Ideas for OCC: 2-4 year old girls

I first participated in Operation Christmas Child when I was going to college. I attended a small church, with a big heart for the hurting world around them. I was far from home and needed something bigger than myself to participate in. I love children, and Christmas, so buying toys and gifts for hurting children was a perfect fit for me.

Packing shoe boxes really doesn’t cost a lot in the way of time or money, but it does require some thought and prayer – lots of prayer. This year, I’m coordinating the OCC collection efforts for my church. Each November, we enjoy having a church wide Packing Party, where we lay out hundreds of small gifts and pack them into shoe boxes. As we prepare for that fun event we will be collecting a different item, or set of items each month. The month of January was pretty simple: bar soap, and wash rags. February moves into the fun stuff, so here we go.

This February we will be collecting toys, and gifts for little 2 to 4 year old girls around the world. In preparation for leading these efforts I have come up with several gift ideas that would be great to include in shoe boxes for this age group. All of these items can be found at Walmart, and no single item costs more than $10, many less than $5. However – and this is important- I don’t like to see these OCC gift boxes packed with cheap stuff. These shoe boxes go to desperately hurting children. Children who have seen more pain, and hurt in their short lives than most Americans will ever need to think about. Children who are often malnourished, orphaned, alone. These kids don’t need a box full of party favors that will break in a week or two. They need boxes that show real effort. Real love. Real investment.

So, without further ado: 12 ideas for 2-4 year old girl shoe box gifts.

Receiving Blankets:


These small, brightly colored blankets come in bundles of 4 for $7.97.

Imagine not having a bed. Or a pillow. Not even a blanket. And even if you did have a blanket, imagine that it was old, worn thin, dirty, and ugly. Now imagine opening up a gift from a complete stranger and finding a beautiful new blanket to call your own? Precious.

Stuffed Animals or Dolls:


Less than a foot long and flexible these stuffed toys are perfect for shoe boxes. The Monkey on the left was only $2.98 in the Valentine section at Walmart. The other 2 are $5 each in the toy department. (The Minnie is actually Gracie’s. She loves it and I hope to find more like her to brighten another child’s life.)

If you had no family, only a dirty orphanage to call “home,” how amazing would it be to have a soft animal to hug and hold? Life changing.

(I have no idea why this one won’t flip up-right. Some time when there is less chaos in the house, I will work on that.)

Plastic Tumblers:


These sweet little cups can be found just about year around, in various colors, depending on the nearest holiday. And at $.98 for 4 of them, anyone can afford to send these much needed gifts!

Imagine drinking dirty water. Water you, or a family member, had to walk to retrieve. Imagine sharing the same cup with the whole family. Or maybe having no cup at all. How excited would you be to open a shoe box and find a beautiful cup to call your very own. Wonderful.

Blocks and Balls:


Our children have largely forgotten the joys of good old fashioned blocks and balls. But in other countries such toys are a luxury. Bless 12 little girls, each with a fun tennis ball for just $7.44. Or bless a single girl with her own set of blocks for only $5.96.

If you had no toys, and some one came to give you blocks or a ball, how would you feel. Excited.

Socks and Shoes*:


These cute, sturdy little shoes were $4.87. Of course, flip-flops are also welcome, but to have real shoes is such a blessing. The six adorable pairs of socks were only $4.47. A whole package could be included or 2-3 boxes could get 2-3 pairs each.

Imagine walking barefoot every where you went. To town. Through the pasture. Over hard, sharp rocks. All with no shoes at all. This is reality for many children who receive shoe boxes gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Imagine the shock of finding your very own shoes and socks inside your box. Overjoyed.



Shirts, shorts, pants, skirts, and dresses all make wonderful additions to the gift boxes. Try to keep shirts fun, but avoid culturally specific clothes. Stick with stripes, flowers, bright colors, and avoid words or movie icons that won’t mean much to children in other cultures. Garanimals brand is pretty long lasting, and super cute. This shirt was $3.88 and the dress was $4.97. Remember all clothes must be new. This is not a reason to clean ot your kids clothes, unless they have things that still have tags.

Imagine showing up to school one day for a shoe box distribution; your shirt is too big and and you have no pants at all. What joy to find a new, clean dress inside your shoe box. Loved.



It’s good to include underwear in every box that is packed, but it can be difficult to keep sizes straight once packages are opened (to only include 2-3 pairs in each box.) This whole little package of 3 can be packed in a shoe box. They were only $4.43.

Imagine wearing the same dirty pair of underwear for days, weeks; maybe until they just flat wore out. That isn’t at all something we can relate to here, but it is reality for many children who will receive shoe box gifts. Imagine finding your very own package of underwear – all yours to keep. Thrilled.

Odd and Ends:


Bracelets, necklaces, sun glasses, hats, hair bows and clips… these all make great treats to help fill the last corners of the boxes. These bracelets were only $.98 for 12. By the way, this is permission to include some party favors in each box AFTER you have packed it with great, life altering gifts.

Above all else be sure to shop, select, pack, and ship these boxes with prayer. Pray that the right child will receive the gift she needs in the moment she needs it. Pray that these gifts will open hearts to hear the Love of Christ. Pray.



*Many people fear buying the wrong size clothing. This is a logical fear, but we can’t let it stop us from packing these much needed items in our boxes. I tend to shop on the middle to high end of sizes for each age group; knowing that a young child will get extra use from a garment that is slightly too big when she receives it.


Post Partum Depression Sucks

Depression period sucks. Really. But post partum depression… You’re supposed to be happy. You have tiny, smiling people depending on you.

But you’re not happy. Not most days. Most days the kids want to snuggle, and read, and play. And you just want to shut out the world. Be left alone. Sleep. Eat. Some days you want to shop. Shop for big expensive things. Maybe then you’d smile. Probably not.

People think you’re fine. You’re own family doesn’t see that your brain says things that aren’t logical. How it really does seem logical to leave the kids some where and just disappear. Just run away. The only reason you don’t is one kid still depends on you for food and the other would never understand.

Sure there’s medication. But ot isn’t a cure. Often not even a good cover.

Post Partum Depression sucks.










90 Second Yum


The other night I needed a supper idea that required no prep work. Earlier that day I had seen a recipe on Facebook for a chicken dish. I hadn’t read the recipe but I decided to recreate the picture. This is what I came up with:

First, I poured about half a can of tomato sauce into a baking dish.

Then I took 4 still frozen chicken breasts and add them to the pan. I turned each one once so the top would have sauce on it too.

Next, I put 3 or 4 handfuls of shredded Mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken.

Finally, I placed 2-3 pepperonis on each chicken breast, and sprinkled the whole thing with dried parsley.

I covered, and baked this at 400 degrees, for about 45 minutes.

The end result was AWESOME! We had rice with it, but it would be great with pasta, or potatos.











Things Only Parents Need to Know

There are some things that I never even gave the slightest thought to before I had children. Now that I am a mother, however, I wonder how these things never concerned me before. After all, these are HUGELY important tidbits of information. They are now vital to my day to day existence. If you have children I bet you are already nodding in agreement… and if you don’t have children you still won’t understand even after reading through this blog multiple times.

  1. Rice can only be swept up off the floor if it is allowed just the right amount of drying time. I find 20 minutes to be the magic number; though this time frame will vary with climate, altitude, and the sticky-ness of the rice. This same general rule applies to legumes, pasta, and potatoes. However, there is no magic time frame to ever be able to sweep a green bean.
  2. No matter how often you sweep or how generally tidy you are, a crawling baby WILL find things to put in his mouth. The only time this rule has any wiggle room is with very deep carpet. In the case of deep carpet, some things will be sifted down into the fibers such that neither the vacuum, nor the baby can retrieve them.
  3. Nothing is more important than nap time. Nothing. This really doesn’t need much explanation. I mean, if mom is all tired and cranky how can she possibly be expected to deal with small children in even a remotely civilized manner?!
  4. All toys, especially people figures, must be named. This is super important, lest you all end up in a fit of frustration and despair because little Sally DESPERATELY wants that THING…but you have NO CLUE what she is talking about! This is big ladies, and gentlemen. Name the toys… Poppop, Pappy, Uncle Wessy, Aunt Gina, John Deere and Captain Eric (don’t ask) are just a few of the people in our little Cowgirl’s collection. We also have named horses, pigs, stuffed toys, etc, etc, etc.
  5. Find a food your child loves. There will come a day when the only food you can get in your tiny human’s mouth, is Fruit Loops. Accept it and move on. Figure out what food works and never, ever, EVER run out. Because the day you run out of yogurt is the day the toddler will break down into mass hysterics from hunger and the ONLY possible cure will be…yogurt. Bad day. Bad, bad day.

And there you have the top five life-hacks every parent needs, and no non-parent will ever understand. If you don’t have kids yet and are sitting here reading this going “Not MY child!” … I laugh. Because, yes, your dear little Einstein will one day demand pepperoni, and only pepperoni, for lunch. He will do this while playing with a toy pig named Too-too. All the while you will be attempting to sweep up rice that he dumped on the floor, and you’ll really want the other child to quit crawling around eating that rice…. And for them both to just let you NAP!

Books, Bikes, and a Blistered Bum

Welcome to 2016!

Like most people the new year represents a fresh start for me. It’s a time to start new, and better habits. And perhaps a time to break a few old, bad habits. This year I really only have one goal, but I set myself up on a 2 step program to achieve that goal. I want to be a happier me in 2016.

As a mom I often find myself stressed to the max and snapping at my family. More often than not, my children and/or my husband take the heat when I’m really just frustrated with situations. I recently began thinking of ways I could lower my own stress level. The first thing that came to mind was I could win a billion, tax free dollars… that didn’t seem to likely so I scaled back to things I could do to relieve stress instead.

I realized that for the last few years I have been functioning in a permanent state of sleep deprivation. Some people, my husband for one, seem to be able to thrive on little sleep. I am not one of those people. Our children still haven’t grasped the whole sleeping through the night thing. And taking a nap every single day leaves me no room to quietly work on any projects. So the first step in my 2 step program is: GET MORE SLEEP AT NIGHT. Um…duh.

I’ve spent 3.5 years of marriage waiting up for hubby to get tired and be ready to come to bed. “Go to bed at the same time.” That was the advice we were given… hooey on that. I’m a living demon I’m so tired some days; so now, I just go to bed. He comes when he’s ready. The other night that was like 12:30… The next morning he was so excited because he had worked for a solid 2 hours and gotten soooo much done. It’s a win/win!

I also realized that I haven’t had a good exercise program since Gracie was born 2.5 years ago. I’m a high energy person, y’all. I find myself wanting to just go ninja master because the cat nearly tripped me. The problem isn’t so much the cat (although a brain transplant might help the idjit some.) The problem is I’ve had no way to burn off steam. So the second step is: GET REGULAR EXERCISE. Duh, again.

So, January first we made a trip to Lubbock where I purchased an ancient, ugly exercise bike for $30. This bike is certainly no looker. It’s a dingy orange-ish red, with Teetee on the cement seat. (For those of you who aren’t Texas Aggie fans, that means it has the Texas Tech TT symbol painted on the seat… also I don’t think the seat is actually cement, just something similar. I have to exercise in brief spurts to allow circulation to return to my legs. The seat is so hard it can quickly lead to saddle soars that must rival what one might suffer if one was to ride the entire Chisholm Trail in a day.)

Anyway, I love my bike. Not only do I get to burn a little extra energy, I get to read too. I’ve already finished one short book this year and am nearly done with the second. I just peddle and read; read and peddle. It’s fabulous. I’ve heard it said that reading just one non-fiction book a month in a particular field, can conceivably make you an expert in that field in just a year! Wow. I’m gonna be a genius, you guys!

I’m going to be a well rested, better exercised, happier, genius in 2016… What are you going to be?!