My March Madness

I know for a lot of people, March Madness means basketballs and brackets. For me, March Madness means summer camp sign-ups and logistical planning that could rival any big-city transportation schedule. Summer camps? But it’s only March, you say. To which I respond with an eye twitch and a hysterical giggle, followed by an offer to share graph paper with you…you poor lost soul.

Ok, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but March is when I get down to business for planning summer camps for my kids. It’s when schools and rec centers start sending home flyers about this camp that will make your kid care about science, or that camp that will give your kid the soccer skills she needs to nab a college scholarship ten years from now. (Don’t start me on this.)

And, of course, there are sign-up deadlines. So, if I want my kids to go to any of these camps, I need to have my proverbial ducks in a row. Which is easy for some, but my ducks tend to wander, get lost under couches, or suffocate under piles of papers. March means I’ve got to get my summer game-face on!

When I worked full-time, I didn’t have to worry about much about juggling camps. All of the pressure was on finding THE camp. The perfect camp that would open by 7:30 and stay open until at least 5:15. The camp that offered structure and fun plans…but also enough down-time for my kid to feel like he was actually on break from school – instead of just another school cleverly disguised in beach themes and “water fun” days.

I’m a SAHM right now, which means we can save money by not having to do all day childcare for three kids. Theoretically. But if I jam-pack the summer with camps that cost $60 here and $100 there…for three kids…well, that adds up fast. There’s a delicate balance of maintaining my sanity and maintaining the checkbook. You’ve got to figure out what’s going to work for your family. I’ve erred on the side of sanity most summers, but this summer I’m looking for more of that “middle ground.” Just enough camps to keep them busy and just enough downtime as to not drain the bank account. (I may regret this come mid-July – I’ll let you know.)

A Game Plan

After you’ve gathered all the brochures and your eyes are going a little crossed at the camp costs and the amount of money you may be spending on gas…STOP. This is where you get out your mental beach bag. It’s empty, right? Now, the first thing we toss in that mental beach bag are our towels because they take up a lot of space and we don’t want to forget them…because that’s uncomfortable. Your beach towels are important! Now think of your beach towels as your summer must-do’s. For example, a family camping trip. That’s your first beach towel. Shove it in. Now mark it on the calendar. Maybe your next beach towel is an affordable basketball camp conveniently located down the street that your kid is dying to go to. Stuff it in, mark the calendar. Perhaps your third beach towel is a one-day road trip to a dinosaur museum everyone will love. Stuff it in and mark the calendar. Our mental beach bag fills up quickly, but if we put the most important stuff in first, you won’t get to August 15th and regret letting less important trips and camps get in the way of what you really wanted to do.

Now you can toss in the other trips and camps as they fit…and you have to decide for yourself when the beach bag is full. I know I’m trying to leave more space in our summer this year. Picture me with a manageable beach bag! A bag where sunscreen bottles aren’t falling out and breaking on the cement, creating Jackson Pollack knock-offs. A bag that isn’t so heavy that it’s digging into my sunburned shoulders as I scream at children to watch for cars in the parking lot because they’re going to get run over for crying out loud!

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Between Zero and One: An Infinite Number of Moments

I’m so happy to introduce fantastic guest blogger Kimberly Zook, here to discuss managing the dual identities of mother and creative within U.S. military culture. Kimberly is a military wife, mother of three daughters, a scientist, and a writer. She earned an MS in Biology and an MA in Secondary Education before returning to her childhood dream of being a full-time writer. She is the author of two award-winning short stories and writes young adult novels that delve into science and history. Check out her website at http://kimzook.com/.

 

Between Zero and One: An Infinite Number of Moments

By Kimberly Zook

 

Road trips aren’t long enough to count from zero to one. Yet by the time my daughters get to 0.00000399, I’m ready to yell ONE! And most likely, they will counter with “Are we there yet?” And I’m shouting “Look at those cows!” but their eyes are already hypnotized by their iPads. And so it goes on repeat.

All of us wish to get from Point A to Point B as soon as possible. Marriage to children. Toothfairy to braces. Swimming lessons to college scholarship. And along the way, it’s easy to let all those in-between moments vanish into forgotten memories. The ones that we later miss the most when we see a mother cuddling her newborn or hear a child giggling from a father’s tickles.

Sometimes it’s all we can do to remember the big points in our life.

The biggest zero to one moment in my life was going from being single to becoming a two—my husband and me, the first extension of my heart beating outside my body.

I’d been living in a tropical rainforest. Alone, in a hut with no indoor plumbing or electricity for a couple of years. I had roommates of a kind: scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, army ants, rats, and whatever else cared to crawl into my hut each night. It was, by far, the absolute best place I’ve ever lived. There I discovered what it’s like to live with a sixth sense while surrounded by nature. Such a brief moment in my life that has felt infinite ever since.

Then I met my husband, an officer in the U.S. Navy. In one big leap, I went from pursuing a doctorate in biology and living in the rainforest to waving good-bye to his ship and residing in a high-rise outside of Tokyo, Japan. I no longer had to step into the rainforest when ‘nature called.’ Our toilet seat in our Japanese apartment heated up! Before, I woke to the grunts of howler monkeys, milked cows, cooked on a wood-burning stove and spent the day searching for medicinal plants. Suddenly I was surrounded by a dazzle of lights and noises, cars parked on Ferris wheels inside buildings, and riding bullet trains to Buddhist temples. I was a Mrs., a military dependent, that person waving to the ship. An infinite amount of numbers between my zero and one.

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Teens, Tweens, Tech, and Your Sanity

My last post was all about tots and tech…and I chose to do that one first because it was easier. Just keepin’ it real, folks. Tweens/teens and technology sets off all my parent alarms and makes me fearful. So, I’ve tried to gather some resources to help myself – and hopefully you – make decisions from an informed place rather than a place of fear.

There’s no getting around technology. Our kids are exposed to it all day long and it will only become a bigger part of their lives. I think the trick is to teach them to use it appropriately and educate them on internet safety. In my previous post, I wrote about being informed and intentional with your choices. At this stage, I think the risks of the internet make this even more crucial.

How do I monitor their online activity?

This is part of the reason my son doesn’t have a smartphone. I’m lazy. I’m not ready to add one more dang device to the list of things I need to monitor. There are some great tools for monitoring and creating a safer internet experience. I listed a few on the resource page. Disney has a product called Circle that allows you to choose safety settings for every device in your house in one place. https://meetcircle.com/

There’s also the old standby of passwords. You can set a phone or an ipad to require a password before anything is downloaded. If your kiddo wants a new app, they’ll need to come to you. It’s a great chance to talk about what the app is, how they will use it, and maybe research a little together. Like I said, we want to teach them to be thoughtful users of technology.

We do random “browser history” checks for my oldest. (He’s allowed to use a laptop on the first floor – no computer in his room.) Basically, we let him know he doesn’t have any kind of internet privacy or privacy on the archaic cell phone (a flip phone – just texting) he carries in case of emergency.

There are a few articles on the resource page with more information on ways to monitor technology, but no matter the method, it takes time. There’s no way around that!

 

Do I really need to monitor their online activity that closely?

Um, I’m all for middle ground obviously, and for people doing what is right for their family, but this is where I’ve got a firm “yes” answer. Your child is a great kid. Not everybody else online is a great kid. There are predators with horrible intentions who are counting on you being too busy to check the latest app your kid downloaded on his or her phone. You don’t have to look far for a horror story about tweens and teens and social media. I chose not to look for examples because it’s depressing and scary. I’ve actually heard enough of them to convince me of the importance of monitoring. But if you don’t know any of the worst case scenarios, really good parents have shared stories of things going very wrong with their kids and technology. Read as much as you can stomach.

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Why Did I Agree to This? Unique opportunities, and challenges of being a spouse and a mom in a military culture

Today I’m thrilled to introduce our first guest author, Susan Silverman, kicking off a series of articles on some of the particular challenges of combining parent, careering and military service . A highly educated and well-traveled individual (not to mention a friend from my American University days), Susan served for a decade as a U.S. Department of Defense consultant before taking time off in support of her family. (For a longer bio, check out our bios page.) Now she’s learning the balance between being a spouse, mother, and individual, all the while residing in the United Kingdom and touring Europe, binging on the latest “X-Files” episodes, and figuring out her future adventures. Despite 10 years working as a civilian for the DoD, her immersion into U.S. military culture as what that institution still terms a ‘dependent spouse’ has contained some real surprises, which she shares with us in this article that gives a glimpse into the perspective of someone peeking into the establishment from the outside.

–Thea

 

Why Did I Agree to This? Unique opportunities, and challenges of being a spouse and a mom in a military culture

by Susan Silverman

Since university, I have been set on being a career woman in the international affairs world. Sure, the path has not been straight—whose has—but my career has always been at the center of my personal dartboard. Being a wife and mother were not impossible roles but not ones I conscientiously dreamed of.

That said, I made it a goal to be professionally and financially secure before I married or had a child. During my pregnancy, my husband received a fantastic offer to work for the U.S. military at a base in the United Kingdom. We could not turn this three-year opportunity down. Because every child needs to be exposed to the Beatles, the royal establishment, and socialized medicine.

At that time, I agreed to be a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM) with the hope of working remotely. I had this whole vision of getting the best of both worlds: balancing feedings, nappy changes, and the early days of my daughter with the satisfaction of meeting the daily needs of my clients. Unfortunately, it turned out I could not take the job with me. Nevertheless, we believed this opportunity would allow us to tour Europe and have more time to be a family together. Our daughter, LB, would get experiences and our—both my husband’s and my—time, two things experts say are the most important things for children.

Before I continue I need to state that I agreed to this life for our family. I could not allow such a wonderful professional opportunity to pass my husband by. I loved my career as a Department of Defense consultant; I felt I was making a difference that mattered for those in the military and had colleagues that I truly respected. But we had the ability for me to forego working and raise our daughter for three years without feeling financial constrained—a blessing that very few families in the United States, especially Washington, DC, have—so I chose this path for my family.

We moved to the UK in September 2016. Quickly, I realized I was a foreigner in two ways: to the overseas U.S. military culture and to the British child rearing ways (the latter I will not address in this posting). And from that day on, I was a nobody. The identity I have had for so long evaporated. I was only thought of as my “husbands’s wife” or “LB’s mother”—nothing more. I became part of a no-man’s land of professional women: those successful professional women trying to balance work and motherhood, who ultimately have to sacrifice their vision of one to survive. In my case, I gave up my professional identity.

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