Operation Christmas Child: Packing Shoeboxes for Children, with Children

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It’s something my husband and I have done for years and years: packed a shoebox or two full of toys and hygiene items and candy and trinkets for a child overseas. It’s not hard. It’s not very costly. And yet, it can change another child’s life.

I learned this firsthand when I got to hear Alex, a recipient from Rwanda, speak at the Allume Conference last year. (I would urge you to watch this video about Alex’s testimony, although please screen it before you show it to your kids. There is a lot about the genocide and war in Rwanda.) Alex’s life and heart were truly changed, all because someone cared enough to pack a little shoebox – and then Samaritan’s Purse was able to minister to him, following up with him, continuing to share the gospel story with him.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, and literally millions of boxes have been delivered worldwide since the ministry’s inception in 1993. Personally I think OCC is an amazing way to introduce your children to the ideas of poverty, giving, and having a multicultural worldview.

Here are some tips for packing shoeboxes with your own children.

  • Let them choose which gender and age group to pack for. Often kids will want to pick out things that they like themselves – so maybe choose to pack for a child the same age and gender as your own.
  • Add homemade elements: ask your child to make a Christmas card, write a letter, or draw a picture to go in the box. If he or she is older, maybe he can crochet a small scarf or sew a fleece lovey or even make a rubber band ball.
  • Explain gently that these will probably be the only gifts this child will receive this Christmas. Answer questions in a straightforward and truthful manner, but don’t over-explain.
  • Pray over the boxes and ask God for guidance on what items this child will need.
  • Make sure to include hygiene items, even though they aren’t as much fun. What toothbrush and toothpaste do you kids like? What soap? What about a comb or brush? A trip to the Dollar Store can go a long way to completing your shoebox with toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, bar soap, and a few fun hair bows.
  • Remember the rules! Here are the items you should not include: used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Will you pack a shoebox this year? Even if you don’t have time to shop, you can still put one together online on the Samaritan’s Purse site for $25. Smart!

Box drop-off is November 17-24. If your local church is not collecting boxes, you can find a collection site here.

When the Game Stands Tall: A Conversation by Kelly Mize

Last week, I had an opportunity to speak with Bob Ladouceur and Terry Eidson, the coaches portrayed in the new movie, When the Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Caviezel and Laura Dern. It’s the story of an impressive high school football team that held twelve consecutive undefeated seasons, setting a national record winning streak of 151 consecutive wins. I spoke with the movie-inspiring coaches about faith, family, and football.

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What advice could you share with parents of young children who want their kids to be involved in sports?

BL: Go ahead and get them involved in sports early, as they want to be involved, if they ask to, and then back off. Let them do what they can do. I think it’s a great learning experience no matter what happens, whether they’re doing well, or even if they can’t hack it. However, when parents get involved trying to micro-manage, it just turns into a mess. It doesn’t do the kids any good to have their parents fighting battles for them. They’re going to have to learn how to lose and be disappointed. That’s a part of life.

I love the way that this movie uses Bible passages to subtly illustrate, without being “preachy.” What role did/does your faith play in your coaching, and in your life?

BL: It’s infused in every part of your life if you call yourself a Christian. If you try your faith on like a shirt, take it on and off in different situations, that’s pretty lame, not being true to your faith.

TE: One of my favorite professors in seminary said, “Once you understand Scripture, there’s only one way you can act.” That’s always behind the curtain of everything I do.

One of the things that seemed to make your teams strong was the love the players had for each other. How did you encourage this attitude with your players and within your own family?

BL: Kids in middle/high school around the ages of 14-18 are searching for identity, a place to belong. They sometimes have a tendency to be narcissistic or myopic about it: What’s in it for me? What am I getting out of it? We tried to teach the kids that having that attitude is not how you make connections, not how you improve yourself as a human. It’s about understanding the other person, reaching out to other people and showing real concern and empathy for them. This comes in teachable moments, in listening to your kids and the way they speak to each other. We made it a point to stop and correct. “Is that building someone up or tearing them down?” As coaches, we spent an inordinate amount of time reinforcing this.

