Posts tagged mothers
A new series: Fresh Holiday Traditions

Hands down, fall is my favorite time of year. I adore the color changes, smells of leaves and pine, and preparing our home for the goodness of Thanksgiving. As we all well know, Christmas sneaks up on us so fast after turkey day that we sometimes have little time to prepare. This year, it's going to be different (I say that every year but this year it's true), and I'm bringing in some creative mamas to make it so.

Today I'm delighted to announce a new series in collaboration with some of my favorite ladies. We're teaming together (again) to bring you Fresh Holiday Traditions! Beginning tomorrow and launching every Wednesday through Christmas, we'll be sharing traditions from our homes, projects for celebrating the holidays, and always ways to get your kids involved in all the fun!

This team worked together on the Endless Summer Projects series, and these busy bloggers have been up to some good, good things since we were last together. Check out who I have the privilege to create alongside:




Melissa from Lulu the Baker is a class act with a kitchen full of amazing recipes, charming crafts, and undeniably great photography. She's also a Style Spotter for Better Homes and Gardens. You can follow her journey to build her dream house! You'll find her here every Wednesday talking holidays with us. Melissa is kicking off the series tomorrow with something extra special for Thanksgiving.





 Alexandra Hedin is joining the crew to bring fun to every party! You'll find her not only at her blog this holiday season but also over on Martha's, BHG, Sweet Paul, and Good Housekeeping. And now you can catch Alexandra here every Wednesday to help you turn your holidays into something extraordinary.




Jen over at Classic Play is the epitome of cool mom plus! She has her own series on PBS called Adventures in Learning that showcases unique ways to teach and hang out with your kids. Her images and illustrations will delight you over these next weeks and help you, too, add a little extra cool to the holidays.







And, for me, I'm whipping up a few of my favorite ideas for the holidays. I promise you, you'll find something new and intriguing to bring to your family celebrations.

Let's help each other and make this an extra special and extra low stress fresh holiday!

Until tomorrow. xoxo, MJ

PS. If you have some fresh holiday traditions or inspirations you want to share, tag them with #freshholidays and I'll post them up for all of us! Many, many thanks!

Be Happy: In the end

Today's post is another great installment in the series Turn It wherein Miss Joy from Frock Files and I offer some perspective on life's challenges thrown our way. Check out more posts here, here, and here!!

Button pushing. Sitting and twisting that one nerve you have left. The last straw of patience.

You have had that morning or afternoon, haven't you?

These two little ladies could tell you the color, shape, size, and exact location of my buttons. Despite my best efforts, (seriously, how did they figure it out so fast?) they know how to tease, taunt, and aggravate one another and me. To their credit, they also know how to love and share like nothing else, too, but that's not this post.

Thursdays are our extra-busy, what-was-I-thinking-when-I-crafted-this-schedule kinda days. After school pick-up blends right into ballet one, then pre-ballet, that then overlaps with gymastics and somewhere in there we have homework, dinner, and bath/showers.

As you might predict, Thursday evenings can also be our crankiest, and that's not even taking into account children's behavior.

M and C were having a back and forth evening. M would call C a name, and C would lash out at M. M would cry, and C would tattle. For a solid two hours, it was a bad ping pong match of little girl banter at a high pitch frequency.

Typically my hubby is here for teeth brushing, prayers, and general calm, but this Thursday was an extra ordinary one, and he had a late night meeting.

After tucking my 3-year old son into bed, I walked over to the argument that I'd already heard brewing. I could not handle any more name calling, and I (had my own little tantrum) informed the girls that they were to go straight to sleep with no story (very rare). And that they'd better "learn how to treat each other a whole lot better."

I even had a dramatic huff (unintentional) as I closed the door. I really don't know where they get this melodrama. :)

It was quiet for a moment.

I stood outside the door and I listened. I heard the slow build up of tears coming from my younger daughter. She loves bedtime stories. And, moreover, she knew that I was upset ...they'd pushed just a bit too far.

And then I hear M say in her gentlest tone, "Sissy? Don't cry."

Whimpering quiets.

"Sissy? Do you want to hear a story?"

C: sniff "Yesss."

M: "Once upon a time there lived a magical princess and her sister. They lived in a beautiful castle way up on a hill.."


This time from me. My anger totally diffused. M went on to tell a lovely fairytale about the two of them saving the kingdom and living happily ever after.

I wasn't in the room, but I'm pretty sure little C fell right to sleep with a happy grin on her face. Her big sis who she loves and adores (and swats) created a whole world just for her.

And M, well, she felt her own magical powers to calm the storm.

And in the end, that's what they'll remember from the day - that extra special, one-of-a kind, sister moment. And if they had to turn all my buttons to get there

So be it.


Make It Monday: Not Making It

Happy Monday, friends! Did you know that Halloween is this week? If you live in our house, you could not NOT know because my younger daughter, C, has been announcing the countdown every morning. Yeah, she's excited to don her Belle costume with tiara and all.

Today's Make It Monday is a little different. First, I'd like to high five, hug, and congratulate all the mommas out there (and grandmas, aunts, and friends) who have worked and designed some beautiful costumes for their littles. Louise has made some gorgeous looks for her girls, and I know Sandra will be revealing her unicorn costume for the girl this week, too.

I'm the daughter of a momma who sewed my costumes all the way through middle school, and I was that child that always put forth a challenging idea. She put together Miss Piggy, Rudolph, a bunny rabbit, a mouse, a Hershey's kiss.. and many more. Part of the fun was thinking up something I didn't think I could find, and having it fit right to me by my very own mother. She's a talented lady.

When I became the momma, I took it as a personal challenge and a near-necessity that I sew my children's Halloween costumes. To many this is very normal, fairly easy, and happens like clockwork every fall.

For me, this was a process, over two months of work, and nothing close to easy. You see the first costumes I made for my girls. M was a dalmation pup her first trick or treat season, and C was the pumkin bunting I'd always wanted to sew.

For the first four years of motherhood, I sewed costumes. In fact, much of any free time in the Augusts, Septembers, and Octobers was found with me sitting on the couch, hand sewing each piece. My mom, in an effort to simplify my life, bought me a Singer sewing machine, but I always returned to the handstitch because I loved the feel of needle-and-thread creations.

When my oldest daughter turned five, she quickly turned into a young version of me, ready to challenge her momma with some creative costuming ideas. Eeps. So we hit Joanne's in August.

By September, she had changed her mind and wanted something different. Two weeks after that she changed again.

October came, and she had still not decided for sure what she wanted to be. I was stressed, I was making her stressed (why does Mommy keep asking me about Halloween?), and I was dreading Halloween.

I read this post from Meg last week, and it got me thinking. Go check out point 2.

And I'd like to send all of you very talented mothers out there who are NOT making costumes this year (or any year) a big smooch.

I gave it up. Or at least for now. Why, say you? Because frankly, my daughters wanted to be princesses with all the Disney, glitter, and plastic high heels that I could find for them. My son wanted to be Elmo with the big googly eyes and red furry paws. M wanted to change her mind four times and then change it again once she saw the Halloween costume catalog that arrived at our house.

And, more than I wanted to be the mother I had preconceived notions of being, I want my little goblins to be happy.

I want Halloween to be a fun day, filled with candy and neighborhood greetings. I'm done with the stressed fall season and trying to box in my children's creativity and indecisive natures.

And - honest here - Halloween is not an important holiday in our family, at least when you compare it to the real and made-up ones we treasure (eg: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Sisters Day, Yes Day, Easter). And I was spending months dedicated to something that would come and go for a day or less.

This year I'll be walking the 'hood with a goddess, Belle, and Elmo. They are so excited to break into costume.

And I'm delighted not to have trick or treat bags under my eyes any more.


PS. Where do you fall? To buy or to sew? Or somewhere in the middles?

Happy Kiddos: Reading time

It's Wednesday, friends. And that means it's time for a little conversation about children. Did you know that I plan it this way? Here's a glimpse into the editorial calendar: Monday, we create. Tuesday, we simplify. Wednesday, we talk about kids. Thursday, we talk happiness. Friday, we try new things. And that is about as much as I can take on in any given week!! :)

I'm all about this here blog helping my real life and yours be a little bit or maybe even a whole lot better. However, this new once-a-month series is really all about me.

Well, sort of. And by this I mean, it's all about my relationship with my eldest, M age 7, and her sense of learning and literature. And it's about having healthy, life-giving parent-child relationships and finding meaningful ways to connect with the most important people in our lives.

And so maybe it's about you, too.

Remember how I started up a bookclub for M over the summer? Check out this post to find out how you can create a bookclub for your child, too (it's really not so tough to do). We had a ton of fun with her friends: reading, crafting, and eating together.

Now we're in the thick of the school schedule that for us means lots of academics, choir, ballet, Brownies, and a whole bunch of other busy.

But she's still my little girl, and I want to have special time with her (and her siblings, too). I'm also a teacher by training, and I know how critical it is to read at home. If you're looking for some great tips to encourage a passion for reading in your kids, head over to Sandra's's a great resource.

M and I were looking through summer photos and rehashing the fun we had together, and we decided we should do more bookclubs. But fully knowledgeable of our already-rainbow colored Google calendar, I suggested that we make it a bookclub just for the two of us.

Here are our basic guidelines:

1. We read one book a month.

We get two copies of the same book when we go to the library together, and we have to both be excited to read the book (AKA Mommy cannot force me to read a boring chapter book with a bad cover). We go to the library most Fridays (to get movies) and Saturdays (for special Daddy time) so we have easy access to the best choices.

This means that I get to dive back into some children's literature that captivated me.

AND that I need to be equally enthusiastic about reads that M loves... like our first choice, Meet Kit, an American Girl historical fiction. It's set in the 30s and 40s which opens up all sorts of great conversations about the world as it was! M spent her 5th birthday at the American Girl megastore in Chicago having a festive afternoon tea (see above), and she's been interested in the historical books for a while.

2. We wait to talk about the book until our "meeting".

M is very much excited about a special designated time where we can sit together somewhere other than our house and talk. I am super aware that this desire is likely a fleeting one so I'm soaking it up while I can. I imagine most of our gatherings will be at a local bookstore or coffee shop so that we have some girl time away, too!

3. We watch or craft together based on our stories.

Most of the books we've chosen have been turned into movies. I always love to dish about who would play which characters in the movie versions of our books for my grown-up bookclub, and I know that M will have great ideas on how the books do or do not mesh with the films.

If time so allows, we'll skip the movie idea and instead create something together based on our reading. M already has some ideas brewing for Meet Kit and its historical context, but I also want to be realistic about how much time we'll have to delve into a project.

That's it.

I anticipate my biggest challenge to be her brother and sister who at 2 and 5 will also want a bookclub just for I'll just have to turn that challenge into something else good!

Have you ever read alongside your children? Any helpful ideas to share?

Happy reading! XO, MJ


Instant forgiveness

My blogger buds have been participating in this movement going around the worldwide web that I found here, and then added more here. These posts have been a really refreshing way of letting others know "The Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" and to allow us to break down the literal screens that separate us. I have so enjoyed the honest accounts that we have shared in. Yes, I nod as I read them and I feel that little bit of indigestion when a sentiment strikes a chord. 

True confessions: I am not a rockstar mom. I try, and I (often) fail.


The thing is (I think you see right through this, no?)...I'm not a supermom. I don't wish to blog one way and live another. It is weird to type, however, particularly as a person hosting a blog about happy homes, that I do not have it all together.

And, dear, lovely friends who ask how I balance it all - kids and work and this blog and life. Every day I put in the effort and most days I end up exhausted, trying to be the best that I can for my children.

This week has brought home for me my own limits.. where I forgot school lunches and end of the year Daisy meetings, dropped off crying children at school and completely lost my voice from yelling at the kiddos, and even on a number of occasions asked my dear hubby to PLEASE take over with the kids. I had had enough. I had reached my limit.

And here's what I learned.
My children have an incomprehensible capacity for forgiveness.


Instant forgiveness.

I sat them all down and in my big Mommy voice apologized for my response to their behaviors.


M: "No problem, Mom."
C: "I love you, Mommy!"
L: "Dats okay, Mommee."

While I am still recovering from how poorly I handled situations this week (my voice has returned)...And fighting my own immaturity to judge them for their actions...these three little people are already over the emotions, the impatient tones, and the harsh words. In fact, I'm not sure they even remember them happening at all.

I have a clean slate. Instantly.

My children have this Grace, still. I realize it's not likely they'll always have this Gift in this way. I realize too that for their own survival in this changing world, they need to have the walls and defenses to learn from mistakes and broken promises and bumps along the road.

But what if?
What if we could really look at one another as my children did and just let it go...whatever IT might be between us?

Frustration, anger, disappointment gone with the gentle breeze blowing by us.

I'm going to try it today.

To fight off my own self-preservation instinct and follow my children's lead. Wanna try it with me?

Pick someone, anyone with whom you are struggling. It doesn't have to be your greatest struggle - this isn't therapy (or even a great self-help blog).

Perhaps it's the salesman at the door who both knocked and rang the doorbell during naptime (URGH!). Instant forgiveness. Poof. Done.

Maybe it's your coworker who interrupted you again or your friend that has yet to return your phone call. Or that guy in the car in front of you who will not stop looking at his phone to go through the green light. Instant forgiveness. Poof. Done.

Maybe that's how these kiddos make childhood look so blissful.

Perhaps it's yourself that you offer the Grace to. Forgiveness is always out there waiting for us, if we only ask God for it. Perhaps you acknowledge this Gift of instant forgiveness...and let it go. Poof. Done.

C turns 5 today, and we celebrate her with the passion and amazing capacity for joy that she offers to the world. Happy birthday, little lady. I hope I grow up to be just like you.

Happy Thursday, friends.



Pattern Play delay on Mother's Day

We take a break from our regularly-scheduled post to offer some words of celebration.

Happy Monday and belated Happy Mother's Day to Mommas and non-Mommas alike. I know that Mother's Day is a charged holiday for many women (and men) who have felt the pangs of loss, infertility, estranged mother relationships, or their own challenges with the responsibility that comes with those early words, "Mama." I pray that it was a peaceful day for you.

I definitely had some teachable moments in my own day, and it's likely to be a holiday that I won't soon forget.

All three of my kiddos had total melt downs today, all at their own distinct time, so I don't think it was a stellar mom day. And I find myself laughing with my hubby as he jokes that he hopes Father's Day passes him right by if it looks anything like this Mother's Day.

I remember clearly from my days as a teacher that my birthday was always the longest day of teaching. Appreciative students, filled with emotion, often had difficulty containing their exuberance in constructive ways, and I was typically exhausted by day's end, trying to keep a cheery face on while trying to contain some sense of classroom order. Trying, trying, trying.

Mother's Day this year was the longest day of mothering. My excited, young children (remember they're 7, almost 5, and 2) wanted Mommy's attention and created all sorts of unfortunate ways to get it. Trying, trying, trying.

And as I was standing outside (while the rest of the congregation was singing and praying) of our Mother's Day Mass with C, having the tantrum of her life, I was reminded again that mothering has so little to do with Mother's Day.

That being a mom means holding your child's hand as they plead with you to leave them alone.
That long after the carnations and pancakes and crayon wishes fade, mommies remain - waiting patiently for you to be your best, to do your best - while truly looking into your eyes and loving you through all the ridiculousness in the middle.

I am grateful to be a Momma, to be THE Mom of these three amazing little people, and I am every day, usually 3-4 times, completely humbled by it.

Thank you to all of you who mother. It's a lot different then the Hallmark nostalgia of Mother's Day, it's a lot less glamorous, and a ton more life-giving. It's hard work, and it's eternally appreciated.

Happy mothering. Keep holding hands.