Just before Christmas, Dennis left for deployment to Afghanistan. We had been "lucky" by Marine Corps standards...we had a whole five years in between his last deployment to Iraq. This would be the first deployment with kids in the picture, and for better and for worse, it certainly made things much different.
We were lucky in a lot of ways. We had amazing communication with Dennis this time (Facetime just about everyday). We have great friends and neighbors here, most of them going through the same situation who just "get it" and step in as family and friends when necessary. Our family took care of the girls and I on several occasions both back in St. Louis and with visits here. We had some fun visitors and we found an AMAZING babysitter so I could get out on my own from time to time. Our girls are amazing and I was lucky to have their hugs and love while Dennis was gone.
With all that said, I can't say it was easy. It's tough to have your biggest fan and partner on the other side of the world. I remember struggling with insecurities a lot toward the beginning (I'm so lucky to have a man who makes me feel better about myself). There were some lonely days when I spent more time that average on Facebook looking for some "adult conversation." I fell into bed most nights exhausted taking care of two busy little girls. I just missed my love.
In the "culture" we live in, these deployments are the norm. Dads go away for weeks and months at a time and we are left to hold down the fort. In many ways, this is a blessing because I can't feel too sorry for myself. We all do it and watch each other survive. However, I realize it is not normal for couples to be separated on such a regular basis and I am supremely impressed by single mothers who do it all everyday (and have to bring home the bacon too!)
Homecoming happened last Sunday in the middle of the night. 3:30 AM to be exact. I was lucky to have a friend come stay with the sleeping girls and two join me as the paparazzi (and for some good laughs while I anxiously awaited the return). I tried to get some sleep before we left but settled with just an hour of sleep and spent the rest of the evening watching old episodes of Ugly Betty on Netflix.
The Marines returned to base and then stopped at the armory to return rifles. This time they marched in formation from the armory to the battalion parking lot where we reunited. It seemed like forever before we found each other but I finally caught Dennis's eye and ran into his arms. I instantly felt like the place I belog.
We decided to keep the exact day of homecoming a surprise from the girls so they got to see Dennis when they woke in the morning. Madelyn woke first and didn't know what to think. Her first words to Dennis were, "My sister's still sleeping and I have a grandma named Nana." At 2.5, I'm not sure how much she realized that the guy she had been talking to on Facetime could really come and sit back in our house. I think she was updating him on the past seven months.
Elyse came in a few minutes later and had the best look on her face when she first saw him. Then she bounded into Dennis's arms and has wanted to be around him ever since.
We are so thankful to be back together as a family. While I never would voluntarily do a deployment, it certainly provides a sense of appreciation that could not be created otherwise. As Madelyn says on a regular basis, "I'm happy Pappy came back from Afghanistan." We all are!
Here's some pictures!
Waiting (first time in a long time that I've put makeup on at 2 am)
I found him!
So happy together!
Madelyn was the first of the girls to find him.
Then Elyse came in and saw Dennis. Her eyes really show her surprise!
Back with his girls!
As would be expected, Dennis's sleep schedule was a bit off. Here he is on the couch with some of the signs the girls made for him.
Dennis made us crepes for breakfast one morning. So yummy!
I think the girls missed the iPad too!
And then they washed my car while I relaxed in the house. Bliss!