She's not a baby now

Tomorrow, you will be one year old.

On your third night of life, you reduced me to tears because I couldn't get you to wake up and eat. Tears! I have never been so tired in my entire life.  I was even a surgery intern, once upon a time, I'm very familiar with exhaustion. So congratulations, you have superior exhaustive powers.

You started out as "Peabody," but your dad calls you "Little Bear," which seems more appropriate considering that you are so wild.  You are willing to be held, but you are not amenable to cuddling. You do not tolerate meditative mother-daughter periods, and even our bedtime rituals are all-business.  Sometimes, however, when you aren't quite ready to go to sleep, you reject my arms, and demand your father's.  Sometimes a girl just needs her daddy, you see.

You have more facial expressions than a mime.  I literally feel sad sometimes that my eyes are not cameras, because I will catch glimpses of you in positions or in lighting that breaks my heart with your perfection, and I want to share those moments with everyone.  However, you rarely hold still long enough for pictures, because you are constantly on the go.  Sometimes you flash this silly, adorable, toothy grin that makes you look like a demented bunny, and your dad thinks it's really funny when you frown, because apparently you look just like me.  When your brother walks into a room, you watch him so expectantly, knowing that sooner or later, he will do something hilarious, and you will laugh uproariously.  The first time you laughed, I thought I would die of joy.

When you were just starting to babble, you would stare at completely blank walls and hold entire conversations. So, I'm fairly certain that you see angels.  And yet, you can be more than a little devilish, like when you cried all the way to Kansas City.  Your brother wanted to give you away that day. And your dad wasn't far behind.  Most of the time, though, you are easygoing and cheerful, which is something you definitely did not inherit through the maternal line.  You have also inherited your father's need to explore, however, which is not something an infant needs.  You scared me so badly the other night when I thought you were about to swallow something you shouldn't have. So badly that I cried from relief because you were still safe.

You love being in water, which I think is funny, because your favorite lullaby is "Baby Beluga".  When we brought you to the river for the Fourth of July fireworks, you were so overstimulated and tired that I thought we would have to leave, but I started singing that song to you and you were instantly calm, like I had thrown a life preserver to someone drowning.  You dance, and you bang on the piano, and you are mesmerized by your Papa playing the guitar. I think you were born with music inside of you.

We seek out and celebrate all of your milestones with such fervor: first smile, rolling over, sitting up, crawling.  I rejoice when you learn something new, like the first day you signed or when you copy a sound after your brother demonstrates.  And yet, I hate that you are growing up, that you aren't the same little freakishly loud, wrinkly-old-man infant we brought home one year ago.  I would freeze time to keep you from changing, because I love every single moment with you and cannot bear for any of the moments to be over.

One time, before you were born, I dreamed that you were not mine, that you existed, but I could not have you.  So I thank God every day when I wake, when you are and that I do.

Happy birthday, little bear.


Mom Rage

I was reading an article this evening about the recent measles outbreak in Texas, and the part about how some of the ill patients were those who could not yet be vaccinated (i.e. poor, defenseless, sweet, innocent babies) struck a chord. Obviously, consideration for people who cannot be vaccinated (which includes poor, defenseless, sweet, innocent children with cancer and other immunosuppressed states) is something those of us who believe in vaccines usually cite as an argument for our side, but I'd never thought of it in such stark reference to my own, too-young-to-get-a-measles-vaccine daughter.
I believe in the right of parents to be fully educated about vaccines, and if you choose not to vaccinate despite that education, our country's laws allow that. However, please then keep your child away from my children, out of common courtesy. Also, because with most illnesses, you become infectious before you're symptomatic (which is how so many people in Texas got exposed...), and because it's impossible for me to fully disinfect every surface that my children might ever touch, that also means stay out of public. I'm serious.
I can't even imagine how I would feel if my daughter were exposed to a preventable and potentially fatal disease by someone who chose not to get their child vaccinated.  I was telling my husband this, and he laughingly said "Would your 'mom rage' come out?"  And the answer is yes. You may have the right to not get vaccinated, but then I would have the right to let my mom rage out. And it is ugly. Consider yourselves forewarned...



Today, when we went to the mall, E offered to push Peabody's stroller through the parking lot. He firmly instructed me to "walk on the outside" to protect her from moving vehicles and said he would protect her on the other side. I reminded him to watch carefully for cars that were backing out, since they would hit his sister first, and he replied "I know. You know, I've always wanted to do something heroic and I've never had the opportunity. But most of the time, I'm glad no one has ever needed me to be heroic."

He is so sweet it hurts my soul. And I'm sure all mothers of small boys think the same thing...


Books and Brilliance

My conversations with E:

"What was your bad thing that happened today?"
"Well, a lot of sad things happened in my book, so that was bad."
"What kind of sad things?"
"Mom! I can't tell you, I'd ruin it for you! I really want you to read it, I think you'd enjoy it."
"Oh, ok. What do you like about it?"
"I like the way you can see the things it's talking about. {sigh} Don't you just love how books can transform your world?"

"Why is gas so expensive? Oh, wait, I know, it's because it's so difficult to obtain. Did you know that in the year 2745 we're going to run out of coal, gas and all our resources? I hope I don't like a miracle life and live to see that, because that will be a sad day."
"Well, we've got several hundred years, maybe we'll figure something else out before then."
"That would take a brilliant scientist."
"That's true.  Maybe that brilliant scientist could be you!"
"No way, mom. There's no way that I could be that 1 in 1000 scientists that would be that brilliant."
"Why not?"
"Well, I've only had two good ideas my whole life, and both of them already existed..."


Crunching Numbers

Today, I present an oversharing post on budgeting.  Now, as I've already made (hopefully) clear, our family is that of the one-income variety. And I'm still in residency, so the pay, while it's obviously more than I've ever made in my life, and is more than a lot of people make, isn't a whole lot for a family of 4 with a mortgage. So this is how we do it.

For some background, when D & I were in college, we were pretty poor. I was a single mom in college by the grace of an academic scholarship and he was a college student in the work-study program.  In med school, I suddenly was blessed with a stipend through a different scholarship.  D had a grown-up job by then, made a heck of a lot of money, and wasn't at home often enough to spend very much.  When we got married, we both through budgetary concerns out the window, bought whatever we wanted, and ate out almost every night.  It's not healthy to have a lot of money when you're very young, by the way. You become greedy and you waste a lot of things.  That changed when we decided to live on my income only, and budgeting became much more important.  It's even more of a factor now that we have 2 children, and a house payment.  So let's dig in.

First off, I went through our bills and factored up the average cost of every single thing we spent money on.  Car payment? Put it on the budget. Water bill? Budget for it. Clothing? Unless you want to be naked... Gas money? Can't walk everywhere in this town, so you'd better have money if you don't intend to take the bus. Even incidentals have to be accounted for. For instance, I noticed that for various reasons over several months, we were spending about $100/month on car maintenance (oil changes, new tires, windshield wipers, whatever). That had to go on the budget, too.  I also calculated how much we were spending on our credit cards every month. This all went into a nice pretty spreadsheet with formulas and labels and everything.

Then, I figured out how much I get paid per month through various sources, did some addition and subtraction and voila! I know how much money I can spend. At the beginning, the numbers in the income bracket were a heck of a lot lower than the ones in the spending column.  So then I went through and decided what we did and didn't need. Cable was unnecessary, so it went.  Eating out is not only expensive, it's bad for the waistline, so that wasn't too hard of a sacrifice.  Home decor changes and upgrades had to be put on hold, for the most part.  A car payment was too high, so the car was traded in (much to my husband's chagrin, and I've promised to make it up to him with a much nicer car when I get real money, so hold me to it, Blogosphere).  I even negotiated our internet bill down by about $15/month.  We stick to a grocery budget now, which prevents me from being brainwashed into purchasing a bunch of junk from the pretty displays at Target. I look at our bills every month and make sure that we're allocating money where it needs to go, and that none of the numbers have changed without me noticing.

The next step, once you've balanced your budget and it's going at a steady rate, is money goals. I keep a list of goals at the bottom of my budget spreadsheet. It includes short-term goals, like "pay hospital bills" and long-term goals, like "pay student loans".  Other examples of goals could be saving up for a vacation, saving for a new baby ;-), saving for that beautiful couch you saw last weekend, paying off a car loan, paying off a credit card bill, you get the picture.

At first, we had to tap into some of our savings, which was a bit of a downer, but now we're able to save a little bit every month, so I feel better about it. We also haven't had to touch D's retirement fund or stock from his old job, so we still have a lot saved up for a rainy day.  Although our grocery budget is tighter now, we definitely don't have to worry about paying for food. We've just changed what we do with the food we get.  I eat leftovers now (something I grew up doing, so I'm not sure how I started thinking it was such an undesirable habit).  E had to finish the breakfast foods we had before I'd buy more breakfast cereal.  It sounds so simple and commonsense, but see my statement above, about how we got careless.  We both come from families that are careful with their money, so we had no excuse other than the fact that we went straight from almost no money to too much money.

As far as how this impacts our kiddos, one of them is too young to care/notice (and her food source is free...).  For E, he doesn't know anything about how the bills get paid anyway.  He asks how much money we have sometimes, but I always dodge the question and say we have enough (haha, which is what my mom always said).  I think the only time he really notices money is when it comes to groceries and eating out.  We try to put the emphasis on health and avoiding waste rather than money, or that we're not eating out because we're saving money for something else, not that we don't have the money to do it.  There are definitely ways to screw with your kids' psyche when it comes to moolah.  One way is to act like you have too much of it and give them everything they have ever wanted, so that they've never had to earn a thing and are incapable of feeling grateful for what they do have.  But I think it's also possible to err in the opposite direction, so that your kids have an overwhelming desire for money and possessions because they never had either.  So we remove money from the equation entirely, and make it more about what we need rather than what we can spend.

There have been a lot of good things about having only one working adult in our family, but I think one of the biggest lessons has been about money. I'm definitely more appreciative now about what we do have. And budgeting took a lot of the question out of our situation. Bills weren't a surprise any more, and when surprises do happen, I can change my numbers around a little bit to find room for negotiation.  It appeals to my obsessive-compulsive side and helps me feel that I have more control in my life overall.  Which is a nice thing to feel in an uncontrollable world!