2013 Holiday Care Package Shipping Dates

So whether you’re shipping a real Christmas tree to your loved one, a cake in a jar or a full stocking of goodies you’ll need to know the following information to make sure that it all gets there as close to when Santa sends everyone else their gifts.

APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10
Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AE ZIP 093

Priority Mail Express Military Service: N/A

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-3

Priority Mail: Dec-3

APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AA ZIP 340

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

How to ship care packages

It can be nerve racking to ship anything overseas especially if there are precious items of comfort and love inside that can be pretty pricey to stock then ship.

Did you know? The Postal Service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate box at $14.85. The price includes a $2 per box discount for military mail being sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide.

Did you know?  The Postal Service created a FREE “Military Care Kit” based on the items most frequently requested by military families.

The kit contains:

  • Two Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Priority Mail tape.
  • Priority Mail address labels.
  • Appropriate customs forms.To order the kit, call 800-610-8734. Guidelines for packing, addressing, and shipping items to U.S. troops can be found at usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm. To order flat-rate boxes featuring the “America Supports You” logo, go to store.usps.com.

    To address the package, follow the instructions below:

    1. Write out the service members full name in the address

    2. Include the unit and APO/FPO/DPO address with the 9-digit ZIP Code (if one is assigned). For example:

    CPT JOHN DOE
    UNIT 2050 BOX 4190
    APO AP 96278-2050

    SGT ROBERT SMITH
    PSC 802 BOX 74
    APO AE 09499-0074

    SEAMAN JOSEPH SMITH
    USCGC HAMILTON
    FPO AP 96667-3931

    MSG JANE DOE
    CMR 1250
    APO AA 09045-1000

    3. Make sure to include a return address.

Why yes, I do look stunning at night!

We may be the worlds most unromantic couple at night.  Maybe it is the injuries, maybe it is that we are “old”, or maybe it’s the way everyone is and we all just pretend to sleep in a disturbing amount of mascara where wearing silk pajamas and sleeping on satin sheet.

Last night I noticed that while wearing my night guard, my speech has a stunning resemblance to that of the ssssssnake in the movie “The Jungle Book”.  His night guard can’t quite withstand the clenching of his jaw and usually ends up flying out in the night, often to be lodged in my hair or near his feet.

Now that you have that awesome mental picture, please add three body pillows (complete with mis-matched clearance-rack pillow cases) and 4 regular size pillows.  Crowded yet?  Add the special leg wedge for Mitch that holds his pelvis stable while he sleeps.

We top off this lovely image with a CPAP (an assistive breathing device for those with obstructive or primary sleep apnea).

While my bed will never make the cover of any home-decor magazines, it is what allows Mitch to be comfortable at home, and allows me to sleep in the same bed as my husband post injury.  While certainly not the traditional idea of a romantic or relaxing bedroom, it is one of the happiest sights I see: that despite horrific injuries, I still have my husband.

I am blessed.

What are you afraid of?

I admit it: I am scared of the dark. So if I am the only adult at home, I sit around late at night shopping for ridiculously overpriced bed linens (that I could never afford) while talking to the dog about how busy I am and I wish I didn’t “have” to be up so late. Yes, it’s an issue, and while I am glad you all grew out of that when you turned 4, I did not. So here I sit in the light, typing this, while lamenting with the dog about our late nights.

My Partner in crime, TxGruntwife (A.K.A. the dollar store flower thief) and I were covering some of the many reasons I am perfectly safe alone in the dark. I may live in an old farm house, outside of screaming distance from any of my neighbors, in a region where we suffer regular power outages, and have no cell service, and have a protection order against my stalker… but still, there are many reasons I cannot fit the horror movie victim profile:

1.) I am not a blonde with giant plastic knockers. Sorry if I just ruined anyone’s fantasy, but the unfortunate reality is I am probably less hot than you imagined. Everyone knows in the horror movie it is always a pretty girl who gets killed by the fisherman in the rain-slicker (which could be half the population of New England), or the deranged logger (half the population of the Pacific Northwest). So my chances of surviving the night increased slightly thanks to my bra size and dirt-colored hair.

