PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with our families, but for those with loved ones serving abroad, the holiday is celebrated long distance.
The Phillips family has been without their mother since May, when Mischa went to Afghanistan to serve as a medic.
While Mischa was reading bedtime stories to her family from Afghanistan, her children's lives were quickly changing; 7-year-old Logan started football, Jessica started high school, and Jordin started driving.
"It's tough to miss it - it really is," said Mischa. "The football, the little things like that, it was hard. It was hard when Jessica got braces on - the little things you don't think about, it's tough."
Fortunately, their dad, Eric, was around to fill in as Mr. Mom.
"She was saying to me on the phone, 'don't let them grow up too much,'" said Eric. "You can't stop time, unfortunately."
Eric was at every ball game and every dance recital while their mother was away, but he said the hardest part was playing "mom" when his daughters needed one the most.
"The hard part is when the girls are up in their room crying, you know, what do you do? I tell them I love them but it's not the same as Mom," said Eric.
For months, the medic had been telling her children she loved them via video, but Tuesday she was able to say it to them, face-to-face.
It was a surprise her children never expected, since their mother wasn't suppose to return to the states until February.
After the long hugs and tears, it didn't take long for things to get right back to normal.
"Even in the day I've been back I've realized what you take for granted," said Mischa.
This Thanksgiving, the Phillips family isn't taking anything for granted. They're thankful to have each other, and thankful to be replacing old photos with new memories.