5 of My Favorite Mommy Gifts (Online Version)

5ofmyfavoritemommygifts

As we can all tell, after stuffing our faces full Thursday and stuffing our carts full Friday, Christmas is the next big thing we have to prep for. As I get older, my family gets larger and my life gets crazier, it’s a pretty big goal of mine to get done with shopping as early as possible, as easily as possible and as frugally as possible. It’s almost become a game to see how far in advance I can be completely ready for Christmas and to track how much money I can save in the process.

Gift giving is one of my favorite things to do because I love finding unique and personal gifts for people–holidays or not. So with that in mind and Black Friday out of the way, below is a list of a few of my favorite, unique gifts that you can, for the most part, only find online right now. Some of them are great for kids but help parents out, some are good for just parents and others are more for parents and kids to use together.Lolly + Pop

  1. Lolly + Pop. Adorable, hand-made leather bows (I might use some as bowties as well) for little ones. I love these because they’re leather, they’re simple yet elegant, and the color palette selection is gorgeous. In my experience, leather lasts longer–as far as children’s accessories or jewelry–and has a classy, unique look that you don’t find with just any material. The designer and creator for Lolly + Pop is a mom of two from NYC, who hand makes everything, which makes me love them all the more. For those who are interested for Christmas gifts or for themselves, Lolly + Pop has 40% off this Cyber Monday until midnight AND if you’re a reader of mine, feel free to use code “Homemade15” for 15% off. You really cannot beat that!
  2. Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever (And Then I Had Kids). When I was little, I used to love reading Chicken Soup for the Soul books because they were a compilation of stories Lose the Cape - coverby real people that were relatable and made me feel warm and content. This is the same type of anthology, except for parents. Lose the Cape is full of great, funny and relatable stories from parents like you and me, and the perfect book to read while cuddling up with a blanket and warm drink throughout the winter season.
  3. Butler BootsI love these boots so much for our toddler because to me, they’re different than most boots. I can use them in rain or snow plus they slip on as boots by themselves or over other shoes because of a washable liner placed inside. This way, when my toddler’s wearing an outfit requiring shoes I IMG_6283don’t want to get wet or that don’t wear well in the snow, I can slip the boots over top and take them off when we get inside without having to hassle with sitting her down and changing her into completely different shoes. They come in several bright, fun colors–my favorite being pink and yellow.
  4. Fun Foodie Friends CookbookObviously, as parents, we have to cook on occasion. Okay, daily. Often, my children want to help, which slows me down and makes the evening Fun Foodie Friendsdinner/bedtime rush more hectic, but having a cookbook that’s both healthy and made for kids to join in on the cooking makes things much smoother, easier and helps my children learn about food and cooking while assisting with their own meals.
  5. Birchbox. This is a great way for moms (or dads) to sample and try new products across several categories–lifestyle, home & food, skincare, makeup, tools, games, etc. For most of us adults who don’t really find the time to spend on picking out new products or trying different brands, getting a monthly box of goodies is a great thing to look forward to (or a nice surprise if you forget about it like I do) and Birchbox, specifically, is a nice way to try several items before buying them to decide what works for you and what you actually like best.

On Cyber Monday, and especially once the madhouse shoppers hit in December, it’s just nice to sit back and order online. The difficulty I find when ordering online is pinpointing the gifts I think are still personal and unique while at the same time remaining well-priced with minimal–if any–shipping. This list hits all of those requirements for me; plus, all of these items either benefit me as a mother or myself and my children together. Hopefully, this list can help with your holiday gifting, as well!

#HE is pumped to be partnering with Fun Foodie Friends and Butler Boots for this post’s awesome gift list!

12 Dos and Don’ts to Make Your Blog Legitimate

12 Dos and Don'ts to Make Your Blog Legit #HE

The Difference Between Good Enough and Great

It’s easy to let little details slip by without caring, or sometimes without even noticing. But perfecting the things that most people don’t take the time to do or learn about is ultimately what gets an individual ahead of everyone else.

Don’ts

Pop-ups. They can be okay for a short period of time if you’re really trying to promote something major, but not permanently. And if you are going to have a temporary pop-up, wait 20-30 seconds before having it pop-up on your reader so they can at least get into your blog before being bombarded.

When I go to a site and the first thing that I see is a pop-up before I even have the chance to view the landing page, my next move is often times just to exit out of the page completely. This is because 1. I’m annoyed and 2. You haven’t even given me the chance to see your website yet before you’re asking me for something–I have no reason to stay.

Captchas. I understand if you’re a legitimate website, and even if you’re not, you’re probably going to get spammers, but the large majority of web hosts have some sort of spam filter in place already. Captchas are often frustrating to readers because they don’t work correctly a large percentage of the time, which makes commenting really difficult. On top of that, in several instances, captcha won’t work correctly with a smartphone or mobile device, which is a major problem when 80% of consumers now use smartphones to surf the web. Another flaw is that some captchas require the reader to scroll back down to the bottom of your page and press “comment” a second time; while a lot of times, people don’t realize that, which means you’re losing comments and engagement.

More times than not, when I’m trying to comment from my phone on a blog that has captcha, something goes wrong with it, which frustrates me enough to not even comment anymore.

Too many ads. I understand we all want to get paid, but at the cost of losing readers, you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Without a solid following, no one’s going to want to advertise with you. So, it’s important to find a good balance, advertise things that make sense with your blog and have a layout that keeps everything from looking too busy and cluttered.

Let me put it to you this way: if t.v. shows were 3 minutes of show and 10 minutes of advertisement, I wouldn’t watch. Unless it was Game of Thrones, and then, maybe, I’d consider it. 

Too many sponsored posts. A good, general rule of thumb is to have no more than 1 sponsored post for every–at least–3 unsponsored posts. Otherwise, your blog just begins to feel like a giant sales pitch.

A handful of blogs I enjoyed have gained traction and when they started receiving more offers, the sponsored posts began to take over. When that happens, I generally become uninterested and stop following or checking up on the blog. 

Inconsistency. This primarily includes fonts, image sizes and colors. Keep all of these consistent. I’m not saying don’t add variety, but there can be variety in the consistency. For example, if you like changing up fonts, use a specific font for your header, a different font for subheadings and another for main text. Same goes for images–if you don’t want to stick with just one uniform image size, at least have image layouts and sizes that you stick to or alternate between throughout your blog.

When a post starts in one font and ends in another or has images scattered throughout without any sort of consistency, it’s really just displeasing to the eye and often makes me feel like the blog isn’t good or professional–even though it really has nothing to do with the actual content.

Going overboard with design. You know the person who puts stripes with polka dots, and hearts and circles and rainbows and really anything they see. It’s too much. Having too many things going on at once can really hurt a blog’s appearance. Pick a few key elements, designs, colors and stick with them. Don’t go with something so crazy that it completely distracts from what you’re trying to do.

When I go to a blog, for example, with a really crazy, ridiculous font or colors everywhere, it distracts me from what I’m trying to read, and I can’t focus on anything else except trying to figure out why all these words are in this unreadable post.

Dos

Have a .com. Or .org or .net. Just avoid having, for example, name.wordpress.com or name.squarespace.com. Basically, I’m telling you that you need to purchase your domain name. I know, *sigh*, spending money sucks, but honestly, it’s the number one step to legitimatizing your blog. Are there some blogs that are doing okay and haven’t purchased their own domain name? Yes, but they generally can’t do much of their own design on their actual site pages, it’s difficult to advertise, and you’re not going to get near as many people who want to work with your blog simply because it doesn’t appear that you’ve gotten serious about your blog to have enough legitimacy to purchase your own domain name.

A consistent image or logo across your blog and all your social media platforms. In other words (or–er–word), branding. You want a primary, go-to image that people will see every time they visit your blog and SM sites. It’s cool, it gives people something to associate with you specifically, and if they happen to stumble across it somewhere else, they know exactly whose it is and where it’s from. Exploding fist<recognition<branding.

Make sure your site, design and images appear correctly across all devices, whether that be mobile or computer. Cross-device usage is now–67% of users move between devices while online. People switch from their phone to their laptop to their tablet without blinking an eye, and if your website isn’t accessible or viewable across all devices, people are going to get frustrated and stop viewing it.

Consistent fonts and sizes + quality images. Being consistent is talked about above, but it’s worth mentioning again because so many people overlook it and don’t think it’s a big deal. Basically what it boils down to is appearing professional or appearing unprofessional. Every single one of our blogs is interviewing for each reader that stops by, and if you’re the interviewer, I’m willing to bet you choose the person who comes in a pantsuit over the person who shows up in ripped jeans and a halter type every time. Beyond consistency, it’s SO important to have quality, especially with images. If you don’t have the time or skill to design a quality image, it’s unbelievably easy (and free) to find them, meaning there’s no excuse! Olyvia.co is my favorite go-to for a spectacular list of free, quality stock photo sites.

Make your site easy to maneuver. Whether that be searching for something, sharing a post or seeing your other platforms. If people have to spend more than a few seconds searching for something, more often than not they give up or get distracted and move on.

Maintain a theme. Or something recurring that’s unique to you. For readers, it’s nice and it’s clever to see some sort personal touch that remains present throughout your blog. It’s kind of a level-up for people to be able to associate something specific with you.

Ultimately, if you’re blogging professionally or even just to gain a personal following, your blog is your business. Represent and treat it as such. Put the extra time and effort in to perfect your blog and take it above and beyond, because truly, people will notice and often remember their first impression upon entering your website.

EDIT:

Bonus Tip

When linking to other sites, make sure your link is set to open in a separate tab. If your links don’t open in separate tabs, it makes it easy for readers to lose your page if they’re trying to view your links while reading through, or it allows readers to get distracted by your link and forget to come back to your page.

Wading Through Motherhood

Just BreatheMelissa Matters - Wading Through Motherhood

There are so many words bouncing around in my head that it’s difficult to begin. But I vow to always begin and strive to finish strong, because if there’s anything the past couple weeks have taught me, it’s that sometimes the very best of us are gone, suddenly, leaving behind our most beautiful families and friends, completely shattered. And because that’s so, living life to its absolute fullest should never fall by the wayside.

So, I’ll put my thoughts down for you to devour and understand, in a way that I hope makes you live life a little fuller.

Whoever says you can’t develop friendships via social media isn’t doing it right.

Those were some very true words (maybe not verbatim) spoken by a wonderful blogger I originally “met” on Periscope.

I’m generally not the type of person who immediately enjoys something the first time I stumble upon it–it took me three-fourths of my college career to like my now husband, most of my adult life to acquire a taste for red wine and generally several plays of a new song on the radio to really appreciate it–but Sarah from Ruffles and Rain Boots is just one those people that I really enjoyed and related to from the first time I listened to her on Periscope.

One of the most powerful topics she brought up, shortly after Melissa Matter’s from Wading Through Motherhood passed, was that of developing relationships on social media.

Although I never had a chance to meet Melissa in person and although my interactions with her were strictly online, it was still such a shock and sadness that came over the community of bloggers and mothers I’m a part of as we found out the news.

That feeling is real. There is no question. And because I had the opportunity to connect with Melissa through her blog and through her platforms, I am so, endlessly, thankful.

She was a beautiful, kind, intelligent and caring person. And her blog brought happiness, helpfulness and a much-needed, relatable and kind outlet to so many.

Live life to the absolute fullest.

Because you truly never know how much time you may have. Since Melissa’s passing, I’ve been kicking myself for all of the little things I complain about and take advantage of. It’s selfish of me to waste the life I have left when so many deserving, beautiful individuals, mothers and/or wives, like Melissa, no longer have that opportunity.

Although there’s no way to change what’s happened, I truly believe we should learn from Melissa’s words: wade out into life and take advantage of every single opportunity because today, we still have that ability. And I refuse to let that go to waste.

Wading Through Motherhood.

Melissa’s writing was so beautiful and relatable. I would highly suggest you take a minute to go read some of her posts. I’d just recently gotten to know her and began reading her blog over the past year, and when she passed, I went to her blog and read back through all the archives I hadn’t seen before. I’m so glad I did.

I want to leave you with one of my favorites. It was her first. It’s simple, it’s comforting and it’s just so encapsulating, appropriate and bittersweet:

When I was about 16, we took a family trip to Hawaii. In Waikiki, the water was warm and shallow; I felt as if I could wade for miles through the clear water. It was then that I cut my ankle on some coral reef. Now, in my mid-30s, I still have a few faint scars on my ankle. The scars are a reminder of the fun I had that day but also remind me that even wonderful things have their drawbacks.

Motherhood is often like wading through unknown waters. You don’t always know what lies beneath the surface, however you keep going. One day, the water may be clear and warm. Other days, it may be frigid and rough. And, sometimes, you may get hurt or even scarred from a bad parenting experience.

Living in Southern California, I’m often wading through the shallows at the beach. My daughter is getting older and venturing out further into the ocean. My toddler son, still timid,  likes to splash in the wet, muddy sand. I love experiencing all these firsts with them. As I “wade” through motherhood with my children by my side, I realize there will be highs with the lows, just like the rise and fall of the tides.

May Melissa continue to wade and watch over her children as they venture out further into the ocean of life.

For those looking to extend a helping hand, a GoFundMe page is available here.

To the family of Melissa Matters, I am so deeply sorry. She is a beautiful soul. Please, continue to wade. 

Broken Arms and Fire Alarms

Broken-Arms-and-Fire-Alarms

Yesterday was an interesting day for my family. And yes, it did include both a broken arm and several fire alarms.

It all started at work with a text from my husband.

Text

To which, of course, I immediately called him.

Our son’s been attempting to get out of his highchair for a while, and for the past week, my husband and I discussed finding the straps to his highchair … but never actually did it.

And it happened. Our almost 1.5-year-old got out of his highchair and tumbled onto the wood floor.

When I called my husband, I almost thought he was kidding. Like a sick, ‘oh, you should’ve gotten the highchair straps out sooner’ kind of a joke, but he wasn’t. O

Our son wasn’t crying much after the initial fall, so amazingly, neither myself nor my husband were panicked or overly worried. He was in and out of the doctor’s office in just a couple hours and came home with an adorable little cast on his arm.

You’d think that would be enough excitement for one 24-hour period, but you’d be wrong.

All was well in our house, both of the kids went to bed by 9pm and slept soundly. And even I, for the first time in three days, went to bed before 2am, and for the first time in weeks, fell asleep before 11pm.

I have an ongoing joke with myself and most moms–who often agree, except it’s not a joke. I’m being very literal when I say:

Every single time I go to bed early, it happens to be the one night an event occurs that keeps me up most of the night. Tweet: Every single time I go to bed early, it happens to be the one night an event occurs that keeps me up most of the night via @homemadeexp

So continues my unwavering roll of never sleeping more than 5 hours at a time.

Around midnight, our power went off. No big deal. That wasn’t going to stop me from sleeping. The event that was going to stop me from sleep occurred at 2am when the power came back on and all the interconnected fire alarms throughout the house went off, waking the ENTIRE family.

We got the fire alarm shut off, but not the children. Not until 4am at least.

So, as my husband and I finally settled back into bed, he said, “What a night” to which I replied, “Broken arms and fire alarms” and promptly laid awake another half an hour excited about what a perfect post title that will be…

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5 Things to Stop Saying About the Crying Baby

5-Things-to-Stop-Saying

We’ve all gone out to eat or gotten on an airplane to see an adorable smiling baby, and before kids, our thoughts are generally somewhere along the lines of wondering if or when the crying will set in.

And that’s fine. As parents who were once child-free, we get it, but children are a part of this thing we call life. You were once a baby for crying out loud–pun intended–and if you don’t have the ability to civilly endure a couple minutes of noise from a tiny human being, life may get rough.

So, in an effort to help us all deal with it better, here are 5 things to stop saying about the crying baby:

Someone’s not happy. No, really? I think we can tell–there’s no reason to be that person who awkwardly brings up obvious things for forced laughter from everyone in earshot.

Why won’t he just stop crying? Oh, I’m sorry. Are you having to do anything but sit there and endure a little bit of noise while someone else struggles to find the actual reason their baby won’t stop crying and fix it in a huge, embarrassed huff because of people who are judging them like you? No, so just sit tight and it’ll pass in probably two minutes or less.

I hate going ______ and hearing crying babies. Well, then, cut your ears off or stay home because over 50% of Americans have kids (including your parents) and chances are they’ll always be in existence, probably wherever you go. Unless it’s the library or a rager at 3am, stop complaining.

I can’t believe she’s just letting her baby cry. Yes, because there’s a way to stop her baby from crying but she decided to just let her baby do it anyway, constantly, in public, so everyone would stare and judge. No, actually, probably just specifically to ruin a couple minutes of your precious time.

I feel so bad for them. No, no, don’t feel bad! All any of us parents want is for everyone to pay zero attention–whether that be judgement or pity–and continue on with whatever they’re doing like nothing’s happening. Like being flustered and worried about who’s annoyed isn’t enough, we don’t need your ‘oh, poor you’ looks unless you want to come over and offer a helping hand or kind words.

We’re raising the next generation’s society, and we know they can be annoying. Trust me, WE KNOW. But the annoyance of cliché, overused comments from grown adults is preventable. Help us out. Come up with more creative ways to dis our crying babies. Or at least wait until you get home to complain!

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