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An Open Letter to Momtrepreneurs & Side Hustlers

Warning: this is a long post that's been marinating for a while. Thanks for sticking with me to the end.

To anyone who considers themselves a momtrepreneur, a side hustler, or a juggler of more than one main focus: a must read.

To anyone who considers themselves a momtrepreneur, a side hustler, or a juggler of more than one main focus: a must read.

Let's get down to the nitty gritty for a sweet minute, friends. To all of you balancing a full-time job/part-time job/relationship/child(ren)/pets/major projects and something else (likely another one of those things just mentioned), you are doing great work. Your efforts are worthy and noticed and, dare I say, appreciated.

All of the things you want might not be in balance, in fact, you might not be in balance, but you are making progress. You are getting something done, you are adding to the world. 

And the YOU of it all is more important than the final WHATEVER. I feel so confident in that statement that I'm going to make it a big old generalization.

Take care of you. You matter. If the you of you is not here, the whatever is not going to happen or to happen as well as it would with you.

I'm not trying to be cryptic here. Let me say more.

A few things you may or may not know about me:

  1. I've been blogging, designing, networking, project-ing, and shop owning here for almost four years (Hi blogger peeps!) on the side (AKA: side hustle/entrepreneur) which means in real life I create the world of Pars Caeli in the wee small hours of the night, on the weekends, and in the early mornings.  
  2. I have three incredible children (10, 8, and 6), and a husband who refers to me as Beautiful and means it (awesome everywhere but some public settings).
  3. I have a great full-time job as a graphic designer and social media specialist. (Hi coworkers!)

Like many of you, the mix of those three aspects of my life fills me up creatively, spiritually, and emotionally. And like many of you, the combination of those exhausts me, gives me many a sleepless night, and leaves me more prone to any sickness floating around. 

For me, this blog turned business is not a necessity; it doesn't generate sufficient income to do much. It's not a quick fix for my creativity. It's not a portfolio of my talent. 

It is a ton of work. Hours and hours and hours. Most of which are likely to have been better spent in REM sleep, exercise, hobbies (what?), and relaxation (and what the what?). There are many days that I am tired. There are many more days that I wonder how I will find time to do the next thing. There are days when I create a great post on parenting, and I'm a horrible mother. There are days that I create nothing, and I have a good read on my kid's lives. And there are those ever-so-rare days when all the planets (even Pluto that isn't really a planet any more) align and the projects are gorgeous, my kids are content and growing, and I'm a successful employee. I might be able to count those on my fingers.

So, why do it, right? Why have the job and the business? Or the kids and the job? Or whatever your list is.... It's not for the steady blood pressure or minimal aggravation. It's likely not for the fame or the fortune or the record books either.

People have asked me why I started a blog, and I find myself answering that question differently now than I did four years ago. I'm not sure if I'm rewriting history or getting to know myself better, but I thought I started to blog to have a space where I could create whatever I wanted, as well as hold myself accountable to do the activities and projects I wanted to do with my kids and my home.

And it has been that - on many occasions.

I also started to blog to be "in the room" with remarkable, capable, talented, and determined creators. I wanted to challenge myself to do more. And I wanted to challenge myself to learn from people outside of my direct circles, but still incredibly like me. For good or bad, I'm the kind of person who observes a crowd of people, notices dynamics, senses personalities, finds charismatic individuals, and says to myself, "I want to be that person's friend." The energizer, the empathizer, the artist, the satirist, the deep intellectual, the misunderstood, the genuine giver. All of these archetypes have fallen into my must-meet-and-befriend circle.

And I am so, so grateful that I now have a whole gang of people that I admire and I love because of this blog, this after-hours jumbo project. We are in the room together, and somehow over these four years, I've done enough and been enough that I finally feel that I have proven to myself that I am their peer.

Which leads me to why I think I really started this blog.

I needed a space to remind me who I am.

I needed a space to remind me who I want to be.

When I think through and peruse the hundreds of posts I've created through the years, each post seems to fall into one of two categories: a diatribe of who I am or a projection (via project) of who I want to be. 

I had a local friend tell me that she felt intimidated to read my blog. "How do you do all of those things? And have a job? And have a family? I could never do that." To which I responded something typical of me, "No worries. I don't really do it all that well. And feel welcome not to read the blog. I totally won't be offended." And she said,

"No, no. I keep coming back to it because I need to have something in my life to aspire to."

And I recall looking away (something I rarely do in conversation) because she put into words a feeling that I had not been able to.

I blog because I want something to aspire to. I blog because I want to be the me that I aspire to. And this process and hard work and creativity and networking and curating lead me to that person. Legitimately. I have seen it and I know this to be true.

It's ok to stop. It's ok to quit.  It's ok to slow down or reduce or shut off.

It's ok to stop. It's ok to quit.

It's ok to slow down or reduce or shut off.

BUT, let me circle back here - I promise this will make sense...

There are times, perhaps more than I care to acknowledge, that all of the hustle, the emails, the support, and everything else drain me... Maybe they drain you. And let's just call it as it is - it's a LOT. The content creation, the idea editing, the project research, the making, the lighting, the photography and photo editing, the writing and the rewriting, the promoting and repromoting, the reaching out and the responding, the updating and the disclosing.

And the spark of accomplishment can be exciting and sparkly and awesome enough to propel us forward. I am an idea junkie! A great idea can sustain me for days. Keep going, keep going, keep going.

"You've got to keep up, don't slouch on those pins, stay in touch with your audience, when was the last time you posted? Send her an email, rework that content, you should be doing more this..."

And I/we can mistake the spark of accomplishment for good health or wellbeing.

And if the spark even slightly wanes, the truth shows herself.

And she can be angry, dehydrated, hungry, tired, anxious, sad, out of shape, lonely, or the whole mix together.

Because momtrepreneurs and side hustler friends, we can't function on the spark alone. And I feel weird that this is even a thing. But it is for me, and it might be for you. That passion and that desire is oh so sexy and exciting, and we convince ourselves that we can. We can do it all with one more hour, one more post, one more...

I recently talked to someone (entrepreneur) who is uber successful, incredibly gifted, and well on her way to making the profit she deserves for the endless hours she's invested in her business. But she has had such sole focus and drive on her blog/business, that she's forgotten to eat for a day, not left her home for weeks on end, and now finds herself in the hospital for a small health issue that blew up into a larger one because she was so focused on the drive and the business alone.

You matter. If the you of you is not here, the whatever is not going to happen or to happen as well as it would with you. (Fill in your words here.)

We think, I think, we have to push through everything to keep slogging away, perhaps to the detriment of THE REST OF OUR LIVES, entrepreneurs. But we have to have the rest of our lives; we can't forget about the people who love us, the nutrition and the rest that we need, the real life moments we want to experience in real life.

And so I say this from my four years of drive and from the softest spot in my kindred spirit heart:

It's ok to stop.

It's ok to quit.

It's ok to slow down or reduce or shut off.

It's all ok. Whatever that end goal that you're so passionate about is... it is not worth you. Your health, your personality, your smile, your integrity, your zest. 

This is a great big world of the internet, and people love the immediate and the now and the whenever-they-want-it, but if you're not there to supply the content, those people can find what they need elsewhere. It doesn't have to be you working tirelessly. It doesn't have to be you sacrificing yourself for the sake of something that might not really be your goal any more.

And I want you to know that your time and your energy is enough. It doesn't have to be what someone else's was/is. It was yours, and it was solid. And if it ends tomorrow, that does not detract from the inherent goodness of what you have done.

But please know, too, I might be sad, and I might miss you. Because the time that you have spent has meant the world to me and so many others. Because I can see the power of what you create far better than you will ever be able to.

But what you have given is so good that it is enough. Right as it is. Right now.

