Deployments, training, TDY: suck. Not only dealing with everything that comes with the distance, but for most families it is a huge change and adjustment period.
When J was deployed, I loved putting together care packages! I quickly learned the do's and don'ts of what to pack and wanted to share some ideas of what to send to overseas to your other half.
First, getting the supplies is a must need. USPS is amazing and has a military care kit put together for our servicemembers, and it's free! Also, it is commonly asked what to pack in a care package. Environmental stipulations can vary, depending on if there is a microwave, internet, or kitchen appliances available. Make sure you find out these details from your spouse so you can verify everything sent can be used.
What to include:
-mac n cheese
-ramen in cup
- protein powder or shake mix
-Sudoku or word games
-Cards Against Humanity (email them to get a free set sent overseas!)
-Game system game
-iTunes gift card
-Amazon gift card (download movies and games and they ship to APO!)
-date night movies
-flash drive with movies and music already downloaded
-twin size sheets
-pictures from home
-4th of July - patriotic
-"Orange you glad it's summer?" -have an orange color or flavored theme
- Stay cool - have a mint flavored or blue theme
-Hello Sunshine -yellow theme
-Summer Bod - send work out gear and healthy options
-Summer Date Night - date night essentials
As a military wife, you learn very soon that never every holiday will be spent with your loved one. What I didn't really take into account, is I will also miss out on celebrating holidays with my family, especially my parents. This Mother's Day I wanted to do something special for my mom, because she is always sending me packages for every holiday! It's time we celebrate our moms! Whether that is your mom, sister, wife, friend, etc.; giving that mom in your life a gift will show them how much we love and appreciate all they do.
Now, I am no stranger to care packages and I thought this would be a perfect way to send my mom a gift even though she is thousands of miles away. I went to my AAFES on base and found the cutest American Greetings Mother's Day cards and gift essentials. They had an adorable stand and a huge selection of cards and gift supplies! It helped me establish the theme and I took the floral and bright colors into account when picking out her presents. This is an easy way to establish cohesiveness in your gift and act as an aid when finding the perfect gifts for mom!
This American Greetings wrapping paper was the first thing that caught my eye and was my inspiration when designing this care package! I decided to measure my box flaps and cover them in the wrapping paper, so when she opened it, she had a bright floral welcoming! Also, if you buy 3 cards, you can save $2 from 4/17-5/14. This is perfect to show the appreciation and love to all of the mom's in your life! Being on an Army or Air Force base means we are away from our families, so this is a perfect way to give the mom in your life a nice pick me up and gift for this holiday.
I found this little wall art piece and a light scarf that she can wear for the summertime. I added in a photo of me and J because she has been asking for one for awhile now (great and easy gift for any mom, they love pictures!). I then filled a cute Mom mug with chocolate that I will be bubble wrapping at the post office to keep it safe in shipping. I wrapped all of the gifts in this American Greetings tissue paper and gift wrap! I also found an adorable women's devotional, that just so happened to go with the theme extremely well, and a floral lotion.
While shopping for the perfect Mother's Day card, I stumbled upon this grandma one, and it was too perfect! This is my mom's first Mother's Day as a grandma and I wanted to throw in something special that would remind her of this special year and add in an ultrasound picture of her granddaughter. Adding special touches like this will give that personal feel and be great keepsakes for years to come. I love that American Greetings has a card for every mom out there, there are plenty of personal to you and unique cards to choose from.
For more Mother's Day inspiration and to
find the perfect card for the mothers in your life, check out
Sometimes the smallest acts can make the biggest impacts. I cannot wait for my mom to receive her care package! I posted this early enough for y'all to go out and buy the mother in your life some adorable American Greetings goodies and be able to recreate a care package too. I know how tough it can be to be states away from your mom, but never feel like you can't still treat her as you would if you were there with her.
Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there, we wouldn't be here without you.
Call me naive, but it never dawned on me until recently that our children will be growing up in a military home. And it scares me.
I fear the day my husband is deployed and our children are old enough to understand, but not fully grasp why daddy is leaving again.
I fear being a single mom for the days, weeks, months he is away and hope I can be a good enough mother.
I fear those days when I need to be strong for them and my husband, when I don't even feel strong enough for myself.
While I don't have all the answers, I do know there is a huge network for raising our children in this military lifestyle. 'It Takes a Village' could not be more accurate and I'm glad I have found a few resources to rely on. I feel better not being so alone in this, and while it may be a challenge, I feel better equipped to raise our children in this life.
FRG & Community Events
Family Readiness Group and any community events can be great outlets for children. Staying involved in the military community will not only be great for social interaction, but also because they are families and children going through the same situation. You can find more information on the individual branch's support groupshere.
All children can also utilize the youth center that is equipped with computer labs, gymnasiums, music and game rooms, and special field trips like swimming, bowling, or movies.
Books & Videos
Sometimes reading or hearing stories can be the best way to reach a child and have them understand the situation better. There are a variety of books and videos you can present your kids, and it's something a little more tangible than an activity. Below are a few books and videos you can purchase, fitting your family's current situation.
Military Youth Coping With Separation: When Family Members Deploy
Mr. Poe and Friends Discuss Family Reunion After Deployment
Sesame Street’s Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes
A little bit of a step up from community events, there are several camps that our military children can take part in. This is a great way to make friends and to take their minds off anything that may be currently going on.
Kids 11-17: RV Camp For Kids
AFR & ANG Kids 14-18: Teen Leadership Summit
Armed Services YMCA: Operation Outdoors
Operation Free Ride: Horses for Heroes
Operation Purple Camp: National Military Family Association
Our Military Kids
Care Package for Military Children
Little Patriots Embraced Care Package
Brat Town Bugle (free book)
Free admission to Sea World or Busch Gardens
Free admission to National Parks
A Story Before Bed
When your loved one is deployed, creating a deployment center or wall can be a great visual for your children. This can include a countdown of some sort, what time it is where your spouse is, letters to their parent, and any pictures you want to include. This will keep your spouse very much alive and around even when they aren't, and give your children something to look forward to taking part in.
I love having the reassurance that I'm not alone in this. My husband is a 'military brat' and was raised moving around and dealing with his father not being home in his early years. It's no easy lifestyle, but I know that it is doable. To all the military spouses out there raising children, we got this. We may not have all the answers, things will break, our kids will miss our spouses more than anything, but this is just a small sacrifice we make for our families and this country.
What is your biggest takeaway from raising your children in a military home?
I'm sure all military significant others can attest to the first month of deployment being the hardest. It takes about 25 days to develop or change your habits, and that first month is full of transitioning to your life without your loved one.
It is so difficult to adjust to waking up alone, handling all of the once shared responsibilities, and just not talking to them everyday. As a military family, it is a reality we face and are expected to deal with.
Sometimes outsiders may say "well you signed up for this, you knew what you were getting into"! To a point yes, we all understand what is expected of military members, but nothing can compare us for how deployments will make us feel until we go through it.
While you can never fully prepare for a deployment, I did want to share some tips on how to get through that first month.
First, allow yourself some "grieving, not-so-good" days. It's normal to feel sad, and there's no shame in letting it out. If that means you lay in bed cuddled up in his shirts, looking through photos, or just crying it out- by all means do it. Not bottling it up will give you that "closure" and it is okay to feel sad!
But notice I said allow yourself some days, staying positive and focusing your energy on other things will help you through this first month and entire deployment. Start by setting a bucket list for yourself. If you moved home to family, make a list of people and favorite spots you want to see before the end of this time. If you are staying at your duty station, plan to get together with friends or attend events, and be a tourist in your temporary home.
Setting expectations and goals for this time will not only make it seem like time is going by faster, but it gives you things to look forward to.
Also, during this first month set up a routine for yourself. Start and end your days with the intentions of living every day to the fullest. Whether that's working out, going to your job, watching your favorite Netflix show, or doing schoolwork; try and have as many plans as possible.
Last but not least, remember this is an adjustment period for them too. They are adjusting to being overseas, most often in an unsecure FOB or area and trying to assimilate to that atmosphere. It's tough on them, no matter how many times they deploy, to go through that adjustment time. Be understanding and supportive, and keep this in mind while they are getting situated there.
Be as available as possible to enjoy those sweet, precious phone calls, but also understand it's not always an option with connection.
Go into the deployment knowing it won't always be easy, but changing your mindset and having these things in mind can make it a little easier. From one military spouse to another, the greatest thing you can hold on to during this time is loving and supporting them, and to be fearless.
Are you currently going through a deployment, or have previously?
I’ll admit my guilty pleasure Facebook group is Dear Dependa II. It’s so crude, but yet so funny. But let’s face it. In all technicality, I am a dependa too! I depend on my husband to be the main bread winner and of our household. I depend on him for strength and confidence. And, I depend on him for his love and sacrifice. So yeah, I guess I’m just the biggest dependa of them all!
Okay, I’m totally joking. I know the term “dependa” means a wife who depends on their husband for everything and has no life goals other than bank on military benefits and sling their husband’s rank around like a proud boy scout and his new badge. I personally don't mind the 'milso' title because that is what I am. We often joke about me being a dependa and I think making light of a bad name is the kind of attitude + outlook you need in this life anyways!
I know it may come off as harsh, but I’m not quite sure where the expectation that military life is easy comes from. And I really don’t know who told them that you will be making bank and living this luxurious life of new cars every promotion, more money per kid you have, and Coach purses galore! The real military life is a bit of a rude awakening if you have that expectation.
I have picked up and left my family and friends, moving to places we would plant our roots, even if temporarily. I’ve learned to pack my life away in boxes, and be okay with leaving it in a storage container. Life as a ‘dependa’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and I think no amount of mental preparation will prepare you for this life. This isn't a woe is me, it's just how life is.
I don’t think any amount of advice, tips, and personal experiences can prepare you for that first night alone when he leaves for deployment. No amount of creativity or money you put in a care package, will make sending things overseas feel absolutely normal. You may have a little one and realize that time that is being missed, your spouse will never get back.
It is hard and remains difficult for a long time. Some wives can transition easier than others and that’s okay. This life can make you feel so lonely, and other times you will feel completely surrounded by an amazing community of others going through the same experiences.
Here is the thing about life as a dependa: we chose our life partners on factors completely separate from what they do as a career (most of us). We would love our husbands and wives and support them in whatever job they were in. But, let’s not forget being in the military isn’t really your typical job.
I have no shame in showing pride in my husband, because what he in particular does for our country and other people, is something to truly thank him for. Their jobs are dangerous, they go to the other side of the earth to defend our Homefront, and they do it all without the expectation of being thanked: it’s just their job. I don't mind putting my experiences and stories out there, because I know how many other spouses relate to them. It doesn't bother me one bit to be labeled dependa, as I know what I am truly and feel only pride and love for my husband; not his rank.
Living the military life has taught me valuable life lessons and personal growth. Being married to someone in the military takes a lot of patience, courage, and strength and while it is definitely not the "toughest job in the military to be a ___ wife", it isn't for the weak.
It is like any relationship, but you have added strains that most normal relationships hopefully don't endure. Extended separation, having to be responsible for your spouse when they have little connection/communication, and learning how to be alone while you are technically not alone are all hardships faced. But, you can do it. Don't let negativity trouble you and focus on what is most important in your life, and you'll survive and thrive in this military life just fine.
What is the most distinctive "life as a dependa" moment for you?
Thank you for stopping by The Strattons Blog! Here are snippets of my life, motherhood, and the military!