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Aug 122016


Each and every summer there comes a moment when I feel a cold hand of panic propelling me toward the school supply aisle at the store. Usually it’s when I glance at the date and realize school starts within a few hours! Panic sets in, and my kids and I desperately search for the exact folder described on their supply list. It’s usually NOT the ones filling the shelves for 15 cents a folder. When I had all six children in school you can imagine the stress, the cost and the wails of small children left with the dredges picked over by much more organized moms.

After a few years my children were required to “shop” around our home before we ever even ventured out to a store. Usually the folders for sale the previous year that were NOT on the list, would be the hot commodity the next year, and often found in a dark closet somewhere in my house.

This year however, I remembered about halfway through summer to check to see if there was anything I could do earlier rather than later to make the start of the school year a little less stressful. I have decided to be proactive and not have my children slide into the first day of school with pencil nubs and chewed up pink erasers. I figure the last two deserve something special since the first four have worn me out.

To my amazement and wonder the school supply lists were already online. I gleefully printed them off and told my boys I had the lists. I was so surprised when I was met with horrified looks and shocked gasps.

“What?! It’s the middle of summer, mom! Why are you even thinking of that?!” Both boys were appalled and ran from the room in shock — not the reaction I was expecting.

With technology driving the way we work, go to school, prepare for school and even grocery shop, it should be easier than ever to prepare for the changing of seasons and transitioning back to the rigors of a school schedule.

I’ve been able to fill out forms, update information and digitally sign what used to seem like reams of paper. There are still some things that must be done in person, like the sports physicals, but honestly I’m waiting for a “doc in the box” to scan the boys via the internet and a video connection. Until then, here are a few tips for making this year’s transition back to the school schedule a little less harrowing:

  • Check online to see what paperwork might be available to take care of now, rather than those first few days. You will be saving trees AND your writing hand from cramping.
  • Find out if the school supply list is available and tuck it in your purse or wallet. Sales are going on all the time, and purchasing a bit each pay day instead of all at once can really help your back-to-school budget.
  • Schedule sports physicals sooner rather than later. Those appointments get booked fast and there are never enough of them!
  • Check the district and school-specific calendar of events, and get those important dates locked onto your family calendar. It’s a little painful to see all that white space fill up, but it’s better than missing an important event or scrambling to shift things around and arriving stressed and flustered at the last minute.

I feel like it’s a marathon once that first day of school arrives. If you don’t have on your running shoes and water staged along the way, it can be much harder to make it through to the holiday break finish line. In the spirit of enjoying life with school-age children rather than enduring it with your hair on fire, prepare, take a deep breath and get ready to enjoy the upcoming back to school shenanigans!

When Your Child Makes Bad Choices

 Posted by on July 29, 2016 at 08:00
Jul 292016


Raising children is a contradictory ongoing life event. Our children have the ability to bring the greatest joy into our lives as well as some of the greatest sorrows. Not because they are terrible or horrid, but because the work of growing little people into responsible and kind citizens of the world is dirty messy work and glorious at the same time. There are often times there are no words to describe the feelings our children evoke in us. It is no wonder we have some of our most passionate reactions in life involving our children. Good and bad. It’s easy to discuss those beautiful joyful moments. It’s harder to talk about those moments when you feel that mix of mortification, humiliation and deep disappointment. What do we do with those feelings? Six kids, four grandchildren and more to come doesn’t make me an expert, or even confident that I know what I’m doing, but, it does give me some experience. Below are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way.

It’s not about you- All too often we as parents react out of embarrassment or humiliation instead of taking the time to breathe and look at all sides of a situation. We take our child’s behavior as a direct reflection on ourselves and our parenting skills. We unwittingly allow ourselves to worry how others perceive our worth as a parent. DON’T. It’s not helpful to let the opinions of others regarding how you should or should not correct your child influence how you parent. Setting our own feelings aside, we can more clearly focus on how we can help our child learn from the decisions they have made and make amends where possible.

