Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What We Read in March

March felt like a slower reading month for me. I read 6 books, which is a decent amount. But the first 5 were read in the first half of the month. I read one book during the last 2 weeks of the month - which is when the COVID-19 crisis started to hit home in Minnesota. That's also around the time when I started to work from home. I guess the combination of working from home (which means I miss out on reading time on the bus) while caring for Paul has sort of worn me out and shortened my attention span in the evening hours. I still read before bed at night, but usually for only 30-45 minutes or so - compared to an hour+ before COVID hit.

I'm finding that I'm drawn to lighter books right now. There are a couple of book club books that are heavier that I'm reading but once I'm through those, I intend to seek out some lighter books.


I usually break my reading down into hits and misses. This month I'll just highlight my 2 favorites.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai - This is a very heavy book as it's about the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 1980s. It's fiction but much of it is based on real events and people. It's a heart-breaking read. It took me 2 weeks to finish it given the heavy content.

The River by Peter Heller - This is another book from Modern Mrs. Darcy's summer reading guide. I read it after hearing how much my friend Amber liked it. It was a great thriller that really kept you turning the page. Unlike most thrillers these days which tend to be domestic thrillers, this is a "man vs. nature" kind of thriller. I'd like to read more by this author!

Paul's Reads


Our little reader loves to make piles of books for us to read to him. The Pookie books by Sandra Boynton are by far his favorite. He has a couple new bedtime book obsessions - "I am a Bunny" and "Little Owl's Night." It's interesting what he is drawn to. Neither of these bedtime books are ones we would choose!

He's also been really into the Ranger Rick Cub magazines he gets every other month. Grandma Joan bought a subsciption for him last year and we've kept every one we've received. I'm glad I did that. He was less into them when he was younger but now he's at the perfect age to look through them. I highly recommend this as a gift idea for a toddler in your life. They list an age range of 0-4 on the website.

What are you reading these days? Has your reading increase or decreased during this time of social distancing? 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Check-in #2

Hey hey. I'm back with another life update. Not much has changed since I posted last Monday. Life looks much the same! We are balancing work plus caring for a toddler. I won't lie - the days can be very long since we don't get much of a break. But this is what we need to do for the time being to flatten the curve and lower my chances of getting COVID-19. As of Friday we'll be under a 'safe at home' advisory for 2 weeks, which is another way of saying 'shelter in place.'

Phil and I both feel a pit of anxiety in our stomach pretty much all of the time. Our industry was struggling before COVID-19 hit so this is just going to make things more challenging. But I try to remind myself that we are in a much better position financially than many others. We have a lot of money in savings and very little debt. If one of us loses our jobs, we will be ok. It's not ideal, but we'll make it work. Our CEO hosted a call this week and said the executive team expects our income to decline by $1 billion, so they are beginning a cost-cutting initiative. They said they are going to focus on non-compensation costs but we'll see. I'm hoping my group is somewhat safe since we went through layoffs last spring.

Back to what day-to-day life looks like. Paul entertains himself by lining up his toys, over and over and over again!



We pulled out another toy from Christmas - this time a Melissa and Doug farm/city set with cars, trucks, people, stores, etc. He's too young to understand setting up a city or farm, but he loves to line up the cars, people, trucks, etc.

He's also do more 'imaginative' play with his little people. I've overheard him saying "hello, friends" or "come in, friends" or having one little people character say to the other, "how doing?" It's pretty cute and fun to see his imagination start to develop.

He's also watching A LOT of TV. I feel some guilt over this, but it's the only way we can get work done. It's educational content like Little Baby Bum and Dinosaur Train. So that makes me feel a little bit better?

So all in all, we are hanging in there. I'm really hoping the efforts MN is making will flatten the curve here. I see what is happening in Italy and know how bad things can get if we don't adjust our behaviors. There is a company that has been tracking social distance compliance by looking at cell phone data and apparently Minnesotans are following the rules well!

How are you doing? 

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 Check In

Happy Monday. Or is it? Our world has been thrown into a weird place with the advance of COVID-19. Minnesota was a bit behind the coastal states in terms of cases but it has really ramped up the last several days and we had our first confirmed cases of community transition (COVID cases with no travel or known contact with other COVID-19 cases) yesterday. I've been a bit on the edge about COVID for awhile now as I am in the high risk group since I am on immune suppressant drugs for my RA so am more susceptible to lung issues. But I'm trying to stay calm.

So here's a little COVID-19 update!

- I started to work from home (WFH) on Friday as my company asked all high risk employees to work from home starting Friday. But then on Friday they announced that all employees except those that really need to be in the office (call centers and traders) will WFH through at least Easter. When I told my boss I fell into the high risk camp and would be WFH starting Friday, he said he was planning to call me to check in on how I was feeling/encourage me to WFH as he knows about my RA/RA drugs. I feel lucky to a) have an understanding boss, b) work for an understanding company, and c) have the ability to WFH. Not everyone is in the position I am in!


My co-worker
- Paul's daycare is still open, despite schools closing for at least the next 8 days. I sent a note to my Rheumatologist last night asking if we should send him to daycare. She responded within 30 minutes (impressive!) and urged me to keep him home to reduce my risk of contracting COVID-19. This is not ideal as it's very hard to get work done with a 2-year old around. Phil's office is still open but he will WFH when he can, especially on days when I have conference calls. That way we can tag team caring for Paul. I've accepted that he will watch more tv than usual so I can get work done. It's not optimal, but the shows he watch have an educational element to them so that makes me feel a little less guilty.

- To offset the cabin fever we are experiencing, we are getting outside as much as we possibly can. We went for 2 walks yesterday, and stopped at the park on one of those walks. We are glad that the virus is hitting later in our winter season. If it hit in December or January, it would be much harder to get outside frequently. My goal is to get outside for walks at least once a day on week days and for sure twice a day on weekends.

Overall, I am trying to stay calm and optimistic. It is scary to look at what is happening in Italy. But hopefully the social distancing, school closures, etc, will flatten the curve here in the US.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Paul at 2 Years!

Paul turned 2 a little over a week ago! Here's an update on what he's loving and doing these days!

Words: 

- Paul's language continues to explode. We are just amazed at how much he talks. I'd say he's about average when it comes to small and gross motor skills but is probably above average when it comes to language. He's starting to say more short sentences like, "I'll get it," "read it," "no quiere," (no want in Spanish - should be no quiero but it's close enough!) and "hi/bye, mommy/daddy."

- I love how he says things like, "bye, news" or "bye, peoples" (peoples = his little people toys) when we go upstairs for bath time.

- some mispronunciations that I want to remember are how he says "bargage" instead of garbage, "mushy" for muffin, "aminals," and pronounces girl as "gay-ul."

- my favorite thing to hear is "I love you, mama" - he usually says it after I tell him I love him but sometimes it happens unprompted which is the best!

Growth: He is still quite petite. He weighs a little over 23 pounds so is back down to 4th percentile which is where he's been for most of his life. His doctor isn't concerned since he's following his growth curve. He grew a little over an inch between 18 and 24 months, though, and is almost 33" now. He wears size 12m pants, size 18m shirts, 24m sleepers, and size 5 shoes.

School: he has learned so much in the toddler room. They've taught him to count to 10 in English and Spanish and he can sing his ABCs. I never would have guessed he would be capable of learning these things before 2. Sometimes I feel guilty about working and sending him to daycare but I feel way less guilt now that he is in the toddler room since he learns so much! His teachers are amazing!

Loves: 

- Baths - we give him one every other day as he's prone to dry skin. We sing some of the songs from swimming lessons and he loves to line up his toys and have them 'jump' into the bath tub (he sits on the side of the pool and jumps into my arms at swimming lessons), and in the photo on the left he is practicing "monkey cheeks" which is what they try to get the kids to do before putting their face in the water so they don't breath in/swallow water.


- Playing with his little people toys. This is by far his favorite toy. He loves to line them up and lay them down to "sleep." He's named some of them after mommy, daddy, papa and a friend from school.


- His other favorite toys are magnetic letters and the barn set from my parents.


- He loves Wheel of Fortune. We try to limit tv watching but he watches this nearly every night and asks for "wheel." It's really cute to watch him watch this show. He claps when people solve the puzzle, says "oh no" if they land on bankruptcy or lose a turn, and will turn to us and say "no T" or "no S" etc if a letter is called that isn't in the puzzle. It's pretty funny/entertaining!


- He loves being outside and going on walks! Luckily he does not fight riding in the stroller yet so we try to take long walks when the weather cooperates. He especially loves seeing ducks on our walks.


- making people laugh. Paul has a really good sense of humor for a 2-year old and has a really good sense of comedic timing. Here is a video of his latest trick: making his hand disappear. His belly laugh in this video is THE BEST.



- he still loves books and I hope this will always be the case!


- singing songs! He can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep. He sings parts of the baby shark song and Old McDonald. We work on songs on the drive home from daycare which is a really good use of that time.

Eating: is still a challenge. Paul eats really well at school but not so much at home. His teacher says he won't eat fruit at school but eats pretty much everything else. He definitely loves carbs as his favorite foods are pasta, chips, and crackers. He also loves banana pancakes, which are egg-based, so are not really a carb, and he loves scrambled eggs. He can eat 3 scrambled eggs on his own so this boy can put away the eggs! He's not a big fan of meat but we keep trying to give it to him occasionally. He loves milk. We've shifted to 2% so we can just buy one kind of milk.

eating a banana muffins and milk

Dislikes: having his teeth brushed, getting his diaper changes, and taking oral meds. Besides that, his dislikes change from day to day and from minute to minute. He can go from saying 'no milk' to 'milk please' in 30 seconds. 

He learns so much every week so I can't wait to see what the coming year will bring. We are going to try potty training over Easter weekend. Hopefully he does well as it would be nice to only use diapers for naps and nighttime! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What We Read in February

February is the shortest month of the year, but I still managed to read 9 books! It wasn't my best month as there were far more misses than hits. Looking back at the month, I'm reminded that I need to be better about giving up on a book when it's not resonating with me. I wish I had given up on the misses below!

4 books were "just ok," 2 were excellent
Hits:

- I really enjoyed the 2 Ann Patchett books I read, Truth and Beauty and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Both are non-fiction. I enjoyed Happy Marriage the most out of the 2 - it's a collection of essays. I'll read anything Patchett writes!


Misses:

- The Ten Thousand Doors of January was raved about by several people I know and it was a selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club (I'm not a member but I follow what they read as Anne, the blog author, has great taste). From the start it didn't pull me in but I stuck with it since so many others loved it. I should have abandoned it!

- 84, Charing Cross Road has been recommended by various sources as a book for book-lovers. It's a short book so I didn't lose much time reading this but it definitely fell flat for me. It's a collection of letters between a woman in NYC during the post WWII era and a bookshop owner in London. I guess I was expecting more substance in the letter but much of it was 'do you have this (rare) book' etc etc.

- Conversations with Friends in the debut novel by Sally Rooney. I loved her recent novel, Normal People, so figured I would like this book. Early on, I felt like it wasn't the right fit but decided to stick with it. I should have known that a story based on infidelity wouldn't be a good fit for me - that's a topic I really dislike reading about!

Paul's Reads:

Our little book lover continues to be passionate about reading. Paul and I can perform "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" We may take our show on the road as it's pretty cute! Ha. We performed it for my parents in Florida and they thought it was pretty cute. When reading books we've read frequently/repeatedly, I've started to let him finish sentences as he seems to have a lot of his books memorized. So that is pretty cool to see!

He still loves books with sounds and music. He's NOT happy in the picture below as he didn't want to wear his hat, but he loves the book he's holding. It plays different songs, like the ABC song, The Ants Go Marching, etc.



I was updating his baby book last month and he really enjoyed looking through it! Even though he looks so different, he could figure out he is the baby in the pictures from the early days!


Monday, March 2, 2020

Paul's Birthday Weekend!

Baby Paul turned 2 yesterday - he is definitely no longer a baby, but I still call him baby Paul on occasion! And I suppose he will always be my baby! We had a low key weekend of celebrating. On Saturday night, we had friends over for a taco bar and GF chocolate chip cookies. The gathering wasn't planned with Paul's birthday in mind - it was the only free weeknight in Feb we had in common with our friends! But we turned it into a little birthday eve celebration with some birthday singing and Paul's favorite dessert - cookies!

On Sunday morning, Paul opened presents after his typical milk/muffin breakfast. We went very low key and only got him 2 books. We plan to get him some new outdoor toys when the weather warms up so decided to go low key for his birthday. He got a few presents from his teachers at school and family members.


Checking out his new Pookie books - we read them several times that day, especially "Happy Birthday Little Pookie."

He really enjoyed this sorting puzzle from his teachers. It's a great puzzle for fine motor skills and color/shape identification!


It was a beautiful morning so we went on an hour long family walk! We were hoping to see the ducks on the creek but they were all gone!! Paul was pretty disappointed as he loves watching the ducks. But he was cheer up when he got to get out of the stroller and walk on the frozen lake.



After lunch, a facetime session with my parents and my Chicago brother's family, and a (nice long) nap, we headed out to Nana Joan's. She had knee surgery in January and is still working through her recovery so we decided to go to her instead of having her drive to us. Nana Joan was SO excited to spend the afternoon with Paul!

Reading with nana
We asked the grandparents not to get Paul any toys as he got SO many for Christmas (most of which are still in the closet!! We'll pull them out when he gets tired of the toys he has out.) Both sets of grandparents complied and gave money for his college account. My parents also gave him an amazon gift card for some warmer weather toys and nana Joan gave him a Llama Llama book that came with a stuff animal.

I did most of the unwrapping of his gifts, but he's starting to understand the concept as he tried to re-wrap this book after opening it!


The stuffed Llama toy was a hit - he loved carrying it around!


 I made pasta for the birthday dinner since he have a carb-loving little boy!


And we enjoyed more GF chocolate chip cookies (made using the America's Test Kitchen GF cookbook - they are so good that even gluten-eaters enjoy them)! Paul didn't like his cake last year and hasn't liked cake the other times he's tried it recently, so that's why I went the cookie route. This time we put a candle in it as Joan had picked one up for him. He loved having happy birthday sang to him (we sang it to him so many times throughout the weekend!). He didn't understand the concept of blowing out the candle but he seemed to enjoy the attention!


We got home around 7 and Paul went straight to bed after a full day of celebration.

It was a lower key celebration compared to last year when we had a big family party, but I prefer the quieter celebrations at this stage of life. He's too young to appreciate pinterest-worthy parties and I'm just not into party planning so we'll hold off on big celebration until he's older! I'm confident he felt very loved and celebrated!

We are so very, very lucky to have such a healthy, funny, sweet, smart, good-natured little boy!  I'll share a 2-year update next week with more details about what Paul is up to/loving these days, so stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020 Florida Trip

We were in Florida for 4.5 days last week and had a really great time! Unfortunately the weather wasn't great for part of the trip but we knew we were running the risk of cooler weather since we were going so early in the season. But we got 1.5 days of nice weather and our last afternoon was decent so we'll call it good enough! Here's a photo-heavy recap of the trip!

Wednesday

My parents drove down to our place on Tuesday night so Paul got to see Papa and Nana when he woke up on Wednesday morning. He has finally gotten over his stranger danger and was happy to sit in both of their laps. At one point he crawled onto the stool next to my dad, pushed a chatbook over to him and said "up please" because he wanted to sit in Papa's lap and look through pictures of himself. #babynarcissist


We had a 10 am flight which worked out super well. Paul was very happy on the plane. Phil downloaded some episodes of Little Baby Bum from Netflix. He happily watched them on his headphones and ate lots and lots of snacks. He charmed the 85+ year old woman that sat next to us and said hello to every flight attendant that walked by.

Waiting to board the plane. We were happy to say goodbye to static electricity!
We flew into Tampa and stayed in a condo in an area on the coast called "Indian Shores." We splurged and got a 3 bedroom condo so Paul could have his own room. He tends to cry out in his sleep and is a light sleeper at times so it's best for him to have his own room, if possible.

We got a late lunch/early take-out dinner (linner?) when we got to our condo. My mom and I went grocery shopping and the boys went for a walk on the beach. We thoroughly enjoyed the sunset from our patio on that first night!


Reading books with Nana before bedtime
It was so beautiful that night that we played cards on the patio after Paul went to bed! We played cards every night with my parents which was so fun!

Thursday

We woke up to beautiful weather on Thursday. It was overcast in the morning but warm/humid. The humidity felt so good on our dry skin! This was the only morning we were able to eat breakfast and drink coffee on the patio - the other mornings were way too cold unfortunately, even for us Minnesotans/North Dakotans.


It's like Paul woke up on Thursday morning and aged overnight. He looked like such a little boy in this summer outfit!

We headed out for a family walk on the beach. Paul loved running up and down the beach and exploring things that had washed up onto the shore.



He was truly living his best life and could not have been happier! He kept saying "walk beach" or "walka walka" over the course of the weekend.


We made sandwiches for lunch and I read while Paul napped. Phil and my dad swam in the ocean - the weather was nice but the ocean felt so cold so my mom and I passed on the ocean swim! After Paul's nap, we hit up the pool. We have quite the little fish on our hands. He loves to sit on the side of the pool and jump into my hands but quickly changed to standing and jumping into my hands!


He also loved standing in the shallow end and splashing around.



After Paul Phil and I were worn out from swimming, we got cleaned up and had a little happy hour on our patio before heading to dinner. Paul enjoyed snacks while the adults had wine/beer and chips!


We got to the restaurant around 5:50 but there was already an hour+ wait so my parents had a drink in the bar while we went exploring with Paul in the stroller. We found a park close by (gotta love google maps!) and killed some time there.


The adults enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner while the toddler ate mac and cheese. If you'd like to know who has the best mac and cheese in the area, just ask Paul. He literally ate mac and cheese for every lunch and dinner in FL. We gave him about a pouch/meal so he'd get some veggies/fruit but decided to not try to get him to eat outside his comfort zone. I never thought I'd have such a picky eater on my hands since Phil and I are both open-minded eaters. But you can't make Paul do anything! Hopefully he eats better when he's a bit older.

Waiting for his mac and cheese! The lit-up palm trees were so pretty!

Friday

We woke up to COLD, windy weather on Friday. It felt like it was in the 30s with the wind off the water. We went for a brief walk on the beach to burn off some energy. Paul enjoyed it until we turned around and the wind was in our face!


There was no way we could spend much time outside that day, so we went to a local wildlife learning center that mroning. They had lots of alligators and other things like turtles, fish, snakes, and even a sloth (random, right?). Paul had fun walking around and checking out all the animals.



We laid low for the rest of the day and grilled burgers for dinner that night.

Saturday

Saturday was another cool day with temps in the 40s in the morning. Paul slept for 12+ hours and woke up at 7:30 which was a glorious start to the day! We had a quiet morning in the condo. I got picked up for lunch by blogger friend Stephany! She lives in the area and was kind enough to drive to me and pick me up for lunch! I hate driving in unfamiliar areas - especially in a big minivan (I'm a small car kind of girl!) so I really appreciated her driving to me. We went to a pizza place close to our house that had really good GF pizza. It was really fun to catch up and talk about books (Stephany is an avid reader and actually reads more books/year than I do!), cats (she has 2), careers, family, and life!

The weather had warmed up to the 60s by the time Paul woke up from his nap so we went swimming together one more time in the (heated) pool while my parents went to church. Then we ordered take out from Grubhub - which worked well for everyone except Phil as they didn't bring his meal. We've used places like grubhub or postmates many times in the past and have never had an issue with them but Saturday night was really bad. They were not very helpful initially but once it was clear that they had made the mistake they were a bit more helpful. But not helpful enough to bring him is meal - they said we would have had to start a new order to get his meal. So Phil walked down the road to a take-out place. Womp womp.

We enjoyed one last sunset, played one more game of cards (I won!) and were all in bed by 9:30.


Sunday

We had a lazy start to the day as Paul once again slept in until around 7:30. It felt amazing to get back-to-back nights of 8 hours of sleep! That never happens at home! We had breakfast, packed up and headed out. My parents were heading to Venice, FL for a couple of days to see my mom's siblings that live or winter there so they dropped us off at the airport.

This time our flight was at 12. I thought it would work out well as that is around Paul's nap time but he didn't nap until the final hour of the flight and then he woke up after about 30 minutes and did not know where he was. He has trouble coming out of a deep sleep so was NOT HAPPY and let out a series of ear-piercing screams for the next 5-10 minutes. Oof. I felt so bad and apologized to our seat mate and the people behind us. Luckily that was short lived and he was back to saying 'hello' to our seat mate within 10-20 minutes. Traveling with toddlers is rough sometimes!! I'm just glad he was content for most of the flight as there were other kids around us that screamed A LOT. I know it's really tough to be on a plane with kids when you don't have children - but just keep in mind how little control parents have over young kids and imagine how bad the parents are feeling when their kids are screaming. Eeks. That concludes my PSA on traveling with kids. ;)

Watching Baby Bum on the plane.
We landed around 2:30 on Sunday afternoon and spent the rest of the day getting groceries, doing laundry, and getting ready for the week. I managed to make chili for dinner. It was nice to have a home cooked meal and have something to bring to work for lunches! I really dislike coming back from vacations on Sunday but it was our only option since the condos we were looking at weren't available Tuesday-Saturday. But we made it work! After spending 4+ days with my parents, Paul definitely misses Papa and Nana. He keeps saying "Papa Nana Flolala." (pronounces Florida Flolala).

Traveling with a toddler is a lot of work between the plane travel and schlepping allllll the things along - but it's worth the effort to have a change of scenery!