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!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Returning to Duty


Nervous, can you tell?
This last Thursday was my first day back on duty.  I haven't drilled since early March.  I had every intention of attending April's UTA, but MAC decided to make an early appearance and came Wednesday before drill weekend - so much for that!  The thought of going back was nerve-racking, even though I never envisioned myself being a stay at home mom, nor was it possible financially for our family.  Plus, I like my job(s).  I wasn't particularly worried about the care she would receive, as DH would be with her for the first half of the day and my FIL the second half, but as an exclusively breastfed baby (EBF), I worried about her feeding/eating.  She'd been introduced to bottles at week four, and didn't seem to have a problem, but how would she do with bottle feedings during the entire day?  How would she do with being soothed by someone other than me (and my boob)?  Did I thaw enough milk?  My office is fairly relaxed, so I wasn't worried about the nature of my job, or whether or not pump breaks would present a challenge.

Fortunately, the first day away went seamlessly.  I woke up with plenty of time to get ready, nurse her, and get to work fifteen minutes early.  She had plenty to eat, didn't fuss for DH or FIL, and took a morning and an afternoon nap, which isn't her usual routine.  DH texted me pictures throughout the morning to keep me smiling.  The second day was another story.  She didn't go back to sleep when I woke up, she wound up with a painful diaper rash by the end of the day, and she slept five hours and didn't eat during that period.  Not good!  Nothing like getting the good and the bad during my two days of work.  Thankfully, I got off a little early on Friday, so I was able to come home and take care of my little darling.
Game on, let's do this!

Being back at work felt good.  If I had to be away, I was going to enjoy my adult time and conversations.  Both hands were free for more than a few hours, which is atypical for me these days.  ;)  I went whole hog at lunch time, as it was the first meal I'd had in twelve weeks where I could eat with two hands, at my pace, and without needing to rush to get back to anyone.  This meal won't help me get my figure back any sooner, but it was good!  Speaking of fitness, my regular pre-pregnancy ABU pants don't fit yet, so I was stuck wearing my maternity ABU pants.  Depressing, but much more comfortable.  Per regulations I have six months to wear my maternity ABUs, and I don't necessarily want to give up and spring for the next size up in pants yet, so we'll see what happens.  I hear the men's pants (authorized for wear by women) have a better fit.  Maybe I'll just buy a pair of those and avoid the issue of not fitting into my old pants altogether!

If you're a breastfeeding mom in the military, I can't recommend bookmarking Breastfeeding in Combat Boots enough, or adding them on your various social media outlets.  They have a book, but I haven't read that yet.  They have information on all of the branch policies for breastfeeding, pumping, and so forth.  I was able to take breaks as needed and use an empty office near mine.  My squadron has a fridge available, so storage wasn't an issue.  I chose to pump every two hours for up to twenty minutes, which worked out well.  A SNCO friend of mine recommended a pumping bra to continue working while on breaks, but I found that I could multitask without one.  Of course, I was ten minutes into my first session when someone walked into the office - fortunately, it was a woman.  While the conditions in my office were very accommodating, I can see how big of a pain pumping at work can be.  You really need to be motivated to continue giving your child breast milk exclusively if you're going to keep it up for a while in the military, or any job for that matter.  I have a newfound appreciation for the moms highlighted on the Breastfeeding in Combat Boots FB page that have made it to the year marker while serving on Active Duty.  I have a long way to go, and the new challenge of returning to teaching, but I'm proud of the three month marker that I'm going to hit tomorrow.

Next time I go back to work is mid-month, so I'll keep you posted on any new hurdles or whether or not I've made it back into those ABU pants!