Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Momma Gets Sick....Or, A Yucky Weekend Tale

... it's bad.

Over the weekend, Little L puked in that projectile-violent-liquid-germ-warfare kind of way. It was enough to warrant bedding changes, hot water laundry loads, and Hubbs and I staying up nearly all night in a watchful state for recurrences. Thankfully, there wasn't a repeat performance, at least not that night. Following her first episode, we decided to put her on the breastmilk and BRAT diet, which worked so well that we deluded ourselves into thinking that she could enjoy a bit of an ice cream sandwich at dinner time.


Her entire stomach contents soon revisited us, and now we are in the market for a new bedroom rug.

Following her violent upchuck, she slept fine and has been on a remarkably speedy road to recovery. Granted, I am still limiting her to fish crackers and bananas and rice, but as of this afternoon she has been able to keep down that delicious chocolate milk she enjoyed at breakfast time.

I, however, apparently belong to the "go big or go home" philosophy of illnesses, because I went big. Real big. Whatever Little L "caught," she not only passed on to me, but it magnified its virulence about 1000x over when it entered my system. As the weekend drew to a close, and the sun prepared to rise on a glorious Monday morning, I found myself alternating between hovering over the porcelain throne and sitting on it. Within 8 hours, I had emptied my stomach contents via violent vomiting about 5 times, and had peed through my butt (TMI - sorrynotsorry) about 7 times. Not since my famous Koh Samui food poisoning incident (which landed me in a Thai international hospital overnight) have I purged so much of my bodily fluids.

A call to 8-1-1 (of course) advised me to seek medical attention immediately. I suspected that I was dehydrated, and since I wasn't about to chance another bout of puking, Hubbs brought me to the nearest ER, stat! Of course, I wasn't really priority that morning, so I had to wait well over an hour before I could be seen. The doc on duty immediately had me IV'ed and also gave me a dose of anti-nausea through IV. That seemed to calm the raging beast inside my bowels, which allowed me to rest between blood tests and pee tests and all that other grand stuff.

And then, Zofran-prescription in hand, I was sent home. Weak, light-headed, aching and tired, but no longer spewing liquid poison from both ends.

Handsome Hubbs and I, at a wedding before Little L fell ill

All the while, my hero of a Hubbs took time off from work to care for Little L and look after his ailing wife. Even when it meant taking the toddler out for a McDonalds breakfast date (she had oatmeal, and not much of it), or going for a midnight stroll with her, or snuggling on the couch watching Daniel Tiger in the middle of the night so that I could get some rest. I am so lucky that my man is so caring!

But let me tell you, the dishes don't get done when Momma's sick. The laundry does not get done. The toys lay scattered on the living room rug. You get the picture.

So lesson learned: don't ever ever ever get sick if you're the mom. It ain't pretty.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things I Learned On Our Road Trip


1. Longer drives are ok for Little L but only if the iPad is fully charged and fully accessible to her. 

2. I must always plan ahead and have a fun destination ready to stop at every 1-1.5 hours (because it will take up to 2 to get there)!

3. Nexus passes are a gift from God.

4. Don't speed or break any traffic laws. Offenders will get caught.

5. Ranch dressing makes most veggies edible, according to Little L.

6. Always check before booking! The "on the beach" claim doesn't always mean it is easy to get to, and soft sand dunes are brutal to climb.

7. Little L loves the beach but hates sweltering hot weather.

8. Little L loves staying at hotels.

9. OR and WA have the best kid's museums!

10. Starbucks every day is a necessity. If none is near, load up at the grocery store for the bottled version. 

11. We really truly are city slickers. Next stop: Maui! (Or a weekend in Whistler or Seattle or an urban CA city).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Clek FLLO (It's Like FOONF but Not) - A Preview

Remember how I needed a lighter car seat for our Maui trip in Oct.? And how Little L is a picky girl who loves her FOONF and seems to hate most other car seats? And then that whole gate-vs.-regular-check-vs.-carry-on business?

I love you CLEK. It's like you read this blog.

Just today, my fave Canadian car seat company announced that they are going to be launching a compact convertible car seat called the FLLO (you can read the media brochure here). Some are calling it FOONF-lite, or the "lower" version of the FOONF. I call it the answer to my prayers.

Weighing in at 25ish pounds, it's not a featherweight by any stretch. However, it is still 13 pounds less than the FOONF in RF, which makes it a definite competitor to the other higher-end convertible car seats out there. In my mind, it's already better because CLEK is Canadian! 

I haven't been able to get a lot of details yet, and the seat isn't scheduled to be in stores until August at the earliest, but I've been calling the lovely folks at CLEK to try to get a sneak peek. Hopefully, if I am successful, I will be able to get my hands on one either before they hit the market, or just as they come into the stores. That way, everyone else gets to read all about it and make the ultimate tough decisions between buying the FLLO or the FOONF. Either way, I'm guessing that you can't lose ;)

But here's what I can surmise, in Q & A format:

What's different about the FLLO? It looks like a FOONF!

- COST: 
 The FLLO will cost about $100-$150 less than the FOONF, which is going up in price (in Canada, anyway) to $500 as of July 2nd.
 The FLLO will not have the rigid LATCH system for FF. Instead, it will use flexible latches (much like the FOONF's current flexible LATCH system in RF).
 The FLLO will not have a detachable "base" that the FOONF currently uses for RF. Instead, the FLLO has an attached base that either folds or collapses for switching between RF and FF.
 Without the RF base, the FLLO will be approximately 2" lower in profile than the FOONF. I believe it is also a little less "thick" than the FOONF but I don't have exact numbers on that.
 Instead of using the REACT safety system, the FLLO uses honeycomb deformable cores that "mimic the crumple zone technology of vehicles" to protect little bodies.
 The FLLO will weigh approximately 25 pounds, which is 9 less than the FOONF and 13 less than the FOONF + base

What's the same about the FLLO (compared to the FOONF)?
 Same Crypton Super Fabrics on both seats
 Same as the FOONF (up to 40 pounds in Canada in RF, and up to 65 in FF)
 They look very similar in style: clean lines, simple and chic, and a little bit space-agey
 Both have obtained the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards' seal of approval and undergone extensive NCAP crash-testing, and both seats still have that multi-layer protective foam, a metal substructure, and adjustable head rests for maximum side-impact protection.
 FLLO still has the bar, which I love (but I don't think everyone is thrilled with). Good news though: whereas it's mandatory to use with the FOONF, it is optional on the FLLO.
 Like it's predecessor, FLLO is designed to fit 3-across and is about 17" wide. 

Some are calling the FLLO the "FOONF-lite" or the lower-end, less loaded version (similar to how a Honda Accord is a more budget-friendly alternative to an Acura). I haven't had the pleasure of checking it out yet, but I'd surmise that it is probably not going to feel very "budget" or low-end, given that it's going to be priced fairly competitively with the Dionos and Peg Peregos, and not at the lower end of the spectrum with the Coscos and Evenflos on the market. CLEK has already established the FOONF as a game-changer, and despite the hefty weight and price tag, it continues to be a hugely popular choice for many. I anticipate that the FLLO will make owning a CLEK just that much more accessible for the masses, and I'd wager that sales will probably outstrip even the FOONF. 

Once I get my hands on a FLLO, I'll let you know how well it passes the Little L test, which (as you may have guessed) is a much more difficult approval rating to obtain than even the National Safety Mark. I doubt I'll be disappointed. 

Update: Here is the official CLEK Canada FLLO page. I am in contact with a media person for CLEK to try and arrange for my FLLO to be ordered and sent with their first shipments. I'm hoping to get my hands on one before Sept. 1st (*fingers crossed*) so that I have ample time to blog a "first-impressions" post as well as a piece on how well it travels (in a WeeLee bag, gate-checked). I'll keep you posted :)


Top 5 Toddler iDevice Apps - Little L edition 2014


You'd think it was New Year's or something, since I am posting my second "top 5" list in a row! However, since we introduced the iPad more regularly in Little L's life (at 20 months), I've had more than one person ask me questions about the types of apps we like or approve of. When Little L was younger, my preferences were different. However, for her present age (almost 2.5), a few stand out right now.

