Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This seems to take a lot of planning . . . .

I am coming to realize that I need to do some more planning for this.  I am excited with future ideas like bringing kids from the MOMS Club to do a costume parade at a local retirement home, with the kids delivering their artwork and baked goodies.  I am planning on getting some friends together to do a Drop in and Decorate party and then bringing the cookies to the local shelter and also doing a drive with McAlister's to raise money for the animal shelter and collect blankets, towels, and pet food.  But all this takes some leg work on my part.  Not a big deal, not a lot of work, but I just have to think about it and then do it.  And for some reason time is moving quickly.  We are in the middle of week 4 and I don't have anything ready!  Well, the kids and I have been working on painting rocks and making other (hopefully) durable artwork that we can leave around town.  I think we will be doing that this week.  It is actually fun and Kyle says things like "Wow Mom - you are doing great!" and "Remember it doesn't have to be perfect" so I am enjoying putting it all together.  Especially when my trouble making darling Liam is napping.  Then I am not having to rescue paint and stickers and beans from being spread all over the house.  
One idea I am going to have to push on my husband is doing a potluck block party with our neighbors.  He swears he only likes 2 of our neighbors but we don't know the others!  I think it will be a good way to reinforce community with the kids and get to know the neighbors better.  People are usually on their best behavior at a neighborhood gathering and if something  does go wrong, it will be probably have us laughing later.  I figure I can talk him into it if I suggest getting new sand for the horseshoe pits and having his father bring the corn hole boards over.  Yeah - corn hole and horseshoes.  It will be one of those parties.  But I definitely think it could be fun.  

We are still planning on recognizing the firefighters and the library although I would like some creative ideas in addition to the baking.  I love my new mini muffin pan so I am excited to use it again.  But it is definitely getting old for the kids.  Okay - maybe its getting a little old for me too - but only because I only have one mixer/mixer bowl, one oven and no dishwasher. 

I would love to hear any other suggestions.  I know you all are crafty and thoughtful so it would be great if you could share the wealth!  Just post a comment below --  Thanks!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week 3 - Delivery for Labor & Delivery

This week was so busy - I kept thinking it was a day later than it really was and yet still did not realize that the end of the week was approaching and that I should get baking.  I made mini muffins to bring to the Labor & Delivery department at Warren Memorial Hospital yesterday.  Many thanks to Belinda Hardesty who made some amazing gluten free banana bread muffins.  She wrapped them up so nicely that I couldn't even sneak one!  I had a great time decorating the box for all the muffins and getting covered in Elmer's glue.

I took Zac with me on the delivery and he was so sweet and excited.  We were escorted to Labor & Delivery and received with welcome arms - literally!  Hugs!  It was so sweet.  Zac turned on the charm without saying a word and it felt so good to thank these wonderful women.  (Pictures to come when I get over my bad luck with cameras.)

I started this with the idea of reinforcing giving and community for my children but I feel like I am growing and learning with the experience.  I am definitely not an outgoing person but I find myself talking to more people and enjoying the people around me.  I have always tried to remember to thank everyone that helps in any way.  I am even cheerful to the cashiers at Walmart when they send me death glares for having them bag with my reusable grocery bags.  Kill em with kindness - right? 

As a mom, you generally don't get the positive feedback that would make the job much easier.  I used to work at this great law firm, Farrell & Croft, P.C., and the attorneys were wonderful about thanking me, telling me that I was doing great, and encouraging me.  I miss them on a regular basis and remember so much that I learned from my years working there.  It took me a while adjusting to being a mom - Kyle was a fussy baby and I wasn't getting much in the way of "Thanks Mom - way to handle that diaper blowout!".  Luckily - I have these amazing little boys who are very affectionate and I try to remember to appreciate the little moments.  I also have incredible parents who tell me I am doing great.  I am hoping that our Summer of Giving will be the little moments for the people who do so much for our town. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Getting Back

