Blog

Lessons From a Dropped Jar of Pickles

5762894651_0a2e1ae9e5_z

I was sitting on the front porch trying to plan out my busy week, when I heard my daughter crying from the kitchen.  My first reaction was irritation, “What could she be crying about now? Tears are not on my to-do list!” When I came into the room she was standing in stocking feet with the fridge doors open and a shattered jar of pickles all over the tile floor.  I looked at her scared little face, took a deep breath and decided to react with patience rather than the frustration that was brewing inside of me.

As I looked at her face, I reminded myself that this was an accident. It is not her fault that once again I have taken on too much and there are not enough hours in the day to finish it all, yet alone clean up this pickle mess.  “Hello, Enneagram ONE here!”

I calmly helped her to safety from the glass, reassured her that it was okay and got to work cleaning up the mess.  As she and I mopped up the stinky pickle juice, I reflected on how that situation could have gone much differently if I had let my temper get the best of me.  I thought about my word of the year, Ohana, which means family.  If I truly want to honor that word, some things have to come off of my very full plate.

18

I had big plans to create another FREE Kids in Service Camp for this summer but unfortunately I need to put that on the back burner for now.  I have to focus on my family, homeschool and the other responsibilities that come my way every May/June.  Deciding to put the project aside for the moment has allowed me to breathe a little deeper.

I am sorry that Camp Empathy will not be out this June but I am hopeful that it will come to fruition.  The project is too important to me to drop all together. That broken pickle jar showed me that I need to give myself a little grace and prioritize time with my family during this busy season. Who knew that I’d be so grateful for a broken jar of pickles?!?!

 

Blog

Live Love Now

Every once in a while a book will fall into my hands right when I need it.  Rachel Macy Stafford has a way of writing the books that I need to read just when I need them most. Hands Free Mama was her first and that book helped me to be a little less attached to my phone and more present in my life.  Only Love Today is like a warm hug every time I pick it up and read the day’s short entry. This treasure of a book has been gifted to every mama I love in the hopes that Rachel’s words can wrap them up in love, support and grace. Live Love Now is her latest book which comes out on April 28th. It is geared toward parents and caregivers of teens/pre-teens but I honestly think anyone who interacts with children ages 8 and up can benefit from this book.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'KEY LEARNING: OUR TEENS NEED US MORE THAN EVER, EVEN THOUGH IT MAY SEEM LIKE THEY ARE TRYING TO SHUT US OUT. RACHEL MACY STAFFORD HANDSFREEMAMA.COM/LIVELOVENOW'

Oh did my heart and soul need this book!  Quarantine has brought up a host of issues in our house but the biggest have been the battles with my 13 year old. The battles over screens, chores and not wanting to participate in family events. My exasperated response to it all has been, “You are being such a teenager!” and these battles have left us both feeling pretty terrible. The strong bond we share feels more fragile and I often feel like I am drowning in these new and uncharted waters of hormones, independence seeking and boundary testing.

Image may contain: text

The pages of this book have been like a life line for my family.  They have not only helped me to better parent my son but have made me look long and hard about some of the parenting choices I have made with my ten year old daughter.  This book has prompted dinner time discussions around internet safety, the importance of human connection, fear and the things we are not willing to trade away when it comes to technology use.  My son and I have had long talks about what is not working in our current situation and we are working to fix those things.  I have taken pages and pages of notes for my husband and have spent many late nights sharing the words from this book. We have discussed how we can better support our children and show them that we love them for who they are and not what they accomplish.

For two years Rachel visited schools and asked teens to answer this question:

If you could give your parents or the world one message, what would it be?

Their answers were anonymous and as she read through the collected index cards in her car, she could not believe some of their responses. 

“I put on a smile. People think I’m the happiest person in the world. I act as normal as possible. I break down only when I’m at home alone.”

“I fear I am unlovable, and this fear dictates my life.”

“Mom and Dad, I want you to see the amount of pain and stress I deal with all the time.”

“I wish my parents understood that I am not an athlete.”

