Monday, July 3, 2017

A Family Tradition



The theme for the county fair this year is A Family Tradition and Gracyn always likes to make a collage of pictures that has to do with the theme. As she was picking the pictures I started to think it would make a great blog post as the reason I started this blog was to help remember all the things we did on our funny farm as a family growing together.

Here are the words she came up with when describing the pictures in her collage.

Farm - You can't describe our family without including the farm. We spend time each day together working and being together on the farm. From calf chores to picking up rocks we always find a way to spend some time with each other and find dad when he is busy keeping the whole thing going.

Wedding - Last year we were lucky enough to add two Kane girls to our family when two of our nephews were married. We had a lot of fun being with family and dancing to the music. We also took some time to get together and take a picture of everyone together. As our family grows it is amazing to get a good picture of who we all are.

Easter - Piñata - Every year for Easter the Kane family gets together to eat, hunt Easter Eggs, smash a Piñata, and enjoy a peanut butter rice crispy shaped bunny treat from the kitchen of Aunt Marcia. This year we decided to take another family picture on the front steps of the house in Quasky. The last time we took the picture seven people in the picture were not an official part of the family or even born yet! It is not as easy to organize all the people but still great to hear all the laughter not caught on film. The Piñata started as a tradition when we celebrated together after the holiday and Grandma picked a bunny shaped one up in the clearance aisle. Since then we have had bunnies, chicks in eggs, homemade brown bags, and Olaf! The 'bat' to break open the candy has been passed on from the Kane kids to Bryan or the McEnany boys to the Kane girls as the kids have grown.

Pumpkin Patch - Tire Swing - Gus @ Pumpkin Patch -  Corn Maze - Carving Pumpkins - Trick or Treat - Cotton Candy on Halloween - I did not realize we seem to pack a lot into Halloween time at our house! Sherban's Pumpkin Patch in Manchester seems to kick off our Halloween fun. The girls always love their turn flying through the air on the tire swing. And I always makes sure we get pictures behind all the wood props. The last couple years we have met my Aunt Shelia, cousin Cyndi, and her boys for the trunk or treat celebration as a practice run for finding all the pieces to our costumes. Two of the three girls have taken turns going through the haunted bus at the end of the trail of trunks. One has always been too scared to try it out - they must get that 'scaredy cat' from their mom who used to read instead of watch scary movies at sleepovers. We have also enjoyed finding our way through the themes corn maze each year. Luckily we have always found our way out! Then we pick out our pumpkins and have a picture with Gus the scarecrow before we go. On Halloween we Trick or Treat twice! We start by checking out the candy at my dad's store for downtown Trick or Treat in Independence before we snake around the streets and fill our bags for the first time. We finish the night hitting the streets in Walker - being sure to get cotton candy from the house on the corner with the delicious treat each year. Whew - I am tried just writing this...

Girl Scouts - 4H - The girls have picked some pretty good activities to be involved in outside of school. Despite the fact that I was worried about both of the girls selling Thin Mints and Samoas in February, they have both learned some fabulous communication and commerce skills. I am so glad they both have wonderful leaders to help them in their journey. This is our second year trying out 4H and the girls have had a great time attending meetings with hayrides, holiday games, creating crafts, and touring to see the animals other members have to show at fair - from rabbits to pigs to fainting goats. They have also enjoyed some time before fair working with their dad on some woodworking skills to create a flower box and hook hanger to share at fair. Gracyn continued her fashion events with a romper for clothing selection and shorts with a tank top and attached scarf for the $15 Challenge. And on Sunday all her hard work paid off when she earned a purple ribbon for her dance during Share the Fun!

