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.

"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.