Tag Archives: moving

Survive and Thrive: Jacksonville, Florida!

I hope you like water, sports, and adventure, because your orders to the River City will turn any snow bunny into a Florida-loving beach bum before you can say “More sunscreen, please!”

Jacksonville, Florida boasts salty intracoastal waterways, and one of the nation’s few north-flowing rivers—the St. Johns—which runs right into beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches. And smack dab in the middle of this growing city (the largest city by area in the contiguous United States) is the third largest military presence in the US, a combination of NAS Jacksonville, NAS Mayport, Blount Island Command, and Kings Bay Naval Base.

As a native of Jacksonville, my heart bursts with pride when I hear friends getting orders to the First Coast. I’m a walking billboard and like to play travel agent for new Jacksonvillians.

S&T Jacksonville Graphic

My home can be your home. Here’s what you need to know to survive and thrive in Jacksonville:

Not all beaches are created equal.
Don’t make a rookie mistake and think Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, and St. Augustine Beach are the same. They’re not. But they’re awesome. Jacksonville Beach is your buzzing, typical vacation-style beach town—beachside restaurants, boardwalks, and surf shops abound. Ponte Vedra Beach is an upper-income beach town famously known for its golf affiliation (it’s home to the PGA Tour and The Players Championship), but it isn’t best for wild and crazy spring break adventures. If you want to drive your car on the beach, St. Augustine Beaches are your only choice in the area, and they’re perfect for a family beach day.

Every side of town is like a different state.
Within the Jacksonville area are multiple booming towns, and depending on what you’re looking for in a community, all offer different experiences. Downtown Jacksonville and its immediate surroundings are a mix of upcoming neighborhoods right next to historic areas, like the oak-tree lined streets of Avondale and Riverside. Just south of downtown is the Town Center area, with landmarks more my speed: Norstom, Macys, PF Chang, and Louis Vuitton. It’s a shopping mecca with everything you’d ever need. The University of North Florida sits just across the way, and there’s no shortage of unique bars and restaurants. If you want a family-friendly area with good schools, look to Fleming Island, Mandarin, or St. John’s County. You’ll find settled neighborhoods, plenty of kids’ activities and clubs, and a little less traffic. Where ever you find yourself, my best advice: give yourself 30 minutes to get anywhere.

3-10 S&T Jacksonville PINTEREST PIN

Get outside of the city limits.
Jacksonville sits in one of the best spots in the state, I think. Drive two hours in any direction and you have an awesome day trip waiting to happen. Two hours to the north is Savannah, Georgia. To the west is Tallahassee—the capitol of Florida (and the best school in all the world, Florida State University…I’m totally biased). And hold your cousin, because two hours south of Jacksonville is where the magic happens. Literally. Orlando is home to Disney World, Universal Studios (hello, Harry Potter World), the Orlando Magic NBA team, and the closest IKEA you can get. If two hours is too far, you have St. Augustine—the nation’s oldest city. Rich in history, great seafood, and the Alligator Farm, it’s the perfect place to take visiting relatives.

All the sports.
If you love sports, Jacksonville is your place. We’ve got the Jacksonville Jaguars, who might not have the best record, but darn it, we celebrate every coin toss win. There’s a minor league baseball team—the Jacksonville Suns, who are pretty awesome. You want amazing stadium food, the Suns games are where it’s at. Every January, Jacksonville hosts the TaxSlayer Bowl, for NCAA football. And if you’ve always wanted to go to the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, this is your chance; The University of Florida Gators meet the Georgia Bulldogs in college football showdown on neutral ground in Jacksonville. It’s so serious, a small sub-town pops up right outside EverBank Stadium the week before the game, lovingly dubbed RV City. Tailgating is on great display and you don’t want to miss it. Not a football or baseball fan? There’s golf tournaments (The Players), the Daytona 500 (an hour away), and an indoor football team (The Jacksonville Sharks), too.

No matter what you have an itch for, Jacksonville can scratch it. Your time stationed there will prove to be the most memorable…and for good reason.

Now, what will you do first?

Have you ever been stationed in Jacksonville, Florida? Tell us what you loved!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Get Organized and Save Money During Your Next PCS!

As a military family, we move…a lot. And moving comes with a long list of expenses–everything from non-essentials while moving, to security and utilities deposits. But one place you can save some money is by keeping yourself organized so you don’t have to buy multiples of the same things because you can’t find them, or because you recently got rid of something that you will need in just a few years.

2-25 Money Graphic 3

Pack Outgrown Kids Clothing by Size
When kids outgrow clothing, it is easy to just throw them all in a few boxes and decide you will just go through the clothing and organize it if you have anymore children. But the majority of the time, those boxes end up donated or mismarked, and you find a box of clothing that is too small for any of your little ones, months after it would have been useful. Instead, pack up clothing by size. I keep a clear plastic bin in my daughter’s closet with a label taped on the inside with the current size she is wearing. Then as she outgrows a piece of clothing, rather than returning the clothing to her drawers after washing them I place it directly into the bin.

By taping the label on the inside I don’t have to worry about the label getting lost or torn during moving. I labeled each bin with a simple breakdown. For example, the very first bin was labeled Newborn & 0-3 Months. I put everything from clothing to socks and hats. That way, if we ever have another child I know where to start.

Pack Up Kid Toys by Age
Using this same idea, I have been packing newborn and toddler toys in clearly marked oversized footlockers. That way, if another child is over visiting, or if we have anymore children, I will know exactly where to find the perfect age-appropriate toys, without paying for new toys each time.

2-25 PINTEREST 2

Keep Seasonal Wear, Even When You Know You Won’t Need it For a Few Years
When orders come in and you find yourself moving to a warm and sunny climate, it can be tempting to void your closet of all your oversized wool sweaters, winter coats, and snow gear. But we all know what happens when four years later, you find yourself PCSing way up north. All of sudden you have to go and repurchase all those things you got rid of. It is a rookie mistake almost every military family makes at some point. One easy way to save some money is to invest in a few really good storage containers and fill them will all your seasonal wear that will now be obsolete.

Hold onto Household Goods That Might Not Fit Your Current Home
I know a lot of military families that have a box with multiple move stickers on the outside with at least one set of curtains on the inside. When you move as often as we do, things like curtains and rugs often fit one house, but not the next. And buying curtains and rugs at each house can be quite expensive, so to save a little money, I keep a box of all those extra little things that may not fit this house, but just might fit our next.

It is amazing how much staying organized can really save your family money in the long run! If you’re interested in learning how to save even more money, take the pledge to save as a part of Military Saves Week!

Where do you save money through organization in your home?

Posted by Tara O., National Military Family Association Volunteer

Bloom Where You’re Planted…With Little Commitment!

During my 10+ year journey as a military spouse, I have tried to keep the old adage, “bloom where you’re planted,” as my personal motto. And believe me, I have been planted in some places I never thought I would be. As a girl from the Pacific Northwest, it can be pretty crazy to try to set down roots in Central Texas, Southern Oklahoma, or most recently, Western Louisiana.

What has been the most surprising is how trying to bloom where we’re planted has provided experiences and opportunities I never would have dreamed about. I have learned the only way to really flourish in a place that is foreign to me is to put myself out there and get to know the area AND the people who are there with us.

2-3 Blog Post Horizontal Graphic OPT 2

My journey as a military spouse truly began when I joined my husband in Ft. Hood when he redeployed from Iraq. We had been married for over a year and a half, but it was the first time we were going to be able to start our life together.

However, I had no experience with the military lifestyle, so I did what I knew how to do: I got a job and established a routine with my husband. I wasn’t involved with an FRG, any unit functions, or anything having to do with the Army at all. I was very isolated from the people and things that were part of my husband’s career.

After another deployment to Iraq, we found ourselves in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I left my job to move, we had a baby on the way, and I had NO IDEA what to do. I realized if we were really going to do this ‘military thing’ for the rest of our lives, I better learn more about it. I started taking classes at Army Community Services (ACS), and when the classes were over, I realized I liked the ladies who worked there so much, I started to volunteer. I joined the Spouses’ Club, because some of the spouses I met volunteering at ACS were members, too. I started attending fitness classes on Post, and once my son was born, I went to every playgroup I could find.

A lot of the same people were popping up in many of the groups I was involved with; people who were going through the same thing I was–trying to build a life on this crazy military journey. And sometimes we don’t have the time or opportunity to work outside the home, but we still crave the personal connection with other adults. During our almost four years at Fort Sill, I met some of the most wonderful people I have ever known and truly created life-long friendships.

bloom-where-youre-planted-military-spouse

We left Fort Sill for Washington D.C., where my husband spent almost 4 years between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. We were not in a traditional unit and did not live on any of the Posts in the area. We found ourselves very separated from military life…again. After welcoming our daughter, it was time to find some connection with our military life. I decided to go to work at a non-profit supporting military families. That job gave me the personal relationships and friendships I had been missing. And luckily, I was able to work with a few other military wives who gave me the connection to military life I had been missing.

The time came for us to move on to new orders. We left Washington D.C., and I left my job and friends to move to Fort Polk, Louisiana; a new place, with new people. I will need to really push myself, put myself out there to meet some other moms, spouses, and friends to connect with. I am going to use what I learned during our time at Fort Sill to try to find the people who I mesh with.

I have met a few ladies from our unit and talk to the other moms at our daughter’s gymnastics class. I plan on joining the Spouses’ Club, too. With my husband preparing to join a unit already in Afghanistan, I know my ability to get involved with a lot of things will have to wait, but I am going to grab the little moments in daily life to try to bloom where I have been planted.

How do you get involved with military life without much commitment? Share it with us in the comments!

mandy-culverPosted by Mandy Culver, Army Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

Smooth Moves: How to PCS with Your MilKid’s IEP or 504 Plan

Moving with the military is always extremely fun. It’s like a game: what will they break this time? I bet $100 it’s your great-grandmother’s irreplaceable antique tea set.

The other part of moving that is always especially wonderful is finding a new school for the kids. I know you just can’t wait to do this! And for those who are traveling with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan, this process is just super smooth, right?!

All kidding aside, moving is hard and trying to find a district or school that will meet your child’s educational needs is unbelievably challenging. But, armed with a little knowledge, the process doesn’t have to be a battle.

changing-schools-with-504-plan-iep

Get the records.
Get all of the records from the school that you are leaving. This is your right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The law states your school must provide access (copies) to your child’s educational file upon your request. Since we all know you are more likely to get service with a smile if you use a little courtesy, it is best to let your school know about your request a few weeks before you move. And if they give you any pushback, remind them about the law. Lots of school will offer to send those records along for you, but as a teacher and mom, I would always feel better if I have a copy to hand carry in addition to the forwarded copy.

Know the law.
While each district might have its own forms, and each state might tweak the process a little bit, an IEP or 504 Plan is a federally protected legal document and must be adhered to until the new district convenes a meeting, or requests new evaluations. In other words, if a child is getting specific services in District 1 of North Carolina, the new school in California must provide comparable services until a new IEP is agreed to. The word comparable is important, since the law doesn’t require an exact match in services, just similar services.

Bonus: There is new language in the Federal Register that took effect on July 27 that requires DOD schools to comply with federal regulations about accepting IEPs from other school systems.

On the downside, private schools are not required to provide comprehensive services for students who have IEPs. Some schools do go above and beyond. And public school districts may be required to provide equitable services, but these will likely not be an extensive as if your child were placed in a public school setting.

military-kids-iep-504-plans

Know your rights.
You have federally protected rights that are mandated in ALL states. You have the right to:

  • understand the procedural safeguards
  • inspect and review educational records
  • participate in all educational meeting
  • request an outside independent educational evaluation or IEE (this is NOT required to be paid for by the school district for 504 Plans)
  • to receive prior written notice about all meetings and proposed changes to the IEP/504 Plan
  • to consent or withhold consent (withholding consent means that the current IEP will continue until a consensus on a new IEP is reached)
  • to use mediation or other means specified in IDEA 2004 to resolves disputes

Make a Friend
This might be the most important thing you can do. Teachers know the system, the laws, and have access to all of the educational options in the district. They know what is available, reasonable, and what is considered best practice. You need your teachers on your side.

