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Milestones

and a question for you

September 14, 2010

This is how we do big events around here,

during these deployment days.

I typically get a several emails each week asking for ideas on how to staying connected during deployments, for both spouses and children. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m thinking I’ll just write a post on a few things we do, and maybe incorporate some of your suggestions, too – giving you credit, of course!

So,

if you’ve ever been apart from one you love,

how do you stay connected across the miles?

~*~

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27 Comments »

  1. Linds says:

    Nowadays there are so many amazingly technological ways to stay in touch, you know. I wish they had been around when my children were small. Then it was snail mail to ports around the world via central office, because my husband was a senior officer in the merchant navy and away for 9 months of the year. But what we did then still has its merits now, I think. We used to take a series of favourite books when he was home, and record him reading the stories (with little comments to the children as he read about the pictures too, using their names) and they absolutely LOVED those. They used to wait for the comments and their faces just lit up. Maybe try something like that for the times when they are not able to skype or whatever?
    It also worked in reverse, because it is very hard for the Dads to be away, so we made small boxes of envelopes for the months for him, one a day, and the children or I drew pictures, wrote notes or put in a favourite sweet. That sort of thing. He loved them, and it made him feel a part fo the family, because re-entry to the family is ALWAYS more difficult than you think it will be! For everyone.

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 3:13 am

  2. Candy says:

    One thing we did were the care packages. We would shop together for them (as we all know, when daddy is gone, you do E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G together!). She loved picking out items that she knew he loved, and he loved knowing she had picked them out.

    One thing he did that was great was to send postcards. He would find them, either from the local area he was in or from the BX, whatever, and address them directly to her. He would print out a message directly to her, so she could read it, and she also loved the pictures on the other side as a representation of where he was.

    When he was remote in Korea, one of the best things he did was ship home one of the ubiquitous “mink” blankets for her birthday. She still has it to this day. It was worth every penny spent for shipping (it cost more to ship than to buy it!).

    And of course having a laptop was great, because we could take it around the house using the webcam for various things, so he felt more like he was there, like at the dinner table, during her birthday party, etc.

    Things like that. Anything really, I know that my husband loved it as well. He papered his walls with letters and photos from home.

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 7:49 am

  3. Andrea says:

    My husband was gone for a year when our oldest daughter was 2-3 years old. She understood where Daddy was but she still needed the daily interaction with him. When he called us on my old flip cell phone, his picture would show up on the screen. This helped her see and hear Daddy at the same time. Eventually she came to believe that Daddy lived IN the cell phone. She would sing to him lullabies (since he called us just before going to bed which was noon our time). She even took a tissue to lay over the keypad thereby “tucking in” Dadddy!

    My blogging skills increased during this deployment as well. Since it was difficult to email large photo files to his remote location, I posted them online via my blog for him to access from wherever he was at the time. My little vignettes from our daily life helped him feel connected to all the big changes happening in his daughter’s life.

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 8:08 am

  4. Gretchen says:

    And the pictures make me cry….

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 9:12 am

  5. To Think Is To Create says:

    My time aparts haven’t been during the internet age…so glad there are things like video chat to keep the kids close to daddy.

    <3

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 10:24 am

  6. Jenny says:

    i love how he was holding up his backpack… sooooo cute!

    Love me some skype I do :) best way to stay in touch :)

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 10:26 am

  7. Tracey says:

    I love seeing your boy Skype with your man!

    I travel about 6-8 times a year for work (I only work about 10-12 times a year, so it’s worth it!) I typically leave for the airport before the kids wake up and I often leave a special note or a treat at their breakfast place–to ease any day one disappointments.

    The only reason I can leave my babies this often is knowing they are in the loving care of their Daddy. We are fortunate that when I travel my husbands job allows him to telecommute.

    We are a family that thrives on a schedule, so when I am away things run the same way they do when I am home. This goes a long way at putting little ones at ease.

    When our 4 year old asks how long I will be gone I do what my husband lovingly calls “mommy accounting” I only count the days we won’t see each other. So a 5 day trip is only 3 days if I get to hug and kiss them on my travel days :o)

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 10:47 am

  8. Abigail Dobson says:

    I am just one month into my first deployment with my husband, so I think I’ll be learning as I go (definitely enjoy reading other people’s suggestions/ experiences!!!), but so far Skype has been the thing that keeps us connected. There is an 8 hour time difference between us right now, but we have worked it out so that we talk as he is waking up and I am going asleep and vice versa when possible. It helps a lot!!! Not having him here, I sure do miss the morning prayer we would always have together, but being able to do that now on Skype is a blessing.
    Up for any more ideas, though… :). So glad you posted this, as it is something I am in the middle of right now… and it is hard. I hate deployment/ time apart… but I’m learning every day that God’s grace is sufficient.

    [Reply]

    Gretchen Reply:

    So glad you saw this post, Abigail! I was going to make sure to send you the link. :) Praying for you in these days and months…

    [Reply]

    Abigail Dobson Reply:

    Ahh… thank you, Gretchen!! I was so happy to find the link you gave. :) Thank you so much, friend. God bless you.

