7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

I was enjoying getting lost in the large store, books piled high on every shelf. It seemed it didn’t have an end as I navigated my way through the vast categories of books.

As I sat perusing my fingers through some pages, I felt something staring at me.  I peered over the top of the pages, spotting a pair of eyes outlined with royal blue accompanied by an adorable little smile.   Dressed in black pants and a striped shirt, I noticed he had drawn a mask over his eyes with a blue sharpie. No doubt he had to trace it a few times to get the full effect.

Waiving softly, I mouthed hello and smiled.  His superhero face and mischievous grin warmed my heart. Instantly it took me back to those days when Lydia painted herself with make-up. The bright blue eyeshadow you couldn’t miss and the hot pink lipstick covering her mouth, chin and almost up to her nose, made you want to laugh. But she felt beautiful.

Wiping my eyes, I smiled in awe. So hard to believe she is gone.  Oh those years, what I wouldn’t give to rewind time and go back, just to have one more chance. To share those gut-busting giggles, kiss those sweet freckled cheeks, to build that snowman, to do it all again.

The days of our lives are fast and furious, passing by ever so quickly. Years fly by in a second, making us look back wondering where the time went.

You see my daughter Lydia, just turned fifteen and lives in heaven. She passed away when she was five. In hindsight, there’s so much I would do differently. When she was here, my focus wasn’t where it should have been.

Of course, I would want to shower her with gifts and all her favorite things, especially during Christmas, however, I have learned that that only brings temporary and superficial happiness as well as empty pockets.

Now as my daughter’s 15th birthday came and the holidays draw near, her absence is ever so present. My heart is heavy and tuned into to what matters most.

Take it from a mom who knows, here are 7 gift ideas for your children that don’t cost a dime.

7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

1. Give them your time.  Give those precious kiddos the last minutes before bedtime, the first minutes in the morning awakening them with hugs with wide open arms.  Take time to push them on the swings, play cards, or attend that special event.  Give them your undivided attention when you walk through that door from work, greeting them like they are the best gift ever, because they are!

2. Give them your ear. Listen to them.  Put down all the technology that we are chained to and really hear what your children are saying. Listen to the stories of their day, the drama with their friends, and the excitement about their activities.  Listen to their adorable giggles, what makes them smile and what hurts them.  They will forever be grateful for this.

3. Give them unconditional love. Tell them you love them daily, even when they mess up.  When they spill a bag of flour all over the kitchen floor, or when their grades are not as good as they should be, let them know how much they mean to you.  When they overflow the toilet or paint on walls, embrace their uniqueness and make sure they know they are special.  And when they get on your last nerve, take a deep breath, and be thankful that they are there alive, and always end every conflict with an “I love you.”

4. Give your kids the gift of teaching them about the true meaning of Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of presents, shopping, and Santa Claus.  Let them know that Christmas is about love. Let them know they matter, that they were created for a reason and are beloved in the eyes of our heavenly father.   Show them and teach them that faith is everlasting and provides guiding principles for life.

5. Give them the gift of giving back.  Take them to volunteer at a homeless shelter, purchase a gift for a child in need, or other philanthropic acts, being sure to explain the challenges and difficulties so many endure.  Let them see life from a different perspective. And as a bonus for all you parents, your children will gain hearts filled with compassion for others, guaranteed.

6. Give your children the gift of gratitude.  As they learn to be thankful and grateful for everything they have in life, they will gain maturity, responsibility, opening their eyes to the value of hard work.

7. Give them encouragement. Make sure they know how proud you are of them. When they pass a test, get dressed by themselves, clean the house, or make the sports team, tell them how delighted you are. This will empower them with confidence and give them the courage to explore and try new things.

These seem so simple, yet they are gifts that I have neglected to give my children on many occasions. Things and times I have taken for granted, which have haunted me with regret.

I too have been guilty of showing my children with tangible gifts that go unappreciated time and time again, soon to be forgotten.  As parents, I know we all have.   So before you hit those sales in the stores, this year, I challenge you to give your children something they will never forget, making those memories that will remain with them forever.   Your heart will thank you and so will they.


Navigating Relationships Between Childhood Friendships and Grief

Childhood can be a tricky thing for growing little humans.  Finding where you fit in, figuring out your personality and who you want to be, how to act and learning what to say, can be challenging to say the least.  Add a bit of grief or struggle on top and a child’s world is compounded immensely.

Having four children sprinkled through elementary and middle school, this is something that has laid heavily on my heart lately as I have observed my children navigate through the tangled web of friendships in their schools.  

Finding the true definitions of a friend has been a challenge for them. They have experimented with learning lessons the hard way by hurt feelings, being excluded from games on the playgrounds, pushed down, being told to “leave, you’re not wanted here,” to “I’m not supposed to talk to you,” among many others.

