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Feeding Your Athlete

20 Aug

Around here, morning PT is mandatory. Our husbands and wives are up at 0400 (that’s oh-dark-hundred, in case you’re wondering – WAY too early for civilized human beings to be conscious!) running, doing calisthenics, and getting ready for their day. We’re told that once they get to their permanent duty station, PT will usually be done on your own, but in the Army, PT is always mandatory. Even the wimpiest MOS (job title) can receive promotion points for excelling on the PT test, so it’s pretty important!

In BCT, many of our husbands are taught how to eat, but some of them don’t retain much of that information! And feeding a high-performance athlete is like fueling up an expensive racecar: You don’t just use any old fuel. So how do we feed our spouses and still maintain a decent food budget AND not have to do a ton of extra work?

Unique Challenges

  1. In order to have enough fuel to perform well as an athlete, a Soldier will be taking in substantially more calories, more fat, and more protein than a sedentary person. If your husband’s activity levels change significantly (for example, if he is injured and not allowed to train for awhile), his diet should also change. You’ll need to adjust portion sizes downward, but you’ll also need to more carefully monitor fat and calorie intake.
  2. A Soldier’s diet will work well for the rest of the family IF the family is physically active, too. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you’re feeding a toddler or a teenager, most of this will work fine. But if you’re a sedentary person, eating an athlete’s diet can easily lead to obesity. Unless you’re disabled, get active! It’s the best way to ensure your own health and in the long run it will minimize the amount of work you’ll have to do on meal preparation!
  3. Many athletes (especially those working on bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc.) will require a substantial amount of protein, and this can get expensive. Add more protein through nuts, beans, whole grains, and dairy products. Protein doesn’t just have to be meat.
  4. On the other hand, an athlete NEEDS some animal products if they’re competing at higher levels. We’ll discuss this below. The point is that some of the essential elements of an athlete’s diet cannot be found in plants and cannot be found in a plant-based supplement.

Your Intuition is Wrong

When my oldest son was in first grade (before we started homeschooling), he went through a phase where he would refuse to eat almost everything. He wouldn’t eat meats or cheeses because there was too much fat in them, and he would ask us before every meal if there were any fat or calories in the food we were serving. Some teacher at his school had given his class a lecture on the dangers of fat and calories. Of course, for a little kid, it’s hard to even know what fat and calories ARE! But I had a son who was extremely physically active and in no danger of becoming overweight. Moreover, I seldom serve fast food or heavily processed foods, so even when my family does eat “fat”, it’s usually a healthy fat.

This is where feeding an athlete seems counter-intuitive.

We have all heard a lot of myths that are plain wrong, but when feeding an athlete, these myths can be harmful.

Myth: The best way to lose weight/maintain weight is to diet.
Fact: Dieting doesn’t really do that much to help you lose weight or maintain your weight, not nearly as much as exercise. A single pound of body fat requires about 3,500 calories to burn. Therefore, if you have a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day, it would (theoretically) take you a week to burn a single pound of fat, and if your body doesn’t have adequate fuel, you’re likely to burn muscle as well. The best way to lose body fat (NOT weight, as muscle weighs more than fat) is to increase lean muscle mass. This increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which means that you burn more fat even when you’re sedentary. The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to exercise. This doesn’t mean that your weight will perfectly align with those BMI calculators; lean and muscular people often appear “overweight” or even “obese” on those scales. But it does mean that you will have a healthy weight and a lean appearance.

Myth: Eating fatty food makes you fat.
Fact: Dietary fat doesn’t make you fat as long as it is HEALTHY fat. Within our bodies, fat is used for a variety of valuable things. Fat helps us to regulate appetite by giving us a feeling of satiety (fullness). It stores a number of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is critical for proper neurological functioning; higher-level thinking skills, reaction times, mood, and judgement all suffer when fat intake is insufficient. For an athlete, fat is essential because it helps to lubricate your joints and promotes rapid neurological response, both of which can help to decrease injury in training. Fat seldom needs to be added to the diet, but is prevalent in most sources of protein. (In fact, the extremely low fat content of most vegetarian diets is one of the reasons I don’t recommend them.)

