Wednesday, December 07, 2011


The good deed for the day write a letter to a soldier. :)


I don't know if I was just being overly diligent in my planning the good deeds based on the days of the calendar or if I just got really really lucky. Hmm...let's just go with the former.

So, we spent our breakfast talking about the kids' great-grandfathers, grandfather, uncles and cousins, who have all served in our military.  We talked about the troops coming home by Christmas. We talked about the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. And we talked about bravery, and courage, and patriotism.  

Then they debated the kinds of pictures that were appropriate to draw on the back of the card, not knowing which soldier might receive their card -- could be male or female, could celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanzaa or nothing at all, could be currently fighting or maybe already wounded in a hospital or never have seen a fight at all, could have family and friends waiting for them or not, could miss being home or not, could be older or younger, highly educated or fresh off the streets.  There really was no telling.

And they sat there, with their pen in hand, unsure of where to begin. Unsure of how to be so generic and still make it personal.  How do you make it mean something specific when it could mean any number of things to so many different people?

So, what's the common denominator, they kept asking.  

Turns out, the common denominator is YOU, I finally realized.  YOU are grateful for the work they do.  YOU are happy they help provide you the wonderful life you live. YOU are in awe of their bravery and selfless service and strength.  YOU are proud to say you're American.  And YOU want them to know they are appreciated and never forgotten.

And after finally sorting out the incorrect address issue making its way through Facebook (i.e., don't send mail directly to Walter Reed Hospital), we were able to finish our letters this morning, stamp 'em, and pop 'em in the mailbox to:
PO BOX 5456
FYI --- they have to be postmarked by this Friday, Dec 9th if you hope for them to actually reach a soldier before Christmas.

Thank you for all you do, who you are, and what you represent.  We remember.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I love the idea of an advent calendar. The kids are already obsessively counting the days til Christmas, so the calendar just gives us a method for masking that compulsion and legitimizing holiday madness.

One of the many things I don't like about the store-bought calendars, though, is that they're all chock-full of treats, mostly chocolates, and not even good chocolates at that.

Numbered stickers applied and
good deeds taped to the back of ornaments
But it's not just the unnecessary over-abundance of processed sugar that gets me on this one. Oh, noooooo...that would be too easy.  It's the idea of giving treats to children who already really have everything they could possibly want or need.

It's the fact that the holiday season, a time during which we're supposed to be emphasizing and re-instilling the concepts of gratitude and generosity and giving, is being counted down to the biggest children's gimme-gimme-gimme day of the whole friggin' year by a calendar that only reinforces that sense of entitlement and unearned rewards on a DAILY basis.  And it's just beyond my understanding. Or acceptance.

Our final finished product! 

And yes, I do realize there are other advent calendars out there, but while we do teach our children about the various religions and the true meaning of Christmas, and that the underlying meaning of the word "advent" in this instance is actually about the coming of Christ, I don't really wanna be lectured and preached to every single morning through the month of December by a self-righteous calendar.  (I much prefer to be bullied and guilted into a false sense of happiness and contentment by the overcommercialization of spirituality provided by the magical ratio of the number of light bulbs on my house to the number of bows under my tree.)

The garland and ornaments was quicker and
easier for me than the traditional cardboard calendar,
but that's always an option, too
So, anyway...thanks to a friend who posted about a good deeds advent calendar on Facebook, I immediately became obsessed with incorporating this new tradition into our holiday events.  I say immediately because it was December 1st that it occurred to me -- with only 4 hours before I'd have to pick the monsters up from school.

So with zero time and just under $30 between Michael's and The Dollar Store, here's what I did:

  • half-priced garland for $8
  • plastic ornaments at 4-for-a-dollar
  • ornament hooks
  • numbered stickers
One of Saia's "notes to a sibling" :)
Then I searched all over the internet for 25 good deed ideas that kids could do without making it feel like a chore, but also not so easy that they wouldn't require any effort at all.  It was a surprisingly difficult task.

But then I found some fantastic stuff!  Some great examples were, "write 3 kind notes to your sibling and hide them around the house in places they'll find them."  And "bring in a neighbor's waste bins" (which, of course, you have to then time with the garbage collection days). But some were as simple as "hold the door open for everyone behind you today" or "smile and say hello to every single person you pass by today." (For a full list of the 25 good deeds I selected for this year's calendar, CLICK HERE.)

Completed good deeds are piled in a bowl
So far, every morning they've remembered about the calendar and asked to see what that day's good deed was going to be without my having to mention it.  

And no, it hasn't suddenly made the whole world a better place.  

And it hasn't even made our own little household tantrum-free, yelling-free, or tattling-free.

But...I'm hopeful. That a little tiny bit of the message, a realization that they have to contribute to and appreciate the world around them, that there's more to the season than just getting, and that random acts of kindness can and should be incorporated pretty easily into your everyday life with little to no effort sinks in.

And sticks.