Monday, November 30, 2015

A Stocking Full of Lessons

Copyright 2015 Abby Brundage. All rights reserved.
1985. I saw my fifth birthday and snow in my backyard for the final time. My parents had shoveled enough from our little suburban-Milwaukee row house yard and finally said (as though we were in a predictable and weakly-written movie), “No more! We’re moving to Florida!” Cue the montage with the Kenny Loggins song. We arrived in the Sunshine State in August. Yep. August. In Florida.

Welcome to Florida! We have oranges! We have beaches! We have Disney World! We have 132% humidity for ten months of the year! Woo hoo. We’re home.

I’ve grown to love my home or perhaps I’m just too hot to care anymore. While I’m not quite willing to call myself a “Floridian” I definitely have more of Florida’s culture in me than Wisconsin’s. My parents, on the other hand, have held tightly to their Midwestern roots and passions, like wearing a Packer sweatshirt on a 89-degree day and eating raw beef, shrimp & herring on New Year’s. One tradition we celebrated when I young was St. Nicholas Day. I was shocked when I talked to my Florida friends about it and they had no idea that a surprise stocking could arrive on the morning of December 6th!

One day a couple of years ago I was talking about receiving gifts on the feast of St. Nicholas and finally got tired of the blank stares, so I did some research and found out that this is a very specific tradition to a few northern and Midwestern towns, including Milwaukee. Do you celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas?

It was pretty simple. On the morning of December 6th, my sister and I would wake to the sight of a stocking on the bathroom counter. Not sure why St. Nick couldn’t put it in a less private place, but whatev! They were bonus presents, so I wasn’t going to complain. There was nothing fancy in them. Just stuff like lip gloss, some candy, maybe a new pen or small toy. We knew St. Nicholas had visited while we were sleeping. This took the place of any stocking gifts on Christmas Day, but it was a great way to remind us of the wonderful Saint from whom Santa Claus is derived.

Now as my kids get to the age where Santa is becoming a pretty big deal, I am trying to think of ways to put some extra emphasis on St. Nicholas. It’s tough to compete with the marketing and advertising budget that the world has, so I love that this generous and thoughtful man has his own day. My boys are still too young for a big theological lesson, so for now, I throw in a race car or another small toy and an orange in the toe of the stocking. I just use it as a way to tell them this great Saint’s story. Here’s the story behind the orange!

If you have older kids, I have a great idea to share. First I’ll tell you, it’s not my idea. A listener called me up and said she used to do this with her kids and feel free to pass it on (Thanks Midge!). She calls them Grace & Mercy Cards. They are coupons you can use as stocking stuffers that can assist you in teaching the kids about, well, grace and mercy! Design them yourself as plain or as fancy as you’d like. The gist: Getting something you don’t deserve (grace) and not getting something you do (mercy). They are two separate coupons that your kids can “cash in” when they choose.

How might they choose to use their Grace & Mercy Coupons?

Scenario 1: Little John-Paul didn’t eat his dinner and doesn’t get dessert. But wait! He hands over his “Grace” coupon and gets that cupcake he didn’t earn.

Scenario 2: 12-year-old Mary Elizabeth lied about getting in trouble in school and you sentenced her to a weekend of restrictions. She uses her “Mercy” coupon and shaves 24 hours off her time and gets to go for ice cream with friends.

I wouldn’t say it’s theologically air-tight, but it’s a good starting point. As I think of ways the kids might use these coupons I realize it might be a greater lesson in grace and mercy for us moms. In some scenarios it would be hard to accept the coupon and follow through, so again, we’ll get a small glimpse into how our God is so awesome.

Stuff those stockings with a lesson on grace & mercy this St. Nicholas Day. I’d love to see what you design, so snap a pic and post it in the comments or share it on Twitter and tag it #Grace&MercyCoupon. Be sure to mention me so I can share it too. I’m @abbyspirit. In what scenarios do you imagine your kids would use these coupons? Do you think it will be hard to hold up your end of the bargain?

Monday, November 16, 2015

And the winner is...

Alright, moms! I counted the number of individual entries (no duplicates) and entered the range into a random number generator then counted down from the top (see the pic above for proof, if you have very good vision). Congratulations to... Melissa J! Email me with your home address and I'll send out your two tickets to VeggieTales Live!

To the non-winners (never any "losers!") there are still many more chances to win. Tomorrow morning on The Big Big House Morning Show around 7:30am and at our last two Veggies for Hope stops today and tomorrow. And you're the first ones to hear this: Wednesday is "Winning Wednesday." What's "Winning Wednesday?" I'm glad you asked!

Every hour on The Big Big House Morning Show and on The Way Home (so 6-10am and 3-7pm) you'll have a chance to call in and win a family four pack of tickets to the show AND on Thursday we'll give away a four pack with a Meet & Greet! Hooray!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Win VeggieTales Live Tickets!

Like little heat-seeking missiles, my boys started smelling the VeggieTales Live show weeks before I told them about it. Randomly, from the back seat on one ordinary day I hear, "Mama, can we go see the VeggieTales show?" I already had the tickets but had not yet shared the news with them. My big one told me he saw a commercial after Sesame Street. Ah... well played, Veggies! Well played!

There are a lot of things my kids ask for that I'm not crazy about, e.g. the 48-inch tall Darth Vadar from Target. Truth be told, I wanted to take them to VeggieTales Live as soon as I heard the show was coming. As parents, when our kids ask for something good, like a second helping of broccoli (No joke! This just happened last week!) or to go to church a few minutes early so to have extra time to pray (I'm still waiting for this one), we are willing to bend over backwards to make it happen.

Sometimes financially though, it's not as easy as that backbend. Spirit FM and the Mom Squad Blog to the rescue!

Here's a chance for you to win two tickets to VeggieTales Live! Little Kids Do Big Things, November 22nd at the Straz Center in Tampa. It's at 2pm, but come early because before the show, Spirit FM and other folks will have tables set up with activities like coloring, puppet-making and veggie bowling!

How do you win? Just leave a comment with your name and your favorite VeggieTales song. I'll draw a random winner on Monday around 10am and post the name. Be sure to send the link to the blog to friends and family to increase your chance of winning!

Here's some more good news - there are a few ways to get discount tickets - as of last night there was a Groupon for discounted tickets and there is also BOGO 50% off if you use the promo code "LARRY". You have to do the math to see which deal is better. That is outside of my skill set. HERE'S A LINK TO THE SHOW and to PURCHASE TICKETS.

There are more giveaways coming up on Spirit FM and through our Veggies for Hope collections on Monday and Tuesday, but if your little one's heart is set on it, and you can make it happen, I think it's worth it to make the purchase. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Itty Bitty Soul

One of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog a few years ago was about my niece, Ella. A beautiful little blonde girl with a sweet spirit and a perpetually giddy personality. Ella and her mom and dad are the first adoptive family I have ever had the chance to get to know. Growing up, there were kids who were adopted, but I never got to know their parents. After all, I was a kid too!

I was so amazed by how perfect that family was. Don't misunderstand, they had imperfect moments, plenty of them, but they perfectly fit together. Then I had the chance to host an event for Catholic Charities Adoption Services last year and I saw it all over again. I think it's a bit of a mystery that although this isn't the "normal" way God makes a family it still feels so natural and right. It's one of the most beautiful acts of love that I think we could ever witness.

November is the month where we focus on what we have to be thankful for, which I think is a perfect fit for Adoption Awareness Month. I just read a great book that would be an awesome addition to a preschool classroom bookshelf or in your own home. Itty Bitty Soul is the story of a little guy who God sends to be part of a family. Mom is a business woman and dad owns a food truck! They are a fun-loving, faithful couple who is just waiting for the call that their baby is here.

I love that it shows the range of emotions adoptive parents go through. But what is even better is that God speaks to the little boy and assures him that although he is tiny, he is important and can change a life, which to me is a great testimony to why we should work hard to support adoption as an alternative to abortion.

Jim Fellows, the author of Itty Bitty Soul, shared that he wrote the book after witnessing his friends go through the process & the rollercoaster ride of emotions it takes you on. One interesting thing he mentioned is that his friends frequently heard, "I know a lot of people who try to adopt and then end up getting pregnant!" as though adoption was a consolation prize. I think if you talk to any adoptive parent, they would say they feel like they won the grand prize, not a consolation. So I asked him, "What SHOULD we say to a couple trying to adopt?" His reply - "You're going to make a great mom and dad!" or "I'm praying for you!"

It's so simple. We don't need to fix the problem, we just need to love them and support them. And I think that it starts with teaching our children, through a book like this, that adoption is one of the most beautiful gifts God has created. What if our children grew up seeing adoption as a privilege, not a threat or an alternative. How many more unborn babies would be allowed to live? How many more couples would embrace adoption instead of spending their life's savings (and emotions) on infertility treatments? How many more children who are adopted would see their life as special and not unwanted?

So check it out - the colors and illustration are beautiful and you'll fall in love with mom and dad, just like I did. Part of the profits this month go to, an organization that helps bridge the financial gap for couples who are trying to create a family through adoption. And happy Adoption Awareness Month!