Making the most of the next three weeks of kindergarten readiness

A-‘s kindergarten readiness program will wrap up in three weeks. So far, the best uses of my two-hour drop-off sessions have been:

  • working on time-sensitive consulting requests
  • drawing and writing thoughts
  • updating my journal
  • reading parenting books and taking notes

After the program ends, I can shift back to taking A- to drop-in centres. I’ll move consulting back to Saturday babysitting sessions, and I’ll try to make time for reading and thinking after A- goes to bed or during independent play practice time. I can use the 1-hour drop-off music class for Emacs News and a little journaling, so that’s taken care of too.

What can I do with the remaining 18 hours more of drop-off focus time so that the next phase is better?

It’s been nice having some overlap with business hours when consulting and I enjoy developing my Python skills, but I can also accomplish that by moving babysitting sessions to a weekday. If I want to move the needle, I think I need something else. Thinking and writing, then. Sometimes it’s hard to give myself the permission to explore thoughts during my once-a-week babysitting sessions because there are so many other activities with clearer and more immediate payoffs, like working on client requests, tidying the house, or preparing food. If I invest the time into planning what I want to learn, thinking through my questions, reading key resources, and reflecting on how things are going, though, I think that might help me give myself permission to make more space for things like that.

E-mail, texts, and social media are still pretty far down on the priority list. I’m not quite at the level of feeling time affluence again, but I’m sure I’ll get there someday.

So, what do I want to learn more about?

I recently read Happier (2007) by Tal Ben-Shahar. It got me thinking about how to increase the present benefits and future benefits of my parenting-related activities, since those take up the vast majority of my waking time. I’ve also been thinking about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s research on flow and the interplay between challenge in skill. High challenge and low skill results in anxiety, low challenge and high skill results in boredom, and flow happens when things are just right. I wonder how to have more flow experiences while parenting.

I’ve been gradually reducing my parenting-related anxiety by checking my perceptions of challenges and testing how things really are. For example, the kindergarten readiness program helped me test A-‘s ability to separate from me, connect with teachers, adapt to classroom routines, and be with other kids. Her growing interest in playing with other people and her ability to tell me how she feels about her interactions reassure me that she’ll probably be able to make good friends. She’s still self-conscious about her eye, she hangs on to perceived slights for a surprisingly long time, and she occasionally resists having to do things for herself, but all those things are probably pretty normal and we can help her slowly work through them if she wants. She sometimes tells me that she’s bored, so I’m helping her figure out how to challenge herself. I think she’s going to be okay.

I’m finding it easier to not get bored playing with A-, too. Inspired by what I’ve been learning from textbooks about play therapy, Reggio Emilia, and other topics, I’ve been challenging myself to be a researcher trying to discover A-‘s interests, projects, and thoughts about the world. I’m working on stepping back, observing, making hypotheses, and testing those with questions and suggestions. I’m treating this as a chance to improve my mindfulness and creativity. I also want to make the most of the ways that parenting is different from programming, such as negotiation, co-learning, and surprise.

So, how can I use these short snippets of time away from A- to make better use of time with A-?

I want to invest some time in thinking about how to make daily space for me to update my journal and reflect on questions. It’s hard to do it after she goes to bed. Since I still snuggle her to bed (great for heart-to-heart conversations), I sometimes end up falling asleep myself. I might be able to stay awake and get a head start on thinking by reflecting on a clear question while I wait for her to fall asleep. Waking up early hasn’t worked in the past because she sometimes ends up waking up early too, throwing the rest of our schedule a little off, but maybe I can do it if I write on my phone while she dozes beside me. She’s also slowly getting better at independent play time, which gives me a little time to draw or write on a sketchpad. I don’t want to update journal entries on my phone then, since it just looks like phone time, but sketching thoughts on paper seems to be okay.

