June 19, 2018

Peas in a Pod


Can you tell which child is which? Answer key at the bottom of the post

“Who does she take after? Nicole or Alexis?” Was a frequent question right after Dana’s birth, followed by “Did they all have this much hair?” The latter question was much easier to answer – yes! – as for the former? Alexis maybe? I remember studying Dana’s face from the hospital recovery bed, trying to see either big sister in her features. Dana’s face was rounder like Alexis’, but her hair resembled Nicole’s. She simultaneously resembled both of her big sisters, and neither of them at the same time.


My three kids as two week old newborns

When friends and family asked a few weeks after birth, I’d tell them that Nicole had the most hair of the three, Dana second and Alexis’ third. That’s what my memory lead me to believe. Seeing them side by side I think Dana might take that crown.

Now that Dana has filled out a little there’s no question she’s a near carbon copy of Nicole. If I wasn’t the family photographer, I’d swear I wouldn’t be able to tell some of those photos apart. And I used to think Nicole and Alexis looked so much alike as newborns! Ironically, everyone tells me Dana looks like Nicole whenever we’re out and about. I don’t see the similarities as clearly between 5 year old Nicole and baby Dana, though I do find there baby pictures nearly identical.

Dana’s personality is still starting to show, so it’s hard to say which one of her sisters she will take after there. So far she seems to be a mellow baby, like big sister Alexis. She’s perfectly content to hide out and nap in the ergo during weekend outings, and rarely cries. Although she can’t stand to hear anyone else cry (a phenomenon I don’t remember with either big sister).

I’m pretty amazed at how early sisterly love takes hold.

Alexis still hugs and kisses Dana every chance she gets, first thing in the morning, after breakfaste, before leaving for school… Even if it’s only been a few minutes since the last hug and kiss. Dana adores the attention, even when it nearly knocks her over. The other day at dinner she got so excited when Alexis walked past her on her way to the bathroom, waving her arms and doing the happy baby dance. Alexis turned to her and said “I go poo and pee, then I give you hug and kiss! Okay, baby?” It was pretty adorable. She tells me all the time that “I like Baby Dana.”

Nicole can often be found sitting next to a fussing Dana, singing or dangling toys to entertain her. She tells me she loves the baby, and the baby is so cute. I’m surprised baby cuteness would register to a not quite six year old, but it really has! She loves showing off Dana whenever the two of us pick her up from camp, referring to Dana as “her baby.” Not “her baby sister”, but “her baby.”

Watching their relationships develop with each other is my favorite part of being their mom.

So which child was which? Top left: Nicole, Top right: Dana, bottom left: Nicole, bottom right: Alexis.

June 14, 2018

Project Sarah

I’m back to my prepregnancy weight which is a bad thing when I was 10 lbs under 2 weeks postpartum.

I could tell I was gaining weight. I couldn’t (and still can’t) stop eating. I crave sugar, which I’ve read is a sign that I’m not sleeping enough. (Not like I needed a sign.) I’m embarrassed to admit that on at least one occasion I chose to eat when I knew I was thirsty, not hungry. This is a problem of my own making.

I have to be realistic. As much as I may want to, exercise is not going to happen. Not while Dana is home with me. There just isn’t the time. I need to prioritize my business right now, so even if I could free up a spare block of time here or there, exercising is pretty low on the priority list. Calorie restriction is also not something I think is a good idea as a nursing mom. My body needs fuel so I can feed Dana.

Eating healthier is my best bet. Swapping out empty carbs for healthy alternatives. More protein. More fiber. Less carbs. Improving diet may not lead to weight loss, but it can hopefully stem the weight gain.

One of the benefits of the gestational diabetes diet is I have a better understanding of nutrition and what works for me. I now know not all fruit is created equal, and berries contain the most fiber. We got in the habit during pregnancy of keeping quick to warm up protein sources in the refrigerator. Our go-tos were tacos, meatloaf and garlic chicken. We’d make a big batch of it on Sunday and I’d have leftovers the rest of the week. For snacks I would do a spoonful of peanut butter or slice of cheese.

It’s a little harder to manage these days. A handful of chips is easier to grab while carrying a baby around the house than warming up left over dinner. Hard or not, I have to try.

The other thing I’m trying to do is drink more water. I started about a month ago. I found an online calculator that said I should strive for 110oz a day. As a side benefit to all that water, I’m down to one diet soda every couple of days. Last time I nearly kicked the soda habit was before becoming pregnant with Nicole.

While I can’t say I’ve noticed any differences either on the scale or otherwise after making these changes, I can tell they’re starting to have an effect. I used to really dislike drinking plain water, but I’ve gotten used to it over the last month. Drinking 110oz is becoming second nature. I could do another 15-20 without much effort. It’s funny, I used to hate substituting a peanut butter sandwich on wheat for my usual morning cereal when pregnant, but I’m so used to it now it’s no big deal.

Good habits develop slowly, I guess.

June 10, 2018

Dana at Five Months

Dear Dana,

I have a confession to make. I still keep thinking of you as my itty bitty newborn. That’s partly because you are my last and I want to hold onto this baby stage forever and partly because, in a lot of ways you still have newborn traits.

Unlike you’re two big sisters who were on to the bigger bottles and drinking 6 ozes after only a couple of months, you still prefer a more modest 3 or 4 oz snack more often. Even overnight it’s rare you’ll take five oz at once as measured by pumping output afterwards. (I think that may be why you’re still waking up regularly once a night, that tummy just isn’t as full). Speaking of sleeping, you still have some newborn traits there as well. While you’ll occasionally nap for a few hours in the crib, you prefer frequent newborn cat naps on mommy. You’ll fall asleep nursing and wake up within a half an hour, refreshed and recharged. I rarely have a chance to put you down in the crib before your quick snooze is over.

You know how you’re not like a newborn? You insist on sitting. You get upset whenever we set you down on your back, either in your gym or on your blanket. You want to be vertical! I came down stairs once a few weeks ago to find you sitting next to daddy on the couch as he played with you, huge grin on your face. You looked so proud of you’re new found independence. We put you in the corner against the arm rest where there is at least some support, but you like to lean forward and do it on your own. It won’t be long now until you’re a completely independent sitter.

This month you started out the month officially a thumb sucker, just not when mommy has her camera. I can see this is becoming a game to you! The thumb sucking was short lived. Mommy picks up the camera, and the thumb comes out of your mouth with a huge grin. While you continue to suck it every once in a while, you’re using your hands more to explore your world lately.

We start solids next month and you seem R-E-A-D-Y. You have always been interested in what we’re eating. Day 1 at the hospital you would stop nursing and watch with interest when I crunches on some candy hearts. We were amazed at your ability to focus so early. To this day you stop what you’re doing and watch earnestly when someone near you is eating. You reach for nearby food, and making the tall tell chewing motions with your mouth. More importantly, you seem to need more than just milk to keep you satisfied. You may not be drinking much at each itteration, but you are requesting a meal more and more frequently.

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy

In May Datayze earned $629.09 and had -0.4% growth. I hate negative growth, even when it’s to be expected, and even when it’s a fraction of a percent. It’s strongly motivating me to get this next launch out the door.

I had an unexpected interrupt this month with GDPR. I should have been more aware of its approaching deadline than I was. I only realized I could be affected a few days before the May 25th deadline. Fortunately, I have always strived to do the right thing when it comes to privacy, and that helped make becoming compliant easier. I don’t store any information that can be deemed unique or personally identifiable. I don’t store any passages of text supplied to the writing tools, or results of the URLs crawled by the spider. I do store other form inputs that can be personal (like age in the miscarriage tool), but not unique and not identifiable. At least in some cases, it’s not even personal. I’ve gotten a handful of emails from users indicating they were using the tool relative to someone else’ pregnancy, like a husband for his wife, or a parent excited for a grandchild. I sometimes see exploring different values, presumably to get a sense of the range.

The main hurtle in keeping up with GDPR was that I keep traffic logs which contain ipaddresses. I stored it for website analysis to understand how users use my site and light weight personalization like ordering the apps by preference so users can find the ones they will likely want faster. I opted to go the pseodnomization route of converting the last octlet to 0, since that seems to be the internet standard approach. I’m not sure what I’ll do with regards to personalization. I’m considering dropping that feature, or using cookies.

Other than that my planned big migration is ticking along. I keep thinking my admin panel is set and then coming up with a new idea that could help monitor site health. I recently wrote a server log parsing script that buckets all errors by type and by page. I’m still geeking out over it.

May 30, 2018

Return to Shutterfly

It’s been years, but I suddenly find myself an active Shutterfly user again.

It started with the Christmas cards. After nearly a decade of printing and addressing them myself, our home printer ran out of ink forcing me to look for an online alternative. That alternative turned out to be Shutterfly. It worked out well, and I returned to Shutterfly for last years’ cards as well, but I still had a mental block using them for my other printing needs.

