Birthday Weekend

This weekend has been far from boring. I spent most of the day Saturday putting together a few snacks and playing with the kids, which was followed by a few people coming to share in my birthday. After the celebrations and late night clean-up on Saturday, Sunday was more relaxed. I have managed to indulge in several of my favourite activities.

I have slept in until 9:30 and then connected with a friend to pass on a braided fertility necklace to her. She has discovered it is my birthday from social media, and has brought me an unexpected gift of soaps: cucumber and calendula, lavender and tea tree, and oatmeal. I love Easter European traditions of giving birthday gifts. My love also gave me two clever gifts: a Dali melting clock, and a Canon lens collection cup.

We had leftovers for breakfast, and headed to Ikea for the breastfeeding event happening in the sofa section. The goal was to thank Ikea for their great breastfeeding and baby-friendly practices and highlight the importance of public breastfeeding, since it has a significant impact on mothers breastfeeding to term. I also wish other businesses took notice of what Ikea is doing to implement family-friendly practices, and followed suit. It is surprising how many “family-oriented” establishments lack such simple accommodations as a changing table (especially in men’s washrooms) or a place to safely put a baby down (when a baby is not yet able to sit up on their own, but is not confined to a bucket car seat).

The atmosphere at Ikea was great: I have chatted with a few friends, CTV was there to cover the story, we have spoken to Ottawa Citizen, and ended up participating in an ad hoc focus group for a Carleton breastfeeding research study, which lasted for a while after the official event was over. My older child was rather enjoying the play area during that time.

Afterwards, I have cuddled my babies to sleep at home, and took a break with a lager and some smoked salmon for lunch. During their nap time, I have spent some time puzzling and listening to The Wheel of Time – The Shadow Rising – in other words, in my zen state.

Getting close, md

After a break to feed the baby and rock her back to sleep, it was time to pull out my newly-arrived gemstones and play. I have just found beautiful beads of lapis lazuli and blue-white chalcedony, and combined with turquoise, amethyst, moonstone, and rose quartz, they have made three new pregnancy tracking necklaces and two new fertility/cycle tracking bracelets. In a few days, I will make them available for purchase on Etsy.

Gemstones, md

Lapis chalcedony fertility and pregnancy tracking necklaces and bracelets, design, md

Lapis chalcedony fertility and pregnancy tracking necklaces and bracelets, mdWhen the children were up, we brought out the leftovers and a large 100-piece United Kingdom puzzle (the largest my oldest has ever attempted). We sat on the floor with food and drinks, doing the puzzle and listening to some music. That was a lovely quiet way to spend the evening. We stayed up later than usual, the kids had their baths, and there was more cuddling them to sleep. After all was peaceful and quiet, my love and I had some time to ourselves. A wonderful way to spend my birthday, I must say.

Ride the efficiency wave

Are there three small things that can be done in the next five minutes? Do them. Feel the momentum? Keep going and tackle a few more outstanding tasks.

To state it plainly, it takes an effort to get off your behind and start doing things that need doing. It is so much easier to sit at your computer sipping on tea or wine and clicking mindlessly through never-ending enticing links. Break the cycle. Get up. Look around you. Are there toys that need putting away? Do it. Now you can move around the room without tripping over them every two seconds. Do furniture, pillows, tablecloth, books need straightening? Do it. Now your immediate physical space looks a bit more in order. Likely your mental space does as well.

What else can you do in the next five minutes? Take out clean dishes from the dishwasher, or put in the dirty ones? Start a load of laundry? Whip up a batch of iced tea or sangria? Approach someone with a problem to get their feedback? Make a couple of phone calls? Pay a bill? Write an email? Take action and see how every small accomplishment fuels you for taking on the next task.

Blessingway and a weekly cooking session

This past weekend, I have participated in a beautiful Blessingway ceremony for an expectant mama. We had put together a Blessingway bead necklace from stones and two of the beads made by me (Summer blooms tree of life and Red rose white lily key), painted a sunny design with henna on the mama’s beautiful belly, shared in delicious potluck snacks, love, laughter, and baby cuddles. We also each took home a candle, to be lit when the labour starts. Such an inspiring ceremony and such loving energy – it has stayed with me throughout this entire week.

Sunday was spent in a weekly cooking session interspersed with caring for my little ones. And even with all the interruptions for breastfeeding, playing, cuddling, serving meals, and getting them to sleep, I was able to complete everything I had planned before midnight (mind you, I started around 2pm). I have been exploring recipes from the Well Fed and Well Fed 2 books by Melissa Joulwan, and am quite impressed. The results of my cooking session consisted of a paleo cottage pie (a shepherd’s pie variation with beef instead of lamb and mashed cauliflower instead of potato), a large portion of Blue Ribbon country captain chicken, cauliflower rice, some tuna salad with homemade mayo, a paleo version of pad thai (with spaghetti squash replacing the noodles), a portion of coconut-almond green beans, Velvety butternut squash, and a few vegetables cut up for snacks or steamed and ready to be used in a stir-fry later in the week.

It is Thursday, and I have not had to cook since Sunday (and will not for a couple more days), since all I have to do is warm up the already-made food. This means it takes me about 5 minutes to get dinner on the table in the evening, with less than that time in clean-up since there are no pots or pans to clean. So I’ve got more time to spend with my partner, play with the kids, read a book or indulge in a puzzle.

What are your tips to save time making dinner?

Do it now

Is there something you need to do that takes under five minutes? Do it now.

I’m sure you are familiar with the nagging feeling of something that needs to be done, but has not yet been. And you file it away for a more opportune time. And you do it hour after hour, or even day after day, while having it in the back of your mind all the while. All that mental effort is exhausting.

Is there something that can be done in the next couple of minutes that would make you breathe easier? I think I’m going to get up right now from writing this and load a couple of blankets into the washer. It will only take a moment and I can “tick off” a task from my to-do list and feel more in control, since I had tackled something that has been nagging me for a few days.

And I’m back. That was easy. Now I have my mind free of distraction to deal with more intricate and interesting things.

Take a deep breath

Take a deep breath and ask yourself: What do I want to do right now? Pause to consider the answer that comes to mind. If it’s practical – go for it.

Too often we go on as drones just because we have a to-do list (which usually is never-ending) or because of a routine. Stop and consider whether the task you are about to tackle is necessary right now. If it is not, what would you rather do? Is there something more urgent? Is there something that absolutely has to be done today?

If not, give yourself the time to do what it is you want to do. It could be as simple as brushing your hair. Or you can take a break and smell a flower standing in a vase on your desk, or look out the window and take in the setting outside. Dive head first into what you want to do without regrets. Give it a try, and feel the freedom of choosing what you do next. Perhaps I shall go put a few pieces into my puzzle…

I am an efficiency fiend

This is to say that I am always looking for better ways to juggle a variety of unrelated projects, from creative to mundane, while handling incoming client requests, daily family responsibilities, and hourly new baby demands. And I strive to do this without losing my sanity, while keeping my children happy, leaving some time for myself, and smiling occasionally.

To give you an idea, I have completed grades 11 and 12 in one year after coming to Canada, earning a Governor General’s medal for the highest marks in the school, while learning English and holding a part-time dishwasher job at a restaurant. I have studied for my Bachelor’s in Computer Science while maintaining a household, working on personal and client web projects, and having a part-time job (first at Robin’s Donuts and then at a web-development company), going on to three co-op terms in Winnipeg and Ottawa with the government (Manitoba Education) and IBM. I have completed my Mistress of Computer Science degree in a year and a semester, while working a full-time software developer job. All this without stopping to explore life, engage with a new culture, host parties, read books, attend concerts and goth nights, drink my share of spirits, maintain long-term relationships, and cuddle pets (I did have a pleasure to learn about hedgehogs and Holland lop bunnies).

With the birth of my first, and now second, baby, I have taken the efficiency up a notch. I now maintain our home and cook our meals, breastfeed and play with the children, as well as work on personal and client web projects, volunteer for local birth and baby initiatives, read, do jigsaw puzzles, make jewellery, do yoga, and take care of a million more little things that come about with having a family. I also take up full-time work once my maternity leave is over, balancing family and work obligations while trying to stay sane and breathe deeply.

All this is not to bore you with details of my life, but to say – I’ve lived many a lifestyle with combinations of study, full- and part-time work, partner, household, children, personal and client projects. I’ve also lived in a very different culture from the one I have been raised to, with many psychological and practical adjustments this entails. And I maintain that it is possible to have a fulfilled organized life while doing what you have to do, and staying sane and happy throughout.

So in this Efficiency Dance section, I shall attempt to gather various tips and strategies that have helped me throughout the years. My arsenal is always growing and evolving to adjust for higher demands and changing life situations, and I hope many of these strategies will be helpful to you.

Efficiency Dance

This section discusses various strategies I use to make my work, errands, and house care more efficient and to effectively implement natural solutions to baby care and wellness issues. I strive to get necessary things done in a fast and, whenever possible, enjoyable way, so that I do not get overwhelmed by work and can have time for more interesting endeavours.