31 Days of OCC: Packing Party

Everybody likes a party – right!? Well, almost everybody. Extroverts like a party. And, we’ve got TWO of those living in the House of Hills. So, several years ago we decided that we’d celebrate my birthday with a party—an Operation Christmas Child packing party!! We even had birthday cupcakes supplied by My Katie.


Now, we’ve got the packing party down to a science here at the HOH. In fact, I did a whole Top Ten Tuesday blog post on having an Operation Christmas Child packing party. Make sure you click over to see the details.

The important things are these:

  1. Decide who is supplying the box contents. Is it you, your guests or a combination?
  2. Have a festive environment so that everyone has a good time.
  3. Be sure to collect the shipping money.
  4. Pray over the boxes.
  5. Know where you’re going to take the boxes once they’re packed.

That’s the basics. Then, it comes down to the details. I typically collect items throughout the year and then ask my guests to bring more age specific items to complete the boxes. Before the party, we line the hall with every container we can find in the house and sort all the crazy stuff I’ve collected throughout the year.


When my guests arrive, they take a box (I order mine from OCC, but you can use shoeboxes too.) and start filling it with what I have in the hall. Then, they finish it off with the items they brought with them. Finally, they print a shipping label through the OCC website (we have a computer and printer) set up in the living room and attach it to the box. They all end up in the back of my van and get taken to my church, which is a drop off location.


I love the site of my van filling up with boxes. It makes me happy every year.

Now, don’t think your packing party has to be a big, huge one like mine. I kinda like to do parties up, and now it’s become a tradition that people calendar months in advance. (Seriously, my friend Angela asked me in July when this year’s is so she could get it on her calendar.)

Your packing party can be just your family or yours and the one that lives next door. Or, maybe you are in a small group through church, and you want to get those families together to pack boxes. Or, your Bunko group might want to pack boxes before the next Bunko night. Oh, what about that playgroup that meets once a month—maybe they’d like to pack boxes. It could even be those friends from high school that you’ve been meaning to get in touch with, but needed a purpose to call them.

Whatever group you pull together, be it large or small, remember that what you’re doing will impact someone’s life forever. That’s why it’s important to pray over the box. That box that you pack at the party will end up in a child’s hands halfway across the world. They will open it and know you care and that there is a God who loves them.

So, who are you inviting over? When’s the party?

Have you been following along with the Write31Days series. Be sure to check out what other bloggers are writing about.

31 Days of OCC: Why OCC?

31DaysOCCatHOH_HouseofHills.orgSometime in the last few years, I’ve become known in my circle of friends as “the lady who does OCC parties.” A question arises about OCC, and people say, “Ask Kathy, she’ll know.” The closer we get to collection week, the more tweets and texts I get with people asking me questions, “Can this go in the box?”

You wanna know a secret? I kinda love it.
I’ll answer any and all questions, and if I don’t know the answer I’ll find out.
I’m that passionate about it.

What started out as something that was fun to do around Christmas turned into a full blown, year-round endeavor in 2010. That was the year I decided that for my birthday I wanted to have an Operation Christmas Child party. So, I posted it on the blog and asked friends and family to give me box packing supplies instead of gifts. And, I invited anyone and everyone to participate.

We had a GREAT time that first year so we’ve done it every year since!!!!

Back Camera

But, why OCC? Why shoeboxes?

That answer’s easy. My love languages are acts of service and gifts. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to give gifts. Ask my friends. When somebody says they like a particular candy, I write it down to make sure they get it soon. When it’s a special occasion, I like to mark it with a gift. Actually, my favorite gifts to give are “just because I love you gifts.” Those are awesome.

So, what better way to show someone half-way around the world that God loves them than by giving them a gift. A shoebox is a tangible way of saying, “I may not know you personally, but God does. And, He cares about you.”

A shoebox is something those children can hold and treasure and share and love. Each item in a shoebox communicates God’s love to these precious children. Toothbrushes and toothpaste show that He cares about their physical being. A plush friend shows His love through snuggles and cuddles. Toys show that He cares about joy and fun.

