Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why I want my children to Volunteer

Recently my husband, my newly adult stepdaughter and I spent some time volunteering with disaster response activities for a large wildfire in our community.  Although most of the time we did not volunteer on the same projects or at the same time it was a cool experience to volunteer on the same event.   Watching her choose to volunteer was a great reinforcement for all those times we helped volunteer her growing up!

Before becoming “mostly” a stay at home mom I spent a decade in the non-profit industry and one of the many hats I wore over the years was that of Volunteer Coordinator.  I love the non-profit industry and I have been able to work with several of the leading charities including Shriners Childrens Hospitals, The American Red Cross and the YMCA.  I grew up regularly volunteering through church and school projects. My husband and I share this passion – we actually met while working for the Red Cross!  Although we both no longer work there, we are still volunteers and refer to it is a family affair.   

As a mom and a former Volunteer Coordinator I want my kids to volunteer as they grow up and thought I would share 'why'...   You might call them reasons, lessons learned or even benefits but ultimately for me they are why I encourage my kids to volunteer. 

Exposure and Connection:  Charities or non-profits provide an excellent opportunity to exposure children to new experiences, people and opinions.   Volunteering can provide connections to friends, mentors, the community and causes that may inspire your children now and even shape future careers.  Even in smaller areas there are a variety of places to volunteer from recognized non-profits to schools or faith based initiatives.

Skills:  Non-profits are often more willing to provide training to volunteers because quite frankly – they need the help!  Volunteering provides a fabulous opportunity for children to learn a variety of skills from how to care for an animal, office and clerical, public speaking, photography, fundraising or interviewing.  There are also organizational specific skills such a disaster response, emotional first aid, childcare or teaching that volunteers can acquire through non-profit training programs that are often free.  One of my best volunteers over the years started at age 14 helping answer phones during a large national disaster, after four years and a variety of other assignments; he became the person who interviewed, placed and orienting new volunteers to the organization.  Due to his experience and organizational knowledge most people had no idea he was a teenager!  

Problem Solving:  Just as non-profits will introduce children to different experiences and people; volunteering will also require children to learn to be flexible and develop creativity.  Both of which are essential parts of problem solving.   Charities often have limited workforces, supplies and other resources.  This requires staff (paid and volunteer) to find ways to adapt and meet needs in non-traditional ways.  The adage “Necessity is the mother of invention” is almost always true in the non-profit world. 

Gratitude and Social Responsibility:  Every year, as Thanksgiving approached, I would receive calls from parents wanting to know if we had family volunteer opportunities available.  They wanted to teach their children about gratitude.   Volunteering allows children to see others needs and recognize inequalities and inadequacies in the world.  It can also motivate children to become more educated about the world or a specific problem, their own beliefs or how their actions can be a positive contribution to society.   

Commitment:  I want my children to serve because they believe in something and want to do – not just because there is a monetary benefit attached.  Exposure to others who are already living this example is much more powerful than a lecture from me! Generally speaking there is no amount of money you could pay someone that would match the dedication of a volunteer that is committed to an organization or cause.  Most people would be truly amazed at the amount of time and energy dedicated volunteers contribute to causes simply because it is their passion.  In my years of experience I can tell you of countless times that the first person I saw in the morning (even on a really early morning) was a volunteer and the last person I talked to at night was a volunteer.  I don’t say this to encourage my child (or yours) to devote their lives to non-paying volunteer service but rather because that dedication, commitment and passion that leads volunteers to contribute their time and talents is an example I want my children to see!  

Need some ideas on how to get your kids involved?  Check out your local Volunteer Center or ask at your church or child’s school. 

Have little kids who aren't quite old enough to volunteer? Think of doing Random Acts of Kindness to plants the seeds as they grow older! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mission Healthy Mom - Turtle Power!

It's been over a year since I decided to change my lifestyle and become healthier.  I've made great progress but due to set backs (hernia surgery), life events and the typical plateaus of long term weight loss I sometimes get discouraged.  Recently, a friend posts a set of pictures on Facebook from Easter 2012 - which was several months before I started my journey.  Most of the pictures were of my cute little girl interacting with baby chicks. 

Isn't she cute??? 

Then, in the mix of the photos I caught a glimpse of myself.  I'm normally the one behind the camera and the more weight I had put on the less excited I was to get in any of the pictures.  

At first, I was drawn back to that place of not liking me in pictures but then I realized - that is the OLD me.  The unhealthy Mom, standing in the background, most likely tired and out of energy.  That is not who I am today. I don't have any "official" Easter pictures of me from 2012 but this year I was excited to be in the pictures with the kids.  After seeing the old and new me I realized how much progress I have made.  

Then I thought of a turtle.  

Ok, not that turtle.. but didn't my friend do an amazing job on her son's birthday cake? But I digress.  I'm talking about the famous turtle from the Tortoise and the Hare.  

A year later, I'm not finished, I'm still in progress, some days it feels like this journey (or me) is going as slow as a turtle.  Whether it is my surgery recovery taking months longer than expected or trying to fight through yet another plateau I'm reminding myself that in the end it is the turtle that wins.  Slow and steady really does win the race.  So whether it takes me six more months or another year to reach my healthiest weight in the end if I am moving forward, I'm winning the race. 

Are you a turtle?  How do you stay motivated?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn Chex Mix - Kid Friendly Recipe

Chex mix is always a crowd pleaser and works great as a quick gift as well! It is also easy to involve the kids by having them measure the cereal, popcorn and mix it up (with supervision of course!). This blend is easy to mix up and always gets rave reviews. 

Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn Chex Mix
1 stick of butter
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of dark corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6-8 cups of popped buttered popcorn
4-6 cups of rice Chex
1 cup of cinnamon Life (optional - you use all Chex) 

Combine the popcorn and cereal in a large bowl or pan.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add sugar and corn syrup until well combined.  Make sure to stir frequently so it does not burn. Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon and vanilla.  Drizzle the syrup mixture over the popcorn mixture and stir gently to incorporate.  If you want to add sprinkles (a kid favorite)... make sure to do it while the syrup is still slightly warm so they stick but not too hot or they will disolve.  Store in an plastic bag or air tight container. 

Tip:  This mix is not overly sweet and the coating is meant to add a light glaze, rather than completely coat every piece of popcorn and cereal. If you want it fully glazed, you can double the syrup mixture.  

This is great to put in a mason jar or bag up for a quick treat for a friend or teacher!

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