Putting the Phone Down

Putting the Phone Down

Sneakers on, I strapped my daughter into her stroller and ran to my son’s preschool. Normally, I take the car to pick him up, and we were all excited for a nice walk home. Picking flowers, banging rocks, and noticing every detail around him, my son savored the walk. I, on the other hand, became a bit bored. A ten-minute walk morphed into a forty-minute walk as we stopped every few feet. Did I engage with my son as he honed his observational skills? No. Pushing the stroller with my left hand, I began googling “healthy sugar cookie recipes” with my right hand.

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A good Reminder

Googling while walking isn’t a horrible thing to do, but I was convicted about it later that night while listening to my favorite podcast, Inspired to Action. In the episode I listened to the host, Kat Lee, interview Dawn Wible, founder of TalkMoreTechLess.com. Dawn shared some staggering statistics, including the fact that, on average, people check their phones 150 times each day, which equates to roughly every 10 minutes. She talked about how excessive use of electronics causes dependency and can take away from our time connecting with nature and with others.

I like Dawn’s message because she encouraged me to take small steps in order to “talk more and tech less.” She encourages people to start by keeping phones away from mealtimes and bedrooms, and she even sells a “detox box” as a reminder to put the phones away for periods of time. While I recognize that my iphone has many benefits, I also frequently feel guilty about using it when I’m with my kids.

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An Unconventional form of Service

For #serveyourfamilyfriday this week, I’m encouraging you (and myself) to make an extra effort to take your eyes off of your screens and to intentionally engage with your family. After I was reminded about the benefits of doing so, I left my phone in another room for an hour, and my son and I played a fun game of basketball (I use the word “game” loosely: he never actually let me touch the ball). I was glad my phone was in the kitchen so I could truly focus on my son.

I’m planning to craft some specific boundaries to help me in this area, and if you have any tips on how to reduce screen time, I’d love to hear them!  Also, if you’d like to receive our simple ideas for service, click here to start a club of your own.  Thank you so much for reading this, and let’s go love people (including our family members) on purpose!

Reflections on our Trail Cleanup Project

Reflections on our Trail Cleanup Project

Our Experience

The sun rose over the mountaintop as we opened the breakfast bag given to volunteers. I bounced Everly in the ergo to keep her from fussing.Teams of teenagers completing mandated community-service hours congregated next to buff mountain bikers ready to give back to the trails. And there we were: me, a woman not exactly known for her strength, and my 18 month-old daughter, clinging to her fisher-price shovel. Not long after we got there, my husband arrived with our 4 year-old son, we grabbed a pair of clippers and headed for the trails.

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“I’ve never seen volunteers that young before,” a ranger muttered. “Future rangers of America,” I answered proudly. When we got to our assigned area, we were instructed to look for fennel. Apparently, it isn’t indegenious to the area, and it takes water away from other plants. My husband was actually doing some work clipping while I followed Everly around, trying to make sure she didn’t eat any of the trail mix that she had dropped in the dirt. Scott came back and informed us that the rest of the fennel was located in an area replete with poisonous plants, and we realized that there really wasn’t much more we could do to help. The ranger told us to take a walk, to enjoy the day.

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Reflections

Because of sharp tools and poisonous plants, this project is probably better suited for older volunteers. However, I’m still glad we went. Why? I like the idea that we spent our Saturday learning about the environment. I like that my son is learning that it is important to participate in community service days, and I like that he was talking to me later on about how he helped “get that fennel” so that other plants could grow. I know there are people out there doing more important, helpful things, and I hope we will be more like those people in the future, but, for now, I’m grateful for the experience, and I’m also grateful that my daughter didn’t ingest dirty raisins or poison oak.

Want to do something like this with your family?

If your kids are a bit older, or if you want to try something like this regardless, you can see my post “Taking Care of the Environment” for tips on how to get started. Do you have any tips on how to help kids take care of the environment? If so please share them! Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go serve our community on purpose.

