Archive for October, 2015

Happy Halloween from my monsters to yours!


My little monster love, love, loved her last year’s purple monster. She got a ton of extended us out of it with pretend play, so it was fresh in her mind when we started looking at costumes this year. When she saw the green monster she was hooked.


I wasn’t going to get Alexis a second costume this year, as she’s too young to go trick or treating. Then I was in Walmart and found an adorable baby monster costume and couldn’t resist the photo op.


I was afraid she’d hate the headpiece, but she didn’t seem to mind it much at all.

Material Cost
Nicole’s Costume – $16.15, or $0 depending on how you think about it. It’s her Trick or treat costume. (Amazon)
Alexis’ Costume – $15.97 (Walmart)
Total Cost – $32.12

October 29, 2015

Alexis at 11 Months

Dear Alexis,

Pretty much as soon as I hit “post” on your last month letter you completely lost interest in crawling. Standing and walking was where it was at. You wanted to stand all.the.time. It didn’t matter that your little legs weren’t quite strong enough, you wanted to be vertical and you wanted to be moving.


That weekend we got your first pair of shoes. We were sure you would need a bigger size than your sister. We were sure you had gotten Mommy & Daddy’s latent tall genes. Your feet seemed so long at birth. I used to put them in the palm of my hand, heal to edge. Your toes would dangle off the other side. I remember Nicki’s weren’t quite as long to reach the other edge. You were in the 60th percentile for height, a full 20 percentiles above your sister. You’re first shoe size? Another petite two. And just like for your sister, they seem too big!


You weren’t quite sure what to think of your shoes the first time. You’d tug and kick and get one off as soon as I’d get the other on. But once you understood what the shoes were for, you were hooked. The second time I got out your shoes you did your happy baby dance and couldn’t wait to go outside. You will be walking on your own soon, I’m sure.

But then, just as suddenly as you fell out of love with crawling, you began to pick it up again. This week you are all over the place. You love a good game of chase, both as the chasee and the chaser. I can tell we’re going to have a hard time keeping up with you!


Daddy and I have not been very good at teaching you signs. Instead, you’ve been making up your own and teaching them to us! You use the pincher grasp and tap your fingers on your trey went you want finger foods (and it is most definitely the finger foods you want!) You remove your bib to signal your done.

Daddy and I like to joke that you are our little carnivore. In reality your an omnivore. It’s rare to find a food you won’t eat these days. We also started giving you a sippy cup. Until now you’ve been thinking of them as toys, now they’re toys with yummy drinks inside. Because you’ve been playing with them for so long already, you’re pretty good at handling them. I suspect we won’t have much issues weaning you from your bottles. You seem so ready to leave the last remnants of babyhood behind you. If only mommy was ready!

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

October 27, 2015

Two Costume Family

It turns out that we are a two costume family, and not because we have two children. Each child apparently gets two costumes.

Alexis as Mini Mouse (her daycare costume)

It all started two years ago when Nicki was super girl. Her not-costume, costume was a big hit and school. Since it was basically just a dress, it was convenient for diaper changes. It also lacked some of the bulk of traditional toddler costumes, making it easy to play in without getting uncomfortably hot. Her teachers loved the practically of it. I loved that my child was happy all day.

The following year, Nicki was a monster. The week before her class’s costume party I began to fret about her losing the fur cuffs at school, or ripping the tulle skirt. I loved her monster costume, but it just didn’t seem practical for a day of playing at school. I thought back to the previous year, and how much her teachers appreciated the non-costume costume. We opted to save the monster costume and got her a pair of cat ears and tail to pair with a black shirt and pants for the party instead.

The costume that’s comfortable for all day play is not necessarily the costume that’s comfortable when trick or treating at night. I’ve come to accept that fact, and that we are a two costume family.

Still, the thought of being one of those parents who spends $100 on costumes gives my inner cheap skate heart palpitations. I’m on the hunt for good, cheap costumes which can double for pretend play after Halloween. I want to get the most bang for my buck.

