Tips To Help Your Child With Deployment

>> Monday, May 25, 2015

 
 
Many military families are facing deployment on a regular basis and some of the most affected are the children that have a difficult time grasping what is happening in the world around them  -  especially when it comes to a family member deploying.  The confusion and chaos can affect life on the playground, in school, and in other social situations.  The most important thing an adult can do to help children deal with deployment is to educate them about what is happening. Following these easy steps can help:

 
Define Deployment
Making sure children understand what the word “deployment” means is incredibly important. The word is used in the media, at the dinner table, and in everyday conversation. Explaining where mommy/daddy is going (with a general overview of the region or country) and what he/she will be doing (without going into incredible detail) will help children gain an understanding of what is happening.  For the soldier, if you can, let your child help you pack.  Letting your child help you pack will allow him/her to be more involved in the process and also allow them to "care" for you.  Ask your child to draw some pictures so that you can hang them once you get settled.  Not only will they have great fun but you will enjoy their artwork for days and months to come.


Assure Children and Answer Questions
Children will worry about the safety of the deployed parent.  It is incredibly important to the child to know that their loved one has been well-trained at the job that he/she will do.  Children, at any age, will ask questions. The important thing to remember is that brushing off a question will not make it go away. Even the hardest questions need to be answered, but they should be answered in an age appropriate manner.  Be honest. Be fair. Children going through deployment deserve to have questions answered just as much as adults do. Not knowing how to answer every question is ok, but know that there are many resources available that can help to answer even the most challenging questions.  Reassure your children that you will always love them no matter what and that you will get through this deployment together.

 
Consistency and Routine
At any time, children need routine and structure….but more so during deployments.  They feel insecure because of all the uncertainties regarding deployment and a predictable routine and home life makes them feel secure and safe.  Give your children a few extra responsibilities.  When children have responsibilities, they cope better. Informing the children that they have a job to do while their loved one is deployed is an excellent way to make sure they feel included and important. Assigning an age-appropriate tasks can help ease fear associated with being separated from a loved one for a long period of time.

 
Stay Connected
Kids need to maintain a bond with the parent who is away.  Whether it’s writing letters, saying a special prayer, counting down the days on a calendar, or finding where mommy or daddy is on a map, staying connected is very important.  Kids also need to maintain a bond with the parent who is still at home.  Daily discussions about their feelings and/or fears is important.  It allows the child to express his/her thoughts in a safe environment without being judged.

 
Communicate with Teachers, Coaches, Etc.
If your child is school-age and/or has extra-curricular activities, be sure to talk with the teachers, coaches, etc. to let them know what is going on at home.  It’s always helpful to have as many supporters in your child’s corner!


Good Behavior/Bad Behavior
Children have a tendency to test the boundaries and the parent at home may feel guilty about having to be both mom and dad and give in more often than you should.  Misbehavior during deployment CAN be a result of negative feelings, it is important to set limits and have consequences.  Problems can be eliminated by making a chart and pre-determining consequences for bad behavior.  On the flip side, it is also recommended to set up positive behavior rewards such as sticker charts or marble jars.  Again—try to remember to be age-appropriate.


When in doubt—just remember to let your child know that he/she is not alone and that, as a family, you will get through this together! 

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Just Call Me The Volunteer Whore

>> Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I'm a Volunteer Whore.

 
At least according to the mom who I ran into in the school office Wednesday morning. 

You see, I have a standing volunteer schedule at the school....every Wednesday and Friday morning.  I come in more when I can and just recently took on the position as Box Top Coordinator for the PTCO as well.  And even though the front office staff know me well, but I still have to sign in.  As I was signing in and I noticed a mom and her two girls in front of me.  One girl is in Nani's class and one in Nudgie's class. 

As we were waiting, both girls came up to me, gave me a hug and said "Hi Ms. B!" at which point the mom turned around to see me. And then she said with a smirk, "Oh you must be the volunteer whore....(laughs)....my girls say you come to school all the time. I guess you don't have anything better to do than check up on your girls. I just send in my checks and that's it."

