In pursuit of a simple, fabulous, imperfect life at home.

Winners of the Huggies Hawaiian Diapers Giveaway!

The winners of the Huggies Hawaiian Diapers Giveaway are...

Becky, Leah and Renee.  These ladies have been notified by email.

Thank you so much to everybody who entered.  There were over 400 entries!  Wowzers!

My Top 10 Life Lessons for New Moms

Motherhood has taught me a lot.  Some of it is serious and profound, a lot of it goofy and related to bodily functions.  Here are ten things I wish somebody had told me when I was waddling around like a giant bloated sea cow pregnant with my first child.

1) Everyone will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps...but don't feel like you have to. If you need rest, take it.  But don't feel guilty if you'd prefer a bubble bath, or to catch up on laundry, or to watch a Battlestar Galactica marathon with your hubby.

2) Pee before you breastfeed. In those early days, nursing will bring on uterine contractions and they are way more uncomfortable with a full bladder.  It's okay to leave the screaming hungry baby with somebody for the thirty seconds it takes to empty your bladder.

3)Sometimes breastfeeding is really really hard.  Even if you're doing everything right, it can hurt while your breasts get used to the process.  And sometimes none of it happens the way you thought it would. Seek help, read books about it, ask friends for advice.  Don't feel ashamed or guilty if you don't love every second of it.  We can all relate, but for some reason we forget to share that part with expectant moms.

4) Strangers will say stupid things. Often.  Like, "How old is the lil' fella?" about the girl with the pink bow.   Or "Wow, she's tiny.  Are you sure you're feeding her?"  Or "No socks!?  He'll catch a cold!" in the middle of a summertime heat wave.  Just smile and nod.

5) When it's up to you, don't buy button up sleepers.  The zip-up ones are way way WAY more practical for the 300 diaper changes you'll do every day. (okay, so maybe it only feels like 300...)

6) Nobody expects your house to be clean all of the time.  Or if they do, they are being ridiculous and forget what it was like to have little ones around. You don't have to live in filth, but you also don't need to put unreasonable expectations on yourself or your family on account of other people.  Mess is a part of living life, clean it up when you can and allow yourself some grace when you can't.

7) When you lose a sippy cup full of milk somewhere in the van, just buy a new one.  When you find that old one, you're gonna want to throw it away.  And for the love of all that is good, please do not open it.

8)When you think to yourself  "Hmm, it's going to be time soon to lower that crib mattress" it means it's time RIGHT NOW to lower the crib mattress!

9)If something smells a little bit like pee or puke and you can't figure out for the life of you what it is, it's you!

10) It gets easier. I promise.  And then it gets harder for a while. And then you find your groove again and it gets easier for a bit.  The point is that today won't last forever and you will make it through.  Don't forget to find the gift in the mundane.

Becoming a mom is exciting, and terrifying, and worth every single pain and discomfort and difficulty it brings.  If you are expecting your first, congratulations.  Your life is about to change in all the best ways I can imagine.  God Bless you and your new little life!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking. I would be honoured if you would take a moment to "like" me on facebook or follow me on Twitter!

{Giveaway} Huggies Hawaiian Diapers and a Beach Bag of Goodies!

***This giveaway is now closed!***

Just in case you didn't already think I have the coolest job in the world...look what appeared on my doorstep last week.

Free diapers from Huggies and a beach tote full of beachy goodies!

And this week, three of my lucky readers will be receiving this fabulous gift from Huggies too!

Huggies has launched a new limited edition summery Hawaiian design, featuring palm trees and flowers and bright summery colours. Each package comes with 2 different designs in it, which I thought was especially cute because we happen to have two tiny bums to diaper in this house!

The prize includes diapers, wipes, a teensy-weensy beach ball and other beachy goodies too!

...and looky who makes the adorable little beach tote it's all packed in!

Oh, and for every package of these fun tropical diapers you buy, the Huggies Every Little Bottom program will diaper a baby in need for a day!  How sweet is that!?

Enter to win this fun prize either for yourself or for a mommy friend in your life!

There are 2 ways to enter the giveaway:

1. For your first entry, comment below to let me know what fabulous plans you have for this summer.  Don't forget to enter your email address so that I can contact you if you win!

2. For a second chance to win, share this giveaway in any way you choose.  You can share it to facebook or twitter, email your mom, or tell your best friend. Whatever you want! Once you've shared it, just make sure you leave a second comment telling me that you did so that you double your chances of winning, okay?

There is a maximum of two entries per person.  Meaning that if you share this giveaway on both facebook AND twitter I may love you forever but you won't get a third entry into the giveaway.

It would be great if you would also take a moment to like Huggies on facebook or follow them on twitter.

I'll randomly draw 3 winners on Thursday!  Good luck everybody.

{Tips for Blogging: Part 5} Dealing with Negative Comments

Blogging is a weird hobby/career/passion, isn't it?  We pour our lives and hearts and homes out onto a screen for others to read, and then not only do we permit comments from complete strangers, but we invite them! 

It already sounds like a recipe for some heart ache, doesn't it?

The vast majority of the comments you are going to receive are going to be good ones. People come to your blog because they like what you have to say.  Most people aren't walking around the blog-o-sphere looking for a fight.  But a few are. Unfortunately.

Before I tell you my very non-expert thoughts on how to deal with negative comments, I want to acknowledge that not all negative comments are inappropriate.  We blog because we want to start a discussion on a topic we are passionate about.  Discussion is good, and disagreement is part of discussion, right?

In fact, I have left negative comments before.  For example, I left a very negative comment when one blogger stated that a woman who drinks alcohol or dresses provocatively is receiving the "consequences for her actions" if she is raped.  I feel that I chose my words carefully, but I didn't pretend that everything she said was A-okay either.  Discussion is good.  

That said, I can't think of any good reason somebody should ever say (this is a made-up example) "That spring wreath is horrid.  What a stupid tutorial." I think that sort of thing falls under the if-you-can't-say-anything-nice clause that we all learned in kindergarten.

So often it isn't about what is said, but how it's said.  Rational discussion is good. Name calling isn't.  Again, it's kindergarten stuff.

So I guess what I'm saying is that when somebody comments on a blog post in a negative way the first thing we have to ask ourselves is "was it inappropriate?"  Because after we've completed and photographed a project, written and edited a blog post, edited and uploaded our photos, proofread again, and nervously pressed publish, it is really easy to assume that anybody who can think of something negative to say is clearly an evil internet dictator.

But the fact is that people should be allowed to think that your credenza looked better before you spray painted it lime green. Even though they're clearly wrong...

The way I see it, there are three basic ways to deal with an inappropriate comment.  Which one you use in any given circumstance is going to involve a lot of discernment from you.  But here are some of my personal guidelines.  

a) Ignore it.  I think this is the best route for people who just don't get who you are and what you're trying to do.  When somebody gets their internet panties in a knot because I mentioned God in a blog post, I don't delete their comment, I don't start a comment war, I just ignore it.   Not every situation requires me to step in and say something, you know?

b) Delete it.  I never ever delete a comment for simply disagreeing with me. But I frequently delete a comment that is vulgar or spammy.  Your blog is your own little corner of the internet, if people are leaving graffiti on your walls it is okay to paint over it!

c) Respond.  With this one I need to tell a story. One where I am the bad guy.

I received a comment a while back that wasn't mega nasty, but was quite rude.  The person was suggesting that I go back and change a project I had completed simply because they didn't like it. My pride exploded.  Who were they to tell me to change a project I've stated that I am happy with?  So I responded. And I was sarcastic and snarky.

Afterwards, as I reflected on it, the word that kept coming back to me was "blameless".

I need to be blameless in my response.

That doesn't just mean that my friends wouldn't blame me for making the comment I did.  It doesn't mean that my most loyal readers would stand behind the words I've said. It means that anybody, ANYBODY who comes by could not reasonably object to the words I've written and how I've written them.  That even the person whom I am responding too, the person who caused me hurt in the first place, could not honestly call me anything but patient and loving and gracious.

And if I can't do that, then I need to hold my proverbial tongue.

I's hard. In fact, it means I use strategy "A" a lot more these days. 

Shortly after I came to this realization, it was tested.  An anonymous commenter commented on the size of our family.  They suggested that we must be on food stamps and told me to "close my legs".

Friends, I cried.  And then I prayed. How can I respond to this person?  How can I do it blamelessly?

I'm not claiming to have all the answers, or to have responded perfectly, but this is how I responded:

"I wish you could know us in real life so that we could change some of the preconceptions you have of large families. For the record, I have never even seen a food stamp (I'm not sure that we have those in Canada). The Lord has provided well for our family, In part by this little blog I have.

I don't think it's appropriate to tell strangers on the internet (or anybody, for that matter) to "close your legs!" The internet gives us too much anonymity sometimes, allowing us to say things that are more hurtful than helpful.

All the large families I've known have been delightful people who work hard and spend carefully. I recognize that your experience may be different, but please don't assume that we are all like the ones you've met. Thanks for commenting."

Again, I'm not saying that mine was the perfect response and that I have it all together and that you should all do as I do.  Goodness no.  My pride gets in the way sometimes, I'm way too easily hurt and too quick to respond to conflict with sarcasm.  But I really think there is something to this blamelessness....

