mindful living, effortless style

How great would it be to get all of your Christmas shopping done ahead of time this year AND to feel confident your kids are going to love their gifts and keep returning to play with them again and again?

I’ve got some HUGE news today friends! Drum roll please…
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The 2016 Toy Gift Guides are here!

A month early this year– can you believe it?!

I heard you last year when you guys wrote in and asked me to please, please get the guides out in October.

I have to say I’m in awe of all of you that are that organized with your holiday prep and I worked LIKE CRAZY to try to accommodate you this year.

In case you’re unfamiliar with our famous gift guide collection, this is not your average roundup of a few of our favorite things – Oh no. This is an incredibly extensive library of the most engaging, brain-growing, and yet still super-fun toys available.

400+ selections viewed by thousands and thousands of parents each year!

And here’s the best part, all of those awesome toys are arranged into specially themed guides with detailed descriptions of each and every toy and categorized by our recommended age ranges for the utmost enjoyment.

This is the only resource you’re going to need this year to nab the perfect gift for every child on your list.

Pin the Gift Guides page to your favorite gift board here or bookmark this page now (and share it with your mom friends – they’ll thank you!).

I’ve spent months talking to friends, school teachers and even toy store owners as well as reading reviews, polling our readers, and scouring toy award lists to come up with these finds.

Ultimately, it’s what my kids are into that most motivates my purchases and I constructed these guides because I know that’s what you care about too.

If they’re going through a constructing stage, then I want the goods on the most stimulating building toys out there. If their creativity is blooming, I’m looking for info. on the highest quality and longest lasting art supplies. And if they can’t get enough of role playing, that means I’m on the search for toys that do a superb job in supporting dramatic play.

In addition, I’ve got a few goals of my own when it comes to toy shopping – getting in some solid independent play during quiet time, burning off steam when stuck indoors, and feeding their little brains in a fun way, to name a few.

I’ve organized this year’s picks with all of these things in mind.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be highlighting all 11 of our gift guides but you don’t have to wait. You can see them all right now!

Plus, bonus, I’ve now got lists for each age group too.

Just click here for each of the complete guides… Happy (early) shopping!

I’m so happy to introduce you guys to Billy today. He has some really interesting things to say about self-care, and what that really looks like when you’re also responsible for the daily care of a young child.

I especially connected to the part about modeling (and, sadly, the part about the dentist as I had a similar experience. NO. FUN.)

Don’t forget, we are always looking for new parenting perspectives to share. Learn more here.

Here’s Billy…

“How long can this wait?” I ask. Before answering, she turns off the glaring, operatory light hanging over my face. Mint rinse lingers on my tongue.

“It can’t. If the infection spreads in your jaw, it can create an abscess,” she responds. Her furrowed brows and stern eyes leave no room for negotiation. Read More

Maybe it’s because of my past life as an elementary teacher, but I love celebrating holidays.

I’ll take any opportunity to be festive.

For Halloween, I have a fun little food activity that will work for little and big kids.  You can make this something that you do together on a weekend, or surprise them by packing this spooky sandwich in their lunch. Read More

About a month into the new school year seems like pretty much the ideal time to tackle a new project for our Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life series.

This week we’re teaming up with our new sponsor, DYMO, to put their LabelManager 160 to work whipping up a stream-lined mudroom that serves the needs of an entire family.

Here’s our contributor Janssen with the details…

Do you have a room in your house that has so much potential but just somehow misses the mark and ends up frustrating you instead?

I definitely do. We moved into a new home this summer with a decently-sized laundry room that leads to the garage. At first glance, it seemed like the perfect spot to act as a command center for our family.

Then, before I knew it, my oldest daughter started kindergarten and we were suddenly dealing with backpacks, lunch boxes, school library books, and papers for the first time.

Nevertheless, I was excited about the potential our laundry room/mudroom had to be a really useful spot for our family, and I got to work right away. Read More

I’m so excited about this Halloween project, it turned out even better than I’d envisioned.


