Friday, January 21, 2022

Finance Friday: Our 2021 Spending

Hey hey! 2 posts in one week with pie charts derived from excel! I guess this is the week for digging into data!

I love reading other's summaries of their spending and feel like more and more share a summary of their spending on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. I have chosen to share it on an annual basis and I stick to percentages. We use Mint to track our spending, although my active use of it has been at an all-time low this past year! Between work and parenting, I just don't think to track it, so putting together this annual summary was more time consuming than it had been in the past because I had to fix a lot of things that were incorrectly categorized. 

Some disclaimers up front:

1. This chart does not include savings or contributions to things like 529s, 401ks, brokerage accounts, etc.

2. I took taxes out of the calculation this year. It just really throws things off and we do not have any control over how much we pay in taxes. And we pay A LOT. I've commented in years past about how much our tax obligation has changed since getting married... even with claiming 0 allowances, we still end up needing to make extra payments, and then owe money when we file taxes. Anyways, I'm not complaining about the amount of taxes we pay. We are fortunate to work in well-compensated industries. We live in a great city with great parks/running paths and libraries that we take advantage of every week, great schools, and a host of other benefits. But taking taxes out of the equation going forward seemed to make sense since nothing we can do is really going to change the amount of taxes we pay. 

3. This spending summary finally includes all of Phil's spending. It took until mid-2020 to get him onboard with using mint, but now he's a fan. It has made our quarterly financial reviews way easier since all of our account balances are summarized there. And it has prevented him from seeing the balance on a credit card bill and asking what I bought. Now he can just look at mint and solve the mystery on his own. Ha. 

So here goes! 2021 spending, in a nutshell. Get comfortable, this is a lengthy post!!




Daycare (27%): Surprise, surprise. Daycare is our biggest expense category. But they earn that money, and then some. We are very happy with our daycare and while I know our kids get way more illnesses from being in a daycare center setting, overall it works for our family. In 2 years, Paul will be done with daycare, although surely it will be somewhat replaced by a before/after care program at the public school. So a pretty significant amount of our spending will go to daycare/child care for the foreseeable future. 

Financial (19%): This category includes the purchase of equity in my husband's firm. I think I left this out previously but decided to keep it in. He receives quarterly dividends so it's been a good investment for us. 

Home (13%): So this category is probably surprisingly small to many. It includes home furnishing expenses and utilities. The big ticket items in 2021 were purchasing patio furniture and the 50% down payment on converting our wood-burning fireplace to gas. Long-time readers of the blog may remember that we paid off our house in 2020, so this category is a small fraction of what it was in 2020. Again, I know it is not typical to pay off your mortgage at age 40 and we feel very lucky to have been able to do that, but we are also a very frugal couple. Sometimes people will ask us why we did that instead of investing the money and the answer is that we really value having absolutely no debt. We both work in a really volatile industry so our jobs are not very stable/safe, and we have no diversification of income since we both work in the same industry (we work for asset managers). So our jobs are pretty much entirely exposed to financial markets, and then our investments are completely exposed to financial markets. So we make the decision about investing v paying off debt differently than we might have if we worked in different industries. 

Our spending in this category also decreased because we no longer have a house cleaner. We had one for about half of 2020 when it felt safe enough to have people in our house up until a month before Will was born. But Phil asked that we not re-hire them and instead he does the cleaning. If it was up to me, I'd re-hire them because they do an amazing job, but it's one of those "pick your battles" type of situations. I'm just glad Phil is taking on the cleaning because my MO was: we re-hire them or you do it... That probably sounds kind of, well, cut throat? But I think hiring cleaners is a good use of money. I like having a clean house but I do not enjoy cleaning whatsoever! Phil doesn't love cleaning but would rather clean our house than spend money on a house cleaner. 

Groceries (7%): Our grocery spending increased by about 5% over the previous year, but that was missing months of Phil's credit cards, so overall we probably spent about the same or maybe a little less? The year-over-year comparisons will more accurate going forward.

Shopping (7%): This is mainly Target and Amazon Prime purchases. In 2020 I would go into mint and categorize those purchases but I gave up on that in 2021. Surely a lot of what we purchased at both stores would fall under household goods and kids stuff. But it's not worth the effort of categorizing the embarrassing number of  line items. Yes, I know Amazon is a problematic company but in this stage of life where it's hard to get out and run errands, I've accepted that we are going to get a lot of packages from Amazon Prime. When possible, I shop local, like for books - I buy so few that I always buy from an independent book store. But right now, I need toilet paper and compost bin liners, etc, to automatically show up on my door.

