Category Archives: Lifehack

Back to real life: Some tips on making your life easier when coming home from vacations

Coming home from vacations can be tough. Coming home from vacations with kids? Well, raise to the power of your liking. This is of course not about a short trip or a day-out, it is more the issue for coming back from at least a 7 to 10 day vacation or longer. I am not going to be talking about dealing with that psychological phenomena that you might feel down or depressed when you come home; I just want to touch upon purely practical issues and share some of my tips on how to get back to “real life” as smoothly as possible.

  1. If you are flying and you happen to have a choice, pick an early flight back. The day of departure is anyway a lost day in a sense, so if you can just get home in the morning and still have some time for a smooth transition to your everyday life and for adjusting back kid’s schedules, use that! In general try to have at least a day to breathe out before jumping back to work, school and all the everyday chores. If you are able to schedule your vacation so that you have a weekend at home that’s even better. During your vacations you tend to loosen up daily schedules, you tend to have somewhat different eating habits and in general vacation time is obviously not the same as your daily routine. Additionally travel itself from point A to point B tends to be tiresome, especially for the little ones. Thus, if you arrive on Sunday and on the next day your kids need to go to school that will be very harsh on them! That will also be very harsh on you. So if you have a chance – take it easy and factor in the “adjustment time”. Small note on a daily schedule: on the day of arrival try to get kids to sleep at the usual hour and also get them up at the usual hour the next day – even if the next day is Sunday. Yes, 7 a.m. on Sunday might sound counter-intuitive, but trust me that would make the following Monday much easier.
  2. If you have that possibility do the laundry on the pre-last day of your vacation to arrive back with clean clothes instead of two-three full machines work. Big-big “but” here – only in case it is not too much of a hassle, as it is not the idea to actually ruin one of your vacation days! For us this time we just came back from our vacation at my mom’s, so doing the laundry for us was totally not a problem. Also if you were on vacation in a country where laundry service doesn’t cost the same as renting a limo you might consider using that. But to be honest the beauty of having laundry already done is worth even some extra bucks.
  3. Try sorting your clothes in your luggage in a way that it is possible to immediately take them out and put them in your closet. To be able to do that you need 1) to sort them at least per person (use plastic or paper bags; or just “divide the luggage in necessary amount of parts and assign a part for each of the travelers) and 2) to fold them in the same way you usually fold your clothes to put in your closet at home. What I mean by the latter is that if you for example usually fold your t-shirts flat to put them in the closet there is no point of rolling them to put them in your luggage, as you will get yourself an additional work when you come home.
  4. If this option is available to you – order your groceries online in advance, as your fridge is probably empty, isn’t it? What we usually do is order everything to be ready for a pick up on the day of our arrival. All we need then is just to quickly pass the supermarket and pick the boxes assembled for us. If that would not be possible we would need to physically go to the supermarket and lose at least an hour. If that can be avoided – by all means avoid it!
  5. Unless you have been away for just couple of days the amount of dust everywhere will be surprising in a bad sense of the word. You will have some time for a thorough cleaning later on, but upon arrival try quickly going over some common surfaces like a table, night stand, TV with a wet cloth (or a cleaning tissue). Same for the floor – “Swiffer” or analogues works perfect as a quick so-to-say “in-between cleaning” solution. You can of course skip this point if sounds irrelevant for you, but I personally prefer to have it relatively clean around at all times, and that way according to me is also a nice “take-it-easy transition to reality”.

As you have probably noticed I have a lot of “ifs” in my suggestions. Obviously. Some of the options will not be available for everyone (like a possibility to order groceries online, or an option to choose the morning flight), thus you have to see for yourself. The main point I want to make is – just have it at the back of your head that there are various ways how you can simplify your life upon arrival back home if you just do some homework in advance.

P.S. Some additional alarms on the first workday after vacations might also be a nice-to-have – like an alarm to remind you that you need to pick up your toddler from school! 🙂

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisement

Hogwarts 2.0.: Learning magical powers in the comfort of your own living room

If you expect that by having read this article you will learn how to fly on a broom or how to freeze the moment I am afraid I will need to disappoint you. But for flying there are better alternatives and the moments can also be “frozen” in numerous ways. The magic I want to talk about is much more mundane yet also much more powerful. It can make other people’s day brighter, it can light up your own day and it can also miraculously get you what you want. It is the extraordinary power of a smile and a genuine “thank you”.

Saying “thank you” seems so easy but it is amazing how often it is overlooked. The root-cause of a lot of problems is that things are being taken for granted or that people are being taken for granted. Just a little bit of appreciation, recognition, gratitude can make somebody’s day and enhance positive vibes in the air. Coupled with a smile it does wonders!

A little example. You expect to get a good customer service. Sure so. But how often when you actually got one, you bothered to say “thank you”? That’s not needed, because a company is obliged to provide good customer service? Yes, but it’s not a company but its people who actually provide that service to you. Everybody likes recognition, moreover, everybody deserves recognition. I contacted a customer service of one company recently with a problem. They rapidly provided me with solutions and also with all the relevant information so that I could pursue one of the options. Of course, I wrote back to them saying that I am grateful, that this attitude is the reason I like their company and that I wish them all a splendid day. I had to recontact them two days later as that particular spare part I needed was only available for delivery in the Netherlands. What they did – they ordered it for me. Delivered to my door. For free. I am not saying that this happened because I told them that they are amazing. However, this is also not the first time that I experience good things coming my way after I have just been kind to people and have appreciated what they did to me instead of taking them for granted. When you send out positive energy you tend to get it back and not necessarily from the same person.

In personal relationships the power of “thank you” and a smile is even more significant. Yes, of course, you don’t make dinner to receive “thank you” from your husband, nor you do the laundry for that purpose. However, a simple “thank you” is a positive vibe that has a power to remove the tiredness factor from this never-ending chore-cycle. And as I said before, everybody likes recognition and deserves it.

In raising kids such recognition is likewise indispensable. When a kid tried to clean the floor (and messed it up worse than it was before) instead of saying: “leave that alone, you cannot do it anyway!” try: “thank you for helping me!” and a smile. You will be amazed how fast the skill will improve!

So unleash your magical powers and start enhancing positive vibes in the air by saying “thank you” to people and sending them your sincere smiles! When you smile the world smiles back!

 

 

 

To be or not to be: Why asking questions is a necessary and important means of learning

When I was still studying in the lyceum (long long time ago), we had the so-called “Day of Shadows” when we could arrange to go and spend a day with any businessman, politician or other known person we wanted. I chose, together with 4 others, to be the “shadow” of the CEO of a large factory in Latvia. The idea of the day was that we had to follow the guy around, see all his daily activities and ask any question we wanted. I was 16. I always had a lot of good questions in my head. I still do, but nowadays I have no problems asking them anymore. However, back then my level of self-doubt was way too high. I still remember that day, Continue reading To be or not to be: Why asking questions is a necessary and important means of learning

Prepare the battlefield: Childproofing your home

Before I had kids the first thing I noticed when I entered a new location was the interior design, the color palette, the furniture and so on. Then came kids. I still do notice interior design and color palette, however the first thing I see is potential dangers and objects of potential demolition (giggle). It is like I am in the computer game – the red target immediately lights up the attention points.

Even though it is not possible to completely childproof your home nor it is actually needed, there are still certain things that makes sense to take into account. With childproofing like with everything else in life I prefer to stay reasonable. Of course, you can buy an indoor helmet for your kid (imagine, they really do exist!), remove all furniture, every potentially dangerous item and cover all surfaces with a sport mat, but that’s not the idea, is it?

Cutting long story short, below I have assembled some points with respect to childproofing which I personally consider important. This list is probably not going to be anything new for somebody who has several kids or who already has successfully survived through the first 5-6 years of a kid’s life, yet for “fresh” first-time parents it might provide some useful insights. 

  • breakables will break. That’s a rule. So if they are valuable to you pack them carefully for better times (those times will come, don’t worry!). I am referring to that Chinese vase you got from your granny, or nice collectible figurines, or even picture frames which used to nicely stand on the side table. Just put them all away.
  • all small items – and by small I mean everything the size of a pet-bottle cap and smaller – have to be unreachable, otherwise they will end up in kid’s mouth in no time.
  • sockets – we have safe ones, but if you don’t – buy those click-in protectors.
  • cords: any type of cords is a potential danger – either for a kid, or for the thing the cord is attached to. Here I am talking about all the electric cords, dangling cords of blinds and drapes, in other words – anything that so temptingly says: “pull me!”.
  • same logic for tablecloths – put them away for now, as babies just love to pull them down together with everything that’s on them.
  • elaborating on appliances – if they are anywhere reachable unplug them after use. I mean: toaster, coffee maker, stand-mixer, you name it.
  • we don’t have sharp edges anywhere, so for us it made no sense to buy all these corner and side protectors. At my mom’s place, however, the kitchen table has some silicon corners attached because otherwise those little heads can get injured. An alternative to special “equipment” that sometimes can be costly is to cushion sharp edges with cut pool noodle or with cut tennis balls, or simply have a look at aliexpress or even in your supermarket – they always have something cheaper than in kids specialty shops.
  • furniture, like bookcases, chests of drawers and other potentially unstable objects has to be secured or blocked, or removed.
  • medicines need to be put totally out of reach for kids! And another thing here – never refer to medicine as a “candy” when you talk to your kids. I still remember how I ate a whole jar of C vitamin myself when I was something like 5 years old. It was standing in the fridge and it was so tasty! Like candies… Luckily for me nothing major happened, but some throwing up. But don’t take any chances with this point!
  • same applies to all cleaning products – the further the better. Luckily most of the cleaning products nowadays have the “anti-kids” cap but still. And your cosmetics – that’s a bit less of a danger, but if a kid drinks your facial tonic that will cause serious poisoning as well. And garbage. Keep it safely away.
  • when you are cooking, even if you are sure that your kid is playing somewhere else, even if you are 100% confident that you are not moving anywhere yourself, please turn pot handles away from the edge, so that they are impossible to be grabbed and pulled down together with a boiling content. You would amazed how fast it might happen and how often it does.
  • I don’t lock the drawers, but it is in general not a bad idea. In our case I made sure that the lower drawers don’t have anything dangerous in them. Yes, the upper drawer of my kitchen island has a nice set of very sharp knives and my 3 year old can easily reach them. However, by this age she knows that it is dangerous and why it is so, and she actually knows how to use them, as I wrote already before (link). Another small lifehack – even though opening kitchen island drawers without my permission and immediate supervision is not allowed, there is one compromise drawer – the one with my baking “equipment”: silicon muffin cups, silicon cake forms, some other silicon kitchen helpers (yes, I love Lekue!). If kids get into their special exploratory mode I would allow to get their hands into this drawer, and as kids love winning (who doesn’t?), they enjoy that little victory of theirs and keep hands off everything else.
  • if you have stairs, install gates at the bottom and at the top. Also for fireplaces – use special fences. We don’t have neither stairs nor fireplace at this moment so for us the only gate / fence is in front of the door to the garden. The part of the house where we currently live is basically a glass cube that doesn’t have windows, it only has doors. Thus if I want to ventilate the house I have to open a door, and if I open a door and turn away for a split second, kids will run frrrreeeeee. Hence – the fence (LOL).

Phew! Two more points and I guess the main idea is clear:

  • even if everything is childproof (you hope) you need to explain to your kid why certain things are dangerous from the very early on. Don’t expect them to understand and obey, but keep on explaining. And not just “because I say so”. It is easy to show in a controlled way what is sharp, what is hot, what does falling mean.
  • and finally, after you think you have childproofed your home entirely, get on all fours and crawl around. That would allow you to discover a whole new “world of possibilities” (and maybe some dust here and there, and perhaps even your lost earring).

As a final note just be reasonable – not overly worried about how dangerous this world is (easier said that done!) but also not too reckless. Be aware and be prepared, but don’t forget to notice the interior design either!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family yearly book: Keeping memories without cluttering home

Even though my taste and preferences have evolved quite a lot throughout the years, one thing stayed permanent since something like puberty – I am an adept of minimalism. That implies amongst others that even though I have a lot memories I don’t have that much memorabilia. I don’t have fridge magnets (but I do bring them for my mother who collects them). I don’t have art works of my kids hanging in all possible places. Every (numerous) piece of art my kids produce is admired for a little while, then I take a photo of it and it soon continues its journey towards recycling. I don’t collect tickets from museums or maps, or mugs, or any other travel-related junk. However, if it has a sentimental value it will also end up in the camera roll of my iPhone. I didn’t keep the hospital wristband from when I was delivering my kids (but, yes, I do have a photo of it!). Same with echo’s. Same with some hand-written notes. Same with a lot of other stuff.

So… As you might have guessed I have a lot of photos. However, that is also a problem. In the digital era we tend to have tens of thousands of them that we seldom ever look at. Even if you structure them, it is still too much. I must admit that I don’t follow the “eliminate” route and don’t delete photos, maybe because the capacity of my external hard drive allows to keep everything. But what I do with our photos – I sort them, pick out the most important/beautiful/memorable and I make our non-traditional family yearly book. 

I am not into scrap-booking, yet this in a sense is a digital scrapbook that includes all the memories of us as a family that we would like to keep. This is not a classic photo album, it is more of a memory register, capturing what that particular year meant for us.

In just one book of about 50-60 A4 pages.

What is in there? First of all, it’s not really chronological, but rather thematic: I made one theme per spread. To illustrate, let’s take “art” again, as I am somehow in a bit artistic mode today – we have a spread dedicated to “art”:

  • there are photos of my kids in the process of drawing or sculpting, or cutting, you name it;
  • photos of art created by them;
  • photos related to us visiting art exhibitions, also those of my father-in-law (Riwart);
  • as well as some general notable events in the context of art that we would like to remember. For instance, last year the painting by Paul Gauguin “When Will You Marry?” was sold for a record $300 million and that triggered a lively and extensive discussion in between my husband and myself about appreciating art. It was fun and we wanted to remember it! That is how Gauguin ended up somewhere in between a drawing of a rainbow by my daughter and first attempts at using crayons by my son.

Another spread in our book of the last year is dedicated to the year’s favorite cartoons of our kids and the year’s favorite movies and TV-shows of my husband and myself. We could not have skipped a sad picture “R.I.P. Top Gear”, now could we?! Likewise some other notable events of the year like a discovery of water on Mars or a discovery of “super-hendge” were included, just to name a few. There are also themes “fashionistas”, “travel”, “parties”, “cars”, “studying”, and so on.

As to the practical side of the matter there are numerous websites where you can easily make and order a photo-book. I personally do it via Albelli because I find their software very user friendly and simple as ABC, but as I said – there is a big choice on the market. Time-wise compiling a yearly book of course requires some time and probably if you were not making mental of physical notes (I personally write down things in a Note on my iPhone) about certain events, it will be time-consuming at first to remember everything that happened. But, trust me, once you do it regularly you will have a neat, nice, clutter-free way of keeping memories worth keeping.