Monday, December 22, 2008

Fun in the snow

About a foot more of snow came down in Springfield, MA yesterday. DH helped his dad shovel out the walk and the cars several times during the day. But there was plenty of time for fun too. Here is DH playing in the snow with our nieces, Caitlin and Meghan.




Sunday, December 21, 2008

A very long trip to visit family and friends

A winter wonderland?!?


Yesterday at 4 AM DH and I left Charlotte to drive up to Massachusetts. We were in very good spirits having gone to bed around 9 PM the night before. We managed to leave on time which is usually a good indicator of the trip to come.

The first 10 hours or so were totally fine. I snuck in an hour nap before the sun came up and we only stopped 3 times for food/bathroom/gas breaks. Charlie seemed to be OK in the back of the car; his first long trip not being in his cage. I think he liked having room to move around and we had a travel water dish that he could drink from the whole time. Of course he didn't eat any breakfast but that's par for the course when he's not sure what's going on. Too bad it's now been 36 hours and he still hasn't eaten! I blame the snow.

The drive was great as I mentioned for the first 10 hours despite about 15 miles of dense fog our first hour in. DH learned how to turn on the fog lights so it wasn't all bad. But then when we got on 84E just over the Tapanzee bridge and it all went to hell. The roads were in bad condition from about 8 inches of snow and apparently no one, even in New England, knows how to drive when the roads aren't in perfect condition. One car coming down 84W spun out and rolled down into the ditch between the two highways right in front of us! If it had had more traction it could have come across on our side of the highway. Fortunately it didn't. For all we know, the guy is still stuck in that ditch. Farther up 84 we ended up in bumper to bumper, stand still traffic for over an hour because of another accident. It was so frustrating because we were about 1 hour away! Then the snow starting coming down again. I was never so happy to see my in-laws house as I was that evening.

We were on track for a 12 hour ride and ended up with 13 1/2. Which would have been fine if the crap happened in the beginning. But by the end my ass felt like it had been sitting on a wood chair despite the comfy leather seats. I have to say, though, the SUV was a godsend. I felt very safe despite the bad road conditions. And DH drove the whole way which was awesome. I'm still not sure how we (or if we) can do this next year with the baby.

DH managed to stay up late last night shooting the shit with his dad and brother. I was in bed at 8 PM along with the dog. I slept great except DH and I were smooshed together in a full sized bed. I'm not sure I like being so close to DH any more when we're sleeping...thank goodness we have a king size bed at home!

More snow is expected all day and we have all day to hang out with DH's family. We'll probably break out the Wii later and let the two older kids create Miis and play some games. They might even convince Uncle DH to play in the snow. Sometimes it can be great to be snowed in!

What do you mean I have to go outside in this shit?!?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday updates

The most important news of the day is that I passed my glucose test with flying colors. Apparently I was 88 which is completely normal. Bring on the holiday food!

DH and I are very much suited in the sense that we are both very organized people and plan far ahead. We leave tomorrow on our long drive up to Massachusetts and we are basically ready to go even though we have 20 hours or so before we leave. All that's left is packing the car and the dog starts to freak out when that happens so DH will do it while I'm walking Charlie.

I know that once we have a baby we will be relying on our planning and organization skills even more. However, instead of having a couple of days to get things ready, we will only have an hour or two, potentially coupled with managing a fussy baby. But there is no way we are taking this trip up North again next year with a 8 month old. Shudder. Could you imagine?

In the meantime, I am anxiously waiting to be done with work for the next two weeks. Well, that's not entirely true. This week has been crazy and there have been big schedule changes on my project so I will likely have to do some work over my vacation. I'm trying to be as productive as possible today but the BigFinance VPN has decided it doesn't like me and kicks me off every 5 minutes. Does anyone remember how we got work done before email? I certainly don't...

I plan on posting while I'm traveling but probably not as regularly. I can't wait to see all of my friends and family for the last child-free (on my end anyway!) holiday season. I promise to post lots of pictures and tell you how DH does hanging out with Mommy, Esq.'s twins. I wonder how many people are going to tell me how "big" I look?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Time for Grey's Anatomy to go?

DH and I finally watched the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy last night. All I have to say is, "Ugh." There was so little I liked about it we were talking about taking it off our Season Pass. Here's what I still like about Grey's:
  • They still make me care about patient's stories. Except for last week's episode (that teenage girl was very annoying AND an over-actor, never a good combination) I usually find myself crying at some point. How is it that they can show a patient's story for 8 minutes and I'm still asking for a tissue? Of course they are usually heavy on the tragedies but sometimes it's good crying.
  • Christina rocks. She is probably one of the most complex characters on TV.
  • Little Grey. Yes, she's grown on me. I thought I would never like her from last season but despite the despicable intern self cutting storyline (come on!), she's been very cute this season. A nice bubbly contrast to her half sister. I don't even mind that she and McSteamy are getting together; although I could have done without the whole throwing herself at him. Why does Grey's always rush into the sex? Let them date first...
  • Derek and Meredith are together. Finally! Sure it makes for a more boring relationship and I've seen Derek be a lot more manipulative than I thought he was but I'm OK with that.
  • Dr. Bailey rocks. Is there a more kick ass character on TV? I think not.

Not a bad list, right? Well, check out the negatives:

  • Die, Denny, die! DH and I chanted this the first time around that Denny was on the show and it is no less desired this ridiculous second time around. Now he's hanging out in the hospital with Izzy? Gah. Hate it. I kind of hope that she does have a brain tumor so that they can kill off her character. Remember strong Izzy from the first season who ripped off her clothes to prove a point? Where has she been?
  • George. He used to be my favorite character but now he's just pathetic. Yes, he grew a small pair to retake his intern test but other than that, he's just a mumbly mouthed blob wandering the hospital. It was all downhill after he and Izzy got together. I'm not sure if they can redeem his character.
  • Revolving door of new characters. Remember the good old days when we could keep track of who was on the show? I barely learned Han's name before she was gone. And don't even get me started on Addison leaving (too bad Shonda Rhimes ended up creating such a crappy vehicle for her; and yes, I do watch it). There are just too many characters around these days plus all the patients of the week.
  • Lesbian storyline. I don't object to showcasing lesbians on network television. I am from Massachusetts after all! But I hate that they had to "turn" Callie into a lesbian. It wasn't really gradual or authentic feeling. And now they have her falling in love with Melissa George's character? Terrible. Absolutely terrible. It's a good thing I like Callie and Mark's friendship so much. Or Callie would be crossed off the list of redeemable characters. By the way, I hated Melissa George on Alias and she's even worse on Grey's.

What about the rest of you? Are there things you like or hate?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday thoughts

It is supposed to be in the 60s all week in Charlotte. This geography rocks! Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy snow. Small amounts of it that disappear after a few hours, but I do like it when it's all pretty. But here in Charlotte people can't even drive in the rain, so imagine how bad it is with a few flurries coming down. I haven't worn a coat in days. If this is global warming, I'll take it.

Can restless leg syndrome also be restless arm syndrome? I've been having numbness/tingling in my left arm (all the way from my neck down to my fingers) for months. It really only happens when I'm lying on the couch or in my bed. I've been OK for a while but it woke me up half a dozen times last night. I'm going to have a baby doing that, I don't need a weird feeling to do it too.

Even though my retirement funds are down 40% I am impressed with the reduction in prices for every day things. I just heard that our natural gas company will lower rates by 7% next year. And gas prices for cars is the lowest it's been in years. We filled up the SUV the other day and it only cost $28! I bought a big, framed mirror at HomeGoods for only $40. $40 for a nice mirror! That's crazy.

DH and I are apparently mind readers. Seriously. Twice last night he said something random and I was completely thinking the same thing. Perhaps we are actually ready to have this baby.

My parents didn't have power for over 72 hours this weekend. Aside from warm weather, I love Charlotte because a lot of the neighborhoods have had their power and other lines buried before the neighborhood got built. So if there is a big ice storm then we don't have the same risk factor that everyone enjoys in Massachusetts. Our house was built in 1972 so someone was thinking ahead. We do still have occasional brownouts but I'm going to blame Duke Power for that.

Enough ramblings for today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The home stretch to vacation

Two weeks off! Two weeks off! Granted, it will also require a 14 hour drive to Massachusetts and similar return feat but two weeks off from work will be wonderful. I'm already in planning mode (as is DH because he is more organized than me) for what needs to come with us. The list is already a page long. Thank goodness we bought an SUV in August or we could have been in trouble! And, I'm very happy with the downward trajectory in gas prices. Buying an SUV doesn't seem so dumb now!

