Category Archives: review

Monthly review: August 2020

  • We played with lots of LEGO: building sets and our own creations, and making up stories and games. A- had fun inventing new rules and events in Heroica.
  • A- practised playing independently with LEGO or Khan Academy Kids while I did some consulting. I shared some of my earnings with her, so she kept encouraging me to work more. That freed up evening discretionary time for personal projects.
  • I added lots of little things to my journaling system to help me use it as a Zettelkasten. I also started digging into analyzing and visualizing it using Python.
  • We rehabilitated the main planter box and draped some mesh over the tomatoes on the deck.
  • I sewed some skirts for A- and me.
  • I worked on sneaking more math into everyday play.
  • A- read lots of books on her own.
  • A- and I wore our masks inside stores and the library. Whee!
  • Because of LEGO board games, A- was curious about mummies, minotaurs, zombies, and vampires.

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category Previous month % This month % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Business 0.5 3.2 2.7 5.4 4.5
Unpaid work 3.3 3.9 0.5 6.5 0.9
Discretionary – Productive 8.4 9.0 0.5 15.1 0.9
Discretionary – Play 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.5 0.4
Personal 4.3 4.2 -0.1 7.0 -0.2
Discretionary – Family 1.2 0.8 -0.4 1.3 -0.6
Sleep 31.5 30.1 -1.4 50.5 -2.4
A- 50.7 48.6 -2.1 81.7 -3.5

Weekly review: Week ending August 28, 2020

  • We worked on rehabilitating the main planter box. It felt good to break up the packed sandy soil and work in some bagged soil that we had lying around. We moved the chives to one end of the planter box and the oregano to the other end. W- suggested planting more peas. He stapled chicken wire across the top of the planter box to protect them.
  • I worked on lots of journal improvements: lightbox, ZIDList view, getting refs/IDs/image filenames from selection, navigating by year, turning other/images on and off, splitting entries, handling photos with commas, and so on. Thanks to both my journal system and the entries I’ve been filling in, I’m getting better at being able to look up and link to old entries.
  • After I read A- a bedtime story, I told her that she could stay up late if she wanted to read. She chose “Chess for Kids.” She asked me a few times if I could read it to her, but I reminded her that it was past bedtime. I sounded out words she stumbled over, though, and she put the syllables together. The book had small text in close-set lines, so she was getting a little confused while tracing the lines with her finger. I used an index card to cover up the other lines, which made the words a lot easier for her to follow. She used the index card to cover lines too, although her hands were still a bit uncoordinated. She also tried using the corner of the index card to point to words instead of using her finger. When she was ready for bed, she stuck the card into the book and called it a bookmark. “You’re reading so well,” I said. “Of course! I’m Reya,” she said. Reya is a character from Khan Academy Kids who loves reading and bugs, and A- has been pretending to be her for almost two months.
  • A- read a book in Khan Academy Kids instead of listening to the app read it to her. She likes to challenge herself. Sometimes she’ll start to read a book, and then she’ll use the recording to check the pronunciation of a word.
  • A- kept pointing out three-headed monkeys and stealing cherry tomatoes off my plate. She even asked me to reload my plate a couple of times. Whenever she did, I put five tomatoes on my plate and then counted out the subtraction with my fingers.
  • It occurs to me that my interests expand to fit available time. Coding seems to be my default discretionary activity. After I finish updating my journal, I tend to write code. Coding expands to fit available time, gives me regular payoffs, and results in compounding returns instead of diminishing ones. It’s hard to pick anything else unless my brain is tired. So I have to be more clever about how I use time and how I think about things if I want to explore and develop other skills. Writing can help me remember better – I look things up in my blog or journal al lthe time. Maybe I can do more of it by starting with these paragraph-length thoughts in my journal. Sewing reduces the annoyance of shopping and makes day-to-day life more fun. I can make reasonable progress in an evening, and lining up several evenings in a row is even better. Drawing helps me think. Maybe I can move more of that into my time with A- by using a paper sketchbook. Hmm…