This one is fairly new to us, but is so worth the few bucks we paid. Premise is that Monster is frustrated with something, so Little L has to touch his tummy to help him take deep breaths, then she has to touch his thinking bubbles to come up with three possible "plans" to solve his problem, and finally she has to pick one of the three plans to see what happens. There are five different scenarios to choose from, and all of them are totally relatable situations. I love that it's trying to teach self-regulation and problem-solving to a 2-year-old, plus it's so easy to play! Animation quality is pretty good too, and my tot totally went through a phase when this was the only app she wanted to play!

Okay, so technically that's three apps, but all by the same maker so I'm counting it as one! These apps are crazy-well animated and require Little L to drag letters or numbers across the screen to build words or make numbers. As she moves the letters into their spots, the animated googly-eyed letters chant out their phonetic sounds (phonics!), and then the completed words are animated to show their meanings. In the numbers version, there's an element of "skip-counting" before the number values are animated. The Reader app places finished words in the context of a sentence prior to the animation sequence. The various packages cost $ to unlock, but I've bought every one and find them worth the expense, particularly since Little L is pretty much able to tell me which of the letters make any given sound, and I've not done phonics awareness stuff with her yet! 

Love-hate relationship with this one. The hate is because some of the interactive activities are too hard for Little L to do on her own (hand-eye fine motor skills to connect dots on circular letters that she's supposed to trace, or to draw squares to "advance" to the next screen). The love is because Little L has memorized, and loves to sing, one particular song from the app. It's just a short ditty with the following lyrics:

It feels so good to get the gift
that Christmas time can bring,
but when I give a Christmas gift
it's better than anything.

Complete with actions (mimicking the animated bear from the app), Little L will perform this melody over and over and over again, often demanding that we sing along with her. Sometimes I see her singing it with her stuffies and manipulating their plush arms to do the actions as well. It is soooo adorable, plus the message is a good one. 

These folks obviously know toddlers. The apps are simple to play, requiring tots to either drag items into the proper sorted categories (size, shape, colour, season...) or to drag items from largest to smallest, or match items that should be paired or matched. It took Little L no time to figure out what to do, and it's a great way to practice learning how to categorize objects. I've enjoyed playing this with Little L at the beginning, showing her which items to match or place, but once she got the hang of it, she ditched me. ;)

When we were in-between churches, we used to log in on Sunday mornings from home to watch Pastor Craig Groeschel from preach. This man is solid (at least, from what we've heard him preach), Jesus-loving, and has a pretty good self-deprecating sense of humour. His ministry spans several campuses throughout the Oklahoma area, and has a very tech-savvy approach to spreading the Gospel. 

His church recently launched this free app, which I love, not only because it has quality animation and breaks the Bible down to simple stories for little kids, but because it is interactive and lets kids answer questions, find "jewels," and touch different parts of the pictures to hear sound effects. Little L will sometimes randomly announce that she is reading the Bible, and will load this app to listen to her favourite stories: It Is Finished (the crucifixion story), A Forever Promise (Revelation), and In the Beginning (Genesis 1).

I wouldn't say that this app is suitable for 10 year olds, since it's pretty simple and older kids might find it "boring," but for my toddler, it's a perfect way to marry the visual and the text so that she can get an intro to the most central stories of our faith. I am so impressed with LifeChurch's app that I am near tempted to start downloading their sermons again! :)

Anyway, those are our top 5 for now. I'm sure if you asked me again 6 months from now, I might have a slightly different list. There are tons of apps marketed as being "for toddlers" or "young kids" right now, but I am finding that so many lack quality animation or content, and have little value in terms of being educational or intentional. The ones I've listed up here are productive and actually address age-relevant skills and learning. 

What are your favourite apps for your littles? What kinds of things do you look for in a good toddler app?


