Celebrating Christmas as a Military / Defence Family🎄

As a Military / Defence Family we quiet often celebrate Christmas away from our blood families, however, this does not mean we don’t celebrate or celebrate with ‘family’. Australia’s posting cycle is a major factor in Christmas plans – we usually get to spend one Christmas in our home in the posting location we are at as we are usually packing up a house and moving our life to somewhere new. December is the peak posting (PCS) cycle for us, it’s hot, the school year has finished and summer holidays have started.

One of the many joys of being a military family is getting to meet and form close relationships with other families all in the same boat – away from their own families.

This year we are lucky to have my mum visiting from Australia and although we were hoping she would have a white Christmas, it doesn’t seem likely (we had a big dumping of snow prior to her arrival). Whilst this takes our family count to 6, we will have a house full and a table set for 21!

We are excited to be welcoming other Military families into our home for Christmas who are also international and have no family here. The table will be set filling both the dining room and living room with 6 people from Australia, 4 from New Zealand, 3 from America, 4 from Spain and 4 from Brazil. Lunch will be a multicultral experience with roast lamb, roast vegetables, turkey, glazed ham, potato bake, cheesy brocoli, corn, peas, trifle, pavlova, Spanish wine and desserts also from Brazil and Spain.

The chatter filling the house will be vast and a learning experience for us all. The Spanish and Brazilian families working on their English and the rest of us excited to learn about other cultural experiences and Christmas traditions. Our eldest and the children from Spain and the eldest from Brazil know each other well and spend quiet a lot of time together both in and out of school, this will be a great memory for them to share.

Today, we had our Christmas photo taken with Santa while at Bass Pro. This year like some previous are shared with other special people joining in our photo. Today was Matilda, friends of ours from the UK who are also here on Exchange. Matilda is great friends with our daughter and she came along to spend the day. She is in the front row of our photo and we love that she joined in – more memories to share and treasure.

Christmas as a Military / Defence family may seem at times quiet and separated from the usual experience that families have at this time of year – we have shared many Christmas’s in motels, once at West Point Acadamy asking the Night Manager to write a note for the kids explaining they need to find their presents under a motel Christmas tree (they searched under 3 trees) and Christmas’ with family and friends.

From our family to yours, no matter what you believe or where you are – have a very Merry Christmas a happy & safe holiday.

Christmas can also be a lonely period for the Military / Defence Family with members on deployment, recalled from leave and those who we have lost. Consequently, spare a thought, say a prayer, open your home to other families and create new memories.

Taken at Christmas 2018 in South Dakota.
The Christmas stockings are our childrens and they travel with us every Christmas we are on the road.

Changes after Physical Trauma.

Taking up new obsession after cross fit.

Life after physical trauma can leave us with many negative thoughts and reactions – how we emotionally conquer these is half the battle!

After trauma, life changes and it generally changes for a lifetime. We have to reevaluate our day to day journey and the one we often took for granted – we have to learn how our new journey will take place.

Life for me prior to my SCAD / Heart Attack was busy, active and one that was simple. Prior to our posting to the US, I worked full-time in a primary school that I absolutely loved, was busy chasing the kids from activity to activity, had a husband in command, social activities were a plenty, two dogs that needed to be walked everyday, a spin bike that needed riding, I enjoyed the occasional drink(s).

We had never contemplated me becoming so close to not being here.

Life now, 8 months post SCAD / Heart Attack is still busy chasing the kids, still active but not quiet as simple as it onces was. I am currently not working due to being in the US and to be honest, I couldn’t work full time at the moment – the tiredness would see me napping under a desk.

Two of the biggest hurdles have been finding a new pace to keep active, keeping my mental health in check and embracing this new way of life.

I’ve discussed before my love for lifting weights and hammering it out in the gym, these days the activities I do are walking, indoor cycling (no hills) and playing golf. The pace is totally different and one that I am coming to terms with. The irony of my SCAD & Heart Attack is that I was doing everything in my power to keep my heart and body healthy – cardio, strength training, good diet and plenty of sleep and it seems that my love for hammering it out in the gym literally tore my artery….crazy!

The biggest mental battle I have is the medication – I am terrible at taking medication. I don’t like taking paracetomol for a headache so taking 8 tablets a day is just something I have to do but not something I will get used to – I do know it’s not forever and appreciate the benefits of why I’m taking it.

I have aways been fairly body conscious and stuggle most days with the way my body looks and the way it’s feeling at the moment. I try to focus on the the healthy points – my heart is strong, my artery has healed and I am alive. My husband is amazing and always tells me that he would rather have me a little rounded than not here…love the man for loving me the way I am.

For SCAD, the chance of reoccurence is about 30% and this sometimes plays on my mind – the what if’s. I don’t dwell on this number and I am certainly not living my life consumed by the number, nor do I think about it daily. I am aware, listen to my body and would rather live my life taking the advice and medical knowledge we currently know to ensure my heart stays strong but without putting undue pressure on it (no crossfit).

My family has also been impacted by the changes and the way we communicate on a daily basis has especially changed. I ensure that if I miss a phone call or receive a text from either my husband or kids, I reply asap. A wait in reply doesn’t necessarly send them into panic mode, but it does make them a little anxious. If I am going for a walk, shower or a nap, I send a quick text to let them know and one after when I am finished – I am certain this will tapper off but not just yet. It gives them a little piece of mind.

We all go through changes whether from a physical trauma, loss, move, change in circumstances, how we move forward is part of the challenge. My journey is still going forward:)

Defence / Military Kids

As a mum of three, my children change every day. Children from all walks of life have challenges, morals and lifestyles that are different. My focus today is on Military Kids and I certainly appreciate that their challenges are far from challenges other children around the world.

Military kids are known for their Resilience. The lifestyle that they are born into is one of constant change. For this reason they are usually very adaptable. Adaptable to change, surroundings, people and situations. Their resilience is to be commended, embraced and nurtured.

Military kids are generally kind, thoughtful and very aware of their surroundings and of others. They have said goodbye to more people by the time they are 18 than most people do in a lifetime. This helps make them understanding and open.

Military kids are strong. They are strong at times that matter however, this does not make them immune to emotion. These kids are aware of the difficulties faced by others and their own families. They generally are happy to jump right in to help others and stand up for what they believe is right.

Military kids can be fiercely independent. They come from homes that are regularly in upheaval, with the serving member away or in a high tempo area. They are taught from a very early age the importance of independence, they still need help but are very capable of handling situations that other children may not.

Military kids are proud! Not all show this openenly, often they are unsure what the response will be for others – don’t dampen their spirit. Let them and encourage them to be proud of their Military family.

Military kids have a great sense of humour – let them laugh.

Military kids are supportive to other military kids. They give each other strength and an amazing support system. Sometimes without words they bring comfort to others.

Military kids generally have a more worldly view on life. They are open and aware of different cultures and diversity – this is a great thing.

Military kids are unique, brave and incredible souls.

Being Thankful this Thanksgiving:)

As a Aussie family in the US we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with a traditional turkey and pumpkin pie for dessert (we will go without candied yams (sweet potato and marshmellos).

As I sit and ponder the process for the day, what time to put the turkey in and how many people will be filling our house – we like to open our home to those that are not travelling to family or those that are not having family visit – another part of Military Life, I cannot stop thinking about all that I am Thankful for.

I am thankful to be here to celebrate with my family and to welcome new friends and old into our home.

I am thankful for my husband who I have always loved and admired and for the man he is today. It’s been a journey for us and has certainly made our marriage even stronger.

I am thankful for our children who keep me busy, who understand when I need a nap and who keep me laughing and smothered in love, even if they are laughing at my grey hair. It’s the hugs and the ‘love you mumma’ that I am thankful for the most.

I am thankful for the love and support that we have received this year from those we love and for those who we had only just met.

I am thankful for the generosity of those we live near.

I am thankful for the phone calls, text messages, facebook messages I have and still am recieving from people checking in to see how my beating heart is. I understand how busy everybody is but am truly thankful that these are ongoing – our lives are filled with amazing people.

I am thankful for those that have offered their prayers for our family and for those that paused to think about us.

I am thankful that I have found the joys and frustration that is the game of golf to keep my mind focused, body moving and some amazing ladies to laugh with.

I am thankful for those that have joined me on my blogging journey and for taking the time to read, share and follow.

No matter where we are, we do not need a Thanksgiving holiday to be thankful. Be kind, give somebody a helping hand, make that phone call, tell somebody you love them, give that hug, cook that meal for somebody, write that note and be the best version of you!

Don’t take anyone for granted, be thankful for the people in your life, show them love, show them kindess

The Defence / Military Spouse

The partner of a Defence / Military member has many titles – spouse, partner, mil spouse and my favourite Dependant! My husband has been a Solider since before I came along and I have been on this journey with him since 1998…..21 years or half my life and the one thing that I am not, is dependant! Dependant is defined in the dictionary as relying on or needing another. (Yourdictionary.com)

I am like every other Defence / Military dependant – very much independent!

Prior to meeting my husband, I had very little to do with the military. I come from a small country town with a proud military history, but it was relatively small. I listened to the stories told whilst I worked in the pub, heard stories about great-great-uncles and applauded at the Anzac Day march.

Upon meeting, my world was immediately changed. Anzac Day was just around the corner and this would be our first offical outing together. Over the course of 21 years, we have been to many offical functions, dining in’s, dining outs, parades, balls, promotions, retirements, unit celebrations and less formal functions.

Over these many years, many moves, many new faces, many everything news, I have meet many wonderful, strong, talented “dependants” who are also anything but dependant. These partners know the raw truth of being a military family, the pain of separation, the joy of home comings, the upheaving of life every two years, being away from family, being able to fix broken white goods, draws and chairs, the ones mowing the lawn, weeding the gardens, the school and sport drop offs, the parent/teacher interviews, the doctor and hospital visits all while being dependant on themselves (with help from their battle buddies).

Defence / Military spouses are fierce with a high percentage employed, highly educated, and those that run the house like a well honed machine. Spouses are many different personalities but they all have one thing in common…..the ability to adapt. The Cambridge Dictionary defines adapt as the ability to adjust to different conditions or uses, or to change to meet different situations (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/adapt)

To say that one is not dependant is not a statement to say that one does not need the other, it is in simple terms that whilst we are apart for work needs, I can handle taking care of myself, our family and all that entails. As a family unit, we are better together but when duty calls, my husband knows that we are going to be ok.

Defence / Military life is a partnership, a team, one that often leads to no expectation on the serving member, is difficult at times, painful at times, pure elation at times and is built on trust and the need for spouses to be independent……it’s time for the phrase ‘Dependant’ to be replaced.

Phases of Separation for Defence / Military Kids (by Mrs Mully)

Defence / Military children go through many emotions during each phase of this separation. The lead up phase, initial phase, the long haul and the end phase.

The Lead Up Phase

During this phase the defence child may seem lost and the heightened emotions may begin.  The defence family home during this time becomes unsettled as the member prepares for deployment. The lounge room floor or garage becomes a logistics nightmare and a constant reminder of what is happening. There will be webbing, packs, boots, uniforms, helmets, safety equipment, socks, hootchie, sleeping gear, gloves and a mountain of other required gear spread from one end to the other – this to be honest feels like a punch in the stomach every time you look at it. You are reminded of the length of the deployment and the unknown of what can happen during this time. It is a natural emotion to feel concerned and unfortunately, the ‘what if’s’ take over.

Initial Phase

During this phase the defence child may have heightened emotions leading to outbursts with anger, frustration or complete sadness as they begin to settle in to everyday activities without the member at home. From a change of who drops them off at school, who packs their lunches, who picks them up at the end of the day, who takes them to what activities during the weekend and the night time routine. This can be very hard for all the family to manage and with older children, expectations can be hard to handle to.

The Long Haul

Some days are much easier than others. A routine at home has settled and the ‘norm’ for the family is running as smooth as it can and a countdown to the end as begun. At times you will find the defence child’s emotions can change quiet quickly – in fact it is sometime similar to dealing with grief. The child may be experience a great day, laughed really hard at something and then remembered that they can’t share it with dad that afternoon at pick up – this may lead from laughter to tears or anger.

During the long haul, it is important to talk to the child about what they are feeling, giving them the opportunity to speak about it or the chance to sit down and record what they are feeling or what has happened during their day. The chance to draw or write a quick letter or jot it down in their journal is so important. 

The End Phase

The last four weeks of a deployment are another time for heightened emotion. The countdown has begun and more concerns become apparent. The excitement builds, the frustration of time builds, the concern of changes occurring again at home. As with all things Military, the planned date for the homecoming can change regularly. It is important that the child is prepared for this change and I would encourage you to mindful of this as homecoming becomes close – dates can change several times. Once the parent is home, reintegration begins. For some families this is simple and things return to how it was, for others, reintegration can be more difficult. A change in routine, a change in parenting styles can all lead to further emotional outbursts.

It is important that their emotions, feeling, concerns are all validated – it is no excuse for bad behaviour, but please remember these children are under an enormous amount of emotional pressure that at times will come to a head at school.

These are my own words from my own experience and from working with Defence / Military Kids who have been through the phases mentioned above.