Category Archives: Family

Summer 2020 – not all bad news

Kiddy Pool

Yes, it’s a crappy summer, but let’s try to ignore all of the bad news and focus on the positives for a few minutes.

Picnic in the Park

We went camping for 4 nights in the Okanagan and we’ve had lots of opportunities to enjoy small picnics in the park with friends and family in Vancouver.

Bike Rider

Astrid is learning to bike and picking it up remarkably quickly. The balance bike definitely made learning to ride a real peddle bike easier. Based on some great advice from neighbours, we skipped training wheels and just used a scarf around her armpits to give her some extra support. But now she’s zooming along with only a little help starting and stopping. Pretty soon I’ll be going for runs with her biking next to me.

Measuring Woodworking Helper

We’ve greened our balconies with herbs, flowers, and vegetables in pots. We started too late for a big garden this year, but we constructed two large planter boxes for next summer following this design.

Storytime

Astrid loved her time at the Ponderosa, but she’s been very excited to see other kids again. She spends most of her free time at home playing in the courtyard with the neighbours or begging to play in the courtyard with her neighbours. The adults are good at keeping a distance, but the kids have no such restrictions on them. With all the real kids to play with, Astrid’s imaginary friend Mayka now spends most of her time in Mexico.

Drumming

Each night at 7pm, our neighbours gather for drumming in support of healthcare workers. Astrid loves it. And it’s great to see all the kids singing and drumming along, lead by a retired nurse who lives next door. Astrid is a constant fixture at Aline’s side banging her wooden spoon and plastic pail.

Daddy Day

Astrid has been happy to see her daycare friends again, but it took a few weeks to get used to being away from us. I had one drop-off in her second week when she just cried and cried. Instead of trying to force her to stay (she probably would have calmed down eventually), we had a special Daddy-Astrid day. Luckily I wasn’t too busy at work, so we went to a park, rode her peddle bike for the first time, and had a picnic lunch.

New Brighton Pool

Summer finally arrived a week ago. We’ve been beating the heat with lots of lemonade and popsicles. Last weekend we booked a “pod” at one of Vancouver’s outdoor swimming pools – New Brighton. I was hoping for something more futuristic but our pod was just a painted square on the concrete pool deck. Still, it was a very kid-friendly pool and it wasn’t too crowded.

Kiddy Pool

We also bought an inflatable pool for our balcony. It’s tiny but Astrid still loves splashing around in it.

Farmers Market Bounty

We’ve been visiting the nearby Trout Lake Farmers Market on most Saturdays. COVID rules mean you usually have to line up for 30 minutes to get in, but it’s great getting fresh local produce. We’ve been eating as many berries as we can get our hands on – buying flats of blueberries, raspberry, and strawberries. Astrid and I even picked some blackberries we found along the trail when we went for a run last weekend.

Trout Lake

I hope everyone is finding ways to stay cool and safe this summer.

More pictures from June and July.

Social Isolation at the Ponderosa Part 2

Ponderosa Crew

Our COVID-19 isolation bubble got smaller at the end of April when Kelsey, Jacob, and Nora left the Ponderosa (you can read more about the month we spent with them here). It was sad to see them go, but it also gave us the opportunity to settle into a simpler routine.

IMG_20200505_194644

With only one child running around, things were quieter and easier to manage. Astrid usually slept in and I was able to start running in the mornings. My parents have a bunch of beautiful trails around their property and I ran them all. I saw deer and rabbits and almost stepped on a beaver one morning.

IMG_20200506_185006

The weather was all over the place. We had a windstorm that ripped siding off the house. We had one last snowstorm – in May! We had one of the most amazing prairie thunderstorms I’ve ever seen with hours of sheet lighting. But it did get steadily warmer and we got to enjoy a lot more of the outdoors (while trying to avoid the ticks and mosquitoes).

Outdoor Pizza Oven

The highlight of the warming weather was getting to use the outdoor pizza oven. It baked the best focaccia and pizzas. My mouth waters looking back at the pictures.

