Care Packages

22 Apr

Care packages are absolutely INVALUABLE for your Soldier! They may be restricted in some cases, so be aware of the rules and restrictions. Here’s a few general guidelines:

  • If your Soldier is in basic training or AIT, ask before you send care packages. ESPECIALLY in BCT, some Drill Sergeants don’t allow care packages. If you DO get to send care packages in BCT, do NOT send food items. Check with your recruiter, the BCT location, and/or the U.S. Army Future Soldier Family Program for updated lists of BCT care package items. General rule of thumb for BCT care packages: Don’t send anything unless he requests it. The only exception to this is cards, letters, drawings from the kids, etc.
  • Get the kids involved! Kids frequently enjoy helping out in the kitchen, and regular care packages will always require some level of “quality control”!
  • Care packages are a big deal. In BCT, he’ll be opening care packages in front of his Drill Sergeant. After BCT, it’s not uncommon for his buddies to crowd around him to see what he got. With that in mind, watch what you send. If you send naked pictures to him in BCT, the Drill Sergeant will confiscate him, smoke him, and generally make his life hell. If you send them to him while he’s deployed to a Muslim country, the entire care package may be destroyed. And if you send them at any other time, don’t be surprised if you get some funny looks from his buddies when they all get home.
  • As a general rule, don’t send tobacco or alcohol. If he’s authorized to have it, he’ll be able to purchase it locally. It’s forbidden in BCT and in most AIT’s, and it’s forbidden in Muslim countries. Also forbidden in Muslim countries: pork or pork products. No bacon muffins, and if you’re sending store-bought items, check the labels carefully. Sometimes pork fat can turn up in the most unexpected places! I once bought some banana chips to send to Saudi Arabia and found pork fat included on the ingredients list!
  • Don’t make a mess! Somebody always thinks it’s cute or funny to send a care package designed to explode confetti everywhere when it’s opened. It’s not. Your husband might laugh about it at first, but when he’s starting his second hour of looking for confetti that landed somewhere underneath his wall locker, he’ll be cussing.
  • Keep in mind that he may have limited space. Food items, baked goods, candy, etc. – all of these things are consumable, so you don’t have to worry too terribly much about overloading him with that stuff. But books, games, etc. – keep in mind that his space may be limited, ESPECIALLY if he’s on board a ship or in BCT/AIT.
  • Care packages are made for sharing. Always try to send enough so that he can share with his buddies (if it’s food items).
  • Don’t send stuff he can buy there. My hubby’s in AIT, and as much as he loves Fig Newtons, he can buy them at the PX. There’s no need for me to send them. On the other hand, when my ex-husband was deployed to Saudi Arabia, he would ask for those banana chips because he couldn’t get them in theater. Girl Scout cookies are often a big hit, but lots of guys in deployed locations have access to them (the Girl Scouts donate a large number of them through the USO every year), so ask before sending them.

Regularity
There is one BIG note about care packages that applies to ALL communication with your Soldier: BE REGULAR!!! Decide in advance how frequently you can send things and STICK TO IT! Our Soldiers are creatures of habit. They grow to expect the things we send and get very disappointed if we don’t send them on schedule. Now sometimes, things come up. One of the first care packages I was planning got delayed because everyone in the house came down with a stomach bug and I didn’t want to send vomiting and diarrhea to my hubby! But I also notified him of the circumstances. That way, he knew I didn’t just forget.

For me, when my husband was in BCT (and I didn’t send care packages unless he specifically requested something), I wrote letters EVERY DAY and sent them every day. I missed one or two days, but I worked very hard to get those letters out daily. The kids wrote and sent letters once a week, and after about the third week I started sending one of two greeting cards randomly throughout the week. The letters from me & the kids were a part of his routine and the greeting cards (and letters from his parents & extended family) were fun bonuses. But he told me once that he looked forward to every evening after mail call when he would settle in and read my letter before bed. It was part of his evening routine, and it was something he came to expect. On those occasions when the mail was screwy and he didn’t get a letter like he was supposed to, he would re-read old letters, but he was always disappointed.

Regularity is critical with care packages as well. I prepare my packages on Sunday and send them out on Monday morning. Because they go out Priority Mail, he normally receives them on Wednesday or Thursday. It’s something that he looks for and expects. Decide in advance what your schedule will be and stick to it.

What to Send
Obviously, some things are pretty much expected in care packages, like foodstuffs (especially homemade stuff!). Other things he may request, like a certain video game or book or magazine. Other things (like letters, cards, drawing from the kids, etc.) can be added to give him a taste of home. Keep in mind what he has access to. My husband has a laptop, so I’ll frequently burn a DVD for him of home movies and pictures we’ve taken since he left. You may want to keep a video diary and burn it to DVD and send it with your care packages.

One note about videos: Our Soldiers love seeing videos of important and special events, so make sure to videotape the birthday party, the trip to the zoo, the school play, the soccer game, etc. But they also like seeing a “slice of life” from home. It may sound silly, but try setting up the video camera during dinnertime. Set the camera in Daddy’s spot and videotape the family having dinner together. Set up the camera in the kitchen and “talk” to your husband while you’re doing dishes. Don’t neglect the “boring” stuff; a lot of times, that “boring” stuff is the stuff that they miss the most.

Condiments can be greatly appreciated depending on where he is, especially if he enjoys something more exotic than salt and pepper! Dried condiments (like garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, dried seasoning mixes, etc.) can be packaged into small plastic zipper bags – you can usually find these at craft stores with the cake/candy decorating stuff. If he’s deployed someplace where the food is terrible, having little baggies of his favorite seasoning blends can be VERY welcome.

Liquid condiments are a bit more difficult. If he likes something like soy sauce, look at places like Costco, Sam’s Club, and local Asian grocers or restaurant supply stores to see if they have any single-serve packets. But there IS another method you can use for liquid condiments; it’s a bit dicey, but it is often effective for things like Srirachi that my husband loves. You fill ice cube trays with the condiments and freeze them solid. Once they’re frozen, use a vacuum sealer (like a Food Saver) to seal one or two ice cubes together completely. Let thaw before you ship, but that will USUALLY (not always!) keep the condiments for a pretty long time.

When it comes to baked goods, keep a few things in mind:

  • If you’re sending to a very hot location, don’t use butter of margarine. Use something like butter-flavored shortening because it won’t go rancid as quickly. Also, beware of peanut butter, nut butters, and other foods with a high oil content because of the rancidity.
  • Don’t even try sending fudge to a hot place or to any place overseas. Any type of fudge-y candies will not work. Hard candies can work if it’s not too hot and/or has too long of a delay.
  • Anything crumbly can crumble. Plan accordingly. Anything chewy is going to be likely to go bad if you’ll have to wait too long for delivery. Cookies will usually last longer than bar cookies, muffins, breads, etc. Don’t ship that unless you know you’ll be getting pretty quick delivery.
  • Everything MUST COOL COMPLETELY before you try to package it.
  • Don’t send stuff that’s frosted. If you want to send something with frosting, send it unfrosted and then send an unopened package of frosting along with it so that he can frost it when he gets it.
  • Small sizes will work best. Think mini-muffins instead of full-size muffins, mini-loaves of bread instead of standard sizes, etc. Small sizes are easier to pack and easier to share!

Packaging
Packaging is critically important! Nothing will break your heart faster than your husband calling you on the verge of tears because all of the brownies you sent him arrived in crumbs!

The most important thing to remember with packaging is to package in small batches and do NOT hesitate to overpackage! If you package in small batches and one batch is destroyed, it’s likely that the other batches will be okay.

For Muffins, Breads, etc.
I sent my husband some cinnamon streusel muffins (his favorite!). Here’s how I packaged them.

First, I let them cool COMPLETELY!

Then, as you can see, I laid out wax paper and foil. I placed each individual muffin upside down on the wax paper.

Wrap it up like a present:

Then you do the same basic wrapping with the foil. Place LOOSELY in a Ziploc bag and pack. The foil helps to keep them from being crushed and the wax paper helps keep them from sticking to the foil.

