Be strong. Protect the Weak. Love Everyone. ™

be.

kristi hayesComment
IMG_1459.PNG

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
KINDNESS CALENDAR www.bestrongstory.com.jpg

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.

Halloween Be Strong Story family style (making Halloween fun for everyone)

kristi hayesComment
IMG_9263.jpg

“BOOING” BE STRONG STORY FAMILY STYLE

You guys,

If have you have never taken your kids or someone else’s kids “booing” it’s the BEST!

We had never even heard of this phenomenon until a few years ago. People would come to our door, ring the door bell and take off. When we got to the door there would be no one there, but a sack of goodies would be on the porch. I wanted to catch all those little boo people so bad, but never could. My kids loved the excitement of getting “booed” so this year we decided to do it ourselves. It was a blast. I think Grant and I may have had as much fun as the kids, plotting our “not so great” get away in the car.

Here’s how to do it:

✅Grab some candy, a bag, some little fun toys! Make a list of people, throw your black hoodie on, make a detailed getaway plan, and head to their door. Ring doorbell, drop off their candy and run like the dickens.

✅Make sure it’s not too late! And don’t wake sleeping babies.

✅We asked the kids to also include some kiddos who may have had a hard week, or having a hard time at school this year, or maybe someone they knew who would find joy in something as simple as a treat bag and some kids thinking about them!

You can get your kids thinking about others even during a simple Halloween activity:

  • Who at school would really feel special with a treat bag?

  • Is there anyone at school who is feeling lonely?

  • Is there anyone you know that needs a special pick-me-up this week?

Even if it as simple as dropping off a bag of goodies on someone’s porch and fleeing the scene, stealthy like.

If you boo your friends tag us @bestrongstory we would love to see.

Making Halloween fun and safe for everyone

IMG_9283.jpg

This year we asked our community how we could make Halloween fun and special for those with allergies. It’s such a bummer for kiddos to trick or treat, house after house, and not be able to enjoy any of the treats. We asked our community how we could make it special and here is what they come up with:(please make sure you check labels,some kids are just gluten free, but many are allergic to other things,we are just parents giving ideas and not medical professionals:)

*VAMPIRE TEETH

*TATTOOS, CLOWN NOSES, BUBBLES

*ENJOY LIFE COOKIES INDIVIDUALLY PACKAGED (NUT, DAIRY, SOY FREE)

*GLUTEN FREE PRETZELS

* BUBBLES, PENCILS, SNAP BRACELETS

*DUM DUMS, BLOW POPS

*FRUIT SNACKS THAT ARE NATURALLY SWEETENED

*GLOW IN THE DARK BRACELETS

CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF MORE IDEAS.

CHRISTMAS SALE EARLY

Right after Halloween we will be opening up our CHRISTMAS SALE EARLY! Because we want you to enjoy the Christmas season, we will have two days November 1st and 2nd of our Christmas Sale. THE BIG ONE! We only usually have ONE BIG SALE each year and it is Black Friday-Cyber Monday. But this time you get that early… ALL YOU HAVE TO DO….is make sure you are signed up for our newsletter to get the Christmas code. Here is a link to sign up for our newsletter.

How can I help?

kristi hayesComment
How can I help?.png

There is this new show I am watching on NBC. I never watch real time TV but when Grant travels sometimes I like to have some background noise on while I work, read, or do dishes. Have I mentioned I am a multi-tasker. So I recently found a show called New Amsterdam. It’s about a new Doctor who comes in to a hospital that is performing below average. He comes in, and instead of giving all his ideas and his knowledge bombs, he always asks a simple question,

“How can I help?”

He asks the other doctors, the nurses, the janitors. Before he tells them what he thinks, he always empowers them first with the question, “How can I help?” I wish I had counted how many times he said these four

words. It’s something that stuck with me all week. A phrase that I want to emulate in my life. I want to be a helper instead of quick to fix.

I want to ask those who I am really close too that may be having a hard time: “How can I help?” and I want to ask those I just met, who have had a different path than me. I don’t want to assume I know what is best.

I want to say, “How can I help?”

Many times I have come into places, places we serve, places I have the best intentions. I come in with ideas blaring, many of my ideas don’t work, you know why? Because what works in my life doesn’t always work in everyone else’s. Other’s paths and experiences have been different, they need something else.

So, its “How can I help?”

Instead of: “Here’s how I am gonna help?”

And if someone asks, “How can I help?” Instead of saying, “nah, I’m good, when you really aren’t, be brave and tell them how they can help. Even if it is simple, even if it is just sitting with you, making you a meal, watching your kids, introducing you to someone.

How can I help?

A small few...

kristi hayesComment
margaret mead.jpg

Sometimes we think we won’t make a difference because we aren’t a big enough group, company or business. We doubt ourselves and we wonder if anyone is even listening. We wonder if we aren’t growing fast enough, if anyone is walking beside us or if our goals are even worth talking about.

