Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bed Bugs In Books: How to Find Them and Why You Shouldn't Give Up Reading Just Yet

"Don't let the bed bugs bite!"

We've all heard this phrase at one time or another, but I honestly didn't even know bed bugs were a real thing until a few years ago when I was informed to check the bed bug registry before renting an apartment.  Luckily we've never had bed bugs, but I know many people who have, and it makes their lives a living hell for a period of time.  If you've been keeping up with the news in the Vancouver area lately, you'll probably have heard that several libraries have temporarily closed due to bed bug infestations because apparently bed bugs don't just like to sleep around, they love to read too! 

This couldn't have come at a more horrible time for us, since Aias only just recently took an interest in books (2 weeks ago) and we've been scouring everywhere looking for used ones.  The idea of having to spend $10-$20 per book for Aias is not only stressful, but we literally don't have that kind of money.  The idea of not being able to trust library or used books is pretty depressing to us.  Even more depressing, in the last few days I've heard more than one parent say they are going to STOP buying books for their kids or throw away the ones they already have (the horror!) in an effort to avoid bed bug infestation.   Instead of freaking out and writing off books entirely, I've decided to do some research on bed bugs and books, because  it  never hurts to learn more and we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I called BC Bug Pest and Wildlife Control and spoke to the brilliant and helpful Denise, who was happy to give me some information on books and bed bugs.  Thanks to her help and a little careful Googling, I present to you:

A Few Things You Need to Know About Bed Bugs

- Bed bugs are visible.  Many people think they are invisible but this simply isn't true.  At their smallest they are the size of a pinhead and are, in fact, somewhat translucent, but they are absolutely visible to the naked eye.  As adults they are appleseed sized, flat, oval, and if they've eaten recently they are quite dark.

It's not that bedbugs are necessarily hard to see, it's that they can be hard to find because well, they don't want to be found.

- Heat and Cold can both kill bed bugs.  Bed bugs die at 115° F / 46° C if left exposed for 7 minutes. Bed bugs will also die in below freezing temperatures, but this takes at least two weeks. 

-  Bed bugs feed off human blood, in the dark, while they are sleeping. Of course, bed bugs want to hide near their host during daylight so this is why you may find them in your mattress, baseboards, and of course, inside books that you keep near where you sleep.

- Bed bugs are essentially flat oval shaped bugs. This is why they travel easily between apartments, and in books.  They can wiggle into tiny cracks quite easily.

- The presence of bed bugs does NOT indicate that a person or place is dirty... I was reading a website today that suggested only buying or borrowing books from BBB approved locations in order to avoid bed bugs, but this is absurd. Bed bugs do not discriminate, and they are passed by simple moves such as someone sleeping at a hotel that has bed bugs and leaving a book in a bag or on the table, a bed bug hitches a ride, and BOOM the person takes a bed bug back to their home. 

How to Detect Bed Bugs in Your Books
- First I want to make something really clear; Denise emphasized very strongly that lots of people are really nervous and are focused on using dogs and professionals to detect bed bugs, when really it's actually very simple to detect them on your own.

- Signs of bed bugs in your books are fecal matter (little specs of bug poop), rusty spots, dark rusty stains (squished bugs), and smearing.  You may also see shells that may have been shed or tiny eggs that remain.

- In between tight pages a bed bug will be squished, but bindings are an easy place for a bed bug to hide. Remember, if they are hiding in the binding, you WILL very likely be able to see them.

- Bed bugs are parasites so of course, they want to live near their host. Because of this, they don't travel far.  If your books are in your living room and you sleep in your bedroom, you'll be less likely to find them in your books, except for if you keep the books on your nightstand near your bed.  Bed bugs are very unlikely to live in your living room, travel to your bedroom at night, and then travel back to the living room to hide in a book.

- You'll need to check ALL your books for signs of bed bugs if you suspect they are hiding in your books, because it won't be their favorite spot to hide, but rather an alternative spot to the edges of your mattress.  The reason the libraries are using dogs to sniff are because there are obviously WAY too many books for them to be able to check them all manually.

Now, if you open your books and you see signs of Bed Bugs, definitely extend your search to other areas of your dwelling such as your mattress, etc.  If you think you have them, contact pest control, such as BC Bug Pest and Wildlife Control.  If you are super concerned about used books you have recently purchased and aren't satisfied with doing a check on your own, there are two moves you can take to help prevent a bed bug infestation in your home.

