Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Debt Obliterated

On March 8, 2006, between 2 student loans and a credit card bill, V and I had 31 THOUSAND 8 HUNDRED and 23 dollars in debt. Well fast forward 33 months, 2 children, and a boatload of sacrifice later, and we are (absurdly) proud to announce that as of 8:34 am on December 31, we will officially be entering the new year of 2009 DEBT FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The progression was about $2000 paid off in 2006 (not much but you've gotta start somewhere), $12000 in 2007, and a whopping $19000 in 2008. Of course, I've already got my eye on baby step #6, which is paying off our home early... but one step at a time. As for now, I could write a book about what it took for us to get here and what we plan to do next now that the money we make at work will actually be ours! (we get to keep our own money... what a concept... lol)... but instead, we just want to...

1. thank everyone who was supportive of us during the grueling process of babysteps 1 & 2
2. thank the people that we know who are steps ahead of us in the babystep game for encouraging us through their example and reminding us that it can be done... and lastly,
3. send an encouraging word to the handful of people that have joined us on this journey of financial freedom.  

So Happy New Year from the newest debt-free family! 

... And no, you can't borrow 10 dollars.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Babies Everywhere

Once again we bounced between in-laws for the holidays. As a repeat of last year, my parents won the Thanksgiving Justin sweepstakes while V's family got us for the Christmas season [next year everyone is invited to Norfolk... hint hint]. This year we split time between Greer, Atlanta, Dacula, and (mostly) Greenville; not to mention time with Abuelo and Moises who made the flight from the Dominican Republic.

As for what everyone has been up to since last Christmas, the answer is pretty obvious from the photos... BABY MAKING. My goodness. Between Justin, Zuri, Danny, Hayden, and two more on the way; there's gotta be something reproductive about that South Carolina water. Take a sip if you want, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Lots more photos in the archive. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

72 degrees

After a week long excursion, V, Justin, and I got back to Norfolk today to find our house in tact and the weather simply gorgeous. 72 degrees on December 28. Awesome. And with that, we brushed off the 7+ hour commute that we had just endured (3:30 to 11 am), grabbed lunch, a quick nap for the pregnant member of the family, and we were off to the zoo.

And so after a couple of hours of ripping, running, climbing, and sunbathing; I guess we are officially back from our holiday travels. Lots of fun, and plenty of photos. Over the next few days I'll do my best to get the blog up to date. Some of the entries may be retrodated, so be sure the check the tabs on the right. And hopefully I'll have time to close out the year on the (3 months behind) photo archive as well. Ambitious goals given the length of my to-do list and only a week before my vacation comes to the end. But at least I'll get an E for effort.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hyatt Place

Happy 4th wedding anniversary to us! 

In the midst of our SC holiday visit, V and I took advantage of having family around and got away for a night as a belated celebration of our 4-year anniversary. With all of the travel that we had already done, it was enough for us to book a room right in Greenville and simply enjoy some quiet time, a good dinner and breakfast; all baby-free... Oh, and a television in the bedroom (which, along with cable, is a treat we only get on vacations). In all, it was a great little getaway and a nice reminder that our lives didn't always revolve around Justin and his sibling-to-be. Ahhh... remember the days.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Since we gypped him of a tree this year, we decided to at least let Justin have a little pre-Christmas fun this evening. So gift #1 has officially been opened. Let the games begin.

Thanksgiving Pt. II

I forgot that we brought the video camera to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. Here's a fun snippet from the same tape as the blackmail video.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Out Cold

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders the wives who make incriminating blackmail videos. These are their stories. [Doink Doink]

I had an extremely long day, but I was determined to top it off with a new episode of Law and Order... especially after last nights SVU episode was cancelled. And man, I SO almost made it. I cleaned the whole house during the 9 o'clock hour just to make sure I'd be awake at 10. And so I sat down at 9:59 (and 59 seconds)... just in time to catch the intro and set up. But the first commercial break came and it was over. In the end it wasn't even close. I was out cold.

I'm just glad she didn't catch me drooling.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Unconventional Comfort

Crib, mattress and bedding: $500
Toddler Bed with mattress and bedding: $300
Leaving them both to sleep on the floor with a $8 blanket: priceless

Milestones Pt. XX

I Stand Corrected
I just recently mentioned that Justin hadn't made much progress in learning to dress or undress himself. And it wasn't until I re-read the entry myself that I thought, "Duh... how could he if we haven't tried to teach him yet." And it turns out that he was quite ready to do so... I guess he was just waiting for a little direction; because just a few days after we set out to be more deliberate with involving him in the procedure, we got word from the babysitter that Justin prefers to run around with no clothes on... ridding himself of his pants and socks numerous times throughout the day. Ha! Sorry, Justin. Next time we'll stay on the ball and make sure we're doing out part. Now, um... in the meantime, can you put your pants back on for us? Thanks.

And speaking of which, he's making good progress on the rest of the dressing skill set as well. Ask him to "Quita la ropa" and he'll do what he can to take his shirt off (though he still needs plenty of help getting it over his head)... and after we step him into his pants, he'll pull 'em up on cue if you help him stand and balance. As of late, he seems pretty intent on learning to put on his own socks and shoes, but I think that takes a lot more dexterity than he has right now (which of course means that he'll make a mockery of my comments and master the art in the next 12 minutes).

As for other corrections, the word "No" has also popped into his vocabulary over the past few days and appropriately accompanies his emphatic head nod when he's telling us the 10,000 things that he doesn't want us to do for him. So opinionated at 18 months. Hard to believe that it's only the beginning.

BellyWatch2 | 20 Weeks

We are now at the halfway mark of the pregnancy. Can you say fast forward?! I have no idea where the last 20 weeks went. Those same weeks seemed like an eternity the first time around. But then Justin has certainly done his part in keeping us too busy to bask in the surrealism of the moment, let alone start planning for the next baby's arrival. Part of me fears that we will be comically unprepared for this baby, which of course will be the very antithesis of Justin's arrival... but another part of me knows that we'll figure out the details (small things like, um... choosing a name...) in due time. For now, we'll just continue perfecting our doggie paddle and try to keep everything afloat.

As for specifics on baby #2, (s)he weighs 11 ounces now, is also around 6 1/2 inches long from head to bottom and about 10 inches from head to heel — the length of a banana. V started feeling the baby move about a week or two ago. Not the heavy kicks that Justin delivered at around 26 weeks, but for now it's just the flutters of movement that politely remind us that something is cooking on the insides.

Also, we did finally get our sonograms last Friday... and while it was totally cool to watch the baby on the screen and marvel at his/her every hand wave, foot wiggle, and somersault... my thoughts on the sonogram printouts themselves have not changed a whole lot since the first pregnancy. I mean, for real... am I the only one that feels like I'm taking an ink blot test when you're looking at those things? And even the ones that you can make out, they just look so doggone skeletal to me. And so as the lab technician started to make googly sounds and tell us how cute the baby is, I starting thinking to myself, "How long would I have to be trapped in this room before I starting seeing what she sees"... because she sees "just the most beautiful little baby... " and I see a Steven Spielberg movie in the making. Hey maybe V and I are just not warm and fuzzy enough to appreciate the images (which I refuse to post)... but have no fear "little baby-in-the-making". Once you start to put some flesh on those bones and finish cooking, we're gonna love you with everything that we've got!

Just don't tell Justin... who, by the way, is apparently going for the record in terms of number of teeth in a span of time. I lost count, but I think he's up to 11 total that have broken the surface... SEVEN of which came in the past 6 weeks or so. And talk about temperamental...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Milestones Pt. IXX

Justin sprouted 4 new teeth in just 3 weeks, including his first molar (upper left, not pictured). That brings the total up to 8 and could very well explain the long string of irritability, cold symptoms, and unbreakable fever that landed us in the doctor's office two Sundays ago. His teeth are apparently on their own timetable (remember he had no teeth at 11 months old) and he is back to his normal self now that all four of the new ones have broken the surface. Most doctors will contend that these symptoms have nothing to do with teething, but it would be hard for us to agree with that at this point.

In other toddler milestones, according to, our 17 month old should be... becoming much easier to understand now that she often combines pointing with a word or two... and able to undress herself (dressing herself will come much later), brush her teeth without your help, and feed her dolly. She can (also) sort things by color, shape, and type, which makes toys that encourage sorting particularly popular now. If "no" hasn't already become her favorite word, she'll begin using it with a vengeance. She's gradually easing toward one nap each day, which means this is a transition period that's potentially hard on both of you.

Well, 3 outta 7 ain't bad. In fact, in baseball that'll make you a superstar. In no particular order, here's a breakdown of each milestone mentioned on their website this month:

(1) While he is extremely helpful during the dressing / undressing process, he is not yet "able to undress himself"... but we have finally made the switch from dressing him laying down to standing up, so maybe that will encourage more participation. (2) He's also not "feeding his dolly" because I won't let him have one. But he does feed himself full-time... usually starting with a fork (if the food will stick, like mashed potatoes) but he will resort to his fingers when the fork is not fast enough (i.e., all the time). (3) As for brushing his teeth, he has had a love affair with the process for about 6 months already, and now has his own toothbrush. Now if only we can get him to actually brush this teeth and not just his tongue while sucking the toothpaste off. (4) And he's doing pretty good at sorting shapes and colors thanks to his shape cubes and building blocks.

As for the other 3...

(5) Catching Z's
His sleep patterns have been the same for what seems like forever now. We've tweaked his bedtime here and there (it' now down to about 7:30 pm) but he's still holding steady at about 11 hours of nighttime sleep... But of course as I write this, he is bucking the trend and has been asleep for 12 hours now. As for a nap, he has been consistent with a single 1.5 hour post-lunch nap for about 4 months now, and equally consistent with his wake-up process: wake up / stare at the ceiling / tell a few jokes / crack up until we come get him.

(6) Babytalk
I'd agree that he is pointing more, becoming more expressive, and repeating things we say; but "more easy to understand" might be a stretch. There are a few words that are clear as a bell, but for the others you will definitely need context to figure them out. For example, he will say "salud" (or "bless you"... depending on who you ask) when someone sneezes, and "amen" after grace... but it probably all sounds like "nahnah" to someone that's not his parents.

(7) No Way Jose
While he is not saying "no" yet as they suggest, it's worth mentioning that his temperamental responses to the word "no" have disappeared over time, and probably have been gone for a number of months now. At 12 months, he would throw things (and if he didn't have something to throw, he'd go find something... pick it up... then throw it) when told "no". But now he'll just stop what he's doing without a fuss and move on to the next thing. In short, it's nice to see him grow out of those temper flares before the fabled terrible twos roll around. They were a little too reminiscent his daddy's turbulent years of elementary / junior high school, and I can do without the flashbacks ( this Cynthia Reyes? Yes, your son has been suspended... again... This time he threw [fill in the blank] at [fill in the blank] and hit him in the head with it... Please come get him... Now.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Snowfall

Justin experienced his first snowfall this morning. Granted, 20 minutes later the sun was back out as if it never happened... but the flurries did last long enough for him relish the occasion. At first, his reaction was the same one that he had some months ago we when took him outside to be in the rain for the first time... "okay... so.... why are we out here again?"... However, slowly but surely his facial expression started to change and you could see his sudden acknowledgment that this was a little bit different. And so he just stood there grinning, watching the snow flakes fall and vanish one by one. Very cool moment...

That is... until he snapped out of his stupor, realized that it was brutally cold, his feet were wet and slowly freezing over, and he hadn't eaten breakfast yet. And with that the love affair was over, he began to cry, and it was off to school for both of us.

Fun while it lasted though.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Pole Vault

Justin climbed threw himself out of his crib today. Yep. I kid you not. And the irony is that I just told V exactly 2 days ago that I was getting a little concerned (which is daddy talk for I'm worried) about the prospect of him stacking blankets in an attempt to gain height and leap the wall of this crib. Well, after 16 months, 10 days, and 9 hours of life (i.e, this morning around 7 am) Justin decided to test his limits and essentially launched himself over the edge of his (no longer) safe haven and onto our not-so-cushiony berber carpet. Sitting in my downstairs office space, I heard something crash to the floor in the room above me and knew immediately what it was.

And sure enough I got upstairs and there he was standing next to his toddler bed with tears that obviously from shock and confusion rather than pain. That was at 7:17 am. And by 7:21 he had passed my no-breaks inspection was in front of the television downstairs with a sippy cup; already reverted back to couch potato status and apparently with no memory of his olympic performance just minutes ago. Incredible.

And as much as I joked about it all day... trust me, I'm well aware of the extent to which we dodged the potential of a very serious injury... especially since I'm convinced that he went over head first. And I have yet to figure out how he could have landed and ended up totally unscathed and back on his feet so quickly. With not a single mark, let alone a scratch, bruise or broken bone. So needless to say that his crib days are officially over. While the convenience of the crib was too much to prevent us from switching back and forth from crib to toddler bed, this episode was certainly enough to warrant the immediate and permanent switch to the big-boy furniture. And with that, the crib will now lay dormant until another certain bundle of joy is ready to take residence in April of '09.

So, long story short... God is good!

And Justin Alexander is Absolutely Crazy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BellyWatch2 | 14 Weeks

According to, here are this week's big developments: "Your baby can now squint, frown, grimace, pee, and possibly suck his thumb!" (...which pretty much sounds like Justin to me, but anyway...) In other news: Our baby #2 is stretching out. From head to bottom, (s)he measures 3 1/2 inches — about the size of a lemon — and weighs 1 1/2 ounces.

As for mom and whether she is showing yet, had you asked me just 3 days ago, I would have say "yes, but not so much"... but a funny thing happened about 2 days ago. I promise, it was like she skipped about 10 weeks of pregnancy in 2 days. On Sunday she was still flying under the radar, looking "kinda maybe pregnant"... but by Monday evening she was bursting at the seams in the same shirt that fit just fine 48 hours ago. Craziest thing I've ever seen. But other than that, everything is still sunshine. Next week is the next doctor's appointment, and from there we'll be just a stone's throw away from getting our first ultrasound (I still can't believe we had to wait this long for the first snapshot... with Justin, we probably had a dozen ultrasounds by now... but then again maybe that's why he's such a ham). Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Harry Houdini

Neither one of us are exactly sure how he got in there... but I couldn't pass up capturing this hilarious moment on film. More proof that given just 14 seconds unattended, children will find a way to get into just about anything.

Pure comedy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Still Breathing

Where have we been? Well, we've been...

At work, mostly.
Just like with the first pregnancy, the arrival of the 2nd trimester was like flipping a light switch. V was re-invigorated, back on her toes, and everything was great in the Reyes household... for about 4 days... at which point the strain of the midterms, PTA meetings, committee work, and overcrowded classrooms reclaimed us both; turning our energy levels upside down. And so the past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind. But of course that's the way the cookie crumbles. Just like in other professions, teachers have to learn to ride the wave: one minute you have time to grade EVERY paper with a fine-toothed comb, and lollygag your day away... and in the next minute you barely have time to tie your shoelace, let alone update a blog. So yeah... we've been swamped. But of course the tide will turn again (as it always does) and before you know it we'll be on some kind of extended break (winter, spring, summer... ) talking about how cool it is to be a teacher and actually looking forward to getting back to work, as twisted as that sounds right now. 

At the doctor.
V's next appointment is still 2 weeks away, but Justin visited his doctor a few weeks ago and is doing great. The tooth count is still at four and the doctor confirmed that he still has his daddy's head. His measurements put him in the 75th percentile for head circumference, 50th for height, and a measley 10th for weight (which is actually an improvement from the 95/40/6 split we got last time). Along those lines, the really good news is that after a steady 5 months of weighing 20 pounds, our little pip squeak finally weighed in at 21 pounds  during his wellness checkup. However, the bad news is that he came home quite depressed... walking around asking everyone, "This diaper makes me look fat, doesn't it?!" And speaking of home, we've also been...

At home.
Justin has had his fair share of company recently. Between us baby-sitting for some friends on Friday nights, having a number of kids to watch during care group on Thursdays (which we now host and facilitate here at home), and showing some neighboring kids to a fun Saturday at the zoo, you'd think we were running a foster home over here. Of course, Justin loved every minute of it, as he welcomes any break from the peace and quiet that V and I enjoy when it's just the 3 of us. 

At the airport.
We had some grown-up company too, as V's mom paid us a visit from South Carolina this past weekend. Her lasagna was worth it's weight in gold (delicious!) but it was definitely outdone by the virtue of her free baby sitting services. While Elena and Justin had a great time together, V and I were more than appreciative of the chance to spend a little quality time without Mr. Giggly (aka Justin Alexander)... Because as much fun as he is, sometimes I can't help but to think... what in the world are we going to do when we have TWO of him to keep up with?!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

BellyWatch2 | 12 Weeks

Signs of Life: Mobile phone footage from yesterday's doctor visit.

Baby (who is now the size of a lime...) and mom are doing great.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Milestones IIXX / BabyWatch2

Here's the latest scoop on the Reyes Quartet:

As of tomorrow, V will be 11 weeks pregnant and the 4th member of our family will have grown to about 1.5 inches in length; the size of a fig... and no, I don't have a picture of a fig... but does! 

• Last Thursday V made a visit to her acupuncturist specifically to address the nausea and excessive fatigue that I've written about... and just like that the symptoms were gone. Now typically I'm a (huge) skeptic of "alternative medicines", but between the success this acupuncturist has had with V's previous chronic hip pain and now her nausea, I'll be the first to admit that it's getting kinda hard to maintain my skepticism. So I just shut up and pay the bills. But on the bright side, I can at least still make fun of her for the little seeds that the acupuncturist makes her tape to her body all week. You weirdo! :oP

• Justin Alexander decided that elementary school (not to mention daycare and preschool) was overrated and enrolled in high school; hence the photos below. And while the experiment didn't last long, we did at least succeed in brightening mommy's day with a few visits to her workplace last week. 

• Justin also made his 1st visit to the doctor in quite a while. After 3 weeks of sniffling and whatnot, he was finally prescribed amoxicillan plus an inhaler / breathing apparatus to address the asthmatic symptoms that seem to always accompany his colds. The good news is that I think it's been about 6 months since he has last been sick, which to me is an accomplishment after what seemed like a flurry of infections during is first 9 months of life.

• Tooth #4 has made it's debut. Justin's progression towards words also seems to be going well (translation: he won't shut up). As soon as Congress approves adding an 8th day to the week, I'll be sure to make time to edit and upload a new video highlighting his verbosity.

• The doctor also took his height and weight. At 15 months & 3 days he measured up at 30 inches tall, and (good grief) still 20 pounds for what I think is about 4 months now. The good news is that he was actually 20 pounds and 15.5 ounces... so with two more hamburgers and a milkshake, we just might break that 20 pound barrier once and for all. But I wouldn't suggest holding your breath for that one.

Financial Snapshot V

While I didn't plan on doing another financial snapshot anytime soon, it just dawned on me that V and I recently hit another important financial milestone worth sharing. Did we pay off our house? HA! Very funny... In fact, if you combine the 3 mortgages we carry (primary + 2 rental props), we are still on the hook for over $450,000 of mortgage-related debt (and that can be a scary number to look at in these uncertain times)...

So what's our milestone? Well, for the first time since being married, V and I have a positive liquid worth! wooo whoooo. In other words, that just means that we actually have more money in our bank account than we owe on our (non-mortgage related) debts. In the past 3 months, we basically made about a $7K swing in our finances by means of a summer teaching program, a wedding photography opportunity, 2 eBay auctions, and the usual Scrooge-like budgeting and spending habits.

And while a positive liquid worth is probably not a huge accomplishment for many, it is definitely huge for us. Are we debt free yet? Um... no, not quite. But in the last 2+ years, we have gotten our short-term (e.g., student loans & credit card) debt down from $32,000 to about $9500. And even though that's still a lot of money owed, finally shedding that negative liquid worth was a needed pat on the back and encouragement for our efforts so far... because if I had a dollar for every time I wanted to throw budgeting and sacrifice out the window... I mean, sometimes a brother just wants a new camera, a plane ticket to anywhere, and better reception on his no-cable-television.

So what's next? For now I still have not decided if we will continue with the public financial snapshots or not. Truth be told, I think the public accountability provided by this blog helped us a lot; particularly in times when tough decisions had to be made concerning sacrifice for the betterment of our finances. And I've also enjoyed the dialog that the finance portion of the blog has facilitated with family and friends... If nothing else, we're trying to do our part to help take away the taboo associated with discussing ones personal finances. And so since we still haven't reached our bigger goal of being totally debt-free, I'm leaning towards continuing with the updates until we get there... but we'll see.

Justin & I crunched the numbers together 
and were pleased with the results 

Oh! One more thing. I'd be remiss to close my first finance entry in a while without addressing the current economic situation. There are people writing about the economic downturn that are way smarter than I am, so I will not bore you with my unremarkable opinions (except to say that I'm as opposed to the proposed bail-out plan as a person could possible be). However, I did want to share two emails that V forwarded to me recently. The first is Dave Ramsey's alternative to the current proposal. Even though I think the title of his plan is a bit presumptuous, the plan seems to accomplish the same intended results without the broad brush of amnesty that the government is suggesting. The second is an email she got from a friend who is not only financially savvy but also works within the banking sector. The email detailed what I thought was sound advise for the everyday guy and gal from a person much better informed than I. In fact, at least one thing in the email (her point #4) caused us to rethink some of our current financial strategies (e.g., prioritizing the accumulation of savings versus debt payments in volatile times); and so I thought I'd share the entire email in hopes that at least one other person found her insights worthwhile. Click here for the full letter. Enjoy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

BellyWatch2 | 9 Weeks

Our first visit to the doctor last Tuesday was only eventful in that we officially now have a new obstetrician. As it turns out, the doctor that delivered Justin moved to Florida sometime during the past year; which of course (given the awesome experience we had with her) left us crushed once we learned the news. But all is not lost, as our new doc also has her fair share of charisma to lend to the occasion.

The only downside is that V and I definitely got spoiled by getting an ultrasound at just about every doctor's visit with Justin Alexander. This new office, on the other hand, plays by the rules and so it'll be a few weeks before we get our first peek inside. I was also reminded that we got to see Justin so much because of some complications we had early on; at least one of which landed us in the emergency room (funny how much we forget from one pregnancy to the next). And so with that, I'm content to have "healthy pregnancy, no pictures" versus "complications & lots of pictures"... but jeez those pictures sure were fun (despite the fact that I couldn't tell an elbow from a knee on most of them).

Lastly, I think we both took a little solace from the doctor's mention that the second pregnancy does have a tendency to be tougher than the first. It doesn't help with the symptoms, but at least we know that it's not unusual. In comparing the first with the second, the doc said that some have it easier or just as easy... but it is more common that your previous experience will be amplified during pregnacy #2. Easy usually becomes not-so-easy, blah becomes mild depression, and depression becomes WATCH OUT! As for us, we're not in the "WATCH OUT" category, but this pass week was definitely more of the same. Other than a few spots here and there, the frequent nausea, fatigue and frigidness hasn't let up much. Yet and still V has made it through every work day and she hasn't killed any of her students (yet). So for that I commend her.

Of course, there's also the fact that during the first pregnancy we didn't have a 14-month-old to try to keep up with. That alone probably spikes the fatigue up about 170%. And while his energy is non-stop, he's still too young to understand when you tell him, "Daddy and mommy are so tired right now it's not even funny... Mommy needs a nap and I've got 113 papers to grade... do you mind going to chill out in your room for a while."... Trust me... I tried. But he just laughed and smacked me in the knee with his sippy cup.

As for baby #2 him/herself, (s)he is has progressed to about the size of a grape. V is definitely showing (has been for a while... much sooner than baby #1) and still trying to figure out how long she can go at work before having to break the news. I give her another week or 2. In the meantime, here are some pictures from her 18 minutes of high energy last week. Enjoy.