This holiday season is our first without our sweet baby Chase. Though he watches from heaven, and he never had the opportunity be here with us for Christmas, we know that this would have been his first. It has been very important to me to find a way to remember him that is unique and special. I listen to our local contemporary Christian radio station called 89.3 KSBJ. Every year they do the KSBJ Giving Tree where families in need can be nominated to receive help or gifts from listeners. KSBJ posts the needs on their website so listeners can select a way to help. What is so great is that this opens up opportunities for people to help who don’t necessarily have a lot of money, but who have special talents they can give. For example, I heard about an elderly woman who needed some general work repairs done to her home, so a general handyman selected her need and did the repairs on her house for free.
Part of what feels weird about Chase’s loss is that under different circumstances, I would be buying him all kinds of cute baby toys and clothes for Christmas. He would have been 9 months on December 23, 2011. I decided that one of the best ways to remember Chase would be to buy him presents anyway. But because he isn’t here on this earth with us, I would find another baby who needed them. That’s what will make Chase smile in heaven. It just so happened that on the KSBJ Giving Tree was a need for a high school aged single mom who had an 11 month old little boy and no money to give him a nice Christmas. The young girl is still in school and plans to get her diploma, but life has not been easy.
I told the kids about this – and they were fully on board. I bought a little tree for Chase that I plan to put up every year next to our big tree. This is where we will put all of his presents each year. Madison went shopping with me. She was so happy going through the aisles and picking out things for baby Chase. I admit that I went completely overboard and probably spent more on him than I did my other kids. But it was his first Christmas after all. And I miss him so much. I was also worried that because Madi was barely three, she would not understand what we were doing and why. But she got it – she really did. I am so blessed.
So we were able to make Christmas special for a special little boy who needed our help – and we were able to remember our sweet angel in heaven in a very special way.
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!
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America World Hunger project helps to purchase animals for families living in developing part of the world. God’s Global Barnyard animals include cows, sheep, ducks, and pigs. These animals provide families living in poverty with food, funds, and fertilizer, all for a better future. Every year our church takes part in the project by handing out these little paper barns that can be folded to collect bills and loose change. Then on the assigned day, we all bring them to service and collect the money. This year the kids are hoping our church raises enough to at least buy a cow for a family! We’re emptying our change into the barnyard when we get home. The boys even got their nana to donate a few dollars to help their cause! For more information about buying an animal for a family in need, visit https://community.elca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=607.
In case you weren’t located around Houston or Texas, you might not have heard about the devastating wildfires that consumed so much of our state in 2011. Within just miles of The Woodlands and our home is a town called Magnolia (we also attend church there) that suffered some very horrible losses due to the fires. Our community pulled together to help the folks who lost their homes or were displaced for weeks and months at a time. Tyler came into my room and started going through my toilettries. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that there was a big bin at his elementary school to collect things for the Magnolia wildfire victims. He said he wanted to donate some things in the bin. How could I possibly say no to that sweet face. I told him to take whatever he could find. Here are some of his findings and donations!
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!
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!).
About a week ago the boys actually asked me, when are we going to do another service project? I just can’t describe how that made me feel. Five and six year olds ask to do things that are 1) FUN and 2) IMPORTANT TO THEM. For them to ask this question tells me that they see service as both fun and important to them. So Cole started to brainstorm ideas for things we could do that night. His first one was to go to someone’s house and clean it up for them. I LOVED that idea – how about we start with our own? Just kidding.
I explained that we’d have to arrange that with someone because we couldn’t just arrive at our neighbor’s house with a mop and broom. Or could we??? Tina?? Ha!
Tyler then asked if we could write a thank you note for our trash man. How sweet! I would have loved to do that, but since I am at work when the trash men come, and they have those metal arm things that lift up the can…I wasn’t sure how to get the note to them.
I was beginning to sound like I didn’t want to do a service project. But then Tyler said, let’s make a thank you card for the mailman! AH-HAH!
So Tyler and Cole got to work on their cards. Here is a photo of Tyler’s finished card.
Our mail”man” is actually a woman, so we thanked our mail carrier. Cole was not pleased with the card that he did, so he asked what else he could do to help. I told him that we could get a gift card too, and he could pick where we get it from. But Cole decided to do better than that he said, HOW ABOUT IF I PAY FOR IT WITH MY MONEY? How sweet is that? My selfless sweet little boy. Of course, I did not let him pay for it, but told him how amazing it was that he wanted to do that. We picked McDonald’s since the mail carrier is always on the go. This week I put Tyler’s card (also signed by Cole), the gift card, and a note from us and left them in our mailbox so the mail carrier would get them. This 52 weeks of service experiment is coming along quite nicely.