Archive for the ‘Navy Life’ Category

5 Tips To Survive Summer With Little Kids

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Blog disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of The Breastfeeding Shop via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Guys, summer is here!

You can read that in a super happy, excited voice: Horray! It’s summer! No school! Beach days! Ice cream for dinner!

Or you can read that in a slightly panicked voice: Summer is HERE. You are out of time to find camps or activities and I hope you like making 17 separate meals a day.

I have a million children. Technically, the actual number is four, but let me tell you reality means absolutely nothing when all of them are hungry/bored/tired/mad/have a tiny hangnail/thirsty/fighting at the same time. Four kids at four different ages means four different sets of needs and ability levels and nap (or no nap) schedules. Did I mention I also really hate having to feed everyone all the time? I really hate that part.

After 9 summers as the parent of at least one baby I’ve learned a lot about how to survive – and enjoy – summer, even with a million kids, even when I’m solo-parenting, even when I’m running on empty by lunchtime and still have a long way to go before bed. Here are my top 5 best tips to survive summer with little kids.

  1. Add more children. OK, this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. Some of our easiest playdates are with my friend Sarah, who also has four children. Her kids + my kids = so many kids there’s always someone to play with or talk to or rope into your particular imaginary world. My babies love having big kids to play with who aren’t the regular big kids they see every day, and then when my big kids see the babies getting attention from other kids they remember that they love their babies too and then everyone just seems more fun.
  2. Find your happy place. Our happy place is The Lake. The Lake is a local beach club we pay a membership for each year. It has lots of big trees for shade, picnic tables, grills, a big grassy field for running around, a beach for digging and swimming, a dock for fishing, swings and a playset for climbing and it’s awesome. The Lake requires some supervision, but not nearly as much as you might think (see tip 3). If you don’t have a lake, think of somewhere your whole family enjoys – somewhere kid-friendly, where you might run into other kids for your’s to play with, where you can SIT DOWN and relax. It might take a few tries, but one you have a happy place it can be your go-to all summer long when you can’t stand to stare at the inside of your house any longer but don’t have the energy to do something new. Go every morning. Go every afternoon. Don’t worry you go to the same place too much, your kids don’t mind.
  3. Floaties. Listen, kids are going to try to drown themselves. It’s just what they do. If you have a tiny baby who can’t walk or crawl yet, your summer will be fine. If you’ve reached the mobile stage, going anywhere near water is beyond stressful. We have the floaty rule: if you are near the water, you wear a floaty. The baby wears one 100% of the time at the lake. The toddler wears one 85% of the time at the lake. The big kids – who are 9 and 7 – had to pass a swim test last year and this year before I let them give up the floaties. If we go to a pool, anyone who can’t touch the bottom wears a floaty. Our friends enforce floaty rules with their kids, my parents enfore floaty rules at their house, it’s just non-negotiable. We have found that the Speedo brand Splash Jammers are ideal – they have shoulder straps as well as arm floats, they’re approved by the Coast Guard as life jackets, and even my 1-year-old can’t get it off on his own. Target sells them. WEAR YOUR FLOATIES.
  4. Lower your standards. For real, set that bar at a level you can achieve by noon every day. Did your children eat something? Does the baby have a clean diaper? Did you remember to eat something too? Is your house clean enough that you could escape in case of a fire? Then you’re fine. Tomorrow you can put away some laundry or do the dishes. Next week you can plan a fun outing to the zoo or the splash pad. But right now, you’re doing fine. It’s fine. You’re a good parent.
  5. Have fun. This tip is sort of like “treasure every moment because you only get 18 summers with your kid before they’re old enough to leave home” but that is bad advice no one needs. The days are long but the years are short is the same thing, but again, the days are SO long it’s not helpful to remind anyone it won’t last forever. But we can try to have fun, even when we have small humans to take care of. Put on a bathing suit and get in the water with them. Have ice cream for lunch or dinner (or lunch and dinner). Roll your windows down in the car. Play music really loud and have a dance party. My kids get such a kick out of me being Fun Mom, they act surprised and delighted every time. It’s like when Fun Dad chases them around pretending to be a dinosaur or Fun Grandma lets them pick out candy at the grocery store. You can be fun too! You’re the boss, even if you bend the rules a little bit for a special treat. It won’t ruin your children forever, I promise.

Military friends! One way to make your life easier when you have a baby is getting a NO COST breast pump from The Breastfeeding Shop. If you have Tricare, all you need is a prescription from your doctor and The Breastfeeding Shop will ship a pump right to your house. If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a new baby, be sure to tell them about this program, because having a pump is a lifesaver when you’re nursing. My baby will be 2 in August and I still need my pump occasionally (yup, still nursing, nope, no plans to stop). Check out The Breastfeeding Shop’s Tricare page for more information.

Blue Star Museum Summer: Rough Point, Newport Rhode Island

Monday, June 4th, 2018

During the summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), hundreds of museums across the country offer FREE admission to active duty military and their families through the Blue Star Museum program. Fun fact, you can thank the Obama administration for starting the program in 2010! THANKS OBAMA! You can see a full list of museums that participate here at this link. I made our family a printable to keep on the fridge, which I’ll include at the bottom of the post.

We absolutely LOVE the Blue Star program and plan our summer weekends around the list of local and semi-local places we can visit for free. When E is home and available, we have to pay for six people to get in. When E is gone, I’m desperate for new, fun stuff to do with the kids to distract them. We really really appreciate this program. p.s. Not sponsored or anything, just sharing the info so people take advantage of the program and hopefully they keep it up.

To kick off our summer, we went to Newport, Rhode Island, home of the “summer cottages” for the richest people in the country’s history. Did you watch Downton Abbey? The houses are all like that. I’m pretty sure on Downton they even mention going to Newport for the summer. About a dozen of the mansions are now open to the public, and we will definitely go back to do the rest of the tours through the Preservation Society of Newport County. But we started with Rough Point, which is maintained by the Newport Restoration Foundation.

The house was built between 1887-1891 by a Vanderbilt. In 1922, James Duke (created Lucky Strike cigarettes and made a boatload of money) bought it and made a bunch of renovations to “lighten” the interior, including plaster ceilings and more windows. When Mr. Duke died in 1925, he left his entire fortune to his 12-year-old daughter Doris, who was called “the richest little girl in the world”. She owned it and summered there most years until she died in 1993, when it was turned into a museum. So everything in the house was personally picked out, displayed, touched and loved by Doris. She seems like a super cool, interesting, fun person – many of the priceless art had been repaired after one of her many many huge dogs broke it – and seeing how she decorated each room was fascinating.

It was fun to watch my kids explore the house where Doris Duke was a child. My brain has a hard time wrapping itself around the timeline of how someone who actually lived in that kind of splendor also installed the same Dustbuster my mom had in the butler’s pantry. The kids enjoyed imagining they could ring a bell and servants would appear to bring them juice or snacks. It was even more fun to let them run around outside on the beautiful, immaculate lawns and gardens. It was really easy to imagine Doris Duke and her friends rolling down the hills in June 1923, because kids rolling down hills is universal and timeless. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, so these are just from our time outside.

That bridge is part of the Cliff Walk, the public path along the ocean in front of many of the mansions. Next time we’ll do at least part of the Cliff Walk (it’s 7 miles round-trip).

We showed up without a real plan around 11:30 on a beautiful Saturday when the town was very busy and full of tourists. There was plenty of parking on the estate, the group tour left 5 minutes after we walked in, and it lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. With Finnegan in a baby carrier and strict instructions to the kids not to touch anything, it was very pleasant, relaxed and interesting. E and I both enjoyed it – he asked tons of questions – and would definitely recommend it as either a grown-up date or a family activity.

Here’s our summer list for 2018 Blue Star Musuems. There’s one PA museum because I’m hoping to visit my BFF in PA at least once this year and one in Virginia for the week we’re at my parents, but the rest are right here in New England! If any friends want to join us, please let me know. If you’ve been to any of these and have tips, also let me know! We’ve been to The Carle, KidCity, Springfield and the Mystic Nature Center before, but the rest are all new (or mostly new, E and I have both been to the Constitution but not with the kids).

Military Families: Start Strong, Stay Strong

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Thank you to P&G who sponsored this post and shared their Start Strong, Stay Strong program with me so I could help get the word out to my military family. 

It’s no secret that we just survived our first deployment as a family of 6. Five of us stayed here and lived our regular lives and one of us went out to sea on a submarine for half a year. What you probably don’t know is that even though they completed that deployment successfully, we still don’t get my husband is back for good. He’s not even back for a year, or six months. He was, in fact, home for less than 8 weeks.

start strong stay strong deployment countdown jars

The good news is this isn’t a deployment. It’s just regular routine submarine stuff. The bad news is calling it “regular routine submarine stuff” doesn’t make solo-parenting any easier or make the time go by any faster. The kids are still going to be sad, I’m still going to feel a vague sense of dread the whole time and it’s pretty much guaranteed that SOMETHING major in the house will break. Every. Single. Time. (I’m looking at you, main sewer line!)

start strong stay strong military boots

One of the benefits of having been stationed in the same place for so long is that I’ve built up a support system around me. Sometimes it’s super strong – like when I need to take Caroline to the emergency room at 9 pm and a friend rushes over to sit with the boys so I don’t have to wake them up and bring them along. Sometimes I feel very, very alone – like when the dog was diagnosed with cancer and I was standing in the vet’s office with a toddler on each hip, trying to figure out how to pay for treatment.

 

Many military families don’t stay in one place long enough to become a part of the community. As a kid we moved every 3 years (my dad was in the Coast Guard), so I’m familiar with that life too. It can be hard to connect when you know any roots you plant will just be pulled up again the next time the military needs you somewhere else. Switching schools, finding a new job, even learning which restaurants are the best or which car wash offers a military discount is all emotional labor that can take a toll on us as families supporting our servicemembers.

 

start strong stay strong boy in dress uniform hat

Recently, P&G (the company behind tons of brands you use and trust) launched the Start Strong, Stay Strong program. They are proud to partner with Operation Homefront and are committed to giving military parents all the support they deserve. The Start Strong, Stay Strong site allows you to explore your neighborhood, find or offer services, sell things via the marketplace and unlock deals and savings. I just found a great cashback offer at my commissary on the kinds of staples like Pantene and Tide I love to stock up on there!  

start strong stay strong boy in dress uniform hat

As military families, we all share many of the same frustrations, experiences, and challenges. Our best source of information is each other – who knows what to expect better than someone who has been there once or twice or ten times before? In the Start Strong, Stay Strong community, we can share our stories and celebrate our accomplishments. We’ve been here in Connecticut for more than 10 years now, I can definitely help you find the best restaurant or car wash. Whether you’re just starting out somewhere new or are staying strong to hold your family together despite the distances, you deserve all the support you can get.

The Start Strong, Stay Strong platform is new and growing, and we need your help to make it a success. Sign up, tell your friends to sign up, and join me in building this community from the beginning so we can be strong together. You can sign up here, it’s really easy. Won’t you join me?

start strong stay strong deployment homecoming

 

Deployment Homecoming Pictures (USS Virginia 2018)

Monday, March 19th, 2018

This is the first deployment homecoming were we had kids, so it’s the first time I really cared about deployment homecoming pictures. You know how I love a good excuse to make elaborate and detailed plans (see: birthday parties, daily photo projects, trips to Disney), so picking out our outfits with contingencies for weather was a good way to keep myself focused on the endgame. We were lucky that although it was cold and cloudy with a few raindrops, the weather was actually pretty good for February. (That’s how you can tell I’ve been in New England too long – cold and rainy is “good”.)

All credit for these goes to the amazing Anna Sawin from Anna Sawin Photography, who stepped in to be my photographer when a schedule change meant my original photog couldn’t make it. I was so worried I would end up taking the pictures myself. This is the one time I actually want to be IN the photos.

