Posts tagged children
Teaching the Art of Giving

I saw very little of my siblings the two weeks leading up to Christmas every year. You see, I'm the youngest of three - my brother is 8 years older, and my sister is ten years older - and they were busy. Busily creating, making, finishing (or sometimes beginning) homemade gifts for my parents or me or my grandparents. My memories, even rhythms, of Christmas include time away from events and shopping to imagine and to cherish loved ones by spending time making special gifts. 

It's just what you did. Or what we did. I grew up thinking that every sibling did this.

I also grew up thinking this is how you use your talents. You create out of love. You create for others.

My sister is a great artist and amazing needleworker. The handmade creations she can put together (in a very short amount of time) are remarkable. She has very few of these pieces in her own home. They have all been given as gifts.

My brother is, too, an artist - sculpting and creating with fabric as well as pencil and paper. As a young child, I would challenge him to create something awesome for me, say, a purple-spotted black giraffe (with nearly 100 individual spots that he sewed by hand), and he'd make time to do it. He's given away all of these time-intensive, labors of love.

As my own creativity grew and developed, I followed suit and gave away my art as well. 

It starts simple, right? Our children bring home that coloring sheet crayoned in our favorite shades. It moves to the work from camp or art class, like the pot or pencil holder that was made extra-specially for you.

And somewhere, judgement comes in from either the giver or receiver, and with time limitations and conflicting priorities, the handmade gets left behind.

My oldest daughter at age four, when she began to recognize the quality of her drawings, wanted to keep all of her artwork. She loved each paper so intensely, how could she give it away? She had spent so much time on it... She had thought about each pencil mark and erasure. And it had turned into something that she really loved...

As I told her then (in four-year old language), I'm not advocating for giving away everything that you create. I suppose it's more of a mindset. You see, these talents and artistic abilities and creative ideas are all a gift to us. To think that we are the sole creators or originators of these capabilities would be false or at least a distortion. Our talents have been given to us by a good and gracious God, and the fruits of those talents are meant to be used, dispersed, and spread.

The simple act of giving away today's coloring sheet or tomorrow's popsicle stick creation teaches a broader, stronger lesson on love and how to love. And how to live.

Keep encouraging your children to create and to create for others. Even if something is not made with their own hands, teaching children that thinking about someone else and spending their time giving for other's betterment is such an essential life skill and a budding lesson in love.

Oh, and thanks Brub and Sis for teaching me that this is the way it goes.

xoxo, MJ


Summer reading bucket list

Some of my favorite childhood summer memories are wrapped within books. The summer before sixth grade I spent doodling and imagining hot air balloons thanks to Twenty-One Balloons. Agh, and I can't forget the summer I read Old Yeller for the first time. I was so shocked by the ending.

Having the time to soak in a good book is a real joy around our house, and I'm doing all I can to make sure that my kids have time and space to make reading something special. C had her first bookclub meeting last night, and she was excited to talk about her book with friends. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is up next, and I'm looking forward to her enjoying all of Ramona's antics.

I'm traveling around a bit this week to visit some wonderful blogs, and today, I'm over at The Happy Family Movement. They have an awesome summer bucket list challenge going on, and I had to join in when Jenny put out the offer.

Take a gander at some of the wonderful ideas they have over at The Happy Family Movement for a blissful summer!

xoxo, MJ

Dear New Mom of Two

Hey friends!

I'm sharing some advice, a practice I generally try to steer away from, over on Bunny & Dolly today. PJ is the new momma to Asa (and the proud momma of Levi, too)! Big congratulations to her and her gorgeous family.

I'm going against my general rule of thumb to offer my own 3 cents because the transition from mom of one to mom of two was a doozie for me. All the comforts of motherhood that I'd become accustomed to (AKA: focusing, relaxing during naps and bedtime, consistency) were tossed around during that first year, and I wish my wiser self would have come dancing in a bit more often.

So, if you know a mom preganant with her second or a new mom of two, send her over here. And if you've been through it and wanna laugh at/with me, I'm cool with that, too!

It's always such a privilege to spend time on someone else's blog so please click on over and get to know what Bunny & Dolly is all about!

xoxo, MJ

When you look in the mirror

I'm back, friends. Thanks for hanging with me during an unexpected break. This week is Spring Break for my kiddos, and we took a lovely jaunt to visit grandparents, but I also caught a mean case of strep throat. Good news: I've slept a ton, I'm on an antibiotic, and my husband is a rockstar so the kids are having a great break. Too much goodness awaits; there's just no time to be sick!

