November 30, 2022

Farewell to November - NaBloPoMo

It's the last day of November - and I've made it almost all the way through NaBloPoMo!  29/30 isn't bad at all.  It was amazing luck to find San's blog when I did, and I have "met" so many awesome bloggers in the last 30 days.  I am sure I found San through Elisabeth Frost via The ShuBox.  This is why I loved blogging back in the day - finding people through people is way better than Google/Instagram/Facebook.

My biggest learn from this month was I actually have say more than I think.  Some of my favourite posts of my own were on topics I didn't anticipate writing about.  I restarted this blog primarily because I wanted a space to talk about technology and gender - something I'm super passionate about - but I am also realizing I have a lot to say about the general logistics of life... and the gendered constraints of time.  

I've been on a "learning journey" since 2020... starting with Laura Vanderkam... continuing to Eve Rodsky.  Caroline Criado Perez  was another game-changing author for me.  I discovered Berne Brown later than most but all of this has changed my approach to life.  I wouldn't have moved jobs, I wouldn't have started a writing club, I wouldn't have restarted my blog, I wouldn't have started a local running club (currently on hold because winter - yuck) without the influence of these authors.

I did not read for nearly ten years of my life.  One year, the only book I read was The Hunger Games.  Another year, the Twilight series.  I read 50 Shades of Grey.  And that was about it - for 10 years.  In 2021 I decided to start reading again and finished 48 books that year.  This year I'm at somewhere around 52?

There is so much to learn, and to do.  There is a whole world of people doing things better and sharing that knowledge.  

And, on a more time management note - if I had time to write a blog every day for a month I definitely have time to do 5 minutes of strength training every day for a month.  But somehow, that seems far more daunting than writing.

Looking forward to seeing you in December!

November 29, 2022

November Goals - How it went

Time to review November goals!  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to accomplish any goals tomorrow - but if work lets of off early I guess I could go for a run or a swim...?  

It was a pretty good month:

Barre3 x3 (I did 2 of 3, but I also did 2 yoga classes, so I give myself a ✔ )
Swim (nope)
✔ Mountain Bike (yes!  I love my new ladies MTB group!) 
Run x2 (no.  Zero running. I'll run again in April.  It's very cold and very dark)
Blog every day (almost! 29/30.  97% is good enough for a )
✔ Schedule a haircut (Actually got a haircut!)
✔ Schedule a massage (Scheduled for my January birthday)

✔ Update Family photo albums & kids albums for October (done!)
✔ Take a Family Photo (We took some, but no good ones, so this will stay in Dec goals)
❓ Date night @home with Andy (I'm not sure... I know we went out?  I think our at home time was mostly tired.  We did start watching tv again sometimes.  I give this one a 80% pass?)
✔ Pub with Andy (yes!)

Go to the bank with Isaac to deposit birthday money (nope)
✔ Take Isaac on a big train/plane adventure (yes! Cumbria trip)
✔ Take both kids cycling somewhere - ideally a pump track (Yes - took the kids to the pump track for toddler takeover)
✔ Thanksgiving (yes!)
Plan my own birthday weekend (nope) 
✔ Organize community Play Street (yup)
✔ Take kids swimming (yes!)
✔ Visit a Castle (I think a roman ruin counts)

it's time to write out my December goals.  Next year I'm going to do more multi-scale planning. I'm not sure whether to break down goals/objectives seasonally or quarterly.  The finance person in me likes Jan-March, April-June, July-Sept, Oct-Dec.  Very Q1-Q4.  But also, I make seasonal fun lists... and the seasons don't match the quarters. I know, these are tiny conundrums on an otherwise exceptionally over planned life but it's what I think about.

Also, I am aware that this month's "goals" are not really moving me *towards* anything.  I think of them as lists of what a person who enjoyed their month will have done.  I guess sometimes enjoying a month is a good enough goal - I moved pretty hard towards personal/professional development in Spring/Summer 2022 so a fall of enjoyment and adventure may just be the ebb and flow of goal setting.

Do you make goals?  How often?  Do you review them?

Also, here are some happy kids at the jump park:

November 28, 2022

On Parenting, Resilience, and Expectations.

 Did I think I would be the kind of parent who brought their trouser-less two year old to a mechanic to get a flat tyre fixed?

No, I did not think I would be that kind of parent!


Today at work I completed a "strengths profile". My strongest strength was "Organization" and my weakness was "Resilience"  It also pointed out that I think I am funny and that I've learned to have attention to detail but that doesn't come naturally to me.  So either the strengths profile has been reading my blog or the 160 questions did manage to provide some insight.

Also, we now have a non-flat and non-temporary tyre.  It cost £19.50 to repair.  I didn't know you could get 30 minutes of mechanic time for under £50. 

November 27, 2022

Sunday - Thanksgiving dinner in Wales

We had our thanksgiving today! I love Thanksgivings.

Menu as follows:

My mom made the turkey, Andy made the stuffing, Sainsburys made the Cranberry Sauce and I made everything else.  It's been a busy weekend! 

I did have help

Hopefully we'll have a new oven by thanksgiving next year, but I was pretty pleased at my oven Tetris
I decided against pecan pie but was happy I made a pecan dessert. Apple crumbles are so good and I don't know why I don't eat the more (obvious sugar reasons aside)

This week:
  • Monday evening at home: review November goals and plan December goals (hint: I made 0 of 2 monthly runs in November)
  • Writing club on Tuesday
  • Office day then out to dinner with friends on Wednesday
  • Andy at home night on Thursday
  • Not attending Christmas Party on Friday and looking forward to downtime

November 26, 2022

Football - Cheering for Wales... or maybe not.

It's a very exciting time in Wales, with the Wales Football Team competing in the world cup for the first time in 64 years.  When I moved here 13 years ago Wales was a rugby nation.. the six nations was the sport we all followed. Heartbreak and triumph rested on the future of a grand slam, or a grand defeat.
Now, apparently, Wales is a footballing nation.  Wales has gone to Qatar to represent Wales, and to spread ideologies of tolerance and acceptance.

There might be a hiccup there, as Qatari officials threatened to break a Dutch camerapersons gear on because they weren't filming in the right place.

Or when Wales said they would play with armbands in support of LGBT, but then Qatar and FIFA said no, armbands aren't allowed, and although the rights of LGBT are important they are apparently not as important as getting the uniform standards correct. 

Or when the amazing Laura McAllister was told to remove her rainbow bucket hat because although Qatar is welcoming of all - Laura is gay and allowed to be there - she's just not allowed to support being gay.

I feel even more conflicted at the current adoration of Welsh Football as it's where I worked for a weird, amazing, and interesting two years of my life.  The team I worked with (not the men's team) were incredible - respectful and inspiring. 

I was aware of the men's team, and the people who worked for/with them.  While some were great people, some were not always kind, or respectful.  There were people and politics at play that would not pass for acceptable now. Things that that should not have passed for acceptable then.

When I worked in football I didn't see the #MeToo movement coming.  In my recollection, the women in the support staff, like all women, knew that being kind to people in positions of authority was beneficial to ones career.  Things that I was aware of then, things that were normal at the time, make me retrospectively uncomfortable now.   

The #MeToo movement was more than women telling men what they experience.  Men were surprised and blindsided - and they shouldn't have been.  To me, the #MeToo movement was also the moment that women told other women this is what WE experience. Every person - younger me included - who watched inequalities at play and said nothing was slightly complicit.  Clearly not as complicit as the men who were in power, and certainly not as much as the predators... but I feel a tiny piece of responsibility(??) stays with the observers.*

At the time I didn't think what I was witnessing was wrong.  I didn't realize there were other ways to be.  

Wales isn't unique, and it certainly isn't the worst.  Football isn't either.  But the when Qatar gloss over their human rights issues to host the world up, I am very aware that we are glossing over issues with our footballing structure as well.  While we can support our country with bucket hats and banners, our country can also use a moment of reflection on it's own inequalities at play.

*I thought this was explored really well in The Morning Show

November 25, 2022

Friday misc - reading and more

This week greats:
  • New Yoga Conditioning class with new friends
  • Overnight in London and meeting London colleagues
  • Writing club at a pub!
Weekend greats:
  • Out to dinner with friends tonight
  • Local Christmas fair on Saturday afternoon
  • Cooking Thanksgiving meal on Sunday!

This week improvements:
  • House is disorganized chaos (for me)
  • Yesterday's dinner was beans on toast so probably shouldn't serve it to the kids again tonight
  • in a Meal planning lull

Reading News:
  • Finished Tranquillity by Tuesday.  Even better than expected.  Thinking I need to buy a copy to refer back to... just wish it wasn't' £20 for a hardback.  I love a paperback.
  • Went on a massive library hold spree after listening to the holiday gift giving episode of "What Should I Read Next"
  • Emailed the library to request more books.  The Cardiff Library has been amazing at ordering me books.  I'm hoping they will get Work Parent Thrive soon

November 24, 2022

Thanks for Thanksgiving

In the USA, Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday – it's like Christmas without presents. Everyone is off work, you get a four day weekend, and you get to see family and friends and eat food. And do Turkey Trots! And other Thanksgiving sports!

In the UK, it's a bit less exciting. Today I was in work. I ate sushi for lunch. I had scrambled eggs, beans and toast for dinner with the kids. In the evening I made it to the pub for my writing club. I am thankful for writing club.

The kids brought thanksgiving books to nursery today – Thanks for Thanksgiving is my favourite. 

Isaac brought it in to share with his friends. Isaac made me a Turkey with feathers and Lilah made a turkey handprint, although I'm not sure whether nursery did that for everyone or whether it was just for me because I so clearly love the holiday. I am thankful for a good nursery.

This morning we talked about what we are thankful for. Isaac told me he was thankful for friend that are kind and also for books. I said I was thankful that we all have our own beds and that our beds are nice and have blankets and pillows. Lilah said “Thank you for the food!” which is what we say before eating – I'm not sure the two year old really comprehended the conversation. I am thankful for good conversations with my kids in the morning.

We are having a thanksgiving meal on Sunday. I'm working on the menu now - I am definitely making pumpkin pie, but I always have trouble with the thanksgiving desserts. I see lots of things I want to eat but nothing I want to make. I don't like knowing how much sugar is in those pecan bars, I just want to eat those pecan bars. I am thankful for pecan bars.

My mom reminded me that we're only having 5 people for thanksgiving... I may have over planned the menu. I don't mind – I am thankful for leftovers.

November 23, 2022

London and career building during the "busy years"

I have been to London a lot.  I am very lucky.

London is so big and full and busy.  What often gets me is the number of people and where they are - they are everywhere! There are people living above shops and across from offices.  There are people living in big houses and in tiny bedsits. There are restaurants next to restaurants next to restaurants.

I am really enjoying my office visit and excited about my hybrid working arrangement.  I'll be hopefully traveling once a month for work, and then spending the rest of the time with the flexibility to enjoy my family and home life the way I want to.

During the pandemic I often felt there was a negative shift in the parenting balancing act, where we told parents that it's okay to work from home, so it's okay to ignore your kids, park them in front of the TV, and work.  In my last role I almost cried when a call with the MD ended with him turning his laptop to show me his ill seven year old, laying on the sofa next to him, starting at a tablet.  

I still fundamentally believe children need parents to be present, both physically and mentally, and I detest the transition to "pick up the sick kid and get back to work".  But also wonder if the remote/hybrid transition is possibly allowing more women to stay in the workforce now... that maybe the glass ceiling of non-office-presence when having a family is becoming a... cellophane ceiling?  

I'm not convinced myself - I know there are huge numbers of women forced out of the workforce for childcare responsibilities during the pandemic.  But maybe now that the dust starts to settle, the idea of hybrid might allow the bit of flexibility in daily scheduling that sometimes precluded mothers from perusing careers in the past?

I'll have to wait and see.

November 22, 2022

How we organize everything: the F.L.O.M. (Family Logistics and Operational Meeting)

I wish I could ask every person how they organize their lives.  I am so curious – how does it work? What do you do?  If you are in a partnership, what does your partner do?  Every single person lives a life every day of the same number of hours and yet has a vastly different experience of those hours.  When it comes to families there are fundamentals we all need to follow: we all get food ready, we all maintain a home to a liveable standard, we all clothe ourselves and our kids.  We think about school and leisure.  Every family has 70% of the same things on our plates and we spend almost no time talking about how we manage it all.

A year ago my husband and I started having planning meetings.  They’ve evolved over the month and will surely continue to evolve.  Our current agenda is as follows:

  • Short review of the week – specifically kids and food plan.  Did the week go well?  Was it hard?  Why?  Can we improve things going forward?  Lots of weeks repeat – I’m in para-finance so my months consist of regular 4-5 week intervals of busy to less busy.  If a busy week went bad, what can we do to make it better next time?
  • Look ahead to the following week
    • Food plan: go through each day and decide who will make dinner and what we are having
    • Nursery run: who is doing drop off and pick up at nursery? Usually whoever does drop off makes dinner.
    •  Nursery Cover: Who answers the phone if nursery calls to send a kids home, and who can take time off work to watch any sick kids that week
    • Sport/Hobbies: do each of us have enough time for our scheduled sport/hobby in the calendar?
    • Family Adventure: do we have at least 1 family adventure planned in the week, or enough family time in general?
  • Shops and Driving: Do we need to go food shopping?  Anything else we need to drive to?
  • Any Other Business: We have a FLOM notebook where we write AOB items in the back, things we need to discuss that we don’t get time during the regular week.  Often this includes holiday planning, potential trips, division of labor (a few weeks ago my AOB was “I don’t want to do all the laundry anymore).  Sometimes we have AOB items that stay there so long we have to schedule a new time to address them, like “pick out cabinet unit for dining room” which has been on the list 6 months and we finally scheduled a time to do it together because no one had the energy for that on a Friday)

We have additional items during our End of Month and Mid Month meetings as follows:

Mid Month:

  • Looking at the month ahead to see if there are any scheduling issues
  • Allocating days we will be away with work (we both do one to two nights away per month with our jobs)
  • Scheduling bigger events like Christmas fayers, long weekend adventures, playdates with friend we don’t see enough

End of Month:

  • Reviewing the family budget
  • Making monthly family goals / reviewing the month

And that’s our current logistics system.  I know it will change again, and it is a lot of work to maintain, but it also means that hopefully when things start veering off course (as they usually do) we can at least right it in a week or two rather than waiting until everything implodes.

November 21, 2022

A stoic approach to car repairs

 I recently read "A guide to the Good Life" by William Irvine

I found a lot of it very interesting - especially the idea of leaning into negative visualization rather than moving away from it.  I never got the hang of the whole "these are just thoughts" way of viewing negative thinking.  But the idea of looking at a worry as an opportunity to appreciate what we have makes sense to me.

Recently, the blower in our car broke.  This meant that we had no air... not really a problem except that it's impossible to defog your windscreen without the blower.  For two days we had to thoroughly clean the windshield before driving, then drive with all the windows open.  It's been about 58 degrees F (9 degrees c).  I've been wearing a down jacket whenever I've had to drive anywhere.

Andy fixed the blower this weekend, and when I got in the car and defogged the windscreen with the blower I thought "wow, I am so thankful to have this blower working again!" 

Instead of worrying the blower might break again (which it probably will) I found myself more appreciative of the fact it was currently working.  I think that's something like Stoicism?

Here's what I'm thankful for today:

  • Having a functioning fan in the car to defog windows
  • A delicious Speltotto dinner
  • Finding a new crazy sport-yoga class with a friend who is super keen for really odd sport-yoga
  • Going to London for work tomorrow
  • Kids being healthy and enjoying nursery
  • Andy taking over laundry
  • Clean sheets on the bed 

November 20, 2022

Inspired for next year - a weekend for the remembering self.

I started National Blog Posting Month on a whim, and that's how I missed a day.  It was a day where I actually had free time, but my free time was not in the morning or the evening, and so I didn't write a blog post.  Oops!  Now I can look forward to trying again next November and in the meantime hopefully continue with daily posting through the end of November.  29 out of 30 would be a pretty good result as well.

One of the awesome parts of blog posting month has been learning about new and interesting blogs from the others who are participating.  Here is the full list of participants this year:

Beckett •
Elisabeth •
J •
Jamie •
Jenny •
Meike •
Melissa •
Rachel •
San (me!) •
Sarah •
Stephany •
Suzanne •
Tierney •
Tobia •
Zenaida •

The odd thing about not writing yesteday was that I probably had something to say. I could have posted about my quick dinner - Chicken Shwarma in the oven.  

I could have written about my good news scheduling update, which is that my breakfast buddy called to say he was very busy and very sorry and could we pause our breakfast dates for 3 weeks until busy season was over for him.  Yes!  Sometimes, if schedules aren't working, it doesn't mean it's broken, it just means life is temporarily busy.

I could have written about toddler takeover at the local pump track, and how my two kids whipped balance bikes over a pump track for three hours. I have never done three hours at a pump track.

I could have written about going out for drinks on Saturday night, with a friend I so rarely see.  I had to fight with my experiencing self to get out of the house... I wanted to experience an evening of pyjamas and TV, and I wanted to experience a 9pm bedtime.  It was cold, and dark, and the pub was a 25 minute cycle away. 

At the same time, I almost never get out with Andy, I almost never see this friend, and it wasn't raining.  Andy guaranteed he would do kid wake up, and off to the pub we went.  The remembering self - the self that recalls the activity - is very pleased that I go out.  On Monday, when people ask what I did, I can say "I went to the pub on Saturday" rather than "on, not much".  I will get enough sleep tonight to cover for my reduced sleep on Saturday.  It's 8:20 right now, and soon I can get in my pyjamas, read, and go to sleep with a hot water bottle.  The experiencing self and remembering self should both appreciate a quiet Sunday night.

Did you spend this weekend doing things you experienced with joy or remember with joy?  Is there any difference for you?

November 18, 2022

Gendered Impact of Technology: Whatsapp and Social Plans

I've spent some time considering the differences between my WhatsApp departure and my husband's WhatsApp departure and I am starting to wonder whether the disparate reactions are indicative of a larger gendered impact of smartphone technology on women.

Social planning is an area where women tend to take a larger role, and social apps have generally increased the time investment involved for social planning.  

In the olden days, such as 1980, we planned a party by mailing invites to our friends.

In the "middle days", such as 1995, we called people, or emailed a suggested date or two.

Now, much of our social activity is planned by mutual consent on a WhatsApp group.  A steady stream of communication, suggestions, amendments.

Organizing a dinner can take days - deciding on a date, a time, a venue.  All of this is done publicly, under the observation and commentary of the other members of the group.  Everyone can add an opinion, about anything, at anytime.  Opinions are free, and we all want to do what is best for everyone.

It's a very kind way of organizing, and very inclusive.  And it suits everyone, and it's free. 

The problem is... time isn't free.  Organizing via individual invitation takes a set amount of time.  Organizing through hive mind communication has no defined time commitment.  It could take days or weeks, you could need to reply with many positive agreements or supportive options.  Maybe everyone has a different option.  Maybe you had an idea but others have another idea and everyone wants to be polite.

The cost of all of it is time.  Fractured bits of time, unclear negotiations, and a the potential for a steady low level anxiety that you're doing the wrong thing, or said the wrong thing, or are being too bossy or indecisive.

All of this extra time and anxiety is centred somewhere.  If women are traditionally/historically the primary social planners and organizers they become the default carriers of any additional load from the planning process. 

This transition happened so quickly, so naturally, that I don't think we remember how it used to be.  I don't remember it taking this much time to plan something.  I don't think the plans we make are changing, so it can only be that the way we plan is changing.  I wonder if we're generally aware of any gendered implications of that change.

November 17, 2022

Yoga and other adventures

I did Yin Yoga last night.  I am not a person who meditates, and I don't think I find meditation helpful.  I know studies say that 60% or 80% have improved lives through meditation, but that means 40% or 20% don't, and I think I'm in that group.

However, yoga is great.  Yoga is moving and thinking/not thinking.  The setting was great, the studio was great, and just being back on a mat was great.

During my yoga class I solved my scheduling problem... I'm not going to worry about it.  I'm going to fill each week with things I want to do, and if something doesn't fit then it goes in the next week.  I'll plan with people who are keen, and let other people drop if the plans are too hard to maintain. 

This morning the little was a total mess, she's not had enough sleep recently and she was oh-so-tired.  When we got in the car to go to nursery the fan didn't work - it's been on the fritz for ages but has now died.  This wouldn't be a problem in the summer, but with darkness and cold and foggy windows I couldn't see anything and couldn't drive.

We all headed back into the house.  Littlest continued to lose the plot.  Andy took big to nursery on his bike.  My mom took little on a walk so I could get some work done.  Then we had eggs and kimchee on toast (little just had eggs on toast).  She went for a nap at noon and is currently snoring at 2:30.  

I used the free time for a bit of me time, I finished all the October photo album pages for the kids and the family. I'm getting through my November goals - October is a weird month because it feels like time to give up and count down to the new year, but actually there's so much of the year left.  Now, in mid November, it really fees like the year is winding down... but we still have 10% of our time left.  

If the year was an average lifespan then November 17th is the equivalent of being 70 - plenty of time left to make plans/goals... or run for president?

November 16, 2022

On Schedules and Plans

I am really loving Tranquility by Tuesday.

I'm on the chapter on "creating a backup slot" and the line that got me was "anyone can make a perfect schedule, time management experts can create a resilient scheduled" (sorry, book not at hand so not perfectly recited).

I'm having trouble crafting my weeks, for fairly good reasons.  I have the following constraints/plans in my Mon-Fri:

  • I like to be at home every night between 5pm and 7pm.
  • I like to be home most days between 6am and 7am (kid breakfast)
  • I work away 1 day a week from 6am to 8pm
  • I want to fit in 1 evening sport, 1 evening writing club, and 1 other weekly social engagement which has recently been a 6:30am breakfast but may not be staying this way.
  • I need to be home 1 full day a week when husband is on his work day.

It's a puzzle.  I'm not actually sure there is a solution... but I'm not sure what to do with that.  Writing club was cancelled last week because I wasn't well, this week because I was away, and next week because I was away again.  I am missing running buddy!

I'm considering moving back to alternate week engagements, although the issue with that is when you miss a week it's another two before replacement time.

I think it's time for me to start time tracking again.

The other problem with backup slots for social events is that both people need to have the same one. 

So it's a work in progress.  

Today I am trying a new yoga class, because my running club is going to end due to the fact that I despise running in the cold and dark and wet and it's now going to be all three for all the future. 

Time to get changed, get the mat, and do yoga for the first time since February 2020. Also, the 1 class I did in Feb 2020 was the first class I had done since December 2018.  And before that it was a single class in March of 2018.  So I guess that counts as a routine practice...?

November 15, 2022

Adventure Day 4: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

We are home at last from our long adventure.  Biggest little is completely shattered and had a near meltdown before scoffing two soft tacos and falling asleep at 6:30pm.

Before I had kids I heard someone say that every day without kids was a holiday.  I didn't really understand it, but when I realized I wanted kids someday I tried to remind myself every day that my current life was a holiday.  I'm glad that I was aware then of the freedom I had, and I can now see what the person meant.

As a very small example,  I didn't get to read at all during any of our 8 hour journeys.  I mostly managed a small person's energy level, and then failed at it towards the end when we ate a bag of M&S Cheesy Puffs and he jumped on a train seat.

A holiday would be an 11 hour flight without kids.  What a decadent treat that would be.  I remember hating long flights in my life before... so boring.  Now? So quiet!

Besides this selfish thinking, the little loved the trip and even if we didn't experience every moment wonderfully I know we both will remember it wonderfully.  

Here's a timeline of our adventure today:

4:30 Isaac got up, but I tried to get little to go back to sleep.  I'm not sure how successful it was. 

6:30 Isaac turned on the light and said "Time to get up, I'm hungry" so we had breakfast 

7:30 Drive to the Train

8:16 First train was Carlisle to Edinburgh. I love Edinburgh and I want to go back.  I really want to go with husband for a two night trip but I'm not sure how feasible that is - maybe in February?? Time to call in all the childcare help...?

9:50 Tram from Edinburgh Haymarket to Edinburgh Airport.  The airpot was full of dreams, as expected.

12:00 Little was very excited to get on our orange plane:

1:45 Plane lands in Bristol!

2:10 Bus from Bristol Airport to Bristol Train Station

2:55: Train from Bristol Train Station to Cardiff Central

4:01: Train from Cardiff Central to Retirement Heights

4:15: lovely husband dips out of work to pick us up from the train station.  The train station is a 15 minute walk from our house, though at Isaac speed today we would have probably taken an hour to get home.

And now, I am home.  It's great to be home.  It's great to be away.  I wish my friend lived closer.  

Also, train was 100% better for getting to her house.  As a comparison, we left our house at 8am on Saturday and got to Friend at 2:30 after 2 trains. Total cost £80 and 6.5 hours

Today we left at 7:30, got in a 4:30, Total cost £170 for the flights and all train/tram/bus travel and 9 hours.

As promised - Old Roman Stuff:

November 14, 2022

Adventure day 3: morning random thoughts

I’m collecting up lists of things that are tricky without smartphones and I would definitely put remote blogging on that list. Luckily my house has the usual pile of outdated tech, so a disconnected moto g serving as my wifi connection here, but it’s not particularly easy to navigate/use. I’m fairly sure when I got the phone (2014?) it was the shiniest thing I had ever seen! Now it actually feels harder to use than my Nokia 105. Either way, apologies in advance for all the spelling mistakes.

What also makes blogging tricky on holiday is working around the schedule of a four year old. I was very excited to see BF yesterday and stayed up far too late drinking beer and eating cheese and watching tv. Then Isaac woke up at 4:30 and I very quickly tried to write a post in between telling him it was too early to get up and debating getting up myself. Hence the very quick ending yesterday.

Btw, I love “old Roman stuff”. I love castles most of all. Yesterday was a visit to Vindolanda which was amazing and well worth visiting should you ever find yourself in Cumbria on a clear sunny day. Photos to follow.

Today is our last full day up north. Tomorrow is our great plane/train/tram/bus adventure.  Through a combination of kid #2 and pandemic I have definitely missed a lot of adventure and can’t wait to summer of adventure 2023 (planning to commence shortly).

November 13, 2022

Adventure day 2: Big train adventure

We made it to Cumbria! The train worked great, we left our house at 8am and got to friends house at 3pm.  We had seats almost the whole way - there was an hour of Isaac on my lap through a very busy part of the line.  The transfer was stressful - 13 minutes to get across Manchester Piccadilly (aptly named) carrying a car seat, a rolling suitcase, and not losing a 4 year old. But we made it!

There were lots of trips to the toilet, I think as a form of adventure. He doesn’t like the small toilets, only then big ones.

When we got here I ate lots of cheese with best friend, she had a party last week and has lots of left over cheese and crackers and chocolate cake. Can you see why she is best friend?

Today we are going to visit some old Roman stuff. It’s  not meant to rain. It feels like a holiday, not a Sunday. Yay! 

November 12, 2022

Unexpected Excitement in Retirement Heights.

My mom arrived on Thursday for a 6 week stay - yay!  Having family around is great, but having family around that can watch children is the greatest.  We are excited for 6 weeks of having slightly more breathing space in our schedules.

On Friday she texted me "what is the number for 911 here"?  This is a highly disconcerting text.  I texted back "999" and then walked over to see what was happening (she stays in a flat around the corner from me).

My mom was standing outside a woman's house, clearly on the phone to 999, while an elderly woman with a walker yelled "help, help, help" from her window. "Call the ambulance I need help" she yelled.  She was in her mid 90s, I didn't know her at all except she has waved cheerfully from her window at me many times.

I told my mom there wasn't any reason to call 999 - where we live there are almost no ambulances or health service left, and certainly not for people who aren't dying.  

Unfortunately, this left the question, what did the woman need?  We kept telling her that it's OK, that we would help, and holding her hand through the window.  She kept yelling for help.  People kept walking by.  

One man slowed down a bit, to the point where it would have been socially unacceptable for him to keep walking, and asked if we were OK.  "Not really" I said "I don't know this lady and she's screaming for help and I'm not sure what to do".  He knocked on the neighbors door (good idea!) then told us that the neighbor had called the woman's son but that he really had to go.

The woman was upset when she saw him leaving.  "Please don't leave me, please don't leave" she kept saying.

I noticed her walker was jammed under her sofa, against the window she was half out out.  I helped maneuver it/her back, and then realized that she had gotten stuck against the window, yelling for help.  With her walker freed she opened the door of her house.

So we went inside, and told her to sit down.  My mom helped her go to the bathroom.  She must have been stuck against the window for some time.  I found the number for a dementia service that visited.  I found her phone but the mobile had no charge, and I couldn't figure out whether to just try and redial the last landline number she called, assuming it was probably family?

The dementia care number led me to someone who called the women's son again.  shortly after that the daughter in law arrived.  We went home. 

On reflection, this is why I want to know my neighbors better.  I know it's against the grain, but I think community is meant to be built locally.  No amount of digital connection could help that woman, when she needed help.  We all have such wide social circles we are cultivating on the internet, but how will those circles help us when we are 95 years old with our walkers stuck against our sofas?  

November 11, 2022

Holiday Anticipation

Isaac and I are off on holiday tomorrow.  We're going to Cumbria on an adventure.  It's a big adventure!  A 6 hour train ride to get there.  Visiting my best friend.  Why does my best friend live so far away?  

We are staying for 3 nights.  3 nights away from the little. I've only ever been away from her for 24 hours before.

I think Isaac is going to love split parent holiday.  I can't wait to see what 3 days with just the big is.  

Also, he's 4, which means his train travel is free!  But please cross your fingers for empty seats, because if not he will have to sit on my lap, and 6 hours of train will go slow with 40 pounds of toddler on my lap.

The end of the trip is the biggest adventure - we are flying home.  First we are taking a 2 hour train, then a 30 minute tram, then a 1 hour flight, then a 30 minute bus, then another 1 hour train and finally a 30 minute bus.  

It's basically a transport adventure, with 3 days of seeing my best friend in the middle.  

I am very excited.

November 10, 2022

Friendship and Planning

I've been thinking about friendships and planning.  As a person who plans, I am very proactive about my social life.  If I like someone I want to see them.  This is only exacerbated by the fact that I don't have a smartphone, so I don't do long form texting, I don't do WhatsApp, and I don't do social media.  If I want to know what's going on in someone's life I make plans to see them in person.  

At the same time, if someone wants to know what's happening in my life they need to make plans with me, for all the aforementioned reasons.

I find myself making more plans than I'm invited to, and lopsided friendships have always been a fear of mine.  It's a teenage anxiety that still manifests when I realize I haven't heard from someone, and I want to see them, and also that I'm always the one arranging.  

In my twenties I had a "three times invite" rule - I can't actually remember whether the rule was that I would only ask someone to do something 3 times and if they said no then I wouldn't ask again, or whether I would only instigate events 3 times and if they didn't reciprocate I wouldn't ask again.  Either way, it was such a hard and fast rule that other people parroted it back to me.  Usually along the lines of "I know you have a rule of three but I'm so sorry please don't stop being my friend"

In fact, that line, which was said to me, is probably evidence enough that people like spending time with me.

So then I started to wonder whether the people I make plans with don't feel the drive as much as I do because their social needs are more satiated digitally.  Is that a bad thing?  Am I avoiding a party that everyone else is at, then wondering why no one hangs out with me?

I am also aware that the "busy years" are not necessarily people's prime friendship years.  Maybe everyone else with one or two children under five years old is just tired, and getting through, and not planning meetups.  Maybe my wholistic approach to my calendar means that I track better when I see people and how much time has passed between meetings.  

Maybe other people are happier at home, by themselves.  The pandemic has normalized a level of introversion like never before.  I am sure some people liked lockdown, but I like people.  I liked my life before.  I never felt other people were social obligations, I feel like other people are social opportunities. 

I have a good friend, who passed away far too young.  She was living a life that I aspired to live. Before she got sick she always had time for people, and when she got sick she had even more time.  "People, not things" became her ongoing mantra.  Happiness is in people.  At the end all we have is people.

So I continue to make plans, because people are all we have.  

Bus still, no matter how old I get, I may always worry that I have no friends.

November 9, 2022

Wednesday: Musings on the new normal of hybrid, and some photos of pumpkins.

Like many people, I did the pandemic job hunt and started a new role in august 2022.  The office is 2 hours from my house, but I only go once a week. The weird thing about starting a job 2 hours away, but which is 80% remote, is that a decision to go into the office is a decision to not be home for 13 hours in a row.  When I worked in an office I never chose between seeing my family and going to the office.  I went to the office (early and tired) and left at exactly 4:30 (early and tired) and saw my family (while being tired) and rather stressfully "balanced" both.  

In this new set up, overall I get a lot more quality time with the family. I always pick the kids up by 5:15, and many days I drop them off at 8:15 and still start work on time.   I can cook better dinners by prepping over my lunch break.  I can get menial house-life things done during the work day, like vacuuming or laundry.

Sometimes I find myself resisting my long office day.  It is far, and expensive, and I do spend a lot of it on teams anyways.  But when I go to the office... it's usually good.  It's good to get out of my house.  It's good to remember how to talk to colleagues and to meet new people.  Today I got a drink with a colleague after work.  It's hard to meet new people socially in a remote setting.  

I've realized I need to be a lot more intentional about my different days.  I need to set up in-person meetings during my office days.  I need to try and plan a post work social drink, if I can.  I need make sure my office days flow and feel very differently than my home days.  Office days are not a worse version of home days - office days should be a completely different part of my role.  

Tomorrow, a home day, is a day for planning and prioritizing my work for the remainder of the year.  

In non work news, here are three things that bring me joy today:

Our table, set by the kids, for a dollies picnic.  The kids have never set the table before, but apparently know how, and dollies enjoyed their tea party.  "Dollies drink air" Isaac told me, because I would not put water in any of the cups.
Lilah and Isaac did some exploring with flashlights.  Kids love flashlights.  Kids love tupperware.
My pumpkin collection is on point and I love looking at all of them and thinking about what I will make with all of them. And then I love eating all of them.  I love pumpkins.

November 8, 2022

Five on a Tuesday

If this post seems a bit... scatty... it's because I am still doing #NaBloPoMo and getting a blog post written on a scatty day is still a blog post!

1) Today I did a 15 minute Barre3 Stretching video before work.  Thank you Barre3 for including stretching!  It was great and much needed.

2) The kids are hopefully going to nursery tomorrow, for the first time since October 29th and hopefully healthy enough to last the day.  We are all still varying degrees of general winter ill.  Why is it that ill kids want to run around and bounce off the walls and ill adults want to sleep?  

3) I went to bed at 8:30 last night, after taking a long bath, and had a great sleep, only waking up at 2:30am for a while before getting back to sleep without reading or listening to an audiobook.  Sometimes the fear I won't be able to fall back asleep is worse than the actual waking up.

4) I have two work overnights in the next two months, which I am trying to be excited about, but I'm not sure whether I actually want a job with travel.  I know life is lived in hours and I love everything Laura Vanderkam writes about career/kids, but what if instead of being around for most bedtimes I want to be around for all bedtimes?  What if I want to miss no breakfasts?  What if I like sleeping in the same bed as my husband every night?  What if I like routine more than travel...?  This is especially odd coming from me, since I moved to Wales specifically because I loved travel and wanted to travel all the time.  

5) I started reading Tranquility by Tuesday yesterday and it was definitely the right choice - thanks Elisabeth.  On page 2 Laura summed up my current state perfectly:"You can keep the plates spinning. With your calendars and your planners you are very good at that, but the performance can consume so much effort that it's easy to become aggravated about the little things. Life can feel like a slog"  I am going to read more right now.

November 7, 2022

Meal Plan Monday & Reading List Update

It's Monday again!  We are all tired and potentially ill, so hoping that this week goes OK and we can set our expectations low enough to get through.

We haven't done our Family Operations and Logistics meeting yet, which is a first for us as we always do it Friday, or if not Friday then Saturday, or if not Saturday then Sunday, but we are all shattered.   I will do a longer breakdown of our planning process, but the amazing Sarah Hart-Unger covered this is her blog/pod a few weeks ago when I submitted it to her: Best Laid Plans by Sarah Hart Unger.

We did get our meal plan done, because we have to:

Monday: Lentil Curry & Naan (A)

Tuesday: Chicken Tacos (R)

Wednesday: Leftovers (A)

Thursday: Sausage and Pasta Tray Bake (R) 

Friday: Pizza (R)

Still need to work on cultivating some quick recipes but excited to try some from the comments on this post.

I finished Soulful Simplicity yesterday.  Next on my reading list is Tranquility by Tuesday, and I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to start it now or whether it will make me feel worse about the struggle season we are currently in.  I'm aware that this struggle season is mostly situational (ie illness, work stress, illness) rather than systematic/structural, but that knowledge doesn’t improve things too much. Maybe it's time for some fiction to keep me entertained?  I'm keen to read Carrie Soto is Back - I loved Malibu Rising...

As if by magic the local library has just written to tell me they’re ordering me some books I requested. Yay! I love the library.

November 6, 2022

Sunday Good Thoughts

1) I went mountain biking this weekend! That was good.

2) We took the kids swimming this morning, which was on my November goals list.  The kids had a great time.

3) Our Play Street event lasted an hour before the torrential rain ended it.  We learned a lot about how to organize it better next time and met some new neighbors.

4) Andy has decided to take on laundry as part of household operations redistribution project.  I am a bit scared for my clothes (I have a system of gentle washes and cold washes and there are certain things which bleed or might bleed) but also if something gets ruined then it will perhaps reinforce that laundry is not actually easy.  Also, I am hoping that after doing laundry in the winter for a few weeks he will decide that we need a tumble drier.  A four person household in a rainy country is not ideal for indoor clothes drying.

5) I got a good nights sleep last night and did not get woken up at all overnight.  It was needed. Now I just need 7 or 8 more.

6) My people are generally healthy.  Possibly not healthy enough for nursery, but not needing any specialist care or anything.  That is very lucky.

7) We did a quick and healthy grocery shop this week and bought all the vegetables for £22.  Since heating/electricity is now £5-£6 a day I am ready to start doing some frugal shopping.  Also, my favorite veg is in season - I love pumpkins and potatoes and cauliflower and parsnips.  I even bought a cabbage because it was £0.45 and why not? Time to make sauerkraut...??

8) I got a free 3 month trial of AppleTV?  The last time I had apple TV was before the littlest was born and we watched Ted Lasso and The Morning Show.  Any recommendations for things to watch in the next 3 months?  Rainy season is TV season...

November 5, 2022

Saturday: Mountain biking!

Today I met up with my new MTB friends for a ride around Forest of Dean.  It was an excellent day of riding, and I am now completely shattered.  Remember when I could do lots of riding and then stay awake past 8pm?  Me neither.  It was the right kind of rainy - atmospheric, not too cold, and enough to keep the ground damp but interesting.  We did some great routes (with some interesting roots) and it reminded me that I need to get out on my bike more... and get out more.

Although I am supposed to be in the office one day a week I have a had a series of illnesses and rail strikes which have further limited my office attendance.  I realized today that my mountain biking adventure was the first time I've been more than 3 miles from my house in two weeks.  I probably need to both get outside my door more, and get outside my neighborhood more.

I liked Kay's recent post on adding and subtracting goals each month, and especially the idea of going outside for 20 minutes every day in November.  I have had good luck with monthly goals - like that time I flossed every day in the month of April and then stopped flossing immediately after.  Sorry dentist!

Tomorrow is another day - let's see how sore my legs are.  Maybe tomorrow is the day I finally do some stretching?  Today's biking made me realize how much I miss sport and exercise, but I still don't see how I can fit it in my life right now without removing an existing obligation (ie work or childcare) or personal preference (like eating breakfast and dinner with my family at least 5 days a week).

November 4, 2022

Friday Thoughts

1. Wow  - thank you so much to everyone for your interesting thoughts on my post yesterday.  I am so interested in how other people experience the internet and it was fascinating to hear from so many different people.  I restarted this blog in part to think/write about how modern smartphone technology (and specifically the internet in our hand) might be experienced differently by men and women and I really appreciate the feedback on that post.  Thank you!

2. This week did not go as planned.  My littlest was off nursery and so I was off work over a pretty important few days of meetings. My husband and I do a lot of planning and logistics so this doesn't happen, and yet something was lost in the communication of the importance of this week for me. Because he was not physically present (he was 2 hours away) I ended up doing all the sick kid childcare and missing all the work.  He's off today so I'm back in work, but having the usual catastrophic thoughts that it may well be impossible for two parents to have careers (in the Wales) while the kids are so little and without family or friends around for support.

3.  Maybe the fact that I don't personally know any professional women with small children means it's actually impossible here. Maybe reading blogs and books about professional women with small children is akin to reading about professional sports players when one is an amateur athlete.  Just because professional women exist somewhere else doesn't mean that's an option open to me.  Again, I don't think I would be having these thoughts if I wasn't in Wales, and I also don't think I would have these thoughts if I wasn't originally not from Wales.  Culture is tricky.

3. On the positive - I really enjoyed my time with the kids for the last two days. Two and Four year olds are fun. We did a lot of fun things, like playing “time to sleep” and baking and the littlest entertained herself while I did dishes and made dinner. If only I could find a rewarding, interesting, mentally challenging, and high paying job for 3 days a week…

4. We made Nadiya Hussain's Peanut butter and Jelly tray bake yesterday for breakfast.  It was delicious!  We need to improve 30 minute meal rotations for dinner, we seem to eat pasta and potatoes a lot. 

What are your favorite quick dinner recipes? 

November 3, 2022

Gendered Impact of Technology: Women in Public

I've spent some time considering the differences between my WhatsApp departure and my husband's WhatsApp departure, and I am starting to wonder whether the disparate reactions are indicative of a larger disparate gendered impact of smartphone technology for women.

Recently I had the chance to join a protest for things I believe strongly in.  Pregnant than Screwed organized the March of the Mummies in Cardiff - campaigning for things very close to my heart:

  • Good quality affordable childcare for all children
  • Flexible working as the default
  • Ring fenced, properly paid paternity leave
I decided not to go.  Embarrassing as it is, one of the reasons I didn't want to attend was fear of trolls, of ending up on the internet, of putting myself in a public space.

I'm a firm believer that the history of "public vs. private space" is a history of the power of men to control the public sphere. I wrote dissertations on this... two of them.  Both dissertations promoted the notion that in the 1800s and early 1900s women had public influence through their private influence.

Pardon my French, but I now call BS on this concept.

I now believe that the idea of 19th century women wielding "power" in private, through their husbands, their home life, their local communities and associations, is actually a history of subjugation.  It may be a narrative appropriate for individual women - some women held agency or public influence through community association, but that doesn't mean women generally had access to this power.  

Creating a structure where a woman can influence is not the same as creating a structure where women have influence.

I thought about going out in public, in support of women and mothers wanting rights and equality, and I was afraid.  When Caroline Criado-Perez dared suggest we have a women on our bills she was subjugated to horrific abuse on the internet.  The public sphere was historically not for women, and the internet has become an extension of that.  

I read the march comments on WalesOnline, which I should never do, and the vitriol against women is extreme.

The public sphere has never been a safe place for women.  The internet is even less so.  I know it seems insane to write on the internet about how unsafe I feel on the internet.  For me, the implied difference is that this blog is like my internet home. I’m not on Twitter or Facebook, the blog visitors (who I adore - thank you!) are generally “invited” from other blogs.  I feel marginally safe here, and like I have something I want to say which is larger than my fear of saying it.

I don’t feel safe on Twitter or Facebook or Google.  With the internet 2.0 we have created a second world, even more hostile to women than the one we initially tried to escape from.

November 2, 2022

November Goals

November is here!  Yay!

As usual, I've separated my goals into Personal, Professional, Family, Adventure/Fun.  As you can see, the difference between Family and Adventure/Fun is a bit vague, maybe because I'm finding my family more fun?  Perhaps a goal this month will be to find better goals categories?

Barre3 x3
Mountain Bike
Run x2
Blog every day
Schedule a haircut
Schedule a massage

Update Family photo albums & kids albums for October
Take a Family Photo
Date night @home with Andy
Pub with Andy

Go to the bank with Isaac to deposit birthday money
Take Isaac on a big train/plane adventure (already planned - Cumbria on the 12th)
Take both kids cycling somewhere - ideally a pump track
Plan my own birthday weekend
Organize community Play Street
Take kids swimming
Visit a Castle (National Trust or Cadw)

I feel like the adventure list is rather big for how many weekends actually exist in November.  Kids are at such a good age for adventuring.  I know it gets better and better, but I am ready for adventures now.

I also feel that my sport goals are low, but I haven't really figured out how to fit sport regularly into my routine, so for now I want to make sure I'm at least doing all the sports I love once a month.  I'm hoping Barre3 will pick up as the weather turns worse, and I'm looking for a new class to replace running because I am not a hardcore winter runner.

My mission-goals for the month are to eat more nutritious food and to try and maintain calm with the kids.

What are your goals for November?