Toddlers are NOT ideal candidates for a PCS

Little adorable monsters who thrive on routine, familiarity, and consistency just don’t make great PCS companions. While I myself have offered tips for PCSing with children, read many of the same type of blogs, and have moved 7 times now in 11 years – 5 of which have been with children, I have never –until now- PCSed with a 2 year old.  It’s a whole new beast. Seriously, in my utter exhaustion only 6 days into our 4 week transition to our new duty station, I make no attempts to offer advice. I have no wise words on how to make the best of it, I can barely say PCS without needing a nap (which wouldn’t ever happen anyway because why would my 2 year old need to nap when there are hotel hallways to be explored).

ToddlerBlog1PCSing with a toddler does not feel like a simple Permanent Change of Station but more like I Probably Can’t Survive. How has my sleeping-through- the-night, good-natured toddler turned into a blue eyed, hotel night shrieking banshee? My nightly self-commentary has been going something like this:  “Sweetie, I know we’ve slept in 4 different places in the past week. Get it together kid, lay down and go to sleep. It’s 4am, I don’t care what time zone we are in, yes we have been through three of them but everyone in the U.S. is sleeping somewhere, so please for the sake of mommy’s sanity and ability to keep her big girl panties on, please go to sleep.”

Ok.  Maybe I’ve lied. I am not this patient at 4am in the morning but who wants to admit to anything less, right?  In all honesty, I envy my toddler’s ability to unabashedly show his emotions, his frustrations with our transition and his desire to control the world around him because really, I feel exactly the same way.

Here are 10 things that I have learned on our journey so far… Read more >

How to MOVE IT without LOSING IT!: Helpful Tips for your PCS Move

As every military family knows – a PCS can be challenging and stress inducing. (Hey, wait… P-C-S: Personally Challenging and Stress inducing. Well that makes a lot of sense now!) Thankfully as the military community continues to network and grow in personal relationships and through social media, we have a plethora of resources at our hands to help plan, conquer and divide (quite literally). Whether you are planning your very first PCS or your fourteenth, there are always new ideas out there to help the process go smoothly.


PCS Blog Boxes PicAs an Army spouse, I’ve moved 8 times in the past 12 years, and have done everything from watch in horror as my newlywed lingerie collection came tumbling down the staircase; to sitting in a hot, empty German house and breastfeeding a 7 day old baby as odiferous German moving men meandered around me.  By honorable mention, I have made an epic 20 hour drive with a 3 year old from the East Coast to the armpit of Hell (Fort Polk, Louisiana) – by myself and arrived at our new rental house that had sat vacant for 6 weeks amidst the sweltering Louisiana summer. Close yours eye for a moment and envision black widow dens in the living room, mold growth in the fridge worthy of hazmat suits, and a swarm of maggoty fruit flies moving around inside the microwave.

Read more >

BRATS on the Move: Tips for PCSing with Children

We have PCS’d 5 times in the last 8 years, and 3 of those moves have been with small children. (Wow, does that thought make me want to run to the liquor cabinet.) Ten months after our last move, I finally have my head together enough to share some tips that make it a bit easier to handle a PCS while your “helpers” shadow you during those weeks surrounding the move. (Or at least keep your happy hour to after naptime.)


Things to Prep

Remember that TLC show where the people had big tarps on their lawn to separate all their stuff into “Keep”, “Sell”, and “Donate” piles? That’s you right now. Obviously keep the things your child still uses and likes, as well as those a future sibling might need. But that ridiculously loud battery operated nose sucker you tossed in the garage to hide? You won’t miss it. Is your last baby going to outgrow the swing in a month anyway? Sell it now. Use CALL DIBS to sell or give away the stuff you won’t need. Consider donating some of your books and easily cleaned toys to charity, to your pediatrician’s office or a Caribou Coffee kid corner (love those).

Read more >

Memorial Day: The Why and The How

Those of us in the military community have a deep sense of what this 4 day Memorial weekend really means. We remember best friends lost in battle, family members who gave their lives in ultimate sacrifice for our Nation, and a rich history of generation upon generation of men and women who have provided us the liberties, rights, and freedoms we exercise today.

Memorial Day started as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will intheir own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

This 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances of the day in several towns throughout America that had taken place in the three years since the Civil War. In fact, several Northern and Southern cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Miss.; Macon, Ga.; Richmond, Va.; Boalsburg, Pa.; and Carbondale, Ill. In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo-which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866-because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. (Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, is celebrated each year on November 11.)

