mindful living, effortless style

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.

*Post contains affiliate links.

Image Credit: © Suzette Normand | 07.17.10 191192 | CC by 2.0

The weather is warming up and summer is feeling like it’s just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this summer was free of whining on the kids’ part and yelling on your end?

It’s possible! Next Tuesday, May 20th,

UPDATE: 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!

I’m once again teaming up with my friend and personal parenting guru, Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions, 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 once every 3 months so if you want to learn her tricks and use them to enjoy a peaceful summer 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 positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. She’s also a frequent guest on the TODAY Show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, and elsewhere.

During the webinar she’ll be sharing a few of her most effective positive parenting techniques and talking all about her positive parenting toolbox (something our family loves).

I’m also excited to announce that due to all 1,000 spots filling up in past seminars, this time around we’re once again offering both a morning and evening session. Click to register for either the 10am PST/1pm EST, September 29th session or the 6pm PST/9pm EST, September 29th session.

Here’s a little more info. on the course in case you’ve missed it the first couple of times around… Read More

Did you know that newborns like sensory play every bit as much as preschoolers?  Of course, I’m not talking rice box or play dough sensory play but activities that engage baby using the senses (especially sight, sound and touch) are wonderfully engaging to young babies.

Recently eHow’s Mom Channel asked me to write a couple of posts on babies and sensory play and today I’m sharing them with you. I had a great time writing them and reminding myself of all the easy things I can do with baby M to connect.  For more info., check out:

Get Up in His Grill and 7 Other Ways to Play with Your Newborn Baby

The Best Sensory Toys for Babies


And speaking of baby playtime, you might also enjoy these MPMK posts:

DIY Discovery Bottles

Baby’s First Paint

Make a Treasure Basket for Baby

Setting Up a Food Exploration Station for Baby


…Now go play with that baby!

Sugar. Sometimes it’s my arch nemesis, sometimes it’s my best friend, most of the time it’s somewhere in between.

I’ve been on a personal journey for a few years to reduce the amount of sugar and processed foods that my family and I consume. I also recently attempted the 21 Day Sugar Detox (we made it to about day 18, nobody’s perfect!).

When Steph asked if I might review a recipe from Sarah Wilson’s book, I Quit Sugar, I was glad to skim the pages and see what she had to say.

Plus I got to try out a yummy new recipe for healthy, homemade crackers – perfect for those salty/crunchy cravings. Read on for the recipe as well as my thoughts on the book and your chance to win a copy… Read More

Ugh, laundry – why does this one chore seem to take up my entire life?! And if I thought it was bad before, now that we’re a family of five I feel like I’m swimming in dirty clothes.

Luckily our resident professional organizer, Annie, is here today with 8 ideas on how to finally get it under control.

Keeping your family in clean clothes can be easier than you think. Here are 8 easy tips you can implement immediately.

1. Make a schedule

Rather than assuming you’ll make time for laundry throughout the week sometime, create a laundry schedule to which you can regularly adhere. Consider how large your family is, how quickly you seem to run out of clean clothing, and how often you’d like to have clean sheets and towels.

Once you’ve determined how often throughout the week you need to be doing laundry and the optimal times to attend to it, add it into your schedule and stick to it.

In general, I find that Read More

It seems like we went a long time without giving anything away here and then – boom! – the last few weeks have been giveaway central.  

Congrats to Lindsay Conn Dotzlaf and  Michele Waggoner, the two winners of our BISSELL Symphony™ All-in-One Vacuum & Steam Mop giveaway.  

If you didn’t win, you’re in luck because Bissell has an even bigger giveaway going on right now. Here are the details…

The new BISSELL Symphony™ All-in-One Vacuum & Steam Mop handles messes in one easy step, getting you that much closer to what you’d really like to be doing. From April 21 – May 16, enter BISSELL’s “One Step Closer Sweepstakes” for a chance to win your own BISSELL Symphony and something you’d like to be one step closer to.

How to enter the One Step Closer Sweepstakes:

1.      “Like” BISSELL on Facebook.

2.      Visit the One Step Closer Sweepstakes page.

3.      Choose what you want to be one step closer to from the featured pins.

  • Weekend Getaway: $1,000 Southwest Airlines gift card and a new Symphony™ All-in-One Vacuum & Steam Mop
  • Spa Trip: $1,000 SpaFinder gift card and a new Symphony™ All-in-One Vacuum & Steam Mop
  • Night Out: $1,000 VISA gift card and a new Symphony™ All-in-One Vacuum & Steam Mop

4.      Pin your favorite!

5.      Enter your pin via the Facebook entry form and cross your fingers.

Winners will be randomly selected for each of the prizes. Entries will be accepted until May 16, 2014 (4 p.m. CST). Winners for each prize package will be selected on May 19, 2014.

Good luck guys and happy weekend!

Listen up parents – I’ve got some big, important things to share today and I just know you’re going to love all of them.

First, an awesome giveaway in which, drumroll please…

Win a Microsoft Surface!


One lucky MPMK reader is going to win a brand new Surface!

Bet that got your attention, huh?  My husband just bought our family’s first Surface about a month ago and we really love it so when I found out I’d be working with Microsoft on their Bing in the Classroom campaign, I had the idea that it might be fun to give one away.

Of course, I’m going to need something from you guys in return. But don’t worry, it’s super easy AND it’s going to benefit you, your kids, and your kids’ schools in a big, big way.

Ready? Here it is…

Step 1: Click over and learn about BING IN THE CLASSROOM.

Step 2: Enter the Rafflecopter below
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Step 3: Learn how to bring #AdFreeSearch to your school as well as how to earn free Surface tablets for your classrooms. Read More

Why is it that I can never get enough when it comes to easy meal planning systems? I know I really only need one, but I’m still fascinated to see how everyone else makes dinner time work for them.  

Today our contributor Kaley is teaming up with our newest sponsor, Post-it® Brand, and using some of their uber cool new organizational products from the Home Collection by Post-it® Brand, Scotch Brand® and Command Brands to set up a meal planning system of her own.

I have to say, this one is mighty impressive! I’m especially loving the idea for tracking what’s in the freezer – I lose so much food to freezer burn in there… I think I might have to find a new spot for some of the kids’ artwork so I can create this bad boy on my own fridge.

Its 5 o’clock, and I have no idea what I am going to fix for dinner. Again. The baby is crying and my 4 year old is whining at my feet about being hungry.

The fridge is a jumbled mess of food but I feel like there is nothing in there to make into a presentable meal. I had a recipe I wanted to try, but I can’t remember if it is saved on my smart phone, or on Pinterest, or maybe tucked into a binder where I have been stashing all of the pages I tear out of magazines.

In other words, I am a hot mess.

Meal Planning 101 with Post-Its

Are you feeling my pain on this one?

A friend of mine was telling me that she plans her meals a month in advance, and dinners are a breeze in her house because she is so organized.

Easy breezy is exactly what I need so I decided to give meal planning a shot. It has got to be better than what I have been doing, which is basically flying by the seat of my pants. And resorting to the old stand-by “breakfast for dinner” more times than I’d like to admit. (Which is a great one, by the way, when you are really in a pinch!)

But I couldn’t decide on a system. All digital versus the 3 ring binder versus the wall. While they each seemed to have some definite pros and cons, Read More

It’s no secret we love DIY play dough, slime, and other sensory activities around here.  Hands-on play not only leads to increased creativity and fine-motor development (which is important for things like writing), it’s also a fabulous boredom buster.

Play dough and sensory boxes are some of our go-to activities when the weather is bad or mom needs some time to pay bills, do laundry, etc.

Recently the folks over at eHow’s Mom Channel asked me to roundup some of my favorite playtime posts (written either for them, or here on MPMK) and I just couldn’t resist focusing on sensory play.

Included in my top 10 sensory activities are:

  • Jell-O play dough
  • Edible peanut butter play dough
  • Cloud dough
  • Scented, Glitter Slime
  • Making Snowmen Inside
  • A Veggie Garden Sensory Box
  • Rainbow Rice
  • and more!

Check out my full list of Top 10 Sensory Activities for Kids and bookmark it for when you need it – you’ll be happy you did!

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.

Ever since we moved into our new home, I’ve had an ‘outdoors in’ approach to decorating. We love our backyard and enjoy the large windows that seem to bring nature into every room. This spring, I started really playing up this aspect by adding more and more houseplants to our formal living room.

Easy to care for, succulents have played a prominent role in my decorating-with-nature strategy. I don’t have the best track record with keeping indoor plants alive, but I have found that most succulents are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of maintenance or specialized knowledge. And best of all, they are a quick fix for adding an element of nature to nearly any spot in your home.

Here are a few of my favorite trends for incorporating succulents into my home decor: Read More

Top Image Credit (cropped, text and other photos added below): © Nicola | 04.09.11 | CC by 2.0

My son LOVES play dough. I mean, really. It’s almost an obsession. And you know what? I don’t blame him. I remember loving play dough as a kid, myself. There’s just something magical about it. It’s a blank slate of 3D creativity.

Besides, I can’t think of a better obsession for a pre-schooler. We all know that children (and adults, for that matter) learn best when their senses are engaged. Think about it. Many of our favorite memories are associated with one or more of our senses–like the smell of our Mother’s perfume, or the taste of our favorite meal.

By giving our kiddos the opportunity to explore their senses, we are developing their cognitive, emotional, physical and creative abilities–and having fun at the very same time. (Imagine that!)

So. Now that we know how much play dough can benefit our kids, how do we maximize their play-time? Read More

I know the weather in many parts of the country is bad right now. (Thoughts and prayers especially to everyone dealing with extreme weather. I lived in Nashville for 5 years and the tornados absolutely terrified me!)

But here in Seattle, you know the city pretty much known as Rain Capital USA, it’s blue skies and 81 degrees – on the first day of May! I’m predicting a hot summer, which means it’s time to update the wardrobe. Out with the sweaters and in with the tank tops.

I’m curious, do you guys follow trends when it comes to buying clothes each season? I mostly just hit the stores and pick up a few things that jump out at me. It’s a non-system that works for me for the most part.  Every once in a while, though, a few of my favorite mom friends will have the same (or similar) cute army jacket and I’ll feel like I missed the boat.

In case that’s happened to you too, here’s a quick little video from our newest sponsor, Marshalls, on the hottest trends for spring.

What’s your favorite mom-friendly trend for spring?

You’ve heard it said that the days are long but the years are short.  If you are a mom, you’ve experienced this to be true.  When the kids are little, you spend your days constantly feeding, changing, wiping, fixing, answering and the list goes on.  Raising kids takes a LOT of work!  But, they are growing up before our eyes and with each passing year those little tasks we’re needed for diminishes.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a mom of two boys (13 and 11) and a nine year old girl.  I can hardly believe that I have a teenager.  So, you can trust me when I say it goes by fast!  So fast, in fact, that I sense the urgency in spending time with them.  Not just casual time (even though that’s important) but one-on-one time.  I’m talking about the times that they will remember as they grow older.

The world we live in is all about multi-tasking.  We order in a drive-through and eat while we are driving to sports practice.  We use our smart phones to answer emails while we sit on the couch with the kids.  I’m challenging us to throw away this multi-tasking concept so we can give our children undivided attention.  All our lives are different, so maybe this will happen once a day, once a week or once a month.  Whatever it is, make it quality.  Make it count. Read More