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Top 5 Van City Downtown Toddler Venues - The Little L Edition 2014

I was asked to compile my Van City list by Mitzi at East Van Baby, so I thought I'd jot down a few of our favourite places and haunts. Of course, this is a list that is constantly changing and evolving as Little L grows and develops different interests. For now, however, we can often be found at the following places:

1. Vancouver Aquarium
We are members, and we really admire their work as a non-profit, marine-animal-rescue service. Unlike a lot of other places that keep healthy aquatic animals in captivity, Van Aqua is home to those animals that cannot live in the oceans any longer due to injury and other limiting factors.

The facility has just undergone a major expansion, and now they have several single-use nursing rooms scattered throughout the gorgeous facility. The entire place is very toddler-friendly, with lots of places to climb up and look, or sit down and watch, or observe from behind glass. They even have a pretend-play area called the "Clownfish Cove" for the littles if you want to take a break on a padded bench. Though a bit overpriced, their canteen food is yummy too! Little L is a huge fan of the chicken fingers and Hubbs loves their battered fish.

2. George Wainborn Park
I think this is our favourite park at the moment. It's mostly for toddlers, with a wood-chip dual-slide play area that also features a ride-on chipmunk and turtle. The adult swings are on a separate woodchip area from the baby swings, of which there are four. The grass always feels good under our feet at this park, and the "fountain" area has a space where your littles can probably get away with dipping their feet or walking between the watery crevices of the rocks on a hot day. I love that there's a ton of green space for a grassy picnic, and the park is relatively shaded from the harsh summer sun. It's also not a particularly crowded park; most of the kids in the area gravitate towards the one near Elsie Roy School because it is more suited for older (or more agile) kids, but for Little L, who isn't keen on tall heights and climbing on ropes, this park is perfect!

3. Yaletown Roundhouse Train and "Plaza" Platform
For little train lovers, the free (donations-please) exhibit of a train-car that they can actually climb aboard is hugely appealing. For Little L, the colourful plaza outside is the draw. It is a wood-plank area that is often littered with these giant red avant-garde L-shaped structures that, for most of us, double as chairs. The platform is lit up at night with a Vegas-worthy set of coloured lights that are constantly changing. It's beautiful, and also shaded from the sun during the day because of the giant canopy that soars above the platform on the lit-up side. Sometimes they even turn on the "mist" feature, which causes cool mist "steam" to shoot up from the vents along the platform. We have been known to loiter there for 30 minutes at a time, sometimes to stop for a snack, and sometimes for Little L to burn off some energy at sundown. If you head to the main entrance area from the plaza, there are also cool art sculptures to look at and discuss... At length ;)

And if you need to use the loo, you can just run across the street to the Urban Fare, which has two single-use unisex/accessible bathrooms with change tables. Both are big enough to fit your jogger stroller inside, and it's usually pretty clean.

4. Chapters - Yes, the Robson store
Weird as it sounds, sometimes during the school year, this is the place to be at "nap time" (which is never Little L's naptime). All of the Chapters stores now have these sectioned-off children's book areas, which contain toys and seats for little patrons to use, as well as the many books for them to read. The Robson one has the added feature of the flagship "American Girl" shop in the city, and Little L *loves* looking at the miniature doll accessories and playing with the displays. Of course, I would never advise dumping your child there unsupervised for any length of time, since the accessories could be swallowed or your tot could wreak some serious havoc to the carefully-displayed doll scenes, but if you're watching and reminding them to be gentle, this could be a fun place to kill a few minutes. We have spent several hot afternoons looking at the American Doll babies. Her fave is the bathtub :)

5. Coopers' Park
I'm a little loathe to even tell you about this park (much like I almost didn't tell you about the Wainborn one). It's located beneath the Cambie bridge, so it is always a refuge from the hot sun. We've actually seen homeless people who have tried to set up temporary homes on the playground equipment, so I guess it's not a complete secret. The park has two play areas: one that has several "tall" slides, and one that has lower, baby-friendly (read:not too high or steep) slides. There are also a few swings for different age groups, plus a basketball court that I usually see being used as a skateboard park. We like this park because the grassy area is quite sunny and well-kept, there's usually a "puddle" for Little L to jump in (because of the leaky water fountains, which are disgustingly filthy and you would never in a bazillion years ever want to drink out of), and the park isn't super busy. Did I mention the shade? Because Little L and I are both not keen on super-hot temperatures, this park is great for escaping the heat (and also ducking out from the rain).

We also have memberships here. It's a great indoor, interactive place for kids of every age, although we don't love how crowded it gets on weekends or the fact that we had a multi-hour lockdown in here several weeks ago (yes, during the Yaletown shooting of 2014, we happened to be at Science World when the gunman biked his geriatric self to the venue and got into a shoot-out with the police). They also have a specific under-6 play area, a nursing room, and bathrooms scattered throughout.  Little L likes "sleeping" on the seats near the "tree" inside the animal exhibit, looking at the eggs, running through the beaver dam tunnel, dancing on the footsteps, drumming on the acoustic equipment, splashing in the water displays, looking at the giant urban density "red cake pop" exhibit, and checking out the seasonal exhibit (currently about "sports" but prior to that, a LEGO exhibit that was very hands-on). The on-site White Spot is perfect for lunches if you forgot to pack one, and the place is sizeable enough that your tot can run around and get his/her wiggles out before nap time.

The other places that we frequent include Elsie Roy's school playground, the park at Seymour and Davie (whose name escapes me at the moment), and another little playground in David Lam Park near the tennis courts. I don't love them as much, which is why they didn't make my Top 5.

We just checked out the water splash park at Stanley Park yesterday, and it was a ton of fun too! Free, except for parking. I might write up more on that if we go back a few more times, but it's not one of our "regular" places to go. These ones are.

Where do you like to take your tot(s)? Any "secret" discoveries in the city that you'd be willing to share? 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Tricky Toilet Training

Little L is still in the throes of potty-training, and it's mostly a process of two steps forward, one step back. For the most part, she is pretty good about identifying when she needs to "make a brown poop," but sometimes she won't want to use the big or the little potty, opting instead to retreat to a small private space in our living room or beneath the clothes hanging on a rack in a department store. She is good about not pooping in the bath (and has told me that she needed to use the potty before every bath-time poop, PTL). However, her on-potty ratio to off-potty ratio is probably only 1:2, and her pull-ups are often still a bit wet.

Anyway, when she actually asks to sit on the potty, how can I refuse? Whether it's for poop or pee, I'm just happy that she wants to do her business in the proper place. While she's sitting and waiting for the happy event, I also allow her to play on her iPad. It gives me a little break, it keeps her entertained, and let's face it - her daddy and I are just as guilty for taking tech to the toilet, so why be a hypocrite?  Do as we do, right?

Sweet face, but she's learning to be tricky
The tricky part comes when Little L makes requests to sit on her potty under the auspices of voiding, while actually just wanting to get some extra screen time. Do I let her go on the potty whenever she vocalizes this desire, or do I assess her bowel-bladder situation and determine that she's not really needing to go? On occasion when she has just done the deed already, I will deny her request. I'm cautious about doing so, however; I wouldn't want to prevent her from actually reading her body cues to "go" if she happens to have more to void, thereby pushing her to rely on pull-ups again when she could be practicing good toileting habits.

Sometimes I will let her get back on the potty, but I make her read a book instead, or play with a stuffie, but who are we kidding here? I'm usually happy to let her have a "reward" if this is the currency that it takes to get her to do her business in a toilet of some kind. However, when there is no "product" at the end of 5 (or 10) minutes, I am not pleased, and wonder if I've just been duped by a two-year-old trickster.

So I'm not really sure how to proceed with this whole potty-training business. For now, we are just sort of letting her continue on her own timeline, and not giving a lot of pressure for her to be potty-trained. We prompt after meals and naps and prior to bath time, but we don't force her to use her potty, even when she's starting her poopy-squats and we know what's coming. We ask when that happens, but if she chooses to hide behind the curtains instead, we usually let her. For now.

I'm starting to wonder if we need to be a little more assertive about enforcing toilet use for #2, but there is that part of me that really just hates forcing children to do things that may not be developmentally-appropriate yet, and might create negative associations down the road. I mean, if she was 4 and nowhere near potty-trained, you can bet your a$$ that I would be laying down the law. However, at 2 years and 4 months, I'm not sure that she is so "behind" that we need to take aggressive measures yet. *sigh* Who knew that potty-training would be such a marathon?

How old was your little one when he/she finally hit a consistent routine of potty-use only? Did you do intensive potty-training or did you let your child take the lead on learning this?  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Rant - On Loving Your Neighbor

I'm about to unleash, so if you're not into reading about the things that piss me off, then feel free to skip this post.

Remember that thing that they used to do on Friends to indicate F.U.? That.

Here's a story about a family, from a place of worship I no longer attend, who discovered over the weekend that one of their several unvaccinated children had contracted a very contagious, very unpleasant condition (read:pneumonia), and their other kids were starting to develop symptoms as well. If you and I were these parents, I'd like to think that we would keep our children at home and at rest for several days, because 1)they need rest for recovery, and 2)they're highly contagious. Yes, that would be loving, Christian, responsible thing to do.

Alas, this is where the story goes downhill. Instead of keeping these sickly youngsters confined to the four walls of their home, this family decided to bring all of their children to church - specifically, to Sunday School, where dozens of other healthy and unsuspecting children are dropped off every Sunday morning. So what do you suppose happened inside those several Sunday School classes?

a) The sickly children wore masks and stayed to themselves, touching nothing and speaking with no one.

b) The sickly children didn't wear masks and played with all of the other kids, running and coughing and sneezing and drooling all over the toys and the other little people.

Worse yet, do you suppose that these parents bothered to inform any other parents that their kid(s) were potentially contagious? Or did they sneak their kids in and usher their kids out after church, hoping that nobody would notice the coughing and the sniffles, and that no other child would suddenly come down with a terrible case of pneumonia this week?

Now what if I told you that these parents weren't just random people in the church, but highly influential, highly visible, highly involved people? And that they profess to love Jesus and to love others? I would dispute how much they really love others, since a choice of this nature tells me that they love themselves just a bit more, and that the convenience of having their children looked after for 1.5 hours on a Sunday morning meant more to them this weekend than the possibility of infecting other people's kids with what theirs have.

This pisses me off. MUCH. Because it takes nobody else into account - not their own kids' discomfort, not the health of the Sunday School volunteers who are looking after their progeny, and most certainly not the welfare of dozens of other children (some of whom might have existing challenges of compromised immune systems or respiratory ailments). It was irresponsible and it was inconsiderate. It completely destroys their credibility as people who wish to make Jesus known, and it hurts others.

I've tried to think that maybe there is another explanation, something that can excuse or shed a different light on such a terrible decision. However, I simply cannot think of how anyone with a functioning brain would be able to make such a decision and not have considered how it might affect others. I mean, one of their children was actually x-rayed and assessed by a medical professional and given medication for pneumonia; it's not a speculative diagnosis. Since these people are presumably giving their child(ren) meds for pneumonia, it's not like they can conveniently "forget" that their babies are sick and could make other people's babies equally sick.

So I can only conclude that this decision was intentional, and therefore incredibly selfish. I am offended, and every parent whose child attended Sunday School with these peoples' kids are justified to be angry that these people treated the health of other people's kids so cavalierly. But here's the kicker: nobody knows! Not the Sunday School volunteers, not the parents of the other littles who were in church... the only people who know are the immediate neighbors of this family (through whom I was made aware). When other little kids from this church suddenly come down with pneumonia in the next few days (because there's usually an incubation period of several days), these poor parents will have no idea where the germs came from!  And the offending family won't have to answer for their horrible decision.

Well, I'm not one to stay silent. If you attended the Vancouver westside church that I used to attend this past week, and you have a child between the ages of 0-5 who went to Sunday School/nursery class, ask me to name names and I will. You can then confront these irresponsible people directly about letting their kid(s) with pneumonia spread their germs to everyone else at church.

Love your neighbor indeed. Hmph.

PS - We actually missed church at First Baptist this weekend. Ironically, it was because Little L is sick with a snotty cold; we didn't want her sneezy self to infect all the other kids at Sunday School. So yeah, we do practice what we preach when it comes to illnesses.


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