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We are parents!

November 2, 2018

This is a long post, and I didn’t bother much with personal finance considerations.  Here is the story of the end of my pregnancy, how we became parents, and how things are going so far.

Late Pregnancy Complications

After a remarkably easy time for the bulk of pregnancy, things got complicated in the last few weeks. I have a devastating feeling that my normally very healthy body failed me in the task of pregnancy.  However, I have a seemingly healthy baby, so I guess it didn’t fail completely,

  • At 33 weeks, a growth ultrasound showed baby was measuring quite small (<10% for gestational age).  Induction at 39 weeks was recommenced since they expected her to grow better on the outside at that point.  I was scheduled for 2-3x weekly monitoring appointments to check on the baby’s activity, my fluid levels, and the cord blood flow to ensure she was still getting nutrients.
  • At 35 weeks, my blood pressure was worryingly high during my appointment for the 2nd time, so the doctor moved my induction to the 37th week to limit the risk of pre-eclampsia.  I  started disability / maternity leave after this appointment, two weeks earlier than planned. The handoff of tasks was less smooth than I had intended. Some of my coworkers did not seem to understand why I was leaving so early, and kept expecting me to be available to continue things from home. (This may be because most women in California are eligible to start leave 4 weeks before their due date, so they thought I had a month of hanging out at home with no complications.) I must not have articulated the situation well, but also, I looked perfectly healthy and not like I would having a baby in 2 weeks. They did stop bothering me when I produced a baby!
  • At 36 weeks and 4 days, my home blood pressure reading was above the threshold where I’d been instructed to call. They asked me to come in to labor and delivery triage, where I expected they’d run some labs and send me back home.  Instead, despite blood work showing healthy kidney and liver function, they recommend induction ASAP. The blood pressure and protein in my urine was enough to convince them that things were only going to get worse, and the baby should come out now.

The Birth:

After I was admitted, I was given medication to lower my blood pressure, put on an IV of magnesium to reduce risk of seizures, and given a steroid shot for the baby’s lung development since we were before 37 weeks. Induction started late in the evening with a foley balloon, which produced contractions relatively quickly.  The contractions became painful within an hour, and I started vomiting from… the pain? The pain killer I had with the insertion?  General labor symptom?  Who knows why, but it was a regular occurrence until after the baby was out.  Knowing I wanted an epidural, I requested it at that point. I was already confined to bed due to the magnesium IV, so there really wasn’t a drawback. The epidural was placed without complication at 2:30 am, and I attempted to sleep while being poked and prodded all night. At about 5:30 am, the balloon came out and we started Pitocin to help contractions progress.

Things went normally throughout the morning.  Since patients control epidural strength and I kept it fairly minimal, I could feel sensations without feeling pain – just some mild discomfort. Just after noon, nurses and doctors rushed into the room after one of the contractions. The fetal heart rate had dropped significantly, but recovered after the contraction.  They determined I was entering transition phase, suggesting this could cause of the heart rate drop temporarily. Not too much later, I began pushing in earnest. I wasn’t pushing for long – perhaps 3 contractions – when a few pushes were followed by major hemorrhaging. The doctor suspected placental abruption and even more medical staff flooded into the room.  They began preparation for an emergency c-section, and whisked me down the hall to the OR.  The anesthesiologist amped up my epidural in an attempt to completely numb the area so we could avoid general anesthesia.  Pediatricians were standing by to check the baby when she came out. The doctors were checking my progress and checking the baby’s positioning. The nurses hooked me back up to fetal monitoring, and gave me lots of encouragement.

Fortunately, the fetal heart rate had stabilized en route to the OR, and the doctor recommended we continue with the delivery attempt in the OR. The baby needed to come out quickly, so forceps were suggested. If forceps failed due to the baby’s position or any other reason, we’d immediately fall back to the c-section. I was given a few chances to push with the forceps. By this point, my lower half was totally numb. I couldn’t feel contractions or whether I was pushing at all, much less productively.  But I was pushing!  And it was good pushing!  The forceps were working!  She was born, let out a cry, and was plopped onto my chest for skin-to-skin.

As predicted, she was small. At 1.99 kg, she was a hair under the threshold where NICU time is typically required.  Her APGAR was great and she showed no signs of needing extra care, so the doctors let her stay with us, unless something else were to come up.  Both of us were closely monitored for the next day. Her blood sugar was checked regularly, among the other newborn shots/tests. My magnesium IV stayed in for 24 hours, which made me feel terrible and kept me chained to the bed. Once that was out, my recovery went smoothly with a normal amount of pain. We had significant time with a lactation consultant, and despite a learning curve, nursing was off to a decent start by the time we left the hospital.

The aftermath

With clean bills of health, we were discharged from the hospital about 48 hours after birth.  T and I were still processing the fear we’d felt during the birth, and the joy of finally having her safe in our arms. She was small, but she was healthy!  And we were going home!

I walked into the house first. T had left in a hurry, but things were in disarray disproportionate to a frantic rush to the hospital.  The freezer was open, something he would never do… then I noted the screen on the kitchen window appeared to be falling off.  It took me several seconds of working through denial to realize what had happened: while we were in the hospital, our house had been burglarized. I immediately broke into tears, as T frantically checked all the rooms  to assess what was missing or damaged.

Irrationally, I feared the thieves had stolen the baby gear I’d spent months acquiring.  “Good, the bassinet is still here!” I exclaimed with relief.  In fact, while every other room had been ransacked, the nursery was left untouched. Baby and I camped out there while T dealt with the police and cleanup. I don’t know if I slept at all the first night, between the emotions from the burglary combined with worry about the baby.

The thieves were likely disappointed – we don’t have valuable jewelry, aside from my wedding rings, which were with me. We had our personal laptops and iPad at the hospital. My work laptop was at home, and was the most valuable thing they got, along with an 8 year old iPad. Leaving the freezer open caused the most damage. Not only was there a $300 repair, but it destroyed ~15 freezer meals I’d spent the last few weeks preparing, in hopes of easing the transition into newborn life.  I’d also stocked up on meat and other snacks at Costco and the store in preparation for coming home. All the food in both the fridge and freezer had to be tossed – hundreds of dollars worth of food, and more so, the emotion of losing all the work I’d done to prepare.

Friends, family, and neighbors were very helpful, sending or delivery meals and offering words of encouragement and help.

Newborn Daze:

As far as infants go, she has been remarkably easy (with one noted exception). She goes to sleep fairly easily after eating. She has several alert periods throughout the day when we can get to know her and introduce her to the world. We anticipate this may change as she matures. She is a bit of a sleepy eater, but breastfeeding has started out well – a big relief. We are trying to enjoy this stage as much we can.

The biggest challenge is her feeding schedule. Due to her size, we need to wake her up every 2 hours to eat if she hasn’t already requested to eat. It can take 45-60 minutes to complete a feeding session, with diaper changes, burping, and poking her so she stays awake, etc. It’s exhausting, although only a bit more than any newborn schedule would be.

Since she arrived over 3 weeks ahead of schedule, T is still juggling fall semester responsibilities before he gets his semester off of teaching. This isn’t ideal, but it is what it is. (He did have guest lecturers cover him the first week and during the birth.) My mom was here for a long weekend, and my sister is coming for a week, then my mom & dad will come back again for a longer stretch (the originally booked tickets). So, despite being so very far away, we do have some help in these early days.  T’s schedule also provides some flexibility, but he has more on his plate than would be ideal. I’m eager for December, when we’ll have more time together as a family.

Once home, my recovery went well.  My blood pressure has dropped to its normal healthy levels, and I no longer need to take anything for pain. The hormones and emotions are a bit wild, but we’re getting there.  The exhaustion is real, but nothing totally unexpected.

Onward

The blog will continue at its usual slow pace, and personal finance topics will return soon enough!  In the meantime, I’m hanging out with the baby and we are figuring out parent life!

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September Wrap-Up

October 3, 2018

Net Worth and Money

September was our smallest net worth increase of the year at under 1%.  I think this was mostly due to lackluster market growth between my August data point and September data point.

All of my travel expenses have finally been reimbursed!  T’s as well, except a small trip he just took.  It is nice not to have multiple thousands of dollars owed to me by my job.  I must have earned so many extra credit card points!

This was my first paycheck after finishing my voluntary retirement contributions, which made up for the fact that T is back on academic-year pay (i.e. no summer salary bonus money).  Some social security taxes also were done for the year.  My paycheck won’t start to be impacted by disability/leave until the one I get at the end of November, so our income for the rest of the year is looking healthy.

I found out I’m getting a 5% raise, which is more than typical – salary growth at my workplace is known to be relatively stagnant and not well-correlated to performance. We’re rated on a 1 to 5 scale, and this year only, your raise is equivalent to your rating.  The raise is retroactive a few months, so my next paycheck will include a little “bonus” to cover the past few months.

Our cash buffers are even higher right now, but I’m prepping for our backdoor Roth contributions, which is part of our college savings strategy.  I hope to execute these next month.

Despite the 0% interest rate, which is the whole reason we decided to not pay cash in the first place, I’ve been making double car payments every month. The original idea of financing was that the extra cash would be better served in the market or even in the mortgage.  But… I just hate large-ish monthly bills. My “logic” is that while the mortgage payment is not going anywhere anytime soon, the car payment can easily be killed and will be gone in a few months. In the future, I need to take into account the reality of my personality when I try to be clever and financially savvy by taking advantage of 0% interest deals.

Spending

I’m still behind on tracking this, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to catch up unless it happens in the next few weeks. I noted the big ticket items in a separate post.

Work

Work was fantastic for the most part.  Early in the month, the project I’ve been traveling all summer for culminated with a big success. And it was so much fun!  We had some wrap-up work to do, then flew back home by mid-month.

Since getting home, it was fun to dive back into my other project, which had been on the back burner for the summer. The proposal work hasn’t been too demanding, but only because we are totally behind the ball on them.  :/

A bureaucratic issue came up with my upcoming maternity leave. By policy, I’m entitled to use an amount of sick leave as parental leave.  Unbeknownst to me, my projects are still charged for my time during any sick leave – different from how vacation leave works. Since I’m responsible for budgets/schedules on my own projects (and report to another organization from a financial perspective for one), this seriously stressed me out. Not only do I have to cover my work while I’m out, I have to come up with extra money to do so?  This was eventually sorted out for my personal situation, but I’m still furious that this is the policy. A project paying for someone during multiple weeks of parental leave is fundamentally different than covering their time while they go to a doctors appointment or nurse a cold. On a large scale, a predictable percentage of employees will use sick leave as parental leave each year, and the burden of funding it should not be left for projects to deal with as though it is a one-off situation. It can create a bad dynamic between a project manager and a new parent…  and is particularly stressful when the new parent is the project manager!

I should insert a caveats about how I’m grateful for the leave I have, and a rant about how maternity/parental leave in the US sucks more broadly. But you know this already.

House

We didn’t finish any big projects this month, but did knock out some small/medium stuff.  The new washer / dryer came and were installed.  We moved around a lot of furniture and started to get the nursery set up.  We are working on trying to restore the office / guest room to a functional state, but it needs a lot of decluttering.  Landscaping progress continued a little bit.  I’m still in love with my Roomba, who has been keeping our floors nice and clean.

Our wish-to-do list is a mile long, and there is no way it is all going to be done in the next month or so.  T still thinks that he’ll have time to do some of the projects after the baby is born.  Isn’t that cute of him to think that? 🙂

Pregnancy / Baby

My previously nearly-perfect unicorn pregnancy took a slight turn with at my 32 week check-up. I was flagged for a growth scan, and it showed that baby is a bit on the small side. There is nothing in particular to worry about and prognosis is extremely good – but they have added a bunch of extra monitoring appointments to make sure it stays that way. Depending on how baby grows in these few weeks, they may want to talk about induction somewhere around 38 or 39 weeks (the idea being the baby may do better growing on the outside at that point). The frequent appointments are quite a distraction and time suck, but I’m glad to know they are watching baby carefully.

Physically, I’m still feeling mostly well! I have just now started to reach the point where some things are getting uncomfortable, and I get physically tired out way more quickly and easily than I expect to. As long as I take things relatively easy, I feel good. I have to pace myself on the weekends, because I want to do ALL THE THINGS and it just totally wipes me out the following day.

So, that was September!  My maternity leave starts late October, and I’m super excited!

September spending – home and baby stuff

September 27, 2018

We bought a lot of big things this month, so I’m separating this out into its own post to shorten my monthly wrap up where I usually note large purchases

Laundry upgrade:

The most questionable big purchase is a new washer and dryer.  It is questionable, because our old laundry center unit (similar idea as this) that came with the house was/is perfectly functional (and will be resold on Craigslist). We have a small laundry closet instead of a laundry room, so we got stackable front loading LG models. My complaints with our old set up was the small load size and the fact that the dryer had just two settings (and “low” was quite hot). I do most of the laundry in the house, and we have a fair amount even without baby. Aside from our clothes/bedding,  the dog’s stuff gets washed weekly in attempts to minimize the doggy smells (beds, blankets that cover places he is allowed to lay). The setup was ~$2200 including delivery, taxes, and install fee.  We got the washer from Costco, but they didn’t carry the gas dryer, so we bought that from Best Buy (they could deliver on the same timeline).  The old laundry center is probably worth about $200-$300 used.

Since my husband is who he is, the purchase of a new washer/dryer meant he “had to” fix the drywall in the laundry closet and paint the closet with some leftover paint. I couldn’t care less about the status of the drywall in our laundry closet, but bad dry wall seriously bothers him – even if it is in a closet. This was low cost, but took up a weekend.  It is done, it looks great if you peak around the edges of the machine to look at it…

Roomba! I’ve wanted a Roomba forever… but they are expensive and I wasn’t sure if I’d love it. I wanted to buy it from Costco due to their favorable return policy. I wanted a higher series model for various reasons, and had been stalking the Roomba 960C since last fall when I skipped a $500 sale. It hadn’t been less than $600 until this August, when it dropped to $530. That’s a good price, but I thought I could do better on Black Friday. Then in September, I saw they were carrying the 985 (Costco version of 980) for $500.  I compared the specs and, keeping in mind the generous return policy, I pulled the trigger.

Roomba

I love it!  I have dust allergies, and we have a dog, so having the floors cleaned daily makes a huge difference. I used to vacuum fairly often, but couldn’t keep up with the daily schedule a robot can. We still need to vacuum with the real vacuum to take care of things completely, but mostly just places the few roomba can’t get. The dog initially was wary and gave it a few barks, but adapted and now mostly just avoids it.

Baby / Nursery Stuff:

We got a lot of the bigger items used over the past several months, but time is running out and there were some specific items I haven’t found used.  I have limited time/energy to drive around buying second-hand smaller items to save $10 or $20 per item, so I’ve limited my geographical search area for small items and have been just ordering most of them with completion discounts at Target/Amazon.

Used baby items bought in September:

  • Used dresser (many years old version of this model in a light wood color) for $175, which doubles as our changing table.  I stalked the used item sites for MONTHS trying to find someone selling a solid wood dresser to my tastes for less than $200. It’s harder than you would think!  A new IKEA Hemnes was my backup plan, but I was so happy to find this used one and give a new home.
  • Perfect condition snug-a-puppy fisher price swing for $30.  I debated this because I’m avoiding buying things I’m not sure we will need – especially space-hog items like swings! On flip side, we have the time now to bargain shop, and a swing is not something I want to buy at retail.  Since this was in our neighborhood, I decided to just get it and assume my baby will indeed like a swing. (I skipped the Mamaroo I was lusting after, which seem to go for at least $100 used.)
  • A few specific clothing items. Baby might spend many of the early days in sleepers  – but who knows? And who knows what size baby will be at birth?  It’s kind of a mystery to figure out what we need. We received many used and new clothes as gifts. After doing an inventory, I still thought I needed a few specific items. There is a fantastic used market for baby clothes since everyone seems to have too many. I prefer online shopping and picking out specific items. Swap.com has  great prices and promotions, so I shopped there them. ThredUp seems to run a bit more expensive but is the same idea.
    • A couple couple of side snap long sleeve tops/onesies for the earliest dayso I don’t have to put stuff over baby’s head while I am still getting comfortable with handling a tiny baby.
    • A couple pairs of footed pants to go with the zillion onesies  I have (footed so I can avoid socks, which seem troublesome).

New baby items bought in September:

  • Car seat for $170.  I badly wanted to splurge on the $300 Nuna Pipa with the beautiful styling and “dream drape” canopy and not a single negative review on the entire internet!  But I talked myself out of that idea and went with a sale Maxi Cosio Mico Max 30, which is very lightweight, has many safety features, but has a less dreamy canopy.
  • Pack-n-play Jetsetter for about $100 after tax (w/coupon).  There are tons of used play yards  available, but I wanted this specific one. It will be a travel crib, but we’ll first use the bassinet portion as the safe place (that is taller than dog height) to set down the baby in the living room. We have a used Halo bassinet for our bedroom, but it is too heavy to be portable. I bought from a brick and mortar store in case I want to return this.
  • Nursery glider for $300, although my mom bought this for us. It pained me to spend money and environmental resources on something I’m confident has a short shelf life in our home, but I could not find a reasonable used deal on a rocker. The ones under ~$200 were in terrible condition and/or not in styles that I liked at all. The cost/benefit of buying used just wasn’t there.
  • Many smaller miscellaneous items: Curtains, changing pad & cover, baby medicines, a few toys/books/etc. for young babies, infant bath tub, organizer bins and such, bassinet mattress protector & sheet, LEKA baby gym and separate mat, side table for near glider, crib mattress protector & sheet, breastfeeding supplies, bottle drying rack, a few prints and frames for decoration.

We aren’t quite done buying everything for baby, but I think we are 90% of the way there on the essentials. Then baby will come, and we’ll figure out if we missed anything everything we missed!

Planning for baby: College Savings

September 12, 2018

We have not figured out all of the near-term logistics, such as what the heck are we doing for child care?  Still, we’ve started thinking about some bigger picture items. One of these is college savings.

What is the goal?

If we have one kid, $200k saved for college by 2036 is my strawman goal. My “research” to come up this is only slightly more thoughtful than googling “college cost for a kid born today” and dividing the number by two. I really dislike pinning specific numbers on very long term goals, and  we will adjust as time goes on.  If you have a target, how did you set it?

How will we do it?

My calculations show that the only way for us to get there is to reduce our pretax retirement savings in favor of accounts we can access for college. This is painful because our taxes on the last dollar we earn are pretty high.  That said, we have access to put away lots pre-tax retirement money each year – way more than needed.  In 2018, we are maxing out all of the pre-tax space. A modest portion of this money is in a 457b (accessible at any age if no longer at employer), but the bulk of it is in 401k (or similar) accounts. I convinced myself that we can use an IRA conversion ladder to get some 401k money out early if we end up wanting to retire early.

Aside from the pre-tax savings, we have access to a mega-backdoor Roth IRA. I’ve not explored this in depth, because I prefer to take the tax break today. Still, this could be a useful way to dovetail college savings with retirement savings. It has a lot of the benefits of a 529, but you aren’t limited to using it for education. (In California, we don’t get a state tax deductions for contributing to a 529.) Having the money in a Roth vs a 529 also will help in financial aid calculations, assuming they don’t change in the next 18 years (haha).  I can’t think of a good reason why having it in a 529 is better.

For some, using a Roth for college savings is not advised because they need that savings room for retirement.  We have enough savings and enough yearly room to save more for retirement that this is a non-issue.  For our situation, the primary disadvantage of using a Roth for college savings is that we can’t take any growth out until I’m 59, so we don’t benefit from investment growth until college of offspring is over. Instead of assuming growth, we would want to save about $12k/year every year.  This seems mostly fine, except I also have an idea in the back of my head to use Roth principle if we wanted to retire early. But do we? When? And how much principle do we need in a Roth space to both fund college and an early retirement? And what is the best way to get it there?

Maybe we need to answer some of these question.  My general approach has been to just save as much as we can, however we can, and maximize future options and mitigate against uncertainty.  I think once we’ve had the baby a while and we find out about T’s tenure, we’ll have a clearer picture of how we want to steer our lives. The most likely case is we want to stay and retire here, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m planning to shuffle the order of our savings priorities, moving Roth IRA contributions from the bottom of the list to the middle.

Savings Priorities:

  1. Mandatory pensions savings (pre-tax) that we can’t opt out of
  2. 457b pre-tax retirement savings ($37,000)
  3. $11k/year in college savings via backdoor Roth ($5.5k each).  I’m happy for this to be our “minimum” savings bar.
  4. Mega backdoor Roth IRA up to some TBD amount (on the order of $5-$10k), then 403b up to some other TBD amount.  This is where we balance tax savings now with accessibility of principal and tax savings later.
  5. Mortgage prepayment, although it is almost impossible that we’ll get this far down the list.

For those who have kids, did your savings priorities change when you had them? Not only does it get harder to save (child care!), but there are suddenly different things to save for!

August Wrap-up

September 4, 2018

Random Link:

This post from Get Rich Slowly on why you should be skeptical of finance blogs was a refreshing read.  I only keep up with a small set of very personal personal finances / FI blogs. I basically still pretend like it is 2007 in the blog world.  Anyone want to submit a post to the carnival of personal finance?

Net Worth and Money

We received the last paycheck with T’s summer salary!  Our property tax account is full, and so is our slush fund. Our net worth is up another couple percent this month and an astonishing number for the year. My retirement accounts are full, so my take home pay should go up. I’m still due several thousand (~$5k) in expense reimbursements, but most are submitted and the traveling is about to end.

We’re keeping a lot of cash for now. It is super tempting to send a chunk to the mortgage, but I think waiting and sitting tight is the right move.  (The mortgage isn’t going anywhere.) Beyond the maternity leave/postpartum costs, I think it makes sense for how I hope to handle college savings. More to come on that topic…

Spending

I’m still behind on tracking this, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to catch up…  I can say that my spending on food is still low due to work travel, but we have spent a lot on various home things this summer.

We bought an area rug and rug pad for about $300. I bought 2 king sized pillows from Snowe for about $130 total. My plan is to use them as pregnancy body pillows for the next 2 months, then they will start their life as normal bed pillows.  We’ll transition 2 of our queen pillows to nice guest pillows. I’m kind of obsessed with good pillows.

After waiting for the 25% sale, we ordered a Container Store Elfa closet system for the nursery.  We needed the 16 inch depth and included a few drawers, so the total system was about $500 – almost double the basic (no drawers) system we put in our closet. We haven’t picked it up or installed it yet due to availability of one part. We bought a new light fixture (~$300) and mirror ($60) for the guest bathroom.  We bought various supplies at home depot.

September is looking to be even worse, with some big ticket items… but I’ll wait a month to share our most recent purchases with you!

Work

It was a hectic month to say the least! We had an issue on the project I’ve been traveling for, which resulted in a small delay and travel extended into early September. However, we were able to overcome the issue, and things are now on track!  It has been busy, but overall, really rewarding and fun.

I was kind of hoping to coast into maternity leave, wrapping up some important stuff on my other main project.  Instead, I think I’m helping with two proposals.  It is sort of ill-advised, but I have to help with these things or I won’t have a job in the long run.  This year they are actually providing funding for the proposal work, although it generally will still be evening/weekend work because the rest of the work won’t go away.

House

There has been a lot going on here!  Too much, if you ask me, but I also want it all done.

Guest bathroom mini-update: We took out the small 1950s medicine cabinet in the guest bathroom and replaced it with a large and inexpensive ($50) mirror. The bathroom looks a lot better and larger with a big mirror and a new brighter light fixture.  I did give up a small amount of storage, but I’ve mostly moved into the “master” bath with T.  If needed, we’ll install a small cabinet on the other wall.  For guest use, it seems fine as is.  The vanity/sink/tub/tile/floor/toilet could use an upgrade, but this isn’t a near-term priority.  A fresh paint color would be nice and is cheap enough  – but other projects are more of a priority in terms of time.

Landscaping:  T was really busy with research and filling out tenure paperwork (!), so he couldn’t make a lot of progress. BUT, we paid for help for the first time in our 4 years of living here! We hired a gardener several of our neighbors use to do 8 hours of brush clearing for $200.  WORTH IT.  T gave little more instruction than “cut it all down and make it better,” but he’s familiar enough with the landscape around our area that he knew where to start. The goal right now is to keep the back yard under control and in a state least prone to being a wildfire hazard. We’ve done our best to clear it ourselves in past years, but with me traveling so much this summer (and pregnant and scared of poison oak), hiring help was the only way it was going to happen.  We’ll probably hire him for 8 more hours this fall to push things further, but first we have to get rid of all the yard debris / brush generated in round 1.

We have a few pallets of large rocks in our driveway, waiting to be built into a rock wall. Once the rock wall is built up, we plan to hire a neighborhood guy to help with planting.  His mother is a native plant expert, and she offers free help  with landscape plans if we hire her son (who I think has some minor disability) to assist in the labor.  It’s a pretty good deal, and nice to connect with our neighborhood.

Painting: T painted the nursery, and had enough paint left over to paint the guest room / office.   It is mostly a neutral color, but with a cool undertone. The previous shade was yellow/gold in the undertone, which I really didn’t like.  Things look a lot brighter in both rooms with the new color!

Pregnancy / Baby

Everything is still easy and good!  I got my TDAP and Rhogam shot, and drank the sugary drink for the glucose tolerance test.  I was over the screen limit for the 1 hour version, but passed the 3 hour version with flying colors (although it made me feel terrible). I was slightly hypoglycemic by the 3rd hour blood draw, but I never experience symptoms of this.  I’m interpreting this result as a sign that I should not fast for 12 hours, drink a bunch of sugar, then continue fasting. I had a few days of pretty bad pain due to an issue I’d rather not blog about, but that seems to have went away for now.

My team and the people at the site we have been traveling to threw me a surprise baby shower at work – it was so thoughtful and generous, especially since some of the people have only worked with me the past month or so.  It was also nice because we’re not having a family/friend shower.  Aside from being able to buy what we need, everyone is far away and spread out, and we don’t have enough of a local community to merit one. We’ve been getting generous gifts nevertheless, both new and secondhand items, and both sets of parents sent money or contributions to large items. We have a lot of smaller stuff left to get, but we’ll get there!

Ambition in my 30’s

August 20, 2018

I came across this article, This is What Happens to Ambition in Your 30’s,  on my Facebook feed several months ago, and have had it open in a tab on my phone ever since, trying to come up with some thoughts to write a post about it.

I started out my career with abundant ambition. Really, my history with ambition started before I even began a career, choosing my college major in part because it was challenging, then always striving to be at the top of my classes. Like many achievers, I had the school game down.  I knew how to learn the material, and the consistent feedback from exams and grades was gratifying.  The workplace was a different world, but it didn’t take so long to figure out that system either. Feedback was less quantitative and less frequent, but even in the early days, it was overwhelmingly positive.

My overall early experiences in the workplace also were overwhelmingly positive. There were hints of sexism, but it could never be separated from people reacting to my youth. It was always subtle enough that you couldn’t pinpoint which interactions were normal and which were rooted in something else.

I was excited to read things like Lean In and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. These books shared little tricks that made it seem like I could just skip around the sexism. Sit at the table! Have a good partner! I learned straightforward ways to say no to colleagues who wanted me to be in a helper and support role.  I learned the importance of pre-meetings and going into meetings with advocates already on my side. This stuff wasn’t obvious to me, but as soon as it was pointed out, it wasn’t so hard to navigate. It isn’t that an unfriendly culture was completely absent, but it seemed surmountable.  (I don’t specifically say sexist, because parts of corporate culture are bad for all humans. Women and minorities are just the canary in the coal mine.)

Despite starting out with such bright peers, there still was a lack of women in leadership roles and it wasn’t clear why.  Then I read “What Works for Women at Work.” I learned about the double bind, the motherhood wall, and the the need to prove-it-again. These seemed significantly harder issues to get around, compared to issues such as being asked to take notes in a meeting. It gave me pause. It still does.

Then, I altered my career to move to support my husband’s career. I did not agree to a move until he had a permanent position lined up, so we both sacrificed by being apart. He delayed his start date by a semester largely at my request.  Still, we ultimately made the big move.  Us moving together for his career was always our expectation, and it has worked out really well in the end. Still, I struggled with it – it was a lot of change all at once.  I was initially optimistic about my new job, but it turned out to be terrible (or really, my manger was terrible). I had veered out of engineering, but the business world was even worse for me.  The constant self-promotion grated (calling a basic excel spreadsheet a “financial model”, elevator pitches that are obviously elevator pitches). Having a business major 1 year out of school mansplain to me that I should take a course on model thinking irritated me.  (I was admittedly weak on fundamental “how businesses work” knowledge and also weak on soft skills such as not finding self-promotion totally annoying. But model thinking is basically just how most engineers see the world.) My direct manager obviously didn’t think I was awesome like all my previous leads had, and the (lack of) feeling was mutual. I didn’t see a good path to a role with work/life balance that would allow us to have a family.

When my current job came up as an opportunity, I could see that I was taking a step off a traditional corporate career ladder to something different. My current job is interesting, the people are great, and the pay is good (although surely much less than I could make elsewhere). However, There are no clear “next steps,” no path to CEO or whatever top positions. I’m not sure what comes next.   Still, I didn’t hesitate to leave behind a career trajectory that could have shot me higher but left me unhappy. I’m totally happy to keep on here indefinitely, as long as things stay good. Whatever is next will be figured out if it needs to be. (Pursing FI and financial security helps significantly with being OK with this uncertainty.)

My career is important to me, but this job allows space for the rest of my life in environment where I feel almost invariably respected. We have a house that we enjoy spending time improving, a dog that we love hiking and playing with, and are about to have a baby that will flip our lives all around.  I can easily see a way to do all of this life stuff while still having a rewarding job. This is very lucky, and I don’t wish for anything different. (Not to say this job is without times of challenge, but it is overall really good.)

I think this would have also been possible in my L.A. job, working at a big engineering company. I still likely would have had to set some ambition aside. I remember distinctly a lunch and learn event where women spoke about work/life balance.  I listened and with surprise as one women stated bluntly that she did it by not being too ambitious – when she was childfree she focused on career, when she had kids she stepped back, when the kids were grown she accelerated again. Another woman said she worked every Saturday for years in order to meet her work commitments.  It is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure situation, and boundaries can be drawn if you choose.

My choice is to keep my ambitions realistic. I want to do an excellent job at work.  I want autonomy and purpose.  I want mutual respect with those I work with. I want to be paid fairly. I am willing to push during intense times (i.e. right now!), but generally want to go home in the evenings and have my weekends. I want to achieve, but I want to do it on my terms.

I’ll close this post by quoting quote the end of the article I linked above, which inspired this whole train of thought:

To be clear: This is not about settling, about making peace with the humdrum sexism of traditional workplaces. Rage and revolution are called for, and such upheaval requires more professional investment by more females, not less. Instead, this is about a shift in perspective — an appreciation for imperfect circumstances and unmet yearnings as facts of life, and a willingness to seek gratifications and inspirations outside the boundaries of a job. Dogs are helpful in this regard. So are children and friends and sports and museums and live music and sex and activism and charity.

 

July Wrap up

August 15, 2018

Much belated due to being out of town a lot!

Net Worth and Money

It is summer salary season!  T has a “9 month salary”, which is by default is paid out over 12 months. In the summer, he can use grants to earn additional salary, spending his full effort on furthering his research. Summer grant money is not guaranteed (he has to apply for and win grants), but it is predictable on a timescale of a couple of years. Most professors in his department can consistently pay themselves summer salary, but there are funding environments where this is not true.

With the extra cash flow this summer, I refilled our property tax account so the money is on hand for the December & March tax bill payments. This is out of convenience and allows me to avoid budgeting these on any monthly level.  They are a bit high for me to feel comfortable cash flowing.  We’re still holding a lot of other miscellaneous cash for now, but when my upcoming maternity leave comes to a close (and T finds out about tenure), we’ll reevaluate.

Between the two of us, we have over $10k in outstanding travel reimbursements owed to us by our employers right now.  I booked travel lodging for ~1.5 months for 3-4 people and it is all on my personal cards. I don’t track this in my net worth, but having $10k outstanding is an anomaly.  In the end this is not terrible – I get cash back/credit card points, and we can cash flow this.  It is still slightly alarming!  I’m getting a good chunk of this back within a few days, but I’m still incurring expenses.

I’ll be done maxing out all of my retirement options with the paycheck that arrives at the end of August.  T is on pace for an end-of-year max-out (assuming he logs in and slightly adjusts his 457b contributions).

We received our new tax assessment, and I updated our house value accordingly.  Our tax assessment lags my estimate of our market value by at least $100k, but practically speaking, our home value has limited influence on our financial plans.  Generally, we intend to stay in this house and RETIRE in this house, so the important thing is to eventually kill the mortgage and be able to cover the rest of our spending with our investible assets.  After four years, our total remaining payments are now equal to our purchase price, assuming we make no additional prepayments that knock off more interest in the amortization schedule.

With all of this, our net worth went up about 3.7%

Spending

I’m behind on tracking this again…  My spending on food and such is low due to work travel, but we’ve been spending on home projects and (a little bit) on baby prep.

Work

I spent more nights in my own bed than away in July, which is unlikely to be true for August.  We spent two weeks “in the field” traveling for work, then came home for a week to rest up before heading off for the final and longer stretch. Things went really well during that two weeks, and it was tiring and fun.

There was a lot of coworker social time on the work trip.  This was fun, but something that I’ll need to watch out for in the upcoming longer stretch. I need some time to recharge and have to be sure I take it when the opportunity presents itself.  Also, a bit of the social time leaned a bit towards the “let’s drink a lot!” side, which was marginally annoying. Thankfully, this was infrequent and limited to a few people. It was easy enough to accommodate/ignore, and there were plenty others who seemed almost as disinterested as pregnant-me in partaking.

Other work has been really hard to keep up on, so I had to strictly prioritize during my week home to ensure I didn’t drop too many balls. It has been pretty busy – I feel like I’m failing to keep everything moving.  My main project has been really supportive of my side project AND upcoming leave, not to mention really fun and meaningful over the years. I don’t want to let them down.

House Projects

T did a bunch of landscaping work in July, although progress seems to have stalled a bit.  We also got a new light fixture for our entry way and finally hung up a proper coat rack to replace the plastic command hooks that have been “temporarily” holding our coats for a couple of years.

Pregnancy / Baby

As far as pregnancy goes, everything still has been pretty easy!  I had a lot of bloody/stuffy nose issues while on travel (dry air / air conditioning / altitude change?), but it was easily manageable.  I know the 3rd trimester will likely get uncomfortable, but I’m happy that things have been smooth so far.  We had another checkup, and nothing to report.  I have had some Braxton Hicks contractions, which started around 20 weeks and are standard.  Nothing much else to report for July!