8 Minute Memoir: Spring



(Quick note - Post inspired by Amanda's beautiful 12-Minute memoir yesterday.  I forgot how much I like doing these, and it's so much easier to fit in before the kids wake up.  I'm getting my prompts here.  Thanks Amanda! Also, picture is from somewhere else where they actually have those magical flowering trees.)

6:46 AM

When I think of spring I think of one thing: mud.

I've lived in the mountains my whole life, and in the mountains spring is an endless cycle of snow which turns to mud, which is covered by more snow.  Even the springs that break form (like this one) are brown and grey in the mountains, with very little color.  We wait and wait, until suddenly, all in a flurry at the end of May, it goes from spring to summer in one week.

When I was a child I never understood why people liked spring.  When I became a young adult I started to realize that other places had flowers, flowering trees even.  And well, if you have a spring like that, it makes sense why you would like it.  But in my mountain world, spring is the ugliest season.

Mountain springs haven't changed that much since I was a kid, but while I used to hate the season, I don't anymore.  It's still brown and yucky, but I notice the green grass poking through the ground, hidden behind the yellowed leftovers from last year.  As my kids' feet pound the floor above me way too early in the morning, I realize I also hear birds singing an endless song outside the window.  I walk over to let our big hound mix outside, because he won't leave me alone until I do, and I hear squirrels chattering and I breathe in the cold, wet smell of melting snow.

Spring will always smell like that to me.  Not like flowers, or green grass.  Like mud and melting snow.  

There is life out there, new life stretching up, peeking around the corner, sitting in the tree branches.  I never noticed that as a kid, but I do now.  Now that I've felt new life in my womb, held it in my arms, and had a few more Resurrection Days under my belt, spring holds a bit more significance.  

So even these muddy, ugly springs are beautiful after all.  I look out my window and can see the echoes of God's words in Genesis - even here, in the mud.  

"It is good."

6:54 AM 

Happy Baby - Georgie At Five Months



Well, this month's update is about two weeks late.  Whoops! My sweet girl is now well past 5 months old!

This month has felt like a bit of a whirlwind, and I'm not really sure why.  I just know that I've been exhausted with everything on our calendar and have been intentionally trying to slow down.  The last few weeks I've been telling Georgie that she's my little stress reliever, because her sweet cuddles and big smile instantly lighten my mood!  I'm so happy she's my baby.

Growth And Eating

We're still struggling along with the nursing, and my supply isn't increasing at all - but I'm hanging on, because I'm not quite ready to give it up.  She's mostly on formula now.  I'm also happy to report that she's chunked up some even since her last monthly update.  Her little legs have the hint of rolls now, and I just love her round little cheeks when she smiles!  Her hair is starting to thin - I've figured out that babies' hair reaches the peak of baldness at six months old before it starts to grow back in thicker.  She still has hair, but I can tell it's changing texture.  She is gumming everything and drooling a lot, so I feel like some teeth may poke through soon - or we may have to wait another 3 months, you never can tell.

Sleeping

I actually told Derek the other day that I feel bad for everyone in the world who does not get to be Georgie's mom (ha!) - first, because she's just so sweet and happy and delicious, and second because this baby is the most incredible sleeper I've ever heard of.  She's STILL sleeping 12 hours at night, plus a 2-hour nap during the day!  I'm getting so much sleep, I have no reason in the world to be exhausted.  When I'm tired, everyone assumes it's the baby - no, it's my own fault.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop...it is just so nice to have a fifth baby who sleeps!  Georgie totally spoils us.  I told her the other night that she's the kind of baby who tricks you into having a sixth!

Firsts

Shortly after Georgie's 5th month birthday, we celebrated Easter!  It was Georgie's first on the outside, and she looked pretty cute in her dress that matched all the girls.  We also put her in the gumbo seat for the first time, and sometimes she likes it, and sometimes she hates it.  No other firsts yet, but I think we'll be adding a few in the next month as we look ahead to starting solid foods.



Personality

She is still the cutest, happiest little thing!  She greets me with a smile each morning, smiles when I kiss her cheek, smiles when I talk to her.  She loves her siblings and will just grin at them if they give her any attention.  

She's obviously very easygoing (see above), but she tries to assert herself when she's hungry.  Even then, her cry is just not that loud or disruptive.  If she has to cry more than a couple of minutes before I get to her, her cries turn to this hopeless wail, like she's upset that no one ever takes her crying seriously, and it's so sad and pathetic and cute-sounding. 

She definitely likes me best right now, and will just watch me when someone else is holding her, then she grins when I finally take her back.  She likes to talk, and has the cutest little cooing voice - I'm looking forward to when she adds more consonants to her repertoire!



