We Serve Too! Our visit to Beacon School , Ft Carson

May 15, 2009

Some days Paula and I get to really see why we wanted to write books for Military children. Those are the days we get the blessing of spending time with the kids! On Tuesday, we travled to Ft. Carson, Colorado to read our books to four classes of preschoolers at the Beacon School. We had so much fun!

These children were engaged, polite and of course ,adorable. We loved reading to them and asking them questions. If you have ever been around preschoolers, you know they are very interested in anything new, and Paula and I had been introduced as real authors/illustrators.

I asked the kids in our afternoon group, “who can tell me what deployment means?” Preschoolers are a bit unprecitable, and I was not sure what the answer would be, these kids live on base and many have parents who are deployed . At first no hands went up, then a little boy raised his hand and said: “It’s when your Mom takes you to the doctor”….Ohhh, an APPOINTMENT…yeah that does sound the same! We then explained that deployment is when dad or mom has to go away to work for while…Oh, OK.

We read the stories and sang our song “The Creed of a Soldiers Child. Then becasue sitting still is not a preschoolers best thing, we sang and marched together.

A big Thank You Salute to Charoltte Nal who invited us to visit, and has been so encouraging to us in regard to our books. Also to the dedicated teachers who allowed us the time to be with the children they get to enjoy every day. Thank you to Mike Neustedter who took the photos of us with the kids to document our visit. Lastly, a thank you salute, to each of the little ones to whom our books are written.

Paula and I love this part of our adventure in books, meeting the wonderful people who serve too, those who support our troops and their families as they serve our nation. Thank you Beacon School for a wonderful day!

Wyoming National Guard Conference…and We Serve Too!

May 1, 2009

Paula and I and our small team, (the two of us, Ramona Baker and Beth Johnson), had a fabulous time in Wyoming last week!

We had the privilege of spending two days with 11 military kids at Warren AFB . One part of our program, consisted of preparing and making the Homecoming Boxes. We have a game we play with the Homecoming Box Paula and I have made. Inside are 15 items, and as the kids pull out the items that remind us of stories, then we tell them. After a day and a half, the kids still could recite every item that had been in our Box, and the story that went with them. Just goes to show that the Homecoming Box is a great tool to keep those memories alive. The memories will be even more meaningful, when they belong to them!

We also watched the DVD of the first book, and read the second book to the kids. We learned that age is of no real consequence with the We Serve Too! series. Even our oldest kids, age 12, loved and responded to the books, and the conversations about the content.

Our program ran 6 hours, and the kids loved every minute. At one point we showed them how a book was made (” a behind the scenes”, one child said) and then they did what we call “The Book Game” and created and book of their own complete with “blurbs” written by other children in the group.

Each child received a copy both We Serve Too! A Child’s Deployment Book, and a copy of We Serve Too!2 A Child’s Reunion Book. The parents received a Parent Pack: a copy of the Parent Guide for each book, directions to make The Homecoming Box , Tear Bottle, a sample copy of the Sticker Packs and some website information.

We had so much fun, and really enjoyed the wonderful kids we were with. Our best compliment came from one young man, age 11, who turned and said “I sure hope this program is here for my kids!”

Well, you can’t get a better review than that !

Thank you so much, to Denise Rampolla , Robin Gorsuch, and Bill Breckenridge, for inviting us!

I am posting the photos of a couple of the children’s finished Homecoming Boxes, pending permission to post the photos of the children at our Wyoming National Guard Weekend.

The Tear Bottle: Making Deployment A Time of Growth for Young Children

April 11, 2009

The Tear Bottle is the creation of my friend and partner Paula Johnson. It is a special addition to our Homecoming Box and something that can be used by parents as they deal with the tears that are an expected part of deployment (and life).

Here’s how it works:

The Homecoming Box is a special box a child can use to collect symbols and tokens of things they do while their parent is deployed. These items remind and comfort. Later, things can be taken out and stories told to share with Daddy .Not only does this save some of the little milestones of life, but also is something tangible that child can do, as the family thinks of what would make the best reminder.

Here is where The Tear Bottle comes in. There will be sad times as a parent is deployed. There will be times that a child really wants the parent there. At these times, a child can pick out one of the sparkly “tears”, write a reminder of what brought those tears, and put them in the Homecoming Box. When the parent returns home, and each item is taken out of the box and the event explained, once is awhile the “tears” will come out. After the tears are talked about, they go into the Tear Bottle.

The Tear Bottle becomes a vehicle to heal, by placing the sorrows in their special place. This frees the stories of the Homecoming Box to be those happy times.

Sadness and tears are part of a child’s life. Sometimes in childhood, tears come for reasons as varied as the fact that you did not buy the right kind of Mac and Cheese, to the sorrow that Daddy missed the preschool play. You, as the parent decide what is worthy of the tear bottle. Be sensitive to a child’s point of view, the loss of a favorite teddy or doll may very well be important enough to get a “tear”. Maybe you have a day when a you need a tear for the bottle as well. Use it, change it, adapt it , to work in the ways best for your family.

(complete directions for making the Homecoming Box and the Tear Bottle with your family will soon be on our parent page as a free download)

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.

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!

Veterans Day…Talk to Your Kids about our Heroes

November 12, 2008

Veterans Day, a day we remember all who have served and are serving now. Our prayers rise to God with special thanks for each of them, and for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice , families that live with the daily reminders of loss on the behalf of our nation. Yesterday I attended our local celebration of Veterans Day. In our town we have a veterans memorial. A few hundred gathered there for music, a flyover, speeches by veterans who served in WWII and Vietnam. A young man who had just returned from the sands of Iraq spoke to us about the men fighting this war now, he said we are in good hands.

My one disappointment was that there were not many kids there. I encourage you parents and teachers to think a bit ahead of Veterans Day to see what the community is doing. As I stood there listening to our military heroes recount their days of service, I was thinking that our little ones should be getting the benefit of knowing that freedom requires sacrifice. As I watch (in awe) the flyover thundering under the blue Colorado sky, I thought that little ones hearts would pound with the excitement of “really cool planes”,and a parent could talk about the power our country has for defending good in the world. As I viewed rows of flags and names etched in stone, I thought that our little ones need to see the symbols of our nation. As I listened to the music, I wondered if they know the songs of the United States of America.

Some days are ment to live, not study. I asked my first grade grandaughter today what her class did for Veterans Day. “I did a worksheet Gramma”.

Next year she will be by my side at the memorial that bears the name of her father as an active soldier deployed to Iraq. She and her brother will be there for the flags and the music and the speeches. No more worksheets for my little ones.

Here is a video of first graders at Ft. Sill. Nearly all of them have a deployed parent. The shirts are cute, the voices sweet…enjoy ! Ft.Sill kids on veterans day

Blue Star Moms meet for coffee…with Sarah Palin!!

October 4, 2008

I had coffee this morning at Gunther Toody’s in Denver with other blue star moms (in case you do not know, blue star moms have a son or daughter in the military). Well you say, lots of women are having coffee on a Saturday morning, true, but we had coffee with Sarah Palin!

Sarah Palin is also a blue star mom. She spent this morning in the midst of an extremely busy schedule to meet with us, look at photos of our children serving our country, and talk with us individually. She was not hurried or anxious to go, you felt as if you were sitting with a girlfriend having coffee and talking about things that matter. We discussed a number of things, but most satisfying I guess, was just being moms. She talked about her son being deployed and we talked about ours.

She was clear about her position on what they will do for our loved ones in the military. Though I can’t do justice to it here, the Governor said they are making good progress in Iraq, but we are not there yet. We have to persevere until Iraq is truly able to take over their own security. I agree with her that we can’t afford to undo what has been accomplished. She was also clear that they are not considering being there forever , there is a definate withdrawl plan, as the generals on the ground see fit. She was real about he fact that we will need to go into Afghanistan with more force . She did not pander to us as military mothers. She talked straight and she was one of us.

I slipped her one of our Homeland Security Blankets and our book We Serve Too! She said she thought Piper would enjoy it, and we sure hope she does! We hope also that she will work on the issues of the military family, a group to which she belongs and obviously cares deeply about. My passion of course is the children of our military members, and I felt she was someone we could go to with their needs.

As Governor Palin asked how she could educate people about blue star mothers (which began in WWI) ,one of our moms said, “ask John McCain to give a cheer for Blue Star moms in his next speech!” Well, here’s the test to see if he listens to her!

Thank you Sarah Palin!

Here are my photos that were not to dark to post. I want to say, she is real and genuine, and she’s got my vote!

OK, this is for my friends, notice the Homeland Security Blanket in the hands of the Secret Service!

Focus on the Family military appreciation day

September 22, 2008

Last week we were invited to attendĀ  military appreciation days at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. What a wonderful day! We met so many really great people, and since it was kids day, saw lots of cute kids!

Here is a photo of our set up. We were there early, so it looks like we are alone, but trust me, there were plenty of people there. Paula and I barely got a bite of the pizza they so graciously brought us at lunchtime!

We hope that the books that were purchased for the little ones facing deployment of a parent at Ft. Carson, help to comfort , and stimulate conversation between them and their parents.

A big thank you to the folks at Focus on the Family for their support of our military ! A huge thank you to all those who will be deploying to defend our nation. God bless you.

To the lady from Ft. Carson who we met with two children ,who’s husband is on R&R, please contact us in regard to the homeland security blanket. You were disappointed to not be able to purchase one, but someone wants to donate them to you. :)