Planning a family road trip to Florida

Last Thanksgiving, I had a big Disney trip planned for our family. I love going down there immediately after that holiday and before the hustle and bustle of Christmas. I always find the crowds to be super light, and the weather is still a pleasing 70-something, compared to the 30s and 40s we’re starting to see at home. But as you know, there’s this annoying little thing called a global pandemic going on, so we canceled.

Then around the holidays, I saw a Harry Potter themed special come up for Universal Orlando. It was so cheap that I felt like I had to snag it and hope for the best come Spring. I bought cancel for any reason insurance and decided we’d drive from Virginia to Florida. Never in a million years did I think I’d go to a Flordia theme park over the wave of Spring Break holidays, but with the park in theory being capped at 35%, we decided there was no better time.

It’s a secret through, and I am so excited for the kids to find out. We’re breaking the trip up in two days, so we don’t even have to tell them on day one. We’ll let them think we’re just going to Savannah and that’s it. I’ll have a follow up post on our Universal experience, for sure. But today, I’m focusing on the things I’m doing to prep.

  1. Tablets/screens: My older two each have tablets, and I will download movies for offline use from my MoviesAnywhere app, which I am obsessed with. Until very recently, I still buy a lot of Disney DVDs with the digital codes, so we’ve got a great travel library that doesn’t require any internet or bluetooth connection.
  2. A portable DVD player: I’ve got a toddler who needs to be entertained, but I can’t trust him to hold anything for the trip. For less than $50, I bought a portable DVD player to strap over the headrest, so he can watch movies/shows. I found a few free Thomas the Train DVDs from my neighborhood Facebook group and will bring along a few of those to hopefully entertain him.
  3. Snacks! I’ve bought individual sized goldfish and veggie straws, plus some chocolate milks (a treat for our kids!), and other small snacks like granola bars. I’ll cut up some apples for day one too since my boys are obsessed. My husband is usually a stickler about the kids eating in his car, but those rules kind of have to go out the window when you’re driving for 7+ hours in a single day!
  4. Backstock: To borrow a term from The Home Edit, make sure you have extras of everything on hand! One time my middle kid threw up on a back road during a 4 hour road trip, and I had NOTHING to clean it up and no easily accessible clothes for him. We had to drive another 10 miles and luckily found a Walmart where I could stock up. Then we had to take out the car seat and wash it in a hotel laundry room at midnight when we finally arrived at our pit stop that night. Diapers, clothes, towels, flashlight, waters etc. And I love having some extra large ziplock bags or grocery bags for when there is a mess to clean up.
  5. Non-screen games: Inevitably the battery will die, the sun will be too bright, or they’ll get bored and just need a break from routine. I recently got a printer (only a year into quarantine!) and use the HP Ink program, which is ahhhh-mazing. I use my color ink all day long and print out bingo cards, list of the 50 states for license plate games, and other I Spy activities! It’s a great way to get kids looking at what’s around them. Who will be the first to spot a palm tree and know we’re really getting close!? I also grabbed this Rand McNally 3-in-1 book off Amazon for $9.99.

Most importantly – bring chargers, snacks, and stop early and often to pee! And have fun!

4 Things to Do to Create Memorable Birthdays

I am by no means a party planner. I don’t color coordinate well for family photos. I am an impulse shopper. And I’m constantly busy between my full time job, 3 kids, my side hustle, and keeping the house running. But what I do like to do is make birthdays special for my kids, and that gets spilled over to me and my husband sometimes too!

Here I’ll share 4 easy things you can do to make birthdays special and memorable without spending a fortune!