Keep in mind the end goal- We have to be careful to block out the judging eyes and accusatory tones of those around us and the embarrassment we will inevitably feel at some point along the way. Many times we will have to acknowledge that yes, indeed, our pride and joy has made a terrible choice, one that as a parent we must address. If the end goal is raising our children to be good and kind, strong and self-sufficient, productive and successful then remember; some of the greatest life lessons that will have lasting influence on our children will come out of times they make poor choices. How we help them navigate through those experiences is more important than what others think.

Never assume you know the whole story- I wish, I WISH, I had taken this to heart so much earlier in my parenting career. Sometimes I was too harsh, unreasonably so, and other times I did not see the whole picture and did not stand the ground that needed to be stood. On one occasion one of my children brought a story home to me regarding a P.E. teacher and his disregard for my child’s safety. I was incensed, outraged even! I wrote a scathing letter and requested a meeting. I am after all my child’s advocate. It’s my job to protect her. My husband and I left that meeting still incensed and outraged. The target of our ire however was now my beautiful perfect child. In the parking lot of the school, barely containing my anger, I stood the ground that needed to be stood. I turned to this child and said, “Child, I love you more than I can express and I will fight dragons for you. I will go to the ends of the earth to be your champion, but you had better make sure YOU are not the dragon.”

Take time to talk and to listen- When stuff happens and people are pointing fingers at your child, or your child is pointing fingers at others, it is never a bad idea to disrupt the chaotic energy stirring up emotions by being still and quiet. Taking time to let emotions settle and to hear what is really going on will go much further than emotionally charged exchanges or decisions being made. Sometimes your child WILL get the short end of the stick. It happens. The short end of the stick is NOT the lesson to teach. It’s what we do with that experience that is the lesson. Those lessons are hard. A sense of justice might never be achieved. In those situations it’s important to model a healthy attitude and focus on what we have control over. There are other times when we need to fight the dragons for our child. Choose thoughtfully where you spend that energy.

Check your expectations- There are times when we overreact and expect more than our children are developmentally able to give. That doesn’t mean we don’t teach, correct or instruct them. It means that we understand a two year old is driven by two year old desires and a two year old view of the world. It doesn’t change when they are ten, twelve or even twenty. Change is constant and those changes often drive behavior. One day you are dealing with cutting teeth, potty training and separation anxiety causing melt downs then all of a sudden it’s body hair, driver’s education and dating. Make sure you are discerning which are easy to pull weeds in the garden of growing children and which weeds might need additional help to pull. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference, but we live in a day and age when we have the ability to gather information very quickly. Parenting is a constant topic of interest; new parents are born every day! It will never be a bad idea to ask questions. Military OneSource has counselors available just for that!

Keep it simple-

Stop and breath – Take time to evaluate the situation before you form opinions or make decisions.

Listen and love – even if they did make a mistake, our kids need to be heard and know they are still loved regardless.

Make adjustments and stay strong – If you need to provide consequences stand by them and see them through.

Let them grow and overcome their bad choice- This is one of the most important things we can do for anyone, but especially our children.

You are not your child’s decisions and guess what? Neither are they! Keep that in mind when you are wondering what in the world they were thinking. They are precious, even when they remind you of a troll and letting go of the opinions of others frees you up to truly love them unconditionally.

When All His Friends Are in Kindergarten

 Posted by on September 16, 2015 at 10:05
Sep 162015


So, you PCS in the summer between preschool and pre-K (which, it turns out, are totally different), and you decide to homeschool your little genius instead of spending 70 percent of your salary on a part-time preschool. It’s intimidating. It’s exciting. But is it crazy? Here’s our rationale:

  • We refused to spend more than our Basic Allowance for Housing to get both kids into preschool, and we just couldn’t play favorites with those sweet little faces.
  • We refused to spend our grocery money on 36 hours of “preschool” each month that wasn’t going to challenge our kids or give me enough free time to draft my first to-do list of the day.
  • Our kids might not learn a single thing in those 36 hours of preschool each month, but they would, without fail, bring germs and bad habits home to share with the rest of the family.

