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UNION

With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

40 Days of Change

The Internet is abuzz with different challenges you can do with your family during the 40 Days of Lent. There is the de-cluttering challenge to eliminate 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. The 40 Acts challenge to do 40 random acts of kindness in 40 days. And the challenge to just give up something you love for 40 days straight- whether it is chocolate, or wine, or even social media. The point is people are preparing to give up something for 40 days as a way to honor their traditions.

But what if you do not celebrate Lent? How can you participate in the giving part without participating in the religious aspect? Well, all it takes is 40 days and a plan!  I am introducing 40 Days of Change in our house this week.  We are literally using our spare change to help make a change. My kids get paid a quarter for certain chores each day and we will let them decide how much of their earnings they would like to contribute to our cause.

Here is what you’ll need:

A jar or box

Spare change

Calendar

A charity to donate to

Start by selecting a clean jar, or box to collect your spare change in. Keep it in a location you pass every day when you come home. You simply empty your pocket change (or change from the bottom of your purse, or the few coins in your wallet) into this container. Random single dollar bills count too, and so does the quarter in the couch or the pile of pennies in your car console.

Next, open your calendar. Mark the day you start collecting your spare change and count out 40 days. That will be your official end date. Take whatever you collect in that 40 day time period to your bank or local Coin Star machine. Once you have counted and cashed in all your loose change you are ready to make your donation. It doesn’t matter how big, or small your contribution is. Every single penny counts!

Last, pick your charity of choice. My family’s passions are pediatric cancer, and feeding programs in our local community. Here are some suggestions if you need them:

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

A Moment of Magic

Make a Wish

Give Kids the World

Ronald McDonald’s House

Angel Food East

People’s Place Kingston

Caring Hands Soup Kitchen

The SPCA (You can search for your local shelter, or for local animal rescues).

Hudson Valley Hero Project

You can get a little creative and use the money you collect to pay off lunches at your kid’s school, or prepay someone’s coffee at your local coffee house. Perhaps you prefer purchasing gift cards from a local grocery store and handing them out to families standing in line at check out. Earlier this year my girls and I were on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. A lovely woman realized she had a handful of gift cards for the movie concession stand she wasn’t going to use. So, she stood by the ticket booth and handed them out to families that were on their way in. She selected us and it was truly touching to be on the receiving end of such generosity. It also allowed me to splurge on treats for my kids.

There are no rules to 40 Days of Change. We can pick a charity every 40 days if we like, or just stick to doing it once a year. I hope my family will enjoy a new 40 day challenge at least three times a year. Even if we only raise a few dollars each time, the value lies in giving back routinely. Helping my kids connect the entire process of planning, and saving to giveaway, will help them recognize a need and find a way to fill it. They can see that every action matters and through action we can make a difference in our own community.

Related post: Family Savings Jar: Dimes for Disney Charity Starts at Home 7 Ways to Give Back With Little Ones in Tow Give a Kid the Gift of Swag Charitable Giving is A Christmas Tradition

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Homeschooling has grown dramatically in recent years.  Reasons to homeschool vary as widely as the families themselves.  The Hudson Valley features families homeschooling for so many fascinating reasons, worthy of sharing.  To the mainstream public school community, the secret life of homeschoolers may seem mysterious, but there’s no reason not to learn more.  I’ve been chatting up local homeschooling families willing to share their experiences with our readers.

Homeschooling Outside of the Norm

This week’s spotlight is on an Orthodox Jewish family with four children ages two through nine, originally from Brooklyn.  Mom shared, “We keep strictly kosher, [and observe] Shabbat, all holidays.  It was hard to make the decision [to homeschool]!”  Orthodox Jewish families traditionally send their children to religious private schools, so homeschooling can be stigmatized in their culture.  They feel the decision has not been accepted by their community, and have had to distance themselves from unsupportive friends and family.  Mom identified a turning point when her parents remarked, “Wow, I didn’t think this was a good idea, but your kids are so much more well-adjusted than our other grandchildren.”

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Although they live in the Hudson Valley, they travel to Long Island to find like-minded Jewish homeschool families.  They appreciate this opportunity, but are hopeful they will develop a network of local homeschoolers, regardless of religion.  They began homeschooling thinking it may be temporary, but now feel “it has been the best decision ever.”  Without the financial burden of sending their children to expensive private school, they were able to buy a home, adopt a dog, and travel, with funds leftover for field trips and activities in the community.  Their schooling is described as “part time structured learning, two to three days a week, the other days are more of an unschooling way of thinking. Trips to zoos, walk in the park, taking the pets to the vet, etc.”  They utilize www.time4learning.com and Melamed Academy (a Judaic curriculum) for their academics.   Mom likes to turn to outside sources for academic learning “so that the kids see me as their mother and guidance rather than the teacher.”

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A family willing to step outside of the traditionally accepted educational standard for their culture demonstrates the power and benefits of homeschooling.  For them, homeschooling offers peace of mind.  “We know where and how our children get their knowledge, and we get to be involved and watch them grow up.” They are certainly not the traditional homeschooling family, yet they have found a way to incorporate their faith into their ideal educational environment for their children. Their photos show engaged, active children who enjoy varied learning both at home and in the community.  The combination of homeschooling with Orthodox Judiasm results in an unusual blend that works well for this local family, and offers inspiration to others wanting to give this a try.  Mom sums up, “We are a religious Jewish family living in a religious area, but living outside the box of ‘normal.’” Much appreciation to Mom for her candor in sharing her family’s experiences with Hudson Valley Parent. Please join us over the next few weeks as we continue to learn about unique and exciting families who engage in everything from Shakespeare to BMX biking to fulfill their children’s dreams and academic potential.

Every March thousands of brave souls around the country come out to do something crazy. They shave their long locks of hair for money. That may sound a little weird to you if you haven’t heard of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation before.

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If you have not yet had the chance to be a part of a St. Baldrick’s event, you are in luck! St. Baldrick’s of Ulster County is returning with their super family friendly event on Sunday March 5th 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Saugerties Senior Center 207 Market St. Saugerites, NY. Nearly 150 people will shave their heads in solidarity with kids fighting cancer in our local community and around the world. The original event hosted in 2015, raised over $88,000.

THE HISTORY OF ST. BALDRICK’S

What began as a modest fundraising goal of $17,000 in 1999, has grown to a record breaking $27.2 actual dollars given to research grants in 2014. In 2015 research backed by St. Baldrick’s pushes the FDA to approve a new drug to treat kids with neuroblastoma. It is only the third drug approved specifically for pediatric cancer in twenty years.

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My family and I began raising money for St. Baldrick’s as a way to honor the battle my niece Ashley fought when she was just 3-years-old. Thankfully, she is a healthy teenager and high school graduate today, but in 2001 we didn’t know what her future would hold. Ashley has been a long time supporter of St. Badlrick’s and last year was the first time she braved the shave since losing her hair to cancer as a child.

Oh, and there is no actual St. Baldrick.

THE FUNDS

There are hundreds of different organizations raising money for kids with cancer, but what makes the St. Baldrick’s charity unique is that nearly every dollar is donated directly to research. There is no overhead cost of an executive team, a CEO salary, or administrative costs. The events are coordinated by volunteers in small towns and big cities. Most often it is a family affair honoring young heroes who have lost and won their battles.

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Since the government only spends less than 4% on pediatric cancer research, St. Baldrick’s helps fill the funding gap and is the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.

THE SAUGERTIES EVENT

So now that you have a little history about why people start their own team and ask for money to shave their heads, you should know what you can expect at this event. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy! The bake sale is provided courtesy of some serious local bakers like Banana Moon Baking Company, The Cup Takes The Cake, Sugar Me Sweet Bakers, Amy’s Sweet Tooth, Hudson Valley Dessert Company and many more! There will be face painting, dance performances, a DJ, raffles and a whole lot of energy! It will be a big party celebrating the shavees for their bravery, honoring local families who brave the fight and remembering the ones who will be forever young.

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The event is only 12 days away, but you can still register to brave the shave and raise donations, or you can make a donation to the Saugerties event, or you can show up and be a part of the action. I guarantee the first time you experience this amazing event your life will never be the same, and even the biggest heart will find enough room to grow three sizes!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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Did you know about this adorable, family friendly Teddy Bear museum in Marbletown? During a fall open house, my family and I visited the Den which is set back from the road on 209. The Den of Marbletown is simply adorable and perfect for any teddy bear fanatic! There are a ton of different bears displayed and opportunities to learn the history of the teddy bear, the Steiff Company and the museum location.

The Basten family farm house was converted to a bed and breakfast and has expanded to include a teddy bear collection museum. The original collection belongs to the owner’s mother and many of the temporary exhibits include her personal favorites.

The Steiff Company has been around since 1880 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages and stages with stuffed animals. From plush baby safe cuddle blankets to luxurious fiber collectible bears for adults.

When we arrived my girls could hardly contain their excitement. They were surrounded by thousands of stuffed loves all in need of a good hug (according to the six year olds, not the store staff). After touring the gift shop we took the self-guided tour to learn more about the history of the museum and the teddy bear. We wound our way through each room filled with displays of adorably staged stuffed animals.  And just when we thought we were at the end we found the upstairs portion of this old Farm House was also converted to hold exhibits. Each room in The Den has a theme and is filled with adorable dioramas of teddy bear hijinks.

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There is an overload of teddy bears and stuffed animals throughout the museum, but in a small converted closet in one upstairs room there are plenty of old school Barbie Dolls and Madame Alexander Dolls. Across the hall from that exhibit, there is a special room called the, “Mama Bear Lounge.” This room was designed with working moms in mind. Moms are encourage to grab a coffee and their lap top and let the little ones play. Or, meet up with other moms for play dates. There is a toy box filled with blocks and other toys and a soft carpeted area for kids to play. There is free Wi-Fi where moms can get a little work done, or take a break and scroll through Facebook. The small room behind the mama bear lounge is the “kids cub cave.” It’s a small room where the kids can climb in and out of a faux cave, or grab a game or coloring page from the shelves to play at the table.

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One unique feature we did not experience is renting a guest room to spend a night at the museum. This would be an incredible birthday experience for any kid age 6 or older to sleep that close to so many squeezable bears. There is also a café and snack area inside, as well as picnic area just outside. The website boasts a picnics to go service, local fresh baked goods and a marvelous closet filled with extra amenities.

You can tell the folks in charge really put a lot of thought into the details. This museum is perfect for your teddy bear enthusiast age six and older. There are many exhibits behind glass, or under display boxes, but still many places they can hold a stuffed animal.  More active kids will love the mama bear lounge area.

Keep an eye on the Den News section on the website to check out some of the fun events planned at the house. Some previous events include a teddy bear tea, cookie decorating, jewelry making and art workshops.  The admission price to the museum is really affordable at $2.00 per adult, and $1.00 for kids to age 17 (under 1 are free) and a family rate of just $5.00. Pack a lunch and make this an affordable fun day out learning a little history and enjoying the bears!

Photo credit: The Den of Marbletown website.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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Last week I shared the Top 5 Fun Activities my kids enjoyed in 2016. This week I am sharing with you our most favorite places to visit. We did a lot more traveling this year than what I’ve shared on the blog. I just haven’t had time to update you all on the details yet. We tend to stick to local places of interest and make a few day trips through the year. But in 2016 we took a bonafide vacation and squeezed in some amazing museums and art! Keep an eye out for those future posts.

As I was digging through my posts to share with you today, I was reminded of my life with two very energetic toddlers who had two speeds: nap and full throttle. I spent a lot of time scouting safe places we could go and let them roam. Of course it also had to be educational, fun, and help them burn off some energy.  So, I’ll start by sharing our favorite fun local places to go with little ones. We often look for free things to do, but sometimes fun comes with a price tag. With any luck it’s a small price tag. If you click on the name of the place it will take you to my original post about our experience at each location and you can find additional info links there.

LOCAL PLACES

Storm King– has to be our most favorite local place for sculptural art. Not only are the sculptures larger than life, but there is plenty of room for the kids to roam and run free. The paved walk ways make it easy to get strollers and wagons through. There are bathrooms and a café. It is very family friendly for all age groups and mobility. During the summer months they have one free admission day per month!

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Trevor Zoo– this little local zoo is the perfect size for little people to enjoy. The paved path lends plenty of space and traction for little feet, and the exhibits are interesting. There are animals beyond our usual backyard habitats. Plenty of photo ops and room to burn off some energy!

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Mohonk Visitor Center– this adorable area is perfect for moms who need a break from chasing kids. If your kids really need to stretch their legs, you can take them outside to the paved trail. Open all year and free to explore. If you want to check out other trails you can get a free one week pass offered once a year to Ulster County Residents. Or, you can sign up for the annual park membership and use any trail at any time.

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Michael’s Farm– this private little farm located in Saugerties has a nice array of animals. There are farm animals, lamas, deer, ponies, emus and chickens. There are a lot of experiences to have in just one visit. They also offer camp sessions during the summer and school breaks. It is located off the beaten path and is very family friendly. We’ve enjoyed many visits and it is always a lot of fun!

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DAY TRIPS

Animal Land– this one is our absolute favorite! The park is so clean, the animals are well taken care of and there are so many play areas for kids to enjoy. It is very stroller friendly, and is mostly covered by trees making it cooler on really sunny days. We traveled just over an hour from home, but spent half a day there playing and interacting with the animals.

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Lake George – before this summer I had only ever spent an hour or two in Lake George. I was stopping through on my way home from another trip so, I had absolutely no idea how much this area has to offer. Returning with my little family was wonderful experience! We enjoyed local beaches, games on the main strip and found a little hideaway park that is perfect for little ones to burn off some energy.

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Howe’s Caverns– this is a special place for me. I grew up visiting the caves during school trips and just for fun with friends. Before you go you have to read this guide for the inside scoop. There is a lot you should know before going down below. I was excited to see how many new activities they have besides the caves. Plenty for us to go back to experience!

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I hope this helps with planning out some fun trips in the new year, or maybe ideas for when you are feeling spontaneous. These are tried and true family favorites. We hope you enjoy them too!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

When I was a kid New Year’s Eve was so exciting! My parents would let us stay up until Midnight to take us out to breakfast. We called it “First Breakfast” because it was literally the first breakfast of the New Year. One year we went to the diner with my parents and their friends, another year the local firehouse hosted a first breakfast event. I was just four years old when my parents started this tradition, but I still remember it today!

I knew I would make this a tradition for my little family one day. The only problem is, at age 6 my kids still “can’t hang.” If they do not go to bed at the same hour every night we have horrible, monstrous humans we can’t face the public with. So our solution is to celebrate a big first breakfast at our kitchen table every year. We make it special with colorful decorations and drink out of fancy glasses. It has become such a big hit at our house that I now keep a kit ready. I pull it out on New Year’s Eve after they fall asleep and set it up before I go to bed (hours before midnight).

The traditional colors for New Year celebrations are silver and gold, or black and white. However, we prefer the colors of Mardi Gras- green, gold and purple. These are all colors of royalty and represent prosperity and good fortune; all great things to hope for in the New Year and they make a pretty colorful back drop to our first breakfast.

Here is what I have in my first breakfast celebration kit:

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Champagne Flutes– We don’t actually serve champagne (to the children) for breakfast, but we do like feeling fancy. So we serve up their morning OJ (and our mimosas) in these colorful, reusable flutes. The kids really get a kick out of it!

Hats, Noise Makers and Beaded Necklaces – every year I set the table with these fun accessories for each person in the family. As soon as the kids come out in the morning we put on our fashions and march in a noisy parade through the house. Since mommy and daddy can no longer hang till midnight either, this noise isn’t so horrible after a full night’s sleep.

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Holiday Crackers- these are just fun! You pop them open and there is usually a paper crown inside along with some jokes and a little trinket. It keeps the kids busy while I am cooking up breakfast. They take turns cracking each other up and I get to enjoy hearing them laugh instead of argue for a minute. P.s. Holiday crackers usually go on sale for half price after the holiday season.