You may have heard about the difference between “good fats” and “bad fats”. The biggest difference is that “good fats” are from natural sources, whereas “bad fats” are often the result of some wholly unnatural man-made process. Trans fats are the result of hydrogenating an oil (usually vegetable oil), usually to extend shelf life or to turn a liquid (vegetable oil) into a solid (shortening). Hydrogenated oils are often used in commercial food products as an attempt to mimic the texture and mouthfeel of butter while using (less expensive!) vegetable oils. Needless to say, there’s really NOTHING good about hydrogenated oils unless you’re preparing for the zombie apocalypse! Saturated fats are generally found in animal products (dairy, meat, etc.) and tropical oils (palm oil, coconut oil, etc.). These oils have a pretty bad reputation – they were the “evil fat” before trans fat hatred became a big deal. The truth is that an active person can derive great benefit from the saturated fats because they’re a highly efficient source of energy and they do help with calcium. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, they’re absolutely essential! Then comes polyunsaturated fats; these include the Omega-3 and Omega-6 that we all hear so much about. These are great fats for brain growth and development, but they’re not found in very high amounts in commercialized Western diets. Omega-3 fatty acids are almost doubled in meat that was grass-fed (not grain-fed, as in a feedlot). Then finally, we get to the monounsaturated fats (MUFAs): These are some of the best fats and should be encouraged! These are found in red meat, milk fat, avocados, olive oil, and nuts (especially fatty nuts like cashews), and because of the way they affect insulin resistance in the body, they are great for helping to maintain (or reach!) a healthy weight.

Myth: Cholesterol is a terrible thing.
Fact: Sometimes. Some people do tend to have high cholesterol, and those people should obviously follow doctor’s orders. But cholesterol is also an essential part of a healthy diet, especially for (are you sensing a theme here yet?) athletes and pregnant or breastfeeding women. In addition to helping insulate nerves (to allow faster communication along the nervous system), cholesterol is absolutely critical for the formation of sex hormones. For a woman of childbearing age who is not pregnant or nursing, cholesterol allows her body to more efficiently form progesterone and estrogen which can help to regulate mood. For an athlete, cholesterol is used to synthesize testosterone, which is essential for helping to build muscle mass. As with fat, cholesterol has its own benefits.

So Now What?

First, talk with your athlete and find out what his goals are. You may want to speak to a nutritionist if there are special dietary needs (diabetes, Celiac’s, etc.) within your family. Some personal trainers have a strong background in sports nutrition and can be useful resources as well. His goal will help you to determine how best to customize his diet.

If he wants to build muscle mass, don’t worry about fat or cholesterol: focus on protein. Protein shakes and protein-filled snacks can help him to take in more protein than he normally would.

If he wants to slim down, focus on lean sources of food and healthy fats. Protein is a key here, but in healthier forms. Protein helps to keep you full which helps you to regulate your appetite better. Sugar should be eliminated or avoided as much as possible if fat loss is the goal; blood sugar fluctuations are some of they biggest causes of food cravings. And while it’s important all the time, make sure to take a multi-vitamin if you’re trying to slim down. Focus on chicken, fish, nuts, and beans (savory, not too sweet).

If he wants to train for something specific, like a specific race or athletic event, work with him to adapt his diet to meet his training needs. Competitions can alter regular dietary schedules.

In any event, try to remember a few things:

  1. Snacks are good as long as they’re healthy snacks. Small frequent meals and mini-meals help to regulate blood sugar and maintain good health.
  2. Spices are always a good idea. Using seasonings and spices can make healthy foods taste great!
  3. Always choose complex carbohydrates over simple sugars whenever you have the choice.
  4. Whenever possible, try to choose foods as close to nature as possible. For example, most conventional cattle are treated with hormones designed to help increase weight gain in cattle; when you eat the beef, those same hormones enter your body. Is it really that far-fetched to think that they might just increase weight gain in humans, too?

