PCS Adventures with Toddlers

Let’s talk road trips with toddlers! In December, 2 weeks before Christmas, we PCS’d or moved from Fort Rucker, Alabama to Fort Drum, New York. It was about 1200 miles total and we broke it up into 6 days so we could have fun and not rush it. We’re no strangers to PCS’ing since this was our 3rd, but it’s the longest distance we’ve gone and the kids weren’t babies anymore. (I still can’t decide which is harder…toddlers or breastfed but sleepy babies.

By the Numbers:
2 Vehicles
2 Adults
2 2-year olds
1 RV/camper
1 Boston Terrier
8 Total states!

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Tip 1: Break up the trip: We stopped for overnights in Fort Campbell, KY – Lebanon, OH – and Buffalo, NY to break it up and see friends and family along the way. It gave the kids a chance to run, play, and get some wiggles out without being cooped up in the car all day everyday. This made the trip a lot more fun and way less stress…for the most part!  We also had our camper so we had a familiar place to stay every night that gave the kids a sense of normalcy.  By the time we arrived in New York, however, we were all tired and definitely ready to get settled!


Tip 2: Every day the kids received a new toy to play with to start off the drive with something fun and exciting. This helped for a whole 10-20 minutes every day 🙂

Tip 3: I always swore I wouldn’t be “that parent”, but we installed a Kindle in between their seats so that they could watch movies when they became truly restless. We are “extended rear-facing” so my van’s DVD player wouldn’t help us in this situation. I purchased a $20 arm that attached to the headrest and it worked like a charm!

In the end, we do what works to keep everyone sane and mostly happy. What tips and tricks do you have from a move or relocation with kids?

Update from the NORTH Country

TeamGrim is wrapping up one of the craziest months we’ve ever had (and that’s saying a lot)! It started with Ryan’s graduation from flight school (more to come on that later), continued with a 1400 mile PCS from Ft. Rucker, Alabama to Ft. Drum, NY, and then we threw in Christmas with some snow!

We’ve been in our house now for 3 weeks and are already LOVING our new duty station. We’ve wanted to get back to the North since we were married and we are FINALLY here. Moving is one of my favorite benefits in the military life, but this one was a bit more intense that we expected. Turns out that two crazy weeks of packing, driving, stops, colds, and making a new house a home takes its toll on toddlers.

Logan and Emma are old pros with road trips and PCS/change as Army brats. Overall, they did amazing! But it was still a lot to take in when you’re not even 2 1/2.

We’ve had a few little snow storms with a couple of inches each to play in, we saw Santa come in from Canada to Sackets Harbor, attended a Watertown Wolves hockey game, saw Disney on Ice in Syracuse, and celebrated Christmas & New Year’s already!

We’re still working on getting 100% settled and enjoying having Daddy home on PCS leave with us. We have a lot more adventure and challenges headed our way in 2019, but we are anxious for all that is to come!

Thanks for following along on our journey!

~Melissa G.

Embracing the Army (PCS) Journey

PCS + Christmas + Flight School Graduation = a whole lot of insanity fun!!

My motto since Ryan’s first 1 year deployment in 2011-2012 (and tattooed on the inside of my wrist) has been “Embrace the Journey”.  it’s my reminder to stop worrying about the future, stressing about the present and letting go of the past.  This has been a necessity as an Army wife and even more so as a flight school spouse.  I have to live in the present!

As Ryan’s journey through flight school progressed and he wasn’t afforded any breaks (the Army is cutting down the “bubbles” between instructional sections in order to push students through faster to get them to their units due to a severe shortage of pilots), it was my hope to not PCS at Christmas.   (For those unfamiliar with military acronyms, a PCS is a Permanent Change of Station or as permanent of a move as you can have in the military).  Well, it’s been said to never tell the Army your plans!  The Army and God definitely have a sense of humor!

Never tell the Army your plans!

I’m probably a weird one, but PCS-ing is one of my favorite aspects of being married to a soldier.  I grew up as an Army BRAT and my adventurous side gets restless and needs a new home and city to explore every few years!  We’ve been trying to get back up North and to the cold/snow since Ryan entered the Army and Ft. Drum, New York is the closest he can get us to my home in Maine.  So, even though I had no desire to uproot our lives a few weeks prior to Christmas, we’re embracing all of the wonderful things this move has to offer!

  1. We get SNOW! and COLD! for Christmas 🙂
  2. TeamGrim gets to travel through 8 states (almost) on the Army’s dime.
  3. Christmas adventures in different states. 
  4. The ability to see family and friends along the way.
  5. Getting to decorate for Christmas…TWICE!!
  6. Fun stories to tell and memories to look back upon.

I’m taking this whole situation as a reminder to myself to look for the good in every aspect of life.  Duty station assignment that you don’t like?  Explore it anyway and find reasons to like it.  Deployment/extended separation?  How can I grow in my relationship with God and how can this bring me and my spouse/kids closer?  

We can either focus on the negatives all of the time or we can find reasons to be excited and to embrace the memories that we’re making.  There is a LOT of stress in this life and it’s not for the faint of heart.  I have my days that I’m not the biggest fan of the military and i’m definitely ready for retirement, but i’m so thankful for all of the opportunities that we’ve been granted that most never get.

And now, it’s almost time to #Drive2Glory!

~Melissa

My Calling

In April, I worked my last day of my career in national security/government contracting to fulfill my dream of focusing on my husband and my kids.  Long before we were married, Ryan and I discussed our joint desire to be able to reach a point of financial security to allow me to stay home with our future children.  Being a military family comes with many challenges and I wanted to be as present as possible in our children’s lives.  While I commend dual military families and those with multiple careers (seriously, that’s tough work to balance it all!), I always knew it wasn’t for me.

Often, reality can feel different from our dreams.  Since that time i’ve struggled to find my identity beyond being a wife and a mother.  We often find our self-worth within our career or chosen profession, and all of my dreams have or are coming true.  But was this enough?  Society often pushes us to “want more” for ourselves and that we should strive to have it all: the husband, the kids, the top of a corporation…and the white picket fence.  Was it okay to “just” be a wife and a mom?  Could I REALLY be the driving force behind my family?

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?  What if that is my calling and my “mission field”?  I know that God is using me to encourage and lift up/support my husband as he serves our Country.  I know that God is using me to be engaged in our children’s lives and to set the example.  And I know that He is going to use me to pour back into the lives of other military spouses and families.  How will my mindset change and what more can I do if I transform my thoughts into THIS being my calling?  God has called my heart since I was a young girl and wanted to marry a soldier and to stay in the only life I ever knew.

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?

I’ve recently joined a book discussion group with a friend that started it in her home and we are diving into the book “Wife of a Soldier, a Journey of Faith” and today I had the great pleasure of meeting the author.  It’s been speaking to my heart and I highly recommend reading it, no matter your situation as a military spouse.  Diana Jeurgens describes how God has called each of us to this role for a reason.  It’s no mistake that I grew up wanting this life, that I married Ryan, that these kids were given to us to raise.

This military life can be exciting and stressful, lonely and friendly…it’s all in how we view it.  I know that i’ll still be human and have my moments that I hate the separations, deployments, and LATE duty nights…but oh, what a wonderful life this can be as well!

I’m not sure what the distant future holds for our family, but i’m so excited to serve God where He’s placed me for this season.  My husband has a very difficult role to play and I know that God has called me to be his supporter and to take care of our life on the home front.   I’m anxious to arrive at our next duty station in New York and I already feel led to a few areas of opportunity!

Melissa G.

PCS Organization

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I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with organization and it’s never come easy for me.  However, there are two times where my life is dress right dress: tax season and PCS time!

Moving at any point, much less with the military, can be chaotic and stressful; every little thing you can do to combat that is important!

I’ve kept a PCS binder on hand since our first move from Ft. Bragg to HAAF which has made it easier for other PCS’s.  All I have to do is purge the unnecessary info (which gets scanned and stored on the server, because i’m slightly a nerd) and update information that’s changed.  I also pull out the important docs that stay filed in locked fireproof boxes.  Now that we’ve added two kids and a dog since that first move, the included items have shifted a bit.

Below i’ve included a list of items that we’ve found to be beneficial for our family.  Bear in mind, my husband keeps his own storage clipboard with his necessary documents for in-processing so I haven’t listed those here.

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  1. Important documents: Socials, Passports, etc.  I also keep a clear pocket for receipts/loose documents.
  2. Local Info: Details about the installation and local area that we’ve found.
  3. Birth/Marriage Certificates
  4. Insurance Information
  5. Government PCS Rate/Compensation Info.
  6. Drum Housing Info & Paperwork.
  7. Outgoing Housing CHecklists, etc.
  8. Kids’ Vaccinations & Records (You could also carry hard copies of any necessary prescriptions until you get established).
  9. Pet Shot Records
  10. Notes (Loose leaf paper)

img_9172For this move i’ve also included a Do It Yourself or “DITY” checklist.  (The Army calls this a PPM now or Personally Procured Move).  There’s nothing worse than getting to a new house and realizing you have nothing to cook with!  Hopefully this will help to keep ourselves straight.

Finally, I take pictures of our furniture and electronics with serial numbers and keep the thumb drive in the binder with us for future claims.

On packing day, the kids and I mostly hang out in the “Don’t Touch Room” where we keep everything that we will be hand carrying with us.  This way we don’t have to worry about anything accidentally getting packed by the movers.

I hope this helps for your future PCS moves!  Do you have any additions that I have forgotten?

~Melissa G.

When you are the village.

A good friend of mine posted on Facebook last week and reminded me that sometimes things aren’t your fault.  Sometimes, people are so wrapped up in their own problems/joys/lives that they simply don’t think about you.  And that’s okay, but it’s still hard to keep it from hurting sometimes.  I tend to internalize everything.  If people don’t call, text or visit…I feel like they must not care, and that’s not always the case.

Things have been really rough since Ryan went back to work.  He burned through all of the vacation that he’d been saving since we’d started trying to conceive just so he could spend 6 weeks with us after the babies were born.  And Thank GOD he did!  Since then he’s worked until a minimum of 6:30 pm every night…often later and missed out on so much with me and the kids.  (No, there’s no particular reason…just new requirements for his platoon).  I’m alone, as a new mom, with twins, for 14 hours a day (minimum).  He leaves by 5-530 every morning and isn’t back until at least 7pm due to work and the INSANE Savannah traffic.  Plus, I also work from home 20 hours a week.  I love these sweet babies more than life itself, but it can be so hard to feel so lonely.  I feel like i’m not enough for them by myself because neither get me all to themselves…ever.  That’s a lot for a newborn to handle!  By the time Ryan gets home, I have to have dinner made so that we have time to eat it and get the kids sleeping at a decent time.  I’m trying very hard to establish a schedule. 🙂  To make matters worse, thanks to the Army life, he’s leaving for training for several months very soon after Christmas.  YAY!  We’re still trying to find a way for us to be with him…if possible.

Yes, I know that our children are our responsibility.  But everyone always says: “It takes a village”.  Apparently i’m a village of 1 1/2 when Ryan is able!  Haha It’s hard when we don’t have any friends or family to help.  My sister, who also has twins, gave me the advice to ask visitors to come once Ryan went back to work.  She said she had scattered help and it made a world of a difference because the first few months are so hard.  That didn’t work. 😦  It’s so hard to not feel so lonely and forgotten.  I had visions of people being so excited and visiting lots once the babies were born, but I think people get so wrapped up in their own lives that it’s not exciting once the babies aren’t “new” anymore.

This isn’t meant to be a bashing of anyone, just getting my feelings out.  It’s okay that people have their own joys, their own families, and their own struggles.  Heck, we all get wrapped up in our own lives.  I know that as much as I always try to be there for everyone else, it hasn’t been as easy now that I have two newborns.  Sometimes you just hope that when it’s your turn and you really need people to care that they’ll return the favor.  I hate it for our babies.  They’re the most amazing and precious gifts EVER and i’m sad that it seems that more people don’t want to be a part of their lives.

Thankfully when Ryan does get home or is around on the weekends, he’s the most amazing husband and Daddy.  He tries so hard to give me breaks and let me take baths or helps with Yawkey and the cooking/cleaning (or takes the babies so I can do all of that).  I seriously don’t know what i’d do without that man!  I just oh so wish he could be with us more.  I know it wears on him to be away from us so much and stuck in such a time consuming job.

As my friend said, I have to remind myself that it’s not always because of us or that people don’t seem to care…often times they do…it’s just that they have so much in their own lives that they forget to notice.  I’m going to keep on trucking and praying that God will carry my little family through to easier days.  I’m going to do my best with what we’ve been given and snuggle my quickly growing babies a little tighter today and show them as much love as I can possibly show them.  I have my perfect little family and we have each other…and that’s enough!  And i’m going to lean on my Heavenly Daddy for the strength that I need to carry us through.  I’m going to try to be “Army Strong” even when I don’t feel it.

~Melissa G.

Home is where the heart is?

Let me start by saying that I am so thankful for the way that I grew up and for all of the many experiences that I’ve been afforded and above all else, I am an American. I am from Maine. My family is from Maine on both of my parents sides. However, when your entire life has centered around the military people sometimes don’t understand. In the first 30 years of my life I lived in 8 states and 2 countries. My husband’s family is from all over: California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and a few relatives in Mass. However, on his first trip home with me he fell in love with New England! If home is where the heart is then he’s definitely from Maine. 🙂 The only reason that we do not live in New England now is because of his (our) service to the military.

There will always be a part of me that wishes that I could have grown up in Maine. It’s arguably the most beautiful state in the union, it’s where my family is, it’s the birthplace of a Nation, and above all: it’s home. Part of me will always be sad that I didn’t get to grow up near the rest of my family and that always hits me when we go home. It was all the more apparent when we said goodbye to my Grammy and Grampy Walsh. When someone passes, everyone shares fun memories that they had with that person, and it broke my heart to not have more of my own to share. I felt left out of a lot growing up when I didn’t have more memories with my family back home. It is still difficult to see my cousins’ wedding pictures with our grandparents and wish that we could have some.

There are many advantages to life as a military. I was afforded many opportunities that some never get: we were in Germany when the Berlin wall came down and I’ve visited almost every country in Europe, I’ve climbed to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa, I’ve lived in more states than some people travel to and visited 3 times as many, I feel much more resilient than I would have been and have an appreciation for other people and cultures. I also have a unique stance in that I know what it’s like to send my Dad and my Husband off to war. I wouldn’t trade the way I was raised and I am excited that our kids will grow up with their own adventures as Army BRATs. 🙂

However, it can also be difficult to always be the “outsider”. Yes, we have MANY southern friends and there are plenty who love us and don’t act negatively toward us, but there are still FAR too many fighting the Civil War. I’ve been discriminated against since moving to our current state as many (most certainly not all) people from the south still hate “Yankees”. We’ve been kicked out of restaurants since moving to our current duty station because they “don’t serve” our “kind” in there. We walked out thinking we were in some sort of backwards movie from the 60’s (which is even funnier because Ryan isn’t technically from the North).  I’ve had a few people tell me to “Go back where I come from”. There is a shrine erected in a park downtown always facing the “enemy to the North” and we were told that no part of this monument was allowed to even TOUCH Northern soil on its way down from Canada. Umm, what??!! I’ve never been exposed to such hatred in all my life. Even at a civilian doctor in Tennessee a nurse said, “Oh you must be so glad to be away from all of those a$$holes up North and down here where people are nice”…which is a judgmental and rude statement to make in and of itself. Now, it’s become even worse with the church shooting of 9 black people in Charleston (1.5 hours from where we live) and the North/South battle is heating up again. Funny thing is…you don’t see it up North. I was always taught that it was a dark part of our Nation’s history, that Jesus has called us to love all people as ourselves, and my family fought to keep the USA together after the slave (southern) states seceded.

On the flip side, some people feel as though i’m not “from Maine” because I didn’t get to grow up in one place. So, let me get this straight…no Army BRAT is from their home state since they didn’t grow up there? I’m a New Englander through and through and I will never turn my back on it. Our kids will probably be born in a few different states, but they will still be New Englanders since that is where we’re retiring one day.

Remember that not everyone grows up traditionally and some of us still sacrifice every day in giving up where we would like to be living for service to our Nation and ensuring our freedom and the freedom of others.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way and we appreciate experiencing other cultures.  We don’t want sympathy, but love and acceptance (or at least kindness) would be perfect.  Besides, aren’t we all Americans?

~Melissa, Army Wife and American