Astrid: Month 10

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Climbing

We’ve got a climber. Astrid’s bucket of skills and tricks continues to grow at a rapid pace. I was lucky to be home for 2 weeks this month to witness her transformation personally. She quickly learned to crawl, climb over obstacles, pull herself up into a standing up, and open drawers. Every day she seems to move with more confidence and coordination, and get into more mischief.

A lot of her growth seems to have come after our Easter weekend in Kamloops. Hanging out with her cousin Jacob has inspired her. It was adorable watching the two of them interact. It was also reassuring to to my sister Kelsey who is pregnant with her second, and Emily and I, as we transition Astrid into daycare.

Play Time

Zoom Zoom

Yes, daycare. That’s our big accomplishment of the month. Although Emily deserves all the credit for doing the frustrating work of calling over 50 daycares and reading through hundreds of Facebook and Craiglist posts. She found Astrid a spot starting next week at a small in-home (or rather in-condo) operation with 1 other kid that’s only a 20 minute walk away. It was the only spot we found, so we didn’t have a lot of choice, but we like the lady who runs it and her references were glowing – and she’s agreed to feed Astrid a vegan diet and change her clothe diapers (we’ll see how long that lasts).

Daycare in Vancouver is ridiculous. It’s expensive ($1300 – $1800 per month per child) and even at those prices there are hardly any openings. We’re still on the waitlists for the bigger facilities, but even though we applied as soon as Astrid was born we don’t expect to hear back from any of them. The YWCA let us know we were #120 on their list. It’s crazy. We’re in the midst of a provincial election right now and the NDP have promised daycare improvements if elected. Hopefully we’ll see some progress soon (please VOTE!).

Using the Potty

The other big news this month is Astrid has started using the potty. She’s far from potty-trained, but every time we change her diaper we sit her on the potty, and she’s intuitively known what to do from the start. Although I almost screwed it up. The first time I put her on she peed, but I didn’t notice and failed to give her any positive feedback. The second time I sat her down, I wasn’t holding her and she face-planted on the ground. Luckily, no lasting potty aversions, and she usually poops and pees in the potty once or twice a day.

Picnic in the Park

Picnic in Queen Elizabeth Park

It’s been hard going back to work. I enjoyed being a stay-at-home parent for two weeks. I took Astrid to the play gym, music class, and story time at the library. We went to the park as a family and enjoyed the swings and had picnics. It was luxurious, but now it’s time to earn some money so we can pay for that daycare spot.

Tea Time with the Hirtles

Tea time with the Hirtles

Standing

Standing for the laptop, of course

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MEC Election – Vote Steve Jones

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If you’re an MEC member, I highly recommend you go and vote for Steve Jones.

I worked with Steve for 7 years at Pulse Energy. He’s a super smart guy and would be a huge asset to the Mountain Equipment Co-op board. He’s also really passionate about the outdoors. He spends most of his weekends adventuring in the mountains (check out some of his photos here) and the rest of his free time advocating for better parks.

He’s also really passionate about co-ops and has been a huge advocate for more member involvement in MEC. He’s both a champion for MEC when they get things right and an honest critic when they goof up – he’s been very critical of the logo change and excessive compensation packages for board members and the CEO.

The existing MEC Board doesn’t want Steve to win. For years they wouldn’t let him run and found reasons to deny his candidacy. He might be openly critical at times, but Steve is one of the most passionate and hard working people I know, and MEC would be well served to have him on the Board.

Vote Steve Jones for MEC Board of Directors.

Astrid: Month 9

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Only 9 months but it feels like a lifetime already. It’s amazing how fast Astrid is changing. She’s almost crawling, using a worm-like shuffle to move forward. It’s a fun age. She’s giggly, mobile, and adventurous.

Pillow Fort

In previous months, it felt like she had to be constantly entertained. Now she’s able to move around more and amuse herself. She still likes it when you play with her, but it feels more interactive now. She likes to echo the noises we make, laughs when she’s tickled, and plays with her toys. She still likes putting everything in her mouth, but she also spends more time examining her toys and moving them around.

Good Morning

Astrid is sleeping well at night and has transitioned to 2 naps a day. A few short weeks ago she was barely staying up for 2 hours in between naps. Now she’s going 3-4 hours, which has opened up more opportunities to journey further from home.

Pouch Food

Astrid’s skin is still in rough shape (getting roseola while we were in Whistler didn’t help). We stopped baby-led weaning and took her to see a naturopath, who recommended a more restrictive diet mixed with expensive vitamins and lotions. No more peanut butter, apples, bananas, or avocado. It has been hard cutting back what she eats because she loves food so much and she has 7 teeth she likes to use. We’re going to continue to follow the naturopath’s advice for now, but we’re seeing mixed results. Her hands are better (with only small eczema patches), however she has new rashes on the back of knees and neck.

Triumphs

  • One night at dinner, I was spoon feeding Astrid peaches but she was getting frustrated that she wasn’t in control. She was moping and whining, so I scrunched up my face and mocked her by making the same whining noise back. She burst out laughing, which put everyone in a better mood for the rest of the meal.
  • We spent our anniversary in Whistler and Emily was determined that it wouldn’t have the same sleep problems as Victoria. Before our trip, she got Astrid comfortable sleeping in a pack ‘n play at home, and during our trip she slept like a champ.

Nature's Little Squeeze
Fails

  • We bought reusable food pouches to let Astrid feed herself while protecting her skin. The pouches work well but after a few days she refused to eat from them.
  • You would think that less baby-led weaning would mean less food mess, but she’s managed to stain all of her bibs, clothing, our walls, and ceiling with blueberry smoothy spots.
  • Roomba riding
Gridlock

Driving is overrated

Mischief

Mischief maker

9 Months Old

More photos.

Quitting My Job

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Engineering Area

So to celebrate my 34th birthday, I quit my job. After 8 years it was finally time to move on. I survived 2 rounds of layoffs and 2 acquisitions at Pulse Energy / EnerNOC / Yardi and am currently the longest serving employee in the Vancouver office. But I only have 2 weeks left of work.

In April, I get to take everything I’ve learnt at Pulse (storing time-series data, modelling energy, setting up monitoring tools, deploying to AWS, plus so much more) and do it all again at a new startup called Clir Renewables. The company is very young and doesn’t have a public website yet, but they’re building software to optimize wind farms. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I will miss my co-workers at Yardi. The Vancouver office is full of talented and interesting people. But the organization as a whole does the excite me. There isn’t a push for innovation and I had stopped learning new things. My job was largely maintaining the services I had built over the past 8 years and cleaning up junk utility data. It was easy work and the pay was ok, but it didn’t motivate me to go to work everyday.

Clir Renewables is going to be a big change. As an early stage startup, they’re trying to make good infrastructure decisions and build a solid platform but are also trying to crank out features to get early sales. I’ve only seen some of the code but they definitely accrued tech debt already. I’m looking forward to getting in there and helping clean things up.

I was only casualy looking for a new job when the Clir opportunity appeared, but I was really surprised by how hot the Vancouver software job market it right now. It seems like everyone is hiring and the big names (Amazon, SAP, Salesforce, Visier) are having bidding wars to attract talent. The salaries being offered are way higher than I expected and even the startup companies are coming close to matching them. I think the low Canadian dollar is finally factoring into local salaries and US based companies are willing to pay more. It’s a good time to be a software developer.

(And I leave you with some music from Shred Kelly. Emily took me to see them on my birthday. They put on a good show.)

5 Year Anniversary

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Groom Gives his Vows
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.

Mountain Time

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).

Whistler

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.

 

Paddling

 

At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Anniversary Dinner

We brought food to make in our suite for dinner. It was so nice having a kitchen.

Snowshoeing in Whistler

Snowshoeing in the Whistler Interpretive Forest

Snowshoeing

We don’t normally give gifts, but gave each other sentimental mementos of our relationship so far.

Oh, the Places We've Been

Wood Anniversary

Astrid: Month 8

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Astrid

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.

Porter Wedding

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.

Palm Trees in the Pool

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.

Waiting for Waves

Full Mexico photo album.

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.
Eczema Hands

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.
Ice Thrown

Dan made this amazing snow throne for Astrid to reign over her subjects.

Snow Angels

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.
Beacon Hill Walk

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.

Victoria photo album

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.
First Time Sleeping on Stomach

She is also very ticklish. I don’t remember her reacting to tickling before.

Astrid now has a Goodreads account, if you’re curious what books we read to her every night. She has quite the library. https://www.goodreads.com/astridnaut

More photos and data.

8 Months

Astrid: Month 7

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Selfie
Astrid is now 7 months old. That means lots of fun new experiences (swimming, eating, and cutting teeth) and mastering some existing skills (sitting up, rolling over, and bouncing). She’s also developing a stronger sense of who her parents are and a bit of stranger-danger when someone else tries to engage her.

Swimming Astrid is getting ready for our trip to Mexico with swimming lessons. She’s learned how to float, glide, and dunk with minimal crying. She doesn’t love all the splashing and getting water in her face, but I think she enjoys being in the water and soaking in the experience.

Toes in the mouth Astrid has found her toes and is generally more squirmy now than she was last month. During diaper changes she loves to grab her feet and rock on her back. You really have to watch her closely, which I learned the hard way when she tumbled off the change table when I turned around to check my phone. Luckily she’s a resilient kid. She cried a bit but Emily was able to calm her down. I still feel horrible about it, but happy that she wasn’t hurt and that Emily handled the situation so calmly and never berated me for being negligent.

Food Face
The favourite part of Astrid’s day is the two meals she eats with us, following baby-led weaning. It’s also the highlight of my day. I’ve taken dozens of photos of her covered in food and love watching her explore new tastes and make a huge mess.

1st Tooth
Soon after she started eating solid food, Astrid got her first tooth (almost like she’s evolving). She’s now a drool monster. Luckily we have these cute drool bibs that Baba made for us.
Drool Bib

She loves bouncing in her jumper and has developed an adorable laugh. Even with the large collection of toys we have, she usually prefers playing with an empty box of toothpaste and plastic spoons.


Astrid is back to sleeping through the night (rejoice!). If you like data, it’s all available online. If you like cute photos, there’s plenty below.
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Baby Led Weaning

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Food Experiences
Astrid has been eating solid food since December 11. Although “solid” is a bit of stretch. She spent the first two weeks eating applesauce and carrot mush, served on a spoon that she would eagerly grab and jam into her mouth. It was messy but she enjoyed it. We tried to feed her while we also ate dinner, but keeping her spoon loaded was a full time job.

At the end of December we discovered baby led weaning. The principle is simple, let babies explore real foods on their own and at their own pace. No texture-less purees. No spoon feeding.

Broccoli
Our first baby-led weaning meal was broccoli. It’s a strange first food but it was recommended by the Baby Led Weaning book because it comes with its own handle. Astrid loved it and mowed down several steamed broccoli florets that night. It inspired us to try other foods.

Spaghetti

At first, we doubted she was swallowing anything, especially without teeth. However, her changing diaper contents (I won’t include any pictures) are proof that she’s eating even if her stomach doesn’t know how to digest it yet.

Feeding Boo
A lot of the food ends up on the floor. Luckily we have a cat who enjoys patrolling around her high chair and cleaning up any food that falls off of her tray.

Pasta
The hope is by allowing Astrid to explore food now that she’ll be an adventurous eater as she gets older. Even if that doesn’t work, it’s been fun watching her explore food and we get more time to enjoy our own meals. After trying baby-led weaning, we wouldn’t go back to purees.

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Baby Data Nerd

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It’s time to unveil Project ASTRID – Analytic System Tracking Rapid Infant Development.

I’ve been working on it for the past two months in my spare time. It’s a webapp hosted on Github Pages that visualizes some of the baby data we’ve been tracking. Originally, I just wanted to analyze Astrid’s sleeping patterns, but the website has morphed into a digital baby book with milestones and growth charts. I’m still adding features to it, but it’s polished enough that I’m happy to share it.

The chart below is probably the most interesting one I’ve created so far because it quantifies the quality of Astrid’s sleep. It shows her night sleeps, with the longest stretch in blue, the second longest in red, and the remainder in orange. Like all parents, our goal has been to get Astrid to sleep through the night. So that means getting as much blue as possible.

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On October 7, after weeks of crappy sleeping, we started sleep training with Astrid. We didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a steady improvement over the next month. Then we hit sleep bliss. Astrid slept for 12 hour stretches every night for 3 weeks. We were living every parent’s dream. But last month, we hit the dreaded sleep regression. Luckily it only lasted 2 weeks (although it felt like it would never end at the time) and things have been better lately. We’re still waiting for those consistent 12-hour nights again, but she’s only waking up once a night right now, which seems very manageable.

Project ASTRID is open-source and adaptable for anyone else who might want to use it for their own child. Although realistically I know I’m probably the only one who likes having this much data about their baby. I just hope that one day our daughter appreciates the nerdy, data-heavy view of her early life, or at least isn’t completely embarrassed by it.

Snowshoeing with a Baby

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New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We celebrated New Year’s Day by taking Astrid on her first snowshoeing trip. She’s only 6 months old and she handled it like a champ. We chose to go up to Mount Seymour and do the First Lake loop (half way to Dog Mountain), because it’s a pretty easy trail. And we weren’t the only ones. There were dozens of other families with babies and small children hiking along the trail with us.

New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We were a bit worried about squeezing the snowshoe into Astrid’s nap schedule. She only stays awake for 1.5-2 hours between naps right now. Luckily, she fell asleep on the car ride up and again in the ErgoBaby on the return part of our hike.

Breast Feeding in the Snow

We probably should have fed Astrid at the lodge before we started our snowshoe, but we forgot. So Emily had to find a nice sheltered spot in the trees and breastfeed her in the sub-zero temperatures. A real Canadian moment.

Pulling Trees