Chucky Cheese - Hu Hot - Since Gretchyn decided she needed her birthday at Chucky Cheese when she turned 5 we have tried to get back there each year for some fun family time. Gwyn even kept her ski ball on the write track this year! And it was fun to watch the girls work together to earn tickets and eyes light up when daddy joined in to play like the big kid he is! Gracyn, Gwyn, and I have always enjoyed finding a time to enjoy Hu Hot together. But this year we finally got Gretchyn to join us as well. All I have to do is let her eat S'Mores for lunch - included with her own small fire at the table to roast the marshmallows. Now we can have our spicy dishes on the grill and she can enjoy a sweet treat all together.

Ice Cream Cake - Pie in Face - It is great to have a tradition that includes such a sweet treat as a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Each birthday my mom will have the girls pick out which character or activity they are enjoying at the moment to put on their cake for them and us. We have enjoyed Max from The Secret Life of Pets and a deer so far this year. This year also ended a tradition on birthdays for us as Gwyn had her 5th birthday party - the last that will just be family. Next year she will have friends from Kindergarten over to play with. So this year we broke out some extra fun when Aunt Manette brought out Pie in the Face. It was a little more fun to watch everyone else get pie in their face, but I did try it out against the birthday girl once myself. It was also fun to watch Gwyn play against Kane as we celebrated her party on his 18th birthday. There were giggles and finger licking all around.

Sister Smiles - Indoor Pool Pirates - First Day School Pictures - I have always loved to take pictures and with three smiling girls it is always fun to get them together and show of their pearly whites. With Gretchyn suddenly doing everything she can to avoid a picture it is a little harder to get them all together, but before she became photofobic we did get some good ones this year - one even with them just messing around on the living room floor and one as they say 'ay mate' before heading into the indoor waterpark at Honey Creek Resort on Lake Rathbun. But the ones that end up as my lock screen on my phone each year are the tradition we have continued from when Mark was a little boy - pictures on the front steps on the first day of school. It has morphed from just Gracyn when she headed off to preschool to all three girls together and one at a time as they proudly show off their new backpacks, outfits, and shoes. I hope they still have the same smiles when I have them standing out their on the first day of the Senior year.

Cheerleading Camp - This year was the first time all three girls could spend a day of Christmas break with the NL Cheerleaders at Little Lynx Cheer Camp. It was a quiet day for mommy, but a day of loud yells, floor pounding, and high jumping for the girls. And then it is always fun to go see them shout it all out at the half time of a Girl's Basketball Game in January.

Christmas Cookies - Christmas Card Picture - Moodolph - Christmas Concert Christmas - is another busy time of traditions and probably my favorite holiday of the year. [The six rubbermaid tubs of decorations in my storage room might be a good indication of this.]  We kick off the holiday season with cookie making with Mark's family. We all bring recipes, supplies, and something to make for dinner and turn the kitchen into a factory of cookie making and decorating. And because I love a challenge we always try to take our Christmas Card picture after we have had a busy day baking. This year instead of getting us matching shirts, we all wore a shirt with 'a few of our favorite things' from deer to tractors to Paris to fish to books. We had some words about sitting still and smiling, but then had couple that could be used for the card and a lot of goofy ones that tell the story of our funny farm. This year we even invited our version of Elf on the Shelf - Moodolph 'the reindeer in training' to be part of the picture. The magic of the season begins when he shows up at the beginning of December to keep watch on who is naughty or nice. He even leaves some gifts along the way - the favorite this year were the PJ's to wear until we see him again next season. We also dress and bundle up one night in December to go watch the girls sing and smile as they sing songs of the season. The tradition came to an end for Gracyn this year as she leaves elementary, but Gwyn will pick it up for her next year when she enters Kindergarten!

Since I could not get the actual collage to embed here in the blog [oh how touchy technology can be] I am attaching a link to the collage of pictures Gracyn made to capture these family traditions. We also created a candy cane word cloud to help explain what the pictures represented. That is embedded and linked below as well.

I am already excited for the theme next year to see what she comes up with to create!


http://www.getloupe.com/v/n8nrywmc?r=u

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Milk and Cookies 2016

It may be a Christmas miracle as I have my postcards and I am typing this BEFORE the big guy has taken to the sky to deliver presents! [fingers crossed the labels and stamps make it on the cards in time to be in the mail to make it to all of you before the stockings are stuffed] This year we decided to wear shirts with a few of our favorite things for our annual family photo in front of the tree.

