On Doing this “Work at Home Mom” Thing

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Confession: When people ask what I do, I usually say “Oh I just stay home with the kids.” I make no mention of the fact that I also run a website and shop and take on design clients. Perhaps it’s because none of that work is steady, or maybe it’s because I’m not making enough to live off of.

Maybe it’s because I’m self taught, so I shouldn’t have the audacity to call myself a professional.

Or maybe I don’t share what I do because I don’t want to admit that I really am a career oriented person. That certainly goes against all the narratives I had playing in my head growing up. I distinctly remember an assignment in 3rd grade that asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a mother, and my teacher said that doesn’t count! I suspect the question “What do you want to do to earn money when you grow up?” would’ve yielded a better answer – “Why, a paleontologist of course!” (nerd alert.)

Or maybe it’s because I often feel that even though I’m at home, I’m not truly present with my kids because I steal snippets of time throughout the day to work. If I worked outside the home, maybe I’d more easily leave work at the office and be fully committed to spending quality time with my kids. You’d think that working from home means that you can have your cake and eat it too. The truth about working from home (for me anyway) is that quantity time does not equal quality time, and it’s just as easy for a work at home parent to lose track and become disconnected from their kids.

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The point is, I never thought I’d want to be a professional. I never thought about earning money. I graduated from college, but never went in thinking I was going to have a job and be a breadwinner one day. I thought I would get married and stay home with my kids and devote every waking minute to them.

That was before I had kids. Obviously.

So here I am, a mom, and only now really comprehending the opportunities to connect, learn and grow that are possible through a career. I’m SO HUNGRY to learn and improve my skills as a designer (thank you internet for being around in my lifetime so I can actually learn stuff from home), but I will never be able to give the same kind of time and attention to it that I could’ve before kids.

So what’s a mom to do?

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Well, the answer’s as complex as the problem and as varied as the women who face this situation. For me personally, I’ve come to know that I just can’t be happy if I don’t have something to work on, something to create, something to learn, something that stretches and challenges me in new and interesting ways that is separate from my role as a mother. 

I don’t think it’s wrong to feel this way – to be engaged in things other than our children.IMG_1987

My greatest priority AND my greatest struggle is making sure my children know that they are more important than this website, this computer, my phone, that client, this product. As long as they know that I love them, then I can do this work and be their mom and we can make this lifestyle happen. There’s no point in doing any of this if they ultimately end up resenting me because they felt neglected. All the money and success in the world means nothing if my children don’t know that I love them. So I will continue to write blog posts at 11:40pm, and do my VERY BEST to put my phone down, look into their eyes when I talk to them, and cuddle and kiss them and tell them I love them, and steal snippets of time on the computer when they don’t need me, wake up early to answer emails, sing songs and read books and act out Frozen for the 457th time and build forts, and pray that by all this, they will know.

Checking in

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Last week we were all sick sick sick! Now we’re finally out of the fog, Keola’s gone to California for a conference, and I’m flying solo till Thursday.

But that’s not the real reason I barely blogged last week. I’ve been thinking really hard about the different directions I could take my work, and when I start doing that, everything sort of gets put on hold. I really do think I want to make more shifts toward freelance design. Not having Adobe software was a big deterrent to really pursuing a career in design, and now that I have it, there’s really nothing standing in my way other than my own knowledge of the software.

This means that this website might be making some shifts. Some will be shifts in content. I want to start sharing more of what I’m creating as I’m learning Photoshop and Illustrator and make printables, brushes and patterns.  Some shifts may be to the site itself, for example, switching to a premium theme to give this place a more professional look. I use Atahualpa right now and while it’s really customizable, it’s just not as slick as I would like it to be.

I think I’m gonna love where this is going. I hope you do too!

Office Setup Rambles

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Guys, I don’t know what to do about my office space. I took this picture several days ago after getting the crap off my desk and cleaning out the steel wire shelves that sit just to the right of my desk (using my clutter busting question of course), but then after that Keola and I decided it might be nice to have the desk in the bedroom where we can close the door and work. Problem with that is that I can’t close the door and work during the day. I need a desk to be out in the open…you know…where the kids are…

But I don’t know. It’s not like I really do any work during the day anyway.

Plus the desk is making our bedroom feel a little claustrophobic.

Plus I don’t know how much I like the idea of bringing work furniture into the bedroom.

And ya, I have a laptop and can work anywhere, but I like having a dedicated workspace.

But the desk currently sits under a window, and it was facing a wall before…

Bah!

I’ve never done so much furniture arranging in. my. life. The only thing that has not moved from the spot we first put it when we moved in to this house is our bed. Seriously.

Welcome to my brain. Yes, it’s exhausting being me.

How do you feel about having a desk in the bedroom?

Around Here

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It’s been a pretty slow week this week, which I’m glad for because the last few have been a whirlwind. The girls and I caught colds but I think we’re on the the tail end thank goodness.

