Friday, January 18, 2019

TGIF!

Hooray, it's Friday! I made it through my first 5-day work week since the week of December 10th! And we have a 3-day weekend ahead of me since Phil and I get MLK day off. I loooove 3-day weekends and wish they were a standard thing!

The high of my week was hanging out with Paul in the evenings. We only get an hour with him before goes to bed but that is my favorite hour of the day. Granted he spends a good chunk of it in his high chair eating dinner but it's still an enjoyable hour. I especially love all the open-mouthed slobbery kisses he gives me before he goes to bed. He gets the biggest smile and looks so proud of himself after he gives me a kiss! And then he wants to give me another one and another one...

He doesn't look excited about these carrots but he did enjoy them. He looks super tired in this photo thanks to terrible naps at daycare. He napped less than an hour total a couple of times this week. Yikes!

Playing with his train after dinner one night. He's wearing a 3-6 month outfit in this photo - at 10.5 months. Ha! I think it's the last time he'll wear it, though!
The low of my week was coming down with a cold which I probably caught from Paul (those slobbery kisses probably aren't helping!). One of us is always under the weather thanks to daycare germs!

A recipe I made was Instant Pot Creole Chicken and Sausage. Lindsay of Pinch of Yum is a new mom and has started to share 15 minute meals each week. I'm all about quick meals. I cut up everything for this meal ahead of time so I just had to throw it into the instant pot and set the timer. Super simple!  We added brown rice after it was done cooking.

The best money I spent was on some basmati rice from Amazon? How boring is that! We go through a lot of basmati rice as we eat a lot of curries and stir fries so I bought a huge 10 pound bag as it was cheaper than buying the overpriced ones at our grocery store. If I was looking further back than this past week (the week starts on Monday in my mind!) I would say the best money we've spent is on the plane tickets and deposit for our VRBO rental. We were able to use miles for 3 of the 4 plane tickets plus a $100 Delta gift card from our wedding so the total cost of our plane tickets was pretty low! We are buying the plane tickets, my parents are taking care of the rental car, and we will split the cost of the VRBO so it will be a pretty inexpensive vacation - and likely our only vacation of 2019!

For workouts I did a fitness blender workout on Monday and a Daily Burn workout on Wednesday. I started a 30 day trial of Daily Burn and the first workout I did was AWESOME! I'm pretty sure I will be getting a membership when my trial is up. I was really hoping to do a couple of workouts this weekend but this cold has hit me hard so I think I will be taking it easy so I can hopefully recover more quickly. But hopefully I feel better by Monday so I can get back on track with my workouts.

My plans this weekend include not much! Unplanned weekends are truly my jam after having Paul. Not having to leave the house at a certain time on the weekend is the best, especially since Paul isn't really on a set schedule. We are going out to my MIL's house for lunch on Saturday or Sunday but haven't firmed up plans. Besides that I plan on cleaning and doing some more organization and de-cluttering around the house. It seems like that is an ongoing job around our house, especially now that we have a child. It's going to be really cold here (highs around 8-10F) so I don't think we'll get out for walks but if we feel the need to get out of the house I might take Paul up to the library as they have a kids section with lots of toys that I think he's old enough to enjoy.

What was the high of your week? What are your plans for this weekend?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Currently: January 2019

Woo hoo, January is half over! I know I probably shouldn't be celebrating the fact that time is speeding by but I really dislike winter. So I am ok with the winter months going by quickly! Here's what is going on in my world these days!

Reading: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. This is the 7th book in her Inspector Gamache series. I would read this series faster if there wasn't such a long wait for each book! There are 14 books in the series so I doubt I will finish it this year because of those long wait times! They are the perfect books to read in the winter as they are often set during the winter season in a snowy village outside of Quebec.

Loving:  The stage Paul is in! He's just so much fun as he's more and more interactive each day and he has quite the funny/charming personality.

Mmm, cheesy potatoes are my favorite!

Hi mom!

Look what grandma gave me!
He loves playing with the new toys he received for Christmas

Feeling: better about being back at work. The first ~5 months were a really tough transition for me. I was hoping it was a temporary phase and that I'd feel better about being at work eventually. Luckily it was a temporary phase and I'm finally starting to feel better about being back at work. I still miss Paul and wish it was possible to work 3 days a week but that's just not an option in the financial services industry. Hopefully I'll feel better and better about being back at work as time passes. It really helps that we love his daycare so much and know that he's having fun there and being really well cared for.

