Category Archives: Mommyland

Balancing work and family

Some of the blogs I’ve been following touch on the work-family balance of a freelancer/worker-at-home every once in a while.  Most of the “how-to” suggestions are pretty much the same.  But that doesn’t make it any easier, as I’ve discovered.

I know I’ve touched on work-family balance in this blog, too.  As I grow more accustomed to working at home, I’ve found the transition to working at home has become smoother, and I don’t have to rely so heavily on scheduling every little bit of my day.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a monkey wrench thrown in here and there.

This week has been one of the toughest of my new work-at-home life.  The reason?


Yes, folks.  Summer camp has been my secret to working at home thus far this summer, but the young one had a week off in between camps, and we’re in it.

Save me.

The work doesn’t stop, but regular hours working as a freelancer sure do.  I’m working much earlier, much later, and staying more active during the day just trying to keep up with my son, who will turn 4 in a couple of weeks.

I knew this was coming, so I planned to spend much of the daytime hours doing activities — the zoo, the library, Children’s Day Art Park, etc….  My hope was that he would tire and nap in the afternoon so I could work.

No go.

There has been no napping this week, and my husband has come home to find me curled up on the couch each evening, trying to sneak in my own nap.

Lucky the Elephant at the San Antonio Zoo(That’s not me — that’s Lucky the Elephant at the San Antonio Zoo.  But she looks comfy :))

Fortunately, the tough week will come to an end, and I have some time starting Friday afternoon that will allow me to catch up.  Camp begins, and I am anxiously awaiting the start to school — the most wonderful time in a working parent’s life.

It helps to know I’m not alone in my struggles.  If you’re interested in learning about balancing work and family life, check out these resources:

Fighting distractions

When it comes to distractions, I tend to fail more than I conquer.  Not only am I a mom trying to work from home with a very active 3-year-old, but I’m also prone to being distracted.

I’ve been fighting it my entire life.

I mentioned in my last post the tools I use to stay on schedule.  This morning, I read an article on one of the blogs I follow about fighting distractions.  It’s a good read and worth a look if you’re anything like me.

You can read the full post here.

Getting in the groove

Now that I’m a self-employed web designer/developer, I’m learning a thing or two about managing my time and handling projects.

I’ve been focused on House on Payne Web Design for the past three weeks, and it’s been a different world.

The upside is being my own boss, setting my own schedule, and advancing my knowledge about my chosen trade as well as business.

The downside is that I don’t have a lot of hours in the day, and I have to be REALLY careful about how I manage my time.

Because I work from home now, I’m also the main babysitter for my 3-year-old son.  READ THAT.  3.  Have you tried to work on a computer while a 3-year-old demands your attention?  Don’t.  It’s not worth the effort.

Here are a few of my strategies, and while they haven’t managed to completely clear my schedule so I can work, they have managed to make my time more efficient.

  1. Send the child to camp or school.  That may sound selfish, but kids actually love camp and they benefit from the structure of a program, mingling with other kids and planned activities.  Luke adores his summer camp, and it gives me 2 1/2 free hours in the morning to work uninterrupted.  I can’t wait for school to start, because that will be 6 1/2 hours.
  2. Make a daily schedule EVERY DAY.  I was writing out two pages that broke my day into 30 minute and 1 hour blocks until I realized that I could be more efficient in Outlook, which also links to my iPod Touch calendar, where EVERYTHING is stored.  My schedule looks silly to some, because it has stuff like “Shower/dress” on it, but I have so much to do that if I don’t schedule that stuff in, I’ll fall really behind.
  3. Use a to-do list.  But make sure it’s one that helps you plan out all of those little tasks that have to get done.  I use Remember the Milk because it’s online and there’s an app that links to my mobile device.  It sends me reminders and it works well for me.  It’s not the only one out there, though, and I’ve found that whatever task manager you use has to work for YOU.
  4. Set expectations with your family and friends.  This is one of the toughest and most challenging parts of effective time management.  As much as I would like to talk on the phone or IM my friends when I’m at my computer, I can’t because I have work to do.  I try to go over my schedule with my husband so he knows what I have on tap that day, both on the workfront and on the homefront.  My friends also know that my 2 1/2 hours in the morning are precious, and I’m unlikely to be able to chat much.  Maybe a little, but not much.
  5. Reward yourself with social media, but don’t overdo it.  Facebook is a huge draw for me, but I know that if I jump on just before I start working or while I’m working, it will waste valuable time.  I actually schedule it in sometimes or I reward myself with a check if I finish a task earlier than I expected.

So that’s it — my strategies.  I’m still figuring this stuff out, but so far, so good.

Visiting the San Antonio Zoo

Luke and Andy in front of elephant

Elephants, giraffes, kangaroos… all of these animals are missing from Austin’s Zoo.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the Austin Zoo and admire what it stands for (taking in exotic animals that were once kept as pets or abandoned).  But it’s not a REAL zoo — not like what most people think of when you say “zoo.”

San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston all have larger zoos, and Andy and I figured it was time to take Luke to one.  San Antonio is the closest and we have never been there, so we looked up directions and headed out on a hazy Memorial Day morning.

We made the mistake of printing out directions from Google instead of from the zoo itself, and Google took us to the wrong part of town.  We circled around looking for the zoo and/or visitor’s center so we could actually find it.  While we were there, we stopped and took our picture in front of the Alamo, just to prove we saw it.  We didn’t linger — it was all about the zoo, dang it!

The San Antonio Zoo is really nice.  I’ve been to large zoos, and this one, even though it’s not huge, has some really nice areas. I figured it would get really crowded, and it did — but not overwhelmingly so.  There was still room to maneuver the stroller and plenty of shady areas to stay out of the blazing Texas sun.

We didn’ t even make it everywhere, there was so much to see.

Luke had a BLAST.  We liked it so much, we bought a membership while we were there, figuring we would be back enough over the next year to make it pay for itself. Now that’s what I call family fun.

San Antonio Zoo, May 2010

Luke, Andy and Cindy visited the San Antonio Zoo on Memorial Day, 2010.

Have you hugged your mom today?

On this Mother’s Day, I hope everyone is thinking happy thoughts about the woman who raised them — be it their biological mom, stepmom, adopted mom, grandmom, mother figure… whomever.

I know there are a lot of people out there who have effed up relationships with their parents, and I know there are people out there who do cruel things to their parents and/or children.  But let’s forget about all of that right now.

My mom is one of my best friends.  We’ve had our share of turbulence.  I think every girl goes through that rebellious phase at some point.  Mine hit at age 12.  But it wore off, and today, I appreciate my mom more than I ever did when I was living with her.

Cindy and her mom, Susan, at the Botanical Gardens in Atlanta in 2004She’s the first person I call when Luke is sick (she’s a nurse — she has the answers).  I still want to call her up and tell her every time something really great happens to me.  And, yes, I’ve spent the past several years trying to convince her to move to Austin so that I can see her more often.

Susan decorates the Christmas tree, 2009She still sends cards on every holiday.  (I haven’t been so good about that.)  She still makes apple pies as gifts at Christmas, a tradition she began when my brother and I were in school and needed to take presents for the teachers.  She still grows one hell of a garden, complete with herbs, gorgeous flowers and vegetables — the envy of her neighbors!

The way I run my household is in many ways similar to the way she ran hers when I was growing up.   It’s OK to have clutter, as long as it’s clean.  You better have a fever to stay home from work or school.  The TV does NOT need to be on all the time.  Education is THE most important thing.  Hugs are always available.

Cindy and Luke go ice skating, 2009On this Mother’s Day, I’m striving to be as good a mom to my son as my mom was to me.  And now that I have a daughter on the way… well, I know my relationship with her will likely differ from the one I have with my mom, but that’s just fine.

I’ll do anything for my kids, just like my mom did everything she could for me and my brother.  Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll!

Look at me! I’m making jam!

Whenever we picked strawberries as a kid, my mom always made jam within a few days.  I’m not sure I appreciated her hard work at the time.

I used to think that the store bought stuff was fancier, and I wished we could get it – that is, until mom’s jam ran out.

I remember opening a jar of Smuckers for the first time in years and being very disappointed.  Mom’s jam was AWESOME.

I wanted to do the same with the berries we brought home from Sweetberry Farm.

I’m sure Mom told me exactly what she was doing while I sat in the kitchen and watched her all those years ago — but to tell the truth, none of it sank in.  In fact, I actively rebelled against anything that smelled remotely like being a homemaker for years and years.  So when I decided to make jam, I bought a book on home preservation and followed the instructions.

Home canning is a science, and it’s true that you do have to follow the “rules” so to speak.  But it’s not all that hard once you get the hang of it.  The most time consuming part was preparing the berries.  I had to wash and hull 8 cups worth — crushed.  Then I mixed the berries with 6 cups of sugar (so not Paleo) and stirred constantly over medium heat until they came to a boil — 25 minutes later.  I opted for the old-fashioned recipe because — believe it or not — it called for less sugar.

But the results were amazing.  It was the most delicious taste of heaven — just like I was a kid.

Jar of jam with funnelLuke woke up from his nap in time to watch me fill each of the 12 jars I had warming in the pot on the stove.  Once each one was filled, closed and put back in the pot, I brought the whole thing for  a boil, and let them process for 10 minutes.

The sealing process actually takes place once you take them out of the pot and let them sit on the counter to cool.  24 hours later, we tested, and the jars were perfectly sealed.  The jam didn’t really set, but it’s still delicious.  And my son loves me for making it.

What more could a girl want?

In full bloom

 Cindy and Luke in the bluebonnetsI just wanted to share a few photos from the Wildflower Center today, because we had a lot of fun.

The wildflowers are just hitting their stride in Central Texas right now.  Waves of blue, red and yellow are visible along many Texas highways.  Yards in my neighborhood are in full bloom, and now all of the spring wildflowers have started to bloom, so we have a long way to go.

Luke shows us his lootThe Wildflower Center hosted an Easter Egg hunt, and we decided to take advantage of it.  For about an hour, we wandered around the main grounds, following Luke who was interested in everything, especially spiders.  He really wanted to see a spider, but we never caught a glimpse of one.  Fortunately, he was happy with the candy in the eggs.

Andy and Luke in the bluebonnetsWe walked around for a while after that looking for places to take pictures for that “obligatory bluebonnet shot.”  I told Luke he owned me one with me and one with Andy.  He reluctantly agreed. He was much more interested in all of the fun stuff going on — the kids, the bugs in the water, and bubbles — to be bothered with stopping for yet another photo with flowers we already have in our yard.  At least, that’s how I would have felt if I were him. 🙂

A taste of organization

Andy pulls pieces of the bed into Luke's room.I got a taste of organization yesterday, and I LIKE it!

It all started when Andy suggested that we go ahead and move Luke into the big bed that’s been stored in pieces in the closets since we set up the crib.  It was my bed growing up, and it’s really sturdy.  The only problem is — we couldn’t find the hardware.

We tore the entire house apart searching for it, and we finally resigned ourselves to buying new bolts.  However, in the process of searching, I discovered about 15 places that need to be cleaned out and re-organized.  Things can really pile up when you’ve been living somewhere for 5 years!

So this morning I announced to the boys we are going to organize, and Andy got an amused look on his face.  “Uh-oh, here we go.”

LOL… what are your organization tips?

A joyful three days

Luke shows off some of his artI used up the last of my yearly vacation days (never enough!) to spend three glorious days with my son.  Awesome!

I didn’t have any big plans.  I just wanted to have a relaxing few days with the boy.  It’s time I wish I got to spend with him all year long.

The kiddo is a bundle of energy, so our first stop was a playground — his favorite, in fact.  The Zilker playscape.  He ran and made up imaginary scenarios for nearly 2 straight hours before we both got hungry and decided it was time to leave.

For a treat, I took us out to Kerby Lane.  We were south, so that’s where we headed.  He was so excited, he elected to wait the 35 minutes for a table.  He was so patient!  I was impressed.  Of course, we read the books I always have stashed in my bag and played color games before finally sitting down to a lunch of pancake (for him) and salad (for me).

After that we stopped into BookPeople and bought a copy of the new Pooh book — Return to the Hundred Acre Wood — and went home to read it before naptime. 

Tuesday we played the entire day at home because of the sleet.  At one point, we snuggled on the couch under the blanket because it was cold and pretended to hide from monsters, laughing and giggling the whole time.

Wednesday was just as fun.  In the afternoon, after he tried to nap but just couldn’t, I ran in, putting my coat on and said, “Come on, Luke!  Let’s go to the playground before it gets dark!”  He played for 1 1/2 hours at Northwest, while I read snatches of a book, while trying to keep one eye on him.  We came home exhausted.

Boy, I wish I got to do this stuff all the time.

Ice skating in Austin

Luke on the iceIt’s not usually this chilly in Austin in December. Usually we’ll have one or two cold days and the rest are balmy and beautiful.  This year — wet and chilly.

I told Luke one weekend on a visit to Whole Foods that we would only go ice skating at the rink they have set up on the plaza when it’s cold.  Wouldn’t ya know it, it was cold the next weekend.  I stuck to my promise, and Andy, Luke and I headed down to Whole Foods for a little ice skating.

It was Luke’s first-ever time on skates or on ice, and he was so excited.  The skating rink, which is pretty small, was pretty empty, and they have skates you can rent.  For kids, the blades are doubled — perfect for little ones just learning to skate.

I have to admit, I was pretty timid of the ice.  I’ve NEVER ice skated before.  And it’s been years since I put on my inlines.  But inlines aren’t the same as ice skates, and it feels completely different.  I mainly pushed around just a little, holding Luke with one hand, trying to be there for him to grab onto.

Cindy and Luke on the iceLuke loved the ice at first.  It was novel, and he really digs trying new things.  Poor guy was gung-ho about jumping into it, insisting Papa Gerry had taught him how to skate when he was a baby (I love how kids use their imaginations!).

But he fell, a lot, and unprepared me did not think to look for his mittens before we left the house.  His hands were soon frozen, and they were so cold, he told me they were burning.

I remember that feeling.  Just a few weeks ago I was doing pullups on a frozen bar with bare-hands.  It felt like my hands were on fire.

We pulled off the skates and rushed downstairs into the store for hot chocolate and samples.  It was enough to take his mind off his hands, and we had a lovely rest of the afternoon.

I don’t think that will be our last experience with ice skating. Luke is an adventurer — even physical pain doesn’t scare him off from the really cool things to do.  We’ll be back.