Detailed New House Overview

Here is a room by room tour of our new house! It will be long and rambly and full of way too many details. 🙂

In general, we’ve been able to reuse things we already had instead of buying a bunch of new stuff. I’ve been purposeful in not wanting to buy tons of new, and trying to buy used whenever possible. With the exception of the fridge and washer dryer, of course.

Besides appliances, the other big new thing we added to the house is custom window shades! Only the living room had any window coverings when we bought the house. We bought Veneta shades from Home Depot, white partially opaque bottom-up, and we had Home Depot install them too. They are AWESOME and they make us very happy. 🙂

So let’s start in the living room. I’m extra happy with this room most recently because I finally got a new awesome rug! I really wanted a light-colored room; in our rental house the couch was dark brown and the rug(s) were dark green. This house has better light and I just crave light, so I needed the furnishings to help with that.

I bought a new white shag rug from Wayfair back in November…but oh my god the smell was so, so awful. We tried to let it air out in the garage, but it didn’t really work. We brought it back in the house for a couple days and opened all the doors and windows. The immediate smell sort of dissipated, but I spent an hour or so in there watching tv, and then my lungs started to hurt. We were about to have that birthday party and I was like, no way am I having people into this room where it just smells toxic. So we took it back out to the garage and brought in our stupid green rugs. I then began trolling the online marketplaces for the size and color/patterns that I was looking for. In February, I found this perfect gray one on Offer Up, it was 8×10, a few months old but in like-new condition, for only $110. (I got down on the ground to smell it up close to ensure there was no gross chemical smell!) It’s smaller than I wanted (ideally I wanted a 9×11 or so), but it works.

The couch is a used IKEA Vimle from Facebook. It ended up being dingier than advertised, but the covers all come off and are washable. I washed the cushion covers once early on but it didn’t help, so at some point I need to remove all the covers, soak them in Oxyclean, and wash them again. Alternatively we could buy a new set of covers from IKEA, which is still way less than a new sofa. Anyway, it’s a comfortable couch, I adore the chaise, and I REALLY love that it’s a storage chaise! The storage ottoman is awesome too. I have blankets and pillows stored in both. So convenient!

I’m very happy to have the Poang out and ready to use. It’s such a comfortable place to sit and read! I got the fake tree in the corner from a client, which fits and fills that space perfectly. Yes we still have our cozy fairylights up. 🙂 At some point I want to get nice midcentury lamps, but for now the cheap Target lamps that we already had do the job. We’re reusing the mirror and IKEA 2×2 expedit for a ‘console table.’ I found some cool midcentury ones but I’m wary of the space. And this way there’s still lots of storage. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to upgrade.

Next up, the kitchen! It connects to the living room through a pocket door. 🙂

It’s a big open space. It is very light in the daytime. The major downside is lack of counter space. We could put in an island but that would block all that open space. We have that little IKEA island over there to the right, but generally it’s covered with stuff, not usable for prepping food. We’ve got one large window, a glass sliding door, and a smaller window. We got some of the plain long white curtains for the big ones but haven’t gotten around to hanging curtains for the sink window. I also haven’t gotten around to washing/shrinking/hemming the curtains yet…

We still have our basic wooden IKEA table. In the corner by our whiteboard I added a plant stand for some gifted monsteras and the still-going pointsettias. The only thing you can’t really see is the pantry, and little built-in desk/storage in the right corner above. The desk area is full of crap, and the pantry isn’t super tidy, but oh man, I LOVE IT. I was also worried about having fewer cabinets than our old house, but these cabinets are larger. Especially that full-length double cabinet! Ooh, and we have that cool lower corner spinny cabinet! And again, pantry! We have our little extra stand next to the cabinets with the fruit bowl and compost bin. The trash can is large and unfortunate, but we don’t want to have only a tiny trash under the sink.

From the living room, you go up a half-staircase to the upstairs grown-up floor. There’s a large landing that isn’t a great use of space, but I’m proud of what I put together. Those prints we already had framed, the ‘rug’ is two of the small rugs we had in our old hallway, and the fake plant is new from IKEA. It’s perfect!

To the left of the landing are the small bedrooms that we’re using as offices. These aren’t quite as finished yet. Here’s A’s office which is also the guest bedroom. He always works from home but usually works at the kitchen table when the boys are at school. We haven’t gotten any artwork up on the walls; it’s all in a pile on the floor/shelf. I did get a used bedframe from FB marketplace to replace the heavy metal folding couch frame that we’d had before. And there’s another new fake plant in here. That’s the only new thing in the room! Everything else was in our previous office/guest room.

My office is the tiny, weird-shaped room. But that’s fine. This picture actually looks pretty nice; it was right after I did some work with a helper to unpack things and start filling in/organizing the new shelf I bought. (I had a 1×4 already and ended up buying a 3×4 to put next to it.) I got rid of my giant desk and switched to this small table (found used on FB). The blue rug is the third hallway rug from the old house. I have a lot of things waiting to go up on the walls leaning in a pile in the lower right corner. I have a deep closet that’s full of two small cabinets, several bins, and my little boxes of loose prints. Currently the floor is littered with piles of magazines, a bin, miscellaneous camera things, and addition shelves and frames. I have a picture of the current mess but I’m not going to show it to you. 🙂

Part of the issue is that in our old room, we had two large shelves that held a lot of stuff (books and crafts and things). In our current room, there is no room for any shelves, so all that stuff needs to find a new home. We put one of the bookshelves in the living room, but it’s got more general and family related stuff now. So the shelf in my office holds some of it (in addition to the business and photography books I’d already had in my office space), and some is now in the basement.

The nicer bathroom is up there too. Double vanity!! A storage closet IN the bathroom!! Plus a huge vanity–it’s got six drawers in addition to the under-sink open space. It’s so much brighter than our old main bathroom too.

Right outside the bathroom is a linen closet. Hurray for more storage! This one is actually not super full.

Here is our room! Like I mentioned in the previous post, it’s a much smaller master than we’ve ever had. It works fine, though. Our king bed fits in there, but we had to turn it this way to be able to have walking space to the closet. Unfortunately it sits over/blocks the only vent–however, we hacked that by getting some vent covers and turning them sideways to aim the air out the sides instead of straight up into the bedframe.

There’s the other side, where you can see the walkway area and the walk-in closet. It’s smaller than M’s but it’s big enough to fit our hanging clothes and the dresser that we have. We got stuff up on the walls pretty quick–except the mirror and there’s also a companion family photo that’s been leaning against the wall in its box for months now.

Off the kitchen there’s a half-staircase going down to the kids’ level. (To the left you see the pocket door and stairs going up.) Look, it has a door! I love all the doors in this house. I am anti-open-concept. 🙂

There’s a large closet, the second bathroom (which isn’t cute, so I won’t show you), and two more bedrooms. Both boys were very adamant that they were NOT going to share a room anymore. Here is M’s room. For both rooms, we exchanged the side dressers we’d had in our room with theirs, and repurposed 2×4 IKEA shelves. M has a large window but it doesn’t get much light. It does have an extra-deep sill and the boys sit up there sometimes. 🙂 He has a huge walk-in closet that has a table and chair plus some of their art supplies. And a bunch of my craft supplies (obviously not shown in this older photo).

Here’s E’s room. He has two small regular closets next to each other, and that huge window gets a ton of light. We don’t hang clothes in any of the boys’ closets, by the way. Someday maybe.

E made a ‘studio’ in one of his closets too.

Then, across from that downstairs closet, is another door that goes to the finished basement. We have a playroom! This has been the dream for years. Our old couch is here, plus our old coffee table. The 4×4 shelf used to be in our living room. The dark bookshelf was in the garage. We will at some point get another 4×4 to not only match and provide some nice symmetry, but to add storage for all the things that are on the floor still. We have our second tv down here but we haven’t really used it thus far. The boys don’t use this room a ton yet. But I think eventually they will, and in general I’m just so happy to have extra space for storage and playspace. (And eventually music practice.)

The piano from the former owners is still here! We finally got it looked at recently and turns out it’s a birdcage piano, which are hard and expensive to tune and repair. So we probably will have to get rid of it. We haven’t gotten any artwork up on the walls but we have plenty.

Finally, there’s a little utility room…that I use as a studio! Notice the giant furnace on the right; I just shoot straight ahead and it doesn’t show. The water heater is in the back left corner from this angle. It’s not a super high ceiling, but it’s not a short basement ceiling either. (Unfortunately the duct thing means I can’t put my backdrop up all the way.) It’s not a large space, but it’s way, way better than nothing! And it’s super awesome to have a place to keep all the stuff. So much stuff! Lighting, stands, props, all kinds of things. It all used to be either in one of the cars or in the garage. It’s MY space, and I love it. I would never buy a house just because it had a ‘studio space,’ but it was a HUGE plus. Both basement rooms plus the nice yard space are what elevated this house into, Wow, this checks all our boxes.

Things we bought used:
Double bed frame
Living room rug
Couch
Fake tree for the living room (free)
Small table for desk in my office

Things we bought brand-new:
Showerhead after the original broke within a week of moving in
Kitchen curtains
Bedroom curtains and one curtain rod (3 sets, only one is actually up)
Two fake plants
Five real plants: Three pointsettias, one pothos, one snake plant
Plant stand
Replaced one cheap lamp (with an identical cheap lamp)
One 2×3 IKEA shelf for my office
A few kitchen accessories, like small interior shelves and new measuring cups
Two small IKEA ledge shelves and two frames
Thick rug pad for living room
Thin rug mat for landing/bathroom rugs
One set of bath mats for upstairs bathroom
Small TV stand for basement
Two IKEA couch pillows & covers
Two posters from Society6 and frames from Joann

Life at 3.5: Spring 2016

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The boys are 3 1/2! And man, we are definitely living with three-year-olds. (Though M says, “I’m thirty-five,” because that’s how much he weighs.) There are a lot of tantrums–most of them are about food, and most of them are when the boys are tired and/or hungry. Sometimes they’re both having a tantrum at the same time. Fun!

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Some very common phrases in our house right now include, a whining “I don’t have that much!” which can refer to anything from a pile of magnatiles or a bowl of blueberries. And “You won’t be my best friend anymore!” which is so hilariously threenager that I can’t even take it. E’s also in a phase of responding to any question with “no” and a cheeky grin. Like, “You guys went to the park today?” “No.” “Did you have fun at the play cafe?” “No.” Silly goose. Oh, and if one of them is mad at us, they yell, “Don’t Talk To Me!” Drama galore!

Potty training is going great. They’re both in undies all day with no problem (they FINALLY are doing well with potty at daycare) and are in pullups overnight. We’re dreading the ordeal of night training, so we’re still procrastinating on that.

We made progress on another big-kid update: On Easter Sunday, we randomly changed the cribs to toddler ‘beds.’ It was a rough transition. The first night was actually full of screaming. (Our fault for not preparing them and doing this so randomly.) In the first week, there was some accidental rolling out of bed, there was some purposeful getting out of bed, there were screams, and giggles, and taking forever to get to sleep. Oy, it was so frustrating! However, now that it’s been a couple months, the misbehavior has subsided. There was a fun few days when they were running out of their room giggling after we’d put them to bed. After we shooed them back, we could hear them plotting: M: “Let’s wait till they go away, then we’ll out of bed!” E: “Okay!” (ARGH, twins!) Thankfully, it was only a few nights.

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Relatedly, the boys are no longer napping at home. (They are still napping at daycare, though.) This shouldn’t be a surprise, with the bed change and their age, but it is not a welcome update. We really needed that daytime break on weekends–for work, for our own naps, for trips to the gym or grocery store. And, you know, for sanity and some freaking silence.

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There is good news though: we’ve started doing a 30-40 minute car nap, which makes the evenings much less cranky. Plus they go to bed a little earlier, and sleep more soundly, and sleep in a bit later.  Fewer bedtime shenanigans too. And of course not having to be home for several early afternoon hours really opens up our schedule for events and outings! I really like not having to live according to a nap schedule.

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Mornings have changed a bit too. Once they could get up easily by themselves, they’d just start playing magnatiles together, or reading. But often they’d start arguing, and pitter patter into our room, saying, “He won’t share!” or “I don’t have that much!” For the last couple months now, the routine is that they get out of bed and come in to our room, crawling up on our bed to snuggle. It’s pretty stinking adorable to open my eyes to E’s or M’s sweet face with a big huge grin. Plus it means we can be lazy and stay in bed longer.

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I’ve been taking the boys to the local library branch every couple weeks. They love picking up piles of random books and piling onto my lap to read them, and then checking them out. And of course they like returning them into the book drop! I’ve been taking snapshots of the haul each time to keep a record. It’s funny how they’ve gotten really attached to some of the books. And some of the books are really odd, like one they loved was Pat-a-Cake Baby…which I swear was written on some kind of drug trip.

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We have a growing (alternately very hip and very unhip) playlist of mostly ‘grown-up’ music that the boys are into right now. Which is great, because it’s all from our own music libraries, so I like the songs. (As opposed to, say, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Spider, or god forbid, There’s a Hole in My Bucket. WORST SONG EVER.) However, when I inevitably find myself singing along to Chandelier or Blank Space, the boys say, No singing, Mama!

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After their mind was blown by Under Pressure (this was a few months ago now), they made “microphones” out of chalk holders and they like to “sing” into them. E is always “Fred Mercury” and M is “David Bowie” or just “David.” Nowadays they sing whatever–sometimes gibberish, sometimes one of these songs (this past week it’s been Shake It Off), sometimes a Red Yarn song (he’s a local kid’s musician). Oh, and now they get to play with the real-looking Rock Band microphone too, which they think is amazing. They plug it in to the heating vent in the living room and carry it around the room to sing.

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For a few months, they forgot about their magnatiles, but they are firmly obsessed again. (Which means lots of issues about who has more/not enough.) And they’re really into puzzles right now. We have a few sets (thanks Grandparents!), and they’re able to do them all by themselves now. It’s really cute to hear them parroting things we’ve said about helping them match pieces.

I want to be sure to acknowledge that the annoying stuff is not the whole picture. Yes, the typical 3-year-old behavior sometimes makes me want to scream with frustration and impatience (like getting ready for bedtime, UGH the worst)…but there are a lot of wonderful things about this age too.

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We’ve been doing some baking together occasionally. On Valentine’s Day we all made pink chocolate chip cookies. They did such a great job at pouring and stirring and scooping…and eating the batter. 🙂 They ADORE ‘smoolies’ [smoothies] and helping me make them–putting things in the blender, pushing the button. The other day we made apple carrot muffins, and they poured all the ingredients in for me and helped stir. DSC_7410_WEB

It surprises me how much they can do. I keep thinking they’re so little and not yet ready for fine-motor manual tasks…but they’re quite agile and capable. We need to remember to allow them to push and explore their physical boundaries.

They still love helping and want to help with everything. (This was true a year ago too–but now they can actually do stuff!). About half the time, of course, that helping comes in the form of a tantrum, like the time I got a spoon out of the drawer to make the oatmeal, and then E started hopping and whiny crying, “I wanted to do it!” Being psychic would be helpful for living with three-year-olds.

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Other cute mis-pronounciations include decker-bocker bus (double-decker bus), hot tog (hot dog), wallermelon (watermelon), and Burger Bill (Burgerville). Oh, and the other day I was talking to them about what they can be when they grow up. E wants to be a cooker (a cook) and M wants to be a fireman.

We started a sticker chart this spring! Originally it was to help with naptime and bedtime, to convince them to stay in their beds. That basically didn’t happen at all. Oh well. We also gave stickers for things like going potty on their own, bussing their table, brushing their teeth on their own. When they filled a whole row of stickers, they got a reward–an extra episode of tv, or time to play iPad games. It’s pretty much the cutest thing watching them get a sticker and put it on their chart. Sadly, the novelty has since worn off…which I don’t mind too much, actually. If they don’t really care about the stickers but they’re still somewhat motivated or working on those items, then that’s still a win.

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The best part of three-year-olds is that there is lots of laughter and silliness. They still play together all the time, and it’s happy and peaceful at least 85% of the time. (They do fight over toys or how much each of them have.) (And sometimes the silliness isn’t appropriate, like when it’s bedtime.) But they LOVE playing chase with us, just running in circles in the house or in the garage. They love being tickled, and pretending that I’m a monster trying to get them, or any other random silly game I make up. They like directing things too: “I’m the teacher, you’re the kid.” “Say, ‘I’m going to get you!'” “You chase me!”

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And there is so much love and affection. I already mentioned the morning cuddles. When I pick them up from daycare, they literally run over to me ready to tackle me with hugs. It is the best. AND when someone comes back from being gone or away, they will say, “I missed you!” with big happy grins and hugs. Again, the best. They also are still fairly polite, and ask each other to do things, or one will go get/give something to his brother as a favor. They still like to hold hands with us, and they still want to be carried or get a shoulder ride (which is easier than carrying with arms…but hauling a 35-pound preschooler is rough on the shoulders). They still want plenty of hugs and snuggles at bedtime. They’re really so very sweet.

So yeah, overall, this is a really neat age. They understand so much, they can really communicate, they can do lots of things by themselves, and they get excited about so many things. Like seeing an airplane or a MAX train, or eating fresh berries in their morning oatmeal, or coloring pictures for family members. We’re really enjoying these sweet boys right now! ❤ ❤

Easter 2016!

Just as this past Halloween and Christmas felt like the boys’ first ‘real’ holidays, this Easter was the best one yet. They were so excited about the Easter Bunny coming to visit, and doing some egg hunts.

We attended a group Easter egg hunt and brunch at a golf course. They were psyched for the pastries, and then for the hunt. They willingly wore their bunny ears. 🙂 I loved watching them eagerly grab eggs for their baskets! Then we all “played” putt-putt, and watching them push their golf balls around was adorable.

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That evening, we went to visit the Easter bunny at the mall! (The day before a holiday has been a great way to avoid crazy lines at Easter and Christmas for the last couple years.) The boys were SO happy and excited to see and meet and hug the Easter bunny this year! It made me smile with so-precious-it-almost-hurts feeling.

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On Easter morning we did a little egg hunt in our yard. My dad came to visit and helped us dye Easter eggs! I baked them in the oven instead of boiling them (I saw this video on Facebook), and they really seemed to like picking out colors for the eggs. I didn’t really let them do much…we only had one dozen, and I figured it would just be a giant mess if they tried to pick up those wire egg holders.

Then we went to a delicious Easter brunch at Edgefield–they ate a ton! Fruit, omelets, waffles, bacon, sausage, rolls, pastries, etc. (Kids four and under eat free at the holiday buffets, fyi.)

When we came home, we did another indoor egg hunt. Once the boys had found and gathered all the eggs, E took them upstairs to their room and proceeded to set up his own egg hunt for the rest of us. He announced, “Ok everyone, come find the eggs!” He’d made piles of eggs around the room, and then he pointed them all out for us. “Here’s some, and there’s some…” Heh.

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Hope you and your family had a fun Easter. 🙂

This Is A Post

I hate it when I get out of the habit of blogging regularly. It seems like then it becomes a Big Deal to post something, like it has to be Important enough to break the radio silence, so to speak.

I’ve got a couple posts percolating (some in my mind, some finally here in WP) so I figured if I break the ice with a stupid non-post post, that will be easier to post something else.

Also here’s a crappy picture of my pretty tulips. I’m really proud of them, actually. Planting these was the very first time I’d ever planted flower bulbs, and I assumed that I’d probably done it wrong and they wouldn’t come up. So the fact that they’ve come up, even at different heights and at different paces, feels like a huge win for me. For a couple years I’ve had the vision of this walkway being lined with flowers, because it’s so perfect for that. And now it’s a reality! Hurray!

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And here’s a nicer picture of whatever fluffy trees are now blooming around Portland. I always think that all spring-flowering trees are cherry trees…but the cherries are long done flowering already (as well as peach–did you know they are pink blossoms too? I didn’t.). Apples and pears are apparently currently blooming, so maybe these are one of those? Who knows. I just know that I like flowering trees.

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What life is like right now {January 2016}

I thought it would be fun to include a full rundown of our current daily life in my 2016 Project Life album. So I’m putting it here too, just for full posterity. M & E are 3 years (+ 2 months), and I know that daily routines will surely be quite different by next January. DSC_6994_WEB

The boys “wake up” at 7:45 – the owl clock turns green telling them they can get up. Usually they’re already awake and they yell out, “IT’S GREEN!” They can climb out of their cribs, but they don’t do it every day, and they don’t do it before we get to their room.

Breakfast is oatmeal (Trader Joe’s quick cook steel-cut oats) with smashed banana and blueberry sauce, sometimes with frozen blueberries on top. Also Cheerios, and sometimes raisins. Sometimes lately there will be a big tantrum if we don’t feed them fast enough, or in the order they prefer. (Usually it’s only one who does this, so that’s a small blessing, I guess?) After they eat, they play with stuff in their pajamas for awhile.

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Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I usually wake up with them and our nanny comes at 8:30, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Daddy wakes up with them and takes them to daycare. On nanny days, there is a long morning outing to somewhere like a musical performance at a kid-friendly café, or OMSI, or a park. Often there’s a parks & rec class (like sports, movement, preschool cooking) in there too, depending on the season.

When they’re at home, lunch is around 1230. There’s applesauce with chia seeds, yogurt (full-fat plain, mixed with homemade mango puree [from frozen store-bought mango pieces]), and then something like a frozen whole-grain waffle with jam, or a quesadilla, or a PBJ, or lately, a scrambled egg muffin.

They go down for nap between 1-130, and wake up between 330-4. Sometimes they stir, and sometimes they call out, “I’M AWAKE!”, and sometimes one will get out of his crib and stand at the top of the stairs until we notice them.

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On nanny days, after our she leaves at 4:30, I usually take them to Swap & Play. (It’s a dedicated play space with three classrooms, open til 6pm seven days a week. It has been a GODSEND since we joined after Halloween!) Twice this month we’ve gone to the local library branch to select & check out books (like big kids!). Sometimes we might also go to the store.

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On daycare days, I pick them up between 530/545. They always run and hug me and it’s the best thing ever. Usually one of them has to go potty (because they’re still reluctant to go as often as they need to at daycare), so I take them to the school bathroom. We drive home and listen to “songs” – all last year it was kid songs from the two children’s CDs, but this month it’s been ‘regular’ music. They are obsessed right now with Under Pressure (Freddie Mercury & David Bowie) and Blank Space from Taylor Swift. They also like Shake it Off, Ex’s and Oh’s, some Lion King songs, some Frozen songs (they have not seen either actual movie), and a couple other random pop-y songs.

Dinner is around 630. We rotate a number of “main dishes” like mac & cheese, crockpot chili, mini pizzas from Trader Joe’s. Side/second dishes include things like pumpkin soup, a sandwich, microwave meatballs, some pirate’s booty or veggie snacks, plus a homemade veggie pouch. Sometimes they remember to ask for dessert—chocolate cat cookies, or something special that we’ve made like banana “ice cream” or, the other day, a mini chocolate cake.

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About three times a week we do bath after dinner, which is about 30 minutes of playing/splashing/shrieking, then protesting when it’s time to wash up. We wash their hair once a week or so. After that, they sit on the baby couch and watch TV. For all of 2015, it was sometimes an episode of Elmo, then Daniel Tiger overtook that, and then in December, they fell in love with Super Why.

Other nights, they just play. Blocks, beads (loose plastic beads–they are a big thing right now), books, running/chasing, groceries, puzzles, coloring with stamps or crayons, random toys they re-discover. (God, we have SO many toys in our house. It’s ridiculous.)

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We try to get upstairs for bed around 820. We turn on the noise machine and projector, and Mister Turtle who projects the blue and green stars. We talk about our day, maybe sing a song (we used to do it every night consistently, but have been inconsistent lately), give cuddles, and say goodnight. Often there will be requests for more hugs after we’ve gone downstairs.

Weekend days are very similar. We try to do morning outings, but sometimes it’s hard to get them out the door. We’ll go to the Vancouver Library, or Costco, or a play cafe, or if it’s nice enough, we’ll go outside. (Only happened twice so far this month…but considering it’s January, that’s pretty awesome.)

And that’s our life right now!

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.    DSC_2328_WEB DSC_2363_WEB

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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 the  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. 🙂

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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!

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. 🙂 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.  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. 🙂

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.)  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. 😦
  • 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, I’m always so scatterbrained that it just never happens. I’m a mess and I never know what day it is, so often I have to scramble to think of anything. A lifelong procrastinator, that’s me. This year is no exception–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.” 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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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…

Before and After Baby Tips

What I’m glad I did before babies were born:

Joined the local twins’ club (the classified section was a huge help; we got to shop early at the club consignment sale; we got to meet other new and expectant twin families in town)

Took photos every week to document my belly growth (see them here!)

Shopped at the big consignment sales (got tons of stuff for a fraction of the price!)

Got a new car (originally we thought we’d wait til about a month after they were born. Thankfully we came to our senses!)

Prenatal chiropractor (I could hardly walk for weeks, with this weird back/hip thing causing me to limp like an elderly person. My OB referred me to a prenatal chiropractor–I had no idea that was a thing! But thank god it is! My chiro was so friendly and she FIXED me!)

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What I wish I had done before babies were born:

Taken more time off (I only ended up with one real day off. There wasn’t much to do even when I was working, so I should have just let myself relax more.)

Gone swimming like everyone told me to (I didn’t have a swimsuit and I couldn’t shave anything. Dumb excuses that I should have worked through and figured out.)

Bought and worn more/better clothes (I had one nice pair of maternity jeans, plus maternity leggings, and a handful of maternity tops. But especially toward the end, I was in a maternity tshirt and sweats, and looking back, I looked so sloppy. I wish I’d enjoyed some more ‘real’ clothes a little more often.)

Prenatal massage (because duh.)

Did less stuff (I should have slept in more often.)

Done professional maternity photos (I couldn’t afford to do both maternity and newborn…but maybe I could have gotten a package deal. Above is one of my DIY maternity photos.)

Journaled more (Because I have the world’s worst memory, and blog posts don’t tell the whole story.)

Taken more regular photos (and videos!) of me and us, out and about with the belly (I wish I’d done more of my whole self, of the both of us. I did make sure to take a bunch on our cross-country road trip!)

 

What I’m glad I did after babies were born:

Had our first few days be just us (I didn’t want anyone else around while we got to know our new babies. I wanted us to be a family and focus on the four of us. No extra noise, no extra personalities, just us. Later on we had visitors and that was wonderful–made even better because of our just-family time at the beginning.)

Did professional studio photos of babies (They were so very tiny. We had no idea. I knew in theory they would change and grow a lot, but man, it happened so fast! We have a storyboard (three 8×10 images on one print) up in our room and we just treasure it. The babies themselves even like looking at it.)

Bought a new bra, undies, and jeans (This was probably my favorite thing I did. Two months post-partum, I went to Target and got some new, non-maternity jeans that actually fit properly. Same with a new bra and underwear. I knew that none of these would fit for very long, but I had been haaaaating wearing all the ill-fitting, loose and baggy everything. I seriously felt like a new person with clothes that fit my current body! Truly, it was amazing, and the cost wasn’t very prohibitive.)

Bought new socks (Just because all my socks are years old and I decided to just treat myself to brand new ones. Plain white ankle cut, 6 in a pack, nothing fancy at all. But soft new socks are such an inexpensive delight!)

Went out for groceries and Target by myself (I started doing this after the first month or so–I would go late at night, like 10 or 11pm. It was so nice to get in the car by myself, and be invisible, with nothing/nobody else to carry. It was a little melancholy, but it was such a relief too.)

Took a shower regularly (it felt great to be clean (and be off the couch), plus it was a good place to cry in private)

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What I wish I had done after babies were born:

Eaten more (It probably would have helped take the edge off a bit–physically and emotionally. I wasn’t actively hungry until about a month post-partum. I knew that I should be eating, but with our ridiculous schedule, I just couldn’t work up the energy enough to care, let alone the energy to find something to eat and the time to eat it. I should have done it, or I should have prepared my husband to make me do it.)

Rested more (after the first week or so, I started moving/lifting more because I felt bad about my husband doing everything. I shouldn’t have, and should have stayed more sedentary when it mattered.)

Had a post-partum doula (It was expensive, my husband had paid paternity leave, my mom visited a few times, and my husband’s parents visited for a week. So I/we had help. But it might have been a little different/better to have a third-party helper come in and help us out too.)

Made a list of chores for visitors to help with (Although really, who cared. I certainly didn’t. I thought that I *should* care if the house was a mess. I’m a terrible grown-up that way.)

Called/emailed people who reached out (I didn’t know how; I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. I couldn’t articulate much. I really appreciated the reaching out and I wish that I had just picked up the phone and done something.)

Had my husband take more photos of me and the babies (I have ONE good photo of me with the babies, when they’re about a week old. [Which I had to ask him to take for me.] None from the hospital. I have lots of phone shots, mostly selfies of low-quality shot in the horrible lighting in our living room. I hate asking people to take pictures of me, because it’s annoying. But I always love to have real-camera shots, and I should have just asked more. I would treasure them. There is no such thing as enough good quality photos of a mama and her baby/babies!)

What about you? What are the best things you did or wished you did before and after you had a baby/babies? Please share in the comments!