December 31, 2012

2012- The Good and The Gross

Top Posts of 2012 (In case you missed any!)
He's With Me: The staff at the museum assumed he was lost since there were no black adults in the room and instead of saying, "Is anyone with this little boy?" they just picked him up and took him. I yelled something at Kamron alerting him as to what happened and took off running toward the entrance to the museum. Ahead I saw a worker who had a walkie talkie and told her to radio someone and tell them bring my son back. A million things flashed through my head. I wondered if they'd make me somehow prove that Miles was my son. I wondered if Miles would be terrified. I kept hearing a voice in my brain saying, "Megan, you really should carry around your adoption decree everywhere you go" battled with another voice saying, "Megan, you really shouldn't HAVE to carry something around like that- he's YOUR son!"
 
Detox Bath Flunkie- Or How I Almost Made Meth In The Bathtub :   I didn't have essential oils, but I did have vanilla extract in the cabinet. But I don't like the smell of vanilla. Suddenly, a light bulb went off. Vick's Vaporub! It's medicinal so I thought it sounded detox-y. Plus, my grandmother-in-law is convinced that a little "Vick's Salve" will cure whatever ails you. The last time we visited them, she launched into a thirty minute conversation about how our grandfather's toenails were falling off and she put Vick's on them and they were good as new. You are welcome for that visual.

Vick's it was! I started the hot water up again and put a huge glob in the running stream. About 30 seconds later I had a change of heart. Vick's is greasy. It would probably clog up my pores and not let the junk come out. So I tried to fish the blob out of the water. I got it out and had two hands full of what looked like a mutilated jellyfish. The garbage was full so I just slogged it into the toilet. I decided to leave it in there to freak the kids out.
No Mean Girls Here:  Then I said it. "SADIE! GIRLS ARE JUST MEAN!"

As soon as the words left my mouth, I wanted to take them back. What if with this generation of girls, we start a different dialogue. After all, my Sadie is a girl and if I tell her that girls are mean, that's basically telling her that it's her nature to be mean to others and that is NOT the message that I wanted to teach.

What if we stopped telling our girls this from the first time they start questioning their place in their social group. What if instead of excusing girl's behavior, we taught our girls how to be a GOOD FRIEND. This notion started what was the deepest conversation I've ever had with my daughter. It was a real come to Jesus talk about how hurting people hurt people. I think that if we can understand this from a young age than we could understand how to help one another.
This One Time In The Bathroom:   "Mom, what's she doing oba deah?" Miles said loudly. I gave him that look with my eyes that I thought screamed, "SHUT UP! DO NOT SAY A WORD ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT PARTITION! DO YOU HEAR ME? SILENCE!!!!!!"

His interpretation of what my look said was, "MOM IS NOT GOING TO ANSWER ME SO I BETTER ASK THE WOMEN NEXT DOOR HERSELF."

"HEY! I'm poopin'" he said. "You poopin'?"

Shoot me now.
Ten Years:  Nope- you don't realize when you say those vows that all those superficial things you feel on your wedding day fade and what you are left with are little moments- moment that show you the real character of a person. You don't realize when you say those vows how 10 years of snotty noses and falling asleep in front of the tv and fighting and holding hands and taking kids to and from school and picking up things from the grocery and going on vacations and taking kids to the doctor and watching swim meets and good times and hard times all pile up to build a life. This is never the life that I would have imagined for us 10 years ago. It's better.
Skittle Water:   I asked them about the reddish-orangish liquid and they told me that it was strawberry lemonade. They said they found it in our basement. Red flags started going up all over the place. They finally confessed that they found a package of sour  Skittles and they dissolved them in water. They assured me that it tasted just like strawberry lemonade. I hated to break it to them, but it tasted like Skittle water.
The Out Clause:  There were so many times when I wondered if we'd make it. I wondered if we'd ever feel like a family. I wondered if I'd ever stop punishing myself or stop feeling guilty about our whole situation. I wondered if Miles would ever act like he loved me and actually mean it. 
Looking back on it now, if there had been an "out clause" I wonder if I'd have taken it. I wonder if I'd have had the opportunity, if I'd have given up. There were days that I might have. It's hard to admit that- even in retrospect. Two and a half years later, I have the perspective to look back and see that our son was capable of developing the skills that he needed- BUT AT THE TIME, I DIDN'T SEE IT. I didn't feel like I was what he needed and was convinced that I'd never be what he needed.  
Lessons I've Learned About Toddler Adoption:  Trauma is real. All kids have fears, but our adopted children have fears that are very, very real for them as a result of their past experiences. They have fears of being abandoned, being hungry, being abused and all sorts of other things that children who have grown up with a loving parent who meets their needs don't have.

