Thursday, November 24, 2011

Welcome Home 2011

We had a hyper-happy Thanksgiving this year as Nate returned from Iraq on Thanksgiving Day! His entire family was able to be there to greet him and it was a simply glorious day. Welcome home, Soldier!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Longhouse Project

This is the first year that my younger son has had a teacher that also taught my older son. It's been fun to relive the 3rd Grade with Mrs. Cameron, a teacher that both my children have really liked. One of the units that she teaches is based on the book, Indian in the Cupboard. The project that goes along with this book is for partners to create an Iroquois Longhouse using as many natural products as possible, complete with models of the Indians and various artifacts.  Joshua, my purist and rule-follower, had to be convinced that glue was allowed ("after all, you can't just go pick GLUE out of nature, Mom!") ... but he finally consented that it was made of enough natural materials to use.

He and his friend Caleb researched, planned, and created their longhouse largely on their own.  They did get assistance with hot glue but carried out their plan independently.  They had a good time working together and some of their conversations were hilarious.

J: I want to paint the fire.
C: You painted the last one. Let me paint this one.
J: Okay, fine.
C: Thanks. So you really like to paint, huh?
J: Caleb, EVERYBODY likes to paint.
C: Nuh-uh.
J: Uh-huh. WHO doesn't like to paint?!

For fun, here is a photo of Trey's Longhouse project circa 2008.  =)

Single Soldier Barracks Party!

Okay, okay, so it wasn't really a party ... but we did have a good time! Our volunteers gathered at the battalion headquarters to load gift baskets and transport them to the temporary barracks where our Soldiers will be returning. In each room, we did a little minor cleaning, made beds, placed gift baskets, and prepared the rooms for the Soldiers' return. It was freezing cold and we were traipsing up three flights of stairs in two different buildings to make it happen, but our volunteers were fabulous. We finished in record time and are so happy to have prepared these rooms for our heroes.  Welcome Home, Red Dragons!

Fabulous volunteers ready to make up single Soldier rooms!
My adorable nieces came to help the Soldiers.  Here, they look out over the Motor Pools and say, "That's a lot of Army stuff."  =)  Love them!
Our note to the Soldiers ... Welcome Home, Heroes!
Beds made and gift basket prepared.
Hand towels, wash cloths, hand soap are in place.
Snacks and goodies for all.
I appreciate these amazing volunteers (and a few more not pictured here) that made this day happen.  Our Soldiers will feel the love when they return home!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joshua's "Hero Box"

In Joshua's 3rd grade class, they were assigned a "Hero Box" project ... Think of the bravest, strongest, smartest person you know and create a box describing why that person is your hero. No surprise that Joshua chose his brave, strong, smart, heroic father for his topic. It was so sweet to watch him put this together ... and I know Nate is honored to be the hero in his son's life.

Joshua's school project ... a "Hero Box" describing your hero.

Joshua shows off the front of his 'hero box.'

The top of the box

The bottom of the box

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kids and Deployment

Saying goodbye to my husband for months at a time is something that never gets easier for me.  For my kids, it is at least equally as difficult.  They have a fantastic father who is involved in their lives, loves to spend time with them, and is a true role model for the kind of men I hope they grow up to be.  When he is gone, it takes a definite toll on their emotions.

One of the ways I like to help them cope with the separation is through children's literature.  A former Reading Teacher, I have always enjoyed a good book and have seen the power of books in children's lives.  Military kids are no different and we have employed a variety of books to make us laugh, help us cry when we need to, and open discussions about this deployment.

With each book, I try to find a tangible reminder of the lesson learned there ... a simple craft, a letter to our Soldier, or a small gift.  I have been amazed at how my kids cherish these small tokens and hold on to them as reminders of how much their dad loves them.

Here are a few of my favorites ...
In this story, one industrious child decides to send his father a 'paper hug' to use whenever he feels lonely.  It's a great deployment book and a super-simple craft of a paper hug is a perfect addition to the next letter or care package!  See details at A Paper Hug FRG Meeting.
I loved incorporating the teddy bear theme into an FRG meeting, focused on this great book.  Boo Boo Bear's Mission is a cute true story of a teddy bear who travels to Iraq to carry a Family's love until they can be together again.  Each child then received an adorable "Battalion Buddy" from the amazing group, Operation Gratitude.  For more details, see: Potluck Picnic FRG Meeting.
There are several great "hero" themed books for military kids and we read many of them during this deployment.  I love Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin.  We planned an FRG meeting around the superhero theme, and the kids absolutely loved it.  See more here: Super Hero FRG Meeting.
I'm a Hero Too by Jenny Sokol is a great book for military kids.  One amazing FRG volunteer made superhero capes for all the kids that came to our battalion's meeting and the kids decorated hero masks to go with it.  It was an easy craft and made a big impact on the kids.  See:  Super Hero FRG Meeting for more details.
In The Wishing Tree, a little girl decides to write her feelings on yellow ribbons and keep them on a special tree that her dad can share with her upon his return from deployment.  See how we incorporated this into an FRG Meeting here:  Caution: Deployment Challenges Ahead.
The Invisible String is a wonderful story about how love always connects us.  Our hearts are connected by "an invisible string" and whenever we think about someone we love (no matter how far away they may be), the tug of love can be felt. See the simple craft we used to accompany this book at:  Kids' Craft: The Invisible String.
Night Catch is a sweet story about a boy and his dad playing a nightly game of 'catch' using the North Star.  Our kids seemed to really identify with this and there were tons of fun activities to go along with the star/constellation/catch theme.  For more details, visit: Book for Kids: Night Catch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Single Soldier Basket Assembly

Phase III of our Single Soldier project consisted of taking all the goodies that have been donated and purchased and organizing them into gift baskets. We had a great group of volunteers throughout the day helping with this gargantuan task. BIG thanks to Elena, Christine, Annmarie, Kimberly, Valencia, Georgia, Beverly, Katie, Lani, Victoria, Nina, Leslie, and Debbie for all the amazing progress today!

Some super ladies worked hard today to prepare for this redeployment.  I'm SO very appreciative of everyone who came out to help today!

We started an assembly line for creating the single Soldier 'welcome home' baskets.  It was a fine-tuned machine by the end of the day ... and we ended up with 181 assembled baskets!

The assembly line starts with a laundry basket, welcome home poster, and a Ziploc with a few paper goods -- paper plates, cups, and plastic ware.

Next, they get a bath towel and a package of Wet Ones wet wipes.

Adding hand towels, wash cloths, and an American flag

Next goes the laundry detergent and dryer sheets

Two bottles of water, a Cup of Noodles, and a USO kit

A book to read, cheese crackers, and Slim Jims

Body soap, body wash, and hand soap

Candy bars, granola bars, and a can of Coca Cola

Cookies, chips, pretzels, and a package of hot cocoa mix

A box of Girl Scout cookies, an "IRAQ, I Served" sticker, and a letter from an elementary student are the finishing touches.

We took a few breaks to roll towels and replenish stations.

Everyone had a job to do and the process went pretty quickly.

An example of a finished basket

Some of our finished baskets!

Lots of goodies for our single Soldier heroes!

We filled up the room with completed baskets.

We worked one poor volunteer into a corner.  =)

We started a Pillow-Toss line to get all of the donated pillows into the storage room.

Our rear detachment commander came in to check on us ... and learned you can't disrupt the flow of a pillow-toss line.

This is the end of the pillow toss line.

And we had a few moments of pillow-fight fun at the end of the day.

We left the room like this ... ready to be delivered and placed when flights start coming in.  Yay!

[Some of] our Volunteer Dream Team ... others came and helped but, unfortunately, I didn't get a group photo of everyone who came today.  =(