TE: Respect authority, be thankful for what people do for you, clean up after yourself, think about others. For parents, teachers, and coaches, it’s also not about being the good guy all the time. A greater love is always out there to learn.

I live in Alabama where football is a way of life and high school football is huge. How can families maintain the perspective that football is “just a game”?

BL: No matter what you’re doing, when it’s all said and done, just say to yourself, “Does this really matter?” The important things are God, family, kids, loved ones; all the other stuff, it doesn’t matter much.

TE: I think it’s great that families go to games together. Have a passion for your team, but keep the perspective that what’s really important is who you are, not the team you root for. Families can be inspired by a team’s playing and effort, but at the end of the day its important who you are.

Do you think non-football fans will enjoy this story?

BL: It’s not just about football; it’s wrapped around the human lives. The human lives are not wrapped around the football, it’s vice versa.

LE: It’s about building a team, and family is a pretty important team. In the focus groups, the film was very popular among women and mothers, even those who did not like football.

Any last words for parents of children ages 3-11 trying to balance work, family, and fun?

BL: When you do get that rare free time, try to make it family-time. When my kids were younger, I always tried to make it a point to read to them or ask about their day. Hearing some sacred thing in their lives was important. This season doesn’t last forever.

This applies to marriage too: I think one of the most important things is to never leave each other or go to bed, without telling your kids you love them and hugging them. It makes a huge difference. I think that’s critical, that human touch and connection.

When the Game Stands Tall opened in theaters on August 22. It is rated PG.

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Did you read or write something you’d like our readers to see? Leave a link in the comments, on our Facebook page, or send us a Tweet!

Added to Saturday Linky Love at JessieWeaver.net.

The New School Year Can Be Terrifying by Ellen Stumbo

It’s that time of the year when kids go back to school. A new year. A new teacher. Perhaps even a new backpack or wardrobe. But it also means new classmates. New friends.

As a special-needs mom, the new school year can be terrifying. I am not sure what your experience was, but when I was in school, the children with disabilities were not in class with me. They either had their own class or their own school.

Back then, I was afraid of disability. I was told to look away, to ignore, to not ask questions, to not be rude. So I thought disability was bad. Really bad. Then I became a special-needs mom and let me tell you, this is how you take a crash course on disability.

But I remember being on the “other” side, the side where you are not so sure how to respond to people with disabilities, how to act around them, perhaps even how to treat them or talk to them. And you know, your child might be going to school with a peer with who has a disability. Thankfully, we now practice something beautiful called inclusion, where kids of all abilities learn together, and learn from each other.

And this is why a new year is terrifying. Will my daughter with Down syndrome have friends? Will there be a kid in their class that will be able to look past the poor speech and see the wonderful, beautiful, funny person that she is? Will my daughter with cerebral palsy have friends that play with her during recess? Will they still include her even if she cannot run and keep up with them?

I want my children to have friends.

So dear mom with typical kids, it’s okay if you have not taken the crash course on disability (or any course at all). The only thing that matters is that you encourage your kids to get to know my kids. That you teach them that although they might be different, we are all uniquely gifted. That you stress out that disability is just a part of life, and not what defines a person.

And you know what, as your kids get to know mine, maybe we can get to know each other too. I might also need a friend.

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

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8 Yummy Muffin Recipes

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Personally, I think muffins are one the best “kid foods” there are. My kids will eat almost anything if it’s baked into a little handheld snack. Want them to eat squash? Carrots? Quinoa? Bake it into a muffin!

Muffins can be breakfast, part of a lunchbox, a snack, or alongside soup with dinner. They can be sweet or savory, fluffy or dense, topped or not.

Here are eight of my personal favorite muffin recipes. What are yours?

  1. Old-Fashioned Blueberry Muffins – Citron Limette
  2. Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Roll Muffins – Authentic Simplicity
  3. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins – Once a Month Meals
  4. Apple Cinnamon Muffins – ParentLife Online
  5. Crumby Banana Muffins – Jessie Weaver
  6. Honey-Sweetened Pumpkin Harvest Muffins – The Finer Things in Life
  7. Sweet Carrot Muffins – Spoonful
  8. Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins – Annie’s Eats

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Making Toys Count by Christine Satterfield

Before I had my son, I knew nothing about children. I never had siblings or cousins to “practice” on and babysitting wasn’t my thing. So the first time I walked into the big baby warehouse with my husband I was floored! Who knew babies needed so much stuff?

Well, I’ve since found out that children don’t need much. Diapers, clothes, a lot of love, and — if you don’t have empty boxes and plastic containers around — a few toys will keep them occupied for hours.

Picking out toys for our children, though, can be quite cumbersome. If you frequent one of the big toy warehouses you may know all too well the temptation to buy every single toy in the store. Even trips to the consignment sale and discount store can tempt you into buying more than needed, because the toys are such a good deal! Toys are tricky. As parents, we want to provide our children with every opportunity to learn, but we don’t want to overwhelm them with so many choices that they don’t even know where to begin.

I’ve decided to be quite choosy with the toys my son has at home. The toybox isn’t overflowing, so we try to be very purposeful with the toys he has to play with. The goal is for each toy to help instill the Word of God in his heart and reinforce the principles and stories of the Bible.

Instead of choosing a cartoon coloring book, I’ll choose one with a Bible story theme. Instead of letting him watch cartoons on TV, I’d rather he watch something like VeggieTales. When he’s learning shapes, we’ll choose the toy pictured here most often so he can hear the story of Noah’s ark.

Being choosy with toys won’t necessarily ensure that our children will grow up to love God with all their heart, soul and strength. But I want to utilize every opportunity to teach my son (and future children) about God and His Word. I want to live out Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and literally repeat His Word to my children, talk about it when we sit in our house, walk along the road, when we lie down, and when we get up.

Christine Satterfield loves Jesus, her family, and the church. She spends as much time as possible playing with her son, and she’s constantly cleaning his toys. You can find out how she cleans them on her blog iDreamofClean as well as learn other household cleaning tips and tricks for the busy mom.

Originally published October 10, 2010.

When Do I Take My Child to the Doctor?

19/365 - My head is hot and my feet are cold. Ha...Hee...Hachoo!
source: Micah Taylor via Flickr Creative Commons

In February, I had a very sick baby. My youngest child was 11 months old. He was running a high fever that wasn’t coming down with medicine. His breathing seemed labored. It was really scary for me! And still, because it was at night, after all the doctor’s offices had closed, I questioned whether or not to take him to an urgent care clinic or just wait until morning.

After calling the after-hours line at our pediatrician’s, we decided it was pretty urgent that we take little Joshua to the walk-in pediatrician’s clinic. And I’m glad that we did, because he had influenza A. (Despite having had a flu shot!) We were able to start treating it immediately and in a few days he was ship-shape.

Whether it’s day or night, though, I think we all question ourselves when it comes to taking our children to the doctor’s office. Is it worth exposing him to germs? Is she really sick, or is it just a cold?

According to pediatrician Jennifer Shu, here is when you should go ahead and at least call the office:

  • High, persistent fever – and always take your infant to the ER if her fever is over 100.4 rectally (under 3 months)
  • Labored or noisy (wheezy) breathing
  • Thick eye discharge that sticks the eyelids together
  • Not producing urine every 6-8 hours (due to vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Vomit or diarrhea containing blood
  • Extremely lethargy or a stiff neck

I think erring on the side of calling the nurse is never a bad thing … especially for Mommy and Daddy’s nerves! But if you’re stuck in a should-I-shouldn’t-I cycle, there are some pointers to consider.