With all that in mind, I’ll be back in a couple of days to share some of my favorite portable protein recipes!

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Back to School!

16 Aug

So we started back to homeschooling in earnest this Monday, and the first days have gone well. The kids are doing well with their new curriculum and working much faster than I anticipated.

As part of our study on ancient Rome, we’ve studied Roman art and architecture, examining many of the frescoes and mosaics from the Etruscan period and the early Roman Empire. We did a simple (but fun!) project that I thought I’d share: paper mini-mosaics!

  1. Cut construction paper or that Astrobrights paper into small squares. We cut ours into 1/2-inch squares.
  2. Cut a backing board to the right size. We used corrugated cardboard because we’ve got an abundance of it!
  3. Have your mini artists sketch a basic design idea. Make sure to tell them that it shouldn’t be anything too complicated.
  4. Starting near the center, apply a thin coat of rubber cement to the cardboard in a small area. They’ll need to work fast to get their “tiles” laid out before the rubber cement dries.
  5. The kids apply the “tiles” in a grid pattern and try to make their design in mosaic.
  6. Keep expanding out from the center slowly, doing a small area at a time.
  7. When it’s all done, let dry and then trim/crop excess backing material.
  8. In our case, because I was just using cardboard, I put a layer of clear Contact paper on the cardboard to seal it and protect it. I also added some 3M strips to the back so they could hang it directly onto the wall in their bedrooms.

All-Natural Laundry

4 Jul

In my previous post about family skin care,I shared a little bit of my opinion on the issue of separate “non-toxic” stuff for the little people. If you’re spending a boatload of money on some high-end fragrance-free detergent for your little people so you don’t irritate their skin, or if you’re having to use a separate detergent free of optical brighteners for your husband’s military uniforms, you’ve got two problems:

  1. You shouldn’t need artificial fragrances on ANY of your laundry, and it’s not good for ANY family member, and
  2. That’s too much work!

And as I showed you before, it’s not that hard to make non-toxic, non-irritating laundry stuff to keep your clothes looking nice that’s also FRUGAL!

Laundry Detergent

I like to mix up a big batch of this stuff and this is pretty much all I use. Here’s my recipe:

  • 1 bar Castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s Lavender for laundry.)
  • 3/4 c. washing soda
  • 3/4 c. borax
  • 1/2 c. Oxi-Clean

Now the Castile soap & Oxi-Clean can be a little pricey, but this is still a pretty cheap recipe. I put the Oxi-Clean into my food processor, add the Castile soap (you may have to cut it in half to get it fed into the machine), then the washing soda & borax. Easy peasy!

Pre-Treating

Let’s start with one very simple thing: There is no pre-treater that will get out EVERYTHING. But any time you spill something or get something on your clothes that is likely to stain, there are a few rules to follow:

  1. Don’t get it hot until the stain is out. If you’re going to use hot water, make SURE it’s okay for the stain. Hot water will set some stains (like blood).
  2. Take it off and treat it immediately. The sooner the better!