Showing Love to those Suffering from Illness

Showing Love to those Suffering from Illness

our April Project

Recently, I’ve gotten to know some awesome people who are doing great things. One such person is Amy Lehman. When she found out about our club, she emailed me to let me know that her daughter, Kaitlyn, had recently overcome cancer. Dedicated to mobilizing people in the community, Amy is involved with a wonderful organization that supports local families who are dealing with pediatric cancer. After hanging up the phone with Amy, I resolved to work with the Bumblebee Foundation to put together something to encourage families who have kids with cancer. Heather, the founder of the foundation, suggested that we make Easter baskets to give to four different families; thus, our April Project was born.

Since we’ve started working on this, it has been amazing to see how generous people have been in donating items for the Easter baskets. We have four coordinators who are working to collect donations, and all of them are receiving generous donations. One of my friends even encouraged her daughter to sell lemonade to support Dylan, a 2 year old with eye cancer. Members of the group have donated their own services (photography, massage, etc.), and we’ve also received donations from Trader Joe’s and other businesses. So much kindness. Our baskets are “due” next week, and I still need to take my son to Target to pick out some Legos for one of the baskets, but as I’ve watched the collections grow, I’ve been so excited to think that the parents and kids who have spent hours in the hospital will receive a few things that might brighten their days.

donations

Are you interested in doing something like this with people you know? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Contact your local hospital: Call the hospital in your community and ask them if they know of any local charities that support those dealing with cancer or other illnesses. If so, give them a call and follow the steps below. If there aren’t any charitable organizations in your area, ask the hospital if they will allow you to bring gifts to families at the hospital who are dealing with difficult illnesses.

2. Plan a theme for your gifts: we decided on Easter baskets because it is almost Easter, but you can plan your theme around any holiday. Having a theme to organize your donations around is helpful for participants, and if you are crafty (I’m not), this can help you make things pretty.

3. Collect Donations: ask the person in contact with the family (or families) what kind of donations would be most helpful. You can make one basket for the person who is sick, or you can make “baskets” for each member of the family. After you decide on this, think creatively about how to solicit donations. Use social media, visit local businesses, or make things yourself. This part is fun!

4. Deliver the Gifts:  talk to the hospital or foundation about the best way to deliver the gifts. You may not be able to do this yourself, but the important thing is that the families are receiving the donations.

5. (Optional): Share your experience: post pictures of your donations on our Facebook page, or share a “success story” with us on the blog. The more we talk about service, the more other people want to be a part of the fun.

resources

It can be difficult to talk to our kids about the fact that others are dealing with illnesses, but I believe that it is important for them to be aware of what is going on in the world so they can develop compassion. Here are a few resources that might be helpful. If you know of any others, please share them!

Books

1. Franklin Goes to the Hospital: This sweet book is about a turtle who has to go to the hospital to get his broken shell fixed. It is geared toward younger readers, and it deals with the theme of courage.

2. Harry Goes to the Hospital: Written by a doctor, this book deals with a young boy who is staying in the hospital. Harry doesn’t like dealing with all of the tests and other challenges, but he feels loved and supported.

 Video

1. #Rallyon for Kids with Childhood Cancer: this music video shows kids who have cancer playing and experiencing hope. This is a good one to show kids to start talking with them about the issue. Please watch and share: every view earns $1 towards cancer research.

I personally haven’t known the agony of watching one of my children go through cancer, but I have respect and compassion towards anyone who has. Let’s work together to make families dealing with cancer feel acknowledged, loved, and supported. If you have any thoughts on this post, or if you have other ideas about how we can show love, please let us know. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

 

 

 

Three Ways to Inspire Kindness in your Children

Three Ways to Inspire Kindness in your Children

I don’t even have to step the playroom to encounter selfishness in my house. I can hear it before I walk in the door. “Mine” yells my toddler, “but I got it first,” replies her 4 year-old brother. As a mom, I’m constantly asking the question, “How can I help my kids be kinder to others?”

Encourage random acts of kindness:

Recently, we were at the park. The coolest thing happened: there was a little girl there who came up and introduced herself to my son. She said “Hi, my name is Hannah, do you want to play with my dog?” She brought two stuffed dog animals to the park: One for her and one to share with a friend. They had so much fun. This small act of kindness inspired me. I’m hoping to help my kids do random act of kindness like this. If you’d like to do random act of kindness with your kids and you’d like some ideas, I will be posting a kindness challenge of the day on Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to follow me; I’d love to hear your ideas too!

 waving

Put Service on your Calendar:

Because of my New Year’s Resolution this year, I’ve tried to be more intentional about making serving a part of our lives. I’ve committed to doing one service activity with my kids each month, and I put it on the calendar to make it part of our plan. (I love plans). The service projects aren’t super complicated: for the first one, we brought popcorn to firefighters. If you’d like to join in on the fun, I will be posting ideas and tips for a different family-friendly service project each month. Some of these ideas include bringing cards to residents of assisted-living homes, doing local trail cleanups, helping the homeless, making Easter baskets for kids with cancer, and many others. Regardless of whether or not you join our “club,” the important thing is to put service on your calendar.

Model kindness:

Occasionally, when we’re playing with my son’s Sesame Street characters, I  will force Elmo to act out what showing kindness looks like. This is pretty cheesy, but so what? It just might help. More than that, we all know it’s true:  if we want our kids to be kind, we need to be kind ourselves. This can be tough, especially when we are tired and stressed. I’m still growing in this area, but I’m trying to write nice notes and do nice things for people around me. I hope that if my kids see me (and Elmo) showing kindness, they will want to be kind too.

Thank you so much for reading; it is a constant challenge to combat selfishness in ourselves and in our kids, and by sharing ideas, we can all become better at teaching our kids this important skill. Feel free to check out our website at www.familyserviceclub.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  I know that the bickering in our playroom will probably continue, but I hope that by planning and encouraging kindness, I may hear some nicer words through the door as well. Do you have any ideas that have helped foster kindness in your family? I’d love to hear them!

If you have any comments, please click over to Contact Us to share your thoughts. Thank you so much!

 

*Also, if you like this post, and you want to check out other family-friendly posts, check out my sister’s blogger association.

Taking Care of the Environment

Taking Care of the Environment

Our march project

This month, we are focusing on the earth. Trying to get my son to start thinking about this, I made a feeble attempt to explain to my 4-year old the difference between the trash truck and the recycling truck this morning. I suppose I have to start somewhere.

I hope you will join me this month, let’s spend time talking about recycling, picking up trash, and teaching our kids about how to take care of nature. You probably already have ideas about how to do this, but if you’d like, here are some tips to get you started.

planting-a-tree1

1. Contact your local Parks and Rec. department: Ask them things like this: “do you have any parks or trails that could use some help from willing families?” and “do you have any community-wide cleanup events?” This is how we found out about a trail cleanup that we are participating in. Yay!

2. Take their recommendations: Once you talk to your Parks and Rec contact, form a plan, contact people, set a date, and grab your shovels or gloves or trash bags, and get out there! My kids love nature, and they love getting dirty, so I think this one will be really fun for us.

(Optional) 3. Join the Arbor Day Foundation. Did you know that if you become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, you get 10 free trees to plant? So cool. (You may want to ask Parks and Rec about where you can plant them).

(Optional) 4. Take pictures and post them:  We are excited to see how you’ve made the world a little bit more beautiful this month. Thanks!

Resources

Books for Kids 

1. Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter: This winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is about a woman who goes back to her home town in Kenya to plant trees. It has beautiful illustrations, and it is a great one for younger kids.

2. The EARTH BOOK by Todd Parr: This helpful book has cute pictures illustrating ways that kids can serve the earth. “I can use both sides of the paper” etc. It is also a good one for younger kids.

Books for the Family 

1. 365 Ways to Live Green for Kids: Saving the Environment at Home, School, or at Play–Every Day! by Sheri Amsel: This book encourages families to be eco-friendly with a ton of practical ideas.

Videos

peppa

1. Peppa Pig, Full Episode, Recycling: My son loves Peppa Pig, and this 5 minute episode is a good way to start the conversation with your kids about Recycling. Mummy Pig explains how and why the pigs should recycle. It is super basic, and my son asked if he could watch it again.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope these ideas and resources have been helpful. Do you have any ideas about how to help our kids take care of the environment? Please let us know!

If you have any comments, please click over to Contact Us to share your thoughts. Thank you so much!

 

A Valentine’s Day to Remember

A Valentine’s Day to Remember

My Experience

On Friday, Feb. 13th, I raced out of work to strap my kids in their car seats and head to Meadowbrook Senior Center. My daughter was very excited about the very real looking dog in the entryway, and the rest of our visit was exciting as well. We were led into a room with residents in chairs and wheelchairs on all sides of the room. We made our way around, enjoying the smiles and getting mixed reactions to my children’s unusual names. After some teary eyes (including mine), we grouped up for a chorus of “You Are my Sunshine.” Everyone sang along. And I paused, basking in the sunshine that a small gesture can make.

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Reflections

I was really inspired by my friend Katie who, along with her preternaturally sweet 5-year old, Audrey, really took the time to talk to and hug several residents. Looking back, I wish we would have stayed a little longer. Other than that, it was wonderful. I returned home and obsessively checked Facebook to read about other club members who had gone to other homes. One super cool woman had such a great time with her family that she is planning to make regular visits, and her post made me think. I really hope that we will return to a senior center as well because, while handmade cards are AWESOME, (especially some of them that should be featured on Pintrest), building relationships is (in my opinion), the most important part of service.

 Want to do this with you family? Here are five tips…

  1. Call ahead: all the volunteer coordinators we worked with were so kind and helpful, and talking to them in advance is super important. Make sure to ask about parking.
  2. Prepare your kids in advance (and make sure they are healthy): read books to your kids and talk to them about wheelchairs, confusion, etc.
  3. Focus the conversation on the kids: The residents may not remember or want to talk about their own stories, but they seemed to love learning random details about the kids. (Ex. this is my son, and he turned four on Wednesday, etc.)
  4. Take time and give eye contact: I wish I would have followed this advice even more, but real connection comes from taking time and looking people in the eyes.
  5. Go for it: Kids may not be able to build homes for the homeless or advocate vocally for world peace, but they are cute, and cuteness is a big deal for this project…so allow their cuteness to bless others, and let’s get out there and work together to love people on purpose.

 

Treats for Firefighters

Treats for Firefighters

Our Experience

For our first service day, we gathered up our popcorn and muffins and walked over to our neighborhood park on January 19th to meet some new moms and their kids before heading to fire station 32. I was pretty nervous.

After awkwardly trying to figure out if the ladies at the park were there to play or to meet up with us, we made our introductions and loaded our cars. It was a really fun morning. The guys at the station were awesome: they appreciated our treats, and they took the time to show us around. My son loved getting to sit on the driver’s seat of the fire truck, and he was almost beside himself when he found out that he would get to help the spray the hose.

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Reflections

Even though bringing treats to a fire station might not be as helpful as feeding the hungry, I loved the project because my son loved it. It was a fun way to kick off the year and to remind him that we should take time to show gratitude to those who are serving in our community. I am so thankful for everyone who came out, and I can’t wait for our February project!

Want to try this with your family?

If you are interested in doing this with your family, here are some things to think about.

  1. Go for it! It was a great experience and an awesome way to spend a morning.
  2. Call first: They might be busy running a drill or something, so make sure to let the fire chief know when to expect you.
  3. Plan strategic snacks: one of our group members gave us great advice. She suggested bringing food for breakfast or quick, packaged snack foods rather than sweet baked goodies. She said that bananas, bacon, and granola bars would be more helpful for long days. I’m sure any and all snacks are appreciated, but I love her advice.
  4. Get your kids involved! Take them shopping for snacks, read stories, and play with fire trucks at home. Focus on the idea of showing gratitude.

 

We had a great time bringing treats to firefighters, and if you didn’t join us for this project, feel free to go on your own any time. Also, please let people know about our club so that more people can get involved. See our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/587494308048193/

Thanks so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose!