September 18, 2017

New Schools all Around

About a month after Nicole started Kindergarten, Alexis also got to start a new school. Our previous daycare/preschool combo closed it doors. Queue mini panic attack.

Thankfully, the old school didn’t close until after Nicole had started Kindergarten (so she wasn’t forced to do two major transitions back to back). Also Alexis was super excited for Nicole’s Kindergarten (I may have a few pictures of her holding up Nicole’s “1st day of school” sign at the little miss’s instance) so I think she was primed to be excited for a new school herself.

Still, I couldn’t help but stay up all night worrying about how her first day would go. Nicole had a rocky transition at roughly the same age when we moved. She missed her old friends at the “Dolphin room” at her old school. I still remember her telling me in the car on the drive home one day, her tiny voice quivering “Don’t like the Discovery room. Like Dolphin room.” We actually had plans to switch daycares to one I liked better but that didn’t have an opening for a few months, but after the rocky transition I just couldn’t do that to Nicole again.

Here we were again, at the fourth daycare I’ve enrolled one of my kids in. Moving can sometimes really suck.

I had planned to take the morning off so I could sit in the wings with Alexis as long as she needed me to. In my experience being present, but apart from the action helped previous transitions. We also brought a special transition teddy bear for Alexis to nap with, since naps were the hardest for Nicole.

We get to the new school, the new room with all the new faces and I’m bracing for the worst. Instead, Alexis spots a giant caterpillar tunnel. She hopped out of my arms, and crawled through the tunnel. I asked if I could take a picture of her going through the tunnel. “Ok, Mommy!” and she raced threw a second time. Then popped up, waved and said “Bye mommy!” I was in her room for all of five minutes before she was ready for me to go.

Ok. Lesson learned. Only transition to daycares with giant caterpillar tunnels.

September 12, 2017

Going Private

The bigger the growth I have with datayze.com, the more I start thinking about privacy, and my current lack thereof. ICANN rules require domain contact information be public and accurate. Failure to abide by these rules could result in forfeiture of your domain which is not ideal for someone whose sole revenue is ad dollars generated from their website! But the bigger an audience my site draws, the greater the probability that it will draw someone who is a little too interested in me, personally, or my family. Do I really want my address and all my contact information public?

To combat this problem most registrars provide a proxy service for registration*, usually referred to as whois protection. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s a nominal fee. Basically, the proxy acts as an intermediary. Instead of listing your personal contact information, you list the proxy service and they forward any communications they receive on your behalf to you. The contact information is still considered accurate, because inquires can reach you, but your specific details are never listed.

(*Side note, some top-level domains disallow the use of whois proxy services.)

There’s a bit of an online debate about whether whois protection is worth it.

A corporate address in the contact information is often viewed as more legitimate than a non-corporate address. For some, a proxy address is the least legitimate of all. A P.O. box could substitute for a corporate address, but then I’d have to remember and exert the physical energy to check it. There are some online services that will convert a physical address to an email one by scanning mail into PDFs and mailing it to you. That would be a preferred option, but the price is currently a bit high for me.

I use a google voice to hide my phone number, which is like a proxy, but does nothing to help obscure my physical address which I’m most concerned about. Datayze has used the services of a whois proxy since it was first registered. If it’s negatively affecting me, it’s not enough to prohibit growth. I decided I’m earning enough now that the nominal price of the whois protection across all my sites is a reasonable price to pay for the peace of mind it brings.

Maybe someday I’ll grow large enough to warrant an actual office space. Until then, this will do.

August 23, 2017

Baby Gear, Round 3!

It’s time to start thinking about baby gear! Z3 will be here before we know it.

A New Baby Monitor System. I loved our old monitor, really I did, but it’s showing it’s age and barely functional at this point. The parent console often loses signal and sometimes can’t process the image feed. We’re left with a ghostly white image that lingers on the screen. I’ve gotten used to enough that I can guess what’s going on in the room. Usually. If that’s not enough of a draw back, the night time vision of one of the cameras is about half power, and whenever the parent console is connected to that monitor it picks up an intermittent buzzing that keeps me awake. Since the girls are in the shared big girl room, we’ve just been using the working camera.

A new high chair. I hated our old one. We were going to pitch it and replace it before Alexis was born, but my frugal tendencies took over and saved it from the dumpster. The padding is now ripped, so I think I can finally give myself permission to part with it.

A crib. The old one is ok, but between the teeth marks, and the non standard screws I can make a case why it should be replaced.

A bottle warmer. These things always seem to get so gross. Looks like each kid will be getting her own.

