We're Here!!

So, long time no post. I know, I'm so sorry!  It was an interesting move for sure.  Lets just say my tray idea didn't pan out like I wanted it too.  The Louisiana heat melted the glue which came unstuck and blew Styrofoam balls all over the car. SO fail! We settled for cheap activity trays from the dollar general and those worked out just fine.   It was a long journey but so worth it.  Some of the most amazing scenery in the world is along the Alcan. :)
We got to do a lot of fun stuff we didn't plan, like check out dinosaur bones and see First nation settlements in Alberta.  Fun stuff we DID plan like spend an entire day at the amusement park at the West Edmonton Mall  and stay in some really interesting places (like the Toad River Lodge.  Their Rueben sandwiches btw are to die for!!)  We arrived in Fairbanks in the middle of July when the weather was fabulous and the sun barely set.  The hotel was fabulous and set us up with a suite and we got to do some exploring before we moved into our new house.

This is my house.  Nice huh?
I do have to say, normally army housing is kind of iffy, and pretty small.  There have been numerous jokes on various pages about army wives not knowing what to do if they had a huge house.  Well now I know.  Army housing at Fort Wainwright is massive, brand new and the most beautiful housing I've ever seen in my life.  We have a five bedroom but even the three bedrooms in the neighborhood run around 2500 square feet.  Wide doorways and halls, spacious layouts, modern design features, they even splurged on bathroom fixtures.  I never want to leave this house.  It does of course mean I needed to make some serious adjustments to my cleaning plan.  More space means more to clean, yet it works out better too.  More space means my house is less cramped and looks less cluttered.  Still adjusting to the upstairs laundry room though.

   This of course means that my cleaning supplies list changed too.  First things first, my caddy wasn't cutting it.  I had a cheap dollar store bathroom caddy that I was using but is now relegated to holding my massive stock of sunlit morning scentsy. (it was being discontinued and is my favorite, so I bought every bar my consultant had!).  So what I did was this:

This is my cleaning kit.  Full Disclosure: I AM a Thirty One consultant (This is Thirty One btw) so I get mine at a 25% discount.  This is the Organizing Tote which I freaking love. I have one for a gym bag, one for cleaning, one for a purse too.  This one I had embroidered with "Sparkle" which is what I want my house to do.  In the outside pockets Ii have pledge, Lysol wipes, rubber gloves, a spray bottle of water/vinegar for glass cleaner AND a spray bottle of Odoban.  What is odoban you ask (do not work for, affiliated with etc Odoban. Just an enthusiast.)

So I'm rolling through Sams club one day and happen across this stuff.  I have a football teams worth of children,(including bedwetters and a son with Encopresis) plus a dog, a cat, and a military husband whose whole job is working with dogs so my house can get bad if not maintained.  Some stuff, like scentsy and febreze will only mask odors.   This stuff does what it says, it ELIMINATES odors.  What else does it do?

It is a Deodorizer, Sanitizer, disinfectant, anti viral, mildewstat.  It will kill bacteria, fungus, the flu, athletes foot and HIV type 1.  No joke.  This stuff is serious business, yet it's safe to use as an air freshener, in laundry, on floors etc.  Child wets the bed?  I spray the mattress with a mixture for Pet Odors ( I think it's a 5:1 ratio), throw the sheets and blankets in the washer and pour 8oz of Odoban into the washers fabric softener dispenser.  I use the same mixture to spray the catbox and to treat the carpet if the dog has an accident inside.  I use another mixture as a febreeze replacement on carpets and couches, I use yet another mixture of it to sanitize my bathrooms and kitchen countertops.  I even use it as a replacement for my Swiffer Wet Jet solution.   Martha Stewart says that a clean house should hold NO smell and that's what this does. It kills the ick that creates the bad smell.  it's safe for use around pets, children, and is a hospital grade cleaner. (Kills bird flu and swine flu too. )  It cleans carpets, the only thing this stuff doesn't do is load my dishwasher and fold my clothes.  So yes, I have like six bottles, all with different concentrations of this stuff.  

how much would you think this product was?  i bet you don't even come close to guessing.  Go ahead, guess. 


I paid 9.99 at Sam's club for a giant bottle of concentrate that makes 32 gallons of cleaner.  Yes, read that again.9.99.  YOU WANT THIS STUFF.

