Posts tagged back to school
7 Ways to Get Back to You in Back to School Season
All opinions expressed are all mine. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Pars Caeli.
Back to school season can be the perfect time to return to you! Try these seven ways to refresh.

Back to school season can be the perfect time to return to you! Try these seven ways to refresh.

We've put a pretty bow around the end of the first week of school here! The final rush for school clothes, supplies, extra sleep, and final hoorahs came to an abrupt end to make way for backpacks, planners, extracurriculars. And though my children were not exhausted after their first day, I was!!

I love back to school season, don't get me wrong. As a former teacher, I get so excited for the year ahead. And as a mom, I love the return to order and a little predictability.

So, now that the kids are happily settled into school, and I've had a few nights of sleep to recover from the back to school prep, I am ready to get back to me a bit. The beauty of having all three in school for the first time is that, although I am still busy with work and the business, I have a little wiggle room for self care and a recharge of spirit.

Maybe this season is a great time for you to get back to you, too! Perhaps you aren't affected by the start of the school year or maybe you're only sending one or two off to school. It doesn't matter. This transition to fall might be just what you need to kick back in to gear. Here are 7 ways to go back to school and back to you:


As someone who doesn't go through transitions quickly (or easily), I can safely attest to the need for patience with yourself. A sharp change in schedule or an adjustment to people moving in and out of our lives can cause more disrupt to our day-to-day than we might expect. Give yourself some time to adjust. 

2. Get yourself moving:

Whether you have a wealth of time on your hands now or just a few moments to spare, use them to get yourself up and about. It is oh so tempting to fill our time with more coffee dates or TV or blog reading. But the benefits that come from exercise and being in a new surrounding will redouble their effect on your well-being.

So pair the podcasts and binge watching with a walk, a run, or a yoga class with friends. I've been running during lunch, getting myself out into the fresh air. Do something that makes sense for you.

3. Invest in some beautiful office supplies for you:

Students don't have to be the only ones to get organized! Grab yourself a new organizational tool or a chic daily planner to inspire your commitment to take care of yourself and put your priorities in place.

Wire baskets are a new love of mine, for catching all that doesn't look wonderful sitting in piles and corners of my house.

4. Get your learn on:

Dig in and take on that e-course you've been thinking about! Take a trip to the library or local bookstore and feed your mind with possibilities. Start a new journal or notebook. Spend a few moments where you can in active learning.

5. Take time to laugh with people you love:

Who knows you better than your loved ones? Make a date with your girlfriends, your mom, or your favorite couple and get laughing until your sides hurt. Somehow in the midst of happy tears, I always find myself.

6. Be still:

I have been craving stillness lately. Some of us need it more than others, and I know I seek it after a busy period. We had a packed summer, full of fun but still full, and now I'm ready to downshift for a while and recharge in the normal. At the times when I might have worked alongside music, I'm now giving myself an open window and bird noises to minimize the noise and allow myself to be still.

7. Celebrate the new phase:

If we can make national holidays for hot dogs or lemonade, you can certainly create a reason to celebrate you. You might not know what the next phase holds so maybe you celebrate the unknown. Give yourself something special to mark the occasion of restarting. 

What is there worth celebrating? Over here I'm excited to grab a morning coffee every so often with the hubs! 

How will you make the most of this season? How do you get back to you?

xoxo, MJ

6 Picks for Back to School
Back to school gear is functional and fabulous! See our top picks for the retailers that do it best.

Back to school gear is functional and fabulous! See our top picks for the retailers that do it best.

1. Lunchbox 2. Lunchtime LOL Notes 3. Modern Backpack 4. Water bottle 5. Mini pack 6. Backpack for all

The excitement of school is in the air! It's my favorite time of the year with all the fresh starts that it brings. If you haven't noticed already, you'll soon see all major retailers filling shelves and racks with back to school gear.

For our crew, it's always online shopping that wins out. Not only do we avoid the crowds, but the selections are amazing and coupons abound. 

Here's what my kids will be packing this year:

1. A durable lunchbag: We pack most days, and we have to have a pack that can last through spills, drops, and washes. From our year's of use, I highly recommend the Land's End lunchbags.

2. A great sense of humor: How could I not include my Lunchtime LOL Notes? I partnered with The Land of Nod for my first product - a pack of 180 lunchbox jokes to last year the whole year through. Each one has a full-color illustration and joke with the back side blank for your special message! Hurry and order yours today before they sell out - again!

3. A stylish backpack: My tween wanted something out of the ordinary for her bag this year, and we love what PBTeen had to offer! This vintage inspired polka dot is a classic. I'm highly likely to steal this from her.

4. A strong water bottle: Camelbacks are great for kids, too. These cute designs are available at L.L.Bean, and they withstand the dishwasher oh so well for those of us who avoid hand washing just about everything.

5. The sweetest little thing: The Land of Nod has the most adorable animal packs that you have to scoop up for your darling preschooler. That doggie!!

6. Customization galor: If your child wants a lot of choices and options, Pottery Barn has the best selection we could find. Sizes, patterns, colors, patches, and monograms are all out there to explore. But act fast to be sure you have it all complete come the start of school!

Have you done your shopping yet? Tell me, what's your favorite purchase?

xoxo, MJ

Welcome to a Wonderful Year Teacher Presents & Free Printable

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Office Depot, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #inspirestudents

Pineapples are all over the place these days. They're trendy now, and during colonial times, the pineapple symbolized the warmest welcome you could extend to a guest. It has continued to evoke a sense of hospitality and sweet goodness throughout the generations.

Extending welcome is a primary job for a teacher in the first month of the school. Around here, we're already in the third week of school, and the newness is beginning to wear off...which means... it's the perfect time to give your children's teachers a present that they want.

Sharpies! Smelly markers! Window markers! Great pens! The list of fantastic school supplies is a long one. Children aren't the only ones who love these colorful tools. Show the teachers in your life that you look forward to what the next months hold with a Welcome to a Wonderful Year present. You and/or your children can create these gift tags or notecards using pencil erasers and stamping pads. 

We bought fun school supplies at Office Max. Right now, you can save $5 off your purchase of $20 or more on select Newell Rubbermaid brands which include all of our favorites (PaperMate, Expo Neon Window Markers, Sharpie, Uni-Ball, & Mr. Sketch) And, you can cash in on Office Depot Rewards for shopping at Office Max as they are owned by the same company! It's kind of hard to resist...Head over to your Office Max or Office Depot and take advantage of the deal while supplies last.

You'll need some pencils with fresh erasers, an inkpad, and some paper to make these pineapple prints. Draw simple shapes on your erasers, like the ones shown above. With an X-acto knife, cut around these shapes. We made two sets of these shapes so that one of each could go into the yellow and green.

The pineapple shape is a breeze once you get the hang of it. Using a combination of diamonds and triangles, you can create a charming geometric design.

Or, if you aren't ready to take the project right now, click here to download your own pineapple printables.

Wrapping up a bundle of these fun supplies with a parachute cord or ribbon and a tag, lets our teachers know that we appreciate them, and we're looking forward to working together!

My oldest (9) and I created these together in less than an hour. Holding her back from using all the colorful markers was the hardest part....

Happy making!


Lunchbox Whiteboard: Back to School

Celebrating back to school around here means that we're getting a whole host of lunch box notes ready to go. These little love notes have become a treasured part of my communication with the kids while they're away at school. We retell jokes on roadtrips, and my oldest is challenging herself to come up with original jokes all the time.

When they heard that I was going to be doing a back to school project, they asked for a little something special for their lunches. Hence the birth of the lunchbox whiteboard.

This project is a breeze to make (you can even have your kids make it themselves), and it will bring smiles for a long time to come!


Grab an inexpensive, small frame (we bought ours at CVS, and it's 3"x3"). Painting is not necessary, but we wanted chalk paint on the frame so that it could be decorated for special occasions like holidays and birthdays.

Trim a piece of notebook paper to fit in the frame. Assemble.

Write your note, create your joke, or draw your doodle with a dry erase marker.

Top the note with a piece of transparency trimmed to the size of the frame. This helps to keep the note from wiping off while it's in the lunchbag. It also allows your child the opportunity to write a note back to you. My children have already discussed a rating system for my jokes. :)

I recommend keeping the frame in the front pocket of a lunchbag if possible just to keep the food and drinks away from the frame. If that's not an option, consider wiping down your frame and pen as you pack the lunch.


If you're looking for joke ideas, follow me @parscaeli on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook to see a daily joke. We'll begin a fresh school year of giggles next week. And you can always search the archives by following #pc_lunchboxnotes (over 100 in there to get you going).


I have one more awesome surprise today. We're making chic mouse pads as a part of this series. Head over to Frock Files to see the incredible work of Joy. So good. The watercolor effect and the perfect typography.

Thanks to all who helped out with this awesome week of projects. It's been a blast to see how everyone gets ready to school in their own very cool way.

Are you ready to head back?



Apple Pie Doughnuts and a Printable School Poster

I love so many aspects of collaboration...and right near the top is APPLE PIE DOUGHNUTS! Yes, my friends, today I get to share with you the recipe for apple pie doughnuts, thanks to our Back to School series. The incredible Lyndsay of Coco Cake Land has a charming apple printable and the most incredible recipe for a back to school treat today.

But not only that, Sara of Confetti Sunshine, has a great Back to School sign - gigantic in size - for you to use in your back to school photos! It's free, and you have got to see how adorable her daughter looks in her return photos.

We have another two projects for you tomorrow! I'm joining up with one of my favorites, Joy, to show you two DIYs to complete your week.

DIY Sequin Planter and DIY Colorblocked Pencils

Hi lovelies,

I feel especially spoiled to be able to share two magnificent Back to School projects with you today! Lidy and Rachel did not disappoint on their fresh takes to the season. These two beauties would be awesome first day presents for teachers or special treats for college students and their dorm spaces or...

Because you deserve a little something beautiful this time of year, too. First up, head over to Hello Lidy, and see how she crafted a sequined planter. Glamour meets botanicals. It's a lovely marriage.

And then head over to The Crafted Life and see how Rachel transformed the average pencil into a work of art. Can you imagine these in a bunch/bouquet? Or tucked inside a cute journal? I'm inspired. And I might want to colorblock everything.

This awesome series of Back to School ideas continues tomorrow with an epic recipe. Really. It comes from Lyndsay of Coco Cake Land. Go ahead over there and salivate at the deliciousness. Even more is coming at you tomorrow!! Also, another incredible Endless Summer Project is in store for Wednesday. Ack, so good.

Are you making the last days of summer special? Do share!

xoxo, MJ

Printable Math Game

We have this last week left of summer vacation so we are in celebration mode for Back to School around here. We all love school at my house (some more than others) so it's a happy time of year as we anticipate new teachers and prep backpacks for the first days.

This entire week I'm bringing you awesome projects and ideas to get the school year started on the right foot. I've collaborated with a fresh team of talented women to share ideas for your kiddos and a few fancies for you, too.

Tan of Squirrelly Minds, the originator of this series, is kicking it off with a fun printable math game that will help get the gears moving for your younger set as they get ready to dive back into school. It's the perfect way to keep two siblings busy and learning together as well.

Scamper over to Squirrelly Minds and download your game and join me back here tomorrow for TWO great projects for Back to School!



Free Printable Back to School Signs

Are you back to school yet? I have a pack of back to school signs for your first day photos that will make them even more memorable. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were going into fourth grade? Or how about second grade?

Me? (Well, thanks for asking) I wanted to be a ballerina in second grade. And as an upcoming fourth grader, I thought I'd be an artist. Some dreams were closer to reality it turns out, but that doesn't make them any less special.

