Gifts from Daddy…what a Christmas! Parents, think about writing to your children!

December 30, 2008

The gifts sent from a deployed parent to his children, are held in a special place in a child’s heart. I could see that even more than the cool backpacks my grandchildren received from our son , the notes were the thing that moved them, and me!

Justin had sent a wonderful package of gifts to his children, as as we opened them, I read to the kids what their Dad had said on two notecards, one specific to each child. The smiles that came when he had written that he loved them, was truly the best of all gifts.

I recently heard of a book that tells of the journal a soldier kept for his son while in Iraq. The soldier gave the ultimate sacrifice to this country, but the journal is a treasure that his son will always have. His wife said that in the journal, her husband had showed his son, and herself ,who he really was. I think all parents could give a special gift to their children by writing a journal, or letters and notes to kids. We tend to write what is in our heart. Things that feel awkward to say, flow out on paper in a new way. Things we think, are given as a part of our love and our humanity…a legacy to our children.

You may say you are not so good at writing, or that you don’t spell very well. Please put those notions aside. Just write what you feel, what you really think is important. Share things that you have gone through, what it was like to be a kid when you were one. Your children will not be casting a critical eye on your grammar, penmanship or any other failing you think you have. They will hold the gift, the expressions of your heart, as precious .

No gift bought with money can give them the insight and appreciation of who you are, and who they are to you, with more power than a few simple words written specially for them.

Get Great Cards and Banners , Free to Military Families!

December 25, 2008

If you would like a fun gift for your deployed loved one, here’s a great one! We ordered a large greeting card (they are big!) to send to Justin . You can download photos and choose colors and what you would like to say. We had friends sign all over the card (I went with a white background so it was easy to see) . These cards are so well done, in a heavy plastic sign material, so they will last! They are FREE to military families (you pay the shipping). This wonderful company also offers free welcome home banners! Check it out!

Military Kids and Christmas :Making Deployment a Time of Growth for Young Children

December 16, 2008

A parent being deployed at Christmas is sure a hard thing for a little one to cope with, but here are some ideas for making the holiday brighter and more meaningful.

*The photo is of my 7 year old granddaughter hanging an ornament that her Daddy made when he was her age. She was excited when we got it out of the box, and after looking at the date it was determined that he had been only a little bit younger than she is now. It made a sweet connection for her as she proudly hung it on our tree. Maybe you have something that represents your child’s absent parent, even if it is not a traditional ornament…tie a string to it, and let the child hang it. It may be a photo, or a piece of jewelery, or even a silly thing, like a comb that is the parents…no matter…you just want that reminder hanging there!

* Have your children look through their toys and choose two or three that might be given to children that do not have so much at Christmas. Let them choose and be sure these are not things that the kids will later regret giving. Loss is often overcome with generosity. Giving feels good. It also gives the kids a good story to tell the absent parent when they call home!

* Bake something wonderful! I did this the other day with my granddaughter. I taught her how to make the scotch shortbread recipe passed down from her great great grandmother. I had a chance to tell her about the country of Scotland and pieces of her heritage. Make some time to talk about and pass on your Christmas traditions.

* Make up a special Christmas prayer for the parent who is not with you. This can keep that parent close by, and your shared faith makes the miles disappear for a moment.

* Be sure you take the time to pull a child on your lap and tell them about your faith, what Christmas means to you, and maybe some of the Christmas memories you have of being a child. Children love to hear about their parents being kids!

Try making up a story, if you like doing that, about what it may have felt like in the manger that night long ago, or read the Bible account of the Lord’s birth. Have the kids draw a picture of what they imagine it to be like, to send to the deployed parent. That way everyone gets to focus for a moment on the real meaning of Christmas.

No amount of planning and doing makes the holiday without a loved one easy, but sharing real time with kids is a way to say I love you… a way they will remember. You are a military family, you are resilient, remind the kids and yourself that this too you will triumph over, and there will be a day of reunion.

May you be blessed this Christmas, and heartfelt thanks to those who defend, while we sit safe at home. May the Lord bless each one of you, and truly give you the gifts of peaceful hearts and safety.

Toys Leave for Afghanistan…

December 10, 2008

As you can see from my photo, my days of magical thinking are not yet over…remember when you wondered if toys really did come alive at night? What was it like to have to hold still all day, and then play only when everyone went to sleep? As I packed up these toys to embark on an adventure that will take them across the ocean, to a place that is honestly worlds away from here, I thought it might be fun to have them wave goodbye!

What better time to play with childish thoughts than at Christmas time?!

The truth is that the children who get these little trinkets live in a war zone. They do not really get to be kids, and I hope that just the silliness of some of these will give them a few moments of being just that. My own grandchildren barely acknowledge these toys (but if they saw this box they would let out a loud cry and act as if I were sending thier only, best and most wonderful toys away…so they do not get to help with this box.) and they will never know they are gone. You do not need to feel one tiny bit bad that I actually sifted through their toybox, trust me , this is barely the tip of the iceberg!

Lets lift up prayers for our wonderful military, and their big hearts for the kids around them, and for the kids themselves. May God Bless the little ones of the world, and let them think thoughts of childhood rather than fear. May God Bless those who defend our country, and represent the best of us to the next generation.

Goodbye! Have an interesting adventure!

Birthday from far away…leave your message at the beep

December 7, 2008

You know what is so hard sometimes about having a deployed loved one? About a million things some days, but today,my son was trying so hard to call his daughter, and we just couldn’t get it connected. He tried in the morning, but she was at a sitter, then he tried later and her mom was not able to answer, then I told him I would have the kids for the afternoon , and he got through to our house while we were at a Christmas play at church. I know how much he wanted to talk with her because the machine recorded that was 7 p.m. here meaning, it was 4 a.m. in Iraq. All I could do when I got home to the answering machine was cry.

There are so many losses, that some days are more than a person can really stand. Our grandaughter is now 7, and I just long for a moment that our son could enjoy these milestones. I don’t feel the losses all the time, but today I do. Today all I want is for him to be able to hug his child and not have to say Happy Birthday on a stupid machine.

For those of you out there who also have these days missing your loved one in uniform, and those days when you want to just stay home forever so you don’t have to feel the empty gut thing, when you miss those coveted calls, hang in there! We are going to have those days and now that the holidays are here, we will have more of them. Things that may help the holidays be a bit more joyful is to find fun things to send in a flat rate box…how about Christmas lights made out of shotgun shells (my friend Paula found these at a craft show!) Sending photos of the kids doing holiday things on the e-mail, or actually writing some letters,( you know the ones you can take out and look at over and over even if the computer is down?) Getting busy on things that help our deployed ones, helps us as well. Keep the holidays positive and relax in the knowledge that you can only do what it is in your power to do, the rest I hand over to God, and know that He will be there for all the moments I can’t be.

Working together builds bonds between parents and kids

December 5, 2008

I had a wonderful experience recently with my daughter. She is a college student and had an art assignment. We both like art ,and she wanted to brainstorm some ideas on a project that was to reflect her life in some way. After hours of ideas being held up, turned, parts rejected and parts embraced ,she came up with an absolutely beautiful banner. It is symbolic of her life . The first circle is her infancy, symbolized by the national flower of Korea, where she was born. Then her childhood ,symbolizing that she was is a twin who has grown up without her sister. Third is her teen years, a tangle of thorns and blossoms, and her life now, a columbine ,symbolizing her home in Colorado, and the home of her heart. Crystal beads hang on golden threads to remind her of the tears of joy and sorrow that are part of every life.

It is beautiful in form, but more beautiful is what it means to us. A mother and daughter and the journey of our hearts as we have grown together all these years.

As I write for families, I want to encourage you not to miss the opportunities that are offered to work with your child. Sometimes, especially when they are small, it is not easy to feel like you really want to sit and color, or play with clay, or make the mess of a batch of cookies.

It takes energy, and honestly, I remember days of not having any. Now I have that same problem but even more so, the difference is ,that now I am more willing to overcome the fatigue and enter into things with my children and grandchildren because I am now aware the days are short. Working together doesn’t need to be a school project , or even a play time. Just work with your kids beside you. Beds being made, dishes rinsed, floors swept can all be times of talk and closeness. I wish now I had done more of it.

As young mothers, we just don’t see it that way. It was only the day before yesterday that my oldest son had a lemonade stand in front of our house, and now he is a soldier in Iraq….seriously it goes that fast!

Well I’m posting a photo of my girl with her project, one because I am just so proud of her, and secondly , so you can see the fruit, of doing things together all along their childhood days! Maybe someday you will get to do something with your adult child that will just make you realize you have now become best friends!

Christmas Poem: ponder this one

December 2, 2008

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts…

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said, “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.”
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

Written by: Michael Marks

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A special thank you to Debbi at Debbi’s Dribble for sharing this absolutely beautiful poem. Debbi has requested this poem be passed along, I could not agree more. These words are far too important; they need to be shared.

May Almighty God bless each and every Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine.

Thanks to Debbi and Airman mom, so glad we can keep this one going!

On Football, the State Game and Christmas prep!

December 1, 2008

Well, Now that the turkey is finally used up and the calender is says December, Christmas is right on our heels. The last I heard, Christmas packages for our troops would need to be out by the 4th of December. I love the holidays and can’t stand the thought of my little boy (all 6 foot 3 of him) missing Christmas. I sent his package early. So early, that now he has had to ask a friend to keep said package, to ease the the temptation to open it.

This has been an exciting week with a difficult end. My husband coaches football and is the defense coordinator at the high school here (Greeley West Spartans!).

We are quite invested in this program and the kids. Every Monday night from early September through the season, I flip hamburgers and we feed our defense after they watch film. You get to know these great kids and the work that goes into a winning football team. (See the TV series Friday Night Lights and you see our life.) Well, the dream was on hand…the Colorado State High School Football Championship Game. This game is played in the Bronco’s Invesco Stadium. We were there! Just us, and one other team in the state. The dream was tangible, and the fans came decked out in West gear, on a very cold November day. We cheered and groaned and jumped up and down and it was as thrilling a game as has ever been played…ever!!!! Then.. we were down…and with 50 seconds to go, we get a TOUCHDOWN! We are going to win this thing! 16 seconds left in the game, and the other teams best player, outmaneuvers us..16 seconds left…and they win 35-32.

Needless to say, as with any crushed dream, we have to grieve it. We will rally and work again to get to the state game (this was the first time in our schools history) and lets just say I am glad my husband is going on a golf trip since he is not a happy camper.

This all started me thinking. I can’t relate this to what our troops are up against. It is a far cry from high school football to the battlefield. I just wonder how many of our warriors learned about perseverance, working through pain, honor, and giving for the common good of a team, through football. I know several of our players have gone on to the military, including our own son.

As my husband questions his abilities as a coach, which I hope is short lived…we did get to the state game after all, I want him to know that what is being is taught is far more than a game. Young men are being shaped and molded, and some of them will be our defenders in a real way.

Well, on to the Christmas preparations! I have to dig through the garage and find the Christmas tree. I have a week alone to get all the little tasks done that work up to Christmas. I want make time to savor the true meaning…a baby in a manger who’s sole purpose was to give life to you and to me!

Here are some pictures of our big day!

My husband is the one in the shorts running off the field!