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Posts Tagged ‘Mother’s Day’

When parents doing the best they can to raise their kids need advice, they may consult friends and family, books and blogs, pediatricians and podcasts. The quality of the advice depends on the provider. Authors and doctors may offer professional credentials or even scientific evidence to support their guidance, with or without firsthand knowledge. Siblings and coworkers may base their suggestions on little more than good intentions.

That’s why some of the best advice may come from experienced mothers who are bringing up high achievers, such as the Military Child of the Year® recipients. Raising military children involves some unique challenges, including frequently changing schools, doctors and communities.

Jessica McGrath, whose older son, Alexander, was the 2017 Navy Military Child of the Year Award recipient, has learned a lot about parenting from her family’s experience moving more than seven times. She and her husband, Navy Capt. Richard McGrath, also have a son in seventh grade, Zachary. Alexander is finishing his first at Yale University, and has arranged a summer internship with a member of the British Parliament’s House of Commons.

Jessica recommends some ways parents can help their children succeed:

Be involved in their lives. “The biggest thing is to be an engaged parent,” Jessica said. “It kind of sounds clichéd, but it is very specific to the military child because … of moving so often …” It might be all right for parents who live in the same community for 10 years or more to go on “autopilot” once the child has established friends and activities, she said, but military families face a different situation. As much as possible, research schools, pediatricians and neighborhoods to find the best fit for your child.

For kids who do not handle moving as well, it is even more important to be tuned in, she said. Whenever possible, talk with them about what’s going on. Help them facilitate change if necessary because you may not have time for the issue to resolve itself. “You don’t have that gift of years of time in that one duty station.”

Act as your child’s advocate. “You need to be an advocate for your child, but that can be very positive. It doesn’t have to be an advocate in a complaining sense,” Jessica said.

For example, advocating for your child might mean being aware of and familiar with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which requires states to ensure military kids have the same access to success as civilians, and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals. The compact addresses issues such as graduation requirements, records transfer and course placement.

It boils down to “making your child feel safe and happy and healthy in a new environment,” she said. Asking them “how can I help you learn to do it yourself?”

Tap into the local and military communities. “For a military child to be successful, it’s bloom where you’re planted,” Jessica said. They and their parents may not have had much, if any, control over where they moved, but they can make the most of what a community offers. “For this to really work though, you need support” from both the immediate family and the wider military family at the base or post. “You encourage them to get involved in this new community that you’re in,” whether that’s volunteering, joining teams or clubs, scouting, or whatever interests the child.

Getting involved helps the military children themselves, both in the moment and for future success, but also helps pave the way for other military children, she said. If they set a good example, it makes it that much easier for the community to accept the next military children who come along.

Jessica said another way to join the community is to take advantage of the wealth of information available among military families, and when appropriate, offer your own experiences. “Whatever it is you’re going through, someone has already done that.” In rural areas, Facebook groups of military families and spouses can be especially helpful, with members sometimes offering solutions within 20 minutes of posting. “I have always been amazed by the support,” she said.

Provide continuity. Continuing scouting, swimming, dance or other activities in each new community can help a child adapt, and gives a way to get to know kids who may become friends. An “anchor place,” somewhere you can return periodically, also helps. For the McGraths, it has been a family cabin in Maine. It could be a grandparent’s home, a friend’s place or just a favorite town.

Model how to take the initiative. “Lead by example,” she said. “We see a problem and you just fix it.” If someone needs assistance, your attitude should be “I don’t even know you, but let me drop what I’m doing and help you because I was there” too at one time. For example, Jessica and another spouse stepped in to take over the ombudsman’s responsibilities when that person became ill and had to bow out. The ombudsman is the liaison between the squadron and the ship’s command.

Teach that actions have consequences, and you control your actions. Whether it’s their own actions or someone else’s, decisions have a larger effect. “That’s, I think, the ultimate learning experience,” Jessica said. “You’re empowering them.” If a student at school got in trouble, talk about factors that may have contributed. Discuss empathy. If a friend got into college, discuss the many steps that led to that good news.

Develop a positive relationship with your kids. Jessica said if she has a parenting super power, it’s probably investing the time required for closeness and easy rapport with her sons. “They feel comfortable taking to me, and telling me their problems but also their successes, and us working together as a team.”

Realize that no two children are the same. You can strengthen a child’s attributes, and they each have their own individual qualities. Alex finds and pursues his own opportunities with tenacity. She doesn’t find them for him. But she did teach him social skills, and to always be polite, which helped him interact in ways that led to positive outcomes. “He has this inner drive that I didn’t give him,” she said. “My gift was maybe getting your foot in the door.”

Focus on the positive. Jessica acknowledges that the moving process itself isn’t always fun, but says the pros can outweigh the cons. “It builds your character, it builds resiliency. You become a better person, and basically, that sets you up to be a very successful adult.”

Meeting various challenges gives you strength to draw upon, teaches you what works and what doesn’t, and even gives you good conversation starters, she said. “Non-military kids don’t always get that opportunity, which I actually think is a blessing to learn and grow.”

Take care of yourself. Explore classes at local community colleges. Jessica, who graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in management and retail buying, has worked in her field, but also reinvented herself numerous times. She worked for a company that sells mutual funds and insurance, for an attorney and for the Navy Exchange. She volunteered in advocacy for military families, helping with family readiness groups and CORE, or Continuum of Resource Education, which provides seminars and volunteers dedicated to enriching Navy spouses and families. Later, Jessica discovered a love for art and took classes in metalsmithing and photography. She is now a designer at the Baltimore Jewelry Center.

Richard McGrath, a former Navy pilot, is a professor of operations research at the Naval Academy.

Aside from being personally proud to see Alexander’s hard work pay off when he received the MCOY award, Jessica said it was even more special and meaningful knowing that he represents many other military children, “validating their breadth of experience, the resiliency of the military child.” Alex is friends with another 2017 MCOY award recipient, Henderson Heussner, who also attends Yale. Jessica said she’s glad the two of them share a common bond and background from their military upbringing.

“Just to see what a military child can accomplish is such an amazing, rewarding thing,” she said. “I love Operation Homefront and everything that they do.”

Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making the Military Child of the Year Award program possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, Tutor.com and Military Times.

 

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Last year for Mother’s Day, Air Force mom La Toya Wall received four “crazy looking birdhouses” that each of her children made at a Home Depot workshop in Anchorage, Alaska. The workshop was among many La Toya took her kids to on weekends while her husband, Blake Jacob, was deployed to Kuwait during the first half of 2016.

m2h operation homefront mother military WallJacobFam“It actually helped pass the time while he was deployed,” she said. “It put me on a schedule, knowing that they had these events” to occupy Sidney, 11; Khloee, 10; Khodee, 4; and Storee, 3. Blake also has a 9-year-old daughter, Ryleigh, who lives in Arizona with her mother. “It was awesome,” said LaToya, who compared the workshops to Scouting because Home Depot gives the kids aprons, achievement certificates, and patches or pins for their aprons. “It helped out a lot.”

Creative solutions are one of the things La Toya is known for at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, where the family has been stationed since 2013. She also wows her friends as a cook, baker, seamstress, decorator and multi-family game night coordinator.

“We’re a nerdy family,” she said. “We have a lot of game nights,” lip synching karaoke battles and Iron-Chef-style competitions, even sending guests home with to-go boxes because she was tired of all her Tupperware disappearing.

La Toya’s family will celebrate her this Mother’s Day — Blake will cook breakfast and dinner, and take the family hiking — for many of the same qualities that military moms across the world are honored, including self-reliance, resilience and a can-do attitude.

“You don’t necessarily depend on other people,” she said. “Moving here has definitely helped me into allowing other people to help. I’m used to just doing things. You don’t just wait for someone to do it for you.”

For her part, La Toya is thankful that the military exposes her and her family to diversity, “getting to meet people from different nationalities and cultures … I love that.”

m2h operation homefront military mom WallJacobFam2La Toya wouldn’t have known about the Home Depot workshops, where she made friends with other families who introduced her to a hiking group, if she hadn’t attended an Operation Homefront Back-to-School Brigade event in 2015. Home Depot, an OH donor, and other organizations that serve military families often provide information at OH events. At BTSB, her children and many others received backpacks filled with money-saving school supplies. “I’m always helping other people, so it was nice to be on the receiving side,” La Toya said. OH has distributed more than 250,000 backpacks to military children since the program began in 2008.

In 2016, La Toya and Blake participated again in BTSB, and also in Holiday Meals for Military at Thanksgiving and the Holiday Toy Drive at Christmas. La Toya particularly enjoyed the social atmosphere, like a church potluck, at the Holiday Toy Drive event, which included a cookie exchange. Each child receives a gift, and Santa is there to take pictures with families, something La Toya had been having trouble finding time to do, especially since Blake had been working nights.

When La Toya first heard about Operation Homefront from a friend, she wondered if it was only for needy families. “I’m pretty sure there’s someone that needs it more than I do,” she said, adding she didn’t want to take away from another family. But after learning more about who can qualify for some Operation Homefront programs, she realized, “This is for everybody.”

The families at the toy drive also received children’s passes to the local indoor waterpark, which La Toya has been putting off visiting because of the expense.

Under the Holiday Meals program, military families receive groceries or gift cards to buy food. The defrayed grocery costs allowed La Toya to buy ingredients to bake extra treats for her daughter’s birthday, which is on Christmas Day. “The day she came, I just couldn’t imagine not having her or any of them. I like the crazy smiles that I get sometimes.”

La Toya comes from a large family, the oldest with 15 siblings, at least seven of whom lived together in Texas. “My [step] mom would have a full household of all of us kids at any given time,” she said. Stressful babysitting and elder care responsibilities for her siblings and grandparents often fell to La Toya before she was 18. Even after she married the first time, she would sometimes travel home to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

“Cooking is the only way I can get everyone together. Food is like my family’s binder.” Over the last several years, La Toya has come to better understand her family’s dynamics, but has also welcomed the opportunity to shift from caring for her extended family to herself and her nuclear family.

“My kids have never really had traditional grandparents, and I have never had traditional parents,” said La Toya, who has not had a relationship with her biological mother since she was 5. “I don’t ever want to miss a moment with my kids,” she said, adding that she volunteers to chaperone almost every field trip.

Her stepmother, as a Jehovah’s Witness, does not celebrate holidays, so La Toya typically would simply call to tell her “I really appreciate that you stepped up when you didn’t have to.”

La Toya has been further shaped by miscarrying a baby at two months, and twins at 6 months, her three “angel babies.”

La Toya and Blake will move their family soon to Colorado, where Blake, a staff sergeant in logistics, will support the Air Force band. La Toya is considering starting a baking business or some other creative line of work, but is concerned making it a profession might take the fun out of hobbies she enjoys. “It’s very therapeutic,” she said of baking.

Their journey will be another adventure, traveling by ferry for four days to Washington and then driving through Idaho and Wyoming. Blake wanted to surprise La Toya because she loves lighthouses and he knew they would see several at ferry stops. But she’s not a fan of surprises, and was resisting taking the ferry, so he told her.

Remembering the two-week drive to Anchorage from Texas, passing through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Canada including the Yukon Territory with three kids and pregnant, and a couple flat tires along the way, La Toya and Blake happily “found out we like being married to each other,” she joked.

It’s Military Appreciation Month! Consider joining us on our Mission2Honor military and veteran families throughout the month of May. No matter how you choose to honor service members and their families, don’t let this month pass by without doing something to show your appreciation.

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I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.- Abraham Lincoln

Mom. It’s a title that claims the heart and changes it forever. And we know a special class of moms – those who serve and those who love someone who serves. Their hearts often expand and bear more than the normal American. This Mother’s Day, we wanted to let our community of moms know that we are holding you close in our hearts and thoughts.

To the Moms Serving…FBCristiCrozier

We miss you. A lot. Dad’s doing a great job, and your friends are always there for us, but no one can replace you. We’re proud of you and your service to your country, and whatever we can do to support you, we will. Yes, we have days when we wish you were here, and some days where it is harder to smile, but we never doubt once that you love us. Come home soon.

 

To The Moms on the Homefront…

momdayblogsoldiersleepingYou keep the virtual, and often literal, porch light on for us. Yes, sometimes we will roll our eyes when you ask us detail after detail about our life in the military. No, that movie you saw the other day is not really how it works in the military. But we also know that we can call, anytime of day or night, from wherever we are in the world, and you will answer. We know that you will keep a Christmas tree up until February (or later) if that is what it takes to have us home for the holidays. You keep an open invitation to anyone we bring home with us, and don’t break a sweat when we told you it was three for dinner and … we showed up with six.

You are at the core of why we serve. You made us who we are today.

 

 To The Moms Caring For Our Wounded…

momdayblogwoundedwarriorYou brought us into the world, nurtured us, cared for us. You smiled with pride as we grew, and we felt the pride you had when we stepped up to serve our country despite your fears and concerns for our safety. And then those fears became reality. And again, you are there to care for us, to see us through. Even though we feel we may never be what we once were, you believe we are still someone great. Some of us won’t be able to let you know how much we love you, as our injuries are too severe and no longer allow us to speak. But we don’t have to. You know in your heart of hearts that we love you. Mighty Moms. Please take time today for yourself. You are not alone.

 

To the Mothers Who Are Grieving …

GoldStarMotherMemorialThose who have not lost a child will never know the unbearable pain that you have suffered. We can only promise to remember, to pray for your family, and to hope that as each day passes, you’ll smile a little more as you remember.

On behalf of a grateful nation, we honor you most of all.

 

 Please join us in wishing Moms all over the world a very Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

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Mom, when thoughts of you are in our hearts, we are never far from home. ~Author Unknown

momblog1It’s Mother’s Day, and we want to give a little extra love to the Moms of our military men and women. We asked Mothers to reflect on their sons’ and daughters’ service, and what they shared with us will touch the hearts of all Moms:

Kristin shared, “Our son is stationed in Alaska. I miss him every day, but I’m so incredibly proud of the man he has become. We cried a lot when he told us he was enlisting, even though we knew it was a great choice for him. He’s always wanted to be a soldier. My advice: Support your military child 110%! Respect the journey. Go to graduation, be available when they call, obey the rules and be encouraging! But mostly: PRAY. For your soldier, pray for our country, the men and women who serve, those who have served, their families, and for our leaders.”

Dawn has a son and daughter serving, and her youngest son is set to join the Navy. She writes, “I AM A MILITARY MOM ANmomblog2D PROUD TO SAY SO! My children are successful, strong, kind, intelligent, and independent young individuals! What more can a parent ask for? I love my children and although I miss them all so very much and wish I could see them more than once in a great while, I carry them all in my heart and prayers every day. It is not easy letting your children go but it is easier letting them go when you know that they are doing something they love and are successful at. I carry the fear of seeing my children in harm’s way but know they carry with them, not only the pride and confidence I have in them but that their country has in them as well. It doesn’t stop the tears of having them so far away or the fears you carry into your sleep at night but God granted me the privilege of having these children and raising these children and now He watches over them when I cannot.”

And as proud as all of them are on seeing their sons and daughters transform into fine young men and women in service to the nation, a part of Mom will always see you as that little boy or girl. All the more difficult when they have to send them off to war. Karin shared just that thought. She wrote a poem for her son “to always have no matter where he goes”. The last stanza reflects the emotions shared by many Moms:

momblog3

I will fly this flag and think of you

Knowing you must do what you do

My heart is filled with pride and joy

But to me you will always be my little boy

 

 

 

momblog4We also ask that today, you hold a little nearer to your heart the mothers who have suffered immeasurable loss, either on the battlefield or when the war came home with their children. Our hearts broke when Sarah shared, “Last Mother’s Day was the last day I kissed my son, hugged him, this Mother’s Day is my first birthday without my only son. Michael took his life May 20th, 2013. He had PTSD”. (24/7 help is available for military, veterans and their families. Call 1-800-273-8255, press “1”)

No matter how old we get, or how many years and tours we do, it’s clear our Moms will always be Moms. They will worry. They will shed a tear, often at the same time as a smile. They will pray for our safety and the safety of our brothers and sister in arms. Sometimes, they will scold us, especially when we don’t call or write, though they understand when we can’t. And they will always have our back, keep a light on in the window, look forward to the day we’ll come strolling through the door, and be ready to smother us in hugs.

Thank you, Moms, for all you do to support your sons and daughters, and in return, we promise to honor their service and support them any way we can.

PS: Call Your Mom!

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This Mother’s Day weekend, we’d like to share some love for our Moms, as reflected by a few of our terrific Operation Homefront teammates who have served in the military. We thank you, Mom…

For Being Proud of Us:

mothersday1Adam recalls family day at boot camp, and how proud his mother was of him. “It made me want to be a better Marine.”

Throughout his service, his Mom made sure he knew that she was his biggest cheerleader.

“Every time I came to visit or came back from war, my parents would throw a big party for me. My Mom was very adamant about throwing parties and having cake and making a huge deal about every time I came home.”

(Adam is the Program Coordinator for our Pacific Northwest Field Office. He joined the Marines Corps at 22, and did tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.)  

 

For Your Guidance:

mothersday2After his college path took an unexpected turn, Cecil’s Mom was the one who suggested calling the Air Force recruiter. Dropping him off at Basic herself at 0430 in the morning, she imparted a final piece of advice: “Go in, give it 100%. Maintain your integrity and your core values… and don’t embarrass the family.”

(Cecil is the Arkansas Community Liaison for our Southern Plains Field Office. He retired from the Air Force after 25 years of service.) 

 

 

 

For Setting the Standard:

mothersday3Jack credits his Mom for instilling in him the values that are core to military service. After a serious health condition left his father unable to work, his Mom took the lead. The example she set, “how she focused in on taking care of her employees, her work, and how she took care of us at home” really impressed upon him the significance of what it means to give of oneself. “The example she set for me was one of service and obligation.”

(Jack, Executive Director for Operation Homefront California, joined the Navy in 1991 during the first Gulf War.)  

 

For Your Unconditional Love:

mothersday4Jack speaks for so many of us, “Their support, at the end of the day, makes all the difference in the world. We have to make sure we say “thank you” for all that they do in our lives”

Adam’s advice is to always keep them close. “She’s always going to be there for you, no matter what.”

 

And finally, words to live by:

“Don’t do anything that would embarrass your mother,” Cecil advises. “If you have to think about it, it’s probably wrong.”

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day from all of our Operation Homefront team to the special women in our lives who taught us the value of service, to give back to the people who have given so much to us, but most importantly, who taught us to love and take care of each other.

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Thanks to everyone who chimed in to get a shot at Tim McGraw VIP tickets. The winner is…(where’s my emoticon for a drum roll?)

Barbara.

Here’s why: She’s still trying to make up for last year’s Father’s Day debacle. Last year, she surprised DH with two tickets to a concert in Atlanta. She found a hotel, got a babysitter, made all the arrangements for a fabulous couple’s getaway. But two weeks before the concert, the Marine Corps announced other plans for Joe. He was headed to South America instead, and he had to leave within hours of the concert.

“Needless to say, the Marine Corps always wins, and we canceled the hotel and chalked the non-refundable tickets up to bad luck,” she said.

She’s also missing out on her Mother’s Day props; Joe will be on duty this Sunday.

So they’ll have a delayed celebration for last year’s Father’s Day and this year’s Mother’s Day, but a pre-party for their wedding anniversary, which is just a few days after the concert May 13.

As always with any contests we offer, I wish I had more to give. We only had two concert tickets, but we’ll be sending some goodies to the other folks who chimed in. Thanks again for participating.

And thanks to Outback Steakhouse and Tim McGraw for making this possible. Earlier this year, Outback pledged $1 million to Operation Homefront so we can continue to help military families in need. Special events like this make for priceless memories for our families who serve so selflessly.

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