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Care Packages

Open When Letter Ideas

April 12, 2017
Open When Letter Ideas

I’ve shared my love of open when letters before, having sent them with A a time or two. It’s the perfect way to cover all situations your loved one may encounter without sending a care package every single day.  You can send some with your loved one when he or she leaves and then add a few to each care package. Plus open when letter ideas can be easily customized to be from a group of people or other family members, including a child or even a pet.

I’ve used padded envelopes for some of my larger and more fragile open when letter ideas, but you could use almost any envelope you have around the house. Or fold all of your letters and skip the envelope altogether. And get creative with the contents: they don’t all need to be actual letters.

Open When Letter Ideas

Open when you can’t sleep: sleepy time teabag, a CD with soothing music, an eyemask.

Open when you’re homesick: a picture of home, leaves from a tree in your yard, a snack unique to your state.

Open when you miss me: pictures of you, a note and a spritz of your perfume.

Open when you’re feeling down: funny jokes, inspirational quotes, letters from family and friends.

Open when you’ve had a great day: confetti, of course! And a note of congratulations.

Open when you’ve had a bad day: send something to cheer them up.

Open on the day you leave: include a small photo of you in a note.

Open halfway through: you could send just half of a note or maybe a “you did it!” card.

Open when you’re coming home: send a list of all the things you can’t wait to do when he/she gets home.

Open when you need a laugh: jokes, silly pictures, a funny movie or a comic strip from back home.

Open when you need encouragement: an inspirational quote (or a series of them) to hang in his/her room.

Open when you really need a drink: send small booze flavored snacks.

Open on blank holiday/special occasion: small paper decorations for the holiday, a themed note or card.

Open when you need a breath of fresh air: an air freshener to hang in his/her room.

Open when you need a reminder of what you’re defending: photos and notes from family and friends.

Open when you need to hear my voice: a CD or thumb drive with a recorded message.

Open on blank day of the week: a small note for each day of the week.

Open for a surprise

Open when you need a little music in your life: a mix CD or even a cheesy musical card.

Open when you need an escape: include plans for your homecoming vacation as well as pictures of the destination.

Open when you’re feeling a little hangry: a small snack and a sweet note.

Open when you’re frustrated: a sheet of bubble wrap, a stress ball, a “hang in there” kitten poster.

Open when you need a hug: a tracing of your arms.

Open when you need a break: a Kit Kat, a mini book of crossword or word search puzzles.

What are your favorite open when letter ideas?

Care Packages Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Bedtime Care Package

April 10, 2017
Bedtime Care Package

Raise your hand if you sleep horribly when your spouse isn’t home. Yup, me too. I toss and turn endlessly every time A is gone and he doesn’t fare much better either. That mutual sleeplessness has led me to send him some sleep aids throughout his deployment and served as the inspiration for my new bedtime care package!

This is the first small flat rate care package I’ve offered in my shop and frankly I hope it takes off! These little guys are so fun and easy to make and fill that I hope more people send them.  Plus, they’re significantly cheaper to ship overseas (or even within the United States). Trust me, small flat rate boxes are where it’s at. I plan to send significantly more of them during A’s next deployment.

This bedtime care package is the perfect thing to send to your loved one if they’re having a hard time sleeping. It comes with a suggestion card with ideas for what to include, but the sky’s (or the moon’s) the limit with this one.

Bedtime Care Package

I knew from the very beginning that I wanted a dark night sky and twinkly starts for the design. And I got just that, adding in a friendly moon to complete the look. All of the elements are cut from sparkly card stock (that doesn’t shed glitter) and they are just so stinking cute.

My bedtime care package is available in my shop, ships for free and is less expensive than my full size care package designs.  Plus 10% of each purchase still goes to an organization that supports military families!

Care Packages

Kids And Care Packages

April 5, 2017
Kids and Care Packages: How to Get Them Involved at Any Age!

Military kids are some of the most flexible and resilient people around and frankly they deserve way more appreciation than they get. Thanks to April being the Month of the Military Child, they’ll get a little extra love here on Countdowns and Cupcakes over the next few weeks, including today’s post about kids and care packages.

Kids and care packages are a natural fit and a great way for little ones to stay connected with a deployed parent.

Kids and Care Packages

Write letters.

For this past deployment, I sent A a letter to open each day he was overseas. Lots of folks send “open when” care packages with notes in them. Imagine how happy a parent would be to receive some letters from their kids.

Older kids can write much longer letters or help little ones with their notes. Topics could include a list of things they want to do with mom/dad when they get home, a recap of what’s happening around the house or even a list of reasons why they love their parent. If your kids are really creative, you could even get them to write and illustrate a monthly newsletter that gets sent in each care package.

Draw or color pictures.

Not all kids are writers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help with care packages! Drawing, painting or even coloring pictures is a great way to get even the smallest hands involved. The results will help add cheer to even the dreariest room.  Check out some of these super cute craft ideas for your kiddos.

Decorate the flaps.

I’ve often told A that I look forward to having kiddos help me decorate care packages because it means there’s way less work for me to do! Construction paper, some crayons and an afternoon later and I have a care package done that A will likely appreciate way more than anything I came up with.

Kids can decorate flaps with stickers, paint, markers/crayons, puffy paint or my husband’s arch nemesis, glitter. Pre-cut the paper to fit your flaps and then let them go to town (maybe outside if paint/glitter is involved).

Collect things to include.

Kids can send a little taste of home or whatever adventure you’ve gone on recently. For example, are you going to the beach? Have them pick the 3 prettiest shells they can find to send overseas. Or have them go on a hunt for the perfect fall leaf from the park to send along. That tangible reminder of home will do wonders for their parent’s spirits.

Give them the camera for the day.

This one may be most suitable for older kids, but I think it would be so fun! I always try and include some photos in my care packages, but how cool would it be if the photos were taken by the kids?! You could compile them into a “day in the life” photo book or even use them to decorate the box.

Let them pick out what goes in the care package.

Kids’ interests and passions change so frequently that it’s hard to keep up if you’re there with them, let alone if you’re halfway around the world. Having them pick out what goes into a care package will give the deployed parent a taste of what they’re into at that moment. This could be an awesome theme: “my favorite things”! You may want to intervene though and make sure some stuff gets in there that your spouse will like!

Many military spouses use care packages as a way to show our love when our loved one is far away. Kids are able to do that exact same thing by participating in the decorating and filling of care packages. What are ways you’ve gotten your kids involved with care packages? What’s your best tip for kids and care packages?


Military Spouse Profile: Tiffany From Seeing Sunshine

April 3, 2017

There are so many amazing military spouses out there kicking butt on a daily basis that deserve to be recognized and I’m excited to feature one of them each month with my Military Spouse Profile series. If you’re interested in sharing your story (or know someone who might), please send me an email!

Introduce yourself to my readers! Tell us a little bit about who you are.

My name is Tiffany. I’ve been a military spouse for almost four years now. My husband is a military police officer in the Army. We are currently stationed at Fort Campbell, and we really love it here. I work as a blogger and virtual assistant. I blog about faith, marriage, and military life. I’ve also been writing a lot about pregnancy because we are expecting our first child soon. (Note: Tiffany and her husband welcomed their sweet little girl Raylee just a few weeks ago!)

What inspired you to start blogging?

I began blogging in college just for fun. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and actually I have a degree in journalism. In 2012, I started my own self-hosted blog – Seeing Sunshine – with the hopes of encouraging others, specifically singles. The funny thing is, though, I wasn’t single for long and ended up getting married the next year. That’s when the purpose of my blog shifted a little, but I still focus on trying to encourage and uplift others.

What’s the main message you hope your blog shares with your readers?

Seeing Sunshine got its name because I started it during a somewhat dark time in my life. I wanted to remind myself to see the sunshine. I wanted to remind others to look for the positives and watch for God’s blessings. That is still my main goal for my little corner of the internet.

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

My favorite part of being a military spouse is definitely the opportunities we have been given to travel and explore new places. We have had the money to go on a vacation almost every year, not to mention being able to explore so many different parts of the country (or world) thanks to being stationed at different places. Traveling is something we both really enjoy.

Tell us a little bit about your journey as a military spouse-the ups and downs, lessons learned, etc.

When I married my husband, he was already stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, so I moved there to be with him. It was my first time being away from family, and I had no clue what military life would be like. I found it difficult to make friends, but my husband and I were too busy being in that “honeymoon” stage and exploring the area for me to feel too lonely.

Next, Travis, my husband, was stationed in Korea for one year. Because I hadn’t made many friends in Georgia, I moved back home to Indiana to live near family. I was able to visit my husband in Korea for two months – once in the spring and once in the fall. However, that was the hardest year for our marriage. Honestly, God worked a miracle and saved our marriage that year!

We went to Missouri next while Travis was in the Captain’s Career Course. I really enjoyed our six months there. Now, we are living in Tennessee. It’s crazy what a difference my experience as a military wife is comparing now to that first year. I have many friends here and feel much more involved. I’m a lot more comfortable in this role of Army wife.

What’s the number one piece of advice you would give a new military spouse?

It’s all about your attitude. Military life can be extremely frustrating. There have been so many times I’ve hated the Army, been disappointed with orders, or had to change plans … again. It’s very hard not having control over certain aspects of your life. But it all comes down to your attitude and perspective. If we choose to let those things get to us, we will be miserable. But if we choose to “hunt the good stuff” or “see the sunshine,” we can have a military life full of opportunities and adventures.

What or who has been the biggest help or source of support to you in your role as a military spouse?

Right now, I’m involved in a military wife Bible study called The Lantern. It’s the first time I’ve felt truly understood and supported as a Christian military wife. I love those ladies and our time together each week.

Do you have a favorite place the military has taken you? What is it and why?

While Travis was stationed in Korea, they sent him TDY to Hawaii for some classes. It just so happened to land on one of the weeks I was visiting him. Of course, there was no way I was letting him go to Hawaii without me. Hawaii has always been on my bucket list. We were able to go together. I explored the island while he was in class, and each evening I’d pick him up so we could go explore together. It was really fun, and just so exciting to finally get to be in Hawaii.

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? I went through a Lost phase one time, and binge-watched all the seasons. It was so suspenseful and mysterious! By the end, though, it got pretty lame.
  • What’s your favorite hobby? I love going to the beach or laying poolside with a good book. Does that count as a hobby?
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate. Dark chocolate.
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. I’ve never had a hamburger from a fast food place.

A huge thank you to Tiffany for sharing her story with us today.  I’ve followed Tiffany for quite some time now and am always inspired and encouraged by her upbeat attitude, no matter what life throws her way. Make sure to check Tiffany out on her blog, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.


Reintegration Tips: What Happens After Homecoming

March 30, 2017

I had the honor of guest posting on The Six Box blog earlier this month and I am so happy to have Megan on the blog today sharing some of her best reintegration tips!

It’s true what they say: every deployment is different. Since each deployment is different, than the reality that every homecoming is different as well. Of course, this makes sense when you think about it, from 6 weeks to 12 months a lot can change in one person’s life. Now multiply that by two people (or more if you have kids), with one living in a war zone, and the changes can be more intense and impactful on a relationship than anything you have gone through together prior.

My husband deployed to Afghanistan this past year and we experienced a myriad of unanticipated challenges and changes through the past 12 months (including an injury while deployed, birth of our son, loss of a close family member to cancer, and our little girl becoming a sassy 2 year old). To be honest, just one of these events is a lot to take in by themselves, but lump them all together and we now see why 2016 felt like a very long to year.

He has been home a few weeks now and we are navigating what “re-integration” looks like for our family. Somehow, through all of the changes and stress, we are finding ways to re-connect and live life in light of these new realities. While each family’s situation is different, the following are some ideas we have embraced and I share these reintegration tips in hopes that it might help another couple preparing for a homecoming soon too.

1) Expect the unexpected. If you are anything like me, this can be the hardest thing. After my husband returned, I realized my days were less “controllable”. There are now two adults in the home again so opinions, needs, schedules, etc. have to be blended together along with the fact that the Army can change his schedule without much warning which impacts our family immediately (unlike deployment where many of the changes only impacted him directly).

A deployment and a return home has forced me to learn to let go more (okay, with him joining the Army 5 years ago I started learning to let go), but even more so in the past year. There are some things I can control and so many more I cannot, so trying to clutch tightly to what he told me last week on the phone about a schedule or predict exactly how each day will go, only causes more stress. In turn, he is learning to live with children (which can greatly derail the best of plans), being part of a “home” again and no longer just responsible for duty. We have each committed to doing our best with the schedule, time and communication we are given and not worry about the rest.

2) Communicate. Have you ever heard the phrase “Listening isn’t waiting to talk”? I heard it many years ago and when I take time to really live it out, it is a game changer. My husband isn’t always a “talker” and rarely is the one to go first (oh, your husband too? ha). While we don’t always have time to sit and talk for a long time (newborn and a toddler over here) we have been finding pockets which have been great. Allowing each other to share what happened while you were a part and how you feel that changed you or fits into your post deployment life is important. We have had tears, arguments, hugs and laughter as we work to get back on the same page in our new normal. Communicating with words, actions or just a simple high five for a good day (we are into “high-fiving” at my house) is important. If you are looking for ideas on how to communicate better we have a little post on that over on The Six Box Blog.

3) Give time and allow for space. I am a firm believe that all things in life need time and space to work themselves out. Time for truth to come out, time for healing, space to reflect and grow, space to be yourself. A homecoming is a wonderful thing (for most), but not all of the emotions, fears and more need to be worked out in the first 24 hours. Give each other space as you adjust to sharing a home together again- maybe he needs to go for a quick run alone or you need to drive with the sunroof open and an iced latte in hand by yourself sometimes. Perhaps your husband will surprise you one night by telling you about an experience or revelation he wasn’t ready to talk about right away. Bottom line is, you don’t have to have it all figured out in the first day, week or month. Allow each other time and space to figure it all out.

4) Plan a vacation. Seriously! I don’t care if it is just a stay-cation at home. You both need a break together. Deployments are stressful no matter what happens. Vacation is when you allow yourself to let go a little bit, re-connect and have fun. Go enjoy each other without the pressures of life pushing you around. After a deployment, I can think of no better thing than letting go of daily life for a little bit with your partner in a relaxed environment!

Whether you are preparing for your first Homecoming or you’ve had many, I hope these reintegration tips resonate and help you in the transition.

Megan is one half of The Six Box, care packages created for military spouses holding down the fort, an Army wife, momma of two sweet kiddos, lover of sunshine, red wine, coffee and the kind of laughing that brings tears to your eyes. You can find out more about The Six Box on InstagramTwitterFacebook and Pinterest.