Friday, December 25, 2015

Spreading Christmas Cheer: Our Adopt-a-Family Adventure

We adopted 7 families for Christmas. It was too hard to choose just one so we had the idea to adopt several families in honor of our own family members. This probably wasn't the optimal year to have taken on such a huge project because my energy levels haven't yet returned to normal following my surgery, but my girls were amazing on this project! This is the story of our experience.

I described in my previous post, Sharing Leads to Caring, that the decision to adopt a family for Christmas was motivated by my 13 year old. The craziest part of this story is that we waited so long to get started shopping that Zoe had already gone to her dad's house for the holidays by the time we got down to it. Ariel and Lacey really enjoyed shopping and wrapping and Zoe did get to go with us on a few deliveries. Here is the story in pictures: 

There are 19 kids in the 7 families we adopted. Several of them liked to draw so here we are getting sketchbooks and drawing pencils. Ariel has the kids' lists. 

The first night we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the task and Ariel and Lacey spread everything out in the guest room to get a handle on what we had to do to make deliveries by Christmas. The cat laid on everything and Lacey worried someone would be allergic to cats. 

One of the girls, age 12, wanted a bow and arrow, and we are fans of Katniss girl power so that was a priority. We adopted this family in honor of my brother, Uncle Lance. 

It wouldn't be Christmas without a trip to Gamestop to buy used PS3 and PS4 games. There were several boys who wanted games, including one who's been given a system, but no games. 

We all love a girl who loves to read and asks for a specific series.  We adopted this family in honor of my nephew Trey and his wife, Kristina. #afterourhearts

A boy who likes card tricks and magic will probably appreciate a Star Wars stocking filled with candy too. We adopted this family in honor of my sister, Aunt Ali. There were 2 boys and a girl in this family age 12, 13 and 15.  

When a 12 year old wheelchair bound boy asks for cologne, you have to make that happen for him. We adopted him and his sister -who "does not like Barbies" ;), in honor of my Grandmother, Marie.

Before the wrapping session. Ariel and Lacey were very concerned about sibling parity. All the families we adopted are surviving on less than $15,000 a year and we wished we could have done more. 

The first 2 deliveries ready to go. It took 3 days to make all 7 deliveries. We didn't get lost once but we went to every corner of the city. 

There were 2 girls and a boy in this family. We got all the kids stockings filled with candy.  

Lacey fills out holiday cards for the parents and caregivers for the HEB Gift cards we got them. 

Lacey hands out stockings to her sisters. The deliveries were quick - in and out of the homes. We met some wonderful people and a truly adorable cat named Duncan. 

Making a delivery to the family of 4 kids aged 8-14 that we adopted in honor of my parents, Rich and Peggy (Grandma and Granddad).  

This was the only family that asked to take a picture with us. We adopted them in honor of my brother and his family: Aunt Lyn, Andrew and Marilyn. 

Empty bins means Mission Accomplished! 

The mini photo albums we made of the experience that we gave to our family members, with info about the kids' Christmas wishes, our shopping and delivery experiences and pictures. 

My favorite pic: Lacey and Ariel putting the perfection finishing touches on the sponsorship story books. 

We decided that we will definitely do this again next year, but definitely not as many families. ;)  The kids are hoping we can adopt the family of 5 kids we sponsored this year in honor of my brother, Uncle Richard and his family again next year! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sharing Leads to Caring

My youngest child, who entered her teenage years at warp speed, flipped off her bus driver last month and got sentenced to 2 days of after-school detention. After we managed to successfully overcome her father's legal objections to these consequences (footnote* below), she served her time, but the whole ordeal clearly had little impact.

I was particularly disappointed in her behavior as it came immediately after a conversation we had had about respecting authority and being kind to others. Seeing as how shooting the finger is commonly accepted as both mean and disrespectful, I can only assume that her assurances of understanding during our conversation were a total sham. 

Since my older two girls, at 22 and 27, have already passed through their tumultuous adolescence, including the horrific "Mom is a hopeless idiot only worthy of a teenager's condescending pity and fervent scorn" period, I often turn to them for wisdom. When I brought up this incident, which we now refer to as #FingerLawGate, I found they had already been discussing it, and had arrived at a conclusion:  Zoe needs to learn how to give a crap about someone besides herself.  

In an instant, I knew they were right. Periodically, I look over the 40 Developmental Assets Checklist to see where Zoe falls. She's very well taken care of, resourced and privileged, so I don't generally worry too much. But a week before #FingerLawGate I had attended a training on the Assets and it struck me that her exposure to opportunities to really help others was very limited.  I've always taken for granted that my kids have this exposure, given my work in the nonprofit arena. Ariel and Lacey really lived the Big Brothers Big Sisters experience alongside me. They went to all the activities we planned for the kids and volunteers. That was back when I was working more directly in the program, but these days my job is much more administrative. Hence Zoe has learned all about how to ask people for money. She could grow up to be a great fundraiser with her excellent communication skills, thick skin and persevering nature.  Also, as I've gotten older and more attuned to the need for work/life balance, Zoe has had less and less of my job inflicted on her. This is not necessarily a good thing. 

So, my older girls had already decided that Zoe needed more opportunities to care for others outside of herself and her family and be exposed to those less fortunate than she. We discussed a few options and landed on adopting a family for Christmas. This idea just filled me with joy and I don't understand why we haven't done this before!   I researched it online because I know there are lots of great holiday assistance programs out there. In the end, though, we decided to adopt a Big Brothers Big Sisters family, because many of them don't get enrolled in time in holiday assistance programs. Big Brothers Big Sisters doesn't have a holiday assistance program per se, but it has lots of families who could use help. 

I will share in a future post about our experience adopting a family! Happy Holidays! 

Here is a list of organization's that have Adopt a Family opportunities for anyone who is interested. 

  1. Family Service Association Adopt a Family Program 
  2. Angel Tree 
  3. Elf Louise 
  4. Blue Santa
  5. Here is a great post by San Antonio Mom Blogs on Holiday Opportunities for Families to Volunteer

This cartoon exists on Google, so maybe this happens more than I realized. Thank you #stillnotok

*Her dad called the middle school principle to insist that Zoe was not on school grounds when she flipped off her bus driver, having exited the bus in our neighborhood before bringing out the finger. Therefore the school had no jurisdiction to punish her. He has to constantly demonstrate what a clever lawyer he is never mind what kind of parent.