The Joy of a (Free) Book!

I am not an *avid* reader but I do enjoy having a non-fiction book on my night-stand. Right now I am reading "Boy-sterous Living: Celebrating Your Loud and Rowdy Life with Sons" by Jean Blackmer and I'm loving it. But there is no pressure. I can read a chapter whenever I feel like it. Occasionally, I will pick up a fiction book for my own pleasure. I know that it will take me a month to read and I hate the unknown (... like what happens in the next chapter). So it takes a certain mood for me to decide to read a fiction book (Or a high recommendation from friends).

I think my problem is I'm slow. I want to take in EVERY word. I read a paragraph two or three times to be sure I *get it*, to make sure I'm not missing anything. My husband will pick up a NOVEL and finish it in two days. Of course it's all he has done for two-days, but he also *flies* through it. When it comes to reading, we are absolute opposites.

So recently a friend pointed out that MilitaryOneSource was giving away free books! You should check it out... After you log-in (available for all Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve families) select 'Libraries' on the left hand column, under News & Community. I ordered one "Play-Away Book", The Red Kite. I also ordered three non-fiction paperback books, one on home improvement, one recipe book & a book on buying or selling your home. They had a huge selection of employment type books, too. Plus of course lots of military lifestyle books; and much more! What was the charge?! $0! Wow. It feels good to be an Army Spouse :).

As long as we are talking about books: If you have a spouse deployed overseas be sure they check into the "United Through Reading" program at their MWR. My husband has had the opportunity to send us three or four DVDs with him reading a book to the boys. What a treasure! When the boys are in the mood to have Dad read their good-night books (a night time routine for us) we bring up my laptop and sit on their bedroom floor. They turn the page of the book as Dad reads along on the DVD. It is a wonderful break for me (the non-reader!) and an opportunity for them to hear Dad's voice.

Happy Reading!
- Leanne from

The Military Community Celebrations!

The military community understands that celebrations are important to morale and finds frequent ways to do just that: CELEBRATE!

This Sunday the troops overseas will see the Super Bowl live in many cases and those in combat zones will even get two beers! Many units in the US will celebrate together as well! What fun for everyone as units and friends socialize and get to watch the game and cheer on the Steelers (or that other team in the game)! :)

But what else do we celebrate? Think promotions! New babies! New arrivals to a unit and saying goodbye to friends and unit members who are getting ready to PCS. Retirements and change of commands also bring the units together to celebrate! I remember the holidays around Christmas and New Years and how many unit parties we attended. One year it was over 20! Each one was a great event and showed a lot of unit pride too! We recognize our heroes with medals, NCO of the Quarter/Year, etc. What a great feeling it is to return from overseas and see the installation, parking ramp, dock, armory, etc., lined with family members waiting for their loved ones!

After retiring from the Air Force I worked for a civilian company for a couple of years and they had no similar programs. They even had a hard time getting folks together for a holiday party! The military esprit just was not there.

Why the picture? Another traditional celebration at the end of a career with a fini flight. My last flight, landing and taxi in ended with my wonderful military spouse parking the jet for the last time. She did a great job but needed a bit of help with the marshaling signals.

Have a great Super Bowl and keep up those traditions; they are important to our units morale! Have a great unit tradition? Share it with everyone by commenting!

Perfect Baby Shower

There are so many reasons to share some smiles, and great conversations. Besides getting together for coffees, squadron luncheons, spouse club meetings, there are babies... and the promise of more babies! With the announcement of a new family member - be that squadron family, battalion family or fleet family, somewhere on the calendar is the excitement of a baby shower. A great baby shower at that! And if you are in charge of this gala, make it sparkle!

No need for this to be the ordinary, ho hum typical gathering with streamers and a bakery cake. Oh no! Girls just wanna have fun! So, let this star be born! Hang the silver stars, roll out the red carpet, spread the table with festive food and toast this newborn with a clink of a champagne glass! A STAR IS BORN! The twinkle in the eye of every family member and a miracle made to hold.

The menu can be light and stellar. Champagne punch in a pretty bowl will compliment a star shaped shower cake. Or no star shaped pan? Make cupcakes with stars on the frosting; no need to cut the cake or wonder how many this dessert will serve! The numbers are simple. A fruit plate with cheeses, a bowl of mixed salted or honey flavored nuts are always a hit.

With the gathering comes the ice breaker: a good game. Since this little starlet will be taking center stage, play the Stage Mom game. Preparations are pretty simple, and the game will have people talking. On a poster board before the party starts, find and paste pictures from magazines, or print off of the web pictures of famous TV and movie Moms. Number the pictures 1 to 10(or however many you find). Find out the following facts about each 'Mom': character name, TV show or Movie that put them in the spotlight, child name from show and the real name of the star. Have everyone pair up in 2's and 3's so that they can confer and come up with some trivia information. Have paper and pens for all to write down their guesses. After an allotted time, read off answers, see who knows their stars! Prizes can be baby related: lotion, baby shampoo, bibs or a picture frame. If recipient does not have a young one, they can give the token to your honoree Mom.

With every star there is the paparazzi... snapping of pictures. Take plenty of the event. Your new Mom will appreciate reliving the day when she receives the pictures as they will help her share this fun with folks far away and with those who attended. With her consent, post them on Facebook or Myspace. It isn't every day that a star is in your presence. Enjoy this party and have fun.

The "Witching" Hour

There is an hour, or a couple of them actually, in my house that can be the hardest of the entire day. It usually falls right when it is time for me to be thinking about dinner: 4:30pm till about 6pm, and called the "witching hour" amongst many moms. My boys get a little (or a lot depending on the day) whiney, the fighting starts and I can be a little grumpy myself! (I am amazed at how food can affect my own mood. A few hours between meals can leave me feeling very "blah".)

Cruise Preparations Stretch Vacation Excitement

We will be cruising... setting sail... on the briny... soaking sun this spring. Last July we were on board with siblings, and saw the Baltic. Walked the streets of Russia, shopped our way through Estonia. Drank enough coffee in Sweden to sink a ship. Ate fresh bread in Finland and purchased Christmas decorations in Germany and Denmark.

