I am very clear about not being able to multi task. I am also very familiar with my body clock and corresponding productive hours. My afternoon is not my creative time. I am very good at staring into space from about 3 to 7 pm each day. After 7 it is time for the kids to all wind down and start the long journey to bed. When they are all tucked in bed, I am ready to go to sleep as well. Or at least read in bed. I am not going to get anything useful written after 3pm on any day, so when the kids were home for school holidays, I only had my good intentions. There are no more than 24 hours in each day, I have checked.
 
back-to-school
 
The kids all went back to school today which means I get my office hours of 9:30 to 3 back. I have been trying to make up today for the last three weeks -since getting this project- of no time and less energy to write. I didn’t get it all done, but I got back into a sort of groove and I feel a bit less anxious than I did yesterday. I am sure that will turn back into terror when I have to share my progress with my editor tomorrow. But really, it is much more under control now. 
 
But how to manage that project, a work trip to Japan, a heart filling trip to Tasmania and the rest of stuff that life will be throwing at me in between and beyond? 
 
I have finally discovered the real benefit of using Evernote. I have always been the type of person to have many different notebooks and scraps of paper floating around collecting dust and ideas. Despite sharing my life online now for a decade, I have never had a great system for actually generating the content on my blog. And with so many different projects going at once, I am often required to pull information and write at a moments notice. In the past I had composed blog posts directly on WordPress and after losing a draft to internet crash, I decided I needed another way to collect the words. I have been using Google docs for a while as it is so easy to type in from the web or the app on any operating system. Then the other day when the universe and the grandparents aligned for me to have free time and inspiration, the inevitable happened…Google Docs decided to not load. After I fought with it for a while I could feel my inspiration for the actual writing bit start to fade. I quickly jotted down everything I could with my pen and trusty notebook as they never go offline. Then I took the initiative to finally decide on a system. 
Over the years, I have used online productivity programs, but I was burned when the one I had decided I loved closed up shop. Since that happened, I was afraid to really explore Evernote in case I fell in love and it too decided to leave me, well, leave the internet.
But after much research, I feel it is the way to go.
I spent a precious hour organising the mess of notebooks I had created in Evernote over the years and really getting to know the many features that will now make my life easier.
 
Here is what it can do for you just as a blogger…
1. Compose blog post drafts on the go. It auto saves as you type and you can tag the posts as well as saving them to notebooks. Micro organise too your desired level! 
2. Add voice notes for the times you can’t type as fast as the ideas are coming. Or you are driving. Wait, maybe not.
3. Take a snapshot with the camera on your device! Right there as you are composing whatever it is you are taking note of.
4. Send yourself photos proper photos for your posts from wherever you have them stored. (The photo in this post I shared through Evernote from my iPad to Evernote on the web where I finished everything up.)
5. Add reminders.
6. Add notes to your notes.
7. Attach anything you can digitally attach.
8. Multi format in one :: Make lists and spreadsheets without having to go out to any other app.
9. Co-work :: Share your note for collaboration or just to show off. 
10. Replace your bookmarks :: Clip webpages or snippets of an online article.
11. Work on the app or the web as they all just sync up from the latest version of whatever you were working on.
 
I am also using it for sharing with my husband, the list of movies I’d like to see and the recipes we should try out. I can send links to Gemma for stuff she will be blogging about. She will also use it on her iPad for keeping her schoolwork in order.
I have been researching and collecting all the latest information on Sensory Processing Disorder and the tips to help Kieran deal with his difficulties. I save blogs that inspire me, and keep them all in different notebooks according to what is special about them.
 
Seriously, I have been on this thing since 2008 and am just getting into the swing of it now with a whole lot of “should have done that sooner…”
Trust me, get Evernote now
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While it has been 2015 for a few weeks now, I am on the countdown to Friday when school starts and I can get back to my work. That is when the real new year begins for me. I have written it here (and on social media) before, but I can’t juggle, multitask or balance. I am not good at whatever the current buzzword is for making mothers feel like they have to do everything across all aspects of their lives, perfectly and simultaneously.

My family is unquestionably the love of my life, however I also want and need to do my work. I can’t do both well at the same time. If I try, I always end up half listening to the kids while missing out and messing up. It is frustrating for everyone involved.