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

**Remember to fly your flag on Memorial Day. The American flag should be flown at half-staff until noon on Monday. It should then be raised to the top of the staff. If you raise your flag Monday morning (as opposed to having an illuminated all-weather flag you leave out all night), you need to raise it to the top of the staff and then lower it to half-staff from there.**

This blog content was adapted from a beautifully written email message from Loren V. Heckelman, Captain, USN (Ret.)


Rental Scams (Guest Milspouse Bloggers!)

Military spouses know how to get things done and are continually obtaining knowledge and skills as veteran movers and world travelers. Knowing how to not only move and keep your sanity in check but also protect your family is not always as easy as it sounds. So today we’d like to share a great blog from The Military Property Project. It is a new and emerging project, developed by two Army spouses, Amy and Lauren. Between the two of them they have PCSed over 15 times and personally manage over 10 properties country-wide. They understand the constraints and hurdles military families face because they experience them first-hand!!! So without further ado, we offer you: Rental Scams: Are you Falling for One?

PCS Blog Boxes Pic


They were also featured here by NextGenMilSpouse for their up and coming project!!

Four Apps to Get You Through Severe Weather Season


As a (former) professional meteorologist, people love to ask me what weather app I use. I giggle inside because that’s like asking a surgeon what sort of knife she uses!* Military families often find themselves facing some unfamiliar weather patterns. For example, moving from San Antonio to Boston taught me a lot about snow…and measuring it in feet.

Before we get started, I feel like I should make a bit of a public service announcement.
• During severe weather events, always pay attention to your local media. Resources like The Weather Channel and the apps I mention below will not be able to give you as specific information as your local TV station or weather radio.
• Take a moment to review the National Weather Service’s Weather Ready Nation website. Make sure you know where you will go and what actions to take during different weather events. (Fun fact: Tornadoes have been documented in every state! No one is immune!)

And now, the four best weather apps to get you through severe weather season (and beyond)!

#1: iMap Weather Radio
iOS, Android
This app is the ultimate weather radio! Whether you’re at home, at work, or traveling, as long as you have your mobile device, this app will alert you to severe weather in your area. You can set favorite locations to monitor multiple locations. This is great to see if family members are being affected by severe weather. You can customize notifications, so you only get the alerts you want. It will even read the text out loud!

Free Alternative: It’s not an app, but check out Interactive NWS or iNWS from the National Weather Service (the government agency that issues watches, warnings and advisories). Using this web app, you can set it up to send you emails and/or text messages when there is severe weather in one or many areas you specify. Locations can be a city, zip code, landmark, county or custom drawn area!

#2: RadarScope
MacBook, iOS, Android

This one is for the true weather weenies out there. If you don’t know the difference between radar data and satellite data, see the free alternative below. This is pure radar data on the go, friends. If you want to know what the temperature is going to be tomorrow, don’t ask this guy. However, if you want to know what velocities look like on that hook echo forming two counties to your southwest, this is your app! From the RadarScope website: “These aren’t smoothed PNG or GIF images, this is real Level 2 and Level 3 radar data rendered in its original radial format for a high level of detail.” It even includes the Dual-Pol products. Set up a favorites list to quickly toggle between radars.
Pro tip: Download the iPad app and get the iPhone app for free! #winning

Free Alternative: I get it, not everyone needs to (over)analyze every storm. If you just want to see if it’s raining somewhere, try (not a typo, there is no second “e”). Again, technically not an app, but it is designed specifically for iOS devices. So pop open a browser on your mobile device (they target iOS users, sorry Android friends!) and head over to and select your desired location.

#3: mPing
iOS, Android

Help us help you! The Meteorological Phenomena Near the Ground (or mPING) app is less about providing you with information and more about you providing the scientists with data! So if your witnessing weather happening in your location, use this app to report what you’re observing. Report types include: rain, snow, hail, wind damage, tornado(!), flood, landslide, and reduced visibility. Your reports will be use to help meteorologists improve weather predicting technology. I encourage you to be sure you sure of what you’re witnessing. (For example, if you’re in Boston and it’s January and there’s ice falling from the sky, that’s sleet, not hail.) You can also see a map of what other people are reporting.

#4: iOS native weather app
On all iPhones

When it comes to just checking what the temperature is outside before leaving for work or seeing what’s in store for the next five days, it’s hard to beat the native weather app on my iPhone. It says the data comes from Yahoo! which may mean it comes from Accuweather or some other source, but it works for me.

If you have an Android device or are interested in other options, there are a seemingly endless supply of weather apps that will tell you current weather and a 5-7 day forecast. I always recommend people visit, the website of the National Weather Service (NWS). They don’t have a mobile app (yet), but your taxpayers are paying for these forecasts and, as a former employee of the NWS, I know the forecasters there are the best in the business.

So there they are! Obviously there are a lot of weather apps to choose from, but these are the four that I use. Do you have a favorite weather app that isn’t listed here?

*I say that but when I was asked to come up with five, I could only come up with four that I actually use. The point is, you need different apps for different use cases.



Veronica Holtz holds a B.S. in Meteorology and an MBA, both from the University of Oklahoma. She enjoys traveling and staying active. She currently works as a Technical Writer in Boston where she lives with her USAF husband, Mike, and their cat, Pants.

Military Spouse Appreciation Day

Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day! Granted, sleeping in our house alone is small potatoes compared to hearing bombs outside your bedroom, but the subtle and not so subtle sacrifices we make at home are important, too. We are the ones left behind managing a life created by and made for a couple. We are maintaining a house and home, which is often a new house with new (and perhaps unfamiliar) responsibilities in a new area. Something is noticeably missing in our daily routines, and we don’t always have a built-in support system – we have to go out and find one or create one. We keep spirits up, keep chaos down, and strive to be that steady rock for our service member, children, and other military families. We deal with “single” lifestyles, but with the under-lying knowledge that the love of our lives is in danger. You don’t have to have children to appreciate the sacrifice, either. Before we had kids, my husband was stationed in Texas, where his deployment schedule was “4 on, 4 off”.  Of course, we all know that “4 off” was really just code for “busy, not deployed”. During his homeport time, my husband spent every 5th night standing watch on the ship, and there were many 1-2 week underway periods and trainings to prepare for the next deployment. We were newly married, and my husband spent less than half of our first two years with his wife. I got a cat to talk to. And discovered wine.

We are “the force behind the force” and proud. Very proud. In addition to our own families, military spouses also take care of each other. “Neighbor” is a pretty broad term when it comes to our community. We are all neighbors, no matter our physical locations. No matter if our own spouse is deployed, or if we have kids, or if we are having a rough time adjusting, every military spouse I know will step right up to help a fellow spouse or family. We ask our friends (of friends, of friends) for advice and help, and share an automatic bond with people living the same lifestyle. We show up with dinner for a stranger, advice for a newcomer, and outreached hand for fellow mil spouses. There is no other community like it.

So from the bottom of our hearts here at Call Dibs, we hope everyone takes a day to recognize the spouses; even if your service member is deployed and you simply treat yourself to dessert and a quiet reflection of “Yes, I am AWESOME!” Because you REALLY are!


Lydia is a proud Navy spouse of 9 years, and has been with her husband since she was 16. They have 3 children, ages 5, 3, and 2. She earned her BA in Elementary Education, but decided to become a stay-at-home-mom after having children, and has found a new passion for helping military families at Adjacent Applications. A Chicago native, Lydia feels at home on a warm beach with a cup of coffee. Or a tequila sunrise.

PCS Season

Happy May 1st, or what we call PCS Season! For many military families, that means HAPPY PCS PREP MONTH!  Summer moves require spring planning, and if you’re looking for tips, you’re in luck – we have lots!  Even if you’re not PCSing this year, we’re including all sorts of things throughout May and June to help you welcome your new neighbors as well.

If you are itching to start RIGHT NOW (and we know you are!), check out our previous posts:

How to Move It Without Losing It: tips for making it through the madness

PCSing with Little Kids: the best little helpers….

PCS Survival Kit has everything you need for camping in an empty house while you wait for the truck.

Friendating tips for meeting new people and expanding your support network.

Are you a professional who will be looking for a job in your new area? Try Military Spouse Marketability Part 1, and Part 2.

mcmannes2 released


Mary’s Perspective – Military Kids

Mary has been married to an active duty service member for over 21 years, and their family has quite a few moves under their belt!

“I’ve moved over 15 times, and our oldest finished high school (all 4 years) at one duty station after enrolled in 6 schools K-12th grade. Our youngest has been in 4 schools, and now finishing 8th grade homeschooled. Like some homeschoolers, it’s difficult to a) move from your friends, b) homeschool, and c) find a new support group to bond with. We’re still looking at involvement locally.

We’ve found military life is a true blessing to families. The support you get is personalized at different locations, some better then others. We’ve had and have some fabulous friends due to our locations in the military.

Some family members don’t understand our benefits, our blessings. For instance our son received the post 911 GI bill for college, and he doesn’t have a clue how blessed he is compared to other students on campus.

Our daughter is involved in a girls’ organization, like Girl Scouts, that has some homeschooled, and some military gals, too. Very accepting to new girls. We were blessed, thanks to the Internet, to find Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV), and were able to discover a homeschool support group on the local base and also in our town. We are also a part of Immanuel Bible Home Educators Group, which offers many activities like State Geography and International Nights, father-daughter dance, mother-daughter tea, playdates, computer classes, etc. all free with active participation.

It’s hard when a teen has to leave their friends, starting again in a new neighborhood, school, church, life. Even myself have noticed this past move, after living somewhere over 4 years is difficult.”

Kristin’s Perspective – Military Family

Earlier this month, we featured Ally’s Perspective, a fictional story written by a 9 year old girl to help cope with her dad’s deployment. Kristin is Ally’s mom, and offers her perspective on being a military family with a special needs child.

“When you become a military spouse, you know “going into it” that this life might take you to live in exotic places – perhaps overseas or in Hawaii – and a downside might be that you’ll often live very far away from family.  You’ll know that your military service member will often be away from you and your children for long periods of time, but you won’t truly know what a six or nine month separation feels like until you have to do it for the first time and you don’t realize how difficult it is to explain the concept of time it to a toddler or a Kindergartener or even a third grader until that moment happens to you.  Throughout your life as a military spouse, you’ll encounter numerous events that you never thought you would have to handle alone and you’ll pat yourself on the back for those you accomplish singlehandedly – like putting up a live Christmas tree by yourself – and you’ll probably curse the high heavens for those times you feel like “this isn’t fair” – like dealing with rats in your garage… You’ve probably heard the phrase “life is a roller coaster” and yes, it’s full of ups and downs.  However, life as a military spouse is like an EXTREME ride on a roller coaster – full of the highest highs and the lowest lows.

xmas girlsAs a Navy spouse for over eighteen years and the mother of two daughters, I’ve had my share of highest highs and lowest lows.  However, one of the most significant events in my life occurred when my second daughter was born in December 2004.  My dream of having another “perfect” baby with a button nose, rosebud mouth, and the proverbial “ten fingers/ten toes” vanished in an instant. You can imagine my shock when my youngest daughter was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and just two fingers on each hand and two toes on each foot. I remember crying, “Why? Why? Why? What’s going on? What happened?” to everyone in the delivery room. Between the emotional strain of labor and delivery and the shock of our newborn having multiple birth defects, my husband actually passed out in the delivery room and the spent the next three days in ICU having suffered a traumatic brain injury. My daughter spent a few hours with me before she was taken to the NICU so they could monitor her vitals and attempt to feed her.  Three out of four members of my family – myself, my husband, and my newborn daughter were all patients at the same hospital. My oldest daughter was three and a half at the time and was being cared for by family members at home. I was the first to be discharged from the hospital after her birth.  As I exited the hospital, leaving my husband in the ICU and my daughter in the NICU, I could barely comprehend how our lives had changed so dramatically in the three days since I had walked into that hospital with my husband at my side and my daughter in my belly.  The highs and lows of those three days imprinted my mind forever.

In the weeks that followed, we learned that Allyson had a genetic condition called Ectrodactyly-Ectodermal Dysplasia-Clefting Syndrome (EEC Syndrome).  This syndrome is characterized by missing or irregular fingers and/or toes (ectrodactyly); abnormalities of the hair, nails, teeth, and sweat glands; cleft lip and/or palate; distinctive facial features; and abnormalities of the eyes and sometimes the urinary tract.  My husband eventually recovered from his head injury and returned to flying status fifteen months after Allyson’s birth.  Our “new normal” life had begun.

A few years later, Allyson’s vision began to deteriorate due to unexpected complications associated with EEC Syndrome.  By age four, she was legally blind and now reads and writes in Braille.  However, Allyson is a remarkable girl with a spunky personality and a lot of determination.  There’s nothing that she thinks she cannot do!  She’s had more than thirty surgeries (I’m not exactly sure how many because she’s asked me to stop counting them!) over the past nine years and has endured more tests and doctors’ visits than most people see in a lifetime.

