Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Beginner Blogging Tips

I'm not a professional blogger.  I don't sell advertising space on my site [yet] or make money directly from my blog.  I decided early on, after some experimenting, that Frantic Mama would focus on the less glamorous side of Motherhood-- the beauty and the beast-- and not on earning potential.

I first started writing as a way to vent about the less-than-rosy side of Motherhood, and I never thought I would "make friends online," but I certainly have.  Which brings me to this paying-it-forward blog post.  You created a Blogger or Wordpress blog and may be wondering:  Where do I go from here?  How do I meet other bloggers?  How do I get readers?

Here are my top 10 Beginning Blogger Tips:

1.  Ask yourself what you are an "expert" in.  Decorating?  Makeup?  Organization?  Slow Cooker Recipes?  Of course, I'm far from a parenting expert, but it is currently my life's main focus:  doing the best I can as a mother of two young children, and as a wife of one great guy, while also taking care of myself and finding my own joy.  I think it is best to find a niche for your blog to keep it focused.*  This way, people quickly know what your blog is about, and readers can count on you to write about your specific topic.
*[There are exceptions.  One of my other hobbies is refinishing furniture, as this post shows.  I also experiment with other types of posts.  That said, about 90% of my blog is about motherhood].

2.  Reach out.  Join social media outlets so that you can make connections and people can actually find you in the abyss of Cyperspace.  Join Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +.  Create a Facebook page for your blog.

3.  Don't expect people to magically come to you.  Just like friendships in real life, you have to give a little to get a little.  Visit other like-minded blogs, add comments, like them on Facebook, follow them on Pinterest.  Don't think of other bloggers as competition, especially if you aren't trying to monetize your blog.  No one will read and comment on your posts if you aren't sharing the love.

4.  That leads me to my next tip: return the love.  If someone does take time to write a comment on your post, add you on Twitter, follow you on Pinterest-- and they aren't completely insane-looking-- follow them back.  This could be a future blogging friend for you!

5.  Carve out time.  Blogging is a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy.  Writing in general is my passion (reading is a close second).  Therefore, I use my rare free time to write.  If my husband is with the kids for a bit on the weekend, or I have an hour to myself after the kids go to bed, I guarantee that I'm using that time to write (or cut my toenails)-- not to scrub the kitchen floor, bake homemade cookies, clean up all the toys, talk on the phone, or whatever else people do when left to their own devices.

6.  Add your blog to Bloglovin.  This is my favorite way to keep track of blogs I read and to forge and maintain connections.

7.  Include images.  I was so clueless when I first started blogging that I didn't even know how to add an image to my post!  There have been cases where well-meaning bloggers get into trouble using copyrighted images, so I urge you to add your own photos or find free images online.

8.  We are getting a bit more advanced here, but try a Blog Hop.  These are link-ups where you add your blog to a list of other blog links, and then visit and comment on other the blogs.  Again, you need to do your part by sharing the love, but you might just gain some new followers this way.

9.  Respond to comments.  I use Disqus comments on my blog (more advanced, so find a tech blog with further instructions).  It should go without saying, but if someone writes a comment on your blog, respond to it!

10.  Last, after you have been blogging for a few months, join a blog directory in your niche.  You can find Frantic Mama on the TopMommyBlogs site because it connects to my target audience.  If you are a style blog or a design blog, search for communities in those categories.  BlogHer is another valuable site, as it encompasses countless blog topics and encourages conversation.

I hope this is helpful to any new bloggers reading; I did not know any of these tips when I first started blogging.  Making blogging friends, or creating a tribe, is the number one way to feel supported and encouraged in the vast, sometimes murky waters of the Internet world.

Seasoned Bloggers:  What am I leaving out?  Anyone else have advice for new bloggers?  

New Bloggers:  What has challenged or stumped you about blogging so far?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.  (See what I mean? I'm on lots of social media programs to connect with my readers!)
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, is AVAILABLE!  You can like the Facebook page here for funny previews!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Go to the Movies! [Really, let's GO!]

When was the last time you were alone?  As in, alone alone.  Not just by yourself in the house when one kid was napping and the other was at school.  Or the times your husband has watched the kids so you could run to Target solo (wah hoo!).  I'm talking about the last time you had zero kid responsibilities for more than one or two hours.

Can't remember the last time?  You're not alone.  So many mothers-- including me-- rarely have the chance to be alone for a significant portion of time.  Yes, a few moms may go on an annual girls weekend or an anniversary getaway, and that is wonderful, but I venture to guess that for many of us, such trips are rare for various reasons-- lack of funds, too much guilt or anxiety, the absence of trustworthy childcare, overwhelming work.  The list goes on.

While I wasn't able to take an entire weekend off from reality, I recently made the radical decision to GO TO A MOVIE.  No Redbox.  No Netflix.  I wanted to go to an actual theater during the day (full disclosure: going at night when the kids are asleep would defeat the purpose).

I have only been to a movie once since my son was born [4.5 years ago!].  Other than that, it has been a good 5 years.  This isn't to say I don't get out.  I do.  Date nights are a priority, with permanent marker on the calendar, and we have a great time together.  But because we don't have tons of dates, we don't use precious babysitter time to silently sit in a movie theater.  We would rather go out to eat, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other's company.  Most of my alone time without my husband involves writing, which I love, but it still makes my brain work.  A movie sounded like a true mini-escape.

My decision was made.  I checked online for the movie I wanted to see, and I put it on the calendar. Meaning This Is Happening.  I told my husband to put it on his calendar too, and he was happy to. I'm fortunate that he is so supportive.  I realize not everyone may have that.

Now get this: I asked seven mom friends to join me.  All of whom I know could use a break.  Guess how many said yes?  ZERO.  Every single one had something else on their calendar that day.  (Before you go thinking I must be the local pariah, I swear I'm not.  At least, I don't think I am...).  In fact, I think their unavailability speaks to the issue at heart here-- how full all of our days are as mothers of young children.

Rather than slink into my shell, cancel my plans, and boo hoo that no one wanted to join me, I figured, well, it's on the calendar.  I'm going!

I was excited all week for my little escape.  This enthusiasm helped me get through the week in a more positive way too; I expended more energy with my kids (and enjoyed it more) knowing that I would have a significant break.

Now to the Movies...

I was surprised at how many people were in the lobby, just milling around like it was nothing special, when to me, it felt momentous!  Who are these people?  Who does this regularly?  I kept thinking.

Boy have things changed.  First, let me warn you: there is no matinee price anymore.  It cost $8.50 for a single ticket at 1:50 in the afternoon!  Still, I reasoned, it's less than I would spend wandering shops or even taking the kids to McDonald's.  So, um, a real steal in that way, right?

Guess what else-- the huge packages of candy aren't behind a glass case anymore.  You pick it and bring it up to the counter!

It gets even better: They have TEA now!

I decided why not? and grabbed an overpriced bag of Reeses Pieces and ordered a Tazo tea.

I found the right room, slunk into a hermit-ish high-up aisle seat, and I was in heaven.

The movie was beyond fantastic (Gone Girl, in case anyone is wondering) and I enjoyed every. single. second. of the movie itself and of the experience just sitting somewhere, resting.  With no chores to do during commercial breaks, and no kids walking in the door any second demanding to be fed.

When the show was over, I felt excited to go home and rejoin family life.  I felt refreshed instead of drained.

I give it-- all of it-- Two Thumbs Up.

When was the last time you took more than an hour for yourself to do something totally un-kid and un-work related?  Ever?  Or do you manage it regularly?  

Final Note:  If you never do anything for yourself, and you are able to swing it, I hope this post encourages you to do so.  You deserve it.

*Want to read more about Frantic Mama's views on Mommy Guilt and Alone Time?
Here are 3 related posts:  The Pull of Motherhood10 Ridiculous Ways Moms Spend Alone Time, and Interesting Phenomenon: I Miss My Kids.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with Frantic Mama on Facebook and Twitter!

Clash of the Couples, a hilarious anthology I contributed to, is now available!  Find it at a bookstore [i.e. Amazon] near you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mandatory 10 Step New Parent Training Course

*This post is also on What the Flicka.  Check it out, here!
*It is also on the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop website!

This Just In:  A Mandatory 10 Step Training Course has been implemented for all soon-to-be parents.  If you skillfully and successfully endure the various challenges involved, while being tethered to a lifelike, hungry doll that cries often, you will be prepared for bringing home a newborn.  If you fail, good luck to you.


1.  Sleep Deprivation:  All participants will experience a level of sleep deprivation the likes of which they have never known before.  You will occasionally be allowed 40 minutes of sleep at one time, but you will be quickly roused by the wails of your lifelike doll.

2.  Women:  Overnight, your breasts will enlarge to twice their size and become sore and hard as rocks.  They will leak throughout the day and night.  There is nothing you can do to prevent this.

3.  Men: You are not allowed to enjoy said enlargement.  Not only has the sleep deprivation taken its toll on you and your spouse, but one of you is always tethered to the crying, hungry doll.  You will have to wait [at least] 6 weeks to express prolonged physical affection.

4.  Entertainment:  On a beautiful Saturday evening, you will be forced to walk by several of your favorite bars and restaurants.  You will be hungry, tired, and in need of a strong drink, but in order to successfully complete this task, you must keep walking, with the doll strapped to your chest.  You will go directly to Babies R' Us and deposit your entire month's paycheck there.

5.  Diet:  You are allowed to eat only the following items:  granola bars, frozen pizza, crackers, and brown casseroles brought to you by elderly neighbors.  All food will need to be consumed standing up, hunched over the kitchen counter, as fast as you can, while enduring shrieking cries from your practice doll who is waiting to be fed again.  Bonus points will be awarded for participants who hold the doll in one hand and eat with the other.

6.  Bathing:  Neither adult participant is permitted more than one shower for the duration of the training course.  During this shower, the doll will remain in the bathroom with you and begin crying as soon as the water starts.  To complete this task, you need to bathe as fast as you can to get out and comfort the doll; this means no shaving, no deep conditioning, and for heaven's sake no shower gel.

7.  Attire:  Keep the clothes you are currently wearing as clean as possible because you will not be provided with fresh, new clothing at any time.  You will need at least 10 outfits for your practice doll, however, as it will expel simulated poop and spit up on its clothing like clockwork at every single feeding.

8.  Toileting:  Every time a female participant sneezes, she will pee a little.  Depending on the neediness of your practice doll and your tolerance for screeching wails, going to the bathroom may or may not be your only alone time in any given day.

9.  Grooming:  All participants will quickly notice more gray hair sprouting from their heads.  You are permitted to use tweezers on these new strands, but you will likely be too depleted (see #1 and #5) to use them.  No haircuts, no make-up, and certainly no toenail trimming will be tolerated during the training course.

10.  Escape Route:  There will be times when you want to run away with your hands in the air, laughing like a lunatic, or hide in a dark closet tucked into a fetal position, but remember this:  there is no turning back.  Despite the practice doll's powerful life-sucking abilities, you will come to love it more than you thought possible, and you might even get used to having spit-up on all of your clothing.

We wish you the best of luck.

Parents Everywhere

Julia @ Frantic Mama

Psssst!  Clash of the Couples, a HILARIOUS book I contributed to, is available now on Amazon, and more!

Find Frantic Mama on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Fall Edition

There is so much to love about fall.  The crisp air.  All things pumpkin.  School starting (praise the Lord!).  New boots.

I'm bringing back my 5 Faves today.  Welcome to my 5 Friday Faves: Fall Edition.

1.  Glittery Wire Pumpkins

Have you seen these decorative, lighted wire pumpkins?  They are so beautiful (the computer image from Pier One doesn't do it justice).  They are available at Target, Pier One, and Grandin Road.  The lights in them glow at night, and they shimmer during the day, adding a touch of seasonal whimsy to your front stoop.

2.  Pinterest Inspiration

I've been cruising the Pinterest boards recently, and the inspiration for fall decorating has me motivated.  For the first time, I've made an effort to add some fall decor in and outside out home.  I started with a pretty wreath, and then I added the aforementioned pumpkin.  Sure, it isn't "things" that make us happy, but I definitely feel happy when I see such fall finery gracing my front stoop.   Pinterest is full of clever, pretty fall inspiration.  (You can find me on there:

3.  Austenland

I haven't read the book, but the movie is perfect for anyone who loves a good dose of nerd humor with their romance.  The movie features a quirky Keri Russel, the girl from Felicity, as she vacations at a Jane Austen-themed resort.  FranticMamaHubby was a good sport and watched the whole movie with me, but it is definitely geared toward the ladies, especially my fellow English Lit majors.

4.  Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Now this is a tasty, easy fall dish.  The gnocchi makes a delicious side dish, or it can be a nice vegetarian main dish if you add some veggies into the pan.

5.  Pumpkin Ale.  Hmmm...  I'm noticing a trend here:  almost all of my Faves lists include some variety of alcohol.  Well, no need to break with tradition now.  I may not go for the insanely popular Pumpkin Latte (too sweet! weird to drink pumpkin pie!), but a not-too-sweet pumpkin ale tastes like fall without being cloying.  Sam Adams and Blue Moon offer seasonal pumpkin options; I like both.

What am I missing?  What do you love about fall or hope to add to your home/closet/pantry this season?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
You can Like Frantic Mama on Facebook!
Find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd, on Amazon, Apple, and more.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Monday, October 6, 2014

10 [Ridiculous] Ways Moms Spend Alone Time

*This piece was recently featured on Scary Mommy, re-titled as 10 Pathetic Ways Moms Spend Alone Time.  You can check it out here.

Your spouse took the kids out of the house for an hour, and you find yourself inside, alone.  With no children needing you.  What's a mom to do?

Mothers learn quickly how precious alone time is.  Then, inexplicably, when blessed with such a gift, it can be difficult to decide on the perfect way to spend it.  Chores?  Rest?  Exercise?  Bathe?

Here is what I envision Moms Think and Do When They Have the House to Themselves for an Hour:

1.  Sheepishly call out "Bye!" to your kids and husband as they get in the car.  Feel a little guilty, then shut the door.  Start feeling better.  Take a deep breath.  What to do? you wonder, looking around the house, noticing toys scattered on the floor, breakfast dishes out, laundry to be washed.

2.  Shower?  No, you can't waste alone time on that!  Nap?  You can't sleep through this time either!
Laundry, you decide:  I'll throw in a wash, and then I'll sit down and check my e-mail.

3.  But first, you decide to pee alone.  With the door open.

4.  You start the laundry and notice the threadbare gym clothes you are currently wearing.  You consider putting in an exercise DVD or going for a run but decide you can't possibly waste this precious hour on exercise.

5.  Your stomach grumbles, so you go to kitchen and stare at the open fridge.  I need a quick piece of leftover birthday cake to enjoy with my cold coffee, you decide.

6.  Decide that now you'll take a quick look at your computer to check e-mail and pay bills.  Sit down and open laptop.

...25 minutes later... Argh! I just wasted 25 minutes scrolling through Facebook and looking at recipes I'll never make on Pinterest.

7.  You find yourself aimlessly wandering the house only to end up in the bathroom, plucking stray gray hairs from your roots.

8.  You call your mom to tell her you have the house to yourself but quickly realize time is ticking away while you talk on the phone.  Your heart thumps.

9.  Hurry, you think, I must do something productive.  You frantically eye the crumbs covering your sticky kitchen counter top, and you spray it down.  You begin feeling productive again.

10.  Looking at clock, you ask yourself, I deserve some rest, don't I?  so you grab an unread magazine that arrived in the mail three months ago, and sit down on couch.  Exhale.  Open magazine.

...2 minutes later... Door opens.  "Mom, we're home!"  

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd, on Amazon, Apple, and more.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I'm on Scary Mommy!

Hello Everyone!

I'm excited to announce that a humor piece I wrote is on the uber-popular website, Scary Mommy, starting today, October 4.  I would love it if you checked it out (click here).  I know most of us are busy changing diapers, cleaning crusty yogurt off the floor, and slurping down cold coffee, but if you do have time, please comment, share it, like it, pin know the drill.  Being featured on Scary Mommy is a great way for writers to help establish themselves in the vast Mommy-Writer World and I can always use reader support.

So what's my piece about?  Picture this, moms everywhere:  You have an hour to yourself, in your own home.  No kids.  No husband.  No one but you to take care of for 60 glorious minutes!  What will you do?  According to my list, not as much as you may think :).  I hope you enjoy it and can relate to it.

Thank you to all of my loyal (and newer!) readers for your support.  Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but how does the old saying go?  If you don't do it, who will?  Or something like that.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more Frantic Mama:  Facebook, Mamalode, and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out soon:  November 3rd.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Importance of a Neighborhood Environment

Welcome to my "Finish the Sentence Friday Post."  I'm linking up with some of my favorite bloggers this week (Hosts: Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee and Allison Carter of Go Dansker Mom).  The Topic:  Neighbors.


We moved into our current neighborhood exactly three years ago.  It was life-changing.  That is not an overstatement.

Before moving to our current home, we lived in our cool city condo.  It was a great place to live before we had a child.  My husband and I walked to restaurants and bars [a lot].  It was a short drive to my work, which was lovely.  My circle of friends-- all without kids-- lived nearby.  It was the perfect 20-something place.

Then we had our son.  Instantly, I discovered just how isolating a busy city apartment could be.  There were people all over the place, but suddenly, once home with my baby all day, I had never felt more alone.  What on earth was I supposed to do all day?  All my friends were at work.  My husband was at work.  As much as I loved our location, I knew no one nearby with little babies.  It no longer felt like the right neighborhood for our family.

Fast forward to today:  I now stay home with two little kids, and I am so grateful for our new neighborhood, primarily because of the mothers I have met here.  My mother or sister do not live nearby, so I have had to create my own little network of support here.  There is an immense relief in knowing that the friend down the street could come by for lunch when my husband is traveling and I'm feeling vulnerable, or another friend could meet up for an impromptu playdate when one of us justneedtogetoutofthehouse!

I will always have warm memories of our fun little place in the city.  In some ways, I am a total city girl; I occasionally miss being able to walk to the nearest cafe or the new clothing shop.  Some days, cruising around the 'burbs with my SUV just seems so dime-a-dozen.  However, I try to remember that most of the fun memories of our condo were formed during our pre-baby days, when we were newlyweds with only each other to care for.  In this chapter of my life, I'm enjoying building long lasting relationships with the other young families who live near us.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Pssst!  I'll be on Scary Mommy starting today!  Check me out over there if you have a chance.

Find more Frantic Mama:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram, and on Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd.  You can like the Facebook page here for sneak peeks!