Record low in Vancouver!

Where else in Canada (you know, Canada, the country renowned for being north of the North Pole and colder than cold) would you see such a pitiful record low for February 25? I figure you wouldn’t believe it, so I decided to quote a newspaper:

“A record low temperature of -8 C was set in Vancouver at 7 a.m. Friday morning, breaking the previous low of -5.2 C set in 1993. With the wind chill factor, that felt more like -14 C.”

Oh no, not -8! We’re almost going to need a tuque!

Of course, it does feel cold when you’re used to 5 degrees being a normal temperature for winter and you have become so wussy that you wear a tuque by 12 degrees. And I’m sure the cherry trees, which were blooming, as well as the crocuses, the daffodils and the pussy willows, have all been quite surprised by the cold snap and the snow dump. Spring interrupted! We’re really happy we bought the kids some cold weather jackets when we had a cold snap in November (never thought we would use them that much). Really thankful, too, for the bunting bag my cousin gave me. It’s super practical in the stroller. True, it’s pink, and my stroller is red. Not fashionable at all! But we’re warm and it snowed, and the city is beautiful under the snow.

Unfortunately the temperature went up and today it’s raining. The snow will soon be gone – probably the last snow of the year. But we enjoyed it last night, and again this morning. And if we’re lucky, and if we stopped fucking up the global climate, it may even come back next year!

I still think we’re wussies!

Crawling already?

My daughter is only five and a half months, and she’s already on the move. I’m not sure you can really call it crawling yet. Well, it depends on the meaning you give to the word. In French, the word that translate crawling, “ramper”, applies perfectly: it’s the word you would use to describe the movement made by a snake. More like a military crawl. In English, the meaning of “crawling” when it comes to babies is what in French we call walking on all fours. She’s not doing that yet. She tries to put weight on her knees, but can’t go forward that way yet. But she’s pulling herself forward with her arms while lying on the ground. And she is doing it more and more efficiently, and faster every day.

That’s scary. My son started crawling at 7 months. It was early already – the range is about 6 to 10 months. I couldn’t keep going to mom and baby fitness classes because they’re for pre-mobile babies. Same with the nurse talks – some women could go with their 9-month-olds, but my son wouldn’t stay put past 7 months. Now I am facing pretty much the same thing with my five and a half month old daughter! I can tell she’s going to be exhausting. We have to start baby-proofing because she can now get into her brother’s toys – you know, the ones rated for 3 years plus because they’re choking hazards… And my son is finding it less funny now that she can get into his things. I know that it’s only the beginning: soon she’ll be pulling things off the side table onto her head. Then she’ll be able to stand up and reach even more stuff. Aarrgh!

It’s also going to be the beginning of some very fun time. Different games and interactions. Then toddling. Then the first words. A lot of excitement to come… I’m just not sure that I’m ready for it yet!

Sleep-training, you said?

The problem with the sleep-training right now is that my baby cries when she’s wet. At 10, when I feed her, she’s always dry. But at 2, when I change her, she’s soaked. So I suspect that when she cries at 12 or 1, it’s because she’s wet and unhappy about it. I thought of changing her and putting her back to bed without feeding her, but really, I don’t want to get up every two hours even if it’s only for changing a diaper. So I decided that she should learn to live with a wet diaper if she has to. I mean, my son would wake up soaked after a night of sleep and it didn’t seem to cause much problem.

Now, of course, if she’s soiled, I change her. But that’s if I know! Yeah, last night she woke up at 11, 12 and 1, and when she woke up again at 3:30 I changed her and realized she was poopy. I felt so bad! She might have been soiled all along and crying to get changed. But she never poops at night… usually. So how could I know? I put her back to bed, she woke up at 5:30, I let her cry, then she woke up at 5:50, I fed her, dozed off, and when I changed her at 6:30… she had pooped again!

So she’s all rashy now and I feel horrible. My son was so loud when he pooped that I always knew. I’m sure it would have woken me up in my sleep. My daughter? Not so much. She’s what you’d call a “stealth-pooper”.

Oh, well. Her skin will heal. She’ll forgive me. I hope. And maybe next time I’ll check her diaper when she wakes up in the middle of the night…

Who’s turn is it to sleep today?

I know that sleep deprivation is boring for people who don’t have young children and I know that I seem to always be talking about it, but let’s face it: it’s hard to think of anything else when you’ve been getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night consistently. It’s not the end of the world: I know that it will get better, and I have been napping with my baby in the morning now that she consistently sleeps for at least an hour and sometimes an hour and a half, twice a day. Sometimes I even get to sip a cup of tea during her afternoon nap. So I’m ok. I do get frustrated more easily, and I’m sorry to say that Zak and our son are probably the ones who get the short end of the stick. It’s hard to be patient after a bad night, and especially around our boy’s bed time, my fuse tends to get shorter. But my family is wonderful and certainly worth it.

However, what I find really hard these days is the function of sleep manager. I have been “sleep-training” my baby, if you can call it that (it’s pretty soft sleep-training, really). More accurately, I refuse to respond to her calls when it’s been less than 4 hours since the previous feeding. But even that is hard to maintain: when she goes to bed at 7 and wakes up at 10 just as we’re going to bed (which, let’s be honest, is every night), I  feed her because I figure it’s ridiculous to let her cry so she can wake me up an hour later. But after that, if she wakes up at 12 or 1, I let her cry. I feed her when she wakes up next, around 2 am, but then the problem is she tends to wake up again around 5 or 5:30. I want to let her cry until 6, because it’s less than 4 hours, but if I do, it wakes up our son, who then doesn’t go back to sleep. We have tried everything, but if he wakes up after 5:30, even if he has to stay in his bedroom until 7, he doesn’t actually sleep. And if he naps in the afternoon we have trouble putting him to bed in the evening. He’s pretty exhausted… So if it’s 5:45 when my daughter wakes up, or if it’s 5:30 but my son has something really important that day and needs to be rested, I pick her up so her brother can sleep.

Sometimes, I pick her up so Zak can sleep. Other nights, when it’s really bad, he sleeps on the couch to get a few hours in a row. I thought of joining him, but since I’m not ready to go cold turkey (i.e. not respond to my daughter at all during the night), I want to be where I can hear her and respond (at reasonable intervals). The result is, I feel like I have been turned into a sleep manager. Do I pick up the baby? Do I let her cry? Who needs their sleep the most today? I  have to make these decisions really fast (I can’t let the baby cry for a few minutes and then pick her up or she will learn that crying gets her picked up). And the only consistent answer to the “Who gets to sleep?” question is: not me. Although I’m not being fair: I get to nap in the morning and Zak gracefully picks up the slack at these times, taking care of anything else that has to be taken care of. He never naps, even when he doesn’t sleep well, because when he does he then has trouble sleeping at night. Personally, I’m way too exhausted to worry about whether or not I’ll sleep at night. I have learned to take any bit of sleep when I can because I never know what the next night will bring. Because even if I don’t pick her up after one or two hours, she doesn’t seem to get the hint and she still often wakes up and cries.

Oh, well. It’s hard right now, but I know it won’t last. My baby is almost 6 months old. She falls asleep on her own, and it just made me realize that it’s been several weeks since I’ve had her lying on me asleep, her warm breath against my neck. She’s my last baby. I’ll soon miss her cuddles – and she’s going to be an independent one, I can already tell. I’m afraid she’ll grow way too fast. So I won’t complain. I’m not working, I can nap with her, I have a my wonderful husband home to take care of our son and give me a lot of help, so I’ll take advantage of this year with my whole family and I’ll enjoy them fully while I can.

Remind me of these good dispositions next time I whine about sleep!

Just because…

Isn’t she cute?

Meet my new best friend

Several months ago, the City of Vancouver started offering residential composting pickup services. Unfortunately, because we live in a multi-family dwelling, we were not eligible. However, while investigating the issue, Zak started looking into what services we could get if we convinced our neighbours to pay for it. He talked about it with neighbours and the Board of Directors, then a friend took over ironing out the kinks when Zak became too busy with his new status of father-of-two. And last week, after less than a year (believe me, it’s fast-moving for a Coop) our nice, new composting bins arrived.

Our brand new compost bins...

Our brand new compost bins...

And yes, compost is my new best friend. We knew that most of our garbage was compostable, and we tried to keep a worm composter on our deck, but worms tend to be slightly finicky (they won’t eat potatoes or too much acidic fruit, or…) and they just couldn’t keep up with our production, so we slowly gave up, although it broke our hearts. Now in the past week we have reduced our garbage output by… I would say about 90%! It’s amazing the range of things you can compost, from paper muffin cups to tissue paper (and yes, I have a cold) to food scraps, on top of, of course, all our fruit and veggie peelings. The only thing we are not composting is meat; the company we deal with allows it, but the Coop has decided to ban meat as a compromise with people who were afraid that the compost would stink too much.