Spending time, extra time, with my children is always enlightening. Sometimes I learn just how far I can stretch, or not stretch, my patience. I often see parts of my husband or myself in their facial expressions or mannerisms. However, my most common experience is discovering something all together new and unexpected.

C, my 6-yo pictured above, is a hoot to be around. She's packed with energy, emotion, and unexpected wisdom. But before I gush any more mother bias to you, I want to pass along a hint of her magic from which we can all learn.

When you take C shopping, as she's looking for her favorite finds, she says things like, "that would look so good on me," "I bet I'd be gorgeous in that," and "I need to try that one on." She has a confidence about how she looks, how she acts, and who she is.

Once in the dressing room, she hastily changes into a new frock and exclaims, "Mommy, I look so good!" and continues to turn and smile at herself in the mirror.

Certainly I want my children to know that there is so much more to life than physical appearance. I recognize, however, we live in a society where image matters and self-image matters that much more.

Friends, I can't remember that last time (if ever) I looked in the mirror and thought, "I look gorgeous!" This is not a cry in self pity.

I am, by nature, a critic and a designer. I see things how they could be and often miss the beauty that they are. I know just how to tweak something to make it more pleasing, but what if its first state was itself the best of the best? Well, I might miss it.

Shopping, and spending life, with C's attitude in mind is not only refreshing; it's been a bit of a game changer for me. If I can somehow keep that precious spirit unharmed throughout tween, teen, and young woman angst, I will have succeeded as a parent. If I can somehow adopt that belief within myself, I will succeed as a human being.

So, let's give ourselves a little extra umph of awesome, and let's be sure to hand it out to those around us in extra large, heaping helpings.

xoxo, MJ


Pinners to follow: Learning activities & crafts

Oh, Pinterest, how I love thee. I use my account as the cutest filing cabinet ever to store my ideas for all areas of life. But sometimes the seas of Pinterland are too much, and I need a compass to find my way to just the right place. I'm launching a fun new mini-series to help us find the best of the best in areas that interest.

First up on the list: Pinners to follow for learning activities and crafts

Late February, amidst the sub-zero temps and gray sludge, is my favorite time to plan out summer learning for my three kiddos. I think I need the mental transport to warm and sunny moments. We also have our own Mommy and Daddy school in the summers, but not only that, I also love to throw in learning whenever I can.

Pinterest is a fabulous resource for teachers and parents to connect joy to education. But where to begin? Check out these three pinners and some of my favorite boards.

Melissa of

Melissa is a Pinterest expert. In addition to her keen knowledge of the platform, she is a dedicated teacher, writer/blogger, and an involved mom. Her boards have specific information on learning apps, literacy activities, and fabulous gifts for kids.

My favorite pins are her book list picks for very specific audiences, including Halloween books, great series, baseball reads, comic and graphic novels, and "Can't put them down" guides.

Emily of Second Story Window

Emily fancies the celebrations and joy of life with children, and she's a gal after my own heart. She's also a teacher and momma who creates educational materials over on her site.

My favorite pins are her 21 "little" boards. If you are looking to engage with your toddler to preschooler, there is a virtual plethora of goodies to be found in these well-categorized boards. She is also a collaborative soul so check her mega boards like the Kid Blogger Network Activities and Crafts and the New Teachers boards in particular.

Allison of No Time for Flash Cards

Allison is dedicated to the enjoyment of learning (bring it!). She focuses on early learning and play, and every time I visit her site, I'm inspired to get down on the floor and create something with my kids.

My favorite boards are her subject specific ones covering science, math, and children's book related crafts. Also check out her board just for boys that has so much good messiness and learning to offer.


Do you have favorite pinners to suggest? I'm always looking for the best finds.

And if we're not pinning buds yet, find me over there at MJ | Pars Caeli.

xoxo, MJ




Host a You Paint Party

Birthday parties!! They have become bigger and pricier since my sweet days of paper crowns and kids meals at Burger King. My daughter, M, and I were dreaming up what would fit her personality and passion for a 9-year old sleepover party with friends. Locally we've had all sorts of group painting stores and party places open up. These are fabulous for unique get togethers, and they are also a little more than we could afford so we decided -- Let's do our own You Paint Party.