So far most of my daycare costume finds have come from the kid’s clothing section at Target. That’s where I got Alexis’ mini mouse dress, and Nicole’s super girl dress (Not quite the same one, but very similar.) They hold up well enough that Alexis was able to re-wear the super girl dress for Super Hero Day at school. Target seems to always have those not-quite-costume clothes, especially the super hero and frozen variety. I’ve also seen some at Babies R Us, but we don’t have one close by so I don’t shop there as often.

I’m also a huge fan of the costume accessories. The cat ears and tail cost under $5. (We got a similar bunny set for pretend play which can double as a daycare costume if we need it.) Add a $1 mask and now she’s a cat burger. Or pair the mask with a tutu and cape (already owned) and now she’s a crime fighter. Every year we check out the accessories to see if there’s anything good for pretend play.

The other place I like to shop is online. Once Nicole picked out her costume, I used the reverse image search on the stock photo. Most retailers use the same the stock photo created by the manufacture. By doing a reverse image search on the stock photo I can find all the websites where the photo is shown, i.e. all the retailers selling the same item. From there it’s a simple process to find the one with the best price.

This year I spent $33.12 in total on Nicole’s costumes, and $34.97 on Alexis’. That’s only $5-7 up from the $27.85 average, and each girl get’s two! I’ll take that!

Material costs for the above photo
Mini Mouse Dress – $18 (Target)
Bow – $1 (Walmart)
Backdrop – $12 (JoAnns – not purchased for this photo session, but I thought I should include it anyway)
Total cost – $31

October 24, 2015

Small Fixes

Last Saturday I small made a change to my webapps, one that resulted in a 164% increase in revenue, one that puts me at 95 cents a day. The difference? Slightly different ad placements. I used to place ads at the bottom of the page, below tool descriptions near the terms of service. Now they’re right below the tools. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked data analysis and human computer interaction. Sometimes the smallest differences can have profound affects.

We’ve been in a bit of a rough patch sleep wise this week, and my creative juices have been a bit zapped. Rather than working on new apps I spent some time cleaning up my code base. I’m a fan of rapid prototyping, but sometimes rapid prototyping leads to sloppy prototyping. I moved common code to a few custom libraries, which should make it faster to stand up new apps (when the creativity returns.) I’m not one to let ugly code stand in the way of progress, but I sure do prefer pretty code.

One of the decisions I’m struggling with is what to do with the two versions of the labor probability calculator.

Logically I should pitch the new version. The new version has been live for a very long time. (A couple years maybe? I can’t remember, I blame mom brain). When the new version launched, the old version was accessible only via a parameterized link. Meaning if one bookmarked the calculator before the calculator before the new version launched, they would still see the new version by default. One would have to actively select the old version. So it’s pretty significant that today 60% of the web traffic is for the old version. My user base is preferring the old version, and I’m not sure why. The old version is also x8 more profitable than the new version for the silly reason that it involves page refreshes. If it’s more popular and more profitable, it should be the default version, right?

My users may prefer the old version, but I like the new. Fundamentally, they’re identical; they both calculate the same odds, and have the same default dates. The only difference is the graph in the new version – something that very much appeals to my inner math geek. I think I’m going to take the anti-data drive approach and leave the two versions as is. At least until I can figure out what it is about the old version that makes it so much more attractive. Please don’t be the lack of a graph.

October 16, 2015

October? How?!

It suddenly dawned on me that it’s October. And not just October, but well, well into October. The period leading into the holidays is my most busy period, and the revelation that it’s already fall lead to a bit of a manic Must Get All The Things Done period this past week. Here’s what I’m working on:

3D printed New Home Ornament

Back at the start of September I downloaded SketchUp since the online reviews were pretty good, and it was my favorite price tag – free. It took about a month of playing with 3D design software before I began to get the hang out of it. I’d open up the tool, much around for an hour making no progress and still completely confuddled by the 3d environment. It wasn’t until October that things started clicking. I now have a prototype of the 3D new home ornament. I’ve even uploaded the design to shapeways to verify the design file works. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the design looks to be a bit more delicate to be printed well in colored sand stone. The service will print it, but I’m dubious as to how it will turn out, though at the under $7 price point I wouldn’t be out much to try. (I expect my model to cost closer to $10 when finished). Shapeways is experimenting with colored plastic, which would cost me closer to $13 (guessing $16-18 when finished). At that price point I don’t really want to spend too much time iterating. Not that I have that much time to iterate. This project may not be completed the way I want it to be before the holidays.

