Me and my little lightbulbs in the bluebonnets!

Me and my little lightbulbs in the bluebonnets!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

This has been a week of lamentation and elation, all at the same time. Like most mothers sending their children off to kindergarten for the first time, I found myself looking at my 5-year-old with fresh eyes as he strapped on his oversized backpack and headed into his "big kid" school.

He was no longer the little boy in footed pajamas. No. Now he was a tall lanky kid branching out on his own. Where had the time gone? Just yesterday I was delivering this boy by emergency Cesarian, praying he would be okay. When finally his tiny body was placed in my arms I felt a swirl of emotion – disbelief, exhaustion, joy, fear – many of the feelings I felt Monday watching him leap out of my carefully guarded nest. 

I'll never forget the first day J.T. and I were left alone with each other in the hospital room. The family had decided to let us bond, and my husband headed home for a much-needed shower. In the silence of that sterile environment, I spent hours just looking at this tiny blessing, this miracle I never thought I would be able to experience. 

I had spent the last ten years battling endometriosis, a vicious disease that attacks the scarred tissue in the female body, most often around her reproductive organs. After two surgeries to correct the problem, the prognosis was a fifty-fifty shot that I may or may not be able to conceive. So, to say I was overwhelmed by this new man in my life is an understatement.

I stroked his tiny fingers, counting each one. Time passed with me spending countless minutes examining each feature, from his extra long eyelashes to the unique swath of a birth mark on his ankle. He was mine. He was ours. At that moment, I whispered a prayer to God: "Please, don't let me screw this up. I know he's just on loan to me from You, so I will need your guidance." 

And we have been guided, Dan and I, in raising our little tornado of energy. He's funny, smart, challenging, hard headed (by birth right), and extremely creative. When our second son was added to the family nearly two years ago, I knew the roller coaster was about to get even loopier. And it has. 

So far, the greatest experiences of my life have been tied up in these children. As I kissed J.T. one last time to say goodbye, he barely looked back. He ran into his classroom with vigor, exactly what I had hoped for. As for me, I fought back a few tears, not for the present, but for the past, the tiny moments I'll never get back. There will never be another night when I can hold him like a little bundle in my arms and stare at this beautiful creature before me. I will probably never be allowed to rock him to sleep at night any more. 

No, these are new days. These upcoming years will be filled with heartbreaks to mend and hurt feelings to soothe. They will be days of soccer tournaments and sleep overs, first loves and first kisses. I'm looking forward to them all, even though it means my baby is now a boy. 

But, for a woman who never knew if she could experience such a treasured day as her child's first day of school, I say thanks to God for the memories ... past and future. 


Friday, August 21, 2009

Surviving Summer

Well, summer's officially over. It dawned on me today as I was straightening up the house (again). But, first, a little background. 

You see, my oldest son had been at the same child care facility for nearly three years and was weeks away from graduating with his friends when he was unceremoniously kicked out. He didn't deserve to be booted, in my opinion. He wasn't hurting anyone or being profane, the things that normally warrant such action. And, needless to say he was heartbroken. We managed to get him reinstated until graduation after a week's suspension, but were told in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome back for the summer program, a fun-filled camp that he had participated in for the last two years. 

In that moment, my plans for him (and, hence, myself) changed. At the time, I had another job on top of my consulting business demands, so this posed a problem. But, it takes a lot to knock the wind out of my sails. So, I set forth piecing together a creative calendar for the upcoming three months, enrolling the children in camps, VBS programs and activities. Holes were filled in here and there with planned family events. When all was said and done, I stepped back and admired the carefully constructed schedule with pride. It was a thing of beauty. 

Fast forward to today. After meeting J.T.'s teacher last night and turning in our school supplies, I began purging our refrigerator of unnecessary ornamentation. In doing so, I came across the calendar, with days marked off one month after another. I had done it. I wasn't sure we would make it, but we did. It was an uncertain plan to say the least. Would all the times work out? Would the children cooperate? How would they do with such a back-and-forth routine instead of the stability of the same-old same-old? But here we are at the end of August, plunging headlong into kindergarten and mother's day out, with a summer full of wonderful memories. 

In a way, I'm thankful to his preschool for denying him summer camp entrance. It was a gift. Despite the occasional frustrations of moody toddlers and fighting boys, a messy house and a floor that never seemed to stay clean, nothing but good things came from being forced into a new routine. To tell the truth, now that school is here, I'm a little sad. I'm excited for the boys, but I know those days when they are both gone, I will miss them, chaos and all. 

I reluctantly threw the calendar in the garbage, wanting vaguely to hang on to it, as sort of a souvenir of the summer of '09. It was the summer we not only survived, but thrived. 

Isn't it amazing how God works? Will I ever ceased to be awed by his architecture of our lives? Probably not. Just like that well-constructed calendar, he is weaving our daily lives, whether we like the current situation or not. And I'm thinking that when He's done, He admires our lives as I did my schedule, with pride at what He has created, the beauty of its intricacies, and most of all the triumphant outcome in the end. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

Off the Rails

A friend of mine who works from home gave me a bit of advice once before I started on this adventure. "Sometimes the trains are off the rails," she said. "On those days, you just have to go with it." Today was one of those days. 

