Archive for February, 2015

February 27, 2015

Alexis at Three Months

Dear Alexis,

I have a bone to pick with February. It’s bad enough time is flying so fast and you’re a forth of your way through babydom, the month has the nerve to be so short.

baby

This month was all about grabbing, giggling, and goo-gooing.

You have most definitely found your voice, a necessary feet when a little sibling. You are still very mellow, but you know how to make yourself heard. I took you with me to visit my office and everyone marveled at how sweet and calm you were. They couldn’t get over you sleeping 10 hours at night. You just smiled away and cooed back at them. Speaking of cooing, you are becoming quiet the chatter bug. Not only do you vary your phonemes, but your tone and inflection as well.

You enjoy holding out fingers. You seek them out like little security blankets when your going to sleep or drinking from the bottle.

domingoshandmyhand
Holding Daddy’s fingers in January, and mine in February.

A few days ago mommy got our link toys and strung them over your bouncy seat. You’ve managed to pick them up several times. Mommy is super impressed, although will admit it’s an easier feet when your fingers get tangled between the rings while exploring them. Still, you’ve managed to bring them to your mouth a few times already.

alexisrings

This was a light photo taking month, not only because it was shorter, but also because we had a few distractions. A small health scare sent us back to the hospital for tests. Thankfully it turned out we (Mom, Dad and your pediatrician) were all just being overly cautious. While we were waiting for the all clear from your pediatrician I wasn’t in much of a photo taking mind set. If you’ll permit me, I will make up for it this month.

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

It may (or may not) come to a surprise to you that I didn’t know anything about the technical side of photography when I bought my first DSLR in 2009. How little did I know? Well, on July 4th, after just owning the camera for a few weeks, I took some photos of fireworks. When someone asked me what settings I used, I responded with:

I’m not really sure what settings I used, I’m still figuring out what all the buttons do. The shutter was all the way open, and I think “M” and “A” pretty high.

I’ll give you camera gear nerds a minute to pick yourself off the floor from laughing. (For the uninitiated: Aperture priority mode (“A”) overrides shutter speed, “M” is full manual mode and lets you change the shutter speed after you’ve set the aperture speed. Order matters! Also you can have the shutter speed be fast or slow, but you don’t set “manual” to high. Anyway, I digress…).

For the past six years now I’ve been mostly self taught figuring out what all the different settings do, and what all the little icons on my camera mean.

In 2012 shortly before the arrival of our first daughter I purchased a new lens. Shortly there after a new camera body. A few months later I started having problems. Occasionally when I’d go to take a photo nothing would happen. There’d be no whurr of the auto focus, no snap of the shutter. Just a little beep, indicating an error had occurred. It happened in good lighting and in bad, and seemed to be timed perfectly for when I was getting the best baby smiles. A moment or two later the camera would behave as expected. We had lots of theories – bad lens, faulty contacts – but the problem was too intermittent for me to test any hypothesis and I was too cheap to send in the camera for repairs without a good idea what was wrong. I also didn’t want to be without my camera or lenses for weeks.

After moving to Silicon Valley the frequency with which I’d encounter the shutter release issue increased and I became more intent on identifying the problem. I figured since the shutter wasn’t releasing, and there was a beep that was clearly digital and not mechanical – some component must be detecting the issue and trying to signal to me what it was. I just had to figure out where to find the error message. Alas, here’s where not knowing much about DSLRs (and not having bothered to read the manual) was hurting me. I had no idea what half of the icons on my menu view finder screen mean!

For the past weeks (months?) when ever the camera would beep and the shutter refused to release I’d quickly scan every screen I could. I was looking for anything that would appear whenever there was an issue, and not otherwise. It took me a while to notice the little bottom right hand corner had an “[ r# ]” at the bottom, and that the number was typically low when the shutter wouldn’t release. Then I realized that number was always zero.

A quick internet search later (because who keeps around paper manuals these days?) I had my answer. I was looking at the internal buffer indicator. The number was the Number of shots remaining before memory buffer fills. I was taking photos at a faster rate than could be written to my memory card. Momtographer likes to take a lot of photos, apparently.

That’s when it dawned on me. Way back in 2009 when I purchased my first DSLR a photographer friend advised me to get a fast memory card. I did, and I haven’t updated since. When I upgraded my camera in 2012, I went from 10 mega pixels to 16 mega pixels. Once Nicki started smiling I learned burst mode is the best mode for the greatest chance of capturing optimal baby smiles. When she started running, I never took my finger off the shutter button. It wasn’t a progressive problem after all, just reflective of a change in the equipment and the way I used it.

