Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Some Inspiration for Winter Biking

Our brief winter back in December
This winter in Vancouver wasn't as cold as last year, thankfully, so we only had to deal with snow & ice for a week or so.

But the rain.

OMG, the rain.

January was brutal for rain & I am glad to see February is slightly better. But there are definitely fewer cyclists out there on the roads & I get a lot more comments about how "heroic" or "hardcore" I am for riding every day in the rain.

The thing is, I don't really have a choice. We don't own a car & picking up a carshare vehicle for the school run would be a hassle, honestly. Plus, driving to get Linny to or from school actually takes longer than biking: while the trip takes ten minutes for either mode, finding parking around the school takes a few minutes longer in a car. Transit from where we live to where his school is means several blocks of walking on each end, or a bunch of transfers. Not worth it.

So on my bike I go, rain or shine, snow or sleet or hail. & it's okay--I haven't melted yet. & most days, I really enjoy it. Even on the worst days--with the exercise & fresh air & that feeling almost like flying--it's a net positive.

For those of you who have an easier way to get where you need to get--maybe you own a car, or the bus routes work better for you--here's a little more visual inspiration to go for it on two wheels. Check out this Flickr set of cyclists just getting where they need to go in wintry Montreal:

Velo d'Hiver, by Zvi Leve.

You'll see riders of all ages from toddlers in baby seats to seniors on trikes. Just ordinary people, just doing their thing. No big deal. :)

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Bronte 4.5

Putting on EMLA cream before a blood test
Almost-four-&-a-half-year-old Bronte is now registered for kindergarten (eep!) & she's ready to go. Raring to go, really. She's still really interested in reading & writing & has started identifying letters in signs & printed material around the house. I don't doubt she'll love all the activities she'll get to do in school when she starts in September.

Her favourite toys are probably her dollies, but her favourite pastime is watching Mia & Me on Netflix. If she's not watching it, she's drawing unicorns, magic treasure maps, or singing the intro song at the top of her lungs. Actually, scratch, that, I'd say her favourite pastime is stealing my makeup & doing a four-year-old's version of a smoky eye. I forgot to latch the baby lock on the bathroom cabinets properly a couple of times in the past few weeks & we have some funny photos to show for it.

Bronte is very excited about the things we're planning to do this spring, but still doesn't have a good enough concept of time, so she keep asking if we're going on our trip today (it's more than a month away) or if she gets to go to soccer now (it starts in April). She gets bonus points for memory & enthusiasm, at least.

Checking Panda's blood pressure at BCCH
The past month saw two more blood tests & a visit to the pediatrician at BC Children's to follow up on her recovery from the septic arthritis she had just before Christmas. Unfortunately, Bronte developed a fear of needles after having so many procedures in the week she was in the hospital, so there was a lot of numbing cream (aka "snowman poop") before, screaming & fighting during, & then ice cream afterward. She got through it all & I'm hoping she'll work past the fear--we've still got her pre-kindergarten vaccinations to do in the next few months.

Bronte also had to take a three week course of antibiotics after she was discharged. I made a sticker chart to keep track of all the doses (we had to give her 14ml of the stuff 84 times) & help motivate her to take it. Thankfully she seemed to like the flavouring in it, so she didn't protest much.

Bronte has gotten to the point where she won't let us pick out her clothes anymore, which is fine. I find her fashion sense to be very entertaining & she's learning to dress for the weather. If you want to see her crazy multi-coloured pattern clashing outfits, I occasionally post them over on Instagram with the hashtag #PreschoolerFashion.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Six Great Children's Books About Biking

Books are wonderful things that can teach children about the world they haven't seen yet, as well as make them feel a part of it when they see themselves represented. There are a tonne of books out there where people (or ducks, for that matter) drive around in cars & trucks, but it's a little harder to find books with cycling as a big part of it. We've tried to find a few for our children's collection, & by the looks of the thread on a recent post in the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group, we're not alone in that.

Here are a few bikey books to find at the library or buy for your kids (or better yet, suggest as gifts instead of yet another stuffie or forgettable plastic doohickey). Hat tip to Lise for starting the thread in Vancouver Family Biking!

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World, as you might guess from the title, is non-fiction, all about the history of cycling in Amsterdam. The colourfully illustrated picture book focuses on the story of young mom Maartje Rutten & how she helped to change her city for the better. There is also a short bibliography at the end of the book with some great online resources if you want to learn more.
Duck on a Bike is a book after my own heart: it's sort of about a cycling advocate. Except he's a duck & the others he convinces to bike are also farm animals. A great read for preschoolers, in particular. Also, if you ride regularly, many of the other animals' reactions to Duck will sound familiar to you.
The Girl and the Bicycle looks like one we'll need to get from the library. It's a wordless picture book where a girl sees a bicycle she wants to buy, then works hard for a nice neighbor to earn the money to buy it. At the end of the story she gets a lovely surprise.
Along a Long Road is great for very young children, with one or two words on most pages. Frank Viva's bold & delightfully odd illustrations are so simple but they really capture the experience of riding a bike & the little details in your environment that you can see when travelling that way.
Mrs. Armitage on Wheels is one we haven't read yet, but we clearly need to, ASAP. First off, it's written & illustrated by Quentin Blake, one of my favourite artists. Secondly, how could you resist it after reading the teaser on Amazon?
"Mrs Armitage sets off for a quiet cycle with her faithful dog, Breakspear, but she just can't help thinking of ways to improve her bicycle. Before very long she has added three very loud horns, a bucket of water to wash her hands, a complete tool kit. And by the time she has also added a seat for Breakspear, two umbrellas, a cassette player and a mouth-organ, Mrs Armitage is riding a very eye-catching contraption. But it is when she finally adds the mast and sail, that Mrs Armitage really runs into trouble..." 
Bear on a Bike has a very repetitive call & reply type structure that my kids loved because I would read the part on each page that was new, then they would complete it with the last bit. It comes in sturdy board book format that can handle the rowdiest toddler. Bonus: the edition that VPL has is bilingual, in Spanish & English!

Hope you enjoy these bikey books with your littles. The Vancouver Public Library has all six of them, however, Mrs. Armitage is only available in Spanish & French. If you have a favourite kids book about biking, I'd love to hear about it--let me know in the comments! Also, this is only a sample of the books mentioned in the thread in Vancouver Family Biking--join the conversation here!

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Bronte 4.3 & 4.4

Hm, so I think I missed a month of updates on bubs in all the holiday hoo-ha, then got distracted a bit while B was at BC Children's Hospital for eight days. She's just finishing up a course of antibiotics, plus we'll have some followup testing at the hospital but she's fine. So let's combine the past two months into one update, shall we?

Bronte's favourite things:

Drawing on paper, herself, the laptops, furniture, books. She has started copying the black & white line drawing that I have been doing a lot lately & I have to admit, I'm pretty impressed. Shes' also getting better at writing her name in the correct order. Es still look a lot like combs though.

Making anything, especially jewellery or perler bead creations. She was pretty excited to be allowed to use scissors to make paper snowflakes.

Her stuffed animals, though not ever any specific one for long. This was handy in hospital when we needed to launder a couple of them.

Popsicles: many of these were consumed in hospital, despite barfing up the first one due to her post-anaesthesia nausea. She'll eat any flavour, but if given a choice, it needs to be cherry.
Dresses, the more colours & prints she can combine together with her leggings, shirts, & socks, the better. I really should try to document these outfits more often.

Yogurt. This kid would eat at least a litre of the stuff every day if we let her.

Dogs & cats. This is Elvis. He lives a block down the street & just walks into our house sometimes. He barely tolerates Bronte, probably because she loves him so much.

Moving constantly. It is very difficult to get a clear photo of this child because she literally never stops moving. Here she is, about two minutes after a blood test. Bounces back quickly, this one does.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stocking Stuffers for Kids

What sort of things do you put in your kids' Christmas Stockings? When I was a kid, there were a few things that I found in there every year: chocolate coins, an orange, & a candy cane. I often got a few useful gifts in there too, like underwear or socks, plus a few other small items. Now that I'm stuffing stockings for my own kids, I like to give them a mix of fun stuff & useful stuff, while trying to stay away from low quality plastic stuff that'll end up in a landfill in a matter of months. But I also don't want to spend a mint on stocking stuffers, so affordable is key.

Here are a few ideas for affordable stocking stuffers for kids (& let's be honest, a lot of adults would like many of these too):

  1. Play Tape--masking tape with roads printed on it that can be put down in different ways, then peeled up & recycled after, great combined with a Hot Wheels car or two. Comes in two widths, lots of colours, & is available in store at Walmart for just $5.
  2. DIY Kit--felt plus embroidery thread & a needle, or homemade playdough (check out Mama.Papa.Bubba for loads of ideas)
  3. Mini Sketchbooks--I generally look at Opus Framing for any art supplies, since the quality is generally so much better. A tiny blank book is portable for entertaining kids at restaurants, or in waiting rooms, & even road trips. Get a 5"x8" book for just $3 at Opus.
  4. Bath bombs--if you DIY these there are tons of tutorials online. I bought the citric acid & cream of tartar at Famous Foods for about $8, which will make at least a dozen of them. Or buy ready-made bath bombs at Lush for $6 & up.
  5. Blue Orange games in a tin--they're small, they're portable, & they practise useful skills like scanning, math, reading, etc Ring It is one of my kids' current faves, available online for $16 
  6. Reflective bracelets or tags--useful for walking & biking in the darker mornings & aftermoons. MEC has a great selection under $5, but I particularly like the reflective pins made by PoCampo--they're a little more stylish & still only $10 for two of them.
  7. Ikea stuffies--inexpensive, cute, machine washable & dryable (both important qualities for children's toys!), $1-20. I particularly love the SAGOSKATT line which are designed by children: the proceeds go to children's charity focussed on the importance of play.
  8. Turbo Turtle lights--designed for easily attaching to a bike, but they also work great on backpacks & zipper pulls when walking. $7 from MEC

Hope this list helps you save a little time in your holiday shopping. Are you finished yet, or are you more of a last-minute shopper? Have you cut back on the consumerism this year? I'm curious to hear how the holidays are for you. Let me know in the comments below!

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Activities Advent Calendar

Counting down to Christmas with an activities Advent calendar
It's December 1st & I'm officially starting the Christmas season in our household. Though, truth be told, we've already been to several Christmas events like the East Van Panto, a couple of Holiday parties, & visiting Santa.

I love doing a Christmas countdown with the kids, & Oliver grew up with the tradition of the Advent calendar, so we're continuing the tradition in our own way. This year is a combination of things we've done in the past. Using the giant tree-shaped felt board with a set of numbered felt ornaments that I made a few years ago, plus some small gift bags I got at Ikea, we're doing an activities countdown calendar.

The giant felt tree Advent Calendar
I made up a list of holiday-themed special events & simple activities to do with the family, then created a set of cards with clipart images to go with each. Each day, the kids will get to take the number off the calendar, put it on the felt board tree, & read what the special activity is for the day. Some days it's extra special outings, like today, when we biked over to the Vancouver Aquarium to see all the critters, plus Scuba Claus & Rudolph 4D. Other days it's going to be easy things at home, like making paper snowflakes.

While this whole activities calendar thing seems like a lot of work, it's actually very affordable & great for slacker parents--hear me out! There was a bit of prep getting the bags & hanging them up (I used rick-rack & mini clothespegs to attach them) but you can easily use envelopes, brown lunch bags, paper clips, regular clothes pegs--whatever you've got around, or can find in a quick trip to the dollar or grocery store. The secret here is that you don't need to plan out the entire month in advance. As long as the bags/envelopes are opaque, the kids won't know that you're deciding the night before what the activities are going to be. You could even print or hand write them as you go.

Saying hi to Scuba Claus at the Vancouver Aquarium
There are some great variations on this too--one of my Facebook friends is doing fitness activities with her family each day, & Jen of Mama.Papa.Bubba has a sweet Kindness Calendar version (with free printables). & if you want to go the more usual route with chocolate--it's easy to pop one or two of those in the bags as well.

Follow our holiday adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #activitiesadventcalendar

Have you done a countdown calendar like this? How did you do yours? Let me know in the comments! 

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