Thursday, January 23, 2020

Currently - Jan 2020

There is only a week left in the first month of the year! I'm honestly not sad about this. I like the fresh start of January but in general, I'm not a big fan of January/February as winter starts to get old at this point. So time can keep marching on until warmer weather arrives! :) Here's what's currently going on in my world!

Reading: Lab Girl by Hope Jehren for book club. It's a memoir by a botanist who grew up in Minnesota. It got a lot of rave reviews so I had high expectations. So far I feel like it's "so so." There are parts I find interesting and parts that feel a little boring to me, maybe because I'm not super interested in trees/plants/botany? It is interesting/sad to see how little research scientists are paid, though...

Loving: watching Paul learn so many new things! We are both kind of blown away by what he's learned at daycare. He can count to ten in English and Spanish and can say most of his ABCs. It's super cool and we completely credit his daycare teachers as neither of us feel like we could have taught him what he's learned so far.

Feeling: like it isn't possible that Paul will turn 2 in a little over a month! I'm not sad over him growing/changing, I'm just surprised by how fast time flies when you have a child. It reminds you that the difficult stretches that felt like they lasted forever (like last fall when he was up 3-5 times/night) are really short phases in the grand scheme of things! We have decided not to have a birthday party for him. He doesn't understand birthdays yet, so we'll do something low key with Phil's mom since she's local. I'm thinking we'll order pizza since that is one of his favorite foods and I'll make a cake or cupcakes. We're also hoping he doesn't receive any presents. He has so many toys so we are going to try to encourage people to give money for his 529!

Anticipating: our trip to Florida in February! Our winter hasn't been awful - we've had a lot of snow but it hasn't been super cold all that much. But winter still gets old! I'm looking forward to being outside without multiple layers and not having to struggle with getting our toddler in winter gear before going outside.

Struggling: a bit with my RA. It's better than it was when I was pregnant, but I keep getting little flares and it's getting old. I'm definitely looking forward to being out of the family planning stages so I can get back on my optimal drug combo (which is not safe for pregnancy - so that's why I'm not on it since we are hoping to have a 2nd child).

Grateful: that my mom found a replacement for her role in the company. My parents run a business together and while my brother-in-law has been trained on the electrical side of things and can take over what my dad does, they hadn't found an office manager to take over for my mom. But they hired someone recently. My parents are both over 70 and have worked harder than anyone I know (I'm talking long hours/long week, very few vacations, etc) so I am relieved that they are on the cusp of being able to transition to retirement in the near future. I'm sure they'll still be available to my BIL as a resource but they should be able to live almost full-time at the lake soon. HOORAY!!!

Working: out 3 times/week! So far I have hit this goal every week. My RA flares have made it a little challenging to hit this goal at times, but I've made it work. I'm doing a combo of workouts from a previous fitness challenge I participated in years ago, TMAC workouts (I signed up for a membership as it's nice to have access to 20-minute HIIT workouts) and walks/runs when it's nice enough outside. 

Listening: to podcasts as usual! I haven't added any new ones into my rotation lately - still sticking with my combo of parenting and books/reading podcasts.

Watching: season 3 of The Americans now that we are done with The Crown. I'm also watching new episodes of This is Us on Hulu. I love that show!

Wishing: for warm, sunny weather when we are in Florida! I'd love temps in the 70s with sun! Fingers crossed that happens.

Bonus pics!

Here are some photos from the family pictures we had taken during the anniversary gathering. Phil hates the staged one where we are kissing and Paul is covering his eyes, but everyone who sees that photo thinks it is cute!


I wasn't sure how Paul would handle being held by my mom for the grandparent/grandkid photo, but he did really well!


My huge family of 20 people!



What are you currently loving, anticipating, and grateful for?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Long Weekend Recap

This past weekend was a long weekend. Long weekends are the best - especially when daycare is open on our day off! I used to keep Paul home on my days off, but now that he's older and harder to entertain, we send him to school. We had 2 full days at home and weren't able to be outside much due to the weather so it made sense to send him to school so he'd have more fun and entertainment! Here is how we filled our weekend!

Friday brought a decent amount of snow - about 6". They were predicting up to a foot so I am glad we didn't end up with that much. I was able to convince Paul to wear his hat that morning as it was pretty cold. This kid absolutely hates wearing his hat and mittens! Friday night was very low key. I wasn't feeling great as my cold was still bothering me, so we watched one episode of The Crown and I went to bed early.


Paul was up early on Saturday morning. When I was getting his breakfast ready he kept saying "news, news, news" over and over so I pulled him into the living room and he watched the CBS morning show while eating his breakfast. We've got a Benjamin Button situation or something because he is also obsessed with Wheel of Fortune! I know you are supposed to limit tv for kids but I feel ok with him watching some tv, especially when it's educational, like Wheel is (he recognizes letters so will shout out letters).


After breakfast, he kept bringing me books to read. We had quite a pile to get through!


Swimming lessons weren't canceled but the roads around us weren't all plowed so we decided to stay home. I did all the shoveling in the front and back areas that we can't get to with the snow blower. We have a lot of steps in the front and back since we are on a hill, so there is quite a bit to shovel by hand. It was a good workout.


Then I took Paul out for a sled ride.


Other things that filled our day include playing in the basement.


When you are a toddler, anything can be a toy.
Before nap time, I hung the prints I had purchased off Etsy for Paul's bedroom. He's almost 2 and finally has artwork in his room. I know some moms are super into decorating a nursery, but it's not my thing. Nursery decorations are totally a "you do you" decision. I know it's often part of the nesting phase for the mom but in our previous home, we knew we'd eventually be moving so I didn't put any effort into decorating his room. I personally think decorating a nursery is totally for the mom. Paul is oblivious to decorations, especially when he was younger. But now that he['s a bit older and we know what he likes, I decided to buy some book-themed prints. I got 6 prints for $7.50. I just had to print them on my own, which I did at Fedex so the print quality would be better. I got the frames from Target. So the total money spent on his bedroom decor is $37.50. Not bad!  It's nice to have some colorful prints on his wall. Paul likes them, too, and talks about the animals when I'm changing his diaper or getting him ready for bed.


On Saturday night, we had friends over for cards. We hadn't seen them since October so were overdue for a card night (we try to do them monthly). We had a fun time catching up!

On Sunday morning, Phil's high school friends came over for a celebratory brunch for Phil's best man. He got married this fall and had his wedding reception in late December. We decided to have a post-wedding brunch to continue the celebration for him and his partner. There were 10 adults and 5 kids at the brunch so our house was packed! Our house is larger but it was still pretty chaotic to have that many people over at a time when you can't escape outside! Paul had fun playing with a little girl who is about 5 months younger than him.


After our guests left, Phil headed to his mom's to bring her groceries and help with some things around the house. She had knee surgery 2 weeks ago and the recovery has been pretty challenging. We are hoping the knee surgery improves her quality of life as it was very painful for her to walk before the surgery.

Sunday night was very low key. We watched the final episode of season 4 of The Crown. I hope season 5 comes out sooner than season 4 did. We love that show and find it so fascinating.

On Monday morning Paul gave us the very best gift of sleeping in past 7. I can not tell you the last time this happened. It's been many months. We have quite the little lark on our hands! I guess he was awake before 7 but I had my ear plugs in and couldn't hear him so he wasn't crying much/loud as I usually hear him. I felt like a new woman after getting almost 9 hours of sleep (7.5 is a great night for me since becoming a mom).

Phil took Paul to daycare and I treated the day as a "shouldless day." In the morning, I stayed in my pjs, read blogs, and read my book.

My cozy reading spot!
We had planned to do a day date lunch, but Phil's cousin, who is a contractor, was able to come over and look at our leaking shower and a few other projects, so I decided to go to a matinee showing of "Just Mercy" so I would be out of their way. The movie was great! I hadn't been to a movie in over 2 years and wow, theaters have improved since then! I loved the cozy reclining seat!

