Category Archives: Military kids

Give Me a Break: The Case for Hourly Care

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When I was pregnant with my first child, I went to the gym every day. I participated in exercise classes for pregnant women, I used the cardio equipment and weights, and I felt great. That was six years ago and I have not been to the gym since my son was born. He’s in first grade now, but I have a toddler daughter at home. It turns out that finding quality, affordable part time child care on military bases is incredibly difficult, which means that my trips to the gym have become a thing of the past.

I also work part-time from home as a writer. Well, I did. I haven’t taken on any projects in two years because I found that in order to complete my work on deadline, I often had to work through the night. Working was impossible while also caring for my kids, so the only time I had to write was while they were asleep. Needless to say, this was terrible for me and my family. If part-time or hourly care were available on the installation where I live, I could go back to work. I could also volunteer with local organizations. Heck, I might even be able to use the bathroom by myself once in a while! Like most installations, the base where I live has a Child Development Center, but also like most CDCs it offers limited to no options for hourly or part-time care. Current base policies in many locations require that there be no wait list for full-time care before any part time care may be offered.   Priority for enrollment is given to dual-military families, single parents, and families with spouses employed or enrolled in school full-time. The CDC enrollment package at our current base states, “Employment and status as a student with current enrollment are taken under consideration when determining the need for childcare. Due to the many families requiring care in order to work or continue their education, an unemployed spouse is required to gain employment of 30 hours per week or more or show proof of registration as a full-time student in order to remain eligible for care.”

It’s true that our family requires fewer hours of care each week than a family with two parents working full time. That does not make our need for care any less urgent. Part-time work, volunteer work, and part-time university enrollment are all situations that create a need for childcare. These are all valid pursuits. Volunteering or working part time are worthwhile activities for anyone, but without safe, reliable, and affordable child care available, they are impossible. Child care is also critical to help maintain physical and emotional well-being. Military spouses are strong and capable. We usually live far from extended family members, often in remote locations. Many of us live on a small salary in an area with a high cost of living. Add a couple of small children, send the service member on deployment, and you have a recipe for major stress. I once took a stress management workshop on base (before I had children), and the recommendations included: meditation, exercise, volunteering to connect with your community, caring for your health, etc.  At the time I thought they were good suggestions. Now I think they are hilarious because, of course, all of this is next to impossible with small children in the home while the service member is working long hours or deployed.

Quality child care choices off base are often incredibly expensive or impossible to find. At our current duty station for example, preschool costs $1000 per month! Some organizations offer child care reimbursement for volunteers, but most do not offer the going rate for an in-home sitter, which can be $10-15/hour or more, depending on the location of the duty station. That adds up quickly!  You might be able to trade child care with a friend once or twice a week, but the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. Of course, that total doesn’t include the time required to drive to the gym, change clothing, shower, etc. So that’s at least an hour a day, five days a week. That’s really asking a lot of a friend. We are already asking our friends to help out when we need to mow the lawn or do other vital household tasks that aren’t child-friendly.

I know I am not alone in my need for quality part-time care. Our military and family service providers need to understand why hourly and part-time care is so important to our military families. It would be a welcome tool to keep our families on track and running smoothly.

Hourly-Care

10 Things Your Child Must Know Before Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten is a major milestone for both child and parent, exciting on the one hand, fraught with potentially worrisome unknowns on the other. Even military kids, who are great little adapters to new situations can struggle. The key to successfully launching students on this first step of their academic journeys is making sure they’re prepared. Most educators agree children need to master a number of basic skills before entering kindergarten.

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Here are a few of those, ten things your child must know before that first day of school:

  1. How to be independent
    Students should be comfortable apart from their parents, be able to function independently, and know how to control themselves without constant guidance.
  2. His/her vital statistics
    Children entering kindergarten must be able to spell and write their first and last names—legibly. (Nobody expects perfection.) They should also be able to recite their addresses and know family contact numbers.
  3. Basic self-care
    Can your child tie his/her shoes? Work buttons and zippers? Before entering kindergarten, a child should be able to do all those things, as well as eat with utensils, bounce a ball and manage bathroom breaks.
  4. Social skills
    Being able to speak understandably and form sentences of at least five or six words is a critical skill for children entering kindergarten. Children must also have at least a basic understanding of the need to share and cooperate with others.
  5. kindergarten-must-knowsClassroom etiquette
    Classroom etiquette includes the abilities to sit still and listen without interrupting. Children must also be able to recognize authority, obey rules and focus their attention—for brief periods, at least—on guided tasks. Finally, they should understand their actions have both causes and consequences (good or bad).
  6. Manual skills
    Children should know how to correctly hold (and use) a pencil, crayons and scissors. They must be able to trace or cut out basic shapes.
  7. The alphabet 
    Students should know the alphabet in order and be able to recognize letters randomly, in both upper and lower case. They should be able to relate each letter to its sound.
  8. Word basics
    Children should be able to recognize a few sight words—e.g., stop, she, said, my, have, here, been, was—and understand how a book works (front to back, story in letters versus pictures, etc.). They should also be able to identify some beginning sounds of words and rhyming sounds.
  9. Numbers
    Before entering kindergarten, children should know how to count from 1—10, and be able to recognize written numerals 1—10 in random order. They should also be able to differentiate between groups of objects by how many objects are in each group—one, two, three, and so on.
  10. Colors and shapes
    Children entering kindergarten should be able to recognize and name primary colors—red, green, yellow, blue, etc.—as well as basic geometric shapes like circles, squares and triangles. They should be able to sort objects according to color, size and shape.

If your child attends preschool, chances are he/she will master most, if not all, of these skills before entering kindergarten. If your child hasn’t attended preschool, you can easily work on these must-knows at home.

Do you have any tips for parents preparing their kids for kindergarten? Share them in the comments!

Aubrey Moulton, military kid, and writer for DiscoveryTreeAcademy.com, a leading provider in safe, secure and fun Preschool for children in Utah County

Mastering the Art of the Empty Nest!

I thought I had this Empty-Nester thing figured out; I spent over 20 years raising children and preparing them for all life has to offer. And, last month, when I drove off to take my youngest daughter to college, I was excited for my new future. The possibilities seemed endless!

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The 1200 mile road trip to drop her off was fun–she and I are two peas in a pod. We’re like the Gilmore Girls: she’s basically my best friend (I know what they say: you shouldn’t be “friends” with your children – you should be their parent). But she is special, she’s an old soul. I felt like I was losing my best friend.

The good-bye was actually easier than I anticipated. I was confident her father and I had prepared her for pretty much anything. She was ready to fly the coop.

Upon returning home, things felt weird. My husband went TDY, and for the first time since 1992, I was HOME ALONE. What should I do first?! I could do anything I wanted. My responsibilities had dramatically decreased, so I could sleep all day, lie around watching old movies, or spend the entire day at the gym. Instead, I went to the grocery store. And I didn’t bother with the commissary this time. Heck, it was only my husband and I now, and we don’t eat that much, so I could afford the name brand stores this time! I wandered around aimlessly in a daze, and walked out with a loaf of bread, a six pack of beer, and a rotisserie chicken (and I don’t even eat meat!).

Was this how my new life was going to be? Wasting time wandering around and accomplishing nothing? I felt like I needed a plan. For over two decades I’ve always had a regimented plan and schedules to follow. I’m not used to down time…I need to be productive.

I allowed myself the full weekend to be a big mess of confusion. Then I decided it was time to get myself together and figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was only three weeks into Empty Nest Life, but I still wasn’t sure what that is. For 25 years, I’ve been focused on everyone else. A few months after marrying my spouse, we PCS’d for the first time. I had to quit the big job I got right out of college, and put my career on the back burner so we could pursue his together. Then I had babies.

For years and years, I raised those kids and supported my husband through many PCS moves, deployments, and TDY assignments. I got whatever job fit my schedule. Fortunately, I’ve always been able to find work that allowed me to see my kids off to school, and be there when they returned home. It was never about me and always about them.

How does one go about deciding what she wants and needs, when for most of her life, she’s always been what everyone else wanted and needed?

The possibilities are, indeed, endless. I can finally pursue my group fitness instruction again. My evenings are free to teach classes, since there are no more softball games to attend, no more back-to-school nights, no more homework to help with (let’s be honest: my kids quit needing my help with that years ago). Maybe I can go back to work full-time. My day can now start and end when I want it to. Maybe I can do both?!

Maybe I need to cut myself a break and give myself a little bit of time figure it all out. For 25 years, I did what had to be done. And now it’s only been a month…

In the meantime, I will continue my projects around the house, and continue walking the dogs twice a day (they’re very confused by all of this, and although they enjoy the walks, they are a little tired from all the attention!).

Do I miss my kids? You bet I do. Am I sad to be an Empty-Nester? Nope. I’m excited. And I’m pretty sure I will master this Empty-Nester thing after all.

Are you an Empty-Nester? How did you navigate your new “free time?”

cindyPosted by Cindy Jackson, Finance Manager

In Their Words: September 11th Through MilKids’ Eyes

Fourteen years have passed since the sunny Tuesday morning that would change our nation forever. As we reflect each year on the lives lost that day, and the years following in our nation’s longest war, there are some who haven’t seen the history unfold for themselves.

Many military kids weren’t alive when September 11, 2001 happened, though many of their parents joined the military as a result of the attacks. Many have seen their parent deploy, miss birthdays, even miss the birth of other children.

Some military kids may not have lived through our nation’s darkest day, but they’re left to grow up in it’s wake.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Therapy Dogs and Military Kids Make the World a Better Place!

