Creative Ways to Celebrate Holidays During Your Soldier’s Deployment (Part 1!)

August 5, 2011 · Filed Under Family, Health, Relationships · Comment 

Christmas with kids!

Holidays and birthdays are those special times when we try to gather with loved ones to celebrate and create memories. When those who are important to us are deployed abroad, keeping traditions and celebrating without them can be a sad reminder of the distance separating you from them. When there are young children involved, finding ways to recognize special days can become even more challenging.

Keep Celebrating

Soldiers have some of the only jobs that continue right through the holidays, and sometimes days abroad are barely recognizable as holidays compared to typical celebrations at home. However, for loved ones at home holidays can be markers of time that are bittersweet. Children sometimes feel guilty about celebrating without their parents or older siblings, and may not want to acknowledge the holiday until the soldier comes home. Find ways to keep celebrating, even if you need to modify the typical plans.

Celebrating Christmas During Deployment

Christmas is celebrated all around the world, and the distance might never seem so great between you and your soldier than at this time of year. Use one or all of the following tips for creating memories, keeping traditions, and making new ones this holiday season with your children and your soldier.

Christmas – The Sequel

Make holidays Part I and Part II celebrations, and reinforce to kids that this is the best of both worlds! Part I of the holiday can be celebrated on the original date, such as Christmas. There are just certain things that mark these passages of time, such as attending a church service, singing carols with the neighbors, and decorating a tree. Hold a Part II celebration when your soldier returns, and account for some of the traditions that can be done “out of season”. This might be snuggling together to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, making a gingerbread house, or exchanging Secret Santa gifts. Your soldier will love the homecoming celebration, and your child will be able to continue celebrating and create memories.

Trimming the Tree

A Christmas tree can be a symbol of life, and decorating one is often a family tradition. One way to make trimming the tree special for families separated by deployment is to ask your soldier to send back little trinkets from the base or the area in which they are serving. These can be as simple as buttons, postcards, or even pictures. Help your kids to use these items to make Christmas ornaments to hang on your tree at home.

In return, send your soldier a paper handprint tree that the kids make together. To do this, start with the smallest hands first (if you have more than one child), and trace 2 or 3 handprints on green construction paper. Do this for everyone in the family. Cut out the handprints. Arrange the cutouts with the fingers pointing downward, overlapping each other like this one, and glue the pieces to form a tree. Let the kids decorate the handprint tree with markers, glitter, stickers, and more, then wrap up this great Christmas tree and send it to your soldier.


I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you

December 8, 2008 · Filed Under Care Packages, Deployment, Mamaw, Military Parents · 6 Comments 

Well, here we go, having to plan another Holiday without my son being here to join in. I know that I am not the only one who is going/gone through this but you see, he is my oldest and well, this time of year brings a lot of memories flooding back.  When he was born there were a lot of complications and he was in intensive care for 10 days. After that, there were years of hearing tests, eye sight tests, and he grew up just fine with no problems besides the occasional cold and other childhood dilemmas that we all go through.  But I think back to the times when we were so relieved that he was okay.  All of the prayers we prayed, and all of the times we were up all night worrying about him.  And now that he’s not going to be here for me to hug and see in person, well, I’m sending out the prayers every morning and every night and worry just like I did in the beginning.

So, of course, I finished my shopping early because I hate the dreaded malls at this time of year anyway and I had to send over his Christmas Stocking to make sure he got it in time.  In fact, I sent over two, one for him and one with the specific instructions that he was to pass it along to someone who does not receive a lot of mail or goodies.  We also sent over a box of decorations.  I found a small silver tree at the Dollar Store and took it out of it’s box and stuffed it into a box along with ornaments, garland, bows and such.  I figured at the very least he could decorate his bunk and maybe all the guys would get a kick out of the small tree.  We mostly sent over food items that he won’t be able to buy as easily like large bags of sunflower seeds (salt is good for you in the desert heat), and breath mints (enough said about that!) as well as candy canes, etc.   I took mine over on the 2nd and mailed it out to be sure it would get to him in time if not early so that they could enjoy those decorations.
Besides, I had to get it mailed before my Mom got hers sent out.  You see, we have a little competition going on here at home.  It’s not spoken of between us but we both know it’s here, lurking about in the shadows.  My boys are my boys but, well, it’s Grandma and we all know that no matter what Mom cooks/says/does Grandmas always tastes/sounds/seems just a little more special.  That’s why my granddaughters love my cookies and cakes so much, it’s from Mamaw!
Well, at Thanksgiving, when I showed my Mom the two stockings that I had gotten together she looked up from her turkey and stuffing and just sorta studied them, her eyes narrowed, she nodded and I knew the game was on!  She ate quitely and I put the stockings away, it was like a Clint Eastwood movie with the two gunfighters sizing each other up outside of the local saloon.  I knew she couldn’t go shopping on Thanksgiving, ho, ho, so I was at least a day ahead of her.  Little did I know that I would end up being sick over the entire Holiday and my 4 days off with that darned flu which would be to her advantage!  My six shooter was empty and she had extra ammo because her check is automatically deposited on the 1st of every month!  (Let me point out, my mother is very spry and quick thinking, this is a 78 year old woman who volunteers at the local hospital’s ER 3 days a week and the county courthouse because she misses the chaos of having all of her sons and their friends around.)
Well, I knew jig was up, I saw that twinkle in her eyes!  I am not one to shy away from a little friendly competition so dragging myself off to the post office two days later when my fever started to subside, I picked up those free priority mail boxes and hurried home constantly glancing in the rearview mirror of my pickup truck for her little economy car to sneak up on me!  I actually had to repack those boxes about 3 times to fit everything in them but it all fit.  Oh yeah, it all fit in, every nook and crannie was filled up.  I figured I would take them to the post office the next day, her pay day, to mail them off and beat the rush of the 4th and well before the actual final drop dead mailing deadline of the 11th.  I wanted to make sure my son got his packages in time.  I knew she was going to be out shopping so I had to mail them quick!  As luck would have it, I felt awful that morning but I got up and went to work.  Totally forgetting to take the packages with me when I rushed out of the house!  Karma is such a bugger some times!
I got the phone call the next afternoon; “she” had gone to the infamous Dollar Store as well, and, oh my goodness, how did this happen, ended up purchasing THREE stockings and filled them as well!!!  Clint, you sneaky devil…you ain’t got a thing on Grandma!  Of course Grandma didn’t know how that happened, how she ended up with just one more then I did, hmmmm.  Now, how to pack all those goodies and make sure they got to him in time?  Asking me “oh, did you mail yours yet?” in her sweetest Grandma voice.  I got chills on my spine and goosebumps on my arms, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  Then I smiled, that satisfied, half-cocked Elvis smile.  Oh yeah, I mailed mine already.  I knew the deadline, I knew the perfect post office to take them to with no lines and knew the exact time they would be empty with no waiting.  I didn’t forget them at home this time. I mailed them at lunch on the 2nd, two days before the deadline. Oh yeah, baby, they’re gone.
Tha’s when guilt reared it’s ugly head and wiped that smile right off of my face!  Being the good daughter and loving mother that I am, I let her know that the post office offered free priority mail boxes, told her how to fill out the customs forms and even asked if she needed me to help her pack them.  She knew she had won, I even heard the bell ding-ding on the side of the ring, the round was over.  She had me, she knew it, I could hear it in her voice.  Sigh.  She mailed them out on the 3rd and they should reach their destination in time as well.  The bottom line is, my son and at least a few of his buddies are going to receive those stockings, cards and love that was sent over by us never knowing how close a call was had getting them to the post office on time.  Enjoy fellas!  Wait a minute-the drop dead date is the 11th so that means…….Oh and Valentine’s Day is coming …..

Christmas – in November?

December 7, 2008 · Filed Under LAW, Military Parents · 1 Comment 

I remember – back in 2003-4 when my son was in the Sand.  Way back then (it’s a lifetime ago!) the mail to Iraq was taking 4 – 6 weeks to arrive, even sent Priority.  So.. In November, right after his birthday, I started shopping.  I didn’t get much for him, just the underwear I was sure he needed (underwear in your stocking is a tradition too… don’t ask…) , and socks, and candy.  I baked cookies – his great grandmother’s Butterblatzen, my shortbread, macaroons – before Thanksgiving.  We have schedules in my family – all Christmas baking is done in December.. my mother is German and schedules are her lifeblood!  Christmas is HUGE – big trees with tons of white little lights, ornaments that we inherited, or he made in school or scouts.. opening presents on Christmas Eve, and the stockings on Christmas Day.

Then I remembered.

Before he enlisted, his dad and I, with his help and many others, built our own house, a dome house and it took a long time, with all of us working regular jobs and doing it at night and weekends.  The first Christmas on the property – we were in a terrible trailer and had no room for anything at all, much less a big tree.  So we found a tiny table top fake tree, little ornaments and popped popcorn to swag it in (and feed the mice that were having a field day in there too!).  And we laughed, and celebrated and joy filled that trailer.   The second Christmas, we were living in the house, with just a few rooms done – and we found that little tree, put it under the rolling scaffolding in the main room and decorated it. The lights – well that year, they draped the scaffolding!  And it was a great Christmas!

and I remembered.

The next few – he was either living on his own, but came to our house for Christmas, with the latest girlfriend –  or the wonderful one when they got leave from Basic and he came, all skinny and polite and NEAT – The tree that year was huge, a Fraser Fir that smelled like the holiday, the banisters were draped in lights,  the house smelled of goose and pie and there was such joy in the house.

The year he was deployed, his dad was deployed, and I couldn’t face Christmas at all.  But I wanted him to have it – out in the cold damp desert.  So I found the little tree, and the little ornaments and even some “lights” that looked real, but didn’t need to be plugged in.  I decorated it, and packed it oh so carefully.  and mailed it in November.   He told me later that he loved it, the platoon he was with was camping  in one of Saddams family palaces, and they set up that little tree and everyone opened packages from home.  My husband was in Bosnia, they had a great tree on their base, and food and packages from home.  I couldn’t do it, just couldn’t.  I had great friends who invited me for the day, which was sweet.  And all of us tried to remember those other Christmases, the ones we were together, when the kid was little and woke us up at 5 to open the presents from Santa, when he was older and we sat in our PJs all day and watched goofy movies while the house smelled of goose with stuffing and mincemeat pies…

This year – the husband is packing for deployment,  I’m baking for other troops who aren’t home, and my son, daughter in law and our beautiful, smart, sassy and perfect granddaughter are out West where they live.  And I’ll remember that little boy with the footy jamies, racing to see what’s in the package – sitting with the new toy in the living room and grinning over the chocolate Santa for breakfast.  and I’ll remember..