Tuesday, January 7, 2014

12 Months of Kindness 2014

Happy New Year to all of you.  I hope this post finds you well and ready to tackle another year!  January is an excellent time to plan out your year of 12 Months of Kindness Project (but you can start at any time during the year - the most important thing is that you plan it!)

We have found that being kind and acting on that kindness is an inspirational way to keep our family's perspective grounded in gratitude throughout the year.  It is so easy to get swallowed up by the busyness and running that comes with having a family, responsibilities, work, and all the things that come with being an adult.
some of our very own acts of kindness through the years
So, we set out each new year with a plan in mind for (at least) 12 acts of kindness; one for each month.  A little reminder to be grateful for all that we have and give back to those who could use a little boost.  At some point in our lives, we have also benefitted from another person's patience, generosity, or kindness too.  As one of our favorite mantras and as Grace Noll Crowell sang, "Because I have been given much, I too must give."

If your family is interested in making a commitment to 12 months of giving - we'd love to hear about it and your plans!  Comment below or email us at:  12mokp@gmail.com

Check out my pinboard dedicated to acts of kindness for inspiration or use your family's own interests and local groups to help map out the next 12 months of rooting your family in kindness and gratitude!

For this year, I've created a new worksheet if you want - grab it from the Documents tab above. After making your 12 Months of Kindness Project plan - post it somewhere your whole family will see it.  We post ours on the fridge as a reminder that we have Kindness Goals to work towards each month!

You can read more about how our family is planning to complete our 12 Months of Kindness Project this year at our family blog:  http://studerteam.blogspot.com/2014/01/12-months-of-kindness-2014.html

Good Luck and I can't wait to hear from you about how your family is being kind each month this year!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Toddler Friendly: Acts of Kindness List

November 13th was World Kindness Day!  Did you help bring kindness to the world yesterday?

source:  Operationnice.com 

My three year old and I sat down together and wrote a short list of ways that we can practice being kind everyday.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom:  Hey, let's talk about being nice.  What are some nice things we can do to show other people that we are kind and care about them?  Like, when we wave to our neighbors!  Hey, waving to people to say hello is nice!  Can you think of a nice thing to do?

3yr old:  Abba's nice (his grandma)

Mom:  She is nice!  What does she do that is nice?

3yr old:  She gives us gum!

Mom:  Gemmi (his 1.5yr old sister) is nice too!  What does Gem do to us and her babies that is nice?

3yr old:  She loves hugging


So together we talked about and came up with the following list of ways we can try to be kind a little each day.

Later in the day, we visited with my grandfather (the kids' great grandfather) who is in the beginning stages of Dementia.  It was a nice visit that had my grandfather laughing and high five-ing (on our list!) the kids while he watched them skip and jump around theatrically.

When my grandfather asked how old Grey was (for about the 7th time), Grey answered:  "Pap!  I'm three and half!  You keep forgetting!" and then the two of them looked at each other in exasperated giggles.

It was a simple (and free!) day of World Kindness for us!  What did you do to bring kindness to someone's day?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Our Surroundings: The Way We Speak

We are very mindful of the words that come out of our mouths around the kids.  Obviously we watch what we say in terms of curse words and negative-connotative adjectives.  But equally so (or maybe more so), we are mindful of the way we speak about things in front of them.  How we help shape the way they see things around them through a lens of kindness, gratitude, and patience.

The way we speak about our surroundings is a prime example of how we are mindful about our conversations with our kids.  Family and friends probably laugh a little to themselves when they hear us speaking in our 'pre-school cartoon' way when we talk to the kids - but its really an effective way to reach out to kids and help them understand, so we roll with.

Here are some examples of the way we speak to our kids about their surroundings with kindness, gratitude, and patience.

When we get stopped in traffic because of road construction:
3yr old:  Why did we stop?
Parent:  We have to stop because the men are working on the road to make it safe for us.
3yr old:  I want to go!
Parent:  I would like to go too, but these workers are working so hard!  We just need to wait our turn and then we will get to pass.  We are lucky that the men are working so hard to help keep us safe.

When we find anything that the kids want to take home (ie. bugs, pets at the pet store, toys, stuffed animals, etc)
3yr old:  Can I have/hold it?
Parent:  We can look at it for a minute, but then we'll have to let it get back to her/his family.
3yr old:  But I want it.
Parent:  I know you do, its very cute/interesting - but s/he needs to stay with/find his family.  Maybe we can tell her/him thank you for the visit.
3yr old:  Thank you!  I'll miss you!

When we notice anything that is interesting/beautiful/fun (sunset, moon, playground, statue, garden, animals, etc):
Parent:  Do you see that?!  It is so beautiful
3yr old:  Wow!  It is beautiful!
1yr old:  Woooooow!
-Conversation about how/why it happened/is there-
Parent:  How lucky we are to live in a place that has that?!

When it rains:
Parent:  Do you see those dark clouds?  Do you know what that means?
3yr old:  It's going to rain today!
Parent:  Yep!  And that means all of our trees and flowers and our garden is going to get a nice big drink!
3yr old:  They are going to be so happy!
Parent:  They are!  I think they are pretty thirsty, so this rain is great!  We can play inside so that the trees and grass can get their drink today, huh?

When its not the season that they want right now:
3yr old:  I want to go sled-riding/swimming/trick-or-treating
Parent:  Aw man!  That sounds like fun, but it's not winter/summer/fall right now.
3yr old:  But I want it to be winter/summer/fall today!
Parent:  It will be time for that soon, but right now we are having this season.  There are fun things we do in this season too - let's talk about that, like what about ____?

After we stop to visit with someone we know out and about:
3yr old:  Who was that?
Parent:  That was our friends/family/neighbor.  That was very nice to see them and say hello, wasn't it?  We have great family/friends/neighbors!

Our surroundings and our world have become such a more magical place when we make an attempt to view it through kindness, gratitude, and patience for our kids' sake.  I have been so happy and proud to hear our 3year old say things like, "It was very nice to see our neighbor today.  He was working so hard outside!"  or "Look at that beautiful moon, I'm happy the moon came to see us tonight!"

It takes small effort to consciously speak with kindness about your surroundings - maybe a little more when you're surroundings are slowing you down - but the payoff is great for the way that you can help your kids (and those around you) see the world as a kind and beautiful place.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Local Humane Society Donation

Our two dogs, Bullet and Trixie were both rescued from an unsavory ending and welcomed with love into our house where we operate in happy chaos with two small kids and two big dogs.

So we have a personal connection to the pups and kitties who are waiting for their families at our local humane society.  Before deciding on our donation items, we always check the local website first to see what is on their wishlist to make sure that what we donate will be used and is what they need.  

After we purchase our supplies, the kids and I head up to make the drop-off and visit with the animals for a little while.  I like to chat with the kids in the car ride up to the shelter about how the animals we will be visiting don't have families yet and remind them that our dogs do have a family (us!).  My little talk goes something like this, 

Me:  Hey guys, we are going to visit some of Bully & Trixie's friends today.  The puppies and kitties live in a place called The Humane Society.  They all live there because they don't have families yet.  
3yearold:  Why don't they have families?
Me:  Because their family didn't find them yet.  We are going to take them some presents today and visit with them.  But remember that we already have pets in our family, so we are just visiting today to say hello to these puppies and kitties. 
3yearold:  Yea! Bully and Trixie are our family, huh, Mum?
Me:  Yep!  They are our family...just like Lola and Jinx (our cats).  We are people and they are animals, but we are all one family together.  

Every time we make a donation to the Humane Society, it is always a 'close call' getting out of there without a new pet since my heart aches for those sad faces.  (although you'd think it wouldn't be too difficult of a decision with 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 9 fish at home- hah!)

The kids love visiting with the animals and the folks at the shelter are always happy to receive donations of goods.  This is an easy act of kindness (although not very emotionally easy!) and is our little way of taking time out of the year to remember to be specifically grateful for our pets who had their share of time in a shelter (or were headed there).  

Our family is a crazy one with equal parts mammals to humans - but one that we love and wouldn't trade for anything.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

High School Scholarship - 2013

This was our fifth year of giving a scholarship to a graduating senior at our high school alma mater.  Brandon and I met and fell in love in high school and it was such a huge part of our life growing up both separately and together.  We want to remain connected to it and decided that the best way we thought we could do that was to offer a scholarship in our name each year at the senior banquet in May.

This year, Brandon was unable to come to the senior banquet - so I brought my Dad in his place.  It actually works perfectly as my Dad is also a CV alum (as are my mom, and both of Brandon's parents too!)  

The banquet was lovely with good food and it was inspiring to hear how the seniors have succeeded and their accomplishments throughout their careers at Valley.  When it was time for our award - I gave a speech about how much we appreciate getting a chance to peer into the lives of young people from our community.  And how inspiring it is, now with kids, to know their are young people making positive contributions everyday.

We chose two recipients this year for our Studer Scholarship.  Each student had completed our essay describing how they have positively influenced the people around them while they were a student at Valley and also included their extracurricular activites and plans for after graduation.

All of essays that were submitted were amazing (we had over 15 students write in this year), but in the end - we selected Xavier Butts and Emily Bevan to receive our scholarship award.  Each scholarship winner received a note & a check for $250 as well as a plaque with our scholarship name on it (provided by the school).

This has always been one of our favorite months of kindness.  It is really amazing to stay connected to the students and staff at our former high school.  One of my favorite moments every banquet has been when the mothers of our winners weave their way through the crowds at the end of the night to personally thank us.  It is really a powerful moment and fills my heart with joy to see the pride and gratitude in another mother's eyes.  I honestly love our May Kindness and you can too - see below for our quick 6 step How To!


How to set up a scholarship with your local high school:

1. contact the school's guidance counselor and let him/her know that you would be interested in starting a scholarship in your/someone else's name.  For example, if your momma loves her some smart kids - starting a scholarship in honor of your mom is a great gift...and one you can re-do every year!

2. Decide what the criteria will be for winning your scholarship.  We chose for student's to complete an essay about their positive influence because we love kindness.  But you could make the criteria be anything you want....like the kid needs to have played the sport you played when you were in HS and be going to college for the same major you had...for example:)  The HS guidance counselor will be able to help provide students' extracurricular activities, GPAs, and/or any other important information.  

3. Decide how much you're willing to scholarship and then figure out how you'll afford it.  Do you remember when you were going to college and how another $100 bucks would have been awesome.  It is easy to save up the money when you budget it into your year.  Just a few meals at home instead of out - or putting away a little each month can make a big difference. 

4. Be prepared to make some decisions, because you won't believe how hard it will be to pick just one student

5. Be proud - you are helping someone get an education, and that is a pretty awesome thing to do.

6. Let your tax attorney know that you awarded a scholarship and back it up with a letter from the school.  hello tax refund.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Birthday gift for yourself!

For Greyson's' 3rd birthday this year, we headed over to Oxfam America Unwrapped for him to pick out a gift to choose all by himself.  We had a short little chat that as part of his birthday celebration - we were going to buy a gift that would go to someone else that needed it.  I wanted to make it clear to him that we were not going to get anything delivered to our house - rather it would be sent somewhere else in the world.

The most important part to a three year old, of course, is looking at the pictures and choosing which one he wanted to buy (again reminding him that he was not buying it for our house).  After a very close encounter of making my first ever online manure purchase (he's three - a poop reference is never not funny), he decided to settle on a dozen of baby chicks.

Since Grey is only three - a full-on conversation about how baby chicks could help another family wasn't entirely feasible.  However, we did chat for a minute about where eggs come from and what kind of eggs we like to eat, and how having chickens would mean someone would get to collect and eat their eggs at their own house.

The lesson probably didn't entirely soak into his young three year old heart, however, it was a great opportunity to be able to talk about sharing our birthday and happiness out into the world.  He knew he was getting presents for his birthday and taking the afternoon to choose a gift for someone else too was a reminder to both of us that giving is a very important part of receiving.

Oxfam America Unwrapped is one of my favorite spots for snagging meaningful gifts for birthdays and other gift-giving opportunities.  Last year during my 29 acts of kindness for my 29th birthday - I purchased a school meal for a student.  Oxfam has lots of different options for gifts ranging from animals, to education or health related, to emergency and career options.  *they do not know who I am outside of being on their mailing list.  I am just telling you about them because I love them.

So the next gift-giving opportunity that comes your way, remember that friends and family rarely need (or want) another picture frame or tie...however, a dozen of chicks in their honor - that sort of gift can go all the way to the heart.

For those of you with brothers or a potty-joke loving child in your life - manure is always a hilarious option too :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cookies & a Thank you for the local Volunteer Fire Department

This past March, we got to work on our monthly kindness by baking cookies for our local volunteer fire department.  This is a monthly kindness that we have done every year since we started 12MoK in our family.  We like it because it's both easy and fun, but most of all - it's one the kids can get in on even as very young.

This year, I made press-cookies and Greyson (3years) topped them off with some red sugar- hope the fireman like sprinkles-  hahh, he was pretty generous!

As the cookies baked, Greyson and Gemma (1year) got to work with crayons on coloring some pictures and I wrote a quick thank you note to take over with our baked goodies.

While we bake and color, I lead the kids in thinking and talking about why we are thankful for fireman in our community.  We talk about the fire whistles and what it means when we hear them (that the firefighters are going to help someone) and that to be a firefighter you have to be very brave because 'they go help when everyone else is running away or afraid.'

In past years, we've baked all sorts of cookies ranging from sugar cookies with homemade icing to store-bought (tear & bake style).  It really has depended on our level of busyness that month and what seems manageable.  

This kindness is both kind-friendly and easy to complete.  The firefighters are always grateful to get a sweet surprise at the firehouse and its a good opportunity to talk to our kids about local heroes.

How do you thank your local volunteers?