Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Survey

Stephany did this survey over on her blog and I thought it was a good way to look back on the year so I'm playing along!

1) What did you do in 2021 that you’ve never done before? Adjusted to life as a family of 4. Breastfed a baby (I exclusively pumped for Paul since he didn't latch/transfer milk well). 

2) Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, my little sister had a sweet baby girl, Maddy, on February 15th! It has been really fun to go through pregnancy and parenting with my sister, and the fun will just continue as our kids get older!

3) Did anyone close to you die? Luckily, no. 

4) What places did you visit? Nowhere new. We stayed close to home and would have even if we weren't still living in a pandemic. Some people enjoy traveling with babies - we don't! So our policy is to hold off on travel, besides trips to my parents lake home, until the baby is 1.

5) What would you like to have in 2022 that you didn’t have in 2021? I would like my kids to be vaccinated! It will be a huge relief once they are vaccinated as that should change the quarantine rules at daycare. I was hoping Paul would get vaccinated in February but it's looking it won't happen until mid-year since the Pfizer dose didn't elicit a strong enough immune response. But maybe Moderna will come through with an approved vaccine this spring. Fingers crossed. 

6) What dates from 2021 will be etched in your memory forever? Nothing in particular to be honest... Much of the year kind of felt like Groundhog's Day. But that's life with little kids!

7) What was your biggest achievement this year? Running a 10 mile race with my neighbor on the day Will turned 10 months!

8) What was your biggest failure? Gosh I don't like the word failure. Nothing comes to mind but that's mostly because I didn't ask anything of myself (i.e. I didn't set any goals) in 2021 besides balancing parenting and working full time! Those endeavors are more than enough for me at this stage of life...

9) Did you suffer from illness or injury? When wasn't I sick? Ha. I mean I had the stomach flu twice and countless colds/upper respiratory viruses! This is where being on immune suppressant drugs REALLY sucks. I have very little ability to fight viruses that I encounter.

10) What was the best thing you bought? I didn't technically buy this as it was a gift from Phil, but the AirPods he got me for my 40th birthday were worth the splurge and I use them every day.

11) Where did most of your money go? Daycare but dang do they earn that money!! It's our biggest expense category for sure, though. 

12) What did you get really, really excited about? Being able to get vaccinated!! I was eligible in March because of my immune compromised status and then got my 3rd dose in August. I'll get boosted in February.

13) What authors did you discover in 2021? Steven Rowley (Guncle), Jean Hanff Korelitz (The Plot), and Rosamunde Pilcher (Winter Solstice) are new-to-me authors with backlists I'd like to explore.

14) What do you wish you had done more of? Sleep and work on puzzles.

15) What do you wish you had done less of? Worry and wait for covid test results!

16) How did your spend Christmas? We spent Christmas Eve with Phil's cousin's family. Christmas Day was our little family of 4 plus my mother-in-law.

17) What was your favorite TV program? The Great British Baking Show!! I watched all of the seasons during my maternity leave. That show is DELIGHTFUL. I also watched A Million Little Things and loved that show, too!

18) What did you want and get? To see more family and friends than we did during 2020. To get vaccinated.

19) What did you want and not get? More full nights of sleep and a vaccine for my kids (but I knew a 2021 vaccine for the 0-5 year age group was very unlikely). 

We also were hoping to buy a Rav-4 Prime as having 4 wheel drive would be so nice in the winter months. But it just didn't happen due to supply issues. It sounds like we will get one in the first quarter of the year.

20) What was your favorite film of 2021? Knives Out was great! 

21) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 40. We were still in the thick of the pandemic so I didn't see anyone besides my little family of 4. But I had a zoom call with some friends, lots of macarons (my fave dessert) were dropped off, and Phil got me an autographed photo of John Dickerson from CBS news and AirPods!

22) What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I sound like a broken record here, but sleep. I am so very tired and run down!

23) Who kept you sane? Phil! He is the best partner I could ask for. He has a sense of humor, he keeps me from taking things too seriously, and reminds me to be easier on myself.

24) Who did you miss? Family and friends that I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked.

25) Who was the best new person you met? My neighbor Katie! She (gently) pushed me to start running again and said we could just walk as much as we needed to. We slowly built our mileage up and ran a 10 mile race together in October.

26) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021. This is a hard one to reflect but I think I've continued to work towards accepting what I can and can't control. I'll leave it at that.

27) Show us one of your favorite photos from the year. I adore the family photos that my cousin's wife took. This is my favorite - we used it for our Christmas cards.

Your turn! Pick a few or many to answer or fill this out on your blog!

Happy New Year, everyone! Here's a fresh start in 2022!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Christmas 2021

Another holiday is in the books! I love Christmas, but am also kind of glad when it's behind us? Phil feels the same way. If you've read my blog for awhile, you've probably picked up on the fact that we are minimalists/prefer simplicity and Christmas is kind of the antithesis of our lifestyle with all of the excess!! But it was a great holiday all in all. So here is a bullet-point summary of the highs and lows of our holiday.