One afternoon while I was nursing Dana and browsing the internet aimlessly I started thinking about Santa plates.
Since the first realization that my second child was going to be a wintertime baby I’ve been wanting to do a special Cookies for Santa plate. My first idea was a wreath made out of handprints, like this. Anticipating the difficulty of getting a few good hand prints, let alone many, and in the right pattern, my plan was to get the prints on paper first and figure out how to transfer them to the plate later. I tried custom stamps, and tracing paper with food safe ceramic paint. No dice. Not only did my ideas not work, but it left me with the awkward problem of figuring out what to do with the wasted plates. They are my kids’ hand and footprints after all. Three years later it suddenly dawned on me – design the plates on the computer and print them.

Shutterfly had the best price again, so I whipped up a quick design and sent it off to the printers. I was super happy with the print quality, though my design left a little something to be desired. I promised myself I’d fix the design and buy a second plate with a coupon that seems to come every couple of weeks.

A short while later an offer for a free puzzle (not including shipping) graced my inbox. I have been hoping to spark a love of puzzles in my kids, and a custom puzzle with their faces seemed like it might do the trick.

The puzzle was great so I decided to order a framed canvas print (an image of one of the girls edited to look like water colors). I really liked the way Shutterfly’s canvas print appeared to be floating in the frame. None of the other places I looked at framed their canvases in the same way.

Three orders in a handful of weeks!

That’s when I started to become less enamored.

The plate resist arrived with scratches and other minor cosmetic defects. I asked customer service for a reprint. They obliged, but not until I proved the presence of the scratches which I always find annoying. The reorder arrived with more noticeable splotches of extraneous color. Both where several steps below the quality of the first test plate. I will probably use the scratched plate since it has the design I like. The kids won’t notice or care about the scratches, and I can edit the scratches out any photos I take. If it annoys me too much I’ll look into having it printed elsewhere.

My experience with the framed canvas print wasn’t much better. The frame cames without any kind of mechanism to hang it. No hooks, no wire of any kind. It wasn’t possible to just send the hooks, so Shutterfly is resent the print. The hook arrived in a plastic baggie staples to the frame. Plus side, I got to choose which frame I hung. Downside, both canvases had some pretty pronounced creases.

To their credit, Shutterfly really does try and fix things.

May 23, 2018

Operational Knowledge

I have been joking lately that I have experienced all of motherhood. Breastfeeding? Yep. Exclusively pumping? Yes. Formula? That too. Binkies and Thumb Suckers? Double yes. I also like to joke that my memory is a steal sieve. The realization there may be more truth behind that second joke, and that I may be forgetting more of the experiences than I realize, has started to get to me.

A few months ago my inbox started nearing capacity. As I was pruning some of the older messages I came across an email Conversation between Domingo and I, back in our apartment days. I was home with a sick toddler, while Domingo was at work, and told him how Nicole had figured out how to take her dolls’ clothes off and now all the dolls were naked. Not only do I not remember that incident *at all*, but I really couldn’t picture many sick days with Nicole the not quite two years we lived in Silicon Valley. I know they happened, but it’s hard to remember what they were like and how we passed the time.

Adding insult to injury, Domingo remembers all kinds of things I don’t. He remembers it taking hours to get baby Nicole to go to sleep, that sometimes she’d wake herself up a half hour in and he’d have to start the bed time routine all over again. I believe it, since it mirrors our experience with Dana, but my memories of rocking Nicole are more about her snuggled into the crook of my neck. I remember her as an excellent little sleeper.

I’ve come to the conclusion that for a lot of things I have mainly operational knowledge. I know how to do things, my memory is just a little foggy on how I came to learn how to do them.

As we enter new stages with Dana, or even new stages with Alexis, I often feel like I know what to do. I can recognize different rashes and know how to handle them, have a feel for how long we’ll last in each set of diapers. I have more strategies for soothing a crying child than I can count. It’s second nature. It’s like muscle memory. Too much like muscle memory. That’s the frustrating part.

While I may forget a lot, I tend to remember the details surrounding pictures. (That’s not the case for everyone, admittedly. I think the difference may have to do with how frequently I go back and look at old photos. All.the.time.) I also have old blog posts, and facebook status. Thinking back about our sleep experience with Nicole, I remember the post I wrote about needing to sleep train, which brought back some memories of rocky nights. Now I’m even more inclined to keep blogging, even though I don’t really have time for it.

May 12, 2018

Dana at Four Months

Dear Dana,

Shortly after you turned three months we moved you to the crib. I was reluctant, both sad you would no longer be beside me at night and worried we would disrupt your nighttime sleep, but we thought it might help with your napping and I wanted to get you used to the crib before the four month mark when most babies develop strong preferences about where and how they sleep. I’m happy to report you handled the change like a champ. You had an extra wake up the first night, but that was the extent of any descriptions, and you do seem to be napping better. I can usually get at least a half hour sleep cycle out of you in the crib, and lately it’s been even longer.

The other big change this month? You drink from a bottle now! You’ll drink between 3 and 4 ozes for Daddy. The trick was to switch nipples. I think you were frustrated with how much effort it took to get the milk came out of the bottle since you weren’t used to it yet. We tried a cheap freebie nipple that came with a package of ready made formula. Even though it was a “newborn” flow nipple the milk came out so fast you couldn’t help but gulp, and that triggered the sucking reflex. It was too fast for you, but once you realized the milk would come out of the bottle you were able to get the mechanics down. We switched you back to a nipple that was more your speed and you now you have no problem with the bottle. I’m happy to report you still prefer me.

This month you started really smiling. Really, really smiling. We could get smiles from you before, but they’re nothing compared to the ear to ear grin wide open mouth grins we now get from you now! And so easily! We could have called it a wrap at your monthly photo shoot with frame 1, it was seriously that good! No practice shots needed for you. I cannot wait to hear your first giggles. I have been giving you raspberries on your tummy and nibbling your neck, but so far you aren’t taking the bait. Maybe next month.

We got you to take the binky a few times this month, but not for very long. I mentioned it to your pediatrician who said at this point we’re unlikely to change you’re preferences. You may look so much like you’re sisters, but you’re determined to be wildly unique, aren’t you? You’re going to keep mommy on her toes, that’s for sure!

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy

May 9, 2018

Bye Bye Productivity

The lack of sleep is starting to get to me. Most nights are usually split into two rounds of two to three hours each. As a result I feel myself being more and more sluggish as a slog through my todo list. I need to retool my approach, especially now that Dana is awake more during the day. More awake during the day means both fewer product hours on my phone while rocking her, and fewer productive hours while she’s napping in the crib. I try and reserve those few precious night time hours for what passes as sleep in this house.

I have a bit of a packing problem when it comes to tasks. During the day I have only pockets of free time, five or ten minutes here or there. In order to more easily find tasks that fit the time available I created a label for five, fifteen, and thirty minute tasks with a catchall “unknown” when it’s hard to estimate. I’m still trying to keep tasks short, but some just don’t fit the short mold. Now I have a “Quick and easy” filter for short tasks with either an approaching due date or no due date so I can knock out more. I can also find tasks that fit the blocks of free time I have.

As an aside, I now know I have approximately 28.6 hours worth of non reoccurring tasks on my plate, not including all the “unknown time” tasks or all the reoccurring cleaning, household and business management I need to be doing on a regular basis. No wonder I feel so perpetually behind.

For me, keeping things approachable is key to keeping up with the task list. That’s why I focus so much on short, micro tasks. The tasks list itself needs to be approachable too. I found if a project had 30 or more tasks, my eyes start to glaze over as I scan through the list, and some tasks fall off my radar. I have seven projects (personal, household, business, photography, etc) and created a variety of sub projects. I now have a “Datayze” sub-project and a sub-sub-project for new features, as well as a sub-sub-project for bugs. Cleaning now has different sub projects for tasks specific to certain rooms (e.g. bathrooms). It may seem like organizational overkill, but it appears to be helping.

Not all tasks are created equal. Mess may stress me out, but cleaning is not a critical task. I can skip a round of dusting, or three. Clean bathrooms will not help my business grow, nor my kids grow. How important a task is depends partially on when it’s due, and what category it’s in. To help me find the critical tasks amount the less important, I made a filter based on project and due date. To help ensure my task list doesn’t remain gigantic forever, I made a filter for outstanding tasks that have been on my list for forever.

I suppose if I continue reduce my task list by choosing to do less. My blog has been really hurting lately. I used to write posts while rocking Dana, but now rocking time has become brain storming time for my business. Many posts sit half edited on my phone. I suppose of all the things I’m doing these days, journaling is the least important. I don’t have to go back and finish them. But I enjoy going back over old entries and reliving old memories (even the bad ones). It’s kind of like how I feel about Facebook. For now I’m going to try and keep up with it, even if that means back posting.

I know I can’t keep up this fevered pace forever. Nor would I want to. Things should start to get easier once we have more sleep in this house.

Now that The family is complete, and I’ve added Dana to my walls, many of these framed photos are photos I hope to never take down. The pictures are perfect. Now I want the frames to be perfect to match. My chief complaint? Reflections in the glass. Curse you California sun.

Glaze is the industry term for the clear substance (glass or acrylic) that sits between the artwork and the outside world.

The first thing I looked into was museum glass. I had done some customs framing at Michael’s and the Museam Glass did a good job at cutting down the reflections. Chief issues was that it’s heavy (not great in Earthquake country), an super expensive. The bulk + weight makes shipping impractical. I had a hard time finding places that would sell it to non custom framers or in small quantities. The places that would ship to me charged about $50 for a single 8×10.

I next came across water white anti reflective glass. Water white refers to the fact that it shouldn’t add any tint to the photos. Since I was framing artwork (the butter footprints) on white paper, that was very important to me. I found it did an excellent job of cutting down ambient light to the point were I could easily see the texture of the photos from a few feet away. Direct sunlight was a different story. It wasn’t as good with direct light as the Museum glass, and not as good as I would have liked, but better than the cheap glass that comes in the cheap frames. I went from not being able to see any of the photograph, to not seeing most of the photograph. An 8×10 ran about $20.

The third option was to skip glazing all together. It’s not a perfect solution as the photo paper itself is slightly reflective, but if you’re wall is going to be bathed in sunlight half the day, it may be the only thing that works. One drawback is your artwork isn’t protected from the elements. That’s less of an issue when your artwork can be replaced by your home printer, but something to keep in mind if it can’t. To go this third route you need to potentially consider how hard it is to replace a cheap picture frame.

I should detour and mention that most of my frames are cheap, costing anywhere from a couple bucks for the small sizes to $20 to the matted large frames. I do have a couple expensive frames (mostly gifts). The expensive frames have sawtooth hangers (a long piece of metal with serrated edge) for hanging on the wall and point tabs for keeping the frame and backing together. I worry those point tabs will eventually snap off with repeated picture changes, so I’d rather not change out those prints any more than I have to.

I went the no glazing route for my 3 favorite photos. They’re hung low, easy to reach, and the sawtooth hooks make them easy to take down and put back up. Should the originals fade over time without protection they will be easy enough to replace. For the kids footprints I opted for protective glazing. Anything that was too large to be printed at home, or the metal tab points made it difficult to replace also got glazing.

The final consideration was sizing. Most frames the glazing matches the advertised picture size. For frames that come with mats the mats typically corresponded with a common photo size. For example The matted 5×7 picture frame had a mat that was 11×14, and the glazing matched that size. I did have two frames (4×6 and 5×7) where that was not the case. The first was a quarter inch smaller in each direction, the second was a hair thinner but I managed to get the glass in with a bit of force. I only needed one custom frame size for that 4×6.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the old glass.

In April revenue dropped to $618.01, and there was a 1.8% growth in users. Less than expected, but not alarmingly so given that we’ll be heading into the summer months soon which tend to be a time of slow down. My Alexa rank continues to climb which could be an indication that my piece of the global audience pie is still growing.

Bit by bit I’ve been able to carve out more time for Sarahsoft.

Last month I lamented not having smoke tests. I ran into a problem a few years ago when my host updated the PHP server. A function I was depending on was deprecated. As a result, one of my apps began to fail silently. Two years ago I lost 2 days after an updating a dependency changed the way the apps displayed. I’ve learned to test often, even when not updating my code. Smoke tests can automated some of that, freeing up more time for development.

At present the primary thing I’m looking for in my smoke tests is development code that slipped into production, such as code that references individual source files rather than stable build files, or specify a build file other than the current one. Although it shouldn’t effect functionality, I’m looking for code with TODOs and debugging output in production. Such conditions could be a sign that I wasn’t ready to launch the new code, and did by mistake. Maybe I forgot a task wasn’t complete, or that I needed to finish an edge case for a feature.

I haven’t gotten any more warnings about memory issues which takes some of the time pressure off. My primary goal is still moving Datayze to it’s own user account, and it’s own VM. I probably should have done this after pushing all the pending changes from the winter so that I was only working on one thing at a time. I’ve needlessly complicated things a bit for myself. Ah well, live and learn.

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