Sunday, June 29, 2008

Today's matching outfit

Another day another matching outfit..Here is today's selection on Maddie's two month birthday, Anna is 20 months old.

Matching outfits

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Today's matching outfit

Of all things, I missed today's matching outfit in my last blog. So we had a photo shoot and came up with this as the best shot:IMG_6298

Matching outfits

Heather joked the other day that Madelyn has two types of clothes, hand-me-downs from Anna or clothes that match Anna. I thought I would display some of the cute matching outfits they have had over time :-)
Deep in Thought"Cheese"

Father's Day Photos

Daddy and his girls

Mommy and her girls

Anna and Madelyn in matching outfits
Anna on Memorial DayMadelyn on Memorial Day

Anna and Madelyn

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paying down house vs Saving for retirement

I thought this was an interesting video from Fox Business debating whether to pay off your house or saving for retirement. The argument for saving for retirement was:
1) Lots of expenses when you are retired.
2) Housing is one of the few fixed expenses
3) You can make more after tax on your house.

The argument for paying down your house:
1) Emotional security of having the house paid off.
2) Expenses are down significantly with the mortgage paid off.

The guy arguing for paying down the house, Craig Carnick, did a poor job. His whole argument was emotional security. Ignoring that a bad couple of years in market like we might be seeing now could kill you in retirement if you are planning on that money to pay your mortgage. Not to mention the fact that when you are in retirement, you reduce he risk of some of your portfolio which makes beating the after tax mortgage payment with your after tax investments more difficult. Plus, a person making this decision probably has gotten their mortgage to the point they are paying a lot more principal rather than interest, meaning that "free" money from interest is probably not that much.

Ohh well, I do agree with Craig Carnick in that the paying off your mortgage reduces your expenses and allows you to have much more flexibility to maneuver around and meet your needs in retirement.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Working at home today I was able to get a rare glimpse of Anna and Madelyn playing with one another. Since Madelyn is normally either sleeping, being held, or laying down fairly still it is not often that Anna takes time to spend time with her. She did for about 10-15 minutes yesterday, some of which I captured on camera. As you can see from the beginning, Anna becomes a ham for the camera right when it is on and says "Cheese!" She also takes care of her sister by covering up her belly. I didn't take the time to cut/clean up this movie, but figured I would drop it out here for your viewing pleasure.

Virginia Beach

For nearly as long as I can remember, my family has been vacationing at Virginia Beach. My parents bought a condo there when I was 7 years old. Heather's family has had a house there since the 40s, making this a yearly vacation spot for her. This past week was our time there and we had a blast. Anna is at such a fun age, she was non-stop fun and when she was tired, she happily went to bed. Here are a couple of pictures:

Family photo

Anna and Daddy walking to the beach

Anna and Mommy playing on the beach

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pool time is about the slide

Anna and I have been spending a lot of time at the pool lately. We go a couple weeknights and on the weekends, probably all together 4-5 times a week. Most of the time with Mommy and Madelyn, but sometimes its just Anna and I.
Pool time

I have said in the past that Anna is a slide-girl...and fortunately for her, the slide at our neighborhood pool meets all expectations. Here is a picture of it:

I imagine Anna won't find the ocean as amusing since it doesn't have a big slide :-) I think next year Anna may be able to start doing the slide herself with us catching her. Its about 3.5' at the bottom, so right now we just hold her above the water when we go off the slide. Don't worry though, Daddy still gets enough speed up going down the slide....causing Anna to yell "Whee!" all the way down! Here Anna and I are sliding off the pool together:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How much of a house can you afford?

Many experts say that your mortgage payment (principal+interest+tax+insurance) should not be more than 25% of your gross income. If you listen to the likes of Dave Ramsey, that mortgage should be no more than a 15 year fixed rate. But, I was looking at what different salaries could afford (maximum) as a 30 year fixed rate under this plan:

$40,000 salary - $122,000 mortgage ($833/mo)
$60,000 salary - $183,000 mortgage ($1250/mo)
$80,000 salary - $244,000 mortgage ($1667/mo)
$100,000 salary -$305,000 mortgage ($2083/mo)

If you change it to a 15 year fixed as Dave Ramsey suggests:
$40,000 salary - $90,000 mortgage
$60,000 salary - $135,000 mortgage
$80,000 salary - $180,000 mortgage
$100,000 salary - $225,000 mortgage

The assumptions I made were that the interest rate was 6%, taxes at 1%, and I used this calculator which adds in insurance. This assumes also a 20% down mortgage with no PMI. That mortgage calculator incidentally doesn't allow you to go over 28% of your gross, which isn't that much more than the 25% rule. It also allows you to indicate other debts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Chilly Chili

This video is well worth watching from Rhett and Link on their "Alka-Seltzer Great American Road Trip." I laughed hard enough in my cube at work while watching that someone had to check on me. :-) So, if you work in a stuffy environment, consider it not safe for work.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A generation who isn't prepared to sacrifice?

