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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Video camera we use in the girls' room

Folks ask me about this slick little machine all the time. It's a Panasonic BL-C30A camera. We've got the camera part mounted up in the corner of the room, and then I can access it through a web browser and control panning from any computer in the house. Very handy...

The newer BL-C131A is supposed to have better night vision - it's billed as a "day/night color wireless network camera."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Random Question of the Week (archive)

Q: I realize you don't want to give out too much personal info but could you tell us what Tubadad does? Not specifically. Something like computer programmer, professional musician, marketing, etc. What did you do before Ro and Ree came along? You seem to be a natural with toddlers and don't get frazzled easily. (Feb '08)
A: That's funny, but your guesses were pretty dead on. TubaDad does marketing and business-development-type stuff for the daily grind, and he's also a professional musician on the side. He studied tuba in school and plays gigs all over California (some of our best trips are ones where we pack up at a moment's notice and get to hang out in neat places while he plays). I managed large web and editorial teams in my previous life. Nothing to do with kids, but it's probably why I like blogs. :-) And I keep meaning to mention that I'm not a great mom at all. I have a short fuse and not enough patience, my expectations are way too high for toddlers, and at least once a week I have to give myself a timeout and sit in the office and breathe and calm down. I don't even know how often I say to myself "You're 40 and they're THREE, chill the hell out!" Afterwards, if I mishandled something as usual, I apologize, hug, and figure out what I can do better next time. The thing I am really good at is having fun with the girls. My family has always been good at making anything fun. So I think I'm a fun mom, not a great mom. But I'm working really hard on that second part.

Read all past questions or submit a question in the comments area.

Q from Karmen: What a cute picture of the girls. They look very happy to be perched on Santa's lap! Is Ro wearing tights or leggings? They are so cute, please tell where you found them. ( Dec '08)
A: Ro is wearing Hannah Andersson tights. They have THE BEST tights. This particular black and red pair is a beloved hand-me-down and they are getting so small I could barely squeeze her into them. I told Ro it was the last time she was going to wear them and got a little lip wobble. Anyhow, Hannah Andersson's motto is something like "tights you can actually hand down" and I have to say it's true. They really last. They have online stores and are also in some malls.

Q from Jenna: Have you ever run into someone that knew you from your blog that you were not planning on meeting? (Nov '08)
A: Hm, I had to think about this one. I think it's only happened twice. Once in the Hong Kong airport when we were on the way home after meeting the girls. A stranger ran up to TubaDad and the first thing she said was "Oh my gosh, where is M3, where are Ro and ReeRee!" And once at Gilroy Gardens this year a lady excitedly called out to us as we were passing by "Hey, I read your blog!!" I'm really shy (I know I don't write that way but I am) so I think all I managed to say was "Ohhh." Later TubaDad said "Why didn't you talk to that lady?" And I told him I couldn't thing of a single thing to say, so he said "Well gee, try saying something like 'hello, nice to meet you, what's your name, do you live in this area?'" Oh. Yeah. That would have been much better. So I'm all ready for the next time. If you ever run into us on the street, please do say hi.

Q from Ruth in Canada: A long time ago I read you had purchased fake reading glasses for the girls. My girls have asked for them for christmas from Santa. Where did you order them? (Oct '08)
The cute fake glasses were ordered online from Candy Apple Costumes. They come in pink, black, red, and white and were only $7. The girls both like the red ones the best "because they look like mama's glasses."

Q from trying4two99: Are you planning on adding more "twinadoes" to the family? If so, do you plan on adopting from the same area of origin that you got the girls from or somewhere else? (Oct '08)
A: We don't have any plans to add to our family right now. I think TubaDad and I both feel like we're finally (after two years) getting our feet back under us. Raising twins is incredible, amazing, wonderful, and whatever other cool adjectives you can come up with, but it is also without a doubt the hardest thing either of us has ever done.If we ever did decide to adopt again, though, I know in my heart we'd choose the China program.

Q: What kind of camera do you use? (Oct '08)
A: I use a Nikon D300 for most of my photos. I've got a few different lenses for it:- Nikon AF Fisheye 10.5mm 1:2.8G ED- Sigma 30mm 1:1.4 (I think this is my fave lens so far)- Nikon AF 70-300mm 1:4-5.6G- Nikon 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 G ED VR- Nikon AF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VRI've been having focus problems lately and recently sent the camera in for repair but the problems still aren't resolved.I also used to carry an old beat-up Canon Elph Powershot SD-500 in my purse at all times. It was stolen along with my purse in mid October. Anyhow most of the pictures taken away from the house, or the quick candid videos you see on the blog, were with that camera. Not because it was particularly great, but because it was always handy. I'll be replacing it soon and would welcome any suggestions for a tiny point-and-shoot camera.

Q: What is that drawer-thing you have between your car seats in the minivan, how is it anchored, and are those cupholders on it? (Sept '08)
A: We tend to kludge everything around here to "improve" it. For the minivan, I got three plastic drawers from Target, we screwed them together, used bungee cords to hold them in place but still be removable so we could take out the console and use the back row of seats, added velcro strips as drawer latches, and screwed adjustable cup holders to the top (purchased in the auto section of Target). It works perfectly to hold the girls' snacks, drinks, babydolls, etc. on the top, and the drawers are stuffed with jackets, blankets, hats, extra wipes, sunglasses, and more.

Q: The girls look taller recently. What size are they now? (Apr '08)
A: Yep, the girls have been eating bunches and growth-spurting lately. They've each gained 2 lbs and gotten about an inch taller since their last checkup in November. And I think most of the height increase has been recent, because their pants are suddenly too short. I had to let the hems out of 6 pairs so far this week (the girls have always been bigger than they are tall, so my mom is constantly hemming their pants up). They're wearing 2T or 3T bottoms and mostly 3T tops. Here are their stats as of yesterday:
- Ro: 35" tall, 30 lbs, 8.5W shoe
- Ree: 34 and 5/8" tall, 29 lbs, 8.5W shoe
Ree's foot used to be a half-size smaller than her sister's, by the way, which means she's caught back up and now they can swap shoes back and forth (hooray!! so much easier!). Ro also eats almost twice as much as Ree, but we haven't yet seen much difference in growth. It'll be interesting to see what happens as they get older. (posted 4/11/08)

Q from Ani: Do your daughters pick out their own outfits or do you dress them in colors they prefer? (March '08)
A: I usually just pull two complementary outfits out of the closet and then ask who wants to wear what. They get all excited and each grab one (usually not the same one, luckily). Ro used to prefer pink while Ree preferred yellow, but they seem to be out of that phase now.

Q from GirlSpeaks: Why do your girls sleep on mattresses on the floor instead of cribs or toddler beds? Just curious as to the reasoning behind this! (March '08)
A: It's been kind of complicated ever since the earthquake in October. :-) Ree sleeps on a mattress on the floor, and Ro sleeps in a different room in her crib. Reason being that Ro still loves her crib, while Ree wouldn't get near anything other than a plain mattress after she was shaken around in the crib during the earthquake. The girls also sleep in different rooms right now. We originally used the separate-rooms idea as a threat when the girls started staying up until midnight every night jumping and playing. Little did we know they'd actually like it. The first night we came in and said "Ok, you girls didn't settle down, so we're going to have to separate you" and Ree grabbed Ro's pillow and shoved it at her yelling "Here Ro!" We were stunned. It's been separate rooms ever since. We keep trying to put them back together but they seem to like their own space. Whatever... I'd really, really love to get them back into the same room sometime soon, but if they're happier this way then that's ok too. In the back of my mind I suspect that they have so much together-time they just might always enjoy having a room each girl can call her own. We'll see...

Q: How did "BobBob" get his name? (Feb '08)
A: My dad originally wanted the girls to call him "Grampa." But before it could catch on, back at our first Thanksgiving if I remember correctly, ReeRee heard everyone calling him by his first name, "Bob." Sometime after the turkey was served, she leaned toward him and said (in a hilarious gravelly little voice) "Hi Bob!" She was smirking like mad, and so proud of herself. We were all just rolling on the floor laughing, which encouraged both girls to do it more. My dad decided to go with the flow after that and become "GramBob," which the girls (who have trouble with G's) have pronounced as "BobBob" ever since.

Q: I love that your girls wear their bracelets. How did you "train" them to keep them on? They must be indestructible, seeing as the twinados are wearing them. Can you share where you purchased them? (Feb '08)
A: The bracelets were a gift from good friend "Moggie" (Maggie), and I think she got them from Amazon.com. We put them on the girls the day we met them (and lucked out that we got them on two different arms, Ro on the right and Ree on the left). I think they've been there so long that the girls just don't notice them. That's the only reason I can think of that they haven't been torn to bits yet.

Q: What size shoes do the girls wear? (Jan '08)
A: I need to go get them measured again (bad mom, waiting too long) but their shoes are a size 8 wide right now. They either both wear the same size or they're different by a half size on any given month. When the girls first came home from China (at 13 mos old) they wore Robeez soft-soled leather shoes (awesome!) in a size 6-12mos. We pretty quickly graduated to hard-sole shoes since they were running outside. Ked's Daphne shoes were (and are) a fave and I think we've had them in every size from 4.5 to 8 so far.

Q: Where do you get the girls' clothes? (Jan '08)
A: All over the place! Basics like tees, jeans, or tights are usually from Children's Place, Hannah Andersson, or Old Navy. Some of the neatest clothes are hand-me-downs from other awesome twin moms. Some fancy clothes are from Macy's (I like the GreenDog line), BabiesRUs (the girls' Christmas-card outfits), or online boutiques like Polka Dot Patch (their bday outfits).

New Q's: If you've got a burning question, feel free to ask it in the comments section below.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Nursery furniture

Have received lots of questions about the nursery, so here's the scoop on what and where:

Fabric: The curtain/bedskirt fabric is from Hancock Fabrics. It's really sturdy indoor/outdoor fabric that comes on huge rolls in the furniture upholstery section. Ungodly expensive (particularly if you're sewing-challenged and buy 15 yards, which is about 10 yards too much). We loved how the wavy lines looked like waves and the multicolored circles looked like bubbles.

Low blue and green chairs: They're funky faux-fur chairs from Linens and Things. Incredibly comfortable for adults, and low enough for kids (and apparently cats). Plus, the colors make us grin.

Storage units: They're Cameron Bookrack Wall Systems from Pottery Barn Kids. We got the Espresso color for the playroom and the Sun Valley Honey color for the nursery. Great quality, and just the right height for kids. The lower "toss bins" are my favorite part. We drilled right through each piece to bolt each component into a wall stud. One warning: these units come unassembled, in about 10 huge boxes filled with rigid styrofoam. We called around and found a local recycling place where we could just dump the boxes. Whew.

Green & blue dolphin bureau: The kid-sized bureau is from a funky little furniture store in San Luis Obispo called Bali Designs. Our piece came from Indonesia.

Black baby gate

Our ginormous playroom gate is a Kidco Hearthgate, just Google those words and you'll find a whole bunch of online stores selling it. It fits all the way across our room to divide the playroom (shown here in progress) from the living room.

What we love about this gate:
- It's black!
- Made of solid, sturdy, coated, smooth metal
- Spans a HUGE opening and you can also buy extensions (we bought one)
- Has a little baby-proof door in it so we can easily step through
- Can set it up in a straight line, curved line, or any zig-zagged or any bent configuration
- Comes with a kit to bolt it directly to the wall on both sides

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Flickr collage/thumbnails hack job

I keep getting asked "how do you get Flickr to do that little photo collage/thumbnail thing on your blog?" Well unfortunately the answer is "I don't really." It's a total hack job I made up because I couldn't get Flickr to do what I wanted and I didn't want to have to cut and paste the Flickr code for every single picture when I uploaded a whole bunch of them. Here's an example:
Australia Day 5 Pictures:

(View thumbnails, detail, or slideshow)

And here's how I do it:

1. Upload your new pictures to Flickr and put them in a "set"
2. While you're viewing the new set take a screenshot of the page (I hold down the "alt" and "PrtScn" keys on my pc, not sure how you do it on a Mac)
3. Open Photoshop, create a new document, paste in the screenshot, crop it so only the tiny thumbnail pics are showing, then Save As a jpg
4. Create a new Blogger post and upload the jpg you just made into that post
5. Once that jpg is loaded into your blog post, you can click on the picture then click on the Blogger "link icon" (kind of looks like a little chain link) and put in the url for your Flickr set (either the url of the Flickr thumbnail page, the detail page, or the slideshow page, your choice)
6. As an additional option, you can type in "thumbnail, detail, slideshow" below the picture and link those words up to the appropriate Flickr urls
7. Publish your post, wipe the sweat off your brow, and relax with a nice, cold drink...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Stroller reviews & advice

The best/most informative site I've found for stroller info is Baby-Gaga. They've combined field research with parents' reviews to come up with a thorough discussion of each type of stroller. Go direct to their comprehensive single stroller reviews or double stroller reviews and start browsing (each name is clickable to an easy-to-read, multi-page review), or narrow the list by a variety of criteria on the left side.

We're going with the Graco DuoRider for quick daily trips like groceries, mall rat visits, trips to grandmas, etc. Then we're going with the Baby Jogger City Double for anything where we'll be covering a lot of territory or outside. I'm in love with this Baby Jogger City Double after test driving it yesterday, and would use it for my daily stroller, but it's way too heavy for me to lift in and out of the car on a regular basis.

This online info isn't a substitute for test driving the strollers yourself, by the way. TubaDad and I went to a baby store and drove every single double stroller. You find out real fast what you can't stand and what makes your eyes light up. In my case, most of the standard side-by-side double strollers have a third set of wheels in the back that I kick as I walk. Very annoying with tennis shoes on, and probably painful with sandals on. (I'm 5'7", so not an amazon or anything.) We also took the strollers out to the parking lot and I practiced folding them up and getting them into the back of the car. Huh - it's wayyy harder than just collapsing them and opening them back up in the quiet, clean, air-conditioned store aisle.

Final note: if you have a little time you can get some great deals! Your local stores will always offer seasonal sales and can tell you when they're coming up, or you can find any stroller online with free shipping, or (for the big-ticket items like the Baby Jogger) hop on over to Ebay and look for some incredibly-competitive pricing from sellers with sterling reputations.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Maps of China provinces (showing orphanages)

Hendrika at Red Thread Maps is a talented artist who just happens to have twin daughters from China!. She has produced beautiful hand-drawn maps of the Chinese provinces that "are intended to show the general locations of orphanages that participate in international adoptions."

These maps are perfect for wall hangings, scrapbooks, keepsakes, or just general information.

Check out the maps here. (Click on any map to see a larger version.) Thanks to Gyll for sending me this great link.