This has been the hardest post to write. It is my first in over six months, for which I’m sorry. The momentum I had for the blog and posting to social media came to a screeching halt when my husband, Corey, broke his leg… I mean severely broke his leg.
Our life was turned on its head.
Corey is a roofing and siding contractor, and on May 9, fell nine feet off a ladder. Sorry…correction. The ladder fell, not him. (That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.) When the ladder went down, Corey’s leg got caught between the rungs. Lesson learned: when it’s ladder vs. leg—ladder always wins.
After two surgeries, three months of not being able to put his foot down, crutches, a knee scooter, and lots of physical therapy, he is walking again with a limp. While it isn’t clear if that will ever go away, he has swung a golf club again.
Exhausted but Thankful
Looking back, I can’t believe it has been six months. It feels now that time flew, but going through it was exhausting.
While I wasn’t blogging, the boys and I were still reading. We made it through the Narnia series we started last March as well as many other books.
I wrote, but none of it was quite right for the blog.
There was the start of a post about the initial shock of the accident and how I ignored the first attempt of the “call you never want to get” from the hospital (not to mention their voicemail) thinking it was a junk call.
Then there was my breakdown post about my hysterics-induced asthma attack in front of our new nanny when my strong front finally crumbled.
Finally, there was the “f%$# it” post when I decided to book a Bermuda cruise for our summer vacation because it was the only way I was getting a vacation. Plus, you only live once and, as we learned in May, you never know what is going to happen.
I had trouble connecting any of these to reading to your kids, though I’m considering writing a book—Dad Broke His Leg and Mom Needs a Break.
However, one theme kept surfacing—thankfulness.
Though things were tough, we have lots to be grateful for. We were:
- Thankful that Corey only broke his leg
- Thankful for our amazing support system—family and friends that checked in, cooked, and were always there to help
- Thankful we could resume our normal life
Then, I got a reminder I put in my phone last year to write about all the ways we give at this time of year. It seemed like the perfect way to return.
How We Give in the Holiday Season
Last year, I shared book-related ways we give in my Give the Gift of Reading on Giving Tuesday post. It talked about donating books and giving money to reading organizations—perfect for #GivingTuesday, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
We also give in other ways throughout November and December. Maybe one of these would work better for your family. There are lots of options for you and your kids. If you do any of these, please share your experiences below or on Instagram or Facebook tagging @readingeverydayblog. Also tell us what you do that’s not on this list.
Packing a Shoebox: Operation Christmas Child
I discovered Operation Christmas Child through our church when CJ was four. We’ve packed a box ever since. Once Cam got old enough, we added one for him, too. This is something I will do even after they’ve grown, though I hope it will be one of our traditions. In this hectic season with so much getting, it is a reminder of how lucky we are.
What you do is find a shoebox (or purchase a plastic one) and fill it with gifts for a child in need. They could live anywhere in the world. You can pack a box for a girl or boy in one of three age groups, 2–4, 5–9, or 10–14.
The boys and I have fun shopping to fill the box. (Except when they lose interest and start running through the aisle of the store.)
We pick a “wow” item—a stuffed animal, ball, or something else that’s special. Then we add other fun toys, school supplies, and hygiene items. That’s really the difference between this and a toy donation. You’re not just getting these kids some thing fun, but the essentials they don’t have, too.
It can get expensive depending on where you shop. In the past, we’ve gone to Walmart. This year, we had great success at the dollar store. We were able to buy more…so much that we had trouble closing the boxes.
Once the shoebox is filled, the boys write a note to the recipient. I have a form, which we’ve completed in past years that makes it a little easier. The boys provides their name, color the map to show where we’re from, and tell a little more about themselves. This year, we also included our address. Maybe we’ll get a note back and have a pen pal.
Finally, we say a prayer for the child receiving each box. Then we take it to the drop-off location.
If you don’t have time or there’s not a drop-off location near you, you can also fill a box online!
Scouting for Food
Each year the Cub Scout and Boys Scouts leave paper bags on people’s front porches to collect food for those in need. Before CJ was a Cub Scout, I ignored these bags since we always gave in other ways. The one thing I didn’t consider until I had a Cub Scout was what a disappointment it is when a Cub Scout has no bags on his route.
That’s the good things about this donation activity—it doesn’t matter if you have a Scout. By leaving food on your porch, you’re not only helping a family in need, but you’re also helping these boys do a good deed.
So if the Scouts leave a bag on your porch, please fill it. You don’t have to spend a lot. I grab a few things that are on sale. You could also pick things already in your pantry. It can be canned goods, pasta, or even paper items. You’re doing more good than you know.
Giving the Gift of Food
Food is one of the most common ways to give this time of year. In addition to Scouting for Food, we participate in our church’s Turkey Blitz. After the service, many members of the congregation walk to the food store across the street together (the Sunday shoppers love this—HA!) and buy 200 meals for a local food pantry.
In addition, my family has a special food-giving tradition of our own.
Nearly a century ago, my grandfather, his mother, and sister came to America. They struggled. One particularly hard Christmas, they had nothing and found a basket of food at their front door. My grandfather never forgot this generous gift that they so needed. From that year on, when he could afford it, he bought food to make Christmas baskets for families in need. He passed this tradition on to my father, who passed it on to his children and now grandchildren.
There are lots of organizations you can donate food through. Working with one of them is probably easier; however, my family likes to continue the tradition my grandfather started and find families in need in our community. We give to them anonymously—repeating the act that happened nearly a century ago. These people may not be the most needy, but are going through a difficult time. We keep paying forward that original gift taking heart that the recipients will find hope and eventually be able to pay it forward themselves.
Though food donations are very common this time of year, if your budget is tight or you’re too busy to fit it in, this is something you can do all year long.
More Books About Giving Thanks
What I hope the boys will take from these efforts is that we have lots to be grateful for. They may not have every toy or gadget they want, but we have all the basics—and then some—love, and, of course, books. I reinforce this every day with a prayer (after our bedtime books) encouraging the boys to thank God for whatever they’re grateful for. If you’re not religious, you can simply list all the things you’re grateful for. Some families do this every night at dinner.
Of course, there are books to help reinforce this. (Finally…the reading connection!) Last year, I shared some in my Thanksgiving Picture Books that Make You Thankful post. I found more…
From beloved author, Tomie dePaola, this simple book reminds us—young and old—to open our eyes and be grateful. As I tell my boys, there’s so much in our lives, big and small, to be thankful and joyful for. This meditative book is a great way to remind us and open a discussion.
While Tomie dePaola’s book is very general about be grateful, this book by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Kristina Stephenson, is very specific. In rhyming verse, little ones are thankful for their body parts and all they can do—see, hear, smell, taste, talk, and move.
“Thank you for the skin I came in, and for my body so fine. It’s all mine!”
Thank You for Me! makes the abstract concept of gratitude easy for young children to grasp, say thanks, and probably hop around.
Hot off the press from Eric Carle, this colorful little book is a great way to show your appreciation (or help your children show theirs). It’s like a checklist of what we hope we and others do for our children—showing them kindness, helping them dream, and encouraging them.
The boys and I checked this out of the library (in our hunt for thankful books) and had a great discussion about who in their lives do the things mentioned in the book. And, of course, we gave thanks for them.
I’m thinking this could be a great teacher gift for the holidays or Teacher Appreciation Week. You could certainly share with family members and friends, too. Or it could be the model for your children to create their own Thanks from… book.
I hope these ideas help you balance giving and getting this holiday season. Tell us what you do to raise grateful children.