Today, I am delighted to bring you M.J. of Pars Caeli who is sharing with us her magical days – family traditions and ways of celebrating every day. M.J. has been inspiring me ever since I discovered she hosted a book club for her daughter (something on the top of my parenting bucket list!). Pars Caeli (meaning Peace of Heaven) is full of fun and thoughtful posts on creative domestic life.
Her interview is chock full of so many great ideas, you may just want to grab a pen and pad and scribble some notes for all those things you want to try (I now have a number of post-its I have to organise!) Enjoy…
1. Did your family have any memorable family traditions when you were a child?
Yes, we did and do! Some of my favorite traditions focused around fun. We loved spending evenings together playing board games (and being pretty competitive about it) before it was interesting to label them as family game nights. We would hang out together on Saturday afternoons building jigsaw puzzles or spend nights playing cards and chatting together.
Our holiday traditions meant a lot to me, too. My mom made photo ornaments beginning the first year my parents married, now nearly fifty years ago (they take up their own tree), and we’d always unwrap and giggle over the silly stages we’ve all gone through as we hung each ornament on the branches. For Thanksgiving, we used to have extended family over, sitting everyone around our dining and tablecloth-covered pingpong tables. My siblings and I would create party favors and do performances for the family celebrations. I have a lot of great mental images stored away from those times together.
2. One of our favourite times of day to connect as a family is story time. What have been your favourite books to read to your children?
Oh, I love to read to my kiddos, too!! I have three children, ages 7, 5, and 3. My two oldest are girls who share a room so I get to perch on someone’s bed each night to break open a great story. My son is three, and he’s opened up a whole new genre of books with his love for cars and trains.
Some books we come back to again and again? Little Miss Spider, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Hailstone and Halibut Bones, A Visitor for Bear, Mama Panya’s Pancakes, Manyana Iguana… I better stop there.
I love reading aloud all things Dr. Seuss just because they have such joyous rhyming schemes and illustrations. I also loved reading Charlotte’s Web to my oldest as her first chapter book.
3. Do you have any special ways to celebrate milestones & special occasions in your family?
My oldest daughter’s birthday comes quickly after Christmas, and we typically still have a Christmas tree up so I transition it to a birthday tree and fill it with photos from every year of her life (you see I still carry on my mom’s photo ball tradition of sorts). Her brother and sister also get photo histories that come to life on balloons and banners during their birthday weeks as well.
We love finding ways to make the ordinary extra special so I’ve been known to make us our own holidays, especially to counteract some challenges. Sisters Day was started to helped my little ladies make great memories together. They are very different personalities, and I wanted to build a tradition of joint projects, fun sleepovers, and laughing together so we started Sisters Day, and it’s one of my favorite days in our house. Not too long after this tradition began, we expanded it to Sibling Day so that my 3-year old son felt included as well. We typically do something out together and rejoice in the togetherness of brothers and sisters. I also try to take great photos of them together on these special days so we can create a fabulous collection of images over the years.
We throw parties for loose teeth, celebrate great academic accomplishments… and I even bring out the party hats for the first successful potty training experience. Each of my children can tell you about their “Potty Party”.
4. Which holiday occasion (or season) does your family enjoy celebrating most?
For me, I would definitely say Christmas, and maybe even more so, Advent, the season leading up to Christmas. I love the anticipation of Christ’s birth, and we decorate a little bit more each day as the weeks march closer to December 25. We have lots of family rituals we honor, and we also spend extra time together in front of the tree reading Christmas stories. On the days before Santa arrives, I mound up piles and piles of children’s Christmas books that have been given to me over the years (I started collecting as a teenager), and it’s so rich to sit with these stories year after year.
As for my kiddos, they’d likely say “Yes Day” is their favorite holiday. Every year on Mardi Gras, the day before Lent begins, we host Yes Day for the kids wherein we allow them to hear the word Yes to every question they ask. Of course there are ground rules that we set (and add to) every year, but they love to see the possibilities that come from the power of Yes.
5. What is one of your favourite things about being a Mama?
- Knowing that I brought these three amazing people into the world and, as the poet Kahlil Gibran said, “They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
- I’m a sucker for my children’s giggles even during my most serious lectures.
- Their homemade presents, cards, notes, artwork, silly songs, choreographed dances, and make believe plays.
- The running hugs and the faces that light up when they know Mommy is home.
- Getting to be my children’s first word “Mama”
- Seeing the unbelievable father my husband is. Every day he surprises me with something new and pushes me to parent better.
- Birthdays, holidays, weekends … they’re all a bit richer now that I’m a mom.
6. Any words of wisdom for making life both easier and more joyful?
- Lavish yourself in forgiveness. It will make you a better mom, wife, and person.
- Share your silly mistakes.
- Homemade chocolate chip cookies cure a world of woes.
- Take time to watch your children be who they really are.
- As your head hits the pillow remember only (or at least mostly) the goodnesses of the day.
- Give yourself time to be creative and be with other grown-ups who honor that in you.
- Invest in a large kitchen sink. The dishes can wait.
- Laugh with your spouse everyday. It’s better than sleep.
7. What are some of your favourite ways to spend time together as a family?
Promise not to consider us too boring? We love grocery shopping as a family of five. We dine at the store and talk about what we want to cook and do together that week. This is a good time for us to explore new foods, reinforce the value of money and what we can/should purchase for our dollar. We also help each other hunt and gather all that we need from around the aisles.
We have a lot of fun traveling together, too, and we often find the journey to and fro just as interesting as the final destination.
Every Friday night is movie night, and we cozy up together on the couch or blanket to watch a great children’s film. Saturday mornings are family time at the library, and we spend extra time looking through the shelves and reading together at the library tables. It’s a great way to share our latest interests with one another. We also enjoy going to Church together every week. My oldest daughter is in the children’s choir, and we all spend time in thanksgiving for all that we’ve been given! That’s kind of magical, too.
8. Who inspires you?
Oh, wow, I find inspiration all over…and in a lot of people. I find my children incredibly inspiring and energizing. My extended family and coworkers offer fresh perspectives, and I have my regular list of writers and bloggers that I turn to daily for new ways to bend my mind and soften my heart. My parish priest, former teachers, and dear old friends have been great role models. But honestly, it’s my life companion and husband who inspires me the most. He’s loved me for so long, through many hills and valleys, and I still admire him as much today as the day I fell in love with him.
Ummm… did you just melt when you read that last sentence? It’s hard to narrow it down, but the top of my to-do list after reading M.J.’s inspiring words are to organise a Sister’s Day! Also, I think that we might have to dress the Christmas tree for Belle’s birthday on New Year’s Eve!!!
Pars Caeli is just packed full of inspiration for celebrating every day – if you have only just discovered M.J.’s brilliance I know you’re going to want to check it all out! You can also chat with M.J. on twitter; and browse her inspiration on pinterest!
You can also check out the rest of the Magical Days interviews here.