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12 Back-to-School Prayers for Your Child

It’s that time of year again, time to pull out the backpacks, get haircuts, set up alarm clocks, and make 20 trips to Target because school is about to start, and Mom is on a mission.

Wherever your heart is this season – whether you’re jumping for joy because you’re ready for some space, or crying on the sofa because you aren’t ready to let your kids go – you probably have mixed emotions about the school year ahead.

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The Key to Great Parenting? Consistency

My sweet father-in-law, Nestor Kampakis, passed away unexpectedly this past New Year’s Eve. Although he had Alzheimer’s, his death was a shock, altering the landscape of 2016 for our family.

Papou was a good soul and everything you’d hope for in a father: kind, loving, protective, wise, honest, committed, and faithful. He adored his family and loved anyone whom his children loved, because if someone was important to his child, they were important to him too.

After Papou died,

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Character is More Important Than Winning

Several years ago, I heard about a 5th grade boy who showed character during a summer all-stars baseball game that was intense and high-stakes.

Both teams were determined to win.

The boy, named Michael, made an amazing stop at short stop. Everybody in the stands thought he’d caught the ball for an out, but it was questionable whether the ball touched the ground before landing in his mitt.

The umpire asked Michael if he’d caught the ball. 

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Raise the Child You Have, Not the Child You Want

I have a friend who learned that her daughter had cancer after going to a routine 2-year-old pediatrician visit several years ago. Her blood work was off, and this led to testing and a diagnosis the next day. As you can imagine, they were shocked and very frightened.

Her daughter is doing fantastic now, and last year we celebrated her five-year remission. One thing that’s always stuck with me, however, was a realization my friend had shortly after learning about the cancer.

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Setting the First Tracks: How to Have Hard Conversations with Your Kids

Imagine your child at the top of a ski slope. They’re about to ski down for their first time, but for now, they’re relishing the view.

A blanket of snow just fell, so the view is fresh and pure. The fluffy white snow is completely blemish-free. It’s a wondrous sight, but it’s temporary. Because pretty soon, skiers will start sailing down this hill. Each one will set tracks in the snow that impact your child’s perspective.

Whoever skis down first,

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In the THICK of Parenting

It occurred to me recently that my husband and I have reached an interesting midpoint in parenting.

We’ve been parents for 13 years. We have 13 years until our youngest child leaves for college. We’re halfway to an empty nest. We’re in the thick of parenting.

Our busyness today is different from our busyness when the kids were little. While we’ve certainly hit a sweet spot (with our daughters ages 13, 11, 9 and 6, we can enjoy them without being physically exhausted and sleep-deprived),

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It’s Okay (and Good) to Feel Your Pain

My father-in-law passed away one week ago today. As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of tears and sadness.

And what I’ve learned about grief is, there is no need to hide it or deny it. Crying over a person isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather proof that you really loved them. Tears are tangible evidence that their life mattered to you, and their absence from your life will be deeply felt for many years to come.

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Raising a Brave Child

“A word of encouragement during a failure

 is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” – Unknown

I believe it’s fair to say that most parents want to raise brave children.

We want them to be brave in doing what’s right. Brave in chasing their dreams. Brave in saying “no” when necessary. Brave in facing their fears.

But the thing about bravery is, there’s a lot of psychology involved.

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3 Words Our Kids Need to Hear

It is Monday morning, and my daughter drags into the kitchen.  She sits on a bar stool, slumps her shoulders, and casts her eyes down at the bowl of Cheerios I slide in front of her.

She moans and groans and tells me how tired she is. Part of me is irritated. I need her to step it up because I have four kids to get to school in thirty minutes. I don’t have time for this.

But then I remember – I get tired,

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10 Things I Love about Having a Tween Daughter

When my daughters were all little, I dreaded adolescence. It seemed like all the comments I heard about tween and teen girls were negative, and the way some people put it, I was in for a dismal ride.

On top of this, there was the sentimental sap in me who wanted to mourn the childhood my daughters were slowly outgrowing. With every baby tooth that fell out of their mouths, every hair bow they refused to wear,

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How a Critical Mom Learned To Connect With Her Child

Friends, today’s post is written by my friend Rachel Macy Stafford – also known as Hands Free Mama – whose highly anticipated new book Hands Free Life releases September 8th. Rachel is a gifted writer with a heart of gold, and her beautiful insights on intentional parenting have touched millions across the globe. I highly recommend her new book as a guide on creating a life of significance and strengthening relationships with your family and friends. 

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10 Truths Middle Schoolers Should Know

It’s rare to hear anyone say they loved middle school. Even people with positive memories never tout it as the best years of their life.

Simply put, it’s an awkward season. It’s a time of constant changes, social shake-ups, swinging emotions, and intense pressures. If I’ve learned anything from working with adolescent girls, it’s how hungry this age group is for comfort and reassurance. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes whenever I speak to a group,

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Prepare the Child for the Road, Not the Road for the Child

Years ago, my friend’s daughter really wanted to be chosen as “Swimmer of the Week” at their country club. It’s an honor bestowed weekly to one child per age group in the summer.

Parents will sometimes call the club to request that their child be picked. But my friend didn’t want to do that. She wanted her daughter to win the award through hard work and perseverance.

So she told her child, “When you get this award,

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The Woman Who Loves Her People Well

I have a friend who hopes to start a ministry. She’s equipped to do it, and her life story is pointing that way, but currently she’s in a season where she is waiting for God to reveal His plan and provide more direction.

She’s a great mom – to her kids and other people’s kids, too. My children adore her and look up to her. She’s also a terrific friend, the kind who you will drop everything to help you.

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Loving & Letting Go

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Elizabeth Stone

Years ago, I was at the dentist’s office getting my teeth cleaned when I heard some parenting advice that’s stayed with me.

My daughters were young at the time, and as the dental hygienist talked about her 16-year-old daughter, I quizzed her about that stage of life.

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8 Lessons I Learned from My Daughter’s Cheer Tryouts

(Originally posted March 2015)

Well, we made it. We survived our first big tryout week. Honestly, it was better than I expected. Even if my daughter hadn’t made the 7th grade cheer squad, I’d still say that.

I was nervous going in, mostly because of the crazy cheer momma stories I’d heard about people freaking out over their child’s competition and pulling sneaky moves. I didn’t want to be like that, of course, nor did I want to fall in the category of being so obsessed with the outcome that I spent the week being strung-out,

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Helping Kids Build a Thick Skin

Some of the best advice I ever received came after my first big job promotion.

I was 23 years old, and the newly tapped executive speechwriter for a large company. My primary responsibility was to prepare notes for the CEO’s speaking engagements. Since he was a terrific speaker, he often spoke off-the-cuff. What this meant for me was that I might spend three weeks working diligently on a speech – only to have him use a sentence or two.

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What’s So Great About Marriage?

When my sister got engaged years ago, she made an observation that I’ve since realized is very true.

“So many people are negative about marriage,” she said. “When I say I’m engaged, they want to tell me how terrible it is.”

Now, I know marriage is hard. I understand there’s a vast difference in the mindset of a new bride and a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I’m aware that some people have a reason to be down on marriage because their spouse put them through a nightmare,

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A Word to Girls about Sexting & Setting Standards

When you write a book for teen and tween girls, you learn a lot about teen culture. Much of what you learn will absolutely break your heart.

And while I don’t love controversy – or being one to initiate awkward conversations – I do love girls. Because of that love, I’m venturing out of my normal blogging zone to address an issue that parents and adolescents should discuss.

And that is, sexting.

Now,

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The Child Who Makes Me Brave

Do you have a child who’s the opposite of you, and when they’re little you don’t know what to do with that, but then they grow up and you realize what an extraordinary GIFT you’ve been given?

That’s how I feel about my Sophie Bear, who turns 10 this month.

While I’m a scaredy cat, Sophie is fearless.

While I’m sensitive, she is tough.

While I’m an introvert who loves to stay home and nest,

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The Secret to a Meaningful Life

All of us want our life to mean something.

We want to leave a mark.

We want to make a difference.

We want to be remembered long after we die.

Yet far too often, our efforts are shortsighted. We focus on this world instead of the next. We measure success by wealth, notoriety, and living the American dream.

The bigger the bank account, the greater the legacy,

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It’s a Wonderful Life

She wasn’t part of my plan. And for that reason alone, I couldn’t wrap my head around her.

I took the pregnancy test for peace of mind. I knew I wasn’t pregnant…yet I had to make sure. A missed cycle had stirred doubt in my head. That doubt bothered me. I wanted it to go away so I could get on with life.

When the test turned positive, my heart sank. A tsunami of emotions swelled inside me,

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Making Peace with the Holidays

One January several years ago, I was having coffee with some moms when the conversation turned to Christmas — and how differently women and men handle the holiday.

A story one mom shared essentially summed up the gender gap that tends to appear this time of year.

It was a busy Saturday, and as she ran circles around the house, her head exploding with things to do (buy a tree! decorate it!

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It’s Release Day!

 

Dear friends,

Let me begin with THANK YOU!

Thank you for reading my blog and newspaper column. Thank you for sharing my stories. Thank you for making this blog post for teen girls go viral and setting in motion a dream come true when Thomas Nelson, one of the world’s largest Christian publishers, asked if I’d be interested in turning that post into a book.

Clearly I said,

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