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Beating the Summer Bored Blues

By Tiffany Shedd

Summer is upon us. The kids have been out of school for a few weeks. And, I bet you’re already tired of hearing “I’m bored”.

It doesn’t matter if your child is special needs or not, they all feel it is their inalienable right to never be bored. They may have hundreds of toys, videogames, DVDs and Netflix account, but, they will still claim they are bored.

Hopefully, I can give you a few ideas on how to keep them busy enough that they won’t have time to be bored.

As any parent of a special needs child knows, a schedule is your friend. Even during summer break, kids need a schedule. Come up with one that works for your family. If your kids are younger, your schedule is going to look a lot different than one that’s meant for older kids.

If you don’t how to create a schedule, here are a few suggestions. Obviously, you’ve got meals. There’s three things for your schedule right there. If your kids still take naps (lucky you), schedule that. If they aren’t nappers, that’s a little more time to fill up, but you can plan some quiet activity time, such as reading.

If you know that your kid is most energetic in the morning, don’t schedule reading time for the morning. Work with your kids’ energy cycles. If your kids are laid back and like a slow start to their morning, don’t try to get them up and out the door. That won’t go well for anyone.

Once you’ve figured out your kids’ natural schedule, try to fill in some of your time with activities they will enjoy. My child is a go-go-go kind of kid. So, our schedule includes a lot of trips in the car to go places.

Your schedule doesn’t need to include daily trips, but having a few outings a week will go a long way to quelling the boredom. You can use these outings as rewards for good behavior or motivation.

Once you’ve got motivation, be sure to include chores into your daily and weekly schedule. If they know they start the day off by making their bed and end it by straightening their room, it lessens the arguments and whining. To be clear, there will still be whining and arguments, but after a week hopefully it won’t be as bad.

Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, here are some fun suggestions about how to fill up those long summer days. You probably know about Operation Purple and their generous summer camps for military kids. But did you know that there are camps for military kids with special needs? There are several organizations, such as Operation We are Here and Military Special Needs Network, that make this possible. Check out these websites to learn more about these camp opportunities:

http://www.joomag.com/magazine/msnn-special-needs-camp-guide/0386017001390415784

http://www.operationwearehere.com/EFMP.html

 

While it may be too late to participate in one of these camps this summer, you can definitely start planning for next summer.

If you don’t want to send your kids away to camp, there are always summer reading programs.

Don’t let the summer be an excuse for your kids to forget the important reading lessons they had at school. Your local library or installation likely has a summer reading program for your kid to be involved in.

Our local library even includes pre-school kids and allows parents to read to them. We have a great library system that gives the kids lots of great incentives for signing up for the program and completing it. They area also doing a ton of great learning programs every week.  If your local library doesn’t have a program, here is information about the DoD-MWR Summer Reading Program: https://www.ila.org/dodsumread/

 If a reading program doesn’t sound like that much fun, there are lots of other fun and inexpensive activities in your community. Regal Cinemas has $1 kids’ movies throughout the summer. They may not be sensory sensitive specific, but because they are second run movies for kids, patrons will probably be less likely to be upset if your child isn’t the perfect theater goer.

To find a theater near you, visit: http://www.regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express

If you have water lovers, but a pool is too intimidating, look for splash pads. All the fun of getting wet without the drowning risks. If you don’t have water kids, check out all the playgrounds in your community. Maybe try a new one every week. Or if your kid doesn’t like change, stick with your favorite.

If you’re looking for something bigger, check with your Morale, Welfare and Recreation office. You will find lots of great deals for fun stuff to do. They have discounted tickets for movies, sporting events, aquariums, zoos, amusement parks, etc. You can also rent sports equipment and other fun stuff. Is your yard big enough for a bouncy house? You can rent one from MWR. If loud noises aren’t a problem for your kids, check out your installations bowling alley. Go during the week during the day, and you’re likely to find you have the whole place to yourself.

Hopefully, you’ll find something here that keeps your kids from driving you bananas with their cries of boredom. Just remember that summer doesn’t last forever. School will be starting again before you know it. Take some time to have fun with your kids.

Websites we love: The Bedbug Registry

It’s PCS season. It’s vacation season. You may be laying your head down on a lot of pillows that are not yours.

Which means you may encounter some unwanted travel companions, such as bedbugs.

The tiny, flat, sometimes nearly invisible pests can hide anywhere: hotel rooms, theaters, libraries, nearly all public places.

People are their main source of food. They are active only at night and leave bite marks much like a mosquito or flea. While bedbugs do not spread disease, they can very difficult to get rid of and that process often causes the most distress.

If you can’t see them, how can you avoid them?

You can start at The Bedbug Registry, bedbugregistry.com

The online clearing house of all things bedbug was started by a computer programmer who got bit, and had enough. She created the site so that travelers could post their encounters and where they happened.

Users searching for bedbug warnings can enter a hotel name or street address to see if there are any reports. Travelers who come across the nasty little boogers can hop on the site and write an alert.

The registry creator tells visitors that while most of the entries are posted by honest travelers, it is impossible for her to travel to each location and validate the existence of bedbugs. So, take the report with a grain of salt. Any site that does not have another report made within two years is removed.

Experts cite the registry as the place to begin when you are booking your vacation. Check for bedbug reports and the frequency of reports at one location. One sighting? They may or may not be hiding in that hotel. Ten sightings, you might want to pick a new location.

The registry also offers detailed instructions on how to check for bedbugs when you arrive at your destination, what to do if you think you’ve found them and most importantly, how to keep them from coming home with you.

Happy travels, try to sleep soundly.

https://membracid.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/how-to-inspect-your-hotel-room-for-bed-bugs/

Looking for Your Dream House? You Won’t Find it Abroad

Have you ever watched “House Hunters International?” You know, that show on TV that features people looking for a home in a foreign country? It makes me laugh. Every time

No offense to the folks on the show, but their list of “must haves” is often lofty. A master suite? More than 2,000 square feet? Air conditioning? A garbage disposal? A two-car garage? A large yard?

Yeah … no. Not going to happen outside the United States (at least not very often).

We’ve lived in seven different homes in four countries outside the U.S.

I know this to be a fact: Housing is one of the hardest tests of living overseas.

In Okinawa, Japan, we looked at a traditional Japanese home with a fabulous soaking tub in the bathroom. The only shower, though, was in the laundry room, with no shower curtain or doors to prevent the spray of water all over the washer and dryer. Needless to say, we passed.

Later, in Seoul, Korea, we moved into a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot apartment. That laundry room was also unique: The washer was behind the dryer. Pregnant with my first child, at seven months along I could no longer fit between the two. Laundry became my husband’s job, and if he was out of town I was in trouble.

In Toronto, Canada, we lived in what my kids called “the hippie house.” Built in the late 1960s, it featured a large indoor garden – a 10-foot-by-10-foot space enclosed in glass, smack in the middle of the house. One bathroom had turquoise blue and lime green wallpaper on the ceiling. The Brady Bunch-style wall oven was original to the house, and had to be turned on and off with a pair of pliers. I had one small wish in that house – an oven younger than I was.

Our first time in Germany, we lucked out with a nice townhouse in a cute little town near the post where my husband worked. Its only real quirk was the fact that the 1,400 square feet were spread out over four floors. Oh, and since our bedroom was so small and lacking closet space, my husband had to keep his clothes two floors down in the basement. He called that house “the habitrail,” because we spent most of our time running up and down the stairs like a couple of over-energized hamsters, often carrying one of our two small children in our arms.

Now we are in base housing in Germany, for the second time. It, too, has its challenges. First and foremost, we live in stairwell apartments. For us, that means the fourth floor with no elevator. There are 68 steps from bottom to top. At least I don’t need to go to the gym.

A Tale of Two Moves...Part 1: The Search

Once upon a time there were two Army spouses. Both of the women had school-aged children and pets. Both of the women had a limited window of time to locate housing in a place they’ve never even visited, as those places would soon become their new homes.

These are the tales of two families PCS moves and how they dealt with the search for housing.

Juanita Klemm began the search for off-post housing as many do, online.

“I looked on Zillow, Militarybuyowner.com, or any other website I could find, but the school districts were my prime focus,” Klemm said.

Her husband had already reported to Virginia a few months earlier, so she was fortunate to have him on location to view potential homes.

Klemm, a middle school administrator, stayed behind with her daughters to finish up her job and the girls’ school year. But her plan was to have a home to go to once the school year ended.

“I found that rentals listed under property management companies seemed to get back with me faster than rentals managed by the owners,” she said.

Her husband was busy in his new job during the day, so Klemm chose some homes in her desired school district and scheduled viewing appointments for him in the evenings. She also found that those same property manager listings, often yielded managers with additional home recommendations and resources.

Klemm, her daughters and their three dogs eventually made the journey from Kansas to Virginia and reunited with their soldier in their new home.

Kim Carlile had a little less time to formulate a moving plan, and, she had much further to go. Once her family received the final orders to travel from Alabama to Germany, they had about three weeks to make it all happen. And their search for a new home could not begin until they arrived in the Germany.

 “We were limited,” Carlile said. “We basically had two places to look, either government housing or privatized. If government housing is available, even if it’s off post, that’s where you go.”

When the Carliles arrived, government housing was full both on- and off-post, so they were provided with a list of landlords with properties that had been referred in the past. There were two homes to choose from on the list.

“Our only other option was to spend money out of our pockets and find our own realtor to help us search,” Carlile said.

They chose a home from the list and lived in a temporary lodging for three weeks while they waited for their new home to be move in ready.

Her son and daughter  had previously attended a DOD (Department of Defense) school on-post prior to the move, so not only was the transition smooth for her children’s education, but Carlile said the school administrators were extremely helpful with recommendations and logistics.

Both of these home searches ended successfully, but not without learning experiences.

Klemm, taking advantage of her television satellite company’s no stress moving policy, discovered upon arrival that her neighborhood homeowner’s association had strict rules about satellite dishes. The company refunded any additional money Klemm spent, but she highly recommends obtaining a copy of the homeowner’s association policy before a move or even before signing a lease, to avoid surprises.

Klemm also recommends being pro-active with a property manager.

“Ask him or her if there is anything additional you need to know about the house,” she said.

Once the Carliles settled into their new German home, although she was happy there, Kim discovered she may have had some additional resources to take advantage of in her home search.

“If I had had more time to prepare, I would have found a military spouses Facebook group in Germany to provide me with feedback on housing options, the search process and the move in general. When you’re doing this for the first time, sometimes you just don’t know what questions to even ask,” she said.

Both Klemm and Carlile did as much preparing as they had the time or resources to do so. Their families worked together, and these ladies used technology and in-person resources to make their moves a success. Both families are currently living …”happily ever after.”

Attention Civilian School Systems: Start Re-Thinking How You Treat Military Children

Military children matter.

And school officials better start understanding this fact.

That's the message sent by a recent study conducted by the Army's top officials. In 2013, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno launched an evaluation of local schools that hosted large numbers of military children. He was looking for schools that were not meeting baseline education standards.

An additional independent study confirmed what most military families know - many schools outside of major Army bases stink.

Our children have attended half a dozen schools during our moves. A few were good. Most, were awful.

When I met with a principal at one school principal in North Carolina outside of Fort Bragg to discuss a disturbing situation in my child's classroom the principal said, you will be gone in two years anyway. It doesn't really matter.

It doesn't really matter.

A school principal said this about my military child.

Schools see us as expendable. As students who really have no place in their school, who are just hanging out until the Army sends them elsewhere.

That is disgusting.

Especially since these school receive money from the U.S. Department of Education through the Impact Aid program which attempts to fill the gap between the number of students brought into a district via military orders and the property taxes those families are not paying because they live on base.

I know the Impact Aid program isn't a windfall but these students are part of the community. They are part of this school. For their time there, they see this as home.

And as these students struggle to adjust and deal with parents who are deployed or injured, the center of their universe, their school, has told them that they simply don't care.

And so far, there has been absolutely no repercussion for school systems who treat military children as less than equal.