Yeah I know, long post raving about this stuff but you have to understand when I get excited about a product, I get EXCITED!   I was really worried about how my house would smell in the winter when I can't open windows and doors to air it out but this did the trick.  I was even more concerned when my Jack Russell Terrier went into heat (thanks fort polk for spaying her like you said you did btw) and how that would effect my husband working dogs, killed the scent of her hormones.

I really do love my new home, so I'm going to leave you with three images. All taken from my back porch.

The sunset from my back porch. :)
The Northern lights from my back porch
My youngest daughter walking to school to get her brother.
The path behind our house cuts through the woods and fall
has already come to Alaska. :)

Im a big baby

At least I'm a big baby when I'm sick. For those who dont follow me on facebook, I have the shingles. A rather awful thing to have honestly. My husband was already taking leave thank goodness so he has been taking care of me and the family. Thank goodness i just finished revamping my household 6 sop Including recipes! I love my husband dearly but the body cannot recover on top ramen alone! Ehat is it about soldiers that make them think top ramen is a cure all soup? Needless to say i am going crazy! Ige already watched the entire series of firefly, the serenity movie, the girl with the dragon tattoo and a rather amazing variety of trash television. Ive got an interesting cariety of books as well. Planning different craft projects, playing some diablo iii betas, in other words going nuts confined to my couch. I think tomorrow I will write another chapter of my novel for my wonder twin and pray some more for the pain to stop. This has given me the idea to put together some kits for my own amusement for this trip considering ipl again be confined to a small space for long periods of time. I just need to come up with some ideas. Especially since they have to be portable. Maybe socks. Knitting socks confounds me! Must be time to try the single needle magic loop method. What do you do when you are sick and couchbound? Do you watch trash tv or read or sew? I have at least another week of this so please ladies! Suggestions are welcome!

Prototype A. Lessons to be learned

Ignore the ice chest It's about the same width as tray
the better to demonstrate the pockets.
Well I just finished my first attempt at a travel tray.  Obviously some lessons to be learned.

Lesson 1: measure the material six inches longer in width and height than your surface. Not 6 on each side. That adds up fast and you find yourself cutting off material left and right...bleh.

Lesson 2.  Probably glue to the underside of the lip rather than the bottom of the tray.  It'll make the tray a little inset, but it will make it easier to reach the pocket.

Lesson 3.  Make the top of the pockets a little longer. The hangy part anyway.  Especially if you're not gluing to the underside of the lip.

Lesson 4.  Beans are too heavy. It will rip the fabric off the tray.

Lesson 5. using the travel pillows you got at the dollar store for stuffing was a great idea. Ripping them open with the intent of transferring stuffing from one to the other was a HORRIBLE AWFUL NO GOOD TERRIBLE idea. Those things stick to EVERYTHING. Next time, just stuff the travel pillow in there and glue the cover fabric in place.

Lesson 6.  The white contact paper isn't quite slick enough. The self laminating sheets however were. Get more ribbon to cover areas not covered by laminated sheet.

Lesson 7.  Shoelaces make GREAT cords for piping!  Glad I had some spares!

Lesson 8.  When you think you've made your piping long enough....add six inches anyway.

The first tray is ugly. I figured it would be regardless as rather than drive to the dollar store and pick up the trays and paint them and then realize I messed something up horribly, I figured I'd make Prototype A with the cookie sheet magnet boards I messed up at Christmas. Well actually I didnt' mess them up. We just didn't hang them up and then they wound up being used for beating one another with regardless of what mom and dad say. They're also pretty nifty as shields to hold up when charging each other from opposite ends of the room to slam into one another. In this case they also make pretty slick prototype trays. They do however remain just as magnetic through the two layers of contact paper (or rather one layer of contact and one layer of laminate).

Tomorrow we shall go for round two. :D

Crafting Challenge....ACCEPTED!

One of the things I dread most about moving, (besides the being homeless issue) is the trip.  We had no choice with our last station as we were in Germany so it was kind of a given that we fly back and forth. There was even the fun there were they had seated the children in the front row and my husband and I in the back.  Thanks to some amazing flight attendants on Lufthansa they corralled us into the same row and made it easier. On the way back we had to use two rows since we added two children and a cat during our time in Europe. We have the option to fly this time but that would also mean shipping our vehicle.  We know from shipping it back and forth to Europe that time without your car when your spouse is trying to inprocess is...less than ideal. So we've made the decision to drive.

Yes. I just said we're Driving. From Louisiana to Alaska. No, I'm not at all certain I'm sane.  Even from there we had two options. We could take the ferry on the Marine Highway from Bellingham Washington into Alaska which I'm certain would be a beautiful three days of scenery. On a ship. With small children, a dog and a cat. *gulp*  Luckily (for me..haha) the ferry is booked up until a month after his report date so I don't have to talk hubby out of that idea. So driving through Canadia it is (yes I know, it's Canada. It's an joke we often make around my home, eh). This is going to give us some time to see some amazing things. I'm personally excited to get to go to Edmonton. Specifically....The Mall in Edmonton!  
This Mall isn't like normal Malls. This Mall in addition to the typical theaters, food courts and stores, has an amusement park, an aquarium, a water park, a glow in the dark put put course, an ice skating rink, an indoor lake with bumper boats and an exact replica of Christopher Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria.  We're so excited we're planning on stopping there for two or three days. It's a great way to break up the monotony of such a long drive and allow the kids some summer fun and a chance to stretch their legs. They're all old enough now to enjoy parks like this whereas trips in the past, such as Disneyland, the littles were too little to appreciate it. And at Disneyland they wound up with strep throat. Poor kiddos.

This still leaves the problem of what to do to entertain the littles during the rest of this epic journey.  While there are stops that will be fantastic (like Grandma and Grandpa's house in Texas, although that's not a stop since they're spending the last week in Texas while Daddy and I clean the house and have everything packed up and we're picking them up on the way out), and a visit with very dear friends for the fourth of July at Fort Carson, there will be long stretches (I'm looking at you Wyoming) where there is nothing but scenery. No matter how pretty....scenery will eventually get boring when you're a kid.

We've already got some things planned like DVD players ( a must!) and frequent rest stops. But I've got some surprises I'm working on for them as well.
Road Trip Kits!

Each child will get a three ring binder with a map of our route so that they can trace it, coloring pages, sticker books, and blank paper so they can drive. I'm also throwing in some travel games and things of that nature for them.

Travel Trays. 

This is where the challenge comes in! These are adorable, and SUCH a great idea. What's the problem? They're 20 bucks a pop. If you've got one kid, that's a bargain. If you've got as many as I do? That's expensive!   Hubby challenged me this morning to make them myself!

So I was thinking about it. I had already thought about how awesome cookie sheets are. They're cheap (a dollar) and magnetic and they have the raised sides that keep crayons and such from falling off of them. Hubby likes this model because of the pouches on the side and that it would be softer on their laps. This is where my idea is coming in.

What I think I'm going to need:
4 Cookie Sheets 
White Contact Paper
4 old pillowcases OR fabric
Ribbon and velcro to make the strap that goes around to keep it from sliding off
Material for Pockets
Batting and or stuffing. Or maybe beans. Beans mesh well and they're cheap
Hot glue
Spray Paint and Metal Primer
and Magnetic Paper

The intent:
Step 1. Prime and Paint the cookie sheets in colors for kids.
Step 2. After paint is fully dry, cut and apply white contact paper to inside of cookie sheet to create whiteboard area.
Step 3.  Make a Boxy pillow out of fabric. Make pockets and sew to sides of Boxy pillow. Fill with beans or filling or batting.
Step 4. Sew Velcro to Ribbon and sew to pillow in right lengths. Probably before filling actually. Could be messy.
Step 5: Glue Boxy Pillow to underside of Cookie Sheet
Step 6: Use Magnetic paper to make play sheets for kids. I intend to glue I's Paperdolls for instance to the magnetic paper and cut them out. So she'll have magnetic paper dolls for her trip.  I'll probably glue magnets to the bottom of some travel games and some cheap dollar store cards for the kids as well. The possibilities are endless.

End result?  Cheap cost effective whiteboard lapdesks with raised sides and pockets for the kids on this road trip.  I am ABSOLUTELY accepting this challenge!

Anyone care to accept the challenge with me?  Take pictures and share!! Let me know how it goes.

ZOMG! Martha Stewart is RIGHT!

Kind of a duh moment there huh? I recently purchased a copy of Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook.   Remember how I said that my Mom didn't pass down any of that good old fashioned homekeeping advice? (Don't get me wrong, she knew it, she just didn't teach me.  My grandmother and grandmother in law are products of finishing schools. My mother rebelled. Hence I don't know any of that random stuff).  Well this book has it all. Over 700 pages of cleaning tips. My favorite parts were how seven or so different kinds of counter tops were listed, their pros and cons, and how to clean and care for each and every type. Maybe not that big a deal for someone who is likely to live in one home her whole life, but for someone like me who relocates every three years? Priceless.  This last week has been a random collection of moments where I found myself saying "Oh my goodness! Martha was RIGHT!". For a girl with a Mary heart like me and not an ounce of Martha in her, this is perfect.  So many things I've learned but I've completely redone my cleaning kit.

What do I use now?

This stuff is fracking epic.  Apparently they've resisted change for YEARS...like over a hundred and kept their original formula. They've only altered it recently because they realized some of their ingredients were non renewable and wanted to provide a better product for the earth overall. Only minor changes but still all ingredients I can pronounce.  And there's only five of them. Baking soda, Soda Ash, Feldspar, Limestone and two surfactants made from corn and palm oils.  Natural enough that you could clean your sink with it before bathing your newborn baby. Even better, it actually works and didn't destroy my hands. It's mildly abrasive so don't use it on glass, but you can use it on anything else. INCLUDING pots and pans.  Try doing that with Comet!

White Vinegar

More acidic than most cleaners and a disinfectant to boot. You can clean soap scum in a flash and disinfect your toilets, clean your windows etc. A half and half mixture with water will clean damn near anything you need it too and the scent dissipates as it dries.  I first learned about this beauty when I cloth diapered my babies. Throw some in a downy ball and throw it in the wash and it will get rid of urine smells.

Dish soap

Not just for dishes. Instead of Simple Green, or Lysol or any number of chemical laden all purpose cleaners, a tablespoon or so in two cups of hot water inside a spray bottle is the best and by far the most gentle all purpose cleaner you will ever need. It degreased my stove, cleaned my cherry wood dining room table and washed fingerprints from my walls with the greatest of ease. All without agitating anybodies nose!

Oxygen Bleach

Now I know you've probably heard of Oxi Clean. But I bet you didn't know it's actually Oxygen Bleach.  Ever see those pins on pinterest where people mix baking soda with hydrogen peroxide and clean the crap out of everything? What they are making is the liquid form of this stuff.  Not just for cleaning your clothes (although you should use a scoop of this stuff in every load anyway!) anything you need to clean with bleach you can clean with this stuff. While it doesn't disinfect as well as chlorine bleach, it does clean just as well without any scent at all.  If you need something disinfected, I recommend you look at what I wrote about Vinegar, above.

There are more things I use obviously like Ammonia for truly tough jobs but for the most part, this is it.  All clean, healthy and nothing you need to worry about using with little ones. If you have an extra thirty dollars I highly suggest you pick up this epic book.  It's not a detailed book on cleaning your coffeemaker perse, but you will gain lots of knowledge that is well worth having in my humble opinion.  Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Live like he's leaving tomorrow.....or not.

This came up on one of the many facebook support groups I frequent.

The next deployment always comes way too soon, live like he deploys tomorrow!