So, for me, it was pretty much a no-brainer:

  1. Support husband in his career — please be in touch for my wife of the year award.
  2. Save oodles of money on preschool.
  3. Spend less time stressing about deadlines.
  4. Spend more time enjoying my babies before they grow up and start calling me lame behind my back.

Our new duty station was hitting a daily home run. There was a new adventure every day — my bucket list has never been less dusty. My kids were stepping outside their comfort zones on the daily, and making new friends at every park visit. This was it. This was what thriving after a move looked like.

We had been homeschooling for about a month because the kids were bored at home before summer’s end, which — as any parent knows — is a dangerous emotion for kids. I knew if we didn’t kick off homeschool ahead of schedule those freshly-hung curtains would be ripped from the walls. We had our routine — our park days, aquarium days, school hours, picnic spots and more.

Then school started.

We stopped at the park after our first run of the week (yee-haw — double jogging stroller uphill) for the routine socialization hour. Instead of melding into a flock of loud 4-year-olds, that park was a ghost town. Seriously — I’m almost positive that there was a swing moving by itself and a tumbleweed rolling under the monkey bars.

Like any rock star mom, I kept my cool because everyone knows that kids can smell fear. I took that vacant park as an opportunity to play tag with my own kids, play on the monkey bars (welcome back, 8-year old Kristi) and remind my youngest — my shy little lady — that she is the coolest girl in the whole world.

That was all unicorns and rainbows for a week(ish). I was exhausted, but I was doing it. I was ready to see it through no matter how many hours I had to spend after bedtime to piece together some worthwhile lesson plans. Then, one day, my almost kindergartener had a meltdown. A friend that he’d come to expect seeing at the park didn’t show at the usual time.

TidalPool (800x600)After 45 minutes, we left. Or — at least — we tried to. I was loading up an armful of sweatshirts and snack bags, when I turned around to see my 4-year-old’s eyes filling with tears. Like any concerned mom, I dropped to my knees and asked, “What’s wrong, bud?”

“We can’t leave before my friend comes.”

…sob, sob…

“Why doesn’t my friend want to play with me?”

…sob, sob, snot wipe, sob, sob…

“I miss my Texas friends.”

…sob, sob, ugly cry, sob, sob…

Oh no. I hadn’t cried on a playground since the second grade, and I feared my streak was coming to an end. I’m a strong, stubborn, sarcastic woman, but a real tear in this little boy’s eye was almost more than this mom could bear.

I started exploring options right then and there for ways to mingle him with kids his age. Sure, he was signed up for soccer, and he could always play with his sister (two years his junior) or his parents (26 to 28 years his senior), but he needed something more age-appropriate and something more consistent than a game once a week.

For our family, this translated into part-time preschool (again…even though I swore I wouldn’t). For your family, maybe it’s the same. Or, maybe it’s:

  • Library story time
  • Coordinated playdates
  • Organized sports
  • Mother’s morning out
  • Child development center
  • Classes or lessons — dance, gymnastics, swimming, etc.
  • Full-time daycare or preschool


PicnicLunch (800x600)The bottom line is that you do what is best for your kids. Cost, convenience and sanity aside, you make it work. Sometimes your heart breaks. Sometimes your wallet stays empty to keep those little hearts full. Sometimes your best-laid plans fly out the window. Sometimes the last thing you expected to do is exactly what you — as in all of you — need.

So, whether you decide to homeschool for the first time ever or the last time ever; whether your baby is walking through the doors of kindergarten for the first time or you’re involuntarily dropping your middle-schooler off around the block as instructed; whether you enroll your child in preschool to pursue a job that you love or need, or you pause your career to pursue parenthood to the fullest, you’re OK. Your kids are OK. And no matter how hard it seems right now, you aren’t going to remember the long days, you’re going to remember the sweet moments in between rushing to and from the car — in between the stress.