(and as always we got a picture for the card on the first try!)


A few of our favorite things by Slidely Slideshow


Mark
The cows continue to be one of Mark’s favorite things as close to 80 of them keep him company twice a day in the barn each day. Gretchyn has taken to joining him in the barn to finish milking and washing up most nights. She also made sure she was there to tag along as he went out hunting this deer season. Together they were able to get Gretchyn’s first buck! He again took a few days off the farm at Country on the River in Wisconsin to enjoy some country music and even relaxed one morning by sleeping in past 8:00. When he isn’t farming he is fixing and he even managed to have the patience and give me the right instructions to help put the combine back together this fall.
We all enjoyed a trip to the Omaha Zoo this summer to enjoy some time with our favorite people and animals!
Melissa
Just five years overdue I have made my way back to being a teacher-librarian so I guess this is the way the story goes. I am still in Anamosa and continue to be at the HS for ½ the day and have also expanded to meet and help the staff at the MS for ½ the day. There is never a dull moment and that is how I like it! Being a mom is still the best job I have as the girls continue to grow (as Mark pointed out just tonight) almost taller than me. We filled up a pool this summer and between cooling off in there, enjoying some sun and pages of a book, and Mark continuing to challenge me with things on the farm I never saw this city girl doing this year leaves me knowing I have all of my favorite things!

Gracyn
This year brought double digits for the first child in our house when Gracyn turned 10! She continues to be the girly girl as her favorite thing is planning a trip to Paris someday. [I can only hope Mom gets to take a long]. She was able to participate in showing at 4H this summer and enjoyed showing off her talents in finding a second hand outfit for $15, taking pictures, creating a video to tell about accessories in fashion, and even earned a Junior Purple for her stop motion video of her Lego Friends making a smoothie to share a healthy snack. She continues to participate in Girl Scouts and will have her 6th dance recital in May be learning moves in Hip Hop and Ballet.
Gretchyn
This farm girl helped unload more than 40 bales of hay this summer! She loves to spend time milking, taking care of cows, learning, fixing, and building with her dad. Their latest project was painting the blind Mark made - her job was to paint the tires so they would blend in too! And as you read above her hard work paid off when she was able to shoot her first buck during first season. She has continued as a Brownie for Girl Scouts and along with Gracyn will sell cookies again in February. After taking a year off she has decided to try out Clover Kids for 4H again this year - she is not quite old enough to show an animal officially, but she did have her dad break out the harness this summer as she led a pretty tame calf they named Felicia around the yard. She is also working hard to learn a new Hip Hop dance each week.
Gwyn
This little girl started Preschool two days a week this fall and has already learned all of her letters (except Q) and loves to tell us what all the letters are on the shirts we are wearing. It is so fun to hear what her and her sisters share about their days at school. She spends most of her days at home trying to keep up with her big sisters and beating daddy back to the barn after feeding calves, but still finds time to snuggle with her mom and gives some of the best hugs around. She became quite the mermaid in the pool this summer and tried out  both ice and roller skating in the rinks this year. She loves spending time with the kitties in the barn and can always make us smile with the contagious laugh she has.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Milk and Cookies 2015

Well here we are with me writing this blog after Christmas again! I thought about just changing to sending a generic card for 'all' of the holiday season, but I am afraid my procrastination would be even worse and we would end up with Christmas in July like last year every year. But as long as I get Mark to sit down and be in one family picture each year than I have accomplished something.

Mark

He continues to grow the dairy farm by keeping us all busy painting the barn [in the colors of white and chocolate milk]  and having close to 30 calves to feed this summer. All the girls took turns combining with daddy this fall and the bigger girls said they got to drive for one pass of the field.  He gave the girls some more animals to love when he said it was okay for me to give two kittens a new home on the farm this fall.  He is still on the hunt for that big buck he caught on the trail cam this fall as he decided to save his buck tag for late muzzleloader season with the new muzzleloader he picked up as an early Christmas/Birthday present. We continued our annual get away to Country on the River where Dierks Bentley was the show that rocked the stage this summer and we took a trip down our country music concert memory lane with Alabama on the first night.
Melissa

I am on my second year as Reading Specialist at AHS. With construction to the high school mostly finished, I was able to move to my own room this fall. I have really enjoyed arranging and making my room student friendly for all the kiddos who come through my doors. I wrote and received grants from Wal-Mart and Dollar General to add some fun seating in my room with exercise ball chairs and hokki stools - sometimes I even get random kids in to check out the chairs which makes it fun for me to meet more students than the ones in my reading program. My co-workers continues to amaze me with the work we are doing to help our students achieve their goals after high school and had a boost to this work as we bonded together this fall to win our school $100,000 from State Farm in their Celebrate My Drive contest. Outside of school I keep myself busy reading, crafting, and ‘just’ being a mom and farmer’s wife.
Gracyn

Even though she wouldn’t touch the crayfish in Science she was able to pass 3rd grade and started 4th grade this fall. We are very proud of her for getting above the fluency mark in reading! She learned that mommy might know a little something about teaching reading as when she listened to her and read aloud more at home her scores went up ;) She is taking 2 dances classes this year with 3 types of dance so is learning how to tell the difference in steps for tap, jazz, and hip hop plus she made her up own dance routine at home after being inspired by the song “Better When I’m Dancing” She is also trying out 4H this year for the sewing, crafts, and cooking so we look forward to that adventure this summer at the county fair. And she is continuing her 3rd year in Girl Scouts so be ready for cookie sales in February again.
Gretchyn

2nd grade continues to grow her skills in learning. She loves to read and learn about new ways to do math. Our little farm girl continues to learn more about helping her dad on the farm. She can even tip a bucket over to stand on in the parlor and milk her favorite cow #605. She even tried out hunting by spending some time in the blind with daddy this December, but even though there was a doe close enough to shoot she worked on her patience skills by not shooting it because daddy said it was too small. Daddy found her a pink BB gun for Christmas so she is excited to practice some more shooting with it. She is busy learning new moves in hip hop and tap and decided to try out Girl Scouts this year too. She is quite the sales girl so it will be interesting to see how she does selling cookies the same time as her sister in February.
Gwyn

Our sassy youngest gives her spunky middle sister a run for her money. She is not afraid to let you know what she wants and sometimes finds herself in time out as she continues to learn the best way to express her feelings. But her excitement and giggle are contagious and if you ever need a laugh she is the one to go to as she can always find the best thing to say. She loves to read before bed and has Pajama Time memorized to read with mommy every night! No chair or blanket is safe in our house as she can turn them over and cover them up in no time to make a house to play in. It is so fun to listen to her imagination work overtime as she plays and grows.

What has been the best part of time with your family this year?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bushel of Blessings

I set out to start writing this post at the beginning of November and add to it each day as I thought of new things I was thankful for each day until I made it to Thanksgiving, but each day was over before I knew it and here I sit on the day after Thanksgiving with a blank page in front of me, but I realize that is what I am most thankful for - a life that keeps me busy.

There was a day just a few years ago that I would have told you that the thought of busy day made me pull the covers over my head and hide. When I truly believed I was not good enough to do those things that were ahead of me. When I wondered why a person with a cloudy mind deserved to have a body that worked just fine. Those thoughts are still in the back of my mind, but the things I have to keep me busy and be thankful for are able to be my focus now.

