New Year's Resolution Step 2: A New Budget

Friday, December 31, 2010

Okay, so technically I am skipping a step and jumping onto one of my tasks before prioritizing my entire list, but because I was feeling pretty motivated after my brain dump the other day, I decide to actually start working on a big one. This is one of those things that constantly creeps up on the priority list in my head and seems to pop up in my head more often then most others. Although it's not complete (not by far), and its one that will probably take a few steps and will always be a work in progress, if felt good to start things moving in the right direction. I'm talking about starting a budget.

Wes and I are by no means rich, and we certainly have our financial struggles just like a lot of people but I think we are headed for a pretty big lifestyle change when Jackson comes along. Right now, we are pretty conscious about how we spend money, but if there is something within reason that we want, we tend to be pretty impulsive and just go buy it. For example, if I want a new pair of shoes, I tend to just go out and buy them (and more often than not, I come home with two new pairs), or if Emma needs some new jammies, I will go out, get her a few jammies, and inevitably come home with other outfits, new hair bows and a new pair of shoes for her. With gigantic daycare payment #2 starting soon (which will actually make our daycare payment total more than our mortgage payment), our impulsive buying habits are about to change. And with my New Year's Resolution, I'm trying to get ahead of the game and start planning and living that lifestyle now, so when the double daycare payments start in May, it's hopefully not as much of a shock and we can somewhat "practice" for a few months first.

So...step number one was to create a monthly budget estimating and tracking sheet (you will get a good idea of how much I love spreedsheets here). Ha! I'm a nerd.

I started out with a simple spreadsheet that I downloaded off of Bank of America's website here and updated a few things. First, I made a new "Estimate" and "Actual" column for each month of 2011. For me, it's important to note which months have those extra pay days in them so we can be aware of when we can potentially put a little extra money away. So this way, I can update those months that have 4 weeks vs. 5 weeks. I then went through and included our income and expenses for each month in the "Estimate" category.

Again, because I am an engineer, I love data, so I used as many 'actuals' as I could, meaning I found out how much we paid for Gas & Electric for each month in 2010, and used that as an estimate for each month in 2011. I did the same thing for each of our monthly expenses and tried to put in the 'worst case scenario' for things like grocery shopping. For example, there are weeks we spend $120 at the store and weeks we spend $200 at the store. So to be conservative, I included an estimate for $200 each week to hopefully account for some of the additional cost that Jackson will end up throwing at us.

Now that I have all of our monthly estimates done, my next step is to record our "actuals" for the month of January. This will help us identify more specifically where we are spending our money and where we need to cut back on.

Above is a picture of my super sweet spreadsheet that I am so proud of! Before my mom freaks out (and I know you will mom), I took out a lot of our expenses, made everything generic and made up numbers for everything. So none of the numbers shown below are our actual numbers (always have to have the mom disclaimer going haha). Even if some creepy Internet person blows up the picture, none of the information is accurate. The bottom line of the spreadsheet will show us if we expect to be positive or negative that month, and as we track our actuals each month we can make adjustments accordingly.

PS: If anyone is interested in trying out the spreadsheet as well, or modifying it to fit your family, I'd be happy to send you the example spreadsheet in MS Excel for you to try!

New Year's Resolution Step 1: Brain Dump

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I was actually very surprised but I got several emails and comments on my recent post about my one and only New Year's Resolution - Simplifying. I have to thank everyone for all of the encouragement, kind words and suggestions to help me get started! It absolutely has kept me focused on the end goal and given me a good push to get started, despite my incredible level of exhaustion and inability to stay awake past 8:00PM at night. Ha! Like I said in my post, who knows how long this will take, it certainly will not be an overnight fix and a lot of the details are still TBD, but in order to keep things simple, I decided to start at absolute square one, with a "Brain Dump".