Did School Start?

 Posted by on September 15, 2015 at 09:43
Sep 152015

School is back in full swing and I somehow missed the preparation. I’m scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t ready for summer to start and now school snuck up on me. I was that mom who sent two of her kids to school with a pencil, notebook and the promise we would buy school supplies later that evening.



It seems I’ve been a month behind since February. I’m not sure why or how I’m going to catch up a full month, and do I really need to? Is it possible? My head condemns me, but my heart forgives me, and somewhere in between there has to be a neutral ground to satisfy both.

I think I make up for it by singing made up songs to the boys to entertain and deflect from the fact I have failed at crafting a bento box lunch, and didn’t even have the wherewithal to draw a smiley face on their brown lunch bags. I am not so sure they view my singing as a bonus. “I’m your mother and I struggle — I’m not perfect, I’m just a muggle. Please understand I’m all you’ve got, so watch me drop it like it’s hot.” My accompanying dance is some of distorted deep knee bend. They can’t wait to get to school.

How do you catch up? I don’t think you can. I think you just have to start from where you are and move forward the best you can. Here are some things I’m trying, some a little more successfully than others.

Get organized

Did I just hear a few screams? Did you just say, “If I was organized I wouldn’t be a month behind in my life.” Yep, me too. But the sad truth of it is this is one reason we are behind. The upside is you can start now, with just one thing. I saw this super cool idea for organizing kids’ clothes for the week. I also saw this clever idea for organizing after school items, like homework, backpacks, schedules, all the papers we get, etc. — like a back to school command center.

Choose your battles

I am officially giving you permission to not be perfect in everything. I am asking you to consider choosing one area to really go after. Maybe it’s your command center, making more nutritious lunches or helping your tiny learn to dress him or herself. Just don’t try to win the war on being an A+ parent all in one week. It’s like learning to not bite your fingernails. Just start with one. Once you’ve managed to not chew on that finger, move on to the next. Pretty soon you are left with eight or nine beautiful fingers and only one or two raggedy looking appendages. Start with one area of chaos and conquer it before you move on to the next. It will feel good to have a success. That will motivate you to tackle the next corner of craziness.

We are imperfect beings

Just because someone else has a beautiful command center with fancy cubbies, or a high tech calendar on a tablet, doesn’t mean your chalkboard and shoeboxes won’t work. We are all in the process of becoming better versions of ourselves. In fact, I advise against any major investment until you figure out exactly what works for you and your family. Just start with something that helps you organize your time. I think diaper boxes covered in wrapping paper, or scrapbook paper and a little glue all over, work very well. In fact, you can make creating your command center cubbies a family affair.

Set goals

Seriously, are you shaking your head at me? I struggle with goal setting too. However, it does make a difference. Decide what you want to accomplish in the next few months that would help you manage your time and family better. Go crazy — make it fun and fancy. That always helps. I like to add a little bling to things as well. The boys don’t seem to appreciate the bling, but it makes me happy. One of my goals was putting real clothes on to drive the kids to school. I usually go in my pajamas. I decided that goal wasn’t really working for me, so now I focus on getting them to school. No one cares what I’m wearing. However, if you walk your kids to school, you would probably move the pajama challenge up on the scale of importance. And that leads me to my last tip.

Be flexible

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are we. I may not be the well-dressed mom, or the mom who bakes the really cute cupcakes or even the mom who provides the gluten free after-school snack. I mean, I want to be, but there is no way I can do it all at one time. What I do know is that I am a mom who desperately, passionately, adoringly loves my children and they know it too. The rest is the work of living and that is something we do together — with a little bling of course.


Oct 312014


I often joke with my husband that I’m going to be “that mom” who tails her kids on dates or ironically starts graduate school at the same campus as my little college students. Let’s be clear, both of those are years away – like, decades – and I’m only half-serious.

While my status as a private investigator is still hypothetical, at 3 years old, my son has already encountered his first bully. The most precious part of the story is that he is so innocent that he didn’t even realize he was being teased. How’s that for heartbreaking?

On the drive home from preschool one day, my son proudly told me, “That boy on the playground told me I’m in the baby class!” Even though there was pride in his voice, I immediately knew what went down on that playground. A boy from an older class was standing face to face with my little guy saying, “You’re in the ba-a-a-by class. Muah-ha-ha.” He was not saying what my son’s voice implied, “Hey, awesome kid, you’re in the baby class! Congratulations!”

I wanted to whip that car around and go back to that school and get a good look at that bully, wave my stern mommy pointer finger in his face and publicly humiliate him. I wanted to have a chit-chat with this kid’s mom. I wanted to do whatever I had to do not to let my son’s innocence, his faith that there are only good people in the world, disappear at age 3.

But I didn’t. I drove home.

Instead I told my son that if he ever thought that boy was being mean, he needed to tell his teacher or tell me. He promised me – in his own little way – that he would most certainly do so, “OK. Can we have pepperoni pizza for breakfast tonight?”

Close enough.

The right call

My son never had another run in with this little preschool bully, so I know I made the right call in this situation by letting it go. Unfortunately, there will be a next time. Kids can be teased for just about anything: quirkiness, where they sit in the cafeteria, their hobbies, their parents (my poor kids), looking or talking differently, being the new kid (an inevitable issue for military kids) or for being too popular.

Since our kids are still so young, my husband and I are still ironing out the details of our bullying policy. We’re in agreement that sometimes our kids will have to fight their own battles – figuratively speaking, of course. Other times, it’s up to us to step in and protect our kids. The challenge lies in understanding the difference.

When to stand back

To be clear, letting bullying take its course does not mean throwing your kid to the wolves. When my son brought up the playground bully, I addressed it and reinforced it in the days that followed by reminding him what to do if kids were mean to him and asking if he saw that boy anymore. Parents can “stay out of it” without being absent. I will always listen to my kids when they tell me about their days – even when it seems like nothing happened. That way, when a big situation comes up, it’s second nature for them to talk to me about it (hopefully).

We all have parent intuition, and each situation is going to be unique, but in general I will stand back and let my kids handle bullying or teasing when:

  • It only happens once.
  • It’s done playfully between friends and no one’s feelings are hurt.
  • They tell me about a teacher or other adult that handled it.
  • It didn’t bother them too much.

In these cases, I’ll just listen to my kids and provide my predictable mom advice, like make good choices no matter what other kids do or ignore the bully.

When to intervene

When my pearls of wisdom aren’t enough, mama bear comes out of hibernation. My knee-jerk reaction is to shame the kid who makes my angel cry, but that obviously sends the wrong message. Why would I bully the kid who is bullying my kid, especially when it’s on me to set a good example for my kids? That’s not any better than me yelling at my son to make him understand that we don’t yell in the house; it’s counterproductive.

Going to bat for my kid means handling the bully through the proper channels:

  • Speaking first to my child to get the whole story
  • Speaking to the child’s parents (if we know them)
  • Speaking to my child’s teacher or other supervising adult (depending on where the bullying is happening) to bring attention to the issue
  • Following up
  • Going up the hierarchy if necessary
  • Removing my child from the situation if necessary

I wouldn’t hesitate to stand up for my children if:

  • They ask me to.
  • They are visibly upset by a bully.
  • The bullying doesn’t stop on its own or gets more severe.
  • Their grades are suffering.
  • Their attitude is changing.
  • They are physically or emotionally hurt.

I want to protect my kids no matter what, and that looks different in every situation. Sometimes protecting them means letting them figure out a situation on their own and problem solve. Other times they just need their mom, and that’s what I’m here for!

