Pride and Joy

There are few things in life that inspire pride and joy more than the people you bring into the world. Sometimes you are proud of their academic achievements. Sometimes it’s their musical talents that trigger that rush of warmth and joy. Sometimes, it’s the kindness and generosity with which they treat others both larger and smaller than themselves.

Mostly you’re proud of the sheer focus, determination, and hours of hard work they throw at whatever they’re trying to accomplish at the moment.

Lately, it’s been so many things. It’s been a teenaged girl working with tremendous dedication and attention to detail on a project for a well-loved science teacher. It’s been a teenaged boy happily entertaining his very much younger cousin with endless patience and much 3-year-old giggling.

It’s been this small group of girls taking over the sunroom with copious amounts of cardboard and duct tape and paint, all in the name of charity.

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It’s been our young man joining a group of kids on the ski hills week after week, stretching his comfort zone and building new friendships. And coping admirably well when a moment’s poor judgement by one of his peers coupled with spectacularly icy roads led to a ski patrol rescue, an ambulance in the ditch, a second (and quite spectacular) rescue involving ropes and crampons and I’m sure more than a few hearts in throats, and 2 bus loads of teenagers (including mine) stuck at the bottom of the hill an hour from home until the wee hours of the morning.

It’s been our boy and a bunch of his friends and classmates walking for hour upon hour and raising many, many thousands of dollars for Relay for Life.

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It’s been a whole group of girls, none of them not mine, who are so willing to strike off on an adventure without the slightest clue what we’re going to be asking them to do, merely because we ask them to trust us week after week and they do.

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We have a serious amount of fun together, these girls and my fellow Guiders and I, trying our hands at circus school, glass mosaics, obstacle courses, computer programming, shoreline cleanups, all the hijinks and fun at camp, and more than a few community service projects. It’s a beautiful thing.

But mostly what’s filling my heart with pride these days is the sight of these:

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Both kids are playing in the ball hockey leagues again this year and come home red faced and drenched with sweat, happy they won or dissappointed they lost, but always playing hard, having fun, and congratulating teammates and opponents alike on great plays or fantastic saves.

Of course, it could just be that these shirts are making me happy simply because with 2 kids in 2 different leagues, we’re spending so very much time at the arena. I’m either cheering those shirts on, washing them, hanging them to dry, or asking if you’re SURE they’re in the bag and ready to go because we really do have to leave 3 minutes ago if we want to be on time for the pre-game warmup…hockey is sort of our life right now and these shirts seem to be everywhere I look, making me proud.

Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a certain age, or maybe because I’ve been investing so much of myself in 30 girls not my own week after week, or maybe just because I’ve been thinking about it a lot and therefore noticing it more, but everywhere I look these days, I see kids and teens doing great things, having fun, giving back to their communities, and making me proud of the world we live in. How about you?

Water

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Yup, water.

What, you may ask, does water have to do with today’s blog post?

Why, everything!  For her birthday, you may recall our darling B gave up all hope of getting gifts and raised money for charity:water. She had read on http://www.cakewrecks.com/ about charity:water, and about how the task of fetching water usually falls to the women and girls in a community, and how the water is often unclean and unsafe for drinking, and yet, with no other options, they drink it anyway. She was particularly struck by the fact that when a girl has to spend 3hours or more a day fetching water, she often does not go to school regularly, or even at all.

And so she did it: she gave up her own materialistic desires (and trust me, she had a lot on her list!) in order to raise money for a great cause. She set her goal at $150. And then she raised her goal when she met the first goal so quickly. And then she raised it again. In the end, she raised $837 — money that has gone towards water projects that are currently underway in Ethiopia and Nepal. Right now, charity:water partners in those communities are getting permits, buying supplies, picking sites, and beginning work.

B is thrilled to have been able to help. She loved getting a progress update from the folks at charity:water letting her know where the money she raised was going.

And then somehow when I wasn’t looking, she sent out an email to various family members announcing that she did NOT want Christmas presents this year. Do NOT buy her a Christmas present. Not a single one. Nope, nope, nope. She wants NOTHING for Christmas.

Because she’s doing it again.

She’s giving up all hope of receiving even a single gift in order to raise money for charity:water, except this time, she’s set her sights on hitting a minimum of $1000.

In B’s words:

“Giving up gifts is easy. Some kids don’t even have water. I don’t need gifts as much as they need water.”

I am so proud of her.

I am also so awed and inspired by the fact that you, dear reader, choose to share some of your day with me here at KidsByHand, and the last time she did this, I was amazed by the number of anonymous donations she received from blog readers. You guys are amazing. Seriously. You rock. Are you willing to thrill her again and help her meet her goal? It would be so amazing if you could.

If you would like to show some love and support for her project, you can make a donation online at http://mycharitywater.org/kidscanwaterchristmas/ . (The entire donation amount – 100% of your donation – goes directly towards the water projects they build.)  Every donation counts – even a single dollar. If you want to get all symbolic about it, you could donate $9 because she is 9 years old, or $25 dollars because Christmas is on December 25, (or $2012 dollars because it is Christmas 2012, if your budget stretches that high).

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One tired boy

Last night, The Man We Call Dad kept K up all night. It’s true. They stayed up all night. They didn’t go to bed. In fact, they weren’t even home.

Instead of coming home and going to bed like normal people, they were at the Relay for Life, an overnight adventure that raises money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

And I couldn’t be more proud of them. Together, The Man We Call Dad and K raised $440 for the Cancer Society. Their relay team as a whole raised $6,564.11 in honour of a colleague who is currently in the fight of his life against cancer.

They are amazing. All of them.

I would love to tell you more details about the night, but I can’t. They stumbled in the door a little after 7 am sporting the biggest grins I’ve seen in a while and then tumbled into bed, where they are both still sleeping and probably will for some time yet. All I know is that they raised a heck of a lot of money, stayed up all night, and had a heck of a good time. The rest of the evening is a mystery.

So I went snooping.

They’ll have taken pictures, I said to myself as I oh-so-helpfully unpacked the cooler and their duffle from the trunk. I hung wet rain gear up to dry, put leftover food in the fridge, and downloaded pictures from The Man We Call Dad’s camera. This is what I got:

That, and four leftover brownies. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they wake up to find out more.

Do you think they’ll notice if I eat the brownies?

 

Brownies for the Geek Girl in all of us

Yesterday, B and I baked brownies for the boys we love. It was a totally selfless gesture. Seriously. We aren’t going to get to eat any of them.

S’true.

The Man We Call Dad and our boy K were heading off to Relay for Life, and B and I baked them some brownies to share with their teammates, and we didn’t even eat a single one.

We deserve a medal, don’t you think?

What’s more, we didn’t bake just any old brownies. We baked geeky brownies. From this cookbook:

The Star Wars Cookbook

The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes. It’s a great little cookbook for young geek girls. Even the introduction is hilarious.

The Force inhabits all reals, including the kitchen. Its power is as present in the refrigerator as it is on the desolate ice planet Hoth.

Honestly, it is also a great first cookbook for kids wanting to cook independently, as it has clear directions, easy recipes with common ingredients, and best of all, a section on kitchen safety straight from the Jedi handbook.

The calm and perceptive mind of a Jedi warrior will enable you to prevent most mishaps in the kitchen. Use it well…

The illustrations are not your typical fussily staged and artificially perfect macro shots of food. Instead, they’ve all been staged against backdrops from alien planets, often with aliens in them. Like Jawas.

I had no idea Jawas found milkshakes just as appealing as droids.

We baked the Bossk Brownies, though as we didn’t have white chocolate chips, we just used regular chocolate chips.

Sorry, no droids in this photo. Just brownies.

I would love to tell you how deliciously they turned out, but I have no idea. I was good. I didn’t eat any.

We like the Star Wars Cookbook. It is a fun little cookbook to use with kids. But the very best part of all is not what’s in the cookbook, it is what you find at the back of the book: stickers for labeling your food.

After pouring over the choices, we decided this one was the most appropriate to send off with our boys for the Relay team’s enjoyment:

Eat this you must. Help you, it can.

Hopefully it will help them survive a sleepless night of relay walking with grace and aplomb.

(I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘aplomb’ in a blog post.)

As for us geek girls? We’ve already decided we have to make them again on Sunday after the boys leave for the band competition in Toronto. We might even share them with the friends who are coming over for dinner that night.

Maybe.

Wow. Just… Wow.

Do you recall how proud I was of our girl B when I posted a couple of weeks ago about her decision to forgo all hope of getting birthday gifts in favour of raising money for charity:water? She set what we thought was an ambitious goal, to raise $150, and we were excited to see if she could do it.

And then she surpassed her goal. When she saw that her total donations equaled up to $225, she screamed out loud and started jumping up and down. And then she promptly set another goal: $300. And we were thrilled beyond words at the attitude of gratitude and generosity that we were seeing in our girl.

On the day of her party, she had occasion to scream and yell and jump up and down all over again when she saw that she had surpassed her goal again. We were thrilled beyond measure, at the money raised, at how many people will be helped by charity:water, and at how excited our girl was to be helping change the world.

The day before yesterday, I blogged about it yet again (since apparently I just can’t help myself and keep talking about my amazing kids and how proud they make me for so many reasons) and someone over at charity:water noticed. And tweeted about it. And other people saw it. And took the time to donate to our little girl’s campaign. Check it out for yourself. And all I can say is…

Wow.

Just… Wow.

That one word keeps rolling around in my head every time I look at her campaign page — and I keep looking at it a lot.

I have tears of joy and amazement and pride filling my eyes and spilling over my lashes because of all of you. I do tend to cry easily, but this is so much more than that. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity – that of our friends and family, and that of complete strangers. You have given our girl a gift that is going to stay with her for the rest of her life: the knowledge that, with a bit of effort, she can change the world for the better. What’s more, you’ve shown her that taking on a challenge like this brings with it a rush of excitement and pride and joy that is unlike any other. No physical gift can match that feeling, and it is a feeling that will stay deep in her heart for the rest of her life.

So I guess there is one more thing to say after all:

Thank you.

World Changing

As you may remember, this year, B decided she didn’t want any gifts for her birthday. Instead, she chose to raise money for charity:water, a fantastic organization that helps developing communities in need build fresh, clean water supplies to enable kids, especially girls, to get an education. She set a goal of $150, hoping that her guests and extended family would donate at least $9 in honour of her 9th birthday.

She didn’t meet her goal.

Nope.

She blew it right out of the water! So, naturally, she set another goal: $300. And she blew that one out of the water too! Here is what her charity:water page looks like now:

She has raised $362 dollars for charity:water. Have I mentioned how proud we are of our girl?

Afterwards, she said to me “Mama, giving up my presents was really easy. Really easy. I don’t need all that stuff. Not the way some people need clean water. I want to do it again next year!”

To me, one of the amazing things about this little sum we have managed to raise is that lovely number 18 gracing B’s charity:water page. That number represents the number of people who will soon have access to fresh, clean water thanks to charity:water and a 9 year old girl who gave up her birthday presents. Eighteen people will have their lives made easier and healthier because of B. And all she had to do was refuse to accept stuff she didn’t need in the first place.

The other amazing thing is that our kids have, with a little help from a lot of people, learned just how easy it can be to make a change for the better in the world we live in. To be completely honest, so has this Mama.

For you see, our little Miss B is not the only kid in this house who is setting out to change the world, no sirree! In just over a week, K and The Man We Call Dad will be participating in Relay for Life to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I firmly believe that the best way to teach your children to change the world is to change the world with your children. Changing the world isn’t something only rich people or talented people or those inspiring people whose stories amaze and astound us can do. No. Changing the world is something that rests firmly in our own hands, and we can do far more than we believe we can.

I know that now, after watching my dear friend Sharon and her kids raise tens of thousands of dollars and collect 150 ponytails to make wigs for cancer patients over the course of 3 years. She taught her daughters and 150 others how easy it is to change the world by changing the world with them.

I had it reinforced when we joined other friends in a 5K charity walk for their daughter’s birthday and watched her face light up as she practically danced down the path with friends in tow, thrilled with their fundraising prowess and determined to cross the finish line ahead of their parents.

I am ever more convinced of it after watching B’s face light up as she realized just how many people she has been able to help with her little charity:water campaign.

And I know it right down to my bones as I watch The Man We Call Dad choose to take advantage of an opportunity to teach K just how easy it can be to make a difference.

The best way to teach your children to change the world is to change the world with your children.

And so K and his dad will be walking next Friday, all night long, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the best relay ever invented: Relay for Life.

Will you help K change the world this week by making a small donation, even something as small as $1 or $2, on his Relay For Life page? The Man We Call Dad will be walking too, and so he has his own page as well if you want to support his efforts too. We would be ever so grateful for your support, and your help teaching our children how much good we can do when we just put ourselves out there and try to change the world.

 

One Proud Mama

Saturday, we will be celebrating B’s birthday with a gaggle of children and beloved family members. We will be playing, we will be laughing, we will be decorating cupcakes, we will be eating burgers fresh off the grill (and plenty of potato chips, too, after Wednesday’s chip-buying orgy of awesomeness).

We are not opening birthday gifts. That’s right. There is absolutely no gift opening orgy going on here. If all goes as planned, not one child will arrive with a gift in hand, and B will not tear into a stack of gifts with glee, and we will not try desperately to remember who gave her what in order to write out thank you cards that will inevitably go astray and probably not get delivered until sometime next February.

It is a gift-free birthday party, and I couldn’t be more proud.

A few years ago, I started blogging about a dear friend and neighbour who was busy teaching her children to change the world. Before I had the privilege of watching Sharon and her daughters change the world together, I would have told you that teaching children to change the world involves a lot of talking and explaining and forcing them to do things they don’t want to do.

It doesn’t. Helping Sharon with Catherine’s Pretty Ponytails and watching my kids get involved and help out and raise money and donate their own hair (and mine!) taught me that it doesn’t take talking to teach kids to change the world.

It turns out that you teach your kids to change the world by changing the world with your kids.

Last Christmas, one of my favourite bloggers/authors, Jen Yates over at CakeWrecks, decided that instead of gifts, she and her husband would donate to a different charity every day. Then they invited everyone who reads the blog to donate at least a dollar to each of their chosen charities, too. Charity:Water was their first charity, and we donated.

Fast forward a few months: Jen posted about the amazing results of everyone’s donations to Charity:Water, and the kids were astonished at how much CakeWrecks and their readers had been able to do. They read the post several times. They watched Charity:Water’s thank you video several times. They watched the video at the Charity:Water website several times.

And then B announced that she didn’t want any birthday gifts this year. Not one. She wanted everyone to take the money they would have spent on gifts for her and donate it to Charity:Water instead.

So that is what we are doing.

She has set a goal of $150, which she feels is attainable if each of her invitees donates $9 or more in honour of her 9th birthday, and which will allow Charity:Water to help 7 people gain access to fresh, clean, potable water. Personally, I think we can do better than that. I think we can do a whole lot better than that.

And I’m asking for your help. Help me teach my kids that they have the power to change the world.

We have set up a campaign web page on the Charity:Water website where you can make an online donation directly to Charity:Water in honour of B’s 9th birthday. Will you help her reach her target goal? Will you help me show her that not only can she reach her goal, she can surpass it?

Will you help me teach my kids to change the world by changing the world with my kids?

To make a donation directly to Charity:Water in honour of B’s 9th birthday, go to http://mycharitywater.org/kidscanwater.