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Quick Update

14 Aug

Has it really been so long since I’ve blogged? Sheesh! Hopefully you’ll all excuse the interruption in my totally irregular but fabulous blogging, as we’ve been settling in to our new home here in San Antonio!

So first, a few updates:

  1. The move went well. Better than expected, to be honest. The movers were wonderful and the travel & move went off with barely a hitch!

    Empty bedrooms!

  2. Okay, I’m WAYYYY too ambitious! I set this huge goal that I wanted to have the house completely unpacked & totally moved in within a week. Well, I kind of knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I figured if I set a high goal, I’d at least be able to make some serious progress. At this point (almost a complete month since we moved in), the only stuff we still have in boxes is garage & storage stuff (which will stay in boxes until we need them), a single box in the nursery, a single box in the hallway closet, a single box in the living room, a couple boxes in the boys’ bedroom, and a single box in the master bedroom (which will probably stay packed until our next move since it contains the kids’ computer and we don’t have a place to set it up in this tiny apartment).
  3. The kids have been settling in nicely. It’s been wonderful to get to see my husband, even though he STILL doesn’t have overnight privileges (not even weekends!). The constant driving back and forth on the weekends makes that time very taxing, but it’s worth it.
  4. It is HOT here. HOT! Making sure everyone stays hydrated has been a challenge; I’ve noticed my blood pressure dropping from dehydration a time or two, and the toddler threw up shortly after we got here from the heat. Hydration management has become a huge priority. We keep ice in the freezer, a water jug in the fridge, and a pitcher of Gatorade in the fridge pretty much all the time. We’ve also got all of the boys their own water bottles which are now required equipment any time we leave the house!
  5. The weather here is unusual and interesting, to say the least! Last Friday there was this strange freak windstorm that blew trees down all over the place. Saturday as I was walking from my apartment office back to my apartment carrying a package we received, I tripped over one of those downed tree branches and had to call my husband on my cell phone to come and rescue me! I thought I had just tweaked my leg a bit, but now it’s a few days later and it’s still severely swollen and painful and I can’t put much weight on it. I’m going to have to see the doctor about it, much to my chagrin (I really don’t much like doctors!).
  6. My c-section has been giving me problems, just like it did with my last baby. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow to look at it, so hopefully I’ll get some answers soon.

Next, a few of Holly’s handy dandy tips for apartment living:

  • COMMAND HOOKS! I have these little things all over the house! I use the large hooks for heavier things like heavy picture frames or decorations. The mini hooks are great for things like hanging your keys and hanging lightweight or small items (or decorating!). The medium plastic hooks are what I use to hang up things like aprons, potholders, and brooms in the kitchen. But my favorite kind (that I only discovered this move!) are the small wire hooks. I have these on my kitchen wall and use them to hold all sorts of cooking and serving utensils. It helps to free up valuable drawer space because I don’t have much of it! The advantage to the Command Hooks (and there are also Command picture hangers as well, but I can’t say much about them because I haven’t used them) is that you don’t have to worry about filling in holes when you move out, and you can stick them anywhere – even on cabinet doors and other places that conventional nails might not be appropriate.
  • Storage is always going to be a problem in a small space, and that’s no different when you have a family as large as mine! Few apartments have sufficient storage space, and I like to keep a rather substantial pantry whenever possible. Organizing my pantry spaces is a huge project that I’ll be working on later, so stay tuned to see how I handle that one.
  • Large area rugs are a great way to protect apartment floors. I’ll never for the life of me understand why stupid builders put WHITE or OFF-WHITE carpet wall to wall in three or four bedroom apartments and houses. Most people in 3/4BR rental places have kids, I would think, and any mom knows that white or off-white carpet is about the dumbest thing you can do. Seriously, I hate rental places that do it, but they ALL do it!
  • Take inventory of the new home as soon as you arrive, and when you have children, look for things the kids can (and will!) break, damage, stain, or otherwise mess up. Have them removed. Call the apartment complex and tell them to take them out, or put them into a basement or garage for storage. Take down mini-blinds and put up curtains or something else. The cheap metal mini-blinds in most rental places are absolutely ridiculous; you can bend them just by brushing up against them the wrong way and they cost HUNDREDS of dollars to replace. Look for other things that may be problematic: sliding closet doors (tend to come out of the track if there’s no bottom track), accordion doors (depending on location, they can get easily damaged if you bump into them forgetting that they’re open), and those vertical blinds on a lot of patio doors.

I’m still getting settled in, so I’m not exactly sure when my next post will be, but I’ll try to blog a bit more consistently now that we’re finally moved.