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.
Sep 192013


Blogger Biography: Amy is an 18-year Army spouse who had no idea what she was in for when her husband came home one day and said he was going to reenlist in the Army. It’s been a wild ride since then. Sure, she’s not in the running for President of the United States like she had once planned, but her military life has taken her to places she never dreamed of going. Now, she’s a child advocate, military family advocate, career woman, volunteer-aholic, Army spouse and the mamma to two great Army BRATs (Born Raised and Traveled … thank you very much). 

Any military spouse who has held down the homefront during a deployment will know what I’m talking about: It is that moment that pushes you to the brink … the one that makes you realize that you just can’t do it … that surrender is imminent … that you are completely and utterly unable to … do seventh grade math.

You may have been able to do it at one time.  Heck, you probably even passed seventh grade math.  But, not now.  No way. No how.

What you do know is if you can’t figure out that not only do two halves equal a whole, but figure out WHY they equal that and how you FEEL about it, then your relationship with your child will be forever altered.

So, in a moment of panic you beg the powers that be for your deployed service member to magically appear on video chat.  “Oh please, please, please Dad! You’ve got to call home NOW.”

And then, there he is.  “Yes!  Your dad can help you with this. Mamma out.”

But wait, he can’t help. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to FEEL about two halves equaling a whole either; he only knows that they just do.

All kidding aside, math is a whole new adventure, and most parents just don’t know the right way to do it.  It’s not about right and wrong anymore. Rather, it’s about students being able to explain how they got their answer using logic and deductive reasoning.

Personally, I think that’s a good thing.  I want my daughter to be able to intelligently and logically explain why and how she gets her answers.  In my book, that’s an important life skill.

So, this is where for Military Families comes in. This is a service offered free to military families including active-duty, National Guard, reserve, wounded warriors and Gold Star families.

More importantly, according to my daughter in a Fort Campbell Courier interview, literally saved our mother-daughter bond from ruin. Jane, my intrepid seventh grader, was quoted in the article as saying, “ actually saved my Mom and I from completely ruining our relationship a few times.”

Jeez! I didn’t realize it was that bad … at least she was laughing when she said it.

So, here’s what’s so great about for Military Families. Jane has access to an expert tutor anytime of the day wherever she may be in the world.  She can use it by logging in on a computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet. The application and classroom make it all so easy.

After she logs in, Jane usually takes and uploads a photo of her homework using her tablet computer.  Then, she and the tutor spend the time needed to sanely — and oh so very quietly — work through the problems. If she needs to, she can then upload a picture of her answers and explanations to make sure that she’s on track. The site even saves her files and conversations for her to reference later.

Jane has had some tutors that she really likes. They are able to explain things to her in a way that she understands.  By using the site’s Favorite Tutors feature, she can contact them again when she needs more help.  And, don’t think that this has let Dad off the hook.  He is able to stay engaged in his daughter’s education because she can email her tutoring session transcripts to him.

And that’s it.  Jane completes her homework calmly and on time. I have now retired to drinking coffee and reading the paper instead of trying to do math that my English major brain just can’t process.  And, even better, deployed Dad (he’s home now!) was no longer ambushed by math via video phone.

Moral of the story? If any of this is familiar to you and you yearn for homework peace, I recommend visiting … and soon. Students in eligible military families can sign in at for help 24/7, no appointment necessary. They just choose a subject and ask a question. The expert tutor takes it from there … it couldn’t be any easier!

May 072013
Staff Blogger Kelli


Let me just say, as a mom my first reaction is NOOOOOOO. However, I know that loses its power the closer to 18 they grow. I decided to do a little research. I turned to my husband and said, “Hey, if we had a military minded child, how would you as a dad, guide him?” The following conversation occurred:

“You’re always right no matter what” came the quick reply. “What? Who is?” I asked confused. “You, the parent” my husband said. “Okay what else?” I ask, totally not getting his first comment. He responds just as quickly, “Do what you say, when you say it and how you say to do it.” Now I’m annoyed. He’s not helping me. So I ask, “Really? What the heck does that even mean?” He looks at me annoyed and says, “You asked me about boot camp, which is instant obedience to orders.“ “How does that help me with this blog?” I demand. “That’s your deal sweetheart.”

So I’m on my own.

We happen to have a child who has expressed the desire to go into the military. In pondering my husband’s seemingly not so helpful response, it actually became illuminating.

Do I set the expectations, hold my children to them and enforce the consequence when our rules are ignored or broken?  Umm, maybe.

Do I have a set schedule, routine and standard of living that we strictly adhere to? Umm, no, no I do not.

Am I concerned about the time when my husband retires and is home to see what REALLY goes on? Yes, yes I am.

So what does this have to do with raising a child who has a desire to serve in the military? Well, it makes me realize that just because they know what cammies, boot bands and military I.D. cards are doesn’t mean they have a real understanding of what it’s like to actually BE an active duty member. Dad got up early, came home late and sometimes was gone for weeks or months at a time. We all know it’s so much more than that.

Visit academies

If you have the opportunity to tour any of the military academies, do so! Especially once your child is in high school and that all important GPA starts growing. We have been to The United States Naval Academy and they give a great briefing and tour. During the summer of students’ junior year, they have a chance to spend a week in Annapolis to get a good idea about what they will be facing. It’s called the summer seminar and they have to apply. If the Navy or Marine Corps isn’t the desire of their little cammie clad heart, then don’t forget about the other service academies.

Use your network

Odds are you have more resources than you realize. If there is a particular job specialty or an aspect of life as an active duty service member you want your child to be aware of, you’re going to know someone who can talk to your child. Exposing your child to a different view of military life will help your child decide if he or she is suited for this lifestyle or perhaps should pursue other interests.

Helping our children understand that adherence to the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have the wiggle room that adherence to mom’s code of conduct may have is a good place to start as well. I don’t remember Marines ever negotiating time out…

Our one son who shows an interest in military service also shows some of the characteristics of a good leader. He is responsible, a self-starter and has a keen eye for detail. He likes order and having expectations laid out and made clear. As a 14-year-old young man, he bucks authority if he thinks it’s ridiculous, he expresses his anger as only a 14-year-old boy can and he thinks he knows more than his commanding officer, me. So if he REALLY wants to pursue the military lifestyle, enlisted or officer, then a few areas come to mind we need to work on.

So far, out of six children, he is the only one to truly express what I consider to be a real interest in following in his dad’s footsteps. So don’t worry that if you dress them in cammies and let them play capture the flag, they are going to run out and join the minute they turn 18. But if you do see the propensity to lean towards military service, it’s our job to educate them and prepare them for life as the one wearing the rank.

Apr 182013


Blogger Biography: Cheryle is a 10-year military spouse who has lived away from her husband longer than they’ve been under the same roof. Now that they are transitioning into the retirement stage, a whole new adventure has begun. There will soon be more time to spend at the lake, with their three children and their first grandchild. Retirement doesn’t mean you leave the military family behind because once you are a part of the military family, you are always family. Her husband’s military civilian job will keep them close to the family long after retirement.

I think it’s fair to say that most young girls daydream of the perfect fairytale wedding, marrying their Prince Charming and living in Cinderella’s castle. In the midst of their fantasy, I find it hard to believe they envision living apart from their family while their Prince Charming is gone for months on end. Yet, it is this exact scenario that changed my childhood dreams into a far richer reality.

Shortly after my daughter was born, we were living miles away from family and my Prince Charming was off providing for our castle. Isolated in an unfamiliar community, my days were spent with the only individual I knew, my 1-year-old daughter. Needless to say, the majority of my adult conversations came from a big yellow bird, a purple…(okay I’m not really sure what to call him) and an adventurous couple named Shaggy and Scooby. Thankfully, during her naptime, I welcomed a little more thought-provoking conversation from Oprah or the local weatherman.

Apparently, spending seven days a week with a 1-year-old glued to your hip at the grocery store, the shopping mall and the hair salon can lead to her believing she is an adult by the mature age of three!!! Well, except when she found a spider. She was not very brave under those circumstances (and let’s be honest, neither was mom, but I could never let her see me sweat)! I found being a protector can be the best cure for certain, shall we say, irrational moments of perception. After all, they do look a lot bigger in the heat of the moment.

We eventually moved back to the state of Michigan where the majority of residents form a strong allegiance to either “the green and white” or “the maize and blue” college sports team. Even though I do not hold an exclusive allegiance to either team, my daughter’s heart belongs to the green and white. The age of 18 is when most young adults cringe at the thought of being seen with their parents, let alone in a crowded sports arena. On this particular day, both teams came together for the anticipated rival match. Picture the entire arena, including me, dressed in the bright colors of maize and blue, and your eye catches a lonely arena seat filled with the rival colors of green and white. My daughter sat there proudly, enduring the jabs and sneers of surrounding fans, all for the pleasure of spending the day with her mom. A priceless moment.

After spending over two decades being her protector, her counselor, the dictator, the healer-of-wounds, her shopping buddy and her biggest fan, I could see my daughter liked me. She really likes me. How does a mother create a special relationship with her daughter? Does she act like a parent or a friend? First and foremost, you should be a parent. Your child will need guidance, structure, discipline and a mentor. By being a parent first and spending quality time together while guiding your child into adulthood, you can gain a friendship that reaches far beyond any childhood dreams.

Teaching Kids to Avoid Scams

 Posted by on February 8, 2013 at 07:00
Feb 082013
Staff Blogger Kelli


Scammers, cons, thieves, nefarious characters lurking in the shadows… It sounds like the beginning of a spy novel, but alas, these individuals are not only waiting to prey on the unsuspecting but are working hard to lure the innocent and naïve in order to rob and deceive. Not only do we as parents need to protect our children from the darker side of humanity, we must teach them to protect themselves.

When I was growing up, my mom and dad taught me how to answer the home phone. What to say, what not to say and when to just hang up. As I got older, we had lessons on staying home alone, when to answer the door, when not to answer the door, how to call 911 and what to do in case of a fire.

Well, we still have those lessons today, but now with the accessibility of the Internet, parents and educators have to step up their game. It’s not just about saying “I’m sorry my mom is in the shower and unavailable, may I take a message?”

Today scams are wrapped up in innocent and enticing packages in the form of games, prizes and other online entertainment that appeal to today’s youth. “Enter your name to win” and “submit your information for a free________” are easy ways to capture important personal and identifying information and open the door to fraud.

One of my kids and a friend were innocently filling out information on a website to include their names, addresses, school information, ages and I don’t remember what else, but that was enough! Luckily, they asked for my help with some of the information and I was able to intercede and shut it down before they hit submit. I didn’t know if the website they were on was legitimate or not, but that was the point…they didn’t know either!

That experience opened my eyes. I was letting my kids use technology without giving them the proper instruction on using it safely.

Here are a few things you might want to cover with your kids.

Personally identifying information (PII) is just what it sounds like: little pieces of information that in some way identify who you are, like your name, email address, phone number, etc. It is important to safeguard your PII, especially when visiting social networking sites, filling out personal information, engaging in blogging or participating in chat rooms. Children need to understand how a little information here, a little information there, can give someone the complete picture of who they are, where they live and go to school, and when they might be home alone. Warn them that if a site asks for personal information, they should check with you first so you can help them figure out if the site is legitimate.  When in doubt, don’t fill it out!

The same rule holds up for phone calls too (minus the good rhyme).  Teach your kids to NEVER give information to someone requesting it over the phone unless they have checked with you first.

Keep passwords and PIN numbers secure. Legitimate financial institutions and other honorable businesses will never email you requesting your passwords or pins.

As technology continues to become more accessible, people think of bigger and faster ways to use that technology to their advantage and to your detriment. Stay one step ahead and help your family use technology while protecting their finances, identity and, more importantly, their physical safety.

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