1. Put the books in a deep freeze for two weeks.
2. Purchase "diatomaceous earth" which is an all natural, non-toxic food grade powder that will kill the bugs nearly on contact (it dehydrates and kills them).  Your books may be a bit powdery, but it's probably better than being nervous about bed bugs.  You can also sprinkle this in cracks and crevices in your home.

Ultimately, if you find bed bugs, you will want to take action immediately by calling pest control.  In the case of bed bugs, sooner is much better (and cheaper to take care of) than later.

As for books, I certainly hope that people aren't going to give up on reading them, used or otherwise. Please remember that aside from living in a giant bubble, there's nothing you can do to guarantee you will never have a battle with bed bugs. That being said, there's lots you can do to prevent them and in the event that you do find yourself infested with bed bugs, though difficult and expensive to get rid of, they aren't forever.

I personally am looking forward to attending the Used Book Sale at the Central Library Branch tomorrow, and while I secretly hope this bed bug scare keeps the crowds low (more books for me!), I hope I'll see a lot of you there, checking out the books (and checking them for signs of bed bugs before purchasing!).   I hope you'll consider giving books a chance.  Maybe I'm an exception, but I'd rather risk itching a little than live in a home without books.

We got all these books at the WECC flea market on Sunday for $5 total!
Don't worry, I've checked them for bed bugs (and fleas!)

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peaceful Post-Rain Mushroom Treasure Hunt

The most beautiful time to hike is right after a rainshower, and luckily there are lots of those around here.  Last weekend we decided to head toward Lynn Canyon to take a peaceful easy walk around Lynn Loop with a brief stop at the viewpoint. 

Nothing makes a hike more fun than having a goal or something you are on the lookout for and after the rain some of the coolest things you can look for are various types of mushrooms and fungus.  Before we thought up the hunt, we were sort of just chatting and moving quickly, not necessarily focused on anything particular. When we decided to turn it into a mushroom hunt, things got exciting.  We were practically squealing with excitement every time we saw a new type.  We ended up taking pictures of dozens of pretty looking mushrooms and fungi!

*Note: By hunting I mean... have a look at the mushrooms and fungus, don't touch them or pick them up. Who knows what kind of poison you can ingest if you touch the wrong type. 

Here are some of my favorite pictures, maybe you know what the names are of these little beauties?

Like a bunch of little shelves on a wall
I like these; Morgan said they open up like little umbrellas as they age
This reminds me of Mario Bros. or something
Creepy coral looking fungus
A tiny umbrella all alone
I think this is similar to the Mario mushroom above
More coral-ly stuff
A whole family of umbrellas
More cute little shelves
This stuff was weird, it looked like the cheese that comes pre-grated in bagged salads
Like the frillies on a pair of bloomers
These little red blood cell looking things give me the heebie jeebies!
More umbrellas!
Saving the best for last, I LOVE these!
So slimy and spiky and awesome
Cool, right?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Places In Vancouver (and BC) That Give you FREE Goodies On Your Birthday

It's almost Aias's second birthday so I've had birthdays on the brain.  Last year on my birthday I was curious where I could get some freebies simply by virtue of it being my birthday.  I Googled and I Googled, and I came across these:

I ended up completely striking out because the few places I went no longer offered birthday freebies (thanks, economy!) or they required me to have signed up for something months in advance of my birthday. Of course, these articles are from 2007 and 2008, so no wonder.  Earlier today a member of an email list I'm subscribed to sent around a more current list of places that offer birthday freebies, so I'm going to list those here as well as some from the lists above that are still valid (many of these were found by Kelly Krol of Raincity Parent). 

If your birthday isn't for a while, that's actually GOOD NEWS because a lot of these freebies require having joined a mailing list PRIOR to your birthday, sometimes weeks or months prior. It may be a good idea to make a second email address for joining the various mailing lists so your email isn't bombarded by their advertising.

*I've called and confirmed most the listings by contacting the various head offices so they should be accurate as of this date, of course, it's ideal to double check with each location in case the various franchises aren't participating for whatever reason.

Business:  Applebee's
Free Goodie: A free meal
Requirements:  You must show them your ID

Business: Boston Pizza
Free Goodie: Free Pasta or Free Dessert
Requirements:  You must join their mailing list

Business:  Orange Julius
Free Goodie:  Free premium smoothie or Julies fruit drink (at some locations it is with the purchase of one)
Requirements:  You must join the Quench Club, and this is a BOGO offer in some locations

Business: Milestones
Free Goodie:  A free meal when 3 others join you and purchase their own meals
Requirements:  You must show them your ID and you must join the Milestone's Club

Business: Cold Stone Creamery Canada
Free Goodie: A free ice cream creation
Requirements: You must show them your ID and you must join their mailing list

Business: Starbucks
Free Goodie: A free drink of your choice
Requirements: You must use your REGISTERED Starbucks Card

Business: Dairy Queen
Free Goodie: A free ice cream treat
Requirements: You must join the Blizzard Fan Club

Business: The Keg Steakhouse and Bar
Free Goodie:  A free slice of Billy Miner Pie
Requirements:  You must have purchased food and you must show them your ID

Business:  East Side Mario's
Free Goodie: Spin the wheel and win a prize (prizes vary)
Requirements: You must show them your ID

Business: JOEY Restaurant's
Free Goodie:  The percent equivalent of your age off the entire table's bill up to a max of $25 (if you are turning 25, 25% off, to a total max of $25 off)
Requirements: You must show them your ID and you must join their E-Club

Business:  Red Robin Canada
Free Goodie: A free burger (they send you a coupon)
Requirements: You must join their E-Club

Business: Baskin-Robbins
Free Goodie: Free Ice Cream
Requirements: You must join their birthday club

Business: Denny's (some locations)
Free Goodie: Free Grand Slam Breakfast
Requirements: You must show your ID

Business: Swiss Chalet
Free Goodie: Free dessert
Requirements: You must show them your ID

Business: Montana's
Free Goodie: Free dessert item of choice if you are under 10
Requirements: You must join the birthday club
*You can also sign up here for a coupon for a free appetizer whether it's your birthday or not

Business: The Boathouse Restaurant
Free Goodie: $25 Gift Card (by mail)
Requirements: You must join the Westcoast Club
*Now you also get a gift for your anniversary too

Business: Steamrollers (some locations)
Free Goodie: Free burrito
Requirements: You must show them your ID

Edited April 24th to add a picture of my free birthday burrito from Steamrollers!

Business: Pajo's Fish and Chips
Free Goodie: A free meal (they send you a coupon)
Requirements: You must join their e-mail list and you must show them your ID

Business: Blenz
Free Goodie: A free regular size drink of your choice
Requirements: You must show your ID
*Head office confirmed with me that ALL stores should honour this, although the link from Miss 604 above says that the Yaletown store didn't honour it in 2007

Business: White Spot
Free Goodie: Free dessert
Requirements: You must show your ID

Business: Rocky Mountain Chocolate
Free Goodie: Free birthday Bar
Requirements: You must sign up for a Rocky Card (free). Note: you can actually use this within 2 weeks of your birthday, you don't have to go on your birthday. The head office representative also told me that if you can't make it within the 2 weeks of your birthday, you can call them and they'll extend it for you.

Business: Booster Juice
Free Goodie: Free drink of your choice
Requirements:  You must sign up for their newsletter
*You can sign up for their newsletter by visiting their *cough* awful *cough*  website and clicking on the incredibly vague image of the orange campfire  and/or the word "Nation"

Business: IHOP
Free Goodie: A birthday meal (coupon)
Requirements:You must sign up for their list, which I believe you do in the store. You can also do it on their Facebook page

Business: Ladner's Landing (Tag Pubs)
Free Goodie: Pint of draft
Requirements: You must show your them your ID

Business: Sephora
Free Goodie: Shampoo or Body Wash (preselected by Sephora)
Requirements: You must have a free Beauty Insider card (you can get this at the store)

Edited April 24th to add a picture of my free birthday lipgloss from Sephora!

Please let me know if I've left anything out or if you have any trouble with any of these.

And oh yeah, happy birthday ;)

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Friday, October 14, 2011

A Parenting Strategy, Courtesy of the CIA

I realize the title of this post may seem a little insane, but I promise you it's perfectly fitting.  99% of you who have toddlers know that toddlers have tantrums. They just... do.  And when they do, it sucks.  It's stressful, upsetting, frustrating, and sometimes embarrassing. Aias is an A+ tantrum-er... he will not only tantrum but he will do it for a very, very long time.  15 minutes will have passed and he will still be mad even though the initial reason he was mad is probably a distant memory.  Here's what a tantrum looks like for Aias:

1. Tantrum is triggered (it's ALWAYS about not getting what he wants)
2. Crying and screaming begins
3. If he doesn't get what he wants, crying and screaming continues, for minutes.
4. If he STILL doesn't get what he wants, head banging, back arching, arms waving, legs kicking are added to the mix.
5. Face turns crazy red, shrieking begins.
6. Onlookers stare and *insert judgement on my parenting here*
7. I curl into a fetal position and cry (just kidding, but I sorta feel like doing it)
8. Crying slows, dignity slowly returns to both of us.

Some people have told me to "redirect."  This seemed like great advice.  Of course, screaming/head banging/back arching/ arm waving/ leg kicking people don't generally listen very carefully to your redirects. And so, I let the tantrum blow over. The very best strategy I have for dealing with them is to know the tantrum triggers and avoid them when possible.  A huge part of this is PICKING MY BATTLES.  This can be tough, but it's do-able. Here's an example of some of his triggers:

- Having to make a quick transition to a new activity before he's ready
- Having to give up something he has possession of that he doesn't want to give up
- Having his nails cut
- Having to sit still if he wants to explore

Now most of the time this is totally ok, because I can control the situation (side note: I find making up goofy transition songs are also helpful).  For example, to avoid forcing him to make a quick transition, I always make sure there is plenty of time for us to get ready.  Oftentimes we are getting ready 45 minutes earlier than we really should have to makes us just on time or it makes us early (which isn't so bad).  I try to be patient if we are walking and he wants to pick up every rock on the ground or examine every leaf.  I try not to put him in non-toddler friendly situations where he will want to explore but can't, so we avoid fancy places or anywhere with too much structure.

All this is well and dandy, but the fact is, sometimes toddlers HAVE to transition quickly.  Sometimes they HAVE to give things up that they want to keep (dangerous things, etc).  Sometimes they HAVE to sit still. And frankly, toddlers need their nails cut!  So what do I do in these situations?

Simple... I follow a simple CIA standard: I DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS.  I'm not making light of terrorism here, but seriously,  maybe a toddler isn't using violence or fear to terrorize anyone in the pursuit of some sort of political gain, but sometimes I do feel slightly terrified in the heat of a tantrum.  It's because of this that I live by this standard of NOT negotiating with him while he's having one.  If I've picked a battle it's a battle worth picking and I can't waiver on it, it's as simple as that.

No, you may not sit in the middle of the road.
No, you may not run around with scissors.
No, you can't have a toy every time we go into a shop. 
No, you may not walk through life with nails longer than Freddy Krueger.

If the tantrum happens, I DON'T give in (negotiate). I DO offer hugs, I DO offer kind words and gentle soothing.  I DO express empathy and compassion. I DO show that I understand he's upset.  But once again, I DON'T negotiate. 

For a while I was negotiating constantly and mostly in the form of "giving in"; this was mostly because the battles I was choosing were negotiable.  Maybe I didn't want to give him an extra 30 seconds to look at a rock or I refused to let him bring something with him that he wanted to bring.  The tantrum would then happen and halfway through I'd say to myself "yep, maybe what he wanted wasn't such a big deal after all..."  Now I only pick the ones that aren't, so I don't.  So while in a lot of ways I'm sort of constantly negotiating my behaviors and instincts because I'm being more flexible and more patient than I'd otherwise feel compelled to be (sitting and looking at rocks for 5 more minutes than I'd normally like, avoiding restaurants I'd like to go to because I know Aias won't be able to handle),but when it comes to the serious moments that lead to the standoff (tantrum) I stand by my guns.   In the long run there's far less misery for both of us and parenting is, in general, a lot less terrifying.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Opportunity for Wellness or an Opportunity for Advertising?

About 6 months ago I took Aias to the Crossroads walk-in clinic at Cambie and Broadway in Vancouver.  I can't remember exactly why, I think it was because he had vomited for the first time or something (he ended up being fine).   This clinic is seriously gorgeous; unlike most walk-in clinics in Vancouver, you sort of feel like you are at a spa when you walk into it.  It was even a Georgia Straight 2011 Best of Vancouver winner.  We could actually have gone to a closer clinic but this one really does look fantastic.   I like pretty things as much as the next person, so sue me.

On this occasion one doctor had called in sick so we waited about 20 minutes in the examination room.  During this wait, I noticed a LOT of Nestle and formula related "stuff." I decided to take some pictures with my cell phone.

These are the changing pads they use on all the changing tables in the clinic.
They also lay these down on the examination tables under the babies.
They also lay them on the weight scales as liners.
That's behind the reception counter,  you can see the cans of sample formula there in a box on the left.  This formula is actually Enfamil.
These cans were in several places throughout the clinic. 
All of the tables had these little plastic Nestle brochure holders on them.
You can see an Advil post-it note too.
A metric weight conversion chart, courtesy of Enfamil!

Nestle and Enfamil snuggling  in one cabinet in the exam room...
...and in another cabinet in the exam room!
Some Nestle weight scale liner boxes.
Now, I don't think formula is the blood of Satan or anything.  Like I've said a million times before, I really think that in a country with clean water and luxuries such as being able to sterilize a bottle people should be able to feed their babies whatever they want without fear of people coming at them with pitchforks.  That being said, this marketing fest really bothered me because:

1. Nestle is a jerk company.
2. Supposedly BC is committed to supporting and encouraging breastfeeding but I don't think the formula decor really drives that point home.
3. I find pharmaceutical/supplement advertising tacky and disturbing in general.

I have to say, I understand why the clinic may have all this branded stuff... it saves them some money on pen holders and scale liners for one, and who doesn't love freebies? Not to mention if you are saving money on weight charts and scale liners, that's extra money you can use for bamboo floors and modern furniture, right?

I actually called Crossroads today and asked about the Nestle/Enfamil stuff.  I was curious if they had some sort of deal with Nestle/Enfamil.  I had this whole conspiracy theory forming in my mind and I wanted to prove myself wrong, which I (sort of) did.  The woman I spoke with said that as far as she knows they have no arrangement with Nestle/Enfamil but that sometimes pharmaceutical reps show up with tons of swag and they use it because it's free. From what I can tell, the Nestle rep must have shown up with a freight cart full of stuff. She said that right now they have Nestle and Advil stuff in the office and it changes from time to time.  It's free, it's stuff they need anyway, so they use it.

I'm sort of disappointed in Crossroads, other walk-in clinics, Nestle/Enfamil/Advil and pharmaceutical companies that do this sort of thing.  It may seem a little silly, but I don't think patients should be marketed to in a health care environment, whether the product is formula or otherwise. An ill person paying a visit to a doctor's office should not be perceived as an opportunity for a company to advertise a product.  It's one thing if a patient inquires, but marketing it like it's the next coolest toy or a hip new product just seems shady to me.  As much as I like free things, if I'm offered a free product that represents a company or an idea I don't necessarily align myself with, I either decline it or dispose of it.  I wish Crossroads would do the same.  Even if the clinic is totally cool with formula, advertising Enfamil or Nestle certainly implies that as professionals they recommend these brands; from my conversation with the people at the office, this apparently wasn't necessarily even the case.  These companies just happened to be the ones toting the swag and freebies. Allowing for advertising in a medical clinic like this certainly implies some sort of medical endorsement of the products.  I am careful to avoid this in professional settings.  This is particularly true if I'm in a position of power or influence; I don't market specific health care products when I'm volunteering in a clinic setting, for example.   I go to extreme measures at times to ensure Aias isn't exposed to extraneous advertising and I'd like to think a place of wellness and health wouldn't be a place I'd have to shield him from. 

*I'd like to add, it's not just Crossroads that does this, it's other clinics as well. I remember going to an entirely different clinic for Aias's 6 month check up and the stat charts were Heinz Formula branded.  Another clinic I'd visited had Tylenol advertising.  Crossroads just happens to be where I took these photos and what prompted my post.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

A Carseat Conundrum: Help Me Figure This One Out, Parents?

Just over a year ago we got rid of our Chicco bucket seat (that we LOVED) so Aias could start using a convertible carseat.  We want him to rear face forever (at least until he's 19ish) so we purchased the Sunshine Kids Radian.  Aias is short and skinny for his age so we figure we will get a ton of use out of it. He's had it for a year now and he loves it; he's never cried in it even once.

When we bought this carseat we read the entire manual, front to back: twice. I kid you not.

I read the following sentence about 500 times.  So I ask you, Internet, what does the following sentence mean:

"WARNING: ONLY use the top three shoulder harness positions for forward-facing child."

A) This means that the top three shoulder harness positions can only be used if the child is facing forward. If the child is rear facing, you CANNOT use these top three harness positions.

B) This means that if you are forward facing the child, you can only use the top three shoulder harness positions. If you are using any of the lower shoulder harness position lower than the top three, then you must rear face the child.

I asked this question this time last year in another forum using a polling function.  62 participants responded with the selection "A" and 74 participants responded with the selection "B."

The next question I asked was this:

"According to the warning above, can I use the shoulder harness position that is the third down from the top if my child is rear facing?"

53 participants responded with "Yes" and 49 participants responded with "No."  26 participants selected the option "Get rid of your car and get a horse."

I feel incredibly uneasy knowing that about 50% of people feel one way, and 50% of people feel the exact opposite way.  To me this indicates that there's a good chance half of us out there using this carseat may be using it incorrectly.  I find this scary and unacceptable. 

Since then, we DID actually get rid of our car (we are still without a horse), but we still use this carseat when we travel and in Zipcars/Car Co-Op/etc.  This means that in every car we use, we have to RE-install the carseat and hope we are doing it right in that particular vehicle. I hate that, but that's maybe the topic of another post. 

Even after all that polling, you know what? I still don't feel 100% about the answer.  You'd think someone you'd think someone who majored in language and who is trained in technical writing would be able to figure something like this out. Apparently not. And it's just my child's life on the line...

It's been a year since I first read this sentence, and I haven't looked back at it since. Now it's time to adjust the straps on the carseat, and here I am again, completely confused.

Any guesses, Internet?

Was he in right? I hope so. He's a lot bigger now.
Edited November 1st to add: Mystery Solved!


Thank you for blogging about the Radian! I am the CPS Advocate for DIONO (formerly SKJP) and have been a CPS Instructor for over ten years before coming on board in August. I understand your confusion in the instruction manual. Believe me, I have read hundreds of manuals and they can be compiled with a lot of information. Some information is mandated by NHTSA, some about the particular seat and then other "nice to know" information.

The warning statement to "Only use the top three harness slots" can be interpreted in different ways. I have come across a lot of statements like this, not just in our manual. It means, When you use the seat FF, use one of the top three slots. This is because the top three slots are reinforced for FF to meet crash criteria with higher weight children. When you use the seat RF, any harness slot can be used as long as the top of the head is not less than 1.5" from the top of the shell and the straps fit at or below the shoulders.

I hope this makes more sense. Please post the comment on your blog and feel free to contact me anytime. You can also let your readers know I am here to assist them as well with installation questions. If you would like for me to write for your blog on CPS topics, I can do that too!

Best regards,

Allana Pinkerton
888-336-7909 ext 252

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saving Kids from Optimism

If there's a hell I'm probably going there for posting this, but I can't help but think it's pretty funny.

Our first week here I decided to take Aias to all the various drop-in centres for families in the neighborhood to get an idea of which he would like the best.  At one of our favorites (which I won't name because this is sort of embarrassing) Aias fit right in and was happily playing with the other kids so I decided to take a look around at the art and such on the walls. In my perusing, I came across this:

If you click the picture above it will make it large enough for you to read the signs.

I was trying to make sense of this; I understand helping kids who have diabetes, but optimism?  Is optimism bad? Did they want to give kids with diabetes some optimism? It didn't make sense.  A bunch of signs all over this giant wall said this exact thing over and over...

Finally at the end of the wall I saw this:

Look more closely:

At least they fixed their mistake, right?

At first I was a little horrified and I made a mental note that Aias would never go to preschool at that place, but then I learned there are lots of volunteers who are 12 and 13, so I'm gonna let this one thing slide.

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