It’s the quintessential MPMK project – easy enough for kids of all ages to get in on the action and the finished product is a decidedly stylish take on traditional Halloween decor.


And did I mention how inexpensive it is?


Image Credit: © Suzette – www.suzette.nu | found here | CC by 2.0 

Jessica is with us today discussing, once again, how do we really give our kids the kind of childhood we want for them?

I really love what she has to say, it reminds me of a great chapter from one of my favorite books, Nuture Shock: New Thinking About Children.

Like nearly every parenting issue, there’s a lot of gray area here and not a whole lot of black and white- I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here’s Jessica with her story…

Last year, at the beginning of second grade, my son was flagged for his school’s gifted program.

At the parent-teacher conference, his beaming teacher showed us his test scores and other academic markers. He was leaps and bounds ahead of his classmates, showing comprehension several grades ahead. She told us he was exceptional, and that she wanted to have him tested right away.

I was sold. Immediately. My husband, not so much. Read More

If you’re looking for a simple DIY Halloween decor idea to try with the kids this year (one that – bonus – will keep them quiet and busy for a good chunk of time), check out my origami paper spiderweb garland.

The process for making these simple webs is very similar to paper snowflakes, find the full tutorial here.

More MPMK Halloween Crafts

DIY Spider Sack Decor

Mess-Free Pumpkin Decorating

Duct Tape “Wicked” Inspired Doormat

Dry Erase Ghost Votives

Halloween Paper Bag Luminaries

Simple Outdoor Halloween Garland

With that first snap of cool fall weather, all I want to do is cozy up with a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.

Oatmeal is such a great breakfast option because it helps keep you full until lunch. I also love that oatmeal offers endless flavor combinations, from sweet to savory.

My favorite oatmeal company, The Quaker Oats Company, makes the most delicious steel cut oats.  Steel cut oats are simply chopped, while the regular rolled oats are steamed, rolled, steamed again and then toasted. The texture of steel cut oats is heartier and they have a nutty, rich taste.

I used to be a little intimidated by making steel cut oats. They definitely require more cooking time than the Quaker Quick Oats I was used to making. But then I stumbled upon an over-night recipe for steel cut oats and I was hooked.

The first thing I did was make my own recipe with apples and cinnamon for the cool fall weather. Of course you can make any good thing great, so I also decided to make a little serve-yourself breakfast station with the Quaker Steel Cut oats and some toppings.

It’s the perfect thing for ensuring the kids (and I) get an easy breakfast with little to no effort required

Here’s how I set it up…

Read More

It’s the time of year when I’m once again gathering my holiday resources and putting together a simple plan for making memories with the kids. (It might seem a little early, but I really find that things go so much more slowly when I get out ahead of it and just make a few plans).

One thing definitely on my list this year are these spooky, stand-alone cheesecloth ghosts I put together for eHow a few years ago.

Back then my kiddos were really too little to help much but this year I know they’re just gonna love getting their hands dirty and tackling the project with me. It’s the perfect mix of spooky and just a little bit of magic for them.

Plus anything with googly eyes is always a hit!

More MPMK Halloween Crafts

DIY Spider Sack Decor

Mess-Free Pumpkin Decorating

Duct Tape “Wicked” Inspired Doormat

Dry Erase Ghost Votives

Halloween Paper Bag Luminaries

Simple Outdoor Halloween Garland


The nature of blogging is so fast paced – always working to churn out that next post – that every once in a while, I put my head up and realize that there’s a lot of great stuff essentially getting buried here.

I try to help with menu bars and categories for things like Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life, In the Kitchen, or The Holidays– but the truth is a lot of you are viewing this on your phones and those menu bars are so teeny tiny they’re virtually non-existent.

So today, I thought I’d help steer you to a collection of some of our best offerings: free kid printables!

Read on, and click through, for a whole host of resources to help you keep your brood busy, engaged, and happy! (Be sure not to miss the knock-knock advent calendar, reading scavenger hunt, and kids’ clothing drawer labels– a few of my personal favorites.)

Playtime & Learning

B.O.R.E.D. Printable for the Wall

Reading Scavenger Hunt Treasure Map!

Homemade Learning: Big, Beautiful Counting Cards


Free Prints: Winnie the Pooh Quotes for Kid Spaces

“I’m Thankful for…” Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Prompts

Printable Knock-Knock Joke Advent Calendar

Free Template for Making a Photo Family Tree

Free Print: Give Your Child P.R.I.D.E.

Kids + Organization

Visual Aids for Setting Up a Simple Routine with Kids

Clothing Drawer Labels for Kids

Easy Fill-in-the-Blank Thank You Cards

For the Wall

Free Prints: Winnie the Pooh Quotes for Kid Spaces

Free Print: Give Your Child P.R.I.D.E.

Things I Want to Teach My Children Every Day

I’ve written here already about how back-to-school always feels like a breath of fresh air to me – largely because we get the chance to establish some new routines and it brings a whole new flow to our family life.

One of those routines we’re currently focusing on are our chores. These include both family jobs AND money jobs. 

Side Note: For more info. on how we deal with chores and responsibilities, as well as an amazing 50% off deal on our Kids’ Responsibilities & Money Management pack, be sure to check out our limited-time Back-to-School Super Saver Bundle!

So far, it’s going really well. But one of the things that stumped me for a bit, especially when we first started to pay our young children for their “money jobs”, was where they could spend their earnings.

They’re not making a lot, after all, so saving up for a full-price item from the local toy store could take nearly an eternity in my kiddos’ minds.

Today our contributor, Alli, is sharing her thoughts on the best places for young allowance earners to spend some of that hard-earned dough...

My oldest son turns five this Christmas, which is when we were planning to start him on an allowance. And with every day that passes, he’s asking more and more about the money. Where it comes from, how much things cost, and even how it’s made. (Kids’ minds never cease to amaze me.)

He’s a little young to fully understand, but I’m well aware that the earlier we teach him about money, the better off he’ll be.

My parents did a great job teaching me about money. And by the time I was twelve, I was managing my own budget. I’m so grateful for what they taught me, because it’s saved me plenty of heartache in my adult life.

I definitely want to follow in their footsteps, and teach my son well when it comes to money. So I’ve been burying my head in “allowance research.”

10 Perfect Places for Kids to Spend Allowance - Love these ideas of where my kiddos can find  ways to spend small amounts of money they've earned - esp. #3 and #8!!

I’ve found plenty of tips on how much allowance is appropriate per age, and how to teach generosity (here’s a great resource for both of those questions) but there was a lack of good information on how to help kids spend their allowance in an appropriate way.

Which, to me, is a very important part of the money lesson.

So I put together a “go-to” list; 10 great places for young kids to spend their allowance, for anyone looking to guide their kids in the right direction when it comes to spending. Read More

Image Credit: © Suzette at www.suzette.nu | here & here | CC by 2.0

When I first started this little blog of mine, I never thought I’d be posting on health. In fact, when the idea first started to germinate, I thought MPMK would be all about home design. Boy, have times changed!

It didn’t take much time being a mother before my priorities started to change – big time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love a beautiful room and a clever decor DIY (especially around the holidays), but these days I’m much more interested in ways to keep my home running smoothly, my family healthy, and our time together joyful.

Three pregnancies and a host of subsequent health issues (postpartum hyperthyroidism and herniated lumbar discs, to name a few), will do that to a girl. Plus, I have these three precious souls in my care now – providing them with good health and a happy home environment is a big responsibility!

We all want to make better health and lifestyle decisions for ourselves and those we love.

We want to lose some weight, have more energy, use greener products, create nutritious meals for our families, get fit, and feel confident that we’re doing all we can to prevent serious diseases.

But it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed – healthy living shouldn’t be this difficult, and it shouldn’t have to cost so much, either!

So why am I bringing this up today? Because last year I decided to sign on as an affiliate for a little something called, drum roll please… Read More

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!

Add to Cart

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