Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find websites and information, upcoming webinars, programs and events. FLO does not endorse organizations or companies linked-to in this blog, the views they express, or the products/services they offer. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Friday, December 28, 2012


 Home (or maybe not) for the Holidays

Q: My spouse will be staying at post during the holiday season. This is the first time we’ve been separated. What can I do to manage this stress and not feel so alone?

A: Holidays can be stressful in general and being separated from a loved one during this time can be especially difficult. Technology has made communicating easier, but it does not replace having your loved one physically with you during the holidays. There are lots of tips on the internet for ways to manage a separation during the holidays. Try using a search engine to enter phrases containing words like “single” or “separated” “holiday” (or enter a specific holiday you celebrate). Read through some articles on MHN’s website (visit www.members.mhn.com and use ‘unaccompaniedtour’ as the company code) on topics such as tips to control stress and staying connected to your family. Here are a few more tips:

  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Share holiday plans with your loved one and find out what he/she will be doing
  • Find ways to retain traditions and important holiday experiences
  • Host or help host an event
  • Have friends and family record a holiday message and send the CD to your loved one
  • Send a care package (make sure to allow plenty of time for delivery) before the holiday with things like festive decorations or cookies (but keep the eggnog out!)
  • Budget accordingly
  • Start shopping early for presents that you intend to mail
  • Take pictures/videos or use a webcam to share your experiences
  • Help others – volunteer at a soup kitchen or to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter
  • Remember, a holiday is only a date – who says you can’t celebrate Christmas in February?
  • Take time for and take care of yourself – do something you enjoy, keep up with exercise, and make sure to get plenty of rest
  • Know you’re limits and don’t try to take on too much
  • Share your tips with others on the HomeFrontUS Yahoo group (join, if you’re not already on HomefrontUS-subscribe@yahoogroups.com)
  • If you need help, seek it!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Yummy :)  Kathryn was kind enough to share a  delicious no bake recipe with us!   Just in time for the holidays.....

Oreo No-Bake Truffles


  • 1 package Double Stuffed Oreos
  • 5 oz cream cheese (you may add up to 8 oz, I just like the consistency best with 5 oz.)
  • White dipping chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)


  1. Chop Oreos up finely in a food processor. Save some of the finely crushed Oreos for garnish later and set it aside. You don't need too much.
  2. With hands (or a spoon, I just think hands are faster), mash softened cream cheese and crushed Oreos until well combined.
  3. Roll into 1" balls and place on a wax covered cookie sheet. Put in freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. While balls are in freezer, melt chocolate according to directions.
  5. Pull the Oreo Truffles out of freezer, and dip into chocolate. Garnish with reserved Oreo crumbs before the chocolate sets up.
  6. Let chocolate set, refrigerate and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Upcoming events!

Attention all family members of employees serving at unaccompanied posts!
If you are in the Washington D.C. area, or are planning a trip to the area, please mark your calendars and plan to attend this fun event! 
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, will host Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays, a reception for family members of unaccompanied tour employees on Tuesday, December 18th at the Department of State from 4-5:30 p.m. EST. 
If you are interested in attending and would like an invitation please write FLOaskUT@state.gov

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Have you heard...

Recently a UT spouse was kind enough to share the information below.  Thank you for sharing! If you have a good idea, suggestion or thought please share at FLOaskUT@state.gov .  We will post it for you.  REMEMBER we do not endorse, we just share thoughts!  Be kind, respect others..... 

Alpine Hideaway
                 Steele’s Tavern Manor B&B
                                                    Melissa & Ray Alexander
Alpine Hideaway Cottages

Almost right after my husband left for Pakistan, I made an immediate search to find a close by “retreat”/B&B/romantic getaway destination for his first R&R – or as I would like to refer to it as our R&R because it was just as important for me to get away as it was for him.
As luck would have it, I found the Alpine Hideaway cottages in Steeles Tavern, Va. – right on the edge of the Shenandoah.
They are owned by Melissa and Ray Alexander, proprietors of Steele’s Tavern Manor B&B, which is also a lovely place to stay.
But I wanted the exclusivity of the cabins.
We stayed at The Pond cabin – our deck hot tub overlooked the pond. It was totally quiet and we were totally by ourselves – except for the cows in the distant field and a little stray cat that was very cute.
Apparently, you can fish in the pond which is fed by local streams.

Some of the other options offered which we took advantage of were;
*Couples massage (first night there)
*Dinner prepared in your cabin by a local caterer (2nd night) – 3, 4, or 5 course dinners offered – we chose the 4 course and we were stuffed!! They also give you complimentary flowers and vase and a framed menu of your dinner.
*Breakfast on the last day at the manor – the cottage has its own kitchen and gas grill so you don’t have to do anything at the manor if you don’t want to. But Melissa prepared a fantastic breakfast – we were definitely stuffed after the dinner and the breakfast – but it was excellent fare!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The two recent “Parenting During an Unaccompanied Tour” tele conferences generated excellent comments and participation from more than 30 different individuals calling in from all over the world!  Thank you for your support! 
 Below is a compilation of suggestions and tips presented by your fellow colleagues and family members during the sessions.  Please remember, these are suggestions; choose the ones that work best for you.
  • ·         Use a globe of the world to show where mommy/daddy is staying
  • ·         Use FaceTime, Skype or other communication means for frequent calling
  • ·         Have the parent that is away hold the camera or take pictures of their new living arrangements
  • ·         Create a family web page/blog
  • ·         Make a photo book and mail it.  This can work for either parent
  • ·         For serious questions set up a specific time to talk.
  • ·         Make a big deal about reunions!  Make countdown signs.
  • ·         Splurge a little--the parent staying with children arranges special dinners and weekends away with them
  • ·         The parent that has been gone arranges special “date time” with the child when everyone is united, during R&R and at the end of the tour
  • ·         Read with your children the books When Mommy Travels or When Daddy Travels  by Harriet Ziefert 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Successful parenting can be a challenge for any family but it is usually more difficult when one parent is not only absent but also in a dangerous location.  To address the issues families face during an unaccompanied tour, FLO is offering an interactive workshop, “Parenting during an Unaccompanied Tour”.  Thursday October 11 at 9 a.m. EST.  You may participate in person (Department of State, room 1239) or virtually.
To participate virtually:
1.       Dial toll-free 1-800-531-3250 on a US-based phone line or non-toll-free 1-303-928-2693
2.       Enter 9690198 for the Conference Code
Please direct questions to FLO's Unaccompanied Tours Support Team at 202-647-1076 or 1-800-440-0397 or email FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Below are some of the ideas and suggestions from past sessions:
·         Use indirect questioning to allow children the opportunity to talk
·         Have small children use stuffed toys to act out their feelings
·         Play manicurist and mother/father paints nails while asking questions
·         Teens – may take them an hour to ‘warm up’; ask them “what do your friends think?”
·         Let children’s teachers know what’s going on
·         If you have employee’s cell phone or other number, make sure kids know that it’s for emergencies only; set time limits on using phone; if kids want to ‘vent’ or complain about parent at home, encourage them to email absent parent instead of picking up the phone.  (Good advice for adults too!)  That way you won’t say something you regret.
Effective communication strategies and mechanisms     
§  Use Skype, YouTube, phone, web, Face Book
§  Watch the same TV shows or read same book/magazine
§  Download the same music, videos, photos, etc                                                 
§  Have the child write to the parent; parent keeps letters and puts in a letter box to give to the child at end of tour
§  Parent at post brings pre-stamped post cards to post
§  Create your own postcards-you can buy blank postcards and decorate them
§  USPS has site to make photo postcards: http://www.usps.com/createmail/welcome.htm

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Communication Tips During a UT

Communication Tips for Unaccompanied Tours

By Margaret 

Communicating during a UT can sometimes be a challenge.  Uncontrollable factors such as time differences, work and other commitments that require time and attention, and power outages (just to name a few) can really impact our ability to communicate with our loved ones serving abroad.  Because communication is important and sometimes limited, we must make sure that we make every second count when we do get the opportunity to communicate. The following are some tips for communicating during a UT:

1.    Keeping it in perspective.  Understand that what may seem urgent to you back here on the home front may not seem as urgent to your loved one who is serving on a UT.  Therefore, if you share an issue with your loved one and do not receive a response that you like, don’t take it personally.  Nine times out of ten, your spouse may be dealing with issues that are far more urgent than those that are going on at home.  However, rest assured that this does not mean that he/she is not concerned about your issue.  Keep things in perspective, and don’t waste valuable time on the phone, Skype, etc. complaining about issues that are really out of your spouse’s control.  Instead, value the time that you have to communicate with one another, and try to focus on the positive.

