That Hair

This is me at three months old. I was born with a full head of hair and it never fell out. I’ve had lots of dark hair ever since.

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My hair has been medium or long since I was a kid, and it has always been thick and prone to tangling.

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It was long all through high school and into college, when I tried a layered cut that was chin-length. Ever since then, I’ve gotten my hair cut once a year (like a responsible adult) and done a cycle of grow-it-out, chop-it-off.ย  ย  DSC_2328_WEB DSC_2363_WEB

(One time I cut my own hair, just because!)DSC_2981_WEB

I got it cut fairly short a couple times while I was in New York. Sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn’t. Mostly because I didn’t/couldn’t style it, so it didn’t look nice enough or something.

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So early last summer, I went in for my yearly haircut. It was getting long-ish, and I had decided that instead of chopping it off and tossing it, why not let it do some good? I didn’t want it anymore, but it could still go to someone who would want it. It was decided: I was officially going to donate my hair! After that I’ve actually gotten trims every three months, like you’re supposed to. (It really helps my hair feel healthy great, who knew!)

My original plan was to do the Big Chop in the spring. But then that didn’t happen…and I told myself I would do it after I got home from NYC in June. But I kept putting it off.

In the past week or so, my one hair clip that held my hair…wasn’t holding my hair anymore. There was too much hair. I couldn’t do anything with it and it was always in my way. Then, on Monday, my hair clip broke.

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I decided that was my sign to finally do it! Get this hair gone!

One thing that I’d planned to do before theย  big haircut was one last photo shoot featuring my hair. I wanted to have a couple nice shots to look back on. You may have seen one of those on Facebook. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Later that day, I did it. I got ALL MY HAIR CUT OFF.

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The donation was thirteen inches of hair! The initial cut was about at my chin but the final cut is mid-jaw-length. I didn’t want more flatness or weird roundness with this length, so I asked for more layers to give it more body. And…there is plenty of body. Sort of mushroom-shaped. DSC_9739_WEBThe day after the haircut I had to go get some hairstyling products (because I don’t want to look like a mushroom), so I’ve been sort of experimenting. I’m not very good at styling, and I’m also lazy…so the spray-in/leave-in stuff is right up my alley. I’m sure I could blow dry it and make it look at sleek and pretty…but I don’t know how to do that.

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I’m still not sure about the whole thing–the style/length, I mean. I’m glad that all the hair is gone and I hope it will go to good use!

TL; DR: BIG HAIRCUT AAAHH!

Mother’s Day Giveaway!

Hi friends, I try not to ‘cross the streams’ here, but I am really excited about the giveaway I’m running through my photography website. It’s a message that I feel strongly about, as you know.

(Plus I collaborated with someone who is also a former NYC teacher/blogger who moved to Portland the same time we did!)

Check out this short video here and then go enter (via Rafflecopter, on my photo blog)!

Learn more & Enter here: http://travelingjulie.com/?p=3805

(Ends Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 11.59pm PDT)

No matter what, I wish you a beautiful and happy Mother’s Day. Remember that you are loved and worthy!

Bad Jeans

I hate jeans shopping. I would say I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, but I don’t even have that energy for that; jeans shopping just saps my energy and my will. It’s just so defeating and seemingly pointless, because nothing ever feels right or fits right.

This helpful and hilarious post/series made me think that maaaaaybe it is possible to find well-fitting, flattering jeans. But then I remember that jeans are basically impossible. I suppose more effort would make a difference, but that would take so long and be so very frustrating. Not to mention the cost. Sigh.

And then throwing in a post-partum body to the already-maddening mix….ugh.

Here are the past four years of jeans, in illustrated vignettes:

September 2011:

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Check out these jeans. I got them at Costco, without even trying them on. Calvin Klein. Twenty-five bucks. Why not, right? They fit PERFECTLY. No gappy-gap above the butt, not too tight, pretty flattering if I do say so myself. MAGIC. I hadn’t been able to find new jeans in several *years*! I love you, Calvin!

The following week, we went to Costco again and of course I figured I should strike while the jeans iron is hot, so to speak, and get another pair of nice jeans that fit and flatter. I picked out a slightly different color and design, with flaps on the back pocket. Got home–and they fit totally differently. Gappy-gap up top, too tight in the thighs, didn’t flatter my bum. Bad job.

I went back to Costco and see if they still had the good style there for an exchange–nope. I went online and ordered what seemed to be the same style…nope, I couldn’t even get them up to my hips. I tried again from a different online store, and again no luck.

I can only come to the conclusion that these are my very own Magic Jeans, never to be replicated.

October 2012, 7 months pregnant:

After months of hiking up the Old Navy maternity jeans that kept drooping and falling down, I bit the bullet and spent a little more on Motherhood Maternity panel jeans. They fit really well and most importantly, stayed up. (Apparently this is the only photo where you can actually see them.)

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February 2013, three months post-partum:

I had a pair of jeans I got at Target sometime in early January, which are a size 12. I wasn’t jazzed about that number, but I was glad to have real (non-maternity) jeans that fit. Two weeks later they were loose. By now they’d gotten so big I could pull them off without unbuttoning them. So I was all excited to see what size I could be now.