All toddlers go through stages of wanting to hit other kids. We have to teach them that hitting other children is not appropriate. With Miles, we had to teach him, by word and by deed, that moms and dads also don't beat up on their children. He had those fears because of past trauma. Miles was scared of animals. Miles was scared of black women. He tried to do things to our other children that had been done to him that were not things that you do to your brothers and sisters. His past directly played into how he functioned in his daily life. Seemingly small things would trigger uncontrollable tantrums in him. We had to learn to be accommodating of these things. We also had to teach him how to give a voice to these fears. ("Mommy and daddy keep me safe. They will not let animals hurt me." or "When I was in Congo, some people scared me, but mommy and daddy's friends are nice and will not hurt me."
 
You Are Enough:  How awesome would it be if we gave an ‘atta girl to our friends when they deserved it instead of letting her successes and joys fuel our own feelings of inadequacy? How awesome would it be if we spent even a fraction of the time we spend gossiping and ripping each other to shreds with our backhanded comments on building each other up and affirming one another instead? Even when we don't agree with someone's beliefs or decisions, we can still affirm them as people. How about we let other people be the experts on their own stories without telling them how to feel and minimizing their feelings? How about I let you be the awesome you that you are- and you let me be me? 
 
Lasting Impact:  I was midway through my vocabulary lesson when there was a knock on the door. Two grown African American men were at the door. Mrs. Miller obviously wasn't expecting anyone and the whole class looked at her when the knock came. These men obviously didn't know that you were NOT supposed to interrupt Mrs. Miller's class. In walked the two men and the always put together and proper Mrs. Miller practically skipped from her desk over to those men. She stood on her tippy toes and hugged their necks so tight I wondered if their heads would pop off. There was some chit chat and then I'm not sure how it came about, but Mrs. Miller introduced those boys as her "sons". In all my life of no one talking about race and ignoring that fact that we all look a little different, here was my prim and proper teacher, the picture of a what a perfect, white, Southern woman should be telling me that these two black men were her sons. In that instant, that teacher showed me more about race and tolerance and love than any other moment in my previous 13 years of people acting like it was an issue we could just push under the rug.
Screw The Zoo and Other Parenting Fails:   I came home and sprawled across the bed, still in my bad mood. Within a couple of minutes, Kamron came home and I was replaying the horrible day to him. "I just don't know why I even try to do fun stuff with them! It never turns out the way I think it will!" I was on the brink of tears. But dinner waits for no hissy fit, so it was time for me to pull myself up and make some food for the heathens.

That's when it happened. I backed off the bed on my belly. One foot hit the floor and the other foot? It plunged down on the heel of the stilettos I'd worn to church the day before. It was like I was being speared. (My mom would say that this is what I get for leaving my shoes laying around!) I tried really hard to catch my balance and stand up. But the pain took me so off guard and threw my balance off so much that I fell backwards, in slow motion, arms spinning in circles. I fell straight on my butt, legs flying up in the air as I fell the rest of way down and landed on my back on the bedroom floor. For a split second, Kamron was concerned. After all, I was flailing about and slamming to the ground. And then that concern turned into hysterical laughter.
 
Honorable Mentions
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

December 30, 2012

Cranberries Suck and Other Tales from Christmas Break

I love my kids.  Seriously- I do.  BUT... by what seems like the 122nd day of Christmas break I kinda feel like I'm going bat crap crazy.  And they feel it too. 

We are sans one car.  Kamron's car has a "smart key" system that is not very smart because it won't work and the dealer couldn't even get him in for 2 weeks.  So we've had a LOT of togetherness.  I love togetherness as much as the next gal, but I also like my space. 