It was wonderful... it was cold.

Not so come March. Dale and I are heading south to the Caribbean. So, why wait until March... not us, at least not our minds. We have begun the excursion with Caribbean meals, drinks, and our first ever trips to a tanning booth! This cruise is expensive and we are milking it for everything it can give us - from January until we fly back home. Sigh. It is such fun.

I sun burn with a vengeance. I'm allergic to lotions so, the doc agreed, the tanning booth was the way to get started. So, twice a week Dale and I trip into the local tanning salon. It is -13 today, my bathing suit looks horrendous - but soon I will be a tanned goddess. Ha ha ha We have tanned three times... so the lines are beginning to show again. So are white stripes down my sides where my arms lay straight... have to figure that out. Always something to think about!

At the home front, we have been cooking Caribbean. I will probably sun burn in St Lucia, but in Michigan I burned my insides out with an extra shake of 'jerk' spice on the chicken. Powerful stuff that island food! For the presentation, I went to the florist and bought bright colored flowers and lilies. Since it is pretty nippy in this neck of the woods, and in the house, these fresh flowers are thriving. I have them in six vases, four of them are very tiny red glass vases. The feeling is fun in the sun everywhere.

I hope when you take the time to enjoy the blessings that you have and that you exploit your resources as best you can. Build the excitement and the luxury of a vacation before you get there!

By the way... first time laying on the tanning bed, I had no idea the lid came down, or was supposed to come down until I tried to stand up, and it moved. I can only imagine that others have had funny experiences in vacation preparation. Can you relate?

Our Strength in Our Families

We need all types of support to function as an individual, family and society. We found that the military community supported us but we were very independent and tough too. One way we helped each other was to point out that strength and realize how much we supported each other and how important it was.

Here are the lyrics to an Amy Grant song, "Oh, How the Years Go By" that says it all for our family! We had many memories of long deployments, great times, ball games, absences, long distance contacts, frustrations, anger, laughter, sadness and many other emotions. We remember driving thousands and thousands of miles to be with family. One year we PCS'd at the beginning of a New Year and as a Christmas gift our daughter made a tape to play in the car as we headed west leaving her alone in the Midwest. Yep it tore out the old heartstrings but it made us proud as well! Family can be the cornerstone of support but we also need to realize that there is support outside the family when needed!

In our times of trouble
We only had ourselves
Nobody else
No one there to save us
We had to save ourselves

And when the storms came through
They found me and you
Back to back together
And when the sun would shine
It was yours and mine
Yours and mine forever

And oh how the years go by
And oh how the love brings tears to my eyes
All through the changes the soul never dies
We fight, we laugh, we cry
As the years go by

There were times we stumbled
They thought they had us down
But we came around
How we rolled and rambled
We got lost and we got found
Now were back on solid ground

We took everything
All our times would bring
In this world of dangers
cause when your heart is strong
You know youre not alone
In this world of strangers

And if we lose our way
Any night or day
Well well always be
Where we should be
Im there for you
And I know youre there for me

Let Freedom Ring!

Tomorrow is a great day in American history; in fact, world history. We have elected a new president and he will take office in an orderly transition! Again!

We are truly a blessed nation and many Americans do not recognize how blessed we are! The military community realizes they have something valuable to protect after deploying to, living in, and traveling to other nations without the benefits we share everyday. So as President Obama takes the oath of office we should think of those benefits and what we have to be thankful for in these tough times.

First, I am thankful for freedom of religion and the ability to worship God as I choose. We have many different beliefs in the US but our Christian heritage protects and speaks openly for freedom to worship (particularly when compared to other countries and religions). I can remember the deep relief I felt each time I stepped off a plane back onto American soil during the recent conflicts. Home again!

Second, I am thankful for my family and the strength I get from them everyday! The phone calls, IMs, emails, and hugs the military families share with each other is a great resource! When we were active duty we had many surrogate aunts, uncles and cousins due to our location. Its still that way for many and the American military family is strong and resilient!

Third, I can easily sleep at night because American soldiers, airmen, coasties, sailors and marines are not sleeping! Thank you for your service each and every one of you! I can add other public service personnel too, such as police officers, firemen and many others. Thank you all!

Enjoy the inauguration and watch with pride as our service members perform their many duties and realize that the festivities could not go on without our military's involvement.

"MyHelpList" from the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense

I received a great document from my FRG (Army acronym for Family Readiness Group) that I thought was very timely for our monthly 'Support Theme'. There are some great resources listed here that I hope you can use!

Information and Assistance for Military Service and Family Members During Tough Economic Times

MILITARY RESOURCES Our Best Online Portals, Call Centers and Locator Services!

Military OneSource
24/7 Call Center
You name it. We can help!

DoD programs, policies, news and events.

Relocation Information for the American Military Family

Joint Family Resource Center (JFRC)
On-demand counseling, educational materials and programs provided to support command sponsored deployment, personal finance and transition programs at no cost to commands.
Command leaders should call:

Joint Family Support Assistance Programs (JFSAP) for Guard and Reserve
For state JFSAP staffs, regional coordinators and other key points of contact, call:
1-800-342-9647 or www.defenselink/ra

Transition Assistance Advisors (TAAs)
Veterans benefits counseling, information, assistance and community referrals.
See full listing of TAAs in Resource Section of
Personal finance, transition assistance and benefits information for active duty, National Guard and Reserve service and family members.

Deployment Health & Family Readiness Library
Online family readiness resources, deployment cycle support articles, and physical, environ-mental, occupational, and mental health fact sheets for deployers written in "plain English."

Wounded Warrior Resource Center Specialized support for wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and their families.

Online calculators and comprehensive military benefits information of value to all military servicemembers.

Military Chapels and Chaplains
Call Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647

Military Relief Societies

Personal and family financial counseling, emergency loans, consumer advice and basic assistance. Active duty, National Guard and Reserve are eligible to use these programs.

Call Military OneSource:

Army Emergency Relief (AER)
1-800-769-8951 or 1-866-878-6378

Air Force Aide Society (AFSC)

Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS)

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance

Family Service Centers

Local and regional information and referral services, counseling, skills for living educational programs, family advocacy, support for parents, children and youth, deployment support, relocation, personal finance, transition and spouse employment assistance.

For immediate 24/7/365 assistance, confidential referrals and additional information about family support services, contact:

Military OneSource

Army Community Services (ACS)

Airman and Family Readiness Flights

Navy Fleet and Family Services (FFSC) or

Marine Corps Community Service (MCCS)

Joint Family Support Assistance Program supporting the National Guard and Reserve

National Guard

Reserve Components

Coast Guard Work Life Program

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Support and assistance for military personnel, veterans and their families
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Military Pay, Compensation & Benefits

Information about military pay, compensa-tion, benefits, sources of assistance and
easy-to-use online calculators.

Compensation & Benefits Handbook

Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)

DoD Pay and Compensation

Military Pay Calculator

MyArmyBenefits Calculators

Retirement Calculator

Survivors Benefit Plan

WarriorCare/National Resource Directory


Federal Government Organizations

Financial education materials, free publications, online calculators, counseling services, savings and investing programs, and consumer protection.
See Housing Assistance Section for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) information and services.

Department of Treasury
Financial Literacy and Education Commission information and resources.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
Money Smart curriculum materials and computer-based instruction.
1-877- ASK-FDIC

Federal Reserve Board
Savings, home foreclosure and related educational resources.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Identity theft information, consumer complaints reports and filing, and consumer financial education. or

General Services Administration (GSA)
Federal Citizen Information Center Call Center and free publications. or

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Investment information for military personnel and their families.

Small Business Administration (SBA)
Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, Patriot (cont)
Express Loans for military spouses, Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Small Business Development Centers.

Social Security Administration (SSA)
Military Service and Social Security fact sheets.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
Retirement savings plan for military personnel offers tax-free investments prior to withdrawal of funds.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES), financial education research, resources, online tools and scheduled events.

US Savings Bond Program



Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA)
Financial education materials, resources and links.

Defense Credit Union Council
Directory of Local Credit Union Branches, financial resources, links and financial policy information.

Charitable Organizations

American Legion
Heroes to Hometowns program, veteran affairs services, family support centers, general assistance, reunions and awards. or

American Supports You (Website)
Connects military servicemembers and families to organizations that provide a wide range of support, assistance, adaptive equipment, scholarships and other helpful resources.

Angels of Mercy Program
Clothing and supplies for wounded servicemembers.

Children of Fallen Heroes
Housing, college grants and scholarships for children and spouses of fallen heroes.

United Services Organizations (USO)
USO Centers, Internet and email access, libraries, reading rooms, recreational activities, regional veterans services, and family services. and family services

Yellow Ribbon Program
Food, clothing, shelter, medical assistance and education for veterans.

Children and Youth Services

Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA)
Child care, hospital assistance, military spouse support, food services, computer training, health and wellness support and holiday meals.
1-800-597-1260 or 703-313-9600

Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Youth centers provide educational, recreational, cultural, and social activities for military youth.

Junior Achievement
Financial education and resources that encourage young people on such concepts as work readiness, entrepre-neurship and financial literacy.

Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy
Financial literacy publications, websites and links to improve the personal financial education of children, teens and young adults.

Consumer Information

Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
Support provided through CFA website includes a newsletter, publications, resource center and promotion of special events.

Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB)
Information that protects servicemembers from unscrupulous businesses, BBB reliability reports, BBB Auto Line, BBB MilitaryLine, and dispute resolution services.

Military Sentinel (FTC)
Identifies and reports on consumer protection issues.

Consumer Credit Counseling

Center for Responsible Lending
Credit counselor locator service, home foreclosure and legal assistance, payday loan calculator, policy and technical assistance, coalition building and research

InCharge Institute of America
Military Money Magazine, no-cost/ reduced-fee debt elimination programs and "Military Money Minute" radio broadcasts. or

National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)
Consumer credit counseling services including homeowner, money and credit, bankruptcy education and counseling, debt management planning assistance, and free and low cost general assistance.

Financial Education

American Financial Services Association (AFSA)
Education Foundation Responsible money management tools, advice for understanding credit, credit management support, free MoneySkill online course. or

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
Financial calculators, tips, recommenda-tions and personal finance referrals.

Employee Benefit Research Institute/ American Savings Education Council
National Educational Savings Resource Center, calculators, educational materials, Choose To Save Public Service Campaign and retirement planning resources. or

Freddie Mac
Works with mortgage lenders to help people get lower housing costs and better access to home financing. CreditSmart curriculum materials help consumers build and maintain better credit, make sound financial decisions, and understand homeownership.

Institute of Consumer Financial Education
Online educational programs and printed materials that promote savings, provide tips for better spending, and advice for credit use.

National Endowment for Financial Education
Military Family, Money and Mobility Pamphlet, web-based training for DoD
financial educators, Project Financial Independence for mobilized members of the National Guard and Reserve and enlisted members of active duty forces, and free financial counseling from certified professionals. or

Women's Institute of Financial Education
Money Club tools and resources, personal finance calculators, and publications.

Financial Planning

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board)
Recommends how to choose a financial planner, set financial goals and get started on a financial plan. CFP maintains a financial planner database. or

Financial Planning Association (FPA)
Helps consumers find a financial planner and financial educational materials.

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)
Maintains a financial planner search service for "Fee-Only" comprehensive financial advisors nearest you. or

Employment Assistance

Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE)
Offers fellowships for military spouses to attain the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) certification.
(614) 485-9650

Career One-Stop Centers (Dept of Labor)
Local Veterans' Employment Representa-tives (LVER) and Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) counselors provide career and employment support for military service and family members at state employment offices.