---

Sweet Georgie,

My darling girl, you are such a blessing to me!  There have been many times over the last month when I was feeling stressed, and I sat down to feed you and your smile just melted all the chaos away.  If I look you in the eye while you are eating, you'll grin at me around your bottle and give me a cute little "hum" sound, and I just feel like laughing every time you do it.  What a joy you are! Your personality is so sweet, and I just can't wait to watch it develop more as you grow.  I thank God every day for giving you to me.  I love you, darling.

Love Always, 

Mama

Don't Be Like Bob

(Four of my blessings.)


"Ah, you're Callie.  I've heard of you.  The one thing I know about you is that you have a lot of kids...so I guess I also know that you're insane."

Hardy, har, har.

Believe it or not, someone who was also a fellow Christian, by the way - we'll call him, Bob - actually said this to me once.  I gave out an incredulous "ha!" and then sat there in silence.  This is where I wish sometimes that I was a little quicker on my feet.  What I wanted to say was, "Oh, nice to meet you, Bob.  I guess the one thing I know about you is that you haven't read Psalm 139, where it says children are a reward from the Lord, and a blessing.  Buh-less-ing!"

But of course, I didn't say that, because that would be rude (hint, hint, Bob).

The reason I bring this up is because I saw a sketch on Facebook yesterday that made me laugh (you can see it here).  A stick figure family with six children and one on the way have their mouths hanging open, while another stick figure man says "You know what causes that, right?" Underneath it says "This is Bob.  Bob does not recognize blessings.  Don't be like Bob."

Apparently there are a lot of Bobs out there.  

Of course I thought it was funny because of my own experiences, so I shared it.  And then I sat there and remembered the story I shared above.  And then I had a startling realization.

Sometimes, I am also a Bob.  Because sometimes, I don't recognize blessings.  

Isn't that what discontentment is, after all?  We forget to recognize and thank God for the blessings we have.  We think what we have isn't good enough, or isn't enough, period.  We want more...more excitement, more recognition, more experiences, more things (even good things) - and when we focus so much on what we're missing, we forget about the things that we have.  The things God has so graciously given us.  

Maybe we don't actively ridicule those blessings like my Bob did, we're just overlooking them or minimizing them.  Those are two different things of course, but in practice, isn't it the same thing?  We're an ungrateful people, and whether with derision, or indifference and greediness, we snub God's good gifts as spoiled children would.  And when I say "we", I mean me.  So when I say this next part, it's a challenge to me more than it's a challenge to you.

Don't be like Bob.


Creative Contentment | A 100 Days Project


One of my unspoken goals for the year has been to get better at budgeting.

Recently I was reminded of why I need this so much when a friend mentioned a deal she found on some new clothing items.  Did I need new clothing?  No, but it didn't stop me from browsing the internet in search of a similar deal.  I have three new garments to show for it, and though I stayed within my budget to buy them, and they were good buys that will fit into my wardrobe nicely, it still makes me a little unnerved each time I look at them.  Because I know they were bought from an ugly place.  A place of discontent.

2018 so far has brought to light my personal discontent in ways I didn't expect.  The budgeting and finance issues are just one aspect - at various times over the last few years I have felt discontent with my schedule, discontent with our food, discontent with our house.  I have felt discontent with how ordinary my days are, how little I accomplish in a day, the quality of the books I'm crossing off my to-be-read list, the number on the scale.  I've felt discontent with my homeschool community (or rather lack thereof), and discontent with my walk with the Lord (because I wish I had more time and was better at making it a priority!).  

Basically, I'm tired of being discontent.

I recently saw that the #100daysproject is starting up on Instagram, and I mulled over the idea of joining in.  I did 31 Days Of Writing last October and loved being able to focus my posts around a certain theme on this blog, and I liked the idea of doing it again.  

As I was sitting there, running through different topics or activities that wouldn't be too burdensome in my current stage of life (and also wondering if it's cheating somehow to write about the project on my blog instead of Instagram), I remembered my blog friend Cassidy doing a 31 Days project on contentment a few years back.  Many blog friends have participated in these challenges over the years, but for some reason Cassidy's series stuck with me.  Perhaps because contentment is something I struggle with off and on too.  

Then it came to me: creative contentment.  If I was going to do a 100 Days Project, that's what I'd like it to be on.  Thinking outside the box when it comes to practicing contentment - figuring out strategies to help myself rest in contentment, and improving my circumstances and attitude where I am right now, with what I have right now.

I think I'm just going to go for it.  Will I write every day about this on the blog?  No, but I am hoping to seriously think about and practice contentment in different areas of my life every day for the next 100 days, and write something related to this topic at least once a week right here (and maybe occasionally on Instagram too).  That counts right?  That's my plan.

So consider this the first installment, and expect more on Thursdays or Fridays for the next few months!




Reunions




This time last year, my belly was just starting to round with a new little life (Georgie!) when we made the difficult decision to search for a new church.  I remember crying.  We had been going to our previous church for seven years, and it took a significant amount of that time to really start to feel involved there, like we belonged.  Though we had been praying about it and felt like this was the right decision, I wasn't looking forward to starting over.

