You are now leaving the Military OneSource website.
Thank you for visiting our site.

You are now leaving the Military OneSource website.
Thank you for visiting our site.

You are now leaving the Military OneSource website.
Thank you for visiting our site.

Avoiding Mealtime Battles With a Toddler

 Posted by on September 19, 2016 at 07:00
Sep 192016


Mealtime is a big deal in our house. Well, at least for my toddler. If he isn’t fed at 8 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. on the dot, his world comes to an end. I’m not quite sure how such a tiny human can have this much emotion about food, but mine does. And every meal brings a new adventure in parenting. Will he finger paint with his ketchup? Will he feed his chicken nuggets to the dog? Is it a pancake or a waffle morning? Will he wear a milk mustache, or a yogurt beard? Or will he eat all of his food, even using his utensils, and then ask for seconds?

On this particular evening, it’s 5:26 p.m., post-daycare, and he’s already pretty angry that his dinner is late. Mind you, he’s just about two years old. Tonight I decided to get creative and make him breakfast quesadillas (so easy, just a one-egg omelet sandwiched between a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and flour tortillas on either side) with a side of mild salsa, a sippy cup of whole milk, and a veggie pouch to sneak in some extra greens. At this point I’m more excited about his meal than he is, and I proudly set it down on his high chair and exclaim, “It’s dinnertime, baby!”

He stares at his plate, then back at me. He sticks his finger in the salsa and swirls it around a bit, then looks at me with a half laugh, half smile. Next, he takes his whole hand and slaps the salsa, sending pieces of tomato all over the kitchen. He completely ignores the quesadillas and doesn’t even look at his veggie pouch. I already know what direction this meal is going in.

Fortunately, before I can feel completely defeated, I collect my cool and remember the following tips and tricks I’ve picked up during my tenure as a first-time mommy. Some ideas are from a toddler nutrition class I took when my son first started eating solid foods, others are from friends, and most I just learned along the way.

Eat with him. Like many adults I know, my toddler doesn’t like to eat alone. He prefers eating together, and I don’t blame him. He almost always eats better when we sit down at the table as a family. Some days this isn’t always possible (like pretty much every breakfast as we’re all scrambling to get out the door for work and daycare), but we make a point to at least time our dinners so that we can all eat together. Bonus points if everyone is eating the same food!

Be creative. Offer a healthy selection and variety of food. We try not to overload his plate with too many carbs or similar colors. In fact, don’t overload his plate, period! Smaller portions fare better with toddlers, and it’s good practice to start with less and let them ask for more. It also saves you the headache of throwing out good food that becomes inedible after taking a dunk in applesauce (or salsa). To get creative, serve food in different ways. For example, tonight my toddler wouldn’t eat his quesadilla in little triangles. Instead, I cut it up into smaller pieces and gave him a fork so he could stab it and dip it in his salsa. Winning!

Be patient. Staying positive is key when training our mini-mes to become good, healthy, confident eaters. Never associate mealtime with negative feelings, forcing your child to eat, or punishment. Even when I’m the one who wants to flip his plate upside down during a mealtime tantrum, I do my best to stay on point and gently coax him to “eat up, it’s yummy!” If he isn’t hungry, he isn’t hungry. It’s not the end of the world!

Listen to and look for his cues. Some days they’ll eat everything in sight, other days they won’t take a bite. The child nutrition class I attended explained that this is normal and expected. At this young age, the whole of what a toddler eats in a week is more important than what a toddler eats in a day. You know your child best, so watch his or her cues for when they’re telling you they are hungry or full. This is the ultimate mealtime tantrum saver.

Don’t give up. Don’t let one meal, several meals, or even a week’s worth of disappointing toddler meal times get you down. Toddlers can be fussy, fickle and are really just trying to figure this whole “eating” thing out. Keep trying new foods, keep your cool, and stay positive. Soon your little one will be tantrum-free and enjoying new foods and the wonderful family time that happens around the table!

