In 2015, we started an incredibly fun (and yes, at times, incredibly exhausting) tradition of a daily visit from the "Giving Elves" with our then 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 year olds. We found some adorable little whimsical "Elves" from Wildflowertoys on Etsy (who Milo quickly named Jingle & Bell) and got to planning. Each day, the Giving Elves leave a note for the kids and an act of giving for them to complete that day. Sometimes they also leave a little treat!
This year is a little bit more challenging because Milo is now in school full time (with at least an hour commute each way), and with appointments, work and many other commitments, solid planning is even more important. Sometimes, tasks are broken up over a few days, because of time and let's face it...they're 2 & 4. But, we have many fun acts of giving; it is really so worth the hard work! Here is a compilation of the first 11 days -- you can also follow our daily posts on Instagram @givinggrows!
Today's act of giving will go to a couple of children from Sheltering Arms. I showed them a short video on the website and and we had them each select a toy from their amazon wishlist. The note read, "There are some sweet kids at Sheltering Arms who are in need of some love and we think that those toys would give them a lot of joy."
Luna chose the booster seat because "BABYYYYYYY!!!" And after much deliberation, Milo chose the game because well, he loves games too! I reached out to the sweet staff at the organization and once we receive the items, we will hand deliver them to the office early next week. (Gifts can also be sent directly to the office if anyone is interested in donating and not in NYC).
For the first day, we (I mean Jingle & Bell) also got them a gingerbread house kit on super sale because Milo has been begging for it and it's fun to be festive! ........
Milo is having some serious questions about whether Jingle & Bell are "real" or not , but he's still loving it!
Today's act of giving was outlined as the first step in a multi-step project scattered over the next week or two! And it was a parenting fail. The task was to purchase "lots and lots of socks." The note asked the kids to think about how they would feel if it was cold out and they didn't have socks to keep their feet warm.
So, after school, we ventured out to several different stores in our neighborhood in an attempt to buy reasonably priced socks. And guess what...NO SOCKS!! Boo urban living! So, we came home and bought them on ebay in bulk. Although I prefer the kids seeing an exchange of money for goods/services, this will have to do. After all, it was a long, dark walk home and we still didn't have socks. It happens. More to come on this top secret sock project!
This afternoon we had a friend's birthday party. He has a givingJAR and is collecting money to donate to an organization in his birth country of Costa Rica. This organization cares for babies and children not in the care of their families. His super creative mama asked us to bring along some coins for his givingJAR because she had an activity for them.
Jingle & Bell asked Milo and Luna to each fill a bag with coins from our collective family jar (aka coin graveyard) and bring them to the party. The kids were given a brief description about the organization and a question was posed to them about how they would feel if they didn't have family who could care for them.
Since the party had a Paw Patrol theme, my friend made an adorable little puppy station with a sign that read, "Adopt a puppy, help a child." What a creative way to incorporate the givingJAR into a birthday party! It was a hit!
We stayed in Connecticut with friends last night, but I brought our little buddies along with the kids' note for today because I knew we wouldn't get home until late. They were so excited and mystified that Jingle and Bell made it all the way to CT and to share their giving adventure with their friend.
Today's act of giving was to buy an extra large case of water bottles to join the socks we bought the other day. We stopped at the store on our way home and the kids picked out the biggest case of water they could find. A simple act, but it will make a difference! Milo & Luna still don't know what this secret sock project is, but they will find out soon!
Today's act of giving was to bake cookies of the kids' choice for the staff where Milo had an appointment today after school. They hold evening hours and Jingle & Bell felt they could use a late Monday pick-me-up!
While Milo was at school, I baked cookies (Luna assisted) and we packaged them up with a little note that read, "Happy Monday! Hope you enjoy this sweet treat from Milo & Luna!" When we arrived, the kids delivered them to the office and were they ever grateful! Milo was thrilled that staff kept coming up and asking who made the "delicious cookies!"
Our Secret Recipe Tip: No nuts, lower the amount of each sugar and add an additional 1 C of milk chocolate chips in with the semisweet. Huge crowd pleaser! And I always hand mix it just for some extra love.
Today's act of giving from Jingle & Bell was for the kids to complete the final piece of the secret sock project. To go along with the socks and bottled water, the kids were asked to decorate and draw on cards. The note said that the cards were for people who "need some cheer" and asked for the kids to think about what might make other people smile or be happy.
It was a busy day for Milo and he wasn't getting home until late, so J&B left little card packs with decorative supplies so that Milo could work on his cards on the subway.
The kids love art (particularly Milo), so they had a lot of fun coloring and drawing and putting stickers EVERYWHERE.
Since we need so many cards for this project, my husband and I have been tackling some, as well, and we will continue to decorate them until we have enough!
Today was the day Jingle & Bell asked the kids to deliver the gifts that they ordered on Day 1 to Sheltering Arms!
We hurried down to the office just below Herald Square after we got Milo from school 8 subway stops away. We had a full load--Luna in her stroller, IKEA bag with the booster seat and game & my backpack full of anything and everything we might need. Oh and 24 FLIGHTS of stairs. I'm not joking.
In any case, we made it and it was totally worth it. A sweet employee named Michael came out to greet us and accept the gifts and the kids were so happy!
Whenever possible, I always love cooking a meal for friends nearby when they have a new baby. There's so much comfort in receiving a meal and it brings me such joy to put love making it.
For today, Jingle & Bell asked the kids to choose a dessert and to help me deliver the meal to our sweet friends who have just welcomed a new baby into their family! Milo chose brownies and Luna was certainly in agreement, so she helped me make them (new recipe--fell apart, but still tasted amazing) and I made a Korean noodle dish that always seems to be a crowd pleaser!
After school, we rushed home, picked up the dinner while Milo carried the dessert and we walked over to our friends' apartment a few blocks away. (And of course I forgot to take a picture of them in all of the excitement
These friends are super laid back and the kids got to play with their 3-year old while I got to hold the most beautiful, perfect little baby girl. Heaven! I am so, so happy for them.
I hope my kids grow up knowing that acts of giving are equally important toward those we are close with, those we sort of know and those we don't know at all.
Today is the day! We finally put together our secret sock project! Jingle & Bell explained the need for socks among people who are living with homelessness. They asked the kids to imagine how it would feel if they had to sleep outside in the cold and didn't have socks or other warm layers to wear. The sock project is for Volunteer New York! -- their DIY sock bundles project! Wrap a pair of socks around a bottle of water, stick a piece or two of candy inside and tie it up with a card. (Cards will be added another day) we quickly found that the secret is to stick a piece of candy IN each sock and then roll it up! The bundles will be given to an organization in the city that does midnight runs for the homeless. So simple and such a great project!
When we sat down to start the assembly, Milo said, "It is so nice of Jingle & Bell to do this for people who don't have a lot of stuff or homes." And Luna shouted, "Or money!" And Milo said that it makes him feel sad. Sigh. Me too, buddy.
This was a wonderful family act of giving to do together. Milo did great and helped with almost all of the 36 bundles (I had much lower expectations and expected this to go on for days) and Luna helped cut and hand us things and eat candy They were also a wee bit distracted because we have Milo's class bunny for the weekend. Jingle & Bell said that we would be delivering on another day soon!
Today was a busy day! My husband and I headed off to Brooklyn bright and early to set up our booth at the Brooklyn Friends School Winter Fest! (So organized and everyone was so nice!) There were givingJARS galore!
As a result, my parents graciously came into town to stay with the kids for the day. And of course, Jingle & Bell couldn't miss it! So, since my dad is pretty artistic and the kids love a good project, today's act of giving was to create signs for tomorrow! J&B informed the kids that we will be having a FREE hot chocolate & cookie stand tomorrow and of course creative signs are crucial to a successful stand!
The signs turned out perfectly, the fair was great and I think we're all exhausted. We better rest up for a brisk afternoon tomorrow!
This was such a fun giving day! Today's act of giving was to make hot chocolate and cookies and give it away at a stand near our local subway stop.
While Milo and Josh were at a birthday party, Luna and I made cookies. Just before we left, I made hot chocolate (real hot chocolate!) and we kept it warm in some carafes that we had with extra in our crock pot.
In less than an hour, almost a gallon and a half of hot chocolate and about 4 dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were given out!
Reactions included shock, confusion, disbelief that we wouldn't take money, joy, gratefulness, excitement, and more. One young girl squealed in delight after she took a sip and said, "If there was a word for more than delicious, I would use it!" So cute. Our visitors included families taking walks, tourists visiting our nearby park, couples exploring, MTA employees on break, people walking their dogs, friends meeting other friends--we met so many people!
As we were walking home, Milo said that next time he want to remember to say, "I hope these make you feel better from the cold." The kids LOVED this activity so much. It looks like Jingle & Bell will have to request this again before the month is over. And throughout the year!
***And sidenote, you may see that one of the Giving Elves is absent in the photo above (the kids seem to disagree about which one is Jingle and which one is Bell). That Elf isn't feeling well, so it is "sleeping." (Read: missing) Hopefully, it won't be sleeping through the rest of the month...ha!