House For Six

blogging

Dusting Off The Blog and Some Big News!

Deme Crinion8 Comments

Hey, look!  This thing still works!  

I came in with my virtual Swiffer ready to dust this place off after a "short hiatus" and realized it's been 5 MONTHS since my last post.  How did that happen?!?! I think that should win some sort of Slacker Blogger award, or at least an honorable mention.

Even though it's been quiet around here for a loooong time, a lot has happened in our neck of the woods! Not so much in the way of house projects (we're just starting to gear back up with those!) but more...well, life. 

pool walks

I had such great plans for the blog and around the house this summer, but quickly realized that I would be sacrificing precious time with these growing kiddos if I attempted to squeeze it all in.  Funny how this happens e-v-e-r-y summer.  I'm finally noting the memo and going into future summers knowing that it will probably be a time to push pause on blogging and projects.

summer forts

With my little hiatus, I had plenty of time to think about the direction of the blog. Because, of course. It's what I do.  I analyze, and over-analyze, and analyze some more.  But the truth is I've felt stuck in a blogging rut for awhile now.  I've always teetered the line between a DIY blog and a faith/family/mom blog. I've looked around at what other DIY blogs have done, and I've looked a faith-based mom blogs and lifestyle blogs that cover a bit of everything. 

I've always worried that if I shifted my focus, I would lose my readership who found me because of the house projects we like to tackle.  But fear never got anyone very far, did it? People change and the things they are called to change. It's natural for blogs to evolve along with that.  The way some blogs have evolved as they've grown didn't feel authentic for us, so I finally stopped looking around for some sort of universal formula and just asked God what He had in mind.

He answered with a totally new endeavor that has only been a faint "someday" hope in the back of my mind.  The mission of this new project, helped me edit the focus of the blog so one can support the other.  The blog's focus is not a huge departure from where we've been, but more of a shift in weight.  Permission to write more about family, beauty, faith, simple living, momming...things I love talking about with all of you!  I feel so excited and relieved.  As a DIY blog, the pressure to complete projects at a pace that made my family want to kill me, was a huge stress.   

For those that like our home project posts - they aren't going anywhere! We just aren't able to churn them out at the rapid rate.  So, they'll be more of a subcategory than the main star...and hopefully we can dive more into the thought behind creating home and not just the how-to's and pretty room shots.

So! The quick recap of the past few months.....I spent the summer with my kids, have a clear vision for how to go forward with the blog, and finally stepped out in a dream I've had tucked away for a long time.  I cannot WAIT to share it with you!  It's all happening on the blog next week, but in the meantime you can catch some sneak peaks over on Instagram.  

Dining room chalkboard wall

How about you?  How was your summer?  Have you transitioned into the fall/school routine?  Is your weather still as confused about what season it is as Ohio seems to be??

How I Invested In My Blog This Year and a Peak at House For Six!

Deme Crinion2 Comments
OK.  So I realize that my current post rate of one post per week doesn't exactly scream "Blog Go-Getter".  Ahem.....however.

We had a baby in January and I knew that this year would look different for the blog.  I hoped to step back for a few weeks while we found our new groove as a fam of six, and then planned to ease back into to a regular posting routine.

Ha!  Did you see that?  I said the word 'plan'. So silly of me.

We certainly didn't plan on a colicky baby with reflux that consumed our every waking moment, but that was our reality for the first few months.  Some people probably thought the logical thing to do was walk away from the blog for awhile.  But I was surprised to find that I had a lot of new ideas swirling for blog content and art.  I also had this conviction to regain some focus and purpose in blogging.

Since my hands were rarely free for typing or crafting or photographing, I spent those first colicky months praying, reading, and researching while I snuggled a either sleeping or screaming babe.

I really wanted to attend the Haven conference, but well....colicky baby.  And while I might have been able to swing the ticket, the added cost of a plane ticket/rental car/hotel/food, put it over the budgeting edge for me.  Instead I put some birthday money towards two e-courses that I knew would help me with some goals I have for this e-space.


There are other courses out there aimed at teaching Adobe Illustrator, but this one had great reviews and was really affordable.   I just finished the last class online and oh my goodness, it's so good!!  Emily is a fantastic teacher and was able to sift through all of Illustrator's capabilities to compile a course that stuck to the essentials for graphic design.   I would have been far too intimidated to attempt learning that program on my own.  Emily's teaching style made it easy to learn and my head is spinning with ideas!

I saw that registration is open for the last course offering this year.  If you've ever wanted to learn Illustrator, I can't recommend it enough.  Her second course with more advanced techniques might be going on my Christmas list.

The second course was more of an investment, but was worth every penny: the Design Your Brand course with Lauren from Elle & Co.
(image via Elle & Co)

The fact that our blog is still "House For Five" and resident #6 is 10 months old makes me a little twitchy #OCDersunite.  Not to mention, any of my attempts at blog design for House For Five have been all over the place.  I wanted to hurry up and change it by the end of summer, but I am SO GLAD I waited to complete Lauren's course.

I might have been able to put an OK design together for the site, but it would not have been nearly as thought out, intentional, consistent, or long standing.  I would have loved to pay someone to redesogn the blog, but again, this was the best decision for my budget.  And even though it's been much more work, I know the result is going to be a hundred times better that what I would have pieced together on my own.

I've been forced to narrow down the mission statement, focus and characteristics for House For Six.  Lauren asks us to come up with 10 adjectives to identify our blog/business.  I landed on fun, modern, personal, practical, fresh, whimsical, inviting, organized, encouraging, and joyful.

Here's how that came together in my inspiration board:

Since I blog about home, I thought our website should reflect what you see inside our own, but it's also my little happy spot on the interwebs,  So, while this board certainly captures the style you'll find throughout our house, it's also a reflection of my more feminine tastes.

I've been in the weeds, translating that board into a cohesive design for the new site and shop.  I'm so excited with how it's shaping up and can't wait to share it with you!

I know it's felt a little slower on the blog these past few months - I'm thankful you've stuck with me!


*We're wrapping up the final details on our girl's new (read: clean) space and I'm hoping to get it blogged before the weekend!


Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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State of the Blog: Going Forward

Deme Crinion4 Comments
Summer has landed here in Ohio! 


Last week (wait, two weeks - eek!) my parents were in town visiting from CA.  They caught most of the kids' end of school year activities and now we're officially on summer break. We've spent the days playing with water to stay cool, sweating through T-ball practices, making new friends at day camp, and retreating to the a/c in the afternoon for naps and good books....or in my case, to steal a few minutes at the computer with an iced cup o' caffeine.

summers are for iced coffee

I've tried implementing summer schedules in the past, but this year I'm letting us fall into a natural rhythm that works with the baby's naps, kids' activities, and the weather.  For now it looks something like this:

breakfast....play/activity/nap...lunch...quiet time/nap/blog...play...dinner....family time.  

Not exactly structure, but enough of a daily rhythm for us to fit in some fun, some chores, and some blogging.

A lot of bloggers take a step back during the summer, but I'm eying my 2-3 posts per month "schedule" and am itching to dive back in.  Ok, maybe not dive, but I'm hoping to use this summer to ease back into a more regular blogging routine after a newborn blogging hiatus.

I would love to bring some more consistency to the blog - for your sake and mine! Believe me, I know it hasn't been my strong suit. I love this spot on the www and I love all of you.  So, I have a solution - low standards, my friends.  That's right.  I look at my first attempt and say, nice but lower.  Then maybe even lower one more time.

I'm ready to blog again!  Posting five days a week sounds great!

Simmer down there, Killer.  You know you won't be able to do that.  

How about 4 days a week?

Better, but know thyself.

....3?  

OK 2.  

Yes, lets start with 2 posts per week. 

This isn't laziness or coming back half-heartedly. It's just recognizing what's realistic, so that I can deliver quality posts and avoid burnout/discouragement.  I actually have a backlog of projects to share (a first!), and I feel better returning to a regular schedule knowing I already have some posts in the hopper.


Over the past 5 months since having Livy (how has it been that long?!?!), I've taken a lot of time to think/pray/mull over this blog. One of the blessings that came from having a colicky baby who wanted to be held around the clock was that I couldn't type on a keyboard very well.  Instead I did a lot of reading on blogging, business, organization, graphic design, and personal practices. I filled up notebook pages with sketches and ideas.  The blog's had a bit of an identity crisis over the past year, and since we're technically no longer a house for five, it feels like the right time to give the blog a fresh look, better branding, and a narrowed focus.

I've always had difficulty reigning myself in, both in my home and blogging. I just like so many things.  I love color - use them all!  I have so many ideas - attempt them all!  I enjoy so many topics - blog them all!

While I do enjoy reading blogs that cover a number of topics, I also appreciate when there is consistency within that variety.  I think you might too.

So which ones?  Over the years, I've blogged everything from DIY to, purging, design, organization, kid stuff, room makeovers, recipes, fashion, faith, family/motherhood, blogging, and moving.  Clearly, I lost my sense of direction for awhile.

Not only was I all over the place as far as blog content, but I was also setting schedules and expectations for myself that I could not maintain.  I questioned my ideas and started thinking of projects that would be well received or expected by readers in the blog world instead of what actually worked for our home and family at the time.

The holidays were the worst.  I felt like I should have been sharing an awesome holiday home tour, putting together gift guides with smart little graphics, crafting up homemade gifts ideas, blogging our family's best holiday recipes, setting a stunning holiday table, and the list goes on and on.  And why?  Some of those things I really would love to do, but not all of them.  I couldn't differentiate between the two because I was too busy looking at what other blogs were doing.

I had a house epiphany awhile back.  We were having friends (a large family) over for dinner and as I was cleaning/prepping for their arrival I realized that all I wanted was for them to feel welcome and comfortable.....that some of the "pretty" I had been trying to bring into my home was a result of what was popular and all over DIY/home blogs, but wasn't creating the feeling I wanted in my own home.  I had fogged up my own creative lens and sense of style with a constant intake of "inspiration". 

I've since cleaned up my blog reader.  I kept the blogs where I still find inspiration, encouragement, and helpful info, but I ditched the ones that didn't fit my aesthetic or left me feeling like less.  Some I only had in my feed because they were popular anyway....and it was freeing to let them go.  I also added a couple new blogs that feel like cheerleaders in what we're trying to create in our own home and within our family.

Once I let go of needing to be like the blogs I read and admired, I could look at my own blog as a unique landing spot.  A clear direction finally began to take shape when I considered the blog from our reader's point of view.  I looked at the posts that got your views, the ones that engaged the most conversation or seemed to strike a chord, and the ones I truly enjoyed writing.  I thought about where we are currently as a family and what we could offer to those in a similar state of life or with similar interests. I thought a lot about who I'm blogging for and why they read....yet recognize that I can't please everyone and the blog will lose its identity if I try.

I hope we've landed on something that will bring you encouragement and some practical help in this gift of making home.  With that said, here's how things are looking going forward....

New Blogging Platform
We're in the process of moving everything over to a new blogging platform and doing a little rebranding as we go.  The switch should be transparent for you, fingers crossed.  The blog address will stay www.houseforfive.com, but hopefully the new look will be more user friendly for readers and easier for me behind the scenes.  We're all about smarter not harder these days.  Putting on my realist pants, I'm aiming to have the new site ready around mid-July.

A Refined Focus, With An Overarching Theme
Here's where I did a lot of clean-up.  I knew which topics I definitely want to stay: easy DIY, budget friendly home projects, organization/systems that make life less stressful. But what else?

I've dabbled in a lot of different topics over the years, so it really helped to identify what we're not.

This is not a fashion blog, nor a baby blog.  It's not a theology blog.  It's not even a design blog.

I'm not an interior designer, a fashionista, a builder, or a chef.  

I'm a wife and mom that gets a lot of joy from working on her home and creating a space that speaks to our family.

I'm a chronic list maker and planner. I can't help but look at a room or an old piece of furniture and see what it could become.  If something in our home is set up in a way that makes us crazy,  I like finding ways to make it un-crazy.

But there's one other thing.  Something I've felt pulled to for some time - a simpler life.  Ridding ourselves of the excess and being content where we are; finding systems that make life easier; fighting the draw towards more stuff to focus on what we truly need, use, and love; living on less....and letting the Jones' take the trophy, while we stop to put out a picnic blanket in the middle of the race. 

This is the theme I feel lead to weave throughout our blog as we try to live it out in our own home.  And it will be a good gauge for me when I feel like wondering into other topics.  So, if I'm sharing a post on clothes, instead of "here's a cute outfit" it should be "key pieces to a versatile wardrobe" or "how to save money on quality clothes".  Instead of buying a bunch of new stuff for a holiday mantle, we might chat ideas for using items we already have around the house or ways to create something new on the cheap. 

Shop
This is something I've planned to do for over a year, but my inner perfectionist keeps saying "not yet, a few more tweaks". I've been creating products for an Etsy shop for over a year (and have offered some on the blog as free printables in the past) but just haven't pulled the trigger. I have a laundry list of items I still want to update and create before officially opening the doors, but hello.  It's been a year.  There comes a point you have to stop planning and just do it.

Ok, that felt good.  Now you know.  I'm working to open a shop with tools to make your life less stressful and prints that will keep you inspired.  I was shooting for June 1st but that didn't fall into the "realistic/attainable" category with aforementioned colicky baby.  Now that Liv has settled and is slightly more predictable with naptimes, I don't really have a good excuse.  So, the shop is coming at the end of summer!  Help hold me to it [perfect or not]?

Alright, end novella.  

Thank you so much for being patient with me...for hanging in there when I've been all over the place and have taken a step back to focus on family.....for making this a place that's worth putting in the time and that I really can't wait to get back to.


Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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That One Lent When God Held Up A Really Dirty Mirror

Deme Crinion17 Comments
I predicted this Lent to be mediocre at best.  In past years I've made hard and fast commitments for those 40 days.  You know, easily measured....be in bed by 10pm...social media hiatus....a daily rosary....make a meal for a friend once a week..personal spending freeze..

But this year, as I prayed about where to focus my Lenten commitments, I kept coming back to more of a general theme than specifics:


better serve my family

Doesn't that sound nice?  I figured God had a little attitude tweaking in store and we could look back on those 40 days with lots of fluff and warm fuzzies.  Probably wouldn't be super painful or amazingly fruitful but hey, not every Lent is a showstopper.

And that is not at all how it went down. 

It started out quiet enough.  The conviction about better serving my family stemmed from a few things I knew needed attention...

- A morning person I am not.  Being completely dead to the world while my husband attempted to get dressed for his JOB whilst serving as a human jungle gym to our early rising boys was not making for smooth mornings.

- I had mastered the art of thinking about meal planning without doing any actual planning...which translated to dinnertime stress, food waste, and over spending on groceries.

- That small uprooting life change known as our cross country move, had left me all but allergic to touching any and all moving boxes.  Or the growing piles that resulted from unpacking them.

It's not that I didn't want to do these things or even failed to recognize them as my responsibility or things that would help our family.  I was just overwhelmed. Really overwhelmed. 

The kids felt it, but I think James felt it most of all.  Seriously, he's such a good man.  He never once asked me to do anything.  He just tried to pick up the slack and carry us in addition to working his already stressful full-time job.  Basically, best guy ever.  I will stop gushing over him, but he deserved better.  Not a perfect wife (he'll never have that), but he at least deserved his partner in the game.

As I started to make changes in these small areas (which I thought were the sum of my Lenten focus), God chuckled and showed his hand - there's was a lot more in store.

He didn't flip the tables of my life over in an angry, clearing the Temple sort of way.  It was more of a "things are out of order, so lets shake them back into place" way.  It was painful.  It demanded humility.  But it's also flooded my soul with grace.  Grace as a mother who's been struggling to keep her head above water with sweet littles for the past couple years.....as a wife who's been exhausted with not much left to give to her relationships at the end of the day....and as a daughter of Christ who had been seeking affirmation and approval in all the wrong places.

First came conviction about my attitude towards the blog....

The blog started out as a much needed creative/writing outlet for me during a time when I was buried in diapers and had little people hanging on me around the clock.  Putting my efforts towards making over our fixer of a house and being able to write again was amazing.  And connecting with other people who shared my organizing OCD and love of fabrics and paint was pretty incredible too. 

Then the blog saw a smidge of success and recognition.  Suddenly, (in my own brain) it went from creative outlet to a way to potentially help our family.  And because I can not do things half way, that distinction was a major shift for me.  If I'm going to write a blog people other than my family see, then I don't want it to suck.  And having readers means I have a responsibility to put out good content on a regular basis.  Slowly something that was once joyful became load bearing.  SEO, blog stats, networking, pin-worthy images, tweaking my ideas to what I thought people wanted. It was a whole lot of striving. 

There were times, I realized how much I had let it affect our home life and consume my thoughts.  So, I stepped back.  I combined our two blogs and changed the name.  I lost some readers when that happened and ever since have felt like we've needed another big feature to get us out there like the YHL feature that lead to our nook being featured in This Old House Magazine.  And it's felt a bit like hitting a brick wall.  We've had a few wonderful features, but I've felt like we just can't break through (to what, I'm not even sure).   

I had to wonder....have I been seeking the wrong path all this time?  It's so dang humbling when God allows us to keep charting our own course that we are convinced is His way for us, when all the while He's waiting for us to look up and see where His hand is really pointing. 


James and I have talked about how our life and the needs of our home should drive the blog, not the other way around.  I would do the projects I thought would get a good response (and were more fun) over the things that needed to be done around the house.  I held myself to a posting schedule that wasn't always realistic and made me feel anxious about having enough good content to share.  Which ended up forcing me right into a creative freeze.  I questioned whether my ideas would be what people wanted.  I scoured blogs/websites/magazines for inspiration....and after awhile I think I forgot what I actually liked, and certainly why I started doing this in the first place. 

In the middle of Lent I had an epiphany of sorts.  It was the first time we had family friends over in our new place.  And you know what I was concerned about before they arrived?  Not what they would think of that DIY art on the wall or our dark navy paint choice in the living room.  No.  I wanted them and their 6 children to walk in and feel at home.  I wanted them to feel like they could sit down and put their feet up, bust open a board game on the dining room table, not worry about whether or not they should take off their shoes.  

And it struck me that the popular glam spaces I've been drawn to because they're so shiny-pretty were not at all what I wanted in my own home.  For me, those spaces are beautiful, but can often seem unapproachable. I realize this sounds completely lame, but for someone who blogs about making home, this was completely freeing.  I could finally just appreciate those pretty spaces without feeling the need or pressure to replicate it in my own home.  Light bulb back on.

It's been during this Lent that I finally realized what I want our home to be and in that moment I was also able to let go of what I wanted or thought the blog should be.  I was operating out of fear.....of not being able to "hang" with the bloggers in my genre, of losing readers, of missing something on social media, of failing or not being liked....it was like Jr. High up in here!  I had wasted SO. MUCH. TIME. striving to make the blog something it's not.  Time I could have spent with my family, actually improving the function of our home...time being content.  

It all came back to serving my family.....how much time had I spent escaping into the blog world to avoid my responsibilities around the home?  No one else knew that I didn't' make dinner..or wash those shirts my daughter needed for school...or immediately get up from the computer to break up an argument.  It was easier to "check on something" for the blog than vacuum the living room or teach my kids about cleaning up after themselves.


As if realizing how much time I spent avoiding my own life via the blog weren't hard enough, then came the real blow (Yes, there's more). God began to show me all the ways I had been giving the best of myself to everything but my family.  And how it had left them with a worn out, cranky mom/wife. 

Part of that is just my personality. When James and I were first married we did Life Teen Youth Ministry together for a couple years.  Our church didn't even have a high school youth program, so we teamed up with a small group of people and built one from the ground up.

And that's just how it seems to go....

I should join a mom's group...oh, you need a new head organizer?  Sure I'll do it.  

Think we should have a women's Bible study? Sure I'll lead it.
  
Need someone to sponsor a young lady going through RCIA?  How can I say no.  

The American Heritage Girl's needs a Kindergarten leader?  I guess - sign me up.

Married to a high school football coach?  Of course we'll be at every game.

Have time for a little contracting work from home on the side?  Why not....it will help our family.  Right?


Now this is sounding like a resume.  A bad one.  There is no way that anyone can successfully do all of those things (and at one point, I was indeed doing ALL of those things in addition to the blog) and still be a full time wife/mom without something paying the price.  I'll let you guess what that was.  
 

In many ways, I took my family for granted.  They were there, and we could chalk up survival as success.

The depth of my selfishness and neglect of my vocation (wife/mom) was painful to face.  Some (hey, mom) might say that I wasn't that bad, but we each know our own hearts.   I've spent a lot of time trying to escape the reality of my life.  My very good, very blessed life.  I certainly wasn't neglectful and my children know they are loved, but there were just so many moments where I was present without being present - know what I mean?

Over the past couple years, I've often heard God asking..."Deme, is it enough?  Is it enough for you to just be a wife and a mother?".  As a wife and mother there will be seasons when it's necessary to cut way back (or even completely cut off) your outside commitments.  I'm not talking about taking a hiatus from meeting with friends and abandoning community.  But that place where you know you're doing too much and it starts taking a toll on your family.  When you can't remember the last time you went out for an afternoon of unscheduled spontaneous fun (because your calendar was actually open).  Or where you are so overwhelmed by your life that you can't. do. anything.

The wonderful thing about the mirror God holds up for us is that it's not about revealing the ugly image of your heart that you've been avoiding and shaming you into changing your ways.  No.  It's more like a story book..where you see those days you walked without a guide...the moments you didn't see the loving Shepherd right next to you all along.....the times you looked for affirmation and worth and escape in things that ultimately left you raged and worn....a story where you are also shown the path to restoration.  

This has been my Lent.  The gentle retelling of my story as a mother, a wife, and a woman over the past couple years and of Christ's invitation to resume his yolk.  A lighter load.  A simpler, joy-filled life.

Please understand, this was not about looking back and realizing that I should not have committed to any of those things.  Life was a bit crazy but there were still things I wanted to do.   Good things that God calls us to do - use our gifts to serve our communities, be involved in our kids activites, volunteer, seek opportunties to grow in our faith, explore our interests and passions.

The problem was not my effort, it was the target.   God was calling me to do all of those things, to use my gifts and talents.  They were just supposed to be aimed first and foremost at my family.  And then (maybe) to other places.

Every family is different, but personally James and I always felt that if we could, we wanted to have a parent home full time with the kids.  Based on our individual career paths and each of our desires, we're blessed with James' job which allows us to do just that.

But I often joke that I was a much better parent before I actually had kids.  Answers to parenting dilemmas and Mama concerns are so simple...before you actually have them.   Even with our first (very easy) baby I was admittedly a bit of a parenting snob.  At least in my head.  But nothing like having two boys 15 months apart, rounding things off to 3 kids, 3 years old and younger to knock you right off that high horse.

The past few years have been survival in the toddler trenches. There is absolutely a level of "just make it through the day" that is part of those years and we all need breaks to be able to stay in the fight.   For me, the pace, commitments, and expectations left my tank at zero.  When you are directing your energy in so many different directions, it can make even the small ways of caring for homes and the people in them, really big and stressful.

When I followed this vague prompting to better serve my family this Lent, something happened.  God changed my heart.  I didn't want a break anymore, I wanted to be with them.  Not that I won't ever (desperately) need a break again, but it was no longer an all consuming feeling.  As I started to put my primary focus back on my family, I found joy and energy in serving them again.  It's still hard and some things (like getting out of bed in the morning) go against my nature, but I know that my heart is back where it should be.  It's looking into their big eyes when they tell me a story, instead of glancing up from a screen.  

As mothers, we can find a lot of judgement whirling around.  It makes me sad.  Because whether you work outside the home full time, stay home full time or something in between, we are all just trying to do the best we can.  Motherhood can be a hard, lonely job and we need each other to help us stay the course and hand us a nice big glass of wine after one of those day.   And we can all let our priorities shift out place.  I'm thankful for the gentle, albeit painful reminder for me, that was the Lent of 2014. 




Thanks so much for reading! We would love to keep in touch!