Where in the world are the BEs?

Back to work.  That’s where we are.  I hate that I haven’t been blogging.  I really do.  But life has gone back to normal only now there’s another little human that needs attention and snuggles and my boobs, so I’ve been MIA. 

I remember when I was pregnant with Ellie.  A friend was describing life with two to me.  She said, “You know how you feel like you have hardly any time for yourself now?  Take that little bit of time away.”  And she was right.  Very, very right.  Still, I wouldn’t change a thing and I know that this time where Ellie and Ben are so young and need me so very much is short and precious.

Moving on…..I posted on facebook about my family celebrating our two year anniversary of our debt diet and I promised I’d blog more specific details about it.  I’m pretty sure I probably make some people uncomfortable when I talk about money.  It’s so taboo in our society, like I’m walking around in my knickers or something.  But really, I’m over it.  Debt is a HUGE issue in our country and if sharing my story of how we are clawing our way out of it helps somebody else then that’s good stuff.

Where did our debt come from?  I would love to say it came from amazing vacations.  Man, do I wish I could say that!  Sadly, it didn’t.  The debt, in a nutshell, is as follows: mortgage, student loans (lots of student loans), a car payment and two credit cards.  And the two credit cards only have sucky stuff on them.  Basically, one of our dogs had a major accident with a wheelbarrow a few years ago.  I’ll spare you the horrific details.  She had to go to an emergency animal hospital that was EXTREMELY misleading about the costs of her treatment.  We thought we were getting into a financial situation that we could manage and her treatment ended up being three times the maximum price they quoted us.  I can’t talk about it too much or my blood pressure goes up.  But what could we do?  At that point, our sweet Katie was safely out of surgery and needed care that only a 24 hour animal hospital could give her.  Our hands were tied.  The other suckage on our credit card is because one day it started to rain inside our house.  We decided that was not a water feature we were into and immediately got a new roof.  Cha ching. Cha sad face ching.

We’ve been using the principles from the book, The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey (why can’t I figure out how to underline?  I have to underline a book title!).  The book is fantastic, simple, honest and has lots of testimonials in it to keep you motivated.  The basic gist of it, and I’m grossly oversimplifying right now, are create a $1,000 mini-emergency fund, figure out a monthly budget, create a chart of your debt in order from least to greatest (including monthly minimum payments) and dump any and all money you have into your smallest debt while paying minimums on everything else.  Once the smallest debt is paid off, you move on to the second smallest debt, only now you take the payment you were making on debt #1 and put it towards debt #2, creating a snowball effect.  Get it?

In our first year, we paid off $12,201.13.  That means we paid down, on average, $1,220.11 per month (I don’t include July and August for us because I don’t get paid during those months and our budget switches over to survival mode).  We created our mini-emergency fund and paid off our two smallest debts.  This year, we paid off $7,765.96.  We paid down, on average, $1,109.42 per month (I am only including seven months in this which I’ll get to next).  We paid off our next smallest debt and have less than $2,500 left on the debt after that. 

There were hurdles this year as expected.  I took a 5 month maternity leave (hence the 7 months number when I did the averaging).  We had to completely gut a room for Ellie’s nursery complete with new windows, insulation, walls and doors.  And wowza, did the cost of materials go up since my husband did Ben’s nursery.  Damn you, housing market crash.  There were some obvious expenses related to Ellie like her car seats.  We had a $1,000 car repair (in our final month when I was so excited to rally and see how much more debt we could chip away at in the final days).  Ben’s food allergies continue to blow my grocery budget out of the water.  That’s about it.  Oh, and the biggie.  How did I forget it?  My take home pay shrunk again as I’m now in my 3rd and not far from my 4th year without a contract.  Governor Christie’s moves to increase my pension and health insurance contributions have eaten away about $400 of my take home each month.  My lack of a contract is another issue I can’t really talk about without getting extremely, extremely angry.

I also forgot about another major issue this year.  It relates back to my lack of a contract.  Basically, the raise I anticipated way back when would’ve went towards Ellie’s daycare expenses.  And that raise still has not arrived.  So the money had to come from somewhere.  It came from the student loan payments.  They’ve been deferred for a while now.  It kills me.  Are you ready for this?  In the 10 months they’ve been deferred, they have accrued an additional $1,925.42 in accrued interest.  Gah, it’s like a knife to the heart.  That amount was deducted from our total debt paid off.  It hurts to think about.  Once I have a contract, I’ll be back on track but I don’t know when that’s going to happen.  I really truly never thought this contract fight would’ve gone on for so long.

