Posts Tagged ‘deployment’

Military Families: Start Strong, Stay Strong

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Thank you to P&G who sponsored this post and shared their Start Strong, Stay Strong program with me so I could help get the word out to my military family. 

It’s no secret that we just survived our first deployment as a family of 6. Five of us stayed here and lived our regular lives and one of us went out to sea on a submarine for half a year. What you probably don’t know is that even though they completed that deployment successfully, we still don’t get my husband is back for good. He’s not even back for a year, or six months. He was, in fact, home for less than 8 weeks.

start strong stay strong deployment countdown jars

The good news is this isn’t a deployment. It’s just regular routine submarine stuff. The bad news is calling it “regular routine submarine stuff” doesn’t make solo-parenting any easier or make the time go by any faster. The kids are still going to be sad, I’m still going to feel a vague sense of dread the whole time and it’s pretty much guaranteed that SOMETHING major in the house will break. Every. Single. Time. (I’m looking at you, main sewer line!)

start strong stay strong military boots

One of the benefits of having been stationed in the same place for so long is that I’ve built up a support system around me. Sometimes it’s super strong – like when I need to take Caroline to the emergency room at 9 pm and a friend rushes over to sit with the boys so I don’t have to wake them up and bring them along. Sometimes I feel very, very alone – like when the dog was diagnosed with cancer and I was standing in the vet’s office with a toddler on each hip, trying to figure out how to pay for treatment.

 

Many military families don’t stay in one place long enough to become a part of the community. As a kid we moved every 3 years (my dad was in the Coast Guard), so I’m familiar with that life too. It can be hard to connect when you know any roots you plant will just be pulled up again the next time the military needs you somewhere else. Switching schools, finding a new job, even learning which restaurants are the best or which car wash offers a military discount is all emotional labor that can take a toll on us as families supporting our servicemembers.

 

start strong stay strong boy in dress uniform hat

Recently, P&G (the company behind tons of brands you use and trust) launched the Start Strong, Stay Strong program. They are proud to partner with Operation Homefront and are committed to giving military parents all the support they deserve. The Start Strong, Stay Strong site allows you to explore your neighborhood, find or offer services, sell things via the marketplace and unlock deals and savings. I just found a great cashback offer at my commissary on the kinds of staples like Pantene and Tide I love to stock up on there!  

start strong stay strong boy in dress uniform hat

As military families, we all share many of the same frustrations, experiences, and challenges. Our best source of information is each other – who knows what to expect better than someone who has been there once or twice or ten times before? In the Start Strong, Stay Strong community, we can share our stories and celebrate our accomplishments. We’ve been here in Connecticut for more than 10 years now, I can definitely help you find the best restaurant or car wash. Whether you’re just starting out somewhere new or are staying strong to hold your family together despite the distances, you deserve all the support you can get.

The Start Strong, Stay Strong platform is new and growing, and we need your help to make it a success. Sign up, tell your friends to sign up, and join me in building this community from the beginning so we can be strong together. You can sign up here, it’s really easy. Won’t you join me?

start strong stay strong deployment homecoming

 

Deployment Homecoming Pictures (USS Virginia 2018)

Monday, March 19th, 2018

This is the first deployment homecoming were we had kids, so it’s the first time I really cared about deployment homecoming pictures. You know how I love a good excuse to make elaborate and detailed plans (see: birthday parties, daily photo projects, trips to Disney), so picking out our outfits with contingencies for weather was a good way to keep myself focused on the endgame. We were lucky that although it was cold and cloudy with a few raindrops, the weather was actually pretty good for February. (That’s how you can tell I’ve been in New England too long – cold and rainy is “good”.)

All credit for these goes to the amazing Anna Sawin from Anna Sawin Photography, who stepped in to be my photographer when a schedule change meant my original photog couldn’t make it. I was so worried I would end up taking the pictures myself. This is the one time I actually want to be IN the photos.

Sorry not sorry there are so many. This is the narrowed down version!

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uss virginia deployment homecoming pictures

 

 

TODAY IS THE DAY

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Guess what is happening RIGHT NOW?

My husband is coming home. I’m at the official homecoming down on the pier with the kids. This deployment is OVER and we all survived (as long as I can keep Lincoln and Finnegan from throwing themselves off the pier into the river, which I am honestly a little stressed about).

