Toys for Tots Happiness

My kids live a pretty charmed life.

In fact, they have A LOT more opportunity and frankly, STUFF than either Andy or I ever did as kids.

I was raised by immigrant grandparents who filled our home with love in broken English and traditional Portuguese soup, but had little for all the gadgets on TV.  There wasn’t a Wal Mart in our town when I was growing up, but there was a Woolworth’s and a Pick N Save.  I remember those fondly.  If I was really lucky, my grandma would let me pick out a die cut wooden trinket for a few cents and I would take it home and painstakingly paint it.  But not before ogling at the Barbies in ballgowns and the new gray boxes called Nintendo.

Andy was raised by a single mom who worked hard for her boys but money was always tight, as is the custom for single moms.  Odd jobs at the church helped supplement holidays and even the youngest helped to “earn” a few dollars.

While neither of us ever went hungry, and our childhoods were still filled with toys I yearn for in nostalgia, there were no Disney annual passes, name brand shoes, skate lessons, or nights out to the movies.

And while we are able to give our children more than we were given, there is always a tension there.  A desire to balance.  Teach them the discipline of Wait.  And always always always encourage compassion. Because the greatest of these is Love.

I want them to have beautiful hearts.

Before they choose professions and college majors.  Before they say please and thank you.  Before they sit quietly at the dinner table.

My main desire as a parent is to encourage their hearts to be ones that are soft and kind to others.  Andy and I look for ways to foster that in them constantly.  Maybe it will work.  Maybe it won’t.  But we are trying.  In an imperfect, bumbling, messy way…we are trying.

So when emailed me asking if I would write a sponsored post sharing that Toys R Us has a 15% off any regularly priced item, I had an idea.  While I normally don’t share coupon type deals here, I do like to share love.

So I asked my contact if they would be willing to give me an advance on my sponsored post fee…in the form of a Toys R Us gift card.  So that we could go Toys for Tots shopping.

I was THRILLED when they agreed, and less than 24 hours later, an e-card was in my inbox waiting to be spent on Love.


I took just the Bigs, and we stopped at Starbucks on our way.

Upon ordering their very first kid’s hot chocolate (did you know they have kids sizes?  I had no idea.), we talked about our task.  How we were going to buy toys for other kids.  Kids who’s mommies and daddies might not have enough to buy them presents.  How God calls us to share.  We talked about sharing toys with friends, and sharing money too.  How this trip to the toy store wasn’t about them.  They would get nothing.  Not even something out of the dollar bin.  Okay?

(Incidentally I was hit by the irony of standing in a Starbucks…the poster child for American excess…ordering fancy drinks on our way to buy toys for others.  GAH!  Now I regretted the cocoa stop.  Life is so complicated.)


We started in the girls section, where Lucy painstakingly picked out all things pink for “her kids”.

She was meticulous and often wanted me to lay out her selections on the floor of the aisles so that she could assess her choices and made adjustments as needed.

Thanks to a BUNCH of buy 1, get 1 50% off sales, the cart filled to the brim a vision in pink and purple and sparkles.

And she was so pleased.


So I sent Henry for a second cart.  What became The Boy Cart.

Even more buy 1, get 1 50% sales helped us pack that second cart full.  Only this one was filled with Bey Blades and Hot Wheels and these Dagedar things that were not only on clearance, but somehow buy 1, get TWO free.  We cleared the shelves.  It was awesome.


The kids took turns filling the donation bins item by item as the checker rang up each toy.

By the end of our purchase, we had the bins filled to the tip top, and a receipt a mile long.

We spent every penny of our gift card, and then a few extra, and bounded out of the store with hearts filled bigger than our carts ever were, nothing but a really long receipt to show for our trip.

The kids skipping through the parking lot, so excited at how much stuff we were able to buy.  So thrilled with how many kids were sure to have at least one gift under their tree this year.  So happy to know they helped.

“Mommy, I hope my kids are happy.  Because Mommy, that’s so sad and not fair if they don’t get any presents.”

“I know Lu.  It’s sad.  But that’s why we have to always try.  That’s why we have to do things that aren’t for us all the time.”

I truly haven’t had that much fun in a long time.  So much so that I want you to have some of that same fun too.  So I have an idea.


I’m going to give away a $100 Toys R Us gift card to one of YOU.  Not for Christmas shopping…but for Toys for Tots shopping.  This giveaway is not sponsored…it’s my own money that I’m using to buy the card.

Here are the “rules”:

1.  Before entering, please be sure there is a Toys R Us near you, and that you have time to shop at in the very near future.

2.  You must have a social media account of some kind.  Whether its a personal Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, whatever.  Just some way to share at least one photo of your trip.

3.  Take a pic and tag me (mostly because I’m excited to see than as “proof”.)

4.  Shady people need not apply.  Truthfully, this is basically on the honor system.  But the way I see it, if you want to take my money, allocated for children in need, stage a photo, share it publicly, and really have loaded the bags into your car instead of the donation bins…well, at that point, you’ll have to take it up with the Big Guy.  Because I just can’t even.

So leave me ONE comment telling me:


That’s it.  One comment.  I’ll choose someone at random on Wednesday, December 11.

And let’s not forget what started this all: 15% off any regularly priced item at Toys R Us.



Pretty sweet.

Disclosure: post sponsored by


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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

Latest posts by jeannett (see all)


  1. 51
    Stephanie says:

    Beautiful post! I have a 4 1/2 year old and a baby, but with my big guy, we started teaching him about giving to others as well, and donated quite a few presents this year to children who don’t have. I work in a JCC here in NY, so they aren’t Christmas presents we donated, but the idea, the concept of having a loving heart, of being a good person, that is universal and something that I hope he carries with him and that my little guy too grows up with!

    I would be honored to shop for Toys for Tots! I have facebook, so I can of course take a picture and tag you!

    The nicest things someone has ever done for me? When the nurses just sat with me and talked to me when my almost 1 year old was in the NICU for a few days when he was born. I was overwhelmed (as you know) with what was going on, our family was being great, but I was sort of left out in the middle of it all. This one nurse was amazing and she just sat with me, talked about everything and anything…it was perfect!

  2. 52
    Heather H says:

    It’s hard to pick one thing, so here is the most recent thing that happened to me: The afternoon before Thanksgiving, I was at the doctor for my annual exam and she found a lump in my breast. She referred me for a mammogram and told me to wait for someone to call to schedule it. I am not so patient and NEED a plan so I don’t worry myself to death (my cousin had an emergency double mastectomy two years ago due to a rare, very aggressive form of breast cancer, and after that I found out that breast cancer if quite common amongst the female cousins on one side of the family), so I called the radiology department at the hospital where I work and asked for an appointment as soon as possible the next week. When I explained the situation, the scheduler hunted down the radiologist (not the world’s most pleasant man) and convinced him to fit me in as a last minute appointment for both a mammogram and an ultrasound on the day before the holiday. She called my doctor and got all the information necessary, and immediately called the insurance company to get pre-approval…all within 30 minutes so I wouldn’t have to wait until after the holidays. Totally above and beyond what was necessary. (and false alarm BTW)

    I am trying to teach my daughter about giving more to others and performing random acts of kindness every day (she’s the same age as Henry), so I would love to take her shopping for others who are less fortunate. We are doing what we can here and there, but I’d love to have an all out “shopping spree.”

  3. 53
    Stephanie Gossett says:

    I cannot imagine winning something so wonderful! I have four daughters, and it would mean the world to me to allow them to experience this! They would be smiling in the pictures!!!!! Whoever gets this will be more blessed this season than those that receive the gifts. I think this is about the best of ideas for a giveaway I have ever seen! We have seen people in our church that cannot afford gifts this year. It really is the season for hurting for those people and blessing as many of them as you can! I would be forever honored if you chose my family for this.

