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

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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.

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!

How to survive the Holidays…

 With all of the upcoming hustle and bustle of the holidays I wanted to lend my support. There are many stressors during the holiday season and sometimes they can be even more stressful for those of us in a Marine Corps family. The holidays have been known to create stressful situations in all marriages and instead of enjoying each others company you end up feeling overwhelmed and in quite a few disagreements. So here are my tips for the upcoming craziness…I mean for the upcoming heartwarming, Christmas carolling-out-of-a-movie-kinda-holiday-season with your family.
For those of us with Marines away this season can be good and bad for us.  It is easier to get away with shopping like a maniac with the men gone.  It can be tough though when it comes time for picture taking, Christmas card sending and Christmas morning.  But with a little planning, tough skin, and perseverance we manage to shop our way through this month and well into the next.  Make sure to get a really nice family picture done before he leaves on the deployment to use for your Christmas cards, plan out his care package and have the kids do some homemade drawings and then take pictures for him.  I also kept his gifts in the corner where the tree went and did Christmas whenever he came back even though it was in April! Staying close to family and friends and he will love the effort you are putting into keeping the home fires burning while he is away.
It is officially SHOPPING SEASON ladies!!!!! Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon.com and all these other exciting events happening are super exciting and our version of the Superbowl! Some of us brave the elements and the terrible parking spots to endure pushing, ugly stares and a little cart rage to get the best deals of the year! It is easy to get distracted in these moments for the good and the bad.
It is important we do not take ourselves so seriously and let things happen naturally. It is a fact men love football and any other manner of sports during this season. We shouldn’t expect them to really jump up and do show tunes when we mention hanging the Christmas lights and decorating like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and putting up huge plastic figurines outside. If they do not wake up singing Jingle Bells every morning like we do it is okay and shouldn’t be held against them in any way. At this time of the year we can be a little crazy so before we blow a gasket; in order to keep our sanity intact remember to breathe before nagging or nit picking. We wouldn’t want to be criticized for the way we cook, chop celery, make pancakes and put our makeup on. (OOh I hope no one ever gets those kinds of critics…help the men if they cross that line)
I definitely think that during this sometimes stressful time of year that if we are more open to positive communication then it can increase our chances of a more enjoyable holiday season. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Spending the holidays with your family, his or just stay at home?
So for the last few years this has been a bit of a hot topic in my household and I know we aren’t the only ones. Most Marine Corps families live on a base far from their home state so therefore going back “home” can be a huge stressor due to the tug of war factor. His family may not have any traditions and your family may have many. Please know that each of your families are important and it is just a time management issue that needs to be balanced in order to make each of you happy. You can rotate holidays and do Thanksgiving and his and Christmas at yours, maybe do half a day at one family and the other half at the others family or even try bringing each of the families together to do it all at the same time so no one is overlooked. It is good to get both of your options out in the open at first and any other expectations you have if you are indeed going to go through with this scenario. This way no one can point fingers and think something differently from the other. Both spouses need to agree on any other family get togethers, parties, nights out, lunches and dinners so that it is fair for everyone to see their side of the family as much as they’d honestly like to while you all are in town. Whenever the Marines get back from deployments sometimes they do not want huge parties or it can be a platform for an argument so just let the other spouse know so everyone is aware of each others comfort zones and feelings. Personally, we’re staying here. It is just a lot of traveling and craziness, we end up spending minimal amounts of time with particular family members and just be pulled in multiple directions and then go home tired, stressed out and argumentative. This year we want simply, fun, relaxed and just us. We’ll start our traditions here cut down our own Christmas tree, decorate it, put up our lights on our house, see the Del Mar lights and some holiday plays and just relax.
So basically:
1) Communicate effectively not just the Charlie Brown syndrome of “whah, whah, whahhh”
2) Discuss finances NOW so you know who you’re buying for, how much, the overall total
3) STICK TO THAT BUDGET
4) If overwhelmed find a way to let the other know you need a break to get out of there fast!
5) You don’t always have to be with family; go to a local landmark, go hiking or on a picnic just the two of you
6) Don’t let your parents or in-laws treat you or your spouse like a child! Respect them but if it’s a problem let them know you are not the 10 year old you used to be and would appreciate the same respect you give them.
7) Don’t drink too much alcohol
8) Don’t over-schedule, over-stimulate, or overwhelm yourselves which will just create stress
9) Have fun together, love each other, be patient and understanding
10) Be socialable, flexible, loving, compassionate, and again PATIENT!Most of all enjoy yourselves and have a great time together with your family!!!

Another Deployment?!

My husband, Anthony had some big news even before his MEU deployment was over. Out of the thirteen hundred or so in the battalion from the MEU (ship) deployment my husband volunteered along with almost two hundred more to go to Afghanistan to assist another battalion. He didn’t even ask me before saying YES to his CO!
Through spending so much time on the MEU deployment learning from seasoned Marine Wives I’d learned to just be supportive even in times of stress & concern.  So I wasn’t necessarily mad just tried to be supportive yet I was worried.  What is a good Marine Corps wife to do though? I knew that would be an option sooner or later and possibly numerous times, he is a grunt and therefore trained from the beginning in war tactics and was anxious to use his skills in real life. He lived for this and wanted to do his part to help. I didn’t have a choice but to say, “go get ‘em” when he called and needed to hear my approval and support for him. He wanted to know I was behind him and would always be so I swallowed any anxiousness, fear and dread and did just that. My only comfort was that it wasn’t supposed to be another full 6 or 7 month deployment. It was only going to be for four months.
Before & throughout the MEU deployment I’d gotten to know his higher up’s and knew they had been there before.  I knew they were the best the battalion had to do this mission.
Because of the seriousness of the situation, we decided to go back to Texas for a few days on his leave period to tell the parents and family face to face. We gathered them all together for dinner at a restaurant (public place so no one could freak out, faint or scream) and let them all in on Anthony’s next deployment. No one screamed, fainted or freaked out, it was just a silence and palpable sense of worry in the room.
They all had questions and concerns about everything and wanted to know more information which we didn’t really have. Anthony simply promised that I would keep everyone informed as much as possible just like I always had while helping the Family Readiness Officer for his unit. When information came in and was relevant, I passed it along to them.
This was just the beginning of the stress we would all undertake during the supposedly short Afghanistan deployment…

Crystal’s MEU Homecoming…

One of the best things about deployments besides the gifts your Marine gets you is their arrival!! Depending on the type of deployment, the location of their deployment and what base you are stationed at will determine the kind of Homecoming Reception your unit has.
I know that on MEU’s sometimes they let Marines get off the ship at a port close to your location and use their leave time early instead of waiting the extra week or more to make it back to land for the big homecoming. It was a great relief for some to see their heroes early and an exhilarating surprise for others to have their husbands standing outside their door! The Facebook posts from so many wives that weekend were so moving and I melted thinking of how some of these strong, hardened Marines thought of a secret plan to fly home before everyone else and catch their wives off guard with no makeup on, the house a mess, a full load of dishes in the sink and probably a pile of laundry! LOL! Hilarious but yet thoughtful and romantic at the same time!
Some families stay at home and let the Marines drive their own vehicle from their drop off location and choose to not wait for hours on base for their arrival. For our first deployment I wasn’t even in the state myself.  I was unaware of how incredibly amazing the homecomings can be. Not all homecomings have the rolled out carpets and velvet ropes. Not all homecomings the Marines march in together in formation. Not everyone’s experience is the same but at times it is a very surreal, somber, emotional, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and thrilling event which can be an exhausting for the reasons stated above.
One of my particular homecoming though, I was pumped up.  I helped the FRO and families cope & survive during this deployment and I felt like my heart was in the production of helping set up, prepare and assist family members during the waiting game before the busses arrived with the men. Now on the family readiness side we thought we were pretty prepared. We had plenty of coffee makers, ice, balloons, snacks, water, kids’ patriotic paintings, mini flags to line the streets and canopies for families to sit under. This is where the Semper Gumby comes in at. Almost every FRO will have Homecoming Arrival time frames for the family members to go by. As typical Homecomings can be the times we were told were incorrect and the time frames were early by about 5-6 hours. Thankfully, all of the parents and wives I talked to were very patient, understanding and cooperative during this time especially knowing their Marines are so close to being in their arms.
When the busses started to arrive and head towards the armory it was a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately but expectedly some of the attendees wandered off thinking they’d get to get their men early but all it did was to stall the transition and accountability process. We were about 300 yards away from the armory on a different street.  We were near a BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters or barracks rooms) and there were Marines walking around in their cami’s all day so we didn’t really even know when or how orderly our Marines would be released from the armory to begin walking our way.
Would they all be marching into the Homecoming location? Marines were pilling about in two and four at a time people were on pins and needles; but was it our Marines? We all stood on our tip toes trying to catch a glimpse of a familiar face since all of these Marines seem to look alike!!
I’ve heard so many stories of ladies who grabbed and hugged the wrong Marine! LOL! Hilarious but I didn’t want it to be me!
Slowly but surely indivdual hugs, tears, screams and jumping commenced; they were on their way! After a long tiring day we eventually all found our Marines and were able to hug for the first time in nearly 7 months! They had all had long and stressful days so all they wanted was to eat some Carl’s Jr. or McDonalds, get a shower and head home.
The best thing about this deployment was it was a MEU & ladies that is where our hard work is repaid in GIFTS!!!! These men have time to shop at ports and bring back the BEST loot! I swear if you need silk sheets, M.A.C. Makeup, jewelry or jewelry boxes, pearls, ect they will be able to find it for pennies on the dollar!
Another deployment down and many more to go in these years to come! My husband had information for me in the next few hours that would change my world forever. Little did he know that I was already aware of the situation but hadn’t come to grips with it just yet…