Category: Family Fun

On The Eighth Day of Service Express Your Gratitude

12 Days of Service

I’ll never forget the Christmas my brother in-law Joe was serving in Iraq. The entire holiday season felt off because we were all so worried about his safety on the other side of the world. We built care packages for him and included items for him to share with the members of his unit. We wanted to be sure if anyone was missing letters and packages from home there was enough for Joe to share. Thankfully, he was only gone for the one Christmas and returned home safely shortly after.

During his time on active duty I helped host a collection drive and assembled shoe boxes of supplies to send to our soldiers. Since then I have remembered to send letters and cards at Christmas. This year, I have found a great organization that makes it really easy for parents and kids to give back to members of the military: Operation Gratitude.

OPGA_poster_army

There are several ways you can share your support through Operation Gratitude. One of the easiest and least expensive ways is to assemble a care kit. This small kit of personal care items is included in care packages shipped to 150,000+ deployed Troops, Recruits, Veterans and Wounded Warriors. These kits are a valued contribution to the packages. Most requested items include: Lip Balm, Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Roll-on Deodorant, Razors, Individual packets of moist towelettes, Hand/Foot Warmers, Foot powder (travel size).

You and your kids can shop for and fill one bag, or invite friends to donate items and have a stuffing party. Fill a gallon sized Zip Lock bag, or a clear toiletry travel kit with your care items. (All of which can be found at your local dollar store). Be sure to include a personal letter, or card for the recipient.

write a letter

If you are unable to assemble kits because of the cost, or maybe you just have really little ones and it’s hard to get everyone out of the house, write a letter! Your words of encouragement and gratitude will go a long way. Yes, even the scribbles and stickers from a small child will help brighten someone’s day!

Sharing in this simple activity is a great reminder for children how important it is to lend our support and say thank you to our military. It helps instill gratitude for those who are serving to keep us safe.

Related posts:

One The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make a Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

On The Sixth Day of Service Rise Together

On the Seventh Day of Service Make a Furry Friend

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

 

On The Sixth Day of Service Rise Together

12 Days of Service

As we are counting down the days until we wake up on Christmas morning surrounded by our families, there are thousands of children in our foster care system just hoping for a family for Christmas. Currently there are around a half of a million children in foster homes in America; many of them waiting to be adopted by a forever family to call their own.

This statistic is pretty heart breaking. But, to hear that foster kids are handed two trash bags upon entering foster care tugs pretty hard at my heart strings too. They move from home to home with their belongings in plastic bags meant to carry garbage.

Kids in foster care get two trash bags to carry their belongings.
Kids in foster care get two trash bags to carry their belongings.

My friend Rachel adopted her beautiful little girl from foster care. At her celebration party Rachel and her family collected comfort items to donate to our local foster kids. They decorated canvas bags and filled them with teddy bears, toys and hygiene items. They donated the bags to the local foster care division at the Department of Social Services.

How can you help? Contact your local Department of Social Services to ask for a list of needed items and arrange for a drop off date. Ask your friends and family for bags and the needed items. Host a get together to decorate the bags and fill them. Kids of any age can help stuff items into a bag and help bring comfort to these vulnerable kids.

The GIVEBACK BOX can assist 10 children in your local community with Care Packages this holiday season.
The GIVEBACK BOX can assist 10 children in your local community with Care Packages this holiday season.

Not sure you have the time to get out and gather up the items yourself? Together We Rise makes it even easier! Make one online donation of $50 to sponsor a sweet case and you’re done! Sweet cases are duffle bags filled with comfort items and hygiene items and it gives children in foster care a more dignified way to move to a new home. You can sponsor one case, or call upon your friends and family to split the cost of a Give Back Box!

For a $250 donation ($25 per person times 10 contributors) you can purchase a kit filled with all the items you need to stuff 10 sweet cases. Host a get together in your home, or round up co-workers at the office to decorate and stuff the bags. Then, deliver to your local foster care agency. Shipping is FREE on the first 20 bags. LAST SHIPPING DATE IS DECEMBER 14TH via FEDEX.

Whichever way you choose to give back it will have a great impact on a child going through a difficult transition. This is a great way to help instill compassion in your young children, and it gives them greater perspective that some kids just need a family.

Watch this clip to learn more about sweet cases:

 

 

Related posts:

One The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make a Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

12 Days of Service

My twins birthday is just before Christmas. So, I often like to tie in a holiday give back to their party or on their actual birthday. I found a local agency near me that offers a Birthday Booth. Families who utilize the food pantry began asking for help to provide a birthday cake for their child’s birthday. The director of the agency decided to take it step further and offer a birthday swag bag and one free unwrapped toy along with the cake.

What is a birthday swag bag? It has party supplies (decorative plates, napkins, cups, etc) and a few decorations for a family to enjoy at home. It can also include a gift card from a bakery to purchase a cake. Kids can feel special getting a party of their own and parents can feel relieved being able to recognize their child’s birthday.

Birtday Swag Party

Families who face food insecurity often have difficulty providing a birthday party even for their family at home. Friends of mine who are teachers share that they often host (at school) the only party some of their students will get. But, the birthday booth will help kids get a special party with their family.

How can you help? If there isn’t a specific agency in your area that offers a birthday booth, perhaps you can ask a teacher at your child’s school to start a birthday closet. Teachers often know which families need the help and can hand out swag bags. Ask your friends and family to help you stock the closet by dropping off items at your home. Host a party where the guests can help pack the bags then you can make one easy drop off. For around $10 or less you can fill a small gift bag with coordinated essentials like a table cloth, paper plates, cups, napkins, crepe paper, a package of balloons, a birthday banner and a package of birthday candles. All of these items can be found at the dollar store, or on clearance at other retail stores.

Swag Items

If that sounds like too much for you to coordinate and it’s easier for you to make a donation online here are a few places to donate: The Birthday Project Birthday Wishes The Birthday Box

I am very fortunate that I have some seriously generous friends who donated enough supplies to fill 25 swag bags. After rounding up the donations at my home, the girls and I sorted, packed and delivered the bags on their actual birthday. They got to see the birthday booth in action and I felt like we gave an amazing gift on the day I received my two most precious gifts!

On The First Day Of Service Host A Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host A Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make A Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

12 Days of Service

I am loving the positive feedback about this series! I am so grateful my experiences with making holiday giving simple and easy is inspiring others to do the same. My kids have honestly enjoyed helping in these projects. I hope yours will too!

Today I am sharing how I started my own small charity. I don’t have a board and I don’t have an operating budget, but that is the beauty of using social media to ask for help. Four years ago, I started a small card writing charity called Operation Christmas Cheer. It began when my friend Gloria asked me to send just one Christmas card to two kids in our town who were battling cancer. I sent my two cards, but it just didn’t feel like enough.

I’ve shared before that my niece Ashley was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when she was just 3-years old. Watching what she and my family endured month after month of chemotherapy, surgeries and hospital stays had a significant impact on me. Having been in the hospital room with other cancer kids (including tiny babies) I know firsthand the grief and anxiety families feel. What these kids really need is a cure. I don’t know how to make that happen, but I do know how to make a kid smile.

Design credit: Rose Door Designs
Design credit: Rose Door Designs

I made an event page on Facebook and asked my friends and family to make a card to send to each child. Then I found a few more kids who could use some cheer too. I had a total of ten kids on my list and over 65 volunteers, several class rooms and scout troops mailing cards to the kids on my list. I thought that would be the end of it. But, everyone started asking the following Christmas if I was going to do it again. My kids and I have continued this tradition every year since. Now I have several hundred volunteers sending cards.

How can you get involved? This operation is found solely on Facebook. You can like the page and get names of the children who need your cheer. Or, if you know of any children in your own home town that needs love and cheer this Christmas, start your own group on Facebook. Send an invite to all your friends and family to ask them to send out cards. Keep them updated with posts and photos of your kids making cards and encourage them to do the same. You can also contact a local children’s hospital and ask if you can deliver cards to kids staying in the hospital at Christmas.

This has been a great way to get my little kids involved with giving back. It isn’t expensive and I don’t have to leave the house (except once to gather stamps and cards). You can send store bought cards, or make them. No matter which kind of card you choose to send you will help bring some cheer to a family in need!

One The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Servic Make a Special Delivery

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

On The Third Day of Service Make a Special Delivery

12 Days of Service

One of the easiest ways to show someone you care at Christmas is to make a delicious baked treat. Perhaps you have a specialty you make each year? Or, maybe you are of the Pillsbury persuasion? Either way sweet treats are a sweet way to show your appreciation!

Every year our local fire department drives through our neighborhood with Santa on a bright red fire engine, sirens blaring. Santa sits up high and waves to the kids below while the fire fighters walk alongside of the truck. Each fire fighter walks the length of our driveway to wish our kids Merry Christmas and presents them with a candy cane. It’s a small token of their generosity, but my kids look forward to it every year.

Besides running into a burning building to save lives (voluntarily) our local smoke jumpers do a lot to prepare the kids in our town for a fire emergency. They dedicate a lot of time to educating kids on fire safety and showing off their gear. This makes seeing a fire fighter less scary if ever faced with one in full turn out gear during a fire emergency. They try to prepare our young kids how to stay safe. It is such a valuable service many of them provide for free.

Home made cookies for our local police officers and fire fighters.
Home made cookies for our local police officers and fire fighters.

 

We can’t forget about our police officers! The officers in our small town do so much to help raise money for kid’s charities and give back to our community. They offer free bike safety programs, host car seat safety checks, show off their K9 partners and visit kids with McGruff the Crime Dog and obviously, put their lives on the line to keep our streets safe. I’ve also heard they are very kind when pulling over a stay at home mom who may or may not have a tail light out. *wink*

Everyone loves to get some love and appreciation from the community they serve. So bake up a few dozen of your favorite cookies! Call ahead to your local fire station or police station and ask when a good time to make a delivery is. You want to be sure you aren’t interrupting a scheduled training and that someone is there to accept your donation. Have the kids make some thank you cards and let them deliver in person with you. Dropping off a tray of cookies is an easy way to say thanks, and a casual way to introduce your kids to important community helpers.

Related posts: On The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive, On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

 

he Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

12 Days of Service

You’ll start to notice a pattern in these posts. I confess I didn’t leave my house for much the first few years after the twins were born, it was just too chaotic to do by myself. So, I had to get a little creative and figure out ways to streamline my community service without really leaving my house. I held a lot of drives in my home and delivered to one outside location. This made it much easier for me, we met the needs of people in our community and my toddlers could help right alongside of me.

Volunteering your home as a collection site for warm clothes is super easy. Start by contacting a local agency that you know is collecting items and arrange for a drop off date. Decide if you want to collect for one day, or collect over a longer time frame. Send out an email, text or Facebook event asking friends and family to bring their gently used/like new winter coats, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, snow boots and snow suites they are willing to donate. Put out a collection box and have everyone drop their items inside. That’s it! Once you have collected from your last volunteer you are ready to deliver the items on the scheduled drop off date!

Our coat collection during the girls' 4th birthday party.
Our coat collection during the girls’ 4th birthday party.

If you are not aware of any coat drives happening near you, you can contact your local department of social services and ask if they are collecting donations. Very often they collect for children in foster care who do not have enough winter wear. Most often children taken into foster care leave their homes in a hurry and there may not be enough time, or funds, to secure a coat or boots quick enough. Your donations will help fill that gap for them.

If you are feeling especially festive you can host a drive for an hour or two and put out some cookies and cocoa, or eggnog. (After all ’tis the season to celebrate!). Be sure to send a follow up thank you to everyone who donated. An email or Facebook update with a photo of you and the kids dropping off items makes for an excellent digital thank you card.

Related post: On The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

On The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

 

12 Days of Service

The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving is called “Giving Tuesday.” How fitting is it that I premier my 12 Days of Service starting on Giving Tuesday!? Why 12 days? Well, it’s a play on the 12 days of Christmas where instead of getting gifts we give gifts of service. You don’t have to serve on a soup line, or build a house to give back to your community. For the next 12 days I will share suggestions for easy yet effective ways to volunteer your time.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Volunteering has always had a special place in my life. My mother used to take me along with her to volunteer when I was a kid. As a teenager I was a candy stripe at our hospital and served meals in our local soup kitchen. I love the instant gratification of putting a smile on someone’s face. As a mom I want to give my kids the gift of volunteerism. But, the logistics of getting all three of us out of the house and onto the soup line is just too much. So, I found ways to volunteer with my kids without leaving home. 

www.thewhatevermom.com
www.thewhatevermom.com

Our very first service project together was collecting canned goods for our local food pantry. For the twins second birthday party we asked guests to help us collect items. On our invitations we offered suggestions for donation. At the party we put out a box to collect all of the items in.  Having party goers bring their donations to our house was easier than trying to collect from several different locations. At the end of the party my kids helped me bag up the items and deliver to the collection basket at our church. Even though my kids were just turning two it was a super easy way for them to get involved.

www.thewhatevermom.com
www.thewhatevermom.com

With all the holiday gatherings coming up why not ask each of your friends and family to bring along a contribution of one canned good, or a box of pasta? Find out where your local food pantry is located and call or email to ask for what their biggest need is right now. Your kids can help make the final delivery and see the pantry in action. If you are strapped for extras this year because of holiday spending, food pantries are always in need. People tend to be very generous during the Christmas season; while donations tend to dry up the rest of the year (about 40% of food pantry annual donations are received around Christmas time). If you can’t swing it this holiday, why not host a Souper Bowl party asking for canned soups during the big game, or ask for food donations in July (and then you can call it Christmas in July!).

You do whatever works for you and your family and enjoy getting the kids involved! Kids of any age can help collect food items, sort and deliver. It’s never too early to help kids learn to give back!

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

Friday Favorites – Start a Friendsgiving Tradition!

 

Happy Friendsgiving No Kid Hungry

It’s the start of the thankful season. Everyone is posting their daily gratitude on social media to express what they are thankful for. Here is what I am thankful for- food. I am really thankful my kids have enough to eat (and even throw away). I’m also thankful for organizations like Share Our Strength which helps feed hungry families every where. No Kid Hungry.org helps connect thousands of kids around the country to food resources. They educate struggling families how to to prepare low cost, healthy meals.

Anytime this November you can host a pot luck, or gathering in your  own home with friends and ask everyone to give a financial donation (or, they can donate online at any time). What a great way to connect with friends and family before the busy holiday season starts! Plus, you can help bring Thanksgiving to other families who cannot afford a meal on their own. Spending time with your friends AND giving to a good cause makes “Friendsgiving” a win-win!

To host your own FriendsGiving event visit the No Kids Hungry  website and start a fund raising page. Register your event, send out invites and check out the resource center for tips on how to host a successful event! Super easy!!

There are also incentives for raising the most funds! Check out the No Kid Hungry blog for details. Why not make this an annual event and start a new tradition with your friends and family? Or, get your school involved and encourage your kids to help give!

No Kid Hungry Share Our Strength

 

Remember sharing is caring! Please feel free to share this blog post on Twitter or Facebook with the hash tags: #FRIENDSGIVINGNKH #FRIENDSGIVING

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here, Find her two party Body Beautiful project here and here. 

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

Happy I Love You Day!

Happy I Love You Day!

My daughter keeps asking me for breakfast in bed. I have no idea where this idea of hers comes from since none of us eat breakfast in bed. I can only think about the mess it will make, and wonder what can a kid even eat in bed that isn’t going to be sticky or drippy?

Just as I am mulling over the messy possibilities, I read the email from my dear friend telling me she has Stage IV breast cancer. Out of the blue. Just like that. No warning. My heart stops mid read and I fall to my couch like someone just punched me in the gut. My friend is so full of energy and enthusiasm. She is the definition of living life unconditionally. I have learned a lot of lessons from her about how to enjoy life- how to truly savor a moment. That’s when I realize my kids deserve breakfast in bed. I don’t want there to be a day we don’t celebrate the moment, or the pure luxury of today. I just want to start our day off with love, and excitement for the possibilities of where the day might lead us.

I immediately run to the store to buy their favorite chocolate chip muffins and a carnation flower in their favorite color. As I serve each of them their breakfast (and special flower) in bed I am so swept up in the thought of their excitement, I hear myself sing-song saying, “Happy I Love You Day!” Their eyes open wide and their smiles even wider. It is such a special moment to get caught up in their joy. The crumbs did not matter. Just their chocolaty grins and sheer delight of eating breakfast in bed.

Their jubilation prompts us to ignore our chores and skip making the beds. Today is our adventure! The kids decide where we go. First, a family fun day carnival. They play every game at least 20 times, get their faces painted and we take a family photo at the photo booth. We win a gift certificate to a local pizzeria and decide that is our next stop! It is heart warming to hear my kids rehash their favorite parts of their adventure so far. They decide our next stop is the animal adoption clinic they spot on our way home. It is amazing to see my girls love of the moment bubble over and spill into each next adventure.

We end our day snuggling in mommy and daddy’s bed watching a movie. The happy side effect is the kids aren’t whining as much, they aren’t arguing and they even decide to do everything together. That means camping out in their room and sleeping side by side. (They haven’t slept so close since they were babies). Watching them live so fully in the moment makes my heart skip a beat. I’ll always remember this day, and this special lesson from my beautiful friend! #HeadonHeartStrong

 

Have you ever shared a spontaneous day with your family or loved ones? Let’s hear what you did for fun!

 

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

To Grandmother’s House We Go!

To Grandmother's House

As soon as summer arrives the girls and I hit the open road. We make several road trips each summer to see our family and friends. This weekend we traveled home to see Nana (their grandma). The girls were so excited they started packing two days in advance. Of course all they packed were pajamas and stuffed animals, but hey they were motivated!

On a typical trip home, or an outing anywhere, I pack up individual activity bags for each of my girls. This time I decided to go with one basket of activities. This will save me from having to reload two different bags and keeping track of what items belong in each bag.

Road trip activity basket

I re-purposed a broken picnic basket I had set aside for the trash. (A small child in my care put their foot through the top while using it as a step stool. No names are given to protect the identity of the evil doer). I simply removed the hinges holding the top to the basket- viola! A perfectly usable basket!

Road Trip Activity Basket

My mom has a low tech household, which is fine because we do to. So, I packed activities they could do with grandma: side walk chalk, bubbles, card games, story books, and crayons and coloring books. I even packed our calming bottles just in case we needed to get through a tantrum while at Nana’s (thankfully they were really, really well behaved).

Road Trip Activity Basket

This basket was especially helpful during our drive! I left it in my passenger seat so any time the girls wanted a new book I could easily reach for one and pass it back to them.

The basket idea was a big hit for the girls and worked great for me!

 

What kind of activities do you keep on hand while traveling with kids?

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

 

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