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Tara Crooks

Tara is a mom of two, CoFounder of the Army Wife Network, and CoAuthor of 1001 Things To Love About Military Life. Visit her blog at www.lovingasoldier.com.

How did you come up with the idea for your project? Army Wife Talk Radio (AWTR) began in April 2005 as the original internet talk radio program for military wives.

I began working online in several different areas of entrepreneurship and through a series of unlikely events found my niche. AWTR was born on a whim, during my husband’s first deployment. I realized through the creation of her blog Loving A Soldier (LAS), that her experiences and need for resources was a common thread of military life. Soon, what started out as a fun “hobby” grew in popularity and took on a life of its own. In 2006 I partnered with Star Henderson to publish and self-syndicate Field Problems™, a military question and answer column, geared toward empowering spouses by providing real answers to common questions of today’s military families. In 2007 we hit the conference circuit, creating a spouse conference titled Field Exercise™. Field Exercise™ events are a grassroots effort to empower and rejuvenate military spouses nationwide. With the development of social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) coupled with the success of the radio show, our column, and our conferences, we knew we had found the key to successfully reaching the military families that so desperately needed their assistance. Army Wife Network (AWN) was founded in April 2009 as the umbrella that joined what was previously known as the websites of Army Wife Talk Radio (AWTR) and Field Problems™ (FP). Army Wife Network is now a bustling community of military families, sharing information and resources to the tune of over 40,000 members.

1001 Things To Love About Military Life is a product of our relationship with the military and love of this journey. Star and I met our mentors, Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer, early in our journey. We were sharing information and talking with them when the idea for the book came up, many years before it published. We worked hard to create this lengthy list and were blessed with a great agent who found us a publisher – Hachette Book Group. In November 2011 the book was released, and in 2012 readers will see it release in paperback. We hope that this book is an explanation to civilians as to why the military serves as well as a reminder of that love to those who do.

What’s your favorite parenting tip? My children tend to be just like their mother. Nothing is worse than having to punish your child for acting just like you. They’re strong-willed, opinionated, and they don’t like being told what to do. That describes me to a “T”. The best parenting tip I ever received was about choices and control. Instead of sending Chloe into her room to put on the clothes I picked out for her and her proceeding to scream about them or put on something I don’t care for her to wear, I pick out two outfits that are both mama approved. She feels like she got a choice, I am happy, and we save some stress.

How do you get your family to eat healthy food and/or exercise? I will not lie to you, eating is the most difficult parenting challenge I have ever had. I welcome advice and tips as it is something we struggle with at the Crooks house daily. I have been mildly successful in this venture by educating my children logically about how food works with their body and what they need to eat for “fuel.” I have taught them what is a carb, a protein, and what counts as a fruit/veggie. We limit snacks and desserts. You will find me asking “what are your food groups?” when they pack their lunch or we eat dinner. We also have a rule of three at our house. Eat three bites, if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it but you have to TRY.

Ironically, as difficult as eating is exercise is easy. They see me go to the gym in the mornings and their daddy do PT with the Army. We like to go on family hikes (we are stationed in Oklahoma so this is easy to do) with our dogs. The girls and I also like to put on music and just dance!

How do you recharge your batteries? Laugh – I know this sounds insane to people that I would just sit and laugh but I do. I cannot tell you how much a night out with the girls with some good belly laughs and a glass of wine can change your spirits. If it’s really bad, and there are no friends around, I’ll pop in one of my favorite comedians on DVD for a good chuckle. I also love to sing. I get in the swagger wagon and turn up the GLEE music and belt out a few songs. It’s a stress reliever.

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