Be strong. Protect the Weak. Love Everyone. ™

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.

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

kristi hayesComment
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“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

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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
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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
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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.

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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.

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

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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
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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

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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?

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

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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
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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
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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:

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Their pain/Our pain

kristi hayesComment
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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
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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.