Entries in Freelance Mama (6)


Mother Magazine

Oh hey! Just stopped by the ol' blog to share a recent project that I worked on and to type out a few thoughts and feelings ... I have a lot of feelings! :) 

First of all - Mother was such a fun project to work on. I always love working with Miss James (from the blog Bleubird), and it was fun to work with her new business partner Katie (formerly the editor at R29). It's exciting to collaborate with other women who are just as passionate as I am about mothering and fashion and eating well (both delicious and healthy) and on and on. This project was especially fun to put together because it focuses on something so important to me. Being a mom. Being a fun, loving, adventurous, fashion forward, up to date mama at that! I'm not always all of those things (are you kidding me? who IS?) but it was fun to work on a site that inspires me to be more of the fun loving woman I want to be and less of the stressed out, over protective, anxious mother I really am. Some favorite things about this site - it has a real magazine feel to it but is easy to navigate. I love that the slide show images are LARGE LARGE LARGE and that the viewer doesn't change sizes when different images pop up! That was important to me! I hate when slide shows jump all over the place depending on the size of the image. I also love the tiled images for slide show pages so that you can view all of them at once and not have to click through a bunch of images if you don't really want to. Overall I am pretty excited about how it turned out and even more excited to see it evolve in to something much bigger! Mother Magazine is my new online lifestyle inspiration site! Win!

And on to my thoughts and feelings - 

I have been talking to a few friends lately about this but mothering really has sent me on a spiritual journey I never anticipated. I am finding out truths about myself that I never even knew existed before becoming a mother. I am more confident about standing up for what I truly believe to be good and right. I am less willing to just fall in line with things that don't really jive with my spirit. I am coming to peace with my imperfections, the imperfections of others. I am admiring the beauty of the world more and freaking out over how exciting it is to just be able to wake up everyday (although somedays I really don't want to get out of bed, I still think it's pretty awesome to have this life). I kinda want to get a huge grizzly bear tattoo because I feel like that is what being a mom has done to my soul. It has turned me into a fiercely protective wild animal!  

I am currently working hard to launch my new website! I am so excited about it! I have been working hard on all of the behind the scenes stuff (new media kit, process kit, updated homework package, etc.) It's finally time to give my actual web presence the new look and I couldn't be more thrilled. It is currently being developed by my new friend, side kick, partner in BIZ - Brandi! She is amazing and will have a little ABOUT section on the new site so that you can get to know her! 

I recently attempted to do Whole30. And failed. Twice. But I don't consider myself a failure. I think I learned a lot about my eating habits and my body. I actually made it 21 days before I was forced to go on a clear liquid diet and have some tests done on my insides. I will have to write a longer post about my experience with whole30 another time (and the health issues that lead me to that diet in the first place) but for now I will just say, I am excited about the new insight that trying to eat more whole foods, organic, less processed, slowed down, simplified foods has given me! It truly is amazing how our minds and bodies will respond when we slow down and take the time to nourish them. (If you're interested I'm still basically eating whole30 but with some added foods like quinoa, granola, greek yogurt.. and occasional sweets when I'm out with friends).  

That's all for now! Hopefully, the next time I blog it will be on the new site, but if not... no big deal right?


Freelance Mama V + RockaRoo Giveaway

Now that the new year has begun and Wayne is starting to sleep longer through the night I am diving back in to work. My plan for the year is to work smarter not harder. I plan on only taking on projects that I am excited about. As a freelancer it is easy to get stuck in the habit of working more, more and more. Anytime you think of something "extra" you want to buy you just take on an "extra" project. But when you have kids you can't really do that anymore. Time is a hot commodity. So saving money, and being selective about projects is how you survive...

As I planned out my next year as a working mama of two I decided I would share a few of my working mama tips. This is how I balance work and life (if you can call it balancing... I like to just think of it as life with kids, things are messy and unbalanced) I work from home and have 2 really young kids so this stuff might not apply to everyone but I think a lot of it is pretty universal and it has saved me quite a bit of time and money in the last couple of years. 

1. Meal Plan - I know this one sounds boring and trivial but it has been a game changer in our house. Every week I sit down and write out a dinner menu. We usually eat out once a week and have leftovers one night a week so I really only have to plan 5 meals. I take stock of what I already have and then only buy things for those meals (I also stock up on lots of eggs for breakfast and fruits and veggies for lunches). Then I try my hardest to not go to the store for the entire week. I sorta make a game out of it. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. But we save a ton of money this way and there is less stress at that time of night when everyone just goes bonkers. You know, your kid has that switch that automatically flips at 5 in the evening? And they start screaming about everything and nothing? and going wild for no apparent reason? Mine too! It's so convenient because it's right at dinner time when you need to get food on the table. Having a plan usually helps this time of night go a lot smoother.

2. Scale Down - This was/is a hard one for me. We decided as a couple to live well within our means a long time ago. I hate feeling like I can never buy anything I "want" because all of my money is going towards stuff that I "need". I want to be able to take my kids to get ice cream and buy myself a new shirt every once in a while and not feel like I am breaking the bank. So we scaled down. We don't have overly expensive "needs". I used to drive a new Honda Element that I absolutely loved. Now, I drive an old Volvo wagon (she's a boxy little thing but I think she's pretty) that we don't have to make payments on. Instead of furnishing our house all at once we shop around at thrift stores and buy things on sale. In order to make our lives less stressful we scaled down our expenses. Now I don't have to worry about taking some time off of working here and there to spend more time with my kids. I know I will be able to pay my bills because I have scaled down.

3. Child Care - This is probably the most important one for me. It is absolutely impossible to work with children pulling you in several different directions. It's even harder when they are in someone's care that you don't really trust. Or at a daycare facility that you feel uneasy about. I have extreme anxiety about my children's well-being. I'm not just exaggerating either. I mean I really have panic attacks over my children's health and safety. I tried taking Henry to a day care while I worked for a while and I would go pick him up really early every single time because I couldn't breathe thinking about all of the things that could possibly happen to him there. I know that might sound a little nuts but I am pretty nuts when it comes to my kids. I think most people are. You have got to be able to find something that works for you. I finally found a nanny that I love. I love her so much. She is more money than a day care but that is why I drive an old Volvo wagon. Because knowing that my kids are safe and well taken care of is more important than a nice new car. And without our nanny I am not able to work at all - so she seems really worth every penny. If child care solutions are hard for you don't worry! It's hard for everyone! Don't give up if a child care situation doesn't feel right. Try something else until you feel secure. I don't know why I felt like I needed to say that? Maybe because I really was about to give up on ever trying to work again when my mom encouraged me to keep trying different solutions. Working has helped me feel fulfilled and sane. It helps me be a better mom. So it was kind of a big deal to be able to find something that helped me do what I love and still feel like a good mom.

4. Get your partner on board - I don't know how single parents do it. They are amazing. I know I can't do it without my other half. Ever since I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg I have had a way easier time asking Conor to do specific things around the house to help take care of the kids. I am able to express to him what exactly it is that will help me each day. For example Conor gets Henry dressed and ready for the day before he leaves for work. This simple thing helps me get myself and Wayne ready so much faster and there is less drama when we head for the door. It is amazing how that simple little act makes my day go a lot smoother. Without him putting in time and energy I would not be able to get anything done. 

5. Let go of the Type A personality - I am still working on this one. Those who know me well know that I am a closet perfectionist. I like to pretend like I can fly by the seat of my pants but really I am constantly planning, plotting and cleaning. With two kids, a job and myself to take care of I don't have a lot of time for relaxing, painting my nails... just sitting and talking with my husband about anything...let alone cleaning and organizing. But those things are sooo important. I have learned the hard way that sacrificing relaxation or one on one time with my husband for a totally spotless house does not make me happier. It makes me grumpier. So I have had to learn to overlook messes. I walk out of my house with dirty dishes in the sink quite often. More times in the past 2 months than I ever have in my entire life actually! I have a "good mom" mental checklist that I go over every night in my head: did I feed the kids good healthy meals? Did I take Henry to do something fun or exciting or to the park? Did I give him enough time and attention? Did I tell them that I love them and make them feel important? If I can answer yes to those questions I feel good about myself. I've stopped asking myself if the house is clean or if there is clean clothes left in the dryer... that stuff can just WAIT!

