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How to Talk to Your Kids About World Tragedies

 Posted by on September 26, 2016 at 07:00
Sep 262016


Bubble wrap ‘em. I’ve wanted to bubble wrap my kids’ hearts, minds and skins on many occasions. That’s what all parents want (right?) — to protect our kids from the hurts, fears and tragedies in the world. I guess packaging them like precious porcelain doesn’t do much for making them resilient human beings even if the image gives us the false sense of keeping them safe. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is the knowledge of how to handle tragedies and difficulties in a healthy way. So how do we equip our kids with coping skills when we are still trying to figure that out as adults?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, recommends parents and those who work with children act as filters before funneling information of national tragedies and crisis to children. They suggest we present the information in a way the child can understand, cope with and adjust to. Here are five ways to act as filter and guide as you help your children process what happened and build coping skills to see them through life.

1. Check your emotions. Your emotions speak louder than words.

When my kindergartener came home from school on 9/11 she started asking me about why airplanes were flying into buildings and people were jumping out of them. Already emotionally charged from having seen it on the news during my work breaks, I did my best to answer her questions as simply and factually as I could, but I know my emotions weren’t in check. That was confirmed when I asked my daughter (now 20) to remember that day. Mostly, she remembered how mad I was at her teacher for letting the class watch the news coverage. Yikes. Emotions have more hang time in memory.

2. Limit media exposure. Turn it off. Keep exposure to the images, commentary and media’s tragedy-branding theme songs to a minimum.

As adults, we tend to crave the information, and want to know the latest developments. But for our children, all that exposure to the raw images, media frenzy and regurgitation of information isn’t healthy — it forces them to focus on the fear of events instead of how to cope with them. If you do allow your children to watch some of the news coverage, watch it together and use it as a conversation starter. Talking about what happened, the fears the event creates or anything that worries your kids or you is a healthy way to cope with tragedy. Model it and they’ll join the discussion and learn with you.

3. Ask your kids. What did you hear? Do you have any questions? And actively listen to their answers.

Find out what they’ve heard and what their questions are so you know where to start with the information. This can help you find out what their fears are early on and can help you assess what they may need to know in order to help them learn to cope. School shootings were the tragedies that scared my kids the most. It’s something they understand as they go through lock-down drills in school multiple times every year. When you discover their fears, you may be able to help them reframe how they view things. Help them understand the lock-down drills are for safety, just like buckling seat belts. You practice it so when you need it, it’s already in place to keep you safe.

4. Answer their questions. Be direct and honest and stick to answering only what they ask.

There’s no need to overload kids with information. Provide them with the answers they need and ways to cope with the emotions. Let your main message to your children be that it’s OK to be upset by what happened, we’re going through this together and will help each other through it. This is also an opportunity to teach your kids about compassion and empathy. As they tell you how they feel, talk about how you all think others may feel. Take it a step further and discuss how you may be able to help the victims. What is something you can do together to help those suffering? Helping others is another way to cope with the darkness in the world…add in some light.

5. Support when needed. Be there for your children emotionally when they need it.

Model caring and compassion to your children and others, and your children will notice and repeat. After you help them or someone else, explain to your kids how you knew they needed support, what made you decide to act and what to do. Teach them what they can look for in others that will clue them in to someone who may need help. Kids are small, but their hearts and minds are mighty. Give them the power to look for ways and means to help others. Show your kids that being there for someone only takes small acts, but can mean the world to the person in need at that moment.

A little girl in my daughter’s preschool lost her dad during the attack on the USS Cole. Soon after that tragic loss, when my husband would pick up our daughter from preschool, the little girl would always come up to him. Maybe it was his haircut or uniform, but whatever the reason, she just wanted to tell him about her day and other times about her dad. He would take some time to listen and return a hug if she wanted one. Maybe it was her way of feeling close to her dad — a preschooler’s way of getting a message of love through. Whatever it was it seemed to put a smile on her face and helped her at that moment.

Join the conversation. Please share what things helped your kids process and cope with world tragedies.

Everyone’s a Planner

 Posted by on September 12, 2016 at 07:00
Sep 122016


Being an adult is pretty cool when you consider that no one will stop me from eating cake for breakfast, I can drive myself places and I can stay up as late as I want. This, by the way, is my oldest child’s impression of adulthood. I’ll let him believe it’s all sunshine and lollipops for now. But us adults know that cake for breakfast means a sugar crash and “hangriness” well before lunch, driving means you aren’t allowed to nap in the car anymore and staying up late is never a good idea when the alarm goes off the next morning.

I don’t know the exact moment I first felt like an adult — probably somewhere around having to pay rent the first time and starting my first real job as a teacher. It snowballed from there. That first year of teaching I had to participate in a mandatory staff training that explained what I was expected to do in an active-shooter situation. Adulthood gets pretty real at that point.

