Blue Star Museums

Memorial Day means summer is unofficially here. With the kids and I both being home all summer, I’m on the lookout for free things for us to do. There are always tons of programs out there, but one of my favorites is the Blue Star Museums. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, from Memorial Day, May 25, 2015 through Labor Day, September 7, 2015. It doesn’t get much better than that!

We took advantage of the free entrance when we were in California to see a few places –

The San Diego Botanic Garden
The San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
The Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park
The New Children’s Museum in San Diego

Now that we are in Texas, we’ve got a whole new list of places to go! My list so far includes – 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Texas Capitol Visitors Center
Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
A return trip to the National Museum of the Pacific War
San Antonio Museum of Art

Check out the museums that qualify in your area at http://arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums. This is a wonderful way to keep busy this summer without spending a lot!

Weekends Are For Messes and Memories

There is something like 940 weekends in your child’s life until they turn 18. That may seem like a lot, but at the same time, it goes so fast! We are about 516 weekends into my son’s life. He is already at the point where he would rather stay home and play video games than go do fun, family stuff. He doesn’t have a choice though, family time always wins!

Saturday was when we got most of the rain that flooded Austin and surrounding areas. We had a ton or rain, but thankfully, we didn’t have any problems. We did our best to take advantage of the rain and took the little one out puddle jumping. Free fun is usually the best! This girl could have played for hours! She is a magnet for puddles and mud. They just call her name and she can’t help but be drawn to them and then walk or ride her bike right through them. At the cemetery Saturday, it was bright and sunny, but she managed to have mud on the back of her shorts and legs. Sunday morning, we went for a walk and the kids rode their bikes. Same thing. Her brother was clean and avoided the mud, she rode straight through it. At one point, we caught her skating through the heavy mud. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her, she can’t help herself. Good thing all free and clear gets everything clean. 

It does not matter what we are doing. The kids had ice cream the other night, she had it all over, including her leg. We went bowling Monday and she managed to have filthy hands, while the rest of us were fine. She is just a magnet. Her nose is constantly dirty because she uses her hand to wipe it. Her preschool teacher in Japan used to say she looked like Mickey Mouse with her black nose.

All that was just from this past weekend. You know what though? Kids are supposed to explore and get dirty. So, I don’t mind. I’ll just wash it all. Get out and make memories with your kids. The dishes and chores and can wait. Their childhood won’t.

Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery

Saturday morning, we made a trip to the Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery so my husband could find a friend of a friend. I had not even known the cemetery existed, let alone how big it was. Founded in 1926, it covers over 154 acres and as of last year, had over 144,000 interments. What better place to go and honor those for Memorial Day?

Cemeteries are interesting to me. Military cemeteries especially. When you come across someone who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, you can’t help me amazed. We also found some who had served in WWI and WWII, as well as a few from the Spanish American War. It’s a good opportunity to teach the kids about a variety of things. The kids have been to cemeteries before, but it’s always good to remind them of why we should be thankful for those men and women and to teach them how to be respectful and pay their respects. 

 

PCSing After Retirement

When retirement is looming for a member of the military, one of the big questions is where are they going now and how are they going to get there?

First of all, you need to know whether you are going or staying. Many choose to stay at their current location. These people are normally settled, possibly with kids in school, and they don’t want to disrupt their lives. The connections are already there and jobs are available on base. Then there are those who want to move back home. When couples are married young and from the same place, it sometimes makes sense for them to move back home. Maybe they have a family business with a job waiting for them, maybe their parents just make them feel guilty about seeing the grandkids, or maybe they just miss it. Thirdly, there are those people like us. Those who move to a third location. Maybe they’ve lived there before, visited there and fell in love, or have always dreamed of living there. I’ve known people who’ve done all 3. I know guys who have gotten GS jobs in Germany and moved from the states. There are untold options, but what are you entitled to for your last PCS move?

1. If the service member chooses to move, they have 1 year from their retirement to move on the government’s dime. The military will pack up and move their belongings, just like any other move. If the service member plans to stay put, they are eligible for storage for their household goods at the place of retirement, for 1 year.

2. Just like with a regular PCS, they are eligible for reimbursement from a DITY (or Personally Procured Transportation Moves as they’ve renamed them) move, as well as per diem, and travel advances. 

3. In some cases, you may be granted 10 days of Transition PTAD leave for house hunting at your new location. 

4. DLA (Dislocation Allowance) and TLE (Temporary Lodging Expenses) are not eligible for retirees. You are on your own once you get to your final location. 

Keep in mind that this is for those retiring. For those separating, things are different. They will only move you to your home of record, for instance. If you are going anywhere else, you are going to have to pay the difference. Circumstances are also different for everyone, but this is basically what is covered. 

Who’s The New Kid? Fitbit Giveaway

In today’s world, with shows like The Biggest Loser and the steady stream of celebrities on diets, it’s not unusual to hear about an adult trying to lose weight. Do we hear about kids losing weight though? With the numbers of obese kids rising, you think we would, but I can’t recall ever hearing anything. Who’s the New Kid? tells the story of one family’s weight loss, mainly because of their daughter Breanna. She was overweight from the get go and at 9 years old, weighed 186 pounds. She was teased at school, could hardly do any exercise, and her thighs bled where they rubbed together. Her mom knew she was too heavy, but she made the same mistakes so many of us make. She had her tested for numerous things. She tried putting her in sports and cutting back her food, but it wasn’t a total effort. Her mom, Heidi, was thin, so she considered herself healthy, even though all they ate was calorie rich fried foods and junk. It took her years to figure it out, but the light bulb slowly started coming on. They finally found one thing that worked and went from there, resulting in a huge weight loss for Breanna. 

This was a surprisingly good book. It was written in an honest way. Heidi admitted she was wrong in her thinking and that a lot of the reason her daughter was obese was because of her. Once she figured that out though, she did everything in her power to help her lose weight. The book also contains 40 days of meal plans, a food diary, food substitute suggestions, and recipes. It breaks it down so anyone, no matter what your knowledge is of nutrition, can lose weight. 

 

To celebrate the launch of the book, Heidi Bond is having a Facebook party and is giving away a Fitbit and a copy of the book. 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 9th. Winner will be announced June 9th at Heidi’s Facebook partyRSVP here! 

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Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the book for review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.