Jul 032017

My now 11-year-old daughter loves books and reading so I asked her to write a book review for a couple of her favourites. This one is for The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown. She gave this book ★★★★★ out of 5.

“The Wild Robot” is a book about a single robot surviving in the wild with lots of animals. She adopted her own baby animal, learned to speak the animals’ languages, and so much more! I like this book because the author describes everything in a new way. It’s one of those happy but sad books, and I had tears in my eyes at the end. Highly recommended!

Feb 132013

I’d like a do-over of the last 24 hours, preferably without any of the following:

  • My son hurt his knee badly at judo last night, which necessitated a trip to emergency until after 1 am. The doctors and nurses at BC Children’s Hospital are fantastic, but even so it took 4 hours, 9 pm – 1 am. During which time our neighbour stayed in our house so the 6-year-old could sleep in her own bed – thanks again Michel! He’s now on crutches with a knee-brace until he gets to see the orthopaedic specialists, which hopefully won’t take too long. They’ll call us, we’re told.
  • The morning after the night before was a bit of a bust, but I managed to get the 6-year-old off to school on time. From which I had to pick her up again at 1:15 pm as she was complaining of an ear-ache.
  • And then the toilet was plugged, comprehensively. Whoever came up with toilet augurs did the world a service.
  • Of course, all this happens while I’m in single-parent mode. I don’t know how those who are in permanent single-parent mode cope. My biggest consolation is that I don’t have any major projects currently due, so taking time to deal with family issues is not the problem it would otherwise be.

Can I have a nice, peaceful, rest of the week, please?

Jun 102012

It was the newly six-year-old’s birthday party yesterday. I booked a package at a local community centre that provides party leaders, games for 45 minutes in a gym, and a private room with tables and chairs for lunch and cake after the games. The party leaders did all the decorating and clean-up afterwards, as well! I organized most of the food for the random assortment of around 20 kids, aged between 4 and 6, and their parents. Which meant providing stuff the kids would eat, and stuff the parents would eat.

One thing I discovered a couple of years ago: most kids love grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas, even if some insist on opening the latter and only eating the miniature peas inside. Those all disappeared quickly again. The cheesy crackers went, the grain+seed gluten-free crackers were mostly ignored. The adults loved the walnut-olive tapenade (recipe from Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids) but the kids mostly ignored it. They went for the mini bagels with strawberry cream cheese instead; the occasional kid preferred the the plain cream cheese. My husband made 70 small chicken kebabs which I paired with the “not peanut sauce” almond-butter based satay sauce from Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen (since there are a few kids with peanut allergies in the group). Some of the kids ate the kebabs, the parents ate a lot, and the remaining few were polished off by the party helpers after the kids and parents had had their fill. I also made carrot-beetroot fritters (those are beets for you North Americans), which the parents liked and the kids mostly ignored. I thought they were good, and even better with a dollop of tzatziki on them.

For dessert we had store-bought miniature cookies, and my son made marshmallow lollipops. Let’s see, sugar, coated with sugary white chocolate and dipped in even more sugar? What 6-year-old could resist? Very few, as it turned out, although a couple of kids in the group don’t really like sweet things and turned down the marshmallows. These were the same kids who turned down birthday cake afterwards.

The birthday cake was a basic minimal-flour chocolate cake, with lots of frosting and sprinkles. I like these basic cake recipes; they’re the sort where when the cake is almost done you can turn off the oven and leave it overnight to finish and cool down. Light sponges that need precise timing are too much work I find; things happen and I don’t get back to the oven in time and they’re dry and horrible. A dense, rich cake has a lot more leeway in terms of baking, and a small piece goes a long way as well.

Afterwards, the kids all piled out the door to the lawn outside the community centre and ran around for half an hour, a lovely end to a fun party. As I’m writing this, my daughter is having a long nap, recovering from all the excitement! And we still have lots of cake, satay sauce, and a few fritters in the fridge.

Nov 262009

One of the unforeseen advantages of having an Amazon affiliate account is the positive loop it introduces. In this particular case, I reviewed books about raising children, people clicked on the links, they bought other books from Amazon that showed up in my reports, I looked at those books, etc. I call it a multi-level recommendation service; I’m sure there are more “official” names for it.

Anyway, in this particular case someone bought Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for Parents of Two- to Six-Year-Olds, and since my daughter is strong-willed (much more so than her brother at that age), I thought I’d take a look. I also ordered When Your Child Has a Strong-Willed Personality from the library and read both the books at more or less the same time.

Parenthetical note: are there ever a lot of books out there on how to cope with strong-willed children!

Both the books have anecdotal/illustrative examples, which mostly served to make me grateful for my child. After that, the books have the same basic ideas at the core, but go about the message in different ways.

The “clinical program” book has an actual program in it that you’re meant to follow, which consists of spending 10 minutes each day doing the program for that week, before starting the next week on the next phase. This would probably be useful if there is a serious problem; condensing the program and combining steps worked out fine for us. The first step is simply paying attention to what the child is doing for those 10 minutes: no questions, no orders, just saying “now you’re stacking the red blocks” “now you’re colouring with blue crayon”. The “do you want to try…” etc comes later, after you and the child have got used to the idea of your paying attention to what the child is actually doing rather than what you think they should be doing, for that small amount of time. Personally I think this is the most important step – it’s so easy as a parent to get into the “now we have to do this”, even if it’s under the guise of encouraging the child to do things “properly”, and fail to take the time to pay attention to what’s really happening. The other steps in the program are also reasonable, nothing stupendously different to what other books say.

The “strong-willed personality” book is more general and does not come with a 5-week program, so is likely less reassuring if you have a serious problem. It points out strongly that the worst problems come with a strong-willed child and a strong-willed parent battling and advocates the parent to not quibble over small issues, but to seek ways to defuse potential situations, and let everyone save face.

Both books counsel kindness and respect for the child’s point of view as ways to defuse conflict, and give methods or tips to help. Variations on some of the techniques would probably also help with dealing with co-workers.

Mum’s gone

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Oct 292009

My mother passed away last night, 11:30 pm, with my step-father at her side. Dementia robbed her last years of the joy she should have had, and took her from us too young as well. Now we are left to mourn her, to remember the life she lived, and to miss her. May she rest in peace.

Mar 202009

I admit to finding it amusing that Barack Obama’s gift to Gordon Brown of 25 classic American movies ended up illustrating one of my hot buttons – Mr. Brown couldn’t watch the Region 1-encoded DVDs on his Region 2 player. Here’s TechDirt’s take on the story (link from Volker Weber).

I have been in many discussions with wet-behind-the-ears idiots in consumer electronics stores who parrot the Hollywood line that region-encoding is just fine and reasonable. Asking them why sending DVDs from the US to Europe is bad and should be stopped meets with a “huh?” answer. Asking them why my toddler should not be able to watch DVDs sent to us from friends in Australia elicits more of the same.

Eventually we bought a DVD player that plays from other regions as well, making it possible for me to buy German-language DVDs suitable for my children (not easy to find in Region 1 encoding). To my mind, the fact that the regions were set up to put Mexico in with Australia and New Zealand shows how nonsensical the whole concept is. I really don’t understand why so many DVD manufacturers automatically region-encoded the DVDs rather than making them region-free, and I’m pleased to see that even though Blu-Ray repeats the whole region idiocy, many manufacturers are in fact making their Blu-Ray discs region-free.

I assume at least part of that response is due to the wide availability of DVD players that don’t worry about regions, and the availability of instructions to mod other DVD players. There’s an interesting write-up of the law case against Sony in Australia as well, which points out that “retailers of DVD players are not bound by the terms of the CSS licence and the accompanying technical specifications”.

This whole thing is one of the reasons I was so concerned about the copyright legislation Canada’s Conservative government was trying to have passed last year. It currently seems to be stalled, so I can show my kids their German-language DVDs, and DVDs from Australia, with a clear conscience a while longer.

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