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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Staying Connected During Dad's Deployment

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Staying Connected During Dad's Deployment

Yesterday, I spoke with a good friend whose husband was going off on his FOURTH Iraq deployment. After doing all the comforting and the positive reinforcement that I could, I gave her some ideas of what has helped us in the past. My husband has been to Iraq and elsewhere countless times himself. We also have two young children who might not totally understand what is going on, and I was looking for a way they could remember and interact with their dad.

Here are some of the things we did (and things we'll try the next time around):

Before dad left

  • I took their favorite stuffed animal and put in a little recordable device that my husband had recorded a personal message on; when the kids hugged the animal, it would playback the message (you can find these devices online here or if you have a "Build-a-Bear Workshop" near you, you may be able to purchase these devices there)
  • dad recorded a few video tapes of him reading bedtime stories, just telling stories and joking around; even birthday and holiday messages for the kids can be recorded
  • dad made arrangements to have flowers sent to mom on Mother's Day and her birthday (you can arrange this ahead of time at a florist, or have a trusted friend or relative do this for you)
  • you can also have a photo of dad put on a pillow (check those sidewalk vendors at the mall)
  • name a star after your child at one of the star registries and let him/her hang up and display all the literature and photos that they send with the kit
After dad left
  • I regularly took the kids shopping to buy items for a care package; we bought mostly candy, snacks (not chocolate or anything that could melt), wet wipes, Kleenex, playing cards, DVDs, CDs and packed the box with those items, plus newspaper clippings of interest, magazines (the "Armchair General" is a popular one) and artwork and cards from the kids; we even sent that nasty dipping tobacco (because we figured if our husband didn't use it, someone else would!)
  • if your husband will have internet access, have him go online at a pre-determined time and instant message back and forth with your child as they explore websites together, such as the Discovery Channel, NASA and PBS. Even a stop to Cartoon Network would be fun.
  • If your husband has a video camera, have him walk through where he sleeps, eats and show the kids a few things they might find interesting or cool
  • my husband liked to send home candy wrappers, foreign money, potato chip bags, postcards and little trinkets, and the kids collected these in a box; we would try to figure out what the writing said and make up our own interpretations of things
  • use one of the shared photo sites to upload photos on a regular basis and make sure your husband can access it
  • on the next deployment, since the kids will be older, we thought it would be nice for the 10 year old to set up his own private online blog and write down his thoughts, upload photos, etc and then have his dad access it when he could; if you want to include other family members or relatives, that is another idea; with blogger, you can choose who can access the blog, and you do not need to make it public
The most important thing to remember while your husband is gone, is to make sure to stick to some kind of routine with the kids. Try to make things routine with an occasional fun and surprising outing such as the movies, the arcade, an amusement park or a sightseeing trip. I also like to take the kids regularly to the park, the library and the YMCA. Check your local newspaper for events and outing ideas (our newspaper has a nice "weekend" section in Friday's paper). Also take the time to get together with other families, in particular, other military families. We used to have a group of 10 wives or so who would get together at least every other week at someone's house. Yes, it was organized mayhem most times, but I look back now and smile when I think of those great times! To make things easier on the mom hosting, have everyone bring a dish to round out the meal. It's less pressure that way. Also have some games and videos for the kids to keep them occupied, while you ladies get to catch up on things!

If you have any other ideas, please post them here!

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