Faster Internet – Is Your Router Holding You Back?

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Emily has been complaining about our slow internet for a while now. We’re not big bandwidth users but we’ve noticed laggy video calling. I’ve always shrugged it off as a problem on the other end. We were on the cheapest Novus internet plan, but 35 Mbps should be plenty fast enough for Skype or Google Hangouts.

So, we upgraded to Internet 75 but that didn’t make much of a difference. And then I did a speed test on our router, comparing the wireless speeds we were getting to speeds when connected with an ethernet cable. And our router sucks. Apparently wireless technology has advanced a lot in the past 20 years.

So we bought a new D-Link AC1900 router, and our wireless internet speeds are now 15x faster. Now when Baba and Gigi Skype they might be able to see Astrid and not just a pixilated avatar.

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Camping – 2 Nights at Alice Lake

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Tent
Last year we celebrated Astrid’s 1st birthday with 1 night of camping at Golden Ears Provincial Park. This year, we celebrated her 2nd birthday with 2 nights at Alice Lake Provincial Park. I think we can keep this tradition going until she’s at least 14.

Eating Marshmallows

We were very close to cancelling the trip. When Astrid got hand, foot, and mouth disease and the forecast was nothing but rain, we didn’t think it was worth going at all. But Astrid got better and the forecast improved so we decided to go for a change of scenery if nothing else. We were prepared for a disaster, but Astrid loved it and slept well. It was a great experience.

Alice Lake Playground

In many ways Alice Lake is a perfect family-friendly camping destination:

  • It’s close to Vancouver, only an hour drive.
  • The campsites are quiet, with lots of trees, a picnic table, a fire pit, and plenty of room for a tent.
  • There are lots of other families with kids zooming around on bikes and scooters.
  • There are some easy hikes from the campsite around Stump Lake and up to Edith Lake.
  • You can rent a canoe, kayak, SUP, or paddleboat if you want to explore the lake.
  • There is a great playground for little kids and an introductory mountain bike course for older kids. There are also mountain bike trails for adults.
  • Lots of space at the day-use beach areas and new picnic tables. Just watch out for the geese — they will steal your lunch!

The only downside is that it is very popular. It is practically 100% reserved all summer, so you need to get reservations as soon as they become available (3 months before the date).

Canoeing on Alice Lake Little Chopper

It was awesome seeing Astrid’s excitement discovering our campsite. She enjoyed playing in the tent and helping with the chores (like preparing food, washing dishes, and chopping wood). She kept her distance from the campfire (it was too hot for her) but she loved the marshmallows (although it did take some convincing to try the first bite). She showed us again that she’s not a water baby. Our canoe ride only lasted 30 minutes and she spent about 5 seconds in the lake. Probably for the best considering all of the geese poop.

Sleeping in the Tent

Astrid slept well at night (it was really cold the first night and we all had toques on). She wouldn’t nap in the tent (it was too much fun) but she fell asleep in the backpack as soon as we went for a hike.

Modo Boost
Our battery died on us (twice) and we had to get a boost from our neighbours, who also happened to be driving a Modo vehicle.

Monkey on my back

Full album of pictures.

Astrid – 2 Years Old

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Climbing Up
It’s been an up-and-down month.

We had to cancel Astrid’s 2nd birthday party when she picked up hand, foot, and mouth disease. The symptoms haven’t been that bad, but she’s contagious right now and we didn’t want to infect all the party guests. She had a fever one night, then two days of low energy and not much appetite, and then the sores started appearing (mostly on her bum and feet). I haven’t seen any sores in her mouth, but there must be some small ones because she complains about acidic foods and cries sometimes while eating. Luckily, she’s still eating and drinking and her energy levels have bounced back in the past two days. The hardest part is now finding ways for her to burn energy while avoiding other kids.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth

On her birthday, we had a special breakfast with muffins and candles, I took her out of quarantine to check out the train engine at the Roundhouse (I hope I didn’t infect any other kids), and we had a yummy lunch at Meet in Yaletown with some of Astrid’s favourite foods – french fries, guacamole, and mac & cheese.

CPR 374

Our little girl is definitely growing up. She’s moving out of the infant room and into the toddler room at daycare (although the hand, foot, and mouth interrupted the transition). And she’s started potty training at home. We’ve had a potty since she was little, and had some early success placing her on the potty first thing in the morning. But ever since she started walking she’s refused to sit on the potty. That changed this month.

Potty with a View

Now she often refuses to wear a diaper at home (we bought her some big kid underwear) and she’s started talking more about the potty and going pee pee. I can often get her to pee in the potty first thing in the morning if I get her out of the crib before she’s been awake for too long. We’ve had a few glorious triumphs where she’s realized she’s needed to pee and made it to the potty on time, once or twice all by herself. Misses are still more common and we’ve had to clean up a lot of puddles (thankfully we don’t have much carpet), but things are moving in the right direction.

We bought a little balance bike for her. She hasn’t mastered it yet, but we’ve had a few fun days riding around on it. If we can get her to ride for more than 5 minutes, it’s a triumph. Often she rides for a few minutes and then I end up carrying the bike while she runs about.

New Balcony Play Area Framed

We cleaned off our patio and made a little outdoor area for Astrid. She loves playing out there, tearing up the flooring, and watching the dogs and bikes go by.

Happy Father's Day
A yummy breakfast on Father’s Day.

Umaluma Vegan Ice Cream
The upside of Astrid being sick – she gets to eat lots of vegan ice cream and homemade popsicles.

Emily Tries to Sleep In
Sometimes Astrid lets mommy sleep in on the weekends, but not always.

Astrid's fam
After a year away, we’re happy the Holdings are back in Astrid’s life.

More pictures from June (and a few cute videos).

Nada – Early Sneak Peek Review

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Nada Grocery Soft Launch
Vancouver’s zero waste grocery store, Nada, officially opens on Wednesday June 20. As an early supporter and crowd-funder, I got to do some shopping and help test out their systems at a soft launch yesterday.

The store is roomy with a clean, modern aesthetic. It speaks a lot to the philosophy of the company that they were conscious during construction to minimize their footprint, which you can read all about in their blog series Building A Low-Impact Grocery Store.

I’m really impressed and can’t wait to do more shopping at Nada.

How does it work?

Nada is a packaging-free grocery store. You bring your own containers and pay for everything by weight. When you enter the store, you go to a self-serve weigh station to tag your jars and containers. It’s really simple. They have these fancy NFC stickers (dishwasher safe) that you stick to the bottom of your containers and it remembers the empty weight of the container. You then wander around the store, filling your containers with food, and pay at the front. When you pay, they scan the NFC stickers, weigh your stuff, and automatically subtract the weight of the empty container so you only pay for what you bought. The bins all have numbers on them, but you don’t have to write them down. They figure that out on checkout. Read more here.

Nada

Seconds after paying for your order, you’ll get an email with the receipt. A lot of stores do this now, which I appreciate. But I was really amused to read the product descriptions that Nada has included in theirs, like: “Hummus is where the heart is, but these versatile beans are good for a falafel lot more” and “Don’t like legumes? You’ve now bean blacklisted.”

Nada Receipt

I recommend bringing a bunch of wide mouthed jars (Adams peanut butter and Vega protein powder are my favourites) plus some bags (cloth or plastic) to do your shopping with. The jars can be tagged with NFC stickers the first time you buy something and then reused on future shopping trips. With the bags you can weigh them if you want, but the weight is often so negligible it doesn’t make a difference.

Seeds

What do they carry?

They didn’t have everything setup on Saturday, but they already had a good selection of nuts, beans, grains, dried fruit, baking supplies, loose-leaf teas, and granola available. Brianne showed me a stack of labels 6 inches thick of products that still need to be put out, so expect a lot more. They also had liquid containers with oils and vinegars, plus liquid soaps. The fridges will have produce and the freezers will have frozen fruit, perogies, and other frozen products they can source without packaging.

