Category Archives: review

Monthly review: April 2017

A- has been working on standing independently, beaming with pride whenever she balanced for a few seconds. She’ll keep getting up and trying if you sign “more.” She loves walking with help, too, even up and down stairs. W- helped her learn how to nudge a ball around. We spent a lot of time in the backyard, where she enjoyed digging in the soil, pulling up weeds, and exploring the new raised bed that W- made. She enjoyed crawling up and down the ramps and steps in the demo class at Oaks n Acorns. Now that the weather has warmed up a little, we’ve been going to the playground, swinging on the swings and sliding down the slides.

She figured out pointing with her finger, and she has gotten pretty good at letting us know what she wants. Pointing has also helped us teach her lots of words. She understands words like “coat” and “shoes”, gestures or points to the appropriate items, and matches illustrations and objects. She says “ba” for bubbles and “na” for no. I took her to Riverdale Farm to look at the animals, since we’ve been focusing on animal sounds for language development. We finished the early literacy workshop (which was more of a one-on-one consultation, whee!) and the parent advocacy workshop (which will come in handy when A- goes to school).

It’s a lot of fun watching A- imitate our actions. She drinks quite capably from a cup or water bottle, unscrews bottle caps, and tries to floss her teeth. She’s getting the hang of our routines, although sometimes she’ll resist them and assert her own will. When A- doesn’t want me to brush her teeth, I just try to wipe her teeth and gums with a washcloth. I asked the dentist if we should restrain A- when brushing or bring her in for a fluoride varnish. The dentist didn’t seem very concerned. She might be trying to avoid making A- anxious about dental hygiene, which makes sense too, so I just need to calibrate my own level of worry. We’re giving xylitol wipes a try, anyway, and I made xylitol mints for myself as well.

I’m a little less worried about A-‘s conformer. A- removed her conformer a couple of times when we were out walking, but she seems to be developing the habit of holding on to it or handing it to me after taking it out, which is awesome.

Hard to remember that W- has only been back to work for two months. Over the course of several weekends, W- cleared out the old garden beds, started a new one, and started the porch rebuild. A- and I have been going to various drop-in programs and other city resources. I’m so happy we’ve been able to arrange our lives this way. I’ve even been able to get back to doing more reading and writing in the early hours of the morning, and some video gaming with W- during the weekends. (Borderlands 2 co-op with two sirens, whee!) This is nice.

Blog posts



Category Previous month % This month % Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
Personal 8.7 11.9 3.1 19.3 5.3
Discretionary – Productive 3.2 5.1 1.8 8.2 3.1
Discretionary – Play 0.8 2.3 1.5 3.8 2.5
Sleep 34.3 35.1 0.8 57.1 1.3
Business – Build 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.5 0.3
Discretionary – Social 0.6 0.8 0.2 1.4 0.3
Business – Earn 0.8 1.0 0.1 1.6 0.2
Business – Connect 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1
Discretionary – Family 0.5 0.1 -0.4 0.1 -0.7
Unpaid work – Other 50.6 43.4 -7.2 70.7 -12.0
Unpaid work – Childcare 44.3 36.2 -8.0 59.0 -13.5

Weekly review: Week ending May 12, 2017

We saw a coyote loping down the middle of our street in broad daylight! Wow. It was surprisingly big in real life. I’ve seen signs in High Park warning people about coyotes, but I’d never seen a coyote until now. (Aside from the one in the ROM, of course.)

Speaking of the ROM, A- got a lot of exercise going up and down the stairs with my help – from the ground floor to the third floor and then all the way back down again. She’s also figured out that going up the steps at the playground will lead to a slide ride down, again with my help. Whee! She’s also been having fun standing up and balancing on the mattress before bedtime, and often pushing off the wall so that she can fall. This seems to delight her, and she does it again and again.

Nilda came again. We flipped through the farm animal books I borrowed from the library, and A- obligingly imitated animal sounds: a quick “babababa” like a chicken and something very close to a “woof” like a dog. She matched up the 3D objects with the illustrations, too. She also did the gestures for “Good Morning Train” and a few stanzas of “Roly Poly” – so much progress!

When we video-chatted with Lolo and Lola, A- showed them what she learned about body parts. On cue, she pointed to her nose, ears, and so on. Lots of pointing at the phone, too, where Lolo pointed to his own nose.

A- has gotten quite interested in smelling things. She discovered that furikake smells interesting, and often asks for it at breakfast.

I bought some more Duplo and a couple of books from the second-hand sale in Bloor West, and Michael McGuffin sent us the beginnings of A-‘s robot army. Whee!

I took A- to my doctor’s appointment. Putting her in a back-carry worked out all right. We got there early, so we had a picnic lunch in the park. She was fascinated by the pigeons.

I forgot my library card and credit card in my pants, and ended up fishing them out of the dryer vent several days later. Fortunately, I already made a checklist of things to do whenever I lose those cards (second time in a few months), so it was easy to update my accounts.

Lots of reading this week, including a print book. I finished reading “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” (borrowed as an e-book from the library), and I skimmed the relevant chapters in “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense” (only available as a print book). I finally got to watch Doctor Strange, and I rewatched Deathly Hallows Part 2.

W- discovered that my seed-starting tray leaked water – fortunately before it messed up the carpet. We swapped it out for one of the roasting pans. I’m so lucky to have such a wonderfully patient and supportive husband who takes a problem-solving approach to things!

I put in a few hours of consulting to fix old data and get a few reports working properly again. I should’ve checked it two weeks ago. I’m still not happy with the manual way I have to hack around an encoding issue, but it will just have to do for now.

W- has been working on demolishing the concrete pad and planning the stairs. It was fun walking around the neighbourhood and looking at people’s stairs and bases. I’ve also been learning a lot about latches, thanks to the latch board that we borrowed from the JFRC. It’s fascinating to see what’s in plain sight!

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (3.1h – 1%)
    • Earn (3.1h – 100% of Business)
      • ☑ Earn: E1: 1-2 hours of consulting
  • Relationships (0.4h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (4.7h – 2%)
    • Drawing (4.0h)
    • Emacs (0.6h)
    • Writing (0.1h)
  • Discretionary – Play (6.2h – 3%)
  • Personal routines (23.0h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (75.7h – 45%)
    • Childcare (69.5h – 41% of total)
  • Sleep (54.9h – 32% – average of 7.8 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending May 5, 2017

A- has been working on standing independently. When we’re hanging out on her floor bed in preparation for bedtime, she often stands for a few seconds, grinning widely to much clapping and verbal reinforcement, then sits down. She does the “more” sign to ask me if I want more, to which I sign and say back: “More!” If I don’t display her desired level of enthusiasm, she’ll actually move my hands to do the “more” sign, just like I did when I was teaching her how to make the sign when she was around 6 months old. The things babies remember! (Another fruit from a long-ago seed: she joins me in hiding under a scarf.)

She’s been really keen on walking around with help, even up and down stairs. We checked out the Toronto Association of Parent Educators’ meetup in the Wallace Emerson Community Centre’s gym, and A- liked just walking around and around in that big open space. She also wanted to play with a soccer ball and a tennis ball, since she’d been doing that at home. I took her to the ROM, too. The rotunda staircase has a shallow rise and a longer than normal run, so it was very nice to climb. She made it from the ground floor to the third level, then back down, then all the way back up again. She likes sliding down a slide with my assistance. As for fine motor control, she has mostly gotten the hang of unscrewing bottle caps, and she’s interested in screwing them closed too.

We continue to work on animal sounds and other language abilities. No moos or meows yet, but she says “ba” to ask for bubbles, so that’s a start.

So much progress in terms of cognition. She points at lots of things, including the flowers she noticed during one of our afternoon walks. She peeled a mandarin orange, biting the skin to create the first break and then peeling the rest off with her fingers. She put her dishes away in the dishwasher to signal that she was all done with the meal. She wanted to carry my backpack, put the electric toothbrush together, and chase and be chased (while being carried). She’s learning how to respect mealtimes, or at least let us finish even if she’s not hungry. She peeks under scarves when we’re playing peekaboo, and she’ll join us in hiding.

