Homecomings

Tears of joy are like the summer rain drops pierced by sunbeams. 
~Hosea Ballou

Friday was a busy day as I was helping out with the USS John C. Stennis homecoming as part of my civilian job. Those poor Sailors on the ship had been on a seven month deployment and came home last year only to find out a few months later that they were leaving on deployment four months early and would be returning at the same time.

So instead of having eight months off before a four month deployment, they had about four months off before an eight month deployment. Now, those four months they were “home” weren’t all at home. Carriers have workups and stuff that send them out for a few weeks at a time to prepare for a deployment. There was a 22 month old child who had only seen his father for 90 days of his life.

The homecoming was bittersweet. It was sweet because of all the fathers (and one mother) who came home to babies they had never met before. It was bitter because… there were sweet little babies everywhere. I can’t wait until I can watch Huzzy with our child for the first time. Hopefully that won’t happen after a deployment, but we have only two more years of trying before deployments will start again for three years. I was hoping to have a kid by now and be pregnant again before he went on deployment.

For some reason, I have always had a feeling that I would have a hard time getting pregnant. I don’t know why I would ever think this because my mom was a fertile myrtle with only one ovary and my grandma had no issues, either. But somehow, I just knew. I think you’ll find this is true for many dealing with infertility.

While I always felt I’d have a hard time getting pregnant, I had a feeling I wouldn’t have to go so far as IVF, nor injectibles. We still have two cycles (once we start again) on pills before heading to injectibles, so it still may happen that way. But in all honesty, I’m starting to feel as though this might not happen for us. As in, never. We’ll try IVF once and whatever FETs may result from that, but I think that’s as far as we will go. I’m just starting to think that we might never have a biological child. And that hurts.

I love my job and I love working at things like the Stennis homecoming… but at the same time, I feel as though no matter what I do, nearly every day I’m somehow slapped in the face with the pain that is infertility. The pain never stops because, at this point, there is no closure. It’s an open wound that is continuously seeping and can’t close because every day, it’s broken open again.

Signature

Advertisements

Month of the Military Child- Helping Children Understand

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

April is Month of the Military Child. Since Huzzy and I don’t have children, I put out a call for guest bloggers to help out. I originally wanted to do a guest blogger every Monday, but I had so many fantastic responses that you’ll see a guest blogger every Monday and Thursday!

My fourth guest blogger is Army wife Kate from  jak{ofhearts}.

——————–

Hi, I’m Kate from jak{ofhearts}! My husband, John, and I are high school sweethearts. We’ve been married for 3 years and have 5 years of his Army career behind us. We have a 2 year old daughter, Aliyah, who had a heart transplant when she was two months old. Our lives are full of her laughter and the reminder that every moment with her is a gift.

>>>>

“Boots off.”

Those words are first. They are before hello, they are before a kiss. She knows that when Daddy’s boots come off, he is home to stay.

She couldn’t understand why Daddy was gone for so long. She didn’t know that it was just field work and that he’d be back in a few weeks. She didn’t understand why we couldn’t always talk to him, but when she opened the coat closet and saw the empty space where Daddy’s boots are supposed to be – that she understood.

I’m fine with talking about Daddy’s work in terms of his boots because I know that someday she’s going to ask harder questions to answer than, “where are Daddy’s boots?”. At two years old, she doesn’t understand that her Daddy is a part of something bigger, but she knows everybody wears the same clothesShe doesn’t know what sacrifice means, but she knows what it looks like. She doesn’t know that he could die. She doesn’t know her Daddy is a soldier. And all of those things, those questions and fears that make my stomach turn inside out, she will have them someday. She will eventually realize what it means when we see people without legs and missing arms at the grocery store. She will understand that the fear surrounding her Daddy’s job isn’t like the monsters in her closet, it’s reality. She will come to terms with that reality – but not today.

Today, if you were to ask her about Daddy, she would tell you that he has a nice hat and big boots, and drives trains (strykers, trains, same thing.). She would tell you that he holds her hand and that they ‘nuggle before bed every night. She would tell you that he is silly and has big socks. She would tell you that he is her world.

She cried big crocodile tears the day he had to go back to work after 2 back to back months of training in the field. We have since given her distinctions – “work” means he’s home for dinner, “mission” means he’s going to be gone for a while – but distinctions won’t prepare our little Daddy’s girl for a deployment. Nothing is going to prepare her for Daddy’s boots to be gone for months and months. I’m not going to tell her that he is fighting bad guys. I’m not going to tell her that he might not come home. But there will be no way to avoid the empty space where Daddy’s boots go.

And when the time comes that she asks so sweetly where Daddy’s boots are, I will tell her as simply as I can. “Daddy’s boots are being brave, baby. We will see them soon.”

——————–

Month of the Military Child- Preparing Kids for Deployment

 By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
~Benjamin Franklin

April is Month of the Military Child. Since Huzzy and I don’t have children, I put out a call for guest bloggers to help out. I originally wanted to do a guest blogger every Monday, but I had so many fantastic responses that you’ll see a guest blogger every Monday and Thursday!

My third guest blogger is fellow sub wife Chelsey at the bubblehead bride.

——————–

Hi! I’m Chelsey. I am a Navy wife, new mom to the worlds sweetest little boy, and dog mom to two naughty fur-babies. I consider myself the coordinator of all that is crazy in our household, and really…sooo that entails pretty much everything! I am a bit sassy…a bit funny….and a lot sarcastic! I am so excited to be over here at Wife of a Sailor to tell you a little bit about my life as a military wife raising a military child!

Chelsey from the bubblehead bride

As a new mother I am plagued with concerns for my son. Is he eating enough? Is he developing on track? Is he suppose to be doing that?!? It’s normal for mothers to worry about their children. It’s what we do. It’s why we’re mothers. As the mother of a military child, though, I have found that my worries reach far beyond that of any regular mother.

When I married my husband (and the United States Navy) I knew what I was in for. Having survived an eight-month submarine deployment, a brief stint in the shipyard, and routine sub duty, I figured there were few surprises in store for me. Simply put, I knew how to be a Navy wife.

When our son came along, on shore tour, I realized that everything I thought I had figured out about this lifestyle was no longer important. Gone were the days of living on chocolate ice cream and red wine. Now I am responsible for feeding my little person a healthy and nutritious dinner. No longer was I going to be able to fill my abundance of free time with reading books, girls nights with fellow Navy wives, and quality time with my DVR. I could no longer just focus on getting myself through. I realized that I was now responsible for someone else. And it was important that he more than “got through”. Thus began my mission to make my son (and future children’s) lives as happy and routine as possible…with or without daddy.

With the help of Pinterest and some other “super Navy moms” that I know, I have long been preparing myself for how I am going to handle raising military children. We have books we can read, like When Dad’s At Sea by Mindy Pelton and My Dad’s a Hero by Rebecca Christiansen and Jewel Armstrong. Many moms that I know have created Daddy Dolls, which allow their children to still have daddy with them even while he is away. The web is full of endless resources for military families, and most importantly military children. Websites like www.deploymentkids.com have free patriotic printables, military puzzles and games, and ideas for deployment journals to help children get out their thoughts and feelings about deployment.

One thing we can all agree on is that this is not an easy lifestyle. All families have their unique challenges and there are days when all you can do is pray that tomorrow will be better. The one thing we can rely on, though, is that we are all one big military family, and together even the insurmountable tasks seem manageable.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and that’s exactly what we are doing in the military. Together we are raising a village of miniature heroes that can be proud of themselves, their country, and their daddy and mommy.

I am in no way affiliated with and/or receiving any perks from the mentioned websites and products. I just think they’re awesome on my own. 

——————–

Does He Stay Or Does He Go?

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. 
~Author Unknown

Note: This post was written CENSORED TIME ago (yeah, I try to be funny, but in reality, it’s an OPSEC thing so I can’t tell ya nuttin’!). 

Last night, my husband came home and told me that in 20 minutes, he’d know if he was leaving for his patrol (deployment) the next day or possibly the day after. Cue my panic attack. He wasn’t supposed to go for another week. I know things change, but I like to have a bit of notice. Even a day or two would be good.

So I ran around trying to get his halfway box put together (which I planned to do this weekend since I actually had some days off). I hadn’t purchased everything I wanted for it, but I had enough stuff to fill it. Twenty minutes came and then an hour. Huzzy called the boat and they hadn’t heard word yet. So we went to bed.

At 0400, we got up because even if Huzzy didn’t have to leave for his multi-month patrol, he had duty and therefore had to be at work at the buttcrack of dawn. Actually, before dawn.

I drove him to the base and stopped at the bus station (since only submariners are allowed to go to lower base) and kissed him and watched him board the bus. I don’t know when I’ll see him. It could technically be tonight, if they are indeed leaving tomorrow or the next day. That is, if the other crew does “last night duty” for them. Basically, that’s where the other crew fills in duty so the guys going on deployment can spend the last night before leaving home. However, if it is, indeed, tomorrow and the other crew can’t or doesn’t want to come in to relieve the guys, I’ll see him when he gets done with his patrol. If it’s the day after, I’ll see him for a few hours (hopefully) after he gets done with duty and before he has to leave to go to the boat for the patrol.

Of course, it may still end up happening when it was originally scheduled, or anytime between now and then. Or after then. Who knows.  He told me he’d call me and give me a sign (because he can’t say anything about boat schedule) if he was leaving. I haven’t heard from him. But that doesn’t mean something isn’t still happening.

I hate not knowing when I’m going to see him again. But I’m looking at Facebook and several of the wives are talking about making dinner and hoping their husbands come home in time. So I’m assuming it’s not today/tonight.

That’s one thing I dislike about submarines. The guys come and go and there’s no fanfare. No “welcome home” that most other commands and other service branches have. It’s silent. No one knows our sadness of our guys going away because we can’t tell them. And we can’t tell them until well after they are gone.

And we can’t even begin to show excitement about them returning because that would signal they WERE returning. And for a submarine, that is deadly.  We silently gather on the pier and wait for them to come back. There’s no excited tweets or Facebook posts saying we are SO FREAKIN’ excited to head off to base to get our guys. Just the internal excitement. Sometimes it’s like a great secret that only you know and no one else does. But it’s a secret you just want to SHARE.

Of course, I just got the call as I was finishing this up and I know he’ll be coming home tomorrow. At least I’ll have that. He’ll tell me when he gets home what the plan is. Ya know, until it changes again! It’s always something! Such is the life of a sub wife.

*After-the-fact note: my husband ended up leaving AFTER his original scheduled date. However, between the time this was written and the time he left, the schedule changed or was threatened to change many times!

Month of the Military Child – The Ups and Downs of a Military Child

In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy, too.
~Robert Brault

April is the Month of the Military Child. Deployments and serving in the military is tough on the servicemember and the spouse, but it’s equally as hard (if not harder) on the servicemember’s children. Military children often need more support than a civilian child, especially during deployments.

This month, to honor our military children, I’m dedicating each Monday to Month of the Military Child (except today since I didn’t have internet this week… so I’m catching up on this past Monday’s post). Since we don’t have children, I’ve asked a few guests to blog about their experiences with military children and provide some insight into how we can help these children excel during what may be the toughest time of their young lives.

My second guest post of the month is about a side of the service that is often overlooked… the Reserve side. As a reservist myself, I thought it was important to highlight the children who live as civilian children… until they are thrust into the military life with a deployed parent.

This guest post will go through some of the ups and downs military children experience.

—————————————————

I am an Air Force wife, mom of two, personality psychologist, freelance writer, runner, and cook. I blog at www.LeadingMama.com. I

Like Father, Like Son

wake up early, no matter what. I have big ideas and I love a challenge. I say “yes” too often and I hate sitting still. I’m addicted to coffee, chocolate, and my kids. When my husband isn’t home, I secretly sleep on his pillow and wear his t-shirts. Our family life is proof that “change is the only constant,” with four deployments, two babies born, and five moves in the past six years. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My son is a mama’s boy.

I am a boy’s mama.

Our attachment was not instantaneous. There was no magic. Our attachment grew in the small, shared moments of life.

It took root when I held my tiny, hungry baby and I fed him. It grew as I soothed his anxious cries, singing whatever song I could pull from my weary brain. It bloomed when we snuggled in for naps together, breathing in and out simultaneously. Our lives are so richly intertwined that it is hard to tell where I stop and he begins.

Best Buds

My son is a military child. I am military mama.

No matter what comes, Carson knows he can count on me. I am his constant.

My husband is a military dad. He loves our children completely. But he doesn’t have the luxury of constancy. He misses out on everyday opportunities for fatherhood. It’s been that way since the beginning.

Four months from my due date, my husband was selected for command of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.  In an instant, our “military family planning” went out the window.

Chris would miss the first 15 months of our son’s life. He’d miss his birth. He’d miss his first smile, first steps, first word. He’d miss his first Christmas and his first birthday.

“If it had to happen, it is best that it happened now,” he rationalized. “He’s too young to know I am not there. He won’t remember it.”

In some ways, Chris was right. Intellectually, Carson doesn’t remember that his Dad missed those things.  But emotionally, he knows.

He knows his dad is gone way more than he is home. His dad has been TDY or deployed more than half of Carson’s four-years-long life.

He knows he wants his mom to buckle his seatbelt, to hold his hand, to sit next to him in restaurants. He knows he wants his mom to read him stories, to wipe his tears and his bottom, to make his dinner. He knows his mom will make everything all right. He knows he can count on me.

A while back, I asked Chris what he wants our kids to remember about him when they are adults. He said “I want them to remember that I served in the war….I was awarded three Bronze Stars….I helped the people of Afghanistan reclaim and rebuild their country.”

His answer seemed so sterile, so historical, and so sad. His answer seems so different from my own.

I want my kids to remember that I loved them. I want them to remember how I kissed their hurts, how I read their favorite stories, how I played catch in the living room. I want them to remember that I carried them when they were tired, that I called them “Booty” and “Punk.” I want them to remember ice skating and train trips and Christmas cookies.

It took me a while to make sense of my husband’s response and to accept its wisdom.

Boys will be boys

My husband knows he missed out on important, irreplaceable moments in our son’s life. He misses them every day. Even when he’s not deployed, his responsibilities keep him away from home in mind if not in body.

Those missed moments are painful for Chris and they are painful for Carson. “Daddy has to work” is a lackluster reason for missing the spring preschool concert. “Daddy has to work” doesn’t make him feel better when the phone rings during dinner. “Daddy has to work” cannot begin to express the importance of Daddy’s job. Sure, Carson understands about “bad guys” and “good guys,” but he can’t grasp how bad the bad guys are. And he doesn’t yet know how good his Daddy is.

My husband hopes his children –  when they are all grown up – will understand why he wasn’t there. He hopes they will be proud of him. I hope so, too.

My son is a military child.

He runs outside every afternoon when retreat sounds on base. He puts his hand on his heart and stands still until the National Anthem ends. He is proud to be an American.

Then he waits in the yard. Sometimes he waits for hours. He waits for his Dad to come home, playing and puttering until he sees his Dad’s car round the bend. Then he runs all-out toward the end of the driveway and holds his arms up high so his Dad can pull him into the car through the open window. They maneuver into the garage together, four hands on the wheel.

As they interact, their attachment grows. They talk over dinner about daycare drama and last night’s episode of Wipe Out. Then they adjourn to the dining room to race slot cars until I say it is bath time. Carson bumps Chris’s car off the track with amazing skill. He declares himself the winner. His Dad is the happiest loser I’ve seen.

In those small moments, my son and his dad are not subject to military priorities or the deployment schedule. My son feels his Dad’s love as surely as he feels my own. He is a military child.

—————————————————

Check back next Monday as I hope to have a guest post on the Exception Family Member Program.

Month of the Military Child – Reserve Kids

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons.
~Author Unknown

April is the Month of the Military Child. Deployments and serving in the military is tough on the servicemember and the spouse, but it’s equally as hard (if not harder) on the servicemember’s children. Military children often need more support than a civilian child, especially during deployments.

This month, to honor our military children, I’m dedicating each Monday to Month of the Military Child. Since we don’t have children, I’ve asked a few guests to blog about their experiences with military children and provide some insight into how we can help these children excel during what may be the toughest time of their young lives.

My second guest post of the month is about a side of the service that is often overlooked… the Reserve side. As a reservist myself, I thought it was important to highlight the children who live as civilian children… until they are thrust into the military life with a deployed parent.

This guest post will also highlight some fantastic organizations that can help both active and reserve families.

—————————————————

Hi all!  I am so excited to do this post for Wife of a Sailor because there are so many things available to help through deployment that many just don’t know about!

 

Let me introduce us – My husband calls me Princess so that’s what I go by… so that makes me a Soldiers Princess (I just love saying that).   I am a 30ish wife of a deployed soldier (a 16 month deployment, thank you Army Reserves!) and mom to a 6 year old (although she often reminds me that she is ALMOST 7, in fact that reminder started the day AFTER her 6th birthday), AKA Diva.  We live in Southern California and LOVE it here.  I work full time; run my custom military wife shirt company, volunteer a lot and act as taxi service for Diva.  I also write a blog over at tiarasandacus.blogspot.com.  It’s my place to clear my head, rant about stupid people and this deployment… but also to offer my sound (loopy at times) advice on all things deployment related.  I have found great comfort in not being alone thanks to the blogfamily!

 

My husband is in the Army Reserves.  We have a much different life than an Active Duty family, mainly when deployment comes around.  We have to learn about Tricare, which we only have for a year at a time.  We have to switch doctors for a YEAR… of course our civilian Dr does NOT take Tricare and the Tricare Dr does not take Blue Shield!  We don’t necessarily live close to a post to use the Commissary or the PX.  We don’t have military wife friends that can sympathize or offer their support.  We have civilian friends who compare a deployment with their husbands 4 day business trip to Topeka, KS.  (They totally understand being a single mom for a bit… REALLY!?)  There is no concept of living each day worrying about your soldier, your child… your future.  With all that said, there are some benefits for wives and our kids because of the reserves.

 

First of all please try to attend the unit’s Yellow Ribbon Briefing – There are a series of classes.  The one prior to deployment is mandatory for your soldier and optional for the family.  As the wife, it’s a great thing to go to.  You can learn a little about your benefits and who to call during deployment for your medical, in case of emergency… those things.  The Army pays for your travel, hotel and per diem for you and your children (no matter how many rugrats you have, they even provide childcare!).

 

I will admit my MilSpouse friend and I are using an upcoming one as a girls’ weekend on the Army!  It’s boring as heck for most of it (a 53 slide PowerPoint presentation on what to do if you by chance have $500,000 in the bank.  Most of our guys didn’t have $5 in the bank due to a pay mess up but whatever) BUT there is some useful information and phone numbers you can get to help.  There are also 2 or 3 done after the deployment starts.  I have avoided most as I can’t stand sitting in a classroom with a bunch of gossipy wives BUT I am going to the one about reintegration because, lets be honest it’s a concern we all have.

 

OurMilitaryKids (www.ourmilitarykids.org/ ) – AMAZING group that will provide UP TO $500 for extracurricular activities for your children includingsports, fine arts and tutoring.  We all know that our kids need to stay busy while their mom or dad is deployed… both for their sanity and ours.  This grant is given based on cost of activity and length of deployment.  We used it for gymnastics and it paid for 8 months of her gymnastics class, and then reapplied for tutoring.  It was very easy to do.  I supplied a copy of orders, LES and information for the activity.  The check was sent directly to them within a few weeks.  You can also apply for a grant more than once in a 365 day deployment.

 

NACCRA – (www.naccrra.org/) National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.  Many of us either work or go to school so taking our spouse out of the picture makes life difficult for scheduling.  When hubby is home we can switch off on who drops off or picks Diva from school.  NACCRA supplements your daycare cost and will help you locate a daycare if needed based on the nearest branch post.  Ours is based off of daycare costs in BARSTOW and we live in Orange County.  They pay everything over what the average daycare is on Fort Irwin.  I had to supply copies of my pay stubs (or school schedule if you are in school), his LES, the daycare needs to be approved as well.  The last day of every month I fill out a form showing what days she went to daycare, then the daycare and I sign it and email it.  The check takes about 15 days to receive to daycare.  This is in place for the entire deployment!

 

Tutor.Com – (www.tutor.com/military) Free online tutoring for the children of a deployed service member.  We haven’t signed up for this mainly because our daughter is in 1st grade and it doesn’t seem to be very user friendly for that age.

 

Keeping busy throughout the deployment is needed and helpful to pass the time.

—————————————————

Check back next Monday for another awesome guest blogger!

Month of the Military Child – Operation Military Kids

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
~Stacia Tauscher

April is the Month of the Military Child. Deployments and serving in the military is tough on the servicemember and the spouse, but it’s equally as hard (if not harder) on the servicemember’s children. Military children often need more support than a civilian child, especially during deployments.

This month, to honor our military children, I’m dedicating each Monday to Month of the Military Child. Since we don’t have children, I’ve asked a few guests to blog about their experiences with military children and provide some insight into how we can help these children excel during what may be the toughest time of their young lives.

My first guest post is about a fantastic organization called Operation: Military Kids.

—————————————————

Hi, I’m Pamela, Navy wife, mother of a teenage daughter, and you can read more in the About Me section of my blog, When Good People Get Together.  Today my focus is not on me, but on military children.  I was a military child for thirteen years, and now my daughter is entering her seventeenth year of the military lifestyle.  It’s been an adventure and a challenge. 

Did you know that military children are considered a special needs category in the same way that children who have physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities are considered special needs?  Military children can suffer from emotional challenges due the deployment of one or both parents.  Military children experience all the trauma of separation but much more intensely because they are children.  I’d like to introduce you to an awesome program, Operation: Military Kids, which provides programs and activities for military children to help them cope with and adjust to the upheavals associated with deployment.

Operation: Military Kids is the U.S. Army’s collaborative effort with America’s communities to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being. (Source: http://www.operationmilitarykids.org)

OMK is a partnership between Army Child and Youth Services and the USDA/4-H Headquarters.  Army Child and Youth Services funnel funds down to each Land Grand State University into the 4-H programs in each state.  They knew they had to get into the civilian communities to get support to military youth and families wherever they live, because after 9/11, they found that the ensuing war was being fought by tons of Guard and Reserve members, all of whom left families behind in civilian communities, not on the big military bases.  So, Army Child and Youth Services searched around for an organization with state-by-state coverage and presto!! 4-H was the perfect fit.  They realized that the Cooperative Extensions (the Cooperative Extension at each state University is the headquarters of each state’s 4-H program nationwide) were the perfect partners to get resources and support out to military kids and families in every community in the country. After all, the 4-H system reaches even the most remote parts of the country, so no matter where military families live; there is a County Agent and a 4-H club nearby.

My daughter and I became involved with Operation: Military Kids as a part of our 4-H club’s community service efforts.  We first got involved at the ground level – the preparation of Hero Packs.  Hero Packs are backpacks full of items to keep children occupied in the initial deployment period, and then to keep them connected to their deployed parent after that.  The backpacks include fun items like card games, Frisbees, and small toys, communication tools like writing paper, note cards and a journal, and support materials from local organizations that specialize in fun programs and events for kids.  As we were putting the backpacks together, we did an exercise that helped demonstrate what military children miss when their parent deploys.  In a yearlong deployment, the parent is absent from every holiday, birthday, school concert, and graduation, and for our 4-H members, from every horse or dog show, every award banquet, every field trip.  Our club was privileged to attend a Yellow Ribbon Night event, where parents received final pre-deployment details and the backpacks were handed out to the children.  My daughter is the only military child in her 4-H club, so the others were able to meet other military children and gain a better understanding for what it must be like to be separated from one or both parents for a lengthy period.

Operation: Military Kids provides a myriad of fun and low-cost programs and activities for military children.  There are events, workshops, day and family camps going on throughout the year.  In addition, Operation: Military Kids provides workshops for educators and teens to help them communicate the effects of deployment on children.  I encourage you to check out Operation: Military Kids in your state.

—————————————————

Next week: Reserve military children and some ideas and organizations to help those kids who generally only deal with the military when mommy or daddy is deployed.