Drink More ... Feel Better

It was a rough start to our Christmas Break.  The night before the final day of school and my first-grader was thinking of a school field trip in the morning and a class-party in the afternoon.  What a fun day it was going to be.  He had a rough cough for the past week but I just knew it would go away.  Eventually.  As we were settling into our bedtime routine that Thursday night *C* lost it.  Vomit, vomit, vomit.  Gross, gross gross.  He spiked a fever and I knew he was down for the count.

That cough stayed with him for another week.  Cough medicine didn't touch it and I was desperately trying to get him a doctor's appointment.  Our usually very accommodating doctors' office seemed to have started vacation early and I was told to visit urgent care or an ER if I felt it warranted immediate attention.  I just didn't think it was that bad.  (If for an instant I felt otherwise we would have gone!)

Enter the power of water.  My boys all have their own water bottle; ones that matches mom's bright pink one but in different colors.  We made it a contest.  First person to finish their water bottle was the winner.  No reward except to know that they finished their water.  Now, I'm not a fan of competition (just not in my nature) but this was something I could get behind.  After only two days, drinking our 24ozs each day, the cough was gone.  The spunk was back. 

Now a few weeks later *E* has slowly picked up the cough and we continue to drink.  We will conquer this bug with water as our sword and an attitude of health as our shield.

I raise my water-bottle and toast to a happy and healthy New Year in 2012.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

A Newborn Niece and Spring Mud Puddles

Today a niece was born, not just any niece but my niece.  Sure she is a sister, daughter, granddaughter, cousin.  But to me she is a niece and I am her aunt.  She does however live far enough away that I can't just "pop over" to meet her.  Far enough away that it's a road-trip to hold her tiny little fingers, marvel at her tiny little toes and most importantly kiss her chubby little cheeks (and tell her all about the troubles her dad caused during my childhood).

As a mother of all boys (and oh how I love them and I don't regret the hand I have been dealt for ONE SECOND!) my nieces are extra special.  They remind me of tea parties, pink lipstick, baby dolls and flowered bike baskets.

Today in honor of you my newest niece I bought the most feminine pair of boots I ever did see!



They represent the spring garden, muddy soccer games, puddles in the front yard that echo laughter and joy.  Dearest *L*, I hope that some day you can put on your favorite pair of rain boots, your pinkest rain jacket and your cutest smile.  Then we can go splash in mud puddles together.

I can't wait to meet you sweet, sweet niece!  Soon, very soon.

- Your Aunt Leanne

A Quick Review of 2011 on the Military-Family Blog from MilitaryAve...

What happened to 2011? It is almost gone and the MilitaryAvenue team discussed all the activity we had seen this year! So much to do and write about.  We saw the troops come from Iraq, discussions on the military drawdown for 2012 and beyond, military health issues at the forefront, homeless veteran initiatives, veteran employment resources, entertainers supporting the troops, we even grabbed the chance to attend the Military Bloggers Conference and so much more.

MilAve's Leanne Kocsis,
Inaugural Blogger of Month at USAA
Many of our regular features such Tasty Tuesday Recipes, the DoD Blogger Roundtable features on issues impacting the military community, book reviews, veteran support and military children articles continued with new ideas. Completely new this year, were the interviews with entertainers that supported the military community including Josh Gracin, Three Doors Down and Mark Wills. A series of giveaways/contests brought some smiles to the faces of our followers on social media and the blog! Our blogs were featured on our Facebook and Twitter accounts as we told our story to many new followers.

We began the year proudly with the inaugural USAA Blogger of the Month announcement still fresh on our minds, we made new friends with organizations such as the Home Depot Foundation, Sittercity, Volunteers of America, The Mission Continues and grew with long time friends like Army Wife Network. We continued to provide updates on military finances from USAA and veteran employment opportunities from companies such as the Home Depot and Sears.

MilitaryAvenue Featured during
Military Spouse Day on CNN
Our favorite feature this year? Ready, drum roll: 101 Ways to Thank a Military Spouse! Yes, the military spouses, the backbone of the military community, they so deserve recognition by their neighbors, friends and nation.  Our list earned us a highlight moment on CNN, too.  Our updated 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran continues to receive daily visits as many look for ways to say thank you to this so deserving population.

Did you realize we were posting on a second blog for business organizations that support the military community? Our story there tells the business community about you, your needs and more.  Marketing to the Military Community … Part of the MilitaryAvenue Story reaches out to tell the business community what others are doing to help, military important dates and much more.

Our gardening posts combined with the recipes provided a great way to expand on health issues and a healthy lifestyle. With two cancer survivors on the team, we saw reason to tell others about available resources, relay stories of support and caregiving.  Coupled with healthy gardening and recipes were regular posts on spiritual and mental-health needs.