Basic Stain Removal

There are hundreds of different types of stains, but most stains fall into one of four main categories: protein, tannin, oil, or dye.
Protein stains include a LOT of common household stains: milk, baby formula, blood, cheese sauce, mud, eggs, pee, poop, vomit, etc. Do NOT use hot water on these! When you think of protein stains, think of raw eggs. If you have raw egg on your countertop and you use really hot water to try to clean it, it will get kind of sticky and thicken up. What’s happened is that the hot water has “cooked” the egg. The same is true with protein stains in your clothing: If you “cook” the proteni, it will be harder to remove.
If a protein stain is new, try rinsing in cold water to get it out. If it’s old or dried, soak it in cold water. You might want to try adding a little detergent to the water to let it soak, depending on how bad the stain is. After treating the stain, wash it in cold water and check it.
Tannin stains include most of your alcohols, coffee, tea, juices (including tomatoes), berries, and so forth. Wash these in HOT water; usually you won’t even need to pre-treat it. But if you’re using a homemade laundry detergent or a detergent that includes a soap, you’ll need to use a pre-treater.
Oil stains can be a pain! Whether it’s automotive grease, butter, lotion, cooking oils, or whatever, oil can be hard to get out. Stains caused by sweat (ring around the collar, underarm stains, etc.) are also oil-based. There are three ways to get oil out, depending on the severity of the stain. The easiest way (which works best for smaller stains or for stains without much color to them) is to use a pre-treater. The slightly harder way is to use dishwashing soap and wash the garment like you would wash your dishes! This tends to work great on most automotive garments.
But if it’s something REALLY intense, you can pull out the big guns (but I caution you that this is NOT natural. Or safe! Be forewarned!). You can use gasoline to remove the stain. The problem is that you’re really not supposed to rinse gas down the drain because it will get into the water supply, and you absolutely MUST rinse & hand-wash the garment perfectly before laundering it. AND you have to launder it separately from everything else and make sure that you can’t smell any gasoline vapors before drying and if you DO smell any vapors you have to wash it again and again until you get it because if you try to dry it without getting all the vapors out, it’ll catch fire. Look – don’t go the gasoline route. Seriously. I know it’s technically an “option”, but it’s an “option” like mastectomy is an “option” to prevent breast cancer. It causes way more problems than it solves. I mention it ONLY because at some point, somebody will recommend it to you. Don’t do it.
Dye stains are the hardest to get rid of – even worse than oils! Cherries & blueberries leave dye stains, as well as grass, ink, paint, magic marker, and drink mixes (like Kool-aid). Pre-treat with a pre-treater, then soak the entire garment in a solution of about 1 tbsp. hydrogen peroxide to 1 c. cold water for 15 minutes, then check to see if the stain is gone. And good luck!

My Pre-Treater (like “Shout”)

Here’s the recipe:
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 c. washing soda

Put into a spray bottle and use like any other pre-treater.

Fabric Softener

You really don’t need fabric softener, you know. But if you DO feel the need for fabric softener, add a little bit of white vinegar to a Downy ball and throw it in the wash. I feel the need to warn you, though, that although this remedy is very popular, it’s not really that useful.

WARNING: Basic chemistry lesson to follow!!!
Distilled water has a neutral pH of 7. Solutions with a pH lower than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH above 7 are basic. “Hard” water is water with lots of minerals in it, like iron and calcium and magnesium; this water is usually acidic (the acid in the water dissolves metals that it comes into contact with, making it more mineral-rich). “Soft” water tends to be more basic. Incidentally, if your water is very soft or you wash your clothes with a water softener, you will probably want to reduce the washing soda & borax in the above laundry detergent recipe to 1/2 c. each.

When you mix an acid and a base, the resulting compound will have a pH that will be closer to neutral. If you use vinegar and baking soda in the same cleaning product, you’re using water, and water’s much cheaper than vinegar & baking soda.

Washing Soda has a pH of 11 and Borax has a pH of 8.5, whereas vinegar has a pH of 2.4. When you add vinegar to the same wash water that you just added your washing soda & Borax to, you’re neutralizing the water.
Chemistry stuff over!

Smelly Good Spray & Wrinkle Releaser

I do keep a bottle of “smelly good spray” (as my kids call it!) and wrinkle releaser that I use on some of my garments. I do NOT use it baby clothes, but they don’t need it.

  • 1 c. water
  • 1/4 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. alcohol (either rubbing alcohol or clear unflavored vodka)
  • 15-20 drops lavender essential oil (go by smell)

You use it like you would use Febreeze or Downy Wrinkle Releaser, but check it on your fabric in an inconspicuous place before using it because you want to make sure that it won’t damage your fabric. Usually it hasn’t been a problem for me, but it’s better safe than sorry!

Whole-Family Skin Care

2 Jul

For many families, babies get all the good stuff! In a lot of households, babies get special shampoo, special lotion, special laundry detergent, etc. For many of us, we just accept that babies and younglings get the toxin-free, super healthy stuff while the grown-ups get the commercial stuff.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Babies and toddlers may have a reaction to many chemicals found in commercial skin care products, but that’s only because their virgin skin hasn’t yet developed an immunity or a resistance to the vast array of chemical concoctions we use daily. It does NOT mean that adults should be using these products – just that most adults have adapted to them.

But ideally, shouldn’t we all be non-toxic?

And as parents, think on this: Your toddlers are still in your arms all the time! If you use a detergent that your child is sensitive to on YOUR clothes and save the “good stuff” for their clothes, they’re still going to get exposure to the toxins every time you pick them up. For parents (especially mothers!) of infants, it’s even more important, because these little ones are constantly mouthing on parents. Infants are “tasting” Mom’s skin every time they nurse or she lets them suck on a finger.

For some of us, we may cite cost as a factor, but I have great news! Homemade skin care products can be made in minutes and cost less than virtually every commercial product on the market! Here’s a few of the recipes that I use:

Shampoo/Liquid Soap

Admittedly, this one can be rather expensive, depending on where you purchase your Castile soap. But we use this soap as shampoo, hand soap, face soap, body wash – you name it. First, here’s what I love about this soap:

  • It’s mildly acidic, so it will de-tangle hair. (I do advise that you wait to brush/comb your hair until it’s dry to prevent breakage, and if you have exceptionally thick hair like I do, you may need to comb it in sections the first time after the shower, but I have to do that no matter what shampoo & conditioner I use!)
  • It rinses clean in only one rinse. This is GREAT for those reluctant little bathers who do NOT like having their hair rinsed!
  • It’s mildly anti-bacterial; this can greatly help to reduce body odor as most of that is caused by bacteria.
  • It’s heavily anti-fungal, which is great for preventing yeast infections.

Now for my own testimonial: I have had flaky scalp for about eight years now. Beauticians always recommended some super-hydrating shampoo and it did nothing. Some time ago, the flaking scalp spread to my face – especially my eyebrows, T-zone, and nose. Nothing worked on it – no beauty product, INCLUDING the very expensive department store cosmetics in the pale green package! At times, it would get so bad that my scalp and face would start bleeding! When I started using this shampoo, my flaky scalp went away almost immediately, so I started using it on my face. With no other moisturizer (except a natural sunscreen when I go out during the day), everything cleared up. No more flaky skin. No more acne. Just clear and beautiful skin. I absolutely LOOOOOVE this shampoo!

So without further adieu, the recipe:

  • 1 c. liquid Castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Almond soap.)
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. tea tree oil
  • 1/4 c. water

Mix and then store in an old shampoo bottle. I like to use a bottle left over from a foaming shampoo because it makes it really sudsy and fun!

Deodorant

Okay, so the special shampoo will go a long way toward making you smell nice, but sometimes you need a little extra. That’s when I turn to my all-natural deodorant. Now this has kind of been an experiment. I tried putting it into some old deodorant containers and it did NOT work. At ALL! So I just stuck it into a small Pyrex dish with a lid and called it a day. I apply it by rubbing it on with my fingers like lotion. It gets very hard but softens with body heat.

One note: Do NOT keep this in your bathroom while you’re showering. The heat in the room will cause it to melt. If you do it by accident, it’s okay – just put it some place cool and it’ll harden back up again.

I don’t have exact measurements for this because I just kind of eyeballed it.

  • Coconut oil
  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lavender Oil (for girls!)

Mix the coconut oil (about 1/2 c. or so) with about 3 drops Tea Tree Oil & 7 drops Lavender Oil (for girls!). For boys you can either use 3 drops Tea Tree Oil & 5 drops Eucalyptus Oil, OR for a more neutral deodorant (for boys AND girls), you can just do about 7 drops Tea Tree Oil. Anyways, mix it up! Then add equal parts of baking soda and cornstarch until you get kind of a thick paste. Store it in a covered container and you’re good to go!

