This Page

has been moved to new address

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): August 2008

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

My Photo
Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Change in Bowel Habits Does Not Equal Embarrassment

I write today with a heavy heart and soul. My grandmom is right now struggling with life and fighting against a cancer that has literally grown exponentially in her bowels. Yes, she has colon cancer, one of the deadliest cancers out there. I am about to get on a plane to go back to the States, and I hope I can reach her in time. I have left a few things unsaid, plus I hope that there is some hope for her and her continued life. I'm sorry I won't be posting the rest of this week...obviously, right? But, before I leave, I want to absolutely give you the warning signs of possible colon cancer. It's not something ever to be too embarrassing to discuss. I also had my first colonoscopy at 39 years old, and let me tell you....worrying about it was worse than the actual procedure itself. Read on and safe a could be yours or someone you love.

You know how we all like to joke about constipation...especially if it's only occasional, but suddenly, if it become chronic, no one wants to talk about it. If you ever have a change in bathroom habits, in particular, the ones below, PLEASE make an appointment with your doctor and get checked out. Don't let him talk you into doing the virtual just doesn't catch everything, and if you're going to go through the whole prep and voiding process anyway, you might as well go for the full monte. Only the bonafide tube up your butt will do the trick. It is painless, both before, during and after, and the worst of the whole procedure was the prep work. As long as you are okay with playing hookie for two days and not straying too far from the toilet, you'll do just fine and work yourself through it. You also have a very new appreciation of all the starving people in the world, as you'll feel like you are one of them. Your period cramps are worse than anything your bowels can throw at you, so don't let pain stand in your way either. It is insignificant. I saw throw at you, because the voiding can be particularly sudden and forceful if you know what I mean. With that being said, watch out for these signs:

  • thin stools. I don't like to be graphic, but Katie Couric's husband, who brought to light...somewhat...colon cancer, complained of spaghetti thin strands of waste
  • severe stomach cramping
  • bloody stool (may also be an indicator of just plain hemorrhoids, but let your doctor determine that)
  • unexplained and sudden weight loss
  • strange feeling of fullness (as the tumor gets bigger)
  • gassy and bloating issues (more so than normal for you)
  • lethargy and tired (anemic due to blood loss)
You should also read some more about colon cancer here. If anyone else has any stories or things to share...about colon cancer or any other kind of cancer, please do post it here as well. Please keep your fingers crossed for my grandmom, and please pray that my husband and kids can hold down the fort by themselves. My 11 year old just had a load of responsibility heaped on him...whether he wanted it or not! His dad still has to run the battalion!


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Moving and Flying with Pets

This is my last bit of advice concerning moving with pets. I've done it...I've analyzed it, and I've beat it to death and will end it here. Be sure to read my other posts on moving and pets. I had a bit of a steep learning curve, as my first big move with pets was by plane and overseas, but I am happy to say we all made it okay and in one piece.

Here final thoughts:

  • If you are moving overseas and need a valid 10 day pet health certificate, I encourage you to use a military vet. Not only is the check-up and paperwork free, but military vets are more familiar with the procedures. I think ours mentioned something about our paperwork having to go thru the USDA or some other entity, and if we use a civilian vet, we'd have to fax paperwork, and my husband immediately said...those are too many moving parts. A friend of ours was missing one signature on her paperwork and ended up having to leave her dogs at Frankfurt International Airport for EIGHT hours (and having to pay kennel costs), while she tried to figure it all out.
  • Use piddle pads inside the bottom of the crate. I know your doggie is a good doggie, so is mine. But you know how Murphy can strike whenever you least expect it. I had one friend whose dog got really sick, and luckily the pad absorbed most of it. Another, the dog got stuck in the crate on the tarmac because of delays and just couldn't hold it anymore. Newspapers just don't cut your pet a favor and just put the piddle pad (puppy training pads) underneath your pet's regular bed or mat.
  • If you are flying, pick the shortest flight route. We drove from Florida to Virginia, visited relatives there, dropped of our van to be shipped through Baltimore and flew out of Dulles. This gave us a direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany. You want to avoid any flights where you have to change planes. More chance for things to go wrong, and your pets to be stuck on the hot....or cold...tarmac and potentially left behind or put on the wrong plane. Less moving parts again my husband would say.
  • Check airlines pet flying policies and prices. Even though the military arranges your flight, if you are going overseas, check beforehand, which airport is closest to your destination and which airlines are most pet friendly. Consistently, I heard plugs for United and Lufthansa. We flew United in the middle of a hot summer and the pets were fine, because all of United's planes are temperature controlled. Many of the others are not and have restrictions on when you can fly pets. Also check those prices. A friend was charged what must've been the cargo freight fee for her two medium sized dogs...yep, over $2,000. We were only charged $310 for a cat and a large 100 lb dog (with a 50 lb grande size kennel). That broke down into the cat flying for $105 and the dog for $205 one way.
  • Visit the airline's pet travel webpage. Each airline has a page...or group of pages on their requirements for pet air travel. If you can't find it in writing, then ask about it. For example, I called the airline to make sure this super giant dogcrate would fit on the plane. The reservationist was actually able to look up the airplane type and what size crates would fit. Not all planes fit all size crates, and if you are stuck on a plane that is too small, you risk the chance of having to ship your pet air freight which equals $$$$$$.....or leaving your pet behind.
  • Make sure your pet's travel information is in your PNR. As soon as you get your reservation, call the airline and make sure your pets and what crate models you have, are noted in your record. Planes can only take a certain number of pets per plane, and you don't want any mistakes on crate sizes vs plane cargo hold space. Most airlines only allow two pets per passenger cabin (more in the cargo hold), so make sure that is noted as well if that's what you plan to do. I knew someone who showed up at the airport and was denied boarding her pet because two other passengers had their pets noted in their records. Because of some kind of oversight, her kitty was not. This brings me to my next point.
  • Have back up arrangements for your pet. Things can go wrong at the airport or with your family or with your schedule. I knew someone who last year had a dog and crate who were five pounds over the limit, and they would not allow the dog to board. She was also traveling with a little dog and four kids! Since she had planned ahead, she was able to give the dog to a friend...who was helping them at the airport at check in...and made arrangements for her to ship the dog at a later date...after he was put on a little diet.
  • Put something in the crate that smells like you. In the week before we moved, I put a washcloth for each pet on our pillows. Right before we flew, they each got one. I honestly think this had a calming effect on both of them. When I first saw the cat, he had it burrowed all around him.
  • If you have a litter box trained cat, plan for your sponsor or someone on the receiving end to have a litterbox and litter ready for you. My husband didn't...think he was too embarrassed. We got to Frankfurt airport, and the poor cat refused to go to the bathroom at the airport on a plot of grass or at our first highway rest stop. Of course, the dog had no issues with this. After a three hour drive to our destination, my husband had to run and buy the goods, brought the stuff to the hotel and the was truly a sight to see...jumped in there and must've scratched for a full minute, eyes wide, meowing to no end....before finally going....poor thing. I don't think he's ever not gone in a litterbox and probably never will!
  • Tape a cheap leash and a photo of your pet to the top of its crate. You never know when there might be delays and a sympathetic airline employee might take out your pet. Also, if your pet somehow escapes, they will at least know what he looks like.
  • Tape a ziploc bag of one food portion to the top of the crate. I chose not to feed my they wouldn't have to go to the bathroom. They won't totally starve by missing one meal. But let's say there are major delays. You don't want your pets going too long without food.

    Do you have any tips to share?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Never Again Lumpy Gravy

Grandmom taught me this one. For those of you who cook, how many times do you make gravy...and then it ends up being lumpy? If you're one of the unlucky ones, here's how to never have lumpy gravy again.

I make gravy by adding a cup of water and a cup of broth to whatever meat I have cooking in a pot, in a roaster, in the oven. While you are slicing the meat, or even if you're too lazy to do anything more with the meat...just shove it to the side....take a measuring cup or any kind of empty yogurt cup will even do. My grandmom had this cool little plastic measuring cup with a lid...I use an old jelly jar with a lid. Fill it with a 1/2 to a cup of COLD water. Drop in two tablespoons flour...or cornstarch....close lid and shake VIGOUROSLY until it is all dissolved. If you don't have a lid, then use a fork or small whisk instead. Make sure it is nice and smooth. Then pour this concoction into your broth/water mix. Stir pot and bring to a boil...keep stirring til gravy is nice and thick and remove from heat. And there you have it.

Sometimes, my gravy does end up needing more taste, and that's why I just pour in some chicken or beef granules (depending on what I'm cooking) and a bit of salt...perfect gravy.

If you have any tricks to making great gravy, please share with the rest of us.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We are They

I had a run-in with someone's wife yesterday, who can only be labeled as a complainer...a whiner as they say in the military....someone who I think actually relishes in complaining about others and how they do things. Now I'm not saying there aren't good enough reasons to carry on about something that bothers you. We all have been in that situation, haven't we. But when you start seeing a pattern of someone complaining about how "they" do this wrong and why do "they" do the things that might not be norm for them. I've finally come up with an answer to someone who persists along this line of thinking...and it at least gets them to shut up...and if I'm really lucky, it gets them to think about things.

I reply, "We are they?" and then smile. Huh? In other words, instead of sitting on your fat duff complaining about what everyone else is doing, why don't you be a bit proactive and do something about it yourself? Why not voice your opinion in a different light, giving your ideas and input of how it can be done differently and perhaps more efficiently and then lending a hand in the implementation? Maybe if you get yourself involved it'll give you a greater sense of worth, a newfound energy and little twinkle in your eye where it was just plain dull before.....and you wondered why no one wants to hang around you....just some thoughts to chew on...


Monday, August 18, 2008

A Plug for a Great Army Wives Forum

I use this website often. I don't have the answers for everything, and the wives on here are really great...and supportive. They also share some great stories and can really relate to what's going on in your Army life.

Be sure to visit and check out the special forums, such as overseas wives, wives of retirees and ask an experienced wife.

Check it out!

If you have any other favorite Army or military spouse websites, please post them below.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Get Off Your Computer and on with your Life

Ever get on the computer and then find you are still on there...hours later....and you didn't intend to be? Did you ever wonder why that happened? I often do. It's one thing if you have a project that you are working on, but if you are like me....and all you can remember is a flurry of email and visiting websites and reading mindless crap, then it's time to clean up your act and get on with your life. Here's how to streamline your internet time.

With email:

  • Deal with email at a time other than first thing in the morning. I struggle with this...but this is what keeps me on there too long to begin to a bad start. Check it mid-morning, and you'll get thru it faster. If something is truly urgent, someone will have called you about it.
  • Get off email mailing lists. This may be easier said than done! The legitimate ones, go ahead and unsubscribe from them. For the others, just mark them as spam and they'll get directly deleted or sent to your spam folder. For those of you who still like but just don't have time for these lists, most email programs will let you assign a folder to incoming email. That way, all those newsletters will go into one folder and out of your inbox. Iff you do get some downtime, you can go and do some reading without feeling the pressure of having to clear your inbox.
  • Block junkmail senders. Tell family and friends you just don't have time to read joke and forwarded emails. And those you just get randomly....block them.
  • Sort your email. Make folders for various projects or by person, follow up on longer responses next time you open email.
  • Delete trash folder once a week on Friday. I like to keep trash around and not delete it immediately, just in case I do miss something, but even I have my limits.
  • Have an action or temporary file and empty it once a week or when the item is completed.
  • Have a read file and read during breaks at work.
  • Always put a title you can understand in emails you send out..use that subject line to your...and the other person's... advantage.
  • Track your email checking and responding for one day and prepare to be shocked. Make email checking just a part of your day and not your whole day.
If you are a total email power user:
  • When writing your emails
    • Use brief are not writing any essays.
    • Get right to the point at the beginning of your email.
    • Provide accurate info in your email.
    • Don't forward junk.
    • Keep a stock file of FAQ and common responses.
    • Re-read your email before you send it. It's amazing the syntax and other errors we make. This way you can also catch when something just doesn't sound right or come across how you meant it.
    • Have a plan for what you are going to do when you get off the computer.
    • Make a conscious decision to get off the computer at a certain time. Use a timer or alarm if you have to.
And to keep yourself from spending hours on the internet, visiting one site after another...make a notation of which sites you are going to visit today. Don't click on links elsewhere, but just file ones that sound interesting, away for future reference, when you do have more time. I keep a small spiral notebook and write in websites and articles I'd like to read....but it's just like magazine often do you read each magazine cover to cover? You just don't...there isn't enough time in the day, and you have to realize that from the get go. Don't waste another minute of your life on here. Get off the computer and enjoy more of life:-)) See you next week!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

After the Move/PCS...What I Wish I Had Known Before

You know how the military does an After Action Review (AAR) after every operation? We civilians should do such things too. I'm always harping on learning from past experiences, in particular learning from the mistakes of others. Well, as you may already know, we moved kit and kaboodle, including two kids, a 100 lb dog, a cat and our belongings from Florida to Germany this past summer. As is typical with such things, I did stress about it. I also did an ungodly amount of planning...just because that's the kind of person I am. But even with all that, there are some lessons learned I can pass on to myself as well as others, so that when you move, it'll be about as smooth sailing as it can get.

As I dutifully unpack our stuff.....alone I might add, as husband has had to work these last few days and then surprisingly had knee surgery on top of that and can't lift a thing around here....these thoughts came to mind:

  • Almost immediately after arrival, identify where you and your family will get your health and dental care (especially if you are in a foreign country). We've been here two months and my youngest had a dental emergency, yesterday. Since space is limited at our on post facility (no, they wouldn't see him right away), I went online to the Tricare's dental site, found a host nation provider, called the closest one, and was able to get him taken care of in a two hour window. If I had investigated this ahead of time, I wouldn't have been driving through a driving rainstorm, totally relying on our GPS and trying to keep an eye out for parking garages, in getting to the place. Scope all locations, as well as local procedures for getting help well before you need it. As for medical emergencies, if it's not life, limb or eyesight, you have to call the Military Police # to get connected to a Tricare person who can authorize care on the economy (or you pay for the emergency visit out of pocket after your claim is denied). They also have a nurse hotline that you can call 24 hours, which can have a somewhat calming effect while you feel all alone in the middle of the night with a child who may be in distress. That happened to me the last time we lived over here (of course DH was deployed at the time, which is typical isn't it?).
  • Keep your shelf pegs in a baggie and tape them to the inside of your furniture. We have some shelves with no pegs. Thankfully, my husband has a big extra stash in our household goods somewhere...we'll eventually get to them...but, if they had been taped to the furniture, I could've put up the shelves and put more stuff away. Now we have more delays. Also have some of those extra glass pegs, that keep glass fronts in place in your furniture. Ours are well worn in our entertainment center, so we ended up taping the glass on the inside to keep those extra secure.
  • Keep all flicker flackers (ie remotes) in the electronic items' boxes or tape them close by. We have a TV that only has one channel right now, because you need the remote to cycle through and program all the local channels, including the German ones (it is a dual system TV), no Olympics for us.
  • When the movers pack your extension cords, cable TV cables and all that other hardware, label the box exactly as such. I spent half a day looking for an extension cord and a cable TV cord and couldn't find any of them...still haven't found them. Luckily, I knew that one of our six garage boxes in the basement had a bin with a myriad of old cables. I was able to quickly find what I was looking for in there.
  • Do realize, that if you are going overseas, you're not going to be able to "run to Walmart" to get whatever. Our AAFES PX has limited choices and worse, they always seem to be out of the exact thing you are looking for. I've been looking for doggie poop bag rolls (I like those on our doggie leash) and a two handset cordless phone, and they've been out of those two things for three weeks! Believe it or not, I also brought a huge stash of Sam's Club toilet paper, papertowels and napkins with us, just because I had them...I probably won't need to buy those things for a few years I now realize. It takes some getting used to...not a lot is sold in bulk over here at the commissary...for God's sakes, the toilet paper comes in a roll of four!
  • Much of the on post housing has 110 and 220 voltage. I would've brought my lighted Christmas stuff if I had known there would be multiple outlets in most rooms. We only brought a few appliances, our computers and our stereo equipment with us. We had planned on buying transformers, which you need on the economy, as you will ONLY find 220 voltage there. Research housing options and amenities before hand.
  • Be very careful unpacking dishpack bins. Good movers rightfully use lots and lots of paper. I had a delicate china cup wrapped in about seven layers of paper....I thought the paper was empty, threw it on the floor...and you can guess what happened next. Don't assume a wad of light-weighted paper is empty!
  • Have a system of staging the boxes in the correct spot and carefully check off each box as you eventually empty it. The military gives you about two months to report missing or damaged items, and now you also get replacement coverage, which is a big step up. So, no need to check off each box as it comes in the house if you don't have the people to do that. It was just me and the boys on moving day. The Romanian movers could not speak a lick of English and only spoke some broken German. After some initial confusion, I wrote a number on each room door, told my son what number was what room (I wrote it on his hand), gave him a Sharpie marker and told him to read what was on the box coming out of the truck, and write what room # the box is supposed to go in. It worked splendidly,which brings me to my next point.
  • When the movers pack up your stuff when you're getting packed out, have them write generally, what the contents are AND what room the items came from. When I was a greenhorn, many years ago, we had a set of movers that didn't do a good job of this, and we wasted so much time on the receiving end, just carrying boxes back and forth all over the house. If boxes are marked with the right room, it's just a matter of unpacking, putting each item away and trashing the packing materials.
Do you have any tips to share? Be sure to read my other moving articles and learn from my mistakes!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New York City on $200 a Night!

I had always wanted to go to New York City. Is it really that hard getting a hotel room? I've had people tell me it is almost impossible! Right before I left Florida, a neighbor told me what she did to get around the availability or should I say non-availability of rooms and also the sky high prices.

She and her husband wanted to do a quiet weekend in the city, in Chelsea, the artist's district. They are both artists and wanted to visit a slew of art galleries and also get a break from their two little kids.

They went to and looked under apartments and condos for rent. There are many listings available. They ended up finding a nice one bedroom place that was $200 a night. It had clean sheets, a view, was close to everywhere they wanted to go, had internet access and a fully stocked kitchen that they were invited to peruse. Their host also stayed in a nearby friend's apartment and was available to help them plan their iteneraries and restaurant forays.

I know that sounds fairly easy, but for safety's sake, I wouldn't do this if I was traveling on my own. I'd also bring something, like a wedge, to stick under the front door, give family members all the info on where we'd be staying and if I could, get some references from the person offering up his place. Most people are legit, but I could see myself being the one person who didn't make the right choice when it comes to picking some random place. Alternatively, you can try these other methods of finding a place to stay.....some are even free.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Happens to a Company's Warranty When They Go Out of Business?

I guess you've been watching the particular where they are talking about all these major car companies with some serious problems....problems bad enough that it could cause them to go away? Remember that obscure company Daewoo? What about when Chrysler had all those troubles and got bought out? How about the talk today of GM and some of the others that are walking a fine line as of today. Did you ever wonder what happens to car warranties of companies that go out of business?

All these car troubles made me wonder, as I once knew someone who had a Daewoo and bought it right before the company went out of business. He might as well have thrown his car in the trash, as he had mega troubles with the thing right around that same time and his warranty wasn't worth the paper it was written on...go figure.

Before you buy a car...and really, there are so many reasons NOT to buy a brand new car the fine print on your manufacturer's warranty and if for some reason you feel it is necessary for an extended warranty, you'd better do even more research.

Anyone have an experience of buying a product, not necessarily a car, where the company went out of business and you couldn't get help when things went belly up?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Is the Military Right for My Family?

I often get asked, "How do you do it?". So in other words, how can you stand the constant moving, husband being gone and doing most things on your own. Of course I have to have some kind of answer, and I try to make it a good one...but it got me thinking......yes, I've got a lot of Army experience....I grew up in an Army household, I was in the Army myself and now I'm married to an Army man, so I'm not really the norm here. What could I say to those who have had no exposure to the military and their significant other is thinking about joining up? First things first.....don't make the decision by really has to be a family one and not just the person who wants to join. Read on to see if the military is something for you.

Keep these thoughts in mind before joining and repeat them to yourself...a few times over...if they stay down, then you are primed for military life. These are listed in no particular order of importance:

  • I can handle living one to three years in one place (we have moved about six times in the last 11 years)
  • I don't mind the moving process, and if I had to, I could orchestrate a family move by myself (yes, the military makes all the arrangements and hires the movers, and there may be a time in your spouse's career where he has to go and you do the moving entirely on your own with a power of attorney in hand)
  • I am okay with not being #1 (I don't care what military folks tell you about family, mission comes first and will always come first; with that being said, the military is making great strides in bumping up the importance of family...."lose a family, lose a soldier" they say)
  • I realize that sometimes, I will be on my own, and it doesn't matter that the kids are sick and throwing up, I'm sick and throwing up, the dog pooped on the rug and the washing machine is overflowing (you tend to get a great support network together, that doesn't even include anyone in your extended family)
  • I know how to balance a checkbook and keep my family's finances in order (or I am willing to learn; you need to be able to be the household manager and make some decisions on your own)
  • I realize that if I do marry a military man, and he is an officer or a higher ranking non-commissioned officer (NCO), there will be certain things expected of me (such as volunteering and mentoring spouses of lower enlisted soldiers)
  • I absolutely have to be a self-starter and be able to motivate myself and not always have to feed off anyone else's energy (it's almost like being a single parent a lot of the time; I have the highest respect for someone who has to raise children on their own, especially those with no family support network)
  • I have to have a flexible and open nature (you cannot be so set in your ways and not open to change or you will be miserable)
  • I cannot be a gossip (I do know people who aren't happy unless they are talking about someone and what that someone is doing; do this in the military and it could harm your spouse's career, not to mention affect operational security, such as bringing harm to your spouse's unit while he is deployed...or even at home; I've learned to watch CNN and not say a word when friends or relatives ask me loaded questions)
  • I have to have some kind of sense of humor, because on same days, that's all you'll have to keep you going
  • I am open to making new friends and branching out my horizons (you don't necessarily have to be an extrovert...cause I'm not....I'm the opposite myself...but when faced with an opportunity to talk to others and make friends, you have to be'll be doing it over and over again after every move and at every new location)
  • I have to realize the military has a certain sense of structure and order, and even though I am my own person, I have to be willing to assimilate somewhat (as in get familiar with some of the customs and courtesies, as well as learning the various acronyms and procedures, as some affect me as a spouse and my children)
  • I have to be at least a little adventurous and curious about other things (if you are a person who absolutely resists any kind of change, you will not last in a military environment; many times people who have no children and then suddenly have a baby are able to overcome this roadblock just by being a parent!)
  • I have to realize too that being a soldier is going to be more dangerous than being the local grocery store manager and have to plan accordingly (which means talking about wants and wishes as well as having enough life insurance to keep the survivor and the kids worry free the rest of their lives)
If you've read this far, then you are military spouse material and you should have no problems adjusting to military life. I personally like to say my family is right for the military. Our extended family has a sense of service, sacrifice and duty. We are not going to be a blip on the radar screen of life like so many others who have not done anything for their country and way of life...."their peoples" as my grandmom would say. I can look back and say our family has a tradition of serving and can honestly say we are doing something for the greater good....not the war part...we all can have our own opinions about that...but about realizing that life is not just about you. It's when you have that attitude and that enlightenment, that you can really feel good about yourself and your family. I hope I didn't get too voodoo on you, but these are some things to think about before your spouse raises his right hand and swears to serve his country.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Great Toddler Game - Look for the Clues

I somehow came across an old video of my then two year old son, running through the house, pointing here and there. After a closer look, I realized he was playing "find the pawprint"! I just asked him about it...and you know he is 10 now, and he STILL remembers this little game. It was a favorite of ours, didn't require any store bought junk, required little effort (thinking) on my part and resulted in huge joy and hand clapping on his part. If you've got a toddler, and you'd like to keep him busy....wherever you go, cause this game is very portable, follow along with me.

The gist of this game is a seek and find exercise that gives your little one's brain a nice workout, burns off some excess energy and gets you moving in the right direction when things are boring, tense or just not happenin' for either of you.

You'll need:

  • Three Blue's Clues Pawprints, which you can print off on blue paper (or color blue), cut out and prep on the back with double sided or a looped piece of tape.
How to play the game:

  • Tell your child you're going to play "Find Blue's Clues!"
  • Go into another room (or throughout the house) and quickly stick up each pawprint in a different location
  • Get your child and ask him/her to find the pawprints
  • It helps to sing the little Blues Clues song too
I am still amazed at how excited my son got when he found each clue. He wanted to play the game over and over again until I could distract him with the next activity.

Try it out and let me know how your child likes it. Also, if you have any other toddler-friendly games that your child really likes, let's hear about it!


Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's Your Internet Birthday?

Most of you probably already have a temporary internet name and a disposable email address, right? Most of us were taught never to use our real name or anything that would identify us as...well, ourselves. It's just a prudent thing to do when you start talking stolen identities, identity theft and that kind of thing. Now what about when it comes time to putting in your birthday? Do you put in your birthday? You shouldn't. Here's what you should do instead.

Come up with an "internet birthday", a fake birthday that you know you will always remember....without writing it down. Do make sure it makes you old enough to be of age, ie 21 years old, or else half the sites you visit will deny you access. I personally like to use 1 January 1970. Why? Because it's always at the top of a list and the 1970, is an easy one to remember....I think because it ends in zero. So, next time you have to enter your birthdate online, be sure to use your internet birthday.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dirty Military Charities

I know no other way to put it other than that they are dirty...just plain dirty. When you have a charity that either uses 98% of the funds it takes in for "other than charity purposes" or is so inefficient that it isn't doing anything for the greater good in helping military families, veterans or servicemen, then it is just plain dirty. Plain and simple. I just read an eye-opening report on what charities genuinely fork over most of their money to their actual cause, which charities got a big fat F on their report card for not doing so....and which charities, have enough reserves to last a lifetime....and my first question was "why?". Seems I'm not the only one digging in the dirt.

Check out this report and also check out the last few pages that list all the researched military charities and their grades in alphabetical order. Now keep this report in mind when your favorite charity asks for your hard earned money. Know what questions to ask this charity, when in doubt. Sadly, if a charity is hiring an outside agency to do their fundraising, they are probably already behind the eightball and mathematically can't have majority of those funds collected going directly into their charity to support whoever it is they say they are supporting. Finally, can someone please explain to me why Army Emergency Relief (AER) has over 15 years of reserve money? In comparison, if the Red Cross were doing this, they'd have a few billion in their reserves, which is just unheard of. I don't know. Read the report and form your own opinion.

Does anyone have any charity stories to share? Or experiences?


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Life Lessons of a Military Wife Carnival - #10

Welcome to our last installment of Life Lessons of a Military Wife Carnival. I am sorry to say I was hoping we'd get more military spouse relevant stuff to chew on every month, but in the same breath, I'd also like to thank all the bloggers who have participated in our past carnivals. You've submitted some great stuff of value, and thanks for taking the time to submit it. Please keep your eyes open to other carnivals posted on Blog Carnival. Maybe there is someone there...or will be soon, who would like to carry on the tradition. With that being said, please enjoy this month's carnival articles, which is really a collection of the last few months' carnivals that accumulated while we were moving.

This is the August 5, 2008 edition of Life Lessons of a Military Wife Carnival.

Daily Life

Rosemary O'Brien, Writing Military Mom presents Writing Military Mom: I am disappointed… posted at Writing Military Mom.

Wheezer presents On the Move posted at Wheezer's Cheeze, saying, "Moving from Germany"

Brent Diggs presents Little Known Ways to Get Your Spouse to Attend Your Anniversary* posted at The Ominous Comma, saying, "Anniversary humor from a former military couple."

WordpressThemed presents Free Wordpress Theme: WP Special Tactics posted at Wordpress Themed.

Heather Johnson presents 5 Refreshing Style Tips for the Working Mom posted at The Fashionable Housewife.


Wenchypoo presents Three Little Words Limit Severe Consequences posted at Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket.

Helen Anderson presents 7 Secrets to Personal Finance Success at Best CD (Certificate of Deposit) Rates, Money Market Rates, High Interest Accounts posted at Bankaholic.

Larry Russell presents Living Expense Tracking Methods posted at Pasadena Financial Planner.

Value Seeker presents Stock Investment Resource: Stock Market Investing Tips - Don't Overleverage posted at Stock Investing, saying, "Be careful with margin trading. If you take on too much leverage, you may risk a margin call."

Sagar presents Want to Live in a Castle? 10 Great Options for $250k or Less posted at International Listings Blog.

Sally Thompson presents 100 Job Solutions and Resources for Former Military Personnel posted at - Job Descriptions and Online Schools to Start Your Career.


Tip Diva presents Top Ten Tips - Honoring Our Veterans And Troops posted at Tip Diva, saying, "Today is Memorial Day. Although many people automatically think of a day off of work, the first day of beach season or barbequing. But that’s not what Memorial Day is about - it is to pay respect to the men and women who have died in service of their country. Even though Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day comes once a year, there are everyday ways we can remember those who have died, those who have served and those who are serving."

Melissa Nassraway presents Encouragement During Deployments posted at Life of a Navy Wife.


