Monday, March 27, 2023

Weekend Highs and Lows

My trip to NY/NJ went well! It was a jam-packed week, though. On Tuesday I had meetings in Manhattan, then we went out to Long Island for a client dinner and then I took a car to the hotel in Iselin, New Jersey where I stayed for the next 2 nights. That was the longest day of the 3 days of meetings. I was home around dinner on Thursday night. 

My outfit for Tuesday and Thursday. I wore the same dress twice since I was with different sales reps and it simplified packing to rewear this dress.

While I was gone, Will ran a fever and was home for one day. Phil took him to the doctor to rule out strep - the test was negative so it was some other virus. Then on Friday morning Paul wasn’t feeling well so I stayed home with him as Phil had to go into the office. It was a rough day as I had client meetings from 8:30-3 with only a 15 minute break in that stretch. Paul yelled to be wiped during one of my client calls… luckily the financial advisor was an older guy who has kids/grandkids. I don’t think they could hear why Paul was yelling for me, though. I was able to drop off the call since we’d been talking for 20 minutes. 

Now for some weekend highs and lows:


- Will came down with a fever shortly after I put him to bed on Friday night. We seem to be on a viral hamster wheel. That meant we couldn’t do our usual library + gymnastics Saturday morning routine for the 2nd weekend in a row. It made for a long day on Saturday and some not so great behavior from both kids. 

- Will woke from his nap in an awful, screaming mood on Saturday. I had gotten up with the boys that morning so had banked on resting a bit longer after Will woke around 2 but I had to help Phil calm Will down. Both of our boys have struggled with the transition of waking up and it is especially bad when they are sick or have been sick recently. 

- I was not the best version of myself when parenting on Saturday. My patience was pretty depleted by the afternoon. 


- I did not have to watch my phone non-stop since there were no bank failures or brokered acquisition of a failing bank like there were the previous 2 weekends. Hurrah!! The bar is quite low for a ‘good’ weekend lately. 

- I got to run without YakTraks on Saturday morning as the sidewalks are pretty clear although I did fall towards the end of my run when I encountered some very thin, very slippery ice… but it wasn’t a bad fall.

- Everyone was healthy on Sunday morning so I took the boys to the zoo and gave Phil some time to himself. He had earned that after solo parenting while I was traveling last week. 

I’m home this week but have a lot of client meetings… I’ve done 103 client meetings so far this year; I did 99 total in 2022. Granted I was underutilized last year but 103 in less than 3 months is nuts. Next week I go to LA for work Mon-Thur and then Paul and I go to Tucson the following week. I’m crossing my fingers that things at work have calmed down by then so I can unplug a bit during my vacation. 

What were the highs and lows of your weekend?

Monday, March 20, 2023

What. A. Week.

In a word, last week was brutal. Like I mentioned last week, one of the products I support invests heavily in the banking sector, and that sector was under major stress after 2 banks failed last weekend. 

I anticipated a rough week but it was worse than I expected. I think I did about 40 client calls. One day I did 10 calls. It was really hard to keep up with all of the news that was coming out as the situation evolved. Besides the stress in the US system, a Swiss Bank was under stress as well. As I was on these calls, I was watching all these IMs coming in plus all the emails with requests for talking points and gah. It was rough. My coworker and I did a great job of dividing and conquering as I handled most of the calls and she stayed on top of emails.

As if that wasn't enough, I was nauseated all day on Monday and wasn't able to eat for most of the day. Phil wondered if it was a side effect of stress but I think it was some sort of bug. Then Paul came down with a fever on Wednesday morning. He had high fevers of around 103 for several days. I stayed home with him Wednesday when I had a lighter day of calls and Phil took care of Thursday and Friday. We had his well child 5y appointment on Friday morning so we held off on getting him to the doctor since we had an appointment so soon. I was sure it was strep since it's been going around his daycare recently and he had stomach pains and high fevers which are symptoms of strep. Sure enough, his strep test was positive. He HATES swallowing meds so we opted to get the penicillin shot. It's a very, very painful shot but better than trying to coerce him to take oral meds... I'm thinking we need to see if we can teach him to swallow pills but we'll cross that bridge another time. Luckily he started feeling better within 24 hours. 

And then the week ended with a series of layoffs, some within my team at work. I had a feeling they were coming as 2022 was an epically bad year for financial services, but I was hoping that my team wouldn't be too impacted. Some really wonderful people that I enjoyed working with were let go which makes me really sad. 

So that's where I'm at... I have no positive spin to put on last week except to say that I am glad I still have a job. This just goes to show why I emphasize how fickle my industry is. It's why people in my industry are well-compensated - the pay is high but the volatility is very high, too. 

This week I travel to NJ/NY to do in-person client meetings with some sales reps. I fly out this morning and come back on Thursday. Usually work travel is extra exhausting for me since I'm not an extrovert, but I think this week will sort of be easier than last week. I mean at least we'll have walks/car drives between meetings for me to catch my breath! Last week, I would go from 30 minute zoom to 30 minute zoom - sometimes I had 4 hours of meetings in a row without a single break. I had to dial in 1-2 minutes late a couple of times so I could use the bathroom in between. 

I am woefully behind on commenting. I try to be a diligent commenter because I so value the comments I receive on my blog... but I'm going to have to "call uncle" and skip commenting on posts for awhile until I've dug out of the hole I'm buried in!

To close on a higher note, here are some pictures!

The geese have new costumes! A reindeer and a cardinal! Why a reindeer in March? Well it's feeling wintery here as we continue to get snow and had sub-zero wind chills over the weekend.

Chef Taco would like to take your order.

Sad, sick Paul. Lots of screen time was had last week.

Even though the feels like temp was -8F on Sunday morning, I got out for a run. YakTraks continue to be necessary. The south side of the lake path was pure ice.

I'll (hopefully) be back to more cheery content next week! In the meantime, tell me something good!!

Monday, March 13, 2023

Weekend recap

Happy Monday - or is it? I fear this week will be brutal given that a bank failed on Friday. One of the products I support is concentrated in banks and insurance companies so things like a bank failure (which is incredibly rare) really impact us. I was supposed to have Friday off as the boys’ school was closed for conferences. But I ended up working most of the day. The boys got a lot of screen time to make this possible. My day ended with me taking a client call around 4 with the kids yelling/playing in the background. They were on our main level and I was upstairs but you could hear them in the background. Luckily the advisor I was talking to was understanding. I think one positive of the pandemic is that there is more of an understanding that people have a life outside of work. 

So the fallout from that bank failing was the backdrop of my weekend. I usually unplug from work for the most part on the weekend but that was not the case this weekend as I needed to stay on top of the developing situation. I imagine I will have a lot of calls this week. 

But back to our weekend. The boys got good reports at their conferences! We are happy to hear that they are such a delight for their teachers. I’d rather they save the challenging behavior for us. 

I wasn’t woken until 6:30 on Saturday which is ‘sleeping in’ for us. The boys played with their kitchen toys and we FaceTimed my parents. 

After Phil was up, I went for a snowy run. Then we headed to gymnastics and then to a park bday party for one of Paul’s classmates. 

Jumping on the trampoline at gymnastics 

This is what a park party in March looks like in MN. This is why we will wait and have Paul’s party in May!

The birthday party was a real low point of the weekend. It was snowing and cold. The birthday treat was donuts but you have to take your mittens off to eat a donut so it didn’t take long for Will to get cold. He started screaming and I couldn’t get him to stop, so we abruptly left which Paul was not happy about. So both kids were screaming and crying - one because he was cold, the other because he didn’t want to leave. It was a comically bad drive home. I almost wanted to record the audio of the drive home to show Phil! 

Since I was the early morning parent, Phil was on Will duty when he woke up. I napped for over 2 hours which is not like me. I was so very tired. I think I might be getting another flare so my RA must be acting up. I have learned to listen to my body and nap when it’s telling me that’s what it needs. 

Sunday was ‘spring ahead’ but that is easier for parents of young kids, IMO, than falling back which means an extra hour of parenting, not sleep. I got up with the boys but Phil was up shortly thereafter as our neighbors needed help getting their van unstuck in their alley. He had helped them the night before. This cycle of snow, rain, snow has been so bad for roads and especially alleys which is how most city-dwellers access their garage. After Phil did his mitzvah for the day, he took over watching the kids so I could have a break before taking them to haircuts. 

Getting his hair cut. He looks so much older after a haircut!

I napped again during naptime. I wanted to workout but felt so dang tired! After quiet time, Phil and Paul headed to his mom’s and I was on Will duty for the rest of the day. It was still lightly snowing so we watched the beginning of Zootopia. I don’t love leaning so heavily on screens but it’s essential for us during our long winters! Will has recently shown more interest in screens which is so helpful. But I look forward to a time when we can go for long stroller walks and to the park!

Cozy on the couch with a blanket, popcorn and water. 

We spent most of the rest of the day in the basement, reading books and playing with toys. I used to fear Will wasn’t going to like books, but he loves them now and had me read about 10 in a row!

Playing with big brother’s rover!

And that was our weekend… lots of indoor time, lots of shoveling for both Phil and me, and lots of screen time. 

How was your weekend? Hopefully it contained less snow. We are getting closer to hitting a record snowfall! 

Friday, March 10, 2023

Finance Friday: Paying Off Our Mortgage

Happy Friday! Back in January when I posted about our 2022 spending, I mentioned that we made what many consider the "controversial" decision to pay off our mortgage. Several commented and said they were surprised this was controversial so I figured I'd share a) the reasons it's controversial and b) why we still felt it was the right decision for us. 

First off, I have to acknowledge that we are very lucky to be in the position to be able to pay off our mortgage. It's not something I will ever take for granted! We are fortunate to work in a well-compensated industry that has made it possible. Living below our means has also made this possible, but I know it's not something many people are able to do in their 30s like we did. 

Why is it controversial?

I think most financial advisors would tell you that you should not pay off your mortgage - here are a couple of reasons:

1. The primary reason it's controversial and not typically recommended is that instead of paying off that debt, you could invest the money and your return could/should exceed the interest rate on your mortgage. If you took out a mortgage prior to 2022, your mortgage rate was likely at a historically low level. The lower the rate, the less your investment will need to yield in order for you to be better off investing. 

2. You lose financial flexibility when you pay off your mortgage. You could take out a home equity line of credit if you had a cash need, but there is a cost associated with setting that up. 

3. When you pay off your mortgage in the US, you lose a tax deduction. I can't speak to what happens in other countries, but in the US, you are able to deduct the mortgage interest on your primary home.

Why we did it anyway

1. While we could have been better off by investing that money instead of paying off our mortgage, the feeling of not having any debt is priceless for us. We were able to pay it off but still max out our 401ks, contribute to brokerage accounts, etc. We met with a financial advisor back in 2020 and the financial models confirmed we are on track to be able to retire early - if we want to - so we aren't pushing out our retirement date for the sake of not having a mortgage. Our financial goals are to have the option to retire at an earlyish age and to pay for our kids' college education. We do not aspire to, say, leave an inheritance for our children. If we happen to? Great, but it's not part of our financial plan. So if we can achieve the goals of our financial plan AND pay off our mortgage, it felt like an easy decision for us. 

2. Not having a mortgage means that our monthly expenses are significantly lower than they would be if we had a mortgage so it does give us financial flexibility in that we need to generate less income to cover our monthly expenses. 

3. The interest tax deduction never felt very valuable to us. It certainly wasn't valuable enough to push us to not pay off our mortgage. 

Bottom line

I don't think anyone could convince us to make a different decision. My husband and I both have our MBAs and are CFA charter holders so we certainly understand the arguments against paying off a mortgage - but it was still the right decision for us

I'll end by saying that this decision is a personal decision that takes a lot of factors into consideration. I didn't write this post to convince anyone to make a similar decision - I just wanted to explain our thought process about this decision. But I know that my friend Kyria, who also works in the financial services industry and is a CFA charter holder, feels completely different about this!

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

What We Read in February

We are a week into March and I'm finally getting around to my February reading recap! February was a decent reading month for me in terms of volume - I read 8 books which is great for a month with 28 days! I had a lot of plane travel during the month so that's part of why I read so many books in the midst of a short month. Overall I've been feeling a little bit "meh" about my reading so far this year. 2022 was such a stellar reading year for me so I feel like I'm sort of set up to be disappointed? At this point last year, I had read 3 5-star books and my average rating was over 4 stars. This year my average rating is about 3.8 and I've read 2 5-star books (which I didn't love nearly as much as the 5-star books from last Jan/Feb). But, I've also been busier than ever at work which has left me feeling a little depleted in general so surely that's a contributing factor. 


These were my 3 favorite books, although I can't say I'd broadly recommend them to everyone, especially the first one. Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett is a very quirky book that is - stay with me - narrated by the ghosts of the towns' graveyard. I generally don't love speculative fiction but I loved the voice in this book. The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a historical fiction novel about a female understudy to a surgeon in the late 1800s. This is the first book in the series, though, so it doesn't wrap up tidily. Tell Me Everything by Erica Krouse is part memoir/part true crime expose about a sexual assault case at UC Boulder. Trigger warnings abound! I had trouble sleeping one night after reading this book.. the subject matter is upsetting. 

Excellent Light Reads:

I've read a lot of heavy content lately so I needed some light, happy reads! Enter these 3 romance novels. And yes, I read a Christmas book during the month of February. The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan was light and delightful. It's set in Edinburg, Scotland which sounds like the most charming city! In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer was a fun romance set in NYC which is one of my favorite cities. Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin is set in a bookstore in Denver. This was my least favorite of the 3 romances but still a fun, entertaining read.


The last 2 books were popular with others but my general feeling about both was "meh." I was told to go into We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves pretty blind. So I don't want to say much about the book to avoid spoilers for others who check it out. It was just a bit "out there" for me. The Bandit Queens was the first 2023 release I've read this year. The husband of a woman living in India disappears and the women in her community assume that she killed him - and now some of them want help killing their husbands. The story felt a little too over-the-top for me and there was SO MUCH SWEARING. Admittedly I am a bit of a prude when it comes to swearing. I can tolerate some swearing but it felt excessive and unnecessary in this book.

Paul's Reads:

We absolutely LOVED The Wolf Suit. It's a graphic novel but is short enough to be read in one sitting. It's so delightful so I highly recommend it! It's about a sheep that wants to go out in the woods to pick berries, but he's afraid of encountering a wolf - so he sews a wolf costume. Hilarity ensues. 

We also enjoyed these 3 books that I randomly pulled off the shelf at the library. Poopsie Gets Lost is about a kitten that wanders off and gets into all kinds of trouble. We are partial to cat-themed books in our house since my husband is a HUGE fan of cats so this was sure to please. The Last Rainbow Bird is stunningly illustrated. In this book, they are trying to find the "rainbow" bird which is nearing extinction. Walter Had a Best Friend is about shifts in friendship. Walter and Xavier were the best of friends... but then Xavier starts to play with someone else. Walter feels hurt, sad, and confused but then at the end, he meets a new friend with similar interests. 

Have you read anything great lately? Is your reading year off to a great start or a bit lackluster like mine?

Monday, March 6, 2023

Birthday weekend recap

This past weekend was all about celebrating Paul’s 5th birthday! Some of his birthdays have been very snowy, like his first birthday when we got something like 15” of snow! But luckily we threaded the needle between snow storms. 

The party was on Saturday at 5 so Paul and I made his cookie cake after breakfast so it’d be ready to decorate when my parents arrived at lunchtime. We are solidly team cookie in this house, especially when it come to gluten free baking. In my experience, cookies turn out better and cookie cakes are very fun and festive. 

We finished making the cookie cake in time to do our usual library and gymnastics routine. The library had new toys out and a new search and find activity! 

My parents had arrived by the time we got home from gymnastics. The boys enjoyed having their grandparents around! 

Will is wearing Paul's shoes in this photo. His feet aren't THAT big!

While Will napped and Paul had quiet time, my mom decorated the cake. I am terrible at decorating so am glad she could do it! 

Phil’s mom came over mid-afternoon. Paul impressed his nanas by reading to them!

Around 5, my brother, SIL and nephew arrived and the party began. We ordered pizza and I made a salad. Paul opened presents in between dinner and cake. 

His favorite gift was this rover toy his Nana Joan got him from Lakeshore Learning. When he opened it he said, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!!’ It is a very cool toy and very very sturdy! 

Then it was cake time! 

