One event at a time: Countdown to the end of deployment
The beginning of deployment is like looking down a long, dark tunnel. You know the light is at the end, but you can't see it. Our deployment is roughly between 200 and 250 days long.
Counting down each day through each month is slightly depressing and too great of a time span for my kids to grasp. Instead, we have concentrated our countdown according to holidays, birthdays and scheduled events.
Counting down through the holidays
Holidays are probably the easiest dates to countdown in our deployment calendar. Since my husband left in the middle of September, Halloween was our first holiday to look forward to. On the calendar, I posted a date night with my son where we would go costume shopping together, and then out to dinner, which also helped to break up the month of October.
Even little things like our pumpkin carving night were made into events so that the kids could visually have different things to look forward to. I had the rest of 2012 marked and planned, and told my son that once we hit New Year's Day we will have completed three and a half months of deployment. To be able to completely cross off those months was really exciting for him.
I knew the holidays would make time fly by quickly. After the holidays has been a different story. We had Valentine's Day and Easter Sunday coming up, but they are not as exciting to look forward to as Christmas is for kids. Luckily my girls' birthday is on St. Patrick's Day, so that did give us something fun to look forward to and plan, even though I did keep the day very simple and secluded to just our family. So what to do with the rest of our five months?
Making the most of family outings
This is where it has helped to schedule playground and beach days with the kids and library dates. The beach, of course, depends on the weather and if it's warm enough to go. Though, we have gone all bundled up in our sweats just to go on a long beach walk, which is usually treated beforehand with a doughnut breakfast.
However, on the calendar I have every other weekend marked as 'BEACH / PLAYGROUND' so that if it's really just too chilly or windy for the beach, we can still dress warm and head to the playground. Both places are favorites for my children, and they really look forward to these weekends.
When we get home we can cross the little event off of our calendar, and I can say, "Now we only have five more playground days before Daddy comes home!" This is something tangible that my son can easily grasp.
What I didn't expect is how counting down what time we have left would be soothing to my own heart and mind, instead of looking ahead at all the months, weeks and days that lie ahead of me. Today we've made it through 213 days of deployment, but more than that we've enjoyed fun holidays, three trips to the library, four date nights with my son, and seven memory-making weekends at the playground or the beach.