Category Archives: Military kids

Raising my Military Kids: Does the Worrying Ever Stop?

liz-larsen-and-familyIt’s been a few days since our son Jake, and daughter Grace, left to go back to school and my house is completely silent. We had a busy Thanksgiving holiday filled with lots of food and football! I still can’t believe both of our children are in college.

I can’t help but think about the young adults they have become, and how I worried about them as they were growing up. If you have kids, you worry, stress over, and second guess every decision you make on their behalf. For me raising my military kids, it was even worse!

I worried about all of the PCS moves and new schools they’d attend. Jake moved with us (in utero) three times before finally being born at Fort Polk! I worried about all of the deployments their dad went on, and how that would affect the kids not having him around. I worried about not having extended family close by.

larsen-kidsAnd the schools! Are they going to be behind at the new school? Will they fit in? Make new friends? Jake attended six different schools and Grace attended five. I wondered if they’d end up hating us for dragging them away from old friends. The worrying never stops. My husband, Jay, and I joked about what our kids would complain to their future therapist about! We’ve given them plenty of material!

But it hit me this morning; I would not change anything about the way they were raised. I am proud of my military brats! They are far more mature and responsible than most of their peers. They are comfortable speaking to anyone, and have respect for everyone they meet. They have a great prospective on life at their young age because they have learned what is truly important.

Adjusting to college life was easy for these two. They have great friends, are making good grades, and are both in leadership positions on campus. I can’t think of anyone more prepared to go off to college, and face life than my military kids!

Liz-LarsenPosted by Liz Larsen, Volunteer Services Coordinator, West Region

Drowning in Child Care Costs? Here’s Your Lifesaver!

judy-familyI was 7 months pregnant, working full time and searching for a child care provider. As a first time parent, I was terrified to bring my daughter home (can you believe they let you leave the hospital with a newborn and no instruction manual?), but finding someone I trusted enough to leave her with all day while I worked made me incredibly paranoid. Add to that the expense of infant daycare in the DC area, and I was a wreck.

While relaying my plight to my coworkers, a fellow military spouse spoke up and asked, “Don’t you know about Child Care Aware?” The name sounded like some watchdog group who might provide a list of reputable centers.

As it turned out, they were so much more.

My coworker went on to tell me about the subsidy she received for her two children in daycare. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The military would help us offset this huge expense? I wouldn’t just be ‘breaking even’ between my income and the price of daycare? AND the facilities had to adhere to even more stringent guidelines than the state required? Where could I sign up?!

My husband and I selected a few places off their list to check out and tour. We got on a couple of waiting lists at the ones we liked, but we couldn’t do anything with the Child Care Aware application until our daughter was actually born. Once she arrived, we called them (and spoke to a really helpful representative) and discovered we just needed to scan and upload a few documents, and apply online.

To be eligible, I had to either be working full time, or in school full time. So, we sent in one of my pay stubs, my husband’s leave and earning statement (LES), along with the application, and waited a couple weeks to see if we were approved. If we were approved, how much would our subsidy be?

The process was easier than I assumed it would be; I figured I’d have weeks of paperwork going back and forth, and I worried we’d still be waiting to finalize everything when I was ready to go back to work after maternity leave. My worries were, thankfully, unfounded and we were eligible to receive the highest stipend allowed!

So how do they figure out your stipend? In a nutshell, they take into account the income of the service member and the price of the center where you’re placing your child. Suffice it to say, our center was more than their ‘cap,’ which is how we were able to receive such a large amount.

Today, Child Care Aware has contracts to work with Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps families, and Army families now use the General Services Administration (GSA).

I am continually surprised by how many other spouses with children aren’t aware of this benefit. If you’re in school or working, and you’re up to your ears in daycare costs, take a few minutes to look this up and see if your center is listed. Trust me when I tell you, it was so worth it for our family!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager

A MilKid Milestone: Getting Your First ID Card

birthday-cakeFor any kid, turning ten is a big deal. Getting to double digits is a milestone worth celebrating. However, military kids have an extra reason to look forward to the big 1-0. As every military kid knows, age 10 is when you can get your very own, super grown-up, military dependent ID card.

I didn’t realize just how big a deal this was to my kids until my son’s 10th birthday approached. Glancing at the calendar one day, I noticed the day after his birthday was circled in red. I racked my brain to try and remember what was happening on an otherwise uneventful Monday, with no success. Finally I gave up and asked – what’s so special about December 4?

Ryan looked at me with surprise, “That’s the day we can get my new ID card.”

Gulp. I had forgotten.

Okay, I thought. I can do this. How hard can it be, right? People get new ID cards all the time. And then I remembered.

“Honey, you know, Dad won’t be here that day. Can we wait a few weeks until he’s back? It will be so much easier if he’s there with us.”

Ryan’s face fell. Clearly, he had been looking forward to this for months. The prospect of waiting even a few more weeks for his very own super grown-up military dependent ID card was hugely disappointing.

There it was. Mom guilt. Right then, I decided I was going to get this kid his ID card, no matter what it took.

