Our little girl is now five months old and not so little anymore. She continues to grow and mature at a rapid pace, and is still in the 75th percentile for weight and height.
Astrid’s biggest development leap in the past month has been learning to stand with some assistance. She still doesn’t roll over or sit up on her own, but she loves standing, especially when she can look out the window. She’s jumped a few milestones but I’m sure she’ll figure out rolling and sitting soon.
Our sleep training last month has paid off and she now regularly sleeps through the night, often in 10-12 hour stretches. We have a nice bedtime routine with lullaby music, a feeding, a fresh diaper, changing her into a nightgown, and reading a story. Then the lights go off and the white noise is turned on. Some nights she falls asleep on her own and sometimes she needs some help with a soother and some bouncing.
There are lots of little changes in her personality and perception of the world. She’s taken an interest in our cat for the first time, reaching out to grab his tail. Luckily he doesn’t seem to mind. She also gets distracted during feedings for the first time, with any new noise pulling her attention away from eating. She has much better coordination and is able to pick things up, use both hands to hold things, and bring toys to her mouth.
She’s teething madly and loves to chomp on anything nearby. At dinnertime we give her frozen washcloths and a rubber spoon to chew on. I’ve tried giving her solid food a few times (avocado and pear), but she’s not interested yet.
She had a very infrequent month for poops, a few times going 8 days without a bowel movement. Luckily that pattern seems to have changed in the past few days, although it does mean more messy work for us.
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.
We’re 10 days into our new lives as parents, and it’s time to document what we’ve loved about these early days with our newborn daughter. I think we’ve been pretty lucky so far. She has her fussy moments, but she’s pretty easy to soothe and rarely cries for more than 10 minutes before we figure out what she wants. We’re definitely sleep deprived and beholden to her whims, but we’ve learnt to nap when she naps. At night she’s been sleeping well between feedings with a two or three long stretches (2-4 hours) most nights. By most accounts, we’re doing ok.
First night at home when I took Astrid from an exasperated and exhausted mother and soothed her to sleep while mommy slept. I’ve never felt so accomplished.
When Astrid starts to doze off, she makes a lot of faces – frowns, smiles, furrowed brows, yawns, and zombie eyes.
Our first social outing. We got her all dressed up to take her to meet the neighbours. We were just about to leave the house when she made a big poop. So we undressed her, cleaned her up, changed her diaper, and then redressed her. Then when we were 2 feet out the door she pooped again, so we had to repeat the process. We’re starting to understand why parents are always late.
Showing her off to the neighbours.
Emily really enjoys having Astrid fall asleep on her chest after feeding. It’s their special bonding time.
Bath time in the kitchen. She hated the first bath she had in the tub, but was pretty calm for the sponge bath we gave her next to the sink.
Seeing how much joy the grandparents get from holding her. Before Astrid was born, I naively thought it would be best to have a few days alone with her before the grandparents visited. A chance to try and learn her needs on our own. But I was wrong. It’s been a huge help to have them visit and impart their parenting advice.
4 am Daddy Dance Parties. When she doesn’t fall asleep after a night-time feeding, I take her to another room for dancing, bouncing, and exercise time. It helps her fall asleep and sometimes we both pass out on the couch together instead of moving back to the bedroom.
How well behaved the cat has been. I don’t think Boo likes the baby but he is content to just ignore her. He hasn’t lashed out or seemed stressed at all. I’m not sure we could deal with a misbehaving or anxious cat.
After 4 months backpacking through India, we have a lot of fond memories and unforgettable stories. We did our best to see as much of this amazing, diverse country as possible. We took dozens of trains, buses, and shared jeeps, covering more than 13,000 kms (further than the distance from Vancouver to Delhi) traveling between 35 destinations. There are individual blog posts about each stop on our trip, which you can read if you have hours of free time. Otherwise, here’s our recap.