Gifts & Donations (7%): This is 70% donations, 30% gifts. The donations bucket is higher than past years because my company stopped taking charitable contributions out of my paycheck in 2021 (which I didn't manually add to past spending summaries), but I did not realize that until November 2021... But I partially made up for the donations I would have automatically made to United Way by contributing a chunk in November. In 2022 I plan to set up recurring donations with them. Giving to charity is something that is really important to me since I recognize how incredibly lucky we are to be in the financial situation we are in. Besides United Way, I donate to our county library and a few other local charities.

Auto & Transport (6%): Nothing very interesting here - it's car insurance, parking and gas. This spending category is higher than is was pre-covid since we used to both take the bus. But we still drive very little. Phil's 2013 Corolla has 25k miles on it and my 2016 Camry has 30k miles on it. Which is very low! Hopefully this spending category increases next year - we are hoping to buy a Rav4 Prime when one becomes available near us. A Rav4 Prime is a hybrid that 100% uses a battery for trips until 50 miles or something like that? Which is 90% of our driving.  

Dining out (4%): I think I had 2-3 restaurant meals this year - 2 eaten outdoors, 1 was in a covered patio. So the bulk of this spending is Phil's lunches when he goes into the office, take-out, coffee shops, and alcohol (which is a pretty small percentage of the spending - it's Phil's maybe monthly/every other month craft beer purchase and the occasional bottle of wine for me). My coffee shop spending was 1/2 of the 2020 level, though! But I bought a venti whole milk vanilla latte every day during the last trimester of pregnancy since it was one of the few "treats" I could have on a gestational diabetes diet. This year my latte purchases are fewer and far between, but I will usually get one when I do daycare drop-off, which is pretty rare. 

This category is an example of our frugality. Even when there isn't a pandemic and even before we had kids, we did not spend a lot on meals out. We are both home bodies and with my gluten intolerance, eating out just isn't something we do all that often. But I have very much enjoyed getting take-out on about a monthly basis this past year. This category is very much a "you do you." If eating out brought us more joy, we'd do it more often. But between the pandemic and having kids, it's not something we are looking to do much of. 

Travel (2%): I'm excited to have a travel line after not having one in 2020! We did take one trip in February 2020 before the pandemic hit, but we had paid for our tickets and accommodations in 2019, so we didn't spend any money on travel in 2020. Our 2021 spending was plane tickets for our Feb 2022 trip to Arizona to visit my sister! I hope and pray this trip will happen. And it will as long as we don't get covid in the week or so leading up to that trip! Fingers crossed we stay healthy! 

***

So there you have it! Overall, these finance posts feel similar to the time-tracking post I wrote earlier this week. Nothing is terribly surprising to me, and I don't know that I would change anything after putting this post together. But it's interesting to see what our spending pie chart looks like, especially in contrast to others! 

Do you do a similar exercise and look at your spending on a regular basis? Besides putting this post together every year, Phil and I have a quarterly financial review that is focused on our investments and what charities we'd like to donate to.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

I tracked my time for a week and this is what I learned

I've been a follower of Laura Vanderkam, an expert on time management, for many years and I listen to her podcast about balancing work and family life, Best of Both Worlds, which she co-hosts with Sarah Hart-Unger. I've read two of her books, I Know How She Does It (my fave of what I've read) and Off the Clock. One thing Laura is known for is tracking her time in a spreadsheet. I can't remember how long she's done it, but it's well over 5 years! Over the years, she has shared a lot of insights from her time logs and has encouraged people to track their time. But I was always turned off by the idea of doing that, even though I LOVE excel. It just seemed like such a pain and not worth the effort. 

But when she announced a time tracking challenge in January, I decided to bite the bullet and participate. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of how I track my time, but I figured it would still be helpful to see exactly how I spend my time. 

The challenge took place during the week of January 10-16. Over the years when Laura has encouraged people to track time, her mantra has been that there is "no normal week." So if you hold off on tracking your time until you have a normal week, it could be put off forever! 

Well, the week of January 10-16 was certainly NOT a normal week. But what even IS normal for my family these days? Surely someone is always sick and it feels like we can't go a week without a doctor's office visit. But the week of January 10th was especially abnormal! Will got tubes on Monday morning, I took Paul to get a covid test on Monday morning so he could return to school on Tuesday, Will came down with yet another virus and was home Thursday/Friday and had a fever high enough that I needed to bring him into the pediatrician. So I only had 2 days where both kids were at daycare. I took Monday off since Will had surgery that day and I didn't want to try to balance working and caring for him/helping out with Paul. I worked full days on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Will was home with us on Thursday and Friday. Phil stayed home and we traded off kid duty during the day when Will wasn't napping, but that means I ended up working in chunks. 