I have been doing some looking around on the Internet on some pretty cool sites that have great ideas and I came across this blog, called Success Your Way. Granted, the title is a little cheesy but it actually has a TON of stuff and some very cool articles and helpful tips for just about anything. In checking out the site, I came across an article on Reducing Stress. One of their ideas was to start with a "brain dump". Basically, the idea behind it is that when you’re brain is full of everything you’re trying to remember and accomplish, it leaves little room for actually doing anything. So, rather then constantly spinning your wheels and stressing yourself out about this endless list that circles your brain, you simple do “brain dump” and get it all out onto paper. Okay, so you are probably thinking that it's no different then a to-do list, and that's what I was thinking too, but I did it, and it actually really helped just to get everything out of my head! Once I finished my brain dump and it was all out of my head and written down, I took a few minutes to start to organize my list.

Now, keep in mind that a brain dump isn’t supposed to be pretty or organized, which I found myself immediately doing and wanting to type it up on the computer in a cool spreadsheet with due dates, etc (okay, I'm an engineer and we love spreadsheets haha). As the website says, "the key to successfully brain dumping is to actually write down every little thing that’s on your mind – no matter how small, silly or inconsequential." I think overall I did a pretty good job. My list has 36 things on it as of now, and has everything from packing my hospital bag in preparation for Jackson's arrival, to creating a watermark in Photoshop for the pictures I post on the blog, to starting Emma and Jackson's college funds, to creating a sustainable and easily trackable budget. Yup, that's my official brain dump in all its glory shown above!

As I read back through my list, it became pretty clear that there were about 5 different categories that I could file everything into.
  1. House Needs
  2. Financial Needs
  3. Getting Ready for Baby #2
  4. Overall Organization
  5. General
My next step is to walk through each category and prioritize the list accordingly. Since my due date with Jackson is March 23rd, obviously there are things in Category 3 that will need to be done before, and are a higher priority then say, cleaning out the inside of both of our cars. But I have to say, that it truly does feel better to have everything out of my head and on paper as a start. It was kind of amazing to see how many things came flooding out as soon as a sat down. No wonder when I wake up at 2:00AM and my list starts running through my head I can't go back to sleep! These aren't necessarily life long goals, or wishes by any means, they are simply the things that keep me awake at night thinking about how much I have to do in my everyday life.

To be continued....

28 Weeks!! 7 Months!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

28 Weeks!! 7 Months!! I feel like the jump between 26 weeks to 28 weeks was definitely a big one! Not only do I feel much bigger, but I have wanted to just eat non-stop so Jackson must be going through a growth spurt! Whoa! Of course, he timed it perfectly with the holidays so I am sure that my weight gain which as been really good up until this point, is about to take a big jump. :) I have also started to feel more like I am 8 or 9 months pregnant already! I have been totally exhausted. My back is starting to hurt more and more (which I never really had with Emma), the heartburn is setting in and I am also starting to have more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions. Luckily, knock on wood, I haven't really had any swelling yet and so far have only gained about 13 pounds. But I have a feeling that is about to change ha!

By this week, Jackson weighs two and a quarter pounds (like a Chinese cabbage) and measures about 14.8 inches from the top of his head to his heels. He can blink his eyes, which now sport lashes. With his eyesight developing, he may be able to see the light that filters in through my tummy. He's also developing billions of neurons in his brain and adding more body fat in preparation for life in the outside world.

A New Year! A New Look!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In honor of the impending New Year, I decided that since I can't exactly give myself a makeover, I would at least start with the blog! Keeping with my new theme of SIMPLICITY for 2011, I decided to stick with a simple design, and you can't get much more simple than with black and white.

Much more to come once I actually get a few minutes to download the pictures from Christmas, but for now, we hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and are ready for whatever it is that 2011 may bring! So much to blog about (Christmas, being 7 months pregnant with Jackson and Emma turning 18 months old), but so little time! For now, I will leave you with a pretty cool quote I just found about New Year's from Ellen Goodman...

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential."

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

We hope that all of our friends and family have a safe and wonderful holiday, as well as a very Merry Christmas!! Sending lots of love, especially to those that we can't be with on this special holiday!!

Simplifying - Focus for 2011

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Naturally, as 2010 comes to an end, despite the craziness that the Christmas holiday brings, I have started to think more and more about 2011 and the big changes that next year will bring. I am already a mom, but in three short months, I'll be a mom of two. Whoa. Hold the phone.

This year was certainly a challenge to get ready for the holidays, with Emma being sick, then I got sick and just an overall stressed out couple of months. And just like every other year, I have convinced myself that next year will be different. Christmas cards will be ordered and mailed weeks before Christmas, presents will be purchased and wrapped in November, cookies will be baked and frozen weeks in advance. Ummm....yeah right. If I can't do it with one child this year, how in the world am I going to do it, and do it better next year with two?!

I am going to do it by simplifying.

Simplifying will be my one and only New Year's resolution for 2011.

Now, how this is exactly going to be done is still to be determined. :) Chaos stresses me out. Disorganization stresses me out. Having said that, I have recently learned, what I think will be a strong life lesson, in that it is my choice to be stressed or not stressed in the majority of situations. So in 2011, as I simplify my life, I am going to do a better job as choosing my own response to situations. Granted, it's unrealistic to say that I will never be stressed out in 2011. But my main goal is to at least reduce or minimize the amount of stress I will have. I will inevitably be stressed about my job, or when Emma or Jackson is sick, but I will not be stressed out about little things, like Christmas cards, and planning birthday parties and what we are going to have for dinner next Tuesday because Emma has tumblee bees and I have a meeting that goes until 5:00PM and we have to get a birthday card and milk on the way home. Just like Tsh from Simple Mom says in her blog about how stress is a choice.

"Stress isn’t happening to me, it’s a reaction to a situation I’m allowing."

Take that to the bank and cash it. :) Now like I said before, who knows exactly how this simplifying is actually going to happen, but my first step, and it's a doozy, is going to be me working on giving myself permission to be human. Being a mom is hard. So starting in 2011, I am going to give myself permission to do things like let our kids be kids, let a mess wait until tomorrow, ask for help more, sleep in and not feel guilty even though I am a working mom and I hire a babysitter so I can catch a break. When I think back over 2010, the times that I was the happiest, was when life was simple.

Like when Emma would fall asleep and snuggle with Mommy...

...or when it was time for a bottle, which forced us to step away from life and take a break, even if it was just for a few minutes...

...or when we were snowed in, and the only thing we HAD to do that day was play in the snow...

...or when it was naked time after a bath (giggle)...

...or when it was all about stealing kisses during a family photo-shoot...

...or when it was doing something for someone we love and lost, with the people that we love.

2011 = Simplify

Could It Be?!?! Really?!?!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen,
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.

27 Weeks!! Third Trimester!! ACK!!

Well, today we officially hit the 27 week mark so we are right around the corner from being 7 months pregnant (28 weeks). Yikes! Life has been absolutely crazy lately filled with Christmas preparations, stomach viruses and one completely exhausted Mommy.

We got great news last week though when I went for my follow up sonogram. All of Jackson's CPCs are totally gone!!! What a relief!! He is still measuring a week behind but they aren't very concerned about that since Emma was so tiny when she was born (fingers crossed he isn't going to bulk up too much in the last couple of weeks and make mommy push out a 9 pound baby...ACK)! But overall he looks really good, strong heartbeat and moving around more and more everyday. The little stinker is still breech but again, they aren't too worried about that either since we still have a way to go before it matters. I will get to see my baby Jack again in another 6 weeks for my next sonogram to check on his growth and position, so until then, I'll just be relying on those kicks and punches for reassurance that he is doing a-okay!

I also started going to the doctor's every two weeks! Yikes again! With Emma, I don't think happened until I was about 32 weeks so I was a little surprised at my last appointment but come to find out, some other friends are going every two weeks around the same time, so maybe there was a change somewhere? I am hoping to find out soon if I passed my glucose test or not, fingers crossed I won't have to go back in for the 3 hour test!

I have lots more to blog about including some Christmas surprises but until then, I'm exhausted (recovering from the dreaded stomach virus myself) and still have about 3,593 things on my to-do list before needless to say its going to be a busy week. :)

But for now, I will leave you with how Jackson is doing this week! This week, Jackson weighs almost 2 pounds (like a head of cauliflower) and is about 14 1/2 inches long with his legs extended. He's sleeping and waking at regular intervals, opening and closing his eyes, and perhaps even sucking his fingers. With more brain tissue developing, Jackson's brain is very active now. While his lungs are still immature, they would be capable of functioning — with a lot of medical help — if he were to be born now.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

So even though Emma and Jackson's Christmas shopping is all done from Mommy and Daddy and Santa is taking care of everything else (along with filling up their stockings of course) it's incredibly hard to resist the holiday sales, especially when it comes to this store... 

Cost of Shipping & Handling for Emma & Jackson's new digs: $0.00

Cost of clothes currently sitting in Mommy's "shopping cart": $80.66

Potential cost of "shopping cart" if clothes were not on sale: $186.50

Being able to dress Emma & Jackson in clothes like this: Priceless

Side Note: Before I get yelled at by my mom for spending too much money on clothes, I wanted to note that there are numerous other clothing items in my 'shopping cart' for that amount of money, so the ones pictured above are just a sampling. :)

A Rutabaga?! Really?!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

You couldn't have come up with a cuter fruit or vegetable for my little 25 Week old Jackson? Sheesh!

Well, despite the creepy looking food product above....little Jackson is growing by the day! Head to heels, Jackson now measures about 13 1/2 inches. His weight, about a pound and a half, isn't much more than an average rutabaga, but he's beginning to exchange his long, lean look for some baby fat. As he does, his wrinkled skin will begin to smooth out and he'll start to look more and more like a newborn. He's also growing more hair — and if we could see it, we would now be able to discern its color and texture.

As far as I am doing, overall pretty good! I have felt pretty good lately other then still being extremely tired. I remember being tired with Emma while pregnant and especially having the work week hit me hard by Fridays, but this time around now that we are taking care of Emma at home after a long day of work, those Friday's can't come soon enough. More often than not, I am asleep on the couch at 8:00PM, only to wake up and go to bed by 9:00PM. On the rare occasion, I might make it to 10:00 at night but then I regret it because I am exhausted for a week trying to recover. Ha!

It's back to the doctor's next week where I will take my glucose test once again. With Emma, I (barely) failed the one hour glucose test but passed the 3 hour test so I'm hoping to avoid having to take the 3 hour test again with Jackson. Then next Friday morning, it's back to the Fetal Assessment Center for another sonogram to check to see how Jackson's cysts are doing. Our fingers are crossed that the last one that was hanging around a few weeks ago is gone by now! So stay tuned!

Vroom! Vroom! Beep! Beep!

Check out what Mommy just got in the mail for Emma for Christmas....

Emma is now all set for life in the pink lane with her new Barbie Glam Convertible (that she won't be receiving until Christmas of course - good thing she can't read the blog yet)! 

This sweet little ride comes complete with shiny metallic wheels, zebra-print Barbie seats, Barbie logo license plate and holofoil lights.

This way she can remember that at least once in her life Mommy bought her a sweet car...because I'm not so sure it's ever going to happen again. :)

Jackson's Ready for Santa!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Even though Christmas 2011 will be Jackson's first actual Christmas, I couldn't resist getting him a stocking this year. It just didn't feel right not having the little man's stocking hung up with the rest of the family's.


Today, Emma started in her new Toddler Room at daycare. It's what I imagine the first day of school to feel like, but on a smaller scale. Emma is now out of a crib, sleeping on a cot at school. Her new room even comes with a tiny bathroom for tiny little people. :) Because I know that I will never ever remember this when she is older, here is a quick look at Emma's schedule at 17 months old.
  • 6:30AM: Good Morning! Emma is relatively consistent when it comes to sleeping in the mornings but she can range anywhere from 6:30AM to sometimes 7:00AM on the weekends. She usually wakes up and has a sippy cup full of milk to hold her over until we get to daycare. By this time, Wes and I are usually just about ready for work, getting our food ready for the day as well as Emma's.
  • 7:00AM: Off to school! We are always shooting to leave the house by 6:45AM but that is just about impossible most of the time. :) By about 7:15AM, Emma is at school and eating her breakfast with friends.
  • 8:00AM - 12:00PM: Playtime! Everyday is different for Emma at school, so some days they go outside in the morning (only in the winter, in the spring, summer and fall they are outside everyday), they do crafts, they have a morning snack, you name it.
  • 12:30 - 2:00PM: Nap time. Now Emma always used to be the little one that would be waiting by the crib room door to take a nap but now that they are on cots, she hasn't been cooperating. :) Emma is a big talker...her vocabulary is well past an 18 month old as she is putting together 2 and 3 words consistently (from her pediatrician...not just mommy-bragging haha) and she just loves to talk. So she sits up in her cot and just talks to her teachers while all her friends are trying to sleep. So needless to say she pretty much wakes everyone up all the time haha.
  • 2:00PM - 5:00PM: More play time and an afternoon snack before I pick her up from daycare.
  • 6:00PM: Dinner time followed by her evening bath. More often then not she gets a bath every night at least Sunday through Thursday and whenever she needs it on the weekend. Its a good evening routine for her (more so than because she is dirty) and she loves it.
  • 6:30PM - 7:30PM: Playtime! Emma usually goes through her "grand finale" as we like to call it during this time, were she ends up having this little pocket of energy left that she has to burn off before bed.
  • 8:00PM: Bedtime! It depends on how she did with her nap that day but Emma rarely ever makes it past 8:00PM and she is usually happy to go to bed by this point.
Emma has certainly turned into a little toddler lately too. So much that (as you know) we bought a little Time Out mat to help nip some of those naughty behaviors in the bud before Jackson arrives (I love getting to call him by his name now)! We haven't had to use the timeout mat yet....well....except for Pluto apparently. :)

Emma thought that Pluto's behavior was unacceptable. So she put him in time out. :)

This past weekend we took Emma on her second ever trip to go cut down her Christmas Tree. It was pretty much in the 30's, sunny, but very windy so it was a quick trip but Emma seemed to have a good time. Here she is inspecting one of the trees with Daddy.

You can probably tell that most of the time she was off running around with her little toddler self because about 95% of the pictures I took are of the back of her head. :)

 On the way home, she was pooped! She definitely plays her little heart out and loves to be outside!

24 Weeks, 6 Months & a Name!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Time is flying by with this pregnancy for sure! I can't believe that I am 6 months pregnant already, although by the size of my bump, you would think it was more like 7 months pregnant! Holy Moly! Today, I turned 24 weeks (6 months) pregnant so here are some updates on how the little man is doing...

The little man is growing steadily, having gained about 4 ounces since last week. That puts him at just over a pound. Since he's almost a foot long (picture an ear of corn), he cuts a pretty lean figure at this point, but his body is filling out proportionally and he'll soon start to plump up. His brain is also growing quickly now, and his taste buds are continuing to develop. His lungs are developing "branches" of the respiratory "tree" as well as cells that produce surfactant, a substance that will help his air sacs inflate once he hits the outside world. His skin is still thin and translucent, but that will start to change soon.

Because of the Choroid Plexus Cysts that were found in the little man's brain a few weeks ago, we have been going to regular sonograms to keep an eye on them and we got some great news at our last sonogram just about two weeks ago. Apparently he had two cysts, one on each side of his brain. Well, as of two weeks ago, the one on the left side of his brain had completely disappeared and the one on the right side of his brain was much smaller than originally. The technician fully expects to see that one disappear as well, maybe even by our next sonogram in another two weeks. He was still looking great, measuring a little small (about a week behind) but since Emma was born at a whopping 5 lbs 12 ounces at 38.5 weeks, they think he is probably just on the smaller side as well.

We have also officially picked out the little man's's been our favorite since day one, and was even our favorite boy name when we were pregnant with Emma (before we knew Emma was a "she"). We aren't really the parents that keep the name hidden until the end (which I totally get at the same time) because frankly, we couldn't care less if people don't like the name. It's our kid to screw up, I mean, name (haha) what we like, so we have no problem sharing it even if people feel the need to comment on it. So....introducing.....

Jackson Douglas!!

Unfortunately, I don't have any updated pictures to share yet, life has been pretty crazy, but hopefully some updates to come soon! It's just about time for Emma's Christmas pictures too! 
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