Baba's Little Helper

Astrid spent most of the day following Baba and Gigi around. She was Baba’s little helper, watering plants in the greenhouse and planting in the garden. And Gigi took her into town almost everyday once the Sandy Lake playground opened up.

MVIMG_20200603_100806

It was great seeing how outdoorsy Astrid became. She learned to identify birds, the call of the loon, and the tracks left by deer and the droppings of the coyote. She loved to go for walks and pick up flowers and rocks.

MVIMG_20200606_112517

Without having to leave our property, we saw deer, coyotes, foxes, snakes, frogs, woodpeckers, and prairie chickens. When the national parks reopened, we visited Riding Mountain National Park and saw a black bear and the large bison herd that lives there.

IMG_20200518_145353

We went horseback riding and Astrid fell asleep in the saddle 10 minutes into our trail ride. I had onto her so she didn’t fall off the horse.

Canoe Ride at the Ponderosa

We had a few beautiful canoe rides on the lake.

MVIMG_20200526_091720

We did a NYT crossword puzzle almost every day (a tradition Dad and I are trying to keep going on Sunday mornings). And in the evenings we always watched an episode of Lucifer and Community on Netflix (if we missed watching Lucifer Gigi got very cranky).

MVIMG_20200530_191737

It was great seeing my mom get steadily better while we were there. She had good days and bad, but I really enjoyed spending time with her and seeing Astrid and her have so much fun together. With her energy levels rebounding, she was out gardening, hiking, and kayaking with us. Her first round of chemo was punishing and we’re not sure what the future holds, but we’re hopeful she continues to fight and we’ll take any miracles we can get.

MVIMG_20200602_075636

COVID-19 has been really hard on a lot of families, dealing with a scary new disease, hospitalizations, deaths, and social isolation. I’m grateful that for our family, it gave us the perfect excuse to spend a long stretch of time together. We were at the Ponderosa for 2.5 months. It was hard to leave and we kept extending our stay, but with daycare opening back up and Mom going through chemo, it was time we moved back to Vancouver.

More pictures from Part 2 of our time at the Ponderosa (May and June).

COVID-19: Apocalypse Road Trip and Self-Isolation

Ponderosa Sunset

Welcome to our new reality. COVID-19 has upended our family just like everyone else. But unlike most, we’ve decided to take refuge 2000 km away from where we normally live.

Working From Home

Emily and I are grateful to have jobs where we can work from home but it’s been hard juggling work with childcare. Astrid’s daycare is still officially open, but is now an emergency facility for parents who really need it. We pulled Astrid out on March 18 and spent a week looking after her at home, and quickly realized it wasn’t sustainable.

No More Play

Normally, we would ask Grandma for help or spend time outside playing with neighbours, but neither were possible with the coronavirus rampaging around. When they started shutting down playgrounds, our options became even more limited and our townhouse felt smaller everyday. Astrid’s closest companion became her stuffed unicorn.

Only Child Breakfast

This also corresponded with very busy periods at work for both of us. At ArtStarts, the executive director resigned after 9 years and Emily was taking on more of those responsibilities while trying to figure out how their organization would deal with school closures and new physical distancing rules.

Working From Home

At Thrive Health, we’ve had the busiest and most intense month in the company’s history. We were given 2 weeks to build the official COVID-19 app for the province of British Columbia (check it out at bc.thrive.health). We cranked out an early self-assessment website that had 1 million hits within the first 24 hours and built a decent app within 2 weeks. A minor miracle for our small team. But there wasn’t any time to rest, because we agreed to create a fully-translated version for everyone in Canada in partnership with Health Canada (check it out at ca.thrive.health).

The pace of development has slowed a bit in the past 2 weeks, but our team is still working 6 days a week and we’re trying to manage burnout among our employees. But it’s been extremely rewarding being part of this and building something with hundreds of thousands of users. The big challenge has been convincing our government partners to let us push more content out.

Amidst all the craziness, my mom got sick and we made the decision to travel halfway across the country to isolate with them in their rural Manitoba property called the Ponderosa.

Apocalypse Road Trip

Apocalypse Road Trip

It was a weird road trip. The highways were nearly deserted, most restaurants were serving take-out only, and the only washrooms we could reliably find were at gas stations. We drove to Kamloops first and met up with my sister and her kids. We were lucky my aunts in Calgary and Saskatoon were happy to host our convoy. Considering all the uncertainty around COVID-19, it wasn’t a small ask. They gave us dinner and beds, and we gave them rolls of toilet paper as payment. 4 days later we arrived at the Ponderosa.

Treats at Auntie Sheila's

Self-Isolating at the Ponderosa

My parents have a huge off-the-grid home in rural Manitoba that feels like it was designed as a shelter from the zombie apocalypse or a global pandemic. It’s the perfect place to be right now. We’re physically isolated from the rest of the world, Manitoba has very few cases of COVID-19, there are enough beds for the whole extended family, we have a huge cellar full of food, solar panels provide our electricity, and rain barrels collect water.

Cellar Supplies

The only downsides are the satellite internet is slow and laggy, and the weather has been unusually cold with sub-zero temperatures most days since we arrived. Luckily I think winter is finally over here and most of the snow has melted.

IMG_20200331_110939

We’re 4 weeks in now and this is the longest I’ve spent with my family since I was 18. We haven’t killed each other yet, even if there have been some heated discussions about lifestyles, conspiracies, which tv shows to watch, and taking games too seriously. The kids have had a blast playing with each other and are basically siblings now. It will be a big change when they are split up again.

COVID-19 Social Isolation

It’s been easier working here than it was in Vancouver. I usually start my day at 9 am, get 3 hours of work in before most of my co-workers start their day, and then have meetings all afternoon. Kelsey has been great about looking after the kids during the day and doing a lot of the cooking. Emily has gone down to half-time at her work so she can help out more with the housework. My mom got out of the hospital 2 weeks ago and has been getting stronger every day. It’s been great having her around again. I try to help out when I can, but I’ve been working a lot. I’ve made a few pizza dinners and an Indian feast one night. I miss being able to go to restaurants, but Emily’s sushi dinner was a big hit.

Roasting Hot Dogs

The kids have been having a blast and what little they will remember of COVID-19 when they are older will probably be positive. They have a ton of room to run around inside and their own playroom full of toys and costumes. Gigi (my dad) likes to wrestle with them and watch cartoons. And now that the weather is warmer they have had even more space to explore.

Walking on Thin Ice Hay Bales Playing on the Stairs Horsey Rides Climbing a Tree Corona Cut Doing Dishes Feeding Horses Sandbox

More photos of our COVID-19 adventures at the Ponderosa.

Christmas 2019

Christmas Cookies

Christmas was a bit hectic this year. We moved a week before Christmas and barely had time to get up decorations before the 25th. But we did find time to do some festive stuff.

Festival of Lights

We went to the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Gardens, luckily on one of the few dry December evenings. Astrid had a blast riding the carousel multiple times.

Santa

We went to Christmas parties at my work, Astrid’s daycare, and Christina’s house.

Christmas Eve dinner

We had have a lovely Christmas Eve/Hanukkah/Winter Solstice dinner at grandma’s place.

Matching Pajamas

We started a new tradition with matching Christmas pajamas.

Opening Presents Over Skype

We opened Christmas presents with Baba and Gigi on skype and Astrid had a blast playing with her new toys and games. We try to minimize the focus on presents, but she still enjoyed the ones she got from her family – like her fort builder, binoculars, and new books.

Bathrobe and Fort

More pictures

Christmas Ornament 2020

A New Home

After almost 9 years renting in Olympic Village, we’ve moved into a new home. Yes, we are now property owners in Vancouver’s ridiculously overpriced real estate market.

Keys to our new home

We spent most of the summer looking for a large house to co-buy with good friends of ours. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out but it got us mentally prepared to buy (after all the time we spent going to open houses, creating financial spreadsheets, and exploring East Vancouver neighbourhoods). We found a 3-bedroom townhouse near Trout Lake that we could afford on our own and put in the offer in October.

Signing the New House Paperwork

Buying a house was scary. It’s the largest purchase we’ve made by 2 orders of magnitude. We spent a bit more than we wanted (it was a competitive bid situation) and had to compromise on a few things (there is no garden or personal green space) but it checks almost all of the key requirements we had, like:

  • There is a good, seismically upgraded elementary school a block away.
  • It’s a tight-knit community with a bunch of kids Astrid’s age.
  • The neighbourhood is highly walkable with vegetarian restaurants and grocery stores nearby but without a lot of car traffic.
  • It’s biking distance to downtown Vancouver. Our commutes will be longer than before, but less than 30 minutes.
  • There are 3 bedrooms, so we have a guest room and a bit more space.
  • It has a dishwasher. We lived too long without one.
  • We can see ourselves living here for the next 20 years, with 3 floors of living space to give privacy to a future teenager.

We took possession on December 8 and immediately got to work replacing the carpet on the 2nd and 3rd floors. My dad flew in from Manitoba to help and it took us a week to install new engineered hardwood flooring. It was exhausting work but I’m really happy with how it turned out and it was fun to work with my dad.

Little Helper
First Pieces
Installing Hardwood Floors
Job Well Done

We moved in just before Christmas and are still working on unpacking boxes, but slowly we’re organizing our new home. On Boxing Day we picked up two sharp-looking lighting fixtures for the entryway and living room, and we made the trip to Ikea to get some accessories for organizing.

Installing Lighting
New lights

Astrid and Boo have been handling the transition as well as can be expected. Astrid still misses her old home and neighbours but is excited to meet all the kids in our new building. She loves her new room with it’s big window seat, but wishes her bedroom was closer to ours and has asked if we can put our bed in her room. We’re all dealing with sore muscles as we adjust to 3 flights of stairs and Astrid had a muscle strain in her hip after the first week.

Window Seat

Boo spent the first week exploring all the nooks and crannies and getting into mischief with moving boxes. Now he is aching to get outside and we’ve ordered a tagged collar so he can explore the neighbourhood a bit. I’ve seen two other cats roaming our the courtyard so he’s going to have friends/competition for turf.

Longing for the outside world

The process of buying a house was a bit daunting in the beginning, but we had a good realtor and mortgage broker that helped to break it down into manageable steps. If you’re looking for recommendations, I can highly recommend Naomi Morrison (our realtor) and Leo Addington (our mortgage broker).

Story Time with Naomi
Naomi reading to Astrid at a house showing

We still have a lot of little things to do like putting up shelves and pictures. I’m hoping to have everything on our long to-do list done by the end of January when our first house guests arrive from Kamloops.

More photos

Astrid – Fall 2019

Astrid at the Playground

Astrid has been a bundle of 3-year old energy and emotions. She can be imaginative and creative, grumpy and volatile, and silly and energetic. She’s quite the character.

One of the biggest achievements is she can now recognize most letters and even type her name on the computer (video evidence).

Astrid loves doing puzzles and playing board games (not as much as she loves watching Peppa Pig but we try to keep her away from the tv as much as possible). The best games we’ve found so far are Robot Run, Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Cranium Seek and Find puzzles, and Pete the Cat: The Missing Cupcakes, but we also like pulling out some of our older games (like Blokus) and just playing with the pieces.

Blokus

For Halloween Astrid dressed up as a dragon this year. I was happy she didn’t want to be a princess. We went trick-or-treating in our building and in the co-op next door and Astrid had a blast. This is the first year she was really into Halloween and collecting candy (most of which we sneakily took away after).

