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.

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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

Code:

Astrid: Month Four

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Too Big for the Bassinet Astrid’s fourth month was all about sleep, and what happens when she doesn’t get enough. It’s been a slow transition, but we’ve gone from being easy going parents who let their child sleep whenever she wants (with lots of rocking, bouncing, and stroller walks) to obsessing about naps and bedtimes. Sleep training hasn’t been easy, but I think it’s been worth it.

Astrid started the month with poor sleeping habits and it only got worse for the first few weeks. After reading too many sleep books and blogs, we realized she had built up a sleep debt and we needed to be more vigilant about ensuring she got enough sleep.
Too Many Baby Sleep Books

Before we could make any changes, everyone got sick. First Emily and Astrid got colds. A congested baby doesn’t not sleep well. Then a week later, I got a nasty flu that sidelined me for a week (luckily I managed to keep it to myself).

The sleep problems have been compounded by Astrid’s early teething. I think we’re still a few months away from her first teeth, but she loves gnawing on things and sucking on frozen washcloths and soothers now.

Teething with a Frozen Washcloth

On October 7, after a few weeks of frequent night wakeups and a grumpy baby during the day, we let Astrid sleep in the swing overnight (following some of the recommendations from Precious Little Sleep). It seemed unnatural to have her in a moving swing all night, but we were ready to try anything to get a good night’s sleep. Even though she was buckled in, we didn’t entirely trust the swing and worried she would somehow fall out of it, so one of us spent the night with her just in case (at least for the first few nights).

The first night she slept in the swing felt like a miracle. She slept for 6 hours and then another 4. The next few nights weren’t quite as miraculous but over the course of the month we’ve slowly increased the amount of sleep she gets every night and how long she goes between feedings (at least at night). She’s even sleeping in to anywhere from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Some other things that have helped:

  • Moved bedtime earlier – from 9:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
  • We’ve been conscious about putting her down drowsy but not completely asleep, so she can learn how to fall asleep on her own. This is definitely still a work in progress.
  • Use the soother to calm her but try to remove it before she falls asleep.
  • We’re slowly transitioning off the swing. We don’t run it all night anymore. After she falls into a deep sleep we turn it off but leave her in the swing. Next step is to get her sleeping in the crib.
  • We’ve managed to cut out the midnight feeding (huge triumph in the past week). Sometimes she still wakes up but we can usually sooth her back to sleep. So now she’s sleeping from 7:30 pm until her 2:00 am feeding. And then sleeping until a 6:00 am feeding.

Although the past week has been a good sleep week (which is giving an overly cheery tone to this blog post), we’ve also learned that we can’t expect consistency. I don’t think we’ve had two consecutive days with the same sleep schedule. When we put her down to sleep, we never know how long she’ll sleep for. She definitely keeps us on our toes.

Cat in the Crib

During the day, we’ve been more strict about naps. We used to play with her until she started getting really vocal and upset. Then she would refuse to nap, screaming at any attempt to help her fall asleep, even though she was visibly tired. After reading more about napping, we realized we were overstimulating her.

Now, we watch how much awake time she has between naps and try to get her to sleep if she’s been awake for 1.5-2 hours. At the first sign of tiredness (a yawn or a face rub), it’s nap time. Sometimes she naps in the crib, sometimes in the swing.

So that’s been our foray into sleep training. Obviously still a lot of work to do, especially transitioning her out of the swing and into her crib, but we’re in a way better position than we were a few weeks ago.

Happy Thanksgiving

Other than our obsession about sleeping, we’ve still had a lot of fun times with Astrid. Baba and Dido visited from Manitoba for a long weekend.

Baba and Dido Tim

And we’ve had a few visits from the grandmas.

Ladies

For the most part, Astrid is very healthy and continues growing along the 75th percentile and is hitting her development goals. She reaches out for things and is grabbing toys.  She enjoys tummy time a lot more and has come close to rolling over on her own, but she hasn’t quite figured it out yet. She really likes the new songs that Emily has learned, like Peek-A-Boo and Roly-Poly.

Workout

The biggest worry is she hasn’t pooped in 8 days. We’re not panicking yet because she only drinks breast milk (which doesn’t generate a lot of waste) and she still seems happy and is not experiencing any pain. We’ve been letting her play without a diaper, daring her to poop, but so far no messes to clean up. If this lasts any longer we’ll be calling the public health nurses for advice.

Kale Bouquet

Maybe she needs more greens in her diet

Bumbo

Sitting in the Bumbo

Stuffed Animal Line

Conga Line

Ordering Sushi

Ordering sushi

Stroller

Monkey Business

Astridnaut

Astridnaut in training

Toy Time

Toy time

Public Education in BC

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I’ve started paying more attention to the province’s education system since our daughter was born. And it does not look good. Public education in British Columbia is a mess. The BC Liberal government has been systematically dismantling the system since it was first elected in 2001.

Looking at the data from Statistics Canada is depressing. From 2001 to 2011, BC and Newfoundland were the only provinces to see cuts to the total number of teachers – but Newfoundland’s population was decreasing during that decade whereas BC added an extra 500,000 people. BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada, and it is getting worse.

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BC spends less per student than any province except PEI.

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Between 2001 and 2006, BC lost 5.9% of its teachers.

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From 2006 and 2011, the number of teachers in BC fell by another 3.2%.

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BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada.

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It’s the only province where the student-teacher ratio is getting worse.

 

The BC Liberals and Premier Christy Clark are downright hostile toward the public education system. They’ve torn up teachers contracts (then got in trouble in the Supreme Court), starved local school boards for money and forced school closures, and recently fired the elected school trustees in Vancouver. Not surprisingly, the Premier sends her own son to a private school (which receives generous tax support from the government), so she doesn’t even feel the pain she causes parents and their children.

We’re still 5 years away from sending our daughter to school, so there is time for the next government to fix things. I’ll do what I can to ensure the BC Liberals lose the next election. BC desperately needs a change.

Update to add a better chart from Nic Waller: