Friday, February 14, 2014

Celebrating International Book Giving Day and Sharing Book Love from The Kid's Co-Op

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 14 - Send Love to an Author/Writer/Librarian for International Book Giving Day 

The obvious choice would have been to focus on my husband or kiddos today (on Valentine's Day), but I knew I'd be doing something loving and kind for them today no matter what. So, I went in a different direction. Inspired by International Book Giving Day, also Feb. 14th, I thought it would be perfect to do something kind for an author or librarian today. We'll be dropping Valentine's Day cards off with our two favorite librarians, and writing a letter to an author telling them why we love their book. Of course, we'll also be participating in International Book Giving Day. 

Wild Thing decided wants to give G'Ma  book, so I expect that we'll make her one today. We also had some wonderful friends send us some fabulous new books recently, so Caterpillar and Wild Thing will each pick a book or two for us to give to a local organization that helps children in need. 

If you're interested in participating in International Book Giving Day, their site offers simple ways to get involved. I also wanted to share this Huffington Post article that features 4 great places to donate books, including an organization that even covers the cost of shipping your books and two organizations for sending books to troops serving overseas.

Donating books is actually something we do regularly, since we like to pass along some of our books when we receive new ones. The most common ways we donate or share books include:
  • Dropping books off at our favorite coffee shop that has a children's book corner
  • Donating them to local thrift stores
  • Sending favorites to friends who are having children
  • Having a small stash of books on hand to give to friends at the end of playdates. (We discovered that his helps with the transition of leaving and with car rides home). 
Sometimes, we have specific recipients in mind. This past summer, a friend, who blogs at Capri + 3, told me of another mother she knew who experienced a terrible house fire that destroyed virtually everything that belonged to her 3 children. I was heading over to see the damage myself and share their story with the hope that others might help out this family in need. 

As I prepared to leave the house, I packed up a bag of apples to take to them and explained to Wild Thing (then 3) where I was going and that the children whose house had caught fire had lost everything. He thoughtfully and carefully selected some books to give them. Of the five books Wild Thing selected, 3 were new and 1 was a major favorite of his, The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. I let him know that the books would now belong to these other children. I made sure he understood this and gave him a chance to select other books to give instead. However, my explanation only reaffirmed his choice. He wanted those children to have some books that were new and books that he thought were really good. (Confession: it was harder for me to accept his selections than it was for him).

He showed me that day what compassion is all about -- the ability to empathize and act from a place of empathy to care for another. I could tell he really thought about what he would want if he were in that situation. I try to carry that spirit with me now with all of our family giving.

Inspired to give a book to someone today? Any of the books on these lists would make great gifts! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Ultimate Free Valentine's Gift for Him...(or Her): A Simple Act of Kindness for that Special Someone

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 13 - Your Spouse/Partner/Rock/Everything

Finding the perfect Valentine's Day gift for that special someone can be challenging or, as is the case with my husband and I, can feel a little irrelevant. We're not really "presents" people. 

Still, it is nice this time of year to take a moment to acknowledge that special someone. In the midst of the 14 Days of Loving-Kindness Challenge, I somehow stumbled upon an awesome, kick-ass (free) gift for my husband -- if I can truly pull it off.

What is it? Two words: forgiveness and release (for those of you with dirty minds, I'm not thinking of that kind of release). 

Truth: Even the best couples can hold on to old hurts, can let resentments -- even nonsensical and silly resentments -- take hold, can find themselves taking their partner for granted. 

At the end of a long day at home with the kids, who is the person that receives a snappy response to a simple question? 

     Our spouse. 

In the midst of toddler meltdown #3, who is the person we're jealous of? 

     Our spouse. 

We let it fester. We envision the wonderful day at work that person is having -- interacting with other adults, doing important stuff, sitting in a quiet office. 

And, we forget about all of the days that our spouse is stuck sitting in traffic, listening to adults they don't really want to be listening to, or dealing with other people's kids instead of getting to have time with their own. 

We don't remember that our spouse has also not slept through the night in weeks and has a horrible backache, but still must carry heavy things, show up on time, be coherent, while we just have to be able to relate to a preschooler and can (on a good day) take a nap with the kids -- or at least take a moment for ourselves while they nap or are at school. 

We can resent their job, not realizing that sometimes they are jealous of our time with the children. We can realize, in the midst of a stupid argument at the end of a long day after one of those sleepless nights, that we've brought up that one thing from years ago that actually DOES NOT REALLY MATTER. 

We're holding on to an old hurt, and here's the truth about holding on to the past -- 

Take it from someone who knows, from someone who held on to a deep hurt for decades and has felt such a huge wave of release since extending love and compassion to a person who hurt me deeply. I'm now beginning to see a rainbow that is only there because I started to forgive and let go.

As 14 Days of Loving-KIndness draws to a close, I find myself arriving at a deep, new understanding of how valuable compassion is. I am extremely grateful that I selected compassion as my guiding word for 2014. I've managed to realize that treating my spouse with compassion everyday -- and especially at the end of the most difficult days -- is absolutely the greatest Valentine's Day gift I can give him. 

In fact, I realize that it is a gift that benefits my entire family. 

Release. Forgive. Connect. Understand. 

So much of what we hold on to is actually our own stuff and has nothing to do with anyone else, so why keep pretending that it does just to protect ourselves? We'll be doing everyone a favor if we just let it all go. 

Let's extend some compassion to those we love this week. Even better, let's make it a daily habit. I'm starting a new tradition this year for Valentine's Day that I hope to act upon every single day, and I couldn't be happier about it. #TrueLove #RAKWeek #OperationNiceFebruary #Compassion2014 

I know this won't be easy and that there will probably be days I will slip, but I've made myself this simple note that I plan to keep in eyesight at home to help me remember this promise I've made to my husband, my family and myself. 

P.S. I love the act of loving-kindness the boys have made for Daddy. I'll be sharing it soon as post #2 for Day 13. 

You might also like:
Sending Love to Haiti
Little Hands Can Help
Love for our Household
Loving Ourselves

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sending Love Across the World: Hope for the Hungry's Efforts in Haiti

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 12 Someone Across the World

In addition to the final week of our kindness challenge, this week is also the final week of the 2014 100 Acts of Kindness Project hosted by Toddler Approved and Coffee Cups and Crayons, with a focus on kindness towards the world. So, today we're focusing on sending loving-kindness to someone across the world. 

When I engage my family in serving those across the world, I prefer to have a personal tie to the act -- a reason that giving opportunity makes the most sense for our family. For our act of loving-kindness across the world today, I've selected Hope for the Hungry's initiatives in Haiti. This organization resonates with me for our family for two reasons: it is based in the area of Texas where I grew up and has been brought to my attention by an inspiring woman who was one of my first friends when I moved to Texas and this initiative serves children in Haiti. 

Haiti, and its tap-taps (buses), gained Wild Thing's attention through some bus, boat and map play. Haiti also shares an island with the Dominican Republic, where my husband's mother was from, and he and I have discussed the unfortunate harm that various Dominican leaders have brought to Haiti. 

Though today's kindness act will specifically involve me clicking a button to make a donation, I have two key ways to engage the boys. I plan for us to make a $25 donation, which matches the Trails of Hope race registration amount, a Central Texas (Belton, TX) 5K race on Feb. 22nd to raise funds for Hope for the Hungry. We will mark out and plan our own "race" for that day that he and I will run in our little town. 

Another key way to involve Wild Thing (and Caterpillar a little) is by talking with him about why we will give. Recently I spoke with Sheila of Pennies of Time about the ways she teaches her children about the lives of other children who may be enslaved or lack proper housing or schooling. She stressed the value of encouraging her children to consider the ways that the other child's life differs from their lives. I plan to do this with Wild Thing today -- to talk about children not having a chance to go to school and not having enough food to eat and about the ways that we can help. One way is by spreading the word, so I'm doing that too!

