Tag Archives: kids

Benefit of the Doubt

CJ hockeyLast week my daughter, Celina, worked on a hand-written letter (with a colored picture) to the two ladies who serve lunch at her school. It was kind and sweet. She thanked them for fixing the food and also mentioned some of her favorites. I didn’t think much about the note because every once in a while she will write a note to her teacher.

Now, I wish I had taken a picture of the note and here is why:

I went to Celina’s parent-teacher conference this morning. Academics, math, reading – she is doing great at school, but the thing Joe and I care about most as her parents is how is she BE-ing at school. She is kind, gets along with others, takes leadership, and she is loved and respected by her teachers and fellow students. She has a great reputation in all parts of the school.

Two things caught my attention today. First, her teacher explained how when it is Thursday and they go to the library Celina walks in and says to the librarian, “I love Thursdays because I get to see you!” How sweet is that? She makes people feel good.

The second story that really caught my attention today was about the lunch ladies. Apparently before Christmas Celina had a “run-in” with one of the lunch ladies. Celina had taken two scoops of veggies instead of one (seriously kid!) and the lunch lady “got in her face and yelled at her.” Another teacher witnessed the incident and told Celina’s teacher that she might want to check in with Celina. As her teacher told me the story she got that mother bear look in her eye as if saying, “Nobody messes with Celina!”

CJThe immediate thought going through my head was that I can’t believe she didn’t tell me this happened. And, I thought about the note she wrote last week that was full of kindness, without an ounce of anger or condemnation.

How would you respond? As the mom? As the teacher? As the kid?

I’ve seen plenty of poor reactions in life, as a teacher myself, as a coach, and watching my kids play sports. When people over-react “in our face” it doesn’t often sit well and it impacts the relationship in the future. I wrote about forgiveness last year and how the steps of forgiveness take intentional action and thought. Forgiveness is not natural.

Yes, I’m pretty sure I thought through all of these things in the short time this story was told to me, but then came the kicker.

When Celina’s teacher asked her what happened at lunch and if she was ok, Celina’s response came with a wave of her hand and a shrug of her shoulder. “It’s ok. She must be having a bad day.” And off she went.

Have you ever heard the phrase “benefit of the doubt?” Does anyone in your path need to be given the “benefit of the doubt?” Are you too intent on being right or having justice that you are unable to just let something go? Imagine all the conflict (and internal anger) that could be eliminated if we reacted today with a little more “Celina.”

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Be the Best Mom Ever!

best mom everWe will never be perfect, but in order to live the extraordinary life, we must become more and more like Jesus. Let’s say I want to live an extraordinary life by becoming a better mom . . .
How can I be a better mom?
  1. Read a book about being a good mom.
  2. Make great dinners and after-school snacks the kids love.
  3. Learn from other moms who seem to be doing it right.
  4. Take a parenting class.
All of these ideas are great and even important; however, there is an important factor to consider. We, as moms, are all unique. Our personalities, likes, dislikes, upbringing, gifts, and talents are all different. The child we are striving to love better is also unique. They are not the same as we are and they are not the same as any other child on the planet, even their siblings (even if they’re twins!)
With all of the unique, like-no-other factors, how can I become a better mom? How can I increase my capacity to love, nurture, and train my one-of-a-kind child? How can I learn to have greater compassion, kindness, gentleness, and love toward my child that is more challenging? I’m an imperfect, broken human being . . . what can I possibly do?
The question that begs asking is not what can I do, but rather who can I become?
Mark 10-14I must become more and more like Jesus.
When I become like Jesus
  1. I will hear His voice. (not in parenting alone)
  2. I will know what to do. (wisdom)
  3. I will be filled with the fruit of the spirit which will change my actions and reactions in everyday situations. (The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23)
Many questions in life do not boil down to one simple answer, but I believe this one – “How can I be a better mom?” – does.
As a mom, dad, husband, wife, co-worker, or boss be more like Jesus. . .

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Braces or No Braces

BJ bracesTuesday, January 19, at 10:20am my beautiful daughter Bethany was scheduled to get her braces off. She is about one month shy of having had her braces for 18 months. This process was much quicker than anticipated, but getting them off was still very exciting. Bethany has been counting down the days since her December appointment, when Dr. Schultz told her the thrilling news: “Let’s take your off your braces at your next appointment!”

But when Tuesday, January 19 came, and so did a sudden migraine. This is a fairly common occurrence so when I received the call from the school, just 15 minutes before I picked her up for the ortho appointment, I winced. Because we moved recently, the orthodontist is almost an hour drive away. I hoped that she could sleep it off in the car and be ok – that’s what I prayed. However, ten minutes down the road, she sat up in tears and said, “I can’t do it.” Within ten more minutes she displayed the full effects of the migraine.

Her appointment is rescheduled for the next possible time: February 22. Ouch!

Bethany was excited for January 19. She and I had great plans – a lunch date (without braces), the purchase of a promised bag of Skittles (if she got her braces off before I was done paying for them!), and shopping for a much-needed pair of pants. I was excited for her and I was excited to give all my attention to her.

I am so proud of how Bethany has managed her disappointment. She was sad. She was disappointed. She told many people this was coming and now must face them at school and church, telling them why she still bears her shiny smile. However, this disappointment did not knock her out.

Disappointment weighs differently on each of us. (Read about Celina’s bout with disappointment HERE.) The disappointment itself is different for each of us, but Bethany’s response challenges me and I hope it challenges you too:

  1. She acknowledged the disappointment.
  2. She grieved the disappointment.
  3. She engaged others in processing the disappointment.
  4. She moved on in spite of the disappointment.

It reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

In the face of disappointment (which will come),

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Say “Yes!”

Imagine with me for a minute what it would be like to tell your children (or your spouse, boss, or co-workers) “yes” in response to all of their questions today. And beyond the “yes” words, actually allowing the answer to be yes and permission to be fully given for what they requested. The first time I was presented with this thought, my kids were young. I didn’t even have teenagers yet and I thought, “No way!” I could think of all the reasons I need to tell them “no” and I could think of all the reasons it would complicate my life to say “yes.”

The idea of saying “yes” has surfaced in my thinking and I want to process it with you today.

YESThe answer “no” is easy and it is often a habit. I often answer “no” without any thought as to why and sometimes without hearing the full request. Beyond it just being a habit, why do I say “no” so often? If I am honest, here are some of the possible reasons:


When I say “no” I am maintaining control over my kids. I retain control of their schedule, who they talk to, what they eat, what time they go to bed, what time they get up, what books they read, what movies they watch, what activities they participate in, etc. We are the parents, right? We should have control over all these things.


I want my kids to know that I am the authority in their life. I want them to be obedient. I want them to respect me. The way to gain that respect is by being the decision maker in their lives. Their job is to respond correctly.


No is definitely more convenient than yes most of the time. Saying “yes” often requires more effort, time, mess, clean-up, and less time for me to get work done (or stay comfortably on the couch).

Consider these questions:

How many times each day do you say “no?”
Is “no” your first and most natural response?
Recall the last few times you answered “no.”
Why did you (or do you) answer “no?”

What good things would come from saying “yes” to others?
Good things for them? Good things for you?

Side note: There is a time and place for the word no – absolutely! But, perhaps our “no” would be more firm and powerful if we answered “Yes!” more often.

Will you try it out? Say “yes” today and notice the changes – notice what good things are created within yourself and others – and then post your findings on my Facebook page. I can’t wait to hear what happens and learn from your experience.

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Needs, Wants, and So Much More!

I am so thankful that all of my needs, and the needs of my family, are met. We have food on the table, gas in the tank, and a very nice roof over our heads. The kids are in school and Joe and I have work, yet during this season of transition I am not taking any of these met needs for granted. We are still in the midst of job/life/financial transition and it truly is God (through some of you!) supplying each of our needs.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His
riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

What baffles me the most during this season is the way God is providing for our wants. These wants are extras. Some of them are important to our emotional health, the health of our marriage, and the health of our family. Others are 100% extra! I know in my head that God cares about every part of our lives, but I am seriously blown away by how He is showing these extra doses of care to us.

Here are a few recent examples:

Mission to Thailand. I said, “yes” to the Thailand mission trip before life flipped upside down. When our job and financial situation changed I had no idea how I would pay the $3,000 for the trip. (The extra money from my job is needed for daily expenses more than ever before.) God used His people to supply this need, including a $1500 anonymous donation through my church which was God’s “audible” voice saying, “YES, I WANT YOU TO GO!”

Kidney Walk. This is an important event for our family. (Read more of the story here.) The walk is a total extra and it is also a way to remember our story and sacrifice as a family as well as honoring Rhonda, the kidney recipient whom we dearly love. We are excited to enjoy a family weekend away and also celebrate Mother’s Day. (We know it’s a week late!) We can pay a certain amount per person for the event or raise funds to meet the minimum fee. Our team goal was $200, of which $160 was remaining. With five days to go until the walk, an anonymous donor gave the full $160!

Marriage Builder. In our couples retreats and classes we talk about the importance of weekly date nights and, if you are up for the challenge, getting away for a full week each year. Yes, this is complicated with kids, but it is worth it for our marriage. I don’t know what the plans are because Joe is keeping the details top secret, but we are going away for five days. I know we are not couch surfing so I am sure it costs some cash. Joe was praying about this (along with the kidney weekend in Detroit) and that day we were given an envelope. Inside that envelope was enough cash to cover the get-aways!

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Woodburn, Oregon

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Woodburn, Oregon

Let me be clear about one thing: I am not bragging on the cash. I AM bragging on my God, His omniscient knowledge of my situation and what my heart needs, and His abundant resources. God is not lacking. God does not work in the confines of minimum wage or salary caps. God owns it all. God is constantly working behind the scenes, moving in the hearts of His people, and setting everything up to supply the needs and wants that you may not even be aware of yet. He is that good!

Are you asking God to meet your needs? Are you trusting Him to meet them?
Are you asking God to meet ALL of the desires of your heart? Are you trusting Him to do that?

These are not “name it claim it” prayers, but prayers of total faith, believing that God has your best interest in mind and is fully capable of giving you every single thing you need.

Be Extraordinary!


(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Words of Affirmation

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Said no one ever! Ok, I said those words in elementary school and heard others say those words in a singsongy voice, but I know those words are not true. Words are so powerful! Words are capable of tearing people down and they also have the power to lift, encourage, and build people up.

lips powerfulI realized recently (not the first time) that it is so easy to be flippant with the words I speak to my kids.

Do any moms (and dads) out there use any of these words with your kids?

-Sarcasm at an inappropriate time

-Verbal jabs

-Ignoring ‘another’ story

-Disregarding teenage drama

-Telling the kids, with or without words, to “suck it up!”

I think, if we are honest, most of us are guilty of speaking to our own kids in one of these ways at one time or another. We get so caught up in our own adult world with our own adult problems that we don’t actually see what is happening in the life of our kids. Let’s be real: Sometimes it’s hard to engage!

What is the solution? I’ve thought about this, and, as with many things I’m working to change in my life, trying harder doesn’t usually cut it. I can commit and vow and promise to eliminate my harsh words and poor listening habits toward my kids, but I inevitably end up failing. This seems to send me into a spiral of behaving that way even more. (Ok, maybe I’m really good for two or three days, but then it is triggered again.)

I am really bothered by the thought of what my actions and, especially, my words are doing long-term to my kids. Remember, I love them! But, more than knowing in my head that I love them, I want THEM to know that I love them. And I don’t think stopping the bad behavior is enough.

What if we (moms and dads) committed to daily words of affirmation?

Here is the definition of “affirm” from the Webster dictionary:

to say that something is true in a confident way, to show a strong belief in or dedication to, validate, confirm, to state positively, to assert (as a judgment or decree) as valid or confirmed, to express dedication to

Using this definition as a guide, what will you do to affirm your kid(s) this week? Will you commit to intentionally affirming your kids one or two times each week?

Affirmations are part of living an extraordinary life. These words of positive, true, thoughtful, and intentional kindness will change your life, your family, your marriage, your workplace, your church, and your community!

Intentional affirmation is not always easy or natural, but it is worth it!

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Best. Valentine. Ever.

valentineHere is the blog post – the big reveal of “The most amazing Valentine gift from Joseph Castaneda.” that I promised on Facebook. Some of you have expressed understandable ‘concern’ because this Facebook promise came on the heels of Joe’s blog post, “50 Shades of Grey . . . and 37 uses of the word “Sex”. This is a great post and you ought to read it! However, my sharing about “the gift” will not be x-rated nor will it cause any blushing.

Have you ever had someone witness your worse moments first-hand? Sometimes our lowest and darkest moments happen in secret, but in marriage/family relationships there is a front-row seat to the mountains and the valleys of a person’s life.

This past year has held some of the toughest moments in my adult life. Here are a couple of the highlights (“lowlights”) between February 15, 2014 and February 14, 2015:


Tati came to live with, and become a part of, our family on June 3, 2011. (You can read the story of how she came to live with us here.) In the spring of 2014 it became evident that Tati was no longer going to be living with our family. Her life and desires were headed in a direction that did not fit the structure of our family and she made the decision to move back to Oregon with her bio family. This was a very painful time. The transition was not easy. It was a messy time and the whole process caused great strain in our entire household and tested the strength of our marriage.


As Tati was transitioning out of our home and as we headed into our busy summer camp schedule, I became depressed. I didn’t recognize it at first, although Joe did and carefully watched and walked with me through this season. In the middle of summer I stopped coaching with my amazing coach and friend, Tony. This was a difficult decision, but I could not seem to pick up my head and heart enough to work my business to the level required for this type of coaching. It was a heart-breaking end for me and I felt like a total failure.


During this whole time Joe and I were training for our first half-marathon. The running was hard. My emotional strength was low and it impacted my physical strength. Running with Joe, hitting new milestones, and having breakthroughs helped me keep a piece of my sanity all the way through October 5 when we actually ran the race. This was the most difficult physical task I have ever accomplished. (Read lessons of this journey here.)

Moving On

December 17, following a shocking and disturbing meeting, we began navigating a season that would lead to Joe being fired from his job on January 16, 2015. The emotions have been raw, deep, and very painful. (You can read more here and here.)

Journal 2The Gift

On Valentines Day 2015 Joe gave me a journal. Nearly every page is full and there is an entry every single day for 365 days. In this journal, Joe wrote about all of the great things he saw in me – things I had done, things we had done together, qualities he loved about me, and much much more.

The Point

journalIn one of the “worst” 365 days of my life, unbeknownst to me, Joe was looking for and writing down the best of me. He looked through my depression and saw my beauty and strength. He looked through my pain and saw my passion and fight. He looked through the yuck of my life and saw good.

He didn’t make things up. He was simply looking for the good and he found it. I was overwhelmed by his gift. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. It chronicled an incredibly difficult year and it was written from a position of grace and love.

How do you look at people in your life? Your spouse? Your kids? Your boss? Your friends? If you are looking for the bad, you will find it; and if you are looking for the good, you will find that too! Everyone deserves the gift of grace and love, especially on the worse days, weeks, or years of life.

With grace and love, Be Extraordinary!


(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Mom’s: Do You Have Peace?

Do you like peace? Do you like your home to feel peaceful? Do you ever wish your home looked like it was taken straight out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine? You know the look . . . clean countertops, fluffed pillows neatly placed on the couches, beautiful lighting, great music, and sipping your favorite beverage while curled up reading a book in a cozy chair in the corner of the living room. This is the the look, feel, and experience of every mom in every home in America.


Mom moments take work, but they are worth it!

Mom moments take work, but they are worth it!

Being a mom is often a far cry from peaceful. It is gritty, messy, busy, and exhausting. A mom’s life is full of interruptions, last-minute doctor appointments, dropping lunches and cleats off at school, cheering from the stands, running home to put dinner in the crockpot, and being the queen of flexibility.

The skill, patience, and energy required to be a mom is right up there with being the top CEO of any company. And yet, in the midst of all that moms juggle, we tend to beat ourselves up for not having the magazine-cover look and feel to our lives and homes. We want peace. Ok, I want peace.

I often feel that if I don’t feel peaceful then my life must be out of balance. At times this is very true. It is easy to take these out-of-balance and lack-of-peace feelings and equate them with being a failure as a mom. However, life is not about living in complete external peace. It is about living with internal peace amidst the external chaos.

How do we live with peace when our life is filled with chaos?

Remember what’s most important.

What is most important to you? Take a minute and write down your top five priorities in order.

One-on-one time is valuable at any age.

One-on-one time is valuable at any age.

Evaluate what’s really important.

Where do you spend your time? Take a minute and write down the top five ways you spend your time, in order, over an average week. Yes, include work, commute time, cleaning house, cooking . . .  Be honest. This is not about judgement, but simply a means of evaluation.

Be honest about your priorities.

Compare your two lists. I may say that spending quality time with my family is a top priority, but if I actually spend a majority of my time scrubbing floors and toilets or watching Netflix then I may need to re-evaluate what’s truly important.

Make a decision.

If you’ve done the little assignment along the way then you have some awareness about what’s important to you. Now, decide what you will do about this new knowledge.

So, how does this relate to peace?

Some of the most beautiful and memorable moments leave toys around the house, children with bloody knees or broken hearts, and mom covered in peanut butter kisses. If we don’t remember what’s important then it is easy to get caught thinking about and reacting to stained carpet, kids up past bedtime, dents in the family car, or many other experiences we face each day. These images don’t make the cover of any magazines, but they can fill our hearts with joy and peace if we know what’s important.

Being a mom doesn’t always look or feel peaceful, but it is worth it.

Be Extraordinary!


(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

For Mom’s Eyes Only: Patience

Be patientPatience. From one mom’s heart to another.

If I am honest, I do not always show patience to my children, even though they are so valuable to me and I love them so much. Patience shows that what my children have to say is important and worth hearing. When I am patient, I wait to hear the whole story before I begin to speak and before I formulate responses in my mind. Patience allows God’s wisdom and love to catch up with my initial emotional responses. Patience affords me the space to think clearly and respond to my children’s actions, attitudes, and words with love.

I want to love my children with patience. I want to value their opinions, ideas, and thoughts. I want to value what they, as young people, have to offer. I want to pause long enough to truly hear all of the great and wonderful things they have to say.

Child of Mine: You are funny. You are adorable. You are innocent. You are thoughtful. You are smart. You are creative. You are unique. You are bold. You are a dreamer. You are hopeful. You are beautiful.

If I don’t respond with patience I miss all of these beautiful thoughts, words, actions, and feelings.

Child of Mine: You are hurting. You are angry. You are sad. You are misunderstood. You are in conflict. You are searching. You are hoping. You are wanting. You are lonely. You are afraid.

If I don’t respond with patience I miss all of these emotions that are shaping their lives and future choices from the inside out. Without patience, I will also miss out on the opportunity to walk the path of their lives alongside them.

I have so much to offer my children, but I lose the platform for sharing and communicating my ideas with them when I don’t take time to hear what they are saying, with and without words. So often, I want to get my thoughts out. I want to have influence over their decisions. I do this out of love for them, but it doesn’t come across that way when it is not done with patience. I can’t control their future choices or change their past choices by talking at them every chance I get.

Ultimately, I don’t want their silent obedience. I want a relationship with them. I want them to relate beautifully with God. I want them to live a life full of impact, faith, love, and the realization of their greatest dreams. This relationship I desire is not solely dependent on them. It begins with me.

Moms, will you join me in the following commitments?

I choose to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
I choose to listen to the entire story before I formulate thoughts or words of response.
The answer may not always be yes, but I choose to listen with the intent to understand my child’s heart.
I choose to be patient.

Moms: Be Extraordinary!


(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Do You Inspire Others?

Extraordinary kidsOne night the kids and I were hanging out in the living room. I was on the couch with Celina snuggled on my lap. She is 8 years old, but I think she will always find a way to snuggle on my lap! BJ was in the chair working on a drawing and AJ was standing near us. I don’t remember exactly what he was doing, but probably tossing a ball in the air as he is often found with a ball in his hands.

The topic of conversation moved to BJ and her desire to be a fashion designer. She loves fashion, style, and music. AJ asked her a question or two and BJ’s response indicated that her belief about the fashion designing dreams were mere fantasies – she didn’t really believe they could become reality. AJ jumped on this disbelief quickly and reminded her of her passion, talent, and skills. He said in a number of words and number of ways, “You can do it!”

At this moment Celina piped in with a statement that added fuel to the energy building in the room. She said,

“AJ, you always say stuff that makes us feel like our dreams can come true.”

AJ quoteIn the hour that followed papers were pulled out, drafts of ideas were made, and brainstorm lists were created. BJ created outfit designs. Celina had a list of her dreams consisting of a big red barn, farmhouse, and all the animals that we would find there. AJ has plenty of dreams of his own. He plans to be a wise and godly business man – first with USANA and then owning his own store by the time he is 30.

The greatest thing about all of this was the belief that I saw well up in each child. There was great excitement, energy, and bonding between the kids. They were helping each other and even discussing how each one would help the other in the achievement of their dreams.

Without even realizing it, AJ showed leadership that night. He inspired greatness in his younger sisters. He uncovered and stoked their belief.

When you are in the room, what do you inspire in others? What conversations are created because of your questions? Is there energy, positivity, and belief in your presense? I think we all can learn a valuable lesson about the extraordinary life from AJ’s example – I know that I can!

Be Extraordinary!

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