Monday, September 30, 2013

Two Weekends in One Post

Last weekend, we went to the Cantor Arts Center here on campus. It's the art museum, and it's free. 

Leland Stanford, Jr's death mask (creepy, right?)

It rained for a change. 

The Thinker by Rodin

I loved this sculpture by Rodin

Totem poles

We got some baby presents and Alex was happy to try them on

Moo in particular loved the ribbon

Ducky gave himself a concussion - notice hi left pupil is larger than his right?

Dusty and Alex at the top of Hoover Tower

I am HUGE! at the beach


I don't look so big in shadow form...

The ocean.


Pigeon Point

Me and the lighthouse

Dusty, Jen and me at Pigeon Point

They got a flaming drink.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The best baby shower I've been to

This past weekend was the baby shower for my co-worker, A. Her best friend gave her a shower and honestly, it was the loveliest I have been to. Firstly, it had a start and an end time. I love parties that tell you when they will end. It makes it so much easier to plan your day, and it's just better to know how long you have (if the party is really bad, it helps even more!). Light refreshments included fruit on a stick (in rainbow colors), crudite and a pasta salad. Drinks included champagne and sparkling water (and regular water too) - all so simple. Food and drink were available from the minute you walked in, which was really, really nice since I'm pregnant and I want to snack all the time. We decorated onesies while chatting amongst ourselves, but it was nice to have something to do that didn't require constant conversation with people. It was also nice because the group size was small enough that we could all participate in a conversation (or not). We then played two games at once - we were given plastic babies in ice cubes in a glass of water - when the baby came out of the ice cube, we had to notice and say "My water broke!". The first one won a prize. While that was going on, we played a "How well do you know A?" game and that created lots of funny jokes and lots of interesting stories. And, of course, kept the focus on A, which is the whole reason we were there. The last game we played was "How big is the tummy?", which could be a great game, or could be a really killer, right? But, luckily, A is a good sport (and still super tiny), so I am assuming it wasn't a painful game for her to play. Mostly, it was an excuse to get up, stretch, chat with other women and get a good laugh at the different sizes of belly everyone thought she had. A opened presents next, and we all "Oooh-ed and Aaah-ed" and all the cute little things. At this time we also had dessert, which was mini gourmet cupcakes. So tasty. Last, but not least, we signed a frame for A and baby, collected a lovely pumpkin-cranberry bread mix in a mason jar and were on our way. Three hours had gone by. Plenty of time to chat and meet all the women, have a lovely time and then be ready to go home! I was amazed at the simplicity of the party. I always feel like I have to have 100 kinds of food, and 700 kinda of drinks, laid out elaborately and everywhere. The decorations were carnations in tiny vases - around the food and drinks table, in the bathroom. All the servingware was plastic or paper, and a couple "fall" decorations (paper leaves) made the final touches. It was elegant, classy and so, just, nice, you know? I've been to baby showers where there are 40 people invited and the games include really stupid ones, like guess the melted chocolate bar in the diaper, or pin the baby diaper on the baby. Good lord, am I glad this was not like that!
All I know is that I am going to now take my cues from this party. Smaller is better, fewer options for food is great since I don't have to make lots of options, and a start and end time are a must. And keep decor simple and it will all come together. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pregnancy Update

  • We went to our childbirth class this past weekend. Thanks, folks. Now? I'm terrified. Actually, it was a really, really good class and I can tell that the nurses and doctors at Stanford are really the best we could ever ask for. The class was taught by this woman who is maybe in her 50s. She's been a nurse for 25 years and she just had this amazing demeanor. Like, if she was around when you were in labor/pain/scared, then you might be OK since she's so calming. It was also reassuring to hear that Stanford doesn't push interventions unless necessary and that everyone is on your side to help you have the best possible outcome for everyone. It was also reassuring to hear that they can perform a C-section in an average time of 5 minutes. Meaning, if all hell breaks loose, and things go awry, it's probably the best place to be. 
  • I'm getting Braxton Hicks contractions lately. They feel like menstrual cramps, low in my belly. They don't feel particularly good, but the doc says they're normal. I got them for 3-4 days in a row and then I haven't gotten them for a couple days now. It's kinda hard because they make me feel nauseous. And laying down, drinking water seems to be the best thing for me. However, I just don't have that option at work, which makes it hard. I'm slowly starting to realize how incomplete the support of women in the workplace is, even at a "progressive" institute like Stanford. 
  • Speaking of women in the workplace, I'm having a hard time dealing with expectations, both social expectations and those I place on myself. I feel like pregnancy is not really acknowledged as a state in which you might be unable to be as productive as you would like. I feel like women are expected to keep up the same, normal amount of work, even as pregnancy progresses, and things are more uncomfortable and harder to accomplish. I find sitting to be particularly hard, so hanging out at the computer or the microscope for long periods of time is just not an option anymore. I wish more people would acknowledge this and be required to accommodate women better in the workplace. I also find that my expectations of myself are exceptionally high as well. I think I should be able to accomplish boatloads of stuff on a daily basis, and when I come home exhausted at the end of a 12 hour day, I get mad at myself for not completing all my tasks. Type A, anyone? It's also hard to have an overachieving, work-a-holic husband who tries to understand my situation, but, generally, just can't seem to understand why I wouldn't want to work as hard as I possibly can until the minute I give birth. At the rate I'm going, I can't imagine doing that! 
  • None of this is to say that my boss, and for the most part, my husband have not been totally supportive. My boss is happy to have me work from home. She's been great, even when I've had to cancel things or miss meetings because of a doctor's appointment, or something like that. I am lucky to be in the position I am in, honestly. As for Alex, well, he's beginning to understand. Especially after the terrifying birth classes, ha! And he knows he's not allowed to go to work while I'm in labor or in the hospital. However, I have the feeling that as soon as I am napping, he will head to work. Hopefully just to tell friends that everyone is fine....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

So cool, right?

I just love seeing the ZERO balance on ALL OUR CREDIT CARDS! WAHOO!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pregnancy Update

  • This kid is moving like a maniac. My labmate wants to blame it on the "Iron Maiden Lullaby" CD that they got us for Golack - she thinks he's rocking out. I think he's practicing pedaling a bicycle. At least that's what it feels like. Sometimes, he moves so much that he takes my breath away. Then I get these concerned looks from all the people around me, thinking that I'm immediately going into labor or something like that. It's actually kinda funny!
  • My rib is still bothering me, and I've now got a nice, numb patch on my belly, where I am sure my rib is extending and pushing into my skin. It's not that fun, but at least lying down helps a bit. 
  • I went to yoga last night and caught up with some of the women from my yoga study class. It was great to see them and catch up and the yoga felt pretty good. It was really hard, though. The bigger I get, the harder actual movement becomes. 
  • The good news, however, is that little Golack has started to drop. I now have some more room in my lungs and my rib pain is not as intense. I'll be 35 weeks this weekend, so he's coming soon!
  • My fingers have started to get a bit swollen. I can't seem to drink enough water, and I'm assuming it's a side effect of not enough water and not enough moving. I've found that I really can't eat much anymore. Three small meals and I am done. My stomach is clearly up near my throat because I've started to get some acid reflux and some heartburn. It's not that bad, and it goes away with Tums, so that's good. Sometimes, I just forget that I can't eat as fast as normal or as much as normal and then my tummy gets a little upset. 
  • Sometimes, I wish my work would provide a couch for napping or laying down. I realize this might sound counterproductive, but sitting is just getting so painful that, if I could lie down, I could work some more.
  • I guess we actually need to come up with a name....

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dear Californians,

Please learn how to walk on a sidewalk. I realize this might be really, really hard to figure out since you spend most of your time in your cars, but walking is really lovely. The thing is, you have to actually SHARE the sidewalk. I know they are kinda small here, but sometimes you need to walk single-file to let people by. Don't just try to squeeze by people. I have been shouldered more times here in CA than I ever was in Philly (and Philadelphians LOVE to shoulder people!). And the same rules that apply to the road apply to the sidewalk (walk on the right, pass on the left). Nobody wants to walk on the dirt/in a tree/in the wet grass, so just share the pathway.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Things to never say to a pregnant woman (or any woman, for that matter)

Compiled from my experiences and the experiences of other mamas I know:
  • "Wait, are you PREGNANT? Oh, I just thought you were getting fat!"
  • "Oh my god, WHEN are you DUE? You are HUGE!"
  • "Are you having a girl? Oh, a boy? Yeah, you look like you're carrying a (insert favorite gender here)" Seriously, folks, you have a 50/50 chance - just ask the gender.
  • "Wait, you don't know the gender?!? What on earth is WRONG WITH YOU?"
  • "Are you sleeping now? Because you are never going to sleep again!"
  • "Well, once the baby's here you will NEVER be able to do (insert the thing you are doing right now...)"
  • "Are you having twins?"
  • "You work now, but you won't work after the baby comes, right? I mean, children need to be raised by their parents and only their parents!"
  • "Is your baby going to be, like, 10 pounds?"
  • "Let me tell you all about my 72 hours of labor and delivery in incredible detail, even though I don't know you!"
  • "Do you want to hear about how I pooped on the table when I had my kid?"
  • "Aren't you excited/thrilled/happy?"
  • "Are you OK? You're walking funny!"
  • "Oh, you're not delivering at THAT HOSPITAL, are you? They don't have (whatever seems important to that person)!"
  • "Well, you've hired a doula, midwife, lactation consultant and postpartum counselor, right?"
  • "Oh my GOD! You didn't do (this test, this class, this exercise, etc)! That was the ONLY thing that helped me get through my 72 hour long labor and delivery!"
  • "Wait, are you going to eat THAT?"
  • "Wow, you eat a lot!"
  • "How much weight have you gained? I only gained 3.2 lbs and I wore my bikini home from the hospital!"
  • "Did you conceive naturally/in vitro/ with drugs, etc? Because there are LOTS of problems with those kids!"
  • "You're not planning on having a C-section, right? If you do, you are less of a woman/mother/person, etc!"
  • "Oh my god, you have CATS (or whatever pet you might have)! You know that they KILL BABIES, right?"
  • "Oh my god, you live in an apartment? You will NEVER be able to raise a child there!"
  • "You're not buying the latest and greatest doo-hickey for your kid? You will make a terrible parent!"
  • "You don't have a name YET?!!"
While I realize most of these people have my best interests at heart, I honestly find pregnancy to be somewhat lonely and isolating. I also feel quite conspicuous and self conscious - people stare at me (some smile, others just look at me oddly). Most of my clothes are getting a bit tighter, and the belly is growing and rounding more each week. While both Alex and I are excited about the arrival of the little guy, we are also apprehensive, worried, and a host of other emotions that change on a daily basis. If we actually told you how we were feeling at the moment you asked, it could be anything. And then it would be awkward! And while I appreciate the advice and the "support", mostly, I just want to hear you say, "Wow, congratulations! I am so happy for you! How are you doing?". 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Movie Review: The World's End

This past weekend we were lucky enough to both have time to take in a movie. It's been likely about 2 years (!) since we went to the movies. This is mostly due to the fact that most movies are not that interesting to us (especially if they cost $12/person! Yikes!) but we were lucky enough to get a gift card from my mother-in-law. When I heard that The World's End was coming out, I was thrilled to finally have a movie Alex and I were both interested in. We both loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so we thought this one was right up our alley. I also listened to one review on NPR, and the guy raved about this movie - saying it was the best one of the three - now that's high praise!
And, I have to say, I think the critics were right. Simone Pegg and Nick Frost are genius together. The humor is spot on (and very British) and the plotline is hysterical. I listened to an interview with Pegg and Frost and they talked about British film-making a bit. They had lamented that every film tries to be a hit in Britain and the US, and so they try to make jokes that fly in both countries. This turns out to create flat, one-dimensional movies that appeal to neither country. I tend to agree. It's odd to hear a distinctly American joke come from a person with an English accent (and vice versa, I am sure). The World's End, however, nails the British point of view, and creates a story that all people can understand and relate to.
The World's End  follows Gary King, a sincerely messed up individual whose crowning glory was high school. He's now about 40, and wants to get his old mates back together for one last pub crawl in their old home-town. Of course, he hasn't talked to any of them in ages, and everyone has a wife and kids, good jobs, homes, and responsibilities. King has none of these, but he possesses a charismatic charm that causes the guys to follow along. They all meet up for a weekend pub crawl - "The Golden Mile", 12 pubs, one mile, and at least a pint of beer at each. What follows are so many amazing commentaries, it was almost dizzying. Firstly, King resembles "That guy" - you know, that guy you might occasionally run into when you're home - that guy who still acts like an 18 year old, even though he's approaching 40 - that guy who buys shots for everyone just hanging out and enjoying a beer - that guy who makes you slightly uncomfortable - you know, that guy. Pegg nails that guy to a T, creating uncomfortable (yet funny) situations all over the place. The other guys are all struggling in their own right - tough marriages, lingering resentment from being bullied in high school, nostalgia, etc. Returning home is both a great plan and an awful plan, and things soon go amazingly awry. What follows is a classic Pegg/Frost combo, with gratuitous violence, action, comedy and social commentary weaved brilliantly throughout the movie. Both Alex and I loved it and found it to be brilliantly done and extremely entertaining. Honestly, it made me want to watch their previous movies once again. I highly, highly recommend this movie, whether you go see it in theatres or wait for the DVD, it's well worth those 90 minutes in entertainment.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The great budget crisis of 2013: Update

If you will recall, Alex and I had been working on a household budget. Turns out, it's a bit more complicated than previously thought. It also takes a lot of time to stay on point. However, I think we are doing quite well right now, and I'm proud to say we are still on track. I thought I would highlight just some of the things we have done and how they're working for us.

1) Car payment: we found out that every time we made a car payment, about $25 goes to "finance fees", even though we have a 0% APR loan. We decided to double our car payments from $225 to $500 a month, effectively ending our loan in half the time. I'm proud to say that we now owe about $8400 on the car, and we are on schedule to have it paid off in about 2 years. And truthfully, we haven't even noticed that extra money being gone. In other words, it hasn't "hurt" to put more money toward the car, and we will continue to do so for as long as we can. The other nice thing about it is that we have payed so much extra that we technically don't have to pay a car payment until December (of course we will, but it's nice to have a time cushion as well).

2) We put away our $1000 emergency fund, and luckily, we haven't had to touch it. We also decided to put away a little bit extra every month, and that's quickly ballooned into an extra $1800 (meaning, we have $2800 in savings right now!). This is incredible, since it's really nice to have an extra cushion as we have no idea how much the munchkin will cost, but it also goes to show how quickly savings can grow if you're diligent about putting money away (and not touching it).

3) We stopped using credit cards except in particular situations. I've even started paying for things with my debit card online. There are a few things I have to pay for with credit, but I make a point to go in and pay the bill the minute the charges hit the card. In particular, I've used my Kohl's credit card to get discounts (I think this is totally worth it) and I've made some purchases online (like auto insurance) that have had to be put on credit cards. Other than that, I think it's been a really sucessful strategy because it forces me to have money in my checking account in order to make a purchase.

4) We have way more cash on hand than we used to. We've bought some furniture and things for the baby, classes at the hospital, and we try to use cash when eating out or hitting the grocery store for a few items. This keeps that whole psychological trick going since it's harder to pay cash for things than it is to use a card. This is not to mean that we haven't eaten out, or bought somewhat extravagant purchases or gifts. It just means that we have paid cash for them all. That way, there is not a bill looming over our heads further down the road.

5) Tracking our money and our spending. This, I think, has made a huge difference. Merely paying attention to where our money goes has allowed me to keep an eye on our money and where we tend to spend it. And, to be honest, just this "paying attention" has allowed us to really question the things we need or want when we are buying them. We are still occasionally hit with the idea that there is something we really, really want/need, but for the most part, we are happy with what we have. If we do need something, I look for Groupons, coupons, discounts, or sales at Costco or Kohl's. Most of the things for the baby are secondhand, and I think it will stay that way. The nice thing about this "paying attention" bit is that when unexpected costs do crop up, we have enough cash to cover them. For example, I found a crib and a changing table/dresser combo on Craigslist a couple weeks ago. Together, they cost $235, and we luckily had enough cash on had to buy these things outright, without struggling with being short for other expenses. Similarly, we signed up for all these baby classes at the hospital. Together, these classes cost over $300, but we had the cash to cover it. I can remember spending an extra $100 on shopping and that would put me over the edge. I'd have to transfer money from my savings, and then I had finally drained my savings and I was taking money from our joint checking account just to cover expenses. It's really amazing to me what paying attention can do!

6) Budgeting our income to have enough for the lean times. In a few short weeks, I will be on maternity leave and my salary will be cut by 40%. It's hard to face a salary cut along with a huge, looming unknown (baby), but I think we are as ready as we can be. I've looked at our budget, way overestimated taxes and expenses, and it looks like we will be OK, especially since a few expenses will go down, at least in the short term. It's also good to know that we have an emergency fund to fall back on in case baby needs something essential right away. It's also good to know that we can take a pay cut and still be OK, since daycare is going to take a huge chunk of our income when the time comes.

7) What can I make or how can I get things cheaper? I pay attention to our listservs here on campus and I always watch the ads for sales. I don't really clip coupons for the grocery store (we mostly don't eat the things coupons are for), but I have no shame using a coupon for the car wash down the street or the pizza place around the block. We shop a lot at Costco and the local farmer's market, which really tends to pay off in the long run. Having a million rolls of toilet paper or 3 gallons of shampoo will really come in handy for the few months with a new baby. I've also taken to looking up things on Pinterest for ideas on cat toys so Ducky doesn't drive us crazy, a Halloween costume for the munchkin and new uses for old things. I've got a couple projects in mind that I need help with, but they are all projects that are small, one day or less. I'm thinking some of them can keep my husband busy while the new baby's here.

In summary, I think this "Budget Crisis" has been a blessing in disguise. It's forced us to really pay attention to where our money is going, to make decisions based on our situation whether we need things or not, and it's allowed us the freedom to have cash on hand where there are expenses, needs or wants. We've not been deprived in any sense of the word, and we've even managed a couple of vacations (camping at Lassen National Park), purchases of new furniture and baby items, and the occasional dinner out. The other thing it's forced me to do is to accept things the way they are. Nope, we don't have a house, and there's no way in hell we could ever afford one in this area. Accepting this fact, and knowing that our rent is really not that bad for this area (even though it's kinda a crappy apartment) has been a real boon to my life. Also, accepting that my life is infinitely different from my peers and even from my parents when they were my age (and that's OK). I chose this life and I'm happier for it, and that's the way it is right now. Sure, I like to dream about the house Alex and I will one day own, but until then, I'm in the here and now, and it is what it is.

Of course, there are still things I need to work on. It's easy to know what I need or what Alex needs, but I have no idea what this little guy will need when he comes to us. So, we will see how our budget stacks up with another little person added to it....