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Friday, June 13, 2014

I Survived My First Year as a School Mom

I’ve been walking a tight rope strung between two high rise buildings in the middle of New York city. Too much weight on one side and I could’ve slipped, free-falling 72 floors to my premature death. For the last 10 months, I tried meticulously to find balance in my first year as a mom of a school-aged child.

As I reflect on this first year, I’m relieved it’s over and scared out of my pants for what kindergarten will bring. Yes, she just completed PRE-kindergarten. Her curriculum was fast-paced, yet fair. Many outsiders believed the day was only filled with play; however, her teacher had a steady program that did involve play, but mirrored that of full-day kindergarten.

Kindergarten scares me because I haven’t found the right balance of finding the right way to parent a school-aged child. Last August when school began, I wasn't prepared for the journey on which it took me. My maturity grew in ways I didn’t know needed maturing. This year constantly challenged me to find a balance I wasn’t in tune with.

Several days before Spirit Week we were given a flyer announcing what outlandish costumes she had to wear each day. Up first, Monday = Pajama Day. You’d think that would've been the easy one for me, but remembering my own school days, I never wore pajamas on Pajama Day. Back when I was in school you almost had to show that you were too cool for Spirit Week and show your coolness (aka extreme insecurity) by not wearing pajamas. Yeah, that was me. Going against the system when I so desperately just wanted to wear pajamas.

Fast forward to Whitney’s very first Spirit Week ever. Monday Pajama Day. I decided not to put her in pajamas. My school insecurities surfaced in a suffocating cloud and I panicked and put her regular clothes. I didn’t want her to be the only one wearing pajamas. I didn’t want her to feel insecure or the odd-girl out for doing what the “system” asked her to do. Like the goody-toe-shoes who always does as she’s asked. I figured, when in doubt, go with plain ‘ol regular school clothes to “feel out” this Spirit Week thing.

I was wrong.

Everyone and their principal was wearing pajamas.

As we walked up to the school the feeling of Parent Fail washed over me. It’s the same feeling as shame. Whitney looked up at me with those beautiful blue worrisome eyes and said, “Mom, I’m suppose to be wearing pjs today! Why didn’t you put me in pjs?!!” She was reluctant to get lined up for class and I could tell that she was feeling like the odd-girl out – the very thing I didn’t want her to feel. All the other little kids were showing their dinosaur pajama bottoms and Disney Princess tops. It was like the Annual Pre-k Pajama Day Fashion Show and Whitney had no pjs to showoff. For a 5-year-old, that is the worst day of her life. So I went full throttle for the fun day, Crazy Hair Day. But, this day proved worse than Pajama Day and sent me spiraling back into Parent Fail.

For Crazy Hair Day, I went all out. I had been planning this masterpiece in my mind all week. I was going to style her hair like a Who from Whoville, and it was going to be best crazy hair that trumped all Crazy Hair Days. If Pajama Day was like a fashion show, I just knew that Crazy Hair Day was going to be the same.

I was wrong.

Everyone played crazy hair day totally chill like they didn’t want to do what the “system’ asked them to do.





When Whitney got to school, all the kids stared at her in… I don’t know… my hope was amazement, but I don’t think that’s what they were really thinking. When kids walk by with gapping jaws and eyes the size of walnuts, they’re probably not thinking, “Wow! That’s the BEST crazy hair that trumps all Crazy Hair Days!”

I left the school in tears. I began Spirit Week not doing enough, and I ended it doing too much. What’s more, I let my own suppressed school insecurities surface and dictate how I responded as an adult. I was heart broken and sitting in major Parent Fail muck.

As the school year continued, I found it challenging to stay in balance – never overstepping into I’m-the-crazy-mom-and-my-daughter-is-going-to-have-best-fill-in-the-blank mode - nor into I’m-super-lazy-and-don’t-feel-like-doing-anything-for-the-class mom.

In honesty, it's difficult making parenting decisions on my own as a married single parent. My husband was in field training exercises nearly half the school year, leaving me to have school-related dialog with myself. “Should we buy the yearbook?” “Well, she’s going to have class pictures taken soon, and that’s all we really want memories of, anyway, plus, she’s in pre-k. It’s not like she had multiple teachers or was in clubs or anything…” No, I did not buy the yearbook, but I did buy the class picture. A meticulous balance to preserving pre-k memories.