- I'll start with a low. We had yet another covid scare! I've had a cold since Thanksgiving but it keeps morphing into different viruses, so when I detected yet another change in the virus early last week, I took an at-home rapid antigen test on Wednesday. And it was just slightly positive (a line displays if it's positive and mine was very very faint). So I got a saliva PCR test at a state-run place where appointments aren't necessary. It didn't take long but the wait for my results was awful. I had my test at 11am on Wednesday and got results around 8pm on Thursday. That probably doesn't seem long to some, but we are used to getting results in 12-14 hours from the clinic location where we typically go. But it's hard to get appointments for in-clinic PCR tests so that's why I went to the testing center. So this was my 2nd false positive. I wish the at-home tests were more reliable, but I use them to determine if we need a PCR. I've tested Will twice in the last 2 months and both times his tests were negative, so I know they can be effective. By the time my results came back, I was feeling better so it's just another cold virus. 

- On Christmas Eve morning, we FaceTimed with my parents so they could see the boys open the gifts from them. I LOVE my parents' approach to gift-giving. The boys each got 2 presents (and all gifts were from a list of suggestions I gave the grandparents) plus money for their 529 plans. Phil and I get socks and money as well. Paul was excited to have a new puzzle to work on. He loves the planets/space so this was a hit! We worked on it while Will napped that morning.

- Around lunchtime, Phil and Paul went to get his mom. It was a beautiful, mild winter day so I took Will for a very long walk and stopped at Starbucks for a holiday drink (a peppermint mocha with 1 pump of peppermint and 2 pumps of chocolate - I like peppermint when it's just a hint of pepperment!). 

Happy to be outdoors in the fresh air!

- That evening, we went to Phil's cousin's house. Since my test was negative and I was feeling much better, I felt comfortable going. Everyone was vaccinated/boosted except our 2 kids but Phil's family was comfortable being around our kids. 
All dressed up for a fun night with family!

- Santa made an appearance at the gathering! Paul was too shy/terrified to get close, but Will was pretty interested in him!

- Since our kids are the only young kids at this gathering with Phil's cousins (the next oldest "kid" is 20!), the boys got totally spoiled! I think they got 6 gifts between the 2 of them? 

This ball gift Will received was a hit with both boys.

- On Christmas Day, we had the boys gradually open their presents. My MIL went pretty crazy with the gifts... Paul had 13 presents to open and Will probably had 6? So Paul gradually opened them starting on Christmas Eve and finished opening them on the 26th. He still has 2 gifts to open from his Godparents and the cousin gift exchange. So the crazy number of gifts just affirms our decision to not buy much for our boys. We got Paul a refurbished iPad mini and a PJ Masks-themed car and mask/cape set. Both boys got books from Santa. 

- It is good to have new toys to play with, like this little paint set that Paul got from my MIL. But ay yi yi, it's time for a toy purge to happen to make room for all the new stuff he received!

So all in all, it was a nice holiday. Both boys got money for their 529 plans and we appreciate the gifts she got the boys. But it's just A LOT. Phil's mom said she will rein in her purchases next year. I don't think she realized how much she had bought until she saw the stack of 13 gifts for Paul... so hopefully next year things will be a little less crazy in the gift department! I am trying to pack away some of the toys received to pull out later this winter. 

How was your Christmas? Do you struggle with the excess of the season like we do?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A Holiday Survey

Whew, I am doing my best to channel some Christmas spirit as we approach Christmas. Which is somehow just days away!! Do you remember when you were a child, how long it took for Christmas to arrive? We always had presents under the tree in the weeks leading up to Christmas so I think looking at those presents added to the anticipation and that anticipation made it feel like it took forever for Christmas Eve to arrive (we opened presents on Christmas Eve). 

Now as an adult with children of my own, Christmas comes incredibly fast! But ready or not, it's coming this weekend. Holiday traditions and likes/dislikes are so interesting so I thought I would answer this holiday survey!

Egg nog or hot chocolate?

I'd choose hot chocolate although it's something I very rarely drink. Egg nog is disgusting IMO! I am not a dairy person, though, like I only have milk on cereal. I would never drink a glass of milk. Bleh.

Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?

As children, ours were wrapped and we usually wrap the boys' gifts, although I did not wrap the train table Paul got 2 Christmases ago from Santa!

Colored lights on tree/house or white?

We have white lights on our tree. We do not have lights on our house. I've debated taking this on at some point, but this is not the season of life to do that!

Do you hang mistletoe?


When do you put your decorations up?

We used to put them up the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but the last 2 years I've put our tree up in mid-November because I needed the cheery glow of a tree to brighten our house/offset the doom and gloom of the never-ending pandemic. This year I put our tree up on November 20th.

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

As a child, I loved my mom's stuffing on Christmas Day (we had turkey and the fixing for Christmas Day when I was growing up). On Christmas Eve, we'd usually have an assortment of seafood and my favorite dish was grilled shrimp. We're still working on establishing our traditional Christmas meals and I don't really feel strongly about anything I make. Eeks. We usually make ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, and roasted asparagus on Christmas Day. I did try to establish a tradition of making homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning several years ago but it was sooo much work, especially since they were GF which is tricky with something that needs to rise and be kind of puffy/airy. No one seemed to like them all that much, so that fell by the wayside. 

Favorite holiday memory as a child?

