mindful living, effortless style

I was reading one of my favorite MPMK posts the other day, How to Maintain Your Zen When the Kids Have Lost Their Ever-Loving Minds, and I was reminded of how much we used to play with beach balls in the house when the kids were younger.

It was such a simple way to keep the kids active and happy when we were stuck indoors – plus it was super inexpensive and easy to set up (two of my favorite qualities in a kids’ activity).

Back in the day, this one was right up there with our Life-Sized Building Blocks, Construction Sensory Box and Upcycled Inventor’s Box.

The idea is so great, I just had to re-visit it, so I sent out the call to our contributor Alli to help me freshen it up a bit and, as usual, she didn’t disappoint.

Today she’s got 10 fabulously fun ways to keep your littles active and happy with our friend the beach ballEnjoy!

Will this Winter ever end? I am so ready for Spring I can taste it.

Here in Texas, we get a few warm days mixed in with the cold. So I can’t complain too much. But so many of you across the nation have been covered in snow for what seems like months.

Regardless of where you live, or what season it is, there are ALWAYS days that need to be spent inside. And those are the days that tend to drive us crazy as Moms. Am I right?

Enter the beach ball.

Such a simple toy. And the simplest toys are usually the best. Know why?

Because they’re unexpected fun. Beach balls are kind of a novelty when brought indoors so they seem to draw kids in.

They are also a great way to help those kids burn off some energy.

We’ve noticed, though, that after a while even the most enthusiastic kiddos can get bored (or it goes the other way, things get a little out of hand and a lamp or two is sacrificed in the process). But it doesn’t have to be that way –  just by adding a little structure and creativity, a once simple toy becomes one big ball of fun.

If you’re stuck inside, grab a beach ball (or any large bouncy ball for that matter) and try any one of these games to not only pass the time, but challenge your kids to get up and get moving.

BeachBall7

1. Letter/Color Smash: (Gross Motor Skills, Letter/Color Recognition)

Use colored construction paper to write letters and attach to any wall/door. The older your children are, the more complicated you can make it (using sight words, the answers to math equations, etc.). Read More

Valentine’s Day and sweet treats go hand-in-hand so today we’re offering up two options.

First, in the spirit of our renewed excitement about eating to get our energy back, we have a healthy, kid-friendly Valentine’s Day fruit & veggie gummie snack.

Second, for those of you that just have indulge on Valentine’s Day, we’ve got decadent yummy Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars.

Whichever you chose – we hope you enjoy!

Valentine’s Day Fruit Juice Gummies

I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to celebrate the holidays without heading down the candy aisle. I might go soft at Christmas or Easter, but for all the other in-between holidays, I prefer to skip the sugary treats and enjoy the day in other ways. Read More

I’m gonna go on record right now and say this is one of my very favorite Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life projects ever!

So cool, so easy, and so perfect for storing your #5RingsToStopYelling and/or a few pieces of “Not Your Mother’s Engravable Jewelry” (both of which will support keeping families out of poverty).

Here’s Julee with the full how-to…

Now that my daughter is six-going-on-sixteen, the number of necklaces, bracelets, rings, hair clips and other accessories in our home seems to be multiplying by the hour.

Our school day morning routine is hectic enough without the added task of tracking down a specific piece of jewelry, so when Steph mentioned the idea of a writing about a jewelry organization board, I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.

In addition to being helpful in managing my daughter’s growing collection of personal accessories, the jewelry board is also extremely easy to make and the materials cost less than $15.

Getting Started

Keep your jewelry organized and easily viewable with this super simple jewelry organization board.

The selection of materials can vary quite a bit depending on the look you’d like to achieve. I decided on the following: Read More

Yesterday I told you about my personal healthy journey as well as our exciting upcoming collaborations with the ladies at Prescribe Nutrition, and the fact that we are once again acting as an affiliate for Prescribe Nutrition and offering a 20% discount to their 20 day online course:

Get 20% Off the “Prescribe Balance” Online Course with the code: MPMK20

April 12th –  May 1st, 2015

So today I thought I’d invite one of the functional nutritionists behind the course, Katie, to stop by and share a little more of her story as well as two of her favorite recipes (you’re welcome)…

I went on vacation and lost 10 lbs.

That got your attention, didn’t it? Ok, so that’s not totally the truth but I’ll explain.

The past 18 months have been a doozie over here. I didn’t have a baby, but in a way I sort of did. I started a business. And while those two are very different in so many ways, there are some unbelievable similarities. Total lack of sleep, crazy stress, more money going out the door than coming in, hormone imbalance, and so forth.

At Prescribe Nutrition we are all about connecting the dots. Stress, of any kind, increases cortisol production. Cortisol comes from our adrenal glands, consider them our managers of stress. Increased adrenal function affects ALL other hormones, and not like a little, but a lot.

It’s my hormones that were all out of whack, and I ended UP 15. Fifteen pounds that is.

My biggest struggle revolved around not getting enough sleep (did you know sleep is directly correlated to your weight?). Oh yeah, and the wine…the wine was a struggle too.

My cortisol, directly connected to my energy, was spiking at night. This is the tell tale sign that adrenal imbalance is in full swing.

So I was tired but also wired all.the.time. I sorta felt like my body was slowly rotting. Can you relate?

Then it happened, Read More

Image Credit: © Donnie Ray Jones | 10.26.14 (text added) | CC by 2.0

Do you ever think to yourself, “I am ALWAYS tired.”?

I went through a big slump after having S, in which I just couldn’t seem to find my energy anywhere. Plus, I had headaches for a lot of the day, every day.

All that exhaustion and pain meant I had no energy to play with the kids plus I was moody and crabby with a short fuse and very short on Mama patience.

At first I tried to figure it out on my own, then I sought help through my general physician, OBGYN, and even a naturopath. But I never found the solid answers I was looking for.

It wasn’t until I met the functional-nutritionists at Prescribe Nutrition, Katie and Megan, that everything changed for me. 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve known Katie and Megan for years now. They’ve played such an important role in helping to make me the mom I want to be and I’ve loved being an affiliate for their online programs because I believe in what they do so much.

So why am I telling you this story now, several years later? The reasons are two-fold.

First, I’m so excited to announce that I’m teaming up with Prescribe Nutrition to host our very first FREE webinar next week. Sign up here:

FREE Webinar: How to Get Your Energy Back – Nutrition Myths Debunked

Thursday, February 12th at 10am PST/ 1pm EST and 6pm PST/ 9pm EST

We’re going to be talking all about how we can get our energy back. You can participate via phone or computer and get a lot of your questions answered about what nutritional advice you should be following and what you should be ignoring… You’ll learn a ton, I promise, and I’ll be there too!

Second, the ladies at Prescribe Nutrition are once again offering MPMK readers a 20% discount on their latest, 20 day on-line nutrition course:

Get 20% Off the “Prescribe 20″ Online Course with the code: MPMK20

February 15th – March 6th

This program isn’t the exact one I participated in back then – it’s better.

Along with the online support group, unprecedented access to the nutritionists, and the recipe protocol packet, this time around the ladies are also including lots of new features including an extended time period (20 days instead of 15), an exercise program, and an entire section of slow-cooker recipes!

And here’s the part where I “keep it real”.  The Prescribe Nutrition courses aren’t a cake walk (either literally or figuratively).  

It was hard – especially the first week when my body was craving all the processed foods and sugar I usually fed it. But I did it – what’s more I got my husband to do it too and we both felt SO MUCH better at the end.

When telling people about it I would say that I didn’t necessarily feel like I was ready to run a marathon but I did generally feel happier and less tired. I also realized once I began the program that previously I’d been experiencing chronic stomach pains and bloating at night.

They’d become so commonplace that I didn’t even notice them, or think about doing anything to avoid them. Then I started my 15 days, those symptoms disappeared, and I felt amazing.

Finally, the most profound outcome of the experiment was how it affected me as a mother. Without the headaches and exhaustion, I became so much more fun!  And I started connecting with my kiddos in new ways – which was a huge gift and exactly what I was hoping to gain from the experience.

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 6.09.18 PM

I really hope you decide to invest in you and join us for the free webinar and/or use the code: MPMK 20 and the 20% discount to sign up for the online course.

Take the time, make the investment, and both you and your family will get so much out of it!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner so I thought today would be a good time to roundup some of my favorite engravable “initials” jewelry and show you that there’s more to Stella & Dot than just #5RingsToStopYelling.

And if a link to this post, or any of the links within the post, happens to, somehow, get emailed to your husband, then it’ll be a win-win-win.

Your hubby will be guaranteed a victory with his V-day gift this year and you will get a gorgeous piece of bling personalized with your kids’ initials, wedding date, or whatever else you can think of (the coolest idea I’ve seen recently is to have coordinates engraved on one of the pieces).

Before we get to the goods, let me just say that one of the things that drew me to Stella & Dot is how versatile their pieces are. I love how easy they make getting that chic, layered look, even if you really have no idea what you’re doing (that would be me).

Many of their necklaces have multiple strands that can be added or removed AND can be hung at multiple lengths – so buying 1 or 2 necklaces is really like buying 6 or 8!

I have the signature engravable bar necklace with my little’s initials, which I regularly mix and match with the pave chevron necklace.

Since the second piece can be a 1,2 or 3 strand necklace, each or all of which can be worn at two different lengths, AND each strand can be worn showing only gold (or silver) or flipped to show sparkling pave stones – there are seriously a ridiculous number of ways to wear just these two necklaces.

Add in the longer, celebrity-favorite, rebel pendant necklace and you pretty much never need to buy another necklace again.

Ready to find your favorite?

First Row:

leftt: signature engravable bar necklace worn with the pave chevron necklace.

middle: signature engravable disc charm and 16″ elegant chain.

right: signature engravable ID tag and 16″ elegant chain worn with the on the mark necklace and the pave chevron necklace. Read More

Today we’ve got a tutorial I’ve been wanting to include in our Photography & Memory Keeping section for such a long time!

Capturing a child’s fleeting newborn stage is so important to so many parents out there but trying to get that elusive, perfect pic of a sleeping infant can be beyond frustrating and hiring it out can be prohibitively expensive.

Here to help is guest poster Andrea with her top six tips on how to get your newborn’s good side.

Having a baby is exciting and fulfilling beyond words. Yet with the joy of a new little person also comes the reality of how expensive they can be. From diapers and formula to car seats and cute outfits, a newborn’s expenses add up quickly!

Like many first-time mothers, when I had my first child two years ago, I went overboard filling our home with way too many baby accessories. I also invested a small fortune on a newborn photo shoot. Unfortunately, the whole experience was a mess and the photos turned out terribly.

Now that I have my second child, I’m making a conscious effort to be smarter about where we spend our money for this little girl. While photos are an important keepsake, enlisting the help of a professional is something I’d rather not do until she’s older and out of the feisty newborn phase.

My husband and I agreed that this time around we would try to take our own photos at home. It turns out that setting up your own newborn photo shoot is pretty simple. With a little bit of creativity and patience, your newborn can look just as adorable as the perfect babies you see on Pinterest.

If you’ve recently welcomed a new member to your family, follow these step-by-step instructions for capturing those fleeting moments that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.

Step 1: Scout Your Location

Spend a few days before your shoot walking around your house at different times of day and noticing how the light changes. Keep your camera close at hand to capture the light throughout the day.

After a day or two, compare your options and choose the time and place that has the brightest, clearest light. You’ll probably have the best luck in the early morning or afternoon near a big window or door.

Step 2: Set Up Your “Studio”

Now it’s time to really tap into your creativity. With your location in mind, you’ll need to create a space that is comfortable for baby while giving you a clean, seamless backdrop.

This could be a beanbag, armchair, or couch draped with fabric, or some combination of various pieces of furniture grouped together. You could also simply lay a piece of fabric on the floor or bed, attaching the excess to a chair or the headboard to create a solid background. Read More

All this month we’re talking about New Year’s Resolutions and today I am SO VERY EXCITED to finally share with you one of the most amazing experiences of my life, which came about from a 12th-hour resolution in 2014 – to travel more as a family.

This story is actually a little crazy, and more than a little out of character for my Type-A self. Here’s how it all started…

It was early November last year when three important things happened.

First, I came across a very compelling article. The gist of which was that science has actually proven we get a lot more enjoyment out of spending money on experiences than things.

I fell down a rabbit hole of reading on this topic and here’s the kicker – even if the experiences you buy aren’t perfect, you still get tons of happiness out of anticipating them, experiencing them, and looking back on them fondly later. We’re talking exponentially more happiness than spending your hard-earned dough on a new TV or some cute throw pillows and curtains.

The more I thought about it, the more this made total sense to me. Thinking back on my own childhood some of my best memories were from family vacations.

That’s when the second thing happened, I remembered this post on how we only get 18 summers with our kids and I translated that to 18 vacations with our kids (because we’re not great about vacationing as it is, there’s no way we’re embarking on more than one in a year) and for our oldest 1/3 of those are already gone!

Then the third thing happened. I swear, at almost the exact moment that I was processing all of this information, I noticed out of the corner of my eye 7-month-old Baby M push up onto all fours and start to pump back-and-forth for the first time.

Now, if baby M had been my first baby, I’m pretty sure my reaction to this would have been along the lines of, “Wow, look at my little guy go! He’s going to be crawling in no time – isn’t he just so advanced and brilliant?!”.

But since baby M is not my first baby and is, in fact, my third. My thought process was more along the lines of, “Ohhhh Crap. That little bugger is going to be full-on crawling by 8 months! Seriously?!!! Once that happens, I’m not going to be able to sit down for more than 5 minutes for like 3 years!”

Everything you ever wanted to know about Disney's world-class Hawaiian resort

And that, my friends, is how this family of 5 who has only taken one real vacation ever (and even that was only a very short flight down to San Diego for a few days) ended up planning, booking, and embarking on the most fabulous Disney Hawaii vacation ever less than 3 weeks later.

In that moment, you see, I knew it was now or never. If I could find a way to get our family to our vacation destination within a few weeks, I still had a shot at relaxing on a lounger (drink in hand, of course) while M played under a sun umbrella and the kids played by the water… If I waited much longer than a few weeks, though, it would likely be a few years until I wouldn’t have to chase him around the beach all day.

And why did I have my sights on Aulani?

I had seen the commercials for the Disney Hawaii resort playing on ABC for a few weeks and – apparently – somewhere along the line a seed had been planted.

I knew without a doubt that Aulani was the place for our impromptu vacation. That it had the potential to be what almost no other vacation could be – both unbelievably exciting for the kids (The beach! The Waterslides! And Mickey!!!) and actually relaxing for my husband and I (The beach – with drinks! No standing around in lines all day with tired kids! Free Child Care for the occasional romantic meal alone!!).

I became a woman on a mission. Determined to use every last one of our carefully stowed away miles, as well as the last-minuteness of it all, to our advantage. And what I found when I started looking into it was very encouraging. Read More

Have you guys jumped onto the Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life bandwagon yet? We are already accomplishing so much and the year has barely begun.

And just a quick reminder – only 3 days left to take advantage of our biggest sale of the year!

Get The POYEL eBook, Our 38 page 2015 organizational printables pack AND our Kids’ Responsibility and Money Management Kit for for 33% off!

Was $22.97, only $14.99 through the end of January.

What I love most about POYEL is the community that we’ve formed and this year I’m going to be sharing more of the brilliant ideas coming out of that community. Last week I shared this oh-so-lovely study space from member Chantal and today I’ve got another genius idea for you.

I absolutely hate wasting money on food (every time I analyze our budget this is far and away the biggest area for improvement). And yet, every week it seems, I find myself either buying stuff we already have or digging up some long forgotten (and freezer burned/expired/moldy) item and pitching it.

Seriously, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone to the store and bought a pork loin, only to discover that I already had one left-over from the Costco two pack I bought a few months back.

Not only does food go bad, but my fridge and freezer always seem to be full because they’re crammed with mystery items in the back that I never see or use.

Which is why I love this simple idea from POYEL member Jessica so much! It’s nothing more than a simple list of the things in her pantry (and I’d do the fridge too) that need to be used up – so helpful for meal planning!

To Make:

And Jessica didn’t stop there, she’s got one more super helpful list in her kitchen. Read More

You guys know how much we love a convenient and family-friendly dinner (or 50 of them for that matter). So I’m super excited to present you all with this one from my friend Tiffany of Peanut Blossom.

It’s no exaggeration to say the delicious sweet and spicy mix of this recipe will take your Taco Tuesdays up a notch.

Truly, these tacos are incredible all on their own (a new variety that the kids will still love) but the fact that they’re made in a slow cooker – so you can set ‘em and forget ‘em – will make them your new favorite.

Here’s Tiffany with the full recipe…

There is something about the cold, dreary days of winter that make me long for tropical infused cuisine. When the sleet and snow drizzle down, someone please hand me a daiquiri so I can pretend I’m on an island vacation! Since daiquiris don’t get dinner on the table, I’ve been forced to find my fiesta elsewhere.

This recipe for spicy chicken tacos with sweet pineapple salsa is so simple and perfect for a cold chilly evening when you’re too tired to cook. The meat comes together easily in the crock pot and the salsa can be made when you have a pocket of time earlier in the day.

Even the picky eaters in our family gobbled this up. I was happy it was a lightened version of our favorite tacos with an emphasis on fruit over heavy cheese & sour cream. Read More

Ok guys, it’s been about a week now since my 5 rings* arrived – time for an update. (Before getting to that, if you’d like some background on this challenge go here for why we’re doing this.)

First, and probably most importantly, I’m still at it!

One of the scariest things about committing (quite publicly) to doing something outside of your comfort zone is wondering if you can actually follow through. So one of the best outcomes of this experiment so far is that it allows me to feel a little pride in myself each day for once again taking real action towards becoming a better parent.

That. is. BIG.

Here are a few other things I’ve noted since starting this journey:

The rings are a great way to start my day.

As I slip one, two… all five rings on my finger each morning, the physical sensation of the metal on my skin immediately puts me in the right mental place to greet the kids. The big kids still get up before me so I don’t always know what I’ll be walking into once I open my door to get baby M.

Sometimes it’s a couple of dressed kids quietly working on LEGOs (love those days!) and sometimes it’s a pair of maniacs wrestling each other to the ground wearing one sock each and covered in yogurt from a breakfast gone awry.

Having already briefly meditated on my goal of becoming a calmer Mama (just by putting on the rings) really helps me keep my cool on these days.

The rings keep me accountable.

Well, yeah – that’s the whole point right? Right. But the rings don’t just keep me accountable to myself, they keep me accountable to anyone who knows what they’re all about; my kids, my husband, my friends.

At first, this kinda freaked me out, what will people think when they see me and I only have one or two rings left on my right hand? Instead of judgement, though, I’ve found support and words of encouragement. 

It makes me feel less alone, less like a screw up. People have been there. People get it. And my kids? I like to think that every time they look at my rings they’re reminded of how much I love them and how hard I’m working for them.

The rings can be a bitch.

I admit it. In that moment, frustrated as all hell that the kids aren’t listening AGAIN and feeling quite wronged and superior in my role as the omnipotent parent, I have thought it, Nope, na-uh, I am NOT moving these rings. Yes I’m yelling/lecturing/ranting/etc. but I AM RIGHT.

Then the moment passes and 10 minutes later I look down at my hand and admit to myself that I even if I was in the right, I could have handled it better – and over a ring goes from the left hand to the right.

The rings can lead to action.

I read recently that work by John Gottman has found one damaging act by a parent towards a child (yelling, etc.) can be repaired by five acts of love. (I would love to link to where I read this but now I can’t find it so if anyone knows please give me a shout!) 

So I’ve been using the free printable I made for our post, How to Give Your Child P.R.I.D.E. to try to help me make amends for every ring that ends up on my left hand. It’s been a very straight-forward, yet powerful, way for me to end up in the black with my kids each day.

 

So that’s where I’m at with the #5RingstoStopYelling challenge.

I’d love to hear from you guys!! Have you tried it yet? How are you doing?

*Post contains affiliate links. 

There’s just over a week left in January, how’s the resolution-keeping going? 

Last year our 10 Tips for Better Meal Planning post was one of our most popular offerings both for the Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life series and on the blog in general. So this year I decided to ask our resident food blogger, Natalie, to revisit the topic and share some of her go-to resources.

My hope is you’ll find something (or even a few somethings) to help keep you on track towards your simplifying and organizing goals this year!

I can never get enough advice about meal planning.

It always seems like there is a better way than the way I am doing it- a more organized way, a way that takes less time, a way that will cost us less money. I have a tough time sticking with meal planning, let alone planning the meal planning. Who’s with me?

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, a meal-planning newbie, or someone who constantly falls of the meal-planning train, there’s something in this post for you!

I’ve gathered up lots of helpful tips, recipe collections and meal-planning advice for a variety of needs and situations. Browse through and find something that appeals to you and then share with us your favorite resources in the comments!

We’re dying to know what helps you stay on track with meal planning.

Read More

Image Credit: © Suzette Normand | 02.26.10 | CC by 2.0 (text added)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find that late January is a great time for a sort of parenting re-boot.

The holidays are over and we’re doing our best to return to our normal routines (and to work on any behavior issues that may have crept up as the kids have been showered with toys and treats over the past few months).

It just seems like the perfect moment to step back and take stock of our parenting techniques (what’s working and what’s not) as we embark on another year.

Which is why I’ve chose this month to start #5ringstostopyelling.

It’s also why I’m so happy to announce that it’s once again time for us to partner with my friend and personal parenting guru, Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions, next Thursday, January 29th at 1pm and 9pm EST (10 am and 6 pm PST) to present MPMK readers with:

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

 

Amy and I get together to present this free webinar about 4 times a year so if you want to learn her tricks and use them to enjoy a more peaceful year 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 Read More

Happy Friday guys! I’m stopping in to share a LOVE-ly little project I’ve put together for 31 Days of Love over at Red Ted Art.

This has turned out to be one of my favorite DIY projects ever! It’s so kid-friendly and the results are really stunning.

These sweet Thumbprint Heart Jewelry Dishes would, of course, be perfect for Valentine’s Day but I also want to really encourage you to make one with your kids and use it to store your #5ringstostopyelling. It will be just another powerful reminder of what the project is all about!

I am planning to make another batch with the littles for my dresser this very weekend. The dishes pictured above, however, were actually made for our beloved nanny who is leaving us this week.

Words really can’t express how sad we are to see her go. She came into our lives just a few weeks before baby M was born and has been such a wonderful and reliable presence – actually making it possible for me to be comfortable leaving baby M for a few hours in the afternoons to concentrate on work (something I wouldn’t have thought possible before we found her). And don’t even get me started on how much S and C adore her.

She is playing downstairs with the kids for the last time as I type this and I am utterly heartbroken. We wish her well but will miss her dearly!

Between Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day it sometimes feels like there really is no escaping the sugar! But never-fear, Alli’s today with 15 sugar-free Valentines you can feel good about sending to the class party with your little one this year.

Today was my son’s first day back to school. And as I dropped him off at the classroom door, there it was–just staring me in the face:

Valentine’s Day party sign-ups.

Already?! Didn’t we just finish Christmas? I mean I just took our decorations down yesterday, for Pete’s sake.

But alas, it will be here before we know it.

Now that my son is school age, I’ve officially entered the world of “classroom valentines.” And since we’re just now coming down from the Christmas sugar high, I’m determined to stick with no-candy valentines this year.

I did a little research, and it turns out there are tons of GREAT options.

So straight from my desk to yours…here’s fifteen no-candy valentines to inspire your sugar-less Valentines Day! Enjoy!

1. Friendship Bracelet Valentines

2. Dinosaur Valentines

3. Glow Stick Valentines

4. Pet Rock Valentines

5. Goldfish Valentines

6. Orange Juice Valentines

7. Bouncy Ball Valentines Read More