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Turning 38; life as a 37-year-old

| review, yearly

Despite the chaos and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year was actually pretty good. We easily adapted to staying home with the occasional playdate or masked trip to the playground as A- became more interested in other kids.

We chose virtual learning for A-'s junior kindergarten, which turned out to be just right for A- and me. I loved seeing what the kids were up to and learning from how the teacher taught them, and A- enjoyed being able to mostly follow her own interests. I had fun incorporating A-'s obsession with Numberblocks into lots of playtime. We read hundreds of books together (both print and electronic), and I even got to read some grown-up books while waiting for her to be done reading at bedtime. I learned how to document her learning and organize my observations according to Ontario's kindergarten program. I was even able to help the class with tech support, materials, and donations. We've chosen virtual learning again for senior kindergarten. I hope it will be just as fun.

It was a good year for learning domestic skills. We enjoyed growing cherry tomatoes, bitter melon, and basil last year. This year, I added peppers, and I planted flowers in one of the boxes in front of the house. We've been enjoying a bounty of cherry tomatoes all summer, although I'm dealing with some powdery mildew. We learned more about preserving food, and we tweaked our kitchen layout to accommodate new tools and facilitate A-'s participation. I continued baking a loaf of bread every few days, trying out different recipes until we settled on a slightly modified version of this sourdough sandwich recipe. I learned how to make yogurt, too. Building on A-'s interest in Pride and Prejudice, I sewed her a bonnet, gloves, and many long dresses. I even sewed her a gown of bathing suit fabric that she wore to the splash pads. She was curious about knitting because of Numberblocks. I showed her how to knit and purl, and we worked on some hats and scarves.

I had a bit more discretionary time that mostly came from staying up late. I helped organize EmacsConf again, and I wrote some functions to help automate the things I needed to do. I also set up a calendar of Emacs events. Having developed a greater appreciation of captions and transcripts while trying to speed-read my way through more videos than I could fit in my focused time, I started editing captions for the EmacsConf recordings. That got me interested in possibly live-captioning EmacsConf and other things like it someday, so I ordered a Georgi keyboard and I've been teaching myself stenography with Plover. I mostly use it to write journal entries. I migrated my blog from Wordpress to 11ty because I wanted to use a static site generator that could be extended with Javascript, as it's a little hard to juggle different programming languages if I don't have much focused time. I ended up picking up more Python anyway, since I also wanted to extend Plover. I considered upgrading my laptop so that I could do streaming or video processing, but I'm still more constrained by time and energy than by hardware. Speaking of hardware, I've been learning more about mechanics. A- loved watching videos of Lego Great Ball Contraptions, so I learned how to build a few by following tutorials. I'm beginning to be able to figure out how to make do with Lego Technic, adapting the designs to the parts we have (and our desire to have as many modules as possible running simultaneously).

Last year, I wrote that I wanted to focus on:

  • Managing energy:
    • Sleep and managing my own plans: I slept less this year because I stayed up to do more consulting and personal projects. Fortunately, A- has learned to let me sleep in a little.
    • Enthusiasm: I like gardening and cooking, and A- often joins in. I like working on Lego Great Ball Contraptions while A- helps or reads, and she loves to watch the results. Learning stenography also makes it easier for me to patienty read lots of books since I can practise steno-ing parts of words while I read. Now that A-'s a good reader, we can take turns reading too.
    • Low-energy times: We have some screentime in our afternoon routine so that I can do household chores and get dinner together. That helps us get through some of the low-energy times.
  • Taking small steps: I did a pretty good job of learning about things in the small chunks of time I have, although I've been falling prey to revenge bedtime procrastination. If I get better at taking notes, it might be easier to convince myself to alternate days when I stay up with days when I go to bed early.
  • Making learning visible: My journal helped me capture lots of observations. I organized my notes and shared them with the teachers, who found them helpful when writing report cards. It was fun being able to review A-'s progress, too.

We're continuing with virtual learning until at least February, so next year will probably look somewhat like this year. We're figuring out quick dinners and other sanity-savers in case W- returns to working in the office a few days a week.

Over the next year, I want to:

  • Follow A-'s interests, document her learning, and learn how to support A-'s learning in key areas: Virtual kindergarten seems to mostly focus on literacy and math. A- is pretty comfortable with reading and math, but she's less keen on writing and drawing based on the teacher's prompts. I'll look for more ways to incorporate writing into the sorts of things she likes to do. We'll probably also need to focus on outdoor playdates for social interaction, since it's hard to connect on-screen. I'm learning more about helping her develop emotional self-regulation. She's pretty level-headed, but sometimes she's definitely five years old. That's okay! I'm learning too.
  • Plant more flowers in another front yard planter box: A- enjoyed picking flowers to put into a small pitcher on the table, so it might be fun to grow more flowers for cutting.
  • Take advantage of A-'s independent reading time to read and draw: A- usually likes to stay up another 15-20 minutes, so that's been a good time for me to read. If I take sketchnotes or I draw my thoughts, that will also help me feel like I've had some time to think. I can also get back to drawing moments. Those were fun.
  • Keep my priorities straight: It's tough having limited time to focus. I get tempted to stay up late because I don't have much time to myself during the day, and because it's easier to keep going when I have some code in my head than to figure it all out again the next time I get a chance. I'm less patient when I'm sleepy, though, so the price of feeling a little brilliant is feeling less than awesome as a parent. Reframing it might help. I'm choosing to be able to model self-regulation. I also want to have the energy and enthusiasm to learn from A-'s pretend play. Sure, it's fun geeking out and coding, but I can do that later on. A-'s availability and interest in helping me learn how to play is time-limited.


Blog posts

Aside from emacs-news and weekly reviews:


Category % 36 years % 37 years Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Discretionary - Productive 6.0 10.3 4.4 17.3 7.3
Personal 4.8 5.6 0.8 9.3 1.3
Unpaid work 4.4 4.5 0.1 7.6 0.2
Business - Build 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.0
Business - Earn 1.5 1.5 -0.0 2.5 -0.0
Discretionary - Social 0.6 0.1 -0.5 0.2 -0.8
Discretionary - Family 0.9 0.4 -0.5 0.7 -0.9
Discretionary - Play 1.3 0.3 -1.0 0.5 -1.6
A- 46.7 45.1 -1.6 75.6 -2.6
Sleep 33.6 31.9 -1.7 53.4 -2.8
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Turning 37; life as a 36-year-old

| review, yearly

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!



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!

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Turning 36; life as a 35-year-old

Posted: - Modified: | review, yearly

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 after the server at went down. I finally got around to setting up SSL. I moved my sketches from Flickr to my own, 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.


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!

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Turning 35; life as a 34-year-old

Posted: - Modified: | review, yearly

This year was less about dealing with uncertainty, and more about discovery and delight. As a confident talker, A- is quite an active participant in her own learning and growth, and I’m enjoying learning how to collaborate with her. It’s great to see the results of the things we experimented with last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we continue to grow.

It helped that lots of medical uncertainties got resolved. The pediatrician said we could stop going for ultrasounds for A-‘s liver hemangioma. The hospital cardiology department said it was okay for A- to go to the community cardiologist for routine monitoring, instead of coming to the hospital for exams under sedation. Dental surgery took care of the cavities that were possibly due to either breastfeeding or enamel hypoplasia. We’ll continue to see the Eye Clinic twice a year, and the ocularist a bit more frequently than that. With most of the those concerns out of the way, though, I felt comfortable wrapping up with the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program and heading out into the wild world of parenting without training wheels.

We signed up for music classes and made it to about half of them, skipping a number of classes due to trips to the Philippines and jet lag recovery time. Even though A- continued to be mostly reserved during music classes, she talked about them positively, singing the songs at home and imitating the teacher. For my part, I picked up a few more nursery rhymes. We tried nature classes, too, although A- seems to prefer music classes at the moment.

I’ve been making an effort to make friends and help A- connect with people. That seems to be working out wonderfully. I liked building friendships with other parents and their kids, and A- enjoyed interacting with them too.

My dad’s health declined rapidly, so we made three trips to the Philippines during the year. A- and I got the hang of travelling by ourselves. A- enjoyed spending time with my family, although she was a little anxious around the medical equipment supporting my dad at home. When my dad died, W- was in the Philippines with us, which was very helpful. The celebration of my dad’s life was inspiring. I can only hope to live so well, in my own way.

Continuous improvement

It was great to slowly, slowly gain space for thinking and continuous improvement:

  • I started journaling quick keywords in a database app on my phone. I built a workflow for highlighting, summarizing, and linking entries. I also used the same app to keep track of A-‘s words. I started learning about pedagogical documentation.
  • I automated more things with Tasker, AutoInput, AutoShare, and Google Assistant on my phone, and shell scripts and Emacs Lisp on my computers.
  • We upgraded to a colour laser printer. I figured out how to make children’s books by using Org Mode and LaTeX to create the templates and process drawn images. I found Medibang Paint useful for drawing on my phone.
  • I got back into drawing with sketched thoughts and moments from everyday life.
  • On the work front, I turned over my regular maintenance work to the dev team. I worked on a few prototypes, and I learned how to write VBA scripts to process mail in Microsoft Outlook, too.
  • I sorted out my photo organization and rating system.
  • I started backing up to the NAS that W- set up for us.
  • I set up Google Pay on my phone, which is handy with a toddler around.
  • I switched to doing my business books in Ledger and filing my corporate taxes with MyTaxExpress under WINE in Linux.
  • We decluttered various areas in our house, and we organized A-‘s play area and bedroom. We added more kid-sized furniture, too.
  • I played with cardboard and made a bulldozer hat for Halloween. I also sewed A-‘s construction vest costume. Yay getting back into making!
  • We took advantage of some of the city’s resources: swimming pools, the Ontario Science Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, Riverdale Farm, the Make the Connection workshop, and various parks and playgrounds.
  • I got a bike trailer and have actually managed to make it out with A- on five round-trips.
  • I followed a guar gum giant bubble recipe from the Internet and learned the secret of making large bubbles. (Fun!)
  • I experimented with having babysitters from an agency. A- was okay with them, but she strongly prefers spending time with me, so I’ll just postpone big consulting projects until I have more discretionary time.
  • I drew visual routines and started working on musical cues as well.
  • I learned more about supporting pretend play, language development, independence, and other areas of learning.

35 to 36: Looking ahead

This might be my last year spending all this time with A-, if she goes to preschool next year. How can I make the most of this opportunity? I’m looking forward to helping A- learn about self-care, independence, socialization, and exploration. Bring on the “why?” stage!

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.

Personally, I want to work on streamlining and improving our routines, learning through reading and reflection, and maybe picking up another technique or two that I can use for automation.

In terms of relationships, my family’s dealing with all the changes from last year: my dad’s death, my sister’s move to the Netherlands, the transition of the family business. We’ll see how all of that works out, and what I can help with. I’d also like to get even better at building friendships, especially with the help of baked goods or shared activities.

W- continues to be awesome. I love being able to do both long-term planning and on-the-fly adjustments with his help. He’s working on the porch this year, so I’ll see how I can give him more space to do that.

I think it’s going to be wonderful.


Category % 33 years % 34 years Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
A- 39.2 46.7 7.5 78.5 12.5
Discretionary – Family 1.4 3.3 1.9 5.6 3.2
Business – Connect 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0 -0.1
Business – Earn 1.2 1.1 -0.1 1.9 -0.1
Discretionary – Productive 3.6 3.5 -0.1 5.9 -0.1
Discretionary – Social 1.1 0.9 -0.2 1.5 -0.3
Business – Build 0.5 0.3 -0.2 0.4 -0.4
Discretionary – Play 1.5 0.7 -0.8 1.2 -1.3
Unpaid work 6.8 5.4 -1.4 9.1 -2.2
Sleep 34.0 31.2 -2.8 52.4 -4.7
Personal 10.4 6.2 -4.2 10.4 -7.1

My tracking was thrown off a little by the trips, but this should still give me a rough idea of how things worked out. A- was more awake and wanted more interaction, so childcare went up and practically all the other categories went down. The sparkline definitely looks like it’s trending upwards. 11.2 hours of childcare is roughly 12 noon to 12 midnight, with a 45-minute gap daily for doing chores while W- plays with A-, and maybe the occasional longer break during the weekends. I usually left my tracker set to Childcare even during meals, though, and sometimes during subway trips or errands as well.


I got around 7.5 hours of sleep a night, often shifted around (staying up late for discretionary time, sleeping in to catch up). It was a little hard sometimes when I wasn’t well-synced with A-, but it was worthwhile. Productive discretionary time was surprisingly stable on a yearly basis (maybe two hours times three days a week), but somewhat varied on a monthly basis. I spent about 40 minutes a week on Emacs, mostly doing Emacs News and a little automation. Drawing declined from September to December, but is slowly on the rise again.


On a yearly basis, consulting was also stable at around two hours a week. It was also pretty bursty on a monthly basis, ranging from 0% to 2.8%.


As mentioned, I’ve been working on being more social:


Even with the increase in childcare, my day feels pretty pleasant and manageable. More sleep would be nice, but I also like keeping a journal, drawing, writing, compiling Emacs News, and working on little tweaks. Still, I’m okay with spending time with A- instead of creating space by getting a babysitter. I learn a lot from A- too, so it works out. We’ll see how it goes!

Quick summary:

  • Aug: routine monitoring of cardiology OK, swimming, new conformer, flight with A-
  • Sept: journal gap – busy with trip
  • Oct: baby nostalgia, pretend play, furniture, journal spreasheet, HBHC
  • Nov: Make the Connection, three-word sentences, potty training, reading, corporate taxes
  • Dec: passport renewal, door knobs, flight
  • Jan: A- and my family, Papa’s death and wake, paperwork
  • Feb: phrases, organization, eye exam, party
  • Mar: making books, new conformer, voice shortcuts, NAS, pretend play, dentistry consultation, timer, flight
  • Apr: visiting family, bug bites, focusing on kaizen
  • May: journal summary, doctor exam, babysitter experiment, Autoshare, shopping trolley, Google Pay, okay to enjoy the moment
  • June: bike trailer/stroller, organization, picture descriptions, alphabet cookie cutters, “stop babysitting experiment,” giant bubbles
  • July: lights, decluttering, routines, work laptop upgrade
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Turning 34; life as a 33-year-old

| review, yearly

What a difference a year makes! In August 2016, we were just beginning to emerge from the tangle of diagnostic exams and new medical terms, trying to figure out what we needed to deal with. By August 2017, A- was walking, talking, interacting, and cheerfully developing on track, which was a great relief.

I’ve finally cleared some time to do my annual review, so here goes!

What happened this year?

We made the most of W-‘s parental leave with plenty of time together, a three-week trip to the Philippines to visit my family, and lots of home improvement (workshop, wardrobe, and part of a porch rebuild). After he went back to work, we established new routines which seem to be working quite well.

I checked out lots of parenting resources and workshops, consulted various agencies for help with assessing and monitoring A-‘s development, and gave myself a crash course in early childhood education. We’ve been making good use of our membership at the Royal Ontario Museum, and I’ve been singing lots of songs we picked up from circle times and toddler classes. I’m pleasantly surprised at how fun it is to learn about all sorts of stuff.

As we settled into regular routines, I reclaimed some discretionary time. It turns out that I can usually get an hour of discretionary time at night, if I stay up after A- has gone to bed. That’s been handy for updating my journal, doing some consulting (mostly SQL and a little prototyping), posting Emacs News summaries, and learning more.

What did I learn?

There were a few big uncertainties this year.

  • What were the parameters we need to work with in terms of A-? Microphthalmia means regular trips to the ocularist and ophthalmologist, prostheses, and some adaptation in terms of vision and socialization. Her ventricular septal defect seems to have no impact on her growth, and just needs routine monitoring to check on the right ventricle muscle bundles. The liver hemangioma also needs routine monitoring. Enamel hypoplasia means being more careful about cleaning her teeth, with possible dental work later. She doesn’t seem to have any developmental delays. Also, she’s pretty darn awesome!
  • Will I be able to adapt to stay-at-home parenting? This worked out surprisingly well, and I’m glad we structured our lives this way. I find it interesting, and I’m learning a lot. I’ve scaled down consulting because of time constraints and brain fuzziness, but that’s still okay. It’s been super-helpful to be able to adapt to A-‘s sleep schedule and interests.
  • How do we want to parent? I resonate with ideas from attachment parenting, Montessori education, and a few other parenting philosophies. I’ve been pretty good at staying calm and managing the usual new-parent anxiety. I’m learning more about early childhood education and child development.
  • What’s worth spending time and money on, and what can I postpone or avoid? Journaling has been very much worth it. Compiling Emacs News doesn’t take much time, and it’s been useful too. I can do enough consulting to keep my clients happy. Reading and improvement time pay off, too. I’ve also been able to do personal coding (mostly Quantified Awesome) and a tiny bit of sewing, but those are harder.We’ve been pretty frugal in terms of baby-related stuff, and keeping things simple has worked well for us. I started using the opportunity fund for A- – not because I think this will result in a prodigy, but because it’s enjoyable and good to explore all sorts of things together.
  • What are the health challenges facing my family, and how can we support them? It was a tough year for my parents and my sister, and they’re not out of the woods yet. I can’t help much with the day-to-day stuff over the distance, but I can check in with them over Facebook, listen, share stories, let them interact with A-, help with research, and respect their decisions.
  • What will it be like to take A- to the Philippines? Both A- and I got overtired on the flights during our first trip, so it really helped that W- was there. It was great being able to share the load with him on the ground, too. Nice spending time with family and friends!

A few questions I’ll explore this year:

  • How can we make the most of A-‘s preschool years? I think this year will be mostly about helping A- learn self-care and household skills. The more she can do by herself, the more capable she’ll feel, and the less frustration she’ll have to deal with.Independent classes tend to start around 3 years old, so I have a little over a year of participating in classes together. Music classes and a museum membership have been a good fit for us, and I’d like to ramp up physical activity and add a membership to the science centre. (Oct 2017: The science centre has been worth it for us. We’re there practically every week!)
  • How can I support W- as he takes on larger projects? Taking care of A- lets me free up time for W- to work on the porch, and reading about stuff helps me chat with him about the work he’s doing.
  • What does my family need? We’re keeping some of W-‘s vacation time in reserve for another trip to the Philippines. I’m also chatting with them more, since A- responds to Facebook video chats. (Oct 2017: A- and I traveled by ourselves to the Philippines to spend a few weeks with my family. Doing an overnight layover made things a lot easier to manage. It was great to spend time with family. I started looking into paperwork, too.)

How have I changed?

Compared to last year, I’m more confident about parenting. I use general areas of child development to guide my observation and planning so that I can offer A- a variety of options, and then we follow her interests from there. As I expected, parenting is the sort of thing that gets more fascinating if I geek out about it.

I haven’t been able to code much, since I’ve been prioritizing sleep and my journal. I feel less articulate – like my brain occasionally gets a little tangled – but maybe that’s just because I’m more aware of speaking, or maybe that’s sleep deprivation. It’ll probably sort itself out over time.

I feel reassured by the way we’re dealing with things. It’s nice to be able to test Stoic philosophy and find that it works well for me.

How did I spend my time, and how do I feel about that?

Category % 32 years % 33 years Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
A- – Childcare 14.9 39.2 24.4 65.7 41.0
Business – Build 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.8 0.2
Discretionary – Social 0.9 1.1 0.1 1.8 0.2
Business – Connect 0.7 0.1 -0.6 0.1 -1.0
Unpaid work 7.5 6.8 -0.7 11.3 -1.2
Discretionary – Family 3.0 1.4 -1.6 2.4 -2.7
Sleep 37.4 34.0 -3.4 56.9 -5.7
Business – Earn 4.5 1.2 -3.4 1.9 -5.7
Discretionary – Play 5.7 1.5 -4.2 2.5 -7.0
Personal 15.4 10.4 -5.0 17.4 -8.4
Discretionary – Productive 9.7 3.6 -6.1 6.0 -10.3

Childcare went way up, of course, since I had a kiddo for 100% of my life as a 33-year-old and 50% of my life as a 32-year-old. That took time away from pretty much everything else, but I’m okay with that. I’ve worked out a sleep pattern that usually lets me feel pretty rested: try not to stay up more than two hours longer than A- does, and nap when I can.

An hour or two of discretionary time isn’t quite enough to get deep into code. Fortunately, my consulting clients are super-flexible, and we can pick tasks that fit with the constraints on my time and concentration.

What is a typical day like?

We usually wake up when A- feels like waking up, which is around 11 AM or so. Some days, I set an alarm and wake up earlier so that I can take care of things or gently nudge A- towards being awake. After a relaxed breakfast, we head out for appointments, errands, or informal field trips. We might have lunch outside or at home, depending on the timing. A- usually naps in the carrier at some point. When we get home, we have an afternoon snack, tidy up, and play some more. We reconnect with W- when he gets home, and we might go for a walk to the supermarket together. We help make dinner, eat, tidy up, pack our lunches for the next day, and prepare for bed. We read a few stories, then settle in – sometimes with W-, and sometimes in A-‘s room.

What am I looking forward to?

Life as a 34-year-old will probably look like:

  • Embracing every stage as we go through it
  • Helping A- develop self-care skills and participate in household life
  • Going on a couple of trips to the Philippines to spend time with family and sort out paperwork
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Turning 33; life as a 32-year-old

Posted: - Modified: | yearly

The first half of this year was like winding up a spring, and the second half was about letting it loose; pulling inwards and preparing, then A-‘s birth in February and an explosion of learning and activity.

2016-08-12b Delta between 32 and 33 -- index card #yearly #review

This time last year, I was heading into the second trimester of pregnancy. As nausea and vomiting receded, I regained a little energy. I helped W- tile the laundry corner and the bathroom in the basement. I sewed diaper covers and wet bags from PUL, and serged flats from thrift store flannel sheets. I filled the freezer with lasagna and lumpia.

When fatigue returned, I retreated into hermit mode: long walks, lots of video gaming, and generally luxuriating in the quiet and the autonomy. I got a lot of practice in saying no and going with what I felt comfortable with, and I found out that I liked it. =)

I used some of that time to sort out my tech, too. After finding out that Krita had all of the sketching features I needed, I switched back to Linux and started tweaking my setup. I won the Toronto Public Library hackathon with a tool for visualizing library search results on a map. I wrote little scripts to stalk videos at the library, check grocery flyers, visualize data, and automate other things. Also, John Wiegley asked me to start summarizing Emacs community updates, so I put together Emacs News: a filtered, categorized list of links from Planet Emacsen, Reddit, and other sources. That and consulting have been handy ways to keep a toe in the technical waters.

Consulting-wise, I turned over most of my tasks, and the team’s doing way better than I could have with my much fuzzier brain. I’m still working on migrating some old code into a few add-ons for them, but fortunately they’re super-accommodating in terms of time, and other people take care of the bits that require more attention or coordination.

I’m so glad I experimented with making my life more flexible in terms of time and energy. My time stats show that childcare now takes up ~34% of my time these days, or 57 hours a week. I still manage to get a little more than eight and a half hours of sleep, but it’s a bit more broken up and less under my control. Still, I don’t feel exhausted or too stretched out. Discretionary time is down to about 2 hours a day (which is still pretty good!), although that’s mostly just after she goes to bed, so that affects what I can do. I’ve been using it for keeping my journal up to date, and doing a little writing or coding when I can. I do a few hours of consulting a week, too. Anyway, lots of things are on hold. Past Sacha decided this was an excellent use of time, and I agree. It’s worthwhile and temporary. =)

Thanks to A-, I’ve been learning more about health and public resources. She was born with left-eye microphthalmia, with no vision in that eye, and she has adapted well to the prosthesis that will help her skull grow symmetrically. She also has a ventricular septal defect (a hole between two parts of her heart). It’s not quite large enough to clearly need surgery, but not small enough to rule surgery out, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Abnormal results from her liver ultrasound turned out to be a benign hemangioma instead of cancer (whew!), so that’s one concern off our list for now (although I think we’ll need to monitor it with an annual ultrasound). W- started parental leave in June, and that’s been wonderful for both the big medical things as well as the little moments and memories.

What’s the difference between 32 and 33 for me? There’s A-, of course, and the host of changes that accompany her. I’ve got a deeper appreciation for W-, and for various things (libraries! health care! the Internet! people!). I’ve had a lot of practice in equanimity and Stoic philosophy. I’ve seen lots of preparation paying off, and I have new plans to put into place. I’m learning a lot, and I’m looking forward to even more.

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2015 in review

| review, yearly

In 2014, I wrote that I was looking forward to:

  • Improving my technical skills:
    • Getting even more deeply into Emacs and taking advantage of the many useful packages that are available
      • 2015: Got a little more used to nifty packages such as Hydra. Also organized a number of Emacs Hangouts, and started publishing weekly Emacs News
    • Writing shorter, better-tested code in Javascript and Rails
      • 2015: Picked up Jasmine for Javascript testing, refactored lots of my code into smaller functions, and played around with more NodeJS. Haven’t done a lot with Rails.
  • Writing with even more resonance and helpfulness: digging deeper into the things I’m learning and sharing them with other people in ways that help and engage
    • 2015: Wrote a number of other-directed posts in the first half of the year, and then fell off a figurative cliff writing-wise. Mostly just focused on taking notes for myself these days.
  • Successfully taking on more uncertainty with even better safety nets and equanimity
    • 2015: Pretty much all about this!

2016-01-02c 2015 in review -- index card #yearly #review output

I remember being a lot sleepier and more fuzzy-brained this year than I’d ever been, and yet the year turned out pretty awesome. My long-term preparations have been paying off: the programming and data analysis skills I use for consulting, the paperwork-handling processes that support my business, the savings that cover expenses and reduce stress, the philosophical framework that supports equanimity, the 5-year experiment that gives me flexibility of time, space, and activity.

2015 was more challenging than 2014. Possibly as difficult as 2005/2006’s homesickness and transitions, although of a different kind – like the low of a cold, but longer and more severe. Even writing took a dive, as it was hard to concentrate and follow thoughts through. I’ve been getting better at weathering these times, I think. I have the space to take it easy. More video games this year, mostly ones that W- and I play together. More cooking, tidying, walking, and sleeping, too.

A lack of energy forced me to strip things down to their essentials and give myself permission to be selfish enough to minimize anything that drained me, even other people’s wants or needs. It was a little odd swinging from hanging out at Hacklab and having deep conversations with friends in the first half of the year to hermit mode (even from friends and family) in the second half of the year, but I’ve loved the quiet and freedom of this little world of ours. I might gradually reach out more someday, especially as I learn to push back when I need to, and as I slowly regain that appreciation for other people’s interestingness. In the meantime, W- has been wonderfully supportive, and it’s been great to have the slack from our earlier preparations.

Despite this pulling-inward, there was also plenty of expansion this year. In sewing, I broke past some kind of wall that frustrated me before. I think picking a simple pattern and repeating it has helped me turn sewing into a relaxing way to make things I like more than the things I could buy. I learned how to laser-cut fabric, which was a fun way of adding even more geekiness to our everyday life. I swapped out my wardrobe for home-made things, often from fabric from the thrift store.

In terms of technical skills, I’ve gotten deeper into Javascript, NodeJS, and Emacs Lisp. I participated in two hackathons. My team’s meeting visualization won third place at one hackathon, and my library search results visualization hack won at the other. I’ve also switched back to Linux as my main OS, keeping Windows around for Quickbooks and other business-related programs. It’s fun being able to script all sorts of stuff again. The Emacs conference in August was a lot of fun, and I’m glad people figured out an excellent way to support both in-person and virtual participation – not just attendees, but even impromptu presenters.

I’ve been doing 1 to 1.5 days a week of consulting, gradually moving more of my tasks to other people in the team. I think I’ve been able to let go of more of my anxiety about this 5-year experiment; things seem to be working out nicely, so I don’t feel as worried about working on some grand plan or getting externally-validated stuff done. Instead, I’ve been focusing on working my own things, getting things ready for the next stage with plenty of personal projects and DIY skills, taking it easy when I need to. (We tiled part of the basement floor ourselves!)

I figure that this fuzzy-brain state might be a new normal, so it makes sense to figure out how I can make the most of it instead of being frustrated by it. That’s why I’ve been working on simplifying life, streamlining routines, automating what I can, and making checklists or documenting processes for things I need to do by hand. On the plus side, my internal observer makes the fuzziness more manageable, and I’ve been making my peace with the idea of growing slowly outwards from a small life.

Speaking of small chunks, I developed the habit of drawing index cards almost every day. Well, I eventually switched over to digital equivalents of index cards, since that was a lot of paper. It turns out that an index card has roughly the information density I can deal with on my tablet PC’s screen without zooming in. In addition to drawing a daily journal, I occasionally explore thoughts and chunk them up into larger blog posts. Drawing-wise, I tend to settle into a very simple and spare style, although maybe I should pay more attention to colour and other niceties. Despite their simplicity, the index cards have been handy for remembering little things about each day and building up thoughts over time.

Here’s how the time worked out:

Category 2014 % 2015 % Diff h/wk Diff in h/wk
Discretionary – Play 4.9 9.4 4.5 15.8 7.5
Personal 14.6 16.6 2.0 27.9 3.3
Sleep 36.9 38.0 1.1 63.8 1.9
Discretionary – Productive 7.8 9.0 1.1 15.1 1.9
Unpaid work 7.0 7.7 0.7 12.9 1.2
Discretionary – Family 4.0 4.0 0.0 6.7 0.1
Discretionary – Social 1.2 0.8 -0.4 1.3 -0.6
Business – Build 7.0 5.7 -1.3 9.6 -2.2
Business – Connect 4.2 2.4 -1.8 4.0 -3.1
Business – Earn 12.4 6.5 -5.9 10.9 -9.9

A lot more video gaming, as I mentioned: getting through the fuzziest of times by playing on my own, and then settling down into a habit of 1-2 hours in the evening with W-. I’m a little surprised that sleep increased by only two hours a week. It felt like longer. Then again, an average of 9.1 hours a day is definitely up from the 8.3 hours of a few years back. More time on personal projects, more time on personal care, and a little more time on cooking and things like that.

2016-01-02f Life these days -- index card #life #routines

Financially, the stock markets have been pretty low, and my home country bias wasn’t particularly helpful. I’ve continued saving and investing, since that’s what you do when the stocks go on sale like this. My expenses were a smidge over my projected ones – mostly sewing, Hacklab, and a few miscellaneous expenses – but still manageable and well worth it. The experiment is on track and working well.

I have no idea what next year will be like, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the skills and processes we’ve been building up will pay off. I plan to do even less consulting, and to explore more DIY skills and more awesomeness around the house. I’d like to continue contributing to the Emacs community, and maybe keep my technical skills sharp with more automation and scripting too. I’d love to continue drawing those index cards and gradually get back into the swing of sharing more notes. We’ll see how things work out!

2015-12-28d Imagining 2016 -- index card #planning

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