November 30, 2023

Christmas film countdown: Christmas with the Coopers

Today’s review is Christmas at the Coopers. 

Diane Keaton is great. The whole cast is great.  I’m not sure I get the genre of “families that break down over Christmas” as a Christmas film.  This movie had a good amount of people from The Office and I like The Office.  I didn’t end the film feeling particularly festive or Christmassy.

Maybe that’s because my nights currently involve around 2-4 hours of sleep broken into 2-3 chunks?

I’m still sort of embracing “reflection season” and whenever I think of something I wish we could do this year but can’t I write it on next years Christmas list.

The one thing I haven’t figured out how to do with twins yet is leave the house in the car. My world has become very small. I have walked our neighbourhood every day it hasn’t rained… but now I’m getting flashbacks of Covid lockdown rules and I don’t want to relive that either.

But back to this film. It was fine if you want a good ensemble cast experiencing a series of relationship break ups around Christmas, some of which are resolved with kissing.

I give this film three Christmas trees - entirely due to the cast: 🎄🎄🎄

November 27, 2023

Babies and Time.

I realized I started this blog wanting to talk about women and technology and time and I'm currently talking a lot about babies.  Mostly because I cannot really string a coherent thought together.  However... I will try!

One topic that emerges repeatedly in discussions of women's labour is the notion that women's work is the mental load and the all encompassing bits of keeping a household running. Men block their work into chunks... women consider the million tiny and unrecognized pieces of daily life.  The common trope is that men mow the lawn - a project that may take a good hour but can be done anytime.  Women pick kids up from school, or pickup a sick kid, or remember to get bin bags, or remember to pack the right lunch or to get teacher gifts... projects that take a similar amount of time to mowing the lawn but do so via tiny fragments of time.

Babies are this.  My entire day (24 hours) is now reduced to 2-3 hour intervals between feeds.  I know when the babies need to go to sleep.  I try and fit a task or two into the potential naps.. naps which last 30 minutes to 2 hours randomly.  At night they will be awake 1 to 10 times for 1 to 10 hours. 

Babies (and children) shatter time into thousands of pieces.

Andy's time is definitely shattered too. He's not doing much fun stuff now either.  We are both in full on newborn triage mode, while also watching the big two and trying to keep them fed and moderately happy. But while his time has been fractured it's not quite as fractured as mine, because I am around these babies 24/7 and he has the opportunity to... do things.  Take the big kids to the bike park.  Go to work for the day.  

I am not trying to complain about this split - it's just different.  It's different because I'm the one at home.  Maybe it's different because I'm the mom?  It's different because of our feeding choices.  But it's still different.

I think the trouble comes when the split doesn't right itself later.  It's very easy to take this new small world of hours and minutes and make this my reality long term. It's hard to realize when life has changed and when the mechanisms needed for survival are not as needed anymore.  

I am acutely aware of my time now - but I wasn't aware of it five years ago.  If I hadn't stumbled upon the gender split thinkers and time management thinkers in 2021 I may still be living life in 2 hour increments from Isaac baby times.

Also, as I think about goals. just because something is hard doesn't mean it needs changing.  The current situation is hard.  It will eventually be less hard.  I am looking forward to using November 2024 to reflect on where my time is going and what I want for 2025.  

4 Weeks old today:

November 26, 2023

Christmas Film Countdown: Best.Christmas.Ever

Andy and I have a routine for night feeds and twins that was working well for a few days. I go to bed around 8:30pm and Andy gives twins a bottle, then wakes me up when they get hungry for their first feed. A few nights ago this was 3am! I had 6 hours of sleep!

Unfortunately tonight one twin did not settle from bottle to midnight. Andy got me at 12 and so my sleep was from 9-12. Now it’s 4am. I’ve read every NaBloPoMo blog. My Feedly is empty. I checked the news (why? Sad!). And I decided to get out of the Netflix romance algorithm so found Best. Christmas. Ever.

This film was fine. It wasn’t a romance. I like that Christmas films include STEM women and diverse casts now. This wasn’t particularly funny or memorable but if your stuck holding a Newborn that won’t seep in a bedside cot and will only sleep on you at night and you need to pass 7 hours until morning then I would definitely recommend this film as a way to pass 1 hour 40 minutes.

Now it’s 3 hours till morning… although sleepless daytime is not any different than sleepless night really, and sometimes harder due to energetic kids. Luckily babies are so random that when we do the same thing tomorrow they might sleep longer. Or less long. There is no cause and effect. 

I give this film 2 Christmas trees 🎄 🎄

November 25, 2023

Christmas Film Countdown: A Christmas Miracle for Daisy

Babies are not sleeping well. Actually, one baby is sleeping well and one baby is not and it’s not the same one each night. On the plus side I am really churning through the Netflix Christmas spread.

This is a classic cliche Christmas movie. Every house has so much decoration! So many wreaths! Everyone has massive kitchens. Also, how does a guy who just moved to a new town know enough people to throw a Christmas party?  Because that’s what happens in this film. 

I am wondering if al Netflix Christmas films will soon be written by ChatGBT? Or are they already written by AI? 

I give this film 2 Christmas trees 🎄 🎄

(because it was better than Angel Falls Christmas, which has been demoted to 1 Christmas tree rating): 


November 24, 2023

Christmas Film Countdown: Angel Falls Christmas

 For my second Christmas film I watched Angel Falls Christmas.

This was a straight up Christmas cliche movie, including weird ad breaks where people would stare meaningfully at each other or at the sky. The pros add that chad Michael Murray is nice on the eyes. The cons are the acting and the story line. And the premise. “Female doctor works to hard”? Hmm. But there was a lot of Christmas… all the Christmas… so if your looking for Christmas movie that literally has every Christmas movie thing in it (cookies! Santa! Trees! Giant houses with Christmas stuff everywhere!) then this is the perfect film for you.

I give this film one Christmas tree. 🎄
(And I upgrade Office Christmas Party to 4. I am aware this rating scale makes no sense at all) 

November 23, 2023

Thanks for thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is not really a big deal in the uk (it’s not a national day of mourning either) but this year we did manage a thanksgiving dinner on thanksgiving! Normally we celebrate in the weekend as everyone is in work in Thursday.  Since my mom is here and I’m on maternity leave we had our meal today. 

Thansgiving is my favourite holiday. Just food, family, and presents and no/minimal decorations. Lots of being thankful and lots of positive reflections. And I have a lot to be thankful for but it’s all rather cliche.

We picked Isaac up after school (instead of going to wraparound care) and lilah came home early from nursery. For kid snack I managed to make this charcuterie board which the kids (and I) loved:

Kids love well presented food.  I often forget this.  Also, one of my goals for 2024 is to make more charcuterie boards.

And then we had thanksgiving! An American friend of ours joined us and we made the following:

  • Turkey
  • Gravy
  • Cornbread
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Devilled eggs
  • Sausage and chestnut stuffing
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pecan pie
I used the pumpkin pie recipe from trader Joes website and it was so good! It called for butter as well as evaporated milk. Yum.

I definitely went more out for last years thanksgiving, but I didn’t have newborn twins then.  And I have years of tasty thanksgivings ahead of me. For a thanksgiving with newborn twins this was pretty good.

November 22, 2023

Christmas Film Countdown: Office Christmas Party

These twins are by 3rd & 4th autumn babies, which means I’ve spent nights shushing and feeding babies for 2 of the last 5 holiday seasons. In 2018 I decided to start watching Christmas movies on Netflix during night feeds, and with lilah in 2020 I watched even more. Normally I wait until December to start, but the Netflix recommendations are already here and I don’t sleep between 2am and 7am so I just finished my first Christmas movie of 2023:

Office Christmas Party. This was surprisingly enjoyable! I was going to comment that Netflix had scored a pretty epic cast for this one but I think this may have actually been a real movie (from 2016) not a Netflix original, which probably explains the cast. 

It also had a number of different female characters in it, not all of whom thought about men all the time. It just barely passed the Bechdel test.  Jennifer Aniston is great. I thought it was somewhat funny and somewhat entertaining but the cast pulled it all together for me.

I give this film three Christmas trees. 🎄🎄🎄🎄

November 21, 2023

Not rocking it.

Today had some fails. I managed to stay cool for about 90% of the day, but the post dinner pre bedtime tired kids did me in at the end and if I was in nursery I’m sure I would have gotten a yellow card for unkind words.

Today I haven’t managed to get babies to sleep anywhere but on me. There is a chance this couch cushion is now permanently moulded to me. I did try to put babies down multiple times… but Audrey was not keen on the pram. Nora was happy to sleep though, but with twins, one sleeping baby is no sleeping babies.

I chopped chicken and peppers for fajitas while rocking the pram with my foot.  I spent a lot of time sitting down today and wishing I could do something… anything. And now, at almost 8pm, I am still sitting down.  Soon I will get at up and go to bed.

Our baby announcements arrived today. And I spelled one of the babies names wrong. So I have re-ordered them at a cost of another £30.  

Baby names correct: Audrey Yael and Nora Bronwyn

Baby name in card: Audrey Yael and Nora Brownyn 


It wasn’t all bad. Other things:
  •  I went for a walk (although mistimed and Nora got hungry and started crying and I tried to run home to feed but I am very out of shape and also had two babies three weeks ago so running is hard).
  •  I picked up Isaac from school (although Audrey was crying the whole walk while Nora slept).
  •  I got freezer burned fish cakes from the freezer to defrost for tomorrow dinner (someone left the freezer door slightly open and it’s now filled with ice and I have no idea when I’ll get a chance to defrost it)
  • The cleaner came and the house is clean and I remembered to pay her. 
  • Andy registered the kids births and got their birth certificates (he spelled their names right)

November 20, 2023

Things that are good.

Babies We are getting into a feeding/sleeping routine with the twins.  Andy does the start of the night (including their one bottle) and I do the second half.  This works well for me because I love a 7:30 bedtime.  Last night I slept from 9pm to 2am.  I was up for much of the rest of the night but 5 hours is about as much sleep as anyone with a three week old can expect to get so I am very happy with this.  And, someday, I will sleep 8 hours a night again.

Shoes My life is massively improved with the addition of... CROCS.

I know, welcome to 2010 (??).  I spend so much time walking from my house to the garage to get laundry and each time I had to either put on shoes or put on welly boots and neither was super easy.  I didn't like storing welly boots by the back door (right next to the dining table, and always in the way) and now I can just slip on crocs to get outside quickly.  Also, these are knock-off crocs in a childs size 7, which means they were £12 instead of the adult pair which were £40.  I forget I can buy childs sized shoes and need to do this more (I'm a US size 7, but I think childs sizes go to US adult size 7.5 here? )

Food We are finally finishing the last of the food we were given after babies. I love the US meal trains but it's not a thing over here, thankfully we have very generous friends! I enjoyed the last of our friends lasagna for my 10am lunch and a peanut butter chocolate cookie for snack... now we can start raiding the freezer next if needed.  We did manage to make a roast chicken dinner yesterday so have stocked the fridge with leftovers from that.  All it takes to make a homecooked roast chicken dinner with newborn twins is two parents at home all day and help from grandma.  Easy peasy.

Reading I finished a book!  It was a 4 hour audiobook of short stories which probably intertwined more than my sleepy brain realized, but I enjoyed it anyways.  

I've checked out Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus which is 15 hours long and will see how far I get with it.  I also have a paperback copy of American Royals 4: Reign which I am excited to read but haven't figured out how to read a book and hold or feed twins so not sure if I'll actually be able to read it... but I was very excited that my library had it already!

November 17, 2023

5 on a Friday - one handed typing edition

1 - The twins are back at birth weight, which is good news and means they are finally getting bigger.  So far they have one 4oz bottle of formula every evening but otherwise it’s just me feeding them…  I am a big fan of breastfeeding (for my own babies - you do you for yours!) and I’m pretty happy with how it’s going so far. 

2 - Isaac was off school today due to tummy troubles. He and lilah were really fun to hang out with. We did “glueing” in the morning which is their favourite arts and crafts activity… just gluing stuff onto other stuff.  

3 - we interviewed a nanny today and I really liked her. I can’t decide if we need to interview more people or if I should just say “you seem great let’s do it” I’ve never had or hired a nanny before so I’ve got no real idea what I’m looking for, she has all the experience and qualifications and registrations. And she’s a hobbyist cyclist. And she is screen free. 

4 - I have gone for a walk almost every day this week. Today we even managed a walk with the baby shade down and both twins got some sun! Nora is vaguely jaundiced so trying to get her in sunlight during Welsh winter is tricky at best. Another storm is coming this weekend so conscious that I need to get out while I can.

5 - kids costume box is a source of perpetual joy

November 16, 2023

Lowered expectations

 Does anyone remember the show Mad TV where they had a fake dating ad for “Lowered Expectations”?

Two and a half weeks into this twin thing and here are my current lowered expectations:

Baths. Kids don’t really need baths. We used to do daily or every other day. Now… it’s when they’re really mucky. The twins have each had one bath since they were born.

Kid dinner. Kids have had pasta or jacket potatoes for 90% of the dinners since twins were born.

Reading. I don’t read anymore. I started an audiobook yesterday. I’ll be surprised if I get through one book this month

Cooking. Wonderful friends and family have made us every meal except one slow cooker chilli which I made with Andy on a weekend.

To dos. My to do list is all necessary things and all aspirational. I’ve never managed to put away clean laundry the same day it was washed. I do one load of laundry a day. I run the dishwasher. And everything else… doesn’t get done. Andy or I do a 20 minute sweep of the house every evening to put things away, but I’ve hoovered once. 

Diet. I’m hungry and I’m eating everything. Often I eat a cliff bar at night. Sometimes a kind bar too. Today I ate two doughnuts. I also eat cheese and crackers and hummus and basically whatever I’m craving. I had spaghetti with marinara sauce at 10am.

Two  weeks old.

November 14, 2023

Up all night

 I think I’m giving a rather distorted positive view of twin baby life here.  Mostly because I have been writing posts on my computer, which means in order to write posts the babies need to be asleep, which means I have some me time and reflection time and then I feel genuinely positive about the whole situation.  Who can argue with this:

For some perspective shift, it is currently 7:45am. The 3 year old came into our room crying at 7am. Nora and Audrey fed at 5 am but were very grumpy the whole time.  One of them was awake from 1am to 3:30am and I’m not sure which one. Nora was not feeding well. We did lots of nappies all night. Babies had their bottles at 10pm but didn’t finish till 11:30 so I was awake then too. They went straight into bottles from last feed as one of them didn’t fall asleep after the 8pm feed. 

Now this is probably complicated to read because it’s gone backwards in time, but from what I can tell I sept at most from 11:30pm to 1:00am and 5:30am to 7:00am

Andy was up the same, because with two babies there are two sets of feeding and burping and wailing and nappies and even when they are on the same schedule it’s not possible to change two nappies at once. Or they need different burps. Or different lengths of feed.

Now the 3 and 5 year old are 60% playing with Lego and 40% fighting and it’s already 7:50am and it’s going to be a push to get the 5 year old to school on time (8:55).  Luckily the 3 year old goes to nursery and doesn’t have to go arrive at any specific time so we can drop her off whenever.

The problem with nights like this is that there’s no reason it happened and no reason it won’t happen again. This is something planner me really doesn’t like. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of  insanity and also the defining feature of newborn life. 

November 13, 2023

Timing and Schedules

One of the weirdest parts of newborn life / maternity leave is being suddenly so disjointed from the schedules and rhythms that formerly tied everything together.  The obvious lack is the work day - no more 9-5, no more colleagues, no more teams messages.  But it's also so easy to forget what day it is when most days are roughly the same.  

At 3pm every day I am ready for a nap.  

I want to make plans with people, but one thing I haven't figured out how to do is leave the house at any specified time.  Today I finally sent some "hey, do you want to come hang out?" messages to friends who I am close enough to that I know they won't mind sitting in my house and making me food while babies feed.  

When I was on maternity leave last time I was desperate to see people and have play dates on weekends and didn’t understand why everyone else was so much more content than me. As soon as I started work my desire for play dates at 9am on Saturday was gone - I was getting my social fill from work. I suddenly realised why other people were less keen on the 9am play date.

I am two weeks into this adventure though, and very aware that kids change all the time and babies even more so. So I am trying to take it easy, while also very aware that I currently exist in a slightly off kilter temporality.

Life is odd when monitored in time between feeds and naps. It’s 4:30pm and my “to do” list still includes “brush teeth” and “take vitamin”.  I’m aware than very soon I won’t remember if I took my vitamin, but I’ll definitely remember holding these babies who are currently as small as they will ever be 

November 10, 2023

Screens, Books, Food, Books

 I am typing this one handed while Audrey sleeps on my left arm.  Nora is in the downstairs cot. I could try and put them together, but for the sake of one hand why bother?

Screens: I switched back to smart phone and my screen time is already over 3 hours a day on average.  However I'm not sure what the right amount of screen time is - I'm getting through the Netflix show Glamorous during night feeds.  I finished Dynasty - the closest I've ever come to watching a soap opera. I started  That 80's show but it's not very good... however I love the cameos.  Makes me miss Fuller House. Remember when Wilmer Valderrama dated Lindsey Lohan?

I'm also on feedly a lot but on BBC news more than I should be.  I'm giving myself phone grace for now... but it's amazing to see how quickly those numbers can increase.

Books: I enjoyed the audiobook for ultra processed people. I'm sure the same info was relayed in podcast and in the BBC documentary but the book definitely encouraged me to think about food more.  The premise of the book is that ultra processed food is designed to make people eat more and that we are basically turning "food" into "not food" by the amount of additives and processing we do.  I do feel like this might be the missing link between the fuck it diet book and general health books. 

Food: My mom recently brought us bagel crackers from trader Joes and I forgot how insane ingredients lists can be:
I think the UK is either generally better about big weird ingredients lists, or maybe I just don't go down certain isles, but one of the privileges of my current situation is that I can afford to buy real food.  We received a box of Malteasers as a baby present and we decided to give it to the food bank - if I want chocolate (which I do!) I will just eat normal chocolate.  Not this:
I do love a Tonys Chocolony bar:
Although it does have emulsifier, which makes it processed, it definitely has fewer weird things than the Malteasers.

Books Anyways, I need to get a new audio book soon.  I have a copy of "Wild" from the library but it's 13 hours long and I'm worried I won't finish it by the time it's due - which means I haven't started it - which means it's due sooner.  I find myself in a weird reading space where I can't have anything too thoughtful, or too floofy.  I need a break from the Emily Henry books... I enjoyed Beach Read but I'm can't do too many Emily Henry in a row.  I'm not sure what book I *want* to read right now - maybe sci-fi?  Ideally about 6-7 hours long on audio?  

I'm at 55 books for the year, but I get a sense my reading will be slowing down a lot now.  I struggle not to fall asleep to audiobooks right now, which also makes reading harder.  And my eyes don't focus well enough at night for actual reading... because I am very tired.

Summary: that's my life now.  Babies, feeding, sleeping, nappies, being tired, eating food.  It's not too bad (but could use more sleep).

November 5, 2023

What a difference a week makes - gratitude thoughts.

Since the twins were born on Monday it appears that today is the last day of our first week as a family of 6.  It's definitely not been the easiest or most restful week, but it's still exciting and I am being careful to remind myself that I will never have this moment again.  I will never have a 6 day old baby again.  When they stayed up ALL NIGHT on day 2 I reminded myself that I would never stay up all night with a 2 day old baby again.  

After both Isaac and Lilah were born I knew we wanted one more, so I don't remember this feeling of appreciating the moments.  Also, they were 22 months apart and Isaac was a fairly needy non-verbal 2 year old at the time, which is wholly different than the incredibly self sufficient 5 year old he is now.  Lilah is a highly verbal 3 year old who is too clever for me in my sleep deprived state, but can also be very sweet and helpful when so inclined.  I can see why 3 years may be a better age gap for ones sanity (twins aside). 

I am also glad I am not in so much pain anymore - I didn't realize the constant low level pain of carrying twins to 38 weeks combined with the acute pains of trying to roll over or stand up or sit down.  Chronic pain would be really hard to cope with and stay normal/nice.  I will need to do some physical therapy/rehab to sort out whatever my core/pelvis/back situation is... carrying around 16lbs of baby & baby stuff (plus all the other pregnancy weight) has definitely misaligned some things. 

Other gratitude:
I am glad I can wear my normal pajamas again.  I love soft pajamas bottoms.

I am glad I can get rid of my maternity clothes - I have piles to sort through when I can but right now I'm happy it's out of my drawers.  Goodbye maternity clothes!

I am glad that we have friends who have dropped food presents to us. We don't need anything for the babies but oh my do I love food.

And I am glad it's NaBloPoMo!  

There is so much good blogging around the internet and it's awesome for me to have reading material for all hours of night and day.  I am using feedly to follow all your blogs so apologies I cannot comment, but I am already loving so many of the posts.  It's nice to follow the wider world of blogging from the startlingly condensed world of newborns.  

November 2, 2023

How to have a Baby - an update from a not pregnant person

When very pregnant, there is a feeling that each pregnant thing one does is "the thing" that will make the baby/babies come.

With Lilah I remember cleaning the car and thinking "This is it!" and then she didn't come.  With Isaac I went to the gym and sat on a recumbent bike and thought "This is it!" and then he didn't come.  With these babies I had done so many "This is it!" things that I lost count.  

So it turns out, the "this is it!" thing was complaining on the internet.

After the last post I had a call from my midwife at 9:45 saying they were ready for me and how quick could I get there.  I called grandma to come watch kids, I called Andy who was at swim lessons with Isaac, and I got our stuff packed and ready to go.  I made two sandwiches (salmon and cream cheese!) and got to the hospital for 10:30.  By 11am I was in my room and at 12:00 my waters were broken and I was left alone with Andy.

Then a bunch of stuff happened and it was all generally awesome and as hoped for.  I had the most amazing midwives (UK maternity nurses - they are medically trained at hospital) who unfortunately finished shift at 7pm... but my new midwives were also amazing.  The babies were born at 8:30 and 8:45pm with the easiest delivery of all three pregnancies.  There were lots of people in the room but no baby doctors or support was needed for either baby. It's hard to compare a home birth (Lilah) to an epidural in hospital, but in terms of the after recovery this was definitely the easiest.  

It could be also that delivering two 6.5 pound babies is also just easier than one 8 pound baby.  And also, first babies are worst babies when it comes to labour.  It's rather unfair - second babies and onward are almost fun (in memory).  

Now we are a family of 6.  Isaac and Lilah are so excited with their new sisters Nora and Audrey.  I'm not sticking any photos up yet because there are very few times where news is ones own and photos are ones own.  For right now, these twins are ours and we are enjoying every minute.  Except the minutes of awake-ness between 9pm and 6am.  But thankfully I forget those hours surprisingly quickly.  And my remembering self is enjoying this immensely.  

October 30, 2023

How not to have a baby - an update from a very pregnant person.

Last weekend I thought I was enjoying the last weekend as a family of 4.  But, it appears I am always surprised by the NHS processes and baby having processes over here. My induction was scheduled for Friday - that was as far as my consultant advised I wait to have twins (37 weeks 5 days). 

At 2pm they hospital called to say delivery were full.  Instead I went in on Saturday for a check, where they told me they were still full.  They said I would be called on Sunday morning... so I went in Sunday morning to wait.  And wait.  And then I went home at 4pm.  They called at 9pm to say they were still full.

Unfortunately we used all our scheduled childcare as I didn't realize that induction on Friday could result in being still pregnant at home on Monday.  Now we wait to see when they have space... I am apparently one of the rare people who go to over 38 weeks pregnant with twins.  

In good news, Friday night was great as both kids were at sleepovers so Andy and I picked up pizza and ate at home by ourselves.  No bedtime shuffle - we finished dinner and then watched "Get Smart" which was not as bad as I expected.  Low expectations possibly helped. 
I would feel better about this whole situation if the doctors hadn't spent most of the pregnancy telling me that it's best to deliver twins before 38 weeks.  But there's not much to be done - babies will come when they are ready and if the hospital isn't worried then I don't really have any choice but to wait.

Isaac has his first swim lesson today - he's doing a short course of daily lessons as it's fall half term so no school for a week.  Andy started his two weeks of paternity leave today since I can't watch two kids by myself and Isaac is off school.  If we haven't had babies soon he may go back to work and switch his paternity to unpaid leave until the babies are born.

In the interim we have a Monday to fill with family fun as neither kid has childcare.

The clocks went back on Saturday night, but because the kids had such exciting weekends of sleepover and playdates they were completely exhausted on Sunday and fell asleep by 6pm.  Which of course meant they were up at 5:30am... which is fine.  But it does make the morning a bit looooong.

This morning we decided to carve pumpkins - I didn't think I would get to carve pumpkins this year but horray, it's worked in my favor!   

October 26, 2023

Surprise - it's thursday!

One of the weird things about being very pregnant is the total lack of planning and control.  I know that's really probably true of all of life but it seems more obvious at this exact moment.

I find it hard to talk to people because recently I have done nothing, and my mid term plans are to do nothing.

I have finished all the house projects on my list.  We even hung some art last week.  I ordered both Isaac and Lilah's photo books.  I've updated the family photo album.

I've updated our budget.  

I took every drawer out of the freezer and the outside freezer and sorted food.  I was very excited to realize that chicken carcass can go in the outside freezer in the meat drawer rather than the inside freezer in the stock drawer.  We have a few freezer meals, but not really enough to serve a full dinner to kids.  I think in the weeks to come the meals plans will be whatever people give us, whatever is leftover, and also kids can eat jacket potatoes and fish fingers and other foods that we don't normally eat.

I am currently listening to Ultra Processed People which is interesting but probably not great reading going into a time when I won't have as much time to cook delicious nutritious meals.

We have decorated the house for Halloween.  I ordered a squash box from our local veg delivery and my squash corner is now complete:

And that's about it.  Now we wait.  And try to sleep.  And watch too much Dynasty and Girls 5eva on Netflix.  And listen to audiobooks.  And do anything that doesn't involve leaving the house.

October 20, 2023

Friday things, photos and more

There is such horrible news in the world and I am not doing well enough at curating my own inputs.  My screen time is super high right now, due to the fact that I mostly cannot sleep (because there are too many babies in my tummy) but I am also aware that too much screen time impedes sleep, so it's not ideal.  

I did finish Thank You for Listening yesterday and enjoyed it - great audio book.  I am really into the audio books right now, although I should get more into a kindle book to avoid phone use.  I'm also watching Dynasty on Netflix which is such trash TV and I really adore it.  When is Emily in Paris back?

Here are some Friday things:

This one helped us make cookies today.  I decided I wanted cookies for when I go to hospital.  Unfortunately the cookies did not turn out great (I picked a bad recipe) but she still loved the proces.

I was super lucky to get the amazing Sarah Hart Unger to recommend a new planner for me on her podcast.  My Ashley Shelley arrived and I love it already.  I think it will be great post-babies.  
After getting a pre-baby Pedicure I decided to get a manicure - I haven't had a manicure in YEARS.  I went with yellow because it seemed autumnal / Halloween-y.  I wish I could paint my own nails nicely but I might try to get manicures more often - I like it!

In more "Chaos to order" projects - I tackled the reusable nappy drawer.  Before and after below:
And finally - this dude went to his first school party today:
It was a "scaries and fairies" party from 4:30 to 6:00pm and he had a great time although was completely shattered from his week at school.  Also, this costume is actually pyjamas I bought on Vinted for £5 and he was so excited to sleep it in tonight... and to find out it glows in the dark!

I have finished my pre-baby to do list.  This weekend I have a few small to-dos: I plan to go to our local bakery for delicious treats, I want to cut Isaac's hair, and I need to finish updating the photo calendar we give out as gifts every year.  

This is likely our last weekend as a family of four... scary times indeed!

Do you have big plans for the weekend?  Have you listened to any good audio books lately?  What is your favourite cookie recipe?

October 18, 2023

Budgets and values

I started listening to Ultra Processed People and found the early discussion of how much we spend on food particularly interesting.  I had never really considered how much "value" drives our spending when it comes to food, but apparently the UK and the US are particularly bad about this.  I can't remember the figures, but people spend on average between 9 and 12 percent of their salary on Food.  I was curious where we fell in this as good quality food is something I really value, and I have noticed that our food budget has increased significantly in the last few years (I think it may have doubled since 2019... but so has the size of our family...)

We keep a budget of expenses broken down into category, so I was able to check our actual monthly spends per category as compared with our total take home.  Pension is pre-tax so not included in the breakdown below, but everything else is captured:

We apparently don't spend much on clothes or entertainment.  Gifts will probably be more substantial after christmas (the above is based on current monthly average spend in 2023... not the budget forecast).  Bills are currently lower than forecast and childcare recently reduced from 35% of take home to 19% which is nice. 

In case the chart isn't super easy to read, here are the percentage breakdowns:

Andy & Rachel Hobbies5%
Dining Out2%

Someday it will be interesting to see the shift throughout the years - we have certainly not been able to save 9% of take home with 2 kids in nursery, but it's nice to have a glimpse of what our spends could look like when we aren't paying for nursery at all anymore.  

Also, although I combined our hobbies budgets here, Andy actually gets 3% and I get 2%, because I don't spend as much on my own hobbies.  Or maybe it's because some of my hobbies (like baking and home organization) fall into other categories.  

We also have some rules about how certain things are classified - Alcohol has its own budget but only used for when Andy and I are getting a drink together (since I've been pregnant most of this year we haven't spent anything).  If we buy wine or beer just for one of us then that falls under the hobbies budget.  Same with dining out - that budget is for dinners together or cafes with the family.  If we go out alone or with friends (not partners) that also falls under our individual hobbies budgets.  Kids clothes tend to either go on "Kids" or "Clothes" - we will need to definitively decide where this goes when we do our budget for next year.

Do you keep a budget? Have you ever calculated your food spend (or other spend) as compared to your take-home pay?

October 17, 2023

Maternity Leave home organization and other to-dos.

I think in The States the idea of starting maternity leave before baby comes/before due dates might be an odd one.  When I first moved here and people were starting leave at 34 weeks pregnant I was very confused.  With Isaac I started at 38 weeks and with Lilah it was about the same (I think? I can't remember).  With twins I opted for 35+3, which seems early except they have an eviction date of 38 (or 37... I'll find out tomorrow).  

So either way, I am off work and happy to be done.  It's weird to try and "make the most" of a very undefined time period.  

We have full childcare on Tuesdays-Thursdays so those are my at-home days where I strike a balance between resting and getting things done.  Today was a "getting things done" day... I finally made it to our local Homesense to purchase new baskets for organizing toys in the side board.  I could no longer deal with this as our lounge:

Chaos!  With the addition of side board baskets (5 for £12) and a bit of a toy shuffle it now looks like this:
The side board was also in chaos, which is part of the reason so many toys were out. The kids instantly put things in the drawers even though the drawers are supposed to be for grown up things.  .  Here's a before:
Although it does look like there is empty space this is partly because of all the chaos in the rest of the room and because those drawers are shoved full of toys too. The games/puzzles were fine but organized in such a way that kids couldn't put them back... which of course meant it wasn't organized at all.  
Here is after:
I don't have anything in the drawers and the puzzles can now come out and go back in without causing chaos.  The baskets are separated thematically... Peppa Pig, cars, and dinosaurs to name a few.  this means kids can put things away, or if everything is out I can put all the baskets on the floor and sort quickly rather than stacking.

The other project I tackled was shoe project.  We've always been a shoe-minimalist household but recently the kids have had so many new shoes - Isaac got school shoes and PE shoes, Lilah got a bag of cute hand-me-down shoes from friends.  Also, the baskets we bought when the kids were 1 and 3 are not containing shoes for 3 and 5 year olds:
please look beyond the jumper/jacket chaos - that's a project for another day
I picked up two new baskets at Homesense (£12.99 each but I love the color too much), put away the summer shoes, and now kids shoes look like this:
Basket project is now officially complete!

The other project I have on my "to do" list is to finish the family photo albums for September.  I finished and ordered Isaac's age 4-5 album, so I just need to start Lilah's 3-4 album and fill in the family album for September.  

Do you love baskets? Does organizing soothe your soul or are you clutter-blind?

October 14, 2023

Energy Levels and decluttering.

It's interesting being a low energy person.  I'm generally quite productive, and not great at resting / sitting down.  But I'm currently at the point where sometimes walking up stairs necessitates sitting down for a few minutes to recover.  I was thinking about this after listening to the Organize 365 podcast on productive people - all good advice and interesting but not particularly apt for my current circumstances.

I am using this time to take it easy and not be hard on myself, although I do look around my house and think "is this the level of mess I want when the babies arrive?" 

Today is a putting-away day.  I want the house in the right shape for babies, because it certainly won't get more organized after they arrive.  I am not worried about sweeping or hovering - the floor messy with crumbs right now, but it will be a mess again.  I do want all the toys to have a space they belong.  I don't want things on counters or the floor because I haven't found somewhere for them to go yet.

I love Andrea Dekker's blog about making a space budget

And this Edit Your Life podcast about decluttering

This morning I sent my mom to the charity shop with two large lego boxes to donate:

We've had these boxes for ages.  They are cute.  But they don't store much and they don't fit in our house.  Isaac has a lot of lego now but the lego already has a space.  I've been holding onto these boxes for years.  I'm sure someone else will be excited to find these at the charity shop.

I also have a wooden block puzzle my grandma gave me when I was a child - it's handmade in China (because she was a world traveller before it was easy, and when "made in China" was special).  But it's missing a piece.  I remember it from my childhood, but I don't need it now.  It's hard to part with things like this so I may give it back to my mom and make her either keep it at her house (In case the kids want to play with a most of a puzzle?) or she can get rid of it.

It's weird how hard it is to get rid of things once they've been around a while - another reminder to make sure I get rid of things as soon as feasible instead.

October 12, 2023

Thursday Thoughts - Birthdays and Books

Today the oldest turned 5!  I now have no risk of having 4 under 5 (well, it's 8pm so I guess there's a small risk, but it does seem small.)  We did a few presents in the morning and a few more after school.  We got SO MANY presents at his party that we've been opening one or two a day between the party and now.  Everyone was super generous and the presents are just the icing on the cake of awesome birthday experience for him and for us.

Here he is with his giant marble run.  This is a toy Andy got him... but I'm pretty sure andy mostly got it for himself.  

I finished work yesterday and am officially on maternity leave now!  yay! I spent much of today in bed, avoiding the many house projects that needed doing.  I didn't do laundry, or dishes.  I didn't try and go to TK Maxx for the baskets we need to buy.  I didn't drop the dress I sold on Vinted off at the post office, or return books to the library.  I laid down for much of the day and it was perfect.

Most nights I wake up around 1 or 2 and can't get to sleep again until 4 or 5.  I don't want to lay in bed awake for that long so I'm working my way through audio books and am enthralled by The Longest Race.  It's fascinating to hear a true account of elite female sport experience and I am so disgusted by so much of it - not just the abuse but especially by Nike and the unfair treatment of mothers that was both legal and acceptable.  It's 10 hours long and I'm getting through it quickly... although I have to set 10 minute timers as I often eventually fall asleep and don't want to miss any of it.
I listened to Deena Kastor's "let your mind run" last year and it's interesting to see the same people making appearances in multiple books.  
Tomorrow I am hopefully meeting up with friends for a daytime walk (more reason to have Fridays off when I'm done with mat leave!) and I have a midwife appointment.  Otherwise I aim to do laundry.  And sleep. 

Happy Thursday!

October 8, 2023

Birthday Party Adventures and Decluttering Progress.

On Saturday we hosted our first ever kids birthday party - we rented a local hall.  20 kids and 20 adults came and had a blast playing with balloons and bouncy balls, as well as coloring in gliders.  We had food for parents and adults, including sandwiches from one of my favourite local cafes.  Isaac enjoyed and we enjoyed and we got to talk with our parent friends and generally had a great time.  

We started planning the party a few months ago and started with the basics - what do we want from a kids party?  This is the list we came up with:

  • People to show up
  • Isaac to have fun
  • Relaxed adults
  • Good food
  • Not schlepping crap
  • Eating cake at Party

Fun Fact - in the UK they don't eat cake at parties.  And often adults don't get cake at all.  I feel like in the states if I'm invited to a party, even if it's a kid party, I would like a piece of cake.  I may be totally out of touch here though... Americans with kids can you let me know what the cake etiquette is for kids parties where you stay?  Of course they do have cake at parties - the kids sing happy birthday, blow out candles, and then the cake is cut up into lots of pieces and each kid gets a piece of cake wrapped in a napkin in their party favour bag.  I just don't get it, so we did cake at the party.

We did a lot of cake research and it turns out buying a cake is expensive.  Unfortunately we don't have a Costco membership.  Andy decided to bake a cake and I made cupcakes.  Andy was pretty daring in his cake baking but it turned out awesome, and super delicious.  My cupcakes were from a box, as was the icing, but I'm still pleased with the look:
Today I was mostly very tired after a very active (for someone 35 weeks pregnant with twins) day. .  I'm sleeping terribly at the moment, often less than 5 hours a night, which is making lots of things trickier than they should be.  Even though I do laundry almost every day somehow it had piled up and I had the last load of newborn clothes to wash and put away.  I did four loads of laundry today, which has to be a record for me.  However, I feel good now that all laundry in the house is clean and away.  I also boxed up kids clothes that were too small and got out some next size shoes for Isaac.  

I completed a small decluttering project - the top cabinet of the kids built in wardrobe:
This was mostly baby stuff and so much of it seemed crap or easy to replace - why am I holding on to battered baby books which the babies won't even be interested in for another year?  Also, I found a puzzle (on the right) - why do we have puzzles everywhere?

I got rid of much of it and then cleared off this shelf in the kids room so I can move the big kids books out of the baby room (once I find decent book ends) 
Now she shelf is basically empty, and the cabinet looks like this:
And I have two more bags of things for the charity shop.  Horray!

What was your weekend success?

October 6, 2023

Five Things Friday

Work: I've just finished my last full week of work.  I even had motivation to work on a bigger project I was given which I can now hopefully turn in before I leave.  I'm feeling mostly redundant as my maternity cover is so good she's taken over everything - but that's also great because I don't have any concerns about the team I support.  I think I'm just ready for the next thing now... my last day is Wednesday!

Weekend: This weekend we are hosting our first ever kids party! Isaac is turning 5 next Thursday but we scheduled his party for this Saturday as I was somewhat concerned that twins would be born early.  Last year we threw a pumpkin carving party which was really fun but I knew that would be too close to baby time to host one this year.  We haven't got any organized activities planned but we have balloons and gliders and food and cake and a hall so I am sure the kid will figure out how to have fun.

Plans: It's hard to make plans at the moment because I am aware that babies can come anytime.  But I do keep making "if not babies" plans... for instance next weekend is the opening of our nearest pumpkin patch, and if not babies I want to go and take some photos and buy a pumpkin.  We've been every year for the past 3 and generally get great photos there so fingers crossed it's not raining and we can get last minute ticket if I'm up for it

House: I am still working through decluttering projects.  I'm hoping when done with work I can do more declutter before/after.  I haven't organized the new side board and need different kid toy storage for it.  I also want to buy a clock for the kitchen (this has been on my list for 6 months) and a new candle because it's fall and I love a candle.  I sense a trip to Homesense (TK Maxx or TJ Max Depending on where you live).  We recently had a new shed built to the side of our garage, which both Andy and Isaac love.  I'm not sure why when Andy wants a new shed I say "yes that seems fine" but it took me getting pregnant with twins to get a dishwasher... I may have to reflect on this dynamic.

(the shed does have a door - Andy is currently painting it.  All he needs is a dry day... maybe April)

Reading: I'm currently reading my 50th book this year!  I've got two on the go at the moment - the Audiobook for Simplicity Parenting and Tell Me Three Things on Kindle.  Because I don't sleep well at night I usually listen to about 30 minutes of Simplicity Parenting every night, which is interesting but also easy to fall asleep to.  I do agree with lots of what he says and it's nice to reinforce that I can be looking to try and create less for my kids, not more.  

October 3, 2023

October! My favourite season begins.

I am excited it's October.  September felt like a weird month - the weather (heatwave at the start - yuck!) did not help.  But we are now having cooler mornings and dark evenings and dripping rain and I am feeling that fall feeling that I love.  So, here are some things that I love about fall:

Candles. I need to set up my fall candles.  I love things that smell good in the fall, hand cream and essential oils and all the nice smelling things. 

Halloween books.  I got out all the Halloween books today.  This one is my favourite:

Pumpkins.  All the pumpkins.  I am 100% going to buy a pumpkin when I get to the store next.

Fall drinks. Chai lattes, pumpkin spice... I don't even like pumpkin spice that much but also there is 100% chance I will be getting a pumpkin spice latte soon.

Fall food.  Apple crumbles (or any crumbles).  Cheeses.  Slow cooker stews.  Hearty winter dinners.  Sweet potatoes! Corn! Pumpkin bread/cookies.  All the cookies.

Leaves. Colourful red and yellow leaves everywhere.  Nature that looks like a sunset.

Open windows. It's not too cold to keep windows open at night, and sleeping in cool air is awesome. I love this bit before we turn the heat on

Kids Halloween theme clothes.  I'm a bit obsessed.  My kids both have a fair amount of Carters Halloween shirts.  My mom is soon bringing a set of matching Fall pyjamas for them.  

Having babies.  I mean, I'm having my third and fourth fall babies pretty soon.  Newborns in the fall - being at home, having low expectations of myself, not getting out much because it's dark and raining.  It's a good time to have babies.  I guess Lilah isn't exactly a fall baby (September) but Isaac is October and these two will be October as well.  

What is your favourite thing about this season?

September 28, 2023

September improvements big and small

Maybe this is nesting, or maybe this just the transition to fall and the desire for a cozy at-home life, but recently we managed to check off a number of improvement projects.  

First up is our lounge corner, which Andy and I never really liked but which fulfilled our standard "functionality" goal (Lilah never saw a camera she didn't want to pose for)
We've always dreamed of built ins for either side of the fireplace but that is all the £££.  So instead we purchased a sideboard which matches the one in our dining room and fits impressively well:
Kids toys out of sight - yay!  We need to get some different shaped toy storage for the cabinets but so far things *Almost* fit.  I also told the kids they cannot use those drawers and we now have three empty drawers to use!  I am never in a rush to fill things like that so I plan to leave the drawers empty until they have a really good use.

I decided that we had too many puzzles spread around the house now as well, so I brought all puzzles downstairs and decided to have a clear out.  It turns out we did have far too many puzzles but I never realized as they were stored in many places:
During my lunch break I took the stack on the right to the charity shop, along with 3 other bags of kids toys and clothes, and a set of bedsheets I never liked very much.  Now all the puzzles fit in the new sideboard:
I have been meaning to drop off the charity pile for a while now so happy to tick that off my list!  We now have two empty shelves in the kids closet where puzzles once lived... I'm in no rush to fill these up either.

We've also started a new food planning system.  We normally plan our meals as part of our Family Logistics and Operational Meeting on Fridays. However it seemed to be a pain point in the meeting... I did not have the mental energy on a Friday night to think of meals.  I could thinks of scheduled, play dates, to dos... but the meal bit was just dragging. 

Last week I wrote down a list of meals which we then just allocated to specific days during the FLOM.  This week we decided to use a sticky note on the shopping list to write down meal ideas for next week - we have more than enough to cover the week already:
Hopefully this will make our Friday FLOM much easier.  We don't have a great system for when we do our actual shopping yet, sometimes Andy does it on Fridays or we can order delivery on Friday for Sunday.  However at least we aren't trying to solve the "what should we eat" problem during FLOM.

I've also got some loose rules to try and make meal planning easier:
1 pasta dish a week
1 potato dish a week
1 slow cooker meal a week

Yesterday I made tortilla soup in the slow cooker - slow cookers come into their own in the fall!  I only wish my kids ate slow cooker food. Their dream meals include individual food groups not touching at all.  Slow cookers are all the food groups touching all the time.

Also, I bought this ridiculous lunch box for the kids.    It was far more expensive than is reasonable and I think it's pregnancy hormones that made me do it, but I am very excited.  
I am somewhat aware that I have about 15 years of packing lunches ahead of me so I may as well spend money on something to make it more fun for me (and hopefully more fun for kids too)