A Minute out of the Norm: Take A Hike

This past Sunday I could feel the monotony of our weekend settling in. Soccer was Saturday; Church on Sunday; No school, no major running around to be done. I was quite content to sit in the family room and read. My boys though were at each other like cats and dogs. It was getting cool out so it was not quite as comfortable to sit outside and play. We had... aghast... a possible case of the Autumn Doldrums.

Leadership--One Aspect that Helps Everyone

I have heard the best speakers on military leadership; read mandatory books and articles and attended schools just to learn how to be a good leader. I would like to provide a view of one aspect of leadership that occasionally needs emphasis! Mentorship is a critical part of leadership and insures our follow on leaders receive the information, job skills, hard knock lessons and knowledge they need to meet the needs of their future units, country and even their families.

Veterans' Day Teacher Resource Guide

I have been an advocate. In my case I recently read about the Department of Veteran Affair's "Veterans' Day Teacher Resource Guide" and passed it onto my son's principal.

I don't live in a military-city. Our nearest military installation is 30 minutes away and it is not a big one (it doesn't even have a commissary - aghast!) But I feel strongly that the children of this town understand what a Veteran is and the sacrifices he or she has made. I want them to know what November 11th, 'Veteran's Day' is all about.

A Fall Season Leisure Activity for a Military Family


As we get started back into a fall routine with school and jobs we sometimes look for things to do in the nice fall weather. Finding leisure time activities for the family on the weekend can be quite the adventure for a military family in a new area! It may be a bit cooler and the beach or pool are not as inviting unless you are living in a very southern climate. As a military family it was always interesting to invade a new area and see what surprises they had for us.

A great time for us in our newest location is apple picking! We have several orchards nearby that allow you to bring a bag and pick your own! Last weekend I took some of our grandkids (with their parents as tag a longs) and we had a great time. They enjoyed the apples right from the trees and putting them into Grandpa's, Dad's and Mom's bags happened occasionally as well! Also, the apples on the ground got kicked and thrown around a bit and laughs were loud and boisterous. We had fun sampling varieties and choosing the one we wanted. We loved the Honey Crisp apples and so we filled several bags and then took them to the orchard market to be weighed (by the way the cost was less than 1/4 of what local stores were charging for the same apples).

After gorging ourselves on the wonderful apples we headed home and saved some for another day! Two days later Jessica brought down a delicious apple crisp she made from a family recipe! Yummmmm!

One of the fun parts of this particular orchard is talking to the elderly couple (he is a WW2 vet) that started the orchard many years ago but try to stay involved even though they have handed off day to day activities to someone else. They have a golf cart and showed us where to pick and had smiles for all despite illness and infirmities that made it hard to walk and harvest their crop. They enjoyed questions about the apples and themselves and they loved to see the young kids playing and picking. Sometimes its just good to talk to someone--I know they enjoyed it!

So if you are ever near Hastings, Michigan stop in at Cotant's Farm Market and pick a few apples of your own or find an orchard near you that allows guests!

Happy Birthday, *E*

Sunday was my son's 6th birthday. Wow, six years old! We had a wonderful day of celebrating but it has taken me TWO days to recuperate (hence, this "belated birthday").

I see so much of *E* in me. We are both quiet amongst new people but get us with friends and we'll talk your ear off. We both crave friendship. We both like to know 'the plan'. The unexpected can throw our whole day off. Surprises? Hate them! We savor knowing what is "in the works".

But he is not me. He is a rough and tumble boy. He can make a gun out of his finger, or legos or any other object despite my disdain for guns. He loves to yell "BOO" when someone walks in the door. He loves to paint and color and cut and glue. He loves to tell jokes, as nonsensical as they can be... "Why did the car cross the road? To get to the other chicken" (?!) He smiles when I hold his hand or give him a kiss good-bye as he gets on the big kindergarten bus. He gets tears in his eye as he whispers, "I miss Dad". He still sleeps with his favorite blanket his Grandma made for him before he was born and can't close his eyes without his toy-puppy "Josh". *E* is LIFE wrapped up in a dirty kneed, wonderfully made, precious little boy.

Happy Birthday, *E*. I hope this next year brings us as much and so much more adventure & fun as the previous.

- Mom (aka Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com)

What Fun!

As a military family we found ourselves in many different parts of the world! Adapting to the environment we were in was always a challenge we took on with an almost eager glee! What can we do here that we couldn't in the last place?

We went "spranging" in Iceland, rode the transcontinental railroad in Panama and went to a secluded beach after a walk through the jungle, snow skied in New Mexico, hiked Mt Rainier in Washington, rode the surf in Florida, built an igloo in Illinois during a major blizzard and a host of other family events that were just fun and helped us enjoy the transitions in each new and different place.

After retirement we found a place with some land to continue our "playing" and two nights ago our youngest and his family dropped in with a surprise for all! James had found a deal on a four wheel ATV and brought it down to be shared by all on the land! What fun! We will pull tubers in the winter on it and ride it in the mud in the spring! What a new way to find relaxation and fun together!

I think military families are very innovative and have a glue that many others do not have. We have overcome the rigors of multiple relocations, new schools, new friends, new neighborhoods and still stick together.

On occassion I do need a reminder that Deb and I are qualified for a senior citizen coffee at Macs but that doesn't seem to slow us down too much! A word of caution, this machine is a bit tail heavy (I can't stay away from that aviation language) and does tend to stand up with the front tires in the air when the two seniors took it for our first ride. No serious injuries but what the heck our grandkids will have a great story some day! Yeah, I can hear it now, do you remember when Grandpa dumped Grandma and himself off the 4 wheel going up a hill!

Yep, a lot of memories!

MilitaryAvenue's September Newsletter

We will be publishing our September Newsletter this Sunday, September 21st. The theme this month is "Deployments." I have enjoyed compiling our resources on MilitaryAvenue.com as well as here from "Our Letters to You". If your family is also in the midst of a military-deployment I would encourage you to sign-up for our Military Family Newsletter.

Dad's deployed...Dad's still flying

We stood at the edge of the runway and saw the huge plane lumber down the tarmac and somehow boost itself up into the air. Families stood shoulder to shoulder, flags waving, children clinging to Moms, some Dads, some caregivers. Tiny fingers wrapped around their shoulders, as all necks craned to see the aircraft circle overhead, and then change from a huge behemoth to a pinpoint in the sky... and then gone.

An empty pit formed in all of us. There they go... followed by the need to get going and get on with life, as it came at us fast.

I remember a Monday morning three months deep into a deployment. Base yard inspection was on Tuesday... needed to mow the lawn. However, I was the class Mom and had to have decorations and bake cupcakes for a school party. Had to get the car headlight fixed, groceries in the house had diminished to slim pickings, and the school called...my youngest chipped a tooth and needed to get to the dentist. Dale: where are you?

As I foolishly verbalized that question, James went to the window and saw a plane overhead. "There he is Mom, Dad's still flying!" Simple wisdom. They saw Dad go up... so there he was, doing what he loved to do... doing what our children held with such pride: still flying.

Ah the simple wisdom of a child. Such understanding uplifts. That insight into delight and understanding can make your heart smile. I hope you find some of that today! Bless you, all of the families of deployed personnel. I pray you are able to stand shoulder to shoulder with a support group. Sometimes that support is found right in your own home, a work environment and/or other times in the comfort of friends. Keep in touch!

Green Care for Troops & The Brickman Group

Dear Brickman Group,

I can once again feel pride in the gardens & landscaping around my home. I was thrilled when "Green Care for Troops" called me a month ago to say that the manager of our local Brickman Group had been in contact with them. He wanted to help a family in the area who had a deployed-family member. We were chosen.

I wouldn't say my husband, currently deployed with the Army, is the primary green-thumb in our family. I even do most of the mowing when he IS home. There are other things though that he is in charge of to keep this family of five running smoothly. Those things (both major and small) have all fallen onto my plate since he has been gone. The gardens and trees around my home had all sadly-fallen to the way-side this spring and summer.

Memories of 9/11/2001

Today is the 7th anniversary of the extremist attacks on the Pentagon, the WTC and of course the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania! How do we honor those who died that day and later died in combat while going after the attackers' organizations?

We must again place ourselves on that day and painfully remember the details and see the towers come down; watch the Pentagon burning and remember the stories of men and women in Pennsylvania who fought back so heroically! Then we must tell our children and grandchildren of the events and help them understand what happened. Why we responded and why we are still at war. Then we need to insure the history books write the story as it happened versus the spin of someone wanting to rewrite history to their world view! Honor the victim's memories with no hatred but forgiveness! A key to forgivenss is the honest recording of the events. No need to self blame for an attack on the US! No need to rationalize their reasons to attack. It happened and we move on but remember...

I was at McChord AFB at the time and remember being awakened by a call (it was still pretty early out there and I had returned from a long overseas mission in the early hours of the morning). The caller said, do you have your tv on? A bit grumpily I said no but quickly awakened when he told me what he was watching! As we headed to the command post for an update the base was starting to lock down! It was a first for many of us as we quickly raised the Threatcon levels and responded to the military leaders in DC. The images were horrible and carried the impact of the attacks to almost every citizen.

As the weeks dragged into years and many deployments later we are still searching and seeking justice for some of the leadership involved in the attacks while protecting our citizens from similar attacks. We have been successful in the latter while still seeking resolution of the first!

Our military personnel responded admirably and no attacks have occurred in the US since due to the efforts of many loyal and patriotic citizens! At the top of the list is our military personnel and their families. You continue to carry the burden of defending this great country along with local, state and federal law enforcement and safey personnel such as firemen. You have carried the burden of conflict, loneliness, fear for loved ones, work days most would not comprehend and yet you continue! Thank you!

Take the time to remember!



Care Packages & the USO

My deployed-Hubby is quite frequently asked by family & friends for things he might want sent to him in care-packages. He has told me on several occasions that they just don't have a lot of room out there. His 'choo' (aka room) doesn't have a lot of room & the Army does take pretty good care of their food-needs. I frequently ask what was for dinner and it sounds like the Army has come A LONG WAY from the days of *MASH* and their chow-hall.

Apparently they have quite a few 'critters' over there. This was news to me. I think of the desert and I think of cactus, lizards & camels. But yes, they do have mice, lots of them. So if food isn't properly contained they have a sudden infestation. That is enough to send a chill up my back and make me want to stand on the kitchen-table.

I was sending him random junk-mail ... not credit-card offers, but alumni magazines, trade-magazines, etc etc but he said they have to burn anything with an address on it and really anything he wants to read he can get on the Internet. (He is lucky enough to have it in his room.) So now I have to throw-away junk mail instead of forwarding it on. Oh well... it was worth the shot :)

Before A Deployment

One of the hardest times for a military family is preparing for the deployment of a loved one! Talk about multi tasking skills for a family! The military spouse is busy getting their military duties accomplished like training, locating the necessary gear and planning for their required duties while gone. The family is working out details of how to function without them and all the things they do for the family!

For some it is a frequent occurrence with little thought but for many it can be a first or second with a long turn overseas. It does not matter if experienced or not; it is tough for all involved to maintain a plan to make it easier for the family. Then there is the tough emotional part and many remaining behind spouses talk about the feelings leading up to the deployment and how they wished the deployment would just get started so they could look forward to them returning!

One of the best ways to avoid some of the curves thrown at you during all of this is to have a sit down with a "family checklist" of sorts to lay out what needs to be done! From basics like, "do you know how to turn off the water to the house in an emergency" or "how to contact the local support structure such as installation support functions". This may be a real problem for a new spouse with little military experience who may not even know what their benefits include (yes, I have actually met a young spouse who did not know they could shop at the commissary). Or the spouse with children with specific needs or a spouse with a job and modified child care needs.

There are many resources for families to develop their own "deployment checklist". You can find them from military support agencies and even commercial businesses with military audiences. I hope every one knows about Military One Source and they have some great deployment tools online. Or they have a 24/7 toll free line at 800 342 9647 where you can speak to someone about preparing for a deployment. Another good choice is the USAA website with specific deployment information on finances but they also have great tools for a deployment checklist on their website and you do not have to be a member to use those tools. Finally, check into the MilitaryAvenue Reading Room to find articles about your needs and best ways to handle all of the challenges you are facing!

I hope this helps as you prepare and plan for that next deployment! I'd like to take this chance to say a heartfelt thank you for your service as a military family! If you have any tips for a deployment checklist please respond so we can share them with others!

Summer's End Tomato Pie

Our tomato plants are looking tired. VERY tired, but they are using all their gusto and are still pushing fruit out. These tomatoes are not the big round beauties of early August, but there they are, and I love them! We have worked these beauties: canned, frozen, eaten tomato salad and stuffed tomatoes. Now I am thinking something warm.

Roasted Tomato Pie

2 lbs tomatoes
2 T olive oil
2 T crushed garlic
salt and pepper
1 (9") pie crust
1 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil (1 t. dried)
1 t fresh oregano (1/4 t dried)
3/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 c mayonnaise


Preparation

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking dish with parchment paper. In a mixing bow, slice tomatoes in half. Toss with oil and garlic making certain they are thoroughly coated. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, checking often: tomatoes should be shrunken, but bright red - not blackened, as this makes them bitter.
Let cool to room temperature. Remove skin. Bring to room temperature.
Make and bake the pie crust. Use 1/2 of the Amazing crust recipe, or put the other 1/2 in the freezer for another time! When baking, make certain that the bottom has a few fork holes in it, and is weighted down: cover top with aluminum foil so that the foil fits the pan. Then fill with dried beans or pie weights. This keeps the crust from buckling.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake a bit longer until your crust is golden brown. While the crust is still warm, add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
Reduce temperature in oven to 400 degrees. Layer 1/2 tomatoes on top of the cheese and sprinkle with 1/2 of the basil. Layer the remaining tomatoes on top and sprinkle with remaining basil.
Combine the oregano, Parmesan, mayonnaise and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Spoon this over the top of the tomatoes. Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Place pie on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake until the cheese is lightly browned - about 20 minutes.
Serve slightly warm, or room temperature.

Cool Creamy Gooey Crunchy Chocolate Delight

At our house I have tried to steer away from desserts. Sugar is something that neither Dale nor I need in our diet. Dale has type 2 Diabetes (even though he is the thin man), and I just don't need that rush. However... put some chocolate in front of me, or within 17 miles, and I feel the desire!
This recipe is a poor excuse for cutting back on sugar, but it has good intentions!?! This is a great dessert to take to a coffee, or a squadron party. This serves 15, so if you make it for the home crowd, there is going to be plenty! There is a crunchy bottom crust followed by layers of peanuts, whipped topping and chocolate.
There are long preparation times required here, as layers have to cool before going forward. The end result is wonderful! Enjoy!


Chocolate Confection

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
3/4 cup crushed dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 containers ( 8 oz) Cool Whip (I use sugar free) thawed
3 cups milk
2 ( 3.4 ounces) packages instant sugar free chocolate pudding
2 Hershey candy bars, broken in small peices
1/2 cup crused dry roasted peanuts

Preparation
In bow, mix crushed vanilla wafers, crushed peanuts and butter. Press into bottom of 9x13" pan. Chill for 30 minutes
For second layer, with blender, mix cream cheese and peanut butter. Add confectioners' sugar; mix. Add 1 container of Cool Whip; blend well. SPread mixture over the fist layer: chill another 30 minutes.
For the third layer, in mixing bowl, combine milk and chocolate pudding; mix with beaters until thickened. Spread over the second layer: chill 30 minutes.
For the final layer, spread second container of Cool Whip over pudding. Mix peanuts and chocolate pieces together; sprinkle over topping. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.

Golf Anyone?

Recently I had the chance to go miniature golfing with a couple of very enthusiastic golfers! It was a beautiful day on the course with numerous interesting holes including dinosaur, cave, water and other hazards!

But the best part of the game was watching and playing with the younger guys who as the picture shows were running the holes!

I learned some new rules from these two which made play very interesting:

#1 Never let the ball stop enroute to the pin--it's easier that way
#2 If that stick in your hand doesn't work--just pick the ball up and throw it in!
#3 Play a hole twice while waiting for the "slow" group in front of you (see rule #1) and count the lowest score
#4 Let grandma keep score--I thought a math teacher at one point in her career could count but may be not!
#5 Have a great time despite the score or if you don't even know the score!
#6 Make sure your brother understands he won--even if you wanted to!
#7 Enjoy dinner at the restaurant and be so worn out that the dinner requires a take home package because you fell asleep!

Yep, a wonderful time and one that just made it a little bit easier for a mom with a deployed spouse and needed someone to share the fun times!

Once in a blue moon ...

I think my kids had to pick themselves up off the floor last night ...

I baked.

It happens, oh once in a blue moon, and almost all my baking involves a box. Cake from a box, muffins from a box... add the egg and the oil and wa-la you are done.

Last night actually involved a recipe :) We had fun. The boys each took turns adding the ingredients to the mixing bowl. They took turns whisking, there was not one fight involved. It was beautiful! (My only complaint was the clean-up ... but you can't win them all.)

I did have to do a little research in order to actually follow the recipe to some degree. After all a woman who does not bake usually does not have buttermilk in her refrigerator or cake-flour in her pantry. (Oh and props to my parents for picking such delicious berries and bringing them my way to put in my freezer. They are DELICIOUS!)

The muffins are for an Open House this morning for my MOPS group. Believe me, I don't just bake on a whim. :) But the boys and I each sampled our baked goods last night and decided they were the most delicious muffins we had ever made as a team!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Laughter

It has been a rough week in the Kocsis Household. I am not sure what to blame it on. I am not sure if it is the fact that school has started and "our routine" isn't routine yet. I am not sure if we just plain-miss Hubby. I am not sure if I am just exhausted and my patience level is a little bit lower then it needs to be. Or maybe its just a huge combination of those with other things mixed in that I haven't figured out yet. Whatever the case may be church today was the 'balm' to heal my aching mental-state.

I don't want to get 'preachy'. It is amazing to me that my time of worship on Sunday mornings is 9 times out of 10 (or maybe more like 99 times out of 100) just what the doctor ordered for the start of a great week. I drop the boys off at Sunday School and then I walk into the sanctuary and despite the hundreds of people, it really feels like it is just me and God. I leave worship refreshed.

Today's sermon wasn't *about* laughter, it was about letting God take your hand and following Him. What I pulled most out of it though was in the first 10 to 15 minutes and really had not much to do with the actual sermon. You know the time when the pastor pulls in his attention grabbers to make sure you pay attention. Well I couldn't help but sit there and really laugh at his silly little jokes. He isn't a professional-comedian but he really tickled my funny-bone today.

I don't know that I had genuinely laughed all week. I know I had yelled, cried, and wallowed in self-pity. But laughed... I don't remember doing it at all this week until this morning. I sat in the pew, smiling and just felt really uplifted. Almost as if I could feel the happy-chemicals swirling around in my blood and up to my brain. AH... it felt so good to genuinely smile.

If you are looking for some additional information on the benefits of laughter here are a few good articles:

I feel so much better after sitting in church today - I know that starting the week off with a good smile, chuckle and out-loud laugh will lead to a great week!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Sitting Back and Taking a DEEP breath

Yesterday evening I sat on my front porch and just took the moment in. The kids were on their scooters & bikes playing with neighbors, racing up and down the sidewalk from driveway to driveway. 95% of the time when I am outside with the kids I'm DOING something: reading, outside with the laptop, weeding, sorting through a pile of papers from the kitchen counter, etc etc. But last night I just sat there.

My boys are at a good age: 5 and 3. They are mostly independent, but still love to hold my hand. They love to RUN and play, but will still sit on my lap at the end of the day. They might still need my help in the bathtub at night, but they don't slam the door and require 'privacy'. They may not be babies or toddlers any more, but they still need me.

CMKs *1ST* Day of Preschool*C*, my 3 year old, had his first day of preschool yesterday afternoon. He shed not ONE tear when I left his classroom. He gave me a big "wave" and a huge "I LOVE YOU, MOMMY." Oh what a sweet breath of fresh-air for my soul. It can be hard being a temporary single-mom. We all miss Dad more then ANYONE can imagine. But my boys have, indirectly, helped me realize that I am doing a good job despite the circumstances.

So as I sat on my front porch yesterday evening, I watched the boys in their own worlds playing with friends. I was glad I took the time to shut-out the hustle and bustle of the world around me. Yes, things do need to get done. The paper pile on my kitchen-counter didn't shrink last night. Emails did not get answered. The newspaper will probably be recycled without being read. The realization of how much I love my boys, and what a wonderful family I have was not new. But taking the time to remind myself of that by soaking in the sites and sounds of their world was priceless.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

A Time for All Seasons


Last night we canned peaches! We had worked pretty hard all day on the site, printed and sent MilitaryAvenue brochures to Ft Campbell for a MSCCN meeting on Friday, approved a large group of new partners and updated ads with some wonderful MilitaryRewards. Overall a very successful day!

But the evening started with a half bushel of peaches staring back at us with a "I need to be canned tonight look". They were fresh, ripe and ready to go! The time was right and the preparations were in place (we had the jars, lids, pressure cooker and the little manual giving us the help we needed) so we got started.

Isn't that kind of like military life? We can be so busy and work so hard and then the time for a PCS arrives! There is not a good time but we have the tools, the guidance and the need is there. ( We hope you are using the assistance of our MilitaryAvenue information to make it easier as well.) After arrival and settling into the new house and schools many spouses start looking for a job in their new locale! Many are prepared for this transition and some get started a bit late based on priorities and time constraints but we have a new partner on the site that can help you!

We are excited about how they can help you and if you are in transition or just settling in and a military spouse looking for a job check out what they offer!

Back to those peaches! Well we were tired but Deb did most of the work after I washed and cleaned up the dishes, the new jars and lids etc. (I also harvested a few green beans too while she prepared the peaches). After two loads in the pressure cooker were run we had 20 new pints of peaches for winter time! The season had arrived and we were done after some successful teamwork. We would enjoy the fresh peaches later much as a military family will enjoy their new location, home, job and friends following all their hard work during a PCS.

Thank you for all that you do to protect this wonderful country in which we live with its many freedoms and blessings!
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