There are a lot of categories here, so I won't comment on all of them. I already addressed the fact that I worked far less than I normally do. But I will say that when I was working, I was SO FOCUSED. The first weeks after quarter-end are really busy for me, but I still managed to meet all of my deadlines despite working about half as much as I normally do! 

Dual-tasking: I lumped together all of the time I spent on two things at the same time. The biggest categories were car/kids which is time I spent in the car with the kids driving to/from school or doctor appointments and work/kids. But it includes other things like reading/kids (I read while Paul watched a movie), car/errands (time spent in the car/running errands), exercise/kids (time I spent on walks while pushing Will in the stroller), and home organization/kids (I worked on a small organization project while Will played with kitchen toys next to me). Dual-tasking is not optimal, but it's just part of mom life, at least for me.

Kids: We spent a lot of time with our kids. Granted, I spent more that usual with Will since he was home with us 3 of the 5 work days. But on the weekends, I spent 15 out of 48 hours, or 31% of my time, with one or both kids. And that time was what I would consider high-quality time meaning I was playing, reading, doing puzzles, sledding, etc. I feel good about the amount of time we spend with our kids and feel that they are truly getting the best of both worlds by having 2 working parents. It is such an individual decision, of course, but our boys learn so much at Spanish Immersion Daycare, from independence to colors, ABCs, numbers, etc. 

Will Up at Night: The time I spent up at night with Will was the 6th largest category - totaling 5.5 hours. Seeing this in black and white supports how exhausted I felt last week. I think my sleep category total is really misleading. It looks like I got a lot of sleep, but that doesn't factor in all the time it takes to fall asleep. When you are up and out of bed 2-4 times, you lose a lot of time getting back to sleep!

Social Time: I am glad I had some social time last week as that doesn't happen every week. My social time last week was spent with my parents when they brought us lunch when they were in town and on a zoom book club meeting!

Meal prep: This was unusually low because we were able to make do with lots of leftovers for much of the week, and I had MLK Day off on Monday, so the meal prep I normally would have done on Sunday happened on Monday. 

Home Organization: This is a category that normally wouldn't show up much during a typical week, but I'm doing the Apartment Therapy January Cure challenge, so I spent a lot of time organizing cupboards, cleaning out drawers and closets, and cleaning our fridge. Phil took care of the kids while I worked on these projects.

Exercise: Oof. This is depressingly low. I spent 30 minutes exercising. I did spend 2 hours walking while pushing Will in the stroller which fell into the dual-tasking category, but overall, exercise just didn't happen last week. On a normal day, I would fit a workout in during a quiet time of the day but I did not have that luxury last week when I was trying to cram as much work into the day when I wasn't caring for a child.

A person may look at this and ask - when did you spend time with Phil? Admittedly, in this stage of life, we are spending very little time together without the kids around. For the most part, the TV category is the only time on here that I spent alone with Phil, aside from when we are sleeping! But, we are together during meals times and most of the weekend kid time is spent together. Would I like more one-on-one kid-free time with Phil? Yes, but in this stage of life and with a pandemic going on (we aren't eating out/going on dates), this is what life is going to look like for us. I'd like to shift some of our TV time to doing some else, like playing a game together. When I organized our game closet over the weekend, I found some card games that have a 2-player minimum so my goal is to play games at least once a week. And I remind myself that it won't always be this way. Our kids will get older and require less hands-on supervision and the pandemic will end (eventually?) and we'll be able to return to going on dates once a quarter, which was how often we went on dates pre-pandemic.

So what did I learn? I learned that I'm happy with the amount of time I'm spending with our kids. I learned that the data bears out how exhausted I felt since "up with Will" was a significant category and that it's worthwhile to nap/lay down when he naps in the afternoon (the rest category = napping/laying down during afternoon naps). I learned that I really don't watch much TV. And I learned that we spent a lot of time in doctor's offices/the hospital and that I would not want that to be part of a normal week!

Overall, there wasn't much "surprising" about the time log. But perception and reality can be very different and this confirms that my perception of how I spend my time is pretty accurate! 

***

I think I would like to do this on an annual basis as being able to compare how I spent my time will probably be pretty eye opening. I think that's about as regular as I would want to do this, though, as it is kind of pesky to keep track! I tracked using an excel spreadsheed with 30 minutes blocks that was provided by Laura, and then I used countif formulas to make summing my time easier. I hope that if I do this next year, it will show 0 time up with Will during the night, far less time in doctor's offices (like 0), and more time reading. 

Have you ever tracked your time?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

One Year+ Post-Partum After Baby #2

I know I've been all "I'm so tired/We are always sick!" for the last month, so I figured I'd share a post that is a bit more well-rounded in terms of where I'm at in the post-partum journey. 

I'm a little over a month past the one-year mark of having Will. I did a similar post after having Paul, but have changed the questions a bit since some are less relevant. So here goes!

Do you want another baby?

Hell no! We are 100% done having children, and I think we would feel this way even if we weren't both 40. Pregnancy is incredibly hard for me between my RA and my blood clot history so I could not go through it again. I do think parenting is a young man's game, so maybe I would feel a tiny bit different if I was in my early 30s, but difficult pregnancies aside, 2 kids feels like the right family size for us and Phil and I are 100% in agreement on this.




How does your body feel postpartum now at one year out?

All in all, pretty good. I am still carrying a bit more weight than I'd like but I'm still breastfeeding Will and it seems like my body needs to hold onto some weight to have enough supply for him. I got back into exercising much earlier after having Will compared to having Paul. That was possible because I worked from home this time around. Pre-covid, we left the house at 6:50 and go home around 5 and that just didn't leave a lot of time to workout. It also helps that I have a neighbor to run with, although that has really tapered off as I'm a wimp when it comes to cold weather running. 

I did receive a new autoimmune disease diagnose right before Christmas, though. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I have something called Hashimoto's disease which is an autoimmune disease that impacts my thyroid. According to my rheumatologist, it's very common to have this when you have RA. Basically having one autoimmune disease makes you susceptible to others. I also have celiac, although I don't have a formal diagnosis for it but since I felt so much better after removing gluten nearly 12 years ago, my primary care physician said we can assume I have it. 

For the new Hashimoto's diagnosis, I saw an endocrinologist and discussed whether I should start meds. I asked if it would be easier to lose/maintain my ideal weight if I went on medication and she said that the #1 challenge for losing weight is how poorly I am sleeping as poor sleep is terrible for your metabolism. I do feel so tired and worn out these days, so I'm trying to cut myself some slack until I'm sleeping better. And then if I still feel really tired and worn out, I'll consider going on a thyroid medication.


What are you plans for weaning from breast milk/transitioning to milk?

I am still nursing Will about 3 times/day, but more like 5-6+ when he was sick. I'll follow his lead on weaning. I was thinking I would force him to wean around a year so I could change RA meds, but the combo I'm on right now, which is safe for breastfeeding, is working great. I'm hoping to get back to a schedule of nursing in the morning and night and then before naps on the weekends. He does not need to be nursing during the night at this age and weight, but it's something that is comforting for him so I've been willing to do it, but the kitchen will be closed at night pretty soon. ;)

Will has done way better with solids but he will not drink cow's milk! He chugs water like a champ but shakes his head when we give him a cup of milk. I thought since he eats way more than Paul did that he'd lose interest in nursing but that has not been the case yet. So I don't really know when he will wean or how we will accomplish that so I'm following his lead. It was easier in a way with Paul - when my breast milk supply was done, he was done drinking breast milk. And since he drank breast milk cold right from the newborn days, the transition to cow's milk was a cinch. 


How is being back at work?

My return to work was completely different this time around! After having Paul, I struggled with the return to work and questioned whether I was meant to be a working mom. But around 10 months, it was like a switch flipped and it got easier. This time around, I was very ready to go back to work at the end of my 20 week leave and I have not struggled at all. I think knowing how much our kids benefit from being at daycare helps. The downside is alllll the germs and illnesses, but kids have to develop their immune system at some point. Returning to work while working from home was 100 times easier than going back to the office, though! I was able to pump while working and didn't have to haul stuff back and forth. And the schedule was so much less taxing - our mornings would look very different if we had to get out of the house at 6:50 with 2 kids and look presentable for work (it's the looking presentable part that is lacking most mornings!!)


How has having another baby impacted your marriage?

Many people told me that the change from no kids to your first kid was the hardest, but I feel differently. Going from 1 to 2 kids has been harder for us. I think being in a pandemic where we are limited in what we can do/how much help we can accept does not help matters either. I am very glad that I have a strong partner by my side. We have definitely been cross and snippy with each other, especially in the early sleep-deprived months and the return of those sleep-deprived months recently, but we are both just so very tired and it's easy to get snippy when you are tired. Add in toddler tantrums and boundary pushing and it just makes for some not-so-fun phases of parenting.

