Huggable Heroes

Huggable Heroes! A company that lovingly makes little teddies with pictures of loved ones who spend long periods of time away, who work away in the week, who travel a lot or who have lost someone. Basically anyone who misses someone, they have your back and are making big differences to these children’s lives.

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Opening The Deployment Thankfulness Jar

Opening The Deployment Thankfulness Jar!

The Deployment Thankfulness Jar was an idea I came up with before Daddy Big Feet’s Deployment. At the end of every week we would sit down, reflect on the week and write down one thing we were thankful for that week. Here we reveal a few of what those notes said and how this positivity jar helped us.

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The Five Stages of Deployment

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It is almost 8 weeks since Daddy Big Feet returned home from his 6 month Deployment. I wanted to write a post like this for a while but seasons like these are often better when allowed to marinate for a while.

The truth of the matter is, often people think that once our deployed loved ones return that all goes back to normal. This is not the case, in fact it can take weeks for normality to return. It is one full of ups and downs, happiness, arguments and readjustments. To make matters more complicated with lots of deployments in the forces, often families are moved soon after their loved ones return, as was the case with us. Daddy Feet returned and we moved about 3 weeks later. So here we are in a new county and location, new nursery and school for the Little Feet and it has taken some time generally to regain our balance.

If one were to break a deployment season down I would say it was one of FIVE stages. I write from a magnolia-walled truth, broken down into factual emotions of what we went through as a family with young Little Feet. Every deployment can differ depending on what life stage you are, my Five Stages looked different when we went through a 7 month deployment when we didn’t have Little Feet. This is where we were this time.

THE FIVE STAGES OF DEPLOYMENT


STAGE ONE: FINDING OUT A DEPLOYMENT IS HAPPENING

This is when your other half comes home (if you have an emotionally aware husband or wife!) and tells you they are being sent on deployment. Firstly, it is just being told that that produces an intake of breath. Then you wait for the ‘how long’ and the ‘how dangerous’. In that time, your stomach has dropped to your feet and your heart is in your mouth as you wait to hear the verdict. While your uniformed spouse is rattling off details, you are probably already working out what they’ll be missing in those months and wondering how you’ll all survive. Emotions can be erratic and can honestly range from unexpected malfunctions of tear ducts, to stoic silence, to hysterical laughter. Honestly, you can’t predict which one of those it will be until it is already happening.

STAGE TWO: THE BUILD UP TO THE DEPLOYMENT

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Visual: imagine a balloon being blown up very slowly. If you don’t stop blowing the sheer pressure of the air has no where to go… POP

This is one of the most unbearable parts that I have previously talked about. For your Little Feet they don’t really understand what is going on or the concept of one of their parents being away for a ‘long, long’ time. What they do understand and feel is the atmosphere that is building in the house they live in. As much as the Big Feet try and control themselves, it is really out of their hands. Emotions go from ‘I love yous’ and embraces that last forever, to uncontrollable bickering and arguments. Those being left behind desperately trying to organise themselves but are acutely aware of the panic bubbling away at their chests. Those that are going away are no better. If you have Little Feet, it is the physical and emotional pain of knowing how much they will miss in the next few months.

STAGE THREE: THE FIRST HALF OF THE DEPLOYMENT

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This part begins with physical pain. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it is the honest truth. I have talked about this in previous posts. As the adults we have to be strong for our Little Feet who are confused, whose sleep will be disturbed for weeks because of the unsettlement of Daddy or Mummy not being there. The tears. But mostly the pain. For the husband or wife left behind, those first few days stretch out like a desert with no end in sight. The pang in your chest feels like you are repeatedly getting your heart ripped out as it is ravaged by a pack of wild animals. It aches as if it is empty. And before you assume this is just me being melodramatic, I’ve had conversations with others who described this feeling unprompted. That ache thankfully subsides and becomes your companion for the duration. The pain becomes bearable as its taint reminds you that your family is incomplete.

STAGE FOUR: RNR AND THE SECOND HALF OF THE DEPLOYMENT

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Rest and Recuperation (RnR) is the magical wish come true and the magical curse realised. Again, I have talked about this before. The two week period of your loved ones coming home in the middle(ish) of their deployments (if 5 months or longer) are a gift and a curse. They are wonderful times to reconnect, but also to be on edge knowing the inevitable is happening again. The pressure of cherishing every last second weighs heavily on you and can feel like you can barely breathe.

If you have Little Feet, they may have only just gone back to sleeping properly and this excitement shakes it up and then disrupts it all over again when they leave. Older ones who now have a concept of how ‘long, long’ really is, realise that their parent is going to be gone for that same time again.

I mentioned tears in Stage Three, but these tears were just babbling brooks in comparison to the sheer force of the waterfalls that will occur in Stage Four. Or at least they did for us. Stage Four was hands down the worst stage of us in our 5 Stages of Deployment. Emotionally my eldest was broken. She became a shell of herself, not wanting to go to school, crying at school, anxious about being alone at any time, broken sleep with horrifying nightmares. It was the pits and painfully difficult to watch her go through that. My youngest’s sleep suffered the entire deployment that we ended up co-sleeping for half the night so that we both got some sleep.

STAGE FIVE: HOMECOMING AND LIFE READJUSTMENTS

He is home. Oh joyous day!

Well that is done and dusted right? HA. We all wish.

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Alas, no. No in Stage Five you can still feel the aftermath reverberations many weeks afterwards. The first week is exuberant but scattered with routine reminders of how things are done or how the children’s routines have changed. The irritation starts to show, you have spent the last half of the year having complete control of the house. How tidy it is, where everything has a place, you have your own routine, the kids have their routine, you have an evening routine. And all of that has been thrown up in the air. Suddenly, three people are sleeping in the bed and that no longer works, suddenly their is kit everywhere in piles of laundry, boots…oh so many boots! In a blink of an eye your military ordered house has become chaotic and crowded. Suddenly you realise you have to allow them back into your lives. This sounds ridiculous but honestly to survive you have had to create a rigid life just to get through the other side.

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Daddy Big Feet was home for a week before I went away for a much needed week of me time with my sister. This was preplanned and kept me going through those 6 months. I had never been away from my girls for that long but I was excited. It meant that Daddy had some proper Daddy-Daughter time and I had some switch off time. So off I went to Rome and I spent the time not being ‘Mummy’ but me, Grace. In that time, I thought of nothing other than what we would see that day, what we’d eat and what I’d wear (and thinking about the children, obviously!). I had no timings to catch, my sister pretty much did all the navigation and all the necessary tourist planning. We pounded the streets of Rome for 6 days and though my legs and feet were knackered, day by day I began to feel a like I was being put back together slowly. That week scattered the many hats I had taken to wearing and simplified the hat down to my own personal hat.

Stage Five has been one of realisations for myself. Emotionally I had nothing left. Physically my body was on its knees and mentally my fortifications were showing cracks in the highly built up walls I had created. To be truthful my body is still recovering and I’ve had some hard truths to come to terms with.

Two weeks after my return we moved house and it is here I write this blog. A week after moving my back went. I suffer from lower back pain sporadically but this was hands down the worst I have ever experienced. In the mornings I physically couldn’t get out of bed. The pain was excruciating when my spine realigned itself when I attempted to sit up. I was in tears every morning as it took me almost half an hour to go from flat to sitting and then standing with the help of Daddy Big Feet. I can thankfully say that I am no longer in that much pain thanks to acupuncture and a wonderful osteopath. Those two weeks were terrifying, I couldn’t do anything with the kids and I had almost all my family over for the Easter weekend, in a house that we had just about unpacked. I only mention this because it made me realise that I had still emotionally and mentally been going at it alone since Daddy Big Feet had returned. I had still been going full pelt ahead since he had returned. But I was in so much pain and I felt like my body was finally saying enough. He had to help me physically and emotionally. I am mostly forever thankfully it happened after he was home as I honestly don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t.

Life has slowed down again and like an onion I’m slowly peeling away. And guess what, we are finally getting back to the beginning in a beautiful circle.

Little Feet A is finally enjoying school again at her new school (it was a bumpy couple of weeks). Little Feet B seems to enjoy her new nursery and there haven’t been any tears. Both girls are finally starting to sleep better now they understand Daddy is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The house is finally coming together, Daddy Big Feet begins work in a couple of days and we are slowly falling back into life’s rhythms.

So for now we are back as a family of four and a fur ball, hopefully for a good few months, perhaps even for a couple of years, before the inevitable will happen again…

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Onward.

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Happy New Year Rainbow Tree-ers! You may have noticed (or not!) we have been a little absent over the last two weeks. It was needed, to refill our tanks.

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Christmas and the time in between that and New Year has come and gone. It was one of real happiness and precious memories for the Rainbow Tree family. It was even more special this year as Daddy Big Feet was back from his deployment for his RnR. If you are deployed for 5 months or more you get a two week period to come back and see your family. By some small miracle his landed right over the Christmas holidays. Miracles do happen. 

Alas our time together is coming to an end and I feel that it is important to share the hard times as well as the good. I talk a lot about being strong during a deployment, especially for the Little Feet. It is equally important  to highlight that there are times when that strength ebbs away and impending storm clouds drift ever closer. The struggles before RnR I have touched on in previously posts, the period during RnR is what I will be talking about today and in time, the aftermath of a deployment.

An example of the struggles during this two week reunion can be the battle of allowing oneself to let your other half back into your unit. Being the person left at home, who runs the house, walks the dog, looks after the kids, cooks as well as works themselves, it can actually be very difficult to release those roles when their husband or wife return. I don’t mean this in a cruel way. For me it is the angst of trying not to get used to the help. Not to get too comfortable knowing it’ll be gone before you know it. Moving around a lot means most don’t have family close, so for most they do a deployment with not much help to speak of. If you are lucky you will have some solid neighbours that can help when it all gets too much.

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As I write this, Daddy Big Feet has one sleep left in our home until he has to go back on deployment. The run up period to the leaving again is very difficult. The spoken and unspoken strain becomes palpable and tensions begin to rise. However hard you try as the adults in the house to keep upbeat it is impossible for your Little Feet to not feel the heightened emotions. Whether you realise it or not. Little Feet A from about two days ago randomly began her own countdown until Daddy Big Feet leaves again. She recently asked him when he comes home again, ‘how many minutes he would be home for’. Heart wrenching stuff. We have had a really amazing week of adventure back at home after Christmas travels to family, but the last few days have been filled with Little Feet B’s tantrums and tears. With no apparent pain or illness, I would not be surprised if my mother’s instinct is correct. She has realised that Daddy is not here for much longer. We forget that she understands more than we realise. 

For the person who has to go back on deployment this can be a difficult time, especially if you have Little Feet. Little Feet can become limpets, needing to go everywhere their Big Feet go to reassure them. They may require Daddy Big Feet to put them to bed every night, get up with them every morning, just to have that extra time. During this time, the one going back on deployment’s mind will start to wander back into work mode and this can be testing for those at home who yearn for them to stay present for as long as possible. This has the potential to lead to arguments and in turn puts pressure on everyone to make the most of every.single.moment. Which as you can imagine is incredibly draining. For me, I am both introvert and extrovert, however if I am not able to have that introvert time of quiet I can become difficult to live with. With time being precious, it can make even myself needy, wanting to spend us much time together as a family. In process of denying myself my introvert time however, can make me irritable, snappy and anxious. Daddy Big Foot basically forced me out of the house yesterday to go have some me time which was needed. When my introvert levels are not being seen too I have found it generally surfaces with a sudden need to tidy and clean the house. Over time I have realised this is because it is the only control I have in my life sometimes.

Many forces wives, including myself have debated whether it would be easier if there wasn’t RnR. Off course, we would never actually exchange this time, we all know that. However, those left at home get into a routine and if you have children this two week period can be extremely difficult coming out on the other side. During RnR almost every day, both Little Feet make sure if Daddy is coming back if he pops the shop, walks the dog or even at times leaves the room. We would never trade this time, we have made some amazing memories and it is food for the soul to be able to reconnect our little pack. With those memories and times however comes an emotional price to pay.


For the first time since his return yesterday was the first day I began to feel the panic starting to bubble away in my sternum. As it bubbles away my mind begins a battle of wills. One side being helpless, hysterical woman that is not good enough to get through this by herself and the other that starts to completely shut down from any emotion, headstrong, determined to do everything by herself. This can lead to crying one moment and feeling no emotion the next. Today he disappeared upstairs saying it was time. I took this to mean that he was going to start packing. After about half an hour I go upstairs to see no lights on but the bathroom. I pop my head through the door to see him scrubbing the bathroom from top to bottom… because he knows I hate cleaning the bathroom. He wanted to do it before he left so I didn’t have to in the coming week. It was so unexpected and thoughtful it pushed me right over the edge and my eyeballs began to malfunction. Crying over a bathroom being cleaned, that’s the kind of madness of emotions I am talking about. 

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We have another 2.5 months to go of this deployment and I’m not going to lie, at this very moment that feels like a hell of a mountain to climb, especially in the bleak mid winter… Our Thankfulness Jar is half full and we continue to do that every Sunday. If you are a guest staying with us over a Sunday evening you are expected to participate.

So. I will give myself 48 hours of moping and expelling any tears that need to be spilt after he has left. But after that, I will continue to take one day at a time, one step in front of the other, holding both my girls up when they can’t hold themselves up and  I am sure before I know it we will be counting the days down until his return. For more then just many ‘minutes’ but hours, days, weeks and hopefully months. Until the next time that is!


Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings over the course of the last year. I have found it to be very cathartic. I hope it has been a space to enlighten those who forces life is a mystery and be a source of camaraderie to those who have been, are in, or will be in this season of life.

We remember them...

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Today marks the day for a couple of things. Today as a family we start the day as the longest time the girls have gone without seeing their Daddy. They last saw him 3 weeks and 1 day ago.

It is also Remembrance Day, the anniversary of 100 years since the end of World War 1. Remembrance Day is important every year, but always a little more poignant when your other half is away on an overseas deployment. One can’t help buy think about all those wives who lost their husbands, all the children that lost their fathers, everyone that lost someone. In the UK, in November we wear poppies to remember those who died in battle in WW1.

Why wear a poppy? Where does it come from?

Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in spring of 1915 saw poppies growing on one of the fields that was battle scarred. These flowers are delicate but resilient and grew again amongst the warfare and after all other wildlife scattered and refused to grow in these places. These flowers inspired McCrae to write a poem called, ‘In Flanders Fields.’

Moina Michael, an American academic who was in turn inspired by this poem felt moved to start making poppies made from silk. They were then brought to England by a French woman Anna Guérin. In 1921, The Royal British Legion formed and ordered 9 million of these poppies to be sold on 11 November that year. They sold out almost immediately and raised a £106,000 in the first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’. This money went towards helping veterans of WW1 in regards to employment and housing. The next year a factory was set up by Major George Howson who employed disabled ex-servicemen.

In Scotland, approximately 5 million poppies are sold every year by Poppyscotland.

We've been talking a lot about Remembrance Day this year. Little Feet A is more aware of it’s relevance to her life. She sees people in uniform everyday and it is about remembering people in uniform. She has been really interested in it, what it means and why we wear them. She has been desperate for her own poppy and is super proud of wearing it.

I wanted to write a piece about some of the conversations that have been going on in our house over the last month. I am aware I have shared a lot on social media, but not on here so let me open a window into our The Rainbow Tree home life.

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In September, Daddy Big Feet was away for a 'long work' (3 weeks), before the epic of 5 month deployment. Little Feet and I had the following conversation:

Little Feet A turned to me and asked 'Superheroes only come when baddies need to be stopped right?' I replied, 'Sure, yes I guess that's right.' I paused and the next words that came out of my mouth surprised me. I hadn't rehearsed them in my head previously or ever connected the two.
I replied, 'but you realise that's why Daddy is away so much right?' She looked at me quizzically and waited for me to continue. 'Daddy is a superhero. When he goes away it's because he is helping all the other superheroes to stop the bad guys. His uniform is his superhero costume and his cape... well his cape is invisible.' Her jaw dropped as she pondered this for a moment and then thoughtfully responded, 'I'm going to ask Daddy more about this when we next talk'.

I know this conversation really struck a chord with her because she has talked about it lots since. In another Instagram post this week I shared a drawing she had made at school of poppies in a field. They have obviously been talking about it in class a bit. When she showed me it I said, ' Wow that's beautiful. Can you tell me about them, can you remember what they mean?' She said, 'yes Mummy, they are there so we can remember them.' 'Remember who *Little Feet A?' 'Remember all the superheroes that came before us and kept us safe from the baddies'.

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Yesterday she asked me, 'Are you a superhero Mummy?' I said 'No, I'm not.' She replied, 'Can Mummies not be superheroes?' I said, 'Of course they can! There are LOTS of superhero Mummies being superheroes right now.' She paused and thought about it. 'Can I be one now?' I replied, ‘You've got to train to be one. When you are big you can be one if you like.' She said, ‘I want to be a superhero just like Daddy.’ I smiled, 'I know Daddy will be super proud of whatever you do, but I know he would definitely love that.'

Talking to our Little Feet about Remembrance Day is tricky. For those who may say it's celebrating war this is untrue and in my opinion frankly disrespecting the lives that never made it back, the ones who made it back but were forever scarred in body and mind. The young soldiers, airmen and sailors who were basically still teenagers, the ones who made it back but had to grow up too fast and were forever changed in their view of the world.

I know that for me personally I want to protect my children from the world for as long as I can. They don't need to know about the specifics, the devastating and life altering numbers that died. They don’t need to know about the conditions they lived in or the weapons that were used. What they do need to know is that thousands of people died and worked tirelessly to look after the people at home. The ones who worked tirelessly to keep us safe, to allow us to live the lives we live right now and not only that, but to realise there are still superheroes that work tirelessly to continue to keep us safe.

I chose in a blink of an eye to compare these brave men and women as superheroes. Little Feet A is 4 years old. She can relate to superheroes. She plays superheroes and ninjas, princesses and knights. These are things she can relate to and sometimes it’s easier to explain in those terms.

Really at the end of the day, to us all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and officers, everyone that fought in any capacity and died for us or lived and suffered, they were all superheroes. They had a courage that still teaches us to this day to stand up for what we believe in. To be scared and still do? That, that is true courage. For that, they will always be remembered. For that we should always teach of the sacrifice and the freedom it has given us today.

We are a forces family, 3 weeks and a day into our 5 month deployment journey. One we are choosing to share with the everyone. One we hope to shed a little light on the myths of military life, the truths, the highs and the lows. The little things that help us get through these long periods of separation and the days that we want to highlight that are important to those who have had relatives in the military in the past and have them in the military today. For many it is a calling, but back then it was a necessity to fight for our freedom and many felt like their duty to do their part whether that was in the factories or on the front line or whether they didn’t have a choice.

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This year is is the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. So from us to the generation who fought in that horrifying war, we want to say thank you for your ultimate sacrifice. Though a hundred years have past know we still remember you, know your sacrifice still means something, know we are still teaching our children, know we are still wearing poppies and that in our household you are known as superheroes. Past superheroes and present superheroes that continue to inspire the next generation. Know that my 4 year old daughter wants to have courage like you, wants to be brave like you and wants to be just like all those superheroes still holding the flame for you today.