Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back to School Guide 2014: Label Daddy *coupon*

As the School Year quickly decends upon us I am freaking out.  Yes, my tiny little baby girl is going to start Kindergarten.  What?!  I am really not okay with this, and I've already requested that hubby go in late to work so that he can accompany me.  I never totally lost it with Brian, but I was trying really hard to keep it together.  I'm sort of a semi-pro at this school thing, getting ready to start year three of school preparations and I've come across a couple cool things that I think every kid needs for school. 



Label Daddy was created by two best friends from high school.  How cute is that?  These Dads have a variety of business experience, and created Label Daddies after becoming parents. As a parent myself I get the annoyance of constantly labeling, deciding what to label and how to do it.  So, the creators wanted to come up with an easy and affordable way to do just that.

And now you can save 20% on Label Daddy labels for Back to School! Label Daddy is the number one solution for labeling your belongings! Remember to label all clothing, sports equipment and other personal belongings your kids bring to school, camp, sports leagues, day care, and other places. Label Daddy labels keep them from getting lost or mixed up with others.

These labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels -- they're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant! Label Daddy labels are also fun and attractive. You design your own labels! Pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including Disney and Marvel characters, MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more.  Their exclusive laminated coating gives labels an extra layer of protection and is a must for camp! These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.

Save 20% on your entire Label Daddy order - this is the best discount available anywhere. Use code USFAMILY20 at checkout. http://www.usfamily20.labeldaddy.com



*this is a sponsored post in partnership with US Family Guide.  I received product, but was not compensated in any other way.  As always my thoughts and opinions are my own, and I do not pass on products unless I believe in them or love them myself.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

5 Tips for Being a Tourist with Kids





 Let's be honest...traveling with kids can be quite an experience, but more often then not when you are creating a family trip you do with children in mind.  Whether that be to Disneyland or another theme park, or maybe even a camping or beach trip, usually you have your children in mind and you are staying within that one location.  But what if you want to be a tourist?  Or maybe you have family coming into your town and you will be serving as their tour guide.  How do you do that with kids?  Walking around for hours staring at landmarks or going through museums might not be the ideal situation for children under a certain age.  For us, living in a location where people want to visit (and not just because of us) is pretty cool.  It not only gives us the opportunity to really SEE our city, but have our children experience it as well.  So how do we keep our kids busy and involved on our many tourist visits?

1. Keep them actively engaged!
If you happen to be visiting anything associated with the National Parks they have what is called The Junior Ranger program.  I remember going through the Junior Ranger Program and it can be lots of fun.  You can morph the program to fit your needs, ranging from tons of involvement from you, to self-guided for older kids.  The programs include simple booklets for kids to fill out and turn in for a patch or pin, or actual events run by park rangers.  If it's a place your children have been before have them help you be the tour guide.  My oldest loves to tell people all about the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  You'd be surprised at what they might be able to tell you.

 
acting out a scene for the Washington Times at Madame Tussauds, DC

 
2. Get them a camera
Pick up a disposable camera or let them use a phone or other point and shoot.  Yes, they do make disposable cameras still and my kids love them.  Have them take pictures from their own perspectives.  Bring them out once an hour or so if you know you are going to be out.  Its a great distraction for your kids and an opportunity to engage them in whats going on around them.

3. Pencil and Paper
This is one of my simplest tips and tricks for traveling with children.  We try to refrain from technology with them if possible.  It's not a need, it's a want.  This last week we were out in DC for at least five hours and not once did we take out technology for any of them.  At their antsiest times we pull out that pad of paper and pencil/pen and they are quite content.  We let them go to Michael's/Target dollar bins and pick out their own little notebooks.  We take these with us everywhere, car trips, restaurants or any other time we might be waiting for a long time.



4. Snacks
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I'll just include it.  When we are walking around for long periods of time we tend to snack a lot.  We often don't eat regular meals when we are out like that, and we usually pack a lot.  Pack hearty foods like granola bars, but easy to eat foods like fruit snacks or go-gurts are good ideas as well.  I make use of the ziploc snack bags when we are on trips like this.  They are easy to hold and fit the perfect amount of food in them.  We also keep in mind hydration, bring more then you think you need and we always pack juice because I know that I tend to feel like I have low-blood sugar on trips like this.  A little juice goes a long way.

5. Just Have Fun
Surprisingly enough this can be hard for me.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming to travel with three kids and I let life pass me by freaking out with the kids over silly things.  You're making memories, even though they might not be ones they will remember, they are memories none the less.  To see the looks of awe and wonder on my kids faces when they see really neat things, or when they really begin to understand what it is they are looking at is priceless!

inside the Washington Monument the Week it opened!  The best day
of my Seven Year Old's life! 
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DC/NoVA Adventures: Madame Tssauds, DC

Last week we have the fun opportunity to visit Madame Tssauds' Wax Museum, right here in our own backyard.  Having been to the one in Las Vegas I had some expectation of what to expect but I was curious about how the kids would react.  I decided to go in with no expectations, however if I was completely honest with you I was a little worried that the figures might freak out the littlest little. 





It ended up being a super fun experience, some hands on portions for the kids, buttons to push, things to touch and dress up.  You get to make a wax impression of your hand that you pick up at the end of your tour (it cost extra but is affordable to do as a special treat). Surprisingly none of the kids were leery of the figures.  I was actually more creeped out by them.  I mean, its creepy right?  Their eyes follow you around when you move.  You get so close to them.  So weird.  I know...I'm crazy right? 

One of my favorite portions of Madame Tussauds' was the Hall of Presidents.  To stand amongst such great history is pretty neat.  Living here I often find myself picturing that walking on these streets are the footsteps of such importantly political figures.  Brian thought it was absolutely the coolest to see all these Presidents up close and personal.  Of course the pop stars section is pretty hilarious.  People were mimicking and posing in hilarious ways with some of the stars like Rhianna and Justin Bieber.  I mean, how could you not?




Visiting the wax museum is super easy.  You can purchase tickets online (which are cheaper btw) and it is located maybe a block or so from the metro station.  You are looking at paying just under $20 for adults and under $15 for children 4-12.  I absolutely love that their "free" price is for such a large age range.  Many places are under 2 only, so I found that really wonderful and would help me in deciding whether or not to pay the admission price.  Another wonderful thing is that they offer mid-week savings; so Tuesday - Thursday you can get reduced ticket prices.  When you attend make sure to download the interactive Iphone App for free, which will make your visit a little more fun.  If you are involved in the Scouts program (Boy or Girl) they also have some great programs for merit badges, so check that out.

**this review was made possible by my involvement with USFamilyGude.com Bloggers program.  I was compensated with free tickets to attend in exchange for my honest opinion and review on USFamilyGuide.com.  I was not compensated in any other way or in exchange for a positive review.  As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own....take 'em or leave 'em.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Blogmopolitan Questinarre and Link-up

Hi all!  I came across this link-up (orignally from Two Thirds Hazel) on one of my favorite blogs, Eights on the Move.  If you've never checked out Ashley's blog you should.  She's a fellow mil-spouse and fabulous writer. Her blog is on my "regularly read" list.  Have fun and head on over to Two Thirds Hazel to fill out your own quiz!

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The Military-Related Post I Write Every Year.....

Every year I feel like I write a post like this, whether here or on other outlets that I write for (like this one on Homefront United Network).  Seriously, it boggles the mind that this is even still a discussion but it seems as if several times a year I come across someone saying, or writing, something about this topic that makes my blood boil.  Yet again I run across someone talking about how the National Guard isn't the Military or "its just not the same," or my absolutely favorite "there ARE some National Guard and Reserve spouses who qualify (as milspouses)."  What?!  I can't even people, I mean seriously.  In this day in age, after this many years of war why say things like this? 

The last one most recently was a blogger.  There was so much within me that just wanted to word vomit all over this person.  Her struggle, while specifically her family's transition from full-time to a traditional Guardsman, was real it just kept coming across terribly.  These are real people that are being talked about and the words can hurt.  It's not even this specific case because I know it was part personal, and part a full lack of understanding.  But its this line of thinking that concerns me.  It's what I constantly feel I am fighting in any advocacy I do.  If this is how people begin to view, or keep on viewing us, we will continue to be in serious trouble.  One of the most disturbing things about this is one phrase spoken to me, that continues to stand out to me this day.  "Well, when your husband deploys you'll get lots of support."  For one, that makes me laugh because if they don't know I'm here when I'm actually here, how will they know I'm there when he's gone?"  So many organizations are unaware or don't know what to do with singular Guard families, or ones that are remotely located, who are seeking help.  This also bothers me because in the Active Duty world (that I had been a part of up until recently) you can receive support and help any day of the week, whether your husband deploys frequently, ever, or regardless of the type of job you have. For the most part I can access many things because I'm close to a base, but there are still lots of things that are unavailable to me.  And its not like I can get a "my husband's civilian career is just like his military career" waiver.

It's not even about the things.  I don't need a baby shower, or a free Christmas tree, or school supplies for my kids.  It's the respect and the understanding.  If you can so flippantly suggest that not all National Guard/Reserve Spouses are military spouses then that is concerning.  I can admit that I struggle with the transition myself.  I don't see my husband in his uniform as often as I once did, and I don't have "unit or squadron" friends.  But its still a part of my identity.  No one, even a full-time military spouse should let that be the only part of your identity, but no matter how big or little a role it plays it is still a part of who you are.

So, if you are reading this and struggling with this very thing, don't.  YOU ARE a military spouse, no matter if he puts on that uniform every day, on a weekend here and there.  Whether he's a pilot, in medical, admin or finance.  No matter what that is still a part of your identity and you should be proud.  This is something your spouse volunteered for, and you as well.  No matter the involvement your spouse is still important and is valued by many people.  You are valued, and so is your family.  Thank you for your service, no matter what that looks like.

One Fight, One Force
Go Guard!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

PS: I'm not a Career Martyr

Don't get me wrong, military spouses with careers rock!  They really do, and I firmly believe that all the work and progress that is being made, and all that has been accomplished is so important.  For all the spouses that are nurses, lawyers, teachers, that have worked so hard to get where they are at - they should be able to go anywhere and not have to waste time and money getting re-certified.  All of it is good.  But life is like a pendulum right?  I'm sure it's part of my insecurities but so many people assume that I'm not working because either I can't find a job or I'm an oppressed housewife.  That I couldn't possibly think that it is better for me to stay home and raise my children.  Trust me, I'm not being locked up in the house.  There are times I think about working, or the fact I'm not using my degree, or what will I do later.  But for the most part I personally don't understand paying for someone else to watch my children.  I know that lots of people have to, and I realize lots of people want to.  Working is empowering, a wonderful use of skills and knowledge.  Many of the military spouses that I know that work are effecting real change in people's lives by their work. People that choose to work are no less valid then me, and I'm in way passing judgement on your choices. I just want mine to be just as valid.  I don't want to have to add "not that it isn't to you" or "not that your children aren't important to you as well" after every sentence...so just know that I think those things and that I know them to be true.



But sometimes I wonder if there is less and less value being placed on those of us who don't.  I feel like those of us that are home are constantly being portrayed as the suffering housewife, who care too much about their husband's job, like we carrying around the 1950's Military Spouse Handbook and wear pearls while we clean (But I totally do because I think it's wonderful)  It is important for us to raise our children, and that (to us) outweighs anything else.  I work on my blog and just started freelancing.  I've had so many opportunities to attend press events, but I've also had to miss things because I could get a babysitter or couldn't afford one. I am blessed that staying home is just as important to my husband as it is to me.  We may not live a glamorous lifestyle, we can't do a ton of traveling and lots of other little things that don't need to be discussed on a blog.  We don't own a home and right now we have one car.

My husband's career hasn't made me a martyr, and quite enjoy just being a wife and mother.  I really feel like this is what I'm called to do.  Sometimes its not easy and I think about what it might be like to go out into the work force, or work more from home and put the kids in day care at least part time.  It would be crazy of me to not think like that.  It's around me everywhere....and who couldn't help but think maybe I'M the one that is doing it wrong.  Maybe I am suppressing myself and making it all about my husband's life and career?  But then I think, "no, being a wife and mother, keeping the homefront together, supporting him and his life isn't any less valid."  My personal beliefs and convictions are this, but I understand that not everyone shares that view.  And that's okay, as long as what we are doing is okay too.  I don't want other wives and moms out there to think that they should be working if they don't really want to.  To think that some day they will wake up bitter and angry for being forced into a homemaker role they didn't want.  If you are like me you won't.  Life will open doors and windows for you as it has me.  By volunteering and meeting people I have been provided with opportunities beyond my wildest dreams, to do things I couldn't do if I were in any other position in life then I am now.

So if you read this and you see all the career stuff and it makes you second guess where you think you should be, with where the pendulum is swinging right now...stop...breathe...and think.  When there is so much focus on a particular topic, people tend to feel like they should be right there with it.  That isn't always the case and that's okay!  And as a side note, the article that I originally heard this is was in no way I'm sure trying to say that women are being oppressed and don't realize it.  I just wanted to use the term as a way to highlight the fact not everyone is.  And you can't pass up using a cool term like that to grab people's attention right?



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Thursday, July 17, 2014

DC/NoVA Adventures - The River Farm

This summer I've been looking for some fun stuff to do with the kids.  I'm all for going to the pool and forcing the kids to develop those beautiful imaginations of theirs....however, what I really love is checking out this beautiful TriState area of ours.  While I imagine we will be here for awhile, I feel like we should live like this could be our last year.  So I set off in search of fun things to do and see for little, or no, cost.  I discovered The River Farm, in beautiful Alexandria, VA overlooking the Potomac River.

The River Farm is 25 acres of beautiful landscaped area which was once part of George Washington's estate.  It is also the home of the National Horticulture Society.  One of the coolest things you can see is a set of White House gates that were first installed in 1819 as part of the repair to the building after the war of 1812.  Some of the flowers and shrubbery that surround the house is 100 years old!  Can you believe it?  As a side note this place is also available for weddings and heaven help me I would get married all over again at this place.  Goregousness doesn't even accurately describe all the hidden and out in the open gems on this property.


 The White House Gates
 

 My new Dream House

Entrance to The Children's Garden




The Meadow


I definitely recommend adding this to the list of places to see.  It can be low-key, the kids can get some energy out and you can see all the beauty nature has to offer.  The kids ran and explored and it was absolutely lovely!


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