As a military spouse and as a mother of a child with special medical and educational needs, both experiences are full of “high highs” and “low lows” which sometimes conflict with each other.  When I was asked to write this piece, I was full of ideas about which angle I should take and how I could offer wisdom to other spouses who had experiences similar to mine.  I wanted to write something witty and insightful; something entertaining, yet poignant, and I struggled to make this article sound “just right.”  Then…last week happened and the theme became clear: high highs and low lows.  Here’s our story:

Last week, my husband was due to fly home from his nine month deployment aboard an aircraft carrier.  It was unexpected that he was offered the opportunity to come home on the early detachment two weeks before the ship pulled in.  We decided that we would surprise our daughters (ages 12 and 9) and not tell them about the early homecoming, just in case something changed at the last minute.  Obviously, this was a “high high” for us!  However, the day before he was scheduled to fly home, there was a chance he wouldn’t make the flight because high seas were preventing liberty boats from taking sailors off the ship –  potential “low low”.  He ended up flying home early and he made a video announcing his surprise that I played for my daughters just hours before he was scheduled to land.  The shock on their faces was priceless and I’m so glad we were able to pull off the surprise!  For military families, a reunion after a long separation is one of the most special experiences we get to enjoy… adding the element of surprise just sweetens the deal!

Four days after my husband’s surprise homecoming, Allyson was scheduled to have eye surgery – a routine procedure that she’s had several times – to treat glaucoma in both of her eyes.  Obviously, this surgery was scheduled before we knew my husband would be home, so Allyson and I made the 500 mile roundtrip alone to Baltimore, MD for her surgery.  Nothing unusual occurred during surgery and we returned home to my husband and older daughter that night.  The next day, Allyson complained that her vision was blurry, but I thought nothing of it since she was just one day post-op.  When she came home from school the day after surgery, her vision wasn’t any better and she was having a lot of difficulty navigating the familiar environments of our home and at school.  Even though Allyson is legally blind, she is able to see details of objects up close and is so comfortable in her familiar environments that sometimes we “forget” that her vision is limited because of how independent she seems.  We became alarmed when she told us “I can’t see” and it was obvious that she had suffered a significant loss of her functional vision.  She had never experienced this side effect during previous surgeries so I called the doctor who suggested we return to Baltimore for tests to rule out anything catastrophic.  We had hit a new lowest low… and right on the heels of our highest high just a few days before.  Allyson and I made the trip to Baltimore once again two days after her surgery to hopefully find answers to this new problem. While many years have passed since Allyson first lost her vision and we’ve dealt with that pain, have accepted it and have moved past it, this was a real blow.  She was acutely aware of this change in her vision and how it limited her ability to do all the things she’s accustomed to doing.  Our spunky and determined girl was now frustrated, sad, and sullen.  The return trip to Baltimore ruled out any significant changes to her eyes that might be causing this “new” vision loss.  We’re now in a ‘wait and see’ and ‘hope that this is temporary’ mode… it’s definitely put a damper on life as we knew it and we wonder about the new challenges that might lie ahead for Allyson.  As the week has progressed and we’re on vacation with family over Spring Break, there has been little improvement to Allyson’s vision.  While we didn’t sink to a new lowest low (we came close), the thrill of homecoming  just a few days ago has worn off as we’ve been dealt another card that makes us ask “why?”

rally family edit 21This past week was our example of how military families and families with special needs children have to adapt and it illustrates how our lives are often turned upside down in an instant.  Does this happen to other “typical” families in our society?  Sometimes… but I think you’ll find more frequent occurrences of highest highs and lowest lows in military families just because the nature of the lifestyle we lead and because of the uncertainty that accompanies this lifestyle.  You’ll find high highs and low lows in families with special needs children because you spend so much time working and trying to reach certain milestones or overcome specific obstacles that the majority of your time and energy is focused on a single task.  When a special needs child eats without gagging for the first time or is able to sit up unassisted or speaks the first intelligible word – that’s a huge victory worthy of a celebration!  When you combine the military family with the family with special needs children, you have the unique opportunity to witness both extremes of highs and lows… and even in the same week!

My best advice to others is to celebrate what you have today because you can’t change yesterday and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  Embrace the roller coaster in your life and grin ear-to-ear as you hit the crest of the highest highs and hold on for dear life during those deepest lows.  Neither one is everlasting… there’s always next week.”


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