Sunday, June 28, 2015

Heart Pangs and Cloud Watching

My kids are getting older.  Every day this fact is smacking me in the face.

I was shopping with my mom yesterday and we walked by baby clothes.  The kind of clothes that are meant for diaper butts and constant washes.  My heart felt that subtle pang.  No more babies for us.  Our "baby" is almost six, and I really need to stop treating her like a baby or we're going to have some serious issues.

My oldest is forgoing our family vacation to go to football camp with his team.  I never even thought this would be a possibility yet it's what he decided to do.  More pangs.  

Life is cruising along, and I need to slow down.  Maybe sweep the floor less.  Every morning I wake up and my kids are another day older.  Our home has gone from toys in every room to toys just in the playroom, and our cabinets are sippy cup free.  

We're in a phase that is in constant motion.  When my kids were toddlers and babies the days crawled along.  It was at times be lonely and isolating, and I remember it vaguely.  Today I can't even think past the end of the week.  I focus on getting everything done as needed; if I try to think too far out my head my explode.  Every day we're picking up and dropping off, seeing friends and making more plans.  

I'm grateful, because life is full.  I'm in a new stage of raising babies, and it's still rewarding and it's still filled with love.  I sleep every night (usually) and I only have one booster seat left in the van.

No more fighting with the five point harness.

This parenting journey is constantly changing and evolving into more than I ever expected.  I'm beyond blessed and constantly reminding myself to slow the heck down.

Play cards.  Read books.  Watch clouds.

That's the good stuff.  We all need more of it.  Every one of us. If we don't grab those moments we'll wake up and the kids will be in college.  And I'll bet the farm you'll have a hard time grabbing a college kid to read a book and watch clouds.

It's Sunday.  The perfect day to grab some snuggles.  Go get'em.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pulled Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches

I haven't blogged in 13 days.  I'm completely and totally engulfed in summer.  Swimming, camps, errands, naps and tons of time with family and friends.  It's fantastical.

With my brain on vacation, I'm providing a repost.  I'll get some originality back soon, I promise.

These barbeque chicken sandwiches are my "go-to" when I need something easy and delicious.  My kids devour them, and I have served them at picnics and cookouts.  They are a crowd pleaser, and they are prepared ahead of time in the crockpot so you can enjoy the party as well.


Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle barbecue sauce (I highly recommend Sweet Baby Ray's)
  • 1/2 cup light Italian dressing
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (light brown works as well)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Place chicken in slow cooker on high.  Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl and pour over chicken.  Cook 3 hours, and remove chicken.  Shred using fork, place back in slow cooker, turn to low, and cook another hour.

Serve on plump club rolls.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

5 Years Later: 10 Blogging Tips

This September, I'll have been a blogger for five years.

I still remember sitting in my old house, in our big "marshmallow chair" with the laptop.  I was determined to create a place to write and express myself.  My goal was to eventually  make $100 week so I wouldn't have to waitress anymore.  I had no idea how I was going to make that happen but I was determined.

Hell hath no fury like a mama starting a blog.

I googled, went on other blogs and researched how to change HTML.  I was up many nights until two or three in the morning.  I worked harder on starting this blog than I've worked on anything in a long time.  It was a labor of love, and what was once a constant struggle (why is this in the wrong place? How do I get a link over here?) is a habit.  

Since I started working as an athletics secretary my blogs have been fewer and farther between.  My traffic has declined as a result.  But I've held onto a nice amount of traffic and paid programs, which have been excellent extra income.

In no particular order, here is what I've learned about blogging.

1.  It's work.  I can't even tell you how many people assume you stay at home and do nothing.  Meanwhile, I was wrangling kids, writing posts, trying to get my blog design down.  If you want to get paid for blogging, you have to make it like a job.  I spent two hours every morning blogging and designing and pinning on Pinterest.  I went to bed late trying to get everything the way I wanted it.

I built my blog.  

It's worth it.

2.  There are days you don't feel like writing anything.  You have no juice in the cup.  You're drained.  It's okay, write about that.

3.  Make friends!  Visit other blogs and participate in "blog hops."  Get on social media.  Tweet, pin, use instagram. Pinterest is my number one or two source of traffic every month.  This goes along with #10, so keep reading...

4.  Write a "how to" or other informational post.  This was by far and away the best advice I'd ever read as far as blogging.  It's great to write and tell stories, but if you want regular traffic you have to write about something people will search for.  Think of what you know and tell people about it.  Give them instructions on how to sew, cook, bake, clean, garden, etc.

I'm a Disney World fanatic, and the day I pinned my first post about taking kids to Disney my blog changed forever.  My traffic exploded.  Those Disney posts keep my blog alive even when I've ignored it far too long.

Write as many posts as you can that give information.  

5.  Don't expect to grow your blog overnight.  You need to be patient and keep writing and designing and researching.  It will happen with good content.  Keep your writing crisp and don't get too wordy.  Make your point and keep your passion.

6.  Give your blog a purpose.  What are you writing about?  Try to keep a theme and stick with it.  Whether it be parenting, landscaping, baking, travel, etc.

7.  When you have built up some traffic, try to get involved in a publishing program or find some ads for your page.  You can sell adspace to other small companies (etsy is a great place to find some smaller businesses that might be willing to pay a small fee per month for adspace) or use a service.  I like being a part of a publishing company.  I wouldn't have half of the writing opportunities I do if I didn't work with BlogHer.  


8.  Breathe.  Enjoy your blog.  Don't fret about traffic or comments.  Every day will be different.  You need to look at the big picture.  

9.  Stay true to your blog.  Don't take paid opportunities that don't fit your message.  Your readers won't be fooled.  I love applying for writing opportunities that I know I can write about easily.  I just did a post for Kellogg's. I love Kellogg's.  My post was authentic and I was super excited to receive a package from Kellogg's a few days after I wrote it.  

They wanted me to keep writing about them and their wonderful products, and in turn they sent me some serious swag.  

Another reason I love being a blogger.  There are many little moments that make you feel appreciated, and they keep you going.   

10.  Use pictures.  Bright, vivid pictures keep readers.  It's just like books with pictures.  When people are looking to be entertained they like a visual.  Try to include a picture in every post.  Remember tip #3?  Great pictures that "pin" well or share well on Facebook or instagram will make all the difference when it comes to attracting readers to your blog.

Use a picture editor like picmonkey to edit pictures and add text and other designs.

Most importantly, be you and have fun.  Isn't that true with everything?


Friday, June 5, 2015

10 Free Summer Activities (for kids!)

I know how summer goes. The first three weeks, pure awesomeness.  The next three weeks, it's time to start planning excursions because awesomeness is wearing off.  The last two weeks?  Boredom.  No one wants to swim or play outside. Even though I dread lunch packing and homework checking I know it's time to get back to school.

The house starts to get crowded and kids need more structure.

In the meantime, before summer gets old, try these activities to keep the kids busy.  Easy, cheap and fun!

1.  Movie night!  Set aside a night for a movie with the family.  Everyone must attend.  Pop popcorn, make sundaes and watch a movie the whole family will enjoy.  Even better?  Find a projector and watch the movie under the stars!

2.  Plant a garden.  Give each child a fruit or vegetable to plant and water.  When the garden gets going, bring extra fruit and veggies to friends and family.

3.  Obstacle course!  Set up a fun obstacle course in the backyard.  Use anything you have; boxes, balls, Frisbees, your pool, bikes...imagination is key!  Get a timer and finish the afternoon with Popsicles.

 4.  Story hour.  For little ones, settle down after a hot afternoon with storytime.  Similar to the library, choose a book and discuss the characters and story.  Read and make a craft.  

5.  Homemade slip and slide!   Do you have a large clean tarp in the garage?  Or a tarp you could clean and use as a slip and slide?  Find a flat (or even better slightly downhill) area of your yard.  Look for sticks and rocks and clear as much as possible. Secure the tarp with plastic stakes and grab the hose.  Keep kids in the middle and get the hose going!!  Watch the kids slip and slide all afternoon.  

6.  Picnic.  Pack a basket, grab a blanket and a cooler.  Find a park and have a picnic!

7.  Play cards.  Teach your kids to play cards.  Put away all the electronics and try Go Fish, Crazy Eights or even some Gin Rummy!

8.  Go for a walk or a bike ride.  So simple, and yet so many of us forget to take our kids on walks/rides.  Try after dinner, and get the conversations flowing.

9.  Cardboard fun!  You know all those giant cardboard boxes that appliances or large deliveries come in?  Save them!  Cut out windows, put the box out in the grass, and give your kiddos paint brushes and paint.  Let them paint and decorate their own playhouse.  They'll be busy for hours.

10.  Be tourists.  Treat your town like a tourist.  Think of all the local places you've never been, such as historical sites, parks, playgrounds and even the library.  Explore a new place every week and watch how much fun you without ever going far from home!

Have a happy, safe and wonderful summer!