3 Hope for the Hungry projects and urgent needs:
  • The Educate Haiti Initiative provides teacher’s salaries, administrative costs, and a free lunch program for the schools in Haiti. (All employees are Haitian. The free lunch is the only hot, nutritious meal that most students eat).
  • $12 per month will provide one child's portion of the costs mentioned above (I love that our $25 donation will support two children as it mirrors our family's 2 children). 
  • Children's Home Sponsorship's provides a home, food, clothing, loving staff, and school tuition for the children in our Children’s Homes (2 homes - girls home in Ferrier, boys home in Guibert)
  • $100 per month provides the above mentioned for one child. 
  • Housing in Haiti remains a major issue. Many people are still living in tents or temporary shelters because of the earthquake in 2010. 
  • $4700 completes an entire 300 square foot, 3-room home for a family in Haiti. This includes all materials and labor (employing local Haitian workers and requiring help/labor investment from the family if able).

3 Easy Ways to Help:

1. Financially support one of the Urgent Needs above. A one-time gift or a monthly commitment can make all the difference in the life of one child or one family.

2. Go to Haiti - Join one of the teams and participate in hands-on service to the children and families of Haiti.

3. Share the needs with your family and friends. Be a Champion for the people of Haiti, let others know how they can support Hope for the Hungry and help change a nation, one life at a time. (Always remember, even if you can't give telling others about an organization is also valuable). 

BONUS SHARES - Upcoming initiatives I personally love.  
  • Sole to Soul is an annual shoe and backpack drive for orphans. Last year, children and parents could go on line and select shoes and backpacks to give to a specific child (and know that child's name). This year's Sole to Soul campaign should be coming soon. Follow Hope for the Hungry on Facebook to make sure you don't miss it. (I'll share it on my Facebook and blog too). 
  • Teacher training for Hope for the Hungry. This July, my friend and other educators will be training the teachers at 4 schools with an emphasis on hands-on learning and improving the utilization of centers, stations, a Science lab/tools, folder activities, etc. She will be taking every bit of the supplies for both the training and their classroom with her. Classrooms are incredibly primitive and resources are limited. Access to technology is non-existent...and in most cases, so is access to electricity.) She will be putting an Amazon "wish list" together soon for this training program. If you want to make sure you know about the wish list, please email me personally (jennifer at, and I will make sure you receive an email with the details when they are available. 

Empowering kids to give and introducing them to organizations that serve matters.

Even though my boys are young, I like to encourage them to consider giving some of their money (piggy bank) or collecting money themselves when we give. I think this type of engagement is quite valuable, so I wanted to share some ideas for ways that kids can get involved in raising funds for organizations across the world (or right here at home):

  • Coffee Can Spare Change Collection - We did this for one month to raise funds for No Kid Hungry during Hunger Action Month and raised over $40 by simply collecting our change. 
  • Host a Garage Sale - I have known youth who have pooled together and hosted a garage/yard sale with all proceeds going to a specific charity. At these type of sales, also having a donation jar works well too. 
  • Lemonade Stand/Bake Sale - With an after school program I used to run, we would do an annual bake sale and carnival to raise funds for a charity. 
  • Take a Reading Pledge - I loved seeing this Feeding Through Reading effort of Childhood Beckons where her son got individuals to donate canned food items for every book he read during a specific time period. 
  • Be Open-Minded and Creative - Talk to your children and see what ideas they have for helping others. Maybe they'll turn a birthday party into a service party to support a charity or will want to ask neighbors if they can do yard work to raise money or they may have a specific crafting or art talent and will choose to host a craft sale or art show. You never know where your child's passion and interest might lead. 

How do you engage your children in serving others? Do you have a creative fundraising activity or donation item collection activity you've done as a family? Please share. #Compassion2014

You might also like:
Random Acts of Kindness Week
14 Days RAK Challenge
Moms Fighting Hunger Activities

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Small Acts, Big Difference

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 10 - Teaching My Children to Show Loving-Kindness to the Elderly

This week, Feb. 10-16, is International Random Acts of Kindness Week. Have you RAK'd anyone yet? In honor of this week, in addition to sharing our update about Day 10 and 11 of our 14 Days of Loving-Kindness Challenge, I wanted to highlight this new Pinterest board: Celebrating Acts of Kindness, which I'm filling full of RAK ideas. If you have something I should add to the board, leave a link in the comments and I'll pin it. 

I also want to share some other cool kindness projects happening right now: 100 Acts of Kindness Project from Toddler Approved and Coffee Cups and Crayons, 28 Days of Kindness, and Operation Nice February (#OperationNiceFebruary) focused on internet kindness brought to you by Amy Poehler's Smart Girls.

I love Mama Scout's Wellness Challenge (a Facebook group), and this month she's challenging us to show love. I also draw regular inspiration and support from Pennies of Time, and here's some more RAK shout outs: Deb of Bits of Positivity is full of positive ways to improve your day and the days of others, Barbara of The Corner on Character hasfun ideas for RAK Week, Leanna of All Done Monkey has teamed up with the All Things Kids Bloggers for a fabulous Showing Kids Love Series, and she has a long-standing Random Acts of Kindness Series on her blog, and She Loves Free recently highlighted RAK week on her blog too.  

Recently, when planning our act of loving-kindness for Day 10's prompt - helping the elderly, I learned something from Caterpillar (2.5) and from Ginger, the great-grandmother we planned to help. 

On Sunday, we went to the grocery store and planned for the boys to pick out flowers for Ginger, an elderly woman in our community whose son passed away recently. On our way back home, we were going to drop the flowers off and (hopefully) stay and clean up her house for her a bit or schedule a time to bring her dinner. 

When we got to the grocery store, Ginger was there, even though we have NEVER in almost 5 years, seen her at that store. We stopped and spoke with her asking what she might need - could we clean her house for her, could we bring her dinner, etc., etc. 

Her response: "Just knowing that you care is enough." Then, she asked Caterpillar to give her five and asked him to give her a kiss. My very introverted 2 year-old who often will not say hello to people who knows quite well, held is hand out to this woman he barely knows and leaned over to her for a kiss. I nearly fell over. Tears welled up in Ginger's eyes, and I learned something -- from both of them. 

Sometimes taking a moment to ask someone how they are doing, tell them that you care about them, genuinely listen to their response or offering a sweet and loving touch can transform someone's day and help them through a difficult time. These small, small things matter. They matter so much.

In a technology-obsessed world where connections often come through screens, actually person-to-person interactions matter more important than ever. I encourage you to stop today and take the time to have a chat, shake a hand, give a hug. It's a RAK that's so easy to do, yet so important. 

P.S. Our Day 11, kindness toward vets has been moved to next Tuesday - we scheduled a visit to a nursing home for Veterans. The woman at the home said having young kids visit is something that the residents there love. #Compassion2014

You might also like:
Gratitude Challenge
Bee Sensory Bin
Brown Bear Activities
Cooking Matters

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Neighborly Acts of Kindness: 5 Ways We Show Love to Our Neighbors

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 9 - THE NEIGHBORS!! 

I love that the little town we live in now really feels like a community to me, and I realize that doing our part to create this community is essential. I think acts of kindness are a good place to start. 

Here's our 5 favorite ways to show love to our neighbors: 

1. Bake for them! 

The boys and I love to bake together and love it even more when we make extra goodies to share with our neighbors. (P.S. They like it too. It's a small way to show you care).

2. Feed their pets -- or in our case, their chickens. 

We have neighbors with chickens, so we keep veggie scraps that we know the chickens love and walk over to feed them. We also like to take doggie treats to another neighbor's dog (a dog we know is friendly) and to pet the dog through the fence, which both the dog and neighbor are glad that we do. (A bonus of our doggie visits is that this particularly, quite well-behaved dog is helping Caterpillar overcome an intense fear of dogs).

3. Share warm soup on cold or rainy days or when we know they are sick. 

We've delivered chicken noodle soup and chili to various neighbors on cold days or when we know someone in the family is sick. We've also delivered pasta dishes to neighbors at busy times so that dinner might be one less thing for the mom to worry about. Oh - and we love to share veggies from our FarmShare with neighbors from time to time too. There is a food pantry day in our tiny town and when our FarmShare has been particularly full, we will sometimes take extra fresh, organic fruits or veggies to the food pantry to share with others.  

4. Make cards for them. 

Wild Thing goes through phases when art rarely interests him, but then he will get excited about doing art. Often when he is an "art phase," and I ask him what he is making, he will tell me his art project is a card for another child in the neighborhood. In fact, we'll be delivering some cards to neighborhood friends today as part of our acts of kindness -- and we'll be feeding the chickens too!

5. Speak to them - and listen. 

It may sound too simple, but making sure we slow our lives down when we're running our errands or planning for extra time when I walk Wild Thing to Preschool can make a big difference. This means we can say hello to neighbors we see along the way and are more available to listen when they seem to need to talk. Really listening can go along way. We've listened and now know that a neighbor's family is struggling with the husband's mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Offering our support has meant a lot to them. Running into a woman I've seen around town at the coffee shop and saying hello has increased our sense of community, and I've seen the difference it has made for her. She's told me that she and her family rarely attend events at the community center in our tiny town because she doesn't feel welcome. I hope my kindness makes her feel more welcome and accepted in our community, a community I consider to generally be accepting, but which has (for whatever reason) left her on the outside.  

What are your favorite ways to help your neighbors or demonstrate kindness for them? 

P.S. I'd love to share photos of our kindness in action, but I've lost the cable that connects my camera to my computer! Hopefully, I'll get a replacement soon. 

You might also like:

Little Hands Can Help Too
Being Hurt + Being Kind
Compassion 2014
Lavender Spice Painting

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Teaching Little Hands to Help: A Family Tradition Worth Passing On

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Days 7 + 8: Reaching Out to Someone Who is Hungry or Homeless and Sending Love to Parents/Grandparents 

How do we teach young children to serve? Why is teaching little hands to help important? Can little ones really help others? When can they start giving to others? Embarking on this challenge, I found myself revisiting these questions, and they've resurfaced as I've shared this project with others and engaged in discussions with others about service and kids. Of course, these questions have lots of answers. Today I share just a few answers...

First, let me apologize for combining two posts and being a little behind with the challenge share. Yesterday morning I should have started the day off with a post about how we serve those who are homeless or hungry, but the stomach bug that overtook the boys earlier in the week hit me Thursday night. I've finally recovered and find myself glad, actually, that I have the opportunity to combine my share about loving-kindness toward those who are homeless or hungry with showing loving-kindness toward the grandparents. 

Combining the two makes perfect sense because I realize that an important gift of loving-kindness I can give to my parents is my gratitude as this combo motivated me to reflect on why service with my children is so important to me. 

Serving with my children is a family tradition. 

I grew up seeing my parents not only model lives engaged in helping others -- through their vocations (teacher then hearing healthcare specialist and minister), but also in making serving others part of our Christmas traditions by giving gifts to those in need, always opening our homes to friends that might be spending Christmas alone, serving food and so much more that we did as a family all year long. 

What a wonderful family tradition for me to pass on to my children -- the tradition of modeling service and of raising children who understand the value of helping others  -- and who learn to do so with compassion as they learn to honor the humanity of those we help. 

To send loving-kindness to someone who is helpless or hungry yesterday, we delivered food to a homeless man who lives in our community, but what we also do every time we see him is speak to him, treat him as a human being no different from anyone else. We teach our sons that this man is part of our community, not someone to fear or look down upon -- in fact the communal name given to him is "Papa John" and every time we have extra bagels, Wild Thing always thinks of Papa John. It makes me smile. 

From my own parents and my sons, I've learned that children are never too young to give and always have something to give. When Wild Thing was not even 1, he instinctively touched the hand of an elderly woman saying hello to him at a restaurant, a touch she said would last her a week at the nursing home. At just 2, he helped pick up trash at a community Thanksgiving Dinner, and now at 2, I've watched in amazement as Caterpillar (my introvert) has gone up to a child he doesn't know at our coffee shop and given him one of his toys because that child didn't have a toy. 

Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me that raising my children to love and honor others is just as important as teaching them to read, write and all the rest. Thank you, Joan, for your generosity and love for my sons and for the way you've also demonstrated service in your life, particularly through your military service. 

Today, we'll also be sending my Mom, Dad and "MyJo" (the loving name my sons have given my dad's wife) cards that the boys have made for them -- oh and Wild Thing also thinks we need to get G'Ma a toothbrush (no idea why!).  

How and why do you teach your children to serve or help others? Is this part of your family tradition? 

You might also like:
Homemade Bath Salts for G'Ma
We Give: Spare Change for Hunger
Very Fun Food Drive!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

(Kid's Co-Op} Kid-Made Hearts + a Special Card Full of Love

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 6 - Teachers 

Between three nearly sleepless nights because of sick kiddos, a rather intense act of loving-kindness on day 5 as part of the 14 Days of Loving-Kindness challenge I kicked off on February 1st and the way it all began, engaging in an activity today with my Preschooler that involved doing an act of loving-kindness for his teachers was something I welcomed. 

I didn't realize how much I needed something a little lighter. Perfecting timing, too, in that this share corresponds with the Weekly Kid's Co-Op. So, I'm sharing the card Wild Thing (4) designed for his teachers as well as 4 adorable kid-made hearts from the Kid's Co-Op that any teacher would love. 

Recently, Wild Thing has become quite interested in making cards on my computer. He helped with the kid prompts for the challenge last week, and with the Go Rules of the House list for my blog too.

Today when I suggested we create something to show loving-kindness to his teachers, he immediately wanted to make a card for them on my computer. 

He designed it (selecting which images and their colors and placement), and he typed most of the words too. He even remembered that if he did most of it in black and white, he would be able to color it in when we printed it. 

Now, four fun heart crafts from The Kid's Co-Op that my boys would love to make:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Biggest Challenge Yet: Doing Something Kind for My Abuser

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Day 5 - An Act of Kindness for Someone Who Has Hurt Me

Today's challenge is both the act that in many ways prompted this whole concept of 14 Days devoted to Loving-Kindness as part of a promise to myself to focus on Compassion in 2014 and also the act that almost made me forget the whole thing because I wasn't sure that I was ready to do it. 

As a young girl, a boy who was probably 4-5 years older than me, would force me to touch him sexually as I wept. It didn't happen often as the family were friends that we only saw on rare occasions, yet it did happen several times. And it did have a substantial negative affect on me like dark clouds covering a beautiful blue sky. 

During my adolescence and much of my teen years as my body began to "betray me" and insist on its femininity, I would seek out oversized clothes, avoid make-up and basically do all that I could to assure myself that I would not be attractive to anyone of the opposite sex. It terrified me to consider that someone might find me attractive. 

Right before I entered high school, I finally began to confront this abuse and tell others. I am grateful for the church camp I went to that summer, which focused on sex education and sexuality and, finally, gave me the words and courage to speak about what happened to me. It helped me begin to understand that what happened to me was not my fault. I told my family and also began seeing a counselor. 

I realize how complex the situation is. 

Because the abuser was also a child, it felt as if I should just "get over it" and like what happened to me was just a case of kids playing doctor gone awry. However, I knew at my core that it was not. 

I've moved forward as an adult knowing that my molestation experience differs greatly very many (most) victims because the perpetrator was also a minor and yet have also grappled with the profound impact the experience still had on me. Though he was a minor, he was also old enough to be fully aware of what was happening and to clearly see that it was not something that I wanted or enjoyed. 

I've also found myself wondering whether or not he had been abused in a similar way as it seemed to me that no 10-12 year-old would do that to a much younger child if they had not, so this has further complicated things for me --- a victimizer who is also a victim. 

Through therapy and a positive and supportive family and husband, I have come far in my healing process. Rays of sunshine peer through those dark clouds now as I work through those memories. Yet, I knew I needed to take one more step -- a major step. I knew I needed to focus on being able to feel compassion for this person. As someone deeply committed to creating a better world, at my core I believe that everyone deserves compassion, yet the challenge is to truly implement this. 

So I arrived here, challenging myself to demonstrate compassion and show kindness to someone who has hurt me deeply. 

The first step to do this involved learning something about who this person is now and what act might be meaningful to him. Because of the internet this was not hard. A quick google search led me straight to him. 

For the first time in nearly 30 years, I found myself looking at this person. I sobbed uncontrollable for 20 minutes as I stared at the screen. 

Once my sobs ended, I realized what I could do. I wanted to do an act that was anonymous because I am not wanting to confront this person or force him to, perhaps, face his abuse if he is not ready to. I also felt that a public act then inflicts a certain expectation or requirement of him and makes it about me seeking a response rather than about extending compassion. So, I selected a charity I thought would be meaningful to him given his current work, and I made a donation to it. And, of course, the greatest gift of loving-kindness is my effort to move myself several steps closer to true forgiveness for this person. 

I expected to cry as I wrote this post, but I haven't. This demonstrates to me the value of this decision and of this process. More sunshine is bursting through those dark clouds. Maybe someday I'll see a rainbow.


Also from The Good Long Road:

Thoughts from a Mama of Boys
Inspired to focus on Compassion
14 Days of Loving-Kindness Begins

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

12 Ways to Show Kids Love on Sick Days

Update: Day 4 of 14 Days of Loving-Kindness Challenge - How We're Adapting our Challenge to Accommodate Sick Days and How the Boys are Surprising Me! 

As I shared on Day 1 of our challenge, so often as a parent I make plans...and then life happens and they change. Yesterday the boys' prompt involved showing loving-kindness to new friends at the park, and I shared our play time plan of sharing bubbles, sand toys and cars. Then, at 1 a.m. of the same night I published the post about our park plans, Wild Thing got sick -- really sick, as in "strip the bed and throw the puke-covered child in the shower" sick. 

I knew our playground plans were out! However, during a painting activity, Wild Thing surprised me by (out of the blue) telling me that he was making cards for two of his friends. I smiled. Here he was, at home and sick, and yet still thinking of others and extending love to his friends. 

The prompt for today involves showing kindness to a parent (for the boys) and showing kindness to our children, for me. Prompted by that challenge and by a great discussion on my Facebook page yesterday about sick days, I decided to share these simple ways to show kids love on sick days. (Many of my favorite bloggers were involved in sharing ideas, so I'm sending some love to them in this post too by linking to their home page if a particular activity was their idea). What would you add to the list? 

1. Extra snuggles! Of course, this had to be on the top of the list. Making the sick child the priority and giving them the extra hugs and cuddles they need is so important. I find that often, these snuggles coincide with a special movie or book. 

2. Watch silly movies on Youtube - I loved this sick day idea from Kid World Citizen, who specifically shared that short videos of cute baby animals always cheer her sick kids up. 

3. Read together - Many people suggested this, and I find this is another way to demonstrate love, often by reading that favorite book over and over. We recently received a few new books in the mail that have come handy on our sick days.  

4. Water play - Water has a calming affect, so a loving bath, new bath toy or simple water pouring activity can raise a sick child's spirits or help them relax. This was a great suggestion from Pennies of Time.

5. Playdough - Often, children love playdough play, but parents don't. It's a wonderful quiet activity for sick days and can be something that feels extra special to a child, especially if (like me) you don't do playdough play quite as often as your children might like. Thanks All Done Monkey for this suggestion.  

6. Make up stories - Wild Thing loves it when I make up stories, especially stories about Max (from Where the Wild Things Are) or about Angry Birds. My dad shared that he made up stories about a child that was sick and how they got through their sickness. Clever!

7. Puzzles - We love puzzles, and I'll be pulling out some of our newer puzzles today, which we haven't played with recently. This will be a great sick day activity for Wild Thing. To show extra love, I'll also make sure I sprawl on the floor with him as we do the puzzles. I loved this idea from Sprout's Bookshelf.

8. Sticker Books - Another idea from Sprout's Bookshelf. I often have sticker books stashed for car trips or restaurant outings, digging into this stash for a sick day sounds perfect.

9. Make Art Together - Yesterday we did sponge painting and corn cob roll painting, which prompted Wild Thing to make cards for his friends. It reminded me what a loving activity art and creation can be.

10. Tablet Time - We don't do a lot of tablet time at our house. In fact, I don't own a tablet or smart phone, but my husband does and sharing his tablet with our son is definitely something that makes my son feel extra special. It's great that many educational apps are available, so parents don't have to feel bad about the extra screen time.  

11. Get Outside - Often, when kids are sick, outdoor play goes off the list. However, Jessica of Conveying Awareness reminded me that just 20 minutes outside can actually benefit a sick child as it can provide a Vitamin D boost. Do something outside together that your child loves -- take that time to be with them and soak up the rays together. They'll truly feel the love if you do. 

12. Special Object/Item Playtime - Afterschool with Smarty Pants shared that she likes to pull out a toy or book that the child hasn't seen in awhile. If you do a toy rotation, sick days can be a good day to bring new toys or books back into rotation.

The common thread with all of these to me is recognizing the child's needs and engaging with the child, not just setting them up with the tablet or show, but doing those activities with them. I know that my time is the most valuable way I show my child love -- on sick days and everyday! 

What is your special "sick day" activity?

P.S. I was also reminded today of the value of giving extra time and attention to the "well" sibling when another child in the family is sick. I was grateful this morning to be able to leave Wild Thing at home with Daddy for a few hours and take Caterpillar to the park. It made a big difference after a day yesterday where most of my focus was on his big brother. Plus, Caterpillar (my introvert) surprised me by sharing his car with a friend at the park, totally something I hoped and planned for us to do yesterday as part of the challenge and something he did with no prompting today!

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Flowers, Bubbles, Time and Talents...Day 3 of 14 Days of Loving-Kindness

Colleagues, Peers and New Friends

The prompts for today as part of my 14 Days of Loving-Kindness challenge for my family and myself are a colleague/peer (as my challenge) and a new friend or friends at the park for my boys. With that in mind, we're making a plan for our park adventure today. 

Often our park outings are impromptu, but today we're doing some planning and prepping and will be bringing a few key items along with us: bubbles, sand toys and cars to send sailing down the slides -- perfect items to share with new friends we encounter at the park today.

Before letting the boys loose at the park, I'll make sure they realize that those bubbles and toys are part of our secret mission for the day -- to express loving-kindness to new friends at the park. We'll discuss the value of seeking to include children who might seem to be left out, but also respecting their wishes to play independently (alone), if they choose. (As a parent of one very extroverted child and one introverted child, I try to be mindful that for some children independent play is preferable and not a negative). 

As for me, my prompt today to extend loving-kindness to a colleague or peer at first seemed challenging. I'm a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom who runs a company with my husband, which at first made it seem like I really don't have any colleagues or peers, except him. However, this is all wrong. I also blog. I'm also an artist. I'm also a mother.
Hence, other bloggers, independent artists and mothers are my colleagues, my peers -- and many of them inspire me in ways they may not even know. 

So, today I plan to surprise a fellow blogger and mother with flowers and a well-timed note. I also plan to extend loving-kindness to a fellow artist and another fellow mother and blogger by giving my time and talents. So often, when considering acts of kindness, thoughts often go immediately to monetary gifts (which are great) or some of the more standards acts of service, such as donating food or clothing or even a volunteer shift now and again. 

Many of us might overlook the unique talents or skills we might have that we can share with another. Taking the time to share those can be a wonderful act of loving-kindness. 

So, today I will slow down and set aside some time to respond to some queries from a fellow blogger and to go above and beyond in my response. I will cull my research and knowledge for a fellow artist and send her what will hopefully be useful, key tips for an upcoming project, and I will keep my eyes open all day for opportunities -- in real life and online -- to share the work of my colleagues and peers. 

Are you a blogger, mother (perhaps both) or independent artist that would like a nudge today? Let me know. Sharing is caring. I'm on it! 

P.S. I encourage you to also take a second or two as shares come through your social media threads today. Take a moment to like a post or comment. You never know what that simple act might mean to someone else. 

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