Category Archives: review

March 2018

We managed to get a referral to Sick Kids, so A-‘s dental surgery under anesthesia is scheduled for the end of May. I squeezed in a three-week trip to the Philippines before the next set of medical appointments, overlapping with Kathy’s move to the Netherlands. Now that we’re back, I can resume working on the night weaning that the dentists strongly recommended. She also got a new conformer, but she isn’t too keen on wearing it.

We made it to the farmer Q&A session at Riverdale Farm, had lots of fun with the sandboxes and slides at various playgrounds, and checked out High Park Zoo. A- ran/walked all the way to the subway once – I didn’t have to pick her up at all. She also wanted to ride her balance bike outside. She often goose-stepped around the house, too. We went to Ward’s Island with Jen and E-, and she had lots of fun at the playground there.

We practiced blowing feathers, and I stocked up on crafting supplies. A- liked the shapes that I cut out of felt.

A- ate some of W-‘s pasta and found it too spicy, so she frequently asks if food is plain or spicy before eating it. She prefers plain food, although she tries spicy food from time to time. She liked the spinach pancakes and breadsticks we made together. I’m looking forward to exploring more recipes with her.

Lots of fun language moments:

  • “Nurse more, nurse more, no more monkeys:” after W- saved her from falling off the bed head-first
  • “Phone said it’s okay to nurse beep beep”
  • “I want to nurse in carrier because I tired”
  • “Airport sleep in bassinet a long time, because is tired”
  • “Flight attendant!”
  • a nicely interactive video chat with Lola

My big thing this month was figuring out how to make small books for A-. I traced photos on my phone, laid them out with Org Mode and LaTeX, printed them on a duplex colour printer, and taped the pages together. A- picked up the phrases and ideas so quickly. I made three books last month, and I want to make more!

Lots of other little kaizen projects, too. We kitted out the play room with more storage, and I printed labels for the bins. We got network-attached storage and have been organizing our photos. I set up lots of voice shortcuts on my phone. Lots of tidying up in the basement, too. I gave the iPad Pro and Pencil to Kathy, since she can make better use of it then I can at this time. I prepared our personal taxes and helped J- sign up for NETFILE.

We’ve been working on being more playful and silly, and that seems to be paying off. A- usually lets us brush her teeth and put her conformer back in if we play pretend or sing silly songs. Looking forward to learning even more.

April is nearly done. The trip, taxes, catching up, and preparing for all those medical things in May… Much to do!

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.

Week ending 2018-04-06

A- settled back into Manila life quite readily. She warmed up to her cousins in a hours instead of a few days. She was initially scared of Lolo Frank, but now she knows him by name. She knows more people by name in the office, too. She’s still a little reserved, but that’s normal. It doesn’t help that people here tend to touch kiddos without asking. I’m getting better at heading people off.

She’s gotten better at exploring her environment and even indicating that she wants pictures or videos of a certain thing. At a restaurant, she crawled under a high chair, grinned, crawled out, and then repeated the process until I could take a proper picture of it.

She had lumpiang shanghai and said, “I like this so much.” She also liked mangoes, bananas, and chicharon. She liked ramen at Santouka and teriyaki at Pepper Lunch. It’s easy to tell when she’s had a good meal, because she gets so active afterwards.

She’s been learning how to ride a scooter around. There’s plenty of smooth floor space here, so that might be something to do during trips. A balance bike might be good for her too. I wonder if I should buy one locally or just ship ours back and forth.

A- really enjoyed playing with her cousins. They adapted to the gradual simplification of the living room as toys got packed for shipping. A- even asked G* to let her sit on her lap and read to her. We’ve been using the Little Engineer set to build shopping carts, flower gardens, chairs, and slides. She had fun giving the big teddy bear hugs, although I remain firm in my resolution to minimize the number of stuffed animals we have in the house.

I’m covered in bug bites, and so is A-. Mostly mosquitos, I think, although Kathy suspects additional bugs came in via the Ifugao doll house. Oh well! I’m doing a very bad job of resisting the urge to scratch, even though I know scratching just makes it worse. I brought hydrocortisone ointment this time.

John G. arrived. Home stretch for their family!

Week ending 2018-03-30

This weekly review is delayed because travel threw our rhythm off a bit, but my journaling system is holding up nicely.

A- ran/walked all the way to the subway station. I didn’t even have to pick her up once, although I did carry her bag after a short distance. She also had fun pretending to slide down a twisty slide at home, which consists of corkscrewing down a large pillow.

Lots of pretending to be a cat or pretending to be one of her cousins, with me also getting assigned an appropriate role. (“Pretend Tita Kathy feed pretend Ate G*.”) She also imitated the Mojo Jojo voice W- used for the fish in the Cat in the Hat, which totally cracked us up. She found a fancy dress in her closet and enjoyed dressing up in it too.

After tasting a little of W-‘s spicy pasta and spitting it out, A- has taken to asking me if things are spicy or plain before eating them. She usually believes me, but sometimes she’s still cautious despite reassurances.

Not much progress on gentle weaning, although one time she asked me to pat her back instead of asking me to nurse her to sleep.

The packing cubes were definitely a good idea. I felt way more organized.

The flights to Korea and the Philippines were okay. The car seat didn’t get used much after the first two minutes of novelty. The rest of the time, her stuffed sheep sat in it, strapped in and very safe. Sometimes A- wanted to kick me out of my seat and sit in the big seat all by herself. Mostly she sat on my lap.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Incheon for our overnight layover. The East Tower was not as well-appointed as the West Tower, but it was adequate. We woke up in the middle of the night and ordered room service. The omelette was generously-sized, and I ordered rice on the side in case A- wanted it. Room service actually works pretty well considering A- sometimes takes a while to feel hungry, and she likes eating every two hours or so.

Anyway, now we’re in Manila! We’ll be here until the 20th.

Week ending 2018-03-23

The big thing this week was the initial consultation with the dentistry department of Sick Kids. They plan to put A- under general anesthesia and fix her top four incisors. They said it looks like totally normal early childhood caries now, so no worries about enamel hypoplasia, and they strongly recommended night weaning as a way of reducing the risk of repeat dental surgery. Since we haven’t been able to be 100% solid on cleaning her teeth before bedtime, night weaning probably makes lots of sense.

Now that we’ve got A-‘s medical things scheduled for May, I decided we could squeeze in a quick trip to the Philippines so that she could spend time with Lola and see her cousins and Tita Kathy before they move to the Netherlands. If A-‘s teeth turn into an emergency situation, I hope travel insurance will help us sort everything out.

We took the ferry to Ward’s Island with Jen and E-. It was lots of fun even though everything was closed. The kids played with the pirate ship playground and had fun tossing leaves. A- favored Aunt Jen quite heavily, even telling me to stop. She also practised climbing up the ladder because she saw E- do it. It was great to see her becoming more independent.

A- was up early one day, so we made it out to Riverdale Farm in time for a farmer Q&A session. I learned a little bit about the sheep and the other animals at the farm. We got to touch the sheep’s nose and wool, which A- liked a lot. We combined that with a trip to Children’s Book Bank and the Regent Park playground, where A- had fun climbing up, sliding down, and digging in the sandbox.

A- was very interested in squeezing glue onto paper and sticking on pompoms, googly eyes, and ripped pieces of paper. She also liked playing with dough while I made breadsticks. Those and spinach pancakes were big hits. For gross motor development, she walked her balance bike up and down the sidewalk.

Lots of fun with language this week. She can use the word “sapatos” to mean shoes, and she can say the first two lines of Cattus Petasatus.

W- told me how she was jumping on the bed and he saved her from falling off head-first. He said she looked a little shocked, and then she said, “Nurse more, nurse more, no more monkeys.”

For my part, I’ve been trying to wean her with the help of timers on my phone. That prompted this hilarious attempt at social engineering: “Phone said it’s okay to nurse, beep beep.”

She really liked the Five Little Ducks song. I changed the lyrics to refer to Papa Duck instead of Mama Duck, and she insisted on changing the song so one little duck always comes back. She was interested in playing the recorder, and she actually listened when I asked her to play it quietly because people were sleeping.

Lots of pretending to be a cat qnd pretending I was Mama cat. She also enjoyed pretending to be Ate G* and pretending I was Tita Kathy.

On our side, W- fixed a leak in the dishwasher drain pipe, and I generated and printed labels for many of the toy bins.

Next up: travel!

Decision review: Samsung Note 8

It was quite a big jump going from a Moto G (2nd gen, bought in 2015) to a Samsung Note 8 this year, mostly on my dad’s insistence. Here’s how I’ve been working on making the most of my new phone’s capabilities.

  • Camera: Way more pictures of A-, since the camera works decently even in low light. I like how it reminds me to clean the camera lens.
  • Better battery life, quick charge: This is great. I used to keep W-‘s old Moto G handy so that I could swap to it if my phone battery ran low while I wrote in bed. Now I don’t even worry about charging overnight, since I can charge my phone while having breakfast with A-.
  • More storage: It’s nice not having to decide which apps I have space for on my phone. I even used the SD card to copy thousands of archived photos into Google Photos.
  • Pen: Screen-off notes are really quick to scribble down, since all I need to do is take out the pen and start writing. I trust writing more than typing for taking fast notes. I also really like the ability to select part of the screen and extract text, because sometimes apps don’t make it easy to select and copy text. I’ve used the pen to draw and colour illustrations for a book for A-. It’s more awkward than using my tablet PC or the iPad, but it lets me use phone time to get more things done, so it’s worth it.
  • Fingerprint scanner: Surprisingly handy way of reducing the friction of using my phone. I keep my phone locked when the screen is off so that A- doesn’t play with it, and tapping the fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone saves me a bit of fumbling around.
  • Voice and gesture control for pictures: Great for taking pictures, since it’s not easy to hold and shoot with one hand.
  • Speech recognition in general: I’ve been getting the hang of this now that battery life means I’m a little less worried about leaving my phone listening all the time. I have a few shortcuts for tracking activities, and I often set timers and add grocery items by voice too. It’s still not quite reliable, but it’s worth a shot. A- occasionally parrots “Okay Google” and “Command sent,” so I try to model saying “please” when I ask my phone to do things. I haven’t used Bixby as much, since voice wake-up for Bixby interferes with voice control of pictures.
  • Larger screen: This was a little hard to get used to, since the bigger screen makes it hard to put my phone in my pocket or hold in bed. But it does make it a little more manageable to ssh into my server and do things, although working with a virtual keyboard is still annoying. I’ve also used the split screen feature a few times.
  • Edge apps: I’ve used the clipboard and the ruler a few times.
  • Live focus: I’ve used this a few times, but I usually don’t have much time to compose a picture of A-. Maybe when she’s a bit older, or if I think about it more.

I want to explore more of the camera’s features, figure out a good workflow for photos, learn more about what I can do with speech recognition, and get better at workflows for notes (thoughts, images, and e-books).

I wonder if it makes sense to draw more on my phone than on paper even when A- is around. I haven’t been keen on doing so because she usually wants to imitate me, and she gets more out of drawing on paper than on my phone. Maybe I’ll draw on paper and take quick pictures on my phone instead.

I probably won’t upgrade for a while, since it’s likely to be a bit of a hassle selling this phone and upgrading to a new one. I might be tempted by an even better camera in the next phone. After all A- is only this age once. I really like the stylus. That means keeping an eye on the Samsung Note line and figuring out when it makes sense to upgrade. I hope this phone is sturdier than the Samsung Galaxy S3 I experimented with years ago. This one has survived life with a toddler so far, so that’s good. I spend more time on my phone than on my laptop these days, so it’ll be interesting to see how I can make the most of it.