It is more important in the real world for you to take care of you. Don't let small issues become big ones in your relationships and in your health and in your family because you have been so focused on the other things. You give it your all. And you certainly have all the permissions to take weekends off, to be fully present with your kids, to watch TV, to daydream, to walk the mall, to fast from social media, to do whatever it is you need.

You see, the internet will still be here. The people who need to read and to hear and to aspire to these same things will still be here. Likely, I'll still be here - unless, I too find the need to need to break off and to mend. And for that, I'll have to reread this post a dozen times to convince myself that it's ok...

So I first write it to you.

Thank you for all of your creating, your time, your moments that none of us even know that have been sacrificed to move closer to your aspiration. That journey and all of its by products has enriched our lives and the common good.

Take care of you. You matter.

xoxo, MJ

A parent's role in a growth mindset: Helping children embrace challenges
The ways we praise our children affect how they see their own strengths and weaknesses. Get on the growth mindset train with this free printable.

The ways we praise our children affect how they see their own strengths and weaknesses. Get on the growth mindset train with this free printable.

I think I can.

I think I can.

I think I can.

What if the Little Train had more genius to it than we ever imagined? What if the true belief that you CAN moves you closer--significantly closer--to that possibility?

As a former educator and a mom who fancies herself a lifetime learner, I've been looking into how I can incorporate the idea of a growth mindset with my children. Have you heard of this concept? It was developed by Carol Dweck, a famed psychologist and researcher, who identified two motivations of the intellect: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Dr. Dweck explained these two ways of thinking like this:

"In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."
Strategies for parents: easy ways to help your children embrace challenge! Free printable reminders.

Strategies for parents: easy ways to help your children embrace challenge! Free printable reminders.

In my family, I'm the youngest of three, the baby to two brilliant siblings. Growing up, I often compared myself to my sister (with the photographic memory) and my brother (with the immense capacity for knowledge). I believed that I was born with less than they were. Somewhere the thought occurred, "did my parents run out of all the good genes by the time I was born?" Through a variety of influences, including unassuming teachers and mentors who told me I was smart and talented, I came to the childhood/adolescent conclusion that I was this smart, with these talents, and could therefore do these things.

And then my world--neat, pre-determined, and a little sad--was knocked off its orbit by the asteroid of art. In the great quest for pubescent self-discovery, I decided that my niche would be art. This talent was also already taken by my siblings, but, nevertheless, I was determined that I could be a better artist than I had been. Somehow the subjective bandwidth in art broke down my fixed mindset, little by little, making way for new discoveries into how I could and I was progressing and always building upon my own talents.

Quite naturally (and beautifully) this idea that I could get better, learn from my mistakes and build upon them, and grow with hard work permeated into other areas of my life. I had once viewed myself a poor, slow reader, and I was now reading and comprehending stacks of books, and enjoying them. Moreover, I began to understand that despite whatever perceived struggles or limitations I might have in any area, with effort and determination (a key here), I could and did improve.

You might be thinking, "hello, obvious, how are you?" But let's take this idea a step further into parenting.

When was the last time you told your child (in an effort to be a supportive, loving parent), how smart she/he is? Or mentioned how talented she/he is?

Do you have a growth mindset for yourself? Take the simple quiz here.

Subtle adjustments to our parenting talk (and our internal dialogues) can make enormous changes in the ways our children perceive, achieve, and embrace challenge. Gah!

Let me retype that.

Changing the comment from "You are such a smart girl!" to "You worked so hard and look what you achieved!" can alter how our children perceive their own abilities. Encompassing a growth mindset instead of a fixed one, helping them to strive for progress and growth instead of an unachievable (and therefore ultimately disappointing) finite goal can all be a part of our parenting conversations and the family environment that we cultivate.

Get the free printable guideline on how to talk with your children in ways that will help them grow and embrace challenge.

Get the free printable guideline on how to talk with your children in ways that will help them grow and embrace challenge.

Most stunning to me is how easy this is to implement. 

Consider the brain as a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the more challenge we give it, the more opportunity we have to grow.

Consider next time when your child comes running to show you the great grade on a math test, how will you respond?

"You are brilliant. Look how smart you are at math!" or

"You worked so hard, and it paid off.  It's great to see your determination." 

Are you ready to help your child move to a growth mindset? Or ready to adopt one for yourself? I've made this easy guide to keep handy to get you on track quickly and easily. Click the yellow box below to get it and more Pars Caeli goodies!

Sign up and get our free and totally helpful, one-page simple guide!

xoxo, MJ


6 fun water balloon games: Endless Summer Projects

The hot days of summer bring on lots of water play at our house. And beyond the sprinkler and waterslide, we love water balloon games. The surprise of the break in combination with an instant soaking speaks to the unique beauty of summer fun! For today's Endless Summer Projects, we're sharing 6 water balloon games that we love.

1. The Fast Fill

The first (and sometimes most difficult task) of a good water balloon game is having lots of water balloons at your disposal. This game is for the older kids/adults in your group. It's a race to see how many balloons you can fill up and tie off in a set amount of time. Be careful, you're likely to spray yourself and others as you attempt to knot balloon ends and find the ones that leak and explode!

This game is a great way to kick off the balloon festivities because it gets everyone a little wet and laughing at themselves and each other. Make sure you have a secure location, like a bucket or baby pool to hold all the completed balloons.


2. The Balloon Pinata

A twist on the traditional pinata game with the prize being a great splash! Fill a handful of balloons and tie them together with string strong enough to hold the weight of the full balloons. Find a great location to hang the pinata for the various gamers to reach. Perhaps a tree limb, a playset, or a gardening tool might work well.

Be ready for a few sets of swings to make sure all the balloons have burst!


3. The Balloon Toss Through a Hoop

Of course, you can do the traditional balloon toss back and forth, moving one pace further with each successful catch.

But we like to get everyone involved and take it to a different level. Have someone hold a hula hoop and have two team members work together to toss the balloon through the hole to their partner on the other side. Be careful, that hoop might cause a quick break in a balloon!


4. The Spoon Balloon Race

This is a take on the outdoor egg race game. If you have small water balloons like we do, find large serving spoons to balance them upon. Some of our balloons broke before we even got the race started, so if you're a fierce competitor, use both hands to keep your balloon steady until the GO! signal is made.

Determine how far you want your race to go (and if you want to lap back to the start line), and go as fast as you can. The object is to make sure you finish the race with your balloon balanced and in tact on your spoon - and you can use only one hand. If your balloon falls off, you have to go back to the starting line. If your balloon breaks, you're out of the game!


5. The Balloon Explosion

Lay out a tarp or vinyl tablecloth on the ground. Sprinkle baking soda on top of it. Fill balloons with a mixture of vinegar and water. Watch the explosion!

This one is all about who can make the best effect. Consider making small piles of baking soda on the cloth so that participants have something to aim for. This one is a great science experiment brought to life!


6. Soak Your Sibling

This is our favorite - a combination of balloon pinata with a hint of a dunk tank. Caution on this one. Be sure you have gentle participants with good aim so that they do not hit one another with the bats, but only hit the water balloons.

Everyone takes a turn sitting under the pinata. The batter keeps his/her eyes open and tries to break the pinata in as few hits as possible to get his/her sibling as wet as he/she can while remaining dry themselves.


Summer is the perfect time to burst open water balloons - even if it's just to throw them right at someone who needs to get soaked!

Join us for Endless Summer Projects next Wednesday to get you ready to celebrate the 4th!

xoxo, MJ

Paper Daffodil Wreath

It's time for another fun project in collaboartion with our incredibly talented friends over at Classic Play. Today we're making paper daffodils with the kids for some pretty fantastical results.

This wreath is so simple to make from supplies you have around your house. Grab some paper (we used misprinted letterhead) in white and yellow, cotton swabs, food coloring, and some scissors. Bring your children into the process and let them feel the sense of accomplishment form their paper flowers.

We decided to dye our cotton swabs yellow using diluted yellow food coloring first. First, trim off one swabbed end, and dip and dunk them into the yellow dye. This step is not necessary (you can paint or color these with a permanent marker), but the process itslef added to the fun. My son, 4, became our specialist in creating the centers of the flowers.

make paper daffodils with the kids

We dunked ours a few rounds for fun. Take those out of the dye and place them to the side while you craft the petals. The process for creating these paper flowers is super similar to that of folding a paper snowflake. You want to create from a square piece of paper so fold over a right triangle and trim the excess to form.

You'll work from a square piece of paper (so from the first image, trim off the extra paper at the bottom.) Fold the large triangle in half. And then fold it in half again. Your triangle should look something like the one on the right below. Hold it with the end that is connected to the main fold.


Next cut out your petal shape, making sure to only cut along the two open sides. You'll cut a C curve along the top of the triangle. Creativity is encouraged here; some of our daffodils had pointed petals and some very round ones. Unfold your flower to discover!

Next up, create inner yellow circle. Shape it into a cone and secure with glue or tape.

tutorial for making paper daffodils

Using a sharp pencil or the colored cotton swabs, poke a small hole in the center of your white flower. Push the cone tip through the hole in the white flower and insert the yellow swab into the center of the yellow cone. Secure all the flower parts together with invisible tape around the stick (and behind the petals) of the cotton swab.


We decided that with all these “fresh” flowers we needed to make something bigger. With the help of a simple styrofoam wreath, we pushed the blunt end of each swab into the circle form. With the handiwork of my children, we were able to fill about half of the wreath, and I wanted a really full final product so I kept on creating for an hour after they lost interest.


These everlasting flowers are charming on their own or strung as a banner. And this process was just as fun as the finished wreath. We're all very proud of our new door decoaration.

Happy crafting!

xoxo, MJ

Lunchbox Notes

Eight or more hours away from home and at school can sometimes feel like eternity. A sweet note in your child's lunchbox can be a simple reminder that you're thinking of them. A silly joke can say have fun, relax, and laugh! I have an easy way for you to add extra love through #PC_lunchboxnotes.


Here's a simple way for you to be the cool mom or dad you always want to be (and give yourself a few chuckles in the process). Almost every weekday, I post jokes for you to copy (in your own handwriting) - even with a suggested doodle - and place it inside your child's lunch.

Look, parenting is hard enough. We've got to stick together. And I'm already making these so why not follow along and use what you like?

I've posted on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter my daily lunchbox notes to my children over the last year and a half. There's a whole 180 days (plus a few extra) out there for you to grab!

Over the year, as I've posted my ridiculous jokes and silly doodles, I've heard from a number of moms who would tell me that they stole my joke for their child's lunch that day.


And to that I say, "Steal more!" My hope in taking pictures of these notes is to make life a bit easier (and sillier) for all of us parents out there completing the rather mundane task of preparing a meal while thinking of our kids and wishing them laughter in their day.

Some parents have pulled up this hashtag #PC_lunchboxnotes during road trips. Others have pulled them out while waiting in the doctor's office. My own children now want me to post videos of them telling these jokes, as they practice their own social and relational techniques through humor.

Also, it should be noted that these jokes are not limited to children. Your spouse, your love, your mailman or neighbor might enjoy a corny riddle, too, so share the love and regram, retweet, and retell to your heart's desire!


Just follow along with Pars Caeli on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. I post two different jokes every week day so follow all of these for maximum possibilities!

If you're looking for another easy way to send a laugh here are 180 printable lunchbox notes from 320 Sycamore. I'm particularly smitten with her selection of knock knocks. And check out these Instagram notes that Camille featured. How cool would these be to receive?

Happy start of the school year, friends! There's no other time quite so energetic and hope-filled as this time of year for me. Sending some of that hope your way...

xoxo, MJ