mindful living, effortless style

Today, I’m going to let you in on a little Father’s Day trick I discovered a few years ago – the free printable.

These simple little sheets will save you so much Father’s Day stress from here on out. No more pulling your hair out, trying to find a sentimental gift that he’ll actually like.

Step 1

Get him the completely un-sentimental gift you know he’ll love. Some of our favorites include:

Step 2

Add any of the following 20 printables lovingly colored or filled-in by your off-spring and you’re good-to-go!

The best part is you can do this over and over again because the way your kids fill-in the printables each year changes and they become great keepsakes in their own right.

Without further ado, here’s a list of our favorite printables with something for everyone from the Geek Dad to the Handy Dad and every Dad in between.

Pictured Above

For the “Super” Dad

For the Handy Dad

Read More

About once a week, usually on Friday night, we have a movie night and some kind of take-out. It’s something for the whole family to look forward to and it’s quickly becoming a highly anticipated family tradition.

What’s not so wonderful, though, is the toll it can take on our wallets (especially now that we’ve graduated beyond the baby food and officially have five mouths to feed).

This has led to a new mini-obsession of mine – the “copy cat” recipe.

Turns out, the interweb is full of genius folks who have done all the hard work for me and figured out how to replicate some of my favorite take out dishes at home, in my own kitchen.

Along with saving us a lot of money, I also really appreciate that even if the meals aren’t what I’d call healthy food, at least I know (and have control of) what’s going into them!

Here’s our resident food contributor, Natalie, with her current top 20 copy cat recipes

Got that urge to pick up the phone and order takeout tonight? Or were you thinking about hitting the drive-thru on the way home? This post may not be helpful if you’ve already called in your food, but don’t leave just yet!

Making takeout food at home is easier than you think. It’s also cheaper, and probably faster if you’ve got the ingredients and you plan ahead.

Read on for a list of our favorite takeout recipes.

American Takeout

New York Style Cheese Pizza

Sticky Chicken Fingers

Copycat ChikFilA Sandwich

The Perfect Philly Cheesesteak

Baked BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Copycat In-N-Out Burger

Tex-Mex Takeout

Steak Burrito Bowls

Avocado Egg Rolls Read More

*I’m a PediaSure SideKicks Partner and am a sponsored blog partner, but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

Are you struggling to get your kids to eat enough fruits and vegetables? You’re not alone!

93 percent of kids don’t eat enough vegetables and 60 percent don’t eat enough fruit. At our house it’s currently the veggies that are the problem. I try and try but to no avail, it’s beyond frustrating and I worry about my kids’ nutrition.

Which is why I was pretty jazzed to get the opportunity to help debut a new product, Pediasure Sidekicks Fruit & Veggie Smoothie mix, that I really think is going to help fill in the nutritional gap for a lot of kids.

It contains powdered dried strawberries, bananas, apples and sweet potatoes and is designed to be mixed with milk (or a milk substitute) to create a super quick and easy smoothie that will serve up a full serving of combined fruits and vegetables.

Here’s what really got my attention – it incorporates four essential nutrients that many kids are missing; Fiber, Calcium, Vitamin D, and Potassium.

And here’s what else I love – it can be used for even more than smoothies. In the coming months we’re going to highlight some of our favorite uses for the mix you might never have thought of.

Today we’ve got a yummy energy bite recipe the kids are sure to love.

It has only 5 ingredients but, thanks to Pediasure Sidekicks Fruit & Veggie Smoothie mix, is packed with nutrient, fruits, and veggies. (Hooray!)

Here’s our contributor, Kristin, with the full recipe.

Getting out the door in the morning is hard enough on it’s own.  Much less figuring how out to do so while getting some nutrients in your kids in the process.  Every morning I’m struggling to come up with options for breakfast that my kids will eat.

The trick is Read More

Image Credit: © Eden, Janine and Jim| Doctor Aunt | CC by 2.0

We’ve all been there – cruising along, well into yet another well-check appointment for your child when your ped asks about “it”.

That child-rearing topic (sleep, discipline, vitamins, etc.) that you know you’ve either been slacking on a little or you just don’t completely see eye-to-eye with doc on.

So what do you do? Proudly come clean with a “you wanna tussle?” glint in your eye , fudge the truth a bit knowing you’ve got the situation fully under control, or hang your head, mumble the truth, and wait for your lecture

I’d LOVE to hear your honest answers in the comments, here’s our parenting contributor, Jessica, with her story…

Co-sleeping, the family bed, call it what you want, but we do it.

I just wrote about it, but here’s the gist: our ten-month old has been snoozing in “the big bed,” as it’s called around here, since the day she came home from the hospital.

Our three-year-old makes a nightly trek to join us in the wee hours of the night, so that’s four of us sharing a Cal King. It’s getting a little tight, I won’t lie, and while the three-year-old’s dreamland acrobatics can be disruptive, for the most part, we’re all getting decent sleep.

And that’s our measuring stick. It has been for four kids now.

It’s no secret among our friends, some of whom think we’re crazy (and back at you, you sleep training maniacs) and the others who just give us that slow “uh huh” head nod and a look of utter been-there-doing-that commiseration.

But we took E to the pediatrician the other day for her ten-month check-up. And when the doc ran through his little checklist – Breast or bottle? Soft poops, not a constipated baby? Sleeping through the night, and she’s in her own crib now? – I didn’t hesitate.

Breast, with lots of mashed/pureed/pre-chewed food. Oh, and water in a sippy cup. Nope, no constipation issues.

And then I looked him straight in the eye, smiled and lied.

Yes. Read More

If I’m honest, I’ve always thought setting up a birthday gift closet was a pretty unrealistic and over-the-top idea (as evidence by probably the most popular thing I’ve ever written).

But then my son started elementary school and I quickly realized that the number of birthday party invites that come once your child becomes a student can be immense.

Not only is it a stress-saver to always have an appropriate gift around, it can also be a serious money saver if you stock up whenever you see a quality toy on sale.

But how do you know how many gifts (and what type) to keep on hand? Today our resident professional organizer, Annie, is here sharing her signature strategy for setting up a killer gift closet.

And how do you know a high quality toy when you see one on sale? Check out all 350+ of our toy recommendations in our famous MPMK Toy Gift Guides (17 detailed guides sorted by age and interests).

Here’s Annie with the DIY… 

In my experience, parents of young children tend to fall into three camps in regards the birthday party present-prep.

1. They keep no gifts on hand, have no time to shop, and generally find themselves whispering obscenities under their breath when they realize, hours before the big event, there’s nothing in the house to give to little ____. Read More

Image Credit: © Suzette Normand | 07.17.10 191192 | CC by 2.0

The weather is warming up and summer is feeling like it’s just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this summer was free of whining on the kids’ part and yelling on your end?

It’s possible! I’m once again teaming up with my friend and personal parenting guru, Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions, as affiliate and host of:

A FREE Positive Parenting Webinar: Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling

We are only able offer this webinar only 3 to 4 times a year and it’s always enormously popular, often selling out all 1,000 spots so if you want to learn her tricks and use them to enjoy a peaceful summer with your family, now is the time to sign up!

If you’re not familiar with Amy and her Positive Parenting Solutions program, she’s a self-described “recovering yeller” and champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids.

She’s also a frequent guest on the TODAY Show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, and elsewhere.

During the webinar she’ll be sharing a few of her most effective positive parenting techniques and talking all about her positive parenting toolbox (something our family loves).

Here’s a little more info. on the course in case you’ve missed it the first couple of times around… Read More

Talking to your kids – who knew it would be this tough, this early?! I want so badly to build a relationship where they’ll come to me with the hard stuff. But how do I do that when some days even getting what they did at recess out of them is a battle?

Today, one of MPMK’s former contributor’s, Kim (who also happens to be a speech-language pathologist), is going to share with us the best ways to ask our kids questions.

Didn’t know there was a right way? Well there definitely is – it’s the difference between making your littles feel like they’re on the spot and making them feel like they’re really being heard.

This is important stuff when they’re small and becomes absolutely critical as they get older (and you’re dying to know what’s going on in their heads). So take notes now, while there’s still time!

As adults we ask children a ton of questions. Although questions can be a great way to find out about our kids, it’s crucial that we don’t just ask about what our kids know, but instead get to know our kids.

Of course all of us want our kids to know a lot, but getting to know our kids through the right questions allows us to follow their lead, tap into their intrinsic motivation, and help them pursue their passions.

Don’t ask too many.

Too many questions can make our kids feel like the pressure is on. Especially when our children are just beginning to talk.

We tend to play with their language like a newfound toy, asking them to name things, think of animal sounds, and rattle off shapes and colors.

But we often can find out more about our kids, and not just what they know, by simply listening and watching them. If we can be comfortable with quiet and fewer (and smarter) questions, we actually give children space to tell us (or show us) what they want to share.

Build connections.

The simplest questions, like “how was that?” or “how’d that feel?” can be the most powerful questions you ask your child, because Read More

I’ve been meaning to post this video for quite a while (we’re talking months) but – you know – life. 

Now, however, the warm weather is coming and I’m not putting it off anymore. A neatly stored disposable bag or two in the car is a must have during summer – perfect for harnessing wet clothes and suits, sand toys, impromptu picnics, etc.

And this method is pretty great just for keeping your cupboards from constantly overflowing too. Here’s our resident professional organizer, Annie, with the details…

A couple of months ago, we brought you a post about how to store reusable bags.

Since so many of us are aiming to be more eco-conscious, and because reusable bags can be fairly cumbersome, that post has turned out to be a bonafide crowd pleaser. (It’s always the littlest shifts that make the biggest differences, isn’t it?)

Given how popular the original post has been, we thought it only made sense to make the concept of taming your reusable bags even more accessible by way of a little video tutorial.

Check it out and get to folding:

Want more organizational tips and inspiration?

Check out all of our Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life projects!

Some of our favorites:

Car Hacks for Happy Kids

Free Closet Organization Printables (Too Big, Too Small, etc.)

10 Tips for Better Meal Planning

10 Best Ways to Organize Art Supplies

POYEL Quick Tips: Baskets

By this time of the school year, we tend to hit a rut in the lunch department.

Packing lunches Monday through Friday can be a little monotonous.  Sandwiches are our go-to, so when we run out of combinations of ingredients to go on the bread, it’s time to switch things up!

Meet the roll-up!  You can make a roll-up out of just about anything.

Today we’re going to show you how to make two roll-ups with a tortilla and two roll-ups with lunch meat (a great gluten-free option).

And hey, the roll-ups are a perfect idea for those times you forgot to buy bread at the store.  Not that it’s ever happened in our house. Read More

I don’t know about you guys, but sleep (or the lack thereof) is a repeated topic of conversation amongst my mom friends and I.

Thankfully,  I have been blessed with very good sleepers in all three of my kids (Aside from the first 5 or 6 months for each of them and for all naps with baby M. I love him but he totally sucks at naps.)

So while we dabbled in all sorts of sleeping arrangements and practices when the kids were babies – co-sleeping, sleep training, pseudo co-sleeping – it’s not something we have to deal with everyday anymore.

Close friends of mine haven’t been so lucky. We’re talking serious whack-a-mole/insomniac kids, a merry-go-round of sleeping arrangements, and possibly even the involvement of toddler sleep experts and sleep studies.

Here’s our contributor Jessica with her story…

First of all, I really hate that term. Co-sleeping isn’t much better, but whatever you call, it’s what we do, pretty much by default.

As idealistic parents-to-be some eight years ago, we had a plan when it came to sleeping. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, but we did know our baby would sleep in the gorgeous crib on the organic linens and fancy crib mattress we had purchased because where else would he/she sleep?

Babies sleep in cribs. Right? We’d start with the crib in our room to make things easier for those nighttime nursings, and in a month or two, we’d move it down the hall to the nursery once the baby was sleeping through the night. That was the plan.

But, you know, life. Real life.

A real baby and a real couple who were initiated into this club of parenthood with one hell of a hazing. Because guess what we learned really fast.  Read More

As the school year comes to close, I’m looking at my personal time shrink like crazy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love spending the days with my kids at the beach or the pool.  I also love not having to pack lunches.

But, let’s admit it, having my kids home from school means that I may not get a shower before we start the day.  It also means that my hair will look less than stellar.

This summer, I’m looking for hair styles that take 5 minutes or less.

I’m also looking for styles that one-up the basic pony tail.  I want to look cute!  So, I put together…

My favorite 15 summer hair styles that take 5 minutes or less

First off we have The Gibson Tuck by Sara Lynn Paige.  It’s such a classy look and works for short or long hair.

The top knot has definitely had it’s moment for the last few years.  And it’s easy to see why.  They look effortless and cool.  The Top knot by A Beautiful Mess is a perfect example.

If you have very long hair or are looking for more of a polished look, try the full bun for long hair by Forever Amber.   It’s a little different than the traditional top knot.  I love the Audrey Hepburn inspiration.

Some of us may be growing out bangs.  The French braid at the crown by Bravi Online is a perfect solution for looking chic even in the in-between stages of hair growth. Read More

I realized lately I’ve been steadily filing away a lot of things I’ve wanted to share with you but – for one reason or another – haven’t yet.

No time like the present, right?

100 Ways to Be Kind to Your Child

First up is this absolutely fabulous poster, which was created by one of my Camp Mom: Summer Activities Kit co-writers, Alissa of Creative With Kids.

It arrived last week and now resides in a place of honor above the play kitchen in our play/family room (side note: this room looks nothing like this anymore – I will try to update you soon on the changes!)

It’s already such an important piece in our home. Multiple times a day I see it, usually while in the presence of my kids, and take just a second to reflect on the kind of Mama I want to be. Plus, the vintage vibe is really chic and looks great on our wall. Read More

I don’t mean to scare you or anything but, it’s May folks. Summer vacation will be here before you know it – do you have a plan?

Mine is to set up some sort of loose schedule. Nothing too confining but a flexible outline of how any days spent at home are going to go

I’ll have more details later this month, but for now, suffice to say, I’m gathering resources. And this list is one of them. 

Summer is the perfect time to try a science experiment or two from the comfort of your own kitchen and I plan to refer back to this list often over the next four months. Here’s Alli with the goods…

I don’t know about you, but my kids are suckers for a good science experiment. And I’ll be honest, so am I.

I can still remember “experiment day” in seventh grade science class. I mean, who didn’t love a good volcano eruption? Salt crystal formation? And flubber???

One of the best parts about being a Mom (in my humble opinion) is recreating fun memories with your children. And science experiments are the perfect opportunity to do just that.

And here’s the best part: They’re not as hard as you think!

Most experiments will work for kids of all ages, and actually make minimal mess. (Though, sometimes a mess can be a part of the fun.)

But most importantly, science experiments encourage our kids to be curious while discovering the world around them. And who doesn’t want that?

We’ve rounded up a list of 20 Kitchen Experiments your kids will love. Have Fun!

1. Make Elephant Toothpaste: Mix dry active yeast with water and hydrogen peroxide to produce elephant sized foam.

2. Make Rain from Clouds: Make a shaving cream cloud rain by mixing food coloring with water.

3. Make Invisible Ink: Write a special secret note using this mixture made with lemon juice.

4. Make a Tornado in a Bottle: Make your own swirling tornado using water and dish soap.

5. Make Spaghetti Slime: Make a colorful stringy slime. Read More

There are two things I absolutely adore about this simple kid project – No, wait, make that three!

First, it gets the kids outside from start to finish. Second, the results are so pretty you can easily frame them in any room for some easy and inexpensive artwork that will boost your kiddo’s confidence (score!). I’ve been itching to try this send-away framing service and I think this might just be the project for doing it.

And third, it’s an opportunity for learning at home, which we always love. Here’s Julee with the details…

Part nature exploration, part science and part art, making sun prints – also called cyanotypes – is the perfect spring-time activity.

Last weekend, we spent an entire afternoon collecting greenery from our yard, experimenting with making prints and, later, framing our creations for a nature-themed gallery wall in our living room.

Materials for Making Sun Prints

Here’s what you’ll need to create your own sun prints:

  • Light-sensitized paper and an acrylic sheet (we purchased this kit that included both)
  • Large flat surface such as a piece of cardboard
  • Water
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • An assortment of small objects (leaves or other flat items with interesting shapes work best)

Read More

Something I’m always on the lookout for are healthy new snack ideas that I can whip up in a snap.

My kids (and I’ve heard they’re not alone in this) are very cyclical when it comes to food. They’ll absolutely love something – it’s all carrots and hummus, all the time – and then, BAM!, they’re over it. Couldn’t entice them to eat another carrot stick or a dollop of hummus for anything.

Which is why I often find that one day I’ll be humming along, feeling good about the things I’m feeding them, and the next it feels like the only thing they’ll eat is cheese.

Today, my favorite nutritionists – the ladies from Prescribe Nutrition – are here to help.  They’ve kindly rounded up no less than twenty of their go-to healthy snacks for kids. (Hooray!)

If there’s anyone that can do it, it’s these guys. They are both wonderfully knowledgable in the field of diet and nutrition and they have kids of their own to feed so they feel our pain.

Now, on to the snacks! Read More