The Season of Giving (and a Giveaway)

My brother Shepard died of cancer on November 29th, 2000. That year, several families did a 12 Days of Christmas for us.

I never found out who it was (although my parents may know), but I still clearly remember what a happy thing that was during a fairly difficult Christmas season.

I’ve always wanted giving to be part of our family Christmas celebrations, so when Kohl’s contacted me a few months ago and asked if we’d be interested in being matched with a family that needed some help for Christmas and picking out gifts for them at Kohl’s, Bart and I immediately said yes.

Two weeks ago, we received the information about the children, their sizes, a few things they wanted for Christmas, plus a gift card to Kohl’s to purchase the items, and yesterday the girls and I met Bart at our local Kohl’sย during lunchtime, and we spent about an hour picking out items for three children in our area.

(Although these kids are young, they are substantially older than my girls, so it kind of broke my heart every time Ella picked out some toy she thought was the best and said, “Would those kids like THIS?” and I had to tell her that, no, it probably wasn’t quite the right toy for a nine-year-old boy).

I was really glad Bart came along, because he helped make sure we picked out a good combination of practical things like jackets and fun things, like a remote-controlled helicopter.

Also, I had saved a 20% off coupon that had come in the mail a few weeks ago, and when the total after the coupon came up as $149.55 (our budget was $150), Bart and I both possibly did a little cheer in the checkout lane.

Then we sat in the car and had a little picnic lunch with some sandwiches I’d packed, which was just a ridiculously nice forty-five minutes as a family.

This afternoon, we’ll drop off the bags of gifts at the local charity that we’re working through and we’ll cross our fingers the clothing fits and the toys are fun. And feel grateful for all we have – we are so very very fortunate.

This post wasn’t sponsored (although, I guess I do have a Kohl’s gift card with 45 cents on it. I’ll try not to spend it all in one place). Kohl’s provided the gift cards for us to buy the presents and the gift card for the giveaway. All words, pictures, and cute children are my own.ย 

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  • Reply Shelly December 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Aw, what a great way to teach your kiddos about giving! Love it!

  • Reply jpetroroy December 13, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Agreed! Lovely way to teach them about the season.

  • Reply Becca December 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I have been a long blog lurker for you and your sisters. Keep up the great work! PS. Your kids are freakin adorable ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Anne December 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I love this idea! We have a baby girl and my husband and I have been discussing how we'd love to do something like this every year.

  • Reply Leslie December 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    That DOES sound like a great family outing!

  • Reply Seรฑora H-B December 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    What a fun way to teach your children about the spirit of Christmas!

  • Reply Lauren December 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Awesome! My church does (as I'm sure many do) an angel tree full of kids in local orphanages and care communities. It's so much fun to pick out things for the kids- and always puts my own holiday shopping in perspective.

  • Reply Karen December 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    You may have just started a family tradition. I'm glad you let the girls be involved. Love their big smiles and happy faces.

  • Reply Nini Anderson December 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    My husband and I were able to participate in something similar to this through my work last year and it was so fun! It was nice to be a part of helping others have a part of Christmas that they wouldn't have otherwise had.

  • Reply Cami and Juan December 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    We always did the 12 days of Christmas for a family growing up. This post just reminded me that we should start up that tradition again. The girls would love it.

  • Reply Stephanie December 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    What a great cause. We are doing the same for a family in our area

  • Reply Allie @ Everyday Adventures December 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    That's wonderful that ya'll were able to help out some other families this year. We didn't get on board with the angel tree fast enough, but I'm hoping we can still contribute to a church collection this week to help some families in our congregation.

  • Reply Whitney December 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    That is so awesome, we did 12 days of Christmas to several families growing up and we really loved it.

  • Reply Tamsen December 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    What a fun thing to do with your kids at Christmas. I remember doing the twelve days of Christmas several times as a child. It was always such a rush to knock and run.

  • Reply Jennifer Whitcomb December 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I said just yesterday to my 12 year old "the feeling you love when you GIVE lasts so much longer and means so much more than the feeling you love when you receive." What a great thing, to give to others.

  • Reply Alison Pisasale December 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I love the giving tree at church every Christmas. It really is what the season is about.

  • Reply djoy December 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    So fun that your girls get to be included! A wonderful way to instill a since of generosity!

  • Reply Shelby December 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Sounds like a fun family activity.

  • Reply Steph December 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Such a great family activity! I've had the same (but opposite) problem with my 6 year old boy trying to pick out a gift for a 14 year old girl! I love that their hearts are in the right place, even if they have no idea what would actually be best.

  • Reply RA December 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Fun! Although is a little sad that Ella's picks weren't exactly right for the recipients. Good hustle, Ella.

    Our church is associated with a ministry that helps teenage moms, and they do a "shopping event" in early December where the moms get to buy things for themselves and their families using fake "bucks" that they earn through meeting their goals throughout the year. I signed up to donate a toddler winter coat and a toddler backpack, and dude! So much CUTE stuff is out there!

  • Reply The Andreasens December 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    What a great opportunity:)

  • Reply Annette December 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Love reading your blog ๐Ÿ™‚ I really like when you post about books..I trust your judgement..keep up the good writing!

  • Reply heather December 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Sounds perfect! We've done something similar each Christmas in our family that started with a secret santa project my husband was working on before he and I were married. My kids still haven't quite figured it out, but I hope tradition wins out and they start to look forward to it.

  • Reply A look into Mommyhood and everything that comes with it! December 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    We're partners with our church to help families fostering children buy gifts for the children. I'd like to give the foster family the gift card.

  • Reply Dana December 13, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    We used to do this when I was a kid – have wonderful memories of it!

  • Reply Alysa Stewart December 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Wow, that is really cool. Also now I think I have an idea of who I could serve this season. Thanks!

  • Reply wtiger9 December 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    What a fun thing to do as a family. We did Angel tree and now when my son asks for a bedtime story, he asks for me to tell him a story about sharing with little boys and girls who don't have as much as we do.

  • Reply Scott & Christie December 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Love this post and I love Ella.

  • Reply Krystle Jordan December 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I love this idea! My husband and I love to buy a gift for the toys for tots program!

  • Reply Mami2jcn December 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I just discovered your blog! I'm local. What a great post!

    Name on rafflecopter: Mary Happymommy

  • Reply Melanie December 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I still remember some of the giving activities we did as a family when I was young. I'm sure that these will be lasting memories for your girls.

  • Reply Andrea Smith December 13, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    You guys are awesome!! Such a great way to get in the holiday spirit!

  • Reply Susanne December 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I always find great things at kohls!

  • Reply Jenn December 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I love this. This is my first Christmas as a mom and I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how I can start traditions so that my child(ren) spends the holidays filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude.

  • Reply Vunda Vall December 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    i love kohls! i get lots of home decor there!

  • Reply allerkins December 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Sounds like so much fun! Way to get into the season of giving.

  • Reply Maren T. December 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I love your disclaimers. They always make me laugh

  • Reply Norby family December 13, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    How fun! I would love to shop for other people and get my kids in on it too!

  • Reply Shay December 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    What a great idea. Also, your children are ridiculously cute.

  • Reply Katie December 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I love doing things like this for Christmas. Wish I was able to do more this year!

  • Reply Stefanie Hathaway December 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    That is definitely a good lunch break!!

  • Reply Kerry December 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for the chance to win! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Morris December 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    That is such a nice thing to do. My MOP's group does something similar each Christmas. We find a few families in need and we give the kids presents and get the family a Christmas tree.

  • Reply kristi December 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    I also spent yesterday shopping for kids in need, even bought a few things at Kohl's!

  • Reply Stephanie Fosmo December 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    We had the twelve days of Christmas done for us one year! It was so nice to know that someone wanted to make our holiday a little more special!

  • Reply Kristin @ Going Country December 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Kohl's is one of the very few stores in the very small city nearest us, so I pretty much have to shop there sometimes. But I'm glad to know that they do things like this Secret Santa thing. I'm always happier to shop at a store that seems to retain some kind of humanity.

  • Reply SS December 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    What a nice way to get in the spirit – by giving!

  • Reply Jenae December 13, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    A great family day. I agree. Seth's dad died when he was nine just before Christmas and someone did the same thing for he and his three siblings. That's something we'd like to do too.

  • Reply Mary December 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    What a beautiful family experience!

  • Reply Jodi December 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    What a fun day as a family, I miss doing those things when I lived at home. I should gather some friends and make a plan to do something.

  • Reply Jodi December 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    What a fun day as a family, I miss doing those things when I lived at home. I should gather some friends and make a plan to do something.

  • Reply KT December 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I love when you share stories about Shepard (hopefully that's not weird). They always make me smile and think.

    It's awesome that you let your girls help out. What a great family activity.

  • Reply rhymingred December 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I love that you incorporated service in your Christmas celebrations this year. It really bring the Christmas spirit back into this over-commercialized holiday season. And the fact that you included your kids is super cute, especially since it shows them that Christmas is not all about presents.

  • Reply Lindsay December 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Gift giving is one of my favorite things about Christmas! Well, maybe even all year for birthdays and other celebrations. How wonderful of Kohl's and you for participating. I would have immediately said yes for an opportunity like this as well. Merry Christmas!

  • Reply Becky December 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I love that stuff like this exists. I give a lot to charity every year, but there is always more we can be doing. What a fun thing.

  • Reply Audrey December 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I have to be honest, I don't really need a Kohl's gift card but I'm entering anyway…..and I'll do the same thing by donating it with gifts to someone in need.

  • Reply Sherry December 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Come on, Rafflecopter. Choose me!

  • Reply Lauro December 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    what a nice thing you guys did for that family! And I loved how you "paid it forward."

  • Reply Jessica December 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    That sounds like a wonderful afternoon!

  • Reply Katri Hakes December 13, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I love doing these kind of things. I did an angel tree gift this year!

  • Reply Rachel December 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    That contraption that Ani is sitting in is genius! More stores need them *cough* Old Navy…

  • Reply Mary Dolan December 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    what a lovely post. happy holidays!

  • Reply Lisa {} December 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    What a wonderful thing to do as a family. Love your blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Emily December 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I love involving our kids in opportunities to give and serve especially now that they're old enough to really be involved and remember them. Thanks!

  • Reply Emily December 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I love involving our kids in opportunities to give and serve especially now that they're old enough to really be involved and remember them. Thanks!

  • Reply April December 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    What a great example you are setting for your girls. Also, I love Kohl's ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Megan December 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    What a great thing to do at the holidays. It's great to share the concept of giving with your girls and making it a fun, family activity. Holiday fun and goodwill certainly brightens the winter.

  • Reply Heather December 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I used to go to Kohl's much more when it was close. In Ohio. But I could still make the trip with a gift card in hand. Glad you guys had a fun outing. And glad it was warm enough to eat in the car. Not so much here.

  • Reply Laura December 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Lovely post! I really enjoy your blog.

  • Reply Kimberly December 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Thank you for the giveaway!

  • Reply preethi December 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Seriously, her red hair kills me. (Although please let us never have one; can you imagine a redheaded Indian? Heinous.)

  • Reply Sarah December 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    What a great family activity! And a great giveaway- thnaks!

  • Reply Saurus December 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Aww, such adorable kids!

  • Reply Durham December 13, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    What a great activity! Cute girls!

  • Reply Becca December 13, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Have you been following the 12 Days that someone is doing for Christy's family? Obviously there could be nothing as devastating as the passing of a child, but seeing the outpouring of kindness that her family is receiving is so heartwarming. Ty is always saying that there is such immense untapped potential for generosity in people. It's too bad that we sometimes need a tragedy to bring it out in us.

  • Reply JC December 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Great post and lovely babies! Happy Holidays.

  • Reply Amanda December 13, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I love shopping for families who aren't expecting much for Christmas. I always hope we put in a little cheer in their day!

  • Reply debby December 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    we love kohl's. they have so much in one place and great prices. how fun to hear that they are also involved in great giving.

  • Reply Alyssa December 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    I love Kohls!

  • Reply Amanda December 13, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    One more reason I enjoy your blog! What a sweet gesture ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Sydney December 13, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    What a wonderful family activity! I chuckled when you talked about eating lunch in the car! Cute!

  • Reply Jessica Pieper December 13, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    A great way to show our children that Christmas is about giving, I love it! We are also starting a similar tradition this year.

  • Reply mel December 13, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Cutest family date ever.

  • Reply Rebekah December 14, 2013 at 1:03 am

    what a great family activity!

  • Reply Bookworm1919 December 14, 2013 at 1:16 am

    Such a great family experience. And I love the pictures!

  • Reply Jessica December 14, 2013 at 1:18 am

    I love your cute girls! I'm also impressed Bart went shopping with you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Ashley December 14, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I get pretty much all of my kid's clothes at Kohl's, can't beat their prices and quality!


  • Reply Kristin December 14, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I want to teach our kids the beauty of giving– not just at Christmas but all year!

  • Reply Holly Hoffman Spears December 14, 2013 at 3:29 am

    I know I say this all the time, but those girls of yours are so cute I can hardly stand it.

  • Reply Hawke December 14, 2013 at 4:13 am

    What sweet girls you have. Good job on coming out so close to budget!

  • Reply Molli Vandehey December 14, 2013 at 4:19 am

    that is such an amazing idea. way to pay it forward!

  • Reply Unknown December 14, 2013 at 4:54 am

    I love the pink & grey outfit! Got it for my niece ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply The Apron Gal December 14, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Such a sweet family outing! We like to do something similar every Christmas too!

  • Reply Miss L December 14, 2013 at 5:10 am

    What a fun, lovely thing to do.

  • Reply hph December 14, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Your girls are adorable!

  • Reply Amanda December 14, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Fabulous family activity! What a great idea! (And I would have done a big cheer in the checkout line with those kind of money skills!)

  • Reply Janelle December 14, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience and cute pictures of your darling girls!

  • Reply chalayn December 14, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Oh, fun! ๐Ÿ™‚ Kohl's is great.

  • Reply Julie December 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    We have adopted families for Christmas in the past and I always enjoy it. This year, with my husband out of work, we could not manage to help a whole family but the kids and I still went to the store and each picked out a toy for the local children's Christmas charity.

  • Reply Dori T December 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun!

  • Reply Jessica December 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I know this sounds crazy, but I couldn't even tell for a long time that you had kids! You look so great! Thanks for the chance to enter. Happy Holidays!

  • Reply Stephanie December 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    That is such a sweet idea! Good work, you and Kohl's both ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Emma M. December 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Such a great idea!

  • Reply Merry December 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Several months ago you posted that Ani had started spitting out food. The day I read that post I thought, "I'm so glad that Lizzy (my daughter) hasn't figured that out yet." Then that afternoon, she DID spit out food for the first time. And I've been meaning to let you know that for several months (since you want to know these kinds of things), but for some reason, I haven't been able to comment on your blog, and after trying for a while, I gave up actually visiting your blog. I usually just read it on my blog feed. But your giveaway inspired me to try again. And here I am! The point is, I feel a connection with you, having a daughter that is just a few weeks younger than your daughter!

  • Reply Priscilla Starks December 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    What a great way to put the focus on the spirit of giving!

  • Reply Tabathia December 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    I would get my daughter some hello kitty clothing

  • Reply Tracey December 15, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I just found your blog a few weeks ago and now it's part of my nightly web routine. This post brought a tear to my eye. What a generous act!

  • Reply Jenn December 15, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Such a great idea to include kids in buying gifts for others.

  • Reply Little Gray Pixel December 15, 2013 at 7:11 am

    I'm sure you don't want anyone to bring it up, but the story of your 12 Days of Christmas brings tears to my eyes. I miss my mom so much, especially around the holidays, as I'm sure you're missing your brother.

    There's nothing like giving to others in need (financially AND emotionally) to perpetuate a cycle of goodness.

    Much love to you and your family…

    *Drying tears.* I usually don't get so misty in the comments section. Apologies!

  • Reply Felicia December 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

    My mother passed away in Sept. 2000 with cancer as well. She had Leukemia and it was a really hard thing for our family. So I understand the gratitude you must of felt to those selfless friends who helped your family out in a time of need. Good for you for passing the love along and teaching your little ones to serve others at the same time.

  • Reply The Mommy December 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    What a wonderful family activity for the holidays! We love to do something similar with our kids every year (Operation Christmas Child, Salvation Army's Angel Tree, etc.). It creates such great memories and teaches them about what Christmas is all about!

  • Reply Katie | December 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I think it is awesome that you came together as a family to donate gifts – I am sure it is something your girls will cherish as they get older and serves as a wonderful lesson to them to give back. Knowing that Christmas is more than just the presents under your own tree is so important. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Amber Henry December 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Love your blog, have been a follower for a long time as well as goodreads ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply Erin G. December 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Love this! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Reply Jessica December 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for keeping everything in perspective for us !

  • Reply Lexilooo December 15, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    what a neat experience for the girls! I love doing this sort of thing when I can!

  • Reply Lindsey C December 15, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Love everything about this post! I especially love imagining little Ella trying to pick out toys for 8 year old boys ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Natalie Suarez December 16, 2013 at 12:03 am

    sOOOOO CUTE! love love x

    Natalie Off Duty

  • Reply D Schmidt mummytotwoboys December 16, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Adorable! I love shopping at Kohls, such a wide variety of items suitable for every family member!

  • Reply Aubrey Laine December 16, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I love Kohls! So many great gift ideas. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Rachel Gallina December 16, 2013 at 3:54 am

    So sweet. I'm pregnant with my first, and I've been trying to think of how I can share with her giving to others during such a greedy season. Love this!

  • Reply Anna-Lisa December 16, 2013 at 4:24 am

    I'd love to do the same thing you did and do a sub-for santa thing.

  • Reply Lisa December 16, 2013 at 4:26 am

    My husband's family was blessed with some anonymous gifts during his childhood that were sorely needed when they lived in an old, tiny house. A few years ago, his parents returned to favor to a young family living in that same house. Each of the siblings and their families took turns delivering surprises, and since the family had no idea who we were we got to do it in person in behalf of an "unknown friend". It was incredible. My kids still talk about how special it was even though they were younger than 7 at the time. Best Christmas ever.

  • Reply Carolyn Francom December 16, 2013 at 4:53 am

    What a fun time to have as a family! Getting the children to think about giving to others early is a great idea!

  • Reply Tarah M December 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    What a beautiful thing to be able to do as a family. I'm trying to teach my children about giving, not only at Christmas, but year round. My oldest will be 3 in March so I'm hoping he's starting to grasp the fact that giving is a win/win situation. You make someone feel good and in return, you get a wonderful feeling as well.

  • Reply Kate December 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    This is great — thanks for hosting the giveaway!

  • Reply runtspickins December 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    That's so sweet! I've done Angel Tree and it's just such a good feeling!

    ( If responding to my comment, please email or comment a blog post of mine. Unfortunately I do not get email notifications when there is a response to my comment. I just found this out and I'm totally bummed thinking about how many responses I've missed! =[ )

  • Reply emily December 16, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    The best Christmases I've had are the ones where we get to do something like this. Well done you! (p.s. doesn't JUST making your budget just feel awesome?)

  • Reply Jen December 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    What a great thing to do….helping others in need. We have tried to start instilling this in our kiddos at a younh age too.

  • Reply MonstorB December 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    What a great thing to do! We've made our kids pick out and donate toys every year. They love it !

  • Reply Manda December 16, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I love that it was a family affair and your girls were involved. We try to make sure our kids get involved with service especially during the holidays, I think it helps them really feel the Christmas spirit.

  • Reply J. December 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I love that you involved your kiddos in the gift selection. This is such an important lesson, especially around the holidays.

  • Reply Celeste December 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Everyone is commenting on how touched they are about your giving at Christmas, and all I'm thinking is "maybe this is finally my lucky day". I'm selfish.

  • Reply Lauren December 17, 2013 at 12:45 am

    We did the same for our neighbors- it's so much more fun picking things out for other people

  • Reply kellyr78 December 17, 2013 at 2:05 am

    That was a nice thing you were able to do, my kids love choosing a name off the tree at church during the Christmas season.

  • Reply Lara December 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    So fun! Shopping for others is just a joy, isn't it?

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