Posts tagged kids
5 Places in Your Home that can Help Your Child Learn
Use these five places in your home as natural spaces for learning. Some creative ideas you'd never expect, but ones you'll use after reading this post!

Use these five places in your home as natural spaces for learning. Some creative ideas you'd never expect, but ones you'll use after reading this post!

As a teacher alum (AKA former teacher), I'm always interested in finding natural, positive ways that my children can fall in love with learning. We (my husband and I) utilize the summer months and casual moments together to reinforce what happens in the classroom as well as open up new avenues for curiosity and learning.

Your home can be a fun place to bring subject matter to life, and to practice and hone in on the challenges your child might be encountering. Here are 5 places in our home that we use for learning:

Use your stairways as a place to high five review learning concepts like site words and times tables. As she/he goes up the stairs, your child says the problem out loud and then gives a high five to the paper.

Use your stairways as a place to high five review learning concepts like site words and times tables. As she/he goes up the stairs, your child says the problem out loud and then gives a high five to the paper.


This is a fun exercise in reviewing new and old information! I saw it over at Creekside Learning, and we had to give a it a try. (Ssshh, don't tell my kids they're learning as they're having fun high-fiving.)

The idea is this: Trace your hand onto sheets of paper and add facts that you want to remember. Think facts like multiplication tables or sight words. We have two sets up right now - one for my Kindergartener and one for the 3rd grader (see above). As each goes up or down the stairs, they say the problem (e.g.: "4 times 10 equals 40") aloud and then slap the hand. Using their hands and minds in collaboration helps children to reach a new level of connection. And why not have something to do as you go up and down the stairs? High fives!!


Natural opportunities for learning come up all the time in the kitchen! Measuring ingredients and learning fractions go hand in hand. Doubling recipes or halving them bring out the division skills. Authentic world cuisines bring in history and geography. 

We've brought the kids into the kitchen more and more to make great food and to learn great skills. Here are some easy tips on how to have more success (and joy!) with the kids. 


Sometimes the learning can be very casual and independent, too. Think of the natural places your children go for comfort or rest. For my children, there are comfy chairs near our sunny windows that are always filled with their presence. Not coincidentally we try to keep the shelves and tables near the chairs filled with books that my kids might want to pick up. I'm all for increasing their associations with comfort and reading. :) 

I like to switch out books for the holidays to catch their attention as well as move new series into the space. We also keep our new library reads in this space so that their reading choices are at hand just when they want to reach for them.


A lot of our best thinking happens early in the morning, and the breakfast table can be a good environment for learning, too! Sometimes we use our kitchen's chalkboard wall to learn a new word or try a challenge word problem together. If your child is more on the quiet side first thing in the morning, consider leaving out a relevant newspaper article for him/her to read or even a maze to do while enjoying their morning meal.


Ok, maybe I'm stretching the definition of home for this one, but for all of you parents out there who spend hours transporting your children every week, you most likely would consider your car an extension of your home. And all that time in transit can be great learning time, too! If motion sickness is not an issue for your child, have them keep a book next to their seat to read as you drive. If it is, consider checking out audio books that you can cue up for errand running and longer trips. 

Keep a BrainQuest pack of questions in the glove compartment that you can ask each other when you're getting gas or driving to school. 

And most importantly, show your children that you're passionate about learning and growing. Join in the fun with them, and you'll also be building special family moments!!

How do you incorporate learning into your home? We're always hoping to add new ideas!

xoxo, MJ

Printable Oscars Ballot for the Red Carpet
Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

I've created an Oscars ballot printable for you! The Academy Awards air this weekend, and we are avid fans. As a working mom of three, I don't see that many movies. In fact, I couldn't tell you the names of all the films that are nominated. But the red carpet event before the show is one of my favorite fashion runways.

We've always watched the red carpet together. Like all five of us. We make a celebration of it, dressing up in our own "gowns" and ties, pretending to interview one another, and discussing the fashions of the night. It's light and frivolous.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Download your Printable Oscars Ballot here.

Recently, after reading about more and more actresses talking about the inequality of the red carpet, I've been wondering if I'm inadvertently supporting the wrong side. Am I continuing stereotypes by having my little girls see these amazingly talented women judged for their designer gowns and jewelry?

For me, fashion is art. The fabric, the cut, the fit are all a thing of beauty. Much like taking my family to a museum to learn and to observe, I want them to experience high-end fashion (as they may not do so first-hand), and I want them to know themselves and what they find beautiful. Always respected the human being wearing the gown or the tux as well as the artist who created the garment and accessories.

So this ballot printable is out of the ordinary. If you're someone who watches the Oscars with your children, you can use this tool as a way to hear their thoughts and see their creativity at work. Every moment can be a teachable moment.


Who would you take to the Oscars?

What color would you wear on the red carpet?

Pick your three favorite dresses.

And then you get to be the designer: show us what your look would be

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

I'm interested to see which dresses will be their favorites! A little daydreaming might be in order.

Will you be tuning in for the Oscars and/or the red carpet?

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

xoxo, MJ

Printable Eraser Valentines

This week we're sharing all the easy. Yesterday's bubble messages were round one. Enter the eraser ring as round two! We gave these to C's Brownie troop, and they were a huge hit.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

This is completely not a sponsored post, but, let's be real here, Target has the best finds. For $3 we found this 24-pack of glamorous and geometric rings. They are jumbo-sized, you know, just in case you have a bunch of grown-ups who might delight in a fancy eraser ring. Ahem.

We wanted to make something super tiny, similar to a price tag to add onto the rings. The smallest Valentine you might send is right here for you in our printable. And you know I can't resist the pun whenever possible. And so we present,

No doubt about it Valentine, you're a gem.

Grab a hole punch, some ribbon, twine, or yarn. We've grouped a lot of tags on one page to save you paper, too! Valentine's Day was never so girly and easy peasy.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

Keep the love going! And have a fabulous Valentine's Day.

xoxo, MJ

Modern Parenting Challenge: What Type of Parent are You?
Modern parenting poses a new set of challenges. Labels are limiting but can also offer insight into your preferences. What type of parent are you?

Modern parenting poses a new set of challenges. Labels are limiting but can also offer insight into your preferences. What type of parent are you?

Before I became a parent, not yet pregnant with my oldest daughter, my husband and I would dream of what type of parents we wanted to be. These were long conversations (like you have before children) over coffee or wine, with lofty plans tossed onto pages of a pretty journal, writing it all in one place to show our dedication and commitment to this new thing called parenthood.

Spin us ten years forward and here we are. Gold-leafed journal pages of lofty ideals are not a daily reality. The core beliefs contained in those writings remain the deep undergirding of big parenting decisions and family goals. But, the weekly grind of homework and bath/shower schedules, mood swings, and tantrums can soften those strong footings... leaving me sometimes feeling a bit off course.

In lunch conversations and cocktail parties, I hear all the labels and buzz words like Tiger moms or Helicopter parents or the newer throwback, free-range parenting style. It all feels like a bad pop quiz from a teen magazine. I often find labels exclusionary and typically unhelpful. Simple classifications put neat bows on situations and people which are far more complicated and dynamic.

But maybe, by spending a post (or five minutes in your case) thinking about what we do not want to be as parents, we might be able to go more boldly, more intentionally, in the right direction?

Try this.

Do you know in your gut that your child is strong but needs pushed to fulfill his/her full potential? Are you strict to keep him/her on schedules for school and sports and extra curriculars, making sure that he/she accomplished all that they can?

You have a hint of a Tiger Mom to your style.

Do you find yourself concerned about your child's well being? And because of this worry, insert yourself into situations at school or with friends to make sure your child is safe or seen in the best light?

You're breaking into Helicopter parenting.

Do you think that kids should be kids and be able to explore the world? Do you reference your own childhood stories of independent trips to the store or late nights with friends as the way you want to your young children to experience life?

Label yourself a free-range.

Of course, there are limitless possibilities for other "types" and characteristics that we as parents float in and out of as our children age and we learn and grow.

I've been thinking a lot about the people our three children are becoming and what influence I have in that process. I'd like to think of myself as a caring and attentive parent, ready to make the world magical and beautiful, especially when it seems anything but that to my children.

But, as we enter adolescence with our oldest, and peers and other influences play a larger role, I realize more and more that I cannot prescribe or create the world for my children (I know, silly that I thought I could). My job is to show them their own unstoppable courage and beauty, get them to trust in it repeatedly, and make the little choices that lead to larger choices that will fit in line with the incredible people God created them to be.

I also need to keep them hydrated and hold them accountable and a few other tasks along the way.

From fairy tale dreams to Cosmo labels, I'm not sure what my style is, but I do know that it deserves further reflection and continued development. And I will give it so because I get to be the mother of three amazing people, and they deserve nothing less.

Are you a parent? If so, how would you describe your parenting style? Could you categorize the style of your parents?

xoxo, MJ

PS. While you think, let me toss you one of my favorite reflections from Thomas Merton that speaks to me on parenting:

“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.”


Valentine Shirley Temples

The maraschino cherry was the fruit of joy in my childhood. Pop them in a glass with a few dashes of grenadine, and you have a classic drink great for Valentine's Day or any day -- the Shirley Temple.

We introduced our children to the Shirley Temple, named after the charmed young actress Shirley Temple, during the holidays as a special way to make a toast. The brilliant red of the grenadine is a show stopper.

With a bamboo skewer (you know I love them), a maraschino cherry, and some washi tape, you can customize a wish for hugs and kisses for your little Valentine.

A traditional Shirley Temple is made with a lemon lime soda and ginger ale combination, but we simplify and use just the soda. Add a few dashes of grenadine, flavor to taste. Add a few cherries for extra flavor and pizzazz.

The red of grenadine mixed with a lemon lime soda and a cherry on top! An easy and festive Valentine mocktail for your everyday, the Shirley Temple.

The red of grenadine mixed with a lemon lime soda and a cherry on top! An easy and festive Valentine mocktail for your everyday, the Shirley Temple.

And for an extra bit of fun, substitute a rope of red licorice for a straw! Trust me, it's a crowd pleaser.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. I'm heading to Alt Summit today, and I'll be posting about my time there as an Alt Rep as well as a lot of the wonderful learning on social media, small business, and design on my social channels. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram with #parscaeli_ALT Beware of overgramming and selfies. :)


Conversation Heart Brownies

Conversation hearts are the iconic candy of Valentine's Day, but candies themselves could use a taste boost. What if you could send sweet nothings and enjoy some chewy chocolate, too? These brownie hearts are easy and charming for an after school treat or a romantic finale to a dinner in.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Pull out your heart-shaped cookie cutter, a box of brownie mix (or make from scratch if you're ready for that), and bamboo skewers. These arrow skewers are my favorite! Use a permanent marker to change their natural tone to something more heartastic for Valentine's.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Bake your brownies as usual and let them cool completely. Press cookie cutter into the brownies and remove onto another plate.

To stencil on your message, download the svg file Be Mine and Hug Me. Cut these with your Cricut Explore or with a sharp craft knife. Sprinkle powdered sugar into the stencil and carefully press the sugar into the letters.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Finally, put on your cupid wings, and push the skewers through the heart, like arrows, and present to the one you love.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Looking forward to sharing another Valentine treat with you tomorrow! It's become a favorite at our house.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're looking for an easy way for your child to bring in classroom Valentines, turn one of her or his shirts into a fun, no sew bag!

Struggle with the Juggle

Happy back to school week, friends? Last week was the week of projects, and this week the rubber hits the road as my older two start back. Summer is frenetic with camps and playdates, and I have to admit that I'm yearning for a bit of routine and flow. It's a different balancing act.

As a work from the office and work from home mom (too many hyphens to make it worth the effort), I struggle to make time for everything and everyone. I should have perfected the juggle now that I'm nine years into it, and in some ways, I have. I've learned to go easier on myself, and I've learned how much I have to learn...and how much my children teach me. But I also have moments every single day where I wonder how I will get it all done...and with what kind of quality. I love it, and I struggle with it.

I'm over at Sara Moore's charmed blog today talking with her as part of an ongoing series that I love:

She interviews maker mommas from all over and inquires about all the things you'd really want to know.

I hoodwinked her into sharing a little bit with Pars Caeli readers on this series. Here is Sara and her gorgeous family:

Why did you start this series?

We had recently moved to a small town in Oklahoma away from my family, friends, nanny, and my other momma friends that would keep me sane while I was "juggling" motherhood and my small business. I found myself in a fairly desperate place of needing encouragement and advice on how the heck I was going to make it through every day without any of those people. I know a lot of "mompreneurs" and thought they could help not only me, but others as well. Motherhood (or parenting in general) can be very isolating these days. We have everything we need at our fingertips to have and do it all yet what we really need is each other to lean on for support. It takes a village, right?

What you have learned from the many posts?

I've learned that I'm not alone in my struggle. I've learned that balance is defined by you, not society or someone else. And I've learned countless (and genius!) perspectives on being a working momma. I'm so very thankful to all of my guests and readers who have contributed so much of their heart to this series!

Head on over and check out what I have to say about mommy guilt and what I want my children to learn from me (gulp!)

Also, check out these two that I enjoyed: Amy's interview and Erin's interview.

Here's to a kickin' week, my friends.

xoxo, MJ

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?



Printable Map Memories: Endless Summer Projects

This post is sponsored by Bing.

Our summer is almost coming to an end, and we are reliving happy memories! This printable map from Lulu the Baker is the perfect way to capture our epic beach trip and plan for future adventures.

We have dreams of going out West next summer, but my husband and I wonder if the kids are old enough yet to appreciate the sights and experiences. As a child, I often traveled in my uncle's RV with my parents and siblings. I loved being about to sleep, eat, play cards, and see the sights all from our vehicle. I'm fancying doing the same for my kids. Have you made a long road trip with your children?

Melissa's map today would be awesome for a little back-to-school learning, too. A review of the state names and/or capitals? A sharing of where various members of the family were born? And I love her idea of embroidering a special journey on here and framing it.

There's one more week in the incredible Endless Summer Projects series. Be sure to tune in next Wednesday and catch up on all the projects here:

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!



Upcycled Camping Lanterns: Endless Summer Projects

This post is sponsored by Bing.

Summer is the perfect time to travel, even if it's just to your backyard. Last weekend, we even perched our tent in my son's bedroom so that he could have a special sleep over with his sister. Since then we've had camping on the brain. Staycations are always great on the budget, and here's an idea to up the imagination on your next adventure at home. I'm delighted to share my last (how can summer possibly be coming to a close?) Endless Summer Project for this season: an upcycled camping lantern.

Using oatmeal containers that a friend had given to us for our crafting, we painted and doodled our way to a working camping lantern. To create, grab:

  • A battery-operated candle (pull out a few from the Christmas stock)
  • An oatmeal container with the wrapper and plastic ring around the top removed
  • Acrylic or poster paint and paintbrush
  • Wire, rope, or heavy string
  • Transparency sheet
  • Construction paper

1. Hole punch one hole on either side of the top of the canister.

2. Cut large rectangular holes on either side. This is an easy job for an X-Acto knife, but even child scissors can cut through the cardboard cylinders with some assistance.

3. Put little hands to work on painting. We chose campy green to make our lantern look like official camping gear.

4. Cut a large circle out of the construction paper. Cut a line into the center. Overlap and glue the excess paper to form the cone top of the lantern.

5. Cut a letter-sized transparency in half. With a permanent marker, doodle your design. Remember that the light will shine through these two panels so color to your heart's desire. Consider even making shapes to create special shadows on your tent wall.

6. Attach the transparency to the interior of the canister with invisible tape.

7. With double-sided tape or a hot glue gun, attach you candle to the bottom of the canister. *If your candle has an on/off switch at the bottom, cut out a small hole to reach the switch before gluing into place.

7. String wire or rope through the holes punched on the canister and through the cone roof.

The warmth of the candlelight makes a charmed evening feel like one of the best of childhood.

The kids are excited to use theirs inside and outside. We haven't yet done an overnight in the tent (outside), but these upcycled camping lanterns might be the inspiration we need to stay brave in the dark.

We've had such a blast sharing these creations with you throughout the summer, and there's still more to enjoy! Join in next Wednesday for another great Endless Summer Project! Here's the entire list in case you missed them:

Here's to the last glorious weeks of summer, friends!

xoxo, MJ


Vacation Mobile: Endless Summer Projects
This post is sponsored by Bing.

I stink at scrapbooks and photo albums, but a vacation mobile? I can get behind that. Today's Endless Summer Project is a sweet one from Jen over at Classic Play. It's a three-dimensional way for your kids to put together the images, words, and memories of their special trip, and I know my kids are excited to give this one a try.

We had our first visit to the ocean this summer. Living in landlocked Indiana, we rejoice at sport lakes and adore Lake Michigan, but wide-open, amazing ocean space is a whole different story. They were clearly blown away in the most positivie ways. During our long drive and leisurely dinners, we wrote down and sketched our memories so that they would always remain fresh in the pages of our journal. I'd love to see how they'd turn these doodles and writings into a creative mobile like this.

There's still plenty of time to soak up all of the Endless Summer Projects:

Next week we'll be hosting Endless Summer Projects with an outdoor project that you can enjoy well into the fall!

And thank you for your patience with my two posts-a-week schedule lately. Summer is so full, and it's been a wonderful one, but I almost miss investing time here. But that, too, will soon change! Lots of great ideas coming your way in August.

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

7 valuable lessons for Pinterest

During the month of May, the sweet Stacy of Kids Stuff World invited me to be a guest pinner on the gigantic collaborative board of the Top 20 Must Follow Pinterest Moms. It's a lovely place full of activities, essays, recipes, and varia of amazing from moms who know their stuff. At the risk of sounding cliche, I was honored just to be asked to post, and I was delighted to share my content!

When you're around people who are really passionate (and good!) at what they do, you can't help but learn from them. Whether you're a momma or not, if you want to grow your following on Pinterest here are seven valuable lessons that I learned.

1. A great pinnable image is where it's at.

Pinterest users gravitate to the vertical format, we know that. We also know that pins with warm colors and no human faces (perhaps it makes it seem too personal if we have images of others) are more likely to be repinned.

I found that sometimes one great, large image worked well.

For our summer bucket list post, I pinned the rainbow watercolor image of the list. The vertical format and bright colors were enough to grab people's attention. It has over 800 pins so far, and it's been exciting to see our list pop up on different boards all over Pinterest.

2. Don't give it all away in your image.

Our summer bucket list pin drew a lot of repin traffic, but it didn't necessarily lead to a lot of traffic back to my blog. Why? I kind of gave away the cow with the milk on that one. No one needs to click into that pin to get the ideas for a summer bucket list, it's all right there before them.

For greater traffic to my site, I found that slightly less informative pins with interesting titles drew more viewers. Take for instance a project pin like the one below. The process for these shirts is hinted at below, but you can't walk away with all the information - you need to click in for more. This pin has generated almost 800 repins so far.

Or consider this one that has seen nearly 400 pins. An interesting idea (to me) with a fun photo, but in order to really get into the concept, you'd have to click to the post on my site.

3. Sometimes you just need the right eyes on your content.

This was the most gratifying piece for me. You mean, they like me? They really like me?

The ideas and projects that I've developed over the last two years, that I thought were so great, were seen by a whole new audience, probably the best audience to receive them. And guess what? These posts were pinned and repinned like I had hoped that they would be!! No longer a small one or two repin, but hundreds?

Sometimes you need the right stage to put on a good show.

Unfortunately, not all of us can pin to boards with hundreds of thousands of followers, but here is a grand old nod to collaboration. Working together with other writers/creators in your genre can help out a ton! I've loved collaborating on group boards for the Mini Cooks series and now the Endless Summer series. Combining our networks has brought so many more eyes to the content we want them to see. Find like minds and create collaborative boards on specific topics.

4. Pinning your stuff to multiple boards is okay.

This is a real matter of skill. The key, I think, is to pay careful attention to your audience. When are they pinning and from what boards are they pinning? Some boards might dominate your traffic. For example, I see interaction on my board Mommy and Daddy School. Many of my followers follow only that board. So, if I were to pin one of my kid craft projects to the DIY & Ideas on Pars Caeli, this audience that follows only one board would miss out on the pin, and I'd miss out on their traffic.

From the pros I noticed that multiple pins the same post (sometimes different images though) over a series of days and time slots to try to reach different eyes. And as a follower of these pinners, you can either feel turned off to see these pins more than once or perhaps begin to like (feel a moderate sense of peer pressure) these posts more and more when you see them come up in your feed again and again.

5. Use those descriptions for fun or provocative info.

The description of the pin had been pretty lifeless on my pins until I discovered just how much you can make that space work for you! With a great lead-in or teaser, that interesting photograph can become something readers will want to follow. Consider posing questions or alternatively leaving only the most interesting words that will lead your audience. Even a light-hearted joke might do the trick!

6. Keep that 80/20 rule going strong.

No one likes a narcissist. Your readers will get turned off by over posting your own work. Find, cultivate, and repost great work that you find from other creators. Make sure that pins follow your brand and fit with your style, but be sure to promote great work that see and share it abundantly with your audience. And by abundantly, we're thinking 80% of pins from others/brands and 20% of your own content. You'll be surprised by how much more your readers will come to trust you once they see what you are recommending and get to understand your brand identity.

7. Timing really makes a difference.

As I watched the other women set publish their pins, I was surprised to be the first one of the day pinning content. If I pinned a project or parenting post at 2pm, it saw drastically fewer pins than those I posted at 8, 9, or even 10pm (EST).

I caught on (slowly) that the audience I want to hit - busy moms and even busy ladies - weren't pinning until later in the day (largely). Sometimes a recipe or an organizational post would do well early in the morning and early in the week, but projects and longer posts scored higher in the late evening. Additionally, Saturday and Sunday are high pinning times for my audience - and at almost any point of the day - so I tried to save my favorite content for the weekends.

Consider who you want to reach and when they will most likely be on Pinterest. There's a ton of data and pins out there to help you narrow down who pins when, and it's always a good idea to experiment yourself.

I'm so grateful to the opportunity to work alongside these creators, and I'm loving all my new knowledge.

What would you have to add to the must know list of success on Pinterest? I'd love to pin it. :)

xoxo, MJ

DIY Puppet Show

I'm sharing a quick craft you can make for and/or with your children today over on Classic Play. Puppet shows are always fun, no matter the season or occasion. We created our own mobile theater that fits in our doorframes by transforming a pillowcase into a stage curtain.

It's an easy project that will last you all summer long. We also made paper bag puppets (remember these?), and you better believe that sock puppets are on tap for another project this summer.


Click on over to Classic Play to see all of the details! See you back here tomorrow for one crazy good circus for Endless Summer Projects!

xoxo, MJ

The Value of Companionship

Life is sprinkled (sometimes saturated) with challenges and hardships. Companionship is a lost art that our children need to be encouraged to foster. As adults, we often look for quick ways to alleviate our own struggles and take these disappointments away from our children. We learn to keep our problems to ourselves unless we need help solving them.

What does it mean to just be WITH someone as they struggle?

Case in point. My oldest daughter, M, had her braces put on over a year ago. She was seven and worked through expanders on her upper and lower teeth. She's been a trooper through it all, nevertheless she's been counting down the days until she can get her braces off. We planned a "Chewy Party" of completely indulgent food - saltwater taffy, gummy bears, jawbreakers - to rejoice with all the foods she's strayed away from with her orthodontia. I was excited to be there with her when they came off, and see her face as she put the mirror up to her new smile and felt along the surfaces of her teeth with a fresh joy.

As we pulled up to the orthodontist office, my heart began to sink. Only a few cars were parked in what is normally a packed lot, filled with tweens, teens, and parents hustling and bustling to appointments. With a growing sense of dread, we walked in, and the front office assistant informed us that the doctor was out this week. They had tried to reach us (what?), and that we'd have to reschedule. I looked down at M, who suddenly looked so little and sad, and tried to calm my momma-bear instinct to lash out at said assistant. How could this be? We had planned on this day? Make him come back from vacation!

End of interaction: We're scheduled for an appointment a month and a half from now.

M and I solemnly walked back to our car. My mom brain was going 200 miles an hour trying to imagine how I was going to make this better. She cried, I consoled. I offered an ice cream. No, thanks, Mom. What if we went and sat at the bookstore and read together for a while. No, thanks, Mom. Could I get you the chewy candy anyway... those braces will be off soon? No, thanks, Mom.

I hadn't caused this disappointment, but I apologized for it.

I tried to supplement her once joy with other joys from the past.

Nothing helped. Nothing worked.

So we sat. She talked and teared up, and I talked and teared up.

And I remembered what a gift just being with someone truly is. I was initially disappointed with myself that I hadn't created anything magical to overcome this disappointment. I was gradually pleased that I could be the person to sit with her during this time. And listen. And relate with my own stories. And listen some more.

I wonder where I lost the instinct to sit and keep someone company. Perhaps it got tossed aside during the growing process and realizing that sometimes pain can be buffered by temporary distractions. Perhaps feeling with someone takes too much time. Perhaps it got dampened with my human survival instinct to run from pain, to avoid pain, even when I see it in those I love.

It's terribly difficult to sit (for me), to just sit, with someone when they are suffering, even over a minor disappointment like a delay in getting your braces off. I want to fix. I want to create new joy where it once was. I want to move forward.

I know only a handful of people who are really amazing companions. These people know the ability to be quiet and regularly practice listening and keep check on their need to advise or change the subject. They are comfortable with silence, expression, and pain. They are true gifts.

I want to teach my children how to be good companions and go along with someone, through their joys and their struggles. I'm grateful I had a chance to practice companionship myself and to be encouraged again to find more ways to walk with someone.

My persistance wore down my daughter eventually, and we drowned our sorrows in fries and shakes from Sonic. And we talked of life's challenges, of those people we know going through major disappointments and we remembered that feelings matter but braces would still come off... just not by the time we might like them to.

And she thanked me for being there with her.

And I thanked her for letting me be a companion.

xoxo, MJ







A collapsible playhouse with Endless Summer Projects

Summer Wednesdays are the best! Our team of bloggers is sending you great projects to do alongside yo ur children this summer. This week Amy has an amazing collapsible playhouse to share. How perfect is that? Kids can create and play, and parents can have the freedom to collapse the house when it needs to be stored away! I can imagine my children loving to decorate and get inside this creation.

Also, I love Amy's unique design and special attention to the interior space. The house looks like a little jewel box.

Save your refrigerator and moving boxes for this project! We'd love to see your creations.

If you've missed a post in the Endless Summer Series, here's what we've done so far:

Jen made a free printable banner for the last day of school! We created abstract art with tape. And Alexandra crafted a scavenger hunt that is ready to go.


School ends on Friday here, and we're excited to dig in to even more Endless Summer Projects! Have you made your summer bucket list yet?

xoxo, MJ



Awesome ways to end the school year

Hello friends!

It's the last week of school around here, and I feel like we are barely limping across the finish line. I want to share and reshare these great ideas for how to end your school year with fun and celebration! Here are three activities we're doing this week to make the start of summer a treat.

Teachers are busily signing these sweet books for each of our children. I'm keeping them a secret (shhh!) until their high school graduations, but I love reading the thoughts from special people in their lives. I did a post on this project if you want to try something similar for your littles.

We're making final thank you presents for the best teachers and attaching these tags. By the time the end of the year rolls around, these hard working individuals could use a laugh and an extra treat. Click on over here to get your own set of printables to add to your gifts. They also make great final lunchbox notes for the students in your life.

If you're looking for a quick, meaningful, but inexpensive final gift, try crafting some of these chalkboard frames for your teachers. We've made them the past few year, and they've been a big hit.

I have this printable from Classic Play all ready to go for my preschooler and big kids to run through! There's nothing like the feeling of crossing the finish line and accomplishing another year. I wonder how I ended up with a 4th grader - yikes! But I'm so excited to have them in summer mode to enjoy the warmth and sunshine together.

Have any great ways that you're wrapping up the academic year and welcoming summer? We'd love more suggestions!

xoxo, MJ


Endless Summer Projects: Scavenger Hunts

One of my most favorite activities ever? A scavenger hunt. My favorite birthday party (in 6th grade) was a complex scavenger hunt that my dad and brother planned for me. And for my husband's last birthday (which falls on April Fool's Day) we planned a silly scavenger hunt for him to find his presents.

Scavenger hunts pique curiosity and extend problem solving skills in wonderful, new ways. I'm so delighted that Alexandra has decided to make one as part of the Endless Summer Projects series! And I mean make the entire hunt for you, ready to go, just press print.

My preschooler has his final day next Thursday (before his big sisters do), and I'm planning this adventure to kick his summer off the right way! Hop on over to Alexandra's blog to get the hunt for yourself!

And if you missed them, catch up on our first two posts in the Endless Summer Projects series!


We have something really great up our sleeves for next week! We'd love to see what you're doing this summer, too! Share your projects using the hashtag #endlesssummerprojects, and we'll show off your creativity.

Have a bright one, friends!

4 must-try ways to enjoy art museums with kids

What are you planning to do this summer with the kids? Water parks or amusement parks? Day trips to historic monuments? Camping? How about hitting the local art museums!! They can be a whole lot of fun, too. Kids and art are a fabulous pair.

And art transforms us, while helping us remember who we are. It defines us as human beings and sometimes even elevates our handiwork to show a sliver of heaven and Divine creation.

But even with all that beauty and awesomeness in an art museum space, a family excursion to a quiet, clean, monitored space can sometimes be a total disaster or at best a giant headache. Today I'm sharing our ideas on how to make these journeys peaceful, enjoyable, and can I even throw in... inspirational? Well, let's start at peaceful.


I know it's an obvious, but it deserves its very own point. Do not take children to a museum and expect them to have energy to walk and interest to look unless they are hydrated, fed, and relatively rested (that goes for the adults, too). Hitting the sculpture garden with a cranky, crying, tired child will leave you beating your head against the wall.

Enter the excursion with a sense of energy and enthusiasm and time it well. Early morning and mid afternoon can be a wonderful time to explore art. Side note: make sure you hit the restrooms before hiking up the stairs to the Renaissance wing.


If you're going to a museum you've never been, take the time to learn the highlights and find your own must-sees. Your children will feel your enthusiasm and want to discover right along with you if you set the tone in the right way. It will also encourage your children to find their own favorites and show them off to you! Let them know you're interested in the art they love.


Never would I have thought this was a good idea until I read this post from Gabrielle. So, we tried it. We went right in to the store (much to my children's delight), and it was a great way to see quickly the most

famous works in the museum. We had each child pick postcards of their two favorite pieces. With art museum map in hand, we made our way around to each of their picks and enjoyed what we saw along the way to these galleries. We then took each child's picture with their favorites, and these works became something personal and a special memory from the visit.


Many of the larger art museums ask that you check your bags. Smaller art museums are more flexible. When we can, we have the kids bring along their sketchbooks and colored pencils (easy to transport, harder to do damage). Whether it's on a bench or right on the floor, sitting and sketching can take the experience to another level for kids. Let them decide the art work that they want to draw and give them as much time as you're able to complete their finished piece.

Do you have any great ways to enjoy art museums with children to add to the list?

Let's get out there and explore these beatiful places... and bring our kids, too!

xoxo, MJ