Category Archives: review

Monthly review: July 2016

(Finally, a little time to catch up on my writing! =) )

Ah, July. Many of the medical uncertainties we’d been working on over the past few months were wrapped up, at least for now. A- got her first artificial eye – a scleral shell that will gradually be enlarged to help her skull grow symmetrically. The anomalous finding on her abdominal ultrasound turned out to be a benign hemangioma according to the MRI. Cardiology at Sick Kids got a closer look at her ventricular septal defect through an echocardiogram under sedation, and they’ll continue to monitor it along with our first cardiologist. It feels a little strange to have medical appointments scheduled months out instead of practically every week, and to not get a referral to yet another department, yet another section of the Hospital for Sick Children. In the five months that A-‘s been alive, there had been five weeks free of medical appointments, and even those were under the shadow of the next thing to research, plan for, and accept. It’s starting to feel like we have a bit of a handle on things.

We’re so lucky that parental leave was an option for W-. It allowed us to take shifts in consoling A- when the procedures upset her. W- made delicious dinners: pesto and bun from the summery abundance of our planter boxes, juicy rotisserie chicken when it was too hot to cook indoors, and even more yummy things I didn’t have the attention span to do. He even got into the habit of ironing and pre-folding the large flannel squares that we use as A-‘s diapers. That way, she wouldn’t be bothered by any doubled-up hems. Lucky girl, and lucky me.

I reacquired Philippine citizenship and included A-, so she has that option. I hope I don’t end up regretting the paperwork. Sometimes dual citizenship is helpful, and sometimes it makes things trickier. Anyway, might as well.

Lots of social stuff, too. Tita Gay and Tita Myra drove up from the US to meet A-, and it was great to catch up with them. I’ve been going to a peer nutrition program conducted in Tagalog in order to learn more about feeding the baby and also to find out about Filipino community resources. We met another family with a baby who has left-eye microphthalmia, and we swapped notes. Slowly making new parent friends!

A- has gotten much better at rolling, and she likes spending time on her tummy. She can reach her toys from the rocker’s reclined position. She loves playing with water from the hose or streaming down from a cup with holes. We’ve been introducing her to lots of different kinds of food, and she’s gotten quite good at putting things into her mouth. Growing growing growing!

2016-08-06b July 2016 -- index card #monthly #review output

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category Period 1 % Period 2 % Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
Business – Build 0.3 0.2 -0.0 0.4 -0.0
Discretionary – Play 1.0 0.5 -0.5 0.9 -0.8
Unpaid work 41.6 40.2 -1.3 69.9 -2.3
Unpaid work – Childcare 34.0 34.3 0.4 59.6 0.6
Discretionary – Social 2.3 1.5 -0.7 2.7 -1.2
Discretionary – Family 1.4 1.2 -0.2 2.1 -0.3
Sleep 33.4 36.8 3.4 63.8 5.7
Business – Connect 0.1 0.1 -0.0 0.2 -0.0
Business – Earn 2.4 1.4 -1.0 2.5 -1.6
Discretionary – Productive 5.8 4.8 -1.0 8.3 -1.8
Personal 11.8 13.1 1.3 22.8 2.3

Life as a 33-year-old

The first half of this year was like winding up a spring, and the second half was about letting it loose; pulling inwards and preparing, then A-‘s birth in February and an explosion of learning and activity.

2016-08-10a Life as a 33-year-old -- index card #yearly #review 2016-08-12b Delta between 32 and 33 -- index card #yearly #review

This time last year, I was heading into the second trimester of pregnancy. As nausea and vomiting receded, I regained a little energy. I helped W- tile the laundry corner and the bathroom in the basement. I sewed diaper covers and wet bags from PUL, and serged flats from thrift store flannel sheets. I filled the freezer with lasagna and lumpia.

When fatigue returned, I retreated into hermit mode: long walks, lots of video gaming, and generally luxuriating in the quiet and the autonomy. I got a lot of practice in saying no and going with what I felt comfortable with, and I found out that I liked it. =)

I used some of that time to sort out my tech, too. After finding out that Krita had all of the sketching features I needed, I switched back to Linux and started tweaking my setup. I won the Toronto Public Library hackathon with a tool for visualizing library search results on a map. I wrote little scripts to stalk videos at the library, check grocery flyers, visualize data, and automate other things. Also, John Wiegley asked me to start summarizing Emacs community updates, so I put together Emacs News: a filtered, categorized list of links from Planet Emacsen, Reddit, and other sources. That and consulting have been handy ways to keep a toe in the technical waters.

Consulting-wise, I turned over most of my tasks, and the team’s doing way better than I could have with my much fuzzier brain. I’m still working on migrating some old code into a few add-ons for them, but fortunately they’re super-accommodating in terms of time, and other people take care of the bits that require more attention or coordination.

I’m so glad I experimented with making my life more flexible in terms of time and energy. My time stats show that childcare now takes up ~34% of my time these days, or 57 hours a week. I still manage to get a little more than eight and a half hours of sleep, but it’s a bit more broken up and less under my control. Still, I don’t feel exhausted or too stretched out. Discretionary time is down to about 2 hours a day (which is still pretty good!), although that’s mostly just after she goes to bed, so that affects what I can do. I’ve been using it for keeping my journal up to date, and doing a little writing or coding when I can. I do a few hours of consulting a week, too. Anyway, lots of things are on hold. Past Sacha decided this was an excellent use of time, and I agree. It’s worthwhile and temporary. =)

Thanks to A-, I’ve been learning more about health and public resources. She was born with left-eye microphthalmia, with no vision in that eye, and she has adapted well to the prosthesis that will help her skull grow symmetrically. She also has a ventricular septal defect (a hole between two parts of her heart). It’s not quite large enough to clearly need surgery, but not small enough to rule surgery out, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Abnormal results from her liver ultrasound turned out to be a benign hemangioma instead of cancer (whew!), so that’s one concern off our list for now (although I think we’ll need to monitor it with an annual ultrasound). W- started parental leave in June, and that’s been wonderful for both the big medical things as well as the little moments and memories.

What’s the difference between 32 and 33 for me? There’s A-, of course, and the host of changes that accompany her. I’ve got a deeper appreciation for W-, and for various things (libraries! health care! the Internet! people!). I’ve had a lot of practice in equanimity and Stoic philosophy. I’ve seen lots of preparation paying off, and I have new plans to put into place. I’m learning a lot, and I’m looking forward to even more.

Weekly review: Week ending August 12, 2016

Somehow the following week ended up being too busy for writing, which is why I’m writing this entry almost a week late. Anyway, the week ending August 12 was one of checking things off and getting things done.

We bought a second-hand Tripp Trapp high chair in the hope that the flexibility will make it good long-term value. A- has been getting lots of practice in self-feeding. It’s still a super-messy process, but she seems to be getting better at manoeuvring the business end of the spoon into her mouth. We have a wipe-down ritual now, involving a small mixing bowl with warm water and a washcloth: wipe her face, let her wash her hands (and maybe do a little scrubbing for her), wipe down the chair, wipe the table, wipe whatever the cats haven’t eaten off the floor…

The twinginess in my wrist turns out to be de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, a condition so common among new mothers that it’s also known as mother’s wrist. I wasn’t too keen on the physiotherapist I saw, as he seemed more interested in selling me thrice-weekly ultrasound treatments and a custom brace than in discussing behavioural changes and self-care techniques, even though I mentioned that the pain was only mild and occasional and that I was more interested in making sure this didn’t get to be a problem in the future. Can’t blame him for trying to rustle up business, though. Anyway, I bought an over-the-counter brace from the drugstore, I’m using the non-prescription cream that my doctor recommended, and I’m being careful about the way I lift A- or use my thumb. So far, so good.

W- walked around with A- while I had that 45-minute assessment with the physiotherapist. I think she got a little anxious and overtired, as she cried all throughout the (thankfully short) walk home. Good thing I didn’t go for a massage.

Oh, and I turned 33! We’ve settled into a comfortable routine of not making a big fuss of our birthdays, although I took some time to reflect on the past year and draw a summary. I haven’t gotten around to writing it up yet. Coincidentally, the Ontario Early Years Centre that A- and I have been going to had organized a free field trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, so we took advantage of the opportunity to wander around there.

We set up A-‘s college/university savings, booked flights to the Philippines, and applied for A-‘s Canadian passport. I decided to pay extra and take the time to apply in person so that we can pick up the passport in person, too, since personal experience has taught me that it’s a big hassle if Canada Post loses a passport. Anyway, I can always think of it as a small donation to the Canadian government. Slowly getting our act together!

2016-08-17a Week ending 2016-08-12 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (1.9h – 1%)
    • Earn (1.3h – 72% of Business)
    • Build (0.5h – 26% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (11.1h – 6%)
    • ☑ Set up RESP
    • ☑ Book flight by calling the call center
    • ☑ Look for high chair
    • ☑ Apply for passport at the Victoria office
    • ☑ Call cardiology to check follow up date, appointment info
    • ☑ Contact Dr. Selvi’s office and see if we need to schedule a follow-up with her
    • ☑ Call in 72 hours to see whether bassinet has been approved
    • ☑ Ask about Living and Learning with Baby
    • ☑ Simulate A-‘s RESP choices
    • ☐ Check on RESP to see if it’s been set up; transfer if so
  • Discretionary – Productive (11.5h – 6%)
    • Drawing (8.5h)
    • Emacs (0.4h)
    • Coding (0.0h)
    • Sewing (0.3h)
    • Writing (1.5h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.9h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (17.3h – 10%)
    • ☑ Book doctor’s appointment
  • Unpaid work (68.5h – 40%)
    • Childcare (57.9h – 34% of total)
  • Sleep (56.8h – 33% – average of 8.1 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending August 5, 2016

Last week was all about talking to dietitians and improving A-‘s feeding. After the previous week’s stern lecture from the pediatrician about A-‘s slow weight gain, I got a referral to a public health dietitian associated with the Peer Nutrition workshop I attend, and booked an appointment with the private dietitian my pediatrician had been recommending for a while. The public dietitian reviewed the specifics of A-‘s situation and suggested that we try adding a couple of snacks to A-‘s feeding schedule, perhaps incorporating calorie-dense foods like cream cheese. The private dietitian measured her length and weight, noting her as 61cm (3cm shorter than last week’s measurement at the pediatrician, but measured in a different way) and 5.79kg (a gain of 220g in 7 days, wow!). Both dietitians reassured us that A- looks pretty good, and is maybe just a small baby. That’s a relief! That means that instead of focusing on just trying to get calories into her, we can focus on helping her build self-feeding and self-regulation skills, and we can expose her to a variety of tastes and textures.

The follow-up with the ocularist went well, too. He took out the scleral shell, examined it, cleaned it, and popped it back in. No fussing, whew!

I took A- for passport pictures. I forgot to put her in non-white clothes (she’s almost always in a white onesie), so we borrowed a red T-shirt from the photo studio. The picture was a little awkward since we didn’t get her arms through the sleeves, but oh well. The important thing is that it’s done, and the photo studio said the passport office will take it.

I messed up by not checking my e-mail for the schedule for the appointment with the dietitian. It got classified as Updates instead of Important in Gmail, so I didn’t get a specific notification for it, and I went a day without checking those folders. I should remember to star similar conversations, or maybe even whitelist/filter. Anyway, no biggie. The slot we had was just 1.5 hours after I thought the schedule was, so we went to the library and the drug store.

We passed on some baby clothes to Mrs. Wong for the granddaughter they’re expecting soon. Here’s hoping we’ll have a neighbourhood playmate! Mrs. Wong gave us lots of chives and a few plants from her garden (akajiso, and a plant we can’t identify). W- turned the chives into yummy pork-and-chives dumplings. Jen and E- came over for a visit, too, and I met up with Rachael and G- at a park to say goodbye before their move to Missouri.

J- had friends over, too. W- supervised them as they helped with her closet renovation, and I got them started with making pesto from the basil in our planter box. W- and I were pleasantly surprised that stuff actually got done. =)

A- observations: She likes playing with water, whether they’re jets from the hose as we tend the garden or streams from the holes in her stacking-cup toys. She’s better at manipulating things to get them into her mouth: fancy teething rings W- bought her, spoons of baby food, rice rusks with cream cheese… She’s also pretty comfortable rolling onto her tummy, and often likes to spend time that way. We’re slowly developing a feeding routine of 2-3 meals a day and 2-3 snacks. She’s an avid eater, and this is a great time to sample all sorts of fruits and vegetables in season.

My left wrist started feeling a little weird, so I’m paying more attention to that. I’m not sure about booking a massage (hard to relax if A- is fussy) but maybe stretching and resting will help with that. I’ll book a doctor’s appointment or a massage if it gets worse or if it doesn’t go away in a few days. In the meantime, it would be good for me to slowly explore what’s going on there so that I can describe it to people. Hmm…

Anyway, life is starting to get simpler, at least in terms of A-‘s health. Hooray!

2016-08-08a Week ending 2016-08-05 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (0.7h – 0%)
    • Earn (0.6h – 91% of Business)
    • Build (0.0h – 0% of Business)
      • ☑ Prepare invoice
    • Connect (0.1h – 8% of Business)
  • Relationships (3.3h – 1%)
    • ☑ Take A- for passport pictures
    • ☐ Call cardiology to check follow up date, appointment info
    • ☐ Apply for passport
    • ☐ Call to see whether bassinet has been approved
  • Discretionary – Productive (6.7h – 4%)
    • Drawing (3.6h)
    • Emacs (0.5h)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Coding (1.1h)
      • ☑ Make special feeding chart
      • ☑ Improve feeding display for days
    • Sewing (0.2h)
    • Writing (0.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (2.0h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (23.1h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (80.8h – 48%)
    • Childcare (66.3h – 39% of total)
  • Sleep (51.4h – 30% – average of 7.3 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending July 29, 2016

Good news from A-‘s liver MRI: the weirdness was just capillaries, not liver cancer, whew. Her echocardiogram resulted in the same diagnosis the cardiologist gave us before, with no clear indications for or against surgery, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Still, it’s a relief to start closing some of those loops, downgrading things from ongoing concerns to less-frequent checks.

There’s still the matter of A-‘s slow weight gain, which has been upgraded to something the pediatrician is Very Concerned About. She’s catching up well in terms of length, but not in terms of weight. She seems fine – active, happy, adorably jowled and jelly-rolled – but it’s probably a good idea to err on the side of supplying her growing brain with extra nutrients. We’re seeing a dietitian next week in order to work out a feeding plan. It’s not covered by either the public health care system or W-‘s insurance, but that’s okay; it’s a good investment. It’s time to get that going, instead of waiting for publicly-funded resources which are probably focused on people who need it more. In the meantime, our pediatrician has recommended daily servings of meat and rice cereal, so we introduced those to A- this week.

I’ve started tracking feeding in more detail, too, because data and visualizations help me with those questions I never quite know how to answer concisely. “How’s her nursing?” “As often as she wants, which is maybe… every two to three hours. Sometimes for five minutes, but often for thirty or forty minutes, or even longer.” Might be better to show how our days are consistent in their inconsistency, bar-code-like graphs on a timeline. Also, since Sick Kids’ wifi firewalls nonstandard ports, I finally got around to set up a reverse proxy for my tracker.

I didn’t make it to the Peer Nutrition program on Monday because of A-‘s cardiology appointment, but I was able to catch the same class in a different location on Wednesday. It was interesting to taste the difference between commercial baby food and homemade baby food, and it solidified our decision to cook A-‘s meals whenever we could. Also, there were extra vegetables from the follow-up program, so I went home with the unexpected bounty of kale, lettuce, a zucchini, and a cucumber. Yum yum!

I reacquired Philippine citizenship and included A-, so now we’re both dual citizens. We’ll most likely stay in Canada, especially with A-‘s health issues, but it might make some paperwork easier. Also, we visited W-‘s mom for dinner. A- was fussy because she was tired, so I snuggled up with her while they chatted.

My second set of peas is starting to grow, and the basil in the planters seems to have sprung back even though we harvested large chunks of it for pesto. It’s awesome.

2016-08-01a Week ending 2016-07-29 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (1.9h – 1%)
    • Earn (1.9h – 100% of Business)
    • Build (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (10.9h – 6%)
    • ☑ Add medical summary for A-
    • ☑ Fill in paperwork for reclaiming Philippine citizenship
  • Discretionary – Productive (7.2h – 4%)
    • Drawing (4.5h)
    • Emacs (0.7h)
      • ☐ [#A] Do another Emacs News review
    • Coding (0.1h)
      • ☑ Make reverse proxy for tracker
      • ☑ Make special feeding chart
  • Discretionary – Play (0.0h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (14.0h – 8%)
  • Unpaid work (69.1h – 41%)
    • Childcare (58.9h – 35% of total)
  • Sleep (64.9h – 38% – average of 9.3 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending July 22, 2016

This was a big week. A- got her first ocular prosthesis, a scleral shell that fits in front of her small eye and supports the growth of her skull. She hardly even fussed, and has been very much her usual happy self. Her left eye is still smaller than the right one, which is normal. It’s a gradual process. I’m sure there’ll be bumps along the road. People in the Facebook support group have shared a few stories about dealing with infection or lost prostheses. But that’s just part of life, so – onward!

We took A- for an MRI in order to follow up on the results from her abdominal ultrasound and blood tests. The waiting room had a toy scanner, which was probably really useful for helping older kids become less afraid of the procedure. It turned out that it’s a small version of a CAT scanner, and it’s made by Philips. They call it a kitten scanner. It even comes with RFID toys that bring up relevant animations. Neat. =)

Tita Gay and Tita Myra drove up from the US to meet A-. We had fun chatting over lumpia and Vietnamese bun. It was so nice to hear about how Tita Gay had been helping my parents through some difficult times, and how Tita Myra was coping with her own health challenges. We ended up with too many desserts, but that’s okay. It just meant that we got to enjoy custard pastry (galaktoboureko, I think), egg tarts, strawberry shortcake, and banana fritters throughout the rest of the week.

I didn’t do any consulting, but that’s okay. It’s a little mindboggling to think that this was my first week without a couple of hours of consulting since April, when A- was just two months old. Next week promises to be a little lighter medical-wise (aside from the echocardiogram under sedation on Monday), so I might be able to check back in. I’ve got a couple of add-ons on the go, and I’m halfway through prototyping another.

I’ve been spending most of my time focused on A-. Aside from the big health-related milestones this week, it feels like I’m spending a fair bit of time nursing her or helping her sleep. It’s all good, though; past Sacha decided this was the best use of my time, and the reasons still stand. When I don’t want to distract her by talking to her, I read on my phone. I’ve gotten through a few ebooks on the Montessori method, looking for ideas for early childhood education. I like the idea of helping her develop her senses and observation skills, and the practical life skills will be good too. The usual Montessori exercises are for kids who are a little older (maybe 2.5 years?), but there are opportunities to apply the principles even earlier. My brain still feels a little fuzzy from time to time, but I’m looking forward to getting better at helping her learn – and learning tons in the process, too.

I’ll eventually want to have more structured notes for observations and plans related to A-‘s learning. I think Teach Your Baby had some suggestions for keeping a notebook, although it might be interesting to see what I can sort out with computers, tagging, my digital index cards, Emacs, and whatever scripts I write. I’ll probably start with adding more detail to my index cards, and making some kind of table to remind us to cover a variety of activities. I’ll figure out how to cross-reference stuff later.

Observations from this week: In the backyard, she’s been able to pick up small pine cones in either hand, when we bring them close to her in our hands. She can pass a teething ring from one hand to the other. She can easily grasp and mouth cucumber sticks and carrot sticks, and she seems to prefer using fewer fingers instead of using a full-finger grasp. Lots of vocalization, especially in the evening. It’s not crying – it sounds more chatty, although if it changes in tone a little, that seems to be a reliable indicator that she’s getting a bit tired.

In other news, W- has been really hitting it out of the park in terms of cooking: pesto using the basil from our planter boxes (gotta keep trimming them!), tarragon chicken, pad thai, bun… He’s been posting videos of A- in our Facebook group for baby updates, too. So awesome.

Next week: cardio, then reacquiring Philippine citizenship, then taking A- for more vaccines and following up with the pediatrician regarding results. I’m not sure I can go to the Peer Nutrition workshop on Monday, but maybe I can make it up some other time.

2016-07-23b Week ending 2016-07-22 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (0.1h – 0%)
    • Earn (0.0h – 0% of Business)
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Connect (0.1h – 100% of Business)
  • Relationships (4.7h – 2%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (9.8h – 5%)
    • Drawing (5.0h)
    • Emacs (0.3h)
      • ☐ [#A] Do another Emacs News review
    • Coding (0.3h)
    • Sewing (0.0h)
    • Writing (0.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (2.9h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (23.6h – 14%)
  • Unpaid work (69.7h – 41%)
    • Childcare (59.3h – 35% of total)
  • Sleep (57.3h – 34% – average of 8.2 per day)