My Honest Thoughts of American Blogger

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So today, American Blogger was released. 

I want to be completely candid about my thoughts on participating in this project and viewing the final result. When Chris Wiegand first emailed me about it, I had to mull it over for a little while but decided it would be a fun thing to be a part of. 

I have always loved Chris’ wife, Casey. I think it really doesn’t take all that long to determine if someone in the blog world is genuine or not. Casey is one of the good ones. A kind and gentle voice in my weekly reader. I didn’t know Chris but I watched some of his previous work and saw his talent. When he pulled up in my driveway, I was nervous and excited. 

I didn’t have a lot of details other than that it would be a film about bloggers across America and even after participating, I still didn’t have a clear picture on exactly how he would tell the story.

Chris was an exceptionally nice guy. Just as kind and genuine as Casey and it was fun to talk about my blogging experience and have him tag along for the day as we spent time together as a family. 

Months passed and I didn’t think about the film all that much. I was excited to watch the trailer but I’ll admit that my reaction to it was tepid. The voice over made me cringe and the promises of the film “changing the world” made me more than a little nervous. Certainly nothing I had shared with Chris on film was world changing. 

I only know about a third of the bloggers in the film with, but the lack of diversity is undeniable. We are all women, most of us are white and appear to be middle class. There are two non-white bloggers and a handful of blogger children in the film of different ethnicities.

The title “American Blogger” got a lot of flack from the broader internet audience. It was blatantly obvious that, despite its name, this film is not an all encompassing look at American Bloggers. It was definitely a more focused feature on a set of niche lifestyle, fashion, and family bloggers in the US. I think had the title been a little more specific and the voice over been a little less presumptious, they would have received far less negative feedback on the trailer.  Chris did add “American Blogger - The First Journey” to the final film after the trailer was released to clarify that this was only the first of many AB films he hoped to make. 

I do believe that Chris’ intentions were always good. He set out to make a film on a subject dear to his family and utilized the bloggers that Casey had established relationships with to do so. There was never any intent to exclude and I think it just comes down to the fact that Chris is young and a bit naive. I’m not making excuses for him but I hope he learned a hard and valuable lesson on this project. I haven’t spoken with Chris or Casey, but I imagine both of their world views have been broadened significantly with this experience. 

Chris sent out an early viewing to all of the bloggers involved last night. I was so nervous to watch it that I felt slightly nauseous. I couldn’t remember a damn word I had said to him in my interviews but was convinced I’d probably made a complete fool of myself. 

The beginning of the film focused far more on Chris’ experience than I had anticipated. The story of American Blogger is much more about the intersection of Chris’ familial experience with capturing life through words and video & the experiences of other bloggers than just a film on the bloggers themselves. I think it would have been benificial to promote the two intersecting stories component of the film as it helps to tie in the official move image and the trailer much better. 

I was also really curious to see how Chris was going to tie in so many different bloggers from the same blog genre. There was definitely a lot of visible similarities between us all (lots of vintage couches and red lipstick and spinning around with children in our arms) but there were also some really personal, beautiful stories intermingled in the interviews. I definitely teared up at one point in the middle of the film. 

There were a few parts that I thought were a poor reflection on bloggers- The “here is my room full of free shoes and handbags” segment  made me want to fast forward and the excessively long section of the film dedicated to bloggers opinions on “people who leave mean comments on blogs” seemed unnecessary. Addressing trolls and haters is certainly a necessary part of discussing the blog writing experience - but the commentary was all one sided. I have definitely had my fair share of unnecessary, nasty comments on my blog but I also think it’s important to be challenged by my readers. To take constructive criticism when it is valid. I have had some of my own narrow views and opinions expanded through dialogue in the comments of my blog and I’m wary of the way the film made it seem as if many of the bloggers wished only to participate in a community where people agreed with them.

The cinematography is beautiful. Chris has a real talent for telling a story through images. The footage of some of my favorite bloggers just made my heart want to burst with love for them. I’ve known some of these women for years solely through their photos and blog words and to see them on film laughing and sharing a little of themselves was really fun for me. I was unfamiliar with many of the women in the film and I’m looking forward to exploring several of their blogs and finding some new inspiration for my blog reader. 

I breathed a sigh of relief at the end that I had not said anything on film that I would regret. I believe wholeheartedly everything I shared about my experience in the film. I could have toned down the red lips and done without that dang brown hat, but otherwise, I stand behind my contribution to American Blogger. 

When the credits rolled, I felt relieved.The silly voice over man had not shown up for the entire length of the film. A majority of the women in the film I would like to know in real life. I think within the scope of the genre that was covered in this film, Chris did us justice. Most of the bloggers in the film do have a lot in common. We are but one small set of a much larger blogging community but we each have a unique story to tell. I hope that Chris will take the lessons he learned on this project and apply them to his next American Blogger project. So much was shared in this film, but it’s really only the beginning of a much bigger story within the American blogging community. 

Love,

M

P.S. It’s kind of KILLING me that I can’t get the comments to work on my blog right now but if you watch the film, I’d love to hear your perspective. Tweet me at @withoutmelissa or email me at dearbabyblog@gmail.com. 

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I thought today would be an appropriate time to share a little earth friendly recipe that we have been using at our house this spring. The wasps and carpenter bees are out in full effect since the weather has warmed up and we discovered a nasty little wasp nest right near our front porch. 

I wanted an earth and kid friendly solution to keeping the bugs at bay and found a slew of online recipes for a natural wasp spray. 

Mix 1/4 cup of dish soap (We use Seventh Generation!)

1/2 cup of water

20-25 drops of peppermint essential oil (available at any healthfood store or on amazon)

Shake it up in a spray bottle and you are ready to go. I sprayed a fine mist around the perimeter of our porch where the wasps had been swarming and we enjoyed a couple hours of bug free time on the porch.  

If you spray it in the general direction of a wasp, they will fly away and leave you alone, but I also discovered that if you are able to saturate them with the solution (a couple of sprays) that within about 20 seconds, they will curl up and die. 

I’ve also had carpenter bees trying to eat underneath a wooden bench on my porch. I spray the solution around the bottom base of my bench once a day and on the places they were chewing and they have left it alone since. 

I haven’t attempted to spray the solution directly on to the wasps nest, but I’ve been really pleased with the way this easy, non toxic spray has done to keep the wasps away from our favorite play areas this spring. 

While I’m on the subject of non-toxic, if you haven’t already, go sign the petition and read about Seventh Generation's Toxin Free campaign to ask congress and the EPA to enforce safer chemical standards in our household products. They've already met their 100,000+ signature goal but the more names they can take to congress the better! 

Love,

M

Seventh Generation’s Stand Against Toxins

I have been purchasing Seventh Generation products for years now. It started when we lived in San Francisco and I found a little book that listed the most eco friendly companies in the United States. Seeing Seventh Generation at the top of the list made me determined to spend my money on a brand who is thoughtful about their impact on the environment. 

Over the years, I’ve become very loyal to their products. It is their products that cleaned the floors my children learned to crawl on. It is their diapers and wipes that my children wore when we need disposables. It is their detergents and soaps that washed our clothes and our dishes. 

I trust them because I know their products are safe and I choose them because I want to support companies that care about more than just making money. 

When Seventh Generation reached out to me and asked if I’d like to partner with them, I expected that like most sponsors, they wanted me to help promote their products, but they actually wanted something even better.

They wanted my help in spreading the word about a bigger message- One that goes far beyond their company and their products. Seventh Generation recently launched a petition to tell Congress it’s time to strengthen the Toxic Substance Control Act. The TSCA was last updated by the EPA 38 years ago. The act essentially grandfathers in the approval of thousands and thousands of chemicals used to make products that we all use in our homes everyday. Very few of these approved chemicals have been tested and proven safe for human exposure and yet we are cleaning our counters and wiping our door handles and washing our dishes with products containing these chemicals. 

Seventh Generation wants Congress to strengthen the rules around what chemicals can be used in household products. As it stands now, more than 50% of the chemicals in many of the household cleaning products we all use every day have never been tested for potential human toxicity. 

Seventh Generations’ goal is to take 100,00 signatures to congress next month and they need our help. They are very close to their goal and I’d love to help them reach it! 

You can stand up for safer chemicals just by signing their petition

One of Everly’s responsibilities in our family is cleaning all of the windows within her reach every Saturday. It brings me a lot of peace of mind to know that the Seventh Generation products in our home are safe for her and anyone else under our roof. 

Let’s help Seventh Generation ensure the same can be said for the chemicals used in all household products in the US!

Love,

M

It Bloomed.

Last year, I shared a little about my Grandma Doris, in the weeks that she took ill and her passing.  I spoke at her funeral and shared a story with everyone who knew and loved her:

"As many of you know, Grandma Doris had a gift for growing the most gorgeous African Violets. She had them in varying colors - some with dark green, fuzz covered leaves. Others with white and green trimmed leaves. Some with deep purple blooms, others the softest shade of lavender. Some she had even grown until they were as large as a dinner plate. 
Nearly 10 years ago, when I was 23, Grandma Doris sent me home from a visit with one of her prized violets. I tried to convince her that I was not responsible enough to care for it but she promised me that I would do just fine. Violets are such delicate plants and I had killed every green thing I’d ever cared for including a cactus. But not one to tell my grandmother no, I took it from with her instructions to keep it watered and give it plenty of sun and treat it to a little plant food every now and then.

When Brent and I moved to San Francisco, that small violet caused me a great deal of worry. How was I supposed to transport it across the country when everything we owned would be on a hot moving truck for 7 days? I decided to wrap it carefully in layer upon layer of bubble wrap, mark it all over with FRAGILE and overnight it to our new address the day before our plane left. 

When it arrived, I opened the box to find the planter had broken and almost all of the the stems had been crushed. I was distraught. It was at this same time that Grandma was going through a difficult time health wise.  I re-potted that little violet and did my best, with Grandma’s words ringing in my ears, to nurse it back to health. 

It bloomed a year later and I shared the news with grandma over the phone. In that same conversation, she told me that she was well and happy.  It sounds silly, I know - but I became convinced that there was a greater connection between my grandmother and that violet. It felt as if I was responsible for the care of a tiny piece of her. 

That violet now lives next to the sink in my kitchen. It has not bloomed in several years but the day I learned she had passed, I found myself standing in the local garden center with tears in my eyes, asking one of the workers there to help me find the right pot and food for it. I smile,  knowing that grandma is in full bloom in heaven, and here on earth, I guess I cant help but wish to see that small piece she left to me burst open again with the bright purple flowers she loved so much. 

It’s always the little things that we find peace in. And I have great peace in knowing that my grandmother, a woman of integrity, gentleness and a great love for her Heavenly father, is there with Him now. She is rejoicing in a healed body and sound mind and I know she wishes for us to do the same in her honor.

This morning, I made her famous homemade biscuit recipe for my family. I took great pleasure in making my children “funny biscuits” - little odd shaped biscuits out of the leftover dough cutouts that she always made for me and my cousins growing up. We ate them on the beautiful china adored with pink roses that she passed down to me when I got married.  It was the first time I have ever used them, as I have felt they were too precious and fancy to bring out. 

But this morning, I could think of no occasion more fitting for their use than the day we were to celebrate her life. 
As I washed my plate at the sink after breakfast, I looked over at that violet, sitting tall and green in its new pot. All those years ago, she had faith in me to love and care for that little flower, even when I was so sure I couldn’t do it. And now it lives on, a reminder of her love, her patience, and the beauty that is her eternal life in heaven.

Rest well grandma, I love you.”
Next week marks the one year anniversary of her passing. 
I have diligently fed and watered her violet for ten years now. It last bloomed five years ago. A few months back, I brought grandma’s violet to my office so that I could have some little living thing there to enjoy during my work days. The violet thrived under the flourescent lamp on my desk. 
I walked into my office last Wednesday to discover that the wish I shared at her funeral had come true. A single purple bloom had burst open between the velvety leaves. In the days since, ten more buds have started to grow and three more flowers have opened. 
When I was little, Grandma Doris would send me a card for every holiday: Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, even St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t care if it sounds crazy to anyone else, but in my heart, I know it’s her way of sending her love to me as we come upon the anniversary of an entire year without her in the world. 
It bloomed.
And in the quiet, slow opening of its petals, I experienced one more gesture of her love. 
M
A picture of a boy out of my kitchen window in our first apartment in San Francisco. I found this while digging around on my old blog the other night and showed it to Brent. For all the growing up that we thought we had done when we got married, it was nothing compared to the past few years of our lives. This was from a time when only we existed.  When there was an abundance of sleep and a lack of commitments. When all there was to do was love one another. Now there are days and weeks when it takes very purposeful effort to make each other feel loved. Sometimes after the children’s needs at met, there is little left over for each other. But we try, oh how we work, to feed that fire that used to blaze untamed. The days of a wild Romeo at my window are gone. There are lines in his brow and gray in his hair. But I covet him in a way now that I never could then. Because we have loved through the mundane, the sleepless, the stress filled, the predictable and the very unfairytale moments of our lives together. And to me, that is worth more than a wistful story book sort of love.

A picture of a boy out of my kitchen window in our first apartment in San Francisco. I found this while digging around on my old blog the other night and showed it to Brent. For all the growing up that we thought we had done when we got married, it was nothing compared to the past few years of our lives. This was from a time when only we existed. When there was an abundance of sleep and a lack of commitments. When all there was to do was love one another. Now there are days and weeks when it takes very purposeful effort to make each other feel loved. Sometimes after the children’s needs at met, there is little left over for each other. But we try, oh how we work, to feed that fire that used to blaze untamed. The days of a wild Romeo at my window are gone. There are lines in his brow and gray in his hair. But I covet him in a way now that I never could then. Because we have loved through the mundane, the sleepless, the stress filled, the predictable and the very unfairytale moments of our lives together. And to me, that is worth more than a wistful story book sort of love.

RIP my old blog theme

I just discovered that some terrible fate has befallen my blog theme. I think it died of old age as I’ve changed nothing but my header for the past five years. I logged into tumblr today and was told some funny business had been going on under my account and was asked to change my password.

I have been saying for several years now that I need to have a new look and feel and it appears that my blog or some bad guy blog saboteur  has decided it was tired of my lazy, empty promises and forced my hand to make a change.

I asked around on twitter for help, but if you know a guy who knows a girl who knows how to create pretty, fresh tumblr themes - send ‘em my way! (dearbabyblog@gmail.com)

Love,

M

Five Awesome Things…

Five Awesome Things About Arlo at 2 years, 11 months. 

1. You are the most affectionate kid. Over and over all day long you love to say, “Mommy, I love you” or “You the best mommy!” and you tell daddy and Everly the same thing too. You will stop playing, run over and hug us, and then hurry back to whatever you were doing. 

2. You have become completely obsessed with super heroes. After a solid year of a cars and trucks love affair, you’ve traded them all for action figures.  You love Iron Man the most, followed by Spider Man, The Incredible Hulk and Bat Man. You just discovered Captain America so there has been a lot of talk about him lately too. You can’t get enough and love watching the young superheros shows on Netflix or running around our house in a cape, fighting crime and saving us all from bad guys. Daddy reads you superhero comics from the library and you sit there, enthralled with all of the details of each character. 

3. I find this hilarious, but you can not stand for your hands to be dirty. Your face can be covered in food but you will ask for a napkin almost immediately when we start eating and insist on wiping your hands whenever you get anything on them. I find you in the bathroom all of the time, standing on the toilet lid, playing in the water. You will often look up when caught and say, “I washin’ my hands!”. You literally could be covered head to toe in mud, but as long as your hands are clean, you are good to go. 

4. You are really into singing Old MacDonald right now. Except you like to freestyle and come up with new lyrics. According to you, Old MacDonald had some friend, had to poop, and ate a chicken on his farm recently. You love to laugh hysterically at your silly lyrics. 

5. A few months ago, you went through a stage where you were stuttering a lot. You would get really frustrated when you were hung up on the first word in a sentence. I called your pediatrician and she suspected that you were just working through a big verbal milestone. Sure enough, a few weeks later your stuttering lessened significantly and you started using bigger words and sharing more complex ideas with us. I have really loved watching you develop your language skills, Arlo. It hasn’t always come easy to you but you work so hard and always wow us with your determination.

 5 Awesome Things about Everly at 4 years, 3 months

1. You are the best dancer ever. I am not saying that because I am your mother, even though I fully admit to being biased. You just move in this incredibly weird, amazing, soulful way. I could sit and watch you move to music for hours and I often do. We have you in ballet right now, but I don’t care if you ever decide you want to go the classically trained route. I just hope you never ever stop listening to whatever it is inside you that takes over when you are dancing. It is so pure and true and wonderful. 

2. You are growing into such a wonderful companion. We spend a lot of time together each week just running errands and bopping around town. You are so easy to be with and I love having you along because you listen well and behave yourself. You are four years old and to this day, I can say that you have never had a public tantrum. Never once. You’ve definitely had some monster meltdowns in the car or at home, but bless your heart, you’ve spared me in public. I never hesitate to bring you along because I always enjoy having you there with me. 

3. You are really absorbing so much around you. We have intentionally waited to start any kind of formal education with you and have focused on exposing you to creative, free play as long as possible. Despite that, you’ve learned to write your name, your brothers name, and many letters and words on your own. You love to use words like “similar” and “hilarious” when you describe things. Last week you asked me a question and I answered with “potentially”. You asked what that meant and I explained. That night I asked you to please join us for dinner and you responded, “I will potentially be there after I’m done playing with my babies.” I had a good laugh, even if I didn’t like your answer. 

4. You are obsessed with your birthday. It’s a joke between your father and I now, because you bring it up several times a day. Usually you like to tell us what your next birthday party is going to be like, but sometimes you tell us who you want us to invite or what kind of cake you plan to have. You always know whose birthday is coming next in our family and you remind them for weeks leading up to it. 

5. You are still my fierce and fiery girl, but as you have transitioned into four, that crazy emotion of three feels like it is lessening with each passing day. Good gracious three was crazy! But I can really see you maturing emotionally and you’re ability to recognize your feelings and express yourself continues to grow. It’s hard sometimes, when it feels like you are running head first into the boundaries we set - but you make choices and do little things all of the time that remind us that you are growing up to be a phenomenal girl. 

A Birthday

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We threw together a little last minute dinner party to celebrate my birthday last Saturday. (It was kind of a miracle that babysitters and an uncommitted Saturday night happened on 2 days notice.) I had hoped to have dinner in our front yard with lights in the trees, but the forecast called for a night of rain and storms, so we pushed back furniture, pinned the lights to the walls and squeezed 20 people into our small living and dining room.

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Natasha spent an afternoon procuring the ingredients to make my favorite cocktail, a Pimms Cup- she even made a ginger based simple syrup from scratch. She loaded it with mint and cucumbers and lemons - and Oh man, were they good. 

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Among our closest friends, we are fortunate enough to have a slew of amazing cooks. Our potluck spread included a ridiculous charcuterie board, mussels in white wine sauce, a thai soba noodle dish, kale salad with raisins and pine nuts, grilled citrus rubbed chicken, roasted broccoli, stuffed peppers and a homemade strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was just incredible!

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Our party was interrupted momentarily after dinner when all of our phones went off with a tornado warning. Suddenly everyone was on the phone to grandparents and baby sitters making sure all of our little ones were safe. 

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After dinner we moved the long table in the living room and we had a mini house concert with friends playing djembe, violin, banjo and guitar. There was a distinct moment when I was sitting crossed legged in a chair, listening to everyone sing Van Morrison and I just looked around the room felt so happy and satisfied. 

In my 33 years, I have managed to find an incredible, hilarious, and supportive group of people to go through this life with me. The “stuff” of life isn’t where I measure my success, it’s in the people who show up when there is good to be celebrate or hardships to be faced. And in that department, my riches are many. 

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I welcome 33. Every day I ask God for another day, another year, and a lifetime to see my children grow up…. to have the chance to love my husband as a very old man. 

I want to enjoy growing older. To laugh a lot along the way. To build my wealth in people. And to live purposefully and with intention.  My twenties were tumultuous- a roller coaster of discovering myself, often fun and mostly unstable. But here, in my thirties, I have found a treasure I spent most of the last decade wishing for. I don’t know what trials and lessons lie ahead, but today, I am savoring the warmth and comfort of feeling content. 

Love,

M

Get Happy with Boden!

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Today is International Happiness Day! To celebrate, Boden is offering 20% off of everything online with the promo code: HPY1 (for UK customers) & HPY2 (for US folks)

Brent snapped a few pics of me and my happy little babes a few weeks ago in some of our favorite Boden pieces. Their spring line is packed full of bright hues and fun patterns.

Check it out at Boden.com and happy shopping!

Love,

M

(Some of the clothing featured in this post was provided care of Boden)

Tags: Boden

It’s time for another episode of Everly’s cooking show! We shot this a month ago, but I’ve been swamped at work and haven’t had a chance to edit it. Since a lot of the North East was hit with snow again this week, this may be your last chance to make a delicious wintery treat. (let’s hope so - good gracious longest winter ever!)

I let Everly watch the finished video this morning and she said, “Whoa! I am really good on this show.” ha! Always humble, that one.

Enjoy!

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