How Does Your Military Family #CelebrateLife? Win a Fabulous Prize Sponsored by USAA!


“So, Daddy’s NOT going to be home for my birthday?”

I don’t think there’s a more heartbreaking moment than having to talk your child through understanding what a year without Daddy means. Missed birthdays. Skyped holidays. Uploaded Choir performances. One less hug goodnight.

As Rebekah Sanderlin puts it in her aptly named column Must-Have-Parent, in every military family with children one parent inevitably becomes the must-have parent. The must-have parent is that glue that keeps the family moving forward together despite the unpredictable nature of military life. In our case, the little loop we’ve been thrown is a slightly-unexpected-but-somewhat-expected short tour that’s split our military family between MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida and Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

In true military style my hubby headed out on his year-long tour on the very first day of summer vacation with both girls’ birthdays on the horizon. With two summer babies, we don’t really do the big friend birthday; we prefer a fun family day trip to an amusement park or water park. So here I am, the must-have parent desperately trying to keep family celebrations and traditions on track despite an obvious albeit temporary hole in our family unit, trying to convince myself that the show must go on, Daddy or no-Daddy.

Thankfully, I got a much needed prod to get out and celebrate life to keep our family’s birthday tradition alive and well from the amazing team at USAA. In recognition of Life Insurance Awareness month, USAA provided me with a day trip on them to get out and celebrate life, share it with all of you, and give you a chance to celebrate life, too!  You’ll have a chance to win a $300 gift card courtesy of USAA at the bottom of this post.

Keeping Your Military Family’s Traditions Going When Daddy (or  Mommy) is Away from Home

With my eldest daughter approaching “The Big 8” in August and with her birthday falling on the first day of school, I thought that we needed a family day out that both rocked her birthday and helped us say goodbye to summer with a bang, so we packed up the family and headed to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure for the day!

My parent-to-child ratio was definitely off; I was outnumbered two-to-one. I called in for back up and had my parents and my grandfather come down from North Carolina to celebrate with us.

Celebrating Life with USAA
My Mom and Dad are retired military. They get how important it is for us to have them for back up!


Keeping my girls connected with their grandparents and their extended family makes it a little easier to deal with Daddy’s absence.

Keeping Military Kids Connected
Nana and Papa keep the girls well-loved and super engaged. They still miss Daddy, but it doesn’t hurt as much.


Rather than cake and ice cream with all the trappings, we sampled our way through the park indulging in sweet treats like Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I even let the birthday girl have one all to herself. (Confession: I had two. I am not ashamed.)

Military Kid at Universal's Islands of Adventure
This was huge, ya’ll. She never gets to drink a soda-like beverage to herself. It was way better than birthday cake.


With Daddy away, having extra hands on deck made it easier for us to make sure that each of my girls could enjoy age-appropriate rides.

Nobody could resist that Caro-Seussal! Even Great Grandpa got in on the action!

And it gets lonely for me, too! I miss my husband but having Mom and Dad around kept my mind off of missing him and wishing he was here and kept me engaged in enjoying the birthday celebration.

It doesn’t matter how old you get. Daddies are always there for you.


Random Travel Tip: Did you know that Universal Studios offers special discounted tickets just for military families? It’s true! Visit your installation’s local ITT Office or if you’re in the Orlando, Florida area, stop by Shades of Green for more info.

Commit to Always Being Able to Celebrate Life With Life Insurance

As much as we don’t like to think about the reasons we might, God forbid, need life insurance, we can all agree that preserving family traditions and celebrations are something we all want for our families, even in our absence.

I know that was pretty heavy statement, but life insurance is just one of those things we don’t ever want to think about. I get it. I promise you, however, that the last place you want think about having enough life insurance is in the middle of crisis. Heck, it happened to us.

I remember thinking to  myself, “He’s only 30. This can’t be. This isn’t happening to us.  Not now.”  As I sat in our car behind the ambulance barely catching glimpses of my husband through the rear windows, I found myself in a state of total denial that I might be losing my partner in life.

The only thing that gave me any security at all was knowing that we were prepared for this kind of crisis. It gave me the freedom to be present with him and not have to worry about paperwork or how on Earth we were going to financial deal with the fallout if the worst were to happen. Thank goodness it was a false alarm, but what if it hadn’t been an we weren’t prepared? I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the loss coupled with the stress of getting the logistics of our  life, our livelihood, in order at the same time.

One of the biggest barriers to taking action on getting yourself and your spouse adequately insured is trying to figure out exactly how much life insurance you need. USAA makes that pretty easy with their life insurance coverage calculators. And don’t forget, stay-at-home spouses, whether you you work for pay or not, need life insurance, too!

Enter to Win a $300 Giftcard to Celebrate Life with Your Military Family!

We are so excited to offer you a chance to win a $300 VISA gift card courtesy of USAA in celebration of Life Insurance Awareness month! Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Nataly Carbonell

    We celebrate life by spending time together and having fun together<3

    • NextGen MilSpouse Exclusive

      And there isn’t anything better 🙂

  2. My husband just got back from a year deployment and missed his first born’s graduation but luckily we skyped him in and he got to watch the whole graduation via skype live….it was a special moment even though he was not here physically. The kids all missed him terribly during the year….one thing we did during Christmas that I saw on a pinterest board was that I told my husband to take a photo holding a sign that said MERRY and then we took a family photo holding a sign that said CHRISTMAS and then I merged the two photo’s together for our Christmas Cards, we were all together even though we were apart. I’m happy that nowdays we have skype ….it really helped our kids stay connected with their dad. Keeping the kids connected through skype, photos, letters and so on helps big time.

    • NextGen MilSpouse Exclusive

      We are huge SKYPE fans. And you’re right, it makes it feel special even when they’re far away.

  3. Great post. Makes you appreciate the day-to-day more when your spouse is home. You have been doing a fabulous job staying busy and continuing to enjoy life even when your spouse is on the complete opposite side of the world!

  4. We try to make the most of whatever time we have, even if we’re doing something as simple as watching a movie during dinner as a treat. 🙂

  5. We celebrate life by cherishing our triumphs and learning from our shortcomings.

  6. When it comes to celebrating life we have very few traditions because we feel that it breaks hearts if the tradition has to be broken for some reason. We celebrate more so by doing family activities, we have done theme parks and water parks, movies in the theater and on the lawn, we play together, and everything is a team effort. Our family has group activities and coupled activities (daddy or mommy with one of the kids etc). I Love to take pictures of everyone and capture as many moments and memories as I can. Celebrating life to us means not taking one second for granted and reminding ourselves how blessed we truly are to have our freedom, our memories and our futures.


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