2.    Keep it creative.  Oftentimes, long distance communication with your loved one can become routine, boring, and limited. While modern technology has made it easy to communicate with our loved ones who are away, sometimes it may be worthwhile to revert back to “snail mail” for a change.  Instead of using the telephone or Skype, try writing a love letter to your spouse. Can you imagine how happy he/she will be to receive a thoughtful, hand-written love letter? If writing is not your thing, simply send a care package with items that communicate “I love you” such as a CD with a mixture of love songs, a book of poems, or a collage of pictures that illustrate “love.” 

3.    Keep FLO/UT in mind in times of uncertainty.  Uncontrollable factors such as power outages, civil unrest, and long work hours may sometimes make it impossible for your loved one serving on a UT to communicate with you.   If you have not heard from your loved one and are concerned about whether or not he/she is okay, please do not hesitate to contact FLO/UT with your concerns.  We are here for you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

4 Tips for a Successful Unaccompanied Tour

4 Tips for a successful Unaccompanied Tour

By Sherri 

1. Take care of yourself.     Remember you can’t help your loved one if you are sick or emotionally drained.  Take the time to eat right, sleep and give yourself the occasional break; you deserve it!

Resources the State Department offers to DOS, USAID, and their family members:
·         Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) is located in Mental Health Services within the Office of Medical Services.  The DSMP is a community based program to support the psychological health of Foreign Service Officers, Department of State (DoS) and USAID employees, and their families who are or will be assigned to high stress / high threat / unaccompanied tours (HS/HT/UT).  The DSMP provides information, referrals, initial assessment, and brief treatment for problems related to the stress of deployment.  They offer a support group meeting twice a month in the Department of State and meditation practice. For more information, visit www.state.gov/m/med/dsmp/index.htm  
·         Employee Consultation Service (ECS) has a staff of psychiatric social workers.  They offer consultation, evaluation, and referral services to families of U.S. government employees assigned to diplomatic posts abroad and to employees and family members on an unaccompanied tour.  Walk-ins are welcome, or you may schedule an appointment.  For more information www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21952.htm
·         MHN, Inc. is a comprehensive mental and behavioral health services company with extensive experience in providing confidential web-based, telephonic, and in-person resources to employees and family members throughout an unaccompanied tour.   Log on with the word (single word lower case) unaccompaniedtour in the company code https://members.mhn.com/external/public/default/homepage 
Other places to look:

·         The Integrative Restoration Institute (IRI) provides programs that show you how to live a contented life, free of conflict and fear, by opening your mind and body to its inherent ground of health and well-being: www.irest.us
·         Authentic Happiness is the homepage of Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.  www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx
2. Be organized.   Whether you are getting ready to leave for the first time or getting ready for the final R&R, it is always a good idea to look at, use, and make check lists. Times of transition (whether it be going to or coming from Post) can be very stressful.  And, stressful situations can sometimes cause us to be forgetful (amongst other things).  This is where those lists become very important for you and your family; they help you to remember!
·         Write FLO!  We have a number of good lists we can forward to you. FLOaskUT@state.gov
·         Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) helps U.S. Government employees and their family members prepare for an overseas assignment or a return home.  We encourage you to explore the  website and email OBC (FSIOBCInfoCenter@state.gov) with questions and requests for additional information www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/c49333.htm 
3. Think security. Your home, your car, your personal safety and your virtual presence all need extra care.
·         Create good passwords and change them often.  Use sites like USAA’s Password Strength Indicator to see how strong your password is.  www.usaa.com/inet/pages/security_take_steps_protect_logon?action=INIT&wa_ref=SEC_CTR_YourSec_logon_CyberCodeText&SearchRanking=7&SearchLinkPhrase=password
·          Wondering about an offer and can’t get in touch with your partner for advice?  Use www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com   for advice.
·         Look at State Department Federal Credit Union on their tips for the Foreign Service www.sdfcu.org/ForeignServiceCenter
4.  Cultivate appreciation.  Take time to appreciate the little things!  Appreciate the sacrifice your loved one is making for you and for the service of this country.  Appreciate all the hard work your family is doing while you are away doing an unaccompanied tour.  Tell your loved one how much you appreciate them!   Brag about them to others and let your loved one overhear!  Write words of appreciation in your e-mails and other communications.  Remember the words of Voltaire: “Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Websites and information

Recently FLO along with MHN presented a seminar on Parenting during an Unaccompanied Tour.     A record number of people were able to dial in and attend the seminar.  We hope to repeat the session soon (it was too early for some and too late for othersJ).   