MILSpouse (Department of Defense)
Comprehensive resources that provide support, information and referrals for Military spouses seeking portable careers and employment opportunities.

REALifelines (Department of Labor)
Offers support for wounded, ill, injured and disabled servicemembers, search engine for civilian careers, an online resume-writer, and a military-to-civilian skills translator.
202-693-4700 or 1-800-USA-JOBS (Department of Defense)
Employment hub, military friendly employers, transition assistance guides, checklists, decision support planning tools and benefit email alerts.

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (CAA) (Department of Defense)
Provides funding for licensing and credentialing training programs that provide portable careers for military spouses.

Warriors to Work Program
Job search assistance for wounded warriors transitioning to civilian jobs.

Wallstreet Warfighters Foundation
Paid training for Wall Street Careers.


Army Wounded Warrior Program
Support programs for wounded soldiers who incurred an injury or illness after
10 September 2001 or in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT)

Blinded Veterans Association
Field Service Program, Volunteer Service Program and Scholarship Program.

Caring Bridge
Free online service that allows military families to remain updated on their service-
member's medical condition while in a military hospital or major medical center.

Veterans Affairs Health Care Program
Primary care, specialized care and related medical and social support services.

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)
WWP Solider Ride Program, TRACK Operation Outreach, Warriors to Work, WWP Outdoors, Patient and Family Support WWP Packs, and WWP Peer Mentoring.

Yellow Ribbon Fund
Volunteers of Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Centers help injured servicemembers
enjoy their community through outreach activities and services.

Housing Assistance

Fisher Houses and Programs
Temporary housing on the grounds of major military or VA medical centers for families and
caregivers of individuals admitted to the hospital, Caring Bridge Program status updates,
scholarships for children and spouses, Hero Miles (free airline tickets for family members of an
OIF/OEF ill or injured servicemember), and Newman's Own organizational grants.

Homes for Our Troops
Builds or adapts homes for handicapped accessibility at no cost to veterans.
508-823-3300 or 1-866-7 TROOPS

Hope NOW
Hope NOW is an alliance between HUD approved counseling agents, servicers, investors and other mortgage market participants that provide free foreclosure prevention assistance.

HUD (Housing and Urban Development)
Hope for Homeowners Assistance Program Provides help for homeowners at risk for foreclosure and housing educational materials.


National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Military Sales Online Reporting System, oversight for state and local
insurance companies, and insurance company rankings.

Department of Veterns Affairs (VA)
Insurance programs that specifically provide insurance benefits for veterans and service members who may not be able to get insurance from private companies because of the extra risks involved in military service or a service connected disability.


Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
The largest independent regulatory authority in the US. Provides information on investing
and how to build financial knowledge. Offers articles, interactive tools, alerts and other
resources that can help you protect yourself.
Call Center: 301-590-6500

Investor Education Foundation
Information that increases investor literacy and promotes savings and investing.

North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA)
Investor Awareness Quiz, NASAA Fraud Center, Investor Bill of Rights, Investing
Online Resource Center, and investor alerts and tips.

Legal Assistance

Services On Military Installations
Trained legal professionals provide wills, powers of attorney, advanced medical directives and legal assistance services to military servicemembers and their families free of charge. For the office nearest you: call Military OneSource 1-800-342-9647


Military Saves & America Saves
A social marketing campaign aimed at persuading, motivating, and encouraging military families to save money every month, and to convince leaders and organizations to be aggressive in promoting automatic savings. or

Servicemember Organizations

Navy League of the United States
Scholarships, youth mentoring programs, awards, Navy League Hiring Center for veterans, employment opportunities, educational programs, and outreach.
703-528-1775 or 1-800-356-1560

Marine Corp League
Help for wounded Marines, scholarships, awards, health and comfort items, youth programs, and veterans medical center activities .
703-207-9588 or 1-800-625-1775


Financial Aid for Military Spouse Education
Scholarships, grants and assistance programs for higher education for spouses of servicemembers.

National Military Family Association (NMFA)
Scholarships, rights and benefits education, deployment and family support, camps, retreats.

Scholarships for Military Children
Scholarships for military children regardless of servicemember's status.

Tax Services

Military One Source
Free income tax filing, tax calculators, tax advisors and counseling services, and income tax preparation course.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Tax information for military members and their families.,,id=97273,00.html


Operation Hero Miles
Allows troops and servicemembers stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan to visit their loved
ones on leave at no cost; allows family members and spouses to visit their wounded
servicemembers in military hospitals across the country at no cost.

Making the right decisions

It has been a rough week for me, as a mom. I think the most major 'bump' in my week involved my 6-year old, *E*. He told me he didn't want to go to school, that he wasn't feeling good. I honestly wasn't sure if it was a bug or just the Monday morning blahs. He was slightly warm, with a temp around 99. Usually that kind of temp is enough to leave you just feeling... blah. So I sent him to school, with his protest and a note in his folder. "Dear Teacher, If *E* is still not feeling well during the day please call me." The note appeased *E*. He knew if he continued to not feel well he could come home; but I hoped he would get to school and forget his troubles. (It has happened before.)

Another reason I sent him? About six-weeks ago I got a letter from the school-board. "Dear Parent, Your child has missed too much school. He has missed 6 1/2 days so far when the average students misses two the whole school year. If your child continues to miss school (10 days in total) we will require a doctors note for each missed day & be required to call the truancy office." (Ok maybe that isn't word for word the letter, but that is the gist.)

So here I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had been keeping home with major coughs, slight fevers, etc etc because, honestly, I didn't want him getting other kids in the class sick. I was a little upset that he was catching all these 'bugs', assumedly in the class room. By keeping him home I also hoped to speed up his recovery by 'forcing' him to drink water & relax. It is kindergarten, not Harvard. I felt like this letter was a huge slap in the face.

So back to Monday. At about 10:30am the school office called to say he wasn't feeling well. So I quickly picked him up and brought him home, no grudges held Sure enough he was running a fever of about 100 and just very pale. I doctored him, made him rest, made him drink. He was still warm that evening when it was time to take more Tylenol.

