Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mary Poppins!


Earlier tonight, Paprika and Mr. Mustard went to see Mary Poppins at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. Since it opened in November, all we've been hearing is how incredible this show is. It's full of flying and mid-air acrobatics. And, of course, singing and dancing and music...bascially, just about everything Paprika loves. This is the last week before the show ends, so we knew it was now or never.

We got two tickets: front-row center mezzanine. Score! We decided one of us would take Paprika and one of us would stay home with Ginger. Flipped a coin and Mr. Mustard he got to go!

About 10 minutes before they were set to leave for the show, I saw written in BOLD on the tickets, "Children Under 6 Years of Age Will NOT Be Permitted In The Theater." Not sure how we missed that!

Well, too late to do anything about that: the tickets were paid-for, non-refundable, and there was no time to resell. What to do? We started teaching Paprika the phrase, "I am SIX years old." I dressed her in the outfit I could find that made her look the oldest. She is three, so I was aiming at doubling her age. Turns out no one even asked and she breezed right into the auditorium, no questions asked. Phew!


Mr. Mustard said their seats were amazing, the best in the house. Mary Poppins flew right by their heads and Bert danced on the ceiling in front of them. Paprika was enthralled by the show, and didn't want to leave when it ended. I saw that coming! She was mesmerized by the performance, all three hours of it (not including intermission) and was soaking up every last word. She is begging to see it again and again and again. For now, the movie version will have to do. Chim-chim-er-ee!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Endless Summer


Just got back from a day at the beach. Life in SoCal is rough. ;-) The traffic was awful, so we stopped at a new beach (our usual one is pretty far away). It was awesome! We had the whole place to ourselves.

In case anyone's wondering, I consider this outfit "my uniform" - denim skirt, leggings, and my magenta top. I have the same shirt in blue, so sometimes when I'm feeling crazy I'll wear that shirt instead! Yes, I know I need to buy some new clothes.


We built sandcastles.


And buried ourselves in the sand.


Played at a fabulous playground.


Stopped at a cute restaurant and had lunch beachside. Stayed until sunset.


A day with my three favorite people. It doesn't get any better than this!


Anatomy Of A Meal

Feed Me!


Pretty Please?!


Ah, Distraction!


I'm Ready!


What the heck was that?!


Needless to say, we're going very slowly with solid foods.

What do you think of the high chair cover? I found a very fab seller on Etsy (Sewplicity) who makes custom highchair covers. Thank goodness, because I bought this chair used on Craigslist and it was disgusting (understatement) before I replaced the cover. Now I think it looks brand new!

I even got matching bibs, which Mr. Mustard says is kinda like camouflage and makes Ginger nearly invisible in the chair. That could come in handy! ;-)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dancing Shoes!


Today we made the big trek to the ballet store to buy ballet shoes for Paprika. Yup, she's starting ballet and tap dance. She is over the moon excited about it. She has not taken her ballet shoes off her feet since she first tried them on, not even to walk back to the car. Guess who carried her four blocks to the car? Me!

We went in for ballet shoes and a leotard and left with two of the girliest ballet dresses, tights, and ballet slippers. Paprika is the girliest girl ever!

Paprika did NOT want anything to do with the tap shoes. She said, "I do not like those. I like pretty pink shoes. I do not like black shoes. I will not wear black shoes." So we'll see what happens when she goes to dance class and tries to tap dance in ballet slippers!


Ginger was along for the ride, as usual. Ain't nothing easier than a smiling baby. Especially one this sweet! :-)


Paprika is very protective of her sister, which deserves a whole other post. I have never seen a child more in love with her sibling. It's pretty special.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Is Why I Don't Cook!

I almost entitled this post, "How I Almost Burned Our House Down" but that seemed a little too dramatic, even though it's kinda true.


Ginger has been staying up until 5am every night, and thrives on very little sleep. Couple that with Mr. Mustard working very long hours and...that leaves me pretty worn out.


Ginger went down for a rare nap yesterday at 3pm, and slept and slept and slept. She woke up at 8pm, and I realized we were out of food for the next day. Paprika can't function without her chocolate milk in the morning, so the three of us made a trip to Trader Joe's.


We really had the best time. We always do. Just simple trips to the grocery store can make us laugh, and laugh. We got home at 9ish. Unloaded 5 bags of groceries, got Paprika a before bed snack, then started the night-night routine. By the time that was all said and done, it was after 10 and I still hadn't eaten. I was so hungry I thought I might pass out.

No food + No sleep = Bad Chef!

I threw some pre-diced butternut squash and sweet potatoes into a bowl, mixed with a little olive oil and sea salt, and laid it on a cookie sheet to bake in the oven at 400 degrees. It makes it sooo nice and warm and's my new comfort food.

Well, the olive oil spilled all over the inside of the oven, and all of a sudden I noticed that our house was filled with smoke. Ginger started crying, the smoke alarms all went off. I opened the front doors and windows, and woke up half the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Ginger is really only calmed by nursing, and that's just something I didn't want to do with our smoke alarms blaring, our doors open, and smoke billowing out.

But I did it anyway because a crying baby + smoke alarms blaring + no food = no fun.

I had to take the squash out half-baked since the oven was coated in olive oil. It was kinda gross, but I ate it anyway.

And Paprika slept through the whole ordeal, thank goodness!

Everytime I branch out and try to cook, disaster ensues. I don't know if I will ever be a great chef...but I will definitely keep trying!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things I Learned From Courtney-Gate (Part Two)


Here are a few more things I have learned (the hard way) through our experience this past week. If you're new to Courtney-Gate, check out this post and this one, too.

I wrote a post a few days ago about a few things I've learned from this experience and entitled it Things I Learned From Courtney-Gate (Part One). Today's post is a continuation of that. I really don't want anything like this to happen to anybody else.

My little disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. It's just a little window into what we've been through this past week, and I hope this post is helpful to others. If something like this happens to you, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney and law enforcement.

Precautions To Take On A Family Blog:

A lot of this is common sense, but sometimes (often?) there is a perception that: no one is really reading my blog besides my dear Aunt Sally, so why should I worry? Well, that's not necessarily true.

1) Manage How People Find You:

In the default settings on Blogger, people can click "next blog" and find your blog. You may be listed on your friend's blogroll. Someone may do an internet search on google and a keyword from your blog will put you in the search engine. Someone could search for the word twins, or triplets, or preemie, or really any word you use on your blog and find your blog.

To change your default search settings and how you come up in search engines, go to Settings. Stay on Basic. Scroll down.

For Add Your Blog to Listings?, select No. This will keep your blog from showing up on "Next Blog" in Blogger.

For Let Search Engines Find Your Blog?, select No. This will keep your blog from coming up in random search inquiries.

2) Location, Location, Location:

In Part One, I talked about not using your real name on your blog (especially your children's real names). The next thing I want to talk about is how revealing your photos are in terms of location.

I can't tell you how many blogs I've seen this past week where people post where their children go to school or the names of their daycare providers. Even when they don't post the name of the school, many times I will see a picture with a cute kid wearing a backpack standing right in front of the school with the school's name fully visible.

Don't show photos of the front of your house. Don't show photos of your children standing on your front porch with the house numbers behind them. Don't post photos where the street signs are visible (if those streets are in your neighborhood).

Don't post Google Earth photos of your backyard (one of my favorite bloggers does this!)

Don't allow anonymous comments on your blog and enable comment moderation. This wil help you know who is coming to your blog. If you're putting yourself out there on your blog, shouldn't your readers do the same?

Maybe this all sounds over the top to you. Maybe not. Nothing is fool-proof, of course. But these are easy things to do, and they might make a difference.

2) Post Images You Want Everyone To See:

There are some images too precious to put on the internet. If there are photos that would break your heart in two if they were stolen and used by someone else, don't put them online. Period.

3) Consider Taking Your Blog Private:

Blogger allows up to 100 people to be invited to read a private blog, and Wordpress allows you to password protect posts. This can be a great option if you just want to share photos with your family members and close friends.

To do this in Blogger, go to Settings, then to Permissions, then to Blog Readers. You can custom select who you want to see your blog from that tab.

What To Do When Someone Has Stolen Photos Of Your Child:

1) Get The Authorities Involved:

In our case, it was important that we contact law enforcement, since the photos were being used in a suspect manner. Not all cases are like this one, though. Contact the police and see if they will open a case and help you. If you are fearful for your child's safety, contact the FBI: Crimes Against Children division. It is better to be safe than sorry.

2) Gather Information:

Get screen captures of the site. See if you can figure out if there are others whose photos have been stolen. Make a note of the IP address. Do a little detective work on the offending blog. I was able to locate a few of the other people involved because there was information on the offending blog that traced back to them. Specifically, there were watermarks and there was also a long sidebar blogroll with links to family websites.

3) A Little Primer On Copyright Law:

I can't tell you how many people have said to me this past week, "my photos aren't copyrighted" because of x, y, or z.

Let me clue you in on a little secret of copyright law. Once you press "click" on your camera, your photos are YOURS. If you took the picture, you own it. It is protected by copyright law.

When you put a watermark on your photo, you are informing someone of something that is already true. It's like wearing a sign around your neck that says, "I ate peas for dinner." Whether you wear the sign around your neck or not, it won't change the fact that you ate peas for dinner. Weird analogy, I know... Just know that you don't have to "do" anything to have a right to your images.

When sharing your photos online, make sure when you upload them to Flikr or an outside source, that you select "All Rights Reserved" as your default sharing option. This way no one can claim that you have given them license to use the photos.

3) File A Notice Of Copyright Infringement:

All of the big blog hosting services have practices in place to report Copyright Infringement. You will want to file a DMCA Notice (cease and desist) letter with Blogger, or the site hosting the content. You can contact an attorney to do it for you. If you don't want to contact an attorney for whatever reason, it is pretty straightforward to do it yourself.

Blogger explains in detail how to file this notice. Once this is filed and you have shown that someone is infringing your copyright through their service, the infringing content will likely be removed.

Here is the link to file the notice with blogger:

Now, please know that you only want to do this if you have a legitimate claim. It goes without saying, don't file this notice to get back at someone or if you don't have a good faith reason. Filing a bogus DMCA notice can lead to some very bad repercussions. So, again, only do it if you are the copyright owner and your rights are being violated.

4) Strength In Numbers:

If you are able to safely locate some of the others whose photos have been stolen (if you feel safe doing that), then try contacting them and letting them know that someone is using their photos inappropriately. Many times, people don't even know that their photos have been stolen unless someone lets them know. That's how I found out at first...a wonderful person commented on my blog!

If you find any of the other people whose photos are stolen, advise them to take action. There is strength in numbers and being a little noisy helps.


I hope this info has been helpful. As I said before, nothing is fool-proof. But I've definitely learned a lot from this and continue to learn more each day. Please feel free to pass this info onto others. I would love it if what I've been through this past week could be instructive to others.

The best way to push out the darkness is to let in the light.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dancing In The Rain


We spent a gazillion hours today at The Children's Museum. When we got there it was sunny, but soon afterwards, the skies parted and it rained buckets. We tried to wait it out. We waited until the museum closed and we got kicked out. I threw Paprika on my back in the Ergo, covered Ginger in the stroller, and made a break for it.

The car was parked very far away and by the time we got there, we were soaked to the bone.

Paprika thought it was the funniest thing ever. Of course she did!

I have to admit, it was pretty fun...especially when we all got splashed when we ran through the puddles.

There is that saying that I love:

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain! -Vivian Greene

It felt so true today.

Skinny Tuesday- Distracted Edition

I would like to write about how last week I hunted down some cheaper Mexican Coke (you can buy it at Costco for a fraction of the price...go figure)!

I would like to talk about how I wrote down everything I ate all week.

I would like to tell you all how I stuck to my guns and didn't have any sugar.

But it wasn't that kind of week.

All I did all week was worry and work my butt off protecting this girl:


There just wasn't time to think about finding cheaper Mexican Coke. I was too busy learning HTML and moving my blog and tracking IP addresses.

You could say I've been a little distracted. One good thing was that I spent a lot of time looking through old photos of Paprika. I think this next one may be my favorite one of all time. But I'm not committing to that statement.


Okay, back to reality.

I was so distracted I didn't eat very much this past week. Which is so not like me. My standard reaction to stress is to medicate with chocolate torte. This week I barely noticed that I needed to eat.

So, there you go. I had the stress diet this week. I subsisted on organic hummus, whole wheat pita, and avocados.

I haven't mustered the courage yet to weigh in yet. What can I say, I'm cutting myself a little slack this week. I do believe I've earned it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thoughts In My Head!


I know just how Ginger feels. This week has been a little much for even me! I took Ginger and Paprika to the park today, and it was so good just to forget about things for a little while.


Of course, I couldn't really forget about everything.

I was thinking about another blog post I am going to write about measures we need to take as Bloggers to protect ourselves.

I was thinking about how to catch a thief who has stolen your photos and how to track them down.


I was also thinking about my Skinny Tuesday post for tomorrow. Yup, I'm still doing my weekly weight loss post about getting skinny and being healthy.


I have no idea how tomorrow's weigh in is going to go. I have big hopes that I will move from being "overweight" to "normal weight" tomorrow. I am two pounds away (as of last week...the last time I weighed myself).


I have been waiting on this milestone. My first big milestone was going from "obese" to "overweight" - can you believe I was excited to be overweight?! Well, now I'm excited to be normal weight. Crossing my fingers!


I'll let you know tomorrow! In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy these babies. Ginger slept through our whole park trip, and woke up the second we got home...ready to play! That's how it goes!


Things I Learned From Courtney-Gate (Part One)

As many of you know, it came to my attention earlier this week that someone had stolen photos of Paprika off my blog and had been posting her image on another blog, calling her by the name Courtney. This person had even made up a different birthday for her and was portraying her as part of her family.

When the fake blog was shown to me, it made me ill. Physically ill. I think it may be one of those things that you have to see to really get the impact. It sounds weird when you hear about it, but everyone who actually saw the blog before it was taken down was sickened by it.

I don't want to say too much else about that part of it, because 1) I don't want to draw any more attention to the person who did this, and 2) for legal reasons.

Paprika's photos weren't the only ones used on the blog. There were photos of other children, as well. In the past week, we have found eachother (mostly through Facebook). We have been able to share information with eachother, which has been a great blessing.

I think it's best to move forward and talk about ways to prevent this from happening to others in the future.

Here are the lessons that I have learned this week that I'd like to pass on to each and every one of you!

1) Track who visits your blog:

The offending blog was found because a very wise woman kept great track of who visited her blog. She saw someone had come to her blog that seemed fishy, and she acted on that intuition. She was able to locate many of the parents whose children's photos had been stolen through some information she found on the offending blog. I am so grateful to her!

It turns out that tracking who visits your blog is rather easy. You can get a free tracker that you can install at one of these sites:


You'd better believe, I use them both now.

2) Keep Your Real Name Off Your Blog

I will be the first to admit, I always thought it was really cheesy (maybe even paranoid?) when people used nicknames on their blog. I am not a cutesy person. But now, guess what...I'm using nicknames! At the very least, don't use your children's names.

When I started this blog way back when, I didn't know anyone who had a blog, and I never dreamed anyone besides me would read my blog. So I blogged using our real names. And after looking around online a bit the past few days, I realized I am so not alone in doing that!

If you have been blogging for awhile and you want to get your real names out of your blog, here is what you do (assuming you're in Blogger). I'm not a computer programmer by any stretch of the imagination, but here is what I did:

Go to your Settings Tab. Then stay on Basic. Then Click on Export Blog. The Save Your Blog to your computer. Then open it in either Notepad or Dreamweaver or something like that. Do a Find/Replace All on the words you want to change. Save it as a new version. Then go back to your blog. Delete all your old posts. Import your new version you saved. (You still have your original export in case you made a mistake).

Voila, your names have changed on your blog and you still have all your posts!

3) Watermark, Watermark, Watermark

I have to say, I have never been a big fan of watermarking photos. I have always thought it "ruined the image" and was unnecessary. For reasons I'll explain later, watermarking your photos is one of the best things you can do to protect your photos.

First, if your photos have a watermark on them, it will be much easier for someone to find you if they are stolen. Put your url on the watermark so if someone sees it, they can let you know.

Second, someone who might steal your photo otherwise will not want to take the time to crop out your watermark and will move onto an easier target (one who does not watermark).

I always thought making a watermark was difficult, but it's not. You will have to use Photoshop on your photos each time before you upload them to your blog, but I was already doing that anyway! There are many great online tutorials on how to make a watermark. One of these days when I get a spare sec I might make a tutorial myself. But for now, just use google and you will find lots of ways to waste a few hours and learn something new in the process!

You can also do an invisible watermark, which will not be visible on the image but will be embedded. For the purposes of deterring photo theft, and for letting others contact you should they see your photos on another site, a visible watermark is a good thing. Or, you can just do both!

4) Flikr/Photobucket

Upload your photos to Flikr (or a similar site like Photobucket) and make your settings private. That way when someone clicks on your photo, it doesn't open up big in the browser window. I was already uploading my photos to Flikr, but I have since increased my privacy settings.

Yes, uploading to Flikr takes an extra step. But once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad. You have to first upload to Flikr, and then you have to copy the html code into your blog (in the Edit HTML setting).

Here's how you do it:

After you have uploaded your photo to Flikr, click on it. Above the photo you will see a tab that says "All Sizes"- click on it. Scroll down to where is says "Copy and paste HTML into your webpage" and then copy/paste it into your blog post.

5) Add "No Right Click" To Your Blog

You can also disable the ability to "right click" on your blog. Of course, there are ways around it (as in ALL things). If you are using Flikr and have your settings set to private, this is one extra way to keep your photos from being easily stolen. Without uploading to Flikr first, this protection loses a bit of its effectiveness because a person can still click on your photo and have it open in a new window.

Here is how to disable "right click" saving on your blog:

Go to Customize> Layout> Page Elements and click "Add a Gadget" at the bottom of the page. You want to select HTML/JavaScript. Leave the title blank because the title will show up on your blog and we just want this to be invisible.

Type this code in the box ( Make sure you take out the X X in the code and put the name of your photography business):


6) Go To Law School or Make Friends With Someone Who Has!

As I said earlier, if someone really wants your photos, there are always ways around it. The goal is to avoid being an easy target. Nothing is perfect.

One thing going to law school has given me is the ability to sue people for free. Of course, I would never abuse that ability! If there's one thing this past week has taught me, it's that if someone is targeting my family, you'd better believe I will do everything in my power to protect them! I think every mom feels that way.

I have more to say, but Ginger just woke up and mommyhood those thoughts will have to wait for another day. (And yes, I will explain how I came up with those nicknames...soon!!!)


Sunday, January 24, 2010



Have you noticed, I'm making some changes around here?

My deepest apologies if you subscribe to updates (through google, rss, whatever) and are being flooded with edited posts. It's all been a little messy, and I've had to re-do some stuff a few times to get it right.

I hope to be finished with the construction on this baby soon! I had no idea that these changes would be so vast. It's like a big ocean. Just when I think I've reached the shoreline, I find a few more feet of water in front of me.

Carry on. I promise to row quickly! ;-)

Sunday Update!


I am going to write a post later tonight about everything that has happened in the last day or so regarding Courtney-Gate. I have gotten a lot of questions about the blog situation, and what has happened since I last updated. I am not sure how much I am able to share, but I will keep you updated as much as I can.

A bunch of people have asked me how to make their blogs more secure and how to prevent someone from stealing their children's photos. I will talk about that, too. Believe me, I have learned a lot this week!


In the meantime, I am going to try to enjoy my Sunday with my family. We just got back from a fabulous 5th birthday party at a friend's house! It was pretty awesome. Paprika is oblivious to all the drama that has unfolded, as it should be. As you can see, she had a great time at the party!


Thank you so much for supporting us during this crazy, difficult time. As you can imagine, the whole situation has us pretty shaken up and we are very thankful for the wonderful friends who have surrounded us and supported us. It really means a lot!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Break From Courtney-Gate


We had a nice break from all of this week's drama today. For the first time since last Sunday, the clouds parted and it stopped raining.

It was a good thing, too, because we all needed some fresh air to clear our heads, if you know what I mean!

We had an awesome day out at the park. Even though it was in the 70s, it was Snow Day! The park had brought in snow from the mountains and we had such a great time building snowmen, having snowball fights, and riding the choo-choo train.

Ginger took it all in from her little perch. She's so interested in everything around her, but not quite big enough to throw snowballs yet!


After Snow Day, we visited our friends L&D, and their brand new baby girl! She is just six days old and is as precious as she can be. I can barely remember Ginger being this small. And yet I know she was...just about 7 months ago. Sniff sniff.


Paprika thought she was pretty neat!


I just had to hold that beautiful little baby. Can you tell I am smitten?! :-)


We had to introduce Ginger to her new friend. Ginger instantly reached out to grab her hand.


I think these two are going to be great friends, just like their mamas!


Thank you everyone for your love, prayers, caring, and support during this very difficult week for our family. It means more than you know!