mindful living, effortless style

  • Before critiquing, correcting, or criticizing I will ask myself, “Is this really an issue or is it just annoying me?” (Endless potty jokes – I’m looking at you.)


  • I will remember when they’re cackling like deranged maniacs instead of eating their lunch (despite being asked to sit still and chew no less than 37 times) that one of my biggest dreams in life was a house full of giggling, joyful, healthy kids.


  • When they ask to do something that is messy, time-consuming, or will take actual effort to setup, I will stop, count to 3, and ask myself is it really not feasible, or do I just not feel like dealing with it.


  •  I will remember that someday soon they will not be dying to hang out with their mother.


  • I will remember that just as giving my children boundaries and reasonable, age-appropriate expectations is not going to break their spirit, letting a few things slide in the name of being a preschooler is also not going to create self-centered and co-dependent adults.


  • I will remember that my friends have dirty houses just like mine – they’ll barely even notice it, let alone judge me for it.


  • I will remember how special I can make my child feel simply by stopping in the middle of what I’m doing, making eye-contact and listening for 3 minutes.

Read More

Around here summer is the season for lots and lot of hands on play. This is partly to keep mom (that’s me) from going nuts, and partly to keep our littles’ brains stimulated and learning.

The only flaw with this summertime mantra of play?

It can be rather difficult to think of creative, open-ended ideas to fill our days! Which is why I’m so excited to tell you about the new book from one of my very favorite blogging friends, Rachelle over at TinkerLab.

TinkerLab Book - 55 Playful Experiments that Encourage Tinkering, Curiosity & Creative Thinking

TinkerLab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors is packed with 55 engaging ideas for your kids.

Just browsing the section titles of this gorgeous new book gets me super excited. First Rachelle sets you up with step-by-step instructions on “Creating Your TinkerLab”, her recommended “Tools for Tinkering” and her “Ten Tinkering Habits of Mind”.

From there, she hits you with tons of projects falling into four main categories:

  • Design
  • Build
  • Concoct
  • Discover

If you’re at all interested in the growing STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) movements – this is the book for you! The “Take Thinks Apart” activity we tried (pictured up top) is from the Build category.

What I love so much about Rachelle’s blog, and now her book!, is how her open-ended, “fail forward” play philosophy truly does help develop Read More

Tip #1, stop worrying about perfection!

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, I really do have some tangible tips for you on how to make this one a summer for the books.

Check them out in my latest eHow Mom Channel post, Summer’s Here and the Pressure’s On: Planning Tips for Parents.

We also have a great summer-related giveaway coming up on Friday so be sure to check back in with us at the end of the week.

And for even more help keeping the kids busy this summer, don’t forget…

Camp mom activities eBook
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.

Whether you’re hosting the 4th of July BBQ this year or attending one, this super simple dessert idea is sure to please.  Of course I love the festive presentation but my favorite part is that once you bite in you realize that what looks like a mini cup cake is actually a cookie. Plus it would go great with our homemade blueberry lemonade soda.

And don’t miss the variations at the bottom of the post – I’m digging the breakfast idea.

Here’s Janssen with the recipe…

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and my kids can’t wait. What more could you ask for than warm weather, parades, and some fireworks?

Maybe some patriotic treats.

Last year, a friend of mine made a version of these on Independence Day, and we scarfed them down in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

I love how flexible this recipe is. Check out the whole post for several fun variationsRead More

Image Credit: © Julie Falk | 04.23.05 | CC by 2.0 (text added)

When we published our free B.O.R.E.D. printable last week I told you we’d be following up with some posts on how to help your kids carry out the different tasks. Today we’re addressing R – read a book with the help of the non-profit Raising a Reader.

They’re hooking us up with some really solid ideas on how to keep kids reading this summer and how to use the time to instill a love of reading that will last a lifetime.  According to Gabrielle Miller, Ed.D., national executive director of Raising A Reader:

“It is important to instill a love of books in children at an early age and introduce reading as a pleasurable experience. One way to do this is to establish a regular home-based literacy program that is independent of school, and the summer is a perfect time to start.”

Sounds like some sage advice to me – let’s raise us some readers, shall we? Here’s how…

Put it on the Schedule

  • Reading often gets lost in the shuffle of summer activities such as camp, sports and vacation travel. Schedule a regular time to share books with your child and establish a regular routine to ensure reading doesn’t become a low priority and has the same importance as other activities.

 Read the Book, Watch the Movie

  • If your child wants to see a summer blockbuster movie that is based on a book, read the book with your child first and then let them see the movie as a reward. This also works well with popular movies on DVD. Engage your child in discussions about differences or similarities between the book and the movie.

 Take it Outside

  • Create an outdoor reading area so the while family can enjoy the summer weather and not feel stuck inside. Children generally read indoors, so being outdoors will create a new environment for enjoying a book and boost a child’s enthusiasm for reading.

Read More

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:


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