August 7, 2013

BACK-TO-SCHOOL: Give your child a fair advantage!

It's that time of year! Colorful Crayola displays offer a cheerful greeting at t
he entrance of each supermarket and grocery store front. Pencil sharpeners everywhere, hum a steady tune, as pencils with untouched erasers are filed to a point of perfection. New backpacks are well-stocked with supplies, and are lined by the front door, ready to go. Shoe laces are bright, and new shoes sit patiently, waiting to be scuffed. Closets are lined with new clothes, clothes which will soon carry the stains that will tell the stories of your child's 2013-14 school year. Excitement is in the air.

I'm certainly not an expert on the subject of raising children, but I would like to share a few thoughts for you to consider, before you set foot in your child's classroom.

Pretty soon you will be meeting and greeting the teachers who will be working with your children throughout this new school year. As you do this, please remember that your words are a powerful paintbrush. Be mindful of the image that you paint of your child, and their character. You may feel an obligation to share your child's history of academic or behavioral weaknesses with his new teacher, right out of the gate. Unless it is information that absolutely must be shared for the safety of your child, or the safety of others, then use discretion. Give your child a fair chance at making a good first impression. It's a new year, and a new opportunity. If your child had a difficult time last school year, then explain to him that this is a clean slate. Make sure he knows that you are in his corner. If and when issues arise, there will be time for you to find an appropriate way to deal with them at that time. When you speak to their teacher for the first time, be sure to carry a positive tone.

On that note... keep your tone positive, but your words realistic and attainable. Don't storm in and set verbal expectations for your child that will be hard for them to reach or maintain. They may be the smartest kid that you've ever known, and they may have an incredible skill set that is hard for you to keep quiet about. Keep quiet anyway. Maybe they have been the fastest, smartest, sharpest, most talented kid in their class for the past 3 years, give them the space to continue to grow at their own pace! Their teacher will have plenty of time to discover the amazing qualities that your child possesses, all without your help. Let their teacher come to YOU throughout the year and tell you how fabulous your child is at drawing, or reading, or math! You can smile, and say thank you... then go home and call grandma to tell her ALL about it! Spare your child the pressure of feeling like they always have to be "THE BEST."

I'm not suggesting that you be uptight and close-lipped. Have a natural conversation. If your child loves to paint, and the teacher mentions how wonderful the school art program is, then tell her how much your child enjoys art! I'm merely suggesting that you not build your child up in such a way, that that the teacher may build false expectations for them before the school year has even begun. In the same breath, give your child a fighting chance. Even though you may have good intentions, don't divulge every issue that your child has ever confronted, before their teacher has a chance to get to know them and form their own opinions!! I sincerely hope that this is a beneficial bit of encouragement. I'm wishing each of your littles a fabulous school year filled with learning, laughter, and love!,

If you think that this post could help bring some perspective to another parent, then please SHARE! :)

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August 2, 2013

Five Ways To Be a Better Mama

1. Lighten your tone.

In other words, speak gently. Occasionally, without even realizing it, I start navigating on autopilot. Unfortunately, my autopilot voice, isn't very loving or affectionate. "Pick up your toys!" "Stop making that noise!" "Go sit down!" "Speak SWEETLY to your sister!!!" (Some irony in that last one, huh?) Instead of being an encouraging source of guidance, I turn into a drill sergeant. {shiver} Not. Good.

I've found that the drill sergeant in me, usually makes an appearance when I'm running late, exhausted, or frustrated. When I realize what I'm doing, it takes a CONSCIOUS EFFORT to turn myself around. I have to go to my children and INTENTIONALLY use my sweetest, calmest voice, while substituting these alternatives: "It's time to clean up now, if we all work together we will get this done much faster.""That noise is too noisy for inside the house, we'll go outside in a while and you can be as noisy as you'd like." "Daddy will be home soon, please play sweetly while I finish dinner." "It makes me sad to hear you speak to your sister in that way. We all love each other, so let's speak words that are loving and kind."

It's an awkward transition at first, to go from barking orders to speaking calmly. Your kids may even be momentarily startled to see that the drill sergeant, has been replaced by their loving mama without warning... and on such short notice. That's okay, do it anyway! Make it happen. It will only take a minute for moods to lighten, and for your new and improved tone to feel comfortable. Everything will begin to run much more smoothly, and your lightened mood will give you the ability to think more clearly as you face any new situations that may arise.

2. Go to bed.

If you are like me, after the kids are in bed you take some "me time." Lots of mamas use the hours just after the kiddos are asleep to catch up on laundry, read a book, or watch some television. It's true that it can be a useful time to re-energize our child rearin' batteries, but don't get lost in it. It is too easy to fold just one more load, read just one more chapter, or watch just one more episode. 

Give yourself a bedtime. The next morning, you will thank yourself for using self-control. What you don't get done around the house can wait until tomorrow, that oh-so-tempting next chapter isn't going anywhere, AND that television has a remote. Turn it off and get some rest. Your body, and your mind need sleep. Both you and your family will reap the benefits that come from setting limits for yourself before bedtime

3. Give yourself extra time.

It is hard work for a mama to get herself and her children dressed, ready, and out the door. Throw in a time crunch and run her late, and she might just become unraveled!!! 
Schedule  in an extra 15 minutes to get yourself where ever it is that you are going. 

You know that moment when you are standing by the front door with your arms full reciting the words, "Come on... it's time to go!!" Your car keys are dangling from your finger beneath the load of necessities that are required to take a day outing with children, and you've got one foot on the mat outside of the front door. Suddenly your five-year old emerges from the bathroom covered in toothpaste, and your infant has a diaper explosion of colossal proportions. When this happens, you can call those extra minutes a gift to yourself, and your children. Those minutes will be what keep the fine line between "loving mama" & "drill sergeant", from being breached. For that... your kids will thank you!!!

4. Plan ahead.

Life is ALWAYS less stressful with a plan. If you are taking a big day trip on Friday, then have everything prepared and ready to go on Thursday night. Keep a change of clothes in your car for your little ones. Stash a bag of goldfish or animal crackers in your glove box for an emergency, such as a traffic jam or flat tire. Always. carry. wet. wipes. Have a couple of "go to" options available for a quick dinner fix in case your day runs away from you. Figure out what the needs of your family are. If you get caught out in a bind, learn from it and make a provision that will help if you are in that situation again. 

Of course there will be moments when "things happen". There will be times when unexpected events foil our daily, or even weekly plans. It's a great life skill to be able to "roll with the punches", but the best plan, is to have a plan. If Plan A fails...  then gracefully laugh as you move to Plan B.

5. React slowly.

Clearly there are occasions in mothering that require a "quick reaction." These aren't the instances that I'm referring to. Not every teachable moment requires a lightning speed turnaround. Sometimes the best tool we have available... is time. If your child is in need of discipline and you're not sure which route is most appropriate, ask them to sit quietly on their bed while you take a few minutes to think. Or if it's a matter of answering a tough question, or addressing a difficult situation... have them play for a bit so that you can take some time to gather your thoughts.

Want a quick "for instance?" I'm not sure if this is the best example, but I'll tell on myself and share a time that I "got it wrong, with a quick tongue." It was a Friday evening, we were on the way home from picking up a pizza. My then 7-year old, innocently asked: "When can I start shaving my legs?" There I was, a mama raising two little girls in a world that seems to be spinning faster and faster. A mama who, in a society that seems insistent on encouraging little girls to grow up before their time, is determined to preserve their innocence and let them be little. Needless to say... I overreacted. I snapped back, "Why in the world are you even thinking about shaving your legs. You are way too young to be considering that!!" My husband didn't say a word, but he shot me a sideways glance. I got it. Later when we were alone, I brought it up to him. He simply reminded me that it was just an innocent question, and that he knows how important it is to me that she feels like she can talk to me. 

If I lose my cool when she asks me about shaving her legs as a 7-year old, how in the world can I expect her to feel like she can come to me with more important issues as she gets older?! If I would have put to use the age-old adage, "Think before you speak", I would have realized that a more appropriate response would have been to smile at her sweet innocence, and gently tell her that we could discuss it in a few years.

We are raising children in a busy world. A busy, sometimes scary world. We're gonna slip from time to time, and that's okay. It's okay to make mistakes, but grow from them. When you get it wrong, go to your child and explain to them that sometimes mommies mess up, too. Tell them that you are sorry, and let them know that being their mama is the most important job you've ever had. Let them know that you are still learning, too!

Please don't be mistaken... by writing a post titled, "Five Ways to be A Better Mama",  I am NOT claiming that I've got this motherhood thing all figured out. While I sincerely hope that what I write will bring great encouragement to other mamas, much of what I write is written as a BIG reminder for myself! There are thousands of ways to be a fantastic mama, this list certainly is not all inclusive. These are just a few tips which I've learned through my personal experiences. When I've made these applications in my daily life, I've found that I've felt better about my experiences as a mama.

Have a blessed day!
-Victoria Brake-

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July 15, 2013

How kind are you... to YOU?

She came into this world, truly believing that you were the most beautiful woman alive! The way your hair felt in her hands, the softness of your skin against her cheeks, the way your eyes would make creases, as you would laugh at all of the funny things that she said and did. Too tall, too short, too fat, too thin... these descriptions meant nothing to her. If you failed to meet society's standards of a pretty face, flawless skin, or perfect hair... well then she was completely unaware of it.  However, there was something that she did know... you were perfect, and you were hers. You were her mama... and she was so proud of you. 

Then one day while trying on clothes at the mall, she listened as you were talking to a friend. She heard you say that you were too fat to fit into the most stylish clothes. She didn't understand. She thought that you were perfect.

A short while later, she sat patiently and admired your beauty as you applied your makeup in the bathroom mirror. You sighed as you stepped back and gave yourself a disapproving glance over. "I guess that's as good as it's gonna get," you muttered. She was confused. Why isn't mama happy with herself, she wondered. She's so beautiful.

Frequently, she began to notice that you would complain to her daddy. You would fret that you weren't as pretty as you used to be. She loved to listen to you speak, so she hung on your every word as you outlined each complaint that you had with yourself: lines, lumps, creases, calluses, moles, blemishes, stray hair, gray hair, and crooked teeth... just to name a few.

Slowly the minutes turned to hours, the hours to days, the days to months, and the months to years... and somewhere along the way she became aware of the meaning behind your words. The image of beauty that she once had reserved for you, her mother... had slowly been replaced by the image that you had painted for her. Comments that used to make her sad, had become so routine that she didn't even try to convince you that they weren't true. In fact, sometimes she would finish your sentences, in an attempt to lighten the air.  

She had always told you that she wanted to be exactly like you! So, of course it didn't take her long to begin mimicking this familiar pattern that you had unintentionally established for her. One day while trying clothes on at the mall, you listened in horror as your beautiful girl gave you her description of her own reflection. You did your best to convince her otherwise, but she remained unpersuaded. Suddenly things became so clear. That day you made a commitment to make a change. That was the day that you determined to speak of yourself with worth, not only for yourself, but for those who love you unconditionally! 


Mama friends, although this is a fictional representation... the issue is very real. While I've always tried to be careful as not to belittle myself in front of my girls, there have been moments when I have failed. 

Don't paint yourself as anything less than lovely in the eyes of your child... GIRL OR BOY!! Imagine how frustrating it must be for them to hear someone speak poorly of the most important woman in their life!! Especially if that person is you!! They aren't just your child... you are THEIR MOTHER! Respect your children enough to speak kindly about their mama!! Regardless of how old your children are, start today!! Make a commitment to establish a healthy pattern in your home. One that involves building up, not tearing down!!                                            -Victoria Brake- 

These thoughts are some that have been weighing on my heart and mind. If you think that this is a valuable message that could help another mama to slow down and reflect... then please SHARE!!

Psalm 139:14 -"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."


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Sit Down and Take A Brake, with Victoria Brake.

June 28, 2013

Dearest Mama... you are not alone

To the working mother who has to drop her child off each morning, so that she can provide for him a place to sleep at night. The one who knows how it feels to miss out on first steps and first words. The one who cries in the car as she pulls away from her child's school, because she couldn't get the time off to go on a field trip. You are not alone. 

To the mother who is beating herself up because she can't seem to get it together. The one with a laundry pile in each room, dishes in the sink, and crayon on the walls. The one who is searching for balance, and whose biggest fear is an unexpected ring of the doorbell. You are not alone.

To the stay-at-home mother who is overwhelmed and feeling burnt out. The one who hasn't had a break in 4 years, a haircut in 10 months, and celebrates a solo trip to the grocery store like it's an exotic vacation. The one whose children are much better dressed than she is, because there is rarely room for shopping for mama on a one-income budget. You are not alone.

To the mother who feels like she is falling short. The one whose children don't eat organic food, don't wear designer clothes, and haven't traveled the country. The one who doesn't sew, or craft, or grow her own food. The one whose party pictures aren't worthy of a post on Pinterest. You are not alone.

To the mother who just doesn't feel good about herself these days. The one who used to feel pretty, but now just feels tired and worn. The one with scars on her belly, and creases around her eyes. The one who checks the mirror each morning for new gray hair. You are not alone.

To the mother in the post office with the screaming toddler. The one who is trying to calm a fussing infant with one hand, and mail a bill with the other. The one who keeps her eyes down to avoid the gazes of judgment from others. The one who is insecure, and feels like she is losing control. You are not alone.

To the mother of the rambunctious 5-year old boy, or the sassy 7-year old girl. The one who feels guilty when her patience runs thin. The one who locks herself in the bathroom to cry, because she's convinced that she's miserably failing. The one who promises herself at the end of each day, that tomorrow is going to be better. You are not alone.

To the mother of the teenager. The one who is fighting to stick to her guns. The one who is starting to wonder if she did something wrong, or if they are going to make it through these turbulent years. The one who lies awake at night begging God for guidance as they navigate these uncharted waters. You are not alone.

To the mother who can relate to even one of these things... you are not alone. Remember that as mothers, we were never called to be perfect. Give yourself grace in the areas with which you struggle. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Then move forward and strive to be the very best mother that you can be.

To the mother who can't relate to anything listed above. You are blessed. Be grateful. Count your blessings and be an encourager in all things.

To all mothers, let's lift one another up. Let's use our strengths to encourage and edify one another. We are all united by a common bond, the love for our children.

If you feel encouraged by this reminder that motherhood is challenging, and you are not alone. Then share it with the mothers in your life!! 

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May 11, 2013

A Mother's Day Poem

Loving Mothers
by Victoria Brake

When I would cry, in the night,
she'd know that something wasn't right.
She'd race right in and fix it fast.
Only mama could do that.

She knew just what I liked to eat,
took care of each and every need.
Made sure that I was warm enough,
but not too hot in summer months.

That time I fell, at the park.
That time when someone broke my heart.
She knew just what to do and say,
knew how to take the pain away.

Shoes got tied, and beds got made.
Teeth got brushed, and bills got paid.
Funny how I thought back then,
that things like that would just happen.

Then I grew up and moved away,
but still remember to this day.
The way she loved so tenderly,
the way she shaped and molded me.

Correction came with gentle grace,
at times when I'd forget my place.
Praise, it came abundantly.
She showered it so lovingly.

And I'm a mama now, you see.
Now I can see things differently.
It turns out beds don't make themselves,
and someone has to stock the shelves.

These days I work so hard it seems,
and very little praise it gleans.
When I grow restless in my life,
I think of mama's sacrifice.

With joy she served her family,
without complaining selfishly.
By great example she did lead.
Now it's my turn, Lord guide me.

Help me remember as I go,
I'm shaping little lives, also.
What seems like work that's very small,
isn't really that at all.

I'll strive to labor with a smile.
Remembering that in a short while,
my time with them from dusk to dawn...
before I know it will be gone.


The greatest job, that one can know,
is one that's done, within a home.
A place where love and grace abound,
where compassion can be found.

She quietly writes a mighty story,
not receiving fame and glory.
Author to many wondrous works,
not written down with ink in books.

But in the heart of her child,
that's where her legacy is filed.
A name more blessed than any other.


May 4, 2013

Little Hands, Little Man

There were several readers who asked if I would create a version of the poem that I posted a few days ago, that would be more applicable to little boys. So... I did a little rewording and here ya go!

Little Hands, Little Man
by Victoria Brake

Little hands to hold so tight.
Hair to comb, and tears to wipe.
Little feet that grow so fast.
Teeth to brush and bedtime baths.
Little cups that must be filled.
Teething rings that must be chilled.
Clothes that come in green and blue.
Doing things boys love to do.
Time is fleeting, oh so fast.
What was just here, is now the past.

Little hands that needed me.
Now need me less, I start to see.
He ties his shoes and combs his hair.
Picks out his clothes, knows what to wear.
We hunt for bugs and play with cars.
Draw pictures of the moon and stars.
We're at the park, we play pretend.
He tells me I'm his favorite friend.
Who, what, when, where, why and how?
He needs to know these things right now.
So full of life, so full of love.
This gift sent from the Lord above.

He's older now, my little man.
No need for him to hold my hand.
Fishing, camping, baseball games.
Collecting worms after it rains.
Each night I ask the Lord above,
to help me teach him how to love.
There's so much that he needs to know,
and I'm still learning as I go.
Please, Lord... PLEASE help me get this right.
I beg, as I lose sleep at night.
Precious soul, undefiled.
Lord, guide me as I raise this child.

What just happened? Can it be?
My little boy is now a teen.
I stock the fridge to keep him fed.
Make sure he still fits in his bed.
Try not to let my worry show.
This happened fast, where did time go?
Help me to listen patiently.
As I instruct him, Lord guide me.
May my words be gentle and kind.
Loving, sincere, pure and wise.
His time at home, will soon be gone.
It sure did fly, but it was fun.

His bags are packed and by the door.
He's off to face a whole new world.
It seems like only yesterday,
as I would rock him… he would say.
Just one more story, pretty please?
Please would you read one more to me?
Then I would tuck him in his bed,
and kiss him on his precious head.
No more karate, no more ball.
No more measurements on the wall.
Today he'll leave this cozy nest,
and spread his wings, and give his best.

Five years later, this handsome man,
will take a wife and give his hand.
A beautiful bride, for my son.
I've prayed for her since he was one.
Thank you Lord, for hearing me.
For growing now, our family tree.
Two young lives will now be one.
A new love story has begun.

Two years later, waiting room.
A child will be here very soon.
Tiny bundle, wrapped in blue.
My boy, he knows just what to do.
He holds his son so tenderly.
An instant bond that I can see.
I run my hand through baby's hair.
The tears they fall, without a care.
His child held gently on his chest.
The years ahead will be his best.
It's true, he may not know it yet.
But he will soon, that I can bet.

Little hands to hold so tight.
Hair to comb and tears to wipe.

Share this poem with the other mamas in your life! Time flies!

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Link to original poem (GIRL VERSION):

May 3, 2013


"Purpose is found in those quiet moments, when no one but God sees the work of your hands."
-Darlene Schacht

Why do you do what you do? Is it because your husband and children stand on the sidelines and cheer you on as you sit at your desk, fold laundry, and cook dinner? Probably not, huh? Most of us get up and feed our kids breakfast in the morning because we love them, not because there is a "Mother of the Year" trophy on the line. Furthermore, I'd guess that few of us wait by the dishwasher each night expecting a round of applause after the last dish is put away. 

Even when it feels as though much of what you do goes unnoticed, take joy in knowing that you are fulfilling a mighty role in your home. One that is filled with great purpose. Be encouraged today that you are shaping the lives of your children, building precious memories for them. Every small task, every simple detail that you tend to is creating for them a place of peace and comfort. 

  Do yo know another wife or mama who could use some encouragement? Share this post to pass some on!