mindful living, effortless style

This post is sponsored by Pull-Ups® Training Pants, all opinions are 100% our own.

I’m about to start potty training my youngest child. And I’d be lying if I said I was excited about it. All I remember from last time was the amount of stress involved. And cleaning up accidents.

So many accidents.

Before I started the process this time, I decided it would be wise to go back over my notes. (Yes, I kept notes. Nerd alert.)

I realized even though this isn’t my first rodeo, I can’t just jump in blindly. So I took some time to think about what worked, and of course, what didn’t. I narrowed it down to the five biggest “mistakes” and “musts.”

And what’s a lesson learned if it’s not shared, am I right?

So without further ado…

The 5 Biggest Potty Training Mistakes You Can Make - Couldn't agree more!

#1 Starting Before They’re Ready

There’s no trophy for having the youngest potty trained child. The Guinness Book of World Records won’t come calling, I promise. The biggest lesson I learned from my first attempt at potty training, is that timing is EVERYTHING.

Don’t feel pressured just because every other kid in his class has already started. Trust me, you will have a MUCH easier time if you wait until your child starts showing signs of readiness such as:

  • Has dry periods for 2 hours or more, or during naps
  • Can pull pants up and down
  • Shows interest in others using the bathroom
  • Tells you or gives a visual sign when having a bowel movement
  • Tells you when he needs to go

#2 Not Being Prepared

Like everything else in parenting, having the right tools is half the battle.

Make sure you’ve looked into all the best potty training gear. Like Pull-Ups® Training Pants as well as wet/dry bags for keeping an extra change of clothes and storing wet clothes when you’re out and about. (We’ll talk about this more in the “Must-Haves” below.)

#3 Sky High Expectations

Potty training is a messy process. Literally. Know that going in. Know that things may not happen on your time schedule. Know that there will be ups and downs.

The parents that have the hardest time with potty training, are the ones who Read More

Scavenger hunts and reading make the perfect pair. Discovering new stories, interesting characters, or a great series builds your child’s love for literature as well as her motivation to become an independent reader.

As parents we want to grow our children’s interest in reading but sometimes feel like we’ve run out of ideas on how to do just that.

To help, we’ve created a fun and simple way to challenge your child to read and discover outside of their comfort zone.

It’s a free printable scavenger hunt that’s sure to pique your child’s curiosity and love for reading!

FREE Kids’ Reading Scavenger Hunt Printable
 
Read More

This post is sponsored by Abbott Nutrition, all opinions are 100% our own.

Today we’re back with our latest sponsor, Go & Grow by Similac Food Mix-Ins.

Inspired by how easy Mix-Ins makes it to add vitamins and protein to our kids’ favorite foods, we’re once again sharing a healthier twist on a classic kid recipe.

And, in case you missed our last post, don’t forget to visit the site for information on the product and store locators!

Visit this page to learn more

Here’s Kaley with recipe the details…

Summer is in full swing around here! That means warm, sunny days playing outside and cool treats all around.

While I love serving fun treats like popsicles for snacks, I also want to make sure my toddler is getting all of the nutrition she needs to grow and thrive.

Luckily, with Similac Go & Grow Mix-Ins, I can do just that.

The very best summer treat for toddlers - popsicles made with greek yogurt and fresh fruit, with an added nutrient boost

I take my favorite all-natural yogurt and fruit popsicle recipe and add in a packet of Go & Grow Mix-Ins

The Mix-Ins help support her brain, eye and overall growth and development with their unique blend of DHA, lutein and vitamin E along with protein, fiber and other vitamins and minerals.

She can’t taste the difference, but she benefits immensely from the added nutrition. Read More

Around my house summer is smoothie season. It’s by far the easiest, healthiest breakfast I can make for me and the kids… and everyone will happily eat/drink it!

They’re also an amazing way to get my kids protein. In fact, with my 2-year-old’s current eating habits, it can often be the only guaranteed way!

Plus, there are endless varieties to be made. So if your kiddo gets bored all you have to do is swap out a few ingredients and, presto, a whole new breakfast.

Today Kristin is sharing 7 high protein smoothie recipes both her and her kids love…

As moms, we seem to be obligated to fret about our kids’ diet and whether they’re getting enough to eat.

It starts as soon as they are out of the womb.  We worry about the rate they are growing.  We want to make sure their nutrition is on point so they are happy, healthy kids.

Spooning green baby food into your child’s mouth and actually getting them to swallow makes you feel like a total mom boss.

They might make funny faces, but as moms we are (somewhat) able to control our baby’s diet. If you are a mom of a toddler, you know it’s a different story. No matter how much bargaining and begging you do, if they don’t want to eat something, it’s not going to happen.

It seems the older kids get, the more challenging it can be to make sure they have proper nutrition.

Enter the smoothie.  Read More

I’m writing today with a bit of a heavy heart.

I’m not one for giving up on things. In fact, once I set my mind to something, there’s typically no stopping me. But the “1 Year to a Non-Toxic Home Project” has been different.

It started with such great intentions- namely to drastically reduce the amount of chemicals my family comes into contact with on a daily basis. The goal was, and still is, a good one. It’s the totality of it – along with the timeline – that has come to be the problem.

It wasn’t until I dove in, that I truly saw how many areas of our lives could be covered. Everything from the sheets we sleep on at night to the bottles we sip water from all day long. I’ll be honest, I didn’t intentionally take on a project with such a large scope.

The idea was spurned by my sudden interest in making over my skin and hair products (an area I am proud to say I’ve come a long way in). I was thinking lotions, make-up, and shampoo… I never had any intention of trying to go 100% organic with our diet or to eliminate all plastics from our house. But I unintentionally wrote myself into a bit of a corner.

The biggest issue is that the project has caused me to second guess myself when posting on some of the things I continue to use and love. I wonder if I should avoid covering something that I’ve found truly useful if it’s not 100% organic and chemical-free.

Deep down that feels so disingenuous.

Though I continue to grow and learn all the time, I’ve never been an all-natural mom, just as this has never been an all-natural blog, and I certainly don’t want to pretend to be anything that I’m not.

I realize now that I should have been much more precise in the parameters for the project- both personally and here on MPMK.

Because now, instead of patting myself on the back for replacing 90% of the products in my evening beauty routine with non-toxic alternatives, I find myself feeling like a failure when I can’t find an all natural water-proof mascara that doesn’t smudge or an aluminum-free antiperspirant that actually works.

If I were to describe the spirit of MPMK, I would say that it’s all about meeting mothers where they are and giving them grace in their journey. And that’s exactly how I want to move forward with this one.

But I’m not giving up either.

Instead, I’m giving myself permission to take it slow. While I’m removing the phrase “1 Year to a Non-Toxic Home” from previous posts, I’ll definitely continue to share here when I find non-toxic solutions that are working for me and my family (I’ve got that evening routine post just about finished). And I’ll be continuing to share about my other favorite things as well.

It’s an approach that, to me, feels better in so many ways – more realistic, more truthful, and so much less pressure.

In closing I just wanted to say thanks for embarking in this experiment with me. I hope you’ll stay with me for the journey and that you’ll continue to share with me your own progress as well!

Next week is the last week of school for us and I know summer vacation has already started for many of you! To help you prepare for a wonderful summer filled with lots of relaxing, playing, connecting, and – yes – even learning, I’ve asked my good friend Mariah of Playful Learning to stop by and share her tips.

To say Mariah is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to education, is an understatement.

She has 20 years of experience working in the field of education and a Master of Science degree in Education. She’s worked as both a teacher and director at highly respected schools such as The Dalton School in Manhattan and The Ross School in East Hampton, New York.

In 2008 Mariah brought her expertise online when she started Playful Learning, a resource for parents and teachers.

Since then she has built a team of gifted educators at Playful Learning who passionately believe that how you teach children is equally important as what you teach them. And that there is a magic that happens when you meld a child’s interests and curiosity with thoughtfully planned experiences.

The work they have done has enriched the lives of families all over the world and in 2010 Playful Learning received the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal.

Have I convinced you? This is someone who knows her stuff and she’s got some great tips for us! I’m especially excited to try out tip #4 this summer- so smart, I can’t believe I never thought to use books in this way before!

Before we get to that, though, along with her free tips, Mariah has also generously put together an exclusive MPMK readers discount and bonus package for her online summer learning program, Camp Playful Learning!

Playful Learning Summer Learning Pass

For the Next 7 days only (!), Use code MPMK20 and Get:

 

20% Off Any Camp Playful Learning Purchase

Use the code to pick your workshops week by week or get an even better deal…

Buy the Summer Learning Pass and save 46%:

 
All 7 online courses plus 3 online kids’ books clubs for $90 off… that means, with the additional 20% off code, MPMK readers actually get the pass for $126 Off the regular price!

(You get continued access to each class once it goes live so no worries if you’re out of town the week it comes out.)

Plus these free bonuses 

  1. Access to their Playful Learning Spaces online workshop (a $78 value) – I took this class from Mariah and absolutely loved what it taught me about how to set up my playroom for maximum engagement.
  2. An exclusive package of 10 writing paper printables to include in your writing center – this bonus pack was created just for MPMK readers and is not available anywhere else.


 

If you’re interested in a step-by-step plan for keeping your kids engaged and learning this summer in a low-stress and fun way, I highly recommend you check out Camp Playful Learning!

Now, here’s Mariah with those tips…

Concerned about the summer slide?

We all want our children to experience the delights of the summer season, yet the learning gap that happens while children are out of school is very real.

The good news is that you can have the best of both worlds! Below are some simple tips and doses of inspiration for providing your child with play-based learning experiences that help reverse the summer slide. 

kids writing center

1) Set-Up a Writing Center

Create it and they will come… It’s almost like magic! If you’d like to see your children writing for pleasure in their free time, then create an inviting space with a variety of engaging materials.

The goal of a good writing area is to entice children to express themselves and their ideas and to connect with friends and loved ones through writing and drawing. When they discover that writing is a means for expressing their thoughts, sharing their stories, and relating to people in their lives, it becomes a joyful medium for them through which they find their voices.

It’s helpful to think of the supplies we, as adults, like to use when we are writing letters, making cards, etc. and go from there. Keep it simple, just start by putting a few materials out in a pretty display and observe how your children respond.

Some possible items to include:

  • Variety of different papers for writing in different sizes, colors, and textures.
  • Blank books (these can be as simple as a few pieces of paper staples together or check out MPMK’s tutorial on making experience journals)
  • Fun pencils, pens, and colored pencils
  • Alphabet stickers and stamps (these are an MPMK favorite)
  • Helpful supplies, like tape, paper clips, sticky notes, stapler, etc.

invitation to learn

2) Create Invitations

Leave out “invitations” that encourage your children to explore a new topic (or an old favorite). What I love about creating these invitations is that they are easy to put together and you can use materials and activities that you already have on hand.

It helps to think of these invitations as a way to highlight your child’s underused supplies, games or toys. It is amazing how putting together a few thoughtfully selected items on/in a tray, bin, or basket can reawaken a child’s interest.

Start by looking through your children’s toys and materials with the idea of sorting them by themes, you will often find that you already have everything you need to create an enticing invitation.

You will be amazed to find that old toys presented in new ways can spark a fresh interest in your child. And, here comes the best part, all you have to do is leave them out for your child to discover. You don’t have to say a thing!

collections

3) Start Collecting

Children are natural collectors. Tap into their enthusiasm for finding natural treasures and encourage them curate their very own collections from nature.

When you return home with all of your newfound discoveries, provide simple, baskets, boxes, and trays so that your child can create a display. MPMK’s DIY Vacation Memory Jars are another great way for storing these collections.

Keep field guides and non-fiction books handy to do additional research on the items they found.

books that enhance play

4) Spread the (Book) Love!

Placing books in special places throughout your house is a great way to encourage exploration, research, and can prompt great discussions. It’s fun to display books near materials that your children use on a daily basis, to encourage a deeper investigation into a certain topic.

For example:

  • Keep child-friendly cookbooks in the kitchen
  • Add books about architecture near the block area
  • Display books about art and artists near the craft materials
  • Leave out how-to books near the corresponding craft supplies
  • Don’t underestimate the power of interesting coffee table books. I have started rotating ours every couple on months and have found that my daughters will always flip through them and that they spark some great family discussions.

Carefully placing books in select locations for children sends them the message that books are helpful resources and can be used to make their everyday experiences more meaningful.

These are just a few tips to get you started on a summer filled with Playful Learning. If you’d like to take your experiences to the next level, make sure to check out our new online offering just for summer Camp Playful Learning.

Playful Learning Summer Learning Pass

You can pick your workshops week by week or purchase the Summer Learning Pass and guarantee that your child will be playfully learning all summer long…

For more information, click here.

Exclusive Discount & Bonus for MPMK Readers

For the Next 7 days only (!), Use code MPMK20 and Get:

20% Off Any Camp Playful Learning Purchase

Use the code to pick your workshops week by week or get an even better deal…

Buy the Summer Learning Pass and save 46%:

 
All 7 online courses plus 3 online kids’ books clubs for $90 off… that means, with the additional 20% off code, MPMK readers actually get the pass for $126 Off the regular price!

(You get continued access to each class once it goes live so no worries if you’re out of town the week it comes out.)

Plus these free bonuses 

  1. Access to their Playful Learning Spaces online workshop (a $78 value) – I took this class from Mariah and absolutely loved what it taught me about how to set up my playroom for maximum engagement.
  2. An exclusive package of 10 writing paper printables to include in your writing center – this bonus pack was created just for MPMK readers and is not available anywhere else.


Here’s to a great summer!

*Post contains affiliate links.

*This post is sponsored by Abbott Nutrition, all opinions are 100% our own.

We’re back today with our latest sponsor, Go & Grow by Similac Food Mix-Ins and, inspired by how easy Mix-Ins makes it to add vitamins and protein to our kids’ favorite foods, we’re once again sharing a healthier twist on a classic kid recipe.

For quiet a while now I’ve been searching for a healthier dip to try to entice my veggie-averse kiddos to get some more greens. So I can’t wait to try this greek yogurt recipe inspired by the quintessential kid favorite, ranch dressing. 

I’m hoping it’ll be just the ticket because, just like Kaley’s kids, mine want to eat all day long… except at meal time (it drives me a little crazy, honestly).

And, in case you missed our last post, don’t forget to visit the site for information on the product and store locators!

Visit this page to learn more

Here’s Kaley with recipe the details…

Toddlers are notorious for grazing all day, then not being hungry for meal time. This can be super frustrating for parents, who are trying to ensure their little ones are getting all of the nutrients needed to keep them healthy and happy.

The solution?

Try to make sure that their snacks are as nutritious as possible to start. A great way to do this is to take some of their not-so-great snacks and substitute with something that tastes similar but has better ingredients.  

And, if you feel like your child really isn’t getting the nutrients they need from their diet, you can add in a packet of Go & Grow Mix-Ins to help support brain, eye and overall growth and development with their unique blend of DHA, lutein and vitamin E along with protein, fiber and other vitamins and minerals.

Toddler-Approved Veggies and Dip with Similac

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the very best thing for your child’s diet. But those aren’t always the most fun to eat.

Make it enticing by serving a variety of colorful veggies with a yummy, toddler-approved dip.

Toddler-Approved Veggies and Dip with Similac

Your toddler will have so much fun dipping that they will hardly notice that they are eating vegetables!

Toddler-Approved Veggies and Dip with Similac

Ingredients:

  • a variety of fresh, colorful vegetables
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Go & Grow by Similac Food Mix-Ins

Healthier Ranch Dip alternative

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add the greek yogurt, chopped parsley, chopped chives, onion powder and garlic powder and mix well.
  2. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. (These can be omitted completely if desired)
  3. Add one packet of Go & Grow by Similac Food Mix-Ins
  4. Stir until completely combined.
  5. Serve with a variety of colorful veggies, cut into toddler size pieces.

I like to set this snack out in the afternoon, and let my 2 year old eat as much as she would like until dinner.

Then, if she decides not to touch any of the vegetables served with dinner, I can relax, knowing that she has already eaten plenty of veggies and gotten all of the added nutrition from the Mix-Ins.

Toddler-Approved Veggies and Dip with Similac

Hint: This dip is so good you will want to serve it to the whole family so before adding the packet of Mix-Ins, split the dip into 2 different bowls, one for your toddler, and one for everyone else.

I only add the Mix-Ins to my toddler’s dip as they’re meant to help kids between 12 months and 4-years-old maintain balanced nutrition while they are learning to eat new foods.

I add extra salt and pepper to the other bowl, and let everyone enjoy this delicious snack.

More Mix-Ins Recipes from MPMK

Nutrient-Packed Pancakes for Healthy Toddlers

Healthier Mac and Cheese with Hidden Cauliflower

I adored this latest submission in our ‘Parenting Styles’ series- because this is TOTALLY me! 

It’s taken a long, long, LONG time but I’ve finally realized that being such a big believer in teaching my kids to do for themselves means that it’s not going to be done up to my standards. And that’s ok. In fact it’s as it should be.

I’ve finally realized it, but living it and being cool with it is something I’m still working on. Every. Single. Day. The struggle is real people.

Here’s Jessica with her story…

My oldest son is many wonderful things – smart and funny and kind with a big heart. He’s a great athlete, with a brown belt in martial arts and a cool head and quick feet on the soccer field. But for a kid who doesn’t do much sitting around, he can be infuriatingly lazy when it comes to chores.

We don’t pay any of our kiddos to do stuff around the house. We all live here, so we all pitch in to keep things tidy. And no one pays me to vacuum or cook.

Our two oldest – nine and seven – are expected to make their beds in the mornings, put away their clean and folded laundry, make sure their dirty clothes make it to the hamper, put away their shoes and hats and backpacks, clear their plates, and generally tidy up after themselves.

Our oldest is also in charge of feeding the dogs. And the thing is, after he’s been reminded once (or twice, or three times), he does everything he should. He just does it all so badly. And I’m pretty sure it’s kind of on purpose. Read More

We’re back today with Janssen’s final post on what it was really like taking her regular old home and turning it into a “smart home”. (Read all about the innovative ways she set up her home with the Iris by Lowe’s system in her last post, here.)

After reading today’s post, I am once again more than a little jealous that I handed the Iris off to her instead of keeping it for myself. I can’t believe all the options you have with this system!

Today we’re covering all that the Iris by Lowe’s system does to put your mind at ease while you’re away on vacation– everything from turning on lights and checking if doors and windows are locked to turning on a plug-in air freshener and the air conditioner a few hours before arriving back home. So cool!

Here’s Janssen with all the details…

I try really hard not to be a worrier.

There is so much you can’t control in this life and having three kids just adds to that list.

Our family loves to travel and, like many families, one of the main reasons we do so is to relax and enjoy time together.

But I’ll admit that it’s difficult for me to not let a little piece of my brain always wonder about our house while we’re gone, and I breathe a tiny sigh of relief when we return home and everything is still standing.

Which is just one more reason I love the Iris system.

The Iris system is perfect on a daily basis for keeping track of where my kids are with the Smart Fob, letting family members and neighbors pass the alarm via the Keypad, or using the Motion Sensor with my fans to keep my electricity bills low (or as low as you can get them when you live in Arizona).

But until we started planning summer vacations, I hadn’t even considered how handy Iris would be when we were traveling. Generally when I think of a smart home system, I think of being at home.

But since my house doesn’t come on vacation with me, it makes perfect sense that Iris is there to protect my home while I’m away from it.

Iris has all the the basics, like turning lights on and off so your house doesn’t look empty, and the ability to check remotely if all the doors are locked and windows are closed.

Plus the video camera system makes it easy to look in at your house from your spot on the beach or in an airport terminal halfway around the world.

But they have so many extra features, too, like the Leak Detector and LeakSmart Shut-Off Valve. Since we have a basement, I’m thrilled to have no more worries about coming home to a flood.

Or the Tilt Sensor that alerts you if certain items are moved; this is perfect if you have someone coming into your house while you’re gone to water plants or bring in the mail or check on a pet, but you want to be sure your valuables aren’t disturbed. Read More

One of my favorite parts of summer is having more time to make homemade treats with the kids!

With all of the sports and after-school activities during the school year, I never seem to have any extra time to spend in the kitchen with my kids, so I love to do it as much as possible during the summer.

My littles absolutely love spending time with me pouring and mixing and I see it as a great time to connect. Plus, getting them comfortable in the kitchen is an important life skill.

Today our contributor, Kristin, is once again teaming up with our sponsor Juicy Juice to make some sweet and delicious homemade creamsicles. 

Your kids are going to love cooling off with them in the back yard all summer long!

Oh, and you can get a special Juicy Juice coupon here

Creamsicles are one of those things that will always represent summer to me.  The tangy sweet popsicle melting down my hand reminds me of summers spent riding bikes and running through the sprinkler.

With the warm weather right around the corner, I wanted to perfect a homemade recipe for all those backyard play dates that are right around the corner.

IMG_6995

I started with a base of Orange Tangerine Juicy Juice.  I love that it’s 100% juice with no added sugar or any type of artificial sweetener.

You just can’t go wrong with 100% juice. The flavor is amazing and I’m giving my kids 120% of their vitamin c for the day.  When a popsicle can do that it’s a win! Read More

Recently, one of my neighbors sent out a group text asking if anyone had logs from cut-down trees for a friend who had some cool plans for her backyard. It immediately reminded me of the Natural Play Spaces series we did a few years ago and I sent it to her.

Looking over it, I remembered how wonderful it was and wanted to share it with you guys with the 3-day weekend, and unofficial start of the summer, here. 

I hope it inspires you to look at your backyard in a whole new way this summer!

I’ve written before about how much I value outdoor time for kids but recently I’ve been thinking more specifically about the topic. Outdoor time of any type is great in my book, but time spent actively exploring nature is even better.

You may remember a few months back I told you guys I had the pleasure of attending an amazing talk on raising creative kids in a hurried world by Nancy Blakey. Read More

*This post is sponsored by Abbott Nutrition, all opinions are 100% our own.

Today we’re back with our latest sponsor, Go & Grow by Similac Food Mix-Ins. Inspired by how easy Mix-Ins makes it to add vitamins and protein to our kids’ favorite foods, we’re once again sharing a healthier twist on a classic kid recipe.

And, in case you missed our last post, don’t forget to visit the site for information on the product and store locators!

Visit this page to learn more

 

Here’s Kaley with recipe the details…

It is always my goal to give my kids a varied, colorful diet with plenty of healthy foods. But no matter what I put down in front of my 2 year old, she pushes it away and asks for mac and cheese.

I can’t really blame her. Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? But the boxed mac and cheese is far from the nutritious meal I want her eating on a daily basis.

Thankfully, I have found a way to make her beloved mac and cheese a whole lot healthier. 

By using cauliflower as a base for the cheese sauce, mac and cheese goes from being a request I dread to something I am proud to serve the whole family!

And on those days when I know my toddler really hasn’t been anywhere near a vegetable, adding in a packet of Go & Grow Food-Mix Ins supports her brain, eye and overall development with their unique blend of DHA, lutein and vitamin E along with protein, fiber and other vitamins and minerals.

Super healthy cauliflower mac and cheese that your toddler will love!

The Mix-ins don’t change the taste of the food, so your toddler will never know the difference! My healthier mac and cheese is always a hit and my little one has no idea I have added anything to it.

Healthier Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese

Ingredients:

Read More

*This post is sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company, all opinions are 100% our own

I’m so happy to announce that this year I’m once again a part of The Oat Authority, a great team of bloggers out to help Quaker meet the needs of families’ evolving lifestyles with tips, recipes, and products that provide delicious, wholesome and convenient breakfasts and snacks.

Today we’re kicking things off with our new go-to breakfast for summer (Yay! It’s finally time to start talking about summer!)

Here’s Kristin with the goods…

I don’t know about you, but around here, summer weather makes us start craving tropical flavors.

In fact, it might seem like an surprising combination, but tropical flavors and oatmeal are one of our family’s favorite duos this time of year. Quaker Oats (whether Old Fashioned, Instant or Steel-Cut Oats) are 100 percent whole grain, making them the ideal morning start to help us prepare for the day ahead.

Today I’ve put together for you a chilled overnight oats recipe that’s perfect for summer. It’s creamy, sweet, and will knock your socks off (I swear).

Plus, the Quaker Oats, protein powder and coconut create the perfect combination to help keep everyone fueled until lunch time.

The best part about this recipe is that you make it the night before and breakfast is served upon waking. Easy peasy.

There’s absolutely no cooking involved. The oats soak in a liquid all night long and in the morning you have a hearty, satisfying breakfast. Read More

Image Credit: © Jason Lander | Play date | CC by 2.0

It’s that time of year again when parents of preschool-aged kids have to lock-in their decision about what kind of school their kids will (or won’t) be attending next year.

While our journey has been a lot different than today’s contributor, (between them, my kids have attended play-based, religious, secular, outdoor, and montessori preschools). One thing I can definitely relate to is the surprise at having to wrestle with the decision again and again each year and with each kid.

I naively thought I’d find a great preschool when my oldest was 3 and be set.

But circumstances change (we’ve moved since then), options change (I just couldn’t pass on that outdoor preschool experience once it opened and the next year I needed more hours than it could provide), and – most importantly – each kid is different and sometimes even the same kid’s needs change from year to year.

So here I am, with 6 collective years of preschool under my mommy belt, once again looking at a whole new place for my 2 1/2 year olds’ first preschool experience next fall.

I have to say, Jessica’s experience makes me feel like at least I’m not the only one!

Who knew we’d be shopping for preschools with kid number three? But here we are, basically waving the middle finger at our old preschool as we motor past to the new one, all because we recently discovered that we have serious preschool deal-breakers.

And the price tag is one of them.

I felt a twinge of guilt last week when I sat in the playground, filling out the paperwork for the new preschool, the one our wildcat of a four year old will be attending in the fall. But then I looked up at my son zooming down the slide and back down at the monthly fee highlighted on my clipboarded papers, and I instantly felt better.

Obviously, the bottom line isn’t the only reason we’re changing things up. But all the deal-breakers I had the first time around – the stuff that had me wrinkling my nose when we toured preschools, like an older facility and teachers lacking education-based graduate degrees – don’t really matter anymore.

Five years ago, we were impressed by an immaculate facility with its hand-painted murals, coded entry, sprawling play sets and child-sized garden plots off each classroom. We approved of the emailed notes sent home every day by our kid’s teacher, and we thought the academic-based curriculum was important, even though socialization was the actual point of preschool.

For the privilege of sending our son here twice a week from about nine am to just after lunch finished at one, we paid $315 every month.

Our preschool priorities were: nice facility, educational curriculum, involved director, highly qualified teachers, good parent/teacher communication, great location and reasonable price.

When our second child was ready for preschool, we went back to the same school. Easy peasy.

Because of the August birthday craziness that completely messed up our preschool/kindergarten scheduling with number three, it’s been a while since we shopped preschools. We hadn’t planned on shopping at all, actually. Why would we?

Well, because Read More

I’ve got to start today with a warning: this is a LONG post. (If you want to skip straight to the mattress I finally ended up with – and LOVE – and the limited time offer for MPMK readers of 10% off and a bonus worth $500 that includes my favorite bamboo sheets, go here!)

It’s one I’ve been wanting to write for a long time and is packed with so much good stuff that I just couldn’t trim it.

I know it’s a lot but I really hope you do read it all! I have become so passionate about the importance of sleep– especially for us parents who never seem to get enough!

Studies from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services show that if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change…

This is a BIG deal for all of us trying to maintain our cool with our kids and create a peaceful home.

Sleep has a big impact on our physical health too. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity.

Finally, actively prioritizing sleep for yourself and your family sets a critically important example for your kids and sets them down the path for better health too.

This is imperative because children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.

 Hopefully I’ve convinced you about the importance of sleep!

Here’s my story…

Since I was a teenager I’ve dealt with two chronic health issues: back pain and insomnia.

Chronic Low Back Pain

The back pain started with a sports-related stress fracture. Once that healed and the physical therapy was done, it seemed that area of my body was just always going to be weak.

A very long story short… over the past 18 years I’ve had multiple MRIs, several herniated lumbar discs, a couple of steroid injections in the surgery center and many, many rounds with physical therapy, therapeutic massage, and the chiropractor.

Not surprisingly, with each of my three babies the back problems only got worse.

My daughter, S, had to be induced after she shifted in the womb, placing pressure on my lower back in just such a way that it made it impossible from me to stand up straight or walk. (I can still remember the confused look on my 20-month-old son’s face as I pushed myself around our house stooped over our wheeled office chair and then disappeared to the hospital for two days to have his little sister.)

On Father’s Day when my son was 3 and my daughter was 1, we were heading out to lunch. I took a step out of the house and into the garage, felt the familiar stab of pain, and knew my husband was going to be spend his special day taking care of me instead of being celebrated.

I also went through several weeks of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment after having our third child, M.

I had to learn special ways to bend down to pick him up and to hold him when breastfeeding, but we got through it.

Then early last year, when he was just over a year old, I had an especially bad episode (see the photo of me and my walker below).

Steph

That time, I ended up getting my second steroid injection performed in our hospital’s surgery center by a spinal surgeon. It did wonders for my pain and healing… after about two weeks of being out of commission.

During that time, between injury onset and the beginning of pain relief, my 6-year-old, 4-year-old, 1-year-old and I made it through the day with some truly ridiculous routines.

These involved me literally crawling up and down our stairs, having my oldest help to lift the baby in and out of his crib, and having my 4-year-old help me walk the baby up to our SUV, get him up and in, and then hoist him into his carseat on her own so I could buckle him in.

So there’s that.

 

Insomnia

And then there’s the insomnia, the root of which is less clear. It didn’t really become an issue until college and grad school.

I spent so many nights helplessly watching the clock thinking, “If I fall asleep now, I’ll still get 5 hours of sleep… If I fall asleep now, I’ll get 4 hours of sleep”. After a few nights of this, my body would inevitably crash and either mercifully readjust or the cycle would start again.

Eventually, thankfully, I developed a series of strategies to deal with my insomnia. (Cue the angel choir here!) Read More