Easter Family Traditions

Easter is quickly approaching, and all you have to do is go to the store and look at all the pretty spring decorations, dresses, Easter baskets, and isles of candy to be reminded that you better start making holiday preparations now.

When I was at Blissdom12 this year, Hershey’s offered us a chance to fill a virtual Easter basket on the computer in their booth. The really cool thing is they delivered that exact basket to my home this week. It has so many delicious treats, I can’t wait to surprise my kids with it on Easter morning. You can also go to Hershey’s Easter website and find all kinds of fun ideas, recipes, and crafts. They asked me to share some of my favorite Easter memories with you.

Easter Traditions with the Family

We have so many Easter traditions in our family. Each year I buy a new Easter dress for my daughter. I remember my mom going to the store and buying my sisters and I a new dress to wear to church, with white gloves and a hat. I only have one daughter and she was never really into the hat and glove thing, but she always likes picking out a new church dress.

In our old neighborhood, we would have an annual Easter egg hunt. Each family would buy and fill a dozen eggs for each child and then take them to the coordinator’s house the night before. On the morning of the hunt, we would go down to the neighborhood park and start hunting for eggs. It was fun to watch the kids take their time searching for eggs and then open each one to see what was inside. Some years the Easter bunny would show up. This was always a lot of fun.

As the kids have gotten older, our Easter egg hunts have become family hunts. We invite my parents and siblings over so that all the cousins can go on a huge egg hunt together. My parents love to hide money in some of the eggs and it is always fun to see who gets the lucky eggs. I remember one year the kids hid the eggs four times. They didn’t want the hunt to end. This picture was taken years ago when we decided to go camping for Easter weekend with my sister and her family. We had an Easter egg hunt in the campground which will always be a special memory for the kids.

One of the things I love about Easter is that we are together with our family. We usually prepare a delicious meal of ham and scalloped potatoes, and then tell the story of the true meaning of Easter. We have a special activity where we talk about Jesus and all the wonderful things he has done for us. It is a time of reflection and meaning.

I hope my kids will cherish all the memories we have created over the years. I know I will, and I look forward to many more to come.

What are some of your favorite Easter traditions?

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She is now working for the Mom It Forward team as their Community Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.

Traveling To Malawi Africa

In February I went on a business trip to Malawi Africa with a group sponsored by the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia. I saw firsthand what is being done to raise awareness of pneumonia and advocate for global action to protect against, effectively treat, and help prevent this deadly disease. While I was in there, I had the opportunity to visit the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre.

Malawi is called the “Warm Heart of Africa.” The people are friendly and eager to help you any way they can. You will find that most people in the city speak English. In the more rural areas, it is harder to communicate but that doesn’t stop the people from wanting to connect with you.

The country of Malawi is landlocked and set among rolling hills and vast countryside. There are 9 National Parks and Animal Reserves in the area. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went there, but found that there were a lot of fun activities and places to visit. There is shopping, wild life reserves, game drives, dining, and site seeing trips.  Most of my trip was spent touring different medical facilities for work, but we were still able to get out and see this beautiful county.

Two Cities to Visit in Malawi Africa

I stayed in Lilongwe and Blantyre while I was in Africa. Here are some highlights of each city:

Lilongwe

Lilongwe is the capital city of Malawi. I associate Lilongwe with these 5 sites and activities:

1.) Lilongwe Natural Reserve: We were not able to visit this reserve but Malawi is known for its birds and beautiful vegetation. You can see by the picture above how green everything is right now. This is their rainy season. The average temperature while we were there was around 80 degrees.

2.) Lake Malawi: This lake is set around rolling hills. It stretches from the Northern tip of of the country to its Southern region. Some of the rarest tropical fish in the world are unique to this vast lake.

3.) Farmer Markets: We were able to walk the streets and shop at a local farmer market. The market offered many different goods from clothing, cell phone cards, blankets, linens, bags, backpacks, and live chickens. We walked across the river to the food market where fresh produce was in abundance. I have never seen such beautiful vegetables.

4.) Souvenir Shopping: I found that it was helpful to have small denominations of US currency, or Kwach, when shopping for souvenirs. Most stores and shops do not accept Visa. Many of the local people display their goods along the side of the street. They have figurines, paintings, furniture, and many other useful items for sale. Most of the locals prefer that you pay in US dollar.

