Category Archives: PCS

There’s No Place Like Home: Military Edition! [And a GIVEAWAY!]

If you’re one of the lucky ones who are PCSing during the holidays, we salute you and we’re glad it’s not us! If you’re staying put, but are having trouble getting into the holiday spirit because of other challenges—like a deployed loved one—we have a few tips to make your home a cozy and welcoming space that’s perfect for the holidays, and beyond.

Make it personalized.
Some on-post housing won’t allow you to paint rooms, or make other big changes to make your home feel more yours. But you can easily personalize your space to give it a warm, inviting, and lived-in vibe. Frame your kids’ artwork (we know you keep it all) or those love letters from boot camp for an extra special touch. For the holidays, easy-to-create garland, or DIY candy cane wreaths will bring the Christmas spirit to any room…unless you let the kids use glitter—then the Christmas spirit will be in all rooms…forever.

Make it smell good.
We’ve all been there: a new house with a smell that we didn’t bring with us. Lingering animal dander, or the charming smell of an old home leave us catching our breath and opening the nearest window. That’s where the Venta Airwasher comes in. It’s a one-of-a-kind 2-in-1 humidifier and purifier that cleans the air in any room, leaving behind crisp, healthy, and breathable air for your family. Throw in some essential oils, like their Winter Dream Aromatherapy, and let cinnamon and citrus fill the air and cozy up your home for the holidays. Even pet odors are no match for the Airwasher–my dog loves the cool air it puts out!

12-12-venta-airwasher-dog

Make it organized.
Cleaning and purging before or after a move is common for most military families. In fact, when it comes to organizing, military families probably take the cake. So it’s no wonder our homes feel the most ‘homey’ when everything is finally unpacked and the last box is on the curb. Hit up Pinterest for some new ways to organize your space—after all, your home is a living space, not a storage space! While you’re unpacking the holiday decorations, throw out or donate what you can live without, and think about buying clear bins or wreath storage boxes to make storage a breeze.

Make it stress-free.
Military life is stressful enough, and most military families will agree that their house is a sacred, safe place where they try to leave the stresses of work and the military at the door. Creating a space that is clean, healthy, and comfortable is essential to stress-free home. We know the stress that comes with sickness, interrupted sleep, and even anxiety or other mental health issues. The Venta Airwasher is the perfect solution to all of these stressors. It keeps allergens at bay, catches bacteria before you do, adds moisture into the air for optimal breathing, and with the optional 100% all-natural Aromatherapy oils, will help sooth restless sleepers and calm anxiety.

12-12-venta-airwasher-xmas

Moving to a new house every 3-4 years is nothing new in the military lifestyle. The tough part comes after the move: settling in and making a house a home. And our friends at Venta want to help you do just that. NMFA and Venta are teaming up to give one military family their own Airwasher system, complete with a bottle of Water Treatment Additive, a bottle of Venta Cleaner, and a 3-pack of Venta Aromatherapy of the winner’s choice.

Enter to win December 12, 2016-December 16th

Don’t feel like entering, but want your own Airwasher? To show their appreciation and support of military families, Venta is giving military families a 20% discount on any size or number of Airwashers purchased. This discount will run Monday, December 12th-Wednesday, December 21th at 11:59pm EST. Use this code at checkout: nmfa2016.

To check out more tips on how to make your military home the perfect retreat no matter the circumstance, visit Venta’s blog post or check them out on Facebook!

How do you make your home cozy and inviting at the holidays?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Our First OCONUS PCS: Lessons Learned

PHEW! We just finished another PCS season. Congratulations to those who moved this past summer! We made it! And for those lucky ones who stayed put, you know what I’m talking about.

Confession: I’ve been with my service member for almost nine years, but this was our first official PCS together since we got married. Oh, and it was overseas. I did NOT know what I was getting myself into.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with all the PCS checklists out there; believe me, I think I read most of them. I noticed a few to-do’s that were missing though. Below are a few things I learned on my own during our most recent international PCS.

11-2-space-a-pets-flight

Throw a party!
Not at your own house though and schedule it far enough in advance of your actual move! We opted for a local watering hole that was convenient for us and many of our close friends who would be attending. We scheduled our going away party about two weeks before movers came so we could enjoy ourselves.

Drive cross country!
We had to drive cross country since we were PCSing overseas with our dog. Fun fact: no commercial airline can guarantee they will fly a short-nosed dog (Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Pit Bulls, etc.) in August due to the heat. So we made an unforgettable trip–with our Boxer in tow–by driving from northern Virginia to Seattle to catch our Air Mobility Command (Space-A) flight to the Asia Pacific region. We gave ourselves almost two weeks to follow the Lewis and Clark trail. We first traveled to Ohio to visit family, played tourists in Minneapolis, then followed the trail by driving around Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota badlands, hiking Montana’s Glacier National Park, following the Columbia River Gorge, and ending in Seattle. This affordable trip is highly recommended for those history buffs, families with pets, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Your pet is worth it!
Pets are part of the family. My dog is my everything, yes, I’m a dog mom! No, I don’t have children but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot harder to PCS with a pet overseas than with five kids. Despite the countless trips to the vet to prepare for the move, it was worth it. We were extremely organized, which made the flight very easy. Flying AMC was very stress-free and extremely helpful with the pet. At each layover, pet owners were able to walk their pets and give them water. Once we landed, customs took only a few minutes and we took our dog straight to the kennel. It was a great experience.

Have a meltdown!
It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Sometimes you just need to cry it out.

When OCONUS, immerse yourself in the culture!
You only have a couple years in country, so make the most of it. Take advantage of the base’s language and cultural course offerings. Travel as much as you can. Time will fly by!

What would you add to this list?

Posted by Nicole Russell, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Japan

Tips and Tricks for a Successful DITY Move!

My husband and I just experienced our first true PCS move together as a married couple and we decided to do a DITY move (also known as a Personally Procured Move)! I will be honest: the idea of people in my home, packing my stuff and then moving it across the country made my Type-A personality incredibly uncomfortable. I have heard stories about moves gone bad. At least with a DITY, any issues were our own!

Some DITY best practices:

  1. Start early and clean out often. We had to really rationalize if something was worth moving…again.
  2. Pack up the seldom used items first and then decide if it might be time for a garage sale or to donate. This is a great time to pack them up those “necessary” wedding presents and promise yourself you will use them at the next place or put them up for sale!
  3. Shop where you can save time and money. Amazon Prime gives you access to 2-day shipping. I used Amazon for most of our packing materials. FYI: Packing materials are a reimbursable expense. You can also use Amazon Smile to have a portion of your proceeds go to the NMFA! Home Depot was my second go to for this move. I used a packing calculator to determine how many boxes we would need and ordered a variety of sizes. We kept all of our boxes from this last move and plan to use them again. The we picked up our rental truck from Penske. We chose Penske because they had the lowest rate overall, offered a 10% discount for booking online, as well as a 10% military discount when you pick it up in store.
  4. Don’t forget about your pets! Moving can be stressful for your animals, especially during a DITY move. Bring plenty of water, treats and food, comfortable bedding, and toys for your animals while traveling. Also, keep their vaccination records on hand and make sure their microchips and name plates are up to date. As for hotels, La Quinta will let up 2 pets stay for free in a hotel room and they even have dog potty stations at their hotels.
  5. Have help for loading and unloading. This was probably the most difficult part of the move. If we did it again, I would hire movers to load/unload the truck.

10-24-dity-move

Other tips:

  • Invest in plastic storage bins
  • Keep in mind that while weight is a crucial part of your reimbursement, the more items you add to your truck is more you have to unload when you get to your destination
  • Research weigh stations beforehand! The closest weigh station was 50 miles in the opposite direction from where we lived.
  • Don’t forget that some costs will need to be paid up front

Despite the difficulty of the move, it was nice to have all of our stuff as soon as we got here. Within 2 days, it already looked like home. We made sure to save our receipts for reimbursement and researched the rates to get an expected amount for per diem, dislocation allowance (DLA), mileage etc. We spent about $1,800 upfront and our reimbursement was close to three times that.

Would I DITY again? Yes, I would, and I would recommend it to anyone that is up for some hard work and adventure (or if they just want to ease their mind by doing it themselves).

Have you ever done a DITY move? Leave your tips for others in a comment!

Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA Volunteer, Fort Benning, GA, Army Spouse

How to Help an Anxious Child After a PCS Move

PCS season rush  is over. You have relocated, which means you found and moved into a new home in a new town with new people and are anticipating new experiences.

However, your child is anxious and may feel like they’ve lost control of their life because they have been removed from their school, friends, and home. They also may feel as if they have lost their sense of security, too.  As a military parent, I have sought out professional help from therapists and read countless books on how to help my child adjust and feel comfortable in their new settings.

Here are some tips that have helped my own children thrive after relocating:

  1. Remind them of their blessings: basic necessities met are considered blessings, such as shelter, food, water and clothes. Reminding them, but not comparing to those without, allows the child to realize that they are safe and in-control of their own environment.
  2. Point out the amazing and extraordinary activities, like traveling, visiting, and living in a place that might not have happened to an average child their age.
  3. Find ways to minimize anxiety by encouraging and facilitating ways your child can be an active participant in problem-solving their own issues.

10-20-school-math

But not all problems are from the anxiety of moving. Sometimes, they’re just typical kid problems. And we’ve faced them, too. Here’s some helpful examples pulled from my own experiences as a military parent raising military children:

Riding the bus
If your child is anxious of riding the school bus, encourage the child to ask the bus driver to assign them a seat. The child will feel control in sitting in a seat that is assigned to him or her because it will give the child a sense of security.

Student-teacher personality clash
new school means a new set of teachers who are unaware of your child’s quirks. If your child is experiencing a personality clash with a specific teacher, help your child write a letter or note allowing them to express their thoughts and emotions in a constructive manner that is both helpful and progressive. The child has the ability to remind the teacher they are trying their best, promise to keep up, and desire a great school year. This will allow the anxious child to feel like an active participant in controlling their environment and situation with their teacher.

Neighborhood bully
If a another child is bullying youus, the best solution is to encourage your them to express their concerns to the child bothering them. Most military children already feel lack of control over their lives, it is not acceptable for their peers to restrict any more of their sense of safety and security. Remind the anxious child that making bold statements is hard but they were able to do it, which proves that they are strong, reasonable, and in-control of their own life.

If your child is the so-called bully, allow other kids to express acceptable and reasonable thoughts and opinions of your child’s behavior to them. As a parent, find ways to encourage group participation without leading the group. Help your child learn new ways to be cooperative without losing their autonomy.

If a child apologizes to yours, as a parent you should also feel as if they have apologized to you, too. Allow the children to solve their situation as much as they can on their own and only get involved when necessary.

Parenting is tough. None of this easy to do, facilitate, or encourage. However, we as parents, are given an extraordinary privilege to raise extraordinary children. Should you feel frustrated and need encouragement, I recommend speaking to a licensed professional. Military OneSource, TRICARE, and Give an Hour can assist you in finding a therapist who is ready to help you and your family thrive.

What tips would you give other parents with kids who are having a tough time after a PCS?

Posted by Fari Bearman, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Connect With Your New Military Installation Fast! Here’s How…

The gym had been transformed; it was filled with tables decorated in beautiful autumn colors. A large screen dominated one corner, already broadcasting Armed Forces Network’s Monday Night Football game. The buffet table gleamed with silver chafing dishes, piled high with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Leaders dressed in their finest stood at the ready, serving utensils in hand. The band swung into “City of New Orleans” and the room began to fill with single service members and newly arrived families for our “Taste of Home” Thanksgiving dinner. The evening was a resounding success thanks to our volunteer team.

Volunteering is how I connect with a new community. Once the boxes are unpacked at a new duty station it can be challenging to know what to do next. Volunteering has always been my next step; it not only helps me connect with issues I care about in a new community, but it introduces me to others who care about them, too. It has given me the flexibility to put my family first in this often tumultuous lifestyle, while still finding a way to contribute to my community.

After arriving in Belgium in July 2014, I reached out to the National Military Family Association (NMFA) to see if there was a way I could volunteer while overseas at a NATO base. The answer was yes (yay!), giving me license to get involved in my new community. I spent time talking to organizations across the installation, meeting lots of new people and gaining insight to the challenges of this new duty station. I was able to share resources and programs with families who might not otherwise be aware of them. And I was able to connect with others who were committed to supporting military families.

9-12-beach-balls-nmfa

Over the course of this assignment, I saw that while Europe has much to offer, families especially missed home around the holidays. Those times of year were challenging for our young single service members, many of whom lived in barracks. Newly arriving families, living in temporary lodging, were also faced with trying to create a holiday environment at a brand new duty station, often while living out of a suitcase.

Last fall, we pulled a team together, sponsored by the senior chaplain, and began reaching out to every organization we could think of – BOSS, JROTC, MWR, AFN, Boy Scouts, and even our local thrift shop. Every single organization we invited eagerly joined in to make this event happen. These volunteers brought their talents to the task at hand and made that Thanksgiving one to remember.

Volunteering is the single best way I have found to connect with my community and make a difference. And the volunteer support I have received from NMFA has been key to my success. The Volunteer and Community Outreach Managers are encouraging. They empower their Volunteers and ensure that we understand NMFA’s mission and focus. NMFA actively seeks our Volunteer input from the field and uses it to better advocate for military families. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your community and support your peers, volunteering with NMFA is one of the best ways I know to do both. Come join us!

Interested in finding out more about how you can serve military families from ANYWHERE around the world, check out our Volunteer section and apply now! (It’s free!)

kelly-hPosted by Kelly Henry, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

I’ve Known You For Five Minutes: Will You Be My Emergency Contact?

It’s almost the first day of school and I’m faced with a stack of registration forms. I have my smartphone with me and slips of paper tucked into my purse with names and addresses. Truth be told, I even need to look up my own mailing address because we just moved and the old address 3,000 miles away is what I recall.

I feel pretty on-top-of-it for putting our new address and phone number into my cell phone. That’s a win. Thankfully, I remembered to print out the pediatrician’s contact information. I have a copy of my son’s birth certificate and feel, for a moment, I’m rocking filling out these registration forms.

Then, comes the tough request: Please provide the name, address and phone number of two local emergency contacts. The emergency contact must be within 25 miles of the school.

Oh, dear. Beads of sweat form above my brow. I nervously glance around the school office and watch the other parents filling out their child’s forms. I look for the tell-tale sign of another military spouse, parent – someone who appears to be stressed by the requirements for a local emergency contact. I’ve only been in town a week. I can’t navigate myself around the base let alone have I had time to meet anyone who might be willing to let me add their name to a form as my child’s emergency contact?

8-25-kids-at-school

Why can’t I add my mom’s cell phone number and skip the address part? Because, the receptionist politely handed back the forms to me and said, she understood I may be new to town, however, the school has had more than one occasion where neither parent has been available and they needed to contact someone local – not someone several states away- who could immediately pick up a child. Other well-meaning parents had provided contacts out of the local area and the kid was sent to child protective services.

Fast forward three schools later and I’ve become a pro at spotting a potential emergency contact. Before we move, I check with my network of friends and ask who is the area or knows someone in the area. I exchange emails, Facebook messages, and text messages with people who I have never met screening them as potential emergency contacts. If there is a school event, such as a registration day, I chat nervously with folks in line and try to find someone in my situation – another non-local eager to make friends and willing to be an emergency contact for my child in exchange for me being a contact for her child.

The key, I’ve found, is offering to be a contact for someone else.

I know it can be nerve-wracking to ask a near stranger to be an emergency contact. I find that most moms are relieved when I offer to be a contact for their child as well. After I establish a network in the area, I update the registration emergency contact information. I keep a list in my smartphone and on a virtual drive and make sure each emergency contact has a copy of my list and specific information related to my child. If I’m listed as an emergency contact, I ask the parent for contact information and specifics about their child, just in case.

I remain cordial with emergency contacts and several have become great friends. It turned out there was a flash flood in our local area and another parent couldn’t make it to the school in time to pick up her child. Her spouse was deployed and she didn’t have anyone else in the area. I told her not to worry; I was listed as her emergency contact and my path to the school wasn’t washed out by the flash flood. I was happy to help and she was relieved she didn’t have to worry about her child’s safety.

In our mobile lifestyles, it isn’t uncommon to ask a near stranger to be an emergency contact. What other tips would you offer to military families?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issue Strategist

Dear New Teacher, It’s My Military Child’s First Day of School

Dear New Teacher,

Today my child enters your classroom for the first time in a new school. It might be the first day of the school year, or it might be inconveniently smack-dab in the middle of a grading period. He likely knows no one in his homeroom class, likely no other children in the school.

Every child has a story to tell, and mine is no different. I am hoping to share a bit of his story with you since you will be with him, teaching and guiding him, this year. His story includes attending preschools in three different states. He will be in second grade next year. And he will be preparing to move again to a new school, his third elementary school since Kindergarten.

His daddy deployed to a combat zone when he was very young, and has been home for the past few years. But my son knows what soldiers do. He knows that someday his daddy will likely deploy again to a place he can’t yet find on a map for more days than he can count, for reasons nearly impossible for a child to understand.

8-18-school-bus

He didn’t choose this life.

But I asked him if he ever wishes that he weren’t a military kid, and he said, “No, why? What would Daddy do if he weren’t in the Army?” You see, this is the only life he knows. He is a happy, resilient, funny, sweet kiddo. I’m so proud of each obstacle he has overcome.

We do have bad days, though. He misses his old friends, our old home, our old church, and our old routines. He occasionally asks when we can go visit our old houses, and the restaurants and parks in a town we used to live in. To be honest, military life is downright difficult sometimes. But this is one thing I’ve learned: military children are so very strong. And so very brave. Military children are resilient. They simply don’t know how to be anything less.

Please keep in contact with me and let me know if he has any difficulties in school during (and after) this transition. The purpose of this letter is not only to inform you of my son’s background but to affirm our family’s commitment to support him, and you, his teacher.

Thank you for answering the call to educate the children of our great nation. What a truly noble and worthy profession you have chosen! Thank you for loving children who aren’t your own, and shaping their lives forever. And thank you for supporting our military-connected child, during yet another transition for him. Because of your support at school and the support of our community, my spouse is able to commit fully to his own calling: serving our country.

Sincerely,
Mama of a Military Child

What would you tell your child’s new teacher? 

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer