October 2017

Learning how to play with dough

October 3, 2017 - Categories: parenting, play

​Every day brings new and wonderous discoveries of what a kid can do, even at 19 months old. 

Take play dough. We’ve been using the same batch I made a few months ago following the first recipe I found on the Internet. We have just enough to fill a sandwich container, and it’s all one colour: light green, since we had lots of green colouring left over from jelly-making days.

A- started off mostly being interested in cutting the dough with a baby knife and a dough scraper. I used to just roll out ropes and balls for her to cut. Last week, I decided to keep myself occupied by playing with the dough myself, learning more about thinking in 3D by shaping familiar objects or adding up layers. I made a cat. A- started petting it and doing the gestures for a cat-themed rhyme we often recite.

I made an egg and a pan. I mimed our breakfast routine, making a bowl and a plate along the way. She imitated that gleefully, asking me to make more eggs for her to crack and scramble. 

I made an airplane. She flew it around. 

I made figures for W-, her, and me. She gave them a hug. 

W- joined us for a play session. He made her a car. She vroom-vroomed it around.

I made her an apple. She said “Ap” and pretended to eat it. 

W- made her a banana. She said, “(Ba)nana, pee(l).” She tried to peel it, so I made her another banana with a peelable skin, and she peeled that. 

Meanwhile, W- made her two bananas, still joined together like we get them at the store. She took the pair of bananas, said “Nana, hu.” That boggled us. Hu? Hoo? What did she mean? She curled her finger under the stem connecting the bananas. Ah, hook! W- carefully hung the play dough bananas on the hook that we usually use for real bananas.

It was a little like doodling with play dough. We’d squish a quick shape together, name it, and see if she was interested. I knew A- was comfortable pretending with props – the tea set at the drop-in centre, the kitchen playset her cousins have – but I was surprised at how well she played with combinations of simple playdough figures and words. 

It makes me wonder: what else can I do at this stage to help her learn and grow? I doodle faces, stick figures, everyday objects, and sketchnoted thoughts when she’s drawing, and her pencil grip is starting to look remarkably like mine. (Hmm, might be time for me to learn how to write properly.) Her Lolo gave her a waterproof, shockproof camera, so we’ve started taking pictures and reviewing them together. We go to music classes so that I can learn songs to fill her week with. I’d also like to learn more about physical activity and nature so that I can help her grow in those areas too. It all seems almost like more of an education for me than for her. I’m learning a lot, guided by her joy.

It might not always be as awesome as this, I know. But it’s pretty darn awesome. =)

September 2017

October 10, 2017 - Categories: monthly, review

A- and I spent most of September in the Philippines visiting family. It was our first time to be away from W- for so long. Stretching the flights out with an overnight layover in Seoul was much more manageable than trying to do it with a short layover, even though that resulted in 33 hours of travel time. It was good to spend time with my parents, my sisters, and A-‘s two cousins.

We spent most of the trip at home. Kathy also took us to Museo Pambata, where A- liked playing in the pretend marketplace. She also planted and harvested rice in their pretend field. We went to the Mind Museum and A- was fascinated by the cut-away toilet and the kinetic sand. She liked the ball pit, ramps, and the slide at Active Fun. We visited my dad in the hospital and ended up staying in the hotel at Manila Ocean Park after a kalesa ride through the flood. A- was fascinated by the fish swimming in the aquarium lining the wall. A- slept through the celebration at the church, and had fun at the party afterwards. She slept on the van trip to Tagaytay, enjoyed staying at Taal Vista, and rode her first Ferris wheel, carousel, and horse at Sky Ranch. (She was so relaxed, she fell asleep about ten minutes into the horse ride.) Lots of fun outside, and lots of fun at home too.

A- loved hanging out with her cousins and imitating what they did. She wanted to imitate how G* balanced on one foot, and she bounced up and down on the bed when G* and A* were jumping on it. She pretended to fry an egg using the pan in their kitchen playset, and she liked carrying a basket of plastic food.

