mindful living, effortless style

I know by now you are likely pretty sick of all things Ana, Elsa and Olaf. But here’s a parenting trick I learned a while back – you can use whatever your child is currently obsessing about to help foster a love of reading

It’s all about pointing out the similarities between the story they already love and some new stories worth exploring. The key, of course, is to know where to look.

So today our resident children’s librarian, Janssen, is sharing 10 books every Frozen fan is sure to connect with.

Are your kids obsessed with Frozen?

Mine too.

We listen to the music, my girls pretend they are Elsa and Ana, and if it were up to my oldest, we’d watch it for family movie night every single week (Dad put a quick kibosh to that idea).

If you need a break from the movie too, here are ten books that will appeal to Elsa and Ana’s biggest fans. Read More

I recently found out our contributor, Kristin, has been hiding a very big secret from me – although she currently works as a professional photographer, she used to be a 1st grade teacher! You guys, you cannot imagine how psyched I was when she let this little gem slip in an email. All the possible posts just started piling up in my head.

The very first thing I wanted her to write for us was a back-to-school post on all the critical things your child’s teacher wants to know about him or her to start the school year off right. I am a brand-new school mom this year, afterall, with C venturing off into Kindergarten – so this is stuff I really want to know.

When Quaker approached us to about getting involved with supporting teachers through their Quaker Up for Classrooms project, I knew it was the perfect opportunity. Here’s Kristin with everything you need to know to initiate a fabulous relationship with your child’s teacher this year…

A good relationship with your child’s teacher can make your school year exceptional.  Teachers are with our children as much as we are, so it’s important to look at the relationship as a team.

Years before I had my own children, I was helping to raise other people’s children in the form of being a first grade teacher. In my years of being a teacher, I celebrated successes with many parents and also cried with them over struggles.  Teachers are truly invested in our children. 

Did you know that teachers across America are spending more than $1 billion dollars per year of their own money stocking their classrooms?  How’s that for being invested!  Teachers care so much about our kids that they are using their own paychecks to make sure our kids are successful.

I just learned that Quaker is teaming up with Adopt-A-Classroom to give teachers the funds they need.  And as parents, we can help.

It’s as easy as buying specially marked Quaker products and entering the package codes online at Quaker Up for Classrooms.  For every code entered, Quaker will donate $1.  And, participants get a coupon for $1 off Quaker products.

Here’s the really cool part…

Enter your zip code along with your package code and the donation will go to a teacher in your own community!

Up to $250,000 can be raised in this effort.  So, let’s help out (and fuel our kids for a good school day with some delicious oatmeal made with whole grain oats in the process).

Since the Quaker Up for Classrooms program is all about supporting teachers and promoting student success, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to kick off a two-part series on how parents can support and facilitate their children’s teachers. Today is Part 1:


Heading into this new school year, I want you to know that teachers view this stuff as highly valuable information.  Now that I’m a parent (and on the other end of the relationship) I know how important it is to open up with teachers from the beginning so that we don’t miss a step in growing healthy kids.

Most school years start off with a meet-the-teacher or a back-to-school night.  Take advantage of this opportunity to talk individually with your child’s teacher.  Most of this information can be shared at this time, but you may feel more comfortable emailing the teacher with insights about your child.  Either way, make sure to take the time in the first few weeks of school to share the following with your child’s teacher.

1) Start the year off by sharing with your teacher that you are open and available to communicate.

By telling your child’s teacher that you want to communicate with him or her, you’re letting them know that you want to hear when there’s an issue on the playground and you’ll be sure to tell them when a rough weekend has left your child on the wrong side of the bed come Monday morning.  When you establish a dialogue, things don’t get out of hand.

I’ve heard stories of parents Read More

Nut allergies are no joke and both parents and schools take them very seriously. Our family is lucky not to have to deal with any of these allergies but every program the kids have been involved with from toddler group to preschool, and now kindergarten, has been a nut-free zone.

We’ve struggled in the past to come up with original and nutritious nut-free lunches the kids will actually eat. My littles can only stomach so many mayo and cheese sandwiches, no matter what ridiculous shape I try to cut them into. I’m pretty sure I could carve the entire cast of Frozen into there by now and still be met with requests for, “PB and J, please”.

With kindergarten and preschool about to start for the year, I did what I often do when faced with a parenting quandary – farmed it out to one of my contributors. (Jealous? Post your parenting issue to our facebook page and I’ll try to get you help with whatever you’re struggling with too!) After doing so, I have to say…


(I know it’s a great one when my first response after reading it is to print it out and put it somewhere safe for reference later!)

Here’s our food contributor, Natalie, with her magical formula for creating an endless amount of nut-free packed school lunches.

Struggling to come up with ideas for your child with nut allergies or your child attending a nut-free school? I’ve got you.

Here’s a mix-and-match guide to putting together nut-free lunches quickly and painlessly. (If you want the handy divided lunch boxes, get them here – they come in lots of happy colors.)

Just keep your favorite picks on your weekly grocery list, keep this list on your fridge or on your lunch idea pinterest board for reference, and you’ll be ready to go.

Step 1 – Pick a main dish.

  1. lunchmeat and cheese roll-ups
  2. oatmeal to-go bars
  3. homemade strawberry cream cheese sandwiches
  4. pancake sandwiches with cream cheese and fruit
  5. hard-boiled eggs
  6. pasta salad
  7. “faux kid sushi” sandwich rolls with guacamole and turkey
  8. quesadillas
  9. sunbutter and banana sandwich
  10. soup (in a thermos)
  11. meatballs
  12. hand-pies or empanadas
  13. lettuce or tortilla wrap
  14. egg cups/egg muffins/mini omelette
  15. macaroni and cheese
  16. bean or chickpea salad
  17. cold noodle salad
  18. shrimp and cocktail sauce (or other dipping sauce)

Step 2 – Pick two sides.

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If you’re like our family, having young children in your brood can mean a lot of “Date Nights In”.

While ordering our favorite takeout and zoning out on the couch to Netflix can be relaxing at the end of a long week, it’s not exactly the best way I know to keep the romance alive.

So I’ve done a little research and put together a list of 10 ways to liven up dinner and movie at home with minimal effort. And I promise, it’s stuff you’ll actually want to do. I really can’t take all those helpful suggestions to do things like taking turns drawing charactertures of each other – umm, no (thank you).

Check out the list here. (#6 is our absolute favorite – The hubby and I cover the coffee table with a big beach blanket, que up our favorite movie and have so much fun!)

P.S. Want more MPMK goodness? Be sure to sign up for our newsletter (and get the free 6 week meal plan) and to follow us on pinterest and facebook.

Happy weekend!

Image Credit: © Ginny |edited and text added | 01.20.10 | CC by 2.0

Great news friends – we’ve brought a new food contributor to the MPMK team and she’s got TONS of healthy family-friendly recipes she’s ready to let us in on.

Jen’s not just about food, though. Over on her own space, The Chronicles of Home, she shares all aspects of her life as a self-described wife, mom, cook, DIYer, and decorato, turning our house into a home one day and one project at a time.

Today she’s sharing with us a tasty new way to get the kids in the kitchen AND to help keep everyone’s energy up all day long…

If your kids are anything like mine, the “I’m hungry” chorus starts singing every afternoon around 3:00.  We can get into a little bit of a rut with afternoon snacks – fruit, yogurt, goldfish crackers, repeat – so I’m often brainstorming for new ideas.

I recently came up with this easy energy bites recipe, loaded with good-for-you seeds, almonds, oats, and coconut. Read More

Summer has hit full stride and all the free time off school has lost its allure.  We’ve been swimming, hiking, adventuring and more!   So, now it’s time to explore new activities that will satisfy the kids’ natural curiosity and endless amounts of energy.

We’ve picked our top 17 building activities, using everything from newspaper to marshmallows.  Most of these items you’ll have at home, so pick an activity from the list this afternoon when boredom hits your house.

Read More

I’m so excited to have our resident graphic designer, MJ, back today with an ENTIRE FREE PRINTABLE PACK that I just know you’re going to love!

The idea of these printables are to use them to start a new 1st day of school photo tradition that allows you to document not only the kiddos’ super cute new outfits and excited grins, but also their changing dreams and aspirations. Great idea, right?!

You could do some really interesting things with these photos – a coffee table book, a hallway wall display, a calendar, or even a Brady Bunch grid style T-shirt for the grandparents (do it – I bet they totally wear it).

We also want to see your photos using our printables. So share them on your favorite social media site and be sure to tag them: #MPMK_bigdreams!

Here’s MJ…

My favorite time of year on social media has returned: the back to school photo sharing. The adorable assemblies of siblings with fresh haircuts and new duds!

To amplify the joy of this awesome time of year I’ve created something special just for MPMK readers:

Free 1st Day of School Photo Printables Pack!

Whether you have children going into preschool or 12th grade, there’s a printable for you (in both Read More

As a parent of three small children, germs are kind of the bain of my existence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for my kids building up their immunity while playing in the dirt and socializing with friends.

What I’m not cool with, however, are my kiddos neglecting to wash their hands after using the toilet and then putting said hands on EVERYTHING.

Apparently Clorox understands my pain. Check out this funny little video on just how sticky germs really are (but beware, it’s a bit unsettling).

Then click through when it’s over and scroll down their site for an awesome “Cinnamon Magic” game to play with the kids to teach them the importance of handwashing.

Happy weekend!

Image Credit: © Juhan Sonin | 08.21.13 | CC by 2.0 (photo edited and text added)

We’ve still got one more month of glorious summer before school starts up again, which means there are still lots of opportunities for fun outings with the kids.

Before you head out, though, have you taught your kids what to do if they ever get lost (especially in a busy place?

I’m over on eHow’s Mom Channel with 5 essential things to teach your kids to do and say if they ever get lost.

SUCH an amazing resource - over 90 pages of printables including routine charts, 1st day of school picture printables, school info. kids, menu planning, toy organization labels and tons more!Also, don’t forget, only our Back-to-School bundle of over 90 printables to get your ready and organized is only available for 2 more days!

Have a great weekend and stay safe!

If you’ve been following along with this facebook post, you know that we’re knee-deep in sleep training baby M around here – which means some sleepless nights for this Momma.

One of the things I like to look at with my blurry eyes in the wee hours of the morning are pieces of art to one day adorn my still quite bare walls. Occasionally, I even get around to ordering and hanging a few!

Here are four of my current favorites – two of which actually hang in my house and two of which I so far only have plans to hang somewhere.

Up top is this Moby Dick quote from MPMK sponsor Minted, absolutely perfect for creating a reading space or book nook.

LOVE this quote for my daughter's room or our playroom!

Next up is this Shakespeare quote print that I’m currently coveting from ScoutMob. It’s on sale for only $17 and I’m gonna put it in S’s room.

I really love the idea of this being one of the first things she sees when she wakes up each morning!

LOVE all of these picks for our home - especially #4, such an important reminder for kids!

Quote #3 is one I picked up at Read More

Coloring is at the very top of my super-simple, go-to activities for keeping the kids happy and occupied. It’s a total classic, of course, and encourages all kinds of open-ended creativity.

So when my friends Holly and Rachel of Kids Activity Blog sent me their new book, I knew it was going to be well used in our house as soon as I saw this project.

Such a fun and easy technique for extending coloring time!

This is such a simple way to extend a basic coloring session. Can you guess what we’re using to make our crayon creations pop? Read More

I know, I know – August just began, don’t start the back to school stuff already! But it never hurts to plan ahead. Plus, a great breakfast is just as essential for fueling your kids for a day at the beach as a long day at school!

Here’s Natalie with her best breakfast ideas and why we should all be eating them. 

Everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but is it really all that important?

I’m not here to guilt you into making a full breakfast spread every day before school; that’s definitely not realistic for most of us parents.

Still – I think it’s worth the time to explore why a quality breakfast can give our kids the best start to their school day (and any other day, really!).

What makes a “good” breakfast?

  • Protein. We’re talking about the building blocks of life, here! Protein aids in the growth of our bones, skin, muscles, cartilage, enzymes and hormones. Our kids are constantly growing, and protein is what makes that happen. Most proteins are sources of B vitamins, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc and other vital nutrients. Try pastured or grass-fed beef, eggs, nuts and seafood (if you can handle it first thing in the morning!)
  • Healthy Fats. Fat used to be very taboo in American culture, but it’s becoming more mainstream to appreciate the benefits of fat for our health. Your brain is made of cholesterol and fat, and the essential fatty acids we eat help to improve brain function. Be careful choosing, though- stay away from manufactured or refined fats and vegetable oils. Try coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado and nuts/nut butter.
  • Complex Carbs. Complex carbs are broken down slowly by our bodies, which helps keep us full. That means our kids won’t be bothered by a growling tummy during a mid-morning test. They are also a main source of fuel for our body and brain functions- that means no mid-morning energy slump, either. Try whole grains and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.
  • Avoiding Sugar, Refined Carbs and Packaged Foods. These foods will drag you down. Sugar is your enemy when it comes to concentration- it’s known to cause brain-fog, hyperactivity and more. Combining sugar and refined carbs will ensure your kid is hungry before noon, can’t sit still or can’t concentrate. Let’s give our kids the best start we can and avoid these foods!
  • Veggies. It’s easy to focus on fruits for breakfast instead of veggies, but they are full of vitamins and minerals that are essential for brain function and energy. Bonus points for leafy greens! Try adding sliced tomatoes or cucumbers to any breakfast plate, make a veggie scramble or omelette or add veggies into your smoothies.

Why take the extra time? How will our kids benefit from this kind of meal?

  • Energy Boost. If your kids are not morning-people, a nutritious breakfast will help them to get the energy they need to start the day.
  • Better Concentration. Good fats (Omega-3s!) will help their brains to perform at the highest level they can.
  • Better Grades. Better concentration means more information is absorbed, and that can certainly transfer to better grades.
  • Healthy Weight Management. Struggles with body image can start at a young age. We can help our children to have a positive outlook on their bodies by treating and feeding them well.
  • Avoid Starvation Mode. Skipping breakfast after a night of sleep means their little bodies will really be running on empty until the next meal. Even a small breakfast will help keep starvation at bay.

How can we manage this when we’re running late or feeling tired?

  • Plan ahead. You can plan for a full week of breakfasts or plan the night before for the next day. With all the things that need to happen on a busy morning, having breakfast already planned is a smart move.
  • Grab-and-go. Eating on the bus or in the car isn’t the best for our bodies, but it’s better than eating nothing at all. When it’s possible, sit down to breakfast as a family, but if you can’t, then have some healthy grab-and-go options on hand.

Read More

Big, big, BIG news today guys!

For the past few months I’ve been quietly working on a new project for the MPMK shop that I am so incredibly excited to share with you guys. It’s a Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit.

As the name implies, it includes all kinds of awesome printables to teach your kids how to be responsible and learn to manage money, from routine charts and chores lists to money ledgers and savings sheets and more.

It officially goes on sale August 25th – but here’s the really good news…

For 1 week only, I’m teaming up with some of my all time favorite bloggers (I Heart Organizing, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Tomkat Studio, and The Handmade Home just to name a few!) to offer a super amazing Back-to-School Printables Bundle!


August 1st – 9th Only: Over 90 Printables to Get Organized Before School Starts at 78% Off!

Here’s everything you need to know…

It’s back to school month and time to get your house, kids, and schedule back in order.  This calls for another fabulous printable bundle!  Only this time, it’s going to be a little bit different. Our brand new printables are exclusive to this sale only.

These are brand new, never before seen creations designed from nine of the most talented bloggers online.

This bundle has everything you need to start the school year off right.  From menu planning, chores, and schedules, to first day of school pictures, labels and beyond.  It’s all included in this one of a kind bundle.

You will not see duplicate kits that have been featured in other bundle sales before. These are all brand new!

From August 1st to the 9th, you will have a chance to purchase this organizing back-to-school bundle.  You don’t want to miss out. It’s a good thing.

What’s included in the Back to School Printable Bundle?

You will receive 9 exclusive printable pdf kits (93 pages) in this fabulous bundle. The digital files can be printed out &  used in planners, home management binders or even placed on your fridge.

This exclusive bundle is 78% off the retail price!

  • A Bowl Full of Lemons –  First Day of School Signs
  • Clean Mama – School Information Kit
  • Organizing Homelife – Homeschool Planner
  • The Handmade Home – 25 Toy Organization Labels
  • iHeart Organizing – Menu Planning Kit
  • TomKat Studio – Lunch Box notes
  • Simplify 101 - Back-to-School Planning Kit
  • Modern Parents Messy Kids - Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit
  • Jones Design Company – K-12 School Memories Kit


$90 - Only $20 This Week Only!


That’s 78% Off Retail Price!


How much does the bundle cost?

The Back to School Printable Bundle is only $20. That’s an amazing 78% off the retail cost of the kits!

Buy Now

How long is the bundle for sale?

The bundle will be available from 8am EST on 8/1/14 through 11:59 pm EST on 8/9/14. There are no exceptions.

Listed below are the pictures, details, and links to the 9 exclusive kits within the Back to School Bundle. If you have any specific questions about a kit, please email the blog associated with the kit.

For general Bundle questions, you can contact the bundle hosts at back2schoolbundle at gmail.com. Please look at the FAQ page before emailing with questions.

All kits are pdf files and will be sent to you in a zip file, once payment has been made (instant download). All files are 8.5 x 11 inches unless stated in the description. Visit the FAQ page for details on how to resize the pages to fit into smaller planners.


Modern Parents Messy KidsMPMK


Stephanie Morgan is the founder and managing editor of Modern Parents Messy Kids (MPMK for Short).

From “Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life” to “The Make Play Vault”, her site provides thousands of parents with daily inspiration on kid-friendly food, play ideas, parenting topics, home organization and what to do with all those photos!  


Responsibility Printables MPMK


Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit (11 Pages)

A $7.99 Value

Teaching our kids to be contributing members of the family through routines, “family jobs” and “earning jobs” is one of our most important roles as parents.


Not only does it instill within them responsibility and self-reliance, when done right, it also serves to teach fundamental life skills including saving, budgeting and even giving back.


Our new Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit has everything you need to get kids of all ages started on the right track including:


  • Morning and evening routine charts (blanks and using images for pre-readers)
  • “Family Jobs” and “Earning Job” charts
  • A Kids’ budgeting Ledger
  • A Savings Goal Chart
  • Printable Spend/Save/Share piggy bank labels


Responsibility Printables MPMK


Responsibility Printables MPMK


Responsibility Printables MPMK

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When I first checked out this video, I thought I knew what to expect. There seem to be a lot of campaigns about women and positive body image going around these days. But this is something different.

It goes so beyond our bodies. (Full disclosure, I lost it a bit right around the 1:46 mark.) You really need to watch the video to see what I mean, and I really hope that you’ll do just that.

Take 2 minutes to watch it, and then take another 20 seconds to share it with your mama friends, your sisters, your mothers, and also your daughters.

What did I tell you? Pretty great, right? All of the stories in the video touched me but the one with the attractive older lady with the grey hair – gah!! Read More

Having my kids home for the summer means constant grazing.  Sure we eat regular meals, but when the kids are swimming and playing hard they need an extra snack or two.

I like to cut up all my vegetables at the beginning of the week and then mix it up with a few dips.

Let’s face it, vegetables alone are a hard sell.  I’ve perfected three dips that I know my kids will enjoy.  And the more the dip, the more vegetables they eat!

The first is similar to ranch dip, but a little Read More