From the May 2016 issue

Southeast Michigan Mom Bloggers Share Their Stories

Meet five word-slinging moms who share their stories in hopes of helping you connect, create – and sometimes just crack up along your own parenting journey.

If you’ve ever “shared” or “liked” a moving essay about motherhood or a gut-busting web post about some crazy “yes! I’ve been there” kid-related mishap, you might have a mom blogger to thank. The genre, which covers all things parenting, is hot: According to Scarborough Research, nearly 3.9 million U.S. moms identify as bloggers. And their ability to instantly resonate has earned them many more fans, from fellow parents to big companies hoping to reach those readers. Southeast Michigan mamas are no exception, stating their minds and making their mark. In honor of Mother’s Day, get to know five of them – and cozy up with their websites for their latest.

Jennifer Fishkind of Princess Pinky Girl

A trip to Universal Studios. An Alaskan cruise. An invitation to an exclusive blogging conference in New York City. An appearance on Good Morning America. An opportunity to turn a passion into a full-time and profitable career.

These are some perks mom blogger Jennifer Fishkind has experienced on a wildly successful ride with her Pinterest page and website, Princess Pinky Girl.

“I just got a call about being on a reality show,” says Fishkind. “I politely declined because it was not a good fit.”

With 3.5 million followers on Pinterest, an average 2 million pages views a month on her website and 333,000-plus Facebook likes, this Bloomfield Hills wife and mother of three shares craft ideas, recipes, travel tips, fashion must-haves, holiday planning and more.

“What makes my blog stand out is the fact that the ideas and recipes are easy. You don’t have to be crafty or know how to cook,” says Fishkind, who isn’t ashamed to share her epic fails too. “I don’t cook. I assemble – and if I can do these, anyone can.”

She never dreamed a Pinterest board she started in 2011 to plan her oldest son’s camp-themed bar mitzvah celebration would launch her on a path to a full-time career as a social influencer and successful mom blogger. When Pinterest highlighted Fishkind’s board four years ago, she suddenly found herself with 1 million followers.

Around that time, Fishkind happened to be considering leaving her job to spend more time at home with her sons. For nearly 20 years she worked in the nonprofit sector at the national headquarters of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Fishkind says she now generates a full-time income through advertising on her blog – a rarity among most bloggers. While she attributes her early success to luck, she puts in full days and nights. Stating at 6 a.m. every day, including weekends and vacations, she spends about an hour and a half just scheduling Facebook posts. The rest of her workday is spent generating content for her sites.

Last summer she and a fellow mom blogger from California started the11best.com, a curated website that highlights the top 11 things trending on Pinterest. Some of their most popular posts include selfie tips, slow-cooker soup recipes, DIY anytime gifts and muffin-top exercises.

“The blogging world is a big space,” says Fishkind. “The more you can work together, the better it is for everyone. A few mom bloggers together can have a greater impact than some of the larger corporations because our social media presence is far more extensive. These corporations are looking to us as a way to figure out social media.”

Large companies also partner with bloggers like Fishkind to promote their products. Some of Princess Pinky Girl partners include Universal Studios, Princess Cruises, Evite, Coca-Cola, Olive Garden and Nabisco.

“Some people look at mom bloggers as ‘You do a craft with your kids, take a few pictures and post them online’ – but it’s obviously more than that.”

Jessica Watson of Four Plus an Angel

Before blogging was popular, Jessica Watson was using the internet as a way to keep family and friends updated on her pregnancy while on strict bed rest. She also planned on using the blog as a scrapbook for her unborn triplets.

The babies were born a few days shy of 28 weeks. But when one, Hadley, passed away a few days later, the blog became a very therapeutic way for Watson to connect with others, particularly parents who also experienced the loss of a child.

“Losing Hadley has been the most awful experience of my life,” Watson wrote in an early post on her blog, called Four Plus an Angel. “Hadley taught me how precious life is and to not take a single moment for granted.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not miss my daughter. I watch her surviving sister and wonder if they would look the same, talk the same, be the best of friends. But I will never know.

“For all the pain of her loss, I still would not change a thing. I have five amazing children (one singleton before and one singleton after the triplets) and I am so thankful that I was able to bring each of them into the world. Hadley has given me a new perspective on life and has made me a better parent. I am honored to be her mom and thankful that I got to meet her, if only for a short time.”

Watson, a metro Detroiter, describes Four Plus an Angel as a lifestyle blog. Many of her posts are about triplets, premature babies and the loss of a child. Her oldest daughter Ashlyn, 20, is on the spectrum, so Watson used to write more about autism. Now that Ashlyn is older, Watson feels it is no longer her story to tell.

With just over 7,700 followers on Twitter and an almost equal amount of Facebook, Watson finds tremendous value in sharing her life experiences and reading those of others.

“It gives you a perspective on where others are coming from and why they might act the way they do. There is a lot of value in sharing our stories,” she says. That’s also why, in April, she released her first picture book, Soon, for families who have premature babies. “I have four preemies,” she explains. “Their birth story is so different.” You can find it on Amazon for $14.99.

Valerie Jackson of Basic Mom Blog

Livonia mom Valerie Jackson started Basic Mom Blog last year to dish on the highs and lows of parenting. Last year she posted a parody of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” on YouTube. She called it “Your Face,” and the video went viral.

“I would love to tell you that it went viral because it’s brilliant, but I think the real reason is that the original content I parodied is one of the most watched videos on YouTube,” says Jackson. “I think having the words ‘Blank Space’ in the title helped get some eyes on my video and then some of those eyes happened to belong to parents who saw something in the video that resonated with them and shared it.”

Jackson’s post has north of 3 million views and counting as viewers continue to watch and comment. Her video, like her writing, captures some of the best and worst things about parenting. It took an afternoon to come up with lyrics like:

Screaming, crying, slamming doors
Oh great, all the cookies are burned
What’s sticky on the floor?
Keep your hands off your sister, like oh my God
Look at me! Do you want me to count to three?

One of the downsides is the unfavorable comments and criticism, especially when a post reaches a large audience. Jackson’s video was no exception. She’s able to laugh them off, particularly the ones about how terrible her voice is. “The very first thing I say in the information section of my videos is an ‘acknowledgment of my utter inability to sing,'” she says. “My videos were never intended as a showcase for my voice. I’ve also had a few commenters who think I’m too old to be doing this. I guess they think teenagers should be doing mom parodies.”

Jackson, who always loved writing, says she started blogging because she wanted something she could consider hers. “I was finally starting to feel some semblance of self-confidence after a long bout of severe depression. I’ve continued to blog because it helps me put the frustrations and joys of motherhood into perspective.”

Janel Mills of 649.133: Girls, the Care and Maintenance Of.

Local librarian Janel Mills spends hours organizing bookshelves. Early in her career, she often found herself daydreaming and mentally composing lists of parenting tips and funny stories. She posted a few on Facebook. In 2009, she started sharing them in a blog she calls 649.133: Girls, the Care and Maintenance Of.

“I wanted something interesting but not pun-ny, like most blog titles,” says Mills. “I felt like being a librarian was my unique little niche, so I looked up the Dewey Decimal number for books about raising girls. I always joke that my blog title is the best and worst title in the world because even though it’s super clever and unique, nobody can ever remember the numbers. I can’t tell you how many people greet me at blog conferences by saying, ‘Oh, it’s you. Janel from 6-something-something.'”

Mills likes using wit to connect with her readers and credits her sense of humor to stand-up comedy and R-rated ’80s comedies. Growing up, she and her brother watched a number of them “well before we probably should have,” Mills says. “But I’m convinced that being exposed to inappropriate, hilarious movies and books is the best thing that happened to my writing career.”

Her favorite post, written last year, is “Parent Like There’s No One Watching.” Mills describes it as “serious and mushy and just a bit sassy all at once, and truly explains my attitude towards raising my girls. I also love that it touched so many people.”

In it, Mills writes about how strangers reacted when her daughter with autism has an “epic” public meltdown and how Mills finally stopped caring about what others were thinking about her parenting skills and focused instead on her daughter’s needs and feelings.

Mills’ posts have been featured on a number of sites, including BlogHer, BonBon Break, The Mighty, In the Powder Room and Scary Mommy. She is also a contributor to the book You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth, an anthology of short stories from a select group of witty women writers.

Nicole Emanuel of Mom of 4 is Tired

How do readers of Mom of 4 is Tired get in touch with local blogger Nicole Emanuel? She lives in Farmington Hills but, according to the “About Me” page on her blog, she can be found on Facebook, Twitter, email – or just stand at the bottom of the stairs and start yelling: “‘Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.’ Until I come down and see just what the problem is and feed you cookies to make you stop,” Emanuel writes on her blog, which she began in the aftermath of her divorce.

After 13 years of marriage and four children, including one with severe autism, writing started off as a form of therapy for Emanuel.

“After a while, though, I realized sharing my ‘real’ experiences – loneliness, fear and excitement – was a form of therapy for others too,” says Emanuel. “I love being able to take honest experiences and remind others that a messy, complicated life is a normal life.”

Last October, in a humorous post, “Grandma (Almost) Got Run Over by a School Bus,” Emanuel shares how she came across a drunk elderly woman in the middle of the road and two seriously confused teenage boys with no idea how to help. Unfazed, because “she has a radar for all things bizarre,” she wrote:

“This is going to sound vain, but I was, immediately, very concerned about my appearance. It was not what I WAS wearing (yesterday’s yoga pants and a T-shirt bearing the face of Mister Rogers), but rather what I was NOT wearing (a bra) that had me feeling … uncomfortable. While my yoga pants could present me, reasonably and falsely, as someone who had just come from the gym (as opposed to the truth, which was that I had just come from a nap), my T-shirt was covered in three shades of cat hair, donut crumbs and shattered dreams. The bizarre combination of my forgotten bra and my large, drooping bosom created an odd mound underneath the screen-printed image of Mister Rogers’ head.”

Emanuel has over 5,500 Facebook followers. Millions of readers have seen some of her published essays online in Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Redbook and Scary Mommy.

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