#thedailymoments || Week 6

#thedailymoments || Week 6

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These days most of us are living busy over-scheduled lives.  It's easy to lose track of the moments that really matter, which can often be the most ordinary parts of our days.   In the midst of all the responsibilities of our day, we need to remember to check in with ourselves so that we don't lose sight of who we really are and what is really important to us.   This series, #TheDailyMoments was started by my good friend @steph.pollock and as soon as I saw her first post, and when she said, 

It's these small moments that make up a lifetime of beautiful ones,

I knew this was something I needed to join in on.

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This weeks recap might sound a little scrambled because that's exactly how my brain feels currently.  Today was a day to just go slowly, breathe and do only what I was capable of doing at the moment.

I took these pictures on Wednesday.  We had our first fertility appt the day before and my best friend, Debi's funeral is on Saturday.   Needless to say, my brain has been working overtime.  I know i've been stressed to say the least but yesterday at the doctor, my blood pressure was higher than it's ever been, even when I was in labor with Finn.  It was 165/101.  That's ridiculously not normal.

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I tried to not stress by having a super slow morning, just Finn and I.  Daddy wakes up at 4:30 to head to Orange Theory, and he comes home to shower around 6am.  Right about that time Finn wakes up ready to go, and I am positive [no matter what Jason claims is "quiet"] that he is woken up by the loudness that my husband is when he gets home.   You see, I am N O T a morning person.  Maybe it's because I never drank coffee, but I do not roll out of bed ready to go, so this 6am wake-up call usually doesn't work for me.

So basically, Finn runs into the kitchen demanding I get up and get him some "lunch."  I cuddle on the couch and hope he comes to cuddle me too.  Sometimes I win, and sometimes I find myself in the playroom at 7am.

We turn on music, we dance, we play outside and I usually get to make myself some tea and breakfast around 10am.  Today, we spent most of the morning outside, played in our "pool" and looked up at the sky as my ray of sunshine Debi shined down upon us until about 11:30 am when it was time for a mommy break [screen time].  

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Today I was tired.  Mentally exhausted from my visit to the fertility clinic and the anxiousness about what is to come this weekend. I wanted to spend my nap time actually taking a nap, but Finn had other ideas.  He usually goes down at 1pm and today, he took one full hour to calm down and get to sleep.   

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It was beautiful outside, the first day that I felt a little breeze and not like I was going to melt.  So, I went into the backyard, plopped my feet up and closed my eyes while soaking in all that vitamin D.  Just as I felt myself nod off, my phone rang.  It was my other best friend, Cara and we ended up talking for almost 2hrs. As much as I thought I needed sleep, I needed this girl talk more.  Feeling refreshed and motivated, I started the dishes just as Finn walked out from his nap, "hi mommy!"

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Daddy called and asked us on a dinner date to Nordstrom because his alterations were ready to be picked up.  I scrambled to finish cleaning the kitchen and quickly showered [of course, not alone] and we were on our way only 15 minutes late.

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We came home and I think we both needed a moment as a family to smile and play so we kept Finn up past his bedtime, drank wine, listened to music and enjoyed these last few warm moments of summer nights.

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It's been almost two weeks since I lost my dearest Debi.  Since then, I have dedicated this weekly series to her.  Even though she isn't here with me, I can write these journals in her honor and hope that she's up there reading them with her signature eye roll and a smile.

Dear Debi, "I don't know when I will be able to function on a normal level again, I'm sure I will spend many more days looking up at the sky and talking to you and wishing you were here. But, I can promise you this, not a moment will be wasted on loving this oh so beautiful life in honor of the joy and happiness you brought into my life and to Finn's life.  We will honor you by truly loving every breath we take; the good, the bad and everything in between."

These are small moments of our day, exactly 2 weeks since you left us. I miss you and I love you. 

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Just as Steph did, I am inviting you to do the same, join us in this movement of letting life be more enjoyable just by letting it be exactly what it is.  Tag your photos with #thedailymoments so we can all share in the joy of the simple moments that make up a lifetime of happiness.

The Daily Moments || Week 1

The Daily Moments || Week 2

The Daily Moments || Week 3

The Daily Moments || Week 4

#thedailymoments || Week 3

#thedailymoments || Week 3

If you want to start from the beginning of this series, start here Week 1.  Then here Week 2

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These days most of us are living busy over-scheduled lives.  It's easy to lose track of the moments that really matter, which can often be the most ordinary parts of our days.   In the midst of all the responsibilities of our day, we need to remember to check in with ourselves so that we don't lose sight of who we really are and what is really important to us.   This series, #TheDailyMoments was started by my good friend @steph.pollock and as soon as I saw her first post, and when she said, 

It's these small moments that make up a lifetime of beautiful ones,

I knew this was something I needed to join in on.

Last week I added some short captions, and this week I had a little more time so I'm using this as more of a journal.  So when I look back a year, two years, or even 5 years from now, I can relive the season I was in currently, and either be thankful I'm out of it, or grateful for the new season i'm currently experiencing.

 Potty Training a naked toddler in my dream kitchen

Potty Training a naked toddler in my dream kitchen

Finn crawled into our bed at 4am, he told me, "mommy my tummy."  I'm pretty sure he was telling me that he wanted to potty because when he actually crawled out of bed at 5:45, he told daddy..."I want to use the potty!"  We're on day 4 of potty training today and we haven't left the house since last Friday morning.  I'm working on a full potty training post and will link it here soon, but it seems to be going well with only 2 accidents in 4 days.  So this morning we went to Target to get a BIG SURPRISE for Finn to celebrate goodbye to diapers.

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I assured Jason Target opens at 7, but he wanted to go by his normal Starbucks first.  We sat as a family and chatted about our days all before 8am and it was such a nice change compared to Jason waking up at 4:30 to go to the gym and us just saying goodbye as he left for work most mornings.  I spotted an elderly man reading the Wall Street Journal and even though he numerous other tables were open, he decided to squeeze into the table next to us unfazed by the crazy toddler trying to tear the blinds off the window.  I don't know why but I love watched elderly people.  He was writing a to-do list to himself on a small piece of paper and it made me smile because no days everyone is glued to their phones.
 

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Jason left to put Finn in the car while I cleaned up the table and as I was leaving this young business sitting alone across the room stopped me... he said, "That's so awesome!  Do you guys have breakfast together every morning?"  I wanted to answer yes but it kinda made me sad that we actually don't ever do that.  I told him in an almost embarrassed way, "no, my husband is actually going out of town tomorrow so he wanted to spend some extra time with us before work today."  He applauded us for it again and we both smiled and went on our way.

 Daddy does the Target run with us

Daddy does the Target run with us

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I don't know, the last few days have been challenging for me.  Potty training is no joke and I just needed a break.  My patience level is at an all-time low and I can't stay calm and be present with my actions.  This toy we bought him as a celebration of joy, I almost threw it out the window, it was so hard trying to build while he was so excited and wanted to play with it.  I took a break and just breathed and then it turned out perfectly.

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This part is very hard to share but, I know when I look back at these images of this day.  I will only be able to think back about how hard it was for me.  My best friend has been in the ICU for the past couple of weeks, and can't get it off my mind.  I find anytime I can to go see her and today after I put Finn down for his nap, I had a sitter come over and I rushed to her bedside for only 30 min, until it was time to head back home and put my mom hat back on.

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I tried so hard to push my sadness aside today and to just be present with him.  We played outside in the sunshine until daddy came home. I then retreated to the guest bedroom for a little mental break alone while my two boys did push ups and yoga in the playroom.  I heard them on the other side of the wall and really felt so thankful in that moment.  

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I cooked a comfort food dinner, the kind my bestie would love.  It was still 80 degrees outside, as we are in the middle of another heat wave so, we sat outside as a family and talked for a bit and then daddy took over.  I crawled into bed at 8:30pm.  He did bath time, bedtime and even did the dishes and laundry for me.  I need that today.

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Just as Steph did, I am inviting you to do the same, join us in this movement of letting life be more enjoyable just by letting it be exactly what it is.  Tag your photos with #thedailymoments so we can all share in the joy of the simple moments that make up a lifetime of happiness.

The Daily Moments || Week 1

The Daily Moments || Week 2

The Daily Moments || Week 3

The Daily Moments || Week 4

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

#thedailymoments || Week 2

#thedailymoments || Week 2

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These days most of us are living busy over-scheduled lives.  It's easy to lose track of the moments that really matter, which can often be the most ordinary parts of our days.   In the midst of all the responsibilities of our day, we need to remember to check in with ourselves so that we don't lose sight of who we really are and what is really important to us.   This series, #TheDailyMoments was started by my good friend @steph.pollock and as soon as I saw her first post, and when she said, 

It's these small moments that make up a lifetime of beautiful ones,

I knew this was something I needed to join in on.

Last week I let the pictures speak for themselves, but this week I had a little more time so I added a few captions so you can get to know us a little better. 

 every single morning without fail, he wakes up and immediately asks for a yogurt.  He eats at least 3 of these a day.

every single morning without fail, he wakes up and immediately asks for a yogurt.  He eats at least 3 of these a day.

 we often have piles of clean laundry all over the house.  I wonder why?

we often have piles of clean laundry all over the house.  I wonder why?

  1 of 45 times today I told him not to pick his nose

 1 of 45 times today I told him not to pick his nose

 some days we spend no time in his room, and others days we can't get enough.  Today was one of those days.  Trains, drawing (while Finn erases), reading books, and wrestling

some days we spend no time in his room, and others days we can't get enough.  Today was one of those days.  Trains, drawing (while Finn erases), reading books, and wrestling

 then he told me he wanted to go to school. 

then he told me he wanted to go to school. 

 I usually get to drink my morning coffee around 10 or 11am

I usually get to drink my morning coffee around 10 or 11am

 human jungle gym for hours today

human jungle gym for hours today

 he would tell me, mom you draw this...and then immediately after I would draw a perfect stick figure that looked just like him, he would promptly erase it

he would tell me, mom you draw this...and then immediately after I would draw a perfect stick figure that looked just like him, he would promptly erase it

 dodgie lost his tags today and he now has a huge hole in his rear end... how long with this lovie last?

dodgie lost his tags today and he now has a huge hole in his rear end... how long with this lovie last?

 beach park days are the best

beach park days are the best

 except for when you have to drop everything because your toddler who isn't water ready, heads straight for the water.

except for when you have to drop everything because your toddler who isn't water ready, heads straight for the water.

 i try so hard to look natural for the self timer, maybe by week 10...i'll look kinda normal

i try so hard to look natural for the self timer, maybe by week 10...i'll look kinda normal

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 let's bury mommy

let's bury mommy

 this dude could love on beans + brocilli (which is what he calls guacamole)

this dude could love on beans + brocilli (which is what he calls guacamole)

 i got to shower today.   truth be told, i have zero idea how to use essential oils but after every shower i sprinkle a few drops of geranium and eucalyptus and it smells just like i'm at the spa

i got to shower today.   truth be told, i have zero idea how to use essential oils but after every shower i sprinkle a few drops of geranium and eucalyptus and it smells just like i'm at the spa

 "momma sit on my lap" - i love a good cuddle sessh before naptime

"momma sit on my lap" - i love a good cuddle sessh before naptime

 my first child always needs to be really up in the mix.  Right before this she sat on his lap

my first child always needs to be really up in the mix.  Right before this she sat on his lap

 when you're supposed to be napping but your playing hide and seek instead

when you're supposed to be napping but your playing hide and seek instead

 Finn's really enjoying these new counter stools

Finn's really enjoying these new counter stools

 one pot fajita pasta tonight

one pot fajita pasta tonight

 daddy's working late, so off to start that dinner time hustle

daddy's working late, so off to start that dinner time hustle

Just as Steph did, I am inviting you to do the same, join us in this movement of letting life be more enjoyable just by letting it be exactly what it is.  Tag your photos with #thedailymoments so we can all share in the joy of the simple moments that make up a lifetime of happiness.

