2009 was a terrible year.  And a great year.

Three years ago, my family was planning to leave Grand Rapids and follow a job with my husband’s company.  I quit my job teaching chemistry in anticipation of the move.  And then the economy tanked and the auto industry imploded.  My husband’s auto-related job that we were relocating for vanished.  Amazingly, my husband quickly landed another job (albeit in Kalamazoo.)

Given all the upheaval, we tabled the idea of moving and I found myself in a new role as a full-time stay-at-home mom.  I was thrilled that I would get to spend more time with my 2 kids but I quickly realized I needed an outlet for myself.  Since I had been sharing family event lists with my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group for the past 2 years, I decided to buy the grkids.com domain name to make sharing events with my friends even easier.  And Voila! grkids.com was born the next day when I started uploading events to an online calendar.

What happened next is nothing exciting.

I spent lots of time on my website, not because it was popular, but because it was fun for me.  It was a hobby and it gave me something to do with my mind in addition to all the diapers, feedings and play dates.  Throughout that first year, I probably annoyed a lot of people because I wouldn’t shut up about the website.  I even gave business cards to other moms standing in the checkout line next to me at Meijer!

My shameless campaigning for grkids.com didn’t stop.

I thought everyone with kids would want to know about this free, amazing resource that I spent so much time on, so I kept working for no pay and no real recognition for almost a year.  As I worked, I was continually amazed by the amount of information out there for families. It became a personal challenge to see how many events I could find to add to the event calendar.  And it was a real ego-booster when I’d get an email from a local mom telling me how she was using the website and that it had made her life better.  Yay!

Decision: Take the Jump

As year number two for grkids.com came and went, I realized that this was a viable business and that I needed to decide if I really wanted to do this as a job and not just a hobby.  Discussions with my husband, a lot of soul-searching, and prayer gave me the go ahead I needed.

Now that the website has celebrated its third birthday, we’ve realized that it is here to stay.  Needless to say, grkids has changed a lot since those early days when it was just my friends online.  But in some ways we haven’t changed.

Minding the bottom line.

Running a website isn’t cheap. I bought the domain name grkids.com and pay the yearly hosting fees that keep the website functioning.  I also funded the recent website redesign and  I pay other stay-at-home moms to help with the calendar, newsletter, and event reviews.  I am also privileged to answer your emails, facebook posts and tweets.

To make this all happen, I must secure and coordinate advertising so that we’ll have funds to keep the site going.  I tell you this now, not to boast or put anyone off, but to shine light on what many may not know:  grkids.com is not a large corporation.  grkids.com is a small, private business that started almost accidentally in my home just a few short years ago.  Even today, GRkids.com is still a tender, new organization that needs TLC from all of us.

Maybe you can relate: grkids is like my fourth child.

Having put so much energy and effort into it, I’m proud to see the website grow and take shape as a trusted community resource.  But sometimes I have to guard my “baby.”  Since the internet can be anonymous, it’s a place people can do and say almost anything.  But, please remember:

Visiting grkids.com is like visiting an acquaintance’s house.

I will have almost anyone who is willing over to my house. And when you come into my house, I’ll welcome you and offer you refreshments- but I may ask you to take off your shoes or wipe your feet.  For the most part, you’d probably be cool with that.  And that’s all I ask when you visit grkids.com.  Think of the other people on the site as guests in your living room.  And please, treat our advertising partners in the same way – without them, there would be no grkids.com.

The hard truth: We’d hate to see you go, but it’s your choice.

Unfortunately, I have to moderate the comments we get on the grkids blog and facebook page – you’d never believe how much spam there is out there.  But I also remove comments that are unkind, contain swear words, or are argumentative.  Don’t get me wrong – disagreements are welcomed.  Constructive conversations are encouraged.  When phrased with grace, these can be very helpful.  It’s comments like “This place is too expensive” or “I don’t know why anyone would go there” or “That’s stupid” that won’t make the cut.  Rather, posting “This place requires budgeting if you’d like to go,” or “This event doesn’t fit my family right now, but maybe someday we’d use it,” are great.

You and I have taken great care to craft a supportive, welcoming community.

I believe that parents and caregivers of children in our community have the same goal- we want to help our families grow stronger and have fun while we’re doing it.  GRkids.com is proud of the little community we’ve built online together and we want to keep it a safe and welcoming place.

Sincerely, I thank you for doing your part in making grkids.com what it is today!