Over the Christmas break we were looking for a getaway close to Vancouver. Parksville has been on our list of places to go for a while and we got a really good deal at the Tigh Na Mara resort.
The hotel was perfect for us. Our suite had a bedroom for Astrid, a lovely view of the ocean, a cozy fireplace, and a full kitchen where we cooked almost all of our meals. We spent a lot of time at the resort hanging out in the room, splashing in the pool, and enjoying the beach and playground.
Parksville is more of a summer destination but it was also fun in the winter.
We’re looking forward to going back in the summer when we can check out the amusement parks, play mini golf, and swim in the ocean.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So we made perogies and cabbage rolls, and ate a Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner (the borscht was served at lunch).
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.
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.
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).
Meanwhile the grandkids enjoyed more quality time with Baba and Gigi.
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.
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.
My extended family had converged in Sandy Lake for Western Days and had a reunion and bonfire at the farm.
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.
Astrid staging her first naked logging protest.
Watering the garden with water pumped from the lake.
Gigi want a carrot?
Astrid helping with dishes while standing on the helper stool that Gigi made.
Our Mexican misadventure is over and we’re happy to be home. We had beautiful weather, great food, sandy beaches, and spectacular cenotes to explore but it was hard to relax with all the health problems that plagued our trip.
Our trip got off to a rough start when Emily, Astrid, and I missed our flight to Cancun because Astrid was in the hospital with breathing problems. Luckily she got better and we were able to fly down to join the grandparents a few days later. We contemplated just staying home but we promised our house to guests from Hamilton, and Mairy and Martha were waiting for us in Mexico. When we did arrive, it was great spending time on the beach and relaxing. Astrid had a blast lounging under palm trees and exploring the suite we were staying in.
Two days into our vacation, Astrid took a misstep in a playground and hurt her right leg. It’s the same one she hurt before and we thought she would be back up and running within a day. But two days later she still wouldn’t put any weight on it, so we sought out a doctor and found one at the Centro Medico Cubano (yes, there’s a Cuban medical clinic in Puerto Morelos, Mexico). It cost us 60 pesos ($4) to see a doctor who took a look at Astrid. She didn’t speak any English, but with our limited Spanish and Google Translate we found out her foot was fine but the problem was her hip. The doctor thought it was inflammation caused by Synovitis and told us to give Astrid ibuprofen for 7 days and ensure she didn’t do any walking.
(We saw a pediatrician in Vancouver who thought Astrid’s hip injury was caused by a skeletal muscle injury of some kind and not Synovitis, but he said the treatment would have been the same. And because she was walking within 2 weeks, it likely wasn’t a bone fracture.)
Astrid’s hip slowly got better over the last week of our trip, but we still had to deal with some sleepless nights, trouble with naps, and a frustrated toddler who wanted to explore but had to be carried everywhere. To top it off, Emily picked up traveller’s diarrhea on our 2nd last day, ran a high fever of 41 C for 12 hours until she took ibuprofen, and spent the last 48 hours of our trip in bed. Luckily the pharmacy next door to our hotel had the right medication to fix her up before our flight home.
Needless to say, we were all happy to arrive safely home in Vancouver at midnight of New Year’s Eve. We crashed in our beds at 2 am and all of us had a good sleep, even Astrid in her crib.
The trip wasn’t a complete disaster. Astrid had plenty of new experiences, enjoyed eating Mexican food for 2 weeks, and spent lots of time with Grandma and Grammy. We got to go snorkelling, enjoy the warm weather (and avoid the snow in Vancouver), explore Mayan ruins, and swim in beautiful cenotes.
We spent the first week in a 2-bedroom suite in Puerto Morelos, right next to the beach. We had a kitchen where we could make smoothies every morning and cook dinner when we didn’t feel like going out. There were also a few vegan and vegetarian restaurants in town. We really enjoyed Puerto Morelos and would highly recommend it for visitors to the Cancun area. It wasn’t too busy, the beach was a fine powder, and there is great snorkeling right off the coast. The barrier reef is still in good condition, but you can see some bleaching from climate change and pollution, and there is an unsettling amount of plastic washing up on the beach everyday.