We spent four days exploring the massive ruins around Hampi and the boulder strewn landscape. We could have spent more. Every day was special, but there were two very memorable moments. On the first day we hiked over a ridge and found ourselves alone with a sprawling ruins below us just begging to be explored. On our last day, we rented a motorbike and explored the north shore. We got lost on small dirt roads amidst rice paddies, hiked up to a monkey temple, and ate lunch at a packed, chaotic restaurant where no one spoke English, there was no menu, and the only thing they had was an unlimited thali with the tastiest food served on a banana leaf – no plates or cutlery.
Indians know how to party and we got to celebrate a few big festivals. We were lucky to celebrate India’s most colourful festival, Holi, in its most holy city, Varanasi. It was a riot of colour – fun but intimidating too. We brought in the New Year in Kochi with elephants, fireworks, and burning Santa Claus.
Camel Safari in Jaisalmer
Riding a camel might not be the most comfortable or fastest way to travel, but it sure is memorable. We slept under the stars at night and played cards under a shade tree during the day. Our camel ride left from Jaisalmer, one of the most relaxed and picturesque towns we visited in Rajasthan.
Yoga in Pushkar
Yoga in India is much more spiritual than the purely physical form you find in Vancouver. We really enjoyed many of the classes we took and our excellent instructors, but the highlight was meeting Swamiji in Pushkar, who we formed a deep personal connection with during our short stay. He really impressed us with his teachings on the fundamentals of yoga and his wisdom. We plan on making yoga part of our daily routine in Vancouver.
Beach Time in Goa
Far way from the chaos of India’s cities, the beaches of Goa and Gokarna are in a different world. For 10 days we slept in dirt-cheap huts and spent our days doing yoga, hiking, and reading on the beach. It was a great opportunity to recharge our batteries after our first month in India.
Our first attempt to hike the Himalayas along the Singalila Ridge didn’t go as planned, but we knew there was something special about the worlds highest mountains and signed up for another trek. The second time, Dan joined us for an epic 3-day hike to the top a snow-capped Chandrashilla Mountain. It wasn’t easy, even with porters carrying our gear and cooks making our food, but we survived and were glad we did it.
Karma in Kolkata
We met a lot of fascinating people throughout India, both locals and other travelers. In many ways the people we met were more memorable than the sights we saw. In Kolkata we were lucky to meet Karma and his friend Priya. We spent two days talking with them, sharing stories, and talking about our hopes for the future. They also showed us a part of the city we would have never found on our own.
Udaipur and Krishna Ranch
We spent a whole month in the Rajasthan, a state rich with history. After a while many of the cities started to blend together. Every one had an imposing fort, and ornate palace, and divine temples. But Udaipur really stood out from the pack with its beautiful setting on a lake with floating palaces. We also spent 3 relaxing days just outside the city at Krishna Ranch, enjoying the tranquil setting and doing some adventurous hiking/bushwhacking.
The northern state of Sikkim, next to Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan was another unique Indian gem. Rich in Buddhist culture, we loved the views of the towering Himalayas, ornate monasteries, Nepalese food, and our epic shared jeep rides between towns.
The tropical, jungle atmosphere of the Kerala backwaters in South India stole our hearts. We stayed in a lovely guest house on Munroe Island and enjoyed exploring the canals that connect the local villages by canoe. We also stumbled upon a Hindu festival with drummers and actors dressed up like gods and demons from the Hindu scriptures.
Monkeys in India are like racoons in Canada – cute but mischievous pests. But monkeys are not afraid of people and are active during the day. We lost count of the number of times got close to an adorable monkey, smiled (big mistake), and ran away when it bared its teeth and hissed at us. On Christmas morning at Karuna Farm, monkeys stole food from our outdoor kitchen while I was cooking breakfast. In Varanasi, one tried to pee on us from a rooftop. And in Hampi, we sat and watched monkeys jumping from roof to roof and making a mess of clothes lines and water barrels.
