Fumbling with Finances

It’s Friday night. There’s a husband and daughter I adore sleeping upstairs and a baby kicking away in my belly, but all I can think about is money. When I was young I always thought when you were an adult you made enough money to do what you wanted and needed and that was that.

But of course it’s not really like that, especially in this economy. I’ve created many detailed spreadsheets and built out various scenarios, trying to anticipate any cost that we may incur. I spend so much time (almost every day) updating and worrying over each pay cheque, it’s started to take over my life.

Now with baby number 2 on the way and a recent need to replace my husband’s car on the horizon, I just don’t know how I can make it all work. How do people make it work? I guess some people make more money, and certainly I wish that I were in a position to strive for a new and exciting career status (ideally one that came with a salary increase) but as I type this reaching over my 8 month pregnant belly, it’s not an option.

Should we ride this car into the ground, even if I think it’s potentially not the safest to be carting around 2 kids? Our work schedules are too different to accommodate downsizing to only one car. Should we have not had a second child and bought a new car instead? Is it either or, not both? I know people who make less than we do get by and likely don’t even stress as much as I do. But between commuting and daycare, I’ve run out of ways to stretch the dollars. I worry if I make big decisions without exploring all the potential pitfalls that we’ll become swallowed up by both the debt and stress and that’s not good for us or our kids. When does being an adult become easier? How can you avoid getting swallowed up by the stress while still being fiscally responsible? Is that even possible anymore?

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Deciding on a Second Baby

I am currently pregnant with my second child, and to some that news has been surprising. When my husband and I had our first child 4 years ago, we had the standard reactions: hugs and tears and excitement. But when pressed about our second often times we would both say no way, no more. Heck, I even wrote a blog a year ago discussing how I wasn’t ready for more.

Because let’s face it, parenting is really hard. A quick google will find you a barrage of blogs and online groups confirming how hard it can be. Issues with breast feeding, sleep training, teething and all the while trying to lose the 40lbs of baby weight and feel good about yourself physically and emotionally while your hormones are still wreaking havoc on you.

As much as you prepare yourself for what’s to come, it’s different than the reality. I was one of the first of my friends to have a child and I hadn’t had been around babies before my own. We also had moved to a new neighbourhood where I didn’t have many friends close by. Plus, let’s be real – sleep deprivation does ugly things to a person. I can’t pretend I was the best version of myself when my baby had been up all night.

So when we excitedly told our parents and family that we were expecting our second, we had a lot of stunned reactions. They were happy, but visibly stunned. I could see it all over their faces, and to be honest it hurt a little. Did they think that I wasn’t a good enough Mother to handle another one? Or was I projecting my own fears back on them? Either way, you expect a jumping up and down, over the top happiness from family, but when your sister in law asks you if it was planned, it stings.

Yes we had discussed how financially it would be difficult to have a second child (and believe me, it will be). But as we went around and around the topic, we realized that although it would be difficult it wasn’t the reason not to expand our family if that’s what we wanted. Yes, when my daughter was a non-sleeping, teething monster thought of another one seemed insane, but we’ve all learned and grown a lot since then. She now has all teeth, is potty trained and sleeps (for the most part) in her own bed. These were the things I felt I needed to happen in her life before I could entertain the possibility of a second. But really it came down to one simple question my husband asked one day: don’t you want to hear someone else’s laughter in this house one day? And I knew then that I did.

I have hope that since it’s the second time I’ll be better prepared. I like to think I’ve grown more patient and a little less selfish, which were hard for me to learn with our first. I know now that if I’m struggling I should ask for help. I had some untreated post-partum issues with our daughter, but didn’t realize it at the time. I’ve spoken at length with my husband and my health care provider and if it happens this time, we’ll be ready. Do I worry about money? Of course I do, it actually consumes the majority of my thoughts these days, but we’ll find a responsible way and cut back where we need to.

I do worry about how another will affect my relationship with my daughter. I still want us to be as close as we are now which can be difficult with another little person who needs a lot of care, I hope that we don’t lose that. But I also know that I have a very supportive husband, who will be there every step of the way (seriously, my friends tell me all the time how awesome he is, he’s like Jack on This is Us caliber). And I know without a doubt, that I can’t wait to hear 2 kinds of laughter in our house. In fact, I can’t wait for it.

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When is the Right Time to Speak up as a Parent?

My daughter is only 3, but I’m already worried about body image issues. I’m sure I think about it so much because it’s something I’ve had issue with my entire life, and it starts young. My Grandfather was never one to mince words made a point of telling me when he thought I was getting fat – I think I was maybe 8 years old? Even my mom made comments a few times about my size in my preteen years, when I no longer spent all day outside riding bikes with friends, and started spending more time on the couch in front of the TV. Maybe she had a point, but how about asking me to go for a walk or a bike ride instead? I think a lot about my daughter’s level of activity and hopes to have her involved in active programs that she enjoys. My husband and I both work out and hopefully provide good examples of being active and moderately healthy. But I never gave much thought to other outside examples.

Last week, we took our daughter to tour her new daycare. She’ll be moving there because the same building will be her home school and it just makes sense to get her comfortable ahead of time. Anyway, we saw the room they play in and met the teachers, then went outside with her soon-to-be classmates for playtime. While out there, once of the teachers who we just met and will figure prominently in my daughter’s day was commenting on the kids and looking at them with proud, happy eyes (which I appreciated). She started to speak about one little girl in particular and referred to her as, “my little chubby chub.” And I was like – what did she just say? I knew I heard right, when I looked at my husband and his reaction mirrored my own.

To be fair, she didn’t mean it maliciously, in fact it came out as a term of endearment if anything. There was a cultural difference, so I wonder if this teacher just straight up doesn’t know that’s not something to say about a kid’s body? And not the point, I know – but this kid wasn’t even chubby! I was taken aback and didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. This was a person I’d just met and didn’t feel like I knew her well enough to comment. If this were my old daycare, I would have sent an email to the person who runs it and asked about it. But alas, this new place doesn’t have e-mail (it’s 2016, people!)

So if I want to bring it up, I have to do it over the phone or face to face – and it was almost a week ago, is it too late to be bringing it up now? Am I overreacting by wanting to say something? Usually I try to not to be a hyper-reactive parent, but when I think about kids hearing a nickname like that, my heart breaks for the kid and I worry that my kid will think it’s ok to say. I definitely don’t want that. Should I say something? Or wait and see if I hear it again? Fellow parents, what would you do?

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Moving On (Literally)

A few months ago my workplace underwent a merger. We were told we would be moving buildings to literally merge as one new company. Logistically it makes sense, and I totally get it.

But as that date draws near (although it’s been pushed back a few times) I realize more and more that I’m sad about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have a job and to remain employed for people who are lovely and treat me well, and maybe it’s weird to become emotionally attached to a building – but, change is hard. There are people I’m going to miss.

I’ve made friends with a handful of supportive women who attend many of the same classes at Goodlife over the lunch hour as I do. We chat about our kids, families, how much we do not want to do that class that day. They’ve become a constant in my day that I appreciate and enjoy.

There’s also a physio centre across the street that we all go to. After attending weekly appointments for a while now, I like to think I’ve become friends with some of the people there. I like hearing their stories, tidbits about their lives. Yes, there is social media and Facebook and all of those things that keep me connected to those people if that’s what I (or they) want, but it won’t be the same.

Making friends at this age, is hard. I like to believe that I’ll make a few new friends in this new building we’re going to, but I’m a creature of habit and frankly making friends hasn’t always been easy for me. Maybe I’m just getting hung up on the here and now and should be more optimistic about what change and opportunities the move will present, but it’s always hard to say goodbye.

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In Defense of Danny Castellano

Let me start by saying that I love Mindy Kaling. I watched the Office, I’ve read her books and I’m one of the millions (I assume it’s in the millions now) that feel we’d be the best of friends. While I don’t share her fashion sense, I’d like to learn and I’d make up for it in sarcastic wit. I also love the Mindy Project. From the first episode I just felt like finally, this was the kind of comedy I’d been waiting for.

Yes, there has been a high turnover in the casting department, particularly in the early seasons. From Dr. Shulman, best friend Gwen, best friend Alex, Shauna, Betsy, Beverly (the first time) but all of those things can be overlooked because that’s the natural progression of television. Actors come and go onto other projects and often before it found a home at Hulu the Mindy Project was constantly on the bubble at NBC.

But I can’t help but feel frustrated with the direction of season 5. It’s not because I blindly believe Mindy and Danny belong together forever. While I admit I’d hoped things would steer that way, I found the episodes surrounding their break up so well written and true to life that I couldn’t even be mad they were breaking up. People often want different things, have different expectations and may have had a child together before those things are realized. But what gets me is what they’ve done to Danny’s character.

Now, I understand that Chris Messina has a film career and schedules are what they are. Combined with the fact that Mindy is makes many episodes, it is a big time commitment. So maybe Danny can’t be included in every episode. But we’ve invested in Danny. His mother, her crazy friend Dot, his brother – all these characters that have been built around Danny and who he is are a part of the show, and this season we lost all of that. Even if he was in less episodes or off somewhere, did they have to make him such an asshole? Yes, he needs to be heavy handed with the criticism so we see clearly why things with Mindy don’t work, but he just cheated on his fiancée with Mindy. Meanwhile in the early days of the show he was wrecked after his ex-wife had been unfaithful to him. It just seemed so unnecessarily gross and out of character.

What happened to the guy who learned the Aaliyah choreography as her Christmas gift or knows how to make a killer gingerbread house? I don’t want to hate him and I feel like the show is giving us no choice in the matter. Danny is better than how they’ve depicted him this season. Never mind the whole issue of Jody, why do the men that love Mindy seem to hate her first! Where’s the guy that is just excited to be with her? Not that I’m still carrying a torch for Casey. But seriously, I loved that guy. They even managed to make me not like him this season. Where are all the likeable men? Is Peter all we have left? And Morgan, I guess. I’m just a little reticent about season 6. I know Chris Messina isn’t a series regular next season, but let’s bring Danny to a less hate- able place.

 

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Striving for Unscheduled Time

Before I had kids, I was definitely  more spontaneous. My husband and I used to book last minute trips to Las Vegas, stay up all night at the drive in, have more drinks then we should. Those were the sweet, early years of marriage before the stress of financial woes and a child who never sleeps came into our lives. But I miss being spontaneous.

As a couple and as a family. We’re so set in our dinner, bath and work routines that I often wish we leaned into impulsiveness more. If my husband ever suggested we play hooky at work the next day to have time as a couple I think I would fall off my chair. But it would also make me so  happy. Even if he suggested we skip work to keep our daughter home from daycare to go to Lego-land or something – I’d love it too.

It’s not just skipping work that has the appeal, it’s the freedom of unscheduled time together where we don’t have to worry about bedtime regimes or alarm clocks and could enjoy the time together. As my daughter gets older, I hope to be the kind of fun parent who occasionally pulls her out of school for us to go to the movies or get mani pedis and just enjoy a day outside of the usual grind. I can’t really remember my parents ever dong that with me, but when we got out of school early for the dentist or the doctor and were rewarded with trips to McDonald’s or somewhere out of the ordinary, I remember just loving it and I still feel that way.

When I’m on vacation, I bask in the lack of schedule, getting up on my own time (or my daughter’s), having a nap, my happiness is instantly magnified. Maybe it’s my daily transit or daily picking up toys and doing dishes, etc. But I just think that as we get older and definitely as we become parents that impulse to do things out of the ordinary or off schedule gets muted. I love a plan and a good list or two (or more, if you ask my husband) to keep my organized and my life in check, but sometimes it’s nice to just throw it all out the window and give in to fun. I hope as my daughter gets older (and I do too) that I remember to take a few last minute adventures.

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The Nag

In a few weeks is my 5 year wedding anniversary. Not a huge milestone by any means, I know, but it’s significant to me. I never really thought about being someone’s wife. I never thought about being someone’s mother either but I’m glad I’m both. I probably don’t do either perfectly, but I certainly try.

But sometimes with those roles come unwanted labels: the nag, the buzzkill, the financial analyst. Whether it’s your husband himself or his friends or coworkers ribbing about things he’s “allowed” to do – those are the situations I really hate. I consider myself a fun person or at least I try to be, but often finances, kid bedtimes, life – get in the way. And while there are some pitfalls to these labels, and they can hurt, I guess that’s part of life. I do my best to keep the budget intact, get the kid to bed on time. (Dads always seem to be the fun parents too). But I try to carve out my own fun, get out from under the labels when I can. I have excellent girlfriends who like a good road trip or a trip to the spa and I try to be a fun Mom along with the enforcer of rules.

When we first got married and I thought about our 5 year anniversary, I had fancy visions of taking a trip to Hawaii or somewhere equally exciting. But, another thing I’ve learned since then is that life doesn’t always work out the way you planned. I may not be going to Hawaii this year, but I have a husband who I still miss like crazy when he’s away and a little girl that is as stubborn and mouthy as her mother but is smarter and more hilarious than I’ll ever be.

I guess the point is, you have to take the good with the bad and not dwell on what you can’t change – that’s something I personally struggle with all the time. As the merger at work continues for a few months more, I realize all the more how many things are beyond my control. But while I struggle and freak out internally, I try to remember that work isn’t my whole life and I still have a lot to be thankful for.

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Changes

Change is constant. Change is annoying. But change can be good too. You can change your life at any age and I try to remember that. Whether you’re in your 30’s with kids, still in college, or retired and starting a new chapter.

Last year my Dad decided to change his life for the better. After a long time struggle with alcohol, he decided to go to rehab. He’s getting on in years, he’s almost 62 and I love that he was willing to make a change. It makes me infinitely proud. A few weeks ago he was given his one-year sobriety chip at one of his regular meetings. My mom, sister and I went, beaming with pride. I hope that he’ll continue to be sober for the rest of his life, but even if he falters I hope he’ll start again with the same resolve and have the kind of life he deserves. He’s a cute and hilarious Grandpa, generous beyond belief and a loving, protective father. I often think about the courage, the drive, the vulnerability that it took for him to get help – it took guts.

My Mother also went through a major change and retired at the end of last year. A much-deserved retirement from a field that is often underfunded and underappreciated, but one she cares so much about. But now that she’s retired, I worry about her. How will she fill her time? What will she do? Don’t’ get me wrong, she keeps busy and she’s still working part time right now, but I think about her health often. My sister and I have encouraged her to attend yoga regularly or get out walking. Do whatever form of activity or exercise makes her happy. Now that the warmer months are coming, I hope that she will. I’m actually writing it in this blog to emphasize to her (hi Mom!) how important I think it is for her to get active. I want her to live to be 100. My almost 3-year-old daughter refers to her as Bama and as my daughter gets more energy and becomes more active, Bama’s going to need to keep up.

But I get it, change is hard. Last year I signed up for a sewing class all hyped up to learn a skill I’d always wanted. I thought about buying a sewing machine and all the cute blankets, etc I’d make for my daughter – but as it turns out, I’m not very good at it. I had a really hard time keeping up and I hadn’t anticipated that. When I think about all the people I know that have gone back to school later in life for a new course or a new program, even to simply expand their skill set – I don’t know how they do it. It’s been so long since I sat down and formally learned something that it’s difficult to try again. My husband recently decided to make a change and start taking an online course. He’s wanted to expand his horizons in his field of nerdy technology. On top of working and helping with our daughter, walking the dog etc, I must confess his free time is very limited and yet, he’s determined enough to do it. To learn more and want more that he’s willing to find the time and squeeze it in, which to me is just amazing.

While I await the decision about my job as my company merges with another, I wonder if I’ll end up back in school in an attempt to find a new field. As I’ve said in previous posts, I like my job and would really rather stay in this industry. But the reality is I might not be able to. I wonder about what courses I’d take. Ideally I’d love to take photography or short story writing, I also wanted to edit movie trailers for a living – but I doubt that I’d end up taking anything so creative/exciting. But whatever the outcome professionally, I’m trying to be open to change because that’s when the best things can happen, or so they say.

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Formative Friendship

lets_bee_friends

As I was putting my daughter to bed last night she told me I was her best friend. Those are the moments parents live for, and it got me thinking about the different types of friendships I have / had. Feeling nostalgic, thinking about memories both good and bad.

Making friends hasn’t always been easy for me. When I was a kid my parents had a trailer in a seasonal trailer park. We’d go every weekend and for weeks during the summer. I knew almost everyone and they knew me, as family all camped there too. I loved it through my younger years. But when I was about 12 the friend group I spent every waking moment with decided they didn’t want me anymore. They carved mean things about my weight into a bench. After that they’d ignore me, but I had a part time job cutting lawns so I had to continue to go up each and every weekend. It was torture, whenever I saw them they’d go the other way, no one would talk to me. It was a constant reminder that I was no longer good enough in their eyes. I’m not even sure the reason behind it to this day. Looking back I don’t feel angry about what happened, but I can still feel that hurt and melancholy when I think about it. That stays with you.

But one thing that experience gave me was appreciation. For every new friend I make, every person I’m nice to or bake cookies for, it means more. I value it more. A few years ago I was welcomed into a group of coworkers/friends who lunched (and now do dinner) together every month or so. Even though this group existed long before I came along, they accepted me and that is something I think about often.

 In my later years, things were (and continue to be) much better. I’ve had a best friend since high school that is the best, I could tell her or ask her anything without judgment and would is there for me when I need her. I think about the high school parties we went to and the crises we had, that seemed so crucial at the time. Back then we walked through snow storms to the LCBO, met at the bus stop in the rain with one of us in tears and the other carrying ice cream. While our crises have changed as has the physical distance between us, I’d still get in my car right now and drive to her place if she needed me.

 High school is what it is with its raging hormones and rampant insecurity, but I had fun friends and I am still friends with or in touch with quite a few of them now. There are some I haven’t seen in a few years that I still like to drop a line to every now and then and social media (primarily Facebook) allows me to see how their doing and how their lives are changing: growing families, new relationships, new jobs. I know there are a lot of people who gripe about our constant connectivity and the awful things about social media – and sometimes I agree, but I’m glad to have a forum to see how people are doing.

 I think about the better high school memories, the one house we always partied at, the people I was close to and shared everything. The friend who mentioned me in his yearbook graduation write up that I’ll never forget as long as I live. A close friend I wrote notes to every day that has moved across the world, but technology allows us to keep involved in each others lives.

 In University I didn’t make many friends, the extreme downside to living at home and now in residence, but during my post grad college year, I made up for that in spades, so many awesome people who I wish I saw more often. I miss you guys.

 There are also the friends that aren’t part of my life anymore. I don’t have many but there are a few, one that was even a bridesmaid at my wedding. And while I think about that friendship often, miss it and wonder about it, I try to remember the good there too. Camping trips, crazy youthful drunken adventures, and so many laughs that even now I don’t try to forget. Would I change out situation now if I could? I’m not sure, but some things aren’t up to me and I try to be ok with that.

 I just wanted to take a break from the lamenting about parenthood, money and the stress of the uncertain employment future to reflect. I guess what I’m really trying to say is thanks to you guys out there, for hanging out with me: past, present and hopefully future.

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The Struggle for the Bright Side

Lately I’ve been wondering if I’m a happy enough person. Do I appreciate what I have? Try to see the positive side? Probably not enough. You work all week, and commute, by the time you eat and bathe your kid it’s shower time and bedtime for you as well. You yearn for the weekend but when it finally arrives, so do a new set of obligations: swimming lessons, groceries, and oh yeah, your house needs cleaning too.

I feel like I should always be spending more time with my daughter while simultaneously thinking I should be cleaning the house or doing 50 other things on my to do list that I’ve been ignoring for weeks. Maybe it’s a delicate balance, where sometimes you shirk your house responsibilities for a trip to the zoo or the park, and maybe sometimes you let Daddy/Daughter time reign and pull out the vacuum cleaner? It just feel like no matter what, one side of the equation is left neglected. Obviously the clear answer would be to hire a cleaning lady and absolve myself from all cleaning related stress and guilt, but alas, it’s just not financially feasible for us.

I try to remind myself that I have a house to clean, a child to spend time with and a partner who is a loving and supportive parent. Not everyone has those things. Then I feel guilty that I don’t appreciate what I have enough, and so the cycle goes.

But truth be told, when you’re child is screaming and crying so hard she can barely breathe because I asked her to put her toy bunny back in her toy bin, it’s hard to focus on the positive. The terrible two’s are real. Make no mistake. We’ve entered into a frustrating and tiring phase of whining and full out tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. I try to treat each situation with patience, but it can be wearing. I guess that’s parenting all over.

But when I check on her at night and see her little face, I’m reminded of all the good things. She is learning her days of the week, she’s potty trained, when she tells me I look pretty as I’m getting dressed in the morning.

It’s hard sometimes not to get caught up in the complaints – go train delays, financial woes, toddler tantrums and a constant yearning for a vacation. I’m sure I’ll lose the battle to see the bright side sometimes, but I’m going to try.

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