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 11:29 am

  9. alison says:

    I think I may be an anomaly because I tend to handle deployments and the lack of communication really well. I think that’s my personality, though. I’ve never been emotionally needy (not that there is anything wrong with being emotionally needy) so deployments haven’t been as hard for me. Again…that’s just me. My 8 1/2 year old daughter is quite similiar. Maybe she’s just used to it? My husband just came back from a 7 month deployment and will leave again in Feb for 18 months. We emailed almost daily and spoke on the phone a few times; the internet in his room was pretty bad so we didn’t Skype. For us, that works. I suppose it would be different if I had smaller children who don’t really understand why dad left and who don’t have a good concept of time.

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 11:31 am

  10. Amy says:

    I have never commented here before, but I have some experience being apart from someone I love.

    My boyfriend and I were in different countries for a year (not for military reasons).

    Skype was amazing, but we also played a lot of multiplayer games on Yahoo games, and we rented the same movie through itunes to watch together when we skyped. I’m not sure if these are realistic ideas for you guys. I don’t know how much time you have when you talk and how good the internet is, but these ideas really helped us “hang out” even when we were in different countries.

    Hope this helps! Good luck!

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

  11. Sidnie says:

    Those pictures are so sweet! I have a pic from Bubba’s 2nd birthday- cake on my laptop, daddy on the screen! Memories we’ll never forget!!

    I print pictures of our soldier, then use clear contact paper to stick them to everything. Pieces if cardboard they can carry around, bookshelfs, placemats, the front door, the washing machine, fridge. That way he’s in our daily lives.

    I’ve also printed wallet size photos, laminated them in cool business card covers I found from Wally World, holepunched and put them on a binder ring. It goes eberywhere with us. David kept his in his pants pocket the whole time he was deployed. Easy to update with new pictures too!

    We recorded what we call Daddy Books. We have a stack of special books that only Daddy reads. When he’s gone the boys can watch the videos on my laptop.

    When toys break or batteries go dead, we have a special place for the ones that “only daddy can fix.” That way when daddy returns from work that day, the field that month, or even sometimes deployment that year-daddy COMES HOME and can sit down and fix it with the boys. Especially since it’s pretty much a daily thing- whether he’s gone for a day or a year- it reinforces to the little ones that their daddy is coming home, and when he does come home they’ll have something to do together. Also, when the soldier returns from deployment, he needs to feel needed, and that’s a wonderful NEED.
    (and for this momma, those noisy toys that drive me crazy- yeah, those are the ones that only daddy can fix.)
    yes, we sometimes wait a year for toys to be fixed, but my boys love it.

    I look forward to hearing what everyone does to stay connected!!

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

  12. Jennifer says:

    I love Skype! My son is in his 2nd year of college and Skype has become my best friend for really “seeing” how he is doing. It is so much more personal then the texts and phone calls.

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

  13. Laura says:

    I wrote a series while my hubby was deployed last time and dedicated an entire post to all the ways we keep in touch/stay connected.

    Here it is, if you’re interested: http://homemakingjoyfully.com/2010/04/deployment-keeping-in-touch/

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

  14. ayla says:

    I can’t wait to read your post on this! I am determined to stay better connected with my husband on our next deployment, which will be on a carrier (very different from the last one, which was to Iraq– or so I’ve heard).

    We did Skype and email and chat on gmail or whatever was fastest, and I sent a few boxes, but I sent you an email once or left a comment admitting that we did a good job of saying hi and not much else. I am really going to try hard to stay emotionally connected when he leaves next time. :]

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  15. Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms says:

    {Whispering in your ear}…I sent pictures…uh, sans the clothing, to him!

    We are married after all! :)

    [Reply]

    Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms Reply:

    Oh, I should add that my hubs had his own laptop and room. So no worries on anyone else seeing anything!

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

  16. Christine says:

    How sweet to see Troy talking to his Daddy. My favorite pic is the one with Troy’s head resting on his hands. Love love LOVE it. How the heart aches though when Daddies are away from little boys! Tyler just said today…”Daddy, our house, now?”.

    So, we have a Daddy Doll for Tyler. Our Family Readiness Center on base was giving out vouchers for a free one! Tyler loves his so much and it especially helps with bedtimes. Be sure to check out your readiness center to see if they have any vouchers. Not sure if it is a military-wide thing, or just our base.

    We change the words to songs, like, for “Oh How He Loves You and Me”, we sing “Oh how He loves Daddy and Tyler”.

    We love putting boxes together for Dan, and then going on Skype when we can to watch him open the box from us. We go through the whole process together….gathering things for the box, packing it up, going to the post office, then watching him open it.

    This is our first deployment, so I am sure there are lots of other great ideas out there. Thanks to everyone who is commenting! :o)

    Love ya, Ash!

    [Reply]

    September 15th, 2010 at 6:06 pm

  17. Heart & Home » Flying Free says:

    [...] Milestonesand a question for you [...]

    September 16th, 2010 at 12:19 am

  18. Arlene says:

    Yes, Skype is the greatest thing ever — we are so spoiled with all this modern technology! I think it helped my little man remember who his daddy was (he was not yet 2 when my honey left for his deployment).

    There’s the usual sending cards and packages making sure to include notes/pictures/etc from the little ones. We also do a big celebration whenever he comes home — to make up for all of the birthdays/holidays/whatever he missed while he was away.

    I think the best thing I did while my honey was away was just keeping busy — not so busy as to be exhausted (though there are some women who do that, I guess), but busy enough to pass the time. The hardest part is the first few weeks, when you’re trying to settle into a rhythm of sorts… well, and then the last few weeks are rough, too, because time sometimes seems to come to a standstill. But anyway, keeping busy with all kinds of church activities, hanging out with friends. inviting friends over for meals/games, taking the kids for outings (like the zoo, or children’s museums, etc).

    I’m sure I’m not mentioning anything that others haven’t, so I guess I’ll quit babbling at you. I know the days must be going slowly for you all as you await your honey’s return… please know there are so many friends praying for you!!! *hugs*

    [Reply]

    September 16th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

  19. Arlene says:

    Ohhhhhh, I almost forgot — take advantage of all the great offers for military families! There are tons of freebies — like the free bear from O.V.A.L. (http://www.operationvoicesandlove.com/), free photo shoot with OPLove (http://www.oplove.org/) to name some off the top of my head — and usually the base does things like family outings or dinners or something for the deployed families. When my honey left the first time, his shop also had someone come out and shovel for me and they offered to do lawn mowing if he didn’t return by the spring. All kinds of goodies for the family; just have to get out there and look for ‘em/ask. :o)

    [Reply]

    September 16th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

  20. Jenny says:

    We’re in the middle of our first deployment, we have two kiddos ages 3 & 6. Before my hubby left he took the kids to Build A Bear. He let the kids pick out a new animal then he recorded a sweet message for inside so the kids can snuggle the bear and squeeze it to hear daddy’s voice. My son calls his “Daddy Bear” and of course he picked the army themed bear. Also for the kids he made sure to order special birthday presents online and had them shipped to the house. The kids loved that it came from just Daddy.

    My favorite is when time allows we have a picnic with daddy. We set up a picnic in the living room and bring the computer along propped up on a box. Ahh the blessings of Skype. We try and keep things as normal as possible and include daddy in as much as we can. He’s been gone for 5 months already and we don’t feel nearly as disconnected as I anticipated =)

    [Reply]

    September 16th, 2010 at 7:09 pm

  21. Elaina says:

    I always recommend storybook reading. I think that’s awesome. If you can’t access the USO’s United Through Reading Program (http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/military/), your spouse can always record one even while deployed if he has even a basic video camera. United Through Reading isn’t available in Afghanistan as far as I know. But like I said, you could always do one informally. Most of my friends have also used Daddy Dolls or kid size quilts with photos of dad and the family as constant reminders. There’s something called Operation Kid Comfort that provides FREE (FREE!) quilts to kids. Their blog is here: http://operationkidcomfort.blogspot.com Or you can check out the San Diego Armed Services YMCA website for more info: http://militaryymca.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=51,

    [Reply]

    September 16th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

  22. Betty Barrera (Coffee With Betty) says:

    My husband has been gone for two weeks. During his transition, Skype was priceless!

    Now that he’s on base, we have been blessed by emailing each other and since he works in a highly technical department, he gets to call me daily.

    We email each other for hours when we can!

    [Reply]

    September 16th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

  23. Amanda in FL says:

    My hubby is leaving for his third, 6-7 month deployment, of our 3 1/2 year relationship on Monday, so of course this has been a topic that’s been on my mind for weeks. It’ll be our first deployment since having our daughter in January (2 weeks after he got back from the last deployment), which I’m scared will make it much worse. I was active duty Couast Guard at that time though, so I wasn’t able to go home to my family when I felt like I needed to. That’s not the case this time thankfully! During the last deployment, Skype was a lifesaver for sure! He watched my baby belly grow that way! This time around we’ve decided that we’ll memorize the same scripture verses together as well as reading some marriage books together and discussing what we learn. Another thing we’ve done since the first deployment is each wear half of a Mizpah coin necklace. It may be corny, but knowing that he has the other half of my necklace somehow makes me feel closer to him. Praying and fasting together on the same days can also be something that draws you together on a spiritual level. That’s all I can think of for now! I came across your blog back at the beginning of the year, and I must say that reading about your life and thoughts has made me laugh and cry at times because only someone who has been in a similar situation can really understand the profound longing caused by the separation of deployment. Thanks for what you do! Blessings, Amanda

    [Reply]

    September 17th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

  24. Sheree says:

    I have had several women tell me my Deployment Bracelets® help them and their children stay connected to their love ones while they are deployed.

    I won’t be offended if you don’t post this but if you do I would like to donate a bracelet to one of your readers to be determined by you. I give 10% from each Deployment Bracelet┬« to the USO. http://www.beadworkbysheree.com/deployment-bracelets.htm
    I think what you and your soldiers do is awesome. Sheree

    [Reply]

    September 20th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

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