Starting Your School Day Off Right: 4 Quick Tips

starting your school day off right Starting Your School Day Off Right: 4 Quick Tips

Since I promised 4 Quick Tips to starting your school day off right, let me just quench the suspense and give those to you right away:

1. Lay out your priorities

2. Develop a schedule

3. Set their minds

4. Communicate your expectations

Now if you want to learn the detailed how and why behind making each of these tips a reality, you’ll have to read my full article on How to Start Your School Day Off Right on But suffice it to say, this advice comes from personal need and experience.

I have one child who gets out of bed quite easily in the morning and another who…does not.

However, everything changed a few months ago after making only one change.

What that made me realize was that as parents, more often than not, we grossly underestimate our kids. And worse than that, I wasn’t giving them the room to prove me wrong.

Our kids are capable. Give them something to look forward to. Challenge them. Allow them the opportunity to rise above the mundane of the everyday and see a glimpse of the extraordinary God designed for us!

So if you’re like me and find yourself hurrying your kids into the car each morning with a cup of dried cereal, praying no-one forgot homework or a lunch box, I challenge you re-think your morning routine by digging deeper into the 4 tips above.

Then come back and let me know how they worked for you icon wink Starting Your School Day Off Right: 4 Quick Tips

For more tips on how to re-prioritize your year, check out my series on How to Live a Prioritized Life.

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Tommy Nelson May Blog Post: Being a Mom

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Being is mom is exhilarating, fulfilling and comforting…
but at the same time it can be nerve-wracking, frustrating and downright scary!

Never has that been more true than in our world today.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. ~ Proverbs 16:3

Being a mom doesn’t mean having all the answers, but it does mean knowing who to turn to when we don’t.
Being a mom doesn’t mean always saying yes, but it does mean acting in love regardless of how we feel.
Being a mom doesn’t mean settling for satisfactory; it means pursuing with passion!

Read my entire Tommy Nelson May post on Being a Mom

But before you head over there…

Even though I love reading (both for myself and to my children), I don’t often recommend parenting books. However a new book I would strongly suggest you check out is The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill.

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This book is far from a manual, but instead a thoughtful roadmap for how a passionate mom can parent almost any child…confidently.

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Of course if you’re looking for that delightful book to read to your younger children this Mother’s Day, one of our favorite children’s authors, Amy Parker, wrote “Thank You God for Mommy” which has quickly become a family favorite for its simple yet poignant way it conveys the sweet relationship between a mother and child.

If you’d like to win a copy of ”Thank You God for Mommy“, you can enter via RaffleCopter below. One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. Good luck!

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The nation’s thrill; a mother’s terror #PrayforBoston

pray hard 300x225 The nations thrill; a mothers terror #PrayforBoston

When news came of the Boston Marathon bomber suspect finally being apprehended last night, there was a thrill that came over the nation. I can only imagine that Bostonians in particular experienced a sense of relief that this terrorist had been caught and a sense of peace in knowing the lockdown has finally ended.

But for one mother, her terror is just beginning.

This terrorist is only 19 years old. Not only is he barely an adult himself, he is someone’s child.

He is a brother, a nephew, a friend.

And the reports from those who knew him all echo the same sentiment:
We would never have imagined he could do such a thing.”

He was described as “funny”, “nice”, & “a good athlete”…not “isolated”, “withdrawn” or “brooding”.

So what now for this family who has to face their own terror that is just beginning? Their world has been equally turned upside down by their sons’ (alleged) actions, yet I can guarantee they will not have the privilege of fighting this battle in private.

When I first learned how young the suspects were and that they were brothers, I posted this update to my Facebook wall:

In shock over the new developments in Boston. Brokenhearted to hear the new ‘WANTED’ suspect is only 19 years old. Imagine what could have happened if someone had poured peace and grace into his life instead of anger and hatred… 

I have no answers to you in writing this (not that any of us do), but I have a prayer I’d like you to join with me in praying. As you pray for the families in Boston today and everyone around the country who’s been affected by this horrific act, please consider praying for the suspects’ family as well. Pray for justice to be served, but for a path of peace to be laid as a result.

God bless America.


Image sourced from Google Images/
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A New Year in A New Light for our Kids: Tommy Nelson Blog for Jan 2013

IMG 8461 225x300 A New Year in A New Light for our Kids: Tommy Nelson Blog for Jan 2013

Every New Year is a chance for us to re-evaluate: our goals, our dreams, our habits, our health, our lifestyle… I could go on.

But for some reason, I feel like those goals need to be even more relevant to my day to day living, especially when it comes to my kids.

In light of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I’m reminded even more how fleeting life can be.

It is a stark warning to me in this New Year that not one minute of our lives is guaranteed. Not only do we need to hold our own lives out to God with open hands, but even more so the lives of our children.

I can’t help but think of Matthew 6:34, which says:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This was one of my first favorite verses after coming to know Christ because it reminded me that I was not in control. Today, this verse is just as poignant, but in its own way.

God’s promise is that He will never give us more than we can handle and that He will be there with us through it all (Hebrews 13:5).

I don’t have any good answers as to why the Sandy Hook shootings happened or why God allowed them to be. But I do know that our God is sovereign and omnipotent.

As you begin this New Year, perhaps more cautious and guarded then you have begun any other since you have become a parent, I would suggest you consider these two things

(Read the full post over at the Tommy Nelson Blog)

Quick! Before you head over to read my 2 suggestions for parenting in the New Year, why not enter my giveaway for two of the resources I mention are key parts to our day as a family:  Jesus Calling and Jesus Calling for Kids?

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Of course, if you can’t wait, you can click on the link above, enter code SAMI20, and you’ll receive a 20% discount from any title on the Thomas Nelson site!

I’m here for you as you parent! Don’t be a stranger…

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Colored vs. White Lights: My Tommy Nelson December Blog Post

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My blog post over at Tommy Nelson this month tackles one of the most deeply debated Christmas dilemmas of all time:

Colored or White lights?

Go ahead, laugh if you want, but colored Christmas lights almost ended our marriage after 5 months.

Well maybe that’s over-dramatizing it a bit, but they certainly caused an immense amount of strife during what we thought would be an enjoyable and momentous occasion: decorating our first Christmas tree together as a married couple.

And don’t even get me started on tinsel…(you can read my full post over at


You can also win a copy of One Wintry Night in my book giveaway

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Thanksgiving: A Time for Thanks and Giving with your family

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Thanksgiving represents so many things we love about this time of year, but sometimes we forget what is at its core: Thanks and Giving.

This month, I’m back on the Tommy Nelson blog talking about exactly that…thanks and giving:

We love to watch the leaves as the seasons change and more importantly, we love that family and friends tend to gather closer together in the next two months.

But if I were to be honest with myself, I think we sometimes get in the way of what this month is all about.

One of my biggest complaints every year is that Thanksgiving comes and goes too quickly.

It seems silly to even say that out loud. After all, it comes the same time each year, we know it’s coming, and we can plan accordingly. But somehow I always allow it to sneak up on me, and then I never get to do all I want to do, bake all I want to bake, or reflect on the past year as much as I’d hoped.

Sometimes I get so lost in the process of Thanksgiving that I actually miss Thanksgiving. You know what I mean?

Read the rest of the post over at the Tommy Nelson blog

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There is no better time, in my opinion, to talk to your kids than after dinner and before bed. It is a natural time for family moments to be shared and discussed. I realize it can be hard to ask open ended questions to little ones, so why not start with a story that helps show children what the voice of God sounds like, such as the new Jesus Calling Bible Storybook?

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It’s true, you never know what doors you’ll open up when you start asking your kids deeper questions but who knows, you might just be pleasantly surprised at what you hear. And if you’re not, it gives you a great opportunity to change your family’s legacy for the future.

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The Activity Dilemma: Tommy Nelson September Blog

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Only a few short months ago I was struggling to come up with a summer schedule that would optimize fun while still continue the learning process for my kids.

Now we’re already back in school and instead of worrying about how to keep them occupied at home, I’m wondering how to keep them at home!

It’s true, not only do I have two kids in school full time now, but for the first time this year, we found activities for them both to participate in.

To be completely honest, I have mixed feelings about the activity dilemma. As a child, I was VERY involved in sports & activities…to the point where I don’t remember eating very many meals with my mom at the dinner table. She was typically shuttling me back and forth between tennis or swim practice and show choir or dance rehearsal with a tupperware container for me to eat in the backseat. On a recent road trip, we stopped at my aunt’s house and even found all my own trophies, much to the delight of my young son:
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My husband, however, had a more subdued childhood when it came to extra-curricular activities, but actively remembers playing outside with cousins and friends and the like. Of course he can also recite verbatim almost every meal his mom cooked too icon wink The Activity Dilemma: Tommy Nelson September Blog

So where is the happy medium? I’m learning I have to stop getting ahead of myself.

Through it all, I’m learning two things:
1. It’s not about me
2. Nothing is guaranteed

While this might strike fear in the minds of some parents, for me, it reminds me of God’s sovereignty and grace in each and every moment.

That’s why I love Max Lucado’s “Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotions for Kids The Activity Dilemma: Tommy Nelson September Blog“. It reminds my kids that grace is God’s best idea: More than we deserve … and greater than we imagine.

More importantly, it reminds me to apply the same principles to my own life and Christian walk as I read it with them!

Do you struggle with deciding what and how many activities your kids should be participating in? How do you make those decisions in your family?


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Tommy Nelson August Blog: School, The Yearly Dilemma

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School is back in FULL swing!

For me, being raised in the Chicago public school system and being proud to have graduated with over 400 students, it was mentally difficult to wrap my head around sending my daughter into a class of less than 20, much less at a private school.

But years ago, before my kids were even school age, a mentor told me how important it was to individually evaluate your child’s school situation year to year. For instance, what works for them one year may not be the best decision for them the next. And she should know…as the daughter of a public school principle and licensed psychotherapist, she educated her two children through Public, Private AND Homeschool methods over their educational careers. (She also wrote an amazing book I highly recommend, Regret Free Parenting: Raise Good Kids and Know You’re Doing It Right Tommy Nelson August Blog: School, The Yearly Dilemma )

She also made another profound statement when it comes to kids’ schooling that I’ll never forget. It went something like this:
“Kids are very resilient; they can withstand one bad year…you just have to make sure they don’t have two bad years in a row.”

Read the full article over at


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Talking about Dying with Kids: “Heaven is for Real for Kids” giveaway

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With all that our family has gone through with Dad Cone in the past week and a half, there has been an inevitable topic that we’ve had to broach: talking about dying with our kids.

At first we tried to shield them from it, but as they were around Pappy more and more, the Hospice nurse said that they needed to face the inevitable: their Grandpa was dying.

We’d already been on the go so much in the past month that it was hard to believe that as fast as we had unpacked from our trip earlier this month, we had to re-pack and jump back in the car to go down to Florida again. Now here we sit, with my 58 year old Father-in-law who’s been given just weeks to live after being diagnosed with one of the most ravaging brain conditions known to man.

This was not in our plans.

In many ways, we have peace:
-There is tremendous peace in knowing our lives are not our own. Isaiah says, “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts…” Realizing that God’s plans are much bigger and better than ours has helped us release the need for control over this mind-boggling situation…and further serves as a reminder that we cannot hold on to anything to tightly, regardless of whether it’s as meaningful as a relationship and as inconsequential as our own schedule.

-Though we have had issues in our relationship with my Father-in-Law in the past, my husband has experienced great conversation and reconciliation over the last few months when it comes to their past & present relationship.

-We see the time we have been given with him as a gift. The majority of us will have no clue as to when our time comes to leave this earth. My FIL has been given a glimpse into that gift; it is a gift that has allowed him the opportunity to make his heart right with others, but most importantly, his Heavenly Father.

At the same time, these past few days have been incredibly heavy and painful. We have been in and out of the hospital, learning the ins & outs of Hospice care, making very complicated life-altering decisions, comforting family from in & out of town and finally, what’s been most difficult for me, walking my own children through this process.

“It’s ok for his grandkids to know that he’s dying,” said the Hospice nurse, “It’s part of life. It’s not an easy part, but that doesn’t mean you should shield them from the inevitable. Talk with them, involved them in the process and most importantly, let them enjoy him while he’s still here.”

So I sat my two kids down on the bed in front of me and started with, “Pappy’s really sick.”

Before I could continue on with my rehearsed speech, Kariss quickly retorted, “We know; he’s dying.”

I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there. I asked how they knew and they said they had overheard us talking, so we proceeded to talk as candidly as possible without invoking fear or unnecessary worry into their little heads.

I brought back out the book, Heaven is for Real for Kids, to remind them what heaven is like and most importantly, who God is. What I love about the book is that it captures the frankness and honesty of a young child dealing with some very adult concepts…and paints a beautiful picture for children to learn and grow from in the process.

As parents, we desperately try to protect our children from any hurt, yet we often grossly underestimate their minds and capabilities. By not being honest, I was actually creating more stress and tension in my daughter (who is already quick to internalize pain), instead of opening the door for her to feel free enough to come talk to me at any point about all she’s experiencing and how it relates to her life.

In an effort to protect our kids, we too often prevent them from letting them discover some of the most important qualities of life.

I’m sure many of you have had to walk a similar path with your own family, which is why I wanted to offer you the chance to win a copy of Heaven is for Real for Kids for you (or maybe to give to someone you know who may be going through the same journey).

We appreciate your continued prayers for Dad Cone and will continue to update you as things progress.

Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below if you’re interested in winning a copy of the book:
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The First Father’s Day: Tommy Nelson June Blog

This past Saturday was my husband’s birthday and Father’s Day is right around the corner, so I thought it only fitting to share what I wrote about The First Father’s Day on the Tommy Nelson blog for June:

Even though I’ve always poked fun at elementary school graduations and the like, it was hard for my heart not to melt when I found out my son’s school was holding a “Promotion Party” for the outgoing Kindergarten class. I mean seriously, can you stand the cuteness?

20120526 100137 The First Fathers Day: Tommy Nelson June BlogIt’s also a time for reminding dads everywhere how important they are in our lives. Whether you have a father, are a father or have lost a father, I know you’ll agree that they have shaped your lives in some way or another.

For some of you, Father’s Day will be an incredibly difficult time… Read the full post over on the Tommy Nelson blog

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If you’re looking for ways to celebrate dad, why not take the time to mark this milestone with a few of these ideas:
- Have your kids make dad coffee and read him a book instead of bringing him the newspaper (ones I love for this month are Thank you God for Daddy by Amy Parker, I’d Choose You by John Trent, & Just in Case You Ever Wonder by the ever loved Max Lucado)
-Try to find pictures of past Father’s Days and start a compilation of pictures that you can add to year after year
- Create a Dad’s day off: give him permission to hide out in his man cave, sit and watch sports with him or actually ask him where he’d like to go to eat…then go there!

“We love each other because He loved us first” ~ 1 John 4:19 NLT

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