I’ve been learning a lot, too. We went to the ROM to check out the Family Camera exhibit, and I got to chat with one of the curators (turns out she’s married to one of the OEYC facilitators). A- and I wandered around the dinosaur gallery, too, as I’ve been learning more about dinosaurs so that I can name the different models included in the toy collection. Likewise, I learned about latches because of the latch board we borrowed for A-. I had some time to stir-fry vegetables, bake coconut macaroons, and keep our carrot muffin pipeline flowing.

I read a few books about early childhood education, too. Quick notes:

  • Theories of Childhood: follow up on Erikson and Vygotsky
  • The Importance of Being Little: weaknesses of our current school systems
  • The Reflective Parent: mind-mindedness, reflective practice
  • Montessori Today: interesting details on the Great Stories, elementary education

I’ve been doing most of my reading on a phone, and I take screenshots of things I’d like to think about further. I’d like to improve my process for following up on those, though. I’ll start by sketching quick index cards to summarize the key points before moving on to new books, so at least the notes are part of my Zettelkasten.

W- continues to work on the porch. Much to do and much to learn!

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (2.5h – 1%)
    • Earn (2.3h – 91% of Business)
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 hours of consulting
    • Connect (0.2h – 8% of Business)
  • Relationships (0.8h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (5.0h – 2%)
    • Drawing (3.7h)
    • Emacs (0.7h)
    • Sewing (0.3h)
  • Discretionary – Play (4.2h – 2%)
  • Personal routines (18.5h – 11%)
  • Unpaid work (76.7h – 45%)
    • Childcare (66.2h – 39% of total)
  • Sleep (60.2h – 35% – average of 8.6 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending April 28, 2017

So far, only the radishes have germinated. That’s okay, we’re keeping our expectations low. A- and I have fun in the garden whether or not things are growing. There’s always dirt to trowel and water to pour.

We finished the parent advocacy workshop and the early literacy workshop this week. The last session of the parent advocacy workshop was a scenario-based review of community resources, assertive communication, relationship building, and flexible thinking. A- and I were the only ones who attended the early literacy workshop, so we got to pick the specialist’s brains for two hours. This time, I asked about how he has changed over the 25 years he’s been working in the field, his experiences with the school system, and emerging research.

I got a few tips on encouraging A- to walk, talk, and make animal sounds from our family home visitor. She also recommended reaching out to Early Abilities for a possible speech concern, since they have a long waitlist. I’m not too worried yet. A- is great at letting us know what she wants through gestures, and she seems to be focusing on fine and gross motor skills at the moment. Still, early intervention is more effective than catching things late, so we’ll look into it. She tends to be cautious, so that might play into it too.

A- does, however, warm up with repeated exposure. After a few days of me wiping my teeth with the xylitol wipes, she’s now okay with having her teeth wiped by them too. I also experimented with a recipe for xylitol mints for me. They’re a bit sweet, but they’re not bad for a first try.

Also, speaking of letting me know what she wants, A- occasionally rolls me off the floor bed. She also sometimes signs for water and then takes advantage of the opportunity to dive for my pillow as soon as I turn to get her the water she asked for. Hilarious. We’re having more fun with social games now: peek-a-boo, tickling, etc. When we went to High Park to see the cherry blossoms, we bumped into another family from the JFRC. A- enjoyed sharing snacks with them and imitating the 3-year-old as she tossed pinecones down the hill.

I made carrot muffins for the JFRC potluck, yay! I left midway to go to the ROM, where I pointed at various animals and named them. I checked out their Philippine collection, too, and the statues from Greece and Rome. We also went to Chinatown to stock up on salted black beans for W-‘s favourite bitter melon dish.

Other things: I ordered a textbook on observation in early childhood education. Might be interesting. I prepared W- and J-‘s taxes, and I hung out in #emacs helping people while putting together Emacs News. W- took apart the porch – construction season begins!

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (2.2h – 1%)
    • Earn (1.0h – 44% of Business)
      • ☑ Earn: E1: 1-2 hours of consulting
    • Build (1.2h – 55% of Business)
      • ☐ Prepare invoice
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (3.1h – 1%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (8.2h – 4%)
    • Drawing (2.2h)
    • Emacs (1.7h)
  • Discretionary – Play (6.9h – 4%)
  • Personal routines (23.3h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (67.6h – 40%)
    • Childcare (54.8h – 32% of total)
  • Sleep (56.7h – 33% – average of 8.1 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending April 21, 2017

We finished emptying the old raised beds and filling the new one. I planted lettuce, beets, peas, radishes, and chives, using popsicle sticks as markers. W- did all the heavy lifting, including moving the patio stones out to make way for sod. A- was as happy as we’d ever seen her: arms deep in the dirt, crawling around, making friends with earthworms. It was awesome.

A- is becoming more independent, and more insistent on doing things her way. She wasn’t too keen on me brushing her teeth last week. I was concerned about her enamel hypoplasia, so I did some more research. After coming across the risk assessment guidelines by the AAPD, I e-mailed our dentist a few questions so that I could properly calibrate my level of concern. To wit: Should W- and I firmly restrain her in order to brush her teeth thoroughly? What about the fluoride varnishes or toothpaste? Should I use xylitol wipes for her teeth, and should I find xylitol mints or chew xylitol gum myself? (Apparently xylitol is good for controlling caries and reducing maternal transmission of mutans streptococci.) The dentist quickly sent me a reassuring reply. We backed off a little, wiping her teeth and gums with a washcloth whenever she didn’t tolerate brushing. Eventually she let me brush her teeth again. It took about five days to get her used to the addition of xylitol wipes to her bedtime routine. I used them myself, and then eventually she let me use them on her teeth.

We went on a few outdoor excursions. I took her to Riverdale Farm to see chickens, ducks, turkeys, horses, cows, pigs, goats, and sheep. It was a bit chilly and she was sleepy, so she stayed in the carrier. I’ll take her there again when the weather warms up.

She was more active at Oaks ‘n Acorns. We checked out their Baby Explorers demo class. The room had a variety of ramps, shakers, scarves, beanbags, and tambourines, and a tunnel for the babies to crawl through. A- was one of the older babies there. She warmed up quickly and crawled around, although she didn’t give the tunnel a try.

We also went with Jen and E- to the park. E- got lots of walking practice, and he had fun in the playground. A- enjoyed swinging, too! She was so happy. Jen shared her orange with us, and A- liked the taste. Then we went back to Jen and Ewan’s place, where we had some yummy sandwiches before heading to PAT Mart for some bitter melon.

Since we’ll be spending more time in the sun this year, I bought two hats and some sunblock. I bought some glycerin in preparation for making home-made bubble solution, too, and I’ve been learning about the science behind bubbles.

There was no parent advocacy workshop because of the Easter break. The early literacy workshop was sparsely attended again this week, so I got to ask the facilitator about all sorts of professional development and emerging research.

Big leaps for A-. She points with an extended finger now, instead of with all her fingers. She recognizes words and remembers locations, even for toys that have been rotated out to the top of a bookshelf. W- has been reading her a small cloth book about clothes (“coat”, “socks”, etc.), and she’s taken to pointing at the book, pointing at the item, and asking us to help her put her coat on. W- also helped A- kick a stray ball around the backyard (well, kinda kick) before returning the ball to the neighbours. She seems to be doing the hand motions for the “Turn around, clap clap” part of one of the nursery songs from the baby time at the library. And A- is working on whistling! Wow! I’ve been inspired to work on whistling, too.

We nearly lost her conformer on the way back from the supermarket. The risks of taking a sleepy baby out for a walk! I checked the carrier, and then I retraced our steps through the store. I couldn’t find it! I started going over my backup plan, and then I thought to pat myself and A- down again. Then I heard the clatter of the conformer hitting the sidewalk… A- must have been holding the conformer in her hand all that time. Neat!

Turkey was on sale at the supermarket, so W- roasted one and we’re slowly going through it.

I filed my taxes and prepared W-‘s, although we’re still waiting for J-‘s paperwork before finalizing his return.

Playing Borderlands 2 with W- got a lot more fun when we switched to both playing sirens, especially once we got ourselves Legendary Binder class mods. We’re more aware of where the other person is on the map and how they’re doing, and it’s fun coordinating phaselocks so that tough enemies don’t even hit the ground. Even with our limited discretionary time, it’s still nice to play video games together.

Next week: winding up workshops, the JFRC potluck, and meeting up with the family home visitor.

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (0.6h – 0%)
    • Build (0.5h – 88% of Business)
    • Connect (0.1h – 11% of Business)
  • Relationships (2.9h – 1%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (9.1h – 5%)
    • Drawing (2.6h)
    • Emacs (0.6h)
    • Coding (0.5h)
  • Discretionary – Play (4.8h – 2%)
  • Personal routines (20.7h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (68.8h – 40%)
    • Childcare (55.3h – 32% of total)
  • Sleep (61.1h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending April 14, 2017

We focused on the garden this week, taking advantage of warm weather and a long weekend. We disassembled the old raised bed in the middle of the garden and sifted the soil to remove all those roots. Then we moved the soil to the new 3’x12′ raised bed that W- built out of cedar, mixing in plenty of compost and peat moss. A- loved digging in and crawling over the soil, helping us screen the soil and pick out roots, walking down the backyard while holding on to our hands, and splashing water around when cleaning up. I think it will definitely be worth spending extra time, energy, and money on the garden this year. So many opportunities for sensory play. The size 5 shoes I got her fit pretty well. She spends most of the time barefoot or in socks, though, and the backyard is perfect for that.

I took A- to the ROM when it was rainy. We wandered around the biodiversity gallery. A- was okay with petting the mount of the beaver, but not the beaver pelt that was on the table, and she wasn’t keen on the mount of the raccoon or the snakeskin on the table. She was okay with touching walrus skin, though. It’s neat to have all these textures available. I also caught the museum highlights tour, and I wandered through the Asian ceramics gallery while A- was sleeping.

(A- got her own tour of ceramics and glassware at home thanks to W-, who patiently let her drink out of practically every type of mug or glass we had.)

It’s amazing to see A- learn and connect concepts. This week, she saw W- dip his potato wedges in ketchup before eating them. She promptly insisted on dipping more potato wedges in ketchup and feeding them to us – a two-step process! Dipping also encouraged her to taste a bit of the ketchup, and she dipped some cucumber into my curry too. She recognizes the clothes in the small cloth book, and she uses the book to ask for practice wearing the clothes. She continues to enjoy sprinkling things when we’re cooking. On the flip side, she sometimes resists brushing her teeth, sitting on the potty, or going to sleep. She wants more independence and control, I guess!

She recognizes more vocabulary words, too. “Sleep” often gets a fake snore of acknowledgment from her, even if she’s wide awake and we just mentioned it as part of regular conversation. She knows “lamb” and “giraffe” refer to her stuffed toys. Time to add more word/gesture pairs to our routines.

The parent advocacy workshop session this week focused on special education and working with the school system’s identification, placement, and review committee (IPRC) to create an individual education plan (IEP). My main take-away was that it can be a difficult and intimidating process, so it’s a good idea to bring a support person to the meetings. I found a detailed handout with ideas for accommodations and notes on teachers’ perspectives, too, and I’ll probably reach out to the author to see if I can track down some of the sources.

The early literacy workshop on Thursday was sparsely attended. A- was a little hesitant in the beginning, but she warmed up eventually. She enjoyed taking the books out of the box and putting them back in. Since there weren’t a lot of people around, we took advantage of the opportunity for mutual brain-picking. It was interesting hearing about the facilitator’s experiences raising his kids, especially in terms of helping them learn social skills.

We were slightly under the weather due to sniffles, but we still managed to do things around the house. W- rotisseried two chickens, and I made carrot muffins as a way of getting more vegetables into our lives.

I also did a lot of consulting: analyzing searches, fixing table CSS, copying over old data, and dusting off and completing a half-done change to an organizational visualization.

Next: more gardening!

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (3.6h – 2%)
    • Earn (3.6h – 100% of Business)
  • Relationships (0.6h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (10.8h – 6%)
    • Drawing (1.4h)
    • Emacs (0.2h)
    • Coding (0.5h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.6h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (19.2h – 11%)
  • Unpaid work (77.0h – 45%)
    • Childcare (63.9h – 38% of total)
  • Sleep (56.2h – 33% – average of 8.0 per day)