- This post is updated from last year! -
Holy ranch balls Thanksgiving is this week. That means it's time to start dealing with the freaking holidays. And that does not mean spending too much money and giving in to the constant barrage of advertising that is turning my children into little beasts of consumer consumption and RUINING my precious TV time.
For me, making the holidays awesome is easy - make it about HELPING. While we no longer do the gift card exchange, it doesn't mean I can't be a helping holiday hooker. A couple of years ago I started a tradition with my kiddos where every week between Thanksgiving and New Years, we do something good for someone else. It can be big or little, but we do it together.
I can do this because my kids are bigger. When I was where Guru is now (with 3 kids ages 5 and under), I would've heave-cried if someone told me I had to do a month's worth of service projects with my kids in addition to trying to deal with all my regular stuff AND getting the holidays sorted out. (Editor's note: Bless you. I'm losing my schmidt over here. -Guru) So a couple of years ago (to make things slightly easier for parents who might want to do this) I made some graphics that provide some ideas for stuff that kids can do, even if they're little. (You can find them below. Also, check out last year's post on this because the comments have TONS of amazing ideas for ways that kids can get involved.)
But you guys, I'm feeling deep feelings of suckiness that we're not doing the gift card exchange again this year. Here's why: we helped families who weren't getting help anywhere else. These were hard working families who didn't qualify for traditional assistance programs. You remember when we did that project with the amazing women from Final Salute? Here's what they always say about the women they work with: These are people who are hard-wired to never ask for help. And I'm like - YES. That's right. That's who came to us, too. They only asked for help because it was us and they knew that we got it and didn't judge them.
I want to keep helping those families so hard that it makes my stomach hurt. THEY NEED US, YOU GUYS. They are us. So I made a new graphic for this year - one that helps us find those families. My husband saw it and snorted. He has this stupid idea that I'm really awesome at giving money away to people who really need it but never in a way that is tax deductible. And I'm like - YES. That's right. So maybe buy a couple of extra gift cards and pass them on to families who need them and can't (or won't) get help from anywhere else.
Last year, I took a a chunk of the money I'd earned doing sponsored posts and used it to pay off lay-aways. While wearing an elf hat. (If you want the 411 on paying off lay-aways, it's right here.) Kate bought items for families who attended school with her boys (she asked the school admin folks if they had a list of needed items - and they did!).
I was told there was a need for grocery store and pharmacy gift cards because some kids might not get enough to eat over the holidays (when school lunches, etc weren't provided). I was advised to think about the specific neighborhoods where those families might live and think about places where those moms could buy food, diapers, and medicine within walking distance.
Here are volunteering ideas I made for kids, broken out by age group:
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