Very soon, I’ll be returning home from Afghanistan, where I’ve been deployed away from my family for nearly a year. Let me tell you that I am absolutely thrilled to see my wife and kiddos, and I bet they are stoked to have me home as well.

I’m fortunate that this is only my first deployment, and also that it will likely be my last for some time. For a lot of American military families, this is not the case, and some military members with multiple deployments have been away for three, four, even FIVE years of their childrens’ lives.

The sweetest part of a military deployment is probably the homecoming, where we reunite with the people in our lives that we love most. Amidst the countdowns and preparations, a lot is built up around having the family intact again. Military parents make plans just as much as I am sure the children do. I’ve got some plans of my own that I thought I would like to share at 8BD. So here’s a list of the 5 things I can’t wait to do with my kids once I get home from Afghanistan.

5. Catch Up On My (Bed Time Story) Reading

A lot can change in a year. For example, when I left for my deployment in Afghanistan, I would spend time reading books like The Night Pirates (awesome read-aloud bed time story, btw), and maybe a few poems by Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. Well, the other day, my oldest tells me that he’s just finished Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as well as several volumes from the Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka (author of The Stinky Cheese Man – yeah, you guys probably remember that one). I swear to high heaven, if I don’t get home soon, the kid is going to be halfway through the lifetime works of Twain and Faulkner!

Here’s another example of what happens when you leave daily life with your kids for an extended length of time. A week ago, I asked my middlest kiddo to count to five for me online. It was something we were working on before I left. The little weirdo proceeds to count off to me fast as heck: “one, two, three, four…etc…FIFTY!!!”

The point is, these kids grow up quick, and I’ve got a LOT of catching up to do. Not just so we’re on the same page during bed-time stories (you see what I did there?), but just so I can compensate for the time warp that’s happened while my oldest began a reading marathon, my middlest learned to count 10x his previous high score, and my littlest learned to walk and talk.

4. Hug the Kids, But NOW IN 3-D!!!

Fun Fact: I freaking LOVE hugs! I especially love hugging my kids. Your kids give the best hugs, I’m not even joking.

So you can imagine how frustrating is how every time I see my kids, it’s through a pinhole-sized camera hole at the top of their computer screen. Two-dimensional face time (you see what I did there?) is cool, and it’s better than nothing, but it makes getting, and giving, hugs to my kiddos extremely frustrating.

So far the workaround has been, you guessed it, imitating a hug through the wonderful magic of the internet. This basically involves giving my laptop a hug every time I want to say good night to my weirdos. Nobody has caught me yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before somebody walks in on me and questions my sanity. Meanwhile, on the other end, I’ve got my middlest climbing up on my desk at home and putting his arms around the household computer. The pucker factor increases somewhat if he loses his balance and wobbles on the desk, or when he clenches onto the computer to catch his balance.

So I’m definitely looking forward to ACTUALLY hugging my kids, and now that 3-D is the emerging trend in entertainment, I figure it’s also a pretty fashionable thing to do at the same time.