Looking Up: Phones Down, Family First

 Posted by on April 18, 2016 at 15:14
Apr 182016


Ever since my husband’s first deployment, I’ve been attached to my cell phone. The thought of missing a call from him, however brief that call might be, was unbearable to me. Because of that, I kept my phone on me at all times. It was on my pillow at night, in my hand while I was shopping and by my keyboard while I was at work. I’ll admit to even setting it on the soap shelf in my shower a time or two…or three or four.

After more than one deployment, it just became natural never to be without my phone, even when my husband was home. It became a routine for me. I had moved away from my family and friends, and as social media became more and more popular, I never wanted to miss an update, text or phone call.

Fast forward six years later to the birth of our son. My phone was with me in the delivery room, at home while I nursed and on my nightstand when I finally got a few minutes of sleep. I used it as my alarm clock, my camera and my outlet to the rest of the world.

No matter how anyone gets there, I was there. I was addicted to my phone. It wasn’t until one day when I had a real eye opener that things finally started to change. My baby was lying on his mat doing tummy time and I was taking photos and posting them to social media, then taking videos and emailing them to family. After about 15 minutes, I realized I had been looking down at my phone more than I was looking up at my son. I felt guilty and ashamed, and I knew it had finally gotten to the point where enough was enough.

It’s a hard habit to break, let me tell you! I first started by consciously setting my phone aside during any time with my son and during family time. I continue to use it as my camera, but I stopped posting or texting things immediately. It could all wait. What mattered most was that precious time with my beautiful baby boy. Next, I started removing my phone from the table at family meals. This was huge, and my husband noticed and starting doing the same. After that, I began removing my phone from my nightstand and placing it in the bathroom at night. I still use it as my alarm, but now the temptation to mindlessly scroll social media in bed at night or first thing in the morning is taken away. I’d say this has been the hardest step, and I still forget at times and find myself lying in bed, scrolling through my social news feeds. It’s a process, and like any addiction, it’s taking time to break free.

Finally, beginning in November of 2015, I began taking “social media-free weekends.” I turned off all social media notifications on my phone to avoid the constant desire to scroll through the updates that used to flash across my screen. To this day, I have not turned the notifications back on. At first, I had to completely delete the apps from my phone, but now I simply keep them all in a folder on my phone labeled “Distractions.” Any app or social media platform that distracts me from my family, real life or my work goes in this folder. Any time I want to open those apps, I am reminded that it is a big, fat distraction.

Now I love my social media-free weekends. I look forward to them each month, especially the break and release I feel from not being plugged in 24/7. I usually start these weekends on a Friday evening and stay off until Sunday evening. I find that taking this time once a month is just the break I need to not want to jump right back into it the next day. I look down less, and up more.

The most important thing to me is this —I will not be a parent who looks down at her phone more than she looks up at her child. I keep this phrase with me, repeating it to myself when I find that I’m slipping back in to that mindless thumb scroll on my phone. What matters most is my time with my husband and my son and making those moments count.

Give it Back: A Lesson in Paying it Forward

 Posted by on November 26, 2015 at 22:42
Nov 262015


Somewhere around four years and three states ago, my son lost that breathtaking excitement a child gets out of something as simple as a cardboard box. Maybe all the moving has desensitized him to cardboard, who knows? At age 2, my daughter still has it. She gasped so long after opening a care package from her Nana and Papa that I had to remind her to take a breath, and this was before she even knew what was wrapped up in the packing paper.

As their mom, I knew it was on me to deliver an attitude adjustment (or, in my daughter’s case, bad attitude prevention). Teaching graciousness, thankfulness and respect is my job and my husband’s job. It’s definitely not the job of a cartoon character or a teacher (trust me, teachers’ plates are full without adding this to the lesson plan). So, last holiday season I decided to take action against:

  • Tantrums brought on by the word, “no”
  • Stand-offs because I gave my kid the red straw when he was clearly (silently, in his own head) envisioning sipping his milk through the blue straw
  • Whining
  • Complaints of boredom
  • Complaints that all of our toys are boring
  • The sense of entitlement
  • Selfishness
  • Dinnertime protests against anything unprocessed or covered in cheese
Not-so-random acts of kindness

My plan was to get the kids involved in giving back. For 25 days, we worked together to help others, give instead of receive and make our community an all-around better place for everyone. Every day, for 25 days, the kids opened an envelope to find their act of kindness mission for the day. Here’s what we did:

  1. Hold the door open for 10 people.
  2. Hide five $1 bills around store shelves for shoppers to find.
  3. Leave stamps in the stamp machine at the post office.
  4. Donate supplies to the animal shelter.
  5. Send cookies to work with daddy.
  6. Donate change to the Salvation Army.
  7. Drop off lunch for firefighters.
  8. Pay the tab for the car behind us at the drive-thru.
  9. Donate canned goods to a holiday food drive.
  10. Mail letters to loved ones.
  11. Donate stuffed animals to the police station to comfort children in traumatic situations.
  12. Take cookies to hard-working teachers before their holiday break.
  13. Clean up trash around the neighborhood. For safety, the kids wore gloves, and anything especially gross was mommy’s job to clean up.
  14. Deliver flowers to a nursing home, and ask that they be given to the resident who most needs them.
  15. Compliment three people.
  16. Donate clothes, toys and books we’ve outgrown.
  17. Mail a care package to a service member spending the holidays overseas.
  18. Leave money with a parking lot attendant at the airport to cover the fees for the next driver. (I initially wanted to do this at the hospital parking garage, but the parking was free. I figured stressed holiday travelers could use a little kindness too. The attendant was so excited to be a part of this act of kindness that you would’ve thought I’d given her a check for a million dollars!)
  19. Give Santa a present at the mall — the kids drew him pictures.
  20. Leave a stack of pennies next to a fountain with a note that says, “For wishes.”
  21. Deliver breakfast or coffee to the gate guards.
  22. Drop off crayons and coloring books to a hospital waiting room.
  23. Leave bus fare on bus benches around town.
  24. Pack and deliver chemo care packages to the cancer center.
  25. Donate a toy to Toys For Tots.

Some of these will be back this holiday season, but I’ve been busily brainstorming a few new ideas to throw in the mix:

  1. Corral shopping carts left around a parking lot.
  2. Deliver holiday treats to our neighbors.
  3. Cheer on runners at a race.
  4. Please and thank you day — say them all day when you ask for something or receive something.
  5. Plant a tree.
  6. Leave homemade bookmarks with kind messages inside books at the library.
  7. Let someone go ahead of us in line.
  8. Donate school supplies — pencils and paper aren’t usually on anyone’s mind after August, but those supplies run out, and teachers often dip into their own pockets to provide for their students.
  9. Clean up a neighborhood park.
Make it work for your family

My kids are pretty young, so, for now, the acts of kindness are fairly simple with lots of parent involvement (which I didn’t mind because even grown-ups need reminders once in a while). If you have older kids, you might find success in volunteering time or giving your teenagers the reins to come up with ideas of their own.

This is a tradition that I absolutely fell in love with last year, and I can’t wait to get started on the acts of kindness this holiday season. However small, my kids are making a difference and they’re seeing the value in that. These gestures can turn someone’s crummy day around (even our own). They can offer a little hope in a hopeless situation. They offer thanks to someone in an otherwise thankless job. They can cause a chain reaction of kindness. A little kindness goes a long way, and that’s a lesson worth teaching at any age.

8 Reasons Why Adopting As a Military Family Is Awesome

 Posted by on November 19, 2015 at 20:00
Nov 192015


My family was blessed by adoption when we brought our daughter home from China last year. Even before we brought her home, and we were still in process, we always heard things like “Oh! I didn’t realize military families could adopt!” and “Wow! Isn’t it like almost impossible for military families to adopt?” The logic behind these statements makes some degree of sense, but I want to share the top 8 reasons it is a total advantage to adopt as a military family.

