Kindness Gift Shop

I was not on board at first.

I didn’t say that out loud, I kept that to myself. But I was less than enthusiastic. It was tough to get my head around the logistics and the point of the whole thing.

However, it wasn’t my vision and I wasn’t about to squash someone else’s big idea. So I got on board, albeit reluctantly.

The “it” was a gift shop for students to purchase items for someone they love. They paid for the gift using a Kindness Ticket they had earned by doing something nice for others. The store would be stocked with gently used items from staff and community.

We had close to 500 students. That’s a lot of items to collect. A lot of kindness tickets to distribute, a lot gifts to wrap which requires a lot of manpower.

Not my vision, not my idea to squash.

So I asked friends for donations and scoured our home for items that might be suitable. And it started to come together. A former office was converted into a shop and the gifts began to pour in.

Another concern I had was over how the students would feel about choosing a second-hand item instead of something new. Many of our kids live close to the poverty line and I was worried about their dignity. Again, I trusted those who were leading the project and kept my doubts to myself. I started catching my students doing things for others and handed out our Kindness Tickets.

Remember the manpower issue? Not an issue. Retired teachers and university volunteers along with community members manned the store and it was up and running. Any doubt I had that this might not work were swept away when my first student was invited to go shopping. The pride in earning a ticket was overshadowed by the absolute joy they had upon their return to our classroom with a carefully wrapped gift in hand.

Some students announced what they had bought and who it was for while others decided to keep it a secret. The care and thought that went into each purchase was staggering. The supportive excitement they had for each other’s selections was unexpected. They even scouted out possible gifts for their friends to select: “I saw a purse that would be perfect for your grandma!”

The Kindness Gift Shop was a success.

The next year it was decided to do it again. Would we have enough items a second year? Would the novelty have worn off? Would people be willing to volunteer again.

Yes. Donations rolled in. My own parents contributed rolls of wrapping paper along with gift items. The timing of their downsizing move to a condo was ideal. I brought a trunk full of supplies from a town two hours away because I matter to my family and so my school matters to them.

We are a few years in now and this November when I announced to my class that the Kindness Gift Shop would be happening it was met unanimously with cheers followed quickly by outbursts of their plans.

“Last year I got a gift for my mom so this year I’m getting something for my baby sister.”

“I’m getting something for my grandma this year!”

“I can’t wait to get something for pops. I don’t have any money, but he deserves something special.”

New and returning volunteers signed up to help. Wrapping supplies were restocked and new Kindness Tickets were distributed.

As the week of the shop opening approached one student asked me if everyone had earned their ticket yet. I explained that while we have a kind group, a few still needed to be recognized. That’s when my heart grew three sizes.

“Has Josh* received one yet? Because I saw him helping Amina with her math and he deserves one.”

“What about Ryan? He always lets us use his smelly markers.”

“Asia needs her ticket because she invites anyone to join her games at break.”

“I notice that Daniel always looks out for Chris and they have become really good friends.”

“Can we tell you about kids from other classes that have been kind?”

This went on for ten minutes or more. They stopped asking if their classmates had gotten their tickets and just kept sharing all the positive things they noticed about each other. Kids who sometimes went under the radar heard how they were seen by their peers and they sat a bit taller. Students would nod and murmur their agreement about the kind attributes others mentioned. This was a turning point in our classroom community and for me. It’s nice to be noticed by your teacher, but it’s powerful to be recognized by your classmates.

It’s not easy to change or try new things. We are creatures of habit and seek comfort in the predictable. I’m grateful for those who took a risk and thought big. I’m grateful to work with educators who take chances and make a difference. I’m grateful to be part of a community who seeks to care for students they might never meet.

When someone thinks big, support them.

And maybe tell your doubts to just pipe down.

A Sweet Addition

We have some big news around here an I am so excited to share it with you, dear reader.

As you may recall, I enjoy having a bigger-than-typical family. Our crew of four boys brings me joy and I am grateful for them all and the (mostly) delightful chaos they bring into our home. Some well-meaning friends have suggested we get a dog to add to the mix. Hilarious.

We are not getting a pet (beyond the beta fish that has miraculously survived longer than its three departed predecessors). There is no cat, hamster, or guinea pig on the horizon. We went in a different direction. Five of us were on board with this decision right from the start. It took some convincing, but eventually my husband saw the wisdom of procuring our new family member.

Please help me welcome, Big Bag of Chocolate.

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So glad we captured this precious moment. The whole family helped with the selection.

 

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Christmas – such a magical season.
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Cozy winter nights are perfect for reading with loved ones.
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I would have shared the blanket, but melting is a real concern.
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Hobbies are more fun when you share them with family.
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Almost forgot how to do a sling. Almost.
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Always ready to ruin things with healthy options, my husband.

Happy holidays! May your season be chocolate-filled.

Christmas Time is Here

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Did I have to dress as a glamour shot from 1986? No. Was I asked to choose a theme? Also no.

Posing for the “silly” staff photo.

Dancing in front of anyone over age five and non-family.

Deciding what time to meet up.

Collecting money.

Being the driver.

Wearing dark lipstick.

These are some of things that stress me out.

Surprising? Perhaps. I have no problem making fun of myself and being weird online. I do it almost daily. Speaking in front of a crowd barely raises my heart rate. But when I hear the photographer say “and how about a fun one!” I pray a wormhole will open up and swallow me. “Why didn’t you practice a good silly pose since last year YOU KNOW THEY DO THIS ANNUALLY.”

Speaking of doing things every year, it’s that time again:

Staff Christmas Sweater Competition

It might be hard to top last year when our family went as the controversial yet festive Starbucks red cups. Or the year before when I made my own because I am super crafty and very talented with a glue gun. I thought about going as the Ghost of Christmas Past, but then realized that wearing a shredded bed sheet could hamper my gift exchange competition level.

What to do? What to do?

As I pondered options for a seasonal outfit, waffling between Cousin Eddie and the mom from A Christmas Story (clearly bathrobes are my in my wheelhouse) I received an email…

Reader, I know this is beginning to sound like a movie plot, but the email was not creepy. IT WAS ACTUALLY HELPFUL. Dropped directly into my inbox was the solution I needed: sweaters I could make myself (successfully) using my glue gun, scissors, stencils, and bows. It was this former kindergarten teacher’s dream project plan.

Anything that is described as “easy” or “simple” is certainly in my range of ability. And if you mention “no sew” then say no more. This page has links that could help me win years of Christmas Sweater contests. The only question remaining is “which one do I try this year?”

Click here to peruse the options and let me know what you think in the comments.

I have my glue gun primed and ready – game on.

 

 

I Made it Myself

Our staff decided to celebrate the last day of school with an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. As unbelievable as it might sound, I do not own one. When I asked around, my friend suggested an idea from Pinterest. I’m not very handy with sewing or stitching, but I can hold my own with a glue gun. So I eagerly gathered up my supplies, popped in a movie for the boys and got started on what was sure to be the winning sweater.

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Things were going relatively well, but I considered other options. The glue gunning was replaced with my stapler – made sense.

I soon discovered that I couldn’t accomplish this on my own. The clear choice was to use the four-year-old as my stand in. It would have worked better if he had stood still.

Staples, a glue gun, and a four year old. There was no way this sweater would be anything less than spectacular.

The big day was approaching when disaster struck in the form of the stomach flu. At the time of publishing, four out of six family members had been hit. This meant I could not participate in the contest! Or did it?

Turns out, you can wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater anywhere, any time. It’s true. IT IS.

I now present to you: The Ugly Christmas Sweater Pinterest Fail – Home Edition.

This is what it was supposed to look like:

Easy, right?
Easy, right?

I was quite pleased with my version and it’s versatility.

I'll be pinning this later, don't worry.
I’ll be pinning this later, don’t worry.
Pouring coffee in my Ugly Christmas Sweater
Pouring coffee in my Ugly Christmas Sweater
You can drink in it, too! Cheers!
You can drink in it, too! Cheers!
Might not know what to make for lunch, but I know what I'll be wearing.
Might not know what to make for lunch, but I know what I’ll be wearing.
Laundry can be Holly Jolly - see?
Laundry can be Holly Jolly – see?
Cleaning up vomit can be merry, if you dress for it.
Cleaning up vomit can be merry, if you dress for it.
Oh what fun it is to read in my Ugly Christmas Sweater.
Oh what fun it is to read in my Ugly Christmas Sweater.
The jingle bells fell off so it was easy to be sneaky.
The jingle bells fell off so it was easy to be sneaky.
I shared the Christmas cheer all over the house.
I shared the Christmas cheer all over the house.
Look at me - colouring in my Ugly Christmas Sweater.
Look at me – colouring in my Ugly Christmas Sweater
Pro Tip: change out of sweater before trying to eat PB trees in secret.
Pro Tip: change out of sweater before trying to eat PB trees in secret.

What’s the best thing you ever made?