Happy Birthday to Me

happybirthday

Today is my 32nd birthday. I usually don’t make a big deal out of my birthday, but this one is different for a number of reasons. First off, the last birthday I celebrated in Minnesota was when I turned 18, which feels like a lifetime ago. Celebrating my birthday here this year really affirms the reality that we’ve moved and have started this new adventure.

This isn’t a milestone birthday, but with all of the changes I’ve gone through in the past year it sure feels like one. This last year has brought clarity, purpose and more personal growth than I ever dreamed possible. The following are just a few of things I have incorporated into or experienced in my life that have made this year a life changing one.

The Birth of My Baby Girl

This past year started with the anticipation of Sissy Boo’s birth. Nic and I had gone through the joys of one pregnancy already with Kuya and this time around there were many similarities. Surprisingly, however there were some also big differences. Sissy Boo’s birth was very different from Kuya’s and I truly believe that it was the start of the snowball effect of changes that occurred this past year.

I had so desperately wanted to have an all natural birth with Kuya, but for a number of reasons I ended up getting an epidural and being induced. Physically, I did not feel anything when Kuya was born.

With Sissy Boo, I again desired an all natural birth, and she was ready to give me one after only laboring for about four hours. Going natural was not easy, but it was one of the most amazing things I had ever experienced. At the end of it all, I felt empowered. Empowered because my body and mind were strong enough to handle the intensity. This empowerment made me feel like I could accomplish anything else in my life that I desired and throughout the following months that’s exactly what happened.

Health and Wellness 2.0

When Kuya was born I began experimenting with a healthier lifestyle but what this mostly meant was eating healthier here and there and trying to work out as much as I could. I never wanted to admit that my eating habits needed to drastically change, so I didn’t – until this past year.

During my maternity leave with Sissy Boo I started watching a lot of documentaries about food and I discovered the connection that food has with healing and destroying our bodies. After this, I knew that for the sake of my babies, I needed to make some changes. My sugar detox was one of the most challenging things I took on this last year, but it did change my relationship with food forever. My body has never felt better than it has this past year because of it.

Minimalism

Minimalism has changed my life in countless ways this year. When I returned to work after maternity leave I realized that what I was doing five days a week was not living. I was going through the motions with what I thought life should be like.  

As I started to incorporate minimalism into my life I realized that I could create the life that I wanted and that I did not need to conform to society’s idea of what a successful life should consist of.

Minimalism gave me the courage to leave my corporate job. I didn’t hate my job, I couldn’t complain about my salary and I really enjoyed my co-workers. However, I desperately wanted more time with my babies and I hated that a job dictated where I needed to be five days a week.

I realized that if I filled my life with less physical things I didn’t need as much money as I once thought. So now I fill my life with experiences rather than things and I am so thankful to have discovered this at 31.

I’m very excited for this next year and all of the experiences that are yet to come!

Four Ways I am Embracing Minimalism

minimalism

In the last few months I have really started to embrace minimalism. What I have learned about minimalism is that everyone’s idea of it is different. For some it means living with only the bare necessities and for others it means a nice big farmhouse on a couple of acres. Whatever your definition of minimalism is, at the end of the day it should give you peace and joy in your life.

Minimalism has allowed me to get rid of the things in my life that don’t really matter and that don’t bring me joy. It has given me more time, more money and more peace of mind. The following are four ways I have incorporated minimalism into my life.

How Warren Buffet Taught me to Save for my Kids

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Lack of Money Lessons

When we were younger and received money for birthdays or holidays my father would keep this money in a safe. I don’t think he had any intention to do anything else with the money but to just keep it there. There were no lessons on what we should do or what we could do with the money, so most of the time we just left the money there. There were occasions where my siblings and I would ask for our money to buy a toy or something similar. Depending on the amount requested my father would either give us the money or tell us that the requested amount was too much.

I’m not sure what happened to all of my money, but I’m sure somehow or someway I used it on things like toys and candy.

Now that I have children of my own, I have had to think about how I am going to teach them about money. I don’t blame my parents for not teaching me the things I am learning now, how could they when they didn’t even know themselves? All I know is that I have to do more to instill responsible healthy feelings towards money in my children.

Monetary Gifts Roll In

Most people figure that they will start teaching their kids about money when the children are old enough to ask for stuff like toys, treats or cars. However, I believe it should start well before then. We had a blessing ceremony for Kuya when he was 8 months old and that is where he received his first monetary gifts. Some parents see their child’s gift money as theirs and spend it as is, some parents may “borrow” the money with the intention to pay it back, some stick it in a bank account and some hold onto it and let the child decide what to do with it once they are older like my parents did.