Our Christmas Eve was really special. We would usually go to the afternoon mass on Christmas Eve, have our Christmas Eve meal afterwards, open presents and then have Christmas cookies and homemade ice cream for dessert. It was just my immediate family. 

What is on your Christmas wishlist?

A full night of sleep? Ha! Phil and I don't exchange gifts, I don't exchange with my siblings, and we asked my parents to stop getting us gifts so they could just focus on buying for their many grandkids,  but we still get socks and cash. They have 10 grandkids now so still have plenty of gifts to buy! My MIL still buys us gifts, though, so I asked for a sweatshirt to replace the sweatshirt I've worn nearly daily during the pandemic! I'm sure she'll include a few other things as well. 

Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve?

In my family of origin - yes. All of our gifts including our Santa gifts were opened on Christmas Eve. My parents had a sneaky way of having the Santa gifts show up while we were opening gifts - I never caught onto it at the time and really thought Santa had dropped off our gifts on the doorstep or deck without any of us noticing. Now in my little family, we tend to spend Christmas Eve with some of Phil's family so we open gifts on Christmas Day.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

It's pre-lit with white lights. Most of the ornaments are ones I bought on clearance the day after Christmas in 2003 - my first Christmas living on my own in an apartment. I still love those ornaments! I've added to the collection over the years with ornaments from travel, hand/foot prints of our kids, ornaments they've made at school, Paris-themed ornaments I've received (I have an obsession with Paris/all things French), etc.

Pablo's footprint from his first Christmas - made at daycare

I ordered this first Christmas ornament for Will from an Etsy shop last December.

Perfect summary of 2020, right?

Hand prints of the boys' first Christmas. Pablo's is on the left, Will's is on the right. Will was less than a month old and Paul was almost 10 months old, but their hands look about the same size!

This year, I put up the more fragile ornaments and then Paul handled the rest!

Snow? Love it or dread it?

Well, Christmas isn't Christmas without a covering of snow. So I love it during the month of December!

Real tree or fake tree?

Fake and would never get a real one - too much of a hassle!

Do you remember your favorite gift?

I actually don't... I remember the abundance of gifts under the tree and opening gifts, but nothing in particular stands out. I know I appreciated what my parents gave us. But more of my memories are from the traditions around advent/Christmas. So I am hoping that we can under-emphasize gifts for our kids? I know there is a place for gifts, I just don't want it to be the sole focus of Christmas. This is probably very unrealistic to some extent, but hopefully we can maintain a lower key Christmas with fewer gifts even as our kids get older. Time will tell.

What is the most important thing about Christmas for you?

Spending time with family.

What is your favorite holiday dessert?

As a kid, it was kiss cookie, gingerbread men or sugar cookies. I've made GF sugar cookies which turn out great, but the dough is so fragile so you can't roll it out/use cookie cutters. So they aren't as fun? I know I could make kiss cookies GF but it doesn't feel worth the hassle. But my mom makes peanut brittle and heath candy every year and makes sure to send us some, so that is probably my favorite dessert these days. My MIL also makes some of Phil's favorites and shares with us so Phil and Paul still get some Christmas cookies to enjoy.

What is your favorite tradition?

Growing up, we would light candles on our advent wreath, say prayers, and sing Christmas songs together. We didn't do that every night, especially as us kids got older, but at least weekly we would do that as a family. 

This is another thing I'm still working on establishing for my little family. Pre-covid I would say my favorite tradition was hosting my college friends and their kids for a cookie decorating night. I've had to cancel that the last 2 years since my kids aren't vaxxed yet. Fingers crossed I can bring back this tradition next year!

What tops your tree?

A sparkly Eiffel Tower! My college friend gifted it to me years ago.

Our Eiffel Tower tree-topper. Looks a little crooked but oh well!

Do you prefer giving or receiving?

Giving, although you can tell from other answers that I am just not a gift person!

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Silent Night

Candy canes, yuck or yum?

Yuck! I'm not a peppermint person.

Favorite Christmas movie?

Home Alone is my favorite kids movie. I also love The Holiday!

What do you leave for Santa?

We have yet to do this since our kids weren't old enough to notice/care. But this year we will probably leave out cookies and milk.

Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?

We didn't do much in my family of origin since Christmas Eve was the big night. I'm still working on this for my little family. I'd like to make some sort of Christmas morning meal, like an egg bake, but haven't established a tradition yet - and I know Paul won't eat it egg bakes because he no longer will eat eggs so I feel less motivated to come up with something for this year! I feel like traditions tend to get established as your kids get older and we are really in the weeds of young kid life so I'm taking pressure off myself to figure traditions out for now!

Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?

On-line 1000%. Even pre-covid I loathed going to the mall! That said, I did buy the books they will get from Santa in person at a local children's book store which was SO FUN to do!

Christmas letter or Christmas card?

Christmas Card. I enjoy reading others' letters, although we get very few letters. I know Phil would not be on board with a Christmas letter as he is about as private of a person as you can get! 

Your turn! Pick a few to answer or do this on your blog!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Not a Good Weekend

Well, the universe seems to be conspiring to keep me in this meh mood. Thursday night was one of the worst nights of sleep for Will since the very early newborn days. We had one good stretch at the beginning of the night but then from 10:30-2, he would cry about 10 minutes after we put him down. I tried nursing him, I took his temp (no fever), Phil tried calming him. Nothing worked. Finally at 1:30 I told Phil to just go downstairs so one of us could get some sleep. I finally got him down around 2 and he slept until 4 but then the process started over again so I was up for the day at 4 and got less than 3 hours of sleep. So fun. 

When he came home from daycare the day before, he had some hives that started around lunchtime. They said he seemed fine otherwise so assumed he maybe had an allergy to something he ate at lunch, although he didn't seem to have eaten any new foods. He's been on amoxicillin since his 1y appointment to treat his double ear infection. It was his 2nd round of this medication so I thought surely he isn't allergic to it! On Friday morning I called the nurses line around 6 am to see what I should do as he had way more hives. At this point, I was assuming it was a viral infection because kids get sooo many random rashes. While I was on hold, I gave him his morning dose of meds so I really wanted to kick myself when the nurse said I better bring him in and to hold his meds. Ugh. They were able to book us an appointment at 9. I also had sent pictures of his hives to his doctor via Mychart. She responded really quickly and said it was definitely an amoxicillin allergy and to start benadryl. I did not have benadryl, but I had texted my doctor neighbor to show her the pics and she had also said to start benadryl and kindly brought us her bottle when I said we didn't have any on hand. Good neighbors are such a gift! He looked so awful so I was glad I could get him started on an antihistamine right away. Of course during the night, I did not turn on the lights in his room so I had no idea how horrible looked, although had I seen all the spots I don't know what I would have done anyways.

After giving him the benadryl, he finally fell asleep. I of course had to wake him up to go to the doctor appointment. Luckily our pediatrician grabbed the appointment we had made so she could personally see him and check his ears. They were clear so we didn't need another antibiotics thankfully!

He napped well on Friday which was a blessing as I badly needed more sleep. I upped his dose of benadryl to the dose recommended by his doctor and it really zonked him out. I was still hopeful that we could have our babysitter come on Saturday night. But then he started to get a fever on Saturday and Phil noticed that his joints were warm and swelling. So I canceled the babysitter and called the nurses line again. The nurse went over all his symptoms and suggested I bring him into urgent care. We saw a really nice doctor there - she said that his body was still reacting to the drug allergy and to just keep giving benadryl until his symptoms improved. 

I had said we could just not go to the party, but Phil said I really deserved a break so he offered to stay home with the boys so I could go across the street to the party. The couple hosting said to send him over while I did bedtime, so he got about an hour of merriment in, then we swapped places. I had a really great time at the party! I haven't socialized in so long so it was fun to hang out with my neighbor and meet their friends! And it was a safe gathering as everyone was vaccinated. I ended up staying way too late - Phil called at midnight to ask me to come home as Will had been crying since 10:30 and he needed help. I feel bad that he didn't call me earlier but I've dealt with lots of long spells of crying so I guess I shouldn't feel too guilty. Will was running a fever again and just miserable but after motrin and nursing, he fell back asleep but was up one other time, in addition to Paul being up crying for me. Le sigh. 

Will was better during the day on Sunday and his rash was starting to clear/lighten. Here's a side by side comparison of Friday morning (left photo) and Sunday night (right photo). 

So the hives from Friday have kind of cleared and he has more new ones I guess? Phil commented on how the Sunday photo is basically a negative of the Friday photo. Our poor baby. 

Last night was a repeat of Saturday night with a fever during the night and several wake-ups. But at least with me there I could nurse and settle him much quicker. So I emailed his doctor again this morning to find out if this is related to the allergic reaction or another potential ear infection. She responded quickly and said he appears to be having a serum reaction where his body responds more strongly than average to the allergy, hence the fever and swollen/warm joints. Lucky us. He might end up going on steroids to get his body to calm down. We'll see. So he's home with us today since you can't have a fever in the last 24 hours to go to school. Getting work done with a 1yo is challenging. Phil and I have been trading on and off, and Will has earned the nickname Mr. Mischief! 

So here is hoping we turn the corner soon, although his doctor said this immune reaction will outlast the rash, so we are probably in for more tough nights. 

Oof, long post! So here is my PSA - just because you've had a med before with no issues, you can still be allergic. I so wish I hadn't given the 2 doses of amoxicillin after the initial hives. Or I wish I had texted my mom because it turns out a ridiculous number of family members are allergic to the penicillin family! The urgent care doctor told me I did not make his reaction worse by giving him more amoxicillin but I feel like she was saying that to make me feel better? Who knows. But learn from me - don't give your child or yourself anymore antibiotics after you see hives!!

How was your weekend? I hope it was a thousand times more enjoyable that mine!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Finance Friday: What I Do for a Living

Hey hey! Several years ago I tried to start a "Finance Friday" post series with the intent to do them quarterly. Well, that sort of fell by the wayside but after talking about these posts with a new blog friend, it kind of reinvigorated my motivation to start them up again! Plus, I had an exchange with another blogger about careers/how I ended up in finance. So I figured this would be a good topic to start with. 

I've referenced that I work in finance/financial services but haven't expounded much on it besides that. I think because I fear it is not very interesting to others? I kind of hate it when people ask what you do for a living at social events and such because my job is kind of hard to explain and my expertise is in an area of the market that is not well understood (the bond market). So I usually just say "I work in financial services" or "I work for an asset management company." 

But I am curious about what others do and I always appreciate a deep-dive post about what others do for a living, like this post from Stephany where she delves into what she does and how she got into her role as a content writer. So here is my attempt to explain how I fill the hours of my work day without boring you to tears. ;) 

Overview of my industry (asset management) and sector (fixed income):

I'll start off by explaining the industry/sector I work in to lay some basic ground work. I work for a large global asset management company that manages assets across basically any area of the global financial market - stocks, bonds, real estate, alternatives (too complicated to get into), etc. When I say "manages assets" I mean that my company manages mutual funds, ETFs, separate accounts, etc. My firm also specializes in responsible investing which focuses on environmental, social and governance factors (i.e. how are these companies treating their employees, addressing climate change, assuring diversity on their boards, etc).

The two areas of the market that most people are familiar with are stocks and bonds, but most people have a better understanding or are more familiar with the stock market since that is what gets discussed in the press most often (i.e. the S&P 500 went up X% today). That is the sector that my husband works in - he's a trader and research analyst at another small asset management firm. But I work in bonds, which is a sector that is technically referred to as "fixed income." To try to simplify things, a company can generally borrow money in 2 different ways - they can issue stock or they can borrow, either from a bank or from a pool of investors. When they borrow much from a pool of investors, they issue bonds. But there are lots of different companies and institutions that borrow money by issuing bonds such as corporations, governments and municipalities. Companies can also use bonds to pool a bunch of loans they've made. Think of a mortgage company that has generated thousands of mortgages to individual home buyers like me and you. They can take a bunch of mortgages, pool them together, and sell them to investors - the investors then receive the principal and interest payments the individual mortgage borrowers make on a monthly basis. Something similar can be done with credit card debt, auto loans, student loans, commercial mortgages on shopping malls or apartment buildings, etc. 

Overview of my role:

My job title is "client portfolio manager" but I rarely mention that title outside of my company because people see "portfolio manager" and think that I am actually managing assets for clients, but that is not the case. Instead I would describe myself as a product expert. I mostly interact with a sales team that works with financial advisors and tries to get them to use our products in their clients accounts. Our sales team covers every ETF and fund that we manage, which is probably 100+ products! They can not be an expert and know the ins and outs of every product so they rely on a team of sector specialists, like myself, to answer questions. So I get on zoom calls to go over a product and answer questions with the sales person and the financial advisor or I will have a call with the sales person to prep them before a call, or I will answer questions over email that are raised. I also answer general questions about the fixed income markets.

Examples of questions I answer:

- How has this product performed during other periods of rising rates? What products are you recommending for this interest rate environment?

- What is your portfolio management team's thoughts on inflation and whether it's transitory? What is your forecast for the 10-year Treasury rate a year from now? What do you think the Federal Reserve will do in 2022 to manage inflation?

- What factors drove your fund's outperformance or underperformance? How are you positioned versus this list of competitors?

- Here is a list of bonds this client owns. If you were to manage the account, what would you keep and what would you sell?

- How does the relative value of this sector compare to other sectors? How does it compare to historical averages?

So there you have it - what I do in a nutshell (am I the only one picturing the "in a nutshell" scene from Austin Powers? Hee hee!). Let me know if you have any questions! In a future post, I'll share how I ended up in this field. I'd love to hear what you do for a living in the comments!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Good Things

Meh. That is how I would sum up how I have been feeling lately. A string of illnesses, including a diagnosis of a double ear infection at Will's 1-year appointment last week, has led to poor sleep which leads to a general feeling of malaise. It's not uncommon for me to be up 4 times during the night tending to one or both children. Sometimes they are democratic and split the wake-ups, but usually they are all for Will. 

It's really hard to be cheerful, upbeat, and positive when you are tired!! But this post by Elisabeth that included a list of 'good things' reminded me that, if I stop and think about it, there are good things happening in the midst of all the fevers, crying and motrin/tylenol/antibiotic dosing. Here are some good things that came to mind when I pushed myself to focus on the positive:

- I got together with 4 of my college friends on Saturday night for a favorite things gift exchange. I got each of them a 500 piece wintery Galison-brand puzzle. That is my favorite brand of puzzles because the scenes are very whimsical and there aren't huge monochromatic chunks (I dislike puzzles like that!). They were all thrilled to get one with the holiday season upon us. I got a blanket, a satin pillow case, and some beauty products that I will actually use (a lip mask and a set of lipstick/gloss from Sephora). We don't all get together very often since everyone's lives are so busy (their kids are so busy with activities and such since they are ages 8-15). But I'm always glad when we make the effort to get together. We enjoyed wine and prosecco and snacks. I brought macarons from a new-to-me bakery which were very good. It was a lovely night!

