Friday, March 5, 2010

Car Troubles, Daycare Woes, Renovations and Baby Update


This is another long update...I'm woefully behind on my blogging activities. I thought I'd start off with an update about our car situation. The good news is, our "car troubles" are not mechanical. Three years ago, DH and I both needed new cars. DH had a 17 year old car that was falling apart (and unsafe for a family) and I had a leased vehicle that was reaching the end of the agreement. We did a lot of shopping and hunting and evaluations, and we decided to buy a Prius for DH and lease another vehicle for me. We wanted to have one smaller vehicle and one bigger vehicle, but we really did not know enough about our family-to-be to decide how BIG a second vehicle we needed, especially since we suspected we had fertility treatments in our future. We decided to lease an SUV, and we got a great deal on a mid-sized SUV.

So, here we are, three years later, and my lease is ending again at the end of the month. We have one child and one on the way, and we are fairly certain that our family will be "complete" once Twoey arrives. DH and I are back to car-shopping, but we do not seem to be on the same page this time. I tend to have a "mine" v. "yours" mentality about cars. I have a car and DH has a car, and we each primarily drive our own cars. When we go out as a family, we either take the car that makes the most sense, or we take the car of the person who will be driving. The bigger more comfortable car should be the one we use for family vacations. DH, however, has a different approach. He thinks the smaller more fuel efficient car (his) should be the primary car that we drive, and the bigger more comfortable car (mine) should only be driven when absolutely necessary. DH tends to bike and walk most places, and he has this knack for blocking my car into the driveway. As a result, I'm always the one driving his car, and I hardly ever get to drive my car. My car is 3 years old, and it has fewer than 12,000 miles on it!

Obviously, I want to get a car that I enjoy and DRIVE it. DH thinks we should get a minivan that mostly sits in the driveway and I should just drive his car unless he is using it (which would mean that sometimes I'd get stuck taking a big huge minivan into the city for meetings - I cringe when I envision trying to maneuver the minivan in a downtown garage). We've been looking at SUVs with a third row, minivans, and the same size SUV I am driving now. Most of the time, we do not need the space in a minivan. It would be nice if we could take my parents or friends out to dinner along with the kids in one car, or to have everyone together in one car for a vacation, or to possibly bring a babysitter with us on vacation. We will now be traveling with a double stroller, 2 pack-n-plays, and an assortment of other junk. We should be able to fit all of that in an SUV (without additional passengers). With all of that in mind, if we get the minivan, we will buy it, but if we get an SUV, we will likely lease again because we *may* want to get a minivan next time around.

Test driving is fun! My parents have helped out by babysitting Micah. On Sunday, we checked out three dealerships. We quickly stopped by the Volvo dealership to check out the Volvo XC90. We thought it was expensive, with limited features, and the third row would be impossible to access with two car seats strapped in the middle row. We decided to skip the test drive and we moved on to Honda. At Honda, we looked at the Pilot and the Odyssey. The Pilot (a 3 row SUV) was roomier than I expected. It would be possible to strap two car seats side-by-side in the middle row and leave the end seat open for a person to sit and access to the third row (although I am worried about the wisdom of putting the two kids so close together in the car - I have visions of Micah throwing his sippy cup at Twoey's head, or reaching over and pinching her because he thinks it is funny). There are also latches in the back row, so it is safe to place a car seat in the third row if needed. The middle row slides forward and backward, and there was a fair amount of leg room for both the middle and third rows. Our biggest concern was that with the third row up, there was hardly any trunk space - we could never go on a trip with all three rows in use and fit in luggage, too. BUT, with the third seat flat, there was an amazing amount of trunk space. After examining the car, we took it for a test drive. The steering is power-assist and it feels a bit heavy. The car does feel much larger than I am accustomed to driving, but it was easy to park. I thought it was a bit sluggish on acceleration and definitely on the noisy side. All-in-all, it was better than I anticipated, but I'm still not sure that it is a car I want to be driving.

We then took a look at the Odyssey. I'm extremely hesitant about the concept of having a minivan right now, but I can absolutely see the benefits. The side door slides open and closed, and the seats were big, roomy and comfortable. The Odyssey only has room for two car seats in the middle row, and it is unlikely we would be able to fit a third person in between the car seats in the "mini" seat. If we leave the middle seat out, there is easy access to the third row, and easily room for 2-3 adults to sit in that third row. There are also latches for a third car seat in the rear row. Even with all three rows up and full, there is plenty of trunk space. The Odyssey was less noisy to drive than the Pilot, but felt like a huge boat to me and it was a bit difficult to park. The rear view mirror also seemed a bit small for the vehicle. We loved all the amenities, and I think it even handled a little better than the Pilot, but it, too, was a bit sluggish on acceleration.

Our next stop was at Toyota. Yes, I know a lot of people are worried about Toyota right now, but I'm not. I believe they are great and safe vehicles. As for the acceleration problem - well, I drove a 1984 Chevy Cavalier and it used to take off and accelerate without warning all the time, too. Not just my vehicle, but everyone I knew with the car. I feel like these issues have been going on in cars forever, and with the attention perhaps all vehicles will become safer. Chevy never admitted or fixed the problem, and I have to say I was relieved when my car was finally totaled in an accident. Okay - stepping off my soap box now :). We checked out the Highlander (SUV) and the Sienna (minivan). The Highlander handles nicely, but I did not think it offered anything better than my current vehicle. The third row was largely useless - it was small, it would be impossible to access with two car seats installed, and it left no trunk space when the seat was up. We quickly decided that the Highlander was not likely the right car for us. We then turned to the Sienna. It has some amazing amenities, and really had most of the same benefits as the Odyssey. The seats in the Odyssey looked more plush and comfortable than the Sienna. We LOVED the backup camera and the crash avoidance system, and it was loaded with all kinds of technology. It felt much smaller than the Odyssey when we were driving it, we thought the acceleration was a bit better, and the rear view mirror was a significant improvement over the Odyssey. There was also a storage pocket for the middle seat in the second row. Consequently, we decided that IF we get a minivan, we will likely get the Sienna over the Odyssey.

Last night was our date night, and before dinner, we went to test drive the Acura MDX. It is the luxury version of the Honda Pilot, but definitely smaller. We really liked the MDX - it handled well, it was loaded with amenities, and it was comfortable and spacious. We do think that, like all the other three row SUVs we have been trying, with two car seats installed, the third row is essentially rendered useless. In a pinch, we could pull out a car seat or try moving them next to one another to utilize the third row, but we would rarely actually do that. The MDX has more trunk space (with the third row flat) than my current vehicle, and in theory we could utilize the third row when we need it.

We have a few other cars left to test drive. We are going to look at my current car, the hybrid version of my current car, and perhaps we'll go look at the Mazda as well. Fuel efficiency is also key to DH, and pretty much all the cars we have looked at thus far are far less fuel efficient than my current vehicle. So many decisions to make, and so little time! I really wish I knew what to do about the minivan v. SUV. If any of you out there have two kids and would like to give some advice/experiences, I'd love to hear it!


As you know, we've been struggling with how to handle child care with two children. Right now, Micah is in daycare three days each week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we try to balance the time between work and Micah. Most of the time, Micah wins that battle and very little work is accomplished (more so for me than for DH, but his work schedule is also affected). This has been a challenge trying to work full-time - we juggle our meetings, try to multi-task, we rely on my father and a babysitter to fill in hours for us on occasion, and we shift a significant amount of work to the evening hours. Next year, we planned to continue Micah in daycare three days a week, and he will also begin nursery school two mornings a week. I'm not sure how much additional time nursery school will give us for work - perhaps a few hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

When we learned we were expecting a second baby, this threw a major wrench into our status quo. We decided to place Twoey on the wait list for the same daycare where we have Micah, and we began to discuss whether a nanny would make sense. Daycare here is EXTREMELY expensive. Full-time daycare for two children could easily cost more than most people make in a year, and is really not a reasonable option for us. Part-time daycare for two children would be a little more than half the cost of full-time, but DH is concerned about whether we can really sustain this schedule with our work (and with two kids). Our biggest problem is that we cannot figure out if we can find a nanny until we are much closer to a start date, but, unfortunately, we have to start making our choices now. Micah's daycare requires us to commit to next year now. We have to sign an enrollment agreement for Micah by the end of this month, and once we sign that enrollment agreement, we are committed to next year. If we cancel any time from April through September 30, we forfeit our deposit (which is equal to a full month of daycare). If we cancel AFTER September 30, we can get our deposit back, but we must give 30 days written notice and pay for that final month (so we could give notice on October 1 and withdraw Micah from daycare as of November 1).

To add to our worry, we just got a call this week that Twoey has been accepted to of September 1. We have to turn in our deposit and enrollment agreement for her as of March 31 (before she is even born!) to secure her spot. If I am not ready to send her to daycare in September, I have to pay to hold on to her spot (we were hoping to keep her out of daycare until January). So, we would be paying for four full months of daycare that we may not even use. If we cancel and pull them both out of daycare before September, it will cost us two deposits (the same as one month of daycare for two children).

While we are struggling with our decision about daycare, we are now revisiting the idea of a nanny (perhaps full-time). That would free up more hours for meetings and work, and I could also be more flexible with my down time - if I unexpectedly have a block of hours free on a Wednesday, I could choose to spend that time with one (or both) of the kids. My biggest fear is that we will pull Micah (and Twoey) out of daycare in favor of a nanny, but then we will not find a nanny situation that works for us and we will be...well, screwed!

When we checked into nannies the last time, we were concerned about the cost. A full-time nanny for one is significantly more than full-time daycare for one. However, a full-time nanny for two is about the same cost as a full-time nanny for one. There is a WIDE range of nanny rates. Nannies obtained through an agency are extremely well-qualified, but definitely out of our price range. Most of the other nannies in the area are quite expensive, but may be within the outer range of our budget. It is possible to find nannies who are less expensive, but many of them do not speak English well or may not be legal immigrants. We would love to find someone who is legal, speaks English well, and is wonderful with children. Even more, we would love to find someone who will work for a little less money than the going rate in our area. We would be willing to take fewer hours (maybe only 35) instead of the 45-50 most full-time nannies expect.

