Monday, August 8, 2022

A Rainy Weekend

This past weekend was a rainy one. We are in the midst of a pretty severe drought for the second summer in a row so we really needed the rain. I just wish Mother Nature could send the rain our way during the week? We still got out and about as much as we could, but it was pretty humid and damp outside. 

On Saturday morning, it was my morning to get up with the boys and they slept until 6:30 am!!! I hate to jinx myself by saying this, but I think the 5am wake-ups are maybe/hopefully behind us! Hurrah! We did our usual library trip and then headed to gymnastics class while Phil grocery shopped. He made a delicious Spanish Tortilla which sadly our boys won't eat which is mind boggling to me since it's potatoes, ham, and eggs. The boys had scrambled eggs for lunch which Paul gobbled up but Will refused to eat. Toddlers, man. 

Phil and Paul headed to his mom's after quiet time. I stayed back with Will since he has an earlier bedtime so they can stay longer. Phil usually works on a list of projects around the house for his mom and she gets quality time with Paul. I thought this picture of them working on a puzzle was so sweet! I guess he put most of a 100-piece puzzle together without much help from Nana! 


After Will woke from his nap, there was a break from the rain so I went on a 4-mile stroller run. It was so humid outside and pushing a heavy stroller + toddler is HARD! But I was glad I could fit my run in since it was too rainy earlier in the morning. I will run in light rain but it was pouring that morning.


This is how our skies looked for most of the weekend. It makes for a pretty, moody picture, though!

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the basement. Kid toys are so much more fun than they were when I was a kid! I had fun making towers with these "STEM" magnetic toys and then Will would destroy them. 

On Sunday morning I took Will to swimming lessons and then the boys and I walked/scooted up to Starbucks while Phil headed out to swim. It was raining on and off so it was too wet to go to the park, but Paul was thrilled to get a donut. Will eats the bread part so Paul got all of the frosting and sprinkles. I enjoyed a latte. 


It lightly rained on us on the way home but Paul was a trooper, although we did need to make an emergency detour to a local park so he could use the bathroom. It made me think of Elisabeth and all the bathroom emergencies they had while visiting NYC!

After naptime, the skies had cleared and it was dry enough for the 4 of us to go to a local park. This is Paul's favorite park since it has this climbing structure that he can do. We were there for a solid 45 minutes which is a long park visit for us!


That evening Phil grilled steaks and asparagus for us and to be honest, I kind of counted down the minutes until it was time for Will to go to bed. I love my kiddos but I find the toddler stage to be extremely exhausting. Will is more adventurous/mischievous than Paul was. This is real-talk for the other parents of toddlers out there! But I know this stage is brief in the grand scheme of things. I find 12-24 months to be really challenging and then 2 is more enjoyable for me since they can also communicate a bit better. 

How was your weekend? Are you in the midst of a drought?

Friday, August 5, 2022

Finance Friday: Save and Splurge

Happy Friday! I'm back with another finance post! On a recent Girl Next Door podcast episode, they talked about where they were cheap and where they splurge so I thought it'd be fun to share where are cheap and where we splurge! 

Family of origin:

They started off by talking about their families of origin so I thought I'd start there, too. My parents had 5 kids and ran a business together. There was a huge emphasis on financial responsibility when I was growing up. I remember my mom teaching me how to reconcile my bank statements when I got my first checking account, and I also remember lots of comments/lessons on not using credit cards, or only charging an amount that you could pay off when the credit card bill came. 

Erica and Kelsey talked about what their parents were cheap about and where they splurged, and overall, it's kind of hard to think of what my parents splurged on - it's just not in their nature to splurge and they had a lot of kids which is expensive! But then I remembered that they provided a car for each of us when we were in high school/heading off to college. We all got used cars but mine - a cute cherry-red 1997 Toyota Celica - served me well all through college so they made sure to set up us with something reliable. But providing cars for 5 kids is quite a splurge! They were also very generous when it came to birthdays and Christmas. They weren't over-the-top but we had lots of gifts to open and there was a feeling of abundance at Christmas time. 

But overall, I would say my parents were extremely financially responsible. They worked incredibly hard, too. I have surely taken more vacation days in my 19 years of professional work than they did over their 50+ years of working. But that is the nature of being self-employed in a business that can be 24/7/365 (they ran an electrical/heating/AC business). There was a business line that rang in our house at all hours of the day and night. The business line had a different ring tone and when I was a tired teenager, I trained myself to sleep through it and only wake if our house line rang. Wild, huh? 

I can see that my parents financial responsibility rubbed off on me and hopefully that will be the case for our boys - fingers crossed!

Current state:

Anyone who has read this blog for awhile has likely gotten the sense that we are are frugal couple. Phil is more frugal than I am, but both of us have a tendency to save instead of spend. We are very fortunate to work in well-compensated industries which has allowed us to do things like buy in the neighborhood where we live and pay off our mortgage, but we've been really thoughtful about paying off debt and living well below our means!

Cheap/frugal:

- I don't buy any books for myself unless I can't get a book club book from the library. We pick the books we will read for each year in January and then I set the cadence of the books based on library availability to make sure we can source books from the library. I do buy books for my kids, but I typically only at Christmas or for birthdays, and those books get read sooo many times so the cost/read is very low! 

- We don't eat out very much. I usually get one lunch/week when I am in the office. We get take-out about 1-2 times/month and it's usually take-and-bake pizza which is very inexpensive and provides about 3 meals for us. I am starting to eat out with friends more often and my book club now meets at a restaurant so my spending in this category is increasing, but I think it's still relatively low. 

- We also seem to spend less than the average family on groceries. I am sure this will change as the kids get older and eat more, but I'd say we spend about $100-125/week on groceries. We save a ton by getting as much as we can at Aldi. I am floored by how cheap their food is, especially their produce! 

- We do not spend much on clothes for the boys. I'd estimate that about 75% of their clothes are hand-me-downs. If they need something, I usually go to "Once Upon a Child" first which is a consignment store for kids clothes. If I need something that can't be found at Once Upon a Child, I usually buy it at Target or through a Carter's online sale or something like that. I want my kids to be comfortable but I don't need them to look super stylish! This will of course change when they are older and have input on what they are wearing but I'm happy to get by as cheaply as possible in this stage of life. And we have paid it forward in terms of hand-me-downs and have given hand-me-downs to other families.

Splurge:

- We have both purchased new but affordable cars. I bought a Camry in 2016 and Phil bought a Corolla in 2013. Our cars both have about 30-35k miles on them which is so low for how old they are. If I sold my Camry now, I could get about what I paid for it in 2016 since the used car market is nuts. So I don't think buying a new car has been a bad decision for us. We like the comfort of knowing the car is reliable and will last for a very long time. We are looking to buy a Rav4 Prime which is a hybrid/electric vehicle that can run off the battery for trips under 50 miles which is about 90% of our driving. But with the tax credit, it will cost the same as a traditional hybrid. We just need a car to be available so I kind of doubt we'll buy one this year (we've been trying to buy one since last summer!). But I've been driving since I was 15 (you could get your license at 14 in North Dakota when I was growing up - my parents made me wait until 15), and I'm on my 3rd car (Celica, then new Accord in 2003, then new Camry in 2016) so my cars have lasted for quite a long time!

- We splurge on travel. We do not travel very often, but when we do we travel, we end up spending more than we could if we were cheap about travel. We book direct flights and are picky about departure times. We will not buy a flight that leaves before 8 am because getting to the airport at 6 is awful and we won't take flights that get us back late either, like after 8pm. We were picky about departure times pre-kids and are even more picky since having kids. We also do not stay in hotel rooms unless we are spending one night in a city, which is rare for us. Even before kids we preferred to stay in Airbnb or VRBOs so we would have access to a kitchen. Since having kids, we rent places with at least 2 bedrooms so that we are not all sleeping in the same room. Besides having access to a kitchen, we like having a common area to hang out in when the kids are sleeping. And when we've gone to Florida, we've splurged and rented a condo on the beach. Since we travel as a family so infrequently - typically 1 trip/year in the spring - we want to make that one trip as enjoyable as possible. I recognize our privilege in being able to travel like this, though! 

- I don't buy clothes much but when I do, I tend to shop at places like Banana Republic or Ann Taylor. I find that my clothes from there last a really long time - like 5-10+ years. I never buy clothes at places like Target, H and M, etc with the exception of workout clothes. I splurged on a swimsuit from Athleta last summer because I wanted a 2-piece suit with board short type of bottoms since I'm always crouching down to help the boys with something so needed/preferred full coverage. It was worth spending a bit more on it versus getting something less expensive at Target. I really consider cost/use when buying clothes, though. I did go the less expensive route for maternity and nursing clothing and purchased most of those items at a consignment shop for expectant/nursing mothers. But outside of that stage of life, I'm willing to spend a bit more but almost never pay full price as Banana Republic often has great 40% off everything sales!

- I treat myself to a latte about once a week. Oof the price of a latte has really increased in the last 6 months but I still find the treat worth it! 

Ok your turn - what do you splurge on and what are you cheap about?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

What We Read in July

July was a strong reading month for me - I finished 10 books! Going forward, I think double digits months are going to be outliers for me. But I read on my flights to/from DC so ended up reading 2 books in about 4 days at the end of the month. Now that we don't have to sit in a chair in Paul's room while he falls asleep (which meant 30+ minutes of reading on my kindle ap), I spend less time reading and more time with Phil in the evenings - which is a good thing!!

Favorites:

The 6 books below were all really good/great. My favorites were The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot* (about a 17yo and 83yo who meet at a hospital and form a friendship), Bomb Shelter (collection of essays by Mary Laura Philpott - she's an auto-read for me), and The Violin Conspiracy (excellent page turner about a violin that goes missing that also discusses racism in classical music). 

* Trigger warnings for the Lenni and Margot book as Lenni is terminally ill with cancer.


The other 4 were mostly "just ok." My least favorite was The Count of Monte Cristo. I read this over the last 7 months using the serial reader ap. I wanted to like this classic but I just didn't... there were sooo many character lines to keep track of. If it was published in modern times, I feel the book would be 1/4 of the length (it's a 1,200 page book!). The Postmistress of Paris was pretty good but I am sooo burned out on WWII books. There was a lot infidelity in the plot of Detransition, Baby. I hate the use of infidelity as a plot device as I find it inexcusable and abhorrent. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life was pretty good, but I didn't love the format - as you might guess, it's written in the format of an encyclopedia. But I was sad to find that the author died from cancer in her early 50s. 


I DNF'd one book - Evening by Susan Minot. The author doesn't use quotation marks for dialogue which is a huge pet peeve of mine - why does anyone do this?? I can put up with that if I get drawn into the book right away but I was extremely confused from the start and the lack of quotations marks pushed me to abandon it at the 8% mark. 

Paul's reads:

I can whole-heartedly recommend the 4 books below. See the Dog is the 2nd book in the series and we've loved both. There are many "Monkey with a Tool Belt" books and there is a spin-off show on Netflix called "Chico Bon Bon" that Paul is very into. The books are pretty clever, funny and make him laugh out loud. The World Belonged to Us is beautifully written and has a great rhyming cadence. Milk and Juice is about a milk and juice carton that get separated in a recycling center but - spoiler alert - eventually get reunited when they are made into a park bench. 



Did you read anything great in July?

Monday, August 1, 2022

Another Full Weekend

The month of July really went out with a bang! I had another full, fun weekend. I am ready for a quiet stretch, though! But here is how we filled our weekend. 

On Friday, Phil got together with some college friends so I was on my own with the boys. Phil and I were definitely ships passing in the night this past week. He had the boys on his own Tues/Wed nights while I was traveling for work. Then he swam on Thursday night so I had the boys on my own (although he was home by 7 so was only gone for about 1.5 hours). Friday was a beautiful, perfect day so we headed outside after dinner. I got out a bubble toy we'd received last summer. Paul had fun making bubbles for Will and Will had a blast trying to pop them. He's at the peak age for bubbles!


Will is finally into the little slide we have set up on our patio. We bought this at the start of the pandemic when playgrounds were closed and then Paul outgrew it very quickly. I think it'll get more use over the next couple of summers! On a walk the night before, Paul saw a dad throwing baseball to his kids so he wanted to try it out. Prior to that, he was hitting balls off the tee but he wanted a new challenge. He did really well and was so proud of himself when he hit the ball with the bat! It's kind of comical that I was the parent to introduce him to hitting pitches since I am VERY UNATHLETIC. Phil was very good at baseball so that is who Paul will be getting most of his direction from! 


On Saturday I ran 4 miles with my neighbor and then we did our weekly trip the library where we checked out 19 books and then we headed to gymnastics. Will was so tired that he almost fell asleep on the car ride home... but then napped for 40 minutes that afternoon! Ugh. I got up with the boys that morning, so Phil let me rest and took Will for a long stroller walk. And then we headed to the wading pool after quiet time. 

That night, I went to see Brandi Carlile with my neighbor and 2 other friends. It was my 7th time seeing her in concert. She is so amazing! Us girls met up for a quick dinner before the concert. 

My neighbor and I in our Brandi apparel

She played for about 2 hours straight and put on an awesome show. 


I was glad that Sunday was my day to sleep in. I got home at 11:30 but was able to sleep until 7:45. The boys slept in, too! Will got up at 6:50 and Paul got up after 7! I took Will to swimming lessons. Phil headed out to swim when I got home so I took the boys to the park.



During nap time, my friend Lori arrived. She was in town for a retreat so she spent an extra night in Minneapolis so she could see us and meet our kiddos. Luckily Will napped for 2 hours that day so we were able to enjoy a glass of wine together while he slept and Paul had iPad time. After the boys were up, we headed back to the park. 

Lori took some pictures of us at the park. This is me in "mom mode" with my phone in a fanny pack! So stylish right? 

We made dinner when we got back from the park and Lori got to see how crazy Will is. I was making Asian rice so got the sesame oil out of the cupboard and put it on the counter. I turned around to get tamari out of the fridge and in that time, Will pulled the container of sesame oil off the counter and dumped about 1/4 of it on his head/body... So that was a fun mess to clean up. Good thing we were close to bath time. 

This morning, Lori and I went for a run in my neighborhood before I settled in to do some work before taking her to the airport. I'm glad she thought to take a picture of us together! It was great to catch up with her and she was excited to spend time with the kids and observe their craziness. 

And that was the final weekend of July. It was kind of a lot - 2 concerts, a business trip, hosting several dinners, going to a couple of get togethers, and the business of normal life. I am ready for a quieter stretch but am proud of myself for "choosing the bigger life" which is a mantra by Gretchen Rubin that I kept in mind. I am kind of, no scratch that, I am really a control freak and don't love getting off a schedule. But after 2 years of doing next to nothing, it's been great to see friends and go to concerts. And August is shaping up to be quieter for us so I'll get a chance to get caught up on my sleep and replenish my energy levels!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Back from DC

I had a fast and furious, but great trip to DC! I was barely there for 24 hours. In hindsight, had I known other sales people were going to be there, I would have flown out on Tuesday morning so I could get more time with them and hear some of the other content at the symposium.

My travels all went smoothly, though. My return flight was delayed by about an hour, so I landed after 9pm which makes for a long day, but overall it was a smooth trip! And I lucked out and had an empty middle seat between me and the person by the window on both flights! Woo hoo!

I got to my hotel around 6pm on Tuesday night. I stayed in a Hilton that was right off the Mall so a great location! I walked down to a waterfront area and had dinner at great Mexican restaurant. I enjoyed some ceviche for my meal and a margarita! Yum!


I didn't have to present until around 10 on Wednesday, so I had plenty of time for a run on Wednesday morning. I ran about 3.5 miles and enjoyed seeing some of the monuments! DC is so pretty. 

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

WWII Memorial

After my run I quickly got ready. Here I am before leaving for the other hotel where the conference was held. I look a little red in the face since it was quite humid on my run - although not all that different from the humidity we've had here in MN lately. For this presentation, I opted to wear a classic black dress with a statement necklace. I am SO DONE with business suits so never wear them anymore and when I work with a wardrobe consultant in the future, one thing I want to focus on is getting more work/presentation-appropriate dresses. I think business suits are not flattering and are very uncomfortable. I love this dress I am wearing so much. It's machine washable and great for travel as it does not wrinkle. I got it over 10 years ago at Ann Taylor and wish I had it in like 3 colors!


