Monday, January 30, 2023

A Cold Winter Weekend

Hey hey, happy Monday! We had our first bout of truly cold weather since Christmas. January has been so incredibly pleasant, so feeling sub-zero temps was a shock to the system! Hopefully this is our last cold spell but that is likely wishful thinking... Here is how we stayed sane during a weekend when having the kids outdoors was not possible!

Friday was National Lego Day, so Paul and I worked on part of a big Spiderman Lego set that he received for Christmas once Will was in bed. I really love Lego sets! We've been slowly working through the ones he got for Christmas but I imagine he'll get some more for his birthday in March. I'm just struggling with how to store them! Right now they reside on his dresser. I want them accessible to him as he does play with them and they need to be out of Will's reach. But his dresser looks soo cluttered. I might need to just accept this, though. 

I got up with the boys on Saturday. Will is starting to have some interest in what Paul is watching, but it's still pretty limited. 

We had our usual morning routine of facetiming with my parents, going to the library and then to gymnastics, followed by lunch at home. The morning felt long so after lunch, I headed out for a walk to get my 23 minutes of outdoor time in. I'm giving myself a pass if it's below zero but I think it was 8F so I bundled up. 

How one dresses for cold weather - a warm coat, balaclava, hat, and hood. I wore thin snow pants over my sweat pants I was pretty cozy!

Phil and Paul went to his mom's that afternoon so Phil could deal with his mom's ice dam (something that happens in the Midwest when you have a lot of snow on your roof that thaws and then refreezes - it's common when you have an unusual roofline or an older home. Luckily we do not have this problem!). So I was on Will duty for the rest of the day. His new obsession is our broom. He's also newly into stickers. I was very happy when bedtime rolled around as several hours indoors with a toddler with a limited attention span can feel really long... 

I slept in until around 7 on Sunday as Phil got up with the boys. We had breakfast and kept the boys busy until 8:30 when we headed to the Children's Museum. 

More fun with stickers and crayons

Will got a membership to the Children's Museum for his birthday/Christmas from my parents. We went there on New Years Day and it was pretty quiet for the first hour or so. This time was completely different. It was SO busy! Phil and I divided and conquered - there is NO WAY one of us could take both kids here... the boys have such different interests and it would be so easy to lose a kid! Will's favorite thing is the car wash. He could have spent longer there but some bigger kids came to the area and weren't, um, very well behaved/respectful of all the little ones? 

Overall it was a great visit, but just WAY too busy! The employees told us this was not at all typical. Clearly everyone had the same idea when they saw the forecast and were desperate for something to do with their kids. 

The rest of the day was spent at home. I did an upper-body workout and went for another 25 minute walk during nap time. We tried to watch the football games but didn't catch much of the SF/Philadelphia game, which is fine because that was not much of a game unfortunately. We spent lots of time in the basement. The nugget continues to be a super source of entertainment for the boys so I highly recommend it to parents of littles!

After the boys were in bed, I watched the KC/Cincinnati game with Phil while working on a puzzle until I headed up to bed at 8:30 to read. My current read it "Tell Me Everything" which is part memoir/part expose of a sexual assault case at UC Boulder involving the football team in the early 2000s. It is a HARD/HEAVY book, but very interesting. The author, who was a private investigator, doesn't explicitly identify the university but it's so obvious that it's UC Boulder. 

And that was a wrap! This week is going to be a busy one at work. My volume of meetings is really picking up. I have 5 client meetings today! Our sales people were all away at a conference last week so I think/hope this is pent up demand and not the kind of volume to expect going forward but we'll see... 

How was your weekend?

Friday, January 27, 2023

Currently: January 2023

I don't know how this is possible, but I haven't done a currently post since last April! I used to do these monthly as it's a good way to share a bunch of random updates on my life. So here goes!

Reading: The Four Treasures of the Sky, a debut novel by Jenny Tinghui Zhang. It's historical fiction set during the late 1800s in the western region of the US. The protagonist is kidnapped in China and brought to the US. The treatment of her is abhorrent! I am learning a lot about the Chinese Exclusion Act which was a ban on Chinese immigrants that was passed in 1882. It's sad to see that, over 200 years later, the Asian population in the US is still being treated poorly. I went to HH with a friend of Korean descent earlier this week and she said she does not take the subway in NY when she travels for work because she does not feel safe given how those of Asian descent are being treated. :( When will true and lasting change happen? 

Loving: the mild winter we've had so far in January. Typically this can be a bitterly cold month for us Minnesotans. I'm going strong on my 23 in '23 challenge and have really enjoyed my outdoor walks and runs. That said, the mild weather is coming to a crashing halt this weekend. Sob! Luckily it looks like it will warm up while my friend Kyria visits us next weekend! Phew!

This is the screenshot I sent Kyria. I'm glad she's missing the bitterly cold weather!

Feeling: sad that my colleague and mentor will be retiring at the end of March. I've known about this for a long time but it is finally public so I can talk about it! We met in a writing class when I worked in corporate finance at a previous employer back in 2008. He liked that I had a degree in math and was a good writer (it's kind of a rare combination). He eventually hired me in early 2011 but we only had 1.5 years together before he was recruited over to our current firm. Then I joined him here in 2015. I'm glad we've had almost 8 years together here but I know we will always stay in touch. It will be a big adjustment to me,though. I'm glad I've worked on elevating my profile with our salesforce over the last year because I will be taking on a lot more client calls when he leaves. All that said, I'm very happy for him! In our industry, it's kind of rare to go out on your own terms!

Anticipating: Kyria's visit next weekend! I met Kyria through blogging 10+ years ago. I've visited her in California several times, either on work trips or to meet up for races, and Phil and I visited her in 2016. Phil and her get along super well since they both enjoy craft beers and have a sense of frugality ingrained in them. She came to our wedding in 2017, and when we walked in the door from picking her up at the airport, Phil asked her to grab him a beer from the fridge - that's the best way for me to sum of their level of comfort with each other. ;) She visited us when Paul was 6 months but I haven't seen her since!! While she's here we will go to the zoo and see the dolphin training demonstration and the 2 of us plan to do a 10k snowshoe "race." I put "race" in quotations because I can't imagine we'll be fast in snowshoes! I'm so glad we have a great guest room set up and can easily host people now. Our house has a guest suite in the basement with it's own ensuite bathroom. I'm really looking forward to catching up in person and introducing her to our kids! All this is to say that you can develop wonderful friendship through blogging!

Struggling: with toddler meltdowns/big emotions. I know I don't have to preface this by saying I adore Will, but I want to emphasize that! And I know this is developmentally appropriate, but it's still a really hard stage. I thought 2 was going to be an easier age since it was pretty easy with Paul... but Jenny, whose oldest is also named Paul, was right when she warned me that 2 might be harder with Will as that was the case with her second child. 

Grateful: that we've had a pretty healthy stretch recently. I know so many people who've been sick recently. I fear that writing this will result in one of us getting sick. Will does have a minor cold so we aren't completely healthy but the last couple of months have been much better than September-November when one of the kids and me were sick on and off (I tend to get everything they catch at daycare). 

Working: on lots of puzzles! Buying a puzzle mat last year was a game changer. I usually work on a puzzle when the kids are in bed while we watch a show. Then I roll it up and put it away each night. I could NOT have a puzzle out on a table with my 2 young kids around. I am sure many pieces would go missing.

My latest puzzle - a gallison brand puzzle of houseplants! To be clear, I do not own any houseplants. I have a black thumb. But it was a pretty puzzle to work on!

Thinking: about my 2 trips I'll be taking in 2023! I bought the tickets for my trip with Paul to Tucson to visit my sister and her family in April. I'm super excited to do a one-on-one trip with him! And I'm starting to plan my August trip to the Banff/Canmore area of Canada. I'm meeting up with my friend Amber, who I also met through blogging (she no longer blogs, though!). We haven't seen each other since my wedding so I can't wait to hug her in person and catch up on life while going on gorgeous hikes! And hopefully I'll also get to see Nicole and hug her in person! 

Watching: nothing of note these days. But I am very very excited for the new season of Top Chef that starts on March 9th! It's an all-stars season and includes winners from other country's Top Chef! I love Top Chef soooo much!

Wishing: that this cold stretch will be our last for the winter? This is truly wishful thinking! I can handle snow but bitterly cold temps are such a drag, especially when you have little kids!

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

2023 Time Study Results

For the second year in a row, I participated in Laura Vanderkam's time tracking challenge. She's been tracking her time for something like 7+ years straight. I have no desire to do this on an ongoing basis, but it's fun to track it once a year. I do this for informational/observational purposes only. She offers to review your time log but I didn't send it to her because I don't really feel like anything necessarily needs to change. I'm pretty happy with all that I get done over the course of a week, especially in this stage of life when I have little kids that demand a lot of attention and care! 

So here is how it shaped up. Last year, I used %s in the graph but I switched to hours this year. With spending, I use percentages because I am not comfortable sharing dollar amounts. But we all have 168 hours in every week so why anonymize how I spent my time! 

I won't delve into each category but will call out a few. 

Sleep: 60 hours, which averages to about 8.5 hours per night probably seems ridiculously high to many. But after wearing a FitBit for over 5 years, I've learned that I need to be in bed for 8.5 hours to get 7-7.5 hours of sleep/night. I typically turn my lights off at 9:30 and get up around 5:45-6. I also recognize that I have higher/different sleep needs than the average person thanks to having RA. It was helpful for me to see several people with autoimmune disorders comment on their higher sleep needs on a recent post by Laura about setting a bedtime. I wish I needed less sleep - it would make fitting exercise in much easier. But I can't control the fact that I have a crappy autoimmune disorder. Getting enough sleep is unfortunately a big part of managing my disease. 

Social time: The week of January 9th had SO MANY SOCIAL PLANS!! This is not a typical week for me, but Laura is known to say there is no typical week. That week, I brought lunch to a friend that had a baby in late October, had dinner plus a fun post-dinner activity to celebrate a friend's birthday, a zoom with a far away friend around lunch time on a weekday, and a family social gathering on Saturday evening. It was probably a little too much for one week - and that's even with one thing got cancelled due to freezing rain! I usually limit myself to 2 social gatherings/week, but this week I had to break that rule. But how wonderful is it that I can actually see people again after not being able to for years during the pandemic? Even though I am an introvert, I really value connecting with people in person!

Work: The number of hours at work is on the light side, but I took 2 hours out of the day on Monday to bring my friend lunch, and then took a couple of hours off on Tuesday of that week to get my hair cut/colored. My hair person has 3 young kids so only cuts hair during work hours - which I totally understand! But gone are the days of a weeknight evening haircut. Now I take time off to get my hair done but usually only see her 2-3 times/year. And then on Friday, I took an hour to catch up with a friend over zoom. I think my number of hours at work is probably closer to 38-42 typically. Luckily, I do not work a TON of hours. That was not always the case as I used to work 7a-5:30 or later when I worked in a different part of the asset management industry. 