Another rocking chair. One can never have too many rocking chairs. The first one we purchased is downstairs in our living room. We purchased a second one that is currently in the nursery, but that’s in the middle of the house. I’m thinking about getting a third one for the master bedroom since Z3 will probably sleep in there for a few months (I know, it’s a total splurge.)

I’m kind of amazed that the jumperoo is still in good shape, and Alexis’ activity gym given how Nicole destroyed hers. It sometimes feels like those are the only two things that survived. The rock n’ play is doing okay, but the fabric just isn’t as nice as it once was. Alexis’ changing pad is also in ok shape. We recently purchased a new crib mattress before moving Alexis to a twin size, so at least we’re good there.

I kick myself every time I mess up the settings on my camera. On Nicole’s first day of school I mistakenly left my camera in full manual mode, with the shutter speed set for indoor photography of stationary objects. The photo on the left is my favorite pose wise. Nicole is so happy. But the photo is so over exposed with a slight motion blur given the slow shutter speed. Fortunately I realized my mistake, adjusted my settings and was able to also capture the photo on the right.

Current state of the art photo editing techniques cannot save the photo on the left. The skin on the left side of her face is so over exposed the sRGB value is pure white. The computer simply has no way to figure out what color was supposed to be there, so there’s no way to automatically fix the white patch. Nicole could have cyan colored skin for all the computer knows. Or checker pattern skin, for that matter.

As an machine learning person, I find this limitation incredibly irritating. Chances are, when you, a human, first looked at the image on the left Nicole’s skin did not appear pure white to you. Your brain filled in a likely color based on the right side of the photo where her skin isn’t as badly over exposed and what you know of human skin tones. With the two photos side by side you can easily imagine a combined photo with the pose from the left and the coloring on the right.

Current state of the art image recognition can recognize faces. It should be able to map point for point the location of the eyes, mouth, nose, hands, etc between the two photos. Given that, it seems plausible for a AI enabled photo editing software to merge the two photos and create the ideal image.

Even without the image on the right, a sufficiently advanced AI based system should be able to recognize the subject matter much the way a human would. The system should then be able to generate a hyper realistic plausible image. It might not be the “correct” image, the image that would have been created if my settings were correct in the first place. I doubt for most people that would matter. A realistic enough resulting image that was plausibly correct would likely be sufficient for most momtographers like me.

August 15, 2017

Girl!

I am over the moon. Three girls was exactly the family I’ve been hoping for and envisioning.

I know I’m not supposed to have a gender preference. Or maybe I’m supposed to have a preference for the other gender I don’t have? Everyone around me seems to think I’ve been hoping for a boy, and were rooting for a boy on my behalf. Truth is, I’ve had my heart set on a third daughter since before she was conceived. With Alexis (Ziggy) I only developed a strong preference for a girl a week before the anatomy scan. With Nicole (Zippy) I was sure she was going to be a boy and I never really had a chance to hope for one gender or the other.

Nicole is super excited she’s having another sister. I told Alexis and she corrected me saying “it’s a boy!” I guess we’ll have to wait and see what she thinks when Z3 gets here!

Our anatomy scan went well. I’m oddly not feeling much movement this time around. The technician was surprised when I said that since Z3 isn’t in a bad position for movement. Maybe it’s just that I’m so distracted charging after my first two that I’m just not noticing the movement as much? She was quite the little active bean for the technician, quick to prove she was alive and healthy.

The technician wasn’t able to get one of the photos she was after. The hospital is trying something new where the perinatologist is on hand, so there’s no longer a need for second appointment when these situations arise. (With Nicole I had to go back in at a later date when the same thing happened.) Our technician explained the new approach up front to alleviate any concerns should they need to summon the perinatologist. I’d like to think as a third time mom I’m a little less prone to worrying, but we all know that isn’t true. Neither the perinatologist nor the technician were able to capture the structure they wanted in a single ultrasound image, but both were confident that they saw said structure and everything was developing normally so they sent us on our way.

August 8, 2017

Mommy & Me Days

With Nicole’s Kindergarten right around the corner, and the baby’s due date in the not to distant future, I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to ensure each child gets the individual attention he or she needs.

This spring Nicole wasn’t eating her school lunches. I told her if she eat at least two bites of everything on her plate every day for a week, I’d pick her up for lunch the next Monday and we’d go to a restaurant. Just the two of us. That was all the motivation she needed. She was super excited and eat like a champ, even the vegetable, often eating more than the stated minimum.

A few weeks later the elementary schools were all out on break for the spring holiday. Daycare attendance was surprisingly light as a lot of parents decided to keep both kids home, rather than just the school age child. The more I think about it, the more this creates a nice opportunity for a Mommy & Me day.

