The Giving Tree

Over the past few years I have followed my beautiful cousin Aubrey’s journey in finding the Spirit of Christmas through service. Her ideas have given me inspiration to create better traditions for my family during the holidays. I hope that by sharing her story, others may be uplifted and inspired, and be able to make their futures bright. Here is her story about creating the #PaxtonGivingTree in green below.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

   “Three years ago on Christmas day 2013, after all the presents were unwrapped and the day was coming to an end, I turned to my husband and said, “I still don’t feel like it’s Christmas.” I remember all month long waiting for the spirit of Christmas to come, and it didn’t. There wasn’t anything really different that year. Christmas was the same day it had always been. I’d listened to the same Christmas music and ate the same treats that I love, so I knew that the problem was with me.

 

It was a busy time for our family. We had just added daughter #3 to our ranks the month prior, and I’m sure I was exhausted and caught up in figuring out how to run a whole new family dynamic…let’s be honest, 3 kids is hard! But it broke my heart that, because of my attitude, I had not only taken the true meaning of the holiday away from myself, but in doing so I was doing a disservice to my children.

 

So when December 2014 rolled around I was determined to make our house feel the spirit of the holiday! And the best way that I knew how to do that was by serving others. That year a friend and I had come up with an adorable advent calendar in the shape of a tree. I called it our Paxton Giving Tree! I put a little treat and a service opportunity in each box for each day of December leading up to Christmas. My girls were so excited to have a fun new way to count down to the holiday and I was excited to get the spirit of the holiday in our home, and it WORKED! Christmas 2014 was the best Christmas that I could remember having with my little family! Not only were we thinking about and serving others, but we were EXCITED about doing it! I knew that this was the start of a very fun and exciting tradition for our family!

 

This year, as I’m sitting down and coming up with ways that my family can serve others in December, I can’t help but think back over the last two years and the many awesome experiences we’ve shared as a family.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Doing a litter walk around the neighborhood.

I think my very favorite one came just this last summer during July. All summer long the girls had been asking to do a bake sale. I suggested that we could maybe do one, but wouldn’t it be fun if we decided that with the money we earned from it we could put toward helping out a family this coming Christmas for our Paxton Giving Tree tradition. My kids responses made me very happy! This is how it went.

 

Madison (7): But why would we need money for that?

Me: Well buying things for Christmas costs money, and there are some families that don’t have enough to get extra things at Christmas time. We could help with that.

Madison: But mom you don’t need money to have Christmas…isn’t it just about love and family? That’s the important thing.

Kennedie(5): And celebrating that Jesus was born!

Reagan(3): And Santa! (Haha we’re still working on that one)

This was the best conversation ever! It was totally a mom win moment! I’m so grateful that my kids know what Christmas is really about…even in July!

I truly feel like my kids are learning not only what the true meaning of Christmas is, but also what it means to love and serve others. It has taught them many lessons about others who are less fortunate, and they have compassion for others that I know has come as a direct blessing of our tradition.

 

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Supporting a local food drive by gathering supplies for those in need.

Like I said, this month I’m sitting down and making a list of things that we can do during our December service, but I would LOVE to hear any ideas that others may have! Please share! Also, if you want to keep posted about what my family will be doing this year, you are welcome to search the tag #paxtongivingtree on Facebook or Instagram.”

Isn’t this amazing? What a beautiful example Aubrey is to her kids about being Christlike. I love how involved her little children are in this wonderful tradition. Here are few more pictures and ideas for acts of service you could perform for your family’s giving tree.

I love this giving tree idea!What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Taking cookies and thank you notes to their primary teachers.
I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Leaving thank you notes for the mail carrier and trash collectors.
I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Placing quarters in all of the vending machines!

The possibilities are endless! Be Creative!

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

For more inspiration to come closer to Christ this holiday season check out this video in preparation for the #LightTheWorld initiative.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless!

PS: If you want to check out Aubrey’s cute shop for girl’s hairbows, check her out on instagram.com @the.happy.squirrel.shop.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

 

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

This weekend, we celebrated my son’s 4th birthday. I cannot believe that he joined our family and changed our lives forever 4 whole years ago! Time is such a strange thing, it seems to stand still, yet circle around at light speed all at the same time. Something about this month is emotional for me. As his birthday comes around each year, I can’t help but reminisce on the events leading to his birth, and that beautiful moment when I first heard him cry. My life would never be the same again. In that moment, everything belonged. I felt my purpose, and the joy I shared with my husband as our son was born was more celestial than I could have ever imagined, or hoped it to be.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord
My loving husband did so much for me while I was pregnant. I am so glad, I had him by my side to help me through it all.

All throughout my pregnancy I would envision how my labor would go. I planned to have a natural birth doing most of my laboring at home. Once I got to the hospital, I planned to labor without an epidural. I didn’t want to have an IV, but wanted a heparin lock to provide quick access to an IV in case of an emergency. I had taken a birthing class, and had a birth plan typed out to take with me to the hospital. Being a structured individual, having a plan comforted me. However, as many know, sometimes babies have a mind of their own, and labors do not always progress the way you think they will. Having my son was a very humbling experience. It taught me to really trust in my Father in Heaven, and how to act upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit, even when it was uncomfortable for me. I was able to stay unbelievably calm in what would normally be a very scary situation for me. I have no doubt that there were angels there comforting me along the way.  Here is how the story goes.

It was 5 days past my son’s due date, and at 1:30 am, my water broke. The fluid was clear and I was not having any contractions so I went back to bed. At about 2:30 am I woke up again to use the restroom and this time the fluid was a golden green color. I still wasn’t having contractions, and I wanted to do a majority of laboring at home, so I tried to contact my doctor to see if he thought it was safe, to stay home, or if I needed to go to the hospital. After trying to call several times and only reaching a voicemail, I decided to call the hospital. They said that the golden green mucus was meconium. This meant that the baby had passed his first stool in the womb. This can sometimes be an indication that the baby is in distress so they recommended that I come in. We gathered some last minute things and by 3:30 am we were off to the hospital. I started having very minor contractions about 3 min apart in the car. We arrived to the hospital by 4:00 am and went to triage.

The nurse in triage confirmed that my water had broken and we were admitted. She checked me and found I was 85% effaced and I was only dilated to a one. I was a little disappointed that I was not further progressed, since I wanted to do most of my laboring in the comfort of my own home. However, my highest priority was making sure my baby was safe, so it was comforting to know that I was in a hospital with people who were ready to assist if anything went wrong.

By 7:00 am we were finally in our laboring room where my husband gave me a priesthood blessing. We decided to take a nap since we only had a few hours of sleep that night. The contractions were too uncomfortable for me to nap, but they weren’t too painful yet. I was happy my husband was able to get some rest. I wanted him to have energy later on to lend support when the labor became more intense. I tried several positions on the hospital bed, standing and on the birthing ball. I began to feel exhausted from the contractions, and lack of sleep so I decided to take a shower to help me relax. I felt much better after the shower so I tried to nap again. This time my husband sat with me in the hospital bed with his arm around me supporting my tired body. Finally in my husband’s arms, I was able to relax enough to fall asleep.

Then things took a turn. We were only sleeping for about half an hour when suddenly the baby began kicking very hard. I had never been woken up by his kicks before so this seemed strange. I could hear his heart beat on the fetal monitor, and it started to slow and eventually stop. Though I was terrified for my baby, I was able to stay calm. I took a few deep breaths and tried to nudge the baby around, and change my position hoping his heartbeat would return. A nurse rushed in (the machine must have notified her that there was no reading on the heartbeat.) She tried moving the monitor around on my belly to get a better reading. It took four minutes before they found his heart beat again. Those were the longest four minutes of my life.

I tried staying as calm as possible taking deep breaths. My mama bear instinct kicked in.  If my baby was in distress, I couldn’t be in distress too, I needed to be strong for him. This thought kept me calm. While the nurse was looking for the heartbeat during those scary four minutes, another nurse came in and gave me an oxygen mask. She hooked my heparin lock up to an IV. It started to stinging, so I thought something was wrong with it. The nurse quickly responded and put another heparin lock in my other hand.

A short while later the reading on his heart beat was lost again. All I could think was, “My baby is suffocating in there, we need to get him out! I want him safe in my arms!” The nurse did an internal exam to see if I had progressed enough to try and deliver vaginally. She found that I was still only dilated to one cm after several hours of labor. The nurse called my OBGYN to give him an update on the baby and me. He wanted to do an Emergency Cesarean Section. When I heard this, I felt relief, and a very strong sense of calm came over me. I knew that this was what we needed to do to keep my son safe. It is insane how much your personal preferences change when your babies safety is in jeopardy. I would do anything to make sure he was safe! (Mom’s do hard things for the welfare of their children, even get C-Sections!) I knew he needed to come quickly, and I was so grateful for modern technology and capable doctors and nurses that were prepared to save my baby’s life.

I have never been good with needles. I tend to faint when blood or needles are around, or even when they are talked about too graphically. It is something that I have struggled with since I was a child. Throughout my pregnancy, getting blood work done was always very scary for me. I found that if the phlebotomist let me lay down during the draw, and if I had my husband there holding my hand talking to me and distracting me, I could get through it without fainting.

I told the nurse about my fainting tendencies, and asked if I could lay down and have my husband with me when they administered the anesthesia. Although they were grateful that I let them know my tendency to faint, this particular anesthesia had to be administered while I was sitting up. Also, my husband would not be allowed in the operating room until after the anesthesia had been administered. This information would normally have created much anxiety, but I was overcome by a great feeling of calm as they wheeled me away from my husband and into the operating room.

Though my husband was not permitted to enter the room, I believe that angels accompanied me. I felt God’s love so strong, and knew I was not alone. I was sure that there were ancestors that had passed on before me, there in that room by my side giving me peace. As they administered the anesthesia, they had a nurse stand in front of me and I put my arms around her neck until they were done. It was kinda like a big bear hug, and I didn’t feel faint at all.

My husband  was permitted to join me, and he lovingly stroked my hair as the doctor worked. We couldn’t believe that it was finally time to meet our little one. All of a sudden we heard a loud scream from our son. My OBGYN jokingly said, “Hey, you’re not out yet, you can’t scream!” We laughed and cried with pure joy. Life is such a miracle! I can’t believe that we had the privilege to create this amazing little child together!

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

The nurse took him across the room to make sure he was healthy. My husband was with him the whole time. Once they knew he was healthy, they brought him by my face and I was able to see him for the first time. He was so perfect. His eyes were open and he was just looking around. I cried and said “Mommy loves you so much, we have been waiting for you for a long time, we are so glad you are here safe.”

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

My husband accompanied him back to our room and they held hands while the doctor finished working on me. My husband waited to hold him so that I could be the first one to hold him. They kept him in the warmer to make sure his temperature stayed high enough. When the surgery was done, I joined them in the room and the three of us held hands. I couldn’t believe that we were finally parents! Nothing but joy filled my heart.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

The nurse said that instead of using the warmer, I could hold him with a blanket to keep him warm. I had waited my entire life for this moment, and it was as sweet as I had anticipated. There is nothing like holding your baby for the first time. I just loved snuggling him skin to skin on my chest.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

I was able to nurse him and daddy got a turn to hold him too. He was so proud to be the father of this little boy. What an amazing thing it was to finally have him there with us.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

Now 4 years have gone by: This boy has taken me on an emotional roller coaster. He has taught me so much. He has had boundless energy since day one. He has taught me about unconditional love, and patience, and most of all how to have fun. His personality is so different than mine in many ways, and he has taught me to laugh, and to find wonder in the beautiful things in life. In many ways he is just like me. He is stubborn, and is all about following the rules. Sometimes when I look at him all I can see is my husband, and other times he reminds me of myself. He is getting so big, adventurous and learning so fast. Oh how I love this boy!

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord
This boy has so much personality! He cracks me up. I am so lucky he is mine!

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