I also feel some jealousy towards Phil. It's so much easier for him to be away, like he could easily golf a round this summer and be gone for 5+ hours and it was not a big deal (he did not do this very often - he would mostly golf on a day when he could leave work early and be home by dinnertime). I could be away for 5 hours now, but this summer it would have required taking a break to pump which is just not fun. There have also been times when I've had Phil sleep in the basement when he's sick or I'm sick and I've felt envious of his ability to go down there for 8-10 hours. With Will breastfeeding, that just can't happen, especially this fall/winter when he's been sick and nurses during the night. With Paul, the nighttime work was more equitable. Since I was pumping, we'd split the nights (I'd handle bedtime until 1, he'd handle 1-6). But that doesn't work when you are breastfeeding. 

But all in all, having a second child has strengthened our marriage overall. We've gotten better at communicating and I've gotten better at asking for help which is hard for me to do. I've enjoyed watching Phil's relationship with Paul strengthen. Paul has always been a huge mama's boy but he's starting to see that dad is really really fun - certainly more fun than me ! And I'm not being self-deprecating. I am not the fun parent! I'm the organized, scheduling parent who is researching the best chapter books to introduce to a 4-year old and googling whether babies can have appendicitis. ;) Dad is wrestling, doing bench presses with Pablo (called Pablo presses) and takes him sledding. I'm ready to give up the favored parent so I hope their relationship continues to develop! :)

*** 

Bottom line, in the midst of feeling really tired and always on the brink of some new virus, we also know how incredibly lucky we are to have 2 healthy, happy kiddos! So even in what feels like a really challenging stage of life, I try to not take for granted how very lucky we are. I could just use some uninterrupted sleep! But hopefully it's just around the corner now that Will has tubes!


Did I miss anything? I'm an open book so ask any question you are curious about - if there is an email address attached to your comment profile, I will respond!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Whirlwind Couple of Days

 Hey hey! I feel like a lot has happened since I posted on Friday, but mostly all good things. Last I left off, I had an ENT appointment on Friday morning for Will. At that appointment, they started with a hearing test, which is standard protocol for ENT assessments. They have the baby sit on your lap in the hearing test room so I could see what he could and couldn't hear. So I was not at all surprised to find he had mild to moderate hearing loss and the audiologist could tell his ears were full of fluid. We had a feeling he wasn't hearing very well but that was clearly confirmed. 

Next up, we saw the ENT. She looked in his ears and said he still had a horrible ear infections. So the 6 days of antibiotics did nothing besides mess with his tummy. :( She prescribed a new antibiotic and said he's a textbook case for needing tubes. You need 3 infections in 6 months, and he had 3 infections in 7 weeks! She said a scheduler would call me that day and that we might be able to get in really fast as there have been a lot of cancellations from patients testing positive for covid at their pre-op covid test. 

The scheduler called me at noon and had said we couldn't get in until 1/24 (which felt SO FAR OFF) but in the middle of our conversation she let me know that another scheduler told her there was a covid-related cancellation for Monday and that she'd look into it and call me back. I was ELATED! Within 15 minutes, she called back and said we could have that appointment for the first surgery of the day on Monday at our preferred hospital (I told them we would go to any of the 3 hospital they operate at). But I needed to get him tested for covid and get a pre-op physical that day. They have a slick set-up for covid tests at the Children's hospital so that was easy to schedule - it's in their parking garage and they come to your car for the test and would expedite his test since he had surgery Monday morning. But poor Will - it was his 3rd covid test that week and boy does he hate the nasal swabs! I was luckily able to get a pre-op physical set for that day at 4:40. I had tried contacting our pediatrician through mychart to see if one of his recent visits could count for a pre-op but I knew my chances of hearing back might be slim as she's super busy. She'll often get back to us within 24 hours, but I didn't want to count on her getting back to me on a Friday afternoon, which is a day that I know she's booked solid in clinic. 

Besides dealing with all the surgery stuff, we had people in our house on Friday converting our fireplace to gas. They were done early afternoon and this baby has been going A LOT since as it's been super cold here. I snapped a picture after they left but before I could get the mantle decorated again. But you get the idea. I love this fireplace so much and am so glad I convinced Phil to convert it to gas.


We laid low all weekend since we knew Will wasn't feeling well and Paul needed to quarantine due to his covid exposure. Luckily Saturday was pretty mild so we were able to get outside for a walk and some sledding! 
Paul's sledding cheering section

Sledding with daddy
I didn't get a picture of this, but we took Will sledding on a really small hill and he loved it! 

Sunday was bitterly cold so we laid low and worked on puzzles, read books, and tried to stay sane. I'm so over covid and not being able to go anywhere. In non-covid times, I would have taken Paul to an indoor play area or a Children's Museum or something. But even if he wasn't quarantining from the positive case at school, I still wouldn't take him anywhere indoors since he's not a reliable mask wearer and it's not worth the risk of him getting covid and needing to quarantine at home (our daycare hasn't updated their policy to reflect the latest guidance from the CDC so it's at least 7 days at home if he tests positive). 