The Daily Moments || Week 1

The Daily Moments || Week 2

The Daily Moments || Week 3

The Daily Moments || Week 4

 

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

#TheDailyMoments

#TheDailyMoments

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These days most of us are living busy over-scheduled lives.  It's easy to lose track of the moments that really matter, which can often be the most ordinary parts of our days.   In the midst of all the responsibilities of our day, we need to remember to check in with ourselves so that we don't lose sight of who we really are and what is really important to us.   This series, #TheDailyMoments was started by my good friend @steph.pollock and as soon as I saw her first post, and when she said, 

It's these small moments that make up a lifetime of beautiful ones,

I knew this is exactly what I needed to bring some joy and simplicity back into my daily life.  This is my first day of just keeping my iPhone handy and letting the moments speak for themselves vs finding the perfect white wall to stand in front of, or rearranging all the pillows on the couch before taking that perfect shot and it truly is bringing life back into my daily routine.  This series is helping me to not only grow and learn as an Instagram influencer but as a wife, mom, friend, and an individual.  Today is Tue, July 10th and these are my Daily Moments.  

 

Just as Steph did, I am inviting you to do the same, join us in this movement of letting life be more enjoyable just by letting it be exactly what it is.  Tag your photos with #thedailymoments so we can all share in the joy of the simple moments that make up a lifetime of happiness.

If you wanna see all the inspo from Stephanie herself, click here.

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1. snuggles   2. laugh   3. focus   4. toesis   5. puzzled   6. create   7. destroy   8. hide   9. peek   10. brusha brusha   11. ride or die   12. pretend   13. yourturn   14. flex it   15. cruise   16. smile   17. teatime   18. meltdown   19. naptime   20. end of the line  21. cocktail time  22. daddys home  23. explore 24. goodnight 

I had the best time working on this today and not worrying about the images I was capturing.  I feel like this series is going to be so eye opening for our whole family and I can't wait to see how it evolves and changes from week to week!  Tell me, are you going to join me??

For Week 2, click here.

For Week 3, click here.

Beach Day Essentials for the Stylish Mom

If you've been following for awhile, you know my happy place is near the Ocean.  Sandy toes is my middle name. I've spent most my life growing up near or on the beach but, for the last 3 years we lived in Nor Cal not near the beauty of the beach. 

I finally convinced the husband to move back down to southern California and it was time to update my beach bag!  We just bought our first home in Costa Mesa (no, not on the beach) but we had 6 weeks between the time we moved from Nor Cal to So Cal until our actual move in date, so we rented an airbnb in Laguna, ON the beach!  Every morning and every evening we spend an hour or so playing in the sand and enjoying the waves + sunshine.   

I've rounded up my top 10 favorite summertime essentials for an epic beach day below.  

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Target Beach Toys |  I mean you can get beach toys anywhere, but I thought this kit by Antsy Pantsy for $9.99 was perfection. Diggers, shovels, buckets, and sand sifters, it comes with it all.

Gathre Leather Mat | This is not sponsored, but @gathre is legit my all time favorite product evah.  Waterproof, stain-resistant, sand shakes right off, and gorgeous; need I say more.  I have too many to count in my house, but our favorite size is the midi.  Although, I do love the Maxi round for those playdates at the beach kinda days.  Guys, they just started selling these at Anthro!  Say what?

Swell Water Bottle | Keeps drinks cold, even when the sun is hot.  The large one fits a whole bottle of rose ...just sayin. 

Grom Squad Trucker Hats for kids | Listen, friends don't let friends, put those silly floppy Gilligans Island sun-blocking hats on their kids.  Want your kid to be protected and look good?  Grom Squad has you covered!  The girl ones are so cute too!

Boon snug Snack cups with spill safe lids | um, duh.  snacks are mandatory at the beach and these little cups are the perfect size for goldfish, chips or other snacks.  And the silicon lid is super snug to prevent spills.  We use them everywhere, not just at the beach.

Slow Tide Round Beach Towel | Seriously obsessed with all the vintage rugs filling my social media these days and when I saw this towel, I had to have it.  To be honest, I bought it for the look, but man it is BEYOND soft and the perfect size.  

Baby Powder - Sand.  I know there are people out there who don't like the beach simply because "the sand gets everywhere."  You know those people right?  Well, here's a little trick I learned a while ago when I lived at the beach, if you sprinkle baby powder over those sand-filled feet, it magically just wipes right off.  No water necessary. Seriously.   If you don't know this trick already, be prepared to have your mind blown.  This is life changing.

Bose Soundlink waterproof Speaker | Music makes everything better. I know we all have iPhones and can play our music on there, but this little speaker is lightweight but sounds so good.  The quality is insane and better than most speakers I've listened to.  It's waterproof, wireless bluetooth (no cords or wifi needed) and it keeps a super long charge for all-day beach fun!  Again, not sponsored, just one of the best purchases I've ever made.

Coolest kids swimwear by @tea_collection |  Tired of trying to find cute clothes for kids or showing up in the same Target suit as everyone else?  Go shop Tea Collection.  The quality is dreamy and the prints are always on trend.  We love Tea in this house (pun intended, if you know me...he he).  They also sell summer essentials like vans, native kids + havaianas too!  One stop shopping.

Straw bag to carry it all | I love, love my @cacoandkai bag but sadly it's sold out.  I found one like it, here.  But, you should still check out their etsy shop cause those mud-cloth pillows they source are to die for!

Now, I'm off to go pack my bag up and hit the beach! xoxo

 

 

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

6 photography tips to create the perfect Holiday Cards

6 photography tips to create the perfect holiday cards

A huge thank you to Snapfish for sponsoring this post.  I received a credit towards my holiday card order in exchange for this review.  As always, I only share products I truly am obsessed with and all images and opinions are my own. 

Use code HEIDI40 at checkout for 40% off

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The moment you go to your mailbox on Nov 30 and receive your first-holiday card, a state of panic comes over you.  How can I be so late? I don’t even have my pictures taken yet!?  Here in California is stays warm through those fall months and we don’t get snow so it’s easy to not get that holiday spirit early on.  

I do have to admit, even though a whole new level of envy and anxiety sets in when that over-achieving Mom sends me her cards that early, it does get me excited about the holidays.

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I rarely check my mailbox, until December rolls around.  It’s true, nothing good comes from that metal tin until Christmas cards begin to arrive.  There’s nothing like receiving a picture filled card from friends and family during the holidays.  Am I right?  

So you start to think? What picture will I use? What will we all wear? What location has the perfect landscape? How can I make this year's card perfect?  All good questions but the truth is, you don’t need perfect, you just need to be you. 

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Holiday cards are a way to celebrate all the good things this year has brought as you get ready for the new year. Sending seasons greetings to the ones you love, having that personal connection with a picture of you in their mailbox, let’s you share this year's joys with your friends and family.  Whatever goodness came this year, whether it is a new marriage, new home, job promotion or even just celebrating a good year, Christmas cards are something everyone looks forward too.  Luckily, you still have time to get that memorable Holiday card out that snags the front space on everyone’s fridge this year. 

Here are 6 photography tips to create the perfect holiday cards this year:

1. First things first.  Hire a professional to do the job.  Yes, iPhone photos are amazing these days and print beautifully and if you happen to have one of those right place, right time amazingly candid photos in your camera roll to use, USE IT!  Totally acceptable.  However, many of us, including yours truly, take 27 candids all of that perfectly curated shot only to scroll through and delete them all.  If that’s you, here’s why you need that professional. These cards may be keepsakes for grandma and grandpa or Mom and dad of their little ones each year, so you want these images to stand out.  If you're like me, we only do one family photos session a year, and this it, so hiring someone who knows what they are doing really is necessary.

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2. Don’t wait for a snowstorm or the perfect sunset to take those images.  Little known fact, I believe the best lighting is a cloudy day.  It brings this whole soft and ethereal feel to the photos if you ask me.  Bright sunny days, are hard to shoot in.  They cause shadows and nobody wants to be overshadowed by a shadow, right? [hahah]. Truth be told even though I love a cloudy day shoot, I dream of one day taking my photos in the rain,  you know, all The Notebook circa 2004 style.  All I’m saying is the pictures aren’t made by the perfect weather, they are made by you, the perfect people. 

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3. Find simple and beautiful backdrops in your neighborhood. You don’t have to drive an hour away to stand in a winter wonderland or get all sandy at the beach [although I love a good beach scene] to get the perfect holiday image. Go the minimalist route and find a white wall to stand in front of or stop by that empty field you drive by on your way to work, or that brick wall down at your local mall, that’s the best one! Just find a blank canvas, grab your family and shoot.  Then you can choose from about 1000 designs on Snapfish to make your card pop. 

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4. Use the same color palette but don’t be matchy-matchy. Nothing says Sears family Christmas cards like a family all dressed in white shirts and jeans, so, don’t do that.  Here are a few tips on styling your outfits: Pick 3-4 colors [no more than 5] and stick with those. Start with one person's outfit, probably your own because that’s easiest. Try and add in one print to bring it all together.  Add some texture with a scarf or vest.  And most importantly, be comfortable.  The last thing you want is to be fidgeting with your sleeves or pulling down your shirt throughout the whole shoot.  Nothing ruins a photo like you tugging your dress down in every photo. 

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5. Embrace perfectly imperfect. We’ve all been that person.  The one who spends hours on Pinterest looking for the right outfits, the right backdrop, and the right poses for our family photos. Oh wait, that’s probably how you ended up here.  He he.  Well ok, so maybe your that person who’s more concerned with telling all your family members to look at the camera, or smile, or "look happy everyone."  And then all your images end up with your mouth open or your finger pointed covering your kid's face. Well here’s my number one tip, skip the perfectly posed, and go for the I’m having the best day of my life look.  Some of my most beloved images are ones where no one is looking at the camera.  It’s those candid, heartfelt moments and emotions that are snapped in between takes that are my favorite and those can’t be planned. 

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6.  Don’t skimp on the quality of your cards.  I’ve tried several companies over the years and abandoned some once I saw the flimsy paper or poor image resolution.  This year I used Snapfish and I was super impressed by so many levels. I’m not super good at sending photos to family members with updates, so my holiday cards are the only keepsake they’ll have.  We didn’t even send a birth announcement for our first child because I just never found the time.  [It still bugs me I missed that] so, ever since then I’ve been determined to do one photo shoot a year and it’s for Holiday cards.  Needless to say, since this card is the only thing I send all year, the quality needs to be good.  Photos printed on good paper, don’t have to be expensive or take forever to get.  Snapfish has tons of designs, and cardstock options and they get the job done in a couple of days. 

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Lastly, don't take this process too seriously.  These photos should show your playful and happy side and if you make this a stressful event, it will show through in the photos.  Have fun, play around, have a tickle fight, throw your little one in the air and laugh, and you'll end up front and center in everyone's fridge this year.  

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With Snapfish you have so many great layout options including these gold foil cards I chose.  They offer fast shipping for your procrastinators like me too.  And to save even more time, you can have you return address printed for free.  I won't be using any other company besides Snapfish from now on for all my card needs.  USE CODE HEIDI40  for 40% off your order.

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This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

Holiday Gift Guide for Kids | #TheMomBlogCollective Week 5

Holiday Gift Guide for Kids | #TheMomBlogCollective Week 5

Welcome back and thank you to our loyal followers of this series!  If you're new here, here's the scoop. Once a month, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will discuss the same topic having to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

letters to Santa toddler in kickee pants Christmas gift guide

We thought it would be kind of fun to switch it up and talk about something besides blogging.  This week, 6 of us mamas are talking all about the holidays!  We have a total of 13 kids between us ranging in ages from 3 months to 7 years and we each put together a gift guide for our littles in this installment of #TheMomBlogCollective.

