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Don't Quit Your Daydream: From Doodles to Product

"Those lunchbox cards are helping me feel like a great mom and giving me the opportunity to communicate with (my children) mid-day which I really really like. Thank you."

Don't quit your daydream! How one mom took her lunchbox notes from paper bags to product launch.

Don't quit your daydream! How one mom took her lunchbox notes from paper bags to product launch.

This summer was a whirlwind. A major dream came true (with a whole lot of work behind it), and I opened my online shop. I also spent focused time creating precious childhood memories with my three kids in something I called the 18 Summers Challenge (we really only get 18 summers with our kids!! Weep). And something even better than my wildest dreams came to life. In collaboration with The Land of Nod, I created launched my first product - a collection of lunchbox jokes! I present the Lunchtime LOL Notes.

When my oldest daughter went off to full-day Kindergarten, I, like so many parents, added a note to her lunch. After hearing from my daughter about quiet lunch times, I decided to add a joke and doodle to my messages. Teachers and lunch helpers would read them to the table, and everyone got a kick out the silly pictures and corny jokes.

As I searched daily to find something sweet to draw, I wondered if other parents would find it helpful to have an easy way to add something extra to their child's lunch like I was. I started sharing these notes on Instagram and hearing from other moms and teachers who would reuse them with their kids! And it was so exciting to see where in the world and in what ways these notes were used! I loved the idea that I could help other parents connect (in the middle of the day or on a long drive or in a doctor’s office) with their children.

As more and more people commented and shared these illustrated jokes, I began to wonder if I could take them to the next level. Should I produce these on my site? Or furthermore, find a brand who might want to bring this idea to their audience.

I first mapped out what I wanted the lunchbox notes to be: an entire pack ready for 180 days of the school year for parents, cards that had a blank back for parent's personal notes, and special jokes for certain holidays and times of the year.

How do you make your daydream a reality? A story of one mom entrepreneur and her pack of lunchbox jokes, now sold at The Land of Nod.

How do you make your daydream a reality? A story of one mom entrepreneur and her pack of lunchbox jokes, now sold at The Land of Nod.

With these parameters in mind, I thought through my pie-in-the-sky favorite paper, children's, and card companies. Which ones best fit my own aesthetic and hope for these fun notes?

The Land of Nod kept coming to the top of my list. I've purchased many pieces from their collections throughout the years for my children, and I find their products smart, well made, and the right mix of whimsy and art. Blogging throughout the years, I had developed a mother-designer friendship with Danielle, Creative Director for the company. I worked up my biggest entrepreneurial boost of confidence and sent her an email to pitch the idea of lunchbox notes.

And she didn't say no. In fact, she said yes.

And months later I found myself illustrating for not only a brand that I love, but for people who help me make other moms and dads feel awesome. And handle my creation with the kind of positivity and wit that I'd hoped. And it's kind of awesome.

This is not the norm for product creation or working with brands, but every once in a while the heavens align and dreams come true. And there's just no reason why the same couldn't happen to you. Keep dreaming and taking big girl leaps to make those dreams come true.

And get yourself some Lunchtime LOL Notes! They've already sold out once so get your order in soon!!

xoxo, MJ


A Key to Success

I've been at this blogging thing for 426 days or so, and I want to share with you a little something I've learned in these days.

Here it is:


Yes, there it is. The public conception of a blog might include ideas of narcissism, self-centeredness, vanity, and well, you can name the rest.

From my piece on the interweb, I can tell you that when I moved from a focus of oh-my-gosh-I-have-so-many-important-things-to-share to how-can-I-connect-with-that-amazing-person, a whole range of possibilities opened up.

I actually heard this phrase from a seminarian at my Church a number of weeks ago. As he sits, studying for exams and sometimes feeling frustrated with his workload, he looks up to see these words. I've been stewing over them for a number of days now.

Really it applies to our lives as mothers and fathers, sisters, daughters. Pretty much as human beings.

As I've read reader comments, listened through words shared on Twitter, and taken classes to hone my skills, I've become more and more passionate about getting the best information, people, ideas to share with my readers. You all have become an important group for me to consider.

So my recommendation for success? Go out there and read blogs, and make positive, meaningful comments. Retweet great ideas (that are not yours) or even better - craft your own 140 characters that reveals your insights into posts - and create your own message to promote someone else. Invite guest bloggers and be a guest blogger when asked. Pin good material and spread great work.

I think we're only going to get to the top if we push each other up.

And, in the end, if Pars Caeli gets page views, well, I'll treat myself to a Hershey's bar. (wait...

And if I don't, great individuals know a little bit more how talented they really are and great ideas are communicated a bit more broadly.

I can live happily with that.

As an aside, these connections, collaborations, and good old-fashioned promotions of awesome people have enhanced my cool factor quite substantially. At least in my head.

In that spirit, I'm DElighted to share with you two wonderful bright spots:

Endless Summer Projects began just last week with an entire 12-week experience of kid-loving crafts. Kicking it all off was organizer extraordinaire Melissa (AKA: Lulu the Baker) and her adorable Mosaic Stepping Stones project.

Endless Summer Projects continues this week over at Alexandra's blog. Please, please give yourself the treat of watching her vlog about how to host the most charming weeknight barbeque. Memorable moments include a great reinvention of the game horseshoes and recipes you do not want to overlook. Warning: you might be humming her happy soundtrack for a while after viewing. So good.


I'm hosting next week's project so be sure to come back here (or to any of my sistas pages) to join in the amusement.

Second bright spot:

My uber talented pal, Joy, from Frock Files has started something I kinda always hoped she would... Frock Photography.

You owe it to yourself to read her homepage/mission statement. So well done.

And since my friendship with Joy enables you to win, too, she's offering you all a discount!! Send her a message (or use that crisp, clean contact form) this week, and you'll save on her incredible styling and photography skills.

Thanks so much for coming back here to add to the growth of Pars Caeli. Your presence is so appreciated!

xoxo, MJ

PS. One last goodie for all y'all bloggers - We're changing our names from bloggers to publishers. Walk on over to this post to read why.

The Pressure of a Superhero

Perhaps you've heard this story before? The one of the superhero who can extend, expand, and alter time? No?

I don't remember a lunchbox with her picture on it, but somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to be this all star.


My journey to conquer time began from a place of confidence and passion. I told myself that I'd been given this set of God-given talents, and with the 168 hours in the week, I needed to spend the vast majority of them working, volunteering, creating, cleaning, mothering... I could do it!! I was on my path to superhero status, so why not?

And underlying that notion...a thought of pride. I am better than. I can do more. Look at me. Watch me.

I can raise amazing children to whom I dedicate focused attention as I nurture their abilities, challenge their behaviors, and impart the wisdom I have acquired through this super special journey that I'm on. I can do this while I give just as much attention to my adoring husband, and just as much attention to making my home warm, welcoming, well decorated, and, of course, trendy. You better believe I'm incredibly successful at my job, giving more than expected and adding ideas only I could offer. Oh, and I can run that volunteer group at Church and come in for centers and help out with after school activities. Yes, yes, go ahead and sign me up to bring in that casserole. I'm running and staying fit - oh and did you see that I brought that great project from Pinterest to life. I am a superhero. Did I mention that? Yes, of course, I've read that 400-page book for bookclub.

But don't ask me to talk about it because I've only read the synopsis on line.

And my Pinterest project...well, don't turn it over because it's not actually usable.

I was distracted at centers and unfocused with my volunteers.

My laundry is unfolded, my dishes undone, dust is layering on my bookshelves.

I can't get to all the projects that keep coming my way at work.

And I yelled at my kids and my husband. It seems they don't see this superhero path, and they just want to distract me with new needs and wants.

Why can't they all just figure it out? I'm tired. I'm spent. I'm sick - again.

I have to expand time. Do they not understand? I am a superhero. I can fit it all in with a smile. I can accomplish more than you.

And underlying it all - I'm better than you.

And the kryptonite hits. Maybe this time it's the permission slip I forgot to submit. Or the event that goes sour because I didn't have enough energy to devote. Sometimes it's a simple as an off remark at work or a tone of voice from home and

It breaks. I crack.

The force field can't withstand this hit. And I cry. And I doubt.

Why are you not good enough to do all of this? You are a superhero, remember? You are better should be able to do this. What's wrong with you?

And the soft, clear voice of reason or of God (or maybe both) can be heard, finally. Shhhhh. Listen to it now.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

You are meant to give your gifts freely and with joy.

And that is enough, THAT is more than. Not you. You, my friend, are not a superhero. That job has been taken by One, all-powerful and almighty. Stop trying to take over.

And let go. Drop the mask and the walls.

You are not better than. You are the same as, in totally different ways.

You are enough as you are. Be that. Do that.

And leave the superhero fantasies to your children and the youth of the world. You have deeper knowledge of friendship and compassion, equivalent to any Marvel power.

Be you. Gently. That's pretty super.

xoxo, MJ