At least the design can keep, and technology has a tendency to improve dramatically over even short time intervals.

Hand Print Craft Project

Remember the hand print I took of Alexis last December? It was for a Christmas craft project. I initially planned to finish the craft project last Christmas, but had forgotten how quickly those first few days go by. I’m hoping to finish it before this Christmas.

Holiday Card

I had only the vaguest ideas of the design I wanted before today. After a little google searching to get the creative juices flowing, I settled on a mostly geometric (and thus easy for me to do!) design for this years card and did a quick mock up. I’m quite pleased with the design.

I opted to go for a single photo layout. I’m hoping to get a good family photo by Thanksgiving, but that’s been a bit of a challenge in it’s own right. Which leads me to…

Family Portrait

I still haven’t replaced the canvas print above the mantel. It bugs me that the big family photo is missing one of our family members. It takes a couple of weeks to print a canvas print, and depending on where we have our photos taken, a couple weeks to get the digital negatives. I’ll probably book a session for early November, October is super busy because…

Halloween Preparations

This will be Nicole’s first year trick or treating, so we’re doing the whole shebang: pumpkin patches, pumpkin carvings, Halloween costumes, etc.

October 11, 2015

Another Round of Nicolies

It’s been a while since our last round of Nicoles I thought I’d share some more of my favorite things my favorite big girl does.

Mingo Clone

We started working on family names a few months ago. “What’s Daddy’s name? What’s Daddy’s last name?” Truth be told she caught on really quickly, but I continued to ask because I loved the way she pronouced it. For a while Domingo was “Mingo Clone”. Lately he’s “Ah-mingo Ca-lon.” Getting closer! She’s got her sister’s name perfected, sadly for me and my love of “baby necklace.” She generally refers to her little sister as “baby”, sometimes “Lexus”, but can say “Alexis” more often than not. Alas, I have never gotten a cool nickname from her.

Sticker Doctors, Owie Doctors, and Mommy Doctors

At some point down the line we started differentiating between little owies, and big owies. Big owies need doctors. We’ll warn Nicole not to jump on the couch, because she’ll get a big owie and need to go to the doctor. Around her third birthday it occurred to us that she was getting the impression the doctor’s office was somewhere she didn’t want to go. Oops. So we differentiated the sticker doctor, the one that gives you a sticker at a check up, and the owie doctor, the one you go to when you get an owie.

She loves playing doctor so one time I mentioned I was a doctor. She found it fasinating. So now when we ask her what’s mommy’s name she says “doctor” and sometimes “doctor Tyler.” I swear I’m not as title obsessed as she makes me sound!


I am sure I am jinxing this by admitting it, but here it goes anyway. Nicole loves to hold up her fingers to count, and she always defaults to 3 fingers, no matter what the context. I will tell her she needs to eat one more bite of vegetables and she corrects me: three!

Back before Alexis was born I had a fear that if I wasn’t careful the girls might think I had a favorite. I wasn’t afraid of loving them differently, just the appearance of it, and the possible ramifications on the girls’ confidence levels. That fear wasn’t helped by over hearing a conversation where two women were speculating on third’s possible favorites. Their go-to indicator to use: the number and type of photos of each child shared on social media. Apparently it’s not enough to judge moms based on how much their posting about their children in general, now we’re critiquing the rates she publishes about each child in comparison to the other. As much as I try not to get sucked into this kind of mommy wars pettiness it was a moment that’s kind of stuck with me. I have an Instagram account, a Facebook account and a blog. What if my posting became unbalanced on one of those platforms? Would the girls think I had a favorite the way these women thought other parents had favorites?

When Alexis was first born I took great pains to keep the number of photos between the two girls that I posted roughly even. You know, as could be drawn from a statistical random sample with zero bias. Totally normal, rational stuff.

After making the mistake of taking too few DSLR photos and too many iPhone photos of Nicole in her first year, I overcompensated. My DSLR was never far from reach, and it was the first device that I reached for. It wasn’t long before I had only handful of iphone photos of Alexis. Chasing after Nicole, on the other hand, necessitated using the iphone more than the big clunky DSLR. Given that I prefer to post my DSLR photos on facebook, and my iphone photos on Instagram, I soon found myself in a constant state of unbalance on both accounts. I found myself stalking Alexis with my iphone, hoping to take a cute photo so I could share the one of Nicole from a few days ago and vice versa.

That’s nuts. So nuts that even I see it. Extra especially nuts when you consider that the two kids have different personalities and different amounts of love for the camera. If I was happy with DSLR photos of Alexis capturing her newness, and iPhone photos of Nicole of her boundless energy, why wasn’t that enough?

As Alexis grew the personality differences between Nicole and her became even more apparent.

Nicole loves having her photo taken just as much now just as much as she loved it then at that age. She looks forward to photo day at school. Her school has a couple of different photographers come throughout the year. Nicole’s favorite is the one who does the vintage style photos, complete with movie star chair, sunglasses and boa. She always asks to see the photo of herself on my phone, and has Favorited her favorites. (I have no idea where this self confidence and love for the center of attention came from, but I love it!) Alexis? Not so much. On their last school photo day the photographer opted not to do sibling photos of the girls together because Alexis was protesting too much. Nicole was pretty upset when he made that call, and even cried a little herself. She wasn’t content with just photos of herself, she wanted some with baby sister too!

Alexis tolerates the camera better when I’m the person on the other side of it. She doesn’t mind a quick game of peak a boo with the camera. I’ve learned how to get a smile out of her by turning it into a game. Yet even with me she’s less inclined to enjoy getting dressed up or playing with props. I get short bursts of smiles and then she’s ready to move on to the next activity.

So I’m making a promise to myself, not to try and pretend both girls are exactly the same and not to worry that they aren’t. I love them for who they are, and shouldn’t try and jam them into the same mold. Let Nicole dominate my Instagram and Alexis my facebook. I will stop worrying about how that looks to others.

October 2, 2015

Focusing on the Formalities

It was bound to happen eventually. I’ve been picking up my camera so often that I felt my interest began to wane a little. I was beginning to feel like I was taking the same photos over, and over, and over again. I love the photo journalistic style, but after awhile of filming the same sets of subjects, in the same settings, it starts to feel very repetitive. I needed a new challenge.

Alexis in the spotlight, only this time achieved with an open window and not a desk lamp.

As luck would have it, I’m also shy of formal photos of Alexis. Turns out when you no longer have the two to one parent photographer to child subject ratio, the two man strategy of baby photography doesn’t work so well. It’s much easier to take photos of Alexis doing normal baby things (crawling, playing, cruising) than to worry about any kind of posing.

Challenge accepted.

I ended up using nap time to gather backdrops & props. I like to set Alexis down on the crib mattress instead of the rug directly, as the mattress helps keep the backdrop smoother than the rug does. There is a potential rolling hazard, so I mostly like to keep Alexis in a sitting position for formal photos. If she drops to her belly, I drop the camera. Once on my foot. Apparently that’s hilarious if you haven’t reached your first birthday yet.

The trade-off in pursuing formal photos is there’s less time for the photo journalistic slice of life photos I tend to take. That’s less photos to choose from for her baby book, and milestone posts. I think I am okay with that as long as ‘less’ doesn’t translate to ‘none’, and I capture the emerging skills like crawling and walking. I know I’m very happy with the above photo.