Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My family's reason for the season

When I was pregnant with my first, I was all full of how it was Going To Be. We would not be Those Parents, the ones who made it all about the gifts and went overboard. We would not be Those Parents who let Santa bring all the awesome gifts and get all the kudos.

Since Christmas came only a few days after my daughter was born, how we'd Do Christmas was at the top of our First Parenting Tasks.

And once we had both of our precious bundles of joy...it all went out the window. We just wanted to shower them with things that would make them smile.

Eventually though, we realized the love we had for our kids and our desire to bring them joy made it all the more urgent to find a way to ensure other kids who might not get quite the same deluge did get joy for Christmas too. How I loved my kids somehow moved outward and made me want to protect and provide for every child. To know some children needed, hurt.

It started when a club I was in adopted a family every Christmas. Their wish lists were generally simple needs. I'd sign up for the ones close to my kids' ages and I'd get the needs (often, clothes) but I'd have to add in a want, too. A little something. Something to make the kid smile.

My passion was for helping kids. As my kids grew older, they developed their own passions. Every time something caused us pause -- maybe a little hurt, maybe a little sense of our own blessings, maybe a little of both -- we did not sit in the suffering. We asked, "What can we do to help?" And we checked.

We don't wait for Christmas. We take opportunities as they come. Natural disasters? Special circumstance? Who needs what? How can we help? Let's check.

Often we concentrate on local needs, but other times we look further. Across the nations. Further. Across the globe. We've given a pig. Adopted a tiger. Donated toys. Sent money to animal shelters. Passed along clothes. Where the heart leads, I suppose, which, I guess, is the way generosity is intended to be.

Tonight, NPR told a story about malaria and developing nations building drug resistance. On the way home from her piano recital, my daughter and I listened.

"We have a lot of mosquitos, Mom, why don't we get malaria?" my daughter asked.

"That's a good question." I said. We have city budgets to manage mosquito populations, we have prevention measures, closed windows, medicine. We talked about it.

"Isn't there anything they can do in Myanmar and Africa?" she asked, listing the place of the news story and the place I mentioned.

"Yeah," I said, "Mosquito nets are supposed to help."

"Well that's easy," she said, with the confidence of childhood.

So probably, this year, our gift will be along the lines of mosquito nets.


It so happens, my friends from Razoo contacted my recently to ask me how I teach generosity to my kids. Until tonight, I struggled with it. I spent a little time feeling guilty. Okay I spent a lot of time feel guilty and lame.

A neighbor helps her kids foster dogs -- that's really admirable and an every day good deed. Another neighbor bakes food regularly for those in need, and brings her kids into the preparation. A friend runs a toy donation drive, the idea of her oldest. Another friend adopts seniors and her daughter runs a seasonal singing event. Yet another friend and her family dish out meals in a shelter. I felt a little...lame. What do we do?

But then I realized, we may not be organized and have a habit -- such as a a ritual serving of meals in a shelter or a big donation event -- and that's okay. It's not how we roll. It doesn't mean we don't care or do it wrong. It just means we have our own way, and it may not be that obvious or attached to a particular time of year. It may be slightly disorganized or spur of the moment.

It does, though, involved a lot of heart and mind. We open both and learn about different types of needs and different ways we can be Good Citizens in our world.

So as I tried to gain inspiration, I browsed Razoo's website. I noticed a chance to vote for funds for Humane Society, so I clicked that. Why not!

Then I read this great article by John Haydon about how giving is one of the best feelings -- and he even accepted that sometimes, giving isn't that easy. Yet we still try to find a way to be generous.

That's really the deal, right? Find your own way. It may not look like others' ways or be the way most admired or celebrated in DC or Hollywood or something  

But long ago I learned to accept that I had no showy talents, like singing or dancing. It's not as if people clamor to see someone...read a book intently. That's okay. We all have our gifts for a reason.

We share those gifts in our own way. I suppose what I try to teach my kids about generosity is that it comes in many shapes and sizes, and you can let the spirit move you...in your own way and ability.

While I was on the Razoo site anyway, I checked through donate to look for anything related to helping with malaria. I found quite a few fundraisers to end malaria, so we'll check those out together and choose one.

In other happy news...

Tell me your generosity teaching or learning moment and guess what? I'll give one of you a $50 Razoo Gift of Giving card for the charity of your choice (generously donated by Razoo).

Folks who know me might just need to check their stockings. I do love a good gift that does good. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Dip--Super Easy Holiday Treat Recipe

Image shamelessly borrowed from Chobani because they took a better photo than I did and I like that yogurt and they have a fancier recipe. That involves a mixer. I just use a spoon. And I never thought of cream cheese.

This time of year I feel stuck in molasses. Every little thing seems a monumental effort. I think it is a drowning pool of too many things.

I also get asked to make and bring a lot of dishes to events.

Ages ago, when my oldest was barely two, and I had first mom duty to bring a "healthy but tasty for toddlers" treat for a school party...I felt stymied.

That's when I discovered Pumpkin Pie Yogurt. I think I made it accidentally. Or it flew to top of mind after I heard about it somewhere. Either way, I had all of the ingredients on hand and I test-mixed a batch. Winner winner with both me and the kid!

I took it to school and BINGO...not  bit leftover.

Here's the easy peasy pumpkin squeezy recipe:
  1. Mix half a can of pumpkin in about 4-6 ounces of vanilla yogurt (delish with Greek).
  2. Season with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Some recipes suggest pumpkin pie spice  I never have that on hand. So I've never used it.
  3. Serve with graham cracker sticks, gingersnaps, gingerbread, apples...whatever you want to dip!
If you want to serve small dishes of it, garnish with granola.

It's filling, healthy, low-fat (if you stick to the simple recipe), easy (low stress) and can fulfill that sweet tooth craving, especially this time of year!

I wrote this to support the American Cancer Society’s A Healthier Holiday Table. Here are some more tips from them:
  • Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. Here are ideas on how to eat healthy and get active.
  • Did you know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk? The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Here are two resources filled with ideas for upping your fruit and vegetable consumption through the day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products. Here are someinnovative ways to add more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your day while watching your refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fat intake.
  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. Some studies have linked eating large amounts of processed meat to increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancers.
  • Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men. Alcohol raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and the colon and rectum.
  • Stock your kitchen with a variety of foods that you can throw together for healthy meals in a hurry. Keep these foods on hand for fast meals on busy nights.
  • Did you know that being physically active can reduce your risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, and prostate?  The Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. Here are some tips to help you fit exercise into your busy schedule.