I learned a lot this year about myself, and yet, I wasn’t the one in school. I had to learn to let her go and be a kid. I had to learn to guide her own decision making while teaching her empathy. I learned that I need to go with the flow more often while staying on an organized schedule. Always in balance.

And so, even though I wobbled quite a bit on that tight rope, taking each step cautiously while desperately clinging to the long pole of stability, I made it to the other side. I survived my first year as a school mom. On to kindergarten we go.

Some first and last day pre-k memories...

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Last day of Pre_k 01
Last day of Pre_k 02
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Congratulations to Big E, the winner of the Lady Bird Press Father’s Day Coupon Book. Your coupon book will arrive in your email box by the end of today. Although I had only two entries, the winner was chosen by random.org:

True Random Number Generator: Result:1 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Friday, June 6, 2014

10 Dignified Father’s Day Gifts Under $10



Father’s Day is June 14th and if you’re like me, you’ve had the date penciled on your mental calendar only for May to flip to June and you’re suddenly left feeling panicked because you haven’t yet planned a gift for that special father in your life. Children’s artwork gifts can melt those burly, fatherly hearts. They are meaningful, inexpensive, and can be completed at the last minute. However, after years of construction paper ties and little hand prints painted to look like farm animals, the idea of kids crafts as gifts begins faring low on the uniqueness scale. If you’d like to stray from the traditional handmade presents of years’ past by giving that special man a gift that is elegant, useful, and that doesn’t break the bank, then check out this list of 10 dignified father’s day gifts that cost you under $10.

1.) Photo Cufflinks $8.00 (Originally $28) by Jerseymaids
Whether your guy wears French cuff dress shirts regularly or not, this gift is like your Mother’s Day pearl necklace. He may not wear them every day, but they’re special to own for that rare occasion when the crisp, white, French shirt comes off the hanger. This cufflink set comes with a polaroid heart image and can be customized with your own photo for a fee. For only $8, this price cannot be beat.
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2.) Personalized Loving Heart Pocket Token$7.95 (Oiginally $9.95) from Personalization Mall
I love this idea for our military fathers – especially those deployed or on TDY. He can carry this heartfelt message with him in his uniform pocket and be reminded of his loving family. This pocket token can be customized with any name followed by 3 lines and an ending message. Show that special father your love in a small yet meaningful way.
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3.) Handcrafted Walnut iPad Stand$10.80 (Originally $12.00) by btrWoodWorks
So... this may be $0.80 over, but I can’t resist adding this gift to the list. This hand-carved, finished walnut iPad stand is perfect for the chef or desk-working dad. Got a guy who watches a lot of movies or plays games on his iPad? This stand will definitely come in handy. Imagine your guy whipping out delicious meals from recipes on his iPad easily in the kitchen with an upright iPad – and for only $10.80! What’s more? It’s an inexpensive, dignified gift that is sure to get a lot of use.
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4.) Maple Business Card Holder $5.40 (Originally 6.00) by btrWoodWorks
This spalted maple business card holder, made by the same company, is yet another gift idea for the hard-working business man in your life. It is a simple way to beef up an otherwise boring office desk. It holds 15-20 cards and is rubbed with orange oil and beeswax.
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5.) 5x7 Photo Book – From $9.99 by Walgreens
Another wonderful idea for the deployed and TDY dads. This is such a meaningful, yet affordable gift that he will treasure. If your guy isn’t deployed, get creative by designing a recipe book instead. Or, perhaps, celebrate Grandpa this Father’s Day with a photo book of his grandchildren that is sure to bring out a smile.
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6.) Guitar Pick Keychain $8.00 by PickMyPick
This item made the list because of its endearing message displayed in a super cool way. For only $8 you can customize one side of the keychain for Dad to always carry a note from his children.
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7.) Father’s Day Coupon Book – Instant PDF Download ***$5.00 by LadybirdPress
With an instant download from Lady Bird Press, you can have this gift in a hurry. The download provides 12 pre-made coupons, book cover, and 1 sheet of blanks for you to create your own ideas. What a sweet way to show dad he is king for a day.

