The Kindness Elves Christmas Tradition + Giveaway

{This post contains affiliate links.}

“Sprinkle Kindness wherever you go”  ~The Kindness Elves

Tis the Season! and the kids have been busy coming up with their wish lists for Christmas.  On their lists are the typical “wants” like a Nintendo Switch and L.O.L Surprise Dolls, “needs” like clothes and good books, and things like “something for my brother” or “something for my sister,” that warms our hearts & puts a smile on our faces.

As our family prepares for the Christmas Season, we have decided to come up with a new tradition…A Kindness List, with the purpose of teaching the kids to focus not only on themselves but on other people as well.  To help inspire us along the way, we will be using The Kindness Elves!

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The Kindness Elves was started in 2013 by Mom Anna of The Imagination Tree.  The elves encourage kids to carry out acts of kindness to friends, family, neighbors…just about anyone!  Earlier this year, I bought the Kindness Elves Set and Storybook (because story time is a favorite around here).  I still can’t get over how cute the little elves are and with many options to choose from, you can be sure to find the right ones.  Isn’t their elf house adorable?  It has a working mail box for sending and receiving Elf Mail.

Just recently, we received the Kindness Elves Accessories Pack, that includes 50 wonderful Acts of Kindness cards, a Little Book of Big Kindnesses memory book, postcards, stickers and a bottle of magic sprinkles.  This is such a fun tool to have and I cannot wait to get started with these.  You can also find a Family Bundle Pack and a Classroom Bundle Pack on the Kindness Elves website.

I’m looking forward to sharing our Kindness List with you in the weeks to come.  To get things started, this is our first act of kindness this month.  Rebekah decided to draw a thank you picture for our school crossing guard and we gave it to him this morning.  He was so sweet and said, “I’m going to keep this forever.”  🙂

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Who would like a Kindness Elves set of their own?  We have just the opportunity for you!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!! – I’m teaming up with Anna at The Imagination Tree to give one lucky reader a Kindness Elves set.  To enter, leave a comment telling me what your favorite Christmas tradition is, what tradition you hope to start or ideas you would write on a Kindness List.  For extra entries, tweet about this giveaway or share about it on Facebook, and let me know in the comments section.  Giveaway ends on Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 at 11pm PST.

The giveaway is now closed and the winner is….

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Chosen by Random Name Picker

Start your own Holiday Traditions with the Kindness Elves this year!

 

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{Giveaway} God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible

Thanks to FlyBy Promotions and Zondervan, you have the opportunity to win a copy of Rick’s Warren’s “God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible.”
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God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible illustrates the 40 foundational principles written in the #1 New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. With child-friendly language, engaging illustrations, and a chronological approach, Pastor Warren introduces each Bible story with a theme that aligns with one of his foundational principles. He wraps up the stories with a closing thought targeted to early readers. The colorful illustrations and narrative tone bring these beloved Bible stories to life for readers young and old. God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible has foil decoration on the cover.

You can also download free bible memory verses used in this storybook bible.  They can be found here.

This is a good storybook bible for older preschool and elementary aged kids.  The illustrations are vibrant and the stories are just long enough to keep their attention.  I appreciate that the three closing thoughts & question at the end of each chapter provide the opportunity to have reflective conversations with my children.

GIVEAWAY – I have a chance for you to win a copy of GOD’s BIG PLANS FOR ME STORYBOOK BIBLE.  To enter, just leave a comment…What is your favorite story or verse from the bible?  For extra entries, tweet about this giveaway or share about it on Facebook, and let me know in the comments section.  Giveaway ends on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 11pm PST. (This giveaway is open to US residents only.)

The Giveaway is now closed.  The winner is Tiffany!

 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

My Women’s Retreat Testimony – What God has been doing in my life and how I have been responding…

Earlier this year in January, I was asked to share a brief 5-minute testimony at our church women’s retreat.  I’m finally getting around to posting about it and it only took me six months!  In the months following the retreat, we find ourselves still waiting and trusting in God’s timing (it’s been challenging!), but we continue to lean on Him with hope and praise.

This was my introduction, before I went up to speak – I live in San Lorenzo with my husband Jason and am a stay-at-home mom to our kids Micah (8) and Rebekah (4).  We’ve been attending Creekside [Community Church] for almost 5 years.  I am a coffee and milk tea addict, [who] loves discovering new places to eat and fun things to do with my family, and am passionate about missions and service.

And here’s what I shared with the group – “So a little background about myself.  Before coming to Creekside, my husband and I attended a church in San Francisco, where we were active members since we were Junior Highers, so for about 20-25 years.  Coming from a church where you know almost everyone and all the ins and outs of what’s going on, to a church where you only know maybe only 1-2 families…well, that was a BIG change.  We stayed pretty low key at Creekside for awhile.  It took us about two years to even sign up for name tags and for some reason, it was a big step and a big deal for us!  Since then, we’ve been serving in little ways that we can and have been blessed to be a part of Tim and Jenny Sloat’s community group for the past couple of years.

Tonight, I’ll be sharing about what God has been doing in my life more recently and how I have been responding.

September 14, 2015 is a day that I will not forget for a long time.  The morning started out fine.  Jason went to work like normal, and we were expecting to hear from our real estate broker about signing new loan documents for our house.  Which was a huge relief!…because back in April, we found out that 1of our 2 loans was not a 30 year fixed loan like we thought it was, but actually a 10 year loan that was due on October 1st.  We had to either come up with ~$48K to pay back that loan or try to refinance, which we had NO luck in doing before.  But after a lot of research, days and nights of worrying and stress, lots and lots of prayer and a referral from a friend that led us to our broker…God provided a way out for us.  We were days away from signing our new papers.

Then that Monday afternoon comes around and I get a call from Jason.  He tells me that he got laid off from his job, a company that he had been with for almost 10 years.  This couldn’t have happened at a better time, right?  We already had accumulated all this debt, the Oct.1st deadline was coming up, we had very very little savings…what else can go wrong?  I’ll come back to this in a bit.

That night, some of the ladies from our small group met up for prayer time and I got to share with Jenny and Ashley about Jason’s job and some things that had been on my heart regarding our community group…things that I had been praying personally to God.  I wanted to experience more with the group…to grow closer and nurture authentic friendships, be transparent, really live life together, celebrate the joys like new babies and birthdays, and especially supporting each other during the bad times and struggles.  Jenny summed up it best when she said in an email, “we’re all looking to go deeper, to connect more, to risk more, and to support and love more deeply.”

Back to our refinance issue.  I’m jumping back and forth, because it all ties in together.  Praise God that Jason’s former employees agreed to keep him on the payroll until the end of September, which meant that Jason was technically still employed and we were able to sign the new loan documents that week.  It was a such a heavy burden that was lifted.

But, as God was showing me…when you ask Him for something, you have to prepare yourself for when He answers in other ways…

After sharing about my hopes for our community group with Jenny and Ashley and 5 days after Jason’s layoff…my mom gets into a really bad accident that left her with a subdural hematoma (which is some bleeding outside of the brain), a slightly collapsed lung, a fracture collarbone and fractured ribs.  My then 69 year old mom had fallen off the ladder in their backyard and I know that God watching out for her, because she was not knocked unconscious.  Somehow, she was able to crawl closer to the back door and started screaming for my Dad, who could not hear her screams, because he is hard of hearing.  Thankfully, their neighbor, who isn’t always around but happened to be around that day, heard her screaming.  He climbed over the fence and called 911.  If he hadn’t been there or if my mom was knocked unconscious, who knows what could’ve happened.  My mom spent the next 6 nights at Highland Hospital in Oakland, two of those nights were in the ICU.  Btw, my mom is doing well and has recovered from her injuries.

Needless to say, that was a stressful time.  But it was God’s perfect timing, because being unemployed allowed Jason to be at home full-time with the kids and I could focus on taking care of my parents.  We could have managed even if he was still working…it just would’ve been more stressful and inconvenient. 

During this crazy time, instead of focusing on all the bad stuff, God was teaching me to focus on all the good stuff.  Instead of focusing on Jason’s unemployment, God was giving us more family time together.  We also began to experience those deeper connections with our community group that I had been praying for.  I just didn’t expect us to be on the receiving end of things, because I like to be the giver and the encourager and the helper.  We are always willing to help, but we don’t like asking for it, right?    

An example of how we were on the receiving end.  The Men’s Retreat was coming up and Jason had decided, even before he lost his job, that he wasn’t going to attend for other financial reasons.  But the guys from our small group decided that they wanted to send Jason to the retreat and gift him with a weekend away, so he could rest and reflect and fellowship.  At first, Jason wasn’t sure if he should take the offer, but God reminded us that our friends really wanted to bless him with this.  If Jason and I find delight in blessing others, we should allow our friends to experience that same joy.  “Every good and perfect gift is from God.”  It’s not about who gives and who receives…it’s about God, the one whom all gifts come from.  So Jason went to the retreat, had a good time and was really blessed by it.

Since then, family and friends have been blessing us in different ways…dropping off meals, giving us gift cards for gas and groceries.  We have no other income other than the money coming from unemployment, but we’re focusing on trusting in God and making it work.

Author and speaker Brene Brown says in her book Rising Strong that “Connection doesn’t exist without giving and receiving. We need to give, and we need to need.”  “The bottom line is that we need each other, and not just the civilized, proper, convenient kind of need. Not one of us gets through this life without expressing desperate, messy, and uncivilized need — the kind we are reminded of when we come face to face with someone who is in a deep struggle.” 


It’s not always easy admitting our struggles and shortcomings, but God doesn’t want us to go through these things alone.  So I’m thankful that through our struggles, we are growing deeper connections and just allowing our friends to help and be there for us.  And when our friends need us, we want to be there for them too. “

Six months has passed since sharing my testimony at the retreat and my husband Jason is still looking for a job.  Though it’s been a difficult season in our lives, we cling to the hope we have in Christ Jesus.  In our weakness, He strengthens us.  In our weakness, He has blessed us with family and friends who pray and walk alongside us, sometimes even carrying us.  I hope to share in another post how God has shown us love through the hands and feet of other people. It’s been quite a journey with lots of highs and lows, humility and gratefulness.  Each day, I am reminded that God’s mercies are new every morning and Great is thy faithfulness.  🙂

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8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell

“I love my child, but parenting is hard.”

This statement is so true.  If you feel this way like I often do, I would like to introduce you to the book, 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell.  I also have a discount code that I will give you at the end of this post for 50% off the retail price.  =)

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About the book:

Whether you find parenting intuitive or impossible, we could all use a hand here and there. Let child psychologist and father Todd Cartmell walk you through the nuts and bolts of healthy, effective parenting.

Using examples from his home and 20 years of professional practice, Todd gives eight essential and practical tools to help you:

  • Maintain a healthy relationship with your child
  • Develop a nurturing home culture
  • Correct behavior in lasting ways

Designed for busy parents, 8 Simple Tools breaks each tool into five short chapters that include a summary tip and application questions. Use even half of the tools in your parenting, and your family dynamics will thrive. Your relationship with your child will be built on love and trust, providing you with fertile ground for planting God’s wisdom in their heart, and ultimately, seeing them flourish.

The tools are Talking, Listening, Influencing, Connecting, Teaching, Encouraging, Correcting and Leading.

About the Author – http://www.8simpletools.com/author/

Dr. Todd Cartmell’s FB: https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Todd-Cartmell-193405444025914/

I just started reading this book and am learning so much from it so far.  Each chapter is only a few pages long and ends with a practical tip and a follow-up thought or action to consider.  This is a great book for both moms and dads, single parents, Grandparents, aunts, uncles and other caregivers.  At the end, there is a Summary of Tips section that lists all of the tips from each Tool and a Notes section where you can find the verses and other resources that the author references throughout the book.

The 8simpletools.com website is packed full of information.  They also have two assessments that you can take, the Effective Parenting Assessment (how effective is your parenting?) and the Parenting Strengths Assessment (what are your parenting strengths?) After taking the Effective Parenting Assessment, it gave me two action steps to help me create a stronger sense of family connection.  The assessments are fast and easy to take.

Receive 50% off the retail price of 8 Simple Tools from Moody Publishers with Discount Code – GREATKIDS16.  This discount code is valid through May 15, 2016.

Plus, for a limited time with every purchase, receive access to download the Hearts At Home “Essential Workshop Collection For Parents” for free.  To receive access to the free downloads, fill out the form on this page.

Thanks to FlyBy for including me on this promotion!

Tal-y-Tara Tea and Polo Shoppe

“Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea!” ― Agatha Christie

In the Richmond District of San Francisco, you will find Tal-y-Tara Tea and Polo Shoppe, a quaint neighborhood establishment featuring their delicious “Motorloaf.”  The tea shoppe also doubles as a polo shoppe, so you will see riding apparel, tack and horse equipment, along with tea cozies and tea pots.  My mother-in-law purchased a Groupon for Tal-y-Tara, and treated my sister-in-law and I to a lovely late morning tea time.PhotoGrid_1453607420160

The Groupon was good for the Queen’s Tea service for two and included the following,

  • Pot of tea for two (We added a 2nd pot of tea.)
  • Scottish shortbread cookies
  • Classic motorloaf sandwiches
  • Choice of two homemade scones with Devonshire cream and jam
  • Two salads (We chose the Wedge Salad with bleu cheese and peppered bacon  and the Seasonal Fruit Medley with honey glaze.)
  • English trifle

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We had the first reservation of the day, at 11am.  Expect to wait a little bit for the food to come out, especially the sandwiches.  We could see the owner and his employee busily making each course, so we knew that everything coming to our table was freshly prepared.  Since there were three of us and the tea service was for two people, we just split everything into thirds.  There was definitely enough food!

The main course was the Motorloaf, a semi-sweet dark bread containing raisins and walnuts.  Read about the story of the Motorloaf here.   Tea sandwiches made from this loaf included Cream Cheese and Cucumber, Egg Salad with Capers, Cheese and Chutney, Smoked Turkey with Watercress, Black Forest Ham with Mustard, and Lox with Cream Cheese and Capers.

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The “Motorloaf”

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The sandwiches were really good!  The sweet bread and fillings complimented each other very nicely. My favorite was the Lox with Cream Cheese and Capers sandwich.

I had to leave before the English Trifle came out, so unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it.  Be sure to make reservations and allow enough time to stay, because you can easily spend 2+ hours there.  Free street parking is also available.  If there is a LivingSocial voucher or Groupon available, you will save a significant amount on this tea service.  I believe our discount with the Groupon was 50% off.  =)

Let me know if you have a favorite spot for afternoon tea.  I am always looking to try new places.

gMovies Review & Giveaway! {free 2 week trial & 6 month membership}

After we decided to cancel our satellite service provider in early 2012, we began to watch many more television programs and movies online.  It’s amazing how many shows you can watch online the next day or through on-demand Internet streaming media providers, like Netflix and Amazon Prime.  It’s so convenient, as long as you have a device to watch it on and available wifi.

I am always looking for wholesome, family/kid friendly programs for my family to watch. Then I found out about gMovies from Flyby Promotions and it was just what my family and I needed.  If you haven’t heard of gMovies yet, let me introduce it to you.

gMovies offers instant access to almost 300 faith friendly feature films of every genre, in addition to animated stories, television series and biblical documentaries. Always available on your computer or mobile device, gMovies also includes the bible-based animated series “Pahappahooey Island;” teen drama “Much Ado About Middle School” starring Bill Cobbs, Lee Meriwether and Amanda Waters; and the “Left Behind” drama series starring Kirk Cameron and based on the New York Times bestselling books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 1.31.19 PMThe website is easy to navigate and you can search for movies alphabetically, by category or most watched.  I am a fan of Candace Cameron-Bure, so the first movie I watched was “Finding Normal,” and I thought it was pretty good with some hilarious scenes.Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 9.41.23 PM

They have a good selection of kid shows too.  My kids love watching “Hoop Dogz.”Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 9.42.35 PM

gMovies is operated by UP, America’s favorite television channel for uplifting music and family entertainment, so rest assured that you are being offered the very best in faith conscious entertainment. The Parents Television Council™ has twice awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to UP for being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” UP is the only television network to be so honored.

Join over 2 million people who are already enjoying gMovies on a monthly basis!
·  Instant access to over 300 hundreds Christian movies and TV shows with new titles added monthly
·  The whole family can enjoy a variety of entertainment including Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Documentaries, Thrillers and more
·  Stream from iPad, Android, or your PC
·  Only $4.99/month
·  No contract; cancel anytime
·  Powered by UP, American’s favorite TV network for uplifting entertainment

Thanks to gMovies, they are giving all of my readers a Two-Week Free Trial!  So, if you would like to check gMovies out, here’s a wonderful opportunity.
1)To begin your two-week free trial, click here.
2) enter code: FREETRIAL89
FYI: The video player on the gMovies website is Adobe Flash Player based. You will just want to ensure that the web browser you are using to access is able to run the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. Also, to maintain the highest quality stream, please ensure your internet download speed is at least 3.0 Mbps.

GIVEAWAY – I am also giving away a FREE 6 month subscription to one lucky reader!  To enter, comment below with your favorite family friendly or faith friendly show/movie.  Giveaway ends on Sunday, April 26th at 11pm EST.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Operation Christmas Child – Where did our shoeboxes go?

In 2013, 9,985,210 gift-filled shoeboxes were lovingly packed and provided to children around the world through Operation Christmas Child.  I first heard about this ministry in 1995 and have been participating in it ever since.  I always look forward to packing a shoebox for a young boy and girl.  My kids also help and we make it a family tradition each year.

Here are the four shoeboxes that we packed last year.
We packed for two boys and two girls.IMG_7079The kids dropping off our shoeboxes at church.IMG_7165 Our church had a goal to pack 500 shoeboxes…

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…and we did it!IMG_7167

Last month, we found out where our shoeboxes were delivered to.  Each shoebox had a unique barcode on the label.  We received an email with a tracking notice that told us the country where our shoebox gifts were received.  They were delivered to Panama and Mongolia!  =) Click the country name to learn more about the work of Operation Christmas Child there.

To learn more about Operation Christmas Child online: Website | Facebook | Twitter