When you're ROCKING Work but feel like you're FAILING Motherhood

I suppose everyone has ideas of what their lives will be like before becoming parents. I know I sure did. I saw the role of working mom as one that would be symbiotic. I would work all day, manage to semi make a descent meal, spend every night of quality time with my family and sleep at least six hours a night. I also just knew that I would ROCK motherhood.

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Oh Lord, forgive my blind ignorance. You never know what you don’t know. And I knew nothing about being a mother.

After fifteen years, I know a lot of things about practicing law and running a business. The raw, gut checking truth is that almost every day of my existence, I nail every aspect in my life-except motherhood. From business meetings to court appearances, I can do those things. And I can do them well.

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There’s also the other gratification of clients telling you "thank you" for a job well done, seeing sales numbers increase and having a judge agree with my legal reasoning all creates a buzz of “hey-I did that and I did well.” Those moments are fun. They remind me what I’m doing is the right thing.

The office has never been a struggle for me. I like to work. It’s where I am in control and the outcome of a lot of work days.

Home is where I most often lose faith that I have any abilities whatsoever.

It never matters how often I win a case, or successfully complete a sales call, there is another realm of which I am always struggling. You see, home is where most of my insecurities come out to play on a daily basis.

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The moment my briefcase is set down, there is another arena in which I have to perform every day. There is a floor to sweep, dinner to make and no matter how much effort or time is applied, there is always a pile of laundry to tackle. And then there are the other humans living with me, of whom I never have any solid control. Both of my kids are entering or are solidly in their teenage years. They have practice, social schedules and opinions of their own.

I often have to remind myself that just because I control work, home often seems to control me.

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About a year ago, I finally had to give myself permission to be ok if things under our roof are never mastered. The laundry can hang out in the basket longer than I would like. The kids are developing into people and that’s a process where I am needed but cannot micromanage. And there are going to be days that no one cares what I did at the office.

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That has probably been one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself—the freedom to love what I do and not expect any appreciation. Motherhood and business almost creates two personalities in me. And after nine years of  doing motherhood and business together, I still have so much to learn.

So mamas, if you are feeling like a boss at the office (or behind the computer) and yet feel coming up short at home, take heart.

Your people may never fully appreciate all that you can accomplish except for when you have thrown together dinner of noodles and leftovers and sit around and ask about their days. Believe me that you are not alone and you are rocking both motherhood and biz life like only you can do!

READ MORE ABOUT  LINDSEY  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION.

READ MORE ABOUT LINDSEY (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION.

WRITTEN BY LINDSEY W. ANDREWS: LAWYER, ENTREPRENEUR, AUTHOR, AND SPEAKER

You can connect with Lindsey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or www.lindseyandrewswriter.com

How to Freak Out Less & Laugh More

The phrase "The days are long but the years are short" seems to be on repeat in my mind as the realization that our kids are growing older hits. It's been quite awhile since I've bought diapers or filled a bottle. I don't often wake in the middle of the night to a little one's needs.

Though I love the baby and toddler stages (like loooooooove them), I always figured I'd be excited to be out of it and onto the older years. And it is undoubtedly fun to be able to snuggle on the couch and read books side by side, have water balloon fights in the front yard, and cook dinner together...and yet, I'm realizing something.

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The stage that I considered to be the most challenging of my life because I was tangled in a life of exhaustion and spit-up, has shifted into something else...another season more challenging than the one before.

Though I now have a few minutes to shower every morning (sometimes even without a kid interrupting!) and generally sleep through the night without someone needing me at 2 am, this stage is a hundred times more demanding.

Our kids have opinions and personalities and giftings and struggles. They have expectations and hurts and fears. There are days of tremendous elation and others with lots of tears.

I REALIZE EACH AND EVERY DAY THAT I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING AND PRAY THAT I DON'T SCREW THEM UP...TOO MUCH.

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My heart skips a beat knowing they’re beginning to make life-choices that will impact who they grow up to be. Our youngest may be six, but our oldest is nineteen. This summer will mark six years with both these two and though it seems like we've had them forever, I also realize how fast time is going.

SOMETIMES I FORGET TO CELEBRATE THE LITTLE THINGS LIKE I USED TO AND SEE THE WEEDS RATHER THAN THE FLOWERS.

I think sometimes I stress out too much. Do you?

The other night, eight-year-old Imani had a performance. The weather was beautiful and warm and we smiled as we walked to and from the elementary school. We were all hungry afterward and as we fixed some snacks before putting on pj's, one of the little ones put on the La La Land soundtrack. The music is so fun and upbeat. I've played it so often that we all know the words to our favorite songs and the younger three and I danced around the kitchen, lip syncing and laughing.

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But when I tried to bring one of the older kids into the fun, he got angry. Some of our kids have a lot of trauma from their past and unpredictable anger flares up now and then because of it. But this was not one of those kids.

The way he shunned our fun was surprising and unexpected. And it made me really sad. Like heartsick kind of sad.

I LOOKED AT HIM AND WONDERED WHERE HIS JOY HAD GONE.

I'm not saying he's a depressed kid. I'm in no way detecting a constant spirit of sadness or anger. But it does flash more often than I think it should and definitely more often than it had when he was young and every conversation had to do with superheroes, trucks, and legos. Now he talks about mean girls in class and struggling in math. He shares when he feels like he doesn't fit in and that he's not good enough, cool enough.

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Ohhhh how that breaks my heart.

Motherhood is hard to maneuver, isn't it?

SO MY CHALLENGE FOR THIS SEASON IS TO BRING MORE JOY TO THE HOUSE.

TO FREAK OUT LESS AND LAUGH MORE.

I came upon Rachel Macy Stafford's post titled, The Day My Child Lost Her Joy—and What I Did to Revive It and realized this isn't only hitting my family. Is it impacting yours?

I think it's partly my own fault. I've noticed as the number of children in our family expands, the more order I need in our home and when order is not there, I get tense and frustrated.

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AND AS WE KNOW, MOTHERS ARE THE HEARTBEAT OF THE HOME.

How does the saying go? "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Gosh, it's true.

Life is so chaotic and loud in a family of eight that I think it's my way to restore a little calm. The more kids in the house, the less I can handle mess and clutter. And my patience wanes as our old-enough-to-clean-up-after-themselves children either don't clean up...or they whine the entire time they do.

And because they see impatience in me, they're impatient. Because I'm stressed, they're stressed.

But if I ooze joy, they'll ooze joy.

And in all truthfulness...I yell. You guys, sometimes I yell at my kids for almost no reason at all. Sometimes it's simply because I'm stressed and they did something that broke the camel's back.

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I've never been a person who yells. What is my problem??

I DON'T WANT THEM TO REMEMBER ME AS A "YELLING MOM."

I WANT THEM TO REMEMBER ME AS AN AFFIRMING, GOOFY, FUN MOM.

Something has got to change. And I think joy is where I'm going to spend my time first.

How do you infuse joy and happiness into your home? How, as your kids enter elementary, middle school, and high school...do you help them brush off hurt in a healthy way and turn their faces toward light instead of darkness and depression?

How do you see the flowers and not the weeds in your day-to-day life? From one mama that often feels in over her head to another...I'm so glad we don't have to pretend everything is always ok and perfect. No facades here. Let's grasp authenticity.

READ MORE ABOUT  TERESA  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  GUIDES SECTION.

READ MORE ABOUT TERESA (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS GUIDES SECTION.

WRITTEN BY TERESA SWANSTROM ANDERSON: AUTHOR, SPEAKER, AND FOUNDER OF THE & SOCIETY

I Survived the Shootings at Columbine HS...what I'd like you to know now that I'm a mom

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Hey friends, Teresa here. Today’s conversation is a bit of a hard one.

With six kids at five schools, I pray each and every morning that they will stay safe within the walls of where they’re educated.

And each and every morning as I kiss them and say goodbye, I wonder if they actually WILL be safe. It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s the reality of today.

Crystal is a survivor of the shootings at at Columbine HS. And by survivor, I mean she witnessed things we pray our children never will.

In honoring Columbine’s 20 year anniversary this week, I wanted this dear friend to share her heart of forgiveness and remind us that when darkness surrounds, we must always let the light back in.

If you’d like to hear more of sweet Crystal’s heart, head over to my personal blog and read her post, Fear, Family, + School Shootings. xo Teresa


Lately, it's impossible to open up your news feed or turn on the TV without seeing a headline about a shooting somewhere in the world, where lives are tragically cut short at the hands of someone bent on mass destruction. It seems no one is safe, whether watching a movie, attending a concert, eating at a restaurant, or going to school, our lives and the lives of our children seem to be in peril. Whether we like it or not, we are faced with a choice, to either shrink back in fear, or to push forward in hope.

For me, that choice came nearly twenty years ago on April 20, 1999. I was a sixteen year old junior at Columbine High School. I had gone to the library with a few of my friends to study for a test I had later that afternoon. After only a few minutes in the library, a teacher ran through the doors screaming that we were in danger, as two boys with guns were shooting students.

beautiful painting of Columbines by  Oana Befort

beautiful painting of Columbines by Oana Befort

Immediately taking cover mere moments before they entered the room, we witnessed what would become the worst school shooting in history at the time. The library was where a majority of the violence happened that day, the same place where I pleaded with God to save my life and the same place where I stared death in the face. Regardless of where any of us were that day, we were all deeply affected. Regardless of whether you were even at the school the day, it has struck fear in the heart of every parent today.

What began twenty years ago at Columbine High School started an epidemic that has become rampant in our world still today. We live in a post-columbine era, where every student knows school is no longer just a place to learn, but also the next place where terror could potentially strike.

Therefore, if we look to the news, to inform our beliefs about others and the world around us, fear will take over and we will certainly loose all hope.

But let me assure you, all hope is not lost.

Hope can be found in the teacher who shields her students from raining bullets.

photo of Columbine memorial, just after shootings. provided by Crystal.

photo of Columbine memorial, just after shootings. provided by Crystal.

Hope can be found in the firefighter who runs into a burning building when everyone else is running away from it. Hope can be found in the hundreds of people who pour into a city or country after a natural disaster to bring aid and offer help. Hope can be found in the family who opens their home and their hearts to a foster child. Hope can be found in the army of people who show up after the loss of a loved one to cook, clean and help. Hope can be found in the nurse who sits at the bedside of a sick patient all night caring for them. Hope can be found in the friend who sits with and listens to you in your darkest despair and depression, refusing to let you be alone.

Hope can always be found in our kindness toward others and in the kindness others show us.

Because kindness reminds us that there is still good in the world and it gives us courage to press forward despite our circumstances. Kindness is the tonic we need for a world torn apart, bruised and battered by war, famine, disease, disasters, injustice, division, hatred, racism and violence. We can never underestimate the power of a kind word, a kind act, or a kind gesture. What the world craves now, maybe more than ever, is to know they are not alone, they matter, they have a place to belong and they are loved.

photo of Columbine memorial, just after shootings. provided by Crystal.

photo of Columbine memorial, just after shootings. provided by Crystal.

Kindness will not solve the worlds problems, but it will make the journey through difficulties much easier to bear.

We need one another, we are made for one another. It’s easy to forget such a simple truth, in this day and age where we run at breakneck speed toward our dreams wishes and desires, and see people as means to an end. It’s easy to forget our need for one another in this day and age where we lead lives dictated by our schedules, and the schedules of our kids, never stopping long enough to enjoy a moment. It’s easy to forget our need for one another in this day and age where social media is king and the number of likes and comments alone give us self-worth. What if we looked up from our phones and our devices more often to remember that we need one another, that we can offer safety, connection and belonging for others to process their pain and grief?

What if we quit getting so angry over each other’s offenses to recognize that we are all more alike than we are different?

And what if we listened, instead of always trying to be heard?

photo of Columbine memorial, just after shootings. provided by Crystal.

photo of Columbine memorial, just after shootings. provided by Crystal.

Is it possible that we can build better neighborhoods, places of work and schools when we look to the needs of others above our own? I believe the answer is yes. I believe so many of our problems today stem from the fact that we have forgotten to care for one another. We have become more concerned about ourselves and what we can gain. Most issues in society could be impacted through the basic understanding of human decency toward our fellow man. I am not sure I understood this truth until I came face to face with humanity at its worst at Columbine on April 20 1999.

Rainbow over what would become the columbine memorial (behind Columbine HS) provided by Crystal

Rainbow over what would become the columbine memorial (behind Columbine HS) provided by Crystal

Sometimes it takes seeing the darkest night, where hopelessness abounds to recognize hope and light and our great need for it.

Change starts with me and it starts with you.

But listen, this is important…

Our children look to us as mothers in how to treat and look out for others. They look to us to lead them into a bright future, a future where they lead the charge, not by force or power, but in humility and kindness. And if you touch the heart, you can make transformation a more true reality. Don’t get me wrong, we must still talk with our children about the real dangers of school violence. It is vital that they are aware of the red flags and trained to have a plan in the event of an attack.

But ultimately as mothers our effort is best spent teaching our children the value of others, by entering into their stories. It is nearly impossible to hate or dislike someone once you know where they came from. Teaching our children to see beyond their snap judgements and get to know people for who they truly are, is of utmost importance. Always being on the lookout for those marginalized and on the fringe of society. As mothers we can teach our kids that kindness has the ability to spread like wildfire and offer hope to a hopeless world. The hope for our future is found within the walls of our homes, and in the mama who never stops teaching them!


READ MORE ABOUT  CRYSTAL  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION

READ MORE ABOUT CRYSTAL (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION

Author and Speaker, Crystal is a survivor of the shootings at Columbine High School and has been seen on The Today Show, CNN, Dateline, and featured in Glamour, Marie Claire and Time Magazine, as well as countless other media sources as she advocates for hope after extreme tragedy.

Let's Talk Exhaustion & Morning Routines

Our founder Teresa & today’s article author Erin laughing it out (as they always seem to be doing)

Our founder Teresa & today’s article author Erin laughing it out (as they always seem to be doing)

Hey friends, Teresa here! Consider today’s article a “Choose Your Own Adventure” of sorts, because we’re sharing it in two parts. Feel free and read whichever you think would impact you the most as we chat about Morning Routine

The first section is written by Erin, one of our & Gal Leaders, as she shares her struggles and successes in getting her day started well (sometimes we need a #metoo story so we’re reminded we’re not alone).

The second section is for anyone who simply desires the quick and gritty info. The mom who wants the cursory a + b = c to help her mornings flow better.

Enjoy choosing your own adventure! If you’re like me though, you’ll end up reading all the things because you need all the help you can get. (raise hand here)


We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.
— Richard G Scott

Maintaining the forward momentum can be challenging at times. However, remembering that you will be able to gain time for yourself, less stressful mornings, and the entire environment in the home becomes peaceful is worth it.

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. ONE .

What do your mornings look like?

Do you find your mornings stressful, full of chaos, and promising to make tomorrow better?

Or are they calm, peaceful, and focused?

Setting up a Consistent Morning Routine can create the most beautiful mornings, glorious afternoons, and restful evenings. You take the stress away and free up time to move toward the goals and achievements penciled in for the day.

Many years ago, I was a morning person and woke up early for work, and by early I mean 3:30am, because coffee addicts are in line at 4:30am * wink *. On the days I wasn’t working at Starbucks, I rose by 7 and was ready to get my day started. I thrived in this same schedule for six years. As the years have flown by though, I have become a Tired Mom.

And by that, I mean neither a morning person nor a night owl.

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Two kids and a couple employment changes later, I am an alarm clock that wakes up, works, checks an item or two off a list, and goes to bed. Sound familiar? Pretty robotic. Ugh.

My schedule changed drastically when baby number two arrived and ohhhhhh girl, did she set a new tone for the family. School drop off and pick up, bringing an infant to work every day (which involved naps and feedings, as well as time to interact and play with baby), dinner and chores, and ending each day with our bedtime routine. I’m not exactly sure how I managed to work from home at night or simply bathe, but I did.

I was exhausted and quite honestly, am still quite exhausted!

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Mom and wife are two roles I have always wanted and would not change for anything.

But my stress and anxiety began to increase and cause internal turmoil.

Turmoil that would often come off as short and abrasive, indirectly toward my people, in turn heightening the exhaustion and stress. Talk about a cycle, so normal for many of us yet and completely uncomfortable and painful.