Cue record scratch and then silence.......

What in the fresh hell did she just say to me???

Even the school secretary stopped typing for a second.......



I was stunned.  I couldn't believe she talked like that to me in front of her children.  And believe me, I had a few choice words to fire back, but instead I replied, "Well, I'd rather be a volunteer whore and know what's going on with my daughters and their friends instead of just participating by check.".  I then turned to her girls, smiled a big smile and said to the youngest..."I'll see you in class....I can't wait to hear you read your book to me" and walked away.

To be honest -- if it wasn't for the "volunteer whore" part, I would have let it go.  I have never, ever criticized another parent for not volunteering or being able to make a field trip....because let's face it.....parents do have jobs and other commitments.  Parents do what they can, and it certainly doesn't make them less of a parent because they don't volunteer.

But seriously....name calling?  In front of your daughters?  I seriously thought I left the bullying behind!

Now, I don't know this woman.  I've seen her at drop off/pick up and when she dropped off her oldest for Nani's birthday party.  But I really don't know her.  I don't know if she works, stays home, does other volunteer work.....I just....don't.....know.  So that doesn't give me any right to assume to know the reason for her lashing out and use that choice of words.  Maybe she had a bad morning.  Maybe she's having a bad week.  Who knows.

But after initially getting very angry and insulted and venting on Facebook about it......I realized that maybe I really AM a Volunteer Whore.

I don't do it for recognition or pats on the back.  I do it because I LOVE our school and I LOVE my kids' teachers. They do so much for those kids and MORE. Volunteering whatever free time I have to help out in any way I can - whether reading with the kids, endlessly sharpening pencils or reorganizing a classroom library - doesn't even begin to scratch the surface on how grateful I am to those teachers.

So, if that makes me a Volunteer Whore....then so be it.  I will embrace that and wear that title with pride!

And to you dear mom......I can only hope that our girls are together in the same classes again next year, because you know what -- I'll still be there.....2, maybe 3 times a week giving your girls, my girls, and all the other kids an extra smile, a good morning hug, and a little bit of encouragement.

And if you can swing it......I would really encourage you to try and put away the checkbook and come and do the same....even if just for an hour.

Because my friend.....you really don't know what you're missing.......

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It's Not "Happy Memorial Day"

>> Saturday, May 23, 2015

I'm sorry, but I find it very offensive when I see people all over Facebook wishing a "Happy Memorial Day"  There is nothing "Happy" at all about it.  Especially to those who have lost a loved one in the service of our Country.



The happy Mickey Mouse in the corner just pushed me over the edge.

No......just......NO!

THIS is Memorial Day......


And this.......
 
 
And this.........


This is Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011.

Carter was the copilot of a CH-47 Chinook and was one of 30 U.S. service members, including four other Army crewmembers, 22 Navy SEALs, three special operations Airmen, seven Afghan commandos, an interpreter and a dog, who died in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their helicopter crashed.  The loss of life aboard Extortion 17 was, to that date, the worst single-day loss of American life since the beginning of the Afghan war.
 
He was a member of our Battalion.  He was a friend.  He was someone we knew.  He is someone we miss every single day.
 
And every time I see the happy Mickey Mouse or Betty Boop in her bikini wishing everyone a Happy Memorial Day, I get more and more offended and upset.

Memorial Day has always been the traditional "kick off" for summer....and there is nothing wrong with gathering together for a cookout and enjoying your three-day weekend.

All I ask is that while you're doing that, take just a minute or two to think of all those who have sacrificed their lives to allow you to even have that freedom to BBQ.

And next time you want to say "Happy Memorial Day", please consider saying


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Summertime "Fill A Bucket"

>> Friday, May 22, 2015

Have you heard of "Fill A Bucket"? 

The "Fill A Bucket" philosophy explains that children (and adults) carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our feelings.  There are "bucket fillers" and "bucket dippers".

Bucket Fillers do kind things for others -- give a smile, helps out without being asked...basically any act of kindness towards others.

Bucket Dippers are those who say unkind words, bully, and generally do an unkind act. 

When our buckets are full, we are happy and confident.  When the bucket is empty, we are sad and down on ourselves.


Nani and Nudgie's school has been using this concept ever since Nani was in Kindergarten.  I've seen how excited and happy they get when they come home with a "Bucket Filler" note from their teacher or fellow student.  Nudgie would tell me, "I played with a friend who didn't have anyone to play with" or Nani would tell me, "I helped the teacher put books away without being asked."

They loved the positive reinforcement.

And then I thought -- why couldn't I use that same concept here at home.  So I decided to try it over Summer Break -- the time when the kids would fight and bicker the most, when we would all start to get on each other's nerves.  Why not try a little positive reinforcement and see what happens?

So, I picked up some beach buckets at the Dollar Tree and had the girls decorate them.  I had some "jewels" stored away, so I pulled that box out to use as "Bucket Fillers".




The concept is simple.....

Whenever I catch them being nice to each other (playing nice, helping with chores, etc), they get a jewel. If there's fighting, name-calling etc., then they have to go outside, pick up a dirty rock from our pile by the garage and put it in their bucket. At the end of each month of Summer Break, I'll count the contents. If they have more jewels than dirty rocks, then they get a special treat. More dirty rocks than jewels? Then they get a dirty chore -- like cleaning up dog poop, cleaning the garage or Daddy may even take them to work at the Base and they can clean there!

The girls seem excited about it -- but who knows.  After a week or so, the novelty may just wear off, but I'm trying to be hopeful!

Stay tuned!

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Staying Connected Through a Deployment

>> Thursday, May 21, 2015



When My Marine and I were first married, he was active duty and was often gone for months at a time.  Being newly married, I was desperate to try to stay connected to my husband in some way.  So one day, I spent an afternoon in a book store browsing the “Marriage and Relationship” section.  I found two books that sounded promising and was looking forward to spending an evening searching the pages for the keys to keeping the fires of this crazy military marriage alive.

My high hopes soon dissolved into hilarity.

“Have a candlelight dinner,” the list began. Yep—that candlelight dinner alone will really help me a lot. 

“Give each other fifteen-minute back rubs,”   Kind of hard when you’re alone.  I have trouble scratching my own back, let alone give myself a back rub! 

And the list went on and on…...“Go for a scenic drive together. Plan a romantic picnic. Have a pillow fight. Spend an evening in front of the fireplace.” 

I quickly realized that the miles and the months that routinely separated us make most marriage books and seminars pointless, even painful.

But over the years, I’ve had to get creative…..getting ideas from other spouses, articles, and websites.  So here are a few ideas that you can try as well!

 
· Set a clock ahead in your home to reflect your spouse's deployment time zone.

· Create a play list/CD to send.  Use songs that mean something to you or songs that your Soldier know that you miss him/her.  I made one for My Marine during our first big deployment and timed it so that it arrived close to our wedding anniversary.  (He was gone during our 10th anniversary).  The first two songs were our wedding songs followed by a list of “I miss you” songs.  I made a second copy for me to have so that I could know that we were both listening to the same songs.  He loved it and we still listen to it from time to time.

· Keep your Soldier close.   By a couple of plain pillowcases and using an iron-on transfer, put a picture of your Soldier (and you/your family) on it and send in a care package.  (You keep one for yourself and spritz with cologne).  Or use fabric paint and write each other a little note on the pillowcase.

· Keep a box where you can put in fun items to send to your Soldier.  (My "box" was a giant, oversized laundry basket!)  Decks of card, footballs, Frisbees, etc.  When you are out doing errands and see something that your Soldier would enjoy, buy it and toss it in the box when you get home. Send your care packages every 2-3 weeks during the deployment.  (More on mailing care packages to come!)

· If your Soldier is a reader, pick a book to read together while he’s gone.  Start your own little personal book club and talk about the books.  You can do the same thing with movies too.  Send him a DVD of a movie that you want to see and pick a time to talk about it.

· Keep a phone journal. Jot down things that you want to tell your spouse when he/she calls. Rule of thumb: always say “I love you” FIRST and before anything else, just in case you lose connection.

· Choose something that happens occasionally in nature, i.e., a full moon, a brilliant rainbow, or a shooting star, and agree together that while you are apart, when one of you sees this, it will serve as quiet reminder of your committed love for one another.

· Celebrate missed birthdays and anniversaries anyway! Take photos of the cake you made for him/her, blow out the candles, videotape you and your family singing Happy Birthday and send them in your next care package. Your Soldier will never forget your thoughtfulness.

· While technology is an amazing thing, don’t rely on it 100%.  Email is handy and speedy, as is Skype, but nothing replaces a letter written by your own hand.  Spritz your letters with your perfume/cologne and seal it with a kiss.

· Set a goal together!  Plan a trip for after your soldier returns.  Plan a home project to work on together.  Having a goal that is decided on together will make your soldier feel like he/she is still a part of the planning process. 


Just remember — Communicate often through whatever means you have available to you whether it’s the mail, email, internet chat or packages. Let each other know you’re thinking of each other.

Something simple can mean a lot!

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Summer Bucket List 2015

>> Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I love lists. I love color-coding. I love Summer Vacation. Put them all together and you have our Summer Bucket List!!!

Last year was the first time I used the calendar idea for us.  It worked pretty well and the girls asked for it again.  The only difference is that this year I opted for rainbow-colored post-it notes.  Looks pretty, doesn't it!

 



The calendar is broken down into categories:

"Snuggle Time" Sunday
"On the Move" Monday
"Time to Read" Tuesday
"What's Cooking" Wednesday
"That's Art" Thursday
"Finding Fun" Friday

I don't have a "theme" for Saturday.....because Nani will have gymnastics on Saturday mornings and then we'll make our weekly trip to the Farmer's Market.

For each theme day, I have a list of suggested activities that we can choose from as well.













Now, before I get any comments about being "strict" or "scheduling every second" or "allowing my kids to enjoy their summer break", I have to say that:

1) My kids ASKED if I was going to do this again for them. They love having ideas to pick and choose from and have fun adding ideas to the list;

2) This is a very LOOSE idea for the summer. They are free, every day to do as they choose and we are very flexible about our summer days.

3) The only thing I am strict about is their reading. They will read every day.....whether it's at bedtime or some time during the day, but they will read at least 30-minutes a day.

Do YOU have a Summer Bucket List? If so, share your ideas or blog post in the comments! I would love to see what some of you are doing!

HAPPY SUMMER VACATION!!

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My Own Trainer Called Me "Fatty"

>> Friday, May 8, 2015

My kids don't have school today and for once, they're sleeping in.  So I took advantage of the time to enjoy my coffee and browse some articles online.  And then I saw this.....


As I read more, I saw red.  It seems that a "fitness trainer" was at a baseball game and saw this woman in front of him.  So instead of enjoying the game, he spent his time taking her picture (without her consent) and watched everything she ate and then posted about it on his FB page.  What he didn't realize - had he taken the time to find out - was that this woman had a backstory and an amazing journey  -- starting at 400lbs and losing well over 150lbs....all on her own.  You can read her response here.

And then.....THEN....this so-called fitness trainer issued a statement saying that he was not going to apologize.  You can read the article here.

Yes -- I agree that there is an obesity problem in this country.  And you can have your opinion about what's your right to enjoy a game, a seat on an airplane, etc. while sitting next to an overweight person.  But that's not my point at the moment.

My point is this -- what gave that "trainer" the right to call her out at all?  Does he think that because he's an "expert" and a "trainer" that gives him the right to judge her?  What makes some trainers (and I KNOW there are amazingly AWESOME trainers out there) think that it's ok to shame & humiliate someone because they are overweight?  Do they think that's motivating?  Because let me tell you -- as someone who had a trainer once....it's not.

