April 15, 2024

Exiting baby twin survival mode, one tiny step at a time

The twins are now 5.5 months old.  Recent milestones include sleeping through the night (until after 4:30am twice in a row).  They also have been chewing on some carrots and some cucumber and yesterday they tried and hated sweet potato.

This weekend, Andy and I went on a walk, outside, after everyone went to bed (my Aunt stayed in the house - we didn't leave our kids alone).  We spend 20 minutes outside the house, on our own.  I haven't been out for an evening walk in ages, partially because the end of pregnancy was so rough that I couldn't do much walking then either.  

Here are some things that indicate we are slowly leaving twin baby survival mode

  • We are packing lunches for Isaac 3 days a week.  He likes a packed lunch and I like packing lunches. We gave this up in December when the twins were 5 weeks old, and switched Isaac to school lunches.  It's nice to pack lunches again.
  • I am making hummus again! This weekend I made it from soaked (not canned) chickpeas.  I've started adding cumin and it's super yummy.  It was a big deal to me when I stopped making hummus.
  • I am going to start buying powdered laundry detergent again.  I have been using eco friendly laundry pods which get delivered to our house because the thought of measuring a scoop of laundry detergent was too much, but now I think I can use a measuring cup again.
  • Our meal plan doesn't always include chicken nuggets or dinners entirely pulled from the freezer and baked on a try.  It does often include fish fingers (fish sticks) one night a week... but fish fingers are delicious.
  • I cooked a meal! I made Nudja Gnochi Tray bake. I bought all the ingredients and cooked it and it was so delicious.  
  • When cooking said meal, I chopped garlic.  In February I bought a jar of Lazy Garlic since in no way was I capable of chopping garlic.  Now, I can chop garlic again. 

So here is hoping we continue to emerge from survival mode.  Also, the sun came out yesterday for the first time in 6 months (possible exaggeration).  So maybe the weather will exit survival mode as well?

April 11, 2024

Money spent is time saved? Or Money Spent is Sanity earned? Bathrooms, Beds, Floors and the Dishwasher.

We have recently invested money into the pain points of our lives.  While it's one thing for time management experts to say "Outsource!" It's far easier for me to read about what exactly other people outsource to make more time.  Here are some recent wins for us:

The Doors

The doors to our garage broke.  We bought them when we moved in (2017) and they cost £100.  Andy carefully painted and mounted them.  It took a long time.  

The doors stopped closing after getting water damaged.  We had to use a box of rocks to keep it shut.  This wasn't good for the door, for my back, or for the insurance.

Andy called our favourite carpenter and he fit new doors. They cost more than £100 but they shouldn't break in the next 5 years.  

Andy despaired at the thought of painting them.  "Why don't you hire a painter?" I asked.  And so we had a quote from our favourite painter.

The key to life is having favourite trades people.

The Bathroom

While the painter was coming to look at the doors I thought about anything else that might need painting.  The new bathroom is painted poorly (by us, quickly after the loft conversion) but it will do.

The downstairs bathroom, which was a 2023 goal, is still just as mouldy and unpleasant as it was then.  In fact, it's worse, because it's winter.  Renovation was too expensive and we couldn't find a tiler, so we left it.

While the painter was looking at the doors I asked him how much it would cost to pain the bathroom with mould resistant paint.  It was £90.

Why have I ever painted any room when I could have paid someone £90 to do it for me???!!

He painted it in a day.  It took me zero effort.  I am happier having a less gross bathroom.  In no world did I want to spend my limited time painting right now.

The Beds and the Floors

With four kids, we have a lot of beds.  We have a lot of mess.  We have a heavily used house with heavily used floors.

We have a cleaner every two weeks for two hours.  She is amazing.  We origionally hired her to clean the bathrooms because Andy and I both hate cleaning bathrooms. Now she does the whole house.

Recently, she has started coming ever week and alternating between 2 hours and 1 hour.  On the 1 hour days she changes all the bedsheets and does a quick hoover. On the 2 hour days she does bathrooms and bedrooms but not sheets.

I love knowing the sheets will be changed.  I love knowing one day a week the whole house will be hoovered. I still sweep and hoover often... but no matter how bad it gets there will be a day it is clean.  I don't know why I spent so long without hiring a cleaner.  This is one of my favourite £15 ever.

The Dishes

I've often wondered how much different my life would be if I had a dishwasher for the first 5 years we lived in this house.  How much fitter would I have been if I used that 30 minutes a day for exercise? Or I could be so well read? How many hours of my life did I spend washing dishes to avoid the £1,000 outlay for the minor kitchen refurb?  Why did I wait so long?

I like my job.  I like earning money.  I also like using that money to make my life better.  Right now, we don't go on holidays.  We spend a lot of time at home.  Using money to make our home better aligns with our values.  If we valued other things, it might make less sense. 

April 9, 2024

On Awkwardness and Values and WhatsApp and School

In our home, Andy is the school parent.  He does school emails, he does school parties.  He does the calendar. 

A few weeks ago Isaac missed a birthday party.  Or rather, the party missed him - it had been moved last minute to a new location due to a punctured bouncy castle.

Andy had corresponded with the party parent (after showing up at the original location) and they were super apologetic.  She had told the WhatsApp group and the parents at pick up, but apparently we weren't at pick up on that day, and neither Andy or I have WhatsApp.

At pick up, I heard someone asking for Isaac.  It was the party parent.  She had brought sweets as an apology. I assured her there was no problem and told her we're not on Whatsapp.  "Oh - WhatsApp is easy and can be good for getting information like school dress day" she said.

"Yes, but Andy doesn't have it, and I don't want it because I'll become default parent with lots of messages" I said, before realising that was akin to saying "I don't want to hear from you".  Embarrassed, but apparently unable to stop digging, I then doubled down and said "And I don't really do school stuff, that's really Andy. I don't even usually do pick up, I'm just here to get a break from my 5 month old twins"

So there was a pause, and she was super nice, and we chatted a bit more, but I still feel like a rather big A**hole.

To alleviate my feelings I played a gender reverse game.  What if a Dad was there and said "Oh we don't use WhatsApp, and all this school stuff is really my wife's thing.  I'm not even into doing this pickup, just here to help out you know??" 

Yes, he would sound like a bit of a useless dude, but it wouldn't be a shocking reveal.

I felt bad about my comments in the evening and thought about texting the parent to say thanks for the sweets... but then I decided that there had been enough texting.  She seemed really nice. I don't do school stuff.  I don't want to do school stuff.  I don't like doing long form texting without having a specific social or real life meet-up in mind.  So I left it and told Isaac to thank the child for the sweets.

Perhaps as a parent it seems odd to not be on WhatsApp - perhaps my kid is missing out on lots of birthday parties and perhaps he wouldn't have accidentally worn a uniform on non-uniform days if we were on the platform.  

But I would also have more messages, more parent things, more social things, more birthdays.  I would know people I don't need to.  I would have more reasons to touch my phone.

I thought about a Jehovas Witness who was in school with me.  He didn't celebrate birthdays or halloween.  We all thought "how sad he doesn't get these holidays!".  But I doubt he experienced life that way.  Perhaps the parents on WhatsApp think it's sad Isaac misses things.  I don't currently have a need for more things.  Our weekends are full. Our weeks are full.  We put reminders in the calendar for uniform days... or we miss them.  

If we someday decide we need more things, more reminders, we can join Whatsapp.  For now, more is not better. More is more. Right now, we have enough.

April 5, 2024

Hello April!

When the twins were born, Andy and I often commented that April would be the start of the good times.  I had hoped that good times would start earlier, but April seemed reasonable and far away.  March was not the worst, but I have a feeing we really are at the start of the good times. 

Fun things for April:
  • My Aunt visiting for a week
  • Trips to museums and National Trust sites
  • Babies are possible to take out for the day, kids are also able to go out for long periods of time. A short lived glimpse into the season of adventure
  • Lighter nights & mornings
  • Not having the heating on and getting fresh air in the house!
I've started some mini goals as well for April:
  • Read 5 books
  • Get a blood test for B12 levels (this will be a blog post for another day!)
  • Regular Pilates (3x Week)
  • Finish Week 4 & 5 of Couch to 5K (I think this is the week I've often given up, but I want to keep going!
  • Take big kids on big kid only adventures (at least 1 each)
  • Cook tasty food with lots of vegetables
As usual, I'm getting the desire to change to a new planner in a new season.  I think this is vaguely legit because my Ashley Shelley from 2023 is sometimes annoying as I'm constantly changing the day to match the date, and using last year's monthly calendar spread is a bit impossible.  Also, I spent 6 months using the schedule for tracking naps and using the boxes for tracking feeds that now I can't really vision much else for it. 
Here are two snapshots of my life:

I gave Isaac a notebook for him to write all his thoughts and ideas in. "That's great" he said, "I have so many thoughts and Ideas." He went away and started writing.  A few minutes later he brought me the book, and it said get a better house "not a new house" he said "just organise and tidy this house"
Last night, as I proclaimed "I need to go to bed earlier!" (it was 9:15) Andy told me that this would be my epitaph.  He pointed to the comedian Spike Milligan, whose tombstone says "I told you I was ill".  My epitaph will read "I need to go to bed earlier".  It seems fitting.

What are you most excited for in April? 

March 29, 2024

5 Good things on Good Friday

Light.  This is my favourite amount of daytime. Light mornings (5:30am) and dark by 7:30pm. Our time change is next week, so it will be light from 6:30am to 8:30pm.  I like that less.  And light at 10:30pm in the middle of summer? totally unnecessary.  But for today and tomorrow, I am glad we have the perfect amount of daylight.

Hot Cross Buns.  

I love these.  Last year I didn't feel I got enough of these.  I'm not some heathen who eats them in February or after Easter, but they are a definite Easter treat.  I plan to eat one or two a day all weekend.  

Grocery Delivery.  This is such a pandemic discovery and I still love it.  Our store does 4 hour slots for £2 and 1 hour slots for £4.  Normally I do the £2 slots but today that didn't work.  I thought about doing a collection instead (which would be free or £2) but then decided there was no 45 minute chunk of my day I wanted to spend getting groceries. And that I would rather pay £2 more to *not* drive out for my groceries.  At 7am we have groceries coming.  

School Holidays Our Easter holidays are 2 weeks long here, and I'm actually enjoying it and looking forward to next week.  Nursery is open during school holidays so I've had some time with just Isaac and the twins.  Andy is taking a week off work next week so he will be around with Isaac, and on one day Isaac is going to his childminder for a day while Andy and I have just the twins together.  Such a change from how I felt over the Christmas holidays.  

Saying Goodbye to Baby Clothes It's great being so done having babies.  I have been selling on Vinted (I made £60! I also spent way more than £60 on kids stuff, but I have made £60 back).  I have sometimes been including extra clothes when people buy from me.  I have 4 bags of baby clothes to go to the charity shop. I have a few pieces for a friend who just had a boy.  Baby clothes are so expensive when you need them and hard to get rid of once you have them.  I only wish I knew someone having their first baby soon because the stuff we are trying to get rid of now is so much nicer than the things we were donated when we had Isaac and didn't know anyone with babies.  

Bonus good thing - getting the kids clothing rotation sorted.  This week I took some time to go through the big kids clothes and make boxes for their current sizes.  Isaac has a 5-6 box which he is growing out of and a 6-7 box which he is growing into.  Lilah has a 3-4 which she is growing out of and a 4-5 which she is growing into.  This does mean 4 boxes of clothes to rotate into and out of, but it's working.  It also means I can quickly chuck clothes into boxes if we have anything donated to us.  I have unpacked all baby clothes through 12 months now (they are currently in 6-9).  More is definitely going out than coming in. Plus I have founds some cute things for Lilah in the boxes which saves us buying new clothes.  Win win win.

March 28, 2024

Thursday thoughts on time

I have been tracking my time since February and it's been an interesting exercise at this point in my life.  Here are some of my thoughts so far.

I am more aware of the free time I have.  Sure, I don't have a lot of free time.  I have four kids age 5 and under.  But I don't have *no* free time.  I have some free time.  Sometimes I use that time for hobbies and interests.  Sometimes I use that time to putter around the house.  Sometimes I write a blog or read.  I don't do a lot of this, but I definitely do some of this.

I am aware that in order to use my free time towards anything of value, I need to start planning this before the free time starts.  If babies go down for a nap and I think "what would be the best use of my time now?" I've already missed the opportunity.  For instance, if I want to exercise more, I need to decide early that when the babies go down for a nap I will do exercise.  If I wait for babies to go to sleep and then consider doing exercise I will waste too much time considering

I don't always need to use free time for things of value.  Today my time log includes 2.5 hours of "misc life putter house admin ?? Andy ??" time.  I don't really have much to show for that time, but I'm aware I had it.  I didn't have a day with no time for exercise or reading or cooking, I had a day where I chose not to do exercise or read or cook in the 2.5 hours available to me.

I am not as tired as I think.  I get on average 7.5 hours of sleep per 24 hour period.  This is fine.  Sure, I wake up once or twice or sometimes three times a night for baby stuff, but I am in bed early (usually by 8) and have been waking up between 5 and 6.  I'm not currently doing Rachel Mornings... but when my sleep average increases I'll start those again. Or maybe, someday, I'll leave the house after kid bedtime!

Our family works on a schedule, and right now Andy and I set the tone.  Because we go to bed early the kids also go to bed early.  Today Isaac and Lilah were asleep by 6:15.  Babies were asleep by 6:45.  Sure, everyone will be up at 6am, but when kids are tired we go to sleep.  We always eat dinner at 5:30.  If we get invited somewhere in the evening we don't go.  For us, this pattern is working for now.  In the future, we will have more spontaneity again.

My time feels so different on days when there is actually no down time, like when I am watching the twins and the three year old.  I don't know how moms do twins and small children without childcare.  I am not suited for it.  I adore all my kids, but I adore them more when I have some down time in a day. 

A smart phone can suck 15 minutes of my time as often as I let it.  It's very easy to create a "when/then" pairing with a smart phone.  "When the babies feed, then I scroll" is a hard habit to break.  Remembering that I have to write "play with phone" on my time log helps me do less of it, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Really, the time log reinforces that I have enough time for almost anything I want to do, but I don't have time for everything I want to do.  So I need to keep thinking of what I really want with my time and focusing on that.  Sometimes, it is a day of puttering around the house.  Sometimes it's more. 

How I use our time is an indication of what I value. Time tracking helps me realign if I'm starting to drift away from my values.

Have you ever done time tracking?  Far more information, and far better written info, can be found at LauraVanderkam.com

March 25, 2024

Adventurous seasons of life - Spring is here

I have decided it is soon the season of adventure.

This weekend we took the twins and the big kids on their first CAR then PRAM outing.  

We went to a National Trust site. The sun came out.  The kids ran around. We found some easter themed activities.  It was a good adventure.

I managed to feed two babies while out and about.  At one point I had Audrey laying on my jacket post feed, and Nora feeding.  Audrey needed a burp.  Nora baby needed a feed.  Andy had taken the bigger kids somewhere else.

At just the right time a former colleague of mine walked up towards us and said hi! So I said "hi, can you please pick up that baby and hold her for a few minutes?" which she of course did.  My plan B was to just ask anyone to hold the baby.  There was a family with two older kids which I probably would have asked next.

I figure people will either hold the baby or say no.  Twins, as far as I can tell, is actually impossible alone.  

While acknowledging twins are impossible, I can also acknowledge we are entering a summer of adventure.  Twins are not moving yet.  They sleep on the go. They can't walk and their opinions are "Tired, Hungry, Bored, Poopy, Overstimulated".  Nothing else. So this summer we need to get out for local adventures.  Next summer we will be on nap schedule again, and we will be splitting our day into morning and afternoon again.  Right now, we are not! 

Sure, we are tired.  Twins are waking a bit more at night.  It's not adventure weather.  This is not inspiring:
If I want for the right season, the one where we had enough sleep, the one where we are all healthy, the one where the house is clean and the fridge is stocked, the weather is nice and it's not going to rain... we will never have adventure.

Daria is about to travel internationally with two small children.  Amazing.  I have no desire to travel international right now, but I am inspired by the effort and mentality.  

In this spring season I'm excited for gardens, easter egg hunts, and castles.  That's the adventure for the season we are in.  There will be other adventures another day.  

What's on your spring adventure list?