The Internet has given us a lot of gifts including jobs, information, and conveniences. However, arguably, the biggest gift the Internet has given us is the ability to communicate over great distances. Today, even if you and your loved one are on opposite sides of the world due to a deployment or otherwise, you can easily communicate via email, Skype, social media, and many other platforms. This is great news for the many children and their mothers that will be separated from one another this Mother’s Day. In addition to being able to speak with and possibly even see mom on Mother’s Day, thanks to the explosion of ecommerce sites and communication abilities, you can even send her that perfect gift. Here are just a few ideas….
Spa Packages – According to a Forbes article entitled “What Mom’s Really Want for Mother’s Day”, most women (48%) want a spa day for Mother’s Day (Bourne, 2012). Just because mom is in another state or even in another country doesn’t mean you can’t pay for a day of relaxation on her behalf. A quick Google search can help you find highly rated spas in mom’s area; pick a spa and then browse their website for electronic gift cards (gift cards sent via email). If you can’t find that, call the spa and ask if you can prepay for a package. If you can’t quiet afford to send mom to the spa, you can always send her a spa inspired gift basket such as this Lavender Relaxation Bath and Body Spa Basket for $29.99.
Flowers – The second most sought after Mother’s Day gift, according to the Forbes article mentioned above, is flowers with 38% of moms saying that was at the top of their Mother’s Day wish list (Bourne, 2012). Luckily, if this is what your mom wants, this one is super easy to secure no matter where mom is. You can contact local florists to order a beautiful bouquet; however, in order to save money and see exactly what you’re getting, you can try sites like Red Envelope. For example, you can get a stunning array of spring lilies for under $25!
Technology – Okay, believe it or not, 30% of the moms surveyed for the Forbes article said they wanted a smartphone or tablet for Mother’s Day (Bourne, 2012). If your mom is craving the latest high-tech gadget, oblige her this Mother’s Day. With ecommerce sites, its super easy to go online, customize a device, and have it delivered directly to mom. In addition, many sites will allow you to include a message with the gift.
In addition to sending mom some of the great gifts mentioned above, you can also send her something personal. For instance, a customized eCard or video greeting is sure to bring a smile to her face. You could also send her a picture slideshow full of photographs from the past and present.
Just because you can’t be with your mom on mother’s day doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it with her and let her know just how special she is to you. Video platforms such as Skype and Google+ hangouts will allow you to see mom and watch her open her gift even though your thousands of miles apart.
The homecoming of your soldier is one of the most anticipated events you can imagine. It is more exciting than waiting for Christmas morning as a child. It can also be filled with a little apprehension as you wonder what it will be like to see him again, have him with you in the home, sharing and experiencing life together as a family again. Help start your new chapter together with a special homecoming.
Planning the Homecoming
Homecoming after a long deployment means that there will likely be other people in your soldier’s life who want to be there for his return. Depending upon the size of your family, their proximity to where you will be for the homecoming, and the personal requests of your soldier, your celebration can take on many different looks. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions about the best way for you and your soldier to celebrate his return.
- Does your soldier have family and friends who have requested to attend the homecoming?
- Will the homecoming be too emotional for your children if there are dozens of family and friends wanting to share the time?
- Has your soldier indicated any preferences for his homecoming?
Once you get a sense of everyone’s plans, needs, and expectations, you can consider the following possible scenarios.
Celebrate the homecoming with just you and your children on the immediate day, giving your soldier time to adjust and your children a day or two to have their special time. Then you can host a reunion of sorts, inviting family and friends to a celebration.
Bring as many people to the homecoming as you can find! Sometimes soldiers and their families truly need this immediate togetherness. You can spend a short together at the immediate location, then move to your home or another venue, depending on size.
Surprise your soldier with a fan bus. Arrange to have a bus (or two!) waiting, filled with family and friends. You can all drive together to your celebration, and then have your private homecoming moments the following day.
How to Have an Amazing Homecoming
Whether your family needs or wants a huge party the moment your soldier returns or you prefer to slowly build up to that event, there are several great ways to create a magical and amazing homecoming for your soldier.
Have at least two people appointed as photographers, one for still shots, and the other for videography. These are moments you will cherish and want to be able to see later, as the moment will seem very surreal.
If you’re serving food, consider an “All American” menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob. Add in boxes of Cracker Jacks – you can even use these for centerpieces and party favors for the kids, and some apple pie and colored Jell-O for dessert (red, white, and blue, of course!). If your soldier has some favorite foods, you could always put in requests to family and friends to bring their best recipes. Maybe Aunt Jane makes his favorite cookies, while his mom makes his favorite lasagna. Getting others involved will lessen your workload, help others to feel a special part of the celebration, and serve your soldier his favorite dishes.
Get your community involved. Many neighborhoods or entire towns are more than willing to pull together and join in the celebration. They can line the road and hold flags, tie patriotic ribbons on their mail boxes, or perhaps even gather the local school choir to sing some favorite songs. Local businesses also might be willing to help with the costs of food, transportation, or decorations.
Make matching shirts for you and your family to wear to the homecoming. You can purchase iron transfer sheets at local craft stores and print your family name on them, then apply them to the shirts. Get creative and add a family crest or family pictures. Make sure to make an extra shirt for your soldier!
Maybe you just want to get back that familiar feeling and celebrate at home. Even if it is April, put up a Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and serve some gingerbread cookies. The best present of all will be the return of your soldier.
Photo credit: Jack
It’s never easy for children to be separated from their parents and loved ones, whether it is for military duty or something such as serious illness or injury. Keeping connections between close family members can be just a little bit easier by using a new twist on the traditional Flat Stanley project. Instead of just one Flat Stanley having adventures with lucky individuals, children and their beloved soldier will both get to have adventures and make memories with this Flat Fellows activity, easing the physical and sometimes emotional distance separating them.
How to Make Flat Fellows
If you, your child, or your soldier, have never read the classic Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown, begin by sharing this story together. You can read the book aloud to your young child, recording your voice, or your older reader can record his own voice. Send the audio file to your soldier, or if it is easier, send the actual paperback book and let him read it for himself.
Once everyone is familiar with the tale, the new twist on the project, Flat Fellows, can begin with these first steps.
- Take a full-height picture of your child or have her draw one of herself on cardstock paper. If you are using a photo, print the picture on white cardstock or other heavyweight paper. A sheet of 8.5” x 11” is an easy size to mail when folded in thirds.
- Arrange to either receive a full-height picture of your soldier, have your soldier draw one himself, or have your child design one.
- Take 2 folders with brad bindings on the inside (add paper to the folders), 2 journals with pockets, or even 2 scrapbooks, and add a Flat Fellow to each one.
- You can copy the following phrase into the journals or on pages in the folders, have your child write it out, or come up with your own (just make sure to do it for both journals).
I am your new Flat Fellow friend
And I can’t wait to see where you roam.
Take me along wherever you go,
And bring me back to your special home.
Make sure to write about it for (fill in with name of child/soldier)
He/she can’t wait to hear all our tales.
Even though we can’t always be right there
Our special love never fails.
Once you have your new poem inscribed, you can explain to your child and your soldier how this is going to work. Your child will keep the journal with the Flat Fellow who looks like your soldier, while your soldier will get the journal with the Flat Fellow of your child.
Why Flat Fellows are Important
The idea behind this project is that your soldier and child will each record notes about what the Flat Fellow saw, what the Flat Fellow might have eaten, and anything the Flat Fellow might have done. Your child can take pictures of her Flat Fellow going down the slide at the park, sitting in your child’s bike basket, or riding in the car going to Grandma’s. If you go to a movie, your Flat Fellow can take the ticket stub and add it to the journal. Let your child be creative. Your soldier can be inventive as well about his activities, perhaps taking a picture with his Flat Fellow in a bunk or writing about how many friends the Flat Fellow has met.
The main goal of doing this activity with your child and your soldier is to build another opportunity for them both to feel connected with each other. Even though they are far apart, their Flat Fellows can be witnesses to the little things in life that make all of the difference. You can continue this project for any length of time, but doing it for at least 2-3 weeks should give you a good supply of memories for the journals, but the longer you continue the project, the more interesting the adventures might become. It can also make a great Christmas present for both your child and your soldier to receive the newly created Flat Fellow journals or scrapbooks so they both know what the other has been doing. Separation from loved ones can be difficult for children (and adults), but finding positive ways to form new types of connections will help bridge those distances and keep kids thinking about new ways to have their Flat Fellows share their own adventures.
Photo credit: Jason
In America Thanksgiving is a time of gathering with family and reflecting on all we have in our lives. Even though your soldier might not be able to be present for the celebration, you can include him and help you and your children feel connected to him during this holiday season.
Cornucopia of Blessings
Take an empty wicker or other decorative cornucopia, a symbol of overflowing bounty, and place it in a central location in the home. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, take time each day to write with your children one thing they are thankful for and place this note in the cornucopia. Use orange, yellow, and red pieces of paper, and fold them to give them depth before you place them in the cornucopia. By Thanksgiving you should have visible evidence of all of the wonderful things in your life. At dinner, read these aloud among whomever is there, then take them and create a scrapbook of thanks for your soldier and send the book as a wonderful reminder of the love waiting back home.
You can’t easily send mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie in a box overseas, but you can still send some holiday treats to your soldier. Use your regular sugar cookie dough recipe, divided into two, and add just enough food coloring to each batch to make one yellow and the other orange. Roll out the dough and use turkey shaped cookie cutters. Have your kids help you decorate them with fall colored sprinkles, and then send a sweet treat to your soldier. If you have teens or tweens, consider letting them have a baking party where they can invite friends over to make and decorate the cookies, and have enough to share with neighbors or send to other soldiers.
Birthdays – Gotta Have ‘Em
For your soldier’s birthday, send a care package that the kids help create. You can include the usual birthday cards, but add in there some unique surprises such as trick candles, a roll of streamers, balloons, and a list of all the things you love about your soldier – the number should match the age the birthday brings. You could even opt to send a clue as to what the birthday gift waiting at home is, but keep the actual gift at home, creating anticipation your child can get excited about with this fun secret.
If your soldier is missing the birthday of your child and that is causing sadness, you can plan ahead and have your soldier pick a special gift to give your child. Have the gift wrapped and with a card from your soldier. It could even be the first gift of the day, or a special token left on a pillow just before bed time. Your soldier could record herself singing Happy Birthday and either send it to you online or on a flash drive to play for your child. Take two pieces of birthday cake, one each for your child and your soldier, and borrow a tradition from weddings and place the cake in the freezer to be shared when your soldier returns.
No matter what the holiday, celebration, or special event is, it is important to make sure you don’t put your lives on pause while your soldier is deployed. For children this matters even more. The younger they are the more their memories will be shadowed by emotions. Do what you can to make sure that those special times are celebrated when your soldier is deployed, but include your soldier in little ways to bring all of you closer.
For the first installment of this two part series, see Creative Ways to Celebrate Holidays During Your Soldier’s Deployment (Part 1!)
Photo credit: Adrian