Last week, I shared the awesome news that my Marine husband returned home safe after a 9-month deployment (thanks, by the way, for all the blog love in response to that announcement!). Over the course of the deployment, I did a few little projects to help Henry and I stay busy and count down. I wasn’t able to share these projects with you fully when I made them (for safety reasons!)…but they were fun and helpful nonetheless so I wanted to take a quick minute to share them here today! I know many of my readers aren’t military spouses, but there are some good ideas here that can be used when a parent (or any family member) is away or traveling…no matter how long! And for those of you fellow military spouses out there, these ideas helped us stay busy and connected during our long 9-months apart…so tuck these ideas away and give them a try on your next deployment!
Our biggest deployment-related “project” was a big bulletin board map. While some deployments are to one specific place for the whole duration, this time around, my husband was going to be on a ship, traveling from country to country throughout the 9 months. I thought that it would not only be fun to track where all he visited, but it would also be helpful to our three-year-old to visually see where and how far away Daddy really was.
I found this really large world map at Target for about $6. I stapled it around a giant cork board that we already had and then added a simple paper garland trim around the perimeter – nothing fancy, but it made for a fun and colorful addition to our playroom!
I cut out pictures of Greg’s ships and attached his face to them (a little creepy, I know…but it really helped Henry understand!)…and then I put our pictures in a little paper house pinned to where we live. On some adhesive dry-erase paper, I made a huge decal onto which we could write our weekly countdown. When you start at 33 weeks, counting by weeks (instead of by days!) is a bit better for the psyche!
With about 60 days to go, we made the good ol’ paper chain for around the board…which turned out to be a bit too early. 60 paper links is a LOT of links…and honestly, we should have waited until we were 30 days out from Daddy coming home. Nonetheless, the paper chain was wonderful for Henry…he fully understood that “when all the paper circles are gone, Daddy will be home!” The map board served as “deployment central” for us. We could pin up cards and postcards that Greg sent home, we moved Greg’s ships around as he did; and the best part was moving the ships closer and closer to our house, as they made their way back home! I’m so glad I made this board, because we looked at it and used it almost every day!
I am not the queen of care packages (you can find tons of brilliant ideas online), but we did send out a few boxes filled with pictures and hand-made artwork for Daddy. I saw this idea on Pinterest and did it the very next day. This was great fun for Henry, but also showed Daddy how big Henry was getting. This particular artwork stayed up in Greg’s room the entire deployment!
Okay, this one isn’t really a project, but it was so instrumental for us in staying connected with Daddy that I had to mention it. For this particular deployment, we didn’t have a ton of access to FaceTime or the phone…email was our primary communication…which doesn’t work so well with a three-year-old. Thankfully, the USO has this WONDERFUL program for deployed service members called United Through Reading. Greg was able to record himself reading books aboard the ship…the USO then sent the DVD and corresponding books home to us to watch. Greg was able to record about 6 videos for us, and Henry absolutely LOVED them. Daddy was essentially able to read bedtime stories every night, and Henry was able to see and hear his Daddy on a regular basis. If you’re a military spouse, make sure your service member knows about this program. If you’re not but you’re spouse or family member is going to be away, simply record them reading some of your child’s favorite books – such a simple thing that brought Henry so much joy! Thanks USO!
Okay – this one you’ve seen, but now I can give you a bit more context. One of the hardest things when the working spouse is away for a long stretch of time is keeping the weekends feeling different than the weekdays (without the work-week schedule, all the days are the same!). All-too-easily, one day just bleeds into the next, and it becomes really hard to think of things to do to keep everyone busy and happy day after day.
Early in the deployment, I devised a system that would keep ideas at my fingertips and force us to go out and do things and make memories, even though Daddy wasn’t with us. I researched the local area to find everything and anything that Henry and I could do together. I printed all the activities out and put each one into a little paper envelop. You can read all about this project HERE!
My original plan was to open one envelop a weekend and do whatever was inside. We ended up traveling much more than I expected so it didn’t really play out that way. But, we did use these little envelops when we had rainy or empty days that needed to be filled on the spot.
It was really important to me that I gave Henry a fun-filled deployment/summer despite Daddy being away. I did my best to keep us on the go, out exploring and doing things (even when I didn’t want to – like the beach, I am NOT a beach girl!). We had a lot of time to fill just the two of us…and getting out and exploring our local area was one of the best things I did!
I know nothing here is rocket science or all that original…and I am pretty sure there are some super savvy military moms/single moms out there that have a million more wonderful tips. But sometimes a simple tip or trick is all it takes to get us out of a deployment funk and make each day a little easier or go by a little faster (am I right or am I right, military spouses?!?) These are just some of the projects and strategies that got us through, and I hope that by sharing, someone else can have a bit of an easier go at keeping busy and making time fly…no matter why or how long they may find themselves running life on their own!
I’ll be back next week with my latest furniture makeover. It’s been a long time since I’ve re-vamped a piece of furniture and I don’t think this one will disappoint! Have a great weekend!