She’s Here!

Well, she wasn’t as early as our first Baby Frugalista (who was five weeks premature), but our second little miss arrived at 37.5 weeks in the same exact manner — my water broke, and off to the hospital we went. My labor had to be induced again, as my body seems not to know how to start contractions on its own, but the experience was relatively positive. Miss Jenna Rose arrived on July 15 weighing 6 pounds and measuring 18 inches long, another little peanut! I delivered at a different area hospital this time, getting a lovely private suite and room-service meals. The baby was born completely healthy and two days later, we were home and a family of four.

 

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She’s 7 weeks old now. Our 3.5-year-old, Emily, has been trying to adjust to her new baby sister as best she can. We’ve had some hiccups with regressions in the area of toileting, but she’s back on track now. It’s tough to lose 100% of your parents’ attention, so we’re trying to make sure she feels as included as possible — she gets her own Mommy or Daddy & Me time.

I’m on maternity leave until November, and like last time, I’m torn between enjoying my time at home with my children and missing work. We’ve arranged daycare for Jenna when I go back to work, and Emily will be in preschool. Thankfully, my father-in-law has retired and will be able to help with pickup and aftercare until Mr. NSF gets home from work (I work later than he does). Hopefully all will go smoothly!

Summer Infant Customer Service

After expressing my displeasure about my Summer Infant baby monitor breaking after just a few months and posting the link to my blog on Twitter and writing to them through their website, the company immediately responded. Besides the fact that the monitor broke pretty quickly, I was peeved that you couldn’t buy JUST the monitor to replace a broken one — you had to shell out almost $240 for an entirely new system.

After some back-and-forth, Summer Infant decided to send me a new monitor, despite not having a gift receipt or the box any longer. That’s some great customer service. I had the replacement monitor within a week. A good thing, too, as I couldn’t see our 2-year-old on the screen any longer.

I appreciate the faith they had in me, that my gripe was legitimate (it, of course, was). Of course, this gets them a little bit of good press, too.

Little Bites: Yes, I’m Still Here

When I had our daughter — who is now 28 months old! — I knew this blog would become less and less of a priority. In addition to fewer blog posts, I’ve also been drifting away from personal finance-related topics. Sure, finances are a major consideration when you’re raising a family, and a lot of what goes on in our lives nowadays relates to money. But I’ve chosen to spent most of my free moments with Emily, who is an incredibly spirited toddler who keeps us on our toes and challenges us to whip out our best parenting skills, especially when she’s in public.

Refinancing the Mortgage = More Money Toward Debt Repayment

Our mortgage refinancing was completed in February, and our first payment came due April 1 — it felt great to pay $360 less than we had been on the old mortgage. Those extra funds have been going toward paying off our credit card debt, and we’ll be making the last payments on that in the next two weeks. It’s exciting, since we haven’t have zero balances on our credit cards since before Emily was born, back in early 2011.

Two-year-olds and Tantrums

In the parenting vein, holy terrible twos. Along with the language burst came explosions in the way of tantrums. Emily’s learned to express herself AND toss her little body on the floor like a wet noodle if we dare to tell her she can’t do something. There’s no holding back Miss Independent! Except, we have to hold her back, because she doesn’t know any better. So we’re working on teaching her limits. “No, you can’t play on the Nook again!”

Our First Post-Baby Weekend Away

Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I booked a weekend getaway for just the two of us — sans toddler. We’re not venturing too far, only an hour away, but it will be nice to spend time together as a couple without the parenting duties. I’m sure I’ll be a worrywart while we’re gone, but it will also be nice to partake in some cocktails at an oceanfront bar. It’s just a motel, but we’re paying for proximity to the ocean. So it’ll be worth is (as long as the weather cooperates!).

Learning to Play Piano

Our daughter, Emily (yes, she has a name! — I’m already tired of calling her Miss Frugalista) will be two years old on Groundhog Day, February 2. These past two years have flown by. Every day she does something new, says a new word, and continues to make us laugh until we’re giggling right along with her.

When I was a kid, I took piano lessons at our house with a young woman, whose name escapes me at the moment. I want to say Tina, but I’m not 100% on that [correction: my dad says her name was Nancy]. I liked her a lot. She moved to France for a year in order to study the instrument further, and recommended her own piano teacher to us, as she was local.

This woman was older, and only gave lessons at her home, where she taught individually and in a group, since she had 3-4 pianos laying around her large Victorian-style home. But this woman was beyond strict, reminding me of a Catholic nun schoolteacher. “Loosen up your wrists!” she would bark, making her point by grabbing my forearms and forcing my hands to flop up and down.

The worst part was the recitals. I hated performing in front of people, and I could barely practice at home if anyone was watching me (or even in the same room). Eventually, I gave up the lessons, but stuck with another instrument, the violin, which I had picked up in 5th grade when my grammar school forced it upon me.

Up until a few years ago, I brought my childhood spinet piano from apartment to apartment, which was an incredible pain in the ass. I never had it tuned [2nd Dad correction: we had it tuned by a blind piano tuner after getting the secondhand piano through a family friend], so after a handful of moves, it sounded terrible. Every once in a while, I’d have a few-month run of regular practicing, after which I’d be able to play well enough to not embarrass myself in front of a crowd. Not that it ever happened, because I still hated playing in front of anyone.

Eventually, I gave up my piano, donating it to a Newark, N.J. charter school where my cousin taught. Mr. Not-So-Frugal would later buy me a more-compact replacement, a 72-key keyboard.

After putting it away for a while, I pulled it out last year and began to play a bit again. Then Emily began to take an interest in it — it took her a while to stop pushing all the other buttons, but she likes it. “Pan! pan!” she yells now when she wants to play. I hoist her up onto the seat and she starts poking at the keys and laughing her bright little-girl laugh when she gets a good set of noises out of the keyboard.

It’s inspired me to sit down at night, too, poking away at the keys and sight-reading music I haven’t looked at in years. Last night, I lost myself in the music for a good 45 minutes.

Maybe one day, I’ll be showing her how to play scales. Maybe it’ll turn into a lifelong interest in music. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.

Toys, Toys, Toys: How Much Do You Spend on Christmas Presents for Your Kid?

Our daughter is two months shy of her second birthday, and we’re already drowning in toys. Between last Christmas and her first birthday, she got an incredible haul. Since February, I’ve only bought her two toys — a Fisher-Price dollhouse and a small talking Mickey Mouse. She’s been incredibly happy with all of the toys she has at our home, my in-laws’ house and the babysitter’s place.

I’ve been rotating through what she currently has — only half of the toys are out at any given time, because otherwise, the playroom is an incredible mess and she doesn’t play with anything. Grandma and Pop have bought her a few more things over the past year for their place, and our amazing babysitter has also added to her collection.

Now Christmas is upon us again, and her birthday is barely 6 weeks after that. I think my plan of action will be to pack away the toys she hasn’t played with in a while to make room for what’s sure to be another avalanche of gifts. We’re still trying to figure out what to buy her because there’s so much stuff out there. Santa’s going to bring her a toddler-sized table and chairs, and an art easel, but I think a trip to the toy store is in order. We get a kick out of shopping for her — and it makes us feel like kids again, too.

Do We Spend Too Much on Christmas Gifts?

Last year we spent about $250 on gifts for Miss Frugalista. Some people think that’s a lot of money for Christmas presents, and some people don’t think it’s enough. It’s a happy medium for us. Her birthday was closer to $50. Depending on what we decide to get her from Santa, it could be more or could be less. I’ll try to buy toys at the lowest price out there, but it seems like every retailer — online and off — has been using the same prices. And there’s no way I’m going shopping on Black Friday. That’s craziness.

It’s also an expensive few months because we hit a trifecta of birthdays this time of year: mine is in December, Mr. Not-So-Frugal’s is in January and then the little miss’ is February. Hubby and I are not exchanging birthday gifts, and we’re limiting Christmas presents to each other.

How much do you spend on Christmas presents for your kids? There’s no right or wrong answer, but this is the one time I get a kick out of emptying my wallet!

My Child Doesn’t Sit Still

Miss Frugalista is turning into a (much cuter version) of the Energizer bunny — she just keeps going, and going, and going.

And I’m having a hard time keeping up with her!

Now, I realize I’m also one of those always-going people. In fact, my endocrinologist asked if I worked out a lot because my pulse is always so low. I almost died laughing at that one. I don’t exactly have an athletic build — in fact, an old softball teammate remarked that it was ‘painful’ to watch me run. You can’t run too gracefully with these curves.

Anyway, back to my point, that I’m always doing something. I could be painting trim, putting up sheetrock, planing doors or working in the yard at any given time. I don’t know what downtime is. Mr. Not-So-Frugal knows that it’s like pulling teeth to get me to sit down and watch a TV show — even if it’s one I like. I don’t have an “off” switch.

That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our daughter is turning out to be a mini-me. Other mothers tell me all about how their similarly-aged child will sit on a blanket with them at the park in a shade and play with toys, or sweetly pass out on the couch (or, even more oddly, on a baby trampoline, but that’s neither here nor there).

My child? She’s just turned 17 months old and is already climbing the stairs standing up and holding the railing on one side, and holding my hand on the other. She’s picking up her little leg and trying to swing it over any obstacle that gets in the way of her running like a loon around the house. Baby gate? Leg goes up. Crib? Leg goes up. Thank goodness she’s still short, but I’m counting the days until she figures out how to escape the crib. THEN we’re in trouble.

Forget trying to corral her. If she’s feeling too-contained, she will point and whine and plead her case until you get her out of what I lovingly call “baby jail.” A trip into Mommy’s office results in all of the books being pulled off the bookshelves. Bath time never involves just sitting in the 3 inches of water and playing — she’s standing and trying to turn on the faucet. And her idea of unwinding before bedtime is to take the two 2-foot-wide pillows from the futon in her room, lay them on the ground, and JUMP on them, face/belly first. So, dear readers, you can see how exhausted I am. My only solace is that she really doesn’t get herself into trouble.

We’re going to a trip to North Carolina next month, where we’ll be the only ones out of our group of 12 friends who has a child. Folks, I hope you’re ready for the Tasmanian Toddler — we’re gonna need a lot of sangria after she goes to bed!