Luckily there are ways that my work and life cross over and that is through taking photos. I am currently in the process of writing a new ebook and as the kids and I head out on different adventures, I make a point to evaluate the light (that is the focus of this new book) and take pictures so that I can not only illustrate the chapters with fresh work, but also answer questions that might come up for readers.

natural-light-ebook 

The biggest challenge I have found writing this new book is making sure I cover things that I no longer think about having been taking pictures for 30 years! The second biggest challenge is actually finding the time to do the work. I am not a skilled writer and I find it hard to pluck complete ideas from the twisted bramble of thoughts in my head. Often what I pull out is in shreds and I have to piece it back together without anyone noticing the seams.

I need time to devote to this project and nurture it as I do my kids. Gem, Clover and Kieran don’t deserve my partial attention while I try to partition my brain and do other things at the same time. I am not sure why I still feel some guilt about wanting time to myself to create, but as with anything shared with the world, people will judge. The thing is, people will also recognise themselves in my struggles and that is why I keep putting it out there. I am building my village with people who get me. I want to be a part of something bigger than just my little home office and I want to be there for others. I want to live, love, work and be happy amongst friends who desire the same. We might be overwhelmed, but we are ok with each others piles of laundry or dishes or paperwork that sits out in the open, unfinished. We will know that life is happening and when it is time, everything will get done.

So here is my one apology for the lack of consistent updates on the blog, but my 10 month year starts on Friday and I plan to make the most of it…at least until December begins. If you don’t mind the mess, I’d love for you to stay. 

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  • Jane Dando via Facebook - It’s a great looking mess, Rachel. Only 2 more sleeps for us…ReplyCancel

  • Allison Walker via Facebook - So true. We start Thursday….. and I hear you!ReplyCancel

  • valentina - Good Luck and Good work for your new ebook!
    i love your work so much!!

    PS: you inspired me into photography world since 2009! Now i’m an Italian Photographer of kid photography! thank you so much for everything! I hope one day to meet you!

    Have a nice day and Happy Anniversary to you and Alec!ReplyCancel

  • Fi - Not a skilled writer? Could’ve fooled me :) Great post, Rachel. I’m also a shocking multi-tasker and it’s always comforting to hear that others struggle with the same issues. Will try and hunt you down for that coffee once I’m in the swing of school hours!ReplyCancel

  • Cass - I hear it all the time “you just can’t have it all”… Well I’ll tell you what: as long as “all” doesn’t include a tidy house, clean children or a social life, then yes you can!

    What’s that you say? “All” really does include those things? Oh bugger. Well I guess you can’t have it all then. But I’ll tell you what you can do: accept that you don’t NEED it all. I need a house that is safe and warm, not show-room tidy; children that are happy and healthy, not sparklingly clean; and maybe not a social life but my very own virtual support group that can pull me up when I am down.

    You can have everything you need, just not everything the world wants you to believe you should be aspiring to.

    Embrace the mess, that’s my motto.ReplyCancel

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Brother

Print school labels at home with Brother

I can tell that it is getting close to back to school time, not only by the fact that my kids are climbing the walls with an unfulfilled desire for learning, but because ads for labelling products are popping up everywhere, from online shops to the emails of every parenting site I have ever signed up for. I’m advised to label their shoes, their undies, each and every pencil. Label all the things! 

print-at-home-school-labels-with-Brother

Cute labels are sold everywhere, but since I decided to give my kids names hardly ever never found on pre-printed stickers, I would have to place a custom order. The cost to invest in personalised labels for three kids would be ridiculous. My kids will be responsible, so, really, who needs labels? That is what I thought last year as I prepared the kids belongings. And then my kids went to school and in the first week, Gemma had lost her jumper, Kieran had lost a part of his lunch box and Clover lost her ENTIRE BACKPACK.

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  • Stacy S - Labelers are always needed, especially when you have kids that “misplace” things.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa Hicks - My 14 year old son lost a batman usb with a lot of his work on it in the school library. Definitely wish we had labeled that!ReplyCancel

  • Liss Hicks via Facebook - Entered! We really do need to label everything, don’t we! This year my 12 year old starts high school and needs to take an iPad. I want to cover the whole thing with his name!ReplyCancel

  • Ruth - Mia lost her blankie at the bentleigh market when she was around 3. It was heartbreaking watching her grieve. Seven years later she still mentions it every time we are back in that car park. I really wish I could have labelled blankie:(ReplyCancel

  • Maria - Teehee, During first grade I lost a dress I was wearing and returned home wearing tights and a shirt… the whereabouts of this dress remain a mystery to my family. (from europe so not a giveaway entry.ReplyCancel

  • Breanne - We ask the parents of our Museum campers to label every part of their lunch sacks. :)

    (P.S. This American had to go look up jumper… “surely Gemma didn’t lose her dress?!” LOL.)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - My daughter lost her sticker book. She had been collecting stickers in this one book for ages, she cried and cried when she lost it. I needed a Brother Labeller!!!ReplyCancel

dubai getaway

dubai tourism platinum heritage bloggerati australia 1001 events

dubai-balloon-ride

I can’t believe I am finally wrapping up my Dubai posts. The entire adventure seems like a dream now that it has been a month that I have been back home. Reflecting on Dubai though, I feel “dream” is a wonderfully appropriate word to describe the city, as well as any opportunity one may have to spend time there.

And what better way to send off this whole experience than with the dreamlike tale of my first ever hot air balloon ride.

Dream-balloon-ride

I will begin by confessing that I was terrified of hot air ballooning. How would it feel being suspended in the air with nothing but a giant picnic basket to hold you up? I’m not known for being good with heights so I thought this would be just too much to bear. Of course I immediately accepted the invitation to ride. What’s a little fear between friends?

early-morning-arabian-desert-balloon-ride-dubai

I thought the night before the ballooning experience would be spent with me staring at the ceiling, awake with anxiety. Luckily that was not the case and our four something AM wake up call for the ride out to the desert launching place was not so painful. You have to be very precise with timing for balloon rides or the whole thing will not happen. That meant no late starts. So, racing the sunrise, we headed away from the bright lights of Dubai towards the desert. Arriving at the spot, we found two giant balloons from Balloon Adventures Emirates. One was just for our Bloggerati group and after a serious safety briefing, we prepared to scramble in as the giant balloon inflated with fire and fans. It was awe-inspiring and I was also comforted by the fact that up close, the basket looked much more substantial than one you should take on a picnic.

When the pilot (especially this German pilot) says, “Get in,” you get IN. There was a mad, aborted scramble as the basket first lifted and tilted and then the real time to load up happened. We threw ourselves in that basket and up we went. There was only thrill, no nerves.

balloon-ride-dubai

We rose with the sun and simply glided over the Arabian dessert. It was so peaceful except for the moments when the pilot had to blast more fire into the air above which results in an odd combination of reactions… jumping from the sound while also cowering from the heat.

desert-sands

dubai-desert-sands

Dubai-desert-sands

I was completely without fear. Mesmerised by the views and especially the way the light hit the waves of sand below, I found myself even peering over the edge of the basket to take it all in. Camels, goats, farms and more passed underneath our impressive shadow.

dubai-desert-camel-farm

Dubai-desert-balloon-ride

Up we went to avoid the airspace of an incoming helicopter as our pilot guided the balloon towards a flat area in the sand to land. It wasn’t until we descended that our speed became apparent. As we practiced our landing positions, I began to feel the nerves creeping in. The pilot told us to prepare for a “sporty landing” and I had no idea what he really meant to say was “controlled crashing.” I should have guessed though when our pilot used some colourful language to ensure we turned off our cameras and got into safe landing positions and then proceeded to yell with all his German accented might; “ROCK AND ROLL…”

Dubai-desert-balloon-ride

I could not believe just how fast we were going as the ground came rushing up behind us and we hit the sand with a serious slam right at the corner where I was hanging on for dear life. It did not seem to slow us down as we bounced a few more times and I just resigned myself to whatever was going to happen. After sliding 150 meters, we stopped in a heap of people and sand. I was hauled out in a not so graceful impersonation of a wounded spider and immediately thought, I want to go again!!!!!

I would think it had been all a dream had we not been able to get a video of the entire thing. Stay through to the end for that wicked landing! 

 Dubai is really an oasis of culture, adventure and dreams come true.

dubai getaway

dubai tourism platinum heritage bloggerati australia 1001 events
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I know there are a lot of articles out there these days on the benefits of running. There are blogs and forums and Facebook groups dedicated to this one form of exercise. You will find wonderful ones filled with advice and inspiration. I’m with them on the health benefits. I have written before about hard work, beauty and the pain around running, but today I am getting real with my reasons.

Running-Reward1) No one touches me or asks me for food or toilet paper or to put a dress on a Polly Pocket. There are no fights to breakup, no rogue sheep in Minecraft to kill…not even the dog can bother me because her tiny ouchie legs are too short to run 10 kilometres. The headphones go on, the volume goes up and I hide behind giant sunglasses even if it is overcast. I am in stealth mom mode. My time.

2) Speaking of the headphones, I listen to music. Loud music. My taste in music with no one judging my choices or trying to change the song to listen to the cricket. I have my favourites of which most will remain undisclosed, but I do believe Unbelievers by Vampire Weekend is the perfect pace song for my running.

3) Thinking. The runner’s high brings fantastic ideas. I swear that creativity just floods my senses and I feel inspired. Of course a lot of those plans don’t make it past the sobering filter of post-run daily life, but what a great way to accumulate a whole big pile of stuff to pick through.

4) Low cost. After the initial investment of proper running shoes (I even saved some money on those by getting the last season style just as the new ones came out) and at least one outfit -seriously, I run in the same pants I got on sale at Old Navy about 6 years ago and the socks I got at T.J.Maxx in the states the visit before last- there is not much to outlay. The Couch-2-5K running app I learned with was 99 cents downloaded to the phone I already had. The costs do go up from there, but they are completely optional. I pay for a Spotify subscription so I can listen to my musical whims, I enter fun runs which cost to register and have paid for a six week motivation course online for community driven motivation and to learn new strength building exercises. These are not required. I’d love a new pair of running shoes as mine are getting a hole in one toe, but I will have to wait just a little longer before that next big spend. At least I will not have a gym membership to pay and then feel guilty about not using every day nor will I invest in an unsightly treadmill to loom motionless in a corner collecting discarded dirty clothes.

5) Running is for quitters! No, I mean it is the best exercise for procrastinators and those who give up a bit too easily. As I am one of those types, I happen to know that we are excellent self bargainers. Use that skill to talk yourself out the door and to at least one certain spot in the distance. When you get there, talk yourself into going a little bit further along. When you finally get to the point where you are no longer listening to yourself, you STILL have to go back home. HA! Even if you walk, you are moving.

6) Statistics. I do not own a scale as I feel like weighing myself would push me towards an unhealthy obsession with numbers. However, I am impatient and I need to see results to stay on task. It is the same reason vacuuming is my favourite chore, I am motivated by seeing progress for my efforts. Tracking runs is great for control freaks like me because I am given numbers. I can see lines on a graph get longer while the total number of kilometres gets bigger. For my American friends, I highly suggest swapping miles for kilometres since they look way more impressive. With measurable statistics, I can compete with myself and there is nothing I find more inspirational than outdoing me. Combining Strava with My Fitness Pal (both available on iOS & Android), I can see the number of calories I earn back with each run. Instead of viewing this as losing weight, I choose to look at it as earning treats. It is all about perception in life.

And that brings me to my final reason…

7) Those treats! I can enjoy Slurpees with my kids because I earned every sip. Mondays at 7-11, a small Slurpee costs only 1% of (almost) anything you buy. Score a small Slurpee for you and your kid gets one for just a few cents!

Nearly-Free-Slurpies

Those Slurpees the twins are having in that photo there? They were nearly free!

Cheapskate quitters for the win!

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  • katepickle - I keep thinking I might like to run… but when I try to run there is no ‘runners high’ as people tell me… there is only an intense need to sleep for a zillion years! LOL

    But I love this post for the splurpee news… Iwill treat my kids, (possibly from the very same 7-11 in your photos since we are heading to my parents’ for a few days!) and think some more about running…ReplyCancel

  • Cass - Amelie (who, as you know, comes with me on my weekend runs – thereby voiding your first running benefit but providing me with an alternative one: some quality time alone with my eldest) has figured out my running song, i.e. the one that has a tempo exactly matching the pace of my feet hitting the ground. Nothing as cool as Vampire Weekend for me. My song is Baa-baa Black Sheep. Ha! So now that’s all that goes through my head when I run… Baa-baa black sheep have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full…ReplyCancel

  • Amelia - Hi Rachel, I remember reading your “Never say never” post two years ago, and I thought to myself, I’m probably not going to be a runner, but I’ll try other things. And you continued to post things about running, like finding sea glass on the beach, things like that. And I thought to myself, I like finding things. So one day, less than a year ago, I decided to go running. Last Sunday, I ran my first marathon ever! I’m totally addicted now, and reading your posts gave me a lot of pushes to try! So I have to thank you for your inspiration! THANK YOU.ReplyCancel