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Mom Bloggers In Tampa Bay: Keeping It Real






What does it take to be a good mom? Each person's answer to that question is probably very different. For one mom, it might be involvement in school and the community. For another it's just getting out the door on time each day. Still for others, it's about instilling strong values and beliefs in your children.

83 Degrees Media talks with five moms in Tampa Bay who blog about their daily life experiences in hopes of inspiring other parents, providing advice and learning something about themselves along the way.

Some are just starting out with children; others know the ropes. But they all have one thing in common: The bond that ties them together as writers and as moms, and the desire to share what they know with the world. For them, being a good mom is about small successes, overcoming challenges and being the most authentic version of yourself.

The Be Present Project, Jessica Muroff

Like many young professionals, Tampa native and University of South Florida graduate Jessica Muroff had the typical 40+ hour work week, working from home most nights, spending lots of time on email. One day she woke up and realized that her daughters were 4 and 6 years old and wondered where all of the time went. It was then that she decided to make a significant, albeit somewhat scary, career and life change to a new job that would allow her to spend more time with her family. A few months later, The Be Present Project blog was born.

The blog focuses on how to be more present in our everyday lives – from family dinners to "no phone zones'' to little things like hugs and simply saying, "I love you.''
 
"I would like to give people more resources and tools to be inspired and to help them be more present every single day -- to simplify things in life and focus on being present,'' says Muroff.

With all of the struggles involved in the day to day balancing act that is being a mom, the blog inspires people to take a deep breath and focus on what's important.

"As a mom, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, and I think we overdo it sometimes,'' says Muroff. "I'm amazed at how simple it can be to do this –- slow down, take some breaths, make some priorities.''
 
Throughout the blog, you'll find advice such as finding pure joy through belting out songs with your kids on the way to school or using a handwritten letter to give 'a moment' to someone else. You’ll learn to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, like counting freckles.
 
Most of all, the blog chronicles Muroff's personal journey of successes and challenges involved in being more present on a daily basis.

"I feel completely more fulfilled than I have been in a long time. I'm so much happier as a person. This has been a really amazing journey for me.''

Mommy Masters, Ellie Hirsch

"Together, we can master motherhood,'' is Ellie Hirsch's motto and theme. As a stay-at-home mom of children ages 6, 4 and 10 months, and with a husband who travels frequently, she realizes the definition of motherhood is different for everyone.

"One day you'll be a mommy master, the next day you might be a mommy disaster,'' laughs Hirsch. But, it's all part of the learning process.

Hirsch moved to Tampa in 2004, when her husband's job brought them to Florida. While at first it was tough being away from family, they now love the area and have no plans to leave.

"The atmosphere for children is fantastic,'' says Hirsch. "We have created a really nice life for ourselves.''
 
The goal of Mommy Masters is to be a resource for parents, with tips, tools and reassurance in whatever decisions they face. The blog includes a different parenting tip each month, taken directly from the experiences Hirsch has in her own life. Tips include ways to teach children to appreciate what they have, the importance of storytelling and creative responses to tantrums.

"I try to be informational, as a resource where parents can go if they need advice, help or confidence,'' says Hirsch. 

Other highlights include "Mommy Master of the Month,'' featuring mom entrepreneurs, mostly from the Tampa Bay region.

"It's incredible the amount of women who are doing so many great things,'' reflects Hirsch.

And not to leave dads out, the "A Dad's Perspective'' section features a guest dad blogger who shares his perspective on parenting, such as tips for flying with children.

Hirsch also released an 18-track educational CD of children's music. The CD and the blog have been a wonderful experience for her. "It's my biggest accomplishment, aside from my children,'' says Hirsch.


Gone Bananas, Kirsten Krienes

Hernando County resident Kirsten Krienes started blogging in 2008, with the main goal of writing about her experience raising a young child with epilepsy.

"I started the blog as an outlet,'' says Krienes. "It ended up being a blog about, basically, my life,'' which Krienes likens to "going bananas.''
 
Her daughter, now 10, was diagnosed with epilepsy at one month old. Her Gone Bananas blog describes general day-to-day experiences such as trips to Busch Gardens and stay-at-home pumpkin carvings. It also offers a humble, sincere account of her struggles living with anxiety. Krienes describes challenges she has faced, as well as small tasks that help her get through.
 
"I want people to know that I'm still me, I'm still real, I can still joke and have a good time,'' says Krienes. "I just happen to deal with this as well.''
 
Krienes posts music videos to describe her feelings and moods, such as Walk by Foo Fighters when a particularly tough week had her feeling like she was learning to walk all over again. 

Through the blog, Krienes has been able to work through some of her anxiety issues and is thankful for the connections she has made with others in similar situations.

Krienes also uses the blog to educate people about epilepsy, which effects 65 million people worldwide (300,000 children under the age of 15 in the U.S.).

Krienes may go weeks at a time without blogging, mainly to make sure all of her posts are genuine and well thought-out.

"I consider myself beautifully flawed -- otherwise known as normal,'' laughs Krienes. Her tagline is "Sliding through life one banana peel at a time.''

Metamorfit, Jenny Hodges

In 2008, Land O' Lakes resident Jenny Hodges thought she hit rock bottom. A full-time graduate student and stay-at-home mom to three kids ages 1, 2 and 3, she weighed in at 369 pounds. Realizing that not only was she not taking care of herself, but she wasn't serving as a positive role model for her kids, Hodges set off for the weight loss journey of a lifetime.
 
She started by drastically changing her diet, going from eating lots of boxed, processed foods to a clean, "close to the Earth'' diet with minimal ingredients. She learned about portion control and gained accountability through Weight Watchers.
 
She also started to exercise.

"Once I started incorporating exercise and changed my diet, it was amazing to see how my body transformed,'' says Hodges. She quickly discovered a passion for sports and fitness. "I became an amateur athlete, and realized I'm kind of a natural at it.''
 
After 2½ years, Hodges was at a weight she was happy with -- a grand total of 212 pounds lost -- and has kept it off ever since. 

Her blog, titled Metamorfit because of the transformation she went through, began as a way to "pay it forward,'' letting people know that anything in life is possible. Even with three young kids (one with special needs), being in the right mindset allowed Hodges to manage her life and reach her aggressive weight loss goal.
 
Metamorfit features a weekly vlog, or video blog, and healthy recipes. Hodges also writes about parenting experiences such as teaching your children about healthy living, and exercise tips such as "5 Tips for a Pilates Newbie.'' Her blog is a few months old and, she says, has already inspired people to make important life changes.

Hodges is active in the Tampa Bay blogging community and credits it for helping her blog get off the ground.

"We're not competitive with each other,'' she says. "We do a lot of outreach together and answer questions. Being a newbie blogger, I really needed that.''


Denise Mestanza-Taylor, Run DMT

Being a stay-at-home mom, running marathons, and organizing both a moms group and Tampa Bay bloggers online community keeps Denise Mestanza-Taylor constantly "on the run.'' Her blog follows her passion for running, along with the constant running around that comes with raising three children, ages 10, 7 and 2.

A University of South Florida graduate and former Pasco County school teacher, Mestanza-Taylor first found her passion for running in 2007. After each race, she would share stories in the online forum of the local moms group she organizes and realized she had a following. This, coupled with her long-term love for writing, gave her the inspiration to start the blog.
 
"I pride myself in always having a story to tell,'' she says, noting that her main reason for writing is to share her experiences.

True to the blog's title, the Run DMT posts run the gamut, from recipes to weekly meal plans, activities to do with kids and play-by-plays of her running journey complete with pictures. There's also a "Soup du Jour Vlog'' each week on Thursday, which features a short video.

"Tampa Bay has beautiful beaches, rivers and parks to explore, wonderful restaurants and great nightspots,'' says Mestanza-Taylor, noting that the vast amount of things to do in the region year round provides great blogging material.

She started the Tampa Bloggers online community after hosting a local BlogHer Meetup in 2011. The meetup provided so much knowledge about blogging and a sense of community, she wanted to repeat the experience.
 
Like many others, Mestanza-Taylor describes herself as "a mom on the run, just trying to find an easy pace through it all.''

Megan Hendricks is a native Floridian and longtime Tampa Bay resident who loves the culture and diversity of the region. In her free time she enjoys local restaurants, thrift store shopping and spending time with her family. She earned her masters of business administration from USF Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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