Month: April 2015

The Baby Blanket Challenge

Well, y’all, time for another Service Thursday challenge. This week’s challenge was inspired by my wonderful cousin Danielle, who writes at Today’s The Best Day. She has organized a fantastic cause: Boogie On For Babies. The idea is simple: Dance. And donate a blanket. Cute idea, right?

Danielle has partnered with The Lullaby Connection, a non-profit organization with an inspiring mission: “We are dedicated to making sure that every at-risk baby born in the Las Vegas Valley begins their life with something new, warm, and filled with love.” Darla, the founder of TLC, shares her story on Danielle’s blog. It began when she, as a volunteer at a local hospital, found out that many local mothers in difficult financial positions did not have clothing or even a blanket to bring their babies home from the hospital in. When she saw one mother wrap her baby up in her own sweater, her heart broke. And she decided to help. I’d encourage you to read her sweet story here.

The Baby Blanket Challenge

So what are we going to do this week? Here are some ideas for you!

* Participate in Danielle’s Boogie On For Babies challenge! Buy a blanket to send into The Lullaby Connection. Video yourself (your kids, your dog, whoever) dancing, post it on Facebook, and challenge three other friends to take the challenge!

* Help a friend or a neighbor. Do you know of someone who could use a little bit of support (financially, or even just emotionally) who has a new baby? Show up with a baby blanket, and then stick around for a few minutes and see if you can help! Offer to hold the baby while mom and dad take a nap, bring over dinner, drop off muffins for breakfast … just do something to show that you care!

* Donate a baby blanket locally. There are likely many places around you who would be thrilled to receive your donation. You can try a hospital, a pregnancy resource center, a homeless center, or even a food pantry. If they don’t need your donation, they will likely be very happy to tell you who could use it.

* Involve your friends. Try planning a baby shower for charity! This was one of the most fun girls’ nights that I have ever organized. It is SO fun to serve with your friends!

Serving as friends

That’s our service challenge this week! How are you going to participate? Are you going to boogie for a baby? Are you going to challenge your friends to join you? Are you going to pull out your sewing machine? Are you going to head to the store? I’d love to hear how you’re going to participate this week!

Kindness Matters Monday – Kindness at Checkout

Happy Kindness Matters Monday! After taking a little blogging break, I’m so excited to be back! And I’m very grateful for my sweet friend Julianne, who submitted today’s Kindness Matters story:

Kindness Matters Monday

It was our turn to provide the afternoon snack in my son’s classroom. It had been a busy week and I hadn’t had time to make something at home, so I loaded my two youngest in the car and we set off to pick something up at the store. Along with the chocolate doughnuts my son requested, I picked up a few other groceries. I told the cashier the competing prices for the produce and other items I was price matching, and when she asked if that was all I said yes. She picked up the doughnuts, a type of product I never purchase and consequently rarely notice in the ads, and said she was sure they were on sale somewhere. She searched through all the newspaper ads until she found the sale price, saving me two dollars. I was touched by the kindness of this stranger, who went above and beyond her duties to help me save a couple bucks. “

As a frugal mom myself, this little story touched my heart! The cashier had no obligation to do this – she was just took the opportunity to pause in the middle of her busy day to help a stranger. And isn’t that what Kindness Matters Monday is all about??

My challenge to you: keep your eyes open today! Find a way, big or small, to show kindness to a stranger. Thanks, Julianne, for this sweet story!

The Teacher Appreciation Challenge

Once upon a time, you were a little kid. You didn’t know how to read. You didn’t know how to do math. You didn’t know much about the world around you. You couldn’t play sports, you couldn’t carry an informed discussion about politics, you couldn’t quote a favorite poem or speak another language or divide 1/3 in half.

But now you can do all of those things … or most of them, at least. 😉

Why?

Because someone taught you.

And this week, we are going to say thank you.

As you might know, Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up soon in the US. All over the country, parents are (hopefully) taking this week to thank the people who teach their children. And we’re joining in the fun!

Even if you’re not a parent (or if you don’t have school-aged children), you’re not off the hook! This week’s service challenge is for you, too. I’d like to encourage you to think of a teacher who has been influential to you at some point along the way – a school teacher, a coach, a teacher at church … anyone who has helped you learn and grow. Then find an idea below, and say thanks! Drop off a gift in person, mail a card … whatever works for you!