Anyway, I hope this was helpful to someone out there! If not, at least you can enter the RockaRoo giveaway! I've teamed up with 4moms to do a fun little giveaway. One lucky Mama out there will win one of these new RockaRoo infant swings. I'm a huge fan of all of the 4moms products but this is by far my favorite! It is super light so it is easy to relocate to different rooms around the house. I think it looks super comfortable - Wayne slips right in that seat and just hangs out while I eat (with two hands!) or play with Henry. I love the rocking motion and you can really crank it up for those babies that need MORE motion in their ocean (this would have been so nice to have 2 years ago with Henry who was a very very difficult sleeper). To enter LIKE 4moms on Facebook and leave a comment below letting me know you "liked" them and that you want to win the brand new RockaRoo swing by 4moms! Also check out the 4moms 31 days of RockaRoo on Facebook - they are giving away a RockaRoo swing everyday for the entire month of January so if you don't win one here, you still have 30 more chances!! Ready Go!

This giveaway will be closed on Friday January 10th and a winner will be announced right here on JaneReaction. This giveaway is only open to US residents. 


Freelance Mama IV

Hello! It's been a while! I feel like I blog so randomly these days that it is really hard to just jump right in to a post. I feel like I need to excuse my absence. Or update everyone on something huge that has been happening in my life. Truth be told - I have just been a little busy. Busy with work, busy taking care of that crazy beautiful boy pictured above ... and really busy growing another human. 

The November/December issue of Verily went to press yesterday!! I celebrated by eating a huge milkshake and getting in bed at 8. It was glorious! The two weeks before we go to print I always feel like a zombie. Not the slow moving, arms out in front of me kind of zombie. More like the fast, crazy eyed, stop-at-nothing-to-get-a-taste-of-blood, World War Z type of zombie. I work as much and as fast as my tired little mind will allow me in order to meet a deadline. The other day one of my co-workers asked Conor how I got it all done at the last second and he described how I just shut down and go in to "work mode." He doesn't see much of me for those two weeks. I had never looked at it from his point of view before but I'm sure he sees a Zombie. Shut down. Not human. Thirsty for blood - AKA the day everything goes to print.

I'm telling you all of this because in a few short days I will be flying out to Palm Springs to attend the 2nd annual Designer Vaca at the Ace Hotel. I have been asked to speak on a panel with 2 of my other designer friends (Liz Grant and Alyssa Yuhas) about the over-talked about and ever-elusive work/life balance. What is that anyway? I'm pretty sure I have professed right here on my blog to know what that is, but let me tell you - I don't really know for sure! But, hey, who better to talk about it than the huge pregnant zombie in he corner over there! Right? I mean she's gotta know something about balancing work and family and life...look at her! Is she even alive?

I guess I do know a little...I mean I've managed to carve out a happy place in my life - doing what I love while raising a family. I know how to prioritize. I know how to ask for help. I know how to stay organized. I know when to let the house work elude me for days so that Henry and I can just jibber jabber in a language that only he and I understand all afternoon. I also have a husband who knows how to be a partner in all of this and not just another person I have to feed at the end of the day. Gosh, he is amazing. But I DON'T know how to place all of these things in such a way that the scale never tips... aaahhh the scale.... 

Does anyone know how to balance it all perfectly? Is it really that easy? Just do this, this and this and the scale never tips? I don't think so. And we all know exactly what side of the scale we would let fall if forced to choose. Life wins every time. So I am asking you for practical advise on how to balance the scale. Even if the scale is teetering at best. I know I have my tips and tricks that I will be sharing: child care, communication with your spouse, re-thinking spending habits in order to work less.... etc. But what are some of yours? How do you manage to keep the scale from crashing to the floor? Or how do you manage it all when one side does crash to the floor (as I know it can and will from time to time)?*

*I know from experience -and I just want to say to anyone that is going through this, IT'S OK! That stupid old scale wasn't meant to stay balanced perfectly. Life is tricky and sometimes you have to heroically save your family from a sinking ship and let work go to (you know where) :)


Freelance Mama III

First of all I need to preface this post with the fact that I am coming from a very dark place. A place not a lot of mothers feel comfortable or sane - the no-sleep-battlefield. It is a war zone in my house and I feel like I'm always losing. OK OK, enough of the drama! Here is how it goes down (and how it has been going down for the last 13 months, 3 weeks and 2 days) - Henry is not a sleeper. Never has been. Poeple tell me he will be someday, but I don't beleive them. I am writing this post for all of those other moms out there, and I know you exist, that have sweet angel babies who hate sleeping. For those moms who feel like the walls are caving in because they can't function on this little of sleep let alone calmly and peacefully train their baby to sleep. 

Up until recently I was under the false pretense that I could get most of my work done during naps and after bedtime. It has been stressful to say the least. I have since hired a baby sitter to come 1 to 2 afternoons a week and worked out a schedule with Conor to take him Wednesday afternoons. Hiring a babysitter is another Freelance Mama post in and of itself which I can't wait to talk about later. But back to the subject at hand: my anti-sleep baby. I have been so jealous of other mothers who tell me that their babies take 2 and 3 hours naps since Henry was born. It would sure make my life so much easier! For the first few months of his life I just kept waiting for him to turn in to that kind of baby. He never did. So, I got creative and read a lot of books. On a good day I could get Henry to take two thirty minute naps. And then his nights were wonky- waking up 2 to 3 times. My whole life has been consumed with his sleep habits for over a year now.

It is common knowledge that sleep deprivation makes a person crazy. Grumpy. Not themselves. Well what you may not know is that when a mother hears her baby crying it makes her even crazier. At least it did me. I physically can not stand to hear Henry cry. I would do anything to make it stop, comfort him, make his life happy again. My blood starts to boil when he cries in the car. Not becuase I am mad at him, No! I am mad at the car, the traffic, the traffic lights, the clock. Anything that exists in that moment is against me and my son and I want to destroy it all in the name of making my son happy again. Is this normal? Probably. 

Cry it out? Now there's another sore subject. I vowed to never let my baby cry it out before Henry was born. I used Babywise as a door stop and threw it out the second I didn't need a door stop anymore. But after months of waiting for Henry to turn in to the kind of baby that slept in my arms, or even fell asleep nursing, or would be rocked for an hour and then fall asleep I finally tried just letting him sleep on his own. He went to sleep just fine at night. If he could talk I think he would have said, "Oh bless you mother for placing me in this sweet little crib filled with fluffy friends and this beautiful quilt you made for me! I love you so much! I am going to roll over and go to sleep now! Thanks for everything!" But for naps I think he would have said something a little more like, "$#%$ $#%*!! You little $%%*!! I never $@$%*# want to see your *%#@% face again!" It hurt. Imagine a grown women literally tearing at her hair and crying her eyes out at the foot of her baby's door. That was me. 

Some weeks have been better than others. Sometimes Henry goes to sleep after nursing or being rocked for an hour or being walked in his stroller for an hour... and sometimes I am just more patient and can deal with the tantrums. Other weeks (like this one in particular) are so much harder. I feel like cursing the heavens! and I am convinced I am the worst mother in the world. We haven't really found a great method. 

You are probably wondering what the whole point of this post is. Yeah me too! I just know that when I find other moms who have similar experiences and can relate I feel so much better about myself and Henry. I love when other moms tell me about their similar experiences and then tell me how smart and brilliant and entertaining their now 2 year old is. I want to say YES!!! I know he is so smart! I know he is just going to be the funniest, most determined little guy ever! But it really is nice to hear that I am not alone and I'm not crazy and I'm not failing! So if you are fighting this no-sleep battle too just know you're not alone! Your little one is still just as awesome as those little ones that do sleep. This wont last forever. And when you think of how fast it really flies by you kinda start to think you can handle it. 

PS I feel really Benjamin Button about that photo up there. Wheeling Henry around in his "wheel chair" is a favorite past time on those sleepless days. 


Freelance Mama II

Remember this post back in October about being a Freelancing Mother? Well, some time has past since we moved to Texas and I thought I might be ready for installment #2 of the Freelance Mama series. Up front I just want to remind everyone that this is simply me documenting my journey at figuring this all out. I have few (if any) tricks at how to get it all done. I just know that when reading other blogs I am always very excited and intrigued when anyone writes anything about how they are managing it all. Posts like that often inspire me to pull it together or reassure me that I am not the only one.  

Recently I was flying somewhere... gosh is it really that hard to remember where I was going? Yes, for the life of me I can't remember where the flight was to or from... regardless... I was on an airplane reading the complimentary sky magazine in my seat front pocket when I came across an interview with Alanis Morissette. Yeah, I know, what does that angsty queen of the 90's have to do with balancing work and family?! Well, I used to still love her music and was very interested in what she might be up to these days and wouldn't you know, our favorite tormented rock star of the aforementioned decade is now a well adjusted mother and wife raising a baby. In her interview she said something that struck me -

"I used to have a personal life and a work life—these little lives in little boxes. Now, I go into a room to write a song, breastfeed my son, talk to my husband, cook dinner, go do a show, return to my family. Not a moment too soon, my life has finally become integrated. And it has been a huge blessing."

Since starting down this design path a few years ago (before Henry was even an idea) I was taught that you need to keep your family life and your work life separated. To combine the two was to bring dysfunction and frustration on everyone. I have attended workshops on this very subject. Everyone's attitude toward motherhood and working (especially from home) has been similar. Keep them as separate as you can. Well, when I read this quote from dear old Alanis I almost laughed out loud! How could she be happy with this integration stuff?? And then I started to think about it! Maybe part of my frustration was coming from an unreal scenario I had created in my head. I was frustrated with how much my life didn't fit neatly into two boxes. In order to get any work done I thought Henry needed to be happily playing far away from me with some kind of adult stranger watching over him. Or I thought that telling clients I couldn't get back to them right away because I was taking care of my son all day was basically like telling them I was incompetent. 

I just thought you you you oughta know that since reading that interview I have given it a try, I let the two worlds overlap, and I like it. If nothing else, I at least feel relieved of all of the pressure to keep things neatly separated into two boxes. I now don't feel terribly guilty when I respond to emails with Henry on my lap and two windows open (one is my email and the other is Netflix playing Yo Gabba Gabba). I don't think I am a bad mom when I check my email while I am on walks with Henry and he is happily munching fishy crackers in his stroller. I don't feel that I need to hide that Henry always comes first and always will. I also let Conor take Henry to work with him one day a week so I can get projects done. It's been really nice to have that break. We are both overlapping and it feels good. Conor and I both work for a couple of hours in the evening after Henry has gone to bed so that we can enjoy him for a few hours in the afternoon with out thinking about work. It's not perfect but I like the idea of saying goodbye to the boxes and just enjoying the moments as they come.



So I have been taking it really easy on the blog lately. Life got all crazzzzuh on me and I just had to give myself some room to breathe. And honestly I have been enjoying it. I used to think that I absolutely had to blog everyday or something terrible would happen...Not sure what exactly but I blogged like the sky was falling. I guess I was afraid that people would forget about me if I stopped blogging. Well, lately I have gone days without blogging and guess what?! The world didn't stop spinning and I still have work flowing in.

It's given me a lot of time think about all of this work / home life / balance stuff. While, in Palm Springs at Design Retreat 2012 I had a lot of time to talk to other girls (I should say women but I just think of myself as a girl so that's what I call them) about being a freelancer and a mamma and how I balance the two. Out of the 20 girls there only 2 of us were moms (both new moms at that) and one other girl is expecting (so excited for you Alyssa!!) Most (not all) of the other girls expressed that they eventually wanted to have kids but that the thought totally freaked them out. A question/answer session was devoted to the topic! It was so funny to hear them ask about the day in the life of a freelance mom. "So, what time do you get up?.. Do you wake up to crying, or how do you know when to get up??.. So, then, do you like,... feed the baby??.. Does it get boring? Do you ever get out? Who watches the baby while you work? So, when do you ever sleep!?" I just had to laugh. No one can prepare you for the insanity of being a mother. It occurred to me that the more we tried to "prepare" them for how utterly hard, exhausting, time consuming, and un-ending it all is the more I felt we strayed from the true beauty of being a mother. Don't get me wrong, some days I honestly want to run screaming from my home and hide in a dark hole and just take a freaking nap! But quite frequently (more often than those dark hole seeking times) my eyes well up with happy tears just at the sight of my sweet baby. I am so proud of him and love him so much. He is my best work.

I got an email today about being a freelancer and thinking about possibly having a baby. Advice wasn't necessarily asked for but I'm going to say this anyway - totally do it! It is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I literally thank God every day for it. Don't worry about how you are going to pay for it, you will find a way to make it work. Don't worry about being too old when they are grown, they will love you regardless. Don't worry about not being able to take on as many projects as you used to, there is always another project waiting for you. Don't second guess your ability to raise a child, you will love that little human so much you won't let yourself fail. 

And because this is my blog about my journey as a freelance graphic designer, wife and mother I am going to attempt to share more about my daily schedule with Henry, how I approach day care, how I balance (or totally fail at balancing but learn from my mistakes), how I eventually want to have more kids and anything else you might want to know about. So if you're interested comment below or send me an email. Oh, and just FYI right after the above picture was taken Henry dove to the ground and shoved an old cigarette butt in his mouth! So... there's that.