-Live, Love, Now, Rachel Macy Stafford page 25

Her desire to help these teens, their parents and her own teenage girls resulted in Live Love Now.  I can not recommend this book enough.  Every parent should hear Rachel’s wisdom and the words of the teens who answered her question. Let’s help this generation of teens to feel loved, appreciated and heard. Thank you so much Rachel for once again writing a book that this world so desperately needs.  

I have reviewed this book because it has spoken to be deeply.  I have not received anything for my review and all of the thoughts and opinions here are my own. 

Image may contain: text

 

Blog

Welcome to Homeschool

Make a Difference May

Due to COVID-19, many school districts are closing for at least two weeks.  For some districts the close is do to a case or two in the school and in others it is to slow down the spread of this fast moving disease.  I am not a doctor with information to share but I am a homeschool mom of 7 years and was a public school teacher before that.  Because of this fact I have had a few people reach out looking for advice about homeschooling.  I thought I’d use this platform to encourage all of you as you move into your role of temporary homeschoolers.

First let me say that school at home is very different from homeschooling and thus the advice that I would give to new homeschooling parents would be VERY different.  There are some similarities though, and after much thought and reflection, I have come up with some wisdom that I have learned over the past 7 years.  I hope that this wisdom will help you over the next few weeks at home.

1. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective!

This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn when it came to homeschooling.  If I had a nickel for every time a parent asked me: How do you do it all day?  I would shoot myself if I had to homeschool my kids!  I celebrate when I put my kids on the bus, it’s the best part of my day!”  The key to homeschooling is PERSPECTIVE.  If you go into this two weeks like it is a prison sentence then guess what…IT WILL BE!

It is crucial that you go into this time period with with a positive perspective.  Think of the next few weeks as an adventure.  After all you can do school in your jammies, while sitting on the couch, under the dining room table in a fort, outside on a blanket…the possibilities are endless.  If you go into this experience with a positive perspective then that will rub off on your kids.  At first they may be resistant to your positivity (especially if they are moody teens) but it will be much more pleasant for all of you if you go in to this with an open mind and a sense of adventure.

1

2.  Rhythm vs Schedule

I know that some schools will be strict about the time your kids need to be online.  What you all are experiencing is different then what we homeschoolers experience.  However many homeschool experts say that rhythm is best over schedule.  I have found when you try to stick to a schedule at home it fails time and time again.  There is laundry to do, meals to prepare, emails to answer and many of you will be balancing work with school at home.  My advice is take a deep breath, embrace the mess and set up a rhythm.

Our day usually starts around 8:30 (but not always, some days we start at 8 and others at 9, it depends when we are all ready).  Before that my kids sleep until about 7:30 or 8 (growing kids need sleep, and I think that if the school schedule allows, let them get the extra sleep during this time).  While “waking up” they may read, play, grab breakfast and get ready to start our day.  We begin with a family read aloud.  I recommend this even if your kids are in High School.  This is a great way to wake up and connect as a family before you start your day.  After that we will go off and work on our more individual work for about an hour.  If you have more than one child that requires individual attention, try to stagger their work so that you can work with one while the other works independently.  Audio Books and Learning Apps are great ways to distract the youngest ones who may need more attention so you can help your older children. Here is a look at our Daily Rhythm.

Our Daily Rhythm

Morning Read Aloud Time

Work Block 1

Break/Outside

Work Block 2

Lunch

DEAR TIME (I read too!!!)

Work Block 3 (we often don’t even need this block)

Free Time//Extracurricular Activities

Screentime

Dinner

3.  No Morning Screen Time

I find my kids (and most people) are less productive and focused if they have started their day with screens.  I recommend using screens as the reward for a pleasant and productive day.  My children know that they will not earn their screen time if they are rude or do not put their best effort into their school work.  Our screen time is usually in the evening so they know not to ask for it throughout the day.  We do have a family movie afternoon (usually on Wednesdays).  This is a great time to work as a group to fold laundry (my friend Kitty taught me that tip).

I think that during this social isolation time screen time will be important.  Online gaming with friends or FaceTime with friends and family should be encouraged.  My son has even played card games with his friends via FaceTime.  It’s time to get creative with screens!

4.  Brain Breaks

Many kids struggle to focus for long periods of time and children with ADD or ADHD really struggle with this.  I find that building in breaks into your day helps.  When the kids were smaller we had a policy that each person in the family could yell out “Brain Break” once during the day and everyone had to follow suit.  Brain Breaks could be putting on a favorite song and dancing around, play leap frog, do some yoga poses, do some deep breathing, jumping jacks…anything to get your bodies moving for a few minutes.

Before you start a Brain Break, make sure they understand that this is to help us focus and they will be expected to return to their work after the fun.  Believe it or not, this will help them to focus better when they are finished.

2

5.  Relationships Come First

This role of parent and teacher will be new for most of your kids.  There will be resistance, there will be frustration and there will be moments where you want to tear your hair out and run for the border.  My advice is to remember Relationships Come First.  I write this EVERY DAY in my journal and I repeat this over and over in those moments where I want to yell and scream in frustration.

Please remember that the math assignment is not as important as your relationship with your child.  This can be really hard to remember in times of frustration.  When your child is acting out there is usually a reason.  Do they understand the assignment?  Are they hungry, embarrassed, tired, anxious?  Often I find a hug, a break and a snack does the trick.

6.  Leave Time for Fun!

Fun is the most important ingredient to schooling your kids at home.  I know that this role is temporary for most of you but please don’t forget the FUN.  Plan a fun activity for the end of the day, let them work in a fort that you built under the dining room table, play hopscotch with your kids outside during break etc.

We homeschoolers are usually on the go and so we will also be feeling the effects of this social isolation.  The museums are closed, our activities are canceled and it is time to find creative ways to fill our time when our schoolwork is done.  Below you will find some of the fun things that we are planning over the next few weeks.

SOME FUN FAMILY IDEAS

p17539790_b_v8_ac.jpg

LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--Is your family watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox?  We LOVE it and we were inspired by my friend Claire’s  LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge.  We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off.  When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge.  Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself).  If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.

FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics.  Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition.  We then go through the events and cheer each other on.   We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart.  My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem).  You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country.  Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.

5

FAMILY BOARD GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time.  Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game.  If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time.  You could also have a family video game night.  My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along.  We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.

FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire.  This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows.  They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present.  Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe!  We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.

MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out.  Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.

VIRTUAL VACATIONS--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation.  Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture.  Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels.  Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!

VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS--From the comfort of your couch you can go on a virtual tour of 12 famous museums from around the world.  Click HERE to learn more.

3

FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation.  Here are some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.

  1. Send cards to the local nursing home.  Local nursing homes have reduced the amount of visitors and I am sure the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside.  If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity.  We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
  2. Do a Trash Pick Up of your street.  Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt.  Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids.  Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
  3. Make a No Sew Fleece Blanket for Project Linus
  4. Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones.  Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
  5. Paint Kindness Rocks
  6. Start a Gratitude Project-It is important for all of us to focus on Gratitude during these uncertain times.  Click HEREto find some ideas of ways that you and your family and focus on gratitude.
  7. Start making Christmas cards for the Military Holiday Card Challenge.
  8. Write a Thank You Note-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately?  Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift?  EVERYONE loves mail!  Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you.  This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home.  This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).

13

Blog, Kids in Service Clubs

So Very Grateful

4

This month the Windham Magazine ran a four page article about our local Kids in Service organization.  I was beyond thrilled when they reached out in January about doing an article about our group and the work we are doing in the community.  Reporter Madeline Hughes called to do a phone interview with me and then reached out to a few of our members (adults and kids) to ask them about their experience with the organization.

Madeline and photographer Carl Russo came to our KIS Teen meeting at the end of January and took pictures and interviewed the kids while they made blankets for Project Linus. We made 12 blankets that night and shared so many laughs as Madeline asked questions and Carl came around and snapped photos.

The article came out last week while I was away. My friend Kristin sent me photos of the article and I cried tears of joy and gratitude in the parking lot of a CVS.  Reading the words of the kids, the parents and the seniors we serve in the nursing home touched my heart. Since the article came out I have been showered by love and support from friends, family, former colleagues, community members and many people from my past.  I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out and for The Windham Magazine for running the article about our special group.  I had hoped that the article would mention a few of the key people who have helped Kids in Service grow into what it is today.  Unfortunately they were not mentioned and so I wanted to take a moment to thank them now.