I am so incredibly thankful that I never had to prove my understanding of the active-shooter procedure. But never using that training doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. It was terrifying, but after it I was better equipped to protect myself and my class full of eighth graders. Preparation in and of itself is scary because you’re preparing for the worst-case scenario. We hope we’ll never need it, but its best to prepare for anything you can.

Where to start

We are at a slight disadvantage in the military community because with each move we can be vulnerable to an unfamiliar disaster. I grew up watching hurricanes float right toward my stretch of coastline. That no longer freaks me out. Someone new to a coastal area could easily get wrapped up in the hype on TV, buy an overpriced generator and batten down the hatches only to watch that hurricane float right on by. But, some things are universal. We can always have basic supplies on hand (in an easily accessible location) that prove useful in a disaster situation:

  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Important documents (in a waterproof and fireproof safe)
  • First aid kit
  • Basic tools
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Basic hygiene products
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Emergency contact numbers and numbers of family, friends and neighbors (cell phone batteries might not hold out, and you could be without all your stored numbers)

And, while it might not be convenient to keep the rest of these stashed at home, make sure you’re never completely out of:

  • Diapers, wipes and formula if you have an infant
  • Pet food
  • Gas in your car
  • Disinfecting cleaner
  • Prescription medications

If you have the advantage of fair warning before a disaster, take the time to stock up on water, nonperishable foods and gas in your car before the shelves of the store are bare. Find a complete list of what to include in your disaster kit at

Plan it, practice it

My 3-year old came home on Friday and told me, “Mommy, I did a fire drill!” She’s been in preschool for three weeks, and they’re preparing her for an emergency. I think it sunk in with her. When my husband and I asked her what she’s supposed to do in a fire, she said: Be quiet, listen to teacher and go outside.

I was happy to learn that her school prepares for emergencies. But, it made my stomach sink a little — like I just remembered something I was supposed to do months ago. We’ve been in our current house, deep in the heart of fire country in California, for more than a year. But, we’ve never once talked to our kids about what to do in case of a fire. They know about the smoke alarms (and they’ve heard them go off many a time while mommy cooks), and they know that we would have to get out fast. But, we owe it to the kids to let them in on the specific plan and walk them through the steps.

Everyone is more confident in a real-life scenario when they have some practice under their belts. And, you never know, in walking through the plan, you may discover a flaw that you can address and avoid it happening when every minute counts.

It’s also possible that a disaster could occur while your family is spread out — at work and school. For this reason, plan ahead with an emergency communication plan. You’ll be able to easily get in touch with your loved ones, check for everyone’s safety and coordinate to get to a safe place together.

Know your threats

The more you know about something that threatens you, the better you can defend yourself. Use the information on for droughts, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, household chemical emergencies, power outages and much more to familiarize yourself when you get to a new area or to jog your memory once in a while.

Stay informed, be ready and carry on

We know from life in the military that we don’t always get ample warning. For those instances where you can see disaster coming, heed the warnings. Listen to weather reports, evacuation orders and instructions from your installation or unit for before, during and after a disaster.

And for the unfortunate times that we must simply react to because they happen without warning, be smart as you rebuild. Get support from emergency services, like the Red Cross if it’s available or reach out to your installation for support. Recognize your vulnerability after a disaster, and be careful of scams looking to take advantage of your distracted state as you rebuild. If you have children, remember that they might not be working with all the facts — parents do, after all, try to protect their kids from scary details as much as possible. Be patient and attentive, and look for signs of stress in those little bodies. Remember that they’ve been through a lot, just as you have. Support each other, listen to each other and hug each other a little tighter knowing you’re safe thanks to your careful preparation. And, when everything is back to normal, you can celebrate your safety with some breakfast cake — you’ve earned it.

Sep 222015

Airborne above my bed in the middle of the night was not a pleasant way to wake up. Actually, I woke up on the way down — for once that dream of falling was real. My bed danced, possessed beneath me, and by the time the floor jumped up to catch me I realized I was in the midst of my first earthquake. I ran (which was more like a slow motion run on a moon bounce) to our daughter’s room to grab her from her crib before the stacked wardrobes fell on her. Just before reaching my daughter, I was able to push the top wardrobe back as it rocked forward toward me and by the time I got her out of the crib and away from the wardrobe wall, the quake was over.



Living on the side of Mt. Etna (a very active volcano in Sicily) meant earthquakes were likely to occur and racing through the house during one was not part of a solid disaster plan. Life doesn’t always go as planned and disasters rarely do. Being part of the military community transforms how you react to situations that don’t go as planned. The constant change prepares us to quickly adapt to situations. Here’s a glimpse into the disaster preparation in a “semper Gumby” (always flexible) mindset.

Plans A, B and C

Because world events can change so fast, our service members’ orders can too. We learn to make plans and have a few extra “just in case” alternatives up our sleeves (and sometimes we still have to make things up as we go along).

With each hurricane that came through the Hampton Roads area, I would begin making plans; one for evacuating and one for riding it out, depending on what the predictions and recommendations were as the storm moved closer.

Adapt plans D, E and F

I quickly discovered that ships sortie (leave port to protect the ship) every time a hurricane comes through, so I had to readjust my plans to evacuate or ride the storm out with the kids and without my husband’s help.

Our biggest challenge was communication, as it was unpredictable from the ship, so he planned to contact me at one of three numbers where I might be, depending on the path of the storm (my cell, my grandad’s land line in a safe inland home, our neighbors down the street). Other plans for communication include:

  • Write an in case of emergency, or ICE, contact number list for your wallet and cell phone.
  • Keep a corded phone in the house for access to landline communication if the power is out.
  • Use text or social media when phone lines are jammed.
  • Share plans with local family or friends and with one friend outside of the potential disaster area.


Prepare phase 1

The prep for hurricanes was always a bit stressful. There was so much to do. I was fortunate my sailor was able to help me pull in all the outdoor furniture before he had to leave on the ship one time. Other times, I had to do the heavy lifting and Tetris stacking of potential projectiles solo, but usually with the help from other military families.

I purchased all the water and food we’d need for the kids, myself and our dog for at least three days and decided to ride out the storm at home. The home improvement store in our area ran out of plywood, so boarding up my home wasn’t an option.

Adapt phase 2

Pulling from the house, garage and recycling bin, I found as much cardboard as I could. After taping the windows, I taped the cardboard to the window casings inside. I hoped that if the windows broke during the storm the cardboard would catch any glass debris before it could get to us.

With the bathtubs and sinks filled with water, the kids, dog and I all hunkered down in the nook under our stairs to weather a handful of storms. I hung sheets around the nook like a fort and that indoor campout with games, stories, songs and flashlights distracted them a bit from the noise of the storm.

Floyd in 1999 and Isabel in 2003 were the worst we experienced. Floyd flooded the office building where I worked (it was condemned and had to be rebuilt), and Isabel knocked our tree over, nearly missing our neighbor’s house and damaging our roof. We were fortunate, as there was a lot of destruction in areas surrounding us.

After the storm passes, the disaster is over or the power is out, the “semper Gumby” state of mind is what prompts the neighbors to gather outside for an impromptu block party where all freezer contents are grilled and you make the best of the current situation.


12 Tips for Educating Kids on Home Security

 Posted by on October 2, 2014 at 11:58
Oct 022014


As a parent, each morning when I wake up, there is an unspoken goal to keep my kids safe. They do their best to make that a challenge by jumping on the couch, trying to climb in the bathtub or trying to eat an entire banana in one bite – and that’s all before breakfast. It’s impossible to predict what will pop up in 24 hours’ time within the walls of our home – anything from boogiemen at bedtime to stranger dangers while we play in the front yard are possibilities.

Just about the only way we can be ready for anything is to prepare safety rules and plans, teach our kids the safety basics and practice what-to-do scenarios with our kids starting at a young age. We can hope that we are never tested on any of the following, but I’d rather study for the test and have it canceled rather than walk into class unprepared for the exam.

  1. Have a safe word. Create a sort of secret password just for your family. Let your kids know that any stranger that approaches them in the driveway or who comes to the front door claiming to need something or claiming to know their parents should know that word.
  2. Keep doors, gates and windows closed and locked. It’s a simple preventative measure that your kids can learn as soon as they’re old enough to reach the locks. You might even get them in the habit of checking locks before leaving the house.
  3. Keep the front yard free of toys. A yard littered with toys indicates to anyone driving by that a child lives there. True, our car with two car seats is sitting in our driveway, but someone would have to be in our driveway, peering into the car windows to see that, which is a lot more work than simply driving by.
  4. Teach kids that strangers in the neighborhood are still strangers. Just because someone walks up to talk to them in the driveway claiming to live down the street doesn’t make the person trustworthy.
  5. Be sure your kids can recognize the smell of gas. If they smell it in or around the house, they should know to quickly alert an adult.
  6. Practice makes perfect. Once you’ve planned safety routes for your kids (for use in case of fire, home intruder, earthquake, tornado, blackout, etc.) practice them with your kids – even if their plan is to simply stay put and wait for you. They’re far more likely to be in the right place at the right time under pressure if it’s familiar.
  7. Make sure your kids know when to answer the phone. In the old days, when I first started staying home alone, we didn’t have caller ID, so I had to answer every call in case it was one of my parents. They simply taught me not to reveal that I was alone. Today, though, I teach my kids not to answer the phone without me or my husband present. When they’re a little older, they may answer it if they recognize the contact.
  8. Teach your children how to call 911 and when it’s appropriate to do so. For example, calling 911 because your sister pinched you is not OK, but if mom is hurt and asks you to call, then they should know how to dial and that it’s OK to share personal information with the dispatcher.
  9. Help your kids remember their phone number and address. This can be confusing for military children who move frequently, but it’s worth it to learn.
  10. Make sure your kids know to stay away from critters. While they might be harmless, teaching your kids to alert an adult to a wild or stray animal, a snake in the yard or that weird bug in their room could prevent a dangerous bite or sting.
  11. Teach off-limit areas. Make sure your kids know to steer clear of outlets, cords, sharp or hot kitchen objects and household cleaners and why.
  12. Be direct. I used to soften and over-explain consequences to my kids to prevent scaring them. I’d say things like, “You shouldn’t reach for things on the stove because there might be something hot up there that could hurt you.” Explanations like this one got me wide, confused eyes and didn’t stop the action from repeating. I’ve found being direct without being overly scary is the best method. In the stove situation, I held my son up to see that when a burner is on it’s hot, and if he touches it, he’ll get burned – message received.

Guest Blog: Against the Wind

 Posted by on April 3, 2014 at 16:46
Apr 032014
Guest Blogger Liz


This morning the sky is overcast and it is very windy. A storm is on its way. But I guess our community already feels like it has been through one.

I was one of many people today out on the trail at one of the city parks. I’ve never seen it empty, but today it was very crowded, especially given the appearance of the skies. But I guess it was a good day to burn off steam. Some people were walking their dogs. Some were holding hands with a loved one. Others, like me, were trying to run off some stress. All of us seemed like we were trying to process – to decompress – to move onward.

We all desperately want to move on from the past hurt and history of this post. And yesterday, I know, felt all too familiar for some.

For the wife who within 30 minutes gets two separate texts: “Trying to leave early to make it to the game on time” and “Gonna be late. Active shooter on post.”

For the mom who drops her kids off in hourly care for a quick meeting and can’t get to them for the next six hours while the post is secured on lock down.

For the family members who are stranded in town indefinitely because they can’t get back to their home on post after work or school.

For the soldiers who are trained to respond to attacks such as these overseas, but are forced to hunker down helpless on their home land.

For the families that were not fortunate enough to receive a text, that all was well before the signals got tied up and had to rely on the fluid reports of the Internet for their information, who had to sit silently and worry while they waited.

For the families who feel relief when they realize that their soldier is unharmed, for the friends who feel relief when they know their friends were unaffected, both feeling guilt afterward that not everyone found relief this day.

I circled around and around the track, people watching and silently praying. There was about a quarter-mile portion of the loop where you ran face first into the gusting winds. Moms with strollers slowed to a walk. Men and women with little dogs on a leash moved ahead of the dogs and braced them from the wind so they wouldn’t blow up in the air like a kite on a string. I actually watched some people “about face” and take the track the other direction. I stubbornly pushed onward. (It’s the Texan in me, I guess.) At one point, I wondered if I was even still moving forward or if the wind was pushing me backward. Dust from baseball dirt and mowers spit at my face. I was about halfway done with the windy stretch when I decided that I would finish it out and be done. There’s was just no reason to go running against the wind.

I put my face down to the ground and I unzipped my jacket to help let some of the breeze cool me down. But then, something better happened. A gust of wind caught my open jacket and it blew up behind me like a cape. I know it sounds silly, but I suddenly felt empowered. I lifted up my face and I charged through the wind. I finished up that windy stretch and I took an additional loop around the track, letting my “cape” fly freely behind me.

Sometimes in life we will feel like we are constantly running against the wind. We’ll want to slow down. We’ll want to turn around. We’ll want to stop. Today, I realized that the greatest way to overcome is to simply push onward. That’s the way everyday heroes are born.

I think this message lends itself well to our community and to our fight. We will push onward together. Because if tradition has taught us anything, it’s that the Army goes rolling along.

Here’s hoping that today the wind is at your back – or providing your cape!

Surviving a Crisis Alone

 Posted by on December 13, 2013 at 16:08
Dec 132013


Is there really any other way to face a crisis as a military spouse? We all know – whether from experience or urban legend – that things do not break or get lost while our service members are home, creepy crawlies never invade the house if we have reinforcements and natural disasters never pose a threat until we are “Sitting duck, party of one.”

The legend of the deployment curse basically guarantees that some sort of crisis will rear its ugly head while you are all by your lonesome – whether it’s during a 48-hour training exercise or a 12-month deployment. So, by the time my husband’s second deployment rolled around, I was prepared…or so I thought. This time I wasn’t just dealing with a dead car battery or a kitchen full of sugar ants; instead, I got the wrath of Hurricane Irene.

Should I stay or should I go?

My deployed husband begged me to pack up and head inland. Having grown up on the Gulf Coast, I assured him that he was too far removed from the situation and that the news was making it a bigger deal than it really was. I knew how to prepare for hurricanes, and riding out the storm in the comfort of our home sounded much more appealing than battling evacuation traffic and a cramped hotel with an infant. I was watching weather and evacuation updates around the clock and talking over plans with neighbors and friends, and just a couple days before Irene made landfall, I made the call; my son and I and our two dogs were staying put.

Going it “alone”

The next 48 hours I spent preparing for the storm. I did what I knew to be important from my experience; I hauled anything that could become airborne, including a huge doghouse, storage bench, lawn furniture, trashcans, garden hoses and a grill into the garage…alone. Most of these objects were bigger than me, but never underestimate the strength of a determined woman.

The night before Irene made landfall, this stubborn woman was reminded that no one in the military community truly faces anything “alone.” As I was preparing the inside of my house for the storm by lowering the temperatures of the refrigerator and freezer, doing a few loads of laundry, pulling out some candles, flashlights, and puzzles, and making doubly sure my son had enough baby food in case we lost power, my neighbors knocked on my door. Knowing that my husband was deployed, they offered to help me do everything I’d already done before they evacuated. Even though their offer was a moot point, I finally relaxed for the first time in a week. I realized that even though I felt like I was facing Irene alone, I wasn’t. I felt so much pressure to protect our son, our dogs and our home that I was overlooking all of the support right in front of me.


The aftermath

When the storm eventually passed, the damage was obvious. I suddenly wasn’t as brave without the safety of boarded windows – that I was accustomed to during storms like this – and I remember staring out our dining room window just watching the pine trees bend to the point of breaking only to stand up straight again at the last possible second. I felt so vulnerable in our home that I abandoned my cozy bed to sleep – or, more accurately, lie awake all night – on the floor of my son’s room.

The morning after the storm, I walked the neighborhood to check on my friend since phones were dead and power was out. I saw things that took my breath away. Trees were snapped in half, uprooted and siding and shingles were missing from almost every house except for ours. We probably shouldn’t have been in one piece, but miraculously we were perfectly fine.

And the days that followed were almost worse than the mere hours of the storm. We spent days without power. It was hot, the food was spoiling, we cleaned up debris (with help, of course) and business was slowly returning to normal, but nearly the entire area was still facing a blackout. Once again, I was floored by the support of fellow military spouses. My good friend and I took turns driving around to charge our phones and enjoy brief moments of air conditioning. All around town, other military families who already had electricity restored opened their doors – and their hot showers – to other families who needed some relief from “camping” in their homes. It wasn’t until I was holding my cranky son – who was donning only a diaper at this point on account of the balmy 90-degree temperature inside our house – eating food on the brink of spoiling from the fridge for the sole purpose of not wasting it and sweating so badly my son nearly slipped off of my lap that I realized how ridiculous this situation was. If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve evacuated; I think most other families who remember that week would agree with me.

We were all alone during Irene, and because of that, strangely, we were all in it together. And that may be my favorite thing about this military life. It doesn’t matter whether we face natural disasters, dead car batteries, bats trapped in patio umbrellas, rodents in the garage, illness or even childbirth while our spouses are away; we have support ready and waiting. We are a resourceful and strong family that I am so proud to be a part of.

Guest Blog: Preparing for Emergencies

 Posted by on August 21, 2012 at 08:00
Aug 212012

Guest Blog: Preparing for Emergencies

Blogger Biography: Beth Jones is a freelance writer and a proud Air Force wife. She and her family are currently stationed in Maryland. When she’s not busy chasing her two little boys around, Jones enjoys reading mystery novels and spending time with other military spouses.

I was excited to celebrate my first wedding anniversary as a proud military wife.

My husband and I had too many plans to count. We would spend the day walking along the beach where we got married, watch a new movie that had just been released, and top the day off with a wonderful dinner at a fancy restaurant.

Unfortunately, none of that happened.

The morning of October 15, 2006, my husband and I were shaken awake by a rumbling noise and our walls moving.

“Is it a tornado?” I asked. Naturally, being from Kansas, I assumed that our walls shaking like that meant it was a tornado.

“I think it was an earthquake,” my husband mumbled from beneath the covers.

And indeed, it was. A 6.7 earthquake, to be exact, had struck off the shore of Kona. Although we were stationed on the island of Oahu, we had still felt the effects of the earthquake and the entire island lost power.

All day.

It was at this moment I realized just how important an emergency kit really is.

We’re handed brochures on what to put in an emergency kit every year, but how many of us really look through that pamphlet? More importantly, how many of us really put what we read into action?

Since that special anniversary when my husband and I sat around in the dark, playing board games and eating cold cereal, I’ve learned that an emergency kit or Bug Out Bag isn’t something you should put off making.

Now, almost six years after that first anniversary, we’ve survived two more earthquakes, a hurricane, and a tornado. We now, more than ever, make sure our emergency backpacks are up to date. We switch out all of the contents every six months and check all of the batteries to make sure everything is up to date and still in good working order.

We have two little boys now, so we make sure that each family member has a backpack entirely their own that contains an extra change of clothing, shoes, water, snacks, cash, local maps, first aid supplies, and a flashlight. An extra backpack that we keep in our car contains an emergency tent, flares, matches, at least a three day supply of medication our family uses on a regular basis, and a list of emergency phone numbers.

We also make sure that our car is never at less than half a tank of gas. In the case of a true emergency or crisis, the first place many people rush to is the gas station. The other place people tend to run to is the grocery store, so in addition to our emergency kits, we try not to let our house get too low on toilet paper and other hygienic necessities.

I’ve also found that it’s a good idea to keep non-perishable food items that don’t need to be cooked on hand. Non-perishable food doesn’t have to mean a box of sugary granola bars. Some things we like to have on hand are nuts, sunflower seeds, beef jerky, and dried cereal. I also keep flavored water and boxed milk on hand “just in case.”

In the time I’ve spent as a military wife, I’ve been challenged, tested, and pressed. Emergencies now aren’t as scary as they used to be, but that’s because now, being without electricity is less of an annoyance and more of an opportunity to spend more time with my family.

Ready for Anything: How to Prepare for an Emergency

 Posted by on August 16, 2012 at 08:00
Aug 162012

Ready for Anything: How to Prepare for an Emergency

We’ve probably all seen movies or television shows that poke fun at 9-1-1. Actors are in the heat of an emergency situation and one cries out, “Call 9-1-1,” to which another replies, “OK, what’s the number?”

Cue the slow clap for the cheesy joke.



The truth is, though, that 9-1-1 is probably the easiest number to remember, and thank goodness it is! If you’ve ever been in an emergency situation, you know that it can be difficult to even remember your own name, let alone a ten digit phone number.

When the adrenaline gets pumping, you don’t want to have to count on your brain to think clearly, so plan ahead by having a few key things ready should you need them.

  • First-aid kit. I keep one stocked at home and one in my car because I’ve found that I need bandages in all kinds of places—maybe I’m just accident prone. Include
    • bandages and bandage tape
    • gauze
    • disinfectant and antibacterial ointment
    • scissors
    • tweezers
    • gloves
    • non-prescription medication
  • Phone numbers. Even though 9-1-1 is committed to memory, you may want to have other helpful numbers on hand. Consider adding the following to your emergency contact list:
    • Medical contacts. Include physician contacts for each member of your family as well as insurance contact numbers. Don’t forget to include the number to your pet’s veterinarian!
    • American Red Cross. The Red Cross can get a message to your service member if overseas should an emergency arise. Call 1-877-272-7337 to send a message to your loved one or visit the Red Cross Emergency Communications Services webpage for more information.
    • Utility service numbers. Should a power outage occur, you’ll want to have the number handy so you can report the outage.
    • Close family members and friends. Since we have cell phones that store important numbers for us, we don’t necessarily need to remember anyone’s phone number anymore. Should you lose your phone or you phone battery dies and you’re unable to charge it, a hard copy of relatives’ phone numbers can ensure that you’ll stay in contact.
    • Installation numbers. Include your family readiness officer and emergency or weather hotline if available.
  • Important documents. Keep documents, like birth and marriage certificates, contracts and deeds, passports, social security cards, insurance policies and wills, account numbers, medical information (like blood types and allergies for each family member), and medical records in a locked, portable container. The container should be secure, but make sure you know where the key is for quick access in a pinch.
  • Basic survival supplies. If you live in a region that could be affected by natural disasters, you may want to keep a few essentials on hand, especially during the peak season. For example, if you live along a coast or on an island, stock up at the start of hurricane or typhoon season. Essentials in your kit may include the following:
    • bottled water
    • non-perishable food items
    • can opener
    • matches
    • battery operated radio
    • cash
    • fire extinguisher
    • scissors or a utility knife and basic tools

Much of this information or emergency supplies can be kept in your home. However, it might be beneficial to keep portable versions in your car or in your wallet. A page of important phone numbers can be conveniently stored in your wallet, and a first-aid kit takes up hardly any room in your car. Certain items, like those from the basic survival supplies list, may not need to be hauled around during normal daily activities. If you’re venturing out on a road trip, especially during the harsh winter months (sound refreshing to anyone else right about now?) or in the extreme heat, you may want some of these supplies with you.

Not to sound pessimistic, but there are roughly 1,001 things that could happen on any given day. I bring this up not to initiate a panic, but to remind you that it’s impossible to be completely prepared for every possible situation. All you can do is be as prepared as possible. Hopefully you’ll never need to crack open your organized emergency supplies, but if the need arises,  you’ll be glad you’ve done your homework!

Rainy Summer Days: Learn To Love Them!

 Posted by on July 5, 2012 at 08:00
Jul 052012

Rainy Summer Days: Learn To Love Them!

Staff Blogger Kelli


I love rainy days. I like the coziness it brings to my home and the snuggled in feeling as the grey sky wraps around our town like a blanket. The best rainy day involves a good movie, my kids snuggled around me, topped off with a nap. My husband came home one day to find me buried under a pile of kids and dogs, all snoring happily away. But that’s a Saturday or Sunday during the school year.

I dread summer rainy days. Hours of “I’m bored,” “Can we just got see if it’s raining at the beach still,” and “MOOOOOMMMMMM, he’s ___(verb)___my, me, the,___(noun)__. That would be a typical summer rainy day, especially when it’s during the week and I have to work.

I know I am not alone with the rainy day angst so here are a few things we’ve tried.

Blanket Forts. I loved doing this as a child. I am pretty sure most folks have either done this or watched their living rooms turned into a maze of chairs and blankets. We then took flashlights, pillows, and books down under for story time. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches always tasted better in a blanket fort. Caution, make sure you monitor what’s happening. Multilevel forts are not safe! I can’t describe the horror of walking into a room to see your older children having built your youngest child a “nest.”

Crafts. We used to scour activity books for rainy day activities but now you have the Internet! The web makes it easy and fun to find things for your minions to do while the outside world is watered. Did you know Military OneSource has a Pinterest board? I find way more than I could ever do!

Building Block Universe. I say universe because in our house a city, town, or country is not enough. Besides, if you have a universe you can have alien invasions from the kitchen, amphibious assaults from the bathroom, and a final battle in the den. Every single building toy and plastic dish in our home is used. The universe is populated by tall dolls, plastic soldiers, and anything that looks humanoid.  It is actually amazing to see what the kids come up with. It’s also amazing to see how much STUFF you actually have when it’s laid out all over y our floors. If you are OCD and need everything put away neatly DO NOT DO THIS ACTIVITY. If you are good with shoveling toys into containers and all your plastic dishes and bowls into a freestyle arrangement in your cabinet, this is the universe for you.

Singing in the Rain. If there is no lightening I say go for it! How fun would it be to dance around the backyard to music blaring from a window. Inexpensive ponchos, umbrellas, swim masks or goggles, and a camera are the makings for a fun “photo shoot/dance party.” With digital cameras, you can spend the afternoon putting a slide show together. Add some music, save them on SD cards, and mail them off in homemade cards to grandparents or special aunts and uncles.

Reading. I know the goal is to limit how much time our kids spend in front of electronics, but I think things like TumbleBooks and other online activities are a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. Older kids can grab their eReaders or <gasp> a good book! Make a trip to the library in the morning, get home in time for lunch (or pick it up), and the little ones can nap while you and the older kids spend the afternoon reading.  We don’t read enough America!

Food. There are some great “kids in the kitchen” ideas out there. This not only keeps the kids engaged, it ends up quite yummy. Teaching them to clean as you cook will help avoid too much of a disaster when it’s time to sit down and taste your creation.

What about those times when they decide to “surprise” you and make something on their own. Be strong, smile, and nod. Then take a deep breath before you go into your kitchen. Keep on hand small spray bottles, non-toxic cleaner, and cleaning erasers. I usually say don’t stop cleaning until your spray bottle is empty, your eraser is dissolved, and the role of paper towels is half the size they are now. Turn on upbeat music and walk away…

Last but not least, when you have exhausted all other avenues of entertainment, close the curtains, get comfy and switch on that afternoon movie. If you’ve managed to keep them busy most of the day, they will be asleep well into the first hour.

Saved Rounds of Advice

  • Prepare for rainy days while the sun is shining. Trying to pull it all together that day can be frustrating.
  • Don’t expect any activity or craft to go perfect. It’s really not the outcome, it’s the process.
  • Not all hours in a day need to be filled with planned activities. You’ll be surprised at how they figure out how to come up with ideas if left to ponder it for a while.  Just keep an eye open. If your kids are like mine then someone is going to end up painted orange.

Doesn’t all that sound like fun? Well I wish I could say all my rainy days were filled with educational crafts, beautiful music, and abundant love among siblings. In our house these activities may possibly  end up with someone bleeding or bruised, someone in time out, and someone else crying, usually me. That being said, I encourage you to push through and do only as much as your crew can stand, and have ideas for individual activities in your back pocket.

Good luck on your first summer rainy day!

Prepping Your Home for When You’re Not at Home

 Posted by on June 14, 2012 at 08:00
Jun 142012

Prepping Your Home for When You’re Not at Home

Staff Blogger Melissa


HELLLOOOOO summer! The kids are out of school, pools are open, the beaches are bustling, and the summer vacation season has arrived! Yep, this is DEFINITELY my most favorite time of year!  It doesn’t matter if you rent, live on the installation, or own your home. When it comes to leaving your home for anything longer than a few days some simple steps should be taken to make sure everything is still intact upon your return.  I am sure you have heard most of this before, but a little reminder is always helpful, especially when you are busy with other more important things…. like deciding which sandals to pack (I vote all of them).

Stop your mail/newspaper delivery. The post office has now made holding your mail easy! The process can now easily be done online. In our experience, holding your newspaper is a simple phone call away. The phone number can typically be found in your daily newspaper edition, so no need to search for the number. No excuses! Hold your mail and newspapers while you are gone. Nothing screams “Come on in, no one is home” like a mailbox full of mail and a stack of newspapers outside your door.

Do a “burglar sweep. Walk around the inside of your house and make sure that ALL the windows are locked. I understand this is a “no brainer,” but I sometimes have a bad habit of opening a window to let the summer breeze in, and shutting it without locking it. Double checking is always a good idea. Walk around the outside of your home and secure items that could be used to break into your house. Have a ladder by your shed? Heavy items that could be used to break windows? What about any bikes, toys, tools, or lawn equipment left outside that could easily go missing if someone notices that you are gone?

Share a key. Make sure a trusted local area friend or neighbor has a key to your house so if an emergency arises, they have easy access. If you are going to be gone longer than a week, it might be a good idea to have someone come in and do a walkthrough of your house every so often to make sure things are intact. Nothing would be worse than coming home to a busted pipe that flooded your house, or an air conditioner that went out, turning your home into a mold wonderland.  If you are planning a very long trip, a Power of Attorney could be helpful in case your trusted friend needs to call in repairs on your behalf.

Alert your neighbors. If you are on good “neighborly” terms with your immediate neighbors, let them know you will be away and make sure they have your cell phone number. They can be your eyes and ears while you are away. Make sure they know about anyone you have coming by your home (like a pet sitter/house sitter) so they don’t “over help” by calling the police!

Let installation housing know. If you live on the installation, depending on how long you plan to be gone you will need to let the housing office know. Here in Okinawa, if you leave your dwelling longer than fourteen days you need to notify housing and fill out an “Absence of Unit” form designating someone over eighteen to maintain your quarters while you are gone. Many rental properties also require notification if you will be gone for an extended period of time. Check your lease agreement to make sure you are in compliance.

Don’t allow your yard to turn into a jungle. This is along the same lines as having mail and newspapers piled up. An overgrown lawn can only mean one of two things: Broken lawnmower or whoever lives there is not home (or sometimes, in my case, it means my husband is deployed and I am delaying the inevitable of HAVING to mow). Arrange for lawn care with a friend, neighbor, or lawn service.

Make your home look lived in. If you can swing it, have someone stop by and turn on lights, turn off lights, and open/close curtains so your house doesn’t have the vacant look.  Or install timers for your lights. These timers can easily be purchased at your local hardware store and are easy to set up.

Natural disasters don’t follow your schedule. Summertime also means an uptick in inclement weather. Hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flooding are more prone to happen during the hot, humid summer months. If this occurs in your area while you are gone, have a friend ready to check the house and assess any damage for you. That way you are prepared to start making insurance phone calls and you are mentally prepared if you are coming home to a house with no roof. When we lived on the coast, I did “drive bys” of friends’ homes after hurricanes or damaging winds struck and reported any visible damage.

Do NOT announce you are gone on social media sites. Social media ROCKS, no doubt about that! However, keep your vacation off your status updates and tweets until you are home. Privacy settings change all the time so you may think you are only announcing to your friends that you are leaving, but you never really know who will see that post. Finding someone’s house in the era of information technology is typically just a few mouse clicks away on a search engine.

I hope these tips offer some helpful reminders to keep your home safe while you are off having fun and relaxing!

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