mindful living, effortless style

*The post is sponsored by one of my long-time favorite kids’ design shops, pop & lolli. MPMK users can get 15% off entire order using the code: MODERNKIDS15, coupon expires Dec 15th, 2015!


Christmas is such an enchanting and joyous time when you have kids in the house. I look forward to it all year, especially Christmas morning. There’s just nothing quite like the face of a child when she catches her first glimpse of the shiny gifts Santa left under the tree.

What I don’t love, however, not at all, is having those same gifts strewn all over the house for, what seems like, months once Christmas is through.

Last year my dad, affectionately known around here as “Papa J”, had a truly wonderful gift idea that dealt with the problem perfectly… Huge and oh-so-impressive wall decals.

My kids were over the moon when they received them and- guess what- once they were up on their walls there was nothing for me to keep tripping over or stubbing my toes on. Yipee!!

The only downside? The decals were a bit of an eyesore (think licensed TV characters on a very big scale) and once they were up, they were up.

In my son’s case, this meant some very obvious air bubbles behind the decal that couldn’t be smoothed out. Also, when my daughter decided she wanted to re-arrange her room a few weeks later she had some rather large focal points she had to work around.

Enter one of my all-time favorite shops, pop & lolli.

What makes this decal shop so different from the rest? Three things:

Gorgeous fabric and reusable wall decals for kids' spaces- I love them all! Such a great impressive gift that doesn't add a bunch of clutter to the house too.

#1 The Decals are Made of Fabric and are Reusable

This is huge for so many reasons. First, they can be moved! Second, the fabric decals have a much higher end look than their vinyl counterparts. Third, they’re made in the USA, non-toxic, eco-friendly, and all around kid-safe.

Gorgeous fabric and reusable wall decals for kids' spaces- I love them all!

#2 They’re Gorgeous

The oversized decals are so very rich in detail and vivid colors, it’s impossible not to be entranced. I also love that the themes of the collections create a complete immersive environment and provide an opportunity for kids’ expression and exploration.

The mix-n-match designs are also wonderful for creating just about the most amazing, and unique, playroom or kids’ room ever.

Possibilites include…

Gorgeous fabric and reusable family tree wall decal for kids' spaces- I love the whole collection!

I’m especially a fan of the new designer collection by Sarah Jane, an illustrator and designer who’s work has graced the walls, book pages, and textiles for children all around the world.

Gorgeous fabric and reusable world map wall decal for kids' spaces- I love the whole collection!

#3 They Help Do Good

One of the things I appreciate most about pop & lolli is their commitment to give back. With every set of decals purchased, (it’s) Chic 2 Change provide educational materials and resources to positively influence children in need.

I’ve always been smitten with the designs of these high-end decals (and now wallpaper too!). In fact, I covered pop & lolli in MPMK’s very first week of being nearly 5 years ago.

Needless to say, I’ve been a fan for a long time. If you’re looking for a great “Wow!” gift for under the tree this year. I highly recommend these magical fabric stickers.

MPMK Readers can get 15% off with code: MODERNKIDS15 until 12/15/15

I am not a morning person. Anyone in my family (or extended family) can attest to that.  In fact, I know this sounds crazy… but getting up early is one of the things I dreaded most about having children.

I mean, I am a CHAMP at sleeping. I can sleep until late afternoon if no one wakes me up.

But alas, they do. Every. Single. Morning.

And now that the school year is in full-swing, there’s just now way around it.

The good news? I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. Tricks that help even the worst mornings run more smoothly (and that’s a feat!). And today, I’m sharing them… so we can all reclaim our mornings and our sanity.

  1. Keep breakfast simple: My husband has a thing for big breakfasts. Whenever he’s in charge, he goes all out. Waffles. Pancakes. You name it. That’s great for weekends, not so much for school days. We all want to send our kids to school with a full belly and lots of protein. So stick to what you know works. We stay away from cereals in our house, but we love scrambles eggs (make them in the microwave to save time) oatmeal, fruit and toast. Keeping the fridge stocked is also a must in this department.
  2. Wake up before your kids: This may sound like a no-brainer. But waking up before your kids (even just 10 minutes, if you have an early-riser) is so important. We Moms can be tornadoes of efficiency before the kids are awake. Take the time to get a few things done, and double check your to-do list. I often take a last minute glance to make sure I’m not missing anything on the school calendar (like Picture Day).
  3. Pack lunches in advance: I always pack my kids lunches the night before. And sometimes I pack in bulk. If I am making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sometimes I’ll just make ten and freeze them. (Did you know they freeze beautifully? Who knew, right?!) Make sure that everything in their lunch box is good to go, and set it in the fridge until morning. And if your kids buy their lunch? Put their money in a special place in their backpack, so they can’t “forget” it.
  4. Have a designated backpack station: We don’t have a mudroom in our house (jealous of those of you who do!) but I don’t let that stop me. I have a small place in our kitchen that I set backpacks, jackets, nap mats and shoes the night before. It’s right by our back door so they can grab and run. Anything extra that’s supposed to go (like show and tell items) go right there, too. You can even take this one a step further and load the car the night before.
  5. Pick outfits the night before: You guys, this is clutch. Especially if your kids are old enough to dress themselves. (If they don’t need help picking an outfit? High fives all around.) But if they do, be sure to lay their outfits out the night before so they can get dressed with no questions asked. And Moms, this goes for us, too! Pick your outfit the night before. I have a small section in my closet marked with a ribbon, so I don’t even have to think. Just grab.
  6. Empty the dishwasher the night before: This one changed my life! Do you know how much easier it is to quickly tidy up the kitchen when the dishwasher is EMPTY? We don’t have a lot of time to get those kids out the door, and the last thing we want to do is come home to smelly scrambled egg plates on the counter (bleh). If you run your dishes right after dinner the night before, and empty them right after the kids go to bed…you’re ready to go for the morning. So simple.
  7. Mentally adjust your clock: This one took me a long time to learn. If you think the kids should wake up at 7:30? Wake them up at 7:15. If you think you need to get out the door by 8:15? Get out the door by 8:00. I guarantee it, this will save you LOTS of heartache (and bickering) in the long run.
  8. Have some Mom time: We already talked about waking up before the kids.  If you can, get up even earlier and take that time for yourself. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) in silence. Read a chapter of your favorite book. Return a few emails. We all know that Mom sets the tone of the house, so if Mom is happier when the kids get up…guess what? They’ll be happier, too. And everyone moves faster when the mood is positive. What’s that saying? You can’t pour from an empty cup? Make sure yours is full and your whole day will run more smoothly. Promise. 
  9. Check the weather the night before: I used to be so bad at this (not gonna lie, I still am at times). If there’s a cold front coming through, I’m the last to know about it. And it’s usually not until we open the door to leave for school. If you can get into the habit of checking the weather the night before, you’ll know to set out the coats, jackets, or umbrellas. And you ALL will be dressed appropriately.
  10. Make it a team effort: Mom doesn’t have to be the drill sergeant. If your kids know what they are each responsible for, they’ll know what’s expected of them. Encourage kids to help each other in them mornings, and praise them when they do. Remind them that you are all on the same team, and when you get out the door on time… reward them!
  11. Have a little fun: Kids love games. And even the simplest change, like starting a timer, can add a little excitement to their morning. We don’t do this every morning (or else it would lose it’s appeal) but when the kids are especially sluggish, I’ll introduce a game. Encourage them to beat the timer, or tell them that the first one dressed and ready gets a treat. Mix it up and make it fun. It’ll keep them on their toes.
  12. Do your best to stick to bedtimes: It may not seem like it, but SO MUCH of your morning depends on the night before. This has been so true for my family. When I get them to bed on time the night before, they wake up so much easier. On mornings after long nights (like baseball games, etc.) the mornings are simply terrible. Nothing is worse than a cranky child due to lack of sleep. And Moms this goes for us, too. Make sure you get your rest so that your team has a well-rested captain.

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

Did you know today is National Oatmeal Day?

As part of our official role as a member of The Oat Authority, we’re once again teaming up with The Quaker Oats Company to offer you lots of simple ways to get a nutritious breakfast each morning. Plus, a really fun giveaway for 10 lucky MPMK readers worth over $110.

Here’s our food contributor, Natalie, with the details…

Oatmeal is a breakfast staple for so many families and it’s not hard to see why. It’s packed with nutrients, customizable and satisfying. Today, both Quaker and MPMK are making it our mission to help you send the family off with a nutritious oatmeal breakfast each and every morning in the quickest ways possible.

But first, let’s talk giveaways. Quaker believes that everyone should begin each morning prepared for everything that lies ahead. That’s why as part of the company’s new “Off Your Go” campaign, in honor of National Oatmeal Day, Quaker is giving away up to one million bowls of oatmeal to people across the country– online, on their way to work, or even at their doorstep- to help provide people across the country with the best starts to their days.

  • Commuter Sampling – Street teams will be handing out Instant Quaker Oatmeal Cups to morning commuters in select cities including: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
  • Doorstep Drops – Residents will wake up to find Instant Quaker Oatmeal pouches at their doorstep with their newspaper in cities from coast to coast. (How cool is that?!)

Here’s how you can get involved:

Win Your Own Quaker “Off You Go” Kit

10 Lucky MPMK readers are going to get a Quaker “Off You Go” Kit valued at over $110!

Each kit contains a variety of Quaker products to help get you and your family off to a great start with oatmeal in a super cute heart shaped bowl plus a reusable jute tote to pack all your on-the-go items (don’t forget to include our oatmeal to-go bars below) and a set of Quaker recipe cards for morning meal inspiration.

Last but not least, winners will also receive an instant photo camera and magnetic cable photo holder so you can capture and display your “Off You Go” moments. (Don’t forget to share on social media too using #NationalOatmealDay.)

How to Enter

Simply leave a comment on this post telling us how your family prepares each morning to take on the day ahead. Giveaway ends November 1, 2015. Note: This giveaway is solely administered by MPMK.

Now that you’ve got the goods, we want to do our best to make sure you keep up the nutritious breakfast habit. So we’re making it easy.

Here are four super quick and easy ways to have oatmeal for breakfast. Whether it’s making it the night before, eating it on-the-go, or spicing things up with some inventive new toppings, there’s something here for everyone.

1. Traditional Soaked Oatmeal

Basic Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Quaker Steel Cut Oats
  • 1-2T yogurt/whey/vinegar/lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk


Soak oats and 1-2T yogurt overnight in enough water to cover. Drain in the morning. Bring milk to a boil and add oats, cook until thickened to your liking. Add mix-ins (see below).

Makes 4 servings.

2. Baked Oatmeal To Go

This is truly a grab-and-go breakfast if you bake it the night before- all the work is done ahead of time! Read More

It’s time for another “MPMK Gift Guide Glimpse”… For those of you not exactly sure what I’m talking about, this is a day when we highlight one of our favorite sections of the:

 2016 MPMK Gift Guides


Because I realize that our MEGA gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more divided into 15 themed guides takes some concentration to get through.

I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.

So this year, I’m trying to help you navigate the guides by highlighting some of my favorite parts.

Over the next few months, I’ll be stopping in every once in a while to showcase a favorite section from one of the 15 guides. (Note this is not even a full guide, but simply a sub-section of one of the guides.)

My hope is that it will help you find the perfect gift for under the tree! Today we’re talking S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Year after year this is our most popular guide. In fact, just this morning I received this email:

Just wanted to say your gift guides are the best! I found your site after looking up “best STEM toys” on Google! :-)

Paige P

I totally get it, I love each and every one of the high quality educational toys on this list (as do my 7-year-old son, 5-year-old daughter, and 19-month-old baby!)

And the sub-section we’re spotlighting today, Robotics & Technology, is especially sure to delight. Kids are amazed by these high-tech and super engaging toys. Parents are won over by how these picks will help prepare kids for the tech-focused world they’re growing up in.

Again, this is only one small section of the Best S.T.E.M. Toys for Kids Guide. You’ll definitely want to check out the whole thing for more awesome finds, including many of the top 10 from all 400+ of our picks this year.

Don’t forget – you can also check out all 15 of our 2016 Gift Guides here!

Ready? Here we go…

Robotics & Technology

Robot Turtles Game $24.99 (4 – 8 years)

As one of the only products out there with the real ability to get preschoolers and kindergartners interested in programming, this was the new toy/game I was most excited about adding to the gift guide last year! The most backed board game in Kickstarter history, it sneakily teaches preschoolers the fundamentals of programming, from coding to functions, while making silly turtle noises. Takes seconds to learn, minutes to play and provides endless learning opportunities. This game has been featured by NPR, Bloomberg, Make: Magazine, Boing boing, TechCrunch, Reddit, Geekmom, Geekdad and essentially lets kids write programs with playing cards. One reviewer wrote, “There are no winners/losers. (You could make a competition out of it with several kids, seeing who can make the shortest program/have the fewest bugs/etc., but it’s not set up that way.) But it does teach kids the basics of how computers think… Once he got the hang of it, we just let our son go nuts with it. He makes up his own boards and then “writes” a program to solve it. Finally, something he can play by himself that doesn’t have a ton of annoying noises/beeps/music!”

Robot Claw $9.99 (3+ years) 

I picked this up on impulse while birthday shopping for my son a few years ago.  So glad I did – it was a HUGE hit. I’m not sure why I included it on this list exactly, except that the kids love it and it seems like a natural gateway toy to wanting to explore robotics.

Hexbug Playsets starts at $17.49 (3 – 14 years)

Hexbug Nanos are robotic creatures that behave like real bugs.  These simple little guys run on vibration alone and are a great introduction to the world of robotics.  Beyond that, the flexibility of the multiple tracks allow for unlimited building options that will flex your kids’ engineering muscles. Reviewers report that any kid who loves train tables, hot wheels, and the like will get hours and hours of fun out of this toy and I’d have to agree! My son got the highly rated Hexbug Hive Playset when he was 5 and still loves it – it’s also a toy that goes over particularly well during play dates. The Hexbug Nano 5 sets are a great addition to extend the fun to more players too!

Amazon Fire HD 6 Tablet $99.99 – $119.99 (5+ years) with Amazon FreeTime Unlimited Subscription (3 – 10 years) and protective case $23.99.

(Note: I would also now recommend the Amazon Fire Kids’ Edition $99.99 as a more budget friendly option. Although the tablet is not HD, you get a year of FreeTime Unlimited plus a protective case and 2 year warranty against accidents for the same price as the Fire HD 6 without those extras.)

Why Our Family Loves It

1) State-of-the-Art Parental Controls

By far, my favorite feature of the Fire- and the ultimate reason that I feel it is superior to other tablets for kids – is the state-of-the art parental control features. The flexibility of these features is unparalleled in my mind and I so, so appreciate that I can set the different profiles for each of my kids and forget them so that the tablet can be the bad guy in terms of telling the kids that they can’t do something or that it’s time to shut it off. Along with setting which hours during the day the Fire will turn on for each child (e.g. 8:00 am to 5:00 pm each day), I can also set specific time limits for each kind of activity- i.e. 20 minutes on apps, 30 minutes reading books, and 0 minutes for TV/movies each day. I can also set up educational goals, such as reading for 40 minutes each day, that have to be achieved before other things like apps can be accessed.

2) Amazon FreeTime Unlimited

The second thing that really sold me on the Fire is Amazon FreeTime Unlimited … As a parent who is already a little apprehensive about tablet time for my young kids, I am extremely picky about what apps they’re engaging with while they are using them. Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is an all-in-one subscription for kids that offers unlimited access to thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games and, for the most part, I’ve been really impressed with them. It’s a very easy way to get my kids new content that I feel I can trust. Plus, there’s a new kid-safe camera app that allows them to take pictures and edit them by adding stickers, drawings, and more. Parents can view photos and videos taken by their children in a separate photo gallery, and have the option to auto-save to Amazon Cloud Drive. Finally, while in the FreeTime app, kids are unable to access the internet, social media, or email and are also unable to make purchases on their own.

3) – Open Platform

The third and final thing that the Fire has going for it is that it’s a true tablet and, thus, an open-system. That means that unlike other kids’ tablet, I have full control over the apps that are loaded onto my kids tablets. If there’s a FreeTime Unlimited app that I don’t want them to haveI can easily delete it. Conversely, if there’s an app that I do want them to be able to use, like Minecraft or an awesome new educational app I saw on pinterest, I can download it to the device without a problem.

Makey Makey $49.95 (9+ years/ younger with help)


Invented by a couple of MIT students, the Makey Makey can turn virtually anything into a remote/game controller for your computer. Again, the video explains it best but think using your entire staircase to play a piano program or playing a videogame with a controller you made of paper and play dough. Just use the alligator clips and the Makey Makey to connect whatever you can think of to your computer and go!

3D printer $499.00 (10+ years)

Ever since hearing Wired editor and bestselling author, Chris Anderson, speak on the new industrial revolution that’s under way and what it’s going to take to raise the next generation of innovators, I’ve had the idea of buying my kids a 3D printer percolating in the back of my head.  Although definitely an investment, Anderson quite convincingly argued that buying our children a 3D printer is tantamount to our own parents buying us our first computer. Why? Because with this one device anything our kids can imagine, they can literally create. Anderson effectively convinced me that this thing could open up a whole new world of innovation and possibilities for my children.

3D Pen $89.98 (8+ years)

If you’re not quite ready to make the investment for a 3D printer, this 3D pen is a nice introductory option. If you’re unfamiliar with these, a quick web or youtube search will bring you up to speed. One thing to note is that they can get hot so adult supervision is required for young kids. From the manufacturer, “3D printing pen replaces ink with plastic to create 3D objects. It can be used to draw in the air as well as tracing objects on paper.” One reviewer wrote, “Since my children LOVE LOVE LOVE to draw I thought these would be perfect! Package comes with the pen, three colors of filament, a spatula and a power cord. It has a very easy start up. I love that I can see the temperature and adjust it accordingly.The product was easy to use and has a button to make the filament go in and out of the pen easily. My children have created many designs but I cannot wait to see what the future holds for their imagination combined with this awesome printer!

OWI Robotic Arm Edge $38.00 (10+ years, younger with adult supervision)

For the kid who is starting to get serious about robotics, this is a great staple kit and a really good price. It’s also a great project for kids and parents to do together.

LEGO Mindstorms EV3 $349.95 (10+ years)

This set is beyond my kids ages right now but it won an Oppenheim Platinum Toy Award and I found their review compelling so I’m going to quote it here, “LEGO is rolling out a completely revamped version of the robotics kit for a new generation of kids. Knowing how essential smart phones have become, the new design enables them to operate their robots via their phones. The set comes with 17 suggested builds with three different levels of programming. Comes with a hefty price tag – but if you think of this as an after-school program in robotics, it seems more approachable.”  If your school doesn’t have a robotics program and your have interested kids in robotics and programming, I like the idea of getting together with a few like-minded parents and buying this as a joint gift for your child and a few of their friends to share.

LittleBits Electronics Cloud Starter Bundle $99 (12+ years/ younger with help)

New to our list last year, the LittleBits bundle is kind of revolutionary. I highly recommend you watch the video here to get the full idea, but basically this starter kit will let your child operate any real world thing using the internet (one of my favorite examples was a balloon with the word “ego” that inflated a little more every time an instagram account was liked).  This is an amazingly open-ended tech toy and the possibilities for older kids are quite literally endless.

Continue Reading the Best S.T.E.M. Toys for Kids (and share it with your mom friends- they’ll thank you!)

*Post contains affiliate links.

Don’t forget – you can also check out all 15 of our 2016 Gift Guides here!

What do you do when your fifteen month old refuses to walk? Like, refuses to even try and gets all pouty and indignant when we clap our hands and call to her, before scooting away on her little diapered bottom?

I checked with Dr. Google, and while lots of babies take those first wobbly steps around their first birthday, she’s still in the “perfectly normal” range, so phew. But what is the hold up here?

Not one of our kids walked early – none of this before-the-first-birthday stuff at our house. And while I can remember exactly when our oldest first walked – he was 13 months old, and I know because I happened to catch it on video, so thank you, handy time stamp – I’m a little foggy on the other two. Still, I’m pretty sure it was around 14 months.

If I’m being honest, I figured we’d have an early walker with number four, just because she has so many little role models running around. But no.

We have a late bloomer on our hands.

The thing is, Read More

I don’t do a lot of fashion posts, especially centered on sales, simply because they usually don’t have a lot of longevity. This one is different.

In the spirit of the capsule wardrobe movement, I present to you the perfect Minimalist Mom Wardrobe, in only 21 pieces.

Every piece here is a proven winner– that shirt, cardigan, hoodie, and pair of jeans that you’ll reach for again and again. The ones that you love to wear and can be worn a millions different ways. These are the items that keep us comfortably chasing the kids all day- cotton, denim, and sneakers- done in such a laid-back-chic way.

The result is a high-performing, workhorse of a wardrobe that will give you an effortlessly cool look every day of the week.

Oh, and have I mentioned yet that some of it is even on sale?! (Honestly, if you’re reading this post months from now, though, and the sales are over- each and everyone is still well priced and totally worth it at full-price too.)

I know it may be hard to believe but just these 21 pieces = The Ultimate Minimalist Mom Wardrobe.

Ready? Here we go…

3 Styles of Super Soft Vintage Tees


I have no time for fabrics that wrinkle, snag or- heaven forbid- need to be dry-cleaned. I’m a cotton kind of girl. I like it a little distressed, very soft, oh-so-comfy and casually chic.

I’ve done my fair share of searching for the perfect vintage tee, which I finally found at Loft. They’re tees are the perfect blend of broken-in but still fitted, soft and stylish. And I love all the different cuts they come in. If I had to pick one outfit to wear for the rest of my life, a Loft tee would definitely be part of the ensemble.

#1 Loft Vintage Broken In Tee: On Clearance $22.50 $7.99

My absolute favorite! The neckline is very flattering and I love the slight scoop of the hemline. At this price I’d highly recommend stocking up in every color.

#2 Loft Vintage Broken In Top

I like going with long sleeve tees once the weather gets cooler but I’m really not a fan of how basic most look. This is such a nice solution with a unique split neck and versatile roll cuffs for interest. It’s a great piece simply paired with distressed jeans or joggers and layers really well too.

#3 Loft Shirred Split Neck Tee

This is the classic tee gone fancy. With another split neck, dropped shoulders, and longer back, the pretty (and easy to wear) drape of this shirt makes it work equally well at the park or for Mom’s Night Out.

The Only 4 Pants You’ll Ever Need


#1 Madewell Skinny Skinny Jean in Edmonton Wash

Do you hear the angels singing?! That’s because my life-long search for the perfect jean is finally over. I wish I could properly express how much I truly love Madewell denim. Thick enough that it holds it’s shape all day long with just enough give to fit like a skinny jean should. Love. Love. Love. (So much so I bought two pairs while they’re on sale!) The rise is really great too. As much as I try to be fashion forward, I just can’t do the high-rise trend without feeling like I’m wearing “Mom Jeans”. These are high enough that you don’t have to deal with any of the problems that come with low-rise jeans but don’t venture into high-rise territory.

#2 Madewell Skinny Skinny Ripped Knee Edition: On Sale $128.00 $89.88

I’ve realized lately that distressed denim is my favorite kind of denim. Nothing too overboard- I don’t want to look like I just rolled out of bed to come volunteer at kindergarten after all. But a strategically placed tear or rip breaks things up just enough to give them visual interest. It makes me feel like I’m wearing cool girl jeans and not standard mom jeans. So right along with the Edmonton wash Madewell Skinny Sinny jeans, the Ripped Knee Edition is also a must.

Side Note: There is a super wide range in denim price points and I realize everyone has a different amount that they’re comfortable spending on a pair of jeans… for a true steal of a deal on distressed skinny jeans, also check out the Nordstrom SP Black Distressed Skinny Jean: On Sale $56.00 $33.60

#3 Old Navy Womens Low Rise Rockstar Super Soft Knit Jeans in Earl Gray

Recently I was reading a fashion blog (or maybe listening to a podcast with a fashion blogger?) and the point was made that gray goes with everything. I’m really in love with using it as a neutral to take my laid back outfits up a notch and this pair comes with the bonus of supreme softness.

#4 Old Navy French- Terry Joggers

These are one of the few items on the list that aren’t on sale, but they’re still a great value. I just got a pair in charcoal heather and now I really want them in navy heather as well. These pants are so, so comfortable but so much cuter than your standard sweat pant. They’re really versatile too- wear ’em with the tees, sweatshirts, plaid and/or jean jacket featured here.

3 Best Button-Ups


Button-ups are ideal for layering because they can be used in so many ways- under, over, or all on their own.

#1 Old Navy Boyfriend Plaid Flannel Shirt: On Sale $29.94 $16.00 – $25.00

I have always loved a good, roomy plaid shirt- so I’m always happy whenever they’re super hot again (which seems to happen over and over). I was also happy to discover how super soft this version from Old Navy is (especially at that price!). Read More

After getting our famous Christmas Gift Guides out at the beginning of October this year (woot!), I’m kinda on a “tackling the holidays early” roll. Next up- Thanksgiving.

Last year my partners in crime over at Relish! generously put together this FREE 24 page PDF with absolutely everything you need to pull of a fabulous Thanksgiving, including:

  • A full Thanksgiving menu of mouth-watering recipes
  • A complete grocery shopping list
  • How-to sections on defrosting, brining, carving and making the perfect gravy
  • Recommendations and descriptions of 6 “perfect for Thanksgiving” wines
  • An hour-by-hour prep and cooking guide so you’ll be on schedule all day long

Get it all with one click, right here: Thanksgiving Menu Planner. That’s it!

No contests to enter, pages to like, or newsletters to subscribe to – it’s our gift to you. Enjoy!!

Everyday Freezer Recipes eBookP.S. If you like this guide, check out another collaboration from MPMK and Relish!

Our Everyday Freezer Recipes ebook is packed with 50 freezer recipes you prepare ahead of time so your family can quickly heat and eat on busy weeknights – plus 10 full weekly menus, printable freezer labels and shopping lists.

Go here to purchase in PDF, ibooks, kindle, and nook formats for only$6.99.


Gratitude isn’t a new concept for us. 

We’ve talked before about regularly expressing gratitude toward our kids and putting our gratitude into writing.

Do a simple search for gratitude on the blog and you’ll see many ideas for crafts and thoughts about giving thanks.

The benefits of being a grateful person range from being more optimistic, less materialistic and self-centered, to increasing our self-esteem and actually making us healthier.  This is something we should be working on literally every day.

Our contributor MJ created a free printable (Download Here: Family Gratitude Conversation Starters) as a super simple way for your family to get into the thankful spirit this Thanksgiving- and to get you all talking!

It has 27 conversation starters  all about being thankful.  Read More

It’s time for another “MPMK Gift Guide Glimpse”… For those of you not exactly sure what I’m talking about, this is a day when we highlight one of our favorite sections of the 2016 MPMK Gift Guides.


Because I realize that our MEGA gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more divided into 15 themed guides takes some concentration to get through.

I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.

So this year, I’m trying to help you navigate the guides by highlighting some of my favorite parts.

Over the next few months, I’ll be stopping in every once in a while to showcase a favorite section from one of the 15 guides. (Note this is not even a full guide, but simple a sub-section of one of the guides.)

My hope is that it will help you find the perfect gift for under the tree this year and today we’re talking art.

I totally heart art.

Art gets my kids creating and innovating, it keeps them engaged on their own or together (and often helps them work side-by-side without fighting or bickering). Plus the supplies all eventually get used up, meaning these are gifts that won’t add more toy clutter to our home… Yep, I SERIOUSLY heart art.

As with all of the 2016 MPMK Gift Guides, the Best Toys for Art & Craft Lovers highlights lots of open-ended picks that can be used in multiple ways- leading to hours of exploring and creating.

This first part of the guide covers my favorite must-have/most innovative finds.

And don’t forget this is only one small section of theBest Toys for Art & Craft Lovers Guide (you’ll definitely want to check out the whole thing for more awesome finds like the paper flying dragon kit, the sticky mosaic kits, the book & comic book making kits, the fashion kits, the high-tech boogie writing boards, the best art supplies for toddlers and more!)

Don’t forget – you can also check out all 15 of our 2016 Gift Guides here!

Ready? Here we go…

Innovative Art Supplies Every Kid Should Have

Ed Emberely Drawing & Art Books starting at $6.29 (7+ years)

These books are just so cool for kids that have a passion for art because they can use them to teach themselves how to draw all the things they want to.  We started with the thumbprint book, which is great for younger kids, and recently added the animal and vehicle drawing books for my son’s 6th birthday as well as Picture Pie, which incorporates built in stencils and cutting and pasting shapes to make things step by step instead of just drawing. Both my 5 year old and 7 year old are crazy for that one right now.

Crayola Marker Maker $27.99 (7 – 12 years)

This kit is a great way to help kids learn all about color theory in an exciting, hands-on way. It’s also a great way to extend coloring time and get your little artist mixing and concocting along with drawing and coloring. One reviewer wrote, “My daughter is 9 years old and was so excited to get this. She had a blast for over an hour playing around making markers and concocting colors andshe still has plenty to make. What you get is a nicely made and completely contained kit that folds open for use and folds up to carry and store. Then you get parts for making 16 markers including the nib, tube, foam insert, end cap and cap. There are three ink bottles and two mixing tubes. There is a mixing chart as well to use as a guide but you can also create your own color combinations. Coming up with fun color names adds to the creativity. My daughter had a blast making her own markers, labeling them and writing with them. She especially liked watching the ink wick up the foam insert and nib. I like how they are self contained, there is very little chance of making a big mess and parental involvement includes just basic supervision.” To extend your child’s fun even more, also check out the wacky tips version as well as the refill packs.

Crayola Inspiration Art Case $39.99 (3 – 12 years)

This 150 piece art set gets great marks for everything from it’s special looking case that keeps all the components snapped in place to the quality of the art supplies inside. If your child is getting serious about art, this gift will show them you are proud of their burgeoning skills and it’s sure to thrill. My son and daughter seem so much more motivated to create since they received their own art case- and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the attractive case has them always picking up their art supplies and taking care of them with pride.

Crayola Watercolor Colored Pencils $7.51 (3+ years)

These cool new pencils start as extra vivid colored pencils but they also have a secret trick. Add a little water and kids can experiment with all sorts of watercolor effects (with very little mess). These are a great stocking stuffer idea if you have an art-lover at home.

Crayola Oil Pastels $4.37 (2+ years)

With their creamy and vivid colors, kids can tell there’s something extra special about oil pastel crayons as soon as they start using them.  They’re also fantastic for learning about color theorybecause they blend to create true secondary colors.

Crayola Telescoping Crayon Tower $14.99 (4+ years)

This is such a clever (and exciting) way to gift your kids a basic crayon set.  It’s a storage case that expands into a handy dandy dispensing tower with an included crayon sharpener. The grandparents have this at there house and our kids beg to take it out all the time.

Crayola Color Alive Color Action Pages – Minions $5.97 (4 – 10 years)

The concept behind these come-to-life coloring pages is just so cool. And I absolutely love how they merge hands-on creativity with tech. From crayola, “changes coloring forever by blending traditional coloring with a virtual experience. With a special app and crayon, kids can take coloring to the next level, bringing their creations to life”. Wherever kids color with the special crayon will show up as some kind of special effect, like sparkling ice, in the app. Check out the reviews, andespecially the pictures that reviewers have uploaded and you’ll be convinced to try it. (And there are lots of pages available in the characters your kids love.)

Continue Reading the Best Toys for Art & Craft Lovers Guide

*Post contains affiliate links.

Don’t forget – you can also check out all 15 of our 2016 Gift Guides here!

Who says Halloween crafts and activities have to be scary? I absolutely love this slimey, ooey, gooey activity for helping little ones to get in on the festivities. Here’s our contributor Kaley with the detials…
It’s gooey. It’s gummy. It’s like glue. It’s oobleck! I have a soft spot for activities that correlate with children’s books, and this is one of our favorites. After reading about the green sticky goop that falls from the sky in Dr. Seuss’s Bartholomew and the Oobleck, amaze your kids by making real oobleck!

It is one of the simplest activities you can do, and it will keep your kids entertained for hours.

Read More

Our family is still slowly dipping our toes into the world of having school-aged kids. One of the topics that seems to keep coming up when chatting with my mom friends in the same position is that of the cell phone. And, of course, that one topic leads to a bevy of questions.

When are kids ready for one? When might it be a good idea for communication/safety concerns? What rules and limits should be applied? How do we keep our kids, and those expensive phones safe?

When questions like these arise, I’m so thankful I have friends like our contributor Kristin to go to for guidance. Seriously, if you don’t already have friends with kids older than yours, seek some out. They are invaluable!

Today Kristin is teaming up with our latest sponsor, and widely trusted protector of all your hand-held technology devices, Tech21, to give us the low down on what’s working for her family

No surprise, she’s got some really helpful wisdom to share…

In the past, technology was always one of those things that scared me.  I remember when the first iPhone came out, I wondered why anyone would pay $600 for a mobile phone.  Fast-forward eight years and every member of our family has a ‘device.’

It was just so easy to be won over by a digital calendar and the ability to have a personal assistant in Siri.

Kids can be entertained (and sometimes even learning) with games and their favorite shows all while traveling in a car or plane.  We can message each other and send reminders.  Life has vastly improved through technology.

But, all you have to do is turn on the evening news to hear about the negative side of technology. Plus, it’s not exactly cheap keeping everyone connected.

How do we navigate this two-sided coin?

Let me start by saying there’s not always an easy answer.  But, with two teenagers and one tween in our house, I do have some experience. I can tell you the systems and processes we’ve used to keep our kids safe and get the most out of our technology. Read More

I’ve got another great read for you guys today and I think what you’re going to love most about it is how super easy and quick it is to get through. Because, let’s face it, as much as we all have the best intentions about reading that super-helpful parenting book, it often just doesn’t get done.

Raising A Rockstar Reader is different though. It is truly one of the most skimmable and easily digested books I have ever read– and it’s packed with really great info. too. Hooray for a great book that will actually lead to some tangible results for my kids!

So what is the book exactly? Read More

Did you know that within each of the 15 MPMK 2016 Gift Guides, there are several mini-gift guides?

Actually, let me back up a second and say how much I’ve enjoyed all the feedback I’ve been getting from all of you on this year’s guides.

As you know if you’re a regular reader here, our mega gift guides are a true labor of love. I spend A LOT of time researching and putting them together.

When the work is finally over and I start to get feedback that they’re truly helping parents to find high quality, engaging and stimulating toys it feels great. So THANK YOU!

All of that being said, I do realize that the gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more takes some concentration to get through.

I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.

So this year, I thought I’d try to help you guys navigate the guides even more by highlighting some of my favorite parts. That’s where those mini-guides I was referring to above comes in.

Over the next few months, I’ll be stopping in every once in a while to showcase a favorite section from one of the 15 guides. My hope is that it will help you find the perfect gift for under the tree this year.

Today I’m starting with the 6 – 12 month old set.

Keep in mind that this is just one section from our Best Toys for Babies and Young Toddlers Gift Guide (0 – 24 months) and be sure to click through for more great finds!

Ready? Here we go…

Ages 6 – 9 Months

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill & Spill Soft Baby Toy $18.43 (6 months – 3 years)

It’s truly mystifying how endlessly entertaining putting things in and taking them out again is to babies. On top of that, these bugs provide lots of opportunities for sensory exploration. They’re multi-textured and rattle, jingle, squeak and crinkle in little hands. All those textures and grip-able legs help develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, plus the self-storing set is great for travel.

Learn & Groove Musical Table $59.99 (6 months – 6 years)

This toy has lots of ways for baby to interact and I love that the legs allow babies to play while seated but later transition to a table they can use standing.  This was a favorite of both of my kids once they started pulling up and at 7 months, baby M was already playing on it while standing with assistance or while sitting on his own on the floor.

Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes $6.69 (6 months – 2 years)

You know those lovely early months when many babies scream just about the ENTIRE time they’re in the car? This musical toy that’s easy to hold and has button big enough for baby to push on his own was the only thing that ever got my kids to stop – it was worth it’s weight in gold I tell ya. It was also great for getting my babies’ attention in times of non-stress.

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Click ‘n Learn Remote $9.74 (6 months – 3 years) 

This looks like it serves a similar function as the Take Along Tunes and also gets great reviews. With this one, baby can learn about numbers, opposites, colors, greetings and first words. Buy one of each and keep one in mom’s car and the other in dad’s just to mix it up.  You won’t be sorry.

Infantino Textured Multi Ball Set $8.92 (6 months – 4 years)

Balls are excellent for open-ended play and motor development for babies and younger toddlers – truly, every child should have a set. The varying textures, colors, and sizes of the balls in this pack make them extra great for sensory engagement.

Babybug Board Book Magazine Subscription $21.95/12 months (6 mos – 3 years) 

Babybug, is a unique board book style magazine full of the highest-quality content available from the world’s best children’s writers and artists. The subscription series progresses to enchanting stories, poems, and activities with Ladybug (3 – 6 years) and Spider (6 – 9 years) and fiction and classic literature as well as nonfiction stories on culture, history, science, and the arts for preteens in Cricket (9-14 years), which means your child may very well become a loyal subscriber for over a decade. Read More

Every once in a while my team and I put together a resource that I am especially proud of– this simple round up is definitely one of those times.

As straight-forward sounding as this list is, Kaley has really done an incredible job of rounding up 30 recipes that are as healthy as they are varied and (most-importantly) uber kid-friendly.

Reading through Kaley’s list I got so excited to try each and every one, and not only for my 1 1/2 year old, but for my 5-year-old and 7-year-old too!

I think you’re going to want to bookmark this one and share it with your friends– ASAP.

There are a ton of resources out there for what to feed your baby when they start eating solids. We even wrote a whole guide to making your own baby food.

But now your sweet little baby has turned one and you are at a loss for what to serve him for dinner.

We’ve got you covered with 30 awesome meal ideas!

Let me start by saying that 95% of the time, my baby eats what the rest of the family is eating. It has been this way since she was about 9 months old.

Unless we are eating something that we haven’t introduced to her yet (i.e. shellfish) or something super spicy (i.e. Thai curry), we all eat the same thing. We will just cut everything up nice and small for her, and on her plate it goes.

I have found that this is the easiest and quickest way to ensure that baby’s palate matches that of the rest of the family, and it discourages picky eating. Plus it makes my life a lot easier, since I am only preparing one meal for everyone.

However, if we are eating something that she can’t eat, or she is eating earlier than the rest of the family, I will usually turn to number one, below, which is a muffin tin meal.

You basically fill each little cup of the muffin tin with a different food cut into little pieces. Think cut up fruits and veggies, tiny crackers, plain pasta, cubes of cheese, etc. I love this because it is so easy to throw together random things from the fridge, and my baby loves it because she likes all the choices.

My six year old still asks for muffin tin meals all the time, so this is something that you can keep in your back pocket for those nights that you need to get the kids fed, fast!

Below you will find my top 30 dinner ideas for a one year old. Many can be made ahead, frozen, and then used in muffin meals too.

They all also work equally well for lunches and snacks. And these recipes aren’t just for babies. Your whole family will love most things on this list!

Last Note: I always add cut up fruits and veggies to whatever I serve baby, and try to stick with what is organic and in season. But I like to keep frozen peas and a few other basics on hand for those times when I couldn’t get to the store.

Read More

The holiday season, and all the fun that comes with it, is here!

Just in case your weekend to-do list has “decorating for Halloween” on the top of it in big bold letters like mine, here’s one of my all-time favorite decor projects.

These Mason Jar Mummy Votives are super, super simple to make and I love that it’s one of those projects you can jump into with the kids without having to commit half a day to completing it.

More MPMK DIY Halloween Decor

DIY Spider Sacks

Mess-Free Pumpkin Decorating

Duct Tape “Wicked” Inspired Doormat

Halloween Paper Bag Luminaries

Simple Outdoor Halloween Garland

Stand-Alone Cheesecloth Ghosts