mindful living, effortless style

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.

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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

or

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? A brand new feature 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.

JANUARY

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.

FEBRUARY

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.

MARCH

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.

APRIL

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

It’s January and for many parents that means it’s time to start thinking about school registration for next year. Jessica’s back today with a parenting topic that strikes close to home for me– when to officially start your “summer baby” in school. 

Our middle child was born in July so we wrestled with this ourselves and were surprised by the factors that came into play… academic readiness and social readiness, definitely, as well as if kindergarten will be full day or half day.

What it mostly came down to for us, though, was the spacing between all three of our kids. Ultimately, we opted to hold our daughter back in large part because this way there will be two years between her older brother and her and three years between her younger brother and her instead of only 1 year between our two oldest kids and (what feels like) a really large 4 year gap between them and our youngest.

Here’s Jessica’s experience…

Four years ago, we had no clue that our late August baby would mean we’d be dealing with the decision of when he’d actually start school. Our older two kiddos, with their April birthdays, both had a year of preschool and then went to kindergarten the year they were five. Boom, done, no questions asked.

But if we follow the same pattern with our youngest son, he’ll be starting kindergarten as a four year old. And that seems… young. I mean, he’d turn five pretty quickly after the semester begins, but still.

This is a child who still operates on two modes – “unconscious” or “ninety million miles an hour.” I’m a little worried about unleashing him on a kindergarten teacher. I don’t want that on my conscience, you know? Read More

Happy new year! It’s been a little quiet around here with everyone snuggling up to family for the holidays but we’re back and ready to hit 2016 running.

As has become our tradition, we’ll spend January covering lots of ways for you to tackle whatever it is that most needs your attention this year (eating better, organizing, parenting, going green- we’ve got you covered!)

Today we’re kicking it all off with our favorite functional nutritionists from Prescribe Nutrition sharing with us their very favorite quick and healthy weeknight meals AND once again offering 20% off their amazing 20 day on-line nutrition/wellness/get-more-energy-and-feel-great-this-year program:

Use Code: MPMK20 for 20% off Prescribe 20 Online Program!

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 from when I last participated including an extended time period (20 days instead of 15), an exercise program, and an entire section of slow-cooker recipes!

You can read all about my experience with Prescribe Nutrition here, and get more info. on the course at the end of this post, but first here’s Katie with those convenient and healthy dinner ideas!

Short on time? (Raise your hand). Oh, because we are. Just because we are into nutrition, healthy food and spending some quality time in the kitchen does not (heavy on the not) mean we do that on the regular. We love a meal short cut just like the next guy or gal.

What’s better – the truth of it: convenience doesn’t have to mean a microwave meal. Trust us. Sure, maybe a tad bit more time than 4 minutes in the microwave, but we promise that our top “fast meals” will leaving you feeling fueled up and with time to spare.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the Prescribe Nutrition team’s favorite dinners in a jiffy:

#1 Veggie Scramble Tacos

Call it Brinner (Breakfast + Dinner), call it Mexican, call it whatever you want.

One thing is certain, whisking eggs and throwing whatever veggies you have on hand is not only an easy way to get a protein packed meal, it’s also extremely quick, and cheap to boot! Make it a satisfying meal by serving the scramble in some heated corn tortillas with sliced avocado, salsa or just good old hot sauce. Use what you have on hand!

#2 Rotisserie Chicken Bowl

Get your favorite organic rotisserie chicken from your local store, some pre-cooked rice packets (yup, the ones in the Trader Joe’s freezer section), and any frozen, steamed, or roasted veggie – whatever you’ve got time for – mix and you’re good to go.

#3 Kale Caesar

Use that leftover rotisserie chicken, thinly slice a head of kale, maybe add some diced avocados or get nuts with a hard boiled egg. Here’s the full recipe for how we like to do it:

KALE CAESAR
2 main servings or 4 side servings

  • 1 bunch of dino kale, washed, center ribbed removed and sliced into 1” ribbons
  • 1 bunch of romaine lettuce, washed, de-stemmed and sliced into 1” ribbons
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Dressing (note: this is a “make once, eat for days kind of dressing)

  • ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • ½ cup raw walnuts, soaked in water for 10 minutes, then drained
  • 2 teaspoons garlic (roughly 2-3 large cloves)

Blend all the dressing ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor. Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.

Toss washed and dried lettuce and kale in a bowl with ½ cup of the dressing (or more to taste). Be sure to toss it until all leaves are coated evenly. If you want some crunch, serve with roasted chickpeas instead of croutons.

Finish with an extra sprinkle of ground flax seeds, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of sea salt. Optional add ins: chopped avocado, hard boiled egg, sesame seeds.

#4 Sweet Potato Crockpot

Let’s get real for a minute, 75% of those crockpot meals that look so good and get amazing reviews, are filled with crap that tastes good and then makes you want to go to bed 5 minutes later.

Hello cheese induced food coma; goodbye evening productivity.

This is literally as easy as tossing 4-5 scrubbed off sweet potatoes in your crockpot (still wet from scrubbing). Cooking 7 hours on low or 3.5 hours on high. No piercing, poking or cutting.

Enjoy your sweet potatoes stuffed like a taco, filled with chili, or over flowing with your favorite salad – maybe even the Kale Caesar?

#5 Chicken/Tuna Salad

Add extra-virgin olive oil, avocado or olive oil based mayo, lemon juice, or a combination of the three. Throw in some some frozen peas (they will thaw and quickly make it nice and cold).

Add in chopped celery, jalapeno or onion or your favorite addition, some sea salt ‘n pepper and you’ve got yourself a flavorful, protein filled dinner. Serve it over greens, toasted corn tortillas, rice cakes or on some gluten-free bread (we always recommend buying responsibly sourced tuna. We love the brand Wild Planet.)

#6 Kitchen Sink Grain Bowl

We know that there is some quinoa or brown rice just staring at you in the cupboard, so get them out, cook them up in some water or broth, add any veggies you have on hand (steamed, sauted, raw), a dollop of tahini (wheat-free soy sauce) and/or hummus – done and done.

Other favorite toppings of ours include: diced pickle, sesame seeds, hot sauce and lemon juice.

… and there you have it folks. It’s how we do. Quick, simple and fast when we can.

And this, my friends, is why I’ve been hanging out with the Prescribe Nutrition ladies for a full three years now as both a program participant and affiliate. Sure they’re programs are FULL of delicious recipes that will be crowd favorites forever, but they never short us on amazing tips, tricks and shortcuts to help make it all come together.

Join me on my three-year anniversary of meeting the ladies of Prescribe Nutrition by participating in their best program to date, Prescribe 20.

Use Code: MPMK20 for 20% off Prescribe 20 Online Program!

Prescribe Nutrition

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 from when I last participated including an extended time period (20 days instead of 15), an exercise program, and an entire section of slow-cooker recipes!

I promise you that is some of the best money spent. It’s our health, and I’ve never felt it’s more worth it.

*Post contains affiliate links.

Spending New Year’s Eve at home with the kids is as fun as you make it.

You can mope around about the fact that you’re not hitting the town, or you can pick some activities that the kids will really get into, celebrate it at 8pm and then toast each other when they’re all tucked in bed.

Last year we made our own balloon drop, drank some super yummy mocktails, ate sparkling Jello push pops, and even contemplated the 14 habits of happy families to fill out our FREE year-in-review/year-to-come printables for families (ok, we didn’t actually do all those things but we were super happy to provide you guys with the details on how to do them all).

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This year, we’re making party hats that are so cute and easy to make.  All you need is some card stock, a little festive paper or ribbons and some paint. Read More

*This post is sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company, but all opinions are 100% my own.

I love the start of a new year.

As much as I adore the holidays, there is something so refreshing about taking down all the decorations, getting back into a normal work and school routine, and thinking about what you want to accomplish in the new year.

For my entire childhood, setting goals for the new year was a huge part of our family culture.

My dad printed out little spreadsheets for us to fill in with different goals about money, school, health, hobbies, and relationships. We’d post them up on our bulletin boards and bring them out once a month or so to make sure we were staying on track.

Our little girls (ages 5, 3, and 9 months) are a little young for that kind of really structured goal-setting, but I still wanted our family to have a chance to talk through what we wanted to accomplish in 2016.

Free New Year's Resolutions Printable- Great activity for families to do together each year! #QuakerUp #spon

Instead, I made these simple printables so that my girls (and the grown-ups!) could think about the new year and what will help us make it a great year for everyone.

Get Your FREE New Year’s Printable Here!
Read More