How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape Families


Martha Ertman, author of Love’s Promises.
Topic:
How formal and informal contracts shape all kinds of families.
Issues: The difference between a “deal” (I cook dinner and you wash the dishes) and an enforceable contract; Type A families (heterosexual couple raising a biologically related child) vs. Type B families (pretty much every other kind of family imaginable); how contracts shape and sustain families as opposed to simply being cold and calculating.

#MilitaryFamilyFriday: Saving Money + Being an Absentee Landlord

At one time or another, most of us run into some tight financial times. Being on a military salary—which, as we all know, isn’t the greatest in the world—doesn’t help. But, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to save money, whether you’re trying to build your retirement fund or just socking away a few extra bucks for a rainy day. Here are nine tips that will help you save money, even on a military salary. Read the rest of this article on my about.com minisite.

If you’ve been living off base in a property you own, it also means that you have to figure out what to do with your current home. The most obvious choice is to simply sell the house. But what if the housing market is down or you’re underwater? Should you keep the house and become an absentee landlord? Read the rest of this artilce on my about.com minisite.

I’m always looking for great organizations, programs, and other resources to help the men and women who serve our country. If you’ve got a suggestion or referral, please drop an email to armin [at] mrdad [dot] com.

The State of the Family + The Parents’ Phrase Book

Richard Eyre, co-author of The Turning.
Topic:
Why the state of the family matters and what the world can do about it.
Issues: Everything starts with the family—and ends with the family; social problems that are crushing society; making your own family stronger than the competing cultures; how parents’ perspectives are distorted by false paradigms.



Whit Honea, author of The Parents’ Phrase Book.
Topic:
Easy, useful phrases, scripts, and techniques for every situation.
Issues: Words to help you discipline and enforce limits; build a child’s self-confidence; handle questions about life and death; talk to your kids about friends, bullies, and playing by the rules—or not.

Family Camping Never Loses Its Magic

Camping is one of those great family activities that requires everyone to sacrifice a bit of their time to open a window of opportunity for some real family bonding. Often times, parents take cell phones and keep them somewhere safe on camping trips, so that the members of the family can communicate and bond without outside interference.

So why doesn’t every family go camping? Well, depending on several factors, camping can be expensive, time constraining, or unsafe. However, these are very special circumstances. For the average family, camping can be done without spending a ton of money, during a time that’s good for everyone, in a completely safe and fun way.

The most common reason for not camping is the expense factor. Camping can be extremely expensive, depending on your requirements. However, camping is about “roughing it” a little, and not having to worry about a little dirt under your nails. Tents and sleeping bags are typically the largest “required” expense for camping. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, though. For a summer camping trip, summer equipment will do just fine. You can find quality summer tents, with rain flies, big enough to sleep 4 people and their gear for as little as $80. Sleeping bags can be expensive, but, if you are summer camping, you don’t need a -40°F bag. A simple 20°F sleeping bag will work perfectly. You may even find yourself not using it at all, depending on the temperature. These summertime sleeping bags can be found for as low as $30. All together, that puts you at $200 for quality reusable gear.

Other gear you will need depends largely on the type of camping you want to do. Coolers for food can be expensive, but many campgrounds have small “general stores” to buy food from. Obviously, one of the most important things to bring is water. There are several options for water supply for a camping trip. You can bring bottled water, but there will be a lot of trash and weight. There are water-purifying bottles, but these can be very pricey. There are survival-style items, such as iodine tabs, that can be used, but most folks aren’t this into camping. There are pros and cons to each of these options. Be sure to choose the one that’s right for you.

Where camping tends to get expensive is in all the outdoors activities there are to do while camping. Typically, the price goes up with the intensity level of the activity. For example, bird-watching is only as expensive as a set of binoculars, but zip lining can be very expensive. It’s not a bad thing to spend money on things that will bring you and your family closer to each other, but you have to ensure that the things you purchase are worth the price.

ATVs, for example, aren’t exactly cheap, but they can supply 10+ years of fun for you and your family. They can bring an experience that not much else will give your family. Plus, there is a cheaper alternative; trail-worthy go karts! While not as inexpensive as a pair of binoculars, go karts will offer so much more, in terms of excitement and thrill. To top it all off, they are probably cheaper than you’d think. A good quality go kart can sell for as low as $564.77 with a company like Killer Motorsports. Just be sure to do your online shopping to find those companies that offer good products at a great price.

Remember, though, that the best part of camping is not what you bring along; it’s how you use the things you bring to create opportunities for family bonding. Kids and parents can come together, around a warm campfire, and truly learn about each other in ways that sitting in separate rooms throughout the house just can’t offer. Camping is a time that the family will cherish and remember for the rest of their lives.

We’re Looking for Great Content for Military Families

Brott, Military FatherAs the military families expert for about.com, I’m always on the lookout for organizations, programs, and practical advice and strategies that can help our military servicemembers, spouses, and kids.

If you have any suggestions, recommendations, and even guest posts, I’d love to share them with our readers. So please email me.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse the site, http://militaryfamily.about.com/

Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happy Family

Anne Fishel, author of Home for Dinner.
Topic:
Mixing food, fun, and conversation for a happier family and healthier kids.
Issues: Overcoming time-constraints, scheduling issues, and post-work fatigue; bringing gratitude to the table and averting complaints and conflict; the importance of conversation; getting the whole family talking, laughing, and engaging with one another—and keeping it up over time.