I stuck Kuya’s money in a bank account. Personally, I don’t believe in using money given to my child even if that money is being spent on items for the child, like diapers. Kuya’s birthday rolled around shortly after his blessing ceremony and he received more monetary gifts. I soon started to realize that he had more in savings than many adults did and even though the money was sitting in a high interest savings account I felt that there were probably better options out there.

I discussed options with Nic and we decided to keep the money in the savings account until Kuya started kindergarten. Once that time came, we would transfer whatever he had received up to that point into a 5-year or more CD. That had continued to be the plan until one day when I learned more about Warren Buffet.

My Wikipedia Obsession Pays Off

One thing I like to do in my spare time is read up about people that I find fascinating and discover how they got to where they are today – thank you Wikipedia! Most people know that Warren Buffet is one of the wealthiest men on earth, but I don’t believe a lot of people know his very early childhood story – at least I didn’t. It turns out that Buffet’s attitude towards money began when he was a child. At 11 Mr. Buffet purchased stock for the first time – three shares for himself and three for his sister. He continued investing in businesses through high school and purchasing real estate with savings. By the time Buffet finished college he had more than $90,000 in savings (measured in 2009 dollars). To me this was fascinating. Most adults can’t even fathom the idea of having $90,000 in savings, let alone someone who had just finished college.

I knew after reading this that a CD wasn’t going to give my kids the options they would have with other investments. I will save my overview on the stock market for another post, but at the end of the day we decided to invest Kuya and Sissy Boo’s monetary gifts in index funds. These funds can gain anywhere between 6-9% interest which beats a CD’s 1.25% average.

The following table shows the contrast between a CD and an index fund over 18 years. The calculations were made using the compound interest calculator found here.

CD Index Fund
Interest Rate 1.25% 6-9% (on average)
Initial investment $1,000 $1,000
Monthly Contribution 0* $10
TOTAL after 18 years $1250.58 $6,583

*CDs don’t allow you to add money. The deposit amount is fixed. Another reason why I’m choosing to go with index funds.

The index fund rate used in the table calculations is 6% to be conservative. Had it been 9%, which is usually the case when working with a long time horizon, the total would actually be around $9,673.

Saving for the Future

Both Nic and I have big families so our kids get so many gifts from family. I realized that if Nic and I never bought Kuya and Sissy Boo any physical gifts again they probably wouldn’t even notice. So now instead of buying toys or clothes for birthdays or holidays like we normally would, we will simply add money into their investment accounts.

I will continue to teach Kuya and Sissy Boo everything I have learned about money so that by the time they are adults they can make responsible decisions when it comes to money. My hope is that our decision to invest their money will allow them to have more options and opportunities later in life. This should allow them to live their lives intentionally from an early start and not feel the need to go through the motions with careers that they may not love in order to just get a paycheck.

Five Things I Learned from Moving with Kids

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We made to Minnesota Tuesday night and we have had a couple of days to get settled into our new home. We are not there yet with all of the unpacking, in fact we have a few boxes that we shipped which are scheduled to arrive today. I’m hoping that by this weekend we’ll be completely unpacked and able to live life normally again.

I knew when we decided to move that it would take a lot of work, but I don’t think I realized at the time how much this process was going to take out of me, physically and emotionally. Moving is nothing new to me, as I have moved many times before, however all of those other moves were prior to me having kids. This is my first move with children and to say that it was challenging is an understatement. I think I have been tested in every way possible and I questioned for the first time yesterday whether we made the right decision by moving.

Deep down, I still believe this is what’s best for my family. However, I don’t believe Nic and I will have true feelings of confirmation until we have been here for a few months. Almost everyday since we decided to move we do an informal check-in with one another asking each other how we feel so far. We go through our challenges, frustrations, and successes. Currently we both feel like we’re just visiting because we have come to Minnesota so often in the past.

I don’t want to sugarcoat how strenuous moving with kids is, but I do believe it isn’t as challenging as most people think. The following are just five of the top things I have learned from moving with kids.

1.  I Got Sick of Eating Out

It’s been about three weeks since we have cooked a homemade meal. That doesn’t seem like such a long time but it feels like an eternity to us. It’s convenient to eat out but gets very old very fast. In addition, the options of healthy food available to order is scarce. Despite this, the last thing we wanted to think about when moving is cooking.

We have made a commitment, however, that we will start cooking again next week no matter what. For our health and also for our sanity.

2. I Felt Like I was Losing my Mind

Throughout this move, I have felt every emotion possible. Excitement for this new adventure and what’s yet to come. Nervousness about the unknown. Frustration related to the amount of packing and unpacking. Sadness over leaving family and friends. Joy from being reunited with family and friends.

It’s normal to feel these emotions throughout life. However, they are usually spread out over different points of time. When you feel all of these ways within the span of a few weeks and sometimes all in the same day it can make you feel like you are losing your mind.

Despite the fact that this has been an emotional experience, I know things will stabilize shortly.

3. I Discovered That I was a Hoarder

I have moved a number of times before this move and each time I have simply packed everything in my current home and brought it to my new home. This makes for easy packing, but is not at all efficient.

For this move I did not want to continue the exercise of bringing items to my new home only for them to sit in boxes for years and years. What this meant is that I had to go through everything. What I learned while doing this is that I saved meaningless items and have even moved these items to my new homes in the past. I had everything from old printed emails to unused candles. After going through the exercise of examining everything and getting rid of what I did not need, I realized that I may not have looked like a hoarder on the outside, but I did have hoarder-like tendencies. The good news is I feel much lighter now that I have relieved myself of these meaningless items and I vow to never be hoarder-like again.

4. My Kids Felt the Emotions of Moving Too

Kuya is two turning three and Sissy Boo is almost 7 months, so neither of them really understand what’s going on, however both of them are experiencing emotions of their own.

Kuya has noticed the slow disappearance of his toys and even blocked the door when someone who had bought his bed was taking it out to their car. On Monday when we were still in our San Francisco home he told me that he wanted to go home. I almost cried. He has never said this before and usually would tell us that he’s home now as soon as we pulled into the driveway. I didn’t know whether to tell him that he is home or that we were going home tomorrow, so I just said “I know, me too.

Packing and moving means more high chair, jumper and crawling time for Sissy Boo, but it seems like in the past few weeks all she really wants is cuddle and holding time. Kuya was such a happy baby and Sissy Boo has her happy moments, but she is also a very needy baby. This seems to have multiplied with this move.

Although our focus has been on packing and unpacking the last few weeks we have stopped ourselves to take the kids to the park or to see family. This has given them a bit of comfort during this chaotic time.

5. Home is not a Place

The greatest thing I have learned through this move is that home is not a place. When I was younger, my family moved out of our childhood house after 15 years. I along with many of my siblings were devastated. This was the only home most of us knew and we couldn’t fathom any other place giving us the joy and happiness we found in this home.

However, it wasn’t the house that made us feel at home. It was the people, the memories and the experiences we created together that made the house a home. I have my people with me and we will no doubt create more experiences and memories together. I am happy to say that I can confidently tell Kuya that we are home.

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

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Dear San Francisco,

It’s hard to believe that after 13 years this day is actually here. The day that you and I would finally part ways. This is not goodbye as we will definitely see each other again, however when I return it will be as a visitor and no longer a citizen of your amazing city.

I fell in love with you the moment I stepped foot onto your grounds. I was wide-eyed, curious, and fresh out of high school and you fulfilled my need for adventure and growth. I loved the diversity you provided. I used to tell people all of the time that in one day it felt like I could have traveled the world depending on which part of the city I was in.

Although the majority of our time together was positive, we had our share of issues – the summers I would get upset over how cold and grey you were, your horrible congestion and the ridiculous rise of your rent and real estate. But, like every great relationship we continued to appreciate one another despite our differences.

It’s no question that we both have changed since I first came to the city. I’ve gotten older and hopefully a bit wiser and you’ve increased your number of high rises and fancy buildings. However, a part of me will always be that young girl with a thirst for adventure and I hope that you never lose that spark that drew me to you. Don’t let the pressure of money and greed change who you are at your core – one of the most welcoming and flourishing places for people from all walks of life.

Today is bittersweet and although I have my share of regrets and how I would have done certain things differently with you, I am moving into this next chapter of my life knowing that everything you and I experienced happened for a reason and at the end of the day I came out a better person because of you.

I will never forget our late night bar and club hops, all of the events and festivals we shared, the breathtaking hikes, your innovation and most of all your food. Your amazing food that I will miss oh so much!

Thank you San Francisco. Thank you for helping me, a young girl from Minnesota who didn’t know much, find lifelong friends, the man of my dreams, a second family and most importantly for being the place where I welcomed my two beautiful babies into this world. For all of that, I will be forever grateful for you.

With all my Love,
Suzanne

How I Stopped Being a Shopaholic

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Prior Shopping Habits

I used to pride myself on scoring great deals. From clothes to makeup to crafts nothing was off limits in my book. The ability to find items at 25-50% or more off of retail prices made me feel like a winner in the money and savings game.

Since committing to living a life of intention I began to reflect on my old ways. I have come to realize that in the past I loved the high I got from scoring a deal more than the actual items themselves. The proof was all around me – the dozens of makeup items I scored that just sat around collecting dust. The clothes I bought at 60% off that still had tags on them. Not to mention the canvases in the basement that I was going to use for a DIY project. Because of our move I was forced to face all of these items and it was painful.

I may have gotten these items at great prices, but how great is a deal if I don’t even end up using the items? I’ve created waste and clutter rather than saved myself money.

My Shopping Revelation

When it comes to makeup I can now admit that I am a makeup hoarder. I follow dozens of makeup artists on Instagram and I envy the skills they use to perfect their eyebrows. I admire the way they are able to contour and transform their faces. One day, I would always think to myself, I will learn how to do that. With that mindset, every time Sephora had a giveaway where I could get products for free if I purchased X amount I went for it. Score! I could buy the things I “need” and get things I want to try for free. But I never used a lot of these free products. Why would I, when I don’t even use some of the things I “needed”.

Along with makeup I am so good at scoring deals with clothes. So good that I have a bunch of unworn items with tags on them that I even forgot I had! I’m 4’11”, maybe 4’10” and ¾, but who’s counting? So unless I am able to find pants that can either be rolled up and still look cute or are in petite size I have to get them hemmed. I’ve gotten pants in the past that I knew would be too long for me for $10 or $20. I justified their purchases with the fact that hemming would only cost another $10 or so. Therefore, I was still getting a great deal. However, it really isn’t a great deal if it’s still sitting in the bag it came in.

The Damage

After all of this reflection I began to wonder how much I could have really saved if I had not spent this money. I began to look at the cold hard numbers. I purchase almost everything I buy with my credit or debit card so it was easy for me to search my prior spending. Stores where I typically get the greatest “deals” are Sephora, LOFT, Ann Taylor and Michael’s.

From January 31, 2015 to July 1, 2016 I spent a total of $678.68 at all of the above shops. $678.68!! To me this was just crazy. I could have used this money to pay off my debt more quickly, open an investment account, or take a mini vacation. In the past I would continually wonder what happened to all of my money and strategize ways to earn more money. However, the answer was right in front of me all along – stop spending on excess.

Hope for the Future

I can’t change the past but what I can do is change the way I purchase things in the future. Before buying something I now ask myself whether I truly need it. I determine this by evaluating whether the item brings real value into my life.

We live in a world of consumerism. We spend money on entertainment, clothes, and cars and then wonder where all of our money has gone and why we can’t pay our bills, save more, or pay off our debt. More is always better in today’s society, except when it’s not.

I am on a mission to get rid of the excess in my life, so that I can enjoy the things that really matter. Sure, I still buy makeup but only those that I actually use and I truly find valuable.  Will I buy clothes again in the future? Of course, but each piece purchased must have a purpose and bring some value into my life.

With this newfound mentality I suspect that I will be able to pay off my debt faster, which should provide more savings. I’m not sure how fast this will be, but I promise to continue to share this journey with you.

Sugar Detox

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The Reasoning Behind My Sugar Detox

Deciding to go on a sugar detox was not at all easy, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I have always loved desserts and I still drool at the mention of ice cream. Baking was one of my favorite hobbies for a very long time and I never really paid much attention to the sugar content of the things I were whipping up and scarfing down. I wouldn’t say I was a sugar addict, but I knew that my relationship with sweets wasn’t the healthiest.

Now that I had two beautiful babies I realized that I needed to be the strongest version of myself if I wanted to be there to watch them grow and thrive. I was seeing people my age getting sick and passing away and this scared me. I used to think disease and death were out of my control, but the decision to start my sugar detox came about when I realized that I had the ability to steer my health in the right direction. I may not be able to protect myself completely, however if something were to happen to me I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hadn’t done everything in my power to prevent it from happening.

The Elements of My Sugar Detox

My sugar detox lasted 21-days. Many people claim that new habits are formed by doing the same thing everyday for three weeks, so I decided to use this timeline for my challenge. At first, the length of the detox seemed daunting, however I was able to recruit Nic, family and friends to join me in this adventure, which made the process more fun and exciting.

For the actual detox I followed the food list from the 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo. I didn’t purchase the program, but found the list that Diane provides to be a helpful and useful guide. A copy of the list can be found here. Many people in the my detox group complained about the fact that fruits were extremely limited. I am a huge fan of fruit and was also sad about not having them, however I knew that in order to rebalance my blood sugar I had to give them up for three weeks. The only exceptions were green apples and green bananas which I limited to one per day.

The first week of the detox was hard. I really didn’t know what I could eat that didn’t include sugar. I woke up in a sweat after the first night and had the shakes which seriously made me question whether I was doing the right thing, especially because I was still breastfeeding. I decided to stick with the detox, but realized that I needed to eat much more. I scoured Pinterest for sugar-free recipes and read Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar book for more food ideas.

After the first week things got much easier. The fact that Nic was participating in the detox made the process so much more fun and we would get excited over new meals we created that didn’t include sugar. Below are some of our creations which include, tons of fresh and roasted veggies, homemade tomato basil soup, and dijon parsley steak.

avocadoeggsalad roastedveggies tomatobasilsoup steak

Results of the Detox

I am not exaggerating when I say that the sugar detox changed my life completely. Once the detox ended Nic and I knew we would never go back to our old ways of eating again. We still have our share of treats here and there but we try to keep these few and far between. This is the healthiest both of us have felt in a long time.

The following are five additional results I achieved through the detox:

1. I Started Eliminating/Decreasing Other Types of Food in my Diet

Once I completed the sugar detox, I realized that although it seemed challenging at first, it wasn’t nearly as challenging as I had thought. At the conclusion of the detox I decided to explore eating a more vegetable-based diet and started to decrease the amount of meat and dairy I was consuming. I don’t call myself a vegan because I still eat meat and dairy on occasion, but at home we now eat an almost vegan diet.

Anyone who knows me personally and the way I used to eat would find this unbelieveable. I continually myself who am I turning into. However, this new diet feels right and my body is responding positively, so I can’t argue with that.

2. I Began “Grocery” Shopping at the Farmer’s Market

If you rarely or have never shopped for fresh fruit and vegatables at your local farmers’ market I strongly urge you to do so. During the detox I began shopping at the farmers’ market every week and continued doing so in the following months. I learned what food was supposed to taste like and it beats anything you can find at the grocery store.

I strive to purchase 70-80% of our food from the farmers’ market and then I supplement the rest of our groceries from the grocery store. This was no problem in California where food can grow all year long, however now that we are moving to the midwest it will be interesting to figure out how to get the best produce during the winter. If anyone has any tips I would love to hear them in the comments.

3. I Lost Weight

I completed the detox in order to be healthier, however I also received a smaller waistline as a result. After having Kuya I didn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy pants when I had to return to work. It was discouraging and also meant I had to buy some new clothes.

After the detox, not only did I return to my pre-pregnancy size before going back to work, but a lot of the pants I had that were somewhat snug on me pre-pregnancy now fit perfect. I felt like I had gone on a shopping spree and the best part was that I didn’t need to spend any money.

4. I Have Become More Aware of the Other Areas of My Life

If you read my last post, you already know that as a result of my sugar detox I became more aware of what I was putting into other areas of my life. This includes how I spend my time, what I do with my money, who I choose to surround myself with and even the things I read and listen to.

It’s amazing how the detox had a snowball effect in bringing positivity to other areas of my life. I have just started some of the changes in these other areas, but I have not felt more optimistic about my future and the future of my family than I do now.

5. My Kids are Changing

I feel bad that I hadn’t become completely health conscious until this year. That means that Kuya grew up on boxed cereals, pizza and everything else the typical American kid eats. Before our detox he would not eat anything green. I vowed after the detox to continue introducing healthy food to him even if he wouldn’t eat it. It’s amazing that this little boy who once despised anything green will now eat a few pieces of lettuce or what he likes to call leaves.

Prior to the sugar detox I had always added honey or syrup to Kuya’s morning oatmeal. I thought that he wouldn’t eat it otherwise. However, I stopped adding the extra sweetener and now only throw in fresh fruit. It was such an eye-opener when he would eat up the oatmeal just like he had before. He didn’t need the extra sweetness and it made me question why I had even put it in to begin with.
We still have a long way to go with Kuya, however he has come a long way which makes me so proud. If you have a picky eater I would strongly urge you to never give up. The health of your child is worth all of the frustration you may experience.

Life with Intention

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Becoming Aware

I completed a sugar detox in April of 2016. Since then I have become very conscious of what I put into my body. This consciousness has overflowed to other parts of my life. Now, I am more aware of what I put into every part of my life.

At the end of June I returned to work from maternity leave. I worked the same amount of hours as I had before my leave, but after my second day back I quickly realized how much time I was spending at work. I also realized how little time I was spending at home. On most days I left the house before the kids were awake, giving my job the best hours of my day. When I got home I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I had a long commute, the stress of deadlines got to me and there was a constant struggle to try and find balance. I felt like I was giving my family the “leftovers” of myself. What I wanted to give them were some of those best hours that I was giving to my job.