  1. Cupcakes for breakfast. This is a tradition I’ve been doing since the kids turned one. It’s such a treat and a great way to kick start the day. When I get my act together, we also do half a cupcake on half birthdays too.
  2. Silly themes. This is a newer one for me, but it started last year when I asked my husband what kind of theme he wanted for his birthday and he jokingly said he wanted a “haunted” theme, whatever that is. But a haunted birthday he shall get. So I hopped on Party City’s website and ordered a ton of random Halloween decorations. On his birthday morning, I got up early and decorated and packed him a lunch filled with plastic, bloody body parts too! This year I let the kids pick his theme, and they opted for golf and Where’s Waldo, which made for an interesting morning!
  3. Birthday week notes. I’m obsessed with words and notes. And I love a good post-it or lunchbox note. And during the week leading up to someone’s birthday, I leave them for my kids or husband!
  4. Balloons. For my kids, we blow up a dozen or so balloons and leave them all over the floor of their room after they go to bed, so they wake up with those first! When I’m feeling motivated or have the extra time, I swing by and order some helium balloons the day before as well, and I store them in our guest room and close the door until it’s time.

Guys, it can be that simple. And because these are traditions I’ve been doing for years (the cupcakes and balloons), the kids look forward to them and have come to expect them.

Hit my up with any of your easy birthday ideas to make the day memorable @theothersideofmotherhood

21st century COVID-friendly playdates

I have at least two (or twelve) moments a day where I feel sad or frustrated about the upheaval COVID has had to our lives over the last 12 months. And then I look to my son, who has his best friends across the street. They have barely skipped a beat. Once we started outdoor play with others again, he’s been in Heaven. I’ve never seen him happier. And it’s all thanks to creative styles of play they’ve had to get familiar with. 

My pre-teen daughter, on the other hand, doesn’t have her friends within walking distance. She has had a much more challenging year, and when I think about the isolation and lack of control that kids have experienced this year, it’s hard to stomach sometimes. At least you and I can hop in a car and go escape to a Target, a Starbucks, or a friend’s house if we really need something or someone. But these little guys are wholly reliant on us. You and me. I may say my kid can have the tablet from 5-6pm on Tuesdays but if her best friend only gets it from 8-9pm on Thursdays, then how can you connect? How do we help facilitate connection?

Over the last year, I’ve seen my kids come up with some pretty creative ways to connect with their peers, so I’m here to share a few of them today.

  1. Movie sync up. There are some fancy ways to do this, but I don’t think kids really care. My daughter was big into the Disney Zombies movie last year, and she and her friend would start it at the same time while they propped up their iPads on the couch and watched it together. They’d laugh; they’d pause when someone needed to pee; they’d talk about how they wanted to be cheerleaders now. It was almost like a normal afternoon playdate.
  2. Messenger Kids/FaceTime. Here’s your 2st century version of “Mom, I want my own phone line.” My new rule for my 10 year old is that she’s allowed to be on her tablet in the evening IF she’s talking to a friend. If it’s just her and an app, then it’s not allowed. I realized my desire to keep her “device-free” wasn’t fair when it was her sole form of connection.
  3. 90s style outdoor play. Hi. Captain Obvious here, but going to play outside like Nintendo is just becoming popular and internet is dial up has been all the rage with my kids. For my seven year old, that’s been easy because he’s got 3 best friends as direct neighbors, so as soon as we started letting kids play together outside again, that’s all they did all day long. Last summer, he’d literally be outside from 8am until 8pm and I had to drag him inside for meals. They built forts, rode bikes (and built a small ramp with one of the dads), had a million Nerf battles and water balloon fights (um, self-sealing water balloons are a top 5 recent invention), and they ate about a million Icee pops out of our garage fridge.
  4. Virtual “house” or “family.” A few weeks ago I could hear my daughter in her room playing “family” but she didn’t have any friends over. I slowly peeked my head in and there she was playing Roblox, and she had 2 friends on FaceTime with her. They were all in the same game. One was playing mom. And the other two were sisters. I couldn’t believe how creative they were.
  5. Zooming virtual school. This version of virtual school is way more fun for them, I think. Now that these kids have mastered the art of Zooming and creating backgrounds, I find my daughter creating her own Zoom calls with friends, and they set up virtual backgrounds to pretend they are in a classroom or their bedroom, etc. Similar to how they were playing house in Roblox, they were creating their own pretend worlds through the use of a background. 

