Emergency Preparedness with a Toddler

Recently wildfires swept through homes in Northern California – leaving residents fleeing for their lives. The same week, the South Bay had a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. I started to feel uneasy with how relaxed I am about natural disasters. Non-profits will be there meeting our needs, right? The Trump Administration and the California government will be effective at handling the emergency, right? Google will be prepared and they will have extra food and water for everyone who shows up to campus, right?

The fact that these were some of my assumptions show how laughably unprepared I am for disaster; and the Bay Area has a real chance of having a really bad earthquake. As these thoughts sunk in, I began to panic. Would I be prepared? How would I handle things and take care of the needs of a toddler if shit hit the fan and we had to evacuate quickly or hunker down at home for days without electricity or running water? Of course, my mom-friends had similar fears and one of them re-blogged Silicon Valley Toddler’s amazing blog post about earthquake preparedness with toddlers. I cannot praise this post enough. Everyone should read it. And then when they are done, everyone should purchase their earthquake survival kits using her affiliate links while they slow clap for her thoroughness of thought.

I read her post at 11 pm one night, which was a mistake because I was awake until 1 am stressing. However, it DID get my butt in gear and get my shit together for earthquake preparedness.

I did have enough water in my house, having stocked up a few weeks before when reminded during the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. However, prior to reading her post, this was my earthquake kit:

I hadn’t even CONSIDERED that I might need to carry this thing with a toddler in my arms. Impossible. It’s awkward. It’s heavy. Oh and the lid pops off if you carry it by its handle. Useless.

It was also in my basement cellar. Which is dark and creepy on the brightest, bluest days let alone during the apocalypse, and not particularly accessible in an instant if we ever needed to leave during an emergency due to fire or flood or gas or earthquake damage.

Contents wise, my earthquake kit wasn’t a complete disaster…but it was definitely missing a few key items to be able to survive off-grid for 3 days.


Some of the items were definitely good to have around: 30 water purification tablets, some cord, a hatchet, lighters, a poncho, soap, insect repellent, a whistle and compass, garbage bags, a deck of cards, earplugs, and a combination lock.

But then I have some items that, with a toddler, are completely ridiculous:

  • 15 wipes. 15. 15 is better than none. But I need a LOT more than 15 wipes to get through 3 days of an emergency.
  • 3 (? Why 3?) decks of cards and no toys or books to comfort DK. 
  • 3 flashlights that are all out of batteries and no replacement batteries.
  • Candles but no candle holder. What, am I going to hold this in my mouth? Craft one out of mud in an emergency?
  • Insect repellent but no sunscreen (hello, California!).
  • Tylenol but no Infant Tylenol.

Additionally, I was missing key things like: food, diapers, a vessel to purify water using my purification tablets, a change of clothes for everyone, a blanket, a crank-operated radio, a knife, and a way to carry it all that wouldn’t be super inconvenient if DK and I had to leave home and meet my husband elsewhere.

Silicon Valley Toddler’s post also reminded me that we are out and about a lot, and we had nothing in the car.

In light of all of these oversights, here are the actions I’ve taken to get our family organized in the event of a natural disaster and we need to live off-grid for a few days.

  1. I bought a backpack. This one was on sale and is actually a really handy one to have around because it folds into a tiny pack. Technically a useless feature, since it should always contain our car-emergency kit, but it was on sale and not a bad addition to our home. It’s not the sturdiest of materials, but it will be fine for our car-kit. 
  2. I replaced all the batteries in our flashlights.
  3. I added a copy of DK’s favourite bedtime story, Goodnight Moon, and a small stuffed toy to provide some comfort to DK at a scary time.
  4. I added in some foil mylar blankets and some handwarmers. Yes, I bought the bulk packs. Technically we only need 3 blankets…but 10 fit in my backpack and I figure in an emergency, maybe there will be other neighbourhood children who need blankets and these can help.
  5. I added a multi-tool.
  6. I added an entire pack of wipes.
  7. I added 10 diapers in the next size up.
  8. I wrote the combination for the combination lock on a piece of tape and stuck it to the back (it won’t be much use to my husband if the combo is in my head!). I’m not sure if a combination lock will be all that useful, but I have one and it’s small and maybe it will be useful at an evacuation centre(?).
  9. I added a candle that I don’t have to hold.
  10. I added some glowsticks.
  11. I added some replacement double A batteries
  12. I replaced my all-natural clove and lemon hand “sanitizer” with some real hospital-grade Purell hand-sanitizer. I don’t want to be wondering in an emergency if my clove-lemon gel sanitized the fecal bacteria on my hands. I just want it to work.
  13. I added a pad of paper, a pencil and a Sharpie marker.
  14. I added some energy bars. I chose the ones with the longest shelf-life…
  15. I added my house first-aid kit which includes: Gauze, non-stick gauze (for burns), bandaids, tape, an ice-pack, alcohol wipes, first aid suture kit, gloves, travel sunscreen, solarcaine, Tylenol, Tums, Advil and Benadryl
  16. I added some clothespins, because they are just handy to have.
  17. I added photocopies of all of our important documents: passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, green cards, tenant insurance, car insurance, health insurance.
  18. I added a sippy cup with a straw for DK because he loves straws.
  19. I added a waterbottle since my water purification tablets are completely useless without a vessel.
  20. I added some cash in small bills and a chequebook.

Additionally, I took some further steps:

  1. I put all of our important documents in one place in an easy-to-grab zippered pouch. My husband and I decided that in an emergency in the middle of the night, I would grab our son and he would grab the documents (unless I’m unable to get to our child and then obviously my husband is in charge of that too).
  2. I put some old shoes under our bed. In an earthquake, windows can shatter and we might be sleeping when it happens. So having shoes at the ready for our bare feet is important.
  3. My husband and I decided on a secondary safe-place that we would go to if we can’t be at the house due to fire, flood, gas or structural integrity. This way, if my husband is at work, he knows where we might be if we are not at home.
  4. I moved our emergency kit to our front hall closet so that it is easily accessible.
  5. I ordered a secondary survival kit for our car. I chose the same one that Silicon Valley Toddler recommended based on her research. It comes with an awesome backpack, which I’m going to put our house-kit contents in, and then use the contents for our car-kit. Silicon Valley Toddler decided to put her primary kit in her car because she’s either out and about in her car, or her car is parked outside the house. My husband and I share a car and he takes the car to work 2-3 times per week. So while it is possible that DK and I will be out and about in the car when disaster strikes, it is more likely that we will be within walking distance of home, so I decided to put our primary kit in the house and our secondary kit, which is also my husband’s at-work-kit, in our car.
  6. I added a change of warm clothes for each of us to the car kit.
  7. I put a recurring calendar reminder in my phone for the second Monday of the month every 6 months to check my earthquake kits and add or subtract as necessary.

I did all this during a few days of my son’s afternoon naps, and YOU CAN TOO.

Hopefully this is all time and money wasted…but I’ll certainly be glad to have spent the time and the money if disaster does strike and the worst happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Shrimp Tacos

I’ve decided to add some recipes to my mom blog – for the mom whose house from 4 pm until the kiddos are in bed resembles a scene from Jumanji. These are all recipes that the hands-on prep work can be done in less than 20 minutes earlier in the day during a nap or that non-napping kids could help with.

So for my first recipe, Shrimp Tacos!

Shrimp Tacos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping List:

  • Flour soft-shell tortillas
  • Bag of Asian slaw salad from the produce section. I buy Taylor Farms but any brand would do. If you don’t have these bagged salads at your local supermarket – it’s basically just cabbage, carrot, cilantro, wonton strips and an Asian sesame dressing.
  • 20-30 frozen raw shrimp. Best if peeled and deveined. I buy deveined and partially peeled.
  • 3 tbsp vegetable/olive/canola oil
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • pinch allspice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thai chili garlic paste (optional)

Instructions:

  • Thaw shrimp in cold water. Once thawed, peel the shrimp and discard shells. Depending on your child’s age and ability – peeling shrimp might be a fun task they can help you with.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, ketchup, garlic, soy sauce, curry powder, allspice, salt and pepper, and thai chili garlic hot sauce (if using). Add peeled shrimp. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator until you are 10 minutes away from wanting to eat.
  • 10 minutes before suppertime, put flour tortillas on table, dump bagged Asian salad ingredients into salad bowl and toss (a good task for a child). Heat frying pan.
  • Pour shrimp and marinade into frying pan and heat shrimp until opaque and pink, 5-10 minutes. Put in serving dish.
  • Assemble tacos with shrimp and salad and enjoy!

