Balance.

I’ve been back from my four-day girls weekend since Sunday night and have barely had a chance to breathe, I’ve been so busy with TomKat orders! Monday was my unpacking/parents oogling over Linnea day, so I dedicated yesterday to catching up on the plethora of customizing and e-mailing I had to take care of so I could get caught up. I was in front of the computer from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and only got about halfway through- it was nuts! Then today I did the same thing. Don’t get me wrong- I am NOT complaining. Not in the least- I am so blessed to be doing what I’m doing, and to be working with Kim and our sweet customers is a better gig than I could have imagined. And it’s seriously like a comedy show around here tonight, with all the e-mails Kim and I have going back and forth. I’m falling off my chair laughing right now. I love that this is my job. I actually get PAID to do this.

My challenge lies in the balancing act that is required to be a WAHM, or a Work-At-Home Mom, or a Whacked-out ADHD Hell-raising Mamacita, if I may Dooce-ify my title a bit- only that’s the clean version. I have this child who is, yes, a little angel, but does require that my work flow be inturrupted continuously throughout the day in order to meet her needs, or rather, to simply not ignore her in order to do the things I need to get done. It breaks my heart to not interact with her as much as possible, but sometimes, it’s just HARD. Cody makes fun of me because he says I throw productivity fits, usually at the most ridiculous hours, but once I get going, man, everyone had better clear the way because I am getting things DONE! And yeah… it’s true. For goodness’ sake, it’s 12:30 and I’m sitting here blogging. But sometimes I feel like if I don’t do things late at night, they don’t get done. Then I wake up to my happy, clearly-a-morning-person baby girl cooing excitedly through the monitor, never any later than 7:00 a.m. Hmmm… Something’s gotta give. But what?

My husband wrote a great post the other day about being fully present. Even though finding balance may be a struggle, it is so important not to gloss over the precious moments we may miss in our pursuit of being the perfect mom and professional. We can’t live in the “someday” at the expense of enjoying our children growing up. Because I gotta tell ya, not only do I love my work, but I am having a blast watching my little girl discover her feet for the first time; listening to her incoherent and sweet opinions on EVERYTHING; holding her close while she figures out just who that little baby in the mirror is; making her almost giggle when I blow raspberries on her belly. I don’t want to miss a thing.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11903790&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

All that to say, I thought this would be a lot less challenging than it is. It’s not that my life is so hard… it’s just that at this point, as a new mom, I’m struggling to find a balance. And I know that there are plenty of mamas out there who can relate, and I hope we can all connect to support and encourage each other while we navigate the road toward raising amazing kids and realizing our dreams of becoming smart and savvy business owners!

I want to know the secrets, or maybe the realities, of the WAHMs who
seem to have this uncanny ability to juggle the demands of motherhood
with work… when they’re blended into one throughout your day. Does it
get easier or harder as your kids get older? What are the challenges
you face as your family grows? What tricks or advice can you share with other WAHMs who may just be starting out? Or, if you’re a new mom and new business owner, like I am, what specifically has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced? And, most importantly, how do we balance it all?

Ready… GO!

Advertisements

Naughty Blogger.

I am a naughty, naughty blogger. Good bloggers stay on top of posting. Good bloggers have something interesting to say, and the best have something interesting to say every day. I have determined that I haven't been keeping up with posting regularly because I haven't led a very exciting life lately. I started this blog hoping that becoming a mom would provide me with a plethora of hilarious, endearing stories to share with my readers.

But alas, my child is so perfect, I have nothing exciting to write about.

So what if I'm biased… and kidding. But she eats well. She's gaining weight at a normal rate, finally. She sleeps ALL THE WAY through the night. She coos, and smiles, and almost laughs, and today she rolled onto her back from her tummy for the first time. TV enthralls her (unfortunately), and I stay home with her most of the week. I take her everywhere I go and she is a little angel pretty much all the time. When she's asleep, or generally content, I get some work done. All in all, a pretty tame existence. I have an amazing kid.

P1000544
P1000548
P1000552
P1000556

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend Bloggy Boot Camp with my talented and world-famous client Kim of the TomKat Studio. My head has been swimming with ideas ever since, and so has Kim's – so much that we're closing up shop next week so she can get some ideas implemented and the brainstorming can commence. It was pretty spectacular being surrounded by ladies who get what it's like to be a mom, to want to contribute to the family income, to use business-savvy and social skill to propel ideas forward. We learned about Web design, PR, SEO, small business, monetizing, and being authentic. It was fantastic. It was inspiring to meet like-minded women who support each other; not compete with each other. How refreshing for a profession that has the potential to be incredibly catty.

I have to admit though, that for a novice like me, it was a tad bit intimidating. I have tons of ideas that I've wanted to see come to life, but the adjustment of new motherhood and working from home has been tougher than I thought. It's not that life is so hard or complicated; it's just that I don't have it down to a science yet. While everyone there was super welcoming, it definitely was hard to feel like part of the "club" because I didn't feel like I had much to offer. These ladies are so talented and seem to have this ability to juggle responsibility that I can barely wrap my mind around. But it was so good to see firsthand that yes… it can be done.

Life as a new mom has been incredible in ways that I couldn't have even imagined. I wouldn't trade it for anything, and I can't complain about having such a perfect child. Ha! I'll be paid back a hundred fold for such a comment, I'm sure (The tween years? Honestly). I mean, seriously, writing about how Linnea has been cooing happily on the couch next to me while I get some work done is only exciting… oh… never. I'm not saying I'll never write about her- she is my muse, after all – I just have other things to share here as well. I'm working on a list of topics and a schedule to follow, and I can't wait to get organized and share them with you.

On another note, I just finished the book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Don Miller, and also had the chance to hear him speak at our church a few weeks ago, and it was a timely, much-needed message for not just me but my husband Cody as well. We're working on our "What If" lists and are determined to live a better story (you can read his here). If I've learned anything in recent months, it's that life is short, and precious. Cheers to making the most of it!

Why I am SO EXCITED: The TomKat Studio.

As you may know, when I found out I was expecting Linnea, I set out on a mission to start a home-based business as a Virtual Assistant and developed No Strings Virtual Solutions. As is the case with most business ventures, it took some time to develop and get off the ground, and before I knew it, Linnea was nearly here and my world was taken over by all things baby. That's the beauty of owning your own biz- you can prioritize your life appropriately and focus on what's most important! I had a couple of project-based clients that I helped with the launch of their Web sites and blogs, but I put anything beyond that on hold as I prepared to become a mom. 

The TomKat Studio

My hubby went back to work on Wednesday, and I was finally settling into somewhat of a rhythm with the little one to where I would be able to start building my business and taking on clients again. That's when I saw a post on Twitter from the TomKat Studio (whose blog I've been following since I saw her on the cover of our local magazine, Go Gilbert! back in May) saying that she was seeking a virtual assistant for her paper and party business. Kim has THE CUTEST blog I've ever seen and it's clear that her business has taken off in recent months, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I even had friends who saw the post and sent it to me knowing I would love it. Imagine my excitement when she e-mailed me to let me know that I was her top choice! I mean, LOOK at her adorable creations!

The TomKat Studio

There are so many reasons I am so thrilled to work with her, besides the fact that she is one of the sweetest people I've ever talked to. She is immensely talented, creative and is genuinely living out her passion, and I love that kind of energy! Back when I started No Strings, my husband asked me what kind of clients I wanted to serve. I told him that I could work with almost anyone, but in a perfect world I would love to work with creative entrepreneurs- just like Kim! Her Web site was one I frequented when I needed inspiration and it also got me excited that I was having a little girl- bring on the pretty parties please! And lastly, that issue of Go Gilbert! is the only one I kept around the house because it was that article that inspired me to venture out on my own. It was only a few days after I read it that I found out I was expecting- and you can bet it gave me the confidence I needed that I could handle being an entrepreneur AND a good mom too!

The TomKat Studio

So who would have thunk that a couple of months after our little one was born that I would be working with the very person who inspired me to start my own business? It will never cease to amaze me the way that God orchestrates things in our lives. We NEVER know just how good His plan can be until we find ourselves in the midst of it! And I am sure there is so much more amazingness to come! For now, I am looking forward to helping this successful, creative business owner and fellow mom build her company and realize its full potential. Cheers to Kim and the TomKat Studio!