“Be nice to everyone, even if they are different. If they are different, they may have special qualities that you may really like.” -Awesome MilKid, Operation Purple Camp 2015

Have you thought about this recently? Sometimes, the people who are different from you may actually be some of the most important people you meet or interact with in your life.

At our Operation Purple® Camp in North East, Maryland, that’s one of the messages shared by a young and kind military kid, as she stood up in front of the group and told us what she had learned so far at camp. This was on Military Day, where the kids had a special treat of active duty service members to talk to, military trucks to check out, and a field day just for them.

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Another special treat was the appearance of therapy dogs. I met four very special dogs who, with their owners, spend their time helping to make others feel a whole lot better.

The Team Leader for the HOPE, Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, who attended the North Bay Adventure Camp Military Day said one of the biggest benefits of bringing therapy dogs to a camp where kids have faced stress that many of us have never felt or understand, is it creates a ‘bridge’ for them. He said it helps them be able to talk out their feelings, just because of the excitement or distraction of playing with a loving therapy dog.

Military kids sometimes feel different from their peers–like no one understands. But being in a setting where they’re surrounded by other military kids, and exposed to the amazing feeling of being around a therapy dog – it’s just a match made in heaven!

Below are the four amazing dogs I met. These therapy dogs want to make a difference. If you, or someone you know, is in need, please reach out to HOPE, Pet Partners, or the American Humane Association.

PUCK
Puck is a 4-year-old English Springer Spaniel, who has been a therapy dog for two years. This is Puck’s first year being with the HOPE team, and his first time at an Operation Purple Camp. When Puck isn’t hanging out with awesome military kids, you can find him making his weekly rounds at the Caroll Hospital Center, or on-call at the State Attorney’s Office for kids who are being asked to testify in court and need someone to help them feel more calm.

puck

PEPPE
Peppe is a 9 ½-year-old Italian Grey Hound, who’s been a therapy dog for eight years, and has been with Pet Partners for two and a half years. This is Peppe’s third Operation Purple Camp! When Peppe isn’t making military kids smile, he is working as service animal for those who need to monitor their blood sugar levels. Pictured here, Peppe is hanging out with the kids while one military kid reads to him.

peppe

THE BEAR + EMMA (left to right)
The Bear and Emma have been therapy dogs for three years, and have been with HOPE for two years. This is their third year at Operation Purple Camp and love that some of the kids remember them when they return! The Bear and Emma are very busy dogs spending time at the NIH Medical Center, Yellow Ribbon events, with TAPS, and have even shared their love and care after tragedies like the Navy Yard shooting and Hurricane Sandy.

the bear and emma

You never know who you’ll meet in life, but I know these military kids met some new furry friends, who, despite being completely different from them, had some awesome qualities that made their lives a better place.

Do you have a pet that’s helped you through difficult times? Tell us about them!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

 

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!

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It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org. Please keep external links to a maximum 3 links.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Summertime Backyard Fun for Your MilFam (with tutorials!)

smores-backyard

Camp season is officially here!

This week, I boarded a plane to Calfornia, eager to head off to Operation Purple® Camp in Angelus Oaks. I’ve been a military spouse for 10 years, and spent the last three of them in Germany teaching art to military kids on base. I just love how MilKids are so creative, friendly, and fun-loving. Heading to camp with them is something I’ve been looking forward to for months.

To make it even more special, California is “home” for me. Germany was just too far, and my family was too big, so we weren’t able to afford the trip back during our European tour. I’ve been away from home four long years now, and boy, has the California landscape changed. The first thing I noticed when the plane touched down was how brown California has turned since I left!

Unfortunately a brown, dry landscape doesn’t make for a calm fire season. A fire has broken out in the San Bernardino mountains, right outside of the Operation Purple Camp in Angelus Oaks. The roads to camp are closed, and the air conditions are not healthy for kids… which means NMFA had to make the hard decision to postpone camp.

We’re all pretty heartbroken about it. This is something we haven’t had to do in the past, but at this point, the most important thing is making sure our camp kids are safe.

Camp will be held for these kids in a couple weeks, instead. If I’m this disappointed, I can’t imagine how bummed all our MilKids were when they heard camp was going to be postponed.

In the meantime, we don’t want the fires to hold you back from having a little summer fun. We’ve put together a whole list of fun activities (with linked tutorials on our Pinterest Board) for you to try with the kids while you wait for the air to clear up at camp:

1. Pitch a tent in the backyard
2. Make foil packet dinners
3. Eat Smores
4. Learn how to tie knots
5. Make a miniature bow and arrow
6. Make a marshmallow popper
7. Play with giant bubbles
8. Make a dreamcatcher
9. Learn to identify trees from their leaves
10. Learn about bugs
11. Start a nature journal
12. Go on a geocache
13. Learn the constellations
14. Lay down and look at the clouds
15. Have a picnic

Keep busy, have some “camp at home” fun, and hopefully, we’ll see you soon at Operation Purple Camp!

What are some of your family’s favorite summertime activities?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager