Diary of a geek

January 2014
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Andrew Pollock

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Friday, 31 January 2014

Day 4, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Science Friday and the Lunar New Year

I want Zoe to do one "extra curricular" activity per term this year. Something dance-related, something gymnastics-related and maybe some other form of sport (I'm thinking soccer). My girlfriend and I were wandering through Westfield Carindale on Saturday, and we happened upon a guy from Infinity Martial Arts touting his wares.

I thought I'd suss it out, and they had an introductory offer where the sign-up fee and uniform fee were significantly reduced, and they had a pretty flexible timetable. They were just starting up their East Brisbane location, and the close proximity to home along with the reduced price sealed the deal.

Long-term, I'd like for Zoe to learn Tae Kwon Do, for self-defense, but BJJ seemed as good as anything to get her introduced to the idea of martial arts. The class for 2-4 year olds was billed as "Fun and Fitness 4 Kids" so it's really a combination of listening to the instructor, some basic gymnastics-style stuff and a little bit of martial arts.

We biked over this morning (going up Hawthorne Road is a slog) and got there in about 15 minutes via the direct route. It's in the upstairs of a gym in the middle of an industrial area, but it was pretty easily accessible by bike. They're still waiting on some of the equipment, so the space was a little spartan.

It was just Zoe and I and a mother of two not quite 2 year old twin girls taking a trial class.

First up, we got her uniform, and she looked so cute. There were pants and a jacket and a belt. I'm going to have to video the instructor tying up the belt next week so I can learn how to do it the right way.

The class started with the kids standing on these flat coloured circles ("mushrooms") and effectively playing "Simon Says" ("instructor says") without being caught out. It was a pretty sneaky way of doing a bunch of warm up exercises like rotating the knees and ankles. Zoe did very well, but there were a few that she just point blank refused to do.

Next the instructor set up a bunch of "stations" around the room. The first station involved me crouching in a fetal position with a football and Zoe had to try and tip me over to get the football. That was a load of fun. The next station was a few steps and foam-filled vinyl ramp, and Zoe just had to do a somersault down that. The next station was pretty much the same but taller, and Zoe had to do a "sausage roll" on her side down that. The next station was just a small exercise ball and Zoe had to do some "donkey kicks" on it. The final station involved me waving a couple of cut-off pool noodles at arm's length, and Zoe had to run in covering her head and give me a bear hug. We did a few rotations of these stations. It was heaps of fun.

Next, the instructor got a whole bunch of ball pit balls of different colours, and scattered them over the floor, and put a basket at each end of the room. The kids were then instructed to retrieve specific colours as fast as possible. Zoe started out trying to get as many as possible in her arms before returning to the basket, but the idea was to do it one ball at a time. A lot of running back and forth.

Finally, we did some actual BJJ (I think). It was called the "sleeping crocodile hold" or something like that. I had to lie on my back, and Zoe had to sneak up to me from my side and grapple me with one arm behind my head and the other around my waist and a knee in my side.

I have no interest in Zoe learning mixed martial arts, but this class was so much fun. I was feeling a bit tired this morning before we headed out, but by the end of it I was so pumped. It was just the right combination of daddy/daughter rough and tumble, with a bit of gymnastics and following instruction. I'm pretty certain Zoe enjoyed it. I liked that the instructor stopped for a water break between each activity, so the kids were kept well hydrated throughout.

We took the "scenic route" home, because we had no particular time constraints. It was more like 25 minutes and involved the Norman Park Greenway. I was so glad we went that way. It was a beautiful ride that I didn't know existed. Very indirect, it involved going through Woolloongabba, Coorparoo and Norman Park, around the back of Coorparoo State High School along the side of Norman Creek. It was semi-wetland conditions.The only part that was a bit annoying was where Norman Avenue met Wynnum Road. It was quite steep and the green light didn't last very long.

I had wanted to do story time at Bulimba Library at 10:30am on Fridays, but I'd rather bike home via the Norman Park Greenway instead, because it's a nice ride. I've since decided that I'll just use the story time at the library during wet weather, when we'd be driving to BJJ anyway, and be able to make it to the library in time after class.

