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

Black Friday Favorites- Barefoot Books! **Exclusive Discount**

Barefoot Books Black Friday Savings

If you have never had the pleasure of reading a book from Barefoot books, allow me to introduce you! My friend Gloria first shared these books with me when our kids were just babies. I was immediately drawn to the rich illustrations and the wonderful positive messages of each story.

Barefoot books began in the early 1990’s as a way to honor children’s stories from all over the world. The diversity offered through Barefoot books is a great introduction to other cultures, different abilities and empowered child characters. There are books for children of all ages and stages. Your kids will immediately love the colors, the beautiful illustrations and become captivated by the stories!

Here are some of our favorites:

The Girl With A Brave Heart – a story about Shiraz, a kindhearted young girl growing up in Tehran. She is miserable living with her stepmother and stepsister because they treat her like a servant. A powerful story about patience, perseverance and empathy.

Photo credit: www.barefootbooks.com
Image credit: www.barefootbooks.com

 

Lin Yi’s Lantern– a heartwarming story shows the rewards of putting others first, and includes educational notes at the end about the Chinese moon festival.

Photo found on www.barefootbooks.com
Image credit:  http://www.barefootbooks.com

 

Grandpa’s Garden – kids are drawn in by the poetic language and warm illustrations. It creates the excitement of watching things grow!

Image credit: www.barefootbooks.com
Image credit: http://www.barefootbooks.com

 

I Took the Moon for a Walk – follow a young boy and the moon as they overcome the fear of the dark and discover the world at night. The end of the book includes notes about the moon and plants and animals that thrive in the wee hours of the night.

I Took the Moon for a Walk
Image credit: http://www.barefootbooks.com

 

Barefoot Books are my favorite books to buy for my kids! I try to include a handful of new ones each year in our book a night Christmas countdown! The books are durable and illustrated with unique artwork. To purchase Barefoot Books you typically host a party (at home or online) where you earn free books and a discount. But, just for being my reader you don’t need to host anything!

My very generous friend Heather is offering a 30% discount on any book orders placed on Black Friday THROUGH Cyber Monday (by 8 p.m.)!!! For every order over $50 Heather will donate one book to a sick child through my charity Operation Christmas Cheer! You can tick off Christmas gifts AND do something good in less than 10 minutes!! No standing in line at 5:00 a.m.! How convenient is that?!?

To receive your 30% discount you must SHOP Heather’s Barefoot Ambassador website and then email your order to[email protected] Write “Whatever30” in the subject line to get your EXCLUSIVE discount!

Go ahead do-gooder, shop and save away! Put a smile on your kids faces and bring some cheer to kids in and out of the hospital during Christmas!

(Tip: The website allows you to take a peek inside of each book! Just click the “Step Inside” circle on the corner of the book cover!).

 

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

 

 

May You Always Have Enough- Announcing 12 Days of Service

organic

The girls and I baked our Thanksgiving pies yesterday. I was feeling caught up in the nostalgia of baking alongside of my mother when I was their age. She taught me how to make a pie crust from scratch, and shared with me her secret family recipes that we all cherish today. I remember thinking these were important moments.  As I mentally tallied this moment with my girls on my list of things to be thankful for, I realized not every family gets these kinds of memories. From your neighbors down the street, to the homeless we see on the corner, to the Syrian refugees now in crisis around the world there is no denying that other humans are lacking at this very moment.

Growing up with a single mother who worked three jobs so we could survive, I am acutely aware of the struggle so many families face during the holiday season. Not everyone gets a warm, home cooked meal surrounded by family, and not everyone will be in their own home on Thanksgiving Day. Not every child is getting a gift to unwrap at Christmas. My heart not only aches for them, but my heart knows exactly what it feels like to be them. I remember the year my mother couldn’t afford a holiday dinner so we went without, or how hard it was for her to sign up at the church for a box of food. I remember feeling so embarrassed that one winter the school nurse called home to ask if she could send us some hats and scarves because she saw us walking home without them. It hurt to be in need of some of the most basic essentials.

This intimacy with poverty is what drives me today to help other families. It is so important that they know no matter what they deserve dignity and they aren’t a burden. People give because they want to help and there is never any shame in accepting help when needed. If you are someone in need of help just know there will come a day when you can pay it forward, and you will because you will remember how good it felt to have help.

If you are someone looking for ways to give back this holiday season (and I encourage you to give other times of the year too!) then keep an eye out for my upcoming series- 12 Days of Service. I am sharing 12 ways you can give back with little to no cost, and sometimes without leaving your home. I firmly believe that charity begins at home. Let’s start making a difference in each of our home towns and watch the waves ripple outward to the rest of the world!

Thank you all for reading each week and supporting my message of acceptance and understanding! It is truly a joy to share with you each week.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you always have enough!

 

Related Post: Charity Starts At Home- 7 Ways To Give Back With Little Ones In Tow

 

 

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

Let Go Of The Perfect Holiday

Don't Expect The Perfect Holiday

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK?! I haven’t even carved the turkey yet and I’m already stressed! How will I get it all done? When will I have time to shop? I’m already worried how I will make this the best Christmas ever! There are so many things for us to do and see it just gets so overwhelming!

I decided this week I need to put on the breaks. I’ve had a crazy week with two sick kids, one dental procedure and zero time to prep. In all this madness I’m still obsessing about perfection when I’m living in total chaos! I need to put aside all the to-do lists, sit away from the kids and listen to my own needs. (Yes, I know how hard that is!). I have to ask myself what is the most simplistic need for my family to enjoy the holiday season? Do we need perfect cookies? Perfect gifts? Do we need perfect cards and attend every party? Do we even need to eat a turkey?

When I really think about it, I don’t need to over work myself to make anything perfect. My kids won’t remember perfection. They won’t even know how many hours a night I spend crafting the perfect family cards, pouring over turkey day recipes, or wrapping the gifts with crisp efficiency.  What they will remember is the warmth. The warmth I wrap around each of them when I open my heart and give my love generously. The love I am teaching them to give to the world around us.

So, what am I going to let go of this year? The pressure I put on myself to make the holiday perfect. My husband and I have carefully selected the number of activities we want to participate in. We are letting go of rushing to several events in one day and choosing to spend more time at home cozied up in front of the TV.  Santa is a cool dude, but we don’t need to see him fourteen different places to know it’s Christmas. So, we will do our traditional one photo with Santa. I plan to spend time baking and connecting in the kitchen; and snuggling up every night with a new Christmas book. My kids are getting one dream gift each and the rest will be things they need.

This year I am scaling back from the over-doing and letting my kids excitement lead me into the holiday season. I only have a short time in their childhood to form the memories they will carry through the rest of their lives. The last thing I want for them to remember is my stress for perfection. I want them to remember mommy made things feel like magic because she was right there enjoying the moment.

The season of giving and of gifts is short lived. But, it is the perfect time to let go of the pressure to make every detail perfect. Not every moment has to be perfect for it to be memorable. It’s OK to say NO to material things, it’s OK to say NO to rushing around and it is perfectly OK to say YES to letting go of big expectations for how we celebrate our holidays.

 

 

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

**FLASH GIVEAWAY** Get Your Home Holiday Ready Faster With Norwex!

FLASH GIVEAWAY (1)

I had never heard of Norwex when my friend Rebecca invited me to a Facebook online party. I thought I’ll just look around and order something small so I can help her out. I honestly never, ever thought this stuff was going to work. I scoured the Internet for any red flags and negative posts about the company and the products. All I found were some very happy customers!

Norwex Kitchen Cloth

The first products I fell in love with were the spirinets and the kitchen cloth. Brace yourselves, because what I am about to show you is truly horrifying! The inside of my microwave. (You may want to remove the kids from the room).

Please don't look at my messy microwave

Normally, I’d spend 20 minutes scrubbing one small area at a time with soap and water. With this microfiber Kithcen cloth I finished cleaning the entire microwave in less than five minutes using just water! What impressed me most is this cloth cleaned up more stuck on food in one swipe than my regular kitchen sponge.

Norwex Cleans Microwaves

 

Three parties later and I am hooked on these products! Now I’m in love with the Enviro Cloth! Lucky for you because you might be the winner of this weeks FLASH GIVEAWAY!! ONE reader will win TWO FREE Enviro Cloths!

Norwex Enviro Cloth

The Enviro Cloth cleans just about everything in your house using ONLY WATER! No need for chemical cleaners! You can dust with it, clean counters and table tops, or heavier stuff like spills on carpets and couches. One Enviro Cloth reduces chemical and water use by 90%!! It lasts for 500 washes or 10 years! The BacLock (TM) technology has silver antibacterial fiber melted into each cloth.  The silver inhibits bacterial odor, mold, and/or mildew growth within the cloth AND it removes 99% of bacteria with just water! Check out Rebecca’s blog for details on how BacLock technology works, and check out videos of Rebecca using the cloths in her own home!

I am so excited to use my Norwex cloths to clean before the holidays!!  The micro fibers pick up so much more dust and debris than other cloths, so it’s a quicker more efficient way to clean! Just one cloth can clean my entire bathroom, or kitchen without any chemicals! No need to carry a bunch of cleaners from room to room. I simply rinse with water between uses and hang it up to dry. Once it is completely dry the silver is again ready to kill bacteria!!

Curious to know how YOU can spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying the holidays? My friend Rebecca is working on something special exclusively for The Whatever Mom readers! Click here to join her Norwex Customer Club on Facebook and send her a message that The Whatever Mom sent you! Then, Join us for a LIVE Facebook chat on Friday November 20th at 9:00 p.m.! Rebecca will send you the link to our private event when you join her Norwex Customer Club. I do not like a hard sell! So, I love that Rebecca truly enjoys sharing her honest experiences with Norwex. She is not pushy with sales, and is happy to answer any and all questions you have!

 

ONE lucky winner will get TWO Enviro Cloths for FREE!! Plus a FREE sample of the UPP detergent!! You have 17 Hours to enter before the winner is announced on The Whatever Mom Facebook page! 

**** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED! CONGRATULATIONS JULIANA W!******
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

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