Archives For On a Personal Note…

Maybe some of you can relate to this. I have lost and gained the same twenty pounds several times over the years. I’m only five feet tall so twenty pounds make a big difference in the way I feel and the way that clothes fit me. Right now I’m on an upswing, as in I’m actually overweight according to my BMI. In the interest of simplicity I’m just going to put the real numbers right out there.

Age 18: 105ish pounds. Lauren, look how young and fabulous we look!

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Facebook didn’t have photos (except for profile pictures) until I was like a junior in college, so I don’t have very many pictures of the in-between here. I didn’t gain any weight my freshman year when I lived in the dorm, but after I moved off campus it was a slow and steady increase that continued through grad school.

Age 23: 138 pounds. Ugh, this is not a flattering picture but all the ones I liked were from the shoulders up. I wonder why.

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I lost twenty pounds in a year for our wedding. I still wasn’t going to fit into my prom dress, but I was okay with that. I felt like this was a healthy weight for me.

Age 24: 118 pounds

Charlotte and Nick Wedding

I actually kept the weight off for over a year after we got married. But in the summer of 2010 I started a new job that had me based out of my car instead of an office. I started eating a lot of fast food lunches and my weight crept back up. By the time I got pregnant with Jack the next year I was back to 138.

Age 26: 138 pounds

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Surprisingly, I actually did not gain an unreasonable amount of weight when pregnant. I don’t know how because my sugar cravings were so intense that I was practically diabetic. Jack was born at 8 pounds 15 ounces.

9 months pregnant: 165 pounds

9 months

I was amazed to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight by my six week checkup. Don’t let the flattering angle of this photo fool you. I had some junk in my trunk. 138 pounds is still overweight for my height.

A few months postpartum (age 27): 138 pounds

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With breastfeeding and halfhearted efforts to watch what I was eating I managed to lose another ten pounds.

May 2013: 128 pounds

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But I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was all those half price shakes from Sonic that Nick brought home to me all summer, maybe it was all those deliciously cold beers I treated myself to after Jack was in bed for the night, maybe it was the Zoloft I’ve been taking for the last six months, or that I went from nursing Jack every couple of hours to only twice a day. I gained ten pounds this summer and I. Am. Miserable.

September 2013: 138 pounds

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Out of focus and there’s a weird look on Jack’s face. This was the best self-portrait I could do at 8am with a toddler underfoot.

I’m not asking for advice, but encouragement. I know how to lose weight. I’ve done it before. Part of me wonders if the fact that I keep returning to this exact same weight is a sign that it’s just what I was meant to weigh, but I don’t like it. This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about wanting to lose weight and it probably won’t be the last, but I feel like making my intentions public helps motivate me in some small way to make it happen. Thanks for reading, y’all, and if you’ve had similar struggles I’d love to hear about it.

It’s that time of year. Folks are starting to think about their family photos for the holiday season. If you’re like me you don’t actually get around to it until December, but if you’re planning on having photos taken sooner then props to you. I know not everyone does holiday photos, but for some reason Nick and I started taking them years ago (even if it was just a friend snapping a pic with an iPhone) and I love that it’s become a tradition for us. After we sent out last year’s photo we got lots of compliments on how impressive it was to get all of our pets in there together. If you have any experience with cats you know that they are not exactly obedient creatures.

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My secret: they’re photoshopped. I don’t actually own photoshop and have no idea how to use it, so I’m just using “photoshopped” as a verb there to describe what I did with the photo editing software that came with my laptop (Windows Live Photo Gallery). After many, many “blooper” shots trying to get all three humans and three pets into one photo, we gave up and took one with just us and Juliet.

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I left my tripod in the same spot, spent a few minutes soothing Pistachio from the trauma of the botched photo shoot, and then perched her on the arm of the couch and ran and snapped a picture before she could move.

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Then I repeated with Sheila. You can see by her tail that she was still a little bitter over the whole experience., but I called it good enough.

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Here’s where the magic happens. I went on my computer and picked out the best photos, then opened Windows Live Photo Gallery and selected the two cat pictures (I recreated the process and took screen shots to show y’all for this post), then clicked “photo fuse” near the too left of the screen. You can see my mouse over it in the screenshot below.

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It pulled up the picture of Pistachio as the main image. Then all I had to do was select the blank space where I knew Sheila was hiding in the other photo, and it asked me which one I liked best. I chose Sheila.

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Bam. Two cats, one photo. And Sheila’s angry tail disappeared in the process.

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I saved that photo, then fused it with the picture of me, Nick, and Jack. I brought the cats in one at a time by drawing a rectangle around where they sat. It was just luck that Pistachio didn’t mess up my hair, since they overlapped a bit.

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The letters on the pillow behind Sheila were a little messy from all that editing, so I cropped it before adjusting the lighting and colors a bit. If you look closely you can see that the curtain behind/above Pistachio is messed up a bit, but I don’t think anyone would notice unless they were looking for it.

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So there ya go! An easy tip to get unruly pets or children into photos with software that I think comes standard on Windows computers these days. I hope y’all each had a lovely weekend. We are back from Austin and ready to get back into the swing of things. Well, I am, at least. Poor Nick was a little bummed about having to go back to work after an entire week off. He and Jack enjoyed spending so much time together. I know he’ll be counting down the days until next weekend!

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I don’t love to travel. Maybe it’s the introvert in me, maybe I’m just old at heart, but I much prefer to stay close to home, taking only short jaunts out into society to be among the people before retreating back to the place I know and love. Nicholas, however, is all about it. He’s not into material things at all and would happily spend all of his disposable income on long weekends spent visiting friends and family, attending sporting events, etc. I die a little inside at the thought. This girl needs some solitude and quiet time. The only vacations I truly enjoy are to the beach, where it’s perfectly acceptable to sit and be silent and stare off into the horizon. Alas, this week I find myself packing it up and packing it in for the second time in a month for the purposes of Nick’s sports obsession (the beach trip was for a fantasy football draft and this one is so he can attend the UT – Ole Miss game. Why does he care about UT and Ole Miss? I don’t understand).

staying organized on road trips

Despite my distaste for travel, I actually get a strange sort of joy in packing the car. I consider it a special challenge to fit everything we need as efficiently as possible. I also make it my mission to keep us organized the entire trip. Exercising control over the management of our stuff helps me cope with the stress of being away from home, I guess. And with a toddler in the mix travel is now much more complicated than when it was just the two of us. Without further adieu, my tips for staying organized on the road:

  1. Make a list. I keep a master list on my phone of what to pack when we travel. Each time we’ve got a new trip planned I’ll copy and paste it into a new note and customize it for that particular trip. Instead of deleting items I’ll place an X or some other symbol in front to mark that it’s packed, then I use the same list to ensure we don’t forget anything when heading back home.
  2. Contain the miscellany. Anything that doesn’t go in a suitcase–food, diapers, camera, laptop, etc.–must go in some sort of container. My go-to technique is to pack all the small, random stuff into a plastic tub like the one you see above. Stuff we’re most likely to use goes on the top, just-in-case items go on the bottom. It makes loading and unloading the car a much simpler process.
  3. Choose your bags wisely. Unless you’re taking long walks through airport terminals rolling suitcases are sort of impractical. Duffle bags and vintage suitcases are much easier to fit together into the trunk of a car and they are easier to stow out of the way once you reach your destination (they all fit under the bed in the hotel where we’re currently staying). Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Unpack if it’s at all practical. I mean, if you’re just staying one night then this might be overkill, but even for just two nights I think that the five minutes it takes to put all your clothes in drawers and your sundries near the sink is worth saving the hassle of digging through a suitcase every time you need something.
  5. Consider what you’ll need on the way. I usually pack two small bags or totes for the passenger area of the car. One contains items we’ll only need when stopped–diapers and wipes, Jack’s bib and portable placemat, etc.. This one does not need to be within my reach. The other bag I put either at my feet or in the backseat where I can still easily reach it and fill with toys, snacks, sippy cups, etc. Even though Jack’scar seat is rear-facing I can easily reach over it from the passenger seat to hand him toys and snacks when he gets fussy.

Bonus tip: bring food. Most hotels have at least a microwave available so we’ll bring oatmeal, squeeze pouches of applesauce (Jack likes it mixed into his oatmeal), raisins, carrots, bananas, peanut butter, bread, fruit cups, granola bars, etc. so that we have the option to eat out or stay in. If there’s a minifridge we’ll even pack an insulated bag with string cheese and whatever else looks good in our fridge at home. Throw in some plastic silverware and microwaveable bowls and you’re all set to serve meals in style. Another item that we always bring is a large blanket, and today we’re taking it and a tote bag full of food out to have a lovely picnic in one of Austin’s picturesque parks. I’m hoping to hit up a thrift store or two along the way, so wish me luck! Have a great weekend, y’all, and thanks for reading!

Let me just put this out there: Jack was a lot easier to deal with when he couldn’t move around. I could just plop him on a blanket, he’d sit there and play, life was good. Now he is so inquisitive and into everything and I feel like I’m on constant suicide watch. Saving him from himself is exhausting.

Alas, I just cannot bring myself to surrender quietly to turning my home into a totally babyfied environment. Grownups still live here and, actually, we pay the bills, so the place should be attractive and functional for us as well. Necessity + limitations breed creativity and I’ve spent the last several months coming up with creative ways to make our home safe and comfortable for all ages. Exhibit A: cords. Maybe all toddlers are into cords, maybe it’s just my kid, but it’s a problem. He wants to chew on them, wrap them around his neck, etc. I try to hide as many as I can behind furniture or whatever but the lamp and baby monitor in his room were really giving me a run for my money. I was so proud of myself when I came up with this solution. First, I stuck the monitor to the wall behind his crib with a command strip. He can’t reach it unless we move the crib and it can be easily removed and replaced to bring with us when we travel out of town. Next I used painter’s tape to secure the cords to the wall. Stay with me here.

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This is where the magic happens. I painted over the cords and tape with leftover paint from the walls. Jack’s no dummy and I’m sure he could spot these cords if he was really looking and of course he could go all toddler-hulk and rip them off the walls, but my suspicion that out of sight = out of mind seems to be holding true so far. Making the cords less obvious was all it took to make him forget about them.

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Next problem: old doors don’t close. Before Jack became so obsessed with toilets I used to lock him in the bathroom with me so I could shower. The only problem was that the door in our master bath not only doesn’t lock, but actually doesn’t even latch closed. So I installed a hook and screw eye on the door. I’ve since used this technique on several doors I needed to toddler-proof, like the closet where we store all of our tools and clutter. I have one on the tiny door to our attic as well but it’s within his reach and he’s figured it out.

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I’ve posted about this shelf before but it bears mentioning again. I put a big basket on the bottom shelf full of Jack’s toys and honestly he hasn’t messed with anything else on the shelf since, but just to be safe the second and third shelves are full of books (obviously unbreakable) and items stuck down with museum putty. I was so excited when I discovered this stuff. I use it to secure lamps, whatnots, etc. so that cats and babies can’t knock them down. Works like a charm.

babyproofed bookshelf

Last but not least, the baby gate. Ugh, I was so hoping to avoid them altogether but reality had other plans. Jack can and will scale those stairs at any available opportunity so they must be barricaded during all waking hours. I was happy to at least find one that was both inexpensive and on the attractive end of things. And it’s made of sustainable materials so I can pat myself on the back for that. (if you’re in the market for baby gates this is the one we own and love).

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Jack is also really into the dog’s food and water bowls. It took me weeks to figure out how to keep him away from them without blocking the dog as well, but finally I got the idea to just mount the baby gate a foot or so off the ground. Jack probably could crawl under but he doesn’t know it and I plan to keep it that way. I used to just block him out of the laundry room behind the kitchen (where we keep the dog bowls, cat litter box, etc.) but I recently started blocking him from the kitchen after he learned how to turn on the gas stove knobs and it’s a brave new world. It’s so much easier to cook without a toddler underfoot.

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I was talking to my friend Cassie the other night about how our babies have changed our lives and she repeated something she’d heard from someone else; to paraphrase: they’re not just an add-on. The entire landscape of our lives shifts to accommodate them. And for Nick and me negotiating the new normal in a post-Jack world has been fascinating, exciting, painful, frustrating, and unexpected in so many ways. We’ve had to figure out everything from how we spend our free time to who changes diapers on the weekends to a daily routine that keeps everybody fed, clean, and happy. Is having a cute house the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But it helps me keep a little bit of my identity in a world that’s dominated by sippy cups and snack times.

Do y’all have any tips for keeping some semblance of sanity in a home with small children? My number one tip is to get a dog–Juliet happily cleans up every crumb that falls to the ground. And my newest thing is to sing the clean up song while picking up Jack’s toys before naps and bedtime. I notice that he is actually more interested in them when they’re not all sitting out all the time and I’m hoping that as he gets older he’ll start joining in with putting them away.