Thank you all so much for the beautiful comments, emails and texts I received yesterday after I shared my story.  I actually wrote that a few months ago, but could never quite hit publish until yesterday. The day he was coming home.

And since it seems like a lot of us are in the same boat, today I thought I’d share some of the resources I have found for children experiencing separation from a parent, whether it is an Unaccompanied Tour (UT), a Military deployment, or an extended absense for another reason. (Those long business trips are hard on kids, too!)

Websites For Kids

Websites for Parents

  • The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a fact sheet to help families adjust when the deployed family member returns home. The description of the returning family member really pertains to military members, but the rest of it is perfectly suited to UTs. I can really relate to the section about the adult who stayed home.
  • Surviving Deployment gives some great ideas on helping children handle deployments.
  • Foggy Bottom Rambles is an entire blog dedicated just to Foreign Service UT employees and their families. Yay!

Books For Kids

I really like to find books that deal with issues we are facing, or things that I want to teach my daughter.  There are a ton of great books on separation from a parent or loved one, feelings, deployment, and unconditional love. These are the books that we have enjoyed most:

Books For Parents

Neither of these deal specifically with separation or deployment, but the parenting styles depicted in the books are really good for kids in these situations.

Do you know of other resources that I have missed? Please share!

  • Robin - OK, so this is more of a comment to fellow readers here than it is for Kaley….

    Kaley is clearly an amazing parent, incredibly resourceful, and generous to share such a personal journey. I know that making things as easy as possible for Avery, and any child in a similar situation becomes the highest priority since their emotional capacity for such difficult changes in family structure is… well… that of a 4 year old.

    But what about a list of resources for a the spouse at home? Kaley continues to amaze me in her ability to stay so grounded and positive. And of course, we will continue to keep our phone calls, text and hugs coming. But for those of you who have gone through something similar, and realize that it is equally as difficult for the parent as it is the child (just in different ways), please share your resources! The mamas at home need love too!

    xoReplyCancel

So there’s this thing. The thing that I don’t talk a lot about, but is always on my mind. Such a big part of my life right now. But it is only a chapter in our story.

I don’t talk much about him. He isn’t in many of my photos.

He is there every night for dinner, but he isn’t at the table. He is on the other side of the world, getting ready for work (thankfully, he is exactly 12 hours ahead of us). But he is with us. His face on the iPhone screen fills the void at the table. He asks how our day was. He tells us about his. I show him my growing belly and we count down the days until he can feel his baby move for the first time. Avery pretends to feed him bites of her dinner, and shows him her latest boo-boo. She cries when he has to hang up and begs him to come watch her take a bath. She kisses him goodnight and tells him she loves him. It adds normalcy to our day. How families survived long separations before the days of FaceTime and Skype is beyond me.

Before this year, I thought that there was no way I would be able to do it on my own. But here we are, doing it.

When your husband is a soldier, people understand. That is the life of a military family.  Deployments. Waiting. Homecomings. There are resources. Support systems. Because it is normal for them.

We are not a military family. And yet here we are. But without the understanding, the resources, and the support.

Preschool events, ballet recitals, swim lessons, neighborhood gatherings are all the same. I go alone. I know people wonder, sometimes they ask. I would rather they just ask. But when they do, they don’t know what to say. They fumble for the right words. I don’t know how you manage. I could never do it. I feel myself getting angry.  Yes, you could manage. I am. You are stronger than you think. And then I say that I actually feel blessed. Because during the year that he is gone, he will get two visits home. When soldiers are deployed, they usually don’t get any visits at all. So we are lucky. That shuts them up.

We are a government family. A Foreign Service family. We are in the middle of an Unaccompanied Tour. Meaning that he is serving in a location that is not safe enough to have his family accompany him. He is sacrificing. He doesn’t get to come home to his family every night.

For a long time I didn’t know if Avery could really understand why her Daddy wasn’t with us. I could see it affecting her in so many ways. Sleep issues. Tantrums. Separation anxiety. Problems expressing emotions. It was hard to decipher what was normal 3 year old behavior and what was the effect of this Unaccompanied Tour.

When people ask where he is, she says that he is working at the Embassy, keeping the nice people safe from the bad people. She gets it. She understands. And she is proud of him.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for her. Every time she makes a wish, it is the exact same words… I wish Daddy could come home. Every penny she throws in a fountain, every ladybug that she catches, every dandelion she blows away, she wishes for her Daddy.

This is hard. But it is only a chapter. We are counting down the days until we will all be together again as a family.

This is only a chapter in our story.

