Category: Holiday Fun

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

 

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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

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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

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Buddy Poppies for Veterans Day

Veterans Day We Remember

The other day my girls and I were running into the store very quickly to pick up a few items. Outside the entryway stood an older gentleman clearly a Veteran holding a handful of bright red poppies. “Can we get one mama?”

Those colorful little fake flowers take me back to my childhood. I remember helping my moms friends assemble these little poppies for our local VFW. I remember hearing war stories from my parents friends as a kid. And, I remember volunteering at the Veterans Home with elderly war heroes. Some of them were missing legs, and many survived things I am lucky enough to not have experienced. My girls are the same age I was when I first learned about the sacrifices of our American war Veterans.

“Yes, sweetheart why don’t we each get one.” I gave them each a dollar bill to hand to the gentleman in exchange for a bright red poppy. He thanked them and complimented their generosity. I thanked him for his service and shared that both my father and my father in law were Vietnam War Veterans. His heart genuinely broke when I shared with him that they both passed away over a decade ago to cancer in their early fifties. Seeing these poppies reminded me of them. I am grateful for their service to our country, their service to our families and I am thankful they made it home to all of us.

Happy Veteran’s Day to my Dad, my Father In-law and all my aunts, uncles and cousins who have all served in the military. Thank you to all our Veterans who have served and continue to serve! Thank you to the wives, children and families who have loved ones serving in the military. Your sacrifices are important too!

Buddy Poppies are assembled by disabled Veterans and Veterans in need. This helps provide them with a small income and the sales help fund programs for Veterans. You can watch the short video below to learn more about the VFW Buddy Poppy program. And, remember to thank a Veteran today!

 

Click here are some great ideas to help children celebrate Veteran’s Day. 

 

 

 

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

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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

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Love Letters That Last A Lifetime

Give more than chocolates on Valentine's Day
Give more than chocolates on Valentine’s Day

Let’s talk Valentine’s day. I’m sure by now you already have your Pintrest board all pinned and ready to go. So, I won’t bore you with another crafty hand print to hang on the fridge, or to mail off to grandma. Instead I want to share with you my most favorite tradition of all. It’s so simple and will only cost pennies to make. Are you ready? Write your kids a love letter.

Growing up my mom struggled to make ends meet as a single mom working three jobs. My siblings and I really didn’t get to see her often. My mom didn’t get to attend my soccer games, or school pageants because she was always working. I know this wore on her and it was not easy missing out on so much. But, every Valentine’s day we could count on two things: 1. a heart shaped box of chocolates and 2. a love letter. I remember rushing down the stairs to find both left at my place on the dining room table.

Valentine's blog 010

Write a letter for every birthday and holiday to tuck away for your child.

 

I loved opening the envelop to see her pretty penmanship float across the page in precise circles and loops. It was almost comforting to see my name written in her script. Every year she said all the things she didn’t have time to say to me on a daily basis. How proud she was of me, how much she loved me. I still have my letters tied in a ribbon, tucked away in an old box my mother decorated for me. It is one of my most cherished childhood possessions.

Write the date and holiday on the envelop.
Be sure to include the date!

I love this tradition so much I started doing it with my own kids. I know they are only four and can’t read yet, but I have purchased a card every year since they were born. I have written to each of them how much I love them. I seal the envelop, write the year on it and tuck it away in their keepsake box. Now, I purchase a card for every major holiday and I write in it how we spent our holiday, what they were into at that time, what milestones they hit, or something personal about how I feel about being their mom.

Our box of keepsakes and love letters.
Our box of keepsakes and love letters.

One day I’ll hand over the box and hopefully they’ll allow me to open it with them.

 

Tips for writing a love letter to your child:

1. Tell them how much you love them. You may say it every day, but writing it down allows them to revisit it any time they need to.

2. Share your favorite times with them. Maybe you took a special hike, or played a new game together. Maybe you love that time you danced in the rain together, or how much you love rocking them to sleep at night. Reading your perspective from those special events really deepens their understanding of your bond.

3. Tell them how it feels to be their parent. We all get so busy with life. Our kids need to hear how happy it makes us feel to be their parent. (You know in between all the commands for “get your shoes on!” “hurry up let’s go!”).

4. Tell them what you are proud of them for. Not just “great game,” but how about “I love that you enjoy sports so much. It makes me proud to cheer you on every week.”

5. Share your dreams for them. Encourage your child to be anything they want to be. Teenagers especially need to hear this; busy teens need to know how much their parents are invested in their happiness. Trust me it will be worth all that eye rolling.

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Thanksgiving is here!!

Wishing all my readers a very healthy and happy Thanksgiving! Safe travels and may your stuffing be perfect!

The girls have the entire Thanksgiving week off from school. We have been busy decorating, baking and making the house a giant mess. I am actually thankful for the toys scattered about the house. It means  I have two amazingly creative kids who get lost in their imaginations. It’s not fun cleaning it all up again, but one day those little messes won’t be there to organize. Before I know it both my kids will be off to college and ready to start life on their own. Every now and then it hits me that having twins means they both leave at the same time. Such a scary thought. Until then I’ll try to remain thankful for the messes, the chaos and the perfectly imperfect days we share.

Here’s a round up of our week:

We started off by making a Thankful Tree. I used brown craft paper for our tree, but you can easily use a brown paper grocery bag. I traced and cut out leaves to write our thankful things on. Then we it all taped to the wall. The girls decided to pick out pictures of things they are thankful for. We pulled out some family pics I had taken through out the year, but you can easily use pictures cut from a magazine. Both of the girls kept calling it the Giving Tree. That would be a great story to read along with this project if you have it! If not you can get animated versions on Youtube. I found a copy of the original 1973 movie version narrated by Shell Silverstein!

Our thankful tree!
Our thankful tree!

I rolled out brown craft paper the entire length of the table so the girls could create their own pictures. We traced our hands to look like turkeys. The girls enjoyed making mama turkeys and baby turkeys. Again, you can easily recycle brown grocery bags for this project. Let the kids get creative!

DIY turkey table runner
DIY turkey table runner

I made these counting turkeys a few weeks ago which the girls really enjoy using. I just used materials we have on hand. Yes, I always have clothes pins and googly eyes on hand! Find instructions HERE.

Clothespins are great for working developing fine motor skills.
Clothespins are great for working developing fine motor skills.

Thanksgiving Eve packets!! I set these activities out the night before to surprise the girls with in the morning. This will keep us busy for a while! If you are following The Whatever Mom on Facebook you already know where to find these turkey printables!

Our turkey table
Our turkey table

We had our first winter storm yesterday. The snowy morning really put me in the mood for some good, warm comfort food. I made us some coconut, carrot french toast. It is inspired by the french toast I am in love with at one of my favorite restaurants (Love Bites). Not as good as theirs, but still a good way for me to sneak in some veggies and protein!

Coconut, carrot french toast.
Coconut, carrot french toast.

 

4 slices of favorite bread

2 eggs

1 small carrot (finely grated)

3 Tablespoons coconut flakes

1/3 cup milk (any kind)

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter

Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Then add in rest of ingredients and whisk until combined. Dip bread into mixture and be sure to cover both sides. Place in heated pan. Cook both sides until golden brown.

We didn’t have maple syrup so I sprinkled with powdered sugar. A snow breakfast for a snowy day!

 

Whatever you do today enjoy your time with family and friends. If you plan to celebrate the day alone, I hope you still have plenty to be thankful for!

 

Thank you for reading and sharing!!

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