Our budgeting effort was not nearly what it could’ve been this year.  That’s on me.  I’m the chief financial officer in this house and frankly, I was freaking pregnant and ex.haust.ed.  Working full time plus chasing Ben was all I could manage.  Then Ellie was born and I was ex.haust.ed.  Working full time plus chasing Ben plus caring for Ellie is all I can manage.  I’m hoping that I can step it up now that Ellie is almost a year and maybe (maybe??!! Please??!!) will start sleeping through the night.  Ever.  Seriously, she still gets up 2-3 times a night.  She’s nocturnal, like a hamster.  A really cute hamster.   

Any questions about our debt diet?  Give me a shout.



11 hours to go

Tomorrow my sweet baby girl will turn five months old and her mommy will return to work.  That’s a crappy way to celebrate.

Just for tonight

“He’s still allergic.”  I knew he was going to say it.  The nurse had already spoken the same words and yet my heart was so heavy to hear them from the doctor.

Ben and I made the drive home from the allergist, him chattering away and me grateful that my tears were masked by the darkness. 

My son can’t have dairy, gluten, strawberry or tomato.  We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of his allergy diagnosis and I had pushed for the doctor to retest early.  Because what if?  What if he had outgrown something and we wasted six more months avoiding it while we waited the full eighteen months to retest?

And I really try and, for the most part succeed, to focus on my gratitude.  Thank God Ben doesn’t have something worse like cancer.  Thank God he doesn’t have an anaphylactic reaction to anything.  Thank God he’s not allergic to more.  Thank God he’s so much healthier since we learned about his allergies.  Thank God he can run, skip, jump, talk, laugh.  Thank God for this amazing, sweet, beautiful boy that is the center of my universe.  Thank God.  Thank God.  Thank God.

But tonight, I’m just sad.  I’m sad for all the Halloween candy my sweet little pirate will have to trade in for allergy safe candy at the end of the night.  I’m sad for the cupcakes he can’t have at birthday parties.  I’m sad for the anxiety that comes with any social gathering.  I’m sad for the question I endlessly answer, “Mommy, am I uhh-yergic to this?”  I’m sad for his face every time my answer to that question is yes.  I’m sad for every time his response is, “It’s okay, Mommy.  I’ll ask Santa to bring me one I’m not uhh-yergic to.”  I’m sad for our loss of spontaneity.  I’m sad for no more pizza dates with my favorite boy.  I’m sad for my constant hovering when we’re out and about, surrounded by all these foods that so easily make him sick.  I’m sad that I can’t treat him to a Happy Meal just because.  I’m sad that I get annoyed when people don’t get just how much stuff has his allergens in them.  I’m sad for his limited choices when we go anywhere.  I’m sad that I get frustrated when people oversimplify the whole thing with suggestions like he just needs gluten free pizza crust without thinking about the cheese and the tomato sauce.  I’m sad that I can’t watch him discover so many foods that are a regular part of other kids’ childhoods.  I’m sad for our trips to the boardwalks and amusement parks.  I’m sad that I can’t make scone with him using the recipe that’s been passed down from generation to generation in my family.  I’m sad that he rarely gets the cookie or treat that looks like all the other kids’.  I’m sad for the guilt that I have when I sneak away to eat something he can’t have.  I’m sad that he pretends to check the ingredients on items when we’re food shopping. 

And tomorrow I’ll go back to gratitude, but tonight…..tonight I’m just sad.

And then he redeems himself

Ben was ornery today.  He got up from his nap before I did.  He chose to wake me (and Elise) by having a screaming tantrum about 6 inches from my face.  Very unimpressive stuff.  The afternoon through bedtime continued with about the same behavior.  And I hate to say this (I feel like a terrible mommy when I say this), but I was not enjoying him.  I was faking enjoyment through some parts, but overall, I just kind of wanted to curl into a ball.  And maybe rock back and forth a little.  I got him in the shower before bed, told him he could play for a few minutes and that I’d be back to wash him up.

This is what I came back to…..

I love being a mom.

What did your kid do today that made you smile?

Clomid, will you be my Valentine?

I’ve hemmed and hawwed about whether I should include the story of our struggle to conceive Ben in Life with BE.  Afterall, I wouldn’t be where I am without my journey through  infertility.  But the whole thing was so intensely private and painful.  And difficult for people on the outside to understand.  I was open about the factual aspects of infertility with plenty of folks, but only shared with a select few how I was actually feeling about all of it.  Like deep down feeling about it.  Because I wasn’t doing well at all.  It was not my finest year by any stretch.  After some pondering, I’ve decided to include a handful of moments, realizations and snapshots from a heartrending road that lead to a breathtaking destination. 

February 2008, a few months in to realizing there’s an issue

I spent Valentine’s Day with my gynecologist. If I can be completely honest, it wasn’t as romantic a holiday as I was hoping for (I blame it on the speculum sitting on the counter beside me). My gyno had previously hoped the first batch of progesterone would get me right on track and then it would be clear sailing. But I was back in the office with my crappy chart on Valentine’s. To celebrate, my doc had also brought my crappy bloodwork results. I hadn’t ovulated.

The gyno was still positive. I’d take the progesterone again to start a new cycle, I’d start Clomid, we’d throw in some more bloodwork. Honestly, 90% of my brain was thinking, “I’m just having issues from being on the pill so long.” The other 10%, the deep-down-keep-it-to-myself part, was starting to freak out. What if it’s a real problem? What if it’s not just from coming off the pill?

We wrapped up the appointment with a solid plan and I headed up to the front desk with my check out paper from the doctor in hand. I stopped dead in my tracks about halfway there. Under “Reason for Visit”, my doctor had checked off “Infertility”.

It actually took my breath away….like I was punched in the stomach. One little check in a teeny tiny box stopped my world on its axis for just a moment. Really??!! You’re already calling it infertility?? We’re already calling it infertility?? I’m not ready to call it that.

I got in my car and just sat there, the word infertile bouncing around in the empty silence. And then, I got angry at my gynecologist. Like I wanted to go back in that office and, in front of his patients, yell at him. The only words I could come up with were f*ck you with some c’mons and seriouslys thrown in. I decided that would not be a very wise choice. Instead I went home, feeling angry and sad about a little check in a teeny tiny box.

So much for clean

While burping my daughter just now, I realized she’s smells a bit like mildew.  For those of you who don’t know me from daily life, I have a freakish sense of smell.  It’s both a curse and a blessing.  So Ellie smells icky.  I conclude that the large load of lights I did a couple days ago must have stayed in the washer too long….as in the large load of all four family members’ clothes that I dryed, folded, and put away.  If I don’t dig through and find the clothes now, this one load will haunt me for weeks to come.   

I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart doesn’t have these kinds of problems.      

A new beginning

I blogged previously during one of the darkest times of my life.  I was struggling to conceive my son, Ben, and struggling to understanding why I was infertile.  I turned to blogging as an outlet and was shocked by how much the blog helped me through my journey, both through my own words as well as others’ words of encouragement and support.

This time around is completely different.  I’m blogging to capture the best time of my life.  My time with my kids as my husband and I navigate our way through raising two young children.  So frequently I find myself in the middle of something magical with one of the kids and I’m trying to burn the moment into my brain.  But I know, over time, I’ll forget so many of the little details that I’m begging to hold on to.  So I’m taking pen to paper (sort of) as a way to remember all the minutiae of this chaotic, funny, stressful, fantastic time in my life that is flying by so fast. 

Ben is 3 years old and so spirited.  And by spirited, I mean he’s a little hellion right now.  He is freakishly energetic (seriously, the cleaning I could accomplish with that kind of energy), stubborn and argues for argument’s sake.  And he is wonderful.  I mean it.  He’s this amazing kid who has these moments where I just want to freeze time because everything is so perfect that my heart just aches.  And thank God he has these moments.  These moments are what keep me from selling him on Craig’s List.  Elise is 3 months old.  I was really scared to have two kids.  Scared I couldn’t love her the way I love Ben despite everybody’s assurances that I could and would.  She completes our family.  She’s this exquisite little human with the biggest smile.  She adores her brother.  She prefers quiet.  She lights up our home.  She also farts like a grown man. 

When Joe and I chose to name our daughter Elise, I looked for meaning in the combination of our kids’ names.  I loved how they went together.  Ben and Elise.  Sounded very timeless.  But was there more to it?  Like how in my family all the kids’ names start with ‘M’…..except mine because I’m clearly the black sheep accident tacked on at the end who got the ‘J’ name (I jest.  They couldn’t think of any good ‘M’ names so my dad chose the name Jacquelyn.  My sister, Marybeth, pushed for Marmaduke and was defeated thankfully). 

So was there anything to their names, I wondered?  I mulled the whole thing over.  Just B.E.  Just BE.  Just be.  And I loved it.  Because it reminds me of exactly what I need to do as I raise these two beautiful children.  Just be.  In the moment.  With them.  As they grow.  And learn.  And share.  And question.  And celebrate.   And love.  Just BE.  And so here is the story, my many little chapters, of life with BE.

It’s Georgia’s fault

I had every intention of creating my first blog post tonight.  I really did.  Got the basics of the blog up and running.  Ready to create my first post.  But my two dogs are laying outside of my office and one of them (Georgia, I suspect because that’s just like her) has terrible gas.  The smell has run me out of my own office.  What a classy start to this blog.