It began with the 2 inch canvases that M painted for invitations. She embraced the abstract and each one became its own masterpiece. We glued event details to the back and mailed them out.


M also loves donuts so we decided that the girls would paint canvases of sprinkled donuts on them. We kept our eyes open for great sales on canvases, and we were able to grab a bundle from Michael's for a steal. We chose 12" squares to accommodate our studio space (also known as our kitchen) as well as ease in transporting after the party.

To convert our home into a studio, we prepped the kitchen. Covering the table with freezer paper and removing the chairs was the first step. Creating make-shift easels from canvases propped on coffee mugs worked out perfectly!


Each painter received a thin and thick brush as well as a mini palette of paints. We created our palettes from cardboard sheets, and each artists had her own array to choose from.


To make our guests of every skill and comfort level feel ready to dive into the project, we decided to offer some easy guidelines. Paper plates made a handy outline for the outer edge, and the bottom of paper cups become our stencil for the donut hole.


We began with the background color(s) first to set the stage, and already personality came through!


We then moved onto glaze followed by the cake of the donut. The best part was all the giggling and compliments they lavished on one another. Such a supportive group of painters!


The form of a donut is such a beautifully simple one that painters from all backgrounds can own their own sense of style to it! I was amazed at how many variations we had on the same theme, and I loved that no one felt frustrated in trying to make their painting look too realistic. There's something fantastical about donuts, no?

xoxo, MJ

Valentines in the Classroom

Hey lovelies! Valentine's Day is but a week away, and we are stamping, sticking, and stuffing some gorgeous classroom valentines from Minted at our house. Check back next week for a super cute bag we'll be making to tote all the love notes!

Have I mentioned that I'm a classroom mom? I have resisted and avoided for five years until this year, my oldest daughter's teacher asked me (!) to be the stewardship parent. And I said, only if my husband and I can do it together. So we are. We are the parents for the class which means we get to organize their service projects (which is really why I jumped in) and plan their parties (which is really why I ran away at any notion of assisting in the past).

The third graders will have a simple yet fun-filled celebration of friendship and love, rotating from center to center. I've been scouring the interwebs and pinboards to find crafts that are hip enough for this tween age and easy enough to accomplish in 15 minutes.

Here are my top five picks for a Rad Classroom Valentines:

1. Paper heart chain: Easy supplies, great results. Make one for your doorway even if you don't have kids!

2. Orgami hug: Two hand prints and an accordion fold and kids can declare their love.

3. Arrows through my heart: Free printable for these beauties. And don't forget about the red velvet.

4. Chocolate covered strawberries: Slice, coat, drizzle. Repeat. And save some for the class.

5. Awesome sauce!: Love this simple addition to store bought sauce.

Any fabulous ideas you want to share?

xoxo, MJ

Design Stitch Go and Louise: 12 Bloggers Christmas

Are the post-Christmas days getting you down? Bummed to take down the tree? Take a load off and sit back for our third day of Christmas. The lovely Louise of Design Stitch Go (formerly of Laid Off Mom) is here with us today, and she's launching a new creative venture that you will want to get behind. 

