Friday, May 09, 2014

Here's your reading list for the week

I've been blogging up a storm over at The Papercraft Lab, so I thought you might like to see what I wrote.

Nine numerical facts about nine years

My secret mobile photography weapon 

101 things to document about yourself  (useful for blogs, Project Life, art journals and more!)

What color is the grass now? (mentioned by author Laura Vanderkam on her blog!)

Apparently people have been finding these posts useful because my stats are crazy high this week.  Hooray and hope to see you over there!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

We're still having fun (and still blogging)

Logo for The Papercraft Lab - custom scrapbooking service

I was so excited about my clarity of purpose in my last post, getting all into Essentialism and writing that shizz down, that I forgot to say one thing.  I am taking a break from blogging here, but I will still be writing at The Papercraft Lab.

I do like to write, but I can't maintain two blogs. I also can't write about *just* crafting 100% so my secret to keeping up my business blog is to make it more like this one, and open to other topics.  Granted, they will at least tenuously relate to either photography, crafting or documenting interesting life happenings, but that covers a lot of ground.

So I'd appreciate if you could update your feed reader and come on over.  Today I've got some time management tips for crafty folks.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Even if we won't admit it to ourselves

I am in the midst of an EXCELLENT book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It is the kind of book that resonates with the ideas I have in theory, but is compelling enough to get me to actually DO something to live those ideas.

In a way, it's a time management and productivity book, but instead of squeezing more things into your limited time, it's about choosing VERY strategically what is actually worth spending time on. I'm reading it slowly to savor it and I am thinking about how to put these concepts into practice.

To that end, I sat down today and wrote up my priority list. It hasn't changed, but I am committing to be disciplined about focusing only on these things instead of getting distracted by shiny things on the Internet.
  • FAMILY - kid-wrangling, being wifely (whatever that means), doing *fun* stuff together
  • HOME - finish unpacking after the remodel, laundry, dishes, keeping the filth and clutter down
  • CRAFT - work on my scrapbooks, and continue making them for others via The Papercraft Lab
  • SELF-CARE - exercise, eat well, cook at home, sleep enough
  • WORK - yep!  Starting a part-time contract gig next week
Work was a new addition to the list and actually triggered the re-evaluation of my commitments.  I am setting up shop as an independent consultant project manager (sounds so much fancier than it is!) and have a couple of clients for a total of about 20 hours a week.

Our new business covers my PM work and TJ's motorsports mobile app development.  Here's the fancy new logo I got on Etsy.  Pretty cool, huh?  I have to say that as a papercrafter and lover of stationery, I was especially excited about choosing a logo.

Here are some of the things I am completing or quitting to "find" 20 hours a week for this work:
  • Completed Coursera Creative Problem Solving class online, which completes my credits needed for renewing my PMP certification for 3 more years.
  • Completed two scrapbooks for Papercraft Lab clients
  • Un-enrolled from two other Coursera courses that "sounded interesting"
  • Declined the role of coordinating summer playdates for our toddler group
  • Stopped taking custom metal orders in my Etsy shop (still selling ready-made items!)
  • Facebook (I may need to detox gradually - I've already removed it from my phone. SO hard.)
  • Quit trying to be "social coordinator" and making new friends - need to focus on my existing ones!
  • Buying the snack for T's preschool at Trader Joe's instead of baking it
  • Stopped watching TV (no more Glee, Grey's Anatomy, The Mindy Project, etc.)
  • Finishing a scrapbook layout that will be used as a "demo" in an upcoming class
  • Decided not to enroll the girls in additional classes this summer other than Little Gym
  • Blogging. I haven't been motivated to write much here, so I'm taking a break for a while
In addition to going through my existing activities with a fine-toothed comb, I'm trying to be VERY selective about what I take on. I have a tendency to add projects on a whim, or volunteer for stuff when asked, so this is going to be a significant mindset change.  Wish me luck! 

If you read Essentialism, I'd love to know what you thought.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Lovin': Bastille (the band not the prison)

Sometimes you hear a new song and you just have to stop and HEAR it, because it's so perfectly awesome on the first listen.  I remember exactly where and when I first heard Bastille's song Pompeii.

It was a freezing January evening at the gas station near my parents' house, where I was filling up before the daily trip back to the house to "camp out" in the living room during the remodel.

While the song was playing, I used the Android "what song is it" widget to find out who it was and hopped over to Amazon MP3 to purchase it immediately.  I should have listened to the other songs on the album and just bought the whole thing right there, but of course I was looking for instant gratification and had two kids perilously close to bedtime.

We've been listening to a lot of Pandora in the house, and after I gave Pompeii a "thumbs up", other Bastille songs started creeping into the mix.  And I loved every song I heard.  So I finally bought the whole Bad Blood album last week, and Oh. Em. Gee. It's amazing. So catchy and such great lyrics.  Any band that leaves me the earworm of "Icarus is flying too close to the sun" is A-OK.  Apparently if you buy the CD, the MP3 download is now free.  (I missed this entirely since I purchased on my phone, sigh.)

I'm noticing a pattern.  British male singers with obvious accents.  Sound reminiscent of 80s music. Thoughtful lyrics not always about lost romantic love.  Hello Passenger, The Script, Scars on 45. So I guess I've become predictable in my old age.  But at least I'm finding new music to listen to!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ready to Run

I have a love-hate, on-and-off, breakup and get back together again relationship with exercise.  When I was 24, I lost 40 pounds by combining Weight Watchers and serious exercise. That was the first time in my life I tried running. I was inspired by John Bingham's book about getting started as a runner despite being middle aged and overweight. I love that he dubbed himself "The Penguin". I went to Alaska for one of his running clinics and it was awesome.

Because this is a blog post and that was 14 years ago, I can fast forward through all the sweat and side stitches and hours on the treadmill, and say that I went from no exercise at all, to a ton of walking, to running a 5K.  It was glorious - I was thinner than I ever had been as an adult, I actually started to love running and working out and I gained some serious self-confidence in the process.

You know how the story goes. First it started with a new consulting gig where the gym wasn't so convenient and lots of dinners out.  I eventually gained some of that weight back. In 2004 after I got engaged, I got my vanity on - I wanted to look *good* in my wedding pictures.  So back to the gym I went. I got a trainer and a nutritionist and got back to running.  I ran another couple of 5Ks in Seattle and learned to love running again.

But again, the lazy won out.  I did work out fairly regularly, but stopped running.  When I got pregnant with T, I stopped going to the gym entirely because I was SO tired all the time. I dropped my gym membership and haven't had one since (5+ years now!).

Two pregnancies later, the situation is not pretty. I have about 20 lbs to lose to get back to pre-T-pregnancy weight.  And that was not a healthy weight for me, so it's more like 40-mumble pounds to get back to something actually healthy for my height.

One of my goals for age 40 (next year - arghhh!) is to get to a healthy weight for my height.  I don't have a lot of time, and I do have a lot of work ahead of me.  And yet I have been unmotivated to DO THE WORK. I can talk a good game, I can make charts and lists and motivational collages, but actually getting down to the treadmill and walking?  Naaah.

And then my friend A told me about Beat the Blerch.  It's a crazy running event hosted by the guy who draws The Oatmeal.  There will be cake, and people in costume chasing the runners. This appealed to me. Plus, I love The Oatmeal.

My first 10K, god help me

So in a fit of crazy, and encouraged by several friends, I signed up.  The shortest distance is 10K.  Which I've never run.  The last time I did any running was in 2005.  What have I gotten myself into?

I started where all new runners start these days.  The Couch to 5K walk/run program.  Now in our fancy age of smartphones, there's an app for that.  It's fantastic- it gives you prompts to start running or walking over the music you're listening to.  I really could have used this back in 2004.  Or 1998.

I completed a week of running workouts before I got this horrible cold which I've had for about 2 weeks now.  (Sigh).  This means I'll probably have to start over.  I couldn't even DO the Week 1 of that program - I'm so out of shape that even running for 1 minute 8 times was too much.  So I scaled it back to running 35 seconds and I'll add more time slowly.  

I've got 5 months before the race in September so I should be able to work up to 6.2 miles by then, *if* I can be consistent.  That's the hard part, right?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Blogging the Remodel: The Nicest Bathroom I've Ever Had

I've had a few friends hassling asking me nicely for photos of our completed home addition/remodel project. There are many reasons I haven't posted them yet, except for a few quick ones on Instagram.  I feel like the rooms need to be unpacked, or at least reasonably uncluttered, before I photograph them to post.  We're still bringing stuff up from the garage, going through bins and making weekly runs to Goodwill. Losing both dogs within two months also made it hard to focus on non-essential tasks.  We've unpacked enough to go through our daily lives, so there's less of a *need* to get the rest done quickly.

Also - we added 1000 square feet, but haven't bought a ton of furniture or decor to fill it up, by design. (Well, partly because we gave all our money to the remodeling firm.)  We want to live with the space and see what we need, and figure out what we can repurpose from the rest of the house first.  So many of the new spaces look empty.  We just got the energy to hang pictures in our living room, which was only barely affected by the project.

I'll start in the top rightmost corner of the house - the master bathroom.   In typical (horrible) 70s style, our sink and vanity were right *in* the bedroom. There was a separate TINY room with the toilet and small fiberglass shower stall.  The toilet/shower area was so small you had to be very careful about where you stood so that you could open the door.  When TJ got up for work super-early, he had to turn on the lights over the sink, which woke both me and whichever baby happened to be sleeping in our room at the time. 

