6 Tips for a Boy Who’s Starting Kindergarten

6 Tips for a Boy Who’s Starting Kindergarten

Dear Paxton,

I know you aren’t the biggest fan of advice, but I have some for you. I went to Kindergarten once, so I know a thing or two about this.

I would say this to you in person, but you seem pre-occupied right now, growling like a gorilla in your room, so I’ll type instead. Here goes.


1. Listen to your teacher: The woman in front of your class cares about you. She might ask you to do things you don’t want to do, and she may even discipline you, but she cares. Otherwise, she would be making more money doing an easier job. Remember, she has what you want: knowledge. She can teach you want you need to know. And, believe me: your life will be much more pleasant if you do what she says.

2. Be kind to you classmates: I know you think having the first turn is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing, but it isn’t. Having friends is much more important. Pushing other kids will not make them want to play with you, and interrupting them five hundred times to tell them about your new game will not make them want to play it with you. Smile at your classmates. Think about their feelings, and let them go first occasionally. This will make Kindergarten much more fun.

3. Remember what you are capable of: Kindergarten will be hard at points. Really hard. You will be frustrated, and you’ll have to try harder than you think you can. But guess what? You are capable of great things. I know. I’m your mom. You can walk, talk, and jump. You can use a fork. You can climb to the top of the play structure. You can swim! Remember when you couldn’t do all of those things? I do. When you work hard, you can do hard things. Don’t give up. I believe in you.


4. Stand up for yourself: Be kind to everyone, but know that, unfortunately, people won’t always be kind to you. Kids may say mean words; kids may even hurt you. That’s not okay. Tell them that you don’t like those words and actions. And if you can’t work it out with that person, tell a grown-up. Don’t let people treat you disrespectfully: you’re too cool for that.

5. Learn to read: I mean it. Learn! I know, I’m biased about this, but reading is the most important academic skill you will ever learn. Work at it. Put those alphabet sounds together; stare at those books until the words make sense. You won’t believe how incredible it is to be able to read anything you see. Cherish it. Don’t lose your passion for stories. Being a reader will make you more compassionate and more intelligent. It will be hard to do, but you will never regret it, and, remember, you can do hard things.

6. Don’t forget about us: Paxton, I love you more than you will ever comprehend. You are growing more independent every day. You will continue to learn things I didn’t teach you, and grow in ways I haven’t thought of. You will spend time away from our house and make friends with people that we don’t know. You’re growing up. And I may or may not be crying as I’m typing about this. But don’t forget about us. Your home is a safe place. We encourage your growing independence and freedom, and we’re here, cheering for you, helping you. As you hear many other voices, remember our voices. We love you and believe in you more than anyone. My boy, as you grow, don’t forget us.

I won’t lie. This might be a hard year. Your feelings and your body might get hurt. You may feel frustrated, and you may feel discouraged. Life is hard like that.

But, I promise, great things will happen too. You will meet new friends, think new thoughts, and acquire new skills. You will come out of Kindergarten even more awesome than you are now. And we will be here the whole time, never doing your work for you but always encouraging you along the way.

Here’s to a great year.

Lots of love,



Trampoline Timeout: How $27 Changed my Parenting

Trampoline Timeout: How $27 Changed my Parenting

I will admit it: I don’t know much about boys. I grew up with a sister, and I’m not a boy myself, so parenting my son is challenging at times. Besides the fact that I don’t understand his obsession with weapons, I’m also confused about his need for movement.

I recently heard a podcast episode called “The Art of Nurturing Boys” that was super helpful. It may not be much, but I wanted to share this small “win” with you because, as people close to me know, I’ve had other strategies that didn’t work out so well.

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A Bad Day

A few weeks ago, my son went through a cranky period.

Pouting, frowning, slamming, pushing. It was ugly.

Weary from teaching, I picked him up from school to see him sulking to the car. Again. Nothing was specifically wrong (as far as I could tell): he was just in a bad mood.

Strapped in the back, he pouted and spouted negativity. Taking a deep breath, I remembered the encouragement from the podcast. David Thomas had admonished me through my earbuds to allow my son to move. To allow him work his feelings out physically.

The Punishment

When we pulled into the garage, we had this conversation:

Mommy: Paxton, you have been cranky and disrespectful. You have a “trampoline timeout.”