[A special Thank you to @sproutssanfrancisco, @kazambikes and @kidtrax_toys who sponored this post.  As always, I truly belive in everything I share, so all opinions expressed are my own.]

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A little disclaimer.  Christmas is and always has been my favorite holiday.  And now that I have a child to celebrate it with, I definite may go a little overboard.  I still remember that Christmas as a little girl that I ran downstairs and saw a new cabbage patch doll, and that was all I needed until my mom said wait, there's more.  A light bright!  Oh man, hours of fun.  I just love the feeling of Christmas, I love the joy it brings me to give someone something that makes them happy.  I know, it's not all about the gifts, but for this post it IS!  

All of these items are going to be under the tree this year for Finn and I can't wait to see the excitement on his face when he runs down the hall to see Santa has come and delivered happiness straight to our living room. 

If you haven't read my post on 8 stylish ways to kid-proof your home you should check it out but one of the main things I live by in order to avoid my home looking like a preschool is I buy toys that match my style.  Toys that blend into my decor rather than stand out.  That's why I shop small.  I avoid those big bold plastic looking toys filling my organized and adult looking living room.  Here are some of my favorites that will be under our tree for Finn this year.

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Amazon is taking over the world y'all, right?  So many people are getting all there shopping done via the world wibe web these days, but I've always been a big believer in shopping small. I get it, it's just so easy now to say, "I'll just get it from Amazon," but I'm not ready to not have face to face interactions with people just yet. So, I try and support the family-run or small businesses.  And most of the time I find better, more ethically sound, and organic items that just fit my lifestyle better.   

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1. Little Cottonwood - This wooden guitar has real strings and can be tuned and played

organic sustainable kids wooden drum set

2. Sprout, San Francisco - This musical band drum set is made of natural rubber wood and water based non-toxic paints.

Finn is constantly obsessed with music, sounds, and dancing.  I once had an old lady who told me she was psychic and she said, "Never turn off the music around him, this boy thrives with music, so feed that desire and always play the beats."  No clue if she was crazy or right or both, but here goes nothing.  Guitar and drum set coming right up.

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3. Kazam -  The KaZAM mini ride-on is designed with three wheels and a curved frame that is perfect for any constantly moving toddler and helps to develop motor skills

We have a little 12-year-old neighbor who rides his scooter outside and Finn is obsessed.  He isn't quite old enough for a skateboard but I wanted to get him something besides his little rocket he has been pushing himself on for over a year now.  This balance bike is legit you guys!  It's the perfect starter bike for your little one.  I think this is going to be the overall winner of the Christmas morning excitement. 

kickee pants organic bamboo cotton footed zipper pajama

4. Sprout, San Francisco KicKee Pants Zipper Footie is made with super-soft organic bamboo and will keep your little sprout stylish & cozy on Christmas morning

I know, clothes aren't the most fun presents to open but I wanted to start a tradition this year and get him a new Christmas-y jammie set each year.  Kickee Pants are insanely soft and I wish these came in my size!

Avigo Land Rover Ride 12vo ride on for kids

5. Toys R Us - In my family, there is always that one BIG gift, and this year, the Avigo Land Rover Defender 12 Volt Ride On is that one. 

I know, I know...this is too much but when we visited our friends a few months ago, they had one and he loved it.  He also has a yellow toy jeep he got with Grandma that he won't put down so it just seemed like he needed this. We will need to grow into it, but i'm so ready to have him drive me around for awhile.

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6. Sprout, San Francisco - Your little chef can chop & prep with this Assorted Fruit & Vegetable set  

Tegu Children's Magnetic building set

7. Sprout, San Francisco - We've been obsessed with this Tegu's Magnetic Wooden Block Set since we played with it at our local Patagonia store, I waited to get it for Christmas and I might be more excited about this one than Finn. It's also on Sale currently!

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8. Amazon - Stabilo Woody crayon set is my favorite stocking stuffer.  They don't break when thrown and they come off of any service, walls, floors, and even windows.  The most genius crayons of all time.  I heart you Stabilo!

kids wooden cooking pots and pans kitchen accessories for toddlers

9. Sprout, San Francisco - Your aspiring chef can cook up anything with these wooden Cooking Utensils. Made with rubberwood and non-toxic paints.

green toys organic and sustainable toy cars trucks for kids

10. Sprout, San Francisco - This environmentally friendly flatbed truck with race car by Green Toys is a must-have.  Finn is obsessed with these whenever we go into Whole Foods.  Thank goodness my favorite little boutique carries all of them.

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11. Sprout, San Francisco - The Mini Golf Set is made of sustainable and preservative-free rubberwood colored with natural water-based dyes coated with a nontoxic finish

I spent my Saturday running errands and got pretty much my entire shopping list done just by visiting one of my favorite children's boutiques, Sprout, San Francisco.  They have one simple mission; to handpick the safest and healthiest products for your children.  There are so many new chemicals and recalls being thrown at us in this modern world, it important to find the right toys that are safe for your little ones.  I don't have to think twice about what Finn is putting in his mouth when I get it from Sprout because I know they have chosen the safest and most organic toys out there.  I've been shopping at their Palo Alto location since Finn was a baby, and they have several other locations up here the bay but, you can also shop online if that's your thing or you don't live close by.  

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Ok, yes yes yes...I know.  Going out in holiday traffic to shopping with a toddler isn't the easiest.  So even though I love the face to face interaction with small shops, I do also do some online shopping every now and then.  I do love me a good sale too, so I couldn't pass up a few items from my favorite online shops too!

So, that's it.  It's not even December and my shopping is complete.  It sounds crazy but in 2015, I was 9.5 months pregnant and I had the early stages of preeclampsia, so I wasn't really in the decorating or shopping mood.  Then in 2016, Finns first Christmas, we were actually told we had to move our of our home because the owners were moving back in, so the whole house was in boxes on Christmas morning and only 1/3 of my decorations were out.  It was still a great day but, because the last few years have been hard for me to fully enjoy my favorite holiday, I'm going to enjoy every last minute this year.  

Happy Holidays to you and yours!  

Here's a link to all the other beautiful, genuine and inspiring mamas in the #TheMomBlogCollective:

Cultivate Motherhood | @cultivatemotherhood

Steph Pollock | @steph.pollock

The Love Designed Life | @thelovedesignedlife

Occasionally Perfect Blog | @occasionally_perfect

Hello Baby Brown | @hellobabybrown

Mrs Seacannon | @mrsseacannon

Ashley Noel | @_ashley_noel_

Britt Havens | @britthavens

 

our guests this week:

Jordan & Co | @jordan.and.co

Hello Tiny Love | @hellotinylove

 

If this is your first time checking out the series, and you'd like to get caught up from the beginning, here ya go:

Top 5 Tips when starting a blog or Instagram | Week #1

 How to create your brand + build an online community | Week #2

Photography tips for a Cohesive Instagram feed | Week #3

How to Balance Motherhood + Blogging | Week #4

 

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This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

It’s all about you | My Interview with Mama Rules

I mean, can you guys believe that it's almost Thanksgiving!  How on earth can we make time slow the eff down!?  No seriously, I need a minute to catch up life.  I've been so busy, it just feels like everything is non-stop these days.  So ya, here it is almost a month after I took these pics but I felt like they needed to be shared so, in true Kanye form, I'm real happy for you Fall, and imma let you finish, but we all know Christmas is coming and I'm so ready.

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I've been meaning to do a little Q+A post about myself and I've also been meaning to post these pumpkin patch pics, so better late than never right?  So, the blog I've been meaning to write has been hard for me to figure out.  I want to talk about things like, who I am, how I got where I am physically and mentally after becoming a mom, where I've lived and worked  and other fun things but I just can't ever figure out where to start and what to include.  I've been known to be a typical Aquarian mama and tell really long stories, or share a little too much so editing is not my strong suit.  

So, when Mama rules reached out and told me they wanted to include me in their blog series called, It's all about You, I was like, "Yes, that's a perfect way to start this!"  Mama Rules is a super hip UK based muslin company.  They've got the best prints and they are launching in the US!  When the owner, Stacy, emailed me and told me she was about to have her first baby in January, I was so excited for her to share a little Capricorn babe like my dude.  But when she told me more about their stylish and inspirational platform they are creating for mamas I was hooked! They have a similar view on mama life and they believe you don't have to compromise your style just because you're a mom, and I couldn't agree more!

They asked a few women (including yours truly) to complete a light-hearted quick fire Interview.   Here are some of my favorite outtakes from that interview. 

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IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU...  My Interview with Mama Rules

My favorite evening out, look:

Tight Jeans (to suck in all the giggly parts), booties and a flowy top.  (gotta hide that mama pooch, ya know?)  I always accessorize so that can dress up any outfit to make it more evening look.

My favorite staying in look:

I could literally live in sweatpants, every day all day.  I own over 50 pairs of sweats (even before I was a mom) so you could say I'm a real comfy junkie.

Tired mama style tip:

Truth, my style since becoming a mom is all about the hats, sunglasses and dry shampoo!  Gotta hide the sleepy eyes and wrinkles with sunglasses and the 5-day dirty hair with a hat. I also always wear mascara, for some reason it makes me look more awake, even if it's the only makeup I put on. 

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Palm print or florals?

I've never been a girly girl, I don't even think I own anything pink.  So, I've gotta go with the Palm print. It just seems more fitting since I'm a boy mom but if I had a girl, I would for sure be easily persuaded to fill that nursery with oversize floral everythang. 

Flamingos or pineapples?

Easy. Pineapples. You can't put Flamingos in a cocktail, right?  

Vibrant fun colors or cool monochrome?

 I'm for sure the monochrome kinda girl.  My entire closet is white, brown, gray, black and tan.

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Parenting rule you’ve thrown out the window

No technology.  The only way we are able to eat out is to give the dude the iphone.  Pick your battles, right?

Last time you had a full night's sleep (over 7 hours):

(all the mamas who had a hard time with sleep, go ahead and skip this one).  My guy has been sleeping through the night since he was 2 months old.  He is the best little sleeper ever.  Now, that doesn't mean I sleep.  I'm usually up late scrolling my 52k photos, Instagram or pinning.  This mom's brain doesn't turn off.

The first thing you do once the kids hit the hay:

What we all do, pour that glass of wine. 

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If motherhood were a cocktail it would be called:

A hangover that's worth it. (BTW, I didn't read the next question before writing that answer...)

Has a hangover since having a child ever been worth it?

Nope.  Pretty sure that's not possible.

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The favorite thing your kid/s says:

He's 22 months and he just started to ask me to cuddle.   It's the best when he grabs our favorite blanket, and runs over to me and says "cuddle mommy."

24hrs without the kid/s, what’s your plan?

Go to the most non-kid friendly restaurant, eat and drink way too much, binge watch something and fall asleep too early.  Sleep in until at least 9 am...if my body will let me.

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What do you wish you’d been told about motherhood beforehand?

To travel more, to go out more, to do more.  As a first-time mom, I was scared to do anything.  I can't go eat, cause I would miss a nap or his bedtime.  Flying on a plane with a baby seemed so scary!  But. the truth is, it only gets harder to do things as they get older.  

Three words to describe yourself: 

 Honest, Caring, Driven (I wish I was more creative with these answers)

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Exciting upcoming plans:

 In short, the best thing that's happening currently for my family is that we have plans to move back to Southern California to the beach where I spent my whole life.  3 years ago we moved to Northern California and the transition has been so tough for me.  I can't wait to raise my little one where I grew up near the ocean. 

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Would you put on makeup to go and buy makeup wipes?

 That's basically asking if I wear makeup to go to Target.  And that answer is no, it's always no.  

Most embarrassing motherhood moment:

Ran to Trader Joes to grab one onion.  Finn was about 3 months old, I didn't grab the diaper bag cause I was only going to one quick thing.  He wasn't even big enough to ride in the cart yet so I had to hold him.  As I got in line, the college student who was ringing us up, just started laughing at me, because he had poop running out of his diaper and all over my shirt. Needless to say, I never leave home without the diaper bag now.

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Why do Mama’s Rule?

It's hard to explain but the moment you become a mother its sort of like the person you were before that is gone.  Nothing is the same, in so many goods ways, and some I don't quite understand. But, I know I wouldn't be the person I was meant to be unless I was a mom.  As a mom, I am more confident, more aware, more patient, more secure, and more content than I have ever been in my life.  Somedays are harder than others, some days test all your patience.  But for us mamas, we've got this.  Every single thing, no matter how challenging or hard, we will find a way to make it happen.  I didn't know just how strong I was until I became a mom.  

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Thank you so much to Stacy Ullenes for including me in this, I'm so honored to be in the company of these other stylish and inspirational mamas.  If you wanna read some more interviews from the coolest mamas, here's the link to the series.  Mama Rules Blog

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

How I got a Better night sleep | a Honest mattress review

How I got a better night sleep | Honest review of Tomorrow Sleep Mattress

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Most people know how a good night sleep can change your life and although our daily health relies on it, people now days are consistently not getting enough sleep; including me.

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[I received a Tomorrow Sleep hybrid mattress in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.]  #ad #sponsored

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To be honest, I've never gotten much sleep.  I'm always staying up way past a normal person bedtime, and I tend to be more of a night owl than a morning person.  But, my husband, on the other hand, he's that guy.  You know, the one who neeeedddss his beauty rest.  He needs at least 9hrs of good sleep or he's a cranky bear.  Ever since I've known him, he's been a morning person.  Always bright-eyed and ready for the day, before everyone else.  Even after a late night out, he's the guy whos going to grab coffee for everyone.  Not this girl.  I like to sleep in as late as possible.  I mean, I love that about him but that doesn't mean I want that.  I'm definitely staying in most mornings all snug under my 3 comforters in a cozy bed as long as I can.  

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3 years ago we upgraded our mattress, and neither of us has slept well since.  We spent $2800 and 4 hours shopping for the perfect mattress, we waited days for it to be delivered, watched as 3 men came to deliver and assemble it, only to call the store back 2 weeks later and have them swap it out for another one.   It was a battle to get them to exchange it so when we still didn't like the replacement, we knew we were just stuck with it.  Stuck with poor restless nights, and stuck feeling stiffness and agitated in the morning.  3 years later, we've had enough.  We knew it was time to do something about our sleep and it started with finding a new, better mattress.

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As an influencer, I thought let me reach out to my other blogger friends and see if they have a suggestion for a new mattress.  I was seeing all these ship in-a-box, direct-to-consumer mattress companies.  Casper, Tuft&Needle, Lucid and more.  I was skeptical about spending over $1000 on a mattress that was out of a box.  I mean how can something that was smooshed in an airtight space come our and still be that fluffy and comfy mattress I was excepting it to be?   I asked a lot of my GF's and they told me it was easy and painless but nobody really said, I LOVE my new mattress, I'm sleeping so much better!  So I still wasn't convinced.    

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Then, Tomorrow Sleep reached out and promised me a better night sleep.  They are a branch of Simmons Serta, with a pretty large and experienced company behind them.  The husband of course quickly did some research and saw that they conducted decades of research to create a comprehensive system specifically intended to enable a more restful nights sleep.  I was just excited I didn't have to go back to the mattress store and do that whole process all over again.  So I had that going for me. 
Hassle free, I get fast and it's guaranteed to help me sleep better?  I'm in.

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Research says it takes 30 days to break a bad habit.  So, I wanted to take some time before I gave you guys my honest review of the mattress.  We took these last 30 days to challenge ourselves to get more sleep, not just with our new mattress, but with new sheets, and with a few other steps into our nighttime routine.  Here's my honest opinion about our Tomorrow Sleep Mattress.

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Let me say it really clearly, 
Since I've had my Tomorrow Sleep mattress, 
I've slept better!   And that is the entire point of this.  I can go on and on about the pro's and maybe one or two cons (like it's a little "louder" than a normal mattress) but the point is how do I sleep on it and both my husband and I are sleeping better.  We actually woke up numerous days after we first slept on it and looked and each other and said, "Man, I slept so good last night!"

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So if you want to know if I would suggest this mattress to you:
Yes.  My answer is yes, a thousand times over.  Get this mattress and you will sleep better.  Here are a few reasons why:

The first thing I noticed about the mattress was that it was firm, like not like the sinking feeling you get from those old memory foam mattresses but firmer like it's supporting you.  Your body almost molds to the mattress.

Then I noticed that it's thinner, like way thinner than a normal mattress.  I kept thinking it was going to expand more, but eventually, it settled into its full form, and I kinda liked that it was a little lower to the ground.  It made the room feel a little bigger, but still had lots of space to starfish if I wanted to.

Being a side sleeper, I learned that I needed a mattress like this because it cradles my body and adapts to my positions in a way we side sleepers need.  We need some firmness with a little give and this mattress provides just that.

Let's talk about temperature.  I'm cold, he's hot.  Always.  One thing we could never agree on is our sheets, I want them soft, but not hot.  Have you ever gone to bed in nice cool sheets and midway through your sleep, you wake up sweating?  Me too!  One thing I was concerned about was how hot this hybrid- coil thing was going to be.  It's not!  One of the main selling points that got me on this mattress is that they combine temperature-regulating memory foam with a gently stabilizing coil system, which gives you the perfect mix of cool comfort and support each night.

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I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to a new mattress, and if you think you don't need a new one, just try and remember what year it was when you got the one you're sleeping on.  If it was more than 7 years ago, it's time people.  Get a new one!  Tomorrow Sleep was just voted #1 hybrid mattress by Men's Health and in my opinion, I'm getting a far better night rest now than I've ever had.
 

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Because I love you all so much, I asked Tomorrow Sleep to partner with me to giveaway a mattress to one lucky follower of mine.  The winner has been chosen, and I can't wait for you to also have a better nights rest too.  Holly Dixon, @mylifeasholly1, you are the winner!  Please email me to claim your prize.

It's ok if you didn't win, I've also got a special code for $100 off any purchase over $500.  Use this link and code 'PERFECT100' to get your own mattress today.  The code is good until the end of the year, so maybe put this on your Christmas List!

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.
In

Balancing Motherhood + Blogging | #TheMomBlogCollective Week 4

Balancing Motherhood + Blogging || #Themomblogcollective Week 4

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If you're new here, here's the scoop. Once a month, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

If this is your first time checking out the series, and you'd like to get caught up from the beginning, here ya go:

Top 5 Tips when starting a blog or Instagram | Week #1

 How to create your brand + build an online community | Week #2

Photography tips for a Cohesive Instagram feed | Week #3

(I just want to apologize in advance for the lackluster of this week.  I was on vacay with these lovely blogger friends in Palm Springs and needless to say, it was hard to focus on writing a blog when I was meeting some of my favorite mama influencers IRL for the first time. Feel free to check out #momsdopalms, for a full photo journal of our adventures.


Now, you've made it to this week!  How to Balance Motherhood + Blogging | Week #4

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One of the most asked questions I get when I meet a fellow mama and tell them I'm a blogger is, how on earth do you find the time to do it all?  I usually laugh because I feel like I don't actually have that part figured out yet.  This weeks topic is sort of ironic because the last few weeks, many of us who are part of #TheMomBlogCollective have been so overwhelmed with regular mom life that we ended up having to skip or postpone this series a few times.   The truth is, sometimes, the balance just doesn't happen as expected, so be patient with yourself and try to not put too much pressure on sticking to a perfect schedule.

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I've been an Instagram influencer for about 2 years now and blogging for about 6 months and I still feel like I'm still searching for the secret to balancing my time.  Of course one day I hope I can call this influencer gig my full-time job, but for now, it's just a little side hustle when I'm not busy with that #momlife.  

My real full-time job is a mom and a wife so I have lots of duties I am responsible for on the daily.  I don't have a nanny, a housekeeper, or someone showers and eats for me, so ya know, my daily task list is pretty long. A lot of the time I am single parenting because my hubs travel a ton for work, so finding time to post on Instagram or write a blog is a challenge on most days.   

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I've struggled with the mom guilt when Finn is watching hours of YouTube or Disney movies 875 times in a row. I've gone days without eating a thing until 3 pm, skipped numerous workouts (like all of them) and I've definitely forgotten to call back a girlfriend a time or two (prob three) because I'm busy working on my Instagram or blogging.  And seriously, trying to write some witty and compelling caption for my daily Instagram post while a sink full of dishes is staring me in the face is challenging to say the least.

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I used to try and post twice a day at least 5 times a week, but that was just too much time away from my daily responsibilities.  Last month, I adjusted my posting schedule, because it was too much pressure to be that consistently witty and keep my images in my feed consistent that many times in a week.  Now, I only post 1 time a day (either before 9 am or after 5 pm) and if my week is crazy, I don't have a problem skipping a day or two.  

 I write and edited photos when I can, and most of the time it means I'm probably ignoring something else I should be doing.  Ya know, like laundry, a playdate or even a shower.  What's kinda funny is, I'm actually typing this on my iPhone as my husband drives us to lunch.  If you really want to be a blogger and find the balance, you've got to make the time, however, and whenever you can.  If that means getting up early, or staying up late or writing for a few minutes at a time throughout the day, it's up to you to find what works for your schedule.

Here are 7 ways I try to keep it all together while balancing Motherhood + Blogging :
1. Get up earlier than everyone else  
2. Find the beauty in the chaos  
3. Make time for me
4. Plan out my days  (please read #5 alongside this one)
5. Be adjustable
6. Be honest with your client, friends, husband and yourself
7. Take advantage of the time after bedtime

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1. Get up earlier than everyone else.  

Having a little 'me' time before I get bombarded with the responsibilities of my day, really has helped me keep my Zen and tackle tasks with less stress.  Just being able to brush my teeth without a toddler pulling at my shirt, helps me feel like I've completed something for that day.  On the days I actually am able to shower, get dressed and put makeup on before he wakes up, those are the best days.  They don't always happen, but when they do I feel like a real person and not just mom who lives in sweatpants who always has that dry-shampooed bedhead and a toddler attached to her leg. It's true for me when they say, If I look like my best self, I feel like my best, and I then can be my best self.  (That's probably not the right quote but you know what I mean).

2. Find beauty in the chaos

You heard me, chaos means memories to me, it means things are happening that are sometimes messy, but that doesn't mean bad.  So, it's ok if you have dishes in the sink, a floor covered in cheerios and toys, and a laundry pile that has been looking at you for days.  It's ok if that blog post you promised the company would go live Tuesday if it doesn't actually get posted on Wednesday, life will go on.  If everyone is fed, clothed and happy, you're doing just fine.  

3. Make time for me (I struggle with this one a lot still)

Here's the thing, if the captain of the ship didn't sleep for 3 days, only ate crackers and string cheese and had no human contact besides a 1-year sing along to Moana, do you think he would be fit to lead his castmates into the sea and lead his team into rough waters?  No way, the ship would probably sink because the leader would be too exhausted to actually lead them.  You are the leader of the house and you are leading your children by your example.  Make sure you are on the top of that list of priorities.  Take what you need, when you need it.  I need a daily dose of reality TV paired with chocolate covered almonds and a glass of wine.  That's what makes my love tank full.  You decide what works for you, and make sure you don't skip what you need to care for everyone else.  That means, yes you have permission to sit on the couch midday if you need to regroup or recharge.  Ignore prepping dinner, taking out the trash and skip a post one day if you need to.  You do things for YOU girl, cause when you do, everyone benefits from it.  

4. Plan out your days.  (please read #5 alongside this one)

Make a weekly plan of things.  Not daily.  Cause we all know we can end up having "one of those days"  and if you only plan one day, it will ruin your whole week.  So, I like to plan my week, I like variety so I don't always have the same plan on each of my days of the week.  I do have a general idea of things that go something like this. 
7-8am: Me time (which does usually includes an Instagram post)  It's so much easier for me to posting before Finn wakes up, because after 8 am- it's 100% his time.
8-10am: Morning routine with Finn, diaper changes, teeth brushing, breakfast, teepee play time, etc.
10am-11am varies depending on the day.  Somedays we go for walk, some days we watch a movie, and some days we run errands (Target, duh).
We usually have a snack/lunch before naptime which is between 11 or 12.
11:30am-2pm-ish: Finn's nap time.  This is my time to catch up on emails, collaboration opportunities, plan content for the next few days, edit photos, etc.  I also need to find time to eat myself in here, so somedays, that gets skipped.  
2-4pm: This time is fully dependent on the type of day Finn is having.  He sometimes prefers individual play time, so I am able to do the dishes, clean the house, or fold the laundry while he builds a train, reads his books, plays with his cars.  And some days, it's all "I wanna hold you, mama,"  all day long. Those days are hard because I just can't get anything done with him on my lap.
4-6pm:  errands, dinner prep, or playdates
6-7pm: dinner, bath, bedtime
7-9pm: Wife duties, dinner, dishes, tv with hubs
9 pm---- ME TIME!  This is actually when I do my best work.  I plan my post for the next morning, or I write my blogs.  When everyone else is in bed.  Thankfully, Jason goes to bed at 9 pm every night he is home, so I am able to stay up and focus on my blogger responsibilities uninterrupted. 

5. Be adjustable

Things won't always go as planned, actually, most of my days never go as I planned, but I had to learn to live with the chaos and embrace it really. Some days are easy, some are not, but that's why it's great that success isn't measured in a day.  I like to think of it like a toddler's food plan.  If they get all they need in a week's worth of meals, one bad day of donuts, snacks and skipping all veggies are ok. As long as it's balanced out with the other days of the week.  If by the end of the week, you've hit all the food groups; that one day doesn't matter.  Apply that same rule to your mom, wife, and influencer duties and if at the end of the week you've fit them all in, you can consider that week a success.

6. Be honest with your client, friends, husband and yourself

Most of the time we want to hide our insecurities and just hope everything looks "perfect" when some days it's just not.  I found that when I was honest about what was happening in my chaotic life, it made me much more relatable.  I tell brands, "Sorry if I'm a little scattered, Finn has been super sick and took  1 hr nap instead of 3 hrs so, I'm a little behind on things and I may need to push the post a day or two.  Hope that's ok."  I tell my friends, "Guys, Finn just rubbed sunscreen all over the dog, can I call you back?"  I also let me husband know, "Today was tough, I need you to take over dinner and bath routines tonight. Would you mind helping?"  If you are transparent with everyone, trust me, they will usually understand and be empathetic.

7. Take advantage of the time after bedtime

Oh, you so know what I mean, right?  The moment you put the baby down for bed and you do your happy dance because you have whole 2-3 hours (depending on your bedtime) to get things done.  Or some nights, to actually just do nothing at all.  Some nights I like to shower, meal prep, load the dishwasher and straighten all the toys before I go to bed so I can start the morning without those on my list.  Because the more I get done at night, the better I feel in the morning.  Also, I try and make at least one night about my husband.  Just time for me and him.  Whether that's a glass of wine on the patio talking about our memories and our future, or if it's just cuddled on the couch binge-watching our fav shows in silence; I try for one night of uninterrupted husband and wife time. 

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As we all know, just being a stay at home mom comes with a full set of responsibilities, and then to add in wifey duties, friendships, taking care of my own body, etc fitting it all in can seem like an impossible task.  Then if you are an influencer, and you add in the blogging obligations and somehow try to also find the time to take pictures, edit them, write captions, and blog is stressful.  That in itself could literally be its own full-time job and it is for some of you.  Somehow, I try and cram all of those roles into my daily routine. Somedays it works, and some it doesn't.  I just try and remember, this is all for fun and it's ok if it isn't perfect. 

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes for those imperfectly balanced days that you need a reminder:

"If something is important enough to you, you will find a way; and if not, you'll find an excuse."

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Here's a link to all the other beautiful, genuine and inspiring mamas in the #TheMomBlogCollective:

britthavens.com | @britthavens

thelovedesignedlife.com | @thelovedesignedlife

koleimpressions.com | @steph__pollock

hellobabybrown.com | @hellobabybrown

mrsseacannon.com | @mrsseacannon

cultivatemotherhood.com | @cultivatemotherhood

www.ashleynoel.life | @_ashley_noel_

our guests this week:

henaandcompany.com | @henaandco

momwifefoodie.com | @momwifefoodie

amandapahls.com | @amandapahls

 

All photos in this post were sponsored by someone I am happy to have in my community of creatives.  Amelia Protiva is wonderful and amazing and just got her doula certification and is based in Silicon Valley.  If you are expecting or if you just want some gorgeous family photos, you must reach out to this beautiful and creative soul.  

A family trip to the Museum of Ice Cream | San Francisco

Today I'm blogging all about that one time I found myself in a pretty spectacular museum that’s 100% kid friendly.  We spoke to the Co-founder who told us he built the museum with the hopes to inspire children to love art in a magical way.  The Museum of Ice Cream lives up to all hype and more.  I'll share my tips on how I scored tickets, what to bring (and not bring), my favorite rooms, and how long it takes to fully explore everything behind those pink walls.  Also dumping a large amount of super fun and frame-worthy photos so, enjoy friends!

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Two things:
One, my favorite color is white.
Two, Vanilla ice cream is the most popular ice cream flavor, which happens to also be my favorite.  My grandpa taught me young, the best way to eat it is smothered with maple syrup.  Don’t knock it until you try it, it’s delicious.

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Being from LA I still have a ton of friends down in that area, and last year my feed was full of yellow banana swings, pink cotton candy walls, and pictures of smiling friends in a blue pool filled with rainbow sprinkles. So, of course, I needed to see this for myself.  I planned to go next time I was down in southern cal and then found out they were sold out through forever.  Yup.  Forever.

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When I found out they were building one in San Francisco, I quickly made this my lifelong quest to get the golden ticket to the modern day Willy Wonka Factory.  I got on the email list, I stole (well, borrowed) my husbands platinum Amex and I set my alarm for the pre-sale date.  They offer the first tickets to Amex holders only, and then to the general public after two days. Basically you get an email the day before letting you know the tickets for Amex holders will be available at 9am on X date.  I set my alarm, called the number at 9:02 am, sat on hold for a few minutes only to hear a recording telling me they were sold out and to call AMEX directly.  While on hold I went online and I was able to book them that way.  So skip the call and just be ready to book online the moment tickets go on sale.

It wasn't an easy task, but I got two tickets on a Thursday in September.  Now, the SF location is sold out until Feb of 2018. But you can get on the email list to see where their next location is happening.  I think they have one in NYC that sold out 30,000 tickets in 5 days!  When you buy your tickets just be ready, I wasn't at all prepared.  You have to list the names of who's attending ON THE TICKET, so know who you’re going with and know their schedule.  You also have to pick a specific time on a specific day AT THE TIME of purchase.   Lots of good time slots get taken first, so have a few dates that work for everyone prepared.  If your dying to attend TMOIC you must be flexible with your dates and times.  Like most things everyone is dying to see, it isn’t easy to get into.

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We went on a Thursday at 2 pm.  The building was inconspicuous until you saw the bright pink banner and pink velvet robe directing a line of people to the glass door with the bright pink wall behind it. We didn't wait in line long, just until a small family showed up behind us.  They take you in, in groups, every 10-15 minutes or so.  You move from small room to small room, and you can stay in each room as long as you want, you just can't go backward.  They told us it would take about 45min to an hour depending on how fast or slow we go through each space.

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At the first stop, we are greeted by what I will call a very seasoned Disneyland employee on steroids.  The brightest, most cheerful humans I've ever come in contact with. She shouted at us, "Before you enter, you must think of a team name!"  Now, for the record had I known I was was going to be traveling with the group I got in line next to, I probably would have planned this better. [take note- whoever your grouped with at the entry, is who you’ll be with for your entire experience and all your pictures]. Don't get me wrong, our group was great, but it consisted of an 80 year who was coming to the museum alone, she definitely didn't expect this type of museum experience, I guarantee that! And a small family of 3.  Two brothers, a sister and one of their small children.  She must have been 8 or 9 and they were in their 40s.  White washed jeans (not the fashion-y kind) and t-shirts they've probably had since high school.  The little girl shouted, "Sour gummy bears!"  The lady jumped with joy and said, "I love that on my ice cream, it's the perfect topping and team name.  You all may now enter the museum of ice cream!"  Jason looked at me with a concerned look on his face.  He isn't the biggest fan of crowded places or loud people; nor is he a fan of Ice Cream.  (He's that guy who eats the rainbow sherbet) but he loves me, so in we went.

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I was running a little late and couldn't find parking.  As I noted you are scheduled for a specific time on your tickets and they will give 15 grace period but after that, you won't get in.  So, I quickly grabbed my camera in one hand and my phone in the other.  I knew I didn't want my massive diaper bag/purse in all my pictures so I left it in the car.  Big mistake!  Everytime I wanted to snap a picture I had to put my camera or phone and sunglasses on the floor.  If I were you, I would just bring a small bag that you can throw all your small necessities in. Jason carried Finn, we didn't take a stroller and I am not even sure if they would have allowed one.  If you have a walking toddler, plan on leaving the stroller in the car, and chasing him around the entire time. [but, that’s kind of the point, right]?

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We started in the first hallway, it wasn't even a room.  It was actually one of my favorite places we stopped in because we were the only people in there.  Because they filter you in every 15 minutes or so, it gives the group ahead of your time to take pics, explore, etc before the next group comes in.   But don't go too slow or what happened to us, will happen to you.

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I won't talk too much about the rooms because each museum is different and images should give you a glimpse into the goodness the museum has to offer. The first actually room we went into was an interactive room.  They had a carnival-like game of ring toss set up.  I was busy taking pictures that almost missed my hot husband hit 5 in the row while holding a wiggly toddler. Man, did I score the jackpot with this guy!  Just wait until we take him to the fair and walk away with 85 oversized stuffed animals and 3 basketballs.

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We moved from room to room, snapped a few pictures and each space took us about 3-4min.  I started out using my camera but honestly using my iPhone was easier and the lighting was great! Now, fast forward to the 5 room.  It was this one, with the white walls and the letter magnets.  It should have held about 7 people at a time and then all the sudden, we were surrounded my about 100 GoPro executives.  The owner decided to host a massive all company event that same day at the same time.  I wouldn't say they were the most polite group of people.  They basically took over every single room until we got to the sprinkle room.  It was hard to take pictures, it was hard to grab Finn as he weaved in and out of people's legs and was off in a flash.  But the good news, he couldn't go far and there was a ton of people watching him.

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When we got to the top of the stairs after about 45min, Jason looked at me with a face of concern and said, "We're only at the bathrooms?  This is only the halfway point!"  Remember somewhere up there I said it was supposed to take 45 min total. Well ya, we hadn't even gotten to the sprinkle pool yet!
When you get to the top of the stairs you hit a wall and another velvet rope.  We finally made it to the sprinkle pool, of course with 67 of my closest GoPro buddies.  They let them go as a group for about 10 minutes as we tried to entertain our 21month old toddler.  As we stood with a crowd of people, a younger looking man who was dressed quite nicely said, "it will be just a minute folks, does anyone have any questions for me? I am (insert name here) the co-founder of TMOIC.  I totally have no idea what he said because I was dying of heat while trying to wrestle Finn in my arms.  Until Jason said, I have a question, "How did you come up with the idea for this?"  I was like who are you talking to? And then saw the cameras and realized he was being filmed for some sort of documentary or something.  He went on to talk about how he wanted a place for children to explore and learn and touch and feel art. I'm sure it was profoundly better said then that, but I was too busy thinking about what part of the pool I was going to 'swim' into.

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Finally, after what felt like an hour, we were in! It was time for the sprinkle pool! They make you remove your shoes and valuables and then you can jump right in! Don't worry, the sprinkles aren't real but they are small and they do stick to you! I found sprinkles for days after that trip!

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We rounded the next corner and at that point, we both were kinda done.  It took us almost 2hrs to get through it all and I think that would have been much faster had the other events not been happening on the same day.   All in all, 100% worth it.  And Finn had the best time!  Let's just say, if the Museum of Ice Cream sold season passes, we would definitely be holding one.

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The Most Instagramable Palm Springs Girls Trip ever! | #momsdopalms

First off if you've only come here for the instagramable hot spots in PS, scroll down.  I've included my top 5 Instagram worthy places in Palm Springs (with locations) for you at the end of this post. 

Totally oversharing my girls trip to Palm Springs with 9 bloggers in the most epic Air BNB.  This will give you all the vacation envy and maybe even inspire you to book your own girls trip!  I talk about all the hot spots, places to eat, and I even share my top 5 most instagram worthy places in PS.

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Growing up in Manhattan Beach meant warm nights, long summers and living in my bathing suit.  I'm a salty hair, sandy toes and sunburned skin type of girl!  I've been to Palm Springs too many times to count.  Because PS was only a two-hour drive from home it became my go-to staycation spot.  My typical agenda when I visit is to stay at my hotel and lay by the pool as much as possible.  I normally stay at the Parker, and if you've ever been, you know there is no reason to ever leave the hotel, it insane. But this time, of all the times I've ever been was one of my most memorable times ever.  I went to test out my Big Brother skills and planned a vacation with 8 other women I'd never met.  I'm already starting my audition reel for the 2018 season. Jk.

We all decide to make time for US, and we somehow found a way to book a 4-day trip without our kids.  Say what? How did we do that?  Well, you basically book a flight, ask your husband to watch the kids and you just go. It's that easy.

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We stayed in the cutest Air BNB with 8 influencers and the most adorable little 6 month old ever.  I'd never met these women IRL but the moment I walked in the door, I felt like I was vacationing with my besties. I've been in a comment pod on Instagram with these women for over year (for those who don't know what a comment pod is, don't worry... it's basically a group text with people you don't know).   So, I guess I kinda knew them going into it, as much as you can know someone through a daily group text, I guess.

 Paige's details on her blog  The Love Designed Life   My outfit deets:  Hat:  Inlakesh  Hand woven hat | Sunnies:  Diff eyewear  Astro in Matte black | Top:  Anthropologie  (similar)| Shoes:  Loeffler Randall  lace up flats (similar) 

Paige's details on her blog The Love Designed Life

My outfit deets:  Hat: Inlakesh Hand woven hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Top: Anthropologie (similar)| Shoes: Loeffler Randall lace up flats (similar) 

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This blogging world can sometimes be isolating because you're sharing your innermost self with people behind a screen.  Meeting these beautiful women IRL was necessary after we've exchanged 100's of texts with each other.  So what did I do with 8 of my closest social media friends on a Wednesday in Palm Springs? Here it goes.

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We stayed at @thewkndhouse in the heart of Palm Springs and this just may replace my typical hotel stay from now on.  It was so, so good for so many reasons. Number 1- it's super close to downtown. Number 2- the rooms were perfection.  And Number 3- just the right size with the most perfect Instagramable walls.  We are all bloggers so, duh.

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We ate tacos (pretty much every day we were there) , we drank rosé (you guessed it, every single day), and we took lots and lots of pictures.  We went on this trip with no plans, other than couch hangs & pool time with no kids, visiting a few instgrammable hot spots and late night chats about balancing motherhood and blogging.  And honestly, that's pretty much all we did.

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I got the best room. Shhhh! Don't tell the anyone else.  If you decide to go, just plan get there early and snag the flamingo room for yourself! That wall, and It's closest to the potty (bathroom for you non-parents reading this, lol) and the kitchen for those late night snack runs!

 The master suite has pretty much the most perfect wallpaper ever.    Pineapples are legit they  STAND TALL  WEAR A CROWN    and they are  SWEET ON THE INSIDE

The master suite has pretty much the most perfect wallpaper ever.  

Pineapples are legit they

STAND TALL

WEAR A CROWN  

and they are

SWEET ON THE INSIDE

And of course the other rooms make you wanna go wallpaper your entire house too.

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The front and back of the house also come with even more instgrammable moments. There's a ping-pong table, cornhole and pool floats.  We took advantage of only one of those fun things; I'll let you figure out where we spent most of our time. 👇🏻

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 Hat:  GigiPip  Eve Nora felt brim hat | Sunnies:  Diff eyewear  Astro in Matte black | Suit:  Kortni Jeane  Swing too + Rouched bottoms 

Hat: GigiPip Eve Nora felt brim hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Suit: Kortni Jeane Swing too + Rouched bottoms 

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If you know me, you know I'm that girl who's always jumping in the pool.  I've been known to take a few people with me and at times, I may push a few people in fully clothed for fun.  I even jumped in the pool at our hotel after my own wedding still in my wedding dress. [true story]   I thought it would be fun after this photo shoot to actually get a few pics of us jumping in the pool.  I didn't have any takers and it took some convincing but I got these two knuckleheads to agree to jump in with me ('so I thought...)

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We all held hands, and we all agreed to jump on the count of three. I think it's safe to say, the joke was on me.  I guess that's payback for all the times I did this to other people. #karmasabitch. Yes, that splash is mine.  And yes, those two girls don't know how to count to three.

 Oh I will be getting you two back  @_ashley_noel_  and  @helloerinv .  I know where you live. 

Oh I will be getting you two back @_ashley_noel_ and @helloerinv.  I know where you live. 

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Of course we needed to really spend some QT together at the house so we did a grocery store run and decided to only eat out a couple times.  We got fruits, bread, eggs and stuff for Taco Tuesday, ya know... the important stuff. We spent a lot of time at the house because it was so great and we loved getting to know each other.

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We spent 3 nights curled up and snuggled together on the couch catching up on Bachelor in Paradise and one night we had a game night which included a real hysterical game of heads up and an even more hysterical game of the PG version of cards against humanity.  This is when I had to face the reality of being the oldest girl there when I referenced Coming to America [bark like a dog, a big dog] and nobody knew what I was talking about. (insert laughing & rolling eye emoji here).

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 Meet Ollie, hands down the easiest and cutest baby ever.  Because of my crazy baby fever, having Ollie with us was really helpful for those 'I'm missing my kids' moments.  I know we all really tried to take our mom hats off and make time fully for ourselves but I think we all enjoyed having this little nugget with us while we were away. From our own babies.  If you want more Ollie, go visit  @annehilldesign .  She's the best and she lives in Alaska so you'll probably get a few moose of grizzly bear pics too!

Meet Ollie, hands down the easiest and cutest baby ever.  Because of my crazy baby fever, having Ollie with us was really helpful for those 'I'm missing my kids' moments.  I know we all really tried to take our mom hats off and make time fully for ourselves but I think we all enjoyed having this little nugget with us while we were away. From our own babies.  If you want more Ollie, go visit @annehilldesign.  She's the best and she lives in Alaska so you'll probably get a few moose of grizzly bear pics too!

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We had to visit the two coolest hotels in Palm Springs so we had brunch at the Parker, and spend more time taking photos than we did enjoying our $17 mimosas. The Parker is where I had my bachelorette party, where I've spent numerous "first dates" with my husband and if I ever ran away from life, that's where you can find me.

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 This might be my all time favorite IRL blogger mama I've met.  She really should be a stand up comedian, the most hilarious mama I know.  Meet  @helloerinv

This might be my all time favorite IRL blogger mama I've met.  She really should be a stand up comedian, the most hilarious mama I know.  Meet @helloerinv

 This girl right here traveled all the way from Canada to be with us, at 31 weeks prego, on a red eye..If that doesn't make you love her, I don't know what will!  Meet my favorite Canadian  @britthavens .

This girl right here traveled all the way from Canada to be with us, at 31 weeks prego, on a red eye..If that doesn't make you love her, I don't know what will!  Meet my favorite Canadian @britthavens.

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 Hat:  GigiPip  Eve floppy hat | Sunnies:  Diff eyewear  Astro in Matte black | Dress:  Michelle Jonas  | Shoes:  Joie  leather sandals | Necklace:  House of Harlow  gold locket | Watch:  Daniel Wellington  Classic Petite Rose gold | Bracelet:  Gorjana  Howlite calming bracelet

Hat: GigiPip Eve floppy hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Michelle Jonas | Shoes: Joie leather sandals | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold | Bracelet: Gorjana Howlite calming bracelet

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We had dinner at The Saguaro and to be honest we went on a Wednesday and when we pulled into the parking lot we thought it might be closed.  Needless to say, mid week in Palm Springs is less than lively.  But, on a positive note, it was happy hour all day!! So we got thee best tacos ever for $2 a piece! There was 9 of us and the bill wasn't even $100! So that was a huge score!  We were bad bloggers and didn't get any pictures at this dinner,  but we made up for it the next day when we visited the cactus garden and of course that famous pink door. #thatpinkdoor.

 Sunnies:  Diff eyewear  Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes:  Christian Louboutin  espadrilles wedges | Necklace:  House of Harlow  gold locket | Watch:  Daniel Wellington  Classic Petite Rose gold

Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes: Christian Louboutin espadrilles wedges | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold

The Moorten Botanical Gardens are a perfect girls trip adventure.  It's $5 to enter and this place is insane you guys.  It took about 5 minutes to walk through the whole thing, and about 20 minutes to get some plant-lovers dream photos.  The picture above is inside the cactarium, and it was beyond gorgeous and hot!  It was about 108 degrees outside that day and it felt like 120 degrees inside the green house.  But, it was soooo worth it for a photo like this one.

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 My friend in real life for over 3 years now, and one of my favorite mamas around Paige  @thelovedesignedlife .  Her blog is insane, please check it out.  The Love Designed Life 

My friend in real life for over 3 years now, and one of my favorite mamas around Paige @thelovedesignedlife.  Her blog is insane, please check it out. The Love Designed Life 

So I hear that you aren't a real blogger in Palm Springs until you get a picture in front of That Pink Door.  Kidding, but we seriously had to make a trip there to snap a couple fun pics.  There was a group of young German girls and a car of Asian tourists waiting their turn for pictures too (on a random Thursday afternoon) and if it weren't for the other eager groups of people, we may have passed the door.  It's in a residential area and yes, someone really lives there!  We had Ollie with us, and the sun was blazing hot, so we didn't stay long, but it doesn't take long to become a real life blogger when you stand in front of this cute pink door. [mom, I've made it!]

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 Oh hey cuties! Paige  @thelovedesignedlife  Courtney  @courtneynicoleramsey  + Britt  @britthavens

Oh hey cuties! Paige @thelovedesignedlife Courtney @courtneynicoleramsey + Britt @britthavens

 Sunnies:  Diff eyewear  Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes:  Christian Louboutin  espadrilles wedges | Necklace:  House of Harlow  gold locket | Watch:  Daniel Wellington  Classic Petite Rose gold

Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes: Christian Louboutin espadrilles wedges | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold

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In short, or long... life happens only once and you need to make the most of it.  Motherhood can be challenging, isolating and one of the biggest life reflecting times on who you are as person.  But, finding time to be that person that you were before babies, really is important.  I'm not sure these mamas know just how much those 4 days in Palm Springs refreshed me and those memories will stay with me, thank you for the laughs and fun times ladies! Let's do it again next year!

We put this trip together all on our own to meet each other in real life but some fabulous brands helped all our vacation house and pool dreams come true.  Thank you to our sponsors:

The Weekend House  

Kortni Jeane Swimwear

Diff Eyewear

Gigi Pip Hats

Big Mouth Pool Floats

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5 most instragram worthy spots in Palm Springs:

1. The Wknd House. Scroll through this post and you'll see why.  If the front yard, the backyard, the pool and the wallpaper are enough, the living room and family room will bring all your bright, colorful, mid century dreams come true.  The best thing about my #1 spot is that you don't even have to leave the house to get the perfect shot. @thewkndhouse

2. That Pink Door.  Yes, it's someone's house, and yes there are always random people parked in front ready to capture that instagram worthy moment in front of that pink door.  The door has its own instagram account if you believe me. @thatpinkdoor

3. Cactus Garden.  It's actually the newest blogger go-to spot and it's fairly close to that pink door.  The Moorten Botanical Garden Showplace is a must go to place even if you don't wanna take an instagram worthy picture.  It's pretty small and it cost $5 to get in, but I will be visiting this place on all my upcoming Palm Springs trips! | Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium 

4. The Parker. If you've been to this swanky hotel, you know about the lemonade stand, the cutest yellow pool, and of course the oversized chese game on the gorgeous grounds of the hotel, that is if you make it past the lobby.  From the massive white brick wall showering the giant signature orange doors when you arrive, to the drugs sign and the hanging wicker chairs in the first glimpse of the hotel, this place is perfection.  This hotel is a bloggers playground.  If you've never been, you must go, this place screams, I'm super cool. The Parker Palm Springs 

5.  The Saguaro.  Admittedly, I've only been here for the tacos.   But if bright, bold, fun colors are you thing, than the Saguaro is totally going to be your jam.  Those purple and pink doors have filled my IG feed numerous summers so, if your looking for a pop of color and a good time, head straight to this hotel. The Saguaro Palm Springs

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There are some affiliate links in this post, but all opinions expressed are my own.

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

Photography Tips for a Cohesive feed || #Themomblogcollective Week 3

Welcome to the third installment of The Mom Blog Collective: Tips for better photography. If you're new here, here's the scoop. Every other week, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

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So, I seriously feel like I'm the furthest person who's qualified for this weeks installment of #Themomblogcollective because I generally hide behind my lack of professional looking photos with my lengthy yet genuine and honest, raw, heartfelt captions.  Yes, I do stick to a color pallet and I try and use the same few core filters in each of my images but I'm not a professional by any means. I feel like in order to get professional looking feed, you need to be a professional...right? Nope.  Either hire a professional who actually knows what they are doing or marry someone and convince them to quit their day job, learn photography and follow you around all day. Haha right? And if that doesn't work for you...  Here are a few tips that may help you fake it like I do.   I'll be sharing a few tips, talking about what camera I use, and giving all the details on what apps I use.

Top Three Tips:


1. Make sure your images are straight


I always make sure my photos are straight. People tend to like photos that are symmetrical.   My husband hates it because when I ask someone to take our photos because I always direct them to take them straight on.    "Can you please stand over there and please don't cut me feet off, thanks!" Maybe it's just me but I like things to be straight vs a weird angle or from the side of a scene. 

 

2. Add some negative space


Before you push the trigger, take three steps back.  Give your audience a little glimpse into the scene you are in.  It's easier for people to see the emotion behind the photograph if they actually see the scenery instead of just your face.  It's so typical that you hand your friend the camera and say can you take a picture of me and they get in real close to just capture your face.  Right?  Trust me on this, .take three steps back!  This way you get an idea of what's actually happening around you and allows the subject of the photo, which is usually you or your kids to be the main focus without being distracted by being too close.   So when I take my pictures I tend to make sure that I have some sort of sky or ceiling or some sort of space above my head and that you can definitely see my shoes or the sidewalk or something below me.  Here's my go to- make sure you get my shoes, even if I'm not wearing any because it helps leave some space.

 

3. Lighting is key

The time and space that you take your pictures in can be make all the difference.  The best time to shoot is the "magic hour"  which i think you've all heard before.  Right after the sun sets when the suns rays aren't to bright to cause a glare.  Also the best place to take a photo is out of the direct sunlight.  Try taking your photos in shade but still outside in the light. When you position yourself try and get the light towards you vs behind you.

BONUS TIP:

Take numerous pics at the same time


True story, my cell phone currently has 53,000+ photos in my camera roll.  The best way to get a good snap is to take lots of pictures!  I know that sounds simple but the truth is for me, I probably take at least 100 photos of the same scene to get the perfect shot.  Some people are effortless, but for me, I need lots of options.   One way I keep my feed cohesive is to post photos from the same photo shoot on the same day with the same lighting periodically throughout my feed.  

 

Besides what I use to take my photos, two of my most asked questions are, what do you use to take your photos?  & what apps do you use to edit your photos and plan your posts?

What do you use to take most of your photos?

I have a mixture of iPhone and I recently got the Sony a6000 with a 1.8/50mm lens.  It has built in wifi so I can transfer my images even when I'm not connected to the internet.  It's super fast and easy.  The camera itself comes with amazing features, that makes it easier to just shoot and post, however, I did spend some time watching You tube videos about the camera.  If I do adjust the settings, I mostly adjust the background defocus and the brightness. It's easier to let the camera do the work and edit the images to fit my feed later. 

 

What apps do you use for your editing?

My favorite apps for editing are Color Story &  VSCO.  I've downloaded so many photo editing apps but these two are by far my favorite.  Easy to use, and they have the best pre set filters ready for you.  Color Story has the flashes of delight bundle that is really all you need.  My favorites are Carrie & Valerie.  I sometimes add some brightness and a little fade depending on what the lighting was like in my original photo.  For VSCO, I use the basic package, A6 filter and then use tons of exposure and a little brightness.  Download those apps, and play with some of the filters to find your own aesthetic.  

If there is anything to take away from me this week, it's more about the stories I tell through my images and my captions, to hopefully turn all your followers into real life friends.
As my girl @helloerinV once said, "You take the picture and you just post it."  It's sometimes as simple as that.


Here are this weeks contributors: 

mrsseacannon.com | @mrsseacannon

britthavens.com | @britthavens

koleimpressions.com | @steph__pollock

cultivatemotherhood.com | @cultivatemotherhood

www.ashleynoel.life | @_ashley_noel_

hellobabybrown.com | @hellobabybrown

darlingnightingale.com | @darlingnightingale

www.a-blessed-nest.com | @blessednestblog

thelovedesignedlife.com | @thelovedesignedlife

GUESTS: 

http://www.helloerin.com | @helloerinv
http://www.hopefeathersphotography.com | @hopefeathers
http://www.psimfromthemidwest.com | @hollynbaron


 

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.

How to Establish Your Brand and Build Your Online Community | #Themomblogcollective Week 2

Welcome to the second installment of The Mom Blog Collective: How to Build and Online Community and Define Your Brand. If you're new here, here's the scoop. Every other week, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

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This weeks topic is: How to Establish Your Brand and Build Your Online Community

Those two things go hand and hand in my opinion.  In order to grow an authentic community of followers, you need to have a true brand all your own.  You need to establish what your brand is, and make sure that you continue to create a curated feed with your brand image in mind with every single post.  I believe most people follow me for a specific reason; either they love my photography style or aesthetic, they have a common connection with me like where I live or kids the same age, or when they read my posts I say something that resonates with them on a deeper level and inspires them in some way.  If I can connect with someone through my feed in one of those ways, I will gain them not only as a follower, but hopefully I'll engage with them enough and they will eventually join my community of followers who interact daily with me and possibly even meet IRL one day... (IRL=in real life).

Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't think I'm an expert on this topic by any means.  We've all been there, where it just feels like it takes a small miracle to get someone to click that 'follow' button or even just double click your picture, right?  I struggle daily watching that little number go up and down. I gain a few followers and then I lose just as many each day.  So, in this week, I'll be talking mostly about how I use my brand image to get my followers to stay with me, double tap my images, how I encourage comments, and eventually how I get them to join my community.

Here are my 6 key steps to start building your brand + community now!

Step 1: Create 5 key words to describe your brand image

Step 2: Get your colors and photography style consistent

Step 3: Define your core topics

Step 4: Plan out your posting schedule

Step 5: Ask followers to join your community

Step 6: Engage using specific hashtags

 

 -You can't be everything to everyone-

 

Step 1: Create 3-5 key words to describe the feeling you want for your feed.  What vibes, emotions, impressions do you want to leave with someone when they visit your page? Do you want your feed to emulate romantic, classic, bold, colorful, soft, whimsical, minimal, adventurous, playful, moody, or humorous?

In my opinion, the first step to creating your brand should be to figure out who are you really speaking to.  For me, I needed to create my own brand identity that would speak directly to my ideal follower.  I wanted my feed to be a true visual representation of myself through an authentic voice and consistent images so I could reach my true people.  Some words that describe my brand are authentic, bright, beachy, mom-friendly and organic, how would you describe yours?

 

 

-Create a clear identity through your photos-

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Step 2:  Get your colors and photography style consistent.  When someone sees a picture of yours, they should clearly know it's your photo either by the style or the colors or both.  Based on the recommendation from @jennakutcher, and her Instagram Lab Course, I created a brand mood board/color theme.  It included my top 5 branding words and my top 5 colors of my feed, which helped me focus on my true brand image.  Canva is this awesome app you can use to get your "colors" by using a screen shot of your feed.   Here's mine:

When I take photos or edit photos, I try and stick to these 5 colors.

You can try it for your own feed here.  Just take a screen shot of your Instagram feed and it will pull out your top 5 colors for you.

(Our next post in this series is all about photography and editing your photos, so don't worry...more details on this to come!)

 CANVA COLOR PALETTE GENERATOR

CANVA COLOR PALETTE GENERATOR

 -Have a focused approach-

Step 3: Define your categories:  I talked a little about this in my last post.  The more you can narrow your focus, the easier it will be for someone to connect with you. I try and define my brand into 5 categories and concentrate my posts around those topics. Family + Marriage, Motherhood, WAHM Life, Beauty + Fashion, Home Decor.  This helps me be consistent and authentic in each and every post and differentiate myself from other bloggers out there.  Using your top categories you defined above, try to create a diverse but defined feed that flows and touches on each topic throughout the week.  Maybe Mondays are WAHM life, and then Tuesdays you try and post about home decor, etc.  This way, you always have something to talk about, and you aren't trying to come up with a witty caption every time you have a great image to post.  It gives you and your feed a more defined focus, which will, in turn, help people to connect with you and keep coming back for more each week because they know what to expect.

-Establish your top posting schedule-

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Step 4: Define posting schedule and best times to post. 

You need to ask yourself how often you are willing to spend time on Instagram and how often you really have the time to create a post that will speak to your followers, create hashtags that flow with that photo and make time to engage with your followers who comment.   It's important to make a plan and stick to it so that your followers see you consistently.  Is it once a week?  Once a day? 3x a day?  What does it take to grow your community....that's entirely up to you!  

I recently switched over to a business account and found out that the majority of my followers are actually from Southern Cal and most of them are most active on Tuesday- Saturday.  These insights can help you determine a posting schedule that will create the most engagement on your photos.  If you find that most of your followers are in a different time zone, you should adjust your posting time to fit when they are most active.

For me, I started with once a day, about 4x a week.  Now I try and post before 9 am or after 6 pm 5x a week.  I generally take off the weekends because I have found my better engagement times are during the week.  If you don't want to switch to a business account, there are lots of other sites to view your analytics.  Once of the most popular is

- Include a call to action-

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Step 5:  Think of your call to actions like a personal invite into your community.   Occasionally include a call to action; double tap if you love tacos as much as me, comment with your favorite place to buy children's clothes, click the link in my bio to see my tips on how to meal prep, etc.   The goal is to get people to engage on your posts.  People may not feel compelled to comment unless you ask them to, and they may not even respond to your question when you do, but you want them to get engaged any way you can.  Trust me it works.  One of my most engaged posts I ever had was about a postpartum struggle I was experiencing after my first baby.  It was a hard & honest post for me to write, but I was vulnerable and I asked for help or ideas from my followers on how to fix it.  So many people commented that they struggled with the same thing and how they dealt with the issue.  You can read about that here if you want more details, but trust me having a call to action will help your engagement and lead to more true followers.

Remember, your followers want to see you!  Not only in your real genuine voice but images of you!  That creates a connection better than any other.  I bet you if you scroll through your feed, you'll see your most liked photos are not the most perfect flat lay, or the most beautiful sunset, but they are ones you are in, and ones you have written a heart felt or authentic caption about yourself.  Try and do that at least once a week and I promise you, your have a community faster than you know it.

 -Engage using specific hashtags-

Step 6:  One of the best ways to find a new audience is through hashtags.  Using your categories above, search for your niche hashtags and include them in every post.  

I have my hashtags grouped into my categories and saved in my planning app.  (I use Planoly but there are a ton of planning apps out there).  You are allowed 30 hashtags a post, and I use every single one.  If you have a photo that gets great engagement you may end up in the top 9 photos of that hashtag and you will be seen by tons of new faces.  My goal is to get my post in at least 3 of my hashtags top 9 photos to gain followers in my specific niche.  Out of the 30 I am allowed, I'd say 10 are always the same, and then for the rest, I switch it up and use some hashtags that have TONS of posts on them and some that have under 2 thousand posts on them.  I use some that are more specific to my location or subject matter and then some that are broader or used more often.  There is some chatter about using hashtags in your caption or in your comments, and getting "shadow-banned" but I haven't noticed enough of a difference in either to comment on that.  I think we will end up having a more detailed week on this subject where I can expand more on the hashtag subject, but if you have specific questions, please feel free to comment here or on my IG.

-Time + patience are key- 

I leave you with this, you can spend all your time creating the perfect brand and image but if you don't spend time engaging with others, you will not be successful in building a community.  People want to know they are seen and heard, and not just another like on your images.  In between all the curating, planning, and writing you need to include time in your day to reach out to both current and potential followers and comment and like on their pages as well. Respond to your comments on your posts, and search your niche hashtags and engage consistently.  I know that takes TIME, and TIME is the key word here. In order to grow organically, you need to have patience and show yourself some grace if it isn't happening as fast as you'd like.  Remember in order to grow organically, you need to engage, and you'll see a return from your hard work.  That engagement takes time and patience.
In June of 2016, I had 916 followers, today I have over 8 thousand.  I found that as I posted more authentic and vulnerable posts and the more I engaged with my followers and potential followers, the more my community was growing. 

Each month we feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. While we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and gain a little insight from each one. 

 

Here are this weeks contributors: 

mrsseacannon.com | @mrsseacannon

britthavens.com | @britthavens

koleimpressions.com | @steph__pollock

cultivatemotherhood.com | @cultivatemotherhood

www.ashleynoel.life | @_ashley_noel_

hellobabybrown.com | @hellobabybrown

darlingnightingale.com | @darlingnightingale

www.a-blessed-nest.com | @blessednestblog

thelovedesignedlife.com | @thelovedesignedlife

GUESTS: 

kristlesclarity.com | @hereyeswereolivegreen

@amylouhawthorne

If you have a topic you'd love to get an answer to in our series, search the hashtag #TheMomBlogCollective on Instagram and comment on any one of our photos under that hashtag to let us know! You can also leave comments on our blog posts.

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Top 5 Tips when Starting a Blog or Instagram Account | #TheMomBlogCollective WEEK 1

I'm so excited to share a new series I am starting here on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective. Twice a month, I've teamed up with 10 other influencers and we will be sharing a blog post on the same topic -- related to blogging, instagram, working with brands, making money, photography, motherhood and more. More than almost anything else, each of us get asked how we started blogging, what tips we have for someone looking to start, how to work with companies for sponsored posts and more, so those questions are the starting point for our series. 

Each month we will feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. My favorite part is that while we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and then figure out what works best for you. And if you have a topic you'd love to get an answer to in our series, search the hashtag #TheMomBlogCollective on Instagram and comment on any one of our photos under that hashtag to let us know! You can also leave comments on our blog posts.

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A little about me.  

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After I left my crazy busy, 80hr a week, 15 year career in fashion and moved to the Bay Area of Northern California I needed to find something to do with my time.  I had no job, I was new to the area so I had no community of friends and I was newly married with a husband who traveled a ton. When I would talk to my friends about my life changes, and my transition from sales manager power house to unemployed house wife and my future goals of having babies and doing yoga daily, they would listen intently and they would all say, "you should start a blog!"  

I didn't have the first clue about how to be a blogger and it scared the crap outta me to start something new when there was already so many other influencers out there doing it in such a successful way.  I mean, do people really want to hear my story?  Speaking truthfully, I wasn't quite sure what my actual story was even going to be focused on but, I knew I had a story to tell.  I wanted to share my passion for newly married life, fashion, trying for babies, life changes from leaving my career and just life in general so, that's when I started my Instagram acct just for insta-blogging.   Now, I feel like I need to admit that I'm still kinda lost when it comes to SEO, affiliate links and everything else involved with the actual blog part of social media but, I do know I've learned a tremendous amount in the past 2 years of being an Instagram influencer.  

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So, besides the typical first steps that you may already know about being an influencer like choosing your account name, or finding the perfect photo filter, or choosing between square space of Wordpress for your domain, here are my top 5 tips when starting a blog or Instagram account (but really it's just what I follow when I think about my own personal Instagram process and I hope it helps you)!

1. Progress over Perfection.


Here's the truth, when I first started my Instagram, my posts sometimes would take me up to an hour to write.  I constantly found myself being too wordy, and then not knowing how to edit.  What do people really want to hear, or not hear?  And then the images, are they the right color or brightness?  Does it fit in my aesthetic? Is my picture good enough to make people stop scrolling?  When I first started, this was my problem, constantly over thinking everything! I would find myself not posting for days because I was waiting for the perfect post, or the perfect time, or the perfect image.  If it wasn't perfect enough to post, I wouldn't post anything.  But, I quickly found out that progress is better than perfection.  The more your engaging and sharing your heart, the more followers will find you.  If you want to start a blog or become an influencer, just start now.  What are you waiting for?   I promise someone out there needs to hear your story because they can relate in some way.  If you are true to yourself, and you share images that make you happy, I am sure it will make others happy too.  Just start somewhere, don't think too hard about it and just begin.  

2. Be Authentic.   


It is all too easy to get caught in the comparison game when scrolling aimlessly through influencers feeds and blogs.  It's important to always be yourself and not try and be what you think people want you to be.  There are so many gorgeously curated feeds out there with mamas who have the perfect top knot, clean kitchens, with fresh flowers cut on the table and the cutest baby in tow...but honestly, that's not always real life.  One thing that I know helped me grow is to stop following people that I compare myself to or made me feel less than. Believe it or not, when you are scrolling through other peoples feeds, these images are making a huge impression on you.  Those images you stop and double top or screen shot can start to have an effect on your own content.  It can start to affect what you post or don't post, they can affect your confidence in your own creativity and it can even affect the way you are feeling about your life.  As they say, Comparison is the thief of joy and I believe that is true in this process.  If you try to stay focused on your own creative journey and be authentic in that journey, it will bring you joy and success.

3.  Know who you are.


Finding your own voice and your own vision and staying true to that is super important for growth.  Staying focused on your brand and image with every single post has a huge effect on your success.  My number one thing is to make sure you are sharing your full self, but also try not to be everything to everyone.  If I asked your closest friends to describe you in 5 words what would they say? What part of you do you really want to share?  Your fashion style, your foodie outings, your mama tips, etc.  Instead of sharing every single thing you like, which makes it hard for people to connect with you, focus on a couple things and really expand on those topics.  When people come to my page, I want them first to see that I'm a mom, second, I'm a wife, third I'm a sweatpant loving momtrepreneur who works from home and is struggling to balance work/home/parenting life. I try and use those few things as anchors in each of my posts.  If my posts don't talk about one of those things, then I am missing sharing my real brand image and finding my true community.  I find people connect with other people for a specific reason; whether it's because they love their home style, or they are vegan, or because they are working from home moms, etc... So let your account reflect a few things about you so people can really find something to relate to on your page. Finding your niche is going to be an ongoing process but the idea is to post images, ideas, and stories that resonate with your true community, and if you can do that, you are totally winning.

4.  Be ready for change.  

In order to monetize your Instagram feed, it's important to keep up with these constant changes.  What worked for me when I first started has changed so much with each day, week, and month.  As this little app evolves, and algorithms change, you have to be ready for that.  You need to make sure you find time to keep up with the changes and always be on the lookout for how you can evolve and do things better.  It's a never ending battle to keep growing despite the ever changing process of it all. I remember when I first hit that 1k, and then 5k, and now I'm stuck at 8k and it's killing me. But honestly, I'm sure once I hit 10k, I'll just want more.  And with that comes hard work and new ideas of how to make it all happen.  I use my community to stay up to date with things and we are constantly sharing other techy blog posts that keep us informed of changes on Facebook or Instagram.  There are tons of influencers out there who are willing to share their knowledge, you just need to take the time to research it.
 

5. Join a community of creatives like you.

When I first started this journey, one of my main goals was so to find a community of like minded people and love them hard.  Ya know, like find your tribe and you will thrive thing?  Having a community of other momtrepreneurs, or creatives I can bounce ideas off of or share a win with is exciting and necessary for my continued success in this influencer journey.  Yes, I have my friends and my husband I can talk to about it but, it's not the same.  Don't get me wrong, Jason loves a good celebratory dance session when I get a check in the mail for a collab, but does he really love hearing how my photo just got 500 likes for the first time ever, or how this huge brand just reposted my photo, probably not.  I know he supports me, but does he really get it?  I've met some amazing friends through this journey and we chat daily.  I have to say, these conversations can mean the difference of me feeling completely lost at sea or confident in my ability to do this.


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I'm gonna end it with this.  HAVE FUN!!  Don't take things too seriously and try and have a good time.  If posting in your feed becomes a stressful part of your day, take a break, and I promise your true followers will be there when you get back.

Please leave me comments below or questions so I know I'm not just only talking to my computer screen. 

 

You can find all the other blog posts linked below:

A Blessed Nest | @blessednestblog

Ashley Noel | @_ashley_noel_

Britt Havens | @britthavens

Cultivate Motherhood | @cultivatemotherhood

Kole Impressions Blog | @steph__pollock

Hello Baby Brown | @hellobabybrown

Mrs Seacannon | @mrsseacannon

The Love Designed Life | @thelovedesignedlife

 

All photos in this post were sponsored by someone I am happy to have in my community of creatives.  Amelia Protiva is wonderful and amazing and just got her doula certification and is based in Silicon Valley.  If you are expecting or if you just want some gorgeous family photos, you must reach out to this beautiful and creative soul.  

This website contains some affiliate links to products that we use and love. A very small percentage of purchases made through these links goes to help support our family in a small way. Thank you for following along.