Blog posts

Time

Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 44.6 48.3 3.6 81.1 6.1
Unpaid work 3.0 4.9 1.9 8.2 3.1
Sleep 30.3 30.3 -0.0 50.9 -0.1
Discretionary – Play 0.4 0.3 -0.1 0.4 -0.2
Discretionary – Productive 10.9 9.2 -1.7 15.4 -2.8
Business 5.0 3.2 -1.7 5.4 -2.9
Personal 5.8 3.9 -1.9 6.5 -3.3

Weekly review: Week ending August 21, 2020

  • Journal: So many improvements! I added the ability to browse by tag and by forward/backlinks, and to bulk-tag or bulk-thread several entries together. I got it to show me scans from A-‘s portfolio directory. I used texthero to explore my journal data, looking at terms based on tf-idf.
  • I stayed up late to sew a quarter-circle skirt for me and a gathered rectangle skirt and a peasant dress for A-.
  • While reading a book in the bathroom, A- noticed that the word “two” wasn’t spelled the same way as the word “too” from the typing practice program. She asked me about it. I explained that some words sound the same but have different meanings and spellings.
  • W- refinished the table. A- helped. She wanted to paint her table too. After some discussion about the design she wanted (“black is boring”), we rustled up some red and white acrylic paint. She mixed it to the kind of pink she wanted, and she painted the top of her table. She also liked making pink water and pouring that on the patio stones. She ended up washing off the paint while playing with water. I painted it again, and W- added a clear coat on top.

Blog posts

Time

Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Discretionary – Productive 7.4 10.9 3.5 18.2 5.8
Personal 3.3 5.8 2.5 9.8 4.2
Business 3.0 5.0 1.9 8.3 3.2
Discretionary – Play 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.7 0.7
Sleep 31.0 30.3 -0.7 50.9 -1.1
Unpaid work 3.8 3.0 -0.8 5.1 -1.3
A- 51.5 44.6 -6.9 75.0 -11.5

Weekly review: Week ending August 14, 2020

  • I finished my annual review.
  • I tinkered around with my Quantified Awesome Docker image. One step back, I think, since I’d actually managed to get it working on my local system before but I deleted my Dockerfile by accident.
  • I started learning how to analyze my time data with pandas and visualize it with matplotlib. I didn’t notice any particularly useful patterns that I might want to use for decisions, though.
  • I sewed matching skirts for us.
  • A- wanted to have ice cream in a cone as part of her evening snack. She had been asking for it for a couple of days. W- asked A- whether she thought she could skip asking tomorrow if he gave her ice cream tonight. She assured him she wouldn’t ask. I suggested making a written agreement, and to our great surprise, A- was on board with that idea. W- drafted a quick agreement and A- carefully signed it with her name, with a little help with spelling.
  • A- wanted to go to the pet food store along with W-. I made ear-loops for her mask since she didn’t want the head ties. There weren’t a lot of people in the store, so we went in. We wore matching masks and matching skirts. She sanitized her hands before and after going to the store, and she followed all of our instructions. First store outing in months!
  • Come to think of it, it might be interesting to build a Zettelkasten for A-‘s pedagogical documentation. I can trace the development of her interests and build richer stories that way.

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Sleep 29.1 31.0 1.9 52.1 3.2
A- 50.5 51.5 1.0 86.5 1.7
Unpaid work 3.5 3.8 0.3 6.4 0.5
Business 2.9 3.0 0.2 5.1 0.3
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 3.7 3.3 -0.4 5.5 -0.7
Discretionary – Family 0.8 0.0 -0.8 0.0 -1.3
Discretionary – Productive 9.5 7.4 -2.2 12.4 -3.6

Weekly review: Week ending August 7, 2020

  • I finally got around to making a Rebrickable profile. It’s been interesting looking through the sets and MOCs I might be able to build. Since it pretty much does most of what I want, I don’t have to worry about building an analysis tool. Great! A- wasn’t too keen on finishing LEGO Friendship Flower. I think she likes pretend play sets more, so we’ll focus on those. I need to think of more scenarios so that she can expand what she knows. It’s hard for her to come up with ideas about how life works. Maybe more reading, too.
  • I reflected on roleplaying games and how to enrich A-‘s pretend play.
  • I used Python to analyze the text in my diary entries for the past year. Making a word cloud was pretty neat, since Python gave me a lot of control over it. I cached the frequency counts and category lookups in CSVs so that I can tinker with the graphs more quickly.
  • We made a few LEGO games from the bricks we have: Kokoriko, City Alarm, and Minitaurus.
  • A- was curious about minotaurs because of the LEGO Minitaurus game. I told her stories, made minotaur headbands for us, and made up rhymes.
  • We made up LEGO Heroica stories while playing games: fighting fires, making friends, scaring away adventurers. A- liked adding twists to games, too, like a cursed treasure box that kept following us around and a “bad air” that made my character turn into a dark druid.

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category The other week % Last week % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Discretionary – Productive 5.0 9.5 4.6 16.0 7.7
Business 0.0 2.9 2.9 4.8 4.8
A- 49.4 50.5 1.1 84.8 1.9
Unpaid work 4.1 3.5 -0.6 5.9 -0.9
Discretionary – Family 1.5 0.8 -0.7 1.3 -1.2
Personal 5.5 3.7 -1.8 6.3 -3.0
Sleep 34.7 29.1 -5.6 48.9 -9.3

Turning 37; life as a 36-year-old

This year looked nothing like last year. COVID-19 had a huge impact, of course, and then there’s life with A- (now 4.5 years old) and all her growing capabilities.

With our day settling into reasonable routines, I’m slowly getting to work on personal projects again. Our babysitting experiments pre-COVID sometimes gave me 2-7 hours of focused time. What luxury! A-‘s pretty attached to me, though, so it was the rare babysitter who could keep her interest for a long time. When the pandemic curtailed babysitting sessions, I settled into a routine of snuggling A- into bed and then staying up for 2-3 more hours. I’m still figuring out the trade-off between getting sleep and doing stuff. I learned how to use ReactJS to add all sorts of things to my journal system (dark mode, pictures, sketches). I made a font based on my handwriting. With W-‘s help, I was able to co-organize a virtual Emacs conference. I checked out resources on early childhood education. I started drawing again. Whee! I still have a lot of technical debt from things like using an old version of Rails, but I’ve shoved a few services into Docker containers and tried to limit their access. I hope things will hold for another year.

We got A- used to mostly sleeping in her own room, so I sleep a bit better now. A- got her own library card and proudly checked out her own books. We started giving her an allowance too, which she saves up for snacks and subsidized LEGO sets. I share some of my earnings from consulting with her if I work on client requests during the day. Sometimes she asks me if I can go and work some more so that I can give her more money.

A- still prefers to play with me, but she’s starting to figure out things that she can do independently while waiting: usually LEGO, Khan Academy Kids, RelationShapes, or reading. That gives us a little more time to do stuff around the house. W- shifted to working from home because of the pandemic, and he does most of the cooking. For my part, I learned a better technique for making pizza (broil in a cast iron skillet and then finish on the stove), and I’ve been making sourdough bread every other day or so. (Nothing too fancy, just a basic recipe.) We’ve been making do with our toaster oven, as the regular oven is out of commission. Homemade popsicles have become a household staple, too.

We started regularly spending time outside: sledding in winter, biking in summer, and afternoon snack time when the weather is good. It took a week or so of holding A- by the armpits or the bicycle seat, but she figured out how to ride a pedal bike without training wheels.

We had plenty of fun at home. A- can read now! We like to take turns. We experimented with starting plants from seed, and we added more plants from home improvement stores and from friends. Tomatoes and basil flourished in the garden, and the bitter melon did okay too. We bought balloon-twisting supplies and learned how to make various animals. We picked up a Snaptricity kit that the neighbours had left out, and we played with circuits. We moved from building with cardboard to building with LEGO. In particular, the LEGO Heroica board game fired up A-‘s imagination. In addition to her usual pretending to be a baby, she pretended to be a wizard, a golem, a goblin, a barbarian, a ranger… She pretended to be lots of other people (complete with names) and things too (she was a little baby prosciutto at some point).

A- grew more social. Before COVID-19, we regularly had playdates. A- also happily played with her cousins and her Lola when we visited the Philippines last year. Of course, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in the works. We’ve settled into a daily ritual of video-calling my mom, and I occasionally make PDF slideshows or mini-books to share during our chat. While playing, A- often mentions her Lola or her friends. I’m her main play partner these days, and we’re figuring out more about playing together and playing separately.

A- still has tantrums, naturally. She stomps around like the fiercest baby golem there could be. But the tantrums pass more quickly now. She’s better at communicating what she wants, we have more ideas for ways to help her cool down, and she’s very slowly learning how to manage her own emotions.

Plans for next year

I wrote last year that kindergarten was just around the corner. Hah! It looks like we’ll be homeschooling A- for junior kindergarten. We’ll see about returning to school when things settle down. In the meantime, I plan to spend the next year digging into play-based learning. I’d like to get better at improvising stories and role-playing adventures. I figure A- will naturally peel away from me and become more independent, but while she’s interested in playing with me, I’d like to take advantage of that and look for ways to make play more fun for both of us.

Here are the things I want to focus on this year.

  • Managing energy:
    • Sleep and managing my own plans: Sleep is a big one. I stay up because it’s easier to focus on things in 2-3 hour chunks and I don’t have babysitting time at the moment. The trade-offs might not be worth it, though, so I need to get better at planning, prioritizing, and making myself go to bed earlier.
    • Enthusiasm: A- is strongly influenced by my energy level, so it’s useful to tweak things so that I enjoy them a lot. Learning how
    • Low-energy times: We have a bit of an afternoon slump, and that’s okay. She almost always resists napping. Sometimes she wants to still stay close, and sometimes she wants to play separately. When she wants to stay with me, we read or play outside. When she wants to play separately, there’s LEGO or Khan Academy Kids.
  • Taking small steps: I’ll probably have ~1 hour of discretionary time a night, so I want to get better at breaking projects down into really small steps and prioritizing tasks so that I can make the most of that time.
  • Making learning visible: A- is learning so much even without us deliberately following a curriculum. I want to get really good at making her learning visible so that she can feel great about learning and build on what she’s curious about.
    • Capturing: My journal system is getting pretty good at handling pictures and sketches. I can work on including videos and portfolio items.
    • Reflecting on what I see: This raises my notes from anecdotes to pedagogical documentation.
      • What could A- be thinking?
      • What does that make me think about?
      • How can we build on that?
    • Showing A- her learning: I want to take advantage of daily touchpoints with Lola and with W- by telling stories about what A- is learning, since that makes it audible and visible. I also want to organize longer-term stories to show how A- has grown over time and to prompt her to revisit old interests. I’d like to involve her in planning, too.

Lots of things to learn!

Sketches

Time

Category % 35 years % 36 years Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 42.7 46.7 4.0 78.7 6.6
Business 1.3 1.8 0.4 3.0 0.7
Sleep 33.8 33.6 -0.3 56.6 -0.4
Discretionary 9.7 8.8 -0.9 14.8 -1.5
Personal 6.3 4.8 -1.5 8.1 -2.5
Unpaid work 6.1 4.4 -1.7 7.4 -2.9

Hmm. It looks like childcare has actually taken more time than last year: an extra 6.6 hours a week. I’ve been able to do a little bit more work, too. I felt like I had a little more discretionary time, but I actually had a little less. W- worked from home, so he handled more chores. A- happily took all the extra time. I’m getting better at squeezing in a little bit of housework, though!