Astrid – Cherry Blossoms and Easter Eggs

Snowing Cherry Blossoms

Spring has been good to our family. We’ve had beautiful weather in Vancouver, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, we planted our garden, Astrid’s asthma is under control, and we spent a beautiful Easter weekend in Kamloops.

Hipster Child

And we got rid of all of our diapers! Back in November, Astrid started wearing underwear during the day and pullups at night, but now she’s officially done with diapers at night too (as of March 24th). She’s been consistently sleeping through the night dry with only one accident early on. It certainly makes parenting a lot easier not having to worry about diaper changes anymore.

Grandkids

Easter in Kamloops was a real family adventure, with my parents joining the grandkids for the fun. Unfortunately, a stomach bug also showed up. As we were driving to Kamloops we got word that my father was throwing up and had diarrhea. Having had Norovirus twice this year already, I should have turned the car around but we were committed. Two days after arriving, I found myself heaving into a toilet. Luckily, it wasn’t that bad and the kids were all spared.

Kids Table

As is always the case when Astrid gets to visit her cousins, they had a blast playing together. With Nora walking and talking, the ability gap between the 3 of them has really shrunk.

Ladies

We went to the park, made pizza, played games, and had an easter egg hunt in the backyard. Jacob and Astrid were excellent egg finders this year – I’m going to have to make it a bit harder next year.

Pulling her cousins
Pizza Dough
Hunting

We did have an asthma / allergy scare while in Kamloops. On the second night, Astrid woke up at 9 p.m. gasping for breath and complaining her throat was hurting. It’s the first time I’ve seen her panic for air before. Even when her asthma has been really bad and her oxygen levels low, she’s always been in a good mood. It scared me.

Kamloops Hospital

We took Astrid outside for some fresh air and gave her Ventolin. She had calmed down after 15 minutes, but we still took her to the Royal Inland Hospital emergency department just to be sure. By the time we got to the hospital, she was fine and we were quickly sent home.

We’re not entirely sure what caused the incident, but it was probably allergen related – she was digging in wet hay for easter eggs, playing with cats, sleeping in a carpeted basement, and developing a cold. A real nasty mix for her lungs to handle.

Playing Video Games

After Easter, my parents came back to Vancouver with us and spent two days with Astrid enjoying Science World and making cookies.

Check out more photos from March and April and our trip to Kamloops for Easter.

sakura festival

Zero-Waste Challenge Recap

Plastic Waste

Here is all the single-use plastic waste we generated in April after our zero-waste challenge – enough to fill two plastic bags. I’m not sure if that’s a success or a failure. It’s a lot less than the average family but I thought we could do better.

A third of it was recyclable – hard plastics and tetra-paks. A third was soft plastic that London Drugs will take for recycling – although I’m skeptical of what they actually do with it. A third, sadly, went straight into the garbage.

We were pretty good at not buying new products with plastic packaging, but that didn’t stop us from using what we already had in the fridge and cupboards. Most of the plastic waste we generated was from food products we bought back in March.

Everytime we generated plastic waste, we tried hard to find a replacement that didn’t have plastic packaging. Some things we managed to find plastic-free alternatives for, but it was shocking how much of the grocery store is covered in plastic. If it wasn’t for Nada, we would have generated a lot more plastic waste.

The hardest plastic packaging to avoid:

  • Anything medical, like Astrid’s medications
  • Vitamin containers
  • Cereal – we can get bulk granola but not cereal flakes
  • Garden seedlings, fertilizers, and soil
  • Tetra paks from juice and plant-based milks
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Convenience foods, like perogies and sausages

The only plastic that was easier than expected to avoid was take-out containers. A lot of food carts and restaurants in Vancouver use compostable packaging, and all of them will once the styrofoam ban comes into effect in April 2020.

I’m happy to see more cities jumping on the zero-waste bandwagon and banning plastic and styrofoam: Montreal ‘going to war’ against single-use plastic and styrofoam food containers.

But the biggest change has to come from grocery stores. They are the only ones with the power to influence suppliers. If some of the big chains in Canada (like Loblaws, Sobeys, or Overwaitea) made a concerted effort to cut down on plastic packaging, it would make a huge difference.

Now that our challenge is over, there are a few habits we picked up last month that we will continue with.

  1. Being conscious of plastic packaging and choosing products without plastic where possible.
  2. Doing more shopping at the zero-waste stores in Vancouver.
  3. Buying fresh vegetables that aren’t in plastic (like field cucumbers)
  4. Making our own pizza dough instead of buying it.
  5. Making own own hemp milk (see recipe below) instead of buying plant-based milks in tetra paks.
Continue reading Zero-Waste Challenge Recap

Zero waste Challenge – No Single-Use Plastic

India - Cochin

For the month of April, we’re taking a zero waste challenge and trying to avoid all single-use plastics.

That means no plastic take-out containers, no straws, no bags of cereal, no plastic-wrapped english cucumbers, and the list goes on.

Plastic Wrapped Carrots

That might sound impossible, but we’re lucky to have some good resources to help. In addition to bulk bins at conventional grocery stores, Vancouver has 2 amazing zero-waste shopping options Nada and the Soap Dispensary, where we can fill reusable containers with food and other household products.

Nada Shopping

To kick off the month, I purchased a nice safety razor to replace the standard 5-blade Gillette and Schick ones I’ve used in the past (inspired by this AOC tweet). Safety razors are a little trickier to use, but have zero plastic and are cheaper to buy blades for.

We also had a successful zero-plastic pizza dinner on Sunday night. The biggest challenges were the crust and cheese. Normally we buy pizza crusts and Daiya cheese in plastic packaging. But we found Daiya cheese at Nada and made the crust from scratch, which was surprisingly easy and fun even if a bit more time consuming.

Our hope is that by being conscious of our plastic use this month, and striving for zero, we will learn new ways of reducing it once the challenge is over (like making pizza dough from scratch). It also gets us ready for a future when single-use plastics are no longer commonplace. There’s a growing movement worldwide to reduce our use of throwaway plastics. Here are some examples:

  • Europe has agreed to ban single-use plastics by 2021.
  • The NDP has promised to get rid of single-use plastics in Canada by 2022 if elected.
  • Vancouver’s straw ban goes into effect on June 1, 2019, with other single-use plastics targeted in coming years.
  • California, New York, and Hawaii are leading the charge in the USA with state-wide plastic bag and straw bans.

A Fancy Weekend in Victoria

To celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary, we decided to spend a fancy weekend in Victoria.

Skytrain

We did the whole trip without a car. It’s pretty easy to take public transit to the ferry terminals, and once we were in Victoria almost everything was walking distance from our hotel.

Cherry Blossoms

We were lucky to have a beautiful spring weekend, with only a sprinkle of rain and the cherry blossoms were in bloom.

The Empress

We stayed at the luxurious Empress hotel, originally constructed by Canadian Pacific in 1908. We were a little out of place arriving by public transit with backpacks on, while the other guests used the valet service for their Ferraris and Teslas.

Fancy Tea at the Empress

We might not have arrived in a sports car, but we brought fancy clothes so we could enjoy afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge.
They had no problems preparing an all-vegan tea for us (we gave them notice when we reserved our seating), with scones, jam, crustless sandwiches, chocolates, and passion fruit custard.

Tea Timer

Astrid even enjoyed it. She managed to stay amused for over an hour by playing with the tea timer, reading the tea options, drinking tea with a spoon, stealing berries off the desserts, running around our seating area, and visiting the powder room.

Arby and Astrid

Most of our time in Victoria was spent catching up with friends. Astrid had successful playdates with Arby, Lyla, and Cleo. Our friends Katie and ilan even took Astrid home for lunch so Emily and I could go out for a nice lunch by ourselves.

Play Date

We hit up all of our favourite vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Victoria: Be Love, Rebar, and Very Good Butchers.

Napping

It was a really successful weekend mostly because Astrid slept well. She had no problems sleeping in a double bed on her own in the hotel. And she napped on the go – sleeping on bus and ferry rides while we travelled, and in her stroller on Saturday while we walked around Victoria.

Stormtroopers

Amusingly, we happened to be in Victoria while the Capital City Comic Con was going on at the convention centre connected to our hotel, so there was always someone in a costume walking by.

NDP Fan

More pictures here.

Astrid – Why, Why, Why?

Family Day Fun

It started suddenly without warning and has been a non-stop barrage since. On February 18, Astrid asked her first “Why?” question. I don’t remember what it was about but my response was promptly followed by a follow-up “Why?”. As many parents know, “Why?” is the perfect question because no matter how thorough the answer, you can always go deeper with another “Why?”.

I like encouraging her curiosity and answer as much as I can, but after the 5th why I usually have to respond with “Why do you think?”

Snow What!?

February was an unusually snowy month in Vancouver, including a full-on Snow Day on February 12 when all the schools and daycares shut down. It was cool to see all the kids running around the neighbourhood and enjoying a rare blast of real Canadian winter.

Crazy Carpet

Too bad Astrid hated it. The snow was too ‘crunchy’ and cold and she would only watch her friends tobogganing, complaining the whole time.

