This year Chase would be two years old. It’s so hard to believe that it has been that long since we lost him. My precious baby boy. I miss him every day. For his birthday, I asked the kids if they wanted to throw some more wildflower seeds along the road like last year. They said yes, but what they really wanted to do was buy him presents, have lunch with him (at the gravesite), and release balloon messages to him. We did all of that last year, and I was more than happy to do it again. That’s how traditions are born. So we did it all – except the lunch. We tried, but the weather did not cooperate. It was a beautiful day, but the wind made it frigid. We gave him his presents (which we will donate in the coming weeks) and let the balloons go. We did the seeds on a separate day, but everyone was so excited to see the flowers blooming from the seeds we planted last year. It was a beautiful project and celebration.
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Service Project #27 – Donate Your Old Shoes
This was an absolutely amazing project! On our list of potential service projects, Tyler had suggested “donate our old shoes”. I thought it was a very cute idea, so I found an organization called Donate Your Old Shoes that took shoe donations and shipped them to 4th world countries. Their concept was so simple, and it was family run with virtually no overhead and absolutely no payroll.
I told Tyler about this, and he was really excited! Then I started thinking, and my thinking got bigger. What if I were able to help Tyler really see his vision grow? I asked our Pastor if we could do a shoe drive at church, and he was all for it! Our Pastor is so wonderful, he let me put flyers in the bulletins and even did his own online research about the organization so he could write about it in the e-newsletters. He really got behind Tyler’s vision!
The shoe drive went on for several weeks, and the response was OVERWHELMING! In fact, all I kept thinking was…how am I going to pay to ship all of these shoes to California???!! This is where they are stored by Donate Your Old Shoes until there are enough to send overseas on a container ship. But I didn’t worry about that as the shoes continued to fill up the church lobby. At the left are the first two boxes I shipped, and on the right are the rest of what was collected. I have now shipped all but the great big box. I did not count them all yet, but I know we have at least 150 pairs of shoes.
Tyler could not believe how many we’d collected, and it was so neat for him to see the generosity of our church family. So far, I’ve shipped three boxes. I’m shipping a few at a time to spread out the cost. 🙂 It is all worth it though, because Tyler will always remember the shoes he helped put on the feet of those who needed them.
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Service Project #26 – The Great Toy Giveaway
My goodness, my goodness. In all of the eight years that we have been blessed with our children, I am not sure that we have taken the time to get rid of old toys even once. Partly because we kept having kids so we thought – hey, one of the younger ones might actually play with that someday. But the time had finally come when I just could not take it anymore. I knew the kids would be okay with this because the night when we’d sat down to come up with ideas for service projects, it was not far down on the list that the kids actually suggested – ON THEIR OWN – to give away old toys that they didn’t play with anymore.
The difficult part for me was simply going through it all. We had bins in the attic, bins in the gameroom, bins in the guest bedroom. But that just told me even more – we must do it. So the kids and I spent a Saturday night going through all of the toys, and they were willing to give away an awful lot of them. And these weren’t broken or generic toys – these were some really good toys. Transformers galore, puzzles, robots, race cars, playsets – you name it. The kids made remarks like – hey, this is a cool toy that some other kid is going to love! There were very few things that they wanted to keep for themselves. I was so proud of them for being able to recognize the overabundance in front of them and to realize how much fun a child who had very little could have with these toys.
I wanted to donate them to a hospital or children’s center, but they have pretty specific rules about health concerns from the donation of used toys. So we decided to donate it to Goodwill. My husband got in on this project! The bins were so massive we needed his help to drop them off. I was also amazed at his willingness to just give everything away. I am sure there are many people out there who would jump on craig’s list with those very important Transformers. But he was fine to let someone else enjoy them without recouping any of the money we’d spent on the mountains of toys. The great toy giveaway was a great success!
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Service Project #25 – Welcome Back to School Cookies
Who doesn’t need cookies on the first day back to school?! Though it was tough to get the boys to focus on cookie baking on the last day of their Christmas vacation, I managed to get their attention long enough to help decorate. But Madison was stirring and mixing away with me. The kids baked cookies for the ladies in the front office of their elementary school as a way of saying, “thanks” and “welcome back to school”. Both the boys also made homemade cards, and I really wish I’d scanned them before they gave them away. They were both adorable! Cole drew the entire family (even baby Chase with a little pair of wings on him). Tyler wrote out thank you in great handwriting!
On the first day back to school, Cole delivered the cookies to the front office along with the cards. It really made the ladies smile, and we hope it brightened their day.
Service Project #20 – Church Giving Tree
Our church decided to join up with a local community organization to provide gifts for a family in need. The family provided a wish list so our church could take their needs and give them out to people who wanted to help out the family. This year we decided that God had blessed us so much that we could not help ut bless others. We took several items, and the boys then helped me buy the family wish list items. Cole and Tyler are pictured here delivering our gifts to the church. This season has been so busy with school activities that we have not had a lot of time to do “hands on” activities. I asked the boys to shop with me so they could become a part of the experience. And of course, I let them carry everything in to be donated!
Service Project #17 – YMCA’s Operation Backpack
Several weeks ago I scored an amazing deal on a new backpack for Tyler. He already had a backpack, but it wasn’t exactly what he wanted, and he had never made use of it. When we got him, I asked him what he wanted to do with his old backpack. Very excitedly and in Tyler’s adorable high-pitched voice, he said, “I know! We can donate it to someone who doesn’t have money to buy a backpack!”
I did not make that up. My eyes are welling with tears just recalling that moment. How sweet of him to know how blessed he is, and to want to help someone who has less then he does. I agreed immediately.
To help kids prepare kids for the start of school, our local YMCAs sponsor a backpack drive called “Operation Backpack” . Our church decided to take part in this endeavor, so I thought it would be perfect for Tyler’s precious desire to donate his old backpack. We actually did this a few weeks ago, but I am just getting around to posting it. I think they “technically” want brand new backpacks, and though we’d taken the tags off of Tyler’s old backpack, it was still unused. In my house this qualifies as “new”.
Tyler and Madison helped me with this project because Cole was not feeling well. We took a fun trip to Target to get school supplies, and I was SHOCKED how cheap Target had them. It was awesome! We were able to buy a bunch of goodies to stuff in the backpack.
The next day was Sunday, so we took our backpack to church, and the kids proudly set it around the box for Operation Backpack. Tyler is here modeling the donation backpack. Madison is proudly modeling her own new Minnie Mouse backpack. I am so proud of Tyler’s awesome suggestion – and for another service project to help our community!
Service Project #16 – Faces of Change
Yesterday my firm emailed everyone to announce its participation in the Faces of Change school supply drive. This is a really cool effort, and since we have not done a service project in waaay to long, I decided this would be a good jump start back into the projects. Honestly, the kids have asked me several times over the past month when our next project was. I have been so tired and busy, that it felt really good to do this.
So we decided to head to our office supply store for our supplies because they had 20 cent notebook paper, pens, and notebooks with a coupon I printed online. The kids loved looking for supplies to help others who could not afford their own. I’d explained to them what we were doing, and it kind of got them pumped up for the start of school too. They each wanted to help me carry everything, it was very sweet. Except Madi, who was more interested in her Mentos.
Now for the GOD part of all this. I have been really into couponing lately so that I could be a good steward of the money God has given me to use. I went to an office supply store because of the school supply coupons, but knew that they also had backpacks for 100% back in a store reward program (free). So Tyler found one he liked, and it cost $20. We got up to the register to checkout and the salesperson told me that I could use another coupon on the printout for $5 off if I just bought something for $1 more. No brainer, right? So I let Cole pick out some M&Ms. The cashier rung it up and somehow my total came to $11. He could not figure out what happened so the manager came over. He could not figure it out either and just said, “Hey, you win the lottery. That will be $11.21, and you will get your full $20 MaxPerks back.” WOW. So they paid me $9 to take the backpack, school supplies, and candy off their hands.
The kids were pumped at our amazing deal, and I was sure to point out to them how awesome God works through people on earth. I told them that when we give to others, God gives it back a thousand times over (and sometimes it even comes in the form of free M&M’s!).
Service Project #13 – Seeds for Chase
Our service projects got put on the backburner during the last few weeks of my pregnancy…and then again after we lost baby Chase. Knowing that I would not have a full maternity leave to spend with my kids like I’d originally thought, I decided we needed to do at least one service project while I was still home from work. As I was reading about how to hepl the kids deal with the loss of Chase, I came across something that compared death of an infant to unopened flowers. Since it is spring time, I thought – flowers! So we went to WalMart and I let the kids pick out packets of wildflower seeds. They loved picking out their favorite colors – and we even wound up buying some basil seeds to try our hand at growing the plant at home. Just across the street from WalMart is a long stretch of road where the wildflowers bloom every year. I parked the car on the side of the road, then the kids and I got out to toss around our seeds. I told them that we were not only helping to beautify the roadside, but every year when the flowers bloomed, we could remember and think of Chase. They really loved that – smiles all around. Here are some photos of our seeds for Chase project.
Service Project #3 – Giving to the Soldiers
With two boys who can make just about anything into a gun (sticks, pens, I’ve even seen one do it with the little cross he made in Sunday School), helping out our troops was a blast. I found an organization online called Soldier’s Angels, and you can send in care package items that will be sent overseas to soldiers. To personalize the activity, I printed some coloring pages and let the kids go to town on them. My hope is that Soldier’s Angels will include them in their packages to let the troops know they are thought of in The Woodlands, Texas. All three of the kids loved coloring the pictures, Tyler especially liked the ones with the “tank” on it. One of the pages had the U.S. seal on it, and Cole asked why the president’s seal was on it. Great question – and I mixed in a little government education with our service project. The boys asked what the soldiers would do with the pictures, and I explained that hopefully it would make them smile. They liked that answer.
While Madison was still in pre-school, I took the boys to the store to buy the care package items. They got a little shy and decided to hide behind the crossword puzzles they picked out. And though it did not take long at all to get the items we sent (and not much money either), they acted exhausted riding in the back of the cart. But aren’t they cute, even when they are acting like shopping is such an exhausting chore (men in the making, for sure).
We got home, and I joined us up with Soldier’s Angels. A few days later, after I’d found an empty box, we packed our items in a box. I explained to the kids how we’d mail them to the troops. They were really excited, and I was amazed at how Tyler placed everything in the package so neatly. He seemed to enjoy this project the most. Until next time!
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