Tag Archives: Children

A Christmas Campaign that ACTUALLY Matters: GIVE LOVE

It’s a marketing campaign that is simple and understated and red. It’s not flashy, nor fancy, and not overtly “church”-y either. But I’m not referencing coffee cups. I’m not referencing boycotts or hashtags. I am referring to something that actually matters; something that will make a real difference in the lives of others.Give Love

I’m talking about: GIVE LOVE.

While some people are ranting and making noise about things that don’t really add up to a hill of (coffee) beans, there are other people just outside of Sacramento, California, spending this holiday season being generous and doing good. They are looking into their hearts and reaching into their pockets to make this Christmas season very special for an entire county of foster kids. What are they doing, you ask? They are choosing to GIVE LOVE.

The GIVE LOVE campaign got its humble start just last year in Yolo County (yes, folks, it’s really named “Yolo”) when a brand-new church saw a need in their community and met it. While serving as a chaplain with the Woodland Police Department, Matt Van Peursem, the lead pastor of Catalyst-Woodland, became aware of the considerable need for more resources for the county’s Child Protective Services. Nearly every single day, the county adds one new child to the foster care system in Yolo County. Unfortunately, there is generally a gap of approximately 48 hours from the time the child is in CPS care until he or she is placed in a more permanent home. During this time, the resources (think everything from comforts of home to basic hygiene needs) for the kids are incredibly limited. Enter generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness, and everything good in this world… in the form of Catalyst and people who genuinely wanted to make a difference.

The 2014 GIVE LOVE campaign resulted in 425 backpacks filled with overnight clothes and toiletries for all kids entering the foster care system. Bonus: stuffed animals were donated as well and were added to the bags given to the younger kids. Now if that doesn’t warm your heart more than a tall caramel macchiato, I don’t know what will!

Because last year’s generosity was so grand, and the Police Department still has backpacks awaiting their future owners, Catalyst decided to find a new way to GIVE LOVE this year.   Last year, they met needs. This year, they decided to make wishes come true! With a little bit of help, the Church was able to get the Christmas Wish List of every single child in the foster care system. They intend to transform each and every wish into a wrapped present.

GIVE LOVE 2015 was launched just this past Sunday and will culminate on Catalyst’s one-year anniversary, December 6th. In the first hour, the good folks in Yolo County have already picked up 160 GIVE LOVE cards containing the Christmas Wish of a child currently in foster care. Most likely, more than 300 wishes will be turned into reality this Christmas season. These wishes range from grandiose requests for a new bike or a Nintendo DS, to the more unassuming, like a wish from a 17-year-old girl for a $20 gift card to simply get her hair cut.   No matter if someone is granting the smallest of small wishes or making the unimaginable come true, one thing is certain: it matters. To quote Pastor Matt, “We do this because these kids end up in foster care as a result of devastating circumstances that communicate to these kids that nobody loves them, adults can’t be trusted, and promises are made to be broken. Everything we do in the GIVE LOVE campaign is to restore hope in those three things: Love, community and a bright future.”

The act of showing love and kindness, of finding generosity when it’s least expected, of being able to GIVE LOVE is the reason for the season.

It’s easy to get distracted by rants and other irrelevant noise streaming into your various social media feeds. I urge you to take time this holiday season to focus your eyes and heart on people who are doing things that really mean something. This is just one example of people doing good. No doubt, there are many more such examples; look for those examples; highlight them on your feeds. Find the good and GIVE LOVE.

For more information about the GIVE LOVE campaign, click here 


Motherhood: The Half-Time Report

My daughter turned nine years old yesterday. She is my eldest child. When she was born into this world, I was born into motherhood. Now, this morning, the day after her ninth birthday, I realize she is closer to her eighteenth birthday than she is to the day she was born. With the revelation that I am, essentially, at the halfway point of my parenting career with her, it’s hard not to take a few moments and consider where I stand.

I stand a near-decade away from those interminable nights of lying awake wondering if my brand-new daughter was safely asleep in her crib down the hall. While she slumbered, I wondered if I should swaddle her tighter, use organic bath wash, or pay more attention to “tummy time”. I would gradually drift asleep with one thought remaining, “I guess I will do the best I know how.” My feet are firmly behind the war-zone lines where battles and wars were fought regarding which side of the slice of bread the jelly goes on, why sandals are not appropriate winter footwear, and why toddler hands do not belong near a stove-top. Those battles were sometimes long and drawn-out when the wee toddler showed the determination and stubbornness that had only been seen in the likes of… well, her father. My strides have taken me through emotional storms of postpartum hormones, seemingly insurmountable doubts of my parenting abilities, conflicting desires to hurry-up this tedious job and at the same time beg the clock to just SLOW DOWN FOR MINUTE OR TWO OR THREE!!! I have slipped and fallen; I have tripped and stumbled; and I have skipped and leaped and jumped a time or two. I have stepped along so many milestones cheering her on; first steps, lost teeth, two-wheel bikes, new schools, diving into pools. The moments have been photographed or recorded, but mostly the journey is imprinted on my heart.

I am here with nine years of parenting history behind and look out towards nine more years ahead. I just might have an idea about what the future holds for me. I will pace nervously in my bedroom during MORE endless nights wondering if she is safely asleep in her bed down the hall, or at a friend’s house, or in her college dorm. I will wonder if I should sign her up for more extra-curriculars, let her go to the movies with that boy, or insist that she make her bed every morning. I will try to find my sleep with the thought, “I am doing the best that I know how.” I will continue to try to find solid footing on battles over clothes and friends and school-work and tone of voice and curfews and music choices and music volume and cell phones and social media boundaries and car keys and which college to attend and so much more. I hope that while she may not look at me and see a friend, that she will also not look at me and see a foe. I hope our battles will be interspersed with peacetimes at coffee shops and practice fields and laying on her bed talking about whatever comes to her mind. I am confident that I will have to stride through tween/pre-teen/teen hormonal angst like none I have ever imagined. These next nine years will surely make me second-guess my mothering instincts and continue to have a love-hate relationship with the clock… it’s unfailing ability to neither tick faster nor slower. I nervously step up to the milestones that lie in front of me; school dances, wins and losses, driver’s license, first loves and heartbreaks, and so many more “real life” moments that will be so very important to her along the way. I hope I will know how to encourage while giving her space, letting her fall but giving her a place to land, letting her know she will always, always be my baby girl.

So here I stand, closer to embracing my daughter as a young woman than I am to snuggling her new-baby self.   I am not sure if I want to cry for days gone by or smile for adventures to come. For tonight, I will probably just sit down and do both.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…
well today’s blog is worth five doodles:Nine 4

Nine 2

Nine 3

Nine 1

Nine

Today’s quote isn’t famous, but just a reminder:

“I’m going to do the best that I know how.”
– an average mother


A Shout-out to All the Bus Stop Parents

It’s the first day of school here. On this big important day of the year, it’s important to take a moment to acknowledge the people who work tirelessly through the morning hours to get our mini-people ready and on their way to educational progress…. Otherwise known as… The Bus Stop Parents.

The Bus Stop Parents come in all shapes and sizes. These are just some of my favorites:

THE “WE SERIOUSLY JUST WOKE UP TEN MINUTES AGO” PARENT
This one of my very favorites because the wardrobe of choice – who am I kidding, it wasn’t a “choice” at all… it was whatever happened to be within arms reach – is always spectacular and usually needs an explanation. “Yes, it’s August and yes I’m wearing my winter coat. You should thank me.” “Can you believe I can walk in my husband’s rain boots without falling over?! They’re actually comfortable.” “Who knew my third-grader’s flip flops fit me?!” “Yes, I am actually wearing a bed sheet.” And all these comments are said with a profound sense of victory because… hey! Your kid got on the bus and that’s a victory!Bus Stop 3

THE “GOING TO THE GYM RIGHT AFTER THE BUS COMES” PARENT

I’ve been this one many times. There’s always a far off stare happening. It’s the running dialogue if The Gym is actually going to be the destination of choice…. Maybe a trip to Target instead? Or perhaps a quick breakfast with a few other Bus Stop Parents? Or maybe just back to the couch to catch up on some shows? Sometimes it really is the gym and sometimes it’s not. Either way, your kid got on the bus and that’s a victory!Bus Stop 7

THE “OVER-THINKING” PARENT

Whether your kid is in Kindergarten or third grade…. There are a lot of things to keep track of! The little ones can’t keep track of it all because, well, they are little, and the older ones can’t keep track of it all because, well, because that’s just how it works. So you have to keep track of it all. All of it. Heaven help you if you have more than one kid! Every now and again, it’s possible to over-think and second-guess yourself. Try not to do that too often because in the end, your kid got on the bus and that’s a victory!Bus Stop

THE “MORNING BREATH” PARENT

It happens to all of us. When you are busy keeping track of all that stuff (aforementioned parent)… you may just happen to forget to brush your teeth. The “hide behind the coffee mug” technique seems to be quite effective. You could also just stand on the outside of the group of parents or at least down-wind. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone loves the smell of a fresh brewed coffee, so think of that mug in front of your face as a gift to everyone else. Plus, your kid got on the bus and that’s a victory!Bus Stop 2

THE “DAD” PARENT

We mostly had moms at our bus stop; it’s probably fairly common, especially in military communities. However, we were often joined by dads that didn’t need to go into work super early. Most of the time, the dads congregated close to each other. The moms could talk non-stop the entire time we waited for the bus and then for approximately 40 minutes after the kids drove off. The dads are always friendly and social of course, but just not quite as much as the ladies. And for some reason the kids always like to dump their backpacks by the dads’ feet. Talkative or not, it doesn’t really matter because those dads got their kid on the bus (occasionally without a backpack) and that’s a victory!Bus Stop 1

THE “WORKING/DOING SOMETHING OUTSIDE OF THE HOME” PARENT

Pretty much every day that our working moms or the ones who actually got dressed in “for public viewing” clothes, the rest of the parents would “oooh” and “aaah” over them. Almost like it was a fashion show… the dress pants! The buttoned shirt! The ballet flats! The make-up! You would think we had never seen each other before in anything other than near-pajamas. It’s very good for one’s soul to step out in skinny jeans, boots, and a sweater and be welcomed as if you are on the red carpet. Plus, you got your kid on the bus and that’s a victory!Bus Stop 5THE “CROSSFITTING PRIOR TO SUNRISE” PARENT

Some of us just rolled out of bed. Some of us have already run 8,000 meters, completed 3,789 burpees, 15,000 box jumps, and 694 pull-ups. It’s cool. To each their own. Even if those parents aren’t sporting their Crossfit t-shirts and chalk on their hands, you can probably still pick them out among the bunch; they are all gitty with post-work-out pheromones! You worked out already and got your kid on the bus, that’s a victory for sure!Bus Stop 4

I’m sure there are so many more ways to categorize the different kinds of Bus Stop Parents out there, but those are just some of the ones I relate to the most. I’m thankful for all my friends who have waited with me on steamy-humid days, through blizzards, and in downpours. The camaraderie of the bus stop certainly sends our favorite little people out into the world with a sense of security and welcomes them home with the knowledge that no matter what, today was a victory!Bus Stop 6


Military: 7 Signs You PCS’d This Summer

One month ago today we moved into our home. I’m sure there are many military families out there experiencing some of these moments right along with me….

  1. You can still spy one or two (or fifteen thousand, if you are like me) of those pesky moving stickers that never seem to EVER go away completely!
    PCS Summer 1
  2. While checking out at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (because you need stuff for your new bed, bath, and… beyond) you pause for a good ten seconds when asked what your zip code is. Zip code… right. WHERE exactly am I again?!
    PCS Summer 2
  3. The idea of going school supply shopping is entirely daunting because, didn’t we just get here?! Now I need to be organizing myself and family for a new school year?!
    PCS Summer 3
  4. Your bucket list for the summer is ten miles long. You MUST see all the new sites RIGHT NOW! Because you know, before you blink you will be looking at a new set of orders and your bucket list will still be about nine miles long.
    PCS Summer 4
  5. You assume all your neighbors have lived in the neighborhood for ages, until you remember it’s a military community and it’s summer and almost everyone is new too!
    PCS Summer 5
  6. Signing your kids up for summer camps and after-school activities feels like the ultimate test of your Mom-hood. This dance studio or that one? We missed soccer try-outs but will they still allow my child to play? Where, exactly, does that swim team compete? Wait, what time does school get out anyway?!PCS Summer 6
  7. There is a sense of immense possibility with each new person you meet and each new road you travel.PCS Summer 7

To all my fellow military spouses out there who are settling in and exploring new hometowns… may this new adventure be your best! And in the words of Matsuo Basho, remember:
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”


Schooled in Parenting (By My 8-Year-Old Daughter)

classroomThis morning while I was getting ready for the day, my kids rolled into a very intense, very passionate argument. The likes of which I’m sure haven’t been seen (or heard!) since the days of old. Or maybe last week.  Of course, this argument was about, none other than, Minecraft.  From what I can gather from my unavoidable over-hearing, my 4-year old was continually pushing random buttons on his Xbox controller while my 7 and 8-year olds were trying to build something (apparently it was a very important “something” that could not be delayed by random button pushing). I will set the scene for you: To find out what I learned, click here


Motherhood: A Chapter at a Time

ChaptersMotherhood is hard.  We joke about it, we moan about it, we (I) write about it, we sometimes can’t get over it.  The fact that motherhood is messier, stickier, and smellier than you ever imagined is no hidden secret.  We have all heard or told stories about spit-up on clothes, boogers wiped on walls, trips to the ER, milkshakes dumped in laps, diapers removed during nap time, carpooling to activities, chaperoning field trips, and so much more.  Those moments are tough.  They can beat us down until we are searching the house for a clean white rag to wave in surrender.  But maybe those aren’t really the hardest moments of motherhood.  Maybe the hardest moments are camouflaged as our most triumphant; the moments we eagerly anticipate and countdown the days for, until at the last moment we realize the chapter is closing and we can not – will not – be able to open it again.

I spent so many moments throughout the night feeding my little ones.  The house was quiet, my body was exhausted, but my little one and me awake and sharing a quiet moment.  I knew I would be tired in the morning and maybe begrudge this little alarm clock that I snuggle in my arms for the missed moments of sleep. I would complain and tell my husband how many times I was up throughout the night.  I would wish for a full night’s sleep and  wonder if I would ever feel well-rested again.  And then… after months of waiting, I woke up a full 8 hours after I fell asleep.  My little one no longer needed to eat in the middle of the night and no longer needed to snuggle into my arms while we both drifted between sleep and wakefulness.  Just a few weeks later I realized that the little one not only had grown past our night feedings but also my body had grown past nourishing my little one.  The secret quiet moments we had shared came to a quick end.  My little one had tickled me under my arm during a nursing session, he had cooed me to sleep, he had smiled the sweetest smile for my eyes only in the middle of the night. We spent so much time so closely wrapped into each other that distinguishing where one of us ended and the other began was nearly impossible.  The moment came when I realized that this chapter was finished for us.  The moment was a triumph for my sleepy self but so hard for my mommy-self.

Then the little ones grew and became “slightly-bigger” little ones.  We would play together and work together.  I would sing the ABC’s under my breath while I cleaned up magnetic letters off the kitchen floor only to realize there were no “slightly-bigger” little ones around to hear this lesson of literacy.   I would count in English and count in Spanish. I would sing songs about cleaning up and not biting our friends.  I would make sticker charts to encourage good behavior choices and try to use my kind words at all times.  I would be in full teacher mode and many times feel like I was more in I-want-to-poke-my-eyeballs-out-if-I-have-to-repeat-myself-one-more-time mode.  Life as mommy to a pre-schooler is hard.  My patience stretched and my nerves frayed. I worked hard to teach the little ones smart things and kind things, but all the while I wondered if my brain would ever function in grown-up mode again.  And then… after weeks of registrations, doctor check-ups, and school supply shopping, I walked out of his Kindergarten classroom and knew while my days of teaching him will never truly end, the days of me being his teacher were finished.  Another adult will help shape him, his mind and his character.  He would not look only to me for answers to his many questions, for encouragement when he doubts himself, for guidance on how to handle a difficult situation with his friends.  His world was expanding and my role in it was shrinking.  The moment came when I realized yet another chapter was finished for us.  The moment was a triumph for my college-educated self, but it was oh-so-hard for my mommy self.

Motherhood is hard.  The beginnings and the middles of each phase and each chapter have their challenges.  My “slightly-bigger” little ones have only grown into “quite-bigger” little ones… but still, they are little ones… so I haven’t had too many chapters to close behind us and for that I am grateful.  During the messy, sticky, and smelly days that seem to be one long chapter with a very dry, rather pointless, and completely redundant storyline that I would prefer to skim through and get it over with… I will know deep down that the end of the chapter won’t be easy either. Maybe, just maybe, if I remind myself that the triumphant end of each chapter will most likely come before I am truly ready for it, I will be able to slow down and appreciate each chapter for what it is…. another piece of my little ones’ great and unique stories.


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