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I’ve never had Gap jeans, but don’t people say they love them? So while I was at the mall I decided to stop in and check them out. First of all, most of their stuff was some kind of skinny jean. STOP THE SKINNY JEAN MADNESS ALREADY. Ahem. Anyway, I tried to find some ‘normal’ish styles. I picked up some 8s and they didn’t even fit over my thighs. The 10s were too tight and the 12s were a little too big. There was the gappy thing in back, but the hips were still kind of snug, and my butt didn’t look good, and the front was weird.

GAH.

I also checked out Marshalls and that was even worse.

March 2013:

Went back to Target finally, and got a new pair of jeans THAT FIT!! It felt amazing to put on pants that aren’t loose, baggy and falling down! These were a size 10.

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May 2013:

I got another new, size 8 pair in May, from Target. Felt great!

Summer 2013:

I gathered up and washed batches of my pre-pregnancy clothes to see if I’d be able to fit in any of them. My old magic jeans were in there. Our not-awesome babysitter put them in the dryer. They shrunk–got tighter and shorter, and though I could technically I could zip them, they cut right across the squishiest part of my abdomen. Obviously that’s not my ideal look. Goodbye forever, magic jeans. Nice knowing you.

March 2014:

My one pair of jeans ripped!

April 2014:

I went to Target, figuring that since my last few pairs from there have fit nicely and didn’t cost a bundle, I would easily find a new pair. Well, wouldn’t you know it, their sizing changed sometime between last spring and this spring, so no dice. I tried on a few and nothing fit right at all.

So for two weeks I was without any jeans at all. I finally went to Ross and found some that seemed to fit. They were almost loose, but when I tried the next size down, I couldn’t get them past my thighs.

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I also bought some fun new dresses in hopes of jazzing up my wardrobe and occasionally looking like a grown-up.

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The jeans did get a little looser and start to be annoying. So a few weeks later, another mama friend and I went jeans shopping, to have some fun and support. We went to a few places in the mall–Gap, Express, a short walk into Nordstrom. Nobody had just JEANS. Plain, regular jeans. Everything was skinny jeans, leggings, cropped jeans, and then more skinny jeans. It was maddening.

We also stopped by Nordstrom Rack and they had a very small selection of jeans, too. It was disappointing because I’d heard they were a good place to find good jeans. I did try on–DUN DUN DUN–skinny jeans. Against my better judgment and principles. And I…didn’t hate them. My friend said they looked good and encouraged me to get them.

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They stayed in their bag for more than a week. My little sister came to visit and she said that I should keep and wear them. ๐Ÿ™‚ So I did. I do like that they’re stretchy. But I don’t love the tight lower legs–I don’t like fabric clinging to my upper ankles. It just seems unnatural or something.

June 2014:

I was visiting New York and stopped in at the Gap Outlet on Fulton Street. (I know, right? Gentrification is for real.) I found a pair of jeans that mostly fit–they cut into my squishy tummy, but they were non-skinny jeans, and they were mid-rise too!–for only $17. Later that summer I dropped like two pounds and these jeans fit pretty nicely. (And when they cut into my tummy, I can keep a shirt or sweater over the muffin top. :D)

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July 2014

I went on a mission to find shorts. Like, shorts for grown-up ladies–not teeny tiny teenagers, and not wise old dowagers, just, like, regular freaking shorts that you don’t need a Brazilian to wear. These apparently do not exist.

I went to the local Ross and tried on all the shorts-related things I could find in my size (which has gone back up to 10).

These were shorter than I wanted but at least they weren’t super tight, so they seemed okay.

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I was surprised but I thought these skinny jean capris were really cute! I wore them all summer and fall, and they actually got a bit baggy. I felt cute whenever I wore them, though.

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October 2014, nearly TWO YEARS post-partum:

I visited the Ann Taylor Loft at the local outlets and TA-DA found jeans that FIT! They were the Curvy style, size 8 (hello vanity sizing), but I was really excited. Jeans that fit!!!

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So for the last few months, I’ve finally had three different pairs of jeans that fit! It only took months and months, multiple stores, and endless irritation. Lessons learned: I still hate clothes shopping; boot-cut jeans are still the best kind; next time I need jeans I’ll start at Ann Taylor/Loft. (Someday I want to try on Lucky or Seven jeans!) Also, NEVER TAKE GOOD JEANS FOR GRANTED.

My Productivity Essentials

Kabbage.com wrote a great list about ways to be more productive.ย  It made me think about the ways I try to focus my attention and be more productive. These are all things I will need to use intelligently this year to be successful at home and at work.

I’m a lifelong procrastinator, and the Internet is a constant distraction. However, overall I’d say I do a fairly good job of accomplishing tasks, though naturally some take longer than they might need to. Here are a few things that I do to help keep me on track. Technically they’re sort of related to the same concept: Writing stuff down.

1. PAPER LIST

I make lists. Lists everywhere. I have the worst memory in the world, so if I don’t write it down, it disappears into the mist of my fogged-up brain. Over the last couple years, one of my mottos has become, “If it’s not on a list, it doesn’t exist.”

The main ‘tool’ I use lately is just a legal pad. I tend to make lists in two columns: a column on the left for personal to do items, and a column on the right for business tasks. Often these lists get very long and out of hand, for two reasons. One is that once I start writing things down, I think of other things that need to be done. Two is that I keep using the same list until I’ve crossed most of the things off. I love seeing the sea of cross-outs: a visual reminder of some good task-doing! Then I re-write the list on a fresh, clean page (and inevitably add to it. Lists never ever stop growing!).

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A subset of this is the whiteboard in our kitchen. It’s the household to-do list, sort of. There’s a spot for grocery lists (with columns for different stores), and there’s an area with that week’s happenings. Each day has a little space for any household events (recurring or unique), so that we always know what’s coming. Again, if things aren’t on those two lists/spaces, they don’t exist in my brain.

And check out this new book I just read about: Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Successful and Less StressedRight up my alley! Hurray for lists! She has a blog that looks great too.

2. PAPER PLANNER

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For my day job, I use this Staples planner. A colleague of mine introduced me to this planner years ago; it was her favorite and she swore by it. We actually went together to a local Staples so I could pick one up myself, and I now swear by it too. It’s a Staples brand planner that has a monthly calendar page, and then for every one-week spread, the page on the left has a space for each day to jot down tasks and things, and then the page on the right is just empty lines for notes. This is AWESOME. I love it because all the notes for each week get taken right there. I don’t need to put notes other places, and I don’t need to worry about running out of space on a daily square. For example, during a team call, if there is a new project starting and I have some tasks, I take notes about all of that on that right-side page. Then later I can distill smaller tasks and write those on the daily spaces to the left.

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The only bad news is that I haven’t seen any other planner that does this, and it’s getting harder to find. This past year I could only find it in hardback, but this fall I found an academic-year version that was in softcover. I like the softcover because you can fold it and sit with it on your lap comfortably. You can order it online but you may need to hunt in your local Staples stores to see if it’s there.

3. NICE PENS

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I also have certain pens I like to use. I love these purple gel ballpoints (Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm) and I use them (and sometimes a blue version) exclusively for my to-do lists. They write smoothly and the lines are thick and pretty. Plus writing with pens like this feels a little more fancy and intentional than with a regular blue Bic, you know?

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I am also a little obsessed with pens from MUJI. They come in lots of happy colors, and in different tip sizes. I use these pens for writing in my paper calendar.

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There’s a store in the Jetblue Terminal at JFK, and I’ve totally had my husband buy me some pens when he’s traveling through there. When I went to NYC last summer, I made a point of going to the Sixth Avenue MUJI to buy a few more pens for myself. And next time I go I’m going to buy a whole bunch more. ๐Ÿ™‚

4. CALENDAR

Of course I do use Google Calendar to keep track of everything electronically, but again, if it’s not right in front of my face, I won’t remember it. So I print out a paper calendar
to keep on my desk. (I don’t have the space for one of those huge desk calendars; otherwise I’d use one of those. I also don’t want to lug around a regular dayplanner, since I’ve got enough binders and crap on my desk as it is.) It’s actually a page from photographer planner that I have, but it’s just a general set of empty boxes. [A few years ago I made one like this myself in Word; it would be super easy to make one yourself.]

In this calendar, I write down all my photography-related events (meetings & sessions), days when my husband or I will be out of town, and any other scheduled event that either I will go to, like my book club, or that the whole family will attend, like a twins club party. I keep them in a plastic page protector so they stay clean, and then I can move it around with me if I need to. I have a month on each side of the protector, because there’s always things scheduled in the future! I also keep the previous months in there too, behind the current ones, just in case I want to go back and check something.

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PS, did you notice the title of that calendar page? HELLO WHAT? Two thousand twelve?!! Sigh.

5. TIMER

The Pomodoro Technique is something I’ve heard about around the internets and kept meaning to check out…but only did recently. It’s basically a time management tool to focus on specific tasks and improve disciple to get shit done. There’s an online Tomato Timer that you can use if you don’t have a kitchen timer or don’t want to involve your smart phone.

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I always have a zillion things on my to-do lists…sometimes I power through them all Bam! Bam! Bam! Check! Check! Check! and other times those items languish. Even if it’s not a tough thing to do, sometimes I just drag my feet for whatever reason. So last week I decided to finally tackle a couple of those tasks already. I started the Tomato Timer and got one item COMPLETED! I also intentionally focused on that one task instead of getting distracted by the two dozen open tabs in my browser, or checking on Facebook, or refreshing my email. I set the “short break” timer, and then when it buzzed, I started the task timer again and completed ANOTHER task! That one I finished with about 40 seconds to spare, and since I felt like I was on a roll, I went and did at least one other thing I’d been meaning to do. And I was still focused on each task as I worked on it. It really helped me see that things *don’t* take that long, and buckling down to just freaking DO THEM already feels a million times better than seeing them on my list, waiting and waiting for me. So I hope to take advantage of this concept a lot more this year, to help me be more efficient and disciplined with my time.

6. PRIORITIES

The last thing I try to keep in mind is that it’s important to use judgment about priorities. Of all the things on my list, some of them are related to hobbies or fun stuff, and when I get into a time crunch, I know that I can ignore that stuff. When work gets busy, I know that it’s perfectly fine to let personal/hobby stuff fall by the wayside. I *want* to do All the Things, and I’m usually more excited about the Want-To-Do’s, but I know that the Need-To-Do’s come first. (I got behind on this blog and Project Life and some other stuff because I was working on actual work stuff most of the time. And I don’t like having those other tasks sitting on the list, but I know that it’s also not a big deal.)ย  Sometimes I go through my list and put a star or circle around the priority tasks for that day, as an additional prompt and visual reminder that it’s GO TIME.

What are your best productivity tips and tools? Have you used one of the timers or other time-management apps?

Looking back at 2014

Early last year I made another set of goals for 2014…And I didn’t really think much about them after that. Have I mentioned that 2014 got really busy? Looking at the list, I’m a little disheartened, but I have to remind myself that the point of my goals was/is to help me focus on the good stuff in life, and in that regard, it was a successful year. I think at this point in my life, goals like this may not be the best for me and my scatterbrain. Hopefully in future years I’ll get back to it. I have a slightly different idea/plan for next year, but I’m going to put that in a separate post.

So here’s the analysis of 2014:

  • I continued to work my butt off in my business and the year was pretty amazing. Woohoo!
  • Due to the aforementioned busyness, my blogging here often fell by the wayside. I now have almost 40 incomplete blog post drafts! I think at the beginning of 2014 it was closer to two dozen.
  • Not only did I not complete MuTu, I did not a single day or week of it. However, I was pretty good at taking walks regularly, and I even actually lost a couple pounds! (One of the post drafts is all about that kind of thing.)
  • I completed my reading goal and read 63 books. A few of my favorites were: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, At Home by Bill Bryson, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane, Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin, and of course Yes Please by Amy Poehler.
  • Due to reading at night before bed, I would therefore stay up too late. I had days/weeks here and there where I got to bed by 1230 (which is early for me), but just as many days/weeks when it was 1am or later. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
  • We did take family photos and couch photos of the twins each month this year (though I’m stopping the monthly couch ones, and will do every six months from here on). I continued Project Life as well as the 365 project (a photo a day, on flickr).
  • We did go on a two-night overnight trip to the coast, and to OMSI, though we did not go to the Zoo (other than for Zoo Lights, which was ridiculous) or the Children’s Museum. We did go on all the now-yearly-I-hope local adventures, like Mt Hood, apple picking, a pumpkin patch, that kind of thing, plus did two daytrips to the coast. So overall I’d say the local adventuring goal was a success!
  • We did not Get Our Shit Together, but we did go away for an overnight without the babies!

And once again, from January 2013:

I feel such pressure to have some perfect beginnings for things like plans and photos ready on the first day of the year. Honestly, Iโ€™m always so scatterbrained that it just never happens. Iโ€™m a mess and I never know what day it is, so often I have to scramble to think of anything. A lifelong procrastinator, thatโ€™s me. This year is no exceptionโ€“as you can tell by getting this up on January 3rd. (I wanted an extra day or two to come up with any more goal ideas.)

I was just reading through the January issue of O Magazine and there’s a section in there about goals and resolutions, and a couple things really stood out to me.

Rule #1 is “You Must Stay True to You.”ย Don’t make goals that don’t make actual real sense for your actual real life. For example, I could make a goal that I will train for a marathon this year! Except that I hate running, I have zero interest in doing it, and while running a marathon is an impressive feat, I have absolutely no desire to do it. (Also, I am lazy.) So even though it might be good for my health and my bragging rights, I’m never going to do it. And I’m perfectly okay with that!

So in the past, when I’ve thought about making goals, I tend to think about the things I’ve been wanting to do, and things that I’ve gotten close to doing already, and things that are just enough outside my comfort zone that it’s not crazy to imagine doing them. A few years ago, I’d been dabbling in knitting and crocheting, and so I made a goal to knit or crochet a garment (something bigger than a scarf or hat). A logical goal that I already had the skills for, if not necessarily the confidence for. (I think I ended up crocheting a vest, which sort of felt like cheating because it was too simple. A different year I did knit a baby sweater, and that felt like a bigger deal!) I do wish I was better and more creative at coming up with interesting lists of things to try and do, though. I love reading other people’s goals and resolutions, as motivation and inspiration for my own. ๐Ÿ™‚

Rule #2 is “There’s nothing magical about January 1.” This article in Smithsonian about how time is just an illusion made me feel a little better about being so unprepared for the new year. ๐Ÿ™‚ The start of a new calendar year seems so fresh and clean and full of potential! And what better way to make yourself fresh and clean and ready to fulfill your potential than carefully crafting thoughtful resolutions, along with beautiful images representing them, well ahead of time? The fact that I’m never ready for anything on January 1 makes me feel sloppy and a little pathetic and a little panic-flail-y (thanks Elizabeth for that excellent and apt term!). So I try to console myself that it’s okay not to have some amazing plan already written out or in the works. And that I can’t magically change myself either, no matter how many goals I keep or track. I’ll still be the same old me at the end of the year, regardless of how much I weigh or how much sleep I’ve gotten or how many vegetables I’ve eaten.

Rule #4 says, “Your slip-ups are only detours.” Have you heard that Jerry Seinfeld motivational advice about don’t break the chain? This is where Rule #1 comes back: I know myself and I know that I will always break the chain. Like most days I’ll break it. Just in the last few days (er, weeks, months), I tell myself I’m going to bed early! And then I just don’t. For whatever reason (ok, it’s usually the internet and/or a book), I stay up too late. I’m a night owl, I like reading before bed, and it’s hard to put down a book, even when I know I’m going to be tired later. So if I were to make a specific, actionable, responsible goal for 2015 like go to bed by 1230 every night, I would have failed three or four times already! No chain at all to even break! So much failure in just the first week of the year, and that would be a terrible way to begin that fresh new 2015. So I don’t make goals like that for myself. I make goals like “be better about XYZ” to try to keep it in mind, without that fear of failure, in fact, sort of building some failure into the process. Goals in that vein aren’t SMART goals, but for the way I am, they’re more realistic and achievable. I want to push myself to do and try to do more and be better, while also accepting who I am (and who I am not).

Anyway, more to come very soon on ideas for 2015…

Happy Birthday To Me

I’m thirty-five! Of course, it’s now been almost two months since my birthday, and it shouldn’t be too surprising that this post is so late; procrastination is a fully-ingrained part of who I am at times…along with many other questionable qualities.DSC_5950-Edi-2t_WEB

Much like turning thirty did, the idea of turning thirty-five made me panic a little bit. Should I celebrate with an amazing birthday bash? Should I make some drastic and impressive personal goals to achieve? Should I map out my next five years to become My Very Best Me? Agh, so much pressure to reflect and plan and be introspective and thoughtful and intelligent. Qualities I don’t always have.

The first weird thing is that 35 is in a whole other age range. The vaunted 18-34 youth segment is officially in the rearview mirror. I’ve never been a good ‘young person’ but now I officially am no longer one. I kind of feel weird about that, like now that I can’t be in that club maybe I should have been a better member of it? I’ve been old at heart for a long time and have embraced the fact that I’m forgetful, a homebody and kind of a square, and so maybe now my physical age makes it a little more acceptable?

And the other thing is that 35 is one of those nice big Grown Up Adult ages. I’m an employee, a business owner, a wife, a mother. I should know what I’m doing, right? Like, I need to have Life, The Universe, and Everything figured out by now. (Although I suppose I have until 42 for that, right? Haha! Dorky book joke!) But…pretty sure I don’t have any idea about much of anything. This year more than ever, I’ve had to work on juggling and balancing everything. It’s tough, for sure. It involves a lot of list-making, trying to focus on certain tasks at certain times of day, and staying up way too late just about all the time.

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I think back to my 33rd birthday–when the babies hadn’t arrived yet and my face and belly were still so swollen–and I feel like I kind of haven’t changed, or that time hasn’t really passed. Which is ridiculous, because now we have these huge toddlers and all these baby gates, and I’m generally a lot more tired than I used to be, and I have no free time. I do get so much love and joy from our little ones growing and changing and hugging, and I’m working on being patient (overall I’m waaaay more patient than I thought I’d be, but there are plenty of occasions when I just can’t deal with whatever anymore). But for the most part, I feel like the same old me. And I don’t have any maps or grand plans or bashes.

So what did I do this year? I read some books. I participated in a lovely book club. I took a lot of photos. I took a lot of walks and listened to a lot of podcasts. I didn’t sleep enough. I went back to New York for the first time. I kept up (in fits and spurts) with my Project Life album and continued my photo-a-day project (thank god for the iphone). Our family went on various adventures, small and large. I’m working on being more present and attentive; the boys have been so much fun as they keep growing and developing, and they seem to love having fun with us. In this next year, I hope to continue working on the ever-elusive work/life balance, and trying to squeeze in more fun, personal, hobby type activities. DSC_5951-1_WEB

And of course I’m sure there will be all kinds of new adventures this year too!

One good thing about me

If I am out with other people at a restaurant and the server asks about dessert, I will always immediately say, “Yes.” Many women hesitate and waver and make excuses and apologies and justifications. Not me–I raise my hand as a proud dessert-haver. No excuses, no guilt. JUST DELICIOUS DESSERT.

So if you’re out with me, you never have to worry about the dessert question, you never have to worry about having a reason. We will have dessert, we will enjoy it, the end.

Life is short, people. Cake does a body good.

Note that this post is tagged with “advice” and “health.” On purpose. ๐Ÿ˜€

PS: After I drafted this, I found this link snippet on Joy the Baker: “Eating: A Manifesto: Hey ladies, we canย stop torturing ourselves about the brownie and just eat the brownie. ย My goodness the way we torture ourselves.” AMEN.

My best tips for Packing and Moving

First of all–no, we aren’t moving anytime soon. This is completely out of the blue. I was listening to an old Joy the Baker podcast and they were talking about moving and packing. Yet I think I do have some helpful things to share about the packing/moving process. And today marks two years ago that we landed in Portland after our cross-country move from Brooklyn. It seems way longer than two years!

Now–all of my moving experience has been without pets or small children. That is a whole other beast, one that I have no ideas about.

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1. My best tip about packing and moving is to remember that it sucks. There’s no way to make it easy and beautiful and stress-less. Unless you are very rich and have an extra house you can live in while you pack up another one.

2. Are you over the age of 25? That means that you are a grown-up and it’s time to hire movers. The time and effort it will save you is SO WORTH THE COST. I hired the same company the three times that I moved while we lived in New York (Manor Movers). They were so fast and efficient. Plus they wrap/protect big items that you can’t fit in boxes. It made moving day so EASY. (Relatively speaking. Remember, moving sucks.)

The extra-grown-up option is to hire movers to actually *pack* for you. I hear that this is an excellent option for those with small children or babies. Leave the house for a few hours and come back to boxes all done up? Yes please!

3. I don’t know about you, but the idea of scavenging around town dumpsters looking for assorted grungy boxes makes me all anxious and shuddery. How long will it take to find them? How many stores do you have to go to? What if it’s the wrong day and the boxes are all gone? What if you don’t find enough boxes? What if they’re all too small for your stuff? What if you run out of boxes? NO THANK YOU. Buy yourself a pack of actual, new moving boxes from a site like this. They arrive at your door super fast, they’re new and sturdy, and you don’t have to go DO anything to find them. They have sets that include different, coordinating sizes, depending on how big a space you’re packing. Again, SO completely worth the cost. You can then flatten them on the other end of your move and store them for the next move. (I do this. While in Brooklyn, I kept flattened moving boxes under the bed, under the futon, and behind our dresser. And probably some in one of the closets too.)

4. Buy more boxes than you think you’ll need. If you’re anything like me, you are way underestimating how much crap you have. Even though I saved the boxes from the previous sets, I always needed another set of them! I just accumulate stuff over the years!

5. During the packing process, cull as much crap as you can. We stuffed my car completely full and actually stopped at Goodwill on the way out of the city, with another three big bags of clothes plus a few random things like my old printer and maybe a lamp. Books are a really easy thing to start with–you can always pick out 3-5 books each time to see the bookshelf, and put them aside for the donate pile. (Our Brooklyn apartment building had a little library shelf in the basement laundry room–so we could just drop our pile there.) Be ruthless with your clothes–as you’re taking them off hangers and out of drawers, ask yourself if you have worn it recently and if you reeeaaallly need it.

6. Organization…I remember reading someone’s smart idea about numbering each box and then keeping a master list of what was in each box. I was totally on board with that and did that….for about a day. Then I got lazy and/or forgot.

My strategy is generally just using a big marker (those box sets include a marker) and noting not just the room, but the contents. So instead of just writing “kitchen” on three boxes, for example, label one “plates and dishes”, another one “coffee maker and blender”, another one “mugs,” etc etc. Being specific is your friend on the other end.

Then there is this smart idea: tape that is labeled with room names! 4 Bedroom Labeling Tape I saw another tip recently about using these labels on the boxes, *and* labeling the appropriate doorways and entrances, so that it’s kind of a matching game as the moving truck is being unloaded. Easy peasy for you and for any movers who are working with you.

It’s helpful to put the boxes in the rooms they belong in; that way you’re not overwhelmed with unpacking your entire house worth of sixty boxes in one place! And if there’s an unpacked room that’s stressing you out–just shut the door. The boxes will wait. ๐Ÿ™‚

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7. The Important Box. This is my favorite packing strategy. You probably already know to keep your suitcase/backpack ready with your toiletries and changes of clothes. But what about small things that you really don’t want to lose in a sea of boxes? Put them all together in one Important Box. That box stays with you, it doesn’t go in the moving truck. I put things like my assorted charger cables, my passport, my main notebooks/planner, a book I’m reading, that kind of thing. So that box is a mess, sure, but I can rest easy knowing that the real stuff I need every day (or that I just need to know where it is), is with me all the time, nice and safe.

8. Take pictures. I learned this the hard way: take pictures of your new place before you unpack or unload your stuff, and take pictures of your old place when you’ve packed it all up. This is evidence of the state of your place before and after, in case you need proof of what you did or didn’t damage.

It’s also a nice idea to take a picture of your street, and your house/building from your street. Just to have as a record, just a picture of where you lived, where you built up lots of experiences and memories. Then of course, take a picture of your new street and the front of your new house. It’s kind of exciting to think about what kinds of experiences and memories you’ll have there.

9. The hardest part of packing up is the last 10%. You’ve got all the books, all your clothes, all the furniture, all the towels. But then…there’s this random assortment of other crap. It doesn’t really have a category, and I never know what to do with it. Half of it ends up tossed in on top of unrelated boxes (the top half of book boxes always end up stuffed with random stuff), and the other half has to get thrown into new boxes and labeled “misc”. The dreaded “misc”! Where does it go? Where do you unpack it? Why do you even have it?!

I don’t have any answers or tips or advice for that. (Other than that I know that if I culled better/more and collected less stuff, I’d have less of these leftovers!) If you do, I’d love to hear it.

10. Other moving options: renting plastic bins instead of buying boxes, driving your own stuff in a rented truck, or using a service like PODS. I think the bins idea is really neat, but you’d have to be moving in or to/from locations that have them. We thought about driving a rental truck for awhile. I looked around online and heard about some U-Haul horror stories and saw lots of recommendations for Penske. So I called Penske and made a reservation just in case, and found their service to be fantastic, and the rates very reasonable. We did decide to use PODS instead and drive my car, though, and it was very simple to cancel the reservation. (I was kind of sad to do it, though!)

PODS was overall a good experience for us. However, apparently there is a special city division that I talked to at one point who gave me a clear window for when to have the POD delivered and picked up the same morning–and then on subsequent calls they had no idea what I was talking about. I was like, DUDE, you can’t drop off a 16 foot storage container on a Brooklyn street for a month! Thankfully it all ended up working out, but just be aware of that if you want to use them in a big city.

We waffled on whether to drive a truck, or drive ourselves (since I had a car) and use the POD. Like I said, we went with the POD. The rental truck was way cheaper, but there were additional costs to consider: would have taken a lot of gas money (moving trucks get TERRIBLE gas mileage, versus my little car that got 30mpg on the highway), it would have been harder to drive/park, and maybe harder to take random side trips on the way. Not to mention: we would have either had to ship the car (which was $1000-1500), or tow the car behind the truck…which would have been possible, but a huge pain in the ass for sure. The total cost difference between the two ended up being only about $1000. Which yes, it’s a lot of money, but reducing the hassle and increasing the adventure was worth it.

11. If you can, make it an adventure!

We got to drive across the country! We visited my husband’s family and some of my cousins, saw a number of beautiful national parks, dipped our toes in the Mississippi, and almost broke down on the side of the road under a blazing western Nebraska sun. Adventuring all over the place. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was extra special knowing that our babies were ‘with us’ on the inside, and that it would be a long time before we could do an adventure of this level again, so we tried to soak it up as best we could.

However, as exciting and fun as road trips are….they can be REALLY boring at times. Especially on the Midwest, when the entirety of the directions were “Continue West on I-80.” ๐Ÿ™‚DSC_5626_WEB

At some point we’re going to have to move again, so I’d love to know your best moving tips to add to this list, so please leave a comment below!

How We Keep Our House Clean

Hang on a sec, let me finish laughing.

Hahahahaha. “Clean.” Hahahahaha. That’s hilarious.

We are kind of slobs. Wait, that doesn’t sound right; we aren’t dirty or living in filth or anything. We just get lazy about things like vacuuming and dusting. It’s not a priority for us. And I’m hoping that we’re not the only ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

But here’s what we do to keep a semblance of clean…ish.

1. After the babies were born, I kept noticing that the upstairs bathroom counter was in need of cleaning. But the cleaning stuff was all downstairs. I would think briefly about going to get it, but almost immediately dismiss the idea. And then by the time I got back downstairs, the idea about cleaning stuff had gone clear out of my little head. Partly due to baby-fog, no doubt, but also because I’m just forgetful.

But one day I finally realized that I needed to bring the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. I got a spray bottle and poured in some all-purpose cleaner from the bottle downstairs. I grabbed another roll of paper towels, and set both of those to live on the back of the toilet. So all the cleaning stuff is RIGHT THERE, making it no excuses and really fast and easy. (I now wonder if this is just What Adults Do and I never knew?) And now I’m pretty good at seeing when the counter is starting to look a little icky, and taking the sixty seconds to wipe everything down. I do that a little more than once a week.

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2. I can handle things like dust, because it’s small and it doesn’t get in my way. And I make a lot of piles of things, which then can become “invisible.” But if there’s enough clutter in the way of things, I get all hand-flappy and just can’t take it.

When we rearranged the living room, we had a big empty space for baby stuff. (We call it the Baby Carnival, because originally there were several “stations” of baby activities to rotate through.) And when we put the babies to bed upstairs, all the stuff was…still everywhere. I hated it and it felt suffocating. So we started piling things/boxing things/moving things around so it wasn’t everywhere.

Our system now is great. Every night after baby bedtime, we put away the baby carnival: We have a bin where all the books go. We have a bin for small toys (stacking cups, rattles, that kind of thing) and a bin for bigger toys (the bubble mower, the clacker walker toy, the musical drums). There are two smaller bins for the two kinds of blocks. So everything gets thrown (sometimes literally) back into a bin or container during the bedtime routine or right after the babies go up to bed. The exersaucer moves out of the way, the foam mats moves off to the side, the baby corral gets folded up.

All of this takes maybe five minutes, and we both work on it together. It feels SO much better. It’s like a physical demarcation between baby/family time, and grown-up/relaxing time. I swear, I take a nice happy sigh every time, because the floor is CLEAR and the clutter is out of sight! Or at least off the floor. (Well, that particular clutter, anyway.)

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It all gets set out again later at night to be ready for the morning, so one might argue that it’s a bit pointless to put it away for a few hours. But it really does make such a difference to see a clear floor, if only for a bit.

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3. We finally made ourselves a chore chart. Like we’re little kids who need a sticker or something. We listed out all the chores that need to be done in each room/area of the house each week, though some we specified bi-weekly or monthly. (Note that this does not include extremist shit like wipe down baseboards and other craziness.) There is a column for each week, to put checkmarks when the chore is completed. Now….the most we’ve ever done is probably 90% of the weekly list. And…that is not the norm. Did I mention that we’re kind of lazy?

However, I do like having: a) a visual reminder of what needs to be done and b) the satisfaction of checking off an item. The list has definitely encouraged a lot more to be done than would have done otherwise. Plus it helps equalize the work.

We (well, really “I”) have definitely gotten better with the frequency of things like sweeping the kitchen, though vacuuming is still not done very often. (But I can say that when we FINALLY got a grown-up vacuum, it made a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. It’s a Shark from Costco and it pulls up so much! It’s very satisfying (if a little gross)!)

When we lived in NYC, we were better about doing chores more regularly and more purposely–we would designate a day/timeframe to do the cleaning, and we would both work on it at the same time. However, now there are two more small people in the house with us, and it’s not at all easy to do most cleaning with babies around–they try to chew on the broom, they were afraid of the vacuum cleaner for a long time, etc. So the cleaning has to happen either after baby bedtime, or one person cleans while the other supervises babies. But our “free” time sans babies is so short, and that there are much better things to do during that time, such as eat dinner, take a shower, watch tv and read the internet.

So now things are a little (okay, a lot) more sporadic. We’ll get better again, eventually. Probably.

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4. Tools:

For awhile we used Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner, but a new bottle had a new, terrible scent that I hated. I switched to the orange-flavored Method all-purpose cleaner and like that a lot.

We are (well, I am) definitely a fan of cleaning with vinegar.

OxiClean is fucking amazing. Baby clothes get a lot of stains, as you can well imagine. Soaking them in OxiClean makes the stains gone. LIKE MAGIC.

I was AMAZED when I finally tried Magic Erasers in a bathtub. But OxiClean is just as good, and without nearly as much physical effort/scrubbing. BECAUSE IT’S MAGIC. Like vinegar, you can use it everywhere.

We use swiffer cloths to ‘dust’ and sweep bathrooms. Not even on the swiffer pole handle thing, we just hold the cloth in hand. We get the big box of them from Costco and they live in the hall closet, right next to the upstairs bathroom. Easy to grab, pulls up lots of dust nice and quick.

I recently realized that cotton burp cloths (the plain Gerber ones, which are seriously the best burp cloths ever) are also great for drying and ‘polishing’ surfaces like the sink and the stove. That helps get rid of the last bit of moisture and residue, and makes everything shiny.

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5. Good inspirational reading can put you in the mood to clean!

I love Unfuck Your Habitat — it’s simple, no-nonsense, and generally encourages you to just do it already. Some good specific cleaning tips can be found there too. The 20/10 idea plus “no marathons” are great too. And after scrolling through the befores and afters, I almost always go clean or tidy something. I have the app, too, but don’t really use it. (Because I’m lazy; the app itself seems great.)

For something a little more tasteful, Unclutterer is a good resource. It talks more about methods, options, upcycling/reusing materials, and other thoughts and resources for staying organized. Plus hilarious “unitaskers.”

Last year sometime I found this blog to read occasionally, called I Heart Organizing and I kind of enjoyed going through her posts about challenging herself to do some more detailed home cleaning chores.

Also, apparently, writing about/thinking about cleaning puts you in a mood too! The night I drafted this, I did some kitchen basics later that night, and the next day did a whole bunch of cleaning I’d been putting off. I felt good and excited to make some spaces shinier and cleaner, and then of course I got to check a bunch of things off the chore list! (The problem is that I will probably never re-enact that happy daytime cleaning bug. Oh well. Gotta strike while the iron is hot! Oh that reminds me, I have some ironing that I’ve been putting off….wonder when I will get to that.)

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Child labor:

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So what are your favorite little tips to make cleaning faster/easier/better? Any websites or apps that you like for some cleaning inspiration? Or just tell me that we’re not the only ones who let dust accumulate. ๐Ÿ™‚

twin mama bloggers

Hey just a quick blog announcement–I finally made a separate list on my sidebar blogroll for twin blogs. So check it out–are you on there? If not, comment with your site so I can add you! Who are your other favorite twin bloggers that I should read?