Oh...and it wasn't my idea: 

"Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless" ~2 peter 3:14
 "Do all things without complaining and disputing,  that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world"  ~Philippians 2:14,15

{This is part 5 in a series on blogging.  To read the rest of the series, click here.}
Thank you for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

{Tips for Blogging: Part 4} Making Money Blogging

Can I start by saying I feel a little weird writing about this?

Partly because I have this awkward relationship with money that makes me disdain talking about it.  If we could all just agree to pretend we don't need, have or want money it would make my life significantly more comfortable.  But also, I feel like there are a million sources more equipped to tell you how to make money with your blog.  There are whole blogs devoted to the subject. I'm still so new to the game.  I'm still learning.

And it still kinda blows me away that I get paid to do this!

But I know that sometimes what we need is not a definitive article from an expert, but the experiences of somebody we know who has done what we want to do. All this to say that if I were sharing this information with you in real life, I wouldn't be some authority on the topic giving a presentation at the front of a room, but a friend across the table in a Starbucks somewhere trying to explain it all the best I can while I eat a giant White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookie.

There are 3 ways that I make money on my blog.

#1) Affiliate Programs. Affiliate advertising is when you advertise for a product or company and then receive a small commission for every purchase resulting from that ad.

The affiliate program is by far the most profitable one for me.  I saw a huge spike in my affiliate fees in March when my list of  99 Ways to Simplify Life with Kids spread it's way across pinterest. 

I like being an Amazon affiliate because I love books and resources and I personally purchase from Amazon so often that the UPS guy has started asking questions. I can feel good about the items I'm recommending, and my readers can feel safe purchasing from a company with a great reputation.  Plus, it funds my own slightly out of control book habit.

There are also affiliate ad networks through which you can apply for and manage a number of affiliate programs in one place.  An example of this is Commission Junction.

 #2) Google Adsense.  This has become the main source of my income. Adsense is an ad network that places contextual ads on your site for you.  Basically, you put a code on your blog to allow an ad of a certain size in a certain place.  Then Google figures out which ads to target to your audience,  keeps track of the pageviews and clicks, and pays you accordingly.  You can choose to disallow certain categories of ads,and you have the option to display text ads, image ads, or both.

It's easy to use and it's profitable for blogs of all sizes.  Other than the fact that I wish the categories of ads to allow and disallow were more specific, I have nothing but good things to say about Google Adsense.

There are other ad networks out there too that I haven't tried. Some of them specialize in particular types of websites.  A few examples are Chitika, Rivit Media , and BlogHer

#3) Sponsored Ads.  I feature some sponsored ads in my sidebar.  That means that somebody has created an ad and paid me a fee to display it on my blog for a certain amount of time.  When I decided to first start selling sponsored ad spaces I started by giving some spaces away to friends for free.  Then I created a page detailing my ad rates and sizes and waited for sponsors to roll in, slowly switching out the free ads for paid ones.

 I'm certainly not making a fortune off this method, and keeping track of invoices and ad expiry dates is a constant reminder to me that administration is NOT a gift I possess.  But I love my sponsors, and I like the look of the pretty colourful ads in my sidebar, and sending invoices makes me feel oh so grown up. 

By the way, I noticed recently that the blog The Lettered Cottage is using a program called OIOpublisher that appears to do all that icky administrative stuff for them I haven't tried it yet, but I'm seriously considering it!

What works for your blog may be completely different from what works for me.  I suggest implementing one strategy at a time and experimenting with it.  Find out how best to make it work for you, what products and services tend to be most useful to your readers, and which avenues you personally are most comfortable with.

And one more thing.  This might not even be an issue for you, but it is so important for me to remember to trust in God, not my blog.  I decided a few months ago to stop checking to see how much money I made from Google Adsense each day because it was taking my focus off the huge blessing this opportunity is and putting my hope (and often worry) into a days wages. It is God who provides for us, not the blog.  He knows how many pageviews I'll get tomorrow, and what repairs our van will need this year, and what our next dental visit will cost. And he wants me to trust him in all things.

Thank you so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

{Tips for Blogging: Part 3} Blogging Etiquette

Etiquette is a tricky subject.  There are things every blogger is kind of expected to know, but there really isn't a lot of information out there to make sure we know it. 

A lot of these things are things I wondered and worried about as a new blogger, or mistakes I have personally made.  This is mostly just my own opinion and experiences, and I'm certain I'm not covering every blog etiquette concern there is, so when in doubt let's just do onto other bloggers as we would have them do unto us.  That simplifies things a little, doesn't it?

#1. Always give credit where credit is due
I'm sure you're all already doing this one. If you are sharing anything at all that did not originate from you, link to the person who created it.  It is good practice even to link to people who inspired your blog post or project.
  • DO give a clear and obvious link to the creator of the image/quote/idea you are sharing
  • DO link to any instructions, tutorials or recipes you used in a project you are blogging about.
An exception would be if there is a particular trend out there that your post is a response to.  For example, if you make something out of a shipping pallet tomorrow and blog about it, you don't need to link to every hey, look what I made out of a pallet tutorial you've seen in the last year and a half.  But if you see a tutorial for a pallet sofa, follow the tutorial and make your own with a few small changes, you should link to the blogger who's tutorial inspired you.

#2. Give traffic where traffic is due.
This one is a bit trickier.  Let's say you find a coffee cake recipe on Pinterest and try it and love it.  Sharing the actual recipe on your blog (even in your own words) with a link to the original site at the bottom of the post would not be ideal.  Your reader has no real reason to click over to the original recipe. They've got the information they need, and they don't need to visit the blogger who created it.  A better solution would be show sumptuous pictures of the cake you baked, describe how great it was, show adorable photos of your kids with cake on their faces and then link to the original recipe so that your readers have to click through and give the recipe's creator the pageview he or she has earned.
  • DO encourage your readers to check out the links you've shared.
  • DON'T give away so much information that they don't need to click the link.

#3.So...Do you have to ask before using an image or some text from another blog?
The short answer is yes.  Their words and photos are their property.  Using them without permission is copyright infringement.

However, many bloggers have a blurb on their site stating their sharing policy.  You can see mine (at time of this writing) at the very bottom of my blog on the right hand side.

Also, to complicate the matter, it has been generally accepted that it is okay to "feature" another blogger's project or tutorial on your blog, or do a "round-up" post where you link to a variety of projects or ideas on a single theme.  For example a blogger might do a list of "10 Awesome Valentine's Day Crafts" in which they show images of 10 crafts made by other bloggers and under each photo give a short description and a link to the original tutorial. Bloggers do this all the time,and they don't ask for the use of the photo because featured bloggers are often thrilled by the extra traffic the feature brings. It is generally considered an acceptable practice.

One concern is that with the rise of Pinterest, that photo is now going to end up floating around the web linked to the person who did the round-up post instead of the person who created it. To some bloggers this might not be an issue because that Pinterest pin still eventually leads to their blog.  But I think you can probably see why it's a tricky situation.

Use your best judgement.  And when in doubt, ask.  Most bloggers will jump up and down at the thought of more incoming links.

#4. Link to the blog, not the pin. 
Personally, I feel that instead of linking to a specific pin on pinterest, it is better to link to the original post that contains the content we want our readers to see.

I'm going to show you an example with a Pin that I've pinned from my own blog.

Instead of this:
"I was browsing around pinterest the other day and saw this great tutorial."
I think we should do this:
"I was browsing around pinterest the other day and it lead me to this great tutorial."
The difference is that in the first example the reader may click over to the pin, get the gist from the picture, and the person who created the image never gets the pageview. Since for many bloggers more pageviews = more money (and, for all bloggers more pageviews = great excitement!) I think it's best to link directly to the content we consider valuable.

#5. Be careful about Hotlinking.
Hotlinking is displaying an image that is hosted on another blog instead of saving the image to your own computer and uploading it yourself.  The difference is that hotlinked images draw on the original website's bandwidth (which is a problem if that site pays specifically for their bandwidth) and slows down the original blog when your site is being loaded.
  • DON'T upload photos to your blog from another person's URL
  • INSTEAD save the photo to your own computer and then upload it as you would your own photo (and of course you will only do this if you're allowed to use the photo and you link back to it's original source.)

 I know this post only touches on a few points. If you have any questions about blogging etiquette that I didn't cover, please ask them in the comments below and we can all debate and discuss it and maybe come to a conclusion.

{This is Part 3 in a series about blogging.  You can find Part One here and Part Two here.}

As always, I am so glad you took the time to visit The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

{Tips for Blogging: Part 2} Growing Your Readership

Gerber Daisies
Photo via Flickr CC by Jamiesrabbits
Before I delve in and give you the regular tried and true tips for growing your readership, I want to point out the one big huge mega tip that will work EVERY SINGLE TIME.

#1.  Wow the socks off the people who are already reading.  Even if you just started your blog yesterday, you probably told some friends on facebook, right? Emailed your mom?  Explained to your grandma what a blog is and then how to get to it?  Somebody is reading, right?   They are your single biggest asset.  If you can impress them, write content that they can't help but share on facebook and pinterest, then your blog will grow.   Because people love to share great stuff. 

Blog growth is exponential.  We live in an age where it is so simple and quick and free to share a great article with everybody you know.  So 3 readers will turn to 10, and 10 to 100, and 100 to a number that kinda makes you shiver when you think that that many people read the words you typed yesterday.  But it won't happen overnight.

Okay, so now for the other tips.  The tips that will help nudge your blog along while you rock that first tip.

#2.  Participate in blog parties.  In the early days of this blog I made a point to have a project ready each week to submit to some of my favourite blog parties.  I did a lot of them in the beginning and paid close attention to my blog stats to discern which ones were bringing in the most traffic.  And then I started focusing mostly on those ones that were at the top of the list.  I rarely participate in blog parties now, but many of my most loyal readers today came through those blog parties. 

Here are some of my favourite blog parties:
The Home Decor and Organizing Linky Party @ Organize and Decorate Everything
Hooking Up with HOH @ House of Hepworths
The CSI Project, a weekly themed blog party

#3. Do a series.  I feel a little bit as if I've just shown you all my poker hand.  Here I am, doing a series, telling you all that a series will grow your blog!

But seriously, one of the best things I've done for my blog is the 31 days to an Organized Home. Many of you first discovered my blog last October during that time.   The benefit of a series is that it gets readers clicking around.  They like a post, so they click over to see the rest of the series.  One pageview turns into many pageviews, and perhaps even a loyal follower! 

#4.  Encourage people to engage and commit.  People often ask me how I got so many facebook "like's".  The answer is simple.  I asked them.  At the bottom of almost any post that I expect will go reasonably viral, I say something like "Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or follow me on Twitter!"  And people do. It's that simple.  Ask them.  People who like you on facebook or follow you on twitter or sign up for your rss feed will come back again and again. 

#5. Link to your old posts. This is another way to get people clicking around.  If everyone who visits your blog views three pages instead of just one, you will triple your page views!  Don't be awkard or spammy about it, just share your own relevant links just as you would any other link you think would be helpful to your reader.

For example, last month I shared some simple Easter cupcakes and in that post I linked to an delicious chocolate cupcake recipe that I had shared over a year earlier, back when I had fewer readers.  In the last month, I've seen the total pageviews on that chocolate cupcake recipe quadruple.   The backlink gave new life to a mostly dead post that wasn't collecting page views anymore. 

#6. Link liberally to other blogs.  I don't believe in bloggy karma, but I do believe in treating others how you'd like to be treated.  If you want people to link to your articles, be generous with your own links.  It's not magic, it's just good blogging.

#7. Leave valuable, insightful, entertaining comments on other blogs.  Every couple days I get an email or a comment from people who found my blog by clicking through from my comment on another blog.  It's not huge hoards of traffic, but remember, blog growth is exponential. And somebody who would click over to a blog from a comment on another blog is a) somebody who reads blogs and b) somebody who engages with blogs they like (because they were in the comment section in the first place, probably leaving a comment of their own!)  Those are just the kind of folks you want poking around your blog!

Oh, and every once in a while the blogger herself, the one who owns the awesome blog you love and comment on, will click on over to see what you are all about and completely blow you away by leaving a comment on your blog. Like the night, back when I was just starting out and all my readers were people I knew, that Melissa Michaels of the Inspired Room, the very reason I started blogging in the first place, visited this post and left a comment.  It totally made my day week.

But Kelly, you forgot to say to blog regularly and consistently...

Back when I started my first blog in 2007, blogging on a consistent schedule was the holy grail of blog growth.  It was #1 on every article I read about growing my readership. Nobody wanted to follow a blog that didn't post 5 days a week. That was because most of us, back then, still visited our favourite blogs by pouring our morning coffee, sitting down at our computer and...get this...typing in the URL of the blog we wanted to visit.  Although some people still do that, today the vast majority of people following your blog will keep track of new posts through an RSS feed or a link from your facebook page, so they may not even notice if you fail to blog everyday.  Yes, consistency is very good, and more content (assuming it's good content!) will always equal more page views, but I thoroughly believe that consistent blogging is not as important as it once was. And for some of us, it just isn't doable.  And that's okay.

That said, I have set a bare minimum for myself of two blog posts a week.  I don't want my reader's wondering if I'm dead just because I have morning sickness and some laundry to catch up on.
{This is part 2 in a week long series about blogging. Click here to read part one. }

Oh, and....Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or follow me on Twitter!

{Tips for Blogging, Part One} Getting Started Blogging

This is the first in a week long series about blogging.  It isn't really a "Hey, I'm a huge expert on blogging, so come do what I say" sort of thing, but more of a "Let me share my experiences and mistakes and lessons learned and then you can figure out what will work best for you and your blog" sort of thing.

There are a lot of sub topics to cover when we talk about starting a blog.  If I tried to answer every question you could possibly have this post would be a mile and a half long.  I'm pretty sure it would be faster for me to fly to all of your houses and put on a pot of coffee and coach you through the process (but unfortunately I don't offer that service!) So instead of trying to cover everything I am just going to list some of the things you need to consider before starting a blog and some helpful resources and links to aid you along the way.

9 Things to Consider Before Starting a Blog (or now, if you've already started it!)

1. What is your blog about?  What is your mission statement? What sets you apart from the crowd? What unique angle or perspective can you bring to the topic?

Your niche can be flexible.  Here I am on a homemaking blog blogging about blogging!  You don't need to be entirely confined inside your blog's stated topic, but you do need to a have a short,simple answer to the question "what is your blog about?"

6 Tips For Finding Your Blog Niche at Independent Fashion Bloggers
If God Had a Blog…Finding Your Niche at Allume Blog

2. Find your voice.
How are you going to speak to your audience.  Are you funny?  Authoritative? Down to earth? Sarcastic? A little bit kooky?   Listen to how you speak with your friends and find ways to translate that to the written word.  This will take practice, you will get better at it as you go and your readers will come to expect a certain cadence and tone from your writing.  Like Nester Smith of Nesting Place tends to write in these fabulous long run on sentences that convey her excitement and sometimes anxiety.  By reading her words, you feel like you know her.  How are your readers going to know you?

Finding Your Blog’s Unique Voice at ProBlogger
Guide To Finding Your Blogging Voice at David

3. Decide what you want your blog to do for you.  Is it a hobby?  A part time job?  A full time job? 
You are going to approach blogging a lot differently if you hope it will put your husband through med school than if you want to share cute pictures of your kids with relatives across seas.

I've chosen to treat my blog as a part-time job.  I don't feel like my life right now permits me much more commitment to it than that, and that's okay.  And, in case you're curious, right now my blog pays me about as much as I would make working 25-30 hours a week outside of the home. Not too shabby considering I spend the vast majority of my time pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.

I will talk more about how to make money with your blog later this week.

4. What blogging platform will you use? Blogger, Wordpress, typepad, or another?  
I use Blogger, and I am very happy with it. The design features seem to work how I think and I find it very user friendly.  And it's free...completely free.   Many professional bloggers prefer Wordpress, and that's fine.  When I first began my blog I was concerned about choosing Blogger because Wordpress is considered so standard, but I discovered that some of my favourite  blogs are on Blogger and that made me more comfortable with my own personal preference.

I tried to find a link for you that would compare the two in an impartial way, but I couldn't find one.  Everyone has an opinion!  So explore your options and decide what works best for you.

5. Are you going to buy your own domain?
If you are completely new to blogging,you may not even understand the question.  So let me explain.  If you start a blog with Blogger, your web address will be YourBlog'  If you start it with the free version of Wordpress it will be YourBlog'  But you can purchase a domain from a site such as, and then your website's address could be www.YourBlog'   Which looks more professional, is easier to remember,and doesn't cost very much at all.

6.Are you prepared to receive some negative comments.  Honestly, I wasn't.  It didn't even occur to me that people would have anything nasty to say to someone who blogs about taco seasoning and throw pillows.  But they do Blogging has given me thicker skin.  

If you're blogging about your house, are you okay with people saying they hate aspects of the refuge you call home? If you're blogging about your life, can you handle it if someone says you're doing it wrong?  If you're blogging about political issues, are you ready for a fierce, emotionally charged debate?  If you're blogging about your struggles, your frustrations, your hurts or your health, are you prepared to shed some tears in front of your computer screen?

Please don't let this point dissuade you from starting a blog. But consider it.  Pray about it.  Prepare for it. I will be sharing a little bit later this week about dealing with negative comments, but at this point I just want you to be aware that they exist.

7.Your blog's name and design.
If you are anything like me you were doodling website layouts and brainstorming titles long before considering any of these other parts of blogging.  And yes, your name and design are important.  They set the tone of your blog, they tell people a lot before they've even read your first word.

Will you design your own blog? Or will you pay somebody to do it?  I started with a simple Blogger template and tweaked my HTML until it looked something like I wanted it to.  Don't get scared off by the word HTML, there are a multitude of tutorials out there for any design changes you may want to implement, and you don't have to remember a thing from your high school web design class in order to tweak your blog to your liking. But if that isn't a skill you're interested in learning, you can pay a designer or bribe a friend to do it for you.

8.Brainstorm some blog post topics.  Make a list of topics you want to cover.  Aim for fifty ideas. a hundred is better. Some of these ideas will never come to fruition, and that's okay.  But there will be times when you have no idea what to blog about and your list will help.

How to Launch a Blog and Have Fresh Content for Weeks at ProBlogger
My Free Printable Blog Post Planner from me!

9. Just do it.  Go start a blog on one of the free blogging platforms.  Do it today.  It doesn't have to be your forever blog....just get your feet wet and see what it's like.  Name it "Susie's Practice blog" or "Testing, testing. One. Two. Three" and play with the options and settings and designs.

Helpful Resources:
25 Blogging Tips for Newbies and Veterans at Jeff Goins Writer
ProBlogger’s Guide to your First Week of Blogging an Ebook at ProBlogger
21 Surefire Tips for a Successful Blog Launch at Aviva Directory

Whew!  Day one was a doozy.   I hope you're not feeling too overwhelmed!  Tomorrow I will be talking about growing your readership, so stay tuned!

Edit: Here are the links to the rest of the series!

{Home staging 101} Bedrooms

As many of you know, my husband and I are planning to sell our home, and Kym Tarr of Shoestring Home Staging has been showing us how to put our home's best foot forward.  We've already tackled the laundry room, the living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom.  Today I'm going to show you our bedroom.

Our bedroom is the room where we've been least inclined to spend money on decor.  After 5 years in this house, the bedroom was still barely decorated. Kym suggested some ways to add some pizazz but encouraged us not break the bank doing it.

 Kym suggested that we add some art to the room, so I created some simple, thrifty DIY art that allowed me to hang some large pieces for very little cost.

Here are Kym's Tips for Staging Bedrooms:

1. De-clutter. Remove everything from the top of dressers, vanities and end tables that is not necessary. An alarm clock is okay on the nightstand.

2.  Organize the closet. The rule of thumb is to remove half of the items in your closet.  This can usually be done by packing away out-of-season clothing. Remove boxes or miscellaneous items taking up precious space on the floor. Arrange the remaining items neatly; fold any items left on shelves and hang clothes by color and type on matching hangers if possible

3.  Dress the bed.  Make the bed with your most beautiful sheets and coverings!

4. Space, aesthetic appeal and move-in readiness are among the top considerations for buyers. Staging this space though should be a low-cost process.

Because I have a bit of a flair for the dramatic I added a little tray with a flower, a coffee pot and a pretty china cup to the foot of the bed.   What do you guys think...nice touch or a little over the top?

Our house is finally ready to list.  Everything turned out to be a bigger task than we thought it would be, from touching up walls and discovering the paint colour was off to mowing the lawn and discovering that the lawn mower wouldn't start. But the house looks brighter and fresher and cleaner than it ever has. I'll (almost) be sad to see it go.

A special Thanks to Kym Tarr for sharing her expertise with us.  If you are considering selling your home, you may want to visit Kym's site to find out more about her fabulous Virtual Home Staging service.  You can also "like" her on facebook or follow her on twitter and pinterest.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

50 Simple Learning Activities for Young Children

I want to do so much more than just teach my children.  I want to engage them, to encourage them to ask questions and seek answers, to explore and wonder.  I want my children to be passionate, skilled, curious and confident world changers.  I want them to be amazed by the awesomeness of creation. I want to create an atmosphere of education.

And I want them to laugh a lot too.

Here are 50 simple and fun ways we create an atmosphere of education as part of our everyday life. This list barely scratches the surface, every new day presents many opportunities to learn and teach and discover!

1. Read to them. A lot.
2. Make a birthday countdown chain out of construction paper
3. Measure things with gummy bears.
4. Build things with marshmallows and toothpicks.

5. Look up traditional dances of other cultures on youtube.  Push back the furniture and let the kids dance along!
6. Check out youtube videos on origami.  Follow along.
7. Take a book of riddles on long car rides.
8. Put an egg in glass full of vinegar for a few days to make the shell dissolve!
9. Collect rocks.
10. Sponsor a child through Compassion International.  Learn about where they live and what life is like for them.
11. Look up youtube videos of animals. What sound does a giraffe make?
12. Make cheese! It's easier than you'd think.
13. Visit a farm.
14. Go to the library.
15. Go to the zoo.
16. Go to a museum.
17. Sing.
18. Bite your cucumbers into the phases of the moon.  I didn't even know the phases of the moon until I read this book to the kids.
19. Cook a meal together for a family in need.
20. Read some more.  Try anything written by Robert Mccloskey.
21. Play outside.  Explore.
22. Give them paper scraps to make paper dolls with.
23. Interview grandma or great grandma about what life was like when she was young.
24. Call a friend or family member to practice phone skills
25. Do a puzzle.
26. Use world map placemats. Identify places friends have moved to or tell your children about places you have traveled to.
27. Make up stories together where each person contributes a sentence at a time.
28.Plant something in a pot on a windowsill

29. Show them how to sort the recyclables.  Explain to them why we recycle.
30. Let them help turn the compost.  Explain to them why we compost.
31. Ask them questions about their dinner.  Do they know where their hamburger came from? What about their broccoli?  Does it grow in the ground or on a tree?
32. Chase fireflies
33. Play Simon says.  Practice right and left.
34. Read a story and then act out the plot.
35. Send them on a nature scavenger hunt.
36. Cut a tree out of construction paper and use photos of family members to make a family tree.
37. Print these Paper Dolls From Around the World.
38. Memorize scripture verses as a family.
39. Tell them funny stories during bath time.
40. Learn to identify birds or flowers by making nature study crafts with old crayons.
41. Bake with them.  Halve or double the recipe and talk through the math.

42. Watch fire safety videos on youtube. 
43. Learn an instrument. My husband has been using the Suzuki books to teach himself and the kids how to play the violin!  And after only a few lessons, it stopped sounding like someone was swinging a bag of angry cats around the living room!
44. Fill a bucket with water and take it to the porch.  Collect a selection of household items and have the children guess whether each item will sink or float before dropping them in the water.
45. Play board games.
46. Create a moon log.
47. Make nesting can maps.
48. Put pieces of pipe cleaner in a plastic bottle and use a magnet to manipulate them!
49. Play with alphabet fridge magnets.
50. Microwave some soap?  Why not?

If you like this list you may also like my list of 99 Ways to Simplify Life with Kids.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.

So...Um...We're Having Another Baby!

I spent all weekend trying to come up with a clever title for this post, but it's hard to be clever when you're so excited that you just want to shout it from the roof tops!

We are expecting baby number six in December!

If you've noticed a decrease in blog posts lately, I'm going to blame that on some first trimester exhaustion and morning all-day sickness.  I'm sure I'll make up for it later in the pregnancy when I start nesting and my crazy pregnancy hormones cause me to find ways to clean things none of even knew needed to be cleaned!

And to answer the question that everyone seems to ask: No, I don't have any reason to think at this time that there is more than one baby in there! 

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

A Gift in the Mundane {Parenting in the Now}

If you have a child strategically climbing up your leg as you read this, or if you've stealthily poured a cup of coffee and tip-toed to the computer to try to have a quiet moment before the kids wake up and the chaos ensues, this post is for you.

This post is for me too.

You see, before I had kids I knew that I would spend a lot of time wiping noses and cleaning bums and saying no for the hundredth time in the grocery store checkout candy store.  Or at least, I sort of knew.  I knew it wouldn't be easy.  I knew I would be tired (although I don't think I knew what tired really was!).

Dirty diapers, sleepless night, mushed up banana bits on my sofa. I thought all these things were side effects of parenting.  But we had kids anyways, right? Because in the end they will be far more rewarding than cumbersome, right? 


But I had it all wrong.

These things aren't chores standing in the way of life.  These things are my life.

I believe that children are a gift from God. Or at least, I mean to believe it.  But sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to survive today that I forget that they are, not will be a gift from God.

The gift doesn't come when they start sleeping through the night or learn to use the potty or grow up and start families of their own.  The gift is standing right in front of me holding a breakable bowl with her slippery fingers, asking for more oatmeal.

Do you see what I'm saying here?

This is it.  This is parenting.  The supermarket tantrum, the midnight feedings, the eleventy-billionth load of laundry....these are all part of the gift that God has given us.

The gift is now.  

When our children are young, us moms are often told not to wish away these days. One day we will long to have these days back.  I think we need to hear that often. 

I need to hear it often.

Don't wish away today.  One day, you will miss these precious days full of little hands reaching out for you.

I need to write this on my heart.  And maybe on my hand as well.  These children are a gift from God. And maybe then when my two year old is squirming and screaming on the kitchen floor because I filled his cup with water when he wanted juice instead, I can be reminded of the truth that can be so easy to miss:

This is the gift. Today.  Right now.

Friends, let's not wish it away.

Lord, help me to see these children as You see them.  A blessing, not a chore. Help me to love them as you love them. Amen.

A Storybook Baby Shower

I have a friend who LOVES children's books.  She collects them. She even has her husband read them to her! Long before she became pregnant with her first child she had spent many treasured moments on our sofa reading to our children. So a story book baby shower was a natural fit!

I had the great pleasure of planning this surprise baby shower with 2 other ladies.  A good  friend of mine (the one I threw the bird themed baby shower for last year) made the fabulous invitations.

We greeted the guests with a portion of the Albert Einstein quote “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

The cake was a simple carrot cake with cream cheese icing.  A tiny pennant banner on two small dowels dressed it up for the occasion.

And what is a baby shower without food, oh glorious food?

I bought some tattered story books from a thrift store for 25 cents a piece and gave them new life as a cute pennant banner.  (I used the super easy no-sew method from this post)

And I pretty much lost my life savings to a jar that forbid anyone to say the word "baby"  Do you have any idea how hard it is to not say baby at a baby shower?

But really it's okay, because all the proceeds went to the awesome mama-to-be!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

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