Sunday, April 13, 2014

House tour: Play room update!

Today I'm wrapping up a week that didn't go at all as I had planned. I just find myself in a different place than where I expected to be. A place where the groceries for the coming week haven't been bought yet, and there are crumbs and spills all over my kitchen floor (so not too different there), but we've been able to spend time together both as a family and with good friends, to help some people out when they needed it and to do some good things for our little home. So not a bad week by any stretch of the imagination, just different. Ever have those? 

I was looking at my other house tour posts, trying to decide where to take you next, when I noticed that our play room has actually changed quite a lot since the last time I showed it to you, so I decided to do a quick update!

New rug!
The biggest change is that we got a much bigger rug. Unsurprisingly, we found that hardwood floors and playtime were not the best combination. There's lots of crashing around that goes on in a playroom, and it was starting to take its toll on the floor. Then Gwen started getting mobile and was doing a lot of face plants on the slippery wood. And when winter rolled around, Espen stopped wanting to play in the play room because the floors felt cold. So we got this big rug that covers most of the floor and is a nice, soft and durable place to play. It's not the most kid-themed rug in the world, but I wanted something we could continue to use down the road when this room graduates from being a playroom into whatever it's next life will be.

Table for four
Another recent addition is the play table and chairs that Espen got from his granny for his birthday. We'd been looking for one for a while, and finally one that was the right size, that we liked style-wise and that didn't cost the earth at Toys R Us, of all places. Espen loves it for building legos on and serving up his play kitchen cuisine, and Gwen loves having chairs that she can get in and out of herself. She also loves how easily she can climb up onto the table, but let's not dwell on that (that kid, I tell you what!). Because they're light and easy to move around, we've also used the table and chairs as additional kid seating when we have friends over for dinner.

Tent dwellers
Other than that, we've mostly just reshuffled what we have and moved it into a more workable (playable?) configuration. We've ended up with a few sort of "stations" where they play: the tent, the kitchen, the table and the storage bins/playtable (with the green table top) Then there's also a biggish open space on the floor where they play with other toys.

The view from the door, looking into the playroom. I love how the big windows make it such a bright and cheerful room.

 Seeing as Gwen no longer needs to be fed in the middle of the night, we moved down the armchair from her room to the playroom so there's somewhere for big people to sit. Oftentimes the kids won't want me to necessarily be part of their game, but still want me to be nearby so it's nice to have a chair where I can read a book, use the laptop, or more likely, play Threes on my phone while they play. I'd ideally like a slightly bigger and squishier chair that you can really curl up in with a kid or two on your lap in there, but this one will certainly do the job for now. But maybe this one down the road?

Thank you, Target clearance!
An ever-growing art wall.
As you can see, our art wall is always growing as Espen brings home his various projects from Joy school. He really enjoys pulling out the crayons and art supplies at home and is often asking me to "make a craft with me, mom!", so we're always adding more as we go. Gwen is starting to take an interest in the crayons too, so she has a couple of her pictures up there too. I edit the collection and take down pictures as they lose their significance along the way so we don't end up with too much of the same thing. I like how constantly adding, subtracting and changing adds a lot of life and variety to it, and that our guests always admire our wall of kid art. It's nice to have something so big and bright and fun!

Neat and tidy for once. 
Full disclosure: these photos were taken after a major play room clean up, and it does not always very rarely looks like this. In fact, we often have to shove toys out of the way just to shut the door on all the mess! However, we have been trying to teach the kids to take responsibility for their things since the clean up, and Espen especially seems to really enjoy playing in a clean room where he knows where to find the toys he wants, even if he doesn't always enjoy the new regime of nightly clean ups. As always, I never feel like any room in our house is quite complete, and have a few plans and ambitions to  keep things in order by adding photo tags and labels so the kids will know where to find their things without tearing the room apart to find them, and also where to return their toys to when they're done. I'll let you know how that goes! 

A few tiny homesteaders
So, tell me: do you have playroom? If so, I'd love to know how it works for you. Do the toys stay inside the room, or do they migrate all over the house? Do you even want a playroom, or do you consider them a ridiculous waste of space? Did you have one growing up, or are play rooms mostly an invention of our stuff-centric society? What do you think? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dørstokkmila and other adventures in exercising.

Walking in the dark (and concentrating on taking this selfie!) on a Sunday night to make sure I meet my weekly goal. Last minute, as always!
What in the world, I hear you ask, is "dørstokkmila" when it's at home? Let me tell you. It's a Norwegian word, and literally means "the threshold mile (or 10 k, if we're getting technical)", and refers to the struggle it often is to get yourself across the threshold and out the door to exercise. Isn't it sometimes SO hard just to get started?

It was for me last week with my last workout. I didn't do it on Thursday night because I was too tired. I didn't do it on Friday because I was too busy. I didn't do it on Saturday because we were spending the day with family. And then by the time it was Sunday night I was ready to talk myself out of it because I was tired, and it was late and it would take too much time and blah blah blah. I just really didn't want to do it. Friends, I am just not an exerciser by nature! Is it ok to say that I just really don't like it? Can I say that? At least, I never like it until I've gotten started, and then I often enjoy exercise. And I always love it when I'm done! But convincing myself that I really want to be uncomfortable and out of breath is never easy.

Fortunately, I have a strong ally in my husband, who gently, but firmly asked me if I needed to fit in a workout before the week was over. And then turfed me out the door so I could walk the loop through our neighborhood. And baked cookies while I was gone...! So I made it by the skin of my teeth!

I've found that I do much better with things like exercise when I don't do it on my own. So last week I did yoga with a friend, and tonight I've made plans to go walking with another friend. A sweet neighbor is lending me a workout DVD for the days when I can't leave the house to exercise. It seems I really need someone to keep me accountable, but fortunately I have friends who are willing to do that in one way or another.

I feel accountable to you too, whoever you may be. A few thousand of you stop by this blog in the space of a month, and I am so glad that you are there to read whatever it is I have to say. I'm going to be reckless and promise a few non-health related posts this week too, so please come back later!

Have a good week!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April challenge: Exercise three times a week.

A totally unrelated photo of me and Gwen last weekend, but as it happens I don't have a recent photo of me working out! Funny that. 
I seem to have triggered some sort of glutton-for-punishment-chemical reaction in my brain, because no sooner have I completed my "month without treats challenge", than I decided to get started on the next one! 

Friends, for the month of April I will exercising three times a week. 

It's a bit simpler in some ways than March was because it's not so restrictive, but it will also be harder for me because it requires actually getting out of my comfy spot and doing something. And I do so like my comfy spot. And I do so dislike not being comfy. But I'm looking for ways to live a healthier life with my family (it's so important to teach those kids good habits, and who else is going to do it if I don't?), so I'm going to give my best shot at being a bit more physically active*. 

Here's what I'm aiming for:
  • At least three exercise "events" spread out through a week of 7 days for the month of April, ending at midnight on April 3rd.
  • Each workout should be at least 20-30 minutes long. 
  • Workouts can include (but is definitely not limited to) walking, using the elliptical in the lone and dreary basement, doing yoga, hiking, Wii Fit and just about anything else that raises my heart rate and makes me pink-cheeked and sweaty (I know what you're thinking Ari, and that doesn't count!)
How am I doing so far? Well, because April started on a Tuesday, I allowed myself to count Monday March 31st. We had a few hours of sunshine in the morning before what I knew was going to be a cold and wet week, so I loaded up about 60 lbs. worth of kids into the double stroller and took them to the park. It's about half a mile (800m) away, and took me a little over 10 minutes each way to walk, so that totals a 20 minute workout. Pretty simple. 

On Wednesday I worked out with a friend. I am lucky enough that my friend and neighbor Ashlee, who is a yoga instructor, was willing to come and do a one-on-one session with me in my home while our rampaged wildly in the playroom together. And it was awesome! I've taken yoga classes at the gym before in the dim and distant past, but very little compares to having an instructor all to yourself to help you with your form and to tailor things to your abilities. Especially one who is patient while you run upstairs to change a diaper halfway through the session, and who lets your non-napping toddler join in the class as needed. As chaotic as this all sounds, it was actually a really great workout and I felt all happy and endorphiny for hours afterwards. Definitely a little sore today, though!

My third workout will be a little tricker to fit in as we are leaving town for the weekend tomorrow afternoon. I am either going to have to hop on the elliptical tonight after the kids are in bed, or get up a little early and do it tomorrow. Or fit a walk in somewhere. What I can tell you is that there will be very little of anything resembling exercise this weekend as we relax in sunny St. George for a couple of days! No matter, I'll make it work. 

Have a great weekend! 

*I also want to maintain the good results I've seen from not eating treats for a month. I've said before that I really don't want to make this about weight as much as I want to make it about slowly transiting to a healthier lifestyle. That said, I have conservatively lost about 5 lbs (possibly closer to 8) in the past month, and I'd like to keep it that way. I am currently back to what I weighed before I got pregnant the 2nd time, and have to say it feels pretty great! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

No treats - I did it!

OK, so technically I have eight hours until midnight before the month is officially over, but I'm going to write my celebratory post now (quickly while Gwen is napping and Espen is at a friend's house)! But I promise no treats until tomorrow.

Can I just say that I totally nailed it?

*Insert Victory Dance here*

I'm kind of pleased with myself, can you tell?

I'm happy that I've done something good for my body, and I'm happy about the health benefits I've noticed. I'm very happy that I've taken a big step towards breaking a bad habit. And I am happiest about proving to myself that I could, and did, do it. Not eating cookies and chocolate (and a variety of other things) for a month may seem like a small thing, and it is. It is precisely because it is such a small, everyday kind of thing that making the conscious effort to change it feels like such a triumph. Knowing that I do actually have a little self-discipline means a lot!

So, what happens now? Do I stay on the straight and narrow, or do I return to my wicked ways at the stroke of midnight? Here's the plan:

Starting tomorrow I will eat whatever I want, whenever I want to - for one week. I want to give myself free enough reins to see what I choices I make without restrictions. Then the plan is that we can have a little treat two nights a week. So if we have cookies on Monday and brownies on Tuesday, then we're out of luck for the rest of the week. We will give that a try for a while and see how it goes.

Oh, and it turns out that I enjoyed having a little challenge for myself so much that I decided to do another in April! I'm going to try to exercise three times a week for a month. More on that later because I hear Gwen chatting in her crib, so nap time is over.

Have a good week!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

House Tour: Gwen's room

Want to see my room?
I was dusting and vacuuming Gwen's room this morning, and decided it was time to pick up the thread on our house tour, so I got out Nick's fancy camera and snapped a few shots. Care to see? 

Where the tiny magic happens.
So, as you can see, I'm a big fan of keeping things fairly simple in kid's rooms. I love a lot of the gorgeous themed children's rooms that I see, but prefer keeping the big things pretty basic and rather switching out the details as the kid's preferences and interests change and grow along with them.  So the decorations in Gwen's room are mostly pictures I've printed and washi taped to the walls, banners from parties, and a few toys. That will change in time as we find things that we want to include more permanently and Gwen begins to put her own mark on her room, but for now I think we're happy with a simpler, cleaner look with a few fun details.

The fairy garland from Gwen's first birthday was so cute I couldn't bear to part with it, so now it lives on in Gwen's room. 

All of the rooms in our house were painted the same creamy mocha-ish color with darker trim when we moved in, and we really liked how it looks. In fact, we liked having a unified look throughout the house so much that we haven't painted and don't intend to for a very long time. Which explains the lack of pink in this little girl's room! Honestly, though, I love the freedom that a neutral background offers. I feel like we can basically put anything we want to in our home without worrying about whether or not it "goes".

A tea party for the bunnies.
In Gwen's room we've kept the same white nursery furniture that we used in Espen's room in Spanish Fork. It's clean, simple and fairly versatile. The crib converts into a toddler bed, and the bookshelf has  a changing table that bolts onto the front - which we removed once Gwen started scaling the shelves. We now have a changing pad on the floor instead, as you can see on the left in the picture above. Not wildly pretty, but very practical.

Some toys by the changing pad to keep those busy hands distracted.
And to keep our busy Miss occupied during diaper changes, we have a bin filled with toys beside the changing pad, although she usually prefers the bookshelf on the other side. 

It is never this tidy when it's not having its picture taken. 
Having a literary moment. 
Because I like to keep books within easy reach for little hands, we keep Gwen's books on the bottom shelf, which happens to be right next to her changing pad. More often than not when we're changing her, Gwen will grab a book for a quick read. And, although we didn't plan it this way when we put it next to the bookshelf, the changing pad makes a comfy little spot for reading (don't worry, we keep it clean!). 

Paper butterflies and the paper banner from Gwen's baby blessing.

Because she still spends more than half the day there (lucky!), I wanted Gwen's bed to be a safe and cozy little spot where she would like to be. As soon as she was big enough to really move around on her own, I got Gwen a duvet for her crib. One of the very last holdouts of my Norwegian-ness will always be my love of duvets, and now I am passing it on to the next generation. It's absolutely a preference thing and probably has a lot to do with what you are used to, but I just find them so much more comfortable and practical than sheets and blankets. We get our crib-sized duvets and covers at IKEA. 

Butterflies and sunshine!
The next step was to hang her butterfly mobile above her bed in a spot where she can see and enjoy it, but not reach it. We usually give it a little spin when we say goodnight to her so she can watch the butterflies dance as she falls asleep. I also hung this sweet little print from Paper Coterie above her crib, which makes me smile. You can see a little fairy picture above, but I think that's on its way out. The colors aren't quite right, and I don't want to overdo it with fairies. I think I want a poster with with "let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world" on it. If I can get past the fact that I'd be hanging a quote about China said by Napoleon on my daughter's wall. Fitting though, don't you think?

The Adelheid blanket - named for our good friend who has crocheted gorgeous blankets for each of  our kids.

Pacifier and Lamby - the bedtime essentials.
 Like most small children, Gwen has a few bedtime must-haves. At the tippy top of that list is her trusty pacifier than she cannot sleep without. It will be a sad day all round when we have to say goodbye to that little friend, because right now we just pop it in and she falls asleep! Lamby comes in as a close second. He is very soft and just the right size for Gwen to snuggle up to her cheek at bedtime. And then there's her Adelheid blanket (made by a good friend) that she will often snuggle to her other cheek when she goes to bed. As long as we have those three things, Gwen can be convinced to go to bed just about anywhere.

This tiny climber loves to push the buttons on her baby monitor. Such fun!
Other than that, there's not really a lot of other things in her room. We keep a little table for things her baby monitor or maybe a humidifier if she's sick. There's a closet stuffed to embarrassment with clothes for this little girl, but it's in a corner of the room that's hard to photograph and still a bit too plain and simple. There was an armchair where the footstool is, but now that the middle of the night feedings are over, we've moved it downstairs to the playroom where it gets a bit more use. I find that, as this is a family home, our rooms are always changing and evolving as we do too. Nothing is ever complete or perfect, but then again, neither are we.

Wild and ladylike - just like our Gweny. 
Thanks for reading! I enjoy doing these little tours of our home just as a way of documenting our own little family story, and if you enjoy seeing and reading about how we live, then I really could't ask for more. I didn't put together a resource guide this time, but just let me know if there's anything you'd like to know where we found, and I'll tell you!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kite flying

The other day I took Gwen shopping with me while our boys stayed home, and as it was a windy day, they got out Espen's kite. Do you think they had a good time?

And send it soaring. 
So high!
Keeping a close eye on things.
Getting fancy and flying his kite from the top of the playset. 
So happy. 
Getting even fancier and flying his kite while upside-down on the swing. Natch.
This kid! I love this this kid so much.
Can't you just see how much he loves his dad behind the camera in this one?
Do you know what I really love about the photos, besides the fact that my son is adorable, and my husband is getting pretty handy with a camera? I love how clearly you can see the fun that Espen had with his dad, and the love that those two share. The whole event took less than an hour of Nick's time on a Saturday afternoon, cost $0 and only required putting on a pair of shoes and stepping outside. So incredibly simple. But the return on being the kind of dad who takes the time to do this kind of thing is absolutely priceless.

Will you tell me about the good dads in your life?

Three weeks of no treats

A few of the cookies I have not been eating, all the way from England.
I finally found a few moments to sit down and tell you how I'm doing with my treat-free month. I swear it just gets harder and harder to find 20 uninterrupted minutes to anything for myself! You too? 

Anyway, I have 11 days to go and it's honestly not too bad. I am doing it, and that's a good feeling. It's nice and sort of empowering to know that I am capable of flexing my willpower and restraint when called for, even if I'm not really given much to self-denial on a daily basis.

A few thoughts:

  • If nothing else, this whole exercise has been pretty insightful in terms of understanding myself and my habits better. For example, I've always thought that I tend to snack out of habit and for something to do, but have been surprised to find that I might be a bit of an emotional eater too. When I've had a rough day and the kids are finally in bed, I really, genuinely crave cookies or brownies or some kind of sugary, starchy treat. It's like I feel like I deserve a reward for making it through the day, and that reward needs to be laden with chocolate. It will probably take a while to retrain my brain from this thinking, and I'm not really sure how to go about it. Any ideas?
  • I get hungry in the evenings. We generally eat dinner around six, often even earlier, and so I'm often pretty hungry by about 9:30 or so. I think it's legitimate to eat when you feel hunger, I just need to make sure that I make better choices once the treat cupboard is no longer out of bounds. 
  • Roasted, unsalted almonds have been the salvation of this whole enterprise. I bought a big bag of portion-sized bags at Trader Joe's, and have been eating one bag in the evenings when I feel hungry. It's sort of amazing how much it helps! And almonds are supposed to be crazy good for you, so that has been a pretty good solution. 
  • Saying no completely is so much easier than trying to figure out a balance. Having a completely black and white attitude to what is and what isn't permissible to eat, means that I can serve Espen a handful of chocolate chips or marshmallows for an occasional treat and not eat a few myself. It means that when a neighbor gives Gwen a bag of chips to munch on, I can feed them to her and not eat any myself. It means that I don't even think about eating the chocolate or cookies in the treat cupboard. It means that I say "no thank you" when someone offers me a treat, and it's not even nearly as tricky as I thought it would be. But what is going to be tricky is reaching the point when I can say "yes" sometimes, and "no" at others. I'd love your ideas about finding a balance and moderation and all of that good stuff too. I think that might end up being my next projects.
  • I had my book club ladies over last night, and for a treat, I made parfaits with greek yogurt, fresh berries and granola. You have to have treats at book club! It was all very healthy and above board (and delicious!), but I'm on the fence about whether or not it was a "cheat". But you have to have treats at book club! 
  • While this whole venture is about learning to live a healthier life, and not about losing weight, I did wonder out at the outset if it might make at least a little bit of a difference on ye olde scales.  It really hasn't. I might have lost about 2-3 lbs., or that might just be normal fluctuation over the course of three weeks. I think it would take more than a month of no treats to really see a difference in that regard. 
  • Similarly, I haven't noticed a huge difference in the way I feel, but I think I might have a bit more energy these days. I'm still tired when the kids go to bed, but I've been feeling more refreshed when I wake up in the mornings, and have been getting a bit more done during the day. And that is pretty motivating! 
  • I'm mildly surprised to tell you that other than when I've had a rough day, or someone is eating something delicious right in front of me, I really don't feel deprived at all. This is a completely doable thing. But I am certainly happy that there will Ghirardelli brownies waiting for me on April 1st! (But please no chocolate-themed April Fool's pranks!)