Our guests left around 7 and everyone played Uno while I did Will’s bedtime. My parents spent the night since they live about 3 hours away.

Sunday was quieter since we were recovering from the previous full, busy day. My parents left around 9 and I headed out for a 4 mile run (with YakTrax, of course, as many of the sidewalks are still treacherous). 

Since it was mild outside and our sidewalk was in good shape, the boys did some biking/scooting. As you can see, we have SO MUCH SNOW. 

The boys also played with Paul’s new birthday toys! 

It started to snow again around 6pm. It’s supposed to snow today, too, and there’s more snow forecasted Wednesday-Friday. Spring is never coming but at this point we figure we might as well go for a record snowfall for the season. We’ve had over 70”; the record is in the 90s so it’s definitely possible. Spring feels so far off! 

Has spring arrived where you live? I’m thinking we won’t see grass until April! 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Three Things Thursday: The Work Edition

Happy almost-Friday! I've referenced work a lot lately so thought I'd do a work-themed Three Things Thursday. 

1. What exactly do you do for a living?

Since I have some new readers, I thought I'd highlight what I do for a living. I work for a large asset manager and my specialty is taxable fixed income (i.e. bonds). I wrote a longish post about what I do back in December 2021. But long story short, I'm a product specialist that works closely with sales to help sell our taxable fixed income mutual funds and separately managed accounts. Our sales people sell a bajillion different things so they can't go deep on every product they sell - so they bring me into client meetings (usually those meetings are with a financial advisor) so I can provide our economic outlook, interest rate forecast, and talking points on the investment product the client is considering. So I'm part of the sales process without being (mostly) commission-based like our sales people are. 

2. What is a day-in-the-life like for you?

One thing that I think is kind of unique about my role is that I have very little control over my day and there isn't necessary a "rhythm" to my days. Since I'm part of the sales process, my day is sort of dictated by requests from sales. I have some recurrent work, like updating proposals for our products on a monthly basis, but besides that, I'm kind of at the whim of sales people. That is why things like time blocking don't work for me. I might have a list of things I'm working on, but could get an email or phone call asking me to jump on a zoom or conference call with a client. My day is also impacted by the hours of the financial markets. So ideally I need to have my butt in my seat by 7:30 and my day generally wraps up around 4pm. That's when most of our sales people/clients are working, and it's when the portfolio managers are working. So something like a split schedule (stopping work at say 2 and logging back on at 6) does not work for people in my role. In the last 6 months, I've been busier than ever because yields in the taxable fixed income market are actually attractive for the first time in a very long time, and our sales force is being encouraged to sell taxable fixed income products. It's good to be busy, though! 

3. What do you do when you travel?

There are 2 reasons why I travel - 1) to visit a site where we have a lot of internal sales people and 2) to visit clients with a sales rep. My recent trip to Texas was a client visit trip. So I traveled with 2 different sales people and went into various branches of financial advisors to talk about our products. Last week's trip to Chicago was a "site visit" - we have a lot of internal sales people in Chicago so I tend to go there several times a year. Usually my goal for those trips is to give an update to the sales people and then to casually interact with them one-on-one. I booked my Chicago trip back in January when I was asked to do a lunch presentation - but then 1-2 weeks before that trip, sales management decided to have a "day on the desk" while I was there which is a day when sales people are encouraged to book meetings with clients and involve a subject matter expert like myself. It was originally going to be just one day, but then there was so much demand from clients that they made it into a 2-day event. It ended up being a Tuesday afternoon through Thursday morning event for me, though, since I had so many call requests. This is an example of how little control I have over my days. It didn't make sense to cancel my trip or change my flights, so I tried to fit in as much in-person interaction as I could while I was there in between zoom calls. I'm one of the few people that covers a certain area of the taxable market and that product is in high demand so that is why I ended up doing 18 meetings in the span of about 2 days! 

Any other questions about what I do for a living? Do you have a lot of control over your work day?

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Paul is 5!

Paul is 5! While there is something to love about every stage, I'm finding that 4+ seems to be the sweet spot for me. But before I dig into Paul at age 5, let's take a trip back in time to his previous birthdays!

Paul on his birthday! He's rocking a jaundice tan and is so puffy in this picture (probably since I was on IV fluids for days before he was born - his delivery was pretty complicated).

Paul at 1! I don't have great photos from his 1st birthday party as I stupidly scheduled his 1-year shots the day before... rookie mistake. He's crying/not happy in most of his birthday photos. But we had a fun brunch with my younger sister on his actual birthday!

Paul at age 2... This was March of 2020 - little did we know how our world would change in a matter of days!

Paul at age 3! Are you noticing the theme of cookie birthday desserts?

Paul at age 4!

Growth: He's still very, very petite - he only weighs 33 pounds. For context, Will weighs 28 pounds! Paul has been around the 5th percentile for weight since he was about 2 months, though, so it's not concerning as he has been staying on his growth curve. He has been asking when he can move into a booster seat, though, and that feels VERY far off since you need to weigh at least 40 pounds to move into a booster..  When will he be 40 pounds? Age 8? He wear size 10 shoes, 3T/4T tops, and mostly 3T pants. 

Words and phrases: He is still very chatty and talkative. His latest clutch phrase is to say "speaking of..." Like last week, we were talking about the US (I can't remember what exactly we were talking about) and Paul said, "Speaking of America, today was Presidents' Day!" He's starting to sound like a mini-adult! 


- He loves being outside! When the weather is nice, his favorite thing to do is use his scooter. We bought him a bike last spring but he has only been on it a few times. I figure eventually he'll be interested in his bike. But for now he is very fast on his scooter and can handle 2+ mile routes. He also was more interested in swimming and water sports/boating last summer! Since we are in the midst of a brutal winter I should also mention that he loves sledding, making snow angels and playing in the snow.

- We introduced him to LEGO this Christmas and he is a BIG FAN! I'm a fan, too, so am glad we have a go-to gift idea for years to come. 

This was the start of a Spiderman character - it took us 3 nights to do this set!

- His favorite show is still Wild Kratts. He shares so many facts with us, like did you know the eyes of a giant squid are the size of a basketball? Or last week he told us he could run on the top of the snow like a snowshoe hare. I can guarantee I did know anything about giant squids or snowshoe hares at age 5!

- He still loves to read. We mostly read picture books but I've started to introduce chapter books, too. He is starting to learn to read. My MIL got him the "Bob books" for Christmas and he can read several of them on his own. 


- I've started to do some one-on-one adventures with him! Last fall, we went to a pumpkin exhibit at the zoo, saw The Grinch, and I took him to a winter light exhibit. In April, we'll take our first one-on-one trip to AZ to visit my sister. He's very very very excited. 

- He'll also have his first friend birthday party but we are going to wait until April or May when it's reliably nicer to have his party. We made an arbitrary rule that friend parties don't start until you turn 5. I love the way families celebrate birthdays at school - it's basically a big park play date. Everyone is invited, the invite says "no gifts" (and people comply!), and you bring birthday treats. It's "easy peasy lemon squeezy" as Paul would say!

Dislikes:  There is not much that he doesn't like. He is a really positive, upbeat kid! I will say he is obsessed with being first... Ideally he wants to be the first one to get dressed, first to brush his teeth, first to get in the car, etc etc... We are trying to explain that you can't always be first and that being the first one dressed really does not matter in the grand scheme of things but he hasn't quite accepted that. 

Eating: is still kind of a challenge... his pediatrician has assured us this will get easier. I hope she is right. He really loves carbs and dairy. His favorite foods are cottage cheese, yogurt, banana pancakes and pizza. And he definitely has a sweet tooth - he loves donuts and cookies!

School: He's in the Pre-K room at school. He has really thrived in this room and has come out of his shell quite a bit. He used to be so shy and reserved but seems much more outgoing and social in this room. He'll transition to the public school summer program in June and then starts kindergarten in the fall at our community school so he has a lot of change ahead of him! He is VERY excited about kindergarten!

His school photos from the fall cracked us up!!

Big brother adjustment: He continues to be a very sweet big brother to Will! He's had to be patient with Will quite a bit and he's handled it pretty well all in all. I love watching their relationship grow!

I can't wait to see what the future holds for our sweet, smart little guy! Last year he spent his birthday puking from a stomach bug so hopefully the celebration is MUCH MORE FUN this year!!