I've worked at home since 1993. Back in the stone age of working remotely, I believe it was just after Al Gore invented the Internet, I was working in my bedroom of our 860-square-foot house in Prineville, Ore. I was a newspaper reporter for The Bulletin and every morning around 7 a.m. my wakeup call was my editor. We were an afternoon daily and our deadline was in the morning so I'd wake up to my phone ringing, roll out of bed, clear my voice and practice saying hello a few times so my voice wouldn't crack when I answered the phone and start my day. To give you an idea how long ago that was, it was back when we only had three little boys.
From The Bulletin, to The Oregonian as a correspondent in Corvallis, Ore., to the Daily Press as a bureau reporter in Gloucester, Va., through seven houses and one barn (the barn is another blog post ... or two or three) I've been working at home. I've seen it all. And done it all. I've interviewed people while changing diapers. It's kind of hard to take notes and, well, wipe bottoms, but you pick your spots and learn to drag out conversation while you're finishing you're duty and then get back to note taking when things are all cleaned up. I've cooked dinner while working, filed stories in between innings of Wiffle ball games and worked most days in casual Friday attire. Well, maybe even more casual unless you go to work in your pajamas.
I had flashbacks of 23 years of working at home today when I was in several hours worth of Skype phone calls. Typically I mute the audio to cut down on the background noise that's easily manufactured by a dozen or so kids inhabiting a 1,570-square-foot home. We had a heat index topping 100 degrees outside and the kids stayed inside mostly, but they were great. Midway through the afternoon Julie went to a local hospital to visit a friend who just had a baby -- with my blessing -- and so it was me and the kids and my Skype call with my boss. Now God bless our kids. They've learned to tiptoe around Dad when he's on the phone in conversation and the older ones try and keep the younger ones in check. There's been some interesting moments, such as the time I was talking to the District Attorney in Prineville about a criminal case I was covering. It was a really small 2-bedroom house we lived in and one of my kids was having a monster fit and emitting rather bloodcurdling screams and the D.A. casually inquired if there might in fact be a crime of child abuse being committed that very minute within the confines of my house. He was joking. I think.
If you work at home enough, there comes that moment -- sometimes frequently -- when in the interest of keeping peace you do something that proves to be regrettable. All parents face the moment of truth in varying stages, I guess, whether you are working at home, riding in the car, out in public, or even within the private confines of your house. It's that moment of weakness or weariness parents are all too familiar with when you know you shouldn't, but in the interest of sanity, general peacefulness, or to get your kid to pipe down, you give in to their demands. That moment occurred this afternoon when 18-month-old Seth wanted the Chapstik he eyed near my desk. I knew I shouldn't, I knew it would be trouble, but he was getting noisier and I couldn't distract him and I was trying to Skype ... and I caved.
He grabbed the Chapstik and toddled off while I resumed my conversation. When he returned several minutes later, let's just say he wasn't going to struggle with any chapped lips, or anything else for that matter. No chapped lips, no chapped cheeks, no chapped hair, hands or arms. I have no idea how that much Chapstik could be contained within one little tube. The dude was totally lubed up.
But here's the thing. Seth very well may be the caboose of the Sabo tribe. This may be the last Chapstik incident in Sabo children history. There will come a day, perhaps soon, when I will miss those days when Seth walked around looking like a cute little tube of cherry Chapstik.