat: kids, cars, dogs, strange objects in the road. It was tough for him to let that go and realize that those things were not an immediate threat to him here at home.
  • Help him help others. My husband has told me that he considers himself lucky because he has a good support system in place with me, family and friends. He has people he can talk to and joke with that understand him and his experiences. He is adjusting back to civilian life much better than some of the other soldiers in his unit. One of his closest friends is struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts after their return. My husband takes a lot of that burden on himself and is trying his best to help – my job is to encourage them to spend time together doing things that they both enjoy.

Whatever form PTSD takes and whatever effects it has on your family, know that there are resources available and people who can help. Never be afraid to ask for help, it may save a life.

Jun 052018
 

Ah, summer — the days are long and your kids’ attention spans are short. It’s the season you truly come to appreciate teachers and vow to up the spending cap on teacher gifts next year. And, it’s the season that despite all your best efforts, you’re bombarded daily with that dreaded phrase: “I’m boooooored.”

Kristi

We need a game plan to dodge the boredom. Huddle up, parents! I have some tried and true ideas to share with you. Since military families are all over the world, I’ve compiled some universally applicable activities.

Get in the water. It doesn’t matter where you are, there is water nearby — ocean, river, lake, backyard pool, base pool, splash pad, water table, etc. If you don’t have any of these liquid resources, hook up a sprinkler in the backyard. Aside from the pool, the beach, the sprinkler and a local fountain that we’re pretty sure you can play in, my kids love:

  • Ice block excavation — Fill a container with water and a lot of small, colorful objects, freeze it and let your kids chip away at the frozen block outside.
  • Water balloon fights — Get the neighbor kids involved and make a day of it.

Explore uncharted territory. No matter how adventurous you are or how long you’ve been stationed where you are, you’ve probably missed something. Seize the (long summer) day! Find a hiking trail, beat the heat in a museum or take a day trip out of town.

Move “boring stuff” outside, and watch it become awesome before your very eyes! Here are a few activities that are more fun with an outdoor twist:

  • Painting — Try spray-bottle art, splat canvas, frozen water colors (freeze diluted water colors in ice cube trays with popsicle sticks) or sidewalk paint. Let them paint rocks and hide them around the neighborhood or set them up with a canvas and let them paint a landscape. Paint a shower curtain. Use fingers, feet, sponges, brushes, leaves — anything goes outside!
  • Drawing — Trace shadows, do a collection of nature rubbings, draw with sidewalk chalk, or just draw in the sunshine.
  • Chores — I can’t get my kids to clean their rooms, but they love to sweep and organize outside!
  • Games — Buy or make giant versions of their favorite games. As an added perk, it’s fun for adults, too!

Sign up for camp. Wherever you are, someone is hosting a summer camp. Your installation likely has a day camp, like Camp Adventure (which my son went gaga for last summer). If not, scour the local community. You can let your child pick one or block out an entire month.

Start an epic project. I’m starting to run out of fridge space to hang my kids’ many masterpieces, so I started picking a few projects that will span several days (maybe even weeks), accomplishing one step each day. Here’s some epic project ideas:

  • Make rock candy and have your kids document the progress in a science journal.
  • Grow vegetables and track the growth.
  • Build something together! Kids love tools. Let them help you build a lawn-sized yard game, a fort, water table, reading tent or a lemonade stand.
  • Make a life-sized self-portrait. Have your kids trace each other on the blank side of some leftover wrapping paper on day one. They can decorate it for a few days, then cut it out. Let them hang them on their bedroom doors when they’re finished.
  • Mail a letter to a far-away family member each week. Your kids can write a letter or draw a picture depending on their ability.
  • Take on a summer challenge. Sign up for the summer reading challenge at the library. Decide THIS is the summer your kid will learn to read, swim, ride a bike or tie shoes. Then work practice into your summer plans.

Set the standard early. Kids love structure even if they think they don’t. Set a schedule that has mandated reading time, meal times, outdoor play and — as my husband calls it — independent play time (which means to find something to do that doesn’t require adult participation). You can also make a “Bored Chart” with parent-approved activities they can do when they’re bored.

Military kids have high thrill thresholds for summer. This is when they’re used to PCS chaos and major life changes, so boredom is fierce when they are staying put. The big things like family vacations and family visits will take care of themselves, but for all the long hours in between, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to think like a kid and let summer feel like a vacation. Ready? Break!

Five Reasons to PCS Camp

 Posted by on May 29, 2018 at 09:27
May 292018
 

For most military families, a PCS can involve a lot of time in hotel rooms. Inevitably, you may get tired of the cramped quarters, rules about pets and limited cooking options. What if there was another PCS lodging solution? A way you and the family could stretch your legs and enjoy open spaces, relax in nature and cook over a grill or firepit?

