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Mom-Approved Christmas Gifts

Note from Lauren Warner, Editor of

Hi, mamas!

Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. We’re still on hiatus and enjoying the break around here — but I have a treat for you today.

Remember all those incredible “Finds” that we featured on this site over the past year? Well, I’ve pulled a bunch of them together into a handy-dandy, mom-approved gift guide that I think you’ll love.

Here’s a link to the full post, featuring favorite finds from the Editor-in-Chiefs of Real Simple, Fit Pregnancy, Parents magazine, and Redbook magazine; well-known mommy bloggers; Today Show producers and more:

Mom-Approved Christmas Gifts for All Kinds




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Important Note From the Editor

Lauren Warner, Editor of

An important note from the editor, Lauren Warner

Dear Friends,

It has been almost 9 months since I started

And, like that other period of 9 months that we’re all so familiar with, this baby has grown in a way that has excited me, warmed my heart, made me smile and made me cry. Every single writer featured and every single post that has been shared has surprised me—not one didn’t. I learned something from every contributor. I bookmarked truths and tips and finds. I had conversations with friends and family about the commonality of motherhood: truths that span generations, cultures, lifestyles.

I’ve featured an amazing cast of contributors who have humbled me: writers with talents and time-constraints who I thought I’d never be able to reach, let alone feature. Women who are legends in their professions, their passions, their families. I mean, check out this list:

Featured contributors

I started this website on a whim, not knowing where it would go or where life would lead—and here we are, 9 months down the road with so much to be thankful for. That is why it is with mixed emotions that I’ll be taking a break from this beautiful site for awhile.

It is the fullness of blessings in my personal life that are responsible: I am pregnant with #4, we’ll be moving into our new home, I am deep in the toddler trenches with 3 little ones—and the truth we all know is: there’s only so much time in the day.

This certainly doesn’t mean an end to, just a hiatus of sorts. I have some fun ideas and extensions up my sleeve that I’m eager to explore during this break—and once baby #4 arrives in the spring, I will be able to re-evaluate priorities and make more concrete decisions about what’s on my plate.

I thank you for writing. I thank you for reading. I thank you for sharing your stories and your heart. This has been such a special project for me—and only because of each of you.

During this break, I invite you to peruse past posts—start from the beginning if you missed any—and check back to our shopping guide as we approach the holidays. There are SO many treasures in there! Also, make sure to sign up for the email list or our Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss any updates.

Just in case you missed them, here are the top 12 posts based on traffic alone:

1. A Rare and Beautiful Gift by Rachel Stafford, Hands Free Mama
2. Making Time for Free Time by Amber Dusick, Crappy Pictures 
3. What Really Counts in the End by Sarah, Clover Lane
4. Dead Ends Don’t Exist by Nici Holt Cline, dig this chick
5. We Are What We Eat by Katie Stratton, Katie’s Pencil Box
6. Find Your Delicious by Shannan Martin, Flower Patch Farm Girl
7. What Would My Kids Say? by Melissa Lanz, The Fresh 20
8. Mom Sets the Mood by Lisa-Jo Baker,
9. The Dishes Can Wait by Dana Points, Editor-in-Chief, Parents magazine
10. Getting Help Isn’t Cheating by Grace Patton, Camp Patton
11. Big Kids Need Tucking In, Too by Michelle Lehnardt, Scenes from the Wild
12. Give the Gift of Boredom by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids

I’ll also be writing from time to time on my personal blog if you’d like to visit me there. I’ll be in touch!

With gratitude,



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We Must Nurture Our Roots

3 Things by Micaela Preston, Mindful Momma

3 Things by Micaela Preston, Mindful Momma


People are like plants.

I heard an interesting talk recently that had me pondering my resemblance to the big Elm tree in my backyard. The discussion was about the similarity between people and plants. It’s an age-old comparison, but I was happy to sit and reflect on it for a while.

A summer storm in the Twin Cities, where I live, provided a great illustration. This ferocious storm uprooted many large, established trees in our neighborhood and around the city. Our big Elm survived, but plenty of neighboring trees did not. It begged the question—why did some trees survive the 50+ mph winds, and others fall prey? Those trees certainly looked healthy to me so why did they fall?

Perhaps it had something to do with these truths, which apply equally to people as they do to plants:

  • To thrive, we need to be nurtured, watered and fed.
  • To survive, we must establish strong, deep roots.
  • Those roots must spread out far and wide, not winding around ourselves in false protection.
  • Suffering (at least a little) makes us stronger.
  • Even when we are neglected, we will usually bounce back with a little extra nourishment.

Our root system is more important than we might think. It’s what kept that big, old Elm tree standing. It’s what helps us persevere through tough times and allows us to grow and thrive.

When the big winds blow, will you stand tall or will you fall over? What are you doing to nurture your roots?

trees in forest


I like to call this an Easy Eco Tip. It’s something that is good for the planet and so simple that it seems silly to mention. But maybe you’re not doing it so I’ll mention it anyway.

Use leftover water from water bottles to water your plants.

The water you didn’t finish after your trip to the gym. The water your kids didn’t drink at school or during after school sports. That water. Please don’t pour it down the drain! Feed it to your plants instead. :)


My 8-year-old son bought me the coolest gift for my birthday: a Rice Cube!

What is a Rice Cube and what does it do? A Rice Cube is a genius little plastic contraption that squeezes food into a cube shape.

First, you take some rice (sushi rice works best because it is sticky, but you can use any leftover rice really), then add another ingredient or two (salmon, avocado, carrots…whatever you want really), and finally, use the Rice Cube to squeeze everything together.

It’s cool. It’s cute. It’s healthy. And the kids can help make it. What more do you want?

Rice Cube


Contributor: Micaela from Mindful Momma
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Check out her book: Practically Green: Your Guide to Ecofriendly Decision-Making


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We’re All Trying to Keep Balance

3 Things by Heidi Gollub, Free Fun in Austin

3 Things by Heidi Gollub, Free Fun in Austin


All mothers struggle with balance.

Although I have five children, I do not corner the market on chaos.  In my experience, one little addition to the family is all it takes to make life topsy turvy. For me, things got crazy on day one of baby number one. Sleep went out the window, laundry seemed insurmountable, and the thought of bathing another human on a regular basis was overwhelming.

Gradually, after adding a second and third child to our crew, volunteer work started to pull me in all kinds of directions—PTO, HOA, school, church, a children’s shelter.  Every spare minute was spoken for. With the addition of a fourth child, I was forced to cut back on volunteer hours, but then I started working from home.

And so it goes, the push and pull of family, friends, work, and more.  The balance is ever shifting and almost always leaves you feeling like you aren’t doing it quite right.

I once read an essay by a woman who had been named Mother of the Year. She wrote that on the same day she received the honor, she forgot to pick her kids up from school. That little tidbit made me like her more. It’s encouraging to realize that we’re all a bit of a mess.

This morning, I raced out of the house barefoot, with wet hair, having not eaten breakfast, shoes in one hand and baby in the other, running late for a meeting.  En route to the meeting, I realized I was on autopilot, heading to my kids’ school. For a second, I couldn’t remember where it was that I was supposed to be going.  I figured it out and put my socks on while waiting at a red light, only to realize that my socks didn’t match. Most days I wonder at what point I will start to feel like an adult.

My mother has often told me to not stress out about cleaning when someone new is coming over, because my guest will feel more comfortable if the house is not immaculate. I struggle with this, but I see the truth in it. When I visit a seemingly perfect house, it makes me feel discouraged about the state of my own home. It’s easy to forget that pretending to have it all together can sometimes have the unintended side effect of making someone else feel inadequate.

And so, I will tell you that following this morning’s chaos, my son came home from school with his pants on backwards, my baby never got a decent nap, and I didn’t manage to get dinner made. Clearly, I haven’t gotten the hang of the balancing act, but hey, I did get to go out to eat tonight.

bluebonnet fun [1]


If you can’t handle the structure of chores charts, play Let’s Make a Deal with your kids.

Here is how we play the game at our house:

Kid says, “Can I play my DS?” I say, “Sure! I’ll make you a deal. Just fold one basket of laundry and then you can play until dinner.”

Another kid asks, “Can I turn on the TV?” I say, “You bet! I’ll make you a deal. Empty the dishwasher and you can watch one show.”

I love this game because I get to say yes a lot and the chores get done quickly, without any nagging. The kids like it because their reward is immediate—there’s no waiting until the end of the week for allowance and then waiting again for someone to take them somewhere to spend it.

My kids have caught on to the rules, and now often ask first what they can do to help, in the hopes of earning a reward. With the kids pitching in one odd job at a time, the house gets clean(ish) and I focus less on what has not gotten done. As an added bonus, the kids enjoy their video game time more when they feel like they’ve earned it.


My favorite smart phone app is called RetailMeNot. Billed as “thousands of coupons in your pocket,” this app makes bargain hunting a cinch.

Basically a mobile version of, the free app allows you to search for coupons on the fly. This past month, I saved 15% at H & M, 40% at Macaroni Grill, and $10 at Aéropostale, simply by showing coupons on my phone.  No advance planning, no coupon clipping, just saving money when you’re out and about.


Contributor: Heidi, Founder and Editor of Free Fun in Austin
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Me Time Makes Me Better

3 Things by Jessica Turner, The Mom Creative

3 Things by Jessica Turner, The Mom Creative


Women today do not make enough time for themselves.

Society today is so busy—and with over-scheduled lives, we miss out. I have learned that making time for me and the things that I love (reading, memory keeping, a monthly massage) has made me a better wife, mom, friend, co-worker… person.

Finding time doesn’t have to mean a getaway weekend for one. It can be as simple as waking up 30 minutes before the kids and reading that book that’s been on your bookshelf for 6 months. It isn’t always easy at first, but the rewards are worth it. You will never regret investing in yourself. You are worth it.

Editor note: Jessica is currently working on her first book and is conducting a short survey about women, their passions and how they spend their time. Take a few minutes and share your thoughts here.


As a working mom, the kids and I don’t get home until 6 p.m., which doesn’t leave a lot of time to cook a meal from start to finish. So I use the crock pot!

Seriously, it takes 5-10 minutes in the morning to prep—and when you come home, your meal is pretty much ready to go. (We usually will steam a veggie in the microwave to go with whatever has been cooking.)

A few of my favorite crock pot recipes:

Red wine pork
Easy tomato chicken
Beef stew
Chicken Marsala (be sure to double the sauce recipe)

You can make things even easier if you batch prep a bunch of crock-pot meals and have them ready in the freezer. Just dump the bag into the crock pot in the morning and you are done!


I love crafting with my kids, but sometimes gathering all the right stuff for a project can be a headache.

This is why I LOVE Kiwi Crate, a monthly crafting kit subscription for young kids. It is our favorite thing to do together every month.

The crafts have an educational theme, are well-thought out and the crate comes with EVERYTHING that you will need—right down to tape and glue. When that green box arrives, my 5-year-old son goes crazy. He can’t wait to open it and see what he and Mommy are going to make. The time we spend with our Kiwi Crate is such a treasure.

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Contributor: Jessica from The Mom Creative
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