mindful living, effortless style

S is turning 4 next month and I’m SO EXCITED to finally have a backyard big enough to host a cookout birthday party. I’ve got a few things planned already and one of the stars of the show is going to be a bubble station featuring some of these DIY bubble blowers.

I’m also contemplating the super amazing, human-inside-of-them, extra large bubbles. Have you ever made these with the kids? They’re surprisingly simple to pull off.

 
Check out this quick video for the full how-to (there’s a great homemade bubble recipe in there too) and have a bubble-filled weekend!

Camp mom activities eBookFor even more help keeping the kids busy this summer, don’t forget…
Our Camp Mom activities eBook is once again available for sale for a limited time only.
 
It’s an 84 page PDF from my all-time favorite play bloggers, and myself, stuffed with activities, reading lists, and advice for kicking back and connecting with your kids this summer. Learn more and get your copy here.

Cereal bars and granola bars are such an easy grab-and-go snack, but most store brands come with a whole host of ingredients that you didn’t bargain for.

It seems like it should just be made of some grains and fruit, right? Check out the ingredient list of Kellogg’s Strawberry Nutri-Grain Bars:

CRUST: WHOLE GRAIN OATS, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN B1 [THIAMIN MONONITRATE], VITAMIN B2 [RIBOFLAVIN], FOLIC ACID), WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SOYBEAN AND/OR CANOLA OIL, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, SUGAR, DEXTROSE, FRUCTOSE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, WHEY, WHEAT BRAN, SALT, CELLULOSE, POTASSIUM BICARBONATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOY LECITHIN, WHEAT GLUTEN, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CARRAGEENAN, ZINC OXIDE, REDUCED IRON, etc…

 
And even if you head over to the organic section and pick up something that seems “healthier” like Kashi’s Ripe Strawberry Cereal Bars, you’re still looking at a ton of hidden sweeteners and additives:

Strawberry Filling (Pear Juice Concentrate, Tapioca Syrup, Evaporated Cane Juice, Apple Powder, Strawberry Puree Concentrate, Unmodified Cornstarch, Vegetable Glycerin, Water, Natural Strawberry Flavor With Other Natural Flavors, Fruit Juice Concentrate For Color), etc…

 
Yuck. I’d rather put in a little time in the kitchen and make my own!

Homemade Nutri-Grain-Style Cereal Bars (with a gluten-free option!)

I’m happy to say that you’ll be able to pronounce every ingredient in this recipe. Just the basics.

I made a classic version with oats, whole wheat flour and strawberry jam as well as a gluten-free version with brown rice flour, oats and blackberry jam (pictured below). I could hardly tell the difference between the two doughs when they came out of the oven, so they’re both great Read More

Big announcement today guys – we’ve got ourselves a new MPMK contributor! MJ is an amazing graphic artist who’s going to be creating a bunch of lovely printables for us in the coming months. She’s also an endlessly creative blogger and mom of three just like me! (The mom of three part – I can only strive to her levels of artistry.) 

Check out all the good stuff she’s got going on at her blog Pars Caeli, then be sure to come back here for the free printable – you’re going to love it.

I absolutely adore the idea of hanging something on the wall that I can direct my kids to whenever boredom strikes. I also love that MJ included some cute icons next to each item so even my pre-readers can use it.  

Get your copy today and then come back all summer long to check out more posts on how to elaborate on each letter.

School lets out in just a handful of days, and I’m already anticipating the inevitable, “Mommy, I’m bored!” This summer we’re fixing that complaint with this creative checklist that I have clipped and posted around my home.

Acronyms are easy ways for my children (and me) to remember activities to keep themselves busy and happy during the free time of summer.

Bye bye boredom. Hello summer fun!

Free Printable - no more "Mom, I'm Bored!"

 

Get your free No More “Mom, I’m Bored!” printable here, then read on for TONS of ideas for each category.

B – Build, craft, or cook something

I want to set my children up for success. Having building and crafting supplies organized and at their level is a huge first step. For ideas on how to get stocked up to build, check out: Read More

Now that summer break is here, I’ve started thinking about how I will keep our kids active and engaged without resorting to video games and television. At the top of my list is outside, unstructured play.

Our yard was one of the top reasons we chose our new house. We have lots of space, a large deck and trees to keep us sheltered from the sun. Our children already spend quite a bit of time playing outdoors, so I’m hoping I won’t need to entice them too much over the coming weeks.

I decided to stack the deck in my favor by giving them their own ‘exploration station’ to dig, explore and experiment without hearing a endless rounds of “stop …” from me.

Playtime: Creating an Outside Exploration Station

Setting up an area for outside exploration is really easy and can be as simple as designating a space and providing a few basic tools. We took it a step further and designed a space and a plan that will, hopefully, continue to hold their interest over the course of the summer. Read More

I’ve got a new project to share with you guys today plus baby M’s debut here on the blog – so exciting!

DIY paper crane mobile

I know I’m pretty biased but doesn’t that face just make you want to cover it in kisses? Plus he loves his new mobile – a baby after his momma’s heart!

DIY paper crane mobile

And here’s how it looks hanging in his room. See my post at eHow Mom for directions on making the mobile. And for folding instructions check out my step-by-step visual guide to making paper cranes.

P.S. Did you know that facebook has recently drastically changed the way pages like MPMK can share with their followers? Even if you’re a fan of the MPMK facebook page, only a portion of our posts and updates are showing up in your feed these days.

So how do you continue to get all of our parenting, playtime, organization, and recipe ideas?  Sign up for the MPMK newsletter!

You’ll get all of our best stuff plus exclusive content just for our subscribers, including a Free 6 week meal plan.

Making homemade soda pop is probably one of the most exciting things I could do with my kids on the 4th of July (second only to the fireworks themselves). My littles love to cook with me and, of course, they love anything sweet so this one may just have to become a family tradition.

I love that we won’t need to invest in a fancy Soda Stream machine to follow Alli’s recipe either!

The Fourth of July is just around the corner. And as we prepare our party menus, why not add your own homemade soda to the list?

We’ve been making our own soda for years. Really. My boss used to make fun of me for it. But honestly, it tastes so much better–and it’s so much better for you. Plus, it’s EASY.

So what’s not to love? Read More

Spring produce can’t be beat!  After months of apples and all types of squash, a refreshing palette of colors bursts across the produce aisle.

I compiled a list of my favorite nine recipes that will use all those delicious farmer’s market finds.

Maybe you have favorites that you go back to year after year (mine happens to be artichokes).  Hopefully, this list will inspire you to try something new like leeks or prosciutto-wrapped apricots!

Read More

Is your car road trip ready? If not, don’t fret. Our resident professional organizer, Annie, is back with a summer-themed post for Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life today that will get you there in no time.

She’s got lots of great tips as well as some handy product recommendations. (I’ve been meaning to buy the last thing on her list for ages – this is just the push I needed!)

The summer months are fast approaching, and with them, lots of day trips and long-haul journeys.

Regardless of whether you’re driving a couple of blocks for a picnic in the park or are embarking on some cross-country family road trip, the experience is bound to be more pleasant if your car is in order.

Follow these tips and you’ll be headed straight for organization-station. Read More

Here’s something fun to try this weekend – make rain clouds with the kids in your own kitchen!

Check out my full rain-cloud-making/color-mixing post here.

P.S. Did you know that facebook has recently drastically changed the way pages like MPMK can share with their followers? Even if you’re a fan of the MPMK facebook page, only a portion of our posts and updates are showing up in your feed these days.

So how do you continue to get all of our parenting, playtime, organization, and recipe ideas?  Sign up for the MPMK newsletter!

You’ll get all of our best stuff plus exclusive content just for our subscribers, including a Free 6 week meal plan.

When was the last time you decorated for Father’s Day? Never? Yeah, me neither.

This year we made a card for my husband that would double as decor for Father’s Day.

Fathers Day card that doubles as a banner!

My daughter loves that it isn’t a normal folded card, and I love that it will give a festive touch to our Father’s Day celebration.

Read More

Since this weekend is the official kick-off to summer, what better time to have a sale on our Camp Mom eBook and activities pack?

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND SALE: Get 20% off this Friday, May 23rd – Monday, May26th!!

Get Yours Now for $9.99 $7.99 Use the code: WelcomeSummer

 

Here’s more info. on what Camp Mom is all about…

What’s on your spring break and summer vacation bucket lists this year? How about the simple goal of entertaining the kids with some good ‘ol fashion at-home fun? Sounds like a good plan, right?

But scouring the web to find activities to fill the days just takes way too long. If you’re like me, you need simple ideas that will be successful for all of the kids – and lots of them.

Activities that will allow for bonding time, but also independent play, and that will keep the kids happy and their brains stimulated all spring and summer long.

That’s where the Camp Mom: Summer Activities Pack comes in. It’s an 86 page PDF I cooked up with a group of the best playtime bloggers around.

Basically, it’s the best early education minds I know, all putting together our best stuff to provide you with all the tools you’ll need to guarantee a great spring and summer:

  • Printable planning pages (art supply prep list, Summer Bucket List template, etc.)
  • Four themes with over 45 Simple and FUN activity ideas that are open-ended and perfect for kids aged 2 – 9 plus tons of bonus ideas.
  • Adventure ideas and tips – you can have adventures without leaving your backyard or use the ideas to get out and explore your community.
  • Tips for success: managing sibling conflict, what to do with the toddler, how to enjoy a museum with your kids, and etc.
  • Reading  recommendations to go with each of the 4 themes.

It’s really going to help you make the most of the precious time you have this spring and summer. Plus, the activities are open-ended so they’re great for a wide range of ages.

Here’s a peek inside: Read More

Kaley’s back today with an update on the custom meal planning system she put together with products sent to her by our latest sponsor, Post-it® Brand. Yay for organization!

I thought this system was pretty impressive when she first set it up but now that I see it in action, I’m a little blown away. This fridge actually makes me excited about meal planning (one of the things I dread most in this world).

My favorite part has to be the spots for snack ideas and an inventory of what’s in the freezer... or maybe it’s the pen holder right on the fridge.  It’s all truly wonderful and I can’t wait for you guys to see the details!

I’m so excited to check back in with you all and let you know how my new meal planning center is working out for us. When I left you, I had set everything up, but hadn’t actually starting filling things in, or using it at all.

Now that I have had a chance to use it, I can’t believe I didn’t set something like this up sooner.

In a nutshell, I love it.

Read More

Need some dinner inspiration? I am always looking for something new to put on the table without too much fuss.

The months transitioning from spring to summer can get pretty hectic, what with end-of-school activities, graduations, weddings, outdoor sports and more. Implementing an easy weekly meal rotation could be just the thing to keep you sane when you’re on a crazy schedule. I’ve created a dinner plan with five meal categories- quesadillas, salads, frittatas, skillet meals and pizzas- and given you enough ideas to last you all summer long! Read More

A quick reminder before we get started that our FREE positive parenting webinars with TODAY Show parenting contributor Amy McCready are this coming Monday, September 29th, 2014 at 10am PST/ 1pm EST AND 6pm PST/9pm EST!

Reserve your spot for “Get Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling” before they fill up!

We’ve all seen the sitcoms where the parent is putting the child to bed about a hundred times.  The excuses range from one more drink of water to one more bedtime kiss.

The reality is that at the end of a long day getting up over and over to put a child back to bed can be exhausting. So, what is the key to a successful bedtime?  And by successful, I mean nurturing parental moments before the child drifts off to sleep in their own bed.  Is there a magical formula for the transition to sleep?

First let’s talk about the why.  Children between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep (toddlers and babies need 12 hours).

Scientist believe that while we sleep, the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems.  Sleep also boosts our immune system and helps with growth in young children.  So, fitting in all those hours of sleep is important.

Being consistent with bed time and wake time will ensure that children get all those hours of sleep.  It also sets a routine and children function best with a regular routine.  Studies have shown that early and regular bedtimes help with Read More

How will anything ever be as good again? What book could possibly follow-up?

For millions of kids, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are that way  – books that, sometimes for the first time, give them that “I love to read!” feeling.

These books follow Greg, who is starting middle school and trying to make sense of the new rules of popularity and fitting in, with both hilarious and honest results. They’re written in diary form, with Greg’s thoughts about his life combined with funny sketches illustrating what life in middle school (and at home) is really like. Fortunately there’s a whole series for your child to fall in love with, unfortunately he or she will eventually run out.

If your child loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, the nine books on this list have lots of similar qualities, whether they take place in public school, are laugh-out-loud funny, feature ordinary kids, or cleverly integrate illustrations and text to make a novel that’s inviting for both strong and struggling readers between about second or third grade and seventh or eighth grade:

  1. NERDS : National Espionage Rescue and Defense Society by Michael Buckley – This underdog story is the perfect combination of classic school story and the adventures of undercover spies. It’s packed with action and made up to look like a spy case file, which makes it extra fun.
  2. Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf : a Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm – Possessions are super important to most children and pre-teens, so this book, which focuses on the stuff that makes up an average life makes for a compelling and funny story of a regular girl.
  3. School! : Adventures at the Harvey N. Trouble Elementary School by Kate McMullan and George Booth – Jam-packed with illustrations, this is the story of a week in Ron Faster’s life as an elementary school student at an outlandish school. You only WISH your school was so fun!
  4. The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow – Two fifth-grade girls try to crack the code for becoming popular. They might not become popular, but they will keep readers laughing from beginning to end.
  5. Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss – I’ve always loved this series, written as a doodled-in diary by nine-year old girl wondering about how to find a new friend since her best friend has moved away. Bundle it with a blank composition book, a pack of colored pens, and you have a perfect gift.
  6. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – This is an oldie but a goodie. It has that kid-pleasing brand of weirdness that my students couldn’t get enough of. Each chapter follows a different student in a very unusual classroom at a very unusual school.
  7. Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon – Like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is a nice cross between novel and graphic novel. Plus it’s laugh-out-loud funny. (And there are currently 9 books in the series, so if your child loves the first one, there’s plenty more where this came from).
  8. Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost – Part story, part drawing book, this is perfect for the kid who wants to make their own cartoon books (or anyone who loves a good story). When I was a librarian, I couldn’t even keep this on the shelf.
  9. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – Fifty years after it was first published, this is still wildly popular with young readers. Harriet, encouraged by her nanny, spies on her family, friends, and neighbors, taking copious notes in her precious notebooks. But things take a quick turn for the worse when her schoolmates discover her notebook and what she’s recorded about them in it. I loved this book as a child and can’t wait to read it aloud to my girls when they are a bit older.

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