Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lately: balancing life and becoming debt free

In case you noticed, I haven't been on top of posting monthly updates on our debt repayment lately. Partly because we haven't been making too much progress in that department and partly because we've been trying to find a new money system that works for us, figure out exactly how much income we'll have with me back working, reevaluate our expenses and make adjustments in our budget accordingly.

A few things have put a halt in the short term on our debt repayment:

1) Fluctuating income. While I'm earning a bit more money working than I was collecting maternity employment insurance, my salary is just about 10K less than what I was making at my previous job to start and most of the additional is offset by increased child care expenses with 3 kids and it being summer break as well as pension plan contributions which I didn't have previously. The pension contributions are a HUGE bonus for the long term, especially since my employer will match them. In the short term it means less money in the budget than previously. Before making any concrete changes to our budget or financial plan, we're waiting on my probation period at work to end at which time I'll also receive a small raise. This will give us some real leverage if we plan on refinancing or consolidating debt. 

2) Fluctuating expenses. I don't know whether it is being outside all day or just my new reality with 3 growing gentleman but our grocery bill has gone up exponentially in the past couple of months. Our utility bills have also been higher.

3) Unexpected expenses. I've mentioned before that we decided against having an emergency fund since we'd rather put all of our additional money to pay down our high interest debt. At the beginning of the summer our A/C motor burned out. Luckily a friend of a family member was able to come and fix it for just the cost of the part since we let him borrow our extension ladder from time to time but we'll likely have to replace the unit in the next few years. More recently, we got an even bigger blow. One side of our roof is looking particularly bad. We're hoping we can put replacement off until next spring so we can use our tax return to help with the expense but it's entirely possible we won't be able to wait until then so we're slowly trying to put aside what we can from R's overtime money. I know we could get financing if we needed to but the mere thought of taking on more debt weighs heavily. Lastly, my car is in need of a tune up and brake job which I put off earlier this year when I took my car in for servicing and ended up walking out with a $600 bill. I'm anticipating about the same expense this time around so have put about $400 aside so far (on my visa) to cover this expense.  

I've been thinking a lot lately about how our budget allocations are a reflection of our family values. There are some areas where I feel happy with the proportion spent and other categories I feel could use some re-alignment. While some of this alignment can be done in the short term, some will have longer timelines or will only become possible with an increase in income.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Week Days

Summer is in full swing here. I'm sad I don't get to spend it all with my guys but happy to report things are going really well at home during the week and I have been enjoying seeing them at lunchtime.

I was worried about them getting bored quickly and having to plan a lot of activities and outings but so far they haven't grown tired of sticking close to home.

B goes to summer camp with the neighbourhood kids for half the day close by. The rest of the day is spent mostly playing outside with many of the same kids. The kids range from toddlers to 12 year olds and they all play wonderfully together. Older ones helping the younger ones or just playing nicely alongside. Nicky tries his best to keep up with the big kids and doesn't get too discouraged when he can't always tag along. They'll ride bikes, collect bugs and frogs, play at the playground, or play in the driveways or someone's backyard. So much like my own childhood but slightly more supervised. I love that there are so many kids in our neighbourhood. My sister spends most of the day keeping watch from the porch with Noah. He'll sleep often in a rocker outside or in his playpen just inside the window where she can keep an eye and ear out for him while still letting the big boys play outside.

Otherwise, they do watch some TV, jump on the trampoline, swim in the kiddie pool in our backyard and do arts and crafts to their hearts content. And when they get bored of an activity inside, 9 times out of 10, that same activity can be brought outside and there is instantly renewed interest!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

3 Months

Our little Nowie is 3 months old!

So much changed between 2 and 3 months.

The biggest change was with his sleep. He began sleeping through the night in his crib in his own room! The first night he woke up twice. I went in his room to feed him the first time and then brought him into bed with us the second time. The next night he only woke up once and the following night he slept 8 hours! No crying involved. I'm in such disbelief since the big boys didn't sleep 8 hours until closer to a year! The first few nights I had a harder time than he did. It felt so weird to be without him at night. I missed feeling him cuddled up next to me. But we're all sleeping better with this new sleeping arrangement now. He has also been getting into a more routine nap schedule with 3 naps/day.

Over the past month he has become super efficient at nursing and will empty one breast in about 10 minutes though lately it seems to take a bit longer because he has also turned into quite the little monkey. The amount we bottle feed him while I'm at work recently increased from 2.5 oz to 3 oz per feed. We also discovered he likes to self sooth by sucking on his hand. Usually just before he falls asleep. We've never used pacifiers. Mostly just paranoia over having to drop the habit later on. I toyed with introducing one to him since he seems to be such a sucker unlike the other boys but he's happy with his hand so I'm not going to mess with his own thing he has got going on.

Boredom has also developed in a huge way. He is no longer content just being held or sitting in a chair for longer periods of time. He tends to need a change of scenery every 20-30 minutes when he is awake. Just this week we got out the Jolly Jumper and we've been putting him in there for 10 minutes here and there. He doesn't jump yet but does enjoy "standing" and being vertical. He also went for his first dip in the pool at the trailer this month. He didn't seem at all bothered by the water and the boys got a kick out of seeing him in the pool.

B and N are very engaged with him and love to sit in front while he is in the Jolly Jumper, rock him in his rocker, or lay on the couch with him.  He is getting to be so much fun with his non-stop smiles and coos.

As for my c-section recovery. I'd say I'm feeling 90%! I still feel my abdominal strain when I get up too quickly from bed and small things like that but I'm really feeling so much better and have been since I got my stent out a month ago today! Every day I count my lucky stars that Noah is doing so well and I'm finally feeling much more like myself.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mid-Year Goals Update

Here we are in July already. With everything else going on health wise and getting used to life as a family of 5, I feel like we've just been muddling through for the past few months but in the past couple of weeks I've been able to get back to thinking about goals. Time to get serious again about tackling them. I had some pretty big goals this year. I'm almost regretting making such lofty goals since this year has turned out to be pretty nuts but here is how I've done to date:

- I will find secure and meaningful employment. YES!

- I will continue to pay off debt (at least $10,000) this year while at the same time taking a family vacation. 

Have not made much progress in this area at all. The credit card balances didn't get paid off before I finished work. On the bright side, we haven't taken on any additional debt in the first half of the year but are still hovering around where we started in January. I'll post an update soon on my plans for the second half of the year.

As for the vacation, we have been enjoying our trailer but no real family vacations either. I'm thinking we'll plan a weekend trip to Great Wolf Lodge and Niagara Falls for sometime this fall.

- I will make our house a home. 

I'm happy to say I've made a bit of progress on this one with the completion of the nursery (LINK), and my new countertop in the kitchen. I recently got a photo app for Blacks and was amazed how easy it was to send photos from my phone for printing. I printed a few of the boys for my desk at work but I haven't picked them up yet. Now that I have an easy and quick way, I'm thinking I might be able to print some more photos to start filling our bare walls.

- I will make an effort to be healthy. 

I delivered a healthy full-term baby like planned. I've been able to successfully breastfeed for the first 3 months of his life and hope to continue at least another 3 and ideally until he is a year old. I'm very close to pre-pregnancy weight but with my recent health issues related to my birth, I need to make more of an effort to prioritize rest, healthy eating, and a bit of exercise.

- I will make an effort to focus more on extended family.

We've been visiting R's family approximately once/month which has been nice. We've also seen a fair bit of my mom so I'd like to keep this up. October is coming up so quickly when they'll be heading back to Florida so our time is limited!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The first week and getting into a routine

Last week I started my new job. So far, I'm liking enjoying it. My first week was a bit overwhelming also being B's last week of school for the year so this week with the holiday mid-week has been nice.

A big change in the past 3 weeks has been Noah sleeping through the night (!). He has slept consistantly 8-9 hours at night in his crib in his own room. I thought for sure he'd wake up at night again once I went to work but he hasn't. I've been worried about my supply taking a hit with the 8 hours overnight and the long 5 hour stretch in the mornings at work. During the work day, I've only been pumping on my lunch break which isn't until 1pm when I come home most days. When I'm not working, I feed Noah frequently. He has been nursing for longer or cluster feeding in the evenings which I've loved since it gives us a chance to reconnect after being apart all day and builds my supply back up. 

Here is a peek at my new daily routine:

4-4:30am Noah wakes up. I'm usually pretty uncomfortable so I feed him while pumping on the other side. R also gets up around this time to go to work.
5-6:30am Breakfast/Prep bottles and lunch (big boys usually wake any time between 5:30 and 6:30)
6:30am Feeding
6:45-7am Load everyone in car to pick up my sister
7-7:40am Get ready for work
7:40am Feeding/pump
8-8:10am Leave for work as rest of crew is heading out to bus stop (during school year)
1-2pm Come home for lunch/feeding/pump - with travel time I usually have about 25 mins at home
5pm Arrive home. Feeding/pump. Dinner.
6:30pm Showers for boys if they need it - this has been nightly lately since they are so dirty from playing outside
7-7:30pm Bedtime for big boys. R usually handles this. We've been reading to the boys together lately which saves some time.
7-8pm Feed Noah and put him down for night in his crib. Most nights I'll shower after Noah is in bed.
8:30pm Bedtime for me and R.

As far as nursing and pumping goes, I nurse Noah at least 6 times/day. 4 sessions of which I also pump at the same time. He'll have 2-3 bottles in the mornings (2.5 oz each) and 1-2 in the afternoon while I'm at work. One day there was a staff potluck at lunch so I stayed at work and pumped on my two 15 minute breaks instead. Legally, I don't have to use my breaks to pump but I have chosen to. On the days when I come home for lunch, I have been taking breaks with other staff or picking up one or two items we needed at home from the grocery store around the corner. On the days I haven't been working, I've only been pumping once or twice/day.

I've really been enjoying having a schedule in sync with R.  I feel like we get to spend more time together laying in bed chatting after all the kids are tucked into their own beds and seeing each other before he heads to work in the morning while the big kids are still sleeping. Despite working full-time now, I don't feel nearly as stressed over work/life balance or sleep deprived (still amazed I have a new baby that sleeps 8 hours) as I felt with the older boys. I'm hoping I'll continue to feel this way.