Teacher Appreciation Challenge

As always, I’ve tried to come up with lots of ideas for you. (Remember, the goal of our service challenge isn’t to wear you out! But I do hope that you can find one or two of these ideas that resonate with you.) So here we go … ways you can show appreciation to a teacher, organized by budget:

My budget is $0. If you don’t have any extra money to purchase gifts, don’t worry! You don’t need any money to show appreciation.
* A thank-you card. I taught school for two years, and let me tell you something: a thoughtful card was a treasured gift! I would save them in my drawer and re-read them when things got stressful. Thank a teacher who has blessed you, or thank a teacher who has helped your child. Be specific – it’s always great to hear what you’re doing right! And let your child help; those little notes are priceless.
* Make a small gift. If you happen to have craft supplies lying around already, you might be able to make something that a teacher would really appreciate. For instance, many teachers write thank-you notes after teacher appreciation week. If you have scrapbooking supplies, you can make handmade greeting cards for the teacher to use. Thoughtful and practical.
* Volunteer to help in the classroom. If you do this, make your offer very specific. A generic “Let me know if I can help” is less likely to be taken up on than an offer like, “I know how busy you are, and I’d like to help! For Teacher Appreciation Week, my gift to you is 2 hours of after-school help. I am happy to cut, glue, grade, copy, laminate, or whatever you need help with! I’m free every Tuesday afternoon – please let me know what day works best for you and I’ll be there.”
* If you have young children and want to make their teachers laugh, this free printable has the potential to be funny! I’m planning on doing this with my kids, and I can’t wait to see what they say!

My budget is tight. Here are some gift ideas that are $5 or less.
* If you enjoy cooking, bake a treat. You can even make a healthier snack, like homemade granola or fruit leather. (Note: I’d only do this if the teacher knew me.)
* I love this idea of turning a bottle of soap into a clever gift. As a teacher, there are LOTS of germs floating around. A nice bottle of soap or hand sanitizer is a practical gift that is guaranteed to be used.
* This Redbox gift basket is such a fun idea! You can keep it simple and cheap, or you can add a few small things to it (like popcorn and soda).
* All kinds of things (from nail polish to a candy bar) can be turned into a fun teacher appreciation gift with a clever gift tag. If you’re not very clever, no worries – me either! That’s why I love sites like this one that round up lots of fun ideas.

I have a little more to spend. If you’d like to spoil a teacher a bit, here are a few more ideas. (Keep in mind – you can always ask around and see if any parents want to chip in and buy a group gift.)
* Gift cards. I can’t tell you how touched I was, as a brand-new teacher, to get a $25 Outback Steakhouse gift card and a $25 movie theater gift card during teacher appreciation week. I was floored! As in intern teacher, I was earning $900 a month and helping support my husband (who was in grad school). To be able to go to a restaurant and to a movie … it was such a treat!
* Buy an experience. Teachers work hard all year taking care of others – it’s time to give them the opportunity to do something for themselves! A manicure or pedicure … tickets to a museum or an exhibit … even something like rock climbing or skydiving could be fun. (I’d only do something like that if I knew the teacher fairly well and was pretty sure he or she would enjoy it.) You could even check out a website like Groupon and find something that looks fun and different.
* Put together an end-of-the-year “survival kit”. Anything you already know the teacher likes (soda, candy, etc.) is great. You can also add items that you know teachers go through a lot of (school supplies, hand sanitizer, etc.). A search on Pinterest will give you lots of suggestions!

So there are some of my favorite ideas! Have you decided who you’re going to thank this week? And have you decided how you’re going to do it? I’d love to hear your ideas!!

How to Throw a Baby Shower for Charity

About a year ago, I was doing a Random Acts of Kindness day with my family. I mentioned to my friend, a former NICU nurse, that part of my day involved delivering flowers to the hospital. I asked her for ideas for future service projects, and her answer surprised me. “New baby clothes. A lot of mamas come in to give birth … and then they fail the drug tests. They don’t get to take their baby home. A foster parent is called, but often they don’t have much warning, and these babies don’t even have an outfit to wear home from the hospital.”

So here’s the thing: no baby is going to care if they have a new outfit to wear home from the hospital, or a soft cuddly blanket, or a lovey toy.

But I care.

