Chaining Daddy ..from home to Iraq:Making Deployment a time of growth for Children

July 31, 2008

My oldest son is on his last day home. In a few hours he and I will drive to the airport in Denver and he will board a plane back to his Army life. He will trade squirt guns for the real thing, and we will begin our vigil of prayer and waiting. He has been to Iraq before, but it seems that the idea never gets easier for me. I am still a Mom. His children are too young to know how long he will be away, to them a year is eternity. Remember when you were a kid, the school year seemed at least five years long?!

I read a post on a blog yesterday about making the construction paper chain, but this was a twist on that old idea. You make the chain for the number of weeks your loved one will be away, then , each week after deployment, you take a link off the chain, have the children write what they did that week, and send it off to Dad.

Somewhere in Iraq, the paper chain will be getting longer, signifying the days behind your soldier. At home, the chain is getting shorter, signifying that Dad will be back that much sooner. This also keeps the absent parent up on the things the kids think are important ( which may be different than what the at home parent thinks is important ), and keeps the bond between parent and child.

I will be getting out my construction paper and scissors, very soon, and getting the thoughts of my grandchildren on links of construction paper. I think I will have to send my son one of those little mini staplers, so that the chain can grow over his bed, or wherever he has a bit of space. Maybe in a few months he can send a photo of his chain, linking him to home from Iraq.

Military Goodbyes and Pink Baby

July 24, 2008

How do we do it? Those days when we know a goodbye is looming on the horizon? My little granddaughter had a fit last night because we could not find her pink baby. Pink baby has been a part of her life since the beginning. She opened her up, a gift from her Gigi (great -gramma) on her first birthday. Her eyes lit up and Pink baby has been by her side from that day on.

Pink baby has a life of her own and I am sure that though her features are sewn on, she has emotions flitting across her love stained face. No matter how many times she sees the inside of a washing machine, she still looks a bit worse for wear. If you have ever read the velveteen rabbit though, you know this is what makes her real!:)

Pink baby has been lost in a variety of places (too many to list!), the mall, the grocery store, church,  the home of who ever has had her darling little owner over night. She has even gotten locked into the library at Ft. Eustis, and the MP’s were called (by her distraught Mommy who knew full well the long weekend was going to be worse for her than for anyone else!) but heartlessly they refused to break into the library .My grandaughter learned a lesson of patience and waiting. Finally Monday brought the natural unlocking of Pink Baby’s confinment.

Pink Baby has shared tears, secrets and hugs…the doll carrier on the back of a bike with training wheels. She has indeed become “real”. All this had to be explained so you will understand the dimensions of disaster not finding Pink Baby promised!

As I said earlier, we could not find Pink Baby and I was looking EVERYWHERE…every crevice, under furniture, could the dogs have torn her up in the backyard? The thought made my hair stand on end, but no pink material scattered in the yard, (whew)! My granddaughter, her brother, and her Daddy left to visit Gigi, I continued the hunt, even going out to the trash to see if little brother may have accidentally dropped pink baby there. The shaking sobs of my little one still reverberating in my head, I am praying, asking the God of the Universe to reveal a dirty stuffed doll, because I cannot stand it!

I stripped the beds, and there she was in all her pink glory! Snuggled safe and sound at the very end of my bed.

I walked over the Gigi’s to place Pink Baby in her little owners arms. You see, the thing is not Pink baby. It is loss. We are sitting on the edge of deployment. I felt as much like crying over pink baby as my little one. it is loss , and pink baby reminded us, that we cannot always have any control over where our loved ones are.

One day soon her Daddy will be marching off to war again, and we will say goodbye. She and I and all the rest of us here at home will watch, wave, and feel the loss. We will be here waiting for his safe return. She’s gonna need Pink Baby.

Parents, try to remember, when your little ones have a treasured doll, animal or blanket, that it really means a lot to them. These things become a needed coping mechanism. Remember too, that it is natural for emotions to run amuk, and for kids to react in multiples of a hundred to anything that would only slightly upset them normally. Remember , it is loss, that brings the tears. It is loss (yours)that makes you wish they would knock it off (it’s just a stupid toy after all).

God bless and be with each one of you who face this same thing today.

The Homeland Security Blanket:making deployment a time of growth for young children

July 19, 2008

The Homeland Security Blanket! I love the name and the concept of our newest idea from wee the people publishing! My partner Paula, has created something so wonderful for the little heroes at home, to give comfort and provide the snuggly warmth to help remind a child’s heart of a deployed parents hug.

I wanted to show you some photos so you can see for yourself this special gift for the child of a military parent.

As of now, we are figuring out how to offer this gift at a price that is comfortable ,at $39.95 (it includes the book We Serve Too!) we are working hard to get the price down for military families. We want every military parent to be able to wrap their little ones in a homeland security blanket.

Our backpack, with it’s yellow ribbon as shoulder straps, holds the book We Serve Too!A Child’s Deployment Book in it’s front pocket. A button with a star holds the top closed. With a quick pull, and by turning the backpack inside out, you find a cozy polar fleece blanket to wrap up in while you read the story.

Softness and touch are important to people who are grieving. Often grief and loneliness which are a part of deployment for children, can be eased by a familiar toy, blanket, or any kind of snuggly. Soft clothing can be helpful too, so track down some really cuddly jammies for your little ones before a parent deploys. Another help in the grieving process is to have something that reminds the child of the parent, a shirt that belongs to Dad can become a good pajama top, spraying his cologne lightly on the sheets, and making a pillowcase with Dads photo on it. I’m sure you can think of lots of other things as well.

I remember as my father was dying that one day after the stresses had mounted I went downstairs and wrapped myself up in a down comforter, literally hiding there for a while. It helped. I believe that the Homeland Security Blanket can be just what a blanket was to Linus in the Charlie Brown Cartoons by Charles Schultz…just throw it over your head, and the world goes away for a while, and you can rest and wait for  Daddy or Mommy to come home. When you come out, you are better able to cope with facts of deployment.

I’m sure your kids will not mind that you borrowed their blanket.

I just want to get the word out about this great gift for our military kids. We know from the reaction of children who have seen it, you can’t go wrong with this one!

Block Leave Joys!

July 13, 2008

Our oldest son Justin is home on block leave. His brother has returned from Kansas to be with him, and we are having a fabulous time. Yesterday we grilled steaks, stayed home and played with the kids, We had a water gun fight that broke out several times during the day. I finally I had to assert my authority and remind everyone that I was the mother and they needed to hand over the ammo . They did , for a moment, and later I found myself under fire again! The day ended with a fire in the fire pit and sticky marshmallow covering the mouths of both grandchildren.

Sometimes we are given by God, a perfect day. This was one of those… I was teased as I ran for my camera, trying to stop it, freeze it, so I can hold it close again in the not so perfect days of deployment. Those days that we military families know, stretch out endlessly . Days when I turn off the news channel, because my heart is raw. Don’t get me wrong, I do not spend every day in worry, I know that my son is in the hands of God, and there is no safer place. I also know he loves what he does, and that is a gift I would never want him to miss. but I am still a Mom and I will miss him.

Another day is dawning, soon I will hear little voices of the grandchildren who have left their Daddy’s bed, seeking me out for breakfast. The voices of family , the music of my life.  I am grateful.

Greeley, Colorado : Independence Day Parade!

July 5, 2008

The Greeley Independence Day Stampede has become a big deal! I saw in USA Today that we are ranked one of the top ten fourth of July celebrations in the country! I have lived in Greeley for over 30 years. Most of that time it has been small and not so differnt from any other midwestern town. Now though, we are on the map, at least one day of the year! I have to share some of the photos I shot today at the parade. The western flavor and the presence of Old Glory really makes it an authentic fourth of July!

The boy scouts keep a huge flag moving down the street.

Now you know you are in the west, here come the longhorns!(they are loose, but behave better than my dogs)

Flags on parade include flags of each military branch.

I always wondered how they do that!

Lots of fun, and lots more great stuff, but my photo journalism is somewhat lacking and these were the best of my photos. Hope your fourth was full of family, fun and remembrance of all we have as Americans!

"Switcheroo" and our National Anthem

July 4, 2008

I was just thinking about the woman here in Colorado who decided to switch the National Anthem for the Black National Anthem. I was thinking, when was it that we became so divided? I think it may be the empasis on multiculturalism. Those who support it would say it is a way to bring unity and understanding about other cultures. I think it causes division, and in our human need to belong, alliances that blur the bigger picture.

My father was an immigrant from Italy. He was a career Army officer and carried a copy of the National Anthem in his wallet. I remember a day when I asked him about being Italian and got a sharp rebuke. He was not an Italian, he was an American.

Why are we Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, why are we not Americans and our national Anthem belonging to us all? I do not get this. As the mother of an Asian child and a Hispanic child in our Caucasian home, I know that it is not race or ethnicity that make a family.

I am sure the woman who chose to pull this little “switcheroo” as she called it, feels pretty proud of herself this morning. After all, she got on the news ,and has, as a good friend of mine says, “caused a tempest in a teapot:” So where am I going with this? I guess I would like to say to those of you out there who are parents, help your kids to see the bigger picture. My Dad did that for me, when he claimed himself an American .

It's the Fourth, God Bless America!

I hope that the flag you fly in front of your home or business will make you think today of those who stand beneath her crimson stripes and 50 stars, defending our homeland. This country is the best place to live, work and raise a family on the face of the earth, regardless of the crazy things going on within her boarders. I am thinking today about the Supreme Court decision to invite enemy combatants (you know, the guys that are shooting at our soldiers, marines ,airmen ,sailors, guardsmen, and planting a bombs along the road wishing you would come by for a visit…) to share in the democracy that they so hate?

I know there will be many who will write on this topic better than I , I am no political expert. I am just a woman , a military mom and grandma ,who fervently loves our country and our warriors. I am amazed that intelligent people could defend this decision.
Easy to go on and on here, and many will. I believe that our fighting men and women are the best in the world ,are compassionate, and are well trained for the job they do. Maybe we should let them do it.

Anyway, back to the fourth, this is a day of remembrance. Remember those who have gone before, tell your children about them. Teach them that love of God and country are not out of date.
Teach your children about the honor of their heritage as Americans, teach them our songs. Let them know that even when we disagree, we have the right to disagree. Let them know that the flag symbolizes our allegiance, and the military needs their prayers.
I hope you will let the stars and stripes remind you today of the sacrifice it symbolizes.

One request from this mom and grandma this fourth of July: remember the families that wait at home, that have sacrificed the presence of a loved one. One who will not be at the barbeque this afternoon, they are busy defending your nation.