Margaret Meads quote impacted me this week and gave me courage. I found inspiration to keep trucking along, to keep writing, being a voice and talking about what matters. The passions that have been placed on my heart are there for a reason. Mead reminded me of that.

I think many times we let the BIG be the destroyer of the IMPORTANT. We see the giant movements and great big influencers and assume that the journey to BIG wasn’t a struggle. We forget everybody starts somewhere and it’s not at 40,000 instagram followers. We forget that small groups of people doing enormous amounts of work were committed and steadfast. They kept on keeping on to make whatever it is they were passionate about start to change the world.

Every great influencing moment in time started with someone’s passion and dream, and a few committed people who believed wholeheartedly in something. It didn’t matter how big or great they became, they were in it for the mission and for each other.

What is it in your life you are passionate and committed to, that needs your voice, your efforts? What is discouraging you from knowing your passions matters?

I will be putting this quote where I can see it daily. Because I want to remember that every great movement in history started with a few committed individuals who believed in something greater than themselves.

Styling hoodies all the ways!

kristi hayesComment

Not sure you have seen the fashion blogs lately, but it seems like the hoodie and zip-up hoodie are the fall fashion piece for this year. And you can wear it a few different ways based on your personality. Yay, for us, because we love something comfy, but don’t always want to look like we just stepped out of bed.

Why not be comfy and stylish at the same time.

Here are our favorite ways to style our new zip up hoodie.

We have paired our hoodie and shirts with some of our favorite pieces from Evereve, one of our favorite stores for women and especially moms. Nothing like a store that cares.

IMG_0105.jpg
IMG_6839.jpg

Pair our favorite pair of joggers with a hoodie and throw some fun sneakers on or chucks. Perfect look for grabbing your kids from carpool line or running errands. Comfy and cute is this look.

IMG_0175.jpg
IMG_0072.jpg

If you want to dress it up a bit, throw on some jeans, and some great slides. Layer with a jean jacket or vest.

IMG_0161.jpg
IMG_0228.jpg

Edge it up or dress it up, with a cool leather moto jacket, our be strong capsleeve tank, and some heels.

What’s your favorite way to wear your hoodie!

The Three things I will tell my kids every year before school starts....and then remind them every day after.

back to schoolkristi hayesComment
IMG_9577.jpg

As school starts, we as parents want to prepare our kiddos for their school year the best we possibly can. So we get the new stainless steel bento lunch boxes and new backpacks, we spend WAY too many hours getting school supplies, unless your school gives you the opportunity to give them some cash and they will get them for you...which may cost more, but let's be honest I would give up my right arm, just to have someone else get school supplies. So the day before school we have all the "healthy" lunches made, the new outfit laid out with matching socks and shoes, and their school supplies in their backpacks, alarms are set, so when they wake up they are prepared. And all those are important, but I also want to prepare my kids for what lies ahead in their relationships at school, the heart stuff, so we talk about 3 simple things before school starts. Let me fill you in on what prompted these 3 things. 

You see a couple of years ago, my son was having a hard time on the playground with a friend. He would come home crying, with his feelings hurt, and really needed some help navigating the situation. At the time, it was in the middle of the school year. And REMEMBER when lunch box-making at the first of the school year was all Bento boxes filled with fresh, organic apples and carrots and all the things healthy? And, we prepared sweet little notes that were sure to change our children’s lives when they read it with all their friends at the lunch table?

Well, this was the middle of the year and those things were out the door. I was happy if they got some stale Cheez-Its and a water, and notes in lunch boxes were 3 months long gone.

I remember asking my husband if he could take over lunch making duties and asked him to write a sweet note in Holden’s lunchbox since I had mom guilt for missing those for the past few-ish months.

So he did...and the LUNCH BOX note he wrote:

He wrote the simple phrase:

BE STRONG

PROTECT THE WEAK

LOVE EVERYONE

 

That’s it. Not some long-winded mission and motto for Holden. Just that simple phrase to tuck in his heart as he was dealing with some playground heartbreak. Three simple phrases, that changed our heart and our life.

This note has been all around the country. We have since made it our family mission and now a formed a company to spread this message to the world. It started with some t-shirts for friends but has now evolved into a budding business that not only prints some pretty cool shirts, but has also driven our passion to help other families join with us to live this message out in tangible ways.

To wear this message is one thing, but to be empowered to live it out is certainly another.

So every year we talk about that simple phrase:

BE STRONG

 

PROTECT THE WEAK

 

LOVE EVERYONE

And I ask my 4th grader, "what does this look like lived out in your school, soccer field, lunch room, recess?" And we talk about each one. Sometimes we even roll play what he would say to someone sitting alone, or how he would notice someone who may need a friendly face. He is a little more of a quiet soul. So the way he might live out these three things will be quite different then how my first grader does it. 

And then I ask my first grader, how can you use your strength to love others this year? How can you be strong for someone else. She is a justice seeker and not afraid to be vocal about it. Last year there were multiple times she would vocally stand up for another. So we talk about that again this year. I ask her what concerns her, does she have any fears? What makes loving others easy or hard?

It's not a long, drawn out conversation, but it is something I want to prepare them for in advance. I want to prepare them to live this message out, in their personality, in their own ways.  But I want to set them up for success by discussing it with them. 

What if thousands of kids showed up at their schools with the same message in their lunchboxes, in their hearts, and were empowered to live it out? What if parents modeled this on a daily basis?

What would our schools and communities look like?

 

  • Would lonely kids find joy in a friend who reached out to them?

  • Would kids who are bullied find solace in the comforting words of a peer, who stood up for them?

  • Would teachers look forward to coming into their classroom because their students were full of compassion and respect?

  • Would kids excel in their studies because others were cheering them on, instead of tearing them down?

  • Would parents be able to share their hopes and failures with one another without judgement?

You fill in the blank___________.

Let’s dream big for our kiddos. Because one little note written on a napkin might just change somebody's word. 




 

 



 

 

 

BACK TO SCHOOL DREAMS

kids, back to schoolkristi hayesComment

The school year comes back at us fast and furious. The summer seems to go by in an instant, and we start to already miss what used to be the lazy mornings and absence of homework. But at the same time, we crave the routine and are ready with all that is in us to get those kids out of our house.

The weeks before school starts, always feels a little bit schizophrenic to me.

I want the routine, but I don't want the routine.

I want the kids home, but I also want them OUT of my house for the day.

I want the vacations and the pool days, but I don't want the mounds of laundry and moldy pool bags.

I love the loud house and laughter,  but I also crave hours of peace to get work done without being interrupted by "bubby hurt my feelings."

Even though I have radar jam of all the things I need to do, to get my kids somewhat prepared for school, (supplies, pants that aren't capris for my son, new lunchboxes that aren't full of last year's molded strawberries, preparing my mind for early wake-up calls and the constant, "what do you want for breakfast conversations.")

My dreams for my kids are always the same when school starts. Our conversations are still the same.

We reiterate our

BE STRONG

PROTECT THE WEAK

LOVE EVERYONE mission.

We remind them what that means, and we ask them how will it look at their school this year?

How can they live that message out? What does that look like on the playground or in the lunchroom? Are their EYES wide open? Are they letting their LIGHT'S SHINE?

Wouldn't this year be amazing if thousands of

kids SHOWED up at school with the same

message on their shirts?

IMG_9353.jpg

But they didn't just wear the message they were EMPOWERED to LIVE that message out. With EYES wide open, and LIGHTS shining bright? 

IMG_9577.jpg

What would our schools look like this year?

Would lonely kids find joy in friendship?

Would kids, who are verbally abused at home, find solace in the comforting words of a peer?

Would teachers look forward to coming into their classroom because their students were full of compassion and respect?

Would kids excel in their studies, because others were cheering them on?

You fill in the blank___________.

It's not about a shirt, it's about action. 

They start with wearing it, and then they live it out. 

 

(*All Kid's shirts are 15% OFF JULY 26th and 27th with coupon code: BACKTOSCHOOL)

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA, THE GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY

kristi hayesComment
IMG_7401.jpg

Let’s talk social media...
You know on the other side of those shiny, sparkly pictures presenting life amazing and picture perfect, is probably a woman just like you. Who thrives at some of life, but who struggles with body image, and purpose in life, and being enough in the eyes of all her people, (family, employees, friends, volunteers, and the list goes on and on and on.) 

And on the outside you may see polished, or what looks like she has it all together, but in her insides she feels like she’s failing at the exact same thing you feel like you are failing at. 

PERSPECTIVE. It changes everything. When social media can make us feel like a failure because someone may be fitter, healthier, more successful, awesomer (not a word, but seemed appropriate), I guarantee they are struggling with the same feelings you are feeling. 

Social media can be a place of great encouragement but also can be a place of comparing and judgement, which serves no one. 

Let’s make it a place where we affirm, celebrate, and encourage. Where we show up for one another. Where we leave criticism of ourself or others at the door. Instead of comparing we cheer. We look at our journey as ours and theirs as their own. Knowing our purpose is just as great but may look different. We come along side someone and tell them the way they feel like they are failing, is not what we see at all. We see a woman who is trying her best and thriving in her journey. 

Y’all sometimes we just have to tell people how we see them, so they can see how God sees them. 
 

CHALLENGE THIS WEEK:
Tell 3️⃣people what you see in them. 
✅If you see someone parenting well, tell them, cause I guarantee they don’t feel awesome at it. 
✅ if you see someone being kind to someone. Tell them it inspires them. 
✅call a friend and name off the things you see them trying their hardest at. 

Let’s be cheerleaders for one another. Let’s be their eyes when they can’t see themselves. 

WHOS IN?!
 

The Summer of YES!

kristi hayesComment
IMG_3269.JPG

It’s the summer of YES.

Let me explain, I have two kiddos, both like to play with me, but my little girl in particular wants me to do all the things with her LOTS! 

Quite honestly it can pain me to sit on the floor and just play, or read, or color, my brain is going 100 Miles a minute and I have so many other things that “seem” more pressing. So more often than not, I say “not right now, “hoping she either forgets or moves on. Because something on my to do list hasn’t been checked off. Sometimes it makes me feel horrible after the fact, and sometimes I don’t even notice sadly, which makes me even feel worse. 

She asks me for help with things that I know she can do on her own, but just wants me close. Because time spent is her love language, it’s also mine. The other day she was about to ask me for help with something and she stopped mid sentence and said, “never mind.” Because she was anticipating for me to say, “you can do it sis.”

Although I want to foster independence in her and confidence to do all the things, and learn to play by herself. BUT sometimes she just wants mom to pay attention. 

So this summer is a YES summer, as many times as I can say YES to play, reading, looking in their eyes, choosing to be with them first, I’m going too. 

Because like every mom who has older kiddos, there will be a day they don’t ask to be with me. 

It doesn’t come natural for me to say YES, but I really want to. 

Here are some twinning outfits for you and your little. Because they won't stay little forever. 

Mama's tank

Daughter tank:

IMG_0689.jpg

 

 

Their pain/Our pain

kristi hayesComment
IMG_2093.jpg

This simple lunchbox note message has been on my heart this week. It’s on my heart most weeks, but as I read the paper this week, it seemed like tragedy was coming off the page. The suicide of Kate Spade, someone who looks like they have it all, has impacted me. 

I was over 30 when I got my first Kate Spade bag. I had to choose between a practical black one or this colorful turquoise one. You obviously know which one I picked.

It made me feel whimsy, playful, spunky, full of confidence. Every time I passed a Kate Spade store, I always had to go inside. It brought me so much joy to see all the bright colors, the fun, playful displays. The confidence it gave me to mix polka dots with stripes, and step out in bright colors, when others may be wearing all black.

You never know the battle those are fighting on the inside, even when their outside looks full of sparkle. 

Maybe it has hit me hard because we just never know what is going on in a person’s heart and soul on the inside. Maybe it has hit me hard because I know families who have dealt with similar situations, a son, a father taking their own lives, because they felt there was nowhere else to turn. Or maybe because it feels surreal that I am carrying my Kate Spade bag right now.  

That despair that another person could be feeling like this breaks me, and it should break all of us. Every suicide, every pain, every story, whether it be ours or someone else’s should break us, because we all belong to one another. Our pain is someone else’s pain, their story is ours.

Our little company’s message from a simple lunch box note makes me so passionate to get the word out in times like this. Because it’s something I believe our people, your people, all of us need to embrace more than ever. I wouldn’t work like I do to spread this message, if  I didn’t think it was so important to our people’s lives and their future.

BE STRONG-

To be strong we have to admit our weakness. That’s what REAL strength is about. Sharing our weakness with someone, sharing our brokenness, letting others know we are hurting.

PROTECT THE WEAK-

It’s showing up for others even when it’s inconvenient, it’s recognizing hurt and asking. It’s getting in the trenches with the broken.

LOVE EVERYONE-

It’s laying down our wants and needs for others. Helping others be strong when they can’t on their own, protecting them when they need some covering. Love covers all.

If you are struggling, call someone, tell someone. You are not alone! We all belong to one another. You are so very valuable and extremely loved by your Creator

Because we are a small business we have the opportunity to give to those things that tug our hearts. 10% of our Bag Sales for this summer launch will go to Celebrate Recovery, which focuses in helping those struggling with suicide, addiction, recovery from a broken path.

 

 

 

 

How Adoption Taught Me to Be.Strong 

kristi hayes2 Comments
IMG_0707.jpg

How Adoption Taught Me to Be.Strong

By Adrian Collins

I used to think strength was defined by moms who did it all without breaking a sweat. Moms who managed a household of babies, preschoolers and teenagers with airbrushed makeup and beach-wave tousled hair. Moms who made fluffy, homemade gluten-free pancakes and still found the energy to hit the gym every day. Moms who drove around in a crumb-free, vacuumed car.

I used to think strength meant having an advantage over another; something that made me stand out in a crowd by way of a particular talent or skillset. But years later, after making an adoption plan for my birth daughter, having three biological sons and adopting another, I now believe strength has less to do with my overall abilities, and more to do with three characteristics: Sacrifice, Courage and Authenticity.

Sacrifice —“A surrender of something for the sake of something else”

I learned sacrifice was a outpouring of strength as I swaddled my infant daughter one last time before she was permanently placed in the arms of her adoptive family. In those final moments, I thought my heart might shatter. It took every ounce of strength I could muster to give up my dreams of becoming a mom, for the best interest of my child.

I learned I was pregnant during my junior year of college. Holding a positive pregnancy test in my hand, I recoiled in fear and shame. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. I held several leadership positions at the Christian university I attended, was a straight-A student and was in a committed relationship. Like many girls my age, I’d strived for perfection in every facet of life. An unplanned pregnancy was not part of my meticulously planned life.

When I announced the news to my parents, they were silent and stunned. Finally, my mom said, “Have you considered adoption?” Her question stung at first. I’d always wanted to be a mom and couldn’t imagine putting my own child into the arms of another. But the word “adoption” lingered.

Afraid of being released from my leadership positions, I grabbed a baggy t-shirt, a pair of leggings and an old sweatshirt that I wrapped around my waist to cover my growing baby bump. I’d hide my pregnancy for five long months, the entire Spring semester. Whenever I felt my unborn child stirring in my womb, I’d cradle my belly and whisper, “I love you little one,” and dreamed about life as mom. Over time, those dreams faded and instead morphed into heavy tears with the realization that I wasn’t prepared to be a parent. At the time, I wasn’t capable of giving my baby everything she deserved. In the end, my boyfriend and I made the heart wrenching decision to move forward with an adoption plan.

Leaving the hospital without my baby girl was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. In the end, I laid aside my own dreams so that my little girl could have the chance to achieve hers. Through adoption I learned that sometimes the right decision, is also the most painful one.

Moms are the most sacrificial creatures on the planet. We sacrifice our time, our energy and finances to enhance the lives of our children. We put our dreams on hold for the sake of our little ones. At times, we may not feel rewarded for our sacrifice. We may even feel invisible. But know this—you are doing an amazing work in the lives of your children. Every tear you wipe, every hard conversation you have, every dream you help come true makes a lasting impression on the heart of your child.

Courage—“a moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand fear or difficulty”

It took courage I didn’t know I had to drive away from the hospital without my baby and head back to college to finish my degree. It took courage to step foot on campus amongst narrowed eyes of judgement and gossip talk that stripped my confidence on a daily basis. It took courage to forge ahead without my daughter, and trust that she was in God’s hands. It took courage to persevere when all I wanted to do was crumble in a heap.

There were times that I didn’t want to be courageous at all. Soon, I’d learn that courage can take us to places we’d never imagine.

A few months after I graduated from college, I married my high-school sweetheart, the father of my birth daughter, in a winter ceremony as snowflakes fell outside the church. Over the years, we had three boys and I cherished being a mom to each one of them.  Because of my adoption experience, I wanted to invest in the lives of other birth mothers and support them through the adoption process. I met one-on-one with young women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and listened as they shared their heart and shed tears over their difficult circumstance. At the heart of every one of their stories was one similar theme—an amazing love for their unborn child.

During one of these meetings, my life was altered forever. I was asked by one of the birth mothers to adopt her baby boy.

I pondered her offer, searching for the right response. I could’ve told her I needed more time, maybe months, to think about it before I could get back to her. I could’ve laughed in her face and told her she’d picked the wrong person for the job. I could’ve announced I wasn’t up for the task. But when I looked into her longing eyes, full of want for a loving home for her unborn child, I found the courage to simply say, “Yes.”

Saying “yes” didn’t come without fears. When I agreed to adopt, I dwelt on all the things that could go wrong. I wondered, How will I handle raising four boys? What if I didn’t bond with my newly adopted child? What if I wasn’t good enough as a mom? When left alone with my fears, I trembled with doubt. But love and courage swallowed up those fears. As I held my newly adopted son in my arms, I learned to set aside my fears and embrace the journey ahead.

Moms, it takes courage to forge ahead when we are at our weakest. It takes courage to continue along your journey of motherhood, especially when it feels messy, chaotic or isolating. Every season of parenting comes with great joys and sorrows. Embrace new experiences that weren’t part of your original plan. And when the time is right, take what knowledge you’ve gained to help another through their journey.

Authenticity—“True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”

Currently, I’m managing a house of preteen and teenage boys, none of which are fully trained to put down the toilet seat or pick up their underwear from the floor. I homeschool, but still cringe at their penmanship and spelling skills. I strive to maintain a healthy relationship between my adopted son and his birth mom. I’ve reconnected with my birth daughter and am blessed by her presence in my life.

While I’ve embraced the changing dynamics in our household, it hasn’t been without challenges. I spent countless years sprinting from one child to the next trying to manage their differing needs with flawless ease. By the end of most days, I’d find myself frazzled and locked in my bathroom, using a hand towel to soak up my tears of perceived failure. I wanted my house to look perfect, my kids to be happy and my life to appear stress-free. Eventually, I learned to dissolve my perfectionist attitudes and create a new mantra—my kids need an authentic mom to lead them into a healthy adulthood. I began to wonder what message I was sending to my five children by trying to make everything in their lives appear perfect. How would my children ever learn to accept the imperfections in themselves and others, when I couldn’t accept my own?

Learning to accept my imperfections as a mother is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It’s difficult to stare at my flaws day after day, with every one of my kids, and still find the strength to parent every day. Maybe I won’t ever be the Gilmore Girls-esque mom and know the right thing to say in every difficult situation. Maybe I’m not the always attentive adoptive mom. I can’t erase my kids’ struggles or hardships. I can only be my best authentic self, and use my God-given personality and experiences to guide my children to become their authentic selves.

To all the moms everywhere—you are valued, loved and cherished beyond measure.

 

 

 

 

The letter I would have written to myself as a new mom.....

kristi hayesComment
IMG_9954.jpg

Dear new mom trying to get her pre-baby-body-back and figuring out all the things, 

If I could have had someone tell me a few things after I had Holden, our first child it would have made things a lot easier for me. I think if someone would have said, "Hey, just to let you know, after you have your kid, you will not have your flat stomach back, you will most definitely look 6-months pregnant for awhile. People will ask you when you are due, even as you carry your newborn in a sling on your chest. It's ridiculous, but don't be offended. (I mean, it's ok to be a little offended…)

And hey, your 9 months of your pregnancy diet being EVERYTHING cheese will not go away the second that baby comes out. (I am talking EVERYTHING cheese. Like the orange baseball-game-concession-stand cheese.)

Nacho cheese

Mac and cheese

The more orange and fake the better.  

You will be out of shape, and you will cry every time you dare to put on pre-pregnancy jeans, if you can even remember where you put them.

You will feel overwhelmed and defeated most days.

Most days you will be happy to get a shower before you have to rush to breastfeed for the 100,930 time. You will clean up projectile spit-up multiple times, and when you finally rock the never-sleeping-baby to sleep, the DOOR BELL will RING! (Because the mailman or UPS guy, or Amazon Fresh delivery will never EVER see the cute little stork sign that says: "BABY IS SLEEPING!")

I remember having two little ones under the age of 3. Those were some of my hardest days to date. I felt alone and overwhelmed. I did not feel productive and was irritated most days.  I was basically in survival mode. I then remember the desperation of wanting to be back to my "old self."

I literally stared at my awesome pre-preggers jeans in my closet, wishing them to jump over my post-baby-thighs each day.

Provoking them: "Come on you can do it" I would say to myself, maybe if I just wiggle on the ground for a bit. “I must have just washed and dried these on high 9 months ago, and they shrunk.”

But it didn't happen.

I would think TODAY IS THE DAY, but today was NOT the day, for many months, even years. So I teetered in between un-buttoning regular pants and having them sit half-way on my buttocks with a long shirt covering them, or wearing maternity pants with an elastic waistband. And the summer is worse. Oh, the SUMMER! That is a post all in itself.

But lo and behind one day like a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE, the jeans jumped over my thighs. And one day I packed away my maternity clothes, and one day I felt kind of normal. But it took a lot longer then I had expected because I had no idea what I was doing. And that is just the physical part that plays into the big bag of emotions we now have going on. Thank you crazy hormones.

As I look back, here are some things I would tell my post-pregnancy frazzled self:

Dear Kristi,

1. EMBRACE THE SUCK

Some days will just suck. (I tell my kids not to say this word, but do has mommy says, not as mommy does).

You will have all intention of getting in your workout, which really just means walking up the stairs a couple of times before you have lost your breath. You will be discouraged, because your post-baby body will look, feel, and act, way DIFFERENT for awhile. Embrace the Suck, don't let it defeat you before you even start!

2. IT'S GOING TO BE OK

It will be ok. You will get through this, it is just a season. And once you are over it, you may have another baby, but you will know what to expect. It is just a season. It is just a season. This phrase gets me through most of them. Seasons come and go. Remember this is not forever. Your kids will be old enough to buckle their own seatbelt, and put their own clothes on, and take their own baths, and you will do a hallelujah dance. 

3. EXPECT INTERRUPTIONS

Yes, by the grace of God your baby and toddler might be on the same nap schedule for the day, and you are in heaven, because you have 30 minutes to get some exercise in, or read a book, or do something for you, but right when you are about to turn the workout DVD on, or get your weights set up, you hear the supposed-to-be-sleeping baby wailing in the monitor! Don't give up...Adapt and Overcome. Do some squats with the baby in your arms, make funny faces while you are doing push-ups, to make them laugh. It might not look like what you had planned, but it is something.

4. FIND HELP (this should probably be #1)

Whether it is someone who can watch the kids for 30 minutes a day, so you can stay sane,  a workout group who is going through the same thing, a friend who will sit in the hard with you, or a therapist to help with depression, find HELP. Don't sit in isolation, because I guarantee there is a mom right down the street feeling helpless and lonely just like you do. Get your strollers and walk together, be TOGETHER, make the hard call to a friend for the number of a counselor, do what you need to get you WHOLE.

5. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT COMPARE

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

Do not compare yourself to any mom. You are all shaped and formed different, you will all bounce back differently. Just when you think you are doing well, you will walk by your friend who gave birth yesterday and she might be rocking a bikini. Tell her she looks great, and walk on by.

Do not stare, and do not COMPARE. Yes, there will be some body types, that will be able to strut down a runway 2 weeks after birth. They are the exception. Be happy for them and don't give it another thought. And don't talk about them…

6. YOU ARE THE BEST MOM FOR YOUR KIDS, PERIOD.

Trust your gut. Don’t ask a million other’s opinions. Because everyone will make you second guess yourself. You know your child’s needs and what best works for him. Don’t compare your parenting skills to someone else’s, they have different kids. They do organic baby food, awesome, you don’t, awesome. They homeschool, great, you send your kids to public school, great. You know your kid’s and the older they get the more you need to REMEMBER THIS!

7. START SMALL

Don't have in your head you will eat 1600 clean calories, work out 7 days a week, and will have post baby body back in 2 weeks.  (I remember feeling so frustrated because my expectations were absurd. I thought I would hop back on a bike the next week, sprint up hills again, like a 9lb baby didn't just come out of the exact place I would be sitting on a bike.)

Celebrate small wins everyday.

You took a shower- WIN

Eating a healthy snack, WIN

Kids didn't die today, WIN

8. REMEMBER

Above all, remember who you are and how awesome you are. You just birthed a baby for goodness sake. Your hips are out of place, you just ripped open your abdominals, (google C-Section if you want to be totally grossed out,) your hormones are whack. You have lots going on. Give yourself grace upon grace. With some work and patience your body will come back, maybe not the same, but who cares, it is just a body. Being healthy mentally and physically is most important.  Be patient, give yourself a break, kiss your babies and try to look at those stretch marks and extra skin as something to be proud of. Your body might not ever look exactly the same. But I promise with hard work, patience, and small choices daily, you will be surprised just how great you can feel.

P.S. These will be some of the hardest days of your life. It is super overwhelming. Go shut yourself in the bathroom and get out that cry! The hard sobbing, snotty one...then take a deep breath, look in the mirror and say I am the best mom I can be, dig deep, be patient, do the hard, and watch you surprise yourself.

Love, 

Me

I would love to know any thoughts you had after having a baby....what did you struggle or not struggle with. Guarantee most of us all have the same thoughts. You are never alone. 

DON'T FORGET to get all your favorite moms their favorite presents. Please get your order in before May 1st. SHOP HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHOWING UP FOR OTHERS

kristi hayesComment
IMG_0918.jpg

One thing we strive to do as a company is live out our mission:
 

BE STRONG
PROTECT THE WEAK
LOVE EVERYONE


Our favorite thing is doing this with community. We want to give you the opportunity to join us in serving the Homeless youth of Denver. Sox Place is a drop-in shelter in Denver that provides food and a safe place during the day to Denver's youth and young adults. They also provide employment in their screen printing shop.

THIS IS WHERE WE GET ALL OF OUR APPAREL PRINTED.

There are a few items on their wish list for their kids, something we know our community cares about. Many of these kids are sleeping on the streets. When I hear their stories I am amazed how many of them have even survived the trauma they have been through. 

Here are some items they are in need of:
1. Sleeping bags
2. Backpacks
3. Flash lights


We wanted to make it easy.

We have provided links to these items on AMAZON.  

All you have to do is click on the items above and it will lead you to an amazon link. pick an item or two, buy, and ship here: 

Sox Place address: 
2017 Lawrence St, Denver, CO 80205

 

Thank you in advance for your servant's heart. And showing up for others. 

IMG_0920.jpg

Loving our kids well..when sometimes we don't have a clue.

kristi hayesComment
IMG_8290.jpg

(Remembering a few years ago...I find myself on this same journey many days.)

To tell you the truth momming does not come naturally to me. It’s something I have felt guilty about in the past, that others do it so much better than me. That it's supposed to be natural and effortless, something I should feel like I was born to be. It’s something I have to work at…something I have to be intentional about. Other things come easier.

I am not downplaying being a mom for one second. I wouldn’t change it for the whole wide world. But I would be lying if I didn't tell you it isn’t hard, exhausting, and self -sacrificing on so many levels, and that’s probably why it it may feel hard for me. We all want to preface it with, it’s so worth it, but dang it is hard. 

But this week I caught little glimpses of why it’s so worth it, being a mom to these two. The way they love, care, and stick up for one another is all I need to see. The way they still make each other laugh after hours together in the car, the way they have their own private jokes, and the way they cheer each other on is priceless to me. I love seeing how they are being strong for one another, protecting each other, and loving one another in their actions. 

It could be as simple as Holden making a nutella sandwich first for his sister before he makes one for himself, or sis bringing down Holden’s favorite blanket without him asking, just because she knows he needs it.

This week we went to McDonalds playground. Some mean girls decided to stake out the playground apparently. We didn’t realize McDonalds had playground gangs. 
I guess the little girls said, they were going to take away Carter Mae’s doll that she had in her hands, because they were the boss of her. 

Holden sitting right beside her says, “you could never take it away from her, she’s too strong.” 
 

The little girl said, "I am stronger, look at me I can climb this pole.” (she starts to climb the pole, but doesn’t get far).

Holden: "Well, my sister can climb a rope all the way to the roof, so….”

Grant and I watched this take place and we watched our son protect his sister without being asked. We watched his sister beam with confidence and pride because her favorite person was telling others she was strong.

It was one of those weeks, I just really melted into my role as mom, even though that word encompasses so much.

I think I just wanted to let other moms know who are in the throws of young mommy hood that it’s ok to feel exhausted, tired, and even like you weren’t made to do this thing. The little years are not for the faint of heart.

IMG_8266.JPG

 

There will be days when you feel like you GOT IT, and days you have no idea why you were asked to be these kids mom, because you most certainly will screw them up.

Other things may come easier to you and you may compare yourself to others. You probably haven’t slept very well, and you probably forgot what “YOU” were before kiddos. 

And although those days come and go, sometimes it feels like you are in a season forever, there will be glimpses and experiences that you sit back and just can’t believe you get to watch these little ones come into their own, and it starts to mean something, it starts to mean everything and you soak it in and, breathe deep and, think I'm doing ok...

Recently I did a FACEBOOK LIVE on loving our kids well. I asked lots of people about what this meant to them. To watch this https://www.facebook.com/bestrongstory/videos/544046459303868/

We talk about:

LOVE LANGUAGES
QUALITY TIME
HOW TO LET GO
ROUTINE
GIVING OURSELVES GRACE

 

We would love to hear your thoughts and advice, and the moments that make you sit back, and say, "everything is going to be ok!"

BE STRONG....

kristi hayesComment
IMG_7212.jpg

Be strong... it’s a great phrase. People tell us this all the time, when we feel weak or need a little extra umph in our step. 

But what does it really mean? Does it mean we can’t ever show weakness or even feel it? Does it mean we have to put on our tough face when circumstances are awful and out of our control and all we want to do is break down?

Be strong... it’s a phrase we used with our son a few years ago when he wasn’t being treated great by a friend. It was to tell him, you are gonna have days you feel really weak, scrawny. Unfair things are coming at ya, but be strong. Be strong in who you are, don’t let anyone tell you, you are different then the beautiful soul God made you. 

Circumstances will make you feel weak, and buddy it’s ok to show weakness, but deep down, you are strong, capable, because that’s who God made you, and he’s there every step of the way with you. 

Hey friend, today you may feel weak, and that’s so ok, you don’t need to fake strength. Tell those around you what’s going on, so they can remind you how very strong you are and be your strength until you remember. 

Get BE STRONG BRACELET HERE

I feel strong....

kristi hayesComment
IMG_9353.jpg

Today is International Women's Day. A day to celebrate each other well. This week I asked women what made them feel strong. Many of the answers brought me to tears. When I asked girls ages 6- 14 year old their answers, they could give them to me quickly and succinctly. Some said, "When I am a leader." Others said, "When I help others or when I work hard for something." Today we will be shining a light on women and their answers through our instagram stories as well as on Facebook.

IMG_7715.JPG

But one thing that intrigued me was how much longer it took for grown women to answer the question. Many had to really process.  It took them a longer time to get back to me, some even said it was easier to list what made them feel weak instead.

I am not sure what happens from our young age to when we grow older. If we lose our sense of what makes us feel strong or  gives us strength, if we are afraid to announce it to the world, for fear of critique. Or maybe the world has made us feel weak and not ENOUGH, because it is always saying we have to be MORE.

IMG_7711.JPG

Last week I had a group of women in my living room. We are planning an event for young teenage moms for Mother's Day with a local non-profit, called Hope House. As we were discussing what we would like to do that day, it became very clear to me that each woman present could run their own thing, and many do. They all were go-getters, type A-ish personalities.  Everyone had an opinion and wasn't afraid to voice it.

But as I sat back and watched I noticed something different about these ladies. Instead of anyone feeling jealous, or comparing, or even struggling to be heard, all of these ladies celebrated each others' gifts. They let each person share their gifts and incredible talents. No one was afraid to say what was their strength or what they could contribute. It was pretty spectacular to be part of this. Many times leaving a meeting like that, with so many of the same leader personalities would feel discouraging. People would feel stepped on, or that they couldn't get their opinion across. But that was  not the case here.

It was magical to see everyone know their strengths, voice them, AND then come together for the common good to serve others.

IMG_7708.JPG

It's amazing what can happen when we find people who are brave, compassionate, organized, leaders, go-getters, challengers, inspirers and saddle up beside those people; never comparing our gifts to theirs, but learning and leading together;always appreciating each one's strengths and letting each other shine.

What makes you feel strong?

IMG_7705.JPG
IMG_7712.JPG
IMG_7706.JPG
IMG_7707.JPG
IMG_7714.JPG
IMG_7768.JPG
IMG_7751.JPG
IMG_7766.jpg
IMG_7764.jpg
IMG_7770.JPG
IMG_7787.JPG
IMG_7788.JPG
IMG_7719.JPG
IMG_7722.JPG
IMG_7721.JPG