Tableware- I use disposable decorative paper plates with matching napkins. After cooking a big breakfast of omelets, bacon and fresh cinnamon buns, and drinking a few mimosas, I could use the break from washing dishes. P.p.s I hit up the dollar stores after the holiday and pick up festive prints for 50 cents each. I stock up to keep on hand for the next few years.

Masks- one of my kids wanted to start wearing masks for our parade one year and so the tradition has stuck around. We don’t wear them while eating breakfast because that would just be weird. Unless you are six then it’s just breakfast time. (I don’t even ask anymore).

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Clock– another kid created tradition. It makes a great centerpiece for our table.

Not included in the kit are colorful foiled chocolate coins I toss around the table to represent money and sweetness. I buy these every year because obviously chocolate is not going to survive more than a day in my house. And it could get pretty gross in storage for a year. I keep all our decorations in a reusable clear tote and put away until our next first breakfast.

Our version of First Breakfast may not have the same kind of thrill as when I was as a kid, but it is our own. Right now while the kids are still little and so dependent on routine, we are happy keeping the first breakfast tradition alive eight hours after the official start to the new year. It feels more manageable and sane for us. Maybe one day my children won’t turn into gremlins and we can move this tradition to a new location. Or, maybe we’ll return to this cozy tradition year after year. Either way I just hope they remember these first breakfasts as fondly as I remember mine.

What New Year traditions do you and your family celebrate?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

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When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of traditions. We actually mixed things up year to year. There are a few traditions I keep up with my own children, and we introduce a new one here and there. But one tradition that remains the same year after year is our tradition of charitable giving.

I began our first charitable efforts at my twins’ second birthday party. I asked friends to donate one non-perishable food item.  As we were collecting items I told the girls where our donations will go. They probably did not fully understand. But they did help me make our final donations. Charity starts at home and making it an activity during the holiday season helps lay a strong foundation of generosity for my children to build upon.

This year we continue our efforts to send Christmas cards to local kids staying in the hospital and writing letters to soldiers stationed overseas. It isn’t always money that has the greatest impact; sometimes it’s just a thoughtful act that sparks a feeling of being remembered. Every human being wants to feel like they matter.

Here are some simple ways to give back this year:

Leave cookies for your neighbors.

Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothing, books and toys.

Donate gently used household goods like dishes, linens and appliances to families in need.

Bring homemade cards and baked goods to your local fire house, or police station.

Have an ornament making party with friends and deliver to a local nursing home.

Shake hands with your mail carrier.

Greet your garbage collector with a hot cup of cocoa.

Hold the door open for an elderly shopper.

Let someone take your parking spot on a busy day.

Help your child write a personal letter to their teacher thanking them for their hard work.

We often think we need to buy gifts to show our appreciation, or show someone we care; when really it is the little things that add up to bigger moments. Someone may be having a bad day when they cut the line in front of you, or they may feel like no one appreciates their job collecting refuse. Offering kindness at Christmas and all year is the perfect gift!

If your children are older and want to help in bigger ways perhaps helping them earn money, or make a donation will fill their desire to give back. I shared this list with you last year, but I have found five more local charities to share this year!

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HUDSON VALLEY HERO PROJECT- A local non-profit providing aid and caring support to veteran’s right here in the Hudson Valley. 

CHRISTMAS WISHES ULSTER COUNTY– A local non-profit bringing gifts to families in need in Ulster County.  Accepting monetary donations through the year, and toy donations in November. 

GRANTING WISHES FOR CANCER KIDS ON CHRISTMAS – adopts families with children going through cancer treatment. Families paying health care coverage, premiums and co-pays for children with cancer often struggle at Christmas. 

ANGELS OF LIGHT HUDSON VALLEYA local non-profit whose mission is to provide Holiday Giving for Children and Families with life threatening illness in the Hudson Valley, NY.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORE– located in Ulster and Dutchess counties. The mission is to provide stable home ownership for members of our own community. You can donate $20 to purchase a board that will be used in building a Habitat home; or you can shop at one of their Restore locations. These thrift shops include appliances, furniture, home goods and décor at the fraction of retail prices. Recycling these quality goods into your gift giving saves you money and the planet, and proceeds are cycled back to your neighbors in need.

You don’t have to give big to give back. You can do small, age appropriate acts of kindness, or charitable projects with your children. If we all do one small thing for our community this Christmas it will have a big impact on our neighbors through out the year.

Share some inspiration: what family traditions do you have that make it feel more like Christmas?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

Related posts: Granting Christmas Wishes for Local Families Give a Kid The Gift of Swag Charity Starts at Home- 7 Ways to Give Back With Kids In Tow

christmas-wishes

Last week I shared with you 8 No Crap Christmas Gift Ideas that will leave you with very little to take care of after the wrapping hits the floor. Actually, I leaked that post one week earlier than planned. I was leaving for vacation and technology was not my friend when I tried to schedule my post to arrive while I was away. Whoops! Oh well, you know how I roll without perfection these days.

This week I want to introduce you to a really fantastic local charity that is helping families all over Ulster County receive their Christmas wishes. This non-profit organization was created in 2014 by Melissa Banks who was looking for a simple way to pay it forward. Melissa had just come through some difficulties as a single mom and had just finished up her degree. She really wanted to share her gratitude by helping someone else. Melissa posted a request for families looking for help in a local moms Facebook group. The response she received was phenomenal since she was only expecting one or two names. As the list grew she began asking for help making these Christmas wishes come true. Before she knew it Christmas Wishes Ulster County was created.

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Melissa doesn’t receive any direct funding for gift purchases, or supplies. She relies solely on the generous support of volunteers; all funds raised goes directly to serving local families.  What began as a do-good deed for around 70 families has grown to serve over 600 families in 2016. It takes a lot of donations and volunteers to help sort and wrap the donated gifts. It also takes a lot of time to vet and cross check each application with other local agencies offering holiday help.  This year Melissa and her team are moving to a larger location to accommodate the amount of gifts, approximately 3-4 per child, needed to help so many families.

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Christmas may be Melissa’s favorite time of year to help families, but she actually helps collect, pack and deliver back packs and school supplies for the new school year; and Thanksgiving dinners to families in need. She also hosts fund raising events at Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and holds a birthday raffle for one family per month.  When I asked Melissa what has kept her reaching beyond the original families she began helping she shares, “I do it for the end result. One year we had a mom with cancer and we were able to help her get gifts for her children. She was so grateful. People’s reactions can be deeply touching.”

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Melissa also shares how much her son is learning and growing by participating in her altruistic venture. If you would like to help contribute to Melissa’s vision of making Christmas wishes come true, or bring your young child to volunteer, please contact her at christmaswishesuc@gmail, 845-853-0496 or like the Christmas Wishes Ulster County page on Facebook for updates and details. All toy donations must be in by December 5th to allow for enough time to disperse the gifts to families on December 10th. Any financial contributions made will receive a letter for tax deduction.

If you are looking for additional local organizations to donate to this year please find my Hudson Valley Charitable Giving Guide. You can print it out to make your charitable planning even easier.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

8-thoughtful-christmas-gifts

Last week I shared my thoughts for putting less crap under the tree this year. I want to be able to manage the things we bring into our home, and still allow my kids the excitement of Christmas. First, I am taking a look at what my kids already own and how they like to spend their play time. We already have a bunch of play sets with tiny accessories that end up lost, or broken. I don’t want to add to them. With winter coming there will be more time spent inside, which means plenty of time to play with the mountain of stuff they already have. This year I am looking to give my kids thoughtful, personalized gifts that do not require me picking them up off the floor!

HERE IS WHAT MY KIDS ARE GETTING THIS YEAR

PERSONALIZED APRON

I am having a personalized apron made from one of my old dresses from childhood. I just love the print and I vowed to one day make it into something. That was 20-years ago. I discovered hand-made children’s aprons at Boudoir Baby in Saugerties. It seemed like the perfect way to re-purpose this dress, and I can have the aprons personalized with my kids’ names! The aprons will fold neatly and fit in the same drawer I keep my own apron.

