Thursday, May 30, 2013

TTC: Possibilities of Parenting

What Kind of Parent Will I Be?

This blog post makes me think (and laugh) a lot.  Mostly, it humbles me and reminds me to pray that I am wise enough to use the lessons I've learned over my lifetime when they are needed, but able to leave my child the space they require to grow into their own person.

Take a look - it's worth the quick read.

If I were to pick a famous mom to model myself after, it would be Claire Huxtable probably.  With the exception of Denise, her kids were all pretty well balanced.  Runner up would be Carol Brady, but honestly - I always wondered what she did all day.

Mostly, I pray to be blessed to be a parent one day - at all. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rearview Mirror

Yesterday I was speaking with a good friend who is going through a tough patch.  In the process of our conversation, I happened to have some time to reflect on my life with her and talk about some of my tough patches and how I got through them and the end result.

Now, I am not a big fan of dwelling on the past.  You can't drive a car while staring out the rearview mirror.  You'll drive off course and possibly wreck everything.  The same can be said for life in general.  If you spend too much time looking backwards, you'll miss all the sights you're passing right now.  You may also go off-course or wreck the good things happening currently.

I say all this to note that yesterday was a good thing.  We've had some big hits lately and I've been caught in the obstacle course and worried about the boulders I see on our immediate horizon.  It was good to take a look at the road already traveled to see how far I've come. 

More like a pit stop than a detour or distraction, but a purposeful review and assessment of the lessons learned along the way.

Sometimes, I guess, it's good to pull over and look at where you came from to get some perspective on where you're going.  It's also refreshing to take experiences that were once negative or painful and find a positive use for them.  Taking those moments and helping someone else feel a little less lost or alone; being able to give examples of choices made and the results; or just saying, "Hey, I've been there - and I know there is nothing I can do but I can listen.  Sometimes someone to listen is what you need at times like these." 

Each situation in life is unique.  When something happens that brings negativity into our lives, we often ask, "Why?"  And even when there is no logical reason or the answer never presents itself at the moment, when you take those times (not too many!) to pull over and look back for a brief time - it becomes obvious. 

We are all parts of a greater "machine" that works hand in hand.  Just as our actions have consequences that ripple out, even when we don't see the reactions, our life experiences affect the world around us by being a piece of the puzzle. 

And in the end, "This too shall pass" is pretty accurate.  What you take from it - now that's the part that is everchanging.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Marriage Files: #102 - Hand signals

I am not a fan of baseball, but after years being forced to attend Omaha and Kansas City Royals games, I've come to learn a few things.  One of them is the art of silent communication - mostly in the form of hand signals.

If you're paying close attention to a baseball game, there is a plethora of nonverbal conversation going on between the players.  The signals from the coach, the motions from the pitcher to the catcher, and the body language between the players makes the whole game.  A single one of them can change it all.

Marriage is much like that from what I've observed.

We read a lot into the little things our spouse does or does not do.  You'll note the word I use is "do" not "say".  Even when we're good about saying the things that support a relationship (Please, Thank You, I love you, I appreciate you, etc.), what we do actually makes a much bigger impression.

One of the things we're working on in our home is being more attentive and following through.  It's easy to get busy and forget to spend time and effort on one another.   One of the ways you show you're still 100% there is by the small gestures that say, I'm a part of this.  Whether it's putting the dishes away instead of waiting for someone to get around to it, taking the laundry out and putting away what you can, or giving a footrub for no reason - just because it was "one of those days" - there is a message being sent.

Likewise, deliberately ignoring messes because "it's not my job" or leaving a mess assuming someone else will take care of it also leaves a message.  Being late to an event that is important to a family member or forgetting a birthday or anniversary speaks just as loudly as if you were to say, "You're just not that important to me."

There are a litany of reasons we give, and I include myself because I've been guilty of times of the same things, that include "I'm got busy.  I didn't realize.  I didn't see.  I forgot.  I'm human."    And for a single mistake, those are all reasonable but if it becomes a pattern of behavior - then that's a whole different topic.

I find that when I continually forget or overlook something, it's because subconsciously - I've got a reason.  Whether it's unhappiness with the person for something else, a resistance to be a part of the event or activity, or overall unhappiness in my life that I want someone to notice.   Our actions always give us away because it's hard to genuinely want to be kind or present if there are issues.

So, what to do?  Communicate better.  If there are things that make you not want to participate in the home, talk them out.  Resolution or compromise will go a long way towards making any relationship work - not just with your spouses.  If your nonverbal communication doesn't match your verbal patter, maybe it's time to have a heart to heart and figure out what it is you're having trouble saying aloud.

After all, you're still saying it - only the actions can sometimes hurt worse than the words. 

In the end, dealing with the small things up front often prevents them from escalataing into big things.  I was told that in the first 5 years of marriage you fight more than in the remaining 45 put together.  Why?  Because you're learning how to communicate.  You're figuring out the other person's moods, needs, wants and both of you are adapting.

You're learning the marriage hand signals.  Even a rookie will tell you, it may take time to learn them all but it makes the game so much more fun (and productive) to play.

My name is not Job

The past 7 days have literally been a series of tests from God.  I don't know if I have passed any of them, but I recognize these "learning moments" from a lifetime of them.

First, the simple stuff - our swimming regimen.  To see how committed I actually am to it, every single thing that can go wrong to prevent our swimming laps - has.  From work picking up, altering my schedule; to someone getting sick in the pool shortly before we arrived, thus closing the pool for a few hours but only leaving time for the children's swim classes; to some adult doing something so gross in the pool area that they had to close the entire thing for a full day; to running out of days to fit the swimming in due to the pool schedule or the family schedule. 

Did I pass the test?  I went whenever we could, even if it was for a shorter amount of time and got in any laps possible.  We've made plans to do that in the following week as well to make up for any missed days this week (only 1).  I have also learned I feel better when I've done the laps.  I push myself even when I get tired to do my minimum (20 laps) and strive to reach my current maximum every time (30 laps).  While I am frustrated the scale doesn't show any difference, my breathing, tone, and flexibility have improved a lot.  So, I'll give myself a solid B on this.  In the future, we may need to have alternate pool schedules handy or I may have to adopt a secondary form of exercise (like Zumba) to keep on schedule.  We'll see.

Second test:  I had the tough situation of taking a year off from a second form of employment I love.  It's for the best, but it's always tough because I love the job, the others I work with, and there is an emotional attachment there.  However, I am convinced it has to be for a good reason.  This, however, was followed with the news that our prime contractor might have lost our contract on my full-time main job.  The fear of losing my job or a serious pay cut affects every part of my life.  Plans to move into a new house, have a child... everything.  So now I'm in the process of rewriting my resume, reconsidering school options, and trying to remain calm. 

Did I pass this test? So far, I haven't completely freaked out.  I like being in control of things in my life, and I'm at sea here.  Learning to let go and trust is... difficult.  A lifelong lesson, in fact, that I've been working on and so far this time, I'm doing ok.  Again, I think I'm earning a B on this.  I need to be more prepared in the future for these kinds of events so fixing my resume is a priority.

Third test:  in the TTC world, the costs keep rising.  Now I have a faint hope that there will be a way to adjust some of the costs and the clinic is working on it - but I worry about it and the strain on our family.  My husband has a lot going on at his job and with my stepson, so I don't want to add to the weight he's carrying.

This test is ongoing and I pray I pass it with flying colors!

Fourth test:  This is a combination of all the small things.  Little annoyances seem to crop up regularly these days.  I find myself getitng snippy with people I love or impatient.  I've started to wallow in worry about family members and our future.  None of this is healthy.  I recognize that. 

Can I pass this test?  I hope so.  Every day is one step at a time, and most of the time - those steps are pretty much in the right direction.  I'll keep plugging away, but I do want to remind anyone who is listening, My name is not Job.  I'd like to believe I have that super strong faith and resolve, but I have fallen short in the past so I'm not so sure.  A little good news would be awesome right about now.

So, if you're reading this blog - it's your chance to share some positive news in your world. 

I'll even go first - this weekend I get to spend with my husband, my godchild, and close friends.  We're not doing anything fancy or impressive, just being with people we love.  Oh - and dogs, dogs we love as well.

How about you?  Post in comments - I would love to share your joy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fairy Tale Followup

Here is a version of the Disney Princesses I can support:  Pocket Princesses by Amy Mebberson.


TTC: Trying to Conceive

When I was in 7th grade, I wrote out a life plan.  It was a school project, but I was very serious when I put it together.  I planned to graduate at the top of my class, get a scholarship, go to college then law school, be an established attorney be the time I was 25 so that I could get married at 27 (after dating for 2 years), then at 30 we would have our 2 lovely children (one boy and one girl) while I worked on to become a judge. 

Yeah, I had a plan.  I actually stuck to most of it until college when I realized that I would never make it as a lawyer.  I don't like being told I'm wrong... which is a large part of legal work... rules, someone else's judgement, and accepting the decision.  So I moved in another direction, and from there my life plan morphed.