 

This morning the kids skipped school, we baked E a birthday cake and we’re all wearing special outfits I picked out months ago. I’m even wearing high heels, which I will probably regret but this seemed like an occasion that called for being a little fancy. It’s hard to be practical when you’re this excited.

I’ve had a variation of the following conversation at least 20 times in the last week:

Friend: It’s almost over! Are you so excited?!
Me: Yes, super excited!
Friend: Did those 6 months go by so fast?
Me: …
Me: You don’t have time to hear all my feelings on this topic.

On the one hand, it did go by fast because my plan to keep my family super busy worked extremely well. Our current schedule is a kid activity 6 days a week with 2 on Wednesdays and Sundays. Three kids started school. We did Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. I fed them approximately one million times, changed half a million diapers, and broken up a quarter-million fights. I dealt with the dog’s dental problems, cancer diagnosis and toe amputation. I potty trained Lincoln. I handled four months of plumbers trying to fix the sewer line. And I had completely forgotten that I ALSO finished the bathroom remodel, which seems like a million years ago now. So maybe six months didn’t exactly fly by.

The time did not fly by every evening when I watched TV alone. It didn’t fly by when I filled everyone’s stockings by myself. It didn’t fly by every time Lincoln threw a screaming tantrum. It did not fly by when I was trying to keep my business going with no real childcare. It didn’t fly by at 2 am when I was up with the baby. It didn’t fly by every time I had to make a decision on my own that I would rather have made with my husband. It did not fly by every time I had to drive somewhere, which is always, because in the last six months I have NEVER been a passenger in a car. Six months is a really long time, but also now six months is over.

The Navy understands that deployment sucks so they’re going to give E some time off and I am VERY excited. I won’t have to take all four kids to every appointment this month! I can go to the doctor alone! HE can take the babies to swim class because I hate swim class! He can also do our taxes, fix the bookshelves, and deal with the next round of contractors. I’m really excited that we’re going to finally watch Stranger Things season 2 so I understand pop culture again. It’s also going to be weird adjusting to having him around. It only takes two weeks to make a habit, I’ve had plenty of time to become set in my ways – feeding the kids and then just eating whatever for dinner myself, staying up too late watching whatever I want, placing random Amazon orders, never having to consult someone else about the weekend plans, pretending I can’t see the dishes in the sink for three consecutive days. It wasn’t quite like being single again, but it was very much about me me me me all the time. And I bet it’s going to be weird for E too. In the past six months I’ve moved around a lot of stuff. I bought new furniture. I rearranged several rooms. There are new lights and child locks on everything. All the stuff that I adjusted to after like 24 hours is going to hit him at once. Plus the weather. Going from 24/7 in a metal tube under the water to the human world full of trees and plants and sky and sun and rain and snow and wind and…other weather stuff has got to be tough on a person. Hopefully his skin doesn’t burn instantly when it first encounters sunlight again.

I have a legit fancy photographer who is taking pictures of our reunion, but if you want some less fancy updates I’ll be on Instagram with the kids. I’m probably posting an Instagram story right at this second. I also gave our names to the Navy media guys last night because all three big kids said they would REALLY love to be on the news, so there’s a chance Caroline will become a local tv star by doing something incredibly precocious in front of a camera. Let’s hope that’s why we’re on the news, and not because Lincoln throws himself in the river.

p.s. Thank you SO MUCH to my internet friends who have kept me company in a dozen different ways during this deployment. I would be 1000% lonelier and more stressed out if I only had real-life, in-person interactions. The internet keeps me sane.

 

This Christmas I Am Spoiling My Kids Rotten

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Hello Internet.

Thank you for all the wonderfully written, thoughtful posts about how kids these days are too focused on things and not on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s so important to remember that giving is far superior to receiving, just as God gave his love to all of us. I also read your advice on how experiences make better gifts than giant hunks of plastic. It’s true! You made some excellent points. Then there were the 4 Things devotees: Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. It rhymes! So adorable and minimalist and a great way to cut down on junk! And finally, there are the hardcore anti-stuff people who object to basically all of it and make their opinions loudly known. Thank you for your input, I appreciate the time you took to explain it.

This year, I am flat out ignoring ALL OF YOU.

wrapping presents

 

 

 

And I’m doing it 100% on purpose. I haven’t accidentally bought too much. I am not pretending to purchase only hand-crafted, heirloom quality, Waldolf-inspired toys. I am not claiming to be a minimalist while buying piles of presents. This is intentional, planned, thoughtful spoiling.

