It’s an interesting thing being a blogger. While we share about our homes or crafts or decor or fashion or recipes or fitness (or whatever!) publicly on a near-daily basis, we have lives and stories that weave their way in and around the posts we share and always serve as a foundation for all we do…even if we never mention them. Each blogger shares their personal lives differently…some not at all, while others in every post…I try to land somewhere in the middle. Whenever there is big news in our life to share, I often spend hours on my runs, lying in bed, or driving in the car brainstorming ways to share the news with you all that feel authentic and true to me and our family yet entertaining and appropriate for the blog. I started brainstorming how we’d share this kind of special news so long ago, never imagining it would be years before I’d finally get to do so. And while the journey was far longer and more painful than we’d ever imagined and this post looks nothing like I thought it would all those years ago, I am over the moon to (finally!) share with you all some happy, happy news: Our family is expanding!!!
And now as I sit here to write this post…the one I’ve waited forever to write and rehearsed in my head thousands of times with thousands of variations…I don’t know what to say next! So I’ll start with the fun and easy part. We are expecting a Baby Boy on January 1st, and we ALL couldn’t be more elated! We have waited and prayed for this baby for years, and I even believed in the depths of my heart it would never happen. So I sit here and share this news with you all in joy, disbelief, wonder, relief and overwhelming gratitude.
Once upon a time I thought I would share every last detail of our 3-year journey to this baby. It was too hard for me to share (and especially talk about!) in real time…even with a majority of my friends and family. But I always thought “once and if it’s ever over,” then I will share every heart-aching moment, false hope, agonizing procedure, and feeling of despair Greg and I shared and endured together day in and day out as we journeyed to this baby. Strangely though, now that the “trying to conceive” part of our journey is over, it doesn’t feel necessary or even healthy for me to re-live it all again. And although I’m suddenly feeling coy on the details I once thought I’d shout from the rooftops, I do want to say this…
Wanting a child and not being able to have one is the most painful, heart-wrenching experience I have ever been through. Infertility is a complicated and exhausting mess of hormones and hopes, shots and skepticism, faith and frustration, companionship and confusion, doctors and despair. To do this day, I’ll never understand why it happened to us the way it did, or why our journey came to a happy end when so many others don’t. But I do know I am forever changed by it. Creating new life is truly a gift…one I will never take for granted and one I will be endlessly thankful I get to experience again.
Okay…so let me we wipe away all my tears and fill you in on some of the funner things you all might be wondering about!
How Are You Feeling?
I am almost 22 weeks in, and I am feeling pretty good! Thankfully, I didn’t experience any severe symptoms or morning sickness in the first trimester…just some exhaustion and crazy blood sugar control issues. The bigger problem for me has been the complete and utter loss of motivation and creativity. As a generally busy person who is always working on a project or at the very least futzing around the house, this was a strange and uncomfortable feeling. It was made all the worse by moving into a new house…which until very recently, I’ve had very little motivation and energy to work on (hence why moving in and new house posts are taking a bit longer than I’d like!) Thankfully, I have felt my old creative self reemerging in the last week…so I am optimistic things will pick up around here! Other than that, baby is moving and my belly is growing…making me one giddy Mama!
How Did You Tell Henry?
Henry has been asking for a baby brother for quite some time. We were never open about our journey with him, yet his asking (and praying for a baby brother at bedtime each night) certainly didn’t help the emotional intensity of it all. After everything we had been through, we wanted to be very sure all was good before we told him he’d be a big brother. When we arrived in San Diego, he came with us to my 13 week appointment. During the ultrasound, we told the Dr that if everything looked okay, to go ahead and show and tell Henry. The doctor showed Henry that there was indeed a baby in Mommy’s belly, and I don’t think he has stopped talking about it since. Seriously. He is absolutely thrilled, and seeing his pure elation has made this experience all the more incredible.
How Do You Feel About Another Boy?
Thrilled! As you can probably guess, we would have been elated with either a boy or a girl…but we have always really loved the idea of Henry having a little brother. I had a very strong sense the baby was a boy because I felt pretty much exactly as I did with Henry all those years ago (from what I can remember, at least!), so I wasn’t at all shocked when we found out. Not only am I very content being a Boy Mom, but we didn’t get rid of a single thing from Henry! It sure is nice to finally bring all the baby boy stuff back into the house!
How Many Years Will They Be Apart?
The boys will be just shy of 6 years apart. That was certainly not our intention or our “plan.” Somewhere along the way though, I had to let go of worrying about the age gap. We just knew our family didn’t feel complete and we’d take another baby whenever it came. It will certainly be an adjustment to enter back into baby-hood all these years later, but it will be nice to have Henry as a true helper!
So…Ummm…What Finally Worked?
I know as Greg and I journeyed along the path of infertility, I drank up every single “success story,” I could find…trying to find others who had similar health profiles as mine and Greg’s and were ultimately successful. And while these stories gave me hope, I also distinctly remember the stinging pain we’d feel when new things didn’t work after clinging to them with such hope and optimism. It became very clear that conceiving is a tricky, complicated, and uncertain business…and even the best doctors don’t know why some things work while others don’t. I am reluctant to say “do this, ” or “try that,” because everyone’s situation is just so different.
That said…for inquiring minds…we don’t really know what finally worked. We reached a point where were emotionally and physically drained from years of various treatments and procedures so we walked away from it all. I had started acupuncture about 6 weeks earlier (the last thing we were going to try before giving up for good), and we decided that sticking with those sessions wouldn’t hurt (Ha! Punny!). 4 weeks later, we were pregnant. Did it finally work because of the acupuncture? Or because we walked away from intense treatments? Or because it was “our time” or “God’s plan”? Who knows. Like I said…it’s a complicated and uncertain business. What I do know is that you have to trust your gut and do what feels right for the moment/phase you’re in…no matter the science, the statistics, the success stories, or your beliefs.
What Does This Mean for the Blog?
Admittedly, when we found out we were moving to San Diego (where all of my professional connections are) and knowing that Henry was heading into Kindergarten, I was preparing to revert the blog back to a hobby blog and get a full-time job. When we found out a baby was really on the way, my return-to-work plans were (happily) put on hold. All that to say, the blog isn’t going anywhere!! It will continue to be my primary form of work and income for at least the next year or so. My transition into motherhood with Henry was a bit rocky, and the blog became an important creative, social and professional outlet for me in the early years. I know I will need the same outlet this time around, so I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to work at it and grow it with baby boy in tow!
However…I will say that I don’t know what writing a blog with a newborn will be like (since I started the blog after Henry was born). Already, I’m finding a slow down in my production since I am pretty much useless after 8pm (which is when I used to do all my photo editing and writing). Having Henry in school all day, every day will certainly allow me to get ahead (hopefully!), but I appreciate your patience as we navigate this next chapter as a family!
Does This Mean We Get to Watch a Nursery Transformation?
Nurseries/kid rooms are among my favorite to work on, so you better bet I am excited to tackle another nursery (which will be the “spare bedroom” upstairs on our home tour!). I have a ton of lessons learned from Henry’s nursery and have already started to collect some ideas. I have no solid direction yet, but you better believe it will all be documented for you here!
It’s been an interesting dynamic to create, document and write about all sorts of pretty things here on the blog while we were struggling with this heavy and hard journey behind-the-scenes. I knew somehow, someday I’d address this part of our life here on the blog…but I genuinely believed I’d never get to write the “We’re Expecting a Baby” post I dreamed about all those years ago. I’m not sure any words I could type out would do our journey or current joy true justice, but I am thankful to have this outlet to at least try. I am thankful to you all for giving me the time and space to share this side of our lives and am excited to go through this next chapter with you all. For those few friends and family (you know who you are) who offered ears to listen, shoulders to cry on, and hope when I was truly hopeless, you will forever be a part of our journey and I’m beyond thankful for your companionship. And to any friends or readers who are yearning for a baby of your own, I know your pain and heartache well. You are on my heart and I will never stop praying for you.
I mentioned last week that I had a whole slew of personal posts coming your way this month, and we’re diving right in today with a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. However I needed to wait for the dust to settle and my raw nerves to heal before doing so! Some of you may recall that about this time last year…right when we were moving into our Kansas home…I took an entire month off of the blog to work tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for a new blog design. In fact, it was August 5th of last year that I officially made the transition from the (free and easy) Blogger platform to the (not free or easy) platform WordPress and launched the all-new, custom-designed The Homes I Have Made (the design you see on your screen now). In the year since I transitioned to WordPress and revealed the new design, the blog has experienced tremendous growth. In fact, I almost don’t believe the numbers! My traffic in the last 12 months is almost twice that of the previous 12, and I have gained thousands of new followers, subscribers and readers across a variety of platforms! But as many of you dedicated readers also know, the year was not without some SIGNIFICANT technical challenges and setbacks that cost me a lot of money, stress and sleepless nights. A year later, I can say without reservation that switching to WordPress was one of the best things I did for my blog…but I sure messed up A LOT along the way! Read on to find out what I did wrong, what I learned, and what I’d do differently if I could!
(Pssst – I realize not a lot of you are bloggers and potentially don’t care about the technical side of blogging. However, I really want to share my epic failures with other bloggers (and somewhat feel a responsibility to do so) who might be getting ready to start a blog and/or transition from Blogger themselves. Blogger or not, hopefully, you’ll find this peek behind-the-scenes interesting and maybe even a bit humorous! And if you do make it all the way to the end…gold star for you…this one is a long one!)
1. Do A Lot of Research…And Then Do Some More
I started my blog 5 years ago (whaaat??) on the free Blogger platform, intending it to be just a hobby blog. When I started blogging a little more “seriously,” I knew I would eventually switch to WordPress because of the significant boost in website capabilities. I’m not tech savvy at all…so in November of 2014, I started exploring various designers (via Etsy) who could not only help me re-brand (with a new logo(s) and color scheme) but also design a corresponding website and move my entire Blogger blog over to WordPress. The early stages are a bit fuzzy now, but I believe I searched “WordPress design” on Etsy and then spent hours pouring over the plethora of sample logos, fonts, and designs available. This was my only “research.” I was consumed with the look of my site, and didn’t really research about WordPress itself or how the transition from Blogger to WordPress would and should work. I didn’t educate myself on how WordPress is setup or learn about themes/child themes (how a website looks and is organized). I didn’t know other bloggers had put together entire step-by-step manuals on how to setup a pretty and unique WordPress site for far less than I paid for a custom design. When I thought I was researching “how to transition to WordPress,” I was really just gathering ideas for what I wanted my site to look like. But a good web design is about so much more than how it looks.
LESSON LEARNED: I’ll just put it right out there…I very much regret doing a custom web design when I switched from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve since learned that you can purchase very pretty blog/website design templates (from online shops and designers) and customize them for much cheaper than what I spent for a custom site. I also regret not researching “how to setup a WordPress blog,” because a lot of the other mistakes I’ll talk about in this post could have been avoided if I was following a step-by-step guide. If I could start again, I would buy THIS e-book by Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog (which I discovered AFTER I had already switched and launched). She breaks down every step for starting a WordPress site, a lot of which I could do myself. Yes, I still would have needed help with customization and transferring my Blogger posts over, but I could have navigated the hosting, domain, and basic design stuff much easier than how I really stumbled through it all.
2. A Good Designer Does Not Equal a Good Website Builder
I am not about casting shade or calling someone out, so my original logo and site designer will remain anonymous. That said, a lot of my trouble in my transition from Blogger to WordPress was because I hired the wrong designer for the job. I found a designer who’s aesthetic I loved, and I (too) quickly signed a contract and handed over a whole bunch of money for a custom logo AND web design, including the Blogger transfer and a shop. The designer didn’t have a vast portfolio or a bunch of reviews…but because I was smitten with the logos in the online shop, I put aside my worries, stopped my “research” and went for it. We started with the branding process, which was honestly wonderful. Although I’ve gotten some negative feedback on them, I personally really love my logo, fonts, and color scheme the designer put together for me. I LOVE having several pre-made logos I can use on photos, printables, business cards and more…and since implementing consistent fonts and colors, I feel like I finally have a very recognizable brand.
The troubles really started when we moved into the website design phase of our contract. The designer was seemingly unable to translate my requests into a site design that looked and functioned the way I wanted. I now know it’s partially because it was designed using a different “theme” than most of the blogs I’m used to reading. But because I hadn’t researched enough, I didn’t have the vocabulary to ask for specific things. The whole design process came to a screeching halt when the designer was unable to complete the transfer of my old Blogger posts to my new WordPress site (despite having paid for it) and fix some final pre-launch issues. Out of desperation, I had to suddenly end our relationship and look for another designer to salvage my site and my launch.
LESSON LEARNED:At least in my experience, a good graphic designer does not necessarily translate to a good website builder. I LOVE my logos and branding and feel like they were worth every penny. But from the get go, it seemed my designer was not as comfortable or experienced designing and building the website. There are so many things about my site that I truly love, but if I were to do it again, I would have spent the money for custom branding (logo, colors, fonts) and used those elements to customize a basic WordPress theme. If you are going to hire a designer to do a custom website for you, do A LOT of research, ask to see sample sites, and trust your gut. Oh…and if the price seems to good to be true…it probably is 😉
3. Find Good Tech Support
When I was faced with putting off my blog launch (to sort out issues with my current designer) or jump ship in an effort to get back on track, I chose the latter. I went back to Etsy and searched “Blogger to WordPress transfer” and found Daniel of Trendy Themes. His prices and reviews were phenomenal, but having just been burned by lack of research, I was hesitant to hire someone else so quickly. My launch deadline was approaching however, so I trusted all the 5-star reviews and requested a custom order. Literally within a day, he had righted all that had gone wrong with my blog transfer/launch…and I practically became a customer for life! Messaging Daniel that “fate-full” day last August was seriously one of the best things I’ve done for my site. Not only is Daniel incredibly savvy and gotten me out of a whole heap of messes I made throughout the year, but he is consistently proficient, professional, reasonable, and just darn good at what he does. I have now gone back to him time and time again to fix things that break (more on that in a minute), and am quite certain that I will be using him for any site re-designs in the future.
LESSON LEARNED: For those of you thinking about transitioning/starting on WordPress, the rumors are true. WordPress can be hard to figure out; and when it “breaks,” it’s not the most intuitive thing to fix. If you are like me and lack any and all website/technical skill, then I can’t recommend finding a good and reliable tech/design support person enough. When things don’t look or function right on the site, it can be really, really unsettling, but I personally don’t have the time or interest to learn that tech side of blogging to be able to fix it myself. Having someone I can “call” to fix issues…big and small…has allowed me to get back to the funner and prettier parts of blogging!
4. Good Hosting Is Everything
Because I was not following a step-by-step guide and didn’t have a good designer to walk me through the process, I stumbled through a lot of the initial WordPress setup (i.e., domain name, hosting). Years ago, I bought my domain name (www.thehomesihavemade.com) through a partnership Blogger had (has??) with GoDaddy. Because I thought GoDaddy already owned my domain name, I figured it was where I HAD to setup my hosting too. It turns out that when you buy your domain through Blogger, GoDaddy treats them a bit differently. So I still had to “release” my domain from Blogger/GoDaddy and regular GoDaddy had to pick it up. This is an insignificant detail, but had I known that I wasn’t already tied to GoDaddy, I would have “shopped around” a bit more for domain and hosting support. Anyway, with my domain at GoDaddy, I figured I had to have my hosting through GoDaddy too (which actually isn’t true!) and signed up for a Managed WordPress hosting package, not really knowing what it was or that I had other options.
Life was good and the site transfer was going swimmingly until I made my biggest mistake of all (#5 below). To fix that mistake (which I go into detail below), I had to change my Managed WordPress hosting to Shared WordPress hosting…which in itself was a huge blunder. I wish there were big red signs and flashing lights somewhere that said ” Danger Ahead! Danger Ahead!” Because Shared hosting is exactly as it sounds…you share a server with other sites…it’s not the most suitable option for blogs with a decent amount of traffic (especially ones as picture heavy as DIY blogs). For 4 months, I (and you!) suffered through site crash after site crash, slow loading, “site not available,” and new posts not showing. It was exhausting and exasperating, and I can’t even tell you how many nights of sleep I lost fretting over my darn hosting.
In March, I finally had enough and committed myself to spending the time, money and hassle of switching BACK to a Managed WordPress platform (where you don’t share a server and a lot of the maintenance issues are handled for you). Instead of sticking with GoDaddy, this time I did REAL research and switched to Synthesis hosting. Not only is my site faster and no longer has any weird cacheing issues, but it has only gone down once in the 4+ months I’ve been with them. It was a very costly and time-consuming mistake but after MONTHS of agonizing daily over my hosting, I honestly haven’t thought or worried about it since (which is how it should be!)
LESSON LEARNED: If you have a picture-heavy site, a decent amount of traffic, and/or ads, a Managed WordPress platform is worth the extra money. Period.
5. HTTP AND HTTPS Are NOT the Same Thing
Oh friends. Just typing those words makes my face red hot and my fingers start to shake. A majority of my troubles over the last year are attributed to this, and I feel like I could write an entire cautionary tale on this one. But I’ll try to keep it brief. The short version of the story goes like this. When I originally setup my (Managed WordPress) hosting through GoDaddy (and before my new site went live), it came with an SSL (a secure certificate). I simply got an email that said “Setup Your Secure Certificate Now.” Not know what it was exactly (because I hadn’t done my research), I went ahead and set it up. I quickly learned that it’s the “thing” that makes a website httpS rather than just http….and that’s a big difference. Essentially, it’s an entirely different url..and unless you do some fancy coding, all of your old http links will go dead. Because I was having a shop on my site, I figured having an SSL was probably a good idea, so I kept it. I had my tech guy re-route all my traffic that was previously http (from Pinterest and other web features) to my new httpS site. I launched, and all was good with the world. I had a fast new site, I had an SSL, and my traffic was all re-routing properly.
After a few months of swimming along, I decided to put ads back on my site. Love them or hate them, ads are a valuable way bloggers make money, and I was missing out on a real and important revenue stream. Well, after LOTS of rejected applications, I learned that no ad agency will put ads on sites with an SSL. Whomp. I agonized for weeks on what to do, but ultimately decided to remove the SSL (so I could have ads on my site) and re-route all my now HTTPS traffic back to my HTTP site. Well friends…you can easily route HTTP to HTTPS, but for some reason that I still don’t quite understand, you can’t route it the other way without some very fancy and complicated coding. For 2 weeks, my site was dark, no one could find me, pins weren’t routing, and I was sad. So so sad. So…I switched my site to Shared Hosting (see above) and my tech guy did the fancy re-routing required to get all my traffic going to the right places. And for a time, all was again right with the world. You guys could get to my site, pins were re-routing correctly, I could have ads on my site, and I could breath. Until my site started crashing over and over and over…because of the shared hosting. Are you exhausted yet?? Because the whole thing was beyond exhausting then!
When I switched back to a new Managed WordPress platform because my site speed and stability were so bad, I had the option to keep the fancy httpS re-routing but decided to say goodbye to the SSL once and for all. No fancy configurations, no more re-routing. Just a plain old http site on really good hosting. For a few weeks, I had a lot of pins on Pinterest and around the web that led to dead links, which certainly isn’t ideal. Over time, the pins have mostly “washed out,” and after having a few rough traffic months, things are finally starting to come around. All in all, I’m relieved to have the saga over, but man did I pay in a lot of ways for a dumb, dumb mistake!
LESSON LEARNED: Stay away from the SSL! Okay…kidding…but just a bit. There ARE times when an SSL is very appropriate (like with a shop). My shop, however, only accepts PayPal, which has and uses its own SSL, so I never really needed one to begin with. Long story short? If you want to be able to have ad revenue, do NOT install an SSL!
6. Things Really Do Go Wonky
Okay…so I certainly had the perfect storm of design problems, hosting issues, and re-routing complications that most bloggers don’t regularly have to deal with (I hope!). BUT…the reality is that WordPress sites do “break” or go wonky seemingly inexplicably. After months of quiet on the backside of things (after a very rocky first 6 months), I logged on just the other day to discover my side bar was missing. Gone. I hadn’t done anything (wasn’t even logged on!) to make it disappear. Galleries have stopped working for me, my header has reformatted on its own, and more. I’m assuming they are due to updates or weird theme glitches, and boy they used to really, really rattle me. With everything I’ve been through with my hosting and link re-routing though, these small nuisance issues have become just that…nuisances. I typically wait until I have a bunch of them and then hire my tech guy to fix them all at once.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yes, it can be frustrating to wake up one day and have a page or side bar missing or a link not working right. But if your site is up, running, and you can publish a new post, all is good. Figure out a way to deal with the technical glitches or hire someone to do it for you…but all in all…just know they ARE going to happen!
7. Being on WordPress Can Be Expensive
If you can’t already tell, I’ve forked over a good bit of money in the last few years just to get my blog up and running. From the custom design work to tech support, hosting fees and various plugins and services (like my mailing list platform), it certainly adds up. The blog does make money, so I am comfortable investing some of it back into its design and function; but when compared to the FREE Blogger platform, it can defiantly take some time getting used to. Thankfully, hosting and domain fees are an annual (or even bi-annual) cost and the design fees were a one-time investment (until I decide to change designs again!). All the tech support fees have been worth every penny for peace of mind and knowing things were done correctly. However, they are something I have to factor into my blog budget since I am pretty much incapable of fixing the technical problems myself.
LESSON LEARNED: On one hand, I want to say “It takes money to make money,” but I also know there are many, many successful bloggers running their businesses through Blogger and other free platforms. I don’t necessarily regret having to spend money to keep my blog up and running, but I do admit I could have penny pinched more along the way (like customizing a generic theme rather than getting a custom-designed site). Like everything these days (or so it seams), the online/blog world is a big ol’ business, and you can end up paying for pretty much every product and service out there. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, I recommend paying for a few select things that really matter to you (and only you know what those are!), and trying to DIY or find work arounds for the rest!
8. Find a Community
I could technically lump this one into “Do More Research,” but I thought it was valuable to point out how invaluable fellow bloggers are when it comes to de-bugging issues, finding the best plugins and tutorials, implementing the latest strategies and more. For my first few months on WordPress, I was marching along alone and very afraid to do or try anything that might “break” my blog. If I needed something done, I would reach out for professional help only to realize that (some) of the fixes were relatively easy (and even sometimes achieved via a plugin!). When I bought Abby’s Building a Framework e-book (for a whole host of reasons!), it was the exclusive Facebook community that I found the most helpful for WordPress-specific troubles. When I needed a new pop-up plugin, a simple post to the group quickly yielded dozens of options and opinions. When I finally decided to sort out my hosting saga, fellow bloggers were the ones I ultimately trusted to point me toward the best companies and packages. When my site is doing something crazy weird and I don’t know if I should freak out or not, I can quickly find out if other bloggers have experienced the same thing!
LESSON LEARNED: Google searches are great, but when it comes to finding the best advice for your blog, check with other bloggers (even better if they are in your niche). They know the platform, the requirements, and the common problems better than anyone and can usually offer a fix that is easier than you imagined!
9. You Can Easily Do So Much More!
I’ve gone on and on and on about how much more work, stress, and cost having a WordPress site has been, so you might be asking yourself “Then why even bother?” The simple answer is because WordPress really is a much more sophisticated platform; and because of that, you can easily do so much more (at least compared to Blogger). Uploading, naming and tagging photos is SO much easier. Linking back to old posts/projects is SO much easier. Writing specific SEO descriptions (so that Google can find you!) is SO much easier. Pre-populating picture descriptions for Pinterest and Facebook so they load automatically is SO much easier. Adding in “no-follow” and affiliate links is SO much easier. Sharing downloadable files (like printables) is SO much easier because you can actually upload PDFs right to WordPress (which is impossible on Blogger). Creating galleries and menus and forms is SO much easier. Yes, the big headaches of hosting and costs and broken links can sure be stressful and exhausting when they come up, which is infrequent. Rather, it’s the efficiency and simplicity of the smaller and much more frequent tasks you do in every single blog post that make the biggest difference and make it SO worth it to be on WordPress!
10. It’s Easily The Best Thing I Did for My Blog!
If this post tells you anything, it’s that I’ve been through the ringer my first year on WordPress. I made so many stupid and costly mistakes, and lost way too much sleep and wasted too many dinner conversations trying to fix them. It has been a steep learning curve and a heck of a lot of trial-and-error, but I will say this: I’d do it all again (well, maybe not the SSL part because that really was so painful to sort out). I love the professionalism of my site, the increased functionality, and the ease at which I am now able to do basic post functions (such as SEO, linking and more!). I can’t say that the increase in traffic and followers over the last year is directly influenced by my site design (because I have been busting my but on projects too), but I have to think it’s been part of the picture!
Phew! What started as a quick and simple listicle-style post turned into one of my longest ever. Sorry about that. Told you I’ve been storing up to write this post for a while! Beyond just sharing what I’ve gone through this past year, this post also serves as a good reminder for me on how far I’ve come. Making mistakes (especially costly ones) is not fun for anyone. And while there is still so much I don’t know about blogging and WordPress, it’s times like these when I can step back and see (and appreciate!) how much I do know! This whole blogging journey has really been one big DIY for me…figuring it out as I go, learning what I like and don’t like, and even making some great things happen along the way! Thanks for indulging me with your time on this one, and hope you found something here interesting and/or helpful!
P.S. None of the links used in this post were sponsored, I’m just sharing my favorite and most helpful finds with you! Oh – and the gorgeous photos are by Kellyn Wilson Photography!
Well here we are! After months of traveling, moving, packing, unpacking, and enjoying an entire summer of late nights, slow mornings and non-scheduled days, it’s finally time for our little family to pull itself together and get back into a daily routine. My little Henry starts Kindergarten today (how is that even possible?!?) and although I don’t feel ready for this big day on so many levels, we are all very much in a place where some routine, time management, and systems would do us some good. When the lovely folks over at JORD reached out to me about a possible collaboration, I wasn’t sure the partnership was a great fit. But then I realized this was an awesome opportunity for me to share a beautiful product with all of you while hopefully jump starting my new year in our new home with a return to some tried-and-true habits! Today, I want to introduce you to this beautiful line of women’s watches and share with you all some of the ways I am easing myself out of the slow and easy days of summer and back into more productive and structured routine!
Sometime during the last few years, I got out of the habit of wearing a watch and instead have been relying on my phone to keep me tuned into the time and my schedule. In recent months however, a simple check of the time has turned into a huge time drain. Please tell me I’m not alone on this one! It often goes something like this: I turn on my phone to simply check the time. Then I see a Facebook notification I want to check out or a news update that peaks my interest. Then once my phone is fully unlocked and I’m in, I’m suddenly doing a quick scroll through Instagram and checking my email…and before I know it, I’ve lost 15+ minutes on my phone. All because I just wanted to check the time…and this, of course, happens several times a day, resulting in hours (hours!!!) of wasted time.
Over the last few months, I have been feeling especially tapped out by my phone because of this exact scenario. I wish I could say I was disciplined enough to my keep phone time at bay, but grabbing my phone and checking this, that or the other has become too quick, easy and habitual. In the weeks since this beautiful Koa wood and rose gold watch arrived on my doorstep however, I’ve been more than happy to rely on it to tell me the time rather than my phone. Thanks to its simple yet chic design, amazing details, and comfort, it is one of the first accessories I put on in the morning. In turn, I’m finding less reason to reach for my phone and yielding more minutes I can put toward projects, posts, and quality time with my family.
Getting myself off my phone is just one way I am slowly getting myself back into a productive groove. Can I tell you a secret? Until a few days ago, I hadn’t cracked open my planner the entire summer. Not only was our summer so busy and crazy and fluid that holding myself to a planned schedule was practically impossible, but I also desperately needed a break from to-do lists, meal planning and all of the systems I rely on to stay sane. The break has been good for me; but in recent weeks, the effects of our lack of structure have been showing in Henry’s behavior, my disposition, and the overall function of our household. So this past weekend, I pulled out my planner and pretty pens and returned to the systems that work well for our family. It’s time, and we need it.
I printed out an entire stack of my Weekly Organizing printable to get back on track with meal planning and our weekly commitments, and used the same form to hash out our new morning and night routines for the school year. We’ve been turning off the Olympics earlier and earlier each night in an effort to get Henry back to a normal bedtime (and instead watching the coverage over breakfast!). I have been filling in my planner with due dates and commitments, goals and plans, and lots of pretty stickers; and I am getting myself back into the habit of time-blocking my day. I focus better and accomplish more when I take a few minutes each morning to determine what, when and how things are going to get done, and this printable still comes in handy for times when my productivity needs a big ol’ boost. By taking just a bit of time this past weekend to re-familiarize myself with these systems, I am (mostly!) ready to start making the most of these long child-free days that are now upon me!
This summer has been a long and hard one for our family; so to ease the stress of everything going on, we pulled back on the schedules and the forms and the calendars and the plans. And even though it feels like the last of the moving boxes were just hauled away and we’re not quite ready for structure…the calendar tells a different story. School is starting, and it’s time like these I have tried-and-true methods for reigning in the chaos and restoring order to our household!
Thank you so much to JORD for gifting me this beautiful watch and providing me with the motivation I needed to pull out of my summer haze and get ready to take on the school and work year head on! And to all my wonderful readers, JORD is offering one lucky reader a $75 e-voucher that can be applied to any watch on their website. Simply enter at the link below. Contest ends at midnight on August 23rd.
Last but not least, I’d love to hear what you all have been doing to ease yourself back toward the more structured days of fall as summer comes to a close. Are you struggling to restore order like I am or running willingly toward full planners and set schedules? If you have any tried-and-true tips for this time of year, please share in the comments!
I did not receive compensation for this blog post; however JORD did provide theCora watch for me to have and review. Please remember that I only work with brands and products I fully support and that make sense for my home, my family, and this blog. All opinions are 100% my own!
You all have been so patient with me as I wrap up the posts and projects from our Kansas house and even take some unexpected breaks over the last few months. But I am so excited to report that it is finally time to start catching you up on everything we’ve been up to in recent months, including our latest cross-country travels, our new home, and even some fun surprises. So much has happened in the months since we left Kansas, and I’ve had so many thoughts and news that I’ve been wanting to share with you. Now that we’re a little more settled and life is slowing down for the first time in months (!!!!), get ready for a slew of personal posts and life updates coming your way in the next few weeks! Last week I showed you our final Kansas home tour, as well as the start of pulling the entire house apart. Today, we’re hitting the road and you get to ride along as we make our way across country…again! But be forewarned: this time we are taking the (very!) long way around to our next home!
On May 26th, we anxiously looked on as every last one of our belongings was packed up and loaded onto a truck…in the middle of a tornado. Seriously. We’d gone pretty much the entire year in Kansas without a legitimate tornado threat. I guess Mother Nature was saving the best for last 😉 There we were: Henry and I hunkered down in our “safe place,” while the local guys never once paused during the thunder, sirens, winds, and torrential rain; they just kept loading the truck. In the 7 times we’ve packed out, we’ve never experienced anything quite like it! While there is always a sense of “Will I ever see my stuff again?” as the truck pulls off, this time around I couldn’t help but wonder “How wet will our stuff be when we see it again? Will it all be covered in mold? Is this an omen of what’s to come?!?”
We spent the Friday before Memorial Day weekend cleaning the house and packing up the cars and then set off on our first stop of many this summer:
Lake of the Ozarks, MO
Our house was empty AND spotless, and we were all set to move into a local hotel for a few weeks (Greg didn’t graduate until June 9). At the last minute, we took advantage of a cancelation to go out to the military recreational facility at Lake of the Ozarks for a Memorial Day weekend getaway. After weeks of getting ready to move, farewell to friends, dealing with packers and cleaning the house in preparation for check out, it was so wonderful to literally escape for a few days. We hiked, canoed, swam and basically soaked up every minute of no stuff, no connectivity, and no responsibility that we could!
We returned to Leavenworth, Kansas after a great getaway and lived for 10 days in a local hotel while Greg finished up school. We used this time to visit every last Kansas City spot we hadn’t yet made it to, including water parks, a baseball game and more! After Greg graduated from his military school on June 9th, we hit the road for an epic family road trip!
From Kansas City we drove to Lincoln, Nebraska and stayed a single night in the city. Who knew Lincoln was such a COOL place, especially when the drive in every direction pretty much looks like this:
From Lincoln, Nebraska, we drove on to Cheyenne, Wyoming and spent an afternoon exploring the charming little town. It was here that Henry and I shared the best steak I have ever, ever had!
Yellowstone National Park, WY
From Cheyenne, we finally made our way into one of our first major destinations: Yellowstone National Park! We spent three days and three nights camping, hiking, touring, eating, and animal watching our way through the park. Henry loved every single minute of camping (even during the 38 degree nights!!!) and showed us that he is quite the willing adventurer! From spotting wildlife (yes, we did see a bear!!!) to full day hikes…this kid loves the great outdoors!
Salt Lake City, UT
After three days of camping (read: no showers), it was time for some city life! We traveled through Grand Tetons National Park (which I LOVED and really want to go back to explore more!) on our way to Salt Lake City, UT. There, we city dwelled and hit up museums, restaurants, public transportation (Henry’s favorite!) and other downtown gems.
Zion National Park, UT
After the three days of explronig, rest, showers, and laundry in Salt Lake City, we traveled onto one of our favorite stops of the entire trip: Zion National Park. Greg and I love National Parks and hiking (if you couldn’t yet tell), and Zion has long been on our list of places to visit. The scenery, hiking, and amenities were beyond our expectations, and we loved every minute of it. We stayed in a hotel this time (which suits me much better than our tent camping in Yellowstone 😉 and ventured into the park for two full days of hiking and adventuring. Henry yet again rose to every challenge we gave him…even wading quite a ways into the world-famous Narrows! He is STILL talking about how fun it was to hike through the water with our shoes on!
Las Vegas, NV
After a few days in Zion, we were ready for another break from the great outdoors and made our way to our next stop: Las Vegas! Vegas isn’t the most kid-friendly of locations, so after 2 weeks on the road, we were more than happy to stick near the pool, play, relax, nap, visit the dolphins and take in a show. We had near-freezing temps while in Yellowstone and arrived to 112 degrees in Vegas – we really experienced quite the gamut of climates and experiences!
And then onto…
From Las Vegas, we made one more drive into our “new” home town to begin the long process of finding a house and getting settled. But that story is for another day 😉 I am not yet going to tell you where it is, but I’d love to hear your guesses!! And don’t worry…you don’t have to wait too long. Meet me back here on Thursday for the reveal of our “new” home town and “new”/next house!
There are a lot of things I hate about moving, but one of the things I love most is taking advantage of the relocation to see and explore new and unknown parts of this great country! Over the course of 13 days, 6 states, 2400+ miles, 3 National Parks (and 1 Vegas show!), we got to see and experience some truly awesome, beautiful and wonderful things as a family. These moments in between homes are just as much a part of our military adventure as our years stationed in one place, and boy do we try to make the most of it. It was a trip and a summer our little family will never forget!
Happy Monday, friends and readers. I so wanted to have a holiday home tour ready and up for you today; but alas, it’s not done. And instead of missing another day here on the blog, I kinda just want to have a little heart-to-heart instead. Is that okay? I hope so. I need it. Maybe you do too 🙂
In recent weeks, I feel as though the crazy pace I’ve been keeping since we step foot in Kansas has completely and totally caught up with me. A bunch of tight deadlines, being gone for Thanksgiving, a slew of personal health stuff, and a huge headache on the backend of my blog in recent weeks have all left me drained and in a serious creative funk. It feels like no matter how much I work or how hard I try, I just can’t get on top of the things I want/need to do to make some legitimate forward progress…whether it’s on the house, on the blog, or on our holiday preparations. Projects are feeling laborious instead of fun, and I am having the hardest time getting into the holiday spirit. In a word…I’m tired.
As I was talking to a girlfriend recently about a variety of struggles, I finally admitted to myself that I have every reason to be tired. While the blogging and the parenting and the teaching and the socializing certainly add up, I tend to overlook one really big thing that happened to us this year: we moved our family (halfway) across the country. That’s no small thing. I think because we military families move so much, it becomes easy to downplay the stress of it all. Moving may be routine, and we may have it down to a science; but man is it stressful, and it sure does take a heck of a lot out of you. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Moreover, from the second we arrived, I hit the ground running with projects, a blog overhaul, exploring our new community, getting back to work at the gym, and more. It’s been a crazy 7 months; but when it’s mere months before the trucks are due to come again, you have to act fast. Knowing we’re heading into another move in just 6 more months brings its own stresses. The clock is already counting down.
This year, all of my exhaustion and overwhelm have shown themselves most in our holiday preparations. You guys, I am having the toughest time decorating all out for Christmas. Admittedly, each year I struggle with the clutter and the re-arranging and the glitter (every.where), but I can usually channel my inner elf eventually and pull together a pretty legit holiday home. Like your’s too possibly, my blog and Instagram feeds have been flooded for WEEKS now with one spectacular holiday home tour after another…and boy was I feeling the pressure to decorate my house to the hilt and share it too. But I can’t do it. This year, everything feels so forced and so rushed. I wasn’t liking anything I pulled out or any vignette I created, and the excess clutter and decorating were stressing me out more than it needed to.
I’m learning that for me, the holidays right after a move are the hardest. It feels as though all of our stuff just came out of boxes and I am just getting everything where I like it when it’s time to decorate. Moving everything around and creating more chaos just for holiday decor makes me feel less settled and more anxious. For weeks, I’ve been staring at our Christmas boxes in the garage, willing myself to create some holiday magic. This weekend I finally put them all away and gave myself permission to stop. Stop the decorating, stop the stressing, stop the comparing to other home bloggers who have fabulous holiday homes. Instead of beating myself up for the holiday home I don’t have, I’m choosing to acknowledge the struggle and salvage my holiday season. (I guess this was all my very long-winded way of saying, you probably aren’t going to get a holiday home tour from me this year 😉 )
Here on the blog and in person, I often get comments like “How do you do it?” “How do you accomplish so much?” “How do you handle a move with such ease?” “How do you pull a house together so fast?” Well, this is me…exposed for all to see…that while it may look like I’m handling it all just swell…it all catches up at some point. I can push hard for quite some time, but eventually, I crash. I always do. It’s December 14th and I’ve yet to buy a single Christmas present. We haven’t taken photos for Christmas cards much less sent them out, and we haven’t taken in any of the holiday events and festivities here in KC. And while I am painfully behind on my blog projects for the remainder of the year, I am feeling the need to press the breaks and catch my breath anyway. I don’t want to spend the next few weeks stressing about blog deadlines. Instead, I want to enjoy the holiday season and spend some quality time with my boys while they are on school break (son + husband both have school break!). I need it, and I know it.
Don’t fret, I’m not going away…I’m just going to ease off my usual posting schedule for the remainder of the year. I am planning on checking in at least once a week with few projects I do have in the works, as well as a few end-of-year posts I’m excited to write…so be sure to check in regularly. As always, thank you for reading and for giving me the space to be real. I work so hard on this little corner of mine on the web, and it means the world to me that you spend some of your precious time with me here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go shopping!