We called W- over video chat as often as we could. A- liked saying hi to him and interacting with him even over the phone. She also asked for the cats so that she could say hi to them. She missed W- a lot, sometimes asking me through sign language how much she needed to wait in order to see Dada. When we got back, she showed a strong preference for his company whenever he was around, and separation anxiety when he wasn’t. We had been way for almost four weeks, and that might have been a bit too much. Still, it was what we needed to do. It was good that we were there. We spent time with Kathy’s kids while she accompanied my dad to the hospital and to Singapore for lots of consultation.

A- picked up lots of words and enjoyed lots of social interaction while she was there, too. She invented her own sign for “grape” using the starting gestures for “The Great Big Spider,” and my dad enjoyed offering her grapes. She learned “Uh oh” and started using it after spilling something… and before intentionally spilling things, too. She liked picking up phones and saying “Hello, bye bye,” so I got into the habit of disconnecting hotel phones. She liked the bidet, and asked for it. She picked up “Oh no” from John V. after one saying. She learned the gesture of mano po from my mom after a day or two, and various fistbumps and high-fives from everyone. My parents got their own share of unprompted kisses, and they even came up with new games with her like nose-twiddling. When we got back, she learned the other two cats’ names and lots of words for everyday life (including, quite charmingly, “Yes please,” “Up please,” “More please,” and the like).

My dad gave A- her first camera and her first Swiss knife. She’s shown plenty of interest in both, and I frequently use them in front of her so that she can become more familiar with them. The camera is shock-resistant, which is great because that means she can handle it freely. She’s even pressed the shutter button a few times. The camera has built-in WiFi, so I’ve been uploading more pictures to my phone and then to Facebook. The Swiss knife, well, there’s a short list of tools that she can use under close supervision, and maybe she’ll grow into the rest.

A- wants to grow into so many things. She wanted to wear my carrier, my clothes, and W-‘s suspenders. She not only pretended to put her old conformer into Baa’s eye, but also wanted to wash it after dropping it on the floor. She wanted to unlock the filing cabinet with the keys that she insisted on holding for me. She learned how to get water for herself from the water dispenser.

We had the occasional tantrum: sometimes when she was overtired, which couldn’t be much helped; sometimes refusing clothes, which was totally understandable given the weather, so she spent quite a few days in just a diaper; sometimes refusing diapers, which was less negotiable. Overall, A- rose admirably to the challenges of a long trip and a different environment, which made it easier for me to adapt.

Speaking of adapting, A- turned out to be fine with spicy things, enjoying a few spoons of a laksa that I had for dinner one time. She’s fine with vegetables, too. When we got back, we discovered that she also really likes the green monster smoothies that W- makes (kale, blueberry, banana, yogurt, hemp seeds).

We’ve booked our flights for the next trip, this time with W-. I might actually be able to do more paperwork this time around. In the meantime, we’re settling back into life at home. October will probably be mostly about making the most of Toronto with music classes, parenting workshops, physical activity, parks, playgrounds, and trips to the science centre and to the museum, and catching up on stuff I postponed while we were away.

A-‘s learning so much. It’s all we can do to keep up! =)

Week ending October 15, 2017

October 19, 2017 - Categories: review, weekly

​There was a bit of sleep disruption last week, but overall, A- was back to a normal schedule. She seems to naturally be a night owl, so we’ll just adapt by taking it easy and avoiding early morning commitments.

We’ve definitely built a smoothie habit. She asks for them every day, and has invented her own sign for them. Not a bad way to get more spinach into her. She liked the applesauce that she had as a snack at the JFRC, eating it instead of spitting it out like she did when she was much younger. She was curious about watercress and seaweed. She liked  shrimp a lot.

The big thing last week was about playing more independently. At the playground, she climbed the stairs, stepped down to the platform, slid down the slide, and got off all by herself. She did five circuits without holding my hand! Wow. Having mastered the shallowest slide, she then went on to independently slide down two other slides on the same playground. She figured out how to rock back and forth on the spring toys there, too.

Lots of language, too. When I tried babbling back what I thought she said, she emphatically corrected me with “No, A- Baa” – she wasn’t just babbling, she was specifically asking for her sheep. She asked for her smock with “Smo” and for paint with “Pai.” She asked me to read several books, some again and again, and she pointed to various body parts as we read “I Love You Through and Through.” She tried asking the cats to do things (Up! Play ball!), which was about as successful as you expect it would be. (Not at all.) More successful was W-‘s attempt to teach her to say “Anothe(r)!” after she polished off her smoothie.

A- saw pictures of W- feeding her yogurt in her recliner, and insisted on recreating the scene. She really likes looking at pictures, whether they’re printed or on our phones. 

All sorts of details from our household routines surfaced during pretend play, especially with dough. She asked for a pan, oil, egg, fork, and plate as she mimed cooking eggs. She asked for a blender, blueberries, banana, yogurt, and a glass as she pretended to make a smoothie. She asked for an oven to toast her pretend-seaweed in, then filled it and rolled it up. She moved a little A- figure down a slide.

We bought her a table and two chairs from IKEA, and W- installed a potty seat in the upstairs bathroom. I bought flannel shirts for her from Value Village, since she doesn’t like clothes that need to be pulled over her head. Little investments in independence and comfort!

As for me, I tried structuring my daily journal as a spreadsheet that I can update on my phone. Seems to be working so far, since computer time has been harder to find than phone time. I looked into some database upgrade questions for my consulting client. 

I even managed to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 one evening. Slowly getting back to normal…

Weekly review: Week ending October 20, 2017

October 22, 2017 - Categories: review, weekly

A- loves scribbling on paper, and she also likes asking me to draw things for her. I usually draw our faces, taking advantage of our brain’s inclination to see faces even in simple shapes. I label as I draw: “A- has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and hair.” It looks like all that modeling is paying off. This week, she drew a rough circle, said “Eyes,” and added lots of dots. Neat!

She asks to see pictures every day, sometimes several times a day. She likes labeling herself, Daddy, the cats, her hat, Lolo and Lola, and washing hands. We printed out a few more pictures so that she has more to flip through. She got interested in removing pictures from and inserting them into the photo album. We also show her pictures on our phones and on the tablet. I’m gradually collecting pictures of everyday words so that I can help her expand her vocabulary.

She’s getting better at entertaining herself independently for a few minutes at a time. She mimed making noodles with a pot and imitated Neko cleaning her paws. She likes flipping through albums and through my box of sketched index cards. One time, she even told W- that she’ll wait by playing in her room until he could finish vacuuming.

Since it was pretty warm this week, A- often didn’t want to put on clothes. Fortunately, no one at the science centre batted an eye. Even on a cooler day, she resisted pants, but she eventually asked to wear a jacket. I’m learning to trust that she’ll ask for clothes when she feels cold, and she’s fine otherwise.

Another little moment that might be a milestone: A- handed a teaspoon to W- and said “One.” She gave him another, and said “Two.” She gave him another, and said “Three.” We’re not sure if she’s counting or just remembering the sequence, but since she’s interested in numbers, we’ll make sure to count lots of things.

So much reading, too! :) We found a nice place for storytime in our bedtime routine, snuggling in bed with a handful of books. She likes having us read “I Love You Through and Through” repeatedly, and she points to various body parts at the appropriate points. She likes the new books we borrowed from the library, too.

We finally made it to the city-run Recreation Discovery program. It’s like a compressed JFRC or OEYC: free play, circle time, crafts, and a story. A- was reserved, but she liked the books and the magnetic drawing board. She’s still pretty reserved in music class, but she’s starting to try to sing along when I sing outside it. At the Make the Connection parenting workshop, we learned more about temperaments and goodness of fit. A- and I are pretty similar, so it’s been easy to adapt to what she needs.

The balance bike I ordered for her is taking a mysteriously long time to turn up at the neighbourhood post office. I might need to follow up on Monday.

We had our final meeting with Healthy Babies Healthy Children. Nilda gave us our completion certificate and answered my remaining questions. It was super helpful to have their support as we were figuring out what we were dealing with, and the activities they suggested helped me learn how to help A- develop her skills.

I reflashed my phone to LineageOS with W-‘s help. That should make my phone a little more up to date. I also updated my ledger. I stayed up late one night to do some consulting, fixing the auto-follow tool in time for my client’s demo.

Next week: catching up and getting a little ahead…

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (6.6h – 3%)
    • Earn (5.0h – 74% of Business)
    • Build (1.7h – 25% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (3.1h – 1%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (2.1h – 1%)
    • Coding (1.0h)
  • Personal routines (21.5h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (20.3h – 12%)
  • A- (Childcare) (63.2h – 37% of total)
  • Sleep (51.2h – 30% – average of 7.3 per day)

2017-10-23 Emacs news

October 23, 2017 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

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

Thanks for your patience!

Turning 34; life as a 33-year-old

October 25, 2017 - Categories: review, yearly

What a difference a year makes! In August 2016, we were just beginning to emerge from the tangle of diagnostic exams and new medical terms, trying to figure out what we needed to deal with. By August 2017, A- was walking, talking, interacting, and cheerfully developing on track, which was a great relief.

I’ve finally cleared some time to do my annual review, so here goes!

What happened this year?

We made the most of W-‘s parental leave with plenty of time together, a three-week trip to the Philippines to visit my family, and lots of home improvement (workshop, wardrobe, and part of a porch rebuild). After he went back to work, we established new routines which seem to be working quite well.

I checked out lots of parenting resources and workshops, consulted various agencies for help with assessing and monitoring A-‘s development, and gave myself a crash course in early childhood education. We’ve been making good use of our membership at the Royal Ontario Museum, and I’ve been singing lots of songs we picked up from circle times and toddler classes. I’m pleasantly surprised at how fun it is to learn about all sorts of stuff.

As we settled into regular routines, I reclaimed some discretionary time. It turns out that I can usually get an hour of discretionary time at night, if I stay up after A- has gone to bed. That’s been handy for updating my journal, doing some consulting (mostly SQL and a little prototyping), posting Emacs News summaries, and learning more.

What did I learn?

There were a few big uncertainties this year.

  • What were the parameters we need to work with in terms of A-? Microphthalmia means regular trips to the ocularist and ophthalmologist, prostheses, and some adaptation in terms of vision and socialization. Her ventricular septal defect seems to have no impact on her growth, and just needs routine monitoring to check on the right ventricle muscle bundles. The liver hemangioma also needs routine monitoring. Enamel hypoplasia means being more careful about cleaning her teeth, with possible dental work later. She doesn’t seem to have any developmental delays. Also, she’s pretty darn awesome!
  • Will I be able to adapt to stay-at-home parenting? This worked out surprisingly well, and I’m glad we structured our lives this way. I find it interesting, and I’m learning a lot. I’ve scaled down consulting because of time constraints and brain fuzziness, but that’s still okay. It’s been super-helpful to be able to adapt to A-‘s sleep schedule and interests.
  • How do we want to parent? I resonate with ideas from attachment parenting, Montessori education, and a few other parenting philosophies. I’ve been pretty good at staying calm and managing the usual new-parent anxiety. I’m learning more about early childhood education and child development.
  • What’s worth spending time and money on, and what can I postpone or avoid? Journaling has been very much worth it. Compiling Emacs News doesn’t take much time, and it’s been useful too. I can do enough consulting to keep my clients happy. Reading and improvement time pay off, too. I’ve also been able to do personal coding (mostly Quantified Awesome) and a tiny bit of sewing, but those are harder.We’ve been pretty frugal in terms of baby-related stuff, and keeping things simple has worked well for us. I started using the opportunity fund for A- – not because I think this will result in a prodigy, but because it’s enjoyable and good to explore all sorts of things together.
  • What are the health challenges facing my family, and how can we support them? It was a tough year for my parents and my sister, and they’re not out of the woods yet. I can’t help much with the day-to-day stuff over the distance, but I can check in with them over Facebook, listen, share stories, let them interact with A-, help with research, and respect their decisions.
  • What will it be like to take A- to the Philippines? Both A- and I got overtired on the flights during our first trip, so it really helped that W- was there. It was great being able to share the load with him on the ground, too. Nice spending time with family and friends!

A few questions I’ll explore this year:

  • How can we make the most of A-‘s preschool years? I think this year will be mostly about helping A- learn self-care and household skills. The more she can do by herself, the more capable she’ll feel, and the less frustration she’ll have to deal with.Independent classes tend to start around 3 years old, so I have a little over a year of participating in classes together. Music classes and a museum membership have been a good fit for us, and I’d like to ramp up physical activity and add a membership to the science centre. (Oct 2017: The science centre has been worth it for us. We’re there practically every week!)
  • How can I support W- as he takes on larger projects? Taking care of A- lets me free up time for W- to work on the porch, and reading about stuff helps me chat with him about the work he’s doing.
  • What does my family need? We’re keeping some of W-‘s vacation time in reserve for another trip to the Philippines. I’m also chatting with them more, since A- responds to Facebook video chats. (Oct 2017: A- and I traveled by ourselves to the Philippines to spend a few weeks with my family. Doing an overnight layover made things a lot easier to manage. It was great to spend time with family. I started looking into paperwork, too.)

How have I changed?

Compared to last year, I’m more confident about parenting. I use general areas of child development to guide my observation and planning so that I can offer A- a variety of options, and then we follow her interests from there. As I expected, parenting is the sort of thing that gets more fascinating if I geek out about it.

I haven’t been able to code much, since I’ve been prioritizing sleep and my journal. I feel less articulate – like my brain occasionally gets a little tangled – but maybe that’s just because I’m more aware of speaking, or maybe that’s sleep deprivation. It’ll probably sort itself out over time.

I feel reassured by the way we’re dealing with things. It’s nice to be able to test Stoic philosophy and find that it works well for me.

How did I spend my time, and how do I feel about that?

Category % 32 years % 33 years Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
A- – Childcare 14.9 39.2 24.4 65.7 41.0
Business – Build 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.8 0.2
Discretionary – Social 0.9 1.1 0.1 1.8 0.2
Business – Connect 0.7 0.1 -0.6 0.1 -1.0
Unpaid work 7.5 6.8 -0.7 11.3 -1.2
Discretionary – Family 3.0 1.4 -1.6 2.4 -2.7
Sleep 37.4 34.0 -3.4 56.9 -5.7
Business – Earn 4.5 1.2 -3.4 1.9 -5.7
Discretionary – Play 5.7 1.5 -4.2 2.5 -7.0
Personal 15.4 10.4 -5.0 17.4 -8.4
Discretionary – Productive 9.7 3.6 -6.1 6.0 -10.3

Childcare went way up, of course, since I had a kiddo for 100% of my life as a 33-year-old and 50% of my life as a 32-year-old. That took time away from pretty much everything else, but I’m okay with that. I’ve worked out a sleep pattern that usually lets me feel pretty rested: try not to stay up more than two hours longer than A- does, and nap when I can.

An hour or two of discretionary time isn’t quite enough to get deep into code. Fortunately, my consulting clients are super-flexible, and we can pick tasks that fit with the constraints on my time and concentration.

What is a typical day like?

We usually wake up when A- feels like waking up, which is around 11 AM or so. Some days, I set an alarm and wake up earlier so that I can take care of things or gently nudge A- towards being awake. After a relaxed breakfast, we head out for appointments, errands, or informal field trips. We might have lunch outside or at home, depending on the timing. A- usually naps in the carrier at some point. When we get home, we have an afternoon snack, tidy up, and play some more. We reconnect with W- when he gets home, and we might go for a walk to the supermarket together. We help make dinner, eat, tidy up, pack our lunches for the next day, and prepare for bed. We read a few stories, then settle in – sometimes with W-, and sometimes in A-‘s room.

What am I looking forward to?

Life as a 34-year-old will probably look like:

  • Embracing every stage as we go through it
  • Helping A- develop self-care skills and participate in household life
  • Going on a couple of trips to the Philippines to spend time with family and sort out paperwork

Weekly review: Week ending 2017-10-27

October 29, 2017 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Because A- has been interested in a book about animal noises, we went to Riverdale Farm so that she could see farm animals in person. It was busy because of a Halloween event, but the barns were manageable. A- liked looking at the chickens and ducks.

We went to the ROM with Jen and E-. The coat check person still recognized us even though we’d been focusing on the science centre for the past few months. The kids had lots of fun pushing door buttons, swapping food in the lunch room, walking, running, and jumping in the hallways, although there weren’t as many things to interact with at the ROM as there are at the science centre. Still, it’s a good place to walk around indoors. A- wanted to push the stroller, so Jen helped her. I accompanied E- while he checked out the automatic doors.

When we went to the science centre this week, A- spent quite a fair bit of time dropping my cards through the slats in the bench. She also played with all her usual favourites: the water table, the ball maze, and the pretend supermarket.

We passed by the Children’s Book Bank before the Make the Connection parenting workshop at the Parliament Library. I was delighted to find toddler-oriented versions of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma” in a series called “Cozy Classics”, so I snapped those up.

Last week’s parenting workshop focused on language. We’ve been doing a good job at labeling things with simple, clear words, and A- has about 140 words that she regularly uses. I’m going to work on remembering to keep adding more advanced words as she uses words correctly.

At the library, A- liked checking out books by herself. She brought the books to the express checkout, climbed up on the step stool with some help, put my library card under the scanner (with a little help), put the book on the pad, tapped the right buttons on the screen, and put the book in my backpack.

One of the books that she loves reading is “Into My Mother’s Arms.” She’s gotten really good at pointing out things in the background when we ask her to: the shopping cart, the watch, the swing… She even labels some of them out loud, like the way we’ve been doing while reading.

She gestures along with me for songs like “The Grand Old Duke of York” and “Three Little Monkeys Juming on the Bed,” and she even chimes in with the words she knows.

I learned a new song at music class: “Down by the Station.” Also, she’s starting to warm up to music class again. She shook the shakers and waved the scarf around during the dance activity, yay! I picked up another song that’s season-appropriate, too: “Down, down, yellow and brown, the leaves are falling all over town.”

A- likes riding in the laundry basket. She can now climb into the laundry basket all by herself.

I don’t have to worry about reminding A- to go to bed. There were a couple of times last week when A- initiated our bedtime routine (bath, brush teeth, story, bed) all on her own.

Speaking of routines: I brought blueberries as a snack, and she asked for a spoon. She’s getting the hang of things.

She’s getting better at rinsing and spitting. One time, she started shaking her head after dinner, and she shook her head all the way up the stairs. It turned out that she had taken in some water and was rinsing her mouth, and she spit out the water after I lifted her up to the bathroom sink.

I checked out Once Upon a Child, a consignment store. Value Village is closer and easier to browse, though, so we’ll probably do most of our thrifting there. I’ve also checked out Salvation Army and other thrift stores in the past, but Value Village seems to have the biggest selection even though the prices are a little bit higher.

I cooked risotto for the first time. It was a lot of stirring, but it was an interesting texture to add to our food vocabulary.

I sewed a yellow vest with reflective ribbons for A-‘s Halloween costume. I made a cardboard bulldozer to wear as a hat for mine. W- helped me hot-glue and paint it. It was much easier to work on the workbench than on the floor. Good height, and I didn’t have to shoo away cats or worry about leaving things around that curious toddlers might get into.

My brother-in-law’s dad passed away. We sent our condolences, and Kathy helped us send flowers to the wake.

Our sleep and routines have finally settled down enough for me to carve out time to do Emacs News. Yay!

2017-10-30 Emacs news

October 30, 2017 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

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