Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and I've spent the day saying, "Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus."  His mercy is great, his healing amazing, and today held so many simple, yet extraordinary moments.
Celebration at Lizzy's work which includes free bowling and video games:
Church with all the kids living at home (and Kim's boyfriend):
Exchanging secret Santa gifts and checking out neighborhood Christmas lights:                               
And the Christmas elf delivering t-shirts sporting favorite NFL teams (there is very little consensus in this family!):
There's been just a little bit of excitement today!
And more to come tomorrow.  With the hope that we will always remember the true meaning of Christmas and forever celebrate the miracle of Jesus and the hope He brings. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Gifts For A Child In Need

Worth repeating from a post in 2012. 
Having worked in child welfare, I've learned a few things about giving to children in need.  It's important to consider some of the challenges multi-stressed families face and how this can play out in an appropriate gift selection.  It's important to remember that these families often live without many necessities we take for granted, including adequate food and housing.

Here are some tips:
  • When buying clothing or coats choose dark colors over light--many families do not have easy access to a washing machine and dark colors can be worn longer with less staining.
  • In colder climates hats, gloves, footed p.j.s, and warm clothing are always nice--many families lack adequate heat.
  • Blankets and fuzzy throws are welcome gifts for the same reason, and many children sleep on couches or even the floor. 
  • Socks and underwear--families sometimes have access to used clothing but lack these necessities (tho one of my children is still certain underwear are not necessary!).
  • Avoid battery operated toys--families rarely have the funds to buy replacement batteries (and may even lack a screwdriver).
  • Avoid toys/games with lots of pieces--families often lack storage space and move frequently.  If you give a toy with pieces, focus on those where it won't matter if a few are missing (Tinkertoys).  If one missing piece will spoil the toy (puzzles) steer clear.
  • Buy a storage container to go with toys such as building blocks.
  • Always consider safety--some children lack adequate supervision and/or the safety of a toy isn't clear.  As an example, I love Magnetix, but I would never give them to a family who might not know the danger of a child swallowing the magnets (they can stick together in the stomach).
  • Buy durable toys.  Hot Wheels cars have to be one of the greatest toys ever made!
  • Board books are often appropriate even for pre-schoolers.
  • Buy classic toys that a child will still play with months from now, including sports balls. 
  • Along the lines of safety, always give a helmet if you buy something like a scooter.
  • Consider useful/life-skills gifts such as a knitting kit for a teen.  Play dishes for young children can often be used in the real kitchen. 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste are a great addition to all gifts.  A washcloth or bath towel will also be greatly appreciated. 
  • A wind-up flashlight can be security for a child who knows the fear of having electricity cut off.
  • Craft items/colored paper/stickers/washable markers/glue sticks (with storage box) can give kids hours of entertainment.  You can even cull your craft closet for additions.
  • Remember that over the holidays kids aren't getting free breakfast/lunch at school.  Consider adding some high calorie/high protein snacks such as power bars, peanut butter, tuna packs.  Special individual snacks will also be a thrill to children who often see their classmates with them (pudding snacks, cheese and crackers, fruit leather).  Fresh fruit is coveted. 
  • Don't forget that teens love the addition of food too!  Gatorade (powdered goes a long way), a bag of chips, Poptarts, granola bars, pepperoni sticks, or a movie-size box of candy. 
  • Feel free to bring gently-used items with the gifts--clothing, books, stuffed animals, toys, blankets. 
  • Finally, the most important thing.  Write the child a note.  Tell them you will pray for them/send them good thoughts throughout the coming year--then do it.  You may only have a first name, but God knows exactly who you are praying for!   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Hits

A few family favorites from last year.  I wondered if my kids might be too old for the Playmobile advent set, but they loved it (and we are using it again this year)!  

This book provided after dinner entertainment.   It is action-packed and filled with adventures (although, true confessions, we didn't finish it, so we are working on the end this year). 

GREAT GIFTS:  Electric Snap Circuits, Stomp Rockets, and a ping-pong set that attaches to any table. 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Random Memories

Sometimes it's fun to look back at phone pics.  Random memories of some good times.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Visit

While I was visiting my son and his family, Lan Lan got a chance to see her foster sister.  It is sooo important for our kids to keep in touch with those they loved before they came to our family.  Here's some photos from her trip. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Starters and Cheerleaders

I've learned some important life lessons.  One is that even a short trip to see loved ones is worth the money. 

To prove it, feast your eyes on a recent trip to see my son and his family.  I was only there for 2 days but it was so worth it--our granddaughter is growing up fast!

A more recent life lesson is the incredible importance that positive people play in my children's lives--both "starters" and "cheerleaders."  I've always recognized the importance of mentors--the "big players" like relatives and Godparents and coaches who are super involved in my kids' lives.  Those relationships are the mortar that helps hold their lives together.  It means so much to my kids to have other adults who love them unconditionally and take the time to be involved.  My recent life lesson is that something as simple as sending a postcard or a text adds up to make a big difference.  It's the on-going "I love you, and I'm thinking about you, and I'm here for you" communication. 

And I've recently truly learned the incredible importance of the "cheerleaders"--every small kindness adds up.  Kids (especially teens) need lots of fans!  My friend Suzy is an example.  She is one of those people who is always positive, but unfortunately we don't spend time together outside our annual campout.  Yet even though we aren't close friends, Suzy makes herself well known to my children--she is one of their greatest cheerleaders on Facebook where she can be counted on to make positive, encouraging comments on a regular basis.  Cheerleaders like Suzy make my kids' lives richer. 

Every kindness counts.  And every single adult who takes time for kids means SO MUCH!  Thank you to those who take time for my kids and make the world a better place with their involvement in young lives. 
My hope is that I can work a little harder to be both a starter and a sideline cheerleader to all the kids in my life.  One person can AND DOES make a HUGE difference!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankfulness Brings Joy

When life gets overwhelming it is so easy to lose our joy.  And what's interesting is, at least for me, I can't always see it dissipating.  And then one day--BAM--it hits me like a ton of bricks!  
And once it's gone it seems so elusive to get back.  What I've found this time around (or perhaps once again) is that thankfulness brings joy.
I'm re-reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  I blogged about it long ago and it's just what I needed.  Not only does it help keep my worries at bay, it helps me find the joy in each and every day; each and every moment.  I look around and praise God for all the small delights in life. 
I am reminded to keep smiling--and keep trusting God.  I am reminded to truly keep thanksgiving in my heart, which seems especially meaningful this week.
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
                                                  Thessalonians 5:18