July 30, 2023

Weekend Update - that went fast

It was a too fast weekend.

I woke up Friday not feeling well because a certain two year old had decided not to do sleeping at 2 or 3 am and I foolishly put her in bed with us which meant no one slept and I was very grumpy.  I tried to push through at work but was too tired/pregnant/annoyed and eventually took a half day of sick leave so I could take a  nap... which is unfortunate because I have too much work to do and could really have used a work day.

I had friends coming over for afternoon tea at 2:30 which thankfully my mom and Andy prepped most of.  Then at 2:30 I realized I had told them 3:30, so we sat around for half an hour.

On, and on Friday the Drier arrived!

Tea went well, we hand cheese and chutney sandwiches as well as cucumber sandwiches, plus scones & clotted cream & jam, and a Victoria sponge cake.  And a fruit salad.

Friends left around 5 and then more friends came from Bristol for a sleepover and dinner at 7.  I am sort of obsessed with these salmon burgers right now and it made a really easy dinner for everyone:

After dinner the kids all went to bed (In the same room!) and adults had a fire pit.  It was vaguely threatening to rain, which is perfect for a fire pit.  

On Saturday we went to the bike park with all 3 kids.  Lilah is getting more and more rad.  Isaac is on a pedal bike.  Our friend's 4 year old borrowed one of Isaac's bikes and got on super well with the pump track.  

We all did afternoon playing in the house, followed by dinner Pizza.  And our friends helped us hook up the new tumble drier - it's a heat pump drier an doesn't use a vent. 

on Sunday Andy went biking with his dad buddies while our friend (with two almost the same age kids) came for a play date.  Play dates are so much easier with 2 and 4 year olds.  Especially 4 year olds. They played upstairs while we were able to actually hang out and chat.

In the afternoon I had another afternoon tea with some friends from my first baby class before Isaac was born.  One of them is having her second baby in a few weeks and we are all very excited.  She is also the cutest pregnant person.  I had more finger sandwiches and scones and patisserie and this is probably why I am going to get pregnancy diabetes this time but oh man are afternoon teas delicious.

I made Shwarma with Tahini-yogurt sauce for dinner which went down a treat.

We also washed AND DRIED two loads of laundry.  We have washed all the baby clothes and they are now in the baby room washed.  We own a lot of 0-3 size which is great except for the fact these babies are probably going to come out at 5-6 pounds and not 8 pounds like my other two which means we are scavenging for tiny baby size.   A job for this week is to put away the baby clothes and make the baby room look (a bit) more sane.

Food Plan this week:
Monday: Leftover Shwarma
Tuesday: Falafel Wraps
Wednesday: Scrambled Eggs or Leftovers
Thursday: Slow Cooker Chili
Friday: Choritzo Pasta Bake
Saturday: Chicken & Aubergine Parmesan

July 24, 2023

Monday Musings from a Train

Currently on the train from London after a very busy day in the London office.  Had a job interview, which was a good but nerve wracking experience.  I'm hoping that my nerves indicate that I'm actually reaching in my career in a way I haven't before. Plus, how cool is it that I can forever say I interviewed for a job at 5 months pregnant? I usually love interviews, but at the start of this one I had somewhat full blown imposter syndrome.  Oh well, we will see how it goes.  Even if I don't get invited to the next stage I'll be keen to hear feedback so I can become better at interviews going forward.

Yesterday Andy and I ordered a tumble drier and I cannot wait to wash and dry clothes on the same day.  It's been raining lots and I haven't hung laundry outside in months which means I'm on a constant cycle of laundry airers and fans and open and shut windows.

We brought most of the baby stuff from storage and shoved it in the baby room.  I still need to unpack it and organize it.  So much stuff.  Two bouncers.  I did tell Andy this is the last time we are moving this baby stuff - the next time we move it will be to whoever is getting it next.  

Interlude: the people on the train table behind me are watching TV out loud.  On the one hand I know I should be empathetic because kids and trains and whatnot but also, if you're going to be family of children watching ipads can you not also be family of children with headsets to watch ipads?

I don't have any plans with the kids tomorrow.  Tuesdays off are a bit odd - as Suzanne pointed out in a comment it's like having double Mondays.  I keep thinking I should go somewhere far away (like, an hour) but also I am at a loss about where to go.  We had an amazing local farm but it's closed for renovations.  It's supposed to be closed until early spring... but it's apparently closed until spring 2025.  

