Monday, December 1, 2014

The RFML Guide to Helping Muthas Out

 - 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:







(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013

19 comments:

  1. We instituted a long time ago a MAX three presents. From everyone. Total. So grandparents can go in on something together, or put money in their account. I turn around and use the money I would have spent on many useless gifts to help others with gift cards.

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  2. We do "something you want, something you need, something you wear, and and something you read," each year with our kids. Well mostly as I have a 4yr old and two 2 yr olds. And then Santa brings one present. It helps us cut down on the cost and commercialization. I love the serving ideas. My 4 yr old L would love to go caroling and she's cute enough to be able to miss all the notes ;)

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    1. Love this idea and will be stealing it!

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  3. As a kid, I *only got 3 presents. With a big 'ol asterisk by the only, because that means ONLY 3 santa presents. Still got WAY too much in my stocking, from grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. 3 was more than enough!

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  4. We started doing 4 presents from us. Something to wear, something to read, something you need, something you want. They still get a tone of stuff from grandparents and aunts and uncles. But this helps us not to go over board on stuff they never play with.

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  5. I was going to ask for help this year, but I totally understand why you decided not to do the helping hooker this year. Keep rocking all the other help you do for people. Love these lists, I think we will sit down and do some letters for soldiers.

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  6. I received help last year when we had an awful year and some sweet ladies out there gave my girl an awesome christmas. I was hoping to help this year as things have improved, thanks for the ideas!

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  7. We are working on the quality vs. quantity understanding. My 10 year old wants things like a Kindle, a robot puppy, ski passes. My 6 year old wants cars, books, and Gak. So, the 10YO gets one expensive present to maybe 5 of the 6YO's without complaining he has more.

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  8. We do three presents and it is amazing. I stole the idea from my neighbors. I love it. I especially love that if our circumstances change, our children will not be trained to expect an insane amount of toys.

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    1. "Hi" me of last year. We still do three gifts each, I have three under five. It's great. My oldest does try and game the system by writing Santa veryfast hoping to trick Santa. Or by making one of the three things " all the legos".

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  9. Piggy-backing off of some of your ideas above: 1) Call social services in your community and ask if they have a program to provide presents for teenagers in their system. They are often forgotten during this time of year. 2) Check with food pantries in your local area for what they are most likely to run out of during the season and help them stock up and 3) Use some of the many unsolicited Christmas cards that come from charities this time of year --- have your kids sign them ( in whatever fashion their signature takes from illegible scribble to something you can actually read!) and mail them to a VA hospital for veterans without a family in their life, or a hospital, or an old age home or.... The last one is really easy to that is an added bonus timewise.

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  10. Glennon is doing something similar to Helping Hookers over at her site and it's awesome. We do "something they want, something they need and something they can read" too because lord, I don't need more schmidt in my house.

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  11. Normally I'd say I didn't know anybody who needed help, but this year I know a family with one of their 2-year-old twins in the hospital, so I'll be getting them a GC. I also wanted to pay down a layaway, but I've never done that before. Do you just go up to the customer service desk and tell them you want to pay down somebody's layaway?

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  12. Teens can't use power tools with Habitat but can do other things. Also I think there are age limits with Big Brother/Sister... teens are really in the middle in volunteer opportunities... but still tons they can do. I think I'm gonna have my sign up for an hour of bell ringing too. Our youth group goes shopping for gifts for the angel tree...

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  13. What a great post! I'm stealing these ideas! Plus, you sealed the deal with "three pairs of underpants wrapped in recycled grocery bags"

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  14. Thanks for sharing the reasons folks asked for help previously. I have a friend who is going through a tough breakup and I've been keeping her son when she needs me to. I know that's helpful, but I had been wishing for a way to really help her smile. Now that I'm thinking it's probably even worse than I'm aware of, I have got to find a way for an "elf" to leave a gift card at her house. :)

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  15. Thank you so much for these ideas! I have included them as part of "Vibrant Homeschooling's 30 Days of Kindness" Challenge. You can check it out here: http://blog.vibranthomeschooling.com/30-days-of-kindness-challenge-week-2-of-5-writingdiscussion-activities-ideas-scriptures-and-more/ Thanks again! Alicia

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  16. These are great ideas! Thanks for posting them. We have shared this on Pinterest.

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