Needless to say, concentrating on work will be hard this week. What's great is that BigFinance doesn't begrudge people taking vacation. In fact, it encourages it. We just have to make sure that someone can cover for emergencies. I'll probably check email every once in a while so I'm not overwhelmed but that's about it.

In other news, apparently our baby is about the size of a rutabaga and is adding some baby fat. Unfortunately this doesn't include being more aggressive in the movement department. Still more flutters than anything else. I am hoping that DH will get to feel something soon...I plan on asking the doctor about it now that I'm 25 weeks. Of course I've been trolling the message boards at WebMD and BabyCenter and am now totally paranoid. Yes, I know better than to compare my pregnancy to anyone else's but I can't help it!

I go in for my GD test on Wednesday morning. I'm already thinking about what I can have for breakfast that won't interfere. Probably eggs and tomato slices. The test is at 10:30 which is the worst because I have to eat something beforehand or I will be a total grumpy bitch. The best part is that my practice trusts it's patients so they gave me the syrup ahead of time. That way I don't have to wait in their offices for an hour. Woo hoo! DH is coming with me so we can go out to lunch after.

If I fail the test I am going to be totally pissed. I plan on not eating any sweets for the next two days and I only had one Christmas cookie yesterday. A three hour follow up would be required if I fail. Ideally before we leave on vacation but that wouldn't give me a lot of time to schedule. Which means it wouldn't be for a few weeks and I'd have to be good over the holidays. Grrrr. Totally not interested in that! As you can see, I'm already thinking worst case scenario. Mostly because Mommy, Esq. failed. However, she was pregnant with twins and my other sister, A. passed with no problem. So hopefully I'm OK.

While I don't want to necessarily "game" the system, I don't want to have to focus on everything I put in my mouth for the next month and a half. That's what weight watchers is for after I stop breastfeeding. So, any types from women who have been there? I have two days to get into fighting form.

Friday, December 12, 2008

eBooks - friend or foe?

Those of you who know me know that I am an avid reader. In fact, I'm not sure avid is a strong enough adjective. Voracious, perhaps? I can't go anywhere without something to read. Preferably a book but a magazine will do in a pinch while waiting in line at the post office or at the nail salon.

For my honeymoon, 2 weeks in Hawaii required about a dozen books. And I think I ended up buying a couple more because I ran out. Books are an investment to me. I typically re-read books because I read so much fantasy and authors are constantly continuing a series. Robert Jordan has 10 books out right now and I will re-read all of them before the final book in the series comes out (and it's the final book only because he's dead). At 500+ pages a book, that's a lot of reading! I think I've re-read some series as many as dozens of times.

I visit the library constantly to reduce on book expense and have been known to frequent used book stores and Amazon Marketplace (particularly for hardcovers). I could spend hours in Barnes and Noble but find they are somewhat lacking in the Fantasy/Sci Fi area. Online is typically how I purchase my books these days.

DH and I had a contractor build 17 feet of bookshelves in our "formal living room" which has now become the library. I'm sure it will eventually be the baby's playroom but for now, it's all mine. I've done a decent job filling the shelves and will probably have them all filled in a couple of years. DH gets one small section of shelves for his books. And I've taken them over with old MBA text books. Sorry, dear!

Library built-ins, in progress. They are complete now but this was the only picture I had handy. It's small because Snapfish now requires you to pay for full size downloads! What a rip off!

I read an article recently about Amazon's Kindle product. Apparently the small niche for eBooks is growing. There are quite a few advantages to eBooks. Weight alone of all my hardcovers can overwhelm my luggage. Not to mention the valuable clothing space they take up! They are also significantly cheaper than the typical $25 I spent for a hardcover. But despite those advantages, I'm not sure I will ever go the eBook route. I love the feel of books. Paperback, hardcovers, big, small, there is always room on my lap for a book. I wonder how that will fit with a baby too???

How about the rest of you? Should I be more open to the eBook trend? Are we going the Star Trek route when Kirk is viewed as "quirky" because he reads real books rather than computer screens?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nursery update: construction complete

DH put in long hours last week finishing up the nursery so that it is now all prepped for the final decorating touches. He has probably put more effort into this room than any other in the house. His goal going into the project was that the room look great - like a professional did it. I would say he succeeded but you be the judge...

The first step was to rip out the closet built ins and rebuild them. The first time around DH built 3 drawers and some shelves. Here is a picture.

Original closet built in

We both weren't happy with it for a couple of reasons. The primary one being that the drawers were really shallow and would be hard to use. DH has also gained in knowledge and number of power tools over the past year and a half so he knew he could do a better job. I also had a better sense of what I wanted for storage. So we re-designed the built in and DH went to work. It went much faster than the first time around. This was due in no small part to DH knowing what he was doing and having the correct tools. The two best tools? Table saw and nail gun.

New closet built in





While DH was working on that, I was planning the design of the nursery. I found a great 8x10 rug on Craig's List that coordinated with the fairy prints I had framed. We bought the changing table/dresser off of Craig's List as well. That website is a gold mine! It had quite a few marks on it so DH sanded it down and re-stained it. New hardware completed the look. The crib is new but we got a floor model and a really good deal. Plus it converts to a toddler bed so we should be able to use it for many years. The other knickknacks I found through HomeGoods.

The next big decision was the paint colors. I was thinking about two different colors but ended up picking two shades of purple. We used Glidden's "Touch of Violet" for the base color and "Elevator" for the contrasting stripes. The base color was flat but the stripes were in semi-glossy to give them a little extra pop. That was DH's idea and worked really well. He also removed the shoe moulding and base board so that he had more room to work with and didn't have to cut in the walls as much. We planned on getting slightly higher baseboard anyway. The shoe moulding was easily removed and reused. Total cost for the baseboard and the chair rail was $140.

DH and I set up a chalk line around the room to represent the chair rail. Once that was set he drew 6 inch lines to represent the stripes and starting painting. One thing we learned from hard experience is that you can't leave painter's tape up very long or when you peel it off it will take paint with it. So DH did a few stripes at a time. As a result it required very few touch ups.

Stripes, in progress

DH also removed the door and the bi-fold closet doors. He sanded them down and painted them. Twice actually since the first time around he used flat paint. Glossy paint is the norm for that type of woodwork. I told him that it looked fine with the flat paint but he was in his perfectionist mode so Saturday morning was repainting time. The chair rail, baseboard and shoe moulding went up easily. Thanks, nail gun! You've paid for yourself!

Then it was time to bring in the furniture. The crib took us about an hour to assemble. It was a lot bigger than I remembered. That made furniture placement a little more challenging. We are still going to bring in a glider and ottoman (thanks Scott and Penny!) and a small table and lamp for next to it. Other than that, the room just requires hanging the pictures and mirrors. We may be replacing the ceiling light/fan as well but it depends on what Lowe's has in stock and on sale.

The finished (almost!) product




So, let's hear it. What do folks thing about our little girl nursery? DH thinks that she will be sick of purple but I think it works well. Of course, purple is one of my favorite colors so I could be biased.

Here is a link to all before and after photos. You need a Snapfish account to view.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How much income is enough?

I came across an interesting article on MSN that discussed household income in major metro areas. It takes a lot more money to be "rich" depending on where you live. Not exactly rocket science, is it? One of the reasons DH and I were fine with moving down to Charlotte was because it is so much cheaper to live here. The primary expense being a house. A 2800 square foot house 5 miles from downtown would go for an absurd amount of money in Boston. Even with the falling house prices.

Overall the top 5% of earners in the country make $311,000. Obviously that is a lot of money but would you consider that to be rich? I think of wealth more than income when defining whether a household is "rich" or not. Americans are notorious for spending up to their income level. So it becomes difficult to build true wealth.

In Boston you would be considered rich if you are a family of 4 and make at least $633K. It takes even more in NYC, San Fransisco and DC. How ya feeling now about your earnings?

The article suggests that by forgoing kids and moving to smaller metro areas we will feel even richer. But if DH and I ever move back to Boston we will feel significantly poorer. I'm not sure I'm ready to face that! Especially with a baby on the way.

Assuming our wireless is working tonight I will upload photos of the nursery for my next blog post.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chistmas cookie time!

Last year I decided that I was going to help shoulder the burden of making Christmas cookies for the holidays. You need to understand that Christmas cookies are sacred in my family. One time my mom got really sick with the flu a few weeks before Christmas and couldn't make cookies. I thought there was going to be an uprising! Mom always made the dough ahead of time which wasn't really a good idea. We would pick at it until she ended up having to make more. Then once the cookies were done, she would try to hide them so we couldn't sneak them before Christmas Eve. Ha! The best hiding place was the dryer but we always found them anyway...

So last year was kind of a disaster. I had an old cookie press (Mirro brand) that requires you to manually twist the dough out. I credit it for my carpal tunnel syndrome. By the end the handle wasn't even working. I was only able to make the wreaths and ended up using candied hots instead of bows of red icing. Mommy, Esq. complained about that for three days!

This year I bought a new press from Crate and Barrel and went to town. There is one drawback to the automatic cookie press. Who ever designed it thought that two small notches was enough to secure the handle and the top. I blame a man for that one. The problem is that the cookie dough is really dense so the top and handle kept popping off as I went. Extremely frustrating to say the least. I had to make sure that the dough was basically room temperature. But then I couldn't get the Christmas trees and starts to come off the press. But I persevered and managed to make 10-12 dozen cookies.

Here is me in the kitchen. I think it is hour 2 of five. Making the dough was the easiest part. It was pressing the cookies that took forever!



It was a two day process. Trees and stars on the first day and the plain wreaths. For the second day I whipped up some green frosting and DH helped me to decorate the cookies.
I plan on sending some to Mimi, giving some away at work, and of course leaving plenty for the holidays and daily snacking :-) And yes, Mommy, Esq., I managed (or rather DH did) to put bows on all the wreaths.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Isn't labor itself enough to worry about?

Did you all see the latest from Boston.com? A state trooper gave a couple a $100 ticket after they drove in the breakdown lane. Normally I am all about making people obey the sanctity of the breakdown lane. I used to hate to see those f&*%!rs zipping by while stuck in traffic over the Borne Bridge. But this couple had a great excuse: she was in labor. And her contractions were 3 minutes apart! I don't know much about labor yet but that seems close.

Boston's traffic has not noticeably improved with the completion of the Big Dig so I can understand why they felt the need to drive in the breakdown lane.

The best part? The trooper didn't believe she was pregnant and demanded to see her belly. Who the heck allowed this guy to get into uniform?

Um, not only is DH responsible for getting me good drugs during labor, he is also responsible for getting me there as quick as humanly possible. If that means breaking some laws, then so be it. I guess what I question is why the state trooper didn't help the couple with an escort to the hospital, not even to mention the $100 fine! My dad used to get escorts when he rushed to the hospital to perform an emergency surgery. Just because labor is more common than a liver transplant it doesn't mean it doesn't deserve the same level of respect.

The couple claims they won't file a complaint against the trooper. I guess they are filled with love after having the baby. But if that trooper kept me from having pain meds faster, I would file!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's about damn time!

I consider myself a very laid back person (why is everyone laughing??) and haven't really worried too much through these first two trimesters. But I was definitely starting to stress out about the fact that I'm more than 23 weeks pregnant and I still couldn't feel the baby move. Yes, I had one experience a couple weeks ago but no repeats and I wasn't even sure that it was really movement.

It got so bad I started trolling the WebMD message boards looking for insights from other frantic posters. But the longest anyone I read went without feeling anything was 20 weeks. Sure, I knew I was dealing with an anterior placenta but the baby had clocked in at over a pound in the last appointment so what was the deal?

I woke up Tuesday morning at 4 AM and lay in bed worrying. I had an appointment in couple of weeks. Should I wait that long? And even then my appointment didn't include an ultrasound and just listening to the heart wasn't going to cut it. I went into work and scarfed down a bagel in 2.5 seconds flat. I started working on email and got absorbed in my work. And that's when she struck! Literally. Starting at 9:15 for about half an hour she was dancing all over the place. And it continued off and on all day and into the night. From the last ultrasound she was head down and most of the movement I've felt has been below the belly button so I'm going to assume she's a puncher and not as much of a kicker. But I'm sure that will change...

I still can't feel the movement through my hand so I assume that will take a few more weeks. But I can't wait for DH to be able to feel it. It's almost 9:15 and I'm starting to feel some movement again. Looks like she's just as habitual as her mother...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All the news you can use

It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day just exactly fits in the newspaper. - Jerry Seinfield

I wouldn't necessarily consider myself to be a news junky, but I probably spend more time reading, listening or watching the news than the average American. DH and I subscribe to many, many magazines. We were suckered by the airlines asking us to use our miles. Why the heck not? If it's not USAir then we ain't flying it any more.

We subscribe to the Charlotte Observer (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and I like that I now know what goes on in the area. Not that we do any of the events...

On top of The Week, I am also reading The Economist. Talk about a heavy magazine! After 3 issues I've moved into skimming mode. If a magazine has more than 100 pages it should be labelled as a book. But I do read Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly religiously. Hey, entertainment news is still news! I do recommend The Week for people who want to get a quick overview of headlines from the week (duh) for both US and the world. It's a very fast read. And they have cartoons and "properties of the week." What more could you ask for?

Aside from the pile of magazines I go through on a weekly basis (usually when DH is watching Sunday football from 1 PM to 10 PM) I also surf the web. CNN, TMZ, Boston.com, NY Times. I would read the Wall Street Journal online but they are trying to make a profit and charge. Hmmm. Isn't the Internet about free content?

The only radio station I listen to is NPR. In the shower, in the car and sometimes when I'm cleaning the house. While I like the news (except I'm getting a little sick of Iraq and Afghanistan) my favorite shows are "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me..." and "Car Talk." I try to schedule my cleaning or running errands around those shows so I can listen to most of them. I'm still kicking myself for not going to see WWDTM when they were in Charlotte in 2006.

For TV I absolutely hate watching regular news. It's always so freaking depressing. And don't get me started on the 24 hour news stations. Talking heads can be very annoying. So the solution? DH and I have started watching The Daily Show with John Stewart. Perfect! Granted, the show doesn't cover that much news but it does make me laugh. They even had me chuckling with the commentary on the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. How many shows can do that? We do check in on The Colbert Report but that is a little more over the top and can be hit or miss depending on the guest.

All in all I probably spend 15+ hours a week on news. Yes, that does include entertainment/gossip! How about the rest of you? Any preferred shows or magazines to recommend?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why pregnant women waddle

I was walking through the halls of my office the other day thinking to myself, "Nice! You are walking totally normally. No waddle yet!" The scientific reason that pregnant women start waddling is because our hips start to separate to facilitate labor. Kind of gross when you think about it. But I disagree. I started waddling yesterday for one very specific reason: back pain. Yes, I have experienced my first back ache in conjunction with the pregnancy.

I have always poo-pooed people who complain about back pain. Suck it up! It can't be that bad! Well, yes, in fact it can. And to think, for me, it has only been my lower back. I ended up going to bed at 8 PM last night because I couldn't find a comfortable position watching TV. Pathetic. And of course I don't want to take any pain medication. Oh no. I'm tougher than that! Or I will be until labor sets in and DH will be responsible for getting me the good drugs.

The waddle comes about because I can't really straighten up fully (although my mom would argue that I never really walk with a straight back). I know that the pain was caused by sitting at my computer all day, leaning forward. So I'm on a mission to do better while at work. First up, sitting up straight. I've moved my keyboard towards me so I don't have to reach as far. I have also promised myself that every hour I will get up and do a lap around the floor. Lame but it serves the dual purpose of stretching and an excuse to stop and talk to people. It should get the circulation going and keep me from agony after 9 hours in front of the computer.

I'm better this morning and very glad that my sleep was not interrupted by back pain. I was woken up by dreams of bugs attacking my husband, but that's another story.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A long lazy weekend

While I worked on Friday I only received about 10 emails so to say it wasn't busy is an understatement. That means I felt as though I had a 4 day weekend. The last time I had one of those was in October but we traveled to Hilton Head so it doesn't count. I think that a weekend that involves travel cannot be, by definition, a long lazy weekend. I am trying to store up now since I won't have any of these once the baby arrives.

DH did more work than I - he started painting the nursery. I picked out two colors, a base color (Touch of Violet) and a stripe color (Elevator). DH removed the baseboard (to make painting easier, thank goodness for a nail gun to put it back on!) and put up two coats of the base color. It looks great and I can't wait until the stripes go on. But first I have to help with a chalk line that will represent the chair rail. That won't happen until tonight. The contrasting colored stripes will run below the chair rail. I promise to put up some before and after painting pictures once it's done.

I did manage to rouse myself enough to go shopping. I picked a few presents for the nieces and nephews. I was really tempted to buy some stuff for our baby but I resisted. Well, I did buy one thing but I couldn't help myself! It was just too perfect. Despite all radio reports to the contrary, I didn't really find any spectacular deals. It could be that they only happened on Friday and I was not about to fight the crowds during that day. I also wrapped most of the presents. What can I say, it was a tough weekend :-) I just have the stocking stuffers left to wrap which are always the most annoying because they tend to be oddly shaped.

Next weekend I hope to put up Christmas lights and take out the few Christmas decorations we have for the house (yes, DH, even the ceramic Christmas tree you hate so much!). I might start Christmas cookies but it depends on how strong my wrists are feeling. I have an old fashioned cookie press that requires twisting to make the dough come out. I usually have to get DH to help me once my carpal tunnel kicks in.

Is it just me or does it feel as though Christmas is just around the corner? Thanksgiving was "late" this year. Plus DH and I leave in three weeks for our long journey up to Massachusetts. I'm almost wondering if it's worth it to do Christmas decorations if we'll only enjoy them for a couple of weeks...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

I decided to suck it up and work today instead of taking a vacation day. BigFinance is closed for Thanksgiving but not Black Friday. You'd think they would want to do their part and encourage us to go shopping but apparently not. DH gets the day off and I'm very jealous.

But in a way, it's a good thing that I am working and hundreds of miles away from my family and closest friends. That way, I don't shop as much! I am very thankful that, aside from my diminishing retirement account, DH and I haven't had to worry too much about the economy. We're both still employed with no sign of impending layoffs (fingers and toes crossed). While we have been spending more than usual to get the nursery ready we are still able to save and I can splurge on the newest fantasy fiction books.

I've completed most of my Christmas shopping (I know, don't hate me!) primarily because I've been in nesting mode for the past two months and want everything to be done. DH and I set limits for each other and we are being more frugal with the other presents. I am going to make Christmas cookies again this year (I will try to make the bow for the wreaths this year so back off A. and Mommy, Esq!) and give those out as small gifts around the office. I anticipate that this Christmas will be under $1,000 which is a good thing. I'd like it to be even less but DH and I both have big families with lots of little ones. It's hard to resist buying for the kids!

When I was getting ready for work this morning I heard a report on the radio that this Black Friday should be pretty good for both retailers and consumers. Apparently prices are extremely low (thanks deflation!) and there are fewer shopping days before Christmas. The big push is to have consumers spend so we can start righting the economy. One of the reasons the US economy has been so stable is because consumers have spent, regardless of economic situations. The savings rate went from 9% of disposable income in 1985 to almost nothing today. But now there is a resurgence for "economizing" and people are not spending as much. While that's good for us individually to save, it is not good for the economy as a whole.

How about the rest of you? Are you also cutting back this year? Any good cost cutting tips?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why does everything have to be "improved"?

Last night while watching Boston Legal, DH and I saw a commercial for Monopoly. I love that game. When my sisters and I were in elementary school we used to play all the time. We had marathon games that would go for days. We would play before and after school and were always careful to collect our property cards and money and bring it with us so no cheating was permitted. Fairness is extremely important when you are a triplet. Just ask my mom.

But now Parker Brothers has come out with a new and improved version: electronic banking. I was horrified enough to play on the latest edition with rents reaching $4M and tokens like a Starbucks coffee cup. "But this version has been updated to reflect changes in how the real world uses money: All transactions are conducted with Monopoly's new banking card system."

Gah. Really? Is this what we've come to? Is paper and coin money soon to go the way of other types of currency? Will we only be using electronic money? In Japan they use debit cards to purchase chips out of vending machines. With electronic money will our kids every really learn the value of a dollar? It's hard enough to keep them from getting spoiled but now we have to worry about them not understanding the difference between a ten dollar bill and a hundred bill because it is a number on a screen and not a physical bill.

One other thing I would note about this new game is that it doesn't allow the customizations that many of us have with Monopoly. Free Parking would probably be a thing of the past. Good or bad? Depends on how recently you lost because someone landed on it.

Has anyone played with this version yet? Is it really any better? I wonder if BigFinance worked with them to set up the electronic banking...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All hail the king...

King bed that is!


Like most of you, I spent the majority of my sleeping hours over my lifetime in a twin size bed. It appears as though kids today are more likely to have a full or queen sized bed unless they share a room but I am old school. I never knew what I was missing until my post graduate year at Carnegie Mellon. I rented my own apartment and purchased a queen sized bed from a nice Indian couple in Squirrel Hill. It took a few months for the faint curry smell to disappear but the extra room more than made up for it.


And so another decade passed and I found myself sharing a queen bed with a husband and dog. Yes, we let our dog sleep with us and wouldn't have it any other way. Charlie is an excellent sleeper and rarely moves or makes noises during the night. That is more than I can say for some other people! Just kidding, dear.



But when we bought our house in Charlotte we decided it was time to upgrade to a king bed. The queen would be relegated to the guest room (I am thrilled to even have a guest room). I figured that with all that room I would have plenty of space to sprawl out. The reality? Not so much. Now that my burgeoning belly has required me to sleep on my side the dog has decided that I am his pillow. And so gradually over the course of the night he snuggles closer and I end up with about 9 inches of space on the bed. That's OK for now at 22 weeks but give me another month and I'll need at least 10 inches :-)


I do not plan on co-sleeping with the baby or permitting her to sleep with us when she's older. She'll just have to realize that we love the dog more than her. Either that or we will have to order an even bigger bed. And I'm not sure the room is big enough for that!


When we head up to Massachusetts for the holidays DH and I will be sharing a full sized bed with Charlie. I am not looking forward to that at all. It's hard to downsize, isn't it? How about the rest of you? Any couples out there who prefer tighter quarters? Or do you let your kids sleep with you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movement and other baby updates

As of this past Saturday I am officially at 22 weeks. I can't believe I still have another 18 +/- weeks to go! This 40 weeks for a pregnancy is a killer. I've been pregnant for like 6 months already and have 4 more to go! And of course most people think that a pregnancy is 9 months so every time I say I'm due at the end of March I get a weird look like, "You look pretty big for 5 months" and "Haven't you been pregnant for a really long time?"

According to my weekly pregnancy update the baby is now the length of a spaghetti squash. Um, what the hell kind of vegetable is that? Mommy, Esq's husband used to feature the vegetable or fruit of the week in their meals. How cute is that?

Spaghetti Squash - yum?!?


I should also expect to start seeing stretch marks (every woman's dream) and experiencing leg cramps. The coolest thing so far is that I'm pretty sure I felt the baby move for the first time last night. Either that or it was a really bad case of indigestion! It's taken me a long time because apparently I have an anterior placenta which makes it harder to feel movement from the fetus. But now that she's the size of a spaghetti squash she's big enough kick around the placenta. It kind of felt like a muscle spasm. But it needs to happen again so that I can be sure. I had some ice cream last night so I guess that means I'll have to sacrifice myself and do it again tonight...

I have another ultrasound tomorrow because the technician couldn't get a good picture of the heart during the anatomy ultrasound. I better not hear that it's now a boy because I've spent way too much money on a feminine nursery!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gimpy

Yesterday was my last day of Green Belt training. Our class was apparently wicked smart and zoomed through the material which meant that we didn't need to go in for Friday's half day session. Considering the material was very basic I was relieved to only have one more full day of DMAIC.

Per usual I was ready to go around 7 AM. After finding out that DH ate the last bagel I knew I had to stop for breakfast on my way or I would never make it to lunch time. Doesn't he know to never, ever take food from a pregnant woman? DH had kindly started my car on Wednesday morning as we are getting down below freezing at night and my car is parked in the driveway. I decided it would be a good idea for me to do the same thing on Thursday morning. So I popped out of the house and down the four stairs to the driveway. The only problem? The leaves had piled up in that corner of the driveway and I missed the last step.

Now one could argue that it was my natural clumsiness or lack of attention (both valid) but I am blaming the fall on the pregnancy. Isn't clumsiness a common thing with a shift in center of gravity? I landed on my butt and wrenched my left ankle. I'm not really sure how it happened but it did. After a minute of swearing, I hauled myself up and started the car. It was slightly painful but not a big deal. I was hardly limping.

I went back in, bitched to DH about it and went on my merry way. What I wasn't prepared for was the 9 hours in class that allowed the ankle to stiffen up completely and made a minor injury into an extremely painful one. I managed to hobble out for lunch but by 4:30 I could barely make it the 30 feet to the bathroom. It took me about 15 minutes to walk back to my car (as opposed to the normal 5) and a security guard lapped me twice.

DH was kind enough to go grocery shopping without me which is good because I would have been moaning through the aisles the whole time. I rested with my ankle propped up and am happy to report that I'm doing much better today. Still a little sore (and now my right leg is too from trying to take all the weight off my left one) but I can manage stairs and trips to the kitchen for food. And really, isn't that the most important thing?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clear skin at last

I was very disappointed to find out that clear skin is not every mother's gift. Instead, if you were likely to break out during regular cycles you will continue to do so throughout pregnancy. So basically over the past 21 weeks I have had to battle blemishes. Most of them are probably due to the massive amounts of ice cream and chocolate I've been ingesting but even accounting for that I've had far too many. I am also lacking the luxurious hair that so many other pregnant women get, but that's another story. Thank goodness the pre-natal vitamins have given me really healthy nails!

Over the past two weeks I have experimented with a new skin care regime that has been paying off dividends. I have been blemish free for those two weeks and hope it will continue. What is different? Moisturizing in the evenings.

My morning routine hasn't varied: gel daily facial cleanser and daily SPF moisturizer. I switched to a RoC moisturizer about 6 months ago. Specifically RoC Age Diminishing Daily Moisturizer SPF 15. It retails for about $15 for a 3 oz bottle. When I turned 30 I decided that the increasing laugh lines requires "Age Diminishing." I'll probably dump the gel cleanser once it runs out because really, who needs two cleansers?

The big change has been adding an evening routine. Even if I don't wear make-up (never do on weekends and the number of days during the week is creeping up) I still wash with a cream cleanser. I picked up L'Oreal RevitaLift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser, a steal at $7 for 5 oz. The cream based cleanser works just as well as the gel one but feels a lot gentler on my skin. I then use Neutrogena's Visibly Firm Night Cream product at a pricier $17 a jar.

The extra cleansing and moisturizer application has resulted in the clearest skin I've had in years. I'll let you know if the routine stops working but I'm very hopeful it will last at least through the winter. Anyone else have tricks or tips for great looking skin?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

She's tough, but don't we have to be these days?

On Sunday night DH and I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Barack and Michelle Obama. It was great to see the two of them interacting because I haven't seen that often during the campaign.

One question that came up was the chores that Barack has to do when he's at home. He claimed that he found washing dishes to be relaxing. Michelle laughed and said, "No you don't. You do not like to wash dishes."

DH: She's tough.
Me: Well, yeah, she has to be. She's been the bread winner and primary care giver for the past decade.
DH: True.

What is interesting to me is that Michelle Obama was insistent that she will be focused on settling their daughters. She has made no mention of taking a more active role in the administration like Hilary did. Her only mention of additional work was getting involved in charities.

What do you think? As a Harvard Law School grad, senior executive, wife and mother, should Michelle stick with the "standard" First Lady role? Or can she succeed where Hilary failed?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Designing Woman

DH will be the first to tell you that I've gone a little crazy with decorating the nursery. I ordered prints from the UK as the focal point for the room's theme. When I was a child we had a couple of books by Cicely Mary Baker about Flower Fairies. The are from the 1950s so they aren't the cute-sy Disney style of fairies. I decided that if I was going to have a girl I would use that as the theme for her room. Good thing we ended up with a girl because I'm not sure what I would have done for a boy!

I ordered 6 prints and ended up getting them custom framed at Michael's. I was just going to have them matted to fit a regular frame but they were having a 60% off custom framing sale. See how much money I saved you, honey? Hee hee.



We picked up a rug off of Craig's List that is primarily lavender and green (with some cream and yellow) that is a perfect fit for the room and hardly used! The last two things I need to think about are fabric for the curtains and paint colors. My mom has graciously offered to sew the curtains so I'm trying to track down the perfect fabric. So far, after perusing 5 fabric stores I am not happy with anything. If anyone knows of a great online store that I can get samples from, let me know.

The pain colors are also throwing me for a loop. DH has said he is willing to go as crazy as I want and I'm thinking striped walls could be good. But perhaps too busy with a patterned rug? I know I have tons of time but I am the type of person who wants it done now. I will definitely post some before and after pictures so you can all marvel at the massive amount of work that DH will have done. As I type this he is re-building a custom built-in for the closet. It's so great to have a handy husband! I am more likely to outsource...

As I have been going through this process I do have to wonder, how much effort do people put into nurseries these days? I mean, aside from the ridiculous spreads in design magazines and the parents in Us Weekly. There is a limited life span to a nursery which means it will have to be done again within 10 years. If I hadn't focused on a theme I probably would have slapped some paint on the walls, arranged the furniture and called it a day.

All I know for sure is that we can't move for many, many years. I have several rooms now decorated and I refuse to start over again in a new location! Up next, our bedroom and bathroom...but that might be a lot farther out once the little one gets here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This bagel is just a vehicle for cream cheese


Apparently once I crossed the threshold of 20 weeks I turned into the quintessential pregnant woman. Most of you know I am a former smoker. For the first few weeks after I quit not an hour passed without me thinking about having (wanting! needing!) a cigarette. I even dreamed about it a few times. Those dream smokes were better than the real thing. Thanks, Chantix!
Now, not 15 minute go by without me thinking about food. Am I eating? If yes then I'm OK for another 30 minutes. If not I'm thinking about what I just ate and when I can eat again. I wake up starving. If I don't have some food within 15 minutes of getting to work I swear I will have a panic attack.
In my pre-pregnancy days I could easily go without breakfast and make it to 12 or 12:30 PM before having lunch. Now? I want that sandwich at 11:30 AM at the latest even after stuffing my face with a bagel and half a tub of cream cheese. I pack enormous lunches - two sandwiches, several pieces of fruit and something fun. I try to spread it out over an hour or two but it's hard! And inevitably I find myself going to the vending machine around 4 PM for a late afternoon snack. Evenings are easier because I regularly indulge in ice cream with M&Ms. So at least I'm not going to bed hungry...
It's not that I have specific food cravings. I just want to eat constantly. Sweets. Salty. Carbs (well, I have always loved carbs). Veggies (although I usually need another snack after that).
I haven't weighed myself in days. I've been really great about weight gain - less than 10 pounds in the first 20 weeks. Now it's all downhill. There is an apple sitting on my desk but I'm already thinking about the carb-tastic snack I'm planning on this afternoon.
How about the rest of you? Should I expect my grocery bill to grow exponentially?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Discussing pregnancy and kids at work

Yesterday I met with a couple of associates from a vendor that I manage. It was my first time meeting them in person. We had been having some issues wrapping up a project and starting a new one so I set aside an hour for us to talk before they took another associate out to lunch. It was me, two men and a woman who was the senior team leader.

We went through the agenda items I had laid out and came to agreement on all of the big factors. As we were wrapping up, I mentioned that a colleague of mine would be taking over when I went out on maternity leave in March/April. Well, that changed the entire tenor of the conversation!

For the next thirty minutes the team leader and I discussed all kinds of child related issues. I tried not to exclude the two men but it was challenging as neither had children. After a while I started to feel uncomfortable but it was difficult to bring up new, more inclusive topics. I wonder if any of you would have advice on how to change the conversation?

I also got my first question as to whether I would be returning to work after giving birth. Surprisingly it was from the team leader who has a four-year-old and went back to work herself after 12 weeks.

Anyone else ever had a similar experience? Or find that others you work with talk too much about their pregnancy/kids? I appreciate building personal relationships but I think it would have been better suited to a 1:1 discussion rather than a team meeting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is now the best time to get an MBA? Yes, if you can get in.

There has been a significant uptick in the number of applications to business school over the past year. I'm sure Mommy, Esq. can quote similar statistics for law school. Over the past 20 years it has become a given that in bad economic times, people go back to school. Why? It's probably the best time to go back because career advancement and salary increases are less likely.

Adding to one's education and business credentials in a downturn can be a smart investment, particularly if the economy starts to right itself once you come out of the program. I've had the odd experience of being employed just before economic hardships. I came out of my post-graduate year at Carnegie Mellon in 2000 and immediately found a job, about 6 months before the Internet bubble burst. Similarly, I have come out of UVA's MBA program 12 months before the market tanked. I am hopeful that BigFinance will continue to do well and I won't have to worry about layoffs (at least at my level/division). I did survive 4 layoffs in SmallResearch, as did DH. DH is still there so we are both hoping his tenure of 7+ years will help him through any potential layoffs.

But while going back to school during bad times is a good idea, it's also an idea that thousands of other people have. On top of that, international recruitment for top MBA programs is way up. At Darden, more students are international than are women. So that means if you want to go to a top 30 school (and frankly it's not worth 100K in debt if you don't) you need to be assured that you are unique and offer something that the school can't turn down. Me? I had a couple of things: a liberal arts undergraduate major, 5 years work experience at the same company, being a women (yes, I'll use it to my advantage), significant career progression, and multiple activities. My test scores weren't that great.

I recommend an MBA program in particular if you are looking to switch careers. I didn't want to stay in Sales or Consulting and I wanted a bump in my salary. Going back to business school and having access to a great career center was a must. Working with a MBA career center is very different than an undergraduate one. CMU's was useless but UVA had more than a hundred big name companies solicit resumes and conduct interviews. That is why it is so critical to get into a top MBA program. A small college is not going to have the same exposure or resources. So why pay 40K a year in tuition? A couple of people have recently asked my advice about applying to business school. Here are few tips:

  1. You should have at least 4 years work experience with career progression. That means advancements or job changes. It is best if you can stick with one company but we are becoming a country of job hoppers so it's less of an issue.

  2. Take a GMAT course. I studies on my own but the money I spent on the Princeton Review was totally worth it. There were 5 people in my class so we got a lot of individual attention. It also forces you to study several hours a week. I'm sure Natalie and DH remember me spending hours at the kitchen table.

  3. Start volunteering. If you don't have activities you've been doing for a few years, it is never too late to start. But 6 months in a volunteer role won't impress. So if you have nothing but your job, consider waiting another year.

  4. Have a plan. Know what schools you are targeting and why. I applied to 6 schools (Harvard just for shits and giggles) and would have been happy at any of them. It is expensive and there is a lot of paperwork. Harvard was almost $400 when I applied 4 years ago! I decided to focus on schools with strong general management program (no specialization required) and utilization of the case study method.

  5. References are critical. I lined up my references 9 months before I started the application process. In order to make things easy for them I put together a packet of information on me. My resume (more detailed that you might use to apply for a position), list of all my activities and why I did them. Both were professional references so I also included several projects I worked on where I contributed significantly. I provided a detailed list of strengths and weaknesses. Why so much work? You must be consistent when you apply to a program. You will be asked to share your strengths and weaknesses and you want your answers to match theirs.

  6. Visit the school. Darden required me to visit for an interview and they probably did it because the campus is so beautiful. But a visit even when not required demonstrates a level of commitment.

  7. Be a minority. Sorry, guys, but it's going to only get harder for white men to get into school.

  8. Consider a part-time program. It can be more challenging to switch careers with a part-time program. Also, the career centers tend to not be as good as full time programs. But if your company will help defray costs and you don't mind it taking more than 3 years, it could be a good middle road.

Here's a couple of articles I've come across recently:
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1853093,00.html http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mba5-2008nov05,0,595378.story

Do others have advice about graduate programs?

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's the half-time show!

On Saturday I officially passed into the second half of the pregnancy. Woo hoo! Of course, as Mommy, Esq. told me, the first half went by fairly quickly but I already feel like it will be soooo long until March. Good thing I have lots to keep me occupied until then:
  1. Christmas shopping. Yes, I've already starting my Christmas shopping and have even finished with DH. I also managed to pick up some stocking stuffers this weekend so I am feeling ahead of the game.
  2. Nesting. There's always more to be organized and cleaned out, no? We're in pretty good shape but perhaps another run at my closet would be good. Or I can sit DH down and go through his clothes. Yeah, that would be good!
  3. Decorating the nursery. I have settled on a theme for the nursery. Nothing too theme-y. I always hating those Trading Spaces where they did a room entirely in a theme. Even if it's for a kid you still want it to be versatile. I've ordered a bunch of prints from the UK for the room (fancy) and will use those as inspiration for paint colors, etc. That means another job for DH which he loves.
  4. Educating myself. DH and I will have to go for tour of the hospital, birthing class and perhaps a few other first time parent classes. Plus it's a great way to meet other expectant parents. Perhaps DH will find another rabid Yankees fan to bond with. I also need to learn more about the first few months and breastfeeding. I haven't heard a "it's a snap" comment yet about breastfeeding. How's that for nature?
  5. Watching lots of TV. Yes, I will enjoy my evenings while I still have them. Lots of lounging around and lavishing attention on Charlie. That dog will be so disappointed to be demoted from baby to dog!

Any other suggestions for me to while away the time?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dream a little dream

I have noticed a distinct increase the number and vividness of dreams since I got pregnant. Hormones? Perhaps. It would certainly be a good explanation. But I think it stems more from the fact that I wake up approximately 20 times a night.

Before pregnancy, I could sleep for 8 hours straight with hardly a toss or a turn. I would usually remember my dreams in the morning, a couple of hours before I had to haul my ass out of bed for work. Now, I wake up at least hourly. I'm only halfway through this pregnancy and I've heard it will only get worse. I like sleep. I need sleep. This will not be good for me or my marriage. Love you, honey!

First there is the bathroom breaks. I used to be like Charlie and could hold it for hours. The dog can seriously go 24 hours and sometimes does if it's raining outside and he doesn't want to get his paws wet. Now I'm lucky if I have just one nocturnal visit. Three is much more common. I can't wait for our 14 hour drive up to Boston for Christmas holidays. DH is going to love stopping every hour!

Then there is the position shifts. First my left side. Then I'm on my stomach. Bad! Must turn over! But wait, now I'm on my right side. Also bad! Turn back! No! The back is absolutely off limits! DH has no idea how limiting sleeping on one side is (not to mention uncomfortable after several hours). He sleeps away peacefully on any damn side he wants.

I had one friend recommend a body pillow as the pregnancy progresses. Has anyone else tried that? Any specific recommendations?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The pains and joys of the reverse commute

When I started in my new role at BigFinance a couple of months ago I was told that the team would be moving offices. Instead of the 13th (yes, the only 13th floor in Charlotte!) floor of a high rise, we would be ensconced in a low rise in the southern suburbs of the city. I was conflicted about the move. I liked being uptown because of the energy and the food options. I could walk anywhere and not stress if I didn't pack my lunch. Bliss. But I also knew I needed the face time with my boss and the rest of the team.

Because I joined the team after the move was decided I couldn't be included in the regular move. Instead, I had to wait another 2 months. There were a few people left on the floor, but not many. I get in early but I found myself having to turn on the lights every day because no one else was in yet. And there were no administrative assistants left so none of the office or kitchen supplies got replaced. Plus, I had zero motivation to look nice in the morning. Make-up went first, quickly followed by a decent hairstyle. It certainly made the morning routine quicker but the days dragged on without human interaction (aside from the millions of conference calls).

As a result, I was actually excited to start at the new office a few weeks ago. What I hadn't really counted on was the change to my commute. The time it takes (door to door) is about the same because I used to park 7 blocks from the office and walk but the total distance is more than twice what it was before. I also deal with many more stupid drivers. I'm not really sure why that is but if you take people off of the major roads then their stupidity factor increases. Because I used to only be in the car for 15 minutes my frustration level with other drivers wasn't as high. Now I find myself using the horn more often. Yes, I am a Massachusetts driver and no one else in this state knows how to drive. I'm thankful that gas prices have dropped significantly or what I'm saving in parking fees would be erased. Yes, the biggest two benefits to my new office is that I don't pay for parking and I can park 20 feet from the front door. Although the latter is a double edged sword considering my views on exercise. I also enjoy seeing the long line of cars going in the opposite direction. I can snicker and mutter, "Suckers" as I zip by. Evil? Me?!?

The biggest drawback is that you have to drive everywhere. So if I'm not motivated to bring my lunch then I have to hop in the car and drive. We're also in the middle of nowhere (relatively speaking) and I miss the city. It's not like DH and I get uptown very often. Fortunately I do have the occasional meeting in the city so that should tide me over. I know you will all be jealous when I tell you it takes 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, for me to get to work. And I hate what a waste of time it is! Where are our own personal transporters? When the heck will that be a reality? Screw flying cars, I want that! What about the rest of you? Are you like DH and have a 10 foot commute to work because you work at home? Or are you over an hour each way like A.'s husband?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dream a little dream

I have noticed a distinct increase the number and vividness of dreams since I got pregnant. Hormones? Perhaps. It would certainly be a good explanation. But I think it stems more from the fact that I wake up approximately 20 times a night. And common wisdom says you are more likely to remember a dream if you wake up during it.

Before pregnancy, I could sleep for 8 hours straight with hardly a toss or a turn. I would usually remember my dreams in the morning, a couple of hours before I had to haul my ass out of bed for work. Now, I wake up at least hourly. I'm only halfway through this pregnancy and I've heard it will only get worse. I like sleep. I need sleep. This will not be good for me or my marriage. Love you, honey!

First there is the bathroom breaks. I used to be like Charlie and could hold it for hours. The dog can seriously go 24 hours and sometimes does if it's raining outside and he doesn't want to get his paws wet. Now I'm lucky if I have just one nocturnal bathroom visit. Three is much more common. I can't wait for our 14 hour drive up to Boston for Christmas holidays. DH is going to love stopping every hour!

Then there is the position shifts. First my left side. Then I'm on my stomach. Bad! Must turn over! But wait, now I'm on my right side. Also bad! Turn back! No! The back is absolutely off limits! DH has no idea how limiting sleeping on one side is (not to mention uncomfortable after several hours). He sleeps away peacefully on any damn side he wants.

I had one friend recommend a body pillow as the pregnancy progresses. Has anyone else tried that? Any specific recommendations?

Congratulations, now get to work

I managed to stay up until 9:30 PM last night (pathetic, I know) and went to bed with a solid Obama lead in the electorate count. I dreamt about his win for most of the night so when nature called at 2:30 AM I decided to jump on DH's computer. All I looked at was the lead story on CNN, "Obama's Victory Speech" smiled, closed the computer and went back to bed.

I've been voting in Presidential elections since I was first able to in 1996. But that makes me somewhat unusual. This election saw first time voters in numbers that boggle the mind. I am proud of the country for stepping up and doing its civic duty (although why it took two terms of Bush for this to happen is another story). I think that Obama's use of the Internet to get out the vote was inspired and helped secure a big popular vote win on top of the landslide for the electorate win. The American political system can be confusing, no?

While NC has yet to have an official electorate call (12,000 votes separate Obama and McCain and I am predicting Obama will get it) the rest of the state went Democrat. For the first time in the history of the state we have a Democrat senator and governor. Yes, the other senator is still a Republican. I think that the North Carolina results speak to the results of the rest of the country. Like 1992 when Clinton was elected to office, Obama has a majority in the Senate and House.

So, what does that mean for Obama? It means he needs to hit the ground running. I heard on the radio this morning that a Chief of Staff should be announced today which is a step in the right direction. I read an interesting book a few years ago, Eyewitness To Power. Its author, David Gergen, argued that Clinton wasted his first 100 days in office. It is those first 100 days that set a tone for the presidency. Clinton, in my opinion was able to recover and win the next election. I don't think that Obama has that luxury. The economy is in such poor shape that the country is looking for a decisive leader. By giving the Democrats the Legislature and the Executive branches we are saying, "Now get to work."

He needs to make sure that the Democratic party doesn't get distracted by infighting. He needs to leverage his good will and start working for new legislation immediately following his inaugural speech. That means he needs to be spending the next few "lame duck" months building his team and prepping the House and Senate. I think he can do it. I've been very impressed with Senator Obama over the past 9 months. Sure, I would have preferred Hilary but it is unlikely she would have received the same mandate as Obama.

What about the rest of you? What do you think Obama should be doing until January and for his first 100 days as president? Also, does anyone know the word on Proposition 8 from California? I can't find the result on the LA Times.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's official: the pregnancy crazies begin

After getting ready this morning I went downstairs to collect all of my things for work. I like to be out of the house by 7:15 at the latest (who knew I could be a morning person?) so I am very particular about making my lunch the night before and laying out my outfit.

I took my prenatal vitamin which has been responsible for nary a broken nail in months and made sure my cell phone was in my purse. I then opened the fridge to get my lunch. But wait! It wasn't there?!? Of course, that's when I started talking to myself. "Where is it? I know I packed it yesterday. Where could it have gone to?"

Scratching my head I looked up and yes, there it was. Sitting on top of the fridge as it had been all night. I usually put the empty one up there when I'm not bringing my lunch. But I have never forgotten to put a packed lunch in the fridge. I took out the yogurt and got a new one (no way was that going to be good) and am hopeful that the leftover pasta with red sauce will be OK after a minute or two in the microwave.

On my way to work I called A. and she reassured me that the crazies will continue. Her husband told me that even better will be the clumsiness. Um, I'm already a klutz so that won't be good. At least I know to put my hands out when I'm falling (yes, DH, I'm looking at you). What about the rest of you? Any moments where you just want to smack yourself in your head (whether you were pregnant or not)?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Facebook can be useful

DH and I were invited down to Hilton Head for the weekend by my parents (Grammy and Bumpa). It was the first time any of the "kids" were invited to see the island that they are going to be retiring to. It helps that we had a quick 4 hour drive to the island. I guess that's one benefit of living hundreds of miles away from family. The weather was cool but still nice enough for a little lounging by the pool.

Here we are in front of some sweet boats


While working before we left, I happened to see a status update from our friend Nikki who said she was boarding a private plane to Hilton Head. How cool is that? We were able to get in touch with her and meet up our first night there. So all you naysayers for Facebook - see, it really does serve a purpose!

DH got to play golf twice and it would have been three times but I wanted at least one day together. My mom and I indulged in a spa treatment on Friday. We all went to a Halloween party hosted by some family friends. I really stretched my creativity and went as a pregnant party girl. DH leveraged Theresa's suggestion and went as Joe the Plumber. It was my kind of party - we were back in our room by 9:30. Ah, how pregnancy changes things!

We're going to try and make a trip again next fall with the baby. 4 hours is doable. Right? RIGHT????
Don't forget that tomorrow is election day! North Carolina is 49% Obama and 48% McCain...our absentee ballots were mailed last week. I hope no one has to wait a long time to vote.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Detox footpads and other things I'd secretly like to try

I've never been much for infomercials. Or channels like QVC that hock things I'm sure I will never in a million years need or want. I'm helped along by my trusty DVR which has allowed me to gloss over approximately 90% of all commercials in the past 3 years. But every once in a while I come across a product that intrigues me. If I was a little more motivated and had a little more cash lying around, I might indulge myself. It's probably why I like to stop by the store in the mall, As Seen On TV.

First up, the detox footpads that draw toxins out of your body at night. The images are what convinces me. People wake up and there is gunk on white pads. Something must be happening! Assuming it worked (big assumption) then I would have the satisfaction of purging myself of something. I'll assume from the black color that it's harmful. And I get to do it without exercise! Or spending hundreds at a spa! Looks like a deal to me. $11.95 for an 8 pack is a steal.

What about Evert-Fresh Bags? Guaranteed to double the life of your vegetables and fruits! There are many times I've had to throw out moldy veggies because we just didn't go through them fast enough. I blame the supermarkets who assume meal planning is for a family of four. Besides avoiding organic waste, these bags are also reusable. It's like we are saving the environment. Totally worth the $5.45price tag for 10 bags. Not that I've tried it yet...

I'm kind of on the fence for the Aqua Globes. DH thinks they look interesting but they are kind of ugly. Could be good for a week long trip though. You fill the "beautiful" container with water and insert into the the plant. Over time it dispenses water. They claim, "No more spills!" "No more dead plants!" But I would think that the soil needs to be a particular denseness in order to distribute the water evenly. In other words, I doubt it works. But a set of 4 is only $14.99...

What about the rest of you? Any cool products you've seen on the market that you'd like to try?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What goes around comes around

My mother is probably chuckling as I type this. DH and I just wrapped up our anatomy ultrasound and found out we are having a baby girl. I suspected we were going to have one for a variety of reasons and my suspicion was born out. Our little girl will join her cousins (Finn, Ned and Penny) in March.

Needless to say, we are quite thrilled. A trip to Home Depot for paint selections is right around the corner! I'm a total planner so I had to know the sex. How else could I indulge in a very girly or ultra little boy nursery? I'm thinking fairies and purples and greens. We'll see what the budget allows for...

But why, may you ask, is Grammie chuckling? I think she is looking ahead to the puberty years. The 3 of us gave her no small amounts of hell between the ages of 12 and 18. What can I say? College mellowed us.

But before we fast forward 12+ years, in 5 months I will have a snuggly little girl to coo over. And force to wear adorable dresses and other girly outfits. Don't worry, no matching outfits! I got enough of that for the first 6 years of my life with A. and Mommy, Esq.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Does "Bah humbug!" work for Halloween?


Halloween is pretty much a non-event for me. I think it has been since my sisters and I stopped trick or treating. I can't remember when that happened exactly but I think it was when we were 12 or so. My mom told me that when DH and I go visit them in Hilton Head we are required to go to a costume party. Both of us have no desire to dress up for Halloween and gave each other the "annoyed" look when it was mentioned.

I'm sure once I can dress up my kid I'll get more into it but for now, Halloween just doesn't appeal. Sure, I buy candy for the neighbors but last year our doorbell was rung a total of 4 times. I'm not complaining that I had to finish up those two bags of mini Snickers but it would have been just as easy to shut off the porch light and avoid the hassle. Charlie gets ballistic enough without a doorbell ringing.
The best Halloweens I had were in college but that wasn't more of an excuse to get drunk than dress up and win some kind of "best costume" award. I thought going as "college student" was good enough. This year I'm also going the minimalist route - pregnant party girl. A basic mask and some Marti Gras bead is all the costume I need. Tacky? Yes but a piece of cake to throw together.

I lack the creativity or enthusiasm required for Halloween. I think it goes back to my childhood. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with three original costume ideas for girl triplets every year? No, Mom, I'm not blaming you, I swear. I was a witch at least 5 times. And making my own costume? No way. I can operate a glue gun, but that's about it.

We're trying to come up with an idea for DH. Dejected Yankee fan? Expectant father? Bud Light drinker? All possibilities.

What about you? Do you love Halloween or, like me, are you unmoved by it? Do you have any excellent costume ideas that I can steal for the future?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Meet the Parents

Grammy and Bumpa are making the 14 hour trek from Massachusetts to Charlotte today. They are on their way to a nice vacation in Hilton Head, SC. In order to prepare for their arrival, DH and I had a much longer chore list than we usually do. After all, we have to look like responsible home owners when they come to visit, don't we?

So the hedges were clipped, the driveway cleaned (damn those squirrels and their nut dropping!), furniture was dusted, floors were swept and mopped and everything was put in its place. It's kind of nice when we are expecting company because we care that much more about cleaning than when it's just us and the dog.

The parents' imminent arrival reminds me of the first time I brought DH to meet them. I was bringing him with me to my sister's wedding at the end of December (2002) so I figured I should break him in first. Approaching my family can be a lot like gentling a wild animal. It takes a lot of up front planning, no sudden movement and treats. Lots of treats.

To start with, I told DH lots of stories about my family. Mostly funny ones so he wouldn't realize how crazy we really are. I then trapped him in my car and drove the 15 miles to my parents' house. Waiting for us when we arrived were lots of treats: beer for him, wine for me, appetizers and a home cooked meal.

I wasn't surprised that he hit it off with my parents. I come from a pretty matriarchal family as does he. So he totally knew that buttering up the mom was the way to go. Somehow at the end of the night she talked him into having some homemade lemoncello with her. This was after several beers so it totally put DH over the edge. Good thing I had planned on driving us back already. Many of my readers have had Grammy push lemoncello on them. But everyone else probably knows it best from Danny Devito's stellar performance on The View about a year ago. Apparently he got so drunk on lemoncello he was still drunk the next day and sat on Barbara Walter's lap. So needless to say, it has a kick to it.

Once he finished the glass (!) my mom poured for him, he was in. The rest of the process leading up to our wedding years later was just a formality.

My parents don't look that crazy, do they?


The joys and pains of a reverse commute

When I started in my new role at BigFinance a couple of months ago I was told that the team would be moving offices. Instead of the 13th (yes, the only 13th floor in Charlotte!) floor of a high rise, we would be ensconced in a low rise in the southern suburbs of the city. I was conflicted about the move. I liked being uptown because of the energy and the food options. I could walk anywhere and not stress if I didn't pack my lunch. Bliss. But I also knew I needed the face time with my boss and the rest of the team.

Because I joined the team after the move was decided I couldn't be included in the regular move. Instead, I had to wait another 2 months. There were a few people left on the floor, but not many. I get in early but I found myself having to turn on the lights every day because no one else was in yet. And there were no administrative assistants left so none of the office or kitchen supplies got replaced. Plus, I had zero motivation to look nice in the morning. Make-up went first, quickly followed by a decent hairstyle. It certainly made the morning routine quicker but the days dragged on without human interaction (aside from the millions of conference calls).

As a result, I was actually excited to start at the new office a few weeks ago. What I hadn't really counted on was the change to my commute. The time it takes (door to door) is about the same because I used to park 7 blocks from the office and walk but the total distance is more than twice what it was before. I also deal with many more stupid drivers. I'm not really sure why that is but if you take people off of the major roads then their stupidity factor increases. Because I used to only be in the car for 15 minutes my frustration level with other drivers wasn't as high. Now I find myself using the horn more often. Yes, I am a Massachusetts driver and no one else in this state knows how to drive.

I'm thankful that gas prices have dropped significantly or what I'm saving in parking fees would be erased. Yes, the biggest two benefits to my new office is that I don't pay for parking and I can park 20 feet from the front door. Although the latter is a double edged sword considering my views on exercise. I also enjoy seeing the long line of cars going in the opposite direction. I can snicker and mutter, "Suckers" as I zip by. Evil? Me?!?

The biggest drawback is that you have to drive everywhere. So if I'm not motivated to bring my lunch then I have to hop in the car and drive. We're also in the middle of nowhere (relatively speaking) and I miss the city. It's not like DH and I get uptown very often. Fortunately I do have the occasional meeting in the city so that should tide me over.

I know you will all be jealous when I tell you it takes 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, for me to get to work. And I hate what a waste of time it is! Where are our own personal transporters? When the heck will that be a reality? Screw flying cars, I want that! What about the rest of you? Are you like DH and have a 10 foot commute to work because you work at home? Or are you over an hour each way like A.'s husband?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is now the best time to get an MBA? Yes, if you can get in.

There has been a significant uptick in the number of applications to business school over the past year. I'm sure Mommy, Esq. can quote similar statistics for law school. Over the past 20 years it has become a given that in bad economic times, people go back to school. Why? It's probably the best time to go back because career advancement and salary increases are less likely. Adding to one's education and business credentials in a downturn can be a smart investment, particularly if the economy starts to right itself once you come out of the program.

I've had the odd experience of being employed just before economic hardships. I came out of my post-graduate year at Carnegie Mellon in 2000 and immediately found a job, about 6 months before the Internet bubble burst. Similarly, I have come out of UVA's MBA program 12 months before the market tanked. I am hopeful that BigFinance will continue to do well and I won't have to worry about layoffs (at least at my level/division). I did survive 4 layoffs in SmallResearch, as did DH. DH is still there so we are both hoping his tenure of 7+ years will help him through any potential layoffs.

But while going back to school during bad times is a good idea, it's also an idea that thousands of other people have. On top of that, international recruitment for top MBA programs is way up. At Darden, more students are international than are women. So that means if you want to go to a top 30 school (and frankly it's not worth 100K in debt if you don't) you need to be assured that you are unique and offer something that the school can't turn down. Me? I had a couple of things: a liberal arts undergraduate major, 5 years work experience at the same company, being a women (yes, I'll use it to my advantage), significant career progression, and multiple activities. My test scores weren't that great.

I recommend an MBA program in particular if you are looking to switch careers. I didn't want to stay in Sales or Consulting and I wanted a bump in my salary. Going back to business school and having access to a great career center was a must. Working with a MBA career center is very different than an undergraduate one. CMU's was useless but UVA had more than a hundred big name companies solicit resumes and conduct interviews. That is why it is so critical to get into a top MBA program. A small college is not going to have the same exposure or resources. So why pay 40K a year in tuition?

A couple of people have recently asked my advice about applying to business school. Here are few tips:

  1. You should have at least 4 years work experience with career progression. That means advancements or job changes. It is best if you can stick with one company but we are becoming a country of job hoppers so it's less of an issue.

  2. Take a GMAT course. I studies on my own but the money I spent on the Princeton Review was totally worth it. There were 5 people in my class so we got a lot of individual attention. It also forces you to study several hours a week. I'm sure Natalie and DH remember me spending hours at the kitchen table.

  3. Start volunteering. If you don't have activities you've been doing for a few years, it is never too late to start. But 6 months in a volunteer role won't impress. So if you have nothing but your job, consider waiting another year.

  4. Have a plan. Know what schools you are targeting and why. I applied to 6 schools (Harvard just for shits and giggles) and would have been happy at any of them. It is expensive and there is a lot of paperwork. Harvard was almost $400 when I applied 4 years ago! I decided to focus on schools with strong general management program (no specialization required) and utilization of the case study method.

  5. References are critical. I lined up my references 9 months before I started the application process. In order to make things easy for them I put together a packet of information on me. My resume (more detailed that you might use to apply for a position), list of all my activities and why I did them. Both were professional references so I also included several projects I worked on where I contributed significantly. I provided a detailed list of strengths and weaknesses. Why so much work? You must be consistent when you apply to a program. You will be asked to share your strengths and weaknesses and you want your answers to match theirs.

  6. Visit the school. Darden required me to visit for an interview and they probably did it because the campus is so beautiful. But a visit even when not required demonstrates a level of commitment.

  7. Be a minority. Sorry, guys, but it's going to only get harder for white men to get into school.

  8. Consider a part-time program. It can be more challenging to switch careers with a part-time program. Also, the career centers tend to not be as good as full time programs. But if your company will help defray costs and you don't mind it taking more than 3 years, it could be a good middle road.

Here's a couple of articles I've come across recently:

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1853093,00.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mba5-2008nov05,0,595378.story

Do others have advice about graduate programs?