How can a beautiful weekend that started with a fun birthday party end with another trip to the hospital!? I’m starting to wonder if Astrid is terribly unlucky or we’re just doing something wrong.
The July 6th weekend started with Astrid’s third 3rd birthday party (that’s not a typo, she really had 3 parties spread over 8 days). The Hirtles and Holdings joined us for a morning splashing in Hillcrest Pool, pizza lunch at Rocky Mountain Flatbread, and ice cream at Yum’s Sweet Shop. Then we ended the weekend with a trip to the hospital (well several trips in fact).
Yes, Astrid’s adventures with the medical system continue at a rapid pace. She’s barely 3 years old and has had repeated trips to emergency for asthma, stitches for a head injury, knocked out a tooth, and now a cast for a fracture on her elbow. Hopefully, we’ll be able to laugh about this in a few years, but right now it’s exhausting.
A lot has changed in the past year. Astrid is definitely more opinionated, adventurous, and bossy than she was a year ago. Pretty standard stuff for a ‘threenager’. She’s also sleeping in a bed, diaper-free, communicating with full sentences, and loves to ride her bike. So there are plenty of positives too.
A newfound love for her bike has been the biggest change in the past month. It started during Bike to Work Week when she rode her bike to daycare a few times. Her balance has steadily improved and now she can zoom around lifting her legs to glide. I’m excited that soon I’ll be able to go running with her biking beside me.
Now that asthma is no longer an everyday concern, she’s replaced wheezing trips to the hospital with head injuries. Earlier in the month, she banged the back of her head on the corner of the wall. Three weeks later she smashed her face on the concrete while playing on the railings in our rooftop garden.
Both incidents were pretty scary and she was lucky not to do more damage. The head injuries have made me more paranoid, but Astrid still loves to climb and be adventurous. We’re trying to teach her that there are safe places to climb that are less dangerous.
Astrid is a social butterfly. She loves spending time with her daycare friends, neighbours, and her cousins. After daycare, she usually spends half an hour playing with her friends in the square. And then when we finally drag her home, all she wants to do is play on the rooftop with our neighbours.
For Canada Day, we went hiking along the Quarry Rock trail in Deep Cove. Astrid spent most of the hike in a backpack, but she also walked for a surprisingly long time, including a long uphill section. On the hike back, she had to pee, so we said she had to go in the woods. Before I could offer help, she had pulled down her pants, squatted, and peed without getting any on her pants or shoes. It was the first time she’s peed not on a toilet.
Astrid’s birthday party has been split into 3 small gatherings. One with her cousins when we spent the afternoon at the splash pad in Prince Edward Park. We had a small party with her daycare friends in the bird plaza with cupcakes, bubbles, and chalk. And next weekend we’re going to the Second Beach pool with some of our family friends.
We had a scary incident on Sunday morning. Emily woke up to me running into the room with a screaming toddler yelling, “There’s blood!”
Astrid was standing on the couch, playing with her new bike helmet, which unfortunately wasn’t on her head, when she slipped backwards and fell. Her head hit the corner of the wall awkwardly and with enough force to leave a crack in the wall.
She only cried for a few minutes and the bleeding wasn’t too bad, but it left a 2 cm gash on her head. If it had been anywhere else on her body, a bandage would have probably been enough but we took her into the hospital for stitches.
She was a real trooper. You could tell it was painful when they were washing out the wound and cleaning her up, but she gritted her teeth and never cried.
Luckily the hospital wasn’t too busy, because we were pretty low on the priority list. They froze the wound first to stop any bleeding. Then they used skin glue to close it up and braided some of her hair across the wound to act as extra stitches (very clever!).
After the hospital, Astrid was back running around and being her energetic self. She even went to a birthday party in the afternoon. But Sunday night she got a fever right before bed and was complaining about a headache. We gave her ibuprofen to help her sleep, but she was bad again at 4 am when it wore off.
We went back to the hospital because our discharge instructions told us to look out for a fever as a sign the wound had become infected. Apparently Monday at 6 am is the ideal time to go to the hospital. We didn’t have to wait for a room, a nurse, or a doctor. Turns out the fever was just an unrelated virus. Astrid was back in bed by 6:45 that morning and healthy again within 24 hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After Easter, my parents came back to Vancouver with us and spent two days with Astrid enjoying Science World and making cookies.
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?”
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.
Too bad Astrid hated it. The snow was too ‘crunchy’ and cold and she would only watch her friends tobogganing, complaining the whole time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Astrid loves painting and doing art. We’ve let her curate her own gallery.
New skills for Astrid include putting together puzzles, identifying around 10 letters, and counting to 13.
Is it summer yet? I’m not sure how much more of cold and flu season I can handle.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Astrid loves singing. Her favourite songs right now are Puff the Magic Dragon and Frosty the Snowman.
She also likes helping cook and bake, especially pancakes on Saturday mornings and popcorn at night (the perfect snack for a blanket fort).
Astrid’s newest obsession is clothing with pockets. She loves having pants, jackets, and shirts with pockets on them.