We have also considered getting an au pair. Au pairs are MUCH less expensive than in-home nannies, but they are young (usually 18 or 19) and they would have to live in the house with us. We are a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having a stranger live in our house with us, especially a teenage girl. Because of our living situation and restrictions on the age of the children au pairs are permitted to care for, we would likely not be able to get an au pair until January. I've heard a lot of drama stories about au pairs and the trouble they get into here in America and dating, and I'm just not sure I'm ready to be responsible for a teenager!

So...once again, we're stressed about child care. Feel free to chime in and give opinions and suggestions!


We have signed up with an architect and are now working on final plans to renovate our house. We are hoping to add a bedroom and an office upstairs, an office, a new living room and a new family room downstairs, and expand our basement. If all goes as planned, we hope to break ground in May and if everything is under cover, we *may* be able to move back to the house in September. The renovations will still be ongoing in the addition, but the work would be complete on the existing part of the house. I'm nervous about moving in May again, and we will have to move back only 4 or 5 months later with a newborn. What a mess!


This week, we had an appointment with the midwife and with the maternal fetal medicine specialist. I am 24 weeks pregnant now, and Twoey is doing great! She is growing right on target, and I'm hanging in there. I'm still dealing with morning sickness, and my weight is not increasing, but things are progressing well. My contractions have been a little better the past two weeks, and my cervix seems to be holding somewhat steady. It was 3.5-3.7 at 22 weeks, and it was in the 3.3-3.5 range at my last ultrasound.

We met with my primary doctor, and he would like to continue doing the cervical length checks every two weeks. He also thought that getting the P17 shots might not be a bad idea. He said he could not promise they would help, but they certainly couldn't hurt. My insurance approved the shots and I am just waiting now for my first appointment. I'm extremely nervous - I'm nervous about the shots, I'm nervous about the pain, and I'm nervous about the side effects. I just wish I believed the shots would actually help.

So, here are the pictures we got from the ultrasound. The tech took most of the pictures in 3D, and we finally got a few good looks at her.

Flashing us a grin:

Some more face shots:

Sucking her thumb:

Showing her "girl" parts:


Last, but certainly not least, is my update on Micah!! I'm amazed every day by how much he is growing and developing. He loves to play and laugh, and he just does such silly things all the time. He is not only walking everywhere, but he RUNS now, too. He is into everything, and just constantly busy. He spends most of his days trying to destroy the tupperware cabinet - walking through our house these days is like navigating a tupperware obstacle course.

I have been working on trying to break out of our food rut and diversifying Micah's meal options. Over the past few weeks, Micah has tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (he LOVES peanut butter), a cream cheese and jelly sandwich, a cream cheese and olive sandwich, fish sticks, a veggie hotdog, and cold cuts (turkey, chicken, bologna and corned beef). We have purchased arborio rice to make risotto (and then form them into cakes) and powdered mashed potatoes so we can make mashed potato cakes (I'll mix in some veggies and cheese). We bought chicken fingers and some chicken tenders and fish so we can make more diverse dinner options for Micah. I have the ingredients for sweet and sour meatballs, and I plan to make that for him soon. We have tons of organic fruit leather for snacks, too. So far, he seems to be loving everything. I have even been trying to "spice" up some of our regular breakfasts. This week, I made apple blueberry cinnamon pancakes for Micah.

Apple Blueberry Cinnamon Pancakes:
Use a regular pancake mix - follow the instructions for mixing pancakes
Add 1/2 cup applesauce
Add 1/2 cup blueberries (can use fresh, frozen or dried)
Add 2 tsps cinnamon (or more for bigger batches)
Add 1 tsp vanilla
Mix and pour your pancakes on the griddle for cooking!

These were a big hit - DH loved them, too. We still serve the pancakes for Micah with yogurt and pureed fruit on top instead of syrup or honey, but maple syrup or honey would work great on top of these, too.

Last week, I met up with an old friend from high school, who happened to be in town with her new baby. We ended up shopping at the mall, and I went on my second shopping spree for baby clothing since Micah was born! I bought him a bunch of clothes on sale for the summer. The Children's Place was running a HUGE sale - I got several shorts for about $4.80 each. I also bought him several things at Gymboree and there was a new store out of South Africa and I got him this adorable little track suit.

So...that is my update! Thanks for hanging in there.


Jeanie said...

I went from a Ford Focus to a minivan and LOVE it! It was an adjustment in the beginning as I felt like I was driving a BUS, but wouldn't go back at all! I test drove the Honda Odyssey and would have bought that in a heartbeat if we were in the position to buy a new one! Good luck!

Jules said...

Have to try your recipe - we did plain pancakes and both girls gave those a big negative.

I'm more of a compact car person so for now the "main" car is a newer Accord - fits the two seats and the stroller fits in the trunk so good enough. Not ready either for the mini-van.

Ugh I don't want to deal with finding a daycare. We're probably going to have to do something for Wednesdays so we both can work but just dragging my heels. Our one friend's sister loves her au pair but I'd be like you with the reservations.