Inspiration

Helping and Serving Others

This Thanksgiving was a wonderful time to focus on everything that we are thankful for. As adults it seems easy enough because we have spent our lives living and experiencing the highs and lows that come with life but our children don’t always know how other people live.

This year, we thought it would be a great time to have the family show up and serve Thanksgiving dinner to over 300 homeless people that live in Orange County.

My kids were so excited and a little scared to help since it was their first time! They weren’t sure what to expect but seeing mommy and daddy step into action definitely made it easier for them. Children are such natural givers and have such beautiful hearts full of compassion.

We were so proud to watch them help others. Even more so, I loved the question they had for us at the end of the day on the ride home.

It was such a great time to learn and teach them important things not just through words but through their experience. It was a very powerful and moving day!

I would encourage you to find a need and fill it as best as you could. At the very least, just showing up at affairs like this with an open heart that’s ready to help and serve will not only fill other people’s needs but also your own heart. I’ve found that it really is true what they say about being blessed when you reach out to other people.

I think that this year, my children found the true meaning of what it is to be thankful. With knowing that comes the desire to inculcate that into them through the years.

As Christmas grows near, there will be so many ways to help—across the country, while the weather shifts, little offerings like simple as jackets will be needed and of course there is always a need for food.

Below are some website you can visit if you feel inclined to help out finically and of course you can always find local churches that need people to help out as well:

This year at Christmas, our church has Christmas trees outside with names of families and children that have written a Christmas wish. You can pick out one or two or even purchase the entire tree!

While we want to protect our kids and give them all the things we didn’t have growing up, we can never forget that there are so many people out there going without and that the most incredible gift you can help your kids realize is the gift of compassion and giving!

May you and your family relish this beautiful Christmas season and be blessed!

XO,

Tara

 

On Things that I am Thankful For

THANKSGIVING !

As it gets closer to Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking of all the things that I am thankful for. In my life, I feel that it is essential to be grateful and mindful of the blessings we get every day. This allows the abundance in our life to keep coming. Mind you, I am not speaking of material things but rather of what I believe are truths to this life that we lead.

All of us come here with a purpose; we each get amazing gifts and talents that we have the chance to develop. Many of us know right away what they are and some of us take time to figure out. Either way each of us walks our own unique path.

I truly believe that LOVE and Compassion are the cornerstones of this life here on Earth. To know deep within that life is about giving and receiving love and compassion. This certainly does not mean that we do not run into daily challenges that threaten that concept. After all, we are human. This means that we have to face our challenges head on and try to do so with integrity.

My family is absolutely the most important thing in my life. Being with them, enjoying each moment and taking it all in fill me with tremendous joy or frustration at times, but more importantly a sense of purpose and completion.

I am so thankful for who they are and as a mother I can tell you they have not only made me grow as a person but have also challenged me to face things that I needed to change! It is so true how children hold up a mirror at our faults and they innocently turn the spot light on all of our areas of weakness.

Do we face these things knowing that they are there and need to be dealt with or do we hide and try our best to cover them up?

I think it is brave to admit to one’s self that there are things that need work. After all we all fall short in some ways and it is just part of being human. I hope that at this time in your life, you can find the strength to look deep within and face any of the challenges that you have in your life head on.

No matter what it may be, lean on those around you for support and encouragement and know that you have it within you to change and develop into the kind of person you want to be.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the gift of health—my family’s health and happiness, the ability to pray and have the Freedom we all have in this country. My heart is full of optimism about the future of our country and while I know there will be challenges to face, I also know that as Americans, we bind our hearts together and have the ability to stand firm. It’s just what we do!

I am looking forward to taking my kids to feed the homeless. I want them to serve others and realize how blessed they are. I want them to grow up with the knowledge that when you have a blessed life, it is essential to share what you have and to serve others just like Jesus did.

While writing a check is also important and needed, showing up and allowing your children to also watch you serve is HUGELY important.

On this Thanksgiving, may you be overwhelmed with a thankful heart and blessed beyond measure!


