Register to Ring for the Salvation Army

It just wouldn't be Christmas without hearing that iconic jingle of the Salvation Army bell ringer outside of your neighborhood store.  Did you know that just a one day of bell ringing at one location can generate enough donations for your local Salvation Army to provide a homeless person with one night of shelter and hot meals for an entire day?  

Rachel and I volunteered last year as Salvation Army bell ringers.  It was a lot of fun and it was a blessing in so many ways.  It was wonderful to help raise donations for such a great organization but it also warmed our hearts to see the smiles on people's faces as they donated and to hear their stories of how the Salvation Army has personally touched their lives during difficult times.  

This year, I mentioned to some of the other moms in Rachel's American Heritage Girls troop that we could get a group of girls to volunteer together as bell ringers.  One of the moms seemed surprised that just anyone could volunteer for this.  She thought the bell ringers were all employees of the Salvation Army.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Bell ringers are regular people from your community, just like you and me!  And the Salvation Army NEEDS volunteers right now.  If bell ringers aren't out there then all of those potential donations are missed.  

I hope you are asking yourself now, "How can I sign up?"

Just go to the Register to Ring website!  When I go to the site, we have several store locations right around our home to choose from.  We personally always like to go to Hobby Lobby because Rachel and I just love that store.  There are shifts available throughout the day to choose from.  You can sign up for hourly shifts but the Salvation Army requests that you at least sign up for a minimum of a 2 hour shift.  Shifts are available to serve from now until Christmas Eve.

What does a Salvation Army bell ringer have to do?

You arrive at your designated location and time about 10 minutes early.  You might be relieving another volunteer who already has the red kettle and sign set up or you may have to do a little set up on your own.  I imagine each store has different policies and different Salvation Army locations might each do things a little differently.  For our location, if the kettle and sign isn't already in place we have specific instructions on where to find the sign and tripod to hold the sign inside our Hobby Lobby store.  Rachel and I simply carried that out of the store and set it up and the designated side of the store.  If the red kettle isn't already out from a previous volunteer's shift then a Salvation Army person will show up at the start of your shift to deliver the kettle to you.  They also provide a bag with two bells and two red aprons.  At the end of the shift, if another volunteer is signed up after you, they will just show up and take over your spot.  If no one else is signed up after you then a Salvation Army person will arrive to pick up the red kettle, bells, and aprons and you will return the sign and tripod to the designated place inside the store.

We usually try to wear something a little Christmas-y like red and green clothes, a Santa hat, etc.  The Salvation Army encourages bell ringers to greet the store customers with a smile or by saying, "Merry Christmas!".  You can even sing Christmas carols or play an instrument to bring some extra holiday cheer.  You don't ask for donations.  Just let the customers know that you are there and they will come.

I signed Rachel's AHG Explorer troop up for two shifts of two hours each and we had a total of six ringers.  It was so much fun watching the girls greet customers and sing Christmas carols together.  I know they attracted more donations because of their cuteness.  But it was also a great experience for them and taught them how they can do even small things to serve those in their community.

Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum

Christmas is a magical time of year!  There are so many wonderful events in the Dallas area to help families celebrate this joyous holiday season but one of our favorite Christmas traditions is to visit Dallas Arboretum, especially their 12 Days of Christmas exhibit!  There are lights, Christmas carols, hot chocolate, beautiful gardens, plus lots of fun activities for the whole family!

The 12 Days of Christmas exhibit features twelve beautiful Victorian-style gazebos throughout the gardens.  Each gazebo is numbered and represents one of the 12 Days of Christmas complete with charming people and whimsical animals that move and spin around the gazebo as if dancing to the Christmas carols that are playing outside. We have visited the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit for several years now but we have never attended it at night.  Wow!  It is even prettier at night!

One of my favorites is Gazebo 7: Seven Swans A-Swimming.  Look how beautiful it is!

But pictures just can't capture the beauty of the swans swimming around the frozen fountain.  You will have to see it to believe it.

Here is a snippet of video of the Gazebo 12: Twelve Drummers Drumming...

Reliant is a major sponsor for the 12 Days of Christmas event and you can get a cool light-up Reliant Santa hat just like we did.  They are available November 29, December 5, 13, 14, 23 from 6-9 p.m. at the main ticket booth.

I think the guys enjoyed Gazebo 10: Ten Lords A-Leaping the most because all of the Lords were all on ice skates!  And yes, even my teen wore a light-up hat!

There is a map to show you where each of the gazebos are located but you can just wander along the paths and find each one of them. 

While you are strolling the gardens, make sure you stop by the 30-foot spruce Christmas tree in the center of the garden.  It is so beautiful.

