Do people like, still blog?

Tag Archives: kids

I actually saw Cars 3 in June (and in theatres) but forgot to blog about it till now. It’s way down in my priority list because it wasn’t something I wanted to see, but something I took the kids too (I’m not sure they really wanted to see it either).

I was looking for a kids movie to watch in theatres and this was the best option. The boys like Lightning McQueen, and even though this was the third installment, it didn’t seem to get the Finding Dory treatment and get older and scarier. It was still rated G and from other reviews it seemed fairly safe. Of course, shortly into the movie, McQueen has a huge crash and freaked out the kids for the rest of the time.

Overall, the movie gets a 3 out of 5 stars from me. Being a Pixar movie, it is expected that adults will find it interesting, and the movie didn’t feel dumbed down; although it wasn’t particularly exciting or a strong story (I may have missed a lot of context as I didn’t watch the first two movies). There was another strong female heroine which, while positive, is getting a little overplayed. In turn, the male protagonists are now goofballs.

Now, here at the end of 2015; it felt as though this year was noticeable longer than previous years. Instead of having high memory peaks like years past (i.e. kids birth) along with long lull/waiting times (i.e., waiting for kids to born), there were a variety of activities that resulted in more positive and memorable moments.

This year I still spent a significant amount of time building personal Android apps, but I don’t have a lot to show for it. The Android marketplace is too saturated now and it’s too difficult to make something great and popular. It’s not the time, but the user acquisition and differentiating your product from everything else that is out there that is tough. I no longer have the patience or the enthusiasm to build a polished product that I’m happy with, and try and make it successful. Because of that, I ended up making a couple of things that ended up on Google Play (Always Taeyeon, Simmering), and some that never made it public (Android port of the card game Love Letter, Hearthstone collection tracker, a location sharing app).

It was a good travel year for us. In 2014, we didn’t travel much because Jovian was born in the middle of the year (so couldn’t travel before or after). However he was 6 months by the time 2015 started, so we he was fully able to travel with us. Our “one year old” trip with Jovian was to Spain & Portugal and it was different adventure than we normally do as we drove around instead of taking public transit. After that, we had a couple of short (at least overnight) trips here and there in North America, some by plane and some by car. In the end, I’m quite happy with my Places I Stayed recap for 2015. The one thing we didn’t do was travel during the Christmas break, due to work commitments, but we plan to do some more traveling in January to make up for that.

On the other hand, travel for work was lower in 2015 than it was in 2014. I’ve been working remotely for almost 3 years now so there’s not much need for me to show up at my NY office anymore. It’s almost 6 months between trips there now (which is a bit excessive, that might be a bit closer next year). Another reason is that I’ve been traveling to our Silicon Valley office in place of some of the NY trips, but again that is less frequent than it could be. Due to the lack of work travel, I wasn’t able to attain my SPG Gold status for next year (I’ve had it for 2 years in a row). This year, I also started collecting Marriott reward points. The impetus was because I ended up staying at Marriott’s when I went to California, and I ended up collecting more because I started using a credit card that rewarded Marriott points. Starwood and Marriott combined this year so it might be moot (they haven’t combined their rewards programs yet though).

I’m still desperately trying to use my phone as my camera. I know a lot of people do it, but I just can’t make the switch. I started out the year using my Nexus 5’s camera, but it was just too horrible (slow, can’t focus). I tried using the Note4’s camera but I found it performed poorly in low light and the file size was way too huge. By the end of the year, I’ve been using my One Plus Two’s camera which is slightly better than Nexus 5 in a lot of respects, but also slightly worse (file size too large, hangs if phone is locked). Above all, I still haven’t found a good burst mode app (although haven’t been trying hard) so I still have to carry around the dSLR.

I did take a lot of photos this year (most in past 4 years), although that might be because we went on a couple of vacations. I have more photos of Jovian than Apollo this year, which I attribute to Jovian still being in the midst of growing up. There were often times this year where I felt that taking a photo is meaningless if no person (read: kids) are in it. I don’t take photos for a hobby anymore (never going to be an Instagram celebrity) so scenic shots are no longer valuable to me. At the same time, it’s frustrating to have to carry around a SLR while chasing kids.

I didn’t have a lot of techlust this year. I still don’t have an Android watch (actually no new watches for me this year) and my Fitbit is a couple of generations old by now. I kind of do want the coolest new gadgets, but at the same time I’m already surrounded by too many phones, tablets, and other electronic gear so what’s one more? Having a great phone (and data plan) is still very important, but it’s impossible to find the perfect phone anymore, even if you’re willing to pay flagship prices.

The kids are growing up. Apollo is fluent in Cantonese (as well as you could expect a little boy to be) and his English is slowly catching up. Although he’s only 3, he feels like he could be a kindergarten-er or early primary school kid. I have no frame of reference as to what kids at those ages should know, so it’s difficult for me to place Apollo at a certain age. It’s because he still needs parental supervision and guidance, but he can do (or learn to do) a lot of things by himself (obviously bigger kids have more experience and practice). I still envision Jovian as being a baby, but he’s now almost as old as Apollo was when Jovian was born. He can do a lot of things by himself (like eat, walk in the mall), and understand other human beings; but my benchmark (i.e., Apollo) keeps advancing so it feels like he is still a baby.

Jovian is old enough that he can interact with Apollo, asking for help or just playing (and negotiating or fighting). This is a bit of a conundrum for me because I’m not sure how to treat them as siblings. With Apollo, it was easier because I was an only child; but I’m not sure what goes through Apollo or Jovian’s head when they have to interact with their sibling and parents.

There was a continuing shift this year where our group of friends shifted. As our young kids get older (i.e., no longer babies), there’s less desire to spend time with our kid-less friends because conversation topics are just too different. We spent much more time with Apollo’s friends’ parents and did activities with them – common interests and conversation topics are much higher there. It’s not a surprise, but this year is where it’s much more noticeable. However, we had numerous friends with end-of-the-year babies so that might change next year. Just like a few years ago when everyone was getting married, it’s time for my cohort to have kids.

Looking back, I think the key memories from this year will be 1) being there in Jovian’s 12-18 month old “cuteness” phase, 2) being able to drive around Portugal and Spain on our summer vacation and 3) having the freedom to take the kids around if we wanted to do different activities (not just travel). I’ll miss the flexibility that we have while both kids are young and not in school – we weren’t beholden to a strict schedule. I think next year will be a transition year similar to our schedule starting this past September; but in 2017 Apollo will be in JK so I expect there will be a lot less freedom.

Recently been bemused about how couples or single people without kids wonder why their friends with kids don’t hang out with them anymore. It’s a natural divide that happens and I think a lot of the time the without-kids believe that new parents are just too busy. I guess that’s true part of the time, but I think the reason is a lot simpler than that. Kids just don’t want to do what their parents and their friends used to do!

Most of what our friends used to do tend to do revolve around a couple of things. You can have gatherings where you sit around and talk (at someone’s house, at a bar, at a restaurant). Surprisingly, kids find this super boring. Or you could appreciate some cultural event like a concert, museum, play, movie etc. Kids can’t appreciate the culture and thus finds it super boring.

Maybe you will do some sort of activity like rock climbing, bike riding, or hiking. This one is a twist because kids probably don’t find it boring, but they’re just not capable of doing those activities yet. Maybe you’ll go travelling instead (kids can walk and see sights). Unfortunately, walking around is boring as is sitting around a car/plane/bus to get to your destination (super boring).

Basically everything that an adult might enjoy doing is super boring for kids. And when kids are super bored, they will be super annoying! That’s why we no longer spend a lot of time doing the things that we used to do – we find new activities to do with the kids, and hopefully some of those are not super boring for the adults!

Apollo has finally reached an age where he can play with his train set (and not simply try and smash the tracks together to make noise)! We received a base Thomas the Tank engine set as a gift and while that is a fun starter kit, there isn’t enough variation after awhile.

Buying wooden Thomas sets (or one of the other name-brand brands like Brio) is super, super expensive. I suppose you’re would consider them family heirlooms since they don’t really break or age (although the paint is starting to rub off of Thomas), and technological advances (i.e., motorized/compact versions) just don’t feel the same.

In any case, instead of buying some more Thomas sets, we went the cheap route and bought 2 IKEA additions which were relatively affordable (under $20 each), had a nice variety of cars and tracks, and more or less fit the Thomas tracks. The train gauge is the same, the majority of the pieces fit together (although the connections are not exactly the same so some types will not fit together and often you have to work to fit them in) but the polarity of the car magnets are reversed. Not a big deal as the savings in price is significant.

The best part about the train set is not moving the cars around, but coming up with interesting configurations for the tracks. Here are a couple I setup. Apollo doesn’t understand or appreciate the intricacies of making novel tracks yet as he’s more interested in connecting cars into a long chain, and sliding them down hills into the station but at some point hopefully he will!

One of the reasons we went to the US over the Labour Day long weekend was to perform a tradition for Jovian that we started with Apollo, namely to celebrate their 2 months birthday by 1) Going to the US, and 2) Having 20 nuggets (for $5!). When we did this with Apollo, we took some photos so it follows that we should do the same for Jovian. And once we have photos of both kids, of course it would be natural to compare them!

So here they are:

To set up Jovian’s photos, we went to the exact same McDonalds as the first one, sat in the exact same seats, and as you can tell from some of the photos, there were a bunch of other things that were similar. The hardest thing to get similar was to get Jovian to act the same as Apollo. It’s hard telling a 2 month old to do something.

Then, to practice our Equal Opportunity Parenting, we let Apollo re-take his two month old photos! Of course, he had to wear the same clothes as before.

Over the Christmas break, we went down to the Rogers Centre Skydome to see the annual Disney on Ice. This was our first time, and luckily we have a kid with us now because if we didn’t, we would look really odd. This was primarily a kids event, with lots of girls dressed as princesses and lots of boys brandishing swords. It is basically a collection of your favorite Disney classics that feature prince and princesses; such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty & the Beast, the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Rapunzel. Each classic had a choreographed skate, usually a pairs dance, but sometimes just a single performer and backup skaters. Some of the acts were more intricate than others (such as the Little Mermaid and Aladdin), and some had cool props like a Dragon that breathed fire (Sleeping Beauty) or Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage.

The skating was pretty good, a couple of falls although you wouldn’t expect any quads (I think there were one or two triples, but I’m not an expert). I imagine it would just be cool for kids to see their prince or princesses moving so smoothly. I liked how some of the skaters had to wear intricate costumes (such as a spoon, fork, and knife sticking out of their back for the Beauty & the Beast act) – you don’t see those types of costumes on TV.

We got a good deal on the tickets so they ended being less than $20 each. Parking was more expensive because we saw that matinee show (4pm) so we had to pay for 9-5 level parking downtown. But it’s pretty affordable to bring your kids down to see every year.