Tag Archives: mom

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:

CONTROL

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.

RESPECT and AUTHORITY

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.

CONVENIENCE

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.)

First Day . . . Again!

First Day of School 2015

First Day of School 2015

It is the first day of school in our new little town. I just returned from dropping the kids off at their new schools, with new teachers, and soon-to-be new friends. Leaving the car one by one were three kids with three very different perspectives on the day. One absolutely loves school and is a total optimist when it comes to school and learning. She set out full of massive amounts of nervous, excited energy. I have no doubt that she has already made a friend and told her teacher everything about the latest book she is reading.

The other two have different battles to face. One in middle school, one in high school, and both full of hormones and unpredictable emotions. They have real concerns about how they look, who they’ll eat lunch with, and if they’ll remember where their classes are.

One of my kiddos has been plagued with anxiety ever since we moved to Michigan two and a half years ago. You would never know it if you encountered him in a variety of contexts. You would see confidence, humor, and even a little arrogance, but the first day of school brings out a beast like none other. Anxiety is a terrible thing and I watch it take every piece of confidence out of this amazing kid. It breaks my heart. He cries. (He’s even thrown up more than once.) Then I trust the people at the new school once again to take care of my kid as I drive away . . . in tears. I keep my phone on me, hoping and praying that I don’t receive a call from the school.

As much as I communicate with the school and trust the office, teachers, and counselors to take care of my child and do what’s best for him, there is a bigger trust for me. I am choosing to entrust my kiddo, his growth, and his future to Almighty God.

He sees. He knows. He cares.

Just as the difficulties in my life are working, pruning, and developing character in me, God is growing, strengthening, developing, and creating an extraordinary story in their lives. As much as it hurts and breaks my heart, I don’t want to take this away from my kids. I remember when this anxiety first reared its ugly head in a major way.

It was the first day of school after moving to Michigan. It was April, the day everyone went back to school after spring break, and it was our kids’ first day in the new school. It did not go so well. As I talked on the phone with the counselor or sat in the drop-off line praying him out the door and into the school, I just wanted to quit. I wanted to pull him out of school, home-school him, and protect him from the loads of pain he was feeling. Then he survived, learned, grew, and was strengthened in his character. I could see it!

Then that fall when school began it happened again. And the next fall it happened again. And now, here we are at a new school . . . again.

Through my tears, as I write these words, I still believe it is worth it . . . for me and for my precious kiddo. I refuse to rob them of the lessons God wants to teach them. I refuse to control the situation in hopes of avoiding hurt because I will not withhold from this kid all that God has for them. It is through our greatest pains and sorrows where we learn to truly depend on and trust God. I want to learn those lessons for myself and I want my kids to learn those lessons too – even while they’re young, especially while they’re young.

Parents, do you need to allow your kids to experience the natural pains of life? I’m not talking about throwing them out to a pack of wolves or not standing by their side in full love and support. I am talking about how often we over-protect our kids from hurt or potential hurt because we think that is helping them. Do you need to help them by letting them strengthen their own spiritual muscles?

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.)

For Mom’s Eyes Only: Love

Love isI love my kids. I tell them I love them. I want them to grow up knowing their mom loves them – a lot!

Here is a frequent conversation with my 8-year-old, Celina:

Me: Guess what?

Celina: You love me. (with a little eye roll)

Me: Yep, I love you!

Celina: Why do you always say that? I already know.

Me: I never want you to forget that I love you.

There are a number of things to look at when it comes to love. Love is the umbrella of so many other thoughts to consider when looking at any relationship, and especially with our kids. The Bible spells it out in I Corinthians 13 where it says:

“Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.”

Once again, I love my kids. I tell them I love them. I want them to grow up knowing I love them. I also know that telling our kids that we love them is not enough – action is required. Yet, it is so easy to justify my actions, attitudes, and words that are not loving. Here are some typical excuses:

I’m tired. I clean the house and pick up their messes. I put dinner on the table. I work. I stay up late to wash dishes, clean up, or prep for the next day. I need “me time.” I just want some peace and quiet.

And then sometimes the excuses move into blame: They are selfish. They just make messes. They are loud. They are quirky and obnoxious. They are always going through some phase.

Can you relate to any of these?

Honestly, I don’t like to admit that I think, speak, and act selfish or rude to my children, but I do. I allow life’s pressures to interfere with my desire to truly love my kids. I want the benefits of a loving relationship, but am not always willing to do the difficult work of loving them. I end up defining and measuring my love for my kids by how they are behaving, their attitude towards me, or how well the last family vacation went.

The performance of our kids will never be perfect. They will disappoint and fail us. They are far from perfect, and so are we!

Far from perfectAll of this measuring is based on the performance of the kids rather than on my choice to unconditionally love them.

What would it look like to love our kids regardless of their actions, attitudes, or words? What if we greeted them with love, kindness, and believing the best each time they walk through the front door or out of their bedroom? What if we remembered the beautiful, full feelings of love we had the first day we met those kids? Would that change our perspective? Would that change our ability to genuinely and unconditionally love them?

I had an experience of frustration when one of my kids was little. There was some personality conflict and I struggled to feel genuine love and compassion for this child, especially when said child was crying. The very moments that needed my tenderness and love I would feel tight, rigid, and so unloving. I didn’t want to feel this way. I did all I knew to do at the time. I acknowledged this feeling and then I forced myself to sit still and embrace my kid in one of these moments. Even if my child squirmed, I wouldn’t let go, until I felt nothing but love and compassion. Over time, the love in me grew.

That may sound terrible, but if we are not “feeling” love towards our kids, then we must take loving actions anyway. Imagine if I had just let that go and done nothing about those feelings. Now, ten years later, do you think I would be feeling more love or less? Things in life naturally deteriorate unless they are nurtured, including love.

** Using I Corinthians 13 as the guide, how would you rate your love toward your kid(s)?

** Again, using I Corinthians 13 as the guide, what are one or two changes you could make this week to improve your love for your kid(s)?

Love is the foundation of extraordinary life-change for you . . . and your kids!

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.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

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.)

Gifts of Expectation

I love gifts! Receiving gifts is fun, rewarding, enjoyable, and often filled with anticipation. Yet, even more than receiving gifts, I love giving gifts! Our whole family (and I am sure many of you) loves gift-giving. When the perfect gift is found it heightens the anticipation of that treasure to be opened.

cj quilt 2I am making some Christmas gifts this year. Each of my kids will receive a hand-made rag quilt. The fabric of each quilt was specifically chosen for each of them. It took several trips to the fabric store and a whole lot of contemplation to find things that I think they will love. It has been so much fun and so difficult to keep from blabbing to them about it. In fact, Celina has asked a number of times if I would please make her a blanket. She says, “You can just crochet a bunch of squares and put them all together.” A quilting group was having a retreat at the camp and that got her asking about this again. I said, “Maybe someday.” Like this Christmas!!

BJ quiltAs I create these gifts I am giddy with excitement for the day the gifts will be in the hands of the receivers. I am confident that my kids will love their quilts. It will bring me great joy to see their faces as they unwrap these treasures!

I also love wrapping gifts! (It’s easy to get me in the Christmas spirit.) The attention to detail in wrapping the gifts is part of expressing my love through the gift.

I pondered a life-lesson as I was thinking about gifts today: What materials do we use to wrap our gifts?

I am afraid that many of the gifts we give are wrapped in expectation. Expectations that we put on the receiver of the “gift”. Expectation makes the gift no longer a gift. Gifts, in my definition, are to be given with no strings attached. This applies to a variety of “gifts” – those wrapped in paper as well as gifts of kindness, friendship, and love.

What if we took the pressure off of the receiver and simply found joy in giving the gift?

What if we let go of the expectation and simply enjoy the anticipation of gift-giving?

As we move into the biggest gift-giving time of the year, let’s be givers of well-wrapped gifts. Let’s be givers of gifts wrapped in gratitude, love, kindness, grace, and joyful anticipation. And as we find blessing and joy in giving, may we also receive gifts in the same manner.

Be Extraordinary!

cj quilt

(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.)

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