the taste of summer

We take summer quite seriously in Sluiter Nation. We live in West Michigan practically on Lake Michigan. This means our winters are hard and our summers are glorious. I mean, when you live somewhere that gives you THIS for winter?

You learn at a very young age that the hot days of summer are not to be squandered, but lived up to the fullest!

We try to do all the things when it comes to summer.

Zoo trips and parks and farmer’s markets and walks and ice cream trips and camping.

We spend a TON of time on the lake on a boat or on the beach.

We swim in Granny’s pool and eat cold, crisp watermelon.

We wash our cars by hand and play in the sandbox.

We have bonfires and kiddie pool parties with friends.

And we sit in our garage and drink beer in the evenings.

I know, I know. We have a deck, so why don’t we sit back there with our nightcap?

We have lots of friends who ask us this very same thing. They think it is totally weird and a little ghetto to grab a bag chair and a frosty cold one, and plant it in the garage.

I think it’s heaven.

Cort and I used to do it quite frequently before having kids. We would spend an entire Saturday doing yard work and house work and then treat ourselves to endless beers while watching the neighborhood wind down from our garage.

It’s like watching a show.

People would stroll by and wave. Kids would play in the street (we live on the deadend of a subdivision). Sometimes a storm would roll in and we would just enjoy it.

Usually we drink good old American light beer.

But to be honest, “beer” is not my favorite taste. In college I preferred cocktails to beers, but if six packs were being purchased, I requested some sort of hard cider.

Remember those bottles of Wood Chuck? Yeah, that was my first “beer” that I could drink. And it’s so not even beer.

I haven’t had a hard cider in probably 13 or so years.

Until this past weekend.

Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer ’round these parts and so we do summer things.

This year we did a ton of yard work and car washing on Saturday. While Eddie was helping his dad, I sat on my butt in the garage and pulled out something new: a Michelob Ultra Light Cider.

my view from my cider-drinking spot in the garage.

When I bought it a couple days prior, the guy in the beer store asked me if I had ever had it since it was new. I told him no, and he told me it’s becoming pretty popular already. They had sold over two cases of it in the two or so weeks since it had been released.

This gave me hope.

I just never know when I am getting something that is supposedly “flavored.” But this said it was naturally flavored with crisp apples. mmm.

After my first sip, I smacked my lips and held the bottle out to stare at it.

“Well?” Cort asked me.

“Tastes like a green jolly rancher. That has been beer-ized.”

“Is that good?”

“You bet it’s good! Mmmm!”

Ok, so I wasn’t completely correct when I called it “beer-ized.”

Beer is apparently different than cider. The brewing process is the same, but rather than using barley and hops, cider uses apples. This is a win in my book since overall barely and hops are not my favorite taste in the whole world.

And Michelob naturally sweetens it’s light cider with stevia.

AND it’s naturally gluten-free.

AND it’s only 120 calories!

(why yes, this isa sponsored post, but I really was all sorts of amazed at these facts.)

Anyway, long story short, I liked it.

So I brought it along on Memorial Day when we spent the whole day with our very wonderful friends at their house. After dinner, a fire was lit outside and we dragged out the bag chairs. And I totally busted out the Michelob light cider. I was enjoying it so much, my friends asked me to taste. So I cracked them open and passed the around.

this guy is pretty happy he is friends with a blogger.

As you can see, they were well-received.

Next time I get it, I’m going to see how it tastes in a glass over ice. Because doesn’t that pretty much sound like a perfect drink for reading a book on the back deck?

Yeah it does.

So spill it (see what I did there? Punny), what is your favorite refreshment for the summer? What fave summer meal would you pair Michelob ULTRA light cider with?

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Go visit the Michelob ULTRA Light Cider page on BlogHer.com!

and please visit Michelob’s site, by going to the sponsor’s site.

contests for you and for me! wee!

There are lots of blogs that do some sort of weekend wrap up of stuff they like to read or cool things around the internet.

I love those blogs and look forward to some great posts and deals each weekend while I sip my decaf coffee and nom on a bagel cookie.

This weekend I have something to share with you! Something BIG!

My good friends over at Tiny Prints just gave me the heads up about The Tiny Prints Talent Search Contest!

