Category Archives: Parenting

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

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.

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.

Christmas 2018

Christmas 2018 photoshoot

2018 was Astrid’s 3rd Christmas, but the first one where she really got into the swing of things. She spent most of November saddened that Halloween was over and missing the giant inflatable Frankenstein at the community centre, but once the Christmas decorations went up she was super excited about Frosty the Snowman, singing carols (like Jingle Bells), and Christmas trees.

Hanging up Decorations
We decorated our small Christmas tree
1st Advent Calendar
Astrid was very excited to open her advent calendar each day
Gingerbread Cookies
And we had fun making and decorating gingerbread cookies

We tried to get some good Christmas photos this year by doing a professional photo shoot, but it was a bit of a disaster as Astrid was in a foul mood. We still got a few decent shots out of it, so it wasn’t a complete waste.

Christmas 2018 photoshoot

Astrid had a Christmas party at daycare, featuring a visit from Santa Claus. She was really excited about it, until it was her turn to sit on Santa’s lap. Then it was all tears and acrobatics to try and escape. She wouldn’t even open the present Santa gave her, long after we had left the room. She’s not wrong though – there is something creepy about sitting on a funny looking stranger’s lap.

No Santa

We’ve decided that as Astrid grows up we’re not going to pretend that Santa is real and that he only gives gifts to well behaved kids. The lying and blackmailing just doesn’t seem worth it. She’ll still get presents and a stocking on Christmas morning, but the presents will be from her family. This year, it wasn’t an issue as she never asked where the presents came from, she was only concerned that they were for her.

Stockings were hung

On Christmas Day we opened our stockings, made latkes for breakfast, opened the bigger gifts from relatives, and then played with toys. Astrid got the perfect amount of toys – a few new things to keep her interested without overwhelming her. She was most excited about her new toothbrush, the playdough ice cream shop (which was actually a present from last year that we kept in her closet and rewrapped this year), tinker toys, and penguin book.

New Toothbrush
Play Dough
Tinker Toys
Penguin Book

In the afternoon we went over to Grandma’s for a traditional Ukrainian Christmas dinner with our extended Vancouver family, complete with kutia, borscht, perogies, cabbage rolls, beans, bread, pickles, sauerkraut, and non-traditional (but tasty) pumpkin pie. We were supposed to host the event, but with Grandma still on house arrest we brought all the food to her.

Christmas Dinner

Astrid had fun playing with her cousins – they read stories, played doctor, and ran around playing hide-and-go seek. The age difference shrinks every year.

Family at Christmas

Emily and I have been thinking more about the Christmas traditions we want to establish. We’re pretty happy with stockings on Christmas morning with latkes for breakfast, and a traditional Ukrainian dinner with our extended family on Christmas Eve. I’m also committed to making an ornament each year with a photo of Astrid holding last year’s ornament – the recursion makes me happy (although I’m sure it will annoy Astrid at some point). Next year we want to start two new traditions – buying matching pajamas and a new family board game.

20190103_185520

More photos:

Christmas 2018 photoshoot

Astrid – No More Diapers

Gymnastics

The big news here is that Astrid is now diaper free, at least during the day. She’s been wearing underwear at home since October but we weren’t sure how to make the transition at daycare. She would never tell her teachers when she had to go and we didn’t want to burden them with a toddler peeing her pants several times a day.

Then suddenly on November 8, she said she wanted to wear underwear to daycare. It caught us by surprise, but we wanted to capitalize on her enthusiasm. So we sent her to daycare with 7 extra pairs of pants, socks, and underwear and pre-apologized to the teachers for the mess she was about to make. We were shocked when she came home in the same pair of pants.

Over the next few weeks she had a bunch of accidents and sometimes came home with 2 pairs of wet pants, socks, and even shoes. But she quickly got better at letting someone know when she had to pee, and it’s been a few weeks now since her last accident. We cancelled our cloth diaper service a few weeks ago and use disposable pull-ups at nighttime.

Grandkids

The next big achievement is Astrid had her first sleepover at Grandma’s. Again, we weren’t ready for it but our hand was forced when our only babysitter (Grandma) was under house arrest (backstory) and we had plans to celebrate Emily’s birthday. So we dropped Astrid off after dinner and prayed we didn’t get a phone call to come get her overnight.

We expected the worst – Astrid hadn’t napped that day and was a bit grouchy, she was still on Ventolin for asthma, and she had been waking up at night coughing and wheezing. But she had fun, slept through the night on the futon, and was brushing her teeth after eating a yummy breakfast when I came by the next morning to pick her up. If grandma is up for it, we hope to try it again in the new year.

Sleeping Bags

Astrid’s health has been pretty good lately. A few minor colds and the accompanying asthma, but no hospital ER visits. We saw our respirologist and pediatrician, who told us to keep doing what we’re doing. They were impressed with the data and charts I’ve been collecting. The goal is to see less hospital visits and drugs this winter.

Puff the Magic Dragon

Astrid loves singing. Her favourite songs right now are Puff the Magic Dragon and Frosty the Snowman.

Mixin

She also likes helping cook and bake, especially pancakes on Saturday mornings and popcorn at night (the perfect snack for a blanket fort).

Pizza

Astrid’s newest obsession is clothing with pockets. She loves having pants, jackets, and shirts with pockets on them.

More photos of November and December.

