instagram,  place holder posts,  spilling my guts


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I think summer is here. No more cold spells. Which I love. Even though the heat out here in the desert can be quite oppressive when it gets up in the hundreds for days on end, there’s something that harkens back to my childhood when I wake up in the morning and tip toe outside and it already feels warm at six in the morning. I was raised here in the desert and deep inside I’ll always be a desert rat.

That’s not saying I’m not anxious to get back to the beach. I AM. I think about it almost every minute. I just want to know where I’m going to live already. I hope to nail down an apartment situation this weekend. Work has been picking up so I really hope I can afford to get into a complex with a pool. How cool would that be? Bug could learn how to swim…I dream of nice white walls and light flooding in the windows so I can take photos without having to constantly dodge the redneckedness of my mobile home.

I feel bad saying that. I love this old mobile home. I’m going to be sad to leave it. But I won’t be sad to leave my crazy neighbors. Nosiree.

Say cheese Katydid! Just lost another tooth.

I’m going to miss my mom and all the kid-watching she does. We’re just going to have to make sure I find an apartment with room for an air mattress because she’s going to come visit us as often as I can talk her into it.

Speaking of… I found an apartment a few weeks ago in my price range. It was pathetically small. It was the size of my living room with no other rooms attached to it outside of a closet with a toilet in it and a shower in another closet. This is how studios normally are but this one was just super small and sad. It didn’t even have room for a refrigerator. I could have a mini fridge and that’s it. I could probably fit a bed, a table and maybe an expedit bookshelf and that would be it and it wouldn’t be very brenshui.

I seriously considered it though because it was cheap. I like the idea of minimalistic living, having only what you absolutely need and nothing extra… I could just pretend I was living in Paris like Linguini in Ratatouille. I could even hang a bike over my door…but then I thought about all these crafting posts I do and all the art supplies I keep on hand. Where would I keep them? I can’t really afford to go out and buy supplies every time I have a project. So I let that apartment go.

Teacher appreciation week Sunday afternoon relaxing.

I think I’ve talked about Bug’s anxiety about school before. It was really bad a week ago. So bad that I started looking up things on the internet and ended up buying a workbook for her to go through. We’ve only read two chapters but she’s been super keen to color in it. She loves it. Toby thinks it’s all hogwash but I’m inclined to think it’s good because we went from three to four freak-out tear-fests a morning to maybe one or two now and somedays none. I just worry about her so much. She probably gets her tendency to over-worry about things from me. I just don’t want her to suffer from anxiety for the rest of her life. So hopefully with this workbook and another book I’m reading we’ll have some tools to deal with her fears.

Now I just need some campy stamps! Campy Stamps!!

I sent my 40th Birthday Camp Midlife Crisis invitations out last week. I feel like a crazy stupid fool planning a big party right in the middle of summer when I have so many work projects going on AND a move. I don’t know how I’m going to pull it off, not to mention the world is supposed to end or at least burn into some kind of terrible financial depression…but I figure it’s now or never. This is my journey and I’m a mover and a shaker. I have to make things happen if I want them to happen. I can’t sit around waiting for life to line up for me. This all makes me think of my year’s goal list. Can I really make it to New York this year and possibly hire an agent? I guess they say if your goals don’t scare you then they aren’t high enough. Well, my goals definitely scare me.

day 2 First swim of the season!

Sometimes I get mad at myself for not accomplishing all these things that I want to do when I was younger and hipper and more photogenic. But then I remember my little one and I realize that everything is happening in this order for a reason. I might not build an empire or star in crafting videos on the local news station or release coffee table books with pretty origami paper inserts or have drinks with celebrities… but I do have a daughter and she is perfect. She slows me down for a reason. I just have to stop fighting against it and savor it.

Grandma and Lily at the pool. Untitled

I need to savor everything in this crazy life. Because it won’t last forever.

We’ve been swimming at my Grandma’s house once a week. Bug still does not know how to swim and it’s a bit nerve-wracking. She’s close. She just has to get over her fear of getting water up her nose and in her ears. I can’t say I blame her. I still swim the breast stroke above water myself because I hate it too. So this summer we have goals: learn to swim, learn to ride a bike and learn to tie her shoes. I think we can do it. Especially if I get around to getting her bike tires pumped up. (Bad Mom!)

Untitled So fancy in my Mother's Day Hat.

Bug’s kindergarten held a Mother’s Day Tea last week. It was darling. They made us paper-plate hats and I have to say with pride that mine was by far the most stylish. Don’t I look fancy in it? She wanted to know why I didn’t wear it to church on Sunday. I told her I wanted to keep it nice to hang on the wall and thankfully she bought that. It’s hanging in the bathroom making the bathroom look fancy.

These kid art projects make my heart swell up until it feels like it might burst and then I can’t figure out what to do with them. I hate to throw them away because there is just so much love involved but I don’t know if my threshold for clutter can take much more. Sigh. It’s just too much. So I keep them around and go on day-dreaming about that nice white apartment…

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We went to Knott’s Berry Farm this last Saturday. It was a blast. I can’t tell you about it yet because I’m due to write a sponsored post this coming Monday. But I’ll have lots and lots of photos and funny stories to share.

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Ah, Mother’s Day. I wore my favorite green striped dress. How come I can’t find a link to who gave it to me. Where are you Texas Leah? That was you, right? Blarg.

Anyway, it was a nice Mother’s Day. I spent it with my mom and my grandma eating a big lunch.

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Other random shots from around town…

desert flamingo Untitled

We have a pink plastic flamingo in our backyard now. That officially makes us classy, right? I’m planning on moving him to the beach with us, stuck in some pot of a cactus to remind us of the desert. He’ll make me stand out when I’m living in cookie-cutter apartment land with only a balcony to call a yard.

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Strawberry leaf hula girl.

Strawberry leaf hula skirt girl.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh...... It's officially iced coffee season!

It’s officially iced coffee season I’m pleased to announce.

Tough Girl

So go get your teeny weenie bikini on and enjoy one in the kiddie pool! That’s what I say.

And that concludes my instagrammia update.

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Did Instagram kill the blog star? I don’t know. I don’t use my water-proof purse camera anymore now that I have a handy dandy iphone and that’s kind of sad. But I do love the instant gratification of sharing images right when they happen. I don’t blog as much but I don’t think that’s Instagram’s fault. I think life is just busier/crazier.

I do have some questions for you, dear readers who have stuck by me through the years. I’m dreaming up a new design for this site that probably won’t happen until the tenth of never but we can dream…. I’m going to kick most of my ads to the curb. I’m sick of them and they don’t pay enough. Do you have any special requests? You have kept me afloat all these years with your comments and business connections, it’s probably about time that I asked for some customer feedback.

More blogging? More craft posts? Less ads? Do sponsored posts drive you crazy? More and more of them want to be on my main blog page and not on my review blog which I have mixed feelings about. I hate being a sell-out and I don’t want to force anything on the readers who have been so loyal to me, but at the same time reviews pay the bills and I think I bring more to the table than the average reviewer. So tell me what you think. What would you like to see more of? I’m not going to make any promises. Promises seem to be the kiss of death for me but it would be fun to tumble around your suggestions in my rock-polisher of a brain.


  • Evilisa

    The ads don’t bother me and I think you should keep them to help pay for something bigger than a closet to live in. I hate the idea of you in an apartment. You have such a great yard but happiness where you live is important.

    Craft projects are always good.

  • Aspenroad

    I like your blog now and I enjoy hearing about your adventures with Bug. I like the craft posts, it helps with my grandchildren. If you need to pay the bills and have some extra for enjoyment then do it, don’t feel bad about the ads, they help you when you need it. I wish you well and I’ll keep being an avid reader of your blog!

  • SAJ

    The thing is the ads AREN’T paying well enough. BlogHer paid me $30 last month which is kind of insulting. I know it was a slow quarter etc but when I started they paid me $200 a month and my traffic has not gone down. So I say sayonara Blogher. I might sell that ad space on my own so I have more control. No more blinking flashing ads. I’m sick of them.

  • Carrie

    Good for you for finding resources to help Bug with her worries. That’s a great thing, not hogwash. I was a worrier and it is a horrible feeling.

    Ads are fine with me. I really dislike most sponsored blog posts, but you gotta do what you gotta do to pay the bills. I think Amala has a nice balance. She’s one of the few bloggers who seems to be able to pull it off. A lot of times I start to feel so alienated from the blogger and end up feeling like nothing more than a meal ticket who is not even good enough for real blogger interaction. I bet you can pull it off, though, because you have so much to offer in terms of crafting. It would actually make sense to do sponsored posts of crafting supplies and things like that.

  • Susan:)

    I enjoy reading all your posts. Your reviews are interesting and fun to read as well. I love reading about your parties and outings with Bug. I also enjoy when you do fun things at home, whether it’s craft projects or cooking or home decor stuff.

  • Stacy

    While I’m not normally a fan of the sponsored posts, I don’t mind yours because you put more detail into them. I like all of your posts, really, so as long as you keep blogging, I’m happy!

  • McCulloughLand

    I say keep on doing what you are doing :) Love your blog. I agree that your review posts are better than others, way better, and I wouldn’t stop doing anything that is providing you good income as long as you are okay/happy with it. Good luck with your move and all of your projects!

  • Brenda

    SAJ I’ve been reading your posts for years and adore them! You do what you need to do to support yourself and Bug. I normally don’t care much for sponsored posts either, but I will read them for your sake!

  • KD

    Ads? Honestly I hardly ever notice them – shhh don’t tell the people that pay you money even if it is just a wee bit.

    I’m not a huge fan of review posts but you do manage to put a lot of personality into them so I don’t mind. Besides if it pays the bills….

    I only learned to tie my shoes when my dad explained it by making two loops – bunny ears he called them – and crossing the loops to make a bow. I still tie my shoes that way. I don’t seem to have the fine motor skills that everyone else has.

    Bug’s anxiety is not hogwash. Especially as it’s you coping with it on a day to day basis. Glad you found something that helps. Keep calm and blog on!

  • Laura stultz

    I don’t mind the ads, I like the sponsored posts, I think you should just do what works for you.

  • kristi

    I am experiencing the same anxiety with my 6 year old. Could you post the name of the workbook? I think she would like to color her feelings. Thanks for the awesome blog…ads or no ads…I love reading it.

  • SAJ

    It’s called: What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)

    I linked the amazon link in the post above. Let me know if that link doesn’t work. It might be a link to my account or something but it shows up for me.

    I recommend it. The book has actually been really helpful for both of us.

  • Hil

    Oh! I want to hug you so tightly and drink iced coffee with you. I want to make you a friendship bracelet. This entry touched me so much because I had two little girls and wondered how I was going to fit us into many small apartments. I’ve been there and of course, I thought I was the only one! Go boldly forward! Now I have big girls and a big apartment (with my own washer and dryer-so posh!). I don’t have my own crafting tv show yet, either! Have a great time at your party and just being awesome! Hugs from PA!

  • Justyna

    Blog more! I miss the old days when you blogged almost every day about your life! I like craft posts too, but definitely mixed in with life blogging. Sponsored ads, well I figure you have to support yourself so i don’t mind them as long as they are not too often.
    What would I like to see more? More pics of Baby Bug – more often, more of your illos. The ads never bothered me so make them work for you – make them worth your while if they’re going to stay.

  • Heather in WA State

    I miss your illustrations about your days with bug. Your next project (as if you need one more thing on your plate!) should be an illustrated humor book about the reality of motherhood. Look back in your journals — it’s all there! Just scan and arrange into book form! You are such an amazing illustrator, as well as an awesome graphic designer.

    As for ads, I like Amazon or booksellers. Often when I need to buy a book I will actually go to someone’s blog and click-thru their ad to place my order, instead of signing into Amazon directly.

    One thing you might consider is to give yourself a blog schedule. Every Tuesday share a sketch from your sketchbook, every Wednesday do a sponsored review, every Thursday write an update on Bug or motherhood, every friday a craft or recipe, etc. You can do these ahead as inspiration strikes, and schedule them to post on the proper day. That might make your life a little easier through the hectic summer ahead.

    I can’t wait to see what creative changes you come up with.

    All the best to you!

  • Elizabeth

    It is funny to hear you say that you are not lunching with famous people because YOU ARE FAMOUS to me. I’ve enjoyed your blog since you were just crazy talented and crafty SAJ. Love your adventures with Bug. Best of luck apartment hunting.

  • aj

    I’ve been reading for years and years and obviously love how you blog because I keep coming back! I really love when you include your illustrations, when you share your party planning details, and when you share about your life with Bug. :)

  • Kerry

    Personally my favorite posts lately have been the mobile home redecoration ones. I really enjoy seeing what someone with a lot of artistic talent can do with a place like that, and I’m sure it’ll be cool to see what you do with your new beach place as well. And I also like seeing all the neat, artsy type things that you think of to do with Bug…not just the crafts but also things like trips to ranunculus fields and lemon week and everything else. As someone who’s trying to live on a limited budget in a less-than-glamorous town, those posts get me excited about the cool things I could be doing too.

    Ads and sponsored posts are both just fine with me, if they work for you.

  • Colleen

    Your voice is excellent, I always love reading your posts. And I like the random variety of what you have. And keep the ads and sponsored posts, they will pay for that trip to NYC. Or get better ads that pay more!! I love your creativity that shows in so many ways. And your honesty about your life, it resonates and comforts. I hear you on the kid postponing/altering/ending certain life goals. My daughter is almost 6 and I too still need to remind myself to embrace the life I have and not long for the one in the past. I believe it all happens for a reason although we can be blind to that reason for a long, long time.

  • Emily

    Don’t doubt your formula, we’ve all been checking in and clearly like you and your blog just the way you are. I enjoy the decorative themed posts quite a lot and your adventure posts. I am also a single mom in a mobile home, currently stationed in New England but with ties in the Desert. So i enjoy living vicariously through you.

  • Alexandra

    Brenda – I love your posts–your honesty, your great photos, your great sense of humor about yourself, your crafts. I am not at all offended by your ads or sponsored posts. I loved your illo posts too, they are just great, would be great to see them more often. One thing I would enjoy on your site is a way to easily find your crafts and decorating projects. I know I can search by category, but perhaps a big bold button/tab up at the top or side that I can click on to bring them up (maybe by season?). I know I can search in the archives, but that’s something I would love to see. I know nothing about blog design so maybe this is too tricky/expensive to pull off. It’s just a nice-to-have, and I will continue to be a loyal reader whatever design you choose. -Alexandra

  • MonsterAteMy

    My favorite posts are the “ordinary life” ones. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and I like hearing about what is happening with Bug, your family, life, etc…
    Is that too voyeuristic? I guess it sounds weird when I type it out like that.
    I also miss the illustrated journal entries; they were awesome.
    I like seeing your art projects, but the craft posts are not my favorites. I don’t care too much about ads, maybe because I read you in Google Reader.
    Keep up the good work! I like the way you make the imperfect, perfectly charming, if you KWIM. :-)

  • Beverley

    Brenda, your blog was the very first blog I started following. You’re writing style is great & I love that you keep things real. A lot of blogs nowadays seem too polished to be considered real life. While I’m not a huge fan of the sponsored posts, you’ve gotta do what is needed to help put a roof over your head and food on the table. I agree with those that have mentioned bringing back your journal illustrations.

    With regards to your growing pile of Bug’s crafts/drawings – have you seen the way some parents are scanning/photographing their children’s artwork and compiling them into a photobook? I noticed that Shutterfly has a specific template for such a thing:×8&coverType=USER_CUSTOM&id=5008

    That may be a good option for you. Bug would have her very own “published” book, just like her super cool Mom :)

  • Ami

    a) I doubt it’s “hogwash” — but even if it is a little bit of manufactured drama, you are showing Bug very clearly that you take her concerns seriously. That’s just good parenting.
    b) I know you’re not Catholic, and I hope you don’t think us Catholics are evil — St. Joseph is the patron saint of realty/house selling/buying. Ask him to pray for you! You could buy a little saint prayer card, keep him where you see him, every time you do, say a little prayer to God, then say “St. Anthony, pray I find the right apartment.”
    c) I don’t mind sponsored posts as long as I can tell they’re sponsored posts and they don’t comprise more than about 1/4 of your posts.
    d) Ads don’t bother me.
    I’ve enjoyed reading you for years, and wish nothing but happiness and success for you. You might feel like you’ve not accomplished as much as you want, but I listen/read you and think, “Look at all she accomplishes!”

  • lynne ATL

    You do sponsored posts well. I hate when it is a stretch, for example, one blogger I read did a post around Halloween sponsored by EOS Lip Balm and is was RIDICULOUS! It was so transparent that it was a sponsored post and dumb. As long as what you are reviewing fits into your life and lifestyle, it makes sense for you to do. You need to do it to use your talents to create the kind of life you want for Bug.

  • betty girl

    do what you need to do to sustain yourself / your family. if that is more ads, reviews, so be it. I’ll come regardless. You deserve to make some decent money .. or at least “more” decent

  • Anna

    Brenda, The first mommy blog post I ever read was yours. You were pregnant with Bug and walking in a mall or something. This was when I was a newlywed and really really wanted children! All I remember was thinking “I need a cute maxi dress like that whenever I get pregnant…” ;-) I now am blessed with two adorable, crazy, wonderful little ones. I just have to say that I love your blog. I love your voice. No matter what it is – crafts, sponsored, ordinary life, whatever. I’m sure whatever you decide to change will be great :) Thanks for the years of smiles, looking forward to many more. Good luck with where your move takes you!

  • Helena

    Ditto for illos!

    Don’t mind the sponsored posts, they’re easy to ignore if we need to (and they’re fun to read anyway).

    You know one thing I would really dislike, is chopping up posts so only half of a pic or a very tiny bit of writing is what you see on the main page (forcing you to click through to the main page, which is just as screaming with McDonald’s ads)… I love when there is a post like the one above and you just scroll down like mad. . .it feels very luxurious.

    And, yes, it would be great to be able to find old craft posts or party posts easily…

  • Amy

    I say put as many ads up as you possibly can! :) Make some extra money if you can. We as readers love you and want only the best for you and the Bug and a few ads (usually ignored) never hurt anyone.

  • bethany actually

    You know my thoughts on ads/sponsored posts/etc., I think. We’ve discussed them before.

    Mainly I wanted to say that the phrase, “tumble around your suggestions in my rock-polisher of a brain,” made me so happy. That is such a Brenda phrase, I think if I’d come across it apart from your blog I still would have recognized it as your voice—it describes your thought process so perfectly!—and it really is a great image. (If you had time, I’d tell you to make an illo out of it.)

    Off-topic: I just realized today that your blog banner is Bug’s head upside-down in water. Before I thought it was a squid or octopus or something. Ha!

  • Kuky

    I don’t mind the Blogher ads. I’m used to them. I’ve seen other blogs that sell their own ad space and ask for sponsors on a regular basis. I’m used to that too. Do whatever works best for you.

    I was going to say I like your blog just fine the way it is. But then reading the comments I realized I missed your drawings as well. But maybe that’s because I really really like seeing other people’s artwork. Some blogs I read are just drawing blogs. But I know how long drawing can take sometimes so I can understand if you don’t have time for it. So, basically what my thoughts are, do what you like. I’m easy to please. :)

  • A different Elizabeth

    You are my absolute favorite blogger — you are such a good writer, and you actually write about THINGS. I would read your grocery list, so write whatever you want. As others have said, I wish you would blog more often, because I love reading your posts. The ones about how you decorate, make parties, etc. are my favorite — anything with a lot of detail about how you did something are fascinating. You can make very mundane things fascinating. It’s a gift!

    You should do whatever you need to do to make money so you can have a nice place to live. Ads are fine, and sponsored posts are fine. You are the only person I’ve read who can make sponsored posts interesting! As long as there aren’t more than a couple of sponsored posts a week, I will keep reading your blog regularly.

    I would love if you did more books. I really want to see the one you are planning about Paris, and I think it would be great if you made some books out of your cartoon-illustrated journals. You could also make some books out of the party posts you have done over the years.

    Just write more often, is my main suggestion. And be sure to illustrate with your great photos!

    One other thought — how about some posts about your odd neighbors and neighborhood (if the neighbors would agree to it)? I bet there are some good stories there.

    You are one of the great modern storytellers! Keep writing.

  • A different Elizabeth

    One other idea I just had — could you get someone (a travel company? a camera company?) to sponsor you to do travel posts? You could go to NYC with Bug and do lots of fun stuff and take your wonderful photos and then do a post about how to have a great vacation in NY with kids. Then you could do the same thing in other cities. Washington! San Francisco! Chicago! Paris! I would love to see posts like that! I would click on a million ads to get to read that.

  • Natalie

    you are one of the few bloggers with sponsered posts about products that don’t annoy me! I like the ones you do, they ae way more down to earth than others I have read!

  • BeachMama

    I love everything that you do, you continue to inspire me daily both to do more and be a better Mom. Ads are great, books are awesome, don’t change too much we love you just the way you are :)

  • Prathibha

    I have been reading your blog for several years. I have to say I hardly notice the ads so it does not signify. I do love your posts about your family, anything about bug and the easy crafts. You are so imaginative and talented! Good luck to you.

  • leslie

    all these sponsored posts {found on MANY blogs these days….} drive me nuts.
    BUT: there is a blogger or two who have certain days a month for sponsored posts and when you’re a long-time-reader you just know when to skip that blog…

    my laptop has a “banning all flashy adds” thingy, so i’m not that much annoyed by it :)
    oh and i LOVE your crafty-posts. you’re one of the reasons i started crafts with my kids…and not worry about age, mess and outcome:)

    have a great day!