Summer break is incredible.  We can run outside and we get into a routine.  Christmas break, however, was designed by sadists.  It's cold outside and we are sitting around in a house that looks like Christmas (or a landfill) exploded in it. 


My face is covered in zits, my Breathe Rite strips have completely pulled the freckles off of my nose, I have PMS, no one has clean socks (and I can't even find the dirty ones), there is no chocolate in the house even though it's only 6 days after Christmas, I'm only craving food that I'm allergic to,  the kids won't stop eating, we are grieving the death of our dog and blah, blah, blah...

To sum up- every little thing is making me fly off the handle right now. (I blame it on all the togetherness.)  I accidentally bought cranberry vinaigrette dressing instead of raspberry and I may or may not have opened the refrigerator door and said, "AHHHHH!  Cranberries suck!  I'm going to throw a fit!!!!!" and then done a little huffing and stomping while my husband just laughed at me.  First world problems sometimes just pile up.  Can I get an amen? I know it's childish and rediculius, but every now and then a girl just has to fall apart!

But enough negativity.  Let's switch to something positive, shall we?

The one saving grace?  The snow.  In Kentucky, we maybe get one decent snow a year.  And by decent, I mean that it actually covers most of the grass.  Papaw Gary bought the kids the Ferrari of sleds this year for a Christmas gift and we actually got some snow to use it in!


The snow was the perfect way to break the monotony of staying in and being together without wanting to kill each other.

And that sled... it was like lightening down the hills at my Granny's!




The horses decided to join us on our sledding hill.



Even in the midst of my bad mood, it still takes my breath away just looking at how stinkin' cute these little boogers are...

Hello, Gorgeous!


Mr. Joyful


When you search for a spare hat in Granny's closet, you may just stumble across an antique.  He totally rocks it.



 I think I need to resolve to get a better attitude.  This lingering bad mood stuff is for the birds!  Tomorrow is another day... 


December 28, 2012

Emma

Kamron and I got married in September of 2002.  Five months later, in February, we got "the call". 

My dad was on the other line.  "So, I got this dog.  And dammit!  I don't need a dog!  Y'all want this dog.  She's really good..." 

I don't remember consulting with Kamron on it.  I do remember picking up the puppy from my dad's house and bringing her home.  I named her Emma- because the newlywed in me had already picked out our firstborn daughter's name and Emma was my favorite baby girl name in the wide world.  Had I thought this through, I would have saved the name for a human child, but alas, I was 21 and thought that I knew everything.  Emma Terry it was.  Later on down the road she became Emma Stiltskin Terry.  Like Rumplestiltskin, but without the Rumple.

That first night, Kamron's sister brought over a crate and some toys.  I went to the store and stared at dog food.  We couldn't afford dog food.  Heck, we were practically eating dog food ourselves.  But I picked up the cheapest bag of puppy chow they had and took it home to that cute, little, yellow puppy.

Our first night with Emma (we were 21 and 24 and dumb as rocks)

We were in love.  For about 5 minutes.  It was night time and we were tired, so we put that cute, little, yellow puppy in the pen so that she wouldn't destroy the house while we slept.  The pen was wide and about 3 feet tall.  We turned our backs on the pen and started walking toward bed.  Suddenly, the dog was back under foot.  Surely this must have been a fluke.  We must not have latched the door all the way.

We put the puppy back in, patted her little head and told her to go to sleep.  We turned around again and out the puppy jumped.  It was like she was training for the Olympics.  She did that three foot jump from a sitting position like it was nothing.  Kamron went out to the garage and found a big piece of sheet rock that fit just perfectly over the top of the pen. 

"We are smarter than this puppy!"  we told ourselves!  We congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity and went to bed.  The puppy, however, did not.  She whined.  She rattled the pen.  And she jumped.  She jumped and she jumped and she jumped.  She hit that piece of sheet rock over and over and over again until she had taken the black off of her nose.  No lie- the dog's black nose, just rubbed off on the sheet rock.  Then that little puppy began to eat the sheet rock. 

We looked at each other and said, "We have this great fenced in yard!  Let's just put the dog out there for the night and come up with another plan in the morning!"  So that's what we did.