So I got my creative wheels spinning. And since I don’t have that many creative wheels to spin, I began talking to my friend Tiffany, who is delightfully creative. We have thrown several baby shower in the past, and they’ve always been darling (thanks, Tiffany) and fun (thanks, friends). So we did what we do best: we threw a baby shower.

For a hospital.

How to throw a baby shower for charity

We invited our friends from church to come over. We played games, we ate delicious food, we did a few fun activities. It was the perfect girls’ night. It was just like a baby shower. The only difference: there was no pregnant woman to bring gifts for. Instead, we brought gifts for a local hospital.

Party food

I reached out to the hospital in our area that serves the most underprivileged communities and I asked them what their greatest needs were. They were thrilled to answer my questions, and they e-mailed me a list of the things the new moms at their hospital could use the most. We included that list with the invitation for the baby shower.

If you’d like to host a baby shower for charity, here are a few tips for you:

* Raffle prizes. If you’d like to give people incentive to RSVP, you can offer a raffle prize for that. And you can also give raffle tickets to those who bring a donation! I love bringing prizes, but I wanted to stick to a budget, so I got creative. I hit up Bath and Body Work’s semiannual sale. I received “$10 off of any $10 or more” coupons from both Kohls and JCPenney, so I visited both stores and got prizes for almost nothing. And I used my Shopkick points to get a Target gift card to buy several more prizes. If you want to get creative, you can stick to themes: those who bring baby body wash are entered to win a basket of body products, etc.

Prizes

* Think of the new moms, not just the babies. Motherhood is precious. Motherhood is sacred. Motherhood is … terrifying. 🙂 Particularly for moms who don’t have a strong support system, bringing a baby home from the hospital can be absolutely overwhelming. We made little gifts to give the new mamas. They all varied, based on the donations given, but we included toiletry items (basically blessing bags) and a few little pampering products (like fun lip gloss and lotion). You could even make cards if you wanted to. We chose instead to make gift tags and left them blank for the nurses to fill out.

New mom care package

* Get crafty. Besides making gift tags, we also (at the suggestion of a friend whose baby spent time in the NICU) made simple pictures that can be taped to the top of isolettes. Those poor babies have very little to look at, and having simple images to focus on is great for their development. You could also make cards for the moms (or the hard-working nurses), make blankets (for babies or for moms), put together little scrapbooks … be creative!

Blue fingernails

 

(Recognize my blue fingernails?) 🙂

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, there are lots of places that would love to receive your donations! Here are a few ideas:

* A hospital

* A women’s shelter

* Any homeless shelter or center that helps disadvantaged people in your community (even a local food pantry would probably be grateful to make sure these donations get to someone in need)

* Operation Shower (an organization that plans baby showers for military families who are experiencing, or have recently experienced, deployment)

* A pregnancy center

Serving as friends

Make sure to contact your organization before you plan the shower. They will likely be happy to provide you with a list of items that they need/want. They might also have things they can’t accept. When we began planning this baby shower, I found several large stuffed animals on the 90% off clearance rack. I was ecstatic! But after purchasing them, I found out that my hospital doesn’t accept donations of stuffed animals for allergy reasons. Learn from my mistake, friends. 🙂

Baby shower drinks

So there it is in a nutshell! I had SO much fun with this shower, and I’m so grateful for amazing friends who pitched in and made it a delightful evening. Do you have any ideas to add to my list? Have you done something similar? Are you going to give this a try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

See you soon!

Hello, my ‘Do Some Good Today’ friends! I just wanted to let y’all know that I’m taking two weeks off of blogging. I’m excited to have some time to rest and to be with my family – and I’ve got a few fun things to share with you when I come back, so stick around!

One question for you in the meantime: do you have any service challenges that you’d like to suggest to the group? We’ve done all kinds of things I’m passionate about (from helping the homeless to thanking soldiers to helping people with disabilities). What ideas do YOU have for me? I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to comment here, or to e-mail me at [email protected] And if you have a submission for a Kindness Matters Monday post, I’d love to hear that as well!

Thank you all, so much, for ‘doing good’ with me.

Reaching Out to Someone with a Disability

Today, I’d like to begin our Service Thursday by telling you a bit about the man who calls me his best friend. His name is Jonathon. He’s tall, he’s handsome, and he makes me laugh. He lives halfway across the country from me, and whenever I leave California at the end of a vacation, saying goodbye to him breaks my heart.

He’s my brother. He’s an uncle to my children. He’s possibly the sweetest man I know.

And he happens to have autism.

Siblings

This is a picture of my siblings and I. You’d never know, looking at this picture, that one of us has a disability, would you? … And that, my friends, is kind of the point. My brother has a disability. But he’s still my brother. He’s still my friend. And he’s still a person who needs friendship and love.

My guess is, you know someone who has a disability. Maybe, like me, it’s a member of your immediate family. Perhaps a sibling or a child. Maybe a neighbor, a friend at church, or a child’s classmate. Do you have someone in mind?

Good. Because it’s time to do some service.

Reaching Out

My major in college was Special Education, and I taught for two years before my daughter was born. I’ve also tutored in a variety of settings. I still don’t consider myself an expert, but I have several ideas to share with you today. The difficulty in writing a post like this is that, of course, no two individuals are the same, and there’s no one-size-fits all ideas that I can give you. One child with autism might be lacking in social skills, while another might be completely non-verbal. You might have a friend in a wheelchair who is temporarily unable to walk, or you might have a friend in a wheelchair who is unable to walk, talk, or even eat without the assistance of a feeding tube. So read through my suggestions with your friend (and his or her own unique interests and needs) in mind, and hopefully you’ll get a new idea or two.

This week, I’d like you to consider doing one of the following things for someone with a disability:

* Be a thoughtful friend. This might come very naturally to you, or it might be very difficult. But think of the person you’re going to be serving. Does he enjoy watching movies? Watch one with him. Does she enjoy pretty things? Bring her flowers. Everyone, at every ability level, needs kindness and love. This might look like a trip to the arcade. It might look like a quiet afternoon doing puzzles. It might look like books or coloring or jumping on a trampoline. It could mean running an errand or cleaning or mowing the lawn. It all depends on who you’re serving. If you need ideas, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to help you brainstorm.

* Support parents. As we all know, being a parent is difficult business. To a parent who has a child with a disability, life can throw a few extra twists and turns. Reach out to that parent with a specific offer to help. “Let me know if I can help,” while kind, is much less helpful than “I’d like to bring you dinner tonight – what kind of foods does your family like?” or even, if you have a good relationship with the family, “I’d like to babysit your kids so you and your husband can go on a date this weekend; does Friday or Saturday work better?” A plate of cookies left on the door with an encouraging note can be an answer to prayer for an exhausted parent. And if you truly don’t know what to do, just ask. Look into that parent’s eye and simply say, “What do you need today?”

* Volunteer. Recently, I learned that there’s a center in my city for adults with disabilities. I’ve only gone twice, but y’all, I’m hooked. Even with my background in Special Education, I was a bit nervous to go at first. (I’ve worked with many children, but rarely with adults.) But as soon as I walked in, I felt right at home. My new friends there were tickled to have visitors (and especially to have kids there). They loved playing games. They loved singing songs. They were thrilled with the prizes I brought (most of them from the Dollar Tree). We’re going back on Friday, and I can’t wait! If you are interested in doing something like this, ask around or do an internet search. There is likely somewhere nearby that would love to have you come visit and volunteer. The center near me is willing to take me whenever I can come, where it’s monthly or weekly.

* Provide respite care. Very simply put, respite care is trained babysitting. If you’re interested in being able to provide breaks for families who might desperately need it, consider becoming a respite care provider. This isn’t something I’ve done in the past, so I can’t tell you much about it, but here is a great article that sums it up pretty well. (If you’ve been involved in respite care, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

* Involve your children. This final suggestion is something that I am passionate about – I want my children to be comfortable around people of all different ability levels. That means doing intentional things, like taking them with me to volunteer. But it also means that when we see someone with a disability, we take a moment to be kind. We smile. We introduce ourselves. And we look for something to compliment. We admire “cool wheels” on wheelchairs, we admire pretty shirts, we admire friendly smiles. Teach your kids that everyone has something to contribute to the world, and teach them to look for the unique gifts in others.

Those are a few suggestions for you to get you thinking. How are you going to participate in this week’s service challenge? I’m planning on taking my kids to volunteer at the center for adults with disabilities tomorrow – and we’re going to egg the hard-working employees. 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts!