Baby’s Piggy Bank

Do you know how much kids cost? I am not talking about babies, but your children, ages 0-24 years old. It did not take me long to start looking at ways to save money and accumulate some wealth for baby when I got pregnant. Well knowing how much a little human being can cost throughout the stages of their life, it was crucial that I start looking at investment accounts of some sort for the the little one. From doctor’s visits, swim lessons, trips, activities, to college, children are expensive (just ask my parents), so let’s debunk the myth that only babies are expensive. ALL CHILDREN at ALL AGES cost money.

So when I started looking, I immediately thought of college first. I was one of those lucky people where my parents paid for college, but you never know where you are going to be in your life when it is time for your children to go off to school, so this is an excellent place to start.

529 College Savings Plan– Not only do these plans grow tax deferred, but they are also tax-free for qualified withdrawals. Yes, they grow at a slow rate (much like a mutual fund that you use for a 401k), but the whole point of these is to start early. In my opinion, 18 years early is never too early. Keep in mind an investor can look into using different states’ plans, depending on what they want to achieve and are not stuck using their own. Just choose a plan, an investment company, a monthly amount you want to contribute, stick to it, increase it, and watch your portfolio grow. I personally went with Merrill Lynch when I was seven months pregnant. You can open a plan under your name and then switch it to the munchkin’s.

Stock Options- If you want to see a larger rate of return in a shorter amount of time, you can always go with stock options. My daughter is six months old and I just started doing this. It is riskier, but if you are liquid and know what stocks you can buy and hold, then you will be fine. Some examples to buy are Amazon, Apple, Alphabet… the list can go and on, but I highly recommend you employee a stock broker or at least use an investment company with basic trading recommendations (such as Merrill Edge).

401K– If you are not contributing to your 401K, do it now. This is your retirement tool, not your child’s college fund. Don’t skimp on those contributions at a 3 or 5% rate, make it hurt. This entails going into your 401K account and physically changing the contribution amount- just do it.

The Old Piggy Bank– You are going to laugh, but much holds true to the saying “Cash is King.” Obviously I am not talking about stuffing $100 bills under your mattress, but keep a savings account for baby. If you are investing in a College Fund for the little one, open up a savings account. The money grandma and grandpa give them on Christmas, the $50 check that was sent for her birthday, as well as any monthly spare change you have, save it. The College Fund won’t cover personal expenses, so if your bigger baby wants to buy a car at 16 and you want to help them, then this is where that savings account comes in.

You will find this funny, but my hubby puts all his spare change in our daughter’s actual piggy bank. I then take it at the end of the month and deposit it in her account. It’s a very cute and fun way to save for your kids, and later on you can teach them the meaning of saving using that same little bank by doing chores or other things that make them well-behaved kids.

 

image1

Livia’s First Piggy Bank (compliments of my mom)

The Executive Mom

Times are changing and so are moms. But do any of you have times where you wish that you could be a stay at home mom because you feel you are losing time with your baby (and we ever so wish they could stay teeny tiny)?

I’ll admit I’ve had that feeling. I tried staying home for a week and said, ok- this is not for me. I do believe, however,  that there needs to be a strong balance between both work and being a mother, as one or the other can easily consume. In my case, work was cosuming my life and I would bring it (and a crappy attitude) back home. I was not only managing two different products, but a very large group of people that reported directly to me. I had becomed accustomed to this as the Logistics and Customs Brokerage business can be pretty demanding and I managed like Sandra Bullock on The Proposal, but doing this with a new baby was a whole new dimension of crazy.

I missed my daughter and also hated the fact that I would come home tired, in a bad mood, and would only get to see for 30 minutes before she went to bed. I was also starting to thing, “Is this stress really worth it?” Suddenly two months ago and out of nowhere, a recruiter for a competitor reached out to me and asked if I was interested in an executive position as a subject matter expert for sales that focused on A level clients. She was looking for a hunter, but also mentioned that I could home office and plan my travel as I deemed necessary.

This sounded perfect. I bounced the idea off my family, friends, and also took a vast amount of time to contemplate the opportunity. I had been managing people, a regulatory environment, and a P&L for almost five years now and going back to sales and development (where I first started my career) was going to be a complete 180 degree turn. But the idea of having the mental space and time to organize my life and prioritize was extremely appealing. In short, I took the job and here I am. So far, this is my third day and I already feel a large weight has been lifted off. Not because the expectations are less (if anything, they are more), but because I can actually focus on the end goal and I am not being pulled in ten different directions.

So what is the point of this? If you are a new mom and have always been used to working, don’t stop for fear that you are going to miss out on your baby’s first couple of months. Yes, it does suck when you go back to work, but if you feel like you are spending more than you should in the office, do not immediately think you need to stop working. Go find something else that motivates you, makes you happy, and allows you to spend that time you want with baby and the family. There are opportunities out there, you just need to look (or maybe they will find you)!

Happy Hunting.

 

 

You & I (and our baby)

Couples with children often forget to separate some time for themselves to reconnect as partners.

Right on Livia’s six month birthday, we decided to take a little R&R at the beach in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca to spend some quality time with each other, have some adult time with friends, and leave our little one in the care of my parents.

Let me tell you, I was so excited for this trip as I knew we could use some much needed time together, but I was also dreading leaving our baby for four days straight. I had just stopped breast feeding, so I was a little apprehensive about the whole situation and seriously felt she would forget who her mother was.

The moment we dropped her off with my parents I got teary eyed, but my hubby was super supportive and reassured me, as did my parents.

It is hard leaving something you love so much behind- but I also knew I had to take care of us as a relationship. Plus we weren’t going anywhere far and I knew my mom had been looking forward to taking care of her for some time now.

So now we returned from our travels and I can tell all new moms and dads one thing- rip the bandaid and take the trip. Yes, you’ll want to talk to your baby every day, but you’ll also get some much needed sleep and relaxation without having to worry about what time baby will be hungry or cranky. You’ll get to cuddle and sleep in, as well as have fun going out and getting pampered with a massage or two.

We had a great time together at the beach, spoke to Livia every day, and enjoyed ourselves.

One thing that I think is very important is that you need to put yourselves first as a couple in order to move forward as a family. Show your children how much you care, love, and respect each other so that they can learn to act the same way in the future. Strong together is better than strong alone because your messages and lessons will be more concrete and hold more stance in your kids’ eyes.

Yes, you’ll get occasional feelings of guilt for leaving your children behind, but it needs to happen for everyone’s sanity and to ensure that they are also used to being around different people. After all, who is going to stay around after you send your kids off to college? Your significant other.

(I will tell you, though, the moment I saw my daughter at the airport coming back from the beach, my heart exploded.)

A Different Set of Arms

Let’s face it. We’ve all been here pre-baby- you are sitting in a plane minding your own business, getting ready to sleep or work when suddenly a person toting a baby sits right next to you and you think FML.

I am now the person toting the baby and thankfully she has been a blessing as she is a great traveler, except for this last time. Livia is six months old and the hubby and I decided to take our first vacation sans baby to Puerto first Escondido, Oaxaca and had to drop her off in Mexico City with my parents.

Everything was going perfect at the airport, until we got on the plane and she just got a bout of instant fussiness. She switched from arm to arm back and forth between us, until all of a sudden a lady appeared out of nowhere and asked if she could hold her. Surprised, but in need of a much needed break, we said ok and she stood there rocking my daughter (who to everyone’s surprise, calmed down and started laughing). We were shocked.

I remember my mother telling me that sometimes babies need a different set of arms. We sat there on the plane talking to this lady for about 40 minutes and I remember thinking, god bless her. This different set of arms theory works! Babies do feel the parents’ energy and quite frankly, the hubby and I were feeling frazzled and exasperated. This lady approached us with good vibes and positive energy, and immediately turned my daughter’s mood around.

So my advise to those pre-baby travelers is, don’t be afraid to offer your help if you see parents struggling on your flight, smile, offer words of encouragement, and if you dare- offer to give them a break. You’ll probably get a polite, “no thank you,” but that will have an immediate impact on how the parents feel at that very moment in a pretty stressful situation.

Happy travels 🙂

5 of the Most Useless Baby Products

Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion on this subject, as some things work for some parents and some things don’t. I have, however, compiled a list of my top 5 most useless baby products that I have come across with hopes that this will at the very least keep you informed and save you some much needed cash for other, more useful things- like diapers, Desitin, and swaddles.

Looks can be deceiving, so no matter how cool an object looks, research it first!

So here we go…

1. Wipe Warmer– When I first found this on Amazon, I was flabbergasted. I don’t think any parents before 2010 used a wipey warmer. My baby will not be raised having her butt cleaned with warmed wipes only to become the most demanding child in the planet. I call this the “wipey warmer” syndrome. I could already see her asking me warm her towels in the drying machine.

2. Premium Bottle Warmer– unless you are willing to wait 20 minutes for the bottle to warm while your little one is throwing an ever loving fit, then go for it. You will but wait only once. I personally prefer the old stovetop method, especially if you have a gas stove.

3. Temperature bath ducky– seriously, just stick your elbow in the water.

4. Baby Knee Pads- is your baby rollerskating? Probably not, let them figure out the crawling thing on their own, which we’ve doing for thousands of years.

5. Pacifier Wipes– Seriously.

What have you found to be the most useless baby product?

What are you feeding your baby?

I have heard so many different schedules and parenting hacks for baby foods, from eating super-charged lactation cookies to increase breast-milk production and using the latest bottle warming technology (this thing takes forever, I prefer the old stove-top option), all the way to baby food processors and baby formula pod Keurig machines.

My method was pretty simple. I knew I wanted to breastfeed my daughter as long as I could and then introduce a natural diet full of fresh and nutritious ingredients. I breastfed Livia exclusively until she was five months old and then I noticed she started getting more demanding as my work hours got crazier. As committed as I was (I even took a manual breast pump on my ski trip when she was four months old, took my pumping breaks at the tops of the mountains in 10F weather, and  would store the milk in a little backpack until I made my way down the mountain), something had to give.

Taking my mother’s and grandmother’s advice, I started supplementing her breast-milk with evaporated milk and water (an old hack used by countless mothers back in the 60’s and 70’s). I was pretty apprehensive about the whole situation, but Livia sucked that first bottle down in lightning speed and did very well with the initial introduction. I asked several pediatricians what they thought, and I received the same feedback- as long as she is eating and gaining weight, you are gold. Why not formula (I have been asked this several times)? I felt her digestion was very similar to when she was only on breastmilk and she was handling it like a champ. Why change something when it works and is equally healthy?

A month after the fact, I started introducing solid foods because she kept staring longingly at me whenever I had a spoon in my hand. I was so excited to use my Beaba Babycook steamer and blender, so I armed myself with organic  bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and apples and started one new food each week. So far she is absolutely in love with her sweet potatoes. After I steam these, I mix a little bit of evaporated milk to get the consistency where I need it to be, and she is over the moon. As a working mother, it is hard to cook her fresh food on a daily basis. But what I do is simple- I cook once a week and store her food in baby freezer food trays and defrost them on the stove-top, never in the microwave.

So what is the right way? There really isn’t as long as you are raising a healthy and happy baby. There is only your way when it comes to your children. I felt “breast was best” to start off with (but I also was not planning on breastfeeding her into her toddler years), and I also think introducing them to a healthy diet to start off with is crucial. Not only because of their overall health, but because it develops babies into children that are willing to try new things and leaves them less prone to being picky eaters.

Now for those adventurous mamas that are still breastfeeding, but want to be able to go out on a little outdoor adventure like I did- I recommend the Evenflo Manual Breast Pump  , $16.99, Amazon. It worked like a charm and was easy to carry around.

Want to make your own baby’s food? BEABA Babycook 4 in 1 Steam Cooker and Blender, 4.5 cups, Dishwasher Safe, Latte Mint $149.95, Amazon

Need help storing food for the little one? Best Homemade Baby Food Storage Container Freezer Trays  , $18.95, Amazon (the little pods serve as the perfect baby serving and are also easy to take out)

IMG_4298
Homemade sweet potatoes made with the Beaba Babycook and stored in the baby food freezer trays

 

I am a Mom

A second excerpt from 30 Days of Night… 

September 22-Day 2 I am a Mom

I woke up to the sunlight in pain and groggy- one nurse (who I did not like) had been in and out of the room giving me pain killers and trying to get me to wear a belly band. She told me I would also have to try and get up from the bed the next day. I almost had her thrown out of the room, but I was knocked out and in pain. But when I awoke, a new nurse greeted me warmly and she was awesome. Your father had spent the night in the room and was attentive and ready for action.

For some reason, I had developed an affinity for oatmeal overnight so I had breakfast ordered in and quietly ate with you father right next to me. Both grandmothers were about to show up, so I wanted to make sure I was ready to receive them and more importantly, ready to get out of bed and see you.

The friendly nurse came in and gave me a status update on your well-being. Everything was fine and you were being treated and were still hooked up to an IV so they could not give you the colostrum yet. They mentioned they would use it for that night. That was the moment she mentioned it was time for me to try and get out of bed as it was a requirement to make sure that the surgery went as it should have- so we got ready to try.

If I thought that last night’s contractions had been bad, trying to get out of bed was equally painful and brutal. It took your father and the nurse to get me upright with me screaming in pain and tears in my eyes (you will realize that I’ve cried more during these thirty days than I have in the past ten years of my life). After that painful ordeal of them basically dragging me into a wheelchair so I could go down and see you in the NICU ward, I was finally sitting down and ready to go.

Your father gingerly wheeled me out of the room, both of our excitement evident as we made our way through the hallway to the 8th floor- until your father decided to use me as a bumper car and ram me into the elevator door. I remember cussing him to the end of the world because of the uncontrollable pain, but now I laugh at the thought.

We finally got to see you and my heart was so full, it almost exploded. That was when they handed you over to me so I could try and see if I could breastfeed you. Sure enough, the moment you were in arms I instinctively put you towards me breast and you latched on with no issues. I remember giving myself another mental high-five and a pat on the back. Your father was also pretty impressed and I was so proud.

It was you and me and our little moment.

Once we were finished, we went back upstairs as you still had to be monitored. Both grandmas were already in the room and smiling. My mother brought you the cutest white teddy bear with balloons and lollypops, and I immediately thought I wanted one.

We finalized all the paperwork to where your name read Livia Isabella Jackson. Why Livia? It was a strong name, one fit for queens. Livia had been the third wife of emperor Augustus of Rome and considered one of the strongest women in Roman history. My name, Alexandra, was strong and literally meant “Defender of Mankind.” I felt you needed something equally mighty. Despite being tiny at birth, you were small, but strong. Why Isabella? Your father and I fell in love with that name since the very beginning. We had thought about names even before I got pregnant and the name Isabella kept sticking. Plus it was an added bonus that we could call you Bella. Truth be told, your father has liked that name since he saw the movie Twilight.

We spent the day chatting and going over last night’s events. Family called, pictures were taken, and we rejoiced in the fact of your birth. It was a pretty quiet day as I was not ready to receive other visitors, but it was nice to have people that loved you there. It takes a village, and I was beginning to see that.

I still had colostrum I wanted to pump out for you, so I took another try at the pump and rocked on. I pumped out about 18 CCs and had it sent over to the NICU ward for you. Your father cheered me on as he helped me get the pump parts together and sat with me- he was like my pumping cheerleader.

That night I slept soundly and was excited for you to be discharged and in the room with us. I was a Mom.