*** Lady Bird Press is giving away one FREE download of their Father's Day coupon book. Comment below telling me how your guy goes over and beyond as a dad. Giveaway ends Thursday, June 12th at 9pm MST. Winner will be announced here Friday, June 13th and on my Facebook page. Prize will be sent to your email address.
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8.)  State Map Wall Art – Instant PDF Download $2.50 (Originally $5.00) by RedJuanPrintables
For the man always on the move, this timeless state map wall art is sure to win hearts. What a wonderful way to honor his home state and his or his children’s birthplace. Each state comes in your choice of 3 different layouts and sizes ranging from 5x7 up to 20x30. The frame is sold separately.
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9.) Natural Shaving Soap For Men $7.00 by HomeBrewedSoaps
Our military dads need to keep a clean face. Why not make a splash with this all natural face soap made of lavish oakmoss, cedarwood, and beer? The beer is homemade and the product packaging is created out of recycled materials. This soap uniquely brings a manly aroma into the bathroom – in a good way.
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10.) Hawaiian Coffee Fire Starters$7.50 by doublebrush
For the gourmet cook and BBQing dad, these coffee-smelling fire starters are a conversation piece sure to heat things up. Chemical-free, they provide a healthier way to outdoor cooking. If your special dad isn’t into cooking or grilling, use them for a night of entertaining around a fireplaces or a relaxing around a fire pit.
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Military fathers are special because they’re not only a major source of support for our family, but for all the families around the world. Our guys have a love of country that often requires them to be away on holidays including Father’s Day. Although we may tell our special dads we love them often, Father’s Day is reserved not only for expressing love, but showing sincere gratitude for being a beaming light of heroic inspiration in the hearts of our children, and the hearts of children everywhere.

*** Lady Bird Press is giving away one FREE download of their Father's Day coupon book. Comment below telling me how your guy goes over and beyond as a dad. Giveaway ends Thursday, June 12th at 9pm MST. Winner will be announced here Friday, June 13th and on my Facebook page. Prize will be sent to your email address.







Tuesday, May 20, 2014

10 Quick Ideas for a Kickass Memorial Day BBQ

10 Quick Ideas for a Kickass Memorial Day BBQ
Memorial Day is a time of remembrance for those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in military service for the United States. Customarily, the weekend is considered the start of summer. Kids are finishing their school year, and adults want to spend the long weekend in the warm outdoors.

For many, once respect is paid in remembrance, backyard BBQs are their Memorial Day weekend staple. What better way to kick off summer than with hosting a kickass BBQ? BBQ parties don’t require much planning, but having a general outline before you begin purchasing your supplies makes you look organized and, well, pretty kickass. Here, I’ve gathered everything you need to pull off a quick and easy party with this list of 10 ideas to throw a memorable Memorial Day weekend BBQ.

1.) Theme
It’s easier to plan a party when you have a theme in mind before you begin buying your food and party supplies. With Memorial Day, patriotism is a common theme. You can find cheap patriotic party supplies, such as plates, cups, and napkins at your dollar or party store. In a hurry? Spend $0 on these patriotic party printables to really liven up your backyard gathering.


Home of the Free Printable

Love these printables? So do I. Here is a list of more printable party decorations:

2.) Meat
What do you BBQ? Meat of course! And food is probably the most important aspect of planning a BBQ. Therefore, take time to think about what meat you’re BBQing. Even if you’re hosting a potluck style affair, plan a good meat for the barbie. I love the idea for a burger or hotdog bar. If you choose to serve ribs, steak, chicken, or fish instead, you can still create a nice food arrangement using cheap reusable bowls and platters from your local dollar store.



3.) Fruit
Creative fruit displays are a sure-fire way to make your Memorial Day BBQ stand out.




4.) Side Dishes
If you like the idea of easy grab-and-go appetizers and sides, create single serve seven layer dip cups, or perhaps individual containers filled with carrot and celery sticks. Wanting more variety? Skewer some asparagus or bacon wrapped scallops to throw on the grill for a mouthwatering side dish.