KID SIZED COOKING UTENSILS

To go along with their special aprons we are giving them kid friendly utensils of their own. The set I found on curiouschef.com includes a kid safe knife. This makes me feel a little safer while teaching them cooking skills. I can easily store these items alongside our own utensils. No extra storage needed!

DIY KITS

We make a lot of fun crafts and cookies at home. So packing up the ingredients for a fun make your own sundae box, or ingredients for sugar cookies are a guaranteed hit! We use up all the ingredients and eat the cookies. There’s nothing left to store or maintain! Packing DIY craft kits or art kit means we use everything for one project and we are done. No left over materials to find a home for!

A YEAR OF DATES

I found this idea last year and I can’t wait to give it a try this year. I mentioned last week it is always a struggle to get enough one on one time with each kid. But stacking up date day coupons, gift certificates, or prepaid tickets to an event to use on those date days will really help us remember to schedule them in.  I found this post to be helpful in making this into a gift. TIP: be sure to check with your credit card companies, or bank for reward points. You can often trade in those points for gift certificates to restaurants or retail stores. You can get free gift certificates to pay for your adventures! We will have to leave the house for these adventures so there’s nothing left to clean up!

A DRESS UP STATION

We already have a bunch of dress up clothes in a bin. Everything gets mangled and pawed through. I plan on taking the time to sort through the old stuff and introducing a few new pieces (even if they are second hand) to bring new life to this area of the play room. A short book case with a tension rod quickly creates a whole new space for my kids most cherished play things. I am not even going to wrap this up. Just leave it off to the side and hang up new to them dress up sets. Since this replaces the messy bin, it doesn’t take up any extra space.

PERSONALIZED CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

Every year we buy a special ornament for each kid. This year I want something more personal and not the same expensive, plastic ornament every other kid has on their tree. I am in love with the classic look of silhouettes, but I can never get my girls to sit still long enough to make one myself. So, I asked Alexa of Personalized by Lexi Quinn to create a one of a kind ornament that captures my kids’ silhouettes and personalized with their name and date. These will be packed away year after year which means no stuff lingering in the toy room.

PERSONALIZED LAP DESK

These are perfect for my kids who like to read and create where ever they go. They can use them while sitting on the couch watching TV, or while sitting on the floor coloring. I asked local mom Jen Ward, from Just Round the Block, who creates personalized gifts to make these. No wrapping here either- just nice, pretty bows placed on top and leave them off to the side. My girls can fill the pockets with their favorite things they already have. This will help me round up the extra art supplies typically found around the house.

BEANIE BOO SLIPPERS

I am putting a ban on stuffed loves. If I even see another stuffed animal I might scream! Our entire home is overrun with fluffy lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! Buuuut… my kids can never pass up a Beanie Boo. In fact, their love runs so deep they make me take their pictures with all their favorites while we are out shopping. Since they are due for new slippers anyway, and I can donate the excellent condition pairs they’ve out grown, I’ll allow this mash up of Beanie Boos and useful slippers.

STOCKING STUFFERS

Enchanted Lip Balm by Three Sisters Herbal will be one of our new favorites! I love using this for myself! There are other really great products Three Sisters offers that my kids are able to enjoy since they are all natural and organic. It is a very reputable, local company which is always a win.

Krause’s Candy is another one of our favorites. Every year we get a packaged bag of Christmas foil wrapped chocolates and divvy between the stockings. My kids look forward to these every year.

Other things I put in their stockings include things they already need: tooth brushes, socks, extra gloves, a new watch, their favorite shampoo and conditioner, pocket packs of tissues, etc.  These items will replenish our supply and be used up. Ergo zero long term storage necessary!

There are 8 specially thought out gift ideas! No extra stuff to clutter up the house. No batteries required. I’m sure we will fill in the rest of the gift list with clothes they need and one special gift only Santa can bring- which we are still thinking about.  More than I want less crap at Christmas, I want my kids to understand that the real gift is in the giving. The thought we put into gifts can be greater than the actual gift.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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