Then, there is that one item that He puts in each box that He’s picked out just for them. I’ve heard story after story of children who opened their shoebox and found just what THEY needed. Maybe it’s hair clips for a little girl who’s never had her own. Maybe it’s a new shirt arriving just as the one the little boy’s wearing is too small. Maybe it’s a needed pair of shoes or a sewing kit or a hammer and nails. Whatever it is, that one thing speaks into that child’s life, and God whispers, “I know  you. I love you.” 

It’s the stories of those whispers that bring me to my knees in gratitude and awe. My heavenly Father loves me as much as He loves these little people a world away. And, I know how much He loves them as I’ve watched Him orchestrate hundreds of thousands of people to bring them joy in the form of a shoebox.

That’s why OCC.
That’s why I pack shoeboxes EVERY year.
That’s why I’ll do it until I can’t do it any more.

I pack shoeboxes to give the gift of God’s love.

Won’t you join me this year?


31 Days of OCC: The HOH Loves OCC

For the last four years on the second (or third) Sunday of November, the trunk of my van has looked something like this.


Isn’t that AWESOME!?!?!

The HOH loves OCC (Operation Christmas Child), and we’ve ushered in the holiday season (and celebrated my birthday) with a huge party right before collection week since 2010.

In 2010, we packed 89 boxes.
In 2011, we packed 110 boxes.
In 2012, we packed 75 boxes.
In 2013, we packed 50 boxes.

Like I said, the HOH loves OCC, and I want to share that love with you, my Internet friends. I’ll be talking about OCC here on the blog for the next 31 days. We’ll talk about the history of OCC, how to pack a box, what to put in a box, how to get a box where it needs to go and so much more.

So, get ready to pack some boxes friends, because by the time the month is done, you’ll know exactly what to do… just in time for National Collection Week! This year, National Collection Week is November 17 -24, and I’ll be hosting my annual party on November 15th. I can’t wait to share all the fun with you!

So come back every day in October to see the newest 31 Days post. I’ll be linking up to #Write31Days along thousands of other bloggers. It’s going to be an awesome month.


It’s December First! Time for some Truth in the Tinsel

People. It’s December 1st! Can someone please explain to me how that happened.

Thanksgiving is over. Christmas is around the corner. It’s time to go, go, go! (Seriously, our schedule this week is insane.)

However, as the birthday of our Savior approaches, let’s not forget that it IS our Savior we’re celebrating. And, theres no better way to do that than with…

Truth In the Tinsel


Have you checked out this amazing resource? I first told you about it two years ago, and I’ve had countless friends do it with their kids and love the experience.

Amanda has even added  Truth in the Tinsel supplemental products like printable ornaments and a curriculum for churches. People, it’s just amazing.

And, because my friend Amanda loves my readers, (She’s the one who pushed me into blogging you know.) she gave me a coupon code!

Use the code HOUSOFHILLS for 20% off the ebook (not ornaments or curriculum).

Go ahead. Go grab it for your family. It’s not too late to get started and ensure that your kids remember the real reason for Christmas.

Truth in the Tinsel


Links in this post are affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

Christmas Letter 2012 (Or, maybe Happy New Year 2013)

Merry Christmas from the House of Hills!

I know I’m a little late (like a month), but I did want to put our Christmas letter up. We went on a Disney Cruise for Christmas week!

While the cruise was AMAZING * AWESOME * FANTASTIC * SPECTACULAR, (and will be multiple posts to come) getting ready to go out of town during that crazy time of year and returning to even more crazy meant I got REALLY behind on my blogging. I did get my Christmas cards out though!

If you’ve been following along on the blog, then you sorta know what happened at the House of Hills this year. But, let me hit the highlights for you (and maybe add a thing or two)…

In February, we celebrated the one year anniversary of My Katie’s passing. It was a beautiful day, and we met as family and friends to rejoice that she is dancing with Jesus. The sisters and I were glad to have each other to cry with. In fact, we’re just plain glad to have each other. We’re even starting a new website to share our story.

February also saw Mags and I heading down to Orlando for her to compete with her OBDKids troupe. We had so much fun, and the kids had such a great time. I was indeed a proud Drama Mama.

Aunt Amy came all the way from Alaska to visit TWICE this year! It was so great to see her and spend time hanging out with her. Mags even introduced her to the art of duct tape wallet making.

David and I are still working our fabulous jobs. Both of our responsibilities continue to shift and change, but we continue to love what we do. The highlight of my professional year was helping my boss, Sue Miller, and her daughter write a book about becoming a parent. It’s a wonderful collection of ideas, true stories, and pictures that reminds us all of the wonder of parenting. It was a serious labor of love, and something in which I’m very proud to have played a part.

Mags was in a total of four shows in 2012:

  • Mulan Jr.
  • Dear Edwina Jr.
  • The Little Mermaid Musical Review
  • Seussical Jr.

She loved being in each and every one of them. She is becoming quite the actress and even has done some video work for my company and our church.

This summer, we spent lots of time with my Katie’s kids. They even spent some time with Maggie at Camp All-American.

Maggie went back to Woodlands Camp last summer too. In fact, we’ve already signed up for 2013. If you’re looking for a great overnight camp, we highly recommend it.

Our girl turned TEN this year. We had a super fun craft party when six of Mags’ friends came over and we had so much fun crafting and dipping cupcakes in icing and sprinkles.

The fall brought us another season of OBDKids. This year they are working on Little Mermaid Jr. and Maggie is Flotsam. She really seems to enjoy being the bad guy. Her troupe has grown really close over the last few months as they have worked SO HARD to prepare for not only six shows but two competitions.

We also participated in the 30 Day Giving Challenge this year. It’s one of our FAVORITE ways to spend November. We have so much fun brainstorming how to give to others. You can look through the blog to see some of the ideas we had.

That’s pretty much it. Our year in a post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

30 Day Giving Challenge Day 11 2012

The House of Hills is once again participating in the


Our goal is to give something EVERY day of the month. Big or small, every give is a gift to someone! Join the giving with us. We’d love to hear what you’re doing.

It’s Sunday again so I did my weekly Sunday giving by serving in the preschool environment at church. I do love those little cuties and all their crazy they bring to service each week.

In addition, this morning Maggie and I loaded all 75 OCC boxes into the mini-van and brought those to church.

We had a friend bring us a few things to pack in some boxes so I think we’ll get four more boxes packed this week and send those to church with hubby on Thursday.

WE ARE SO THANKFUL TO ALL OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY that helped us pack shoe boxes this year. It’s such a privilege to pack these boxes each year. We love it.

Today was one of my favorite days at church. We started the BE RICH campaign. We’ve done it each year for the past five years, and it is just SO AMAZING to watch God work through it.

Timothy 6:18: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

We are “rich” here at the House of Hills, not by American standards, but for sure by World standards. We have so much more than so many, and it is such a blessing to be able to share. Our church does a great job of finding reputable organizations with which to partner to do fabulous things in our community and around the world. We even had a local news team at church today reporting about Be Rich. It was so fun to see our friends on the screen.

It was an amazing day of giving and watching others give. I so love when the our minds and hearts turn to how we can help and serve others during this season. It just makes me smile inside and out.

Follow the 30 Day Giving Challenge on Twitter and Facebook.


30 Day Giving Challenge Day 6 2012

The House of Hills is once again participating in the


Our goal is to give something EVERY day of the month. Big or small, every give is a gift to someone! Join the giving with us. We’d love to hear what you’re doing.


Today was the day of our BIG GIVE! It was my Operation Christmas child Birthday Party! See—I even got to wear my birthday pin!

This was our THIRD time doing this party, and I think they just get better every year.

First, let me say this. I COULD NOT do this party every year without my hubby. He is such an integral part of the entire process, and I was SO THANKFUL that he took the day off so he could party with us. He helped with setup. He helped people pay for their boxes online. He took out countless bags of trash, and I’m sure there is a ton of stuff I don’t even know he did. So, a big shout out to my best friend.