Our December has been full of both experiences and things. This year, we are seeing Santa no less than 5 separate times. We have five sets of matching Christmas pajamas, including two sets for me and one for the dog. Caroline has a special dress for The Nutcracker, a different special dress for our photo session with Santa, and another special dress for Christmas Eve. Oh and one more to wear on Christmas day after taking off her matching Christmas pajamas. We are opening seven advent calendars every morning. There are custom printed Santa bags for each child and fancy gourmet chocolates for their stockings. They are getting everything they asked for and then some. There is a giant Batman robot, thousands of Legos, and a stupid Baby Alive that pees. There are sleds and ride on toys and loud beeping things. ALL FOUR KIDS get their own Fingerling monkey, even the baby, who definitely does not need a Fingerling monkey. When they come down the stairs on Christmas morning, they’re going to freak out and scream their little heads off with joy.

Do you know what won’t be around our tree on Christmas morning? Their father.

I realize things don’t make up for your dad being deployed during Christmas. There is no present in the world I can give them that will stop them from saying “I wish Daddy was here”. My heart breaks a little more every time they say it – which is often. This isn’t their fault. They didn’t ask to be born into a military family. And until this year we’ve been able to shield them quite a bit from true Navy life – no moving, no long separations, no new schools. I grew up with that lifestyle and although I enjoyed it for the most part, not having “a” home or long-term friendships or a sense of being FROM somewhere can be hard sometimes. We’ve been very lucky that we can do this a little differently than most military families. But our luck ran out now that E is very fancy and important; his skills and expertise are needed on actual working submarines, and actual working submarines deploy.

It’s hard. Being the only parent means I am responsible for all the Christmas, for everyone. I don’t mind, really, because I love Christmas. But trying to buy stocking candy when I am never without at least one child is hard. Wrapping gifts at midnight is hard. Trying to decide if it’s time to tell the big kids about Santa is hard. I’m still part of a partnership as far as parenting goes but my partner is unavailable (most of the time he is 100% unavailable, not reachable by any means).

My choice to go completely overboard and ignore what other people are doing is in no way meant to be a reflection on others. This doesn’t just apply to our specific situation regarding Christmas presents or even just the holidays. As I am very fond of telling my children, different families make different choices. Some do small Christmases, some do big Christmases, some go to great lengths to be with as much family as possible, some want to stay home. Some people step away from Facebook and social media to stay focused on family, but I couldn’t imagine doing that when I spend so much time as the only adult in the room. Some find that taking photos helps keep them connected and in the moment (me, 100%), others find that putting away the camera makes them happier. It is a difficult time of year for so many people for so many reasons, finding joy however you want should be allowed. And this year, my joy is in distracting my kids from things that make them sad with things that make them happy.

Come January 2nd when everyone goes back to school, I am going to be cursing all this STUFF that will have taken over my house. There’s nothing more #firstworldproblem than buying too many toys and then being annoyed by too many toys. I’ll remind myself of that as many times as is necessary during the long, cold, dark months between the end of the holidays and the end of deployment. But right now, I am SO EXCITED about Christmas magic and that is just what our family needs.

Deployment Milestones: A Brief List

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

A few of the deployment milestones we’ve reached since August:

  1. The day of.
  2. When you wake up the morning after and realize this is just the FIRST DAY.
  3. The moment you get caught up on laundry and put away your spouse’s last item of clothing.
  4. What feels like the first major crisis.
  5. The first time some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you say “Well, actually he’s deployed so I’ll probably just decide on my own because I haven’t heard from him and I’m not exactly sure when I will and things are complicated so…”
  6. A holiday.
  7. The first REAL major crisis.
  8. When you finally get an email.
  9. The first time some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you say “No, it’s just me”.
  10. The first trip to urgent care.
  11. That moment when you make a big financial decision you wouldn’t usually dream of making alone.
  12. First major crying breakdown.
  13. The first OMG WHAT am I even going to do major crisis.
  14. When some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you just say “OK” because it’s easier.
  15.  Doing something you hate and usually your spouse would do but that’s not an option.
  16.  Using your power of attorney.
  17. Losing 10 lbs because being on a diet is easier alone.
  18. Completely throwing your diet out the window because being alone is horrible.
  19. When you wake up one morning and realize this is totally normal now.
  20. HALFWAY.

We’re not at that last one yet, but it’s getting closer every day.

 

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