Friday, February 22, 2008

Weighing Future Financial Options

So, as I mentioned, I was just hired on as a full-time employee at my current job. And, as I've also discussed a few times, I'm pregnant. Therefore, recently my mind has been in overdrive trying to figure out whether I should quit working full-time and stay with the baby, or if I should continue working and put Little L in daycare.

I've crunched the numbers 6 ways to Sunday, and IF finances were the only factor, then I should absolutely continue working full-time. Even with the continued costs of commuting to work and the additional cost of daycare, I would still be contributing a substantial amount to the household income.

But of course, nothing is ever that simple. I mean, if finances were our only consideration, then we definitely shouldn't be having kids! A few weeks ago, I decided that the essential question wasn't what was best financially, but IF we could afford for me to stay home. Based on all of our past conversations, it felt like Keith and I both would prefer that I stay home instead of putting our child in daycare. So if that's what we want, the only question is whether we can afford to do that. If we can, then I should quit. Tentatively, I think we can afford that in the short term. (Assuming that I resume full-time work sometime in the next few years.)

And yet, I'm still wavering. Because the question isn't all financial or completely family-oriented. It's a bit of both. What if I continued working for one more year, and then quit? It's possible that, by that point, we could have paid off our second mortgage and our car loan, leaving us with only our first mortgage and two student loans with very low interest rates. I feel like we would be in a much more secure financial position.

Would that security be worth putting our child in daycare for a year, even if we both would prefer that he/she be raised at home? I'm not villainizing daycare; I'm just saying that, for us personally, we would rather not be forced by circumstances to have others caring for our child much of the time. Daycare provides a valuable, necessary service, but I resent the fact that much of America has no choice but to continue working AND pay for daycare because they need two incomes just to get by. Climbing off my soapbox ...

But I'm not really trying to solve the country's problems. I'm just trying to get a handle on my own. What is going to make the most sense in the long run? I'm sure that, in hindsight, it will be obviously what the right choice at this juncture was. But it's really hard to see, looking forward.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

No Seriously: Temping is Old News

I just looked back through my old posts, all the way back to January 11 to find my original post claiming that I wouldn't be a temp much longer. And now, over a month later, it's finally true! I am a full-time employee of the University where I've been "temping" since May 2006.

Things don't really feel that different. While I was still a temp, I transitioned into a different job in the department that had more responsibility. I was then hired for the existing job, which apparently is easier than trying to convince the higher-ups that a job which has been filled by temps for years should suddenly be full-time and have benefits. So although my job has changed recently, on the day before I was full-time, and on the day after, I was at the same desk, doing the same job.

The only thing that has really changed is that I'll be doing the same work for significantly more pay. However, instead of getting paid once a week I'll only get paid once a month. When my first new paycheck arrives, then I think I'll realize that there's actually a big difference between my old and current employee status!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

18-week Ultrasound

I think this is the first picture of the baby I've posted to the blog. This is from our 18-week ultrasound, where the doctor checks that appendages and major organs are present. (Check!)

To me, this picture is absolutely amazing. Our baby has a face! With a nose! And lips! You can see it all right there!

I know, too many exclamation points. But it had to be done.

The funniest part of the ultrasound was when the doctor (whom I'd never met before—not my regular OB-Gyn) randomly started poking my belly. Everything on the screen went all jiggly. I thought maybe she was doing it to prove that what was on the screen was live, and not a recording? I wasn't really sure.

She moved her hand to the other side and started poking my belly again. Not painfully, but with enthusiasm. Keith and I looked at each other and giggled. Finally, she explained.

"I need to measure the baby's brain," she said. "And it's turned in the wrong position so I can't get a clear image. I'm trying to get the baby to move."

Then she moved her hand again and poked right in the middle of my belly.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Smoky Mountains in Pictures

Because Keith is wonderful and actually uploaded all of the pictures from our camera last night into Picasa, here's my favorites for your viewing pleasure. First up is a picture of sunset taken from the cabin's balcony on the first night.

Our first hike took place Sunday morning. It was about 4.8 miles round trip, to Alum Cave Bluff.

Hike #2 took place Saturday afternoon, and was a short one. Only 2.6 miles in all, to Laurel Falls.

On Monday we started with an auto tour of the Cades Cove area.

Then we stopped at the Cades Cove visitors' center and hiked 6 miles, round trip, to Abrams Falls. I was fooled because it listed the elevation changes as -200ft for the entire trail, so I thought it would be easy. What they didn't tell you was you went up and down several mountains to achieve nearly the same elevation. And then turned around and did it again.

A last view of the mountains before we headed back to the cabin for the evening, and then back home the next day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Smoky Mountains Getaway

Keith and I ended up taking a 4-day mini-vacation this past weekend. He had some vacation days left over from 2007, and we both wanted to take a relaxing, quiet trip for just the two of us, one more time before our lives get turned upside down in mid-July.

It was an amazing trip. Keith had been to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park several times before with his family—as far as I know, I had never been. This is what happens when you grow up 200 miles further North and both of your families take many camping vacations. Our radii of vacation destinations overlaps in the middle, but he's been many places further South that I've never seen, and our family went East much more than his family.

But finally I can say I've been to the Smokies, and they were gorgeous. The weather was cooperative—after a late-ish arrival Saturday evening, we fit in two hikes on Sunday, and one more, longer hike on Monday. I was proud of myself for keeping up a pretty good pace on the hikes, particularly on the uphills. And I didn't really whine any more than I usually do (a fair amount), so I think that's good, too.

I wanted to tell everyone that we passed by, "Look at me! I'm five months pregnant and hiking!" but resisted the urge. Because of course that would have meant interaction with strangers, and our family goal is to avoid interaction whenever possible. Instead, I just contented myself with telling Keith over and over again how well I was doing and how impressed I was with my hiking, and making him agree every time.

In the evenings, we headed back to the cabin for dinner and TV or a movie. We read a little, napped occasionally, and talked about everything and nothing all weekend. It was exactly what I was hoping for, and I couldn't stop myself from getting progressively sadder as the final day drew to a close. It made me realize how much I enjoy spending time with Keith when we can actually be fully in each others' company, and not distractedly conversing while paying the bills / watching TV / catching up on email / etc.

Although we really enjoyed having time as a couple, we also spent a lot of our trip discussing how we were looking forward to our next vacation—whenever that may be—when we would be traveling as a family of three. I'm sure it will be vastly different, but equally wonderful.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Vending Machine Blues

As I may have mentioned before, my healthy diet nemesis is not pizza or Doritos or even my beloved Oreos, in my opinion. My real sugar, empty-calorie addiction is pop.

I always told myself that, once I was pregnant, I would give up all crappy foods and eat 100% healthy. I thought that if I was doing it for someone else, instead of myself, I would have the willpower to do it. The sugary foods would lose their usual appeal and I could resist temptation without batting an eyelash.

I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Especially during the first trimester, when I felt terrible and for whatever reason, healthy food held no appeal and all I wanted to eat was crap. Fast food, sweets, and gallons of carbonated beverages. In actuality it wasn't quite that bad—I did manage to force down fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on a somewhat regular schedule—but still I was humbled by the experience. I knew other women had indulged during their pregnancies, but I thought I could rise above it all. And I was wrong.

Which I was reminded of again yesterday. For the past few weeks, I've had at least one night where I had trouble sleeping. I don't think I've gained enough weight yet to be really uncomfortable sleeping, but sometimes my brain just won't shut off. Yesterday I was experiencing the aftermath of a sleepless night, and all I wanted was pure sugar and caffeine to get me through the afternoon. An afternoon which would be spent going over budgets. I knew I'd need help to get through the day without my head drooping onto the piles of paperwork.

So I caved. I went to the vending machine to get a refreshing Dr. Pepper. AND IT WAS OUT. So I tried the other pop machine AND IT WAS BROKEN. I was devastated. I had been dreaming about the sugary pop of carbonation bubbles on my tongue all morning. How was I going to stay awake now?!?

And for some reason, that made me think about how sucky it would be to have the job of vending machine repair man. From my own personal experience, people take their vending excursions wayyyyy too seriously. For something that costs about $1 and is consumed immediately on purchase, I get very invested in it. No one wants to be eating out of vending machines—we finally turn to them in desperation, when we were running late and didn't pack any lunch, or JUST ... NEED ... SUGAR. This is a very serious thing.

So I'd imagine that vending machine repair persons get a much larger hassle from irate customers than the cost and life span of their products warrants. "It's just candy!" I'm sure they think throughout their entire day. But we all know it's not just candy. It's the office worker's salvation, and so much more.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Eating for Two

As I mentioned earlier, at the 4-month check-up the doctor said I had only gained 10 pounds so far. Surprised to hear it, I laughed and told him that I eat all the time. He replied that I must be burning it off somehow, because my weight gain was right where it should be.

I do worry that I am leading people astray though, when I talk about how I'm eating all the time. Like when a Victoria's Secret model claims that her favorite food is deep-dish pizza with extra cheese. (Wow, that sounds fabulous right now!) Pretty hard to believe she's talking about eating it. Maybe eating it and throwing it back up, or maybe just smelling it as someone else eats it .... but there's no way a person can eat that many calories on a regular basis and still be able to model underwear.

So I tell people that I'm eating all the time and they are surprised because I haven't gained very much, and actually it's still very hard to tell that I'm even pregnant. Sometimes I'm impatient and wish I were showing more, but then I remember all of the horror stories about random strangers patting your belly and giving you advice, and take joy in the fact that at this point, people only know I'm pregnant if I choose to tell them. I won't have that luxury later on.

Anyway, I was going to clarify that I do eat all the time, but it's small snacks spaced out throughout the day. Typically, when I pack my "lunch" for work, I pack 6 or 7 separate items. One might be slightly higher calorie (soup, pita and hummus and tabouleh, leftovers) and I'd have that for lunch. But everything else is small—an apple, celery with peanut butter, cherry tomatoes, a couple fig newtons, rice cakes, etc. Mostly healthy stuff. Sometimes Oreos, donuts, or even a candy bar from the vending machine if I'm really feeling the need for sugar.

I feel a bit guilty when I indulge in empty calories, but overall I think I'm doing okay. And the baby really does love Oreos!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Little L: Month 4

Well, Little L and I just went for our 4-month check-up last week. We're both doing very well! Shockingly, between the Oreos, Doritos, and bagels smothered in cream cheese, I've only gained 10 pounds so far. It's still depressing to admit to a 10-pound weight gain; I'm not saying it hasn't happened in the past, but I would certainly never have told the Internet.

I love going for my monthly check-ups because, so far, we've been really spoiled. Ever since my first appointment, the doctor has done an ultrasound every time. At the first appointment (8 weeks along), we just took his word that the gray blob on the screen was a baby. But at the 12-week appt., you could tell that it had a head and appendages that were kicking and punching every which way. Little L is very active!

This time, I was shocked to see how much bigger the baby had grown. Our doctor said that, from now on, we won't get to see ultrasounds at the monthly appointments because the baby is getting too big for the machine they have on-hand at the office. Too big!

Even to the ultrasound un-initiated such as Keith and me, this time around many parts of the anatomy were regularly apparent. (Not THAT part though, which is good because we don't want to find out the sex until the baby is born.) Right away the spine showed up bright white, and you could also pick out arm and leg bones. We could even see the tiny brain in the skull! The doctor switched to a different view and measured the brain size to see where we were at in development, and it was right at 15-16 weeks.

It's just amazing to me how much the pregnancy process has changed in the past 30 years. I've really enjoyed hearing stories from both my mother and mother-in-law about their pregnancies. Neither of them ever had an ultrasound for either Keith or me; after 12 weeks or so, you could hear the heartbeat and that was as close as they got to confirming the presence of another life in their body until the kicking started. Well, other than the nausea, heartburn, etc. that constantly reminds you that your body has been taken over by an alien being.

The only bad thing about hearing their stories is that they seem to have forgotten all about the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy. Everything was wonderful and fabulous and they both loved being pregnant. I'm excited, but I'm not sure that pregnancy itself agrees with me. So if I want confirmation that pregnancy can be a bit trying at times, I talk to my friends who have given birth in the past couple years. Their memories of the discomfort (did I mention the nausea? And the heartburn? Possibly at the same time?) are much more clear.

In a few weeks, Keith and I will go to a special ultrasound facility for our 3D ultrasound. We're both really excited about it, but a little nervous because we don't want to know the sex of the baby. But what if it's obvious? Or the lab tech mistakenly blurts it out? Interestingly, both Keith and I have had dreams that it's a boy .... but hopefully we have a few more months before we find out for sure!