Jessie & Katie 10/1998
I started this blog thinking about things that I hadn't finished and mentioned friendships as being one I easily let get away from me.  And then - wonders of the internet - an old friend found me on Facebook and we have been sending long, rambling messages back and forth the last couple of days.  Even though we haven't spoken in 6 or 7 years, we have picked right up where we left off.  I immediately started sharing things with her that I don't really share with anyone and feel like I am trying to fit those 7 years into Facebook messages.  We are making plans to get together and I am trying to find a way to do it that doesn't involve me ignoring my kids for hours so we can catch up. 
She is a labor and delivery nurse which I can only imagine is an amazing job.  To get to participate in the miracle of bringing life into the world just seems incredible.  I will never forget the moments of my kids' births and I definitely wondered what it would be like to go to work and witness someone's life changing several times a day.  To see people transform from a couple into a family.  To see a new life take its first breath.  To see pure innocence in all its amazing wonder.  I look at my kids every day and I am shocked that we made them.  And now to figure out how to raise them right. 
And just like always, Jessie had some great advice for me about ways to give back to the community.  I am really excited to share them with other MOMS and get their participation.  I had thought about hospitals as an essential part of the community but I was thinking more of things to give to kids in the ER or making cards to kids who are admitted to the pediatric department but Jessie had great ideas for L&D/NICU.  That's where we became MOMS!  
I am definitely excited to have new ideas and I am even more excited to have renewed this friendship.  I always thought that once I lost touch with friends - getting back in touch would be awkward.  How different can you be from when you were 21 or 18 or 14?  But this feels completely natural and exciting and a little bit like that new relationship feeling.  I know my brain is doing one of those chemical reaction thingies like when you exercise or have a girl's night out or that magic it does that lets you run on 2 hours of sleep a week with a colicky newborn.  
But you also get this great happy feeling from helping others.  It makes it easier to keep going - and hopefully keep making decisions that are good for me and others.  I used to wish I was someone else.  I used to wish I had the drive to do things that seemed so life-altering.  I used to read about people taking vacations in far away countries and volunteering their vacation away.  Or people who would travel to places like New Orleans to rebuild homes and lives.  Or people who quit their job to start a Non-Profit or who took a year off to teach English in developing countries.  Or people who were touched by an illness or condition or accidental death and changed their lives, and the lives of many others, by creating new laws and research organizations to make a difference.  I still don't see myself as one of those people.  But I used to not see myself as much of anything.  Certainly not a mother and President of the MOMS Club of Front Royal and on the Special Education Advisory Committee of Warren County to advocate for my child and others.  I didn't see myself as someone who valued health and wellness.  I didn't see myself as someone who could change anything.  So I guess I have come a long way . . . and there are no boundaries to where I can go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week Two - Delivery Day

Today was definitely a day I had mixed feelings about.  I was excited to deliver all the cookies and muffins to the police department but I was really anxious about doing it.  Taking clothing to donate is easy and appreciated.  Taking baked goods to the police department?  Pretty random and I definitely don't want to be laughing stock of the place.  I swear I am not trying to get out of a traffic ticket or to get someone else out of trouble.  I just want to let them know that some of us appreciate that they are here - even if we never have had to use their services. 

Packing the cookies and muffins was another concern.  Its not liking bringing a plate to a friend's or a party where you can feel comfortable leaving it.  I needed something disposable but something that will keep the food fresh and hopefully not be harmful to the earth.  I am trying to keep from buying too much and I am trying to keep from buying too much that is disposable.  So after using my last two freezer bags for the chocolate chip cookies and brown sugar oat muffins - I had to figure out how to package the oatmeal raisin cookies and apple streusel muffins.  I made cookie stacks and wrapped them in plastic wrap and tied it with a blue ribbon (okay - I read a lot but I had to fit the thin blue line in somewhere!)  I then decided to go really green and just use stuff around the house for the rest.  I cut the lid off a shoe box and covered it with wax paper to wrap the muffins.  I then used the rest of the shoe box and wrapped it with wedding paper (turned inside out).  Kyle and I decorated it with stickers and colored pictures of the boys to attach to the box.  We loaded up all the cookies and muffins and we were ready to deliver.  I left Zac home napping with a fever and left the uncontrollable Liam home with his dad so I could carry the box and deal with an apprehensive Kyle.  After reassuring him over and over that he would not be arrested upon entering the building (for calling 911 months ago), he shyly came in and we buzzed the receptionist announcing our delivery.  She offered to have a police officer come out and talk to Kyle and the poor kid looked like he was trying to figure out a way to escape.  She asked if he wanted to see a police car and he finally spoke up and said yes.  The Sergeant came out and couldn't pry a word out of my little guy.  It took more talking about a police car to get him to respond.  We got to see the car and the lights and siren (which made me jump) and then another police officer needed it for a call so our visit was short.  I am sure Kyle had 85,000 questions to ask but he wasn't saying a word.  Its funny how someone who cannot stop talking can be shy in certain situations.  I have tried to reassure the kids that police officers are helpful and definitely people to trust if you need help but I think right now the power is intimidating.  I know that Liam would have been charming the pants off of everyone in there but I really would like to know how Zac would have reacted.  I know that he would love to see the police car.  Looking forward to a trip to the fire department to deliver baked goods later on this summer. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


First Rocks
I have been trying to brainstorm ways to give this summer without stressing our budget or my sanity.  I also want it to be something hands on for the kids.  Luckily I have the MOMS Club of Front Royal which is an endless supply of crafty ideas that I would never think to do.  Friday's activity day was a trip to the boat launch to collect nature items and do a collage.  I only had Liam and neither one of us was feeling well so I wasn't planning on doing much of anything - just enjoying the company and being outside.  But then those crafty women and children rubbed off on me and I collected some rocks and shells and some silly looking plants and decided to wash everything at home and make pet rocks with the kids.  Unfortunately, it was one of those days when my creativity had gone the way of my math abilities.  So to prove to my kids that I don't have to Google everything I started painting hoping that inspiration would strike.  After painting one rock black (yeah - black) I painted another  with golden glitter paint.  What goes with golden glitter paint?  Nothing except sparkly stickers and pretend jewels . . .  I decided that I should just take the gold rock back to the river and pretend that I had never taken it.  I thought that it would actually be funny to come across a painted rock someplace unexpected.  That's when I decided to paint tons of rocks with the kids.  Making some into pets and some into space ships or aliens or cars or anything that we can imagine them to be.  I will be doing some pre-planning so I can collect enough rocks and get enough ideas.  But then our we are going to leave rocks in random places.  Down by the river, at Target, on park benches and slides, and anywhere else we might go.  I am really excited and debating leaving notes with them like:  Hope your day rocks!

This week we will be delivering baked goods to the police department.  Kyle has a fear of the police ever since he and his friend called 911 and I keep explaining all the good the FRPD does for the community.  Just 2 weeks ago the power had gone out in part of the town and the police were standing outside in the 95 degree heat directing traffic.  I would have loved to have brought them cold beers then but I am hoping they will settle for baked goods now.  I started baking today (brown sugar oat muffins and chocolate chip cookies) and will finish baking tomorrow (apple struessel muffins and oatmeal raisin cookies).  I am hoping to deliver everything Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.  Kyle is very sure that he is not going . . . . even taking it so far as not to help with the baking.  I will not force my kids to help with the preparations - I am just trying to make it fun and not stressful.  They will go with me on deliveries though.  Mostly because they cannot stay home alone but also because I want them to see how good it feels to show appreciation to others.  If even one person is a little bit happier because of something we were able to do - then we have succeeded.  Maybe it won't sink in for the kids today - but it will at some point!  

I think this is the reason for this blog . . . to document my thoughts and experiences along the way.  I keep having moments of doubt - am I crazy?  Will I really be making a difference?  Will people think I am just a kooky lady who drags her kids along to do crazy things?  I am sure that some people will think that I am nuts.  I am sure that some weeks will be better than others.  But I have a supportive family who are encouraging me along the way.  I have three little boys who I adore.  I want them to appreciate the people outside of their family.  To know that we live in a community that is more than just a zip code.  Everyday people are working hard at the library, the police station, the fire department, the hospital.  We have playgrounds we love to go to, a river we get to enjoy, national parks nearby, the caverns and swimming pools and the little ice cream stand around the corner.  If the kids can appreciate what we do have - maybe the fact that we can't buy the $50 Star Wars Lego set won't seem like such a tragedy. . . . a girl can hope!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Week One - Donation Day

I have spent the past several days clearing out the creepy dungeon that is my basement.  I love to get rid of things and I used to run donations to thrift stores on a regular basis.  One of our MOMS Club of Front Royal members volunteers at a great organization in town called C-CAP.  They provide food and clothing and basic necessities (toothbrushes, etc) to people who are unable to receive assistance another way.  Last month I loaded my van full of baby clothes, a stroller, car seat, and high chair and brought it over to C-CAP and just wanted to be able to do more.  The organization is completely run by volunteers and primarily supported by donations from individuals, churches, local businesses, etc.  Today I had the pleasure of bringing another van load over - this time clothes that my husband and I have been weeding out of our closet for the past couple of years.  I have a couple of other ideas to hopefully help out C-CAP this summer. 

I have a box of books to take to Samuels Public Library and another box of cookbooks and children's books that I took to Goodwill.  I was able to fill two bins at Goodwill with donations and found out that they also take computers for recycling.  I brought Kyle and Liam with me on our donation adventure.  I am hoping it will sink in that we are giving things to people who can use them.  Kyle understands the meaning of donation but not really the concept.  He keeps saying "I am donating this to Liam."  

According to

do·nate [doh-neyt, doh-neyt] 
Show IPA verb, -nat·ed, -nat·ing. 
 1.  to present as a gift, grant, or contribution; make a donation  of, as to a fund or cause: to donate used clothes to the Salvation Army.
give  [giv] 
Show IPA verb, gave, giv·en, giv·ing, noun 

 1.  to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow: to give a birthday present to someone. 
34.  to make a gift  or gifts;  contribute: to give to the United Way.

So I guess that the difference between donating and giving is whether or not you get a tax receipt?  Either way it feels good.  

I just want my kids to really understand it. I ordered this book from Amazon called The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving and I cannot wait to get it in the mail.  The book has lots of ideas for teaching children to give in ways that they can understand and participate in.  

Sometimes it seems we have access to too much information.  Trying to find a place to donate to online was overwhelming.  I was glad to find local organizations the old fashioned way . . . . by actually talking with other human beings.  I am on the Special Education Advisory Committee for Warren County (SEAC) and they are putting together a resource list for parents whose children have special education needs.  Just by attending one SEAC meeting I learned about a lot of organizations in our county that help various people.  

I am hoping to put some kind of resource packet together for our MOMS Club.  As a new Mom or a Mom new in town or a Mom finding herself in the middle of a new diagnosis for herself or her child, it all can be very overwhelming.  I have really benefited from having this network of Moms with different ideas and contacts and ways of doing things.  Hopefully through this experience I will make new contacts in the community as well as giving back.  I love the idea of small town living where your neighbors just pitch in to help each other out because that's what should be done.  It seems like now everyone is in a rush, multitasking and lost in their smartphones.  Maybe this giving experiment will turn out to be something more than I had  hoped.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Background story

I have a history of not completing things.  As a little girl I wanted to be a writer.  I started dozens of stories and while I finished some (you may recall Penny and Patty:  Mission Snobs if you went to Garrisonville Elementary in 1990) I still have loose-leaf pages in a box in my attic that has the beginnings to tons of stories.  It's not a big deal - there are millions of people who start books and never finish.  I definitely have bigger things I didn't finish (like high school) and I have let a lot of friendships go because I didn't keep in touch. 
Now I am a mom of three boys (in 4 years) and they have all presented their own challenges.  My oldest was born 5 weeks early and spent two weeks in the NICU while his lungs matured.  He is a live wire.  Even in utero he was a wild thing.  My stomach was always flipping and flopping.  His first day in the NICU he was trying to squirm out of his bassinet - and was succeeding!  The nurse had never seen a teeny 5 pound baby do that.  They called him Peanut. We named him Kyle.  He is smart and funny and constantly keeping me on his toes.  He is my talker and currently wants to be an astronaut who drives a Metro train when he is on Earth.
My middle child was a perfect pregnancy.  I worked out, ate right, and was busy chasing a toddler around.  Fifteen months after Kyle came Zac.  He was 9 lbs 7oz with a head so big those hats kept coming right off!  When I called down to the nursery for him they referred to him as the football player.  His first pediatric appointment the doctor commented on the size of his massive mitts.  He was super snuggly and loved anything soft.  He was a wonderful baby and an occasionally fussy and very shy toddler.  We learned after age 2 that he has autism.  He is the most thoughtful, sweet, amazing little boy and he has the best teachers on his team at school.  We feel beyond lucky to have him and I can't say that I would change the autism - because it would change him.  I wish I could make some things easier - but as far as autism is concerned - he handles a lot very well.
Two and a half years after Zac came Liam.  He was super surprising.  I went into to have a catheter ablation done to correct a heart condition and before wheeling me into the OR they stopped me and told me I was pregnant and they couldn't do the procedure.  It was a shock but I was so excited.  Kind of wish Dr. House had delivered the news in a dramatic way but it made everyone in the cardiac department happy.  It wasn't the little girl everyone was sure I was having but a complete mix of my husband and I.  He looks like me and is super happy and friendly like I was as a child but really coordinated and daring like his dad.  Everyone adores him and despite my dramatic pregnancy and delivery he is a healthy toddler now. 
During my pregnancy with Liam I found the MOMS Club of Front Royal and fell in love!  Other Moms - like me - home all day, strapped financially, with kids who we love beyond belief but who are slowly making us lose our minds.  Incredibly, for a group of 30 women, there is no cattiness or gossiping or talking behind each other's backs.  We all respect each other as Moms and women and know that we have our differences and enjoy it.  Its amazing.  So amazing that they talked me into being president this term. 
But the point behind all of this is I feel like I need to complete something that will not reappear as soon as I turn around (like dishes, laundry, toys, clutter, appointments) and something that will make me feel good and will help my children learn about giving back in a hands on way.  My goal this summer is to find a way to involve my kids in giving each week.  Tomorrow we are bringing clothes to C-CAP which provides clothing to people who can't get it any other way.  Some other plans involve animal shelters, the local heroes (fire departments and police departments), senior centers, and Drop in and Decorate.  I need to start a list of things now and I am looking forward to a book I ordered which has great ideas for kids to give back.  I have to complete this!