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The Boogie Exchange

23 Weeks or This Is How I Work

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The Boogie Exchange

This actually happened.

 

This Is How I Work

(If you’re not interested in my working life skip this part.)

I’ve always wanted to do one of those “this is how I work” posts that I read about on tech and life hacking blogs. They always have some cool editor or globe trotting journalist talking about their working habits, tips for staying productive, and the cool tech they use to get the job done when they’re stuck in some hellish commute in some romanticized, overly crowded city. How I envy them. Truth be told, I used to live in big cities, had a hellish commute, and just stared at my phone the whole time. Being stuck on a train for an hour to go nine miles is not romantic. I guess I never took to city life. I could never see myself having a family and raising kids in a place like NYC. Luckily for me, given my penchant for road rage and distaste for large crowds and pickpockets, we live in a small town. Life is calmer, but how is the career now with a baby? How’s the working life of a stay at home dad/illustrator?

Well let’s explore.

Raising Emma is my first and main job. It’s essentially all the positions you need to run a hotel all rolled into one. During the day I’m the manager, the receptionist, the cleaner, the plumber and maintenance crew, the chef, the bellhop… I’m everything. Then when Kelly is home she can be everything because I sneak off for a long break that leaves her saying, “where the hell is that guy? It’s only a fifteen minute break!” (She’ll never know where I sneak off to..)

So my days are eventful… and very full.

I’m really just trying to keep up with Emma’s development since it seems like she grows into new habits and new developmental stages each week. Once you think you have her figured out she up and jukes ya. One constant that I can bank on is her nap time. That’s when I try to get some work in. I’ll either tackle client work, this blog, personal projects, or try to manage the constant disarray which comes with having a baby and has consumed our home.

Mainly, in regards to professional illustration, I work at night. Sometimes I lose sleep and sometimes I dread going to sleep because I know I’ll be up in 45 minutes when Emma needs to be fed or changed. Oh, holy crap, btw, night time changings are the devil.

La Scenario Del Diablo

Here’s a scenario- your baby has a wet diaper, you can feel the weight as the diaper sags off of their tiny tuchas, what’s more, you can smell it. Now, most parents have an instinctual urge to keep their children clean and for me that kicks in with a fury when I get a whiff of the dookies.  So now you have to change your kid’s diaper, but you also know that if you go to change them they’ll wake up screaming bloody murder and they won’t go back down for another hour. That’s another hour that you’re awake in the middle of the damn night and you really like to sleep because you don’t get a lot of it.

I’ve never had a hidden addiction or a vice that would ever get me on that show Intervention; nothing I’ve ever had to hide from my family and sneak off to enjoy. If I did, though, it would probably be sleep. There’s no greater feeling than the way I feel when everyone one else is asleep, I finally put the baby down where she’ll stay down for the night, and I slowly creep through the house, double check the locks, and finally crawl into bed and await the warm embrace of slumber. I am dead to the world when I sleep. If I get more than five straight hours I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

That being said, I also have obligations to my clients, so sometimes I don’t get to sleep.

Back to Work

When I started working from home I got myself a nice set up, I did. I recreated the the old workstations I had when I was an in-house artist for various studios- a really strong desktop, big @$$ Wacom Cintiq, and a dual monitor setup. Only this time I got myself a good strong, gaming PC that won’t buckle under pressure because I do a bit of animation, too. I also set up a very respectable studio space in the new house and it’s done up to the nines. I’m surrounded by all my reference books, art, degrees, toys, and a nice mini bar with seating for clients and friends. What’s it like spending my days in this amazing space you ask? I couldn’t tell you, I don’t have any daytime to myself.

During the day the majority of my work is done on one of two devices- my phone or my tablet. I’m a big Samsung fanboy and have been a huge geek for their S Pen since it came out because it uses Wacom tech to operate. From these devices I’m emailing clients, researching, getting some preliminary sketches done, tracking hours, sending invoices, chasing down payments, and of course taking calls. I even get to write this blog and do my weekly doodles from the comfort of my companion devices. Well, it’s more convenient than anything. They let me multitask while I’m caring for Emma. I can be in the same room when she’s sleeping, playing… that’s it. She sleeps and she plays. She eats, too, and I can feed her while I’m emailing or making calls.

I do try to keep that to a minimum, though, because I don’t want her learning bad habits or growing up wanting to spend all her time on phones and gadgets, it’s apparently unhealthy for children. Plus, I really want to spend quality time with her. I don’t want her seeing me pay more attention to a phone than to her.  In fact, I’ve really considered decreasing the amount of tech in our life so Emma isn’t completely surrounded by it at home. The phone is a big problem as it’s my sketchbook. I’m always on it and not necessarily sketching. I’ve wanted to switch to a Light Phone or a companion phone that limits the amount of time I’m staring at a screen by simply offering me less to do with my phone. That’s partly why I got a desktop instead of a Surface or a laptop- I don’t want to bring my work everywhere I go. Unfortunately, when you run a business, and in the case of being an artist where you are your business, you can’t stay disconnected during the working hours of the day. I’ve actually lost a client because, despite the quality of work, I wasn’t as available as they wanted. Luckily, word of mouth and social media have actually found me more work than I would have imagined, which is good and bad. I’ve ended up prefacing all my deals with the fact that I’m a stay-at-home dad and pull my 40 hours a week in the early mornings, at night, and on weekends. I couldn’t do that if I didn’t have Kelly, though. In fact, I couldn’t do a lot of stuff without my wife. I’d probably be a troll living under a bridge right now if it wasn’t for her and Emma.

23 weeks or 5 months… something like that

Speaking of which, Emma is an old lady now! She’s got that Benjamin Button disease…

Nah, she’s 23 weeks old and amazeballs. She looks so different and more grown up every time I look at her. She’s almost crawling. She has all the pieces she needs; she can prop herself up on her arms and reach out (for toys), scootch, pull her legs underneath her and push them back out. Everything’s there, she just needs to put it all together. Sometimes I feel like a Russian gymnastics coach for the Olympics. I’ve instituted regular tummy time so she can become more mobile, which I’m told, is something that I don’t really want. I can see that. She’ll be going places and it’ll be hard to keep an eye on her… but it might give me some reprieve from carrying her everywhere. I don’t know. I’m new at this so I’m probably getting it wrong.

She should also be on solid foods by now, according to the experts. Kelly and I are waiting for our pediatrician to give us the OK, though. Here’s the weird thing about waiting for the pediatrician to green light solid foods: your baby has a 4 month check up and a 6 month check up so they can get their shots.

VACCINES, PEOPLE, OR WE’LL ALL DIE OF THE MUMPS!

Well, what about all the milestones in month 5 like grown up human food?! Huh? Am I just supposed to figure it out on my own? I can’t do that! Example- Kelly’s parents told us how they dissolved puffed rice cereal into her milk to help fill her up. I said, “Like Rice Krispies?”

No, wrong, dumb.

They have puffed rice cereal just for babies, apparently. I would have been pouring bowls of Rice Krispies for my kid thinking everything was fine. How many adults who don’t have experience with baby food know about this mysterious Rice Krispies Jr.?

Am I psychic? Are my cartoons premonitions?

I’ve had a revelation- I’m partially psychic. Or my cartoons are psychic. I might have a super power. Last week I drew a strip where Emma grabs Shinobi’s ear and she yelps. Well 2 nights after that post that literally happened to us. We were just sitting on the couch, Emma on my lap, Nobi on her blanket next to me and all of a sudden this very sad and pathetic whine started to grow. Shinobi didn’t bark, growl, or nip at Emma… she just sat there and sadly whined at us. It kind of intoned, “Are you serious with this right now? Why me? Pay attention and fix this situation because my life is really crappy right now. PLEASE GET THIS KID OFF MY EAR. PLEEEEAASE!”

It broke my heart, but it was a teachable moment. Emma got another lesson in good touch/bad touch, which I’m sure stuck with her considering her excellent grasp of the English language, or as I like to call it “American.” And as it turns out, since Shinobi didn’t bite back, we don’t have to kabob her. Not an edible pet. That’s good news for the family.

I’ve also been drawing Emma grabbing my beard. I thought it was funny, you know, for the pictures. It’s now a reality.

Now that I might have a super power or magic drawing abilities Kelly wants me to draw other things that might become a reality. So I’m drawing us having hit our health goals. I might draw me in a jetpack or with a really cool sword riding a winged tiger and a like a Viking braid in my beard with a wicked little skull bead. That would rock.

The Boogie Exchange

Ow, my beard

Speaking of beards, thank God I started proper beard maintenance or I’d look like Mr. Clean. My little girls favorite thing is to grab two big handfuls of beard and yank my face around like she’s driving a car. It’s funny until it hurts. Oh, and if she grabs the stache part it’s all over. Daddy cries. It does have its uses, though. I’m the fuzzy face in the house and I think my beard has become a symbol of comfort and something familiar for her. I came to this conclusion after a few nights of rocking her to sleep. Sometimes, when she’s fighting how tired she really is, she’ll reach up and caress my beard. She won’t look at me, she’ll just close her eyes, snuggle into the nook of my elbow, and reach up and pet my beard. It melts my heart every damn time and I feel like a good dad.

That’s it for this week. I’m off to train my kid to crawl. Thanks for reading and Happy Parenting.

 


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Unsleeping Beauty

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“Babe?”

“Yes?”

“I’m very tired.”

“I’m extremely exhausted.”

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!”

(Translation: Screw you guys! Feed my face! Clean my dookies! ATTEND TO ME, SERVANTS!)

That’s a literal conversation I’ve had several times with Kelly.

Sleep? What’s Sleep?

What is it like to sleep through the night? It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten. My daughter wakes up every night, like clockwork, hungry as a shark with a wet diaper that adds like another 10 lbs to her when picked up. SHE’S SO DAMN HEAVY NOW. She’s been getting heavier this whole time but I’m not getting any stronger. My buddy had a kid way before I did and he described the first three months of raising a new baby and not getting enough sleep like constantly walking through water. I took that to mean that moving was slow and getting around was a bit more difficult. We’re going on 5 months soon and we’ve hit colic 2.0 and I’m basically a freaking zombie.

“Thanks, Wife”

We’re pretty frugal people, my wife and I. We don’t feel the need to upgrade our phones, computers, and TV every year despite the barrage of ads and commercials making my current tech seem dated, and thus making me feel dated, unhip, and out of touch. We like to save our money so we can invest in things that last, like a nice bed. Beds should last like 20-25 years, right? We spend a good deal of our lives in them so why not spoil ourselves with a bit of luxury if it’s not going to be outdated in the next 6 months? So we did; we bought a Tempur-Pedic and an adjustable base that vibrates and inclines, reclines, declines, Calvin Klein…. All the clines. It’s great. Buying it was one of the best decisions of our lives and we can’t wait to pay it off and get the title from Wells Fargo so it can become a family heirloom. The only bad thing about the bed is that I have to share it.

Like, not with my wife. That’s fine. She’s more than welcome. No. I have to share it with the whole family. When we got our puppy she would not, for the life of me, take to her kennel training. She was a rescue and the family she was with before us let her sleep in their bed. As a result, she would whine through the whole night. Out of desperation we let her out of her little puppy prison to sleep with us in our bed.

Cuddles and snuggles of any kind went right out the window. Human on human snuggles, anyway. My pup likes to get right up next to us when we sleep, preferring the back side like she’s the big spoon. Have you ever been spooned by a 15 lb animal? It’s weird. She just hangs out like a fanny pack.

Once she established herself as a permanent fixture in our bed she started stretching out- full leg extensions right into my back, shoving me to the edge of a king size mattress. And if I move she has the gall to growl at me! I’m still paying off this bed, who are you to growl at ME!? But that’s our fur baby and she’s spoiled.

Fast forward to today. Emma is going on 21 weeks and Kelly let her sleep in our bed. She put the baby right in the middle of our king size memory foam mattress and turned the vibration on, essentially guaranteeing that we will never get her to sleep anywhere else… EVER AGAIN.

In her defense, just like the long nights trying to train our puppy, she was desperate for some peace and quiet and looking for anything that would appease our little adorable cry baby.

Muay Thai

Emma has two beds- a crib and a bassinet. She never uses the crib to sleep in because we co-sleep. That is, she sleeps in our room and will until she’s six months old or learns to roll back to front and front to back. It’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics so your child doesn’t die in their sleep. I think it’s from SIDS or just rolling over onto their face and not knowing that the air goes in that way.

Does she use any of those beds, though? No. To boot, she’s started fighting us when it’s time for a nap or time for bed. I mean, she is screaming up a storm, twisting and contorting her body like she’s had some really bad Indian food and she knows the diaper won’t hold it.

No, she’s a fighter. So we have to tag team each night like the championship belt is on the line. We bust out the white noise, a warm bottle, a binky, and get to rocking in the glider in a pitch black room. It takes about half an hour but she eventually fades and we walk her to her bassinet like we just won WWII.

But we know that at 2 am she’s going to wake up. She’s going to be hungry. And she’s going to be pissed- literally and figuratively. The difference now, since she’s had a taste of the good life, is that she won’t go back down in her bassinet. Nope. No sir. She will fake sleep repeatedly until we put her in our bed, where she proceeds to sleep with her arms up next to her head like a Muay Thai fighter. God forbid there’s a sudden noise or jostle of the bed because those little fists will fly out and hit anyone and anything while she remains dead asleep. If you’re going to hit me in the side of the head at least have enough respect to be awake when you do it.

There’s no way she’s going to go back to sleep in her bassinet. I’ve felt the padding. It’s essentially cardboard with two-ply paper towel as cushioning. No, it’s not gonna happen. It’s memory foam and I’m pretty sure they call it that because you will never forget how #$@%ing good it feels.

Now here I am… sharing a bed with my wife (obviously), my dog, and my baby. You can’t sleep with a baby in the bed. My wife and I stay up like it’s a game of chicken, making sure the other one doesn’t roll over onto her. We never would, but that crap happens; I saw it on the news once. It was tragic. To avoid this, we both scootch to our respective edges of the bed, stare at each other in the dark like creepers making sure the other doesn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep on the baby. All the while, our puppy is curled up at Emma’s feet, growling at me as I jostle her awake when my baby sucker punches me in the back of the head.

On a side note, I couldn’t be happier because Emma and our pup, Shinobi, are becoming very aware of each other. Shinobi has become super protective and I just want to share a very proud experience of mine. We had some blinds installed in the new house and the guy who was doing the install had to come into the master bedroom where Emma and Shinobi were chilling on the bed… because they’re spoiled little princesses. Well, as soon as this guy walks into the room Shinobi starts growling and barking, gets up, stands between him and Emma and proceeds to stand over Emma and then lay at her feet when she’s decided that the threat has passed. I’m so proud and I can’t wait for their adventures together.

A Poem

I wrote a poem about my situation and figured I’d illustrate it. Enjoy. And as always, happy parenting.

The Remembering Bed

by

Chris Mendoza

There once was a baby

Who wouldn’t sleep through the night

And when it was time for a nap

She put up one helluva fight

Her mother and father

Felt trapped in their own home

Until mom laid her in their bed

Made of remembering foam

It held her and snuggled her

And she slept through the night

And when it was time for a nap

She didn’t put up a fight

The bed remembered her

And she remembered bed

And together they would sleep

As sound as the dead

Until Dad tried to move her

To her crib or bassinet

Then an ear full of screaming

Is what he would get

So there they all laid

All three and the dog

Everyone except dad

Asleep like a log


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A Blog for New Dads by A New Dad Ep.1.4

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“Hey babe, what would you think if I started a blog about my experiences as a stay-at-home / work-from-home dad?”

“I think that would be great, babe.”

“OK, cool.”

That’s how this all began. Well, that, and trying for while to have a baby and then having said baby- our adorable little Emma. Then I posted my idea to Facebook, on my private wall, on a personal account, asking only my friends if they would read an illustrated blog about my new life as a stay-at-home dad/artist. I told myself that if ten people said yes then I’d give it a go. Well, ten freaking “friends” said yes. At first I was thrilled. No one ever reads my posts, let alone responds to them. At most I get like three pity comments.

“Wow!” I thought “This is gonna be a hit!”

Two days later this is my fourth attempt at a post. On top of that I told people that it would be illustrated. Flippin’ brilliant, Chris! It’s not like you don’t have enough to do already.

Why has it taken me four attempts? Well, my first post was, as my wife pointed out, a stream of consciousness. I didn’t think I wanted that to be my introduction to the world of blogging. Also, as she was reading it I tracked how many times she laughed. If she laughed at least three times I would feel fine about what I wrote. Three little, tiny, itsy bitsy chuckles later I thought I was golden.

“$#*€ YES I’M A WRITER!”

Then she called it a stream of consciousness. She insisted that she enjoyed it, but “stream of consciousness?” I’m not trying to be POTUS, here. I need more structure than that.

Then over the next two days I was thinking about organizing my thoughts (I wasn’t actually organizing them, I was just thinking about what I was thinking. This is why I never get anything done. I’ve incepted my own damn mind and I must have gotten stuck somewhere).

While organizing my thoughts I had ALL the emotions you could possibly have in two days. Parenting does that. Late one night, after a long day of our little girl screaming for no apparent reason my wife looked at me and, seeing a defeated man, suggested that maybe we put her in the daycare at her work.

“Are you crazy?!” I said, “I just started a blog on parenting. I can’t quit now. I still need to post my first blog!” I have thirteen weeks of wisdom to impart on the world and, yes, you’re welcome.

(Crap… this will just be another stream of consciousness. Which, if I was speaking, would be considered verbal diarrhea. Speaking of poop, let’s discuss parenting, which is why we’re all here.)

Why am I really doing this? Because I recently became a father, hence the poo hook. I change a crap ton of diapers (pun intended) on the daily trying to keep my little girl happy and clean. I’m also a freelance illustrator who is solidly between projects and thinking that illustrating a blog will scratch a lot of mental and emotional itches that I’m having at the moment. It’s definitely not to fill any free time because my thirteen week old doesn’t give me any.

Also, I don’t know any other stay at home dads. This may be a cry for help or just a call to arms for any guys out there trying to make a living while raising their progeny. There aren’t a lot of resources in my small Central California town that I could find for guys in my position so I’d imagine that there aren’t that many in other towns. I think there’s also a bit of a stigma surrounding the whole stay-at-home dad thing. I know I’ve already encountered my fair share of backhanded compliments or off-color statements. If you’re a guy who’s not pulling in the majority of revenue for your household people definitely look at you a little differently. That could just be my own perception, though, or me projecting some insecurities.

I hope to explore all of that in future writings. That, and share my experiences with anyone looking for insight about balancing a home business while parenting, curious about raising a little girl, or anyone who just likes pictures… because I’m a professional picture maker.

On a side note- I debated using swear words in this blog. At first I wrote it with the same kind of feeling and tone that my buddies had when they shared their early fatherhood stories with me. I toned it down some, because on one hand, I don’t want the idea that parenting drives you to a point where your vocabulary breaks. On the other hand, the art and writing on this site are things I want to do for me so you will come across grown-up language from time to time. I’m not going to sugar coat my experiences as a father or a businessman just to keep up appearances. I’ve heard and read too many parenting stories that recount the hardships of raising children only to punctuate that tale with some line about how it’s the best thing to ever happen to them. Like I would judge them if they didn’t qualify their experiences with a disclaimer. Maybe in hindsight it’s the best thing, but I’m still waking up at 2:30 in the morning to change, feed, burp, swaddle, change, swaddle, and soothe a baby back to sleep. I love my daughter more than I thought I could ever love anyone, but dammit she can be a pain the @$$. It’s not her fault; she’s just a baby. Parenting is hard. Running a business is hard. Doing them simultaneously is crazy hard. But it’s not impossible.

Welcome and I hope you enjoy.


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