I presented at Women's Symposium that was hosted by Merrill Lynch for its female financial advisors. How pretty was this backdrop with their logo? 

I did 2 back-to-back breakout sessions on navigating the fixed income markets and they went really well. I practiced for hours and all that work paid off. I only had about 35 minutes for each breakout which is not much time when there is a lot of content to cover, but that's why I had to practice so much! I got lots of questions and people stayed behind after each session to ask more questions and to get the tickers/account numbers for some of our products so that is a good sign. One of my sales colleagues sent a really nice note to my boss saying I did a great job. It feels braggy to share that, but I really appreciate that she provided feedback on me. There was a Merrill Lynch person in my 2nd breakout who stayed behind and said she wants to partner with us to build a lunch and learn campaign for their advisors using our content so that was cool to hear. So I think I can and likely will be traveling more going forward. But I need to figure out how much I would be comfortable with. I'm thinking a max of once/month and ideally no more than 2 nights away from Phil and the kids. We'll see how it all shakes out, though. 

I got back to our house around 9:45 last night so it was a long, but good day. Both boys were excited to see me this morning - and Phil was very happy to see me when I got home last night! It feels good to be missed!

Now I have another somewhat busy weekend on deck. On Saturday night, I'm going to the Brandi Carlile concert! It's not like me to go to 2 concerts 2 weekends in a row, but I've been planning on going to this Brandi concert since last fall! She is my all-time favorite artist and I think I've seen her 7+ times? I'm going with 3 good friends! Then on Sunday a friend from Charlotte (hi Lori!) that I met through blogging 10+ years ago is going to spend the night with us at the tail end of her trip with some other women. So I'll get to spend Sunday afternoon/Monday morning with her! We saw her on our babymoon trip to Asheville in 2017 as we had dinner with her the night before we flew back to Minneapolis, but this will be her first time meeting our kids. She ADORES kids so I know she's excited to see them, too. 

The last several weeks have been a bit stressful and hectic, so I am very much looking forward to a quieter start to the month of August!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Alanis + Day Off + DC-Bound

Happy Tuesday! I am coming off what felt like a busy weekend and heading into a busy week. I can't believe this is the last week of July. I know that is such a cliche thing to say but the month really has flown by. 

We had a nice weekend and spent lots of time outdoors. We had 2 birthday parties to attend, but skipped the library and gymnastics on Saturday since Paul's voice was a bit hoarse. I tested him for covid just to be sure he did not pick up a new variant. His test was negative! Phew! He could have worn a mask at gymnastics but he's not great at mask-wearing so I decided to just skip gymnastics since the optics of bringing a kid w/ a hoarse voice to an indoor class is not great. Plus I wouldn't want him to spread whatever he has to the other kids in class. I felt comfortable bringing him to the outdoor park parties since he is around these kids all the time and likely caught whatever little bug he has from one of them. He had a blast running around with his friends. And he really enjoyed the birthday cupcake/cake. After not liking cake, he now likes it but isn't a huge on frosting. 

Besides the kids activities, I had the Alanis concert on Sunday night which was really fun! She put on a great show! Her first album, Jagged Little Pill, was released in 1995, so 2020 was the 25th anniversary. But that tour got cancelled, hence the reason for a 25th anniversary tour on the actual 27th anniversary of the album. She did not really talk at all to the audience, though. I'm used to more interaction/commentary from the artist but that must not be her thing! The band Garbage opened for her and the lead singer talked about how she's been opening for Alanis since 1997 which is pretty crazy! 

We got home from the concert around 11:30 and I had trouble falling asleep so was very glad I had the foresight to take Monday off. I helped get the boys off to school and then went back to bed at 7 and slept for 2.5 hours! Besides being up late, we had some early mornings over the weekend and Will took extremely short naps (only 40 minutes on Sunday - sob!). So clearly my body needed more sleep. I still fit in a run since it was a cooler day so running mid-morning was still comfortable. And then I spent most of the afternoon working. I spent a solid 2-2.5 practicing the presentation I will give tomorrow. But it was nice to practice my presentation without feeling pressured to keep up with email. I'm feeling pretty good about the presentation but I will be very glad when it's behind me. 