I met a young man on the flight back from New York yesterday who just graduated from college and was visiting his girlfriend. He lamented about whether or not he could go up there. He had a good job down south where cost of living was he also had a nice car and apartment. He feared not being able to find a job around NYC that would allow him to live so comfortably and was not ready to move. I told him that one thing I learned from my grandparents and parents is that sacrifices must be made sometimes for your priorities. If this girl was a real priority, then he can make the sacrifices to make it work. Sure, he may live in a bug infested apartment where he can touch two opposite sides of the apartment at once, but he can live there. Its all about making those decisions to sacrifice for things that are important to you in life.

I read recently but cannot find the reference now that we are a generation unprepared for sacrifice. That our generation expected to live a lifestyle similar to that of our parents while we are in our mid-20s. Our parents may have had 20 years to make it there in life, but thanks to credit and debt we can make it there tomorrow. Its like, lets say that a person in my generation needs a new coat. He/She goes to Macy's and finds one she loves. Most of the people my age would buy it and worry about paying for it later. A couple may save and wait to buy the coat, freezing their butts off in the process. Fewer of us would do what our grandparents would have done...went to Walmart or the Thrift store and bought a coat and kept our money for things more important to us...for our priorities. Now, just because you don't spend anything on clothing (lots of people I know are proud of that) doesn't mean this axiom doesn't apply to other areas of your life.

When Heather went to be a stay-at-home mom, we knew we were going to have to make sacrifices. Heather had a very well paying job at Fidelity Investments and we just wouldn't have the wiggle room we once had. We played with our budget and at one point stated the non-obvious....if it doesn't work we will start cutting to make it work. This means cable. This may mean (gasp!) cell phone. This may even mean moving to a less expensive house. Finally, it may mean we save less. Cable, cell phone, and our house were on the block before savings. Our savings represented our future as well as our children's future, and that was more important than even our house. Our house is larger than either Heather or I grew up in, by over 1000 square feet. That means its more expensive to maintain and pay for utilities. We could buy an older smaller home if we needed to and live comfortably as we did when we were children.

But thats just it with our generation. We want to have as good or better than our parents had...only not put the 10-20 years in to create that wealth. My parents lived in dumps when they first had kids. They made sacrifices consistently to keep us afloat. Some of our friends parents also have done amazing things. The most impressive I think is Heather's college roommate's parents who raised 8 kids on a teachers salary in NC. He had to pull side work to make ends meet, but he did it and his wife was able to be a stay-at-home mom for all of those kids. As a generation, we are quick to idolize those who have a lot instead of those who have sacrificed a lot. I hope I am able to teach my kids to appreciate the latter more than the former.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Debts are easy to fix but liability is the nightmare"

I was listening to the US Open and saw a commercial I had seen a million times, but I finally picked up on what one statement was made. The little kid says, "Debts are easy to fix but liability is the nightmare." Wow, I guess it makes sense an insurance agency is trying to sell that. But, I know people who spent over 5 years trying to "fix" their debts...amazing. Check it out about 16 seconds into the commercial.

Happy Father's Day!

Just wanted to say a Happy Father's Day to any fathers out there. Here is my girls and I with my Dad, "Opa", from this morning on Father's Day:

Father's Day Photos

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What is Madelyn up to?

A lot of my blogs still tend to be about Anna, only because Madelyn's development sometimes doesn't seem as exciting. But, it really is and here are some of those exciting things she is up to...

1) She scoots across the floor, as documented by my wife
2) She smiles at different things, like the bears she loves
Madelyn enjoying her bears
3) She is sleeping in her crib in her own room, and some nights 6 hours at a time.
4) She is feeding less frequently, at least 2.5 hrs between most feedings.
5) She is growing big and strong. Last week she was 10 pounds 7 ounces at her 1 month appointment. Her neck movement is amazing already considering the big 90th percentile noggin she inherited from her daddy.
6) She eats from a bottle and takes one bottle per day from her daddy...who loves that time with her!

Overall she is growing quick and thanks to our busy little Anna, it seems like we don't take the time to note all the amazing changes in Madelyn. Even though, I am truly excited to see the changes in her and sad to have it all go by so quickly.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Our 5 year plan...

Heather has mentioned a couple times over the past couple of weeks the fact that when we got married we had a 5-year plan to have kids. Well, having just celebrated our 5 year anniversary with our friends Andy and Kristen watching our two little girls, we realized that our plans have drastically changed. Contemplating this since Saturday, I found this great bible verse:

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (NIV)

And of course this brought to mind the ever popular:
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

All of this reminds me that while my plans may not have been the course that was followed, my life is going on the Lord's path which is for a better life.

Stonyfield Yogurt Picture Contest

Anna loves Stonyfield Yo-Baby yogurt, so we decided yesterday to enter their photo contest. Here is our submission to the contest:
Stonyfield Yogurt Contest Submissions

Here was the runner up:
Stonyfield Yogurt Contest Submissions

Monday, June 09, 2008

My girls

This caption should read, "Erik is blessed indeed!"
Mommy and her girls

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Nice tan

We have been traveling to the pool very often in the heat wave that is hitting Raleigh. With the past full week hitting near or above 100 degrees, we have been staying indoors or heading the pool every day. Last week Anna managed to go to the pool every day aside from one and took multiple trips a couple of days. Sometimes its just with Daddy, sometimes its the whole family, and sometimes its with Mommy and Madelyn when they are meeting friends. Through this even with massive sunblock on, we all have managed to get better tans including Anna. Here is Anna looking cute with her tan:
Anna styling

And here is a comparison of Anna's tan to her Daddy's and Mommy's. We still can't tell if she had Daddy or Mommy's coloring :-) Tans

Cafe Tiramisu

Heather and I celebrated our five year anniversary by going to Cafe Tiramisu, a great little Italian restaurant in a North Raleigh plaza. The worst thing about Cafe Tiramisu is that my wife and I have lived near it for 6 years and didn't know about it. This small restaurant in one of the many shopping plazas in North Raleigh was wonderful. Through the entrance you would not know you were in a shopping plaza in North Raleigh but could have instead transcended through any restaurant in places like Manhattan Beach, CA...or at least it reminded me of meals I have had there. The atmosphere was perfect for a romantic dinner, with a small amount of seating spread out far enough that you weren't in your neighbor's face. It was surprising how quiet and comfortable we were considering how small the area was.

The food at Cafe Tiramisu was divine. We started with the Stacker, a mix of Fried Eggplant, Tomato, and Mozzarella. It was a wonderful combination. For the main meals, I ate their Veal Marsala and my wife had their Pork Loin Chop. The Veal was thin and the sauce delicious with some great homemade pasta in a light cream sauce on the side. The Pork Loin Chop was outstanding with the pork on the bone but filleted with prosciutto and cheese (mozzarella and fontina) cheese in the middle and the whole thing was lightly breaded and fried. Finally, we had to try the Tiramisu for dessert and it did not disappoint.

Cafe Tiramisu is apparently a well kept secret by many North Raleigh folks as even though none of our other friends had heard of it, the place was booked all night and reservations were needed. We would highly recommend it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Maybe this is why customer service gets offshored...

I recently experienced great customer service and horrible customer service from FedEx and Apple respectively. I called both companies more than once and every time I was greeted by someone with an US or Canadian accent for which I assume the customer service was indeed "American." But, my service from Apple reminds me why some customer service in the US can be offshored...even though FedEx's customer service made me feel the exact opposite way.

Here is the scenario...I made a dumb mistake and didn't select the right shipping address when making an Apple Store order. When i got the email from Apple, I saw the mistake and immediately called them. They consistently told me there was nothing they could do and it was in their store policy that shipping cannot be changed once an order was made. They said they would wait for FedEx to fail to deliver the package, return it to them, and they would cancel the order. They also said I could call and pick it up locally...proving they had not listen to me explain that I needed it in North Carolina and not California. Unfortunately the address was on the other side of the country and the $81 order was not worth the air fare it would take to pick it up.

I then called FedEx to see if there was anything they could do. They told me Apple could change the order if I could find someone willing to help. He searched for a number to contact Apple, came up with a number for Apple logistics, but unfortunately the Apple people again claimed they could not help. But the FedEx people went the extra mile, searched for a way for me to get through Apple's customer service, and tried to help. Finally, the FedEx representative told me that if Apple wouldn't help that I could call back and they could send the order right back to Apple instead of waiting the standard 3 delivery attempts plus 5 days at the local warehouse.

Multiple other calls to Apple stating that FedEx said they could help did not get me anywhere as their customer service was not willing to do anything to go out of their way to help when they could hide behind their "policy." I called the FedEx people back who put in an order to immediately send the package back to Apple. Again, the FedEx people were extremely polite, sympathetic, and helpful.

Bottom line is that I can understand why people appreciate American customer support when talking to FedEx, but when I was talking with Apple I might as well have been speaking to someone who doesn't speak English.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Running on Empty

Here is an interesting report from a blog that I read to track latest advancements in environmentally friendly cars. The two articles claim more and more people are running out of gas. The AP article claims that most people are either waiting for their paychecks or fill up with less gas and therefore don't have as much. Its an interesting problem hitting people as its not just gas prices but food prices as well. So, if your budget had wiggle room before, it needed enough room for more expensive food and gas. Thats tough for most of us regular people. I guess thats where the economic stimulus will go to...I wonder if its a coincidence that when most Americans find themselves with some extra cash the oil companies find themselves taking some extra cash at the same time...