Weekly review: Week ending July 10, 2020

  • W- finished the porch skirt. We hung out on the porch while he worked so that we could keep an eye on stuff and so that A- could hand him tools.
  • I experimented with different sewing patterns for face masks.
  • We played lots of LEGO Heroica. It influenced A- to pretend that she was a wizard, a golem, a goblin, and a dark druid. She’s so awesome.
  • There was a big thunderstorm with hail. I forgot to pull the plants closer to the house, and the taller tomatoes really suffered. Let’s see how they do.
  • A- didn’t want to do the craft activity during the literacy workshop. It involved colouring circles, cutting them out, and gluing them to make a stoplight. She told me later that she has a hard time colouring within the lines, which is totally normal. I wonder how I can help her have developmentally appropriate expectations too.
  • We practised playing pretend with LEGO sets, and she now regularly asks me to play pretend with her.
  • We had a great time experimenting with bubbles. We figured out how to get bubbles to stick to the deck. Sometimes bubbles bounced off each other, sometimes they touched, and sometimes they merged. We also used a straw to enlarge bubbles.
  • A- skinned a dollar-sized portion of her knee when she fell going over a small depression in the road. She stayed calm as I untangled her from her bike and snuggled her close. W- washed the wound with water and applied the bandage from A-‘s backpack first aid kit. She waited patiently while he fetched a “health potion” (a box of frozen desserts from the organic food store). She biked home. She’s getting better at managing her emotions when she gets hurt. (KP2.4)

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Discretionary – Productive 8.2 10.4 2.2 17.4 3.7
A- 49.1 50.5 1.4 84.9 2.3
Discretionary – Family 1.7 1.8 0.1 3.0 0.2
Discretionary – Play 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Discretionary – Social 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Personal 4.6 4.1 -0.5 7.0 -0.8
Business 0.7 0.1 -0.6 0.2 -1.0
Unpaid work 3.9 3.0 -0.8 5.1 -1.4
Sleep 31.8 30.0 -1.8 50.5 -3.0

Experience report: Toronto’s Early Years resources were really helpful

I don’t know what Toronto’s parenting resources will look like post-COVID-19, but I want to remember how grateful I am for what A- and I were able to enjoy during these first few essential years.

Right from the start of A-‘s life, Canadian healthcare was there for us. She was born okay, but I ended up needing an emergency transfer and blood transfusion. We spent a few days recovering in the hospital. When we returned home, the midwives did the well-baby visits in the comfort of our living room.

A-‘s left eye stayed closed. We didn’t worry. These things happen sometimes. When it stayed closed, the midwives recommended that we take her to a doctor, and the doctor referred us to Sick Kids Hospital. Two weeks after she was born, we had the official diagnosis: microphthalmia of the left eye. A-‘s eye had stopped developing at some point during gestation. Since microphthalmia is often accompanied by other conditions, the midwives helped us find a pediatrician and the pediatrician sent us for a full work-up. A- also had a palpable murmur, so we started seeing a cardiologist as well. For a while it seemed that every time we went to Sick Kids Hospital, we ended up with another follow-up appointment with a different department. A- took to crying as soon as she saw the posters at the entrance of the hospital. I asked the hospital’s child life specialists for tips on how to make this easier for her, and they recommended spending some time decompressing and trying to make a positive association with the hospital at each visit. We made a habit of going to the family resource centre at the hospital to read books and play with toys.

A- went under general anesthesia twice when she was five months old (one eye examination and one liver MRI), and lots of blood tests and ultrasounds. Dazed by sleep deprivation and overwhelmed by all the new terms I learned to spell and search for, I was so, so, so thankful that all of this was covered under public healthcare, that W- was in the thick of all of it with me, and that the Stoic principle of amor fati made it easier for me to embrace everything.

A- wasn’t gaining as much weight as her pediatrician would have liked. It turned out that that was mostly because she started out big and then gradually settled down on being a small sort of human, the way W- and I are–but we weren’t quite sure back then. Better safe than sorry. I hit up all the resources I could find. The Toronto Public Health breastfeeding clinic had lactation consultants and an infant scale that I could use to measure A-‘s weight in between pediatrician visits. When we continued to be concerned, they referred me to the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program (my notes). A nurse and a home visitor helped me keep a close eye on A-‘s development through the Nipissing District Developmental Screen. They answered my questions and taught me parenting skills. They also connected me with the Peer Nutrition program, which included workshops with nurses and one-on-ones with a registered dietitian. This led me to Ellyn Satter’s model of the division of responsibility in feeding, which we’ve found very useful.

Eventually A-‘s growth chart looked more reasonable. (She stopped dropping percentiles, whew!) We could actually start enjoying ourselves. We borrowed tons of books from Toronto Public Library. We went to EarlyON parenting centres to play with toys, ask questions, join circle time, and meet other people. A few centres even had toy lending libraries, so we got to play with a succession of toys at home.

The fog slowly receded as our immediate medical questions were resolved. I could think about slightly longer-term things. What were we dealing with? I worried about potential neurological risks1 from A- going under general anesthesia a couple of times, or other developmental issues that might only become apparent as A- grew. It didn’t help that A- ended up needing dental surgery under general anaesthesia due to tooth decay (which we discovered at a Peer Nutrition follow-up session on oral health, so thank goodness I went to that presentation!). While writing this, I came across a 2016 Canadian study on multiple exposures to general anesthesia 2 seems pretty reassuring, but I hadn’t read it back then. I wanted to keep on top of early childhood development and learn as much as I could.

Many people in Microphthalmia, Anophthalmia Parent Support talked about how helpful occupational therapy and other services had been, even for kids with good vision in one eye. I talked to a caseworker at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. She tested A-‘s vision and coping skills with a fascinating array of light-up toys and little things, and she concluded that A- probably didn’t need any services at the time. She sent me a resource kit, just in case. I checked out lots of other resources too, just in case. A- never really took to childminding, so she was always underfoot or in my lap as I attended sessions on parent advocacy, developmental challenges (Let’s Get Started), positive parenting (Nobody’s Perfect) and speech and language (through Toronto’s Early Abilities program). We also attended workshops that were more parent-and-child-focused, such as Make the Connection. I read lots of books and research papers, too. I had never spent much time around kids, so I wanted to learn as much as I could.

As A- passed each milestone, I was able to let go of more concerns and enjoy things more. It felt almost as if going around with a kiddo helped me see another layer to the city. We spent more time in parks, playgrounds, and community centres. We floated and waded in community pools and splash pads. We watched animals at the Riverdale Farm. We regularly went to the Royal Ontario Museum (there was one time that all A- wanted to do was climb up and down the stairs) and the Ontario Science Centre (I always needed to bring extra clothes for her, since she loved playing at the water table). We went to music classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

EarlyON centres were the best of all. I had so many questions, and the centres had teachers and early childhood educators who could give us personalized advice. I loved observing how the parent workers interacted with kids (getting down to the kids’ level, using positive language, singing lots of songs about transitions and routines, empathizing with kids’ feelings, cheerfully distracting and redirecting kids) and how they interacted with other grown-ups (encouraging us, reassuring us, teaching us, showing us by example). As A- grew older, we went to workshops on kindergarten readiness, literacy, and math. We even made friends with some of the other kids and parents who went to the same centre regularly. When the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape, we attended virtual circle times and workshops organized by the same EarlyON folks that A- and I had gotten to know in person.

A- is 4.5 years old now, and we’re slowly shifting toward the school-age stuff. We survived the 0-3 stage, woohoo! I’m writing this to remember what it felt like then and what it feels like now. Who knows, maybe it might add to a policy-maker or agency worker’s understanding of the kind of difference these programs make in someone’s life, or it might inspire other families to cobble together something similar from the programs and resources available in their area. I feel incredibly lucky to be supported by all these people and resources around us. I hope families can still have that kind of support as we figure out what this new world can be.

1 Flick RP, Katusic SK, Colligan RC, et al. Cognitive and behavioral outcomes after early exposure to anesthesia and surgery [published correction appears in Pediatrics. 2012 Mar;129(3):595]. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):e1053-e1061. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-0351
2 James D. O’Leary, Magdalena Janus, Eric Duku, Duminda N. Wijeysundera, Teresa To, Ping Li, Jason T. Maynes, Mark W. Crawford; A Population-based Study Evaluating the Association between Surgery in Early Life and Child Development at Primary School Entry. Anesthesiology 2016;125(2):272-279. doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/ALN.0000000000001200.

Book: Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why (Paul Tough)


2020-07-05a Helping Children Succeed – Paul Tough #book #education.png

Here are my notes on Paul Tough’s 2016 book Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. It turns out that he’s made the book freely available online, so you can read the book with embedded videos and links.

The main thing I got from it is the importance of thinking about the environment kids learn in. A- has a pretty low-stress environment at the moment, although she might run into a few challenges later on. As I help A- learn, I also want to help her internalize these messages, which I’ve paraphrased from the book:

I belong. I can do that through our relationship by being warm, responsive, and encouraging.
I grow. I can reinforce this by telling stories about how she’s learning.
I can do it. I can scaffold her learning and encourage her when she’s frustrated.
It’s worthwhile. I can show how her learning pays off and I can help her set inspiring challenges.

I can influence the development of non-cognitive traits through our relationship and through the kind of work she does.

When I read the section on home visiting, it reminded me of how much I appreciated the Healthy Babies Healthy Children home-visiting program run by Toronto Public Health. The nurse and the home visitor taught me more about playing with A- by highlighting small things I was doing well. Because they called attention to those practices, that made it easier for me to do more of those things. I like doing something similar with A-, noticing and naming the things she’s doing well so that she gets a sense of her growth.

The book is okay, kinda light, but it isn’t a must-read. It was a good nudge to think about what A-‘s picking up in addition to the things that are easier to measure and observe.

2020-07-06 Emacs news

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

Weekly review: Week ending July 3, 2020

Us:

  • I linked tags and fixed the search feature in my sketch viewer. I added more flexibility in referring to images, got rid of Coffeescript, and updated from Node 8 to 10.
  • I remapped my tablet’s bezel buttons to make it easier to use Krita, and I switched to using Krita’s built-in grid instead of importing a grid layer.
  • I tweaked journal-related code in my Emacs config and updated it to work on Emacs 28.
  • We reorganized A-‘s play area, rotating out things that she didn’t use as much so that we could make more space for new interests.
  • While tidying up, I came across printed copies of my yearly/weekly/daily sketches from A-‘s first year. I miss doing that. Maybe I will try doing that again.

A-:

  • A- asked me to turn the garbage can upside down. She then pretended to be a taiko drummer. She’s gotten the hang of alternating hands and including pauses. (KP18.2, 31.2)
  • A- did some more Khan Academy Kids. She liked having me watch nearby. The activities with moving parts seemed to rattle her a little bit, so that might be good to practice. She said the activities were fun, but that she was tired of hearing “Cool beans!” all the time.
  • We started playing LEGO Heroica. A- got the hang of it quickly. She was initially too scared to fight the monsters, but has since worked up the courage to regularly take on monsters with a strength of 1. She likes playing the wizard because she can attack monsters from a safe distance, even around corners. I think both Heroica and Khan Academy Kids might be good ways for her to practise emotional self-regulation in exciting situations, and I’ve been talking to her about how feeling a little scared and feeling a little excited can be quite similar. (She’s probably a little too young for proper anxiety reappraisal, but I might as well lay the groundwork!)

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Sleep 30.1 31.8 1.7 53.5 2.9
Discretionary – Family 0.6 1.7 1.1 2.8 1.8
Personal 4.2 4.6 0.4 7.7 0.7
Discretionary – Play 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Discretionary – Social 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
A- 49.4 49.1 -0.2 82.6 -0.3
Unpaid work 4.4 3.9 -0.6 6.5 -1.0
Discretionary – Productive 8.8 8.2 -0.6 13.7 -1.1
Business 2.5 0.7 -1.8 1.1 -3.0

Monthly review: June 2020


2020-07-02 June 2020 #monthly #review.png

  • I made a font based on my handwriting using FontForge, Python, Org Mode, and Medibang Paint.
  • I drew with crayons and with my tablet. I tweaked my Krita workflow by remapping buttons. I sketched an overview of the Ontario Kindergarten 2016 curriculum.
  • I made my journal more visual, and I updated my Emacs configuration.
  • A- learned how to ride a pedal bike! She also worked on learning how to type with all fingers. We built lots of LEGO sets together by using the bricks we already had, and A- started to build the habit of tidying up. She liked listening to me talk in Tagalog. We worked on play skills and making sure both of us have fun. She played with Khan Academy Kids and Scratch Jr on the tablet, and she encouraged me to consult while she did so. She pretended to be a baby yeti and a plant. We spent some time browsing through Childcraft and the children’s dictionary.

Next month, I want to get better at taking advantage of the space created by screentime and independent play, maybe by preparing for kindergarten.

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category Previous month % This month % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Discretionary – Productive 5.3 9.6 4.2 15.5 7.1
A- 48.8 51.7 2.9 84.1 4.8
Discretionary – Social 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Discretionary – Family 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.7 0.0
Business 1.3 1.2 -0.1 1.9 -0.2
Personal 4.9 3.8 -1.1 6.2 -1.9
Discretionary – Play 1.3 0.0 -1.3 0.0 -2.2
Unpaid work 5.1 3.0 -2.1 4.9 -3.5
Sleep 32.8 30.3 -2.4 49.3 -4.1