Category Archives: PCSing

America the Beautiful: Our PCS Roadtrip

badlandsMany people have to wait until their retirement years for the opportunity to drive an RV cross country to see our magnificent country. One of the benefits of military life, thanks to PCSing, is seeing many places you might not have traveled to early in life.

My husband and I were stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, in Oak Harbor, WA. Our next duty station would be clear across the country at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC. Having missed out on our last cross country move because I was working in Washington DC, I was so excited to make this trip together with our pets. We were looking forward to seeing many of the iconic wonders of the United States.

We loaded our vehicle to the brim, like most military families do, and made our way to Walla Walla, WA, an area known for its Washington wines. We tried many different types of wines, called varietals, before calling it a night. The next day, we headed for Yellowstone National Park. We opted to take the scenic route through Idaho, called the Lewis and Clark trail. The picturesque and peaceful drive ended with an overnight stay at a little gem surrounded by snow covered roads, called Lochsa Lodge. They had the best pancakes I have ever tasted: huckleberry. We continued on our way the next morning, finally arriving in Montana.

buffaloLocated near the small town of Gardiner, MT, the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park is the only entrance open year round to vehicles. Since we were traveling at the beginning of April, the interior of the park was still closed. But the little town of Gardiner had a surprise for us when we arrived: elk grazing everywhere!

We entered the park and stopped off to chat with the park rangers. They advised us to be cautious, since animals were constantly moving around the park. As we began our drive through Yellowstone, we encountered an entire herd of buffalo on the road! As we drove slowly through the packs, the buffalo walked right past our car… if we opened our windows, we could have touched them! Throughout the drive, we saw plenty of other animals – buffalo…okay, tons of buffalo, a 14-point elk, coyotes, and bear tracks. Fortunately, we never did see a grizzly bear that left the tracks!

Yellowstone was very quiet and had hardly any visitors when we drove through. It was, by far, the best time of year to visit since the crowds were thin. This allowed us to relax in the awe and beauty of the park. We finished our day at Yellowstone by soaking in a nature made “hot tub.” We walked a half of a mile to the Boiling River, a place where the hot water flows into the cold river. Many bathers love to soak in this natural creation, complete with incredible rock formations all around.

mt-rushmoreOur next destination was Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. After getting a recommendation from some locals in Gardiner, we took a sunset drive through the Badlands National Park. The striking geological deposits in the Badlands contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds, and with its rugged terrain, you feel like you’re driving through a science fiction movie. Here and there, we saw bighorn sheep grazing on the rock formations. Being surrounded by such stunning landscapes, I wondered why no one ever recommended the Badlands before now. We eventually made it to Mount Rushmore, which was iconic, and definitely a must-see place on any cross country adventure.

The next part of our journey was all about reconnecting with friends and family we hadn’t seen in quite a while. We stopped in Nebraska for a steak dinner with my old roommate, and then made our way up through Michigan towards Toronto, Canada, which was the most direct route to my college town of Albany, NY. I looked forwarding to visiting some of my best friends, and their families, whom my husband had never met! Before making it to Albany, we stopped on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to take some photos with the falls still bathed in its winter glory.

We took a few days of much needed rest, and then drove a scenic route through New York to Massachusetts, and ended in Bridgeport, CT. Before we boarded the ferry to Long Island to surprise my family, we indulged in some lobster rolls and mac and cheese! Prior to moving to Whidbey Island, much of our family had not seen us since our wedding in September 2012. Our huge surprise visit was complete with some tears from my grandmother!

niagra-fallsWith the entire U.S. behind us, it was so much to be back in all the areas we have visited many times before.

Our next destination was town where my husband and I met, and where family and friends awaited our arrival: Washington DC. We had a few days to visit some of our favorite places in DC, especially Fado’s, the Irish bar, in Chinatown, where we met.

We had one more stop with more family in Virginia Beach before making the last leg of the journey to North Carolina. We got to play with the dogs on the beach, catch up with family, and rest a little from our long journey.
After 4,500 miles, we finally arrived in Cherry Point, North Carolina – our new home.

We were very fortunate and extremely grateful for the time we got to spend with each other, and our pets, on the journey. If your military travels require you to move across the country, I hope you take advantage of the possibilities that await you! Visiting with family and friends all across the country, and seeing some of the most magnificent places America has to offer was incredible. It’s one of those memories I will forever keep etched in my heart.

Posted by Nicole Messmer, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Cherry Point, NC

5 Ways to Cope With Kids’ Stress During a PCS Move

little-girl-in-boxThe other day I was driving with my two daughters to Walmart for a much needed grocery trip. From the back seat my four-year-old daughter, Whitney, asked for a drink of the diet soda I had sitting in the center console.

“No, you can have some water instead,” I responded.

She flung herself into a full game-on tantrum, sobbing a dramatic performance worthy of an Oscar. It was one of the worst tantrums in a long, long time. We arrived at Walmart and I was relieved to get out of the confined space. But right there in the middle of the street she firmly, stalwartly, planted her feet, still crying hysterically. In we went, crying, screaming Whitney and all.

When the fit continued inside Walmart, I threw my hands up in surrender. This could not possibly be happening over denying her soda. I say no to soda all the time, only allowing sparing sips. Then it dawned on me. She must be stressed out about our quickly approaching 1500 mile permanent change of duty station (PCS) to Fort Bliss, Texas.

And it makes sense, really. A few days after talking to her about moving to Texas, she had a bed-wetting accident twice in one night; the first and only time she has ever done that. Plus, my husband and I have been stressed and emotionally strung-out lately. I know now that she is feeling the trickledown effect with our pending move.

I knew that I needed to create a strategy of keeping a happier home. After some careful thought, I came up with this short list of five ways we deal with child stress during our PCS.

Stick to the routine.
Kids thrive on routine. It’s often hard for me to stop what I’m doing to pick up a book and look into my daughters’ eyes for longer than a nanosecond knowing that I have a moving to-do list up to my ears. Try. Try to welcome the break the best you can. Do it for the littles.

Recognize the emotion out loud.
Young children do not understand what they are feeling. If you put a word to the emotion, it may help them come down out of the red. When my youngest gets extra loud, I explain, I know you’re angry about Whitney not letting you play in her bedroom. That must make you feel sad. KidsHealth.org says, “putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states.”

little-girl-packing-PCS-boxListen and move on.
While waiting out the Walmart tantrum, Whitney surprised me by taking a breath between sobs (finally!) by saying, “Mommy, I got so mad when you said no to me drinking your soda.” This made me listen to her frustration, talk about it, and move past the stressful moment. Later that evening, she told my husband about her Oscar-worthy performance.

“That’s right,” we said. “That wasn’t a happy moment, and we know that made you feel upset. Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a new day to laugh and play.”

Involve them in the process.
Allow your children to pack their special items in their very own box. Place it last on the truck, and unpack it first when you arrive. This demonstrates that all of your things from your last home have arrived at your new home. If you hired movers, bling the box out with stickers so it stands out. Or, keep it in your personal vehicle for easy access.

Dance.
When all else fails, have a living room dance party. Seriously! Who can stay mad or stressed when you’re dancing crazy to your favorite songs?

Do your kids show signs of stress before a pending move? What tips and tricks work for your family? Share it with us in the comments!

erin-bettisPosted by Erin Bettis, Army spouse, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Ft. Bliss, TX

 

Your Military Move Just Got Easier With the MyMilitaryLife App!

moving-vanAs a military spouse, you knew this day was coming. We all have our own rituals when those orders arrive. No matter how many times you PCS, it still looks like a chaotic process.

Where to start? Overseas move, kids, pets, jobs, schools, housing, shipping your stuff, making a budget for the move, and TRICARE? It can be overwhelming, but our experts have done their homework and put the resources you need in the palm of your hand.

The Moving Life Path in the MyMilitayLife app has answers to questions you never thought to ask. From the moment you receive orders to the time after arriving at your new destination, the app can walk you through the entire process.

Gone are the hours spent scrolling through hundreds of Google links. MyMilitaryLife app gives you the answers you know you can trust. Plus, share advice and get advice from others along the way!

Beyond answering your questions, MyMilitaryLife app helps you make the right decisions regarding the type of move that is best for your family. It also helps you consider the differences between living on or off your installation. You will find valuable information regarding moving your vehicles, registering to vote, and finding employment opportunities. If you are moving overseas, MyMilitaryLife gears you in the right direction, as well.

When your orders arrive, get excited about your new location and have your smart phone handy. Last, but not least, remember to share this wonderful resource with your military friends and family!

Download MyMilitaryLife App today and let us know what you think!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Mobile Initiatives Content Specialist

 

Military Family Moves: What’s In Your Locker?

lockerNew orders. New home. New start.

For me, there’s something kind of refreshing about PCSing. It’s like the first day of high school all over again. What will it be like? Will they like my outfit? Will I fit in? How will I decorate the inside of my locker?

Decorating my locker was always the hardest part. So many options. Do I want to commit to NSYNC or Backstreet Boys? A magnetic dry erase board or a cork board with cute thumb tacks?

Like I said, so similar to a PCS move…clearly.

So, when it came time for us to PCS a few months ago, I had all the same anxieties I did on the first day of high school. After I jumped in, made some friends, and made my claim on the best lunch table (read: best local watering hole), things started feeling normal.

Until I started to unpack my house and decorate the ol’ “locker.”

There were 10 different pairs of curtains, 8 different curtain rods, beachy-themed décor, manly rustic décor, and mismatched picture frames a plenty. And don’t get me started on the pillows. Oh, were there pillows. The guys who came to pack our house mentioned they hadn’t seen so many pillows in quite a while. (Consider my love of pillows the adult version of my teenage love for NSYNC: Obsessive and slightly embarrassing when someone calls you out on it.)

It was then I realized I had no idea how to redecorate our new house. A smorgasbord of Pier One, Home Goods, and Ikea lay strewn about my house, like puppies waiting for a good home. But the truth was I had no idea where to start.

So I didn’t.

Finally, one day, I just decided to embrace all the mismatched crap. (That should be a bumper sticker: Embrace the Mismatched Crap.)

I started spray painting this, reupholstering that, swapping pillows here, and moving knickknacks there. Sure enough, my empty locker started screaming my name…it felt like MINE. Yet, there was one room I just didn’t know what to do with – our Master Bedroom.

We can change that.

Our Association is teaming up with design firm Laurel & Wolf, to honor military spouses and all of our mismatched crap! (Well, not so much the last part, I guess.)

Laurel & Wolf is giving away a free Master Bedroom Makeover design, plus some FREE décor from some awesome home goods companies!* It’s easy to enter, and anyone who does receives 10% off a Laurel & Wolf Classic Package!

That’s the thing about PCSing, with each move comes the new chance to make it yours. For me (and most of my fellow milspouses), this means making our house a home, and quick. All of the other stuff seems to fall into place once my house is unpacked.

Now the only decision left is: How will you decorate your locker, er, Master Bedroom?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

 
 
*Laurel & Wolfe contest submissions are due by May 7th.

OCONUS Orders: Where Will My Kids Go to School?

Siblings-with-backpacks-on-way-to-schoolOne of the great advantages of military life is the opportunity to live overseas. How many of our civilian friends and neighbors have the chance to pick up and spend two or three years exploring Japan, Germany, or Korea? However, along with the excitement that accompanies overseas Permanent Change of Station (PCS ) orders comes an onslaught of questions. Where will we live? What about the dog? And – most importantly for families with school-age children – where will the kids go to school?

For most families moving overseas, the choice of a school is fairly straightforward. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) operates elementary and secondary schools at installations in countries all over the world, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Bahrain, South Korea, and Japan. For families stationed at these locations, these Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) provide a comprehensive, quality education to children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

However, what about those families heading to a country not served by a DoDDS school? How can they find an appropriate school for their school-age children? For answers to these and many other questions, families heading overseas can turn to the Non-DoD Schools Program (NDSP). The NDSP provides support and funding for the education of authorized command-sponsored dependents of military members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees assigned to overseas areas where no DoDEA school is available.

The NDSP supports families moving overseas in a variety of ways. First, it helps families identify the different options for educating their children in their new location: local public school, private school, virtual education, or homeschooling. Your new command or overseas location should have an NDSP Liaison who can provide you with information on your choices. You can also find contact information for regional instructional specialists at the NDSP website.

Depending on your child’s grade level and the options available at your new location, the NDSP may be authorized to pay tuition for your child to attend a private school. Allowed tuition amounts vary by location.

It’s important for families to understand that not all the costs associated with attending school in their new location will be covered by NDSP. NDSP is not allowed to pay for uniforms, meals, or personal computers, for example. Families should also be aware that private schools may have a lengthy application process, so it’s important to reach out to NDSP for support and information as soon as possible after receiving orders.

Parents of special needs children may be especially concerned about an overseas move and the ability of the local school system to meet their child’s educational needs. The NDSP can offer guidance about options available in your new location and will work with parents, service providers, and school personnel to make sure your child’s needs can be met.

Moving overseas can be an exciting adventure for your family. Arming yourself with as much information as possible beforehand helps ensure it will be a positive experience for everyone. Bon voyage, travel safe, and be sure to take lots of pictures!

Has your child attend a NDSP school? What advice would you share with military parents?

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Moving with Pets: Must do’s before you PCS

pcs-with-dogFun fact about my dog, Macy: she’s four years old and has lived in three different states. She grew up on an Oklahoma farm with a mini horse, and the night before Thanksgiving this year, she ate 24 dinner rolls when no one was home. Pretty special, no?

Moving her to three different states has been interesting, as you can imagine. The lesson learned is that PCS moves don’t just affect school-aged kids and military spouse careers, they can be just as tough for our furry friends. Not to mention how time consuming it can be to get our pets ready for an OCONUS move.

In my own move, I made sure that Macy was up-to-date on all vaccines, and got a copy of her record from my veterinarian to keep with us in the car while we drove to our new installation. I packed a bag of things for Macy, like a bucket of food, some bones, a leash, and extra water. Since she loves the car, we didn’t have to worry about how she would do on the drive, but if your furry friend isn’t accustomed to car travel, you may want to use a crate to keep them confined for their own safety.

If you know your move may take a few days, and staying in a hotel is a must, be sure to find pet-friendly hotels along the way. La Quinta Inn is extrememly pet friendly – they don’t even require a pet deposit! Moving can be expensive, and it can be frustrating to have to pay an extra $200 for our pup to stay with us in our hotel room.

It’s not like she eats things she shouldn’t.

During our travels from our installation in Northern Virginia to Pensacola, Florida, we made sure to make many stops, even if WE didn’t need to. Depending on the type of pet you have, they may need potty breaks frequently. Because I carried a water bowl in our car, I was able to give Macy a water break when we stopped.

pcs-with-pets

A tip for uneventful travel, is to limit feedings prior to getting on the road. It’s recommended to feed your pet a few hours before leaving, and lightly when stopping for the night. Letting your pet chow down in the midst of travel can cause upset stomachs, thirst, and Macy’s personal demon: really bad gas.

Do yourself that favor. Trust me.

Moving overseas with a pet can present its own challenges, too. Make sure your pet is accustomed to being in their crate. This is how your pet will travel on the plane, so helping them feel safe and comfortable in one makes for a stress-free flight for both of you. Check customs requirements and ensure that your pet is allowed in the country you are moving to – some have breed restrictions. Even Hawaii has strict regulations and quarantine requirements. Get all paperwork done sooner, rather than later!

Another important tip: contact the airline company to find out all the important information you need prior to your flight. Here’s a checklist from United Airlines. Will your pet’s crate fit on the plane? Are they small enough to travel in the cabin? Booking weekday flights are best, as some veterinary employees may not be working on the weekends. Ensure that your total travel time does not exceed 12 hours – non-stop flights are ideal because they reduce any confusion of layovers and making sure your pet doesn’t get left behind.

On the day of the flight, verify with the airline that your pet is listed on the flight. Military OneSource suggests mentioning to the pilot or flight attendant that your pet is on the flight. It may not make any difference, but it may ease your mind.

If you need help planning for your PCS with pets, there are programs like Operation Military Pets that can help with relocation costs. The key to any successful move, is to be prepared and start early! Before you know it, your move will be over and your pet will be a seasoned traveler!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

PCS: Panic, Cry, Scream

ShannnonSeb1In the military community, summertime is notoriously known to be “PCS Season” – the most popular time for service members to receive new orders, or their “Permanent Change of Station.” In my world, I like to think of it as “Panic, Cry, Scream,” because that is usually how I feel shortly after we get the news of our new orders. Panic sets in when I realize all the things already on my To-Do list, followed by a good cry because, once again, it’s time to pick up and find a new home. Screaming happens frequently as the time to move gets closer. To-Do lists are left undone, there are no more tears to cry, and whether I like it or not, change is coming.

That’s the funny thing about this lifestyle – being a military family. Change is inevitable. I remember the turning point when I realized life was going to change drastically. This moment left me with no other choice but to embrace change.

I left my small hometown in Florida in 2009, where I lived for all 23 years of my life, and moved with my now-husband all the way to Oklahoma. He and I had been dating for a while and being left behind while he got new orders to Oklahoma was not an option. I was going with him whether we were married or not! I packed all my things from the bedroom I’d grown up in, took the furniture from my room which still showed 10 years of pencil marks my mom made to track how much I’d grown, and began dreaming of a new life in the Midwest.

The morning came when we packed the car, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and set off for our new installation. I took in the moment like it was the last breath I’d ever take. The smell of pine trees mixed with the humid Florida air while my parents stood at the end of the driveway, waving as their only child drove away. I was fresh out of college, unmarried, and leaving my Southern bubble behind.

Then it hit me. Thoughts scrambled through my head as all the familiar things I knew and loved passed by the car window. My mind raced and all I could do was embrace the change that was happening. I had to be brave and fearless, kind and understanding. It was time to be determined and ferocious to take on the military “lifestyle” and be the best supporter I could be for my service member. This was the moment life changed for me.

I married my husband seven months later.

ShannonSeb2

I never dreamed of a life as a military spouse. In fact, I never dreamed of a life outside of my small, Southern town. Call me naïve, but I did not think life existed in a world where there was no sweet tea, or beach access. Choosing to pull out of the driveway that humid morning in 2009 has been the best decision I have ever made.

Today, I am a strong-minded, gritty military spouse with a few years of deployments and PCS’s under my belt. I am resilient and determined to make the best of any situation. I have learned how to rely on like-minded people for support. I have figured out it is okay to attend military balls wearing the same dress each year because, chances are, no one would remember. I learned how to be a banker, chef, tailor, and nurse!

Change is inevitable, especially in the military culture. It’s important to remember that each PCS is a chance to see the sunrise from a new place, meet new friends, and find new adventures. Maybe it’s not “Panic, Cry, Scream,” but instead, “Perfect Change of Scenery.” I’ll tell you firsthand, our first PCS was a pivotal moment in my life, and it has shaped who I am today! Embrace it and see what kind of person it makes you.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager