During one of my husband's first deployments, I remember being very excited because a mobile phone company was sponsoring an event at the public library where -- after we each waited in line for hours -- we could web cam with each other for a few minutes.
Yet during my husband's most recent deployment, I had to repeatedly remind my six-year-old that she should at least wait until she was off the toilet to FaceTime her dad.
My, how times have changed -- and mostly for the better.
In addition to email, old -ashioned phone calls, and even snail mail, we also relied heavily on Skype, What'sApp and Kik Messenger to communicate instantly and frequently during his last deployment.
All of which made me feel pretty savvy about technology. We were fluently using platforms that are mostly popular with people 10 or more years younger than us. How hip were we?
Also, I spend enough time on social media to think of myself as almost an honorary teenager. Almost. So how did I miss this? You guys -- there are apps to help couples in long-distance relationships stay connected. Several of them, in fact.
I learned about these apps after reading this essay (Essays ... so old school) on Medium about a guy who hated being in a long-distance relationship so much that he created an app to help him cope.
"But texting didn't feel like enough after a while," he writes. "Taking selfies all the time made us feel awkward because we're not teenagers. Anything that wasn't a sweet nothing easily got lost in the mix."
Yes. Yes. Yes.
My brain was spinning. An app for couples who are separated? What could be more perfect for Must-Have families?
The app he created is called Without and it's available for free from iTunes. It's IOS-only for now. But while I was looking for Without, I found other, similar apps. Some, like LoveByte (IOS and Google) seem to be aimed more at lovesick eighth graders, with tons of sticker and emoji options that don't really fit my middle-aged lifestyle.
Let's be real: Some of those options are so sappy that my eyes were rolling left and right and I felt myself becoming nauseous.
But some of the apps seemed pretty darned cool -- with options far beyond private texting, like a shared shopping list or a shared, simultaneous "thumb kiss." On Couple (available on IOS and Android), couples can make dinner reservations and even sketch a shared drawing. Which isn't exactly useful for me except that ...
I have a toddler and a Kindergartner who would both love to share a sketch with their dad the next time he's gone. Possibly from the toilet. And they'd probably be really into electronic stickers and emoji, too. (Or is it emojis? What is the plural form of a word that only recently became a word?)
I haven't found any apps like these specifically targeted at kids who have a parent away for long periods of time (hint, hint, developers) but for now I see no reason why a child and and a Must-Do parent couldn't use these apps together.
That is, so long as there aren't any photos on that app that the parents don't really want the kids to see. Don't play innocent. You know the kind of photos I'm talking about. Those photos are another reason why apps like these exist, by the way. All of them have a private photo-sharing option.
Which brings me to the last app I learned about -- and right in time for Valentine's Day. Couples who can't be together on Valentine's Day can still be, um, intimate together with the help of the WeVibe app. I'll just let you click the link and read about that one for yourself.