Astrid: Month 8

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Astrid

February was spent jet-setting around the world and enjoying snow and surf. It was a month full of ups and downs and several highlights and lowlights.

Highlight #1: Astrid used her passport for the first time as we flew to Mexico for her Auntie Kerry’s wedding. The highlights were the beautiful sunset wedding ceremony on the beach (and officially welcoming Megan, Katie, and Tyler to the family), the time spent relaxing by the pool with our relatives, and the awesome weather and lack of snow.

Porter Wedding

Astrid did well with all the changes (new foods, hotter climate, new faces, and 2-hour time change). It took her a few nights to get used to the hotel room and crib, but she slept well for the most part.

Palm Trees in the Pool

Most days were spent rotating between the buffet, the pool, the beach, and then back to the room for a nap. Astrid amazed everyone with her ability to destroy bananas and make a huge mess at mealtimes. She enjoyed floating in the pools and eating sand. We got off the resort once – took a taxi to Sayulita to check out the hippie, surf town. But for the most part we were slaves to Astrid’s nap schedule.

Waiting for Waves

Full Mexico photo album.

Lowlight #1: The biggest lowlight of the month was Astrid’s worsening eczema, especially on her hands. Baby-led weaning has not been kind to her skin, mostly from contact with acidic foods. Her skin got especially bad after we left the warm, humid Mexican air. We’re slowly getting it back under control by limiting the foods she’s eating, putting socks on her hands so she doesn’t bite and scratch them, moisturizing every few hours, and using hydrocortisone cream on the worst patches.
Eczema Hands

Highlight #2: Early in the month Dan visited from San Francisco, and Rhea and Tina also came over. We got a dump of snow that day so we had fun playing in the snow with Astrid.
Ice Thrown

Dan made this amazing snow throne for Astrid to reign over her subjects.

Snow Angels

Lowlight #2: Is Victoria the city that never sleeps? According to Astrid it is. We had a good visit with friends, but had to cut our trip short by a day when Astrid became a sleepless, grouchy pants. She refused to sleep in her pack-and-play, so I spent hours bouncing her in the ErgoBaby to get her to nap.
Beacon Hill Walk

At night, she would fall asleep in our arms, but the second we tried putting her down she would start screaming. None of us got much sleep the first night. The second night, we tried co-sleeping with her for the first time. She slept much better, but it was a rough night for Emily and I. We were squeezed into a double bed with Astrid in the middle, afraid to move for fear of waking her. Midway through the night she rotated 90° so that when she flailed about she simultaneously punched me in the face and kicked Emily in the head, but we were happy she was sleeping.

Victoria photo album

Highlight #3: Astrid is starting to move more. She’s mastered rolling and has the arm strength to lift herself into plank position. She isn’t crawling yet, but she can cover a lot of ground by rolling, rotating, and shuffling backwards. We’ve ordered a large play mat to give her a surface to play on – she quickly rolls off the yoga mat and blanket we have for her now.

She’s also tossing and turning in her sleep. Often after a nap, we find her on her stomach or curled up on her side. The first time she napped on her stomach we kept checking on her to make sure she was breathing, but we’re used to it now.
First Time Sleeping on Stomach

She is also very ticklish. I don’t remember her reacting to tickling before.

Astrid now has a Goodreads account, if you’re curious what books we read to her every night. She has quite the library. https://www.goodreads.com/astridnaut

More photos and data.

8 Months

Astrid: Month 7

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Selfie
Astrid is now 7 months old. That means lots of fun new experiences (swimming, eating, and cutting teeth) and mastering some existing skills (sitting up, rolling over, and bouncing). She’s also developing a stronger sense of who her parents are and a bit of stranger-danger when someone else tries to engage her.

Swimming Astrid is getting ready for our trip to Mexico with swimming lessons. She’s learned how to float, glide, and dunk with minimal crying. She doesn’t love all the splashing and getting water in her face, but I think she enjoys being in the water and soaking in the experience.

Toes in the mouth Astrid has found her toes and is generally more squirmy now than she was last month. During diaper changes she loves to grab her feet and rock on her back. You really have to watch her closely, which I learned the hard way when she tumbled off the change table when I turned around to check my phone. Luckily she’s a resilient kid. She cried a bit but Emily was able to calm her down. I still feel horrible about it, but happy that she wasn’t hurt and that Emily handled the situation so calmly and never berated me for being negligent.

Food Face
The favourite part of Astrid’s day is the two meals she eats with us, following baby-led weaning. It’s also the highlight of my day. I’ve taken dozens of photos of her covered in food and love watching her explore new tastes and make a huge mess.

1st Tooth
Soon after she started eating solid food, Astrid got her first tooth (almost like she’s evolving). She’s now a drool monster. Luckily we have these cute drool bibs that Baba made for us.
Drool Bib

She loves bouncing in her jumper and has developed an adorable laugh. Even with the large collection of toys we have, she usually prefers playing with an empty box of toothpaste and plastic spoons.


Astrid is back to sleeping through the night (rejoice!). If you like data, it’s all available online. If you like cute photos, there’s plenty below.
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Baby Led Weaning

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Food Experiences
Astrid has been eating solid food since December 11. Although “solid” is a bit of stretch. She spent the first two weeks eating applesauce and carrot mush, served on a spoon that she would eagerly grab and jam into her mouth. It was messy but she enjoyed it. We tried to feed her while we also ate dinner, but keeping her spoon loaded was a full time job.

At the end of December we discovered baby led weaning. The principle is simple, let babies explore real foods on their own and at their own pace. No texture-less purees. No spoon feeding.

Broccoli
Our first baby-led weaning meal was broccoli. It’s a strange first food but it was recommended by the Baby Led Weaning book because it comes with its own handle. Astrid loved it and mowed down several steamed broccoli florets that night. It inspired us to try other foods.

Spaghetti

At first, we doubted she was swallowing anything, especially without teeth. However, her changing diaper contents (I won’t include any pictures) are proof that she’s eating even if her stomach doesn’t know how to digest it yet.

Feeding Boo
A lot of the food ends up on the floor. Luckily we have a cat who enjoys patrolling around her high chair and cleaning up any food that falls off of her tray.

Pasta
The hope is by allowing Astrid to explore food now that she’ll be an adventurous eater as she gets older. Even if that doesn’t work, it’s been fun watching her explore food and we get more time to enjoy our own meals. After trying baby-led weaning, we wouldn’t go back to purees.

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Baby Data Nerd

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ProjectAstrid.jpg

It’s time to unveil Project ASTRID – Analytic System Tracking Rapid Infant Development.

I’ve been working on it for the past two months in my spare time. It’s a webapp hosted on Github Pages that visualizes some of the baby data we’ve been tracking. Originally, I just wanted to analyze Astrid’s sleeping patterns, but the website has morphed into a digital baby book with milestones and growth charts. I’m still adding features to it, but it’s polished enough that I’m happy to share it.

The chart below is probably the most interesting one I’ve created so far because it quantifies the quality of Astrid’s sleep. It shows her night sleeps, with the longest stretch in blue, the second longest in red, and the remainder in orange. Like all parents, our goal has been to get Astrid to sleep through the night. So that means getting as much blue as possible.

overnight_sleep.png

On October 7, after weeks of crappy sleeping, we started sleep training with Astrid. We didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a steady improvement over the next month. Then we hit sleep bliss. Astrid slept for 12 hour stretches every night for 3 weeks. We were living every parent’s dream. But last month, we hit the dreaded sleep regression. Luckily it only lasted 2 weeks (although it felt like it would never end at the time) and things have been better lately. We’re still waiting for those consistent 12-hour nights again, but she’s only waking up once a night right now, which seems very manageable.

Project ASTRID is open-source and adaptable for anyone else who might want to use it for their own child. Although realistically I know I’m probably the only one who likes having this much data about their baby. I just hope that one day our daughter appreciates the nerdy, data-heavy view of her early life, or at least isn’t completely embarrassed by it.

Snowshoeing with a Baby

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New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We celebrated New Year’s Day by taking Astrid on her first snowshoeing trip. She’s only 6 months old and she handled it like a champ. We chose to go up to Mount Seymour and do the First Lake loop (half way to Dog Mountain), because it’s a pretty easy trail. And we weren’t the only ones. There were dozens of other families with babies and small children hiking along the trail with us.

New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We were a bit worried about squeezing the snowshoe into Astrid’s nap schedule. She only stays awake for 1.5-2 hours between naps right now. Luckily, she fell asleep on the car ride up and again in the ErgoBaby on the return part of our hike.

Breast Feeding in the Snow

We probably should have fed Astrid at the lodge before we started our snowshoe, but we forgot. So Emily had to find a nice sheltered spot in the trees and breastfeed her in the sub-zero temperatures. A real Canadian moment.

Pulling Trees

Astrid: Month Six

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Snow Watching

December is always a busy month, and Astrid made it more exciting with a bunch of new developments, including eating solid food, sitting up, rolling over, and getting croup. It also snowed in Vancouver, which made it feel much more festive.

First snow

Astrid loves looking at the snow and she enjoyed playing in it the first day. But I’m not sure she likes the cold. She wasn’t too happy being outside for extended periods. After a week of sub-zero weather, she picked up a wheezing cough that eventually prompted a visit to the walk-in clinic. The doctor said she might have asthma and prescribed an inhaler. A few days later, Emily took Astrid to our family doctor who said it was just croup and she would recover all on her own, no inhaler necessary.

Inhaler

And by Christmas her croup was pretty much gone. A nice Christmas present.

Stocking Time

Astrid had a number of development leaps this month. She smiles and laughs a lot when she’s amused. She’s learned how to rollover consistently in both directions, but rarely on demand. She definitely finds it easier without a diaper on.
First Rollover

She also learned how to sit up on her own without any assistance, which we only noticed when she was chatting with Baba and Gido on Christmas morning.
Skype with Baba and Gido

She’s also eating solid food now and continues to chew on anything that comes near her face. We usually feed her pears, applesauce, and carrots. I think pears are her favourite at this point. She’s also tried avocado, perogy filling, borscht, vegan sour cream (not a fan), and other dishes we’re eating that aren’t too spicy.
First Solid Food
Expensive Tastes
Chewing Necklace
Piggy Bib

All of these new skills came at a cost – her parents sanity. The first 2 weeks of December saw a big sleep regression. It started with her naps. She started to have a really hard time falling asleep. She would cry as soon as she entered her bedroom. None of the old tricks worked anymore (swing, walks, soother). We’d spend 45-60 minutes trying to get her to sleep and when she finally gave in she would only sleep 20-30 minutes. After a week the lack of naps started to affect her nighttime sleeps. She was waking up every 2-3 hours. 😦 After getting used to 12 hour night sleeps, this was very hard to deal with.

The stress of this situation fell largely on Emily since she handles most of the naps and nighttime feedings. The morning after she had a particularly trying day, she decided to try something different. She just put Astrid down in her crib and walked out to see if Astrid could put herself to sleep. She cried for a bit, but it worked! She fell asleep on her own. And it continued to work for subsequent naps, often with little or no crying. Who knows if it was Emily’s approach or the timing, but Astrid picked that moment to end her sleep regression (after 2 weeks). She still isn’t sleeping through the night, but she’s lasting 4-6 hour so there’s often only 1 or 2 nighttime feedings.

Handprints and Footprints

Emily and Astrid’s Christmas present for me – a beautiful drawing/tracing of Astrid’s hands and feet

Story Time

Story time with Astrid

6 Months Old

Wacky Christmas

Emily discovers Facebook’s Christmas photo generator

Merry Christmas 2016

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Astrid's 1st Christmas Photo Shoot

Merry Christmas to everyone, from our family to yours. We’re looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas morning with our darling daughter, eating latkes, and opening a few presents. No big showing from Santa here.

Christmas Ornaments

Our family stopped giving presents a few years ago, and I’m grateful for that. Only the kids get something small. The adults in my mother’s extended family do a homemade gift exchange – this year the theme was painting or drawing. Emily and I painted ornaments, and liked them so much we made a few extra for our own tree.

Christmas with Vancouver Family Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner

We had our Vancouver family over for a Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast – complete with kutya, borscht, perogies, vegan sour cream, cabbage rolls, beans, mushroom gravy, creamed kale, bread, pickles, and a fruitcake for dessert. Almost all of the food was home-made and vegan (except the perogies which we bought at the farmer’s market and the kutya which has honey), and it all tasted delicious. Ariella even braided a fabulous challah that was glazed with maple syrup and coconut oil. Astrid got to try her first spoonful of borscht and eat some of the sweet potato perogy filling, and I think she liked it.

It wasn’t a purely traditional Ukrainian meal, more of a fusion of cultures to match our family. We started eating at 3:30 instead of waiting for the first star, so the little ones could get to bed. And we lit a menorah to celebrate the start of Hanukkah.

Astrid's 1st Christmas Photo Shoot

Our Tiny Home Christmas Tree

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Wall Tree

It’s Astrid’s first Christmas and we’re spending it in Vancouver this year, so we thought it would be appropriate to get a tree. However, 1) our building doesn’t allow real Christmas trees; and 2) we really don’t have space to set up a full-sized artificial Christmas tree (or store it the rest of the year). So, we needed to get creative.

In 2013, we used a small potted spruce as our Christmas tree. Sadly he died last winter.

This year, after searching for creative Christmas tree ideas, we decided to make a wall-mounted Christmas tree from garland (inspired by this blog post).

Supplies:

  • 9 feet of NOMA Aspen C9 LED Garland (with lights)
  • Two 3M Clear Medium Command Hooks
  • A bunch of zip ties and wire

Step 1: Arrange the garland on the ground and bend it into a tree shape

Wall Tree

Step 2: Hold it up to the wall to make sure the spacing and size looks good

Step 3: Back on the floor, zip tie the elbows together so it holds its shape. The bottom piece was too far away for us to use a zip tie so we used wire.

Step 4: Fluff out the garland branches to fill any gaps.

Condo-sized Christmas Tree

Step 5: Attach a hook to the wall where you want the loop at the top of the garland to go. The garland we used was pretty heavy so we placed a second hook about a third of the way up from the bottom.

Step 6: Decorate and enjoy!

The final result:
Wall Tree

Astrid: Month Five

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Tummy Time
Our little girl is now five months old and not so little anymore. She continues to grow and mature at a rapid pace, and is still in the 75th percentile for weight and height.

Standing Up Assisted
Astrid’s biggest development leap in the past month has been learning to stand with some assistance. She still doesn’t roll over or sit up on her own, but she loves standing, especially when she can look out the window. She’s jumped a few milestones but I’m sure she’ll figure out rolling and sitting soon.

Sleeper

Our sleep training last month has paid off and she now regularly sleeps through the night, often in 10-12 hour stretches. We have a nice bedtime routine with lullaby music, a feeding, a fresh diaper, changing her into a nightgown, and reading a story. Then the lights go off and the white noise is turned on. Some nights she falls asleep on her own and sometimes she needs some help with a soother and some bouncing.

More Interested in the Cat
There are lots of little changes in her personality and perception of the world. She’s taken an interest in our cat for the first time, reaching out to grab his tail. Luckily he doesn’t seem to mind. She also gets distracted during feedings for the first time, with any new noise pulling her attention away from eating. She has much better coordination and is able to pick things up, use both hands to hold things, and bring toys to her mouth.

Chewing on her spoon

She’s teething madly and loves to chomp on anything nearby. At dinnertime we give her frozen washcloths and a rubber spoon to chew on. I’ve tried giving her solid food a few times (avocado and pear), but she’s not interested yet.
Eating Avocado

She had a very infrequent month for poops, a few times going 8 days without a bowel movement. Luckily that pattern seems to have changed in the past few days, although it does mean more messy work for us.

More pictures …
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Getting to Legendary in Hearthstone

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Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a curious game. It’s an online card game that has attracted a huge following of casual and competitive players. There are over 40 million world-wide players and the World Championships this weekend had a $1 million prize pool. The game is kind of like poker and chess combined, with a lot of strategy around trading pieces and a bit of luck with card draws and other random effects. I like it because the games only lasts 5-15 minutes and there is a lot of strategy and thinking involved. Most online games require fast reaction times, but Hearthstone is turn-based and you get 75 seconds each turn to plot your moves.

There are a few game modes, but the most popular is the ranked ladder. You start the game at Rank 25 and play against other players with the same rank. As you win games, your rank improves, lose games and your rank gets worse. The ultimate goal is to progress beyond Rank 1 to Legendary status. Every month the ranks reset. I’ve never gotten beyond Rank 5 and I had to play a lot of games to get that high.

Getting to Legend status is about consistently playing well (above 50% win rate) and grinding out a lot of games. How many? That depends on the deck win rate. I wrote a script (below) to simulate how many games it would take to reach Legendary depending on your win rate.

If you’re only winning  50% of your games you play, you can make it to Legendary but be prepared to play around 1440 games. With a 55% win rate, a pretty good result in competitive Hearthstone, it would take on average 483 games to reach Legendary status (at least 15 games a day). Even if you could consistently win 60% of the games you played, an impressive feat, it would take 287 games a month to reach Legendary. I thought I played a lot of Hearthstone, but I don’t have that kind of time.

hearthstone_legendary

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