I've also got to figure out where I'm going to fit doing some Science into the schedule. Fridays are going to be busy I think.

I managed to get Zoe down for a nap by a bit after 12:30pm today. She was pretty knackered after the class (as was I from biking home) so I let her watch a bit of TV while I prepared lunch. She was funny, she saw how sweaty I was when we got home, and suggested I take a shower while she watch some TV.

I was a bit unprepared for my first Science Friday, though. I'd been considering going to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium after BJJ, but I discovered it's closed until February 7 for maintenance and an upgrade, so that cunning plan was thwarted.

I used her nap time to order 365 Science Experiments and 50 Dangerous Things (you Should Let Your Children Do). I should get plenty of inspiration out of those two.

After she woke up, we did the old "vinegar and sodium bicarbonate" trick as our science experiment. I've finally got a use for my Google Labs Founders' Award lab coat. I need to try and find some child-sized safety glasses. The adult ones barely stay on her little nose.

After that, we went for a walk to our local toy store to see if they sold child-sized safety glasses (they didn't) and then Zoe watched a little bit of TV and then we walked to the CityCat to go to Teneriffe to catch a bus to Chinatown.

I couldn't have timed it better if I tried. Just as we got to Chinatown, they started doing a thing with the Chinese dragons, and I hoisted Zoe up on my shoulders so she could watch. I wasn't sure how she was going to take it, with all the noise from the drums and the dragons themselves, but she was enthralled. We watched other acts and then my girlfriend joined us, and we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.

I bought Zoe these training chopsticks a while ago, and she's taken to them like a duck to water. I brought them with us so she could use them at the restaurant, and she ate the biggest dinner I've ever seen her eat. After dinner, we caught the tail end of a procession and had some ice cream. We were starting to leave, and there was another dragon, and Zoe was brave enough to go and touch it on her own, for good luck. We then made our way back to the bus.

By the time the bus arrived and got us back to Teneriffe, and a CityCat finally arrived, it was very late, but Zoe was pretty good the whole time. It was probably the latest night she's ever had with me while we've been out on the go, and she only got a bit ratty once we were home. It didn't help that she'd forgotten that she'd put Cowie in a cupboard this morning and we burned some more time tracking her down.

Today was a fantastic (and very full) day. I enjoyed it a lot, and I think Zoe did too. Fortunately, Fridays won't always be this full on.

[04:12] [life] [permalink]

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Day 3, Playgroup

Today was our first expedition to the local Playgroup at the Bulimba Senior Citizen's Centre, an easy 5 minute bike ride from our place.

I told Zoe we were going to Playgroup when Sarah dropped her around this morning, and she got very excited and jumped up and down. When Sarah asked her if she knew what Playgroup was, she said "no!" while continuing to jump up and down excitedly. We all laughed.

I must have put this on my calendar when I was in Sydney last week, because I had it down for 8:30am, and we rocked up and there wasn't anyone there. A lady arrived to set up for a music class, and she said that the Playgroup didn't usually start until much later, so I figured I'd had a timezone fail and we went for a little bike ride around Bulimba while we waited.

The lady who was running the Playgroup arrived at about 9:15am, and so we helped with the set up. Basically lots of toys, a couple of slides and some basic craft stuff. Heaps of the little IKEA round plastic stools.

Parents (almost exclusively mothers) started trickling in from 9:30am. I've got a total name overload. We need name tags. Most of the girls seemed to be about 2 and a half, and a lot of the mothers had very young second children. Apparently a mother's group had joined en masse because they all had second children who were crawling, and so meeting in a park wasn't practical any more.

Structurally, the first hour or so was just a free for all, and the last half an hour was some songs, a story and some playing under and on a parachute.

All in all it was a good morning's activity, and at $20 for the term, nice and cheap. Apparently you're supposed to join Playgroup Queensland as well, for $40, but that takes care of liability insurance and whatnot. If only their website used SSL.

Zoe mostly just wanted to play with me. We did a lot of role playing with some dolls, and she checked out the various toys. She loved that there was a stage, and took it upon herself to give an impromptu dance performance for a bit. We also did a little craft activity. She seemed more interested in helping flap the parachute than going under it, but enjoyed having a ride on it when the time came.

I've just finished reading How Not to F*** Them Up by Oliver James. It was quite an interesting read, although not particularly applicable for my situation, as it more dealt with the first three years. It was interesting observing a whole bunch of different mothering techniques in action, both in dealing with their toddler children, and how they responded to their second infants.

After Playgroup, we biked over to the local toy shop around the corner from home, and grabbed some birthday presents for the birthday party on Saturday and came home for lunch. Chicken quesadillas and some mango (I hadn't realised how much I've missed Queensland mangoes until we moved back, and I'm glad Zoe loves them as well).

I got her down for a nap earlier today, and after she woke up, I asked Zoe if she wanted to write on the birthday cards we'd bought for the twins' birthday presents. She said she didn't know how to write her name (which isn't true) and wanted to paint them instead, so we compromised and used some sponge letters to stamp "Z O E" on the cards in paint.

Zoe said that Eva's favourite colour was purple and Layla's was pink (or it may have been the other way around), so we stamped one with purple paint and mixed red and white to make something that looked more orange than pink and stamped the other one.

Then Zoe wanted to glue the two paper plates together that we'd been using to hold the paint, so we did that, and then she wanted to "hand paint" a cardboard tube, which seemed to involve me directly squirting various colours into her hands and then her "painting" the tube with what was in her hands. The tube quickly ended up a brown/grey colour. All in all, it was a fabulous mess, and fortunately no walls or doors copped any paint on the way to the bathroom to clean up.

After that, we cleaned up Zoe's room a bit, which resulted in her going off and playing with her Magna Doodle with Smudge for a bit, and then we played Doctor with her doctor set and then we did some baking.

It was a good afternoon, and she only asked to watch TV once, when she first woke up from her nap, and we managed to successfully divert to other much more fun stuff.

[14:16] [life] [permalink]

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Day 2, first day of "daddy daycare"

Today was the first weekday of me taking care of Zoe. We got things started more or less on the same routine that we used to do when she had day care, so we were dressed and ready to roll by about 8am.

We baked a batch of mini cornbread muffins, and had them ready by the time my 9:30am chiropractic appointment rolled around, so we took a few with us for morning tea for my chiropractor and his receptionist.

I've taken Zoe with me on a few occasions, and speak of her often to my chiropractor. He's a dad himself, and the first few times I brought her in, he juggled for her, so she thinks he's pretty cool.

Last night, Zoe had expressed a desire to go to Southbank today. It was initially looking like it'd be too rainy, but by the time I was done with the chiropractor, it looked safe enough to venture out, so we went back home, and I prepared a picnic lunch for us, and we caught a bus over to Southbank.

We had a bit of a splash around in the water and then ate lunch. Zoe had a great time alternating between feeding and chasing seagulls, crows, and an ibis. My girlfriend, who works in South Brisbane, walked over and joined us briefly and then we all walked back towards the bus and parted ways.

Southbank mid-week is pretty nice. Not too busy.

It was a slow walk home from the bus, but the reward of a My Little Pony biscuit was enough to get her racing ahead of me from the corner. After a biscuit and some quiet time, she fell asleep and I've had a couple of hours to read and write blog posts, as well as plan future activities.

I'm hoping that we'll have enough time to go birthday present shopping for a 4th birthday party (for twins from Zoe's old day care) that we're going to on Saturday morning after swim class, before Sarah arrives to pick her up, but I'm dubious we'll get time. Zoe's still asleep as I write. There's always tomorrow. We might be best off just baking the second batch of cornbread muffins.

[21:49] [life] [permalink]

Day 1, first day of Kindergarten

Yesterday was the first day of my new routine, except I haven't really established the new routine yet. I think that's going to take a few weeks. It was, however, the first day of Zoe's new routine, she started Kindergarten.

"Kindergarten" is a bit of an ambiguous term, even within Australia, it seems. Back when I went to school, there was "pre-school", which was, as best I can determine, what "Kindergarten" is now, except a year later. It was optional, half a week, and the year preceding the start of primary ("elementary") school. I think every other state was already doing an extra year of school (which I think they called "Kindergarten", "Kinder", or something starting with "K") so Queensland blew up "pre-school", created "Prep" and now that's the first year of primary school. Zoe will start "Prep" next year.

Then the Queensland education boffins realised that kids were missing out on the stuff that "pre-school" used to offer, so they reintroduced it in the form of "Kindergarten" (by Queensland standards). It's supposed to be play-based, and isn't really "long day care". Zoe does Monday, Tuesday and every other Wednesday, from 8:30am until 2:20pm.

I'd only heard about C&K from a friend after moving back to Brisbane, so we were very fortunate to secure a place without having camped out on a waiting list from birth. We got very lucky, and ended up getting multiple offers, but we're pretty thrilled with the one that Zoe got into. It's a relatively new facility, right next to a state school and some bushland. They take the kids on excursions into the bushland, and up to the state school where there's some chickens. The Kindergarten facility itself is really lovely.

Anyway, yesterday was Zoe's first day. I biked there yesterday morning (without Zoe) and it took me about 11 minutes. It took me more like 15 minutes to pick her up with the bike trailer. It's uphill on the way there, but not too much of a slog.

It's been really great that Zoe's BFF from day care, Megan, also scored a place in the same Kindergarten, as I think this will help the transition for both girls greatly.

I was able to stay for an extended period of time to help settle Zoe in, and I was able to leave without her being particularly distressed.

I then biked home, running a few errands along the way. I then got stuck into a woodworking project (I'm trying to make a little wooden clothesline for Zoe).

It turns out trying to cut a halved joint with a hand saw and chisel is a lot of work. I've managed to aggravate an old rotator cuff injury and the two pieces are a tad too tight, so I'm thinking I'll redo it and cut the joint out with an electric router instead. I probably spent at least a couple of hours faffing around with that.

So I banged away with a hammer and chisel for a bit, got a haircut, had a late lunch and next thing I knew it was 2pm and time to head back on the bike to pick up Zoe.

She was still asleep on her stretcher when I arrived to pick her up, which wasn't that surprising, since she tends to sleep later and longer at day care. I got a good opportunity to chat with her teacher about her first day and then gently woke her up with a kiss, and we headed home.

I introduced Zoe to one of our new neighbours, and after a snack, we drove into Fortitude Valley where I had to pick up some mail from my post office box. When we got back home, I started on dinner while Zoe watched a little bit of TV. I spontaneously invited my cousin over to join us for dinner, and we walked down to the Hawthorne Garage for a babyccino after dinner.

It was a good day.

I realised that I'm going to have to be super regimented with my time on the days Zoe is in Kindergarten, because 2pm is going to roll around very quickly. "Scarcity brings clarity", as Sergey says...

[21:30] [life] [permalink]

Thursday, 16 January 2014

And now for something completely different...

After 8 years, February 6 will be my last day with Google.

The hardest pill to swallow with the end of my marriage was the reduction in my time with Zoe. It was one thing to lose my wife, but to lose 50% of my daughter as well has been, and will continue to be, a struggle for me.

2014 is the last year before Zoe starts in Prep (Queensland's school grade before "one"). This is my last opportunity to be able to have a big chunk of time with her before she gets swallowed up by the school system. It's ridiculous to be sticking her in full-time long day care if I have an alternative.

And I do have an alternative. I'm in the fortunate financial position of not having a mortgage, or any debt to speak of, and a modest amount of savings. I shall be Daddy Day Care.

It had always been my career goal in life to be a stay at home Dad. I'd wanted to have another child and be the one to stay at home and look after the kids, and allow Sarah to resume her career. Obviously none of that worked out, but there's no reason why I can't be a stay at home Dad for at least this year.

Zoe's at a wonderful age now. We can have a lot of fun together this year. She's going to be in a 5 day a fortnight Kindergarten program (Monday, Tuesday and every other Wednesday) between 8:20am to 2:30pm, so I'm planning on using one of those days for Debian contributions, one of those days for exploring some of the crazy startup ideas I have rattling around in my head, and every second Wednesday to keep the home tidy.

It's going to be a fun, different year for Zoe and I, and I'm so looking forward to it. I'm planning on doing lots of activities from Play at Home Mom, doing lots of baking and we'll be doing Science Friday's. If anyone knows where I can get a toddler-sized lab coat, drop me a line.

I'm hoping I can make time to write up our activities for posterity as well.

[14:53] [life] [permalink]

Saturday, 04 January 2014

My daughter, the future Olympic swimmer

I'm not a strong swimmer, and never have been. I was never confident in the water as a child. In my teenage years, I had some skin issues that I was very self-conscious about. Going to a boy's school where I was already bullied, I didn't want to add material, so I avoided swimming. To this day, I can barely swim 50 metres freestyle. To think I once had aspirations of getting into the police, which required a bronze medallion.

As as result of my atrocious swimming abilities, it's been very important to me that Zoe be able to swim well. Purely for her own personal safety if nothing more. She's been doing "swim classes" of various sorts since she's been 6 months old. In the US, they were group parent/child water familiarisation classes. When we moved back to Australia and turned three, she was eligible to start doing small-group instructor-led classes with Hampton Swim School. It felt like such an milestone just to no longer have to be in the pool with Zoe.

I was initially quite skeptical of Hampton's methods, compared with what I'd observed at the Betty Wright Swim School (which subsequently had to close due to aging facilities). Having seen how well Zoe's swimming has progressed in 3 quarters of classes is just amazing.

The last few times I've taken Zoe to a public pool for some non-class swim time, her confidence in the water has been fantastic. I've bought some "sinkies", toys that sink to the bottom, and she'll happily dive down to the bottom to retrieve them (with assistance from me getting down there).

Today, to escape the 40 plus degree heat, I took her to the Sleeman Sports Centre, because they have a really cool slide, and the whole thing's indoors.

Zoe was confidently swimming between me and the side of the pool in water that was over her head, repeatedly. So to have her go from being fine in the water as long as she was being held, to actively asking me to go further back from the wall, in under a year has been really excellent progress. She's also "diving" in off the side (it's more like a bad belly flop, but she has brilliant form at the start, with her hands over her head).

We got to the pool today around 10:30am, and it turned out the slide didn't open until 1pm, so we decided to stick around for lunch and wait until the slide opened. To kill time after lunch, we went to the 50 metre pool, where some other kids were taking turns to jump in off the starting blocks. Fearless Zoe wanted to have a go too. This was seriously deep water.

It was really inspiring watching this tiny little girl climb up onto the starting blocks of the 1982 Commonwealth Games 50 metre pool and "dive" into the water, flounder over to me, who was furiously treading water in the middle of the lane, and then flounder over to the side, climb out unassisted and do it all over again. It was a seriously "proud father" moment, while I was trying not to drown myself in the middle of the lane. I wish I'd had someone there with a camera to capture the moment.

I have great hopes for the future of her swimming, and I think she's ready to go up a level in her swim class.

[02:09] [life] [permalink]

Wednesday, 01 January 2014

It's a new year, it's a new me

Well, it's 2014. The annus horribilus of 2013 is behind me. I'm entering 2014 in a much better place (on multiple levels) than I did for 2013. I'm positively excited to see what 2014 brings me.

I was very fortunate to have someone I looked up to reach out to help me when my marriage fell apart. One of the things he said to me was "A year from now, you won't recognise yourself". He was right. I am such a different person today than I was a year ago. I'm happier, fitter, more self-confident. I'm focusing on different things in my life.

One thing that has been a casualty, has been my geeky pursuits. There were a few times last year where I questioned if I was still a geek. I am. I've just deprioritised it. Instead, I've been putting my own self-care and my daughter above all else, meaning that my running has probably been the one thing I'd call a "hobby" at the moment.

I've got some stuff in the pipeline that I'm not quite ready to write about yet, but I'm expecting a rearrangement of my time that will hopefully allow for some more geeky endeavours in 2014. I'm also hoping I can regain some momentum on blogging.

Here's what I'd say my goals are, going into 2014:

  • Do P90X
  • Run in the Gold Coast Half-Marathon
  • Get involved with Debian again

plus some other stuff I'm not ready to talk about yet.

[14:26] [life] [permalink]