Near the Christmas tree you will find the Café on the Green which offers special holiday drinks like pumpkin lattes, mulled wine, and Mexican hot chocolate as well as treats like pumpkin bars, holiday paninis, and even a bowl of soup in a Sourdough bread bowl. We didn't have time to stop in at the Café but we did find several stations along the main path for warm beverages and even a station for snacks.

I was such a happy momma spending the evening with my family among the gardens filled with all of the sparkle of the Christmas season!

Of course, even without all of the extra dazzle of Christmas, the Arboretum is still an amazing garden full of the wonders of nature so take your time as you are walking through to be sure you don't miss a thing!

There are so many exciting things to see at do during Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum.  Here is a listing of some of them....

The 12 Days of Christmas, Daily, 9-5, November 9-December 31
Adult: $15, Seniors (65 or older): $12, Children (2-12 years): $10
Enjoy elaborately decorated Victorian-style gazebos on display every day during the holiday festival.

The 12 Days of Christmas at Night featuring 500,000 lights, Wednesday-Sunday, 6-9 p.m., November 14-December 30
Adults: $20, Seniors (65 or older): $15 Children (2-12 years): $10
The garden will be open late five nights a week for a special, lighted night-time experience.

Holiday Tea, Daily, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Bring family and friends together and create an annual tradition with holiday tea at Restaurant DeGolyer, lavishly decorated for the season. Reservations required. Call 214-515-6511. Ages 13 and up are permitted in the tea room.

Visits with Santa, Wednesday evenings, 6-9 p.m., November 14-December 19, Saturday and Sunday, 12-4 p.m., November 25-December 24
Santa is back in the garden this year in the perfect holiday setting--Crape Myrtle Allee, resplendent with twinkling lights. Share Christmas wishes with the jolly old man and take a photo to commemorate the occasion. The Dallas Arboretum Volunteer Advisory Board will be taking pictures of the memorable moments for donations, and guests are welcome to take the photo home.

Elves Workshop
Children can visit the Elves Workshop in the Ann Stuart Courtyard where they can write a letter to Santa to let him know their Christmas wish list and then drop it in the mail box there to make its way to the North Pole.  They can also create a Santa hat, decorate a reindeer using candy canes, toss a "snowball", pin the nose on the snowman, or make a holiday hat or card to give to someone special.  The Elves Workshop will be open from 6:00 - 9:00 pm Wednesday-Sunday evenings through December 30th.

Outdoor Movie, "The Polar Express", November 29, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Martin Rutchik Concert Stage and Lawn
Nothing brings back holiday memories quite like the movie, "The Polar Express". Guests can take a ride on the joyful train and explore the mysteries of the North Pole all the way up to Santa's front door. Bring a friend, bundle up and enjoy one of the holidays most beloved movies.

Lake Highlands Wranglers Performance, December 2, 2 p.m. at the Entry Plaza
Watch the local Wranglers dance and perform to some holiday tunes.

Pride of Texas Music Festival, December 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Jonsson Color Garden and Café on the Green
Hear all the holiday classics as Dallas metroplex students perform songs of the season. Ensembles perform at Jonsson Color Garden and choirs perform in front of the 30-foot Christmas tree.

Holiday Activities for the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden

Animal Adventures with the Dallas Zoo (Appropriate for all ages), November 12, 11:15 a.m.-Noon
The Dallas Zoo is bringing a few of their favorite friends for an animal encounter in the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden. Stop by for a wild adventure with interesting critters.

TECH Truck (Appropriate for Ages 5 and up), November 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at The Moody Oasis
Tinker, Engineer, Create, Hack!  Join the TECH Truck staff from the Perot Museum in the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden for a hands-on experience.

Holiday Hunt for Santa's Helpers (All ages can participate!), November 24-December 24, throughout the Children's Adventure Garden
Help look for Santa's helpers, like a frog on a log, a deer right here, a fox in the rocks, a squirrel on a whirl, an owl on a trowel, or a bobcat in a hat. Take a picture with four (4) of Santa's helpers and bring them to the Exploration Center to redeem a prize.  

Letter-Writing to Santa (Appropriate for Ages 5 and up), Mondays-Fridays Only, All Day, November 26-December 24 in the Exploration Center
Come to the letter-writing workshop to write a letter to Santa. Special paper, pens, stickers; everything you would need to catch Santa's attention is provided. Some of Santa's helpers may stop by with some inside tips.

Creative Corner: Oh What Fun! (All ages can participate!), Saturdays and Sundays Only, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., December 1-25 in the Exploration Center
Stop by the Exploration Center and create a holiday craft to take home.

Plant Lab: Let It Snow (Appropriate for ages 6 and up), December 3-23, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. in the Exploration Center
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow... in the Plant Lab this December! Explore the wonders of melting, snowflakes, and endothermic reactions.

Plant Lab Extravaganza (Appropriate for ages 6 and up), December 24-30, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. in the Exploration Center
December 24 - Strawberry DNA
December 26 - Elephant's Toothpaste
December 27 - Monster Molecule Mist
December 28 - Starchy Night
December 29 - How Sweet It Is
December 30 - Let It Snow

Creative Corner: New Year's Wishes Sponsored by Neiman Marcus, December 27-31, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Exploration Center
As the new year sneaks closer, warm up in the Exploration Center and create a wishing wand.  Using plant parts and other natural objects, decorate wands to take home and bring joy to those around. Frolic through the garden, using a wishing wand to wish New Year's good luck to everyone.

BOGO Wednesdays
Every Wednesday through December 26
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Buy one, get one admission every Wednesday. 

The Dallas Arboretum is located at 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas.  For questions, please contact the staff at 214-515-6615.  You can also visit their website or follow the Dallas Arboretum Facebook page.

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Review}

I have had the pleasure of reviewing Balancing Diapers and Deadlines by Lisa Tanner Writing.  Lisa is one of our own Review Crew mompreneurs and she has written this online course to help moms juggle raising kids, managing a household, and running a business.  

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines
While I'm not running a business per se, I do work from home as a homeschool teacher for my two children.  That's my "business"...and, trust me, that takes more patience and planning than I ever used when I was in the corporate world!  But also, someday I'd like to spend more time on this blog and grow it to the point that it might bring in a little income.  I think Lisa's course is helpful for moms just like me because she teaches how to streamline your home to make things run more smoothly so you are able to maximize your time and meet your deadlines.

There are 30 lessons in the program that are divided over 8 units.

The course offers some great ideas about setting goals and scheduling your time.  You should write down your goals for your business (or homeschool, in my case) and share those with the family.  Make sure you are all on the same page.  Also, when dealing with kids and households, you have to be flexible.  Rigid time schedules may not be the best fit because it is hard to stay on a time schedule when each day is different and so many things are out of your control.  Algebra is just hard and some days my kid might need to spend extra time on that subject.  Or a toilet overflows.  Or we have a doctor appointment in the middle of the day and who knows how long that will take.  Instead of trying to stick to a schedule laid out in 15 minute increments, come up with a plan for the day with a list of what needs to get accomplished and a suggested order of how the day should be proceed but allowing flexibility to cut or add things along the way, as needed.

I love that Lisa offers some great ideas for running a household by minimizing your decisions.  She suggests letting each child have a day where they are in charge of certain decisions and they are the main helper in making things happen such as cooking dinner.  Man, I like that idea.  It's just one less decision I have to worry about!  She also encourages a house cleaning schedule where everyone works together to focus on one room each day.  Other rooms might need tidying up throughout the week but at least each room gets a good cleaning once a week.  There is also a full unit just on meal planning.

The course also covers how to manage everything at a sustainable pace.  It covers taking care of yourself like making sure you get enough sleep and finding time to relax.  You also have to set boundaries and know when it is better to just pay someone for a service than to always try to do everything yourself.  I should probably read this unit again.

There is a whole unit on Growing A Business With Your Kids Around.  It covers lessons on kids at various ages and how they can feel included and even helpful in your business.  There is even a lesson on managing your business with special needs children.  Here is just a glimpse at some of the great ideas suggested for integrating kids of various ages into your business....taking pictures for your business, putting postage on mail, add affiliate links to your posts, scribe for you in the car, and straighten up your desk, just to name a few.

I have really enjoyed working through Balancing Diapers and Deadlines.  I like the course is self-paced and that the lessons are short so I can complete a lesson while sitting in a doctor's waiting room (got to maximize your time where you can!).  I like that it is all text-based so there are no videos or interactive pages to slow down my progress.  I want to just read at my own pace.  There are action step assignments that I can choose to do to implement the suggestions along the way and even printable worksheets to help me apply the lessons to my own chaos life.  Once I have completed a lesson, I just click on the "Mark Complete" button and the program will remember where I left off and show me a percentage of the course that I have completed so far.  

I think all moms could benefit from this course even if they don't homeschool or run a business.  It is full of great ideas for to just make a mom's day run more smoothly while cherishing time with their children and meeting deadlines too.  I have already implemented many of the suggestions from the course and I can feel a difference in our day.

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Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Lisa Tanner Writing Reviews}

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