The Beauty of Routine

Oh How I love Fall! There is a chill in the air, the leaves are starting to change and school is back in session! I dropped my 4-year old off at preschool for his first day last week. Oh how we were both so excited. Not because I was glad to say good-bye but because I was, and remain, ready for some routine! The boys know what is expected of their day and its no longer my time-line that tells them what needs to happen next. The lazy-days of summer sure are nice but by this time of year we are ready to move and groove.

With autumn comes soccer games, MOPS meetings (Mothers of Preschoolers), school days, and no longer am I my children's complete social-planner. There is even enough of a chill in the air to get to put away my shorts. (We can do that in Ohio ... Florida and Iceland were different stories completely.)

With autumn comes set bed-times (ok, so we were a little lax in the summer), homework time for our 8th grader, practice schedules from the coaches, and playgroups every week. I can throw open our windows and not worry about being too hot. I can snuggle under blankets at night and thank God my husband is right beside me (for now, sigh).

Its hard to say good-bye to vacations and sleeping in. (Although it is easy to say good-bye to mowing the lawn!) It is hard to look forward to being snowed in the house in the months to come & all the bundling it takes to go out. But for right now I am living for this next month!

Getting Involved

I will never forget sitting in my bedroom, lights out, my face pressed up against the glass with my mom right beside me. It was Youth Group night at the house across the street from us. We had been at Keflavik NAS, Iceland for maybe one month and I was struggling to find new friends, no easy task for an introverted tenth grader. My mom had told me I needed to find an activity to get involved in so we watched together to see if I knew a face, a name of someone going into the chaplain's house that night. Sure enough I knew a couple of faces and a name or two. So she pushed me out the door after there were a few people at the Chaplain's house.

What a life's lesson that was! Today I know that I need to get out and meet the community in order to thrive. My main involvement this year is MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) were I am part of the steering committee. So every other week I get out and meet with other ladies. I laugh; I relax; I enjoy the company of other women.

I would encourage you, if you are struggling to get to know your new community, to find one thing to become involved in. You might have to push yourself out the door to do it (we don't all have a Mom to stand beside us all the time) but it will make you feel so much better in the long run!

Have a suggestion for a fellow military family? Let us know!

How do you keep in touch?

I’m a huge fan of flickr.com. With two young sons and a teenager in our house life is constantly on the move. Their doting grandparents are hundreds of miles away. Their fun-loving aunts and uncles are no where close to us. Then there are my friends spread out all over the world from my military-brat days who love to keep in touch.

So I take pictures as often as I can think of it; upload them on flickr & others can view my family's candid photo shoots at their leisure. My mom feels like she was here as she browses through pictures of her grandchildren. Friends feel like they know my children, whom they have never met. And I feel that I have entwined our lives with those I love so many miles apart.

There are a lot of challenges being in the military and one of the big ones is being away from family & childhood friends. What have you found to be the best way to stay in touch?

What did we do before the slow-cooker?

This afternoon while I put together lunch for my toddler & preschooler I started “cooking” dinner, meaning throwing together food in the slow cooker. Tonight it is lasagna. So now I can go through the rest of my afternoon not having to give dinner a second thought. You have no idea what peace of mind that brings me! In fact, I can’t imagine that I will have a bad afternoon having that off of my chest.

The hardest hour in this house is from about 3:30pm to 5:00pm. (Sadly it’s more then an hour.) I don’t know why but if there is going to be a breakdown (by myself or my boys) that is when it will happen. What tends to escalate that breakdown is deciding what to eat and then getting it done. After all it is very hard to hold a crying toddler, put the preschooler in time out, and not burn the casserole all at the same time. My husband works pretty late, usually pulling in right as we sit down to eat so I can’t even say ‘Go find your father’ while I cook.

But tonight dinner will be ready. And if the boys get hungry before Dad gets home … they can eat without waiting. Then I can actually have a dinner for two while the boys entertain themselves. (Why is it that they can entertain themselves after dinner and not before?)

What have you found to be a lifesaver around dinner time? (I simply can’t rely on the slow-cook every night.) Is it what you decide to eat? (After all cereal for dinner once in awhile isn't bad, right?) The music you put on? Or sending the kids outside for some peace and quiet?

Kudos

Have you visited a business lately that just made you feel good?

One of the hardest parts about PCSing is getting acquainted with the new area and everything that it has to offer. That is something that MilitaryAvenue.com aims to help with. If you get to know your community you will feel settled before orders come again. Here is a great opportunity to give a ‘shout out’ for a local-business that gives exemplary service. What did they do that made them stand-out? What installation are they near?

Think of it as a recommendation to a friend. Someone might be moving into your area looking for a ______ (you can fill in the blank) and you can give them a recommendation.

Take a look; is your favorite local-shop on MilitaryAvenue.com? Let them know they can advertise on the site for free if they give a military discount. Spread the word! We are here to make settling in easier.

Here is my nomination:
Near the Cleveland Coast Guard Unit is a store “Super Suppers” (http://www.supersuppersavonoh.com/). My husband and I had a ‘date night’ there a bit ago. We went in made enough meals for a few weeks that we could then pack in our freezer. You can get the gist of their service on their site. On our date-night the owner was there helping out all the couples get their meals prepared. He was so hospitable. Even after we were done and our meals were all packed up and ready to bring home he talked with us for over half-an-hour. It was just a wonderful evening with my husband, and the owner, Jim, made the night. He set the mood, played the music and just made for a great time away for my husband and me to be a couple. That store comes up again and again amongst different ladies groups and I always have good words to tell them!

Making Something Old New Again...

Today I inherited my in-law’s living room furniture, specifically a sofa and love seat. I was very excited at the possibilities that lie ahead of me. First thing I did was trek off to Target to purchase some slip-covers. I was going to have brand spanking new furniture this way! Why would I invest in brand new furniture when I can put slip-covers on them for pennies on the dollar? I found the color and style I wanted and brought them home. Little did I know I was going to making this same trip a couple times today.

You know I put the covers on – and it looked like I had thrown a sack over the couch. I tucked, I tightened, I fluffed, I stuck extra pillows under the cover, I tried everything to make it work. I headed back to the store and bought another style. I spent my Saturday on this project and when all was said and done I didn’t know what was worse, the original worn-blue plaid couch or the unkempt and disheveled look of a slip cover. (Then I couldn’t imagine what the slip covers would look like after my two youngest sat on those couches!)

So the slip-covers are all going back to the store tomorrow (after I figure out how to get them back into the packaging! That in itself is going to take some creativity.) My parents didn’t buy nice furniture till he retired from the Air Force. I guess that was pretty smart – but I don’t want to wait till I’m 50. (I tend to be rather impatient.) If you have any good tips on sprucing up faded, worn or nicked furniture – albeit couches, tables, chairs, dressers, you name it – I’d love to hear it! We all know that furniture takes quite a beating in a PCS so I’m sure somebody out there has found some pretty good tricks to quick repairs and patches.

There is something fun about making a house a home & I haven’t given up on these couches yet!

Got Junk?

Recently my mother-in-law brought over a box of things from my husband's closet; his child-hood closet; the closet in the bedroom that he lived in for 20+ years; the bedroom that still has posters up in it from his late teens. Apparently, she's trying to clean it out a little and thought we would like items that he hasn't used in about 10 years (and quite frankly didn't even remember he had).

I go to my parents' house and there are 2 guest-bedrooms, in a house I have never lived in. In fact, their last four or five houses I have never lived in. There is hardly a ‘closet full of my junk’, much less my own bedroom. Yet, it is still home. It's the same furniture - well at least the furniture that the movers haven't crushed beyond recognition - the same pictures - the same smell – but no, well at least not much, ‘junk’. My mom still finds things once in awhile to send home with me but it is nothing compared to what has now collected at my house of my husband's.

I have been in our house for five years and somehow my basement is starting to accumulate enough junk that we can officially wade through it. I think it's time to move! Then of course I would have to weed through everything, throw away things I know I will never use. What would I keep? What would I throw away? Do I really still need my "baby's" high chair? What in the world am I going to do with the box of scrap material from a quilt I started over ten years ago? I am glad I don't have to make those decisions right now... but I tell you it would be much easier for me, a brat, than it would be my husband!

What do you keep moving from place to place pointlessly unable to part with? What is the best way, the best place to part with 'extra baggage'? Do you find yourself in conflict with your spouse over what is a treasure versus junk?

It's Snowing... Again...

I LOVE the snow any time between November and January. My boys and I can be out there for hours sledding, making snow-angels and -men, and just having a great time. But come February it starts to get really old. Well, it's March 7 and we got 2 inches of snow this morning on top of what we got yesterday. My husband came home after a long day at work and the first words out of my mouth were: "Take them before I eat them." (The old adage about spiders eating their young kept rattling around in my mind.) The kids are starting to get cabin fever and I'm starting to pull my hair out.

It is days like today that I appreciate our local park system. Right now the indoor Nature Center has an exhibit with plants and animals that live in the Smokey Mountain National Park. It is $1 to get in which certainly doesn’t break the bank and the kids just love it. We try to find something like this to go to once a week. Sometimes it's as simple as lunch at Burger King and then an hour in the play area. My 4 year-old always makes at least 3 new friends this way.

The other place we really enjoy going to on cold, house-bound days is our library. There is a children's play area with all sorts of developmental toys. My boys could spend hours there. First thing we do is I find a book of my own so that I can sit and read while they play. They make all sorts of new friends while buildling with blocks. Occasionally, I even chat with another mom or dad.

Getting out and finding new things to do is a great way to get to know an area! It can help you and your children make new friends and feel more comfortable in new surroundings. What do you do to combat 'cabin fever' or get over the 'just-moved-in jitters'? How do you find out about what is going on in your community?

Sending out a lifeline

“Help!” Those can be hard words to say, but we all need it at one time or another. I was at a recent MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) meeting and a panel of seasoned-mothers answered our questions and gave us tips in handling day-to-day challenges, some were simple: “How do you help your four year old learn to blow his nose?” and some much more challenging, “How do you handle your emotions, sad or angry, in front of your kids?”

We want to be your “panel”. What kind of military-family tips and help are you looking for? What would like to see addressed in a future letter? Not only will we address your issues ourselves but seek out others’ advice too. That is what this is about. Community.

A quick 6 hour drive

I had the pleasure of visiting my parents this weekend with my three sons. It was a ‘quick six hour drive’ but well worth the time to spend with my family. My brothers, their wives and my nephew all drove in and we had a wonderful weekend. They all live in the same area – within 45 minutes of each other and when I come out they always make a special point to visit. How blessed I am.

I remember it being the same way when I was a child. We would go up to see my grandparents in Indiana, coming as far away as Florida or Nevada or as close as ‘a quick 6 hour drive’ from Scott AFB in southern Illinois. Then the aunts, uncles and cousins, most living in the general vicinity, would all quickly descend on my grandparent’s house. The house was suddenly filled with laughter and kids and running and sitting and chatting and just catching up. Was all this ‘fuss’ just because ‘The Dale Kissinger clan’ was in town? I don’t think that is the case but it sure was a great excuse to bring everyone together.

These are the kind of ‘family reunions’ I love. Relaxed and surrounded by those you really care for and love. What are some of your favorite memories of family reunions?
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