It certainly has been quite the year as we posted more blogs this year than ever before on favorite subjects from all of our writers. Thank you to our readers and supporter! We do appreciate your comments, shares and re-posts. Have a blessed 2012 with much success and happiness. We are looking forward to writing even more to help you find resources, support your military family needs and personal needs as well. 

- The MilitaryAvenue Team

Col K Dan Leanne Deborah

I have a confession to make ...

I have a confession.  I love being organized.  You wouldn't really know it when you walk in to my house.  We have had the pleasure of living in the same house for 10 years. (Clearly, I'm a National Guard spouse and not Active Duty.)  In those ten years my eight-year old step son has turned 18.  I have given birth to three boys.  My husband has grown his own private-practice and works 15 hour days.  I'm quite sure the family plots daily against my need to be organized.

My junk drawer has spawned and over-taken three drawers in my kitchen.  It is bad.  My basement some how became a great place to (quite literally) throw things when we didn't know where to put it.  The boys bedroom (ages 6 and 9) was impassable.  Like a winter blizzard of toys.

And I settled into this serious funk.  Defeated.  Unable to handle the balance of work / mother / wife / Household 6.  Woe. is. me.  I'm realizing now this funk has lasted a good four or five years.  I didn't know what it was.  I didn't know what had me just feeling bleh.  I had no idea this lack of organization affected me like this.

On our way to 5,000 Fans

MilitaryAvenue is on its way to 5,000 fans on Facebook!

We are celebrating with a $20 gift card for Sears from our friends at Sitter City.  So if you aren't a fan yet come join us!  If you are a fan (Thank you!) tell your friends and family to join us.  Our 5,000th Fan will be our winner.

Resolutions for the New Year

It is snowing outside the window... 33 degrees wet heavy snow.  It is sticking and beautiful and white against the dark tree limbs.  I love the look.  I love the feel of it all.  New Year's Eve is right at the door step.  2012 is almost tangible.  Time to think of improvements, self, household, work and community.


Resolving to put energy, time and resources toward good.  I have a list!  Children in the neighborhood need smiles, someone to look them in the eye and listen to their excitement.  My avenue is Wednesday nights: Pioneer Club.  This new year the resolve will be to get them to bring more friends, get more helpers, be excited right back at 'em!

Bullying and our Military Children

I am a mom.  Mom of a senior in high school, a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a toddler.

My 3rd grader is a bit on the small side.  He's never been on the 'charts' and we have even been to a specialist just to be sure all is well.  All is well, medically, and his stature has been chalked up to genetics and that is a-ok with me.  However, already at 9 years old I have witnessed a few instances of the 'bigger kids' picking on the smaller (same age but some twice his size). 

One instance of apparent bullying was a fellow soccer player, church friend and school mate pushed my son down and then put his foot on my son's head as if it were a ball.  I yelled.  Dad of fellow-soccer player just watched.  I went into  mother-bear mode.  Aforementioned Dad went into "ha ha, isn't that kind of funny mode."

What kind of parent are you?

Equip your kids.  Talk about it.  Make teachable moments around the dinner table.  Spark conversations while driving in the car.  Have family game nights where you can talk with a deck of cards in your hand.  Even quick mentions of "I saw Tommy cutting in line at the playground" can lead to discussions about what the right thing to do is.

Stress and the Holidays

Stress and the Holidays.  Somehow they go hand in hand.  Overspending, too much food, lots of travel, work- and family-life balance; it is all a recipe for disaster.

My own family of six knows first hand about all of these stresses.  The 18 year old wants a laptop for Christmas (and other various $$$ gadgets), the 9 & 6 year old have had way too many cookies and are pinging off the wall, and the one-year old doesn't like the car seat for more then 4 hour stretches at a time (making for a not so quiet trip to Grandma and Grandpa's last weekend).  And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again ... When speaking of Holiday stresses I can say "I get it!" 

The DoD Community recognizes this and wants to be sure our military-families are taken care of.  We at MilitaryAvenue want to equip you, empower you and let you enjoy the time with your family you so richly deserve.  We know you will enjoy this newsletter and will come away with some tangible way to work through what can be a very tough time of year.

Continue Reading

Tracking Santa with NORAD on Christmas Eve: Don’t be surprised, Be Ready!

How Fast is Santa’s Sleigh?



Official NORAD response:  Santa’s sleigh travels at Starlight Speed according to military trackers at NORAD's headquarters in Colorado Springs.


Don't be surprised! Be ready; know when Santa is coming!
This was so much fun! Let’s start from the beginning with a quick explanation from US Navy Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Bill Lewis. Bill is part of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) responsible for Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve.  Bill said that 1,200 volunteers work the mission for 23 hours to ensure children worldwide know where Santa is going next. Some have done this as a family for 10-15 years and it is now part of their Christmas traditions like volunteering, opening presents or attending church.  Extended distances, limitations on leave, etc. give many military community members a reason to work the Santa Tracking as part of their new Christmas “normal”.