Anticipating: our first family vacation! We are going to the Sarasota area of Florida for 3 nights in April. My parents are coming with to help out with Paul. We rented a condo right on the water with a great view of the ocean. We plan to do very little on this trip - we just want to relax and soak up the sun! Plus we'll get to see some of my mom's family as 3 of her siblings live or winter in the Sarasota area.

Check out the view from our patio!!!

Grateful: that Paul is eating better! I was so worried about his disinterest in solids but it's like a switch flipped in early January! Now he is eating all kinds of things but some of his favorites are crackers, especially graham crackers, cheesy potatoes, and cooked carrots. I'm hoping we can taper off of purees as they are kind of spendy and it's easier to just let him feed himself (albeit messier). I know I could have made my own purees but the ones we buy are organic and combine different fruits and veggies and things like chia seeds. And honestly, my time is so limited these days between work and caring for Paul, I'm all about taking short cuts when it makes sense!

Enjoying some scrambled eggs (yes he wears Christmas pajamas in January!)

Eating a banana-based pancake with peanut butter and some crumbled meatloaf
Working: out consistently for the first time in almost 18 months! Once I was done pumping, I started to do at-home workouts in our basement. My goal is to workout 3 times a week. The workouts are about 30 minutes in length usually which is so short compared to how much I used to workout but it's what I have time for at this stage of life. And it's better than nothing! I've really been enjoying Fitness Blender workouts. A friend is using an online program called Daily Burn which I am going to check out next. It's great that there are so many different programs to help you workout at home with minimal equipment! I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can start to do some stroller runs with Paul on the weekends.

Listening: to a toddler station on our Amazon Echo when I'm feeding Paul dinner. It's a mix of kids songs and pop songs that are kid-friendly (i.e. no swearing or questionable lyrics). Paul thinks it's very funny when I dance around the kitchen - which doubles as a mini cardio workout for me.

Watching: Veep. We borrowed season 3 from the library this month and season 4 should be available for pick up soon. We've been waiting for more seasons to release on Amazon Prime and then I thought to check library and all the seasons are available with little to no wait!

Wishing: that the mild winter weather we've had lately sticks around! It's going to get cold again this weekend but hopefully we return to the warmer-than-normal temperatures we've had lately. It makes a big difference in my mood when I can get outside for walks with Paul on the weekends!

What are you currently reading, anticipating and grateful for?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Finance Friday: 2018 Spending

Happy Friday! Last year I intended to talk more about finances, but I totally failed at that because baby Paul took over the blog in 2018! I don't expect that to change too much in 2019 but hopefully I'll have the bandwidth and energy to talk about something besides my adorable baby. I love reading other peoples' finance-related posts and usually get great comments when I post about finances. So maybe I can attempt to do a finance post each quarter? We'll see!

For my first finance post of 2019, I'm sharing my annual spending review (see my 2017 post here, 2016 post here, and 2015 post here). It's hard to do a year-over-year comparison as something "new" pops up in each year that makes it unique. In 2016, I didn't have combined finances as I moved in with Phil mid-year; in 2017, we got married which cost a pretty penny; in 2018, we had a baby which came with a whole new set of expenses! But I'll try to draw some comparisons between 2017 and 2018.

Looking back on 2017, our 3 largest expense categories were wedding (23%), Auto and Transport (17%) and Home (16%). The wedding was a large, one-time expense (thank God!) and Auto and Transport was large because Phil paid off his car loan. Home was one of our top 3 expenses in 2018 but it will probably always be one of our top 3 expenses.

In 2018, we spent about 20% less than 2017 since 2 of the 3 expense categories of 2017 were temporary (wedding and auto/transport). Our 3 largest expense categories in 2018 were taxes (33%!!!), Home (19%), and Daycare (13%). I'll talk more about these categories below but man was I surprised by the size of our tax bill in 2018 (for 2017 income). After years of always getting (huge) refunds, we had to pay in - BIG TIME. I had no idea there was such a thing as "the marriage penalty." Phil knew all about this because his other married friends had complained about their first tax bill as a married couple (taxes is just not something my girlfriends mention, maybe because their husband handle the taxes??). I won't get into the nitty gritty but basically the sum of your tax obligations for your income as a single person is way less than the tax obligation of a married couple when that income is combined. Oy.

Here is our 2018 spending graph! I'm not going to talk about every category - just the ones that bear mentioning!


Taxes (33%): After having to pay in big time last April, we decided to make an extra tax payment at the end of 2018 to lessen our burden come April and avoid the potential of a tax penalty.So we paid A LOT in taxes in 2018. I don't think anyone really has a good idea of what is going to happen to them at tax time with the large scale changes that were made to tax policies in 2018 - like will it make sense to itemize deductions with the standard deduction increase? I guess we will find out in April (gone are the days of doing my taxes early as Phil gets a K-1 for some of his income and they aren't done until March usually). As much as it sucks to have a large chunk of change go to uncle Sam, we also recognize that we are in a higher tax bracket and that we need to contribute a larger % of our income to taxes. We also live in a state with one of the highest tax rates, but that comes with excellent schools, parks, libraries, etc. You get what you pay for!

Home (19%): I sold my condo in 2018 (woo hoo!) and managed to make a small profit (which adds another element of uncertainty when it comes to taxes - woo hoo). So our home expenses would have been a higher percentage of spending if it wasn't for that gain. But I had years of slight losses from the rental property so from a multi-year perspective, I about broke even. I expect that our home expense category will increase in 2019 as I REALLY hope this is the year that we find a house - which will come with a slightly larger mortgage payment.

Daycare (13%): Oh boy, daycare is expensive, and this was for a little less than 1/2 of the year! But this is not an area of the budget where we want to cut corners. Paul's daycare is not cheap but it's also not the most expensive program we looked at and it's probably about 1/2 the cost of hiring a nanny! We feel that we made an excellent choice and it's worth every penny to know that Paul is being well cared for and is learning Spanish! This expense will decline as Paul moves up to less high maintenance rooms where the teacher to student ratio is higher.

Groceries (5%):  This remained the same % as 2017. This is probably a bit under-stated as I buy some of our groceries at Target but I do not go to the trouble of splitting out the grocery part of Target transactions. That's just too much work! Our grocery bills stay reasonable because we only cook about 2-3 meals a week and get by on leftovers the rest of the week. Also, Phil buys his lunch every day but he usually spends less than $7-8. The guy barely spends any money so if he wants to spend $35-40/week on lunch - go for it!

Target (4%): This represents a combo of things for Paul, groceries, and household goods. There is a Target one block from where I work, which is DANGEROUS! But it's really nice to be able to pick things up during the workday.

Gifts and Donations (3%): This category went down in 2018, but doesn't include what I contribute to United Way through automatic deductions from my paycheck. We made fewer charitable contributions in 2018 but I think this category will go back up in 2019. We just need to sit down and figure out what we want to make contributions towards as a couple.

Amazon (2%): This was much lower than I thought it would be but then I remembered that we used hundreds of dollars of Amazon gift cards from our wedding and baby showers in the early part of the year. Amazon gift cards are probably the best gift you can get a new parent, especially if they have prime (we do - couldn't imagine not having it!)

Restaurants (2%): We continue to spend very little at restaurants. I was surprised that we spent the same, percentage-wise, as 2017 because we barely go out to eat. But I do treat myself to lunch once a week and for my first 6 weeks back at work I gave myself permission to buy lunch every day because I had enough going on between caring for Paul, pumping, and adjusting to working full time again!

****

Looking ahead to 2019, there isn't too much that I want to change about how we spend money. This pie chart doesn't factor in the money we save. We save quite a bit between the two of us as we are definitely savers, not spenders. So when I factor in our savings, I feel like we spend the "right" amount of money and we certainly live well below our means which is important to both of us - especially since Phil and I work in a very volatile industry.

I do hope that travel shows up on our pie chart for 2019. We did not travel in 2018 since it would be too much work with a baby but we are hoping to go on a little beach getaway in April with my parents!

Do you look at your spending on a regular basis? I keep an eye on it on Mint.com throughout the year but do a detailed review each January.

Monday, January 7, 2019

19 in 2019

The first Monday of 2019 feels like the perfect day to talk about my plans for 2019!

So last year I totally skipped making goals. I knew there was too much going on to put any pressure on myself to achieve any lofty goals. But this year I feel ready to set some goals for myself. But instead of making 4-5 big goals, I was inspired by the Happier Podcast to take a different approach. Last year they challenged listeners to participate in an '18 in 2018' challenge, and they are doing it again this year. The idea is to come up with a list of 19 things you want to achieve in 2019. As a lover of lists, this seems perfect for me. Some items are fun, some are pesky tasks I've been putting off (like creating a will - eeks!), and one is a lofty goal that I have no control over - but I'm telling myself that by putting it on a list, maybe it will happen!

I've broken my list out into categories:

Family Fun:
- Go on a date with Phil once a quarter
- Go on a family outing to a state park
- Hike Inspiration Peak
- Take swimming lessons with Paul
- Take Paul to Wild Rumpus (amazing local kids' bookstore)
- Host a puzzle party
- Try a new restaurant once a quarter
- Take Paul sledding at a park (he's obviously not old enough to go downhill sledding but he'll enjoy being pulled in a sled!)

Personal Development:
- Figure out my enneagram type (I think I'm a 1??)
- Train for and run a 10k
- Read 52 books
- Read all the unread books on my shelf; donate/sell any books I don't read by the end of 2019
- Try a new recipe every month

Pesky tasks:
- Get a will
- Establish an organizational system for clothes Paul has outgrown
- Stay up-to-date with Paul's baby book
- Make a 2018 photo book
- Start/maintain a 2019 photo book

Lofty goal:
- Buy our forever home (please please, universe, let this happen! We've been looking for 1.5 years!!)

I'm pleased with the fact that the biggest category is "family fun." Because really, that's the stuff that will bring me the most joy!

Did you set any goals or to dos for 2019?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Looking Forward

Is there anything better than the fresh start that the New Year provides? I know you can always give yourself a 'fresh start' at any point but there's something magical about the start of a new year. I love looking at a mostly empty calendar and thinking about what you might fill your days with!

On that note, here are some things I am looking forward to in the days, weeks, and months to come!

Today I'm looking forward to hosting our friend Amber for dinner. We are making a Cashew Chicken Stir Fry, which is one of our favorite dishes. Amber loves beer as much as Phil does (I stick to white wine!) so she'll come bearing some fun microbrews for them to enjoy and we'll fill the night with laughter and conversation. Amber was my friend first - I met her through book club - but now she is a shared friend that we both really love. 

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to hosting another couple for our monthly card night. We had to skip December since it was a busy month so we are overdue for some cards. We are hoping they will be able to come early enough for dinner so we can order BBQ take-out as a thank you to Phil's friend for watching Paul while we looked at a house this fall. Card/game nights are one of our favorite things to do so I am glad we know another couple that wants to do this monthly and is willing to come to us so we don't need to get a babysitter. 

This month I'm looking forward to going up to my parents for a belated Christmas celebration. I'm so sad that we did not get to celebrate Christmas with my family but we are making up for that by going up there next weekend. Phil and I will take Friday off from work so we can spend 2 nights up there. I know Paul is going to be totally spoiled. My parents haven't seen him since October and he has changed so much so they are going to have a blast with him (and Phil and I will enjoy sleeping in as my mom will take Paul each morning when he wakes for the day). We FaceTime with my parents almost every week but it's not the same as seeing Paul in person.

Next month I'm looking forward to having a "puzzle party" celebration for my birthday. My plan is to ask people to stop by on a Saturday afternoon for snacks and beverages. I'll have a 1,000 piece puzzle going on the dining room table and hopefully it will be complete by the end of the weekend. I figure this is the best way to see a lot of people without having to leave Paul/leave our house. Plus I think a lot of people will also want to see Paul, too. 

This spring I'm looking forward to celebrating Paul's first birthday! Ok, so March 1st isn't technically spring but I think of March as spring. We are going to keep his birthday celebration super low key and will just invite immediate family. Our house is so small and I think Paul would get overwhelmed by a big group of people so keeping it small feels right for us (you do you when it comes to parties!). I think we will have a Little Blue Truck theme. He loves those books and there are lots of free party decorations available online so it will be easy to pull off a simple but cute party. His birthday falls on a Friday so I'm planning to take the day off and my parents will come that afternoon to help with the party prep (well, my mom will help with the food, my dad will hang with Paul!). 

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Baby Paul: 10 months

Look who's in double digits months! Time is flying and I'm starting to think about Paul's (low key) first birthday. Here's what our man is up to at 10 months!

I call this his "senior picture pose"
 Firsts:

- He learned to clap this month, which is really adorable! Usually he will clap on command but not 100% consistently.




- He wore his first bunting, which I bought on a facebook group for $10. Score! A friend sent me her sons' bunting but it's 9-12 month size and Paul is too small for it. Hopefully it will fit him later this winter. Truth be told, this 6-9 month bunting is pretty big on Paul. He's so tiny.


- He got his first IV and catheter - which are obviously not fun milestones and something we hope he doesn't have to experience again. At least not for a very long time! Thankfully his kidney tests came back normal so we just have to go back for another ultrasound in 9 months (which is better than every 3 months). He was such a trooper that day. It was a long day for him. He was so tired that he fell asleep during the first 50 minute test. It was really quiet in the room and the machine doing the scans provided some nice white noise!

What are you doing to me, mom?



- We celebrated his first Christmas which will likely go down as the lamest Christmas ever as Paul and I were recovering from the stomach flu and Paul got an ear infection (that we were able to just treat with drops instead of oral antibiotics). We got him one toy but he really loves it - especially the phone!





My little elf and me
- He also learned how to give (sloppy, open-mouthed) kisses, wave, and to turn the pages of a book when we read to him. It's fun to watch him figure things out!

Challenges: 

- Sleep has gotten better as we did some sleep training in early December. It's still not as great as I'd like as he's up 1-2 times a night but that's an improvement from the 3-4+ times he was getting up this fall.

Eating:

- He's still team breast milk. He'll eat purees and we learned that he likes graham crackers and loved the cheesy potatoes Phil's mom made for our belated Christmas celebration. But in general he is not interested in true solids. I need to stop comparing his eating to other babies because everyone is so different. But when I see kids his age chowing down on pancake and Indian food or anything that is put in front of them, I feel like something is "wrong" with Paul. But then I talk to friends who took more of the traditional approach to weening where you give purees and transition to true solids after a year and then I feel less stressed about his eating. Baby Led Weaning is all the rage these days and I can totally see the benefits of it but I guess we just have to follow Paul's lead and accept that he's just not ready for true solids yet.

- On the topic of breast milk, I'm completely done pumping! Hooray! The stomach flu wiped out my supply. In a matter of days I went from making 30 oz to less than an ounce! I was ready to wean anyways as we have enough frozen to last until he turns 1. It was interesting to see how my milk changed at the end. The milk on the left is from my frozen stash; the milk on the right was freshly pumped. The freshly pumped milk was super watery and didn't seem to have any fat in it, which makes sense as I barely ate anything for days when recovering from the stomach flu.



Growth:

- He didn't grow much in the last month - he was 16 pounds 5 oz when we had his kidney tests on December 20th. Maybe he's up to 16.5 pounds by now? We'll see. He's solidly 4th percentile and I've accepted that he's just going to be small. Now that he moves around so much I think his weight gain is going to slow down even more. I'm predicting that he will maybe be 18 pounds at 1, but maybe less!

Loves:

- Smiling. He is such a happy, charming baby!


- Making funny faces. He's still a super expressive baby. In the photo below he looks terrified of the cabbage roll Phil and I shared at the Eastern European deli where we had our wedding rehearsal dinner!



- Playing with his toys and crawling around. Some of his favorite toys are his little people animals, his new walker toy and the cell phone grandma Joan got him.



- He's getting faster and faster at crawling but isn't really up on hands and knees. He more so crawls on his elbows/forearms, but he uses his legs more every day. He isn't  pulling himself up on furniture yet but I'm sure that will come in the next month or so. But for now he loves crawling all over the place and getting into things he shouldn't have - like power cords and Oscar's food.

- He loves chasing Oscar down, which she hates!

- He still loves being read to. His favorite books are Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, Snuggle Puppy, Baby Faces, That's Not My Owl, and Goodnight Moon. When we read "Baby Faces" he knows to laugh at the picture of the baby laughing, which is super cute! That's probably his favorite book. He gets the biggest smile on his face when he looks at all the cute babies!

- LOVES playing peek-a-boo. This is his favorite game. He especially loves playing it with a blanket on daddy's lap.

Dislikes:

- When we put ear drops in his ears to treat his ear infection. It's a 2-person job.

- Having his hands or face washed after eating.

- Having his nose wiped.

- Getting his diaper changed and getting dressed in the morning - especially if he is hungry. Diaper changing has become EXTREMELY difficult as he wants to roll onto his stomach.

It's hard to believe he will turn 1 in 2 months! The last 10 months have flown by but I really mean it when I say that every month gets better and better and I look forward to seeing him learn more! His grandmas are convinced he says multiple words (ha!) but we aren't as sure - but I look forward to hearing what is going on in that little brain of his!