3

Kids in Service NH is a team effort and has been from day one.  The group started almost 5 years ago under the name MOSAIC Kids.  Claire McGarry, founder of MOSAIC of Faith and Shifting My Perspective, and I sat together one Saturday afternoon and dreamed up a group where our children could serve the community in age appropriate ways.   We could not find service opportunities for our young children and decided to create projects of our own.  We brought on Pam Sarantis and MOSAIC Kids was formed.  That first year we worked so hard recruiting families, dreaming up projects and creating the framework for the organization. Claire and Pam stepped down from leadership after our first year but have continued to support the organization every step of the way.  I am so grateful for all they did to help build this group.

Next on board came Kristen Sudati.  She was a busy mom of littles but wanted to get involved.  She took over organizing our nursing home visits and worked to promote our group around town.  Last year Jody Wilkins joined Kristen and they were both given the official title of Community Relations Directors. These amazing women work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote our group in the community (the Memorial Day Parade, Scarecrow Contest etc.), make sure that we have a place to meet and that the families know when it is their turn to bake cookies for Project Appreciation, deliver the food for Project Brown Bag or clean up the park.  I am so grateful to have these two women on board and for all they do to make Kids in Service a success.

Kids in Service is so lucky to have the GREATEST families as part of our organization.  I am constantly in awe of the kids in our group.  Their kind hearts are always searching for new ways to make a difference.  During our Kids in Service Kids meetings we start with a lesson and a story and end with a gratitude circle.  The wisdom and gratitude of these children always warms my heart and gives me so much hope for the future.  Watching the teens and seniors interact at the nursing home is a beautiful site.  The fact that all of these children take time out of their busy lives to stop and help others is so important.

37

We could not do half of what we do without the support of the parents.  They are out shopping for items to donate, chatting with the seniors at the nursing home parties, making sure that their kids get to meetings on time and then pitching in to lend a much needed hand with our projects.  These parents are the glue that hold this group together and I am so very grateful for all of the work that they do and for sharing their children with me each month as we work to make our community a little brighter.

Thank you to Joe D’Amore, Cheryl Haas, Katie Cook, Peter Griffin, Lisa Challender, the Bow Rotary Club, Janine and Chris Parkinson, Zack McGarry, Scott Weller, Windham Presbyterian Church, St. Matthew’s Church and the many other people who support us financially, spread the word about our group, allow us meeting space and help to get us involved with projects.

8

Finally I’d like to thank my husband Scott and my children Zach and Caroline.  These three are my sounding boards, my cheerleaders and are always willing to jump into whatever service project is up next. Without their support there would be no Kids in Service.

Thank you EVERYONE!!

Blog, Holiday, Uncategorized

Pick One Thing

11

I am one of those SUPER ANNOYING people who is hyper organized when it comes to Christmas.  I am a complete mess when it comes to organizing my closets, my car or other important things but I’ve got it together when it comes to Christmas.

I use the month of November to shop, decorate, wrap and complete my holiday cards.  The theory is that if I get the work done in November, I will be all calm and relaxed in December.  The vision of being curled up by a fire, watching Hallmark channel while snuggling with my family, helps me to get through my CRAZY November. The truth is that my December never looks like the vision I have in my head (my family hates Hallmark ;)).  I ALWAYS find more to do and cram our schedule so full that there is little time to breathe.

Last year was a perfect example of this.  I scheduled so many service opportunities for my family, that we were left EXHAUSTED by the time Christmas came around.  I thought that if I shared the idea on my Kids in Service website, then I should be out there doing it!  We practically took on a part time job at the Salvation Army ringing bells once a week for a two hour shift, we volunteered twice at the Food Bank, served lunch to the homeless in the park, shopped for children in need, did the Reverse Advent Calendar, delivered our Christmas jar, baked cookies for the postal employees, visited a woman’s rehabilitation home, gave out a dozen seeds of kindness, Jingled 8 families (EIGHT?!?!), visited the local nursing home and tried to complete EVERY DAY on our Kindness Calendar.  It was a rollercoaster of a month with so many emotions.  We were TIRED, INSPIRED, STRESSED OUT, JOYFUL and by the end my kids started to resent it all and would groan when it was time to go.