The kids are at different developmental stages. Nicole loves to play with beads, and make necklaces and bracelets. That’s hard to do on home days with a little sister around who sometimes puts things in her mouth. Alexis’ attention span for coloring is roughly ten minutes, where Nicole can go on for hours. Nicole is old enough to sit quietly through a movie at the theater. Alexis, not so much. The usual result of these differences is the older child is relegated to the activities the younger child.

If Nicole’s school is out, but Alexis’ is still in session, that doesn’t have to be the case. The opposite is also true, and Alexis will have the opportunity to have the big doll house and kitchen all to herself. We can spend time reading just the books she enjoys, and she won’t have to wait for Nicole’s longer chapter books to be finished.

To put this philosophy to the test, Domingo and I decided to enroll Nicole part time in her final week of preschool. She’ll get two special home days with Mommy before starting kindergarten. We’ll go to the movies, pick out her new school bag and lunch box, and generally do whatever she wants to do. Next month Alexis will get the same treatment.

August 5, 2017

1st Day of School Sign

With Nicole starting school soon I started thinking about all those First Day of School photos we could take. I really liked the idea of doing a chalk board photo, but my calligraphy is about what you’d expect of someone who spends most of her time typing. And is dyslexic. There are places where one can buy a faux sign (like etsy), but then I’d need to keep buying a new one every year, and if the seller I was buying from decided to close up shop I might be not be able to find someone who could duplicate their work. A slightly different font choice, layout or color would drive me absolutely batty. I need things to match, it’s a compulsion. Besides, I’m pretty handy with the graphics program. I should make my own!

I started with this tutorial which included the chalk background.

In my experience, a true white (#FFFFFF) color text was a little too white, and made it obvious the chalk board was fake. Another tutorial recommended #CCCCCC for the color of the text, but that ended up being too gray. A good compromise was #E3E3E3.

Once I had the image designed I was on the hunt for a wide wood (or faux wood) picture frame where I could remove the glass. I settled on this one from target after holding up a few next to an actual chalk board to see how well the wood grain would good with the chalk board texture. I bought three since they were on sale, and I will one day have three kids in school simultaneously.

I printed the image on heavy card stalk. The card stalk had a nice grain texture which helped with the realism of the chalk board. The heavier the cardstalk, the stiffer the paper and the less likely it is to bow without the glass to keep it pressed flat.

Finally, I removed the stand from the back, and taped over the hooks so they wouldn’t catch on Nicole’s clothes when she held up the sign.

I am very happy with how the sign turned out. Best of all, since I used my own graphics program it will be a snap to go in and change the grade level, or the career aspirations every year. I like it when I make things easy for my future self.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to regular readers that I’m frugal to borderline cheap. Buying pregnancy tests in bulk, and saving the extras are well within my normal frugal tendencies. So when Domingo and I decided to start trying for a third child, I planned to use those left over pregnancy tests I had saved. We had succeeded in conceiving Alexis much sooner than I anticipated, so I had quite a few left over. The only problem? They had expired in April of 2015 and it was nearing the end of 2016.

I did some research online and the general consensus was that an expired pregnancy test was fine to use. The older the test, the more likely it had lost some sensitivity to hCG, the human pregnancy hormone. An expired test is therefore more likely to give a false negative reading. Since are few conditions where one would have hCG in their system and not be pregnant, a false positive is unlikely in general. Therefore, I concluded, the primary risk of using an expired test is that I might have to wait a little longer to find out the good news. If I was pregnant, hCG would slowly increase in my system and eventually be enough for the expired test to pick up. What’s a few extra days wait?

If only that was my experience. Instead I was treated to a new kind of false positive I had never heard of before, the disappearing false positive.

To back track a little, the main form of false positive is an evaporation (evap) line which happens when the test strip dries in such a way that the second line is visible. A tall tell sign of an evap line is the line is grey, and appears after the testing time window, when the test is dry. Generally speaking, a line within the testing window should be considered positive.

The second month we tried, the second line indicating a positive appeared at the 4 minute 30 second mark. It was a full thirty seconds within the time window. Hurray, pregnant!

I’m the kind of obsessive person who likes to go back and look at the positive test throughout the day, take pictures of it, etc. I do the same with negative tests too, minus the pictures of course. Two hours later I could only see the second line while holding the strip under a bright lamp and holding it at just the right angle. A little while later I couldn’t even see it then. I wondered if my eyes were playing tricks on me. I tried not to let my mind dwell on the second line that was no longer there. If I was pregnant, I rationalized, I’d get another positive test in the next day or two. I tested the next day, and the next, and the next. Negative across the board.

Two months later the same thing happened. This time the second line was more pronounced, and appeared at the two minute mark. It didn’t fade away into nothingness until 6 hours later. This time I was a little more mentally prepared for the possibility that I might not be pregnant.

After doing some digging online I found a line that disappeared within 24 hours is exceedingly rare, the result of a faulty test and should be considered as a negative. My frugal tendencies had lead to unnecessary heartache.

With my first, I was worried about potter’s syndrome. With my second, I was worried about spina bifida. This time around there hasn’t been something specific I’ve been worried about, just a general feeling of dread that something would go wrong. During the drive in to my doctor’s appointment on the 11th I was going over what-if scenarios in my head. What if there’s no heart beat? Would I tell everyone about the pregnancy? It was after my NT screen and would be considered a second trimester loss, but the pregnancy wasn’t public knowledge yet.

At this early stage appointments are mostly just checking vitals, chit chatting and listening to the heartbeat. My doctor had my lie back on the table, squirted the jelly on belly and… nothing. No rapid swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. Oh god, this is it. I thought. She kept moving the wand around, but we couldn’t hear anything.

“Don’t panic,” she told me. “I can hear the heart beat, I just can’t get it on the Doppler.”

“I think I felt her move a few minutes ago,” I lied. She would have to be superwoman to have the kind of hearing to hear a heartbeat not on the Doppler. I was sure she was just trying to reassure me.

“Wait right here,” it was a silly request, I was covered in gel with my stomach exposed, “let me get the ultrasound machine so you don’t have to worry.” I could feel the tears forming in the corner in my eyes. I have heard of these kinds of appointments before. They never end well.

As soon as the wand was on my belly I scaned the screen for a flicker of a heart beat. For a brief moment, Z3 was still on the screen. My breath caught in my throat. And then, she hiccuped. The slight movement was enough to bring the heart into view, complete with the flickering. I have never been so relieved in my life. My doctor turned on the sound and we listened to the Swoosh Swoosh Swoosh.

“She was hiding pretty far back there,” my doctor told me.

I kept saying I wasn’t worried, but I’m sure my doctor saw right threw me. “Let’s take a quick look” she said, moving the wand over to show Z3’s various body parts.

We had just been discussing early prenatal testing. I opted out of the blood test which would have revealed the gender, despite desperately wanting to know. My insurance would only cover one type of prenatal testing and I had choosen the NT scan with ultrasound to confirm no abnormalities were present. Since we had the ultrasound out already, my doctor was willing to take a quick peak. I thought I saw girl anatomy, but my doctor thinks the line could have been the umbilical cord. Even if we didn’t get an early guess at gender, I appreciate the chance to look.

So far every pregnancy for me has had one big scare. With my first, we needed a second anatomy scan to verify her brain was developing normally. With the second, there were concerns I might have been worried about leaking fluid only a few weeks into viability. Z3 was just getting the scare over with early.

July 12, 2017

Another Kind of Five

Nicole’s fifth birthday wasn’t the only reason to celebrate the number 5! We’re well on our way to being a family of FIVE.

I feel like I’ve been holding on to this secret forever. When we were pregnant with Alexis, I was comfortable spilling the beans early. One of Nicole’s teachers asked me when we were going to have another and I blurted out “November” only a few days after the positive pregnancy test. We knew if something went wrong we would keep trying for a second. Nicole was too young to pay attention to just how long I was pregnant, so whether mommy was pregnant for 9 months, or 15 months, Nicole would be getting a little brother or sister eventually.

This time around things were much less certain. Given our ages, and the desired age gaps between the kids, it didn’t make sense to keep trying indefinitely. Telling the girls early meant we might need to untell them should something go wrong. I wasn’t comfortable with that, and I couldn’t risk telling other people for fear the information might reach their ears.

I’m kind of surprised no one guessed. I feel like I was showing at 8 weeks, and I’ve had all the typical first trimester pregnancy symptoms of fatigue and morning sickness. Maybe everyone around us was just being polite.

We told the girls two a week ago, so they’d know before my parents visited. I took a video of us breaking the news. After I told them there is a baby in Mommy’s tummy Nicole asks excitedly “for real?” and Alexis jumps up and rushes to me saying “let me see!” She’s actually asking to see herself on the phone I’m holding (she loves watching herself on videos) but it totally looks like she’s asking to see the baby in my tummy. Adorable, if not a little misleading.

We’ve tentatively taken to calling this baby Z3. I wanted another zi–y name to match Ziggy and Zippy, but the only thing I could think of was Zitty. Future child would have despised that nickname. So Z3 it is!

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »