What’s in an OCC Shoebox?

So, yesterday I challenged you to get a shoebox to pack for Operation Christmas Child. Well, today I’m going to show you a few suggestions of what to pack in your box. We ended up packing four boxes this year and I let Luke have pretty much full control over what went in the boxes. I love that he is old enough now to understand what we can and can’t pack in the boxes, what will fit and what won’t,and what children NEED in the boxes. It is precious to see his little heart react when he understands that some children have literally nothing. Prior to our shopping trip this year, I went over the list below so he could learn what he needed to look for in the store. He helped me make a list and of course, I added some items to the list as well. Packing the boxes is always a great reminder for me of how quickly we take for granted the things that some people have waited their whole lives to receive… a baby doll, a pair of flip flops, a toothbrush.

Packing a shoebox doesn’t have to be expensive. We got most all of our items at the Dollar Tree and supplemented with a few things from Walmart and Hobby Lobby. Our boxes averaged around $15 to fill.

gift_ideasThe first box we packed was for a 10-14 year old boy. This category traditionally has the fewest boxes packed, so we always try to pack at least one box for this age range. Below you can see the items we packed. Full disclosure: we didn’t pack the items in the box shown below. Luke was adamant that we get a big hammer, and it was 1 inch too long to fit in the standard OCC boxes. Thankfully, we live with a guy with some pretty large shoeboxes, which fit the hammer perfectly! We always include tools in the older boy boxes. The sad reality is that most of these boys work to make money for their families and they need tools to be able to do so.

OCC10-14Boy1. Toothbrush with case and toothpaste – be sure to include a case! These children don’t have a toothbrush holder sitting on their counter… because they usually don’t even have a sink.
2. Notebook, pencils, pencil sharpener and pens – in order to go to school, these items are necessities.
3. Durable waterproof bag – We made ours by covering a ziploc bag with duct tape. This keeps their soap and washcloth clean and takes up less space in the box than a soap dish.
4. Washcloth and bar soap
5. Work gloves
6. Nails and screws
7. Handheld air pump with ball needle
8. Screwdriver
9. Soccer ball – Basically, every boy around the world desires to have a soccer ball. We found ours at Walmart for $5.46 and deflated it and wrapped it with a rubber band so it would fit in a box. This is the most expensive item in our box, but dozens of children will get to enjoy it! Well worth it in my opinion!
10. Scissors
11. Fork and Spoon
12. Rope
13. Cup – It broke my heart when I heard that a relief organization brought food into a village and some children were only fed a spoonful because they didn’t have anything to put their food in to take back to their homes. I always pack a cup or bowl in our boxes for this very reason.
14. Socks
15. Flashlight and batteries. I found this flashlight at Walmart for $1.
16. T-shirt. This shirt came from Hobby Lobby and after a 40% off coupon was only $1.50.
17. Candy Canes.

The items below were packed for a 10-14 year old girl.

OCC10-14Girl

1. Manicure set
2. Notebook and pens
3. Scissors
4. Washcloth and soap
5. Durable waterproof bag
6. Flip flops
7. 1 1/2 yards of fabric. Girls can use this fabric to make or patch clothing.
8. Toothbrush with case and toothpaste
9. Sewing kit.
10. Bowl. Luke insisted we get a bowl with a straw so they can drink their milk after they eat their cereal. I would NOT recommend packing these. They were a pain to fit in the boxes, but I’m sure the sweet babies that receive them will love the straw bowls!
11. Fork and spoon
12. Elastic headbands – because all girls in every country love glitter!
13. Jump rope
14. Wet wipes
15. Cup
16. Rope and clothespins – to make a clothes line
17. Socks
18. Flashlight with extra batteries
19. Suckers

These items were packed for a 2-4 year old girl.

OCC2-4Girl1. Crayons
2. Notebook
3. Fun washcloth and bar of soap
4. Durable waterproof bag
5. Toothbrush with case and toothpaste
6. Bowl and spoons
7. Wet wipes
8. Toy – Luke picked out a rattle and even though its probably too juvenile for a toddler, we packed it in the box. Hopefully, it will be given to a younger sibling who didn’t receive a box.
9. Watering can – again, Luke said that Lyla loves to play with hers, so he thought this little girl would love it too!
10. Socks
11. T-shirt.12. Sippy Cup
13. Doll. I read online to not send blonde haired, blue eyed dolls. Most girls around the globe want a doll that looks like them, not a blonde haired, blue eyed one. We found this cute doll at the Dollar Tree.
14. Candy

The last box we packed was for a 5-9 year old boy, but I failed to get a picture of the items. In every shoebox, we make sure to send the child a letter and some people even send a self addressed stamped envelope so the child can write back if possible. We’ve never done this, but I want to next year! Here is the letter we sent in our boxes. If you want to include this letter too, you can download yours here.

IMG_1596I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how we fit everything into the box. It’s a challenge for me to make it all fit. I use every square inch and pack and re-pack until we find a way to make it all fit! My biggest tip is to put all of the hard, flat items in the bottoms and anything that can “squish” washcloths, stuffed animals, tshirts, etc. on top. Also, be sure to stuff the cups and bowls full of items too!

I hope this gave you some great ideas for what to pack in your box! If you’ve already packed your boxes, what items did you include? We are always looking for new ideas!

Sunday Scriptures (on Monday) + Father’s Day

ABC Scriptures TDon’t you just love gifts?!? Of course I love to get gifts, but the older I get the more I enjoy giving them! Especially the really sentimental ones or the ones I just know the recipient is going to LOVE! It brings me joy to gift things to others! I think it’s my love language toward others and towards myself because giving just feels good. Have you ever given a gift that you knew the recipient would LOVE but would cost you everything you had? I know I’ve never given a gift like that. But, that’s what God did. He gave us his son. He traded his son’s life for our sins. My sins. Can you even imagine giving a gift that big, that costly? That’s why this verse is so amazing. God can imagine a gift like that because he gave it to you and me. WOW! It truly is indescribable!

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15

We had lots of big plans for Father’s Day weekend! We were going to celebrate big with both sides of our families, but Luke came down with a vicious stomach bug on Thursday night and it derailed all of our plans. He was just pitiful but is finally making a comeback. Thank goodness, I’m so happy to have my talkative little ball of energy back to normal.

We gave Jacob his Father’s Day gifts on Sunday morning and I think he really enjoyed them! His favorite gift was his book from Luke. As you can tell by the picture, Luke was still puny on Sunday morning and Lyla was still half asleep.

IMG_9567

Happy Father’s Day to Jake! I’m so thankful for him and his deep love for our kiddos!

Since we cancelled all of our weekend plans, I had time to tackle a project that I started in March… last March. As soon as I found out we were having a baby girl, I knew I wanted to sew her bedding. I wanted it to have lots of pink and lots of ruffles! I scoured pinterest and drew out a plan for the crib bedding of Lyla’s my dreams. It has been a labor of love to say the least. I created the teething rail cover, quilt, and bed skirt before she was born and decided to wait on the bumper and throw pillow. I knew I wouldn’t use a bumper with her as a newborn so it wasn’t necessary at the time. Well, fast forward to now and our 10 month old baby girl needs a bumper! Yes, I’ve read the articles that circled social media too, so please don’t chastise me for using one. I used a bumper as a baby and so did Jacob and Luke and we are all well and good.

While I didn’t take the time to do a full tutorial on how to sew the bumpers, I will tell you that it was super easy! I promise to post some sewing tutorials in the future, but I always get so excited to sew that I forget to stop and take pictures. The bumper was the most daunting item of the ensemble, but it turned out to be the least time consuming. I purchased bumper pad inserts found here at Hobby Lobby using a 40% off coupon and just followed the instructions that came with it – easy as that! Here are the finished results:
IMG_9600This is a rare sight! Lyla Rae is actually IN her crib!

IMG_9605This is how Lyla really feels about being in her crib! She prefers for Mommy to hold her in the rocking chair while we both stare at her empty crib!
At least it’s pretty to look at now!

This is How We Do it: Car Travel

The blog has taken a back seat recently as we moved from Denver back to Kentucky. It’s kind of crazy to live in two places because we are *always* needing something that is at our other home. Jacob is a minimalist (except for his golf gear) and I over pack. Always. I must bring all the things everywhere we go! Hah! I’m the anti-hoarder, but I like to have options, so I cart most of my clothes back and forth depending on where we are living. Jacob on the other hand, has half his wardrobe in each place and just makes do with what he’s got. Opposites attract, I guess!  So when it came time to pack up for the off-season, I took the reins. We ended up with a 5’x8′ U-haul trailer packed to the gills and a loaded down SUV for our 22 hour (counting stops) car ride back to Kentucky. Thankfully, after I packed everything we could still fit our children in the car – but barely!

I know what you’re probably thinking – 22 hours in a car with two small children is crazy! And, you’re right, it is! We’ve all heard it said that “It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts.” Well, friends, that is all a LIE! At least it is when it comes to traveling in a car with a preschooler and an infant! Let me be the first to tell you the destination is what counts! Sure, the trip along the way can be enjoyable, but getting home is what really matters!

We’ve done our fair share of car travel and after making the 22 hour trip between Danville and Denver eight times, I have learned a thing or two about what makes for a great long distance drive. Here are my top 5 tips and tricks for making a long car ride enjoyable (or at least tolerable)!

1. Bring snacks! – The only thing worse than a tired three year old is a hungry three year old. This adage can usually be applied to husbands as well! We like to bring most of our snacks with us because they are healthier and much cheaper than the usual gas station cuisine. Some of our favorites are carrot sticks, mixed nuts, raisins, string cheese and apples. Of course, near the end of the trip we all need a pick-me-up so we usually treat Luke (and ourselves) to ice cream.

IMG_4587

Luke’s 1st Blizzard – August 2013! This was near the Kansas/Colorado border, also known as: the middle of no where! Thankfully, there was a Dairy Queen, because we all needed a treat!

2. One word – iPad. Honestly, I’m not sure how people survived long car rides with out them. While we discourage excessive screen time at home, we encourage it on the road. We let Luke watch movies and play games as much as he wants and we just pray that the screen doesn’t burn a hole through his retina. We even let Lyla, our 5 month old, watch a few episodes of Mickey when she got restless. Please don’t call CPS on us… everyone can use a little Disney magic to get them through a long trip.

3. Plan your stops. This one can get tricky. Infants can have unexpected diaper blow outs and newly potty trained toddlers can demand sudden stops for potty breaks. We once had to take an exit in Kansas to make a pit stop for a freshly potty trained Luke. It was not a planned stop and the only thing on this exit was a dirt road, corn fields and an abandoned gas station. Needless to say, it was not our most productive stop. The photo below is of another unplanned stop on our first drive to Colorado. Yes, that is Jacob changing Luke’s diaper at the entrance to someone’s cattle ranch. On a long drive, you just gotta make do with what you have and sometimes that includes a make-shift changing table on the side of the road. Also, notice how blue the sky is – Kentucky has blue grass, but Colorado has *the* bluest skies you’ve ever seen!

DSC_0375

Roadside diaper change – expect the unexpected on car rides with children!

4. Let the kids play. This one seems frustrating at times because it feels like you are wasting time, but allowing the kids to move and stretch is well worth it. When pulling the u-haul we often stop at a truck stop and Jacob and Luke have foot races to burn off some energy (somewhere far away from the 18 wheelers, of course).  We usually try to eat at a Chick-fil-A with an indoor playground. We eat while Luke plays and then we order his food to go. He can then be occupied with his food in the car. On our last trip, I purchased a lap desk at Hobby Lobby for him. It worked great as a meal tray and even had spots for a drink and extra snacks. I would highly recommend getting one, but be sure to check and make sure that it will fit over your child’s car seat. You can see it in action in the photo below.

IMG_0822

This was our first trip with TWO children! Lyla was only three weeks old!

5. Bring nap time items. The ideal situation for car travel is for your kids to sleep as much as possible. To make this happen, we like to make their car seats as much like their crib/bed as possible. We always bring Luke’s stuffed horse named Boss Cat and his blanket and we usually start the trip off with him wearing pajamas. I would also highly recommend getting a sun shade, but a blanket stuffed in the car window will work in a pinch to block the light for ideal napping conditions.

I hope these tips help you as much as they help us. What tips and tricks do you have for your long drives?