2.) While we are on the topic of appearance, my wardrobe may just save my life! Anyone ever see the victim get offed while wearing her husband’s faded PT gear and fuzzy slippers? I think not. So while, they may not be flattering, the OD green may just save my life. (Bonus: stretchy waistband for the late-night snacking done while waiting to be killed by logger-fishermen.)

By the way, the dog has now given up on me and begun snoring as I write this. Apparently his concern about boogie men is slightly less than his concern for napping.

3.) I am also lacking the necessary tools to fend off a serial killer. Such things as large, dull kitchen knives are not existent in my home. Also conspicuously missing from the set are: little-league baseball bats, hockey sticks, brass candle sticks and other random, ineffective self-defense items. Though I admit the legos strung across the floor of my house would be a good deterrent to anyone not wearing heavy-soled boots… The movie is never as exciting when the victim takes down the creep with a 12 gauge as he is coming through the front door. (Actually that would be rather anti-climactic, don’t you think?)

4.) The final missing element is the cast of characters. Every axe-murderer film has some essentials: the jock, the hunky love interest, the security guard/cop/former SEAL who dies saving everyone else, the nerd that should have been picked off first, but somehow survives (to hook up with Miss blond Plastic-chest) and the best friend who shows up at the end to wrap a blanket around the wet, but triumphant victim. (My bestie lives entirely too far away to drive that far just to wrap a blanket around my wet shoulders. ..also, it is not wet where I live, so I do not see this need. So never mind that…)

All in all, I think I am safe from the blue collar ax-murderer crowd. However, I think I might get eaten by wolves…

What Happens When The Super Highway of Life Turns Into a Dirt Road?

We have all been there.  Cruising down the highway of life at 90 miles per hour 70 MPH (because we always obey the speed limit, right?) everything is going as it should, minor bumps are soon passed and we are enjoying the scenery.  All of the sudden there’s a detour, not an exit that takes you to paradise, but rather an exit that isn’t on the map, and has your GPS yelling at you in a strange British accent, telling you that “you are now traveling in the wrong direction!  Recalculating”

trying to navigate this?

When my husband was injured we took that exit.  Gone was the fresh new pavement and reflective green road signs telling me which way to go.  We were now cruising down a dirt path in a covered wagon (I think it may have only had three wheels!) trying to read Boy Scout trail markings from the 1800’s, with no one else in sight…

So what do you do when the super highway turns into the Oregon Trail?

1)      Cut yourself some slack.  Or a lot of slack.  However much slack you need to get through right now.  Things are not ok, and might not be for the foreseeable future.  Let go of everything that is not essential to the wellbeing of your family.  No one is going to die if you wear yoga pants and skip the makeup today.  Shockingly, your family will survive if you have to eat frozen dinners or take out this week (or month!).  As long as everyone is clean and fed, you can survive.

2)        Write it down!  That means everything.  You aren’t going to remember every single thing, and you will only beat yourself up for forgetting (see #1 above).  Buy a notebook, steal a stack of sticky-notes from work, swipe a roll of TP from your neighbors, but find something to write down everything you need to do or might need to reference later.  Getting yogurt and diapers may seem easy to remember right now, but when you are in the market and have just answered your seventh call in ten minutes, it might be a little more challenging to remember!  (Also, try remembering those seven phone calls after you make it home with your yogurt and diapers.)  Write. It. Down.

3)      Call in those favors!  The neighbors that you always let use your parking space?  Let them know that for now, you need it.  The coworker who asks if you want a coffee while she is out?  Take her up on it!  The friend who asks if you need anything while she is at the warehouse store?  Yes!  Right now it would be great if she could bring you a 55 gallon drum of peanut butter!  When people offer, let them help!  Now is not the time to be pressing your super-woman cape and stuffing yourself into leotards you haven’t warn since 1998, let other people do some grunt work for you right now!

4)      Don’t make things harder on yourself in the long run.  Watch you funds.  When we are in crisis mode we tend to forget about the long-term impact of our situation.  Maybe this means only spending cash, and locking up the debit/credit cards to avoid those “feel good” purchases.  Maybe this means breaking out your emergency fund to avoid the stress of worrying about how you will pay for _____ right now.  Either way, you need to plan for how you are going to deal with the financial impact of your current detour.

5)      Breath.  Nothing lasts forever.  Whether or not this chapter in your life has a happy ending, the pain you are facing right now will not always be the all-consuming nightmare you are currently in.  Things will never be the same, and you will always carry the scars of this trip down the rutted trail, but that doesn’t mean that things are not going to get better.  Maybe better than before—but you will have to keep going to find out.

6)      Don’t be afraid to get professional help!  You can’t handle everything.  That’s ok.  Counseling, support groups (online or in person), childcare, lawn maintenance—if you need help get it!  If you are active duty or retired, call up Military Onesource and ask for help, they can connect you with the right people.  Civilian?  Call your local United Way, Church, Synagogue, or community action program and let them know you need help, even if they can’t help, they usually know people who can.

We all experience crisis in our live; big ones, small ones, short ones, long ones.  Some we leave behind, some we work through, and some we just have to live with.  Remember, that no matter the crisis, you can move forward.  Whether you spend a day, a month or a decade on the Oregon Trail you will eventually get back on the highway.  …Just don’t die of dysentery while you are looking for the on-ramp.  (And if you don’t understand that, pretend that you do, because I don’t want to feel old.  Mmmmk?)

Afghanistan 2011…

Well our friends and some very close people which we consider family recently found out their deployment schedule has been altered to have them headed to Afghanistan in a few short months. Personally I’m apprehensive and nervous as any loved one would be whenever finding out this kind of news.
After Anthony and I have both talked about the subject we’ve come to the conclusion that it is what it is, he wishes he could go with his brothers (typical Marine) and we will always be around to help with whatever the wives or Marines need to get through this battle ahead. I told Anthony it is going to be extremely hard for me to not be 100% in the Family Readiness program this time around so I will help where I can via MarineParents.com through forums and chatrooms, Facebook pages, and my personal emails. I am sure that there will be Town Hall Meetings, Meeting Minutes posted online, Seminars, and other information passed on through the Battalion Facebook page but I know not everyone has a Facebook page and sometimes even internet access.
I do know that the greatest support that my families always had was each other though. Last few deployments together we have created an outstanding web of information that because of dedicated wives and parents have grown to include families, friends and supporters nowhere near Camp Pendleton. I do hope this connection continues since everyone will need this level of support now more than ever. We want to help put together care packages, buy these guys the best socks from Covert Threads and any other gear or comforts from home they’ll need.
We’ll be at the send off and homecoming events for the guys and support for the parents and wives as well. If it’s only for picture takers and huggers we’ll be there. We will be here to keep our families spirits as high as possible to try and ease any tension and anxiousness. Let us know if we can help with any advice such as postal regulations, deadlines for special dates, addresses, care pkg ideas, the latest innovative gear, battalion events, ect.
I encourage everyone to cherish this time together and make as many happy moments as possible before these guys leave our great country to do the hardest jobs known to man in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Take care of yourself and take care of each other…

Care Packages during the Holidays

So the time has come to focus on the holidays! Christmas is typically the main event so I wanted to keep it limited to that for now. For my ladies and gentlemen who have loved ones overseas on watch this one is mainly for you. Besides keeping their presents under the tree for months or doing a Christmas in Julys.  What else can you do?

Last two deployments I became known as the ‘Care Package Queen’ because of Gaby.  I sent at least one almost every week or every other week.  It kept me busy, entertained and always thinking of something new to send him. I sent everything from the usual trail mix to specialized items like Covert Thread Socks (www.covertthreads.com) which specializes in every climate kind of socks and undergarments for military and law enforcement imaginable. The thing to do now a days is to completely customize the box inside.  Thanks to websites like Pinterest there is always some new DIY project that would show him how unique and awesomely creative you are!  If you have kiddos don’t forget to get them in on the action! 🙂

The USPS Holiday delivery dates are about to be here so I hope everyone is prepared!

2010 USPS Holiday Timelines
Addressed To                          Express Mail®/ First-Class Mail®/Priority Mail/Parcel Post®
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092  Dec 18/////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093           N/A//////////////////Dec 4///////////////////Dec 4////////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098  Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AA ZIP 340           Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966  Dec 18///////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12

This time of year I love MarineParents.com since there is a Care Package Idea for every occasion. Need a way to warm them up, Patriotic theme, Christmas, Birthday, Halloween, Poker Party ideas or anything like that?! Go there! I will put some on here for ideas and I typically brainstorm off of their ideas posted. Some of these items is a given and I sent them more than once and on a pretty regular basis as he needed them. I used an Excel Spreadsheet so I knew what I sent the last time and didn’t send the same thing over and over or if he didn’t need it or like it then I would know not to send it again.

Warm Them Up:
Hot Tamales, flamin’ hot Cheetos, hot sauce, hot nuts, cajun spices, Fritos and Jalapeno Dip, Atomic Fire Balls, Cinnamon Gum, Red Hots, Hot-Flavored Planters Peanuts, Mini bottles of hot sauce, Cinnamon TicTacs, Icy/Hot Sore Muscle Rub, Crystal Lite Iced Tea, Andy Capp Red Hot Fries, Jalapeno Jelly Belly Beans, a Hot Rod magazine and Tums

Cold Season:
some cough drops, kleenex, tea, instant noodle soup, hot chocolate,

Christmas Ideas:
those little Christmas trees that they sell in all of the mail order catalogs (Lillian Vernon, Oriental Trading Company, etc.) that come with their own ornaments, mini Christmas stockings, candy canes, little candy bags of coal (bubble gum ones), the green and red M&Ms for the holidays, an Advent Calendar. There are also little pine trees (about 4″ tall) that have a mineral solution on them. You add water to the little base, and these color mineral salts “grow” on the tree and look like colored snow and decorations. Of course this all depends on where your Marine/Sailor is stationed at because if he is out patrolling in Afghanistan he can’t carry a Christmas tree around with him but if he is on a MEU out in WESTPAC or somewhere then it might be easier for the guys to put up and maintain your holiday decorations.

And my favorite trick of the trade is Cake in a Jar!

CAKE IN A JAR
It’s basically a mini cake inside of a mason jar. It arrives moist and fresh and tasty!
Here’s how to make them: Get wide-mouth canning jars. You can find them at Walmart, other stores, or online. Boil the jars to sterilize.

1 package of cake mix or any cake recipe

1. Make the cake batter according to the instructions or recipe
2. Grease the jar by liberally spraying the inside with cooking spray
3. Fill jar no more than 1/2 way with batter
4. Place jars on cookie sheet on rack in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean @ 400 degrees
5. While baking, boil jar lids in a pan of water
6. When cake is done, take on jar out at a time and cover with hot lid. Screw on jar ring tightening it slightly
7. The lid will seal as it cools. Listen to hear the “ping” as they seal.
8. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the jar slightly. That’s ok; it just means that it will slide out of the jar easily.
9. DO NOT FROST cake in the jar! Send frosting along.
10. Make sure you wrap the jars well (bubble wrap is preferable, but wadded newspaper or clothing and other items will pad it too)

Don’t forget to include a couple of plastic knives for the frosting and some plastic forks.

Even if you don’t have a Marine or Sailor overseas you can still contribute to their holidays at http://www.carepackageproject.com/sponsor.asp for only $22 or the USO at https://www.uso.org/DonateHolBrandCPDD2010.aspx?src=WH10CPDD10 for only $25. There are so many outstanding organizations who help our Marines and Sailors out there and even ones who are here injured like the Wounded Warrior Project and Semper Fi Funds.

I LOVE this time of year since everything cool is during this month! No seriously, my birthday, my kids’ birthdays, my husbands’ birthday, our anniversary and even my dog’s birthday is ALL in this month (Amber’s is 11/29 but still a Sagittarius lol)! Ladies if your husband is home have fun ordering him around for once and having him hang lights on the roof, get tangled up in the inflatable characters and try figuring out where to plug in all of the extenstion cords.  Deck the halls, sing Christmas carols, volunteer for the elderly or needy and just enjoy the family time together.  Hold your family a little tighter this year because as I’ve said before there are many out there who won’t ever get a chance to do so again. Hope I didn’t miss anything on the list above!

Merry Christmas everyone!