Kids: Whoa, we spend a lot of time with our kids. Yes, I spend less time with my kids than I would if I was a stay-at-home-mom, but 36 hours is not an insignificant amount of time! And a lot of those hours are very hands-on, like going to gymnastics, reading books, going to the library, etc. 

Couple time: This number probably seems a bit low. But Phil and I commute to work together when I go to the office, so we have that time together, too, although he is not a morning person so our rides in are very quiet and I usually spend that time playing Spelling Bee and Wordle! A bit chunk of the kid time is spent with him, too. I usually watch something with him for 30-45 minutes after the boys are in bed and then head up to bed to read. 

Admin: This is a catch-all category that covers things like meal prep and laundry. I tried to make my time log as general as possible so I could use countif formulas in excel to create a handy dandy graph. Can you tell I am a finance nerd? 

Year-over-year changes

I thought it would be interesting to look at how my use of time changed year-over-year since I tracked the exact same week in 2022. 

Well, that week in 2022 ended up being a very weird week. Will got tubes on Monday morning and then came down with a virus that sent us back to the doctor later that week - hence the higher number of hours spent at the doctor that week and the very low amount of working hours. I do wonder how many hours a year I spend at the doctor, though!! 

Social time was a lot lower then, too. But Will was still nursing at bedtime so I did not make plans that required me to miss bedtime.  Plus we didn't eat inside restaurants until late Feb 2022 to protect me from getting covid. Now that I don't HAVE to be there for bedtime, it gives me the freedom to go to dinners and things like that.

Interesting, reading was only different by an hour. I spent 8.5 hours reading in 2022 and 7.5 in 2023. I shouldn't be too surprised as I always make time for reading no matter what is going on in life! I know this will get more challenging when the boys bed times are later so I am enjoying having a solid block of time to ourselves while we can! 

Lastly, I am happy to see exercise was higher in 2023. I was home with a sick kid for much of that week so fitting workouts in was clearly challenging. But I'm glad 2023 Lisa was healthy and able to workouts for 4.5 hours total. That total does include walks taken to hit my daily goal of being outside for 23 minutes/day. I don't really think of that as "exercise" but for time tracking, that is how I classified that time. 

You may be wondering where blogging fits into all of this? I used a 30 minutes time blocking excel spreadsheet and there wasn't a 30 minute block I dedicated to blogging/reading blogs. I fit blogging in during the day when I'm waiting for a database to refresh or a file to save, etc etc. I was not granular enough with my time tracking to highlight things like reading/commenting on blogs. 

Have you ever tracked your time? 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Weekend Recap

My weekend did not get off to the best start. I had a pretty crappy day at work on Friday. This blog isn’t anonymous so let’s just say the situation at work was like a pot that was at a rolling boil - and then boiled over. It’s taking me awhile to shake it off but a strength training workout that afternoon helped a bit. 

Phil had a guys night that night which I was very happy about. You may have gathered from reading my blog that I have quite a few social gatherings - despite being an introvert. His friends are not planners and if you don’t plan, especially once you have children, you usually don’t see each other. But they finally got together last weekend and I am hoping it will be a recurring thing. I have a bit of an obsession with things being ‘equal’ - which I recognize is not possible. But I would feel better about being away for work travel and social gatherings if Phil had more plans! 

Saturday was my day to get up with the boys and they sleep until 6:45!!! That never happens!! I was so glad as I was up at 4:30 thinking about work. I read for a bit and fell back asleep and was sound asleep when Paul came in so I am glad it was a later waking than usual! 

We FaceTimed with my parents after breakfast and got to see my niece who was spending the weekend with them. And then I headed out for a run when Phil was up. Several of you recommended I wear Yak Trax and when Kyria, a fellow runner suggested them, I knew I should try them. We already owned a pair so I threw them on and headed out. I was worried they would impact my stride but they didn’t! I didn’t like running in them on pavement but there isn’t much pavement to be found these days. I felt so good that I ran around the lake which is a 4 mile loop!

This is what most of the paths look like thanks to snow and freezing rain. 

One upside to all the snow is that the creek has water again. Much of it is frozen but this area has enough of a current that it doesn’t freeze. I was thrilled to see a bunch of ducks! They were all taking a nap. They looked so cute with their heads tucked into their wings! 

We didn’t have time for the library that morning since I ran further than I thought I might. The boys had fun at gymnastics. Will is getting a little raider to shepherd through the stations!

After quiet time, Paul and I headed to my friend’s house for our annual favorite things party. We each bring something that costs around $10 for everyone. We used to do this in December but I suggested we move it to Jan/Feb when we have less going on. This is what I gave - slipper socks from Target. I love tucking a pair of these in my purse when we go to others homes in the winter. In the upper Midwest, you don’t wear shoes in people’s homes and my feet get cold, even with socks on! 

The party was so much fun! Some of them brought their kids, and the host was watching her nieces for the weekend so Paul had lots of playmates. It took a bit of time for him to warm up but he didn’t want to leave at the end of the night and said he had a blast! We were there from 4-7 which is pretty much the ideal time frame for a social gathering for me! I love getting home and being able to get some time with Phil and time to read before bed! 

Sunday was my day to sleep in. The boys slept until 6:45 again! I was planning to read in bed for a half hour or so, but Will was having a BAD morning - i.e. SCREAMING. So I headed down to help Phil. Of course he calmed down pretty quickly. Toddlers are so fun sometimes!!

He was off all morning so I tried a walk. It wasn’t great. This picture does not reflect the experience. He whined and cried on and off, even though I found multiple snowmen (his latest obsession) for him to admire. 

I did meal prep when we got back. This is what meal prep looks like in our house. I chopped everything I needed for our Sunday and Monday night meals - corn chowder on Sunday, veggie-packed ragu sauce with pasta for the boys and zoodles for me tonight, and I chopped veggies for the salads I will eat when I’m in the office this week. I take the ‘prep dish’ approach to meal planning/prep and do as much as I can ahead of time so the meals come togehh h er quickly. 

Post-nap, Paul sledded for a bit with Phil. Will and I watched as Will is not quite into sledding yet. Of course when we were at the sledding hill, he kept saying stroller over and over. But I had no confidence he’d actually be happy in the stroller after the unpleasant walk earlier that day. 

I made a corn chowder for dinner with some leftover ham from Christmas. The boys took an extra long bath. And then it was bedtime. Hurrah! I worked on my puzzle and watched part of the 49ers game with Phil. 

How was your weekend? Do you do much meal prep? I’ve always meal planned but once we had kids, I have tried to do as much ahead of time since meal time is so rushed!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Finance Friday: 2022 Spending

Were you all waiting with baited breath for my annual finance/spending post? Admittedly, this is a topic I really enjoy digging into but I recognize is is likely boring for some! I love reading others spending posts and by sharing our spending, I'm trying to destigmatize the tendency to NOT talk about money. It does put you in a vulnerable position to share how you spend money, but I still like talking about it! 

First off, some disclaimers:

1. The chart doesn't include contributions to investment accounts like our 401ks, the boys' 529s, our brokerage account, etc. This year I also excluded any equity we purchased in Phil's firm. That is part of his compensation package - he buys equity and then receives dividends. But it feels similar to investing in a retirement account so I left it out this year.

2. Our housing category is smaller than the typical household but this is because we made the (controversial) decision to pay off our mortgage in 2020. There are a variety of reasons for this, but we didn't sacrifice investing in order to pay off our mortgage. We loved the feeling of having no debt when we paid off our last house so decided to do it again. We especially like having no debt since Phil and I work in the same industry (asset management) which is very volatile. The likelihood of one or both of us losing our jobs at some point is pretty significant. I mean, it's already happened to both of us. I took a forced relocation in Charlotte in 2013 because I did not have the savings to roll the dice on finding another job in Minneapolis, and Phil was let go when he worked for a hedge fund that blew up during the financial crisis. So we feel a great sense of comfort in having no mortgage payment. It's a personal decision and I completely recognize our privilege in being able to do this, although we have definitely lived frugally/below our means so that we can do things like pay off a mortgage. 

3. This does not include any spending on healthcare costs (neither our deductibles nor out-of-pocket expenses). I pay for everything with my HSA card and luckily have a large enough balance to cover those out-of-pocket expenses (which are not insignificant. We nearly always meet our out-of-pocket maximum). 

So here goes! This is going to be a lengthy post, so buckle up!!

Overall - our spending increased last year, nearly all due to the daycare line item as we only paid for about 8.5 months of daycare for Will last year since I was on maternity leave until mid-April. Overall, I'm ok with the total amount we spend, especially when I compare it to our take-home pay. 

Kids (43%) - Unsurprisingly, kids is the biggest expense category. 99% of this is daycare. Daycare is EXPENSIVE! But - they earn every penny and I do feel like our daycare treats their employees well in terms of time off, benefits, etc. This expense will go down next year when Paul starts kindergarten although he'll still need before and after care since the school day is something like 8-2:30. Plus as Will moves into the preschool rooms, tuition will go down as the teacher/student ratio increases. I don't even focus on this expensive item because it is completely essential with us both working demanding, full-time jobs. Phil forecasts the future expense within our quarterly financial review spreadsheet but I just breeze past it because it's not optional!

Donations (8%) - I am happy that this category increased in 2022. As part of our quarterly review process, we've talked more about how to give back. Our donations mostly go to our local United Way, our county library (which we are HUGE users of!) and another organization that benefited Phil's late brother. 

Home (7%) - Since we don't have a mortgage payment, this category includes taxes and insurance as well as home projects. In 2022, we paid the 2nd half of the expense of converting our wood-burning fireplace into gas (best money spent - I use it so much!) and we also replaced our front door. 

Groceries (6%) - This stayed about the same as last year, percentage-wise, but our total spending increased since our daycare spending increased (we only paid for 8 months of daycare in 2021 since I was on maternity leave until mid-April). So overall, the dollars spent increased but not by a ridiculously amount. Buying so much at Aldi has definitely kept our grocery spending from increasing too much!

Auto & Transport (6%)  - This includes insurance on our 2 cars, gas, and our monthly parking contract (a steal at $99 since we pay a special carpool rate - we both work downtown and work the same schedules so can drive together).

Bills & Utilities (6%) - Nothing interesting here - it's all the typical bills and utilities and includes things like my cell phone plan (Phil's is paid for by his employer), heating, electricity, internet, etc. We do save money by not having cable. We've never had cable; instead we get by with Hulu and Amazon Prime, and we share a Netflix account with Phil's mom. We have an antennae that sits on our tv stand (it's this odd, flat squared-shaped thing so not the antennae you may be picturing in your head!) so we can watch local channels. 

Travel (5%) - I'm thrilled that this increased from 2% last year to 5% this year! Woot woot! We went to Tucson in February to visit my little sister, although the flights were purchase in 2020, and Phil and I went to Mexico in December. 

Target (5%) - Our Target spending increased last year and that is definitely related to the fact that I'm back in the office. There is a Target 1 block from work so I go there about weekly. We spent way less at Amazon, though, which I am happy about. I'd rather support Target, which is a local company, than Amazon!

Gifts (4%) - This was a heftier line items in 2022, but that's because I wrote my Godson/nephew a nice check for his high school graduation gift. I never gave him a single toy for birthdays and Christmas; instead, I would put money in his savings account and gave him books when he was younger. I was not the "fun" aunt, but I think he really appreciated my approach to gifts when he got a check from us for graduation!

Dining (4%) - Our dining out stayed the same, percentage-wise, but I definitely ate out way more in 2022 thanks to book club returning to in-person meals in the spring! We didn't physically eat in a restaurant until February of 2022 as we were very, very careful during the pandemic. Since we went from not eating out besides Phil's lunches, to me eating out once/month, I would have expected this category to increase as a % of our spending. But it turns out we spent less on alcohol and at coffee shops in 2022. Our total spending on alcohol isn't much in general, but in 2022 I bought wine through a membership program called first leaf several times and then stopped the membership after the first month (the first month is an extremely good deal - I would pay $6.25/bottle!!). And in general we bought less wine in 2022 as I decided to only drink wine when we had people over, when we were going to someone’s house or when I went out to eat. Previously I would have some wine every weekend. 

I'm kind of shocked my coffee shop spending decreased! I typically get one coffee/week and drink coffee made at home all other days. But there are weeks I talk myself into getting an extra coffee out but I also received a lot of gift cards last Christmas so that likely had an impact on my out-of-pocket spending on coffee! 

I suspect that the money we spent on dining out is still pretty low overall in comparison to the average family. But even before having kids we did not eat out all that often. Phil buys lunch when he's in the office 4-5 days/week, we get take-and-bake pizza 1-2 times/month, and I have my monthly book clubs where I order/eat with abandon! Ha! But that's typically it for dining out. I would like to return to quarterly dinners out with Phil so this category should increase a bit in 2023, but not substantially. 

The rest - The remaining categories are too small to warrant much of a deep dive. As I said above in my Target section, I'm glad our Amazon spending declined. I'm trying to buy less from Amazon although there is a huge convenience factor that I enjoy during these little kid years. Having a huge thing of diapers or pull-ups show up at the door is pretty priceless. Subscriptions include the various Patreon communities I am a member of - I support Best of Both Worlds, Current Reading, From the Front Porch, and Sarah's Bookshelves Live. I love that there is a way for me to support these hard-working podcasters and the extra benefits I receive are well worth the money spent! Personal care is haircut/color - which only happened twice last year, despite the fact that I'm really graying along my hairline!


Overall, I feel good about our 2022 spending. I hope the travel category increases as our kids get older but we have opted to not travel much in the little kids years of life. I think we are very thoughtful and intentional about how we are spending our money but I try not to obsess over it too much. I want us to be prepared for a time when we experience an employment interruption, but I also want to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We are frugal by nature, but I do think we are striking that balance! 

Do you review your spending on a regular basis? Are there any finance posts you'd want me to write this year? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Long MLK weekend

Happy Tuesday! Last week was our first 5-day workweek since before our Mexico trip and now we have another short week! Let me tell you, long weekends are not what they used to be now that we have young kids, though. ;) Especially long weekends in the winter. A long weekend in July? No problem - we have endless options. But January? Meh! That said, we had a pretty good weekend all in all. 

On Friday night, we stayed in like usual. Will played in the kitchen with these (loud) metal bowls while I got dinner ready. But at least he was entertained, contrary to the expression on his face in the photo below!

Toddler moodiness!

I had hoped to run with my neighbor on Saturday morning but after nearly falling several times on my walk on Friday, I suggested we run in the afternoon in the hopes the ice would have melted a bit by then (we got freezing rain last Wednesday). So I got to sleep in that morning and slept until 7:15 which felt amazing! Then it was off to the library followed by gymnastics! 

Will hasn’t figured out how to jump yet but he loves running across this trampoline!

My neighbor and I ran around 12:30 and unfortunately the sidewalks were still terribly slick so we didd a short 2.6 mile loop and ran on the road when we could (which was fine to do in our quiet neighborhood). 

After quiet time we went to our friend’s house for a get together with some of Phil’s college friends! They all have kids close to Paul’s age. Paul had a blast and Will enjoyed playing with new-to-him toys! I made chili, the hosts made a corn chowder and another couple brought dessert from my fave GF bakery as they have a great selection of nut-free items (they have a peanut allergy in their family).

On Sunday morning the boys enjoyed donuts Phil had bought for them when he was grocery shopping the day before. Then they watched some Wild Kratts together on Paul’s iPad. Which held Will’s attention for 3 minutes! 

Then it was off to the zoo! I took the boys on my own since they are usually easy to handle. Will wanted to get out of the stroller early on and then would not get back in… 

But we got to see the dolphins that our zoo is taking care of while their home zoo in IL is being renovated. The boys had fun watching the dolphins play with balls and swim around! They have 2 shows a day where you can see a training demonstration but the tickets were sold out, so we will be back in Feb when my good friend Kyria who I met through blogging years ago visits us!! 

And then after that it was time to go because Will was hitting meltdown mode… I think it’s a 2-parent job to take them to the zoo until Will is a bit older…

I did a workout during quiet time - a lower body HIIT workout that was very hard as there was something called ‘triple bears’ - you crouch down in "bear stance" with your knees/shins 2" off the ground and the you jump or step side to side. You had to do for 45 seconds which felt endless!! It was a mild afternoon so Will and I went for a short stroller walk after quiet timee. The geese have new costumes! I really need to leave the owners a note or try to catch them when they are outdoors this spring or summer. These geese and their ever-changing costumes are so entertaining!! 

That afternoon we watched the Vikings lose their first round playoff game. Which wasn’t too surprising since they haven’t played like a division champion team all season. I was mostly sad for my Vikings-obsessed 99yo grandmother. I know she took the loss hard. 

On Monday morning, we woke to drizzling rain. I headed out for a run around 7 as it looked like we would get a break in the rain. But the radar was wrong - it lightly rained the whole time. Which wasn’t too bad. The sidewalks were so so. This rain is not going to help the slippery sidewalk situation, though!! 

My dorky morning running outfit! It was still a bit dark when I started so I wore a headlight.

Will and I went to target that morning to pick up a few things and spent a lot of time in the toy aisles. I got some ideas for Paul’s bday (he turns 5 on 3/1). I’m thinking more Lego sets since he LOVES putting them together! And maybe some stomp rockets, although it feels cruel to give him something he can’t use for months (it’s not reliably nice here until May). 

Phil and Paul went to his mom’s around 2 so I was on Will duty for the rest of the day. It was rainy out so we were stuck inside and time stood still at times. Keeping him entertained for 4.5 hours was challenging! I set up a train track, did lots of puzzles and tried to keep him happy/entertained! 

We watched some Wheel of Fortune to end the night - Paul loved this show around 20 months and Will is starting to like it, too! 

Enjoying some apples while watching Wheel

When Paul and Phil got home, Phil and I did our quarterly financial review. And then I headed upstairs to read my book - "Ingenue" by Rachel Kapelke-Dale. 

How was your weekend? For those in the states, was it a long weekend for you? 

Friday, January 13, 2023


Hey hey - it's Friday and the first 5-day work week since early December! It didn't feel overly long so I guess that is good? We have a 3-day weekend since it's MLK Day. Luckily the weather will be very mild this weekend! Not nice enough to melt the bajillion inches of snow we have, but I'll take what I can get. Here's a TGIF style recap of my week. 

The book I read this week was Solito, which I finished on Wednesday. It's a hard subject matter (a young 9yo boy traversing from El Salvador to the Tucson area) so it was slower going for me. Now I am reading All the Broken Places by John Boyne. I have loved everything I've read by Boyne, especially The Hearts Invisible Furies! Goodreads says it’s a sequel to ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ but it’s not marketed that way. The main character is the daughter of a Nazi soldier, so it seems to focus on culpability. I was drawn in from the first page. 

The high of my week was getting together with friends to celebrate a college friend’s birthday last night! We had dinner and then went to a ‘game show showroom’ where we played 3 different games. It was such a fun night planned by her husband!

The low of my week was feeling sad about the passing of a young (54!) former coworker. I didn't know him super well as we only overlapped for 3 years and I hadn't seen him in 4+ years but I was still sad to learn of his passing. I ended up working during the funeral on Tuesday so my coworkers who were close to him could attend. 

A recipe I made was 2 recipes from the Milk Street Instant Pot Cookbook - picadillo and pork carnitas. Both were excellent. We really love our instant pot! It's misunderstood, in my opinion, as this amazing time saving device. For me, the biggest benefit is that you only dirty one pot since there is a saute function. And it does save time - like the pork carnitas are done in about 1.5 hours. But it's not something I use on week nights when we get home at 5 and ideally need to have dinner on the table at 5:30. But overall, I prefer the instant pot to a slow cooker for most things. 

A show we are watching is nothing right now! We finished Fleishman is in Trouble and need to find a new show to watch. We did "watch" The Glass Onion. I say "watch" because I was working on a puzzle. Phil watched it and enjoyed it but not nearly as much as the first one.

For workouts I ran on Monday and Tuesday and will do a strength training workout later today and then will run again tomorrow. And maybe fit another strength training workout in on Sunday? We'll see. 

The best money spent was on a haircut/color! I hadn't seen my stylist since mid-September so was very overdue. We changed things up and did a VERY subtle money piece, which from my understanding means highlights around your forehead/crown of your head. I usually get an all-over color but I am really graying, especially around my temples/forehead area. So the money piece will disguise the graying a little bit. I know there is a trend to lean into the gray, but I have really young kids so don't feel like it's the time for me to go gray. This is ultimately a you do you decision, though! Maybe in 5-10 years I will be ready to lean into the gray!

My plans this weekend include nothing tonight which is typical. We are so tired by Friday night! Tomorrow morning I'm planning to run with my neighbor - maybe we'll be motivated enough to run around the lake by our house, which is a 4 mile route. Then we have our usual combo of the library followed by gymnastics. After nap, we are going to our friend's house for a get together with 2 other families. I'm bringing this chili. On Sunday, I think we are going to the zoo to see the new dolphin that our zoo is taking care of while a zoo in IL works on a renovation. Will is very into dolphins lately so I think he'll love seeing them in real life! We all have Monday off. Phil will take Paul out to his mom's in the afternoon. I don't know what Will and I will do. Wander the toy aisle of Target? The weather will be nice so ideally we would go for a long stroller walk but the sidewalks are kind of treacherous in parts - especially the corners. So we'd have to probably walk on the street which I don't love doing. We'll see how we entertain ourselves!

Bonus pictures
Watching a This Old House video with daddy. Who knew plumbing repairs were so interesting? 

Paul’s latest magnatile creation - a train! 

The complete Lego set we worked on over the course of 4 nights over the last 2 weeks!

What was the high of your week? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

2022 in Review: Reading Stats

2022 was a great reading year for me. I finished 114 books which is actually less than I read in 2021 when I read a staggering 129 books! But - in 2021 I was nursing a baby and reading during the middle of the night for much of the first 4-5 months of the year. So I am personally happy that I read fewer books in 2022 because that means I got more sleep! 

When do you read?

Several people have asked how I read so many books given that I work full time and have young kids. 

I don't always expect to be able to read 100+ books/year. But it's achievable in this stage of life because my kids go to bed by 7:30-8. It's also important to emphasize that reading is a huge part of my identity. I mean, I had a book-themed wedding (this post shows a lot of bookish wedding details)! I will always find time to read! 

But from a logistics perspective, most of my reading happens from 8:30-9:30 each night. Once both boys are in bed, I watch a show or part of a show with Phil until 8:30 and then I head up to read. That might sound like I'm short-changing Phil, but we get a lot of time together since we drive to work together 3 days/week, and on days when we don't drive to work together, we are together from when he gets home at 5 until I go to bed at 8:30. Granted, I know that time around young kids is not exactly "quality" time, but we still talk around the boys. And 30 minutes of watching a show with him feels like the right amount. In the summer, we go for family walks after dinner and tend to have quality conversations during those walks. I much prefer that kind of quality time with him over watching a show. But this is not the season of year for post-dinner family walks!

Besides that chunk of time, I also read during nap times. And then I read while waiting in lines or at doctor appointments, etc. Since I do most of my reading on my kindle, I always have access to a book since I have the kindle ap on my phone. 

Lastly, I read good books. I think the number 1 thing to help you read more is to find books you want to read. Do not slog through something you think you "should" read. I fully support abandoning books that you aren't feeling drawn to read. The more you love a book, the more drawn you will be to read it. 

The stats

Here are some breakouts I find interesting:

High-level genre: Fiction = 69%; Non-fiction = 31%

Backlist (books not published in 2022) = 52%

Book format: 93% e-books; 4% hardcover; 2% paperback; 1% audiobook (I only listened to 1 audiobook. I choose podcasts over audiobooks!). 

Book source: 110 out of 114 came from the library! Think of the money I saved! Which is why I always donate to our library each year. Plus we check out hundreds of picture books for the kids and spend an hour there nearly every Saturday morning. We heart the library. So much. 

Top 4 genres: Contemporary Fiction (23%), Memoir/Essay (18%), Literary Fiction (17%), General Non-fiction (11%). 

% of female authors: 85%!! Not at all surprised by this stat. I am far more drawn to female authors.

The ratings

5 stars = 22 books

4 stars = 56 books

3 stars = 33 books

2 stars = 3 books (I'll list them since there are so few. The Girl That Reads on the Metro, Matrix and Sea of Tranquility. I should have abandoned all 3 of these books.)

Average rating = 4.02 - this is excellent!!! 

Reading cadence

I really ended with a bang in December, after a couple of quiet months. 

What a year! I can't wait to see how my reading shapes up in 2023. I have found wonderful recommendation sources so I expect another year full of excellent reads!

Monday, January 9, 2023

First "Normal" Weekend

This past weekend was our first "normal" weekend since early December. As much as I love the holidays, I am a person who craves routines so it felt good to get back to normal! 

On Friday afternoon I had my post-op follow-up appointment. It was good to talk to my doctor about what they found. She didn't think I had polyps based on what she saw during the surgery but the lab reports showed that at least some of what she removed were polyps. They were benign as expected and she doesn't think they will come back. Fingers crossed that is the case! 

On Friday night, we had take and bake pizzas which is a rare meal that everyone loves! Phil and I finished the last episode of "Fleishman is in Trouble." I had read and liked the book years ago. I liked the show more than Phil did. It was a bit too navel gazy for him. 

Saturday was Phil's morning to sleep in. Will was awake at 5:15 but I left him in his crib until 6 (which is what our pediatrician has instructed us to do!) His 4th 2y molar broke through so I am guessing that is why he's been waking early lately. We FaceTimed with my parents after breakfast and then had our usual combo of the library followed by gymnastics. 

Unfortunately Will took a short 1 hour nap that afternoon - which was the theme of the weekend. Since Phil slept in, I got naptime to myself. But Will was in such a HORRIFIC mood upon waking that I went down to help out. The moment I picked up Will, he went from screaming to snuggling into me. Phil was so annoyed since he had tried everything to calm him down. Toddlers! Once he was in a better mood and willing to sit down for a snack, I headed out for a 3 mile run. I wear my garmin but do not pay attention to the pace because it is slow going out there on these snow-packed and at times icy trails. But it was pretty and the temps were around 18F so pretty nice for Minnesota in January.

We had leftovers for dinner that night. I worked on a lego set with Paul - I'm loving the lego set stage! After Paul went to bed, we watched the first half of Glass Onion while I worked on a puzzle I got for Christmas. 

It was my turn to sleep in on Sunday but I was up around 6:45 as I felt pretty rested - which is a wonderful but rare feeling! The boys and I had a play date with a running club friend, Taya, and her kids at an indoor playground called Inner Active. Her kids are 18 months and 3.5 years, so pretty close in age to mine. Taya has taken an interest in photography so she got some great pics of my kids - plus one of me with the boys! I'm not wearing make-up and haven't showered, but I don't really care because that is how I look 85% of the time (I only wear make-up when I go into the office!). The indoor playground was AMAZING! I wish it was closer as it's the kind of place we'd go to often in the winter! It's 30 minutes away from us, so not close. We were there for 2 hours and could have stayed longer but I didn't want to risk Will falling asleep on the drive home.

I worked out during nap/quiet time - I'm on week 4 of the LIIFT4 beach body program which I am really liking. At most, I do 2 strength training workouts/week so it's taking me a long time to get through the program but oh well. Will took another 1 hour nap so he woke up right after I finished my workout. Womp womp. But at least he was in a better mood. He was happy to sit on the couch and eat popcorn while we watched the rest of the Vikings game. They won our division so play at home next week! Woo hoo!

After the game, we headed to the sledding hill that is 1.5 blocks from our house. Will initially liked sledding when he tried it a few weeks ago but his interest has waned. So I pulled him around in his sled while Phil and Paul enjoyed the sledding hill. 

Waving to a snowman on our street. He calls him Frosty!

For dinner, I made picadillo in the instant pot which I served with rice and black beans. Will, Phil and I loved it; Paul wouldn't eat any of it, even though we KNOW he eats beans at school. Le sigh. 

After the boys were in bed, Phil watched the Packers/Lions game and I worked on my puzzle before heading up to bed to read my book (Solito - a sobering memoir about a 9 year old El Salvadorian boy that crosses the border to join his parents in the US). 

And that was a wrap! Overall, it was a really good weekend. One thing that kind of annoyed me was how Paul would say "now what are we going to do?" when we got done with each fun activity. Like I'm just a 24/7 entertainer/purveyor of fun experiences! I know it's unrealistic for me to expect a 4.5 year old to think - 'gosh, I am so lucky that my parents do so many fun things with us!' But I hope he gets to that point when he has more maturity and the ability to reflect on his childhood. :) All that said, weekends ARE more enjoyable when we are out doing things. I'm just looking forward to a time when my kids are able to recognize how lucky they are that they get to do cool, fun things. 

How was your weekend?

Friday, January 6, 2023

What We Read in December

December was a crazy month of reading for me! I read 17 books!!! But I was on vacation for 5 days, we had 2 4+ hour flights, and we had 2 3+ hour round trip drives to my parents to drop off/pick up the boys. I read a ton on vacation and for a good chunk of those drives/flights so it all adds up! Plus work was very quiet the week between Christmas and New Years so I read when I had downtime, too. And I am just generally a fast reader, I think. But I do plan to talk about how I fit reading in when I post about my 2022 reading stats later this month.

Best of the Best

These 6 books were my favorites. We All Want Impossible Things made me cry and that's saying something because I rarely cry when reading books. It's about a woman dying in hospice so I knew it was going to be sad going into it, but I loved it. This Time Tomorrow featured time travel which is something I usually don't love in a novel, but it was done very well. In this book the protagonist's father is in the hospital in critical condition, but the protagonist is able to travel back in time and gets more time with her father. The Swimmers was a beautiful, slim novel about dementia. All That's Left Unsaid was one of my top reads of 2022 - it's about a murder in an immigrant community in Sydney. Catastrophic Happiness is a non-fiction book about raising kids. I was nodding my head along as she talked about toddlers. Lastly, Tranquility by Tuesday is a great book about time management. There are 9 rules to follow - like "Effortful before Effortless" and "Three Times a Week is a Habit." I love Laura!

Great to Pretty Good

This next chunk of books were 3-4 star reads. Flight takes place during the first Christmas after a family has lost their matriarch. The author has to have experienced siblings drama because the sibling drama she writes about it so very accurate. Funny You Should Ask is a very light romance that was a good break from lots of heavy, sad reads. Weather Girl was a romance that I wanted to love as it featured a protagonist that struggled with depression, but I did not find the conflict believable. The Brilliant Life of Eudora Welty has Man Called Ove vibes and is very heart-warming! Remarkably Bright Creatures was good but was way too over-hyped by the time I read it so was kind of destined to disappoint. One Hundred Saturdays is a non-fiction book about a holocaust survivor. The author spends nearly every Saturday with her over the course of 4+ years, hearing her life story. 

The Complicities is loosely based on the Bernie Madoff situation and explores culpability. I wanted to like Our Missing Hearts more than I did as I loved Ng's first 2 novels. The last 1/3 is a wonderful but I really struggled to get into this book. Cover Story is a story of a fraudster that gives you Inventing Anna vibes. I was so annoyed by the younger 20-something character in this book so that dropped my rating. Good morning, monster was really good and almost made the best of the best list. It's the story of 5 patients a therapist worked with during her career. Their stories are absolutely heart breaking so trigger warnings abound. 

The book I basically hated

Well, this book won the Goodreads award for Best Science Fiction - but I kind of hated it. I should have abandoned it but it was just over 200 pages and got such rave reviews so I stuck with it. Science fiction rarely works for me, but I wanted to like another St. John Mandel book since I loved Station Eleven so much. But this put the final nail in the coffin for this author for me and I won't read any more of her work. It's not her - it's me, though as everyone else seems to love her recent work.

The boys' books

The boys got lots of Christmas/winter books as part of their Advent calendar. But they were not as excited about these books as they were about last year's books. We didn't re-read many of the books. I enjoyed reading new Christmas books so it wasn't all bad. But I need to come up with something different next year. And we really do not need more books in our house, especially Christmas-themed ones!

First book of December!

The best update I have is that Will is finally getting into books! Paul was interested in books from a very young age and had a very long attention span for them, but Will has been completely different and I feared that I messed up and didn't read enough to him - even though we read to him at bedtime and naptime and he got a ton of "second hand" reading when I would read to Paul while he played with toys. But now Will brings books to us and seems to enjoy them more than he did in the past. Of course his favorites are anything having to do with trucks!

Did you read anything great in December?