Halloween at Daycare
Tick or Treat

Astrid is now old enough to do swimming class on her own and we get to sit beside the pool and watch. It’s great. She’s also getting more comfortable in the water.

Swimming Class

On the health front things have been pretty good. Astrid’s asthma is under control and we haven’t had any recent hospitalizations. During our last visit to the respirologist at BC Children’s, they did an allergy test and Astrid didn’t react to any of the main allergens (dust mites, pet dander, pollen). Things are going so well that Astrid has been discharged from the respirology clinic and our pediatrician will be managing her asthma now, and we’ve started talking about a plan to scale back her medicine next summer.

Skin Prick Allergy Test
Skin prick test

The only cause for concern was a spell in early October when Astrid was waking up a few hours after going to sleep in extreme pain in her left hand. It happened for 10 straight nights and then a few more times over the following weeks. It really freaked us out the first few nights and we ended up going to the hospital but by the time we got there she was fine and we waited over an hour before going home without seeing a doctor. We visited a walk-in clinic on the 3rd day and got x-rays after a week, but nothing was physically wrong. The only symptom during the day has been reduced hand strength in her left hand in the morning that goes away after a few hours. It doesn’t seem to be night terrors or growing pains and some doctors we’ve talked to have suggested a few possible causes (like possibly childhood arthritis) but more tests will have to be done (if it comes back again) to confirm.

More photos from:
September
October
November

Peanut Butter Pals
Ready for Daycare

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Fly a Kite

Summer is slowly fading and the first colds of back-to-school season are kicking in. We had a great summer with waterpark trips, biking along the seawall, beach parties, a lot of popsicles, and happily no wildfire smoke or asthma hospital trips (hurray!).

Family Reunion

In July, right after Astrid got her cast off, we spent 4 days in Kamloops and Chilliwack with my sisters and Astrid’s cousins. We were grateful the cast was gone because we spent almost everyday in the water. The kids had a blast swimming at the lake, riding the water slides at Cultus Lake, and eating ice cream at Harrison Lake. Photo album here.

Cousins
Ice Cream

We also hosted two playdates – one with daycare friends and one with the Hirtles. The key to a successful kids playdate appears to be rainbow popsicles, fresh cucumbers from the garden, playdough, and a big empty box.

Rainbow Popsicles
Carrots and Cucumbers

It’s hard to believe, but Astrid is even more proficient on her balance bike and has started to wear out the toes of her shoes as she skids to a stop after flying down hills.

Our little girl is really growing up, she’s now in the 3-5 room at daycare. She transitioned very smoothly and handled the change well. Her gradual entry report card included these gems:

  • Enjoys risky play and exploring her boundaries.
  • She will say she needs to use the bathroom when others are going even she doesn’t actually have to.
  • Sometimes takes big bits and needs reminders to take small bites.
Rooftop Garden
Risky play
Eating Cucumbers from the Garden
Big bites

More photos from August and a few from September.

Seawall Sunset
Umaluma Ice Cream

Astrid – Injury Prone Toddler

Astrid's 3rd 3rd Birthday Party

How can a beautiful weekend that started with a fun birthday party end with another trip to the hospital!? I’m starting to wonder if Astrid is terribly unlucky or we’re just doing something wrong.

The July 6th weekend started with Astrid’s third 3rd birthday party (that’s not a typo, she really had 3 parties spread over 8 days). The Hirtles and Holdings joined us for a morning splashing in Hillcrest Pool, pizza lunch at Rocky Mountain Flatbread, and ice cream at Yum’s Sweet Shop. Then we ended the weekend with a trip to the hospital (well several trips in fact).

Casting Call

Yes, Astrid’s adventures with the medical system continue at a rapid pace. She’s barely 3 years old and has had repeated trips to emergency for asthma, stitches for a head injury, knocked out a tooth, and now a cast for a fracture on her elbow. Hopefully, we’ll be able to laugh about this in a few years, but right now it’s exhausting.

BC Children's Hospital Emergency
Continue reading Astrid – Injury Prone Toddler

Astrid – 3 Years Old

Happy 3rd Birthday, Astrid!

A lot has changed in the past year. Astrid is definitely more opinionated, adventurous, and bossy than she was a year ago. Pretty standard stuff for a ‘threenager’. She’s also sleeping in a bed, diaper-free, communicating with full sentences, and loves to ride her bike. So there are plenty of positives too.

Zoomer

A newfound love for her bike has been the biggest change in the past month. It started during Bike to Work Week when she rode her bike to daycare a few times. Her balance has steadily improved and now she can zoom around lifting her legs to glide. I’m excited that soon I’ll be able to go running with her biking beside me.

Banged Up

Now that asthma is no longer an everyday concern, she’s replaced wheezing trips to the hospital with head injuries. Earlier in the month, she banged the back of her head on the corner of the wall.
Three weeks later she smashed her face on the concrete while playing on the railings in our rooftop garden.

Climber

Both incidents were pretty scary and she was lucky not to do more damage. The head injuries have made me more paranoid, but Astrid still loves to climb and be adventurous. We’re trying to teach her that there are safe places to climb that are less dangerous.

Tiger Team
Daycare Friends
Neighbours
Cousins

Astrid is a social butterfly. She loves spending time with her daycare friends, neighbours, and her cousins. After daycare, she usually spends half an hour playing with her friends in the square. And then when we finally drag her home, all she wants to do is play on the rooftop with our neighbours.

Quarry Rock

For Canada Day, we went hiking along the Quarry Rock trail in Deep Cove. Astrid spent most of the hike in a backpack, but she also walked for a surprisingly long time, including a long uphill section. On the hike back, she had to pee, so we said she had to go in the woods. Before I could offer help, she had pulled down her pants, squatted, and peed without getting any on her pants or shoes. It was the first time she’s peed not on a toilet.

Vegan Ice Cream

Astrid’s birthday party has been split into 3 small gatherings. One with her cousins when we spent the afternoon at the splash pad in Prince Edward Park. We had a small party with her daycare friends in the bird plaza with cupcakes, bubbles, and chalk. And next weekend we’re going to the Second Beach pool with some of our family friends.

20190629_173705
Birthday in Bird Plaza

More photos from June and photos from May.

3rd Birthday

Astrid – One Tough Cookie

We had a scary incident on Sunday morning. Emily woke up to me running into the room with a screaming toddler yelling, “There’s blood!”

Head Injury

Astrid was standing on the couch, playing with her new bike helmet, which unfortunately wasn’t on her head, when she slipped backwards and fell. Her head hit the corner of the wall awkwardly and with enough force to leave a crack in the wall.

The Wall Looks Worse

She only cried for a few minutes and the bleeding wasn’t too bad, but it left a 2 cm gash on her head. If it had been anywhere else on her body, a bandage would have probably been enough but we took her into the hospital for stitches.

BC Children's Hospital Emergency

She was a real trooper. You could tell it was painful when they were washing out the wound and cleaning her up, but she gritted her teeth and never cried.

Hospital Bandaid

Luckily the hospital wasn’t too busy, because we were pretty low on the priority list. They froze the wound first to stop any bleeding. Then they used skin glue to close it up and braided some of her hair across the wound to act as extra stitches (very clever!).

All Stitched/Glued Up

After the hospital, Astrid was back running around and being her energetic self. She even went to a birthday party in the afternoon. But Sunday night she got a fever right before bed and was complaining about a headache. We gave her ibuprofen to help her sleep, but she was bad again at 4 am when it wore off.

We went back to the hospital because our discharge instructions told us to look out for a fever as a sign the wound had become infected. Apparently Monday at 6 am is the ideal time to go to the hospital. We didn’t have to wait for a room, a nurse, or a doctor. Turns out the fever was just an unrelated virus. Astrid was back in bed by 6:45 that morning and healthy again within 24 hours.