We’re one month into our 4-month trip through India and we’re getting into a good routine. We’ve figured out how to order South Indian food and eat it with our hands and how to walk down the street without being hit by a bus or stepping in cow shit. We’re used to sleeping on the hard beds and ignoring the aggressive rickshaw drivers and touts. And I’m getting better at walking by cows and monkeys without having to snap a picture, but it’s not easy – they’re so cute.
Our daily routine has been pretty relaxed. It may look like we’re doing a lot, but it is much slower pace than we’re used to. Our days start with a leisurely morning with an Indian breakfast. After that we will check out one sight or neighborhood and then grab lunch. Often we’ll retreat from the heat back to our hotel in the afternoon for a rest. After that we might check out another attraction before grabbing a late dinner. Indians tend to eat their meals later than Canadians and we’re starting to do the same.
We eat Indian food for most meals. Our favourite breakfasts are dosas or idlies with sambar. I’ve lost count how many dosas we’ve had – easily over 50 (including 6 today between the two of us). For lunch we often get thalis – cheap, vegetarian combo meals involving rice, bread, rassam, sambar, curries, and a sweet served in small silver bowls that waiters will often refill as you empty them. For dinner, we’ll either have more dosas or get something adventurous. North Indian food is easy to find the south and very tasty. It is also the closest to what you would find in Canada, but much better. You can’t go wrong with dal (lentil), aloo (potato), bhindi (okra), bharta (eggplant), or gobi (cauliflower) dishes. We’ve also discovered gobi 65 (a deep fried cauliflower dish) and gobi manchurian (like cauliflower buffalo wings), sambar vadai (donuts in a savory sauce), stuffed paratha (like an Indian quesadilla), and chana bhatura (chickpea curry with puffy bread). There’s enough variety within vegetarian Indian food that we’ve rarely felt the desire to eat Western food, although we did enjoy a burrito and falafel while we were in Bangalore. In most cities it is common to find reasonable facsimiles of Chinese, Italian, and American fast food (minus the beef).
The food sometimes meses with our digestive system. We’ve been sick a few times, food poisoning and vomiting for me, traveler’s diarrhea for Emily, and a lingering cold for both of us.
We have a rough itinerary of places we want to visit and have been reserving accommodation and transport about a week in advance. Now that the Christmas/New Year holiday season is over, it has been easier to book trains and hotele on short notice. During Christmas, train reservations are impossible and we had to rely on buses. We found handy websites to book our transport online – trains through cleartrip and buses through redbus.
We have been spending 2-4 days in most cities. Long enough to see all the sights and have some downtime. We often hand wash clothing when we arrive in a new city so it has time to dry. We’ve tried using laundry services, but they charge per item, so it is not worth it for underwear or socks.
Of course, everything hasn’t gone smoothly. There have been frustrations along the way. Technology tends to break just when we need it. I’m on my second cellphone now. It’s taken a bit of detective work to disable all the cloud syncing on the iPad so it doesn’t grind to a halt. Most of our accommodation has had free WiFi, but the signal is either weak or the connection to slow to use. Google Maps has lead us astray a few times.
Getting around in general has been the most frustrating. We’ve had a number of angry encounters with rickshaw drivers trying to screw us over. The buses are confusing with little English signage. Google maps has transit directions in the big cities, but it has been more detrimental than helpful. We tend to walk a lot, even though there is rarely sidewalks.
We don’t understand why Indians want to take their picture with us. The first time it was amusing. But some days we can be asked 50 times for a photo and some of the young men can get aggressive when we say no. It’s annoying, creepy, and borderline racist. It makes sense when it is someone we’ve talked to or had some interaction with, but usually it’s complete strangers. It makes it hard to enjoy some of the more popular sights when you’re being hunted by groups of paparazzis.
We’re slowly learning how to order food, but Emily was often frustrated early in the trip with large menus and no information about what the options are. At pure veg places we knew we could eat everything, but when we tried to order anything beyond the set meals or thalis we rarely had a balanced meal. Asking the waiters never helps because they just nod their heads.