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Friday, April 12, 2013

April: The Month of the Military Child

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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purpleup.jpg

April is officially the “Month of the Military Child.” While I try to tell my kids every day what little heroes they are to me and their dad, it’s nice to see the community showing them support, as well. On April 15, Operation: Military Kids is encouraging everyone to “Purple Up” in support of military kids all over Vermont.

Would you join us in honoring kids for their service to this country by wearing purple on April 15th? We’d love to see you in your purple! Send a picture to Operation: Military Kids on Facebook to show your support!

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Are the Kids?

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Besides “How are you?” and “How is your husband?,” the question I've been asked most during this deployment has been, “How are the kids?”

Truthfully? Deployment has affected our kids in ways we hadn't expected. Of course, they just plain miss their dad. He is their best buddy. But his absence has brought deeper issues to the surface, and it's heartbreaking for me to see.

Before Matt left, we talked with a military-family life consultant as a group. We discussed the boys’ fears and worries about the deployment. Their collective, number-one fear? That Matt would be injured — or, worse, that he would die. That remains their biggest concern, and I think it’s an expected and understandable one.

Their other fears were more surprising: A robber will break into the house and Daddy won't be here to protect us. Mommy won’t know how to take care of broken things. We won’t have enough money while he is away. I was astonished at how deeply they had thought things through.

Now, as the months have gone on, the worries have taken a shift. Broken things have been fixed, there is enough money and no robbers have come to pay us a visit. The fears of injury and death are still there; I don’t think they’ll leave any of our hearts until he’s home safe. But now we're dealing with the emotional distance between them and their dad.

“I don’t even feel like he’s my dad anymore.”

That statement from my youngest son tore my heart in two. I knew exactly what he meant. I could feel the pain in those words. No matter how hard we try to stay connected, the reality is that he is so very far away. The kids feel it just as deeply as I do. And there is nothing we can do about it.

We are seeing a counselor weekly to work through the difficulties that cloud our days. The boys are doing great in school — they are behaved and on top of their work and altogether fantastic. Their time at home, however, is an absolute train wreck. The “I don’t want to be in this family anymore!” comments pierce my soul, but I know they don’t mean it. They only say that because it would mean not going through this pain. My reassuring words sound wise in my head, but don’t go over very well with 8- and 9-year-old boys.

We have good days and bad days. On the bad days, the boys take their anger and frustration out on each other, or on me. I find myself explaining, “You’re not mad at your brother right now. You’re mad that Dad isn’t here to help you with that level of the video game.” “You’re not mad at me. You’re frustrated that Dad isn’t here to help you with your homework.” Again, wise words fall on little ears that refuse to hear logic.

We’re working through these things, one day at a time. The kids are OK. They’re not great. Kids are resilient, this much is true. But right now, they just want their dad home.


Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Home Cookin': Dinner, Two Ways

A restaurant-inspired meal, tweaked for the kiddie set

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Ground Chicken & Bean Salad for adults, left; Ground Chicken & Bean Pasta for kids, right - PHOTO BY ALISON NOVAK
  • photo by Alison Novak
  • Ground Chicken & Bean Salad for adults, left; Ground Chicken & Bean Pasta for kids, right

Ground Chicken & Bean Salad for adults, left; Ground Chicken & Bean Pasta for kids, right
  • photo by Alison Novak
  • Ground Chicken & Bean Salad for adults, left; Ground Chicken & Bean Pasta for kids, right

In February, thanks to some pretty excellent grandmas, my husband and I went to a warm, peaceful island for four nights, the first proper adult vacation we’ve had since we became parents almost six years ago.

Everything about it was sheer bliss, especially the chance to luxuriate over meals without having to think about getting home to relieve the babysitter. The Asian-inspired restaurant at our hotel produced uniformly excellent dishes — beef rendang, Thai-style barbecue chicken and all manner of fresh seafood. But it was the unassuming appetizer we shared on our last night that lingered in my mind and got me thinking, “Hey, I could do this at home.” The dish was a salad of Asian greens with white beans and ground chicken, finished with a spicy, salty, vinegary sauce that gave it some kick.

When I came out of my vacation haze, I realized there was no way my kids would go for it. But with a couple of tweaks, I was able to make a meal that satisfied both factions of our household. I started with the white beans and ground chicken, and bulked it up with some finely chopped carrots and celery. For the grownups, I served it on a bed of wilted baby bok choy and topped it with my own version of the spicy, salty sauce. For the kids, I started with some colorful pasta, added the ground chicken and bean mixture (a tomato-less meat sauce, if you will) and sprinkled the whole shebang with Parmesan cheese.

Our family dinner certainly wasn’t as serene as the restaurant meal that inspired it, but it was nearly as tasty!

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Monday, April 8, 2013

The Hugs and the Kisses

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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Before Matt's deployment, there was a send-off ceremony. Afterwards, Matt and I were interviewed by the local news. When asked what about home he would miss the most, Matt replied, "The hugs and the kisses."

You can imagine the amount of flack he received from the guys he works with. In fact, upon his departure, everyone was handing him Hershey's Kisses and giving him a hug to hold him over.

I found it quite sweet that, of all the things he would miss, our affection took first place. As much as my boys and I complain about him being gone, we only have to miss one person. Deployed service members are separated from everyone they love, all of us.

The boys and I made a plan so that we can still get kisses from Dad every night.

We counted out Hershey's Kisses, one for every night he'd be gone. Each of the boys got his own bucket and filled it right up. Every night after dinner, they take a kiss from the bucket. They love getting a treat at the end of the day and it feels so good to watch the amount of kisses in the bucket get smaller and smaller.

A chocolate kiss can't compare with the real thing, but we'll take it for now. We may be tired of chocolate by the time Matt gets home — if that's even possible.


Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Power of Positive Thinking

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

When I appeared on WCAX to talk about this "Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family" series, anchor Molly Smith asked me, "Are you mostly talking about the struggles? Or are there positives, as well?"

At first, I laughed to myself. Positives? That word does not coincide with the word "deployment." But it got me thinking. Are there benefits of this journey? There have to be.

I forced myself to sit down and make a list. Here's what I came up with:

Relationship building with the kids. Without Matt at home, my nights and weekends are more open, allowing me to really focus on them. I've made it a point to spend some one-on-one time with each of my sons. I've been doing quite a bit of baking with my youngest son. I've taken my oldest out to dinner, just the two of us. My middle son and I have spent some nice quality time over mounds of Legos. It's been nice to connect with each of them in this way.

Chick flicks. I've caught up on all those "girl movies" I never get to watch. I've cried without being laughed at, and laughed without, well, being laughed at. He's not a fan of romantic comedies, that husband of mine.

Cooking break! I have allowed myself to take a simpler approach to meal time. You know kids — they'll eat hot dogs every night of the week! Not that I let them...

Cleaning break! I am a clean freak, it's true. Which is why I have been quite surprised at how much I've let slip in the cleaning department. Make the bed? Why the heck would I do that? I'm the only person climbing into it at night.

Taking care of myself. It's funny that this intensely demanding time has forced me to take care of myself. Because I've taken the cooking and cleaning down a notch, I've carved out time to go to the gym, read and just plain rest when I need it. It's been nice. And I may have a hard time letting that go when Matt gets home.

Good thing he likes hot dogs.

Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Home Cookin': Root-Beer Float Cake

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Root-beer float cake - PHOTO BY CAROLYN FOX
  • photo by Carolyn Fox
  • Root-beer float cake

Root-beer float cake

It's not ice-cream float season yet ... but, hey, we can dream. This unique sweet transforms an ice-cream parlor classic into a year-round treat. The dessert is dark, dense, moist and chocolaty — and the root beer adds a subtle and delicious spice that makes it acceptable for both kids and grownups. Try it the next time you're celebrating something.

Root-Beer Float Cake

recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into half-inch cubes
2 cups root beer (Don't use diet; I used Virgil's)
1 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and dust it with flour, shaking out the excess.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, adding the root beer and cocoa powder and stirring until smooth. Add the sugars and whisk until fully dissolved. Put in the fridge to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs. Pour them into the cooled cocoa mixture; stir. Gently fold in the flour mixture. The batter will be loose and slightly lumpy.

Pour it into the pan and cook 40-50 minutes, rotating halfway. You'll know the cake is done when a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack, and then transfer it to a cake plate.

Chocolate-Root-Beer Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces 60-percent cocoa, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup to 3/4 cup root beer

Beat the butter and cocoa powder with a mixer. Add the melted chocolate, salt, powdered sugar and 1/4 cup of root beer to start. Beat until smooth. If needed, add additional root beer in small amounts until you reach the a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Spread the frosting onto the cake. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.


Carolyn Fox
  • Carolyn Fox

This post was written by Kids VT managing editor Carolyn Fox.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

The Distance Between Us

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM

If my deployed husband, Matt, were to head home right now, it would take days for him to get here. There is no denying just how vast the miles are between us. But that physical distance is not what keeps me up most nights.

There is an emotional distance playing a very significant role in our deployment journey. Of the many deployment dos and don'ts I've heard, one that stuck with me was to not divulge all of the mishaps and pitiful details of my bad day to my overseas husband. Military spouses need to be mindful of the mission at hand. We need to do our best let our loved one focus on their mission — not on the problems at home.

I know Matt worries about us. I know he thinks about what's going on at home, and that's OK. That's to be expected. But I can't have him spending significant amounts of time dealing with our problems. Granted, he reads these articles — Hi, honey! — and I do share quite a bit in this space. I can't spare him all of the drama, or we wouldn't have anything to talk about. But I don't tell him every gory detail. I try to keep our conversations positive.

"How was your day?," he'll ask.

I'm thinking, Do you want the "loving and supportive military wife" answer or the real answer?

Sometimes I give the real answer: "There is no heat. We have no heat. I'm freaking out. WHAT DO I DO?"

Sometimes I lie: "Today was fine! Another day down!"

Matt and I are very close. We can tell each other anything and everything — and do most days during "regular" life. But in the most trying time of our lives, we're keeping our lips sealed. I'm withholding everything I can to spare him worry, and he is doing the same. The most difficult moments of our days go unspoken.

When we are able to video chat, our conversations are usually light. Either the kids are in the room with me or there are people around him. There is little time or space for intimate talks. But I can tell when he has had a bad day. I can feel it in the words of a quick email and I can see it in his eyes. I hate that he can't talk with me about it. I know he can see the same on my end, too. Even though he often asks, "What's really going on?," I try my best to just shake it off and smile.

I look forward to the day when the physical distance between us averages only a few miles. I hope and pray that my heart can sustain the emotional distance I feel growing as the days go by. But at the same time, I feel the distance is actually bringing us closer. As we long for the freedom to speak openly with each other once again, we're reminded that what we have together is special.

I'm afraid, dear husband, that upon your return, I just might talk your ear right off.

Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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