Archive for October, 2017

October 28, 2017

School Costumes

This year Nicole’s second costume for school is a Scientist, “like Mommy.” One morning, as I was driving Nicole to School, we were discussing what she wants to be when she grows up. One of the options we discussed was scientist. I told her mommy was a scientist and she got really excited about being a scientist, just like like mommy. We had already settled on the girls being astronauts for Trick or Treating, so I told her most Astronauts are also scientists, and asked her if she wanted to be a scientist/astronaut for Halloween. My proposal was met with a resounding yes.

I love how non-conventional my little girl is!

I also fear that she will regret her decision once she sees the other girls in their Disney princess costumes, so we decided pretty early on that she wasn’t going to be a stereotypical scientist with tapped glasses. Scientists come in all shapes and sizes, after all. She’s going to wear her favorite dress under her lab coat, because why not? My two favorite details of her costume are her badge, and her astronaut necklace. The badge has her picture from her first day in kindergarten, title and the official NASA logo. She is an astronaut/scientist after all! The necklace is a special surprise I’m going to give her the day of her school party.

I had dubbed Alexis’ school costume “color explosion.” I was going to put her in a her rainbow fairy skirt and give her a rainbow lei garland. I thought she’d love all the colors. Unfortunately they had a dress up day earlier this week, and while my not quite three year old was initially content in her costume, she got upset when she saw all the other Elsa, Moana, and super heroes. Oh Irony, that’s what I was worried about with Nicole!

So Alexis is going to her school party in Nicole’s old Wonder woman costume from last year. Crises resolved.

Most of our second costumes came from the dress up corner. The safety glasses were an additional $3.59 for a pack of six, and the necklace was $3.39. I did purchase a Moana costume for Alexis when she was sad, but the only one I could find was a 4-6x. Technically she sometimes wears 4, but that size was too big in the astronaut. I was worried we’d risk another round of disappointment when the costume she coveted didn’t fit. When the Wonder Woman costume sufficed I decided to keep the Moana costume for the dress up corner. We should get a lot of good use out of it for a few more years still.

I think this may be the last year I will be able to convince my two kids to do joint costumes. Nicole’s love of all things astronaut did not transfer to Alexis. We went through quite a few negotiations to get her into her orange jumpsuit for our costume dry run. She’s actually wearing her favorite dress underneath. Hey, whatever works!

Other than getting the kids suited up, our costume dry run went well. Both girls had a lot of fun posing as astronauts, gazing into the distance and pointing up at the pretend stars. We did a little mock trick or treating as well, since I’m not planning on bringing my camera for the day. Any photo shoot that ends with candy is a win in their book.

I have the most ridiculously bad luck when ordering Halloween costumes online. I had an issue with Nicole’s Wonder Woman costume last year. The first costume came ripped, and even though it was still early October the store couldn’t guarantee a replacement in time. In fact, the replacement wasn’t guaranteed to arrive until November 28th! This year I decided to order in late September to be safe, and it’s a good thing I did as I ended up making four separate purchases!

The plan since August has been for Nicole to be a white astronaut and Alexis to be an orange astronaut.

The first problem was I wasn’t sure of the girls’ sizes. Alexis was sometimes in a 3T and sometimes in a 4T, Nicole was pretty solidly in the 5-6 range. the costume comes in 4-6x and 2-3T. I was sure Alexis would be a solid 4T by Halloween, but there’s a six inch height difference between the kids! I couldn’t believe they’d be in the same size costume with such a large height difference. Since the 4-6x would definitely fit at least one of my kids and the orange version was on sale, I ordered it.

It was big, but not ridiculously big on Alexis. It fit Nicole well, but Nicole’s heart was set on the white astronaut. So I ordered the 4-6x in white, and the 2-3T in orange. The 2-3T in orange fit Alexis just right. Perhaps it was a hair small, but the kind of thing that would only be noticeable to mom. I didn’t want to return the 4-6x, just in case Alexis hit a growth spurt between early September and now. It still has the tag, but we’re outside the return window. I haven’t decided whether it’ll go to the dress up corner, or I’ll donate it.

The white astronaut costume was a disaster. The company sent an Adult small instead of a child’s 4-6x. It was a different, much cheaper brand which didn’t have the accessories. The benefit of having ordered the first 4-6x in orange, I guess, was that it was immediately apparent to me that the mistake was on the costume company, and not mine. Everything other than the color was supposed to be exactly the same. I didn’t hesitate to return that one. At least it was still early enough to order from someone else.

Oh well, at least the kids look great and what’s one extra costume at the end of the day?

I have been slow to put up Halloween decorations this year. At first I blamed the wild life, as it was ripping up our lawn and wreaking havoc in our flower beds. Why risk the Halloween decorations being knocked over and damaged, I told myself. But as the weeks progressed I realized I’m just not that happy with our current set of Halloween decorations.

