Turning 36; life as a 35-year-old

On the surface, this year looked much like last year did: drop-in centres, playgrounds and field trips, trips to visit family, and a little bit of consulting and Emacs. It felt so different, though. Of course, A-‘s a whole lot different at 3.5 years instead of 2.5. But since this is my yearly update instead of hers, I’m going to think about how I’ve been growing and what changed.

Last year, I said, “Bring on the ‘why?’ stage!”, and it turned out to be amazing. I’ve learned more about science thanks to her questions, and I’ve learned more about engineering thanks to watching How It’s Made videos and building cardboard machines.

There were many moments when I found myself thinking, “Wow, I like spending time with A-.” It’s great watching her grow. We can talk about so many things. She’s slowly becoming more independent. Sure, there were also times when I thought, “Darn, she has to learn about this the tough way,” but I’m getting better at setting my own boundaries and taking care of myself, and I’m getting pretty good at embracing the tantrums.

I’ve also gotten better at accepting the limits of this phase. I add more things to my list than I can cross off, even with focused time from the babysitting experiment that we restarted on A-‘s request. I often pick sleep instead of working on my computer, because I get grumpy if I’m tired. It’s okay. There’s next year (kindergarten is just around the corner!), and there are other people who can do things too. For now, I’m learning how to be here.

Or there–we squeezed in a trip to the Netherlands to visit my sister and her family, and another trip to the Philippines to see everyone. A-‘s becoming quite a seasoned traveller, although she still doesn’t sleep much on airplanes. It was good to spend time with people. A- had lots of fun playing with her cousins and with Lola, hooray!

Last year, I wrote:

I’m also looking forward to learning more about pedagogical documentation, drawing, taking pictures/videos, and other ways I can share things with her and with other people. Making books for A- is fun, so I’d like to do more of that too.

I really like the way my journaling workflow makes it possible to capture lots of little moments. I’m still not good at taking a step back and seeing trends over time, and my weekly review often falls by the wayside. It was nice remembering little moments in the process of doing this yearly review. Hardly any drawing, but I came to terms with that being a low priority for now. I started categorizing photos using albums in Google Photos, but it’s not quite as smooth or as regular as I’d like.

I made a few more children’s books for A-. “I Am Turning 3” organized highlights from her first three years. “Let’s Make Popcorn” was the sequel to “Let’s Make a Smoothie.” “Going on an Airplane” helped us get ready for the trip, and she loved that I illustrated it with her favourite stuffed toy. For my sister, I drafted a book called “Magic Books”, but I haven’t illustrated it yet. I improved my workflow, so now I can theoretically make longer books with better layouts. I look forward to trying that out as we move into more complex stories.

We’ve been using some babysitting time to work on household projects and useful skills. W- taught me how to use the sliding compound mitre saw and the table saw. We repainted and trimmed the insides of the upper kitchen cabinets, replaced the drawers, and built organizers and shelves. We decluttered and organized, and we even donated old bicycles. In terms of cooking, we’ve been shifting more towards fresh food instead of cooking in bulk, more towards vegetables and other recommendations of the new food guide, and more towards higher-quality groceries. We’ve been learning how to work with a sourdough starter that we brought home from my sister’s neighbour in the Netherlands.

Babysitting freed up some time to work on some personal coding projects for continuous improvement, too. I wrote functions to make it easier to prepare Emacs News by getting feed items, checking for duplicates, and assigning categories with a few keystrokes. I started hosting planet.emacslife.com after the server at planet.emacsen.org went down. I finally got around to setting up SSL. I moved my sketches from Flickr to my own sketches.sachachua.com, and I wrote a tool that rewrote most of the links in my old posts. I started using Docker to contain some of my services, including a new version of my library renewal script. I contributed patches to Org Mode and to Termux.

I got into sewing again. I experimented with a custom-printed headband that had letters, numbers, days of the week, and other useful things for preschool education on the go. I found out that W-‘s old jeans fit me quite comfortably, so I hemmed and patched them. I serged cabinet liners and washcloths. I made fuzzy hats in winter, and shorts and underwear in summer. I started to feel more comfortable sewing. It was even fun.

So yeah… A- grew a lot, and so did I.

Time

Category % 34 years % 35 years Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 46.7 42.7 -4.0 71.8 -6.7
Sleep 31.2 33.8 2.6 56.8 4.4
Personal 6.2 6.3 0.1 10.5 0.2
Unpaid work 5.4 6.1 0.7 10.3 1.2
Discretionary – Productive 3.5 3.4 -0.2 5.7 -0.3
Discretionary – Play 0.7 2.8 2.0 4.7 3.4
Discretionary – Family 3.3 2.8 -0.5 4.6 -0.9
Business – Earn 1.1 1.1 0.0 1.9 0.0
Discretionary – Social 0.9 0.8 -0.1 1.3 -0.2
Business – Build 0.3 0.2 -0.1 0.3 -0.2

Huh. That’s interesting. Actually, most of the time change this year was about me getting more sleep. I like having more sleep. And I gave myself permission to play Borderlands 2 with W- in the evening, since it’s good to hang out as a couple too. I did a smidge more tidying, too.

Babysitting helped me shift consulting from late-night sessions to daytime (more alertness! occasional chats with clients!), improve my sewing, coding, and woodworking skills, and check off actual projects. That was worth it, although I’m not going to scale it up too much because A- prefers to spend time with me. She wants to have a babysitter once a week instead of twice or three times a week. If I can count on 6-7 hours of focused time a week, then, I’d like to spend an average of 2 hours a week on consulting, 2 hours on household prep, and 2-3 hours on continuous improvement. I’m not entirely sure how that time budget works, but we’ll figure things out. It might be more household prep until we can get things running smoothly, which should free up more time and energy for other things.

36 to 37: Looking ahead

A- will be old enough for kindergarten shortly after I turn 37. Big changes are up ahead! I’d like to stay flexible and be involved in the school community, since that seems to make a big difference. That’s for later, though. For now, I can focus on making the most of this phase and what I can do to prepare for the next one.

I want to make a children’s book about microphthalmia that I can share with A-‘s kindergarten teacher. I hope it will help answer questions and demystify things.

I want to put together a session for the Emacs conference in November, and to help with facilitating and following through. I also want to continue posting Emacs News.

I’d like to continue consulting, since I like my clients and I like solving the kinds of problems i do. I’ll probably focus on prototyping, robotic process automation, and analytics, since those are things I can squeeze into small time windows.

A- is starting to show interest in reading, socialization, and how the world works. I also want to help her develop physical literacy and emotional regulation, and I want to involve her more in preparing food and tidying up. I’ve got my work cut out for me in terms of doing preschool at home. It will be fun!

I want to learn more DIY skills so that I can help improve things around the house. I’m not sure how the time budget works out, though. Learning woodworking is definitely more of a nice-to-have compared to the other things we need to do to keep the house running smoothly.

I’ve got an even longer list of ideas. As always, priorities: sleep, self-care, taking care of A-, and so on. Let’s see how this year goes!