Be strong. Protect the Weak. Love Everyone. ™

NYC Recap with Today Parents

kristi hayesComment
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Last week I told you I was headed to NYC with Today Parents. I am a part of their parenting team and sometimes you get lucky and they ask you to do fun things.

Wow! It was such a fantastic time, I wanted to give you who followed along on the journey a little recap:

DAY 1:

We met other Today Parents contributors and screened the second season of the show New Amsterdam. If you haven't been watching this show, go turn it on RIGHT NOW!It is a true story about a fledgling hospital that gets a new Head of Medicine who wants to heal people's bodies and hearts.

Last year I watched the show and was so impacted by a single question the main character always said: "HOW CAN I HELP?"
That I wrote a blog post about it.

When the main character, Ryan Eggold, was interviewed on stage, the Today Parents editor surprised me by reading this blog to him. I couldn't believe it. He was such a sweet soul.

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That afternoon I was able to meet Nadia Lopez, who started Mott Hall Bridges Public school for underesourced and underprivileged middle school children. She was featured in a piece by Humans of New York and her story took off from there. The way she leads her school and teaches her kids they can be MORE, is incredible. Here her Ted Talk here:

She was a true inspiration.

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That night I got to meet up with friend and podcast guest Liz Bohannon who was in NYC for a press tour for her new book Beginner's Pluck. If you haven't read this book, you will love it. It is one of the best books on leadership I have read this year. You can also hear her recent podcast here.

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Day 2:

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I met Hoda at the Today Show taping, who by they way, is the NICEST, KINDEST soul ever. We gave her a be.love tank as she is the epitome of loving others well.

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I was so lucky to meet with some people who are changing this world for good.
First up was Natalie Silverstein who just wrote the book Simple Acts: The Busy Families Guide to Giving Back. This book is like a guidebook for families who want to be intentional about loving others. And Natalie helps everyone do this in simple ways, and things you are probably already doing with your family. I highly recommend you purchase it for your family. https://simpleactsguide.com

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I also met with a podcast guest,Christine Mulhearne, who works for Oprah Magazine. She gave me some great goodies, and it's always fun to talk about all things Oprah.

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NYC will always be my favorite! Thank you all for encouraging me to do crazy things, for supporting our family, and cheering us along the way. We couldn't do it without you!

Just a girl looking at her favorite city and dreaming of all the possibilities.

Just a girl looking at her favorite city and dreaming of all the possibilities.

Today Show

Today Show

The glorious moments that go uncelebrated

kristi hayesComment
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I posted this picture on social media today and most will scroll right by this picture, or even wonder why it’s on our feed, cause it’s not professional or that impressive. And that’s ok, I would do the same thing. 

The pictures before this on our feed were the ones below, when I was NYC with Ryan the star of New Amsterdam, Hoda at the Today Show, and me visiting the Oprah Magazine offices. These are the pictures that garner the likes and praises, because it feels glamorous and like I am getting some real important stuff done. And I did and it was awesome. And I am so so grateful for the opportunity.

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HOWEVER, I want to remind all of you in the trenches that could take  pictures just like the one of me and the kids in carpool, every single day.

The picture with tired mom eyes from waking up early to rub her kiddos backs as the early morning light shines through the window, the moments right before when we were cramming on shoes and sticking snacks in backbacks and leaving dirty plates of half-eaten breakfast on the table. The daily grind we all do. The kisses, and affirmations, and fist bumps, and words that come out of our mouth that will hopefully inspire our kids to be their best selves that day.

These are the glorious moments, these are the non-celebrated ones, the ones we keep to ourselves because they don’t seem that special. It’s easier to share the ones that look impressive because we are with important people BUT, I am actually with the most important people in the world, in the back seat, with most likely unbrushed teeth and mismatched socks.

But these are the ones we should post and we should celebrate. 

These are the sacred moments,  definitely not the glamorous ones, but the ones that will matter. 

The ones that are spectacular

The ones that are magical. 

The tiny little moments we do every single day to love our family well, to show up, to help in whatever way we can.

These are the moments….

So I just want to say:

I see you mamas and daddies rushing in the morning, trying to get yourself ready for work while you also get your kiddos to school before that second bell. 

I see you mamas and daddies who have been up all night with a sick kid or new baby, and still have the energy, (from who knows where,) to snuggle your kid and play on the floor with legos all day when you just want a nap. 

I see you rushing home from a big day, just to pull into carpool 5 minutes late, or to kiss your kids before they fall asleep.

Just a reminder to myself mostly, but maybe to one of you,  Hoda is awesome, NYC is awesome, but these are the glorious moments. 

These are the sacred ones. 

These are the worthiest of all. 

Thank you to each and everyone of you who do the moments that seem unimportant, unimpressive, uncelebrated EVERY SINGLE DAY! 

They impress the socks off of me. 







Protect the day (keeping a day or few hours unscheduled for your family)

kristi hayesComment
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PROTECT THE DAY

Lately we have been very intentional about protecting a piece of time in the weekend for no schedules. The week is filled with hours of carpool, practices, homework, and my kids and our family need a day to reset, no schedules, nowhere to go, and if it is somewhere to go it is filled with intention because it brings us life as a family.

We live in this fast paced society to feel pressure to be a part of EVERYTHING, but for me I have realized that ONE day or a few HOURS I can protect for us is key and becomes the refill for our week. 

For us it’s usually Sunday. We usually have our soccer games on Saturday and try to go to church Saturday night so Sunday is only pancakes on the porch, cartoons, long walks, or making a fort in the backyard.

Many times my kids will say, “What are we doing today?”

Which I reply, “We are refilling our tank today so we have nothing scheduled.”

And then they will whine about being bored and what will they do.

But then a magical thing happens, they figure out something fun to do, and it becomes their favorite day.

They are forced to play together and make up something to fill their time.

Research says it is good for children to be bored, to be alone with their thoughts, to use their creativity to come up with things to do. It’s the same for adults, we never have a minute that something isn’t vying for our attention, whether it be work, responsibilities, game schedules, technology distractions. Our minds are always going. Which leads to burn out, stress and me being short with others.

So our free day has been one of my favorite days too. I try to put away tech, sit on the porch longer, go play in the extravagant fort with my kids that they made for the past two hours, while they were “bored.”

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This is also a day we make sure everything is ready for the next week, check homework, make a menu, get carpool ready. It doesn’t mean you are just napping all day, it’s whatever you and your family love to do that can fill your tank, something that resets your go-go-go self. Ask your family what they want to do. Get outside, go for a walk, sit on the porch and eat, let your kids figure something out.

I encourage you to find a day, a half a day, or even a few hours you protect each week. It takes intentionality because all of us could DO something every hour of everyday. But I want to teach my kids at an early age about rest. That it is so important they have a day to reset, and hopefully they will take this with them throughout their adult lives.

I understand all families have different schedules, I feel like this is busiest we have ever been with activities for our kids, but that’s why I want to be so intentional about getting some time FREE. Some weeks it could be a whole day, and some weeks it could be just half a day. It might mean saying NO to something, so you can say YES to this.

I know now its ok for my kids to be bored, it’s ok them not to be entertained or to not go to the 125th birthday party this year. I have given myself this permission and it has given our family so much freedom.

I hope you try it, it really has been my favorite part of the week. And if you already do this, give us some ideas of what you do!

Helping our kids fail well.

kristi hayesComment

I’ve been reading about kids and failure, how it’s important for them to experience failure, especially when they are smaller, under our roof, so we can coach them through what it means to be persistent, to be disappointed, to be humiliated, to try again. 

As much as I love a good win, I truly do want my kids to fail hard, and figure out how to persevere even if it’s embarrassing, even if it’s painful so when they are adults they have already been here and know what to do. 

Carter Mae’s word for the year is PERSEVERANCE and this weekend at her first gymnastics meet we got a tiny glimpse of what this looks like in a 7 year old way. 

She was up for vault which is a pretty straightforward event and she loves a good power event BUT as you can see in the video the first vault did NOT go as planned, she completely missed the mat, I knew she was mortified, you could literally hear the gasps from the crowd. She is a mini me so I knew exactly what was happening in her head. I saw her big tears trying to sneak out her eyes, but her trying to suck them up as she walked back to try for her second attempt. You guys my heart was about to explode, she has about 30 seconds to regroup, and try again! She told me later she was so scared, but she knew she needed to try. She did, and she nailed it. 

To see your kid fail and try again with all their might is probably one of my favorite things in the world. I loved talking to her about this, watching her live out her word, in a SMALL way, but to her heart in a HUGE way, something that is building those TRY AGAIN muscles. 

She ended up winning the vault and it helped her tie for all around. Honestly that’s a great ending to the story, but I would have been just as proud if she would have just tried again and not nailed it, but just tried her hardest. 

Thank you Carter Mae for making me want to try again. As an entrepreneur I get the NO word in my face weekly, and many days I want to just sit on the couch and watch Netflix and not try, but you inspired me to get up and try try again this week.

I love that our kids are our greatest teachers. 


Speaking over our kids

kristi hayesComment
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I remember when I played basketball, there was a certain game that I remember very well. It was an important game, a district game, which means the more you win, the better chances you have going to state championship. We were up 1 point with 10 seconds left. 

All I had to do was take care of the ball and we WON.

But that didn’t happen!

Instead I lost the ball, dribbled it off my leg or foot or something, I just know it was no longer in my hands!

I remember feeling it leave my hand, it was like everything was in slow motion, my face was saying, “WHAT…. JUST…. HAPPENED…..OH….NO….. I……JUST ……..LOST……..THE…….GAME?”

And as I sat there dumbfounded the other team had already stolen the ball and scored a lay-up to WIN the game.

I was humiliated and I remember staying in the locker room A VERY LONG time, because I wanted everyone to be gone when I got out. But guess who was still there...my dad.


After finally emerging all splotchy face, my eyes red from crying. I went up to my dad and he said, "why are you crying baby girl?' ⁠

Were you even at the game I wanted to say? Did you not see me lose the game for my team?⁠

⁠He, in his southern drawl said, "Baby, you didn't lose the game, the floor was uneven all night and it LOST THE GAME for you. When you dribbled the floor made it bounce crazy...."

⁠I laugh so hard at this, and even then I knew he was full of it!   I am not saying lie to your kids and tell them they are AWESOME all the time when they most certainly are NOT!  I am the first one to tell a coach to TELL the truth to my kids if they are sucking it up, but I also understand the power of a parent’s words.

This is just one small story of many that helped me know my dad believed in me and thought I could do anything. He had a long history of speaking life into me.

He spoke words of who I was, and he truly believed it. ⁠

⁠Our words have true power for our kids’ hearts. The words we say to them daily mean something. ⁠

⁠I don't say the right words every day to my kids, I fuss, and raise my voice sometimes, we have mornings that I regret and rewind all day in my head. But I also try to make it a point to say, “ I am sorry” when this happen, and ask for their forgiveness. I am not perfect but I am trying. And my heart is always for them.

⁠I make it a point to say things over them in the morning when they are cuddled up with me in the chair of who I know them to be, and what I believe they can be in this world. I don't lie to them or give them false dreams, but I speak truth of worth, love, and strength over them. ⁠

⁠We aren't always going to get it right, most likely NEVER, but we can do small little things, like speak over our kids outloud WHO they are so they know it in the depths of their hearts when they got out into this very big world.



What I say to my kids every. single. day!

kristi hayesComment
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There is a saying I yell out the door each day ...it's “ EYES WIDE, LIGHTS SHINE…”.


I used to say let your light shine...I said it every day they left my car for school. We said it so much that the carpool lady then started telling her kids, and the principal started asking my kids if their light shined that day. It caught on. And I loved that my kids were held accountable at school.

As much as we tell our kids anything we hope it sinks in. We just never know. Sometimes we say things until we are blue in the face and they never get it, and then sometimes they do.

I added the EYES wide part, because I think as a culture these days we just don’t pay attention like we used too. Our heads our buried in our phones, we don’t talk to strangers in the check out line, or look into the eyes of the person who takes our order at our favorite restaurant. Our eyes just don’t seem as open anymore, and when that happens we miss things, we miss people, we miss out on lots. Lots of mundane, special, beautiful moments and experiences to know and be known by others.


My intention with this saying, EYES WIDE, LIGHTS SHINE was because I wanted them to make sure before they did their normal thing, like sitting down for lunch with their friends, or playing on the monkey bars at recess with their besties, that they scanned the lunchroom, the playground, the places that are so vulnerable for a new kid or a lonely one.

That’s where stuff goes down.

I want to remind them to LOOK, to SEE, to not MISS other’s feelings. And when they see someone who might need a little extra shiny light on them, they go invite, come alongside, shine bright.  Do they always do it...probably not, I mean no, they don’t, let’s be real.

But I read that repetition is key. So I am gonna keep repeating every morning and asking how they shined that light every week. 


Another beautiful thing someone mentioned to me when I told them this phrase this week was, when people keep their EYES OPEN, when they see people, they become open hearted, and when our hearts open, our eyes shine.

Have you ever met someone who is just shiny? Like their eyes glisten because their heart is wide open to others. They experience a deep love, a deep kinship with others, and their light gets brighter because of their need for others, their need for mutual reciprocation of lights shining on them too. Not all of us will have lights to shine. Many of us will have days when it is dark, real dark, like when you stick your hand in front of your face in the pitch black and can’t see it kindof dark, and that's when we will need to receive someone else’s shine, someone else’s light on us. It’s a beautiful thing. All of us being light givers, and light receivers. 

And one day my kids might say, my mom used to say this phrase every single day, “Eyes Wide, Lights Shine,” and so we did.



SHARE YOUR GIFTS so others can be inspired! (The story of how a friend inspired us to set ourselves up for health success)

kristi hayesComment


If I could sit with you in a cafe and drink my favorite cappuccino , (we would have to be in Paris of course),one of the things I would say to you is SHARE your gifts with the world.

No matter if you think they are big or small, or non-existent, or don't matter. EVERY person has gifts, talents, and every person is meant to share those with another!

⁠Here is what happens when we share our gifts- it inspires others, it gives them ideas, it starts to spur on their gifts and talents. Our gifts aren't the same, and no talent is better than another, just different.

Last week I was inspired by a friend who eats healthy and sets herself up each week by organizing her pantry and refrigerator. Now she is so organized and her pantry is so beautiful that I could walk in her house and think,  “I could never be that organized, my house isn’t this big and pretty.” Instead of being inspired, I could compare, which we know ultimately destroys any inspiration to be had. 

But here is what we can do instead. I see how she does it, and I make it my own.

In truth, I will never be as organized, and my house will never be this neat. I am not an organized person by nature. So instead of looking at what she has, and saying, “I will never have it like that”, I look at what she has, and say, ”Wow, that’s inspiring”,  and it will set me up for success, and I think of how I can do it my own. 


So I came home and I ordered a set of clear containers where I can put all my veggies, fruits, all prepared for the week. I involve my kids in the process. They clean and chop everything. They love chopping and finding the containers to put them in. (Thank goodness they love organizing). I clean out my fridge and make room for just the clear containers. I boil eggs for the week so we can have healthy snacks. We clean out the pantry and make  each shelf a section, so we can have easy access to healthy snacks instead of having to dig around and finding something not as optimal. 


I find that when my kids can SEE and just pull out the snacks in the fridge they do. We almost always go through one pound of strawberries in a day instead of their getting moldy at the bottom of the fridge out of sight. 

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I have now done this for the past month.  It has inspired us to eat healthy because we can see all of our foods and since  they are already washed and prepped all we have to do is grab. I feel good because I am eating healthier and I also feel like I am crushing it in the “mom” department because my kids are also choosing to eat healthy. They also love to eat what they have prepped. 

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And here is how sharing your gifts with others has a ripple effect. That next week I had a friend come stay with us for the weekend.  She saw our new fridge organized and decided to go home and do the same to hers -setting herself up for success. 


SHARE your gifts. If you are an incredible organizer, share it with others.  Don’t be afraid to share your tips and tricks. I guarantee people like me, to whom it doesn’t come naturally, need it. If you are good at cooking, drawing, pep talks, business, writing, parenting, etc. Share it. 

God set you up with these beautiful gifts and talents. SHARE THEM, SHINE THEM, so others can be inspired, so others can better themselves. Don’t hide them...don’t compare them to someone else’s. BE YOU! And when someone shares their gifts and it inspires you. TELL THEM!

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Ordinary hero....you are!

kristi hayesComment
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We got this mug for my husband for Father's Day, but I like to steal it.


I like to steal it to remind myself that I don't have to be some BIG HERO, and do all these BIG ridiculous things. I have dreams and I definitely pursue them, I think everyone should, but sometimes its the small everyday things that remind me I am a hero to someone.

The daily grace filled tasks that aren't seen or even sometimes acknowledged. The ones that can feel meaningless in the trenches of the day.

I need to remind myself to live in the present. That the small things MATTER so much. The daily heroic things, that no one deems heroic, but in the grand scheme of things are, maybe even more so then the big audacious things everyone sees. ⁠

❤️The daily piles and piles of laundry that are cleaned and folded.⁠
❤️The smile and extra cuddles I give to my kids when

❤️I am exhausted or they have disappointed me. ⁠
❤️The extra grace I give my spouse when I want to say, "I told you so."⁠
❤️The workout I get accomplished when all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix. ⁠

❤️The text sent to a friend who was struggling. ⁠
❤️The "how can I help?" question, to a struggling friend.⁠
❤️The dinner made for my family when I am tired. ⁠
❤️The tickles of my kids back at night⁠

No matter how insignificant those small daily things seem, know that you are an EVERYDAY HERO to your family, friends, strangers.

So if you are feeling an ounce of insignificance today or feeling like your purpose is small, I cheers you EVERYDAY HERO, because you certainly are one!⁠

What to do when you are SCARED out of your mind!

kristi hayesComment
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When I went to the obstetrician and found out I was having a girl, I made the nurse come back in and check the sonogram again. I said, "Wait, I can't have a girl, I don't know how to do a girl? I am a boy mom, I don't know how to braid hair or deal with girl drama." ⁠

I remember feeling so lost and afraid. I felt completely out of my league. And then I had her....and everything changed. ⁠

Yes, she is just like me, and yes, I have to be intentional in parenting her the way she needs, but man she's one of the greatest things that ever happened to us. ⁠

It's so fun to watch this little girl grow into her own, so fun to be a part of her discovering herself. She reminds me every day to be the best version of me so she can be the best version of her.⁠

⁠I still feel out of my league many days, but man she's so worth it. ⁠

⁠Mamas, you are exactly who you need to be for your kiddos I promise!

⁠Has there ever been a time you have felt overwhelmed with something, only to know it’s gonna turn out just exactly like it needs to be?

Let us know…shoot us a note in the comments or send us an email: info@bestrongstory.com

Also check out our latest podcast episode on COURAGE, and how to tap into it even when you are scared!

LISTEN HERE:

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Confidence, what is it really?

kristi hayesComment
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Today I picked up Carter Mae, my 7 year-old, from camp. She handed me a camp award that she received.

(I guess everyone got a specific character award).

When she threw hers to me, she was kind of like, eh, here’s my award; with no excitement or pride attached. Usually my very excitable, conversational girl who loves a good accolade would be so pumped for an award, but this one, not so much.

It said:

Presented to Carter Mae Hayes for being the MOST CONFIDENT. 

She wasn’t impressed with it, and quite honestly my first reaction was,

“Wait, is that even a  compliment, or was she too bossy or too much? Who gives out a confidence award?

Is it  the award that is like a backhanded compliment?

And then in the next breath, I came to my senses. I absolutely want my girl to get an award for being confident. Am I not in the business of raising a child who is completely confident in who she is, accepts exactly who she was made to be with purpose?

Do I want her to think she is perfect? 

No.

Do I want her to walk confidently in who she is, flaws and all?

100%

After I got in the car with her, I let her know that this is an incredible award.

Confidence means you KNOW who you are, and WHOSE you are. To start knowing this in the little years and keeping that truth as she grows older is exactly what I want her to put in her heart.

If she knows those two things, she is gonna be just fine. More than fine!

Who she is:  kind, brave, smart, disciplined, fun, nurturing. 

Whose you are is God’s girl!


And guess what, when you are confident in who you are, even in the flaws, the beauty, the everything, you get to inspire others to accept exactly who they are and help them live confidently in themselves. A friend of mine said, “A confident person makes me feel safe to be around”. So,Mom thinks you should be pretty excited about this award. 


Afterwards it got me thinking, why was my first reaction, a reaction of shame? Hasn’t this been my reaction when someone has told me I am confident. I never say, 


“Thank you”, I always say, “Oh gosh, I hope I don’t come across TOO confident”.

I  immediately process this as a negative. I think maybe I am too much, or maybe I come off the wrong way and need to apologize for myself; instead of saying, “Thank you, I am working on accepting all the parts of me, thanks for helping me on my journey”.

Carter Mae’s award was a beautiful reminder for her mom to remember to 

Know WHO I am and WHOSE I am and to remind others of the same thing along the way. 


I hope she gets that award every year even if just to remind me to be an example to her.

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Lemondade stand for good

kristi hayesComment
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Who doesn't love a good lemonade stand in the summer? We have done them over the years when our kids want to save up to buy something; we have also done them on behalf of others. 


This week we hit the JACKPOT for lemonade stands as we raised money for a non-profit who works with those in homelessness. Our highest lemonade stand day has been about $50 but this time we made $226 in a matter of 30 minutes, and it was all for a local charity. I was dumbfounded! So we wanted to share with you some tips. 


Summer can be a hard time to go on service opportunities, but we thought something as simple as a lemonade stand could do some good.

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Easy as 1-10: A simple question that opened up conversation for our kids.

kristi hayesComment
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I don’t know about you, but this is usually how many conversations go with my kids after school.

Let me set the scene, I usually come in hot, screeching tires into the parking lot, so proud of myself for being on timeish for pick up.  The kids walk from their school to me and I notice everyone is smiling and actually remembered their coats and lunchboxes. (Yay! I don’t have to get another teacher’s email, about the neverending pile of lost and found items. Ain’t no way I am digging through that germ infested box of all the lost things.)

No one is crying, and everyone has a smile on their face. My car is littered with snack packages and dried bananas from the afternoon snack and we are ready for the cross town drive to all the sports, and mom is ready for some intentional conversation.

But instead of the hours of pouring out their little childhood dramas at school, this is what I usually get:

Me: How was your day?

Kids: Good

Me: Did you have have a good day at school?

Kids: Yup

Me: What made it good?

Kids: ummmmmm


I feel like I am a cool mom, it’s not like they are doing anything at school I shouldn’t know about, ok, mostly. The other day my kid did get sent to the Principal's office for throwing a carrot in the lunchroom  He definitely failed to tell me that he had a really fun lunch sitting in the office when he got in the car after school that day. But Mama has lots of eyes in the school, so she found out. Don’t they know we will ALWAYS find out!


But more often than not, they just don’t really open up to me about the day. I am not sure if they forget, or if my son’s words are all taken up, (he’s an introvert), but literally, a unicorn could pop down from heaven in the middle of their classroom and he would probably forget to tell me about it.


BOYS

So I started doing something simple each day, that has opened up some discussion. I ask my kids on a scale of 1-10 what number was your day. If they say 9, I ask what made it such a great day.


If they say 3, I know something happened. After almost 3 months of the above lame conversation, I finally started asking Holden the numbers. And when he said 2 or 3, and I asked why? He finally said because a kid was bullying him at school.


He started to actually tell me why his number was so low or so high. This gave me all the information I needed to really know what was going on in his heart and mind. It was just a little tool that helped me glean some information from my introverted boy, who doesn’t like to share all the things. This has opened up the floodgates in our car. It might be a 10-minute conversation, but it could also be a conversation about a situation that he needs some help with.


It’s a tiny little question and easy as 1-10, but it has been a game changer in figuring out what the heck they are going through at school when I don’t see them. The beautiful thing about moms is we can get that information through backdoor channels, we are basically like the CIA. Ain't nobody getting much past us. But sometimes I just need my kid to tell me, and this little exercise has done that for us, it also helps him process his feelings, which is a hard thing to do as a 10-year-old boy. Hope it helps your family too.



2 things I did to change our mornings from DREAD to my FAVORITE part of the day

kristi hayesComment
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START AND END THE DAY ON A GOOD NOTE WITH YOUR KIDDOS!

I used to hate mornings! Like, hate them. I just feel like it’s universally rude to wake someone out of a deep dreamy slumber.  You wouldn’t just go up to a stranger, shake them, and say "wake up,” (stop dreaming that you are skipping in peaceful pastures with all the animals frolicking around you, with no wrinkles on your face or bags under your eyes from lack of sleep.)

That would just be rude.

And yet it happens Every. Single. Morning.

It used to be my mom or brother waking me up for school when I was younger, or later in life when I became a first time mom and a tiny human’s scream pierced my sleeping ears because they hadn’t been fed in OVER 30 minutes, and now it’s my elementary aged children randomly appearing in the middle of the night, staring at me like a straight up stalker in the pitch dark, hoping their creepy stare will make my eyes open in shock, which they always do. No matter the time in my life, there is never a time I like to be woken up.

So as you can see mornings and I have never been besties. But for the past few years, I started to take the advice begrudgingly of what every leadership guru said, “get up early, get up before your kids, it will make you happier, more productive.” Blah blah blah


And I thought each time I heard this madness, “you don’t know me….I don’t work well in the mornings. Stop trying to push your happy perky morning self on me.”


But then I tried it, and for the past year I have gotten up an hour before my kiddos, and by the powers that be, it has created happier mornings for my entire family. Who knew that not being shaken awake excessively by my children vs. being up an hour earlier and mentally prepping for the craziness that will ensue, actually does save some major stress.


My mom used to say “START and END the day on a good note with your kids.”


That means instead of screaming,

“wake up,

get your clothes on,

stop watching TV,

yes, you have to brush your teeth,

hurry, you are going to be late.”

We do things a little calmer now.

Instead of us all leaving in a huff because of the morning yelling matches, (my kids a few times leaving in tears and me feeling guilty that I am quite possibly the WORST MOM EVER after they go into school, which also means I think the whole day, should go to their school and give them a note, make sure they are ok, and many days that’s what I did.)

Now that guilt doesn’t manifest itself most days because we didn’t have tears that morning; instead, we traded the crying for dance parties, and cuddle time.

I have no magical recipe for making morning wake-ups and bedtimes amazing. But here are two-morning routines that changed everything for us.

1. I get up earlier, I know it sucks, I know most of you did not want to read that, but it is so true. I have to get up earlier than my kids. That shock of my kids shaking me awake, or the alarm going off and me knowing I have to be firing on all cylinders with the responsibility to get these tiny little humans ready without a cup of coffee being in my veins first, is not safe for anyone. For any parent to be running without caffeine in the morning is just not a good idea. This is my non-medical advice for my caffeine lovers. If you don’t need caffeine, then you are a sparkly unicorn and definitely not human. Good for you, cheering you behind my twice filled coffee cup.

2. I don’t let the kids use electronics before school. Yes, I said that out loud, well I wrote it, but I actually told my kids this one morning. And then they passed out!

This one was a huge one for us and was met with disdain in the beginning. Lots of whining, from both me and the kids. It would be so much easier if I caved and let them go back, BUT, I am so glad I didn’t and here is why.

I used to let the kids watch cartoons in the morning before breakfast, while I was getting breakfast ready or waking up. But what I found is that the thing we fought about and caused us the most stress was the TV.

I would have to ask over and over again for them to stop watching and eat breakfast, or I would stomp over to the tv and turn it off since they weren’t listening. Then we were all frustrated. So one day I just said no more electronics before school. Period. No time limits,  just nada!


Do you know what happened? My son started to come downstairs and cuddle with me. Instead of immediately bypassing me (I get up and read in my favorite chair), and heading to watch cartoons, he now comes and sits with me. He doesn’t say a word, he just wants to be near me. He’s 10 and one day he won’t do this anymore, but as of now, it’s his favorite thing too, so much so that he even started setting his alarm so he has at least 30 minutes of mom snuggles before the morning shenanigans start. My daughter who can’t sit still for 1 minute doesn’t usually come and sit, but she gets ready for the day, dresses and gets her bag ready, quite frankly because she has nothing else better to do.

Let me say:  - my kids are 7 and 10, so it’s not like I am doing this with toddlers. Sometimes TV was the saving grace back then, but in this season, turning off the tv in the mornings and me getting up early to prepare my heart for them, has changed our mornings dramatically. Tears, and rushing frustrations have been replaced with more laughter, smiles, hugs, and happy off to school moments then frazzled ones.

Start the day on a good note, I have that one down, but please tell me you can’ expect me to go into the dreaded bedtime with all the happy feelings. Cause this mama is one tired puppy come 8:00 pm

My husband travels a ton, so by the end of the night after carpool duties- to one million sports activities, making dinner, shower times, sometimes reading (if we are really on it), getting the kids to go to bed is right at the point of the walking dead exhaustion. Think straight up zombie!

It’s the time I have nothing to give, and if my kids literally don’t fall into peaceful slumber in 1.2 seconds, and I don’t get to go downstairs and sit down (which is the only time in 12 hours I have actually put my butt in a seat), I will turn into a monster. The patience is gone, the “can I get a drink of water mom, will you rub my leg mom, I had a bad dream mom, starts to give me hives.”

But if I can get my mindset right, that for just 5 MORE minutes, I am going to tickle my son’s back after our nightly prayers, or I am going to say my daughter’s phrase we say over her every night:

She was created by God’s hands, Dreamed up in His heart and placed in this world for a purpose, and give her an extra Eskimo kiss without rushing, they go to bed with smiles, and so do I. So whatever you have to do, try to start the day and end the day with a smile. I know this will be different for different families, and different seasons of life. I would love to hear how you all do this with different age kids. Because quite frankly sometimes it feels like it's a win if we keep these tiny humans alive today, much less smiling-alive-humans. But I promise, if I can do something as awful as getting up early, you can DO ANYTHING. Seriously, anything!

Listen to our latest podcast with Founder of Evereve and mom of 2 Megan Tamte.

She has some beautiful things to say about motherhood.

LISTEN HERE:

Loving our bodies so our little's can learn to love their own.

kristi hayes1 Comment

A few years ago I was being interviewed on a podcast, at the time I was a personal fitness trainer, training women out of my garage. The interviewer asked me some questions that got me thinking. 

She asked; how I was going to help my kids have a positive and healthy image about their bodies?

I have a 10- year-old boy and 7-year-old little girl. They are already in tune with the word skinny, and fat, (although it has never been intentionally uttered in our house.) Sis parades around the house with my bra wrapped around her tiny self and says, she can’t wait to be just like me one day.

The other day she squeezed my belly and said, “When people get old do their bellies get like this?” (nothing like a child to give it to you straight.) Then on another day, she asked if it was ok to be fat? Which she may have overheard on the playground.

SHE IS IN FIRST GRADE PEOPLE!


As much as I want to shield her from every painful judgmental comment, I can’t, but what I can help her do is love her body and know when to stick up for anyone else who is experiencing body shaming.

I have these little eyes watching constantly. What am I going to show them about honoring their days, their bodies in a healthy manner, when the world will throw so many different messages their way? Messages I don't always get to filter. 

It was a great question and one I pondered after we had talked. 

For those of you who have children, you might be wondering what are some ways I can make health and body image positive for my child? This is a tough one for sure. 

Many of you came from families where negativity permeates from anything body related. You almost cringe when you hear people talk about getting in shape or staying healthy because it means something completely different to you.

It can mean something painful and filled with memories you can’t seem to shake.


Maybe you heard your mom talk to her girlfriends about how fat she was getting, or how she hated her legs in shorts. Maybe you saw the way she looked at herself in the mirror with a frown as she grabbed her belly. (Many of us are cringing right now because we are guilty of this same sort of thing). You are not alone.

But as a little girl your probably just saw was your MOM, with the beautiful clothes and jewelry, the beautiful bra, the make-up or clean face wearing woman you couldn't wait to be like. She was just mom in your eyes and she was gorgeous. You didn't even notice the cellulite that she stressed about. Or even if you noticed her squishy belly, it didn’t bother you. 

Maybe your mom tried to give you “good advice” like don’t eat this or that, “it will make you overweight,” or “you better watch out everyone in our family gains weight if they just look at a cookie.”

Sometimes those things can seem helpful, and as parents, it is our job to model and teach healthy behavior, but we have to choose our words carefully because to pre-pubescent or newly pubescent girls and boys the wrong ones can sting for a long time. As a trainer we didn't just train our bodies, but sometimes we had to completely retrain our minds when it came to healthy behavior and how to view it. So many different emotions came up when someone stepped into my gym. 

For those who have felt this, my heart breaks for your journey. Because it is a battle you have to face daily, one that I have seen won many times, but it a hard one fought. For those of you who may have been those moms who were critical and didn't even realize, you did not screw up your kid for life, you can always get on the phone and say; "I am sorry if I have made you feel like you were not beautiful, you are beautiful and I love you no matter what, I was just trying to give advice, " maybe it’s a conversation that says, "Help me as your mom show myself more kindness." I have seen this exact thing play out, and it changed everything for that mom and her child. 

And for those of you who are new moms, maybe we can start to write a new narrative.

Here are a few simple things I am trying to be intentional about with my kids when it comes to taking care of both of our bodies. 

Please hear me, I am no expert, I won’t always get it right, heck no.

I will say things without thinking and hurt feelings even if I have the best intentions, we aren't perfect after all. But I will always let them know I tried, I tried really hard to show them their bodies are beautiful and meant to be celebrated no matter what.

Here are a couple of things I am learning:

1. BE AN EXAMPLE

This is probably the toughest of all. One of my favorite lines is: "it’s more caught than taught." Let your son or daughter know how important it is to eat right and move your body. You don’t even need to have a long drawn out conversation about it, just let them see you do it. Don't let them see you dread going to the gym or getting sweaty. Let them see you have fun, look forward to it, because it is doing your body good. Let them in on the fun. It's keeping you active and around for the long haul. Let them see you have the discipline to do hard things that matter. 

NOT because you HAVE to eat this or that BECAUSE you have to be skinny. Or YOU HAVE to workout to not get fat. 

But change the narrative a bit. Discipline isn’t easy but it is an important part of life and journey. 

New narrative: Taking care of me is just an extension of love for my children. It says I want to be around to enjoy you, play with you, be the best for you.

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2. PRACTICE KINDNESS

Don’t let our littles hear us say unkind things about ourselves. If it is too mean or negative to say to someone else, don't say it to yourself. One day our daughters will be our age, and they might have heard us say our thighs were too big, or we didn’t like our tummy, (you know the one that didn’t go back flat after we had them.) 

Most likely their body is going to look like ours at some point when they grow up. And if she knows we didn’t think some of our body parts were acceptable, she too will think her thighs unacceptable. 

Let's teach our sons how to talk about a woman's body, to cherish and honor it, to stand up to the kind of locker room talk that degrades women to a mere object. 

Many times the negative words just fly out of our mouth about ourselves, I know they have mine, I apologize and try better. Mama’s you are beautiful post-baby body and pre-baby body. Dad bod or not. 

Don’t just be kind when you look the way you want, be kind to yourself when you are still in the transformation process. Your littles will pick up on it. 

3. EXERCISE IS A GIFT

My kids are still young enough that exercising is just play to them. It’s a gift to be able to move. We have fun. We swing on bars, we do handstands, we chase and run. We make up crazy exercises. Moving our bodies is playful, joyful, like when we were kids and couldn't wait to get out for recess.

Is all exercise fun? NO…

Do we need to be disciplined to grind it out when we have goals to meet? Absolutely.

Do they need to see us do hard things? Yes and Yes!

My kids will understand hard work, and see it pay off, because they will watch their parents do this. They see me at the gym many days with a grimace on my face doing something that is really hard, but they see me do it anyways.

They seem me high-five my friends and cheer them to finish strong. They see us celebrating each others wins. 

Because one day after their high school or college glory days are long gone, there will come a time where they have no coach and no organized sports, and they have to figure out why they still want to be healthy and whole. 

I want them to remember: 

I move my body because I can, its a gift and because it can be fun, it shows others I want to be around for the long haul. 

It's what I do to honor my days with them.

I want them to go back to that memory of when Holden and I would race through the agility ladder or skip rope, or when sis and I would swing on the bars together and do cartwheels in the grass. So when they are 30 year- olds instead of looking at exercise begrudgingly, they see it as an extension of their whole beautiful self. 







Making goals a family affair...

kristi hayesComment

Right now is about the time that you are thinking about making those New Year’s Resolutions or goals.

My favorite thing is to look back at what went well and why, and what are the things I am going to pour my heart into this year. Usually that means getting a planner, finding a quite couple of hours and writing down my word, and intentions for the year ahead.

Many of us do this process for ourselves individually but have you done this with your family?

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(Maybe not, because just the thought of getting everyone on the same page or having them pay attention for more than 5 minutes gives you anxiety sweats.) I get it. I guarantee there will be some fart jokes inserted in what mom wants to be super serious time.



But here is the beautiful thing, making goals, and mission for your family doesn’t have to be some long, drawn out, perfectly worded mission statement. You don’t need to have your mission in pretty calligraphy on shiplap like a Joanna Gaines house. (althoughΩ I do sort of love that idea) and you don’t have to make it so perfect you can’t all agree. Perfection is the sister of anxiety.(I just made that up, but it sounds about right.)

Asking your family what you want to be known for and creating some simple steps to live it out, can be both simple and powerful. Our mission for our family started from a lunchbox note it said:

BE STRONG, PROTECT THE WEAK, LOVE EVERYONE.

It is something we want to live out in action. We would love to encourage your family to join in our mission or make your own. Here are some simple steps to create your own mission for your family.

Sit down with your family over a cup of cocoa or when you are having dinner.

  1. Ask each other, as a family what are some things we want to be known for? 

  2. What are some core values, words or phrases that your family identifies with?

(have each family member pick a word or phrase, and then everyone vote on the top 1-3). And if you want to have more, great, there are no set rules!

3. What does BE STRONG look like to a 9-year-old or to a 45-year-old? What does the PROTECTING THE WEAK look like at school, work, playground, neighborhood , downtown, or college? You fill in the blank.

4. What are some real actions you can take to LOVE EVERYONE in your daily life, but also as a family effort?

5. Plan out times when you will put LOVE in ACTION. Find a community group or organization you can volunteer with or serve once a month. Ask someone who knows more than you, and see if you can tag along. Always be looking with eyes wide open to others you can love.

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How amazing would it be if we had these group of families who knew their mission and lived it out together?

If you need a little help, here is a guide booklet we have made to guide you through this process. You can get it HERE (excerpts are above)

And a video we made last year to talk about how we did our core values.


Top 8 in 2018

kristi hayesComment
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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

One of my favorite things to do each year, is to look back and learn from the past and sit in gratefulness for what has happened. 

We want to share with each of you who have made our 2018 memorable. 


HERE'S OUR TOP 8 in 2018!

1. We started Be Strong Story families who served different organizations each month. We have worked with special needs, those in poverty, and the veterans home this year. 

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2. Be strong message was shared on 9 podcasts. Reaching tens of thousands of new listeners. 

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3. We were able to hire someone from Sox Place Homeless day shelter to do all of our order and fulfillment, we also made Sox Place Screen Printing our exclusive screen print partner. 

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4. We were able to donate a portion of our profits to a women’s care center, refugees in Lebanon, a homeless day shelter, and hosted a Mother’s Day brunch for single teen moms. 


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5. Featured blog posts on Today Parents and featured post on Today Show website, reaching over 300,000 people. 

6. Exceeded last years orders, almost doubled our website traffic. All 50 states have visited our website as well as 25+countries. 


7. Came out with kindness guide booklet for families. (which you can get here)

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8. Partnered with other companies to help employ survivors of sex trafficking

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We could not be more grateful for you and all your support. We could not have done one of these things without you!

be.

kristi hayesComment
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One more week until Christmas. For many of us it has been a blur and we desire so much to take a second and just be. We hope this week is one you can look around and notice the twinkle of the Christmas lights, notice the stressed person beside you and give a smile, notice your children's giggle as they shake the presents under the tree.

This week is a week to be.
 To be. present and purposeful in the magic of Christmas. 

Sometimes holidays are very hard for others. It's a time of stress or grieving. Sometimes holidays can bring out the worst in others, as I am sure many of you have experienced, in store lines, or parking lots. 
This week I want to share a story that gave me such perspective and inspired me to look past the outside and look into the heart of others this season. 

Last week I went to eat with some of the girls who work at sox place (the homeless shelter who does our screen print) and I was so overcome with gratefulness. The restaurant we were eating almost turned away a homeless woman. She came in disheveled  and with a huge garbage bag on her back filled with all of her belongings. The manager did not want her there, but the waitress had compassion for her and let her stay.

At the end I offered to pay for her meal, but the sweet waitress, whispered to me, “I already paid for it.”
Out of her own paycheck and probably not a huge paycheck.

One of the girls at the table said to me said, “doesn’t matter how much you have, if you are a giver, you will always give.”

That sweet waitress restored my hope in others today.

She saw something beyond an outside appearance.

She gave even though she may not have lots to give. 


I hope we all can experience these stories this week. 

The Giving Calendar

kristi hayesComment
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We have a rule that has been passed down from my husband. No thinking about Christmas until Thanksgiving is done. No putting up the tree early, no talking about Christmas lists, no Christmas music. He's not the Grinch, quite the opposite, but he does love to celebrate each season. But even under "strict" rules of wait until December 1st, I caught my 10-year-old making his Christmas list at the table a WEEK before Thanksgiving!

I thought, "Have you lost your mind kid? Put that list away…

Wait, you want WHAT?"

A few things we have done to keep the ‘gimme’ attitude at bay and the gratitude in the forefront is do lists a little differently.

We write down these:

1. Want. 2. Need. 3. Experience 4. Give

I wish those were a bit more rhyming, but we do what we can. (I am just trying to keep kids alive over here, so catchy rhyming phrases are not in the cards.)

The last one give - this one is the magic one. This is the one that changes our perspective. This is the secret sauce to getting rid of the "I deserve this," attitude. I ask my kids who they would like to GIVE to this year. It's different than giving a gift to a family member or friend. This is something we carefully research. We ask the kids what stirs their heart or what they are passionate about giving too.  

Maybe they don't know yet, and this is a perfect time to find out.

We have started a December GIVING calendar, to intentionally set their hearts and minds on giving. Do we do what is listed on the calendar every day? HECK NO, but we get as many as we can in. We try (key word: try) to make sure our entire family is living December especially on behalf of others instead of ourselves. The Christmas presents are awesome, but mean so much more when we have gratitude for what we get. A little perspective change when we see others needs goes a long way. Try it with us this year. Add your own and get the kids involved - they have the best ideas!

Happy holidays from our family to yours!

Get Calendar here: GIVING CALENDAR

Three Kernels of Gratitude

thankful, gratitudekristi hayesComment

Besides the cheesy, sour cream, garlic, parmesan potatoes (yes, that is all one dish) for Thanksgiving, there are a few other things I look forward too.

The sounds of cousins playing in the background, the juggling ingredients in the kitchen as my sister-in-law and I pass recipe cards to one another in anticipation for our Thanksgiving feast. The frantic questions every year, “did you forget to get the gizaards out of the turkey?”

I look forward to setting the table just right with cranberries and orange peels placed around the Turkey and just the right amount of stuffing spilling out.

But the thing I look forward to the most is 3 little corn kernels.

The three little kernels that bring us laughter and always to tears. You see it’s hard to be present during the holidays, we get so busy with the cooking, hosting, making sure the turkey doesn’t explode, or that politics doesn’t start a food fight, that we forget the whole THANKS and GIVING of Thanksgiving day.

So with three little kernels at the end of an exhausting, but so worth it day, when we have had our seconds and third helpings, we have traded our cute skinny jeans for our favorite sweat pants, we pass the kernels around.

We give three corn kernels to each person. We pass a bowl around and everyone has the opportunity to say three things they are thankful for, dropping their kernels into the bowl and passing to the next person. At the end, usually with tears and laughter, we have a bowl of thankful kernels that help us remember and give thanks. We encourage you to try this or something similar with your family!

Another way to GIVE at Thanksgiving is find someone who doesn’t have a place to go and invite them to your table. I remember there was never a Thanksgiving or Christmas where we didn’t have a stranger in our home. I am not sure where my mom found these people, we never really knew, but when we got to the dinner table there were usually 3-4 people we had no clue as to who they were. My brother and I would look at one another, maybe roll our eyes, and sit by the random man or woman, wondering where my mom found these strangers on holidays. They were usually foreign exchange students, people who had lost a loved one anwho were lonely, or didn’t have a place to feel at home. Our home was always that place. Whether we selfish kids liked it or not.

Be that place, extend your table for someone else, show your kids what giving an invitation looks like. And let your family and others experience the true meaning of Thankfulness and Giving.

OUR GIFT GUIDE FOR ALL THE SPECIAL PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE!

kristi hayesComment

This year we want to thank all of you for using your purchasing power for good! Not only are you supporting a small business whose message is BE STRONG, PROTECT THE WEAK, LOVE EVERYONE. But you are employing former homeless and helping support a homeless day shelter, as we print exclusively with Sox Place Screen Printing.

We want you to enjoy Christmas season with your family and friends and not have to deal with the stress of buying gifts for others, but the joy of giving. We have made a gift guide for all of your people. So you can give a gift that means something to others, as well as inspire your friends and family to live this message out.

Each package comes hand-wrapped with tissue paper and a be. sticker, a card with our mission and message, and with love from our new shipment and fulfillment employee who we hire from SOX PLACE. We are happy to send a gift note to your friends and send your package for you. You just add your instructions at checkout.

GIFT GUIDE FOR ALL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE

For all the women in your life:

The fashionista,

the comfy cozy,

the one who inspires you to live this message out.

For the one who love to be comfy and stylish. Our light weight  be. joggers ,  comfy zip-up fleece

For the one who love to be comfy and stylish. Our light weight be. joggers, comfy zip-up fleece

Be. Hat  (pictured here Jordan one of the founders of SOX place the homeless shelter who prints all of our apparel.)

Be. Hat (pictured here Jordan one of the founders of SOX place the homeless shelter who prints all of our apparel.)

Support your team with this  longsleeve jersey tee . (unisex sizing)

Support your team with this longsleeve jersey tee. (unisex sizing)

For the kiddos

For the teacher, mentor, person who inspires you

We hope this helps with all of your Christmas needs. Please let us know if you have any questions on sizing. Shop our entire collection here.

Sign up for our Newsletter to get our DISCOUNT CODES this holiday season.