Friday, November 20, 2015

Showing Children the Importance of Giving through Example

One of the most important parts of parenting for my husband and I is that we instill the value of helping the local community in our children. Not only that, but also those worldwide— giving to those that are in need, and reaching out to those that are hurting—in any shape or form. Children begin to observe at a young age, from what we say to what we do, to our actions and the way we react to certain situations. These behaviors will instill a certain mindset in our own children, and we hope to let them have the opportunity to take in something good out of this world that is too often surrounded by evil.

I love the holidays for this very reason. It not only brings people together, but it also opens up doors for those that are reaching out to help others in need. Although our children are still very little, and may not understand completely what their act of giving is going toward, it is still important to us to continue to exemplify these acts of kindness and to talk them through it as we go. We started a few traditions when our oldest was just a one year old, and with three kids now, we continue to do the same things during the holidays.

And that's what I love about the powerful message that Western Union is sending with their new Chain of Betters project. It’s an idea that empowers people with the opportunity to change the lives of others. As money moves around the world, and good deeds are carried out, together we can start to change lives in ways that are positive and extraordinary.

1. Donate Birthday Toys. Do you ever stop and think about how insane the amount of gifts that a child will receive throughout the year? From birthdays to Christmas gifts to being spoiled by their grand parents. When my daughter was turning 1, I knew that I didn't want her to always view her birthday as an opportunity for gifts, gifts, and more gifts. So, we asked that instead of our friends purchasing us gifts, that they instead bring a gift from the need list at a local hospital for children with cancer {you may choose any form of charity that suits you best}. You can provide the link on the birthday invitation, share some ideas of the needs that this hospital may have, or just ask for those to instead make a monetary donation to a specific charity that you may have in mind.  We allowed for our kids to continue to receive gifts from our family members, but anything given to us by friends was then donated.

2. Find a donation center for used items: How often do you go through your stuff in your home, and dig up piles and trash bags full of "stuff" that you no longer need. What do you do with them?  Many people I hear send their items off to goodwill {I used to do the same}, others have a garage sale, and many even just send it away on trash day. I often hear that people struggle with finding where to donate, and I have to tell you, it's simply a google search away. I typed in "where to donate" and then typed in the city, and I got an amazing amount of results. Since that first google search years ago, we drop off our stuff a couple times a year at the same "donation barn" at a local church nearby. They take everything from clothes, to household items. If you try to search and still don't find anything, you may always call around the churches and ask them if they accept donations {most do!}. Just remember, they will have access to those that are need more than we will.

3. Adopt a family during the holidays: This is another "google" search that lead us to a domestic violence organization which sets up a family tree donation opportunity. We get matched with a family, and then we purchase items on their need list: socks, shoes, clothes, hats, gloves, etc. And then also gifts for the children. We also "adopt" children through a children's bureau where they have over 500+ children in need for gifts for the holidays. I go crazy and just keep shopping until my trunk is full, because I honestly cannot imagine any child not opening a single gift during the holidays. Yet it still happens, year after year.

4. Volunteer your time at a local food bank: This is a great one for Thanksgiving, and I cannot wait until the kids are a little older so we can start helping out more in this area of need. You can also find a local food bank simply by searching on the Feeding America website with your zip code.

5. Purchase toys/winter gear together to donate: I always see little drives for winter gloves, hates, and coats wherever we go; from our local library to our church. Going shopping with the kids and letting them pick out these items and then taking them the next time we go somewhere really shows them that not everyone has the luxury of staying warm during the cold winter season, and how very lucky we are to have these simple items that we often take for granted.  The same goes with toys. My kids have gotten such a thrill in taking a large bag full of purchased toys to our fire station in our neighborhood for their annual toy drive.

6. Make "goody" bags for the homeless: This isn't necessarily a holiday tradition, as it is simply a year round act of kindness that I think is so very important. Often times people are steered away from giving money to the homeless due to the stigma surrounded by it, but I believe that every single person out there, no matter the circumstances, deserves our help without the judgement behind it. I don't know who needs my help more, or who deserves it more, and it's not for me to decide. If only 1/10 of the people we have given to actually needed it, then I know it was worth it. Trying to reach that 1/10 is what matters most. So if you aren't into giving money, buy paper bags, an assortment of items {cereal bars, apples, water, socks, etc} and fill it up in the bag. Have the kids help in the process, and leave them in your car for when you stop at those stoplights and someone is asking for your help.

7. Sponsor a child: there are so many organizations that may assist in this process, and make sure you really read up on them first, but we loved sponsoring a child from a different country and helping out financially with their needs. Although the kids do not physically see the money reaching the child, seeing the child's face on the fridge served as a daily reminder to them of children that are much further away from us and the reality of the struggles that they face.

One of the most powerful things that I heard from our pastor was that we are all rich. Even those that make minimum wage here are much better off than the majority of others around the world. We see that in our daily news. We hear about it through social media. And yet, too often, we come up with excuses of why we just cannot afford it this time around. I've been there. I've come up with excuses of why not this time. But I've always quickly learned that giving has never made me poor, made me lose anything important in my life, or put me in a bad situation. In fact, it's done the complete opposite.

Watch this video to learn about the Chain of Betters project.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shopping Online Made Easy

Holidays are a special time in our lives. It's a time to rejoice, a time to get together, a time to reminisce and share laughter and memories with those closest to us—our friends, family, and neighbors. Creating these memories for my children is especially important to us. Matching family pajamas, chocolate milk with a breakfast casserole, and Christmas music playing in the background as we gather around the tree and rip through the presents on Christmas morning. The gifts that I put so much thought and love into. 

I am an avid online shopper. I shop throughout the year for the best deals around, and I makes lists for my family members based on their interests. Every "like" and "want" turns into a Christmas list idea, and I giggle like a school girl when I know that I have nailed a present.

Shopping doesn't have to be complicated. It certainly can be lots of fun, and I shared my shopping tips for the Best Family Gifts for the entire Family to Use here. Check it out!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Before you shop online, stop and read this. Now!

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Yes. Your eyes aren't lying to you. That is $500 of free money.  No gimmicks. FREE. And? That was just the first check I had received in 2013. Since then, I have made over $2,000 more total. My highest check in a 3 month period was 900. So.... your must be thinking....

What is it?

It's a shopping website. How it works? You search for the place that that you want to shop at {for instance lowes, target, wal-mart, ebay, etc} and then it directs you to that site. For every purchase you make, it then gives you a percentage back. And?

By signing up and spending your first $25 linked through their website, you get a free $10 gift card to the place of your choice {I picked Target}.

Then? Refer your family and friends and get even MORE money back. For instance, they are running a promotion where you get $100 for referring 3 people. Surely you know 3 people that love to shop online.

Did I mention that it's free money? You're shopping anyway. You're going to spend that money anyway. Why not earn money back doing so? I never checkout on a website until I have first gone to Ebates, searched the store, and then clicked from there so that they are able to give me cash back!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An 8 Year Old Charged with Murder. That's a crime in itself.

There are very few things that I like about Facebook. The only reason I haven't deleted it is because I use it for my business page. I use it for my blogging promotions. And from time to time, I use it to check in on someone from a distance. Well, people tend to call that stalking.

Regardless, I really don't enjoy Facebook anymore.

Part of that reason is because people post ridiculous stories. Constantly over-sharing things that are unnecessary, including mounds and mounds of sad stories, videos of people popping over-sized pimples, and celebrity gossip that really doesn't pertain to anything relevant in the world.

But there was a story that popped up on my feed today {more like 30 minutes go} that I just couldn't get out of my head. For many reason.

For one, I cannot wrap my senses around why in the world any mother {yet alone two} would leave 5 children between the ages of 1-8 home alone by themselves. My first thought is: fire! Fire! What in the world would those children do in case of a fire. My second though is injury. What if one got out of bed and fell down the stairs. What if they went outside looking for mommy and got hit by a car, or went in the river. Even the simple thought of them being scared knowing that they could not find their loved one is bad enough. My next though is how could you possibly even enjoy yourself knowing your children are left alone with all these awful scenarios that could possibly occur.

But to hear that an 8 year old's actions led to the death of a 1 year old was by far the most damaging title of all. To think of all the children that were scarred by this tragic event. To imagine that all of this could have been prevented had the mothers thought of their children versus their selfish desires.

It's what I read further that took my breath away.

Trial. Murder. Don't "think" he will be tried as an adult. Heinous. Evil.

This is a child we are talking about. What we are doing is saying that he is capable of making adult decisions in the middle of a late night, alone, with a crying baby. Whether or not we believe he knows the magnitude of his actions, doesn't change the fact that this is still a child and one that needs our help and love and support more than ever before.

But instead, we are willing to label him, to judge him, to push hatred on him because a terrible thing happened. A very terrible, tragic, thing. Yes, his hands caused them. But what was inside his head is what matters. What sort of environment has he been brought up in. What has he been exposed to. What sort of love and guidance did he receive in his short 8 years of life.

Why are we, as a society, willing to ruin his entire life already. He is 8. He is a child. He still sounds like a child, is built like a child, and thinks like a child. 

To think of this child surrounded by police officers. To think of him having to deal with lawyers, judges, and other authority figures. To think of the labels that this child will have to carry with him for the rest of his life. To think of the looks of disgust, the words of hate that he will constantly hear. To think of him being so isolated now. To think of him crying for his mother.

It breaks my heart and makes me angry.

This isn't justice. This doesn't bring the young girl back. This doesn't change what has already happened. We have the opportunity to save a life here, one that is tragically hurting bad right now, and instead we dig the hole a little deeper. So deep that one day he won't be able to climb out of it.

Punishment is not the solution to this. Not even close. One life is already lost because of this tragic event, and our society is ready to ruin another one along the way.

All because of a decision that two grown adults made. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

 ** I was provided an opportunity to review cards by, however all opinions are that of my own.


They are important to me. Very important to me. Pictures, to me, tell a story. They bring back memories, emotions, events, and milestones in our lives. They are not only for us, the parents, but also for our children, and grandchildren down the road. A way for them to look back, put the pieces of their history together, and most importantly to carry on the memory of those that are no longer with us.

Pictures are sacred.

It's the thing that people run after if there was a fire.
It's a way for people to show off those they love most.
It's a memory of something, or someone.
It's a piece of our past to hold on to.

Therefore, it should be of no surprise to anyone to know that I have tens of thousands of pictures printed. Books of every year of our lives. Canvases blown up of our three children when they were born. Many frames across our stairway wall showcasing this years growth and milestones. And two computers that have warned me on more than one occasion that it is going to blow up if I don't find a new storage area for all these images.

So when it comes to holiday cards, I think they are important.  I love sending them in the mail, and I love even more receiving them in the mail. I love to see those we love the most with their families, and how they have grown over the past year.

We did our fall pictures early in October with the birth of our newest family member, Polina, so I was on it this year and had our Christmas cards printed immediately after our pictures were taken, ordered, and on my doorstep within a week. Minted has always been the most reliable company to work with, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to use this company that not only offers quick service, but great quality of cards as well. My biggest struggle was just pinning down which design I wanted, and all the details that I wanted included. They even offered to address all my envelopes for me, for free! There's an option for foil press, letter-press, to write a message on the back, there's an option to change the shape of your card, to have a colorful envelope, and more!

Kind of like that commercial where they say "there's an app for that" well there's a design for that is what I said whenever I was maneuvering through the Minted website!

They are finally ready to be placed in envelopes and sent out to our loved ones.

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