Was Your Great-Grandma Rosie The Riveter?

Military Heritage Wall During Andrew’s deployment, fueled by a surge of patriotism and in an effort to fill our home with more photos of our family, I created a military heritage wall. To begin, I reached out to my mom, my grandmother and my dad’s sister for information on my family’s military history. I was surprised to discover that I am a direct descendent of veterans of the Civil War, World War I (The Great War), World War II and the Korean War! Could we be any more patriotic!? I suppose the answer to this is yes. I could be related to Rose Will Monroe or George Patton or, dare I say it, George Washington! I am related to none of these great Americans, so far as I know. But back to the project…

I had my family scan and send me photos of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers — veterans of the US Army, US Army Air Corps, US Marines and US Coast Guard — which I then printed with Shutterfly. I spent a long long while in Hobby Lobby (with both of my children in a cart eating every snack ever created on the Earth) selecting individual frames for each photo, only to eventually decide that I should get matching frames. After a debacle trying to hang eight frames of varying sizes (take a moment to imagine me Pinteresting “gallery walls,” tapping and removing nails with wreckless abandon, snapping photos and texting them to my mom and sister for their opinion on my arrangements, more removing and tapping, some spackling, sanding and touching up), we now have the perfect tribute. I am so privileged to come from a line of such dedicated Americans.

Do you know your family’s military history? Was your great-grandmother Rosie The Riveter? Talk to your relatives NOW, while they can still remember the awesome stories of your ancestry! And then start Googling like crazy.

Deployment: Small Mercies

Small Mercies
Though there have been glimpses of good times and happiness (as evidenced by my Instagram feed), in general, I would say this deployment has been rough.

I don’t even know where to begin. How far back do I go? To the week he left, when the kids had strep throat and double ear infections? To February, when Benjamin began his battle with recurring ear infections and when both children had their upper lip and tongue ties revised? To March, when when we traveled to New York for two weeks and Benjamin’s unresolved ear infection coupled with his four-month sleep regression almost ended us and when Madeline had a virus that landed us first in Urgent Care in New York and then in the ER in North Carolina (turned out to be the flu, which we were all vaccinated against, and it took me out, too)? To this month? Benjamin’s ear infection is back, along with his inability to nap or sleep through the night. Madeline’s sibling rivalry has finally kicked in and she will do anything — good or bad — for my attention. And me? I’m having dreams (when I’m lucky enough to get a REM cycle) about ocean waves crashing over my head.

Perhaps, I’ll just give a glimpse into tonight at our house. As I was giving an extremely overtired Benjamin (who had been crying for the better part of the last three days) his bedtime bottle, Madeline started screaming from her room. I jumped up from the rocker, still holding and feeding Benjamin, and ran to her door. Turns out she had gone to the bathroom. Number two. In her underwear. And she wasn’t happy about her decision. In that moment, I could actually feel my frustration, my anger, my exhaustion vibrating in every cell of my body. Profanities flew across my mind faster than I could think them. WHY!?

I tried to address the situation right there on the floor of her room, while still feeding the baby, but quickly learned that it was not a good idea. So I told her to get into the tub (unfilled) and wait for me to get Benji into bed. She sobbed for ten straight minutes, while I thought horrible, ungrateful thoughts in my head as Benjamin finished his bottle. I put him into his crib and stroked his precious blonde hair. His eyelids grew heavy and each blink got longer until he was asleep. I shut his door, said my nightly prayer for him to sleep through until morning, took a breath and walked to the bathroom.

When I saw my big girl, partially clothed, looking impossibly small and sad in the tub, my rage dissolved. I took her into the shower, dressed her in jammies, put product into her sweet curls and followed her to her room. We read stories with Daddy, listened to his lullabies and then we lay there in the dark, both of us unwinding. She let me hold her in my arms. She talked and I listened for ten straight minutes, this time my mind spinning with guilt and understanding.

When her stream of consciousness started to slow, I sat up, attempting to wrap up bedtime: “Do you know how much I love you Maddie? So so much.” And with every ounce of sincerity in her body she said, into the darkness, “Mommy, I want to keep you.” I slid back down onto her pillow and wrapped myself up in her laughter, as she rolled over and licked my cheek. Thank God for small mercies. That will get me through to tomorrow.

When Daddy’s Deployed: Ideas to Help Your Kids Cope!

Deploying with ChildrenAs soon as Andrew got his deployment orders, I anxiously set about finding ways to help our children (especially two and a half year old Madeline) understand what it would mean for them and ways keep our family connected during the time their Daddy was away.

Here are some of the things we’re using to help our children cope with their Daddy’s deployment…

World Map — We hung a giant world map in our family room a while back, but this was the first thing we referenced when we told Madeline about Andrew’s deployment. We showed her where we live and told her that Daddy would be flying on an airplane, across the ocean, all the way to Iraq with his soldiers. Because he’s so far away, he won’t be able to come home for a very long time. Most mornings, when we go downstairs, Madeline heads over to the map saying, “Mommy, SHOW me. Show me where my Daddy go!” I believe the visual reminder has helped to clarify things for her.World Map

Countdown Calendar — As I did for Andrew’s last deployment, I made Shutterfly desk calendars (one for him and one for us) to cross off each night. “We made it through another day!”Deployment Countdown Calendar

Kisses From Daddy — One of my favorite (and Madeline’s) things we introduced into our new deployment routine are nightly kisses from Daddy. I filled up a jar with enough kisses to equal the amount of days Andrew will be gone. Every evening, after dinner, Madeline runs to her jar for a Hershey kiss and a real kiss from Daddy, by way of Mommy. “Daddy loves you SO much!”Kisses From Daddy

Daddy Bear — The weekend before Andrew left, we made a big deal of taking the kids to the mall for a memorable family date. We got hot pretzels and brought the children to Build-A-Bear to make a Daddy Bear (complete with camo uniforms) to hug whenever they miss their Daddy. Andrew recorded a personal message for each bear, so that they could hear his voice on-demand. I know it means a lot to her, because I hear this message at least ten times a night over the baby monitor: “Hi, Madeline! It’s Daddy. I love you so much, and I’m thinking about you right now.”Daddy Deployment Bear

Recorded Books/Songs — In the days leading up to the deployment, Andrew read and recorded over 30 books onto my phone for me to play for the children at bedtime. He also recorded a couple Hallmark Storybooks that the kids got for Christmas. Madeline loves hearing her dad’s storytelling, but I think she loves his lullabies even more. (Note: Don’t forget to upload your stories/songs onto your computer, so that they’re saved in more than one place.) Also, the USO partners with a great program, United Through Reading, that allows deployed parents to record themselves reading children’s books aloud onto DVD for their loved ones. Worth a look!

Pictures and Videos — Madeline already has photos of Andrew hung in her room, which she points to every morning. But in addition to that, before he left, I set about capturing the mundane, day to day of life with Daddy — pictures and videos of him with the kids — on my phone. During times when Maddie’s really missing her dad, I just pull out my phone so she can watch a video of a tickle-fight with Daddy or surf through photos of them sharing a bowl of cereal. It never fails to put a smile on her face.Deploying with babies

Pictures for Daddy — I printed off photos of our family from my Instagram feed using Social Print Studio, laminated them, punched holes into them and hung them onto a key ring to make a small, pocket-sized flip book for Andrew to take with him. That way, even if he’s somewhere without technology, he’ll never be without his family. #oldschoolPrinstagrams

What tips or tricks have you used to help your family cope with separation??