The second week took us to Valladolid where we stayed in a vegan bed and breakfast. The town had a sense of colonial history but also everyday Yucatan life. Our highlights were hanging out in the town square, eating at a food court where the eateries competed for your business, and checking out Casa de los Venados. Our b&b was a lush sanctuary in the heart of the city with six dogs to entertain us so we didn’t mind being held up there a few days while Emily slept.
Astrid would have been happy eating guacamole, bananas, and beans for every meal.
We enjoyed exploring the ruins at Ek Balam and Coba. We didn’t make it to Chichen Itza because of Emily’s stomach bug.
The cenotes (subterranean pools) were magical. The water was so fresh and clear and a perfect temperature for swimming.
Astrid enjoying the beach sunrise in Puerto Morelos.
I was obsessed with getting a photo of Astrid with the Christmas ornament that contains her photo from Christmas last year. This photo will go in a new ornament which will be featured in next year’s photo. It’s so meta.
5 years ago Emily and I got married in Banff, surrounded by family, friends, and snowy mountains. This year we decided to spend our anniversary back in the snowy mountains with our lovely daughter.
Last weekend we stayed in Pemberton, BC and spent our days walking through the Whistler village and snowshoeing through the forest. It was a nice relaxing weekend, and it gave us the opportunity to look back on everything we’ve been through over the past 5 years. We also tried to predict what the next 5 years would look like (and with Astrid in our lives it will be very different).
We were really worried about naps and nighttime after Astrid barely slept during our trip to Victoria. Emily got her used to the pack ‘n play before our trip and we tried to time the car rides to help her nap. Astrid slept really well. In fact she slept anytime she was moving, in the carrier or the car. Turns out she was sick with a roseola and had a mild fever all weekend. Good thing she’s such a trooper.
At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
We brought food to make in our suite for dinner. It was so nice having a kitchen.
Snowshoeing in the Whistler Interpretive Forest
We don’t normally give gifts, but gave each other sentimental mementos of our relationship so far.
February was spent jet-setting around the world and enjoying snow and surf. It was a month full of ups and downs and several highlights and lowlights.
Highlight #1: Astrid used her passport for the first time as we flew to Mexico for her Auntie Kerry’s wedding. The highlights were the beautiful sunset wedding ceremony on the beach (and officially welcoming Megan, Katie, and Tyler to the family), the time spent relaxing by the pool with our relatives, and the awesome weather and lack of snow.
Astrid did well with all the changes (new foods, hotter climate, new faces, and 2-hour time change). It took her a few nights to get used to the hotel room and crib, but she slept well for the most part.
Most days were spent rotating between the buffet, the pool, the beach, and then back to the room for a nap. Astrid amazed everyone with her ability to destroy bananas and make a huge mess at mealtimes. She enjoyed floating in the pools and eating sand. We got off the resort once – took a taxi to Sayulita to check out the hippie, surf town. But for the most part we were slaves to Astrid’s nap schedule.
Lowlight #1: The biggest lowlight of the month was Astrid’s worsening eczema, especially on her hands. Baby-led weaning has not been kind to her skin, mostly from contact with acidic foods. Her skin got especially bad after we left the warm, humid Mexican air. We’re slowly getting it back under control by limiting the foods she’s eating, putting socks on her hands so she doesn’t bite and scratch them, moisturizing every few hours, and using hydrocortisone cream on the worst patches.
Highlight #2: Early in the month Dan visited from San Francisco, and Rhea and Tina also came over. We got a dump of snow that day so we had fun playing in the snow with Astrid.
Dan made this amazing snow throne for Astrid to reign over her subjects.
Lowlight #2: Is Victoria the city that never sleeps? According to Astrid it is. We had a good visit with friends, but had to cut our trip short by a day when Astrid became a sleepless, grouchy pants. She refused to sleep in her pack-and-play, so I spent hours bouncing her in the ErgoBaby to get her to nap.
At night, she would fall asleep in our arms, but the second we tried putting her down she would start screaming. None of us got much sleep the first night. The second night, we tried co-sleeping with her for the first time. She slept much better, but it was a rough night for Emily and I. We were squeezed into a double bed with Astrid in the middle, afraid to move for fear of waking her. Midway through the night she rotated 90° so that when she flailed about she simultaneously punched me in the face and kicked Emily in the head, but we were happy she was sleeping.
Highlight #3: Astrid is starting to move more. She’s mastered rolling and has the arm strength to lift herself into plank position. She isn’t crawling yet, but she can cover a lot of ground by rolling, rotating, and shuffling backwards. We’ve ordered a large play mat to give her a surface to play on – she quickly rolls off the yoga mat and blanket we have for her now.
She’s also tossing and turning in her sleep. Often after a nap, we find her on her stomach or curled up on her side. The first time she napped on her stomach we kept checking on her to make sure she was breathing, but we’re used to it now.
She is also very ticklish. I don’t remember her reacting to tickling before.
Astrid is another month older. She now consistently smiles when she’s happy, makes distinct vocal noises when she’s bored or excited, and has more head control. It’s been awesome watching her grow.
We spent the first half of the month travelling and visiting relatives in Manitoba and Ontario. She did really well with the new environments and faces. We had no problems on the three flights and one train ride we took. WestJet, Air Canada, and Via Rail all gave us priority boarding and didn’t charge us for the baby or the extra baby luggage (her car seat and stroller). WestJet was a slightly better experience than Air Canada, mostly because of the little touches – friendlier staff making sure we had everything we needed and they had our stroller waiting, all setup, when we got off our flights.
Astrid was quiet for all of our long distance rides. On our first flight from Vancouver to Winnipeg we were seated right in the middle of the BC Boys Lacrosse team. I felt really bad for the poor kid stuck in the window seat next to us, but Emily fed Astrid on takeoff and landing and she slept for most of the flight without making a peep.
Now that Astrid is more aware of the world around her, she requires a lot more stimulus when she’s awake. On the plus side, this means that she loves walking under trees, going shopping, attending baby activities, and discovering new toys. However, it’s also requiring a lot creativity and plenty of repetition from her parents. We sing the same five songs a lot, we have dance parties, we read and listen to stories, and we work on sitting, standing, and rolling over.
The most challenging parenting moment in the past month was when Astrid got something stuck in her eye while we were in London.We noticed her rubbing her eye in the morning, but didn’t realize something was wrong until she slept for 3 hours and refused to open her eyes, even after feeding. She resisted any attempts to pry her eyelid open, so we couldn’t see what was wrong.
We tried flushing it out with water in the sink but it only upset her. Doctor Google gave us some good tips (flush water toward the nose and hold her on her stomach so the eyelids move away from the eyeball). We were tempted to give up and take her to a doctor, but after a second water flush and some time being held face down (it was the first time we realized she really enjoys playing airplane and has enough neck strength for it) she managed to blink out whatever was bothering her.
Our biggest surprise of the month was when Astrid slept through the night. On September 4, while we were at the Ponderosa, she slept for 9 hours (from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am). Sadly, we didn’t weren’t able to take advantage of a full night’s sleep. After 3 am, we were waking up every hour to check on her and make sure she was still alive. We keep praying to the sleep fairies, but she hasn’t repeated that magic night since. In fact, the past 2 weeks she’s regressed in her sleeping habits, waking up every 3 hours to feed. It’s only a small change from her old habits, but the extra nighttime wake-up has been a noticeable drain on our energy levels.
The good news is she’s napping better during the day. Before, she would only nap in her swing or stroller. But while we were travelling we were forced to improvise. We were amazed to discover that if we wrapped her in a warm blanket when she was tired and gave her a soother, within a few minutes she would contentedly fall asleep.
Astrid had her first doctor’s visit last week. There is some concern about her eczema, but we seem to have it under control. I was happy the doctor wasn’t eager to prescribe a steroid cream. Astrid’s weight gain and size are excellent for her age (around the 60th percentile) and she’s on track for her mental development.
Astrid also get her first vaccinations. I wasn’t vaccinated as a child, but have come to the conclusion that vaccines are safe and an important health measure.
So, we took Astrid to the the local health clinic to get her 2 month vaccinations last week. The oral vaccine she got (for rotavirus) was no problem but the three shots she had (covering Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Meningitis) gave her a fierce crying fit. She calmed down after five minutes and let Emily nurse her. After the shots, we monitored her at home for a fever. Not because she ever showed any signs of one, but I wanted to try our fancy, contact-less, digital thermometer – the Thermo. In 5 seconds it takes the baby’s temperature without any upsetting probing. It’s awesome.
After our week in Manitoba, we flew to London (Ontario) for Leanne and Andrew’s wedding, and then took the train to Toronto to visit family and friends there. Astrid travelled really well and had no problem sleeping in different beds. She didn’t like the heat when we arrived in London (over 30 C) but other than that she did really well with all the change.
Leanne and Andrew had a lovely wedding surrounded by towering trees. Emily was a bridesmaid, so I was a single parent for long stretches. It gave me new respect for all the hard work Emily does while I’m at work. Keeping her fed, entertained, and clean with only two hands can be a challenge.
The trip represented a lot of firsts for Astrid – the first train ride, first meal at a restaurant (we were nervous, and she had a freak out at the end, but she did well enough that we took her to another 5 sit down restaurants), first night sleeping in a crib, and her first shower. We didn’t know how she would nap without her swing or be entertained without her toys, but we improvised and learned a few new tricks along the way.
It was great spending a week with my parents at their off-the-grid home in Manitoba (read their homesteading blog). It was the first visit for Astrid and Emily’s first time being there in the summer (I think she prefers the mosquitoes to the -40 C and snow). The house is still under construction, but is looking great. Since Christmas, they’ve added gorgeous wood railings that my dad made (you can imagine how much work it is to sand and install all those spindles) and cork flooring on the main floor.
Handmade wood railings
Now there is lots of room for kids to play.
And still plenty of hiding spots for a game of sardines.
Last week my lovely wife surprised me with a Okanagan birthday adventure. We spent the day hiking in Kelowna and then retired to the luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon.
I knew it was going to be a good day when a rainbow lit up the mountainside as we drove through Abbotsford. I was a bit slow snapping a picture, but it was perfectly formed on both sides.
In Kelowna, we hiked along the Myra Canyon trail, formerly part of the Kettle Valley Railway. Half of the trail was still covered in snow, but it was still an easy hike with some epic scenery. The trail has some huge trestle bridges, most of them rebuilt after the devastating forest fire in 2003.
After our hike, we checked in at the luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort. I never knew this place existed before, but it’s damn fancy. Designed by the Swarovski family, the resort is packed with crystals everywhere, including the washroom signs.
The spa was the highlight, with so many little touches elevating it above the usual. The outdoor pool had fabulous views of the mountains and Okanagan Lake. The indoor pool played classical music underwater. There was a walking path with knee deep water that alternated between hot and cold to help improve circulation (it felt like torture). The steam/sauna area had a number of unique rooms, including the experience showers that simulated thunderstorms and tropical downpours, a rose scented steam room, a sauna with a bucket of rocks that were repeatedly heated and then dunked into cold water, and the igloo with ice to rub on your body. There were also some quiet areas to relax and enjoy the view.
It was a decadent birthday experience and a step beyond anywhere we’ve stayed before.
We spent the first weekend of March visiting San Francisco. We didn’t have much planned, except reconnecting with friends and eating good vegan food. It’s probably our last chance at child-free travel for a long time.
We didn’t do anything overly touristy, just explored some of the funkier neighbourhoods (like Castro and Mission), walked around Golden Gate Park, and hung out.