I didn't write about it during that time, but it was a long, hard search until we found somewhere that met our standards and felt right.  Maybe I'll write more about the process of looking for a new church someday, but let's just say I'm relieved to have it behind us.  There is a sense in which any body of believers feels like family, but every time you start attending a new church it takes some time to feel like you belong.  We've been pleasantly surprised and blessed to feel at home here quickly, and that has helped ease the transition, helped us know that it was right.  

A couple of weeks ago after the church service, I pushed open the door to the ladies' room, and looked up and into the face of a dear lady from our former church.  She stared at me for a second, and I stared at her, and then we burst out with each other's names and rushed to give each other a hug.  We laughed about meeting again in a restroom of all places.  My family visited with their group in the hall well after most of the regular attenders had cleared out.  It was a reunion of sorts, and I couldn't stop grinning for the rest of the day.  Reunions, when they are sweet, will do that.

---

March has been a month of reunions overall.  We also went out to visit my dear childhood friends on their ranch.  They can't get away that often, but once a year we make the trek out to see them.  I want to make it happen more often.  

We visited, caught up on each other's lives, introduced the baby.  We ate lunch, and remembered back to when we were kids, growing up in a little white church in the mountains.  Every summer there was an ice cream social, with real ice cream churned in vintage buckets, packed with snow from the nearest mountain pass.  There would be peach, and banana, and pralines and cream - the row of ice cream makers on the shelf above our heads brought it all back.  

























We will keep making this trip out to the ranch as long they will have us, because we love our friends so dearly, and our reunions make it seem as if we live much nearer than we do.  It always feels like we saw them last week instead of last year.

---

Reunions don't always feel so sweet as all this, of course, but when I do have moments of happy reunions, it makes me think how beautiful Heaven will be.  I imagine we'll see everyone who we know here who has trusted in Jesus, and that will be one round of happy reunions.  Then we'll see all the people whose names we know but who we've never met - but it will seem as if we had known them all along.  Then we'll see all the people whom Jesus saved who we never met, and we never knew their names, but we're still all connected because we've all been adopted into this family, through the blood of Jesus.

---

It's Good Friday today, when we remember Jesus's death on the cross.  My heart is heavy as I remember why He died - to pay the penalty for my crimes (and yours too), when He had no crimes of His own.  God became a man, lived without sin, and died in our place - covering our sin and reconciling us with Himself when we trust in Him to save us.

What kind of despair the disciples must have felt though, when He died.  I can't even imagine that feeling, because I've never had to feel it - we all have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story, after all.  Seeing Jesus on the third day, alive again, had to be an unimaginable joy!

And now, I'm just waiting for my turn.  Because someday I'll see Him too, either when I die and enter eternity, or when He comes back on the clouds to take us home.  And boy, that will be the best reunion of all.

---

Happy Resurrection Day (on Sunday), friends!  I pray that you know Jesus as your Savior too, and may you get a small taste of the joy of that coming reunion as we celebrate that our Savior is alive, forevermore!

"But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. "  

Matthew 28:5-6a

Large Family Q&A - 5 Kids Under 7



People are curious about large families.  Curious enough to ask awkward questions of strangers (I speak from experience).  I don't blame them - I am even curious about families that are bigger than mine!

With five kids, I suppose we officially fall into the "large family" category, so I had a little fun with it recently and did a video with some common questions people seem to have about big families.  Now you don't have to ask me awkward questions, because I answered them for you here!  Watch the video (or scroll down for the short answers!).





1. How many children do you have? 
Five!


2. What are their ages? 

7, 5, 3, 2, 4 months.


3. What is your family structure? 
They're all our biological children.


4. How old were you when you had your first baby? 

Twenty-two, and I'd recommend young motherhood when possible. I got all five of my babies in before I turned 30!


5. Were they all planned by you and your spouse, or do you leave it up to God? 

We had to try a bit for the first two, and the last three were surprises (sort-of).


6. What is your favorite reaction to telling someone how many children you have? 
My favorite reaction is when someone tells me how blessed I am, because that's how I feel!


7. How do you usually handle negative comments? 
Um...I don't really notice negative reactions most of the time. One of the benefits of being non-observant. Still looking for a good one-liner for the (thankfully very few) times we get a negative comment.


8. What does it cost to feed your large family? 

Well, our monthly grocery budget is currently $650, but most of the kids are pretty little and don't eat terribly much. It'll probably go up in the next few years.


9. Do you plan to have more children?  
I believe we're done, but hey, I'll never say never! Derek and I have talked about leaving adoption open as a possibility if the Lord calls us that way.


10. What is your family vehicle? 

Minivan, baby!


11. Do you ever eat out?  
Not very often, and if we do, it's usually fast food.


12. How much milk do you go through in a week? 
Two gallons? We probably could go through more, but we drink water more often than milk.


13. How many rolls of toilet paper do you go through each day? 
I don't even know!


14. What is your favorite go to meal? 
Burritos or some sort of noodles.


15. How do you spend one on one time with each of your children? 
I usually take one of them with me for the beginning-of-the-month grocery shopping trip, though we still need to get back into that since Georgie has been born. Homeschooling is also giving me some one-on-one time with the older kids while we do their work, and I totally count that. We bond over math.


16. How do you manage the clutter? 
We do pick-up times at designated times of the day, but let's just say I've become a lot more laid back about messes.


17. Do you homeschool, private school or public school? 
Homeschool!


18. How do you manage the chaos? 
By getting used to it?


19. What do you do IF you get free time? 
Blogging, dabbling in doing these videos, and reading.


20. What is your #1 tip for other large family moms?  

I don't know! I don't think I'm far enough in to give advice. Someone give me some tips!



If you have a large family, feel free to grab the questions and let me know where you answered so I can check it out!


When Is It Right To Die Review - Highly Recommend



(Affiliate link below.)

I live in a state with legalized assisted suicide, so when I saw When Is It Right To Die? by Joni Eareckson Tada up for review I thought it would be a really helpful read. I knew Joni Eareckson Tada is a voice on these subjects that I would truly respect, and I was looking forward to hearing what she had to say.


If you are interested in thinking on the subject of assisted suicide and other end-of-life decisions from a Christian perspective, I HIGHLY recommend this book. This book addresses not only those who might be considering assisted suicide, but those, like me, who are wanting to look at this subject in a God-honoring way.

Joni not only doesn’t preach in this book, but she presents a truly compassionate look at these subjects while remaining uncompromising. She addresses those who may be facing suffering or death with compassion and a challenge to use every day to God’s glory, and she addresses those around these people to consider the situation with compassion and biblical truth. She speaks from personal experience on both sides of these circumstances, and I don’t think you will find a more well-balanced Christian approach to end-of-life decisions than in this book.

As someone who is strongly against assisted suicide, I especially appreciated this book because it made me look at the whole subject with more compassion. Joni challenges you to think about the real people who are facing suffering and death, to put yourself in their shoes, to imagine yourself as their friend, and to consider how you would handle these things in a Christ-honoring way.

I also personally found some of her distinctions in the last section interesting as she addressed end-of-life decisions, and she made me realize I really should sit down and write an Advance Health Care Directive. Even though I’m healthy and don’t expect to die soon, you just never know. People get in care accidents every day, and it’s important to think about the potential healthcare decisions that could be made and how to approach these things in a way that glorifies God, should a difficult ending be part of my story.

I highly recommend this book for every Christian to read. It’s not a happy subject, it’s not one that’s “fun" to read about, but I think it’s important to think about these things from a biblical perspective - both for the sake of those who may be facing these kind of issues, and for ourselves should we, God forbid, face them ourselves on day.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thoughts On Homeschool Rooms



Each year in the spring, I start to think in the direction of all things homeschooling (at least ever since my kids have been old enough for me to think about school).  I start planning next year's curriculum, I break out all my books about homeschooling, and I watch a bunch of videos on Youtube.  I happen to follow several homeschooling moms on Youtube (one of these days I'll put a list together for you), and I've come across quite a few "homeschool room tour" videos.

Now, most of you know that I was homeschooled growing up, and this homeschool room idea honestly surprised me.  I had never even heard of having a "homeschool room" until the last couple years.  

We do not have a homeschool room.  You can watch this little video to see our current homeschool setup:





We do most of our schoolwork together right now, and it happens most often at the kitchen table. 
The kids seem a little less wiggly when I have them sit at a table (which is probably also why most homeschool rooms feature a table).  Occasionally we do work on the couch, but that's always a little more chaotic.  Since the only table we have is in the kitchen, that's where we work.  This works out really well for us, and I'll often have Wyatt read to me while I fix dinner or whatever.  Having him at the kitchen table allows me to multitask part of the time (and he actually seems to read better when I'm not sitting right next to him looking over his shoulder).

When I was growing up, we did not have a homeschool room.  School was a more casual affair, and my mom gave us a lot of freedom as long as the work got done.  As a child, I would grab my schoolbooks in the morning, and take them wherever I felt like doing school that day.  My typical routine was to fix a big glass of ice water and lay down on my stomach in the morning sunlight that came through our living room window.  In the afternoon when the sun shifted, I often put on my swimsuit, gathered up my books, and did school in the hot tub (in retrospect, kudos to my mom for not worrying about me dropping my textbooks into the water).  Doing school wherever I wanted weirdly made the whole thing feel less like work and more like fun.

So honestly, even if I had an unused room, I'm not really sure if I would designate it as a homeschool room.  I don't want to restrict my kids to doing their schoolwork in just one area of the house.  As a former homeschool student, I know how much I enjoyed shifting to different areas throughout the day, and as the kids become more independent with their schoolwork I want them to have the freedom to go wherever is easiest and most fun for them too.

Though I tell you, if I had an extra room, I would definitely consider a homeschool library room...

Do you have a room designated for homeschooling?  Or do you just do schoolwork wherever, like me?


Baby Giggles - Georgie At Four Months



This shall be known as the month of the baby belly laughs.  (Referring to Georgie's baby belly, not mine.)

Georgie has been laughing so much lately!  If you caught my recent Instagram story, you'll see that she is even capable of making herself laugh.  The other day I was folding clothes, and she started looking around and scratched her clothes basket.  Apparently that was a pretty hilarious thing.  She repeatedly scratched it and burst out laughing for about two minutes straight.  What is it about baby laughs that make you want to laugh too?

Growth and Eating

We are nursing about three times a day and using formula the rest of the time.  I'm slightly bummed about this and so is my grocery bill, but what can ya do?  It's paying off though, because I think she has noticeably plumped up in the last couple weeks!  We visited the doctor for her four month checkup, and she is 25 inches long and weighs 12 lbs, 1 oz! So she's gained almost two pounds since her last weight check, and three pounds in the last month!  She is back on the charts at the 3rd percentile.  Still little, but I'm fine with that as long as she's moving in the right direction.

I'm taking her in next week to see a specialist about a possible tongue tie.  Angi suggested this possibility to me, but her doctor said Georgie didn't have one...but then another friend shared her story of a misdiagnosed tongue tie, and I thought it would be good to make sure.  So that's next week.

Sleeping

She is still sleeping 12 hours at night!  And it's still amazing.  She woke up twice in the last month for either a late night or early morning snack, and that's it.  I'm waiting for the four month growth spurt to hit any day now, but maybe we'll get lucky and this sleeping streak will just keep going!  A girl can dream, right?



Firsts

This month Georgie discovered toys.  I think this is the earliest any of my kids have been interested in toys, and it's so cute.  If you place a toy near her she'll stare at it and then death-grip it in her little fist.  

Personality

Georgie is just so, so happy!  Her smile has gotten even quicker this month, and she has started giggling a lot more.  Sometimes I'll be talking to her and she'll surprise me with a giggle.  I love her laugh so much.  She grins at her brothers and sisters anytime they take a minute to entertain her, and she gives a baby grin when I kiss her now.  We've come a long way from her cringing response to my kisses when she was just born.

However, ever since we started her on formula she does get a lot more cranky when she is hungry.  She also doesn't like to be left alone - the one exception is when she is tucked safely into her carseat while we're getting ready to go.  But don't you lay her on the floor and walk away.  She is happiest when she's being held, especially by me - she's gotten to that stage when she leans toward me and follows me around the room with her eyes whenever I'm not holding her.  I'm not complaining!

She loves to talk.  Whenever she can catch your eye for long enough, she'll stare at you and start to coo.  She expects you to talk back, and then she'll coo again.  It's a little conversation.



---

Georgie Bea,

Your personality has really started to shine this month!  I love what a happy baby you are.  Your sweet dimpled smile lights up my whole day, and when you laugh I couldn't feel stressed if I tried.  I still love carrying you around in our wrap, because that's the time when I can get you to fall asleep on me.  If I hold you without the wrap you crane your neck to see what's going on around you, or you look right in my eyes and try to talk to me.  I love our baby conversations, and I love how you grin whenever someone talks to you!  What a little joy you are to me, my sweetheart.  Keep that happy heart!

I love you more than words!

-Mama

Let's Talk About Easter Baskets



(Affiliate link below. Also note that I received the book mentioned in this post for free in exchange or a review. This is my honest opinion!)

Alright, I'm just going to get straight to the point - what do you put in your kids' Easter baskets?

Easter is less than a month away!  There have been years when I put a lot of effort into picking things for the kids' Easter baskets, but since we've had a fourth and fifth baby I've toned them down quite a bit.  Last year's baskets were definitely thrown together last minute.  This year I'd like to make them at least thoughtful, since they won't be elaborate by any means (five kids, remember)!

Here are some things I've included in the past:

Summer shoes - Why not go ahead and buy something I'm going to need to purchase anyway?
Swimsuits - Same reason.
Umbrellas - My kids loved these.
Sunglasses/hats - Are you noticing a theme here?  Easter feels like the official kick-off to spring, so I lean toward warm weather essentials.
Books - Of course.  I'm actually kind of doing the book gift early this year with this book from Tommy Nelson.






If anything can get you in the mood for Springtime, it's the cute illustrations in this book!  A Very Happy Easter Prayer is part of a series, so it's written in a similar style as some of our other books, with little poems on each page thanking God for some part of the season.  I like how this one incorporates Jesus's resurrection on the last page too.  It's adorable for my little ones as a transition into the Easter season, and gets us all looking forward to Easter!  If I hadn't already given the book to my kids I would probably stick this in one of their baskets, especially for my younger kiddos.

As I'm considering what to include in Easter baskets though, I'm at a bit of a loss.  I would kind of like whatever I put into their baskets to have some connection with spiritual growth and pointing my kids back to Jesus, because more than any other holiday, this holiday is really about Him!  In a lot of ways Resurrection Day is an even more important celebration for our faith than Christmas.  On Christmas He was born, and He was born that He might die to take the punishment for our sin.  While Christmas is happy (because we celebrate the long-awaited arrival of the Savior!), it's looking ahead to something sorrowful.

Resurrection Day, on the other hand, is pure joy.  He suffered and died, but then He showed His power, proved He is God, and conquered the grave! Without the resurrection we are still in our sins, but because He rose again we can be alive forever with Him!  It's triumphant in a way that even Christmas isn't, and I want to make sure that all doesn't get lost amidst lesser things.

And I don't think it necessarily will get lost because we'll be talking about the Resurrection and everything that means in all the days leading up to Easter - but I don't know, I'd like it reflected somehow in their little gifts on Easter morning.  Or maybe I'm just expecting too much from a present for this age group (0-7 years)?  Any suggestions for me?

What do you put in your kids' Easter baskets (if you do them)?

How To Start A Casual Blog



A few people have asked me in recent months how to start a blog. 

As a result of the professional blogging spike in the past five years, you can find a ton of posts about how should start a blog if you want to be a professional about it. However, I don't know that everyone who has considered starting a blog necessarily wants to make blogging their profession. 

Some people just want to have a place to write about whatever they feel like writing. Some people want to document a specific journey or adventure on which they are embarking. Some people just want to give it a go and see if it sticks. 

Unfortunately, there's not that many posts out there anymore telling you how to start blogging casually. So I thought I would just write my own so that the next time someone asks me about starting a blog, I have a post ready to go with the bare minimum of what they need to know and do to get started.

1. Set up your blog page. 

Before you can start to write you need to have a place to write, so you need to choose a blogging platform. There are two approaches to this:

A.  Start as if your blog will earn you money one day. 

Many bloggers who have monetized their blogs will advise you to start right off the bat with WordPress.org and hire someone to build an amazing website for you. If you you want to start a blog with the intent of earning money with it, and you are fully committed to that and have a plan, listen to those people. I have many blog friends who recommend the resources on Just A Girl And Her Blog for a professional approach to starting a blog.

However, I am not going to tell you to do that.

B. Just start. 

Personally, I don't think there's any sense in investing a ton of money until you really figure out if blogging is for you. You may absolutely love blogging, or you may write for a couple months and decide it's not your thing. Especially if you are more interested in personal reasons for blogging (documenting your life, connecting with other people, having your own platform to just write), I would recommend that you start on Blogger.com.  I've been on Blogger since the beginning, and I am still happy with it. The interface is very intuitive (you can just start!), they have a great designing dashboard that is easy to use (you can make it look how you want it to look), and it's FREE! You can sign up with Blogger and set up a basic blog in about ten minutes, so go do that. I'll wait.

 A Note About Designing

If you want to fiddle around with the design template on Blogger you probably will figure out how to make it look the way you want it to look you all by yourself. You may also consider creating or commissioning a graphic designer for a header image, because that is the first impression of your blog page (nice, but not strictly necessary). You can also search on Etsy for blog templates; some sellers will even install it for you. This is the template designer I used when I wanted to update my template to be mobile-responsive (i.e. so my blog would adjust to screen on your phone), and I'd recommend her - she was very helpful!

2. Start writing.

The next thing you need to do to get going with your blog is just to write. 

The professional blogging community will also tell you to create several posts before you launch your site so that you have content already waiting for your potential readers. I don't think this is a bad idea at all.  When you have posts already published and ready to promote, it makes it look like you've been writing for more than a day.  This is nice, but I'd like to emphasize that it is in no way necessary.  It's more important to just start, so if pre-creating content is going to slow you down, I say just skip it.

Just go ahead and write whatever you want to for your first post and publish it. In the long run, what makes most bloggers successful is just writing, and being consistent about it. 

The more you write, the more you think of to write, and the more creative you force yourself to be, the more creativity comes to you. So just get started. Try to make a goal of writing x-amount of times per week.  If you stick to it for a while, you're going to come up with some good content, and it's going to get easier and easier to come up with good content.


3. Start reading blogs.

You may want to do this before you actually start creating your blog, but after you start writing I think it's especially helpful to read other blogs. There are two reasons for this.

A. To spark your own ideas. 

First, reading other blogs will often spark ideas for posts for your own blog. Seeing how other bloggers write will also give you a better idea of how to format posts on your blog, and the kind of feeling you want your blog and writing to have.

B. To become a reciprocal blogger.  

The second reason I recommend reading other blogs is not only to get ideas, but also to start creating your network. Blogging is way way more fun if you have people actually reading your blog and interacting with it, and a good way to encourage that is to become a reciprocal blogger - meaning you leave comments on other blogs, and return comments when you receive them on your blog. 

This used to be the norm in the blogging world, but unfortunately blogging has gotten a lot more self-focused over the last five years, with an emphasis on pageviews rather than relationships.  If you want to have a casual blog and make it fun, focus on building relationships. The good news is that I sense a shift back to building a sense of community among bloggers, and I hope this continues. 

If you are just starting out with a casual blog, I recommend commenting frequently and widely on blogs that look similar to yours, and I almost guarantee a few of those bloggers will end up coming back and reading your blog too.

4. Get your posts out there. 

By this I mean to go ahead and share your posts on social media.  In the blogging world today, commenting, while important for casual bloggers, is not as effective as it used to be in getting people to visit your blog.  You need a way to let people know that you have some new content.  There are several ways to do this:

A. Instagram.  

I highly recommend joining Instagram, even for a casual blog these days.  Not only will this help you get your blog out there to people who might be interested in reading what you have to say, the (sort of sad) truth is you will most likely get more responses to your content on Instagram than on your actual blog.  I've found it's almost easier to find blog friends this way, because it's so quick and easy to comment back!

B. Facebook. 

There are a few ways to use Facebook - you can create a page for your blog so you can share new content, or you can just share new content right on your personal Facebook if you don't mind everyone in your friend list potentially reading your blog. You may also consider joining a Facebook group for bloggers.  I don't use my blogging Facebook groups that much because they are typically geared more toward the business side of blogging, but sometimes they can be fun.  The Peony Project is a one for women bloggers. 

C. Linkups.  

A lot of people have great luck finding blog readers through participating in linkups.  A linkup is a collection of blog links surrounding a specific theme, and it is hosted on someone else's blog.  You would typically write a post that would fit with the theme of the linkup, and then go to the host blog and add your link.  If you are going to participate in a linkup to find blog friends/readers, do not just drop your link and run.  You have to comment on other people's posts too.  I don't do that many linkups, personally, but if you are interested I'd check A Joy Filled Life and/or Girl On The Move for their link party lists.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should I write about? 

There are typically two kinds of blogs out there: niche blogs, and lifestyle blogs.  Niche blogs are focused on one particular topic, such as cooking blogs, fashion blogs, homeschooling blogs, etc.  If you want to create a niche blog, I think it's important to really be focused and only write things that relate in some way to your topic.  My blog is not a niche blog.  I would classify it as a lifestyle or personal blog.  I just write about whatever in the world I feel like writing. You can make a blog work either way, you don't necessarily have to have a niche.  It's also totally okay to change your focus, especially when you are just blogging casually (which is what this post is all about) - you can try niche writing for a while, and if it doesn't work, change it up.

How do I get people to send me items to review? 

A lot of blogs, as they grow, can become a weird hybrid of a casual personal blog, and a money-making blog.  My blog might be a good example of this - I mostly write what I please, but I also accept products to review and sponsored posts occasionally - either for fun or to help my family.  Because of these occasional sponsored posts, I frequently have friends asking me how they can get free products or compensation through blogging.  

In order to get items to review or be offered compensation for writing a post, you have to build something of a readership first.  Companies want to make sure their investment of money or a product is going to yield some sort of return, so you just aren't going to get these kinds of offers until you start getting a certain amount of monthly pageviews.  Gaining pageviews does take a lot of work, and if this is going to be your focus from the start I would say you are probably not wanting to be a casual blogger - you are hoping to make money with your blog, so I'd check out more of the resources for professional blogging at the link near the top of this post.

How did you start getting sponsored content or products to review?

If you don't necessarily want to start with the goal of making money, but are just kind of curious on how that works, here's my story.  

I wrote on my blog consistently for several years, made blog friends, and generally just had fun with it.  I gained some like-minded followers.  Pinterest came out, and I had a moderate amount of success with some of my party-related posts, which afforded me even more regular pageviews.  Once my pageviews reached a certain level, I had companies occasionally contact me to see if I'd like to receive a product to review - of course I said yes (when it was something I would be interested in)!  Then I went through a brief phase when I decided to try to gain more sponsored post opportunities through sponsored content networks, and I had some success with that because I had a certain amount of pageviews and an audience that those companies were looking for.  

Product reviews and sponsored posts can be a lot of fun, but they only come once in a while, and I don't think they should be your only reason for blogging.  Most people aren't that interested in a blog that only puts out sponsored content and product reviews.  After trying to earn more money with my blog for a year or two there, I decided I was becoming exhausted with the whole thing and had more fun with blogging when I focused more on friendships with other bloggers, so I shifted back to a more casual/personal approach.  I still do occasional sponsored content, but I'm more particular and don't accept those posts as often anymore.

But what about your book reviews?

Okay, if you are wanting to know how to get books to review, that's a whole other ball game!  I love reviewing books on my blog, and I think it fits in nicely with a more casual approach to blogging.  Let me know if you are interested in more on that, and maybe I'll put together another post on how I receive free books in exchange for reviews!

Blog buddies, what do you think?  Would you add anything to this post for people who may be interested in starting to blog casually?


The Weird Thing About Small Towns (And Other Random Remarks)



I've been struggling the last couple weeks to get stuff done.  And I'm not talking about any amazing projects, I'm talking about so-called simple things - like making dinner, folding laundry, eating lunch (oops).  You'd be surprised how much more challenging things are when you are feeding a baby every two hours.  It's like having a newborn again.

So I've been wanting to write a regular old blog post for about a month now.  Ah!  Well, I'm finally doing it, so that's progress.

A Faithful Servant

In case you are living under a rock, Billy Graham passed away yesterday.  People have been sharing this quote all over social media (and that includes me):

"Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” 
-Billy Graham

That quote makes me want to cry every time I read it.  Are hormones involved?  Maybe, but mostly I just swell up inside when I think of such a faithful servant of Christ finally stepping into his reward.  What kind of joy he must be experiencing now, in the presence of our Savior!  I'm about to cry again, just typing this out.  I might also feel like crying a tiny bit because the Church has lost one of it's treasures, the second in recent weeks (remembering R.C. Sproul).

I'm also thinking about how I want to be more faithful to Jesus with my life, so that I'll hear those words that Graham has most certainly heard. "Well done, good and faithful servant."  I don't think I have to proclaim the gospel to stadiums of people to hear those words, but could I be more faithful in serving Christ in my roles as a wife and mother?  In proclaiming the gospel to those in my immediate circles? Yeah, you bet I could.  I've been convicted of that as I think about Billy Graham today, finally home.

The Weird Thing About Small Towns

If you missed it on the blog a few weeks ago, we recently started going to our local CBS (Community Bible Study).  I'm not totally new to this particular CBS - I went there from the ages of 10-15 with my mom.  I can't tell you how soul-filling it is to be back there now.  I thank the Lord for guiding my steps back to that church at this point in my life, because I don't think I realized how much I was missing this type of Christian fellowship right now.  The challenge to really study Scripture consistently, the older women who offer encouragement, the opportunity to connect with other moms - it's all exactly what I needed.

All that to say, going to CBS has brought up a weird realization about small towns for me.  Derek and I live in the same little rural community where I grew up, but it's an unusual situation in that we're less than an hour away from an actual city.  For most of my married life, I have gone into the city to meet friends, go to church, and attend a moms group.  I did this because I always felt like there was no one close by in my life stage to be friends with, and I'm an extrovert who likes to be around groups of people.  I was one of the few of my friends who grew up here and didn't leave, so I resigned myself to just having to travel a bit to hang out with friends in my same life stage.

But enter Community Bible Study, where there are actually two moms of young kids close to my own age at just my own table.  And there are many more in other discussion groups at my CBS!

You might be thinking "Duh, Callie, obviously there will be some other moms at a community Bible study."  But I seriously didn't think about the fact that even though a lot of people I grew up with left my small town, a lot of other people have moved in since I became an adult.  And these people are even better than the childhood friends I had, in terms of practicality, because we're all here now because we want to be here!  It's like a whole new world has opened up to me!  There are people for me and my kids to be friends with in my own town!

Sorry, I feel really dumb typing that out and thinking something so obvious was revolutionary, but there you go.  An epiphany of sorts.  The weird thing about small towns is sometimes they change, even in good ways, right under your feet without you realizing it.

What Else Have We Been Up To

Let's see, what have we been up to?

1. Doing an awful lot of feeding the baby.

2. Crying over spilled (breast)milk.

3. Dealing with crazy weaning-like hormones because my body is giving up on producing milk.

4. Taking Fenugreek to try to combat my milk drying up.  Smelling like maple syrup, because that's what Fenugreek does.

5. Feeling like crying a lot (see #3).

6. Developing a good homeschooling rhythm.

7. Trying to get better at budgeting (trying a new method this month, I'll let you know how it works).



10. Typing out blog posts that may never actually get published.  I'm still mulling over the topics.  I've been in a serious mood lately and feel like I'm getting a little too intense in my writing when I'm not in a good place to handle those emotions or potential discussions (see #3 - hormones). 

11. Spending some nice days at home as a family, because Derek keeps getting minor holidays off work.

12. Trying, trying to develop a morning routine, which so far has been a big fat fail.  I enjoyed reading about Heather's morning routine though.  Do you all have a morning routine, or am I the only one lacking in discipline here?  Why am I so tired in the morning??

13. Reading a lot of books because I need an escape from all my crazy emotions sometimes.  See what I've been reading here.

I'm going to wrap this up, because it's 9:30 PM, and we've already established that I probably need more sleep (see #12).

Did any of you grow up in a small town and stay?  Am I totally being a weirdo for not realizing small towns change? 






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