Let The Summer Planning Begin!

I have been incredibly blessed to work with some of the most gifted, amazing women as I’ve journeyed through this world of speaking and writing.

A woman I truly admire and respect is Kathi Lipp.

She. Is. Hilarious! She is real, she is honest and she is so encouraging.

I also love her ability to take real life and then give us real solutions and ideas.

Because I love all of you and know you are in the same boat as me – I can’t wait to share Kathi’s FREE book with you!!!!

Yep, I said FREE!

Just click on the picture below to have Kathi’s latest book, “Surviving Summer Vacation”, emailed to you today!

Leave a comment below with your best summer activity and favorite activity to help the summer days be fun and full of wonderful memories!

Summer and warm weather are coming – let the planning and celebrations begin!



The Language Behind Lent

Here’s a post I wrote 2 years ago about Lent – reading it now I have to laugh. James was 5 at the time. He is now 7. We haven’t talked about what we’re giving up for Lent – it’s been a crazy season of life. This weekend will be a time of talking, praying and hearing from our boys and what God is going in their hearts.

How do you talk to your kids about lent?

Are your kids or family giving up something in particular?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave a comment below :o)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the Lent. Last year was the first time we took our children to an Ash Wednesday service. It was a wonderful experience I documented in my post Discovering Lent. This year I had to work, Matt was sick and we didn’t make it to any services at church, which was a bummer. But we are still talking to our kids about what these 40 days mean to us and how it helps us prepare for Easter. My favorite part of this Smarter Moms community is knowing I’m not alone in this journey…

    Some of you have commented on Facebook, sent a Tweet or sent us emails asking about how and when children should be involved in this tradition and how to explain Lent to them. I’m so glad you asked because I was struggling with the same issues just yesterday!

    I picked up our son, James, from preschool and saw a paper laying on the table outside their classroom door. The teachers had obviously explained Lent and asked children what they would give up during these 40 days of remembering Jesus. I was shocked to see James’ answer – he was going to give up wrestling with his Dad!?!?!  That’s his most favorite thing in the world to do!

     I smiled as I read the other children’s responses and began praying for wisdom. Did James truly understand Lent? How would I help him be aware without creating a feeling of guilt or pressure? I was still praying silently as we walked to the car and our conversation at lunch was eye-opening for both of us. I hope you can take some of this script and use it if the need arises, but I want to point out that each child is different and you know them best. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you through these sometimes complicated topics. We’ll also look at some main points to cover when discussing Lent and resources for you to user. For now, here’s my conversation with my sweet baby James:

M: Did you guys talk about Lent today with Ms. Kristen and Ms. Lynn?

J: Yep. 

M: Well, what did you learn?

J: We were suppose to pick something to give up and I said I’d stop wrestling with Dad for the next 40 years because I usually get hurt when we wrestle with the other boys anyway, so I thought that’d be a good thing to give up.

M: Do you know why you are giving up wrestling with Dad?

J: (silence)

M: How about I tell you more about Lent and how Daddy and I observe it and then maybe we can talk more about what you want to do – would that be okay?

J: Sure.

M: What do we celebrate at Christmas time?

J: Jesus’ birthday!

M: That’s right! Jesus made a choice to leave His home, Heaven, and all his angel friends and even His Father – God. He gave it all up so He could come here to earth and save you and me. That’s a pretty awesome sacrifice don’t you think?

J: Yeah – I wouldn’t want to leave you guys and go anywhere! I’d miss all my toys and my bike.

M: I know, that would be so tough! You don’t have to leave us or your bike. But Lent is a time when we think of something “extra”. Think of something in your life that you really enjoy eating or drinking or doing – but remember it needs to be something extra…can you think of anything?

J: (silence)

M: Something extra in my life would be sweet treats, coke zero, even watching certain TV shows….I really enjoy all those things but if they weren’t in my life I’d still be okay wouldn’t I?

J: Yeah.

M:  So, during Lent we choose something extra, something we enjoy, and we give it up for 40 days. Then every time we want to drink a coke or watch a show or eat a sweet treat we remember what Jesus gave up. He gave up Heaven for you and me! Giving something up is simply a way to help us remember and help us keep a thankful spirit. You don’t HAVE to give anything up, but it’s kind of a cool challenge.  Whatever you give up gets to come back in your life on Easter morning – just like Jesus was able to go back home to Heaven on Easter morning!

J: Ohhhh Okay, I think I got it. You know what I really like? Sprite. I think I want to give up Sprite instead of wrestling with Dad.

M: Babe, I think that’s a great idea – do you want to give up drinking anything that has those bubbles in it and only drink milk, juice and water? Or you could just give up Sprite – whatever you want to do.

J: I think I want to give up everything with the bubbles in it (pause) and Mom, I think you should give up drinking Coke too. We can do it together!

M: (with a slightly false, begrudging tone) I think that’s a great idea! We’ll do it together. So every time we want to order a Sprite or Coke at McDonald’s or want to drink it at home we’ll remind ourselves that Jesus gave up Heaven and we’re giving up that drink.

    We were eating lunch during this conversation and BOTH of us had a carbonated beverage as our drink.  James suddenly had a look of horror on his face like he’d broken a rule or messed up already. I assured him that today we could drink as much coke and sprite as we wanted – Lent didn’t start until tomorrow.  And now that He had me committed to no Coke I educated him concerning the Western Church’s view of Sundays during Lent.

   He was very excited to hear we could have Coke and Sprite on Sundays because they represent the resurrection. In fact, if you count from Feb. 22 (Ash Wednesday) through April 8 (Easter) there are 46 days. Lent is a forty-day period because we don’t count the Sundays. I know for some people it’s more about a complete surrender and removal of a task so perhaps skipping Sundays isn’t something you would like to observe and that’s fine – each person needs to observe Lent in their own way.

   When it comes to children and this season I don’t think they should feel pressure to sacrifice anything beyond their ability. If a child doesn’t truly understand the crucifixion and resurrection they won’t grasp this time of sacrifice and remembrance.  Start small and let your child choose something on their own or talk with your family and pick something that ALL of you will sacrifice during these forty days. Some ideas might include:

* Instead of going out to eat, save the money and buy groceries for a local food pantry

* Instead of watching television or playing video games in the evening, decide to read sections of scripture that describe Jesus’ ministry and life. Following His journey to the cross makes the week before Easter and Easter morning even more amazing.

* Perhaps your child gives up a favorite toy or activity for a day. During that day, help them remember WHY they are giving up that particular thing.

* Instead of buying new clothes, commit to getting rid of clothing that isn’t being used or doesn’t fit and give it to a local charity.

* Instead of watching TV, sit down and write letters to missionaries (your church will have a list of names and addresses) and thank them for helping others know about Jesus and how much He loves them.

   The whole point of Lent isn’t to be like the Pharisees and brag about what we’re giving up. That would be selfish and boastful. The point of Lent is to remember that sacrifice matters, discipline counts and in order to be an effective Christian we need these reminders each year so we don’t forget.

   Sometimes when our children watch us observe these traditions they learn as much or more than if they had participated. Never force a child to receive communion, to have ash on their forehead or give up something during Lent. To force them takes away the fundamental component to the Christian life: free will.

   Here are some great websites with other ideas for celebrating this season with children. Don’t worry that the “actual day” has passed. This isn’t about strict observance of particular dates and times. This is about helping our children remember how much Jesus loves them and how we respond to that love in our own life. We won’t love the things of this world so much that we can’t give them up – even if it’s for a season. We will love God and Jesus more than anything else!

   Have a great Lent season and please, share your stories with us in the comment box – how do you celebrate with your kids and how did they respond to the whole idea of Lent?  We need to hear from you!






The Mommy Behind the Magic

frozenOkay, I admit it – I am ADDICTED to everything related with the Disney movie, Frozen.

Seriously, the characters, voices, composers, soundtrack…all of it has captured me and I’m not really sure why. I shouldn’t be ashamed, but I’m surprised by it. I haven’t been this enthralled with a show since I saw Wicked.

Perhaps my role as the sole female in this house has driven me to find a way to escape from the dirt, wrestling and burping currently surrounding me.

Being that I have every song memorized from BOTH shows and Idina Menzel is in BOTH shows – so I have to believe her presence has helped solidify my desire to listen to these brilliant songs again and again. Unfortunately most Americans met Idina when John Travolta butchered the pronunciation of her name at the #Oscars

But Idina is more than just an award-winning, super-talented actress and singer – she’s also a mom. Ilana Wiles interviewed Idina on her program, “The Mommy Show” – a fantastically real, hilarious set of Mommy Shorts.

This video was released long before Frozen came to the theaters and I’m certain Idina’s family is loving having a “princess mommy” that’s just like you and me. I know you’ll enjoy seeing this human side of the beautiful voice and actress so many of us have come to love and appreciate.

I hope a song is in your heart as you go through your day and you enjoy a good laugh during each mommy moment of your day.

CLICK HERE to watch the interview from”The Mommy Show” and meet the REAL Idina – the mommy behind the magic princess and amazing voice :o)

You are amazing!



How do you spell love?

th[9]Quick, think back to all the goofy, puppy-love feelings you experienced the first time you fell in “love”. Whether you were 5 or 15 we all know the fluttering feeling in our stomach that happened when that someone special brushed our hand or looked our way.

Love can change form as we age. It feels, sounds, looks and even impacts us differently.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone but I hope we never stop thinking about how to show love to the people in our life.

We can read books about types of Love Languages and we know what it feels like to be loved, but sometimes it can be difficult to show love to the people we’re around the most.

One day I was truly fed up with my toddler and called my mom in desperation. I remember saying, “Mom, I don’t even LIKE him right now – he’s driving me crazy!” In her wisdom my mother reminded me that my son is around me more than he’s around anyone else in his life. He knew me better than I might know myself. My toddler could read my body language and understood when I was tired, hungry and at my wit’s end. He was so much smarter than I was giving him credit.

So I decided to focus on how I could love my boy even on days when I really didn’t like him.

No matter the age of our children or the size of our family our love can be communicated in an intentional and powerful way. To help us show love in a fresh, new way let’s spell it with words instead of just letters.

L is for LISTEN

Love truly listens. It listens first, speaks last. When love listens we are able to put technology away and focus on the people in front of us. When we listen we be become compassionate, patient and willing to accept the people in our family. When I listen I find out my kids see the world differently and have a perspective all their own. Listening keeps us from judging or making assumptions. It takes energy to listen, but it’s an investment that brings a return in relationships built on trust and respect.


Optimism doesn’t mean I’m clueless. If I’m optimistic I have hope. I’m hopeful that new information, trying new things and the situation I’m facing will bring positive results. Sometimes it’s really hard to be optimistic in the light of trying to love the people in our life.  Is there a family member, child, coworker causing you grief? Try being optimistic about who they are and how things could work out. It’s the whole “glass half full” mindset and when optimism (hope) is present we are able to truly love instead of just tolerate people.

V is for VARIETY

Here in Kansas, we enjoy changing weather, seasons and landscapes. Variety is obvious in nature and it should also be obvious in how and when we love. We don’t need to wait for Valentine’s Day or a special occasion. We need to show love when no one expects it and in fresh new ways! Need some ideas for the man in your life? Check out Kathy Lipp’s 4 Day Love Challenge.

E is for ENDURE

This is the toughest one for me. I can become impatient and short with people because I just don’t see why the solution to the problem hasn’t been discovered and implemented. The Lord is working on me. I’m learning to be compassionate and willing to endure with my children. The only condition to enduring is this – when we endure with people we cannot begin to enable them. If we promote the problem instead of helping people find the solution we’re creating victims and we’re securing their need for us to be in their life. Love never gives up, it endures – even if we don’t see the results until heaven.


Do you have a strategy or scripture that helps you truly listen to the people you love?

Have you tried something new and held hope that it would work? When things get tough, how do you remain optimistic?

What cool, different way do you show love to your family? Share your variety with us so we can try your ideas!

Has someone in your life endured with you or have you endured with someone else and seen love conquer all?

I can’t wait to read your stories – thank you for taking time to share!


Staying Focused

handsAlright Mommas – I’m reaching out and asking for prayer. Each of us have times when we are feeling weighed down or pulled in different directions. I am in the THICK of it and I’m not sure how long this time of despair will last, but I know God is faithful and that our prayers make a difference. For anyone reading this I pray you are experiencing a season of fulfillment and joy. However, if you’re with me – in a “valley” of sorts – I hope you’ll join me in finding comfort in today’s “Jesus Calling” entry:

February 19:

“You are feeling weighed down by a plethora of problems, both big and small. They seem to require more and more of your attention, but you must not give in to those demands. When the difficulties in your life feel as if they’re closing in on you, break free by spending quality time with Me. You need to remember who I AM in all My Power and Glory. Then, humbly bring Me your prayers and petitions. Your problems will pale when you view them in the Light of My Presence. You can learn to be joyful in Me, your Savior, even in the midst of adverse circumstances. Rely on Me, your Strength; I make your feet like the feet of a deer, enabling you to go on the heights.” Exodus 3:14; Habakkuk 3:17-19

I pray we can “break free” together and truly focus on God’s Light and not the darkness we might be enduring.

I am praying for you – knowing God is watching over each of us and I covet your prayers. Thank you for being amazing woman, mom and partner in this journey!


More Momma, Less Drama – Engage


I remember my parents telling me to turn off the television and Atari (age related jokes totally appropriate at this point) and go outside. I’d obey, but once outside I’d think, “What now?”. Nothing was flashing, making music or entertaining me – nature was just sitting there.

I began enjoying nature when I made the effort to go out and connect with it. I’ve discovered it works the same way with children. When they’re younger children are eager to share their daydreams and ideas. If I’m being honest, I have had moments where my child’s “sharing” became more of an annoyance than an inspiration.

Sitting on the floor and playing with our kids all day isn’t a realistic option, and I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. The old saying, “quality not quantity” applies here. It’s about quality time. It’s about making the effort to get away from our own world full of adult issues and distractions and truly engage in our children’s thoughts, feelings and imagination.

Let’s look at this idea from two different sides. First, what does being engaged with our children look, sound and feel like. Secondly, how drama can take over when the element of being engaged with our children is missing.


People look each other in the eye and actively listen. When possible I try to kneel down or sit so I’m at eye-level with my kids. Phones are put down, the television is paused or turned off and I am truly engaged in what is happening in the room. Texts and Facebook alerts are ignored. These events can’t happen all day, every day – but having the intention of actively engaging in a 2 minute conversation can sometimes be a real challenge concerning all the other things crying out for our attention.


People asking questions of each other and responding the first time a question is posed. Engagements sounds like a coffee shop where conversation and activities are intentional and enjoyed. Our level of engagement can determine how effective our discipline techniques will be. If our tone of voice is controlled, our message becomes clear and is sometimes received on a deeper level. Engaged families are in tune with the tone of voice they are using and actively work to make sure that tone is respectful and appropriate. Nothing slips through the attention of people engaged in each other’s life and responses.


People who belong. Members are wanted, their presence is anticipated and they are missed when they are gone. Engagement brings validation and merit to a person’s value in a relationship. Anyone who has recently become engaged to be married is like a glowing torch of expectation. Their entire life revolves around planning the impending wedding and marriage to their love. Sharing my time, energy and life with my family shows them how valuable and necessary they are to me.


Now we’ll take reality into account. I cannot always look, sound and feel engaged with my kids – it would be impossible. There are times when I’m on an important phone call, when I’m talking with another adult or I’m working. In these moments I have a choice. Either I’ve created some sort of plan to help my kids deal with the situation or I allow the children to come up with a plan.

I’ve been talking with a friend at the park and I can hear her daughter screaming her name over and over again. Instead of answering or asking me to wait a moment while she looks to see what her daughter needs, my friend simply allowed the screaming to grow in pitch and volume until the entire park was looking around to see whose child was in need. Her daughter was left with only one option – to leave her swing, march over to us {can you sense the resentment and anger rising in this little girl?}, place her hand on her hip and scream “mommy” one more time. My friend very calmly responded with a , “What?” and the daughter had nothing to share or say. She had forgotten why she needed her mother.

I couldn’t help myself – I asked my friend to please stop talking with me and help her little girl – I didn’t mind at all. Was this mother being neglectful or selfish? Nope. But she was engaged in a conversation with me and her daughter knew that without extreme drama and sound she would never get her mother’s attention. If our children continually display dramatic responses and tactics we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly engaged with them.

When I’m on the phone, talking with another adult or working I need my children to understand that I’m engaged in an activity that can’t be stopped immediately. When my kids were very young (around 2 years old) I taught them the touch and wait signals and to this day my children (including my 5th grader) employ these techniques when I’m busy but they need me (see 7 Ways To Be A S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Mom to learn more techniques like these). I wanted to give my kids a plan so they wouldn’t feel as though they had to shout, throw a fit or say my name multiple times to get my attention.

When I’m not working or dealing with a phone sales person, I try my best to truly listen and be fully present when I’m interacting with my children. It is NOT easy and it is NOT natural for me.


That’s when I turn to scripture and remember I’m a follower of Christ and therefore I’m called to live beyond my human limitations. I can do this because I’m not alone.  Jesus became engaged with our world in the most intimate way possible. He left everything behind in order to spend time with us and allow us to engage with Him. Philippians 2 says that Christ, “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”.

I’m not suggesting we become like servants to our children, but I think we can model our life after Christ by doing what we can to be engaged with our kids and be more “family-like” instead of only “self-like”.

Philippians 2:1-3…”Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.


How do you engage with your kids?

What activities bring your family together for quality time?

When it comes to engaging with your children, how do you accomplish this without losing yourself at the same time?

Do you find it easier to engage with your children when you’ve had time away from them?

Thank you for being honest and sharing your thoughts – your insights can help others – please leave a comment below!


Angel and Beast

girl with angel on shoulderI love stories that bring me back to the basics of humanity and my family. We really are all the same – we all have an angel and a beast in us.  Perhaps they show differently but we all struggle. What makes us different? Life events, our choices and our responses to what life brings.

I ran across this news clip and I couldn’t help but think about the true words this sweet Grandma says. I was inspired by one of our readers, Angie, and the comment she left on the post, More Momma, Less Drama – Empathize.

I need to be more like Angie and SuEllen (the sweet grandma in the video) and always see the best in people – even if they are hurting someone I love. They deserve love too. I can’t let the beast inside me win!

I’m sure you are better at being angels and your children are angels at all times (cue laugh track) – but for the rest of us living in this sinful world it’s nice to be reminded of the hope we can have when we see people through God’s eyes and the eyes of love (thank you Angie for the reminder!)

CLICK HERE to watch the video about SuEllen and her prison ministry.

Enjoy! :o


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