Monday, December 30, 2013

Go Guard!

Wait, what?  Isn't Erin a Reservist?

Yes, yes I am!  But AHE recognizes that your Air Force provides you with choices, and that you must do what's best for you, your career goals, and your family.  There are some common experiences for all three (active duty, AFR, ANG), but they are each their own unique beasts in other areas.  I write from my perspective as a Reservist and there's just some questions I can't answer without referring you to another subject matter expert (SME).  


Dina began her Air Force career as an active duty Airman, but switched to the Guard through the Palace Chase program [more on that in a future post] after having her son.  She is also part of a dual military couple, and married to a fellow Airman as well.  Dina blogs over at Blueberries and Bokeh, where she shares her love for photography by assisting others grow in their own skill set!  Her AFSC?  Photojournalism.  Pretty damn cool if you ask me!  Read what she has to say about the ANG after the jump!   



Monday, December 23, 2013

This is how we do it!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, the Air Force way!  You know, that involves Chuck Norris, naturally.  Can't knock one of the most famous Airmen around!  Aim High, Chuck!  I love me a C-17 C-5 too!  [Thanks Bryan for calling me out on that one!]



Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays.  May you be surrounded by loved ones, be they family, friends, or flight members!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What do I get my Airman?!

Air Force BMT Graduation Gifts


I often see folks wondering what to get their favorite Airman for graduation from BMT.  Trust me, your mere presence at graduation weekend is a gift enough!  Your freshly minted Airman is thankful to have you there to celebrate their accomplishments and take them out for a real meal on the town.  Remember, they haven't been able to eat a meal in peace and at their leisure in weeks, let alone indulge in dessert, most likely. 

That being said, if you're wanting to drop some coin, I'm here to help with some ideas to get you started!

**My favorite gift couldn't be included in the collage above, but it's worth a look.  The Airman Legacy Paver.  For $55 you can have a personalized paver on the bomb run at Lackland AFB.  The pavers that your Airman will march over during parade?  Very significant, very meaningful.  This is where your Airman's career started - help them make their mark.  These pavers support the construction and development of the Airman Heritage Museum.**

Garmin Forerunner 210 - This is a GPS watch for running that also monitors your heart rate.  I have a similar watch for my own training, and they're fantastic.  I purposefully selected this watch because it is all black, meaning your Airman could wear it while in uniform as well.  That next PT test will be here before you know it, and why not keep the momentum going, since your Airman is probably in fantastic shape right now!

Air Force Wreath - This may seem a little different, but what about an AF wreath to show some pride at home?  If your Airman has already bought everything they need/want and you need to think a little out of the box, this is a great way to tastefully fly your colors at home.  

AF Museum Membership - Is your Airman more culturally minded, or upholding a long family tradition of AF/military services?  What about an annual membership to the National Museum of the United States Air Force?  Even if they can't make it out to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, that often, they would still appreciate receiving their quarterly journal and supporting the preservation of our history.

3 Day Pass Bag - This is a fantastic backpack that will serve your Airman well whether they're toting study materials around their tech school base or their gear once permanent party.  I purposefully picked black (versus the ABU style that I own) because it's not only cheaper but more versatile.  Solid black bags must be worn/carried when a member is wearing their blues.  Tons of storage, tons of organization, this is a solid buy and can be personalized if you buy a name tape to go across the front.

ABU iPad Case - If your Airman is an Apple-lover, they'll enjoy this iPad case.  It's a trifold style with slots for a pen/stylus and cards.  Your iPad is zippered into its section and there's a microfiber cleaning pad included.  The trifold style allows you to prop it up for viewing and you can personalized it with a name tape across the front.  I bought this for my iPad and my DH quickly commandeered it.  With so many maintainers using iPads now, this is a great option.

Challenge Coin Rack - You'd be amazed at how quickly you can accumulate challenge coins while in the military.  I have always loved these AF logo shaped racks, and the open top allows them to accommodate irregularly shaped coins.  Keep in mind that your Airman will need desk/table space to accommodate this item, as it is not a wall-mountable rack.

Harley AF Pin-Up Pilsner - The AF crowd is no stranger to a craft beer, as you'll soon learn.  If your Airman is also a Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiast they'll really get a kick out of this pin-up pilsner set.  Just remember that they're not allowed to drink until tech school, and only if they're of legal age and not in uniform/not during the duty day.


AF Toiletry Bag - Another recommendation from personal experience, this toiletry bag is perfect for vacation or a short TDY.  Tons of pockets and organization loops inside, this has a hanging hook and a mirror inside.  Ladies, you'll love the elastic loops on the inside for makeup brushes and other small items.  I can get out of town with just this one toiletry bag, rather than having a separate bag for makeup.  Again, buy a plain name tape to slip in the front to personalize!

New Boots - Chances are, your Airman will be ready to ditch their issued boots once they finish BMT in favor of a more comfortable pair.  The two pairs shown are mine and DH's boots of choice.  As a maintainer, he loves these Reeboks with their side-zip and composite toes for safety.  Easy on, easy off, no lacing required, and a sturdy, comfortable sole for all day on the flightline.  While I'm not on my feet all day like he is, these Rocky boots are comfortable, have great traction for our snowy conditions, and offer great padding through the shaft of the boot.

Keep in mind that your Airman will have very limited space and restrictions on what they can bring along to tech school.  Worse come to worst, you can always mail items to them at their tech school location.

Monday, December 16, 2013

NORAD Tracks Santa!

Personnelist by day, Santa Tracker by night!
We are a mere nine days...I repeat, nine days...away from Christmas Day!  If you've been a long-time reader of AHE, you may know that I've volunteered with NORAD Tracks Santa for the last two years as an official Santa Tracker.  It's an amazing experience, if you're a Colorado Springs local, and the volunteer slots fill up really quickly, as they open them up to civilians and military-connected personnel. 

Some of the folks I've talked to weren't even aware that you could call into the Santa Tracker - they've only been tracking online.  You can call (877-HI-NORAD) or email the Santa Trackers and we'll let you know where Santa's at, when he should arrive at your location, and answer any other questions you have to the best of our abilities!  There's also apps you can download to your smartphone or you can track on your computer at NORADSanta.org

In the meantime, the NORAD Santa website has a ton of fun games, information, and other cool videos to keep your Santa stalkers busy while they eagerly await the big day.  Tracking begins at 0300 MST on December 24th!

This year I will not be participating, as I'll be at home counting down the minutes with my own little elf, but I know that I will resume Santa tracking duties when her Santa years have passed.

[Not a sponsored post at all, it's just AWESOME and therefore you should track Santa too.]

My Hickory Tradition + Flash Giveaway!

Disclosure: I have been provided a Beef Hearty Hickory gift box for review by Hickory Farms, as well as one to be given away on my blog.  All opinions presented within this post are my own.

Hickory Farms has been a part of my family's holiday tradition for as long as I can remember.  It sounds cheesy, no pun intended, but it's true.  My family spends the holiday down in Mazatlan, Mexico, in a fabulous timeshare owned by my grandparents.  My mom was a teacher as well, and looked forward to her winter break every year.  Our trip became so regular that it truly was a vacation - we didn't feel the need to sight-see or do anything but sleep, eat, and relax by the pool/on the beach.  We would stash food and other goodies in our luggage, and amongst our bathing suits and wrapped Christmas gifts was a Hickory Farms Beef Summer Sausage.  I'm not talking the little ones either - I'm talking the monster, honkin' 1.6 pounder!  We would slice it up with cheese, put it on crackers, or on Mexican bolillos bought from the local markets.  Good stuff, folks, good stuff.

This didn't last long...
Mmm...Golden Toasted Crackers!

As I've gotten older, I haven't been able to go to Mexico as often as I'd like, many times because one of us is on military duty.  Instead of toting my sausage south of the border, Hickory Farms can come to me!  Out of appreciation for military service members and their families, Hickory Farms offers free shipping to APO/FPO addresses on select products at hickoryfarms.com!  I have to commend them for that - so many military families serving abroad or those supporting members deployed struggle to find merchants that ship to APO/FPO addresses.  Hickory Farms not only ships to them, but does so for free?!  Kudos to them!

When I told DH that they were sending us the Beef Hearty Hickory box to review, he couldn't contain himself.  The picture above?  Yeah, the products are all disheveled because he ripped into it before we could get a picture, and then attempted to put them all back neatly.  Once that picture was done, we had Hickory Farms for dinner that night.  Cheese, crackers, and beef summer sausage  while sitting on the couch as a family, watching Christmas movies?  It may not be Mexico, but it's a darn good alternative.  I love making new memories with my family, now that we have DD, and incorporating family traditions into our own family's holiday.  Even DD got in on the fun with their crackers [Baby Led Weaning FTW!].  

DH was already making a mental grocery list of more Hickory Farms products to pick up.  He easily polished off the first jar of Sweet Hot Mustard, and used the second on the next night on a ham sandwich to rave reviews.

Want to incorporate the Hickory Tradition into your holidays?  The Hickory Farms folks were kind enough to offer to pass along a Beef Hearty Hickory gift box to a lucky AHE reader!  This is a flash giveaway, for this week only and ending at midnight on Friday evening!  Enter below and Happy Holidays!  


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Struggling with Separation

Making Christmas memories!  [Source]
It's been a while since I've laid it all on the table for you folks, and at the risk of criticism and judgment, it's time to be straight with you.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't second guess my decision to go to OTS.  

I'm not talking on a daily basis, but just every now and then during a weak moment or when I read about the affects of separation on children and their parents (particularly nursing mothers).  Kids change things, mark my words.  I think everyone knows that, but you really know that when you're in those shoes.  We sign up knowing that sacrifice and separation are inevitable, but that doesn't mean I/we have to embrace it, at least not all the time.

Originally, I thought I was going to have to leave on or before January, which seems unfathomable now.  I'm so thankful that it's not the case.  DD is 8 months old and I'm still nursing her - I'm determined to make it to a full year.  Ideally, my freezer stash will support her while I'm gone, and any other milks she gets at the time when I'm gone will be coconut or the like - no formula.  [Not trying to start a breastfeeding versus formula debate here, it's just my preference for my child.]  If I'm able to get my preferred school date, she'll be almost fourteen months when I leave.

It breaks my heart just thinking about having to ween her prior to when her and I are ready to stop nursing, so I can stop lactating before I leave for OTS.  I don't know how I'm going to deal, emotionally, with knowing she wants to nurse, I want to nurse her, but I can't.  Or holding her close and discouraging her efforts.  It's how she goes to sleep every night.  Will I have to start putting her in her crib before I leave, so she gets used to not being nursed to sleep?  Right at the time when I'm going to want to be as close to her as possible, to cherish every minute before I have to leave.  When I return, is there any hope of relactating?  Will she reject me because she doesn't understand why I've left her for so long?  Will she reject nursing or my attempts to start it back up?  I'm going to come home to a "new normal," even in the mere nine weeks that I'm gone.  I'm so, so thankful that this is OTS and not BMT; I'll have many more opportunities to call home and hopefully FaceTime.    

So, when I tell you I haven't heard about my package, it's true.  It hasn't been sent off for final submission yet, and I'm ok with that.  I don't even have a school date yet, and who knows what The Powers That Be will do with me.  I haven't tossed it by the wayside, I am still following through and doing everything on my part.  I'm just not stressing as much when I hit walls, like when I'm told to come back later to process paperwork.  What will be, will be.  Nothing is set in stone yet, and I need to live in the moment and take advantage of every second that I have with my daughter.  I am at peace knowing that I don't need this to happen (commissioning) for the sake of supporting my family or to achieve a sense of purpose.  I know that opportunities for leadership exist in both the enlisted side and on the officer side, and that I will make the most out of my career no matter where my path takes me.  

All I can do is live in the moment, and let tomorrow's worries not affect my todays.

[Side note: I'm definitely aware that nine weeks is nothing in comparison to a deployment, or even a tech school.  Preparing myself, emotionally, for that separation is easier said than done, especially as a nursing, first time mom.  Much respect to all of those who've had to do longer separations earlier in their children's lives.  It's hard, it sucks, all the way around, but that's the responsibility we've assumed.]

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fitness Update + Giveaway!

Disclosure: I have been provided a race registration code by Spartan Race Media to be given away on my blog.


I've been getting a lot of questions lately about OTS and how things are going with my commissioning process.  I'm still in a holding pattern, if you will, because of my PT score.  Despite the colder weather, the hectic holiday activities, and family commitments, I need to step up my game and find my motivation.  My commission depends on it.  

Motivation and positive influences are infectious.  Keep your winter momentum going this Saturday, December 7th, by tuning into NBC Sports to check out the Spartan Race World Championships!  We're talking the best of the best competing for $250,000 in cash and prizes.  If they can tackle these feats, I can hit the floor and do a few crunches, right?!  Right, danggit.  I'm a month or so away from my re-test, and this needs to happen.  Victory for me is battling my own excuses and making this passing score happen.

You ready to up your motivation to the next level?  Why don't you start training for your own Spartan Race?  That's right, YOU!  AHE and Reebok Spartan Race are footing the bill for your entry fee to any Spartan Race in the 2013-2014 season in the continental United States.  Let's do this!


Even if you're not the giveaway winner, you can get a 15% off code for your entry fee here

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day!

Source: J. Boone Pooler Photography

I couldn't let today go by without acknowledging it here on the blog, so while I still have a few minutes [Guess who's napping?!], here goes nothing!

DH's unit in Afghanistan, 2009-2010

Thank you.  Thank you to all of those family members, friends, and fellow PGR members who wore the uniform proudly and inspired me to take my own oath of enlistment.  Thank you to my husband, who is not only a three branch veteran, but who has been a huge source of support and encouragement of my own journey from day one.  

Honoring a fallen soldier with the PGR.

So many great men and women have gone before me, standing up and pledging to serve our country.  I am humbled to be their sister in arms.

Papa, my dad's father.
Grandpa W., my mom's dad.
Happy Veterans Day to you and your loved ones, today and every day!  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wins and Losses

Aiming High is not about achieving at your fullest potential all the time, every time.  It's also about being humbled by your losses and growing from them, rather than giving up.  Today, I experienced a new loss in my Air Force career.  Today, I failed my first PT test.


Source: Air Force Times

If you've been following alone, you know I've been very anxious about this test, as it was the first one I've taken since having my daughter.  I don't work out with the regularity that I used to, pre-pregnancy, and my caloric intake is greater these days to keep up with my breastfeeding.  I was ready to get it over with, to say the least.

My weakest area is my pushups - always has been.  I've got your usual T-Rex body type, so I was worried that I wasn't going to hit the minimum amount for my age range, fourteen.  I had done some sit-ups after bedtime and I was able to get in the mid to high 30s, so I figured I was good in this area.  I also knew that my run time was passable.

I was in the first testing group of the day, with only one other female.  I figured I'd be partnering with her.  We were practically outnumbered by Fitness Assessment Cell (FAC) Airmen, and one of these individuals did all of the counting for me.  I guess they're cracking down on the "Wingmanship Concept."  ;)

Always brutally honest with you, even at my own expense, here are my stats:

Weight: 183 lbs
Height: 72 inches
Waist: 33.5 inches
Pushups: 21
Sit-Ups: 20
Run: 14:52, adjusted due to altitude to 14:34

When they first weighed me, the Airman put me down for 132 lbs!  I just couldn't let that slide by, and got up and corrected him.  Integrity first, right?  I haven't seen the 130s in a decade or more, easily.  I'm still a good 16 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was in amazing shape then for my first PT test.  The waist measurement was smaller than I thought it'd be, especially since she was hitting me around the "muffin top" area.  I guess I wasn't pulling tight enough when I was measuring at home.  Game on, I wasn't complaining.

I was the first up, and the first part was pushups.  Oh well, here went nothing!  I managed to eek out 21 for her, or at least that was how much she counted, before I hit the ground.  More than enough to meet my minimum.  After that part, I was feeling good - probably a little too confident at this point.  I figured I could pull it off and have it in the bag.  When I got back down on the mat for the sit-ups, I just couldn't pull it off.  The timer was calling out 30 seconds left and I knew I wasn't close enough to my minimum.  I hit 20 and was done with the buzzer.  Quite the contrast from the last PT test where I maxed my sit-ups.  I didn't remember them hurting this much when I'd practiced at home. 

At that point, I knew I was done, but they don't give you an option to just walk away at that point.  The purposelessness of the run crossed my mind, trust me, especially when you know you can't pass no matter how fast you go.  I sucked it up and decided to take the run at a leisurely pace.  At least if my score came close to passing, I could show my commander that I did try and almost passed, despite missing my minimum sit-ups by 9 repetitions.  I had aimed to finish my run in less than fifteen minutes, and mission accomplished.

Nothing happened at the FAC as a result of my failure.  I signed my score sheet, they made me a copy, and I was on my way.  They don't actually tell you your score when you're there.  They leave the calculations up to the fitness management website, which is updated pretty rapidly.  My new score was in the system later that day, as sad as it was to see my little line graph take a pathetic drop.  My final score was a 74.9.  Yes, that's 0.1 points away from a passing score of 75.  If I would've hit the minimum number of sit-ups, I would've passed.

So, what happens next?  I have 90 days to retest.  As a result of my failure, I have to complete a "Be Well" course through the Health and Wellness Center (HAWC) on base, or via an online course (most likely the route I'll take).  I wasn't overly disappointed in myself for my loss today.  I had so much anxiety and nervousness going into this test that I'm hoping I do fine on the next one because the pressure is off.  As long as I make a concerted effort to improving my core strength, I can pass.  

On a related note, I can't submit my OTS package for final approval until I have a fitness letter with my current, passing PT score.  So, that's on hold for the time being.

On a positive note, I have a ton of support from fellow Airmen, friends, and family.  Time for me to get serious about limiting my caloric intake to healthy calories and make more time for strength training.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Time to face the music!

Well, this is it.  The shutdown is over and drilling for Reservists has resumed.  Our October UTA got rescheduled for later in the fiscal year, but this weekend is the November UTA and my rescheduled PT test.  At this point, most of my anxiety about the task is gone.  I just want to get it over with already.  I've made peace with the fact that there's nothing I can do this week, in terms of physical fitness preparation, that will make me perform better on Saturday.  All I can do is show up, breath, and push my body to the limit to do my very best.  I intend to do the smart thing and get a good night's sleep on Friday, as well as hydrating all day, but that's it.  

This is far from the "Aim High" attitude I like to shoot for, but it's my reality right now.  I have so many outside stressors right now that I can't let this become one of them.  It's time to just let it go.  Thank you for all of the positive thoughts and energy you can send my way!  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Postpartum PT Anxiety

How appropriate that this article should hit the Air Force Times and my Facebook feed, a mere seventeen days before my own postpartum PT test!

In a nutshell, SSgt Alison Mona had failed two PT tests postpartum and worried that she would potentially be discharged from the Air Force, chose to have her roommate stab her in the stomach so she could go to the hospital for "attack wounds" instead of take her test.  Whoa.

Folks, I'm as nervous as the next new mom, but having DH stab me so I can get on a new profile and avoid testing is far from my fitness plan!  This article has opened up some good discussions about postpartum PT, both critical and supportive.  There are some that assert that there should be no modifications to the PT standards for postpartum women, and that they should still be expected to test six months after birthing, as they knew the expectations of being fit in the military.  Fair enough.  I'm pretty sure I felt this way too, as a judgmental non-mom.  But that's not my frame of reference anymore.

As a new mom, it makes sense to me now.  As a mother who chooses to breastfeed (for at least a year), it is abundantly clear to me.  Prior to getting pregnant, I was in excellent physical shape.  I had been eating clean, working out, and running six days a week.  I poured my efforts into preparing for that first PT test and came out with a score of 96.5.  Even during my pregnancy, I was going to the gym at least once a week and running into my 28th week of gestation.  Motherhood throws a monkey wrench into those plans though.  My lifestyle is dramatically different, now that it's about more than just me.  To maintain a sufficient supply of milk, you have to increase your caloric intake, yet in order to lose weight you need to decrease those calories.  Breastfeeding does burn calories in the process, but nothing dramatic in my case.  My child comes first, period.  I want her to be healthy and receive the best nutrition possible, and I have decided to do that through breastfeeding for an extended period of time.

I didn't feel like I even had time to work out until DD was maybe four months old, and even then, my options are limited when I need to be in close proximity to feed her.  Could I have someone give her a bottle while I work out?  Sure, but I'd also have to pump, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to be away from her for too long.  I haven't been back to the gym since I've given birth.  Instead, I try to sneak in a couple pushups and sit-ups when I get the chance, or go for a mile and a half jaunt around the neighborhood while my FIL watches her.  It's not a lot, but it's the best I can do right now.  Anyone with a young child can tell you that you're not always able to plunk them down and keep them occupied long enough to do a workout video, nor can you ignore all of those other chores that need to get done during nap time.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make some assumptions based on limited knowledge and experience, so go easy on me.  As a Reservist, I'm held to the same PT standards and timeframe as an Active Duty mom.  The catch is that the responsibility of fitness falls solely on me.  My civilian job doesn't value fitness and build it into my day.  If I were AD, there might be opportunities for me to participate in daily PT as part of my job, but I'm not.  I have to put in my full day of work to come home, make dinner, bathe and put my child to bed, and then hope to have some time to myself (when I'm not doing chores).

Fortunately, I'm in fairly decent shape, and while I'm a far cry from the fit, pre-baby Airman I once was, I might be able to pull this off.  I want to, I have to, I need to.  I need to remain eligible for my OTS package.  That's my big motivator these days.  At this point, I wouldn't be disappointed to get less than a 90 and have to PT again in six months.  That's doable.  But I just need to pass.  I'm not willing to go to drastic lengths to avoid this test, but I'm nervous.  As a postpartum mom, I can feel the desperation in the story of SSgt Mona.  I assume she's a single mother, willing to do anything to protect her living and provide for her children.  I can respect that and I can relate to that.  Hopefully this story, as sensational as it is, opens up a discussion as to whether women should be expected to uphold the same physical standards after having a baby.  Is "Nine Months On, Six Months Off" realistic?  Food for thought!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Family Giveaway!

Disclosure: I was provided products to sample as well as a package of products (valued at $25) to giveaway.  Regardless of this fact, all opinions are my own and are based upon my personal experience with the company and their products.


As promised, the good folks at Happy Family have a treat for AHE readers!  Enter below to win their Happiest Military Package, which includes:


  • 2 Take Ones
  • 1 Happy Family red tote bag
  • Free Trial Coupons - 3 for Happy Baby Pouches, 1 for Happy Baby Puffs
  • 1 Happy Baby Puffs
  • 3 Happy Baby Pouches
This package has a retail value of $25! 

Consider entering even if you don't have young children - the holiday season is coming and another donation to your local food bank would be much appreciated, for sure!




Monday, September 23, 2013

Hectic, Happy Family

Disclosure - I was provided a Blogger Package from Happy Family to review.  Regardless of this fact, all opinions are my own and are based upon my personal experience with the company and their products.

This is about the time of year when I hit everyone with the, "I'm still alive!" blog post.  Seems silly, but it's true.  We've settled into our school-time routine nicely, but that doesn't make me any less busy.  On with the bullets!
  • I'm teaching full-time, arriving at work an hour early to get things done, but not putting in any additional hours to do extra duty.  The money was nice, but I like my home time with DD, and it allows me to come home, play with her, make dinner, and then start our bath/bedtime routine, which has worked out quite well for us so far.
  • On Thursday evenings I do a question and answer session on AF Wingmoms' Facebook page!  It's been enjoyable to reach out to new folks and keep everyone positive about their BMT journey - trainees and families alike.  Join us from 1800 - 1900 hours, MST!  Let me tell you, it's a challenge to keep Little Miss occupied during this time, especially when she's starting to get fussy and ready for bed.
  • My PT test is now less than a month away, on 19 October.  I'm anxious, I'm eager to get it over with, but I've been inconsistent with my workouts.  It's hit or miss right now whether I'll have time on any given day to go for a run.  I did get a chance to hit the pavement tonight and it was a lovely evening for a run!  A good Wingman (and fellow mom) stressed to me that working on core strength was essential - those sit-ups for a postpartum mom are not easy.  Food for thought, indeed.  I need to start cranking out more.
  • The commissioning process is moving along, albeit slowly, and at no one person's fault.  I need to finalize my package so it can be sent off for final approval at the ARPC/NAF level.  I would like to have it all done, done, done by October's UTA.  I just need to sit down and finish my package.  See above about my limited personal time.
As hectic as it is, we are happy!  DD fills our lives with so much joy, and her smile makes all of our parenting efforts worth it.  Can you believe she turns six months old next week?  Yes, it's been that long already!  We're eager to dive into the world of food, and planning on doing Baby Led Weaning.  As we creep closer, it's harder to resist giving her some of our food, as she hawk eyes us during dinner. Soon, baby girl, soon!


I was recently contacted by Happy Family to do a review of their products.  I'm familiar with Happy Family already, as a commissary shopper who is also health conscious, especially when it comes to DD.  Call me crunchy, if you must, I don't deny it.  I prefer to use natural products on her skin, and as we integrate food, I plan to make healthier, minimally processed choices whenever possible.  I like the fact that Happy Family products are easily accessible and affordable to us at the commissary, versus having to make a special trip to the pricier health food stores in town.  Happy Family actually offers samples and classes on a select group of military installations to help build awareness of healthy feeding options for their kids.

Happy Family isn't just for kids though - since we've been holding off on feeding DD solids, I got to try a number of their products that are made for adults!  Here are a few of my faves:


Fruit & Veggie Twist - Strawberry, Kiwi, and Beet
Say what?!  Beets?!  Yes, and it was good!


Coco - Orange Mango
My BFF, who is highly allergic to anything fun (gluten/dairy intolerant, allergic to eggs, sesame, the list goes on) was actually able to eat this.  We both agreed that if you're an imbiber, this would taste amazing with some Malibu.  That's probably not what the Happy Family folks were thinking, but this is just a lovely tropical concoction for your taste buds!


Treat - Caramel Apple
Dessert in a pouch?  Now you've got my attention!  This was good and sweet without making you feel guilty afterward.  It was just enough of a dessert to take the edge off.  It's perfect if you're trying to clean up your diet and prepare for a PT test [*ahem*], but still want some dessert.

Stay tuned, AHE readers!  I believe Happy Family is going to show you some love too, and I'll be giving away a pack of their goodies!  In the meantime, this busy lady is going to trot off to bed.  Sleep is essential if you're going to keep pushing on and accomplishing your goals!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Racing to Readiness

Disclosure: I have been provided a race registration code by Spartan Race Media to be given away on my blog.

One of the best ways to physically prepare yourself for BMT is by running, if you didn't get that message already through my blog.  The run is 60% of your PT score in the Air Force.  It's a great way to pick up points and put you closer to your testing goal, or at least to a passing score.  One of the ways I've found to get motivated to run is to participate in local races.  The energy, the crowds, they get you motivated.  There's just something about those pre-race jitters and the sense of accomplishment when you beat your personal records.

If you're ready to challenge yourself and test your physical strength and abilities, do I have an offer for you!  The folks from the Reebok Spartan Race [yes, that Spartan Race!] have offered to give one lucky AHE reader a free race admission for any open heat race in the 2013-2014 season here in the continental United States!  This is huge!  If you're an avid racer, you know those fees add up quickly!  I remember thinking that the younger me would never have paid anyone to run, let alone willingly and enthusiastically handed over my cash.  What a great opportunity for someone to become a Spartan on them!



Even if you're not our lucky winner, Reebok Spartan Race has recently joined forced with GovX.com to offer one of the largest race registration discount programs for active, reserve, and veteran military members, as well as active first responders. Head to GovX.com to sign up for the Spartan Race and save $30 off your registration.  Go ahead and put that toward your massage after you cross the finish line!


Want to get in on this?  Enter via Rafflecopter below!  Happy racing!



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

AHE on AFWM!

If you've been following the AHE FB page, you've already heard of my exciting news!  Starting tomorrow night, I'm going to be collaborating with the AF WingMoms crew and doing a female-specific Q&A on their Facebook page!

If you've ever wanted to ask me a question, but have never reached out via Twitter, FB, or email, now is your chance!  I'll be on their page from 1900 - 2000 CST on Thursdays, with a focused topic each week.  I'm ecstatic to reach out to a new group of future trainees and motivate others to do their best!


If you and your loved ones haven't already liked their FB page or visited their site, get on it!  It's one of the best sources of information available on BMT, especially for those supporting a trainee.  They have great info on where to stay in the area, details about graduation, and you can network with other loved ones in your trainee's flight.  I wish my friends and family would've known about it before I left for BMT, as it is great for keeping everyone motivated and informed back at home so they can better encourage you while you're down there.  

Hope to see you online tomorrow night!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Family Day Picnic


Hey readers!  We're in the thick of back-to-school madness, but I thought I'd check in with you here.  It's my 8th year of teaching and it never gets any easier at the beginning.  It's always crazy, crazy, crazy, with nothing set in stone until a few weeks in.  Never fun, but it's the nature of the beast.

I started school after a UTA weekend, naturally, so it's been a long week.  This photo was taken last weekend at our annual Family Day event.  Quite the change from last year, to actually go home and retrieve my "family."  I can't wait for DD to really be able to enjoy the festivities of the weekend, from the C-130 Herc "Adventure Tour" to the multiple bounce houses and other carnival type games.  In the meantime, we take a cute picture!  She was exactly four months old on this day.

Our D&TF group was out in full force at the Family Day event.  Watching them do a drill down really gets me excited, I'm not going to lie.  Seeing the fear and excitement in the faces of those about to undertake BMT and all that the Air Force has to offer really stirs something in me.  Like I've mentioned on here before, if it weren't for my acceptance for commissioning (and my young daughter), I'd be considering an MTI tour.

In other good news, I was worried that I'd have to take my PT test in September, but recently got a reassuring email - since my profile says I can't PT for six months, that means I'll have to test in October, with the commander's approval, of course [since it'll be after my testing due date].  That is a huge relief, even though it's still rapidly approaching and I need to hit the pavement in preparation.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Anniversaries and Postpartum PT

DH and I are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary today.  Six years ago I became a military spouse.  I didn't marry a man who was already in and settled.  We did what many military couples do - got married at a courthouse on graduation weekend.  I drove 1700 miles from California to Missouri to see my husband for the first time in ten weeks and hightail it on over to the courthouse.  I wouldn't do it any other way.  Sure, we didn't get a wedding night (curfew mandated that he return to the barracks) or a honeymoon, but its simplicity made it so meaningful for us.  The military's had its hand in our relationship ever since, separating us for months and years at a time.  When it's worth it, you make it work and you find a way.  Here's to six more years, and beyond!


Last year we were separated again, with DH at tech school down at Sheppard AFB, in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Not the most romantic place for an anniversary getaway, but I went down and DH went overboard for our 5th.  We unknowingly received the best gift that year, and nine months later DD was born.

On the actual day of our 5th anniversary, I took my first PT test in the operational Air Force.  I was as anxious as you can imagine, and I did a significant amount of prep work to ensure my best performance.  I was pregnant at the time, although it was a few days after conception and I was unaware.  I had been hitting the gym every day while on seasoning training and eating clean.  The hard work paid off when I got a 96.5, ensuring that I wouldn't have to test again for a year.  Well, DD changed all that, as you have six months to take your test after giving birth.

Before I became a parent, six months seemed like plenty of time to get back into acceptable shape for a PT test.  Oh friends, how naive I was!  My daughter will be four months old tomorrow, which means a mere two months stand between me and my testing due date.  If you factor in that PT tests are typically done on UTA weekends, that means I probably have even less time, maybe a month, unless I make arrangements to do it during a weekday and take time off from my civilian job.  Have I done much working out?  That's laughable.  I haven't ran since my 28th week of gestation.  I tried doing sit-ups the other day and I felt the measly 25 that I'd done a couple days later.  Needless to say, I'm not gunning for a 96 and an "Excellent" rating this year.  I'll be happy with a passing "Satisfactory."  Time to start eating better in preparation, getting FIL to watch DD for an hour while I go take a run, and doing pushups/sit-ups while watching TV every evening.  It's time to get serious.  I know that a non-passing score not only subjects me to all of the not-so-fun discipline that's come down the pike, but also jeopardizes my OTS package.  Fingers crossed! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Give Good Voice

Well, let's not flatter myself, although I do a lot of talking for a living.  

Are you familiar with TroopSwap?  No, this isn't a sponsored post this time.  TroopSwap is the military-only equivalent of Living Social or Groupon.  It's growing, slowly but surely, and offers some great opportunities for those of us that love a good deal.  They have national deals for everyone, and special deals for military communities in Colorado Springs, Hampton Roads, DC, and San Diego.   

How can they weed out military members from the general population?  Well, the process is slightly more complicated than signing up for a normal deal site, but it's worth it.  I used my USAA account to sign up, but there are other methods if you're not comfortable with entering financial information online.

Photo by Jason of TroopSwapCOS
Anyway, I was recently contacted by Jason, the man behind TroopSwap in the Colorado Springs area, who wanted to know if I was interested in doing a radio spot for them, as a loyal TroopSwap member.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to do something different - I've never been on the radio before!

A word of caution for my readers, if you're an Airman (or any other service member) - while I was chosen to participate because of my own military affiliation in the area, I knew that I was getting into some grey areas, as we're not allowed to endorse any politicians, companies, or so forth. Not wanting to step on any toes during this transitional time in my career, I put a call into our Public Affairs office.  Sure enough, I wasn't going to be able to identify myself as a Reservist in this radio ad.   Per AFI 35-104, para 1.49.3.1: DOD is prohibited from endorsing or appearing to endorse or selectively benefit any particular product, company or commercial concern.  No big deal, I still proceeded as "Erin the MilSpouse" and "Erin the MilBloggie Winner."  Better safe than sorry, folks.  It took just a few minutes out of my day to call PA, and I kept myself out of trouble and look like the upstanding Airman of integrity that I strive to be.

The experience itself was very cool, and a test of my ability to speak quickly, while still enunciating and being clear with my speech.  I read through the script a few times, and the technician will piece together the elements into one sixty second commercial.  So, if you're a local and listening to 1460 KZNT on the AM dial, you might hear my voice sometime soon!

[Not a TroopSwap member yet?  If you'd like to be, you can choose to sign up on your own or through this referral link, which gives me $10 in TroopSwap bucks if you sign up.  Either way, happy shopping to you, and may you score some great deals!]  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Signs.com Review and Giveaway!

One of the most exciting moments you'll have at BMT is the Airman's Run.  It's the first time you'll catch a glimpse of your loved ones (well, if you can sneak a glance), and the first time they'll see you in 8.5 weeks.  It's the first event in the graduation festivities and really sets the tone for the weekend.  It's all downhill from there!

Family members line the streets to look for you and cheer you on.  Many of those folks have banners made to support their Airman.  It's a great way to spot your family and for them to get in on the fun.  The good folks at Signs.com reached out to me to do a review and a giveaway, and I knew this would be perfect for those heading to BMT, those supporting an Airman at BMT, or for any other military event - homecomings, promotions, etc.

Signs.com has a series of military templates available for your use in the Military category on their website.  The designs are simple, eye-catching, and easy to customize.  If you're not a creative person by nature, you'll appreciate the simplicity of the Design Your Sign process.  I can be finicky about placement and centering, so I appreciated the "Center Vertical" and "Center Horizontal" buttons, as well as the grid when I was designing my banner.  The designer in me also appreciated the wide range of colors available for use.  You are able to utilize hex numbers for colors, if you need to match to a specific color.

Not having a specific event coming up in my own career, nor in DH's, I decided to make a "Thank You" banner that could easily be displayed on patriotic holidays, for any welcome home ceremony, or just general appreciation.





During the checkout process, I didn't see an option to add grommets, which was a concern of mine.  I'm familiar with other businesses making you pay additional fees to add grommets, which are essential for hanging.  When the banner arrived a mere seven days after ordering, [yes, you read that correctly, I received the banner in SEVEN days] - I was pleased to see that it didn't just have grommets in the four corners, but a whole slew of them!  Perfect for hanging your new masterpiece safely, without concern of it being torn up by the wind.  The speedy turnaround was fantastic, and perfect for those of you that have short notice for your event.  That was standard shipping too, folks, nothing expedited.  

The banner is a good, solid weight with the edges folded over, so the grommets are going through two layers of vinyl.  It's a great size, 3' by 6', and the printing is crisp and sharp.  The resulting piece looks professional and sturdy, ready to withstand the elements.

The design process was not without it's challenges, as least not for a fussy person like myself.  I found that I wasn't able to change the font size numerically, versus dragging the text box from the corner.  This may not affect you at all, but if you have multiple text boxes, it makes for difficult standardization of the text size.  I would also like to to see Signs.com make more of their clip art and templates available throughout the categories.  For example, the template and flag icons that I used were not available in the Military section, but in the Fourth of July category.  If you're graphically inclined, you can actually upload your own design and have that printed on the banner, which I thought was cool.  I know many people choose to upload photos of their Airmen for their banners.

Overall, Signs.com offers a great value for professional grade products with a speedy turnaround that fits the needs of the military customer.

The good folks at Signs.com have offered AHE readers a chance to win their own custom graduation or homecoming banner, complete with shipping!  Enter below to take advantage of this opportunity - you can always use another banner!  Even if you don't win, Signs.com has given AHE readers a 15% off code of AHI15 to use on their site.  Good luck!

     
    
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I have been compensated for this post by receiving a banner to review, a code for a free giveaway banner, and a promotion code to offer to readers.  Regardless of this fact, all opinions are my own and are based upon my personal experience with the company.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blogging and Balance

Happy Sunday, readers!  There's been a lot of thoughts regarding the blog weighing on my mind, that I thought I'd share with you.

I go through periods where my inability to keep up with the blog makes me feel like I'm letting you down and letting everything I've worked for with the blog fall by the wayside.  This is definitely not my intention, however, I must put my family first, as you all can understanding.  Trying to find balance in my life for my husband, daughter, home, and self has been a struggle these last few months, and I'm about ready to go back to work and throw another challenge into the mix.

During this temporary stay-at-home mom (SAHM) stage in my life, I get two and a half to three hours of time to myself per day, max, and during this time I have to squeeze in chores, eating, bill paying, projects, laundry, and anything else that requires two hands.  Once DD's up from her nap, it's game over.  Needless to say, I don't get a lot of screen time in front of my computer, especially in comparison to my iPhone.  I really don't know how other mommy bloggers do it, and maintain regular posts.  My hat is off to you!

I love what I've been able to do here with my blog, and the people that I've been able to reach and assist through social media.  The main focus of my blog, by definition, is a living and breathing entity.  BMT is subject to change at a moment's notice.  With each passing year, my experience may become more and more obsolete, until it's just a historical account.  In comparison to other resources out there, my information may not always be the most up-to-date.  Fear not, I have no plans to delete the site or the material.  There are high-interest topics about BMT that I haven't been able to cover.  I hope to incorporate guest posters in the future, especially those that want to discuss participating in the band flight, being put in med hold, BMT for battlefield Airmen, or even more personal topics like birth control usage at BMT [you laugh, but the question comes up frequently].  If you would like to guest post and have a unique subject/topic, please don't hesitate to email me.

I hope to grow with my blog, and chronicle OTS in the same manner that I've shared my BMT experience.  Speaking of OTS, I have no new information or updates for you.  I'm in a holding pattern, waiting to hear the status of my package, waiting to find out when I'll get dates for school, or when I'll get to update paperwork and identify my preferred time to attend school.  I should probably start pushing folks for answers, but in the meantime, I'm taking it day by day with my girl.  Leaving her isn't something I'm going to be looking forward to, although I want this for myself and our family.

I've received a number of offers from businesses for giveaways and other opportunities on the blog.  I try to limit my participation and these posts to items that I feel are of interest to my readers, and applicable to the military lifestyle.  I have a couple coming up that I'm excited about sharing with you, and that I hope you'll take advantage of.

Thank you for continuing to be a loyal reader and follower.  Please don't hesitate to reach out to me via methods other than blog comments.  If I can get back to you via my iPhone, I'm likely to do so!