I had always been involved with performing, but found myself getting back into fine art as well.  Long story short, we come to today.  I didn't meet the love of my life and marry until I was 36.  (10 years+ after the plan!)  Because of a disorder called PCOS, I had been told for many years I would have trouble conceiving.  Due to other health concerns from my 20s, there was a higher chance for complications.  My fiance and I were (bad examples of waiting until marriage to follow) already trying to see if I could get pregnant naturally.

It never happened.  We made it through our first stressful year of marriage with one miscarriage, unplanned and unexpected because I hadn't realized I was pregnant yet.  At this point, I realized that of all my "planning" the thought of being a mother was actually the most important.  I was devastated to think that I would fail in the basic function of the female of  a species - to bring forth life.  Especially one of the love my husband and I share...

Thankfully, I'm married to a man that is patient and supportive.  We've since embarked on this TTC journey - and along the way I've discovered I'm not alone.  Only no one really talks about it - it's a big secret because either the woman feels like a failure or faulty because of the problems OR people feel like "that's too private to share".

Most difficult experiences are, but the support of others can make getting through them easier.  Information can ease your mind and help you realize you're not alone, abnormal, nor faulty.  So, I decided to be brave enough to discuss it here.

For the sake of the squeamish, I won't get into the medical technicalities but I think it's important to talk about the process and the emotions.

First:  Poke and Prod

When you start going to the OB/GYN to find out "what the heck do I do now", they need a ton of information.  They ask a number of personal questions and the first couple visits you blush to discuss with detail things about your cycle or marital bedroom antics.  But after they start the various testing and have seen every part of you from the inside out - some of it painfully so - you stop blushign and consider it old hat.

I've been told by many new mothers that after giving birth you lose all sense of modesty or shyness in discussing your body.  When you start with the TTC journey, you lose it much sooner.  The desperation to "be fixed" outweighs social niceties.

For me, the OB/GYN stated what I knew.  My biggest issue was PCOS or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  This basically screws up all the hormones in my body, causes a lack of ovulation and if not monitored or treated can lead to forms of cancer or death.  In my case, it's the large part of my fight with my weight and migraines.  Usually treated with birth control, I am so sensitive to the hormones in those that I cannot take them.  Long story short - it's a problem.  But we're dealing with it.

There were some other minor discoveries along the way, but the ultimate decision was that I needed to seek a fertility expert and was sent to Shady Grove.

We've just started our work with them. They have been great and they focus on the mother since usually that's the issue.  We had genetic testing done and are being very cautious to make sure that if we do get pregnant, the child will be healthy.  Suffice to say, I am on to step two in the process.

Two:  A little push

PCOS is primarily an issue of hormones not being where they should / doing what they should when they should.  Modern science has found a way to replicate the hormones needed to force your body to ovulate, protect an embryo, etc. 

Enter Clomid. 

Let me first express my frustration that insurance doesn't cover any of this.  Even if it's medically necessary, it's not covered.  So you pay out of pocket for the labs and bloodwork every time.  We'll go with, the basic stuff is cheap at under 2000 total.  If the basic drug therapies don't work for you, then it gets much more expensive.

So far, this is my experience... I'm all tied up in the drug therapy portion.  I'll write more once things happen or don't happen.  But for you ladies going through this process as well, just know - you're not alone.  The rollercoaster of emotions from joy to grief when you don't keep the pregnancy (we've had 2 miscarriages) to the fear and hope involved with starting the fertility process is overwhelming.  I feel bad for my poor husband who puts up with it all in stride.  I know he goes through his own versions of the rollercoaster as well. 

It's a tough road but I'm trusting the reward will be worth it. 

For the record,  I still would love to have a boy and a girl.

Marriage Files #101

Me: (on the phone)  Hey, how did things go?
Him:  Fine, we're on our way back to the house now.
Me:  Good, I'm sure the kids are fried.
Him:  Yeah, I'll probably just order a pizza or something...
Me: (long pause)  I bought all that food for the kids for the weekend, remember?  There's chickent strips, hotdogs, and such in the freezer and fridge.  Most of it can be popped in the microwave.
Him:  Oh, I didn't know that.
Me: (longer pause)  So, you know two days ago when I was talking out loud to myself in your general direction and you were nodding and responding like you were listening?  That's when I told you that I went to the grocery store and bought all the food you would need for the weekend while I was gone.
Him: I don't remember that, but that's great - I'll get something from the fridge then.

So, I find that I talk out loud to myself a lot... in the general direction of my loving husband... who I think is listening... only to discover that I was talking out loud to myself after all.

I am told by many other wives, this is normal.

Good to know we're normal.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fairy Tale Endings

As I get older, I have a different viewpoint on most childhood stories.  Specifically "The Fairy Tale Princess" story...

The lessons they teach are not always the lessons intended.  For instance, while every princess story has the basic tenets of good versus evil, most little girls walk away with a love for animals, pretty dresses, and the idea that they will marry a prince who will star in their perfect future.

Let me be honest and say that the recent princesses Tiana and Merida are my favorites because they so blatantly don't need a prince and Tiana made hers work for it.  However, even in the basic storylines - so many good lessons get overlooked.

1.  Learning to make decisions for yourself
2.  Living with the consequences of that decision
3.  Fixing the mess you made
4.  Accepting people for who they are (rather than who you would like them to be)
5.  Knowing your part in the "evil" that comes into your life

Not to mention the biggest lesson of all:  A real princess saves herself.

Husbands (Prince Charming!?) are wonderful.  Mine makes me laugh, smile, and feel hope just by being in my life.  He makes the tough days easier and the easy days a dream come true. 

He also knows how to drive me insane, ignores things I think are important (at times), and won't "remember" to do the things I OCD about if he doesn't think they are important, too.  Just. Like. Any. Other. Person.

I expected him to be magically unlike any other human being, of course, once we said, "I do."

I would brag about all the awesome things he did, thinking "That annoying stuff won't last, surely..."

Truth is, I probably annoy him JUST as much (maybe more) and that's just part of life.  It's what we accepted when we decided to join our lives.  Giving up on the idea of a fairy tale ending, however, isn't something I have wanted to do.

And I don't have to.  You see, the truth is, they never show you "the next day" in the fairy tale or "one year later" because no one wants to see that.

Cinderella is furious because Prince Charming leaves the seat up and he can't stand the way she leaves her clothes strewn everywhere.  Plus she finds out the kingdom is in debt from all those stupid "find a bride" balls.

Snow White finds herself in a castle of unloyal slacking servants now that the Evil Queen isn't there and her new hubby is only interested in travelling and hunting.  He, on the other hand, hates all the bird poop everywhere and wonders why she can't keep the pets outside.

Ariel spends most of her time swimming and playing with the fish, singing to herself - while her darling husband struggles to keep his village supported with the new "No Seafood catching, selling or eating allowed" rule in place.

You see where I'm going - the fairy tale is the life story you travel to find one another.  All the twists and turns to get you to your relationship.  The rest of it - the marriage? That's your fairy tale ending.

Whether it's happily ever after or not is comepletely up to you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fitness Break

Now, I am no fitness guru nor do I purport to be, but I am a research fanatic.  I love reading and finding out things.  I hate exercising.  Scratch that - I hate treadmills and pointless exercising, which is why my husband and I have taken up swimming three times a week.  Swimming is relaxing, fun, and a workout.  I love it!

We started out swimming just to get moving, but then (competitive couple that we are) started counting laps.  First it was a sad 5, then 10, then I jumped to 20 last Friday and my goal by then end of this week is 25.  It's just a little more deep breathing and pushing myself to swim a bit faster.

Now, I started wondering - since I was enjoying it so much - how much of a workout am I actually getting?

I found a user on who gave this answer.  According to fitnessgirl:

According to the Health Fitness Instructor Handbook, one of the reference manuals for the American College of Sports Medicine, the amount of calories burned during swimming depends "on the velocity of movement and the stroke being used, but it is also influenced by the skill of the swimmer. A skilled swimmer requires less energy to move through the water, so that person has to swim a greater distance than an unskilled person to achieve the same caloric expenditure."

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute (Edit: Maybe they mean hour?). Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute (again: hour?) whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

On the surface, it would seem to be more advantageous to have mediocre swimming skills to burn more calories but it backfires on you because you tire faster than you can rack up calories. In other words, you burn more calories when you are a novice swimmer but you cannot swim very long or very fast. The more skilled you become, the less calories you burn but you still burn more calories in the long run because you can swim longer and faster before you become fatigued.

If you are wondering why women burn less than men, the Fitness Leader's Handbook, another reference manual, says that because of women's "greater buoyancy associated with higher body fatness, women expend fewer calories per mile than men, independent of skill level". People with more fat have an easier time staying afloat. That in turn means fewer calories are burned. This is good news if you are a competitive swimmer so you can reserve your calories to fuel your speed and distance.

If you want even more of a caloric burn and a greater challenge to the upper body, try deep-water running. You will need a waist flotation device to keep you suspended in neck deep water. You will build more upper and lower body muscular endurance than land based running because the resistance of the water is all around you and I have a feeling from what you said about land running, you will enjoy deep-water running more!  :)

How awesome is that?!

Then I went to, found my level of swimming exercise, entered my weight etc. and found out how many calories I was burning an hour (which is about how long we swim).  Depending on my rate of effort it's between 600 - 800 calories per hour!  That's awesome!!  Better than an hour on the elliptical any day of the week, and I'm not tired or sore afterwards.  Maybe we should be doing this every night...?

Nah, let's not get crazy. 

Now I know competitive swimmers can knock out 1-5 miles per hour without it fazing them (our goal is 1 mile in an hour...eventually), but I'm happy to go from couch potato non-exerciser to swimming 1/2+ mile 3 times a week (which sounds even better than 20 laps). 

At our pool 35.5 laps = 1 mile approximately... Each lap being roughly 50 yards, I figure if I'm doing 25 laps this week, maybe 30 the following week or two and by mid June, 35.... that's pretty good.  I don't know how fast I'll see loss on the scale, but my muscles already feel different and my breathing is getting back where it used to be.

Which is great for singing and projection - something I've had issues with in recent years.

So, this little fitness break is to encourage you to jump in the pool.  Even lazily swimming burns more calories than you think - and it's never bad to do that, right?

Need more details, check out this site to find that, according to their sources:

You can burn 215-765 calories in 30 minutes of swimming.

It depends on how much you weigh and if you’re swimming at a leisurely or moderate pace. Below is an estimate of how many calories you can burn swimming for 30 minutes.

Swimming (leisurely pace)

  • If you weigh 150 lbs, you can burn approximately 215 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 200 lbs, you can burn approximately 285 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 250 lbs, you can burn approximately 360 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 300 lbs, you can burn approximately 430 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 350 lbs, you can burn approximately 500 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 400 lbs, you can burn approximately 575 calories in 30 minutes.

Swimming laps (moderate pace)

  • If you weigh 150 lbs, you can burn approximately 285 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 200 lbs, you can burn approximately 380 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 250 lbs, you can burn approximately 475 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 300 lbs, you can burn approximately 570 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 350 lbs, you can burn approximately 670 calories in 30 minutes.
  • If you weigh 400 lbs, you can burn approximately 765 calories in 30 minutes.
Still not convinced?

Go to Calories-Burned.FindTheData.Org and input swimming into the activity and see the live comparisons of data of various types of swimming per weight category.

It's a great way to relax and slim down... That's what I'm counting on at least.

Friday, May 10, 2013

From the Ground Up, part 2.

I would like to give special thanks to Harris Woodward of Finishwerks who is the source of much of my understanding of this process and the associated details.  I hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

Let’s begin with the basics. 

Choose where you want to live carefully.  In the state of Maryland, each county has different rules that apply when building a new property.  Rules and fees – just for building in their county.   Maryland is second to California in its amount of shoreline due to the Chesapeake Bay and it’s multitude of tributaries.  Because of that, there are a number of environmental protection considerations in building anywhere in the state, but especially in the counties closest to the Chesapeake itself.

So you chose the general area, now you need to choose the specific spot.  Here’s where things get tricky.  You need to know your budget before you start down this path.   For us, this is tricky because we need to have a contract on our current house before we can get approval for a construction to perm loan and know what our budget could be.  So, we’ll take a side trip down Budget Lane, and return to the rest of the path in a moment.

Construction to Perm Loans are not regular home / mortgage purchase loans.  Because of this, there are some more stringent rules.  These are the same rules that apply to places like Ryan Homes and other major builders.  After the housing crisis, it became increasingly difficult for even large corporate building companies to get funded – not to mention individual family home builders.  Many banks and credit unions just stopped offering those types of loans.  The ones that remain, have stringent rules on the downpayment and credit requirements.  They expect 20% either in cash or equity and there is no wiggle room on this, to my understanding. 

Researching which bank in your area even gives C to P Loans will take some time.  Why?  Because in Area a:  Suntrust does give C to P loans, but another county or state – they do not.  It depends on the area’s level of foreclosures on new builds and the housing market in that area.  The bank wants to know they will get their money, either from the original borrower or from the sale of the property.  They also what to know what builder you’re planning to use so they have some idea if that builder is on the brink of going out of business or a solid dependable local builder.