Another person who works hard for this day is Maggie. She rocks at party prep, and prepping for this party is fun for us to do together. Being the actress that she is, she decided that she needed to do an orientation video. We had it available for people to see when they first came in. She decided to make this one hour before the party was going to start and had no help from hubby or I. I just had to share it with you. (Please excuse the lighting issues. She’s learning.)

So fun, right?

Once our guests had experienced orientation, they dove right in to packing boxes.

Check out all those boxes being packed at once! My mom came with two of the cousins, and they packed TEN boxes. Then, a friend came and packed SIXTEEN! It was awesome.

At one point, my hall was full of people getting things for the boxes!!!

This makes me SO HAPPY!

All in all we packed 75 BOXES! WHAT? WHOOP! I’m thrilled with that. And, there is still stuff sitting in my hall. I might run by the store and grab a few more “big” items tomorrow so we can pack a few more before we take the entire load to church on Sunday.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! to all my friends and family who made my birthday so special this year! I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

There’s still time for you to pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox! You know you want to. Just do it!

Follow the 30 Day Giving Challenge on Twitter and Facebook.


30 Day Giving Challenge Day 5 2012

The House of Hills is once again participating in the


Our goal is to give something EVERY day of the month. Big or small, every give is a gift to someone! Join the giving with us. We’d love to hear what you’re doing.

Today was preparation day! Tomorrow is my big Operation Christmas Child Birthday Party, and there was lots to do to get ready.

Maggie and I went to do a little shopping at Walmart. We found several matching outfits on the $1 rack, and were so excited about adding those to the boxes.

I was so proud of my girl. She puts a portion of all the money she makes through her allowance and odd jobs aside to give to others. She had been saving for an entire year for this year’s shoe boxes and had $100 to spend. That was enough to pack five boxes, including the shipping.

After the two of us filled the mini-van with bags from Walmart and the Dollar Store, we headed home. Poor Hubby had to work.

But, several friends my Small Group  helped us organize all the goodies from my tubs in the garage.

Then we put together the 100 boxes I’d ordered from Operation Christmas Child.

Maggie helped too.

By the time we went to bed that night, we were ready for a fun OCC party in the morning.

Follow the 30 Day Giving Challenge on Twitter and Facebook.


Top Ten Tuesday : OCC Party

For the last two years I’ve thrown Operation Christmas Child box packing parties.

In 2010, we packed 89 boxes.

In 2011, we packed 110 boxes.

The 2012 party is coming up, and we are in full prep mode for this year’s fun!

We’re making lists and doing some online ordering and getting the word out about the party.

As I prepare for the big day, I wanted to share the Top Ten things I’ve learned about throwing an OCC Party.

1. Determine what type of party you want to have. Are you having a birthday party for one of your kids and letting friends pack boxes? Or, are you having a birthday party for yourself (like I do)? Then, you’re going to want a birthday party theme, with party balloons and cupcakes. Are you just having a OCC party? Then, you’ll want a Christmas theme. I always have Christmas music playing, apple cider in the crock pot, and red and green balloons.

2. Be clear on your instructions for what guests are supposed to bring. If you’ve already got the boxes, then they don’t need to bring them! You can order party supplies easily through Samaritans Purse. If you are providing some of the things to go in the boxes, let them know. I try to get some things donated by friends and family each year. They’re my birthday presents. I let my friends know that they don’t need to bring certain items, because I already have 100 of them.

3. Provide a way for your guests to pay for the shipping. It costs $7 per box to ship an Operation Christmas Child box. That $7 either needs to be in the box or you need to pay online and print a label. I provide envelopes and cash for my guests. Then, they can write me a check for $21 and we can put $7 in each box. Or, they can go on my computer (or theirs if they plan ahead) and pay the shipping online. They print out a label to put on their box that allows them to know where it is delivered. How fun is that?

4. Know where you are going to drop off the boxes. Once you’ve packed all the boxes, you’ll need to get them to Samaritan’s Purse. There are drop-off locations all over the country, just visit their website to find one near you.

5. Collect things for boxes all year around. As soon as my Operation Christmas Child party is over, I start collecting for the next one. I now have two big tubs in the garage full of things we’ll use for this years party. Shop clearance sales after holidays. Hit the Dollar Spots at Target and Walmart.

7. Have a note writing station. Can you imagine being able to talk to someone half-way around the world and telling them that God loves them? You can, through a shoebox. Be sure to have a place where your guests can write personal notes to put in each box. And, don’t worry about translation. Somebody on the other side of the world will help with that.

8. Make sure the box is REALLY full. It should be about to burst. In fact, you’ll want some rubber bands available to hold boxes closed. Make sure you box doesn’t have extra packaging in it. Take those matchbox cars and Barbies out of their boxes! You will find that some people are exceptionally good at packing a box. It’s like a big puzzle. Those people that are good at it… keep them around for the whole party.

8. Have a basket of supplies. You’ll need baggies for soap, rubber bands to hold boxes closed, tape to adhere the girl and boy labels, scissors for opening packages, pens and more. Think through everything your guests might need and make sure it is available to them. You’re also going to need more trash bags than you can imagine.

9. Food! Make sure you’ve have munchies for your guests. I usually go with Christmas party favorites like sausage balls, meatballs, veggies and some Christmas cookies. If you are going to have little people, be sure to have some Goldfish and pretzels. And, don’t forget the drinks.

10. Have fun! It’s a party! Make sure everyone is having a great time.

My Operation Christmas Child party has become one of my favorite days of the year. I look forward to it all year around. I smile from ear to ear the entire day. There is nothing better than sending Christmas to a child to experience it for the very first time.

Update: I started an Operation Christmas Child Pinboard to help you get other ideas. And, there is an Operation Christmas Child Virtual Box Packing Party going on!

Have you ever packed a shoebox?

 Linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings.

Operation Christmas Child Party 2012

This box came in the mail this week! I’m so excited. Do you know why?


Wait? What does Operation Christmas Child have to do with my birthday you say? If you’ve been around the House of Hills for a few years, then you know.


Two years ago, I began participating in the 30 Day Give during the month of November. I wanted to do something special for my birthday, and since National Collection Week for OCC is always right after my birthday, I thought, “That’s perfect!”

In 2010, we had the party at our temporary house. We packed 89 boxes that day! It was so much fun!

In 2011, for my 40th birthday, our goal was to hit 120 boxes… 3 for every year of my life. We almost made it. We dropped off 110 boxes. I was so pleased.

This year, we’re changing it up and doing the party a bit earlier, on November 6th. Yes, that’s election day. And, because of schools being polling places, there is no school for the kids. I thought “Why not give the kids something to do!” We’re having it at my house this year. Sweet Hubby is taking the day off to help, and we’re going to use every inch of our tiny space.

If you’re a local friend, you’ve probably been invited to my OCC Birthday Party Facebook page. If not and you want to be, let me know!

Here’s what I’m providing this year at my OCC party:

  • The box
  • Bouncy balls
  • Small stuffed animals
  • Wash cloths
  • Crayons
  • Stickers
  • Candy
  • Miscellaneous extras
  • Snacks and drinks

Here’s what you need to bring to the OCC party:

  • Age specific toys
  • Age specific clothing (optional)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Bar of soap double baggied
  • $7 cash or check per box (have to put in each box) – or you can print labels to track your box online before you come by visiting here.

For more information about what to pack in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, visit Samaritan’s Purse.

This party has become one of my favorite days of the years. I can’t wait to have fun with all my friends. My goal this year is to do another 100 boxes (that’s all I’ve got to pack). I think we can do it!

Update: I started an Operation Christmas Child Pinboard to help you get ideas!

Do you pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child? Do you give in a different way?


If you are coming to the party and want to help victims of Superstorm Sandy, please bring:

  • Feminine products
  • Bottles
  • First Aid Kits
  • Cough Drops
  • Cough Medicine

I will box up everything contributed and pay for the shipping to get it to those who need it. I’m getting an address from this blogger who is in the thick of it.

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