Thursday, May 19, 2022

5 Years of Lisa and Phil

Phil and I celebrate 5 years of marriage today! The days can be long when you have little kids, but the years are short. We packed a lot into the last 5 years! For those who are newer to my blog, Phil and I met in October 2012, then I found out I was being relocated to Charlotte in January of 2013, moved in April 2013, and then moved back to Minneapolis in May 2014 and we picked up where we left off.

Phil and I got engaged in December of 2016, married in May of 2017, got pregnant the next month, and had Paul in March of 2018 - just shy of 10 months into marriage. We were 36 when we got married so knew we'd need to have kids right away but were delightfully surprised that we were able to have our first child so soon after getting married. 


I have the most wonderful memories of our book-themed wedding. I am the least talented person when it comes to decor and craftiness. But my family, especially my sister-in-law, helped us pull together wedding decor that was so perfect for a book-loving couple. 

The parents of Phil's college friend gifted this to us. It resides on our fireplace mantel now.

 
Phil and I had lots of travel adventures while we were dating, so we were ready to embark on parenthood right away. We didn't get any international trips besides Mexico and Jamaica in before having kids, but we had both traveled pretty extensively during our 20s/30s. I'm forever grateful that I took all the trips I did - several of which I did on my own. There are families that will travel internationally with young kids, but it's not for us... So we are on a grand pause from big trips and that is totally ok with us. 

Newborn pics when Paul was about 10 days old

Phil hates this picture because it's kind of cheesy but I think it's cute! Paul was a couple months shy of 2 in this photo.

We have done some travel with our kids, though. We took Paul to the gulf coast of Florida in April 2019 and February 2020 (right before the start of the pandemic!). And this past February we took both boys to Tucson, AZ. We traveled with my parents on all of those occasions which we love to do!

We've also spent quite a bit of time at the lake. Paul isn't a fan of the water yet but I am hoping this changes with time. But he loves going kayaking.

Family kayaking - I was pregnant with Will at this time so we are all in this photo!

We have so few pictures of us as a family, but when your husband HATES posed photography, that is what happens. You learn to pick your battles when you are in a long term relationship. Forcing him to take photos is not a hill I am going to die on. 

Will's baptism

That is why it's really important to me to get professional photos done once a year. Those are often the only good pics of us as a family. Yes it's a total pain to get everyone looking presentable, but it's worth the time and money!


At our wedding, Phil gave the most amazing speech. It was funny and sweet and sentimental. He had people laughing and crying. Phil writes for his job so it was no surprise that he put together an awesome speech. At the end of the speech, he said that there will be good times and hard times ahead, but that we'd face them together as Lisa and Phil. And that has been true. We've had our share of hard times. Losing family members, a miscarriage, health challenges, the pandemic, etc. But we've leaned on each other through thick and thin. 

I wish my younger self who yearned for a partner for years could have had a peak at what was to come. I spent so much time worrying that I'd never find "my person." I watched a lot of friends get married and start families. I was thrilled for them but wondered when it would be my turn. 

But this life I've built with this wonderful man was worth the wait. Here's to many more years of wedded bliss!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Monday Run Down

- This past weekend was not a good one. Did I jinx myself by posting last week about how essential plans are for the sanity of parents of littles? It feels that way! I knew we were going to have to lay low with me recovering from covid, but then Paul woke with a fever on Saturday. He had a rash on his face on Friday but we assumed it was an allergic reaction to sunscreen. But when the fever hit, I did some googling and I think he has something called Fifths Disease, which is also referred to as - I kid you not - "slapped cheek syndrome." He had no appetite on Saturday and ended up throwing up at the end of the day after eating some dry cherrios. Then there was more vomiting on Sunday and much laundry was done. 

- Before the illness hit Paul, we took the water table out on Friday. Both boys played with it for over 30 minutes, which is like 3 hours in toddler time. Will drank so much water, which was dirty. I texted my nurse sister and she said "that's good probiotics" and commented on all the wood chips her 1yo tried to eat at the park that day. 


- Will got the rash, but it was much more faint and he did not get a fever or GI stuff. He was his normal, energetic, food throwing, mischievous self and kept wanting to bug his brother who was laid up on the couch. So he got 2 long 1-hour walks on Saturday and 3 1-hour walks on Sunday. But the weekend felt like it was about 800 hours long. I gave him a bath on Saturday night, not because he needed it but because I needed to entertain him for 20 minutes. I'm very glad he's healthy and could go to school today.

Rashy baby, eating breakfast.

- I'm recovering well from covid but am still very, very congested, like can't breath through nostrils-most-of the-day congested. And I'm tired, but is it from covid or parenting 2 small children who both seem to want to start the day at an hour that starts with the number 5? I was supposed to do a 10 mile race next Saturday and had been planning to drop down to the 10k distance but now I think I should probably just skip it and give my body a rest. I haven't exercised since last Monday which isn't great for my mental health, but I got lots of steps in this weekend with all the stroller walks. So I guess I need to call walks 'good enough' and wait until I'm back to full health. 

How was your weekend? Surely/hopefully it was better than mine??

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Mostly Covid-Themed 5 Things Friday

Hey hey, it's Friday and the weather forecast is looking great for this weekend! It has not been a great week - more on that below - but I'm trying to focus on the positive in this intro. So yay sunshine!

1. I'll start with the bad. I tested positive for covid this week using an at-home rapid antigen test. I had some false positives last fall (the brand was QuickVue - another colleague had a false positive on that brand so I'd avoid that brand!!) but I tested positive on a brand I've used quite a bit (Binax) so I trust the results. I had last tested on Saturday - my routine is to test on Saturday so I can go into the office the following week (we are required to test weekly). I started to feel congested on Sunday evening and continued to feel worse so I tested on Tuesday afternoon and it was almost immediately positive. Le sigh. Phil and the boys tested that night and again last night and were all negative and are all still healthy. Our daycare adopted the revised DHS policy in late January that allows us to continue to send our kids to daycare despite being exposed to Covid as long as they are healthy and don't test positive for covid. So the boys have continued to go to school and Phil (who is fully vaccinated and boosted) has continued to go into work but just closes his office door/wears a mask around others. The daycare policy has been a Godsend and our case levels at daycare have been really low, even since this policy went into place. Getting covid has kind of felt inevitable since the recent variants are so contagious and we have kids in daycare. But I was still hoping to avoid it since I'm immune compromised. I am very glad that I received the Evusheld prophylactic antibody injections in mid-April. That should prevent my case from getting severe. So far I feel like I have a bad head cold/sinus infection and feel really tired and dizzy at times. But overall it's doesn't feel all that different from the many other colds/upper respiratory infections I've had recently. 

2. Do I know where I got it? No, I don't. I went out to dinner with 2 girlfriends on Friday night but the restaurant was not busy and our table was pretty far from other tables. Both of my friends have cold symptoms but have tested negative; it's allergy season here in Minnesota so it's really hard to know if it's covid or allergies or just a cold! The other place I could have gotten it is swimming lessons on Sunday morning. I've been really cautious for the last 2 years and don't feel like I've done anything especially risky. Up until February, we hadn't eaten in a restaurant, besides eating outdoors a couple of times, since March of 2020. But I can't live under such conditions forever so it was probably inevitable that I would get exposed to covid - but this is why I am vaccinated. So that I can do things, see people, take my kids to the library, have dinner with friends, etc. I'm not taking crazy risks, in my opinion. I didn't go into work on Tuesday since I was congested so I don't think I exposed anyone else besides my family. 

3. Of course the weekend plans I wrote about on Wednesday will not be happening. I'll just push everything forward a week and we will stay close to home this weekend/avoid others. I'm glad the weather is looking nice so we can be outside quite a bit. I think I will pull out the water table this weekend since it will be in the upper 70s. Will loves the water/splashing so I think he'll love the water table! 

4. If you've read this blog for the past winter/spring or longer, you've probably picked up on the fact that I ALWAYS seem to be sick with one thing or another. This is one of the major downsides of having an autoimmune disease. I have rheumatoid arthritis which, in simplistic terms, means that my immune system goes into overdrive and attacks itself - namely, my joints. So to prevent/lower the chances of that happening, I'm on a number of immune suppressant drugs. But in preventing my body from attacking itself, that means my immune system SUCKS. I doesn't fight much of anything - because it is intentionally suppressed. I seem to catch everything the kids catch/are exposed to. This past year has been worse than usual - I mean I got the stomach flu 3 times in 11 months! I'm glad there are effective drugs on the market now to treat RA, but gosh it sucks to be sick all the dang time. 

5. Let's end on a positive note, though! I'm grateful that my company has been understanding and has great policies in place around covid. Pre-covid, I would have gone to work on Tuesday morning because I didn't feel 'that bad' in the morning. But I went downhill fast and was so relieved I hadn't been in the office when I tested positive that afternoon. I'm grateful that Phil is healthy and has a strong immune system - he's taken the lead on parenting this week. I've been masking around Phil and the boys and have been sleeping in the basement in the hopes that they won't get covid, too. And I'm grateful that the weather is nice this weekend so we can be outside. That will certainly help my sanity. If this happened in the dead of winter when we were all cooped up indoors, it would be far more challenging. 

This was not exactly an uplifting post, but I'm just trying to keep it real around here. Getting covid sucks, but I'll recover and be just fine, thanks to vaccines and the antibody injection. So yay science! 

How is your week going? Hopefully it's been better than mine!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Weekend Planning as a Parent

Late last month, the hosts of Best of Both Worlds discussed weekend plans on an episode. It made me think about how much my approach to weekends/what makes a good weekend has changed since becoming a parent. 

Pre-kids, I had a lot of social plans but I loved nothing more than a weekend with NO PLANS. But that is because I could then fill the weekend with anything I wanted to. Plus a plan-free weekend was such a rarity so it was extra enjoyable to have free reign on filling my weekend with what I wanted to do. I also had a tendency to say yes to way too much so that is another reason that a plan-free weekend was extra appealing. 

Now, as a mom of 2, my thoughts about a plan-free weekend have completely changed! A plan-free weekend can kind of fill me with a sense of, well, dread. It's sort of counterintuitive, but the less we have going on, the more exhausted we can feel by the end of the weekend. That is especially true when the weather was cold and we couldn't spend lots of time outdoor. The reason for the exhaustion is because it is very challenging to entertain 2 kids within the confines of our house - especially Will at 17 months. At this age, they get bored so quickly! 

The approach to weekend planning that has worked well for us is planning a few things that will take up some chunks of time and then filling in around those activities/outings. Now that weather has warmed up (finally!) it is easier to come up with ideas of things to do/places to go, and it's also easier to fill other gaps in time. So here are the big "place holders" in our schedule that I try to build around.

- On Saturday morning, I pretty much always start my day with a run with my neighbor as long as she isn't on call. We aim to start running around 7 so I can be back and showered so Phil can go grocery shopping when Aldi opens at 9. 

- On Sunday morning, I take Will to his 8:15 swimming lesson. We are usually home from this by 9:15. 

So that gives us 4 blocks to fill - Saturday from 9 until lunch, Saturday from post-nap until dinner, Sunday from 9:30 until lunch, and Sunday from post-nap until dinner. Having plans for all 4 blocks would probably be a lot - I think the sweet spot it one thing/day. 

This coming weekend is shaping up to be an ideal weekend. On Saturday morning, I am taking the boys to the Minnesota Zoo when I get back from my run. I got an annual membership to the zoo from my MIL for my birthday so am hoping to make the most of it by going about once a month. Then on Sunday after nap/quiet time, we are meeting up with another daycare family at a park at 3:30. Their oldest is in Paul's class and Will will join the toddler room that their youngest is in later this month. I've been pleasantly surprised to find that it's been pretty easy to make friends/parent connections with other families at daycare, especially as Paul has gotten older! I especially enjoy plans that involve another family as it gives me time to connect with another parent so "fills my cup," too.

I am most certainly the planner in my family so I do nearly all of the planning! During the activities I have planned this weekend, Phil will stay back and work on things around the house that are easier to do when the kids aren't around like yardwork. 

I imagine all of this will change when our kids are in activities! We'll be busy, but have less control over our weekend so I'm enjoying having control while I do. 

What does planning look like in your house? Do you like planned or unplanned weekends?


Friday, May 6, 2022

TGIF!

It's Friday! The sun is shining! Hurrah! Here's how my week shaped up.

The book I'm reading is Empire of Pain by Patrick Fadden Keefe which is about the Sackler Family, who own Purdue Pharma and played a very large part in the opioid epidemic. This book starts one generation back from the generation responsible for the opioid crisis. It shows that this family is full of truly awful people without a conscience or ability to discern right from wrong. Interestingly, going back a couple of generations, they were obsessed with passing along a good name - but they've clearly ruined their name by the unethical decisions that prioritized money over medical ethics. I highly recommend watching the show "Dopesick" on Hulu - I watched it with Phil this winter and it's so well-done. 

The high of my week was watching Will take his first steps the day he turned 17 months! He took some shaky steps in April, but now he is covering some distance so I think he'll be fully walking in the next couple of weeks. Our boys are such late walkers! They need to walk before moving into the toddler room at 18 months, so they have stressed me out as I really want them to move up to the next room. I'm glad I can stop worrying about Will walking by then! Here's a 5-second video of him taking some steps - he is clearly so proud of himself!



The low of my week was another week of back bedtimes for Paul. I am so ready for him to move up to the next classroom where the nap is shorter or more optional. We've pushed his bedtime back to 8-8:15 but will still end up sitting in a chair in his room for 45-60 minutes. That's how I get so much reading done - I am stranded in his room 3-4 nights a week for upwards of an hour, sometimes longer! Hopefully moving rooms will make a big difference. I really regret laying in the room with him until he fell asleep when we vacationed in AZ in February. Prior to that, he didn't realize having us sit there until he fell asleep was an option! 

A recipe I made was Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers with Asian Rice. Spring has finally arrived so we are back to using our grill again! 

A show I am watching is This is Us. I will be so sad when this show comes to an end. I cried at the end of this past week's episode. I can not tell you the last time I cried when watching a movie or tv show. It rarely happens so it's significant when a show makes me cry. I mostly blame the use of Billy Joel's somber song, "And So It Goes" which really contributed to the somberness of the episode's ending.

For workouts I did a martial arts style workout on Monday (workout 98 of 100 from the morning meltdown beach body program!!) and then walked with a neighbor/blog reader at lunchtime (Hi, Anne!), I ran on Wednesday and Thursday, and today I walked before logging into work. I'm planning to do my long run tomorrow with my neighbor and Sunday will be another rest day although I almost always hit 10k+ steps on weekend days since we are always out and about so it's more of an 'active rest' day!

The best money spent was on new running shoes! The ones I had were starting to fall apart so I was way overdue. When I put the new shoes on, I could not believe how cushy they felt! I bought them at a local running store close to our house. 


My plans this weekend include going out to dinner tonight with 2 college friends which means I will miss bedtime! Hooray!! I did an extra bedtime this week to make up for being gone so I've paid my dues! Tomorrow morning I will run with my neighbor and then we are meeting my second time mama group at a park at 9. I'm not sure what we will do on Sunday for Mother's Day - hopefully the weather will be nice so we can spend lots of time outdoors. My only real request is a blizzard from DQ! 

Bonus Kid Pics:

Laundry baskets are a great toy!

It's finally nice enough to play outside after work/dinner! Will is slowly figuring out how to use this little bike that Paul got at this age from my parents.


For Easter, my MIL got Paul a couple of dinosaur assembly kits that came in eggs. Paul had fun working on this and did really well with the screw driver. He is smiling with the cheesiest smile in the picture of the finished product! 



How was your week? Did you make any good recipes?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

What We Read in April

April was a decent reading month for me. I read 8 books, evenly split between fiction and non-fiction. Year-to-date, non-fiction has accounted for about 40% of my reading and I think this has to be above average for me. I almost exclusively read ebooks from the library, so I read what is available, and much has been non-fiction so far this year. But I must be putting more non-fiction on my request list, too! 

Non-Fiction:

My favorite non-fiction reads were The Anthropocene Reviewed (5 stars!) and The Gratitude Diaries. I listened to The Anthropocene Reviewed and it was really delightful. It's a collection of essays about a random assortment of topics and he concludes each essay by rating what he talked about. The reason for that is that he talks about how recent a phenomenon the 5-star rating scale is. If I remember correctly, it became popular when amazon came on the scene. I ended up telling Phil about a lot of the various essays since he shares a lot of really interesting nuggets of information in an engaging manner. I appreciated the perspective of The Gratitude Diaries, which is a memoir about the author's year spent focusing on gratitude. It inspired me to start a gratitude practice but I haven't quite decided what exactly I will do but it will probably be done in my Wonderland222 planner.

