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 reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, 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!

Week ending 2018-06-15

  • Field trip
    • I went for a bike ride with A- in the trailer. Good thing I picked a nearby destination, though, since she insisted on walking on the way back. Even when she got tired, she still didn’t want to get in the trailer, so I put her in the carrier and walked the bike and trailer back.
  • Fine motor
    • A- was interested in making valentines, so we folded paper, cut out shapes, and glued them.
    • A- wanted to build a Duplo city. We pretended the blocks were houses. First we started with one line, then another, and then a few towers. Then A- focused on filling the space with blocks, butting them right up against each other. She was momentarily stymied by a small gap that she couldn’t fit a block into, but figured out after I asked a few guide questions.
  • Sensory
    • A-, the babysitter, and I got drenched in a sudden downpour. A- was upset when she was in the rain, but we were able to reframe it as an adventure. Since the power was out in our neighbourhood, I took A- to a restaurant a little further away for dinner.
    • A- liked being swung up in the air, like in the book Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too.
  • Language
    • We read lots and lots and lots of books.
    • Talking about incipient actions: “I’m about to go down the slide.”
    • W- was counting out loud. A- smiled approvingly and said, “Daddy knows the words.”
    • A- talked about the letters on the babysitter’s shirt. I gave her a few magnetic letters, and she matched them up. I gave her a cookie tray so that she could play with the letters closer to the babysitter’s shirt instead of turning around to the fridge.
  • Music
    • A- participated in music class today. She started off a little sleepy and reserved, but she helped clean up, and she let me put her on the floor. She liked hiding under the scarf and shaking the jingle bell sticks.
    • At circle time at the JFRC, A- brought over a stool and sat on it. She imitated the family support worker’s gestures and softly sang words too. She waved the scarf around, and she flapped the parachute up and down. Best circle time engagement so far!
  • Self-care and independence
    • A- didn’t want to brush her teeth, but she changed her mind when she saw the “Shiny smile time” page in a book.
    • A- and E- played in the sandbox while Jen and I chatted on a bench a short distance away. It felt like a big milestone. We eventually moved closer to help them with social interaction, but still, this is a start.
  • Social
    • We talked to our neighbour about her experience with a Montessori private school. She gave a glowing review. I might be willing to give up having an extra year with A- if preschool is a good fit for her. I’m not worried about helping A- learn her letters, but I think preschool might do a better job than I might at arranging regular social interaction. I think Montessori is interesting. I like Reggio Emilia a lot too, and I want to explore options for that as well. We’ll see!
    • Together with a couple of other kids, A- scooped sand into the tube of this activity centre. They all took turns, and they managed to fill the tube all the way up by using wet sand.
    • A- asked me to transfer her to a swing closer to another kid.
    • A- almost wore just a diaper to music class. She relented and let me put pants on her. I brought a bubble wand, which helped keep kids engaged while waiting for class to start. Also, playing the excavator game got A- a little involved in cleanup, although she still mostly clung to me in class.
    • I was looking for my keys, and A- helpfully piped up that they were on the floor. Yay! Later, I was looking for my headlamp, and A- got them for me. It was tucked into a corner, which was a little odd. Hmm…
    • Because the power was out, I brought down my headlamp. The babysitter remarked that she had a similar one. A- blew the whistle cleverly integrated into the headlamp’s strap. The babysitter was surprised and thanked A- for teaching her something new.
    • We ate at a restaurant because power was out at home. We talked through the process, and A- practised what to say and do. I asked her to say, “Excuse me, check please,” and she tried that at our table a few times before we talked to the easier.
    • I feel pretty good about how I’m playing with A- and helping her learn, and I look forward to getting even better at it. The babysitter experiment is also working out well. Even when we’re both there with her instead of my going off to do consulting or kaizen stuff, it’s a good opportunity for her to see social interaction and for me to pick people’s brains.
    • At the JFRC, I shared a large bunch of grapes at snack-time, and they were well-received.
    • A- imitated what I look like when I’m fighting the urge to sneeze.
  • Pretend
    • A- was interested in playing with the pretend kitchen at the JFRC and putting on the scrubs in the doctor kit.
    • A- liked pretending to be an excavator or a Bobcat. She also asked me to pretend to be an excavator.
  • Cognition
    • We built two towers of Duplo, and then A- wanted to put a block across the top. We built a couple of other tower pairs. I started counting the blocks I added: sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three. When we got near the top of the second tower, I asked A- how many more blocks we needed to add. She said a number that happened to be the right answer. She was probably just lucky, but hey, why not incorporate more math into our activities..
  • Kaizen
    • I moved more winter things into storage.
    • I made Tasker scripts for adding descriptions to my pictures, logging them in my journal, and linking from my journal to the pictures. I learned how to call Java functions from Tasker and how to work with images in scenes. I want to use this to create more pedagogical documentation.
    • I wrote some code to watch a directory and add Org links to new files, managing them with Org attachments. I also experimented with org-download and dragging and dropping images into Emacs, and I wrote a command to read the caption from an image’s metadata and insert it into the buffer.
    • I installed Resilio and used it to synchronize my pictures with the NAS.
    • I added pictures and printed out last week’s review. I also replaced # with Unicode stars and labels in the image filenames.
    • I wrote a shell script to add photo captions for printing.
    • I migrated my blog database to utf8mb4.
  • Us
    • A city tree inspector came by. We had a pleasant chat about the permit process and assured him we would file all the proper paperwork if we decide to go ahead with changing the backyard.

Circle time progress

I like taking A- to music classes and circle times. I learn more songs and A- gets to see other kids in a semi-structured environment. A- usually clings to me, preferring to quietly watch instead of joining in. She’s not keen on tickling games. She tends to get anxious when the teacher or family support worker uses puppets. In last year’s music class, there were maybe a couple of sessions when she felt confident enough to walk and jump on her own, but that was after months of being carried, and she still often chose to be carried after that.
At home, though, she loves arranging chairs, singing songs, and exploring instruments. I think it’s totally worth it and that she gets a lot out of it, even if it’s not obvious in class.
Besides, I can relate to wanting to hang back and observe. That’s what W- and I tend to do.
I think things might be starting to change, though. A few months ago, she used to cry and ask to leave the drop-in centre as soon as we got there. Now she can usually play there until it closes. Last month, she started talking about the family support workers while we were at home, referring to them by name. During circle time this week, she didn’t sit on my lap, but on a stool that she brought over. I liked watching how intently she watched the family support worker and how she tried to quickly imitate the gestures, and I saw her mouth a few of the words too. She hid under the scarf or waved the scarf around as prompted. She flapped her part of the parachute up and down. She smiled great big smiles; she seemed happy that she was able to follow along.
At music class, she got interested in helping put away things when I suggested that we play the excavator game. She liked holding the jingle bell sticks and the scarf (maybe because they triggered the “Mine!” instinct in her?). Once they were in her hands, she imitated the teacher and the other kids. She also returned them to the teacher. It helps to hold something or do something with her hands, I think.
It probably helps a lot that A- likes the family support workers now. The family support workers serve snacks, answer my questions, and offer her things to play with. I’ve started bringing extra food to the drop-in centre to enable even more positive social interactions, too, and I think A- likes helping share yummy food with other people. She knows the music teacher’s name, but she doesn’t have as varied positive interactions with her.
I’m looking forward to seeing how she’ll respond to music time and circle time next week. Maybe she’ll stay close, and maybe she’ll venture out a little more. While it might seem faster to push her into independence by not picking her up as much, I like watching her gradually feel comfortable enough to participate. I like how sometimes all she needs is a quick reconnection and then she’s off to explore. I like how she clearly feels secure enough in music class to listen and learn, and how much she remembers, and how she enjoys singing. She’ll have enough opportunities to practise independence without being pushed into it. She’s driven to grow.
I’ve signed up for music classes until April, except for July and August. We’ll go to drop-in centres whenever we can, too. We’re both slowly getting the hang of things, and it’s wonderful.
In the meantime, I’ll focus on picking up songs that I can sing to her throughout the day. We’ll practice imitation one-on-one. We’ll bring in babysitters so that she can have lots of positive interactions with people who are not me while staying in a familiar environment. We’re experimenting with going at her pace as much as possible while giving her plenty of opportunities to stretch and grow. She’s wonderful, and I have full confidence that she’ll get the hang of this.