The Most Hectic Time of the Year?

October has finally come to an end.  Sheesh – October is without a doubt the busiest month of the year at our house!  Between coaching both kids’ soccer teams, the fall festivals, the birthday parties, and Halloween, it was definitely a challenge to fit in service this month.   We did it, but I can’t say that I have anything glamorous to post.

Our first project was to collect costumes for Family Gateway, the homeless shelter for families in downtown Dallas that has been the beneficiary of many of our projects.  I can’t take too much credit for this one, though.  Someone else at our church sent out an e-mail about collecting costumes for the shelter’s Boo Bash.  So, the kids both went through their closets and found costumes to donate.  We also collected two trash bags full of costumes from some people in my moms’ club.  I had planned on getting some cute shots of all the costumes we collected, but did I mention this month was crazy?   The bottom line is that we did it, and the kids at the shelter got to enjoy some great Halloween costumes.

One of my favorite annual projects has always been Reverse Trick-or-Treating.  I have taken the kids every year since Abby was 11 months old (she is now about to turn 6 on Friday).  Sadly, my super busy schedule prevented me from participating in that activity this year.  Our church still held the event, and Rob took Jake.  So, my only picture this month is of Jake and the other kiddos at Reverse Trick-or-Treating.

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Now that the craziness of October is behind us (and soccer season is over!), hopefully we will have more time for some purposeful service this month.

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Third Annual National Day of Service Neighborhood Food Drive

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  No one will ever forget where they were that day or what they were doing.  But, at some point, someone decided to make this day about something more than terrorism.  They decided to make this day about giving back and doing what can make this country and world a better place.  They made September 11 the National Day of Service.  (Who is “they?”  I have no idea!)

Three years ago, I started a tradition with my kids to do a neighborhood food drive on September 11.  For the past two years, we had other families participate.  This year, it was just me and the kids.  I debated cancelling.  I mean, we’re all tired.  It’s a school night.  Jake doesn’t get to nap at preschool any more, and he is a real bear without a nap.  The reasons not to do it went on and on.  But, I decided that this is important and we would commit to going out for 30 minutes.  An hour and a half later, we returned home after a truly wonderful evening!  Here we are heading out…

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Abby raided our pantry to find any canned goods we had lying around.  For some reason, they decided their stuffed animals wanted to come along for the ride.  We headed off and started at the next door neighbors’ house.

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At each house when someone answered the door, Abby said, “Today is the National Day of Service.  Would you like to donate food to the food pantry?”  This really is a great project for little ones.  I really had Abby working on making eye contact and speaking directly with people.  She was nervous, but she really improved from house to house.  At first, she would look at me while she was speaking.  Then she started just looking at the wagon.  But the end, she was really doing great looking the neighbors in the eye.  After someone gave us a donation, Jake handed them a slip of paper saying thank you and where the food would be donated.

I was absolutely stunned at how great my kids did tonight on this project.  Our street is quite long, and we went all the way around the cul-de-sac and back.  I would guess we walked 1.5 miles, which is quite a bit for a three-year old.  No one complained even one time, which is especially impressive considering it was over 90 degrees today.  One neighbor gave us each a bottled water to help us along the way.  (Silly me, it never occurred to me to take some water!)  The kids got along wonderfully and even worked together to pull the wagon (until it got too heavy).  Jake gave me a huge smile and said, “Look mom, it’s teamwork!”

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We finally headed home when our wagon was full.  Here are the kids with all the donations we collected…

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I am so glad we got out there tonight to do this project!  I realize that collecting canned goods really has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened on September 11.  But, it’s now our family tradition, and I think it is truly a wonderful way to spend this day each year!

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Project 53: Busy Books for the Children’s Hospital

It has been just over a year since we completed our official “year of service.”  During the past year, we have done several projects (mostly repeats), but we have admittedly slowed down.   This summer, my husband and I noticed an increase in the sense of entitlement at our house and a decrease in gratitude.  Not good.  So, this weekend we officially kicked off Phase 2 of Teaching to Give!  I have been reminded just how important it is to keep service at the top of the priority list, even as school, soccer games, Girl Scouts, etc. etc. etc. start to fill up the calendar.  We are going to commit to doing at least one project per month for the school year.  We’ll add each new project to our project list to see how many different projects we can find!

This weekend we tackled Project 53 – Busy Books for the children’s hospital.  I found this idea on a similar blog – Pennies In Time.  (Go check them out!)  It’s a simple and inexpensive project that is perfect for little ones.  Abby is almost six and has just started kindergarten.  Jake is three and was able to take on an active role in this project.  First, I picked up about $10 worth of supplies…

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Next, the kids put crayons into baggies.  I told them to put four crayons into each baggie and to try and include a variety of colors.  This was a great project for a three year old – counting and colors!