And then morning came... I woke up at the crack of dawn to answer the phone.  I was working as a substitute teacher at the time and the sub line was calling.  I took a job and then went outside to hang with my Emma and love on her before work.  I opened the door to the backyard fully expecting that little thing to bolt right in.  Didn't happen.  I walked out into the back yard and looked all over for her.  She was gone.

Yep- we were horrible dog owners who lost their dog on the very first day.  I called and cancelled my substitute job.  I ran to the store and bought some poster board and markers.  I remember going around the house and collecting change to go buy the poster board since it wasn't a regular expense in our budget.  I put signs up all over the neighborhood that announced our lost dog with our phone number.  I called my dad and told him we'd lost his dog.  "In one night?"  he said.  Yep- we were bad people.

Around mid afternoon, a mechanic in the neighborhood called and said that Emma had been hanging out at his shop watching him fix cars.  We went and picked her up and brought her back home.  We tried to come up with a better solution and didn't get anything in place by nighttime.  We had a huge rope and thought that if we tied her to the deck, it would keep her from getting out while we slept until we could come up with something better. 

We though this was a good idea, until someone knocked on the door and said, "Ma'am your dog is hanging."  Ummmm?  What?   I walked outside and sure enough- there was that dumb dog hanging.  She had jumped the fence and the rope only had enough slack for her back legs to hit the ground after her fence leap and the rest of her was hanging.

We sucked at being dog parents.  The only thing we had learned about our two days with a dog, was that it was a lot of work and that we weren't going to be ready for kids for a loooooong time.  Which means that God laughed and we got pregnant that same exact week. 

We finally found our groove.  Emma grew.  And grew and grew and grew.  And my belly grew and grew and grew.  And we figured out life together- Me and Kamron and Emma.

And then our little Sadie was born.  We brought home that baby girl and something changed in our dog.  She became a protector.  She'd jump on anybody and everybody, but around the baby, she was an angel.  Don't get me wrong- she was still such an escape artist that our neighbors all called her "Houdini" and she still ate stuff like sticks and dirt and electrical wiring, and destroyed pretty much everything we owned.  But we were a family- the four of us. 

And then there was Noah.  We moved right before Noah was born and our Emma had new places to explore.  I've never seen a dog with a wild hair to roam so badly in my life.  Once she even ended up in Cincinnati almost two hours away and we still somehow managed to get her back.

When Marley and Me came out, we were certain they made that movie about our Emma.  She pulled crazy antics, like eating rat poison and still managed to stay alive.  That dog was indestructible. She was ridiculously dumb.  Yet she was so loyal, and she was a fierce lover of our children. 

She watched them play in the backyard.  She was always there, just looking over them, protecting them.  They loved her.  And we loved her.  When times were hard and we realized that Noah had some special needs that we weren't sure how to deal with, there were many times when I would just cry and curse when I would go outside to let Emma out and she took it all in.  When Miles came home and he was terrified of her, it was almost like she turned into an old dog overnight and compensated for his fear by become extra gentle.  Our dog was a champ while Miles' psychologist worked though some fear therapy with Miles and while Miles screamed and screamed around her, she would just lay there and look at him- almost like she knew it was her job to help him transition to life in a family and by being calm and still she was helping him figure out life.

Emma loved the water.  Once we took her out on my dad's boat and she jumped right into the lake.  She had such a ball swimming- that is, until we couldn't figure out how to get that 90 pound dog back into the boat.  It was a 5 man operation getting that soaking wet creature back on the boat- but for her it was worth every minute.  She also loved the creek and would wander through the creek with her mouth open just letting the water rush in.  But she seemed most content when the sun was shining and the kids were playing around her.  Just like a proud mama- she'd watch their every move.  Sometimes she's wear a look on her face like she was as proud as she could be of them and at other times that expression said, "Why won't these kids just shut up!"  Yep- just like a mama.

For ten years, Emma blessed our lives.  She watched us grow up.  She watched us build a family.  She watched our children come home and grow and thrive.  She turned our backyard into a land mine.  She took tons of our money that we didn't always have.  She loved unconditionally.  She was the one constant in our ever changing lives.  She was gentleness personified.  There's just something about a family dog. 

Last week, we had to say goodbye to our sweet Emma.  It was her time.  She'd grown old and could no longer walk. By the end, she couldn't even lift her head.  She spent her last two week staring at our Christmas tree while the excitement of the kids grew with the impending holiday.  It was almost like she was soaking up memories.

We miss her.  We miss that giant tail wagging and thumping the floor constantly.  We miss that goofy grin.  We miss that dog stench and we miss those licks.  It's hard to let go of a pet.  She was here before our children and they don't know life without their dog.  We had a funeral for her and our kid's each said a few words over her and it broke my heart to watch them grieve her passing. 

It's a different life, getting used to her not being here.  But we'll see her again, on that rainbow bridge.  Thank you, Emma girl, for being such an amazing part of our family!


  Over the years...
 
March 2003
 
It started with towels, then furniture, then air conditioners (yes, this dog was responsible for knocking out the A/C during my 8th months of pregnancy!)...
 
 
 
 
Baby Sadie- January 2004
 

Baby Noah- April 2007 


Always standing guard! Summer 2009
 
Fall 2010
 



Fall 2011 


 
 


For me a house becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail, and that indescribable measure of love that we call a dog. ~Roger Caras

December 20, 2012

The First Seven Days

The 12 Days of Christmas Kindness are in full swing around these parts.  For me- this undertaking is always a little exhausting.  At times, the kids are all for it.  Sometimes I drag them to do the Christmas Kindness project for the day.  But one thing is true every time- we always feel insanely blessed when we are finished!  (Now, if only I could translate this philosophy into working out... sigh)

We are going through a difficult season in our home and on many days, doing these projects has been my saving grace.  It also seemed VERY necessary for my kids since this year their Christmas list looked like a Best Buy ad run amok.  I just couldn't handle that focus on materialism.  And while we totally do gifts, these projects have really helped restore some of the balance in our house.

So, here's a little run down of the things we've been doing for the first 7 days of Christmas Kindness...

We made and delivered a lasagna for our sweet friend Sue who had surgery.  My kids love to make messes in the kitchen cook. 
 
 
We rang the bell for the Salvation Army...
 
 
We went shopping for gifts that kids at The Portland Promise Center (an inner city ministry) could give to their parents for Christmas.  The Center has a shop set up for the kids they serve to pick up items to give to their moms and dads.  Major thanks to GranMary and Granny for financing and donating items to this project!
 
 
We went to my grandmother's house and put up her Christmas tree for her.  It's a huge tree and she doesn't need to be going up and down the ladder.  Miles on the other hand...
 
 
 ...and then he was pumped that her vacuum was "Miles sized" and proceeded to vacuum for at least 30 straight minutes.  (Can anyone guess what Miles is getting for Christmas?!?!)  He had a ball doing it and it helped my Granny out.  Win/Win.


We went to a benefit concert hosted by Lifesong for Orphans.  We listened to some children from Lifesong's school in Zambia sing and share their stories.  Noah was sitting on his daddy's lap and midway through the performance, he leaned over and whispered, "Dad, I want to give them 20 of my own dollars."  He got it!  He understood giving and wanted to do it freely!  It was a totally proud mom moment for me.


At the concert, we chose a new, little child to sponsor.  Sadie had her panties in a wad because all the other kids we sponsor are boys.  So she picked a girl- a precious kindergartner named "Gift".

 
Noah went rogue and did an individual project.  He had a pocket full of pennies (that he stole out of Daddy's office drawer) and decided to put a penny in each cardboard box centerpiece at the place where we ate lunch.  He said that when people picked them up and shook them, they would be so happy that those boxes made noise and then they could use their penny to buy dessert.  Shelbyville, KY- you are welcome for that public service.  Also- I felt like it was a good atonement for stealing money.
 
 
My adorable, do-gooder friend Elizabeth collects food every year to make food baskets for needy families in our community.  We took green beans and corn to contribute to her cause.
 
 
And lastly, we made cookies for the fire department.  We set out to make them for our social worker's office, too- but alas, we ate a few too many.



5 more days to go! 

December 19, 2012

Perspectives and Precious Treasures

Last Friday is etched in my mind.

My mom called and asked if I'd seen the news. 

I turned on the TV and watched it unfold along with the rest of our nation.

