Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The hustle and bustle is almost over and the countdown is on for the big event! With computer issues, day job issues and a full calendar of family Christmas concerts and parties, I've been MIA for the past few weeks, but I'm back in action (with my Christmas gift to me, my new MacBook Pro) and ready for 2014…Lots of exciting things to come!

I'd like to wish you and your family the happiest of Christmas-es if you celebrate Christmas, and if not, I wish you a wonderful holiday season! To those families who are separated this Christmas as a result of deployments, courses, postings or other circumstances, hang in there! I'm sending out a special Christmas wish for you. 

Thank you so much for all of your love, support and friendship over the past year. I have met so many amazing people on my journey, and I'm looking forward to connecting with many more in the days ahead.

Happy Christmas, and much merriness for the New Year!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Need vs Want

Need- verb require something because it is essential or very important
Want- verb have a desire to possess or do.
(Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)

As I may or may not have mentioned before, I spend a lot of time in the car. Commuting to and from my city job, driving kids to horse shows and dance lessons and band practices and guitar lessons and friends houses, shopping for kid food and horse food and dog food and the occasional pizza (well, more often than that...okay weekly pizza)...a lot of time in the car. And because of that I spend a fair amount of time listening to the radio (and talking to myself, but that's not socially acceptable so we'll forget about that part).

This time of the year the radio commercials (and television commercials) are relentlessly hawking items for sale and services for hire. I'm okay with that. It's part of the game, right? And some of these commercials are funny and heartwarming and they make me feel all warm and happy inside.

But as my kids have grown older and I've grown more cynical, I find I'm actually listening to the language of these commercials, and as a family we're discussing them. How such and such a vendor is using a particular word to convince you to by their product. How the music is upbeat, so you think you'll be cooler if you shop in their store. How you need a new appliance to get you through the Christmas season. You get the idea, we're talking about marketing strategies and why they work or why they don't. I'm trying to teach them to think before they buy.

The by-product of all of this parental introspection, though, is that I'm actually realizing how much I mimic commercial-speak in my day to day conversation. And, it being Christmas and all, I'm thinking a whole lot more about the fact that as much as I use the word, I don't need anything.

I have enough food.

I have clean, fresh water.

I have a warm, dry house.

I have clothing.

I have good health.

I have a good paying job.

And I have all of the love of my wonderful family and friends.

So why do I use that word so much? Why do I say that I need a new laptop, when really what I mean is that I would like to have one to replace the one I currently have (which, by the way, is still sporting the blue and red lines of death...)? Why do I say I need a coffee? Okay, maybe that qualifies as something very important...especially for the well being of my children. Maybe it would be better to say that they need me to have a coffee.

Do I really need another book? (Yes. Yes, I do.)

Why do I need new clothes, new Christmas lights, hair products or a new toaster?

The fact of the matter is, I don't need. I want. I want a new coat. I desire an iPad. And diamonds. We all have wants, and that's okay. But there are so many people out there who actually do need. And not only is it my responsibility to help teach my children the difference, it's my responsibility to do what I can to help those who do need. The Christmas season is a perfect time to start. Even in little ways, like bringing a can of food for the food bank box or donating to a charity who helps feed and clothe those who do need.

Our kids watch and listen to the media so closely. And it's our responsibility to counteract the constant barrage of influence that things like commercials have. Because of this I'm trying ever so hard to change how I express myself to suit what I mean. To say I want, not I need.

Except when I'm heading to Starbucks.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mistletoe Memories: Military Family

On this day six years ago I truly came to understand the meaning of the Military Family.

Picture this: You are three thousand miles away from your hometown, living in the beautiful British countryside. Your husband is at work, without cell phone. You've met so many nice people in the past three months, and are just starting to feel settled, looking forward to the Christmas build up in a new country.

The morning starts off crisp and fresh, a beautiful walk with your children to school past hopping bunnies and frost-covered holly berries. The world you live in is surreal, beautiful and foreign. Life is pretty good. You take your youngest to a routine doctor appointment, the doctor is unconcerned, runs some routine tests and sends you on your way. Then you drop her, all of five, dressed in her cute little British uniform, off at her kindergarten class. All errands completed, you settle in for a quiet afternoon of solitude, writing and laundry.

The phone rings.

You answer, still unsuspecting, and when the doctor says hello, your stomach falls.

"Mrs. Dunne? You need to go pick up your daughter from school right now. Take her directly to the hospital. Pack an overnight bag. They're waiting for you, there is a bed set up in the pediatrics ward."