Most of our outdoor decorations just don’t work for our current home. There’s the “Welcome” orange street lamp that worked well on our town home front stoop, what with the non-existent front yard. At our home, it all but disappears from view on our porch. After nine years years the finish is coming off, it’s starting to rust, and it’s barely up right. There are the skulls and scattered bones that look cool, but you can only see them up close. Lastly there’s the posable spider which ended up being a huge mistake as it sheds like crazy and is hard to find a good spot for it.

We’ve been in our home now for two years, and plan to stay throughout the kids’ high school years. I thought it was time to do away with the decorations that just aren’t cutting it. Alexis has been a little fearful of some of the more animated and scary decorations, so I wanted something friendly and approachable while still being appropriate for the season.

My first concern was to light the walkway. I wanted to use luminaries, but rather than use traditional paper bag luminaries with LED tealights, I decided to go with candles. I found these. Ironically the reviewers chief complaint (that they’re too orange) made them ideal for me. It ended up being a bit pricey for luminaries ($24 for the candle holders, $10 for the tea lights), but they should last for years.

In the corner on the other side of our walk way I plan to put a non-animatronic stone statue and a lit pumpkin. I envision something made out of grapevine with twinkle lights. This would be perfect, if it was weather resistent. Alas, a carved pumpkin doesn’t work too well here. Last year our jack-o-lantern liquefied in 36 hours thanks to the intense UV rays.

I have my eye on a statue that will work, and am just waiting for the right sale. (I’ve waited this long, might as well wait a few more days.) The grapevine pumpkin is proving to be a bit more difficult. It seems to be a popular in door only decoration. Still, I’m nothing if not persistent. And frugal. Most of the time.

October 17, 2017

Unicorn Sandwhich

Yesterday when picking Alexis up from daycare she immediately wanted to be held, burring her head into the crook of my neck. I felt the warmth radiating from her and just knew she had a fever. The thermometer at home confirmed: 102.4. She would be staying home today, even though her temperature was back down. Daycare rules.

What ever was brewing last night seems to have blown over. She slept reasonably well, all things considered and her fever is gone. She’s energetic, and her usual happy self. The only indication that she may not be feeling well was a reduced appetite. She eat only a few bites of her morning cereal when she can normally eat a bowl and a half. A few hours later she was asking for gold fish like a champ.

Since my little tropper seemed to be doing so much, but had to stay home anyway, I was looking for ways to make our impromptu Mommy and Me day a little more special. After all, big sister just had a bunch of them, and she got go to the movie theater!

One of my ideas: Unicorn Sandwhiches. Sprinkles have about 2-3g of sugar per teaspoon, depending on the brand. A pinch can be estimated to be, what, a 1/16 a teaspoon? Not enough for the added sugar to disrupted a vulnerable stomach, but enough to add a bit of excitement.

Alexis eat about 3/4ths of her sandwich. Not as much as I was expecting, but she loved the sprinkles and asked if we could have more Unicorn Sandwiches on the next home day.

October 10, 2017

Perpetually Behind

Another month past, another month where it feels like I’ve accomplished virtually nothing, despite feeling overwhelmingly busy. I keep thinking “next month” will be my month to get back on top of things, but I remember distinctly telling myself that back in August as well. Then September. And now we’re ten days into October and I’m telling myself the same thing again.

So what derailed me this time? More domestic stuff, as usual. We had the kids’ flu shots, my doctor’s appointments, the issues with the sprinkler system failing (do NOT mention our water bill), dealing with pest control (We’ve needed them 4 times this month and counting!) school transitions, homework, sight words, etc.

I don’t know how other parents do it.

Actually, that’s not true. Other parents probably don’t try and do everything all at once. Working parents don’t volunteer every week at their children’s school. I’m only supposed to be in the classroom 30 minutes a week, but it somehow ends up being more like 60-90 minutes to the end of the lesson and after clean up. Stay at home parents have more time between school pick up and bed time to knock out homework and practice sight words.

Other parents of school aged kids are probably not also pregnant and dealing with reduced air quality thanks to the overwhelming wild fires. I have become our family’s canary in the coal mine. I get headaches whenever the air quality index gets above 150 that are bad enough to wake me up in the middle of the night.

I keep thinking I am living the best of both worlds; I’m able to be home when I need to, and still hold on to my professional career on my schedule. Sometimes, I’m learning, the mix goes the other way. I have been picking up the kids between 5 and 5:30, but that leaves only enough time for dinner and bath before bed. Nicole is usually so tired by the end of the day that trying to squeeze in homework ends up being an exercise in frustration. Chores, chores and more chores keep me from working as much as I want to during the day.

So I’m doing my best to re-center myself and find a schedule that works.

Technically Nicole isn’t supposed to have homework on the weekends. She’s supposed to turn in her homework folder on Friday, to get back on Monday. I’ve taken to photocopying the calendar so we can cross off a few of her tasks between Friday and Monday. I’ve also started picking her up early on Wednesdays so we can go over sight words. Going over them once in the middle of the week, and on the weekends seems to be the magic elixir to help her remember them.

Datayze may not be getting the attention it deserves, but at least it’s market share is continuing to grow without me. Passive business models are a entrepreneur/parent’s best friend. This busy period, too, shall pass.

October 4, 2017

Black Friday Game Plan

It’s almost that time of year again: shopping season! One again I find myself making a list of deals I’m hoping for to help keep my shopping focused and my splurges to a minimum.

Kids clothes. Nicole has just about out grown her current size, so we’re ready to expand her wardrobe. I’ve purchased her a few clothes so we won’t be suddenly on a lurch, but a blanket sale on kids clothes seems to be a Black Friday staple.
Where I’m looking: Carters or Target

Baby Stuff. No surprise there. Our baby monitor is in terrible shape, which is understandable given it’s age. The video sometimes goes, the signal cuts out and it’s battery life is non existent. I’m also like a new crib and an additional rocking chair. (You can never have too many rocking chairs with multiple kids in the house!)
Where I’m looking: Amazon mostly. I’m expecting to only succeed on the monitor, I’ve never seen the other two as a part of a Black Friday holiday sale.

Kitchen/Home Stuff. There’s nothing big that we need. Our pizza pan is pretty gross at this point, and I’d like to try flexible cutting boards instead of the stiff ones we have now that seem to take up so much room in the dishwasher. Domingo would also like wireless meet thermometers for the right price. New sheets and additional coat hangers would also be nice.
Where I’m looking: Target most likely, Bed Bath and Beyond as a possibility. Target tends to have a spend $X get a coupon for $Y on your next visit promotion. They’re also where our original hangers come from, and no price will make up for them non-matching. I like our sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond, but in order to get the percentage off your whole order you need to be in store by noon and I’m not sure that will be doable.

Cell Phones. I’m not sure why this wasn’t on our last last year, but Domingo’s phone Badly needs to be upgraded. It’s five years old, and doesn’t always charge. Additionally the wireless antenna was knocked lose and sometimes it won’t connect to the internet. This is not a good phone for the parent who travels! He’s pretty flexible, so we’ll be looking for the best android deal we can fine. My phone may also be replaced for the right deal. I’m looking at the iPhone 8 to replace my three year old iPhone 6.
Where I’m looking: All over.

Other. Cheap movies for the kids, more board games for the kids, you know, the things that are always on our list.

In the Bull Pen. At some point a new printer would be nice. I’d like one that can spool requests even if the computer is turned off.

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Addendum. We now have another thing to hunt for this Black Friday: A new DSLR camera. I’ve long since exceeded the expected shutter life on my camera, and every once in a while it’s behavior has been inconsistent. A few weekends ago I swear the camera autofocused after the shutter released, and this summer the light meter was ridiculously off when taking photos of the girls outside. These have been rare issues, usually only effecting one photo in a bunch, so I have so far been willing to over look them. Now the grip is starting to come detached.
Where I’m looking: NikonUSA. Last year they had a sale on the 7000 series line, $200 off a body. That was partly because the 7500 (the model I’m currently coveting) was due out this sprint, but even the newer models were $100 off. I’m hoping to get $100 of the 7500 this Black Friday.

In September I had a 25% growth in users, and nearly doubled income to $391.21. While all the apps appear to be doing well in general, Time Until saw a 108% increase in users, which is fueling the overall growth. I’m really surprised by that apps growth, as there’s a lot of competition for countdown timers. I plan to do some investigating to see why my countdown timer may be outperforming others. Perhaps it’s just a collateral benefit of Datayze doing well in general?

Now that I’m growing substantially again, I think I’m going to adopt a more mature-company stance on updates in the fourth quarter. The October-December time frame is my most profitable, thanks, of course, to the shopping season. Last year, nearly half my income came from those three months online. That makes changes during this time risky from a financial stand point. Although rare, even minor changes can sometimes have unintended consequences. Now is not a good time to risk a stupid bug that breaks my website for even a fraction of my user base.

From now until the new year I plan to keep my website fixed. If something critical comes up, I will of course address it. This doesn’t mean I won’t be working on datayze. I have two apps in progress right now (the same too I’ve been working on for a while). My plan is to push their proposed launch date back until January at the earliest.

One critical issue I need to address in the next few days: I’ve running into the limits of my shared hosting. During high activity peaks my hosting company will sometimes run our of resources, and kill some of my processes. From a user standpoint it’s an occasional 503 error. That’s clearly not ideal so I’ll be moving from a shared host to a dedicated server. I’ve been assured by the hosting company that this will be a seamless transitions, but I’m going to do it as quickly as reasonably possible so the change is in place before the holiday season really kicks off.

The good news is the past couple of months of growth have improved my projections somewhat. I’m now projecting to reach $1000/month in early 2018. Possibly February, but more likely March. Here’s hoping.