Fiction:


I'll start off by saying I HATED "Matrix" by Lauren Groff. I loved her previous novel, "Fates and Furies," so I thought I might like this. But I didn't. I slogged through it because it is a book club book and I try my best to finish book club books so I can be part of the discussion. I was glad this book was short (it was less than 300pgs). My best fiction read of the month was "One Two Three." It has Erin Brokovitch vibes because it's about a family living in a town where a corporation has polluted the water and it has resulted in many health problems for the town's residents. It's told by triplet sisters. I loved the author's previous book "This Is How It Always Is." It would be hard to replicate the magic of that book, but this book was also excellent so I will read more by this author (Laurie Frankel).

Paul's Reads:



These were the hits of the past month. "Delicious" and "A Pipkin of Pepper" are follow-ups to "Pumpkin Soup" which is a much-loved book in our house. Both of the follow-ups were excellent and were read multiple times! "The Rabbit Listened" and "Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend" were very sweet books written by a local author. The Rabbit Listened is about how to support someone who is having a bad day, and Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! Is about endings and beginnings. Anatole was my personal favorite. It has Ratatouille vibes as it's about a mouse living in Paris. It was delightful!

What did you read this month? 

Monday, May 2, 2022

A Run Down Memory Lane

Last Thursday, I left work at 3pm so I could fit a workout in. It wasn't exactly a "nice" day but I knew I'd enjoy a run outside way more than a run on the gym "dreadmill." My plan is to try to workout at 3pm one day/week to help me hit my goal of 4 workouts/week. I haven't ran in this area of Minneapolis in a very long time. My last run down there might have even been the morning of my wedding almost 5 years ago when I ran a very similar loop with my sister - on a similarly cold day! 

When I met Phil back in the fall of 2012, I was living in on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, along the Mississippi River. It is one of my favorite areas of Minneapolis, but an area I did not really know much about until I rented a condo there. I had moved into a condo in the summer of 2011. Prior to that, I was living in a condo that I owned in the suburbs of Minneapolis. And I HATED it. When I bought in 2005, the only place I could afford was the suburbs. Then the market tanked in 2008-2009 and I was stuck out there. Then in February of 2011, I took a trip to Paris for my 40th birthday (which you could read about on my Paris blog that's been dormant since my last trip to Paris in 2013). I stayed in a charming apartment in the Marais area of Paris and came back wishing my life looked more like my vacation life did. So after much thought and some research, I decided to rent out my suburban condo and move into a condo rental in the Mill City area of Minneapolis. 

The condo building where I lived!

I ended up living there from summer 2011 until I was relocated to Charlotte in 2013 for a job (I met Phil in October and found out I had to move in January... it was a tough thing to go through). I spent 1 year in Charlotte and then moved back to Minneapolis in May 2014 and back into this building. In total, I lived in 3 condos in this building - my first faced downtown and my next 2 faced the river, which I much preferred. 

It was an amazing place to live for this period of my life, especially as a runner. I lived at the base of a pedestrian bridge and could run for miles along the river. 

This is the end of the pedestrian bridge - you can see my condo building (brown building) is right by this bridge)

I wonder how many times I crossed this bridge while living in that condo building. At one point, I had a friend that lived in a condo building that was at the base of the other side of the pedestrian bridge so I have memories of walking across to spend time with her. 

The Stone Arch Bridge
When you run across that pedestrian bridge, you see the beautiful St. Anthony Falls. Of course this picture doesn't do it justice! 

St. Anthony Falls

On the other side of the river from where I lived is the church where Phil and I got married. That's the church I've been taking Paul to this spring. It's a good 20 minutes from where we live so not very convenient, but I love the vibe of that parish so have remained a member there. 

I lived in this area of Minneapolis until May of 2016 when I moved into Phil's house in south Minneapolis. Funny story - I moved in on Friday and then had hip surgery to repair a labral tear the following Monday. Boy was that trial by fire to see if we could live together! We got engaged that December so getting a sneak peak of me being completely reliant on him didn't scare him off. ;) But I wouldn't recommend having a a painful surgery that requires using crutches for 3 weeks right after moving in with someone!

So do I miss living in this area of Minneapolis? Honestly, not really. It was great for that stage of my life, but it was really hard to host people at my condo since parking was so difficult. There were some guest parking spots in the parking garage but it was tough to get a spot. It's much easier to host friends living where we do now as there is ample street parking. Plus I still do most of my runs by the water since we live close to a creek and Lake Harriet. And overall, I much prefer living in a house versus sharing walls with someone in a condo building. But I am glad I had the opportunity to live there and will also fondly remember the years I spent living there in the early- to mid-2010s! And I'm happy that I'm back to running so I can run down memory lane on days I work out after work!

Is there an area of your city that brings back memories for you? 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Currently: April 2022

April is almost over! Hooray! One month closer to summer and the end of what has been one of the worst springs I can recall. Bring on May! Hopefully it will be warmer? I'm not asking for much - just temps in the 60s would be excellent. Here is what is happening in my world. 

Reading: Matrix by Lauren Groff for book club. If I wasn't reading this for book club, I probably would have abandoned it! I've tried to become more ruthless about abandoning books, but I try not to give up on book club books. It has gotten better as I've progressed but overall I feel pretty meh about it. 

Loving: the game 'Spelling Bee' through the NYT. It's a game where they give you 7 letters, 1 of which must be in every word, and you try to make as many words as possible. You need a subscription to NYT games to play (you can get to a certain point without a membership but then you need a membership to keep playing) so I ponied up for that since it brings me so much joy. I am also a huge fan of wordle but find that like I Spelling Bee even more. I know games like this are so good for the health of your brain. My paternal grandmother was a lifelong Scrabble player - and at almost 99 she can still kick my butt. I've only beat her once in my life! I think that playing scrabble for all those years really contributed to her brain health. 

I achieved "Queen Bee" status one day which means I found all the words!

Feeling: sad and a great sense of heaviness over a cancer diagnosis a coworker received. He's a bit younger than me, has a young child, and they are expecting another child. Life is so incredibly unfair. 

Anticipating: attending my Godson's graduation party in early June. But OMG how is it possible he is graduating and going to college? He is the nicest kid and has never had that "too cool for school" attitude that can come during the teen years. I'm excited to see where life takes him! This means I will be cashing out the savings account I started for him when he was a baby. I was the lame aunt who never gave toys as a gift - when he was younger I would give him books and deposit money in the savings account and as he got older I shifted to just depositing money in his savings account. So at his graduation party I'll give him a nice check to use as he'd like!

Struggling: to love or even like Minnesota right now! This spring has just been so awful. We better have a great summer and fall ahead of us! 

Grateful: for my health. My coworker's diagnosis is a reminder to never take your health for granted.

Working: on figuring out what my next Beach Body program will be. I am almost done with morning meltdown which had 100 workouts! I've been working on it since August. It's designed to be done on 100 consecutive days, but since I run 2-3 days/week and am not in a stage of life where I can workout every day of the week, it's taken a long time to get through the program! But I have really enjoyed it. I think I will look for something that is focused on strength training since I get enough cardio from running.

Thinking: I might need to drop down to the 10k distance instead of running the 10 mile distance at a race I'm registered for in late May. Between returning to the office 3 days/week, being sick several times this winter, and the weather, I have not logged as many miles as I would have liked.

Watching: the latest seasons of Top Chef, A Million Little Things, and This is Us. None of these are shows that Phil enjoys so I fit them in when I can, often in snippets over lunch on days I work from home. We've lost the time in the evening we used to spend watching a show together as Paul now insists that whoever does bedtime sits in a chair until he falls asleep... which can take quite a bit of time on week days when he naps at school. We have tried to get out of sitting in the chair while he falls asleep with no success. I am telling myself this is a stage and I won't always have to do this. I'm really hoping he doesn't nap in the room he moves to next month so we can get back to watching shows together again.

Wishing: for warmer weather soon. I'm so ready to pack away our winter outwear!

What are you anticipating, struggling with, and grateful for?

Monday, April 25, 2022

First Work Trip in Ages

I had my first work trip in ages this past weekend. I'm trying to remember when I last traveled for work for a client visit and I can't remember... I think it was before I had Paul! Before I had kids, I had asked my manager if I could limit/avoid travel for work when I became a parent and that manager was on board with that. I have a different manager now, but he also respects that I prefer to not travel for work. I know many moms do this either because they have to or they enjoy it! I just don't so I am glad I can usually avoid it. But in this case, I absolutely could not avoid this trip. We just took over the management of a pool of assets for a university foundation and were told up front that we needed to attend the board meeting twice a year and that they valued having a diverse team working on their account (i.e. not a bunch of guys). So I got put on the account and knew I'd need to travel for these board meetings. 

Overall, it went well. I wish I had gotten my Evusheld injections (prophylactic antibody injection that I qualified for since I'm immune-compromised) further ahead of the trip but hopefully they provided some level of extra protection? I was told I'd be fully protected in 14 days, and I got my shots on Tuesday of this past week. I wore a mask in the airport and on the flight and was definitely in the minority. Interestingly, when Phil went grocery shopping on Sunday, he said about 2/3 of people were wearing masks. Anecdotally, I've heard about more people getting covid lately so it feels like we may be in the build-up to another wave? Le sigh. 

The presentation itself went well, though. We took over the portfolio at the start of a tough market. But they seemed to understand that there is no magic investment that will perform well when everything is down (stocks and bonds have both had rough starts to the year). 

Both of my flights were delayed - it seems like on-time flights are an anomaly these days! But the delays weren't too terrible. I got home around 7pm on Saturday. Phil kept Will up so I could do bedtime, and I did Paul's bedtime as well. It was good to get some time with both boys after not seeing them for almost 2 days. On Sunday morning I was getting ready to take Will to swimming lessons. When I put my shoes on, Will started to cry and kind of flopped forward dramatically onto the floor - it seemed like he thought I was leaving again and was upset, so even though he's not quite 18 months, he seemed to notice I was not around! But I think having to travel over a weekend is harder on everyone since that is normally when I get the most quality time with the boys. Being gone on week nights is less of a big deal. I'm glad I'll only have to do this weekend meeting once a year - the other meeting is on a Friday - and there is talk of us taking turns attending these meetings. 

I got lots of time with the boys on Sunday, though. As I mentioned above, I took Will to swimming lessons on Sunday morning. His instructor said he can register for the next level for the summer session since he's done so well. Phil headed to his mom's around lunchtime to help with some things so I got my chance to do some solo parenting. Luckily Will took a nice long 2.5 hour nap. Paul played on his iPad in his room during quiet time and I napped, too! After naptime, we went on a little adventure. I had gotten a voucher to go to the Crayola Experience at the Mall of America to pick out 32 crayons. Crayons are pretty cheap so it wasn't worth a lot monetarily, but Paul is so into coloring and crayons so I knew he'd enjoy filling a box of crayons. 



It's a bit of a hassle to get to the mall but it was worth the effort. This was Paul's first time in a mall - he thought it was very cool. It's one of the biggest malls in the US and has a big Nickelodeon-themed amusement park in the middle so it's not your typical mall. He's on the young side for the amusement park but I told him we'd come back some day when he's older. 

Will was a great little side kick and was happy to hang in the stroller and take everything in!

As soon as we got home, Paul broke out the crayons and got to work coloring. I'm so glad he's interested in coloring! It's nice to have an activity that will entertain him for a solid block of time! 

Phil got home shortly after we did. I made soup in the instant pot with the bone from our Easter ham. It's another cold week here so it's sadly still soup season - we eat soup year-round but it tastes especially good on a cold day!

Will continued to be a little more cuddly than usual but I soaked up his snuggly mood. 

How was your weekend? Is it nice where you are or still unseasonably cold? I ran this morning - it was about 32F with a mist, but felt like 22F with the wind. Where are you spring?

Friday, April 22, 2022

Finance Friday: Meeting with a Financial Advisor

Happy Friday! I leave today for a work trip - I'll be presenting at a university foundation board meeting tomorrow morning. I haven't travel for work in so long so feel a bit rusty but I am sure it will go fine. I'm looking forward to having it behind me! I get back on Saturday evening. Work travel over a week is the pits!

I'm ending the week with a "Finance Friday" kind of post. I've never been able to make this a regular series as these posts require a lot of work and I'm not sure if they are of interest to anyone! But I've been meaning to talk about our experience of meeting with a financial advisor and finally got around to writing up our experience.

Why did you meet with a financial advisor (FA)?

We've mentioned meeting with a FA to a handful of people and nearly everyone says something to the tune of: 'you both have your CFA. Why would you meet with a FA? What could he help you with?'

There are different reasons to meet with a FA. In our case, it was NOT for investment advice. I work in fixed income and Phil works in equities. We really don't need asset allocation or investment recommendations. But given the fact that our industry continues to shrink and will continue to shrink, we wanted to see if we are saving enough to be ok if one or both of us loses our job in the next 10 years. We forecast that it's nearly 100% likely that one or both of us will lose our jobs. I know that sounds crazy, but our industry is majorly struggling. I've gone through several rounds of layoffs (not personally, but the positions of people I work with have been eliminated). Plus I had to move - to a city I NEVER wanted to live in - in order to keep my job back in 2013. I don't have that kind of flexibility anymore now that I have a family so I would want to be able to make another decision if something similar happened to one of us (i.e. there is no way we are leaving Minneapolis - this is home until we retire).

So the crux of our question to the FA was - at the pace we are saving, do we have enough money to be ok if one of us loses our job by age 50? If one/both of us lose our job by 50, we would get another job because we like to work and need good health insurance thanks to my RA, but we wouldn't want to HAVE to replace our income - i.e. if we had to take a pay cut, would that be ok?

We also wanted to talk about whether it made sense for Phil to get life insurance and we talked about our will/estate planning. In order to answer that 'do we have enough money' question, you need sophisticated software to run countless scenarios (called Monte Carlo analysis) to give us a % chance of us having enough money.

What all did the FA do to form a financial plan? 

The first step was filling out a profile that included questions about our risk tolerance, goals, spending expectations (how much do you want to spend on vacations? Do you want to pay for your children's college? Do you want to pay for their weddings? Etc etc) and a summary of our assets and debts. It took maybe 20 minutes. Then we met with the FA (via a video call) to talk more about our goals/concerns. About 2 weeks later, we had another video call to discuss the analysis and his recommendations. So in total we spent about 2 hours with him over the course of 2 calls.

What were his recommendations?

In general, he said we have done a good job saving and are low spenders. I looked at Phil when he said that and said, 'SEE!! I TOLD YOU WE DON'T SPEND MUCH MONEY!' Phil's response was - challenge! But he is super frugal and always thinks we can spend less. But in reality, he's fine with how much we spend. He just wishes we got fewer Amazon packages.

His most useful advice was around estate planning/how to structure our will, whether to get life insurance for Phil, and how to allocate between tax-exempt and taxable accounts. We have decided Phil will get a 10-year life insurance policy. He's been dragging his feet on this, though. He did try to get life insurance through State Farm but they put him into a higher cost bracket BECAUSE HE WEIGHED TOO LITTLE/HIS BMI WAS TOO LOW! Isn't that insane? He was so pissy about this so we will look at another provider. It would be very expensive for me to get life insurance because of my RA. For the investments, he said we are putting enough in 401ks/IRAs/work retirement accounts but we need to put more in our taxable brokerage account.

Did we feel it was worth our time?

100% it was worth going through this exercise. It was helpful to see the % chance that we have enough assets to last if we both live to 95 (statistically very unlikely) under different scenarios such as retire at 50/get lower paying jobs at 50, retire at 60, spending increases substantially from current trend (unlikely), etc. It gave me a sense of comfort to see that we are saving enough.

What did it cost?

This is the head scratcher for us - it cost us $0. We worked with a FA that works for my company's parent company. So maybe that meeting is considered an employee benefit? We were fully expecting the FA to pitch us on moving our assets over to him or to buy certain funds. At the end Phil even said - so are you going to make investment recommendations and all he did was talk about how our asset allocation compared to what it should be based on our risk tolerances. I do wonder if he took a different approach with us because he knows we are both CFA charterholders and work in asset management. I think in most cases, you'd pay a fixed rate for a financial plan or there'd be an expectation that you'd move your assets over to the FA.

Final thoughts

I want to emphasize here that we are incredibly lucky to be in this position and I feel a bit of a sense of shame in mentioning that we are in a good position financially because I know that is not the case for so many people. But it's important to remember that our income level is higher because of the volatility of our income. If we worked in a more stable industry, it probably wouldn't even be necessary to meet with an FA because there would be a high level of certainty that we could keep our jobs until we decided we wanted to retire. Also, we definitely live well below our means. We are just not big spenders, aren't big on possessions, don't derive joy from shopping or buying things, don't drive fancy cars (we have a Toyota Corolla and Camry), and take pretty modest vacations. So we are making spending decisions that ensure we are financially stable.

Have you ever met with a financial advisor or is it something you've considered doing? Any suggestions for future finance posts? Or do these bore you to tears? ;) 

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Wintery Easter

Mother Nature delivered a winter-like Easter. It was cold, windy and at times, snowy. Spring is unreliable here in the Midwest, but this April has been extra bad. Since it was so cold and I felt pretty crappy for much of the weekend, we were mostly indoors which means time crawled at a snail pace at times!

On Friday morning, we let the boys open the box of Easter goodies my parents sent. We figured it was best to spread the Easter surprises over 3 days. My mom crocheted some adorable chickens with an opening for an egg. 


We drove up to the library that morning since it was too cold and windy to walk! Since our visit last week, they had changed out the toys in the tree house from dinosaurs to sea creatures and the fruit/vegetable stand is now a post office station with a mailbox and keyboards. 


Phil made lunch while we were at the library - a Spanish Tortilla. The boys enjoyed some sugar cookies that my mom sent in the Easter package.

After nap/quiet time, Paul and I dyed Easter eggs. We only dyed 8 since I am the only person in the family who eats hard-boiled eggs! 


We did the egg hunt in the basement after quiet time on Saturday. Will got a few eggs but Paul got most of them. I'm sure next year will be a bit of a different story. My MIL took care of filling the eggs. She found some cute Thomas-themed trains and included a few treats, some for us (salted caramel-filled chocolates) and some for Paul (peanut butter cups). 



We had our Easter dinner on Saturday evening. My MIL wasn't feeling well enough to join us and she wanted to avoid the head colds we were fighting so it was just the 4 of us. Phil was able to find asparagus at Aldi so we had ham, mashed potatoes, gravy and asparagus. The boys at some ham but that's about it!

One highlight of the weekend was that both boys slept until 6 or later every day! Not having to get up at an hour that starts with 5 was a true gift, especially since I was not feeling well. 

Breakfast with blueberry obsessed Will

The boys got their Easter baskets on Sunday mroning. Will got a book, Paul got some puzzles, some dino eggs that include a dinosaur to assemble, and a space poster. Both boys got some bubble blowing toys. I envisioned them playing with the bubble stuff when I bought it but that was not possible on Sunday!


I took Paul to church that morning at 8:30. He did pretty well overall. We got comments at the end about how much energy he has from the person sitting next to us in the pew - he was an older gentleman and appreciated Paul's energy. 

The rest of the day was spent paying with Easter toys and running around in the basement. 
Paul and I assembled the rocket ship puzzle which is double-sided. He refused to smile for the photo!


It was a 3-day weekend but felt much longer since we were barely outside! Next weekend looks better which is good because I will be gone Friday and Saturday for a work trip. I have to present at a Saturday morning university foundation meeting. This is my first work trip in so so long. I'm glad Will was weaned well before this trip. I am looking forward to having this trip behind me - and Phil is, too! I have rarely traveled since having kids but this is an important relationship so I definitely need to be there. I know some parents are totally fine with work travel after having kids, but it's something I've asked to avoid when possible. But before I know it, it will be behind me. 

How was your weekend?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Four Things Friday

Happy Friday! Today is a start of a 3-day weekend for us as the financial markets are closed so Phil and I are both off today and the kids' school is closed, too. The weather is not looking great... highs in the upper 30s to low 40s. Could be worse, but come on! It's mid April! Throw me a bone, mother nature! I'm sure we'll bundle the kids up and get outside for some trips to the park but the Easter egg hunt will certainly be indoors this year. Womp womp. Here are 4 things on my mind today!

1. I watched a recording of Brandi Carlile's performance at the Grammy's with Paul and it filled my heart with joy that he could sing along to the song! He is a big Brandi Carlile fan and will request certain songs by her. I have been a huge Brandi fan since the early days. I think I've seen her in concert at least 6 times? Maybe more? I'm excited to see her in concert this summer although I'm bummed that she's become so popular that the concert is at a huge venue. I miss the days of seeing her in tiny venues with excellent acoustics, but I am glad her talent is being appreciated by others. I can see myself taking Paul to a concert when he is older!

2. Yesterday I found out I am eligible for Evusheld, which is a prophylactic treatment for Covid! I am thrilled about this! My rheumatologist let me know I qualified when I saw her this winter because of an immune suppressant injection I take to treat my rheumatoid arthritis. At that time she said I was far down the priority list but that I might be able to get it around summer time. I am battling yet another cold - the same cold that Will and Phil have and yet I am FAR sicker than they are. Rheumatoid arthritis is treated by suppressing your immune system so your body doesn't attack itself so I just don't have a fighting chance to battle any virus, as evidenced by how sick I've been this winter! So I am glad I will have extra protection against covid. I continue to be amazed that we haven't gotten it. Thank goodness it doesn't tend to spread among small children - having our kids in daycare has always been our biggest risk of getting covid, but something a risk we have had to take. 

3. We are going to have a quiet Easter and I am ok with that, especially since I am feeling under the weather. I'm planning to take Paul to church on Sunday - and will wear a mask (I feel comfortable going because I've done 2 covid tests this week and both were negative so it is just a cold). My MIL has been having some health problems so there's a good chance she won't feel well enough to join us for our Easter meal.  So it might just be the 4 of us. I'm planning to make ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, and asparagus if Phil can find some at the store - he hasn't seen any recently which is odd since this is usually when he starts to see it at Aldi! Our substitute will be brussel sprouts if he can't find asparagus. Chances are, Paul will barely eat any of what I make. We'll see what Will eats. Our German meat-and-potato grandparents must be rolling over in their graves over our children's eating habits. ;) I'm most excited about making a soup with the ham bone! 

4. Bedtime continues to be really challenging here. Paul has been napping at school so he is just not tired. I've lost the hour of time with Phil at the end of the day. Lately by the time Paul is asleep and we can leave his room, it's time for me to turn in. I keep telling myself it won't always be like this. He's currently requiring that we sit in the chair in his room or lay next to him until he falls asleep. I don't mind sitting in the chair because I can sneakily read a book on the kindle ap on my phone. But I can't do that if I am laying next to him. We are going to try a later bedtime to see if that helps, but he has to be up so early for school so it creates a bad cycle of being tired in the morning which probably leads his teachers to have him nap... He moves into the pre-K room next month and allegedly the nap is shorter and most don't nap so I am hoping things improve in a month or so? Please let that be the case!

Your turn - what is going on in your world right now? Do you have Easter or Passover plans?

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Back To The Office: The First 6 Weeks

First, the details: This is the 6th week since my company re-opened our offices and required employees to return. All in all, they have handled it as well as they could, I think. In November, they announced that vaccines would be required and they gave very few exemptions. I think something like 97% of the staff has been vaccinated. Originally we were supposed to return to the office in early January, but it got pushed back to the week of March 7th since infection levels were high thanks to omicron. We are encouraged to go into the office 3 days/week and my boss has asked that we come in Tuesday-Thursday. I think it makes sense to target being in on certain days. Otherwise what is the point of going into the office if you don't see other people that you work with! There is much flexibility, though, and no one is monitoring when you come in. My boss treats us like adults and trusts that we are coming in around 3 days/week.

In order to go into the office, you have to go into an ap and certify that you are healthy, don't have any of the listed symptoms and have had a negative covid test in the last 7 days. Everyone coming into the office tests themselves with an antigen test or with a test that is provided by the company that supposedly provides PCR-like accuracy at home. If you watched the Superbowl, you likely saw an ad for these kinds tests - you swab your nose, put it in some solution, and then the solution goes into a warming unit for an hour. I guess the warming part is what improves the accuracy? It takes about 75 minutes to do a tests so I do my test on Sunday mornings so I know I can go to the office that following week. 

So how is it going? Overall, it's gone pretty well. I think everyone I work with/interact with must be vaccinated because I have not seen people in masks (you are required to mask at all times if you receive a vaccination exemption). We were already pretty spread out before covid hit so were naturally socially distanced. Here are the pros and cons I've experienced so far!

Pros:

- I have enjoyed seeing coworkers in person. I hadn't seen most in over 2 years. I've encountered people who didn't know we had another baby! We have gotten good at communicating over teams/email, but sometimes it is nice to just walk over to someone's desk to talk about something/ask a question.

- I have loved being able to print again! We were not allowed to print ANYTHING while working from home. Usually that was not a big deal, but there are times when I really need to print something - like I find it easier to proofread when it is printed out. Things just jump out at me more on paper than when I proofread on the screen. A couple of weeks ago I had to do some complex analysis of the performance of 2 different strategies and was so glad I could print out the attribution reports and compare them side by side!

- It's been great to eat lunch out again. At first I got lunch all 3 days I was in but I only did for a couple of weeks while I adjusted to being back in the office. Now I get lunch 1 day/week and a latte 1 day/week. It's a nice treat.

Cons:

- It is so much harder to fit workouts in. When working from home, I would usually log in around 7, answer emails and address anything urgent and then I would do a quick workout. In the summer, I would run at 7 and then log on around 8 and work straight through for the rest of the day and consider my run my 'break' for the day. We have to be out the door by around 6:50 so we can be at work by around 7:30. I don't have it in me to get up at 4:45-5 to workout before going into the office, plus it seems like one or both kids is up around 5-5:15 so morning workouts just don't work right now. So instead I try to go to the gym in my building at 3 on Thursdays and I run on the treadmill. When it's nicer out, I'll do that run outdoors. That won't work during the hot months as running at 3 would be so awful so I will have to go back to the treadmill or do a strength workout or something. By doing 1 workout on the days I'm in the office, I can fit in 4 workouts/week which is probably enough. 

- It's more work to get the door with hair/make-up done. Yes it feels good to be more put together, but given the choice, I'd choose more sleep over looking put together in this stage of life. ;) 

- It's harder to get dinner on the table on days I go into the office. We usually get home around 5pm and ideally we eat dinner around 5:30pm. That doesn't give me much time to prepare dinner. I try to cut up things on the weekend so that dinner comes together faster but it's a more harried experience to have so little time to make dinner. 

When we found out about the return to work, I jokingly told my boss that I likely wouldn't be healthy enough to go to the office about 1/3 of the time. Well, that has turned out to be right! I made it through most of the first day back in early March and then got the stomach flu and was home for the rest of tha week. Now this week, I am fighting a nasty upper respiratory virus (not covid - 3 of us have colds, we've all done antigen tests and they were all negative) so I will be home this week, too! But I'm glad there is a policy in place to stay home with you are sick so you don't spread crud around to your coworker!

All in all, I'll use Phil's favorite adjective/most common response when I ask how his day was, and characterize the return to the office as "fine." I can see the benefit of having employees together and I'm glad I can still work from home 2 days/week, but given the option, I'd probably drop my number of days in the office down to 1-2! Maybe in the future that will be an option, but for now I'll hold up my end of the bargain and try to be in 3 days/week.

Will you or have you returned to the office?