I’ve been obsessively watching Photoshop tutorials since subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, but watching a bunch of random Youtube tutorials left me feeling more confused than anything. I remembered my friend Tania telling me about Pugly Pixel a while back, and I love to pop in to her blog once in a while and see what she’s up to. I relate to her because she’s self-taught and she’s done AMAZING things with what she knows and that gives me hope. She offers a beginning photoshop video course called PS I Love You. Each video is 3-4 minutes usually, and she goes step by step in creating fun effects. I signed up yesterday morning and I don’t know how many little videos I watched, but I already feel myself getting a handle on Photoshop and THAT is a really cool feeling.

When I get into a design kick, I think to myself “I should just do strictly digital stuff.” I’ve felt like this before and often go back and forth between taking clients and selling digital products (no supplies/product to purchase and take up room in my house) and the thrill of someone handing me cash for a physical item I made. Having industry standard design software makes me want to spend more time designing and selling digital products and less time selling physical products and so far I’m having a blast learning it. No worries. I’m not about to make any hasty decisions, but I am happy to be able to pursue a variety of things.

P.S. My friend Kendra made the leap into selling adorable art prints after exclusively selling digital products and offers tips on how to jump in to selling physical products. 

On Being a Mom of Two

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I’ve heard it said that going from 0-1 child is the biggest adjustment for new parents, but to be honest, I thought Noweo was pretty easy. I could sleep when she slept. I wore her everywhere. I could devote all my attention to her. I felt like I mostly had it together, like I could handle this huge life change.

I didn’t always have that same peaceful feeling when I was pregnant with Leo. I was worried about how Noweo would get along with her. I was worried about neglecting one kid to care for the other. I was worried about getting enough sleep. I was worried about her getting into the messes Noweo makes.

None of those worries really had any merit – except the one about sleep, which is still completely manageable most days.

Logistically, life’s harder. Of course it’s harder. Every time I walk out the door it’s harder. Nights can sometimes be harder. Keeping them fed and happy is harder. Often times caring for one means the neglect (and subsequent screaming/whining) of the other. Keeping the house clean is impossible harder. There are certain times of the day where I’m running around like a headless chicken getting them everything they need. This especially happens during mealtime – and  I inevitably end up wishing that we didn’t have to eat so often. My days are endless streams of simple tasks. Pick this up, make a sandwich and a cup of juice, slice an apple, change a diaper, change an outfit, throw a ball, put together a puzzle, wash dishes, fold clothes  and on and on and on. One more person means more of all these other things, and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t spend a lot of time being overwhelmed with it all. 

BUT…

With this growth in responsibility has come my own personal growth, and when Leo came, I suddenly became a mom that can handle two…usually. As more is required of me, I’ve begun to require more from my kids, and they’ve risen to the occasion. Leo and Noweo sleep mostly on their own. Noweo is learning to wait for things she wants and so is Leo. Leo is pretty good at entertaining herself – especially now that she’s mobile. She’s generally content crawling around and exploring the house (which means we have to be extra vigilant and block off areas that aren’t safe.)

I also let go of some of the “first kid paranoia” that first time parents have and opted for a more relaxed approach on just about everything. I used to get really upset when Noweo cried. Not so with Leo. It’s adorable, and it won’t kill her. I ask for and accept help more often.  I’ve tried to find the simplest solutions that work for us. The more I obsess over wanting things a certain way, the more energy I waste; and energy is my most precious commodity nowadays. If my kids are fed, clean, safe, well-rested and happy, then I’m good. How we get there doesn’t really matter. Those are just details.

Mothering two is not easy, and there are definitely times where I want to scream, or run away or just take a nap because I’ve been awake for the last 18 hours, but the truth is, we can handle it.

One Little Word Check-in

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Periodically I plan to do a little self-evaluation and to see how I’m doing with my one little word for this year, “thrive.” Looking back on that post, there are some things that are going well, and some things that aren’t, which comes as no surprise:

“I want to write more. I want to really get this blog off the ground. I want to make more things, I want to simplify our food, and my wardrobe. I want to get more art on the walls, and take my business more seriously. I want to make more room for things I’m curious about, things I want to learn, and I want to spend more time learning with my children.”

I’m blogging more, but not really journaling the way I want to. I’m not really making things because I haven’t really found anything that I want to make. Food is something I still haven’t really gotten a handle on. To be honest, cooking is one of the HARDEST things for me to get the motivation to do, but once I get going I enjoy it. I HAVE put up more art on the walls and will publish an update soon. I am taking my business more seriously than at any other time. I’m thrilled by it, but I’m still trying to figure out how to make it all work.

Here is where I’m really struggling right now:

“…thriving is about lightening our load so that we can move quicker, do more, have more energy, more light-heartedness. It’s about having a mindset of abundance, it’s about being grateful. It’s about savoring the moment and really, really being in the present…”

I feel like I’ve allowed too much stuff into this house and I’m starting to feel that claustrophobic feeling, so I’ve been doing some binge-purging. I’ve found that if I take stuff out and put it in the car, that I’ll be 100% more likely to donate it when I’m near a thrift store. Getting stuff out of this house and keeping stuff from coming in is a huge priority for me, and a battle I feel I’m currently losing. As a result I’m feeling a little bit sluggish.

We’re also beginning to accept the fact that Keola might not have a job by August of next year (his job is funded by a federal grant), and I used to be completely confident that the right opportunities will come, but the closer and closer we get, the easier it is to let worry seep in, which messes with my desire to have an attitude of abundance.  Worrying about the future is making it hard to live in the moment.

Yes, I am a little stressed. Some things are working, some things aren’t. I am still confident however, that you do not need much to thrive. It can be done in the best of times and the worst of times and there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.

Nature Walks No. 3

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I’m finding that my nature walks photos aren’t the most amazing photos in the world (just like the rest of the photos on this blog I suppose) but I love them because they’re snapped spontaneously, without a plan or intent to get a “great” shot. Each one was taken while I was walking and I just stopped and thought “That’d be a nice picture,” after which I’d quickly snap a photo and move on. Despite this, they’re some of my favorites because they remind me of a time when I used to be outside a lot more.

A few days ago I was running errands and had about half an hour to kill before picking up Keola. The kids were asleep in the car so I drove to our church which has a large field in the back, parked the car, kicked my shoes off and laid down on the grass next to the car. It was almost magical, and I noticed a significant difference in the way I felt. It was the most relaxed I had been in a while, and I realized that I had really been missing out on the outside. I NEED it. It’s life-giving, energizing and nurturing, especially for someone like me who often feels depleted and utterly exhausted. It’s seriously, the best stress reliever, and I highly recommend, if you’re going through a stressful time, to ask yourself when’s the last time you really spent time outside doing nothing but enjoying what’s around you? And if you can’t think of the last time you did that, close your computer at get outside. NOW.

Happy 7 Months Leolani!

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I can’t believe this girl is on the downward slope to 1 year! At seven months, she’s crawling like a maniac, sleeping like an amateur (haha) and eating like it’s going out of style. She enjoys cuddles, being thrown in the air, eating remote controls, exploring the house, playing with Noweo, and making noise when everyone’s trying to sleep. She has officially taken upon herself the title of “Mommy’s Shadow,” making sure that I get around the house safely (so thoughtful). Her eyes are always wide open, taking in as much as she can. She is amazing, and we love her so much. Happy 7 months Leo!

Spun Paradise Photoshoot

A few weeks ago I did my first ever photo shoot for a local cotton candy company, Spun Paradise. If you’re thinking “Man it must’ve been fun taking pictures of cotton candy,” you’d be right. I had a great time getting to know the mompreneur Danna and eating photographing her delicious product. She’s put a tropical twist on her candy by using flavors like coconut (my favorite), watermelon and mango.

Everything was taken with my iPhone (my only camera – and yes, I warned her beforehand) and we had fun playing around with different ideas and getting our fingers all sticky with fluffy, sugary goodness. In humid places cotton candy will start to melt when it’s exposed to the air, and the result was a sort of “icicle” effect that laced the candy. I think it created great contrast and made for some interesting shots.

I never thought I’d make a dime taking pictures, so much so that my pitch was something like “if you want better than average pictures without having to hire a pro then maybe I could help out.”

I know I’m a million miles away from a career in photography, but this was a fun experience for me.

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Looking Forward to March

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Correction: We’re already in the thick of March, but I was so busy at the end of February I feel like I never got to properly wrap up that month before March came crashing through the door.

This month I will try to focus more on the house, because it was sorely neglected in February. I feel the need for a major de-clutter, and I’m in the market for a new vacuum. I thought I could get away with microfiber brooms since we have wood laminate, but then we put a few rugs over that and now we’re in desperate need of something with decent suction. Besides that I really do want to get to a state of cleanliness and organization that’s easy to maintain.

We REALLY need to start planning Noweo’s 4th birthday. (FOUR??!?!!? That’s one year shy of HALF A DECADE. what?)

The art wall is also going to be a priority if I can get to the house clean.

Business-wise I plan on rolling out some new things based on the feedback I received at the Family Affair – specifically decals, but I also want to figure something out for those business cards. If you have any ideas please let me know.

I subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and I’m itching to play with and really study Illustrator and Photoshop. I’ve been able to do quite a bit without them. The sky’s the limit with them. I think this is what I need to take on more design work, because previously my exporting capability was .png and .pdf, and files were saved as .svg, which doesn’t always play nice with Illustrator, and it’s hard to work with print shops when my files are incompatible. I was also always nervous about taking on clients because of this file issue, but once I really become proficient I’ll be taking on design projects with more confidence. Happy dance! I’m also excited to play with Muse – a website builder that doesn’t require code (because I’m a visual learner and I suck at code.)

Altogether, March will be a little more peaceful then February I think, but exciting nevertheless.