Through empirical study I’ve determine it takes ~10 seconds for a photo to be written to the old memory card, and only ~1 second to be written to a new, much faster one. For the last three years I’ve been having problems stemming from not having a fast enough memory card. When I think of all those missed opportunities where the shutter wouldn’t release, I could kick myself.

I always joke with friends that I’m going to make my fortune by winning the lottery someday. I’ve yet to actually purchase a ticket because I can’t get the meme that only people bad at math play the lottery. It’s rather unfortunate meme because I don’t actually think anyone is bad at math, just lacking in practice, confidence and/or good teaching. Besides, as much as us number crunchers like to put down the lottery, there is a sound economical case for playing with it.

Let’s get one thing off the bat. Clearly using the lottery as an investment strategy is a terrible idea. No one should ever play the lottery with money they can’t afford to lose. But there are other reasons to play the lottery other than to get rich quick – namely to have fun!

In economic terms, a lottery ticket is a consumption good, meaning it is used (consumed) once, as opposed to durable goods such as cars which are usable over a long period of time. A lottery ticket lets you play one lottery. A movie ticket would be a similar consumable good because it lets you into the theater exactly once. So in economic terms, a lottery ticket is a better buy than a movie ticket if it provides more utility per price.

Let’s assume we can quantize fun. It’s not a completely unreasonable assumption. A trip to the beach is certainty more fun than a root canal.

Let’s say that going to the Movies cost $10 (we don’t get out much now that we’re parents, can you tell?) and gives you 10 units of total fun. We consider total units of fun, those aquired before the event, during and after. Maybe 8 of those units are from watching the movie itself, one comes from the joy of looking forward to the movies, and another from repeating favorite lines with friends in the following days. In contrast, a lottery ticket may only cost $2. The fun units come before the lottery drawing, while you imagine you’re self a millionaire, and during the drawing when you eagerly scan your ticket for those winning numbers. There likely won’t be any additional fun units after the drawing. If you get more than 2 units of fun from a lottery ticket, the per fun unit price is lower than then movie ticket. Even if the movie ticket gives you more total fun units, the lottery ticket may be the better value.

There’s a diminishing rate of return on fun units, however. You probably don’t get twice the enjoyment out of two lottery tickets for the same drawing than you would with one. Similarly, you may enjoy the same movie as much seeing it the second time. Which is the better deal for you will depend on what you enjoy doing more.

February 17, 2015

In the Box Thinking

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paintwarrier
I love this photo. It reminds me of something out of national geographic. In concept at least.

Meeting the needs of an active, rambunctious toddler and young baby simultaneously is still proving to be a bit challenging for me, especially when confined to our apartment. There aren’t that many activities that are both mentally stimulating and relatively quiet that hold Nicole’s interest for long. Then there’s the mess factor. I’d really like to avoid losing any of my deposit, but with my arms full, I can’t always get to the mess right away.

A recent discovery I made is that underpads do a great job at protecting the carpet from paint to play doh. I’d even surmise they work better than laying out junk mail, as junk mail is so thin and light it’s easily disturbed leaving exposed carpet. I swear exposed carpet is a finger paint magnet. I recently purchased these disposable underpads for newborn photography and they work great for art time as well. Incidentally, the number one complaint about the underpads I linked to, that they’re super thin, makes them ideal for newborn photography. They’re so thin they don’t create any bulges in the fabric, unlike the previous brand I used. Since newborn bladders are so tiny, they’re still plenty absorbent. If your cheap like me, you can also reuse them for multiple art projects.

But underpads still aren’t fool proof. Play doh can roll off of them, getting stuck in the fibers of the carpet. Crayons and chalk have a tendency to roll too, although they are less prone to mess.

Last week we had a subscribe and save Amazon delivery. We have quite a few subscriptions, so the deliveries tend to be brought in giant boxes. Nicole is always climbing on them, and in them. It just now occurred to us that large cardboard boxes are excellent creative mess containers. I put her in the box with a set of crayons, markers, and anything else I’d rather keep out of the carpet and let her decorate to her hearts content.

The above photo was from her first time with finger paints in the box. It didn’t take long for her to realize that she was in the box, and thus a member of the class of paintable objects. She seemed surprised I didn’t object to her painting her legs purple (which says something about how much of a control freak I’ve been over messes so far.) At the moment the photo was snapped, it was just occurring to her that she could intentionally paint her face as well. I adore her expression.

February 14, 2015

My All

roses

I have a lot to be thankful for in my life, and having a wonderful spouse would be one of the top ones. We’re approaching our five year anniversary, and as cheesy as it sounds, every day I love him more and more.

He loves me for me, even my idiosyncrasies and internal inconsistencies. He cherishes my weird personality quarks. Every year on valentines day he buys me a small arrangement of flowers because he knows that even though I say I don’t like flower arrangements, I only mean it most of the time. He managed to make me laugh as the anesthesiologist was placing the epidural. He stayed up all night just to sit by my side and offer moral support when an unrealistic deadline set by my supervisor meant I wouldn’t be going to bed any time soon.

A while back, I read an article on love languages. I feel the most loved through actions (acts of service), especially when someone does something counter to their normal behavior. Quality time and words of affirmation are tied for second. Gifts are dead last. A token jester is nice, and extravagant gift is actually annoying. The year we got engaged, I told Domingo I didn’t want much for valentines day, and gave him a strict spending cap of $10. Later he told me how awkward he felt standing in line with the single flower and Hershey’s bar, compared to the other guys with giant bouquets and fancy chocolates I don’t like. Every other time he’s stood in that line he’s been one of those other guys. He listened to me, what I wanted, and didn’t let any feelings of awkwardness influence him otherwise.

He cooks, he cleans, he helps out with the kids, and he occasionally brings home a Hershey’s chocolate bar, just because. I’m so grateful that someone so wonderful fell in love with me. I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else.

February 9, 2015

Head Start on Hallmarking

The Hallmark ornament season seems to get earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it? This time around I blame insomnia after a middle of the night child waking. While I was up at 4 am last night I noticed the keepsake ornament club offer is available, which got me curious as to what new ornaments have already been revealed for this year.

I’m not too terribly excited about this year.

Between Digital Dreambook and Hooked on Hallmark, I’ve already seen most of the ornaments I’m interested. This year they’re all just ‘ok’, none I hate, none I love. I might get Cookie Cutter Christmas in an after Christmas sale. I’ll probably skip Snowball and Tuxedo this year (a tree on a tree is a bit too meta for me, unless it’s an ice tree.) Seaons’s treatings will either be another after Christmas sale purchase, or skipped all together depending on how it looks in person. Of the series I tend to collect, that just leaves the miniature gumdrop ornament. Could this be the year I buy one ornament? Or None?

I will also be skipping the membership this year. I didn’t like any of the three ornaments you pay for with your membership dues. I do like Cozy on Ice. Mrs Claus’ Kitchen is ok, although I prefer Mrs Claus’ Cupboard, which way in excessive of anything I’m willing to pay. Both the ice skate and the sink they’re extras available only to members, meaning I’d have to pay for them on top of the membership. Too rich for my blood.

In terms of new series, I’m intrigued by Mary’s Bears. The bear ice skating is totally cute. The fact that it’s not dated is another big plus, as it means I can collect only the bears I want, and it won’t be obvious that I’m missing some. (This was the stratagy I used for Visit From Santa Series. Loved the Bear, Doe and Squirrel, but the Fox and Dove ornaments were lacking in the details department.)

Since I wasn’t seeing much that I liked, I decided to splurge on the One Sweet Gingerbread repaint. I love the gumdrops, and wanted to have a white gumdrop as well. I’ve also been price watching Baby’s First Christmas 2014, so I can have a spare.

Domingo and I are considering getting two trees this year (assuming we move into a big enough house as planned.) I’ve always found trees with colored lights warm and friendly, but there’s something so elegant about trees with classic white twinkle lights. We’re thinking of having our usual tree with the colored lights and fun ornaments by the fireplace, and a smaller/thinner tree with just white ornaments and lights as decoration piece in the dinning room.

I do so love Christmas time.

February 5, 2015

Nicolies

Nicole’s nickname at daycare is ‘Nicolie’, so I think of ‘Nicolies’ as the things she says or does.

I’ve been making an effort to blog less about Nicole these days in order to protect her privacy, but an article in The Atlantic reminded me why I started in the first place: so I will always be able to look back and remember. In that vein I thought I’d share some cute, but rather benign stories I hope I never forget.

Mommy I’m drawing!

While I was driving her home from daycare a few weeks ago she exclaimed happily from the back seat “Mommy, I’m drawing!” I responded with a casual “that’s nice, sweetie” without a glance. I knew those were dangerous words to ignore, but it’s not like we have any writing instruments back there and I needed to concentrate on driving.