Cookies

In January Astrid started on a new asthma medication, Advair, and it seems to be having a huge impact. We’ve now gone 45 days without any asthma symptoms, which is a new record. Astrid had one cold in early March and even though she was coughing she never got wheezy. It was nice just having a normal sick kid with a runny nose without worrying about when we would have to take her to the hospital.

Advair is definitely more expensive than the other medications we’ve tried (it works out to about a $1 per puff) because there is no generic version. However, after sending doctor approval to the province’s Fair Pharmacare program and our health insurance provider, we now have 80% of the costs covered.

Vomit Train

Although we’ve avoided asthma problems, we haven’t been completely healthy. Stomach bugs (probably norovirus) ripped through our family in February. Astrid and I were sick twice, with vomiting and diarrhea. Grandma got it too. Emily got mild symptoms from the first bug and somehow avoided the second one. I was just glad we weren’t all sick at the same time so there was always one person with energy to look after the rest of the family.

On a more positive note, Astrid has avoided a tooth extraction, at least for now. After she knocked her tooth out last month, her root extraction was delayed because she got really sick. By the time she was healthy again the gums had healed over. We’re now hoping her body is able to take care of it on its own, but if it gets infected she will have to have surgery to remove it.

Crokinole

Astrid has turned into a very compassionate toddler. When I get home from work she always asks “how’s your day, Daddy?” and “what did you eat at New Hippopotamus?”. When Emily was sick, she started every morning by asking her “you feeling better?”. It might be more of a routine than genuine concern, but it’s still nice.

Puzzle with Grammy

When Astrid was really sick in January we abandoned all our independent sleep practices and often slept in her room. After she was better we were still spending up to an hour in her room waiting for her to fall asleep. If we tried sneaking out early, she would just come find us a few minutes later. Now that she’s no longer sleeping in crib we had to find a new approach to sleep training.

Based on some ideas in this blog post, we decided to try confining her to her room by holding the door closed. A few minutes after we left the room, she tried to open the door. We held the door closed and asked her to go back to sleep. She tried every trick to delay bedtime. She asked for a snack, asked for another story, said she had to pee, asked for help with her blanket, and even took off her socks and asked us to put them back on. When that didn’t work she cried and got upset. Through the door, we encouraged her to sleep and sang to her. When she really got upset, we went in once to calm her down but otherwise stuck to the strategy.

It took 60 minutes the first night and 45 minutes the second, but after 4 nights she went to sleep on her own without trying to escape. Since then she’s resisted on a few occasions (especially after daylight savings time kicked in) and figured out some new tricks like pushing books under the door and turning the light on, but it’s been much better. Fingers crossed, but she hasn’t figured out she can watch youtube on the iPad we use as a white noise machine.

Mornings have also been better since we got the Gro-Clock. She always waits for the sun now (programmed for 7 am) before coming into our bedroom to wake us up.

After her sleeping improved we let her have a sleepover at Grandma’s house. She did pretty well, although she woke up at 6 am and crawled into Grandma’s bed.

Painting

Astrid loves painting and doing art. We’ve let her curate her own gallery.

Art Gallery

New skills for Astrid include putting together puzzles, identifying around 10 letters, and counting to 13.

Fairy Whale

More pictures of February and March.

Vancouver’s Broadway SkyTrain vs Calgary’s Green Line

With both Vancouver and Calgary recently announcing exciting expansions to their transit networks, I thought it would be interesting to compare Vancouver’s Skytrain extension along Broadway to the new Green Line LRT project in Calgary.

Vancouver’s Broadway Line (Phase 1)

  • 6 new stations
  • 5.7 kilometers
  • Costing $2.83 billion (funding secured)
  • Opening 2025
  • Projected 167,000 daily riders
  • Frequency: Every 3 minutes (peak)
  • More details

Calgary Green Line (Phase 1)

  • 14 new stations
  • 20 kilometers
  • Costing $4.65 billion (funding secured)
  • Opening 2026
  • Projected 60,000 daily riders
  • Frequency: every 10 minutes (peak)
  • More details

Both projects have 2nd phases planned. Although neither has funding secured, the extension out to UBC in Vancouver is much farther along in terms of planning and is looking to find funding partners.

Broadway Subway (Phase 2)

  • 4 new stations
  • 7 kilometers
  • Costing $3.8 billion (no funding secured)
  • Opening 2030
  • Projected 119,000 additional daily riders

Calgary Green Line (Phase 2)

  • 14 new stations
  • 26 kilometers
  • Costing ???
  • Opening???

Astrid – Being Sick Sucks

Sick and Sleepy

Is it summer yet? I’m not sure how much more of cold and flu season I can handle.

Ready to Roll

The new year started off well enough. We spent the first Saturday snowshoeing up on Mount Seymour. Astrid had fun playing in the snow, making snowbabies, and sliding on her bum. We had to run back when Astrid announced she had to pee (the new reality of being diaper free) and I couldn’t convince her to just pee in the snow. I was impressed she was able to hold it in with me bouncing her up and down the whole way.

Then she knocked a tooth out that night and it has been all downhill from there. She was drinking water from a bottle with a hard straw when she tripped. There was lots of blood and a few tears, and then she spit out a tooth. I was distraught but Astrid was back up running around like nothing had happened within no time. I kept worrying about the implications of losing a tooth that early (compounding all my personal anxieties about teeth). Yes, it’s just a baby tooth, but one that isn’t supposed to fall out for another 5 years!

1st Lost Tooth

We saw a pediatric dentist a few days later and he assured us that it would be ok – no speech impediments or tooth spacing issues, but there was a piece of the root left that needs to be extracted – Astrid’s first dental surgery.

Dentist Visit

The dental extraction hasn’t happened yet because Astrid has been dealing with colds and asthma. We ended up in the hospital with one of the worst asthma attacks Astrid has had in a while. It hit really fast before she had any cold symptoms and we couldn’t keep it under control at home.

Normally they give Astrid a big dose of dexamethasone at the hospital to reduce inflammation, but this time they gave us a half dose of dex and a 3 day prescription for prednisone to give her more time to recover. But the prednisone came in bitter pills that we couldn’t get Astrid to take no matter how we disguised them (crushing it in yogurt, frosted sugar, chocolate pudding, ice cream). After some desperate conversations with pharmacists at 3 different pharmacies, we managed to get ahold of an emergency doctor at BCCH who switched our prescription to prednisolone – same drug but in less bitter liquid form. It was still a bit gross on its own, but she guzzled it down when we masked it with a strong ginger beer, which she luckily loves drinking.

The next few days were not fun and we almost went back to the hospital on a few occasions but after sleepless nights for everyone and lots of drugs we got through that virus, although I ended up getting sick at the end of it and still haven’t fully recovered.

Asthma Meds

Astrid was mostly healthy for a few days before she picked up a new bug that lead to nasty cough and 4 days of periodic fevers, which were usually mild but one day she was feverish for over 12 hours and her temperature hit 39.9 C before we gave her ibuprofen. Luckily this latest virus hasn’t caused any serious asthma problems, which might mean her newest medication, Advair, is working better than the Flovent she was on before, although it’s probably too soon to tell.

Emily has managed to escape all of this mostly unscathed. Astrid is almost back to full health and we’ve rescheduled the dentist for 10 days from now if she can stay healthy.

Doctor Daddy
Cellphone Oximetry Test Results

I’ve gotten really good at pretending to be Doctor Daddy. I can now calculate Astrid’s asthma PRAM score on my own using the stethoscope we have and the oximetry sensor on my Samsung phone that measures oxygen saturation. If I can’t keep the PRAM score below 4 then it’s time to go to the hospital.

All of our health concerns have us contemplating more drastic lifestyle changes – like pulling Astrid out of daycare, getting a nanny, spending our winters in Mexico, or going full hermit in rural Manitoba with my parents. If I was more confident that any of them would prevent Astrid’s asthma attacks, I would do it now.

New Bed

On the positive side, Astrid is now sleeping in a bed and is almost fully potty-trained. She still wears a pull-up at night, but wakes up dry most mornings. Moving out of the crib and into a bed was a bit of a transition. The first week worked miraculously well, but then she got sick and was waking up more at night and discovered she could just walk into our room whenever she woke up. But we bought a Gro Clock and she’s doing better about staying in bed until the “sun comes out”.

Bedtimes are still a bit of a struggle. When she got sick, one of us would often sleep next to her bed for comfort and now she wants that every night. Emily tried to go back to the ‘put down and walk out’ system when Astrid was healthy again, but that just lead to an epic sleep battle one night. Emily would put Astrid down to sleep and leave the room, and Astrid would lie down for 10 seconds before getting up to find her. They did this for 90 minutes! I eventually had to intervene and find a compromise where I sat in her room (but out of sight) until she fell asleep. That’s been our new normal for the past 2 weeks. We’ll have to slowly transition back to where we were before.

Cooking

Astrid’s imagination has really blossomed in the past month. She likes to play make believe and pretend she’s cooking or shopping. She makes up new words to songs. She changes the diapers of her dolls and pretends to flush their poopies down the toilet. Yesterday she invented a bear family that had joined us for dinner and was shooing them away so they wouldn’t eat her pizza. It’s awesome.

Rainbow Brite

More pictures.

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