Turned out, it actually didn’t take that much. In fact, getting my son his first ID card was surprisingly easy. If you are a military parent with a kid approaching the double digit milestone, fear not; you, too, can get your child his very own super grown-up military dependent ID card in just a few easy steps.

  1. Your service member needs to complete the DD 1172-2, the Application for Identification Card/DEERS Enrollment. If he or she will be there when you get the ID card, they should wait and sign it in front of the official at the ID card office.
  2. If the service member can’t be there, the DD 1172-2 must be notarized. Alternatively, if you have a general Power of Attorney, you can present that, along with the completed and signed DD 1172-2.
  3. Find your nearest Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site using the RAPIDS Site Locator. Be sure to check whether the site issues cards for family members (not all do) and if the office accepts walk-ins or requires an appointment.
  4. Visit your nearest RAPIDS site with your excited ten-year-old, his or her birth certificate, and your completed DD 1172-2 (and, let’s be honest, a good book – you’re likely to be there a while). Wait your turn, turn in your form, and that’s it – your child is now the proud owner of his or her very own military dependent ID card.

Need more info? We’ve got your step-by-step instructions and a list of required documents!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Are Invisible Friends Real Friends?

hopscotch-girlI just found out today that my 5-year-old has an invisible friend. She is our baby and this is the first of our 4 children that has had an imaginary friend. We were raking leaves and picking up the front lawn when she said, “Boy, am I glad Kayla isn’t here.” I then asked, “Who’s Kayla? Is she a friend from school?” My daughter responded with slight irritation in her voice, “No, Mom! Kayla is my invisible friend. She HATES helping around the house and especially HATES brushing her teeth! I don’t think you would really like her.”

I was stunned. And to be honest, worried. Was she describing a part of her that she thought I didn’t like? Am I too hard on her about brushing her teeth and picking up her room? Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart began to ache.

I never had an imaginary friend as a child. I had siblings. Why would I need an imaginary friend? But my daughter has 3 siblings and still has a need to have someone else in her life. What was that need? What happened? How do I fill it? I’m supposed to be their constant, their rock! I want to be everything my children need! They already endure so much with Daddy being away, moving every couple of years, switching schools, joining new clubs and sport teams, and making new friends.

After I collected myself, I proceeded to ask a couple of the questions that were swimming around in my head.

“Where did you meet Kayla?”
At the park by our house.
“When did you first meet her?”
The first time our babysitter took us there this summer. Kayla was at the park and she asked if I wanted to ride the sea-saw.
“Do you play with Kayla at school?
Yeah, she LOVES recess! And don’t tell her I told you, but she’s kinda messy in Art.
“What about your friends at school? Do you play with them at recess?”
Of course!
“So your friends at school have met Kayla?”
NO MOM!!! Ugh! Don’t you remember she’s INVISIBLE?! MY FRIENDS CAN’T SEE HER!

Melody started Kindergarten this year. Last year, she went to half-day preschool 5 days a week. I was a stay-at-home Momma, and we spent every afternoon together. This past summer, I started a part-time position, which required a sitter during the day. So she no longer had the one-on-one time we had enjoyed. This is when her new friend, Kayla, entered her life.

Kids feel change, too! They have many of the same emotions we experience as adults. And even as adults, we respond differently to change. Allow our kiddos to be kids. Let them explore their emotions. Try to understand how they are coping and dealing with change. Listen when they decide to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. And most of all…give them extra hugs.

How have your children dealt with the changes that come with being a military kid?

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Assistant

Are Veteran Kids Military Kids, Too?

NMFA-Veteran's-Day-2014-165“I’m a military kid too, right Mommy?” Zana, my 4-year-old asks hopefully. “I want us to be a military family!”

Clearly, I’ve been talking about the National Military Family Association a lot. And our recent trip to New York for the Veterans Day sealed the deal–military kids are awesome. Both girls had the privilege to walk with dozens of military families representing our Association in America’s Parade. Our message was so powerful that even a 4-year-old heard it loud and clear. It’s cool to be part of a military family!

But are we a military family?

My older daughter, Lira, was born when my husband was an active duty Marine—so she was definitely a military kid. But is she now? And what about Zana? Does being the child of a veteran count?

I thought about the poem written and recited by military kid Laura Marin at our Veterans Day reception:

“I’m an unrooted child. My life is mostly in brown boxes.”

“I’m leaving behind all that is familiar, again. I’m facing the unknown one more time.”

dave-and-liraNone of this describes my kids’ lives. We’ve lived in the same house, since transitioning out of the military, with no plans of moving. They don’t have to deal with deployments and separations. They don’t have to change schools or constantly make new friends. But they do have that military kid spirit.

They are proud. They are resilient, and even though one of my daughters wasn’t born and the other can barely remember when Dave was in the military—they are military kids.

They are growing up with a love of country. They respect and honor service. And like many veteran kids—they have to deal with the after-effects of military life . Dave was medically separated after having his spine fused (among other injuries), and can’t physically do what he once could. Going for a run isn’t an option, but he’ll ignore the pain and hold the girls on his shoulders when we go for a walk.

So Zana, yes. We are a military family. And we share this sentiment, also from Laura’s poem:

“Sleep peacefully in your beds at night United States of America. My family and I got your back.”

Do you think kids of veterans are still military kids? Let us know your thoughts!

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

10 Things To Do With Your MilKid Before Their 10th Birthday

What’s more awesome than living for an entire decade? Most military kids might say, “Getting my own ID card!” And they’re right. Nothing is more awesome than getting to buy your own Skittles from the commissary, and flashing that new piece of plastic around like you’re king. So why not make your child’s first 10 years of life even more out-of-this-world by trying this ultimate MilKid bucket list? Here are 10 things to do with your MilKid before their 10th birthday:

1. White House Easter Egg Roll, Washington, D.C.

White-House-Easter-Egg-Roll

Join more than 30,000 guests on the White House South Lawn for this annual event, which includes live music, storytelling, and food. Wear your Sunday best and do some egg rolling!

2. Blue Angels flight demonstration, Pensacola, FL

blue-angels

Executing maneuvers with just 18” of separation and reaching speeds of nearly 700 mph, and just under Mach 1, the Blue Angels flight demonstration is a thrilling peek at some of the Nation’s best Sailors and Marines in action. Bring your earplugs!

3. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA

panda-at-san-diego-zoo

From koala feedings, to zoo tours, and even family sleepovers (for real!), the San Diego Zoo offers an up close and personal experience that will leave your MilKid dreaming of lions, tigers, and bears…oh my!

4. Attend an Operation Purple Camp, Nationwide

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Because what awesome MilKid would want to miss out on the camp adventure of a lifetime?! Our Operation Purple Camps offer a special place for MilKids to connect with others in their same situation. And the S’MORES….come on!

5. Tiger Cruise Aboard a Carrier Ship, Where Available

tiger-cruise

This is an awesome opportunity for immediate family and friends to see day-to-day operations up close, while a ship is at sea. You’ll get to eat at the chow hall, sleep in racks, and participate in tours around an amazing “floating city.” Check with your service member’s command to see if they are participating.

6. United States Silent Drill Platoon, Washington, DC

usmc-silent-drill-platoon

Taking place in the back yard of the Commandant of the Marine Corps at Marine Barracks 8th and I, you’ll see a performance like no other. These highly trained, carefully selected Marines execute precision drill movements and rifle handling in unbelievable synchronicity…oh yeah, and in complete silence!

7. Shimoda Salmon Festival, near Misawa, Japan

shimoda-salmon-festival

If you love a good fun-filled festival, the Shimoda Salmon Festival is for you. But there’s a catch…literally. Try your luck hand-catching salmon swimming around in shallow pools! An Airman who’d experienced the festival before described the salmon catching as “very much like trying to catch a greased pig, but fun!”

8. Meteor Crater, Winslow, AZ

meteor-crater

Does your MilKid love dinosaurs, space, or awesome sci-fi movies? Seeing the Meteor Crater in all its glory is a must-do! Created more than 50,000 years ago when an asteroid traveling 26,000 mph collided with Earth, the Meteor Crater is the world’s best preserved impact site, spanning nearing 2.5 mi in circumference!

9. Whale Watching Boat Tours, near New England, or the Pacific Northwest

whale-watching

Take advantage of the beautiful ocean scenery and see our endangered friends in their natural habitat. New England and the Pacific Northwest boast some of the best coves and viewing areas in the country, and a whale watching tour is sure to bring out the marine biologist in your MilKid!

10. Get a Military Identification (ID) Card!

happy-kid

By age 10, it’s mandatory for your MilKid to have his or her own military ID card. While having your own ID card is a rite of passage for any MilKid, not having one by his or her 10th birthday can present issues when trying to be seen in Military Treatment Facilities. Make sure you schedule a time to get your child’s ID card when your service member is home!

Have you checked anything off on this MilKid bucket list? What else would you add for other kids to try? Let us know and share your pictures with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Interstate Compact for the Win! #WayBackWednesday

On August 18, New York became the 50th state to jump on board and adopt the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children! So what does this mean?

This important legislation, now accepted across the United States, levels the playing field for military kids who transition to new states and new schools because of military orders. The Interstate Compact ensures they receive uniform treatment over a variety of different scenarios common when changing schools, like enrollment, placement, attendance, eligibility and graduation.

But that’s not all. Even though all 50 states have taken the steps to support military children, we’re finding out some school administrators and teachers still don’t know the provisions of the Interstate Compact, even in states where it has been law for years.

You can help. Visit our website to find resources, information, and even some printable documents you can take to your local school to share.

We are thankful for all the administrators, teachers, and educators who teach our awesome military kids, both stateside, and overseas! In this #WayBackWednesday photo from 1990, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet with Teachers of the Year from Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS).

90-BUSH-&-CHENEY-WITH-DODDS-TEACHER-OF-YEAR