I started blogging back in the summer of 2011 as a means of coping with my lay off. I wanted to share my creativity, my words, and bits and pieces of my life. I was always shy or modest about my creative process and my abilities and blogging gave me the confidence to come out of my shell. I've, since then, bonded w/ some amazing women (ahem...MJ being one of 'em!) and I honestly, can't imagine myself NOT blogging =)
What keeps me blogging?
The ability to share with a community, as well as, learn from a community. There's a strong bond among bloggers, and the support and motivation I give and immense and extremely humbling.  
I feel like I've also been able to hone in on myself...what inspires me.A nd more importantly find out who I am, in a creative sense. What my style aesthetic is, and where I excel the most.  
I never realized what a BAD ASS I was at watercolor, til I picked up a paintbrush this year. And it was even more gratifying finding out, through my blog, that other people appreciated my art pieces as well.
I'm actually at the beginning of a new blog: Design Stitch Go but I've been blogging for 2 years at Laid Off Mom.  I've since, turned the lights out on Laid Off Mom, but I'll always think fondly of it and everything I learned from it. Design Stitch Go! is a product of an "a-ha!" moment I had this year....following my love and passion for apparel design and construction.
And I'm always up for a laugh, a giggle or a chat on:
Design Stitch Go! is still in the early set up phase, there are only 2 posts right now haha...but January will bring some great content, so be sure to visit!!  But here's a few posts of apparel that I constructed from my previous blog:
My only wish for my blog in 2014 is "love". To continue to LOVE what I'm doing and share it with everyone! =)
Louise is a sweetheart with talent oozing out of her little finger. From fashion to crafting to painting to interior design, this gal is on top of it. I've been blessed to have Louise on my team for most of my blogging journey - to inspire, to motivate, and to laugh alongside. I am so excited for her new adventure over at Design Stitch Go, and see where she takes the fashion world.
I love this quote from her new about page because it encompasses the ethos of Louise:
Stop by everyday to see what I’m creating or what inspires me!  Or if you need help with your own design projects, I got you girrrl!
2014 is going to be a fabulous year for Louise, so tune in and watch her grow! I hope I can keep up.
xoxo, MJ
P.S. Tomorrow's blogger will encompass design, life, and kids all in one!! Don't miss it!
A Holiday Baby Shower

In my first pregnancy, with our oldest daughter, I was showered with showers. Generous friends, coworkers and relatives hosted a handful of celebrations and provided everything that we could need for Sweet Baby K (as she was known to them since we had not found out the sex of the baby during ultrasounds).

Due at the end of December, I decided that late fall was the best time to cut off extensive travel. One of the last trips I took was to Pittsburgh to celebrate a shower hosted by my mom and sister. These ladies invited family, young and old, men and women, immediate and distant to come for an afternoon of laughs and congratulatory gestures.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother and sister had contacted all of the guests prior to the celebration to ask them to send wishes for Sweet Baby K. My mom then turned those wishes into ornaments and presented my husband and me with a truly heartfelt Christmas tree.

I'm sharing more about our very special holiday gift of at Unexpectant, a great blog published by my friend, Meagan, for pregnant, new, and long-time moms. I'm delighted to be over there - come check it out!

Have a lovely weekend, friends! Off to some Christmas parties and one very special date!!

xoxo, MJ

Hope in the waiting

My dear friend, Beth, and I were chatting a few days ago, catching up on one another's life. She, ever the encourager, said that she looked forward to Advent here on Pars Caeli, interested to see what I have going on. Advent, this time of preparation leading up to Christmas, is such a special time of joy and family celebration. And after a little pleading, Beth shared with me a special something she tries to do during the Advent season.

She sends a note to all of her pregnant friends.

I remember being one of those pregnant friends receiving her note.

And I remember it changing my perspective on pregnancy.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, 9 Advents ago, I was more than ready to give birth long before my Dec. 30th due date came around. I am not known for my patience nor my ability to put off what I long for today. I'd had a healthy pregnancy, but as a first-time mom, I desired the end of the story - the end of labor, the happy and healthy baby, the recovering body.

Pregnancy tested these limits beyond my expectations.

And yet, experiencing late pregnancy (I didn't deliver until Jan. 9) during the Advent season was such a blessing. I saw the journey of Mary in a whole new way. I pondered how she felt, discriminated as a pregnant woman in her state, managing the travel by animal to a distant land, setting out to experience the unknown, with the faith in What grew within her own womb.

Advent is a time of waiting, counting down the weeks until the delivery of Christ... and Christmas. And we have an opportunity to see it as a time of hope and joy and peace for all of the gifts we have been given and the ones we are yet to uncover. Or we can wish the time away with events, tasks, to do's, and all around busyness to get us up to the day.

Whether it be in my professional life, my family life, or my prayer life, I too often want to skip to the end of the book. I want to get to the conclusion of this "stage" or this season of life.

And, well, Advent, and good people like Beth with their helpful messages, remind us that the journey or time in-between is what prepares us to be the mothers, the people that we want to be.

The time of Advent is our pregnancy, and we have much new life to celebrate.

Either way, Christmas/Christ is coming. May God allow us to have the patience to embrace the waiting and the preparation.

And maybe we could each send a special message to a pregnant friend...

xoxo, MJ


Inspiration Drawer: Make Yourself Laugh

Helllooo there. I'm excited, friends. Excited to share a new spot on the blog I'm calling Inspiration Drawer. Did I mention I've moved offices? Yes, I have. Not a big move, just one floor down to a similarly sized office space. And I've taken the opportunity to refresh my work space.

Moving always prompts me to reorganize and declutter (both very needed elements in my worklife), and I've created a fresh spot in my desk I refer to as the inspiration drawer. In it are a mixture of print pieces, catalogs, colors, words, and photographs that have interested me for some reason or another. Previously these items were all over in various files and project boxes. Now I have my treasure trove of ideas all in one spot.

And that's what's coming at you on Wednesdays! Inspiration Drawer. Images, words, and ideas that inspire me...and may just stick with you, too.


Today's idea. Make yourself laugh.

What do have in your office space? Diplomas or family photos? Beautiful paintings or collages of prints?

How do these inspire your work? Or do they?

With my new workspace, I decided a change of mood was in order for my environment. And instead of filling my space with images or open spaces that might bring a sense of peace, I opted for bright colors, a leaning toward the impractical, and a sense of humor.

For example, I used to have framed photos of my children and husband that I would call "the most adorable" images I could find. This time I went through my iPhoto storage to find the images that perpetually make me smile or laugh. I remember these moments with such great joy that just seeing the image allows me to hop right back in time.

I decided I wanted these to be a little larger than life so I sent them off to print at Walgreens. 3 days later, I received my 11 x 14 poster prints on really quality paper for a great price. And I love how the black and white turned out!


Looking forward to sharing more...

What do you keep around your workspace to calm, excite, focus, delight you?

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: From my view

Welcome to a wonderful Wednesday! This new series, Celebrate the Normal, is inspiring some amazing work and moving me to see more sharply the beauty around me every day. I feel so honored to share with you these images of everyday ordinary from professional photographers, great artists, talented bloggers, and full-on life enthusiasts. In week two, we have nearly 50 photo submissions, a blog post, and a Twitter post to boot.

Here's what I've been thinking about:

We all hold within our grasp, within our days, a whole host of normals, no?

Just two weeks ago, I was correcting my 8-year old on her use of the word normal. One of M's favorite new terms is "weird" - e v e r y thing is weird. I finally asked her to find a substitute for weird, weird, weird. Her solution: not normal. I challenged that one, too.

"Your normal," I said, "is very different from someone else's, even someone like your sister who lives very close to you. Imagine how different normal is to someone who lives in Africa or Antarctica." I was on my mom soapbox and on a roll.

What I've discovered this week is that my normal and your normal just might overlap quite a bit (even though I hop on my soapbox, I might not *ahem* always be right).

And your bringing to light the beauty around you allows me and even subconsciously urges me to open my eyes wider.

And to live a bit more completely.

The Dandelion Seed was Blowin' in the Wind {Joan Baez's less popular song} ~ by Jen at @jenmygatt on Instagram
The kidneybean plant that Brett brought home from school. Fast growing out if its tiny plastic cup and still too cool to plant outside. It has sprouted little bean pods already in just a few short weeks. ~ by Stephanie at @scatt85 on Instagram
More eggs than I can carry in one hand. I call that a good day. ~ from Rachel at Podunk Posh
We left the dry leaves there for a great contrasting background? ~ from MJ at Pars Caeli
sunrise. snowflakes. lots of puppy breaks ~ by Brittani of BrittaniRenee
That's a mighty fine 'choke. ~ from Clare of CSquaredW

Sweetest little birdhouse. ~ from Brooke of Grace and Light

Freshly painted front door ~ from Louise of Laid Off Mom
Love coming home to packages in the mail from faraway friends who know exactly what you need the moment you need it. ~ from Theresa of Inspiration Coop
Sometimes you have to ignore the dirty dishes & tune out the outside world, so you can cuddle on the floor during Super Why. ~ from Meagan at Unexpectant
Haircut ~ from Jill of Every Day is an Occasion
~ from Colleen
Quiet afternoon ~ by Julia of Life on Churchill

Breakfast: waffle with almond butter and raspberry jam. It's gonna be a good day. 


It is gonna be a good day. And we have the power to make it so even when our normal is less than awesome, filled with crying kids, covered with illness, or disappointing to our expectations.

Let's push each other up.

Please join in the celebration!! Add your images via Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #celebratethenormal by next Monday midnight. If you're up for it, focus around this theme or take one of your own:


xoxo, MJ