Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, munchkin!

In the last year a lot has changed. For the first year of the munchkin's life, she was sick a lot - always with a runny nose or congestion and frequent ear infections. I knew almost immediately she would need tubes, but it took me a year to convince the pediatrician and another 3 months to convince my husband (even AFTER the ENT doctor agreed). She finally got tubes a few months after her first birthday and they changes have been amazing. She is sick less often, and as a result, is much more active - playing, talking, running around, and all of those wonderful toddler things.

The munchkin has quite the personality. We say she makes up for her small size with attitude! She is stubborn, bossy (how is it possible I have two INSANELY bossy kids? I guess God thought I needed a double dose of my own medicine!). She talks a fair amount, but not nearly as much as her older sister did at this age (though, the princess is - and has always been - very verbally advanced for her age). Sometimes I worry about her speech because she does not put two words together and much of her speech is very "toddler-speak". But, then I watch the kids and realize she does not need to talk because the princess will announce the munchkin's every thought and desire. I know she can talk more than she does, we have been surprised plenty when she says things we did not know she could say. Her biggest hurdle with speech is probably her stubbornness. We sound out syllables to help her say harder words and sometimes she plays along, while other times she will flat out say "no" when you ask her to repeat a syllable. We will see what the doctor says, but I think as much as I have worried over the last year about her speech, I will just keep working with her at home and wait for the day she spits out whole paragraphs much like "uh-huh" from The Little Rascals.

The munchkin is still the cutest kid around, and gets spoiled by everyone just for being so adorable. Her daycare teacher thinks she is an "angel" - and we think this only contributes more to why she is so stubborn. Everyone babies her - including my husband! But her smile and her adorable face are irresistible. She loves to make people smile and laugh, and knows how to do it too. She started making a funny face at me during Christmas Eve mass that had my shaking my shoulders and crying with suppressed laughter. I guess she learned it from my sister, but I never saw her make that face until church and it was too much. Now she makes it all the time so everyone can laugh. She gives hugs and kisses, and says "iwuvu" (one word, three syllables = i love you) until your heart melts.

While we think she is pretty amazing, we know she is no angel. She has mischief in her eyes and tries to get away with everything when your head is turned. She bullies and bosses her sister around despite being half her size*! If she does not like something, you will know by the pout, the anger on her face, and the way she chucks the item across the room. She is one tough cookie. But, one minute in time out - spent wailing, of course - and she is ready to come out, say sorry, give hugs, and find something new to do. She is a perfect combination of a strong-willed, loving little girl!

*We are working on this. I truly do not understand why the princess allows her sister to bully her. I try to tell her to bully the munchkin back, but she refuses. What kind of kid does not want permission to push their sibling back?!

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Debt

As I mentioned yesterday, one of our resolution's this year is to get out of debt. There are a few things I discovered this year that are fantastic resources and will keep us motivated.

The first is blogs - specifically, The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly. The authors of both of these blogs worked tirelessly to get out of debt, which is what we are trying to do. They are both in a place now where they can "play" with their budget more, which is interesting to read in a "this is what our future could hold" way for me. They have great ideas for staying frugal and helping keep your eye on the prize (unfortunately paying of debt is more of the slow and steady race and requires a lot of patience, something I lack). I highly recommend everyone with any interest in your finances check out these blogs as they are very relatable and will give you some great tips and ideas for budgeting and investing.

The second thing I want to mention is Dave Ramsey. His book, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, kick-started our plan. My husband received the book for Christmas in 2009, but did not start reading the book until mid-year. The book lays out a plan everyone can use to get out of debt and then set themselves up for financial success. Not everyone agrees with Dave Ramsey's plan (in fact the financial blogs I read both like some, but not all of his principles), but for us they are working. We like the debt snowball of paying off the lowest debts because it keeps us motivated and moves us through the cards faster. My husband and I started with five credit cards that all had balances (varying amounts). As I write this today, we have only one card left. Sure it is our hugest debt, but we have the minimum payments of four other cards to apply to this one, which is fantastic! We have our emergency fund and are working on our debt snowball. We plan to have a HUGE snowball by the end of the year, which we can use to plow through the last couple big ones early next year. I read the posts on Dave's blog and listen to his radio show on XM Radio. I cannot wait for the day we can call in and yell "WE ARE DEBT FREE!"

The last - and, in my opinion, the best - thing we discovered is I cannot say enough how much I love this website/program. The way this works is you add all of your accounts - credit cards, banking info, home info/mortgage info, car info, investments, etc - and will keep track of all your accounts. The overview tab shows the status of your budget, the balances on all your accounts, and your net worth. The transactions tab pulls in transactions from all your accounts and auto-categorizes these (you can edit the categories to meet your needs). The budgets tab allows you to set a budget, including a budget for your "goals". Mint offers plenty of options for goals like paying off debt, saving for vacation, etc, and also lets you add custom goals. We set up our budget and let it roll over month to month, understanding some things change monthly (the power bill, water bill) so we will have to adjust as we go. This is not a stagnant process in any way. I log in daily to categorize transactions and check the status of our budget. Multiple times a week my husband or I will call each other to check the status of the grocery or shopping budget before heading to the store. I think my favorite thing about this program is the trends tab. This allows you to graph all sorts of things - your net worth over time, your spending by category, etc. Although that should decrease now that we both have iPhones with the mint app loaded!

I am so glad I stumbled onto these resources as they have done a lot to get us started and to keep us motivated! In the last 7 months (since we started with Mint), we have paid off a large chunk of debt and increased our net worth by 16%. If that is not motivating, I do not know what is!

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year

So it is a new year. I think in the past I have said I do not believe in resolutions, but honestly, I am just too lazy to make them or stick with them.

However, I read a blog post recently that dove into some benefits of new year's resolutions. The one thing that stuck with me was the way a year is already broken out for you - into 12 months, 4 quarters, 52 weeks, whatever. It is easy to check in on your goals on the first of every month or every sunday, and it is easy to assess your status every three months.
So, with that, my new years goals...
1. Get back my mojo. I have been overweight too long. I was overweight before I got married, gained some with pregnancy #1, gained some more with pregnancy #2, and gained even more in the last two years. So, this year, I want to get in shape and lose weight. I have some numbers set up, and my biggest goal is to lose half by my birthday (in May) so I can feel good about myself when I turn 30.

2. Get out of debt. Out of credit car debt (we used my year end bonus to pay off our 4th - out of 5 - credit cards, so we have already started this year off on the right foot!), pay off our cars (we just agreed to a great plan for this action), and pay off my measly student loan. Next year we will tackle our big debt consolidation loan and our second mortgage. But, we are hoping if things go right with my husband's business sale and new job, that we can do all of that this year and be looking for a new house at the beginning of 2012. Either way, we want to move to our "forever home" by Summer 2012.

Two goals should not be too hard to keep, right? Ha! But at least I have this space on the internet to log in my goal progress.

Thanks for listening!

Monday, January 10, 2011

My baby turns 2 next week!

TWO! TWO! Two is no longer a baby. Two is a toddler. When the princess turned two, I had a six-month old baby and that was perfect. Now, I have a pre-schooler and a toddler and no baby! No baby on the way either. Not that I mind - I want another baby, but also want to get our life together (pay off debt and move to a more reasonably sized house for our growing family). So, for now, we are contentedly enjoying our family of four. With our toddler and pre-schooler and no baby.

I guess it is so hard to imagine the munchkin not being a baby because she is still so small. I do not know what will happen at her 2-year appointment, but I would bet my salary that she will still not be on the growth chart. Hopefully she will be on the weight chart, but if she is, it will probably be just barely (as it has been since she was born). When we go places with her and people see her walking around, sliding down the slide by herself, and climbing big structures, we see their eyes get wide and can practically hear their judgmental thoughts while they struggle with a nice way to say "wow! she does a lot for her age!". And then, when we announce her true age, the next sentence is always "she is so little" and frequently, "she is really almost two?". *No, I lied! Hello, of course she is!* I hope that things will be leveling out, but I fear that her pediatrician will - rightly so - want to send her for another barage of testing similar to what they did at her one year appointment. We will go back to the Endocrinologist for a more in-depth look, and we will see what she says. Although I am as opposed to growth hormones now as I was last year, so we will see if that conversation arises. This child always keeps us guessing!

Thanks for listening!