My heart cried.  My brain got angry.  I fought the urge to go pick up my kids from school, knowing that they were fine, but wanting to hold them in my arms anyway.

I thought back to 911 and remembered how I grieved, yet felt so far removed from the tragedy.  After all, it was a big city in a big tower in a place that was a strategic target.  I was in small town USA on a college campus and while I was overwhelmed with sadness, I never felt like that could have been me. 

But Friday?  Oh Friday.  Friday could have been anybody's baby.  I don't know of a mother who didn't feel like some part of her had been ripped out when she heard the news. 

I saw the reports and watched the battle play out on Facebook.  Guns versus no guns.  Right versus left.  Mental health versus pure evil.  People were all picking a side and the only thought I could put together was a fight about tangled hair and missing shoes.

Friday morning was just like every morning at our house.  It was a mad scurry- and even madder than normal. 

My kids have a serious routine in the morning.  Clothes, breakfast, hair and teeth, then shoes and out the door.  In my mind, it's simple.  It makes sense.  But the kids?  Ahhh, the kids.  They develop amnesia every night and wake up acting like they've never gotten ready for school before. 

Wait?  You mean we have to wear shoes?  You mean we have to eat breakfast?  It comes as a surprise every single morning that the bus comes at the exact same time. 

The minute they hear the bus, they all of a sudden remember everything they've forgotten over the last 24 hours and suddenly someone shouts, "But I was supposed to wear purple!" or "Mom!  I forgot I have to take money for my yearbook and it's due TODAY!" 

Sometimes there are tears because the overly sensitive one gets stressed when she's rushed.  Or the one with sensory problems isn't a fan of how his winter coat feels.

Somehow, we pull it together and they get out the door.  I kiss foreheads and tell them the same thing every day, "I love you.  Love Jesus and love people today."  But I say it more out of a sense of routine.  I don't even think about what I'm saying.  Sometimes I'm sure my tone is way more Satan and not a whole lot of Jesus.

On Friday, the bus was waiting on the street in front of my house.  The kids were poking along and I yelled out, "Run... that's not running.  Run faster... the bus is waiting on you!!!" 

I closed the door and breathed a sigh of relief as they headed off for the day.  I didn't even stop to think about my tone or how the hustle and bustle of my everyday life sometimes causes me to be short and send my children out into the world on a bad note.  I just shut the door and went on to the next thing. 

Until I heard the news.  And then that fight about finding shoes and the tears while combing the tangles out of the hair and telling the kids to love Jesus while my tone said otherwise was all I could think about.  I was full of guilt thinking that if that had been my child, my last encounter with them would have been one full of curt words, hurried hugs instead of lingering ones, and an overall sense of not being able to wait to push them out the door.

That could have been any of our kids.  It was somebody's kid.  Somebody's world. 

It puts everything into perspective.  My kids got off the bus on Friday afternoon and there were children who would never ride the bus again.

I could hug them and make up for a bad morning and try my best to do better going forward- but there were moms who wouldn't get that chance to do better next time.

I got to look at my babies and hold them and make their dinner and wash their clothes and pick up their toys and comb their tangles and tie their shoes and yet in Newtown, Connecticut...

Perspective. And while I know that it doesn't always last as time and distance from a tragedy grow, for this season, it has reminded me to treasure the everyday and pray for grace from the One who can turn guilt and sadness into more love.  Our hearts and prayers are with you, Sandy Hook Elementary.

Precious Treasures
 
February 2010- a week after Miles came home from the Congo.


December 13, 2012

Be Still My Heart

We know that our time with our sweet, 10 year old Emma-dog is limited, making this picture even more precious to me.  Be still my heart.

December 11, 2012

33 Service Projects To Do With Your Kids

This time of year makes me so excited!  When my kids were toddlers, we began a tradition of doing "The 12 Days of Christmas Kindness" where we do 12 days of service projects leading up to Christmas.  Over the years, it's become something that we really look forward to.  The kids get so into it!  It's a great reminder of the importance of service over gifts.  Don't get me wrong- my kids still go nuts over gifts, but having them involved in giving restores so much of the balance that gets out of whack during a time when materialism is so often the focus.