It's a nice sentiment, similar to "live like you were dying", that Tim McGraw song that never fails to make me cry like a baby. I'm not sure I agree with it though. I know that the thought is as the moderator on this forum describes it:
  I guess it means the part where you go out for dinner every night together and go on big family trips and every night you fall asleep making sure you're holding him :) were all so busy so often that we don't appreciate the every day things all the time but when you know he's deploying soon you make sure every last thing counts :) 
It's a lovely thought but not for every military family. Even harder for my family than the times that B is actually deployed, are the times just before he deploys. The first deployment was just awful for us before it began. I was angry at the army for taking him, angry at him for being just a little excited about going, angry at myself for not feeling like that uber gung ho army wife and packing love notes in his pockets and tying yellow ribbons around my trees. I didn't feel like I had the right to be angry which left me feeling more angry and I lashed out at him. He in turn started disconnecting from me and the children because he thought it would make it easier to do his job when he was gone if he missed me and the kids less. We fought constantly. Dinners started off with good intentions and turned into fighting loudly because we were both so miserable at the thought of being separated and frustrated that we took it out on one another. We did take a big trip as a family. A cross country drive to see family so that he could say goodbye to everyone in case he didn't make it home. This was a breeding ground for more fighting, terror at the thought that he might not come home, and as awful as this is going to sound, jealousy that unlike other families who isolate themselves and spend as much time together as possible, I was forced to share my husband with everyone else when he could barely find the time for me. By the time he left it was almost a relief to have the fighting done and over with. Unfortunately there was still a lot of resentment bred from that and it spilled over into mistrust, more fighting and a lot of horrible moments that could have easily been avoided if we had been better prepared.

    Over time and more deployments we developed what we call our "rules" for managing pre and intra -deployments.
   1. No fighting. He doesn't want to go, I don't want him to go. This isn't something we choose. I had to learn that it wasn't that he was anxious to leave me, he was anxious to protect his soldiers. It was a hard lesson for me to learn but once I did it made things so much easier for me. You would think I would already know this being prior service myself but I didn't. Of course there was also my guilt for not being overseas with my battle buddies and my anger that he was the one going and I wasn't so if you're prior service, be prepared for this one. Don't think you skip over this stage just because you "know". Being on the spouse side of the house changes the dynamic entirely.   If you catch yourself starting to fight, stop. Announce it. "I'm trying to separate emotionally. I apologize. I need a few moments to compose myself and lets start again".
   2.  Do not try to separate emotionally. It won't work. Don't distance yourself thinking it will make you miss one another less. It won't. It will just add guilt into the mix because you'll know you wasted what time you did have together avoiding each other unnecessarily.  Instead of not missing each other as much while you must be separated, you'll miss each other while you're not.
   3.  No arguing online. Ever. Tone is so incredibly hard to gauge in the written form. You may think he's being sarcastic and bitter and he may think he's being funny.  While you may have the urge to fire back with some random snarky comment, don't. Clarify.  "This is reading like xxxxx. Is this what you meant or were you saying xxxxx?"  Or wait until you can speak over the telephone. You will save yourself oodles of drama this way.
     4.  Avoid listening to your battle buddies. Misery loves company and guys downrange LOVE to tell each other that their spouses are cheating.  Same goes back home. Women will gossip about each other and about rumors from downrange and it will cloud your head with doubt.  No joke, I live next to an Army Husband who happens to be one of my best friends. He has lots of female friends but no "friends" if you catch my drift. He is utterly devoted to his wife and they're so in love it gives you a toothache just watching them. They're definitely going to be that cute little couple everyone oos and awws over when they're old. Even he was subject to rumors. One deployment the neighborhood had him being a virtual stud with at least three or four girlfriends on the side. A good way to avoid this is to set up rules for yourself. If it's not someplace your spouse would be comfortable with you being without him, don't go. Even if Susie down the block makes you feel like you HAVE to go to the bar with her or lose your woman card, if you know it will upset your spouse, don't go. It's not worth it. Besides the gym, my rules are not to go anywhere that my kids wouldn't be welcome.  As my neighbor phrases it, faithful doesn't just describe your sexual activity. It describes your desire to make your spouse happy.  This shouldn't change just because you are physically separated. Continue to do the things that will make your spouse happy while they are away, respect their wishes and odds are yours will be respected in turn.
     5.  Keep them part of the stuff back home. The general thought is that you shouldn't bother them with the stuff going on back home, it could distract them from their job. The truth is, while you need to be independent enough to make the day to day choices on your own, big stuff should still be discussed.  I don't ask my husband to discipline our children from downrange, but we discuss what they did, how I handled it, and how he feels about that.  Keeping big things can backfire horribly as well.  B's favored uncle died when he was in Iraq. His mother didn't tell him he was suffering from cancer for fear that it would upset him and distract him.  What it did was prevent him from being able to take emergency leave (as his uncle raised him) and say goodbye to him.  They didn't even tell him when he died. I found out from a family member and had to break the news to him on Christmas because he would have been even more angry if I had kept it from him.  It's caused a rift with his mother than can never be healed and prevented him from saying goodbye or supporting (even via email) the man who had raised him to be a man himself.  Keeping your spouse out of the loop may leave them feeling unnecessary and unwanted. Make the choices you need to make for your own family, discuss it with one another and weigh the pros and cons of each.

In summation, pre deployment can be horribly stressful, but being open and honest with each other and knowing what to expect can save your family from unwanted drama and tears.
I prefer to live like his just got home yesterday. Dressed to the nines, thanking God he's safe, relishing in the feel of his arms around me and practicing making babies like rabbits. :)

For you seasoned wives, what tips would you give younger wives experiencing their first deployment?

They're sending us WHERE?

make sure you empty your trashcan.
The movers have been known to
pack it full of garbage and ship it that way.
Home is where the army sends you. That's the saying anyway.  There's a reason for that.  While I have known many military families who have somehow managed to spend their entire career in one or two places, there are more families who are like mine. We move every three years, like clockwork.  I'm not even going to pretend that I've been cheerful about every move. As a matter of fact at least the last two I burst into tears when B got orders. The one before that I raged, but that had more to do with the surprise reenlistment than anything else. (Long story short, as far as I knew he was getting out. Then he came home one day and said "Surprise! I reenlisted. We're moving to Germany!".  Yeah.  I don't like surprises.)  I'm not talking a few tears that glisten and make me look kinda pretty and pitiful at the same time. No, we're talking full on wailing until I was practically snotting on myself. You see, I also hate change. Funny considering this life I live, but it's true. I have a process. It goes a little something like this.

"Honey I have orders."  Cue the tears and the theatrics (I recommend you skip this part if you can)
 48 hours later I suck it up and start researching
Then I start getting excited. Yay! Look at all this neat stuff we're going to do!
Then I start joining spouse groups on the interwebz and making connections.
Then I start thinking about the move in abstract terms if it's far enough out. If it's not, skip this step and progress directly to:
PANIC! ZOMG! I have to leave my friends! Driving makes me a mess! We're going to be homeless! The army is going to break all our stuff! I don't know how to drive in snow/handle humidity/afraid of tornado's! (choose applicable answer)
And finally:
Time to suck it up, stop being a baby and get stuff done.

That's the stage I'm in now because...duh duh duh.....we're moving. Another Oconus move although as my neighbor says, this isn't so much OCONUS as it is Non-Contiguous. We're heading to Alaska. Which means in my epic PCS meltdown this time we included things such as "Why do all the housing pictures have moose on the lawn?" and "Our wardrobes are useless. Nothing meant for Louisiana will work in interior Alaska".  Everyone else tries to comfort me with "I've heard it's so pretty there!" and all I can respond with is "Yeah. Looks great on Ice Road Truckers!"  God bless my husband for the drama I engage in. And I'm self aware enough and honest enough to admit I am a fracking drama queen of epic proportions during these moves. last time I had an excuse. Last time they gave us a surprise PCS from beautiful Heidelberg Germany to Fort Polk Louisiana with a handful of children, a cat and a fresh from deployment (so fresh he still reeked of Afghanistan and tried to drive in the middle of the road) with a whopping six weeks notice.  This time throw in that hubby will be in ALC for the six weeks prior to our move. No seriously, he goes, comes back and we roll out a few days later so...yeah.

So for those of you who are engaging in PCS hell this coming season, here's the Homefront Honey's basic PCS checklist. This is not all inclusive, but it gives you a general idea of where to start. :)
Basic Pcs checklist
if you follow the link, it will take you to scribd where you can download or print this.

My best tips are to check out AHRN and the gaining posts housing. Most are privatized now so their application policies vary.  Some will allow you to apply in advance with the date you move to the active list being the date your spouse signs out at the current post.  I have a friend who somehow managed to have a house waiting on him when he got to Arizona. If you plan to live on post definitely check out Moving House for the Military Spouse on facebook.  They have user submitted photos of housing for almost every military base in the world. In my personal experience, once the housing situation is remedied, at least 75% of your stress is gone.

So tell me dear friends, what are your best PCS tips?


About Me

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just your ordinary run of the mill mom of six, military wife and fitness freak. :)
contents © The Homefront Homemaker 2009. .