The TomKat Studio

Overwhelmed, but it’s OK- I have pickles!

Goodness, I've been terrible at keeping up with this thing. For some reason, last week was incredibly tough- I have been scheduled to come into work an hour earlier than usual because our busy season is starting, and while it means more money in the bank, it cuts into my productive time that I spend working on my business. Add to that the fact that I am finally starting to feel pregnant- lower back aches, pinched sciatic nerve, and a full-blown belly that gets in the way of everything- and I come home from a measly five hour shift feeling quite exhausted. It's a double-edged sword, and I don't mean to complain. I'm thankful to have a job working with good people, but I can't help but be nervous that the clock is ticking LIKE MAD and I can't give 100% to getting No Strings up and running as quickly as possible, and that's the one thing that I will be doing to earn income once Elska (that's her nickname!) arrives. Working outside the home is not part of our plan. And it's getting harder and harder to be on my feet all day the more pregnant I become, but we need my paycheck.

More than that, I need clients! Send 'em my way, people. I can't wait to help small businesses get ahead in this tough economy.

I'm happy to say that I have generated some interest, and I'm doing some work for a friend that will help me nail down certain processes complete with constructive criticism. I am so excited to actually start working with paying clients and building a name for myself, so for now I'm working on marketing and networking- a full-time job all on its own. I have a lot of support and great ideas from friends and family that I'm sure will help me along the way.

But enough about No Strings. This is a mom blog, after all!

I am five days away from the start of my third trimester, and I cannot tell you how shocked I am at how quickly time has flown. We have been in consistent adjustment, covering all the bases including fear, elation, joy, amazement, and just feeling plain overwhelmed by all we have ahead of us. At the very end of September, there was a morning when I had the epiphany that, HOLD ON A SECOND, let me do some math, (October 10 through November 10) + (November 10 through December 10) + (December 10 through January 10) = THREE MONTHS UNTIL OUR DAUGHTER IS BORN. I then woke up Cody (it was before 6:00 a.m.), shared my startling revelation, and launched into full-blown panic mode complete with the urgent desire to jump out of bed and immediately start organizing EVERYTHING in our house, starting with the nursery-to-be. I suddenly realized that I have done very little to prepare for this huge change, and who on earth expects that she will just "wing it" when handed a newborn who is completely dependent on her? Yikes. Definitely have my work cut out for me.

In a nutshell, it's been hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed these days. I suppose last week was particularly hard because I was consistently robbed of precious time I needed by all these things that were totally out of my control- time I must devote to not only preparing for baby, but starting a business too. I don't like feeling like I'm spinning in a tornado, grasping on to anything I could that I would be able to cross off my to-do list. I'm sure that this isn't necessarily going to get better once I have a newborn in the house. Therefore, I can't help but wonder if I'm being groomed for this next stage of life by the presence of the unexpected. How I handle it now will prepare me for the juggling act I have ahead of me. I'm not gonna let it get me down!

For now, here are a couple of updated pictures:

DSCN3601 

Hugs for Elska! 27 weeks!

DSCN3605

Yes, I am eating out of a jar of pickles. Yes, I know how cliche that is. They were my Amma's famous bread and butter pickles, made from Cody's grandma's cucumbers from her garden. Simply heavenly! You'd eat 'em by the jar too.

Belly update: My belly makes funny shapes, like triangles and squares, when Elska stretches out and punches her dad in the hand when he antagonizes her. Haha. I actually love that she responds to him- he's just going to an amazing dad. She's really quite active- especially right before bed and right before I wake up. She isn't big enough now (about 2 pounds and 15 inches long) for her movements to keep me up or wake me out of my slumber, so for now I'm just enjoying the sensation of feeling her moving around in there. That will be the biggest thing I will miss about being pregnant- it's just amazing to me. I also figured out that this rhythmic "tapping" sensation I get every once in a while must be her hiccuping- it's SO cute! I've felt it many times before but never made the connection, because it's a different type of movement than her usual kicks and somersaults. But I love it. I love her. She's just the sweetest thing ever.

My business venture.

I have been working tirelessly since last night to get a virtual assistant business up and running. Being less than four months away from the arrival of Baby Girl, I have determined that I absolutely MUST make this thing happen so I can get used to working from home as opposed to babying a business AND a newborn.

So far, I have loosely built a Web site (using Typepad– I love this blogging host with an everlasting love), set up an account with an awesome invoicing/time tracking/expense tracking company called Freshbooks (they offer their most basic service- which is still very extensive- for free!), written copy, established a Gmail e-mail and Twitter account, ensured the domain name availability, compiled a profile on 48days.net, and researched monthly expenses such as Internet access, a landline, and a P.O. Box.

Whew.

There is still so much to get done, but I have never been more determined in my life. I HAVE to make this work. I HAVE to market my services. I HAVE to supplement our income using the gifts I have been given and capitalizing on the experience I have built over the years. Right now, it's nearly 11:00 p.m., and both Cody and I are working furiously on our computers to get things up and running. I feel like I could keep going all night- I am THAT motivated- but I need some rest if I'm going to be productive tomorrow.

My first order of business is obtaining a copy of The 2-Second Commute: Join the Exploding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants
and using that as my guide from start to finish. I read nearly the whole thing when I visited the bookstore on Tuesday and it covers everything from filing for a business name, to taxes, to legal forms, to agreements, and everything else in between. I am so glad there is a resource out there that walks newbies like me through the process without skipping the vitals.

So wish me luck! My baby girl deserves the best example we can provide for her. This is just a small step in that direction, but one I am excited to take.

p.s. If you want to critique the rough draft of my Web page, shoot me an e-mail at NoStringsVS@gmail.com and I'll send you the link. It needs some work (key word: ROUGH), but I'm happy to share with a willing set of eyes!

Much-needed creative inspiration.

I spent a lot of time researching ideas, recipes, and work opportunities over the past few days, and part of me gets a little overwhelmed by all the goals and projects I want to tackle with Baby Girl on the way. I spent all of last week getting distracted by various things instead of baking the zucchini bread I kept saying I would make, and finally I got around to it last night. We're talking like a week of procrastinating here, people. I'm kind of tired of living life that way- flying by the seat of my pants, somewhat organized but mostly not, with a hodgepodge of ideas and no concrete plan to implement them into anything tangible. What I am lacking is a plan. So here are a few of my findings to jump-start things:

Other than my desire for very pale pink walls, I haven't gotten very far with a nursery design. I'm the type of person who needs to see something concrete in order for the random ideas that are floating around in my head to take any sort of shape. On my blogging jaunts today, I stumbled across Project Nursery, a site FULL of design ideas, inspiration boards, real nursery designs, and DIY projects. LOVE IT. It's just what I needed to start really planning Baby Girl's nursery!

While on that site, I saw a button for a business that sounded vaguely familiar: TomKat Studio. When I clicked on the page, I remembered seeing this local mom's business featured in our town's magazine, Go Gilbert. Her blog is simply adorable- chock full of her designs, finds, and Cupcake Monday. I mean, who can beat that? Yes, please! I'll take Cupcake Monday!

A few other favorite blogs: luvinthemommyhood, Happy Together (especially the tutorials like this one), and My Mama Made It. Blogs are a dime a dozen these days, but well-designed, well-written blogs that are actually useful and teach you how to do something are priceless.

While at B+N the other day, I found this book
and knew that it was a must-have on my reading list. I discovered her site today, Work at Home Success, and it is a great resource for lost souls like me who have no idea where to begin or look for legitimate at-home work. Ideally, I would like to freelance as a virtual assistant or copy editor but I need some sort of direction in order to learn how to secure clients, file taxes, etc. so that I don't get overwhelmed by trying to figure out the ins and outs of running a business AND caring for a newborn. I only have about four months to figure this out, so if you know any other great resources out there, crafty or business-related, send them my way!

Princess or Pioneer Woman?

When I was at the library the other day, I picked up a great book for Cody called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
by Meg Meeker. The other night, I started reading it and simply couldn't put it down- in the span of three hours, I had nearly finished the whole thing! Good stuff in there. There were several things that impacted my view of fatherhood and made me reflect on my own upbringing by my dad. It certainly made me thankful for the father I have and the things he has taught me along the way, as well as the things he tried to teach me that I was too stubborn to listen to- but do my best to take heed of now.

The thing that caught my eye the most was when the author discussed the type of woman you want your daughter to become, and she described two types of women: princesses and pioneer women. One thing we do NOT want our daughter to become is a princess- a girl who expects everything to be handed to her and everything to be done for her, and who gives nothing in return. We have seen too much of this going on in society as a whole- especially since my hubby works at a university and observes the spoiled antics of the New MTV Generation (have you SEEN "My Super Sweet Sixteen" or "16 and Pregnant"? This is the garbage they are feeding to our kids?!) on a daily basis, much to his disgust. He says that our kids are coming out of high school and into college with absolutely no idea how to do ANYTHING, and are so helpless and self-absorbed that they can barely function without someone holding their hand. And if they can't do something or if they fail, it is ALWAYS someone else's fault. This is just a general observation- we know there are some kids out there who do not epitomize this stereotype. Thank goodness. But the sense of entitlement really is quite prevalent these days.

The discussion of princess vs. pioneer woman has definitely helped me evaluate my own princess tendencies and redirect my energy toward becoming a truly proficient and productive member of our growing little family and of society in general. I'm not going to lie and say that as an only child who grew up in Scottsdale, I never displayed any princess-ish behavior and I was always a hard worker who had no expectations that my needs would always be met. Anyone who knew me would be quick to correct me and all the smoke I'd be blowing up your… well, you know.

Looking back, in a lot of ways, I was TERRIBLE. Irresponsible, reckless, entitled; and I can say with confidence that I'm still paying for past mistakes. When I look at life now, and I absolutely understand the sacrifices my parents made in the name of stability and provision, my behavior was just laughable. I didn't have parents who just gave me whatever I wanted when I wanted it- I went without my wants many times. But I never understood the value of the things I had because I didn't take the time to appreciate what it took to get them. God knows I do now. And if I can't lead my daughter by example, she would be quick to recognize the hypocrisy of what I would be expecting from her. And I would rather start now than wait until after her arrival when the demands of motherhood overwhelm me from taking on any other new responsibilities. And I am happy to say that I have an amazing dad-to-be on my hands who fully supports this philosophy as well.

So, here are a list of my goals. I'm terrible at goal-setting, but today is all I have for now, so why not jump in head-first and get this show on the road?

  1. Become more proficient at sewing and other crafts
  2. Open up an Etsy store
  3. Become a Virtual Assistant of some kind to generate income from home
  4. Keep on blogging!
  5. Keep a creative journal
  6. Take more pictures
  7. Start a habit of family dinners every night
  8. Support my dear husband in all his endeavors, and lighten his load whenever possible
  9. Use coupons for EVERYTHING
  10. When I need to buy, only buy used or on sale items
  11. Serve the community through our church
  12. Avoid being wasteful
  13. Making "Be resourceful!" my way of life!
  14. Run in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon next January in order to get back into shape post-baby (I'll probably do the half)
  15. Spend quality time with family and friends
  16. Love God more so that I can teach my little girl who He is and pray that she loves Him too

My goals tend to morph and shift as life unfolds, but these are what they are for now. In light of this, I always enjoy reading "The Wife of Noble Character" from Proverbs 31 for inspiration:

10  A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 11 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 12 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life.

 13 She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands.

 14 She is like the merchant ships,
       bringing her food from afar.

 15 She gets up while it is still dark;
       she provides food for her family
       and portions for her servant girls.

 16 She considers a field and buys it;
       out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

 17 She sets about her work vigorously;
       her arms are strong for her tasks.

 18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
       and her lamp does not go out at night.

 19 In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

 20 She opens her arms to the poor
       and extends her hands to the needy.

 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
       for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
       she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
       where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       and supplies the merchants with sashes.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come.

 26 She speaks with wisdom,
       and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
       and does not eat the bread of idleness.

 28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
       her husband also, and he praises her:

 29 "Many women do noble things,
       but you surpass them all."

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

 31 Give her the reward she has earned,
       and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

p.s. If Baby Girl gets anything with the word "Princess" on it, it will quickly be burned or returned. Just sayin'. If it says "Pioneer Woman," on the other hand… well, that's a whole other story. She'll wear it loud and proud. Hats off to Pioneer Women everywhere!