Aiming for Normal

by tinareale on November 19, 2012

Morning, all. I hope you had a good weekend. I normally turn to the blog and my passion for my work as a way to help myself express emotion and cope during rough days, but the past few days I simply had to remove myself from the environment. We took the weekend to aim for “normal”. The tears still flow on occasion and it will still take awhile to feel normal without Roxy around, but this weekend did bring quite a few moments of peace, love, and clarity. I had the chance to enjoy a night surrounded by good friends at the women’s small group I co-lead on Friday night. Then, Saturday and Sunday revolved around personal time, church, and time with the kids, including spending both afternoons at the park.

Besides all that, we also aimed to return to “normal” by doing something I believe makes a huge difference – giving to others in need. Doing something in kindness for others will always uplift my own heart. So, I put together a special care package for a dear friend of mine experiencing heartache I can’t even imagine right now. Then, the kids and I spent some time with a tradition we have done the past few years – organizing a couple of Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes to donate.


Operation Christmas Child is an initiative through Samaritan’s Purse to provide children in need around the world with gifts during this time of the year. Families can fill shoe boxes with gifts and other items of need to send to children. I find it a great service project for kids and my two little ones love it.


We go to the store to stock up on various items, which I allow the kids to pick out items to send (within reason…that giant stuffed dog won’t fit in the box – sorry, Makenzie).

Here are the things we picked up for this year’s boxes:

A few basic necessities like soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels (aren’t those mini packed towels so perfect for this?), socks, shirts, and blankets.



Some just for fun items like books, coloring books, crayons, stickers, toys, puzzles, balls, etc.



And a little treat to eat (hard candy and non-perishable snacks only).


It will melt your heart, I tell ya, watching your four year old get so excited to help another little kid. She was going around the store pointing out everything saying, “I bet my friend would like this. I bet my friend would like this. I’m so glad we can help, Mommy.”


Even though Braedon is still a bit too young to understand what we’re doing, I always have him help as much as possible. He really likes to toss things in the boxes.


I never want them to lose sight of the blessings we have in life and sharing, no matter what, with others. I want them to truly know how to ACT OUT gratitude in a time of thanksgiving and also to remember that Christmas is about giving more so than receiving. Spending time this past week doing that really did help give us an uplift when needed.

Your Turn: Do you have a favorite service/charity project?


1 Miz November 19, 2012 at 7:28 am

I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS as it’s a focus around here daily as well.

2 Christine @ Love, Life, Surf November 19, 2012 at 7:42 am

Isn’t it amazing when you see your kids show love like that? I had my son help me gather things and put together donations for folks after Hurricane Sandy. It totally melted my heart to see his sense of compassion and caring come through. I know that it will take a while to get back to “normal” but you will get there albeit a new kind of normal I think.

3 Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean November 19, 2012 at 7:43 am

yay! we used to do red bag at xmas time when i was little and buy gifts for a family during the holiday. it was such a huge part of my childhood that i now to salvation army’s operation adopt-a-child every year with my hubby. it’s hands down the best part of the holidays. xoxo friend

4 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers November 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

It’s so great that you found a way to get your kids involved too. Kids love that kind of thing. :) The husband and I like to give to World Vision (a good percent of the money actually goes to charitable acts instead of overhead), and we give our time to Habitat for Humanity. It feels good to be hands-on.

5 Michele @ Nycrunningmama November 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

I love what you and your children are doing. We are going through AJ’s toys and having him pick a bunch to donate. We live in excess and at a time when he’s going to get bombarded with even MORE (despite every plea to my friends/family, he gets way too many “things”), it’s important to show him to give.
Glad to hear that you guys had a good weekend. Still thinking about you all – xoxo

6 tinareale November 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I know what you mean! They always get so much STUFF. After M’s bday recently, we made her do the same thing. Go through and clear out a bunch of old toys from the playroom to donate and make room for the new things. There’s so much less now in the playroom but she’s just as happy and was so happy to bring the other toys to kids in need.

7 Linz @ Itz Linz November 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

What a great thing you’re doing and instilling in your children so young. You’re amazing, Tina! xoxo

8 Danielle @ Clean Food Creative Fitness November 19, 2012 at 8:36 am

What an amazing message to spread! It is so touching that your daughter was so excited to help others. What an excellent message to teach her! My thoughts are with you during this tough time. Thank you so much for spreading positivity through your struggle! You are an amazing person :)

9 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats November 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

That is a great project, and I love that Makenzie was so enthusiastic about it! I need to do something like this for the holidays!

10 runblondie26 November 19, 2012 at 8:47 am

I love what you’re doing! Glad to hear you had a good weekend. Sending you good vibes!

11 Lindsay's List November 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

i’m in the same boat. What does normal even look like???

12 [email protected] Palate November 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

Ah we do the shoe box thing do; I actually made two up with my niece this year and she loved it, great for kids! Lots of family time and you’ll be sorted in no time; stay strong!

13 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast November 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

Wonderful reminder, Tina… and a great way to help grieve. We picked a name off the angel tree to get a gift for a 3 year old, and L had a blast picking something out at the toy store! It’s definitely a tradition we’re going to maintain…. I think it’s so important to teach kids how to give back at an early age. And it comes so naturally to them!

14 tinareale November 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Our old church did the angel trees too and it was so meaningful to do. I love the traditions like these.

15 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries November 19, 2012 at 9:51 am

I’m so glad you were able to have a nice family weekend together! I love the fact that you do these service projects as a family. As the Children’s Director at our church, I try to encourage parents and families to start serving at home because when a child sees their parents do it, they’ll want to continue the act as they get older. Such an important and special thing!

16 Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength November 19, 2012 at 9:52 am

I’m just catching up and saw about Roxy. I’m so sorry for your loss. Prayers and hugs to you and your family.

I love love love what you did with the kids to help others in need. That is so darn sweet and such a great lesson for the little ones. :)

17 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions November 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

I love that your teaching your kids how wonderful it is to give when they’re so young. It’s easy to lose sight of how blessed we all are at this time of year when we’re inundated with advertising about what we don’t have and how we need this, need that, need the next thing. I’m glad you’re helping your kids take a step back from all of that even if they don’t 100% understand the significance of it all at this moment.

18 Stefanie @ Thin Vegetarian November 19, 2012 at 10:40 am

That is great that you are instilling this values when your kids are young!

19 Molly @ Just Your Average Athlete November 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

So amazing that you are teaching your young ones to give (and be excited about it!) It’s such a great, special thing that as a family you are giving to those in need :) They have a great role model in you.

20 Danielle @ Itsaharleyyylife November 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

wow this is so awesome! teaching your kids this at such a young age is amazing! mom of the year! (:

21 sarah k @ the pajama chef November 19, 2012 at 10:57 am

we made our operation christmas child boxes last week! love doing that- i did it with my family growing up & my husband does it with me now . :)

22 Kaelin November 19, 2012 at 11:04 am

I am a little behind, but I wanted to say how sorry I was to hear of Roxy’s passing. I have known the love of animals my whole life, and it is incredibly tough to lose them especially when it is sudden. I hope you can remember her with a smile and know that is watching over your family now!

Our church participates in the Operation Christmas Child project, and it is a very rewarding experience every year!! I love that your children enjoy getting involved; that feeling of helping others is one of the best.

23 tinareale November 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Thanks so much Kaelin for the support and love.

24 [email protected] November 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

This is awesome! Helping others always makes you feel great, and to teach your kids such a valuable lesson at a young age is sure to set them up for a life full of giving and feeling great about it. Tampa has such a high rate of homeless people that there are plenty of ways to give back. But what I have done before is simply buy a hot meal or grab a few extra items at the convenient store when I see someone sitting outside. It makes my day.

25 Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) November 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

A beautiful reminder to be grateful for all we have and how we can help others during this time of year… and always!

26 Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food November 19, 2012 at 11:27 am

What a positive project to focus your attention…and what a great example you are to your little kiddos <3

27 Elle November 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm

How nice to get your kids excited to share and help others too. I love this story and these kinds of projects that families do together. Great pics.

So sorry, again, about your Roxy.

28 Shannon ~ My Place In The Race November 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Goodness they are growing so fast! Absolutely adorable!!!

29 Shannon ~ My Place In The Race November 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

And I am soooo sorry about your Roxy baby. My heart aches for you. Sending you love, hugs and prayers. XOXOXOXO

30 tinareale November 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Thanks so much, Shannon. It means a lot to have support and encouragement from this wonderful community.

31 Katie @momslrb November 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Love this! Good for you!

E and I started a tradition this thansgiving of going to the foodbank to donate food. I hope we get to do this every thanksgiving!

32 jobo November 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

What an awesome way to pay it forward, Tina. I love this and it’s inspiring me to do something similar. I am glad you had a weekend ‘reset’ and normalcy. I know you needed it! Hope this week is a brighter one! XO

33 Regina November 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I am sorry that I also didn’t know about your loss of Roxy. I can only imagine your pain. It’s wonderful to have special traditions with your children. Last year I started doing Random Acts of Kindness around the holidays with my boys. They loved it. Sending you hugs and hoping you have a great week!

34 tinareale November 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Thanks, Regina, for the encouragement.

And Random Acts of Kindness sounds like the perfect tradition for a family.

35 Rachel B - Busy Mama November 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

What a sweet idea! DEfinitely going to look into putting some Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes together with my son (though I’m sure he too will mostly just be interested in putting things in boxes). Spending the holiday weeks to gather all of my son’s outgrown clothes, toys and unused strollers together to donate to foster children in need. It definitely fills your heart to spend your time doing acts of service for others!

36 Heather @ For the Love of Kale November 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

AMEN, friend. You’re an amazing woman of GIVING. <3

37 Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut November 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Oh goodness that is precious! Such a great ministry and they’re delivering their 100 millionth box I think this year?? I need to remember to grab a box from church…hope it’s not too late!!

You’re such an awesome mother to teach your kids the importance of serving others. <3

38 tinareale November 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I think the final pick up from churches is this week? Or at least in our area. If you missed this deadline, I’m sure there are still many ways to help!

39 Julia H. @ Live Young & Prosper November 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

This reminds me of how excited I used to get as a kid to participate in my church’s annual gift-giving project. Around the holiday season, they would put Christmas trees in the entrance lobby that were covered with slips of paper, all which listed a different gift item for a child who was less fortunate. Whoever was interested could take a slip, then was supposed to buy the item, wrap it, and place it under the tree by Christmas Eve, so that the gifts could all get to their recipients in time. I remember always taking it VERY seriously, and even checking out a bunch of the slips of paper before deciding which one I was most excited to buy, haha.

40 Jill @ Fitness Health and Happiness November 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Well written post Tina. Compassion and giving back is something I started teaching my kids when they were young. I’m going to look into Operation Christmas Child as a family project this week during our Thanksgiving break.

41 Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie November 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm

You have the biggest heart. Some kids are going to love those boxes. <3 I hope you're finding healing as the days go by, I've been thinking happy thoughts for you!

42 Ash & Diz November 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm

What a wonderful lesson to teach your little ones! When we have kids of our own I definitely want to do something like this!

43 Bek @ Crave November 20, 2012 at 1:42 am

What a beautiful thing to do for others- I love that you’ve also involved the kids :)

44 Rebecca Wright November 20, 2012 at 8:06 am

I did the shoebox gift as a child and I want you to know that years later the girl that received mine wrote me back a letter! I had to get it translated because it was in Spanish, but she even gave me a necklace. Very memorable and really meant a lot to me :) I will be running the MUST Ministries GobbleJog on thanksgiving, donating to the Salvation Army, and my church does a Christmas outreach also (along with the Operation Christmas Child).

My heart and prayers remain with you and your family during this time.

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