Tuesday morning came and he is acting pretty good! He wasn't warm. He wasn't complaining about going to school. So on the bus he goes at 8:15am. I got my youngest ready to go to the 'sitter so that I could go to a dentist appt & then head back for work.

9:15am, I am about 20 minutes from my house and the cell phone rings. "Mrs Kocsis this is the school. *E* was running a fever yesterday. He cannot be in school today. The school handbook explains a child must be fever-free (without medication) for 24 hours before you send them back to school." I took the time to explain my frustration. This will mean he has missed 8 1/2 days of school this year, and its January. I was so good about keeping him home the rest of the year so that he wouldn't get others sick. The thanks I got was a letter saying he has missed too much school. What was a mom to do?! She explained they aren't going to call the truancy office on us. They have to send the letter out by county policy. There has to be a better way though, I can't help but thinking. I felt like I had been strong-armed only to be told, ha ha we were just kidding.

Decisions, I had to make one Tuesday morning and I made the wrong one, it happens. We all have to make decisions every day. Some are minor, some major and then others in between. This *felt* major to me at the time, but looking back it was probably somewhere closer to minor. I just have to remind myself that I can't always second-guess what I have done. I learned something that Tuesday. A lot of times decisions are just that, an opportunity to learn what is best for you and your family and possibly how to handle a decision in the future.

- Leanne from

New Year Fitness Goals

We all made it through the holidays and I believe the average weight gain for Americans is 5 pounds. Of course, all of us have started our new efforts or renewed efforts to lose weight or maybe the plan has already been abandoned? It's real hard to keep up a workout or weight loss goals without a plan and changes to your lifestyle.

The biggest change ever for me was planning as a couple. We found a way to change the way we thought about food, exercise and lifestyle. We now exercise together at least three times a week and many of our spring through fall activities are outdoor in the garden, etc. But the walks that started 2 years ago have been the core of our cardio exercise. We have either walked or used indoor equipment when the outside was hostile for activity. It is hard to maintain a schedule but by doing it as a couple it is easier. One of the challenges we faced was our gender differences. Without categorizing everyone I am very competitive, like to plan, keep track of performance, etc., and Deb is the total opposite so earlier efforts to have this fun together failed. After I realized that I was making it hard for her I backed off and relaxed a bit and it worked. We now enjoy our time together and either of us can say not today or later but it still improve our chances of working out by doing it together.

The other piece of fitness is what we put into our normal diet and lifestyle. We decided to improve fitness by changing a lifestyle versus just doing a diet. We realized that our food portions were too large so we bought smaller plates (even using salad plates for the entrees at times). We then loaded up the vegetable and fruit options and have meatless meals as well. We do enjoy pasta so pasta and vegetables is great! We reduced the amount of fast food but still enjoy it at times especially when "on the road again".

About fast food: One thing we do now is eat a burger without the bottom bun. We found it easier to flip it over and use the top bun and remove the bottom piece of bread. We also stopped ordering combination meals to avoid fries which we no longer feel the need for--we also now qualify for senior drinks so its also a cost savings for us.

To avoid excessive hunger for a meal we also started having a snack between meals at 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. We have half an apple, celery with peanut butter or cream cheese, carrots, two or three healthy crackers with cheese or peanut butter, etc. This is recommended by many dietitians and it really has worked for us. Of course you have to follow the plan by not eating as much at mealtime and we found the snacks helps us do that.

Finally we do have dessert and enjoy it. We try to eat it before 7 PM and there are so many healthy things you can have (and yep we do enjoy some non healthy ones occasionally). There is now "No Sugar Added" ice cream which has become a favorite topping and we enjoy it and I can no longer tell the difference. Deb said she can taste a difference but it does not bother her. We also eat a lot of homemade yogurt with nuts, fruit, etc., added!

I hope you have a healthy and physically fit 2009! Send us your helpful ideas by commenting so others can use them in their busy hectic military community lifestyle!

National Support Services for Military Spouses: Short List

Do you feel like you are 'out there' alone? Think that no one knows the craziness that is going on in your life? Do not rest on those thoughts. Take action and seek information. Take it on as if you were taking on a new project. The military 'name' every endeavor that they set out to bring into action. Name it! Easy to write advice when my mind is clear and I am not swimming nose deep in newness. However, there are support sources for you. Besides looking only locally, it is a good to recognize that there are National Support Services for Military Spouses. Here is a list of ten.

Army Wife Talk Radio

Fisher House

Heart Link

Military Conference of Catholic Women

Military Spouse Corporate Career Network

Military Spouse Network


My Army Life Too

Protestant Women of the Chapel

US Army War College Military Family Program

Welcome - Army Family (PDF)

On the local level, your Fleet and Family Support (Navy and Marines); Airmen and Family Readiness Center (USAF); and the Family Readiness Center (Army) are there for you! They have a boat load of information and resources at their fingertips. Their job is to be there for you: talk to them!

Kahlua Cake: A Light Dessert

The refrigerator does most of the work on this beauty. It truly is a beauty too, as it uses an angel food cake. Putting Kahlua cake together will take minutes. Blending the flavors and textures takes 2 hours as it sits in the refrigerator.

Kahlua Cake
Kahlua Angel Food Cake

1 Angel Food cake
1/4 c plus 2T Kahlua or coffee flavored liqueur (divided)
1/2 c dry chocolate milk flavor (Nestles Quick)
1/4 c half and half
1 (16 oz) Cool Whip

Slice the cake into two pieces as if it were a bagel! Poke holes in each half of the angel food cake. Combine 2 T Kahlua and half and half. Slowly pour half of this mixture into the bottom section of the cake holes you just made. Place top back on, pour remainder of Kahlua mixture on top half. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Combine Cool Whip, chocolate milk powder and 1/4 c Kahlua in a small bowl. Gently separate the top and bottom again. Spread Cool Whip mixture on the surface of the bottom half, replace top half and spread remainder on the top of the cake. Refrigerate until serving time.