Here are some of the tips from the seminar:
·         Use indirect questioning to allow kids the opportunity to talk
·         Use stuffed animals to act out scenes, so children can explain their feelings
·         Play manicurist-mother/father paints nails while asking questions
·         Teens – may take them an hour to ‘warm up’; ask them “what do your friends think?”
·         Use effective communication strategies and mechanisms- Skype, YouTube, phone, web, FaceBook,
·         Watch same TV shows or read same book/magazine     
·         Child writes to parent; parent keeps letters and puts in a letter box to give to the child at end of tour
·         Parent at post brings pre-stamped post cards to post (tip: You or your kids can also create personalized postcards USPS has site to make photo postcards: http://www.usps.com/createmail/welcome.htm
·         If you have employee’s cell phone or other number, make sure kids know that it’s for emergencies only; set time limits on using phone; if kids want to ‘vent’ or complain about parent at home, encourage them to email absent parent instead of picking up the phone.  (Good advice for adults too!)  That way you won’t say something you regret.
·         Let children’s teachers know what’s going on.
·         Homework help – find a local tutor or older student; work as a group before employee goes to post so child has continuity and does not feel that the tutor is a replacement for employee parent.  Use Skype so away parent can help with homework.
·         Validate other parent’s experience
·         Have something to look forward to, like your onward assignment, and learn the language, read about city…but remember, sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped/planned.

Current events can be scary…. especially to children.  Here are some websites you may find useful:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

                                                             PRESIDENT OBAMA

                                                       AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT

                                                    September 12,2012

Washington, D.C.

Obviously, the first thing that I want to say, and what we all feel, is deep sorrow over the loss of Chris and Sean.  Some of you knew them well.  Some of you worked with them closely and were inspired by them.  And there’s not much that I’m going to be able to say that quells the grief that all of you feel right now, thoughts and prayers are with their families. 

But what I can say is that had it not been for Chris’s courage and his vision, his recognition of the stakes that existed last year when Benghazi was on the brink of being overrun, it’s not clear that those of us who were a little higher up off the ground would have made the difficult political decisions that we made in order to save Benghazi and ultimately provide Libya with the opportunity to determine their own destiny.  And in some ways, that’s a microcosm of Chris’s courage, his vision, his willingness to engage on the ground in very difficult circumstances.  That’s a microcosm of what all of you guys do each and every day.

Some of you know that I spent a lot of years overseas when I was a kid.  And there’s no doubt that that’s shaped my perspective on the world and our place in it, and not always in the ways that some of my opponents describe, but it shaped it nevertheless.  And what I know has always been one of America’s greatest gifts to the world, one of our greatest traits as a people, is the fact that we’re not made up of a single tribe, a single religion or a single race, but we’re this collection of strivers and dreamers, people from all around the world who came here because we all agreed on a creed, on a set of principles – the idea that all men and women are created equal, that we’re all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – that these aren’t just American rights, they’re not just Western rights; they are aspirations that people in the smallest village in Libya or in the most prosperous cities in Europe all believe in and care about, and that part of our task is to make sure that the way we project power as the greatest nation on Earth is consistent with those values. 

We do so with humility, and we do so understanding that we can’t control the shape of events everywhere and that it’s not our job to dictate other people’s forms of government.  But it is this belief that those values that make us who we are have to be part and parcel of how we operate in the world. 

And Chris and Sean, I think, represent the very best of that tradition – people who were realistic but also idealistic; people who understood how hard it is to bring about change, but who weren’t daunted by the task and were willing to put their shoulder behind the wheel to move history in a better direction. 

So I could not be prouder of them.  But I also understand that all of you, with your own capacities and in your own ways, are carrying out that same tradition each and every day.  And as a consequence of what you do, America is safer, America is more respected, America is more secure.

Are there risks in that approach?  There are risks when somebody like Chris ventures out from the compound and takes the risk to his own security so that he can engage with people in circumstances that are still pretty volatile.  There are risks when our diplomats are going to volunteer for posts that they know pose a risk to their person.

The fact that Chris and Sean were willing to take those risks, the fact that many of you are willing to take those risks, is not only commendable, it’s absolutely vital to us continuing to be a leading light, and it’s vital for us to be safer.  Because the one thing that I’m absolutely confident about is that when we lead with our values, we lead with our ideas, and we don’t shy away from the world, and we’re not consumed by cynicism, but the belief that we can make things a little bit better.  But when we embrace that, then we’re securing a better future for our kids and our grandkids and all those Americans to come.

So I hope that alongside your sorrow today, all of you also take a moment to reflect on how important your work is and to remind yourselves that it’s not that often in life where you’re allowed to really make a difference, where you’re put in a position where what you do matters, that changes lives.  It may be the difference as to whether a child gets something to eat.  It may make the difference in terms of whether a political prisoner is freed.  It may make a difference in terms of whether or not a country shifts towards democracy.  It may make a difference in whether or not Americans are welcome as they travel to places around the world. 

What you guys do every day matters deeply.  And so on days like this, it’s a good moment for us to step back and say all the frustrations, the setbacks, the dealings with your own internal bureaucracies, the plans that go awry, that all that stuff somehow is worth it, and that the reason you got into this business in the first place is because although there are a lot of reasons to be cynical about the world, there are more reasons to be hopeful about it. 

I know everybody who knew Chris understood that that was who he was.  He loved what he did, and he was excited about it, and he knew that it was going to make a difference.  And he could see it.  And I know Sean felt the same way.  And I know most of you who got into this business did so because you feel that same way. 

So this is a setback today, and part of our family has been lost.  But don’t lose that sense of hopefulness.  Don’t lose that sense that somehow the world is not subject to our better selves.  If we work hard enough and smart enough, then over time we move the world in a better direction.  And it’s not going to happen unless you guys retain that sense – and it can’t come from anywhere else because there’s no other country on Earth that thinks quite in that same way.

We are still the one indispensable power, and the reason is because of the spirit of people like Chris and Sean and because of you.  Don’t lose that.  And I hope that if you can take away one single thing from this tragedy, that we’re going to redouble our efforts and strengthen our resolve.  I know that’s how your boss, the Secretary of State thinks about it because nobody’s been in the thick of things longer or seen greater reason to be cynical.  And nobody, behind the tough exterior, still possesses that sense of hopefulness and idealism as much as our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

So take something from her example.  Take heart that no matter how difficult this particular day is, what you guys are doing every single day is making the world better.  I thank you for it and the American people thank you for it as well.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

We are all heartbroken about the news from Libya.   Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that have suffered such a great loss. 

Remembering Ambassador Stevens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGk4vUcGzY0

Copied below are the official statements from 
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 12, 2012
Statement by the President on the Attack in Benghazi
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.

Statement on the Death of American Personnel in Benghazi, Libya

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 12, 2012

It is with profound sadness that I share the news of the death of four American personnel in Benghazi, Libya yesterday. Among them were United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and Foreign Service Information Management Officer, Sean Smith. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals. Our hearts go out to all their families and colleagues.

A 21 year veteran of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Stevens died last night from injuries he sustained in the attack on our office in Benghazi.
I had the privilege of swearing in Chris for his post in Libya only a few months ago. He spoke eloquently about his passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people. This assignment was only the latest in his more than two decades of dedication to advancing closer ties with the people of the Middle East and North Africa which began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started. Chris was committed to advancing America’s values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger.

Sean Smith was a husband and a father of two, who joined the Department ten years ago. Like Chris, Sean was one of our best. Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and most recently The Hague.
All the Americans we lost in yesterday’s attacks made the ultimate sacrifice. We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.

America’s diplomats and development experts stand on the front lines every day for our country. We are honored by the service of each and every one of them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tips from the Field

Here are some things you should know:

Make sure your friends and family know they can find information & resources on FLO’s unaccompanied tour site http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c14521.htm   
Information not to be missed on this site:
  • ·         Contact Sheet – fill able form used to collect e-mails you provide of your circle of family and friends, enables us to disseminate UT specific information and updates.
  • ·         Decision Tree -use this document to help decide where to live during a UT and to learn about your allowances.
  • ·         Workbook request- these activity books were specifically designed for parents separated by distance from their child, age specific we are happy to mail them as requested.
  • ·         Yahoo HomeFrontUS-a private chat group organized so you can virtually “meet” other people in a similar situation. 
  • ·         Medal request- designed to recognize the sacrifice a child has made while a parent is away.  Request for your son, daughter, step-children, 0-21 years of age and Foreign Affairs agencies only-State, AID, Commerce, Agriculture, and BBG.
  • ·         Mental Health Resources- MHN (Health Net Company) Employee Consultation Service (ECS), Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP); all these programs offer valuable emotional & life style support to families and employees especially created for the issues and concerns of unaccompanied tours. 

Mark you calendar....

Have you heard the news!
The UT September Newsletter will be e-mailed Tuesday August 28. .  If you don't receive your copy; check your  SPAM if it isn't there, please, please contact FLOaskUT@state.gov!

Thursday, September 6 at 3 p.m. (EST)
MHN & FLO will present a teleconference on Parenting during an Unaccompanied Tour.  This will take place at the Department of State and everyone is invited to attend in person or on the phone.  To learn more please contact FLOaskUT@state.gov.  

Please share this blog and this information with others experiencing a unaccompanied tour!  Don't be square-share :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rambles musings...

So you are experiencing an unaccompanied tour!?  Maybe it’s your first or third but the good thing is your looking for information J 

Have you seen FLO’s website on unaccompanied tours?  http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c14521.htm  Information not to be missed on this site:
·         Contact Sheet – fill able form used to collect e-mails you provide of your circle of family and friends, enables us to disseminate UT specific information and updates.
·         Decision Tree -use this document to help decide where to live during a UT and to learn about your allowances.
·         Workbook request- these activity books were specifically designed for parents separated by distance from their child, age specific we are happy to mail them as requested.
·         Tips from the Field-suggestions compiled from people’s knowledge of what worked for them on a UT.
·         Yahoo HomeFrontUS-a private chat group organized so you can virtually “meet” other people in a similar situation. 
·         Medal request- designed to recognize the sacrifice a child has made while a parent is away.  Request for your son, daughter, step-children, 0-21 years of age and Foreign Affairs agencies only-State, AID, Commerce, Agriculture, and BBG.
·         Mental Health Resources- MHN (Health Net Company) Employee Consultation Service (ECS), Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP); all these programs offer valuable emotional & life style support to families and employees especially created for the issues and concerns of unaccompanied tours
Interested but unsure where to turn?  Please contact FLOaskUT@state.gov  And as always please remember to share this information with others!  Sometimes people don’t know where to search, sometimes e-mails go astray or they are put into SPAM folders (it happens…) but the important thing is the folks at FLO want to help. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tips from the Field

Countdowns - Once dates were confirmed for the R&Rs, we created these. It helped to see how much longer we had to go. We did one vacation themed, holiday themed, and candy themed (pre-counted M&Ms in 2 jars with the kids names on it, they each got 1 a day until he came home)  

Skype calls - We scheduled 2 separate calls, one for the kids to talk with their dad (it happened usually in the morning before they headed to school) then he would call me in the afternoon and we'd have our time to discuss house stuff, the kids, etc. This has probably been the sanity saver for all of us as we still felt very connected. The kids have never had their dad gone for more than a quick trip for training or work (usually no more than 2 nights). 

Reading in person - To help me with the kids school work, he downloaded a book to his iPad for reading with the kids over the computer. They would share the reading with each reading a paragraph. He downloaded a book for each of the boys, so they had their own time with him. This really worked great as they felt that daddy was involved in their school work. 

As the mail wasn't reliable after the holidays (especially since my husband was not at the Embassy, but at an Annex) instead of sending things through the mail, we sent e-cards, and emails with pictures of things we wanted to send him. We also sent lots of pictures of places/things we saw/did. 

Because of events of this year that we wanted to attend together (a close friend's wedding, our 15th anniversary) we decided to do a long stretch from the 1st R&R to the 2nd. That was the most stressful for both of us as he left right after Christmas and didn't come home again until May. During that time thankfully it was basketball season and scouts was well underway. I had begun to volunteer more at the school, which was very helpful for keeping me out of the house and during the times when calls would not be coming. Plus volunteering is so flexible!  It was just hard to have to go such a long stretch, that we would not recommend it to others, unless absolutely unavoidable. Looking back it doesn't seem so bad now, but I remember during the time that I was thankful for volunteering, the kids busy schedules, and having friends around. Granted not many are familiar with the FS life here in small town PA, and sometimes, that was exactly what I needed. 
Thanks to Jennifer!  Excellent tips!