Panic, fear, worry...the next hours are a blur. You try to stay strong, act like this is no big deal while you drive blurry eyed to the hospital, watch your baby get an IV while doctors and nurses rotate through, while your daughter gets her first of thousands of insulin shots. When someone finally confirms the diagnosis. When someone finally admits that this is it, there is no cure, there is no doubt.

You can't reach your husband. You try the only people you can think of to help. Your neighbours, your new friends, people you've known for all of three months.

And they embrace your crisis as their own.

Your other children? Picked up from school, fed, cared for. Your husband? Pulled from the rugby pitch by your neighbour and driven to the hospital to be with you. Balloons and books and flowers sent within hours. Phone calls of support. Cooked meals delivered to your home.

Everything is taken care of, without question or fanfare, so that you can concentrate on getting your little girl better.

This is what happened to me six years ago today. And this is, in a nutshell, what it's like to live in a military family. Your family expands. People you've never met become your allies, your friends, your family by chance. You help them and they help you.

Sure it's lonely at times, frustrating to be so far away from your blood family. The closest we will ever live to my parents is a 6 hour drive away. I miss them. I wish they were here and I could just call and ask for help, or pop by and share a cup of coffee.

But your 'military family' are there for you when you need them. Sometimes they are civilian, sometimes they wear uniforms. They're your neighbours, your friends, your coworkers. They speak different languages, come from different backgrounds.

And they've got your back. They would do anything for you in times of crisis.

I love my military family and I am so thankful for them!

How about you? Have you had a special 'military family' or other experience like this? Would love to hear your story! Drop me a comment in the box below.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Military Monday: Military Kids

A different kind of helicopter parenting...8 Wing CFB Trenton 2010
There has been a lot of discussion on the internet lately about the current generation of kids. How this generation, the product of so-called 'helicopter parents' (see this article and others like it), are incapable of caring for themselves. How they need mommy and daddy to help them do everything, from folding their laundry, to helping them pass university courses.

As an answer to this...I give you the military child.

I have to say, I scoffed at these helicopter parents articles. Yeah, there's a few parents I've met in my years as a mom that would qualify, but the vast majority don't and won't. I'm sure it's partly because it would drive me crazy to hang out with parents like this. My friends kids' have chores. They participate in family discussions. They work for their allowances. If they get a failing grade, they lose privileges.

Part of the reason I know few qualifying helicopter parents is because, by necessity and opportunity, most (but certainly not all) of my close friends are part of military families.

So what makes military kids different?

1) Children in military families learn quickly that things don't always turn out the way they want. Often their first bed is a car seat, and they are on the road to a new home before they've even comprehended their old one. They say goodbye to their friends frequently. They don't get to choose
Dad just before
departure on deployment
their homes or their schools. The service branch their parent belongs to chooses those things, and chooses when they will change.

2) Military kids get big responsibilities on their shoulders early in life. I remember my three year old 'reading' to her newborn sister so that I could put her two year old brother down for his nap. Only a few feet away from me, but she understood that it was her responsibility, and she accepted that. When Dad is away a lot, someone has to step up to help out with other chores too, like lawn-mowing, dishes, taking out the garbage. As one military spouse says, "(Our) children are often in the position of learning to cope with change, they learn to make the best of difficult circumstances, and above all they learn the necessity of sacrifice for a greater good. Children in military families learn independence through adversity; being asked to contribute their skills and talents to the function of the family unit, to accommodate the absent family member."

3) Military kids understand the realities of military life. They hear the news. They know their parent is in danger. They endure disappointment when Dad isn't there to see them perform, to praise report cards, to compete in sports. They cry. They are scared. And they keep going. They get through it.

One of my good friends recently said in a Thanksgiving oriented Facebook post: "Our girls have amazed me with their ability to keep going, not moping around, not waiting for things to happen to them, but going out and making life happen, living it to its fullest. I don't know if I would've been as strong at my age."

4) Military kids have great role models. Parents and other families around them that understand the value of hard work. Immediate role models that don't always want to do what they have to...but they do it anyway.

Now mind you, not every military family encourages their kids to get out there, make mistakes and keep working until they succeed. Some parents take their fear of their spouse's job and reflect it backwards. Their family environment, something they can control, becomes the outlet for something they can't control, ie) their spouse's environment. PTSD can play a big role in over-protective military family parenting (a post for another time...).

But the majority of military kids that I've met in my 25+ years associated with the military are strong, resilient, capable, and hard-working. They're kids that are able to deal with whatever life throws at them...because, well, life has thrown a lot at them already. Their experiences help them prepare for life without mom and dad.

What are your thoughts? Do you know strong, resilient military kids? Or perhaps you know some helicopter parents?  Let me know your experiences in the comments below!

Til next time,