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?