Lil Bits of Life

Road Trip Vehicle Maintenance

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SummerCarCare #CollectiveBias

With just over a month left of school left and summer around the corner vacation plans are being made. My family has been talking about all of the possible road trips we could take. Being a large family road trips in our SUV are our preferred method of vacation travel. It is the most cost effective way for all 6 of us to travel. An added plus is we can usually bring our dogs too! Taking our cars does mean a little bit of extra work to get ready for vacation. We have to make sure vehicle maintenance is done. Nobody wants something to happen to their car while away from home. To save money this is something that we do ourselves. Road trip vehicle maintenance is pretty easy to do, seriously, even I can do it! I have even come up with a printable checklist to help you do it yourself too!

 Road Trip Vehicle Maintenance | My Hot Southern Mess

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Sunny Days with SunTrust Bank

This is a sponsored blog post written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all my own.

Summer is starting to wind down, here soon my kiddos will all be back to school and the hot, dog days of summer will be behind us. Summer will soon only be a memory. Seriously, where has the time gone? It seems like it was only yesterday that the kids were getting ready to finish the school year and we were planning on how to spend our summer.

For my family a big part of the summer was planning to go to my younger brother’s wedding. While weddings are expensive they are not only expensive for those throwing the wedding but they can be expensive for their guests was well. Depending on where the wedding is you are left needing money to pay to travel to the wedding, and a hotel room. Then there is the matter of what to wear to the wedding. Do you have something in your closet that will work or do you need to buy something. Don’t forget about your family, does your husband need a suit? What about your kid’s?  How is your hair looking, you may need to make an appointment for that. Your nails too while we are at it. Oh and we can’t forget the kiddos, those boys could use a haircut. Then we can’t forget a wedding gift that is in addition to the wedding shower gifts. Weddings are expensive and being a family living on mainly one income that means one thing we need to set aside and save money.

Sunny Days with SunTrust Bank |Country Girl Gourmet

Being financially responsible is just part of my families life. Sure we could buy things and use credit cards but we would rather not have the debt. We choose to save our money for all of the important things in our life. While we have an emergency fund and save for rainy days we also save for sunny days.  Sunny days include things like vacation, special occasions like my brother’s wedding and Christmas and birthday presents.  My husband, our families chief financial officer, has both short and long term goals planned out. We work together on the different things that we want to save up for.

Sunny Days with SunTrust Bank |Country Girl GourmetWhen we decide to add a new savings goal there are a few things we do.  The first step is figure out how much money we are going to need. To do this we get out the good ole pen and paper and make a list. Everything and anything related to our saving goal is added to the list. No item is too small. When it comes to saving having more money is better than not enough money to obtain your goal.  Once we have our list created we figure out the costs of everything on the list and add it up. We now have our savings goal. Once we have our savings goal we can then look at our family budget and figure out we can reasonably save towards that goal.

Sunny Days with SunTrust Bank |Country Girl GourmetBeing able to save and reach your goals gives such a great sense of accomplishment. You did it and you don’t need to worry about how you are now going to repay loans or pay off credit card bills. I know I feel much better not worrying about how i’m going to pay those types of bills. It also allows me to look into the future at what I may need to be saving for next. For my family it looks like we will be going to another wedding next summer as my parents renew their vows for their 40th anniversary! I guess we should start saving for that Sunny Day!

Sunny Days with SunTrust Bank |Country Girl Gourmet

SunTrust Bank feels that we should all be planning for our sunny days. They believe that everyone deserves the financial confidence and control to live a life well spent. Everyday should be a sunny day and spent enjoying all the moments that matter most to you.

Sunny Days with SunTrust bank | Country Girl Gourmet

What is your sunny day? Begin planning yours at yoursunnyday.com

Sunny Days start here.  At SunTrust, we have the tools and resources to help you achieve your sunny day. Start here to find out how we can help you enjoy the things that matter most to you.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  They know we all live for the sunny days and want to you help you live yours.

yoursunnyday.com

Subscribe to the Shine newsletter and receive inspiration and advice twice a month to help you live for a sunny day.

Visit the SunTrust resource center anytime for help achieving your financial goals.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine.

Military Life: 8 Tips For Planning a Staycation #ChevySalutes

Being a military family we often have challenges when it comes to planning vacations. With my husband’s job we cannot really plan too far in advance and to make things a little trickier he does not get to pick when he is going to take leave. Unfortunately, many times his vacation days do not line up with the time our kids have off from school. What’s a military family to do? I can tell you what we do. Our family has embraced the staycation.

A staycation is a fun and affordable way to get out and explore what is right where you live or within a few hours. In addition to discovering what was in our own backyard our staycations have taken us to the beach, mountains, national parks, amusement parks and every where in between. Whenever we move to a new duty station one of the first things we figure out once we get settled in is all the cool places we want to go visit.  The next challenge is visiting all of the places we want to go before my husband gets orders to a new duty station. Our staycations are part of how our family finds new roads to bloom where we have been planted. Discovering what is around you is key to falling in love with and loving your duty station.

8 Tips For Planning a Staycation #ChevySalutes

Here are my top 8 tips for planning a Staycation:

 

8. Research, Research, Research! Thanks to the internet information is at your fingertips. Check with your local visitor bureau and see what is interesting in your area. You can also request visitor guides to be sent to your home.

7. Have a family meeting. Get your entire family involved! Find out what they are interested in seeing and doing.

6. Make a list. Figure out everything you and your family want to do and write it down. Seeing everything you want to do written out can help you decide exactly where you want to go and what you want to do.

5. Set a budget. You may be staying at home but very few things in life are free. Come up with a budget of what you can spend for fuel, food, tickets and whatever other expenses you may incur.

4.Plan Your Itinerary.  Decide on dates and where you are going. Find specials and deals on local attractions. Don’t forget to check your installations Tickets and Tours office!

3. Plan for a road trip. If you are driving an hour or two away from home make sure you everything you need for your family. A car with plenty of room, snacks, your kids favorite toys, electronics and chargers make for a much smoother ride.

2. Check the weather first! Nothing is worse than planning a great outdoor adventure and then it get’s ruined by rain. Check the weather before you leave and reschedule if needed.

1. Have Fun! Above everything a staycation is time to spend time with family and relax. Let loose and have fun! There is no reason to stress while on vacation!

Summer is prime time for staycations and if you are in the market for a new car that would be perfect for your staycation road trips, Chevrolet has a great deal going on in May for Military Appreciation Month. Chevrolet is honoring those in the military with the best discount program out of any car company because Chevrolet feels those who serve deserve a great discount! Chevrolet Military Program is open to  all veterans, this includes Active Duty, Reserves and Retirees and their spouses of all branches (U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, National Guard and Coast Guard).  An added plus is you can combine this discount with most other current incentives. For instance USAA members also receive an additional $750 private offer.

Have you ever taken a staycation? How do you find new roads when you PCS?

 

#chevysalutes contest on instagram!

Check out the #ChevySalutes #FindNewRoads Instagram Contest that will run from May 4-17, 2015. Those that enter have the chance to win 1 of 3 prizes (1 grand prize, 2 runners up) by sharing photos or videos that show how their military family finds new roads or how we can support our military service members and their families as they find new roads. Make sure you enter, you never know your picture could be the grand prize winner!

Make sure to connect with Chevrolet on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and follow the #chevysalutes #FindNewRoads hashtags. You can also check out ChevySalutes.com to learn more about Chevrolet’s military discount program during Military Appreciation Month

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Chevrolet via MSB New Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

#GivingTuesday

Today, December 2nd is  #GivingTuesday. To put it simply it is a day that is all about giving back.

Today people from all over will be coming together to do what they can to give  what they can. Although I feel people should give back on a regular basis having this day warms my heart. I have been a volunteer since I was a teen. In high school I did a variety of things but one thing that sticks out was volunteering struggling Math students across the street at the middle school. Yeah, I tutored math. As an adult I have volunteered for a large variety of organizations and I continue to do so. My newest volunteer job is the Co- Community Outreach Director for Team RWB at Fort Bragg. I can’t wait to really get going with that! A positive to all my volunteer work is that my kids love to give back too! My oldest has started his adventures in volunteer work and my other kid’s love doing what they can. From collecting canned goods and old coats to just helping me with what I am doing. It is important for our children to see us giving back because they learn from us. When they learn from us they can see the positive that giving back does. They will learn why it is so important for them to give back also.

On this #GivingTuesday  I want to share with you some great places to volunteer and give back  as well as some great ideas to give back in your own community!

#givingtuesday | Country Girl Gourmet

 

There are ton’s of great organizations out there that would love your help. Here are a few of my favorites!

  1. Team RWB
  2. Blue Star Families
  3. USO
  4. Operation Homefront
  5. Fisher House
  6. Armed Services YMCA
  7. The Red Cross
  8. Special Olympics
  9. United Way
  10. Habitat for Humanity
  11. Homes for our Troops
  12. Toys for Tots

Looking for some other ways to give back? Check out these ideas!

  1. Do something (you are good at) for someone that is in need (car repair, painting, yard work,etc.)
  2. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter.
  3. Volunteer at your local animal shelter.
  4. Deliver meals (Meals for Wheels)
  5. Volunteer at your local Food Bank (sorting food, etc.)
  6. Volunteer at local Running Races (they almost always need course support and many support great causes)
  7. Coach Youth Sports
  8. Donate Food to your local Food Bank (Think outside the canned veggies and creamed soups)
  9. Donate old clothes, coats, blankets, toys, books, etc.
  10. Photographers, donate your time and skills for local events (OpLove, Hearts Apart, Gold Hope Project )
  11. Visit local nursing homes and Veterans hospitals
  12. Make care packages for seniors and veterans.
  13. Bake cookies and other baked goods for your community helpers (fire, police, paramedics/EMT’s)
  14. Volunteer your time at a local school. (Schools are always in need of volunteers from Testing Proctors to Tutoring)
  15. Clean up litter in your neighborhood and community.
  16. Become a peer counselor ( Boys and Girls Club of America)
  17. Donate new toys, blankets, knit/crochet hats and snacks to the pediatric ward at your local children’s hospital
  18. Adopt a family for the Holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving , etc.)
  19. Donate Blood! While you are at it become an Organ Donor also!
  20. Become a volunteer fire fighter or EMT

 

I am only just getting started here. You don’t need to be a millionaire and spend money. You just need to be able to spare some of your time. There are so many organizations out there that want your help. To get started you can check out http://www.allforgood.org .  They have a wide variety of volunteer jobs just waiting for you.

So what do you think? How will you be supporting those in your community tomorrow on #GivingTuesday?

 

 

 

 

 

What I am Thankful for this November

A few of my friends are posting what they are thankful for all month long on Facebook while others have jokingly shared a blog post about 29 days of complaining. I admit i’ve tried the 30 days of Thankfulness in the past but it really isn’t my thing. I’m thankful everyday. Something may aggravate the heck out of me but there is always, always something to be thankful for. This Thankful November I am just Thankful that I can write this blog post.

Thankful | Country Girl Gourmet

Halloween was a pretty typical day. I had some errands to run. I filled up my gas tank, delivered cupcakes to my daughters school, found the last piece to my son’s costume at Goodwill and then had to drive into town. Payday and Halloween together made for heavy traffic but it was ok, I had plenty of time. I decided to go to the Party City to buy fake blood and then I would go to Target to pick up a few things. Nothing crazy going on but the traffic  headed to Party City. It took an hour but I got the fake blood.  All I needed now was to go across the street to Target.  My light was green but that traffic was still bad so I had to wait. I even decided to snap a pic of the craziness for my husband  but pretty much as soon as I did the road had cleared so I could finally go.

Thankful | Country Girl Gourmet

I don’t know if it is because I pissed off Murphy blogging about him or what but Murphy struck.  As I was driving across the intersection my car was t-boned. I don’t remember much, it happened fast. I can remember sounds but not much more. I ended up across the street, shaking and then staring at my phone unable to think. I needed to call 911 but couldn’t focus. Thankfully someone came up to my window to check on me and let me know they had called 911. So I called my husband, not like he could do anything. He was in Georgia and I was home in North Carolina. My brain was on my kids not myself. School would be getting out in a half hour and their bus would be at our house not long there after. Once my little ones get home it isn’t long until Mr Great would be getting home. What was I going to do!