So, you get your initial approval – great, it’s still not a sealed deal.  The nice thing is you only have to go to closing once, then once the property is complete and inspected the loan changes from a construction loan to a permanent (read: normal) home mortgage.  Before you get that far, however, let’s get back on the path…
You have a letter to bring to a builder and start work on your house, but you still have to pick a property! 

You need a realtor who specializes in this type of real estate sales.   Why?  Because not all property is  equal, there might be a property that technically percs (county approved for water, soil testing /sewer, and electricity) but isn’t the right grade for a house or has some environmental concerns that forces you to limit your building to a specific section of the property.  A realtor who does this regularly not only has general knowledge enough to advise you on decent properties, but likely also has resources to have a civil engineer come and make an unofficial quick read on the property.  You will need an official civil engineering report to even get the permit to build on the land, but before you purchase – have it looked at so you don’t waste time and money.  Buying a property you can’t build on, or specifically can’t build the houseplan you’ve fallen in love with on, would be disastrous.

So, you and your realtor want to start looking at properties but first, what’s your budget?
Let’s say you’re approved for a total of $500,000 from the bank:
If you allocate (based on some simple averages)
  • $125,000 for the property purchase
  • $25,000 for the improvement of a raw lot of land (including all permits, fees, excavation, driveway, etc.)
  • $350,000 for the actual building of your house including all interior architecture, appliances, foundation and upgrades

Now you see how some of these things can adjust based on the choices you make, right?

For instance, if you choose a property that’s a tear-down vice a raw lot.  (Tear-down: existing home on lot with a foundation that either is easily adapted or fits your chosen homeplan structurally)  You have the benefit of a lot that has much of the improving complete.  You pay a much smaller amount for the removal of the existing home, debris, and the upgrading of the foundation as needed.  You might pay more for the property for a large reduction in the improvement costs, or save by finding a cheap property.  The downside, less ability to change the site layout and possibly limiting the location or changing it from your preferred spot.

Information on Teardown homes:
If the location is prime for you, then you may have to adjust your homeplan or finishes to fit it in the remaining budget. 

For now, we’ll stick with the 125k for the purposes of illustrating the process.  After you comb through the listings, you find a few that are worth looking at and haggling over.  Once the perfect spot is chosen, you need to have your builder involved.  They will want to work closely with the civil engineer and if they are good, they will help you secure all permits and pay any fees.  Why does the builder need to do all of this?  Because none of the money will be sent to you.  During the construction phase, the bank pays each vendor directly so they can accomplish that current stage of the process.  Until the house is complete, you’ll be paying interest only on the loan as it is doled out – not the total.  That’s not until the end.

So you have a site that’s been approved.  Now you and the builder have a LOT of decisions to make.  If you’ve ever bought a home in an established community, you have a lot of choices to make but they are only a fraction of a complete build’s choice list.

Oh!  I forgot an important piece, stick-built home vice modular built home is a big choice.  We prefer the modular build in a climate controlled setting.  The builders we are interested in using are eco-centric in their building styles, they can work independent of the weather, and the homes have much less long-term risk for issues because of the controlled building process.  On-site stick building has the benefit of being able to visit the site as the house goes up, but I like the idea that if a mistake is made – it can be corrected in a timely manner quickly without regard to weather.  Also, the house can be inspected at each phase so that by the time it reaches the site – it’s confirmed ready to go!  Plus, from all my research – the modular build home is going to be cheaper.  Downside, some limitation in design, but that appears to be disappearing with each year.

To help you decide, here are some links:

Back to the list of choices you need to be prepared to make…

I’m going to put it all here because a one stop resource is what I’m attempting to create, but keep in mind this is still fairly high level and may not take every situation into account:

Homesite Decisions:

  • Permit, Survey, and Codes
    • Plot plan
    • Building permits
    • Staking for excavation
      • A preliminary stake for tree clearing and for house placement
      • Second staking for excavation for foundations
    • Construction approval by municipal inspections
    • Erosion prevention
  • Tree clearing
    • Per on site meeting and markings
    • Stumps ground out
    • Logs hauled off
    • Chips left on site or hauled off
  • City Utilities
    • Sewer connection
      • Gravity sewer
      • Forced main sewer with grinder pump station outside
    • Water tap and connection
    • Street bore
    • Developer-provided sub-surface drain
    • Sump line
    • Electric service provider
    • Gas service provider
  • On-site Utilities
    • Well
    • Septic
    • Propane
  • Final Site Work / Concrete Flatwork
    • Front Porch & Steps - surface / finish
    • Home walk
    • Public city walk (if applicable)
      • Material requirements (check municipal code, where applicable)
      • Length and width requirements
      • Handicap accessibility
    • Patio and Stoop (if applicable)
      • Material specifications
      • Finish /  color
      • Access to house / garage
  • Driveway
    • Concrete
      • White
      • Exposed aggregate / size of aggregate
      • Stamped / styles and colors
    • Asphalt
    • Gravel
    • Road matting needed
  • Garage
    • Number of spaces
    • Style of overhead doors
  • Landscape
    • Rough grade lot
    • Final grade sod, hydro seed, trees, shrubs and mulch
    • Irrigation
      • Front yard only
      • Front and back yard
      • Special requirements (gardens, greenhouse, etc.)
  • Fencing
    • Type
    • Style
    • Color
  • Mailbox – municipal or development requirements
 Structure Decisions:

  • Foundation
    • Basement
      • Full
      • Partial basement with crawl space
      • Walk out site conditions
      • Crawl space
      • Slab
    • Footings
    • Steel beams
    • Sump pits / pumps
    • Perimeter drain
    • Window and door units
    • Any baths and/or wet bar rough in needed in basement
    • Floors in basement and/or garage
  • Floors
    • Sill plates
    • Beams - wood / steel
    • Joists
    • Sub-flooring
    • Pre-treatment/sanding prior to interior trim installation
  • Walls
    • First floor wall height
    • Second floor wall height (non-ranch)
    • Specialty ceiling requirements, as applicable
    • Sheathing on exterior walls
    • Fire blocking / draft stops as needed / required
    • House wrap
  • Ceiling Joists
    • Beams
    • Supports and posting
    • Joist hangers
  • Roof
    • Material
      • Shingles
      • Step and roll flashing
      • Ridge vent for proper attic ventilation
      • Ice and water shield for superior leak/ice damming protection
      • Counter flashing / brick flashing
    • Ridges, hips and valleys
    • Decking
    • Underlayment on roof plywood (felt paper)
  • Exterior Trim and Siding
    • Soffit system
    • Front porch ceiling trim
    • Siding (many styles)
    • House wrap all walls
    • Material Specs
      • Stucco - true masonry (not Dryvit®)
      • Brick
      • Stone (natural or cultured)
    • Specialty Items (quantity / location)
      • Brackets
      • Shutters
      • Window planter boxes
      • Ornamental railings
  • Screen Porch (if applicable)
    • Ceiling / Soffit
    • Removable Screen Panels with aluminum frames
    • Screen door (quantity and location)
  • Deck (if applicable)
    • Floor system / structure
    • Material treatment / wood species or composite material values
    • Decking boards / railings / beams
  • Garage (all garages insulated)
    • Side entry
    • Front entry
    • Courtyard entry
    • Detached
    • Door material
    • Door style
    • Door size
    • Openers / transmitters
    • Insulation choice (see below)
  • Insulation Choice (examples):
    • Cellulose
    • Fiberglass batt
    • Blown fiberglass (with netting)
    • Urethane
    • Different R-values
    • Soundproofing
 Exterior Design

  • Exterior Elevation Styles
    • Traditional American Custom
    • European / French Country
    • Craftsman
    • Contemporary / Modern
    • Mountain / Cabin Style
  • Paint / Coating Color(s) / Stain
    • Siding
    • Shutters
    • Exterior Trim
    • Doors
  • Roof
  • Brick and Stone
  • Stucco - true masonry (not Dryvit®)
  • Gutters
  • Exterior caulking

These exterior detail decisions also impact the interior design, as well as the ergonomics (ease of use), of your custom home:
  • Doors / Entrances
    • Front Door
      • Transom / sidelites
      • Hinges
      • Sill
      • Material
        • Wood / Species
        • Fiberglass
        • Steel
    • Basement walk out door
    • Service doors
  • Windows
    • Brand / style
      • Exterior cladding or extrusion
      • Double hung / casement
    • Pre-finished interior
    • Grills (between glass) or outside glass / no grills
    • Hardware color(s)
 Infrastructure: (Can greatly affect your bottom line – so watch your budget here!)