On Sunday, I made lentil enchiladas for dinner which oddly is the biggest crowd pleaser in our house. As a child, a crowd pleaser was spaghetti. But would you believe that Paul turns up his nose at pasta with meat sauce (which I doctor up with blitzed vegetables) and loves lentil enchiladas? Will loves pretty much anything but he seemed to especially love these enchiladas. 


Monday started bright and early for us as I had to check-in with Will at 6am. He was a total trooper. I thought he'd be super cranky since he hadn't eaten since he nursed at 1am during the night but he was pretty happy. The pre-op nurse said he was the easiest 7:30 tubes baby she's ever had! 


He went into the OR at 7:30, was back in my arms at 8, and we were home by 9! The surgeon said he sucked out tons of thick fluid so clearly surgery was necessary. It is nice to know he's not in pain anymore and can hear properly! We'll get his hearing re-checked at his 4 week post-op appointment, but I'm sure it will be back to normal. We went through the same thing with Paul before he got tubes at 9 months - mild to moderate hearing loss pre-surgery, normal hearing afterwards. 

Will was his happy, active self that day and was cleared to go back to school the next day. 


I was home in time that morning to take Paul for his covid test and I got tested as well since I have ANOTHER cold. Our tests were all negative thank goodness! 

Sleep wasn't exactly awesome last night as Will has gotten used to eating 2-3 times/night. I'll give him a couple of nights of comfort nursing and then it's time to do some sleep training again to get him to sleep through the night as being up multiple times a night isn't good for any of us! The sleep training process is not fun, and I know it's controversial/not for everyone. But we are team "do what it takes to get everyone sleeping through the night." He took to it very well at 7 months so I am sure he'll be back to sleeping through the night pretty quickly (I hope!). 

And there you have it. Doctors appointments, covid tests, surgery. Oh my. It's been a hectic string of days, but I think/hope better days and more sleep are ahead!

How was your weekend? 

Friday, January 7, 2022

TGIF

Oh man. This week has not been good. 2022 is not off to a great start for us, but I tell myself it can only get better. I spent the morning of New Years Day at Urgent Care with Will. He has another ear infection which I suspected for days but kept thinking maybe it was his molars. Then I spent Monday afternoon in our Children's Hospital ER with him because he spiked a 104 fever. We started out at Urgent Care but were sent to Children's given his age and the fact that he spiked such a high fever while on antibiotics. His flu, Covid, and RSV tests were all negative so it was his body fighting the ear infection or the bronchiolitis he also has? Who knows. He was very sick with tummy trouble on Tuesday, probably due to the antibiotics and his tummy has been off all week. His doctor called and said we now have a very strong case for getting tubes asap. We see the ENT this morning and I will be pushing HARD (but politely of course!) for that intervention. It is clearly not ideal to have your child put under for a procedure, but Will hasn't slept well for 3+ months and his little body has been through so much between the infections, serum sickness allergic reaction to Amoxicillin, high fevers, tummy troubles, etc. 

My sad, sick baby in the ER.

Then on Thursday afternoon, we found out there was a covid case in Paul's classroom. Le sigh. He can test on Monday and return on Tuesday if it's negative (how soon he can test/return is based on when the infected person was last in school). Will can still go to school since he's not considered a close contact, unless Paul becomes symptomatic. Plus we are trying to keep those 2 apart which means Paul will get a lot of iPad/TV time but it's what we need for survival right now. Fingers crossed he stays healthy and tests negative. I can't even think about a quarantine with 2 kids and the busy month at work I have ahead of me. 

But let me try to find some positive things to reflect on in this TGIF post!

The book I'm reading is Falling by T.J. Newman which is total brain candy. It's a thriller set on a plane. Once the plane is in flight, the pilot is told that his family is being held hostage by terrorists and he needs to either crash the plane or his family will be killed. You should probably not read this when you are on a plane or about to take a flight! It's a total page turner. 

The high of my week was honestly getting an ENT appointment so quickly. I almost broke down on the phone when the ENT scheduler said to check back in 2 days as they didn't have the referral yet and it takes time to get it in their system. She clearly sensed my desperation and made an exception and got us in today. I was very kind to the scheduling person - I would NEVER be rude to someone. I was just very clear that I was at my breaking point watching our little guy suffer and being up 3-5 times/night with him. 

The low of my week was the horrible sleep and seeing Will suffer. I feel like I have a newborn. He will give us a good 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night but then he's up every 1.5-2 hours. Last night I was up with him from 10:30-1. He would just SCREAM when I tried to lay him down. I'm really hoping Will turns the corner soon so we can all go back to sleeping through the night.

A recipe I made was Lick Your Plate Coconut Chicken Curry. This is a favorite recipe in our house but something I haven't made in a long time! If you like the flavor of curry powder, this is a yummy, easy recipe! 

A show we are watching is nothing! We haven't been watching shows together as Paul's bedtime has been taking longer than usual and I've been so tired from all the wake-ups so we talk after Paul is in bed until I go to bed. On my own, I have been watching "Younger" on Hulu and I was thrilled that "This is Us" is back! Phil watched half of an episode with me this week and had a lot of commentary on the drama of this show! It is SO not a Phil show. He likes to say "this week, on a very special episode of This is Us" in a dramatic voice. But I love the show. 

For workouts I did not do much as I am giving my body a rest while I'm sleeping so poorly. I did do a cardio workout on Monday and went for a stroller walk with Will on Tuesday when the weather was mild. It's been HORRIBLY cold here on and off, like a high of 1F yesterday and a high of 9F today, but a feels like of like -20F of colder thanks to the wind. If it was nicer out, I would take some walks to get fresh air and clear my mind, but it's just too dangerously cold for me. 

The best money spent will happen today when we pay the other 50% of the cost of the conversion of our fireplace from wood-burning to gas. I am SO EXCITED to have this done! It's so freakishly cold outside so I am craving extra warmth. I can't wait to actually use our fireplace!!

My plans this weekend include nothing since Paul needs to quarantine. We'll spend some time outside tomorrow when it will be a balmy 30F but that's it. I had planned to get the boys' hair cut but had to cancel that. But at least the weather will be nice enough to be outside for one day of the weekend. This terrible, dangerous cold has been awful the deal with lately!

Bonus Will and Paul photos (plus a sunrise photo):

Will loves sitting in this little hand-me-down chair that Paul has sort of outgrown

All bundled up for our neighborhood walk

After Will goes to bed, we've been trying to play games and work on puzzles with Pablo to give him some focused quality time with us. Our favorite game is "My First Orchard Game." It's a super fast game and you work together to win so there isn't a winner/loser - which is helpful at this age when losing does not go over super well!

Despite not feeling the greatest, he's still pretty happy during the day, especially at bathtime!


This sunrise stopped me in my tracked on Tuesday. The photo doesn't do it justice of course! 


What was the high of your week? What books or shows are you watching?

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Best Books of 2021 + Superlatives

Wow, what a year 2021 was for reading. I managed to finish 129 books. This is not typical for me! Pre-kids, I would read around 80 books/year which is still a lot, but I've read over 100 the last 3 years. I think the pandemic is partly to blame for my higher reading count. We've been very conservative and have done very little for the last nearly 2 years, which leaves more time for reading. I also read A TON while nursing Will during the first 3-4 months of life. I don't know how I could read in the middle of the night - that would be way too stimulating now. But I guess I was so tired that reading on my kindle while nursing him didn't prevent me from falling back to sleep easily! 

I never set a challenging reading goal for myself - I set my goal at 60 books on goodreads because I don't want to focus on the quantity of books read or put pressure on myself to read as much as I did in years past. But if I had to guess, I would say that I will likely read over 100 books again in 2022. I typically go up to bed around 8:30 and read until 9:30, so I still get about 45 minutes of kid-free time with Phil before going up to read. As Paul's bedtime gets pushed back, it will compress my evening reading time, but until then, I'll probably keep reading at the 100+ book rate - we'll see!

It was hard to pick my favorites, but I narrowed it down to the 12 books in the picture below. 4 were non-fiction/memoir, 8 were fiction. 



Instead of talking about what each book is about, I thought I'd instead take page from Sarah of Sarah's Bookshelves, a podcast I discovered this year and absolutely love! She does a superlatives episode for Patreon members and it's a fun way to talk about books. So here are some superlatives that I borrowed from her/came up with on my own.

Most Surprising Read of 2021

The Guncle by Steven Rowley. I am probably selecting this because of recency bias as I recently read it. But it was so good! It's about a gay uncle who takes care of his brother's kids for a summer. Their mom has died from cancer and their father goes into rehab to treat an addiction to pain pills. This book combined humor with grief and substance. I want to read more by this author. I had heard good things about this book, but books that are described as funny as often misses for me but this one definitely wasn't. It wasn't a laugh-out-loud kind of funny - it was more so full of wit. 

The runner-up was Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson. This book was recommended so many times on podcasts but I thought surely I would not enjoy a book about kids who spontaneously combust when they get angry! But I loved it! It was another book full of wit.

Best Crowd Pleaser of 2021

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune was loved by so many and was worthy of all of the praise it received. It's full of magical realism which is usually something I'm not a fan of, but it worked in this book. 