I know we can all become a protective ‘Momma Bear’ when it comes to our kids, but pull that bear back to the mouth of cave. Teachers are highly educated and certified professionals, so take every opportunity to listen to their advice. She might be seeing things that you aren’t, or see a different way to approach a difficult situation.

You don’t need to bake her a cake, although teachers do love cake. Just keep her in the loop from the first day of school. Let her know all about your child, and the strengths and weaknesses you see. Advise her about what has, and has not, worked in the past; she will thank you for not letting her go down a dead end street. Above all, treat her like a professional who takes her career seriously, and who loves your child.

With your records in hand, a good grasp on your laws and rights, and with an ally in the classroom, even moving schools with an IEP or 504 Plan can be made slightly easier.

What tips would you add for military families with IEP or 504 Plans?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws.

These 4 Everyday Items Helped Me Conquer 15 PCS Moves!

When summertime comes, all military families know PCS season will be in full swing. As I read through the multitude of posts on various military spouse-related Facebook groups, there are several recurring themes: recommendations (hair stylists, medical staff, etc.), links to homes for sale or rent, frustrations about moving, and requests for tips when it comes to preparing for a move, just to name a few.

conquer-pcs-moves-with-4-items-pinterst

I’m no expert when it comes to PCSing, but in my 22 years as a Marine Corps spouse, we’ve conquered 12 moves, 15 houses, and 3 OCONUS moves (two of which were back-to-back overseas moves!). I’d say I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make military moves less stressful for me and the movers. Yes, less stressful for me. I didn’t include my family here because they know when I’m in “the zone,” it’s best to wait for me to assign them a task, instead of trying to get involved. There’s a method to my madness; one that has evolved over the years as we progressed from no kids, to one kid, then two kids. And each move is different, not just because of location, but because I am continually tweaking my process.

Our first move was without kids. We lived in a furnished apartment, so labeling the items that were staying and not getting packed up was quite important. The items we would move ourselves (photographs, valuables, and sentimental items) were locked in one of the bathrooms – a trick many use to make sure packers don’t touch the things behind that door. When the packers showed up, I walked them through our apartment and explained what was/was not to be packed and, fortunately, they paid attention. My very first PCS move went very smoothly.

As our family grew and we began to accumulate more and more household items, my process of preparing for moves evolved. My moving essentials became my holy grail, and I still use them for every move. If you’re moving soon, here are my suggestions to make life a little easier. Grab yourself a spiral notebook (I’m up to a 5-subject notebook these days), plastic zipper bags (all sizes–snack size to 2 gallon), duct tape (a variety of colors and patterns), and plastic tubs. And here’s why they’re magical during our PCS moves:

4-items-to-conquer-pcs-moves-pinterestSpiral Notebook: The spiral notebook is for my lists: the to-do list, the take-with-us list, the give-away list, etc. It’s also great for jotting down notes and questions. And since this was before everyone had cell phones, I kept one page strictly for phone numbers—a tip that, surprisingly, is still relevant, even with cell phones!

Plastic Zipper Bags: These bags are lifesavers when it comes to moving! How many times have you unwrapped 10 sheets of paper and discovered one pen? Or a single fork? It’s both frustrating and time-consuming. Place all small or loose items into a bag. This could be your junk drawer items, utensils, small toys, puzzles, and tools. You name it, I put it in a bag! I even place my unmentionables in plastic bags (do you really want the packers touching them?). The bags are reused move after move, saving money and the environment! In fact, I have bags that have made it through at least 10 moves!

Duct Tape: Duct tape is used to mark items not to be taken by the movers (these items are already placed in a box). Red duct tape is my color of choice for “not to be packed” boxes. My daughters each choose a color or pattern for their boxes. And for my husband’s professional gear? Camouflage duct tape, of course!

Plastic Tubs: Holiday decorations, outdoor toys, miscellaneous garage stuff all go into plastic tubs. Just tell the packers to leave them packed and, most times, they’ll just tape around the tubs, and load them up in the truck!

My final, and sometimes most important, tip for making PCS moves go a little smoother, is that I always take the time to organize the house prior to the packers arriving. I place like items together: photographs/wall hangings, books, breakables, electronics, or professional gear. Organizing in this manner cuts down on random items being placed together.

I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t doing all this work make it too easy for the packers and movers?” Maybe. But I do it for me. Taking the time to prepare and organize for moves before the packers arrive makes it much less stressful at the other end when it comes time to unpack, which I do myself (but I do delegate!).

And, yes, I do have a particular method for unpacking as well!

What are your go-to items to help ease the stress of PCS moves? Leave us a comment!

anna-nPosted by Anna Nemeth, Marine Corps Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

Hybrid PCS Moving: 10 How-to Tips for Your Next Set of Orders

When Army Sergeant Major Paul Leckinger received a permanent change of station (PCS) for a move from Orlando, Fla. to Fort Hood, Texas, he opted to take on the challenge himself. “I had a two-bedroom apartment in Orlando, and it was easier for me to undertake a PPM than a full-blown PCS move,” he writes in an e-mail.

hybrid-pcs-moving-pinterest-military

When you move within the United States, you can let the government handle your move, or plan a personally procured move (PPM). Previously called a DITY (for do it yourself) move, this choice might seem like deciding on a whim to get a root canal. Who even likes moving, right?

Actually, it’s not too shabby. If you apply and get approved for a PPM, you’ll receive 95 percent of what it would have cost it to move you. If you spend more, it’s on your dime. If you spend less, you get to keep whatever is leftover. Play your cards right with a hybrid move, and you could earn some pocket change and still not have to do any of the heavy lifting.

Hybrid moving takes advantage of the painlessness of a full-service move, for a fraction of the cost (around 30%). You’ll get a crew of movers to load/unload the vehicle or moving/shipping container. All you have to do is rent the moving truck/shipping container yourself. Here’s a step-by-step guide to a hybrid PPM:

Plan early. Once you receive your PCS orders, visit your Personal Property Shipping Center. From there, they can tell you exactly what moving costs the military will cover, and for what programs you are eligible. For instance, in many cases, the military will prepay moving allowances early in the process. Also, ask about a dislocation allowance, which may cover expenses not normally covered by other programs.

Sell furniture/have a garage sale, and donate what doesn’t sell. Not only could you make some money, but you also save money. The fewer things you have to move, the cheaper it is to move (small moving truck/shipping container and fewer moving hours).

Track your expenses. Receipts are important for reimbursements and also because many of the moving expenses that are not covered by the government are tax deductible.

Decide on a vehicle. Hybrid movers have a few options when it comes to how they are going to transport stuff. You can go with a traditional rental truck, a shipping container, or a freight truck that will rent out a portion of its space to you and others (transport options comparison chart). You’ll have to drive if you go the traditional moving truck route. But professional drivers usually haul the shipping containers and freight trucks to your final destination. Pick the option that is best for your family and you, and don’t forget to check out special offers. Many of these companies offer discounts to military.

Research your movers. This may be the most imperative part of planning a hybrid move. No one wants to get hoodwinked, and unfortunately many fly-by-night moving companies have given professionals in the business a bad rep. To avoid that, look for well-established, legitimate companies that have received good reviews from clients.“I recommend soldiers do what I did,” adds Leckinger, who found movers through the HireAHelper site. “Search everywhere and find a company or website that fits your family’s needs. I searched for movers who were licensed, insured, and bonded. This limited my available pool of movers significantly and cost just a little bit more, but I knew they were covered in case of an accident or damaged furniture.”

hybrid-moving-pcs-military-pinterestHave a plan for moving day. Most movers are paid by the hour. The more you can have done before they arrive, the smaller your bill will be. If you’re having them load and unload, which is usually the best use of their time, then you should have all the boxes packed, labeled, and ready to be put into the vehicle or container when the movers arrive. If friends and family are going to be pitching in, too, then give everyone a clear-cut job and make sure no one is getting in the way of the movers. Keep to a schedule and you’ll be rewarded at the very least with a more relaxed move.

Know your responsibilities. You are going to have to weigh your shipping container or truck before and after loading it with your stuff. Get all the specifics on making that happen. Also, learn about various laws. For instance, you might need to know the ordinances both in the town where you currently live and where you are moving for truck parking to avoid tickets and towing. Also, state laws regarding liability for accidents during a PPM move vary, so if you’re in an accident, you need to contact the legal office at the military installation closest to the accident site as soon as possible, according to Military.com. Figuring this all out beforehand is a big help.

Be efficient. The government grants those making a PPM move permissive travel time, so the quicker you get the move out of the way, the more time you’ll have for R&R. “I was able to work on my own schedule before, during and after the move,” writes Leckinger, who works in G3 Operations in the 310th Sustainment Command in Fort Hood. “So, I did everything at my convenience and was able to sightsee during my move without worry about deadlines.”

See! A move that turns into a vacation and can actually make you money is a far cry from that root canal!

Would you ever try a hybrid move? Tell us in the comments!

francescaGuest Post by Francesca Di Meglio, full-time freelance writer and editor who’s joined forces with the moving insiders at HireAHelper.com to spread her knowledge across the web, and is a major contributor to their Moving 101 project.

MyMilitaryLife App: The PCS “Holy Grail” Tool You Should be Using!

When it comes to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), there is always another question needing an answer.

MyMilitaryLife-App-Download-now

Luckily, with our MyMilitaryLife app, you get easy answers and resources wherever you find yourself. Plus, you see what other spouses are saying about their experiences, and even add your own thoughts within the app (goodbye Facebook groups!). With just a few taps, you can join the conversation and constantly be in the loop.

Simply download MyMilitaryLife, for your Android or Apple device, create a profile to get local and personalized information, and start navigating the Life Paths you are interested in! It’s that easy!

Still not convinced it’s that easy?! Check this out:

You received new orders, but you don’t know where to start with your PCS. And you’re not quite sure what the necessary items are to take with you. Start with this checklist. Each content item gives you a brief description and points you in the right direction.

MyMilitaryLife1
Need to ship your car somewhere? We are all hoping for that smooth privately owned vehicle (POV) shipment, but MyMilitaryLife takes it a step further and has your back, in case anything goes wrong. You no longer need to look for the right contact information. It’s all in here!

MyMilitaryLife2

What goes in our moving budget? Money, money, money…you want to make sure you have everything covered. What if you arrived at your new duty station before your personal property…hmmm…what to do? Check out the Loan Closet.

MyMilitaryLife3

Where to live? Buy or rent? MyMilitaryLife puts the right resources in the palm of your hand. What about your career? Looking for new employment opportunities? The app connects you to the right organizations.

MyMilitaryLife4

How can you prepare your children for the new school? Eliminate some of the pressure by contacting the School Liaison Officer. And what about the steps you should complete for health care? We took the guesswork out for the things you need to update.

MyMilitaryLife5

 

MyMilitaryLife can even help with the little details, like moving with your 4-legged, furry ‘children,’ and even has tips to help your human children have a better PCS experience!

MyMIlitaryLife6

Don’t forget to share this awesome tool with your friends! It is the only military spouse mobile platform where spouses from everywhere can interact and get quick access to resources! Add your thoughts and keep the conversation going! With MyMilitaryLife, hectic PCS’s will be a thing of the past!

Happy moving!

Have you used MyMilitaryLife to help with a PCS? Tell us about your experience!

marlisPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, MyMilitaryLife Program Manager