Episode #269 Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life with Arlene Pellicane

Episode #269 Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life with Arlene Pellicane

Ever feel like the digital age has taken over your life and the lives of your loved ones? Listen in as Kathi interviews Arlene Pellicane to discuss Arlene’s new book, “Calm, Cool and Connected”. Learn five digital habits for a more balanced life and how to tame the modern tools to take back our lives. Forming new habits, we can learn to navigate the digital world and prioritize loved ones, as well. Leave a comment on our website to be entered to receive a free copy of Arlene’s new book.

Episode #257: Put the Disciple Into Discipline

Episode #257: Put the Disciple Into Discipline

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Kathi and co-host, Erin bring you a very special episode of Clutter Free Academy. Author Ellen Schuknecht, who is also Erin’s mom and co-author, discuss their new book, Put the Disciple into Discipline, Parenting with Love and Limits. Erin and Ellen wrote the book to give parents tools to deal with some of the most difficult challenges of parenting- also known as every single day. 

The everyday ins and outs of parenting toddlers, to boundary pushing elementary schoolers, to moody pre-teens, to rebellious almost adults is trying and just plain hard. Erin and Ellen talk about dealing with our kids using not just using justice, but also mercy, and grace- the very ways God deals with us. They discuss why these options give us and our children a better foundation for living out the life God intended for them and help us to truly get to the heart of our kids.    

Book Giveaway!

Comment to win. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to the justice, mercy and grace of disciplining and raising your kids? Comment below for your chance to win a free book!

*US residents only. 

Episode #251: How to Be Generous (without needing extra Money)

Episode #251: How to Be Generous (without needing extra Money)

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No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.”   Aesop 

Many of us are looking for ways to be generous. In fact, it’s one of the most asked questions we get: “How can I be generous when I don’t have extra income it takes ?” The good news is, generosity doesn’t require money.  Many time the most meaningful acts come in giving of your time, space, or energy.

Kathi and co-host, Erin MacPherson, talk about how you can be generous when you don’t have a lot of extra money. They encourage us to look at what you can give and the various ways you can be show you care for others without reaching into your purse. Both Kathi and Erin share things that have been done for them that meant the most and the different ways in which they give of what they have. Listen in for an uplifting episode that encourages you to use your gifts to be generous in our own unique way.

How to Create a Family Night Your Kids Won’t Want to Miss

How to Create a Family Night Your Kids Won’t Want to Miss

family night

What happens on family night … stays on family night. At least that’s what we said the night I dramatically pantomimed changing my adult daughter’s diaper. It was the final round of Cranium. If my husband guessed correctly, our team would take the win. If not, it was sure to go to the other team.

In the last few seconds, he shouted, “Changing a diaper!”

I raised my hands in victory. “Yes!”

The other team groaned as my husband moved our player piece into the winner zone. My daughter got up off the floor, red-faced and raspy from screeching/laughing.

Now, whenever we decide to play a game on family night, her older siblings (and brother-in-law) always tease her with, “Let’s play Cranium.”

And she always spits back “No!,” much to their delight.

Creating a fun family night

Family night has been a thing in our family since the kids were little. Now that they’re all out on their own, they still love it. So do my husband and I. I credit family night for one of the main reasons we’re a close family.

It hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve learned some things (sometimes the hard way) to make weekly family nights an event they won’t want to miss.

1) Yummy food. If your kids still live at home, this is a night to put something special on the menu. When mine were little, they’d beg for pizza — an obvious way to make the meal fun for them.

There are other nights for “eat your vegetables” and “try it — you’ll like it.” Family nights are a great reason to put out those “Yay! Best mom ever!” foods.

Now that mine are young adults on a meager food budget, anything that isn’t Ramen noodles or Kraft macaroni and cheese puts a smile on their faces. I usually make this my night to put more effort into cooking dinner. It’s also our one dessert night of the week.

Whatever their age, choose a menu (or restaurant) that will be sure to lure them to the table.

2) Fun activity. Don’t let the night end with everyone slipping away after dinner and melding with their devices. Planning an activity keeps the conversation going, often getting into the deeper issues of life. We’re fond of board games, so it doesn’t take much to entice them to play a round or two. Sometimes we’ll hike at a local landmark or head to the nearby city park if the weather’s nice.

Some weeks, like Easter week, we’re simply exhausted. Those are great times to head to the theater or rent a movie to watch at home. This weekend, my heart melted when my youngest curled up next to her dad on the couch like she did as a little girl.

3) Safe conversation. Speaking from some of the most painful parenting lessons I’ve ever learned, I highly recommend saving the difficult conversations for later. Most issues can and should be dealt with individually, but if it’s truly a family matter, we schedule a family meeting.

We work hard at cultivating positive interaction, with more encouragement than correction. For me, the work is especially hard, since I didn’t grow up in a positive environment; too many times I’ve repeated the mistake of being too harsh with my children. Often, it takes intentional work on the parents’ part to create a supportive and affirming family environment.

I’ve watched the work pay off not just on family nights, but throughout the week as well. Recently, one of our adult kids sent us all a group text before a big job interview and instantly got 100% response with many variations of, “You go, girl!”

One Small Win: Whether your kids are just barely old enough to sit at the table, or if they have dining room tables of their own, family nights are a great way to create great memories and foster closeness.

family night

And if you ever find yourself playing Cranium and draw the “pantomime changing a diaper” card?

Do it with gusto.

Your family will be talking (and laughing) about it for months to come.


Lyneta Smith is an inspirational writer and speaker who lives with her husband near Nashville, TN.  Some of her favorite things to write in her planner: date nights and family time with her adult children. She’s owned by a frisky Boston terrier and a tortoiseshell cat. Connect with her at www.lynetasmith.com.

God Loves a Do-Over

God Loves a Do-Over

Right now, I’m experiencing the post Easter hangover that so many of us, with less than perfect families, are experiencing.

• I spent way too much money on Easter baskets no one in my family really liked. (I was tempted to ask them for the candy back, but I resisted.)
• The NINE DOLLARS worth of strawberries I bought on Thursday were rotted when I went to cut them on Sunday.
• When we texted our second oldest “Where are you?” to find out where he was for our 1:00 lunch, his response? “For what?”
Sigh.

Maybe you had some of your own crazy going on:
• Your kids didn’t say thank you for the toys your in-laws brought over.
• You cooked all day Saturday and half of Sunday, and someone had the nerve to ask you why there wasn’t any artichoke dip.
• Your brother got drunk and obnoxious. At EASTER.

If your Easter didn’t go according to plan, let me just remind you of this:
New life isn’t just about eternity. It’s about Mondays too.
Luke 1:78 “A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.” GWT
We don’t have to leave the new life in God until next Easter. We get to celebrate each and every new day, each and every day.
God loves a do-over.
Go into today with new hope for what God can do.
Go into today forgetting the perfect Easter that every other family had (and by the way, stick with the friends who share about their kids saying a “grown-up word” when there was nothing in their little orange plastic egg. Those are the friends you need for a lifetime.)
Go into today knowing what we celebrated yesterday: a Christ that cherishes you enough to give you everything he had so he could be in relationship with you forever.

Message in a Bottle: How a Simple Jar Can Help Grow Deep Family Connections  (Plus a Book Giveaway!)

Message in a Bottle: How a Simple Jar Can Help Grow Deep Family Connections (Plus a Book Giveaway!)

Once upon a time I thought if I could make enough spreadsheets, post enough lists, or structure my planner enough, then I could build the scaffolding for smooth, meaningful days. I imagined days where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control could just spill right out of my heart.

Turns out “fruit” doesn’t grow on spreadsheets. Nothing against lists, mind you. But through God’s gentle teaching over the past several years, I’ve embraced the natural rhythm of days and grace in the midst of busyness.

It’s a beautifully confounding idea that the miraculous is often present in the mundane. A moment setting aside a scrambling schedule in order to kneel down, look a little one in the eye, and just listen to what is on their heart, is worth all the crossed-off lists in the world.

In short, I’m learning that the “small” can be momentous. That the moments make the days. And that it’s the humblest things that make life the richest.

How a jar can unify your family

Take for example the idea of a simple jar and a few pebbles. What if these everyday things could help unify your family throughout the day? What if it weaved hearts together? Here’s what I propose:

1) Find a jar, bowl or vase.

2) Obtain a group of pebbles, glass gems (as you might use in a fish tank or for the game Mancala), or other memento—one style or color for each person in the family. Even just a slip of paper with each person’s name written on it would do the trick.grow deep family connections
3) Each morning every person takes a pebble of another person’s chosen color. Slip it into a pocket, lunch box, brief case, purse, pencil box or backpack. Gather before parting ways for the day to talk about prayer requests for the day.

4) Throughout the day, whenever that person comes across the pebble, it’s a prompt to say a quick prayer for the person it represents, and whatever they might be facing in their day.

5) At the end of the day, take a moment to go around and debrief about the day. Each person asks the person whose pebble they drew how their day was. Then let them know how or when they were prayed for.

6) Finally, deposit each of those traveling gems into your chosen jar. Over time, the intermingled pebbles (or other items) serve as a visual reminder of how cherished each person has been in thought and prayer.

grow deep family connections 

A message in a bottle

In my research for the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, I’ve come across some incredible stories of objects and messages in simple vessels. This is just one way to make a living message of your own and create a beautiful tradition.

grow deep family connections

For a chance to win one of five copies of that book, tell us in the comments: What is one simple but important message you would love your family to carry in their hearts each day?


grow deep family connectionsAmanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of Truth, and spinner of hope-filled tales. She spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family, who love a good blanket fort and a stack of read-alouds. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale, a contributing author to the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, and enjoys connecting with her readers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.