Figuring out rhythms for our days and weeks

It rained almost all weekend. W- focused on cleaning the house. I felt a little guilty and unproductive, pulled this way and that by A-‘s requests: “I want to play playdough!” “I want to go outside!” “No Mama go upstairs!” “I want to read books!” “I want to play with letters!” All the while, W- was bustling around, getting stuff done. But W- was patient with us, and we did manage to help a little with folding laundry, tidying up, and cleaning the carpet.

I was thinking about what a better weekend routine could be like. Then I realized something: of course, A- won’t have weekends until she has weekdays. She doesn’t care about the calendar. She goes by our daily routine, modified slightly on the days we have classes. Our daily rhythm has some time for self-care, some time for tidying up, and lots of time for play inside and outside. There’s no space yet for the kind of focused project work that W- can do, unless A- is asleep (and even then, she still wakes up from time to time). That’s okay. That will come in time.

What can I do about weekends now? I’d like to free up more time for W- to work on projects. It would help to move more household chores to the week, especially if I can make them playful.

  • Laundry: It’s cheaper to do during the weekend, but maybe I can bring down and sort things more frequently, and I can start a load every now and then. A- has gotten interested in answering questions about laundry (“Is this A-‘s or Mama’s?” “Mama’s!”), a good prelude to sorting. She’s also interested in folding, although she’s probably still pretty far from being able to do it. Practice time!
  • Cooking: We’ve been able to cook a few times, so we’ll keep trying. If I time it for when W- will be home, then he can take over during the final stages just in case.
  • Tidying: We do a small tidy-up before eating, but maybe we can expand it, especially if I turn it into a game of spotting what’s out of place. If I donate some of the children’s books that are too advanced for A-, I can free up a basket that I can then use to carry things around.
  • Vacuuming: I don’t like doing this when A- is with me, because she usually insists on being close and the vacuum is quite loud. She started getting interested in hearing protection, though, so maybe she can wear hearing protectors while I vacuum.
  • Groceries: I can usually pick up staples, but I don’t like buying lots of ingredients without confirming with W-. It’s easy for W- to pick up groceries on the way home, too.
  • Hanging out with A-: This is an important part of the weekend. Figuring out ways that we can involve A- in projects and in household chores means W- gets to spend time with A-, too.

I wonder if I can increase my playfulness so that I can engage her in more household chores, and I can think about scaffolding her so that she can gradually build skills. She’s got built-in drives toward helpfulness and mastery, so I can take advantage of that.

A-‘s indoor play tends to focus on playdough, letters, scissors, drawing, and pretend. She loves being read to. She can spend hours at the playground, too. All of those are wonderful things. I want to be fully there when we’re playing, not trying to pull her towards chores. I think it will be more about gently insisting that we need to do something as a small part of our daily routine, and then perhaps enthusiastically suggesting things when she’s undecided.

We’ve considered hiring help. So far, it’s been good for A- to see us involved in taking care of the house, and for her to get involved as well. It’s pretty manageable, actually. We aren’t at the point of being stressed by it, so we’re going to keep playing it by ear.

It would be neat if we can shift enough from the weekend so that chores generally feel evenly distributed throughout the week. Then W- can choose whether he needs to spend the time working on projects, he can spend time hanging out with us, or he can slow down project work so that A- and I can join. It’ll be fun figuring this out.

As for me, I can accept that I won’t be able to work as fast or as effectively as W- does. Even if A- switched over to hanging out with him, I probably wouldn’t even think of half the things he does, so that’s okay. Instead, I’ll focus on helping A- learn as much as she can, and I’ll try to learn as much as I can as well: what he notices, what he knows, what he does about stuff, and so on. There’s plenty for me to learn even when I’m playing with A-. We can do this!

2018-06-25 Emacs news

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Week ending 2018-06-22

  • Field trip
    • A- wanted to go to the Ontario Science Centre. The field trip kids were a bit rowdy, so we hung out in the toddler play area instead. We read all their books and played with the rising toys. Outside, we played with bubbles.
  • Gross motor
    • At the playground, A- was interested in climbing up and across the nets.
  • Fine motor
    • We took turns placing blocks. First we used random colours. Then I started matching the colours she picked. Then she started offering me a matching one while labeling it verbally.
  • Language
    • “Yes, ma’am.” “Yes, Ma’am? Where did that come from?” “From my mouth.”
    • “I want to call Mama.” “What do you want to talk about?” “I love you, Mama.”
    • “I want to eat a cookie outside. This is a good plan.”
    • A- successfully negotiated for a cookie by saying, “I want to brush my teeth after having a cookie.” Between that and using “I want to go outside” as a way to ask for an energy bar, I think she’s pretty good at figuring out how to work with our rules.
    • The alphabet molds and press-in letters arrived. They were larger than I expected – great! A- was interested in using them to cut out and stamp playdough.
  • Music
    • A- wanted to play the piano. She said, “Mama, listen to my song.” Then she banged on the keys a number of times. Then she said, “All done,” slid off the piano bench, and turned off the piano. Also, when the babysitter was there, she played faster or slower depending on the prompt.
    • A- snuggled through most of music class. At home, though, she enthusiastically repeated the songs, even making up pairs of words for “Two Little Dickie Birds.” She suggested actions for “Jim Along with Josie” and followed the cues perfectly. When she did, she said, “Good listening,” imitating the teacher.
  • Self-care
    • We went to the ocularist. He pushed A-‘s conformer. A- was upset, but she calmed down right away when the ocularist asked if she wanted a toy from the treasure chest.
  • Eating
    • We had a Father’s Day dinner at Ka Chi. A- liked the dumplings and the bibimbap.
    • A- enjoyed her first ice cream cone. She experimented with eating it with a spoon.
  • Household
    • We got a new spray bottle. A- happily sprayed kitchen surfaces and wiped them with a towel.
    • A- helped make pancakes. Whenever we packed them in our lunch box, she ate them first.
    • A- helped cook a lot this week: banana bread, shake and bake chicken, sweet potato fries, and even wontons.
  • Social
    • The playground was overrun by hundreds of kids. A- managed to keep playing anyway.
    • A- shared toys with a few daycare kids who were also playing in the sandbox. When it was time for them to go, A- helped put their toys in the bag. She even wanted to join them as they practised lining up, but we didn’t wander over in time.
    • A troop of scouts were picking up garbage in the park. A- wanted to help.
    • I talked to A- about babysitting. She said, “Stop babysitting experiment. Mama play with A-.”
  • Pretend
    • We played pretend ice cream shop. I described the flavors. She asked for the brown one. I handed her some playdough and told her it would be $3. She fished a scrap of paper out of her handbag and said, “I pay with money.” I thanked her. She kept looking at me expectantly, then said, “Receipt.” I gave her a piece of paper. Then she said, “Napkins.” More paper. Then she said, “Money.” That cracked me up – she made sure I gave her change.
  • Cognition
    • A- wanted to carry my bag. She tried dragging it. Then she sat down and started emptying it. She said, “Take it all out to make it lighter.”
    • A- covered her ears in anticipation of the arrival of the subway train.
  • World
    • The giant bubble maker was a bjg hit.
    • A- used the watering wand to fill a small seed starting pot with water. She lifted up the pot and all the water poured out of the hole. She repeated this a few times.
  • Sleep
    • We tried seeing if she would nap with the babysitter, but she was definitely not keen on that.
    • A- woke up early, so we played in the park.
  • Us
    • It turns out that Neko can jump out of the bathtub on her own, and has just been playing an “I’m stuck! I’m stuck!” game all this time.
    • I did some more research into preschools, and now have a pretty decent plan.

Notes on the babysitting experiment

We’ve had 6 babysitting sessions so far: a month and a half of experimenting with one afternoon a week. A- has so far gotten along pretty well with everyone, switching over to playing with them almost immediately after they arrive. It’s reassuring to see how she enjoys playing with the babysitters and how she adapted to the variety of people we’ve had so far. I’ve picked up a few new ideas, and I’ve also come to a deeper understanding of the approach that we want to experiment with.

A- was quick to learn people’s names, and solicitously offered them snacks and water whenever she ate. She liked showing them things. She was very clear about what she wanted to do. She was usually easy to settle by changing things up or by reading a book. She accepted comfort when she tripped.

I’ve been able to do about 20 hours of consulting, or a little over three hours each session. It’s a great way of self-funding it while tickling my brain and keeping my network warm. It’s much nicer to work in the afternoon than late at night. I can talk to my clients, and code doesn’t buzz around in my head and make it hard to sleep. I could generally get 2 hours of focused work if I went downstairs and started soon after the babysitter arrived, since the novelty of having a babysitter carried A- through for a while. Phone calls extended the time she can be away from me.

Eventually A- insists on reconnecting, and that’s cool. It’s part of the cycle of seeking comfort and then exploring. It felt like A-‘s usually okay if we snuggle for five minutes or so every thirty minutes to an hour, although I didn’t time it.

I asked A- how she felt about the experiment. She delights in her growing independence, and sometimes says “No, Mama, stay downstairs” and “I practise being away from Mama” from the book I made her about babysitting. Still, I think she feels happier about independence when she’s playfully rejecting me instead of when my attention is elsewhere. She said, “Stop babysitting experiment. Mama play with A-.” Perfectly understandable. I wonder what it would be like to go at her pace when it comes to developing independence. Based on my research, I think I don’t need to push her, and that she’ll probably be more confident if she can experiment with exploring with me as her safe haven.

I like spending time with A-. I don’t need the time for consulting, although it was nice to help my clients while learning a new skill. I think that at this point, she benefits more from time interacting with me or having me nearby than from practising independence with a babysitter. We’ll revisit it when it’s time to start preparing for preschool. Meanwhile, I’ll focus more on A- so that I can support her.

She gets decent social interaction with kids at the playground, but other adults rarely get involved. The drop-in centres are probably her best bet for interaction with non-family adults, if they’re not too busy. She likes the music teacher, and classes might be another way of expanding her range. I can see if any of my friends want to hang out in parks with bubbles and snacks. When she gets more curious about the world, I can take her to the museum and science centre so that she can ask volunteers questions. Librarians don’t mind talking to little kids, too.

How can I tell if she’s ready for more? We can practise with independent play, which she sometimes does while I’m taking care of chores. We’ll see if she goes back to preferring other people when they’re around. She’s starting to be more independent at the playground. Eventually, she’ll be interested in social play, and then that will naturally draw her away from me and towards other kids. That’s probably the perfect time for half-day preschool.

She’ll get the hang of it. Totally not worried. I’m curious about what we can do by trusting her and following her lead. Not many people get to do things like this!

2018-06-18 Emacs news

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Back to biking

We got the Thule Chariot XT bike trailer that also quickly converts into a stroller. Our goals are:

  • Model physical activity, and biking in particular
  • Explore more of the city
  • Expand our range

We started by getting A- used to the stroller. She’s generally amenable to it, and has asked for it when she’s sleepy. She also likes insisting on walking or even pushing the stroller, saying “I want to exercise my body!” We totally support that, of course, so I don’t insist on putting her back in.

This week, I tried biking. I rode the mountain bike by itself a few times around the block to get the hang of it, since the shifters and frame were different from the ones on my bike. Then we hitched up the bike trailer, and I rode around the neighbourhood a few more times. Then we did a test ride with A-.

I’ve been testing the bike trailer on short trips with A-. She’s not always keen on it, which makes getting her into the trailer and on the way home sometimes a dicey prospect. If I don’t have any time pressure and I make an effort to be extra-playful, though, I might be able to convince her to put on the helmet and get in the trailer. She responds better to play and energy than to collaborative problem-solving. Today, it helped to stick lots of stickers on the helmet and to pretend to be getting ready for airplane take off.

I’d like to practise with short trips to playgrounds that she might likes. Maybe High Park, Vermont Square Park, and Dufferin Grove. Those are well-served by public transit in case I need to bail. Worst-case scenario, I can probably lock the bike up somewhere, take a picture and send the location to W-, and he can retrieve it. I’d rather avoid that, though.

I think it might be good to experiment with keeping things low-pressure.

  • I’ll take transit for classes, appointments, and other things I need to get to or leave in a fairly predictable manner. Even then, I’ll give people a heads-up that stuff might happen, and I’ll keep an oops fund in case I need to pay for last-minute cancellations or cab fares.
  • I won’t let any embarrassment about running late get in my way.
  • When making plans with friends, I’ll give them a heads-up, and I’ll trust in their being grown-ups who can replan or find something that works for them.
  • A- tends to stay at a park a long time once we get there, so maybe I can ping people once we arrive and then see if they want to meet up. I should wrap up a few hours before sunset, too, just in case.
  • Speaking of trust, I’ll also trust that people can make their own decisions about whether they want to hang out with us in a playground (with bubbles! and snacks!). I’ve been a little uncertain about hanging out with non-parent friends because of the stereotype of a kid-obsessed parent who can’t talk about much else, but parks can be nice to enjoy anyway, I’m starting to free up some coding and thinking time, and maybe people might want to hang out with kids because it’s rejuvenating.

Biking opens up exciting possibilities. I don’t have to make it pay off entirely this year, or even worry about the break-even point compared to transit. I think a different experience of Toronto might be well worth it. It’s also good practice in adapting to situations and getting better at being playful. Looking forward to getting out more!