mindful living, effortless style

Is there anything better than those moments where you snuggle your baby in a rocking chair before softly putting them to bed? Or cuddling with a chatty toddler on the couch on a snowy afternoon?

But some parenting moments are much less pleasant and can have you tearing out your hair, wondering when the real parent is going to show up and deal with these difficult scenarios.

One reason I love books to help me in my parenting is that the book isn’t biased toward my child (either positively or negatively) – if you ask a friend or family member or teacher for advice, they may be inclined to give you advice that’s skewed based on their relationship with your child.

Whether you’re just starting to see early signs of having a spirited child or you’re worn down by the daily frustrations of strong-willed offspring, these eight books are wonderful for helping you make the most of your relationship with your child and guide them in growing into functional, fantastic teenagers and adults. Read More

I’m all about making life easier when possible.

As moms we are juggling a million things and making lunches for school is one of those things that seems like it should be an easy task, but ends up being one of the tasks that I avoid until the last minute.  So here’s what I’ve discovered.

Just like anything else, preparation is key.  You may have seen our serve-yourself snack station over the summer.  I decided to apply the concept to lunch.

If I let the kids have make their own lunches for school, it would be a free-for-all in the kitchen.  I know there would be a huge mess to clean up and it most likely wouldn’t be a balanced healthy lunch.

By organizing a few bins in the fridge and pantry ahead of time, and creating a few rules for their use, I was able to give the kids some independence in packing their own lunch.

They’re walking out the door daily with healthy lunches that I don’t have to pack (or at least help minimally), SCORE!

To set up a serve-yourself lunch station, you’ll need to make a trip to the grocery store every 1-2 weeks, depending on how much you are able to buy and store at home.

You’ll also need to get yourself some handy-dandy storage bins like these.

Below, I list everything else you need to know to set up the stations and get those kids packing their lunches in no time: Read More

Is it just me or does shipping the kids back to school make you crave order and routine???

If simplifying your life by organizing yourself and your family is on the top of your wish list, we’ve got a great news AND a great deal for you just for being an MPMK reader.


Get all 4 of our top-selling MPMK e-products for one amazing bundle price $12.98

That’s 50% off the regular retail value of $25.97!

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The 2016 Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life Printables are Here!

*Note: this is a special bonus pack that includes the last 4 months of 2015 as well as all 12 months of 2016!

I want this to be the year that we all finally slow down and find some extra time to connect with our families and I truly believe these are the tools to help you do it.

Our Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life Quick Start Guide eBook, along with our 2015 – 2016 daily/weekly/monthly planners, cleaning schedules, meal planners, kids’ routine charts, budgeting sheets and more are all designed with you in mind.

They’ll help both you and your kids get your routines down and even introduce the kiddos to important money management concepts including saving, budgeting, and giving back.

We know how busy you are. The goal of all of these printables is not to have to learn a whole new system but simply to help you streamline your everyday tasks. If we can do it with some cheerful colors and pretty fonts – then that’s just icing on the cake!

And once you’re more organized, what are you going to do with all that new-found free time? Use it to make special holiday memories with the kids of course!

Our newest eBook, Hands-On Holidays, is 100 pages full of everything you and the kids will need to have a great time creating, cooking, reading, and adventuring together from October through December.

And the best part is, nearly all the activities are very simple both in their preparation and execution.  It’s all about spending quality time together and being creative in an open-ended way, not running all over town finding obscure craft materials to make a picture perfect project.

In case you’re not familiar with the Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life products, here’s a little more on each of them. (You might want to get comfortable – this bundle contains A TON of great stuff!)

First up is part 1 of The Back-to-School Super Saver Bundle Sale and our most popular product… Read More

*This post is sponsored by QVC but all opinions are 100% our own. Check out #QVC for more info. on the QCard.

I don’t have any children heading off to college yet; my oldest just started kindergarten, so those days are still a ways off for our family.

But my husband’s youngest brother begins his first year of college in a few weeks and even that is pretty much blowing my mind. I met him when he was nine years old, so it is hard to imagine that he’s old enough to head off for university life this fall.

After he graduated from high school, he spent two years abroad, so we haven’t seen much of him in a couple of years, but this summer, we had a family reunion and my girls were just head over heels for their Uncle Andrew.

Five minutes after we left to drive back home, my five-year-old was asking, “How soon until we see Uncle Andrew again?”

Because there’s such an age gap between him and my husband, and the fact that we’ve always lived far away from him, we’ve tried to keep in touch despite the distance.

I suggested to my girls that we put together a care package for him with some fun treats and snacks, some dorm room essentials, and a handwritten card, and they immediately jumped on the idea. Read More

Have you guys ever packed smoothies in your kids’ lunches? I’m so intrigued by this idea – it seems like SUCH a good way to get some much needed veggies into my kiddos’ lunches and I know they’d see it as an extra special treat.

But I wonder about the mess factor – is this really do-able?! 

Our food contributor, Natalie, assures me that it is and she’s here today sharing everything we need to know, along with her favorite tools and recipes.

Frozen smoothies are lunch box staples at my house. They are simple to make and easy grab out of the freezer in a pinch.

Why pack homemade smoothies?

  • Easy way to sneak extra nutrients into your kids’ lunches (especially if you have picky eaters)
  • Cheaper than buying single-serve pouches or yogurt tubes
  • You can make a week’s worth of smoothies ahead of time (or more!)
  • Customizable for school regulations and kids with food allergies
  • They save space by doubling as an ice pack

Read More

So technically I’m taking suggestions here. I mean, I think we’re doing it mostly right, if level of difficulty is any indication.

Because so far, teaching our kids to be responsible little people seems to involve an awful lot of biting my tongue, sitting on my hands so I don’t rush to do something the “right” way, and letting them fall flat on their own little faces sometimes.

I’m all about modeling good behavior. I say please and thank you to my kiddos, and I expect to hear it back. I have expectations for their involvement around the house – keeping their rooms tidy, making their beds every morning, putting away their clean laundry and making sure dirty clothes go in the hamper, putting shoes/coats/backpacks away, keeping track of their own stuff.

So yes, my kids have responsibilities. And those responsibilities are tailored to their ages and abilities. My son doesn’t make his bed the way I would, and they just shove everything into that play kitchen instead of organizing the food and cups and plates the way I do, and they cram clothes into their drawers in a way that defeats the entire purpose of me even folding them, but it’s the effort in these instances, not the results (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

But things get tricky when this whole concept of responsibility extends into them being responsible for their actions and their consequences.

And I’m not talking about wrinkly clothes. Read More

Just in time for the back-to-school season and the crazy mad urge to clean and organize EVERYTHING that goes with it (or is that just me), we’ve got another green cleaning post.

This time our contributor, Kaley, is tackling the bathroom with green cleaner recipes for the floors, toilets, drains, counters, mirrors and more plus a detailed order-of-operations about how to go about it all most efficiently. Whoo hoo!

The bathroom is one of the hardest working rooms in the house. And also the grimiest. Which is why there is an entire aisle at the store dedicated to bathroom cleaning products.

There is the tub and tile cleaner. The mirror cleaner. The toilet cleaner. The floor cleaner. The drain cleaner. And then the super duper mold killer.

The majority of these products are made with extremely harmful toxic chemicals. Definitely not something I want in my house.

You could buy the eco-friendly version of each of these products. But then you might be spending a small fortune on cleaning products just for your bathroom.

Not to mention having to dedicate and entire cabinet to all of these products, whether they are eco-friendly or not.

I prefer to skip that aisle all together, and use just a few ingredients and supplies to clean the bathroom. It takes up much less storage space, and costs just pennies to keep the bathroom sparkling clean.You will need: 

  • distilled white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • dish soap
  • rubbing alcohol
  • water
  • spray bottles
  • squeeze bottle or small container
  • cleaning rags
  • scrub brush


After a lot of practice, I have found that this is the speediest way to deep clean your bathroom without chemicals. If you clean in this order, you will make effective use of the “wait” times that some of the solutions need.

  1. Spray the shower, tub, sinks and tiles.
  2. Spray the outside of the toilet, and squirt toilet cleaner into the bowl.
  3. Dust any shelves or surfaces.
  4. Clean all mirrors and windows.
  5. Go back and finish the toilet.
  6. Scrub the sinks and clean the counter tops.
  7. Vacuum or sweep floors.
  8. Finish the shower, tub, sinks and tiles and take care of any mold or mildew that you find.
  9. Clean the drains.
  10. Clean the floors.

Shower / Tub / Sinks / Tile

In a spray bottle, mix 1 part HOT water, 1 part distilled white vinegar, and a few squirts of dish soap. Shake to combine everything. Spray the inside of your sink, tub or shower liberally and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Using a wet textured cleaning rag, or wet scrub brush, 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.

Did you know August is “Kids’ Eat Right Month“?

In celebration, I’m pulling together my favorite tips and tricks for helping kids to eat healthy.

My #1 tip is to always, always have veggies on hand. A few of my favorite techniques for doing so include:

  • Stocking the fridge with individual portions of cut veggies and hummus or yogurt cups for dipping so the kids can simply grab and go.
  • Setting out a plate of veggies and our favorite dips as we cook dinner. The kids are always hungry around then and I have no problem with them filling up on the good stuff.
  • Using my slow cooker to always make sure I have a nutritious vegetable side dish ready to go with dinner.

This last tip is especially useful for the coming fall season. It’s always so wonderful to have something warm and delicious stewing in the kitchen all day when the weather starts to turn cold.

Here are half a dozen of our favorite ways to slow cook your veggies:

  1. Slow Cooker Corn on the Cob via 12 Tomatoes (pictured top)
  2. Slow Cooker Glazed Carrots via Who Needs a Cape? (pictured second row left)
  3. Crockpot Sweet Potatoes via TheFrugalGirls.com (pictured third row left)
  4. Super Simple Side: Crispy Garlic Onion Green Beans via Crockpot Gourmet. (pictured bottom right)
  5. Slow Cooker Roasted Vegetables via Six Sisters’ Stuff
  6. The Easiest Way to Cook Spaghetti Squash via My Plant-Based Family

Of course, dinner isn’t the only time we like to try to encourage healthy eating. I polled some of my best mom friends for their go-to tricks for feeding their littles nutritious stuff all day long. Here’s what they said:

  • Include the kids in every step of the process from meal planning and grocery shopping to preparing the meal.
  • Take the time to educate them and explain why we nourish our bodies. You’ll be surprised how much they can understand and appreciate about the power of good food.
  • Presentation is big but you don’t have to create a Pinterest-worthy bento box for every meal. Think about exciting plates and silverware as well as using toothpicks in unexpected places to add a little fun.
  • Nutritious food doesn’t have to be boring. There are tons of yummy recipes out there for energy bites, smoothies, and much more.  Here’s a great recipe for homemade fruit bars you can whip up using Pediasure Sidekicks:

Read More

Image Credit: © Don Lavange | found here | CC by 2.0 (edited)

As the seasons change gatherings with friends will change too, morphing from backyard grilling to indoor dinner parties.

I don’t know about you, but I always find the switch a little intimidating. Hosting your friends takes a bit more planning when you have to coordinate beyond simply throwing a few steaks on the grill and turning the sprinklers on for the kids.

And when hosting multiple families, how to keep the kids from bouncing off the walls while the parents enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese plate is often no simple task.

As always, we’re here to help.

All you need are good friends, good eats (we won’t tell if you get takeout!) and these dinner party basics, brought to you by yours truly in partnership with Evite and Scotch-Brite™ Extreme.

Step 1 – Plan to Make it Fun for the Kids Too!

This is ALWAYS rule #1. The more fun the kids are having, the more occupied they’ll be, and the more time the grown ups will have to relax and talk.

Let me say right now that dinner parties are one time I happily throw my screen time rules out the window. Almost nothing is more thrilling to kids than a bonafide movie night (have them bring or wear their PJs to make it extra special).

We usually encourage free play for at least an hour or so when everyone first arrives (kids LOVE playing with other kids’ toys). Then we always feed all the kids together first.

Once they’re done, we set them up with a movie (or two!) and it’s the adults turn to sit down and enjoy some good eats.

If you need an engaging, and relatively mess-free, activity to keep the kids busy before dinner, a solid coloring station never fails. Set out some shiny new crayons, a few stickers, and lots of free printables from this site and you’ll be good to go.

Step 2 – Send out a Fancy Invite

Make your get together more of an event by taking the extra step and sending out simple Evites – even if it’s just a few of your favorite families getting together for a Sunday night dinner.

This premium Evite invitation is super fun, or you can browse through more designs in Evite’s dinner party invitation gallery.

Evite Premium Dinner Party-Invitation


Step 2 – Set the Mood

To create a relaxed and inviting party environment, my favorite trick is always to Read More

This time of year I find I am usually equal parts excited and anxious for what lays ahead. So many new opportunities, friends, sports, clubs, etc. – so many new schedules to balance (especially now that I have a full day student, a part-time preschooler, and a baby).

You may have noticed, in fact, that I’m already in preparation overdrive

Well, I’m not done yet! Today our contributor Kristin, a former first grade teacher, is here sharing her all-time favorite back-to-school hacks.

You would never show up to a job interview unprepared.  We spend weeks preparing for interviews and promotions, so let’s put the same effort into getting ready for school

Being prepared makes a hard task seem easier.  It rids our lives of chaos and it helps our children feel ready for their big job of learning.

I put together a list of some of my favorite organizational tips and ideas to make the school days run smoothly.

It will take a little bit of time to get these up and running, but the amount of time you will save in your day-to-day tasks will be worth the original investment.

Read More

Finding just the right activity to sign up your little one to attend, can be nothing less than maddening.

I really value classes that allow my kids to be active, gain confidence, and grow their social skills. That said, I also like to spend a lot of our time on unstructured play and usually limit activities to just one per season. Which means, I am VERY choosy about which classes we take.

Gymnastics is far and away one of my favorites. There’s just something so amazing about watching S discover the new and incredible things her body can do each week. She always bounds out of class filled with excitement and you can practically see her self-confidence growing.

Today we’re partnering with The Little Gym to give you an insider’s look into their unique program.

Their approach is based on three core tenets: “Get Moving” to foster flexibility, strength, balance and coordination; “Brain Boost” to nurture listening skills, concentration and decision making; and “Citizen Kid” to promote sharing, teamwork, cooperation and leadership abilities.

The very first “true” gymnastics class I ever took C to was at The Little Gym and I still remember it 5 years later because I was so impressed.

Unlike some of the other more play-based gyms we’d done trial classes at, The Little Gym encouraged my little toddler to use real gymnastics equipment.

I swear to you, I will never forget, the astonishment that I felt (and the look of pure joy on C’s face) as he hung in the air, all by himself, swinging from the lower of the uneven bars. It was a moment to remember.

Here’s our contributor, Janssen, with her recent experience…

Like most parents, my husband and I spend a fair amount of time talking about what we want for our children as they grow up in our home.

One thing that has always been a big priority to both of us is having our children be active. Both of us loved different sports and dance activities as children and teenagers – he is a runner, a swimmer, and a tennis player, and I love gymnastics, Zumba, and biking.

Now that I have children of my own, I recognize how important it is for their little bodies to be moving as they get older. And aside from the health and coordination benefits, I won’t pretend I don’t love it when they conk out the minute I tuck them in bed because they are happily worn out.

Since our family just moved to a new state last month, I’ve been looking for ways for my girls to meet new friends and stay active. And since our new home is in Arizona, where the temperature is routinely pushing 110 degrees, I knew I needed it to be indoors. Read More

Image Credit: © Melissa | found here | CC by 2.0 (edited & text added)

I’m wrapping up a wonderful family vacation at the lake tomorrow. But even as I sit here watching the sunset over the water and sipping my Chocovine (dutch chocolate + fine red wine, who knew?!), even I can’t deny that the new school year is just around the corner. I know folks back in the south who have been in school for a week or two already!

In an effort to start the year off on the right foot, I’m doing a little meal planning prep – aka compiling all our healthy breakfast, lunch, after school snack, and simple gotta-get-to-soccer practice dinner ideas.

Why? Because I like having good resources but I LOVE having them all in one easy-to-access spot.

And, while I was at it,  I thought I’d go ahead and share the list with you so you guys can have it as a resource to use all year long (share it with your mom friends too, they’ll thank you!).


The Best Breakfasts for Back to School Brain Power

5 Brilliant Ways to Make Oatmeal Easy

4 Healthy Smoothie Recipes for Moms and Kids


Packed Lunches

MEGA ROUNDUP: School Lunch Ideas for Everyone!

A Full Month of Nut-Free Lunches

Lunch Box Smoothies 101

4 Quick “Roll Up” Recipes Your Kids Will Love


After School Snacks

23 Healthy Homemade Kids Snacks

How to Set up a Serve Yourself Snack Station

20 Healthy & Simple Kid-Friendly Snacks

3 Dips to Get the Kids to Eat More Veggies

A Month’s Worth of Healthy Family Snacking


Easy Dinners

30 Minute Dinners: A Weekly Meal Plan for Busy Families

18 Slow Cooker Dinners the Kids Will Actually Eat

20 Cook Once, Eat Twice Dinner Ideas

Freezy Peasy: Freezer Cooking Made Easy!

With school beginning soon, and a couple of my friends recently welcoming third babies to the family, helping the older kids to learn to prepare their own meals and snacks has become a hot topic of conversation.

It all started when one of my friends sent me this facebook link and we all started to chime in on how the system would or wouldn’t work for us and what we might do differently.

I kept thinking about the many ways we can get kids to be more self-sufficient during meal prep and eventually decided to develop a 3-part series around the idea with our contributor, Kristin.

Today we’re starting off with snack stations. Hope you get some great ideas and we’d love to hear from you if you have your own techniques that are working well!

One of the many benefits of growing children is their growing independence.  The overwhelming tasks of feeding and changing little ones gets easier every year.

Diapers turn to potty training and bottles turn to solid food.  Pretty soon they are able to feed themselves and the next thing you know, you have finger prints all over your pantry.

As my kids have grown, I have noticed their growing desire to become independent in their eating.  When they’re hungry, they scrounge around and come up with a snack.  But, I’m still the parent, so I want to guide them and help them make healthy choices while still maintaining their independence.


A snack station has been a huge help during the summer, on the weekends and after school during the year.

I choose one or two (depending on how many kids are eating and how hungry they are) of each of the following categories:  Whole Grains, Protein, Fruit and Vegetables.

The kids can serve themselves and snack away.


Tips for Creating a Snack Station

Choose the type of food you will serve

Don’t over complicate this.  It should be easy, but not necessarily pre-made.  If you have applesauce cups (for example), you can put those out.  If you don’t, just cut up some fruit. Read More

Image Credit: © Tricia | found here | CC by 2.0 (edited)

Every single time I stumble across an article or a post relating to “screen time” and kids, I devour it. First off, I want confirmation (that I rarely get, because everyone must be lying) that I’m not the only parent whose kids get waaaay more than the token thirty-minutes of approved screen time on any given day. It’s not constant, but yeah, I’ve been known to hand over my phone or a tablet so I can focus for an entire 45 minutes. Hell, even an hour. Hands up if you’ve been there.

Second, I admit it, I want to hear the latest recommendations – even if I’m just going to shake my head at the absurdity. I have my doubts that some of these “experts” spend much time with kids at all.

But I tacitly approve of the stories that acknowledge that technology is part of our kids’ lives and offer advice to moderate its use without getting too crazy. Last year, both my second grader and my kindergartener had ten minutes of screen time four nights a week purely for homework’s sake, on math and reading websites. There’s an educational aspect to this whole argument that just can’t be denied.

Third, I’m waiting for a story that finally acknowledges something every single parent knows all too well – technology makes us all hypocrites. Right? Read More

The summer is quickly coming to a close, has it been what you hoped?!

If your answer is, “Not exactly”, have no fear. There’s still time to get a few weeks of the laid back summer you desired AND to setup a schedule that works for you this fall – and we’re here to help.

Today, in our official capacity as a member of The Oat Authority, we’ve got a SUPER HELPFUL PRINTABLE just for you.

In case you missed our last post on what The Oat Authority is all about, my partnership with Quaker came about from Quaker’s dedication to providing both the fuel and the inspiration families want to make playtime a frequent priority.

Of course, scheduling plays a big role in that!

Here’s Kaley with a free printable guaranteed to bring you days with plenty of time blocked off for fun

Long summer days without the rushing and time constraints that come with the school year sound heavenly. Lazy days relaxing in the hammock and swimming until dark, then sleeping in and doing it all over again. Thats how I wanted my summer to go. But with two little ones running around, that just wasn’t realistic.

As an elementary school teacher, I know that kids thrive on routine. And setting up a simple routine always ensures smoother days but just the word “routine” seems to go against the care-free spirit of summer.

Let me assure you, though, having a routine doesn’t mean you have to stick to a strict schedule. Read More