Loose Leaf Teas

It’s worth noting that although there are a lot of gluten-free products in the store, nothing is labelled as such because they can’t guarantee a customer hasn’t contaminated it, even though every bin has its own scoop.

This sounds like the Soap Dispensary

Nada is a lot like the Soap Dispensary, one of my favourite shops on Main Street. While the Soap Dispensary focuses on cleaning and beauty products, but also has food in their recently expanded store, Nada will focus on food with some cleaning products. The other big difference is the Soap Dispensary does all the filling for you where Nada is self-serve. Hopefully this will eliminate the long waits that seem to plague the Soap Dispensary every time I visit. There also seems to be a some slight difference in philosophy between the two stores. Both stores do a great job reducing waste by helping consumers refill containers, but it seems like Nada is taking a harder line against plastic with nothing plastic for sale in the store.

Hours and Location

Nada is located on Broadway at Fraser Street, right next to a B-line stop. There aren’t any bike racks in front of the store, but there are two big racks just around the corner on Fraser Street.

Starting on Wednesday June 20, they’ll be open 7-days a week from 10am – 7pm.

Happy zero-waste shopping everyone.

Astrid – 1st Haircut

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1st Haircut

We’ve been avoiding cutting Astrid’s hair for a while now. Partly because she has such beautiful curly hair and it seemed a shame to cut it; and partly because we couldn’t fathom her still long enough for someone to maneuver scissors next to her head. Well, we finally did it and it really wasn’t that big of a deal. The hairdresser at Hairloft (in the Granville Island Kids Market) was a pro at moving with Astrid’s darting head and their were plenty of distractions in the room to keep her mostly looking forward. Her hair still looks lovely and curly, and now it is much easier to comb and doesn’t tangle as much.

Cystic Fibrosis Sweat Test

So we ended up back in the hospital in May, but luckily not in the emergency ward. We went to BC Children’s for a Cystic Fibrosis sweat test. Astrid had a genetic screen for Cystic Fibrosis when she was born but with all of the breathing problems we’ve had since last winter, our doctor wanted to rule it out with a more accurate sweat test. Astrid was a champ as she calmly sat (staring at the tv) while they ran electric currents through her arm to activate the sweat glands and then covered her arm in multiple layers of plastic wrap and even a diaper. Then I had to convince her to wear all of her warm clothing and run around in the sun to get her as sweaty as possible. I didn’t do a great job but they got just enough sweat to run the test. The end result is she concussively doesn’t have Cystic Fibrosis. So that’s good news.

Sick Kids

She did pick up a bug at daycare that gave her 5 days of diarrhea. It probably rotovirus or norovirus. 7 kids in her daycare either had vomiting or diarrhea at the end of May. It even got me and I spent an awful night emptying by guts.

Pair Programming

Once she was better, she had to stay home for 24 hours to make sure she wasn’t contagious, so we got to hang out and do some pair programming together.

Temper Tantrum
Astrid has really started to push her boundaries as she approaches the so-called “terrible twos”. We’ve had a few more tantrums and it can now take 30 minutes to leave the house in the morning as she refuses to wear a diaper, pants, socks, or shoes. We’ve been trying to give her choices (“which pants do you want to wear?”), which helps but she also likes to scream “no pants!” and run away.

Over the past few weeks, she’s started to learn what the boundaries are and we’ve been conscious about being consistent in enforcing them. She also keeps us in check by ensuring we’re applying the rules consistently to ourselves. Which means that if Astrid needs to wear a hat, then so do we. If she has to wear socks and shoes to daycare, we’re not allowed to leave the house in sandals. Seems fair.

Painting with the Neighbours

During the summer months, I really appreciate how lucky we are to live where we do. We have a beautiful rooftop garden and tons of neighbours with kids. It’s awesome letting the kids run around and play together, while the adults hang out together.

More photos from May

Astrid – Chatterbox

Cutie
Astrid is talking up a storm. Her vocabulary has expanded a lot, she’s better at repeating words back, and she has a few short phrases like “Dada’s here”, “I did it”, and “I love you Mama” that she uses all the time. She’s memorized some of the words in the books we read each night and will shout them out before we have a chance to say them. She can also count up and down from 1 to 10. Sometimes she skips a few numbers above five but it’s pretty good.

Gardening with Kids

She’s an adventurous little monkey outside – climbing on everything and swinging from bars. In the house, she can now open all the doors in the house (except the front door which is too heavy) so nothing is off limits. Turn your back for more than 5 seconds and she’s found new mischief somewhere. She’s also close to being able to climb out of her crib. I’ve seen her get a leg up on the railing a few times.

Mother's Day Dress

I’m happy to report that we’ve been hospital free for 60 days! A new record. Of course that doesn’t mean she’s been perfectly healthy. Astrid had two colds in the past 6 weeks, both of which required Ventolin to keep the wheezing /asthma under control. But we’ve been able to handle it on our own without a trip to the Emergency Room, so it’s a small victory.

More Snacks

Emily spent four days in Kelowna, so it was just Astrid and Daddy for a while (with some key help from Grandma). We did pretty good on our own, but were very happy when Mommy returned. We only had one minor incident where Astrid smashed her face against a picnic table and had copious amounts of blood pour from her mouth. It was like a scene from a zombie movie. Once I washed her up and removed the chunks of food (hoping that each one wasn’t a tooth), it turned out there were just two small cuts on her lip. Astrid was up and running around and even eating 10 minutes later (tough kid).

Smashed Lip

Emily used the break to wean Astrid off of breastfeeding. She was barely feeding before, but now that she’s fully off we’re going to pick up some Vitamin D and B12 supplements for Astrid. She gets a lot of her required vitamin and minerals from the smoothie I make her every day (I like to add hemp seeds, Vega One, kale, omega oils, and sometimes molasses) but otherwise she doesn’t have a lot of D and B12 sources in her diet. Hence the supplements.

Dosa
We started a new tradition of going out for Indian food on Saturday night. Astrid loves it. She can eat half a dosa on her own.

Seawall Model

April Photos
May Photos

Commuting with Mobi Bike Share

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Mobi Bikes

In November I won a free annual membership to Vancouver’s bike share program, Mobi by Shaw Go. At the time I was working in Richmond and commuting 15 km each way on my Norco road bike. I didn’t need a bike share membership but thought it might come in handy occasionally.

Five months later and now I’m using Mobi every day for my commute, logging 175 trips and 400 km. What changed? In December I started a new job downtown and discovered that bike share is surprisingly the fastest way for me to get to and from work. It’s about 2 minutes faster than taking public transit and 5 minutes faster than using my own bike, because of the time it takes to store my bike in the secure bike parking rooms on each end.

The Mobi bikes are definitely heavier and slower than my road bike, but I only have a 2.5 km commute so averaging 15 km/h on a Mobi bike is only a minute or two slower than averaging 20 km/h on my road bike. And that’s only because I have a long stretch without traffic lights.

What I like about commuting with Mobi:

  • I don’t have to worry about bike lights, flat tires, or worn out brake pads.
  • The bikes all have chain guards so my pants don’t get greasy.
  • I don’t have to worry if my bike will get stolen.
  • The station density is pretty good. I have 3 stations near home and 2 close to work.

What I don’t like:

  • Now that weather is getting better, it’s sometimes hard to find a bike, especially after work.
  • I miss my panniers and the storage capacity they provided. The basket on the Mobi bikes provides some space, but nothing compared to 2 panniers.
  • The shared helmets are a little gross, although they’ve worked out better than I expected. We’ll see how sweaty they get in the summer.
  • The closest station to my work is at Granville and Georgia, but the bikes are covered in pigeon poop.

I’m guessing my summer commuting experience will be very different from the past 5 months. In the winter, I rarely had a problem finding a bike or a space to dock it when I was done. But in the past week, I’ve had 3 days where the station I normally use was out of bikes. The statistics below from MountainMath show that usage has really increased in the past week. I’m sure that’s due to the nice weather and Mobi’s recent expansion into East Vancouver.

mobi_usage

Overall, I’ve been happy enough with Mobi that I’ll probably renew my membership. It doesn’t completely replace owning a bike for me – I still need my own to pull my daughter’s bike trailer. But for short commutes, I’ve been surprised to find it’s actually the most convenient way to get around.

Astrid – Easter Egg Hunts and Tantrums

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Wild Hair
This blog post is a few weeks late. After Easter we all got sick (I had the flu plus a root canal, Emily and Astrid had colds), and we’ve been nervously anticipating another hospital visit for Astrid’s asthma. But now that Astrid seems to be getting better, it’s time to recap our adventures in March.

Hospital Visit #6
We were back in the hospital for Astrid’s 6th and 7th visits for Asthma on March 9th and 16th.Ugh. We seem to spend a lot of Friday nights hanging out with our doctor and nurse friends. Hopefully cold and flu season is now over and we can make it through the summer without more emergency room visits.

Hinge Park

Even when Astrid’s been sick, her playful personality hasn’t diminished. One night she woke up coughing at 1 am and couldn’t fall back asleep. I stayed up with her and we played with lego in our moonlit apartment, read stories, and had a snack. At one point she ran into the bathroom but it was too dark to see anything. She begged me me to turn on the lights, which I briefly did blinding both of us. She ran away and came back with sunglasses for both of us. We didn’t stay in the bathroom, but we did run around the house with our sunglasses on for another half an hour before she got tired and went to bed.

Toque and Sunglasses

Astrid has started asserting her will more and beginning the dreaded toddler tantrums. She’s had a few incidents where she’s completely lost it crying and flailing about. One time she wanted to wear her toque and sunglasses and refused to take them off at bedtime. Another time she refused to put on clean socks in the morning and insisted on wearing the dirty ones she found in the hamper. We’ve learned to pick our battles and to give her space when she’s freaking out.

On a cuter note, Astrid has learned how to say “I love you” or rather “I you“. The first night she said it back to me at bedtime she lay in bed saying “I you” repeatedly for 10 minutes, long after I had left the room.

Tunnel

The highlight of our month was our annual Easter trip to Kamloops to visit auntie Kelsey, uncle Matt, cousin Jacob, and baby Nora. It was great to see how much fun the cousins had playing together.

Little Chefs

Astrid and Jacob ran around the house together, learned to share toys, bounced on couches, and helped me make pancakes for breakfast. Jacob woke up every morning asking where Astrid was. And Astrid woke up asking to see the baby. She loved patting Nora on head and poking her in the eyes (amazingly she never made her cry).

Kids Table

The easter egg hunt was a huge success. With plastic eggs full of dried fruit and stickers at ground level for Astrid and Jacob to find, and eggs full of chocolate hidden higher up for the adults. Amazingly we got through the easter weekend without giving Astrid any chocolate. I’m not sure if that makes us good or bad parents.

Easter Egg Hunt

 

It took Nora a few days to warm up to us, but we became best friends by the end of the weekend.

Emily, Nora, and Me

More pictures from March and Easter.

Astrid: February in Photos

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After we spent the Family Day long weekend in the hospital (two visits to emergency), Astrid’s health has improved. She had her first virus that didn’t end up in a trip to emergency (she ran a fever for 36 hours but bounced back after a few days) and she’s been healthy for the last week. It feels like a precarious situation, but we’re trying to enjoy it for now.
Hospital Visit #5

Astrid is busy expanding her vocabulary. The biggest highlight is that she can say her name, or a lispy version of it. And she’s working on the names of other people in her life. She’s getting pretty good at using her words and actions to order us around (dragging us around the house, “bottle”, “book”, pat a chair to indicate we should sit there).

We had a lovely snowshoe to the Bowen Island Lookout on Cypress Mountain yesterday (photos).

Bowen Lookout Snowshoe
Bowen Lookout Snowshoe

Astrid is loving her trains and lego.

Trains
Lego

She’s a big help around the house.

Repair Work
Cleaning

Fresh air is good for the lungs.

Playing in the Park

More photos