Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another Baby Update

My older sis left a message the other day wanting to know how I'm doing and letting me know that she's been checking my blog. Obviously I haven't been as diligent about posting to it. No reason, really, except that I have this slave-driver Aussie boss who likes to send me random email at all hours requesting that I build spreadsheets with information that could just as easily be found in the pre-defined QuickBook reports (you know who you are).

Nah...I'm just kidding, really. I'm lucky if I log 7 hours per week at my bookkeeping job and that's somewhat too bad because I actually enjoy the work.

Speaking of crazy Australians, have you read this? Whatever you do, do NOT go to Australia and order a hot fudge sundae!

I have totally noticed that whenever I see something absolutely *crazy* in the news, it happened in Australia. Just an observation. Must be all those criminal genes.

In other news, we had our baby doctor appointment today where they performed another non-stress test to check Little Husband's heart rate (or whatever it is they are checking during this test). The baby doctor said his test results were "textbook beautiful". He also said that this baby doesn't appear to be coming out any time soon. "Oh, I predict he'll be here by Thanksgiving," the baby doctor said, "but I don't think he'll be early."

This was a tremendous relief to me and Husband. Tomorrow I will be 37 weeks pregnant and, quite simply, we're not ready! I mean, we're ready with the baby gear and the nursery and my hospital bag is packed and all that, but emotionally and intellectually and maturity-wise we are soooo not ready! You know, 'cause all that will magically change in three weeks...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baby Update

Husband and I went to the baby doctor today and had our 35-week ultrasound. Here's our little man just waking up from a nap. He's starting to look like my side of the family. What chubby little cheeks!

He's a little on the small side but nothing alarming. I'll go in for tests next week to measure his movement. I don't know why they need to test anything--this child moves all the time! If I walk, he sticks out his left foot to, presumably, brace himself. If I'm sitting, he pokes out his butt. Tonight he was doing all sorts of crazy things with his hands. For a while there it felt like he was practicing his boxing technique!

I actually had a contraction right there in the doctor's office. As I started to lay back on the examination table, my pelvic area was suddenly seized with a tremendous pain. I thought it was a muscle cramp. "Just a sec," I told the doctor, "I'm getting a cramp but it's passing."

"Actually, you're having a contraction," the doctor told me, "I can see it when I look at your stomach."

He wasn't alarmed so I decided not to be alarmed either. The contraction gradually passed but geez--those things hurt like a mofo! I was actually dizzy and disoriented for a few seconds afterward. If that's what a mild one feels like, I'm not sure how I'd handle the severe ones!

Our baby doctor then went on to describe what Braxton Hicks contractions feel like. "Like mild menstrual cramps," he told us.

" I was having on Sunday night." I looked to Husband for affirmation. He nodded. So I'd experienced the famous Braxton Hicks and didn't even know it.

What's next? My water breaks and I just blow that off too?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Am Pregnant Landscaper

Today, as I sat up in my office perch overlooking our front "yard", I found out why our lawn is riddled with trash from time-to-time: it turns out that the landscaping company who maintains the condo complex next door is using a leaf blower to blow all the parking lot trash onto our yard. Not fair! Our lawn guy was just here yesterday and he worked hard to make our postage stamp look green and clean and trash/leaf free.

Mildly amused and wondering how I could handle this situation with humor, I decided to put on an outfit that makes me look my pregnant preggiest. I then hauled tail out the front door, trash bag and tiny rake in hand (I chose the tiny rake to look most pathetic), and proceeded to clean up all the leaves and trash. As I set to work, I made it a point to subtly strain and groan each time I bent over. I was playing on the sympathies of the Mexican workers, you see. I found out long ago that Mexican men are true gentlemen and they hate to see a lady doing manual work. Time after time after time I have had a Mexican gentleman take over whatever task I was performing all the while saying, "This is not work for a lady."

Sure enough, the workers came rushing over, horror in their eyes, and cleaned up our front yard. The only things I can say in Spanish are, "I am not afraid of you", "I am going to punch you in the face" and, "Thanks, my best friend". I chose the latter since it was a little more appropriate than the first two. Hey--at the moment they were my best friends!

I was actually going to take a video of my buddies blowing the trash into our yard (for your viewing pleasure) but I was too slow on the draw. Next time. Of course, my hope is that the next time they're cleaning the parking lot with a leaf blower they will remember me, my pregnant belly and my tiny little rake.

Come to think of it, the next time I see them out there I should run out, set up a ladder and start cleaning the gutters. In December I should set up that same ladder and start stringing lights on the roof. Of course, the baby will be here by then so I'd have to put him in our Baby Bjorn. Either way, I may be able to get a lot of work done around here without having to lift a finger.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Addendums on Finances, Mothers in the Workplace and Motherhood

I heard this today and loved it:

"Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses are broke!"

Love it.

Also, Husband stayed with some friends in Dallas this weekend after the big UT/OU rivalry game (HOOK "EM HOOOOOOORNS!!!!). The wife was put on bed rest during the second month of her pregnancy and will probably continue to do so until the baby is delivered (she is 12 weeks pregnant now). She worked as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company and immediately after she told her superiors of her diagnosis, they fired her. I can understand that being on bed rest prohibits her from being able to perform the duties of her job, and I understand that she is of no use to them if she cannot perform her job, but dang that's cold. Now she is on an expensive Cobra plan that will run out after so many months (6 months? A year?) with no hope of joining her husband's health plan due to "pre-existing conditions" or something along those lines.

I'm curious--could she have filed for disability immediately after receiving her diagnosis in order to prevent being fired? Does anyone know? I heard of a pregnant co-worker doing that once and I always wondered if it was effective.

In other news, I think that Little Husband dropped over the weekend. I had some weird symptoms that I won't get into 'cause my Dad reads this blog and he probably doesn't want to hear about "icky pregnancy stuff" (even though he fathered six children) (all by my mother, lest there be any confusion). The most compelling piece of evidence that I have to support my "baby drop theory" is that he is no longer up under my ribs, I can breath more easily, my acid reflux is gone (no more squished stomach) and whereas I used to feel his kicks at the top of my belly, I now feel them in the middle of my belly. There you have it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mothers in the Workplace

This article made me seethe. In fact, it so struck a nerve in me that in an unprecedented move on my part, I dropped the paper and wrote to the author.

I'm not sure if it's the lack of support for mothers (read: families) in the workplace or the lack of support between women that gets me more. Probably the latter. I can tell you that one of the reasons I decided to stay home as a mother has to do with this very issue. Once-upon-a-time not too long ago, I was a VoIP installation engineer and worked almost exclusively with men. In fact, I'd say that during the last 8 years of my professional career, I worked almost exclusively with men. I cannot count how many times I'd witness one of these guys roll their eyes and say, "the receptionist (or office admin or recruiter or whomever) had to stay home today because one of her kids is sick."

"What else can she possibly do?" I'd ask myself. "She can't take them to daycare, she can't bring them to work and she certainly can't leave them at home alone!"

I'd then start thinking, "Why, in the workplace, do we not support families? Why are we pressured to place our jobs before that which is most important to us--our children's well-being? Don't these guys have families? Weren't they children once?"

It could be my imagination, but this sort of disdain was even more pronounced when the woman was a single mother.

Because I was only seeing this behavior from men, I figured it was a male thing. Of course, this logic is flawed since I didn't have any experiences with women for comparison. I did always assume that women would be more understanding. Now that I see it runs both sides of the fence, I am, well, discouraged.

It was after enough of these episodes that I realized that I intended to avoid this situation, if at all possible, by staying home with my children. Right now I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home, but next year--who knows? Husband works in a volatile career and anything could happen to his job. Anything.

In the meanwhile, I will thank the author of this article for shedding light on the issues that mothers in the workplace confront, and I will make every effort to thank God for each day that I am afforded the privilege of staying home with Little Husband.

My friends, if you ever hear me complaining about it please feel free to show a little of that woman-on-woman hatred and slap me. I'll deserve it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Counting My Blessings

This is a conversation I am 100% confident that I will never, ever have with my parents:

"Have me arrested, Mama! Have me arrested now! Have me arrested and just take all my money, Mama!"

This is a conversation that Santa is having at this very moment with his own mama. I know this because:

1) I truly am becoming the neighborhood busybody, and
2) He's having this telephone conversation at a rather loud volume with his front door wide open. One of my corner office windows overlooks his front door. Naturally I had to open my window so that I could better hear what he is saying. That's what makes me a busybody (that and the fact that I then broadcast the conversation on my blog).

I will keep a watch out for the police. After they come and haul him away, I probably should start digging around for all his money. Just a thought in these troubled times.

I am *so glad* that M2K2 cautioned me out of "hollering" at Santa for Little Husband's gift.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Creative Financing

"You know those baby bibs I bought at the consignment sale last Friday? The plastic ones that came in a pack of 14?" I asked Husband as I fixed dinner last night.

He glanced up from his reading material. "Sure."

"Well, something's wrong with them because they stink terribly. I noticed it when I opened up the package. I even tried washing them but their stench remained and even tainted the rest of the laundry so I had to throw them away. Maria even commented on it when she emptied the trash. They were made in China so Lord knows what's in them!"

"Well that's no good," Husband replied, "how much did you pay for them."

"Oh, they were only $2 so no big deal."

"A cup of coffee!" Husband declared. "You could just skip having a cup of coffee one day to make up for the loss."

I chewed on this thoughtfully for a moment.

"Better yet," I quipped, "We could just not feed the baby during one of his scheduled bottle feedings."

I'm not Done Yet

More on the Credit Crunch...

I jut spoke with a dear friend of mine whom I've known for over 14 years. He is a lawyer, financially responsible, makes an excellent income and is conservative in his spending habits. He makes it a point to save money and also contribute to his 401K each month. His credit rating is impeccable. He has one credit card that is paid in full, on time, at the end of each billing cycle. Yesterday he received a call from this credit card company. They told him that they are reevaluating his line of credit and are freezing the account until they can determine whether or not he is worthy of a continued line of credit.

He, being the responsible person that he is, has no other credit cards. Therefore, it's not as if his creditor is worried that he has too much accessible credit.

If this is happening to someone with a credit history like his, what about the people who use their credit cards as a lifeline? That is to say, what about the people who have no choice but to use their credit cards for staples such as gas, groceries, and utility payments?

Time for a plan B.


ADDENDUM: I keep meaning to mention this but it continues to slip my mind. The Wall Street Journal had an article in it yesterday about credit card usage. I didn't feel that it was terribly informative and certainly not alarming so it was hardly worth a mention in my posts. One "fact" that they did mention gave me a lot of food for thought. They mention that we, as consumers, really haven't tapped into all our available credit (the exact quote is "Consumers aren't close to maxing out their cards") meaning that we are "fine" because we are not maxing out our credit cards. I beg to differ. Husband and I have two credit cards: one that we use (and pay off) regularly and one that we have in case of emergency. I can't remember the exact credit limit of the combined cards but suffice to say that it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000. Let me just tell you now that if we ran up that much debt we would be bankrupt in a matter of months just trying to meet the minimum payment. That's a fact. Okay, it's not really a fact, it's a guess. I haven't done the math. But, knowing our budget, there isn't much wiggle room in there for additional payments of any kind so let's say it's an educated guess. What on earth is going on here?!?!?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Letter from Nephew

Today I received a random letter in the mail from my four-year-old nephew. You know, the one who punched me in the gut when I explained to him that I am pregnant? Anyway, I can't decide whether or not this letter is meant for informational purposes only or if he is writing to appeal for my help in freeing his cat. Either way, I hate cats (which pits me against everyone else in my family) so this is clearly a problem. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to know that the cat in question is "trapped" and therefore cannot attack my head (this has happened a few times with other cats) or gouge my eyes out (hasn't happened yet but it very well could).

I am rather disturbed by the depiction of his mother in the far left corner of the illustration. Where are her arms? Her hair? Did the cat get them? Why is her head cocked to the side, an idiot's grin plastered across her face? My sister-in-law is no idiot, by God! And when did my young nephew learn to write so well?

Feeling the Crunch

I have long had a soapbox that I like to climb on from time-to-time that involves the ever-increasing use of credit cards to finance a lifestyle that some cannot afford. I do not hold myself above anyone else as I have been guilty of this behavior myself. It takes one to know one, so to speak. Still, in my single days with little more than groceries and rent to pay for, I often wondered how acquaintances who made far less than I did were able to afford $700 purses when I felt like I could not. It just didn't make sense. Somewhere along the lines we, as a society, were losing the conservative spending nature taught to us by our parents and grandparents in favor of the trappings of materialism. If not the generation before us, who exactly were we emulating?

Last Fall Husband and I took a trip to Vegas (I on business, he along for the ride). We stayed at MGM's Signature hotel on my company's dollar. It cost $200 per night which was far less than the going rate for almost all of the other hotels on the strip. We dined at the restaurants in the MGM Grand and spent a pretty penny to do so. In one restaurant there wasn't an item on the menu that cost less than $34. Everything was a la carte so the meal price added up very quickly. One steak on the menu actually cost $188!

Shocked by the prices of what is otherwise a very nondescript establishment, I glanced around to see what kind of people patronized this restaurant. They were almost all in their mid to late twenties.

"Trust-fund kids." Husband surmised.

"No, no way," I disagreed, "there aren't that many trust fund babies who would frequent this place---it's not glamorous enough."

That begged the question: if Husband at 45 and I at 36 felt like we could not afford this restaurant on our healthy, dual incomes, how could they?

"Credit cards." I told Husband decidedly. "They're maxing out they're credit cards."

But why? What was prompting this sudden movement of irresponsibility?

I still don't have the answer to that question but, in studying my own behavior, I can make a few good guesses. For instance, I'd never even heard of spending $400 on a pair of Manolo Blahniks until Sex an the City became popular. Through Carrie Bradshaw's character the show glamorized maxing out credit cards in the name of couture. Looking expensive was so damn important, the message told us, that it was worth missing a month's rent payment to do so.

(Note to Dad in case you're having a heart attack right now: I have never spent anywhere near $400 on a pair of shoes. I did on a dress once and felt stupid forever after, so I learned my lesson.)

Then reality shows joined the band wagon. Paris Hilton and her friends became en vogue and, with an insider's view into their lifestyles, we all craved a lifestyle that we could not afford. Or could we?

We opened multiple credit cards and simply transferred balances as the introductory interest rates expired. We made minimum payments and transferred money from savings as we struggled to cover our ever-increasing debt. We did this because buying nice things felt good and we craved the praise we received from our friends with each new purchase. The benefits were affirming and far outweighed the guilt we felt each time we saw our credit card balances rise.

After a while we just quit looking at those credit card balances as we continued to book those trips to Vegas and the slopes of Colorado. Multiple vacations in one year was the norm. We told ourselves that we "deserve it" and that we can "always make more money". We ceased putting money in 401K's and savings was a thing of the past. Who needs savings when our tech stocks will recover and once again catapult us to the ranks of millionaire?

Once upon a time, not too long ago, a LOT of people in Austin were millionaires on paper. They are no more.

This post comes about because I ran into an old acquaintance of mine at Starbucks this morning. (Side note: why am I frequenting Starbucks? I did the math the other day and realized that I could easily waste $100 a month if I gave into my urge to go every day. That's at least one week's worth of groceries for our household.)

Back to my acquaintance.

We were catching up on each other's lives and suddenly she looked crestfallen and placed her hand on my forearm. "You've always been responsible with your money," she began, "can I ask you for some advice?"

"Of course you can." I replied, failing to see the irony as I sipped my $4 decaf latte.

"I'm declaring bankruptcy." she whispered, glancing around with her head ducked in shame. "It just got out of control. I've tried everything to prevent it but it seems inevitable. I've had my house on the market since July but it won't sell. We just lowered the price yesterday and, if it sells, I won't make one single dime off it. I have $29,000 racked up on my credit cards and, with my child turning 18 this past summer, I no longer receive child support. I thought I was using it for her, but I guess I was using it to support my lifestyle. When I was married my husband made well over $200K, you see, and I guess I'm just accustomed to that lifestyle. I have a hard time cutting back. I really like nice things."

I murmured sympathetically. I do understand. Completely.

She continued. "I have spoken with two attorneys and we determined that the best thing to do is cash out my 401K and either use the money to pay off my car (which she bought brand new in 2006 for $40,000) or have my car repossessed and buy a newer model car that will last longer. What do you think? What would you do?"

Inwardly I was freaking out for my friend but outwardly I remained calm. Here's why I was freaking out: this woman is in her fifties and is going to cash out her 401K. What on earth will she do when she needs to retire? How will she replenish that money in time? Also, she bought a car, a nice car, for $40,000 in 2006. $40,000 is a LOT for a car! I can understand wanting a nice car, but the used car market is pretty good and far more economical. There are ways to afford things you want, if you're willing to put your ego aside. In addition, I distinctly remember her asking me for financial advice in 2006 because she was overspending. This was before she bought the car. What happened?

Then there's the issue of having a car repossessed. I remember not too long ago that having a car repossessed was something people kept to themselves out of shame. Bankruptcy too. Now, I guess, it's just so common that no one thinks twice about weighing the pros and cons of it over gourmet coffee.

"This is all my own fault," she confessed, wiping away her tears. "I mostly spent money on helping my kids and giving them the things they need. I mean, my daughter needed a new car for college so how could I not do that for her? And then there's my adult son who needs help from time-to-time. My 83 year-old mother has helped me out financially to the point where it should be embarrassing but still I am in this mess. My ex husband has even helped me out financially--he's given me thousands and thousands of dollars to get me out of these holes--yet I still have to sell my house and declare bankruptcy. I did it to myself."

My heart broke for her. Clearly she is responsible for the situation she is in but it is just as clear that she is willing to accept the blame. Her justifications were interesting. No college kids needs a new car, necessarily, but that's not for me to judge. What's worth considering is that she's having all this trouble yet not one major financial catastrophe has befallen her such as a serious illness or disability. What happens if it comes to that? What happens if you declare bankruptcy and then have something serious, like a huge medical bill, to pay? I honestly have no idea.

I do know, however, that given the right circumstances I--hell--any of us could be in her Manolo Blahniks.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Coming to Terms

“I’m almost full term!” I declared to Husband as I set down my laptop and stood up to make my point. “Full term!” I declared again, leaning towards him, fists clenched, eyes like saucers.

Husband glanced up distractedly from his laptop. “Full term?” he indulged. (Really, he was busy and I was distracting him with my banalities.)

“Yes! Apparently full term is 37 weeks and I am almost full term. Wwwwow!”

And with that, I did what any normal pregnant woman would do in a moment of extreme excitement: I ran off to use the bathroom.

Of Wayward Pizza Dough and Gentle Pushes

I continue to shake my head at the fact that I am now a full-blown 33 weeks pregnant. I think back to when I first found out and told Husband that we are expecting a baby. It seems like only last month!

We're almost fully prepared for the baby and are so excited although I definitely have my moments. For the most part this has been a good pregnancy save for those horrible stomach aches I get from time-to-time (the doctor says it's pregnancy-related and should cease after the little babola is born). Thank goodness for that!

This is why I get stomach aches:

At 5'2" tall and with legs that are long for my height, there isn't much room in my torso for the babola. Consequently, he's squashing everything. Look at the intestines in that diagram!

This past weekend was particularly tiring physically. Husband took me out on a romantic date on Friday night. We went to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner and then on to the lounge at The Four Seasons where our corner table allowed us to monitor the comings and goings of the beautiful people of Austin. Husband ordered a Merlot and I ordered a glass of skim (milk). I am so glamorous!

Saturday I attended a Pilates/Yoga fusion class at my gym. There was another pregnant woman in the class who was five months pregnant and obviously freaked out to be exercising during pregnancy. I felt sorry for her as she continually drew the instructor's attention as she struggled with each pose. Hey, I struggle too but for some reason the instructor left me alone. This is possibly because if I cannot do a pose and the instructor looks my way, I glare back defiantly as I perform my own modifications to the pose. Anyway, at the end of the class I heard the instructor tell the woman that the class "isn't really for pregnant women."

"Well I'm coming anyway!" I announced, butting into their conversation. "I only have about five good weeks of exercising left and I don't intend to give it up. There are only a few classes offered here that pregnant women can participate in and I think it's too bad that you're discouraging us from coming to this class. I find that the stretching alone is tremendously beneficial to my pregnancy."

I'm certain that I shot myself in the foot with this instructor. Next week she'll probably make the class harder just to show me that I can't do it.

Yoga aside, for some reason I was *exhausted* this weekend. We were pretty active so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. Also, Little Husband is definitely going through some sort of a growth spurt so I was achy and tired most of Saturday and Sunday. I hate that feeling. I hate not being able to predict my body or, at times, my moods. I guess I'm not one of those women who embrace pregnancy. It's fine, but I don't love it like some of my friends did. I feel very lucky that I have an incredibly kind and understanding husband who encourages me to rest when I am tired and never makes me feel like a lazy sot if the laundry isn't put away the minute it comes out of the dryer. In fact, if he sees that I am aching he'll jump up and, after gently pushing me towards the couch, finish whatever housekeeping task I was in the middle of. Then he'll join me on the couch and rub my back. This is a good man.

I'm also lucky that Husband is incredibly understanding about the various moods that accompany late-pregnancy. Last night I felt like I was going to have a meltdown because the homemade pizza dough wouldn't stretch the way I wanted it to (feel free to laugh!). For some reason I did not have the resources to deal with wayward pizza dough and I about went over the edge. Husband, in his infinite patience and kindness, talked me down from the cliff and within minutes I was back to normal.

Yes, with pregnancy comes its ups and downs and I'm finding out how important it is to have that man by your side who will support you either way. At least three times per week I will walk several miles around my neighborhood or the lake. If he's home, Husband will join me. I've mentioned in past blogs that I treasure this time with Husband as we have our best conversations when we go for long walks. What I didn't mention is that during these walks, almost without fail, I will feel Husband's hand on the small of my back, gently pushing me as I struggle up the hills. I've never asked him to help me, he just does it. I guess you could say that he's literally "got my back".

This is a good man.