I managed to set my oldest son's alarm last night (for the first time) in an effort to ready him for Kindergarten next week. Hence, the alarm went off as planned at 6:30 a.m. and I found myself questioning my wisdom in setting it to begin with. Still, he was up and at 'em early this morning, made his bed, brushed his teeth and we all sat down to breakfast around 7:30. I managed to make it to the Y where the kids played and I worked my butt off. Literally (hopefully). 

Here's where the train started to derail. On the way home around 11, my youngest passed out in the backseat, still exhausted from our weekend. There was no way to rouse him for lunch, therefore both boys were at odds with their schedules, J.T. going to his room for quiet time a full 45 minutes after Beau. That meant a shorter shower for me, and very little time for lunch and phone calls to complete the work on my to-do list. 

J.T. came in and out of his room at least a hundred times in that brief two-hour period, during which I was asked to reassemble legos, find scratch paper and pens and why ants lived underground. "I don't know," I said. "Go back to your room and don't come out until I come get you." Like that ever works. 

I did manage to communicate with a printer, finish an article and do some research for a client before he came the one hundred and first time, speaking loudly enough to wake his brother. That's when I did what most moms do when their children are at odds with each other on a long hot summer afternoon – I loaded them up, and we got out of the house. 

After stopping off at the park, the Dollar General and the grocery store, we came home three hours later with my 2- and 5-year-old singing "shake shake shake your bootie" as loud as possible much to my chagrin. Upon arriving home, I promptly declared it movie time, another mommy standby. (Shame me if you will, but there are days I thank my lucky stars for my DVD player.) 

So, the train jumped the tracks today. Very little was done in the way of house work or work work. But my boys are happy for the time being, and I saved a bit of my sanity all by following that nugget of advice given to me years ago. Sometimes you just have to hang on until the chug chug slows to a sputtering stop. In the meantime, I've decided to save a little more of my sanity – tonight we're having left overs for dinner. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Confessions of a Split Personality

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. In fact, I've heard other work-at-home moms talk about the see-saw effect of "having the best of both worlds." Still, I feel alone when I have my fleeting "I wish I still worked outside the home" thoughts. There are occasions when I just can't hear a pleading "Mommy" one more time, no matter how adorable the face is that it's coming out of. Instead, I long for those days when I could drop my children off at day care and retreat to my mound of work for the day, leaving someone else to wipe the poop, drool, food remnants and milk from their bodies. But, again, those are very fleeting and rare moments. 

Usually they are brought on by a week like the one I just had, when, in the feast-or-famine world of self-employment, I experienced the feast. Not normally something I'd complain about, it came on the heels of a long weekend with the family, after which I returned home without a spouse to share childcare duties with. Then ensued a slew of e-mails, phone calls, voice mails and texts regarding meetings, projects and urgent changes to projects that urgently needed to go to the printer yesterday ... urgently. Of course, the week was shortened yet again by another blessed family vacation, which gave me merely three days to cram work in around child rearing, working out and home maintenance, which, needless to say, has suffered as of late. 

I have to admit, though. Once I wound down from my little fit of panic and the overwhelming feeling that I could not possibly get it all done, I realized I could. And I did. Then, we went to the waterpark, floated the river and enjoyed the last toasty days of summer we have left. Heading home today (again, without the hubby), sunburned and exhausted, with two konked out kids in the backseat, I thought how lucky I am that tomorrow I don't have to fight a commute. 

I don't have to rush home, tidy up the house, plunk the kids in bed and wish for more time with them. Instead, I have the benefit of time. And, though I still feel like there is never enough of it, I can always say I'm making the most of what I have. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Huge Gamble

I'm not much of a gambler. In fact, the one time I did venture to Vegas, I lost way more than I won, which isn't saying much. But, about two years ago I threw the dice in my own life – I left a very stable job with a high income for the unsure territory of entrepreneur-ism. The fact I was nine months pregnant at the time didn't do much to calm my nerves. 

I tell a lot of people that decision was like jumping off a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. It's a perfectly good ship. It floats; has all the comforts one needs to survive the voyage. Still, if you want to know what else is out there, sometimes you have to take a deep breath and dive in. 

That's what I did when I launched BCreative in January 2007. So far, it's been quite an adventure, with some very very good times and very scary ones. From one month to the next, I'm not sure if I'll make enough money to help with the household expenses. But on the other hand, I spend every moment possible with my two growing boys. 

In the end, it doesn't really matter how much money I make. Or even if BCreative sinks or swims. What matters is, when I look back, I can say I took a plunge that enhanced my kids' lives and showed me just what I was made of. 

During this blog, I'm going to share insights into my daily struggle of balancing home-based work and life. I'll talk about what life is like when a spouse travels two nights a week, sometimes making it imperative that I learn how to fix a leaky faucet on the fly. I'll also talk about my experiences with the fantastic nonprofits I am blessed to call clients. 

I hope you'll check in from time to time to learn from my hard-earned experience. I'll say this much – no matter how you look at it, the water's fine!