Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Getting the Most Out of Every Experience

Last week, I had a lightbulb moment when listening to Happier, a podcast hosted by Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft. Gretchen lives in NYC and has made it her mission to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art every day that she is in NYC. She lives close by so this is easy for her to do. She talked about how going as often as she does lowers the bar for what she needs out of the experience. She talks about how she was raised to "get the most" out of things, but when you go to a place often, you don't need to see it all. Sometimes she spend 10 minutes in the museum, sometimes she spend an hour. 

It made me think about how we approach the zoo. I definitely have a tendency to feel like I need to "get the most" out of every experience and this extends to the zoo. I think it's due in part to my frugal nature. If we are going to pay money to go somewhere, we better spend as many hours as we can there and see as much as we can. 

But... I was gifted a zoo membership for my birthday in February. Granted, the zoo is not super conveniently located - it's a good 20-30 minute drive to get there and you need to make a reservation to visit (although I think members can always get a reservation), so it is a bit of a 'to do' to go. But I need to change my mindset about what we get out of the zoo. 

The zoo opens at 9 for members and we typically need to head out around 11 so that Will doesn't fall asleep in the car on the ride home - which will ruin his already short afternoon nap. So that gives us 2 hours max. But there is no rule that says we need to spend 2 hours and see as many exhibits as we can. Especially with a 1.5 and 4yo. 

I think if I lowered my expectations on how much we saw on a visit to the zoo, everyone would enjoy it more and Paul would not get so tired out. On our last 2 visits, I've had to carry him out of the zoo and I think he was crying both times - partially because he was tired and partially because he just plain didn't leave. I can't solve the not wanting to leave problem, but by seeing less, he'll be less tired at the end of the visit I think/hope. 

I should also share that I've already calculated how many times we need to visit to make the membership "worth it." You know because obviously my mother-in-law is going to check up on me to make sure we got our money's worth. But this is how my brain works. 

So this weekend, we'll visit the zoo for the 3rd time - which, I'll add, is the breakeven point for the cost of the membership compared to what we'd pay for 3 visits. But on this visit, we'll take a different approach. We'll focus on a few exhibits - the penguins (a favorite for the boys), monkeys, and the hands-on area by the aquarium that we haven't seen yet. Maybe we'll see more after these exhibits if energy levels are high enough, or maybe we'll go home. But I won't pressure myself to see as much as we can in a visit because there can and will be many more visits before my membership expires in February!

Maybe this concept of not squeezing all of the life out of every experience comes natural to others. For whatever reason, it does not come naturally to me. So I am glad I heard that Happier podcast! 

Are you conditioned to get the absolute most out of every experience? 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Somewhat Rainy Weekend Recap

We had a fairly rainy weekend this past weekend. We really need the rain but I wish it would come during the week! It didn't hamper our weekend plans too much, though. 

On Friday night, we went over to a friend's house and ordered pizza for the adult and made frozen pizza for the kids. There is a local pizza place (Good Times) that is sort of known for its pepperoni and pickle pizza. I LOVE pickles so had to try this option, on a GF crust. The verdict? It was good/interesting but I wouldn't order it again. But it's good to try new things!

The kids had a blast playing together - there were 5 kids ranging in age from 3.5 to almost 7 plus toddler Will. It was hard to get Paul to leave. We drove separately so one parent could go home with Will around 7 and the other could stay a bit longer. Phil let me stay longer since he got to socialize with this group last weekend while I stayed home with Will. I had to set multiple timers to get Paul to leave around 8:15 and then he nearly fell asleep on the 10 minute drive home!

Saturday was my morning to sleep in and then I ran with my neighbor when I woke up which I felt some guilt over as that added 50 minutes of solo parenting for Phil. So he had the kids from about 6-9. I have a real problem with guilt over things like this even though I shouldn't. I did a lot of solo parenting this summer when Phil swam on one weeknight and Sunday mornings. I haven't asked him but I am pretty sure he never felt guilt over swimming and wasn't adding up his minutes of solo parenting to make sure it was balanced. 

I got my share of solo parenting later that morning though as Phil grocery shopped and I took the boys to the library and then to gymnastics class. They are both still enjoying it, but I commented to another parent at the end of class that having Will in gymnastics is like bringing a cat to gymnastics. His attention span is very short, he doesn't want to do some of the things, really wants to do others, and he's so distracted by what Pablo is doing, and so on. But it's still better than trying to coral him in the watching area while Paul does his class! I know it will only get easier as he gets older, though, and the class is great for his gross motor skills.

Paul had a birthday party that afternoon from 1-3. There was a big bouncy house with a slide so he loved that. It was sprinkling/lightly raining for much of the party so at the end of the 2 hours he was probably the most dirty he has ever been! I had him change into a different set of clothes before we left so he wouldn't be sitting in wet clothes on the 15 minute drive home and then a bath was necessary immediately when we got home. Phil stayed behind with Will and unfortunately he took an hour nap which is typical for him. After dinner that night, I took the boys for a walk/scoot so Phil could mow the lawn. I think it was only the 4th or 5th time he mowed this summer thanks to our drought. We water some parts of our lawn sparingly to keep them from dying but don't water as much a home with a sprinkler system does, so that's why we've had to mow so little. 

On Sunday Will had his last swimming lesson. We'll be taking a break as I don't like having activities on both Saturday and Sunday morning. After his lessons we hung around the house since it was still wet/soggy outside thanks to more rain. I was hoping for a nice long nap but Will slept for an hour again. But Phil took him for a walk so I could get more of a break. After the walk, Paul and Phil headed out to Phil's mom's so I was on Will duty for the rest of the day. We went for a long 4+ mile walk around Lake Harriet. It was sooo humid but a humid walk > being inside with a toddler. 

Waving goodbye to some ducks we saw in the lake

Then I spent the rest of the day killing time in the basement. Will enjoyed having all of the toys to himself and to my chagrin, he practiced walking up the stairs using the bannister. Paul did not attempt to walk up the stairs until he was 2.5-3, I think. It's fascinating how different kids are! Will is way more physical, gets into more things, etc. Paul is our rule follower that we never had to babyproof for because it did not occur to him to open the kitchen cabinets! We were also house hunting when Paul was a toddler so didn't want to babyproof a house we were likely selling soon. We babyproofed our new house shortly after buying it, though, and that has paid off with curious Will.

Phil and Paul got home around 7:45 so I did Paul's bedtime and then we watched half an episode of Alone and then I went up to bed to read. 

All in all a pretty good weekend, although the rain made it much harder to get out of the house. Ideally we would have gone to the park one or both days but it was too wet for that. There was a lot of trading off of watching one or both kids. It probably sounds like we don't spend much time together as a family of 4 but it works best to kind of divide and conquer and we each get one morning to sleep in on the weekends. I think it will look different when our kids are a bit older, sleep better, and can do more of the same activities. Next weekend all 4 of us will be going out to my MIL's next weekend for an afternoon, to a birthday party and I think to the zoo. So we'll get lots of time together as a family of 4 then! We try to find a balance but there are things that it's best to do with just one kid - like the birthday party over naptime on Saturday - and Phil and I value alone time to recharge our batteries.

How was your weekend? If you have kids, do/did you and your spouse divide and conquer now or when they are younger or did you tend to always be together? I don't think there is one right way to do it, personally, but am always curious about how others parent.

Friday, August 26, 2022


The week after a vacation can be hard, but this one has been good. It's less physically taxing and exhausting to work while our kids are in daycare versus being on vacation with them! I know that will not always be the case, but in this stage of life it certainly is... So Phil and I were both kind of ready to get back to work - it helps that we both enjoy our jobs. 

The book I'm reading is Cultish by Amanda Montell for my August book club meeting next week. It's a non-fiction book about how cults use language as the ultimate form of power. I just started it so don't have much to say beyond that but others in my club have said it's really good! 

The high of my week was getting some positive feedback on the presentation I gave on a big sales call this week. I found out I was presenting the afternoon of my last day in the office before vacation, and the call was at 8:30 on Monday morning so I didn't have much prep time, although I had recently presented the materials at a conference in July. There are something like 300 people on the call so it's a big audience but it went well and I got some questions which is always a good sign that people are paying attention. 

The low of my week was finding out a good friend's mom passed away on Monday after a long battle with cancer. I had the opportunity to meet her mom a couple of times and she made beautiful quilts for both of our boys so we will always think of her when we use those quilts. Then Wednesday was the 9th anniversary of Phil's dad's passing. I never got to meet him and so wish I had. I know he would have made a wonderful grandpa. So there was just a general sense of heaviness this week.

A recipe I made was this shortcut vegetable ragu, except I sadly leave the mushrooms out since Phil isn't a fan - although they are likely not detectable since the veggies get blitzed! The boys had this with pasta and I had it on zoodles. Will gobbled it up and Paul did pretty well although he did fish out some of the pieces of carrots! Nothing gets past this kid, even when the vegetables are blitzed in a food processor! I don't know enough about Italian food to understand how this is such a shortcut, though. It's not a "quick" recipe in my mind since you have to chop all the veggies, but you don't have to cook it for long so I guess that is the shortcut part? Regardless, it's a really delicious pasta sauce that we make often!

A show we are watching is the latest season of Alive on Netflix. Phil and I have watched multiple seasons of this show. It's amazing how industrious the participants are. For those not familiar with the show, 10 people are dropped in a remote area - this season they are in an area of BC, Canada with lots of grizzly bears! - and the person who lasts the longest wins $500k. On my own, I'm watching "The Bear" on Hulu. Phil and I watched the first episode together and he wasn't a fan. I wasn't wowed by the first episode but heard so many good things about it that I decided to stick with it. It's set in a restaurant kitchen so brings back memories of waitressing in college. 

For workouts I did a short strength training workout on Monday through Beach Body, and then I ran on Tuesday, and will run today and tomorrow. The weather was absolutely perfect on Tuesday morning! I feel so lucky that I get to run around this gorgeous lake! I mean, can you believe these views??

The best money spent was ON OUR MEXICO VACATION IN DECEMBER! Yes, all caps! We finally pulled the trigger and booked our vacation. Because we held off on booking it, the only rooms available were the more expensive ones with ocean views. Oh darn, right?? I am very happy about this, but Phil would have preferred the less expensive "garden view" room. We travel so infrequently since having kids, so I'm happy to spend more to have a view of the ocean and potentially hear the waves from our room. We are going back to the same resort we went to in 2016 in the Riviera Maya area. The beach was amazing there and we are beach/ocean swimming people and didn't want to risk not liking the beach as much if we went to a different resort/area. I'm excited for this get away but also a bit nervous about leaving our kids. They'll be in good hands with my parents and I know 4 nights away - which will probably end up being 6 because we'll drop them off over the weekend, go to Mexico M-F, and then go get them the following weekend - will be good for Phil and me. We don't get much time to relax and enjoy time together sans kids. 

My plans this weekend include getting together with 2 other couples and our kids tonight. Our kids all went/go to the same daycare - one couple selected the daycare and then we've all since enrolled our kids there! Tomorrow morning Paul has a birthday party so we'll stop by that before going to gymnastics. On Sunday, Phil and Paul will go out to his mom's and I'll probably stay back with Will. Will and I will start to go out there more now that he can handle a slightly later bedtime, but sometimes it's nice for Phil and Paul to go so Phil can focus on the to do list his mom puts together for him and Paul can get some one-on-one time with his grandma doing things he enjoys, like putting together puzzles, playing games, etc. That is harder to do if Will and I come because Will gets into everything and wants to do what Paul is doing!

Bonus pics:

Double trouble shenanigan. They were watching a bunny next door and then started a little screaming match. Somehow it did not scare the bunnies off! 

Bathtime fun!

How was your week? Are you reading or watching anything good?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Annual August Lake Trip Highlights

We are back from our 5-day trip to visit my parents at their lake home. This has become an annual tradition for us. August typically provides reliably good weather and mid-August tends to be a time when Phil and I can both get away from work. Overall we had a really good trip. Both boys ended up with a virus of some sort that resulted in fevers that would come and go but spike during the night. Some of the vacation ends up being what I call "type 2 fun" which means it's more enjoyable for the remembering self than the experiencing self. But I can see that vacations will only get better as the kids get older. Paul is at a GREAT age for travel. He had so much fun and was so positive and excited about everything. On our second to last morning when it was overcast and windy, he looked outside while eating breakfast and said, 'What a beautiful day!' That was basically his attitude for the whole trip, aside from when he wasn't feeling well. He was up for anything and everything and was just so happy to be up at the lake! 

Basically living his best life - sitting comfortably on a chair, eating a graham cracker.

Here are the highlights from our lake trip. 

Phil's annual lake swim: I'm not sure when this tradition started, maybe in 2019, but Phil tries to swim across the lake during our August trip. The winds were pretty calm on Tuesday when we got there so Phil decided to do the swim that day. We are not sure how far it is to swim across the lake, but we are estimating about 1.5 miles, but probably more? The photo on the left was takien at the start. The 2nd photo was around the half way point. He was swimming to the 3 white cabins across the lake. 

For those of you who are married, you know how there are things your spouse loves to do but they are not your favorite, and yet you do them because they are important to your spouse? That is how I'd characterize his annual lake swim. I kayak in front of him to make sure he stays safe and then he gets in the kayak on the other side and we kayak back together. On this day, the wind was to our back on the way across, so I didn't really have to paddle - I more so had to steer/reposition the kayak to stay in front of Phil. But on the way back, we were paddling right into a wind that seemed to have gotten much stronger. I was in the front and water kept splashing into the kayak. There was some grumbling on my part. But it was the highlight of Phil's vacation. I've done this swim once in 2009 (you can read about it here) and will never do it again. I am not a strong swimmer so it took me 1 hour 40 minutes. It took Phil 1 hour 5 minutes this summer. So significantly less time!

My parents watched the boys during the swim. My mom captured this cute photo of the boys. <3

Water activities: My parents have no shortage of water toys for us to enjoy. We always try to get out on the pontoon and kayak and this year I took Paul out on the paddle board for the first time. This is the first summer that he has really loved the water and was willing to go out on the paddle board with me. Will is not keen on the water yet but if he is like Paul, he will eventually change his mind. Will enjoyed the pontoon ride, though!

Outdoor time: We saw lots of wildlife on this trip - but luckily didn't see the black bear that's been spotted in the area! I spied this group of turkeys (which is referred to as a "rafter of turkeys" according to google) on a run one morning. And most days, this family of ducks would swim by. Will got very excited and would quack at them!

Much time was spent on the dock, although Paul only fished twice and didn't want to get too close to the tiny sunfish when I asked him to take a picture with it! Will is a wild man and terrifies all of us on the dock, so a life jacket was a requirement when he was on the dock. 

Paul had a great time on the lily pad, too. 

Indoor time: It was rainy towards the end of the week, so my mom and I took the boys to an amazing toy store that is about 30 minutes away and they both got to pick out a toy. Paul is masked since he had a fever the day before so I wanted to play it extra careful. Will was especially excited about alllll of the toys and was exclaiming carro (car in spanish), bus, ball, trucks, etc. Will picked out a bus and Paul picked out a trivia game about dinosaurs and other animals. He is his father's son (Phil is excellent at trivia). 

Paul put together lots of puzzles and the boys enjoyed playing with the toys my siblings and I had when we were kids. 

On Wednesday, we painted some rocks. We've seen painted rocks on walks in our neighborhood so I decided to buy a kit for my parents home in case we had any rainy weather. Paul had so much fun painting 3 rocks. 

I helped w/ the cat and fish but the he did the sun all by himself. 

Phil's birthday: Phil celebrated his 41st birthday at the lake and had some help with his birthday candles. When Paul came downstairs on the morning of Phil's birthday he said - "where are the presents?" I had to explain that adults don't necessarily exchange presents. I gave Phil the gift of time - he'll golf with friends sometime this month or in September. We are not 'gift people' and much prefer the gift of time doing something we love. 

I didn't take a picture, but we also went out to lunch with my 99 year-old grandma. She's in good health but I know how fast things can change so I am thankful for every visit we get with her! 

We also ate well, played lots of uno, rummy and one game of hand and foot. Yes, there were low points, but that is travel with young kids. It was great to get so much time with my parents and to enjoy a slower pace of life! 

On my first morning back at work, I presented on our weekly national sales call which is something I've never done before! Nothing like jumping right back in head first! Luckily I presented the same deck that I presented at that conference in July so I didn't have to do much prep work but it was a bit of a stressful start to the week. But as much as I loved vacation, I am very happy to be back to our normal schedule/routine! 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Pre-vacation TGIF

Happy Friday! We have a busy weekend on deck and then a 1-day workweek next week as we leave for my parents' lake home on Tuesday morning. Here is what's happening in my world these days!

The book I'm reading is Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman. I heard about it from a podcaster (Sarah's Bookshelves Live) whose tastes often overlap with mine. It's a slim novel at just under 200 pages and tackles a heavy topic: Eden has been severely injured in combat. The book is narrated by another soldier that was killed in the same combat incident and is stuck in the "in between" waiting for his friend to die. It's a haunting read that I have found myself thinking about when I wake up in the middle of the night (which I am prone to do). I'm also reading a collection of poetry called Where Hope Comes from by Nikita Gill. I typically do not read much poetry but this collection was raved about on another podcast - I think it was on Currently Reading. It is such a beautiful collection of poems. Here are two examples below. 

The high of my week was running in cooler temps! It's been a hot, humid summer here so I really appreciated the upper 50s/low 60s weather on Monday and Tuesday morning! And overall our weather has been great this week. It has been really humid at times this summer so I really appreciate it when the humidity subsides!

The low of my week was the return of early wake-ups. Womp womp. I guess I jinxed myself when I said sleep has been better. Oh well - this is parenting, especially sleep: two steps forward, one step back. Because we leave the house around 6:45 on weekdays, my kids are larks but I would prefer that they sleep until/past 6!

A recipe I made was these Greek Turkey burgers. We sub ground turkey for lamb because I am not a big fan of lamb and we leave out the sundried tomatoes. Phil and I both prefer these to classic hamburgers. They are sooo good!

A show I am watching is a documentary called "Trainwreck: Woodstock 1999" that I'm watching with Phil. It's about the 1999 Woodstock music festival that was a total train wreck. I had graduated from high school that May but I have no memory of the news coverage of this festival. It seems like massive music festivals are just a bad idea and rarely go well and the organizers for this event made horrible decisions. Like distributing 100k candles towards the end of the last act to a crowd that was already destructive and out of control. 

For workouts I ran on Monday, Tuesday, and will run again on Saturday. I need to get back into strength training but I haven't found a program I'm excited about on Beach Body. Jenny suggested I check out peloton so I am going to try a free 30-day trial in September. But I'm giving myself the month of August to focus on running and then will try to get back to strength training in September!

The best money spent was on 2 coffee drinks. I usually limit myself to one/week. But I decided to treat myself to a mocha on Tuesday after voting in our local primary. But then I got a 2nd one on Thursday when our morning started far too early (Paul was up at 5) and I had a ton of meetings. 

My plans this weekend include a lot, which seems to be the theme of summer 2022! Tomorrow morning my running partner and I are running a 5k that raises money for the local Spina Bifida Association. My running partner is a pediatric urologist. She works with a lot of Spina Bifida patients so she suggested we do this 5k to support her patient population. It doesn't start until 9:45 so Phil will take the boys to gymnastics. He usually grocery shops on Saturday morning but since we leave for vacation on Tuesday, we don't have to buy much! On Saturday afternoon, my MIL will come over for an early celebration of Phil's birthday. Then on Sunday afternoon, we are going to a college friend's FIL's lake home in the afternoon. We get together at his house every summer. He has a beautiful home and loves hosting us and all our kids - there will be 4 couples and 7 kids there, I think! The fun continues into Monday when I have a HH after work with 2 women I work with. And then we leave for the lake on Tuesday morning, but it will be a very low key vacation at the lake - we barely leave my parents and maximize time in the water/playing in the sand. I will very much be ready for a quiet week at the lake!!!

Bonus pics:

On Tuesday night Phil swam at the local lake so I was on my own with the boys. It was a beautiful night so we went outside after dinner. I brought out the side walk chalk and  was surprised how long it entertained both of them. It is a MESSY activity but I knew they'd be taking baths since they had school pictures the following morning. We also played with bubbles and kicked a soccer ball around. 

Ok this might be hard for you to read, especially on a phone... but I had to share this hilarious piece Phil wrote for work called "Two Small Children." He works for an asset manager that puts out a monthly research publication which includes a humor section. It's the 2nd most highly read part of the publication. Phil is a very very funny guy and I think this is one of the funniest things he's written! Long-time readers might remember that before our wedding, he made a fake "go fund me" page for our wedding! We printed and framed it and put it on the table where we had our guest book so people who didn't know Phil super well could get a feel for his sense of humor. Our kids have provided a lot of inspiration for his humor writing!

What was the high of your week? What are you reading?

Monday, August 8, 2022

A Rainy Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

Finance Friday: Save and Splurge

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

Family of origin:

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

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

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

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

Current state:

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

What We Read in July

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


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

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

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

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

Paul's reads:

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

Did you read anything great in July?