Sorry not sorry there are so many. This is the narrowed down version!

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uss virginia deployment homecoming pictures

 

 

TODAY IS THE DAY

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Guess what is happening RIGHT NOW?

My husband is coming home. I’m at the official homecoming down on the pier with the kids. This deployment is OVER and we all survived (as long as I can keep Lincoln and Finnegan from throwing themselves off the pier into the river, which I am honestly a little stressed about).

 

This morning the kids skipped school, we baked E a birthday cake and we’re all wearing special outfits I picked out months ago. I’m even wearing high heels, which I will probably regret but this seemed like an occasion that called for being a little fancy. It’s hard to be practical when you’re this excited.

I’ve had a variation of the following conversation at least 20 times in the last week:

Friend: It’s almost over! Are you so excited?!
Me: Yes, super excited!
Friend: Did those 6 months go by so fast?
Me: …
Me: You don’t have time to hear all my feelings on this topic.

On the one hand, it did go by fast because my plan to keep my family super busy worked extremely well. Our current schedule is a kid activity 6 days a week with 2 on Wednesdays and Sundays. Three kids started school. We did Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. I fed them approximately one million times, changed half a million diapers, and broken up a quarter-million fights. I dealt with the dog’s dental problems, cancer diagnosis and toe amputation. I potty trained Lincoln. I handled four months of plumbers trying to fix the sewer line. And I had completely forgotten that I ALSO finished the bathroom remodel, which seems like a million years ago now. So maybe six months didn’t exactly fly by.

The time did not fly by every evening when I watched TV alone. It didn’t fly by when I filled everyone’s stockings by myself. It didn’t fly by every time Lincoln threw a screaming tantrum. It did not fly by when I was trying to keep my business going with no real childcare. It didn’t fly by at 2 am when I was up with the baby. It didn’t fly by every time I had to make a decision on my own that I would rather have made with my husband. It did not fly by every time I had to drive somewhere, which is always, because in the last six months I have NEVER been a passenger in a car. Six months is a really long time, but also now six months is over.

The Navy understands that deployment sucks so they’re going to give E some time off and I am VERY excited. I won’t have to take all four kids to every appointment this month! I can go to the doctor alone! HE can take the babies to swim class because I hate swim class! He can also do our taxes, fix the bookshelves, and deal with the next round of contractors. I’m really excited that we’re going to finally watch Stranger Things season 2 so I understand pop culture again. It’s also going to be weird adjusting to having him around. It only takes two weeks to make a habit, I’ve had plenty of time to become set in my ways – feeding the kids and then just eating whatever for dinner myself, staying up too late watching whatever I want, placing random Amazon orders, never having to consult someone else about the weekend plans, pretending I can’t see the dishes in the sink for three consecutive days. It wasn’t quite like being single again, but it was very much about me me me me all the time. And I bet it’s going to be weird for E too. In the past six months I’ve moved around a lot of stuff. I bought new furniture. I rearranged several rooms. There are new lights and child locks on everything. All the stuff that I adjusted to after like 24 hours is going to hit him at once. Plus the weather. Going from 24/7 in a metal tube under the water to the human world full of trees and plants and sky and sun and rain and snow and wind and…other weather stuff has got to be tough on a person. Hopefully his skin doesn’t burn instantly when it first encounters sunlight again.

I have a legit fancy photographer who is taking pictures of our reunion, but if you want some less fancy updates I’ll be on Instagram with the kids. I’m probably posting an Instagram story right at this second. I also gave our names to the Navy media guys last night because all three big kids said they would REALLY love to be on the news, so there’s a chance Caroline will become a local tv star by doing something incredibly precocious in front of a camera. Let’s hope that’s why we’re on the news, and not because Lincoln throws himself in the river.

p.s. Thank you SO MUCH to my internet friends who have kept me company in a dozen different ways during this deployment. I would be 1000% lonelier and more stressed out if I only had real-life, in-person interactions. The internet keeps me sane.

 

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