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I love how seriously Jake took his job 🙂  He did refuse to abide by the “four different colors” rule at one point.  His favorite color is orange, and he just insisted that some little boy would want all the orange crayons!

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We ended up with 30 baggies of crayons.  I ripped out the pages from the coloring books, and the kids separated them into 4 page books.  Abby enjoyed stapling the books together with the crayons.

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We ended up with 30 “busy books.”  This afternoon we took them to the local children’s hospital.  Hopefully they will provide some joy – or at least help pass the time – for some kiddos!

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It really felt good to get back to our “special projects!”  If you have any suggestions for new and different projects, please leave a comment.  We love trying new things!  I challenge you to make your own commitment to service for this school year.  Can you find the time to do one project per month with your children?

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Our response to terrorism

Yesterday was a very sad day with the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  I happen to be a runner, although I use that term loosely as I could never dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  (I have run 5 half marathons – rather slowly – and occasionally toy with the idea of a full marathon.  My pace is slow and slower!)  Even so, I feel a special bond with runners and understand the dream of the Boston Marathon.  Yesterday I sat glued to the TV, along with the rest of America, dumbstruck by the tragedy at the race.

Whenever something tragic happens, one of my first reactions is always, “What can I do to help?”  In this situation, there really didn’t seem to be a whole lot that me or my family could do from our home in Texas.  But, that didn’t stop us!  Even if we couldn’t directly impact the folks in Boston today, I knew that we could do something to help brighten the day here at home.

When I first started our Teaching to Give journey, the very first project Abby and I did in August of 2011 was to take cookies to the fire station.  Today, we decided to do the same project again in honor of everyone who helped in Boston yesterday and those who stand ready to help right in our neighborhood every day.  My favorite part of this project?  It was Jake’s first “real” project!  Jake will be three in May, and although he was technically “there” for a couple of projects before, this was the first time he truly understood and truly participated.

When I picked the kids up from school, we stopped by Target to pick up stuff to make our treats.  I asked the kids if they thought we should buy some healthy treats in addition to cookies and brownies.  They adamantly insisted that no, the firemen would prefer cookies and brownies.  So, cookies and brownies it was!  Here are the kids making the treats…

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While the cookies were baking, the kids made some Thank You cards to go with the treats…

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Notice Jake’s fireman hat.  Love that little man 🙂  When everything was ready to go, we took the goodies to the fire station just down the road from our house.  Jake HAD to wear his fireman’s outfit for the occasion…

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We arrived just as the guys were sitting down to dinner, and they were so welcoming and great with the kids.  They took the kids out to see the fire trucks, let them sit in the trucks, and everyone came out to pose for a picture.

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Abby had put the thank you cards she had made into envelopes.  (For some reason she is really into envelopes these days.)  When we were getting ready to leave, the chief came out with the drawing she had made, unfolded.  He had put tape on it and told the kids that he was going to tape it to the fridge so they could remember Jake and Abby every time they got something from the fridge.  Abby is also into taping things in various places, so she thought that was great!

Over and over I have seen a quote on Facebook and on the news from some comedian pointing out how the good will always outnumber the evil.  In times of trial, I don’t think it’s enough to just label ourselves on the “good” side of the ledger.  The “evil” ones go to great lengths to carry out their evil, terroristic ways.  In response, we need to do what we can to show people the good in the world.  Today’s project cost us all of $3 (since I had many of the ingredients on hand today) and it took us about 2.5 hours of time.  But, it was such a great reminder to both myself and my children to take the time to be thankful for those who stand ready to help against evil and to show others in some small way what we can do on the “good” side of the ledger.

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The End (or is it…)

Hello all!  I apologize for neglecting this blog for so long.  As you may know, our “year of service” technically came to an end in August of 2012.  We have done several service projects since that time, but many of them were repeats and I just didn’t feel like I had that much new material to share.  As one update, we were able to ship four large boxes of shoes to the children in Kenya.  I was hoping for some pictures of the children with shoes to post, but unfortunately, I did not receive any.  The only picture I received was showing that the boxes had arrived, and I didn’t think that picture was blog-worthy.  At any rate, I decided that I kind of left things completely unresolved with this blog and wanted to wrap it up properly.

Our year of service was a wonderful experience, and I am thankful for all of the adventures we had along the way.  We met so many wonderful people, near and far, and hopefully we had a small positive impact in this massive, crazy world.  I fully plan to keep teaching my children to give, and we will do many of these projects over and over again at our house.  My youngest child, Jake, is now pushing 3 and is ready to start learning to give, as well.  I look forward to adding him in to our projects from here on out.

I hope everyone who stumbles across this blog finds a little inspiration somewhere to make a difference.  I know it isn’t realistic for everyone to do a service project a week, but it is realistic to do something.  I truly believe that if we focus on teaching our children to give, the world will ultimately be a much better place.  Many thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way on our journey!

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Help us ship shoes to Kenya!

As you probably already know, we have spent the past several months working on a variety of projects for the Fresh Start Academy in Eldoret, Kenya.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the “Project Kenya” posts!)   We were asked to help meet some very basic needs.  So far we have sent toothbrushes and toothpaste and school supplies.  The biggest project we have undertaken has been to fill the request of shoes for the children by Christmas.  Several friends from different walks of my life have taken it upon themselves to help collect shoes for this project.  Additionally, people I have never even met but who have been inspired by the blog have sent shoes.

Today, a friend came to my house with over 100 pairs of shoes that she had collected.  After having shipped the toothbrushes and toothpaste and the school supplies, I have been very fearful of the cost of shipping the shoes.  But, to this point, I have basically taken the “collect the shoes and God will make sure the rest gets taken care of” philosophy.  Now we definitely have the shoes!

My sweet friend Cheryl helped me back up all the shoes today…

Here are all the boxes ready to go…

We know there are a few more shoes on the way, so there will ultimately be one more box to add to the mix.  Now we just have to find a way to ship them all to these sweet children…

We have raised $280 so far to cover shipping.  Unfortunately, after spending several hundred dollars each time to ship the toothbrushes and toothpaste and school supplies, I am pretty much at the end of what I can personally afford to contribute.  Based on measuring and weighing the boxes today, we know it will cost $900-$950 to ship all of the shoes to Kenya.  Do you have a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket that could help get these shoes to these children?  If so, I set up a fundraising site where you can contribute here.   Even if you aren’t in a position to donate, please consider sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to help spread the word and help us find a way to get these shoes to those who need them most!

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‘Tis the season for giving!

It’s been a while since my last post, so I thought it was about time for me to check in.  I have had a few people ask me if we are still doing our projects, so I wanted to get the word out that we are still at it!  A lot of the projects we are doing now are repeats of projects we did last year, so I hesitate to bore you all with posts of the same old projects.  Some of them are just such great projects that we will keep doing them forever!  One such project is Reverse Trick-or-Treating.  I have now done this project four or five times with my kids, and each time it has been as wonderful as the time before.  I think of Reverse Trick-or-Treating as sort of the kick off to the holiday season when it comes to giving!

No idea what I’m talking about?  Let me explain!  Trick-or-treating is always lots of fun, but it’s all about receiving and pigging out on junk food.  Neither of those activities are what “teaching to give” is all about, so several years ago I came up with the idea of “Reverse Trick-or-Treating.”  I started this event at our church, and this year I got my moms’ group involved for the first time.  We put together goodie bags and decorated them.  Then we took the kids in their Halloween costumes to a nearby assisted living facility, and the kids went around handing out the goodie bags to the residents.   This project blesses the kids (and parents) as much as it does the residents.  Everyone has a great time!

This year we had about a dozen or so kids.  My favorite part?  Not one of them asked for a single thing!  They all had a great time and really seemed to connect with the residents.  Jake (my 2.5 year old) really clicked with one man at the facility.  They spent several minutes together after the other kids had left.  I loved it!  Here they are….

Halloween is still a week away – so there is still time to get out and do this fun project!  I promise – it will be well worth your time and you will want to do it year after year!  Here’s a shot of Abby (aka Dorothy) giving out a goodie bag…

Another great project we did last year was Operation Christmas Child.   Operation Christmas Child collects shoeboxes full of goodies and delivers them to less fortunate children all over the world.  Christmas may seem far away, but the collection week for Operation Christmas Child is right around the corner – November 12-19.  If you donate for shipping online, you can track your package and know exactly where your shoe box goes.  Our shoe box last year went to Haiti.  I will definitely do this project with my kids again this year.  If you’re interested, you can find a location to drop off your shoe box here.

We are still also working on projects for the Fresh Start Academy in Kenya.  We  have been collecting shoes for months, and we are getting ready to ship them soon.  A friend of mine took it upon herself to collect shoes, too, and she is coming over tomorrow with more than 100 pairs of shoes!  Another blog reader contacted me and put a box in the mail today with more shoes for us to send.  I am still nervous about the cost of shipping the shoes over there, but I’m trying to take a “God will provide” approach.  We’ll see how that works out! (Of note, it really warms my heart when people contact me and say they have been inspired.  The blog reader who just shipped the shoes told me she is taking her children out on a neighborhood food drive and going reverse trick-or-treating.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!!!!)

With the holidays coming up, this is a great time to get involved with teaching your children to give.  I have several fun ideas for the upcoming holidays – so stay tuned!

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