XO,

Tara Brooke

 

Reaching Out After Sandy

Homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. Photo By: Mike Groll, AP

Hurricane Sandy rampaged through parts of the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States the previous week that led to severe casualties in many areas especially New York City. This in turn led to many schools getting shutdown for long periods.

With that amount of damage, schools all over New York will most likely have a shortage in school supplies and books. Moreover, there are also other needs of students that have to be addressed to aid them in leading normal life sooner.




Saint Rose High School in Belmar damaged by flood. Photo By: Mel Evans, AP

As parents, the events that happened the previous week presents a great opportunity to teach our kids the value of compassion towards others. Tell them what really happened—what is Hurricane Sandy, how greatly devastated several areas have been after it hit as many as 24 states, and show them how they can help the victims of the storm. If you are planning on donating goods to those struck by the crisis, you can get your kids involved too. Let them help pack up items that other people would need.





There are several channels to get your donations to reach New York. I’ve gathered some of them and I would like to share them with you:

  1. Convoy of Hope
  2. Salvation Army-Greater New York Division
  3. NYC Service
  4. Food Bank for New York City
  5. New York Red Cross

God Bless,

Tara
 

On Parenting Guide Books

Raising kids and parenting in general can be tricky sometimes. Let’s face it, while our own experience can be a great teacher, we may need a boost from time to time. This is why I love reading books on parenting. These books allow us to get valuable insight from experts regarding raising our children well. I’ve been reading three books lately and I thought it would be a great idea to share it with you.

Building Resilience in Children and Teens



Firsts up is Building Resilience in Children and in Teens by Kenneth R. Ginsburg MD. This book offers advice to parents on how to raise young kids and teenagers who can thrive in both easy and tough times. It also teaches parents how to build the seven crucial “Cs” in children namely competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control so that they will become champions in life who takes on challenges well.



Teach Your Children Well



Next is Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine. Aided by cutting-edge research and thirty years of experience in the field of clinical psychology, Levine explains to parents that report cards should not define their parenting endgame. She also teaches parents how to focus on a parenting style that enables children to be academically successful while developing a sense of purpose, well-being, connection, and meaning in their lives.



The Entitlement Trap



Last is The Entitlement Traps by Richard and Linda Eyre. This book teaches parents to nurture strong and healthy families through instilling in children’s minds a sense of ownership, responsibility, and self-sufficiency. They introduce the concept of the “Family Economy” where children are taught to earn money for the things that they want. Its ultimate goal is to teach parents and their kids to shy away from a lifetime of dependence and debt.



These books are available online through Amazon. I hope you also find these books as helpful as I do.

Cheers!

Tara

 

Happy Halloween and Be Safe!

Wishing everyone a fun-filled and safe Halloween.

Skye in her pretty costume.

Jaden as Zorro.

Our cute dogs dressed up for the Halloween too!

Love Lots,

Tara

 

Fun Halloween Games

No Halloween party is complete without games. It just makes the occasion much more fun and exciting. It’s also the perfect way to keep you kids and your other guests on their toes.

I was searching online for cool party games and I found these exciting ones from the trusty MarthaStewart.com website:

1. Pop Goes the Pumpkin

*These Halloween party games are a perfect way to loosen up your guests before the haunting begins.

*Looking to kick off Halloween with a bang, not a boo? This version of a classic carnival game also makes a festive wall decoration, and bursting the confetti-and-candy-filled balloons in this Halloween party game will make everyone explode with laughter.

2. Doughnuts on a String

*Tie a delicious doughnut on a string and you have a popular game that is appropriate for all ages.

3. Bat Pinata

*Party guests will shriek with delight as they beat this pinata to reveal a shower of sweets.

4. Squash Bowling

*Substitute fall squash for bowling balls in this outdoor, harvest-themed version of bowling.

5. Pin the Face on the Pumpkin

*An autumnal twist on a childhood favorite, any kid who has played Pin the Tail on the Donkey will pick up this game quickly.

Have a great Halloween everyone! God bless you all.

Tara

 

Halloween Party Invitations

Halloween parties are a great way to celebrate the spookiest day of the year. Between the awesome healthy sweets that you can serve and the fancy, creepy, and whimsical costumes that you and your guests can wear, there’s no denying that spending time together with friends at this time of the year is special.

These gatherings are also a great way to stir up your creative juices. Why not send out handmade invitations that capture the essence of Halloween?

I was browsing MarthaStewart.com the other day and I came across great ideas for making your own party invitations for the Holloween. I thought they were really cool so I would like to share them with you. Here are the ones that caught my attention:

1. Owl Invitations with Movable Wings

*Color-photocopy templates at 125 percent (or download images and print) onto white heavyweight matte paper. Cut out parts with scissors. (For thicker invitations, affix copies to black card stock with spray adhesive, then cut out parts.)

*At joints, make holes using a microhole punch. Secure wings behind body with black miniature brads.

*Write details using a pen. Fold in parts; enclose card in an A6 envelope.



2. Black Magic Party Invitations

*Print invitation text on computer postcard paper (8 1/2-by-11-inch sheets perforated into four sections). Use painters or masking tape to secure the cards, information side down, to the work surface. Evenly tape the entire border of each card. Color the backs of the cards completely with brightly colored crayons, then coat with a thick layer of black tempera paint. Once the paint has dried, ask your favorite young artist to etch designs on the black background. To vary patterns and line thicknesses, experiment with such implements as plastic utensils, nails, toothpicks, and coffee stirrers. If you end up with extras, frame them with orange construction paper and use them as decorations at your party.

3.  Message in a Bottle Invitations

Halloween is a great time to have fun and be creative. I hope you have a great time planning your bash!* Just print the invitation template, roll them, and place in tiny apothecary style bottles. You can age the paper by soaking them in strong black tea first.

Love,

Tara

 

Best Places to See this Fall

Fall is here again! You know what that means: cooler days, cozy sweaters, and foliage changing from summer’s green to fall’s red, orange, and yellow. At the same time, it’s that time of the year again that’s perfect for little getaways.

National Geographic recently listed the best spots to visit this season and I’m excited to share them with you.

1. The International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Witness over 600 hot air balloons lift off from launch fields that could cover 54 football fields. You can spend a week at the Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, located in the city’s pastoral North Valley and experience a field-to-fork dining experience.

2. Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Spend a few days in the world’s highest natural infinity pool and get jumping. During the fall, the river is at its lowest and slowest allowing swimmers to safely jump into the pool and even look over the falls safely.

3. National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Experience two weekends of apple fun and enjoy fresh-pressed cider, homemade dumplings and sauce, pie eating, and bobbing contests.

4. Great Masurian Lakes in Northeastern Poland

Go lake-hopping throughout the area via kayak, small yacht, or sailboat while being surrounded by autumn foliage.

5. Alba International White Truffle Fair in Italy

Indulge in culinary white gold and visit the World Market to sample and purchase pricey truffle-infused olive oil, sea salt, butter, creams, sauces, pasta, and risotto.

6. Fall Foliage Viewing in Hokkaido, Japan

See virgin forests, caldera lakes, and mountain ranges in a background of golden, orange, and crimson displays. This natural paradise is perfect for knowing what autumn is really about.

7. Charles Dickens’ 200th Birthday in Portsmouth, England

Visit the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum dedicated to one of the best literary authors in the world.

8. Milford Sound in Fiorland National Park, New Zealand

Described by Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world”, you can see waterfalls, rain forests, and cliff. The sound is also home to dolphins, seals, sea lions, and penguins.

9. San Diego California

San Diego remains warm and sunny through September and October. Here, you can enjoy snorkeling, kite surfing, and other fun activities at the beach.

10. Great Allegheny Passage in Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Spend your weekend here and explore historic trail town. You can also enjoy cycling, hiking, strolling.

These are just some of the places that are worth visiting this fall. I hope you have a great season. Have fun!

Love,

Tara

Photo Credit via http://travel.nationalgeographic.com: International Balloon Fiesta (Photograph by Danita Delimont, Alamy), Devil’s Pool (Photograph by Yvette Cardozo, Alamy), Fall Foliage Viewing (Photograph by Mixa/Alamy), Great Allegheny Passage (Photograph by Paul G. Wiegman)

 

Summer Comes to an End

Wow, another summer is coming to an end!

This summer has been truly amazing. When I think of all the fun things I have been able to experience with my family, I find myself in awe at how cool everything has been in the past few months.

We had great trips to Sea World where my kids were actually tall enough for their first roller coaster; We gave kisses to all of our favorite Disney characters at Disneyland; We had Knight Battles at Medieval times with my kids dressed in Royal attire; We spent weekends at La Costa, the beach, and of course, our back yard; daddy was throwing them in the pool a hundred times while I was chasing them in the pool while I am still fast enough to catch them. These are the years that they will always remember.

These are moments that pass so quickly. Knowing in our hearts that these things come and pass in just a blink of an eye keeps us enthralled and simply in love with these moments.

There was this instance when we were watching the Olympics and we had to explain to our kids the powerful images of the sprinter without legs. Gazing at their awe-inspired faces as he ran, never giving up on his dream, made me realize that for the children, he is just truly amazing.

There had been beautiful moments with my dad and my mom as well. I watched them enjoy their time with their grandkids and they truly savored every moment of it.

I will always remember looking into the rear mirror as they sing a “One Direction” song and not missing a single word. My daughter, who’s almost five years old even asked me if Katy Perry can come to her birthday. How she even knows who Katy Perry is at this age scares me!

I also taught my daughter the joy of cooking and setting the table each morning with flowers picked fresh from our garden.

It’s just been incredible—my kids reading bible stories with daddy every night and being excited about God and Jesus. They sit there, wanting to learn and know more. It’s exciting to watch their enthusiasm about God! They love Sunday school and never want to miss even just one Sunday.This summer I also watched as they commit to their fourth year of swimming. They are now only training in the Olympic size pool—learning to dive off the boards and learning to do forward underwater flips like the “big kids”.

They were also able to break boards and have tested for their orange belts. Now my son (who is super tall) is getting ready to start his first season of basketball while my little girl wants to start cheer and hip-hop! All in all it has been busy and rewarding at the same time. As summer comes to a close, I look back with great appreciation of each experience and look to the future for even more rewarding times as a family!

As a nation, we’re getting ready to decide who will enter the white house. Will it be our current president or will we embark on a new path with Mitt Romney? Each day we pray for our great nation and the protection of our country and all those that make it possible. I believe that God will continue to protect us all and allow this great country to thrive once again.

May each and every one of you find joy in even the smallest details of life! If you are one of the millions of Americans that has been experiencing the loss of your home, your job, or are facing health issues, I pray that the weight that you carry be lifted and that those burdens will begin to lift and that joy and happiness will begin to consume your daily life.

Seasons change so hold on to the moments that are worth cherishing. I know you are right around the corner to a new season of possibilities and happiness! We all deserve it!

Be blessed!

Tara

 

Interactive Friday Night Dinner with the Kids

Forget about boring dinner setups and instead, have a build-your-own pizza bar, burger station, or salad bar. To make your dinner fare healthy, use gluten free dough and lots of colorful veggies for the pizza and use wholegrain buns and veggie burgers. Put fresh fruits in large colorful bowls for dessert. This can be a great chance for you to introduce healthy food options to your kids at a young age.

You can also have a movie night complete with your own snack bar. Rent a movie or choose from your kids’ favorites. Build your own healthy snack bar using vegetable and fruit chips and even fresh nuts. You can even build a fort with your kids (mine loves this part!).

Make fake money and tickets out of colored paper and markers (tip: your kids can help with this). Give each one some “money” to spend for buying the tickets and food at the snack bar.

Lastly, you can also opt for an arcade game night where your kids can “pay” for playing a video or board game like scrabble or bingo. Give them tickets that they can use to redeem candy, toys, or other items whenever they win or reach a certain score.

Friday nights can be fun when you get creative at planning it. So what are you waiting for? Have fun time with the kids with these activities!