  1. Adoption paperwork has NOTHING on military paperwork. Everything on adoption paperwork makes sense. There is no guess work like filling in your RUC number here, “Gaining command ADSN” number there…… What do these even mean?!! No. Adoption forms are simple because they are about YOU! No weird codes to know or random jargon to decode.
  2. We are used to having to know every address from the last 10 years. Some of us are so savvy we already have all this information readily saved for times such as these.
  3. We are used to the “hurry up and wait.” Military families know allllllllllll about having patience. Adoption is like 13 percent paperwork and travel and about 77 percent patience. Some civilian families struggle with this aspect. Military families are all “pshh… I have been patient through three combat tours, one unaccompanied OCONUS tour, and I have moved three times with the military. Patience is my new middle name. Bring it.”
  4. If you live near an installation you save money on notary fees by going to your installation legal office! #Winning!
  5. Home study preparers tend to love military families because we are so resilient. We face stressors such as major moves and deployments, so we tend to have our coping mechanisms down.
  6. The Department of Defense Adoption Reimbursement Program reimburses up to $2,000 for adoption-related expenses after finalization. Learn more about that here.
  7. We can get things done, and get them done quickly. Instead of stressing over quick-action items, we consider them a personal challenge to accomplish the mission fast. After all, how many times have we had to beat deadlines for PCS and deployment paperwork?
  8. We have superb support in the form of our family readiness programs. Child with special needs? The Exceptional Family Member Program is ready to help. First time mama? Check out the New Parent Support Program. The Child Development Centers and SchoolAge Care programs are on point, too. Plus, our medical care is top notch!

I am definitely not trying to say that adoption is easy, but I do want to encourage those that have considered adopting— it is not impossible. It is definitely a journey with many ups and downs, but not out of reach for military families! Be sure to check out Military OneSource’s adoption section to learn more about all the different adoption options.


The Parenting Soundtrack: Crying

 Posted by on April 30, 2015 at 17:00
Apr 302015

My little boy came into this world scaring me to death. What’s that first sound that mom wants to hear from her baby in the delivery room? Crying. It was less than a minute’s time, but he was silent. Nurses rushed him to the newborn station in the delivery room before I could even



hold him. With the last ounce of energy in my body, I shoved my husband to be by our son’s side. All I could do was sit, helpless, staring through a circle of people. My eyes bounced from the table to the faces of the nurses around him.

Then he cried. I think I took my first breath since that last push when he took his first breath ever.

He’s 4 years old now, and his cry still stops me in my tracks. Sometimes it’s just a brief pause to:

  • Hug him
  • Encourage him not to get so frustrated when his little sister wants to “share” all of his toys
  • Remind him to chew his food
  • Explain (again), while nurturing boo-boos, that it’s never a good idea to run in the house
  • Assure him it wasn’t a big deal (the milk he spilled, vase he broke, toy he lost, etc.)

Sometimes it’s the last jab at my patience for the day, like when he cries about:

  • Getting a green popsicle when he really wanted blue (not even an option in our box, mind you)
  • Taking a bath
  • Eating his vegetables
  • Wearing jeans instead of shorts when it’s 30 degrees outside
  • Accompanying me to the grocery store (In his defense, I don’t like going either.)

And, I don’t know if he’s “all boy” like people love to tell me, or if he just gets a kick out of seeing his mom panic. That little boy, after four years, can still scare me unlike anyone else on Earth (thank goodness for his easygoing little sister). He’s fallen off of couches. He’s darted off in a hectic parking lot. He’s choked. He’s been sick. His first week in his big boy bed, he even tried to swing like Tarzan from his nearby curtain which resulted in a gash over his eye. A word of warning for any parent who has never seen a head wound, they bleed like nothing you’ve ever seen. I phoned my parents (since, of course, my husband was still out doing Marine Corps stuff), and I was ready to head to the emergency room. But after applying a cold compress for five minutes, the bleeding completely stopped. I found three gray hairs that night — I don’t think that was a coincidence.