I head to the airport shortly for my flight to DC. Hopefully my flight is on time/not canceled! I present in the morning so don't have a ton of margin in my schedule. When I booked my flights, I thought I was presenting mid-afternoon. Had I known I was presenting in the morning, I would have booked an earlier flight. Oh well. Fingers crossed all goes smoothly. 

It will be a whirlwind trip as I fly back tomorrow night. So I'll barely be in DC for 24 hours. But I wanted to minimize the time away from the kids. I am looking forward to not being woken up by a child during the night tonight, though! I used to sleep poorly in hotel rooms but since having kids, I tend to sleep really well! 

Send me all your good wishes that my breakout sessions tomorrow go well! 3 of my sales colleagues will be there so I feel added pressure to impress them! I'm sure no one will judge me as harshly as I judge myself though! Such is the life of a perfectionist...


Friday, July 22, 2022

TGIF

And just like that, it's Friday. This week went by faster than usual, I think because my work days were especially busy. Here's what's going on in my world!

The book I'm reading is Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron. This is a memoir by the sister of Nora Ephron. I just started it but so far I like the writing style. She deals with some heavy topics as she discusses the death of her husband and sister from cancer. Then she reconnects and starts a relationship with someone from her past and gets diagnosed with cancer. So this is obviously a heavy book. 

The high of my week was going to a brewery with 2 women I met through the mom's group I joined when Paul was born. 2 had to cancel at the last minute but I am glad 3 of us were able to get together. We've been in each others' lives for over 4 years now. It's been wonderful to have friends with kids that are the same age! I don't/can't drink beer so had a delicious mojito-flavored hard seltzer!

The low of my week was feeling super annoyed with myself on Wednesday. I had a mid-day client presentation and planned to wear my sear sucker blazer - but it was too hot to wear it when I was getting ready and in our rush to get out the door a bit earlier so I'd be downtime plenty early for a 7:45 client call, I forgot to grab it! I was able to get an inexpensive one at the downtown Nordstrom Rack for $35 so it all worked out. But I was annoyed with myself that I needlessly spent money! That said, it will be good to have another blazer, especially since I seem to be doing more big meetings and presentations lately.

A recipe I made was this cashew chicken stir fry with basmati rice. I forgot to take a picture, though, but it was delicious although I used too many veggies so it was a little light on the sauce. 

A show I am watching is How to Change Your Mind on Netflix which is a show based on Michael Pollan's book about the use of mushrooms/psilocybin to treat mental health conditions. My book club read the book years ago and I DNF'd it because I was just bored and I am honestly not very open-minded about things so wasn't really sold on the use of psychedelics. We've only watched one episode so far but it's interesting and I've had some good conversations with Phil about it. 

For workouts I ran on Monday, Thursday and this morning, and will run again tomorrow. I usually don't run 3 days in a row, but my neighbor/running partner has been off work this week and has had more availability so I'm taking advantage of her ability to run 3 days in a row!

The best money spent was on that blazer, I guess, but I'm still annoyed with myself that I was kind of forced to buy something thanks to my forgetfulness!

My plans this weekend include kind of a lot! We have no plans tonight. Tomorrow morning I'll run with my neighbor and then the boys have gymnastics. On the way home from gymnastics, we will stop at a park for a birthday party for Paul's classmate. Then we have another park birthday party to attend on Sunday morning. I don't mind these park parties, though. We'd be going to a park anyways in most cases! Then on Sunday night, I am going to see Alanis Morisette in concert with my neighbor/running partner! I'm so excited! We were both huge fans of her, like most people in our age cohort! She will perform Jagged Little Pill - I can still sing the lyrics to nearly all of the songs! It's going to be a really fun night out! I took Monday off since I know it will be a later night. It will be good to have a day at home on Monday because I found out this week that I need to present at a women's finance concert in DC on Wednesday so I fly out Tuesday afternoon. I'm guessing another presenter backed out or something that is short notice to go to DC and give a presentation! I will present at 2 back-to-back break-out sessions about the fixed income markets... cue my anxiety - big presentations are not my favorite!. With the crazy market environment at least this is plenty to talk about!! 

Did you have any low points this week? What are your weekend plans?