Thanks to my post-election doldrums and the holiday season, my family has been trying to do a lot more good deeds lately. Unfortunately, sometimes doing good goes wrong.
Take, for example, the time a few weeks ago when Peeper and I baked cookies to bring to our town’s firefighters, along with a handmade card. But just as we arrived, they left with sirens blazing, so I ate the cookies. Later we tried again. No one answered at the fire house. So I ate the cookies. I decided to try once more: I bought a dozen cookies from the grocery store and took the kids to the fire house. Still no one there. So—you guessed it—I stress ate four gingersnaps on the drive home.
We live in a quiet little town outside Portland—not exactly arson central. So either these fire fighters are avoiding me and my baked goods or they’re posing for some sexy fire fighter calendar.
I’m hoping for the latter.
But seriously, all these attempts to do a little good are compromising my resolve to eat better.
Our Thanksgiving was a little bit crazy, a little bit mellow, and a little bit oh my gosh I can’t believe I ate pie at three meals today. The entire Ryan clan convened at my parents’ house, so we did a lot of game playing, taking walks in the rain (so Oregon!), eating (obvi) and snuggling.
All that together time made me a whole lot of grateful. And as I gave my girls extra hugs, played with my baby niece, had actual face-to-face conversations with family members who live across the country and took ridiculous photos to commemorate our time together, I gave thanks for our good fortune to spend time together.
I’m still riding the high of our rare days all together, especially since the last time we all gathered was at my brother’s wedding three years ago. I’m also remembering that many families—way too many—don’t have the privilege of coming together at home. So today, on Giving Tuesday, this is why I give to a cause close to my heart: to support families who have left their homes to escape danger, poverty or war.
(See my post from yesterday on more about Giving Tuesday and donating on any budget.) Read more
My family isn’t unlike yours, I bet: Our budget is always tight, especially during the holidays, when we face extra expenses like Christmas presents, travel and OH MY GOSH CANDY CANE JOE-JOES. (Don’t deny it; you stock up, too.) But that doesn’t mean we scrimp on our holiday charitable giving.
Generosity and a commitment to helping others are central family values in this house. For us, that means giving to nonprofits throughout the year, but we always increase our donations during the holidays. (The giving spirit is in the air—or wait, maybe that’s pumpkin spice and evergreen scent!)
When it comes to our holiday charitable giving this year, I want to get the most bang for my buck. I’m betting you do, too. So no matter if your budget is super tight or as expansive as Bill and Melinda Gates’, here’s how to make the biggest change with your money.
“Everyone has a home, right, Mom?” Peeper asked me the other day.
“No, sweetie. Some people don’t have homes.”
Peeper’s question opened the door to talk about homelessness—and what, exactly, it means. Even better, it inspired us to do something.
Her question prompted us to fill a stocking for the homeless with the most in-demand items that help people without reliable housing. We’ll give the stocking, which was sewn by volunteers at the local nonprofit Fill a Stocking, Fill a Heart, to a business collecting them for people who don’t have enough. When reading about Fill a Stocking, I learned that the stockings go to lots of people, including homebound seniors and kids in foster homes. I also learned that many of the people who receive the stockings won’t get any other present this holiday.
For at least one person, my kids and I will give back this Christmas.
I received a free craft kit from Little Loving Hands to try out. As always, all opinions here are my own.
My Peeper, she has one of the kindest, most empathetic hearts I’ve ever known. She brings Kiwi’s favorite toys to her when Little Sister is crying. She covers me in kisses if I stub my toe (including the time a few weeks ago when I’m pretty sure I broke my pinkie toe—ouch!). She gets choked up if a character in a book is sad.
So it’s natural that she wants to help others.
Volunteering opportunities for preschoolers and younger kids are slim pickings, though. I keep an eye out for children’s volunteering activities but rarely find a way to bring her along.
So we create our own volunteering opportunities at home. We make cards for Meals on Wheels. We do the monthly activities, like cleaning up the nearby park and making bird feeders, sent to us by Giving Families. And recently, we made a craft for a homeless child living in a shelter with the kit from Little Loving Hands. Read more
Peeper loves her some animals, and birds are no exception. I once called a bird that landed on the telephone wire a blue jay; she corrected me: “No, Mama, that’s a stellar jay.” (#schooledbyatoddler)
In a book she adores that has photos of pretty much every animal on the planet, she points to the birds with silly names and giggles uncontrollably as I recite them: plain chachalaca, hoopoe and the blue-crowned motmot.
And she has loved some of our recent projects to help our neighborhood’s resident birds.
We were inspired to learn how kids can help birds by a recent suggested service project from Giving Families, a monthly mail subscription that sends kids ideas to help others. It included instructions on how to help birds build nests, making a cozy home for all those chirping chicks that will be hatching this spring.
Peeper didn’t want to stop there. If your kids want to help birds, too, here are a few super-easy, way quick ideas to support our feathered friends. Read more