It might be interesting to see how I can get better at sharing that documentation with her. I bought a few books on pedagogical documentation that might be good to review. A- really liked the quick 4-picture collage I threw together in Canva and printed from my phone. She liked looking at the pictures and numbers, having someone reading the captions to her, and even pointing at the pictures and telling her own story. When we switch to spending more time at drop-in centres, I’ll be able to capture more of her interests. If I set a goal of printing out a sheet like that once a week, it might spark more conversations and follow-ups. If I spend some time on my laptop and make a Canva template that I can easily update from my phone, that might reduce the effort.

A- seems to like my little drawings in the calendar, so we could try adding that to our evening routine. Later on, if I want more space to draw or write in, a Hobonichi Techo or some other paper diary might be a good approach. I wonder if I can even glue small photos into it.

It might also be worth updating our list of favourite meals and researching a few things to try, especially ones that A- can help me prepare. If I can move some tidying into the week, that frees up some babysitting time too. And if I can think of ways to encourage J- and her friends to help around the house, or to take advantage of any babysitting time they can spare, that can move time around as well.

Structured activities are a bit of a hit-or-miss with A-, who often has a clear idea of what she wants to do. I like taking advantage of the activities at the drop-in centres, since other people have gone to the trouble of collecting materials and setting things up. It was nice trying out Playing Preschool’s themed reading lists and activities, though, so it might be worth spending a little time in the afternoon (maybe during independent play time) getting those ready. Also, if I read about the ideas behind activities, then I might be able to make better use of the activities at drop-in centres. I can also ask parent workers while I’m there.

So it might be good to use the time from kindergarten readiness for:

  • writing and drawing reflections on what A- and I are learning, so that we can build on that
  • thinking about how to improve our daily and weekly routines
  • learning about early childhood education, pedagogical documentation, and other things that can enrich time with A-
  • improving my photo workflow so that I can make something I can share with A-

At the end of the kindergarten readiness program, I think it would be wonderful if:

  • I’m ready to make the most of the activities at the drop-in centres by suggesting the right level of challenge, providing interesting vocabulary words, and capturing her interests for follow-ups
  • I’ve figured out how to update my journal at least weekly and maybe share my reflections on a more regular basis
  • We’re all set to cook together and do other household chores
  • I can make at least one photo collage a week, maybe even involving her in the process

Might be fun!

2019-11-11 Emacs news

Links from, r/orgmode, r/spacemacs, r/planetemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the Emacs NEWS file and emacs-devel.

Weekly review: Week ending November 1, 2019

  • Kaizen
    • At the end of the family math program we went to, the teacher pulled me aside to give me some tips. She said that A- reminded her of her son because A- is pretty quick and knows what she wants to do. She shared how her son had gotten bored in school, so she asked the teacher to engage him by asking him to help some of his classmates learn. She also asked the teacher to borrow interesting books from other classrooms, since he had read all the ones in their classroom already. She said that teachers sometimes have their hands full with the other students, so it may help to have specific ideas to try.
  • Us
    • I did some more Python modeling and explored a few different scenarios.
    • I managed to work one and a half hours while A- was at her kindergarten readiness program. It’s not quite enough time to get deeply into a program, but because it’s during the business day, I can coordinate with people and do some troubleshooting.
    • I gave away 700+ temporary tattoos for Halloween, 2-4 at a time. I hope they survived the rain! We also gave away some sweet treats.
    • It’s getting quite chilly. Definitely time for thermals!
    • We had the Emacs Conf 2019 conference, hooray! We survived the inevitable tech hiccups thanks to our preparations and a wonderful community of patient attendees and volunteers. Lots of good stuff to learn from, talk about, and build on. I’m looking forward to actually being able to watch the talks instead of running around like a headless chicken. =) Doing it as a virtual conference worked out really, really well, and I look forward to doing that again next year!
  • Fine motor
    • I was sick, so I catnapped on the couch. When I checked on A-, I found that she had scribbled fairly recognizable letters on pieces of paper: B, D, C, R.
  • Language
    • On eating salmon: “I officially like skin.” I wasn’t sure if A- intended the pun or not (o-FISH-ally?), but it made me smile.
    • The Esso family math program reminded me to help A- practise using comparison words like big, bigger, and biggest. So when A- wanted to pretend to throw snowballs at each other, I told her I was throwing a heavy snowball at her. She echoed it back, saying she threw a heavy snowball at me. I said I threw a heavier snowball at her, and she said she threw the heaviest snowball at me. I then pretended to fall down and get trapped under the snowball, which amused her greatly.
    • A- negotiated for one more video by saying, “One more. it was a very smooth bedtime routine.”
    • A- spelled her name out with stickers.
  • Self-care and independence
    • A- and I were handing out candy for Halloween. We included some that A- had sorted out of her trick-or-treating harvest. W- brought out a container of Rockets that A- had collected. A- said, “Let’s not give those away.”
    • A- was interested in taking a Thermos food container to school. She asked if J- had grown out of them, and if she was growing into them.
    • A- and I got our flu shots. She was definitely not keen on it going in, but I insisted. She was still upset afterwards, although she calmed down after getting a couple of stickers. I wonder if I can try other ways to help her cope.
    • W- reinstalled the lights in A-‘s room. They’re placed low enough for her to turn on and off by herself. A- had asked for them back a week or two ago, saying, “Now that I’m good at listening, can we reinstall my lights?” We had experimented with them when she was much younger, but we took them away because she kept flicking them on and off when it was bedtime. Now it seems to be okay.
  • Eating
    • A- ate a lot of salmon. I found that eating pomegranate together with pomelo was a nice combination.
  • Emotion
    • A- was a little stubborn after her kindergarten readiness program’s Halloween party. She insisted on going all the way up the stairs, and wouldn’t come back down so that I could get our things. I didn’t feel comfortable letting her wait there, since she might wander off or make people concerned that she’s unattended. Eventually she got tempted back down by circle time, and that gave me a opportunity to collect our stuff. I wonder if the party had been a little overstimulating, as the music was a bit loud.
  • Social
    • A- was not getting along with the babysitter. She had felt self-conscious earlier because the babysitter had asked if her eye was okay when A- was rubbing it. A- had tried to change the subject with, “Let’s go play,” but the babysitter had persisted. The babysitter also kept calling her by a nickname even when she asked to be called by her full name. As a result, A- kept wanting to go play with W- or me instead, and that wasn’t working out. I also didn’t like how the babysitter preferred to sit by herself and be on her phone whenever A- wandered downstairs to look for us, instead of accompanying A-, narrating what was going on, helping A- stay safe and out of the way, and looking for something to draw A- back. So I dismissed the babysitter a few hours early and spent the rest of the time playing with A-. I also talked to A- about more explicit requests like saying, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and I started thinking about what tips to give babysitters to help the two of them get along. I know it’s pretty challenging because we’re all home. She likes her favourite babysitters so much that she asks me why I’ve come upstairs, but new babysitters are hit-or-miss. We’ll try a few more, and if that doesn’t work, then I’ll probably shift to only having weekend sitters when A-‘s favourite ones are available, and having weekday sitters otherwise.
    • I was sick and sleepy, so W- played with A- a bit at bedtime. He was trying to get her to stay in the room so that he could go downstairs and bring up some Duplo, but she wanted to stay with him. He told her that he could go faster if he went by himself. She said, “Together we have four hands.”
    • We were on the subway train home. I told A-, “I love you.” A- loudly proclaimed, laughing, “I love ketchup more than I love Mama.” I laughed too. She followed up with, “I love fries more than I love Mama.” Someone in the seat across from us was laughing and laughing at the conversation.
    • The kindergarten readiness teacher said that the kids had a hard time listening that day. I asked A- about it later. She said, “I listened to the teacher. She gave me a thumbs up.” When I saw the teacher, she confirmed that A- did okay.
    • A- was eating dinner while on W-‘s lap, and her hands were messy. “These were clean pants, honey,” he remonstrated. She picked up a kitchen towel and proceeded to dab at his shirt.
    • A- played I Spy with her grandmother over video chat. That worked out pretty well.
  • Pretend
    • A- wanted to be a kitty firefighter for Halloween, so I opened the face paint kit and painted her face.
  • Cognition
    • A- helped me make Halloween loot bags for a few kids we know personally. She distributed one of each kind of candy into the bags.
  • World
    • W- took A- for her first hair cut at a salon. We decided to go with a grown-up salon instead of having to fight with all the toy purchase temptations at the kids’ salon near us. The hair stylist probably got the better end of the deal, since she just did maybe 10 minutes of trimming and still got her full fee. Still, it’s a good way to slowly get used to things like that!