Hair Masque

Now this is just for Mom. Maybe Dad if he’s got long, flowing locks. Anyways, about once every 1-2 weeks (when my hair gets a little overworked), I mash up 1 avocado, 1 banana, and 1/4 c. honey in a blender until it’s smooth. Rub it into the hair and scalp. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse out. It makes your hair SUPER soft. To be honest, I often feel like my hair is a little TOO soft, and so I’ll shampoo it a couple of times after using it just to get it to feel a little more “normal”, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Facial Mask

Another easy blender one. Grind up about 1 c. oats in a blender on low until still kind of coarse. Add in about 1/4 c. honey and 1/2 c. yogurt to make a thick paste (you can either do it in the blender or with a spoon). Apply and let dry (about 15 minutes or so), then wash off.

Everything Else!

Coconut Oil!

I use coconut oil as a baby lotion, a massage oil, a body lotion, a facial moisturizer, and a gentle sunscreen. I’m sure you can use it for more stuff, but it works great!

Secret Stuff for the Moms

Okay, so this is the stuff that’s NOT for the men-folk to know about! But while I’m sharing, I have a somewhat gross but highly effective aphrodisiac oil recipe that I may as well share.

It starts with an essential oil blend:

  • 5 drops Jasmine (You’ll probably need to use an Absolute because Jasmine EOs are hard to find.)
  • 3 drops Vanilla
  • 10 drops Ylang-Ylang
  • 1 drop Neroli

Now here’s the kind of gross part, but it WORKS! If you’re one of those gals who charts her fertility (and if you’re not, you should be!), wait until ovulation. Now during ovulation, you should be able to collect a little bit of cervical mucus – it’s that thick egg-white stuff that you get when you wipe after you pee. So when that happens, just take the mucus (try to get as much as you can) and add it to your oil blend.

Store in an opaque container. You’ll usually only need a few drops, or you can put some into a carrier oil. Make sure it gets some place where he’ll “smell” it. Now he won’t necessarily “smell” it – it’s actually got a very light scent – but when it hits his nostrils, the essential oils and pheremones will work to trigger a strong sensual desire. So you can put it into an oil diffuser, mix it into a massage oil and give him a massage, etc. – whatever you need to do to get it into his nostrils.

Why is Military Homemaking Different?

30 Mar

In fairness, this is a question I get often from civilian friends who just don’t understand what makes homemaking different as a military wife. Military homemaking combines a lot of challenges that a LOT of homemakers face, but most people only face one or two of these!