A little while later Nicole starts screaming something that sounds like “My Sock! My Sock!” She went through a phase of taking her socks and shoes off in the car, so I’m thinking she took them off again and accidentally dropped her sock. I tell her I will put her shoes and socks back on when we get home, but she starts crying harder “Sock! Sock! Sock!”

When we get to a red light I turn around and notice both her shoes are still on. That’s wierd. I glance up and my car door is covered in green CHALK. I did not even notice she had taken it from daycare.

chalk
Chalk. It’s toddler war paint, basically

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson about checking the contents of her hands before leaving school, but that would be a big ‘Nope’. A few days latter the green chalk was joined by it’s yellow brethren.

cardoor
Nicole’s artwork, a few weeks (and smudges) later
Wipers

Nothing says you’ve been in a drought too long than your two year old being fascinated by light rain, other than perhaps same said two year old being terrified of windshield wipers. We made this discovery last November during a rare day of rain. From then on every time it rains I warn Nicole that I have to turn on the wipers. She’d usually protest so one day I asked her if she could be brave.

“Yes, mommy.”
I’m going to count to three and turn the wipers on, ok? One… Two… THREE!
“Do again.”
One… Two… THREE!
“Do again, mommy!”

This continued throughout our entire drive. I kept remarking how brave she was and she kept asking for more wipers without so much as a whimper. We arrive at daycare, I stop the car, look back and see…

eyescovered
Nicole covering her eyes so she doesn’t have to see the wipers (after we parked the car, obviously. Momtographer may be obsessive, but not stupid!)

Hands covering the face the whole time. Since then she has also used Fuzzy Bunny (her toy for the car) to shield her eyes. My silly California girl prefers her sunshine.

Baby Necklace

Of course my favorite Nicolies right now is how she refers to her sister as “Baby Necklace.” Nicole adores her little sister… most of the time. She insists “Baby Necklace comes too” and that she’ll help change her diaper or feed her her bottle.

February 2, 2015

Capturing Sisterly Love

I’ve gotten so much better with my camera, and photographing Nicole, that I didn’t really give much thought to how much more difficult it would be to photograph the girls together. I thought I’d be able to hammer out a few good photos in time for our Christmas card. In retrospect, the difficulty should have been obvious.

When I’m photographic Nicole I can easily take ten frames to get that one good frame. That’s why I always shot on burst mode – better odds that I’ll hit that perfect hundredth of second moment. Some frames her eyes may be closed, the framing is off, the exposure is wrong, etc. And she’s mostly a cooperator! If we treat the photographing the two girls as independent events (a not unreasonable assumption when they’re both in a good mood, terribly inaccurate if one of them is upset for whatever reason), then it’d be 1 in 100 frames to get a good shot of both of them simultaneously. Mathematically the probability of getting a good shot of one kid (1/10) times the probability of getting a good shot of the other (1/10).

We can extrapolate out for n kids getting the function: probability_of_good_shots = photographer_hit_ratenumber_of_kids. Thus the number of frames needed when photographic n kids to get one good frame as a function of n can be plotted as follows:

number of frames needed
f(n) = 10n

In other words, it gets exponentially harder with each additional kid.

concerned
Hmm. Alexis looks mighty concerned.

My hit rate is less than 1%, so I might be underestimating the difficulty. Or overestimating my skill.

going in for a kiss
My best one so far. I just wish I had panned a little more to the right and the lighting was a little better on Alexis’ face.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Swaddle the Baby. It helps keep the baby calm and, as an added bonus, helps the baby appear more newborn like. That’s very handy when it may take you multiple tries to get those 10^n frames! Alas, Alexis is now a champion swaddle buster.
  • Have an Assistant. Not only are you going to want a safety spotter (depending on the age and activity level of your toddler, a total must!) but getting the girls ready in unison helped maximize our in-front-of-the-camera-time. Daddy swaddles while mommy assembles the camera.
  • Bribes. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out! I’ve found that my energetic, rambunctious toddler exhibits a little more self control when a piece of candy or new toy is on the line. When photographic near a baby, that’s a trade off I’m willing to make.
  • Patience, Patience, Patience. I feel like a amateur photographer again, which can be frustrating. Nicole is pretty perceptive. If I let my frustrations get the best of me she’ll pick up on it and will instantly be done with photo time. It’s better to keep it fun, and hope I get lucky.
  • and Learn to Love the Outtakes. Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m a recovering perfectionist…