Blog posts


Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Business 0.9 4.3 3.4 7.2 5.7
Personal 4.8 6.4 1.6 10.7 2.7
Discretionary – Play 1.5 2.4 0.9 4.1 1.5
Discretionary – Social 0.4 0.9 0.5 1.5 0.8
Sleep 33.2 33.5 0.3 56.3 0.5
Discretionary – Family 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Unpaid work 3.0 2.5 -0.6 4.2 -0.9
A- 43.8 42.7 -1.1 71.8 -1.8
Discretionary – Productive 12.3 7.3 -5.1 12.2 -8.5

Weekly review: Week ending October 25, 2019

  • Us
    • It was really easy to use pandas in Python to pivot a table. I’m glad I’m doing this in code instead of in spreadsheets!
    • I drafted thank you cards on my phone at night and then wrote them while A- was at kindergarten readiness class. It was nice to put some thought into it.
    • While A- played with H-, I helped Melissa set up email and think about business.
    • We tested the streaming setup for Emacs Conf.
  • Fine motor
    • A- scribbled loops.
  • Language
    • “What do you want to bring for show and tell today? Sheep or water bottle?” “Both. Sheep is for show and tell, and water bottle is for snack time. That’s pretty reasonable.”
    • A- made up a rhyming song.
    • A- delighted in pointing out rhyming words.
    • A- looked at the sign on the streetcar. “Why does the streetcar have ‘POP’?” I explained that POP stands for proof of payment. She’s reading signs!
  • Self-care and independence
    • W- observed that A- gets a little more talkative when she’s sick. When the babysitter arrived, A- announced, “I’m more chatty than normal.”
  • Emotion
    • A- had a tantrum about not wanting to walk and not wanting to feed herself. She said, “I don’t like walking. it wastes my energy.” I held firm, and she eventually calmed down.
  • Social
    • We established firmer boundaries about picking A- up to calm her down when she’s upset. She’s getting heavier, so it’s not working so well for me, and I also want to help her get better at calming down on her own. I said I can snuggle her while sitting down if she needs a hug, but carrying her is for when we feel good about each other and I have lots of energy.
    • H- was having a hard time on the playdate. I asked A- if she wanted to wrap up. She said, “I want to wait for H- to calm down and then play after.”
    • A- often talks about bucket filling and bucket dipping. I’m glad we followed Kathy’s recommendation to check out “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”, since it seems to give her useful words for describing social behaviour.
    • We made thank you cards and gifts for A-‘s teachers. A- insisted on giving them the gift cards herself, and she also dictated her own cards to give in addition to the ones I wrote.
    • “I want my fingernails to be pretty for people. I should paint my fingernails at home soon.”
    • We had a group video chat with A-‘s Lola and Tita Kathy. A- was mostly watching them catch up. Lola asked Tita Kathy, “Do you want me to send dried mangoes over for Christmas?” A- said, “Hmm. Of course.”
    • A- was really set on going on a car trip with W- and the babysitter, so they came along as W- took care of a few errands.
    • “Now that I’ve tried it, it’s my favourite.”
  • Cognition
    • The family math program session focused on comparison words (small, smaller, smallest; big, bigger, biggest; …). It was a good reminder to work those words into playdough time. There was a shape-sorting activity and a colour-sorting activity where kids picked one type of thing to collect and then they scrambled to get those things from a pile on the floor. The kids also glued paper-and-pompom fruit trees with sequences of numbers.
    • I asked the teacher about structured learning time. Seems like a good idea to start with something small (maybe 5-10 minutes), fun, and interesting, and then make that kind of planned activity part of the routine. I can also do a lot by infusing more learning into A-‘s free play time at drop-in centres. I wonder if I should have a little structured tracing time every day so that I can help A- learn how to write her name…
    • I thought the RelationShapes app was just a little too advanced for A- because resizing and rotating the shapes is a little hard for her, and she tends to move things around randomly or rely on the magic wand to give her clues. She revisited some earlier levels, though, and she was able to do them with just a bit of verbal prompting. She’s curious about the game, so it might be something handy to keep around. I wonder if there’s a dice-based board game I can have on my phone that requires us to move tokens, or if it makes sense to just have a random number generator and draw the board on my sketchpad.
  • World
    • H- and A- played with the screen door, pouring and spraying water on it. They tried many interesting things.

Blog posts


Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 35.6 43.8 8.2 73.6 13.8
Discretionary – Productive 9.6 12.3 2.8 20.7 4.6
Business 0.0 0.9 0.9 1.5 1.5
Personal 4.1 4.8 0.7 8.0 1.1
Discretionary – Social 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.7 0.7
Discretionary – Family 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Discretionary – Play 1.7 1.5 -0.2 2.5 -0.3
Sleep 36.1 33.2 -2.8 55.8 -4.7
Unpaid work 13.0 3.0 -9.9 5.1 -16.7

Weekly review: Week ending October 18, 2019

  • Kaizen
    • We passed down the potties and A-‘s old clothes to some neighbours. Yay clearing up space!
    • I made a ham and asparagus pizza to use up leftovers. The pizza crust I made was still a bit denser than pizzas made with supermarket dough. Ham and asparagus turned out to be a great combination.
    • I learned how to use the pandas library in Python to model our finances. I really like how literate programming with Emacs and Org Mode makes it easier for me to write notes or change assumptions along the way, and how working with pandas dataframes lets me slice the data more easily than with spreadsheets.
  • Us
    • I made red bean buns to take to Thanksgiving dinner.
    • I backed up my phone using Samsung SmartSwitch and adb backup.
    • I drafted a wiki page for the Emacs conference schedule.
    • I spent the whole day tweaking and recording my presentation for EmacsConf 2019 so that Amin can play it just in case A- needs me during that time on Nov 2. I also sent Amin some money for possibly upgrading a VPS so that we can self-host the livestream with free software.
  • Gross motor
    • W- made a simple hopscotch board on the kitchen floor with tape, and A- had fun jumping around on two feet.
  • Self-care and independence
    • Getting A-‘s clarithromycin compounded with bubblegum flavour worked really well. She even said, “I love my medicine.”
  • Sleep
    • A- wanted to stay up and play. I said snuggling was a limited time offer and that I could sleep on my own. She immediately said she was tired. She still took a while to settle down, but definitely got back on track to sleep.
  • Emotion
    • A- was upset because she accidentally popped her balloon by sticking tape to it and then trying to peel the tape off.
  • Social
    • We celebrated Thanksgiving with W-‘s family. A- ate a whole popsicle all by herself.
    • At the drop-in centre, A- played a lot with H-. I ended up just chatting with the other grown-ups. I wonder what an even better way to use this time could be… I like to check on her every so often, so reading is a little challenging. Maybe drawing, because I can switch between thoughts and drawing her? Crochet – maybe amigurumi?
    • A- had lots of fun with the babysitter. Maybe there’s something to that book I read that mentioned how 3.5-year-olds can do better with other people… A- still prefers me over school (probably because of the structure), but she definitely has lots of fun with babysitters.
  • Cognition
    • I checked out the Agam method mentioned in the early math textbook I’ve been reading. I downloaded RelationShapes on my phone, and A- tried it out. It seems to be an interesting challenge for her.
    • We talked to the kindergarten readiness program teacher about A-‘s progress as part of evaluations. She said that A- is a good listener who quickly figures out the new activities and games that the teachers explain. A- is highly verbal and is happy to contribute to the conversation. They’re working with her on getting better at tracing worksheets.
    • I finished reading “Learning and Teaching Early Math,” making a few pages of notes along the way. I’m looking forward to sneaking more math into our play. Yay!
  • World
    • A- asked W-, “Why are you XY?” It took W- a few seconds to realize that she was asking about chromosomes.
  • Other
    • A- really liked the sport water bottle that her cousin passed down to her. It was a freebie from an escape room and a little bit big for her, but she liked the spout.

Blog posts


Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Discretionary – Productive 0.0 9.6 9.6 16.1 16.1
Unpaid work 3.8 13.0 9.2 21.8 15.4
Sleep 35.5 36.1 0.5 60.6 0.9
Discretionary – Family 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Discretionary – Play 1.9 1.7 -0.2 2.8 -0.4
Personal 5.3 4.1 -1.2 6.9 -2.1
Discretionary – Social 2.4 0.0 -2.4 0.0 -4.0
Business 2.8 0.0 -2.8 0.0 -4.7
A- 48.2 35.6 -12.6 59.8 -21.2

Weekly review: Week ending October 11, 2019

  • Kaizen
    • I decluttered many of my clothes and a large part of my fabric stash. It’s nice to have several empty drawers and boxes.
    • W- helped me tape up my phone screen to deal with the crack.
  • Us
    • I made a Tsuki rabbit out of clay.
    • Either A- or I put weight on my phone, so the screen cracked. Oh well!
    • W- edited our Borderlands 2 characters to bring them over from the PS3.
    • I made cabbage stew. It worked out nicely!
  • Gross motor
    • A- climbed up the net and went down the big slide all by herself at Grange Park.
  • Fine motor
    • A- was curious about LEGO, so W- started bringing up parts of his collection. A- liked the train set and the vehicles.
  • Language
    • W-: “This has just the right amount of crust – i.e., lots.” A-: “It doesn’t do it for me.”
    • A-: “What’s a trackless train?” Me: (brief explanation) A-: “What’s a roadless train?” Me: (brief guess) “I think she’s making up phrases, generalizing from the foo-less train pattern.” W-: “It may interest you to know that words that start with di mean two.” A-: “Diamond.” J-: “She’s too smart for you.” W-: “Okay. Not every word that starts with di follows that pattern.”
  • Self-care and independence
    • The doctor diagnosed A- with bacterial pneumonia and prescribed clarithromycin.
    • We went to the doctor to get another prescription so that we could try getting A-‘s antibiotics compounded with a different flavour. The pharmacy said that their bubblegum flavour expired, so we opted for Tutti Frutti. After mixing it up, the pharmacist said it needed tweaking, so they tried a different formulation. We picked it up the next day.
    • “I’m going to take the easy way today.”
    • A- easily opened the childproof medicine bottle. She set a teaspoon of ice cream spoon on her saucer, where she also had a square of white chocolate. After I gave her the medicine, she considered her options and decided which one to eat first, washing things down with coconut water.
  • Emotion
    • “I’m not so happy. The reason is because of my meds.”
  • Social
    • We had Jen and E- over. A- had lots of fun running around with E- and playing with him, although she didn’t like it so much when he pretended to be a pouncing cat. We worked on a ghost costume for E-.
  • Cognition
    • A- made a paper pumpkin out of shapes.
  • World
    • A- turned the phone away from her when she noticed YouTube was showing an ad.

Blog posts


Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 43.1 48.2 5.1 81.0 8.5
Discretionary – Social 0.0 2.4 2.4 4.0 4.0
Discretionary – Play 0.0 1.9 1.9 3.2 3.2
Discretionary – Family 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Sleep 35.5 35.5 0.0 59.7 0.0
Business 3.0 2.8 -0.2 4.7 -0.3
Personal 7.2 5.3 -1.8 9.0 -3.1
Unpaid work 6.7 3.8 -2.9 6.4 -4.9
Discretionary – Productive 4.5 0.0 -4.5 0.0 -7.5