The first couple of years, I had difficulty coming up with things to do with young kids.  Over time, we've found what kinds of projects work well and have meaning for our family.  Today, I'm sharing 33 things that you can do with your kids to give back in case you need a few ideas to get you started.  I think that creating a culture of giving and service with our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them!  Happy serving!



*Have your kids pick out a couple of outgrown outfits and then take them to their school's resource center.  Often, they use extra outfits when kids have an emergency or can send home with kids in crisis.

*Stock up on hats, gloves and socks the next time you see them on sale and drop them off at a local homeless shelter.

*Make some homemade dog treats and take to a local animal shelter.

*Take a handful of quarters and a roll of tape and stick the quarters on gumball machines all over town.  Or put the quarters inside the coin return on a video game machine.  You will totally make a child's day!

*Take your outgrown coats to a local shelter.

*Dress up your kids in their Christmas finery and go share some hugs at a nursing home.  We usually take bananas to pass out (but check with the nurses first!).  So many nursing home residents never get visitors and some kids walking around really changes the energy!

*Find a need and meet it.  We are all on social media and see need daily.  Did a friend's house burn down? Take supplies.  Someone sick? Take a meal.

*Bake cookies together and deliver to the fire station or police station.

*On garbage day in your neighborhood, have the kids pull everyone's garbage cans back to their houses.

*On the last day of school before Christmas break, purchase a school supply pack for a kid who would otherwise not be able to go to school and talk about what a privilege it is to go to school! 

*Call up a single mom and offer to babysit her children so she can go Christmas shopping.  Fun play date for the kids, plus a much needed break for a mom.

*Many community organizations have Christmas parties/dinners for the less fortunate.  Call one and ask if you and your children can be on table cleanup duty.  Even the youngest kids can carry plates and napkins to the trash can!

*Get out the markers, crayons and paper and make homemade cards or just have the kids color pretty pictures.  Drop them off at a rehabilitation center or hospital.

*Put together a care package for a missionary or member of the military. 

*Deliver a Christmas tree to a family in need or take one to an assisted living or nursing home facility.

*We all know an area where homeless people tend to always be- maybe outside a certain building or at the end of an exit ramp.  Make a bag of food (protein bars, pop top canned food, peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, nuts, etc.) and keep it in the car until you find a person who needs it.

*Take rawhides to the animal shelter.  Cold, winter days are long and little doggies could use something to help them pass the day.  Kids also love to play with animals!

*Find an area in town that is dirty and littered and clean it up!

*Sponsor a child and write a Christmas letter to that child.

*School supplies are often on sale around this time of the year or get put in bargain bins for people to use as stocking stuffers.  Load up on these and send them to school with your kid.  Teachers spend way too much of their own money on classroom supplies and this would free up some extra income for them around the holiday.

*Adopt a Salvation Army angel or pick up a food angel at your local grocery store to provide a Christmas meal to a family in need. Shop together as a family.

*Send a phone card to a soldier so that they can call their family for Christmas.

*Have your kids do something nice for you or for each other.  Clean a brother's room, make a sister's bed, help mom or dad wash the dishes. 

*Drop baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula) off at a crisis pregnancy center.  Most of these places also take used baby clothes and equipment to help out new moms if you've got baby items lying around your are no longer using.

*Play games with a purpose!  Send your kids to www.freerice.com and let them play for a while.  They learn by playing trivia games and correct answers send rice to feed hungry people around the world.

*Go through the cabinets and send canned goods to a food pantry or backpack program.

*Take a giant can of ground coffee beans (and some cookies!) to a homeless shelter.

*Buy a few decks of cards or some games that can be played in bed and take them to a children's hospital.

*Give the kids a broom and put them to work sweeping the porches of the widows and the elderly in the neighborhood. 

*Take crayons and coloring books to the waiting room at the hospital.

*Cover pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed and take care of the wildlife in your backyard for the winter.

*Ask your kids' teachers if any students in the class are in need of books at their house.  Have your kids pick out a few they no longer need and send them to school and let the teacher send them home in another child's backpack.

*Take chalk and drive around to your friends' houses.  Have your kids write kind words about the friend on their driveway.  It will wash off during the next rain but make their day in the meantime!

Most of all, have fun with this and watch how it changes the focus of the season!

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