5.) Dining: One of the best restaurants we ate at while we were in Lilongwe was a Chinese restaurant called the Green Bamboo Garden. Our group decided to all share a variety of entrees. One of my favorites was the spicy fish dish.

Blantyre

When I think about Blantyre I think of these 4 must see sites and activities:

1.) Rural Villages: One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the rural villages of Blantyre. We were there seeing how UNICEF and the Malawi Ministry of Health was providing pneumonia treatment to these resource-challenged areas. This was one of the few times we were able to communicate and talk with the Malawian people.

It touched me to see women, just like me, caring and taking preventative measures to make sure that their young children were able to get the medical care they needed.

2.) Majete Wildlife Preserve: We went on a game drive guided by a scout while we were in Blantyre at the Majete Wildlife preserve. This was a great way to experience the diverse terrain of the Great Rift Valley. On the drive we were able to see many different types of animals: elephants, a black rhino, buffalo, monkeys, and an impala. The reserve in 2003 was almost completely devoid of any animal life. It has taken 9 years of hard work to bring this park back from total extinction. Each year new animals are being added to the park. They recently brought in two leopards. It was extremely hot the day we went, so the animals were not as visible as we would have liked. This can change on any given day, so I would definitely add it to your must see list.

3.) Mount Malange: We drove from Lilongwe to Blantyre, which is about a 3 hour drive. This is a great way to see the the terrain of Malawi. We saw many different mountain ranges, landscapes, and villages. Malawi has 9 different National Parks and Wildlife Preserves. Evergreen forests are present from its plateaus.

4.) Set foot in Mosambiek: While we traveled from Lilongwe to Blantyre, we were able to jump out of our vehicle and stand in another country, Mosambiek. The country didn’t look that much different than Malawi, but it was fun to say that we were able to travel two countries in one day.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Crime is very low. I found the people to be very friendly, helpful and patient. My trip to Africa this time was for business, but I would not hesitate taking my family here for a vacation. I loved being able to learn about the landscape, culture, and the country’s  health care system. It is a wonderful place to visit and I plan to return someday.

Where do you and your family like to go on vacation? Have you ever been to Africa, what part of Africa?

Photo Credit: Matthew Feldman, Research Associate for IVAC

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She is now working for the Mom It Forward team as their Community Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.

Old Enough To Get a Driver’s License Permit

My daughter Jessica had her 15th Birthday a few days ago. She has been really sick the last few weeks with complications from an auto immune disease. I asked my daughter how she wanted to spend her birthday. She told me that she really didn’t feel like celebrating right now. She has barely been able to get out of bed and function. What a horrible way to spend a 15th birthday, right? Just a few months ago Jessica was saying how she wanted to  be surprised for her birthday. Now she didn’t even want to celebrate it.

Jessica went back to school on her birthday after being out for a few days. She looked pale, had lost weight and genuinely was not feeling her best. There was a part of me that thought, this is going to be a low key birthday. I was actually relieved to think that I didn’t have to have to make huge plans or make a big fuss. I know, I don’t sound like a very fun mom, but I literally have been swamped with work and other projects.

My good friend called and asked what fun plans I had for Jessica’s big day. I sounded like a lame mom when I told her that Jessica had missed so much school already from being sick and that I was just hoping she would just make it through the day. In other words, I had not made any special plans for my only daughter. My friend immediately told me that this was not okay. Jessica needed a birthday surprise and we needed to make it happen!

Don’t you just love a good friend? They tell you like it is, and don’t hold back. My friend suggested checking both her daughter and Jess out of school and taking them to a surprise birthday lunch. I immediately starting making plans.

Parties and activities do not need to be planned out. I literally threw these lunch plans together in 20 minutes. My friend went and picked up the girls at school and I went to the store to buy flowers and a card. We met at the restaurant and had a super fun birthday surprise lunch.

The important take away from this is to remember it isn’t about how big we make things, but that we make little things BIG. Today was a good reminder that being spontaneous is important and fun! These types of activities can make a real difference in your life and in the life of those you love. Even though my daughter is still sick, I hope that today brought her joy. She was surprised in a small and simple way, and she more importantly knows she is loved and special. Priceless!

What have you done lately to surprise someone you love?

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She is now working for the Mom It Forward team as their Community Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.