People?  This is AWESOME (and you KNOW I will be entering the Sluiters)!!

First place gets $1000, a gift certificate to Tiny Prints for $500, AND a featured spot in the Tiny Prints 2012 campaign!

Talk about a HUGE prize right before Christmas!

I know we could use it! With a new baby coming, we need us some Tiny Prints announcements…and the money would buy us at least a week’s worth of diapers.

You should enter too!  There are five categories:

  1. Cutest baby (age 0-24 months)
  2. Cutest kid (ages 25 months – 10 years)
  3. Cutest family (um, the Sluiters…duh…but you should enter too)
  4. Cutest couple
  5. Cutest pet and owner

After the entry period (until November 21), the entire community will be able to vote!

So how do you enter? It’s super easy…Tiny Prints facebook page or the Tiny Prints website.

Like the fine print?  You can go here to read the Official Rules of the contest.

So go enter!

*************

Sluiters LOVE photo contests!  In fact…

I entered a picture that the lovely Missy of mL photography took of Cort and I into a contest.  The top 10 photos in this facebook album with the most “likes” will get a chance to win.  The prize?  The photo turned into a piece by Modern Bird Studios.  This is really, reallyall I want for Christmas.

So if you are on facebook, and you want to go “like” Modern Bird Studios and then “like” our photo?  That would make my holiday.

And then go enter the Tiny Prints Talent Search Contest!

we {mostly} respect The Bird

Ok, Ok…I know.

People here in the USA do not respect the turkey.

We just don’t.  We say we do and then we fly ahead and put Christmas stuff out…even if we think we are being subtle about it (ahem, MOM).  Or we can’t resist the temptation to listen to the radio station with all the Christmas music.

Don’t act like you don’t do it.  I have seen your tweets and facebook statuses.

I can proudly say I have NOT given into any of these things.

No, for the Sluiters the Christmas season starts on Black Friday and not a minute before.

Except for one thing.

Holiday Cards.

One of my friends recently posted this on facebook:

Christmas cards?  Yes or no?  And if yes, why?  What should we do? Who gets one?  Tips?

I know in this age of constantly being connected and always “talking” to everyone we have ever known thanks to facebook, twitter, email, blogs, etc. it’s very easy to just say nuts to the whole card idea.

Plus there is The List.  Who is on it?  Where do you draw the line?  And holy crap why does postage keep going up?

But my comment on my friend’s status?

YES!  Cards!  They are so fun to get in the mail…especially the ones with pictures!  We keep them up year ’round!  And you just have to stick with close family and friends if you want.

It’s true.  I LOVE Christmas cards!  I love to give them and receive them.  My heart soars when I get home from work and trudge out in the cold to the mailbox and pull out a stack of red and green and white envelopes that have The Sluiters written by hand across the front.

It makes me feel remembered and loved.

Before having kids, Cort and I used to line our book shelves with all the cards.  But with a toddler, that doesn’t last long, so last year we found a solution.

Card Display from WillowHouse

Right behind our front door, Cortney hung up a card display that I bought from Willow House last year. At Christmas we put all the cards and photos we are sent in it.

Then, once Christmas is over, I take all the cards out, snip the photos from them, and only keep the pictures up…but they stay there year ’round.  We add any other cards or pictures or announcements we are sent throughout the year until Christmas and then we start over again.

It gets pretty full throughout the year

We used to post all the pictures on our fridge after Christmas, but it got too cluttered, this way everyone who comes in can see our pictures, and we are reminded of loved ones as we leave and return to our home.

As far as sending Christmas cards, I think you can tell I am partial to the photo card.

We set up a fall photoshoot for our family for the beginning of November to get a cute shot of our family that will hopefully stay up all year at our friends’ and families’ homes.

We get usually get our cards from our photographer most years, but this year we are also getting some from Tiny Prints (since our list is growing!)

Tiny Prints is one of my favorite online stationary shops.  They always have the most modern and hip and cute designs.  I think the design we are going with this year is this one:

We will put a family picture and an Eddie picture on it.

It was a hard choice because look at these awesome choices:

this is a close second to the one I chose...it might still sway me. what do you think?

these trifold are A-DOR-A-BLE!

if only square didn't require more postage. le sigh...

