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How to Help in Times of Disaster

Independence Day

We celebrated Independence Day late into the night with a group of friends, as usual this year. What wasn’t usual though, was that I got an early morning text the very next day that the home of one of those friends was struck by lightening and had burned down during the night. Everyone got out safely, but all their possessions were lost.

I was shocked at the news. We had just been with them a few hours before, and they had talked of leaving in a few days for their vacation. Now, just a few short hours later, their home, all their clothes, their shoes, their underwear, even their cars, everything was in ashes.

How to help during disasters 2

I immediately got dressed to go over and do… something. I didn’t know quite what yet, but I grabbed an ice chest out of the garage and stopped to pick up ice and bottled waters. Some of the fire fighters were still there when I arrived, and I found my friends whom I hugged tightly and tearfully.

They were in shock. It had all happened so fast. Ground shaking lightening, then the smell of smoke, and the sound of smoke detectors beeping, all within a few minutes time. By the time they woke the children and got them out the door (one of the girls in nothing more than a t-shirt and panties), they could see the flames and the smoke billowing from the roof.

More friends began to hear and arrive. We all asked the same question:

What can we do to help?

But, as you can imagine, our friends were in no state to think through what they needed. They could barely even fathom what had just happened to them.

When I got home (after not really being able to do anything except offer moral support) I asked for advice from my Smockity Facebook readers, who came through in a big way. It turns out several of them had gone through similar tragedies and had lots of tips on how to help, and also how not to be a burden to, the newly devastated family.

Here are a few of the ways they suggested helping.

How to Help in Times of Disaster

  • See if you can launder any of the salvageable items.

    Here is what one commenter said:

    The greatest tangible gift we received was from a local laundromat owner. He had us come in & wash what was left of our laundry for free. If someone I knew had a fire, I would either offer to wash laundry or give them laundry baskets, soap, rolls of quarters & gift cards to replace some immediate necessities.

  • Don’t assume the kids need to be whisked away.

    One commenter shared this tragic story:

    We lost everything we owned to a fire when I was 9 years old. Two weeks later, my dad died as a result of the fire. I needed to be with my mom and siblings–being separated from them was terrifying to me. Well meaning relatives tried to keep us kids ‘out of my mom’s hair.’ “

  • Don’t donate unneeded items.

    Here’s how one person shared that this was a burden:

    My house burned down in June of 2012. It was hard, so hard. People brought bags and bags of clothes, but we didn’t have anywhere to put them, and I couldn’t go through them (PTSD). My best friend came over one day and sat there with me; she went thru every bag, every piece of clothing, held it up and I would say yay or nay. Then, she took all the nay away.

    Here’s how others put it:

    The community gave a trailer full of stuff, like clothes and furniture. A lot of it smelled of animal urine and couldn’t be used. The family then had to not only deal with the fire, but also figuring out how to get rid of a trailer full of unusable clothes and furniture.

    I was a teen when we had our house fire. A lot of the donated clothes were really outdated, and I remember being embarrassed about how unfashionable I had to dress until my parents could get me some new things.

  • Donate cash or gift cards.

    This advice was repeated several times from those who had been through tragedies themselves.

    Donated cash or gift cards allows the recipient to purchase for themselves the items they most need. Or if they wish, as in the case of my friends, they sent a volunteer to Target with their girls and some donated gift cards to buy pajamas, underwear, socks, shirts, shorts, and toiletries. The girls took pride in being able to pick these items out for themselves, and it gave them a distraction from the burned rubble at home.

  • Set up a Facebook page to coordinate efforts.

    Add any friends who may want to help. This eliminates the situation where the family in crisis is answering the very same questions over and over again.

    All needs, meal sign ups, questions, concerns, etc. can be posted in this group so everyone can stay informed.

  • Ask (and coordinate on the Facebook page dedicated to the disaster) when the family needs help removing salvageable items.

    How to help during disasters

    At some point, after the insurance adjuster has inventoried the contents of the home, the family may need help saving photos and other items that can be restored.

    How to help during disasters 3

    In our case, several friends helped organize the things the family wanted to save. We spent the day working together, and then we all circled up and held hands for a prayer of thanksgiving that our friends lives were spared. After that we all sat and ate and laughed together with those friends. Laughter through tears and tragedy. Beauty from ashes. It was simply beautiful.

  • Consider donating items volunteers will use.

    You can see from the above photos that items like a canopy, bottled water, trash bags, and storage bins were very useful in our case.

Have you ever been through a tragedy, like a house fire, or helped someone through one? What would you add to this list?

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Our Cat Adoption Story

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When a 10 year old Smockity wishes for a kitten more than anything else in the whole world, she follows Smockity tradition and researches cat food costs and kitty cat care-taking tips and makes a flip chart and requests an appointment to make a presentation to the authority figures in charge of adding new pets to the family structure.

And in typical Smockity fashion I resist as long as I can…

Reagan and cat

Until I relent. One can only resist logic mixed with passion for so long, amiright?

That’s when I began looking for a kitten. I started on my town’s “buy, sell, or giveaway” Facebook page and found a few families who needed to find homes for kittens. These were kittens that were soon to be taken to our local animal shelter if they didn’t find homes ASAP.

We found a sweet kitten that just the age we were looking for that had been loved on since birth by some little girls just like ours. I was able to pull a fast one on my unsuspecting daughter and surprise her on Christmas morning with the little fluff ball. She was over the moon thrilled!

Did you know that each year, approximately 3.4 million United States cats are taken in by animal shelters and only half of those cats are adopted? We were so glad to do our little part to make a dent in this number.

Purina Cat Chow grocery store

And now you can do your part, too! During the month of July, for every bag of Purina Cat Chow you buy your cat, a meal will be donated to a cat in need. Purina Cat Chow is encouraging cat people to join in its cause to support shelter cats by buying a bag of Purina Cat Chow from July 1 through July 31. (*Buy it on sale right now at Amazon here!)

Purina Cat Chow 3

Since 2013, Purina Cat Chow has supported animal shelters across the country and has donated more than
$845,000 in food, supplies and renovations to advance the rescue, nutrition and adoption of cats in shelters.
Purina Cat Chow 2
And this year, Purina would like to top that donation in a HUGE way, and you can help!
Purina Cat Chow would like to donate five million meals to shelter cats across the country! They are encouraging cat people to help by purchasing any size bag of Purina Cat Chow from July 1 through July 31. For every bag purchased, Purina Cat Chow will donate one meal, up to five million meals, directly to Rescue Bank. (Rescue Bank is a non-profit organization that operates on a national food bank model to collect and distribute high-quality pet food and other supplies to a network of pre-qualified animal welfare organizations throughout the United States.)
Purina Cat Chow 4
Now, the simple act of *buying a bag of food for your cat can help the cat community-at-large and feed a cat in need looking for their forever home. (Order through Amazon and have it delivered to your home free if you have Amazon Prime!)

Check out this list of how others are helping Purina donate 5 million meals to shelters:

Adopting Rusty from Ellis and Page
Why I Love My Cat from Chaotically Creative
Cat Lady Must Haves from Polka Dotted BlueJay
Cat Condo: Made From a Wood Pallet from Hoosier Homemade
Meet Jackie – Our Cat Adoption Story from Sweet Nicks

I acknowledge that Purina Cat Chow is partnering with me to participate in its ‘Nutrition to
Build Better Lives’ program. As a part of the Program, I am receiving compensation in the
form of products and services for the purpose of promoting Purina Cat Chow. All expressed
opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth
Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission
guidelines.
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Pothead T-shirt

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pothead tshirt

My friend, Kim, sent me *this nifty t-shirt and every time I wear it people stop me to ask about it.

If you know someone who would get a kick out of the “Pothead t-shirt” get one here.

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Online Mom Retreat – Camp Gimmeabreak

Are there any other moms out there who feel a little overwhelmed with all the activities and trips and vacations and unstructured time and kids wishing you would fill their every hour with one fun activity after another? Not to mention the H.E.A.T.

It’s almost enough to make a mom hide in the bathroom and take extra long showers just to get a few extra minutes of quiet. Or so I’ve heard.

Annnnnnyway… if you are up for meeting new friends just like you in a private Facebook group, receiving daily encouragement, sharing prayer requests, and receiving tips from a mom of 9 on how to find your joy in the midst of chaos, I have just the thing for you.

Camp Gimmeabreak

My friend, Lisa, from The Pennington Point has put together a Moms’ Summer Camp full of encouragement and fun just for moms. We need some summer fun too, right?!

This is all online and will go from July 4 through August 12. It’s light, easy and uplifting, and Lisa has named it, get this, Camp Gimmeabreak. We could all use that, amiright??

Camp Gimmeabreak is a fun, 6 week time of refreshing and encouragement for moms. It will include:

  1. An email each Monday with a video of encouragement and some steps to take for finding joy in your life!
  2. A private Facebook group where we will have discussions, prayer requests, live videos and weekly nighttime “bonfires” which will include special guests and fun prizes.
  3. An opt-in to a daily text of encouragement during the camp to help keep our focus on joy!
  4. We will be going through my book, “Mama Needs a Do-Over” with added ideas and bonus material.
  5. Easy, playful weekly challenges to encourage us all to see our days as filled with blessings and sweetness.

I’ll be joining this online summer camp for moms, so come on. Let’s be encouraged together!

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Spending One on One Time With Kids

Several years ago, when my oldest was twelve or so, she tearfully confided to me that she felt like she was never able to have a conversation with me without being interrupted by one of the other kids, whether it was a spill that needed wiping up, an explosive diaper that needed changing, or an opinion that one of them felt they needed to share, there was always an interruption.

I realized then that she saw herself only as a part of a large group, and not as a special individual. It broke my heart that my sensitive girl (and all my other children) felt overwhelmed with so many needs and opinions in the house. I wanted to be able to hear all of her dreams and concerns and wishes and fears, but I had to admit that she was right. It really was hard to be able to focus on one single child when there were so many that needed me just as much.

Mom and Peyton at Braums

That’s when I instituted the Half Birthday and Birthday Month Special Day With Mom. During a child’s half birthday month and again during their birthday month, they may choose up to 3 activities and plan a full day alone with just Mom. Sometimes these activities are local.

Peyton ice skating

Most of the kids love to go to the mall for ice skating and ice cream.

Mom and Jackson at Chilis

Going out to eat is a treat, no matter what your age!

Mom and Emelyn at the zoo

The zoo is also a popular choice. Any one on one time with Mom is a cherished activity.

Mom and Katherine at The Breakers

Occasionally we have an opportunity to travel for the birthday or half birthday special day. My 12 year old qualified to compete nationally in level 8 gymnastics, so we got to fly to Rhode Island! This was a VERY special Birthday Month Special Day With Mom.

Mom and Reagan at Padre

My 10 year old was invited to play in a competitive soccer tournament at the coast! The two of us hit the road and spent the whole weekend together enjoying the sand and surf for her Half Birthday Special Day With Mom.

Kathering bowling

Different years have brought financial limitations or financial blessings, so my children know that we must plan accordingly. One special outing may be limited to a matinee movie, IHOP with a coupon, and window shopping on the square. Another time, if money and the opportunity is available, we may be able to take a flight to a fun destination.

Laser tag with Reagan

Wherever we go and whatever we have planned, just being together for the entire day (or weekend) and being able to listen intently to all the heartfelt thoughts each child pours out is worth more than all the gold in the world. It does require sacrifice on the part of those left at home. They must make do without Mom until she gets back, but they willingly do this, knowing they are soon to take their own turn with me. They each look forward to their special days and spend months planning them.

I really feel like this is such an important way to ensure that each child in the family knows that I value each one of them and care about their thoughts and feelings.

Here is another way I make sure my kids get regular, individual attention.

How do you make sure you spend individual time with each of your children?

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Why I Love Hamilton, the Musical

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(Click on the pic to preview the cd.)

Have you heard about the hottest ticket on Broadway right now? If you are my real life friend or you follow Smockity Frocks on Facebook you probably know I am obsessed with this musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of our founding fathers, George Washington’s right hand man, and the creator of our financial system (his face is on the ten dollar bill), among other accomplishments.

One of the incredible things about Hamilton’s story is that he overcame incredible odds and was extremely driven to accomplish as much as possible in his life. The musical is almost completely historically accurate. It has a few places where the writer took artistic license, but almost every single detail is backed up by letters from Hamilton or one of his associates. I know this because I have been so drawn to the story that, since falling in love with it, I have read biographies on Hamilton, Washington, and LaFayette. It really is amazing how much material from the actual letters was incorporated into the lyrics of the musical!

This musical is NOT kid-friendly, though. Think History Channel documentary, rated PG-13-ish. There are some cringe worthy instances of lewd conversation and swearing, so my youngest children have only listened to certain songs. During his lifetime Hamilton was involved in war, politics, and infidelity so there are lots of topics not appropriate for children. (Be sure you use ear buds to preview first.) My teens and young adult children, ages 16 and older, have listened to it completely and adore it as much as I do.

It is such an inspiring real life historical story of overcoming, of determination, of forgiveness that I think it’s worth overlooking the bad language in a few spots.

I won’t go into how fan girl crazy I am about the writer, Lin Manuel Miranda, and all the performers in the show but just know they are all my pretend BFFs.

If you think you or your older teens would be interested in this fascinating glimpse into our country’s beginnings you can *preview the cd or see it on iTunes.

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