  • Elise - I’m right there with you! My husband is gone all the time for work and I feel your pain. It is so, so hard.ReplyCancel

  • kati - don’t be mad, but even if you tell me it’s doable i really still don’t know how you do it! seriously, i bow down. i know you’re doing the best you can! and your best is obviously amazing, it’s clear. xoxoReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Not mad at all Kati – you are so sweet! xoReplyCancel

  • Steph at MPMK - This made me tear up. Your kiddos are blessed with two amazing parents. Hoping the year goes quickly for you!ReplyCancel

    • Kaley - Thanks, Steph! That means so much to me!ReplyCancel

  • Sara - so sweet. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Stacie - We are just starting our first UT, and it breaks my heart to see my 3 kids say goodbye to their daddy! Hoping this year goes by fast!!!ReplyCancel

    • Kaley - Thanks, Stacie! I hope yours goes by quickly as well! Hugs for you and your kiddos.ReplyCancel

  • Kellie - You guys are such a strong and amazing family! I think of you all often & can’t wait to see you!ReplyCancel

    • Kaley - Thanks, Kellie! We all miss you and can’t wait to see you, too!ReplyCancel

  • Donna - My husband just started his tour last Sunday. It’s no fun, is it?ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - So sorry, Donna! No it is not fun at all. I hope your UT goes by quickly!ReplyCancel

  • Bree - This totally made me cry! Give ‘him’ a big hug from us, and one for you and Avery too! xoxoxoxReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Thanks, Bree! We love you guys!ReplyCancel

  • Ana - Kaley, I had to start reading this 3 times before I could get through the whole thing. You are an amazing person. Justin and Avery are so lucky to have you. I feel blessed to have you in our family. Thank you for all you do.ReplyCancel

  • Lori - Beautifully written Kaley; full of strength and enormous love. It’s incredibly inspiring.ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Thank you, Lori! So sweet of you.ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - This was so beautifully written that I had tears in my eyes. My brother did two tours in Iraq and his son longed for him as well. You are such a strong woman…your daughter and husband are so lucky to have you.ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - Thanks, Tracy! That must have been so hard for your nephew. I hope they are all back together now. :)ReplyCancel

  • Ordinary Life - […] This is what our life looked like this last year. Just the two of us. Me and my girl. At home. With Daddy gone. Before our family of three turns into a family of four. These images mean more to me that I could […]ReplyCancel

Things have been a little quiet around here lately. OK, let’s be honest – it has been downright silent. But with good reason…

We will have a new addition to our family this fall, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!!

 

I am so in love with my Mommy Book, and I really wanted to do something similarly meaningful for Father’s Day this year. Homemade, thoughtful, showing the age and stage that our daughter is in right now.

One of our all time favorite books is I Love My Daddy Because and it’s matching book, I Love my Mommy Because. These cute books talk about all of the reasons why we love our mommys and daddys, and feature sweet pictures of animal babies with their mommy or daddy. We have the Spanish / Enlgish version of both, which I highly recommend, even if you don’t speak Spanish. You never know – you and your kids can both pick up a little Spanish vocabulary. :) (Plus they are very well translated, which is surprisingly hard to find!)

So we took the basic premise of this book, and made it into a Father’s Day Book for Daddy. We started by discussing all of the reasons why she loves her daddy, and then we chose the top 6 reasons, ending the same way the book ends, “I love my Daddy and my Daddy loves me!”

I chose to do an easy flip book because it displays each of her ideas prominently, and gave her plenty of room to add illustrations. The last page holds her Father’s Day message, which is by far my favorite part.

We added a photo collage (for details, see my post over on Modern Parents Messy Kids) and enclosed it in a colorful Pointed Flap Envelope from Paper Source. A piece of scrapbook paper and some twine wrapped around the envelope was all it needed to look perfect

Although this was very easy to make, it did take us over a week to finish it. We did about a page a day, which was perfect for her, since she likes to take her time and concentrate on her drawings. This also gave us plenty of time to talk about each page, and each drawing, and what it meant to her. I was really amazed with the sentiments and feelings that came out in her drawings, that she had never expressed to me before.

The idea is so simple, and could be duplicated for a million different occasions – birthdays, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, teacher appreciation, etc. If you would like to make you own, I recommend first getting the book – it is a great way to get the conversation started about all the reasons why you love or appreciate someone. Then take your time with the discussion. Depending on the age of your child, they may need a little help, or they might be able to write out their list themselves independently.

Assembling the book is so easy. Take two sheets of white cardstock (or plain white paper) and cut them in half vertically. Stack them so that you have 4 identical sheets of paper that measure 4.25″ x 11″. Stagger the pages about 3/4″ apart, then fold them over and keep the spacing consistent. Staple the top of your book and add a decorative sheet of paper or washi tape to cover the staples. Then write on each of the flaps using the list you came up with previously. Your little artist can then illustrate each of the pages and you are done! A beautiful, handmade, thoughtful gift that any mom, dad, grandparent or teacher would love to receive.

  • Alexis - super cute! i am going to try this for my hubby’s birthday!ReplyCancel

  • Maya - What is that under the “A” in the top photo?!?! :) :) :)ReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Beautiful book!
    To all you teachers out there—we used to have our students make these books for Mother’s/Father’s Day! What parent wouldn’t cherish a gift like this!ReplyCancel


Happy Weekend everyone! I just finished reading Happier at Home, and it has completely inspired me to start a major spring cleaning of our apartment. But before the actual cleaning comes organizing and minimizing and purging – my favorite part. It is really weird how happy much I enjoy spending my time doing this – it is just so therapeutic. So while I finish my spring cleaning, (and take a bit of time to do my baby’s nails) here are a few links you may enjoy: