Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Financially Speaking

We are in the midst of figuring out how to finance our remodel and, more importantly, the twins.  Because I am new to most of this financial stuff, I thought I'd share some of the things we've learned, in case you, or some random googler, needs some information on what financing a remodel involves.  (I'm talking mostly about financing the remodel.  We aren't financing the twins beyond eating nothing but ramen noodles from January until August of next year, when we're paying $2000+ a month for three children in daycare.  Y.I.K.E.S.)

First, some basics about how we are approaching this.  Our remodel has to cost less than $120k, so that we do not have to get a jumbo loan.  When you hear all the news about current low interest rates, it applies only to loans under $417,000.  Over that amount and I think the lowest interest rates are around 7%.  For all of my friends and family in NYC and CA, bless your little high mortgage paying hearts.  We actually have the option of going a bit more than $120k for our budget, but we are not going to tell our contractors. 

We are also planning on doing a lot of the remodel ourselves to save as much money as we can.  We're going to paint.  We're going to put in the baseboards and crown molding. We're using laminate instead of granite.   We are going to finish one bedroom and bathroom ourselves.  We are going to build the master closet organizational system ourselves.  We're going to re-use or kitchen cabinets when we move one wall.  We're making the remodel of the downstairs bathroom (the "Butt Ugly Bathroom" as it's known) and the claw foot tub for the master bath optional. Those can wait several years (approximately 5 years, when the twins are out of daycare!) before they are done.  Whatever is optional for us to get an occupency permit, if it doesn't fit in the budget, it's not getting done.

Another key issue is that we're going to have to move out the house while they remodel.  They are taking the top off our house.  No roof on the house means, well, no roof over our heads.  That means we have to rent a house for about, oh, 4 to 6 months, while they do the remodel.  Perhaps now, you're thinking, hmmmmm, rent and mortgage?  ARE YOUR OUT OF YOUR EVER LOVING MIND?!?!?!?

Here's where Dave's hard work comes in.  He has found that banks carry a whole bunch of different "products"  to help with remodels. Some fully expect that you are going to pay mortgage and rent at the same time.  (Assholes)  Some will let you only pay accruing interest on the mortgage and renovation loan.  (Not really a bargain, but not as assholishly unrealistic)  And we think that the state employee credit union allows a 6 month grace period where you don't pay anything on the loan.  (WOOHOO!  Except that interest gets rolled into the final loan and eats up a significant part of our wiggle room to stay under jumbo loan size).  The good news is that we've found a rental for quite a bit less than we're paying now that would allow us to pay interest during the remodel. So that may be workable.  

At the end of the remodel, the bank then refinances everything---the mortgage and the renovation loan---into a new 30 year loan.  (Or a 15 year one, I guess. Bwhahahahahah! Those folks can afford both mortgage and rent)  Our goal is to end up with this final loan at one of the non-profit banks (banking services?) in which we are members.  Why?  If we choose an ARM, at the state employee bank, the max the interest rate could increase after 5 years is 1.5%.  At Wells Fargo, it could go up a full 5%.  If we go for a fixed-rate loan, USAA just has better rates and services than we've seen elsewhere.  I also feel like I can trust a non-profit better to not take advantage of us over a for profit bank (trying to make up profit for bad decisions over the last decade).  

So that is all I know about how one finances a remodel.  I have to be honest that I freaked out a bit last week when I found out that the new plans add more square footage (and more $$$) than we had originally planned.  But I still think we're in the ball park to get this thing done.  And if we're not, well.  I don't know what we'll do if we're not at least in the ball park.  Actually, I do know what we'll do.  The architects have already said they would work on the drawings until they get the plans to the budget we need.  

There you go.  YIKES.  Here we go!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


So, at a little over 15 weeks of twin pregnancy, I have some observations to share about what it's like to be pregnant with twins.

First, it is a boatload of fun to see people's reactions when they find out that it actually is twins.  The most common response is the bug-eyed, slack jawed reaction. There is also a slight head adjustment  in which people move their entire heads forward in disbelief.  It's a lot of fun to tell people I'm having twins!  I'm going to be sad when everyone knows and I can't shock anyone any more.

Second, shocking people at having twins is going to be less likely over the next weeks and months.  My belly is HUGE.  And it's just going to get bigger.  I know you've seen the belly shots from a few weeks ago, but it really doesn't do justice to how quickly I'm growing.  Here's an objective example.  On Monday, I bought a new jumbo sized swimsuit to swim laps in.  While there are tons of maternity swimsuits, they are mostly for splashing around the pool and not for actually exercising in.  My enormous arms and back are crying out for a little toning, so I want to swim.  So I bought a regular, but jumbo sized speedo swimsuit on Monday.  On Friday, when I put it on to go to the gym:  it didn't fit.  I could not pull it up over my belly.  Monday, fit; Friday, too small.  That is how quickly I am growing big.  Again, let us all note that I am 15 weeks.  I swam in my regular jumbo sized bathing suit with Conor until I gave birth.  Y.I.K.E.S.  

Finally, I am pooped.  POOPED.  POOOOOOPED.  Friday night, I passed out on the sofa at 7:15.  I finally got off the sofa and stumbled into bed about 9:30 and slept mostly ok until 7 am.  Then on Saturday afternoon, I took a 2 hour nap.  I had only a little problem going to sleep Saturday night and am looking forward to going to bed early tonight.   I am concerned about my energy level.  To read and write (what professors do a lot of), I need a wee bit more energy than I am feeling at this exact moment.  And without the liquid motivation that is coffee, I am concerned about writing the 4 papers and the grant I want to get done before I pop out these two babies.  

So, umm, yeah.  Twins.  It is not the same pregnancy as Conor.  I'm sure my age isn't helping, and the fact that I'm not in as good of shape as I was with Conor.  Still.  It's not the same at all.

It's great.  Really.  I am loving it.  But a few extra hours in the day when I could sleep would make it all a lot better. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Long and Short of It

I'm back to my curly headed self.  And my hair has shrunk back up to between my shoulder blades.  Also, the blow drying and flat ironing fried my hair.  It was straw on Monday after I washed it.  I put in a deep conditioner tonight and hopefully by tomorrow, it will be somewhat back to normal.

This is the longest time I've had straight hair and the only time I've let people close to me see it.  Carrol is right that being curly is a key part of my identity.  And it freaked both my husband and my family out.  It really changed the way I look.  Fortunately, I do not often look like Kirstie Alley.  But there were other things.

It made my face look bigger.  My curly hair has always dominated my face and my bone structure has looked too delicate.  But straightening my hair made my bones look bigger (I think) and certainly made me look very bloated.  Yes, the weight gain has something to do with that, but I looked like I put on 10 lbs pre to post straight hair.

Second, I've always wanted long straight hair.  But I have to be honest with you:  straight hair is a pain in the butt.  My hair was everywhere all the time.  With my curly hair, I can just pin back a curl or two and go.  With long hair, I had to deal with whole swaths of it and even then, it kept creeping back to hang in my face.  (Probably trying to hide one of the chins)  I'm sure it's just what I'm used to, but I'm surprised to find that I like my curly self.  I wouldn't mind playing with straight hair a couple of times a year and be curly the rest of the time.

As for my weight gain, thank you all for kindly saying that I was not quite yet the size of Moby Dick.  I am, however, about 4 lbs from what I weighted when I gave birth to Conor.  One might note that at 14w5d, I still have a ways to go and a boatload of weight to gain. I know it's for the babies.  And I do believe with every pound I gain, I am more likely to have healthy, term babies ready to breastfeed and take home from the hospital.  That said, when you see my chins, my enormous butt, or worst of all, the rolls of fat on my back (AHHHHHH!), judge me not.

Or I might eat you.  It could come to that.    

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cousin Itt, Jennifer Aniston, and Kirstie Alley

Yes, indeedy.  What do Cousin Itt, Jennifer Aniston, and Kirstie Alley have in common?  Why, me with straight hair.  

Yesterday, while getting my roots dyed to sort of match my highlights, my junior stylist-in-training suggested that we blow dry my hair straight  Since it wouldn't cost anything more than walking out the door with wet hair, I said sure!  Well, 1 1/2 hours later....

Yes.  It took my junior stylist and 2 other senior stylists One and One-Half Fracking hours to blow my hair straight.  Maybe people with normal hair would feel special in a positive way having 3 stylists working on her hair, but I was feeling most definitely short-bus special because of my ultra curly, ultra fine (who knew?), many haired head.  I will be quite honest that when they started working on the front of my hair, I could barely see through the strands, and the image I saw was much like Cousin Itt above.

But then they finished, and parted it to the side.  And maybe it was because my hair was hanging half in my face and I didn't have my glasses on, but my first thought was "Holy cow!  I look like a fat Jennifer Aniston!!!"  When I was skinny and first moved out here, my students thought I looked a bit like JA, but now, honestly, not so much.  Dave, probably just being kind, does agree that he can see a bit of the chubby Aniston look.

Nonetheless, the resemblence to Jennifer was fleeting at best.  No, every time I look in the mirror now, Kirstie Alley peers back.  And not the thin Kirstie Alley.  The current Kirstie Alley.  With bad makeup.  And Dave agrees.  Yes, there is a Kirstie in there, too.

Ok! Ok!  I know you want a picture.  Look how long my hair is!  Friends in real life just screamed that out loud.  Who knew that curly hair could stretch that far when straight?  It's past my bra straight and curly, it's between my shoulders.  

And ((((sigh)))), what I notice most about this picture is how fat my back is.  I didn't realize how much this weight gain is bothering me until I warned a friend that when she saw me, I was going to look really bloated and I started to cry.  Dave keeps reassuring me that I'm pregnant with twins, not fat.  But when I look in the mirror and count the chins, I feel ugly.  (Which explains my recent binge on cosmetics--as soon as I feel fat, I but something cheap to make me feel pretty.  I have 3 new lipsticks, new mascara, and eye shadow de-creaser).  

I believe from the research that the weight gain will strongly increase my chances of carrying the babies to term. And even if they are early, my weight gain will make them fatter, which is one of the best predictors of premie survival.  

None. The. Less.  I am fat.  I've gained 15 lbs already, which is on the low end of what Dr. Luke recommends.  And I'll likely gain about 30 more lbs.  45 lbs in total is, again, what she recommends that I gain.  Bleah.  Fat.  

Skinny, though, I think this hair style would be cute.  And maybe I really would look like Jennifer Aniston.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Clean House

Last year, after some raise or another, we decided to splurge on getting a housekeeper to come to our house twice a month. (I'm pretty sure that blew the entire raise and then some, but the joy of a clean house makes it worth it)  We have some  friends who have objected to hiring someone to clean the house because of its bourgeois implications and the possibility of taking advantage of others.  One might note, this same couple recently hired our housekeeper. 

In any case, last night we arrived home late and entered the back door rejoicing in the smell of pine sol as well as a variety of other clean smells.  I realized at that moment how unusual those smells in our house and felt a mixture of compuction and sloth.  We love Sue.  We love what she does to our house.  And we love how every two weeks, our house is clean and beautiful.

Of course, the night and morning before her visit, we clean our house the most.  It's a frenzy of laundry folding, toy storage, and magazine stack recycling.  Dave has noted that we really don't need a cleaner as much as the threat of a cleaner coming the next day to make us actually clean our own house.  

But then we'd miss the clean smell. And that would make me unhappy.  

And last night was ironic as I walked around loving my house and realizing that we had just had our last meeting with the architects on the remodel.  I think we've worked out most of the details and are working on a schedule to start construction Feb 28.  (YIKES)  We may be renting the house directly behind ours for the duration of the remodel, a stroke of luck after the poopie head, dog hating renters will be moving out mid-February.  The joy of their 10 surrounding dog owning neighbors was assumed after a collective cheer followed by hip shaking, tongue sticking out dancing was observed.    Na-na-na-na-boo-boo was also heard.  

The babies are also doing really well.  We had our latest OB appointment on Monday, in which I attended the OB Clinic.  I thought it was sort of a Welcome to Our OB Practice, until I found out it was a special event for high risk patients (twins, auto-immune, old hag).  Pick just one and I qualify.  Baby A's heartrate was 164 and Baby B was 168.  They are perfect.  

I, on the other hand, am huge.  I'm starting swimming again this weekend, once I find a ginormous speedo (not an oxymoron).  I will feel better about my arms if they a little more muscle and a little less flab in them.  Ditto for my fat back.  Swimming will also help my core, so I'm hoping to start swimming 3 or so days a week.  I'm not going to get any smaller; I might as well get a bit more muscular.  Of course, will anyone be able to see muscles under the layers of fat?  Good question. Don't ask it to my face.  

So, in conclusion, our house is clean, we're really going to add on to it, the babies are fine, and I'm enormous.  (Double chins have been spotted.  Easily.  Although considering that my face sort of fades into my neck without the assistance of a jaw, it's not that hard for me to get a double chin) 

You are now up to date on the mother thing household.   

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Start of the New Year

I am back from a wonderful family cruise to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  Yes, we celebrated Dave's parent's 50th wedding anniversary at the end of the year and my parent's 50th anniversary at the beginning of the year.  We have celebrated anniversaries this last month.

The cruise, our first, was actually pretty cool.  The weather was nice and the food was good.  Carnival Cruises has *free* camp daycare for children over 2 years old from approximately 9 am until 10 pm at night (with a few breaks).  We did not leave Conor in there for even just one entire day, but it was nice to drop him off for a few hours so he could do kid things (color, dance lessons--the sprinkler?, crafts, truck races, etc) and we could do grown up things (be lazy, play cards).  

All in all, we totally recommend cruises for family vacations.  Lots of opportunities for everyone and you don't have to cook or clean.  How cool is that?

Of course, we unwittingly continued Dave's family tradition on family vacations--a somewhat serious trip to the emergency room.  We did not plan on doing this, yet, it happened.

We got on the ship about 11:30 am on Monday.  At about 4:30 pm on Monday, the ship pushed off the dock.  At this point, Dave got his first umbrella drink* and I got a fake umbrella drink.  We were all on the top deck of the ship looking watching the cruise shop and enjoying the weather.  Conor was playing "make believe" golf on the putt-putt course we were looking forward to playing on.  Make believe golf is apparently a combination of golf and baseball, in which one pretends to putt the ball and then run around the hole.  Except this time, Conor decided to run up the putt-putt course and tripped.  He fell on the only big, jagged obstacle on the entire course, a fake tree stump with pointed edges. 

He screamed.  Even as I was running towards him, I could see the blood around him on the putting green.  I picked him up and he had a bloody hand over his eye.  I swear to God that for one horrifying moment, I thought he had punctured his eye.  I pulled his hand down and saw, instead, a huge bloody hole in his forehead.  

Dave reached us and scooped up Conor as we began to run for the infirmary, having absolutely no idea where it was.  We went down a deck and found a waitress serving drinks.  She took one look at us, put her hand to her mouth and screamed.  ("Ok!  It *is* as bad as I think it is," I thought to myself)  She ran us down to the elevator and sent us to the third floor.  A kind couple got on the elevator with us and helped us get to the third floor, explaining where the infirmary was.  Fortunately, it was directly off the elevator.

We arrived and a very efficient and calm nurse took us immediately to the back.  Conor was covered in blood by this time and we were all very upset.  She wiped off the blood off his hands, his chin, and his face and we got to see that yes, indeedy, that was a big ass gash on his forehead.  Stitches were not optional.  

I can go into the gory details, which I do repeatedly when I think about it and get upset, but it was pretty awful for both Conor and me.  Dave, being used to stitches on family vacations, was less freaked out.  But there was a flushing of the wound with a long needle from underneath the skin.  We had to restrain Conor for quite a while as he screamed "OUCHY!  OUCHY!  IT HURTS."  The first set of thin stitches broke, so we had to go with thicker ones.  It was rough.

And then it was over and Conor felt much better.  Once the act of giving him the two stitches were over, he was really and truly fine.  And our nurse spent a substantial amount of time determining that Conor had indeed had his tetanus shot and followed up with us 3 days later to check on the wound and Conor.  Really.  That meant a lot to us.  

Of course, that's still not the whole story.  As we were running for the elevator, my narcissistic body decided to have its own breakdown.  Turning and running into the elevator door, I felt my calf seize and I heard it pop as the cramp ripped apart.  This is the time when all the attention should be on my son and his injury and all of a sudden, I'm lame and shouting out "Fuckity fuck" on the elevator.  The good news is that I really only couldn't walk for about 2 or 3 days.  The bad news is that when I started to be able to walk better, that's when the bruise from the muscle ripping started to show.  By Friday, the entire back of my leg from the middle of my calf to the bottom of my foot was black and blue.  Why yes, it *is* very attractive.  

Dave said he was holding a bleeding Conor and saw me limping into the elevator, he was like "Oh, crap.  How can I take care of both of them."  He later told me "I chose Conor, you know."  "As well you should have," I replied.  We, unlike others, agree this is the right choice for us.

In any case, we got the family drama over with early.  The rest of the trip was thrillingly and happily healthy and fun.  Conor's scar should be minimal and I don't really care about my leg.  It still works and that's fine.  

School starts back tomorrow and I certainly cannot complain that I did not do anything this winter break.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Looking Swell

We had our first trimester screen on Wednesday, and, as the doctor says, everything looks perfectly normal.  Both babies were jumping around, measuring right on time, and had fantastic heartbeats.  Their nuchal folds were well within normal, indicating a low likelihood of a chromosomal problem.  We are obviously thrilled.

Even better, I finally got to talk to a doctor who has some serious knowledge about my auto-immune treatment.  He was able to cite research and has done the most to convince me that after the first trimester, now that the pregnancy is well established, I no longer have to inject myself with Lovenox.  I do not have an identified thrombophilia problem (blood clotting issue).  And although no one has yet to disagree that my eczema from the last pregnancy was a sign of an auto-immune problem, Lovenox is not going to affect that--the prednisone did.  He did say I could continue on with the Lovenox injections for the rest of the pregnancy if I wanted, but he did not think it was necessary.  

In any case, I am seriously considering stopping the Lovenox.  

And tonight is our last progesterone in oil shot and my last dose of estrogen tablets.  I am so psyched!!!  My husband will no longer be a literal pain in the butt!!

I am also pretty sure that I've already felt both babies move.  I am twelve weeks along, folks.  Women who have already had children seem to quickly forget how incredibly early that is to feel something.  (indeed, I just felt a little butterfly squiggle when I wrote that)  I didn't feel Conor until February of our pregnancy, at about 17 or 18 weeks.  I'm a full 6 weeks earlier with these babies.  And my belly is HUGE.  And it's just going to get bigger!  

It just feels crazy.  Twins are crazy.  And we're crazy about them already.