Friday, June 24, 2011


Daddy's coming home from Iraq!  This week's post is about books and activities that helped our family survive the long year.

The Invisible String is not specific to deployments, but it's a great read for anyone dealing with separation, even just during the school day or sleeping in a separate bedroom.  It's lovingly reassuring without any cheesiness.  Perfect.

A Paper Hug gave us a great craft idea that doubled as a nice present for Dad (see below).  I edited the first line from "Daddy went to war" to "Daddy went to Iraq," for reading in our house. The paper hug craft is one I recommend to anyone who is separated by distance, and could be a great gift for grandparents and other relatives.

Daddy's in Iraq, But I Want Him Back had a catchy title, which my kids sometimes spontaneously repeated in odd places (like the grocery store).  It was one I had to practice a few times, though, to get through it without choking up.  Tough stuff, children's lit.

Hero Dad is an uplifting read, and even though the book dad does soldierly stuff like driving a tank and using night vision goggles, while our dad is more of a scholarly type, the boys didn't seem to care.

One activity we did during the deployment came from the book mentioned earlier, A Paper Hug.  Here is T's paper hug, with the one change being that we used thick red ribbon instead of yarn to measure the distance between his hands. The kids were excited to send their "hugs" to Daddy.

Another thing we always enjoyed was decorating boxes to Daddy.  Sometimes we painted them or put handprints on; other times we used stickers.  Most of these boxes were chock full of artwork and snacks-- whatever will I do with all the art after he gets back...?

No fingerplay this week, but I DO have something for "dramatic play."  :)  The kids made up this game, I swear, but pretty often they'd make me pretend to be Dad.  Then they'd show me around the house as if I'd never been there before, introducing me to the new baby, the guinea pig, the bedrooms, etc.  I felt a little weird about it, and they always made me do a low Daddy voice (sometimes for very long periods), but it kept them happy so I did.  Thank goodness real Daddy can come back and fill in for his part now.

The Sesame Street Talk, Listen, Connect website has some great videos and printables for families going through a deployment.  We got our free copy of the video where Elmo's dad "has to go away for a while" and that helped give the boys words to express what was happening to our family.  It also gave them ideas about how to celebrate the homecoming and made them feel more comfortable with the circus of emotions that happen.  I thought it was good, but we didn't watch it tons.  Just enough.  Sometimes the boys didn't want to be reminded of the whole issue, either, so we took breaks from all these books and videos.  A year is a long time.

We also have a Daddy Doll from Hug A Hero.  To be honest, the voice clip device that goes inside it with Daddy's voice on it is the best part as far as my kids are concerned.

Something else I did that might sound weird or gross but seemed cool to me at the time was to freeze bits of holiday meals for my husband.  So at Christmas I took a partitioned freezer container and put a bit of each item (duck, cranberries, roll, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc.) into the sections.  When he came home on R&R I defrosted his Christmas dinner, along with a slice of "Welcome, New Baby" cake and some pieces of the boys' birthday cakes.  I don't know if these things tasted very good, but he ate them dutifully and at least he knows we were thinking about him.

We got our welcome home sign from Build A Sign.  (Shh, don't tell him.  It's a secret!  I don't think he'll read my blog while he's flying back from Kuwait.  Cross your fingers.) They had a special going on, free banners for military homecomings, so I only paid for the shipping.  The banner is truly awesome!  Be forewarned, though, it takes a very long time to get here.  Bank on 3 months.

My favorite book for grown-ups is You Know When the Men are Gone, a book of short stories that was truly fantastic.  I read it in a weekend.  I get almost all of my books from the library, but this one I bought-- it's that good.

That's it for this week.  We have to go to the airport with our cool sign!  See ya next week for more bookworm fun.

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