Do you know we’re technically still at war? Like right now. Like for quite a long time. And despite your feelings about it, whatever your politics may be, while it may not change your everyday life, it truly affects military families every day.
My husband’s in the Army, and has been deployed three times in Myla’s 7 years of life. The first deployment, she wasn’t quite two years old, and communication to Afghanistan was limited to occasional emails.
There are tons of posts online, hundreds of Pinterest Pins, (I even wrote a post) all full of things to do to keep your deployed spouse in your kid’s memory. We recorded videos of him reading stories to her. We made a paper chain for every day he was gone (we only made it to 100 days, because: LIFE. WHoops). I made a laminated book of photos for her to chew on, we had a Daddy Doll, and we tried phone calls from time to time. But it’s difficult with kids…if it’s not right in front of them right here, right now, they don’t always understand. It was hard when he came back, as she had once been so cuddly with him, and was suddenly treating him as if he was a stranger.
And then a couple of years ago, my dentist told me her husband had a doll that he took with him when he had to leave, took photos of himself with the doll during the deployment, and sent them to his daughter. I thought that was such a wonderful idea! It reminded me of the Flat Stanley project my niece did when she was younger. And wouldn’t it be fun to have one of MYLA?
My husband was on board, and took photos on every deployment after that–when she was 4, 5, and 6 and had to be gone, I’d send him a Flat Myla , and he took tons of photos with her. When he flew a helicopter, when he visited new cities, when he had coffee, or lunch in the chow hall….you name it.
She was double laminated, and he carried her everywhere he went in his cargo pocket, and she even traveled through the laundry a couple of times on accident, and I’d have to send him a new one.
And since it’s really difficult to find things like this for army kids, my army friends asked for some…
The kids had one of their dad to carry around and take to their games and events, and dad had one for his travels.
It’s so awesome to be able to be part of a family’s story…
And I find that things like this are hard to find for military families. Or for that matter, any family that has a traveling parent, really.
In the Army, “battle buddies” are your friends that you stick with, wherever you go. So I’ve decided to sell custom Battle Buddies in my etsy shop, because I always find that there isn’t much out there for military kids, especially to help them cope with deployments at different ages. I found that when her Daddy was gone this last time, Myla LOVED seeing new photos of where he’d take her, and laughed when he’d do things like stick her flat face in a slice of pizza for a laugh, or pretend to feed her a piece of pie. My friend says her son used to carry around his Flat Daddy all the time when he first deployed.
It’s hard to find something that works for your family. So if you know anyone who’s facing a deployment, or has a family member that travels a lot, and you think this might be something that helps, please contact me on Etsy for a custom! I’d be happy to help them with a Battle Buddy, and be a part of their family story…
Just a few weeks ago, my husband (who was deployed with the Army overseas) let us know that Flat Myla‘s travels were nearly over, and that he’d be returning home with her at last.
Myla and I decided to do a little decorating. I picked up some chalk markers at our grocery store, and was excited to fill our entryway with lots of doodles, as advertised on their brightly-colored packaging. Unfortunately, all we got was a big, drippy MESS! Myla had fun splashing them around, but as for drawing an actual PICTURE, they were impossible.
Myla also wanted to make a big sign for Daddy so he’d see her in the crowd at the welcoming ceremony, so we got some posterboard and markers. I wrote the message she wanted, and she drew a stunning little portrait of herself and Daddy. If you look closely, the line under “Daddy” says “100% love,” which she wrote because I suspect she saw it as a status line, like on a video game. ❤
The actual ceremony was held at night, so clear photos were hard to get. Plus, trying to keep an eye out on everything while trying to take a picture was tricky. But when they released us all, we had to spend some time looking around for him. Finding a particular soldier in a company formation is nearly impossible!
But we found him at last, and she was so excited she could barely contain her smile.
Someone once compared deployments to a boat on the water….when someone jumps ship, the boat rocks a bit, and then eventually gets into a smooth ride. When the person jumps back on, there’s a rocky moment until the boat adjusts, and sailing’s smooth again.
So far, the ship’s been smooth, and we’ve been so happy to have him back. Myla’s happy to have someone to wrestle and roughhouse with (I’m not good with all my back trouble), and has loved showing him all her fun games, projects, and favorites now. She says “I’m not sure if Daddy’s used to me being SEVEN yet,” (because she’s so grown up now and stuff) which may be true, but he’ll get the swing of it.
So, next week I’ll be back to sharing our art projects, but for now, we’re keeping the boat on the water, doing our best to keep it sailing smoothly, and enjoying time together. Hug the ones you love, and let them know you love them, and take care!
My husband’s in the Army, deployed a billion miles away. Deployments are not easy for anyone, to be sure.
About halfway through my husband’s last deployment, my dentist told me of the stuffed animal her daughter gave her husband on his deployment, and how he took photos with it everywhere. It reminded me of those Flat Stanley paper dolls kids send to family & friends to take with them on their travels. I liked that. So I made my husband a Flat Myla.
To his credit, my sweetheart took her everywhere in his cargo pocket. He took her for pizza and for dinner at the chow hall.
He took her for coffee at Green Beans, to work with him, and out for pie. She used to laugh at the photos…they cracked her up.
He even took her flying, on bus rides, and showed her his tents and some of the sweeter sides of Afghanistan.
This deployment, I thought he needed another updated one…so I just now sent him a new Flat Myla (she designed her own Pokemon shirt).
The older one sits now, retired, in a glass frame on our fireplace, worn from the wear and tear. This new one is triple laminated, which (hopefully) will help her last a little longer. He says he’s looking forward to getting her in the mail, because it’ll give him an excuse to get out and visit places and take pictures with her. That makes me smile.
He’s gone for awhile. Through Christmas and through the holidays. Through our 14th anniversary, through our birthdays. We’ve done it before–it’s a bit hard, but it’s okay. We used to joke that he ASKED for a deployment when Myla was a year old specifically to miss her “Terrible Twos” (which were TERRIBLE, by the way, in Alaska with 8 months of dark winter, 24 hour summer, and then her 2-year molars)!
Now, Myla is older, and she’s always such a sweetheart to handle. I can’t wait to put all her Flat Myla pictures in a book to show her how much her dad was thinking of her while he was gone. It’s special, for sure. Myla’s a good army kid–she takes things as they are. She focuses on the moment, because she’s six. But from time to time, she’ll miss something that Dad does, and get a little bummed. But she always thinks of him when she draws pictures or talks about our family. She really is a pretty great kid.
And then I was thinking–the world has a way of telling me to keep my chin up and not focus on my own little world. Today I went to the post office, and just in that short time, feeling a little blue myself, I stood next to an older man struggling to write an address label because his hands were shaky. I helped him write it out, and he told me how much harder little things like that have gotten now that he’s gotten older. I heard a woman say her daughter was in the Middle East for the first time ever, and she hadn’t filled out a customs form before. A woman who lost her phone (and then found it) said, “my husband just passed away and all my recent photos are on it.” People are going through things, all around you.
So no time to feel sad or mopey. Everyone has issues. Everyone’s going through their own things. You can let it swallow you up, or you can focus on the good things.
So it’s time to focus on what we do have. We have each other, even if a million miles away. You can share kindness with a stranger, just with a smile, or by holding a door open. My favorite part about the holidays is how for a moment, it seems that sometimes people turn up the charm a bit, turn up the kindness, and it spreads a little. It’s a great thing to see. But we can do that all the time!
Have you ever read the “Pout-Pout Fish“? How he “spreads his dreary-wearies all over the place”? Well, it works the other way, too. This past week, Myla and I brought the crossguards at school hot chocolate in the morning–Just two cups of SwissMiss, and they were so grateful that it lasted the whole day–one even made a point to give Myla a hug later in the day and tell her how good it made her feel. That stuff SPREADS, you guys. Even the kid knows that.
The bad things ALWAYS shout louder than the good. The good is harder to find, but you can if you look, and if you focus just on that. It doesn’t always happen right away–it’s an active effort. You have to spread it around to balance it out, and then it spreads to others. They don’t even have to know it was you. A smile. A piece of trash thrown away. A held-open door. A little something to make someone’s day better.
A little kindness. A little understanding. A little COMPASSION. Regardless of your beliefs, of your politics. All year round, every day.
As for the husband, I hope he gets to take lots of fun trips with the new Flat Myla, and take her on cool adventures, and spread a few little smiles around, from across the globe!
(We love & miss you , Babe!)