Dealing with preoccupation and a slow tempo

I occasionally feel like less of a grown-up than I should be at 34 years old. We need to redo some of the insurance paperwork because I missed a few things in January. My sister will probably need to take care of that paperwork when she comes next week. I wasn’t forceful or proactive enough when it comes to dealing with fleas, so A- and I are covered in bites. I sometimes don’t see things even when they’re right in front of me.

A general approach that could work for me is:

  • Be kind to myself and others. Self-recrimination wastes energy and doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s okay to feel embarrassed if I use that feeling to move forward. It’s good to think of lapses as temporary than as indicative of character traits: something I did, not something I was. If I look for ways to improve, I can test if those ways will be sufficient.
  • Keep an oops fund. Most mistakes can be easily recovered from, and sometimes for not much money.
  • Work around my weaknesses. Delegate. Keep notes. Use checklists. Simplify. Manage expectations. Even if I think this extra fuzziness is temporary, it’s useful to plan workarounds as if it’s long-term, since I’ll probably run into similar problems when I’m older.

I feel scatter-brained. I find it hard to concentrate and remember, and I waste time getting back on track after interruptions. Mostly this is because I like being so available for A-, which is a decision I’m okay with, so I should just figure out how to compensate for that until things get back to normal-ish. Paperwork is low priority for me, so I should make sure it’s taken care of by someone who can prioritize and review it properly, and I shouldn’t overcommit.

We can get through this step by step. I can’t talk myself into being more focused and more observant, but I can gradually build safety nets, and then I can practise slowing down and paying attention.

A slow tempo often frustrates other people. I know my dad and Kathy often got impatient, and W- sometimes does too. Still, I think I can manage starting slow and working on becoming more solid. I trust that I’ll speed up with experience and with the compound growth of continuous improvement. I’m good at multiplying the value of the time I spend, and there are a few areas where I feel fast, too. I want to figure out just the right tempo for things – not slower than I need to be, but not faster than I can, while erring on the side of underpromising. I think this might be useful for me in the long run. Let’s see!

Week ending 2018-04-13

Kathy and her family left for the Netherlands on Thursday. It was great to spend time with them while they were here, and we look forward to syncing up with them when they can take a vacation. A- enjoyed playing with her cousins, and she even played peekaboo with Tito John while they were packing.

A- has gotten more interested in drawing and writing. She drew lines up and down while naming them. Then she progressed to saying “W” while drawing a wavy line. She’s also had lots of scissors practice, and she can now easily cut across a sheet of paper. She often likes cutting narrow strips.

She still prefers to be carried when we’re outside, but happily runs around and around at home.

This week, she started spontaneously saying “Sorry.” Spilled something? Sorry. Dropped something? Sorry. She even said sorry when I accidentally bumped her with a broom. She also talked to herself a lot more while playing: naming tile colours while walking on them, referring to herself by a nickname while drawing, musing “How can I figure this out?” while building, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in full.

I dealt with a plugged duct in addition to the maddeningly itchy flea bites. Cleared up the duct, waging war against the fleas. We’ll get the hang of this.

Choosing recipes with a toddler in the kitchen

Recipe suggestions for cooking with toddlers tend to focus on scooping and sprinkling, but I think young kids can do much more. A- was happily cracking eggs at 17 months, and she even sometimes managed to leave the yolks intact. She’s now a little over 2 years old, and she loves helping in the kitchen. We picked up a second-hand Learning Tower to bring her up to counter height, and it’s one of my favourite pieces of toddler gear.

I think toddler-friendly recipes should:

  • accommodate variations in quantity (A- sometimes wants to keep scooping!),
  • have weight measurements (great for quick corrections once the toddler is done scooping),
  • be forgiving about time and attention during cooking (to accommodate potty breaks, playtime, impromptu dance parties, etc.): for example, zucchini muffins are easier than spinach pancakes
  • be easy to clean up both during prep and eating: for example, we tend to not do tomato sauces
  • be grown-up friendly: we prefer family portions, not just kid-specific meals

Bonus points for:

  • permitting play and sensory exploration, like the way A- likes it when we make breadsticks because it’s just like playdough, and salad is good for tearing and spinning
  • allowing more independence: things that can be cut with butter knives, etc.
  • short ingredient lists using mostly common ingredients that are easy to keep in stock (since I sometimes find it hard to shop for groceries with a toddler)
  • ingredients that are safe to handle raw and don’t require constant cleaning/handwashing: cheese is easier to work with than raw chicken
  • being easy to pack for lunch or snacks
  • recipe collections that gradually introduce new skills, tools, and tastes
  • being easy to make ahead or prepare in short stages: for example, I can chop a few carrots while A- is napping, and it’s okay if they sit on the counter a bit if A- wakes up crying
  • being easy to manage with multiple kids: division of labour, minimal choking/eating hazards, etc.
  • individually identifiable portions: for example, making pizza

So far, A- likes helping us with scrambled eggs, pizza, breadsticks, spinach smoothies, zucchini muffins, rice, and anything that involves cheese or cucumbers. Of course, she’s involved in cleaning up, too. Working on expanding our repertoire!

2018-04-16 Emacs news

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

Figuring out my own social life

It’s much easier to hang out with other parents and their kids than with child-free friends. Parents are used to pausing and resuming conversations as we follow our kids’ interests. They know scheduling is super-flexible and it might take three times longer to walk a short distance than Google Maps estimates. The actions and recent developments of our kids give us many things to talk about. It’s great to be able to share snacks and baby wipes, and to watch out for each other. They usually have memberships to the same sort of kid-friendly places A- and I like: reasonably quiet, with lots of things to explore.
But my friends are my friends because I like who they are as people. I learn from their lives, and I appreciate that people like them exist. I don’t want to move out of their orbits permanently, or even wait until A- is old enough for me to leave her for an afternoon or an evening. They’re also grown-ups who can make the most of the moments when A- pulls me away. A- generally takes one nap these days, and I can usually get away without napping along with her. She doesn’t have a particular schedule. If we have company, I might be able to get her to sleep in the carrier.
The ideal situation is when child-free friends are also good friends with parent friends. Then we can all hang out, and despite divided attention and fragmented conversations, we can usually manage to talk about interesting things.
Home is the best place. A- is comfortable. We’ve got space to spread out and let her do things on her own whenever she wants to. I’m a little intimidated by the thought of hosting with food, since it’s still a bit hard to get groceries or cook with A-. But maybe I can find a few forgiving, freezable recipes that I can make ahead (zucchini muffins!), and I can ask people to bring things they might enjoy. Afternoons are best because A- is awake and we can keep our evening routines smooth. Most people aren’t available during the week, though, so maybe I can see about setting up a Sunday afternoon thing once a month.
I’m still looking for places in Toronto and Manila that can serve as a good base for grown-up socializing. During good weather, the parks in Toronto are great for picnics and walks, so maybe I should see if there are parks/playgrounds like that in Manila too. (And what time to go, considering the heat.) She’s a bit too small to play independently in public playplaces like those occasionally found in fast food restaurants. Big, uncrowded spaces work better for us, so she can explore while I remain close by. The Mind Museum in Manila and the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto are among our favourites.
Meals are another possibility: restaurants with high chairs, food that A- likes, and my own grab-bag of crayons, paper, and other things for kid entertainment. I prefer to not have her confined to a chair for a long time – and she usually clambers out of it quickly anyway – so that’s more for 30-minute charts. I’m mostly distracted by feeding her and keeping things from spilling, though, so I’m not much of a conversationalist.
Hmm. That gives me a few things to experiment with:

  • I can continue seeing Jen and E- weekly, since we’ve got a good rhythm for field trips. I can invite Eric whenever it makes sense, since he’s a mutual friend who has a flexible schedule.
  • I can work on setting up a similar rhythm with Joy and J-, maybe on Tuesdays, or introduce them to Jen and E- for more fun.
  • I can see if flexible, low-expectation planning works for having people over on Sunday afternoon. It can always be a supermarket rotisserie chicken dinner thing, I can ask people to bring stuff, or we can have stuff delivered.
  • When W- wants more focus time, I can plan to see friends at a park, restaurant, or something like that. This might be good for getting back in touch with both parent and non-parent friends.

Hmm. Reviving my social life also ties in with helping A- get to know and interact with more people. I think it would be a good use of my opportunity fund. I like the things I’ve been learning from friends’ lives. Since people generally don’t write as much as I do, it’s good to talk to people more regularly. The limiting factor is probably me more than other people or A-, so if I rejig my thoughts (yes, people can bring stuff, I can pay for delivery, people can be flexible, and I can trust that I’ll hold up my end of the conversation), that might open up more possibilities. Let’s give it a try.

Building a people-rich environment for A-

A- has been learning people’s names and how to interact with them, which is probably the key benefit of taking her on these trips. Lola has had some quality grandparenting time, even chasing after a delighted A- and exchanging kisses. The staff reward A- with lots of attention when she calls them by name. It took a few days for A- to warm up to Lolo Frank, but now she’s excited to greet him too. She really likes being able to call people by name. She lights up so much.

I wonder what the equivalent thing could be in Toronto. I like that there’s a large group of people here who can regularly, happily interact with A- whenever their lives intersect. Maybe if we visited W-‘s family more often? Hacklab was kinda like that for me, but I don’t know how age-appropriate an electronics-heavy maker space would be (A- isn’t quite good yet at washing her hands), and the relationships are different. Maybe I’ll just have to build the kind of playgroup my sister had with “hockey cousins” (her former hockey teammates plus their kids). Warmer weather means more time at playgrounds, so maybe I can work on socializing. Long-term plan: make friends now so that I can invite people over next winter. It’ll be easier once A- gets into social play, of course, but it’s good to practice before then.

Maybe I can start posting in the neighbourhood parent group and invite people out. It’s nice to spend time with other parents/caregivers. We can introduce each other, interact, share snacks, and watch out for each other’s kiddos.

I’d go to the drop-in centres more, too, but A- gets a bit antsy. We’ll keep trying. A- might be okay with checking out library story times. Hmm…

I can also pick up another tip from Kathy and start memorizing people’s nametags or asking people’s names. The librarians don’t wear individual nametags. I can’t remember if the supermarket cashiers do. Maybe something like, “We see you all the time! I’m Sacha. This is A-. A- is learning to have lots of fun recognizing people by name. May we ask your name so we can try to remember it?”

Hmm… I wonder what else I can do to build her that kind of people-rich environment. Daycare is one of the things people use for that kind of socialization, but then I miss out on the fun. :) It’ll just have to be regular visits to places like the subway station, Riverdale Farm, and the Science Centre, a few meetups, plus more courage and attention on my part.

Maybe after the hundredth time I ask the name question, it will feel more natural. Still introverted, but willing to make an effort in case this is something A- finds fun and useful. If you happen to be in Toronto, please feel free to help me figure this out! :)