I love hearing my children's dreams, both big and small. They are each growing fast and sometimes by leaps instead of the increments that I prefer.


I made an entire free set - preschool-12th grade - of printables for our friends over at Modern Parents Messy Kids that capture your child's future dreams as well as their grade for this year's back to school photography. There's even a set in color and black and white so that you can find the right combination for those first day of school duds.

It's the best time of year for social media, and we want to see your first day photos and share in these little's big dreams. Tag your photos #MPMK_bigdreams and share in the sweet joy of childhood wonder. You can catch all my kiddos over there, too.

xoxo, MJ

Back to School Geometric Initial Totes

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® Elmer’s and Wet Ones, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CraftandCleanUp


We are getting excited for school around here, and, to celebrate, we created geometric initial tote bags to hold the after-school supplies. Backpacks, lunchbags, and school shoes of all sorts are filling the store shelves and catalogs in our mailbox. Ready or not, summer is coming to a close and a new school year is about to begin. Quite honestly, it's one of my favorite times of year. The beginning of school is like New Year's, with better Midwestern weather. So much potential bundled up into fresh pencils and new notebooks.

For once, we're ready with school supply purchases. I like to hit Target early to see the entire landscape of what they're offering. I grabbed up this Elmer's and Wet Ones combo pack in the Back to School section. The pairing of these two is genius.


This year my girls, now in second and fourth grade, are involved in a full schedule of after school activities. We purchased some awesome backpacks, but we were still in need of something to hold the piano books, soccer balls, Daisy folders, choir schedules, and more. Little hands tire quickly at the end of the day and carrying all of the other equipment in their arms just isn't practical anymore.

So, with the help of some Elmer's glue and a pack of Wet Ones to clean up our smudges and messes, we got crafty and transformed some plain tote bags into geometric initial totes that the girls can use every day.


We purchased durable canvas tote and drawstring bags, found some acrylic paints in colors that the girls loved, grabbed our Elmer's glue and a paint brush and went to work.

To begin, I drew in a very light pencil, each girl's initials on the bag. I freehanded ours, but you could easily transfer on a large letter image from your favorite font. I'd recommend something simple and bold since the detail of this craft comes through in the geometric shapes.


Next, trace over your lines with glue, trying to maintain the same thickness in each line. Sometimes you'll catch an air bubble or make your own goober so be sure to keep a Wet One wipe close by to clean up your mistake in no time.


Once you have your initial outlined, the fun begins! From the edge of a letter, draw a small triangle and then another and connect them. Be silly, go geo-crazy, and surround your letters with shapes. Be sure to leave the inside of the letters clear of any glue. Make sure that the layer of glue you paint is thick and dimensional.

Let glue dry for a good 2-4 hours.

Grab your paints. We chose just two colors for each bag and mixed different shades together to create an analogous palette. Paint each shape right up to the glue, allowing the glue to act as a barrier to the next shape.


My ladies were quite happy with their new, personalized bags. Fingers crossed for a cleaner minivan.


These bags are getting a workout already with soccer practices nearing and piano lessons every Monday. I love that my ladies are so well rounded and involved, and I'm happy they have some place to keep all of their stuff for these busy times as well!


So many possibilities with this technique! Find a bottle of Elmer's gel glue to create a washable design for your bags that might need more laundering.

We're on the countdown to school with just over three weeks to go. How about you?

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

Happy Kiddos: Carrying love

Did you check out the new seasonal digs around here? Make yourself at home in the refreshed autumn makeover (and if you haven't had a chance to make your bucket list for fall, let me offer a few ideas).

Wednesdays around Pars Caeli will continue to be kid focused. During the summer I shared some of the fun we have with Mommy & Daddy School. But now, we're a full three weeks into the start of the school year, and I'm feeling a little melancholy about the end of another childhood summer.

This is the second full week of preschool, Kindergarten, and 2nd grade for our team, and so far everything is running smoothly.

For the first time in almost 8 years, our home is silent for two mornings a week, as even my youngest heads to morning preschool, and my hubby and I adjust our work schedules to accommodate more meeting time in the office.

It's the end of an era when we as a couple handled all childcare, homecare, and professional juggles together. As I look back now, I wonder how we managed to work from home and the office and to change diapers and adjust sleep schedules. A large part of me already misses the chaos, strange though it was; I thrive on it. I know that we have been richly blessed to be able to have time with our children and time in our professional worlds, and it has not come without certain (sleep) sacrifices...I have the wrinkles to prove it.

However, new beautiful buds are growing. And I celebrate those, too. My husband surprised me at work with a morning coffee date last week. That NEVER happens. On a typical morning, we are usually trying to maximize and squeeze every possible minute out of one role (be it work or home) before we have to transition to the other.

And for another, M, my 7 year old, is most at home when she's at school. That seems weird to even type, but I know it to be true. She loves learning and independence. She thrives on routine and structure. She wants the challenge and adores her friends. She's back in her rhythm.

C at 5 is finding new courage and new friends in her full-time school journey. L at 2 in his first time in a school environment is so proud of himself and his buddies.

My need now is to let them know that they are each on my mind even when we are apart. I know they know, but I still need to some way to show that.

One gesture I've started is a lunch box note routine, especially with M. She gets a joke a day that she can share with her friends as they munge on their bagels and pizza slices. So far it's a hit. If you're into ridiculous, simple humor, follow me on Instagram or Twitter (@parscaeli) and I'll be sharing the chuckles for you (and your children) with the hashtag #lunchboxnotes. If you have a corny joke, send it my way...please!


A tri- to try

Did you know that my Friday loveliness is inspired by a much bigger and more glamorous bloggers? Have you seen The Glitter Guide? Every Friday they post five fun, often magical, things to try over the weekend. They always have gorgeous images and fabulous ideas. Check them out.

My Fridays offer you a Tri- to Try, 3 ideas/projects/thoughts that might inspire you to venture into something new or re-explore something old. And, I always love to throw in 3 (sometimes silly) reasons to celebrate over the weekend.

And, so, without further adieu...

Are you fully living out Lazy Day today? Yes, that's right, August 10th is officially Lazy Day. You have my permission to lie on the couch in your jammies. But get ready because Saturday is calling you to the ballpark to remember the historical day in 1929 when Babe Ruth became the first person to hit 500 home runs in his career. Take a crack at hitting it over the fences. Sunday is Middle Child's Day so don't forget that middle child (again) in your life. Make sure you let them sit between you and your significant other...embrace the middle.



I was really inspired by this post, and a little in awe of the writing frankly, and I can't not pass it along to you. It came to me via Beth Rago, and it's kind of been in my head this week. Here's an appetizer of Jeff Goins writing. Make sure your order the main entree.

Good stories involve conflict, which is a nice word for pain. People don’t become heroes without sacrifice, and as creatures of comfort, this is the last thing we want to endure.

Surely, our stories don’t have to require suffering in order them to be good — do they? They do, indeed.


I have had this post bookmarked for a while. It's just so smart, and I use it as a resource. Karen offers seven different ways to style your bookshelves. And they're all beautiful. I find it kind of amazing.


It's almost back-to-school time around here, and I'm deep into backpacks, supply lists, and clothing. I've also been thinking more and more about writing letters to all of my children's new teachers this year. I want to give them a head's up on what wonderful, wacky kiddos are headed their way. As a former teacher, I know that I would have loved knowing more about my students early in the year...before I uncovered, I mean discovered it all myself. I'm also thinking that one of these small, crafty presents might be a fun way to start off the school year right. I think the highlighter present is corny fun! Thanks, Tip Junkie!

Have a bright weekend, friends! We're headed on a little vacation to the big city next week, but I hope to still post some loveliness for you. More details here after the enjoyable summer weekend...


PS. Those chunky beads will be making an apperance over at Laid Off Mom's next DIY date. Can't wait to show you!