Blog from the founder of the charity Little Troopers. Military wife and mum sharing thoughts and feelings of being a British Armed Forces family.

Little Troopers is a registered charity supporting all children with parents serving in the British Armed Forces, regular or reserve. We provide fundamental resources, initiatives and events to ease and aid repeated separation periods aiming to keep parent and child connected and bonded even when miles apart

24 Jan 2018

This blog has now moved!

We have merged the blog posts into the Little Troopers website so everything is in one easy place for you.

To follow Louise's blogposts on her deployment journey and keep up with all the news from the Little Troopers charity head over to Little Troopers Blog

15 Jan 2018

Living in the land of Limbo

Hi, my name is Louise and I am currently living in Limbo, but
 I don't like it and I'm not very good at it.

We had a tour start date of 10th Jan, got my head around this then it changed to later in the month. Right now we are in state limbo....the dictionary definition of this is: 'an uncertain situation that you cannot control and in which there is no progress or improvement' yup that is right where we are.

My husband is on leave before some pre-training, we still have some time to go so not completely in 'he's off tomorrow mode' I have made some lists and tried to be a little organised but right now there is not much I can do other than.....SIT......AND.........WAIT for D Day, not that I want deployment day to come but we are all waiting for it like the bloody number 4 bus.

We are totally skint because he's off work at the moment and everyday its like "Shall we get a takeaway, I mean you are going away soon" "Shall we go out for lunch, we should spent time together because you go away soon" my waistline is increasing and my bank balance isn't shrinking, its shrunk. 

I am craving routine and normality and my body is telling me I am stressed....I have a raging stye in one eye, mouth ulcers and just feel a bit on edge. It absolutely isn't that I want him to go away of course I don't but we are all here just sat waiting for the inevitable and boy I know whats waiting for me.....those first two weeks of hell! I just feel like I'd like to just dig in and get that crappy first emotional little bit done and grab the deployment with both hands and for routine to prevail so I can get into my groove, you know?

I want to start ticking days off

As we had a bit more time before he goes we have a few more memory making bits booked in the diary...more deployment money we are spending before we even have started but still it IS important to make those memories prior to a deployment it just feels like its been for about three weeks we've been in this mode!

I am trying to relish this period for the little time we have left but it is exhausting, everything I say I feel like oh but he's off soon, should I have said that? I don't want to bicker, I want it to be perfect so my memory vision is perfect. Every time he holds my hand and it's all warm I want to blink and add it to my minds memory box, every time I have a cuddle and hear his heartbeat I want to really etch it on my brain and every time we do something I want to take photos.

Perfect doesn't exist, we all know that so a day at a time skidding through this weird limbo period. If you too have a deployment on the horizon, lets limbo together because I'm finding it pretty tricky and would welcome you on the ride with me! 

Lots of love, Louise xxx

8 Jan 2018

Pre Deployment getaway and my recommendations for your Little Troopers

When we found out that my husband was going on a long deployment in 2018 I felt like I just wanted to book something and go away and hide from the world for a weekend.

I wanted to overdose on my husband

We went to the seaside for one night and then the New Forest for one night and it was idyllic and perfect and we laughed lots while making memories. Next month it is 15 years since we got married and we realised this weekend was the FIRST time we have gone away for the weekend without our daughter and for no particular reason, which is shocking. We, you, everyone should make time especially when we spend so long apart from each other, this is our seventh long operational tour...why have we not done a pre-deployment break before?

Mudeford in Dorset
Typically my husbands deployment date has changed and he now doesn't go until the end of the month so the break was a bit premature but still, I loved it and I took in the views and the sea air promising myself to remember those moments when I am really resentful to him being away four months into the deployment!!!

The Mill at Gorleton, New Forest
I did drink slightly too much red vino on the second night and ended up crying, to which the lovely lady at the hotel asked why, I explained, she started I guess I am potentially suppressing some feelings but that is natural, I can't spend the next few weeks crying I am determined to try and do things differently this time and wasting time being sad while I could be enjoying the time just seems silly. I have done that previously and it's miserable.

The time we have now before he deploys I want to aim to be organised, get my diary full for the coming months and I will blog some checklists that I am going to put together as we go along so I can share as much as possible which may help you now or one day in the future.

My recommendations for your Little Troopers when they have Mummy and/or Daddy away

Through my work with Little Troopers I have discovered a few really good sites, products, ideas that I wish I had known about when our daughter was a little younger, we all feel helpless sometimes when your children are really struggling with a deployment and hopefully these ideas will empower you to find ways to ease the separation.

On the Little Troopers website is a specific Parents section, with information on Keeping in Touch, Coping, Homecoming and lots more. See HERE 

Books can sometimes really help, it is limited what is out there for British Armed Forces children (we are working on a project to fix this) for now though we have read and had reviewed the books that we would recommend and could help you right now, lots of options for all ages and you can view the Recommended Reads list HERE 

In a recent post I mentioned the photo pillowcase I bought for my husband (which he loves!) but Amy who run Ginger Rainbow and is a military wife also has colour in pillowcases which parent and child could do together and parent takes away or child has at home or child could do and send. Either way a good idea I liked and can be found HERE  (£15)
Huggable Heroes
Jo is a military wife who runs the business creating Huggable Heroes, really great to have them in the UK now as when my daughter was younger I wanted one but only the US were making them (Daddy Dolls) and the shipping was expensive. Head over to the Huggable Heroes site for all the details or photo you need to send, children can take their 'hero' to nursery, nap time, special occasions even though they are away from home! Shop HERE (£25)
Worry Monster Frame
Another military wife doing amazingly and this time it is Sara, her worry monsters I have only just found (via Instagram, you can follow me @louiselittletroopers) it is a simple idea of children being able to 'pass on' any worries at the end of each day which I love and can really see lots of children benefiting from having these. Head over to the Etsy shop HERE (£23.99)
Reading Force
A family book club scheme specifically for military families and free to sign up to. all members of the family read the same book which you get sent and then you can talk about it, ignites conversation while on the phone! See HERE
Countdown Chalkboards
Very simple idea which children love and easy to amend if days get added to deployment, I just googled and they seem to be really expensive these days?! We have some in our shop for £6.50 very limited stock left though See HERE (£6.50) 
Cloud Pets
Really cute and many recommend these for little ones, a soft toy that links to an app and messages can be sent back and forth through the toy. See HERE 

Obviously there is lots of support available via Little Troopers specifically to help children who have a military parent serving away from home; Separation Packs, Send a Hug kits, Little Troopers Treasures story recording app, Separation journals, Weekly planner sheets, Activity sheets for countdown jars, separation paper chains and much more so do pop to and get your hands on that support, lots of it is free.

I wish I could find a pause button as I know its going to be a rocky 2018 but I am buckled up and ready for the ride, I know I can do this, preparation is key! 

Love Louise xxx

30 Dec 2017

Christmas with the black cloud

30th December and Christmas 2017 is now done, I have even taken the tree down although I am definitely not ready for January to arrive.

January = Deployment day

We found out in October that my husband was being deployed in January for over six months, it wasn't expected and it took a while to sink in. It meant that Christmas in my mind needed to be absolutely amazing and we would be blissfully happy throughout the entire duration of the festive pressure! 
The reality was we all bickered, ate and drank too much and the job list I wrote my husband of 'things you need to do before you go away' has not had one of the jobs ticked off as yet BUT we did make it to the end of the list of things I booked and have made some lovely memories. We have over spent but we've said it over and over...we can save while he is away so might as well spend now while he is here.
Lovely hotel we stayed at in Winchester
I know myself, I know how I tick and I knew that Christmas would have a black cloud of deployment over it but I've made myself try where I can to put that in a box so it didn't ruin the festive season. The last long deployment we did I lost the plot in this pre-deployment phase, I just couldn't cope.

Six months or so just felt like such a huge mountain to climb and I wasn't confident I could do it staying in one piece with my sanity still intact.

I do feel like that now but I am not quite so unpredictable, I am not being purposely horrible to my husband and I'm not spending hours on end in bed it's an improvement! 
I have however felt vulnerable, I have wanted to batten down the hatches and overdose on my little family and my husband, I have felt really protective over our Christmas and not wanted any outside influences to ruin it. I have felt selfish.


Over Christmas I have thought so much about everyone who has had someone deployed because I have been there too and its rotten, I hope you are all OK and glad it is now over....give yourself a high five because I actually don't think there is anything harder than a Christmas deployment. You did it! you can now concentrate on some routine and normality returning so your countdown can begin again. 

As I found it hard to know what to send in a parcel when my husband has been away for Christmas I also found it really hard to think of what to buy my husband this year as he is actually going to be away for most of 2018 (deployment, home for a little bit then another couple of months away) the internet is a wonderful thing and I found a few things that I thought I'd share as you may want to send out to your loved ones if they are away or give them before they go.

Firstly a personalised printed pillowcase, a really simple idea which can be used wherever they are in the world. Lightweight and easy to pack/post. I got mine from Ultimate Line as found they were the cheapest (£4.99) and am really pleased with the quality. Website HERE and also available on eBay.

I also got a personalised wallet card from Martha Brook London, just a few special words for him to take away. Was £10 and ordered via the website HERE

Something else which I thought was a good find was the Battle Bags of coffee from the Contact Coffee Co a company run by ex military, I got a couple of the packs of 10 bags and again lightweight so easy to pack and/or post Just £4 for a pack of ten which you can order via their website HERE

I don't want January to come and to be quite honest I'm entering 2018 with real trepidation; I know deployment is hard it will be our seventh long tour, I'm scared because I know where he is going and how I have felt when he has been there previously and I know that invariably things go wrong when you are flying solo and I keep thinking of all the worst case scenarios of what might go wrong which is hard work on my emotional well-being.

I want to be brave and strong but I know I need to take my own advice and be kind to myself.

For all of us 2018 will bring challenges and I will be right here documenting our deployment as a modern military family in the hope of spreading some strength, I might need the odd hug too from you guys! 

Lots of love as we enter 2018 together, Louise xxx

My husband got me a new bracelet with his initial on so he is with me all the time he is away, so special.

20 Dec 2017

I'm right there with you

It really has been a manic 10 days or so but here I am past 8pm sat on my laptop a few days before Christmas (with presents to buy and wrap still!) sitting and reflecting on all of you who I have met this week, your stories are imprinted in my mind and I have cried tears for all of you at various points.

I am also crying writing this post....a) they are I am so exhausted tears and b) because my heart aches for so many of you who are separated this Christmas.

I have spent Christmases with my husband deployed and the memory of those times are etched deep within me, I didn't want to put a tree up, I didn't want to be festive, I didn't want to go to parties and I didn't want to hear of all the lovely things everyone else was doing with their families because mine was fragmented.

Nothing I write will make you feel better about a solo Christmas and there is no right or wrong way for you to get through the next couple of weeks, but just know that you will, I promise.

Over the last week I have met lots of Little Troopers and their families through some projects we have worked on with LaplandUK, firstly we reunited two families which was one of the most rewarding things I have ever witnessed. From sitting with the nervous dad's waiting to see their families after months and months, to standing outside the Santa lodge hearing the sobs from children who were finally reunited with their parents to crying silently with the team who brought it together to watching the children wearing the biggest smiles walking hand in hand with the early Christmas present they had so longed for. I will never forget that day.

Waiting to hear the cue to reunite our Royal Navy dad with his Little Troopers

A few days later I was back at snowy LaplandUK this time with military families who had someone deployed over Christmas this year, to sprinkle some Christmas magic.
I get so emotional because it is always so close to home for me; I've felt that longing to cuddle my husband, I have felt that sadness of a Christmas on my own, I have felt that resentment of other people enjoying time together, I have felt that helplessness when my daughter misses her dad so much. Those tears are because I'm living and breathing this life right by your side.

The LaplandUK scheme doesn't cost the charity any money just time and love and energy to bring it together and I can't lie, it is always stressful in December but as I am winding down for the holidays I can sit and smile and know I did my very best to make as many Little Troopers as possible make a memory even though Mummy or Daddy wont be at home this Christmas and I am sending all my love and hugs to you.

As you know my husband deploys in the New Year so I am tip toeing into this Christmas with the black cloud slowly creeping into my consciousness, I know its on the horizon and that brings that weird feeling in my tummy when I think about it which will only get more frequent as deployment day looms. Right now though we are working our way though that list of endless festive things I booked to bimble though hopefully making some nice memories (read previous post here on this!)

I will write an after Christmas post and let you know how it goes and I will also write a post about what to buy the military partner who is going away for most of the following year! I've struggled but there's a few things I've found that I want to share, you might find them useful (obvs can't write it yet pre Christmas as he tends to be a lurker and reads these posts sometimes!)

I should also touch on The Sun newspaper article that ran last week about the charity, you can read it HERE, Little Troopers is in dark times financially with the pennies seriously drying up. The thought of having to close the charity makes my heart actually hurt and I really will fight until the last penny, I've not given up and a few amazing people are helping me to try and secure funding, raise money, pull together and make sure that Little Troopers remains. I will keep you posted.

Whatever your situation this Christmas remind yourself it is just one day, just another roast and time will pass bringing your light at the end of the tunnel closer. Be kind to yourself and know you aren't alone.

To all of you who have been so supportive over the last week or so THANK YOU, you are making me more determind then ever to carry on and to all of you who I have met in the last few days you have reminded me why I founded Little Troopers and why it is so important the charity is here for military children.

All my love and hugs, I will be thinking of so many of you over the next week so. Louise xxx

From me and the big man in red HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

4 Dec 2017

I promise I won't give up

I have tried so many times to write posts over the last few weeks but just couldn't find the words, it really has been a strange time for a few reasons but today I decided I wanted to write a thank you to YOU, yes you for reminding ME I can't give up.

As you know if you've followed recent posts my husband was recently deployed for a few months, while he was away we found out he was deploying in early 2018 for seven months. This wasn't a tour that was on the radar or we were expecting so it took me a while to process it and get my head around it whilst frantically deciding we needed to book EVERY SINGLE FESTIVE ACTIVITY on the planet all at once so we had the most amazing Christmas we have ever had and we would waft through the seven months apart blissfully on the memories.

You and I both know there is a blog post coming very soon where the reality is oh so very different!

I am even rolling my own eyes at the way I am striving for a perfect Christmas prior to a long deployment because the pressure will be too much, emotions will be running high and I will be dreading the inevitable so will have the strange detachment behaviour I seem to have perfected, but hey I'm human and deployment does odd things to me!
I am living and breathing this military life just like you are, I was in the military and I'm married to the military with our own Little Trooper, moving lots as we live in military housing. Little Troopers was founded because my daughter needed support and no one would help me, her, us.... it was founded because lots of other military families said they also needed specific support, there was a very clear void in the support offered to children who have one or two parents serving in the British Armed Forces.

I absolutely did not wake up one day and want to start a charity, I had left the military and started a very full on and very full time corporate job but my daughter was suffering right before my eyes and no matter how many emails I wrote NO ONE would help and empower me to guide her through the challenges she was facing. I had to do something, anything to ease her suffering.

I read every single one of your emails and messages, I cry tears at most of them, I KNOW how much military children need this charity, and I promise you I won't turn my back on them.

We applied recently for some vital funding because as a charity we have always struggled to be granted funds and right now we are dangerously low. We don't have overheads, we don't have staff, we don't have a big bank balance but we are the sole charity for all children with a parent serving in the military and we aim to do as much as we can with the little we have to support as many of the 130,000 military children as we can. We were unsuccessful in the funding which was a real blow for lots of reasons but the main reason was to look down the long list of successful bids and see MILITARY CHILDREN AS A WHOLE ENTITY WERE A NON REPRESENTED GROUP, I don't understand it, not one successful project to roll out a consistent approach for support to military children at all and the theme of the funding was families. It isn't about me or Little Troopers, I don't really mind who provides the support but military children deserve recognition and specific tailored support for their various unique challenges.
I couldn't manage a blog post at the time as I was angry and disappointed but I did post on the Facebook page and your comments, messages and emails made me realise WE can still recognise our children, you and I can make sure they get the support needed. It is evident that the Little Troopers community is a strong one, filled with love and compassion and together we will and can be powerful.

I am promising you I won't give up, I will continue to give all my time and love and energy into making sure each day we survive to exist so our children living in this military life don't grow up disadvantaged, they grow up strong, proud and we helped them navigate through this British Armed Forces world we live in.

So thank you for your comments, messages and emails you made me realise we don't need 'their' approval or money because I have you and together we can ensure Little Troopers remain.

Lots of love, Louise xxx

6 Nov 2017

We got there......finally!

"You must be so excited to have your husband home, is it just fantastic?"

This sentence has been said to me a lot over the last 2 and a half weeks and I feel such pressure to say the right thing, when someone is in front of you asking that question there is an answer they expect...."Yes it is just fabulous and we've been walking on air since the second he walked through the door" but that really isn't the truth.

I think many people from outside the military community have a romantic view about how this person in uniform comes in and out your life and it is rose tinted, great for photo opportunities and something like out of the movies. 

The reality is though it isn't like those quotes you see shared over the internet.

Your partner packing a bag and leaving your life for a few months and not having any input in the daily upbringing of children or life in general isn't easy then having to have the ability to manage your marriage on one 15 minute phone call a week which is testing for the strongest of couples to the teaching yourself to fix anything and everything via google searching!

That void is then filled by your partner returning and expecting everything to be exactly as it was as if a pause button was pressed when they left the front door months ago. It isn't.

You will have bought things, changed the living room around, your child will have done lots, changed and grown. You will have been to weddings and christenings on your own and you may well have been through situations that have tested your resilience while you were flying solo. You definitely didn't experience a pause button over that separation period!

This post is about time, it has taken me and my family a full 18 days for us to 'be back to normal' it has been a tough couple of weeks, we've not been walking on air and it hasn't been rose tinted. That time has been needed for all of us to find our feet again, catch up on what was missed and to get things out of our systems that we bottled up over that deployment. I know I talk about your light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes maybe we focus on that return date too much because the truth is sometimes the light at the end is actually a couple of weeks after they come home.

We persevered, we talked and ultimately the years of military life we've lived and the love that we have meant that we stuck with it and knew we'd get there eventually and once again we have. We found our normal but it wasn't instant and it did this time take longer that maybe some other times.

As always be kind to yourself, no homecoming will be the same but ALL will take time and as I say for us that was nearly three weeks! So if you are battling that initial period at the moment and you feel alone because it isn't how you imagined yet, breathe deep and believe that your normal will come, just give it yourselves time.

Louise xxx