Paper jewelry, and also another reason I love my job.

As I'm gearing up to post my first giveaway EVER (so excited!), I wanted to share the spoils of our last giveaway over at the TomKat Studio. One VERY lucky winner walked away with a $100 credit for Blush Envy, where she sells amazing jewelry made out of paper.

You heard me right. PAPER. 

I didn't believe it when I read that she made her pieces from such a fragile textile, BUT THEN. I went over to Kim's house last week and got this lovely PINK surprise that I haven't been able to take off my finger since!

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Check out that packaging- gorgeous! Many thanks to Brandy for thinking of me when she sent the lovely goodies over to Kim!

Hop on over to her shop and show her some love by purchasing one of her handmade treasures! Or feel free to pick a fave and put it on your wish list. Wouldn't these rings make lovely bridesmaid's gifts or a fun gift for a mom-to-be to make her feel pretty? No doubt my dainty and timeless piece will be handed down to LJ when she's old enough to know not to put it in her mouth or play with it in the mud. In other words, she can wear it on her wedding day 🙂

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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.

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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!

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.

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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!

Adventures in babywearing.

OK, so I caved. I've hopped on the babywearing bandwagon via the Moby Wrap.

Lately I have found that Linnea is simply inconsolable unless she's being held, and being a busy work-at-home mama, holding her all the time just doesn't work; but neither does letting the poor little thing cry and scream for hours on end. I've heard great things about babywearing, one benefit in particular being that a parent is freed up to actually get things done AND have a happy child at the same time… SOLD. Not to mention that some experts say that babywearing improves sleep habits, reduces stress and crying, and helps develop secure (but not dependent) attachments to mom and dad. Sounds like a good plan to me.

I have to admit that, at first, babywearing was off to a rough start for us. While Linnea is a very curious, alert little girl and loves to be propped up on a shoulder so she can see everything, and while she loves to be held, she also likes to have freedom to move. The first hold I tried with the Moby Wrap was the Hug Hold, which is basically her facing me front and center with her little legs dangling out below. And let me tell ya… when she was awake, she was NOT. A. FAN. She likes to be able to look around, and Mom's chest is not acceptable scenery. So we turned her around a la the Lotus Hold, and she loved it! Given that she's probably gonna be a runner like her mama (I mean, seriously, she's built just like me! With her dad's face! Haha), we let her legs be free and she kicks around excitedly when we're on the move. That's one thing- while babywearing, she's not happy unless we're moving. Hopefully that will change.

The Moby Wrap can be a little intimidating at first- it's literally a twelve-foot-or-so-long piece of fabric that you have to learn to wrap around yourself properly, or else it won't work. If it's not tight enough, it won't work. If it's too tight, it won't work. And as with pretty much everything else, it fits everyone differently. I chose the organic wrap because of its notable softness and pretty light green color (called Celery) and once I got the fit right, we were good to go. Linnea is a whole nine pounds now and growing, and the Moby Wrap is good up to 35 pounds- not sure how I feel about carrying her around at that size, but we'll see…

Hanging out around the house with Mama:

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Poolside in Fountain Hills with the Lentz family:

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Helping mama in the kitchen (and before you start FREAKING OUT, this was only for show- I didn't actually have her near any hot pots or ovens! No Linneas were harmed during the taking of this picture).

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The whole babywearing thing is still a work in progress, but it's fun and hopefully she will learn to love it as much as I do! As long as I don't get pooped on!

Next in the line-up: a cloth diaper trial.

Office makeover.

As any of my dear readers know, I am a work-at-home mommy. When I first met with my lovely client Kim at the TomKat Studio, I was totally inspired by her decorating style (as pretty much everyone else who knows her is!) and set out on a mission to make over my office space. As you also know, my favorite color ever is PINK, so not only did I know I had to incorporate it into my new decor, Kim did a gorgeous job decorating her studio/living room in pink and orange! I am also *slightly* obsessed with her pink chair in the foreground:

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She basically had the same reaction to it that I did when she saw it in someone's home, and offered to buy it from them and they sold it to her on the spot. Ha! That gorgeous rose pillow was a fantastic find at HomeGoods, where she is also a contributor to their blog. I've been heading there at least once a week in search of a fabulous pink lamp for my desk and any other amazing decor for my work space.

Needless to say, Kim is a fantastic decorator.

This is a work in progress, but here is a sneak peek of the first project I completed- refinishing the sofa table that I'm using as a printer stand and storage space.

Before (clutter mania!):

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After (sans clutter, but it will have some other more pretty items on it when I'm done):

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Found these gorgeous drawer-pulls at anthropologie. (Where else? Seriously.)

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So my overall plan is pink and white- maybe with some lime green accents? I haven't decided yet- it totally depends on what I find out there. I'll be checking out Ikea, anthropologie, HomeGoods, and other random places for inspiration and inexpensive finds. I've already found several items that I can't wait to share once the office is finished. Plus, the simple process of rearranging and moving some furniture pieces around has made a huge difference, and it didn't cost a thing! Gotta love that.

There's something to be said about having an inspiring, colorful work space, especially when you spend most of your day there. I also want to have room for Linnea to play near me when she gets a little older. I'm loving what we've done so far, and I can't wait to be all finished and organized so I can get started on even more projects I have in the works!

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!

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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!

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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:

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Hugs for Elska! 27 weeks!

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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.