Is this really what the essence of motherhood is? When do I get to do anything for myself or what I love?

I needed change and quick!

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My breaking point hit hard and quite honestly ladies, it can still knock me off my feet and shake me up from time to time.

I have struggled to ask for help and truthfully, am still working on it every day, and in every situation. Why is it so hard to ask for help?

Why is it difficult to look at my sweet husband, the father of my children, and say “I need some help with_______________________”??

Pride.

Moms can do it all, and we can do it all the time.

That’s what we tell ourselves, right?

But boy are we wrong.

I began to set my pride aside and embrace the support of my husband. Sounds simple, right? Well, for this Enneagram Two, not so much. I do a great job at loving and helping others through life, however, recognizing that my ‘I can do it all’ mentality is not what my family needs. What they DO need? Consistent mornings, consistent schedules, and a mom that’s not stressed out all the time.

We decided to sit down and really set forth a basic daily agenda. Initially, he would help me with simple tasks: getting kids dressed, driving them to school, or something as easy as daycare. As the months went by, we found that penciling in two, sometimes three, mornings a week, which he would take over the entire morning routine, was a game changer.

Consistency is key.

Consistently doing small things will lead to great results. Working daily on following through with routine and the things that matter most, create a progressive movement for you and the family.

Momentum that feels successful and prevailing, graduates from a penciled in task to a naturally recurring habit.

I am still in progress, so no I am not a Morning Routine Professional, but I can attest to the glory of progress. Heading to the office early a few days a week has led me to asking myself what else I am not finding time for. Recently the answer has been my health and gym time. Next up, earlier mornings for more self-care time.

What is it that you would like to add to your routine that sits on the back burner?

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. TWO .

Picture perfect routine comprises of what, exactly?

I took that question to some mamas and found the answers were near identical.

  1. Planning the night before, if not for the week

  2. Positive attitudes

  3. Accountability

  4. Prioritize

Tamil, a mother to three darling divas, has learned the art to routine and keeping it simple. She stated that the following is the basic nightly schedule followed to ensure a smooth-sailing morning.

1.     Double check the alarms to ensure everyone wakes up on time.

2.     Pre-plan the night before by making lunches, reassuring all books are in book bags and outfits are chosen and laid out.

3.     Positive morning attitude.

Knowing the fluidity allows for Tamil and the girls to arrive on time to both school and work.

Improved morning routine sets the entire day up for success and lasting change in life.

Keep cheering each other on and loving on the Working Mamas around you. We need support in everything, including morning routine!!

**For more on this topic, head to THIS POST on How Time Blocking Changed my Life.


READ MORE ABOUT  ERIN  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION

READ MORE ABOUT ERIN (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION

WRITTEN BY ERIN PERSON: BAKER, DESIGNER, MANAGER

10 Ways to Teach Kids to be Others Focused

Moms, we all know that pouring into our children’s character is important. In fact, teaching them to become caring, kind, and people of good repute is one of the biggest things we can teach (and sometimes the hardest!). So when we’re able to teach in a hands-on way, there is a benefit all the way around. When our kids witness a lifestyle of focusing on others, they too, begin to prioritize it in their own lives. I definitely don’t consider myself an expert in this area, but I do sincerely enjoy finding new ways to reach out to others and invite my kids into the process.

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Believe it or not, I’ve actually learned more from my kids in this area, than I believe they’ve learned from me. For the most part, our children (ages 8, 4, 3) have been untainted by the judgements and prejudices that we tend to carry. They see people and they see the world through a loving, compassionate and caring lens. They have nothing to lose by being kind to others.

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I love the quote from Martin Luther King Jr that says,

“It’s the quality, not the longevity of one’s life that’s important.”

When we live with others in view and recognize that we all belong to each other, we find meaning, but also discover our purpose.

Kindness towards our friends, family, neighbors and even strangers can have a greater impact than we realize. It can truly change somebody. It’s possible it could change their life, sure. But more likely the things we do will be small and consistent, brightening someone’s day. And these days, we can all stand for the world to be a bit brighter.

It’s impossible to turn on the TV without seeing a world torn apart, bruised and battered by war, famine, disease, natural disasters, injustice, division, riots, racism, hatred, mass violence, and death.  And if we look to the news to inform our beliefs about others and the world around us, we will certainly lose all hope.

But hope can be found in people like you and your children, committed to focusing on others and spreading kindness for the betterment of all.

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Hope is found when you share a warm meal with a person living on the streets.

Hope is found when you give presents to kids at Christmas whose parents are incarcerated.

Hope is found when you sit across from a refugee and offer your friendship as you listen to their struggle and story.

Hope is found when you go out of your way to help someone you wouldn’t typically help.

When we look back on history, I believe it is the everyday heroes of hope, that we will remember and celebrate most.  Those who refused to grow silent on issues that mattered most, those were a voice for the voiceless, those who fought for justice and equality, those who dignified the marginalized, and those who elevated those pushed down by society.  

Focusing on others is a challenge because it means helping people who are different than you in the way they look, talk, or act. Those who believe different than you, vote different than you, and live different than you.

If you are like me, then you love the idea of molding children who are others focused… but sometimes lack fresh ideas and inspiration. My aim is to give you a few tangible expressions that you can put into practice with your own family…feel free and modify or add to these below!