 

For Bar Cookies, Soft Candies, and Crumbly Cookies
Wrap in wax paper and package in hard containers, like Ziploc Take & Toss. Make sure the wax paper goes between EACH AND EVERY cookie or candy (for the soft ones)!!! It’s not as big of a deal on crumbly cookies, but make sure that there’s enough wax paper to reduce movement with the crumbly cookies.

 

For Hard Candies
Individually wrap and package in a Ziploc bag. Individual wrappers can usually be found in craft stores with the cake decorating supplies.

For Regular Cookies
Run a length of wax paper. Put the first cookie on one side of the wax paper about 2-3 inches from the end and fold the wax paper in half over the cookie. Fold up the end and place another cookie on top of the package. Fold the long end of the wax paper over the top of the cookie, then place another cookie on top of the package. Fold the long end of the wax paper over, placing another cookie on top, until you have about 5-6 cookies. Fold the excess of the long end over the top of the last cookie. Place the wax paper packet face down on some foil and wrap like a present. Place two or three packets LOOSELY into a Ziploc bag.


How to Send
It really depends a lot on where your Soldier is. Check with your local FRG, your Key Spouse, your unit, etc. For example, on some Air Force bases, they send out “Re-Deployers” once a week or once every few weeks to deployed locations, and they’re usually happy to stick your care package on the plane when it goes out (and it’s free!). In a lot of places, you have no choice but to send it through freight.

Make friends with the U.S. Postal Service! They will delivery more regularly and more efficiently to virtually every military location than UPS, FedEx, or DHL. They also offer a variety of shipping discounts if you pay for your shipping online, especially if you pay through your PayPal account. Their USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes are also a great bargain because you don’t have to pay for the box, and it’s usually cheaper than shipping a box of a similar size.

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Public Displays of Affection

3 Apr

This is a topic that’s been on my mind. For starters, I just got back from my husband’s BCT graduation at Fort Jackson, and you have to be VERY careful to avoid PDAs then! Several of my friends are there this week or will be heading out there next week, so the issue of avoiding PDAs is a big one.

But I ran across an article and a video today over on SpouseBuzz. It’s an old one, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. The gist of the debate is this: On one hand, you have wives who use Facebook as a way to send a public “I love you!” to their deployed or geobach husbands, usually by updating their Facebook status, posting on their walls, tagging their spouse with sweet messages, etc. On the other hand, you have the party poopers who get angry at these status updates. Some of them are jealous; they think that you’re missing your spouse TOO much. After all, they reason, THEIR spouse is gone for 18 months and yours is only gone for 2 months – you have no reason to complain! Or their spouse is deployed and yours is only in BCT. But as I looked through the comments on SpouseBuzz, I noticed that several of the commenters compared these public status updates to cyber-PDAs, which they found offensive. So let’s talk about what is actually offensive about PDAs, and why tasteful PDAs can be a GOOD thing for a military marriage.

A quick Google search for images about military deployment returns will yield thousands of results. We rejoice over pictures and images of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines coming home after months away. It’s sweet to see them embrace their loved ones. Strangers see that first kiss in the airport and stop to applaud. There’s nothing sweeter than the first embrace and first kiss after that long separation. THAT is not offensive, and I don’t think anybody would argue that point.

It IS offensive, however, when the display goes from sweet, loving reunion to X-rated (or even R-rated) making out in public. There is a BIG difference, but for some reason, we seem to be hesitant to be specific about what it is. So here’s the rule: No grabbing or touching the butt, breasts, or crotch. No tongue-kissing. And while it’s cool for the embrace itself to last for a few minutes, the kiss shouldn’t last more than about 30 seconds.

The point is that there is a difference between “sweet” and “pornographic”. No matter how sweet you may think it is, it is not “sweet” to grab your husband’s crotch in the airport, on the parade field, or at the grocery store. Don’t do it. And don’t misconstrue ANYTHING I’m saying here to indicate that I approve of that sort of public exhibitionism.