My trainer called me "fatty".  Yes -- you read that right.  My own personal trainer called me "fatty".  Texting me back when I told him that I couldn't make a session because the roads were too icy and I was not driving to the gym with my children in the car with me.

He replied.... "Boo Hoo -- get your ass to the gym, fatty"

I was stunned.  I was hurt.  And I was pissed.

I've been told my whole life that I was "overweight".  We call it "fat-shaming" now.  When I was a teen and even a young college-age adult, I was told by dance instructors, friends, and yes, even my own family that I was fat.  As I grew older, I knew it and took steps to fix it....hiring a trainer to help me.  I expected support from this trainer, encouragement, motivation.....and instead, I got name-calling.  The one person who was to help me through my journey turned on me.

I also heard a trainer say that he saw an overweight woman getting out of her car with a sticker on it that said "I don't run" and he replied, "Clearly she didn't"

Excuse me?  Do you know her?  Just because she doesn't run doesn't mean that she's not trying to get into shape.  You don't know what she does at home, at the gym, at the park.  Running is not the be-all, end-all of fitness.  I don't run -- but I busted my ass doing elliptical, kickboxing, and weight training.  And if anyone made that comment to me, their teeth would be meeting my right hook.

And the fitness industry wonders why more people don't go to the gym or hire trainers.

My trainer eventually did apologize, but only after I got in his face and let him have it.

To the "trainer" - You said that you never judged her or remarked about her character, but stated in your original post that she "clearly doesn't cares little about her health."  If that isn't judgment, then I don't know what is.  It's people like you, with attitudes like yours, that give good trainers a bad name.  You may be good at your job -- such as getting results for your clients -- but I believe you lack some serious empathy skills.  If I was your client, I would certainly take my business elsewhere.

To "B" - the woman at the baseball game - you GO GIRL!  Keep on doing what you're doing.  You are amazing and you are an inspiration.  Way to turn something around and make into something positive.  You are a role model!  Reach for that goal and don't let anyone.....not even Mr. Shark Fitness....stop you!

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Spring Break - Puffy Sidewalk Paint

>> Sunday, March 29, 2015

This upcoming week is Spring Break for my girls.  I'm really looking forward to having them home with me!  We don't have much planned....no big vacations, no day trips.....but I do have some fun stuff planned for us here at home -- a mani/pedi day, taking them to get their haircut, taking them to see Cinderella. 

It's also Holy Week -- so I'll be having the girls help me out in the kitchen as I do a lot of preparation for Easter -- baking bread, making stuffed cabbage & more.

One fun thing I did yesterday to kick off Spring Break for Nudgie & her little friend was make some puffy sidewalk paint.  You can pretty much Google it and come up with all kinds of ideas/recipes.  Ours is pretty simple.



*  1/3 cup cornstarch
*  1/3 cup baking soda
*  1/3 cup water
*  coloring of your choice (food colors or washable liquid watercolors)
*  spray bottle with vinegar
*  condiment squeeze bottles

I used liquid water colors because they clean up easily with water and don't stain.  If you choose to use food coloring, just be aware that they may leave staining behind, so I'd recommend trying it first on a part of your sidewalk/driveway before going full out!

Mix all in a bowl and pour into squeezable condiment bottles.  (I picked up mine at The Dollar Tree).  Then I filled a plastic squeeze bottle with some vinegar, took everything outside and let them unleash their inner artists!

 
 
 


As they finished their creations, we'd take the vinegar bottle and lightly spray over it.  I'll admit, at first, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of a reaction.  The vinegar just made everything run together (check out the yellow sun in the photo above)  But trust me.....BE PATIENT!  You won't be disappointed!  Once it dries, it puffs up a little more and dries up with a chalky texture.


 

The bonus?  It all washes away with water so you can make more and create again another day!

I'll definitely be adding this to our Summer Bucket List!

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