5.) Drinks
Get creative with your drink recipe or display. Try serving this summery watermelon lemonade or blue long island ice tea. If you have a kiddie pool on hand, dump some soft drinks, waters, and beer in a ‘pool’ of ice, and you got your backyard BBQ drinks easily accessible in a fun and creative way.



6.) Utensils
Dress up your utensils for an ulta-special attention to detail. Try adding a fork to those easy grab-and-go sides I mention above. It adds a little flair to an otherwise boring cutlery display - and you can continue looking pretty awesome with your quick kickass BBQ.




7.) Music
Create the right mood with the right music. Many people have their own portable music player or sound system for use outdoors. Make sure you provide music that’s tailored to your audience to set the right party atmosphere. Need song ideas? Check out this list of Top 10 Country Songs for Saluting Our Troops on Memorial Day.




8.) Games
Providing activities is always a win when entertaining guests for a BBQ. It allows your friends to really enjoy themselves and the day. Some all-time favorite outdoor games include corn hole, horseshoes, beer pong, darts, and volleyball. For the calmer crowd, offer cards, shuffleboard, or golf toss.

If you don’t have any of those games lying around the house for your last minute party, you can either make your own or ask your guests to bring them from home. For example, shuffleboard boards can be made in the grass with spray paint or on concrete with duct tape. Plus, most people are excited to bring anything they can to help.




9.) Desserts
Give them an excuse to save room for dessert with this Berries on a Cloud recipe by Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. For the health conscience, try offering Healthy Light Berry Dessert Pizza by Undressed Skeleton.




10.) Kid Zone
Kids need a lot of stimulation and activities to keep a party going strong well into the evening. I love the idea of providing kid friendly outdoor games, a kid’s table full of activities, or a backyard movie under the stars to ensure that everyone has a good time.




If you’re planning a last minute Memorial Day BBQ and need a short list of ideas for throwing a party that looks like it took weeks to plan, look no further than this list of 10 Quick Ideas for a Kickass Memorial Day BBQ.

Need an extra dose of quick inspiration? Check out my Pinterest Page that includes more party foods, games, music ideas, and printables.



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* Image source: Cover image: Stock, Image 1: A Little Crafting, Images 2-10: Dollar Photo Club

Friday, February 14, 2014

Confession: I still don’t know much about the army.


Brandon and I at Seven Falls. This was a couple months after we first moved to Colorado Springs.

I remember my very first unofficial social as a military spouse. It was January, and Brandon and I were just married the month before. We PCSed (permanent change of duty station) to Fort Carson, CO the prior November, and were new to the unit. One of the soldiers hosted a house party, and we were invited. Brandon and I spent our entire 14-month-long engagement on opposite sides of the country; he was in Georgia while I was in Arizona. So, I wasn’t around for any balls, dining outs or other socials until that point. It wasn’t until after we were married when I got my first, real taste of military life even though he had already been in service for 1.5 years.

At the house party, I remember the guys hung outside like it was 80 degrees. I desperately wanted to be out of the frigid Colorado air, but I stayed with the guys and clung to Brandon’s side like my life depended on it. I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to the wives who were inside huddled warmly around the dining room table. What would I say to them? Back then, I didn’t know the first thing about the army. Those women had much more experience than I. I was this newbie. What if they asked me a question about Brandon’s job? I definitely didn’t know how to answer. How was I to act? I hadn’t thought about any of this before heading out earlier that evening, but it suddenly hit me once I arrived. I was in a whole new realm of life that made me feel very fish out of water.

Over the years, the military spouse title fit like a hat too big and clunky for my head; always off-center no matter how much I fiddled and straightened. I’ve tried learning the most common army acronyms. I’ve tried remembering insignias and names. I’ve read military spouse books and articles. While I’ve picked up stuff along the way, I still don’t have all the answers. After 8 years, I still get intimated when talking to other military wives about military life because they always seem to have their answers carefully banked liked a meticulous filing cabinet.

Sometimes when I’m talking to another spouse, the conversation flows great about our kids and families. We get going good and it feels nice to finally talk to another adult. But then she always turns to me wide-eyed and interested, and asks, “So what’s your husband’s MOS?” Perspiration usually builds as I stare back blankly. I still panic when I’m asked this very common question. I simply don’t want to talk about my husband’s job and it makes me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because I fear saying the wrong thing and being judged. I never ask another spouse what her husband does. If the other spouse talks about her husband, she usually divulges enough details which leads me to conclusions. I don’t want to appear rude or uninterested, but I guess I don’t know enough military jargon to ask her the right questions. I still don’t know much about the army.

So I don’t have all the answers. I’m just an imperfect human like everybody else. But I’m learning. Every day I’m learning. I take on numerous volunteer opportunities mostly to give back to the military community, but also to challenge myself, my knowledge, and what I’m capable of. In the words of Robert Tew, Challenge yourself every day to do better and be better… Growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances. So I’m moving forward. Because as a military spouse I have immense pride for my husband and in our armed forces, and I’m going to do what I can to expand my knowledge. I’m showing up to life.

And for inquiring minds like myself, MOS stands for Military Occupational Specialty. It's basically, your service member's specialty branch within his/her branch of service. For example, my husband is an infantryman within the Army. So if a spouse asked me, "What is your husband's MOS?" I would say, "Infantry."

I believe that we are all learning as we go. And with the military constantly changing the names of things, it's easy for all of us to get confused and feel ignorant. We're all in the same boat. I'm learning that even the most seasoned spouses are constantly having to look up information because they don't have all the answers, either.


As a military spouse, have you been in a military situation in which you felt like the most ignorant person in the room? What materials have helped you learn military jargon?





Friday, February 7, 2014

To The Nay-Sayers Of 2013, This One Is For You

I’ve been away for a while and I’ve really missed writing. I actually had a stock-pile of ideas, topics flowing through my brain nagging me to get onto paper. But I was busy enjoying this little life in El Paso that I never got around to getting my ideas out. I was busy enjoying having my husband home on block leave over Christmas, knowing good-and-well not to take it for granted because we’ve had our share of separation at Christmastime. I was busy watching my oldest daughter turn five and watching both my girls play in the snow after New Year’s. Many times over the last month I felt the sudden burst of inspiration, but I simply didn’t get around to planning out a post.

A few weeks ago, at the most perfect time, I was reminded that once in a while life gets going so good that sometimes it keeps your ideas from materializing. The book you just bought doesn’t get read because you have Girl Scout cookies to help sell. The DIY reupholstered chair project you have planned gets back-burnered because you decided to volunteer for a military function that ends up soaking up all your free time. I got caught up and that’s ok. I am reminded that there will be a time and place when I will write again, and when it happens, it will be beautiful.

So I took a bit of a sabbatical. I am refocused with so much more to say than I have had in a long time -- things about military life and motherhood. Things about marriage and womanhood. I’m back to writing about life in the military, and I know that 2014 is going to take this little space of mine to new heights.

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I’d like to start the year by addressing a couple comments I received before this self-proclaimed sabbatical. The comments went something like, “Well, I wish she was as calm as she appears on her blog,” and, “Wow, that person on the blog seems to have her life pretty figured out.” And, “She has the perfect life.”

Yeah. This happened. I guess I should be flattered that I’m getting some nasty-grams, but I’m mostly just annoyed because these comments really miss the point of this blog. And this is why I’m choosing to address them. I need to set the record straight for some folks in order to move forward in 2014. I need to be honest in order to remain honest. To the nay-sayers of 2013, pull up a chair. This one is for you.

I don’t have my shit together. I don’t have the best life. And I don’t have my life pretty figured out.

In this space called a blog, I show you what I want to show you. In this space I choose to remain positive and to hunt down the happiness. For those who have been devoted readers since 2012, you may remember my desperate plea to hunt down the happiness in my every day military life. Post after post I took a very challenging situation and looked for the good. Because that is all I could do. It was either look for the good in those situations or drown my stress with a bottle of Moscato.

The military lifestyle is not easy. I never claimed it was and I will never claim it will be. If you haven’t been reading since 2012, type in suck fest into the search box. It’s there. Search it. You’ll find a bunch of stuff pop up for ‘yer readin.’ Oh, and don’t forget to read the one titled, Whitney Told Me She Hated Me. Yeah, that happened on Valentine’s Day (the day of love!) last year. Major suck fest.

Listen, I have learned a very important lesson over the last couple of years; Everyone is fighting a battle. I fight a battle every single day while getting my girls to brush their hair before leaving the house.

In all seriousness though, everyone has something in her life that causes her stress, discomfort, or turmoil.

Everyone.

I have yet to meet someone with the “perfect life.” I haven’t met a celebrity, but I’m sure even they have some nasty baggage they’re dealing with on the other side of the curtain of fame and fortune.

And to say that a military spouse has “the perfect life” just hurts my heart. I have had to say more goodbyes than I care to think about. I have had to watch a spouse cry a blood curdling cry because her husband was killed in combat. I had to send my husband to the Deadliest Place On Earth for a year, and I had to watch him come home to our 1 1/2 year-old daughter who didn’t know who he was. Major suck fest.

So, I appear super pulled together and pretty figured out

In the spirit of Brandon, I’ll throw down an analogy (that man sure loves his analogies.) Your boss at work is dedicated, poised, and funny. She gets along with everyone and motivates you and supports your career development. She is a kind person and a hard worker.

At home, she’s a hoarder.

Her house is filled with nick-knacks and junk. She has no place to sleep because it’s littered with her obsession to collect furbabies. She has no place to cook a decent meal because of the mounds of trash and other odds and ends on her stovetop. But you never see that part of her life because she doesn’t show it to you. It’s really none of your business if she’s a hoarder. Being a hoarder doesn’t change the fact that she’s a great boss that has supported every step of your development. She’s still kind and funny and gets along with everyone. In short – people have a private side to life, and not everything about a person needs to be aired out to the public.

So, I appear super pulled together and pretty figured out

What you don’t see is the mass chaos that happens in my house at 5-o-clock every single day because everyone is hungry and tired. What you don’t see is me breaking down in sobs because I don’t know how else to discipline my tiny toddler. What you don’t see is the loneliness I feel because we move every 2-3 years and once I make a friend, I move away from a friend. Sometimes I do talk about that stuff. In fact, type meaningful relationships into the search box and I bet you’ll get some stuff on loneliness.

The point? It’s offensive to assume that I need to over-share to be a real person sharing very personal stories. And I am a real person who shares very personal stories. Not all of them. And I don't need to. I have my ups and downs, my good days and bad, just like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, I share some of those good days and bad days in a very public place. And because this is a very public place, I choose to show you what I want to show you in order to protect some privacy for myself and my family.

If you still believe I appear pretty figured out and you wish I appeared as calm as I am on my blog, then may I suggest you spend a bit more time getting to know me through past posts before you pass judgement. I have several examples of being stressed out and not having everything figured out.

(For the record, I am not a hoarder. I’m kind of a neat-freak. No offense to the hoarders out there. You go do your thang…)

Dear sister-friend, I am just like you in one way or another. My life is both messy and beautiful. I’m a mother who makes mistakes and who has really awesome super-hero moments. I write this blog for all women. Mothers, civilian wives, military spouses, and singletons. I use myself as an example for what I did wrong or perhaps what I’m doing right. I make mistakes and use them as a way to find the good or to tell a story about the lesson I learned. If you walk away feeling at peace or lifted up in some way, then you have given me one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for. I really enjoy helping people. For now, it is through my writing that I am able to do this. I continue to give life examples with some tips along the way.

(And if you want a story about a major mistake I keep making… stay tuned. I definitely do not have the army wife thing down… More suck fest to come.)

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We had a nice long weekend over Martin Luther King Jr. Day. One of the plus-sides to military life is the 4-day weekends they often get if training allows. We drove north to Sunspot, NM for some snow tubing fun. The photos look very green, but there was snow – I swear…

Sunspot New Mexico by Erin Bettis-4
Sunspot New Mexico by Erin Bettis-1
Sunspot New Mexico by Erin Bettis-2
Sunspot New Mexico by Erin Bettis-3
Sunspot New Mexico by Erin Bettis-6
Sunspot New Mexico by Erin Bettis-5


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops

6 Healthy Care Packages Essentials_for_Deployed Troops
I remember the very first care package I mailed to my deployed husband. I was completely clueless about what to send, not having sent a care package to anyone before let alone one oversees. I remember strolling the candy isle contemplating between green sour chews and chocolate covered pretzels. I got so overwhelmed with the decision that I just started snagging sweets off the shelves as if I were on the game show Super Market Sweep. I figured he would be missing familiar “foods” from home, and he could always share the treats with the other guys. I didn’t include a card or pictures of our 6-month-old daughter. No. It had junk food. And I felt like I nailed it because I included “foods” from home.

My bubble burst when I got a brief email from him a couple months later about that care package saying something to the extent of, Babe, I got your package in the mail yesterday. I was really hoping for pictures and some good snacks. I put the candy in the DFAC for the guys.

Of course he was desperately hoping for photos and other family reminders (where was my head?!), but to my surprise he absolutely did not want sweets. Cookies from time to time was ok, but he really craved a variety of foods. After some clarification, all he wanted was what we typically ate at home – fruit, veggies, meats, grains and healthy snacks.

I suppose I skipped the day they talked about care package essentials in our pre-deployment family seminars and that’s why my head was not in healthy care package mode. The truth is, if you’re enduring your first deployment as a spouse, girlfriend or other family member, no one talks about what filling foods to send your service member that isn’t cookies, rice crispy treats, or caffeinated gum. Therefore, I compiled a list of 6 healthy care package essentials for your service member’s deployment that is sure to lift his or her spirits without expanding the waistline.


1.) Fruit

6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops 02
Dried fruit offers an excellent alternative to fresh fruits. They help sustain energy while feeling like a sweet treat.


2.) Veggies
6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops 03
Sun dried and canned veggies also offer many nutrients that fresh veggies do. This is a healthy option if he needs a little more variety in his diet.


3.) Dairy
6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops 04.B
You can mail liquids as long as they’re properly wrapped and have a non-refrigerated shelf life. There are many brands of dairy products that travel easily such as Horizon’s organic 1% milk. I suggest wrapping each bottled liquid in bubble wrap and then placing it in a plastic bag. That way the leak is contained if the container is damaged.


4.) Nuts/Seeds

6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops 05
Flaxseed, peanuts, and walnuts are excellent healthy snacks to send. Peanut butter is often requested from deployed service members. Try sending all natural peanut butter void of partially hydrogenated oils and other preservatives that doesn’t require refrigeration after opening.


5.) Grains

6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops 06
Oats and whole wheat are healthy grains. Try finding items your service might enjoy such as whole wheat cereal or instant oatmeal with dried fruit.


6.) Meat/Seafood

6 Healthy Care Package Essentials for Deployed Troops
You can safely mail healthy meats such as turkey, grilled tilapia, and chicken breast overseas as long as they’re caned or vacuumed sealed. However, the United States Postal Service prohibits mailing pork or pork products.

Protein powder is one of the most requested items from deployed service members. Two scoops of certain protein powder brands can contain as much protein as a single serving of fillet minion. Although real food is ideal for proper nutrition, I give mention to it because it can supplement the daily protein intake since certain meats aren’t always available in some deployable locations. It helps build muscle while sustaining energy. It can be found at any local vitamin and supplement store.

If you’re wanting to be a bit more realistic in your care package goodies, try sending a variety of foods that aren’t processed or refined, have only 4-6 ingredients, and try to avoid foods with saturated or trans fats. After all, if you’re going to spend the time and money it takes to put together a care package, devote the box to items that are both filling and practical. The 6 healthy care package essentials offers natural, organic or non-perishable foods that fall into the basic food groups. Unless you’re stuffing your care package with junk food like I did with my first box, you can’t go wrong with this list.

If you’re unsure about what is acceptable to send overseas, visit the APO/FPO/DPO Guidelines and Restrictions page at USPS.com. Also, the food in the images above can be purchased and shipped directly to your service member via MilitaryFoodEx.com. Restrictions apply depending on the country to which groceries are being mailed. Food items are available for purchase based on the supply they have on hand. See MilitaryFoodEx.com for more information.




This article was originally written for publication on Military One Click.

* Image source: Cover: iStockphoto.com 1.) Mariani.com 2.) Amazon.com 3.) PriceMachine.com 4.) Walmart.com 5.) RealSimple.com 6.) Amazon.com
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