25/09/2012 13:32 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Blog Of The Week: Mum In The Madhouse

Blog of the Week: Mum in the Madhouse

Most parents know that life doesn't always go as you plan.

One of the most difficult things to come to terms with as a parent is the idea that you might not be around to see your children grow up - but that's a feeling Jen Walshaw is more than familiar with.

Back in 2009, Jen was recovering from a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The operation brought with it complications and Jen wanted to be sure that she was capturing the time she spent with her children, who were then aged three and four.

"I wanted the blog to be a diary of our time together, because I didn't know how much time there might be," Jen explains. "The blog definitely helped me through some dark times in my life - the mastectomy and subsequent complications, but also the sudden death of my Mum."

That's not to say that Jen's blog - Mum in the Madhouse - is depressing. Far from it! The blog is a colourful combination of crafts, cooking, photography and children's activities, and Jen loves being able to look back at the things her two sons have done, including the odd expressions and jokes that make her laugh.

Blog of the Week: Mum in the Madhouse

If you want to know how to make the best cookies or thrifty meals, Jen's blog is the perfect place to start - and her recent post about making your own Olympic medals was a big hit.

Typical posts might be about the hazards of walking barefoot in a house lived in by children or a letter from Jen to her boys.

When life's tough, getting the words onto a screen can help you to process them and put them in perspective, although Jen admits she is careful with what she shares online - she is always conscious of her family's feelings, and how her children might feel about the blog when they're older. "I use pseudonyms for the boys and for my husband, and my sons have got into the habit of calling our home the Mad House," Jen laughs.

Blog of the Week: Mum in the Madhouse

Jen is a stay-at-home mum in North Yorkshire but blogging has provided her with a network of friends around the world, many of whom Jen regularly meets in 'real' life.

Writing a popular blog also means Jen and her family have enjoyed some very special experiences, including a behind the scenes tour of Heathrow Airport. Another highlight was being cooked lunch by Aldo Zilli!

For mums and dads who might be considering starting a blog, Jen has a few tips. First, take time to build your audience slowly - they'll be more loyal that way. Join blogging communities such as Tots100, but also connect with people on Facebook and Twitter.

Over time, it's also important to keep a blog fresh, so Jen is careful to always blog about things she's enthusiastic about. "Blogging can easily become a chore if you treat it as something you have to do. If I ever felt like that, I'd stop," she says.

Jen's bookmarks: I adore their stationery, and love washi tape and paper straws, too. No plastic straws in our house! Perfect if, like me, you've an aversion to logo-strewn clothes. I don't want the boys to look the same as everyone else, so I love this site. Ideal for quirky, individual pieces, and I regularly save up for something I really want from this site. Fab for things to do as a family, many of them craft-based.

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