mindful living, effortless style

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, are you ready? If, like me, you’ve just realized that you still haven’t gotten together class valentines or the treat you’re signed up to bring to the class party- don’t fret.

We’re here to help with some of our best Valentine printables, recipes and DIYs.

Ready? Here we go…


Check out our post on LOVE-ly Valentine Reads. The two books pictured above are still some of my kiddos’ absolute favorites. And if you’re looking for a brand new V-Day book, here are a few featuring a few classic literary characters:


Whether you’re looking for simple printables, cute packaging, or candy-free ideas, we’ve got you covered.

15 No-Candy Valentine Ideas

15 Free Printable Valentines to Bring to Class

DIY Photo Valentine Favors

Free Printable: DIY Animal Herd Valentines


3 Healthy Strawberry Valentine Treats (The heart kabobs are always such a huge hit!)

DIY Fruit Juice Heart Gummies

Valentine Red Velvet Pancakes

Homemade Chocolate Pomegranate Bon Bons

Valentine Activity for Baby: Decorating Healthy Heart Pancakes


Valentine Knock-Knock Jokes and Fortune Teller Folding Tutorial

Make Heart Photo Bookmarks with the Kids

DIY Instagram Valentine Display

Valentine Keepsake: Simple Memory Garland

plush heart pillow craft

And if you’re looking for a small valentine gift for your child, I highly recommend this Plush Craft Heart Pillow Kit! My daughter had so much fun making hers and she loves cuddling it every night… My son totally wants one too now and is eyeing this fox version.


*Post contains affiliate links.

If your child has ever suggested you just pay with your credit card when you said you couldn’t afford something or wondered why your family vacations are less grandiose than the neighbors (or cousins!), you know how early money education can and should start.

There’s so much you want your child to know about money before they leave home, whether it’s about spending and saving, investing, interest rates, and real estate. And frankly, if you’re like me, there are some of those things you’re a little shaky on yourself.

It’s never too early to start thinking about how to teach your child foundational financial principles and these books all offer excellent ways to start the discussion, whether it’s with a children’s book you read together or advice aimed at parents.

Here are eight that will have your whole family ready to make smart decisions about money, now and for decades to come: Read More

The “Screenagers” documentary poster on a wall outside the theater at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, California, on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle

Have you guys seen the preview for this new documentary? It looks amazing (and also a little terrifying).

As a mom who started having kids at almost exactly the same time that the smartphone was born, the issue of kids and screens is one that I think about A LOT. I agree whole-heartedly with the viewpoint of the director who is quoted in this San Francisco Chronicle piece about the documentary:

This is the parenting issue of our time,” said Berkeley native Delaney Ruston, a doctor and filmmaker who created the documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age.” “Tech on its own isn’t bad, but it’s bad when it’s out of balance.”

Ruston, a mental health and internal medicine specialist, began to wonder about the effect screens were having on kids and teens when her daughter, Tessa, turned 12 and began asking for her first smartphone.

Other parents, she said, were struggling too.

Parents are clamoring for this information,” she said. “This is a problem bigger than ourselves. Given the biology that we’re up against and the culture of technology, it’s hard to try to balance and tackle on your own.”

American teenagers spend nearly seven hours a day in front of a screen — be it watching television or online videos, playing games, texting or using social media, according to a study released in November by San Francisco’s Common Sense Media.

More than 90 percent of teens go online on a daily basis, with nearly a quarter using the Internet “almost constantly,” according to a Pew Research Center survey.

I haven’t met a single parent who feels good about the amount of time their kids are spending on screens,” Ruston said. “There’s a lot of talk about no screen time or too much screen time, but what we need to be teaching, really, is balance.


I’m so, so interested to see what this film reveals (although I fear I already know some of it) and am hopeful it will have some helpful ideas for those of us grappling with this, or preparing to do so in the future. Get more info. on the film and where you can catch a screening here.

Interested in reading more on parenting teens? Check out:

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively


I hear it’s a great place to start. (No surprise considering how much people adore The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Langagues: The Secret to Love that Lasts!)

*Post contains affiliate links

More from MPMK on Kids & Tech

How to Connect at Dinner Time: Conversation Starters & Parked Phone Stations

The Newbie Mom’s Guide to Kids & Phones

Using Technology to Get the Chores Done Whine-Free

Did you know that cake decorators sometimes use rice krispie treats to mold under fondant for things like, say a giant cowboy hat?

It’s true! The rice krispie treat recipe can be used as a type of playdough. Once it has slightly cooled, you can mold it into any shape you like.


In honor of the upcoming holiday, we decided to make up a batch and shape them into Valentine hearts.

You can stop there, or you can really take it up a notch by dipping them in white chocolate and adding red sprinkles.  Why wouldn’t you?

Read More

When each of our four kids was born, we set up a savings account in their names.

Every month, we toss in a bit of money – and I mean a bit, especially now that it’s split four ways – with the idea that one day, when they’re older, we’ll gift them each with whatever we’ve managed to put aside in their name.

We haven’t thought out the particulars – maybe it’ll help them pay for their first car or part of a college education, or maybe we’ll just surprise them with it after graduation – but I’m pleased that it’s something we’re able to do.

Except part of me wonders if this is the kind of thing that they’d be better off without. Read More

In the spirit of ‘sticking to our New Years commitments,’ I whipped up a better for you treat for Valentine’s Day.  If you’re eating clean, this is a treat you can indulge in but the kids will love it too.

It’s also super easy to make (hello two ingredients!) and it makes a pretty gift.

There are several different ways of combining the two ingredients (semi-sweet chocolate and pomegranate seeds).  I decided to make it into a bonbon shape by using a mini muffin tin.

They are so tiny and cute that it’s the perfect after-dinner treat.  And like I mentioned, you could package a few up in a cello bag to gift a friend or share at a get-together.


Chocolate Pomegranate Bonbons

Ingredients 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/early February 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 last year.

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, Thursday, February 4th 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 – 1pm EST/ 10 am PST


9pm EST/ 6pm PST

Amy and I get together to present this free webinar only 2 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

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

While I put a lot of stock in overarching parenting philosophies such as positive parenting and emotional coaching, as a busy mom of three young kids, there is nothing I appreciate more than a seriously tangible parenting tip (or hack, if you will) that I can institute immediately upon reading.

Today I’ve got one for you that I think you’ll love.

It’s really easy to implement and will help your child build what, in my humble opinion, is the single most important attribute they can have in life; resilience.

Plus, your kids will think it’s really fun! Here’s our guest contributor, author Susan Ford Collins, with the details…

What’s the single most important thing you can do to help your child succeed?

You can Success File with them!

What’s that? When I shadowed Highly Successful People (HSPs) for two decades, I discovered they were using 10 skills consistently.

Success Filing is Skill One.

HSPs set aside time each day to acknowledge themselves for what they had done that day. They “rewind their memory” to when they first woke up and remember the many things they were able to do and realize… ate a healthy breakfast, went for a run, returned calls and emails, decided to say no to a plan, proposed a new idea at a conference.

They put a “mental yellow highlights” on the myriad tiny daily steps they took in the directions they wanted to pursue. HSPs told me emphatically that these tiny daily successes matter. They accumulate into BIG ONES!

Success Filing gives them the self-confidence they need to keep going when disappointments, setbacks, doubts and even loudly shouted disagreement set in as they frequently do. Instead of depending on “Other-Confidence”, they invest in their Self-Confidence.

You can give “the gift of self-confidence to your kids” too, not for one day but for a lifetime… when you begin Success Filing with them and teaching them how to do it for themselves.

What You Need to Get Started

First you need a file… a colorful manila folder with paper inside where your child can draw successes if she or he can’t write yet. Or a computer file you/they can add to day by day as they grow. That file will become a more and more powerful resource as the years pass.

Second you need to know what success is. So here’s something else I learned from HSPs. For them success is far more than the dictionary says… accomplishment.

Success Has 3 Essential Parts

  1. Success is Completion… yes, that’s the accomplishment part. Doing homework, making the bed, putting stuff away and all that.
  2. Success is Deletion… this is vital for their lifelong health and wellbeing! Success is knowing when to stop doing, when to say no to friends, food or drink, when to let go of habits and relationships that don’t work, when to eat and rest.
  3. Success is Creationcoming up with new ideas and approaches, and ultimately inventing new products and services, new ways of living and being.

Here’s something to keep in mind. Success isn’t the same all the time, at all ages and stages.

Success Has Gears

Yes, three gear-like phases your children need to learn shift up and down in. You’ll need to be able to recognize when they’re in each gear and what they need from you. Each gear is different! And will require you to shift into a different parenting style too.

First Gear is for starting anything new, for learning the basics of new skills and ideas.

Second gear is for doing more-better-faster, for competing and winning, grades, prizes, trophies, college entrances and scholarships. (And helping them deal with times when they don’t come out on top and they need to gear down and start again.) Read More

Two things you should know about me:

  1. I’m a planner
  2. According to Gretchen Rubin’s amazing book, Better Than Before, I’m also a “Questioner”

What those two things basically add up to is that I’m a hard-core researcher when it comes to, well, just about everything. From preschool to detergent, if there’s a decision to be made pertaining to our home and family you can pretty much guarantee I’m going to research the hell out of it.

As you can imagine, this can have both positive and negative effects. On the one hand I can sometimes fall into a deep state of analysis paralysis.

A condition I neither relish nor am unaware of (no one was happier than me the day the paint colors for our walls and cabinets were finally decided on- no one that is, except possibly the salesman at Benjamin Moore).

On the other hand, these research skills that I have so lovingly honed from elementary school to grad school and beyond can also create some incredible things, especially here on the blog, e.g. our now famous collection of Toy Gift Guides as well as Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life.

So what does all of this mean for 2016? Only two brand new features I’m crazy excited about. Read More

Since our post 3 Apps I Use Everyday with My Kids was such a hit, I thought it would be fun to do another mini-roundup today. This time of 3 podcast episodes that are crazy good.

I want to note, this is a list of specific podcast episodes that I’ve loved lately. I’ve got a more comprehensive list of some of my favorite podcast shows coming soon!

So the next time you’re doing the laundry, on the treadmill, or in the bath and you need some grown-up talk, grab your phone and give one of these a listen.

#1 Death, Sex & Money: Autism Isn’t What I Signed Up For

I was really taken in by this mother’s honest account of her life with two autistic sons. She shares her struggles and her joys as wells as some of her heart-wrenching realities. One of which is that her and her husband’s current plan for their boys’ long-term care is simply not to die.

#2 Reply All: The Cathedral

Oh boy, I truly don’t know where to start with this one. Read More

It sounds like such a great parenting philosophy – modeling good behavior. Treat others as you want to be treated, and show those little hurricanes zooming around the house what it means to live consciously and kindly.

Show them what it means to be patient, to be kind, to be generous. Show them how to have a healthy relationship with food and fitness and technology. Show them how to be a happy, healthy, functioning person.

It’s what I strive for, and boy, I’m constantly falling short. I accidentally taught my kids that lamest and cruelest of humor- Read More

January has us all ready to organize and eat healthier.  Every year I try to be more efficient in the kitchen.

I’m always asking seasoned moms about how they do things and sometimes I stumble on tricks of the trade on the internet or simply by accident.  I wanted to share with you the nine down-and-dirty secrets that I use in the kitchen every single day to make my life easier.

Cutting lots of vegetables once a week

Every morning my husband and I eat some form vegetables and eggs.  Sometimes it’s a scramble, sometimes the eggs are over easy and sometimes I add bacon or sausage.

Eating a very healthy breakfast helps me feel great all day.  If I have vegetables pre-cut, I’m more apt to throw this type of meal together.

I also use the vegetables as a salad topping.  Or I might stir fry them with a protein for dinner.  It takes me about Read More

Life comes at you fast these days.  Have you noticed how we drink our morning coffee and the next thing we know, we’re tired and crawling into bed?

If we don’t stop to be intentional, we can miss out on some really important moments with our spouse and kids.

There are two things we’ve found helpful in being more present with our kids at dinner time:

  1. no-technology rule at meal time.
  2. A handy set of conversations starters to get the ball rolling.

Today we’re going to show you how we enforce that no-technology rule via our “Parked Phone Station” and share with you a huge list of our favorite family conversation starters.

First up, the no phones rule. Read More

We’ve covered making your own baby food. And also meal ideas for a 1-year-old.

But what happens when that cute little chubby toddler turns into an opinionated preschooler who refuses to eat anything but grilled cheese sandwiches? (Replace grilled cheese sandwiches with buttered noodles, or whatever your little one deems the food of the month.)

Even the best of eaters has been known to turn super picky during the preschool years, and the vegetables that they used to gobble up are now fodder for dinner time fights.

While food should never turn into a power struggle, you also shouldn’t completely give up, and allow them to eat only plain buttered noodles for dinner every night.

Like I explained previously, everyone in our house eats the same thing for dinner. I cook only one meal, and as soon as my babies can eat solids, they eat what we eat. But I like to actually to enjoy mealtime, and don’t appreciate the tantrums my preschooler likes to throw at the dinner table. So I had to find a way to please everyone without turning to “kid food” every night.

The key is giving preschoolers something that looks either fun or familiar, but giving it a different twist every time. Try things that are mini, dip-able, or rolled up in some way. Breakfast for dinner is a fun treat. And cheesiness is always sure to please. But make sure to incorporate different colors, flavors, and textures into all of these foods. Not only to introduce new foods to your preschooler, but so the rest of the family doesn’t get bored.

For example, kids love pasta, but sometimes develop an aversion to anything green. So I serve pasta with basil pesto. They like the pasta enough that they will overlook the green sauce on it. And in the process, figure out that maybe green food isn’t so bad, after all. Plus, pasta with pesto is a dish that the rest of the family will enjoy as well.

Score one for Mom!

Below you will find my top 30 dinner ideas for preschoolers, that both kid-friendly and family-friendly. These aren’t dishes for when the kids are eating alone, or something special for the kid’s table at a dinner party.

So forget hot dogs and cheese pizzas. These dinner ideas are packed with flavor, vegetables and variety. They are great for everyone, including your picky preschooler! Read More

Don’t you sometimes wish someone would pick out your next book?

I frequently think that when I’m standing in the library or bookstore and completely overwhelmed by the options.

Whether you’re looking for things to read on your own this year or trying to pick titles for your bookclub, these books are perfect for reading each month in 2016.


168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

What could be a better way to start out the year than this book? You may want to roll your eyes and think, “Another time management book. . . ” but this is the best thing I’ve read on the topic – it made me feel so empowered to fit the things I love into my life, get more sleep, and strengthen my family relationships. Seriously, read it.


A Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub

With New Year resolutions still in full force and lots of people giving up sugar, this is a fascinating look at what a whole year of zero sugar would look like. Eve O. Schaub, her husband, and their two daughter give up all sugar – honey, cane syrup, sugar, all of it – for a full year, and it’s so interesting to see how much a part sugar really is in daily life. You might not want to give sugar up yourself, but you’ll probably find it fascinating to see what it takes to avoid all sugar, all the time.


Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn

I think everyone has their parenting role models, and this is the book that one of the mothers I look up to most in the world recommended to me. She said it changed her and her husband’s entire way of parenting, and that was enough for me to want to pick it up immediately.


The Martian by Andy Weir

Spring break time means it’s time to enjoy a book that’s just pure fun. This best seller is full of science, but even a totally non-science person will completely love it. It’s the story of a US astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars by his crew when they think he’s dead. But he’s very much Read More