The unplanned weekend went surprisingly OK.  Saturday Andy took Isaac to a kids birthday party while my mom watched Lilah and I worked on my interview presentation.  Saturday afternoon Andy took a nap and then assembled some more IKEA.  On Sunday he wasn't feeling well and tried to run a 10k before abandoning because he was actually somewhat ill.  So he did more sleeping and then we picked up all the baby stuff from storage.  I washed my hair, picked out my interview outfit (becasue there was no hiding my pregnancy). and we both fell asleep at 8:30pm, which was good because I was still tired for the 5am alarm.

London days are long days.  

July 22, 2023

Weekend plans: house & work updates

We don't have many plans for the weekend so far, which sometimes bodes well and sometimes can be disaster.  

Hopefully we can get all the IKEA built - especially the dresser/changing table for the nursery room.  Once this is built we can start to unpack all of the baby stuff and figure out if we need anything else

(Fun Fact: although I am a firm believer in "babies don't need things" and I knew that twins are allowed to share a cot until they can roll, I only realized recently that babies can't share a bedside cot.  So... we are hopefully borrowing a bedside cot from a friend our ours.  Our room almost certainly doesn't have room for two bedside cots... so that's going to be a squeeze to figure out later)

Then we have our new dining table to assemble, but I am also not super excited for this assembly because once done our house will have two dining tables and 12 chairs until the charity donation people come on Wednesday.  I recently started donating furniture to charity rather than selling it because I decided I don't do enough charity donations and so even if I could make £50 or £100 for selling something maybe donating it can be a replacement for the £50 or £100 I don't give to charity?

On Monday I'm going to London to interview for a new role in my current company, which would be a promotion from where I am (a fairly big one) but is also very daunting because I am so obviously 5 months pregnant (actually I look more pregnant, because twins).  I have been trying to play it cool with this interview but I need to work on a powerpoint and practice what I am going to say and the points I want to address.  So, I need some focus time this weekend to work on that.

I also need to figure out how to address my obvious pregnancy.  

I'm hoping this interview will be a good experience for me because even if I don't get the job it means I'm pushing myself and being told no.  I've always had it as a point of pride that I'm always offered a job once I make it to interview stage - but maybe that's because I'm not pushing myself enough and applying for things that are at my level?  

Isaac has a birthday party this weekend and Andy is running a race on Sunday.

That's about all the weekend plans.  I don't think this is exactly Laura Vanderkam approved (is making a powerpoint a big adventure?) but hopefully I will feel a lot less stressed after job interview and furniture collection next week.

July 21, 2023

Home improvement - Kids Costume Rail

I'm a pretty firm believer in the Organize 365 principal of "don't sort your kid's room".  Its often the messiest room in my house, but if I sort it then it will still be the messiest room in the house as soon as kids play in it.

However, I do need it to be accessable.  I don't mind toys or books on the floor - I do mind unapproachable chaos.

Recently I realized we have acquired lots of costumes, which had started to overflow the costume bucket.  It also meant that when kids wanted to play with costumes their first action was to dump all the costumes on the floor.  I tried to Lazy Genius this by shoving all the costumes under Isacc's bed (he has the IKEA Kura bed, which is 4 feet off the ground and has space under for playing etc.)

The problem with this method, is that instead of benefitting from the extra play space, I had just created a small chaos space... and the kids still weren't that into costumes once they were scattered everywhere.

I decided to build (or, ask andy to build) a costume rail under the bed.  First I had to find the rail - I found a rake at B&M Bargains for £4 with a wooden handle the right size.  Andy mounted it under the bed (he is very clever with wood things) and then yesterday the IKEA kids hangers showed up.

I don't have a before picture... but now the underside of the bed looks like this:

Isaac was very excited when he got home from nursery.  I still want to sort the box of hats and masks (the grey box) into a slightly more appealing order, but I am hoping that this can be the start of kids hanging things on hooks.  Isaac wanted to hang every hat on a hook, which I think bodes well.

July 19, 2023

Time // Time Management // Focus

Tomorrow I'm giving a short presentation at work about time.  It's taken from another presentation I did at my last job on the similar topic, which covered info from Laura Vanderkam, Oliver Burkman, Daniel Kahneman, David Allen, Cal Newport and others in that sort of "writing about time" sphere.

Last time I talked a lot more about phones and family but this time it's mostly about time - how we perceive our time, and how we feel about our work time.  It's going to be a two part series, this first piece is on Time and the second piece will be on task management systems.  I realized I couldn't really talk about why task management systems are important without taking a bit about why time is important.

It's been a really good experience reminding myself things that I know but forget.  I talk about the Eisenhower Matrix and how it's easier to do the non important but urgent tasks than to do the important but non urgent things.  

I have gotten far to reactive in my day to day and have not been time block planning or even properly scheduling my work.  I've also started to get way more bogged down in teams, and I don't feel I have a good sense of what I need to accomplish in any day, which means I don't feel as focused during the day and then don't feel good about my work day when it's done.

So, I'm working on my task system again, and on both focusing and taking breaks.  I'm also working on scheduling what I need to do in a day and being realistic in how long it will take me.  I've added all my important but non-urgent tasks to my task planner and will tackle them on Friday, which is generally the slowest day in work.

I think part of the pressure is that I've moved from a 9 day fortnight (4 days then 5 days a week) to 4 days a week for July and August.  I don't work on Tuesdays - which is nice for hanging out with the kids but makes my weeks feel so odd.  I generally feel a bit stressed on Monday, then have Tuesday off, and then Wednesday feels like an insurmountable workload.  I'm hoping that this will slow down, but I definitely think if I stick with a 4 day workweek after maternity leave I'll want to have Fridays off.  Tuesdays are just... Awkward.

July 18, 2023

Kitchen Project - or - this is the first day of my new life.

OMG everyone I have had a dishwasher for almost 24 hours and it has changed my life.

Our amazing plumber came and installed it yesterday, and all I can think about is that Bright Eyes Song - First Day of my Life. This is the first day of my new life where I don't spend 30 minutes a day washing dishes.

The fridge corner is also looking good and I love having a full size fridge-freezer.  I love not having to bend down for under counter storage.  I love having multiple shelves for condiments.  
On Thursday we have an IKEA order coming to replace that white plastic thing with one of these:
We had one of these when we lived in Portland and I loved it and I'm so glad I will now have a new one.  The plan is to put kids plates/cups/water bottles on the shelves below so that kids can easily get their own plates/cups/etc.  

I'm also excited to have another drawer in the kitchen.  We currently have 2 drawers (HOW DO WE SURVIVE) and now we will have three drawers.  Hopefully, this will help make our kitchen last another 5 years until we can do an extension (i.e., until we are not paying for all the childcare in the world).

I don't think "nesting" kicks in at 23 weeks but I think "panic home organization" is definitely kicking in.

In addition to the kitchen trolly, IKEA are delivering us a new dining table & chairs and this chest of drawers which we will use as a changing table:
Then we can start actually figuring out what baby things we need - hopefully not much - but I'm sure I can document nursery transition project here on the blog too.

I have lots of minor improvements to make to our home and it's exciting to see actual progress.  I'm pretty surprised that I can be as interested in time and time management as I am and yet I still lived without a dishwasher for so long.  I feel like I have literally gained 30 minutes + a day which would have been spent on dishes and now can be spent on... something else.  Anything else.

I know I'm currently in a fortunate "let's solve this problem with money" stage, but I am hoping that even when the money dries up (i.e. maternity leave) I will still have the solutions and won't regret spending the money.

Do you shop at IKEA?  What's the last thing you bought (at IKEA or elsewhere) that massively improved your life?

July 13, 2023

Mid year goals check in 2023

I know I'm late to this goals check in, but better late than... not?  Here's a progress update on some of my 2023 goals:

Media Goals

  • ✓ Read 50 Books - currently at 34 books.  Recently abandoned two.  I don't think I abandon books quickly enough and that slows me down - I haven't finished a book yet in July.  I think I will make it to 50, but I am not sure how much reading I will get done after twins are born.
  • Watch a movie - not yet.  But I want to see either Glass Onion, Weird (the Al Yankovic story), or Everything Everywhere All At Once.
  • See a show - Probably not.  It just seems like a lot of effort to sort a babysitter and get to town.  Nothing that I really want to see has come through Cardiff recently.  I should remember to keep checking.  I am on the waitlist thing for Taylor Swift Tickets, but I give that a very low chance of success (and also, that's 2024)


  • Potty Train Lilah - we may be making progress?  It's been far more painful than Isaac (or maybe time has distorted my memory)
  • Overnight trip with Isaac - not yet and nothing planned.  I think I might already be too pregnant for this one.  
  • Family photo albums - All are currently up to date (finished through June)
  • ✓ Take a family holiday - done! We went camping... and to the New Forest.  Both were exhausting.  We also went to the Forest of Dean in January, which was not exhausting.  Perhaps holidays are better when not pregnant?  We are going to stay in a Glamping Yurt for 2 nights in August which is exciting.  But, I think we are in full on "let's get our home sorted" mode now.
  • Take 2 family photos - I think we have taken one?

Health and Wellbeing:

  • ✓ One Rachel Thing a Month - done so far, definitely pleased with my 6 pack of massages I bought.
  • ✓ Run a 5k - done!
  • ✓ Visit Pelvic Floor Physio - done... right before getting pregnant again.  But done!
  • ✓ Go up a mountain - I went up the Garth - famous from the movie The Englishman who Went Up a Hill and Down a Mountain.  I would call this "mountain" exceptionally basic. 


  • ✓ Write Will - done! and signed! Finally!  It only took ages.  I need to email the people who are in the will to confirm the details and let them know where it's stored, but I'll take this as a victory.
  • ✓ Pay off additional borrowing mortgage - done! And so glad because interest rates are cray-cray right now here.
  • ✓ Get British citizenship - done!
  • Make retirement savings plan - I'm not really sure what this means, but it seemed like a responsible adult thing to add to this list.  Clearly I have not done it.
I'm doing well on my concrete goals and less well on habit goals (ie, "have a resilient bedtime" and "eat more fruit" were both rather wafty goals) I thought I had probably not accomplished much in the first half of the year but looking over this list I have done a lot more than I expected.  

We are also doing a lot more on the house than I planned for in goals, and I'm excited about all we've accomplished here.  The dishwasher arrived today and is getting installed on Monday! I'll never wash a dish again!

Do you make yearly goals? How are you doing on your goals?  

July 6, 2023

A very busy Thursday

This morning I woke up at 5am, because apparently my internal alarm clock thinks that is the right time to wake up.   Since 5am here is 9pm in California I managed to have a quick text message chat with my mom, before falling back asleep from 6am to 7:30am.  Andy got the kids up and sorted porridge for breakfast.

Andy had booked the day off work to go mountain biking - he dropped Lilah at nursery on the way.  Isaac had a trial day at the local school.  He starts in September but apparently the children all do two hour sessions as part of "settling in".  His session started at 9:15am so I had a late start to my day, but after a quick drop off I was home and ready to interview a maternity cover candidate by 10am.  The interview ended at exactly 11am, when I headed back to the school to get Isaac.

He had a great day.  He's going to love school - I wish he could start now.

I dropped Isaac at nursery and then realized I was going to be too busy to make either the planned dinner (Quinoa Enchilada bake in the Slow cooker - from Two Peas & Their Pod) or even my own lunch before my 12:15 meeting.  I had to return some maternity clothes to M&S so grabbed pizza for dinner and a pre-made salad for lunch.  I got back at 12:11, ate a very quick snack, and joined my call only 3 minutes late.

At 1:20 I grabbed my lunch salad, which I ate at my desk.  It's really busy in work at the moment, after a rather quiet month.  While I like being busy there are so many tasks I don't feel like I'm prioritizing effectively - especially when some days I have almost 75% of my time allocated to one-on-one meetings.  This is a busy season though - it should calm down in two weeks back to normal (I like to have less than 30% of my time in meetings)

Meetings ran from 2-4:30.  Andy texted to say he would pick up the kids from nursery and didn't get home until 6pm.  I worked until 5:15, the did dishes and worked on tidying the house.  The cleaner is coming tomorrow (YAY).

Everyone was very happy with Pizza.  After kid bedtime my brother called and we got a good hour chat, which worked great.  My writing buddy came over at 8pm and we spent some time writing and chatting.  

It wasn't the most focused or productive Thursday ever, but considering the constraints I feel I got everything done that I needed to do and that's good enough for me.

How was your Thursday?  Does your workplace have lots of meetings?

July 4, 2023

Mid Year Planner Update

Last year I bought an Erin Condren Daily Duo, which I love.  It's a gorgeous planner, with gorgeous paper, and really lovely goal setting features.  It is big - this is January-June - but I have really enjoyed using it.

However, it was a sort of "too much planner" for me during first Trimester fatigue.  My daily schedule and goals were "survive".  I didn't feel well, which meant I didn't feel like tracking or planning for the future.  I didn't have energy to prioritize my day or work towards goals particularly.  

I feel much better now, but after 6 months in this planner I decided I just needed a switch.  I stuck the July-December on Vinted (where it still sits... EC has such better resale in the US!) and switched to an old school blank paper notebook:
I bought a bunch of these for £1 each ages ago, when I first started playing with planning. They have about 40 pages, so one lasts a month.  On the first page I write out my monthly goals:
And then I use one page a day after that.  I usually do a daily timeline, or at least a list of activities to do.  I also do a daily to-do list.  I haven't done any sort of habit trackers but I easily could.  Some days I take notes in it. Some days I don't write much.  I'm enjoying the free-form.  I used to do my daily page the night before, which would have spaces for reflection and tick-boxes for tasks, but now I've been pretty casual about what I include.

I'm enjoying the shift so far.  I think an old school notebook may suit better for after babies - daily planning is too overwhelming with newborns.  Maybe I'll be ready for another daily planner by January.   I'm sort of missing the bullet-style journal I used for the last few months of 2022, so I may get another one of those next year / after babies / when I decided this notebook is a bit too basic for me.

We also ordered a new family planner! We got our first planner in October 2020 (I had to check my email - what an odd time to get a planner!) and I loved the customization of Personal Planner.  I initially found it through AndreaDekker.com.  I've always selected our planner layouts, and we eventually started running them Sept-Aug in prep for being in the school year. 

2022-2023 I chose a column layout for the week with split sections.  I really liked the idea of having hours running down the side, but there wasn't an option of having the hours take 2/3 of the page and I knew I needed a section for tasks/non scheduled notes.  This is the layout I picked:
As you can see, we don't use the bottom section as much as expected.  We also don't do anything starting after 9pm so that turns into our little meal plan section.  Overall it works well for our family planning.  

This year Andy decided he wanted to pick and order the calendar.  Personal Planner has so many options but we/he eventually decided on this one:
Hopefully we are in the habit enough of writing things in time order that we can keep the order without having the hours on the side, and this way we have a bit more flexibility with space on the bottom of the daily.  I'll probably still write food at the bottom, and we will probably also add daily things like Nursery drop off/pickup in the bottom section.  The planner is A5 size and I would probably order a larger one if they made it but I couldn't find one this year.  

Do you use a specific planner or planning system?  Does your calendar start in September or January?

July 1, 2023

July - News and Updates

Andy and I are both one of three kids.  We are both the oldest of three.  We always pictured our family as having three kids, and we also wanted short-ish age gaps.  Isaac and Lilah are 22 months apart, I am not yet 40, and we thought it was about time to finish growing our family so we could get rid of all the baby gear we are hoarding and then enter and exit the baby stage for the last time.

The good news is, I'm pregnant!  

When I went to my mountain biking festival at the end of April I was feeling better than I had for the lat month.  First trimester fatigue is legit.  I did abandon a skills course in favor of a nap on day 1, but other than that I could barely tell I was about 12 weeks along.

We went for the 12 week scan that Thursday.  The tech was quieter than I remembered at the start. I am a bit of a pessimist about pregnancy related things.  She seemed to sweep back and forth a number of times, and eventually I asked if there was anything in there.  I was increasingly sure she was going to tell me it was a missed miscarriage.  

Instead, she said "I'm going to tell you now, there are two"

I'm not going to document my reply.

So, it's been an interesting few months.  We had our 20 week scan last week, and there are in fact two babies. Both growing, both moving, both making me look far more pregnant than I am. They are fraternal twins (DC/DA, which means basically two separate pregnancies).

It's definitely a lot to wrap my head around.  It's meant that some of my goals are definitely not happening this year (bye bye 10k.).  It's meant that instead of pulling baby gear out of storage we are now scrounging additional baby gear from friends.

It's meant that I am telling work I'll be taking maternity leave in October, just after my one year service in August.

It's meant that this pregnancy does not have as much mountain biking in it as I expected, and I will definitely not be having a home birth (which I did with Lilah, under the care of the NHS, and it was great).

The kids are excited.  I am excited, among other things.  And, there's nothing to be done or changed.  All we can do is make our lives as easy/routine as possible before babies come.  

FYI, this is why we are getting a dishwasher.  I found out about twins on a Thursday.  Friday morning I woke andy up and told Andy we needed a dishwasher and a tumble drier.  I've always wanted a dishwasher, but this was a pretty extreme method of getting one.

Here is a photo that Isaac drew for family day. This is before we told him there are actually two babies in mommy's tummy: