Three small, white T-shirts laid on the kitchen floor as Joseph, Kendra and Jillian Vetterline wrote welcome home messages on them for their father, Sgt. Robert Vetterline.

“It’s more real now and I’m excited,” said their mother, Danielle Vetterline.

Recently, she received word her husband will return from Afghanistan one week earlier then she thought. The children will wear their decorated shirts when they see him later this month.

Still, a “hurry up and wait” energy filled the house Saturday as final plans started to take shape.

“It works out better because this week the kids are on spring break. They’re home and know what’s going on and they are good to go,” Vetterline said.

Once home, Dad will spend time doing what each child wants to do. Kendra needs to get her nails done, Jillian is in a Chuck E. Cheese pizza mood, and Joseph is ready to practice archery. Then, after six years of sharing one car, the family will buy a second vehicle.

The hardest thing for the couple will be finding time alone, Vetterline said.

“It will be tough for us to get time for ourselves, because there are three (children), but we will need time together, too,” she said.

Jillian, wearing one green polka-dot sock and one purple one, used her favorite color, blue, to draw Picasso-like images of her daddy and the family on her T-shirt. Her mom wrote all the family-member names, including Mimi and Momo — the kids’ grandmother and great-grandmother.

Sadly, no other family members can attend the homecoming ceremony, including his mother who recently became ill. But a family friend sent a bouquet of mini roses in a teacup to help get Vetterline through three college final exams in one grueling day.

“Those are the little things that keep us going with each other,” she said.

As Mom watched her children work on their shirts, Joseph got a calculator to figure out how many days his dad has been gone — 261 — then wrote it on his shirt. Kendra drew a family portrait with the words, “I’ve waited 261 days only a few more till you come home.”

A smiling Joseph looked up and said, “I’m excited enough to pee in my pants.”

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