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When He’s Not Home for the Holidays

Our village is putting up Christmas lights on the lampposts, and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.  Most years, this gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  This year it’s just a reminder that Jason won’t be home. 

While I am trying hard to get into the holiday spirit of things, I can’t help but want to haul my Christmas tree away - Grinch-style - and skip the holiday. But you see, I have these little people whose eyes light up at the mention of Christmas, so skipping isn’t really an option. The holidays are our last big hurdle before redeployment. It’s time to suck it up and get all merry and bright … or something. 

This is by no means our first separated Christmas and I hope we’ve learned some things along the way to help us through. Here is what I have learned about spending holidays deployed.

  1. Spread out the shopping: Once the boys’ letters to Santa are done (and mama is done cringing), I send the list to their dad. We both hit the internet and try to locate the least expensive way to give all six of our kiddos the best Christmas possible. Involving Jason in the process keeps him connected and mentally invested in the kids’ Christmas morning. Not to mention, he learns all sorts of things about what his kiddos really enjoy right now. Sorry, 6 year-old Chase, but the Lego Millennium Falcon may be a wee bit above our pay-grade. And really, Jason taking a little of the shopping load frees up my time to bake cookies and stuff. Or eat cookies.

  2. Get it in the mail: The thing about sending Christmas downrange is to remember the crazy mail delay. Want him to have ornaments for his tree? Those guys need to be in the mail early to mid-November. Make sure to pay attention to post office guidelines about shipping times. Things slow down at the holidays. 

  3. Send a piece of home: A favorite holiday piece in our home are the ornaments I sent to him in Iraq during OIF III, his 2nd deployment. Voice-recording ornaments captured just a few seconds of our sons’ laughter. They brought him joy in the desert and they still bring us joy when we hang them on our tree now. Homemade ornaments by the kids, baked cookies and favorite holiday treats are an awesome way to send a little piece of home to your deployed guy or gal. 

  4. Gift it up: It doesn’t matter how often I hear him say, ‘But, babe, I don’t need anything,’ the man is still getting Christmas presents. Some of my favorite things to send him are the little things that don’t add to what he needs to carry over there and keep him looking forward to coming home. Two of my favorite gifts I’ve sent? Last deployment it was vintage 1940’s pinup photo I’d had taken of myself and tickets to his favorite NBA team. Make sure he has something to open Christmas morning.  And speaking of Christmas morning …

  5. Skype. Skype. Skype. Communication and contact are key to keeping Jason’s spirits high during the holidays when he’s deployed. We didn’t have Skype our first two deployments, but last time, he hopped online, and we set up the laptop next to where I sat, so he could take in all the insanity that is Christmas with our kids. It makes it so he’s here, even though he’s not here.  I know not all schedules or FOB’s facilitate Skype, but try to snag those few minutes you can get.  I promise, they’re worth it.

That’s my go-to list for keeping Christmas more Cindy-lou and less Grinch-like. It doesn’t always work.  We both struggle during the holidays, we both wish he was here, but it’s those little things that keep us connected and keep us smiling. 

Besides, if the holidays are our last big hurdle, that means he’s coming home soon. 

And knowing that is the best gift of all.

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