When Month Two of a Deployment Strikes

Matt and I have experienced two extensive deployments together; the first as newlyweds and now, as parents to four. It is not lost on me that our deployment “experience”, so to speak, is not as substantial as other military families. But the sacrifice and hard are absolutely the same.

Around the two month mark of each deployment it really hits you just how long 9-12 months is.

It’s the two month mark where you start to establish a routine and settle.

It’s the two month mark where your kids just miss their dad and you miss your best friend. It’s that two month mark where it’s really easy to setup camp in resentment. You know, where you take another sick kid to the doctor while your spouse messages you a scenic view from a European town square (ask me how I know!)

Twelve years ago it was a jar of spaghetti sauce that I just couldn’t open that made the tears come. Today? When the diaper pail broke as I was putting a diaper in it. I’m not going to pretend like this deployment is easy; because it is anything but. And while the tears today happened because of the diaper pail, it really wasn’t about the diaper pail, the same way that twelve years ago they weren’t about a jar of spaghetti sauce.

Deployments are hard. For us here at home. For the family across the country that want to help, but geographically just can’t. For the Soldier abroad.

But here is what I do know. Deployments are even harder if you make camp resentment your home base. They are harder if you don’t allow the tears to come when the diaper pail (randomly) breaks. They are harder if you don’t take breaks before you need them and if you don’t ask for help before you need it.

My best advice? Make the pointed effort to be glad that your spouse is experiencing an exciting thing. Sure, it sucks to miss out on it, but if your husband is like mine, he would trade fixing a diaper pail with his scenic square view anyday, anytime. You’re going to spend sometime in camp resentment, sure, but make it a quick visit. Remember, misery loves company.

Cry when you need to. Let your kids see you cry. Cry with them. Show them that it’s ok to not be ok and to show emotion. It’s hard guys! And that’s ok. I have had so many amazing conversations with my crew in these past two months. So many learning opportunities.

Hire a babysitter. Enroll in daycare. Get yourself a village. You can do anything, but you simply cannot do everything. (Read that again). And you shouldn’t have to. You have to prioritize your sanity if you have ANY chance of moving beyond survival mode. Have something that is for you only.

Here’s to being just over two months in to this crazy rotation. It feels like it’s been a whole lot longer than it has been. We got some time to go over here, and we will all be ok. But I absolutely know that this crazy train stays on the tracks a heck of a lot better when Matt is here helping me co-pilot.

How I Style My Family of Six for Family Photos

I am a blessed woman — I married a man who not only tolerates standing in a wheat field or under a cherry tree for family pictures, but he actually encourages it and never hesitates to spend money on pictures of our children that someone else captures.

As a military family, we move every 2-3 years. By taking pictures each fall and/or spring of our family, we not only document our growing family and children, but we also are able to document our time at a place that we called home, even if it was just for a year.

Our home is decorated with photos of our kids throughout the years and the frames are our favorite deocr in our home.

My goal is to coordinate our outfits for the pictures, but not to the point where they are matchy matchy. I want us to look good standing next to each other, but feel comfortable too.

So where do you start? How can you coordinate so many little bodies and have it all look GOOD at the end?

Here are my top five tips for styling your family for your photo session:

Think About Your Venue

Where are your photos going to be captured? What time of day? What season is it?

I always first start with the season and location. If I’m going to be in a wheat field in fall, I’m going to go with warm colors and some patterns and texture. The beach in summer? Flowy materials, light colors, things that are easy to move in and that will also catch the breeze a bit, but not too much.

Bottom line, be smart here. If you know you’re going to be on the beach, shoes aren’t really necessary. Likewise, if your walking through a field heels aren’t a good fit.

Dress Mom FIRST

Let’s be realistic, if you, mom, don’t feel confident, then it is going to show on EVERY picture that is captured. So, start with you. Find something that you’re comfortable in, that covers your chest and your butt (hello bending over!).

For our most recent photos, I had this beautiful cable knit burgundy sweater that I LOVED. I paired it with a pair of my favorite skinny jeans and brown flats (we were in a wheat field!). DONE!

I felt confident in it, I was covered to make sure when I had to bend over nothing showed, and it was appropriate for our venue.

Dress the Family

When I go into dressing my family, I like to mix and match with colored bottoms and tops as well as patterns. But, I keep it in the same color family.

You have to take into account where your family will be standing in the photos and if you (or your spouse) will be holding any of your kids. You don’t want to have the same color on top of each other when you’re standing next to one another.

So, since I had on dark burgundy, my husband wore a khaki, oatmeal color sweater. My older kids wore light colored tops and patterns so that way as we stood next to them or hugged, we didn’t blend in.

Personally, I don’t like putting my kids in the same clothes; I want them to feel unique! But if you choose to do the same clothes, more power to you.

Enjoy shopping for your kiddos! Remember, you can always return clothes. So if you are torn, grab both and see it all come together.

It’s really easy to find sibling clothes that coordinate when you shop at the same store — Old Navy, Target, and Carters are my usual go-to’s. But here’s the thing, if you have a solid color palate from YOUR outfit, mom, then it’s easy to coordinate everyone else’s! I also love to add things into my cart and see it all together.

Where to Shop

For our most recent shoot (pictured above!), my outfit is from Target (top, bottoms) and my shoes are from TJMaxx (about 3 years ago!).

Matt’s outfit is from Target and those are his “dress jeans” *insert giggle and eye roll*

My oldest daughter’s outfit is Carters (jean jacket), Old Navy (dress), Wal-Mart (leggings), and Target (shoes).

My oldest son’s entire outfit is from Target.

My youngest daughter’s outfit is from Target (sweater), Old Navy (pants), and her big sister’s old shoes.

My youngest son’s outfit is from Target, online.

My girls’ bows were a two pack from Target.

I am a big old cheapskate, and I always pull from what we have first, then I hit the clearance racks.

Keep it Comfortable

At the end of the day, a family photo session should capture your family having FUN. Your little ones are going to have a hard time running shoes that they’re not used to and who wants to listen to a whining kid who is uncomfortable, then expect them to smile?

Feeling good is half the battle for your family to look good. Keep it comfy and smart.

At the end of the day, this is about capturing memories of your family. Have FUN! If you go into your shoot feeling good and with the expectation of fun, you’re bound to capture beautiful images.

My BEST Advice for Moms

I get asked a lot for advice on parenting and kids. I guess having four kids in eight years will make it appear that I am an expert — spoiler, I am NOT!

And while I am always very willing to share what has worked for us, it always makes me smile a bit, because 80% of the time, I’m winging it you guys. I am truly just a normal mama trying to survive day to day (ok, hour by hour )

Today my kids were calling each other fart face

I had to surfboard carry my almost 3 year old and put her in the stroller to get home from the park in time for lunch.

My 9 month old has found his voice and now sounds like he is crying all day and it makes my blood pressure escalate, quickly

And at the end of the day, my patience is so thin that I end up yelling at some point

But if I am to give advice, this is what I always tell those mamas who message me, and it’s not to “enjoy those moments” because when you’re in the thick of it; that makes you feel like a piece of shit.

My best advice?

It’s ok to not love motherhood all the time.

It’s ok to feed your kids macaroni and cheese. From a box.

It’s ok to put on a tv show so that you can shower in peace (hopefully!)

It’s ok to just be ok.

And you don’t have to preface the sucky parts of motherhood with “I mean, I love them so much, but..” we know you love those kids more than anything; but girl, sometimes kids can be jerks.

Being a mom is hard. It’s hard work with little reward and you never know that until all of a sudden you’re a mom and realize that your own mom is a literal saint.

It’s ok to just be ok.

Are your kids loved? Are they fed? Are they happy? YES. Of course they are.

If your kids are like mine, they just want you to be with them; and they don’t even care if you’re showered. In fact, they love you so much, they want to be in the bathroom with you while you’re pooping. (And we will be sure to remind them of this when they’re 13!)

You’re doing GREAT, friend.

So snag yourself a shower in quiet, no baby monitors allowed, and breathe.