If your kids are already doing these things, great! Keep it up! Let them explore new, creative ways of play.

Hopefully you found at least one or two new things to encourage your kids to build connection with peers when the world is a bit upside down. I think they’re going to be coming out of this pandemic with incredible life skills, and hopefully some new ways of thinking too.

6 people who want to hear from you today: Why sending a card can mean so much

One of my favorite emails to get every morning is my Daily Digest from USPS with my Informed Delivery of what’s coming to my mailbox today (If you have never used it, go sign up! It’s free.) I LOVE letters in the mail. Love them. They don’t even have to be in the mail. They can be left on my bathroom mirror, my laptop, in the freezer. Don’t care. I just love words and knowing someone thought of me enough to write to me. Since it’s clearly a love language of mine, I try to return the favor and send little notes, letters, and texts to people in my life. 

To make it easy for you, I’ve got 6 people you should send a card to TODAY and an idea for what to say to each. 

💜 Your partner: Easy peasy. Grab a post-it and write a note with something you love or appreciate! For example, Thanks for letting me fall asleep first so I didn’t have to hear you snore.

🤎 Your mom or dad: Drop them a card in the mail with something obnoxious one of your kids has done recently and thank them for putting up with you and congratulating them on their freedom now!

💝 Your kid: If your kids are in school and pack a lunch, put a note in their lunchbox. If they’re not quite reading, it can be as simple as “I love you. From, Mom” or if they’re a bit older, you could write a silly joke or wish them luck on a big test.

💚 Your co-worker: Are you still remote? Just check in then to say hi. Or set up a spontaneous virtual coffee date! If you’re back in-person, grab a post-it to say hi. One time, I noticed a co-worker doing work for a more senior employee that I didn’t think she should be doing, so I left her post its on her desk saying things like “Don’t Do It!” and “Just say NO!” 

🤍 Your neighbor: Another low effort, big impact one! Is there a neighbor who always borrows en egg? I’ve had to borrow frosting before after I baked with the kids and realized we’d used all of our funfetti icing! Drop them a note with the item and say something like, “Thanks for always keeping me stocked!” Or, has a friend been laying low and you miss them? Drop them a note to say just that. Maybe it’s a bottle of wine or a bag of their favorite candy with a note that says, “Miss you! Can’t wait until we can hang out again.”

💞 A friend: I love shopping for funny cards whenever I get the chance, so I always have a big stack at my house to send whenever the mood strikes. One of those cards with a quick note to say, “Miss you so much!” is sometimes all it takes to make a friend’s day!

And there you have it. Such quick and easy things to do that can make someone’s whole day! 

5 things to do when starting the divorce process

Getting divorced can be a confusing, life-altering, and emotionally-draining time. It’s even harder when you don’t know where to begin or even what to ask. There are so many things to think about and do, and it gets overwhelming. Today, I’m sharing 5 things that may not be on your radar that you should do TODAY.

  1. Change your passwords. The two of you have a lot of shared history together. You may even have a shared email address or Facebook account! Are stored passwords in the laptop he has? Do your passwords use nicknames and special dates? I remember the first thing I changed (after he moved out) was our keypad code to the house. I changed it to something that actually had meaning to him and I had always mocked. Something about that irony felt funny to me.
  2. Create a new email address. While you’re updating those passwords, go ahead and create an entirely new email address too. If things get contentious, you’re going to want to find as much privacy as you can. With many providers, you can just have emails forwarded into the same account to view. I have multiple Gmail accounts, but when I’m looking on my phone, they all come into the same inbox.
  3. Remove your ex from your emergency contacts. Make sure that as you call up your medical professionals (Doctor, Dentist, Therapist, etc) that you remove your ex as your emergency contact. Make sure that your ex can no longer access your personal information. This one isn’t necessarily urgent, but it’s one you could easily forget about, so you’re better off doing it now. Additionally, make a note to yourself to remove your ex as your beneficiary. In most states, you cannot do this until you are legally divorced.
  4. Always write out your texts and emails as if the judge will read them aloud in court. Be as objective as possible. I don’t want you to learn this one the hard way. In the early days, we’re either very trusting and open or things are a hot mess with insults and tempers all over the place. 
  5. Get a planner. This was one of the greatest tips I got when I went through my divorce. I had a small daily planner where I notated everything: the times he failed to show up for the kids, the times I thought he was intoxicated, when he lashed out at me, comments from his friends and family that supported my case…the list goes on. Use it to log any issues that come up with your ex. Having a record of every time he bails on the kids or fails to do something he says will help you so much when it comes to court proceedings. Take time everyday to update your planner – you have so many moving parts that things will quickly get away from you if you don’t do this daily.

Divorce is never easy on anyone, but having some guidance along the way can make the experience a lot more bearable. 

You’ve got this!

These tips are an excerpt from my new book Divorce: Easier Said Than Done and it comes out at the end of March.

A love letter to the brokenhearted mama

Dear Newly Single Mama,

It’s Valentine’s Day, and maybe it’s the first one where you’ve been on your own in a really long time. No one is buying you flowers. No chocolate covered strawberries or box of mystery chocolates. No card expressing adoration for you. Sorry to be that buzzkill. Was your ex really good at those things? Did they make you feel loved?

For me, I was never a big fan of Valentine’s Day because it all felt forced—especially when I had a partner who didn’t do a lot of thoughtful things like that without a holiday telling him to. My favorite part of Valentine’s Day was always the sweet things the kids would bring home from daycare, and now you may not even have that this year thanks to the pandemic.

What I’ve learned about Valentine’s Day is this: the day is as special as you want to make it, in whatever form you want that to take. I decided on my first single Valentine’s Day that I wanted the day to be about our love as a family. I wanted my kids to know how special they were and all of the reasons why I loved them so much. If I wanted their cute little hands on a canvas, well then I can drive my butt to Target or place an order on Amazon for a 5 pack of them.

And as my daughter prepares for middle school next year (and the obsession with boys and if she’s cute enough for them to like her, already seeps into her sweet little mind), I’m spending THIS year reminding her what Valentine’s Day is really about. Why it’s an expression of love. Just love. Love is love is love, after all.

We grew up in a different time, perhaps feeling like our happiness hinged on a man finding us worthy or desirable, and as we grow older, I find myself calling bullshit on all of that. Why do I need that validation to make me feel worthy? And why would I ever want my daughter to feel that way? I don’t.

And so, I create traditions that have nothing to do with romantic love. We belong to each other and have accountability to our family and friends. That is what I want to value, and how I want to raise my kids.

Mama, there’s a lot that you and I have to untangle as adults. So much to undo about how society raised us to believe in our value as women. But I’m here to tell you:

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You matter.

And you are perfection.

So on Valentine’s Day, if there’s something that you want to need: do that thing for yourself. If it’s a love letter, write one to yourself—examining all the ways you are absolutely incredible as a woman, a mom, a co-worker, friend, etc. If it’s a fancy dinner you want, order a steak, sit by the fire, and turn on a romantic movie (or comedy, or WHATEVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE). Buy yourself some flowers. Your very favorite, not just red roses because it’s tradition.

And lastly, write another woman in your life a love note today. Remind her how amazing she is and why you celebrate her today.

Valentine’s Day is for everyone to enjoy and celebrate love. Especially you.

New Year Resolution Check In

We’re just over 3 weeks into 2021. How’s it going for you? Did you make any resolutions or set any goals that are still kicking? I sure hope so! The odds are in your favor if you can make it even 30 days.

A few weeks ago, I shared my plan for goal setting this year. It was a new take on resolutions for 2021, and I broke my milestone goals into mini goals each month.

Overall, I’m really proud of how I’ve done so far this month. I have only missed one or two days of prayers for Josh, and even though my workouts haven’t been anything to write home about (literally, a quick 3 sets of 3 exercises before putting someone to bed at night), I’m mostly sticking to the goals.

My biggest accomplishment so far this month has been all the progress I’m making on book #2. I wanted to get my launch team restarted this month and I did that Saturday. I want to finish my draft by the end of the month, and it’s all typed up with a few gaps to fill in before the editing begins.

I’ll say this—the mini goal chunks are amazing for me. And there are so many components to a goal that if I don’t get all of them, it’s okay! They are all progress to the bigger dreams.

And P.S. My dry January is still going strong. This has been an insanely hard month, and we got a puppy last week that has turned my world upside-down in a way I wasn’t prepared for at all. And with the scary, the exciting, and the stressful moments this month, I’ve done it all with water, lemonade, and some soda. I’m so proud of myself to know this can be done even if there’s no baby in the belly. But that said, I’m so excited for February 1st to sit down with The Bachelor and celebrate my kids’ 1st day back to in-person school (for as long as it lasts).

Activity: A Daily Valentine Love Note

Original heart project from 3 years ago still going strong
(PS – the black cross outs are from times her pre-teen angst came out and she wrote things like “LIAR” or “NOT TRUE” on them! And then she felt bad and crossed them out)

Over the last 5 years, I’ve grown more and more into a words of affirmation love language gal, and it’s pretty typical that the love we want to receive is the love we tend to give as well. I love writing little notes in my kids lunches and post-its on my husband’s bathroom mirror. And this little craft is the pinnacle.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to make the kids (and my new husband) feel really special for Valentine’s Day. But not on Valentine’s Day. I wanted them to feel special the whole month leading up to the day. Think of it as my take on the 12 Days of Christmas (although that technically starts on Christmas and runs until January 6th). Each morning I put one heart on their door frame inside their room so it was one of the first things they saw in the morning. By the 3rd day, they couldn’t wait to see what I was going to write because now they knew it was coming!

This is such a simple project, but it does involve a lot of thought if you want to do it well, so I suggest mulling over each “I love you because” fact for a few days to get you to 14. I might also suggest that if you do have another parent in the home, they could take 7 and you take 7! My husband isn’t the best at expressing himself to the kids, so having these daily visual reminders means a lot to them!

Supplies:

  1. Scissors
  2. Sharpie or other fine point marker
  3. Construction paper (I like red, purple, and pink for variety)
  4. A list of all the things you love about someone

My hearts are a mix of serious, funny, and personal thoughts—same with my husband’s. The intention behind it (particularly for my kids) is for them to know that Valentine’s Day is an expression of love, and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not someone in your class likes you or has given you flowers or chocolate. My oldest is about to hit middle school, and next year, things like Candygrams and other cute deliveries will become a reality to her. I want her to always know that her worth isn’t determined by things like that, and Valentine’s Day is an excuse to tell everyone you love how you feel about them—mom, brother, grandma, best friend. You name it! There’s a reason we did Valentine’s for our entire class as children. Sharing the love and kindness to many is what the day is about. And while it’s nice to get some flowers or chocolates, it’s more important to feel loved. And that is the point of 2 weeks worth of affirmations that they keep up in their rooms for months.

These hearts have seen better days, but I love that they are still hanging 3 years later.

Sustainable Goal Setting for the New Year

It’s a week into 2021! I know some people talked about canceling their free trial and giving up on the year already, but what a waste that would be! We’ve got an entire year ahead of us to dream and drive things forward.

In some years in the past, I’ve set resolutions. In others, I’ve set a word for the year. This year, I’m blending the two. I’ve been fairly consistent for almost a year now doing Rachel Hollis’s Start Today journal, and that led to how I set my goals for the year in a way that feels attainable and I wanted to share my process with you this month so you could hopefully give it a try too!

Step One: Identify your long term goals

With the Start Today journal, I write down the same 10 dreams every single day. 10 things I want to see happen within the next ten years. These aren’t things that will happen tomorrow (eg. Own a vacation house we don’t rent) and some of them are things I will always work on (eg. Spend time in the bible daily). In the journal, you are supposed to end each entry with some short term goal you want to accomplish that gets you one step closer to your dreams.

So if you happen to already keep a Start Today journal or have some similar manifestation in place, then you’re ready for step 2. If not, take some time to think about what matters to you and how you want your life to look 10 years from now.

Step Two: Choose 2-3 goals to advance this year

Now, two of my 10 year goals are to work out every day and spend time in the bible daily. Those are not specifically a part of my goal setting this year, but they are things I aspire to and continue to work on. By no means do I work out every day yet, but I do try to be consistent.

For me, I actually thought about some of the things I wanted to accomplish this year, and I worked from there. Which of my dreams did they align to?

I know I want to publish my second book this quarter, and “I wrote a second book” is one of my 10 year goals, so that was an easy one to ladder back to. (And it also means that I need to decide if I want to change that dream to “third” book, or if I want to replace it with something new entirely.)

For my other two, I had one work and one personal., which I’ll elaborate on in a moment.

Step Three: Identify short term goals for the next six months

My personal goal was to work on my marriage. I have a 10 year dream that says “I have an exceptional marriage” (taken straight from the example page in Rachel’s book, because who doesn’t want an exceptional marriage??). But of course, I can’t just decide I’m going to do that, right? That doesn’t magically happen. It happens daily, in the little moments, coupled with the big ones. I am obsessed with Love Languages and my husband swears he doesn’t have one. He’s wrong, of course. I’m 75% sure his is acts of service (which sucks, because as a mom working at home, I feel like all I do is serve, and I’m freaking tired), but I’m still going to experiment this year.

Like so many of you, quarantine has been hard. We have had the best time together this year, and as an introvert, being home with just him has been amazing. But the stress of having all of the virtual school on my shoulders, the distractions of them at home while I work (he goes to an office), and let’s not forget that the baby’s daycare was closed from March until September. It was a hard year for me, and I didn’t have a ton left to give.

I turned my goals into a powerpoint broken out by month, with a column for each of my “big goals.” Here’s what I did for January:

I know, a lot of those don’t specifically look like they are about my marriage, but one thing I know about myself is that when I feel good about myself, I’m nicer, more thoughtful, and more engaged with my husband, so by caring for myself, my hope is that is what manifests—and that it may inspire him to work out too (hence, working out consistently on the weekends when he’s home!)

I gotta say, I’m most excited about the prayer circles. He doesn’t know I’m doing this (and I don’t think he even knows how to read my blog), but I’ve spent the last week saying specific prayers for him in places like his closet, the shower, his side of the bed, etc. The idea comes from Mark Batterson’s book Draw the Circle if you’re interested! I did it with my church several years ago and loved it.

Step Four: Print out your goals where you can see them

Personally, I’m taking this one month at a time, so I have only January printed off in my closet where I can see it every single day. But I built out six months to start. Particularly with my work goals, they really require some specific things to happen each month, so it was easier for me to write them out for six months. Six months gives me an easy way to evaluate how it’s going in June, and I think by then, we’ll also know a lot more about how the rest of the year will play out as it relates to COVID. If I will be working from home all year, my goals may shift versus if I have to go back to the office starting in June.

Step Five: Follow your goals and re-evaluate in 3 or 6 months

It’s as simple and as difficult as that. You have to actively work on yourself every day. What I like about having so many mini goals is that I think I’m going to be less likely to “fail” with this plan. I may not check off everything on my list, but I bet I achieve a few of them. And every thing I put on my list takes me one step closer to my ten year dreams.

Shoot me an email or DM on Instagram and let me know how it’s going! Wishing you all the success in the world!

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

With the holidays here, the giving spirit permeates the air. It’s the time to shower family and friends with gifts. But how often are you expanding that giving outside those you know?

I feel like I’m in a constant state of busy-ness, and I have been good at seeking out organizations to support if they don’t fall in my lap. I think that’s been one of the best things about social media over the last few years. I love seeing birthday fundraisers on Facebook or #GivingTuesday posts on Instagram, and I’ve found countless ways to give through people in my neighborhood supporting organizations.

Since you’re probably really busy too and may not have found a way to make giving back a priority, I thought I’d share a few ideas from places where I donate and things that you probably have in your towns too.

THINK LOCAL:

  1. Food banks: There are so many ways to donate food. You likely have a big food banks and some smaller ones in your county or in local churches.
  2. Adopt A Family: I don’t think Angel Trees are a thing this year, but just the ones I’ve been a part of recently are through my son’s daycare, a woman on my neighborhood Facebook page adopted TEN families and has been asking for donations, and it can be gently used items like clothing and toys, so it’s a great way to clear out things at home too. Especially the baby stuff that either went unused or barely touched!
  3. Church: My church does a Christmas missions project, and this year, they’ve decided to give the money locally. There are several organizations they’re working with, and we can either donate to the general fund or a mission close to our hearts.
  4. Teachers: This year, I upped my teacher count and added people like the reading specialists who are working with my kids virtually and doing an incredible job. And I gave to those who may be sucking through this too. It’s HARD. I’m choosing to give grace even if we’ve got one dud who doesn’t seem to give it back. My kids’ teachers have also set up a Teachers Pay Teachers fund to help pay for virtual resources that are worth every penny to make their experience better!

A FEW OF MY FAVES:

  1. Compassion International: I discovered this organization about 5 years ago while attending a Christian concert. You “adopt” a child and each month $36 is pulled from my account. It’s a great way to donate a little bit throughout the year, and I love the set it and forget it aspect of it. We have 2 children right now, and I guess I need to add one more because the intent was that we adopted one for each of ours. We get sent regular letters and photos, and if I were a better sponsor, we’d send letters back more often! But it’s a great organization and has excellent ratings.
  2. Comfort Zone Camp: Based in Richmond, VA, CZC offers overnight grief camp for kids ages 7-17 in multiple locations around the country. My oldest daughter has been twice, and it’s such a powerful weekend for these kids. The “Big Buddy” that they pair with each child is a big deal and they work so hard to make it a great match. We have stayed in very close contact with our second one and she’s come to visit for Peyton’s birthday, treating her to a special night out last year and then a special necklace and treats that she dropped off this year. This is a FREE OVERNIGHT CAMP for kids who have lost a parent or sibling, and that’s all done because of generous donations.
  3. Heifer International: Admittedly, this is the first year I’ve donated to this one. I got on a mailing list somehow and received their mini catalog a few weeks ago. I’ve heard of this type of program in the past—your money goes toward buying livestock which supports families for the longterm so they can get milk, sell cheese, etc. It’s the whole idea of teaching a man to fish, which I love. They make it fun to donate to this one too by offering various packages with price points ranging from $50 for a “share of an animal” to $5000 for “Noah’s Ark.” My family has a running joke about goats, so we purchased a goat for each child this year at $120 each!

And when in doubt:

  1. Your school: I have always donated to my college, our athletic foundation, and our alumni association. A little bit to each group.
  2. Organizations with meaning: cancer, homelessness, education, domestic violence, etc. I recommend checking out Charity Navigator if you want to make sure your money is being used well! I’m partial to charities that help kids so that we can make impact early and often.

At the end of the day, it’s our job to give back, to tithe, and to recognize how blessed we are. Having a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re blessed just the same as not having enough money makes you less blessed. Give where you can, however you can.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and may this be a special and memorable holiday for each of you. This will be my last post of the year as I unwind with my family for two weeks without school or work. I look forward to taking on 2021 and seeing all the amazing things bound to come our way.

xo, Ashley