This is an elegant, light and delicious much requested dessert. Enjoy!

Poppy Seed Chicken

I love recipes with poppy seed as a key ingredient. I hate that they try to find permanent lodging in my teeth... but I love the peppery taste that they guarantee. Summertime salads are served with Poppy Seed dressing as a choice. But in the dead of winter, -15 degrees today in Michigan, I opt for a hot meal.

This recipe is a crowd pleaser. It does not skimp on the chicken, and is not a dry casserole.

Poppy Seed Chicken
Serves 10
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 c sour cream
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 c water
8 to 10 chicken breasts, skinned and cooked and cut into large chunks
1/2 box of Farfalla (bowtie) pasta, cooked and drained

1 stick butter, melted
1 sleeve of Ritz cracker, crushed
2 T poppy seeds

Dissolve bouillon cube in hot water, mix into condensed soup and sour cream. Add cooked pasta and pour over chicken in a large baking dish. Toss butter, crackers and poppy seeds together, assemble over chicken mixture. Bake for 45 minutes.

To make this for a smaller group, use 6 to 8 chicken breasts, delete the bouillon and water, and use just 1 can of soup and 1 cup sour cream. Keep the topping the same. Bake for 30 minutes.

Military Support Services

As a member of a military family I KNOW that support is paramount and I KNOW there are support agencies out there that want to give it to you. Most of the time the hardest part is finding what you need.

Our January Military Family Newsletter (to be published Sunday, January 25th) will focus on Military Support. We will have lots of great information about finding support when you need it; a new baby, a deployment, a death in the family, just a case of the winter blues. There is something out there for you!

PS: Over the last year we have already written a few blogs about support. Feel free to read through them!

I hope to see your name on our list of subscribers soon!

- Leanne from

Send your true-love a Valentine's Message in the Stars & Stripes

I just got this email today and wanted to share with all of our military spouses & family members out there with loved ones overseas and far apart from our hearts:

Submissions for Valentine's Day Messages now open!

Stars and Stripes is now accepting personal Valentine's Day messagesfor publication in worldwide editions of our daily newspaper. To get your message to a loved one in print, visit our Stripes Valentine'sDay Messages <> site before 8 A.M. EST on Jan. 26, 2009.

Messages will appear in Stars and Stripes editions around the worldon the dates indicated in our publishing schedule <>

- Leanne from

Breakfast White Rice Buttermilk Waffles

Here is a hearty and tender waffle recipe that is just a bit different. It is also a use for some leftover white rice from the night before!

White Rice Buttermilk Waffles
3 large eggs, separated
2 c. buttermilk
6 T. melted shortening
2 c .flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1 T. sugar or Splenda
1/2 t. baking soda
1 c. cooked whole grain rice

Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks, set aside. Beat egg yolks until lemon colored. Add buttermilk and shortening.
Combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and baking soda. Add this to the egg yolk mixture. Stir until blended. Add rice.
Fold in egg whites.
Bake in waffle iron according to directions.
Makes 8 waffles.

Another Waffle Winner - Served After Dinner!

Waffles for dinner are heart warming, they are a tummy treat... just good food! As you get over the idea for breakfast for dinner, go a bit further and have waffles for dessert! Gingerbread waffles taste wonderful; smell fantastic and are topped with ice cream or cool whip. Serve with bowls of sliced bananas, shredded coconut, or fresh or thawed strawberries. It is a party waiting to happen!

Gingerbread Waffles
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar or 1/4 cup packed Splenda brown sugar
1/2 c. light molasses
2 eggs separated
1 c. milk
2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/4 t. allspice
3/4 t. salt

In mixing bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks.
In another large bowl cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy; add molasses, egg yolks and milk.
Combine dry ingredients, stir into creamed mixture just enough to moisten all ingredients. Fold in egg whites.
Bake batter in preheated waffle iron according to directions.
Serve at once with scoops of ice cream, dollops of whipped cream and /or sliced fruit.
Welcome to the party!

Breakfast for Dinner: A Winner

I know that our household was really blessed by the fact that we did not have fussy eaters. I take no credit in this... it just happened. This was good for me, as I love to cook, and the family loved trying new recipes. The best rave reviews came when we had breakfast for dinner. We did this once a week, preferring a hot meal meant Cap'n Crunch did not make the menu.

Waffles are wonderful. There are countless varieties and on top of that... countless toppings! Here is a favorite this is crisp crusted, feather light and are exceptionally good.

Cornmeal Waffles

1 1/2 c. white cornmeal
1/4 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 T sugar
2 eggs, beaten,
2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c shortening

Put cornmeal in mixing bowl. Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. Stir to blend.

Combine eggs and buttermilk; gradually add to cornmeal mixture, stirring with a spoon until smooth. Add shortening and stir again.

Pour enough batter on preheated waffle grid to spread to about 1" from edges. Close iron.

Bake until steaming ceases and signal light indicates waffle is done (2 to 3 minutes). Waffle should be brown on outside and cooked within. Makes 8 large waffles

Disney Tickets for Military Personnel

Updated information for 2010!  Walt Disney World's Armed Forces Salute 2010

Last summer when Hubby and I received our economic stimulus-check we immediately put it in a CD at USAA. We were making plans, big plans. We were going to Disney in the summer of 2009! This was something to look forward to. Hubby was deployed & going to miss our entire summer of 2008. We are now looking forward to a vacation at Disney, our little-American Dream. Our family of five will be the perfect age. There are fun things for the bigger boys and fun things for the younger boys - and I think EVERYTHING will be fun.

We have our reservations at Shades of Green, "the only Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) located in the continental US. Shades of Green® on WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort is a military resort serving the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves, Retirees, Military Community." Plus, I have three 'free airline' tickets and a discount voucher from our monstrosity of a trip home from Wisconsin this summer. Believe me I am very EXCITED about this vacation this summer. But to top off all my excitement I got an email from our FRG this morning:

"Disney Tickets for Military Personnel"
Disney World Ticket Discounts for Military Personnel Special Offer Starting January 4, 2009. Active and Retired U.S. Military, also includes members of the U.S.Coast Guard and activated members of the National Guard or Reservists. They may obtain one complimentary 5-Day Disney's Armed Forces Salute Ticket (Base Ticket with the Park Hopper(r) option and Water Park Fun & More Option) the no expiration option is not available with this tickets.

In addition the military member may also purchase 5-Day Disney's Armed Forces Salute Companion Tickets for up to five (5) family members and/or friends for $99 plus tax (Park Hopper(r) Option and Water Park Fun & More Options may be purchased for an additional $25 + tax for each option - the no expiration option is not available with these tickets). These tickets are valid through December 23, 2009. Military Personnel must present valid United States Military identification (active or retired). Activated members of the National Guard or Reservists must present active duty orders in addition to valid Military ID. Sales locations should refer to the Military ID Reference Sheet for verification. Military personnel must have been active for any length of time between Jan. 1, 2008 and the end of Dec. 23, 2009. For more information refer to:

Disney World here we come! [Have I told you I'm excited ;)]

- Leanne from

It is Summertime Somewhere Tortoni (2 versions)

Ice cream. I think it is the food of the gods. Ice cream is a mood lifter: happiness by the spoonful. Simplistic I know. Therefore I do not have to wait until it is spring/summer on the calendar to plan on a frozen treat. It is summertime somewhere - that is my global thinking put to use.
A tortoni recipe can be modified to your likes. It is rather like a small version of an ice cream blizzard, or a flurry.

It is Summertime Somewhere Tortoni (2 versions)
Peach Tortoni
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 cup peach slices
Rum to flavor
8 whole toasted almonds
Stir vanilla ice cream until soft. Add peaches and enough rum to flavor. Spoon into paper lined muffin cups. Freeze until nearly firm. Poke a whole almond, point down, into each ice cream cup. Freeze until firm. Serves 8

Cookies and Cream Tortoni
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1/2 c toasted almonds chopped
5 of your favorite cookies
3 T rum
3/4 c semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c heavy cream, chilled

Crumble the cookies into 1/2" pieces. Place in a bowl and flavor with the rum. Add almonds and chocolate chips to this mixture. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat cream until thickened. Spoon over cookie mixture.
In same bowl beat ice cream just until softened. Fold cookie and cream mixture into ice cream. Divide evenly into paper lined muffin cups. Freeze until serving time. (Summertime somewhere!)

He's Coming Home!

The countdown has begun in my home. Hubby will be for R&R, a two-week vacation with his family home from Iraq. I am excited & growing with anticipation as each day passes and we get that much closer.

Yesterday, as I was tearing the dishwasher apart trying to figure out why it sounded like a dyeing cow, I began to think of what has changed since April 2008, when he left. (After all what else am I going to do as pieces and parts of a dishwasher are strewn across the kitchen.)
  • My three-year older is potty trained. That is a pretty significant change. We saw Hubby for a few days in June before he left for overseas and we were really close to being officially declared potty-trained. But now we are there!
  • I have stripped & painted our old wooden deck. (It's a new color even!)
  • My now six-year old has started kindergarten. He rides the bus every morning & afternoon. He is growing more independent. I pack him a lunch each morning & he eats with friends. I ask him how his day was every afternoon & with a shrug of the shoulders he says, "It was fine, Mom."
  • Two out of three of our boys have had birthdays. They are no longer 5 & 14. I now have a 3, 6 & 15 year older.
  • Each boy is learning to communicate differently. *C* was *barely* talking when Hubby left & can literally talk my ear off now. *E* has become a bit more with-held. Sometimes I have to play 20 questions to learn how his school day was. *J* is attached to his iPod & occasionally has to be reminded to put it away at dinner time. He seems to have some sort of ocular implant with it permanently attached to him. I also have to do the '20 questions' bit to get past the 'grunts' of how his day went.
  • My relationship with my step-son (*J*), age 15 has changed. He has to come to me with questions, ask for help. I am the one to get him to school in the morning and pick him up from wrestling practice at dinner time. He is more reliant on me.
  • My two younger-boys have been participating in swim lessons and have gotten over their initial fear of water, and their refusal to stick their heads under water. *E* (6 years old) can swim a few feet now. *C* (3 years old) can float on his back with a little help without flailing. He is developing trust.
  • *J* has started high school. He is into girls, loves to text (wouldn't it just be easier to pick up the phone and call someone?!), is learning to wrestle & played varsity soccer in the fall. I am watching him grow into a young-man.
  • We all have a new routine at dinner time. I clean the kitchen while the boys clean the family room. Dishes are put away, counter cleaned off, toys are put in their appropriate place and misc socks and shoes are put in the laundry room. The house stays a little cleaner & we work as a team.
  • *J* is taller than me! Is he really old enough to do that?!
  • *C* has started preschool. Twice a week we climb into the car, drive over to the school, & I tell him, I love him after he is settled in. I pick him up 2 1/2 hours later and he is all smiles as he insists on showing me what he did that day. There we stand in the hallway of the school, pulling papers out of his backpack with a huge smile as we look at his accomplishments for the day.