So I did not make my goal of writing down what I was thankful for each day and even if I did it would never be a complete list, but I would like to try to come up with a list of 11 [you know me and my odd numbers and since it is the 11th month we will roll with it] to share with you here -

11. A messy house - I am sure you have all seen the quote that says - please excuse the mess ~ we are busy making memories here, but I saw a sign online the other day that said - please excuse the mess ~ the kids are being jerks - which I think is a little more true to what life is really like. There are times at home when I think I talk to myself as I try to name off the things all over the floor that need put away. I even caught myself sounding like my parents the other day when I told my girls everything on the floor when they went to bed would be thrown away and this was not my mess so I was not cleaning it up. I guess it must be something about being a parent that makes a dirty house annoying. But as the quote hanging in my kitchen says 'no one notices what I do until I don't do it' so with no mess how would I know they needed me.

Gretchyn crashed our data night @ the creamery banquet & we had to make some funny faces to show her sisters!10. Giggles - in a house with three little girls and a husband that considers making girls giggle a second job - we rarely have a day without giggles in the house. Even after an express ride on the scream train from a super angry three year old a giggle can be found deep down to make a quick u-turn. With all the moods in this house, I think laughter will be the best medicine most days.



9. Hard work paying off - I was so lucky to watch most of the students, staff, and community at the high school I work at pull together and reach a goal that was set out for them. And the pay off will be more than just the $100,000 prize from the competition. We will be able to make our school a place for students to feel at home and learn together.


8. Students who complain but care - I have to smile on the inside and keep my face neutral when I hear students complain about school. It must be the teenage brain that has a bigger capacity for complaints and I find it fun to make comments to make them think and it used to bother me to hear them say they didn't need to learn, but I have learned they only complain because they care and even if they don't know they are learning despite their complaints. When they stop complaining, then I will wonder if they are learning.

7. A family at work - I have heard "if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life" I think having amazing co-workers to help with that journey is the key to this. I have been lucky enough to find this not once, but twice. I cannot say enough about all these people that work so hard each day to make sure the students get the best experience at school, but I am so glad to be a part of it and have these amazing people available to help me grow as an educator.

6. Young Adult Fiction - Loving to read clearly took me down the road I am on today and I love that there is an entire genre of books dedicated to try and hook other teens into that love too. I have read so many books I could not possibly remember them all, but I do know they can make me laugh out loud and wipe tears from my eyes. I also watched close to 50 students celebrate that love for reading  this month at the Dystopia Duels Bring a Book to Life Challenge - pretty amazing!



5. Open Windows - It did snow last week, but until then and even looking into next week we may be able to open the windows and get the germs out. We have had plenty of germs slithering around this house the past few weeks so open windows can only help kill them off before they sneak in to hide and avoid the cold of this wonderful midwest winter.

4. Laundry in drawers - If anyone ever creates a machine to fold and put away laundry they will make millions - the biggest G says this is her goal to create someday so I hope she can make it happen. By the time I sort, wash and dry the clothes I have little energy left to fold and almost none to put it away. So around here laundry baskets usually stay full until I run out of them in the basement. I look forward to getting them empty this weekend and have all the clothes tucked in their drawers until it is time to do it all over again.

Look at these two jumping beans! Gwyn was so excited to play with Emmalynn today❣3. Fun with family - The best part of this season is time to spend with family. A time to slow down and enjoy the time together. As I watched the girls bounce up and down on the trampoline with their cousins, run around chasing their uncle around the yard, beg to play BINGO and search for prizes when they won I know these are the times to just sit back and be thankful it is here.



Took a break from running errands to find a park!2. Growing girls - I am so fortunate to have three girls to snuggle, run to dance, Girl Scouts, 4H, friends houses, scold, and love. The biggest G turns double digits in a few months and I can hardly believe it has been 10 years since I first held her. Her and her sisters change and grow each day and this is the best show to be a part of.


1. A husband who supports me - I may not always tell him and some days I may even wonder why he spends so much time outside the house, but I really could not imagine being on this crazy ride with anyone else. It can be hard to see at times, but we do compliment each other to pick up the pieces one of us may leave behind even if at times it seems like our pieces do not fit quite together.