Pretending to Watch TV

Astrid – Winter is Coming

Reach Up

It’s November and cold and flu season is officially upon us. That means all the kids at daycare are snotty-nosed germ carriers now. Our doctor told us that Astrid would likely get her first cold in mid-September – two weeks after kids go back to school. And like clock-work Astrid got sick on September 14. Luckily the first cold wasn’t too bad and barely triggered her asthma. A few weeks later she had another cold which took longer to get over. The third (and most recent) moved quickly to her lungs. She was wheezing and coughing, and Ventolin was barely making a difference. So off to BC Children’s Hospital we went for Astrid’s 9th emergency visit for asthma. We’ve since started Astrid on a new asthma drug (montelukast) that we’re hoping will get us through the next 5 months of cold and flu season without regular hospital visits. It’s going to be a long winter.
Hospital Visit #9

On the positive side, Astrid started gymnastics at the beginning of September and loves it. On Sundays, she gets to jump, swing, and climb for 45 minutes at the gym. Then she comes home does all the same moves in our living room with piles of pillows and our couch as a trampoline. She’s learned to do somersaults and has gotten much better at jumping with two feet and landing with bent knees.
Jump Gymnastics

Astrid had her first dentist appointment and it wasn’t a complete disaster. I was surprised she let the dentist poke around in her mouth. The feedback was mostly positive (she has all of her teeth and no cavities). She needs to stop sucking her thumb before it causes lasting damage, and we should be brushing her teeth twice a day and flossing them too. There is little chance we’ll be able to floss her teeth, but we’ve been more persistent since the dentist that she actually brush her teeth, instead of just sucking on a toothbrush before bedtime. The thumbsucking is going to be a harder habit to break, but we’re working on it.
1st Dentist Visit

Astrid’s vocabulary has really exploded in the past two months. Unfortunately her pronunciation is lagging. We’ve gone from understanding 90% of what she was trying to tell us to 50%. Sometimes it’s like charades – “Astrid I don’t know what that means, can you point and show me?” She also likes to sing and make up new words to her favourite songs.

Monster
For Halloween Astrid dressed up as a cute monster. This is the first year she understood what was going on. She enjoyed the costumes, riding the ghost train in Stanley Park, decorating a pumpkin, making the hallway spooky, and going trick-or-treating. The hard part is now limiting how much candy she gets. Last year she didn’t eat any of it, but this year she knew what it was. We took away the really sugary stuff and have been letting her have one treat a night.

Loves: Jumping on the couch, running around with her daycare friends, building towers with blocks, helping daddy make pancakes on Saturday mornings, and her Mickey Mouse pajamas.

Hates: Getting her hair washed or brushed.

Mastered: Turning on/off the lights, putting on her jacket by herself.

Favourite expressions: “I no like it” and “my turn – 2 minutes.”

Making Pancakes

Acrobats

Playtime

More photos from September, October, and Halloween.

Astrid – Surviving the Smoke

Waterpark

We did our best to enjoy the last bit of summer despite the smoky skies and air quality advisories. Astrid enjoyed playing in the Granville Island waterpark, and ice cream and popsicles were a regular treat.

Vancouver Smoke

The wildfire smoke was not kind to Astrid. We survived without a hospital visit, but I was giving her the maximum amount of Ventolin every 4 hours, even at night, in order to keep her asthma under control.

BC has now had back-to-back summers with record-breaking forest fires. The impact of climate change is all to real. If this is the new normal, it’s going to be hard on Astrid’s lungs. Winter is cold and flu season, which triggers her asthma. If summer is now forest fire season, she’s not going to get a break at all.

I was interviewed for an article in The Star about indoor air quality as a means of escaping when the smoke gets bad. Here’s one of the quotes I provided,

I don’t want to end up as a city where we’re like, ‘OK, we air-conditioned all the buildings and they’re all clean air, so just don’t go outside’. Vancouver is awesome because of all the outdoor activities we have accessible to us, and if that disappears the quality of life disappears.

Rainsuit

Needless to say we were overjoyed when the wind changed direction and started blowing cool, wet ocean air into Vancouver and cleared out the smoke.

The same week the smoke got bad, Emily was off on Cortes Island for a leadership retreat at Hollyhock. Being a single parent is hard, but we got through. It did lead to frequent conversations with Astrid:

Astrid: Where’s mama?

Me: Mama’s on an island. She took a plane there. She’s coming home in a few days.

Astrid: Mama airplane. Mama airplane. (nodding her head)

The day Emily was done her retreat, I let Astrid know that Mama would pick her up today. She was excited. Apparently she spent the whole day at daycare letting everyone know that Mama was on an airplane. Unfortunately the smoke cancelled Emily’s flight and she spent 12 hours getting home by car and ferry and didn’t arrive until 1 am. So I had to pick Astrid up. When I got there she was waiting at the door holding an airplane in her hands. It was cute and heart breaking. Thankfully no tears were shed when I explained, “Mama’s airplane is broken. Mama is on a boat.”

Flowers

Other than the smoke-induced asthma, Astrid is doing well. She’s eating well, growing like a weed, and has become quite the chatterbox. She’s tall enough now that she can reach the number 6 in the elevator. She’s started asking a lot more questions and likes pointing at things and asking, “what’s this?”

Potty training is progressing with lots of triumphs and failures. She’s peeing in the potty at least once a day but there’s still a few accidents and she wears diapers at daycare. The biggest triumph was when we spent a half day at the aquarium wearing only potty pants, she went pee three times on a toilet, and we made it home without an accident. The biggest failure was one evening when she was eating dinner without a diaper or pants on (pretty common at home now) and she stood up while drinking water and peed in her food.

Sea to Sky Gondola

We spent the last week of August and the September long weekend with Grandma Bev, Uncle Rick and Aunt Toni. Astrid warmed up to the three of them really quickly. We spent one day up at the Sea to Sky Gondola and Shannon Falls and the long weekend on Galiano Island.

Galiano Island

More pictures from August, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and Galiano Island.

Waterpark with the Holdings

Going Up