How A- is helping me learn how to read better

A- loves books. They’re usually a good way to calm her down from a tantrum, enjoy a pleasant afternoon, and get her all snuggled in and sleepy at bedtime. I don’t mind reading them again and again, since each read gives me an opportunity to learn more about writing, illustration, and even layout. It’s so much fun hearing the words and ideas from books bubble up in our everyday conversations.

I’d like to learn more about best practices for reading with young kids, like dialogic reading. A- responds well to the comments I add pointing out feelings or relating things to her life, and she often asks about things when I leave plenty of space for her to jump in.

A- doesn’t like feeling quizzed, though. When I pause to let her fill in blanks or I ask her questions, she protests, “I’m the baby.” By that, she means, “You’re the adult. Read it properly.” She knows the books and will sometimes “read” the whole thing to herself from memory, but sometimes she probably just wants to relax and listen. Sometimes she’ll play along if I give her a special word and ask her to point to it whenever it comes up, but that’s hit-or-miss. If she wants to play the game of correcting me, she’ll ask me to read the book upside down.

I think I’ll focus on making space for her questions and letting her take the lead for now, instead of taking more of a teaching-ish approach. I can model questions by wondering out loud. We can just keep it really pleasant, and probably that will pave the way for phonics later on. It’s totally okay for her kindergarten teacher to do the heavy lifting of teaching her how to read. My job is to help her want to read.

It might be nice to be more intentional about the books we get. Our neighbourhood library has a good selection, but there are all sorts of gems out there that we might not find just by pulling books off the shelf.

I can thin the herd a bit by bringing some of our books to the Children’s Book Bank, so that her shelf isn’t so packed. Then it might be easier for her to find and pull out books she likes.

A little thing: if I update the script I wrote to renew my library loans so that it works with the redesigned site, that could save me a bit of clicking.

I can look for ways to perk myself up if I’m falling asleep reading during the afternoon slump. A- usually accepts it if I tell her that I need to move or do something different, and maybe a dance session could help us get our blood flowing. I can also drink water and eat a quick snack. I can invite her to read a book outside or explore the garden, especially as the weather warms up.

This is great! I’m learning how to read, too. :)

2019-04-15 Emacs news

Update: Added Paris meetup, Apr 18

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

Resuming our babysitter experiment

We experimented with babysitting last year. A- generally got along well with babysitters from the agency, although she eventually told me, “Stop babysitting experiment. Mama play with A-.” So we stopped. I relegated my consulting to the occasional late night, and sometimes went a month or two without logging in.

Once in a while, A- liked to pretend that I was a babysitter ringing the doorbell and coming to play with her. She also asked me to read books about babysitting, including the one I made for her.

A- started asking me to get a babysitter recently. I figured we could give it a try again. She immediately got along with the sitter from the agency, and didn’t look for me at all. From my hideout in the basement, I could hear peals of laughter, loud conversation, and even the occasional made-up song.

I spent most of the session writing documentation and updating reports. Focused time! Awake focused time! It was nice to make real progress.

I asked A- if she wanted to have the same sitter the following week, and she did. She even picked having a sitter over going to “school” or playing with me. The second time the babysitter came, she had just as much fun playing with her, and I had just as much fun coding and listening. I asked A- again if she wanted to have the same sitter the following week, and she said yes. After the sitter left, I asked her if she thought her playtime with the sitter was too short, too long, or just right. “Too short,” she said, so we’ll book the next one for five hours.

A- was extra clingy after the first session, but a bit more relaxed after the second one. She fell asleep on the walk to the library, which gave me a little time to write.

My goals for babysitting are:

  • Support A- as she practises independence: It’s good for her to practise asking other people for help, figuring out fun games together, and learning from other people’s styles. It also helps her learn she can do lots of things without me and be away from me for longer periods of time. I might even be pleasantly surprised by what she can do based on other people’s expectations.
  • Be inspired by other people’s interactions with A-: the kind of energy they bring to childcare, the interesting things they share or bring out in her, the games they come up with…
  • Create space for making things better or capturing and organizing my notes. Consulting increases my budget for experiments and resources. Reflection helps me remember things I’ve learned and decide what to do next.

So now that babysitting is back on the table, what does that change? How can I build on this?

  • I can schedule babysitting sessions once a week for as long as A- is up to it. I can fill that time with consulting or other tasks, so it’s worth it on my end. Although consulting is fun and easy to justify, I could also dedicate some time to continuous improvement, writing, drawing, organization, and personal projects.
  • Knowing that I’ll have some scheduled focused time should make it easier to get proper sleep at night, which should make it easier to focus on her during the day. Also, it’s really nice to just be able to sleep when we’re sleepy, instead of trying to stay awake while she’s falling asleep.
  • It would be good to gradually stretch it to six hours, to prepare her for being away from us for that long when she’s at kindergarten. It’s still good for her to have an afternoon nap, so we’ll probably move the starting time earlier.
  • The weather is warming up, so it might be good to figure out the logistics of going to other places like the playground or the drop-in centre.
  • In summer, the pool of available babysitters expands quite a bit. It might be interesting to experiment with independent sitters, especially ones with teaching experience. On the other hand, the agency is pretty convenient too.
  • A- hasn’t yet had a big meltdown that required comfort from a babysitter, so I’m not sure if she’s ready for that yet. We can work on emotional regulation when we’re together, since she’s not quite ready to do that on her own or with strangers yet.
  • Eventually, I can check how she does in a group situation. Parenting workshops with childminding and drop-in centres with parent relief programs might be good ways to test it out, or I can explore coworking spaces with childcare. The city also runs a few recreation programs for her age range, although most of those are too early in the morning for her current sleep rhythms. Kindergarten readiness programs can also help her get used to school routines and group interaction.

With that in mind, next week, I plan to:

  • Line up non-consulting tasks so that I can use my time well once I’m done with the SQL debugging I’ve scheduled,
  • Pay closer attention to the differences in the way we interact, and see what I can learn,
  • Experiment with 5 hours, with the option to cut it shorter if she’s tired or cranky, and
  • Ask the babysitter what she would need to be comfortable taking A- out to the backyard or to “school,” and offer it to A- as an option.

I’m glad A-‘s curious about this again!

2019-04-08 Emacs news

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

Weekly review: Week ending April 5, 2019

  • Kaizen
    • I finally got around to setting up LetsEncrypt SSL certificates for my blog, Quantified Awesome, and
    • I updated my ledger and added more balance assertions.
    • I set up HTTPS for my little tracker, too.
  • Us
    • I decided to spend a little time playing Borderlands 2 with W- while I backed up my files. It was nice to just relax and have fun.
    • I brought the prototype for Magic Books to the drop-in centre, and I sketched a few pages while A- played.
    • It was a little frustrating trying to figure out dinner plans with a friend who’s flying in for a few days. I wonder if it makes sense to meet her at the airport. Still getting the hang of having a kiddo in tow…
    • I managed to put A- to bed by 10 pm, so W- and I watched Deadpool 2.
  • Gross motor
    • A- wanted to go to the park, so I said that we could if she walked there instead of riding in the stroller. She made it!
    • A- was really interested in climbing the structures at the playground.
  • Fine motor
    • A- used her fingers and thumb to pinch the playdough out into a bowl shape.
  • Language
    • A-: “Even if it’s a dwarf planet, Pluto is still a planet.”
      Me: “Pluto isn’t a planet any more.”
      A-: “I’m just using my imagination.”
    • “Where’s daddy? I want to see him. I want to ask him for a little spent time.”
  • Self-care and independence
    • A-‘s been asking for a babysitter, so I booked one from the agency. Maybe I’ll be able to do some consulting, drawing, or organizing while A- practises being independent.
    • A- felt comfortable switching over to the babysitter as soon as I set them up, and she played happily with the babysitter until I came back up from the basement 3.5 hours later. I heard them read lots of books, play music, and play with other toys. It was nice to get some focused work done. When I asked A- about plans for next week, she chose having a sitter at home over going to pretend school or playing with me, so I booked the same person for another day.
  • Eating
    • We had maple-crusted porkloin and bok choy for dinner.
  • Emotion
    • Me: “I’m getting grumpy because I’m hungry, so I’m going to eat.”
      A-: “Snake breath or balloon breath.”
      Me: “…Yes, I can use snake breath to calm down when I’m frustrated.”
      A-: “I gave you choices. I’m a good mother.”
    • Lots of tantrums. Maybe A- was releasing the tension from behaving properly with a stranger all afternoon.
  • Household
    • A- helped spot-clean her stuffed toy Sheep.
    • A- insisted on returning the library books all by herself. She attacked the books on the floor, picked them up one at a time, and slid them through the return slot.
    • A- helped me cut carrots for duck pot pie. I helped her use a serrated steak knife.
    • A- checked out library books all by herself, too.
    • A- sliced the zucchini with a butter knife.
  • Social
    • A- wanted to read a few books while Lola was on video chat. She also wanted to play sungka.
    • A- asked W- to juggle for her. W- said he could only juggle one thing. A- said, “I can juggle two things,” and then proceeded to flail about. Then she said, “I taught Daddy how to juggle.”
    • A- established boundaries around her tower (she wanted to build it by herself). Later, she played together with another kid, even going with her back and forth across the room.
    • After music class, we checked out a protest, went to the Allan Gardens conservatory and playground, and got books from the library and the Children’s Book Bank. A- liked spending time with AW from music class. What a full day!

Blog posts


Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Sleep 34.6 38.2 3.5 64.1 6.0
A- 43.8 46.7 2.9 78.4 4.8
Discretionary – Play 0.4 2.3 1.9 3.9 3.2
Discretionary – Productive 1.8 2.9 1.1 4.9 1.8
Business 2.6 3.4 0.8 5.7 1.4
Discretionary – Family 2.1 0.2 -1.9 0.4 -3.1
Personal 8.6 4.7 -3.9 7.9 -6.6
Unpaid work 6.1 1.6 -4.5 2.8 -7.5

Weekly review: Week ending March 29, 2019

  • Kaizen
    • A- wanted to type on my laptop, so I quickly remapped her favourite key (F1) to show the hello file instead of help-on-help. W- joked that if I set it up to play Ode to Joy, I’d have a real winner. So I did, calling emms-play-file. And then of course it made sense to make F1 toggle playing on and off, and then A- had lots of fun making the music stop and go.
    • We raked the twigs in the garden.
  • Us
    • I booked our flights. I initially booked them on one airline, but I cancelled after a few minutes because I realized that another airline’s itinerary not only made more sense for our day but also came out a little cheaper.
    • We decided that spending on seat selection was worth it so that we could pick a row without any particularly bad remarks on the main seat review sites.
  • Gross motor
    • We put batteries into a tiny toy penguin I bought a long time ago, and A- had fun watching it waddle toward claps. She imitated the penguin too, holding her arms close to her sides and her hands out.
  • Fine motor
    • A- was fascinated by a small, clear hand pump floating in the water table at the drop-in centre. She spent most of the afternoon playing with it, filling the cups and bottles that I held for her. She also had fun stacking small wooden shapes, and got pretty good at building tall, thin towers.
  • Sensory
    • A- spent a long time at the water table in the drop-in centre. She liked pretending to give the frog-shaped watering can a drink.
    • A- liked being dropped while riding on my knees.
    • A- liked playing with her new sand toys in a big raised bed in our backyard. That raised bed gets pretty shaded, so we decided that was fine as A-‘s sandbox and “planting” zone.
  • Language
    • “Now baby is refreshed and rested.”
    • One of A-‘s long-term goals is to grow long hair. She said, “Someday I’m going to help J- clog up the drain.”
    • A- picked three bedtime stories and read them all to herself.
    • A- wanted to sing Bahay Kubo while reading through the book. She did it several times. Then she fell asleep snuggling the book.
  • Music
    • A- sat down at the piano. She started pressing keys and singing, “Bessie the sheep, Bessie the sheep…” I think she was making up a song on the spot.
    • It’s fun watching the progression in the kinds of games we play in music class. This week, the teacher introduced a game with songs that go like: “A- stands up, A- sits down, A- goes dancing all around the town. Tralalalalala tralalala, tralalalala tralalala.” (To the tune of Tommy Thumb Is Up.) We stretched out the last few syllables so each kid could make it back to their place in the circle right on time. When it was A-‘s turn, she stood up and sat down on cue, and then she went all around the circle by herself, even though all the kids before her had been accompanied by their grownups. Neato!
  • Self-care and independence
    • A- can put on gloves and mittens by herself.
    • During our bedtime conversation, A- and I talked about what if she had no seeing eyes, about being careful in the sandbox, and about observing other kids.
    • We went to Once Upon a Child to look for shoes. I brought along a paper cutout of her footprint. She preferred shoes that were a bit too big for her, but she’ll probably grow into them in a few months. I also got her sweatpants to match W-. I tried looking for a slightly larger rain jacket and a doll that she identified with, but no luck. I might have to look into repainting dolls if she wants a hard one instead of a soft one.
  • Eating
    • A- ate seven breakfast sausages in one sitting.
    • A- is getting quite good at eating cereal and milk by herself. She likes to add just a little cereal. I think it’s mostly an excuse to drink milk.
  • Emotion
    • A- had a big tantrum because she wanted phone time so that she could watch videos. We eventually redirected her to reading.
    • A- was in her carrier, slowly calming down from a tantrum. Tearfully, she said, “i want a book on emotional regulation.”
    • A- didn’t want to interrupt reading in order to start dinner. When she saw W- head out the door, though, she started crying for him. We quickly put our coats and boots on and headed out the door. W- was far ahead of us, but A- made a decent effort at walking most of the way to the library. We met W- on his way back. I offered A- a choice: we could all go home, or W- could go home and I could go with her to the library. A- kept asking if she could go with W- to the library. After telling her that wasn’t one of the choices and giving her a warning, I told her that we were going to choose for her. We carried her home in full tantrum mode. Eventually, we were able to help her calm down enough, and she ate dinner with us. She had probably been extra grumpy because of hunger, but at least we finally got that sorted out!
  • Social
    • We hadn’t seen Joy and J- for a long time. When they finally made it out to the drop-in centre, A- and J- had lots of fun playing together. A- said, “I love my friend.” They walked home, holding hands part of the way.
  • World
    • At the drop-in centre, the librarian did the circle time. She sang a song about weather and asked the kids what the weather was today. A- said, “It was raining.” The librarian thanked her. A- continued, saying, “That’s called precipitation.” Everyone paused for a few seconds trying to make sure they heard her right, and then we had a good laugh about that.

      I guess A- picked something up from all those times she asked us to read “The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal,” even though when I asked her what she liked about the book, she cheerfully told me, “I understand none of the words in it! Zero!” Huh.

      I wonder what else makes sense to casually introduce into our reading… I’m not looking for party-trick memorization or academic front-loading, but she wants to learn, so it might be fun to see what else catches her eye. Nature is probably a good place to start, and maybe simple physics and biology too. Maybe calendars, too?

  • Thoughts
    • Parenting reflection from Joyful Toddlers & Preschoolers: assume positive intent. I can see how A- wants so much to do well and be helpful.

Blog posts


Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 40.6 43.8 3.2 73.6 5.4
Business 0.0 2.6 2.6 4.3 4.3
Personal 6.2 8.6 2.4 14.4 4.1
Unpaid work 5.5 6.1 0.6 10.3 1.0
Discretionary – Play 1.2 0.4 -0.8 0.7 -1.3
Sleep 35.7 34.6 -1.1 58.1 -1.9
Discretionary – Family 4.9 2.1 -2.8 3.5 -4.7
Discretionary – Productive 5.9 1.8 -4.1 3.0 -6.9