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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).


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.



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

What’s on your summer bucket list this year?

How about the simple goal of  slowing down and entertaining the kids with some engaging and hands-on activities? And what if you could even check some stuff off your own “To Do” list as well?

Sounds like a good plan, right?

But scouring the web to find activities to fill the days just takes way too long. If you’re like me, you need simple ideas that will be successful for all of the kids – and lots of them.

Activities that will allow for bonding time, but also independent play, and that will keep the kids happy and their brains stimulated all summer long.

That’s where the Camp Mom: Summer Activities Pack comes in. It’s an 86 page PDF I cooked up with a group of the best playtime bloggers around.

And here’s the best part. We’re having a…

Simplify Your Summer Sale!



Buy the Camp Mom Activities pack now and get


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Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide $9.99 for only $1.99!


That’s 80% off my uber popular organizational handbook that has sold over 10,000 copies worldwide.

Simplify Your Summer Bundle:


Regularly $21.98, Now $13.98

Add to Cart


Limited Time Only: Get your bundle now!


Not familiar with the 86 page Camp Mom Activities Pack?

It’s basically what you’d get if you asked all of your favorite teachers, babysitters, and supermoms to make a summer curriculum just for you…

It’s really going to help you make the most of the precious time you have this spring and summer. Plus, the activities are open-ended so they’re great for a wide range of ages. 

Included in your 86 page Summer Activities Pack, you’ll find:


4 Comprehensive Theme Weeks

Each including playtime activities, ideas for getting out of the house, and reading lists:

  • Water: Splash and Play
  • Art: The Earth Without art is just “Eh”
  • Nature: Explorers in Your Own Back Yard
  • Bonus: Sensory Play Any Day theme with a printable list of ideas you can refer to any time you need an activity QUICK that will engage the kids and keep everyone happy. The Sensory Play section also includes links to loads of sensory activities that rank as favorites with our kids.

Planning Printables

  • Bucket List – Make sure you don’t miss something you REALLY want to do.
  • Summer Routine Sheet – Combine your tasks and the kids activities.
  • Theme Adventure and Activity Planner – You won’t forget what supplies you need.
  • Summer Survival Sheet – Keep your most important data in one spot.


Camp Mom: an 84 page PDF download put together by the best playtime bloggers around - full of activities, reading lists, crafts and adventure ideas for making the most of your spring and summer break!

In total the pack contains 45 detailed play activities as well as TONS of bonus ideas and resources.

Along with the planning printables, activity instructions, adventure ideas, and reading lists – we’ve also included bonus sections to ensure your summer runs smoothly.  Topics include:

  • How to Plan for a Mindful Summer
  • How to Keep the Peace Between Siblings
  • How to Put Together a Basic Summer Art Supplies Kit (Plus 20 more art ideas using just those basics)
  • How to Get the Most Out of Museum Field Trips and How to Discuss Art with Kids
  • Kitchen Sensory Fun
  • And more!

Don’t wait to get all set for a simplified summer:


Order your bundle today


And don’t forget about the bonus: Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide for 80% off!


Inside this easy 50 page read you’ll find a new approach to starting down the road to a simplified and more organized life.

  • Rather than instructions on how to fold your T-shirts or organize your pantry, you’ll take a look at your daily habits and weekly routines to start thinking differently about how to efficiently spend your time. Along the way we’ll conquer some of the biggest obstacles to living the simplified life you’re yearning for: decluttering, cleaning, organizing, meal planning and more.
  • Customizable strategies for it all.  We’re of the belief that one size does NOT fit all. Which is why the quick start guide is full of resources for a variety of lifestyles, schedules, and personalities.
  • A built-in support network.  Yeah, we know, a support system for organizing? Sounds a little over the top – but you’d be surprised how motivating a facebook group of over 12,000 fellow simplifiers can be.
  • No unattainable goals, only real-life expectations. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that simplifying and organizing is a journey, not a destination.  So we’ve set up our quick start guide accordingly.  By offering lots of different strategies for tackling a problem, we’re arming you with the tools you need to be successful when life changes on you.
  • Bonus Material: We’re also teamed up with our favorite meal planning service, Relish!, to offer everyone who buys the eBook an exclusive 20% discount code – it’ll make dinner prep a snap!

Want a peek inside? Here’s a look at the table of contents and first few pages of the book…

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Here’s what readers have to say about the book…

I have moved over twelve times in the last ten years, once with only three boxes and know the freedom that comes from less stuff. I also know, that less stuff doesn’t equal being more organized, and that is what I love about this book.  I have the clutter down – but the cleaning, meal planning, schedules and overall sense of “got my act together” not so much. POYEL the book goes beyond being inspirational. It’s ACTIONABLE. Filled with simple tips, plans, and steps for any lifestyle that you can put into action immediately.

~ Destri Bumfack, founder of The Mother Huddle


In this crazy, busy world we all crave a little more simplicity and a life full of intention.  The first step to all of that is organization.  Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide breaks down what always seems to be an impossible and daunting task into manageable, bite-sized chunks that are easily applied in your own life.  Stephanie’s friendly writing style makes this an easy read and her brilliant twists on an old theme make for plenty of light-bulb moments that will leave you excited to jump in and conquer whatever chaos plagues you.  I’m coming back to it again and again as I work on my vision for this new year.  From dejunking to meal planning and schedule making there’s so much useful information packed into this one ebook (plus the online resources it connects you with!) —  it will be a resource you’ll keep coming back to as well.

~Amanda Morgan, founder of Not Just Cute


Project Organize Your Entire Life – The Quick Start Guide is more than an ebook, it’s a brand new way of life.  If you’ve been looking for a way to revolutionize your routines and your life with a family, start here.  Steph takes you through the process that worked for her family.  Thoroughly, she also lays out different methods to ensure that you will most definitely find a method that will work for your personality and style.  This is a must-complete process for busy families in 2013!

~Becky, founder of Clean Mama


Don’t wait, get your Simplify Your Summer Bundle now and be fully prepared on the first day of summer!

Simplify Your Summer Bundle:


Regularly $21.98, Now $13.98

Add to Cart


Limited Time Only: Get your bundle now!

As a stay-at-home mom with a baby and preschooler, summer life doesn’t look ALL that much different than my regular mom life.

But it feels different, doesn’t it?

The warm weather, longer hours of daylight, weekday trips to the pool, road trip vacations, and kids filling the library, park and neighborhood streets, all add up to a totally different routine in my mind.

And summer reading is part of that, obviously.

Whether your book is accompanying you to a park bench or a sparkling view of the ocean, here are twenty reads to put on your summer reading list.

From chick lit and parenting wisdom to memoir and stuff sure to make you laugh (#11!), there’s a little bit of something for everyone here:

  1. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. If The Nightingale was your book last summer, this is your WWII book for 2016. Three women – a German doctor, a Polish teenager, and a New York socialite at the French Consulate – will all find their lives intertwined when Hilter goes marching into Paris.
  2. When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This is absolutely my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. Paul is a neurosurgery resident in his final year of training when he’s diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. His memoir is touching, thoughtful, and surprisingly funny. I want to buy a copy for every person I know.
  3. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. The title of this smash-hit debut refers to a Nest Egg or trust fund that four siblings have counted on receiving as the stock market has soared. But when one brother gets himself in legal trouble, thanks to a DUI, the Nest is in trouble and his sibling decide it’s time to confront him.
  4. Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living by Jason Gay. This fun, quick read reminded me a lot of Dave Barry, with witty, laugh-out-loud essays about the banalities of life. There’s also a lot of sweetness and good advice here too, so it’s the perfect thing to take along on your plane flight or for dipping in and out of between swim lessons.
  5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany. How could I leave off the new Harry Potter novel? I was in eighth grade when I first discovered Harry Potter and I was instantly a fan for life. My adult self is no less excited about this new release than my 13-year-old self would have been.
  6. Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life by Erin Gates. If summer organizing is more your thing than spring cleaning, this book will have you dying to fix up your house, and this book is one of the best home decor books I’ve ever read. It’s super accessible, inspirational, and fun – after reading it, I felt empowered, not overwhelmed.
  7. My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Elizabeth Strout is known for her novels that gently explore relationships, and this one looks at the relationship between a mother and daughter after Lucy undergoes what should have been a straight-forward medical procedure.
  8. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. There’s nothing better than when an author you love puts out another winner. From the author of the super-popular Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, comes a romance set at the brink of World War I. If you’re mourning the ending of Downton Abbey, grab this one.
  9. The Year of Cozy: 125 Recipes, Crafts, and Other Homemade Adventures by Adrianna Adarme. Summer is a time to try new things, break out of the normal school-year routine, and tackle adventure, big and small. This book is the perfect way to do all of those things in the cozy walls of your own home.
  10. Too Much of a Good Thing: How Four Key Survival Traits Are Now Killing Us by Lee Goldman. Not to put a damper on your burger grilling, but this book will definitely make you rethink some of the ways you live, and in a good way. This is non-fiction at its finest, with tons of research and science combined with fascinating storytelling.
  11. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. If you just need to laugh a little at how ridiculous parenting and family life can be, Jim Gaffigan is your man. Bonus points if you can get your hands on the audio version since he narrates it himself and you’ll be crying with laughter by page three.
  12. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton. For those who have followed Humans of New York online, you’ll love having this bound copy ready to read in one sitting. Moving, insightful, and hilarious, this is a book that makes you feel happy to be alive.
  13. The BFG by Roald Dahl. Read this classic aloud with your kids and then go see the movie together. You’ll probably need to buy some Frobscottle, er, soda to go with your popcorn.
  14. Maisie Dobbs
  15. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This is one of those books that defy description, but Bone Gap won the Printz Award and was a National Book Award Finalist, so you can trust that this YA book with a hint of the otherwordly, a taste of romance, and a lot of mystery is going to be worth your time.
  16. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. This author shot to fame for her historical fictional title Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with that other Shades of Gray novel), but I’m inclined to think this one, a YA novel about a girl in 1950s New Orleans who grew up the daughter of a brothel prostitute, is even better. Josie is desperate to leave the Big Easy behind, but then a mysterious death forces her to reassess her plans and her relationships.
  17. Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe. If you have a child who is always asking “why” and “how” and you can’t figure out how to explain it, Randall Munroe is to the rescue. And if you’re the person always asking those questions, all the better. This book is definitely for you.
  18. American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. Whether you’re raising girls or boys, this book is a must-read that looks into what social media is doing to childhood, adolescence and a culture where communication means an electronic device, not a conversation (also check out the very excellent Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age).
  19. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. With the movie coming out in June, now is the time to read this international bestseller if you haven’t already. You likely already know the premise – Will is confined to a wheelchair after a chance motorcycle accident, and Louisa is hired to be his caretaker for six months. Buy this one with a box of Kleenex.
  20. A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz. Whether or not you’re a die-hard Jane Austen fan, this is a delightful read about a graduate student who has zero interest in regency’s most famous author until he’s forced to read Emma and discovers that even he might have something to learn. He does an excellent job weaving his own experiences into those of Austen’s six novels and her own life story. Cue up Colin Firth for when you’ve finished!

*Post contains affiliate links

More Summer Reading Resources from MPMK

Free Printable: Summer Reading Scavenger Hunt

12 Month Book Club for Moms

All-Time Favorite Kid Books: Picks for Every Age

Now that summer break is just around the corner (or maybe even here for some of you!), It’s time to start thinking about how to keep our kids active and engaged without resorting to video games and television.

At the top of my list is (rather predictably) outside, unstructured play.

Here’s Julee with one of my all-time favorite set-ups for doing just that

Our yard was one of the top reasons we chose our new house. We have lots of space, a large deck and trees to keep us sheltered from the sun. My goal is to get my kids out there as much as humanly possible in the summer.

I decided to stack the deck in my favor by giving them their own ‘exploration station’ to dig, explore and experiment without hearing a endless rounds of “stop …” from me.

Playtime: Creating an Outside Exploration Station

Turns out, setting up an area for outside exploration is really easy and can be as simple as designating a space and providing a few basic tools.

We took it a step further and designed a space and a plan that will, hopefully, continue to hold their interest over the course of the summer. Read More

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

Having trouble getting your toddler to eat a balanced and nutritious diet? I hear you. Not only has my 2-year-old never met a vegetable he likes, he seems to want to eat nothing but pancakes and waffles morning, noon, and night- it’s so frustrating!

Which is why our contributor, Kaley, and I are partnering up with Abbott Nutrition to tell you all about new Go & Grow by Similac Food-Mix Ins to help toddlers between 12 months and 4-years-old maintain balanced nutrition while they are learning to eat new foods.

Visit the site for information on the product and store locators:

See this page to learn more

The Picky Eater Problem

As moms we all know proper nutrition is the foundation for a healthy life for toddlers. In a perfect world, our littles would happily gobble up nutrient-rich foods like broccoli and sweet potatoes.

As moms we also know that the reality is it can take a while for certain foods to appeal to kids. (You’ve probably heard the often repeated wisdom that a child may have to try something 10 to 15 times before she will like it.)

A Tool Designed to Help

Abbott created new Go & Grow by Similac Food Mix-Ins to help toddlers maintain balanced nutrition while they are learning to eat new foods.

Similac products are based on the latest science and innovation, and Mix-Ins is no different. Each single-serve powder packet has OptiGRO, their unique blend of DHA, lutein and vitamin E that supports brain, eye and overall growth and development. Mix-Ins also offers protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals

All that in a simple powder my 2-year-old will never even know I added to his much-loved waffles and pancakes (Can you hear the angel choir singing?!). I’m telling you…

Go grab your free samples here

Then read on for Kaley’s Nutrient-Packed Pancakes recipe! Read More

Who’s up for a totally free meal plan just in time for summer?!

I realized recently that a lot of you don’t know about one of our coolest freebies here on MPMK.

It’s a deluxe 5 week meal plan that includes:

  • 5 weeks with seven dinner recipes each – no repeats!
  • 5 shopping lists (one for each week), categorized for convenience

And the best part is the meals are kid-friendly, nutritious and not-overly complicated… It’s just what you need for an easy breezy summer.


5 Week Meal Plan


Get your free meal plan here!


Get your meal plan by clicking above and enjoy!

More MPMK Dinner Posts

What’s an Instant Pot? And How Can it Save Dinner Time?

18 Slow Cooker Dinners Your Kids Will Actually Eat!

How to Connect at Dinner: Conversation Starters

Are you guys’ big planters? I have to admit, I never really thought about planting until we moved into our forever home. Now when spring rolls around, I just can’t wait to start adding bold, beautiful colors to the yard via a few artfully designed pots.

In the past my mother-in-law has graciously done my pots for me as an anniversary present to my husband and I. This year, though, my kindergartner’s elementary school was having a massive plant sale so he and I are going to attempt the task together.

I’ll soon be up to my neck in coleus, potato vines, petunias, and snap dragons! Keep an eye on our instagram account for updates and read on for more info. from our contributor Kristin on the method we’re using to ensure big and beautiful plant pots this year!

P.S. Along with getting excited about flowers – I also can’t wait to dig into projects from this book with the kids this summer!

The weather’s getting warm and I’m starting to focus my attention to my yard.  Winter months are great for inside paint jobs and organizing shelves, but spring is a perfect time to spice up the yard!

I used to be a little intimidated by gardening, especially mixing different types of plants AND making them look beautiful.  My thumb tends to be more black than green.

But after looking at this Patio Perk-Ups article on Better Homes and Gardens, I got inspired and turned to the internet and a few friends that love to garden to find out if there was a method to the madness.

A beautiful potted plant looks organic. It looks as though the different types of plants were found like that in nature.

Nevertheless, it turns out that there IS a method!  Seasoned gardeners typically mix three different types of plants together in a pot and the result looks effortless.

Here’s how it works:  You start with a ‘thriller’, add a ‘filler’ and end with a ‘spiller.’  Easy to remember, right?


Get Your FREE Cheat Sheet to Bring to the Nursery

The Thriller

Thrillers are the divas of the plant world.  They are tall and the types of plants that people are drawn to in the rows at Home Depot.

A thriller might also be structurally impressive or just unique in color.  You’ll know when you see a thriller!  Some examples are Ornamental Grasses, Tall Growing Succulents and Cannas.  Start by planting the Thriller first – typically in the middle of the pot.

The Filler

Fillers tend to be billowy and lighter in texture.  They are there to Read More

We’re back today with Janssen’s follow-up post on what it was really like taking her regular old home and turning it into a “smart home”. Did you see her first post on the topic?

Full disclosure: after reading Janssen’s review, I am more than a little jealous that I gave this post to her instead of keeping the Iris by Lowe’s system for myself. I could really use the ability to turn off my son’s star light with my phone after he falls asleep at night.

And a smart fob I can just put on the kids backpack and always be able to know where they are? Amazing.

Here’s Janssen with all the details…

I’ll admit, I was intimidated by the Iris system.

I mean, could it really be that easy to turn my regular house into a smart house?

You guys, it really was that easy.

I couldn’t believe it. I feel like invariably, with an electronic product or something you install yourself, something ends up not working as you expect it to, or you get half-way through and discover that batteries AREN’T included, and suddenly your hour-long project turns into a never-finished product because it’s so frustrating.

Iris was NOTHING like that.

I opened up the box for the Smart Hub and it says “Download the App” and then “Follow the Setup Instructions,” followed by “You are going to love it.”


That pithy and charming introduction immediately put my mind at ease.

I pulled up the Iris App in the App Store, and 90 seconds later it was on my phone and ready to go. Read More

I think you’re really going to enjoy this installment of our column, Parenting Styles. It resonated so much with me and what I’ve experienced this year with both my 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. I’ve found that it can go both ways as far as unwanted attention and it’s something parents don’t seem to know how to address…

Something happened a few weeks ago, and I’m still mulling it over.

My daughter, a first grader, invited us to her classroom presentation, some goats and trolls thing with cute songs and clapping and, somewhat unrelated but still sweet, every child individually announcing reasons they have to be thankful.

We applauded everyone for the usual lists – “my family,” “my house,” “my teacher,” but then, at the end of one little boy’s turn, we heard, “I’m thankful for my girlfriend!”

Around us, parents laughed and clapped as the first graders breathed a collective “oooooh!!” and turned to look pointedly at our daughter, who stood there grimly, eyebrows raised and mouth pursed.

My husband gave me a look that said, I’m going to kill that kid, just as the mother in front of us turned around to coo, “Oh my goodness, that is the cutest thing!”

I tried to smile.

After school that day, we got the scoop: This little boy had been insisting for weeks that our daughter G was his girlfriend. He chased her at recess to give her hugs that she told us she didn’t want. She said she told him to stop it every time, but he wouldn’t and so she just outran him whenever she could.

While my husband instructed her, in all seriousness, to Thai kick his head the next time he bothered her, I had a flashback to a few weeks prior. We were on the playground after school. I chatted with a few other moms while the kids ran off some energy, and suddenly, G made a beeline to me, screaming, “Mom! Mom!” She collided with me, wrapping her arms around me, just as a little boy came racing up.

“Hug, hug!” he shouted, arms already out wide. G turned her face toward me, squeezing tighter, saying “No!”

I put my hand out and spoke without thinking.

“Hey. When a girl tells you to stop, you stop. Do you understand?” Read More

I told you guys last week about my collaboration with Tom’s of Maine as a member of their Goodness Circle. Today, I wanted to share with you about a special collaboration Tom’s is involved in with one of my favorite places in the world – Target.

Have you heard of their Made to Matter – Handpicked by Target Program?

It’s Target’s mission to build strong partnerships with purpose-driven brands in the wellness space to make natural, organic and sustainable products more accessible.

This year, they’re going even further, inclusion in the Made to Matter 2016 program required each brand to meet one or more of 5 criteria:

  1. Reduced waste and packaging to meet the rising consumer demand for eco-friendly products that limit waste. Right now, 50 percent of U.S. waste is comprised of product packaging.
  2. Closed loop systems that utilizes a production system where the excess of one process or product is used to make another product. U.S. waste has tripled since 1960 and the average U.S. resident produces 1600 pounds of waste but only recycles or composts 35 percent of it.
  3. Clean label products that are made without additives and harsh chemicals.
  4. Dietary and allergen restrictions that accommodate the growing commonality of specialized diets and food allergies. According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.
  5. Reduced sugar—plain and simple! In 1822, the average American consumed 45 grams of sugar—the amount found in one of today’s 12-oz. sodas—every five days. Today, the average American consumes that much every seven hours.

“Guests love the Made to Matter collection because it offers them a way to easily discover new products that are better for them, their families and the world around them.”

-Jeff Jones, Target CMO

So once they were hand-picked to participate in the program, what did Tom’s of Main contribute? Read More

Mother’s Day is on May 8th this year.  If you’re like me and don’t have a thing planned, first, no judgement.

We’re all juggling what feels like a million things. Second, we’re here to save the day with some adorable DIYs that your kids can make in just 10 minutes this week.

Maybe your kids will be making them for you or maybe for their grandma or that special ‘grandmotherly’ person in their life.

Either way, the recipient of one of these gifts is going to be awed that someone took the time to make something for them.  Then they’ll think, wow, this is something that I’ll useRead More

Mother’s Day is the perfect time to try a DIY project and I guarantee you’re going to adore this one. I want to make one for every mom I know! Here’s Alli with the details…

I am loving the “make your own mug” trend for two reasons:

1. There’s nothing better than a handmade gift.

2. It’s so amazingly EASY!

I mean, really. The possibilities are endless. I picked up one mug at the dollar store for this project, and I found myself wishing I’d grabbed a dozen.

I decided to go with a line from the Lorde song, “Royals.” You can call me queen bee…

To make, all you need is a mug and a Sharpee (or two). I went with black, and decided to add Read More

Since giving myself the challenge to make our home non-toxic in a year’s time, I’ve been on research overload. Once you really start looking into the myriad of products you and your kids use in daily life, it is shocking.

So much so that I needed a game plan on where to start.

To me, it made sense to start with the products that we come into contact with the most… The bed and bedding we sleep in all night, the lotions and soaps we use directly on our skin, and the toothpaste we use everyday inside our mouths (talk about direct contact).

Around the time I was diving into all of this, I was contacted by the folks at Tom’s of Maine about joining their Goodness Circle– a group of bloggers who are committed to a healthy lifestyle and who love to share their best ideas on the ways we can all take care of our health, community, and our planet.

I knew Tom’s of Maine from when I was a kid. In fact, I think it was probably the only natural product I knew about back then. But looking into the company more deeply, I was so impressed by what I found.

Started in the 1970s, the founders Tom and Kate were thinking about their kids when developing their business:

We want safe products for our kids, and we want to teach them stewardship and conservation. This is exactly how Tom’s began with the same motivation of green parenting.

The company takes pride in their naturally sourced ingredients and they really want you to know about each one of them. So much so that they even go the extra step of putting up a search feature on their website where you can look up each ingredient and see information about it’s purpose as well as it’s source.

Furthermore, Tom’s has a commitment to volunteerism.  5% of employee time is spent volunteering in local communities, and 10% of profits are given to “human and environmental goodness” projects.

After seeing all of this, I was super excited to come on board the #GoodnessCircle! Read More

Don’t you love it when you finally find the tool you’ve been searching for to make things run more smoothly!?

For me that elusive tool has been the perfect budget-priced computer for my kids (ages 5 and 7).

Bonus: We’re giving one away! 

All you have to do is follow these two steps:

  1. Sign up for our newsletter
  2. Be sure to click the confirmation email we send you.

You’ll automatically be entered in the giveaway and, as a bonus, I’ll also send you my Free Report: The 3 Apps I Use with My Kids Everyday (you know, to use on your new Acer Aspire R11 once you win). Official rules at the end of this post.

UPDATE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED – Congrats to our winner Stacy!

Click Here to Enter!


I wanted something that was durable, compact so it would fit on the small desk in our kitchen, and could be used both as a standard computer and as a tablet.

These aren’t just wants, they’re true needs.

Since my oldest started at a STEM elementary school last year, he has homework that involves visiting websites regularly. I want him to be able to get online while hanging out in the kitchen as I cook dinner so I can talk to him about what he’s doing and help out when needed.

But I DO NOT want him to keep using my expensive work computer to do so. It stresses me out and instead of engaging with him over his homework, I spend most of the time nagging him to be careful.

We also make a 17-hour round trip pilgrimage to go see family every summer.

Granted, it is possible to do the trip without a tablet for the kids- but it’s not something I’d want to attempt. We mix things up with car games, audiobooks, etc. but a movie or two during the journey goes a long way in keeping everyone (including me) happy.

So I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect budget computer that can act as both a laptop and a tablet.

Enter the Acer Aspire R 11.

Looking for a budget-friendly laptop/tablet for your kids? This is our favorite!

It has all kinds of kid-friendly features that I really appreciate as a busy mom.

Looking for a budget-friendly laptop/tablet for your kids? This is our favorite!

 #1 It Converts from a Laptop to a Tablet (and everything in between)

It’s a laptop, it’s a tablet. The patented 360 degree dual-torque hinge means the kids can bend it all the way back and it will stay wobble-free while they tap and scroll on the screen.

They can also set it up facing backwards, or “tent” style and use it as a makeshift TV for group viewing. Plus it has up to 8 hours of battery life so we won’t run out of juice while on a trip.

Looking for a budget-friendly laptop/tablet for your kids? This is our favorite!

#1 It’s a Touchscreen Even When it’s in Laptop Mode

The iPhone was pretty much born at the same time as my oldest child, which means all of my kids expect to get tactile with their technology. They know how to use a mouse and keyboard (and those are still important skills to teach them), but they prefer to get their fingers on the screen and can get frustrated when the program their using works that way but the computer doesn’t.

#2 You Can Talk to It

The Acer Aspire R 11 comes all set-up with Microsoft Cortana, the clever personal assistant that your kids can talk to and ask to find and open things for them.

This is actually super-helpful when I’m up to my elbows in dinner prep and they want to start a new program. Currently, their favorite thing to ask Cortana to find new Cosmic Kid Yoga Videos.

#3 It’s Budget-Friendly

I know that it’s super important to raise computer-literate kids, but that doesn’t make the idea of ponying up $1,000 or more for a computer for my kids any easier to swallow! I really appreciate the budget-friendly price of the Acer Aspire R 11 at $350 – $399. Because, lets face it, when all three kids are in school I’m probably going to need more than one!

#4 It’s Durable

I also really love that this convertible laptop was made with durability in mind. Components like the slip-proof texture on the back and base and the damage-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass on the screen, give me piece of mind when I had it over to my kiddos.

Looking for a budget-friendly laptop/tablet for your kids? This is our favorite!

#5 It’s Safe

Remember how I said the kids use Cortana to look stuff up while I’m otherwise occupied cooking? Bing Safe Search is the feature that makes that possible because, even if I’m still only a few feet away, you know there’s no way I’m letting them loose on the internet without a safety net.

Win an Acer Aspire R 11 for your family!

Ready to get one of these bad boys for your family? Entering couldn’t be more simple. All you have to do is follow these two steps:

  1. Sign up for our newsletter
  2. Be sure to click the confirmation email we send you.

You’ll automatically be entered in the giveaway and, as a bonus, I’ll also send you my Free Report: The 3 Apps I Use with My Kids Everyday.

UPDATE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED – Congrats to our winner Stacy!

Click Here to Enter!

The giveaway is open to US residents and open until 9pm PST, April 22, 2016. Good luck!

 Official Rules

This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must enter your name and email after clicking on the “click here to enter” buttons in this post. 1 winner will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on April 22nd, 2016 at 9:00pm PST. The winner will receive an Acer Aspire R 11.  No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

*This post in sponsored by Acer, all opinions are 100% my own.