Protecting Children From Pneumonia in Africa

I am the mother of 4 children and have always done everything I could to protect my kids and ensure they were healthy and strong. When my children were little, I made sure I took them to the doctor for their routine check ups. This included staying on top of their immunization schedule. As a result, I feel like this has protected my family over the years not only from getting chicken pox and measles, but also pneumonia.

I recently participated in a trip to Malawi, Africa, with the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia. I saw firsthand what is being done to raise awareness of pneumonia and advocate for global action to protect against, effectively treat, and help prevent this deadly disease.

Did you know that pneumonia is the leading killer of children under the age of 5? Not just in Malawi, but worldwide. One child dies from this disease every 20 seconds. It kills 1.4 million children annually, 98% of them in developing countries. Pneumonia not only kills babies, but children and adults as well. The saddest part is that pneumonia can be prevented before it occurs; vaccines are a safe and effective way to do this and are now available in countries like Malawi and Kenya.

November 12th is World Pneumonia Day. It was set up to raise awareness about pneumonia among leaders and health care providers, to educate the public about pneumonia, and to advocate for more funding. UNICEF is making sure that vaccines are quickly being distributed to all areas of Malawi so they can reduce the incidence of illness and occurrence of death in the population.

I traveled with representatives from  the International Vaccine Access Center” (IVAC), a group of journalists, and UNICEF to see the impact the pneumonia vaccine has had on the Malawian people. I was amazed at all the work that is being done in this country by both the Malawi government and international aid organizations to save so many lives.

We started our trip by visiting Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongue. This hospital services 6-8 regions. They have approximately 1,000 beds and see around 800 people a day. It was clear that this facility had exceeded it’s capacity. There were several children sharing beds, and long lines to get care. I was, however, impressed at how organized the facility was. I could tell that the medical staff was providing the best care they could to their patients.

We were able to talk with the nurses, doctors, and medical staff at Kamuza Hospital. These people are committed to their jobs and to helping the people in their community. They have limited resources and are making the best of it. Not only are they working long hours, but some of them must travel long distances to get to work. “It is worth it,” they say.

While we were there, we met a woman named Trefonia who had admitted her baby a few days earlier. Trefonia brought her baby to the hospital when the baby started coughing uncontrollably for several hours. While there, her baby was diagnosed with pneumonia. Something as simple as a cough could mean life or death for these infants. Parents and caregivers carefully watch for these symptoms. The child was receiving treatment, and Trefonia was hopeful that her baby would be okay. She is blessed she was able to get her child medical treatment quickly or it would have been a different story.

Most Malawians do not live next to a central hospital. For this reason, 650 Health Centers have been built around the region to make it possible for people to get the medical treatment they need. We were able to see firsthand how these facilities worked and how they administered health care. In the centers they teach the importance of breast feeding for the first six months, proper nutrition, indoor air pollution reduction while cooking, and how washing their hands more frequently can stop the spread of disease.

Beyond the Health Centers are Rural Health Facilities, where the Malawi Ministry of Health ensures that citizens in even the most rural parts of the country receive pneumonia treatment. UNICEF is distributing Essential Medical Kits to these areas so that immunizations are available to everyone. When we drove to this facility in Blantyre, we received a warm welcome from the Malawian people. They greeted us in song as we approached. This facility is literally set up under a tree. Its limbs are symbolic of arms that reach out to care and nourish the people of this area.

Many of these women and children walked 2-3 hours to get here. They do this to protect their children and get them the necessary help they need; to prevent their children from getting sick.

As parents, we would do anything to keep our children safe. The mothers and women of Malawi are no different. Their strength and courage touched me. I saw grandmothers caring for their grand babies when their daughter had died during child birth. I saw neighbors, siblings, and friends rallying around one another in order to care for these children.

What I realize from my trip to Africa is that even though I live on the opposite side of the globe from these beautiful people, they are my friends. As parents, we want the same things. We want the best for our children. We would do anything to keep our family safe and well. I will continue to do my part to bring awareness to this important global health initiative. I will not forget my new friends and hope to be able to visit them again some day.

What You Can Do to Make a Difference

  • Get educated. Find out what is being done to prevent sickness and disease in your city or state.
  • Increase awareness.  Find out what is being done in other parts of the world. What are their resources and challenges?
  • Drive donations. If you can, find ways you can contribute.
  • Spur Government Leaders to Action. Let your government leaders know that you care about this issue. Find ways to bring awareness to this issue and offer your support.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Feldman, Research Associate for IVAC

What are you doing to ensure your children are safe from illness or disease?

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She is now working for the Mom It Forward team as their Community Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy. 

My Son’s Eagle Scout Project

I am the mother of three boys and one girl. All of my boys are involved with the Boy Scouts of America Scouting Program. I love the things that this organization does to teach leadership, service, commitment, and goal setting.

My boys start the scouting program at the age of eight and move through the various rank advancements until they receive their Eagle Scout Award. This usually happens around the age of 15-18.

My oldest son is 17 years old. He earned his eagle when he was 15 years old. One of the last things you do to earn your Eagle is to do a 10 hour Leadership Service Project. This takes not only organization, but a lot of support from your leaders, friends, and family.

The project plan must be approved by a unit , committee, and district leader. When choosing a project the scout thinks about who will benefit from the project, how will they benefit, and how many people will it take to complete your project.

When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, my son decided that he wanted to collect personal hygiene kit items for the people in Haiti. He contacted a group called the “Helping Hands for Haiti Foundation” and received all the information he needed for his project. This organization has been helping Haiti for over six years. They have built schools, bought land, taught farming skills to the Haitian people, and many other projects over the years. Right now they were in need of providing the people with hygiene kits and my son was excited to help.

The kits needed to include several things; toothbrushes, tooth paste, soap bars, towels, and combs. My son’s goal was to assemble 100 hygiene kids. He distributed over 300 fliers around the neighborhood in hopes that we could collect enough items to reach his goal. The project took just over a week to complete.

Together with his family and scout group my son collected enough items to make 200 hygiene kits. It looked like Christmas in our living room when we packaged all of the items together. The generosity of our neighbors was unbelievable.

We had left over items that we were able to take to our local homeless shelter. This was a great experience for my son and for our whole family. I am thankful for the Boy Scout Program and for the opportunity it gave our family to serve and give to others. I am also thankful for the “Hands For Haiti Foundation” and all that they do to bless the lives of other.

I have two more boys left that are working their way up the advancement ranks. As each one reaches the age to earn his eagle, I hope that they will have the same enthusiasm and spirit of giving as my older son. This was an incredible experience that will have an impact on our lives.

What charitable organizations have you worked with in the past? What are you doing to raise charitable children?

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She is married and has four beautiful children. Jill loved being a stay-at-home mom for many years. She is now working for Mom It Forward as the editorial/community manager. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy. You can follow her on Twitter.

Making a Gingerbread House For Ronald McDonald House Charity

Give back in a fun and yummy way! I have only made a gingerbread house a few times in my life. I have always been tempted to buy the Wilton gingerbread house kits at JoAnn’s and finally did this year. One of my favorite charities, the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), asked me to make one to bring awareness to their Season Of Giving Campaign. They are trying to raise over 550,000 this holiday season to help families around the world keep families together while their loved ones get the care they need.

My two younger children loved the idea of having their houses put on the website for RMHC. I was able to visit one of the houses in California last month and I told my kids about all the wonderful things this charity is doing to help families. The kids knew this was for a good cause and so we all tried to make a really special house together.

Making a gingerbread house with the Wilton kits is super simple. They provide you with pre-made walls, icing, and colorful candy.

My kids wanted to create their own design. My daughter bought a slightly different kit and was able to create a really cute house as well.

Our gingerbread houses didn’t turn out like the picture on the Wilton box, but they were made with love. This is exactly what the RMHC does — they create a house that helps families feel love, support, and peace.

Have you ever made a gingerbread house? What baked treats do you love to make during the holidays?

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She recently joined the Mom It Forward team and is the Editorial Manager. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.

Happy New Year

I love starting a new year. I am passionate about writing down goals and creating a plan to see them happen. This year my goals are a lot more simple. I am feeling like I need more peace in my life. I feel like with my family getting older, working full time, and my todo list growing by the day, I am missing out on something, peace.

My goal for 2012 is to create a power hour everyday. I will spend time exercising, meditating, planning, and praying. I think these things are essential if you are going to find balance or peace in your life.

So with today being the first day in January, I challenge each of you to find out what it is you want and make a plan to achieve it. I am so thankful for the opportunity and spirit of renewal and hope that by doing this power hour every day, I will feel renewed and more peaceful.