It’s rough. All kidding aside, the last thing any parent wants is to have their child being treated terribly arriving home after school with tears in their eyes. It opens your heart to places you never felt, having these innocent beings reliant on you to provide comfort and understanding when you have none.

 Yes, it  tears at the tender heart deep down. I wish I could protect them from such pain.

No one wishes for their children to be ostracized by their peers.  Thankfully, my kids are resilient.  They are real, honest, kind-hearted and strong.  I am so proud of each and every one of them. 

Don’t get me wrong, they each have their moments of irresponsibility, speaking without thinking, or rudeness that needs corrected, among many other undesirable traits. Outnumbered, they’ve at times made me think I will never survive the four of them with all the joking, fighting, yelling and craziness my sweet darlings provide.  Yet despite it all, I can say I am truly proud of the individuals they are becoming.

I work extremely hard to try to instill the proper values in their expanding minds. So far, my monsters are well rounded, compassionate kids with big hearts, willing to help anyone out.  

They don’t care what anyone dresses like.  On any normal day, you will find my kiddos in hand me downs, prized apparel acquired at yard sales and thrift shops.  Their second-hand shoes and mismatched socks make them who they are.  Thankfully, they don’t pay attention to what people wear or feel inadequate to be lured into comparison.       

They don’t discriminate based on social hierarchy, popular status, or appearances.  They don’t bat an eye to unruly hair or tattered clothing and remain joyful non-materialistic little people.

In our family, we just don’t have time for that.  A quick glance will reveal my little people frequently covered in dirt wearing stained shirts with chocolate faces. To some they may look like they just rolled off the wagon train, and that’s okay. 

Through it all, they remain confident in who God made them to be.

Our children have visited homeless shelters on many occasions and have observed life on the other side of the fence.  It has humbled them, yet opened their hearts to see children who are just like them, ignoring the different lifestyles while engaging in laughs and play with other children as if they’d been friends for years.

They look forward to saying their prayers every night together, they know what real pain and sorrow feel like.

They don’t judge based on gossip or rumors.  They don’t bully others attempting to outcast others from their circle of friends, even though others may have done this to them. 

It’s is my hope that they will always reciprocate and never take advantage of others. They are not fake, pretending to be someone’s friend one day and then the next day not knowing who they are. 

Fancy new cars, name brand clothes, economic status or living in a fancy house doesn’t apply to them.  They can mingle and mix with the best of them, joining hearts with all kinds.

My children have bloomed into compassionate hearts that are the first to console a hurting friend or to lend an ear if someone is sad. They are proficient in seeing broken hearts, observing their parents sorrow and unending love for their sister in heaven.

And you’ll find that our house is not immaculate. Sure, we do the basic house work but have found there is so much more to life than stressing about weather all the toys are picked up, or the floors swept and mopped daily.

They may not look or act like they have it all together, but inside they are perfectly fit. The puzzle pieces of their soul are connecting at just the right moments, fertilizing that growing heart.

You see, our family has learned the hard way, what really matters in life.  Years ago, we didn’t realize the value of what we had until it was suddenly taken away from us.   We’ve reached the lowest of the lows together and are slowly crawling our way back out.   One day at a time, 8 years and counting.

Enduring my young daughter’s tragic death was a slap in the face to the life I was living.   One thing grief has taught me, from being at my lowest point in life, was to be humble.  I was humbled by the simplicity of this life, humbled by the blessings God has given me.  Contentment and gratitude rose to the forefront of my reality.  And it not only taught me, but my children as well.

Lately, the uneasy feeling of grief and friendships has hit my family pretty hard.   Hurt feelings from people you thought were friends, who turned out have never heard of the golden rule or believe it doesn’t to apply to them.  Observing my children question someone’s harsh words, not understanding this fleshly world we live in-I struggle to find words to offer as an explanation.

However, I can say that having your heart torn open and shattered beyond belief, makes you appreciate the life you have, fuels you to live it with a purpose and passion like never before. It’s crazy to think of how our family may not have understood these valuable lessons had our daughter not passed away.

We all need to experience frequent reality checks and to treat others with love and kindness. Most importantly, we need to remember that it doesn’t matter what others think-we are all  equal and unique in God’s eyes, made for a special purpose and nothing can ever change that.

So I leave you with this heartwarming quote from Proverbs 31 Ministries to ponder….




Finding Hidden Blessings While Reminiscing Down Roads of Years Past

Life the past few weeks has been a bit chaotic, so I guess normal you could say! I’ve been working on a few projects and tending to my herd, so writing has taken a backseat yet again. I’ve fallen behind but all I can do, is simply all I can do. Here are a few highlights and more from the heart.

It started off last week with a wild morning at work.
I wanted to warm up my hot chocolate, so I plugged in the microwave that we had just moved into our office. Strangely, it was not plugged in, I thought to myself. I pushed the popcorn button just to see if it worked. I then went back to the pile of papers on my desk, got distracted giving me a momentary lapse of memory. It wasn’t one minute before I smelled smoke and observed gray matter escaping from the red little appliance. I jumped up and walked over to it just as flames erupted inside. BIG flames. In a state of panic, I opened the door to see what was left of the paper microwave manual, flames rapidly burning as it left a trail of black dust. I grabbed my cold hot chocolate, tore off the lid and threw it into the fire. It wasn’t enough to stop the flames, so I ran down the hallway to the bathroom to fill a cup of water. Finally, that seemed to seal the deal, however, the remnants of smoke lingered all day and proved to be quite the conversation piece for clients.

Yes, pretty ridiculous it was. Again, why do these things always happen to me?

The days continued on. Later in the week my critters were overly active leaving trails of evidence everywhere I turned. Aside from my little guy leaving evidence of his love for butter, finding the nasty banana peel in the tea towel drawer, nearly tripping over the robbed piggy bank in front of my bedroom closet, and driving around with Clifford the big red dog on top of my car for days, things were good. www.grievinggumdrops.com


Would you believe that the flash drive my book manuscript was saved on acquired a virus of some sort, leaving the entire thing wiped clean? Yeah, another nightmare happened not too long ago. Panicked, I would try to salvage and recover my documents with no success. My heart sank. Years of thoughts and emotions combined with hundreds of pages was gone. Thankfully, my intuition told me to print it off two weeks prior to review so I didn’t lose it completely, just had to undergo hours of re-typing, making the loss a lot less severe. Thank you God!

Next, we geared up and took another trip across the state so my oldest could get his braces off and the retainer on. Six of us piled in the family truckster packed to the ceiling for five days. With lots planned, we acquired some soul-searching moments along the way.

It began with a visit to the kid’s old preschool teacher and daycare provider. Twelve years ago I randomly found her in the phone book, in search of care for Lydia and her siblings that would arrive years later. Upon our first visit, I found her to be incredible. Seemingly too good to be true. But as divine circumstance would happen, she would come to be the most extraordinary person playing such an influential and essential role in the life of our family. Having not seen her for years, it was wonderful to visit and feel the love and compassion that I had felt many years ago walking into her home for the first time.

As we arrived Friday morning, the memories came rushing back. The brightly colored walls of the pre-school couldn’t help but make me smile. Children’s artwork decorated the space showing an immense love for these little beings. Instantly, my mind was in rewind mode as I could see Lydia playing with her friends, bossing them around and leading the pack. I saw her big blue eyes looking out the window at me as I left the driveway on my way to work as she peered through the window on her toes. I saw her hugging her little brother, consoling him so he wouldn’t cry as I left. Self-assured and loving, she was a comfort to many. The necklace she made her teacher hanging on the wall, still there to this day, as was the pink and purple butterfly sticker, speaking those words “In memory of Lydia Marie,” prominently displayed for all to see. My eyes welled up with tears as the years of warm thoughts filled the depths of my core.



How was it that I left my most precious beings in the care of another person? At the time for all those years, I didn’t realize exactly the importance of the time I had with my children. The guilt from being a working mother often haunted me…What they say is true…you never regret spending more time with family, but you will always regret spending time at work. I quickly learned it was precious time you can never get back.

Our weekend plugged along as we visited the pumpkin patch we had loved as a family for seasons. Messy corn mazes, bumpy hay rides, caramel apples, warm apple cider donuts, and picking out the perfect orange pumpkins is always a favorite time. Lydia was with us, maybe not physically but in our hearts she was right alongside.


Loving the pumpkin patch!

And then, another bittersweet moment captured me as I took my daughter to get her ears pierced. She is nearly five, and approaching that age that Lydia was when she passed away. My thoughts were in overdrive reminding me that Lydia always wanted to get her ears pierced, yet I didn’t think she was old enough and was making her wait until some magical date that I really had no clue of.

Something I heavily regret to this day. What was the big deal?

She loved trips to the mall, which housed the exciting, fun and enticing jewelry store and nearly always resulted in her picking out her latest bright-colored head band and bracelets. Excursions to the mall in Lydia’s day were usually accompanied by a brief stop by the coffee stand for hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll on the way home. Always a good time.

So with my heart leading the way, we decided there was no time like the present to get some sparkling jewels in those cute little ears. My sweet little girl was beaming. When it was over, my heart sank as I felt a sense of accomplishment, yet failure. Failure from the reminder of all the things Lydia and I never had the chance to do.

It didn’t take me long to push those destructive and undesirable thoughts aside and savor the moment. My girl was adorable in her sparkly rainbow flower earrings and I was so thankful to be able to share that moment with her.
And so, in brief and priceless times like these I silently count my blessings and proudly thank God for all He has given me.