But PDAs (when it’s a display of “affection” and not a porn audition) have their place in military families, and there IS justification for making that status message public.

When I post a status update to ALL of my friends saying, “I have the most amazing husband! I miss him so much! I can’t wait to see him again!” I’m bragging about my husband to my friends. And certainly, I’ll tag him in it, but there’s a difference between making that brag post to my own friends and making it directly to him. First off, it allows my more compassionate and wonderful friends to reply. They’ll say, “What did he do?” and I can say, “He sent me the sweetest e-mail for my birthday! He’s always thinking of me and doing the most wonderful things!” and they can say, “How sweet! You are so lucky!!!” Now, he’s getting a big thank you from ME (in the form of my public brag), but he’s also getting praise from my friends. This makes the post much more meaningful.

But even if the status update is ignored by all of my friends, the public update is still useful. It indicates that I am willing to talk about him publicly, that I am willing to praise him publicly, and that I WANT to be publicly associated with him as much as possible. I’ve heard from other people (military and civilian) about the opposite issue. They say that their husband/boyfriend/fiance NEVER mentions them when he makes a status update on his wall. He’ll post a quick status update from the movie theater saying, “About to go see the Lorax,” and they won’t tag the girlfriend they’re with. She then starts to wonder WHY. “Is he seeing somebody else and he doesn’t want her to know about me?” “Why is he so unwilling to talk about me to his friends?” There are hundreds of paranoid questions she might ask, but the point is that his refusal to mention her to his friends is viewed as offensive and cause for concern.

We may look at this and say, “Grow up! It’s just Facebook!” but that would be missing the point. For so many younger people, Facebook is one of their most frequently used social outlets. When a man avoids mentioning a girlfriend on Facebook, it’s like he brought his girlfriend to a party and then refused to introduce her to any of his friends, leaving her languishing in a corner alone talking to the hostess’s cats while he made the rounds and hung out with his friends. Rude? Absolutely! But Facebook is the modern equivalent to that party or coffeeshop or bar.

So how does this specifically apply to military marriages? Because when a woman makes a public post about how she misses her husband, she’s publicly acknowledging him. It’s like walking into that coffeeshop, running into a few of her old friends from high school, and saying, “I’m a military wife now, and I love and adore my husband. He may not be physically here right now, but he’s always in my heart and on my mind.” It’s a way to let your husband know that you’re thinking of him, AND a way to say, “I’m proud of my husband,” to everybody. Public acknowledgement of your love for your husband is more powerful and meaningful than private messages.

What are some other things you can do to publicly praise your husband? Care packages! Don’t send enough cookies for him; send enough for his entire platoon. (I’ve never heard of somebody getting so many cookies that they went bad before they were eaten!) Send beautiful, creative, fun care packages; he’ll show them off to the people in his barracks. Do nice things for your husband where other people will see; doing nice things for your husband is another way to say, “I love you.”

So make that status update public (or at least, friends only)! Send him those beautiful care packages and sappy cards! And give him that big hug when you see him again!

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?

Asian-Inspired Wall Panel

28 Mar

Geez, what exactly am I supposed to call these things? I feel like I’m naming a recipe here (and I’ve NEVER been good at that! Most of my recipes come out being called something like, “that meat and noodle thing with the sour cream and lemon pepper” or something weird, so my poor kids & husband never know what to say when they want to request that I make something again. Not that it would matter, because I can’t ever REMEMBER my recipes in the first place. And there I go, digressing again…)! Okay, so the point is, I’ve got no idea what to call these little projects.

But on this one, I got an idea that’s just kind of evolved. Let’s not worry about WHERE I got the idea; I couldn’t tell you. It’s changed so much from its original design that I have no clue where it came from.

Oh, wait – yes I do! I saw an idea to make snowflakes and glue them to a contrasting color.