One morning, as I sternly told my children to SMILE while we were ringing bells in the frigid cold, I had an out of body experience.  What was I doing?  Was I being as kind to my children as I was to the strangers who put change in the red bucket?  Was this manic pace of helping others, hurting us?  We were running from one project to the next, all while trying to fit in homeschool, chores, making homemade gifts and Christmas fun.  That is when I admitted to myself it was too much.

This December already looks a lot different in our house.  We decided on a few favorite service projects (many of them simple) to complete over the course of the month and have had to say no to many others.  We have also cut way back on our homemade gifts.  Instead we are playing daily board games, reading holiday stories together and trying to save some whitespace in our crazy calendar.

Why am I sharing this story?  I want to encourage YOU (or anyone who is still reading at this point) to pick only ONE act of kindness to do as a family this holiday.  Pick just one!  I know there are so many options this time of year but our calendars are also way more hectic.  Save those service projects for other times of year when you have more time and space to devote to them.  The food bank needs help ALL year long and the nursing home residents need cheering up more in March than they do now with all of the carol groups coming through.

Pick ONE thing and it can be a simple thing.  Maybe you buy some $5 gift cards to a local coffee shop to spread them around to people who could use a little cheer.  Or pick one tag off of the giving tree, bake cookies for a neighbor or pick one of our other holiday kindness ideas.  Whatever you pick, talk it over as a family and make sure that the activity does not add any more stress to the season.  It is important to remember self-care for EVERYONE in your home this holiday.  If you are not taking care of yourselves, then you will not be able take care of others.

The only way you can be a LIGHT this holiday season is to take care of yourself.

 

 

 

Blog, Pay it Forward Summer

Arcade Kindness

I recently took my children to a large arcade complex to celebrate the end of their school year.  They love this particular arcade but I prefer to take them during school hours when it is quieter and less chaotic (a perk of homeschooling).  As we pulled into the empty parking lot, they planned out the way they would spend their tokens and dreamed of the tickets they would collect.  I smiled at their chatter and decided to channel my inner child while we were in the building. I was planning for a fun day and never would have guessed that a trip to the arcade would be a powerful lesson in kindness and paying it forward.

“Mom, there are tickets all over the place!  Somebody is forgetting to get their tickets!!”  Caroline could not believe that someone would leave tickets behind.  At first I thought it was a forgetful person, then I realized that a mystery person was leaving the tickets for small children to find.  Caroline grabbed a fist full of tickets (about 40) from four nearby games and looked over and saw a small girl.  “Mom, can I give these tickets to that little girl?”  My heart melted as I nodded my head yes.  The little girl was so excited to be handed this handful of ticket treasure.

Later on, the kids and I were playing a game and we spotted a bag of tokens that had been left behind.  We searched the entire arcade looking for the mom and child who had just been there.  We found them in the bathroom and the mom was so grateful that we had found her tokens and brought them back to her.

Zach had his moment to shine when Caroline needed 200 more tickets to get a giant stuffed unicorn.  Without hesitation he gave them to her and she beamed at him as she snuggled her new stuffed friend.  A few weeks prior, at the same arcade, my 4 year old niece and nephew were given 3,000 tickets by a generous gamer.  They were ecstatic with all of the loot they were able to turn it in for!

There may be a lot that is wrong with our world but there is also a lot that is right.  The kindness at the arcade took me by surprise but it was a great way for the kids and I to kick off our Pay it Forward summer.  We are now plotting ways to pay forward the kindness that has been shown to us over the years.  I plan to share our progress with you as the summer goes on.  How will you and your family Pay it Forward this summer??

Blog, Incredible Kids, Making a Difference

My Two Incredible Kids

pay it forward summer (3)

For the past few months, Kids in Service has been celebrating all of the WONDERFUL service work that children around the country have been doing.  I love that we are able to highlight their accomplishments and hope that their work inspires other children around the globe.  Today, I wanted to take a minute to celebrate the two most important INCREDIBLE Kids in my life…my son Zach and my daughter Caroline.

We are a homeschooling family and as part of their portfolios, I write up an End of Year Assessment.  Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time reflecting upon what the kids have accomplished during this school year.  Looking back, it is easy to see that this has been a Year of Service for our family.  Service learning is a valuable tool for all kids, no matter their age or where they go to school.  Learning to think about others, embracing diversity, learning about the bigger world and finding a way to help make a difference are important life-long lessons that they will carry with them into adulthood.

One of Zach and Caroline’s big service projects, happens right here in our home.  For the past 6 years my children have produced a community newspaper for friends and family.  They have over 40 subscribers, many contributors and put out 3 issues a year.  They charge a nominal fee for their paper but because of their generous subscribers, they have raised over $1200 in 6 years.  ALL of that money has been donated to 12 different charities.  This newspaper has evolved over the years and has become a community project.  I am so proud of how hard Z and C work and how careful they are to pick the charities that will be receiving the funds after each issue.

Outside of the home, Zach and Caroline have spent many hours this year serving our community.  It is not always fun for them but they show up and work hard until the job is done.  They have learned first hand about homelessness, compassion, drug addictions, diversity, poverty, empathy, hunger and gratitude.  I am so proud of them, the work they are doing and look forward to serving along side them, for many years to come.  They are INCREDIBLE Kids!

Blog, Earth Day, Earth Day Projects, Kindness, Service Projects for Families

Cradles to Crayons Organization

17

I am so excited to have one of our INCREDIBLE kids writing for the site today!  Please welcome Chloe!  Chloe is 11 years old and wanted to share with you an amazing organization called Cradles to Crayons where she recently volunteered with her family and friends.  Cradles to Crayons has three locations in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.  Here is some background info about Cradles to Crayons (written by Chloe’s mom).

Cradles to Crayons is a non-profit organization that not only serves families in need, but provides opportunities to the wider community to contribute to this service in multiple ways. CtoC are masters of organization, and let volunteers know how their contribution of time, or items, or cash will help others.  Individuals, families, and any group or organization can sign up to sort books, toys, school and art supplies, personal care items, clothes and more for a two hour block of time. The CtoC staff explain how their work and the work you do as a volunteer will directly help families and children who face challenges many of us cannot even imagine. We can’t wait to return and bring new friends to share in this meaningful experience. Learn more here: https://www.cradlestocrayons.org/

Chloe’s Experience

22

When I walked in for the first time, I saw hundreds and thousands of things.  It was like a big country with millions of islands!  We sat down at a table to decorate a birthday bag.  It feel very home like there.  The people assigned us to the book section, then the lady told us the rules.  One of them was don’t steal any of the books of course!  Another was no religion, holiday or family books because we don’t want to offend someone for what their culture or religion is.  And we don’t want to put in books about a family because that might make a little girl or boy feel bad about their circumstances.

One job was to sort books into their right age group, another was to make piles of books and put them in the finished age categories.  The age groups started at zero to two, up to eleven to twelve.  I did both jobs.

We were assigned to do this for two hours, sounds like a lot but when you start to get into  it, it feels more like 20 minutes!  I must have done over fifty piles of books.  One of the important rules was that kids zero to two must only aha board books, so they don’t hurt themselves.  And kids also zero to two must only have three books in their piles because they are younger so they won’t be doing that much reading.  And so three and up kids have five books in their piles.

Once it was over, I was really sad.  I was having an amazing time and I didn’t want to stop! But I had to, so I told my mom we have to come back here again soon!  We then proceeded back to the tables we started at and heard that our book group helped over 150 kids and their families!  And all the groups put together ended up helping over 900 kids and their families!

After that me and my friends couldn’t help ourselves, so we went back pretending my friend lost her bracelet but really, we just wanted to make more pies! The lady then caught us and asked us what we were doing (and of course I had a pile of books in my hands) and my friend said quickly; “Oh, I just lost my bracelet and I was hoping to find it, oh look it’s right here!” Then we scrammed!

I had so much fun.  It’s important to take a break from your life and remember that there are billions of kids and their families out there suffering while you may be sitting on your couch watching TV and eating amazing and delicious food.  While for some people, a bag of chips is dinner!  It feels really special to know that a little girl, boy, mom or dad is happy because of something you did!  So go to Cradles to Crayons to have that special experience!

24

Blog

Showing Solidarity

16
photo taken from the Eagle Tribune, March 23rd

The kids and I were very blessed to be part of a Peace and Solidarity rally last Friday.  The event was organized to show support and love for the people of our local Islamic Center, after the terror attack in New Zealand a week prior. We represented the Kids in Service NH community, as we came together with a small crowd in the cold and rain.

My hero Joe, who runs Merrimack Valley Hope Mission, put together this beautiful peace rally.  For the past 3 1/2 years, Merrimack Valley Hope Mission has organized lunches for the homeless population to be distributed on Fridays.  They have only missed one day (because of a blizzard) in that time period.  Joe arranged the rally to begin right before this weekly ritual and welcomed all in the park to attend.

We collected flowers and cards from children to present to the members of the Islamic center.  A minister gave a beautiful sermon, we prayed together and let the members of the Islamic center know that we are their neighbors and stand beside them.  The gentleman pictured above, shared with me how much support they have received since the attack and how grateful they are.

As we all gathered together to hold hands, I looked around the circle and was struck by the beauty of it.  The people in that circle were from different faith backgrounds, different races and many were homeless.  It was beautiful to see us coming together as one unit, showing peace and solidarity and understanding that EVERYONE in our world is a target for hate and violence.

In a world filled with hate, we need to be the LOVE and LIGHT.  It is up to us to continue showing up for one another, no matter what our backgrounds or beliefs might be. We need to stick together and remember that we are all humans and have the same desire to live in a world where we feel safe, love and accepted.  I urge you all to go out be the light for someone in your life who may be suffering.  A little love and kindness may be just what they are needing today.

-Peace

 

 

Blog, Gratitude, Mindfulness

Wall of Gratitude

2

For those of you who don’t know, one of my favorite parts of my work with Kids in Service is meeting with the children of my local Kids in Service group.  I have run this group for the past 4 year and the last two years we have had a word of the year that acts as our theme.   Last year the word of the year was Kindness and this year it is Gratitude.  To start off our meeting this month, I read Look and be Grateful by Tomie dePaola.  It is a very simple book but a nice quick read for younger children.

After the book, I had all of the kids look closely at the board.  It said, “Wall of Gratitude” and I had written each of their names on a star stickie note and placed it on the board.  This meeting had children ages 0-12 and the younger children each lit up when they found their name.  One little boy, wanted to hold onto his name (and the name of his baby sister), he was so excited.  I told them that I was grateful for each and every one of them and that is why their names were on the board.

I gave each family a stack of stickie notes and asked them to brainstorm some things that they were thankful for and place them up on the board.  This activity was so sweet to witness and I loved seeing the board grow and grow with gratitude.  This is such a simple project but makes such a great visual for younger children.

After finishing our projects for the day (we stuffed 144 Easter eggs for foster children and made 24 dignity bags for a women’s homeless shelter), I gathered the children back on the rug.  I had them close their eyes and think about one of the blessings that they put up on the board.  Each one of them shared with such pride and enthusiasm.  I gave each family a package of stickie notes, so that they could create their own wall of gratitude at home.  I encourage you and your family to do the same.

Maybe you place your stickies on a window, the slider, the basement door or on your bedroom doors.  If each person writes one thing they are grateful for each day for a month, think of all of the stickie notes that will have collected. If stickie notes are not your thing, share blessings at dinner or bedtime, start a family gratitude journal or give each child their own journal.  My children get these gratitude journals in their Easter basket each year.  They have space each day for words or pictures (or both) depending on the level of your child.

Daily gratitude is something that EVERYONE should practice as it helps us to be more  mindful.  Focusing on the things you are grateful for, makes it hard to focus on negative feelings.  Help your children to start this daily practice now, so that they will carry it into adulthood.  How do you and your family practice gratitude?

3
Click HERE to learn more about Gratitude Stickies

The books in this post contain Amazon Affiliate Links.  If you click on one of the pictures of the books and choose to purchase a book through this site, 20% of all proceeds will be donated to the Kids in Service charity of the season.  This season the charity is Love Does.  You can learn more about Love Does HERE.