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Ideas on how to care for others:

  1. Blessing Bags

    A year-round and ongoing project that we exercise are bags for the homeless. My kids and I will go to the store and pick out a variety of toiletries, snacks and a few necessities. When we get home we get to fill the bags with all the goodies. Sometimes the kids will write notes or draw pictures. Sometimes we include money, sometimes we don’t. But typically we include a Bible and pray for the person receiving the bag. Our daily drive gives us the opportunity to encounter a handful of people who may benefit from one of our bags

    The best part of all comes when one of the kids rolls down their window to share a bag and a smile with their new friend. On several occasions it has awarded us some very special conversations. It’s amazing what people are willing to share when we take the time to listen. Often a person living on the street will share what it is that has led them to that place in life. Several we’ve met, are incredibly grateful for their new bag and for life itself, which leaves us feeling grateful for all our blessings.

  2. Random Acts of Kindness (Starbucks edition)

    I’m not gonna lie, my kids and I frequent Starbucks almost daily. We love our yummy treats, but what’s even better is buying the yummy treats for those customers in line behind us. I personally have been on the receiving end of this gift and it always puts a smile on my face and reminds me of the goodness of people.

  3. A Little Restaurant Love

    At restaurants my family and I will, on occasion, buy another family dinner or leave a large tip for our waiter or waitress to bless them and thank them for their patience of dealing with us (wink). We always seek to talk to our servers and get to know them. What is more, we aim to frequent the same establishments in order to grow those relationships on a deeper level. 

  4. You Get a Donut, You Get a Donut, EVERYBODY Gets a Donut!

    At random and based on no particular reason, the kids and I will pick up a dozen donuts, cookies or cupcakes and drop them on a porch of an unsuspecting friend or stranger. Who doesn’t love sweets showing up on their doorstep?!

  5. Meal Drop-off

    I think one of the most practical and helpful ways we can bless another person, especially another mom, is to take someone a meal. We can invite our children to cook with us and write special notes and then go with us when we drop it off to someone who is sick, had surgery or experienced loss in their life. This also allows us to have some very real conversations with our own children about suffering and hardship. 

  6. Honoring Miscarriage + Loss of Children

    For our family, every March represents a significant time in our family. I lost a son and my children lost a brother many years ago. Therefore, we use his birthday as an opportunity to show extravagant acts of kindness in his honor and ask others to join us in doing the same. One year, I was able to connect with a mama who had recently lost her own son to suicide. I wrote her a long note letting her know she was not alone and that there was hope. I took her flowers and a special piece of jewelry to remind her of her son. Year after year, I am amazed how I am able to use my lose to help someone else experiencing loss of their own. Entering into the suffering of others teaches our kids not to be afraid of difficulty and how to grieve with those who grieve. 

  7. Sponsor a Child

    There are many organizations where you and your family can sponsor a child. Our family have three different sponsored children in three different countries (ROWAN, World Vision, & Compassion International are two very well known and reputable organizations). Your kids are able to write and receive letters from their sponsored child, which gives them much needed perspective of the world at large. When you’re children are older, I suggest traveling with them to third-world countries and staying awhile. Their eyes will be opened to how the majority of their world lives outside of comfort. 

  8. Acts of Service to Those who Serve Us

    We love to take care of our garbage man, our mailman and our local ups and FedEx drivers. So my kids will make lemonade and distribute it to them when they come. As a result they know my kids, they wave and smile at them whenever they come through the neighborhood. They have developed sweet friendships with these men and women. 

  9. Back-to-School

    In the fall we fill backpacks full of school supplies for children who would otherwise be unable to attend school without them. For example, many foster children in our cities struggle to have what is needed for the new year, let alone anything brand new.

  10. Christmastime

    a) At Christmas time we tend to do a lot of projects that focus on others. One of our very favorite is Operation Christmas Child. It’s such a great lesson to head to Target and pick out school supplies, necessities and toys for kids affected by war, poverty and natural disasters. Often my kids will ask me for a toy for themselves and get upset when they can’t get one. I always love a good object lesson about how others do not have some of the same privileges and blessings readily available to us. 

    b) Another thing we do at Christmas is make goody bags with candy or candy canes and hand them out in parking lots, in stores, and at the mall. It’s fun seeing folks suddenly forget about their shopping-stress as a smile spreads across their face when one of our kids hands them a treat.

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Please do not feel overwhelmed or discouraged if this is not a part of your family’s rhythm. Start small, try little things and build up. I truly believe it is better to do something rather than doing nothing. Good luck, and have fun experimenting with what it looks like for you to become focused on others, and then finding ways to teach those lessons to your children!

Comment below on other ways your family could (or does!) care for others and be less self-focused!


READ MORE ABOUT  CRYSTAL  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION

READ MORE ABOUT CRYSTAL (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION

Author and Speaker, Crystal is a survivor of the shootings at Columbine High School and has been seen on The Today Show, CNN, Dateline, and featured in Glamour, Marie Claire and Time Magazine, as well as countless other media sources as she advocates for hope after extreme tragedy.

"I Forgive You": Why it's Healthy for Your Kids to See Conflict with Your Spouse

My Mom and Dad never really get angry”. As the counselor relayed my son’s words to me, I was shocked! My husband and I definitely get angry, and he has witnessed it firsthand on many occasions.

 “I don’t understand. We get angry, even arguing in front of the kids sometimes. We do our best to make up in front of them as well, sometimes explaining the conflict in an age appropriate way to them.”

 “What words do you use?”

 “Well, I tell them Mommy and Daddy were frustrated, or we lost our patience, or we had a misunderstanding.”

 “He isn’t identifying any of that as anger. It is great that you resolve the conflict in front of them, but it is important to sometimes actually say that you were angry, otherwise he assumes he is the only one that ever feels that way and becomes ashamed of it.”

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You guys- this was such a breakthrough for me. (And can I just take a moment to say- go to counseling with your kids, with your spouse, or just yourself! It is truly amazing how much healthier you and your family can become with just a little guidance in the right direction.) I had no idea I was portraying a lack of anger, or how important it was for me to demonstrate healthy anger to my kids. It makes total sense to me now. Frustration isn’t anger. A lack of patience isn’t anger. A misunderstanding isn’t anger. Anger is normal and healthy, (if resolved properly), and I needed to call it by name for my son.

Resolving conflict, as we all know, doesn’t come naturally. Some personalities are more comfortable with conflict than others, and it just so happens that my husband, Shawn and I both land on the more comfortable end of the spectrum (and more so myself). I rather fully address situations as they come up, I don’t struggle for words during the conflict, and I feel so much better when it is resolved in a complete and transparent way.

I know so many other women that would rather have a bikini wax than have to face a conflict directly. For those of you familiar with the Enneagram, I am an 8, which you know means I am the small portion of the population that doesn’t shy away from a conversation that may become tense. This in and of itself makes many other people uncomfortable. While I know none of my children share the same personality or tendency toward comfort in conflict..

I want them to grow up with confidence that they can tactfully and respectfully stand up for themselves, respect the other person during an argument, and have the courage to address issues as they inevitably arise in relationships.

I believe this is one of the most important life skills; success in their marriage, their job and friendships will all depend on it.

Now, I’m definitely not saying the entire conversation should always be hashed out in front of the kids. Some things are just not age appropriate, or hearing the entire conversation would give them more worry than necessary. Even if most of the words exchanged are behind closed doors, kids can always sense when something is off. I grew up in a home that experienced much conflict. I rarely witnessed the actual argument, but I could always sense the tension, I never witnessed the resolution, and it gave me much anxiety. It has taken a ton of work for me to learn how forgiveness even works (and to realize the benefits in it!) because I didn’t grow up familiar with the process or equipped with the tools to have that kind of conversation.

One evening, far after we put the kids to bed, we were having an argument (that at this point I can’t even remember what it was about- isn’t that always how it goes?!) and our oldest came down the stairs, bawling his eyes out. He had been sitting at the top of the stairs listening and was filled with so much stress that somehow he had caused the fight even though it had absolutely nothing to do with him. (I still don’t know why kids often assume this, but they do!). We reassured him it was normal for parents to have disagreements and put him back in bed. For the following two or three days, he walked around in a serious amount of anxiety, until we realized it was because he hadn’t seen the resolution. Until we sat down with him and talked about how we had forgiven one another, he couldn’t find peace.

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I want my kids to see us say we are sorry, we forgive one another, and we hug and make up.

We try to explain to them in an age appropriate way that we had hurt feelings, could have said kinder words toward one another, we are sorry, and everyone can move on now, satisfied and stress free.

They don’t have to wonder if Mommy and Daddy are still mad, did they cause the problem, is everything okay in their home? It gives kids so much insecurity to leave their imagination to fill in the blanks after they have been sensing tension.

Forgiveness, I find, is a choice. A process. I get to decide if I am going to bring peace back to myself, my husband, and my home.

There is such power in forgiveness; power I definitely want access to.

What about you and your family? How do you teach your children to handle conflict in a healthy way?


WRITTEN BY KRISTEN HALLINAN: WRITER, SPEAKER, WORK-FROM-HOME MAMA

READ MORE ABOUT KRISTEN (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION.

An Open Letter to You, Working Mom

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You are doing an outstanding job. You are enough and you need to keep that at the forefront of your mind. Being away from your kids is not always easy. Matter of fact, it is the hardest. I understand this. I get you, because I am you.

I am so familiar with the “Mom Guilt” and the heart crushing moments when you are falling short of confidence in yourself and your parenting. Doing your best to be you, be mom, check items off your lists, organize, perform at work, and find time to feel human.

The workforce is full of hard working, strong, beautiful mamas just like you. Many of you  feel working outside the home makes you a better mother. A woman set out to provide for her family and do her best to enjoy life. Absolutely respectable. The number of mamas that work from home is increasing and that too has its trials and tribulations. There are many of you that dream of the stay-at-home mom life, but you know those cards are not in your deck.  Working to contribute to the bills and pay for that roof over your head is not an option, you have to work.  I know this makes it so much harder because you do not get a choice whether to work or not. You wish for something different and feel stuck. I am with you and many riding the same wave. 

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The questions that ramble through our heads, run rampant through our hearts, and can pierce our soul faster than a bolt of lightning, are heavy and burdensome. 

Am I giving the kids enough time and attention? Do the kids know I love them to the moon and back? Do they feel as neglected as I feel? How can I be more? What does the school teacher think of me? How can my kids have play dates if I never get the chance to meet other parents? Are my kids mad at me for not signing them up for all the extracurricular activities? Should I feel bad that I genuinely love my job? The notion of performing at work excites me, is that wrong?

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Questions that undulate through our minds like a roller coaster ride, with our hands straight up in the air. Steady uphill and a thousand miles an hour downhill, without a blink of an eye. How does life move so smoothly, organized in KonMari fashion, painted in perfect color, then suddenly change to all forms of chaos? Life. That’s how. I love this life but will be the first to admit that everyday commotion is wearing.

Working Mom, you are not alone.

The rush to wake up early and get ready before the kids, then praying there are no ‘situations’ that arise which could possibly throw the routine off. You are not alone when you rush to daycare to drop your sweet little one off, to only drive away feeling Ms. Jan is raising your baby while fighting back tears. Or that gut wrenching feeling when they do not want to go into daycare because another moment with mom may just change their world.

Racing through the school drop off line, hollering “I love you!!” as they hop out of the car and race into the building, hoping they beat the bell. I often question my mom-ability when I realize how fast find time flies by and I swear I was well intentioned.

You are not alone when you have no vacation time left and must miss class parties and field trips or even send a sick kiddo to school.

Let’s not even begin to discuss weekends and your lack of alone time, friend time or date nights. I get it. You want as much time to soak up the minutes with your loves. You are not alone in feeling that when you see the freeway and die a little inside as the traffic builds up, because the next time you are late for a meeting could have consequences. Major consequences. We all know you getting a “break” is nearly impossible but that feeling of driving to work and being able to adult during the day sort of revs you up.

As a career focused woman, you too are not alone in the mom life. You love your work and success, find joy in life by providing the world the best version of your employee self. You strive to accomplish goals upon goals. You are not alone when often asked those mildly offensive questions. “Do you feel bad for working?” or “How you could not feel guilty for having Ms. Jan raise your babies?” Ugh. Gut-punch. One of my favorites is, “Don’t you think your kids need you more?” Why yes, yes I do. We all would love more of one another and quite frankly, we need more self-care as well. Children deserve a mommy that is the best version of herself, and I find that many of us are a better Me, when working.

No guilt here or there.

I love this life and I love the aspects of my work done in the house and outside of the house. Can I get an Amen?

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I ask that you take a moment to pause in your every day journey to remind yourself of this:

I am stunning. I am a proud mother, a supportive mother. I am a woman driven to succeed at this thing called life. I am thankful for the Lord blessing me with these children and gifting me the time to present life in the most beautifully chaotic fashion. I may not have makeup on, and my jeans are snug, but I sure enjoyed the extra bucket of popcorn at the late-night living room movie session. I love the freedom of jamming to my 90s music, rapping to Salt-n-Peppa, while driving to work and I feel NO GUILT. I am working daily to improve myself. I am loved and I am enough. I am me and I do this life well.

The beauty in the bindings of life is heart transforming. The position of our hearts changes when we begin to change our perspective on life’s struggles.

Look to transform your thoughts on your life and soul.

I often remind myself:

• My struggles are all valid and it is okay to feel defeated. Breathe. Cry it out. Laugh it out.

• Today was hard, maybe the week was hard, and I can work on making tomorrow the best yet.

• Order takeout and eat it straight from the box. Rough nights deserve a dishes break.

• Plan way in advance (and in my case of terrible luck, pray it goes well! Haha).

• The love my two-year-old needs, from me, is far more than expected and the extra ten minute snuggles will do nothing but bring more love and joy in life. (Let’s be honest, I prayed for a little best friend and I surely got that exact thing. *sarcastic voice with a slight chuckle*)

• Relax. Smile.

• Eat the chocolate chip cookie. It’s fine, really!

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I honestly believe life was designed for relationships. We work hard at loving our children with all that we have and all that we are. We embrace the crazy flaws of our spouse, siblings, friends, and coworkers. Ladies, we give grace to those that hurt us. We love-hard and fight-hard for those around us. I say we start with us, first. Start with you.

Love yourself first, fight for yourself, and embrace your flaws.

And most of all, dear friend…give yourself grace, knowing that you are enough.


READ MORE ABOUT  ERIN  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION

READ MORE ABOUT ERIN (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION

WRITTEN BY ERIN PERSON: BAKER, DESIGNER, MANAGER

Helping Children Embrace a Multiethnic Family

My husband and I both come from completely different backgrounds, ethnically and culturally. I am American Venezuelan – born in Washington D.C with both parents being born and raised in Venezuela. My husband, on the other hand, is African American, born and raised in Charlotte, NC. A beautiful mix of two worlds, I know. Now add us both into a culture that is predominately white American, and well -we have some interesting and difficult things to overcome.

I’m sure your mind has already begun comparing us both, our differences, how being married and raising kiddos might look like. It’s ok, we understand. Differences stir up questions, and that’s good! Maybe, you’re even thinking about the both of us in the context on your own background.

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We want you to ask questions, we want others to understand, and so we welcome the asks, in love. Here you have, me – someone who can be looked at and assumed as a potential immigrant, and my husband, a black man – who just because of the color of His skin has endless labels, prejudice, and racism attached to Him. But this article isn’t to delve into the constructs, white privilege, or racism. It’s to look at and also learn about ways that we can grow and equip our multi-ethnic families in a world and society that continues to be divisive, even in the midst of increasing diversity and inclusion.

So, how do we equip our babies, our family to embrace both cultures, and also walk in confidence of who they are in our culture?

1. UNITY AT HOME

My husband and I are both on the same page when it comes to our cultures and backgrounds. We’ve done the work to understand, appreciate, and love our ethnicities. We know that if we can look at each other's difference and embrace them in love, then our children will see two people, with different backgrounds, coming together in love, becoming one family. So at home, we take the time to care, and our kiddos see it. We talk a lot about love, leading well in it, and what it looks like to be one, even when different.

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2. EMBRACING WHAT’S DIFFERENT

We embrace our differences, and also things alike. We are vocal with our children about embracing who they are, all of them. Their skin color, (which differ in the summer) their hair, all different curl patterns, their hearts, mom and dads difference, and also – the embracing of others around us. We make a fuss about it because it’s important for them to know, that who they are is good and beautiful. Embracing is the taking in of someone all of them, with no strings attached. We also love for our kiddos to be immersed in different cultures as well! if not, at the least given the opportunity to get to know others who different than them is a gift, too.

3. TRANSPARENCY

We are open and honest with our kiddos, because the reality is, what it is. We have to be transparent and open to not only the History of our ethnicities, culture, and background but also our experiences in them. Knowledge is power, and as we lovingly and compassionately educate our children in truth, they will grow knowing the history of their parents, and ancestors and they continue to grown and walk in their own life.

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4. OPEN CONVERSATION

Last but not least, we keep our conversations in our home open when it comes to matters of the heart. And this is of the heart. We consistently take a temperature of where our babies our by simply listening, and also welcoming the questions when they come. We don’t get awkward or close them off because them coming to us is their way of growing and knowing. We make it know that the conversations and questions can come, at all time.

At the end of the day, our kiddos are learning how to live and live their families, and also the world they live in. It’s our responsibility to equip them with love, knowledge, and power. And we do this best when we are living it out ourselves. May we all as adults continue to lay down our preferences, and find a sweet spot for all of us. For the sake of those around us, and our neighbors. Our children will follow, and if not even do better than at this in the next generation.

READ MORE ABOUT  ALEXANDRA  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GAL  GUIDES SECTION

READ MORE ABOUT ALEXANDRA (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GAL GUIDES SECTION

WRITTEN BY ALEXANDRA HOOVER: WRITER & SPEAKER

The Impact of Voicing, "I'm a Good Mom"

A few days ago, I scrolled past a dear friend's post on Instagram. Her words stopped me because I needed to hear them. I thought perhaps you needed to hear them, too.

I am a great mom. (You must continue reading to see that is not a conceited sentence!)

Last week I was out with a few of my girlfriends and we started talking about parenting, being a mom, and how hard it is. One of my girlfriends then said she sucks at being a mom. Over and over in her head, she hears herself say she is inadequate and not doing a good job. Around the table we all chimed in agreement,

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“ YA, I HEAR YOU. I SUCK AT BEING A MOM SOMETIMES TOO.”

I even said it. I said, “Yes, I often fall mega short at being a good mom.”

WHY? Why did I say that? That is not true. I do not believe that in my core. I immediately felt my heart tug at me. Why did you say that? You know you are a great mom. You pour your heart and sweat into that job.


Did I want to make her feel better? Did I want to conform to the group? Yes!

You know what, though?

THAT FRIEND IS AN EXCELLENT MOM.

AND SO WAS EVERY GIRL SITTING AT THAT TABLE.

We all love deeply our children and our husbands. We fight for our kids. We delay gratification in hopes to build little human beings that are not entitled. We set boundaries. We protect. We play. And we love.

I have had it with this idea of self-deprecation and false humility. There are no perfect mothers. We will make mistakes every day. But as long as we show up, work hard, and love hard, we are doing a dang great job.

So to my girlfriends around the table that evening - I apologize for being anything less than the powerful spirit inside of me. We are fabulous moms and we are going to bask in that sunshine. (written and posted by 
Abigail Irene Fisher)


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As I sat on the couch, taking a few minutes for myself as the kids played outside, I read through my friend Abigail's post again. I remembered how a few weeks prior, I had taken an eight-hour mountain biking workshop here in Colorado.

Toward the end of the day, I was tired and overwhelmed. We were going down a hill that was mega-outside my comfort zone. It was steep, there were rocks in the way of where I wanted my tires to go, and the loose dirt and gravel taunted me with it's instability. When it was my turn and I rode my bike gingerly down, I froze and nearly fell. My coach asked me to go back up and start again.

Over and over, I tried, but I couldn't get over how hard and out of my comfort zone it put me.

It seemed dangerous and I pictured myself plummeting down the mountainside, bloody and injured.

The other girls were patiently waiting for me at the bottom, cheering me on. "They'd done it," I thought frustrated. "Why can't I?!"

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As my sweet coach walked up to where I stood with my bike, one foot on a pedal, the other on the dusty ground, she said something profound. Not just something that got me down the hillside, but something that has stayed with me and I recite back to myself all the time in my day-to-day life:

"LOOK TO VICTORY."

"If your eyes are on the rocks and hard places, that's where you'll end up. And we both know the rubble and rocky ground is not your target. Look instead to where you want to be, look at your destination." 

"WHERE YOUR EYES LOOK DIRECTS WHERE YOU GO"

"Look to victory!", she said again. "Look where you want to go and guess what...that's where you'll position yourself to be. You CAN do this...don't allow yourself to dwell on the crags and rocks. Look at the place you want your tires to roll over and that's where they'll roll."

And guess what? I did it. I forced my eyes away from the scary places that would take me from achieving my goal, and recited "look to victory!!" under my breath the whole way, as I hurried down the steep decent I thought I could never successfully make.

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I think about this now as a mom. As a writer and creative. I have massive insecurities and fears I have to shove away a million times every day. But I'm learning to look to victory and set my sights on where I want to be instead.

If we allow ourselves to listen to the lie that we suck as moms, or are horrible in our careers, or will never be a good enough wife or friend...that's where we'll end up.

Look to victory, friends. Set your eyes on Christ and don't let lies of inadequacy and weakness dictate where you steer your day. And remember...

LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO AND GUESS WHAT...THAT'S WHERE YOU'LL POSITION YOURSELF TO BE.

READ MORE ABOUT  TERESA  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  GUIDES SECTION.

READ MORE ABOUT TERESA (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS GUIDES SECTION.

WRITTEN BY TERESA SWANSTROM ANDERSON: AUTHOR, SPEAKER, AND FOUNDER OF THE & SOCIETY