    ninigossett at gmail dot com

  4. 54

    In 2006 my little family and I moved to Illinois. I was 32 weeks pregnant. The day we moved we lost our son Colin. He was stillborn. The insurance company rejected me. The hospital bills and funeral expenses were overwhelming. But for weeks we received anonymous donations. Bills were paid and notes were left of prayers. It helped us stay alive, literally, while we walked the grief. I still don’t know who they were. It’s been seven years, nearly eight, but God knows each soul and each penny that was put in our hands. Someday I look forward to thanking them properly. I would love to win this card and take my four littles shopping for Toys for Tots! We usually do a shoebox every year as a tradition in our family, but we just moved to Florida and our new church doesn’t participate in that charity. I want my children to remember that Christmas is about giving, how God gave us Jesus, not about receiving.
    Angie´s last blog post ..Mother’s Day Tradition 2013

  5. 55

    What an amazing idea! I would love to be a part of this. I try to teach my children to share the love. We recently cleaned our their rooms of items to be donated to those who needed them.
    Allison´s last blog post ..Excuses don’t burn calories

  6. 56

    Your post and the comments it generated has made me realize two things: 1) people are good, and 2) I need to go out of my way to do things for people more often.

    When I was in college, I had a job that required me to walk home late at night. I came up with a grand scheme to buy a car, and did some tricky math to fool myself into thinking I could afford it. My grandpa gave me his car instead. I didn’t have to walk home alone anymore, and he kept me from making a huge financial mistake.
    Emily´s last blog post ..Slice = online shopping organized {+ iPad Mini giveaway!}

  7. 57

    I love this so super hard! You’re the awesomest.
    The nicest thing anyone ever did for me was, well, I am blessed. There are too many to count. But one that still brings me to tears is that right after my Grandpa died 3 years ago, when I was a bajillion months prego and really stressed out about my developmentally delayed 4-year-old, my friend Cortney pretty much demanded that I give said 4-year-old over to her and just go take care of myself for a day. And she held me while I cried about my Grandpa. I really needed that, all of it, and I’ll never forget it.
    Jenny from Mommin’ It Up´s last blog post ..Slice = online shopping organized {+ iPad Mini giveaway!}

  8. 58
    Julie Karlen says:

    Someone in front of us at Mcdonalds payed for our meal. We live near one and the kids always asked andI always said no. So, one day when they asked I said yes. What a humbling surprise to jave our meal pay ed for. I was so touched. My kids were pretty you to understand the concept of paying it forward. I would love to give them the chance now.

  9. 59
    Jennifer Mehl says:

    I too have been blessed so many times that I have lost count.

    This is a “silly” one but it made my day – we were at the grocery store in the cereal aisle, and I was telling my husband that I really was craving a particular cereal that was peanut butter “balls” — but that I couldn’t remember what it was called. We looked all over the aisle and had given up when a woman at the beginning of the aisle said “HERE! It’s Peanut Butter Captain Crunch! I couldn’t help hearing what you were looking for.” A little, silly thing, yes, but it made my day.

  10. 60

    To name just one nice thing that’s been done for me is a seemingly impossible task. I feel like my family and I are in constant gratitude for the love and gifts we receive from others. Being able to do this kind of giving with my kids would be such a wonderful and fun time for us! Anyway, here’s something that I’ve been thankful for lately:

    We live away from family and my husband works one of those crazy jobs that doesn’t have an on/off switch. So we don’t often get out and definitely don’t have the luxury of just “dropping off the kids” with family so we can get out and unwind. One of the Pastors at our church often asks my kids to “pick a date on their calendar” so they can go over to her house and play. She is very busy and her kids are now grown… but she makes time to have our kids over. And it’s not for just 2 hours… it’s an all-day affair. She has to be sure that they can help her make cookies and help her husband out in the yard (he shows them how to garden, plays baseball with them and how to spot “B-52′s” in the sky). Then they have fun things like waffles for dinner and get to play with all the amazing toys she has at her house until it is time to put on pj’s and wait for mom and dad to come. And this is every couple of months! I am seriously in tears writing this and thinking of how much of a blessing this unselfish gift is to my husband and me.

    So there you go… good people all over the place, right?!


  1. […] Earlier this week, our friend Jeannett from Life Rearranged wrote a sponsored post for Toys R Us, but instead of spending her profit from that post on peppermint lattes and manicures, she and two of her kids spent all of the money buying things to donate to Toys for Tots. […]