But if there is such a thing as a favorite cry, it would be the one when my kids just need their mom. It’s usually the result of being a little over tired or a little sad (but nothing mom can’t fix). When I dropped my son off at preschool last week, he cried for the first time in almost two years of going to school (including his first day ever). In that moment, I knew he was just overwhelmed — with moving, school, his new bedtime, being rushed that morning, etc. The only thing I could do was hug him while we held up the carpool lane. That’s the best feeling a parent can have — no one in the world could have fixed that moment, just mom.

New parents struggle to learn what their babies need when they cry. I remember being the same way at 3 a.m. — I’ve fed you, changed you, burped you, I’m trying to help you sleep, what else could you possibly need? But now, I can tell from across the house whether I need to drop whatever I’m doing and run to my kids or whether shouting, “Play nice,” is sufficient.

To our kids, though, every cry is important (otherwise, they wouldn’t be crying, I guess). Every broken toy is the end of the world, and every boo-boo is severe. So, I’d just like my kids to know that every time their hearts break, mine breaks. Every time they’re hurt or sick, I wish it happened to me instead. Every time they get in trouble, I blame myself a little and wonder if I was too hard on them. Every time I tell them no (from candy to skydiving) and they cry, it is a test of my willpower to stand my ground.

Through a ridiculous tantrum, mom is there to be the voice of reason (that voice typically says no). I may not give them what they want, but I’m teaching them something. Kick and scream as they might, they’ll come out stronger on the other side. It may drive me nuts, but I love them through each one of their hilarious little foot stomps and scowls. I want my kids to know that I don’t always give them what they want because it’s part of my master plan to groom them into sensible adults. Contrary to what they may think, it’s not part of my master plan to torture them.

Mom is there, too, through the truly necessary cries (boogiemen, boo-boos, broken hearts and bullies). When our kids are hurt or sad or scared, we go through it with them. I will always check their bedroom for monsters (even if I have to drive all night to get to their college dorm room one day). I will always be on their side. I will always stand up for them and speak up for them, but I’ll try as hard as I can to let them try it on their own first. I will always be their biggest fan, even when they’re in last place.

And, just so we’re clear, sometimes mom will cry for reasons you don’t understand, like seeing you in your itty-bitty soccer jersey for the first time or watching you take your first steps. Don’t worry about that; those are happy tears. My kids are just about to wake up for the day. There’s a good chance our day will start and end (and be periodically sprinkled) with someone crying. But that’s a chance I’m willing to take to get to be their mommy for another beautiful, crazy day.

Maddie’s Answer: Month of the Military Child

 Posted by on April 27, 2015 at 15:47
Apr 272015


Dear Maddie,

How do I explain a deployment to my 2-and-3-year-olds? They ask “why” a lot and don’t understand that Daddy will be gone for a while where they can’t talk to him or see him. I need to know how to help them without breaking down.


Dear Jennifer,

This is a great question and one shared by plenty of people. There are many ways to help your toddler understand what’s going on and to help you deal with the challenges of deployment as well.

  • Explaining time: It’s so hard to explain the concept of time to toddlers. They already think that the hour they need to wait for dinner is an eternity. It’s that much harder to explain how long a month or more is for a TDY or deployment. What works for my 3-year-old daughter is making Daddy a part of our everyday conversation. We don’t avoid talking about him – I think that causes more confusion and makes their little minds wonder what happened to Mommy or Daddy if we’re no longer talking about them. In our house, we talk about how Daddy is at “long” work, and he’s working fast to do the best job he can and come home.
  • Sharing daily life: My daughter usually gets most frustrated when she wants to share something with him. Our solution is a deployment journal, where she can tell me anything she wants me to write down to tell Daddy when he comes home. We fill the journal with jokes, memories and tidbits about our day. We add pictures and she doodles in it, too. It’s something that kids and spouses can do to help feel more connected while their service member is away.
  • Keeping in touch: We definitely Skype and call with the kids when we can, and my husband sends occasional letters addressed to each of the kids so they feel super special.
  • Counting down: Make a paper chain and let your child remove one chain a day or week to help countdown to Mommy or Daddy’s return. If you’re really ambitious, have your spouse write messages on each strip before leaving. This works with a countdown calendar, a candy jar – you get the idea. It’s a nice visual reminder for kids and helps reassure them that there’s an end game. And if plans change and your spouse gets delayed, just add a few more links or pieces or candy when your child is napping or out of sight.