Tracking Santa Center at NORAD (See Credit Below)
The history behind this event is fascinating as well. A simple misprinted phone number back in 1955 and the tradition has continued through the years. Sometimes it can be so easy to say "I'm sorry someone else messed up".  Instead "Colonel Santa" stepped up to the plate and did what is so often done by our service-members. He went beyond the call of duty. You can read more at http://www.norad.mil/about/Santa.html

The military community expects the holidays to include extended distances, limited leave and Christmas away from home.  So we grabbed the military brats and grand brats of MilitaryAvenue and asked them to query NORAD about Santa’s Tracking and here is what they came up with during their interviews.  Bill kindly answered each question.




What Country Does Santa Visit First?



Official NORAD response:  Santa’s first stop is along the Eastern Islands of Russia as he heads south along the international date line from his home at the North Pole.

Is Santa’s Sleigh Bigger than a C-17 on Radar?



Official NORAD response:  Rudolph has a unique sensor in his nose that allows the radar to provide updates of Santa’s location.

Does Santa’s Sleigh Come Equipped with Missiles?

Minot AFB Flood Victims - Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year from Military Supporters!

Airmen giving "thank yous" to Home Depot reps
World events can flood our minds with so much information and unless it impacts us directly it is quickly forgotten! How many remember the floods in June this year in North Dakota? Did you know that more than 1,000 airmen and their families from Minot Air Force Base were displaced and had their homes wrecked by the flooding? I had to think about how that would impact their Christmas/Holidays this year. Well, they have not been forgotten.

It is an early Christmas for some of those families who struggled to recover with 135 new appliances (refrigerators, washers and dryers and stoves) delivered to 45 families this week! Operation Homefront, The Home Depot Foundation, Minot’s Operation Warmheart and General Electric contributed resources, donations, discounts and delivery of approximately $65,000 worth of appliances to these deserving families.


The Gift of Good Contest Winners! The Dilleys and Ortegas and More!

The Home Depot folks have announced the winners of the Gift of Good contest! The Dilley family of Salt Lake City were the grand prize winners with a $20,000 home makeover! Here is the video of the Dilley's as they were surprised at their local Home Depot!



But wait we have more to announce!   While speaking with the Home Depot public relations folks who worked the contest, they said they were "so touched by all the military family stories".  As a result, they have decided to give all the contestants a gift of $5,000 for home improvements on top of the $500 gift card they received when nominated. So Adam Ortega's family of Ft Drum, whom MilitaryAvenue nominated (see "This Army Family deserves the "Give the Gift of Good") will receive a huge home improvement to make life easier for Adam who has a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. 

The Ortegas of Ft Drum

#79 of 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran: Send a Christmas Card

Have you read 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran? They were written with Veterans Day in mind but many for all year round.

79. Remember Veterans during other holidays, especially those without family. Send a Thanksgiving card, Christmas card or Valentines card, to either a Vet that you know or through a VA Hospital or VFW.
- http://www.militaryavenue.com/ways_to_thank_veteran

Last night after dinner, we cleared the dishes, did our usual cleanup routine and then I pulled out the craft supplies.  Glitter, paint, glue, markers, stock-paper and oh so much more

Time to make Christmas Cards for a special Veteran in my life, my Grandfather (and Grandmother).   They are far from family, not able to travel as easily, but loved oh so much!

You can also lift up the spirits of our Veterans this holiday season.  I know they could use it!   But an amazing thing happens while working on a gift for them.  Our spirits were lifted too.  Full of laughter, smiles, chit-chat and more.  THIS is the light in the season.  Giving and receiving, all in the same act.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
- Jeremiah 29:11

Dad and Josh:  Makes me smile


18 years ago a boy was born.

He would forever change my life, influencing the mother that I am today, yesterday and tomorrow.

"1001 Things To Love About Military Life"

"1001 Things To Love About Military Life" and the authors have found them!

What fun! A book to read that chronicles the military lifestyle in a positive manner and resources, moments of laughter, re-living the life or learning the life are all there!

Inputs from four authors and social media friends provide a great coffee table reader for your guests! Your military friends will pick it up and find a section to comment on or your civilian friends will pick it up and ask questions like, “was it really like this? Or, did you really like military life? A great way to begin a conversation and tell others why we loved the military lifestyle and how it impacted our lives!

Army to Drawdown by 50,000 - The head “Scout” of the Army’s Enlisted Force Talks with MilitaryAvenue

SMA Chandler with 170th IBCT (see below for photo credit)
Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA), Raymond F. Chandler took some of his critical time to speak with the Bloggers Roundtable on Wednesday. He said felt like the lead Scout of the Army’s enlisted force and wanted to give us a feel of what the enlisted soldiers where concerned about and how the Army was dealing with their issues. The SMA was lively, interested in our questions and provided some great responses as he described an “amazing Army”. He told us we were at a crossroads in the Army with reduced budgets and a drawdown of forces that will impact everyone.

After he made opening remarks, I asked if he felt that the Army was taking care of the troops that were separating or retiring with employment information and assistance. He said this was a “huge concern” and that they were “doing the best we can”. Recent efforts within the Department of Labor, VA and White House have resulted in a coordinated program to meet the challenge (editor’s note, for example the recently signed “VOW to Hire Veterans Act”). The new Army Directive for the Transition Assistance Program within one year of separation/retirement is a step forward. The biggest challenge according to Chandler was linking jobs availability with individual soldiers. The increase in those leaving the service will definitely impact this effort as a drawdown of 50,000 troops is expected shortly.

SMA Chandler (see below for photo credit)
How is the Army going to accomplish such a large drawdown was the follow on and he responded with a four point program:

1) Less Recruits


2) Fewer Retentions


VOW to Hire Veterans Act and “WOW” Come Together for Veterans Seeking Employment at Sears!

A VOW from Congress and a big WOW for Sears!

Citing Labor Department statistics with 900,000 unemployed veterans in October this year and with more returning from Iraq as the war ends there, David Works, Senior Vice President Talent & Human Capital Services for Sears, excitedly explained to MilitaryAvenue how they were increasing vet hires at Sears Holdings. A Navy veteran of fast attack submarines, David highlighted the efforts of Sears to increase veteran hires by 10% in 2012 with veterans filling positions from hourly associates to store managers, global logistics, corporate level and more with military experience a plus for new hires! Challenging other corporations to support our veterans, he noted that Sears had hired 1,637 veterans as of December 1st this year!  A 200% jump from 2010!  WOW!

Hiring veterans is “not an act of goodwill” but simply “good business” according to David who said they plan to hire from all the services, both enlisted and officer ranks and have a specific military recruitment team at Sears! They plan to be at 100 job fairs in 2012 around major military population locations/installations to find veteran hires. So how do you find out if you fit their requirements? "Do my skills transfer to a civilian job"? According to David, “they will” and he gave some thoughts on how to prepare. Ready? He wants to help you find a job, has the credentials and is willing to push Sears corporate to hire you!  These are words from the guy in charge of hiring!  Pay attention!

There are 30,000 veterans working at Sears and so how do you join them? First, three things to improve your opportunity from David:

Mr. David Works, Navy Vet & SVP Sears
1) Do Your Homework and Take Ownership of the Process

Prepare for your next job - do research at http://mynextmove.dol.gov/ and http://www.searsholdings.com/careers/opportunities/military/ . Find out what interests you and where you can go.  (Also, look at what congress has done to help with the VOW Act.- editor note)

2) Talk to Your Buddies about Civilian Life

Give your veteran friends a call or contact them via social media. It is a super way to find out what next steps are, how they handled the challenges and where they found military friendly businesses like Sears.

Counter Top Cooking: Beef Stew

Winter comfort food fueled Jacob and Esther's cooking skills with savory aroma and fantastic chunky beef stew.
They pounded a thick round steak then I cut off the excess fat.
They mixed the dredging flour and bread crumbs while I heated a heavy saute pan with butter.
I cut the meat into small chunks and they rolled it in the flour mixture.
They mounded the chunks on a platter so I could brown the beef.
They washed the baby carrots, drained the canned mushrooms,decided how much of the chopped onion should go in, and  took pinches of dried herbs then added them to the cooker.  The joy of sticking a fork into a large jar of canned tomatoes and flopping each red ball into the mixture brought raucous laughter.  (I always wondered why there were so many  tomatoes in a good stew... it's just a fun thing to do!)
Each felt the need to put in a beef bouillon cube, a touch of salt and a good shake of celery salt to boot.  In went the liquid from the tomato jar, and a half jar of water.
They made a great meal to take home and present to each of their Moms.  Cousins cooking together - pure enjoyment.

Ingredients for a fine, filling stew:
4 lb thick round steak
2 T butter
1/2 c flour
1/2 c fine bread crumbs
8 oz bag baby carrots
1 small onion, chopped
1 t each dried: parsley, oregano, basil
pinch of salt
1/2 t celery salt
1 qt jar canned tomatoes
2 c water
2 bouillon cubes

Aprons are a must with my cooking with the grands.  

That and plenty of clean up time.  But oh the memories, the comfort of having them in the kitchen with me... it is a place that I love to be, and now we share this working space, as Jacob and Esther have ownership!  Their older cousins taught me the joy of watching youth create out of eggs, milk and flour: Waffles, unending piles of waffles that disappeared when they visited.  Such lessons are life's pleasure!

This Christmas Tree is not a Holiday Tree

This is a Christmas Tree, it is an evergreen, has family ornaments and a few strings of lights that are painstakingly placed. 

This weekend the governor of at least one state (Rhode Island) announced that the tree in their capitol rotunda was a "Holiday Tree" in the name of political correctness, plain and simple.  I do not know many other religions that celebrate the holiday season with this type of tree. Yes, I realize it really may not be a symbol of Christianity (just like Santa Claus is not) except for the star on top and many of the ornaments that are placed with Christian symbols. 

However, Mr Governor, the major religious groups that are not specifically Christian, celebrate with other symbols, not the big tree in your Rotunda.  So you can rename it, if you want, but to me it is a Christmas Tree and I believe I can say that without offending most if not all of our citizens! 

Please let us know how you feel and if a citizen of Rhode Island or any other location with a Christmas tree that has been renamed please let your elected officials know what you think as well!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

A Contrast Between Men

A Contrast between Men

Both professors, trained, educated

Professors at same school of law

One serves his country

The other rebukes those who support the troops

One shows honor by resigning when he disagrees with position of law school

One hides behind freedom of speech while he dishonors with false claims those that protect him

Professor Robert Roughsedge, Major US Army Reserve

in Kabul Afghanistan - Serves and Protects

Professor Michael Avery, Suffolk University Law School

Via email “I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.”



NORAD is ready to track Santa's flight

This is so much fun!  Last year my boys and I pulled up NORAD's site at www.noradsanta.org and watched Santa travel around the world on Christmas Eve.  It was so much fun talking to my boys about different cultures, different time zones, the way the earth spins, different parts of the world and the boys and girls that live all around us, all while watching Santa ZOOM from place to place.

You can follow them on Facebook to keep up with the latest: http://www.facebook.com/noradsanta
Make this part of your Christmas Tradition.  You won't regret it:


NORAD is ready to track Santa's flight

Dec. 1, 2011
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The North American Aerospace Defense Command is getting ready to track Santa’s yuletide journey! The NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, went live today featuring a Countdown Calendar, a Kid’s Countdown Village complete with holiday games and activities that change daily, and video messages from students and troops from around the world. With the addition of Brazilian Portuguese, the website is now available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Chinese.

This year, using free apps in the Apple iTunes Store and in the Android Market, parents and children can countdown the days until Santa’s take off on their smart phones! Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and Twitter. Santa followers just need to type “@noradsanta” into each search engine to get started.

Also on the website, fans can go to the Operation Good Will page and watch the live stream of the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, presented by the National Park Foundation and National Park Service, on Dec. 1 beginning at 4:30 p.m. EST by clicking on the http://www.thenationaltree.org link.

Starting at midnight MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa as he makes all the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can talk to a live phone operator to inquire about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to noradtrackssanta@gmail.com. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations worldwide.

NORAD Tracks Santa has truly become a global experience, delighting generations of families everywhere. It is due, in large part, to the efforts and services of numerous contributors. New to this year’s program are Acuity Scheduling, Big Fish Worldwide, Carousel Industries, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council, General Electric, the National Tree Lighting Ceremony, RadiantBlue Technologies Inc., thunderbaby studios, the U.S. Coast Guard Band, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Band, Visionbox, and the West Point Band. Returning collaborators include the Air Force Academy Band, Analytical Graphics Inc., Air Canada, Avaya, Booz Allen Hamilton, Colorado Springs School District 11, the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, the Federal Aviation Administration, First Choice Awards & Gifts, Globelink Foreign Language Center, Google, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Meshbox, the Naden Band of the Maritime Forces Pacific, Naturally Santa’s Inc., the Newseum, OnStar, PCI Broadband, the Space Foundation, tw telecom, Verizon and UGroup Media.

It all started in 1955 when a local media ad directed kids to call Santa direct – only the number was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Thus began the tradition which NORAD has carried on since it was created in 1958.

Follow NORAD Tracks Santa on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube!

NOTE TO MEDIA MEMBERS: If interested in covering the 2011 NORAD Tracks Santa program, send requests to nnc.pa.nts.omb@northcom.mil or call (719) 554-688



- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Elf on a Shelf

Read about the Letter our Elf brings
each year
We are a family of tradition.  Old ones from the days of my forefathers (this is what my mom tells me); ones created in my own childhood (the wife of an airman living thousands of miles from family my mom had creative juices flowing all the time); now traditions that I am creating for my own children.

 
Tomorrow, as is tradition each December 1st, our Elf comes to visit!  For a number of years he has been visiting and he moves around the house each night.  Who knows where he is going to pop-up next.  Each morning my boys get up excited to figure out where the Elf has moved.

Enter the beauty of Pinterest!  There are SO many creative moms out there.  My hat goes off to each of you that make life for your children fun, exciting, treasured.  They say the greatest form of flattery is imitation so as my little elf travels around the Kocsis Household this Christmas Season consider yourself flattered.

If you have never heard of "Elf on a Shelf" I wrote this up a few years ago when we first started this tradition:

I went to my local store and bought a $3 stuffed Santa as I could not really find an elf and I explained that Santa dropped him off last night.  Each night he is going to move around the house. Later in the day, I watched them reconsider their actions as I watched one's little hands reach for the other's neck... and I reminded them "Santa is watching!" They both looked at the elf, smiled and found something better to do with their time. It seems it gave it a *tangible*, new perspective. - "Elf on a Shelf" - A New Christmas Tradition
This year's elf may be a little more conniving though.  A little more crazy.  He lives life on the edge making snow-angels in sugar or perhaps flour, painting the boys' noses red, perhaps even wreaking havoc on some coloring books.  I'll be sure to record his travels and report back to you.  It is going to be an exciting Christmas Season. 

Here's to Traditions - Old and New!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com


Shenanigans of Our Elf from years past:

RACK-O Anyone?!

One morning he brought some donuts
and had a few donuts his own size
(Cheerios with some chocolate frosting)

He joined us one year by flying into the glass
by the front door.  That had to hurt!

A nice 'bubble bath' in the bathroom

The Elf was in the underwear drawer!

Reading an Advent Book to some new friends

The Elf hanging out with our Soldier
Nutcracker and some plastic-soldiers

Enjoying some ice cream in the freezer

Peek-A-Boo --- I see you!

WAR!  Star Wars Figurines vs Soldiers

MMMM... A nice glass of cold milk

Calendars of the Season

Our calendars are there to remind us. Sometimes they say it is time for an appointment, or a vacation or maybe a weekend getaway. For military families they can mean the return of a loved one or the day they depart (hardest one maybe) for a mission or deployment. Today our little family calendar reminded us that 10 years ago today I had picked up a new brand new C-17 from the Boeing Long Beach California plant. It still had that brand new smell to it – like a car but without the leather.

We landed to a bit of fanfare at McChord AFB with each new C-17 but tail number 0178 was special for us. I had flown for most of the 30 years I served and later that last mission was into Afghanistan (yep another marked calendar event) but the new aircraft was a great way to look back at a calendar full of events.

US Air Force C-17 (US Air Force photo)
Since then, I am sure that tail number has moved injured troops to a hospital; airdropped supplies to starving Afghan families; provided relief supplies to Haitians after their earthquake; equipment to Japan after their tsunami damaged nuclear reactors sent radioactive wastes into the water and air; took in the mail to US Embassies around the world or carried supplies for our troops engaged with enemies in locations not even in the news.


Your Vote Matters: The Gift of Good

One Army-Strong Family
One Wounded Warrior
One Devout, Proud Spouse
Five Loving Children
  • A bathroom to assist this warrior with his new physical limitations
  • Kitchen modifications for his family's needs
  • New windows to keep out those harsh upstate New York winter storms
  • Fencing for the yard to help with privacy needs from the trauma of TBI/PTSD

Meet the Ortegas, MilitaryAvenue's Nomination for The Home Depot Foundation's Gift of Good: Vote for them.
 
You can help make this military-family's needs a reality.


You can vote once every 24 hours, be sure to join us at Facebook.com/MilitaryAvenue so that we can remind you to vote each day.

This Army Family deserves the "Give the Gift of Good"


"...our nominee has a great opportunity to win the $20,000 home makeover from the Foundation..."

We are very excited! We have a specific mission to support our military community at MilitaryAvenue.com.  Our efforts have been rewarded with a sense of accomplishment, smiles and appreciation.  But today we are just ready to tell the story of one Army family and our effort to identify a military family for a home makeover from the Home Depot Foundation.

The Adam and Monica Ortega family
We have started our mission with the selection of the crew! MilitaryAvenue has reviewed all of our entries for the HD Foundation, “Give the Gift of Good Contest” and selected our military service member participant! We earlier announced that MilitaryAvenue’s “Our Letters to You. A Military Family Blog” was one of nine bloggers privileged to participate. So our nominee has a great opportunity to win the $20,000 home makeover from the Foundation during the next 11 days beginning at midnight tonight. But let’s get to know them!

MEET THE ORTEGAS



Popsicle Sled Simple Christmas Tree Ornament Idea

Popsicle Sleds: simple fun for a young one to put together.  Ideas for children to use to create a memory that mark each year on the tree are great to catalog.  This sheet of paper was tucked in an ornament bin, ready to share or use with some tree trimming youngsters!

Kids and Christmas... they just go together!

Because the sheet is old, I typed the words for easier viewing.  However the design for the popsicle sticks are easy to replicate.

Materials needed: Six inches of gold or silver thread like cord, seven popsicle sticks, paint, paint brush and glue.
Cut sticks as outlined on right.

#1 is placed on the top, and will have name on it.
#2 and #3 are shorter and go on top also.
#4 is on top, and needs holes for the cord.  It will have the year painted on it.
#5 (need two of these) goes on the bottom.
#6 and #7 are the runners on the bottom.

Glue pieces #1, #2, #3 to #5's.  Attach to the runners (#6 and #7).  Let dry.   Turn over and Glue #4 in place.  Paint and add cord in holes with knots to back.  Personalize by painting the person's name down the center of piece #1.  These make nice tree ornaments or package trimmers.

Have fun with these!  You will see them for years to come.

Rustic Christmas Tree

I was browsing Pinterest.com last month looking for an idea to use on Thanksgiving day.   Each year, after dinner the Moms and tots let the Christmas spirit enter our thoughts with a homemade project.  Simplicity is number one priority, as we are tired, full under the influence of a ton of turkey and boat loads of whipped cream.

Those who attend, sail to the table with languid interest, yet each expect to come out with a DaVinci masterpiece. 
But it is fun.  It is time to laugh at ourselves, try something new, pick through beads, choose twigs (that have been pre-drilled) and create a masterpiece... or at least something tangible.

And each year we love it.  Whatever 'it' is.  A new decoration is ours.

SaveAndInvest.org's Military Center

Some Great Resources over at
SaveAndInvest.org's Military Center
Have you visited the website from FINRA Investor Education Foundation for military families SaveAndInvest.org? It is developed specifically to help us better manage money such an important topic this time of year and progressing into the new year.  They have re-launched with new content, action plans, worksheets and videos. Here is a link to the press release.

Topic areas include digging out of debt, making ends meet, planning for the future, managing financial products and avoiding fraud. Debt and credit information is particularly important for military families; research by the FINRA Foundation found that more than a quarter have $10,000 or more in credit card debt.

Specific tools at the newly re-launched site include:

· The Track Your Spending action plan to help military families manage their monthly expenses, part of a toolkit on making ends meet

Christmas Traditions Decorating at Home and at Church

As the leftover Thanksgiving turkey is down to turkey salad, Christmas decorations are hauled from the closets.  Boxes, cartons and plastic bins hold memories, treasures and herald the coming holiday.  The last plastic bin was rifled through hoping to reveal perky Christmas towels.  There on the bottom, as if an afterthought was a sheet of typed, well copied paper from Keflavik Naval Air Station's PWOC about Christmas tree history.  A paper reminder of good times, great ladies, strong values: military spouses of all services and NATO nations.

Christmas Tree History
Since the earliest days of the bringing of evergreens indoors at Christmastime has been one of the first ways of giving the home a festive flair.  Before Christianity was introduced to Northern Europe, people brought evergreens into their homes in winter because of their profound reverence for nature.  This gave them the ability to bring the world of nature indoors.  They also believed that good spirits lived in the trees that would ward the custom of bringing evergreen trees and branches into the home was retained.  The use of evergreen was so loosely associated with the pagan days that they were forbidden in many of the early churches.   It was not until the sixteenth century that Christian homes were commonly decorated.   The evergreen tree is a symbol of Christ's unchanging, ever present love for us.  Read Hebrews 13:8

A Thanksgiving Message from MilitaryAvenue.com

The entire MilitaryAvenue.com Team extends a happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

What are some things MilitaryAvenue is thankful for?

First and foremost, we are so very thankful for the people that work so tirelessly at keeping us safe.  The Marines (OORAH!) , the Soldiers (Hooah!), the Airmen (HUA!), the Coast Guard (Oorah!), the Sailors (Hooyah!).

We will say a special prayer at dinner for the families that stand behind the troops; especially the spouses and the children.  But we won't leave out the mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and even grandchildren.  Thank you to each of you for standing behind /your/ Service Member, remembering what they need throughout the year, physically and mentally.

We would be remiss if we didn't mention the organizations that support the military family. Groups like: The Home Depot Foundation, SitterCity, USAA, Sears, The Mission Continues, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Volunteers of America, Home Base Foundation, and each and everyone of our MilitaryAvenue Partners.  EACH of these businesses holds a special place in their heart for you the military family.  You are the reason they stretch out their hand and say "Thank You" in so many ways.


There are so many things that can affect the simple beauty of this upcoming day of Thanks.  Distance - physical and mental - can put such a damper on the day.  If you need help please be in touch with Military OneSource.  They have 24/7 help.

Even the troops around the world are enjoying a fabulous meal of Thanks.
Blessing to all of you! (Logistics Agency Provides Thanksgiving Meals)

To all our service members and their families: Have a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

- The MilitaryAvenue Team

PS: We have a few giveaways up our sleeve coming in the month of December. We love all the opportunities we are afforded to say thank you, through out the year. Stay tuned!

"I'll be Home for Christmas" is the new theme song of troops in Iraq - DoD Blogger Roundtable



The last division in Iraq should be home for Christmas!  That is the goal of military leaders.  After almost nine years of war in Iraq, the less than 20,000 troops still there are getting on planes and heading home – the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii is the last major unit in Iraq and as the New Dawn stage of the war prepares to transition the last 7 bases to Iraq (6) and Department of State (1) control.   A new relationship is beginning with the New Year! 

U.S. Army Brig General Bradley Becker said a plane full of the division’s troops landed in Hawaii last night.  The pace has been hectic – more than 39,000 troops were in country as of October 24th, less than a month ago.  At the height of the surge in 2007/2008 there were 165,000 service members in Iraq on 505 bases.  The pace picked up when the President announced that the U.S. and Iraq had agreed on a final withdrawal of all troops.

This was the last DoD Blogger Roundtable session from Iraq!  A big shout to the Defense Media/DoDLive folks for keeping the bloggers engaged with the commanders and leadership in Iraq.

Grandma's Thunder Cake

Tomorrow is Grandparent day in my 1st graders class.  Can you tell we aren't near a military base?  Clearly, this isn't something I grew up with when I was in 1st grade, stationed at Sheppard AFB thousands of miles from either of my grandparents.

My first grader is fortunate.  His Grandpa and Grandma Kocsis live close enough that they are going to join him in his class for the morning.  I am filled with a sense of love.  Then at the same time I have a sense of some sadness.  My parents (his Grandpa and Grandma Kissinger) don't live close.  They don't get to see each other often enough in my book and this Thanksgiving does not involve a road trip for our family.

The holidays can be hard.  When we are apart from family, those that we love, our parents, our children, our own spouses, whatever the case may be, it can leave us feeling a bit stormy, filled with raging emotions of joy and sorrow all balled up in one.

Mrs. G had sent an email asking for parent volunteers who would be willing to bake for the special day, Grandparents Day.  I love volunteering for the class, in any way possible.  So I replied with a 'Sure Thing!'  The next day a recipe for "Thunder Cake" came home.  I did a little research and learned it is from a book.

Talking Turkey (leftovers) Tasty Tuesday

A crowd fills the house at Thanksgiving each year.  Chairs are mixed and matched to heights of a child's lap.  Tables are added domino style... fitting this end, turning a corner with several tablecloths draped over them.  My table is a center point of the Thanksgiving action for me.  For me.  Now, for more than half of us it is the Macy's Day parade which spills into football.   Hors d'oeuvres  fill the gap from the yeasty breakfast rolls or bowls holding fruited steamy oatmeal to dinner.  A steady aroma of turkey feeds an appetite that nothing else can satisfy.  Our menu has turkey highlighting the table at 2 P.M. and also a quick 5 P.M. homemade bread and slices of roasted turkey for sandwiches.  Therefore 2 turkeys are in order.  No question that those requirements have to be met.

Food, it is a love language which speaks of heritage, tradition and togetherness.

Then comes the day after... some years we have turkey.  Travelers are leaving, no desire to pack a lunch leaving an extra 3 or 4 pounds of 'the bird' asking to be prepared into something other than a repeat performance.  Here is where turkey salad is a kiss of simplicity and a reminder of summer days of salads and sun.  Turkey salad with fresh vegetables is crunchy, naturally sweet and healthy.  A great way to use those tiny pieces that fall apart on a sandwich.  Serve with a side of toast, or a tomato, this is a break from potatoes or pasta!

The Happy Dance

She came from behind the door – Looking for her partner, her sparkling eyes find him, she raises her arms, a smile, almost a laugh on her face and begins The Happy Dance…. a combination of tap, ballet and boogie with music supplied by her heart. The audience in the lobby (despite being strangers, each and every one) knows the reason for The Happy Dance.  Many are hoping for a chance to feel the same elation for themselves or their family member in the room too.  Their turns must wait for the same wonderful doctors and technicians to provide care.

MilAve_Deborah with one of her grandchildren
She was a survivor – a breast cancer survivor. Six years ago we had a battle for sure. The early warning radar picked up a blip and it was a definite bogey (bad guy) and we responded with everything we had – we called in the US Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army and Coast Guard of the medical community. We had a rapid response force of radiologist and surgeons and chemotherapy and radiation specialists to back them up. The commander (oncologist) was the best we could find for the mission and we did look and receive second opinions. We had family (mom and her sister, an aunt) who had a delayed response due to early warning failures, slow support and less lethal back up. The bad guys, the breast cancer cells had won and we knew the risk.
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