Paxton: Oh, man. (Sulks some more)

Mommy: Do you know that that means?

Paxton: I can’t use the new trampoline.

Mommy (firmly): No. That’s not it. You HAVE to use the trampoline. You must jump as hard as you can until you are in a better mood, until I see the smile I love so much.

Paxton (smiling slightly): Okay, mommy.

The Result

We went outside, and he bounced. Hard. And just like David Thomas said, I realized that I would never regret this $27 purchase.

After 3 minutes, he smiled and laughed, mood entirely changed. I dismissed him from his timeout, and he sprinted inside.

I started making dinner, and in a few minutes, Paxton emerged from his room, picture in hand.

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He proudly presented me with a drawing of the two of us and ran away. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes.

He was happy.

I was proud.

Why do I share this with you? As mentioned, I’ve tried many things to help my son with his occasional meltdowns and moods. Some have worked, and some have flopped, but this strategy felt different.

I was helping him learn how to cope with difficult days. If he had done something more extreme, I would have given him a stricter punishment, but for this situation, it worked.

After we had employed the “trampoline timeout” a few more times, he used it on me. On a day of planning and doing too much, I raced around the house fretting and sweating. Paxton said, “Mommy, do you need a “trampoline timeout?” You know what? I did.

I went outside, put on a song, and jumped. And sure enough, 3 minutes later, I felt better. Maybe we all need something like this sometimes.

Do you have any strategies that help you teach your kids to cope with difficult days, difficult feelings? If so, I would love to hear about them. Let me know if you try this strategy; it might work for your kids (or for you).  I must give a special thanks to Heather MacFadyen for the podcast: check it out!

Thanks for reading, and let’s go love people (especially those in our family) on purpose.



Stuffed-Animal and Action Figure Drive

Stuffed-Animal and Action Figure Drive

My daughter loves cats; thus, for her last birthday, she received six stuffed cats. Six! And while I am so appreciative of the generosity of friends and family, we don’t need piles of stuffed animals in every room. More than wanting to clear clutter, I’m organizing a stuffed-animal drive to help my kids fight entitlement. It is so hard for kids (and for all of us, really), not to hoard our possessions, not to think we are entitled to mountains of stuff, not to want more, more, more. The best way that I’ve found to combat that tenancy is to give to others. So, this month, we will be working with other local families to collect and donate new and gently-used stuffed animals.


Want to get involved?

1. Donate:  We will be meeting on Saturday, March 12th from 10am-12pm at Wendy Park in Newbury Park to collect items. (815 American Oaks Avenue). Bring your kids to play, and the adults will sort the donations. Please make sure donations aren’t dirty or ripped.

2. Spread the Word: It would be great if you could spread the word about our event!  Send Facebook messages, post about it on your social media sites, talk to people in person, make flyers, etc. Many people (especially those with kids) have stuffed animals they are willing to donate.

3. Support Great Organizations:  We will be donating to two places. Some of our items will go to the local police department, and, as mentioned in our local paper, “they give them to children who are involved in a variety of crisis situations from car accidents to domestic and sexual violence situations, or situations when a child or child’s family member is in crisis.” What a great cause! Since they can’t store too many items, most of our donations will go to Casa Pacifica, a fantastic place that supports children and families in their toughest times, striving to help them overcome challenges like abuse and neglect. When we picture kids in crisis hugging a stuffed-animal for comfort, we are inspired to give. Even if you can’t donate on March 12th, keep these organizations in mind when you have things to donate in the future.


I’m certainly not going to ask my daughter to give away her favorite kitty, but I will help her choose a couple to donate. I want to remind her (and myself) of the importance of giving to others rather than feeling entitled. Do you have any strategies that help you and your family fight entitlement? If so please share them! Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose. Hope to see you on the 12th!


“No, I’m not Pregnant”: My Struggle with Diastasis Recti

“No, I’m not Pregnant”:  My Struggle with Diastasis Recti

Having two children has come with many joys and many challenges, one of which I did not anticipate. Several months after the birth of my youngest, I was at a Frozen birthday party, happily enjoying some Olaf marshmallows, when a woman I didn’t know asked me when I was due with my third. The thing is, this would have been a hard comment to deal with even if I hadn’t heard it so frequently, but it felt like everywhere I went someone was congratulating me on my pregnancy. But, as the title suggests, I wasn’t pregnant (nor I am now).


You can see that I’m hiding my stomach in this photo. This is a strategy I’ve gotten very good at. 

I will back up and tell you that I’m blessed with a healthy metabolism, and I have never been super self-conscious about my body. I miraculously escaped body-image issues as a teen, and, suddenly, as a 33 year-old, I started having new feelings of embarrassment about my stomach. All the questions about my “pregnancy” led not only to awkwardness but also to shame. I started eating like a rabbit, researching diet fads,  and feeling guilty if I consumed half of a banana. I did ab exercises, and I became skinnier than I had ever been. However, I kept getting the dreaded question: “When are you due?”

Things really came to a head over Easter. My daughter, at this point, was 18 months old, and I had been dieting and exercising religiously. With good intentions and a smile, a friend of my parents congratulated me on my pregnancy. I walked away quickly, concealing my tears.  My well-meaning stepmother told me that she and my dad had been discussing my stomach (a sentence one never wants to hear), and they had decided that they couldn’t understand what was going on with my body either. They offered to pay for liposuction if I wanted to look into it. In a frenzy of emotions later that week, I vented to a friend. That was the turning point.


August 1st, 2015 

My dear friend, Heidi, suggested that I look into a condition called Diastasis Recti. With a simple google search and a trip to my doctor, I found out that I had an umbilical hernia and a large ab separation (diastasis recti). If you aren’t familiar with this condition, it is a fairly common occurrence that involves a woman’s abdominal muscles separating during pregnancy. Sadly, this causes “mommy tummy.” I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of this before! What’s worse is the fact that I had been doing sit-ups and crunches: exercises that only make this condition worse!  No!!


I went in August to have my hernia fixed, and while my surgeon was able to pull my upper abs together slightly, I didn’t elect to get the major cosmetic surgery required to fix the whole of my abdominal wall. Thus, while I was out of medical danger, I still looked pregnant and felt discouraged. I decided to give myself a year to work on my ab separation before deciding to undergo such an extensive procedure.

At that point, I discovered many helpful resources online. The most beneficial being a program called The Dia Method. This program includes a nutrition plan, instructional DVDs, and online encouragement, and it has really helped. I’ve learned how to do “everyday moves” in way that keeps my abs from bulging, and I’ve learned about how to support (rather than hinder) my progress through exercise. (I have no affiliation with the company; I just like it!)



I’ve made some progress, but I am still working on closing my abdominal separation. My daughter is now 2.5, and while I haven’t been asked “the question” for awhile, I still see people looking at my stomach inquisitively. I still hide my belly in photos; I still have outfits I can’t wear, and I’m still working on developing and maintaining a healthy view of food and my body. And though talking to strangers and my parents about my “bump” was challenging and awkward, I thank God that all of that happened as it has been a catalyst for change. Learning about and being more comfortable with my body has really been a blessing.


January 29th, 2016

This story, in some ways, seems irrelevant for a service website, but, here at Family Service Club, we are all about helping others, and I’m hoping that sharing my story can help. I believe that when we share our stories vulnerably and authentically, when we share what we’ve learned, when we share what we are working on, we serve others by increasing solidarity and community. Have you ever struggled with body image issues? Do you get asked if you are pregnant? Do you have friends who are working through similar issues? How do you best support them? How do you deal with these challenging issues in your own life?  I’m still on my journey, and I would love to hear about yours. Side note: please don’t ask anyone when she is due unless you know FOR SURE she is pregnant. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.


Creating Ripples

Creating Ripples

Hello! I’m really excited to introduce you to one of my favorite people that I’ve never met: Megan Seese Livingston. I respect her for her benevolence towards others, and I’m thrilled that she has started the first East Coast Chapter of the Family Service Club in Pennsylvania. I asked her to share her story with us, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Megan’s Story

Isn’t it great how life has a way of connecting people at the right time even from opposite sides of the country?  That’s exactly what happened a few months ago when I got a message from my Gamma Sigma Sigma sister, Liz Bidula Peak, asking me to check out a new group she was a part of called the Family Service Club.  Little did Liz know I had been looking for a way to take my volunteering in a new, family oriented direction…one message from the west coast to the east coast between college friends, who haven’t seen each other in years, and a volunteer spark was made.

So let me step back a minute and tell you a bit about myself, my name is Megan Seese Livingston and you could say I’m a bit passionate about volunteering. If I could be a full time volunteer, I totally would! For me, it’s just been a way of life; I was raised in a family where service and giving weren’t things you were told to do, they were things you wanted to do, it has always been part of the fabric of who I am. Ten years ago, I started a local prom dress project here in my hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. My mom, having been a high school teacher, noted the amount of girls in our community who could likely not afford to attend the prom. After watching an episode of Oprah about prom dress projects, and knowing that my sister and I had our fair share of once worn dresses, we decided to give it a try. Now ten years later, the Johnstown Cinderella Project has helped over 900 girls across five counties in 27 different school districts attend their prom, free of cost and we have over 1,000 donated, new and/or gently used dresses to choose from. But this project is about more than just a dress, it’s about building self-esteem and reaching teens who need to know that someone cares. Many girls come to our project without a parent so having our volunteers spend time to make them feel special is often a rare experience. It’s so much more than sequins and sparkles, there’s just something about that moment when a girl looks in the mirror, her eyes light up and you know that she believes in herself. It’s proof that one thing truly can make a difference.


Over the past several years, I’ve become committed to improving my hometown. We’re a former steel town trying to shake the rust off and bring the positives of our region to light. I am a co-founder of our local young professionals group and a member of a variety of committees, boards and community initiatives. My work through these groups has given me the opportunity to connect with many of our area’s needs. Often people have come to me and asked about volunteer opportunities that their family can take part in. Last year, I created a list during the holidays of ten things families could do to give back locally. It was not long after that when Liz reached out, at the time I was also pregnant with our second daughter and contemplating how we would teach our girls about giving. You could say it was chance or the stars aligning but for me it was all happening for a reason, one I may not fully know the depth of right now but when all signs say go and are pointing in the same direction, I’ve learned to pick up my bags and follow. So I took the leap forward and connected with Kellie to launch the Johnstown chapter of the Family Service Club. The response in our first few months has been great, I love seeing even the smallest connections of love and service to others we have helped to spark but I also know there is much more awesomeness to come. Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” we’ve cast the stone here in Johnstown and I’m looking forward to seeing the many ripples!


As you can see, Megan is a leader who cares for others. I am thrilled that she started an FSC chapter, and her group is off to a wonderful start. If this post inspires you to start a Family Service Club of your own, please get in touch, and I can help you get started. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose. Sincerely, Kellie




The Mom Quilt

The Mom Quilt

Hello, readers! I have really exciting news for you. Today, a fantastic ebook was published. The Mom Quilt was compiled by Becky Mansfield and Jodi Durr to benefit the Mercy House in Kenya, founded by Kristen Welch.

I’m excited about this book for multiple reasons, for one, I was honored to be selected as one of the 60 women to share my motherhood story as a chapter in this book. For another, 100% of the proceeds benefit an amazing cause.


Let me tell you a little bit about the project. Mercy House is an incredible organization that empowers women in poverty. They currently need to build a well on their property, and the proceeds of this book will fund that well. In the ebook, mothers share their stories, their stories of hardships, their stories of hope, their stories of motherhood.

Crying over my keyboard, I spent some emotional evenings writing my chapter, reflecting on how losing my mother has effected my motherhood journey. Here is an excerpt from my chapter.

Motherhood hasn’t always been easy for me, in fact, it usually isn’t. My oldest, Paxton, is now 4, and when he was born, I was a total mess. One night when he was 6 months old, while he slept soundly in his crib, I cried desperately in my closet. I felt so lost, so alone. I love my husband, and I love my stepmom, but I wanted to talk to my mom. As a good student and successful teacher, I was used to feeling competent in my daily life, and I didn’t feel this way when I was at home with my infant son. I faltered through my first few months of motherhood feeling completely inadequate. How could I get my son to sleep more than three hours at time? Was it detrimental that he was taking every nap in the sling? Would I ever feel normal again? Would breastfeeding get easier? While many women would consult their mothers about these questions, I cried in the closet. My dad travelled a lot when I was growing up, and although he is an amazing person, he doesn’t remember anything about my early childhood. Did I sleep in a crib or in bed with my parents? Was I fussy or content? These questions remain unanswered, and for this and many reasons, I felt (and sometimes still feel) really clueless as a mom.

You see, I lost my mother when I was 17.

Writing my story was cathartic and challenging. 60 other women poured their hearts into their chapters as well, and I can’t wait to read my copy of the book. As I type this, $1000 has already been raised towards the goal of $40,000. The book is $9.99, and I can’t think of a better way to spend ten dollars.


I’m not very strong physically, and I am never much help on service trips that require manual labor. For this reason, I’m thrilled that I was able to use my passion for writing to support a worthy cause. If you are able, please, buy a copy of Mom Quilt, and please share this link with your friends. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.




Go Set a Watchman: An English Teacher’s Review

Go Set a Watchman: An English Teacher’s Review

Have you ever watched a sitcom for years and loved the characters like friends?  Have you ever felt that way about characters in a novel? I feel that way about Scout and Jem Finch. I’ve spent some time with these goofballs. A LOT of time. I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird 18 times, and I’ve taught it for ten years. In moments of stress I’ve been known to listen to the audiobook to calm myself down; I have pages practically memorized. Reading Go Set a Watchman was a surreal experience for me. I felt like I was watching a “where are they now?” reunion show, witnessing up close who the characters became after Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow, after time passed. I just finished the book yesterday. Here are my initial thoughts.


The Beginning

When I started reading, I greedily gobbled up information about the lives of the characters. I sped past some dry description, scanning the pages for more information about Jem, wanting to see how Jean Louise turned out. Her relationship with Henry seemed realistic, she was entertained by him as he represented a nostalgic connection with her hometown, Finch’s Landing personified. Although she felt connected to him, her tomboy ways and lack of desire for the domestic were consistent. However, I continued to read, and I started slowing down. Focusing on plot and characters at the beginning, I didn’t really notice that her style was comparatively lacking. Where were the spot-on absolute phrases? Where were the sentences replete with perfectly-placed prepositional phrases? Where were the incredible action verbs?

The Language

For those of you who aren’t grammar nerds like I am, let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

When Jean Louise first sees Henry in Watchman, Lee writes, “He grabbed her in a bear hug, put her from him, kissed her hard on the mouth, then kissed her gently.”

When Jem pushes Scout towards Boo Radley’s house in Mockingbird, Lee writes, “The tire bumped on gravel, skeetered across the road, crashed into a barrier and popped me like a cork onto pavement.”

I tried to pick quotes from important points of each novel, and even though the first quote is descriptive, Lee uses adverbs like “hard” and “gently” to modify the verbs; whereas, in the second quote, she uses precise action verbs and doesn’t rely on adverbs as a crutch. The second quote is also more effective because of its parallelism. At the risk of boring you, I could elaborate on the syntactic and grammatical differences, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I find Mockingbird stylistically superior because, in Mockingbird, language enhances content and meaning on almost every page.


The Flashbacks

Along with the language, the plot and subplots in Watchmen weren’t as interesting to me. Although the flashbacks to her childhood were fun (I liked the one about Dill staging a religious revival), none of them stack up against lies about strip poker and indian-head pennies in the knothole of a tree.

The Racism

As for Atticus’s much-discussed “fall from grace,” this aspect of the book wasn’t super shocking to me. In fact, he makes a comment in Mockingbird which seems to almost condone the original klan, foreshadowing the fact that he may be somewhat sympathetic to racist causes as an older man. Also, although I wouldn’t call him a chauvinist, after Tom Robinson’s trial, he agrees with Ms. Maudie that women shouldn’t serve on juries because they would be too chatty. My point: Atticus was never a perfect character. He tells Scout in chapter 16 of Mockingbird that all people have “blind spots,” and I don’t think he should be excluded from that assessment. The fact is, as Uncle Jack mentions in Watchman, Scout always put Atticus on a pedestal, as many readers (myself included) are tempted to do as well, but, in reality, Atticus has something to learn from Scout in his old age, and I don’t think that ruins anything.

My Concluding Thoughts

As some reviews have said, reading this book is an incredible behind-the-scenes glimpse into Harper Lee’s writing process. How amazing to read the book that she wrote before her masterpiece. How incredible to see her language improve. How fascinating to be able to reflect on an editor’s influence. Did I love Watchman? No. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely. My favorite thing about this book, honestly, is that it motivated millions to reread To Kill a Mockingbird, and, even if for that reason alone, I love Go Set a Watchman. So if you haven’t read it, you should! But if you only have time to read one Harper Lee novel, Watchman isn’t the right choice.

An Unconventional Way to Serve your Family

So, what is a book review doing on a service website? Good question, and it’s true, not all of my posts are about service projects, but remember how cool it was that Atticus always read to and in front of Jem and Scout? I’m trying to do that too. I read an article that mentions that “Scientists have found that children who have fiction read to them regularly find it easier to understand other people – they show more empathy and have better developed theory of mind.” I want my kids to be empathetic, and one way I can encourage this is by reading to them and modeling a love of reading. Modeling a love for reading isn’t to difficult when there is a new Harper Lee novel involved.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Seriously, I have been dying to talk to other people about this book as I have just started digesting it myself. (I may even have to write another blog post). Are you glad it was published? Why or why not? Please let me know, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and for good measure, let’s all remember this classic: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” –Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Strong Women

Strong Women

My friend, Annie Rim, is writes a wonderful blog, and she asked me to write a post for her upcoming series about strong women. I was honored to do so, and I thought I would share it on my blog as well. In my opinion, being a strong woman is less about making millions: it is more about loving others. Here are my reflections on on the two strong women I was blessed to call mom.


I’m pretty lucky because I have two mothers. My parents divorced when I was 12, and when I was 14, I gained the most wonderful stepmom, Kimberly. I believe God really knew what He was doing when he mended part of my broken family because just three years later, my mother, Alice, passed away unexpectedly when her lungs collapsed. And while it was incredibly hard, and while I would never wish divorce on anyone, I’m glad my parents divorced for one reason: I was able to have the two best moms a girl could ask for.

The thing is, my two moms couldn’t be more different.

My stepmom was a prime-time news anchor, a powerful woman that others all over the state looked up to and idolized, and they still do. She is a beautiful, successful woman who knows how to take control, to make things happen. She hosts incredible parties, and keeps up with my fast-moving father as they travel the world.  I love my stepmom: she teaches me how to be a grace-filled, working mom and how to take action steps to make the world a better place. She and my dad have done incredible things for people in third-world countries along with people in their communities, and they are constantly using their resources and influence for good.

My mom, on the other hand, was an unsung hero. She didn’t go to work when we were growing up, and while she was well-loved at church, she didn’t have a global sphere of influence the way Kimberly does. She didn’t have many friends, and certainly didn’t enjoy throwing parties. And while she wasn’t successful by the world’s standards, she was an incredible mom. She made our favorite foods on our birthdays, and left encouraging notes on my windshield once I learned to drive. She listened well and fought depression tooth-and-nail to put on a smile for my sister and me.

Reflecting on the two strong women in my life, I can’t help but thank God that I’ve been mothered by both of them. And although I love to write, I am unable to articulate the various ways in which they have shaped me as a person and as a mom. But I know that because of them, I strive to love people well. I want to make my kids feel valued and loved, and I also want them to believe that they can do great things.


This past year, I started an organization called The Family Service Club. Both of my moms taught me that rising above myself in service to others is incredibly important, and I want to impart that lesson to my kids as well. With that in mind, I’ve started this group that empowers families to do monthly service projects together. Many times I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone, but I press on.

I want to be a strong woman: I want to follow in the footsteps of two mothers who have changed the world. I want my kids to see that whether their sphere of influence is large or small, they should strive to meet the needs of others, to love others well. I love my strong moms, and I hope that I pray that I can be a strong mom as well.

Do you have some strong women in your life? I’d love to hear about them! And if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

Sara’s Story

Sara’s Story

Recently, I started following someone really inspirational on Instagram: @SaraSmilesJoyRides. She is a master at enacting and encouraging random acts of kindness, and I love following how she is changing the world, one gesture at a time. I’m honored that she agreed to guest post for us today. Check out her story below.

Sara’s Story

What you do matters. It’s something we all need to hear, sometimes even on our best days. So, this year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I intended to keep: I would take weekly “joy rides”. (Not to be confused with a speedy journey, but instead, a ride to bring joy via sweet treats, a gift card or any creative gesture that affirms worth.)

“Joy rides” are a grassroots effort to honor people…just because. They’re spontaneous, authentic gestures, that anyone can execute – all you need is a willing heart, some creativity and hopefully a cell phone to capture the moment.

SaraSmilesJoyRidesTo date, I’ve taken 16 “joy rides”, everywhere from a souvenir shop on the busiest end of tourist Orlando, through a toll booth and inside an emergency room. I firmly believe that birthdays and funerals aren’t the only time that people in my corner of the world should be recognized.

One of my favorite “joy rides” unfolded at a Wawa near The Walt Disney World Resort. I had purchased a gift card to give to someone, and while perusing the people at the pumps, my eyes fell on a mother with several young children playing in the car. I approached her, and shared my usual encouragement, and before I could even finish, her eyes welled up with tears. “You don’t know the day I’ve had,” she shared, “This means so much.” This woman I’ll probably never see again moved me to tears too.



My list for future “joy rides” is growing every day, and little by little, friends and acquaintances are joining in, and adding “joy riders” to the fold. It’s humbling to see how little things can make a big difference! Here’s to changing the world, one “joy ride” at a time.

About Sara

Hailing from Northeast Ohio, Sara is a quirky bundle of sunshine who’s sure to spark a smile. She loves Converse tennis shoes, baby animals, musical moments and any avenue to brighten someone’s day. By day, she’s a writer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Her little yellow rocket ship (a FIAT) serves as the perfect joy mobile.


Follow @SaraSmilesJoyRides on Instagram and @TakeAJoyRide on Twitter for the latest “joy ride” updates, or add her blog, SaraSmiles.org, to your quick links. (Photography credit: Katelynn Carlson Photography)

thanks for reading

I hope you enjoyed Sara’s story as much as I did…what a great movement. Have you ever been part of a “joy ride”?  If so, we’d love to hear your story, and you can also follow Sara (and Family Service Club) on Instagram for ideas and inspiration. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

Sitting with them through the Pain

Sitting with them through the Pain

I wrote this post awhile ago, but I haven’t shared it for some reason. As I was rereading it today, I thought someone might need to hear it. Thankfully, I haven’t been changing as many sheets recently, but the main idea behind this post is still something that I need to remind myself of.


On Saturday, my son woke up from his nap, ninja turtle sheets and shorts soaked with pee. Shortly after I dried him off, we were sitting at the counter discussing our afternoon plans. My husband told Paxton that we wouldn’t have time to go on a family outing that afternoon. Without any warning, my son broke down, I mean totally broke down. I haven’t heard him sob that loudly since he was little. The thing is, I don’t think he was crying because he couldn’t go to the beach. Unfortunately, the he has had several accidents during nap time at school recently, and I know he has been trying to play it cool, like it doesn’t bother him, but I know it does. He spent all of last week waking up embarrassed to be wet in front of his friends–I know this because his best friend mentioned it to me repeatedly. So, on Saturday, when he woke up wet again at home, he lost it. His sobs and screams pained my eardrums as I held him.

When he first started crying, I weakly started to ask “do you want to watch a video to help you calm down?” And then, I stopped myself. A mentor at church has been emphasizing the power of “sitting with our kids in their pain” instead of trying to distract them or take their pain away all the time. Apparently, this practice helps kids to become more resilient; it helps them learn how to calm themselves. Sitting with my son in his sadness was difficult for my heart and for my ears, but I tried to focus on how good it felt to hug him, and I tried to send him the message that he can let it all out at home. As much as I would love to, I can’t help his body to stop peeing while asleep, but I can hold him and help him feel supported as he deals with the difficulties of life.

I felt compelled to share this story to remind myself and others what true service can look like. We don’t always have to visit a homeless shelter to serve. Sometimes we just have to sit with others in their pain, to empathize, to hug, to hold.

I look forward to the day that I’m not washing sheets so frequently, but until then, I will try to love him with compassion and empathy. As Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”


I love my son, and, often I try to distract him from his struggles or remove them if possible. Do you have any strategies that help you sit with your kids or others through their pain? If so, please share, and if you’d like daily ideas on sharing kindness, follow us on Instagram. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a Family Service Club of your own. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.