But overall, the best thing is to have a positive attitude about the deployment so your kids will, too. This doesn’t mean you can’t cry – you’re human, after all. Just try to save the super meltdowns until after they go to bed. Just remember: you got this. Now take on this deployment with toddlers like the rock star you are.



Dear Maddie,

How do I get my teens to understand that I’m also hurting when Dad leaves?



Dear Lucy,

Ahhh … teens. Interesting creatures, right? They’re so grown up, yet sooooo not quite there. It sounds like you may be battling some teenage angst while also dealing with your own emotions over your spouse’s deployment. First thing first, it’s totally fine to be struggling with your spouse being gone. It’s ok to cry, skip the laundry, eat microwave popcorn and ice cream for dinner once a week … oh wait, is that just our house?

But seriously, you’re hurting, and I think it’s perfectly normal to acknowledge that. I would talk with your teens in a casual way over pizza or even a friendly game of mini golf. Ok, maybe not mini-golf, but don’t call a family meeting or you’ll risk a teenager shutdown. Tell your teen how you are missing your spouse, and share ways you can all cope as a family. If your teen is being especially teenager-y, chances are that it’s about the deployment, too. Acknowledging your emotions will usually bridge the gap and get them to share as well. And because teenagers are young adults, you can typically negotiate with them. When you’re having what I call a “deployment day,” let them know that you are pretty stressed, sad, whatever it may be. You might be surprised how your teen steps up and helps out. By the way, if you find that your “deployment days” are turning into weeks, it might be time to talk to someone. Find a friend, sister, mom, spiritual leader, or even give Military OneSource a call for confidential help.




Healthy Toddler Snacks

 Posted by on March 20, 2015 at 09:00
Mar 202015


There is little more I love in this world than a divine combination of chocolate and peanut butter. The proof of this love affair is evident on my dessert recipes Pinterest board. When I think snacks, I think cookies, cakes, candy or a combination thereof. Unfortunately I was not blessed with one of those metabolisms that can allow me to eat whatever I want and still look great for summer fashion. Also, the older and wiser I get, the more I have taken an interest in my health and choosing snacks that are as delicious as they are healthy.


Since our daughter has entered our family, our pantry and refrigerator have undergone a drastic overhaul. I want to start her off right by creating a “healthy tooth” instead of my “sweet tooth.” This has been a challenge because I have had to find quick snacks that are healthy. My toddler becomes “hangry” if she doesn’t have something in her belly .02 seconds after her brain signals for hunger. Your tiny tot does this too, right? Yeah, I knew I wasn’t the only one.


I used to equate “quick” with junk because, well, chips are easy, cookies are easy and ice cream is definitely easy. I have now seen the light. Healthy snacks are easy too. Of course, eating healthy does require a little preparation on your part, but the long term benefits are worth the extra few minutes of prep.

Here are some of our favorites if you need help kick starting your healthy snack regimen:

  • Bell peppers and hummus
  • Fruit rainbows (fruit kabobs)
  • Turkey pepperoni and cheese cubes
  • Yogurt covered pretzels
  • High protein/low sugar fruit granola bars
  • Raisins
  • Fruit leather (homemade is our favorite)
  • Dehydrated fruit of all varieties
  • Carrots with dip (be careful on the dip you choose, because some dips can be disguised as healthy when they are full of empty calories)
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with fruit mixed in

It’s no secret that a snacking toddler is a happy toddler and I have found that my daughter is quick to eat these snacks when mom or dad is also enjoying them. That means if we are handing her hummus that we are not sneaking in the pantry eating cookies. So remember, if you must eat the chocolate cookies, hide them up high and consume only after bedtime. Go forth and happily munch while you share your snack ideas with the rest of us (because who isn’t always looking for new, healthy snack ideas?)




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 | Belgium or Bust

 Posted by on June 23, 2014 at 15:42
Jun 232014


Blogger Biography: Zosia is a Navy wife and mother currently living in Mons, Belgium who is traveling, cooking and blogging about the world around her. Her blog follows her journey through the ups and downs of parenting, military moves and learning to expect the unexpected.

Parenting is hard. Very hard. Parenting my 4 year old is very, very hard. Much harder than I had ever anticipated. Just when I think I have figured out my son’s behavior, he goes and changes what he says or does and how he reacts to a situation. You could say he is keeping us on our toes, but man, our toes are getting tired.

I knew this move would be difficult for Sidney. While this is the third move in his short life, it is the first one where he has lasting memories of the life he left behind. Prior to our move, he talked excitedly about it “being just the three of us everyday,” but apparently this novelty has worn off. Six weeks after we left Albania, he still asks where Tirana is, when we will go back, proclaims he doesn’t want to stay in Belgium all day and, most heartbreaking of all, cries that he has lost something. Upon inquiry he states that it is his nene (nanny) he has lost and he can’t find her. We’ve done everything we can to comfort and reassure him, and some days I feel as though it is enough, but others, I’m not so sure. Fortunately, these verbal proclamations are becoming less frequent, but his sorrow is manifesting in other ways that I can neither anticipate nor address.

The crying fits that marked our first few weeks have morphed into loud outbursts of anger or — even worse — tantrums involving hitting followed by a refusal to speak. I thought I had finally figured out how to deal with the crying through lots of hugging and reassuring that it was perfectly natural to be sad and miss our old home. I pointed out the positives of our new home — and the things he can do here that he couldn’t back in Albania. Sidney is able to focus on the things he likes about Belgium and thus his moments of sadness seem to dissipate as quickly as they appear.

One of my biggest fears about this move, however, fortunately failed to materialize. The prospect of Sidney starting school had given me great angst, but after a rather rough first week, Sidney loves school. Or so he says when he comes home each day. Unfortunately for us, his entire school is on vacation this week and after one day of not going to school, he is already asking when he can go back. When we tell him he can return next week, he sadly tells me he wants to go back now. I know, most parents can only hope for a child who actually wants to be in school. But for a child who loves routine, a break in his new routine is throwing his already fragile world further askew.

But these recent angry outbursts of his? I have no idea how to handle them. It takes every inch of my being not to react in a negative way. Reminding Sidney that he shouldn’t hit is hard to do when he is in the middle of a tantrum and getting too close puts me in the direct line of fire of his flailing fists. When he refuses to speak to me, I have no idea how much of what I am saying is getting through or what he is even thinking. Fortunately these angry fits are much shorter and rarer in duration than his crying fits were. And they are always followed by his being remorseful and talking about the things he likes to do here in Belgium. Or, as was the case yesterday afternoon, a request to sit on my lap and “read” his French book on his tablet. I can only hope that this angry phase is short-lived.

Yes, being a parent is very hard, but being a 4 year old who has been uprooted from the only life he remembers is equally difficult. At least as a parent I have the maturity, intellectual understanding and an incredibly supportive partner to help me through all of this. A 4 year old has his parents. And as his parent, all I can do is be there for whatever phase or curve ball he throws our way. He’ll get through this, as will we. And maybe, just maybe, this is all practice for the teenage years. By then we will be pros at this game.


Potty Talk: The Lost Art of Conversation for Parents

 Posted by on December 5, 2013 at 17:16
Dec 052013


I can’t even quantify the amount of time each day I spend concerned with poop. Why didn’t anyone warn me that this is really all that parenting is about? Where was that chapter in the parenting book?

In the newborn stage, it’s all about counting the amount of dirty diapers to determine whether or not the baby is eating enough. Parents are probably the only people on the planet, other than trained medical professionals, that are concerned with color, consistency and frequency of number twos. It’s gross, it’s more than a little humbling and it is my life.

Do you know who isn’t concerned with your child’s poop? Everyone else on the planet.

It happened so smoothly that I don’t even recall when I went from talking about celebrity gossip, fashion trends and current events – yes, in that order – to tantrums, diaper rashes and nap schedules. But, you know what, I spend nearly every waking hour with my precious little babies, so I spend the majority of my day talking in a tone that I refer to as “the kindergarten teacher” – nurturing, yet stern – and dumbing down my vocabulary with swaps like:

  • Potty instead of bathroom
  • Tummy instead of stomach
  • Tantrum instead of freak out
  • Time-out instead of two minutes of peace and quiet for mommy
  • Nap time instead of two hours of peace and quiet for mommy

My poor husband – and I say “poor” sarcastically because he spends the day with other adults at work and gets a peaceful 20-minute drive to and from work in which he gets to listen to music that isn’t sung by cartoon characters – anyway, my poor husband walks right into a minefield when he comes home. All it takes is one question, “How was your day?” and I immediately spew detailed events from the day starting with our son barely touched his breakfast to our daughter waking up early from her nap because she’s cutting a new tooth.

I can tell that he truly tries to stay interested, but there’s only so much he can hear through the sounds of my preschooler son screeching on the toilet trying to make a number two and my infant daughter whining because she just spit up all over herself.

I tell him all about the kids because he has to care; they’re his kids too. So whether he wants to hear it or not, he gets the good, the bad and the stinky. But if there is one thing I know about conversation with other adults, it is that no one else is obligated to care. Non-parents don’t have a clue what parents are talking about most of the time – and frankly we don’t need to be scaring off potential members of our elite parenting club with our horror stories. Fellow parents may only half-heartedly listen out of pity, but truthfully, they probably don’t care and are possibly even irritated that you’re talking about kids when all they wanted was a night out. Just because we love our kids doesn’t mean we have to love everyone’s kids.

We know it’s true, but we all do it – I’m probably the biggest hypocrite of them all. I used to roll my eyes at those people who posted pictures of their kids’ first everything, and now my own kids have their childhood memories plastered all over social media.

The point is that we love our kids, they become our lives – and that’s OK. It’s natural to talk about them because we’re proud of them, but we shouldn’t ONLY talk about them. The world is still spinning out there and we can still be a part of it – the last time I checked they weren’t casting people out just for smelling like spit up. When you’re a parent – especially a stay at home parent – you have to actively seek out adult conversation and work at maintaining that skill. I’ve only just begun to socialize again after my daughter was born – ahem…over six months ago – and at first I endured a lot of awkward pauses and conversations about the weather, but I think I’m getting better. Right?

Having a conversation once in a while about something other than that precious thing my kid said or that disgusting thing my kid did is refreshing! It’s like that first shower you get in that three-day marathon after bringing a newborn home – you come away renewed and ready to tackle a new day. I recommend it – both the adult conversation and the new parent shower.

Try just scheduling a dinner with fellow parents, and do it in advance because you know everyone needs to find a sitter. If you slip back into potty talk, the judgment will be minimal because everyone else at the table can sympathize. Truly make an effort to leave the diaper talk at home. If you’re finding it difficult to steer clear of baby anecdotes and you’ve managed to relate current events back to that epic diaper you changed yesterday, things have run off course; ask questions to turn the conversation onto someone else.

It’s not easy to ignore those precious kiddos, but it’s healthy to talk about grown-up things every once in a while. Keep up with a hobby, catch up on the DVR, watch the news, read up on pop culture and get back in the game.

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