Our house has a lot of recycled rustic barnboard, but in the master bedroom it was overkill - all over the vanity wall, plus the wall behind the bed.  There was also no bathtub, though we did have a (rarely used) hot tub outside on our deck, which we sacrificed for this project.

Here's a drawing of what it looked like:

Here are a couple of photos of the "before" space.  We forgot to take photos of the bathroom before demolition.

One of the listing photos when we bought the house

Our wedding day, 2005

The design for the remodel had our new master bedroom and bath being built from scratch, in the "addition" part of the house.  So we were able to design it exactly how we wanted it:
  • Fully enclosed bathroom - vanity area no longer part of the bedroom
  • Solid surface countertop - no more tile!!
  • Tile floors and shower stall
  • Larger shower area, with a bench for "stuff"
  • On-demand hot water heater (woot!)
  • TWO sinks instead of one
  • Large soaking bathtub 
  • Room to turn around and close the door
  • No barnboard or 70s stained glass

We didn't need a HUGE, luxurious spa bathroom with a seating area - we just wanted it bigger than before and to use the space wisely.  Here's the new design:

We love this one because the bathroom door can be closed, and even when it's not, the vanity lights aren't shining into the sleeping area thanks to that little "hallway" by the door.  The closet door opens to a wall in that same hallway and that also doesn't disrupt the person sleeping.

I'm not a huge fan of the "toilet closet" with a door, since we're almost never in the bathroom at the same time, but apparently that's what people do these days.  

Choosing the tile, cabinet finish, counter and paint was a painful process, and by the time we got to the bathroom, I just wanted to check it off the list.  I found this bathroom online and used it as my inspiration:

Houzz bathroom

Here are the actual photos (you're welcome, A) - click for larger versions:

I chose the wood stain color early on, and had a challenge trying to find a light colored countertop that I liked that wasn't boring.  We ended up with Cambria engineered quartz in Laneshaw, which looks sort of like Reese's peanut butter cup ice cream.  I'm usually not a fan of the "fake marble" look, but it's got enough gold and silver sparkles so that it doesn't look like it's trying too hard to be real.

Most of the choices were cost-driven.  The nice thing is that anything new was an improvement over what we were living with. We chose the same sinks for both the girls' bathroom and ours - a flat modern looking oval with a sharp inside edge by Kohler.  We splurged on the HUGE soaking tub by Mirabelle, but didn't get the version with the jets.  The showerhead and faucets were Grohe in chrome - nothing fancy but much nicer than what we had.  I decided NOT to frame the mirror like the inspiration bathroom - it was just too expensive for the size we needed.

It was easiest to paint the bathroom in the same color as the master bedroom - Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter, which is a warm grey.  I'm surprised at how much we both love the color, considering I'm not usually a fan of neutrals.  The "toilet closet" and ceiling are Benjamin Moore Morning Light - a warm cream color that we used throughout the house for ceilings and hallways.

Tile was the last thing we chose, and at that point, I was SO TIRED of all the choices.  I asked our coordinator at the design/build firm we were using to narrow down the choices to matte cream colored tile with some kind of natural texture and a very subtle pattern.  Bonus points for sparkle.  One of the choices came in a variety of sizes, so I just decided to use that for EVERYTHING.  12x24 rectangles for the shower walls and tub deck, which I love, 12x12 square tiles for the floor, and the 2x2s on the shower floor.  I love the simple, unified look.  She also found a GORGEOUS rectangular mosaic tile by Statements that we used as an accent - it brings together the different colors in the woodwork, tile and paint.  And it's got lots of sparkly bits.

Another choice I'm really happy with was the decision to use frosted glass windows.  They're really opaque and "glow" during the day to let plenty of light in.  At night you can't see *anything* from outside.  This way I don't have to mess with window treatments near the tub and it gives the whole thing a cleaner look.  I'm sure that many interior designers will disagree, but for us, simple and low maintenance is better.

It is pure luxury to take a shower in this lovely space now.  The clear glass takes some getting used to, especially right across from the (frosted) window. But I love having my own sink and my own bank of drawers. And the tub, ahhhh. This is by far the nicest bathroom I've ever had in my own place.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just another sad love song

I have been putting off writing this post because I just can't find the words to do it.  But it needs to be written, so I can get through my grief instead of trying to circumvent it or pretend it doesn't exist.

On March 2, two months to the day that Spike left us, we had to let Peanut go too. We knew he probably wouldn't make it through the year - a 100-lb dog about to celebrate his 12th birthday - but still, I wasn't expecting it to be so soon. 

Peanut, Dec 2013

He was the first of many blessings in my life with TJ. Without him, none of the others would have happened. Realizing how much fun it was to live with a dog made us look for Spike (well, actually, we were looking for a well-behaved beagle, but ended up with Spike).  Caring for and enjoying dogs made me realize that maybe I could be entrusted with small messy lives, and that opened me up to the idea of having kids.