Magazines for babies?

I used to get Highlights magazine in the mail as a kid. Reading the articles and stories was the highlight (pun definitely intended) of my month, especially the Goofus and Gallant cartoon. I felt so grown up, getting a monthly magazine – just like my mom who got Canadian Living and Chatelaine. 

So when I saw an ad for Highlights Hello, a magazine for 0-2, I was intrigued and clicked on the ad (good job btw Facebook on the targeted ads…). I thought, “This is silly. Babies don’t need magazines…DK would just eat it. He doesn’t know the joys of receiving mail. Probably a waste of money.”

But….It was $35 for a 12-month subscription and Highlights Hello promised an indestructible, washable, plasticized magazine just the right size for Devon’s tiny hands and with stitching instead of staples in the seam. They also promised that if I wasn’t satisfied with my first issue – they would refund me my money and cancel the subscription. I figured $35 for 12 indestructible books can’t be beat, so I took the plunge and signed us up. A few weeks later our first issue arrived!

It included a welcome magazine for parents about reading to your baby as well as the little magazine for DK. 


He is obsessed. He loves playing with paper but so often I end up picking bits of shredded soggy paper out of his mouth – but this magazine doesn’t have that problem, so he can play to his heart’s content! This has been his favourite toy this week. He’s constantly flipping through the pages, swatting it on the floor, gumming it with his mouth – and so far it is indestructible. 


The stories and games are cute and can be read/taught at different levels, so we can go back and re-read at different ages and get different things out of it. 

I also love how there are pictures of real babies in the magazine instead of just cartoons. Devon loves seeing pictures of other babies but I can never find board books at the library that incorporate real life images, so this magazine is also great for the pictures. 


I think the subscription is worth it and I can’t wait for our next issue to arrive! Devon is excited too…he just doesn’t know it yet. 

Mother’s Day

I was told that motherhood changes you, that I would know a different kind of love once I met my baby. How true. The past ten months are at once a blur and also crystal clear and filled with beautiful moments of getting to know my son. 
Dear DK,

I love the way your eyes go wide and your mouth falls open when you experience something new. Smoke swirling around the campsite. Dogs chasing each other around the dog park. Dust drifting through the sunbeams in our living room. 

I love the way you fuss in the car until I turn on some music and then you gaze silently out the window, soaking in the sounds. 

I love the way your little hand reaches up while I’m singing at bedtime to feel the way my lips move. 

I love how you smile whenever I say “zip zip” while doing up your zipper. 

I love how you laugh when you see a dog. 

I love how your eyelashes clump together and your hair plasters to your forehead when you splash yourself in the swimming pool. 

I love how you look at your dad and say “dat”

I love how cautious and deliberate you are – not wanting to make too many sudden movements in case you fall over. 

I love how you look at me with a crumpled forehead of frustration when something is just out of reach. 

I love how you glow with pride when you finally reach it and I say “yay DK!” and clap. 

I love how when you’re upset, all it takes to calm you down is read you a book. 

I love how quickly you melt in my arms and fall asleep when I touch your ear or stroke your hair. 

I love how this is the hardest job in the world but I don’t want to do anything else. 

We made you, but more than that, you made me. I was born to be your mom.

Walking to Portland 

My mom and I are separated by 2,148km, or 1,074km if we met in the middle. Over the next year we are going to track our walking/running/biking/swimming distances with the goal of each accumulating 1,164.5km to “virtually” meet in the middle – Portland, Oregon. 


When we virtually get there, we will actually go there for a mother-daughter weekend celebration. 

Can’t wait to see you in Portland Mom!!! We are soooo spending hours at Powell’s Books. 

https://insatiableculturalite.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/books.jpg

#portland2018 #iwouldwalk500milesandiwouldwalk500more

Mom uniform 

Before I had a baby, I never wore leggings outside of the house. Leggings as pants have been popular since I was in grad school 6-7 years ago, but I never adopted the trend until now. And now that I’ve experienced life in leggings, I hope they never go out of fashion or my mom-uniform is toast. 
You may be reading this thinking, “oh dear, Heather has let herself go”. Au contraire my friend, I have been liberated. And here’s why leggings are the perfect mom-staple. 

  1. Leggings can be worn 24 hours per day. You can go from bed, to pushing a stroller, to playing on the floor, to rocking a baby to sleep, to back to bed all in the same pair of bottoms. I don’t actually do this, I promise I change into a fresh pair every day, but the fact that you wouldn’t be able to tell my jammies from my day-wear is liberating. 
  2. Leggings fit. Post-baby, my pants are either too loose, too tight or too loose in the waist and too tight in the thighs. Leggings don’t give me the problem of my pants falling down off my butt just to be wedged above my knees. They just fit. 
  3. Leggings don’t require a belt. Have you ever tried to nurse/rock a baby comfortably wearing a belt? It’s not comfortable! Plus the belt digs into DK’s back, which annoys him, so I always end up taking it off and then I’m back to the waist gap tight thigh problem mentioned above. 
  4. Leggings make everything feel tighter. Post baby, everything is loose. Everything. Leggings hold it all in and make me feel less like I’m leaving wobbly bits of myself all over the place. 
  5. Black leggings hide all manner of stains. My kid throws food, spits up, drools and sneezes on me all day long. I could change every time, but I already do a ton of laundry. But in black leggings, the fact that my kid had carrots for lunch is un-noticeable. 

Hopefully someday, when I’m out of this mom-of-small-kids phase of my life, I’ll go back to being the “leggings aren’t pants” kind of girl. But for now, leggings are not just pants, they are a lifestyle. 

Travelling Abroad with a Baby

Recently, my husband had to go to London, England for a week of work meetings. I had two choices: stay at home alone with DK, keeping our schedule and routines,or join him in London and throw the schedule and routines out the window. DK is now 8 months old, sits up well, sleeps well and shows all the signs of becoming mobile within a month. So, it was the perfect seize-the-day opportunity to take him on a global adventure. We spent 10 days in London, and 4 days outside of London with a rental car in the Cotswolds. DK impressed me with how adaptable he was – he continued to sleep well, eat well and learned how to pull up to stand while on our trip!  

Here are some things I’m glad we did, and things I wish I had thought of. 

Best things we did:

  1. Direct flight. Flying SFO to London Heathrow is a long 10 hour flight with a baby. 5 hours in, we were just passing over New York. I think I would have cried if we had to land in New York and catch a connecting flight. Yes, flying direct is more expensive but there is a much lower chance you will lose your luggage, miss a connection, and end up stranded. 
  2. Showing up 3 hours early to check in to make sure we got a bassinet-ready bulkhead seat. Yes, I love snuggling my 8 month old in my reclining laz-y-boy. Plane seats are not that. Holding DK for more than a few hours is back and shoulder torture in those seats! We flew with Virgin Atlantic and booked through a customer service rep on the phone instead of online to make sure we got the bulkhead seats, had DK’s infant reservation all figured out and got tips on when to show up to check in, what kind of luggage we could take etc. 
  3. Night-flight. This wasn’t really planned, our direct flight left at 8 pm out of SFO and it was great timing. DK usually goes to sleep around 6:30 pm, so he was awake a little later than normal, but we did his bedtime routine as close as possible in the airport bathroom and waiting lounge and when we got on the plane, he nursed and fell asleep. We transferred him to the waiting bassinet, ate our meal provided by Virgin Atlantic, and attempted to sleep. DK slept better than he has in months on the plane, waking only once in an 8 hour stretch to eat. 
  4. Airport Hotel. We weren’t sure if DK would sleep on the plane, but I knew that I for sure would not – as I have never slept on a plane in my life unless heavily sedated and unfortunately sedation and breastfeeding aren’t compatible. Our flight arrived at 2:30 pm London time, or 7:30 am SF time, so I knew when we landed I probably wouldn’t have slept since the night before, getting up with DK at 6:30 am the day of our flight. Therefore, upon landing priority #1 was a bed, any bed. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Heathrow airport, which was fine and had a great bed,  but see my next section on things I would change for more on this hotel experience. Of course, DK had had a full-nights sleep on landing so he was really only ready for a few short naps –  but we powered through, napped in shifts and attempted to put him to sleep for the night at 9 pm, a time he normally takes his afternoon nap. Bedtime routine worked wonders and he fell asleep for 6 amazing hours, woke to eat and then shockingly fell back to sleep for another 6 hours. It was the best sleep I’ve had since he’s been born. 
  5. Brought his playpen. We have a travel mini Graco pack n play that he is almost too big for. If we had waited another month to do this trip I’m convinced he would be too big for this bed and would be crawling around hotel rooms. This was a handy for a sleep space for him. 
  6. Got an Airbnb with kitchen and living room. You know what sucks? Eating your room service dinner in the bathroom of your hotel room. Having an extra room to hang in while baby sleeps is the key to a fun vacation when travelling with a baby. Hotel suites in London were so expensive! So we got a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, kitchen and living room Airbnb apartment instead for a similar price AND my wonderful in-laws came to London too and stayed in the second bedroom.  What a difference a living room and stove makes! The place we stayed in was family friendly and even came with a high chair!
  7. Packed light. You’re probably laughing. Travel light with a baby?! Yeah right! No, I’m serious. We could carry everything we packed multiple blocks. We took two big suitcases: one half a suitcase for each person, and one half of one suitcase held the car seat base. We borrowed a stroller that works with our car seat. We both carried a backpack. I pushed the stroller and rolled a suitcase, my husband rolled a suitcase and carried DK’s bed. It helped that I only brought 8 days worth of clothes for each person and we did laundry at our Airbnb. It also helped that I am nursing and DK eats very little in terms of solid foods or milk from a bottle, which eliminated the need for a breastpump or baby food lugged from home.  
    All our luggage. Not pictured are the two school backpacks on our backs.
  8. Travelled with grandparents! Aside from DK getting to spend quality time with his grandparents, grandparents are also super helpful travel companions. Need to carry a stroller up or down a flight of stairs? No problem with 3 people! Need someone to watch the baby while I go to the bathroom? No problem! I am so lucky and grateful that my husband’s parents came along with us to sight see. We had a great time together. 
    Never had to push the stroller. Didn’t even have to clean off the muddy wheels. I’m spoiled.
  9. We went to London. Yes, there are so many places to see in the world, and I’m sure many of them are family friendly – but man, London was top. Change tables in every public bathroom. Free museums. Amazing, creative and totally dangerous looking playgrounds. Pampers diapers and  organic baby foods. Did I mention the abundance of diaper change tables?!
    Princess Diana Memorial Playground
    Princess Diana Memorial Playground
  10. Brought a mesh bag with small toys. We carted this bag with a few toys per day on all of our outings. The bag is small, collapsible, see-through and breathable for all the slobber covered tethers. Toy dropped on the floor of the subway? No problem, put it in the diaper bag (don’t put it back in the mesh bag of clean toys) and wash when you get back to the hotel every day. 

What I would do differently:

  1. Stay at a closer airport hotel the first night. I mistakenly assumed that an airport hotel would be near the airport. When we landed and got our bags, the shuttle bus to our hotel was a 40 minute wait and we were exhausted. We opted to take a taxi just to get to a bed faster. It cost £20. And the next morning, we took a taxi from the airport hotel to the airport rental car company…£15. I picked the hotel because of its proximity to the airport and the price – but factoring the extra £35 in taxi fare, we could have stayed at the hotel right at the airport instead of near the airport for the same price and my post-plane bed would have been that much closer. 
  2. Rented a car seat with our rental car. We opted to bring our car seat and base because we were more comfortable with installing it, DK was comfortable sleeping in it, we were concerned about taking taxis in London without it, if the bassinet on the plane wasn’t available, maybe an extra seat for the car seat would be, and we needed it to get to the airport anyways. In hindsight, we didn’t really need it – you don’t have to ride with a baby in a car seat in London taxis or transit.  We could have rented it with the car and gotten a friend to drive us to the airport in our car. Our entire time in London the car seat and base sat unused in our Airbnb. 

All in all it was a great trip! DK is still on London time upon returning home, so is waking up to play between 1 am and 3 am. But a small price to pay for how well he adjusted to travel!