Hopefully, that will change. Military budgets are dwindling. Less is being spent on programs for military families. Even the Army wants to make sure it is getting the most bang for its buck.

So as military leaders are considering what bases to close and re-align, the attitude and performance of the local school system may play an important part.

Both top defense officials and writers of the study suggest that the military will consider poor performing school systems to be part of the catalyst in closing a military base.

And what happens when you close a military base? Civilian jobs disappear, by the hundreds, sometimes thousands, and the community looses hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The thought that a bad school system could be blamed for the crushing economic blow to its community makes me giddy.

Quite frankly, these school systems that see military children as a burden to be ignored until they are moved on do not deserve to be part of a military community. Military families need communities that support them and see them as part of their hometown for as long as they are lucky enough to live there.

I know that most military members try their best to make each duty station feel like home and be part of the community. Often, when a family makes a PCS move, a tiny hole is left behind in the community, where they volunteered, made friends and were part of what made that town great.

It is only fitting that the worst school systems who are tasked with caring for our military children, and refuse to do so, should not only loose every single military child and every military dollar that comes with them, but should also shoulder the blame for the staggering economic downfall their town will suffer as a result.

I implore military leaders to follow through and put the education of our military children at the top of their priority list. Make our civilian school systems understand that military children don't need a babysitter, they deserve a quality education too. And if they are not interested in providing it, the military will move to a community that will. 

Bad Local Schools Could Spur Military to Shut Down Local Base

Not happy with the local schools at your next duty station?

Schools that are performing below state standards could soon pay for their downfalls.

The Military Times reports that as officials decide what bases to close, they may take a closer look at what the nearby public schools have to offer military children. Schools that rate as subpar may be the deciding factor in closing that base.

In October, 2013, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno launched an evaluation of local schools. The report was meant to make two lists: the first to recognize communities that meet the Army's baseline education standards and the second, to identify those that don't. The Military Times reports that the report is not for public release.

Global security think tank Stimson Center did, however, have access to the report and conducted their own study as a result.

Military Times says, according to the report, 19 Army posts contribute at least 15 percent of the total income of their host counties. In six counties, the Army generated 50 percent or more of every dollar earned. Another four posts generated at least one-third of their counties' income.

Military Times reports write that while some school districts perform well, other communities that rely heavily on the income generated by living in an Army town are giving military children inadequate and less rigorous academic standards.

Authors of the report offer a final  thought after their analysis:  "If host communities do not offer soldiers' children a consistently high-quality education, they risk the economic challenges that result from losing support of a major employer."

The report, "The Army Goes to School: The Connection between K-12 Education Standards and the Military-Base Economy," is scheduled to be released Thursday.

To read the full Military Times article, visit http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/education/2015/06/25/poor-quality-of-schools-could-cost-military-communities/29233125/

 

Check Out a Hiring Fair in July

It is PCS season! Which means, people are leaving their jobs. Which means, employers near military bases are hiring!

A great way to get your resume out and check out the businesses near your new home is to take part in a hiring fair. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation continues to hold monthly fairs around the nation that are open only to military members and their spouses.

Here is a list of the ones happening in July. Remember to click on the link and register. Spaces fill up so register soon.

July 10

Cleveland, Ohio

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/cleveland-hiring-fair

July 14

Montgomery, AL

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/montgomery-hiring-fair

Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-worthdallas-hiring-fair

July 17

Springfield, OR

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/springfield-hiring-fair

July 22

Anchorage, AK

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/joint-base-elmendorf-richardson-transition-summit

Davenport, Iowa

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/davenport-hiring-fair

July 30

Arlington, Texas

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/arlington-hiring-expo-texas-rangers

Summer Activity Guide: Let Museums Occupy Down Time

Are you driving across country this summer to PCS? Heading to the in-laws. In the middle of nowhere? Trying to keep your kids occupied while dad is deployed for the summer?

More than 2,000 museums across the nation want to make this summer a little less stressful for you. And, the cost is free.

The Blue Star Museums program is again offering free admission to more than 2,000 museums in all 50 states for military members and their families. The program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Sept. 7.

Check the website at http://arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums and click on the map for a user-friendly list of blue star museums in each state.

To get your free tickets, simply show up to the museum and present Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID.

The military ID holder plus five family members will be admitted for free. Family members include children, spouses, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Also, the military member does not have to be present for the family to participate. The family can still gain entrance with a dependent family member ID card.

The program was created several years ago to show support for active duty military families who have faced multiple deployments and to give those families a chance to be together and explore these museums. The program recognizes that many of these families would otherwise not have the means, or the time together, to do so.

For all the details, go tt http://arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums/frequently-asked-questions#sthash.30D5lmJJ.dpuf

Happy Travels!

How to Use Social Media to Land a Job

Can you really post, comment and tweet your way to a job?

"Absolutely! I just hired someone today who found me and sent me her resume on LinkedIn," said Jennifer Takacs-O'Shea, President, Caterpillar Career Consultants, Inc. "Sites like LinkedIn are often a direct professional connection from job seekers to hiring managers and companies that are actively hiring."

Very few employers don't use social media to some degree these days, so savvy job hunters should be fully aware of the many ways they can benefit from this digital playing field. Here are some insight and tips from two career management experts on how to raise your professional stock using social media during the job search.

Uncover the good stuff

Researching companies is very important at every stage in the job search process. And with social media, there is a whole lot more to be found than just vacancy announcements.

"Take advantage of being able to go deeper into the organization," said Jeff Bockelman, career behaviorist and personal branding expert.

For example, company blogs and online newsletters contain articles about a company's internal   projects and community initiatives. This makes for great networking conversation and during interviews it can show you've done your homework and that your background or interests match the employers'.

"Also, through some social media sites you can learn a lot about what the company wants by looking at the backgrounds of people it has hired in certain types of jobs. Then, make sure that you are presenting relevant skills to those employers," Bockelman said.

Finally, don't forget to use social media as a professional development tool. Follow closely professional associations and publications to keep up-to-date with industry trends, research and other important information about your field. No matter how much of an expert you are, there is always more to learn. 

Prove your expertise

Everybody can call themselves an expert in their career field, but with social media you can, and  should, prove it without a doubt. Every post or comment you make online can help build your brand, so make them count!

"Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook allow job seekers to demonstrate their professional knowledge by making posts related to their field and demonstrating their professional talents," Takacs-O'Shea said.

Just don't make the mistake of only posting items, but not interacting with your colleagues. Start or join in on professional discussions, answer questions from others, and provide resources like articles or websites with lead in messages about how they could be helpful. Not being actively involved can look like you are just scheduling posts and have no real interest or expertise that you are willing or able to contribute.

"Furthermore, professional interactions and how prospective employees may conduct themselves within the workplace and amongst industry professionals is an important part of identifying the right match for the job opening and the company's culture," said Takacs-O'Shea.

Now, sit down, log on and review your social media presence. Make it better and make an impact with future employers!

Did China Steal Your Personal Information? Quite Possibly

Did you or your spouse ever apply for a security clearance to work for the military? For a government job?

You may want to start paying attention, to both the news and your personal data.

Earlier this month the government announced that hackers had stolen federal government data for thousands of government employees. The finger was pointed at China and little more was said.

That may be because it's bad. It's real bad.

The Navy Times reported that the stolen info is from "tens of thousands of Standard Form 86s". That is the 127-page document which anyone who applies for a security clearance must fill out.

The forms are a treasure trove of personal information. They include bank information, social security numbers, addresses, job assignments and more. And not just for the applicant. For everyone the applicant notes on the form as a reference.

So how at risk are people?

The government isn't being forthcoming.

Earlier this week lawmakers questioned the Office of Personnel Management, which handles the DOD's background checks. The Navy Times reported that OPM officials knew the data was vulnerable.

An OPM spokesman said those individuals who may have had data stolen will be contacted, as soon as possible.

And in the meantime, we all just may want to be a little more proactive.

Check your bank and credit card statements, often. Get your free credit score report with three major credit bureaus. Be mindful of who is contacting you and why.

If you haven't been vigilant about keeping track of your personal information, now is the time.

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