- We got 11 inches of snow on Friday! That is the biggest snow storm we've had in quite some time - at least since we moved into our house in November 2019. I helped shovel the sidewalks on Saturday morning. Since our house is on a hill, there are a lot of steps and lots of areas we can't easily get to with the snow blower but I enjoy the process of shoveling. There's something so satisfying about seeing the fruits of your labor! And it's a great natural workout. I happily listened to a podcast while getting my sweat on. If this snow had come in March, which is entirely possible in Minnesota, I would be singing a different tune about all of this snow!

The pile of snow that I had to make a path through so we could get to the garage.

The steps before I shoveled them!

- Since we had all that snow, we took the boys sledding on Saturday. I was reminded how much work it is to get kids into snow gear. I know this will be much easier in about 4 years when they can maybe both get their snow gear on themselves? Hopefully? Will was not sure what to think of sledding and I didn't keep him out for long since he has an ear infection. I don't have any pictures of Paul sledding but he had a pretty good time with Phil. He's extremely cautious so it took some time to get him to go down the steeper hill by our house but once he got comfortable with sledding, he had a blast. I'm sure Will is going to learn to like sledding, too. 

What are you dressing me in, lady?

He sort of seemed to enjoy it?

But ultimately seemed a bit confused by what all this white stuff was. 

- Christmas jammies! It's a simple thing, but seeing the kids in Christmas jammies just makes me so happy. The boys have a good selection between ones I purchased new at Target and second-hand ones from Ones Upon a Child. Both of the jammies in the photos below are second-hand ones. 

Santa Baby!

Opening a gift from his advent calendar while wearing Christmas jammies.

- Phil and I watched the 80s movie, "Die Hard," together. It took 3 nights for us to get through it since I like to go up to bed by 8:30-8:45 for my pre-bedtime wind-down ritual. But it was fun to watch this old classic together that I guess can technically be called a Christmas movie since it takes place on Christmas Eve? It's not my typical style of movie but I enjoy the occasional action movie. We rarely watch movies together so when we do, it feels special/light a treat.

- After a bad night of sleep on Saturday night, I asked Phil if I could have a break during nap/quiet time so I could take a nap in the basement guest bedroom. I got a 1.5 hour break and it was delightful! Paul would not stay in his room for quiet time so I was extra glad I was in the basement and didn't have to entertain him.

So there you have it. When pressed, I could come up with some good things that kind of sort of offset this rough stretch of sleep or illness! 

Tell me some good things happening in your life right now!

Friday, December 10, 2021

TGIF: December 2021

It's Friday and we are 1/3 of the way through the month! I have today off but it won't really be a "day off" because I'll be home with Will. He has his 1y check-up this morning and gets a bunch of shots so I'm keeping him home since he'll surely feel pretty tough. I'm hoping for some good naps so that I can nap, too!! 

The book I'm reading is Hell of a Book by Jason Mott (physical book) and The Twelve Dates of Christmas (kindle book). I have tried not to read 2 books at the same time. But I had a bunch of physical books become available all at once - and I wanted to read a holiday-themed book this month! So 2 books at the same time was necessary. I typically am great at managing my library holds, but I had a bunch of requests paused and they were all paused until late November, so once the pause expired, they all came in! I need to be better about monitoring my "pause until" dates!! I know I won't get through all of them in 3 weeks but can't bear to return them late so I will get to what I can!

The high of my week was getting feedback at work that some of my responses to client questions resulted in purchases of a new product that we have in the market. I put a lot of time into my responses and have to answer pretty technical/confusing questions so it's nice to get the immediate feedback that it resulted in a sale! I don't work in sales, but I'm a product expert that supports our sales group so I am involved in the sales process. I would never want to work in sales, which is commission-based. I'm way too risk-averse for that and want to know what my paycheck will be every time!

The low of my week was the same as usual - feeling really tired thanks to night wakings. Will has a cold and is getting his molars so letting him cry just isn't working. I tried it one night and he just kept waking up every 30-45 minutes or so. I keep telling myself that this, too, shall pass. Paul has been waking at night, too, I think from nightmares! Gah. Boy do I look forward to a time when we aren't being woken during the night.

A recipe I made was Nothing!! Just keeping it real around here! We had leftovers in our fridge to eat over the course of the week plus I had some stuffed peppers from costco (they are so good!) in the freezer. So we've gotten by with leftovers and baking those frozen peppers. I was really burned out on cooking after prepping for the birthday party on Sunday so it's been nice to take it easy this week on the meal-planning front.

A show we are watching is Seinfeld episodes. We haven't been able to find something we are both interested in so Phil will pick a Seinfeld episode to watch each night. I didn't really watch that show growing up but he has seen every episode, I think, and has lots of favorites. 

For workouts I did not do much as I'm still fighting a cold which I've had for 2+ weeks. It's morphed into what felt like 3 different colds! I've done some beach body morning meltdown workouts and that's it. It's getting to be the time of year when I do not run much as I'm not a fan of running in super cold weather. My neighbor is training for a 1/2 in January so I will run with her when it's nice enough outside (a "feels like" temp above 0F, preferably little to no wind). 

The best money spent was at Target on a whole bunch of things from household supplies to a donation of products for homeless high school students (so sad to think of young students being homeless!) to Christmas gifts for the cousin gift exchange to ribbon to hang Christmas cards on the wall. I bought most of the items online for store pick-up to shorten the trip as much as possible! Time is limited these days!

My plans this weekend include going to a favorite things gift exchange tonight with 4 college friends. Tomorrow Phil is taking Paul out to his mom's for the afternoon so I will lay low with Will and hopefully nap while he naps in the afternoon (fingers crossed for a long nap). On Sunday afternoon we are going to a high school friend of Phil's for a small 40th bday dinner for one of his friends. That is a decent amount of activity for one weekend! I'm grateful for vaccines which make all of these gatherings possible!

Bonus Will and Paul photos:

Will got this little fishing set for his birthday from Phil's mom. Paul has monopolized it since he opened it on Sunday...

But Will finally got a turn this week when Paul was distracted. If I want to get Paul interested in a toy, I just need to give it to Will! We feel pretty certain that Will is going to be bigger than him at some point and certainly will not be so docile/fine with having things taken away from him so we keep telling Paul to enjoy it while it lasts...

We do not typically get matching pjs and certainly not for Phil! But I was in need of some new jammies so decided to get some that would match Paul. He especially loved that the jammies have dinosaurs on them! I got a pair for Will, too, but he was already asleep when Phil snapped this photo. I'll wear these well outside of the Christmas holiday season but will particularly enjoy matching my boys!

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Best Gift for a Puzzle Fan!

 'Tis the season for gift-giving so I thought I'd share something I purchased for myself that would be a good gift to give - or gift to yourself like I did!

I have always LOVED doing puzzles. From a young age, I was so drawn to them and I love that Paul has gotten into puzzles, too. I used to occasionally do a big puzzle, especially during the cold winter months, but that has not been possible since having mobile kids. If I had a puzzle out on our dining room table, I just know Paul would walk off with a piece - not to purposely mess with my puzzle but because little kids do things like that! So for the last 6 months or so, many nights I have done a puzzle using an ap on my phone. It's surprisingly satisfying, although kind of easy because the pieces are orientated the way they fit in the puzzle. You can make it more challenging and not have them be properly orientated - so you could have an option to turn a piece by 90 degrees until you got it orientated right. But that sounds really frustrating to do on my tiny iPhone screen so I haven't challenged myself in that way. 

But then this fall, Modern Mrs. Darcy shared a post all about puzzles (check out her post if you are into puzzles - she highlights some of her favorite puzzle-makers!) and she mentioned a puzzle mat! I had no idea such a thing existed! If she was recommending it, surely it was worth the $13 it cost! So I said Merry Christmas to me and ordered one.

You guys - it's amazing!

I didn't think to take pictures until I was almost done, but on my last night of working the puzzle, here it is all rolled up.

Here is is after unrolling it.

And here is the finished product!

The more the puzzle is completed, the easier the rolling up process is. But it still worked, even when I only had the border assembled the first night. 

I hadn't done a puzzle since 2019 when Paul was not walking yet. Phil ended up helping with that puzzle because he hated having our dining room table covered with puzzle pieces! So he also loves this new puzzle mat. Each night I would take out a little card table, unroll the puzzle mat, puzzle away from a hour or so, and then put it away! 

So if you have young kids or are clutter-resistant, this is the product for you!

Do you enjoy puzzling? I assumed everyone did but have found that is not the case!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Baby Will's Birthday Weekend

Will had a full weekend of birthday celebrations! He ended up having 3 celebrations - one with my family over Thanksgiving, a little celebration with our little family on his actual birthday (Friday), and one with Phil's family on Sunday. That's a lot of celebrating! 


He has been pretty cranky this week since he's getting molars and fighting a cold, but he was in a great mood on his birthday! I snapped this photo of him before he went to school. 

That night he had yogurt, cauliflower tots, and mac and cheese for his birthday dinner. Yes, truly not an organic meal, but all of his favorite things! Just keeping it real over here! My mom had sent some extra cupcakes home with us, so we had those for dessert on Friday night. 

He loved the frosting and then enjoyed the sensory experience of destroying the cupcake! 

Mmmm, frosting!

Phil had to leave the room during the cupcake destruction! Ha! I knew I'd give him a bath that night so it did not bother me!
All cleaned up and enjoy8ing his favorite activity - bath time!


On Sunday, we had Phil's cousins and his aunt over for a birthday lunch. We had some snow that morning so my MIL wasn't able to join us as she was worried about the roads but we FaceTimed her when opening presents so she would feel included.

All dressed up for his birthday celebration!
I did not take a picture of the food, but I made pork and ground turkey tacos with all the fixing, plus chips, salsa, and guac. For dessert I made this GF banana cake with cream cheese frosting. It was delicious! 

He was not interested in the frosting and only ate the cake when sitting on my lap. 

He got lots of gifts from our guests. We did not buy Will a gift for his birthday, which probably sounds Scrooge-like, but we knew he'd get lots of things from extended family and he really doesn't need anything!

His favorite toy was this leap frog puppy that talks to you and flaps his ears. It's a little bit creepy because it will record what you say and say it back!

Paul enjoyed playing with Will's new toys, like this fishing set. We'll see how much he'll "let" Will play with his gifts. For Paul, what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine... 

It was a great birthday weekend with lots of celebration. He did really well with all the attention on Sunday as long as no one tried to hold him! Sleep has been crappy thanks to a never-ending cold and teething. But such is life for young babies in daycare. I'm on day 12 of this never-ending, ever-morphing cold but am dreaming of solid nights of sleep when the virus is behind us and his molars are in!

How was your weekend? 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Baby Will is 1!

Baby Will - who I guess is now Toddler Will?? - turns 1 today! Insert head-exploding emoji. The common adage "the days are long but the years are short" is especially true during the baby's first year of life. There were many days in the early months where I had to bounce Will so often that my FitBit thought I was logging multiple sessions on the elliptical! There were sleepless nights (and still are sleepless nights - I'm looking at the 4+ wake-ups/night over Thanksgiving weekend). But there were lots of good moments, too, like watching the boys interact, seeing Will's love of water develop, and the recognition and appreciation of the fact that Will is a really chill, content baby!

Growth: I think he's hovering around 20 pounds and is 30" long - so 2" longer and about 2 pounds heavier than Paul was at 1. Will is very long and lean, and especially has a long torso! In terms of percentiles, he's in the 30s for weight and the 80s for height. But he seems sooo big compared to how small Paul was (Paul was around 5th percentile for weight at 1!).

That posture! He always sits up nice and tall!

He has 8 teeth now (4 on top, 4 on the bottom) and his bottom molars are coming in which is making him CRANKY!!

I thought it would be fun to compare pics of the boys at age 1. They look SO different. Paul had a rounder face and chubbier cheeks and Will is so much taller - and has SO much hair. He's due for another haircut this month whereas Paul didn't get a haircut until around 18 months or maybe even later! I've given Will several at-home trims and he's had one professional haircut.


Hands down, bath time is his favorite time! He usually takes a bath with Paul and it is a BOISTEROUS bathing experience. There is much splashing and shrieking. They have so much fun together!

He can't stand on his own but loves to stand/lean on the train table and ottoman.


He also likes the walker, but he has not figured out how to walk behind it.

- He ADORES his older brother. It will be fun to watch their sibling relationship develop! Paul currently takes toys away from Will but I expect that dynamic to change when Will is more mobile!


- He's had a hard time with the molars that are coming in, but I remember Paul struggling, too. I can't wait for them to be in! 

- I've disliked how sick he has been over the last 6-8 weeks. He's had an ear infection and several fevers. He's a pretty good sport when sick, though, and I do appreciate the extra cuddles. But I hope we have a healthier stretch ahead of us as I've caught most of what's he's had, too! You can see from the photos below that he loves to suck in his bottom lip - he especially does this when he's not feeling well.


- He "celebrated" his first Halloween but I use "celebrate" lightly as all we did was dress him up for the block costume photo. But he sure was a cute hedgehog!

- We took him swinging at the park for the first time and he really loved it!

- He celebrated his first big holiday with my side of the family - Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I have no photos of others holding him since he was pretty fussy due to feeling under the weather. My mom did get some time with him on Saturday morning when she graciously took care of him and Paul so I could go back to bed - but I didn't get any photos!

- He also learned how to clap, do "so big" and give high fives. He has gotten really good at scooting around on his butt. We jokingly refer to him as Lieutenant Dan from Forest Gump! I know his doctor is going to say he's gross motor delayed at his 1y appt. At the 9m appointment she wasn't concerned as she said it was related to his temperament (he's just soooo content). We'll see what she says at his appointment next week but overall I am not concerned. Paul walked at 16 months thanks to his giant head on his tiny body. I thought Will would walk earlier but he may be on the same timeline as Paul was. It helps to have seen how little it matters in the grand scheme of things. I was so stressed about Paul walking late but I hope to be less stressed with Will. The gift of perspective is a wonderful thing!

Feeding: I AM DONE PUMPING! Did you hear me yelling with excitement from where you are reading this?? Ha. I still nurse him in the morning and evening each day and during the day on weekends, but at school he drinks whole milk from a sippy cup and water. He is eating the toddler menu at school and apparently is such a good eater that he eats off his friends' plates! Ha! His favorite foods are banana pancakes, mac and cheese, yogurt, bananas, and graham crackers. We try to feed him what we are eating as much as possible and he's a pretty good eater overall. He's learned how to drink out of a miracle 360 cup. 

Drinking out of a cup like a big boy!

Clapping at dinner at my parents

Sleeping: Meh. Sleep has not been great. Between all the illnesses and getting molars, he's getting up at least once a night usually but there have been nights where he's up hourly for a good stretch. I tell myself that this, too, shall pass. He goes to bed around 6:30 since he's absolutely exhausted from being at school and wakes around 6am. He takes 2 naps but the length of his naps is unpredictable!

Mama: I plan to do a post about being at the 1-year point soon so stay tuned!

We will have a low key celebration tonight. Then on Sunday some of Phil's family are coming over for a taco fiesta at lunch time. I'm making a banana cake with cream cheese frosting (thanks to Daily Candy for sharing a link to a banana cake!). Hopefully it turns out, but GF baking that includes fruit is usually very good and foolproof!