So that’s the first thing I did. I decided I was going to do a little display thing of 4″ x 4″ papers. While I have no clue whatsoever what our living room is going to look like, I already know that I plan on keeping the decorating scheme very Zen (as much as possible). I’m thinking lots of neutrals: tan, cream, white, and that pale green that Chris likes so much. For those little “pops” of color, I’m thinking red (in EXTREME moderation!), black, and white. And because black & white furniture can be used, re-used, re-purposed, moved to different rooms, etc., depending on what our setup looks like.

So I chose pale green and white for the 4 x 4″ pieces. Using my rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and cutting mat, I found some pale green and white printer paper from the kids’ craft box. (I really need to get my own craft supplies instead of raiding theirs all the time!) I cut numerous squares to that 4 x 4″ size. Then I grabbed several of them and started folding them like snowflakes and cutting on them like we used to do in school every winter to decorate the classroom with snowflakes. When they were done, I took my best ones and used a glue stick (from the kids’ craft box) to glue the snowflakes to the contrasting color. Then the snowflakes were DONE!

Next, I wanted to add a bit more of an Asian (specifically a Japanese) flair to the project, so I started working on the two botanical panels. For one, I wanted to specifically do blades of grass or reeds, so I just cut a bunch of funny looking stems. It was all just freehand and me playing around. Then I just kind of arranged the little stems (glue stick!) onto the background until I thought it looked right. On the second botanical one, I did the same stem thingy and also added a few leaves. I trimmed up the edges with my rotary cutter.

Finally, I wanted to finish it off, so I went looking online for some Japanese Kanji characters. I printed out the ones for “Harmony”, “Family”, and “Serenity”, and then cut them into 4 x 4 squares with my rotary cutter.

I felt like it looked good but needed a splash of color, so I dug some red printer paper out of the kids’ art box and cut it into 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ squares, then glue sticked the little 4 x 4’s onto it. Here’s the result:

That’s a lawn & garden trash bag underneath them because I wanted to see how they would look with a dark background. And there’s a large piece of glass over them because they were already starting to curl up because of the glue stick, but I thought they went fairly well together.

I pressed them in my phone book overnight. It’s kind of lucky, because I normally recycle my phone book within days of getting it but I just hadn’t gotten around to it because we just got back from Chris’s BCT graduation when I found the new phone book on my porch, so I’m glad I had it for the panels!

And then today held a trip to Michael’s!

The first thing I thought as I looked at these panels was that they weren’t really even, and there was too much red. So I took my rotary cutter and acrylic ruler and cutting mat and trimmed them up to leave about 1/8″ of red background on each side.

Then, I turned to my foam board. I opted for a foam board for a few reasons: 1) It’s CHEAP! 2) It’s lightweight, so it’ll be easy to hang ANYWHERE. Okay, for two reasons.

But I needed to trim it, so I just used my rotary cutter to trim it to size.

Then I had to mark where the panels were supposed to go. In this case, I wanted them 3/4″ apart with 1 1/2″ as an outside border. So I marked the lines with pencil where I knew they’d be covered up by pictures

and assembled my supplies: Mod Podge Matte (for paper), my foam panel, a paper plate, a large sponge brush, and my panels.

Then, I laid out all my panels just to check the fit:

Next, I used my Mod Podge to glue down my pictures and then put a coat of Mod Podge over the top of all of them.

You can see in this picture that some of them (like the green Kanji in the top row) have curled up, especially along the edges. I could probably prevent that from happening by doing more coats that are thinner, but patience isn’t my strong suit, and I know from previous experience that it’ll all lay pretty flat once it’s completely dry.

The reason it curls up like that is because it’s wet, and I added a final top coat of Mod Podge to it, which REALLY didn’t help with the curling problem, but oh well. It’ll look fine when it’s dry. For now, here’s what it looks like:

See how much better it looks when it dries?

It’s still not TOTALLY dry; you can still feel a little moisture, so there’s still a few little wrinkles on the paper parts, but it’s close enough that I can start working with it.

But it’s not really DONE. It looks unfinished.

So I found this:

I’m guessing that Washi tape would work, too, but I haven’t been able to find it locally. Instead, I ran across this. It’s wallpaper trim tape, but the color looked great, so I picked it up. It’s got these little grids on the back, which makes it a snap to measure out.