The Most Disappointing Book

I really disliked The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris. This could have fallen under the least deserving of the hype category as well. I was so confused for a good chunk of this book and then so disappointed with the ending. I wish I had abandoned it!

The Book I Thought I would Love More Than I Did

I thought I would love Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune since I loved his previous book, The House in the Cerulean Sea but it ended up being "just ok." Nearly the whole book takes place in the confines of a tea shop so it felt a bit drawn out and longer than it needed to be? I felt that way about a lot of books in 2021. It seems like many books could be 50-100 pages shorter?

Most Deserving of the Hype

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner was all over the place and totally lived up to its hype. It's a memoir about the author's experience of losing her mom to cancer. It's a reflection on how she processed her death and their complicated relationship. 

Least Deserving of the Hype

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. So this wasn't  super hyped, but I did hear about it on several podcasts and I felt like many of my goodreads friends read and loved it. Not me. It's about a May-December romance where the woman is older than the man. He is just slightly older than her daughter and is a pop star that her daughter loves. I just felt like the premise was so unrealistic. She was 39 and her love interest was 20. I just can not relate to falling for a 20-year old. She also made some really questionable decisions - for those who have read this book, I'm thinking about the scene on the boat that the paparazzi capture on film. 

The Book I Didn't Like That Other People Loved

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell. I was so surprised that I did not love this book. It was right in my wheelhouse but I felt completely meh about it. I think the fact that I've never seen/read Hamlet might have contributed to my dislike of the book? I gave it 3 stars so it could have been worse but I was expecting this to be a 5-star read and I know several who absolutely LOVED this book.

Pick a superlative to answer or tell me what your favorite book(s) of the year was/were!

Monday, January 3, 2022

A(nother) Mostly Goal-Free Year

Happy New Year! I know the start of the year is completely arbitrary and nothing really changes, but I do appreciate the clean slate that comes with a new year. It's full of promise and possibility and you can metaphorically close the door on the past year. 

I was not the least bit sad to say goodbye to 2020 and I'm not exactly sad that 2021 is over either. It was better than 2020 since I wasn't pregnant, I had far fewer RA flares, and I got 3 Covid vaccines, but the first year of a child's life is extremely taxing - especially for mom and extra especially when you are pumping and/or breastfeeding! Add in all the illness that comes with having 2 kids in daycare and it just makes for a challenging season of life. But - it was also really good. I soaked up lots of snuggles with Will, especially during my maternity leave when he would only nap while being held! I enjoyed watching his personality emerge. And I love watching his admiration for his big brother develop. 

But now we have the fresh start of 2022 which is a time when many will be sharing their goals for the year to come. I used to LOVE sketching out my goals and sharing them here. Before digging through my archives, I had guessed that I haven't set goals since becoming a parent, but it turns out I did a 19 for 19 challenge in 2019 and I set 2 goals for myself in 2020. I knew I didn't set any goals for myself in 2021 since I had a fresh newborn at the start of 2021! 

I achieved a lot in 2021 between balancing work and parenting, running a 10 mile race and reading over 120 books (!!!). So I've come to realize that I don't necessarily need to establish goals at the start of a new year to accomplish things. In a couple of years, I might feel different about creating a list of goals, but right now, I'm leaning into my feeling of exhaustion and will be cutting myself some slack in the year to come. 

One monthly task I set for myself last year was to cull my google photos. Each month, I would review all the photos taken that month of previous years - so in December, I went through photos taken in all previous Decembers, so 2013-2020 photos. When you have young kids, you end up taking a bajillion photos to get one good one, so there were hundreds to delete each month once we had Paul! I would also go through the previous month's photos and delete duplicates/blurry photos/etc. So going forward, I will only have to go through the previous month's photos. But something I'm adding in for 2022 is to go through all the videos I've taken over the years, which again is A LOT since having kids. I would often try to catch something specific on video but it might take 4 attempts or more to get that specific thing so there is a lot of footage that can be deleted! It was really fun to go through previous years' photos so I think the video culling challenge will be equally fun. I guess you could consider this a goal, but it doesn't really feel like one for me. 

The only other big project I'm striving to take on is reading "The Count of Monte Cristo" using the serial reader ap. Stephany raved about this book and also read it using the serial ap. We have similar tastes and both tend to not like classics, but if she liked this classic book, chances are that I will, too! 

And that's it, folks! A video project and conquering a classic. Seems pretty doable to me! I'm looking forward to using the gantt chart (basically a habit tracker) in my Wonderland 222 planner to stay on top of these challenges. 

Do you have any goals/projects for 2022?