That is a lot of change that Hubby is going to have to process. Some things more minor than others but as a package I can see how the whole 'reintegration' process can be hard on a family. But we are Army Strong! And this Army wife CAN NOT WAIT to hold him in my arms again! :)

- Leanne from

Rigatoni Turkey Dish

Dale came back in the kitchen: armed with creativity and focused on a delicious dinner. In our freezer was one lone Ziplock freezer bag with 2 cups of turkey breast. A mission in the making... I knew he was clicking off the requirements for this job. I handled the landing strip... aka our coffee table turned into a festive dinner site. He called all the ingredients into order, moved them into positions and assembled a meal worthy of five stars once again! Good work Sir! You demand the best and your creativity exemplify that!
Rigatoni Turkey Dish
1 T olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 t chopped garlic
1 can chopped green chillies (mild)
1 t cinnamon
7 basil leaves ripped into pieces
4 cups canned tomatoes
2 cups diced roasted turkey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 oz rigatoni or penne pasta
6 t lemon juice
a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese
In a heavy bottomed pan add olive oil and turn up the heat. Engines engage, stove engine that is. Cook onion, garlic chili, cinnamon and 1/2 basil leaves. Saute on medium heat until onion softens. Turn up the heat and add tomatoes. He used 2 quarts of home canned tomatoes without the liquid. (This was reserved for future fuel.) Add a pinch of grated salt. Break the tomatoes up using the back of a spoon. Then bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add the turkey the last 5 minutes so that it does not get over cooked.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Do not over cook. Reserve some of the pasta water. Toss pasta into turkey and tomato sauce with the roughly torn basil leaves, a splash of olive oil, the lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Mix together well. Loosen the pasta with a little of the reserved cooking water if needed. Serve immediately.

Five Star Onion Gratin

Sharing the kitchen for some can be a problem. Not at our house. Dale steps up to the island counter with pizazz and confidence: even if I have to push and give him a few nudges! His choices in recipes are so interesting. One of his latest "missions to magnificent" was Five Star Onion Gratin. He takes this on as if it were one of his flight plans of yore: mission planning. Exact info is needed, such as: ETA out of the oven, heat conditions (oven temp), Intel - ingredients available and required, crew - do I want to assist in setting the table? Time hack. Yes he is still flying through life and we all smile because of that.
Here is his very own Five Star Onion Gratin. He tweaked this from a recipe so it has new ingredients and flavor. I love it! Request a rapid return sir!

Five Star Onion Gratin
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

4 medium red onions, quartered and centers removed and stored for a future recipe
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried rosemary
2 T crushed garlic
4 oz white wine
3 T sour cream
1 T heavy cream
4 slices precooked bacon chopped into small pieces
1 3/4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
1 3/4 ox Parmesan cheese, grated

Break onion quarters apart to give you individual 'petals'. Place these in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss in the thyme, rosemary and garlic. Mix up well. Add wine, cover with a double layer of aluminum foil, wrap tightly and place in oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the dish and take off the foil - replace in oven for 15 minutes to start the caramelizing. Once onions start turn golden, stir in sour cream and heavy cream and add bacon pieces. Sprinkle with Gruyere and Parmesan. Reset oven temp to 350 degrees and allow to heat for 15 more minutes.

January 2009 Featured Military Reward

This Month's Featured Military Reward is given to:

Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club
Celebration, Florida

The Military Reward reads:
30% Off Luxury Golf Resort - 2 miles from Disney

Click here to view coupon featured at MacDill AFB, FL

A special thank you to Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club and all of our MAPP partners for supporting your military community with your Rewards.

We choose a Featured MilitaryReward each month to highlight our Partners and their wonderful support to the military community! Our military family team chooses one based on value for the military family and how well it sends the message "military friendly business". Please send any recommendations to

Finding Support: Growing Together

A dear friend of mine sent this my way and I wanted to share it with all the military-families out there. I hope it gives a little reminder of what "support" can do for you! Not only can it help you flourish but it can help you learn how to support others when they most need it!

Once upon a time, there was a little grape stem. She was so glad to be alive. She drank water and minerals from the soil, and grew and grew. She was young and strong and could manage quite well, all by herself.

But the wind was cruel, the rain was harsh, and the snow was not one bit understanding. The little grape stem experienced pain. She drooped, weak and suffering.

"It would be so easy to stop trying to grow, to stop trying to live,” thought the little stem.

She felt poorly. The winter was long, and she was weary. But then the little stem heard a voice. It was another grape stem calling out to her. “Here, reach out, hang on to me."

But the little stem hesitated. What would this mean, she wondered. For you see, the little stem had always managed quite well, all by herself.

Then, ever so cautiously, she reached out toward the other grape stem. “See, I can help you," it said. “Just wind your tendrils around me, and I will help you lift your head.”

And the little stem trusted. Suddenly, she could stand straight again. The wind came, and the rain, and the snow. But when it came, the little stem was clinging to many other stems. And although the stems were swayed by the wind and frozen by the snow, they stood strongly united to each other. And in their quiet strength, they could smile and grow.

One day, the little stem said, “Here, hang on. I will help you."

And another stem reached up to the little stem.

And together, all the stems grew. Leaves budded, flowers bloomed, and finally the grapes formed. And the grapes fed many!


- Leanne from

One, Two, Three: Beer Bread

It is cold outside! We had record cold, record snowfall followed by a few days of warmth and rain. That equaled flood. Across the street from us, the Thornapple River is rarely visible because the landscape holds trees, a good hill and the river is in a deep ravine. Not the case this week. The temp has dropped allowing the flood water to freeze skirts around tree trunks. As the water level descends, the skirts look like crystal picnic tables inviting small birds, owls and squirrels to rest and sit a spell.
It is a beautiful time to sit high on a hill and let the sun drizzle down through the tree limbs and speed the prisms of light back up to us in the warmth of our house! Now add the smell of baking bread to this scene and WOW... life is good!
This is the simplest recipe you will find for making bread. Beer Bread - the yeast is in the hops. If you can count to 3 you have it made!

Beer Bread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3 cups self rising flour
2 T. sugar
1 stick melted butter
1 can of beer
(1 T dry oatmeal if desired)
Sift the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Sifting really will make a difference with this recipe. (If you don't have a sifter, with a spoon lift a large scoop in the bowl and let it fall gently, repeat several times.) If you do not do this, it makes a much too heavy loaf.
Add the melted butter to the flour mixture, reserving just enough to pour on top of the loaf before going in the oven. Add can of beer. Stir only until all is moistened.
Put in a greased loaf pan. Pour remaining melted butter on top and sprinkle with some oats of desired.
Bake at 375 for one hour. Remove from oven and let rest in pan 10 minutes.
Watch it disappear!
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