Category Archives: Parenting

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

12 Days at the Ponderosa 2018

Cousins 2018
We spent the first 12 days of August in Manitoba visiting my family. Astrid had a blast playing with her cousins, running around pantless, eating peas and raspberries from the garden, and riding the tractor with Gigi.

Day 1
In-flight entertainment
The flight went pretty smoothly into Winnipeg. Astrid was excited when Gigi picked us up at the airport. We were the first ones to arrive at my parents place (affectionately called the Ponderosa) so Astrid had first choice of beds and picked the room with a bunk bed hidden behind a bookshelf.
Bunk Bed

Day 2
Holding Hands

Kelsey managed to get Jacob and Nora to Winnipeg from Kamloops all by herself. Jacob and Astrid were quickly running around together and Nora was crawling around a few feet behind them.

2018-08-01 18.25.39

Potty Training Partners

Astrid and Jacob both saw huge leaps in their potty training as they spent the 2 weeks running around without pants and copying each other.

Day 3
Sunflower Family
Kerry, Megan, Katie, and Tyler arrived from Winnipeg completing the family gathering.


Katie and Tyler were quick to setup a workout bootcamp for everyone to follow (except Emily who somehow managed to nap through it with Astrid)

Day 4
Beach Family Time
We spent the morning at Sandy Lake enjoying the beach. Unfortunately the lake was dark green from algae bloom that has plagued the lake all summer and sadly has become normal due to fertilizer runoff from the nearby farms.Green Lake Paddle
Manitoba Rash
We went swimming anyway and the next day my arms broke out in rashes that lasted until I got back to Vancouver. I also started suffering from hay fever symptoms (itchy eyes, runny nose) which I’ve never had before. Although that could have been from an accumulation of allergens like dust and pet dander.

Swimming was also not good for Baba. She hurt her foot after falling off the paddleboard onto a rock and spent the rest of our visit hobbling around with a walker or cane.

Rolled Ankle

Day 5
Forming a Band

Tractor Ride
The kids spent the day running around the Ponderosa – playing music, having a tea party, riding on the tractor, helping in the garden, building a blanket fort.

Toy Room

There is lots to keep them amused, including the most amazing kids room full of the best toys from my childhood and some new ones. It also has a little slide, cupboards to climb in, clothes to dress up, and chalkboard panels to draw on.

Day 6
Christmas in August Dinner
It’s Christmas in August. The whole point of getting everyone together in August was to replace our normal Christmas gathering. My parents live off-the-grid in Manitoba and winters are not only harsh but a time of scarcity. In the summer they have abundant solar energy, hot water, and a garden full of produce.

Perogy Making

So we made perogies and cabbage rolls, and ate a Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner (the borscht was served at lunch).

Day 7
Ponderosa Picnic
We had a nice picnic until the mosquitoes found us. They weren’t bad near the house, but you got eaten alive in the garden and trees.

Tent Scramble
We set up a tent, so Emily, Astrid, and I could camp one night. It wasn’t as comfortable as sleeping in the house, but Astrid had fun. It also served as another play area for the kids.

Day 8
Kinosao Lake
Emily and I left Astrid with the grandparents and went into Riding Mountain National Park to do a little hike. We saw the bison herd, a momma bear with 3 cubs, and a crystal clear Manitoba lake (so they do exist).

Popsicles
Gigi Singalong
Meanwhile the grandkids enjoyed more quality time with Baba and Gigi.

Day 9
Trans Canada Trail
Another day trip for Emily and I. This time we did a long bike trip along the Trans Canada Trail from Elphinstone to Sandy Lake.

Day 10
Mixing the Dough Rising Bread Mom Baking Bread Fresh Bread
We got to watch Baba make bread in the traditional clay oven at the Sandy Lake Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum.

Day 11
Ponderosa Paddle

Astrid paddling
We went for our second canoe ride on the lake, this time with Astrid. It took a few tries to get her into the boat but once she was in she loved helping dada row row. The Ponderosa has a surprisingly large lake with lots of little bays and inlets to explore. We thought we could circumnavigate the whole thing, but after 2 hours of paddling we explored less than half of it.

Coulson Family Gathering
My extended family had converged in Sandy Lake for Western Days and had a reunion and bonfire at the farm.

Day 12
2018-08-10 15.17.45
We caught the beginning of the Western Days parade before we had to hurry to Brandon to catch our flight back to Vancouver.

We had a great time in Manitoba. We love spending time with our nieces and nephews, and seeing Astrid bond with them. The food, weather, and company were excellent. Astrid misses the peas, being Baba’s little helper, jumping on Gigi, chasing after Jacob, and running around naked.

More photos
Logging Protest
Astrid staging her first naked logging protest.

Watering the Garden with a Firehose
Watering the garden with water pumped from the lake.


Gigi want a carrot?

3 generations doing dishes
Astrid helping with dishes while standing on the helper stool that Gigi made.

Full photo album

Astrid – Summer Time Fun

Vegan Ice Cream

July was a jam-packed month for us full of outdoor fun trying to stay cool but also enjoy the outdoors. We went camping at Alice Lake, splashed in the Cultus Lake Waterpark, listened to music at the Vancouver Folk Festival, and got a Science World membership. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to the hospital at the end of the month.

At the waterpark

We met up with Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora for some water fun at a Chilliwack hotel and the Cultus Lake Waterpark. The waterpark was still a little intimidating for Astrid (I think it will be perfect next year), but she had a blast spending time with her cousin Jacob.


We spent a sunny Saturday at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival listening to bands from around the world. Astrid enjoyed dancing in the shade and playing in the kids area. There were a lot of great bands, but my musical highlight this year was Iskwe.

Hospital Visit # 8
We were hoping that summer would 100% healthy but after hand, foot, and mouth last month Astrid picked up another virus at the end of July. After a few days of fevers, she developed some chest congestion which triggered her asthma. She was coughing a lot one day and wasn’t able to sleep so we pumped her full of Ventolin and went to the hospital. After waiting for over an hour in the waiting room with Astrid showing no signs of breathing difficulty, we knew could have probably stayed home. When we finally saw a doctor, she gave Astrid some extra dexamethasone and sent us home without doing the full asthma protocol, which was nice. Turns out there was bad air quality in Vancouver from a bog fire in Richmond. A few days of Ventolin and she was back to normal.

Science World Explorer

Grandma got us a Science World membership for Astrid’s birthday and we finally redeemed it after Astrid got healthy again. She loves it. They have a new Wonder gallery for kids under 5 that Astrid could spend all day in. I could also spend all day playing with the giant blocks or the lego dams on the water table. Science World is only a 5 minute walk from our home, so we plan to visit frequently in the next year.

Astrid has adjusted well to the toddler room at daycare. It wasn’t an easy start – first she was sick and then when she did go back a lot of her friends were sick or away on vacation. She didn’t like me leaving her there when the only other kids were some older boys who ignored her. But now there’s a group of girls her age in the toddler room and she enjoys seeing them in the morning. She’s started talking a lot more – stringing 3-4 words together and pointing out things she sees. It’s also been noticeable in her singing. She’s been mumbling melodies for months now, but this month was the first time she would starting singing songs with words that we could understand. Her favourites are Roly Poly, The Wheels on the Bus, and a Slippery Fish.

Norquay Park

More pictures from July.

Astrid Self-Recognition Experiment

When did our sweet little girl stop being a baby and become the cute toddler she is today? If you ask Astrid, it was around 11 months old.

When we’re looking at old photos, sometimes she correctly identifies herself and sometimes all she sees is a baby. I was curious when the shift from “baby” to “Astrid” happened. So I devised an experiment.

I took 50 photos in an album and asked Astrid to identify who was in them. 25 photos were of Astrid and 25 photos were of animals, relatives, and other babies.

The photos were in a random order but here are the sorted results:

So Small Bunny Hug Astrid Kale Chewing on her spoon
Astrid – 1 month Baby – 2 months Baby – 3 months Baby – 4 months Baby – 5 months
6 Months Old Diaper Pile Big Baby 8 Months Spring daffodils
Baby – 6 months Baby – 7 months Baby – 7.5 months Baby – 8 months Astrid – 9 months
Zoom Zoom Future Artist That shirt is too big Garden Chair Astrid at Kits Beach
Baby – 10 months Astrid – 11 months Baby – 12 months Astrid – 13 months Astrid – 14 months
Pigtails Southlands Heritage Farm Chef Astrid Chef Astrid Snowshoeing with Astrid
Baby – 15 months Astrid – 16 months Astrid – 17 months Astrid – 18 months Astrid – 19 months
Repair Work Wild Hair Cardboard Fort Cutie Making Apple Crisp
Astrid – 20 months Astrid – 21 months Astrid – 22 months Astrid – 23 months Astrid – 24 months

So, around 9-11 months old she gets pretty good at identifying herself. I’d have to agree this is the point where she looks more like a child and less like a baby. I’m not sure how she identified the 1 month old photo of herself (luck I guess).

It was fun going through the photos with her. In the 2-month and 5-month photos she recognized her bunny and spoon and seemed surprised that some other baby had them. The only false positive was this photo which she thought was herself but is actually me at 18 months old.

Full album:

Diaper Pile

Camping – 2 Nights at Alice Lake

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

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).

Astrid – 1st Haircut

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 my 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