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PUBLISHED: 4:45 PM on Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Army mom authors book to help children deal with deployment
PALMER, Alaska - Army veteran Sharon McBride knew that leaving her little girl, Lyssa, would be tough. But with the help of a photo memory book, one that McBride is now offering to other military parents, Lyssa had a much easier time.

As an Army soldier, deployments are part of the job. But McBride is also a mom, with her own memories of was like to be a child of a traveling soldier, and she didn't want Lyssa, 4, to be lonely or angry because of the deployments.

"I am a single parent, my world is wrapped up in her," she said. "I would keel over if she was scared of me."

Lysssa was only 2 years old when McBride left for her first deployment, for several weeks to aid with Hurricane Katrina. Her solution to help Lyssa: a photo memory book - but not just any book, one that could withstand a toddler.

Many of the photo albums on the market are soft and have plastic pockets to hold photos and they wouldn't stand up to Lyssa, McBride said.

"She'd pull them out, she'd eat them," McBride said about the photos. "She'd chuck them in the toilet just to see what would happen. Our photos would be ruined."

McBride recently left the Army as a soldier, but works for the Army as a civilian in the public affairs office at the same place she worked as a soldier. She works on publications and has a background in desktop publishing. After pricing out expensive books online with nice paper, McBride got the idea to create a laminated book. But producing one of those would cost about $40.

"I was still teaching her to respect books, so that wasn't going to work," McBride said.

McBride realized it would cost her about $4 to do a book on her own. She had a printer; all she needed to buy was the spine. She laid it out, wrote a short sentences for each photo of her and Lyssa doing things together, and then had it spiral bound.

Lyssa carried her mom's book with her while McBride was deployed for nine months to Kuwait. She kissed it, talked to it, took it places and showed other people her "mama book."

McBride's mother, who was Lyssa's caregiver during deployments suggested McBride make the book for others because it was so successful in their home. The Armed Services YMCA got wind of the project and provided McBride with supplies to make about 250 books for other deploying families.

The "Remember Daddy/Mommy Keepsake" books are six pages and have a personal message for each child. McBride has made the books children of soldiers who have been deployed all over the country, and the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea; she has made the books for children infant to preteen.

One child, McBride said, kept the book in her backpack at school and when she needed a moment to remember her parent, the book was there.

McBride now has a Web page to help reach other parents and market her second book, "My Mommy Wears Combat Boots."

Again, Lyssa inspired McBride. This book was born out of the frustration of not being able to find other books that dealt with military moms and the feelings a child may have when a parent leaves. The other books out there, McBride said, dealt with hard-to-grasp concepts like heroism and honor, and most of them featured a dad leaving mom and baby at home - not something that Lyssa could relate to.

McBride sketched out the book herself and got a professional illustrator to help. The book is now available on her Web site www.mymommywearscombatboots.com or at Amazon.com. It's an on-demand book, meaning that it's printed when it's ordered. Book prices vary from $5.99 on her site to $8.49 on Amazon. It's been in the top 100 of family health books since it debuted last February.

McBride's photo book is available on her site as well. They are $6 per book, which includes its design, supply and postage. To order customers need to visit McBride's site, pick the book that suits them and then e-mail photos.

She plans to start making calendars with personal photos, so kids can mark the days until their mom or dad comes home. McBride is also developing a set of postcards with personalized photos for a child to send to their parent and vice-versa.

Reach the reporter at jlll.fankhauser@alaskastar.com.


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