  • HVAC / Ventilation
    • Furnace(s) – gas or electric
    • Heat pump or air conditioner
    • Geothermal
  • Heating / Cooling / Air Quality options
    • Air filtration system
      • Media air
      • Electronic air filter
      • UV lighting
    • Zoning
      • Damper system
      • Number of zones
      • Zone locations
      • Zone controls
    • Thermostats
    • Humidification
    • Ceiling and wall grills / registers
    • Floor registers
    • Cold air returns all bedrooms
    • Dryer exhaust vents
    • Bath fan vents
    • Range hood exhaust
    • Note: Heating and cooling system must be designed correctly to have proper air distribution, provide comfort and protect your home from the elements
  • Plumbing
    • Water supply lines
    • Drainage and vent system
    • Master / Full Baths
      • Faucets
      • Sinks
        • Undermount
        • Self-rimming
        • Vessel
      • Toilet / trip lever
      • Tub / shower / spa
      • Shower / tub valves
    • Half Bath
      • Toilet / trip lever
      • Sink
      • Faucet
    • Kitchen
      • Faucet
      • Sink
      • Food waste disposer
      • Ice maker line and box
    • Laundry Room
      • Laundry / mop tub
      • Faucet
      • Washing machine hook up box
    • Utility Area (if applicable)
      • Laundry/mop sink
      • Faucet
    • Water heater(s)
      • Electric
      • Gas
      • Tankless
      • Instant hot water recirculation pump
    • Gas plumbing to:
      • Range / cook top / oven(s)
      • Furnace
      • Fireplace (if applicable)
      • Gas stub out to deck (future grill – if applicable)
      • Dryer
    • Water Softener rough in / finish
    • Hose bibs
    • Sump pumps / battery back-up and water pressure systems
  • Electrical
    • Service breaker panel – total amperage
    • Per electrical layout developed by builder, homeowner, and electric company
    • Alarm System
      • Key pad
      • Motion detector rough in and finish
      • Contacts
      • Other options
    • Light Fixtures
      • Budget for purchase of all light fixtures and bulbs including yard light
      • Electrician supplies: floodlights, recessed cans, eyeball lights, all light bulbs in recessed fixtures
 Interior Design (or the only part you usually do any of in a planned community and another potential budget buster!):

  • Fireplace(s)
    • Gas or wood burning
    • Hearth - flush or raised
    • Fireplace face finish
  • Drywall
  • Special slick or design textured ceilings
  • Specialty bullnose corners
  • Interior Trim
    • Baseboard
    • Casing
    • Crown
    • Numerous other moldings
    • Paint or stain
  • Interior Doors / Solid Core
    • Style
    • Pre-primed for painting
    • Raw wood for staining / wood species
  • Built-ins
  • Hardware
    • Doors knobs / style / finish
    • Front door handles set
    • Interior door hinges
  • Stairway
    • Stair treads (open / closed)
    • Posts / hand railings / spindles
  • Paint
    • Wall color(s)
    • Wall finishes (flat, eggshell, satin, etc.)
    • Interior trim - paint or stain
    • Trim color same throughout house or multiple colors
  • Cabinetry and Countertops
    • Cabinets in kitchen
    • Cabinets in master / secondary baths, laundry
    • Kitchen countertops
      • Material
        • Granite or stone
        • Laminate
        • Tile
        • Concrete
        • Stainless Steel
        • Wood
      • Color
      • Edging
    • Master bath vanity
    • Laundry folding table
  • Hardwood flooring – style and locations
  • Ceramic flooring – style and locations
  • Ceramic wall tile – style and locations
  • Bath finishes and hardware
    • Mirrors
    • Towel bars and rings
    • Toilet paper holders
    • Shower doors - colors and glass style
  • Closet Finish
    • Layouts and design
    • Materials desired
  • Light Fixtures
    • Interior of house
    • Exterior of house
      • Coach lights
      • Safety lights
      • Yard lighting
    • Electrician supplies
      • Recessed cans
      • Eyeball lights
      • All light bulbs in recessed fixtures
  • Insulation: Examples
    • R-38 or R-50 - attic (R-30 is minimum code)
    • R-19 walls (combined total)
    • R-30 floor area of living above garage or R-33 or R-38
    • R-19 or R-13 - perimeter of rim board of floor joists
    • R-19 blown ceiling of garage with attic space
  • Carpet
    • Padding specifications
    • Carpet style and color
    • Locations
  • Appliances - select finish
    • Refrigerator
    • Single / Double Oven
    • Warming Drawer
    • Microwave
    • Cook top
    • Hood and blower
    • Dishwasher
    • Trash compactor
    • Many other conveniences to choose from
  • Window Treatments
Still with me?  It’s a lot to consider and I promise you, I spend a lot of time researching every little aspect.  Some things I care more about, others are important to my husband, and in the end, we all need to be happy.

So, once all this is done.  House is built and inspections are complete – you will have a new house.  Then your actual mortgage kicks in, but you will be blissful in your new home knowing it was worth every penny.  At least that’s the way it better work…