Then I peeled back half of it, as you can see here:

Then I put the board over the sticky side and lined it up like this:

I pressed the board down HARD on the tape to make sure it stuck to the back. Then I peeled the rest of the backing off:

And then folded the tape around:

Made sure to press out the air bubbles (with the remnants of my manicure that I got JUST for my hubby’s graduation!):

And voila!

Okay, so the lighting sucks, and you can still see the wrinkles in the front until it dries all the way. I’m going to stick this under some heavy books and press it the rest of the way probably for another day or so, and then it’ll probably look great, but at least you can kind of see what it’s going to look like now.

Hey, I’m a crafter, NOT a photographer! My photography skills suck! But at least you can kind of sort of figure out what I did and how I did it, so you’ll just have to deal with sub-standard photography! 🙂

Okay, so that one really sucks. I’ll add some nicer pictures with better lighting once it’s FULLY dry (in about a day or so), so check back on this post in a day or so and I’ll edit it to show the final product prettier!

A little better? I can’t leave it like that. I’ll leave it like this, but with a promise to update it soon!

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.

Song Pictures

28 Mar

NOTE: Please forgive me, as this is my first blog post here at Blogger, and I’m a little confused! So the formatting may be funky and it might be a little weird, but please bear with me as I’m learning this stuff! 🙂

I got inspired for this somewhere searching Pinterest and looking at … well, I don’t remember exactly what it was I was looking at. And I was listening to my Patriotic Playlist on Vevo and really missing my husband. Maybe it was the playlist. Anyways, that’s not really relevant…

So the idea was to put pictures of my husband with my favorite song lyrics.

That part was pretty easy, and I don’t have a tutorial of it because it was all computer generated.

First, I found the lyrics to a few songs I really liked. Then I opened up MS Word and built a 1 x 1 table and set the size of that table to 5 x 7, since that’s the size I wanted for my pictures. Next, I found a good background image that I liked that looked like parchment. (Then today I found out that my mother-in-law has a huge stack of parchment which would’ve been much easier, but I digress…) I put that picture in and placed it “behind text” just behind the table.

Then, I put the song lyrics in. I used Chopin Script and adjusted the size to make it fit the way I wanted it to.

Next, I added the pictures I wanted. Since they were mostly color shots, I had to play with the coloring & formatting a little bit. I used a rounded rectangle for the shape and then did “Soft Edges” in 5pt or 10pt (depending on what looked right). Then I went to “Recolor” and changed the color to Sepia, and then adjusted the brightness & contrast a little bit to give it a consistent look so that all the pictures looked to have similar lighting.

Finally, PRINT! (I just used regular computer paper.)

Then I used a rotary cutter, cutting mat, & ruler for most of the rest of this (because it’s what I had). I trimmed the printed pages to 5 x 7″. I found some old black construction paper in the kids’ art box (and used the last three sheets!) and trimmed that to 8 x 10″. Then I used a glue stick (also found in the kids’ art box; I used the last one so I had to re-stock them today!) to put the pages on and mat them. I used my clear acrylic ruler to place them evenly.

Here’s the result:

Now you may notice that those ARE in frames, and the frames don’t look half bad. At least, not in these pictures. Because up close, those frames are actually silver (not brass, like it looks like in the picture), and they really don’t work. But I needed the frames, because after I used the glue stick, the sheets were curling up on the sides, so I just stuck all three of the pictures into the same frame and used the frame to press the pictures flat overnight.
Then today I hit Dollar Tree (the “Everything’s $1.00″ store) and found some $1 8 x 10” frames. They were pretty ugly, but they’d do for what I had in mind.
Sorry I didn’t get a “before” picture on the frames; here’s the “after”:

Yep, that’s a can of Krylon spraypaint right there. I put a lawn & garden trash bag in my garage floor and spray-painted the frames. Then I let them dry, put my pages into my frames, and…

Voila!
Personally, I like the matte frames with that kind of light tan finish. I forgot what the color is called, but I love the way it goes with the pictures!

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