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2.04.2019

Beating our Winter Cabin Fever with Goldfish Swim School

This post brought to you by Goldfish Swim School.

Confession: I just adore the age my kids are at right now. At four, Charlie is so curious about his world and his brain never stops firing off new questions. Every evening when I pick the boys up from daycare, he asks, "Is tonight a work night?" and every Friday I have the distinct pleasure of telling him, "No, bud. Tomorrow is Saturday and what do we do on Saturdays?" To which he enthusiastically (read: screams) replies, "We have swim lessons!!!"

We took some time off from our swim lessons when my Dad passed away at the end of October. Between dealing with the grief of losing my Daddy, our Pre-Thanksgiving trip and the holidays, there was just too much on our collective plate. The staff at Goldfish Swim School- Dayton couldn't have been kinder when I requested some time away, as well as when I told them we were ready to come back in December.

We've definitely had some challenges in terms of weather the last few weeks (hello, #PolarVortex), but it appears that the worst is behind us and we have been thoroughly enjoying our weekend tradition of swim lessons as a family. It should come as no surprise that my boys are the most high-energy beings of all time (that's not hyperbole, I actually believe that may be the case). Winters are tough for our little Energizer Bunnies (and their parents who struggle to keep them from destroying the house!). Because we live in a small town, our opportunities for engaging in physical activity outside of our nightly tradition of chase, tickle fights and playing what Charlie refers to as "Hulk Smash" are incredibly limited.

Enter: Goldfish Swim School. We've been taking lessons there for about a year and a half and I genuinely don't know what we'd do without them during these winter months. Not only do we get some family bonding time, but it eases my Mama soul to know that the boys are getting some exercise (and learning a life-saving skill to boot) rather than being cooped up inside for months on end!



Crosby and I do his "Mini 2"-level classes in the pool together while Charlie goes off to his own "Junior 1" class where he continues to practice his sea otter (back) and octopus (front) floats and has started swimming underwater! He's still very reluctant to swim without the help of his instructors, but that's why I'm so glad we have a weekly routine established. His teachers are so patient with him and I'm hopeful that this summer might finally be the time when he feels confident enough to let go and know that he can swim on his own!



Meanwhile, Crosby is in a similar boat. He loves being in the water, but up until recently hasn't seemed to absorb many of the skills we practice every week. He generally has preferred to hang onto Mommy and play with the water toys. However, at our lesson this past Saturday I was so stinkin' impressed with his progress- he has mastered crab-walking on the side of the pool and is getting so close to being able to climb out unassisted. He's finally figured out his pulls and kicks and he did really well with closing his mouth when we went underwater! (Which may not seem like much of an achievement- but trust me, we've been working hard on mastering his fishy face!)



I'm so thankful we have an outlet for all the physical energy of these precocious little toddlers! If you're facing the winter stir crazies in your house, I can't recommend getting your babes in the pool enough. Summer is just around the corner and right now is the perfect time to dive in!


1.22.2019

WHAT I WORE: On Marie Kondo, my latest fix and PinkBlush

I posted a selfie to my Instagram the other day taken from my office bathroom (because I'm classy like that). I liked the outfit I happened to be wearing that day and since I love seeing what other working women wear to the office, I thought someone might like to see what I wear to my 9-to-5 (well, 8-4, but that's much less catchy).

Now that we're a two-income family again, I'm replenishing my wardrobe for the first time since college. Most of my go-to outfits are either really worn-in or are a bit too juvenile. I need a wardrobe that fits 30-year-old-working-in-the-financial-industry Kaity and not 20-year-old-thinks-she's-a-bohemian Kaity.




THE KONMARI METHOD


So full confession before I launch into my dissertation on how much I love Marie Kondo and her life-changing, magical approach to tidying: I have never actually read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. A few nights ago, I was scouring Netflix for my new binge-worthy show. I recently finished up my months-long Brooklyn 99 marathon and needed something to fill the void. I've heard all about Marie Kondo's book and the topic definitely sounded interesting, but as a fairly tidy and organized person I really didn't feel like I stood to gain anything from it. However, my deep-dive into the Enneagram led me to discovering that Marie Kondo and I are the same Enneagram type (Type 1: Reformer). I was excited to have found my celebrity, perfectionist soulmate so I gave her show a try and I loved it so stinkin' much.

I was only a few episodes in when I declared that it was time to tidy! I mean, what else am I going to do while Ohio is buried in snow every weekend? I started off in the bathroom- filling up a trash bag's worth of old headbands, unused beauty products, dried up nail polishes, and expired medicine (among other things). Our linen closet has never been neater!

Next, I moved onto clothing. While I generally make a Goodwill donation every few months, it was time to face up to my wardrobe the Konmari way! I took every single item out of my closet and dresser and laid it on my bed. I did what Marie suggested- held every item one-by-one and determined whether it sparked joy for me. I was surprised by how much I eliminated because I realized that they neither sparked joy, or made me feel good when I wore them! I think I got rid of a third of my total wardrobe!


Chuck and I moved onto our bookshelf before we finally called it quits and filled a box for donation with about half of our total book collection. I love the liberating feeling of ridding my house of all the things that have ceased bringing me joy.

STITCH FIX


This month, I also took the plunge and had another Stitch Fix delivered. You may remember that my last fix back in August was a total flop. I wound up losing my $20 styling fee because I didn't like a single thing and returned every item in my box. However, I've been in dire need of some more cold weather work attire. Between working full-time and being snowed in with my babies on the weekends, ain't nobody have time to shop! Fortunately, Stitch Fix mailed a promo that waived my styling fee if I scheduled my January fix, so I decided to take my chances.

My stylist nailed it (phew!). This may have been my favorite fix yet. Here's what I got:

MASON & BELLE
Kinglake Mixed Material Top 
&
DICTIONARY
Eva Straight Leg Pant



I didn't love this top when I saw it on the box, but I gave it a chance. Although it was a size S, it felt huge and tent-like on me. The pants I loved in the box. My stylist noticed I had a pair of olive-colored slacks on my Pinterest wishlist and thought I might like these. I loved that she picked up on that because I've been wanting a pair of olive pants! Unfortunately, the fit was all wrong. They fit in the waist, but the butt and legs were too baggy for my liking. (I carry my weight around my middle, so this is frequently a difficulty in finding pants that fit!)
VERDICT: Return

FORTUNE + IVY
Regina Hacci Knit Dress
&
TOMS
Kala Suede Wedge Bootie



I specifically requested a pair of nude wedges or booties and my stylist knocked it out of the park with these Toms. Normally, I'd never spend $90 on a pair of shoes, but I fully support the Toms brand and their mission in helping those in need. The dress was so me- cute and cozy is the name of my game!
VERDICT: KEEP

PINK CLOVER
Kaia Cocoon Cardigan



I overlooked the fact that the armpits were baggier than I prefer, because the color of this cardigan was perfection and once again- the coziness factor won out.
VERDICT: KEEP

PINKBLUSH 




I was recently gifted a dress from PinkBlush. Although their specialty is making absolutely adorable maternity clothes, they also carry women's clothing in both regular and plus-sizes. I picked out the Yellow Floral Crisscross Back Dress. It's so stinkin' warm and cozy for these chilly winter months. I also love that it can be worn as a regular dress or a maternity dress. We aren't planning on reproducing any time soon, but I love the that I have the option! 

This was my first time wearing something from PinkBlush and I was really impressed by the quality. I've been burned in the past by cheaply-made clothes that I bought from an online boutique, but suffice to say that I'll be shopping with PinkBlush again. I also love the Navy Solid Pocketed Dress and Mint Green Button Front Midi Dress for the office!



After I shared my work selfie, it seemed that there was a consensus between me and a few other friends that we enjoy looking at what normal women are wearing to work versus fashion bloggers and influencers whose clothing choices feel too unattainable. I think I'd like to try more consistently sharing the new pieces I'm incorporating into my wardrobe and my journey to dressing like an actual adult.

P.S. If you'd like a $25 credit toward your first Stitch Fix delivery, feel free to use my referral link!

1.21.2019

Financial Check-In: 2018 Debt Paid and 2019 Goals

It's absolutely insane to me that at this time last year I was working two part-time jobs and side-hustling my butt off while trying to also do the stay-at-home Mom gig. Life was tough- we were broker than broke and had dug ourselves into a deep hole. We'd fallen behind on debts and felt like we were constantly struggling to keep our heads above water. Since I started my full-time job in June we've been in a much better place financially, but we're still digging ourselves out of the hole we got into the last few years.

My twenties were rife with terrible financial decisions and taking the "if I ignore it, I won't have to deal with it" approach to a lot of debt and related issues. Suffice to say, that I am older and wiser in 2019 and am working so hard to correct the mistakes of my youth. Our family has a ways to go until our debt is completely paid off, but we're doing well. We've got a good momentum going and we're taking the lessons we learned the hard way and paving the way for a more financially secure future.

We paid approximately $30,500 toward debt in 2018. Considering that I was making next to nothing for half the year and we also paid for childcare for two children, I'm pretty darn happy with that number. Here's where it went:

TOTAL DEBT PAID IN 2018


I mentioned a few of my financial goals for this year in my 19 Goals in 2019, but I thought I'd share them again and add more that didn't make the list (you can never be too financially accountable!)

GOAL 1:
Improve my credit score by 5%
My credit score basically nosedived when we started falling behind in paying my student loans in favor of paying for the essentials- food, housing, utilities, etc. I've been up-to-date on all my payments for the last year-ish, so I obviously plan to keep that going. However, on-time payments may only result in a point increase every 2-3 months, so I also plan to apply for a secured credit card once we've got a few of our smaller debts paid off. Right now, I have no credit utilization factoring into my score, and while it's not necessarily hurting me, it's also not helping me to increase it. Since we've been burned by credit cards in the past, I only plan to use it for gas.

GOAL 2:
Pay off my auto loan. 
I still have about two years worth of payments left on my auto loan (NEVER buying new again!), but my goal is to double my monthly payments and have it paid in full by December.

GOAL 3:
Save up enough to buy a minivan in cash.
I've wanted a minivan basically since high school and I don't know how much longer my little Kia Forte is going to last. Since I've always commuted to my full-time jobs, I've wracked up a lot of mileage. As you can see above, the amount of debt we owe/paid in auto loans is absurd. From this point forward, we have no plans to take out any more loans to purchase vehicles and will only be buying used and in cash! My goal is to save about $18,000 total. I don't think I'll be able to hit that by the end of the year, but I do think it's possible by next summer.

GOAL 4:
Pay off remaining credit card debt.
We did a great job chipping away at our credit card debt last year and are within sight of having it paid off completely by this summer.

GOAL 5:
Pay off remaining medical debt.
This is another one that is totally doable within the next few months. We have less than $1,000 left!

My strategy for hitting our financial goals boils down to a few things:

1. I set aside $150 from each paycheck for my "Mama's Minivan Fund."

2. I also apply my $270 monthly childcare reimbursement to my minivan fund (after taking out a small amount for the boys' 529 savings plans).

3. After bills are paid, anything leftover from Chuck's monthly commission check goes toward debt.

4. Track everything paid in my "Debt Snowball" spreadsheet. (This helps encourage me and keeps my momentum going!)

I will also receive my year-end bonus and a small raise at the beginning of February. Anything in excess of what I'm making currently will start going toward savings and debt. After my Dad passed away at the end of October, we started planning a trip out to California to deliver his ashes to his best friend (per his request in his will). However, a family vacation just isn't feasible (or responsible) for us at this time, so we're putting it on the back-burner for the foreseeable future until we get on a bit more stable footing.

So tell me, do you have any other tips or tricks to improving my credit score or saving faster?!

1.09.2019

19 GOALS IN 2019

Last week, I recapped my 18 Goals in 2018. Although I only achieved half of my list,  I'm happy with where I stand. I don't really believe in making resolutions so I have strict to-do list to follow. But I like to constantly dream and aspire to improving myself and the world around me. So, if at year's end I completed my list, hooray for me! If I didn't, no harm or foul- I just have goals for next year!

Here are my 19 Goals for 2019:




PROFESSIONAL
Now that I am a full-time working Mama again (in a brand new-to-me industry), there is so much professional development for me to conquer over the next year.
  1. Pass my Series 7 and Series 66 licensing exams. I've already made it halfway through this goal because I passed my Series 7 on December 31, 2018!!! Once I pass my Series 66, I'll become an official "registered representative."

READING
In my heart of hearts, I will always be a bookworm. But with everything I have going on, I'm not putting any pressure on myself to participate in book challenges or spend all my spare time with my nose in a book. I will continue to read as it makes sense to and I'll read the books that I want to read.

  1. Read 35 books. Last year, I set what I thought was a realistic reading goal for myself of 42 books. I finished the year with 36 books read, so this year I'm being cautiously optimistic. Work and parenthood leaves little time nor mental energy to read, so we'll see..
  2. Read 3 books published before 1990. Last year, I set a goal to read 3 books written before the year 2000 and two of the three of them happened to be published in the late 1990's which feels like I completed this category by a technicality. To challenge myself further, I'm moving down the timeline.

FINANCIAL
2019 is the year I really want to dig our heels in to making some progress with our debt snowball. These are just a few of the things I want to accomplish this year.
  1. Increase my credit score by 5%. I have a number in mind, but it will take awhile to get there, so if I can increase my credit score by at least 5% in 2019, I'll consider it a win.
  2. Save up enough to buy a minivan in cash. I don't anticipate being able to purchase my new car within the year, but I think it's possible within the next 18 months. My goal is to end 2019 with at least $12,000 saved. I cannot begin to tell you how long I've longed for my very own soccer Mom van (literally since high school). I already have the exact make and model picked out, but because my credit is not the best I'd like to avoid taking out a loan and paying thousands in interest.
  3. Contribute at least $500 each to Charlie and Crosby's 529 college savings accounts. One of the awesome benefits I have at my new job is a modest childcare reimbursement. It doesn't amount to enough for me to factor it into our monthly income. Instead, I've been funneling it into the boys' 529 college savings accounts. If I keep it up in 2019, I can definitely hit $500 in each of their accounts. 
  4. Pay off remaining credit card debt. We paid one of three cards off in 2018 and have two left to go. We made really great progress last year and if we're disciplined, I think we can pay off our remaining two balances within the first six months of the year!
  5. Pay off remaining medical bills. We have a couple smaller bills, mostly leftover from Crosby's birth. We made good progress on these in 2018, so I think we can probably knock these out toward the middle of 2019 too!

HEALTH
I want to continue working on living a healthier lifestyle with manageable and realistic goals for my busy schedule.
  1. Go to the gym at least 2 mornings per week. Guys, there is a Crunch gym in my office building. I literally have no excuses.
  2. Run a half marathon. I genuinely thought this was going to be one that I crossed off my list in 2018. A week before my scheduled half marathon in July, I found out I was going to have to start running my Farmers' Market single-handedly so I had to drop out. Thankfully, I was able to defer my registration until the following year's race, so here's hoping I can get my butt in shape to run it this summer!
  3. Attend yoga class at least once per month. We have a really great little yoga studio in my town that offers a "Wednesday Midweek Unwind." The few times I've managed to make it there, I've absolutely loved it. I'd like to try getting there at least once per month and if I can get into that habit, maybe making it a weekly thing!
  4. Plan one vegetarian meal per week. I've done a really good job the last two years of figuring out what foods work for my body and which ones don't. Although I definitely splurged around Christmas, for the most part I avoid eating grains and sugar. I'd also like to start reducing my meat intake. I was vegetarian for five years before Chuck and I got married and I'd like to get back to my plant-based roots.

HOME
I love, love, love my house and making it more of a home is one of my favorite things to do.

  1. Finish converting upstairs room to a fourth bedroom. I wrote a post in 2015 about how this was the first house project I wanted to tackle and 3 years later, it still hasn't happened. There are a lot of cosmetic upgrades I'd like to make over the years, but honestly the only thing that needs to happen from a structural standpoint is to install a window.
  2. Convert downstairs bedroom into an office/guest room. Once we get Charlie moved from his downstairs bedroom to the renovated upstairs room, I'd like to make our downstairs bedroom more habitable for when my Mom and sister come to visit.
  3. Remodel downstairs half bathroom into a full bathroom. Right now we only have one usable bathroom in our house. It's mildly annoying in the mornings with all four of us, but is downright inconvenient when we have guests. We have a powder room in our basement, but the toilet leaks so we've stopped using it and I'd really like to add a stall shower so that we have another usable bathroom for guests. 
  4. Landscape the front yard. One of my favorite parts of our house when we bought it were the two trees in our front yard that bloomed every spring. They were so stinkin' pretty, but unfortunately we lost them both in November when Ohio got hit with a nasty ice storm. Our front yard now looks totally awful and bare, so we need to do some work to bring back its curb appeal. I don't know if we can afford to hire a professional landscaping company, but at the very least, I know there are little things that we can take on ourselves to make it more aesthetically pleasing. 
LIFE
These are a few of the random, miscellaneous things that I'd like to see happen in 2019 for me and my little family.
  1. Adopt a four-legged friend. I have puppy fever!! Both my boys are very skittish around bigger dogs so I think it's really important for them to grow up with a pet and learn a healthy respect for animals. Because I've developed pet allergy as I've gotten older, we would need to get a hypoallergenic breed. Right now, I'm looking at schnauzers and goldendoodles, but it will probably just depend on whatever pup happens to be available when it's time for us to commit. 
  2. Take a kid-free weekend getaway. I know my Mom wants to take the boys at some point during the summer, so hopefully Mommy and Daddy can have some time for a pre-anniversary trip!
  3. Take a photography or cooking class. I finally got my DSLR, but I still don't know how to use it. I'm clueless when it comes to photography, but I'd like to learn the basics so I can take better pictures of our family. I've also learned over the last few years that I really love to cook. I attended a cooking class with the Dayton Moms Blog team last winter and had a blast. I think it would be really fun to do another girls' night out or even a date night with Chuck.
The category that completely fell off my list from 2018 to 2019 was blogging. Now that I'm working full-time, I'm not desperately trying to pimp out my blog for side income. And quite frankly, with everything going on in life, it's fallen down my list of priorities. I can't see myself ever truly giving up blogging, But I'm done trying to make my blog into a side hustle and I'm ready to return to just writing for the fun of it.

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So tell me, do we share any of the same goals for 2019?
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