We are built for this mom thing. Our bodies are made to be stretched and re-shaped in ways we didn’t think we possible. We were made to carry the extra weight even when it’s painful.

We are built for labor and delivery. We are built to overcome the pain, and then continue to give our bodies over to our babies within minutes of birth. Nursing those little humans we love instantly.

We push through.

We bounce back.

Handing our bodies over.

Surrendering to Mother Nature.

We were perfectly built and prepare to do hard things. We are built to run on little sleep and cold cups of coffee. Built to carry other people’s hearts and their burdens too.

We carry them on our hip and in our hearts. We kiss boo boos and comfort the scared and the tired.

We are built with a tough outer shell that takes a beating and can still dish out an abundance of unconditional love for our little ones. It’s amazing how strong a mad three year old can be. Hitting and throwing punches, screaming at us. But we’re right there waiting when they’re ready to calm down, welcoming them with a hug and to kiss their red, sweaty face.

Moms are resilient.

We are built for this.

We are strong like a mother.

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An innocent, yet potentially offensive, racial comment came from my 7 year old’s mouth the other day. My first thought was to correct him, let him know that it could be hurtful, but I also knew whole heartedly his words had zero ill-intent. He was speaking about his friends after all, friends he loves and respects. So before bringing to light the differences he unknowingly was pointing out, I reached out to a friend and mama to biracial children. I love and respect her and knew that asking her opinion about my son’s comments would be met with honesty and compassion. She knows my son’s heart, and I looked to her to help guide the conversation in a positive light for my son.

You see, my family interacts with others from different backgrounds, races, and abilities. On purpose. I’m under no illusion that my kids don’t see the differences around them. I actually want them to see the differences, and love them fully because of them. I just never want my kids to make friends or decision based solely on those differences. My goal is to provide opportunities for them to see that everyone is different in some way, and that those differences make us special and unique.

This wasn’t the first time I have reached out to others, and asked hard questions. There have been times my kids have made comments about others’ differences and I have picked up the phone, and called a friend with those differences to bounce ideas off of them on how to teach my kids to be respectful of those differences in the future. I’m so thankful I’ve chosen to include people from all walks of life in my families lives so that we have these resources when the tough conversations come up. By including diversity in our family, I’ve created a safe place for us to learn and grow together. I choose to surround myself with people that are like me, and also people that are unlike me, because I love hearing their stories and I want my kids to hear them too.

I ask questions. Even when it’s hard and uncomfortable because I feel that is the only way to break the cycle of separation. I seek out others that can provide a different point of view. I ask questions because I honestly believe that when I ask out of genuine interest, and an appetite to learn and grow my understanding that those questions are welcomed and appreciated. Opening up the path to the tough conversations help connect people when we can see into the other’s thoughts and feelings.

I ask the tough questions and spark the tough conversations because I believe it’s worth it and that learning about each others’ differences bring us closer together.

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There’s been so much talk about setting an example of a positive body imagine, and being present with your kids instead of worrying about how you look in a swimsuit. I can totally get on board with this idea in my head, but if we’re all being honest, it’s extremely hard to push past our own insecurities and it’s causing us to miss the big moments. The good stuff with your kids.

It’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

The not caring.

Because we do.

We all do.

We all have our “stuff” about our own bodies, and our own personalities that we’d like to fix, change, and adjust. So I’m not here to say that we should ignore those insecurities completely. I honestly believe those insecurities are what motivates us to better ourselves. And positive growth and continuing to be a better version of yourself is never a bad example to provide to our kids. But it’s HOW we go about addressing those insecurities, that really matter around our little ones.

It’s just not realistic to convince ourselves that we will never have those little things about us that we’d like to change. And that’s not a realistic example to show our kids either. On the flip side, it might possibly make our kids feel isolated when they have insecurities of their own. Because they WILL have them sometimes in their lives. Our job is to teach positive ways to address those insecurities in the eyes of our kids.

It’s an obvious bit of advice to tell girl moms to love their own bodies in front of their little girls, but as a boy mom, it’s my job to also love my body in front of my kids. Because I am their very first example of how to respect a woman’s body.

I strive to show them the parts of myself I’m most proud of but also the parts I’d like to change. In a healthy way. It’s not realistic to expect a mom to only have positive thoughts about their own body. But what I’m suggesting is that we’re careful in our criticism. That we’re sharing the thoughts that motivate us for positive change and sharing the things we love too.

But this tip is not just for the girl moms. It’s for the boy moms too.

It’s for us all.

Boys need to see self respect too, and if they’re ever going to learn to respect their own bodies and the bodies of others, they need to see that demonstrated from adults they look up to most. I not only want my boys to love their own bodies and maintain his high self esteem but also to love, cherish, value and respect girls’ bodies in the future.

So I challenge you, mom of girls and mom of boys, to practice self respect in front of our next generation. I’m not asking you to hide all your insecurities, I’m simply asking that you model positive change and constructive criticism so that the next generation can develop a healthy sense of worth and value of their bodies. The parts the love and the parts they don’t. And learn to accept and love their bodies.

Boys need this too, Mamas!

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It happens every time I leave my kids. Without fail, I give them a big hug and a kiss, say my goodbyes, and the anxiety flows strong. Sure there are a few tears shed from my babies. Sure, sometimes, they cling to me and beg me not to go, but after I turn and leave, they’re just fine. Happy as can be.

But me?

It’s not as easy.

While they turn their minds quickly to the nearest toy, a new friend, or a loving family member, I am stuck with the anxiety of being away.

I’m the one with separation anxiety.

Not the kids.

I’m the one that worries after Sunday school drop off. I sit in the pews and wonder how long it took for them to calm down or if their face is still stained with tears. I worry if the other kids are including him, and if the teachers will see through their crying and fits and into their sweet, kind hearts within. I worry if they’ll have an accident or if they’re request a potty break like I prepped them to do. I worry if they’ll think I abandoned them or if they’ll be mad at me when I return. I know this time is good for me, to be away. To focus on this special time of worship, but I can’t turn off the mom in me.

I’m the one that worries on the first day of Kindergarten. I sit in my car and cry, unable to be strong now that I’m out of their sight. I could only hold it together for them, and now that it’s just me, I’m a mess. While they’re busy learning, and growing, making friends and making memories, I’m plagued by the thought that those memories they’re making don’t include me. I continue to worry about their safety and their happiness. And long after their anxiety passes, mine does not.

It’s never about who they are with. It’s simply that they’re not with me. Being with them keeps me whole, and when they are away, there is always a piece of me missing and longing to be whole again.

I know I’ll one day worry when they leave my nest for good and fly on their own. I’ll sit in my way too quiet house and I’ll wonder if they’re safe and happy. I’ll struggle to find the balance between independence and holding on. I’ll worry if I’m calling too much or not enough. I’ll wonder if taught them enough manners and if they’ll use them. I’ll worry that I’m losing them and crave for the moments of loud and crazy and chaotic in my home again.

No matter their age, I’m the one with that struggles with the separation. Not them.

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As a new school years is again upon us, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the ongoing debate of how much pressure we put on young kids. Especially kindergarteners. Should they be playing more? Should they be reading already? Is a 7 hour day too much?

There’s no doubt that my 7 year old is able to do way more academically than I did at his age. The school system has changed drastically in just a few decades.

As a mom of an elementary age kid, and as a former elementary school teacher. I’m here to tell you, they can have BOTH. We can have kids that are reading more, learning more, and doing more than we did as kids. Kids can rise to high expectations without forcing them to sacrifice their youth.

We can have kids that learn through play. We can still have kids that enjoying running and jumping. Admittedly, there’s not a lot of free play in public schools these days, but structured play can be good for kids too. They can still be happy and well rounded. Structured play doesn’t have to mean we’re forcing kids to give up their childhood.

We can have both, my friends.

Teachers spend countless hours prepping and planning fun, engaging activities, games and other lessons that get kids out of their seats and moving while learning. I’ve seen play kitchens in schools with sight words labeling the items. I’ve seen kids walking the hallways with clipboards in hand participating in a seek and find game in groups. All the while, fostering collaborative work, encouraging reading, writing, and physical activities. And guess what? The kids didn’t look like zombies. They looked like kids having fun while learning. We can have both.

Reading early doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Accomplishing big things doesn’t have to be at the expense of their tender spirit, and in my opinion, it’s not. My son loves learning about animals and Star Wars, and Superheroes. He loves when we read novels out loud and his imagination runs wild. He loves that he can learn about his favorite topics while reading with a flashlight at bedtime. He chooses this activity. He’s not forced. He feels empowered by that skill. By his ability to read. He bonds with his brothers by reading to them. He entertains himself on car rides with a book in hand. And it makes me smile.

I’ve never been the type of mom to wish time away. I’ve always been the mom that begs to slow time, but as a new school year is fast approaching, I will embrace the structure and the play. I will encourage my kids to practice their skills and grow them. And I will encourage them to run and play and be silly.

We can have both.

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I don’t really care if my kids become doctors or lawyers. I don’t care if they go to college or if they decide to travel the world.

Sure, I’d love to see all kids grow up to be successful, happy adults. And not that I believe money buys happiness, it doesn’t. But I do know that financial struggles create stresses I hope they never endure.

But aside from what kind of adult they become, what I really care about is if they are kind to others. I care if they hold the door open for the person behind them. Especially if it’s a lady. I care if they are respectful to their elders and to authority figures. I care if they are open minded, and accepting even when others are different. Especially when they’re different.

I care if they ask to be excused from the dinner table, and wait to begin their meal until everyone is seated and has been served. I care if they love God and live every day spreading his love. I care if they are thoughtful and do for others without having to be asked. I care if they leave something better than they found it, and speak more positive than negative. I care if they build people up more than they tear people down. I care they they make decisions with their heart and their gut more than their mind.

I care that they protect their own heart and know when to walk away from an unhealthy love or friendship. I don’t care who they marry, but I care that they put their spouse on a pedestal and cherish them. I care if they are honest and loyal. If they decide to become a parent, I don’t care about the gender or the race of my grandkids, but I do care they that treasure their children as gifts from above.

It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in societies definition of success. But no matter the profession, or the financial status, all I really care about is if I raised down right good humans. Ones that treat people with kindness, respect and love.

Anything else is just gravy.

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Can I be honest for a minute?

When you first told me there was a shift in your office situation, and you would now be working from home, I panicked.

Not because I don’t love seeing you, but I was terrified that you were about to cross into my domain during the work day. I feared we wouldn’t be able to find a happy medium between me being a stay-at-home mom to our (not so quiet) littles, and creating a professional work space. I worried I would constantly be anxious trying to shhh the crying and the tantrums. I didn’t want to be resentful of the extra time we got with you, thinking this would make us all to have to walk on egg shells all day.

I, selfishly, enjoy my morning coffee play dates with other moms, letting our littles have free range to the playroom for the sake of a hot cup of coffee and an adult conversation. Selfish or not, those mom chats were my life line. My saving grace as I navigating this ever-changing journey of motherhood.

I didn’t want to have to give it up.

And if I’m being really honest, I worried I would be envious of your ability to go in your office and shut the madness out behind you. I worried I would want to trade spaces with you, because there are times I long to go into a room all alone and shut the door behind me, without fear of fingers under the door begging for snacks.

I feel I can only admit all of these anxiety provoking thoughts now that we’ve lived it, and it’s been everything I didn’t know our family needed.

Sometimes the fear of the unknown prevents us from welcoming a change that could be life changing.

In all the best ways.

To my surprise, we quickly found our groove, you and I. I found a balance between chaos and calm, and you somehow, figured out a way to block out the noise of life when I couldn’t quiet it. It is wonderful that you have a .087 second commute from end of day, to our family dinner table. You’ve even been able to step away early to help me get meals started while I chase toddlers or nurse a newborn. You’ve been able to spend your lunch break on the trails skipping rocks our boys. Making memories mid-day.

I have seen your added presences at home strengthen your relationships with our boys, and with me. We all feel more connected to you on a daily basis. Our boys walk in the door from an outing and say, “I wanna see daddy,” and they can. They draw something creative and immediately say, “ I wanna show daddy,” and they can. They accomplish something new and they say, “ I wanna tell daddy,” and they can.

You are showing our kids every day, how to balance working hard and loving your family hard. They have learned patience waiting for your to finish a phone call, and learned to be respectful of your closed office doors. Lessons I would have had a hard time enforcing on my own, when we had free range of the whole house.

Between lunch breaks together, a quick hug between conference calls, and getting used to muting the background so your customers don’t hear our screaming kids learning their manners; having you home during the day has been a wonderful change for our family.

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While running errands the other day, a lady commented on my homemade beaded necklace while standing at the deli counter. I snuck out for the rare grocery trip sans kids. And maybe that’s why my particular jewelry choice stuck out to her enough to comment to a stranger. But her opinion of my jewels made me stop and think.

“Did your kids make you a necklace today?” The lady asked.

“Well, yes, my kids made it, but not today. It was a gift from them a few years back.” I replied with a smile.

“Oh wow!” She seemed genuinely shocked. “How sweet of you to actually wear it other than the day they gave it to you.”

I smiled in return, because I didn’t really know how else to answer a backwards compliment about my jewelry choice. But as I continued down my shopping list, I couldn’t shake the replay of that conversation.

So what I wish I would have told her is that,

I wear my homemade jewelry from my kids, not out of obligation, but because I genuinely love my kids, and all that they create.

I wear these gifts more than “just the day they gave it to me” because it makes them smile when they see it on me.

I wear them because I never want to downplay their talents or their thoughtfulness.

I wear them because if I don’t, one day, they’ll stop making them for me, and then my mom heart would be crushed.

I wear them not just in front of them, but when I’m away from them too, because it reminds me of my precious babies and their sweet, kind hearts.

I wear them because I genuinely see the beauty in them, and these bright beads can fancy up any outfit.

Other than my wedding ring, which I absolutely cherish, I’ve never been big on fancy jewelry. I’m more plain Jane in the jewelry department. But just like my beaded necklace that costs less than $1 to make, I love my wedding ring not because it’s expensive or fancy, but because of the person that gave it to me and the love it represents.

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“What am I doing wrong?”

It’s a question that pops into my head often as I spend my days raising babies. But the question really hits hard after my kids have spent time with their grandparents…without me. 

It never fails, my kids come home from a day with the grandparents and bam! They walk through the door and…

They. Are. Terrors. 

Meltdown after meltdown. Manners? What manners? Never heard of them, Mom? It’s as if the second they are in my presence, a switch flips. I cringe as I prepare for the report I know is coming…

“They were complete angles with us. We didn’t see any of these behaviors.”

So what am I doing wrong then? Why does being around me bring out the worst in my kids? 

Now, I know that grandparent days are often filled with a lot of “yes” and hardly any “no.” As it should be. I want my kids to absolutely love their time with their grandparents. And I’m surely not complaining that they behaved excellently with them. I would be mortified with any less than a perfect report while I was away. 

But, man, it hits a Mama’s self-esteem hard. So I can’t help but question what I must be doing wrong, if I can’t produce the same results. 

But, you see, there’s also another angle to consider. 

Possibly, Mama is the safe place to let it all hang out. 

Possibly, Mama is the unconditional safety net where they feel completely safe to fall apart. 

Possibly, they’ve given all they can possibly give proving you did, in fact, teach them a few manners along the way. So much so that they tried so hard showing those said taught manners while they were away, that they can’t possibly hold it all together a second longer. 

Because, we are their safe space. We aretheir unconditional safety net. 

There’s nothing they can do to earn more love from us, and there surely isn’t a thing they could do that could lose it either. It’s theirs for the taking. No matter what. No matter the meltdown, or the failed manners, or the tears. 

So, maybe, just maybe, we aren’t doing anything wrong at all. Maybe, we’re simply doing everything right so that they feel 100% comfortable falling apart with us. Because they know we will love them through it. 

And we will. 

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I gave up caring what others think about me. I’ve realized I’d just rather not know. I’m better for all when I work towards bettering myself and my own version of goodness, instead of trying to fit other peoples visions of perfection.

I gave up begging my kids for the perfect photo. I realized I had the wrong idea of perfection, and once I realized that all my kids in a photo, no matter their faces, no matter their mood, was perfect enough for me.

I gave up trying to change other people. I realized that I couldn’t. I realized that I could change my response to other people, and I was much happier when I focused on changing me instead of them.

I gave up complaining about the rain and started looking for the rainbows. I realized that all things good, need the rain sometimes, and rainbows wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful without the storms before them.

I gave up trying to be everything to everyone. I realized it’s impossible to be there for anyone when I’m spreading myself too thin.

I gave up trying to force friendships that were only meant for a season. I gave up chasing people that didn’t want to be chased, and gave up sticking around when people are unkind. I realized once I didn’t crowd my time with unhealthy relationships, I made room for the meaningful ones.

I gave up resisting change and learning to embrace it. I realized that change is the only constant and I better get on board and change my perspective of it, or I was bound to me unhappy.

I gave up. And it truly made all the difference.

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