Tiny Prints really has such swoonable cards.

And they are soooo easy to use.  Just go to their Christmas Cards section to get started.  There are easy to use filters on the left to help you narrow down the type of card you want (I used the “2 photo” filter to find one that would work for us).

So tell me, do you have a Holiday card tradition?  How do you decide who makes The List to get one?

**Legal Stuff:  This is a sponsored post by Tiny Prints, but it’s all true.  I do love me some Christmas Cards.

Special Needs Special

**author’s note:  This is a sponsored post in a way, but I will get to that later.  This was supposed to run on the Friday of BlogHer, but due to an internet outage and some other stuff, it didn’t get scheduled.  I am running it now because it’s important to me to fulfill what I said I would do.**

I read a lot of blogs by mother’s and father’s with special needs children.  I’ll be honest and say many times I don’t comment.  Mostly because I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to reassure.

I have never been in the position to parent a child with special  needs.

I wish I could say that I have had really positive experiences teaching students with special needs, but that is not totally accurate either.  Most of my autistic and emotionally impaired students do really love me, but not in the classroom.   They love to stop by and talk and talk and talk to me after school though.

I’ve never been uncomfortable around people with special needs, but I don’t know that God blessed me with what it takes to live or work with them full time.  I just don’t feel that I am enough.

I know it’s cliche, but it really does take a special person to commit themselves to working with and loving people with special needs.

My beautiful friend, Trisha, has spent her entire life with people who have special needs.

Her parents run Adult Foster Care homes in the Grand Rapids area, and when she was growing up, her house was a home for ladies.

In fact, her parents didn’t get out of managing their own home until Trisha was in high school.  Now they own three homes, one of which Trisha and her husband, Ben (who has two adopted brothers who are both special needs), live in and manage.

Besides the two of them, they have up to 12 women at a time along with their own four children (ages 5, 3, and twins who are 2 months) living with them.

Running the house is their job.

They can’t just leave whenever they want; everything has to be scheduled so that one of them is home with the ladies at all times.

If they want time off, they have to hire staff, pack up all four kids, and leave their own home.

Not to mention dealing with crappy government funding, guardians who may or may not work with them, special needs program scheduling, staffing, grocery shopping for 18 people, cooking for 18 people, keeping the house to code, cleaning up after “accidents”, and so much more.

They have had medical emergencies ranging from stroke to heart attack.  Trisha has had to say goodbye to women she knew since she was little.

Their children know no different.  Even though the house is separated to give their family some privacy, their boys still play with the ladies from time to time and know them all.

Managing a house of women who have everything from Downs Syndrome to Schizophrenia is not just a job they can do and then leave behind them after an eight hour work day.

It’s their life.

I wish I could say after all the years of being friends and spending time at their house, I am used to their way of life.

I guess in a way, I am.  I don’t get awkward feeling sharing the kitchen with the ladies who are on dishes duty, or when they ask to use the phone, or when it’s time for Ben to do meds.

But I am still in awe of how Ben and Trisha (and their children) can just mesh with all these ladies…and meet their needs without acting like they are “special”.

Or rather…showing the ladies they are special and important…without focusing on the fact that it has anything to do with their needs.

They treat them like normal people.

Because they are.

They are people.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to convey to Trisha and Ben how much I respect what they do.

The world needs more Trishas and Bens.

***Trisha and Ben (owners of Visel AFC) gave me this sponsored post for my birthday back in March.  They asked me to write about my experience with someone with special needs, but the only thing I could think about was how having them in my life, and experiencing their life/job has made me a better person.  I wanted to post this during BlogHer, since they helped me get there, but it didn’t work out.  I hope they still accept this**

this is me asking for advice

**Thank you to Chic Mama for sponsoring this post.  Because Lord knows, I need all the advice I can get!**

Apparently crazy mood swings are a part of pregnancy.

I knew this, but holy crap, for some reason I was NOT prepared for this.

I mean, we spent sooooo long talking about having another baby, trying to have another baby, and waiting to pee on a stick to see if we were having another baby, that I sort of blocked out the crazy that happens when pregnancy actually occurs.

Earlier this week, I told you how I do not do well with change, and how I am afraid Eddie doesn’t either. Then on Tuesday I had my second ultrasound.

For the first time in the history of all four of my pregnancies (first 2 were miscarriages), Cortney was not able to come to my appointment with me.

I know, I know…most dudes do not go along to every single appointment.  Well, Cort always did.  Maybe it was because the first two pregnancies didn’t work out.  Maybe it was because he knew I needed his logic and ears when I was pregnant with Eddie.

Anyway, he didn’t come yesterday.

And I was alone.

I sat there on the exam table with the sheet wrapped around my wait, barely covering my buns, thinking about all the bad things that I could find out.  What if the embryo hadn’t grown?  What if they couldn’t find a heartbeat?  What if they found something else wrong?  What if….

And I got a little nauseous thinking that Cort wouldn’t be there to hold my hand.

The doc and nurse came in.  My legs went up.  The black and white screen flipped on, and there was my little bean.  Perfect measurements with a heartbeat of 177 per minute.

I even got a picture.

And just like that I was alone again to get dressed.

And it hit me…this baby thing is FOR REAL.

In 30ish weeks we will have a little bundle.  There will be the hospital stay and the recovery.  We will have to get the nursery figured out and Eddie’s room finished.

I have to find get out the swing, the bouncy seat, the baby carrier and car bases, the activity mat, the saucer, the….BOTTLES.

OH. MY. LAWD.

The past couple days have been a blur of me remembering what this house looked like when Eddie-The-Newborn invaded it.

He took this joint OVER.  Even more so than all the toys now.  Newborn stuff was everywhere.

How is it all going to fit this time with a toddler who is beyond spoiled has a lot of stuff?

I lost my mind with Eddie.  No really, that is what PPD was like.  I lost who I was.  Is that going to happen again?

Am I going to miss this baby’s infancy again?

What is about to happen to me?

People?  I need your words or advice or SOMETHING!

Those of you with more than one child?  Tell me something about adding one more.  What was the best thing you did?  What was totally not necessary to worry about?

HELP!

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Featured on Bravo's Bethenny Getting Married

This post was sponsored by Chic Mama Diaper Cakes (but I REALLY wanted to write it anyway, so YAY!)  Chic Mama was founded by Adriana D’Arco who longed to find a career that she was passionate about as well as one that would be flexible enough to fit her lifestyle of raising two active children.

One main part of the mission at Chic Mama is to create beautiful, stylish and sophisticated diaper cakes. Yet, Adriana didn’t want to limit her business to just diaper cakes alone. She wanted to offer quality products that all mothers could use at various stages of motherhood – catering to expecting moms, moms to newborns, toddlers and beyond!

Chic Mama offers everything from stollers, diaper bags, accessories and even clothing that make the perfect gift for any mom! Adriana understands that priorities may change when becoming a mom but your sense of style should not. Chic Mama is for the modern mom who appreciates all things “chic.”

 

You can find Chic Mama Diaper Cakes on facebook and twitter.  And NEW to Chic Mama is #ChicMamaChat on twitter!  Where you can discuss all things about being a mom…well, a CHIC Mama!

in my heart

Being a mother was supposed to be natural and easy.

but it wasn’t for me

Being a mother was supposed to be pure joy.

But it hasn’t been for me.

Being a mother was supposed to be what I was made for.

But it’s been difficult for me.

Being a mother was supposed to “make me understand” what my mom said all those times when she was worried or happy or proud or scared or just overwhelmed.

And it has.

Being a mother has made me believe in things I thought only happened to other people…

love at first sight
getting lost in someone’s eyes
napping with someone in my space
being comfortable with someone in my personal bubble
wanting sick cuddles
seeing my exact personality in someone else
my heart leeping when I see these two smile together
filling with pride for something I “did” yet….didn’t do.
feeling a perfect and uncomplicated love
and being ok with sippys in the bed

I  now understand that simple line in the Christmas story that reads,

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19)

Being a mother has taught me what I already know:  time is so very temporary.

And I need to treasure each moment.

Happy Mother’s Day.

**************

Thank you to Cort and Eddie for making my Mother’s Day so special.
Tomorrow I will continue my blogging tips series, but I needed to share my heart today.

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With every “promise” (“like”) made at  their facebook page, Johnson’s will donate $1 to the March of Dimes.
Johnson’s will host a series of photo contests on its Facebook page beginning in May. Selected monthly winners will receive one of a variety of prizes and be eligible for the $25,000 Grand Prize, to be announced in January 2012.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson’s and received Johnson’s Baby products and a  promotional item and to facilitate my review.

Memories of Her

I have to start with a bit o’ brag.  BlogHer has spot-lighted my post on Blogging Turn On’s and Turn Off’s.

Yay!  Take a minute to go see me there?  Thanks!

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Every year my mom or one of her three sisters has the entire family over for Father’s Day to celebrate my Grandpa and all the dads in the family.

This used to be the tradition for Mother’s Day as well.

But Mother’s Day was super special because we were also celebrating my Grandma’s birthday, and I loved my Grandma.

My Grandma Jo as I remember her

This is in the past tense because my Grandma Jo passed away 10 years ago.

Not a Mother’s Day passes that I don’t stop and think about her and all she’s given me that I was never able to thank her for.

Everything about this year reminds me of her.

The yellow tulips remind me of her favorite flower and her love of taking her grandchildren to the annual Holland Tulip Time Parade.

Easter Sunday reminds me of the egg hunts she created for all of us and how she made us empty our baskets when we were done and count out the same number of each candy for everyone.

Church reminds me of her singing hymns to herself in her quavering old lady voice, that I always found to be beautiful.

My Grandma taught me so much of what it is to be a strong woman…and she will never know her impact on me.

My Grandma Jo taught me…

  • It’s ok to be alone.  In fact, you can gain peace and strength by it.
  • It’s ok to NOT have a man.
  • It’s a wonderful thing to find the right man.
  • family is something to celebrate.
  • no matter what your life throws at you, your family will love you.
  • that small things are the best
  • children are the most precious gift–whether they are yours or not
  • childhood is something to be savored because it is gone too quickly.
  • you don’t ever really have to grow up.  Be an adult, yes, but grow up?  No.
  • that blind faith is ok, and sometimes necessary.  There are a LOT of things I don’t understand, but that is ok.
  • when in doubt?  Yodel.

The day I found out about my first miscarriage I was so afraid, the first thing I did was to take my Grandma’s Bible off my shelf and open to a random page.

It fell open to Psalm 146, which she had underlined “Happy He who Trusts in the Lord.”

There is almost nothing underlined in her entire Bible.

But that?  Gave me comfort as I went into one of the scariest, most emotional tumultuous times of my life.

I wondered how many times in her life Grandma had looked at that passage to find strength.

My Grandma was the strongest woman I knew.

And she helped me know that I could be strong too.

To honor a woman in your life for Mother’s Day, Clever Girls and Heart of Haiti is offering you a special discount code for 15% off when you purchase a gift of Heart of Haiti or Rwanda Path to Peace products between May 3-8.  Just in time for Mother’s Day!

Just shop Macy’s’ Shop for a Better World/Heart of Haiti Collection, and use the code CLEVERGIRLS at check out to receive your discount.

If my Grandma was around, I would get her this because she LOVED bright colors.  It is also fitting because my beautiful Grandmother died of Alzheimer’s and if I could give her back her memories, I would.

Heart of Haiti Vase of Memories

 

And if I was making a Mother’s Day list for myself? I would love the Vase of Memories too, but  I would probably also add this to my list:

Heart of Haiti Tree of Life Frame

What woman are you honoring this Mother’s Day and why? Share with me!

I was selected for this very special “CleverHaiti” opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity. All opinions are my own.

teaching isn’t just my job, it’s my job.

Thanks to the makers of Pine-Sol® for sponsoring my writing. A study shows a clean smelling home can help children succeed, so Pine-Sol® is supporting Reading is Fundamental (RIF) this year. Click “Like” on Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page here and they will donate books to RIF!
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I don’t remember books not being in my life.

Growing up, the bottom drawer of my dresser was so full of children’s books that the bottom eventually fell out from the weight.

My  mom always had a pile of books on top of the refrigerator from the library, and a few more on the front seat of her car waiting to be swapped out for new ones.

My dad was always reading the newspaper.

We had a set of encyclopedia and a set of childcraft encyclopedia.

Words were my life from early on.  In grade school I lived for scholastic book orders.  In middle school my mom brought me piles of books home from the library.  By high school?  I had decided that I wanted to read–and talk about those books–for the rest of my life.

And so I became an English teacher.

I have worked for over a decade encouraging kids to read…to entice them into becoming life-long readers.

The school I work in is filled with students who didn’t have their own books as kids.  They come to us behind…because they don’t know what it’s like to have books in their life for fun.

Not a couple years ago, after about 90% of one of my classes failed to do a short assigned reading assignment, I polled the class with this question: “How many of you had your own books as kids and were read to all the time.”

One girl raised her hand (she did the assignment, by the way).  I died a little inside.

That same year our school started doing RIF (reading is fundamental), a program that gives students free books.

I was suddenly aware of the gift my parents had given me.

Also that year I found out I was pregnant with my son.

Immediately, I gathered my favorite childhood books and piled them in the room that would be his.

I would sit in the middle of the room and read the books out loud to my dancing fetus.

A year later, I was reading Green Eggs and Ham to a squirmy infant.

Not long after that, we traded the “paper pages” for board books because he wanted to handle them and gnaw on the book clumsily turn the pages himself.

Now, as a 20-month old, he brings me book after book to read.  He points out the letters to me and says some of them.  He points out the kitties and the dogs and the moons and the balloons.

I burst with pride when his little finger points at the pictures as I read the words…as he examines each page before we turn it.

I know this is what my parents did.  And I know it is a large part of why I became a successful student…and teacher….and writer.

It is never ever too early to start reading with your children.  Each time you choose to put down your phone, or step away from your laptop (in my case) to read with your child, you are sending a message about what is important.

Each time your child sees you pick up a book or newspaper instead of watch a reality show?  You are showing your child where your priorities are and what you see as valuable.

Your child…and education are important.  Show this to your child.  Read with him/her.

Don’t forget to click over to Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page to support our children’s success. I was selected for this Pine-Sol® sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Today my post for The Red Dress Club is over at my other blog. Please click below to go there.


it’s all about me

Thanks to Crystal Light for sponsoring this post. To learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors, visit http://www.facebook.com/crystallight.

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I am busy.

I am up and out of the house by 6:45am each morning  (earlier if there is a meeting or bad weather threatening my commute).

I teach from 7:30-2:30 with no planning period and only 25 minutes for lunch.

There are usually students in my classroom from 2:30 until around 4:00 working on absent work, getting help, or retaking failed tests.

It’s difficult for me to get out of the door by 4:30pm so that I can be home in time for Cort to leave for his night class.

And once I am home, I am in charge of Eddie until bedtime at 8:00pm

Me time?  Is hard to come by these days. At least not without loads of mom guilt with it.

But if there is one thing I have learned from my ppd support groups, it’s that if I want to continue my healing, I have to cut out some me time every single day.

So every day, after I tuck Eddie into bed but before Cort gets home from class, I take my laptop and cuddle into my big brown chair.

My laptop is my me time when I am at home.  It’s where I read and connect and write.  I can get lost for an hour  in chatting with my friends and writing what’s on my heart.

I have found that my at home me time is not always enough though.  You see, other than when Cort has class?  I am never alone in our house.

Since Cort is unemployed and Eddie is a toddler, when I have days off from school?  They are here with me.

I have to carve out “away” me time too.  For my sanity.

That is why at least once a month I try to carve out a Friday night with friends.

To be honest?  I always dread the night out.

Not when I plan it…then I am excited about it.

But as it approaches I start to dread my time away.  The mom guilt and the wife guilt set in.  I worry about being too tired and not any fun.

I am always, ALWAYS wrong.

Getting out of the house with my girls is always good for me.  It reminds me that I am not just a mom.  I am not just a wife.  I am a friend too.  And I am Kate.

When I am reminded of who I am?  I am a better mom…and wife.

How do you find time for yourself?  Do you get the mom guilt thrown at you too?

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Remember, visit http://www.facebook.com/crystallight to learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors. I was selected and paid for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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