Posts tagged parenthood
The Challenge of 18 Summers
Join in a summer's full of activities and childhood joys on Pars Caeli. Every week, new ideas for ages 5-10, with supply lists ready a week in advance for big projects.

Join in a summer's full of activities and childhood joys on Pars Caeli. Every week, new ideas for ages 5-10, with supply lists ready a week in advance for big projects.

"Next year, he's off to college, and this is his last real summer at home. I don't know yet what we're going to do. I feel all this pressure, and I want to make it special, make the most of it."

My oldest is only 10, but I felt that same heart pang. I saw the softness in this mother's eyes--she, the amazing parent of eight children, ranging ages 3 to 18--as we chatted during t-ball team pictures. How do we make the most of the time we have with our children, while they're still at home?

I feel that pang a lot when it comes to childhood summers. I want so much the continual carpe diem experiences for my children. The bliss of chasing butterflies matched with the incredible camp that opens their eyes to new possibilities. The right amount of boredom to find the space to create their own adventures. The time making family memories together and traveling to see new places.

"One day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now." - Paulo Coelho

And, much like the mom that I was chatting with, I do put a lot of pressure on myself. I have a feeling I'm not the only one.

So how do we do it? Provide the planning and energy to make memories happen and mix it with the ease and the relaxation to allow spontaneity at its best.

Frankly, I'm not sure. I'll likely stress about it and not do enough BUT nevertheless I'm inviting you into our summer journey to try some bucket list activities, to relive some of the joyful activities of our own childhoods, and to experiment with new projects! For newsletter subscribers, I'll send a supply list every Friday so you can join along and preview future ideas. No worries, most projects will include easy items you have right in your home.

And I want to see what you're up to with your children, from infant to college age. How do you make the most of the summer together? Share your tweets and photos using the hashtag #18summerschallenge, and I'll repost select ideas to help us all!! And don't forget to share and to subscribe to be a part of the best summer of childhood.

We can do this, enjoy our times together and make them memorable. Cheers to a wonderful summer ahead.

xoxo, MJ



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


Trouvé Magazine and Emily: 12 Blogger Christmas

Welcome back, friends, to the 12 Blogger Christmas! I was so delighted to have Melissa of Lulu the Baker join us for the first day of Christmas!! Thank you again, Melissa.

On the second day of Christmas, I'm giving you something so much better than two calling birds (what does that mean anyway?)! Please offer a warm welcome to Emily of and now Trouvé magazine! It's a brand new magazine, and it is just spectacular in look and feel.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me, Emily of Trouvé!

I had a deep need for a vibrant creative community. I am an artist, mother of two, and while I have many intensely creative friends, I needed a an outlet to document and develop my own personal artistic inspiration. What I didn't realize when starting Beautiful Hello Blog, was that I would learn far more about myself and would be challenged creatively as an artist because of blogging. The community and creativity that have come because of I "put myself out there" have been incredible - far greater than I imagined.

My first blog Beautiful Hello, lead into my current creative baby: Trouvé Magazine which celebrates the creative lifestyle and the people who live it. This new magazine has already taken my breath away and inspired every aspect of my life. This is a new magazine I began with my dear friend (and crazy good designer) Amanda Marko.  

Keeps you blogging?  We featured a musician, John French, in issue one of Trouvé Magazine.  He said something that stopped me in my tracks and really resonated with me:  

"One of the largest struggles with being alive is the need to be understood by the people around you."

This is why I blog and write and paint, and mother, and sing, and cook, and CREATE.  To be understood - and to understand myself.  I do this through my artwork, painting nearly every day, and through Trouvé Magazine.  


Trouvé Magazine celebrates the creative lifestyle & those who live it. It is a bi-monthly digital magazine featuring makers, designers, artists, and creative recipes, gatherings, and projects. You can see my personal artwork at  You can also find me (over posting?) on Instagram (@TrouveMag), Twitter (@TrouveMag), and Facebook.

The beginning of my Painting-A-Day project last summer was a very raw and scary time for me.  The community surrounded me and supported & loved my artwork was completely remarkable and beautiful. You can read about the beginning of that story here: Spoiler alert: the blogging and creative community are wonderful, and I love them.


Getting to learn more about other artists and creative people is so encouraging to me (I'm - we're - not alone!  There are other people as unusual and passionate as we are!)  The interview with artist Britt Bass on Trouvé Mag is a perfect example.


I guess you could call this a VERRRRY love post:  The Trouvé Magazine Issue One.  Hands DOWN the most amazing thing I have had a hand in publishing online ever.  It is full of remarkable stories, creativity, and inspiration. None of this silly, overly perfect stuff - just real people, living real creative lives, and we get to share them within our pages. That is a HUGE honor and one I'm very proud of.  

We would like Trouvé to be a creative household name - a place that conjures up thoughts of inspiration, success stories, real beauty, and true creativity.  


To get to meet, photograph, and feature a few of my design/art heroes. It's totally going to happen.... Watch out Molly Jacques.  ;)

Emily and I had the pleasure of first meeting in New York City for AltNYC. I was her apprentice, trying to absorb all her art and city knowledge, and laughing, laughing as we roomed with the inimitable Paige of Approaching Joy. Emily is a true artist, finding beauty wherever she goes, and spreading it, too. In the year I've had following her work, I've seen a true breadth and depth in her talents. I'm a proud owner of an Emily Jeffords oil painting!!

From jewelry to collage to oils to graphic design, her creativity just bubbles over. Emily honors the makers in each one of us, too, with her generous, warm spirit. Trouvé Magazine is a gorgeous new enterprise for she and Amanda, and I spent a lovely hour perusing the stylized photography and interesting articles. If you have not yet subscribed to the new magazine, hop on over now and get on the long list!

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Trouvé Magazine.

And Lulu the Baker !

xoxo, MJ

PS. Tomorrow brings us into the world of fashion!!



Lulu the Baker and Melissa: 12 Days of Blogger Christmas

Merry Christmas, lovelies!! I hope that your day of Christmas was filled with goodness and joy. We had a wonderful day in our pajamas, playing with presents and laughing together.

I'm so excited to enjoy another present with you! Over the next 12 days (straight through the weekend), I will be introducing you to twelve fabulous bloggers who write, design, craft, cook, make, and publish some of the most wonderful material on the internet. You'll learn what inspired them to begin, see some of their favorite work, and join in their hopes for 2014.

For those who don't blog, this series might just give you the itch to begin and at the minimum, inspire your everyday. For my fellow bloggers who create, day after day, meaningful, creative, and unbelievable content, I hope that you know how incredible you are, and what a great gift your art is to the rest of us.

Merry Christmas! And to start it off, none other than the incomparable Melissa of Lulu the Baker. You will be amazed!


I started my blog on a whim over 5 years ago because I wanted to participate in an online baking group called The Daring Bakers, and you needed to have a blog to participate! Just in the past couple of years, I feel like I've really discovered this amazing blogging community full of creative, intelligent people, and being part of that community is so rewarding and enriching!

My blog used to just be about cooking and baking, because until a few years ago, I had another blog for projects. But keeping up with both blogs got to be way too much work. Plus I felt like they both represented parts of me and that I needed all of that content in just 1 place instead of scattered all over the internet. Lulu the Baker was never a chore to post on, and when I thought long and hard about it, I didn't want to give that blog up, so that's the one I kept! Since then, it's evolved into more of a lifestyle blog with a focus on food and family.
I'm also guest blogging on the Better Homes & Gardens Style Spotters blog for a few months, and write monthly posts for Ciera Design and Rue Rococo.
I'm really excited about this series I started in October called The Harvest. It is proving challenging, but I love the first post and have a few others in the works right now. My "human interest" posts don't get tons of traffic, but I really love writing them and reading them over and over. Sometimes you just have to post stuff you love!
I had someone tell me (lovingly) at the beginning of the year that I needed to work on my photo styling. I've really taken that comment to heart this year! I've taken a few amazing online workshops on photo styling, and I'm really proud of the strides I've made in just a few short months. I think the photos from this post are really lovely. One of my workshop teachers even told me they were fantastic and that I was a star pupil. As an admitted nerd, that is music to my ears!


A list of my favorite posts wouldn't be complete without The Tale of the Carmelitas! I'd been blogging for a few years without much hullaballoo when I wrote this post. And I think it actually took another year for anyone to notice this recipe. But when it finally hit, it hit with a lot of force. It's still my #1 post of all time, and I'm not sure that will ever change!


I'd love for my blog's voice to really be an extension of myself--always. With all of the sponsorship opportunities and talk of numbers and traffic, it's really easy to lose sight of that. I want my blog to be a happy place that people can look forward to visiting, where they can be inspired for a few moments, and leave with yes, a recipe or project idea, but more importantly, feeling good and happy and peaceful. I feel like that's a tall order!

I've been trying for a while to write a book! I lost my way a little bit this past year; sometimes it's hard to keep yourself motivated when you have an open-ended project like that! But I've been working steadily on it again for the past few months and am really excited to be making headway. Cross your fingers for me!
I also really love collaborating with other bloggers. It's so inspiring to work with talented people. I'd love to have some fun, new blog collaborations this year.
Lastly, I've been wanting to migrate my site from Blogger to Wordpress for so long, and I'm finally going to do it, along with a redesign! I would actually love to have it done this year, but I waited too long and all of the designers I want to work with are booked through January! So keep your eyes peeled in 2014 for a new Lulu the Baker design!


Melissa is so humble and gracious - two of the many things I love about her!! She has become a force to be reckoned with in the blogging universe (she's a regular over at Better Homes and Gardens!). Her creative talents are endless - and her recipes keep me coming back season after season. She is a dedicated mom who is always finding new ways to connect with her kids, and I've been blessed to join in the Endless Summer series with her as well as the Fresh Holiday Traditions!

If you have a blog reader like Blog Lovin' or Feedly, add Lulu the Baker to your feed right now, as your first gift of Blogger Christmas!

On the first day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Lulu the Baker!

xoxo, MJ

PS. On the second day...I'm gifting one of my favorite artists...



Holding Your Hand

I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand while we waited, and she gave me a slow, almost unnoticeable nod - the kind that only I might notice as the woman who has watched her so carefully these last eight years. I was grateful for that slight gesture, realizing that I might just need her reassurance as much, dare I say more, than she needed mine.

We stood together in the line inside our church. One line of many lines. She and I as equals in a way I had not yet considered as her mother.

Nearly one hundred eight- and nine-year olds were present, with families of all shapes and sizes, to this celebration of a Sacrament. As Catholics, we learn it as Reconciliation, the gift of God's forgiveness.

Though my heart knows that Reconciliation is overflowing with grace and goodness, my mind is absolutely terrified of the experience. The act of saying out loud to another human being my failings, mistakes, and sins is enough to cause me to break out into a cold sweat on a very hot day.

My daughter, M, woke up on Saturday, the day of her first Reconciliation, with excitement and anticipation. She wanted to go right to church to experience forgiveness.

I asked her repeatedly (I tried to space my questions to once an hour, but really...) if she was nervous to confess her sins. A simple "no" came back every time.

I just couldn't imagine it. Really?

The service was unlike any I'd experienced. Instead of the children and adults heading one by one into the smaller rooms, confessionals, to have a private experience, most of the priests were located right out in the open space of our church, with a chair set opposite theirs.

Thinking about this possibility of being seen during a very difficult conversation made me clammy. And, I had that moment where I wondered, can I get out of this?

But I pulled up my momma boots, and remembered just how important it is to be the example rather than talk about the example of what we want our children to be.

M didn't care which priest she went to or how out-in-the-open her experience would be. She took my hand and led me to the shortest line, right in the front of the church.

We stood there together, hand in hand, as children and dads and moms and older sisters and brothers came up one by one to experience the Sacrament. With calming piano hymns playing to drown out voices, I was able to watch forgiveness happen.

Have you ever seen it?

It looks like the jittery little boy who works up the courage to say that he's stolen something from his dad. It looks like this little boy's hands being held by a compassionate, smiling listener who reminds him that God's love is always there, even when we fail.

It looks like the father who comes with his head down, reluctant, who leans over to whisper his indescretions right into the ear of his confessor. It looks like that father then leaning back in his chair with a renewed understanding that he is good, he is always good in God's eyes.

I watched my little girl experience the gift of Reconciliation. She sat right on the edge of her chair and listened attentively to all the words the priest had to share. She smiled through her new set of braces and shook his hand in thanksgiving for the absolution.

She ran over to tell me it was my turn.

And then she perched herself in the pew and watched her mother experience forgiveness. She watched me muster up my courage and gesture nervously through hushed tones all the ways that I had failed.

When I stood to leave, feeling overwhelmed by grace, I saw her beaming blue eyes try to catch mine. She took my hand and told me she was proud of me.

She and I are equals. We offer our God-given gifts to the world freely. And we sin. We sin differently, but we both sin. We are human and make mistakes.

And we both experience the load-bearing release of forgiveness.

She's just braver to hold my hand.

xoxo, MJ


Be Happy: The smallest of transitions

My beautiful friend, Paige, is getting married.

The whole getting-married phase of life can be a big time of transition; it was for me. I kind of consider myself a creature of transition. I moved a handful of times as a child, racking up five different schools in six years. I moved around campus as an undergrad and picked up to a new spot after graduation, too.

Strangely I now find myself living in the same town for the last decade in a half. I'm married to the same, incredible guy I fell in love with moons ago, and we inhabit the house we moved into the Monday after our wedding, ten years ago.

And yet when I look back through the rearview mirror of my adulthood (yikes), I see transition after transition. Somehow staying in the same place, doing (mostly) the same thing, with the same soulmate has not stopped the changes from swirling through life. Many of those I embraced with wide open arms (hello motherhood of three great kids) and other changes that I tried to run from, like magic shoe's - sprint!

My kids have their own host of transformations and new stages that add to the variety and spice of life. My daughters, now 7 and 5, share a bedroom. And my little guy, a new 3-year old, has just made the move to the big boy room. When it was time to move him to his new space, we tried to make things all fair and even (who are we kidding?) and moved all three of them around to different bedrooms.

That meant that no one would fill the space that once was inhabited by small versions of each of them... the nursery. It's a small cozy room with one window opening up to our backyard. When I was pregnant with my first, I spent hours and hours in there, painting a mural with smiling bugs (our theme at the time) and the text from the toast that my husband dedicated to me at our wedding reception.



Read the rest of this recent transition over on Approaching Joy today as a part of a special series she has on Macro Moments. Join me over there after the photo...