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’s 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. 

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Love reading your blog 🙂 I really like when you post about books..I trust your judgement..keep up the good writing!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

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

  34. 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.

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

  36. 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.

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

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


  39. 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!)

  40. 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.

  41. 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!

  42. 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!

  43. 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!

  44. 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!

  45. 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.

  46. 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!

  47. 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. 🙂

  48. Love everything about this post! I especially love imagining little Ella trying to pick out toys for 8 year old boys 🙂

  49. 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!

  50. 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.

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

  52. 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.

  53. 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?)

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

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

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

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