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Freelancing: What It Is and How to Do It

If you're like me (a stay at home mom), you're probably looking for a way to bring in a little extra money: that's where freelance writing can come in.

Before Landon and I had Britton, we worked hard to make sure that we could live off of one income. Not only did this tactic allow us to put more money towards responsible things like buying our first house and paying down our school debt, it created the opportunity for us to travel to Scotland and have a baby.

When we had decided that the time was right to start a family, we agreed that whoever was making the lesser salary would stay home with the baby. As it turned out, our salaries at the time of getting pregnant weren't that far apart, so we decided that I would stay home with Britton because I had the flexibility to work from home through freelance writing.

As luck would have it, I had started freelancing just after I found out I was pregnant. I loved writing, so the idea of getting paid for publishing my work was a great fit for me. Plus, I could do it in my spare time away from my full-time job (which, at the time, was teaching English at a homeschool program). After some research, I found several places that would kick start my freelancing career. Freelancing is kind of like getting a book published: no one wants to take you on unless you've been published, but you can't initially get published unless someone hires you. While I won't ever buy a private island with my freelancing income, the jobs I've taken on have given Landon and I some extra fun money that we wouldn't have otherwise had with me staying at home with Britton.

So, here are my tips and tricks on freelance writing and editing:

  • You have to LOVE to read and write. I don't say this lightly. Clients sometimes ask me to research and write a 500 word article in just a few hours. While 500 words isn't that much (most of my blog posts are probably longer), creating and researching an article of that length while also watching a six-month-old isn't the easiest. Someone who only kind of likes writing, editing, and researching should consider a different work-at-home position.
  • You have to be able to adapt quickly to whatever comes your way. With freelancing, clients are paying for both quality and quantity. They don't want an article filled with poor writing, factual mistakes, and grammar errors. They want a well-written, cleanly-edited piece that their readers will be able to easily follow. I've written articles on everything from Disney World (which I know a TON about) to faucets and energy-efficient plumbing (which I knew NOTHING about before writing the articles): if I don't know about a product or company, I need to find reliable resources that will allow me to write about them as if I'm an expert. 
  • You have to look for the jobs--and the competition can be vicious. A freelancing job hasn't ever fallen in my lap. At minimum, I've had to send in writing samples, references, and links to past jobs. My most intensive application process was about a month long and required me to produce multiple new sample pieces and demonstrate that I could do basic HTML coding. There are a ton of people who are qualified to be a freelance writer and editor, so you have to be on top of your game constantly. Double check your work. And then check it one more time. If you don't, you will lose jobs because of poor editing.  
  • Start with the people you know. If you're looking to get into freelance work, collect your best blog posts together and post them on Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest. Let your family and friends know that you're open for business; you never know who might be willing to give you a shot. My first freelancing job was for a high school friend who had recently opened his own marketing company. He wanted to focus on the business side of things without having to worry about the quality of the writing on the client blogs and websites. Just remember to have your expected minimum wage, completion timeline, and job requirements in your head from the very start, or you could lose the client due to being unprepared.  
  • How you get paid varies. Some clients want to pay me per word; other will pay me per paragraph. Some will want me to bid on a project--these are the scariest since you don't know what the other writers are bidding. As a freelance writer, you get to set your own rates most of the time; ask around to see what other freelancers are getting. Don't sell yourself short! Also, open a PayPal account if you don't already have one. This is a safe, easy way of getting paid, and most clients are very comfortable completing a transaction through PayPal.
Places to start if you're just getting into freelance work:
  • About.com. I worked for them as a wedding invitations topic writer before they restructured their website (they phased out the topic writers in favor of the guide positions, which require a much larger commitment). They are owned by the same company that owns the New York Times, so they are an extremely reputable company. The application process for these positions are insane, so be prepared to pull out all the stops. If you get one of this positions, you have arrived as a freelance writer, as an About.com position is considered the gold standard of freelancing. They pay per article and you are guaranteed a paycheck each month for completing your minimum. If you are extremely knowledgeable about a topic, check out their open listings: there are available positions in everything from jewelry to DIY home repair to powerboating.
  • Craigslist. As with anything on Craigslist, approach with a healthy dose of caution. However, if you can weed through the scams, there are often some great writing and editing jobs to be found here (both local and remote). Just remember: never accept personal checks or send out your financial info without knowing the person. Any legit company will work with you to make you feel comfortable in all aspects of the writing process. 
While there are a million other places to find freelance positions on the internet, I'd start with these if you're new to the game. 

Happy writing!

Six Months Later...and the Surprises Keep on Coming!

Six months ago tonight, I was doing far worse than I currently am (though, I must say, not much beats blogging in your pjs while watching a movie with your significant other): I didn't have the easiest labor (for the gritty details, read the series I wrote here, here, here, and here), and Britton had some issues post-delivery.

I never imagined that my tiny baby who needed tubes to breathe and an IV to regulate her blood sugar would turn into this robust, outgoing, happy little girl that is currently sleeping in her crib.

Even though the pediatrician told us from our first post-NICU appointment onward that Britton would have no lasting issues from her dramatic first day, I had trouble believing him. Why is it that parents always imagine the worst?

The last six months have been amazing: Britton smiled at me for the first time, she learned to roll over (both ways now!), she can sit up, and she loves playing with Landon and I. Nothing makes my heart smile like peeking into Britton crib and seeing her beam back at me.

However, the last six months have been crazy difficult, too.

At one point, I was so tired that I couldn't fall asleep.

I would cry at the thought of having to wake up one.more.time without feeling rested.

I struggled with Britton nursing--she had tongue-tie, she had been bottle-fed in the NICU, she was (frankly) a lazy nurser who preferred the bottle. I finally started to pump exclusively, which took hours and hours of my time, kept me from going all sorts of places (who wants to haul around a stupid pump!?), and stopped me from snuggling with Britton as much as I wanted to (when you're stuck to a pump for 3+ hours a day, your baby has to learn how to keep herself occupied).

But, this week goes to show that being a parent is an ever evolving process. As Britton's six month birthday approached, I had decided that--for my sanity--I had decided to quit pumping and switch to formula. I was sick of pumping. I was sick of being away from my baby for hours each day. I was tired of having to haul that awful pump everywhere.

For kicks and giggles, I figured I'd give nursing one more go and end on a note of "well, I tried." I had come to terms with everything emotional that comes along with decided to wean before my baby wanted to.

Lo and behold: Britton latched yesterday morning. And all day yesterday. And all day today.

Six months into bottle feeding and pumping, my child has decided to nurse. I'm in uncharted waters here, as every site I search about beginning to breastfeed focuses on newborns and recently postpartum moms. Even websites that offer up advice for pumping mamas who are transitioning to breastfeeding usually focus on pretty small babies.

So, that goes to show you that babies can surprise you--even after you thought that they were (really) set in their ways. I have no idea how long this chapter of our lives will last, but I'm willing to take my cues from Britton since she obviously knows more than I do.

Happy six months, Britton!

Gaining and Losing

Gain and loss.

No, this isn't a blog post on how to lose weight quickly (or at all--I'm definitely not the one to ask about weight loss right now since I can't seem to keep my fingers out of the cabinets for more than fifteen minutes). 

This is a blog post on life and death and everything in between. 

2013 has been emotional. I gave birth to my amazing daughter, a time that was both wonderful and terrifying, and I said good-bye to beloved grandfather. 

As a first-time mom, I got to experience the highs and lows that come along with being pregnant, going through labor and delivery, and coming home with a beautiful but puzzling little human. 

On the other end of the spectrum, my mom's dad passed away just a few short weeks ago. He's the third grandparent I'd lost, but, since I was with him when he died, his death has impacted me in such a different way than the others. 

You might wonder what I'm doing--what does the birth of a baby have to do with the loss of a grandparent? To me, everything. 

I hadn't ever experienced the dawning of a new life until Britton arrived. And I hadn't watched the setting of someone else's until Grand-dan passed away. 

But having been there for both (and in such a short time period), it seems as if they are so much more connected than people want to admit. 

When Britton was born, I kept asking Landon, "Where did she come from?" He thought that it was the medication talking (and, to some extent, it probably was), but what I was trying to grasp was this idea of being, of place, of existence. We've all got our individual ideas on what happens after death (reincarnation, Heaven, nothing, etc.), but no one really seems to dwell on where we come from. 

In those heavily medicated days, I also would cry and cry because I probably won't be there for every day of Britton's life. I would think of her as an old, old woman, and know that I would not be with her. The idea that we'd be separated tore me apart in those emotional first days. It saddens me now that she and I will one day have to say goodbye to one another just as I did to my grandfather. 

When my grandfather went into the hospital, we all thought that he would be okay. He'd been having some issues with his heart, so we were completely shocked to find out that he had stage 3 cancer. After he found out about his diagnosis, he seemed to accept it--and at that moment, his health began to decline drastically. I went up to be with my mom, grandmother, and grandfather; I stayed in the hospital room with my mom and Grand-dan for moral support and company. 

Those 48 hours that I was there opened my eyes as to what happens at the other end of life. I learned that there are signs that death is impending, like the way a patient is breathing or the color of the patient's legs. I learned that helping someone through the final transition is mentally and emotionally challenging for everyone involved. Grand-dan told me multiple times, "I want to beat this, but I know I can't." He wanted us to know that he was okay with dying, and that was the hardest thing for me to accept. 

I had to tell him, "Grand-dan, I love you. It's okay to go."

Just as I had to help bring Britton into this life from wherever we come, I had to help lead Grand-dan out of it. Neither was easy. There were tears shed, memories made, hands held, doctors talking, hugs exchanged, and lives changed in both.

In some ways, I feel as if I peeked behind the curtain of life and, for a brief moment, saw a tiny bit of what makes this world tick. But I have no conclusions, no big reveals about the meaning of life still. Birth and death remain mysteries to me. And they should. 

What I do know is that I love both of them and will treasure the time I do have. If I look at it that way, there are only things to gain, and nothing truly to lose. 

Favorite Things: The First 6 Months

Baby Physics Law #1: The smaller they are, the more stuff they need.

Britton has been showered with love in all forms since the day we found out that we were expecting. Since she's been here, we've gotten to test drive so many things. Some have worked out better than others, and some have been absolutely indispensable.

Here are the wonderful items that have made our lives with a baby a little easier in Britton's first six months of life:
Since I don't have a picture of us, you get treated to a stock photo from BabyKtan.com.
Baby K'tan. I love scarves, headbands, earrings, and necklaces--if you can find an accessory, chances are I will love it. It's no small wonder then that I was drawn to the woven wraps and carriers that are so popular for babies these days. After researching the available baby carriers, I decided that dealing with the super long fabric of a Moby-type wrap was more than I could handle, and that the Ergobaby was comfortable but a little more than I wanted to spend. In my research, I found the perfect solution for Britton and I: the Baby K'tan. It comes in a bunch of colors (which appealed to my accessory-loving self), and it was made of soft fabric. It was easier to put on and use than a traditional style wrap, but I knew it would still be comfy for baby Britton. And instead of the $100+ that the ErgoBaby commands, the K'tan was about $45.

I practiced on a baby doll before Britton arrived so I would be familiar with the types of holds: there are many, many helpful videos on the Baby K'tan website and YouTube to guide you through the multiple ways to wrap the K'tan.

Britton LOVES the K'tan, and we use it regularly when we're out on shopping trips. I sometimes wear it around the house when I'm doing my freelance writing work or chores. When she was super tiny, I would put her in the kangaroo carry and she'd fall right asleep while I worked. Now, she loves the inward facing and outward facing carries, and will gladly stay in either for quite some time while I'm working or shopping.

All strapped into her car seat and stroller and ready to go for a walk!
The Graco LiteRide Stroller in Zooland. At first, I didn't want a stroller (all of you experienced moms can go ahead and get a good laugh out). I figured that the Baby K'tan was versatile enough that I wouldn't use a stroller. Luckily, my mom insisted on buying the Graco stroller to go with the matching car seat we already had. I love being able to snap Britton in the car seat, and then quickly click her into the stroller when we get to the mall or the grocery store without taking her out of the seat. It's especially helpful when she's sleeping, and taking her out to put in the K'tan would wake her up. Plus, the stroller's really easy to break down and put in the trunk, which is awesome for a complete weakling like me. We also have a running stroller (which we also love) but that one is so much heavier and not really great for quick trips in and out of the store.

"Just five more minutes, Mama!"
Luv 2 Zoo Bouncer. This is Britton's new favorite thing. She could spend HOURS in it. One time, she actually fell asleep in it--I noticed that she was being very quiet all of a sudden, and when I turned around, she had her cheek propped up on the edge of the seat. She bounced herself to sleep!

There are three different stations on the bouncer, and the seat rotates 360 degrees so she can access any of the toys when she wants. At 5 months old, she was about 24" tall, and she could juuust touch the floor with her toes. To make it easier for her to bounce, we put a little box under her feet. Now, at almost 6 months old, she doesn't need the box. The bouncer has three different levels so it can continue to grow with her.

Nom, nom, noms.
Nuby transition bottles. We started off with the Medela bottles that went with the manual pump I got because I (erroneously) thought we'd only occasionally need to bottle feed Britton. Her voracious appetite led her to discover how to drain those in just a few minutes--she already has issues with spitting up all the time, and the gulping of her milk wasn't helping. We tried pausing during her feedings so that she was forced to take a breath, and that helped space the feedings a little. When she was about four months old, however, she had enough coordination to try and hold the bottle during feedings; Landon and I quickly found that fighting Britton for control of the bottle on top of attempting to pace feedings was too much. If Britton wants to help feed herself, then we'll help her make that happen. We got the Nuby transition bottles, and she immediately took to them. I love that they can be used as a regular bottle, a handled bottle or a handled sippy cup, which will really make the transition out of a bottle easy.

Other honorable mentions:

  • The First Year's Infant to Toddler Tub with Sling. It's safe, it fits in the sink, and it has a removable baby sling. Plus, it's lightweight, sturdy and inexpensive. What else could we want in a baby tub?
  • Mesh Crib Liner. When she was a baby, Britton constantly would wiggle in a corner and get her foot stuck in the slats since we didn't put up a traditional bumper. This would wake her (and us) up, and in an effort to ensure that we all got more rest, Landon and I went on the hunt for a breathable bumper. This one worked beautifully; Britton no longer gets her feet stuck, and I can sleep easier knowing that this type of bumper doesn't increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Infantino Vented Carrier. This is Landon's carrier of choice. The K'tan (my carrier) comes in sizes, and there's no way that Landon was fitting his shoulders in my size small carrier. He had to decide between getting a second K'tan or getting a harness type carrier (the Moby style wraps weren't even a consideration in his book). He found this carrier on Amazon and really liked it; he actually uses it, and Britton likes riding in it, too. It's great for keeping her close while doing chores, and Landon likes to wear it when he and Britton are on their own while shopping. It's adjustable, which means I can wear it too!
  • Baby Trend Jogging Stroller. We've only gotten to use this a few times since Britton has only recently gotten complete head control (which is necessary for riding in any stroller without an infant carrier attachment). Landon is the runner of our family, and he says that the stroller works like a charm when he, Britton, and our dog Phoebe are out on jogs. I've taken it on a couple of walks, and the stroller is extremely easy to push; I also like the two cup holders. It's a bit bulky for quick runs to the grocery stores, nor is it compatible with the Graco car seat we have, and that's why I've used the Graco (above) more. 
Experienced moms: what were your favorite items in the first six months? What should we look to get for the second six months?

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Britton's Giggle Fit

Sometimes parenting is hard. Really hard. I won't lie and say that everyday with Britton has been a breeze--there have been some days that I have wondered what I was thinking when I decided to try and raise another human being.

I have definitely not enjoyed every minute since June 5 (despite the advice of every little old lady I meet in the grocery store); running on three hours of sleep a day, listening to Britton cry and cry because she's too tired to go to stay up but too stubborn to go to sleep, and figuring out how to balance my working/ writing schedule, Britton's sleep/ eating/ playing schedule, and my pumping schedule have driven me to tears on more than one occasion.

But then something will happen and I understand why people say that parenting is the best job ever. I thought I would explode with happiness the first time Britton smiled at me.

Recently, she's started doing something even more awesome: laughing. Landon caught her on his camera on night as the two of them were playing with an old stuffed Minnie Mouse of mine. I'd never heard her belly laugh like that before! It happened the night before I went up to stay with my grandfather in the hospital as he was dying, and watching that video got me through many, many tough moments over the next week and a half.

So, take a look at little Miss Britton:

I Wish...

...that I could find a sweater/ legging combo that worked. I'm tall enough that most tunics just look like slightly baggy shirts on me, and thus, would be ridiculous looking with leggings. Still, I find these pictures on Pinterest of these perfectly coiffed women who look so cozy in long sweater tunics, thick leggings, and riding boots, and pine away.

Britton, why you do dis to meeeeee?
...that Britton would figure out that 5 a.m. is a time for sleeping, not breakfast. It's much, MUCH better than 3 a.m., but there's something about that pre-dawn hour that makes me so weary. It's too early to think normally, but it's too late to really go back to bed (because Landon's alarm will go off and wake me up about 3 minutes after I get back in bed). Could I order a 6 a.m. wake-up tomorrow, little one? Pretty please?

...that I didn't have to wait until next year to go to Disney World. We're planning on taking Britton when she's 18 months old because 1) that's an awesome age for kids and Mickey Mouse, and 2) it will be right around Christmas, which is my favorite time to go. That just seems so long! (As a side note, I must say that I wouldn't dream of going right now because I'd have to haul all of Britton's baby stuff, including my pump...and let's face it, nothing sucks the magic out of Disney World like having to haul a stupid breastpump around with you.)

...that the house would magically stay clean. I've never been OCD about my house, and, before we had Britton, I was good about keeping it slightly messy but clean. Now, I spaz whenever I find Landon's flip-flops under the coffee table for the nineteeth time in a row. I'm sure it's because I'm at the house all the time now and so any mess bothers me more. Unfortunately, my hatred of messiness did not come with an overwhelming desire to clean more. Total catch-22.
Yup, nailed it.
...that the weather would stay gorgeous forever. It's currently 78 here in South Carolina, and I'm in shorts. I hate being cold, so this warm front is very welcome. Stay away, winter!
My idea of the perfect holiday
Happy weekend, everyone!


In my last post, I talked briefly about control and how my attitude towards it has changed since having Britton. Since that post, I lost my grandfather (who I was extremely close to) and that experience has made me examine my control issue even further.

From day one with Britton nothing turned out the way I planned. I wanted an all-natural birth with no medical interventions. I used my Hypnobabies home program, and my husband and I listened to the tracks religiously. But then, at 39 weeks, we found out that 1) I had tested positive for GBS and had to be administered an IV during labor (there goes the no intervention), and 2) Britton was measuring so far ahead that she needed to be induced. There was much talk of her head being too developed to be delivered naturally, but I decided to hedge my bets and be induced. That entire process ended with me in the operating room fourteen hours later delivering a baby in respiratory distress via C-section.

One day old, and covered in tubes and wires.
Then, I decided that I wanted to stick to my guns and breastfeed, the other important part of my labor/ delivery/ postpartum plan. The NICU that Britton stayed in for three days wasn't breastfeeding-friendly and only wanted to give her formula. Then, after taking her home, nursing her was hideously painful, so we continued to give her a bottle when I was in too much pain to try and nurse. About a week and a half after Britton was born, a lactation consultant finally diagnosed her with a severe tongue-tie, which we corrected with a quick procedure. Her nursing habits, however, were more difficult to change; she didn't know how to latch properly, and I was tired of trying and failing, and ending with pain and crying. So, I started to exclusively pump and feed her out of a bottle.
By pumping, I could get everyone, including my parents, to help out during meal time!
As Britton grew, I found it exceedingly difficult to let go of the notion that I got to go to bed when Landon did. 10 p.m. would roll around, and I would tearfully watch Landon get ready for bed; after all, he had to go to work the next day, bright and early. Before Britton figured out night from day, I was up at all hours--but none were as difficult as the early morning ones. I'm actually kind of a night owl, so being up late wasn't the thing that got me. It was the lack of control I had to tell this tiny baby, "Okay, it's night time. Go to sleep like Mommy and Daddy do." She was dictating the schedule at that point, and I had to learn to go with it.
If I keep my sunglasses on all the time, you won't be able to see the half-shut eyes and dark circles--right?
When my grandfather was sick and in the hospital, I was lucky enough to be there with him in the days leading up to his death. He knew that he was dying--and was glad that it was the pneumonia that would take him and not his newly-diagnosed cancer--and he was okay with it. He told me, "I want to beat this, but I know I'm not going to." That was the hardest thing for me to accept. I was completely helpless in this situation. I could do nothing to help my grandfather except tell him that it was okay to go. But how do you let go of someone who you love?

Christmas 2012. I'm in the front row (four months pregnant!) with my grandmother and grandfather. Landon's standing behind me in the purple shirt.
In the last five months, I have shed many, many tears over all of these situations--some are obviously more important, but all have worked on me in their own ways. Looking back, I know that I have learned to release some of that control. Deciding to exclusively pump was emotionally heartbreaking, but I have a little schedule for pumping now and I know I'm still giving Britton the nutrients she needs. Landon and I have regulated Britton's sleeping schedule, so it's more consistent now. She'll even sleep through the night most of the time. Being with Grand-dan when he passed showed me how much of our lives are trust that someone else will continue to bear the burden when we are too tired to go at it alone.

For all those new moms and dads out there, you can't control everything. And that's okay. Control over every situation is not the important thing in life. Love, in all of its forms, is.