Lizann

During one cross-country PCS, our family spent a week camping in a tent and driving from one national park to the next. At first, it seemed like a daunting idea that might be more work than fun – especially since we were travelling with our four young children, who had never camped before! But once we got going, we quickly realized that this was a wonderful way to travel and make memories along the way.

If you are PCSing this summer, I recommend making camping part of your journey. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Save money. Instead of staying in hotels or in military base lodging, use your military ID to get free access to national and state parks (active-duty members get a free annual pass). You may pay a nominal fee to reserve a campsite, but the money you save on hotel rooms will more than cover the cost of camping supplies. If there are no national parks along your route, you can find affordable camping at local and state parks.
  2. Get more sleep. Because we were travelling with kids, one of our main concerns was finding a way for everyone to get enough sleep each night. If you have ever tried to get kids to settle into beds in a hotel room after a long day in the car, you know that it’s not easy. However, camping allowed our children to run around each evening, climb on logs and explore the campsite. Some campgrounds even had playgrounds! Once the sun went down, they quickly fell asleep. Without TV, we all went to bed earlier and got more sleep than we would have in a hotel room.
  3. See the country. A PCS is a great opportunity to explore states you have never visited before. What better way to plan your trip than by looking at a map of national parks? These are some of the most beautiful places in the country, with unforgettable scenery. Visiting parks will give you a new appreciation for any state, even if it is one where you have lived for several years. Get out there and see America’s natural beauty!
  4. Make it an adventure. Not only will you get off the beaten path but you will enjoy meals around the campfire and s’mores under the stars. Exploring new parks and trails will give you a sense of adventure that you don’t feel when driving down the highway. If possible, take some extra leave time to make it a leisurely trip, so you can spend a few nights at each park. This will break up the driving time with some relaxing down time.
  5. Get the whole family involved. If you have children, a camping trip is a great way for them to be a part of the planning. Get their input about places they want to see and things they most want to do. Whether or not you are experienced hikers, there are a variety of activities at any park: challenging hikes, easy family-friendly walking paths and ranger stations with hands-on activities.

Camping doesn’t have to be intimidating, and it may end up being a fun and memorable trip that your family will be eager to repeat next time – so consider it the next time you plan your move!

Mastering Working from Home

 Posted by on May 21, 2018 at 13:10
May 212018
 

In this age of technology, telecommuting and working from almost anywhere is a real possibility with some awesome benefits. I’m a regional manager for a large insurance company, and while we have an office in my area, it’s about 90 minutes away from my house. This doesn’t lend itself to be an easy commute every day, so I usually only go into the office once or twice a week. The rest of the time I am working out of my house. And, in the process, I’ve learned a few lessons the hard way. Here are some tips to master working from home:

Lee-Anne

Have a clearly defined space with rules and boundaries. I have had various forms of office space throughout my career. It started as a chair at the dining room table and eventually morphed into its own room with a desk and everything! I am lucky now to have a door that separates my work area from the rest of the house, and my family respects that if the door is closed, mommy is busy. I can leave my computer there and not have to worry about anyone spilling chocolate milk on my spreadsheets.

One of my biggest struggles has been blending work time and home time. Many people (my husband included) think that because I am working from home, it means I can do stuff around the house such as laundry, dishes or minding the kids. I have had to correct that assumption many times. Just because I am physically home, doesn’t mean I am not working. It’s the same as if I was in an office somewhere from 8 – 5 every day. My time savings is the commute and breaks. Because I don’t have to drive somewhere, I can “leave for work” a little later which allows me to help get the kids ready for school. If I take a lunch, I can use it to do some chores, sure, but if I was at an office I would be using that time for myself and so that is what I typically dedicate my breaks to.

Define working hours. I start my day around 7:30 a.m. and end it at 4 p.m. During those hours, I’ve asked my family to pretend that I’m not there. On the flip side, I don’t work during family time. When you take work home with you, it can be tempting to jump on and check emails in the evenings or after bed time, but usually once I finish for the day, I am done. Sometimes, if I get taken away from work for an hour or two during the day for a personal thing, I will work that evening to make up for some of the tasks I didn’t get done, but it’s rare. I find that routine is best for me and everyone else.

Be professional. My husband is in the Army National Guard, and when he is not deployed, he is a stay-at-home dad. Our 6-year-old goes to school, but our 2-year-old is home with him, and let me tell you, she is loud! Luckily, my door muffles most sound, and my husband keeps her relatively quiet when he knows I am on the phone ̶  which is a lot. If I must be on a call with my kids around, I try to give them activities that I know will keep them occupied. Most importantly, I keep my phone on mute and I only take it off when I speak.

Be comfortable. I struggled with headaches for years only to find out it was a direct result of how I was positioned while working on my computer. It caused muscle spasms which led to dreadful headaches. Be kind to your body and make sure you are working ergonomically!

Moral of the story is: working from home can come with some challenges, but if you prepare and set boundaries, it can really complement the military family lifestyle. You will master it in no time!

The Seasoned MilSpouse

 Posted by on May 14, 2018 at 16:17
May 142018
 

In the many years I’ve been a MilSpouse blogger, I’ve always felt new in some way. I began as the newbie spouse — the spouse coping with her first deployment. Then I was the new mom. Before I knew it, I was the new spouse, new mom, newly reunited and planning her first PCS. Most recently, I embarked on my first OCONUS PCS. See? Still shiny and new.

Kristi

But something weird happened around my spouse’s tenth year of military service. I seemed to have passed an invisible line that separates the new and the ol— err — seasoned. I don’t mind the title, it just hadn’t dawned on me that I was one until this year.

The fast-paced military life has a way of distorting time and distance in our minds, doesn’t it? Like, how is my child already seven? We just moved, how are we already talking about moving again? Thank goodness for social media keeping tabs on the years for me — it adds a healthy dose of perspective to someone like me who feels like everything just happened.

Just this week, I vocalized this to a cashier at our current location in Japan. The cashier casually asked me how long I’ve lived here.

I replied with my scripted, “We just got here in June.” But really, I can’t say “just” anymore. We’ve been here a year, even though I still feel new, which I explained to her.

She replied, “Honey, we all still feel new.”

Mind. Blown.

Not only did she put into perspective that the newness never really wears off overseas orders, but that the newness never really feels like it falls away from military life — we never completely have it figured out because it’s always changing just enough — with a PCS or deployment or new job — to keep us on our toes and keep us feeling new.

Looking back, there weren’t really signs that the seasoned transition was happening; I never picked up on them if they were there. I didn’t get an orientation or a merit badge — not even a standard DoD email. It was more of a “Poof! You’re seasoned now.” It was an abrupt change, like a PCS or a deployment with minimal details — there one day, gone the next.

But, I do find lately that I’m more commonly the token seasoned spouse in a room of youngsters. I’ll be holding my own in a conversation until they start talking about going out together after a squadron event. After this? Yeah, after this I’m going home because babysitters make more money than I do and I’m exhausted.

I feel a little bit pressured to say profound things that will serve as their military spouse mantra for years to come. Meanwhile, I’m still doling out blank stares when asked what about my husband’s job at the squadron (although, I have made it a point to learn that this time around). Perhaps the balance keeps the few pearls of wisdom I can offer from sounding preachy — totally intentional, you guys.

I still ask questions, and I still need advice. I still learn something new about base life or military life nearly every day, but I am now trying to balance that with a goal to learn the names of the Marines and spouses from my husband’s shop and volunteer more in the squadron.

Most of all, in my military spouse tenure, I want to avoid going from seasoned to salty. We run the risk of becoming burnt out with volunteering and moving and separations and sacrifice. What I hope to provide for this up-and-coming generation of military spouses is a positive image of a seasoned spouse — one who is relatable and approachable, one who doesn’t wear rank, one who is ready to support, volunteer and lift others up.

In my days as a newbie spouse (not just when I thought I was still one), I had some incredible seasoned spouses leading the way. It’s an inspiring legacy to follow, and I am humbled to carry the torch for a little while.

Celebrating MilSpouses

 Posted by on May 8, 2018 at 13:54
May 082018
 

Like me, many of you may have assumed that Military Spouse Day (May 11) is meant to celebrate your husband or wife who serves in the military. To my surprise, my husband told me that it’s to honor me – his military spouse! MilSpouses often don’t think of themselves; we just do what needs to be done and keep moving forward. This day is to appreciate all the doers and homefront heroes that encourage each other and support their spouses.

Kelly

MilSpouses are incredibly important for the military community because they’re critical to the continued functioning and success of many military personnel. It is their constant love and support that keeps things running at home during deployments, helps moves go smoothly, and often helps other spouses and families adjust to military life and new surroundings. We do all this with love and enthusiasm – most of the time. Seriously though, part of being a military spouse is supporting your service member through not only the regular rigors of marriage but also through the unique challenges military life can bring. For this, MilSpouses deserve a day, at least, to be appreciated and to show themselves a little love.

To further acknowledge this day, you can create some of your own traditions that your spouse does for you, or that you can do for yourself. After all, since it always falls on a Friday, you have an entire weekend to celebrate! Here are a few ideas to try:

  • A weekend away. A day at the spa, anyone?
  • A celebratory dinner. Date night is always a great way to say thank you – whether you go out or cook and stay in.
  • A video. Record significant moments where your spouse’s support was particularly impactful on you and/or the kids.
  • A gift. Cards, flowers, foot massages – the possibilities are endless.
  • A guy’s weekend. Male military spouses, I haven’t forgotten about you! Send him off for weekend full of pizza and without the honey-do-list.

If you are a military spouse, don’t forget to acknowledge and love yourself on this day. Thank yourself for your contributions and then thank your service member for theirs, too. It’s a journey taken together, after all.  The appreciation goes both ways!

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.