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News (July 6th Edition)

5 Jul

Okay, so I don’t blog nearly as regularly as I’d like to. That’s just kind of what happens when you have a family like mine. But I may as well give my dear readers an update on what’s been happening lately in our family:

Little Ian!

I hope my readers can forgive the long break I took about a month ago, but Little Ian was born on June 6th at … I don’t really remember – sometime in the afternoon. In my defense, I was really, REALLY high at the time.

I do remember that he was nine pounds and one ounce. He’s not my biggest one – that distinction goes to Johnny (my VBAC and my ONLY vaginal birth!) who tipped the scales at 9’4″. I remember that they showed him to me in the operating room. Having been used to a hefty two-year-old, the first thing I said was, “He’s so tiny!” The nurse laughed and said, “No, he isn’t!”

I had a scheduled repeat c-section. I have to say that my c-section was GREAT! The anesthesiologist was GREAT! All in all, it was a great experience (for a c-section), even if my husband couldn’t be here for it.

He was very upset that he couldn’t be here for the birth or soon after it, but we’re focusing on moving toward the next adventure very soon.

And speaking of moving…

The Move!

I can’t even express how positively ecstatic I am about the upcoming move! I get to be in the same city as my husband again!!!

The movers will be coming in only 10 days! And we’ll be moving to my husband’s AIT location just a few days later. I’m hoping that the house we applied for will work out and we’ll have housing already lined up by the time we get there. It’s going to be crazy!

But I’m going to take LOTS of pictures, and once I get settled in (and get the computer up and running!), I’ll do a few blog posts on how to maintain your sanity during a move (once I dig my sanity out of whatever box the movers put it in!). So once again, I’ll be off-line for a little while, but I’ll be back soon!

Here’s What I’ve Got in Mind…

Hopefully with the upcoming move, I’ll have LOTS of great stuff to write about! But just to give you all a preview of what’s on the horizon here at TQPH (with the understanding, of course, that I’ll probably get less than half of this actually accomplished), here’s a list of a few projects I’ve got coming up:

  • I have a round dining room tabletop that I want to convert to a chabu-dai table (a low Japanese tea table). I want to get that done before I move.
  • I want to make some zabuton pillows – meditation cushions – for the living room. I’d like to get that done before I move, but I seriously doubt that will happen because I’ll either have to borrow my mother-in-law’s serger or get mine serviced before I can undertake a big project like that.
  • I have this great idea for a couple of paint chip wall art pieces. I’m still tossing around ideas, but I’m planning on something Asian-inspired.
  • I have a few really nice boards in my garage that I want to get cut to size, primed, and painted white before we move so that I can use them as wall shelves with the right brackets.
  • And of course, I’ll be sure to catalog the moving process to share my experiences with my readers.

The Blog

I hope that it’s become clear by now to my readers (both of you!) that I don’t usually do newsy updates. Most of my blog posts are some crafty thing or some homemaking tips or something. Personally, I don’t like blogs that do a bunch of “filler”. I mean, I understand that you’ve got to do some “housekeeping” on a blog. Occasionally you want to do giveaways or something like that, but if I’m watching a blog for homemaking tips, I’m not really thrilled when they spend three days a week doing “Wordless Wednesday” or whatever. And maybe it’s just because I’m cynical and I know exactly what they’re doing when they do that. (For those of you who aren’t bloggers, search engine rankings are largely based on how frequently the blog/website updates. Since almost everybody will run out of material to make a relevant post 5-7 days a week, many professional bloggers will do some sort of “Wordless Wednesday” or “Inspiration for the Weekend” or whatever. It’s a short, totally irrelevant post intended to make it look like the blog is updated frequently.)

Anyway…

I don’t always get my blog updated regularly, mainly because I’m lazy. I could say I’m busy, but I may as well be honest. And I don’t think that most of what I do is really that interesting. After all, do you really want me to write about my two-year-old getting into the markers? You do? Well… They say a picture is worth a thousand words:

Okay, so back to the point: If you want to be updated when I have some new stuff up, please subscribe to my blog. That way you don’t have to keep coming back to obsessively stalk me because you’re craving some new craft projects or cleaning recipes or moving tips; the blog will just send you an innocent little e-mail and let you know that it’s time to come check out something cool! And there’s an added advantage to me: While I can see how many people are visiting my blog, I can’t tell how many of those are robots or some sort of Underworld Internet trolls stumbling across my blog while surfing for porn (you’d be surprised how often seemingly innocent blogs are listed on some sort of weird search page next to porn; it’s weird). Anyway, if you subscribe, then I’ll know that at least SOMEBODY wants me to keep typing!

So now, I’m done. No more boring news (for awhile!). Thanks!

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?

Helpful Links for Military Wives

28 Mar

The military is like a whole other world, and sometimes the hardest part of military life is just knowing where to go and what all is available. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone! Here are a few of my favorite resources:

The Army Family Information Center
This is mainly for Future Soldier families and for families who are relatively new to Army life. If you’re a Soldier’s parent or spouse and your Soldier is in basic training (BCT), advanced infantry training (AIT), or about to leave to join the military, this is a great resource to help answer your questions and provide support & encouragement. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Army Future Soldier Family Facebook Page
Similar to the above and also run by the Army Recruiting Command, but this is a Facebook page for Future Soldier Families. They’re especially useful for answering those shorter questions (like, “Where do I go to get my ID card?”, “Who do I call about Tricare?”) and for helping with social media questions (like, “Does my husband’s unit have a Facebook page?”) Like the FIC, the FSF page on Facebook is open to ALL family members. It’s also a GREAT way to make new friends! Several of the coolest Army wives (and a few husbands!) I know are people I’ve met from this page.

Incidentally, a few resources you’ll want to have are the Tricare page and the RAPIDS Site Locator. The Tricare page will tell you all you need to know about your Tricare health insurance, and the RAPIDS Site Locator will help you find the nearest ID card facility to your home. (Helpful hint: You can get your ID card at ANY RAPIDS site. It doesn’t have to be a full base and it doesn’t have to be the same branch of service as your sponsor!)

Military One Source
Military One Source is, IMO, one of the most valuable sites to ANY military spouse. From here, you can catch up on news affecting the military, find links to other useful sites, and access a LOT of cool programs. For example, did you know that you can file your taxes for FREE using Military One Source? Or that you can order FREE materials (booklets, DVDs, audio files, etc.) to help you, your children, and your family deal with the challenges and stresses of military life?

This is my one “Go To” site for pretty much everything military. The DoD MWR Libraries Resource (link on the MOS site) is great for homeschoolers and has links to SOOO many cool things! The Health & Wellness Coaching Program can help you set up a plan to lose weight, get in shape, quit smoking, or reduce your stress. I can’t explain in a short blog post what all this site has to offer, so go check it out for yourself!

One thing I will mention, though, is the counseling. Being in the military is stressful, but being a military spouse is also stressful. Military One Source offers counseling through telephone and online chat, and they can also help you set up in-person counseling in your local area and refer you to other resources that might help you out. They can also work with financial counseling as well. It’s a GREAT resource and one that you need to keep bookmarked!

My Army One Source
This is a part of the Military One Source network, but it has the AMAZING Army Family Team Building (AFTB) training on this site. TAKE IT! It’s an online course that will help be invaluable to a new Army spouse. There’s a lot of other stuff on this page (tools for volunteers, service & resource referrals, etc.), but I use it for the online training the most.

Take the AFTB Level I before your spouse leaves or as soon as possible. You’ll learn about military acronyms & terms, the chain of command, military customs & courtesies, military benefits (PAY!) and entitlements, community resources, Family Readiness Groups (FRGs), financial readiness, basic problem solving, and helping your Soldier and your children to do well in the Army life.

AFTB Level II is a great module, especially if you plan to get more involved in Army life or to help out with Army programs like the FRG. It not only teaches a little more about the Army, but also about things like time management, working with people, stress management, etc. AFTB Level III is specifically designed for leaders and those in a leadership role, but I think that Level II is useful for everyone. My Army One Source also has training on financial readiness (which is a MUST for Army families!), Internet safety for kids, and the EFMP program (if you or your family has any special medical or educational needs, you need to do this training).

SpouseBuzz
I like to visit SpouseBuzz, a military blogging community which often has the latest information about what’s going on in the military community. It’s not “official”, so you often get a more humorous and laid-back view on what’s going on, but it can be a great source of information for a new spouse.

One Note:
There are a TON of sites out there that are useful for military spouses, but keep in mind that (especially with the unofficial sites!) you’re dealing with a lot of different personalities and a lot of different people. I have a few military forums I frequent from time to time, but with the exception of the “official” links I’ve posted above, there’s always somebody on one of those forums that has a bad attitude. Use the unofficial forums if you want, but remember that one person’s experience is not necessarily indicative of official policy. Just because another person’s husband got to come home on leave in a certain situation doesn’t mean that YOUR husband’s commander will approve the same thing, so take all of it with a grain of salt. Also, don’t write off the military community because of a few bad apples. I’ve heard MANY horror stories about the FRG, but I’ve also heard many very positive experiences about the FRGs as well; don’t refuse to participate in things (like the FRG, unit activities, etc.) just because a random person on the Internet had a bad experience with something similar. Likewise, don’t write off the idea of befriending other military wives because you encountered some mean or rude military wives on one of these forums.

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