  1. The Importance of Homemaking. I believe that homemaking is important for EVERYBODY, but it’s even more important for military families. It’s important for everyone to have a place that feels like “home” – a place of refuge and sanctuary when the outside world is stressful. We all can benefit by having a comforting retreat in times of turmoil. But for many of us, the “home” may be a combination of different areas & different places. The idea of “home” is larger than the house in which we live. “Home” encompasses our neighborhood, our yard, even our friends’ homes! We may feel at home in our schools or our workplaces, and that’s a very good thing. But for military families, all of these external signals of “home” can change frequently. It’s not unusual for Army families to move every 2-3 years! So when your neighborhood and the exterior of your home (and even many elements of the interior!) change, it’s crucial that the interior (the only part you can really control!) remains as stable as possible.
  2. The Importance of Homemaking, pt. 2. Children in particular thrive on stability, and the fact is that the military life is ANYTHING but stable, especially for kids! Dad’s duty hours may change frequently. He may deploy. There are frequent moves, and the keyword in military life is “resiliency”, which is really just a nice way of saying, “Quit complaining!” So a wise mom will do all that she can to create an atmosphere of stability with her children. When the same painting hangs in the front hallway of every home they move to or the living room furniture is arranged in a similar manner no matter where they go, it creates stability, which is critical for military kids. Maybe every Monday is Meatloaf Night, or maybe every night before bed is Storytime in the living room. All these little routines and household minutiae really do help children to be well-adjusted despite their frequent upheavals. These things help to CREATE resilient children.
  3. The Importance of Homemaking, pt. 3. Last one, I promise! Homemaking is important for our husbands as well. When they are away, they are thinking of home. In their down time, they re-create images of home and family based on what they remember. It can be tempting for a mom to change things while her husband is deployed, but this seldom has a happy ending. During a deployment or separation, the kids need stability more than ever, but the husband also needs to know what he’s coming home to. While it may seem like an amusing anecdote, it’s not uncommon for a man to come home, find the living room furniture re-arranged, and immediately move everything back to how it was before he left! He’s been dreaming of “home”; keep it stable for him. (Incidentally, when change can’t be avoided – like when you have to move to a new house or his favorite recliner breaks and must be replaced – take a picture of the new setup and send it to him via mail or e-mail with an explanation. It will make it MUCH easier for him to accept when he gets back.)
  4. Frequent Moves. This one, most people understand. After all, we live in a pretty mobile society, and we’re all going to move a few times in our adult lives. But many people can under-estimate the frequency of these moves and the impact that it has on us. While the average for Army families is about 3-4 years, it’s not unheard of for Army families to move as frequently as 12-18 months! Air Force families tend to have longer tours and be a bit more stable, and Navy and Marine families tend to be somewhere in between (although I hear that Marines are closer to Army relocation times). We will be moving. And even when/if we don’t move, the understanding that we WILL be moving can often be psychologically difficult to deal with. I’ve known military wives who LOVED to garden and went years without planting anything in their garden. One told me, “We’ve been here four years, so we’re overdue for a PCS (a military move). Since I know that spring and summer are prime PCS seasons, I don’t see the point in planting a garden since I’m pretty sure we’re going to move soon.” She actually ended up staying at the same base for 7 or 8 years, but the impact it had on her was significant. Not only will we be moving; we KNOW that we’ll be moving. We KNOW that we’re “short-timers.”
  5. Rental Homes. Most of us who live in the continental United States (CONUS) will be living (at least temporarily) in civilian rental homes or apartments. On-post housing is notoriously hard to get into. But the point is that whether we’re in rental homes or government quarters, we are often prohibited from making major changes to the decor or design. We often can’t paint and are very limited with what type of modifications we can make to the home. This can make decorating on a budget very difficult.
  6. Government Quarters. Clearing government quarters has a justly deserved reputation for being a NIGHTMARE! While it depends greatly on who your housing inspector is, a mostly clean house in government quarters can be cause for all sorts of problems! 
  7. Vastly Different Quarters. If I live in Columbus, Ohio, I have a pretty good idea of what sort of home I can afford. If I get a pay raise and upgrade to a nicer home, that pay raise will probably be fairly modest and any changes to my living quarters will probably be pretty minimal. The point is that my living quarters are unlikely to change drastically. If I can currently afford a 1,500 square foot 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom townhome, I might be able to upgrade to a 1600sqft/3BR/2BA townhome, but whatever I look for will be about the same. But this isn’t true for military families. In one part of the country, they may be able to easily afford a 2,500 square foot, 4BR, 2BA rental home (or that may be the government quarters they’re offered). In another part of the country, they might struggle to afford a 1,000 square feet, 2BR, 1BA apartment. If you’ve been living in 2,500 sq ft and you now have only 1,000 sq ft, how do you fit everything in? Or vice versa? How do you make 1,000 sq ft or furniture look properly scaled in a 2,500 sq ft house? If your last home had a very modern feel and this one is extremely traditional, the furniture that looked great before might look very out of place now. This sort of instability can make decorating especially challenging for military families.
  8. Tight Budget. It’s no secret that the military doesn’t make a ton of money. There are many military families that live below the poverty line, and as Congress continues to slash money-saving programs like the Commissary and MWR programs, we’re going to see a lot more military families in financial trouble. The point for the homemaker is that we have to deal with all of these challenges without the benefit of an unlimited budget. We have to find creative solutions to the problems that we so frequently face.
  9. Decorating to Please Someone who Isn’t There. For many of us, we want to please our husbands, but our husbands are seldom available to go furniture shopping with us. Maybe they’re out in the field, on a drill, deployed, or just unable to get out of work, but we have to go out and guess what he might like and then just hope that we guessed right.  

Anything else? What did I miss?

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