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Planning for twins

July 4th, 2009 at 03:41 pm

We had the 18 week level 2 ultrasound this week, and I'm excited to announce that the babies are both girls! It was extremely cool to see the babies' hearts -- you could clearly see all four chambers and watch the valves moving as the heart pumped. They took measurements of all kinds of organs and bones, and so far everything looks healthy.

I'm really getting into the planning mode, both financially and otherwise. My due date is Nov 28, but on average twins come 3-4 weeks early so it will likely be early November. When I gave my boss the news, he was very complimentary about my work and said he was willing to hold my positon for 6 months or so. (I'm a software contractor for a tiny consulting firm, so there is no legal obligation to do so.) I've decided to take at least a year off, maybe more. I stayed home full time for 2 years after DS was born. I think I've made a good impression in the last two years and have an excellent chance of being rehired by him when I'm ready. I set a drop-dead date of quitting work by Oct 1 so that I won't have to work during the most uncomfortable part of the pregnancy, although I hope to start cutting back on hours sometime in September. With twins it's quite common to go on bedrest at some point, so plans could change at any time. While I could do my work while lying on the couch, it's not the most comfortable position for typing.

I woke up early this morning and wanted to do some budgeting, but can't get started until DH wakes up. Darn online paystubs! DH has gotten a small pay raise since the last time he printed one out for me, so I don't have the numbers I need to work with. never seems to come out with the right numbers, but if he logs on to his work website they have a similar program that will calculate how your paycheck will change if you change your withholding and deductions.

It's going to be tough to figure out how much to change the W-4. We're paying estimated taxes this year, but I'll have at least 3 months less income, and we'll get deductions for two more children. DH's work gave large bonuses last year, but there will be none this year, so his income will be less as well. I have no idea what the dividends and capital gains will be like this year since the market is down -- it the past it's been as high as $30k, but for 2008 it was only $12k. Maybe I should consider asking an accountant to help us figure it out.

We have a four bedroom house, so in theory each kid could have his or her own room, but I'm strangely reluctant to turn the office into a bedroom. The wall adjoining the upstairs hallway is almost all windows -- french doors plus a third oversize window -- so it is very open and light. If it were a bedroom I'd have to cover them with blinds and it would feel much more closed up there. The closet isn't framed, and my desk currently sits in that space. I figure the twins can definitely share a room for the first couple of years, but eventually we're going to want a larger house.

The twins future room is currently a guest room with a queen bed. While the office is 10x10 and the bed could certainly fit in there, I think it would feel very crowded with the bookshelves, desk, printer, and other office stuff. (We don't have a basement, so storing the bed is not really an option.) Currently I'm thinking of keeping the queen bed in the twins room, but putting it flush against a corner. I need to take some measurements to see if two cribs will fit. DS didn't really play in his room until he was almost 3, so they won't need space for anything other than sleeping for awhile. Maybe the office can double as a playroom eventually.

To complicate matters, my inlaws will likely come visit from overseas for 3-4 weeks at Christmas, so I can't set up the twins room until after their visit. I'm planning on using a pack-n-play in our room for the first couple of months, plus temporarily putting a crib in the office for naps.

A local moms club organizes a swap meet twice a year to buy and sell used baby stuff. It's huge -- there are probably at least 100 stalls, and a couple thousand people attend. For about $150, I picked up a Pali crib with mattress (they run about $500 new), 2 bouncy seats, 2 swings, a baby bjorn, and enough baby toys, maternity clothes, and baby clothes to fill 3 grocery bags. I friend who has twins gave me her double nursing pillow and 3 HUGE tubs of maternity clothes that have been passed among her friends. A neighbor has offered a jumperoo and first pick of anything she is thinking of giving to goodwill. I joined a twins club, and someone was offering a free double snap-n-go stroller. So I've already saved a ton of money on equipment. I still need to get: 1 snap-n-go carseat, a pack-n-play with bassinet, and a double jogger. I may buy the pack-n-play new so that I can get the exact size that I want, and I'll get the jogger off Craig's List. I have my heart set on a Phil and Teds -- I've seen them used for about $300.

Although my fried was very generous with the maternity clothes, a lot of them don't fit or are very faded and stretched. Lots of size small, where I'm currently taking a medium and will need large (or even XL!) by the end. So I've splurged at the local Motherhood store and picked up a bunch of tops that have bright colors and patterns and fabric that feels really good. I stuck to sale items ($10-$20) except for one top, and even picked up a maternity jacket for only $10. I've probably spent about $250 altogether.

Many people on the twins forum I've joined recommend getting a night nanny once or twice a week because it is so tough the first few months. My mom lives about 5 minutes away. I'm extremely luck that she is so close, and is young and active and doesn't have to work. In the first few months, she's planning to come over every morning to help with the babies. She might even stay overnight sometimes so I can get more sleep. Night nannies run $25/hr in my area, so if we can avoid that expense it will be a huge savings!

I found a preschool that I like that offers an afternoon session, so I have switched DS there. At 3.5 years, he's ready to spend more time playing with other kids instead of with a nanny, so he's going half days five days a week. If I go on bedrest we can add mornings, too. They're very flexible with the scheduling. We'll just have to see how much preschool we can afford when I stop working, and how much time is right for him when the new babies are here.

Happy News

May 30th, 2009 at 04:21 pm

I've been on pins and needles waiting until it was safe to share my news -- we're expecting twins! They are due in November.

I've made some comments in the past about how we dearly wanted another child but were having difficulties. We were fortunate to be able to affort a few cycles of IVF. DH's company provides really good health benefits, and even the high-risk OB/GYN is in-network.

Due to my age (38) and having twins we had a level 2 ultrasound at 13 weeks. I'll have another around 18 weeks and will find out the genders. It's amazing how good the latest ultrasounds are now. You could clearly see all the vertebrae in the spine, fingers. The babies are moving like crazy (we could even see one swallowing), although I can't feel it yet. The babies are definitely fraternal (separate placentas).

We'll have to make some big adjustments in spending since I plan to stay home for 6-12 months or possibly even longer. I'm considering whether to reduce DH's 401(k) contribution just for that time. Hopefully we will be eligible for ROTH IRA again. Luckily we won't need a new car since two car seats and a booster will fit in my backseat. We'll eventually need to move to a better school district, since 3 kids in private school would be too much. Lots of changes coming...

Preschool Blues

May 20th, 2008 at 11:42 pm

DS turns 3 at the end of September, and I'm trying to decide between two preschools.

The first preschool is run by a local church. It's $221/mo for two mornings a week (3 hours each). I also work from home in the afternoons, and hire a nanny to babysit 20 hr/wk at $12/hr. (DS sleeps during half that time, but I need the coverage for days when I go into the office.) So my total cost per month is $1181. He's currently in the two-year-old class there, and I love the teacher. Because of his late birthday and reserved personality, he would stay with that teacher for another semester.

The preschool down the street, where DH can drop him off on the way to work, is $1000/mo. It's a full-time school that is open from 8-6 -- learning activites in the morning, lunch, 2 hour nap, and free playtime in the afternoon. DS would probably stay from 9 until nap is over at 3, so about 30 hr/wk.

I'm having a hard time deciding. The school down the street is cheaper and more convenient, and I think the learning part of the programs is similar. The other big advantage is that when I need to go into the office for a day and work until 6, there's no extra charge, where it's $12/hr if my nanny stays late.

The advantages of the current situation is that I get to spend 3 mornings a week with my son, and when the nanny is taking care of him I can hear them playing. He always stops by my office for a kiss before going down for a nap.

With the school down the street I'd spend about the same amount of time alone with him in the afternoon, say from 3-6. But somehow morning time is so much better than afternoon time!

On the other hand, at 3 perhaps more time with other kids would be better than time alone with a nanny.

If we go to the new school, I've been thinking about keeping him home 3 mornings a week, and leaving him there later in the afternoon. So the schedule might be 9 - 4 MW and 12-4 on TThF. The problem is I don't know if the director will be accomodating if I have my son skip so much of the academic portion -- she doesn't seem to be very flexible and could very well tell us to take him to another school instead. She's also set a July 7 start date, so that kills part of the summer for swim lessons, etc. (There are only 8 spots total for kids born Sep-Dec '05, and of course a waiting list, so it's pretty easy for her to tell us to take a walk.)

There are 2 other daycares that would be reasonable to consider, but I haven't checked them out yet, and so would probably end up on a waiting list.

It's a tough decision -- my heart says stay with the current setup, my head says the new school makes more sense financially and schedule-wise. I'm sure my son would thrive at either school.

Anyone involved in the mother's movement?

June 3rd, 2007 at 12:55 am

My last blog entry about my career was a long one -- I need to learn to edit my writing to a more blog-friendly length! Anyway, one of the things I have been surfing a lot lately are a few sites where people are trying to get a mother's movement started. It's trying to take up where the last wave of feminism left off -- changing society to better support the needs of all mothers, whether SAHM or working part or full time, and their children.

The site

Text is and Link is has a lot of interesting content and some good blogs, but the forum is non-functional which leaves me to wonder whether there's really much momentum there yet.

Sometimes I think about getting involved in the movement, if there really is one. It would be pretty easy to start a "playgroup" to find other women in my city who are interested in becoming active (there is a great organization here that facilitates the formation of playgroups that I could tap into) but I don't know that I am really up for being the leader. If I'm able to start a consulting career like I hope then I won't have as much free time to devote to being politically active. I've also considered starting a playgroup for scientists and engineers to network. We've got 2 scientists in my current playgroup who tried to return work after their babies were born but quit because their managers were just too unaccomodating.

So is anyone here involved in the mother's movement? What organization(s) or web forums would you recommend that I check out?

Escaping 'What's for Dinner?' (x-post)

January 16th, 2007 at 10:43 am

DH cooked dinner every night from early in my pregnancy until our son was about 10 months old. He's such a great cook, and he volunteered, so who was I to mess with a good thing? But he had to start putting in really long hours on a work project, so I decided I would start making more of an effort in the kitchen.

I discovered that the actual cooking isn't that much of a chore, but I absolutely hate figuring out what to make from the ingredients on hand. I even hate it when DH asks me, "What would you like me to make you for dinner?" I'm just too lazy to sit down and come up with a menu for the week before going to the grocery store.

Believe it or not, I found the perfect solution on the internet, and thought some of you might be interested:

Text is and Link is

For a $10 subscription, every week the site emails me 6 recipes and, very key, the grocery list to go with them. Every recipe has been simple, quick (< 30 minutes), healthy, and very flavorful. You can choose between 2, 4, or 6 servings, and between regular, low carb, heart healthy, vegetarian, frugal, crock pot, and weight loss menus.

I've been using it about 4 months now, and have seen our grocery bills fall by 25%.

Everyone has their own system, but this one really works for me!

x-post from How much time do you spend on housework?

January 16th, 2007 at 10:29 am

When I was still working I couldn't figure out why it seemed like I was spending all my free time cleaning, so I tried flylady. I laid out a cleaning schedule (as she suggests) and actually timed how long each task took because I was so annoyed about the whole thing. It turned out that no matter how I sliced and diced it, there was always about 5 hours of cleaning per week. I could either do it all at once on the weekend or spend an hour after work every night, but it was 5 hours just the same.

DH didn't want to spend time each night cleaning, and didn't like losing so much weekend time. I decided I didn't either, so rather than continue to nag him or do most of it myself, I hired someone to come every other week. And guess what -- it takes two people working together 2.5 hours, or 5 hours total! It's $80/visit and worth every penny.

Most housecleaners don't think it's worth their while to pick up less than a full house, but maybe you could post an ad on Craig's List or at your local grocery store to find someone who would be willing to do a smaller job on a regular basis for less.

x-post from How expensive are kids, really?

January 16th, 2007 at 10:16 am

Another cross post:

My baby is 15 months old now, so here's where our money went for the big purchases (in San Diego). I'm in a position to buy new when I want it, but I also like getting a good deal at a garage sale or resale shops. Not everything on my list below is essential, so you can cut back where you see fit.

Even if you breastfeed, be sure and ask for free formula samples at every doctor's visit. I ran into issues with my milk supply at around 4 months, and because I had stocked up on the free formula during the early visits I saved quite a bit of money. If you don't use them you can always donate them later. Also, use up your formula coupons before they expire! I got caught out with quite a few of those.

I made some of my own baby food, but found that even using frozen veggies I wasn't saving enough to make it worth the effort. I calculated that it was about a 20% savings -- but 20% of $30 is only $6.

I use the most expensive brand of diapers (Pampers) because I like them the best. Target and Costco brands are about half the price. I've heard that cloth diapers can be quite expensive initially (you need multiple sizes as they grow), so do research and the math before making a decision. Of couse you save a bunch when you use them for a 2nd kid.

There's also a Carter's clothing outlet where I often find new clothes for $5-$7 (as opposed to $10-$20 new). You can get resale clothes for $1-$5, but some are very faded so you have to be willing to dig.

My equipment list (below) for the first year comes to $1540. I'm sure I've missed some things and the little extras add up so $2000 sounds quite reasonable. I might suggest budgeting closer to the $100/month for diapers, formula, food, and extras. And check out the increase in insurance with your husband's employer, since everyone's rates are different.

Currently I seem to be spending about $75-$100 per month on things like toys, clothes, and misc purchase from Babies R Us. I'm spending about $50/month on diapers and $40/month on whole milk and baby food, so I'm closer to $150 - $200 per month for baby. I think our insurance is about $100 extra per month.

If I had to, I could probably cut back to $25/month on toys, clothes, and misc, $25 on diapers, and maybe $30 on milk and food, for a total of $80/month for baby.

0-3 months
combo stroller/car seat $75 new at Target
bassinet gift, but I've seen them for $40 resale
crib & mattress $200 garage sale (was $600 new!)
bouncy seat $20 resale
pack-n-play $25 garage sale
monitor $20 new
front carrier $60 new
breastfeeding pillow $40 new
bottles, nipples, etc about $30 new
diaper champ $25 new
2 changing table pads $25 new
diaper bag free from hospital
breastfeeding free
diapers can't remember, maybe $60/month?

3-6 months
swing -- gift, but I've seen them for $40 resale
exersaucer $40 resale
backpack $20 resale
playmat $15 ebay
breastpump rental for 2 months about $150
breastfeeding free
formula supplements free samples from doctor's office
diapers $50-60/month

6-9 months
jogging stroller $25 garage sale
high chair $120 new
convertible car seat $120 new
convertible car seat (2nd car) $120 new
better backpack $60 resale
baby proofing stuff about $40 new
3 gates, $60 each = $180 new
formula $20/month Target brand
baby food about $30/month
diapers $50/month

9-12 months
umbrella stroller $30 new
walker/ride-on toy $10 resale
outdoor baby swing $10 resale
formula $20/month Target brand
baby food about $30/month
diapers $50/month

12-15 months
2 gallons whole milk per week -- about $18/month
baby food about $20/month
diapers $50/month

One expense I forgot to mention when I did this post was clothes for mom! Not only do you need maternity clothes, but also clothes to wear as you are losing the baby weight. Losing weight is highly touted as a benefit of breastfeeding, but my experience was just the opposite -- my body would rather cut milk supply than let go of body fat, and after the first month I did not lose any weight until I stopped breasfeeding at 7 months. I'm still 10 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and as a result have bought 3 pair of shorts, 3-4 pair of jeans and pants, 10 summer tops, 10 winter tops, and underwear in my current size. I'm working on those last 10 pounds again, but will reuse the clothes after the next pregnancy.