When Your Military Kid Doesn’t Sleep {And How To Support Them}

Every time we go through a long-term separation I feel like I learn something new. There’s a new experience or emotion that is felt that was different than the last one. But this latest one has been a unique experience that has challenged even this eighteen-year military spouse (girlfriend/fiance). My littlest child began to struggle with his sleep. This was something that I had never experienced with the other two. Yes, we’ve experienced anxiety, stress, sadness, separation issues from me, but never sleep issues to this extent. Not only was falling asleep difficult, but his sleep was just not restful. He had giant circles under his eyes all the time and it was starting to affect his school work. He would just sit and stare at his work, the morning being especially difficult.

We tried a lot. We tried melatonin, we tried staying up later and he even slept with me. Thankfully our school is amazing and have worked with me since my oldest was in Kindergarten to support not only my kids but other kids in the school that are military. The school counselor is stellar and has worked with me to create small groups for military kids, as well as set up a mentor program in which older students spent time with younger students with deployed parents. There is a lot of support for military kids on base, in military schools and schools within the military base pyramid. But the further you get away from the bases there is less available institutionally for the students. After much discussion, we launched another small group, and also decided to let him sleep in and have an excused absence for school.

Make sure to establish a good relationship with your school as a military family! Connect with teachers, specialists and your school counselor! These relationships will be vital to your child.

The other thing I looked into was a weighted blanket. I have previously looked at these for my oldest son, who has struggled with anxiety and focus. But I went for it for my boy and headed over to Amazon. First thing when ordering a weighted blanket is you have to make sure you get the right heaviness. Here’s a chart to help you decide on the right weight for your child. There are plenty of places to get your weighted blanket, and if you’re crafty you can find some great tutorials on making your own. But I went straight to Amazon and ordered this blanket right up! It came and it has been such a success! Combined with letting him sleep as needed and the small group sessions with the counselor, he is slowly starting to be himself.

Weighted blankets are an amazing resource for families that have kids, or even adults, that struggle with anxiety and sleep issues.

I’m a believer and I was skeptical at first. It’s been such a hit that the other two have wanted to steal it away, so two more are on the way to my house as we speak! I think its so important to be open when it comes to dealing with deployment or long-term TDYs, or even just lots of travel, and kids. You never know how they are going to process it. Each time can be different, as has been the case in my house. With each phase in a kid’s life comes new experiences, and that is true even without the added stresses of military life. Some things have not changed. Communicating with your kids about your feelings is important. I’ve always been open with my kids about being sad or missing daddy. It has ended up making them feel more open about sharing their own feelings. It is a way to connect on a deeper level to each other. As my kids have gotten older I’ve shared with them how Mommy needs a little more help than normal because we are busier. They have responded so well to that simple honesty. I also do my best to pull them in when I really need them and give them a break on some of the smaller chores that they would normally do, and it has been truly amazing. Don’t be afraid to give them more responsibility. The way that has made my kids feel has been great. They have felt empowered and important like they are really contributing to the family and helping while daddy is gone.

Have you tried a weighted blanket? What did you think?

What are some strategies that you have developed over time to help cope with deployment?

*this post contains affiliate links, thanks for your support*

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I Took My 12 Year-Old’s Cell Phone and Guess What Happened?

Let’s just start out by saying that Middle School is rough. I knew it was but man, it all comes flooding back when you send your first child there. Its gonna be fine you tell yourself, he’ll survive just like you did right? And then comes the first hard parenting decision you have to make. The first quarter didn’t go the best. The sharp left turn into the google classroom world wasn’t an easy one. The idea of doing everything on a computer, turning stuff in, sitting in a classroom also on a computer was a lot for my kid’s brain I think. Focusing doesn’t necessarily come easier when you are on a computer all day, then come home to also work on the computer. Despite all that I will say that the staff at our school, for the most part, is top notch!  They have been supportive, gotten tutoring for him for math once a week, and have just been all around supportive and approaches things with a listening ear. One of the worst parts, and most surprising, has been the change to letter grades and the fact that they are updated in real time. They have spent their entire elementary school lives with these arbitrary number grades which mean almost nothing. They have no concept of what letter grades mean, how a curve works or having them updated in real time based on what assignments are available to turn in. And the kids can access this through an app on their phone. Not the best idea for a generally anxious kid.

photos by Cherish Pennington Photography

So after much thought, a phone getting taken away and the distraction of it all, I decided to take it away. And guess what? He didn’t die? His world hasn’t fallen apart and he makes it home from school each day and I haven’t worried one little bit about it. We entered the cell phone world mostly because of me – well, all because of me. I was under the impression that he needed it in the big bad world of middle school here. He’d be home by himself sometimes, walking home from the bus or possibly staying late at school. How would I know? What if something happened at school and he needed me? What if he didn’t have his cell phone? So, we got the phone, I downloaded all the cool things like Life 360, which tracks them, and OurPact, which allows you to schedule time when access to games and such are available. He has to request all downloads and be approved by me. I only allow a certain number of “fun” apps on his phone. No Youtube, no music.ly or anything like that. I’m the least fun cell-phone mom in his little circle of friends I think. But that still wasn’t enough. He’s 12! Let’s face it, 12 year-olds aren’t ready for the responsibility of a phone. As evidenced by the fact that almost everyone I know complains about the fact their kid can’t leave their phone and is always on it. So why have we given in? Why are constantly battling something that actually belongs to us? Having a cell-phone is a privilege and not a right. And frankly, as adults, we have a hard time curbing our cell phone usage. Having kids old enough to pay attention has really made that more apparent to me and has directly affected how I behave with my phone.

photo by Cherish Pennington Photography

So, the great cell-phone experience – while not a flop – was, and is a learning experience. Every parent needs to make their own decisions when it comes to technology and their kids, especially when it comes to social media. But why are we giving our children’s adult responsibilities and then annoyed (whether we realize it or not) or shocked when they can’t handle it. If its hard for us to put down the technology how can we expect to not be EVEN MORE difficult for our children to as well? I have to also remember by job isn’t to make him a kid of the world, to make sure he fits in or that he’s the cool kid. My job isn’t even to raise a straight A student! My job is to raise a good human FIRST! Frankly that is my only job. I want my kids to love God, love their families, love their country and their community. That’s it. Not be good at technology, not excel in math, or be able to play every sport with professional ability. Its just not. And that is something I think we have to work on reminding ourselves.

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Visit Christmas Village at the Gaylord National Harbor!

One of the very first things we did to celebrate our first Christmas in Washington, DC was visit “Christmas on the Potomac”. I can’t even remember how we heard about it, but the indoor display with lights and music sounded like something really amazing. Plus, it snowed inside! Can’t beat that now, can you?  The Gaylord is beautiful even when it’s not decorated for Christmas, but truly it is a beautiful thing during the holidays. Things have changed a little bit since that first time we visited. Christmas Villiage is now in a separate area with a carousel and an indoor ice rink. It keeps growing every year! You can still do your favorite things – Gingerbread House/Cooking making and visit Santa. Visit the ICE exhibit (which is Peanuts themed this year, which just makes me so darn happy), then come inside and grab yourself some hot chocolate and warm up! Christmas at the Gaylord is a great way to spend the holiday season and a really fun place to take any family that is visiting from out of town. Kids of all ages will enjoy it! It even got two thumbs up from the 12-year-old, so you know that’s saying something.

Things to do at the Gaylord National

Cirque Dreams Unwrapped 

If you’ve ever seen a Cirque show you know that they are always amazing! This adorable show is Christmas themed and takes place in the atrium in the middle of the hotel. With brightly colored sets and costumes combined with the amazing acrobatics that Cirque is known for, Dreams Unwrapped is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season. You can get seated tickets to one of the two shows, but you are also able to stand and watch it from different locations inside as it their large open atrium area.

Gaylord Hotel’s Christmas Villiage

Now we get to the heart of Gaylord’s Christmas experience. Shopping, Build-a-Bear, Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread House making, carousel, train and ice skating!

It is quite magical inside and they have done a good job with organizing the layout so there is area to move around. Be prepared that the carousel and train are meant for younger children – my seven-year-old was a bit big for those two rides.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed the hot chocolate (two thumbs up from all three), as well as decorating the gingerbread cookies. It was a fun experience and definitely got the Christmas magic going in our house.

And of course, THE main attraction of Gaylord Christmas is ICE! We have been to ICE twice now and its always a super cool experience for the kids. Now I’m not going to give any spoilers, except to say you HAVE to go. This year is Peanuts theme which makes it THE most perfect thing ever. ICE is such a unique and one of a kind experience. Something you should do at least once while living here (for my military readers). Don’t forget to snag that military discount as well!!

Stay for the day at the National Harbor and visit the Christmas tree, check out the Peeps store, and eat at one of the many restaurants they have there. Rosa Mexicano out in the Harbor and National Pastime, inside the Gaylord, are our two favorites!

Cap it all off with a ride on the National Harbor Giant Wheel! I was actually proud of myself for going on and not freaking out! Heights like that are not my favorite thing in all the world, but the kids loved it!

Do you have a favorite thing to do at National Harbor or place to eat? I’d love to hear!

Thanks for having us Gaylord National!!!! We had such a great time!

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Christmas in Washington, DC – 5 Must-See Sites!

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, second to July 4th! And while we don’t always get a snowy Christmas, there’s a bit of magic in the air. And whether you want to explore the city during the holidays with kids or without, taking in all the sites in can be fun for everyone!

  1. The National Christmas Tree & the White House Christmas Trees

Last year was my first year (out of the six Christmas’ here) that I experienced this really cool display. My friend text me and said, “we’re going into the city for some Christmas bucket list check-off!” So we packed up the kids for a day of fun. Our first stop was this display. There was a tree for every state which was really cool. The kids enjoyed finding tress of the states of family, or where we used to live. I imagine the display was even more beautiful at night, but with the backdrop of the White House you can’t go wrong.

2. A Victorian Christmas at Mount Vernon

This one is probably one of my favorite things to do – it makes a perfect date night, a special tree for visiting family or a fun family night. On this night you get to experience Mount Vernon in a way you only can during the Christmas season. I first heard about this awesome event from my mom who read about it in Victoria Magazine. During this special event there are actors and you are able to see the top floor, which is not opened during the year. The Christmas Camel is present, with carolers and you can grab yourself some wassel.

3. CityCenterDC

CityCenterDC is located near the Washington, DC Convention Center with amazing shops and restaurants. The amazing blogger ladies here in DC first showed me this place. Its the most awesome place to take pictures. Every season the display changes, but the display at Christmas is the best.

4. US Botanical Gardens

We have been to the Botanical Gardens during the summer because its usually on someone’s list who is visiting you. Its a really neat place to visit even if it doesn’t h ave all the amazing decorations for Christmas. Each year there is a new theme. Last year’s was “Roadside Attractions” which was really amazing. Each item uses live or dried plant materials, so its kind of ala Rose Parade. This year’s theme is “All Aboard!” exploring train stations of America.



5. National Harbor

The National Harbor has all sorts of cool things to do during the holiday season, with the Gaylord Hotel having all the coolest things to do! You can even see it snow indoors!! One of the big events is the ICE event, with giant ice sculptures. This year’s theme is Charlie Brown and I can’t wait to go! Visit Mrs. Claus, take pictures with Santa, decorate gingerbread men and see the “Unwrapped” Cirque show! There’s so much to do throughout the whole harbor so make sure to check the daily calendar out.



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Rhe’s Bookshelf: Vanessa Rasanen’s Soldier On {Blog Tour}

I am so excited to be participating in Vanessa’s blog tour! I’ve been following the whole process of this book, anxiously awaiting its release. I happen to be lucky enough to know Vanessa before she released this book! As fellow Guard spouses, bloggers and lovers of beer we have been connected for several years. The Guard world is a special one, and I don’t often seen books written about it, especially in the romance novel genre. As a book blogger that specializes in military romance I look for them, trust me. They just aren’t out there. And maybe one of these days I’ll make good on my process of actually trying to write my own book I’m glad that amazing writers like Vanessa are out there doing it right now!

Clearly I’m biased….but I promise I won’t let that interfere with my book reviewing! Being so lucky as to know many of the authors I review I’ve gotten good at still having truth to my book reviews. But, this is more than just a review guys! This is a book launch, blog tour AND giveaway! Head over to the other blogs that are reviewing to read more AND enter to win some pretty cools stuff!

October 30 – Review – Mary J Moerbe
October 31 – Review – Grit & Grace
November 1 – Review – Cammo Style Love
November 2 – Review – Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife
and First Line Friday – Faithfully Bookish
November 3 – Interview – The Nap Time Author
November 5 – Guest Post – Christian Shelf Esteem
November 6 – Review – Pure Joy Creative
November 7 – Review – Lights in a Dark World

He’s fighting for his country. She’s praying for his safety. When tragedy strikes, can their marriage and faith survive?

Charlie and Meg Winters are no strangers to the military life and the challenges it brings. But when an IED rips through his convoy killing his friends, the loss proves almost too much to bear.

Meg finds her trust in Christ wavering, and secrets she’s been keeping for years drive a wedge between her and her husband.

What if everything Meg believes is a lie?

What if Charlie finds out what she’s done?

Can Meg and Charlie save their marriage or will the horrors of war and the ghosts of their past tear them apart and forever shipwreck her faith?

Soldier On is a gripping contemporary women’s fiction novel. If you like inspirational stories of faith tested under pressure, then you’ll love Vanessa Rasanen’s true-to-life novel.


This book spoke to me on many levels, but I didn’t realize how much it affect me. The spiritual aspects of this book are intense, therefore I would recommend this book to those looking for a faith based novel. I think that there are few books that take on a realistic and deep view of spiritual struggles and the power of faith. Vanessa takes that on full force and masters it wonderfully. Sneaking into the dark and very real places that the thoughts of military wives goes. Being a military wife is definitely not rosy. It is hard and full of tears and ugly struggles. But it is also beautiful, and this shines through on the pages of Solider On.

The relationship between Meg and Charlie is one of beautiful struggle. What they have faced is something that many people haven’t. Its one that few people in our communities, schools and even churches can relate to or understand.

Vanessa’s writing is expressive and intricate, with a level of understanding of her denomination of faith that is clear. It focuses heavily on the Lutheran denomination but that wouldn’t preclude those of other denominations from enjoying that part of it. With complex portrayal of character, yet easy to read, I would recommend this book to my faith based military romance loving readers! Even those with no military connection would enjoy this. In fact I would say it gives a stunningly accurate portrayal of military life that civilians could greatly benefit from.

5 out of 5 stars

{for details on my rating system check out the Rhe’s Bookshelf tabl}

Thanks for stopping by the book tour! Enter the Soldier On Book Release Giveaway

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To purchase the book on your preferred platform click the links below {affiliate links are present! Thanks for support this author and this book blogger!}

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