We don’t eat much meat anyway, so our garbage for the week went something like: bits of chicken skin and fat (from 2 chicken breasts), salmon skin and packaging, and a few plastic wrappers that were not recyclable. We are now converting our garbage can into a compost bin and our compost bin into a garbage can. We have a 4 litre compost bin and we have filled it up to the brim every day. That is how much garbage is not going to the landfill anymore because one family has compost. Granted, not everyone eats as much produce as we do, but still, can you imagine if everyone had easy access to compost and cared enough to use it?

For now, the composting system is voluntary in our coop. But I could see a day when it could become mandatory. In an effort to encourage composting, the City of Vancouver has recently hiked up the price of garbage removal by 18%, and it is slated to go up again (a lot) in the near future. Meanwhile, the price of composting is being locked in. That might soon become a huge incentive. Of course, people in our building seem to have enough trouble as it is with recycling (we often find plastics in the paper, or more recently, an ashtray full of cigarette butts!) so who knows what would happen to our compost. But I am optimistic.

In praise of our preschool

When we decided to register our son to a preschool, we first visited the brand new one that was due to open in the renovated YMCA near our place. It was not open yet; the toys were still in wrappers, brand new, all wooden and good quality. The room had been made to measure for a preschool with tiny desks and toilet. At first, we were very enthusiastic, but it felt… how can I explain it? It felt sanitized. Institutional. And a few things bothered us.

First, the schedule was weird. In the hope to get parents to take their kids to swimming lessons before preschool, their schedule was 10:30 to 1 pm. In that period, kids would have a snack and lunch. It made us wonder if they would have time for anything else. Plus each child’s snack was to be put together and shared among everyone. Also, they were not planning on going out of the building. They would go to the rooftop garden, but it certainly doesn’t qualify as a playground. All the kids would be together at the same time (3 and 4 year olds, some full- and some part-time). Finally, when reading the documentation, it seemed to us a bit… foo-foo, for lack of a better word. You know, full of long educational principles that are hard to imagine translated in actual real action.

Then we visited our preschool. It’s much older, some of the toys look worn. But there are great big windows, it’s clean, and it’s very homely. We went to visit while preschool was in session and our son was invited to stay with the other kids while we were talking to the administrator. She insisted on the importance of healthy snacks low in sugar. She explained how the 3 and 4 year olds would be on different days, all part-time, so that the group is always the same from one day to the next. They would go out to the park when the weather was nice, and if that wasn’t possible, they would play in the gym within the same building. The classroom was decorated with the children’s artwork, the teachers were nice and warm, there were lots of books. We liked it right away. We were given a very long questionnaire to fill so they would get to know our child better.

We were leaning towards that preschool, but I think what sealed the deal was a conversation I had with another mom I know whose son went there. She said it wasn’t bad, but she found they didn’t do enough academic activities. That suited me just fine: I think school lasts long enough without starting academics at 3. We enrolled our son into that preschool. We explained in the documentation that he had never been babysat outside the house and that he would have a sibling just before the beginning of the school year, so we feared separation anxiety. Then we spent the summer talking to our son about the preschool, which he knew since he had spent some time there.

On the first day of class, the teacher greeted me with a “I thought your baby would be born by now”. Yeah, she had read the sheet! They spent a lot of time with our son on the first day and he loved it right away. He never shed a tear. The next day his sister was born. The day after that was the second day of preschool. He was already at home there. We never looked back. We heard that the YMCA had trouble getting their program established and changed teachers a few times. It’s just hearsay, but if it’s true I’m glad our son had the stability of the place we went with. He’s always happy to go in the morning and he asks us when his next day of preschool will be. He has learned to recognize his name and is starting to write it. They do arts and crafts, they read books, they dance, they sign songs, they bake, they go to the park, he plays house with his friends, he plays trucks with his friends…

One of the kids in his class is autistic. Everyone loves it. He is extremely well integrated, and the worker who attends class with him is one of our son’s highlights from preschool. Sometimes our son will come back saying “X didn’t want to paint today”, or “X was banging his head on the table”, but despite the differences, the kids love him. And it gives us a chance to talk about differences. I love what my son is learning, and I don’t mean academically (although that is happening too). I mean learning to deal with others, live as a micro-society, do stuff for himself, etc. I’m not quite as keen about his discovery of Dora and Thomas the Tank Engine, but eh, we knew that would come eventually.

All in all, I would totally recommend our preschool to anyone looking for one in Vancouver. There is even one little girl who moved several Skytrain stations away but they will not leave the preschool. It’s worth the trip…