What are you thankful for this holiday season?







Sunday, August 30, 2015

My heart belongs to a farmer

I have been thinking about writing this post all summer, but I have sort of slipped off of the hit and miss routine of writing my blog to only one post at Christmas time when I went back to teaching full time. I thought I would have more time in the summer, but then I took an English class, shifted back and forth between being the fun mom and a mom ready to pull her hair out because her girls seem to not know how to listen, and of course as I learned early on in my relationship there is always something to do on the farm. Which is where the idea for this post popped into my mind.

Over the last 12 years I have really perfected this look from a picture at our wedding that is one of my favorites and have probably given it to Mark over 830,012 times since August 30, 2003 when we officially started this bumpy tractor ride of marriage and family on a dairy farm.

I give him a lot of these looks when he calls me out to feed calves in the rain, expects me to hear him yelling to stop the trailer in just the right spot to put a round bail of hay on, (over the diesel truck, skid loader, and three girls fighting in the back seat) drive the loader to jump start a tractor on a 20 below Iowa winter day, or trying to keep up with our three year old when she is ready to go to the house after chores and he says it will be late tonight....

But there is no one I would rather bump along the field with and help navigate the rocks and weather that pop up and change our plans with. I can never thank him enough for loving me through hormone changing causing 2 1/2 battles with postpartum depression and pushing me to get out of bed each morning when I would have rather pulled the covers back over my head and disappeared from all my awful thoughts and feelings. And even when I  think I am so mad at him I could scream he can say something to make me laugh so hard I cry because I am happy. Like just yesterday when he said our anniversary would yet again be spent chopping corn, but it had to be done because he planted the corn on his mom and dad's anniversary so  chopping had to begin on ours I couldn't help but laugh at his logic, because it is something I would have thought of too.

We may never agree on the amount of time he spends on the farm or why the girls don't always listen to me, but change their actions as soon as he says their name. Marriage is not about changing for each other, it is about finding that sweet spot where you can both exist. He keeps me moving when I feel like sitting still and I help him take a step back and relax when he wants to keep moving. For that I know we found our match as we vowed to love each other through the sunny and rainy days 12 years ago today.  I am glad we can continue to twist and grow our roots together for many more planting and harvesting seasons to come.



And without him I would not get to be the mom of these goofy girls that fill up my heart and make us a family that can tell you 'tails' from our funny farm.









What does your spouse do to balance your relationship?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Milk and Cookies 2014

As I tried to take care of two things at once this year and help Gracyn with her Girl Scouts fall product sale AND get my holiday cards paid for I should have known better. Because then I got busy and didn't realize it was past time to order our picture shirts so they were not ready in time for the usual post cookie baking picture [which was actually OK because Gretchyn and Gwyn had far too much sugar!] Thanks to Marcia for coming out again that week to try to wrangle us for our annual craziness of trying to get five people to look at one camera without sticking their tongues out [like their dad taught them!] After a short rest from the insanity my insomnia kicked in that night and I got the photo loaded, rhyme written, and card made then ordered in the wee hours of the morning. But even paying the extra $10 for quick shipping, the card is still not here or ready to mail.

So here I am with Christmas over finishing up the letter [as my procrastination kicked in even more when I knew the card was late so the e-letter did not have to be done] hoping to email out the link to those I have in my electronic address book and send cards out when they come for some extra holiday cheer after the big guy and his reindeer have jingled their way back to the North Pole.

Happy Holidays from us on the funny farm - and if you are reading this now or later we hope family and friends filled your homes, , you can still get your pants zipped after all that good cheer and food, you are down from your sugar high, Santa made all your wishes come true, and you continue to pass on the true reason for the season as 2014 comes to an end and we hang on for another trip around the sun in 2015!


Milk & Cookies 2014 From the Kane Farm

The 'tail' end - What would you share about the wonderful things that happened with you this year?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The true reason for the season

I am sure you have all heard the saying, it is better to give then to receive. And as I think back to getting caught sneaking a peek at my Christmas presents a few years in a row (what can I say, I have always been curious and at times impatient!)  I can see why this is such an important concept. 

As a child I did not always realize the joy was in the giving and receiving, not just the gift. But I do think I have enjoyed the action of giving for quite some time. It always made me feel good when a friend liked the gift I gave them for their birthday or when I could help someone smile with a small item they liked to use. I was the coordinator of Secret Santa, Cupids, and Fluffer Butts with a group of friends my senior year in high school. And while some of my friends were busy trying to figure out who had their name I found myself listening to my person to see what they would enjoy to find in their locker most. 


That is the part of giving I truly enjoy the most. Asking questions and listening to conversations to make note of what might help them smile as they tear off the wrapping paper. I love to personalize gifts and make them mean something. That is where the joy is for me - knowing I got it right for that 
person. 


I also love the journey of finding that special gift, using my searching skills to find out where I can find the best deal or item for each person, and even customizing and creating items that are one of a kind from inside my mind. My husband would tell you Pinterest is my biggest time waster, but I love seeing ideas people have put together and making it my own. I borrow from the best and turn it into what I can do, so my items never turn out exactly like they are online, but my own version of what I see. My favorite gift from last year was the canvas collages I made with pictures of letters on signs from places that were important to those people to spell out their names. I had more fun finding the places to take the pictures of the letters then anything else. And this idea came to me as I saw a photo collage of doors important in my hometown. It was especially fun to hear them talk about where the letters were from as they guessed or matched it up with the laminated card I put inside that gave the information. 



Each year I am trying to pass this on to my girls and show them we can work together to make presents or put together a few small items with a theme for their teachers, friends, and cousins that are even more special then something expensive from the store.

 I am even playing around with an idea in my head to start a new tradition this year to help pass our waiting time Christmas morning that involves making something for our siblings or finding a way to give back to our community. 

I have always tried to work with my girls to give back at the holiday time when we clean out our toy box and toys to donate to others who might not have all the nice things we have. We discuss how we are fortunate to have our family and nice things to share with each other, but that doesn't happen for everyone for a lot of different reasons so we can help make that happen for someone with something we loved to play with for awhile, but is ready for a new happy home. I need to work on this all year as a way to keep the kindness going. 

The girls have also really enjoyed shopping the last two years to put a present in the box for a toy drive started in our local school to remember a special little girl taken too soon in a car accident. They look forward to picking something out and telling me how it will be played with. They also like to see the pictures of the girls little sister with all the toys before the family donates them. I like to hear them chatter about 'wow, look at all those toys kids will now have to play with' and 'isn't she lucky to give all those toys away.' And to read the posts about how this toy drive is helping the family remember their daughter and her giving spirit makes my heart melt even more. 

I have been reading many stories of Random Acts of a Kindness and Paying it Forward as part of stories on Random Act of Kindness web page and the 26 Acts of Kindness Facebook page that started after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is heartwarming to hear the good in our country as sometimes we tend to focus on the bad. Another friend also posted his girls with the toys they bought with money they saved in their piggy banks to buy toys to put in the Toys for Tots bin at Toys R Us. What an an amazing tradition to start with their family! 

When I was a middle school librarian my announcement team worked ever year to spread the word on live morning announcements via the TV to gather items to share at the holiday time. We did movies for soldiers overseas, books for the book mobiles in Africa, canned goods to forgive library fines, and sold candy-grams to raise money to donate. We also did a penny war each April to celebrate reading month and donated the money to places like Camp Courageous, the Heifer Project and local students after car accidents involving them or their parents. The kids looked forward to it each year and really got into the idea of giving back. And the ladies at the bank we extra kind when they saw me coming with my buckets of change to run through their machine.

The 'tail' end - I hope the 'spirit' of the season finds you merry and bright during this holiday time. What do you do to give back or pay it forward during the holidays or any time of the year?