Peanut, Sept 2002

It's all due to this 35-lb gangly 6 month old puppy we adopted at the Tucson Humane Society in 2002. Now our hearts are full, but our house is so empty.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Temporary Solo Parenting: How Am I Going to Be An Optimist About This? Six Ways.

I would not trade my husband for anything - he truly shares parenting with me and now that BabyM is no longer breastfeeding, he is 100% interchangeable with me where kid tasks are concerned.

The one time that's not awesome is when he needs to go out of town. Fortunately it's pretty rare (2 one-week trips in the past year), but during the time he's gone it feels like an *eternity*. 12-14 hours a day of All Mama, All the Time plus random night wakings gets old fast.  

A tropical drink always helps.

I should also say that I know a lot of people are doing this on their own *every day* with no help from a partner. My hat is off to you - that is hard work. I know I'm lucky.

Here are some things that helped me get through this past week. In less than 8 hours, I'll be back to 50% Parent, so yay!

1 - Stick to bedtime.  I cannot stress this one enough.  My girls usually go to bed around 7-ish, which usually means "somewhere between 7 and 7:30". Not this week. This week, both were tucked in, Mama out the door, by 6:30pm SHARP for BabyM (who sleeps remarkably better with this earlier bedtime) and 7:00 ON THE DOT for T. I needed a bit of time to decompress at night, had to stagger bedtimes to get each one's routine done, and REALLY didn't want to deal with more night wakings than necessary. This was also true for BabyM's nap - I made sure *every day* that we were home on time and we didn't have a single day where she refused.  Small victories, yo.

2 - Minimize commitments.  This is another one of those "survival mode" things. I didn't accept play dates, volunteer work, or extra errands that didn't need to be done this week. We managed to get T to preschool, Spanish class and Little Gym on time. I took M to her toddler group, because she loves it and I don't need to entertain her for that 2 hour stretch. We bailed on T's second Little Gym class of the week today in favor of Pajama Day at home. It's been lovely. On the stressful side, I (stupidly) decided to go through with my plan to bake blueberry muffins for T's class when it was her day to bring the snack, since I had promised her I'd do it.  Next time I'll pick something store-bought.

3 - Eat simply. We did a big grocery run on Sunday so we were well-stocked for the week. Meals usually consisted of a protein, some fat, a fruit or vegetable, and a small portion of something whole grain. Super easy options, like a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a tangerine.  Oatmeal, apples and breakfast sausage. Things I can grab from the pantry and require simple heating - no major cooking.  (Blueberry muffins not included!)

4 - Get a babysitter.  T is in preschool for a few hours a day, but BabyM is my shadow ALL.DAY.LONG. And she's in that lovely phase where she's active and into *everything* and totally not interested in logic or reason. Fortunately, we have an awesome babysitter who comes every other week for 3 hours, and this was one of those weeks.  If it wasn't, I'd ask her anyway. It was lovely to get a break just for one afternoon. I got a pedicure, went to Starbucks, had a lovely drink and dinner at a local pub, and went home refreshed just in time to put the girls to bed.

5 - Sleep when they sleep. Some people hate this one, remembering it from the newborn days. BabyM is still an unpredictable sleeper so I try very hard not to stay up too late. One or two nights this week, I put the girls to bed, spent some non-quality time vegging out online, then went to bed myself before 8:30pm. The extra sleep was heavenly. Some afternoons I snoozed on the couch while the girls had nap/Quiet Time. It felt ridiculously slothlike and lazy, but since I didn't have backup on those days, I had to be well rested or I'd be a grouchy mess. 

6 - Plan something FUN. This goes against #2, Minimize Commitments, but I planned it before TJ left, put it on the calendar and talked it up as our "super-secret BIG FUN SURPRISE field trip". This gave T something to look forward to mid-week, helped keep her mind off missing Daddy, and filled up one afternoon of this long, long week. We visited the Seattle Uwajimaya, a huge local Asian grocery and gift store for cream puffs, some Hello Kitty shopping, and dinner. We went after BabyM woke from nap, and got back in time for bed. It wasn't super-elaborate but it was REALLY fun. 

Something unexpected always happens on these weeks.  Last time, when M was 4 months old, our power went out and I freaked out about all the frozen breastmilk in the fridge.  Fortunately, the power returned before any of it defrosted.  This time, our old dog Peanut, took a turn for the worse. He's been having more problems related to his advanced arthritis, but this week has been a LOT worse, possibly due to the fact that he misses TJ. There have been more calls to the vet, but thankfully I haven't had to take him in.

Here's hoping that the next 8 hours or so stay uneventful.  I'd love to hear your tips on coping with occasional solo parenting of little kids!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Currently: February 2014

Ooh, a new month, which means I can be lazy and write a "Currently" post and call it good. I haven't felt like blogging much lately.

Sushi with my Big Girl

LOVING - Our newly finished house!!! More photos and stuff later, but everyone has their own bedroom, TJ has his Man Cave/Office, I have my Woman Cave/Craft Room and the girls have their Crazy Cave/Playroom. And I have the nicest bathroom I have ever had in my entire life.

READING - Just finished reading Ames & Ilg's Your One Year Old to understand BabyM's developmental phase a little better. She is definitely a lot more frustrated about her limitations than her older sister was at this age. Also reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child AGAIN, because Mama needs to sleep through the night.

ENJOYING - Reading to BabyM. I was "worried" that prior to 13 months, she was not at all interested in sitting and listening to a book, especially once she became mobile. But all of a sudden, in the last 2 weeks, she is ALL about books. We will happily read 5 or 6 in a row, and she is super fun to read to - she makes happy noises when you read familiar parts, points out characters and pictures she likes, and makes the signs for things she recognizes.  Amazing.

EATING - I'm on a fish taco kick. I lived in San Diego for a few months during grad school, and never understood the appeal. It figures now that I'm really far from decent fish tacos, I'd get a craving. So far, the best ones have been at Redmond's Bar and Grill, which has become our new family favorite place to eat out.

LISTENING - Still obsessing about Toad the Wet Sprocket since their show last week. I have seen them 10 times in the last 21 years. That's a lot of Toad.

PLANNING - T has "Midwinter break" next week, and I want to make the most of it. I'm a little sad that her new school is 5 days a week, so having her home for a whole week is going to be nice. But we'll need to schedule some activities so we're not rattling around the house driving each other crazy.

MAKING - I HAVE A CRAFT ROOM AGAIN. I WILL MAKE ALL THE THINGS!  Well, first I have to find the desk surface under all of the crap I need to put away. And then I will make a few jewelry orders for friends and work on client scrapbooks. But just knowing I have dedicated space makes me so happy. I blogged about this scrapbook layout that I made just before the remodel started back in October.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

All Things in Time: Guest Post at

I was asked to write a guest blog post for the What to Expect website for their Word of Mom column. I wrote about T learning to read and my anxiety around that particular milestone. It generated a lot of discussion amongst my friends on Facebook. 

I hope you'll check it out!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

And this is all we need

Since we cut our family income in half almost exactly a year ago when my paid maternity leave ended, we have re-assessed a lot of the solutions we were using for convenience.

Though I love Amazon Fresh grocery delivery with all my heart and soul, we couldn't justify the higher prices and $75 minimum order, so I stopped using it. For the items we buy regularly it was cheaper for me to go to Whole Foods (!). Given that our "regular" grocery store is Trader Joe's, which is a lot less expensive than either of those options, I went back to traditional grocery shopping.

The other thing we gave up was our weekly yard service. We hate doing yard work, and our yard had never looked better, but at $50/week it was definitely not a necessity.

We dropped our Costco membership - every time we went to the store we'd spend $200 in stuff we weren't intending to buy, just because it was there and a great deal.  See ya!

Ditto the weekly organic vegetable CSA-type box from various places. I was never great at staying on top of it (how healthy we'd be if I was!) and it was more than I'd spend on just the things I know we'd eat, even at Whole Foods, so we dropped it.

But the one thing I haven't quit is our Amazon subscription orders for various household items.  For many items, like non-perishable foods, cleaning products, personal care stuff, and dog food (yay!), Amazon has a special "Subscribe and Save" option that allows you to get that item regularly.  You choose the interval from 1 to 6 months, and you can "skip" months, or postpone deliveries if you don't need it right away. If you have 5 or more items arriving each month, you get 20% off on the whole thing, and that's where the magic happens.

When you don't get the 20%, the subscription is probably slightly more expensive than buying the equivalent item at Target. But for the convenience it can't be beat, especially for things like a 30lb bag of dog food - shlepping that and a 25lb baby to the car at the same time is physically impossible for me.  And now that I've figured out what we need on a regular basis, I've got 5 items every month, so I always get the 20%, which makes it slightly less expensive (and that doesn't even count the gas and time needed to go to the specialty pet store, Target, and the grocery store). 

Amazon has changed the program over time - you no longer get to "lock in" the price at which you subscribed, so I've noticed some things rising in price over time and have had to cancel a few when they got too expensive.  They moved to shipping all subscription items together on the same day each month and I can't adjust that if I need something sooner. You also don't get Prime 2-day shipping on the items, so it can take a week for them to arrive (but they are excellent about getting here before the day Amazon tells me they should arrive).

For the first few months, I had to log in mid-month and adjust things as I figured out how we used them, but now that I've been doing this for a year, most of the "regulars" are set up perfectly.  

Here's a quick list of the things I have on subscription:
  • Soy milk - 8 64oz shelf-stable cartons. Only a few dollars more (total) than Trader Joe's and they show up at my door. We go through more than this in one month, but it's a good start.
  • Wellness "Old Dog" food - this can only be found locally in specialty stores, for almost $20 more than we pay on Amazon. Plus the bag is HEAVY.
  • Organic Applesauce Cups - I use these for T's lunches and quick snacks. Shelf-stable and hard to find locally.
  • Peter Rabbit Organics "Squeezy Fruit" - hard to find locally and much cheaper than individual packs at Whole Foods
  • Larabars - both girls love these, and the price is comparable to Trader Joe's individual price
  • Cetaphil Restoraderm Body Wash - the only thing that works on T's eczema. Not always available locally.
  • Toilet paper - I hate running out of paper products so we buy the big box.
  • Paper towels - Ditto
  • Huggies Overnight Diapers - comparable price to Target which doesn't always have them
  • All Free & Clear Laundry "Pods" - can't find these locally

I'm not a personal finance expert, so I won't claim this is some fantastic money saving trick, but it does help me avoid extra trips to Target, affectionately known as the "$50 store". In addition, we rarely run out of the essentials like toilet paper, overnight diapers, or our favorite kid snacks, so there aren't as many "emergency runs" to the grocery store.  Did I mention I dislike grocery shopping?

If we ever have to go into financial lockdown, I'll re-evaluate whether we need all of these things, but for now it works really well for us to have them just show up at various intervals.  If you're on the fence about setting up a subscription, I'd recommend trying it.  You can cancel items anytime before they ship and adjust the timing as needed. I love it, especially since we don't have any kind of "warehouse club" membership.

And yes, I do have Amazon ads on my blog, but I wrote this post spontaneously. I love me some Amazon shopping.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Lists of 10 and Making JustALittle Progress on Goals

This is another one of those posts where ideas I've read in different places come together and make me think that maybe I'm not *always* wasting time online. Hah, who am I kidding, I waste prodigious amounts of time online.

I finally finished Scott Berkun's Mindfire essays, after the library sent me 2 overdue email notices and a paper one. I'm sure I owe them enough in late fees to have bought my own copy of the book. 

My favorite essay was the one on creativity. I can't find it online, though I suspect it's somewhere on his blog. The salient points were:
  • Creativity isn't some magical power that only a lucky few are blessed with
  • Creativity comes from combining known ideas to make new ones
  • You need to "practice" being creative to get better at it
One of his suggestions was to keep an "idea journal" handy so you can jot down interesting thoughts and ideas. It's a pretty simple concept and reminded me of something I read ages ago about doing a "daily brainstorming practice" in order to keep those creativity brain cells humming.  I wish I remember where I read that, but the only thing I can remember was thinking that the author was a little...odd.

Yesterday a friend posted a link to this fantastic blog post about accomplishing goals by making just 15 minutes a day for them, instead of procrastinating until that mythical time where we'll have a HUGE chunk of time to work. 

Guilty as charged here. Before kids, I worked best under pressure, spending whole days cranking through projects fueled by Starbucks chai and lots of PB&J sandwiches. Well, as you can guess, with 2 kids under 5, I don't get the luxury of whole days to myself to work on personal projects.

My final inspiration was Laura Vanderkam's excellent article listing things to do when you have 5 minutes instead of checking email.

Do something creative with that pocket of time!

I combined all of these concepts with my love of making lists, and made a list of 10 things I could do to further my goals for the year, all of which can be done in little pockets of time. Some of them are one-time tasks that I can cross off, and others are ideas that I can keep using.

10 Quick Ways to Progress
  1. Plan our next meal and make the shopping list 
  2. Take a very short walk (anything more than 5 minutes is a win)
  3. Write a blog post (hello!)
  4. Sort one folder of digital photos
  5. Clean up a small space (counter, shelf, drawer)
  6. Read a few pages of a book for my PMP certification credit on my phone
  7. Figure out how I'll get exercise tomorrow (or today if there's time!)
  8. Come up with 5 Paleo breakfast options
  9. Update my Etsy shop incoming order notes
  10. Create a "template" for meals to make planning easier (eg 2 vegetables, a protein, etc)
Now my challenge is to figure out WHERE to keep this list so I'll see it. I have a OneNote notebook online which I can access on my laptop and phone, but I haven't gotten into the habit of using it. I need this list to be "in my face" so I can avoid the siren song of Facebook and the false promises of a clear Inbox.

But I know it's working, because just reading this list gets me fired up to DO SOMETHING instead of zoning out online. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lately I've been losing sleep

BabyM is not a good sleeper. I won't go so far as to say she's a BAD one, because I know it could be MUCH worse. But at 15 months, I can count on two hands the number of times she has slept through an entire night without waking, and I'm not close to running out of fingers.

Cute, funny, smart. But not a great sleeper. Yet.

There's not much I can do about it now besides vent here. Since Nov 11, we've been in various transitional sleeping situations thanks to the huge home remodel. We moved her crib to my parents' place which was her first time sleeping in a room by herself. After a month, we decided sleeping at home all together at night might be easier, so at night she's in a Pack N Play in the living room, with her sister on a mattress nearby (out of sight) and me on the couch. She still naps at my parents' condo in her crib.

On a great night, she doesn't wake at all. This has happened maybe 6 times EVER. 

On a good night, she'll wake once for milk around 1am, drink it fast and go right back to sleep. 

On a not-so-good night, she'll wake twice for milk but go right back to sleep. 

On a wretched night (like yesterday), she'll wake at 1am, drink milk and then be awake for HOURS, and woe unto us if we try to put her back down. Eventually, around 5am, she'll go back to sleep for a few hours. And of course by then, we can't get back to sleep.

Big Sister T has been oblivious to most of this - once she's out, she sleeps like a ROCK. It's amazing, really.

I know what I need to do with BabyM - work on getting her to stop waking at night for milk and eat more during the day.  Let her cry for a bit after confirming she's ok (doesn't need a diaper or ibuprofen, isn't sick, etc). But we can't start a new sleep plan while we're all camping in our living room.

So we're gritting our teeth and getting through the next couple of weeks. The project is almost finished - we have paint on the walls, bathroom cabinets and counters, some window trim, doors and lighting installed. This week all the flooring should be complete and the following week is for all the little details and cleaning. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, salt over the shoulder, etc. 

And then we can work on getting better sleep around here!  I am so ready to accept that challenge.

For a giggle, check out my friend D's post about parenting and sleep on her shiny new blog.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Currently: January 2014

Inspired by Allison, I'm doing a Currently post for this month. It's hard to believe 2014 is well underway already!

READING - Struggling to find time to finish Scott Berkun's Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds. It's 2 weeks overdue at the library and I'm reading it for continuing education credit for my PMP Project Management certification. Between the nomadic life of the remodeling and figuring out T's new school schedule, finding pockets of time to read isn't easy. It's a fairly easy read, but I like to have time to digest each essay before moving on to the next.

WATCHING - paint dry. Literally. Our entire addition got painted this week. It makes me so happy to see the colors I chose after weeks of contemplation on entire walls in rooms. And it was priceless to watch T's reaction when she saw her Ballet Slippers pink room for the first time.

Follow Anandi's board on Pinterest

MAKING - Lots of One Little Word jewelry and keychains for myself and friends. A client scrapbook for The Papercraft Lab (two pending, three more on the horizon). Life is good.

ANTICIPATING - In 3 more weeks (fingers crossed!), we'll be able to move into the addition! So excited to sleep in our bed again, work on better sleep habits for BabyM, set up the craft room and new playroom, and finally have a linen closet! We may become shut-ins once the project is finished, because we will be so happy to have a real home to ourselves again.

LISTENING - to everything again! We bought two Sonos units and I'm in LOVE. Our music collection is easily accessible in the house over wireless, as is Pandora. Loving Toad the Wet Sprocket's New Constellation - first new album in ages from my Favorite Band Ever.

WANTING - IKEA Expedit shelving for everywhere - playroom, craft room, girls' rooms. Lots and lots of square cubby shelves to put everything in order.  The reality is that we won't be buying much until we can rearrange all of our current furniture and see what we really need.  We also have to figure out window coverings for all of the new windows - boring but necessary as the addition has a lovely view of two of our neighbors' homes.

Got a Currently post?  Let me know in the comments. I love reading these :)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I'm on my way, home sweet home

Our huge remodeling construction project is scheduled to finish in 27 days. It's about 2 weeks behind the very aggressive schedule they posted at the beginning. The estimate was 14-16 weeks, but the actual schedule was for 13 weeks. So the 2 extra weeks aren't terribly unexpected, though I cry a little inside every time we meet with our production manager and he moves the schedule.

Someone told me that cats are very attached to the house they live in, and tend to freak out if you have to take them somewhere else. I must be part cat. We've been in a state of limbo for about 8 weeks and I'm feeling very unsettled and unfocused. 

At first we thought it best for me and the girls to move entirely to my parents' condo (which they don't use in winter), and TJ would stay overnight with the dogs at home, after spending the evenings at the condo with us. We did that for about a month, and it was very stressful for me.  Being the nighttime go-to parent every single night is hard!  (And it made me realize how often TJ picks up night duty!)

So once the major demolition was done and the new portion of the house was framed and insulated, we moved back home. We have a living room, family room, bathroom and kitchen available to us, so it's definitely livable. We're camping out in the living room - BabyM in a Pack N Play, T on her mattress on the floor, and one of us on the couch, while the other sleeps downstairs to keep Peanut company.  (He has too much trouble moving on the hardwood floors to sleep upstairs with us.)  Surprisingly, everyone sleeps pretty well in this arrangement. 

Despite being pretty cramped, it was SO much less stressful to have everyone in the same house, even if it was a construction zone. We get up just before the construction guys come, get ready, and leave the house for the day. The girls nap at the condo, and we head back around 4 when the construction is finished for the day. On weekends we hang out at home and it feels pretty good to be all together in OUR house, despite the lack of bedrooms and all of us sharing one bathroom.

This week we're back at the condo full-time because they're priming and painting the addition, and it's pretty stinky. So back to being unsettled and solo parenting at night. For a few days it's not too bad. 

This photo that TJ sent me keeps me going:

My craft room got painted today!  The color is Benjamin Moore 606, Island Paradise, a warm saturated aqua green.  I can't wait to see it after the second coat and in person, but I can already tell from the photo that this was the right choice for me.

This and the attached playroom were on my dream list. A purpose-built space for me and the girls to work together on crafts, schoolwork, and fun. I haven't planned out yet where everything will go, and what else we might need to furnish them (definitely more shelving!) but will play it by ear once we unpack everything.

I haven't posted more photos of the project because I haven't gone through them yet.  We've taken a ton, but our lives have been so complicated - construction, travel, holidays, preschool drama, and of course, Spike.

So I've got to live with another month of unsettled-ness, and then we can move back into our space. So exciting!

Friday, January 03, 2014

I grieve for you

Spike, age 13.75
March 25, 2000 - Jan 2, 2014

We let him go yesterday. It was the saddest thing I've ever had to do. But that takes me immediately to a place of gratitude - my life has been so blessed and lucky that the saddest day of my adult life came at age 38 for a dog who had lived a full and happy life, 10.5 years with us.

A short list of what I'm thankful for, in honor of Beagle:

  • I have a husband who not only gets why I am so sad, but also feels it deeply himself
  • Our vet, Dr. E, who we only met a few weeks ago. So professional and compassionate. I wish we had met her when our guys were young.
  • The three road trips we took with him: my solo trips to Vancouver and the Bay Area, and our family trip to Canada.
  • We had some time to spoil him and say goodbye.
  • The vast number of things that Beagle taught us: 
    • patience (oh the patience he required!) 
    • how to deal with gross things that need to be cleaned up
    • how to live with someone who hears and understands what you're saying but just chooses not to do what you're asking 
    • the best place for napping is the one with the soft blanket and pillows, rules be damned
    • don't settle for kibble when there is lunchmeat available

Thank you for choosing us, little guy.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

This feeling calls for everything that I am not

Spike came to us 10.5 years ago, on my birthday weekend. After we got Peanut and moved to Seattle, we had been thinking about getting another dog. I really wanted a beagle. TJ did not. I saw an ad in the Micronews, the now-defunct internal newsletter at work, for a family looking to find a new home for their 3 year old beagle.

Last week at the dog park, Spike @ 13 years 9 months

I remember the first time I spoke to his previous owner - he called me back during a class I was taking at work. I was so excited about meeting Spike (who started out his life as Scooby, not a good name for a beagle IMO). TJ and I drove over to their house that night, nervous and trying to make a good impression because it was clear they were willing to wait to find the right, good home for their dog.

We thought the best idea would be to dogsit Spike for a weekend so we could make sure he and Peanut would get along. Spike was pretty much all wrong for a second dog choice - he was older than Peanut, hadn't lived with other dogs before, and was also male.

They spent the weekend checking each other out, and quite frankly it was clear Spike didn't like Peanut at all. He wanted to be the dominant dog, but "that stupid big puppy" just didn't get it. Reluctantly by the end of the weekend we were about to return him. Then I looked out the window and saw them actually playing a game of chase, and both were having fun.

So he stayed. He's not a good dog, but he's a nice one. He is not interested in pleasing us, he barks in the yard (sorry neighbors) and never did get the hang of walking nicely on-leash. He got really sick in 2007 after he escaped over the fence at the dog park and ate something gross. He had to be hospitalized for that incident.

Now he's nearly 14 years old. He's got some arthritis, his kidneys are only working at about 25%, and he's got a tumor in his bladder that can't be treated.  A few weeks ago, our vet said he only had a matter of weeks and anything we did was palliative.

I am sad. But we are also lucky. Lucky that we had 10 healthy fun years with him. Lucky that he adjusted to babies in the house, despite being a non-kid-friendly beagle. Lucky that we have some time to say goodbye and love on him.

Spike and Peanut are my first dogs, so I've never had to go through this. I spent a lot of time assiduously ignoring the possibility that one day they won't be with us. 

But now it's time for me to step up. My insightful husband told me a while ago that our dogs would teach our daughter one final life lesson when it's their time to go. It's a lesson for me, too. 

Spike's time is very soon. He started limping today and is obviously in pain, which we're managing with medication. Our vet (bless her) has been calling every few days to check on him. I don't know what the next few days has in store for him, but we will provide him with a warm spot on the couch and all the lunchmeat and aebleskivers he wants. 

Your family loves you, little guy.

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