After the movie, I came home and headed out for a 45 minutes walk. It was around 15F but it was sunny outside so it felt really nice. When I was on my walk, I realized I was pretty much wearing purple from head to toe, excluding my hat! I don't even really love purple so I don't know how I ended up with so much purple stuff!


When I got back from my walk, Phil headed out to pick up Paul from daycare and I got started on an Indian chicken and potato stew dish. It's a time-consuming dish as it has to cook for over 2 hours total, but there isn't much active time so it's not hard to make. It was delicious! I hadn't made it in a long time since it requires being around for several hours to monitor it, but I'll definitely be making it again this winter. Next time, I think I will try to modify the recipe for the instant pot - I should be able to cut the cooking time in half.


After Paul went to bed, Phil and I started season 3 of the Americans. I headed to bed at 8, finished the book I was reading, and my lights were out by 9:30. Monday was absolute perfection!

Side note: Phil and his cousin thought they had figured out the source of the shower leak... but it was leaking again this morning. Ugh! Hopefully they can figure something else out so we don't have to demo the shower. If we have to do that, I'm lobbying for a full bathroom remodel because I feel like it's a waste of money to re-tile a shower when we aren't thrilled with the set up. We have a small standing shower and a huge soaking tub, which we will never use (neither of us are bath people). I'd rather get rid of the soaking tub, put in a bigger standing shower, and a traditional vanity with cupboards underneath (we have pedestal sinks which I personally hate because there is no storage). I'm still hoping they can figure out the cause of the leak as we'd rather remodel the bathroom down the road when we are in a recession and contractors/remodelers are less busy/more responsive!

How was your weekend? Did you have yesterday off?

Friday, January 17, 2020

TGIF

Happy Friday! It's an extra happy Friday because we have a long weekend ahead of us. Woo hoo! I'm looking forward to an extra day at home. I have a quick work trip to Chicago next week so it will be nice to have a quiet day at home on Monday as work travel really exhausts me!

The book I'm reading is The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. This is a debut novel that tackles the subject of faith. It's about 2 couples. The husbands are co-pastors at a church in Manhattan. I'm early in the book, but I am loving it already. There have been many beautiful passages that I've highlighted - like the one below.




The highs of my week were going for a solo walk/run on Sunday morning and getting together with my book club on Wednesday night. At our book club meeting, we voted on the books we will read in 2020. Each member suggests 3 books, gives an explanation of each, and then we vote (I prepare voting sheets ahead of time). We started doing this last year and it's been a great change for how we pick books as it helps that members have some input into what we read. We've got a great list of books for 2020!

The low of my week was getting sick again. This time it's a head cold. I'm so tired of one of us always being sick! Paul has been pretty healthy (knock on wood), aside from getting strep in December, but Phil and I always seem to trade having a cold of some sort.

Another low was finding out that my boss’s boss - the man that hired me 4.5 years ago - was let go due to a restructuring at my company. I did not see this coming and am sad as I really liked him. This is an example of why we are so conservative with our spending and so determined to be debt free. My industry is shrinking so I feel like there will be round after round of reorganizations and layoffs. So we feel we have to live our lives with the assumption that Phil or I could be next. 

A recipe I made was Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala with Cauliflower. This is another favorite recipe in our house. I need to double it next time.

The best money spent was on some books "Pookie" books that we'll give Paul. I got 1 for Valentine's Day and 2 for his birthday, one of which is birthday themed. He is obsessed with the Pookie books (by Sandra Boynton) which are about a little pig and his mama. He has parts of some of the books memorized, which is pretty cute! 

My plans this weekend include staying in tonight! We might get up to a foot of snow so it's time to hunker down! On Saturday night, another couple is coming over for cards and on Sunday morning we are hosting some of Phil's high school friends for brunch. We'll see if Mother Nature will allow us to keep these plans! We both have Monday off for MLK Day. Phil is getting my car serviced and then we are going to go out to lunch today (Paul will be in daycare). I'm also considering going to a matinee showing of "Just Mercy" - I loved the book so I think the movie will be great. And it seems like an appropriate activity to do on MLK Day as the book is about the inequality in our criminal justice system, especially in the south.

What was the high of your week? This this weekend a long weekend for you?

Monday, January 13, 2020

First Normal Weekend of 2020!

This past weekend was the first normal weekend of 2020. Woo hoo! We had some fun holiday weekends but it was really nice to have a normal family weekend! Here is how our weekend shaped up.

On Friday afternoon when I picked Paul up, I learned that he had fallen and hit his head on the corner of a bookshelf. Yikes, it looked bad, but I'm glad it didn't require stitches! It doesn't seem to bother him, but it looks so nasty.


He had an early morning on Friday (he was up before 5am!) so bedtime could not come fast enough! There was a lot of whining and crying... But he was in a better mood after I put him in jammies. He played well with this helicopter from my parents. It's from the "Green Toys" line which is my FAVORITE brand toys. I've mentioned that line before but it bears rementioning. These toys are made from recycled plastic. They have minimal (recyclable) packaging and there are very few pieces. The helicopter came with one other piece (a pilot bear) besides the helicopter.


Paul had leftover pasta for dinner and Phil and I had yummy shrimp tacos with a mango salsa. Yum!



After Paul went to bed, Phil and I watched a couple episodes of the new season of The Crown (it's so good!) and did a financial review. It wasn't our most fun financial review to be quite honest... Our finances are in good shape but this conversation was more contentious since Phil usually spends so little and we've had a lot of expenses recently. But oh well - we aired our grievances and will move on.

Paul was up around 6:15 on Saturday morning, which was much better than the previous day! After breakfast, he brought me this stack of books to read (it took several trips to bring them all to me!). Sometimes he wants to read the same book over and over so I was happy to read a variety of books!


After a marathon reading session, he played with his "Green Toys" farm set, and then we headed to swimming lessons.


He did super well at swimming lessons. It was probably the best lesson we've ever had. He will do things like jump off the lily pad (while holding onto my hand and the teacher's hand), jump off the side of the pool (from a sitting position) into my arms, etc. If this keeps up, I'm thinking we'll advance to a new level in the spring.

On Saturday afternoon, we went over to a friend's house for a play date. My friend Courtney (wife of one of Phil's best men) has a 4 year old and a little boy who is 5 weeks older than Paul. She invited another mom with 2 girls close to her boys age over, too. Paul took a short nap so we got there early and got some extra time with Gus and Leo before the girls arrived.

enjoying some snacks!
The younger girl, Georgie, that came over is in Paul's class and she is Paul's favorite friend in his class. He actually named one of his blond "little people" Georgie and he talks about her quite a bit. It was cute to see them interact together!


On Saturday night I made a new-to-us recipe for Turkey Tamale Pie (shared on Modern Mrs. Darcy's blog this fall). It turned out really well! Next time, I'll hold off on adding the cheese until the crust has broiled as the cheese got a little too dark. But it was really delicious and I'll be enjoying leftovers this week at work!



After dinner/bath time/bedtime for Paul, we settled in on the couch and watched a couple more episodes of The Crown. We are going to finish the series pretty quickly at this rate!


On Sunday morning Paul was up around 6:20. I came down with a cold around bedtime on Saturday night so I was feeling extra tired! We cuddled on the couch together and read some books while I chugged coffee. Ha. He's double-fisting in the picture below as he insisted on having his milk and agua.


Around 9am I asked Phil if would hang out with Paul while I went for a walk/run. It was too cold to go outside with Paul (10F, 1F with the windchill) but I wanted some fresh air. It felt really good to get outside! I probably ran about 1.5 miles of my 4 mile route.


I was wishing Paul had been with me because there were so many ducks on the creek I ran by!


The rest of the day was spent laying low. Paul spent a good amount of time playing in the basement. He has a train table and a basketball hoop down there. He likes to play down there when I workout, but will go down there on his own sometimes, too. It's nice to have more space for his toys!


I ended up taking a 2 hour nap when Paul went down for a nap. He only napped for about an hour but Phil hung out with him and let me sleep since I wasn't feeling well.

The rest of the day was spent hanging around the house and watching some football!


We capped off the weekend with one more episode of The Crown and I headed to bed early! It was a really good weekend, aside from coming down with a pesky cold!

How was your weekend? 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Finance Friday: 2019 Spending

The calendar year has turned, so it's time to review my 2019 spending! I've been doing this since 2015 (see 2018 here2017 here, 2016 here, and 2015 here). When I wrote my finance post last year, I made it a goal to do a financial post each quarter... and then never wrote another one! Whoops! My finance posts always get a lot of good comments and seem quite popular, so I am really going to try to write 3 more in 2020. We'll see if I achieve this goal!

Before I dig in, a couple of notes about adjustments made:

1. 2019 ended up being an expensive year since we bought a house. I feel weird talking about this, but I'm all about transparency, so here goes! We paid off our mortgage early in 2019. Phil bought our last house at a great time 5 years ago, so the mortgage wasn't very high since the price was fairly low and he'd made extra payments over time. The rate was going to reset (we had a 5-year ARM) and would be higher so we decided to just pay it off (we had money saved from previous bonuses, etc). Then in December, we sold it for almost $100k more than he paid for it and put all of the proceeds from the sale towards the mortgage on our new home. So paying off that mortgage/applying the sale proceeds toward our new mortgage combined with the down payment on the new house was a big chunk of money. Some might wonder why we are so committed to paying off our mortgage. The reason for this is that we both work in financial services which is a very volatile industry. So having 2 incomes that are subject to a lot of volatility means that we want to reduce our monthly expenses as much as possible in the event one or both of us gets laid off. Phil got laid off when the hedge fund he worked for blew up after the 2008 financial crisis and I had to move to Charlotte to keep my job when my department was moved, so we've already experienced the volatility of our industry. And it's only going to get worse as the financial services industry is shrinking. If we worked in less volatile industries or didn't BOTH work in a volatile industry, we might feel differently about not having a mortgage. Our goal is to pay off our new mortgage within 5 years. 

All that said, I removed the down payment/extra lump sum paid towards our new mortgage from the spending chart, because it was several multiples of the rest of our spending. Had I included it, the pie chart would have had one huge piece and some teeny tiny other ones!

2. This chart does not include savings. 

3. This chart does not include payroll deductions for things like health/dental/vision insurance or charitable contributions. I could easily add these items in but I haven't in the past. The charitable donation is in my control, but the insurance items aren't so I don't feel it's necessary to include them.

4. This chart doesn't include all of Phil's spending. He has some credit cards that are not on my mint account and it's not really worth the hassle of adding them. The guy barely spends any money so he doesn't really want/need to track it. But that means things like grocery shopping aren't included since he does all of our grocery shopping!

Overall, our spending (excluding our housing expenses) grew by 10%. Here's the category breakout - I'll talk about the categories that bear mentioning. 







Taxes: We paid less in taxes in 2019 compared to 2018, but I think Phil made a payment toward our 2019 taxes in early January, so we'll probably end up spending about the same amount as 2018. As I explained last year, we have to make extra tax payments because even though we each claim 0 with holdings, our companies don't hold back enough for taxes. Part of this is the "marriage penalty" - meaning the tax obligation of our combined income is significantly higher than the tax obligation when we were single (we used to both get large refunds each year and claimed 1-2 with holdings). It's too complicated to explain the marriage penalty but you can google it if you are interested. Things are further complicated because some of Phil's income doesn't come on a w-2, instead he gets a K-1 and has to estimate how much taxes he owes on his K-1 income. I let him do all the math and make the extra tax payments.

Kids:  This is mostly child care. This category jumped by about 1/3 this year as we only paid for about 4 months of daycare last year. Daycare is not cheap but we are so happy with the daycare Paul goes to. He has learned so much under their care and he seems to genuinely enjoy his time there! It was nice when tuition went down $40/week when he moved into the toddler room in September, though. Other than child care, I really do not spend much on Paul. I rarely buy clothes for him (mostly pajamas, not much else) and if I do buy clothes, I go to Once Upon a Child. Luckily Paul has received a lot of hand-me-downs from friends and Paul's grandmas, especially Phil's mom, enjoy shopping for him! We also have not bought many toys since he received a lot for his birthday and Christmas - plus we got a bunch of hand-me-down toys from my college friends in December. I do buy books for him but it's really important to have lots of books around the house and he thoroughly enjoys them!

Home:  This includes our regular mortgage payments before paying off our mortgage, and the payments on the new house, our cleaning service (I talked Phil into hiring one in August), moving expenses, some of the furniture for our new house and miscellaneous repairs. Overall I'm content with what we are spending on our house. Hiring a cleaning service isn't cheap but it's money well-spent!

Target:  Ay yi yi. This is a category I would like to cut down on. I was surprised to see that I spent more at Target than Amazon since it feels like we buy a lot from Amazon! There is a Target a block from where I work so I go there quite a bit. I think a lot of this spending is on groceries, household items and things Paul needs, like pajamas, winter hats/gloves, etc. My plan for 2020 is to track what I am buying at Target so I can get a better handle on why I spend so much there! I don't feel like I make many frivolous purchases at Target - it usually feels like I am buying necessities - but I want to watch it more closely in 2020.

Travel:  I am happy that travel is back on my spending grid in 2019 after spending next to nothing on travel in 2018 since we had a baby that year! We took one trip in 2019 - a trip to the Sarasota area of Florida. We also paid for 1/2 of the VRBO for our 2020 trip to the Tampa area of Florida. We are hoping to continue to take one family/trip per year and are really hoping to take our first trip without Paul in May or June if my mom is able to watch him - we'll see if she is able to retire this year!

Food and Dining: Since I don't do the grocery shopping, this is money spent on meals out, coffee, alcohol, etc. This increased by about 50% in 2019 but it was really low in 2018 since I was wrapping up the pregnancy (and laid up for 6 weeks with a blood clot) and then home for a good chunk of the year with a young baby. We really do not eat out much as a couple/family- maybe once every 2-3 months, if that! So a good portion of that expense is lunches during the workweek (I eat out once/week), meals out with my book club, and coffee. I typically only let myself get a coffee once/week but broke this rule during our move as our coffee pot was packed away. I had packed it away early in my pregnancy as coffee was a huge turnoff. I didn't feel like unpacking it after the miscarriage it so got lattes every day for about 5-6 weeks. Oh well!

Personal Care: This increased quite a bit from 2018 as well, mostly because I replaced all my make-up and skin care with cleaner products (Beauty Counter). I also treated myself to a couple of massages which was money well-spent! I expect this category to shrink in 2019 since I won't be buying much make-up/skincare products.

Focus for 2020:

2019 was an incredibly expensive year between paying off a mortgage, buying a house, and buying some furniture for the new house. We had been saving for the house/furniture so we were ready for it, but it's still hard to look at the outflow from 2019. In 2020 I'd like to really focus on spending LESS! Not buying a house will really help! I am a frugal person in general, but there's always room for improvement. Here is what I plan to do:

1. My biggest focus for 2020 will be examining my spending at Target and trying to spend less there. We'll continue to aggressively pay down our mortgage this year, so it will still be a spendy year, but overall I'd like my spending at places like Target to decline.

2. I also want to stop ordering so much from Amazon. With free 2-day shipping through Prime, it's so easy to buy things when I realize we need them. What I'd like to do is add something to a wish list if it's not something I absolutely NEED. If it's something we need, I'd like to add it to our cart and wait 1-2 weeks to place the order. Obviously if it's something we urgently need, I will order it, but a lot of my orders aren't urgent needs. This will cut down on the number of boxes we receive (which is a bit of a sore subject in my house)!

Overall, I know we are doing well with how we manage our finances, though, so I am trying not to be too critical. Life is meant to be enjoyed so I fully believe in continuing to spend money on things like coffee, lunches out, meals with friends, our bi-weekly cleaning services, etc. If it was up to Phil, we'd cut most of that spending out. Ha! But, "you can't take it with you!" so I want to enjoy the fruits of our hard labor - within reason, of course!

Do you review your spending? Is there a spending category you'd like to spend less on? Are there any finance topics you'd like me to cover this year?

Monday, January 6, 2020

50th Anniversary Celebration!

This past weekend we celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, which was on December 20th. I had a hard time wrapping mind around all that happened in the past decade, so it's hard to imagine 5 decades of marriage! I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have parents that are married, in love, and enjoy spending time together. Heck, they even work together as they have ran a business together for 35+ years! It took some planning, but I am so happy that all of the siblings and grandkids could get together to celebrate with my parents. We are kind of spread out across the country so we hadn't all been together since my wedding in 2017!

My sister Abby and her husband Ryan flew in on New Years Day. I was going to pick them up at the airport, but when Phil went to get my car out of the garage, he could not get the door to open. We have quite a few maintenance issues at our house so Phil was NOT happy. Since our garage is built on a hill, there is not a side entrance so we had no way to get our cars out of the garage. So Abby and Ryan took an Uber to our house. Ryan and Phil were able to get the door open and they ended up fixing it (for now - Phil thinks it's temporary and more work will be needed).

We hung out at our house and I made dinner. On Thursday, Abby ran (she's training for a 50k trail race) and Ryan went to a local gym, and then I took them to lunch at a Pizza place owned by this past year's James Beard Award winner - Ann Kim. It was great to get some extra one-on-one time with them. 


After Paul's nap on Thursday, we hit the road for the resort in central Minnesota. We had to fit 3 people's luggage, presents and food/cooking equipment in my Camry. It was packed to the max and was like a real-life Tetris problem. But we got everything to fit! With no room to spare. I sat in the back with Paul and entertained him with lots of books and snacks.

On Thursday night, we ate at one of the restaurants at the resort. Paul made my dad's day by climbing into his lap!

Papa Paul and Toddler Paul
 Unfortunately this trip coincided with a crappy sleep regression that Paul has been going through since Christmas. He's been waking multiple times a night and has been waking for the day quite early! At home, we let him cry during the night and will sometimes leave him in the crib until 6 if he's not protesting too much. But you can't do that when you are in a house with 18 other people. So we had some early mornings (he was up around 5:30 3 mornings - he "slept in" until 6:10 the last morning). Luckily my mom is an early riser so she kept me company and kept the coffee flowing.

Reading with Nana
Reading was a big theme for the weekend - I brought quite a few books along for Paul and he got to read with his aunties and nana. I read him a lot of books, too, as it was something that would keep him quiet on those early mornings!

Friday was the busiest day for me as my sisters and I were responsible for breakfast and dinner that day. For breakfast, I made 2 egg bakes and my older sister made a baked oatmeal that was delicious! For dinner, we made tacos and all the fixings. Our meals went over very well with the family! I also fit in some sledding time with Paul before his nap on Friday. Phil arrived on Friday night (he had to work Thur/Fri) - I was very glad to see him after 2 days of solo parenting! I was in bed early on Friday between all the activity and my early morning!

On Saturday morning, we brothers made a delicious breakfast and then we had a photographer come to take professional photos. I am excited to see how they turned out. Paul did really well overall! After pictures, we opened gifts. Paul didn't unwrap any gifts as he doesn't really "get it" yet, but he was excited about what he got - especially this duplo set from his cousin Evelyn.



After the kids and grandkids had opened all their gifts, my dad surprised my mom with a 50th anniversary gift!


He got her some diamond earrings and a necklace with a stone for each of their 5 kids.



That day, we spent time playing cribbage and watching some exciting play-off games. I went to bed before the end of the Patriots game so missed the exciting finish! We were all thrilled when the Patriots lost. Sorry, Patriot fans - your team is so disliked by the rest of the country.

Even though Paul didn't sleep well, he did really well, all in all. He sat on some laps, played well with his cousins, and handled being the center of attention very well. I only brought books, some of his little people, and 2 trucks. He played so well with his toys for the 3 days we were at the resort. It confirmed my hypothesis that the fewer toys we have out, the better Paul plays.



He's putting his little people down for bedtime in this photo!

There was a lot of time spent in jammies!


Including some new jammies from my grandma Janet. She gives jammies to all of her great grandchildren every Christmas (with the help of some shopping elves!). I love the ones Paul received!


On Sunday, we packed up and were on the road by 9. I assumed Paul would stay awake in the car so I wanted to get home in time for his nap. He surprised us and slept for a good chunk of the 2+ hour ride - which meant he did not nap when we got home! But oh well - at least he was quiet on the drive! We were home in time to unpack, do laundry, get groceries, and watch the exciting Vikings victory! Phil took Abby and Ryan to the airport and went to get Oscar from his moms, so I was on my own with Paul for a good chunk of the day. I managed to fit in a workout - he played really well with the basketball hoop and train table we have in the basement so I'm feeling good about my 3 workouts/week goal after seeing how well he entertained himself!

Now it's back to work and a normal schedule. We had a lot of fun over the holidays but I am SOOOO ready for a normal schedule and normal eating!!

How was your weekend? Are you super happy to be back to normal life, too, or are you wishing you were still in holiday mode?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

What We Read in December

December ended up being a huge reading month for me - but mostly out of necessity! I use the 'pause hold' feature at the library so that I can move up the queue and unpause the hold when I'm ready to read the book. However, you have to set an expiration date for your holds and I didn't realize all my holds expired in mid-November. So all of a sudden about 15 books became available for me to read. Eeks! Since I'm an enneagram 1 and an upholder, I couldn't stomach holding the books past their due date and racking up fines, so I read as many books as I possibly could. Many of the books were in transit for awhile so they weren't all available at the same time. So I was able to read 10 of the them before their due date, bringing my total books read in 2019 to 104! I don't expect to read 100+ in 2020 but we'll see!

Mom's Reads:



Hits: 

I loved a lot of these books so have to be really particular about hits so I don't end up talking about 6+ books - I gave 4 stars to 8 out of 10!

- The Gown by Jennifer Robson - I'd recommend this for Anglophiles, watchers of The Crown, and fans of historical fiction. It's a fictional account of the making of Queen Elizabeth's wedding gown. It's a dual narrative as it's told from the perspective of one of the gown makers in the 40s and one of the embroiderer's grandchildren who lives in Toronto and is trying to learn more about her grandmother's time in England before some immigrated to Canada. This was such an enjoyable read!

- The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal - This is the second novel by this author and I loved this book as much as his debut novel. He's a Minnesota author so he sets his books in Minnesota, usually in small towns. At the heart of the novel, it's about 2 sisters who have a falling out over how their parents estate was handled (one sister got everything). I heard the author interviewed on a podcast recently and he talks about his intentional decision to feature people with lives that don't get much attention - like those who work in nursing homes. This author is doing his home state proud!

- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - Ann Patchett is one of those authors whose books I HAVE to read when a new one comes out. She's a master at character-driven family novels. In this novel, we meet 2 siblings who find themselves kicked out of their home after this father passes as the estate goes to their step-mom. The novel covers 5 decades and we get to see how their challenging childhood and close relationship impacts their lives as adults.

Misses:

- On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong - This novel is a letter from a son to his mother. His mother was abusive towards him and, in general, the family had a very hard life as immigrants to the US from Vietnam. You'll be hard-pressed to find a 'best of 2019' list that doesn't include this book. But it was a big miss for me. I know it is beautifully written but it just did not resonate with me and I had to really push myself to finish it. It’s something I should have abandoned but I kept reading to try to understand what all the buzz was about. 

Paul's Books:

Paul received a number of new books for Christmas. His favorites are ones with buttons on the side that play music or sounds. The one he's looking at in the picture below has dinosaur sounds which I find quite scary! 


He also loves the "Pookie" series by Sandra Boynton. I got him 3 from this series plus another book from the Amazon "best of 2019" list.


But amidst the new books, he's still a fan of the 'oldies but goodies' - like the Dr. Seuss ABC book. He's starting to recognize letters which is pretty cool!


Did you read anything good last month?