Like so many moms who discover that the unintentionally comic antics of infants and toddlers can make for delectably funny reading, Cincinnati blogger Anna Luther started My Life and Kids mainly as a way to liven up the duller moments of parenting two toddlers and a baby.
"I kind of felt like I was going to lose my mind a little bit," says Luther, who'd left an engaging job as social media manager and fundraiser for Cincinnati Children's Hospital to be a mom on the spot to Miles, now 6; Alice, 5 and Simon, 3. "At the time, this was 2011, I was home alone all day with a just-turned-3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn, and I was really missing using the part of my brain that was not related to being a mom.
"Plus," she says with a giggle, "these hilarious things were happening all day, every day ... and there was no one around for me to tell."
So Luther started blogging about all the hilarious things.
"It gave me a whole new lens for how I was viewing my day," she says. "It was no longer 'I can't believe I have to clean all this up!' It was 'Oooh! Let me grab my camera! This is hilarious! It'll make a great blog post!' Blogging gave a 'happy lens' to everything I was doing, which at times felt really dull."
Originally, Luther's intended audience was simply her own mom. But a whole lot of other folks also enjoyed reading about Luther's not-so-perfect family road trip vacations, the conspiracy she was certain her kids had cooked up to prevent her from ever sleeping a full eight hours, her major steal at a garage sale that came with one teeny-tiny drawback, and a look back at her mother's "reckless" parenting that asked the hilariously existential question: How am I still alive?
By the time Simon had become a toddler on the run, Luther was chasing three kids and blogging full-time.
"The blog was growing, which was really exciting, but I was starting to feel more pressure to be funny five days a week, and I was struggling with that," Luther says. "And things were very hectic. There was no balance. The house was always a mess; we were always out of groceries; I never had dinner ready. Every spare second I was not watching the kids, I was blogging."
As her husband—known to regular readers as Even Steven for his unflappable personality—diplomatically pointed out: Something had to give. Weighing the options, Luther realized she had a choice: Scale back and just blog part-time as a hobby or go big and make it a business.
Lucky for us, Luther went big. She hired a babysitter one day a week to give her focused time to blog. "I got a system in place where I could do every last bit of blogging during the five hours the babysitter was here. I had it down!" Luther says.
And she brought on three channel editors—all SAHMs who Luther knew from her days at Cincinnati Children's Hospital—to help her create content. Eighteen months later, My Life and Kids looks a lot more like a mom's online lifestyle magazine, serving up LOL posts, of course, but also recipes, DIY crafts, must-read parenting tips, tricks and hacks and some 3,000 Montessori-based educational activities for children birth to age 5. Upwards of 400,000 readers follow her blog, where new posts are published five days a week. Nearly 30,000 follow her 55 boards on Pinterest, where she pins even more clickable content.
Among the 55, you'll find helpful parenting boards; great holiday-specific boards (including one on getting ready for Halloween); and boards about food, glorious food, including one devoted to kids' favorite foods, one for totally splurge-worthy desserts and one, strangely enough, for ... Crisco.
"I created boards around things I'm personally interested in and that I've searched for as a mom of young kids," Luther says. "I love reading parenting articles. I am "that mom" who's out there looking for the best tips for how to get your kids to sleep through the night. And because learning from other moms was so helpful for me, I wanted to be able to be that type of resource for other moms who are also trying to find those meals you can get on the table in 30 minutes or food that your kids are actually going to eat."
And um ... the Crisco? The board featuring recipes and crafts along with vintage ads for the vegetable shortening is a nostalgic nod to Luther's own childhood.
"My mom and I baked all the time, and she always kept a can of butter-flavor Crisco on the kitchen counter," Luther says. "I would sneak spoonfuls of Crisco out of the can as a child and eat it because I thought it was so good. I vividly remember my mom telling a babysitter one day not to let me eat anymore because she was trying to get me to stop. The babysitter caught me with my spoon in the Crisco, and I told her it was cheese, and that I was allowed to have it."
Goofball "confessions" like that are what keep readers clamoring for more about her life and kids. And since Luther is such a power-pinner—she wrote the curriculum for the new online course Pinning Perfect that teaches bloggers to use Pinterest more effectively—we asked her which "pinteresting" moms she follows.
"The Pinterest page for the Smart School House blog is a terrific source for DIY crafts and easy recipes. I'm such a visual person; I love how blogger/pinner Kelly Dixon (a former first-grade teacher turned stay-at-home mom of two) takes photographs and creates her boards. Right now, I'm browsing her board Food for the Fall. Fall is my favorite season. I used to go apple picking when I was growing up in Michigan, and all through the Fall, I'd make apple pies with my mom, my grandma and great-grandma, so I love that Kelly has a ton of recipes with apples. I like her My Completed Projects board because her kids activities just look so fun. This summer, we tried the melting marshmallow paint. These projects are so inspired—the paint was edible! I'm also a big fan of her Smart Ideas board for life hacks. I've done muffin-tin lunches (my kids are obsessed with muffin-tin lunches); cupcake liners on popsicle sticks to stop the dribbles; and I just put stickers in my 3-year-old's shoes to help him get them on the right feet. All great ideas I found on her 8 Genius Life Hacks For Kids board. I love this stuff."
"If you want to do something fun with your kids, just go to Laura Hutchison's Kid Blogger Network Activities and Crafts board, and you will find something. With more than 500 bloggers pinning to this group board — I'm one of them! — this is the online resource for kids' activities, easy recipes and some be-a-better-mom advice. I like the 'Hey, we're all in this together' vibe that carries over from her Play Dr. Mom blog. I also follow her Play Therapy: Learning About Emotions board. My mom was a counselor, so 'emotional IQ' was a very big deal in our home. We talked about feelings all the time. Coaching parents through kids' emotional development is so important, and because Hutchison is a psychologist and registered play therapist, as well as a mom of two, I trust her and the pins she puts on her board. And now that my kindergartener is bringing home sight words to practice, I've been checking out her Playful Learning: Sight Words board because she's got a lot of great ideas for making learning those sight words a little more fun."
"I l-o-v-e crafting. In fact, here's a little-known secret: My blog was originally going to be a DIY/craft blog because I love crafting so much. This time of year, I'm looking for ideas for Halloween costumes to make my kids, so the Two Sisters' Halloween Costumes for Kids board is on my go-to list. It's hard for me to fathom purchasing Halloween costumes, since I grew up making my own costumes (or my mom would make them for me). Two Sisters Laura and Nancy must get that since they've been crafting together since they were kids. My own daughter Alice certainly loves them! Even though I am not planning a 'Frozen' party anytime soon, I've also been stalking their Frozen Party Ideas board because Alice remains obsessed. She loves to look at the beautiful 'Frozen' pictures they pin. And I like that on their blog they'll say, 'We found this great idea on Pinterest; here's our spin on it.' Or, 'Here's why this didn't actually work for us, so here's what to do so you don't make the same mistakes we did.' Plus, I just adore that they have a lot of random food boards, like the one dedicated to Rice Krispies Treats. It cracks me up because I would think this would have maybe 15 pins, but it's got 121 pins. I didn't know you could do this much with Rice Krispies treats: There are pumpkin-shaped treats, Oreo treats, chocolate-peanut butter treats, treats that look like paintbrushes, even footballs. My kids are going to be so disappointed with regular Rice Krispies treats after seeing this!