Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When You Feel Like a Nobody (The Curse of Social Media)

Yesterday I woke up and checked Twitter feed really quick before I went on with my day. Bad mistake.  Out of the corner of my eye, I looked at my number of followers.  Down by 5 people overnight?  How did that happen?  Did I say something wrong?  It really bummed me out for a few hours.
Before you laugh at the triviality of this first-world problem (and say something like, "That's why I'm not on Twitter!"), let me give you a little background.

Almost two years ago I decided to write a book, and it has consumed my every thought and waking moment since then.  Attending a writer's conference was eye-opening for me, as I realized that before attempting to self-publish or even approach an agent, I had to have a platform.  What was the ideal?  10,000 Twitter followers.  I'm sure my mouth dropped open in the seminar when they said that, as I was running about 250 followers at the time.

After I started corresponding with three different book agents, they all said the exact same thing.  The way publishing works today, nobody will want your book if you don't have a well-established platform.  "Work on your numbers," they all said.  That meant that I had to get my Twitter followers, Facebook followers, and blog followers up in the thousands.

Well, when you only have a few hundred you're dealing with, the loss of 5 can feel like a real blow.  After all, it probably took a month of hard work just to get those 5 followers.

All day long I kept feeling like a nobody.

That seems to be the curse of social media.  It is constantly there, reminding you that you're not as famous, not as effective, not as big as someone else out there.  You can log on to Facebook, read through updates and then log off, feeling like an incompetent mother.  You can scroll through your Twitter feed, read about other people "jet-setting across America to speak at my next conference," and be reminded that you're still sitting at home on your dreams.

For this reason alone, I know many people who have taken social media fasts, because they recognize that all of this self-focus is both unproductive and unhealthy.  But a social media fast is not really the best option for someone trying to write a book and build their platform, so we must learn how to deal with it.

This same feeling must be shared by many others, as just yesterday both Jeff Goins and Beth Moore posted on the same thing. Their words were encouraging and challenging.  Here is what both of their articles spoke to me personally:

- Stop making social media about you.  Use it as an opportunity to minister.  Use it as a way to learn about other people, to promote and encourage others.  When it becomes about you, it becomes a problem.

- Don't make comparisons.  This is the hardest part.  Even if I focus on encouraging others, on building them up, I'm still bombarded with what everyone else is doing that I'm not.  Yet for every choice that person is making, I'm making a different choice - a choice that is better for my life and my family.  Yes, I may not have 10,000 followers; I may not have a book coming out next month; I may not be speaking at that large conference - but I am spending valuable time with my kids and my husband, and that is worth more to me in the end.

- Beth Moore asks: "What is your passion? What is it that you are bursting to do [for God]? That's probably the stream of your calling." I love that quote, because it reminds me to go back to the basics- love God, love others.  Will my platform matter in the end?  It is not the most important thing.  I want to spend the majority of my energy on what I've been called to do -  minister to others.

- Focus on who you are reaching, not on who you aren't.  If I'm spending all of my time thinking about who I'm not reaching, then I'm not spending that time with the people I am reaching.  I only have 400 followers?  That is an opportunity to reach 400 people from inside of my home that I would otherwise have no contact with.  That is amazing!

I also think it's important to unplug from social media throughout the day.  Having it up and on constantly is not only distracting, but can affect our moods based on what we read.  It may be helpful to have specific times you log in, as well as specific times you work on building your platform - not sporadically all throughout the day.

So, how do you manage this pressure? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Blogger Interview: Christin Slade

I'm so excited about a new series that is starting today on The Wonder Years, where I will have the opportunity to interview other bloggers and hear their stories.  Come back on the 15th of each month where I'll highlight and ask questions of a new blogger, and it could even be you!  Be sure to click "follow" on the left side of the screen as I'll be choosing many of these interviews from followers who have blogs.

I first heard about Christin Slade through many of the different blogs that I follow.  It turned out that she was the virtual assistant for a few people I respect, and her name kept popping up all over the place!   Christin is not only a popular blogger herself, but she is also the author of the new e-book Blog at Home Mom, and one of the planners for the Allume Conference.  Christin works from home as a virtual assistant, and she is also a wife and mother of seven children!  Oh wait - and she homeschools, too. (So you can imagine that the first question I wanted to ask her was "How do you do it all?")

After I heard that she was in the process of adopting two children from Ghana, I knew that she was the first blogger I wanted to interview for my new series.

Adoption has a very special place in my heart. Although my husband and I are not in the process right now, we feel led to support other adopters in any way that we can.  As you read Christin's interview, I pray that you will consider supporting her and her husband in some way.  They still need to raise about $3000 to bring their girl's home, and every dollar makes a difference.

Let's get to know Christin!

Please tell us a bit about your family.

My husband and I have been married about 12 1/2 years and we have 5 children.  My family as it stands right now, is not all together just yet. We have five (biological) children living with us, and 2 in Africa waiting to come home.

My children at home include Gabriella (10), Benjamin (7), Jeremiah (nearly 6), Elizabeth (4), and David (2).  Our two girls in Africa are M (9) and C (8) and should be home this summer. 

We also homeschool, which certainly keeps things extra exciting. :)

Can you describe your two blogs for us, as well as how you got into blogging?

My blog, Joyful Mothering, was created to help me as a mother. The more I wrote, the more I realized how many moms out there related to me and some of the things I struggled with. I decided to start taking action on the things I struggled with and shared them on my blog and moms really liked that. They needed practical help as much as me! 

Over the course of 2 1/2 years, I've built a community of moms this way and continue to do so. I definitely don't have all the answers! But when I find myself struggling, I write about it. Then I pray for direction and often share what I learn. I also share resources I come across that help me with discipling my children, as that is my number one goal aside from being discipled myself. 

Finally, as a homeschool mom, I share resources to help other homeschooling moms. I know for myself, I prefer to purchase a curriculum based on a recommendation of someone I trust rather than blindly buying something. 

As I grew as a blogger, I found people emailing me lots of questions on how to blog and grow their blog. As I became a team member on Allume because Sarah Mae and I had formed an ongoing friendship, I realized I wanted to pay it forward by helping other women make their blogs successful.

So I began my writing and consulting blog,, last summer. I am actually still getting it off the ground, as I have about 100 subscribers, and I'm still working on a solid writing schedule. But my goal is to help mom bloggers learn to blog, spread their influence, and balance blogging with mothering. 

How do you balance 5 kids with all that you do?  

This is a loaded question! :) It definitely took some trial-and-error and being open to flexibility. But I think the first thing it comes down to is having support from my husband. If my husband didn't support my blogging, I couldn't do what I do.

He allows me to go out of the house to write whenever I need to. Which, right now, is about once a week. We don't have a lot of outside activities nor are we regular tv watchers. We have a DVD player for family movies but never watch network television. This frees up my evenings to pursue reading, writing, and conversing with the online community through social media. 

It also requires some planning and a schedule. In order for me to get everything done, I need to have it written down with a time to do it. If I'm intentional about how I spend my time, it's amazing what I can accomplish!

Lots of moms ask me this question, so that's why I wrote an eBook on the topic. It really digs into the "hows" on the side of blogging AND mothering. 

What advice would you give a mom who desires to work from home, but doesn't know where to start? 

Don't wait for opportunity to come knocking. You must go out and find it. If you're a writer, start submitting articles to magazines and large blogs or websites. Don't wait for someone to ask you. It may never happen.

If you are good at administrative work or website design/graphic design or a techy who's good with html code or CSS code, become a virtual assistant! Ask bloggers if they are in need or look for bloggers asking for help. Offer yourself to them as a virtual assistant. 

Please share with us a bit about your adoption story- how you and your husband decided to adopt, if you have connected with any children yet, and where you are in the process.  How can we support you?

My husband and I knew when we first married that we would eventually adopt. However, we thought it would be domestically.  We first got the call to adopt internationally in January 2012. For some reason, we really felt compelled to Africa. So, we researched for about 6 months before signing on with an agency, (which we later fired). To read a more in depth account, you can go here

As it stands now, we are the legal guardians (parents) of two beautiful girls (sisters) ages 8 and 9, from Ghana, who are waiting to come home. There are still some things we need to get through before they can come home. Our hope is that they are home by the summer.

As it currently stands, we are still in need of finances to travel back to Ghana to bring them home. We're looking at about $3,000. If you'd like to help, you can find out how here. Nothing is too small. 

Can you tell us more about your book? 

My first eBook was released in February, called Blog at Home Mom: Balancing Blogging and Motherhood. It was written to help moms struggling with in this area, but also to shed light for moms who want to blog but don't see how they can do both motherhood and blogging. 

When I became a mother, I put my writing on a shelf. It wasn't until just a couple of years ago that I learned it's okay to write AND mother. I just needed to learn my rhythm.

Thank you, Christin!!

As you can see, Christin is an amazing woman of God who is seeking to honor Him through everything she does.  I have been so encouraged by her openness and her willingness to help others.  I would again really encourage you to consider how you might be able to help Christin and her family bring their two girls home.

Christin also offers blog consultations, critiques, social media consultations, as well as virtual assistant services.  She has a lot of wisdom on these topics, and is a great resource if you are looking to expand your blogging or social media influence.

Thank you again, Christin - and stay tuned for another blogger interview on April 15th!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

10 Activities to do With Your Boys

Sometimes I go to my friend's houses who have little girls, and I am in awe. The pink, the princess castles, the dress-up clothes, the crafts.... things I will likely never have in my house.  As a boy mom, my days are instead spent cleaning up Legos, race car tracks, Legos, action figures, Legos, spit, Legos and Legos.

In talking with these friends about the differences between having little boys and little girls, a few things always come up:  the abounding energy that little boys have, and their need to be outside.

It can be hard for moms to play with boys, unless you grew up as a tomboy or really into sports.  I, on the other hand, grew up wearing dresses and pretending I was Laura Ingalls Wilder or Anne of Green Gables (who both were a little tom-boyish, but I definitely wasn't), so having two boys has definitely been a learning experience.

Regardless of a mom's experience or lack-of, little boys love when their moms get on their level and play.  Here are 10 ways you can play with, and connect with, your little boy:

1) Put on superhero capes for a few hours.  In everything you do, "fly" there.  Have fun pretending that you have superpowers.  Maybe you've seen this picture floating around online - so cute!  But moms can be superheroes too!

2) Get dirty.  Go out and play in the mud with him.  Boys love to dig holes and fill them with water. It's really not all that complicated, just messy.  Let him bring a few toys outside, like small cars, and build racetracks.

3) Make racetracks inside, too.  You don't have to use cars; you can use marbles too.  Pinterest gave me the idea to cut a pool noodle in half and use it as a race-track. We had fun seeing whose marble could race the fastest.
4) Cook with your kids.  Boys like to cook, too.  Read my tips on mess-free sugar cookie baking here.

5) Have a scavenger hunt.  It can be as simple as drawing or writing 10 items on a piece of paper, and sending them into your backyard with a bag.

6) Get active. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as it's active.  Boys have lots of energy to spare, and I feel like my boys need to get outside for at least a few hours a day.  They love when I'm out there with them playing basketball, throwing baseballs to them, or running through the sprinklers. Sure, it's easier to watch, but they seem so much happier when I'm playing with them.

7) Find nature. Living in the city, it can be difficult to find nature.  Make an effort to find nature around you - parks, gardens, etc... When my husband and I lived in a city with little greenery (in L.A.), we decided to visit every park in the city throughout the year to find the ones we liked best.  Richard Louv has written a book called Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, which so aptly shares the reasons our kids need to be in nature.

8) Build. Build forts, build Legos, build castles out of cardboard boxes, build tents out of sheets, build whatever you can.  Boys love building anything.

9) Go camping.  I know, many mom's worst nightmare. But so worth it to see their face light up at all of the camping experiences.  Even if it's for one night, your boy will always remember it.  We took our boys to Yosemite a few years ago and they still talk about it regularly, asking when we can go back.  It definitely made a lasting impression on them!

10) Read. Read with your boy - action books, Bible stories, silly books, joke books, etc...  Reading with your child is such a comforting experience for them, and helps you to be actively involved in their learning.  Reading also opens the door for so many great conversations.

What other activities do you love to do with your son?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Pinstrosity

If you are a fan of Pinterest, hopefully you've come across the site Pinstrosity, which showcases people who have attempted to make Pinterest projects but have failed miserably.

I've had pretty good luck so far with my own crafting adventures, but I have shared my loathing of baking before.  I was so excited when I found a way to make sugar cookies without a huge mess, so last night I thought I'd try my hand at this "baking" thing again.  Only this time, it didn't involve actual baking, but I think "baking" and "candy making" definitely fall in the same category for me - JUST STEP AWAY, JAIMIE.

All over Pinterest are these cute little pictures for making your own butter mints.  As a butter mint fan myself, I thought I'd try it out - only instead of using Pinterest (where you can at least read comments for tips and feedback), I thought I'd use a recipe from my new cookbook!  BAD IDEA.

A good friend of mine purchased this cookbook for me, and it is beautiful.  It has many different sections, of which I should confine myself to, but last night I decided to venture into the Confections section. Bad idea.

Butter Mints.

Don't they look so dainty and pretty?

I got out all of my ingredients and started mixing.  My first mistake was probably in using my knock-off Kitchenade that was made by Sunbeam.  It does a fine job, but doesn't come with different attachments for one thing, and pretty much only beats soup well. (I jest- it actually works quite fine for $40, just apparently not for butter mints).

Then the rolling began, and this is where it got bad.  I rolled up some white ones and realized they looked more like something that should have come out of the bathroom than the kitchen.

And then I turned them red.  They were meant to be an ever-so-pretty shade of light pink, but I got a little too happy while squeezing that food coloring, and, well, it looked like I was making candy canes.

Hmmm..."something is not going well here," I thought, but I had to finish this candy hack job.

I started out cutting them nice and neatly. Then I got tired, fast.  And just started chopping away like I was a contestant on Top Chef.

And there you have it, folks.

Butter Mints.

I guess you could say I need a Pintervention.

Next time, I'll listen to myself and just walk away.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

When Your Kids Mortify You

Today at church I helped to co-lead a parenting class, where we talked about the "Soul Transforming Journey of Parenting," using Gary Thomas' Sacred Parenting curriculum (which is good stuff, by the way).

Five minutes after class ended, I picked up my kids from their Sunday School classes, when my 7 year old informed me that my 5 year old had just drawn a large picture of a Lego figure with the words "I'm sexy and I know it" as the caption.

Yep.  That's my boy.  Pastor's kid, class clown, leader of the children.

It was quite fitting that Gary Thomas had just talked about those scenarios in our video session, sharing how a mother was mortified by her son's bad behavior over and over in his young life.  She wrote a letter to Gary, stating, "While people may judge us by our children's actions, God judges us by our reactions to them. I needed to stop being mortified and to start being modified....At times, I actually pity those parents who have easy children. How will they ever learn these valuable lessons?"

Gary went on to share that parenting is like "God's hammer on our souls."  He is refining our character. However, so many of us spend most of our time worrying about our child's character and disciplining their actions that we miss what God is trying to do in our own lives.  What if we took a step back, and instead of pouring all of our energy into changing them, we prayed that God would change us instead?

We were also reminded that our children are watching us, and whether good or bad, they see and hear everything we do.  A friend shared that she and her husband were having a conversation late at night in their living room, talking softly, when their son (who they thought was asleep) interjected his opinion from his own room.   It reminded me of all the conversations I overheard when I was a child and how curious I was. Our children can often hear us even when we don't think they can. Let us not forget in our parenting, that it begins with us - instead of always pointing out our children's mistakes, let us remember to watch our own words and behaviors even more.

Although they see and hear our mistakes, they also see our growth.  When our first reaction is to normally yell or overreact when they mess up, I wonder what would happen if they saw us stop and speak calmly next time.  They will notice something that big.  Again, when the focus is on growing ourselves and changing our own behavior, the effect will be seen by our children.

This week, instead of being mortified by our kids, let our reaction, our behavior, our modified. God will work in them, but let's also allow God to work in us.