Dianne M. Buxton presents Parent Volunteers Can Help With Natural Stage Fright Before Ballet Recitals posted at Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes, saying, "Helping with stage fright in young performers."

Nara presents Helping Children Cope with Infidelity and Divorce posted at Surviving Infidelity, saying, "Children suffer an enormous amount of consequences when a parent commits adultery �C aside from losing the stability of a two parent home, children may also need to cope with the new partner and the restructuring of their lifestyle."


Global Traveler presents Packing For Your Budget Vacation posted at Traveling Around The World, saying, "Packing for your vacation is a delicate balance of bringing the necessities and handy extras without overpacking."

Linda W. presents Eating Well On Your Budget Vacation posted at The Eclectic Female, saying, "Eating out cheaply while on vacation can be tough, but is definitely doable."

Sebastian presents Casinos In Germany - German Casinos Provide Great Entertainment posted at German Travel Guide, saying, "Author talks about the difference between casinos in Germany and the United States."

Michael Davis presents 20 Money Saving Tips For Traveling with a Large Group. posted at Family Hack, saying, "A mother of seven shares tips on traveling cheaply with a large group."

Toni presents Mexican Travel Destinations - Mexico City posted at Tropical Islands, saying, "Information about taking a vacation to Mexico City."

That concludes this last edition. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: , .


Monday, August 4, 2008

Free TV & Movies - No Strings Attached

Of course being overseas, I was looking at ways I could watch free American TV. I know, the first thought that comes to your head is.....why??!! Really, I don't just watch anything...okay and for those who are inevitably going to ask, we do have some TV over here that Americans can understand. AFN, has come a long way and now our AFN cable (which is actually satellite) service offers about a dozen different channels, one being even a movie channel that doesn't show just movies from yesteryear. They're fairly current and something you would really consider watching and not clicking through at a price you can afford, just over $30 a month. But what if you are not in on-post housing? What if you don't want to pay $100-200 for an AFN decoder for your off-post living. What if you are just passing through and want a slice of home? Wow, here's a great opportunity to watch free TV and movies by just clicking on the link, no strings attached.

Too good to be true? Yeah, unfortunately, yes for those of us overseas darn it. If we had been in the States, we could've accessed and watched to our heart's content. Unfortunately, there is something called international law standing in our way. So, thought I would share that resource for those of you still in the States. I know you have cable or satellite in the US...for the most part, but hey, if you are a traveler or move around a lot, here's a way to do it without any commitments. Let me know how it works in reality. If you're still reading this and are overseas, you do have one other option besides streaming internet video wherever you can find it, but it requires some support from someone you know in the States who is willing to share their cable TV access. Read more about Slingbox and how it works.

Can you tell I'm missing what is going on in my favorite show, "Cold Case"? It's still another week before our cable gets hooked up (German are notoriously slow in setting up any kind of service at home), and I've missed at least a month's worth of episodes. I did see that AFN chooses to show the series on one of their main channels, so I'm not going to get myself worked up over it. Any TV viewing ideas to share?

Labels: ,

Friday, August 1, 2008

We Have Arrived!

It's kind of anti-climatic. I still remember when I wrote my last post, thinking August was far, far away...not that far away, cause here it is! We arrived in Germany just about a month ago, and pretty much intact and not insane after traveling with pet crates, our worldly possessions reduced to a few suitcases and our two curious sons, who ended up being more interested in Gameboy than anything else. What can I say? Actually, I do have a few things to say...while they are fresh in my mind....of course about moving and some last minute ideas that helped us or could've helped us had I been smart enough to think it through in the first place.

If you are about to move or are thinking about it any time soon, be sure to read my other moving/PCSing articles, and if you are off to Germany, read our Germany articles. I've also come to realize I should've paid more attention to the thoughts below:

  • It's more cost effective to be living like a nomad in the States than overseas. The dollar is worth nothing more than dirt over here in Germany! We should've shipped our household goods early AND our vehicle early, to time their arrivals with our arrival. We rented a little shoebox of a car in Germany, for a month over here, to the tune of $1000 (and that was at a discount). We could've gotten something nicer and cheaper while back in the States.
  • Research hotels in depth. We stayed at the Marriot, which was at the upper end of our limit, and in hindsight, we should've taken their PCS package. We didn't want to do that because it required a one month stay (and we thought we'd be out before then...wishful thinking...and thought they would charge us the full rate). Turns out, we could've still gotten the package but just paid 40 Euro a day extra to their government rate if we didn't comply. See, we didn't ask just assumed...always ask!
  • Be creative with your eating and meals. Even though our Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) ended up being something like $700....A DAY...we still tried to save money. In fact, whenever we travel and my husband goes TDY or we get TLA/TLE in conjunction with a move, we try to make money on it. That means cereal or oatmeal for breakfast (we did have a mini-fridge and access to hot water, coffee and tea in the morning)....sandwiches for lunch and sometimes sandwiches or a hot meal for dinner. Marriot has three levels of members and top level membership means access to the top floor, which meant free finger food, pasta, drinks and whatever else they had up there. We requested to go up there, but my husband was about 100 nights stay short of the top tier membership. We found out later, that some folks who got the PCS package had access up there as well as a few others who just tried their roomkey in the elevator to get to that floor...and success. We obviously would've saved even more money than we did, eating lunch and dinner up there. Our first night at a modest restaurant cost us $80 worth of Euro. That takes some getting used to! Another thought, is to find a hotelroom with a microwave or kitchenette. All the military lodging was taken....many months ago, and they all have access to kitchens down the least they do in Stuttgart. That would've been ideal.
So did we do anything right before and during our move? I think we did. The move itself went very smoothly and because we did tons of research on moving with pets, that was a breeze as well. I did talk with others who moved around the time we did and boy did they share some stories! These tips apply mostly to overseas, but I'm sure you can find a kernel or two you can take with you, even if you aren't going that far.

  • Make sure your dog is the correct size for its kennel. Someone had to leave their dog behind and make arrangements for it later...kenneling costs=$$$$$. Check the airline's website and check what that airline's requirements are. Some are more stringent than others. Can your pet sit up comfortably and turn around and lie down? Check it out first.
  • Check which airlines are the most pet friendly and take some thought into planning your route. We flew United. Lufthansa was also recommended. We paid $205 for a cat and a 100 lb dog. I talked to someone who flew Continental who paid a few THOUSAND dollars for two dogs. They must've been charged some kind of air freight. It would've paid for them to shop around (you DO NOT get reimbursed by the military for shipping pets). You can pick your travel route, and if you have pets, stick with United and Lufthansa and try to fly out the shortest route. We drove up to Baltimore and shipped our car from there, as well as flew out of Washington Dulles, making it a shorter distance for the pets than from Tampa, where we were stationed.
  • Double check all your pet paperwork. We made sure to go to a military vet (and it was free) to get our pets' check ups and paperwork done. If you go to a civilian vet, you run the risk of something being screwed up. A friend ended up having to leave her two big dogs at Frankfurt Airport for eight hours because she was missing ONE SIGNATURE on her pet documents! An employee finally chose to look the other way and released the pets, but by then, the dogs had messed in their crates, they were upset, not to mention my friend had to make another three hour trip back to the airport to get them.
  • Buy those absorbent piddle pads. Newspaper is just not going to cut it if your pet has an accident. Ask my other friend whose dog had a bout of Montezuma's revenge. A piddle pad would've helped, plus have wet wipes and know where you can get water access at your arriving airport in case you have to clean up a pet...or a child.
  • Bring your unlocked mobile phone. You can bring your phone to Europe and use it as long as it is a quad band phone. Just make sure you call your cell provider and get it unlocked BEFORE you move. Then you can just buy a SIM card at any newsstand (or PX), pop it in the phone and use it. Just be sure to give everyone your new number. Incoming cell phone calls in Europe are free.
  • Know what kind of car your rental car will be. If you think you are ordering a van, you're going to get a small least in Europe. Someone found that out when they tried to put an extra large dog crate in their "van", which was really an SUV...had to pay extra to get a cargo van. Make sure all your luggage will fit! Our luggage would not have fit in our shoebox car, so thankfully we had a sponsor with a van pick us up at the airport...speaking of sponsors...
  • Get a sponsor. If you know what unit you are going to, they should assign you a sponsor. A sponsor should send you a packet from the area (they can get that stuff from the ACS or the USO), know the area, make the hotel reservations for you, meet you at the airport and generally help you get your bearings the first few days you are here. Also pump them for information on housing. Housing is really tight in some places and a wait of one to three months is not unusual. Typically, you'll get moved out of a hotel after 30 days and then given temporary lodging, which are apartments with kitchens, until you either find a house on the economy (through the help of your housing office) or your name moves up on the onpost housing list.
  • If you are moving to Germany, attend the newcomer's orientation. It is totally worth it, and you can find out more about it when your spouse inprocesses. They'll teach you how to get around on the economy, how to navigate the transportation system, teach you some German phrases, plus it's an opportunity to meet other new folks.
  • Go to your new location's website. Every post has a website. Ours in Stuttgart even has links to the community newspapers and newsletters, calendars and even a newcomer section. Read what's going on and try to be informed before you get there. Each post has its own nuances and quirks and why not have a leg up on that kind of stuff?
  • Find out the housing situation before you PCS overseas. Get the phone # for housing from the community or post's website. Give them a call. Many also have basic info on their website. If it's going to be a long wait for housing, you may want to consider deferred travel, where your military spouse goes over first, while you stay comfortable at home. Then, when he gets housing one to three months later, you can move right in. It's okay that your stuff isn't there yet. We are in our apartment now on post and have furniture provided by the military (which you can keep for your entire stay if you want; plus it's not as shabby as it used to be...imagine IKEA-like furniture). Plus, you can bring a copy of your spouse's orders over to the ACS lending closet and get a bin of cooking and household items to tide you over until your stuff gets here.
Anyway, those are the things that come to mind. If you have anything to add, please add it below.