Another person I later found out was an assistant fire chief checked on me also and next thing I knew an ambulance was there. I decided to get out out of my car and assess the damage on the passenger side of my car. Isn’t that what people usually do after an accident? Shaking something fierce, I managed to walk around my car and the paramedics had me sit down just as I was getting lightheaded. Still shaking and unable to think straight I sent a message on Facebook asking friends for help. Why was thinking so hard to do? Thankfully a wonderful friend was able to get my kid’s and I relaxed some. I was checked out and given the option to go to the ER but I denied to go, again putting my kids ahead of myself. I was ok, just shaken up.  The  2 paramedics and a ENT student stayed by my side until I was visibly calmed down. I declined going to the hospital because of my kids and it was halloween and well I was only shaken up. Eventually the cop on the case wrapped things up citing the other driver as running a red light and  had me move my car to the Target parking lot. We went nice and slow since I was driving on a flat. From there I called my insurance to fix the flat, well if it could be. Plan B was to have my truck towed. Now calmed down I checked out my car and was immediately thankful. I was thankful first that I was alone in my car and my kid’s were in school. I was then thankful that it was a car that hit me, not another truck and lastly that I wasn’t seriously injured. The fix a flat guy eventually came and was able to put on my spare so I drove home, despite my car telling me that a car door was open among other warning lights.


Thankful | Country Girl Gourmet

Once I got home I thanked my wonderful friend for help and went into super mommy mode. It was Halloween after all. I created an Elsa and a Zombie complete with bloody wounds.  We skipped dinner and went straight to trick or treating. It was a pizza for dinner after trick or treating kind of night. Then once the kids had gone to bed I crashed.

Thankful | Country Girl Gourmet

thankful-4

 

The next morning I was sore as would be expected but I just felt off. I drove my broken car to Walmart to get those things we needed. I took 2 hours there! This may be normal for some but not me. Target maybe but Walmart.. oh heck no. In addition to that I was about to check out and I had forgotten everything I needed. Yes, forgetting one or two things is normal but everything was not me at all. I was telling my husband how I was feeling and he told me to go to the ER where they did a CT. Thankfully it was clear but in addition to having whiplash I had a concussion. Later the next week my regular doctor agreed with he ER’s diagnosis and told me I was on brain rest. Yes, brain rest. Basically, minimal technology use… TV, computer, iPhone, etc. If it had a screen it was bad. That meant no writing, no BlogHer NaBloPoMo, no taking pictures, absolutely nothing.  After a week of brain rest I tried to blog but just couldn’t. It took me about 3 weeks. My spelling and grammar use are coming back as well, i’m not 100% but I am getting there. Yes, there not their or they’re which I have annoyingly to myself mixed up and written the wrong word since my accident. My doctor says i’m recovering well and better than to be expected but my family is tired of my  jokingly using my concussion as an excuse when I forget things. As for that whiplash it has turned into what the doctor thinks is just muscle inflammation and i’m told may take weeks to fully subside. I’ve been given the ok to run again but not lift weights, that will hopefully come by the end of the year. She has explained to me that my body took a good brunt of the force from the way I was hit. I can hope but at the same time be thankful it appears to only be inflammation.

My last injury is something that none really talks about. I now have anxiety when driving. It is normal. Just as normal as the thoughts you have after the accident that maybe if you had done something different you wouldn’t have wound up in the accident.  Going into town takes time now and not from just getting ready to go somewhere. I have to work myself up to do it. Driving through intersections are particularly bothersome and anxiety producing. I have asked my friends for advice and it was all the same. Take baby steps and over time it will get better. A few other great tips included: Have a friend drive to help you get used to being on the road again, take it slow,  stick to the right lane so you can pull over if needed, use your GPS to calculate distance and ton’s of deep breaths.

As for my poor car it took 3 weeks for the other person’s insurance to decide liability. That was 3 weeks I had a car that was unsafe to drive and put my kids in. Heck, the passenger rear door did not open at all yet my car’s control center said it was open. Three weeks of canceling doctor appointments and putting my volunteer responsibilities on hold. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had a job I needed to go to daily. It was three  long weeks of regular calling to find out what the heck was up. I spent 3 weeks of dealing with the person who hit my car lying and saying her light was yellow. I am still trying to figure that one out. Is it really that hard to own up to something and admit fault?  Yes, I could have gone through my insurance but after speaking with my insurance agent we decided it was best to wait on liability because there was no way the accident was my fault. I am thankful that after that long 3 weeks liability was decided that the person who hit me was 100% at fault. I  finally have a rental car although it is much too small for my family of 6… not sure what happened to my approved rental for a Large SUV. My truck is finally in the shop and the worry whether it can be  fixed or will be totaled (and my family would subsequently need to make an unplanned large purchase at Christmas) appears to be over. All of the canceled appointments have been rescheduled, my volunteer work can resume and life as I know it can try to get back to normal.

So here it is the very tail end of the month of thankfulness  and I am thankful, so very thankful!  When you tell someone you have been t-boned in a car accident a person’s mind automatically thinks of the worst possible things. Side impact collisions are some of the worst types of collisions to get in. They are right up there with head on collisions and rollovers. So yes, I am thankful.  I may not have posted about it everyday but I am thankful. There are plenty of things that truly suck about car accidents  but I can be thankful for much more after mine.

 

9-11Reflections

You know those mundane everyday things we do without thinking? For instance, for myself that includes the fight with daughter about school picture day clothes and hair, as I make 4 lunches and get my 4 monsters ready for a day of school, those things. Thirteen years ago today so many of us were doing those same things. We were going about our daily life without question or worry. I was getting ready for my first OB appointment with kid number 2. My husband was at work, doing Army guy things. Then in a moment, life changed.

Alike many, our life changed immensely on 9/11.  My husband left less than a month later for desert training and was deployed to Afghanistan by January 2003. It was not his first deployment but a deployment with a new mission,war.  It was a completely different mind process than his previous deployment. When he went to Kosovo in 1999 it was for a NATO mission and although it could happen the bad things we now know of deployment were not in the forefront of our minds. Every single bad thing you could think of was now on the minds of countless military spouses.  When you heard a deployment was on the horizon a series of what ifs starting racking your mind. Like the big one, “what if something happens to my husband, how would I handle it”. It became a series of plans set up in the back of your head. With these changes others changes are made these changes to how you see life.

Life was no longer the just day to day, it became something more. It became looking at each and every day and just being thankful and living for the day. Yes, scary things happen in this thing called life and there are scary people out there but you can’t just stop and let them take over your life.  You have to go on. You can’t stop because something bad may happen. When you do that you let the bad guys win. Life for my family became about spending time together. This is so  important for us because we never know when Daddy may have to go away.  Every birthday, anniversary and holiday we are together is extra special because we know the next one we may not be all together.  Doing errands together, vacations, family fun nights it’s all about spending time together.

There is still worry about things that we cannot control but it is followed by what will be will be. Along with a sprinkling of how important is this in the big scheme of things, does it really matter? We have learned to live and let go. Well, at least the best that we can.

9-11 Reflections | Country Girl Gourmet

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover

What happened to the day of regular old birthday parties? I know it can’t be just Pinterest driving every mom out there to make their child’s better than the next. What child seriously needs such an over the top party. Yes, as parents we want to give our children everything we can but that doesn’t mean we need to break the bank. Call me frugal or even cheap but I don’t think so and I know so. My daughter recently had an old fashioned sleepover for her birthday that she and her friends loved. Her sleepover was budget friendly and easy enough to put together that anyone could do it.

 

Streamers and tape that is all this takes and your doorway is transformed into a magical gateway to party land.

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

 

 

Who needs Helium? Hang balloons upside down by a ribbon.
Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

Pink plastic tablecloths are about $1 a piece and perfect for covering tables and even deep freezers. Table scatter can be bought for 1.99 to decorate the tables.
Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

My daughters favorite color is pink so we went for pink candy and decorations highlighted by Hello Kitty. Party City sells candy by color. You can buy it by the bag or the piece. At 5-10 cents a piece it is often cheaper than the bag. I kept dishes pink except one pack of plates and one pack of napkins.
Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

Make some extra special colorful chocolate covered strawberries. You can find the colored wafers at Party City, Hobby Lobby, Walmart and other stores.
Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

How about a photo booth? Walmart sells a kit for under $5 and you can go to the Dollar Store and Party City for extra props. You probably have stuff laying around the house too.

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

 

Photobooths are fun. Email parents the pics after party or print and write Thank You’s on the back.

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

We did arts and crafts too. The girls made birthday crowns. The foam crowns can be found at various stores like the Dollar Store or Hobby Lobby
Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

The girls ate pizza and watched movies

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

Instead of a cake they decorated their own cupcakes.

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

painted each others nails…

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

Watched more movies and ate popcorn until they fell asleep.

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

Breakfast was kept easy. Cereal, Fruit and the mini donuts that I never let my daughter have.

Budget Friendly Old Fashioned Sleepover |Country Girl Gourmet

The party was a success. The girls had fun and that is the important part.

It’s not easy being tall on Halloween

Halloween time is one again upon us. Time for our children to dress up and go trick or treating. A right of passage for any kid, a night they look forward too. After all when else are you allowed to go door to door asking strangers for candy? It is the time of the year social media sparks up in blogs about healthy candy alternatives, being mindful of children with special needs to age limits for trick or treating. Which brings me to my question, what about the children who are tall? With my own children I have learned it is not easy being tall on Halloween.

It's not easy being Tall on Halloween | Country Girl Gourmet

The picture above was taken in 2011 when my oldest was not yet 12 years old and well i’m 5’6″, my son next to him was 5 feet-ish tall. Alike his brother that year would wind up being his last year going trick or treating. He was 9 years old and in the 4th grade. The exact same age and height as his brother was the last time he went trick or treating. The same age (and height) as the cutie in the orange shirt is now. What happens at this age is when my kid’s go out trick or treating people skip over them when handing out candy. They will give to the siblings but not them. They are left standing waiting as the candy giver retreats back inside. They are in a costume, say Trick or Treat, they are polite, my kids are the kids that tell you thank you after given a treat. So what gives?

I honestly couldn’t figure it out. I trick or treated (in costume) with my friends until I was 13. I was dumbfounded until I started reading various postings on social media sites asking, “until what age should kids trick or treat?”  The majority were in agreement that kid’s should stop once they hit the age 13/14 or have started high school. People also said they go based on how big the kid looks. That is when the aha moment set in. No one has ever accurately guessed the age of one of my children. My husband is well over 6 foot tall and people keep telling me that I am tall for a woman. We have tall kids, plain and simple. At the kindergarten concert you see that super tall kid that is a head above all their classmates and has to look down at them. That is my kid. All 4 of my kids to be exact.

tallkiddo
As a parent I am going to ask those of you participating in halloween treat giving this year to rethink your methods for handing out candy. Please think about the tall kids and their parents who have to explain why you didn’t give them a piece of candy but gave to their siblings. Let them experience this rite of passage like their friends. They are still kids, just a little bit taller than other kids their age.  It’s not easy being a tall kid, please don’t give another reason why.

It's not easy being Tall on Halloween | Country Girl Gourmet

Government Shutdown Military Family 411

It is coming. Well at least it looks that way, a government shutdown.  Get ready to embrace the suck. Here are some tips to get through the coming weeks.

What is shutting down?

Many people don’t realize the bigger picture and what all a government shutdown may include. It is not just the military as many may think as they have been used as political and media pawns. This issue is big and has ripple down effects. It affects not only the Department of Defense but the National Park Service, various departments of Homeland Security, federal courts and more. You can look HERE for a list of agencies that will or could be affected.

White Sands
There will be no going to White Sands if there is a government shutdown.

Money Matters

Being a military family this issue hits us hard as it does many other military and federal employee families. The number one issue that we worry about is not getting that paycheck on October 15th. That means for some dipping into their emergency fund something that I cannot stress the importance of. While yes it is for emergencies I know when we started our fund we thought about our trucks breaking down, major appliances breaking and things of that nature. Not a government shut down where my husband would not be getting a paycheck. Other families are not as lucky though as many families live pay check to paycheck. Thankfully some banks and credit unions such as USAA, Navy federal , Pacific Marine Credit Union, Marine Federal Credit Union, Service Credit Union, Belvoir Credit Union, Air Force Credit Union, First Command, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union are offering payroll advances and zero or low interest loans to help at this time. If your bank is not listed here contact them and see if they offer any assistance. Some banks such as US Bank and First Light Credit Union offer programs for military families.  I do suggest staying away from  non-bank payday/cash advance locations.  If needed Army Emergency Relief (AER), Air Force Aid Society (AFAS), Navy- Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) will all be available  if you need assistance. The Red Cross and Operation Homefront also offer financial assistance for military families.

Paying bills

It is what it is and figuring out what to do with your bills comes next.You need to figure out how to pay your rent/mortgage, electric bill, water and other bills. The best policy here is to be proactive and call and contact your creditors. They may be able to work with you they may not.  You never know what they can offer unless you call. The worst thing they can do is say no. Remember the organizations listed above that can help you.

Gas Money

car money

So your soldier still needs to go to work without getting paid, what can you do about gas money? Start a carpool with other families in your area.  Yes it sucks that they have to go to work and not have the money to go but what are you going to do? You make it work. It’s all about rolling with the punches.

Feeding your Family

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I am constantly looking for ways to feed my family for less and a looming government shutdown has me looking at where I can cut back especially since the commissary will be closed. A good place to start is to create a meal plan and stick to it. This helps you when it comes time to make a grocery list and when it comes time to shop. To help you meal plan use your grocery store ads and buy what is on sale. To save more money use coupons.

Here are a few healthy and economical foods:

Water, healthier and cheaper than soda and other sweetened drinks.

Eat Beans, they are economical, full of protein and fiber.

Brown Rice, whole grain and full of vitamins

Sweet Potatoes, low in calories and full of vitamins like Vitamin A and C.

Frozen Veggies, steam instead of boil to avoid nutrient loss.

Kale and other leafy greens (cabbage,spinach,collards), are nutrient rich and full of vitamins and can be prepared several different ways.

Plain Yogurt, you can mix in various things to change it up such as honey and fruits. If you use greek yogurt you will have added protein.

Peanut Butter and other nut butters, a great protein source and heart healthy unsaturated fats

Eggs, Great protein source and full of other nutrients.

Oatmeal (old fashioned oats) Heart healthy and helps lower bad cholesterol.

Final Thoughts on Money

It is time to prioritize what is important and to budget, budget,budget! There will be things that you cannot get around spending money on  and you need to allow room in your budget for these expenses. Just as you need to remember to allow for emergencies.  Be smart about your money choices. Ask yourself do I really need Starbucks or can I make it myself at home. Check out these copycat recipes to try it at home. Pinterest is a great place to look to find copycat recipes, handy household money saving tips and more. You can do this with style and grace. After all military families are special. We can take on any challenge that is sent our way.

Everything Else

Just a few final tid bits on a possible government shutdown that we currently know:

Quality of life will be affected. There is no way around it.

There will be reduced support services on post as many civilian employees are furloughed. These services will vary from installation to installation.

Your soldier will still be at work but PCS’s, TDY’s, schools and training may be disrupted.

Death gratuities to those who die on active duty during this time would not be paid.

There will be various effects to healthcare on installations that may vary from installation to installation.

As previously stated, stateside commissaries would be closed.

What else can be done?

The time is ticking down but your voice is important! Let your elected officials know how you feel!

Find your representative HERE

Find  your senator HERE

Click HERE to contact  the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services

Want to contact the president or vice president? Click HERE

 

 

 

A follow up to this blog is- Government Shutdown and Military Families: What you need to know

 

A letter to my son’s teacher… Autism and my son

Every year my son’s new teacher’s ask what they need to know about my son. If it were only as simple as telling you a couple things to ensure a good school year. This year as my son enters middle school it scares me greatly. This year he has 7 different teachers that will need to learn to work together to figure out his educational needs. These are the years where he may fall through the cracks or may be be labeled as a problem child. Please do your part to ensure this does not happen and I will help you as much as I can.

My son has Autism and once again as I say those words I am asked by you what do you need to know. Unfortunately it is not a simple answer and to understand my son you need to get to know him.  Just reading his IEP will not tell his entire story just as my telling you about him does not either. I can tell you about him all day long but there is nothing I can say will guarantee he will have a good day or will not have a bad day/ meltdown.

Yes, he is different. His brain just works in a different way than other kids. When working with my son you will be pushed to think out of the box. No two children with Autism are the same so just because you knew another student with Autism does not mean what you did with them will work for my son.

My son thrives on routine, structure and consistency. Routine calms my son and reduces anxiety and without it he has problems. If there is going to be a break in routine you need to prepare him for it if you can. If you can’t just try to help him through the change. An example of change my son is not good with is substitute teachers.  An alternative plan needs to be in place for my son when he has a substitute teacher. My son needs structure, he needs to know the rules. Please be consistent with my child because when you are not it gives him mixed signals and it is difficult for him to comprehend what he is suppose to do.

My son interprets  what he is told one way, literally. He does not get idioms and the like. When speaking to him please get his attention and speak to him with plain, simple words.

Social skills are not my son’s strong point. My son is not disrespecting you by not looking you in the eyes/face. He may not be looking at you but he is usually listening. To get your point across please ask my son to repeat what you have asked. My son may do other things that are not socially acceptable such as pick his nose. If you catch him doing something please redirect him, he will stop. We have been working on personal space, he needs clear boundaries as he may invade others personal space not realizing what he is doing is rude.

While on the subject of social skills my son will say what he thinks and does not have a “filter” and will express his opinion. He will say something is dumb or stupid. Just as he will call someone fat or tell them their breath stinks. Please understand he is not saying things to be mean,cruel or disrespectful.

My son’s speech is a work in progress, please understand this. Sometimes especially when he is excited or upset it will be hard to understand him. If you do not understand him ask him to repeat what he has said. Be warned though, too many repeats may equal a meltdown.

My son communicates but you need to do more than just listen. You will need to watch his body language for cues. When he is anxious he will do a variety of things such as run back and forth, hum songs, twirl his hair, pick at his skin or other things. My son may even growl or loudly sigh when he is not excited about doing something. Watch him and he will show you how he is doing.

Group work is not a strong point. If he can do assignments independently he will. He may need redirection from time to time but he does best work solo. This goes back to social skills and interacting with his peers.

Handwriting is not a favorite thing for my son to do. It is hard for him and he does not have a traditional writing grip. Give my son a iPad, computer, alphasmart or other word processor and he can do it. He also does awesome power point presentations.

Your classroom is full of things that may throw my son into sensory overload which may lead to a melt down. His classroom size is larger than what he is used to. A larger class often means more noise and this can overwhelm him. Pep rallies and similar grade level functions are a nightmare for my son. He would rather stay in the classroom and do classwork. Other things that may overwhelm his senses include your classroom temperature, lighting and smells. He tries his best but sometimes it becomes to much and he can’t focus.

When over simulated my son will need a “time out”. He will need to go somewhere quiet to “cool off”. When he is not allowed to do so he may shut down and a melt down could happen. He has attempted to run away from school before. Please do not allow him to get to this point.

My son is very bright and typically learns new subjects easily. He also relates everything back to Mario and Sonic and other video games. If you listen to him though it often makes sense as odd as it may sound. Don’t hate the video games it is just another way my son communicates and expresses himself.

Our family does not use the word can’t so please do not use it in regards to my son such as you “can’t teach my son”. You can teach my son but you may need to rethink your methods. Look at his strengths, you will find a way. He can be taught.

Last but not least the most important thing to remember when teaching my son is to be patient.

What I have written is only a starting point for you. I could go on and on writing about him, he is an awesome kid and if you allow yourself you will learn about his greatness. I invite you to look at things through his perspective and learn how things are not always black and white.

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