Easter eggs 2014

by DaniGirl on April 18, 2014 · 0 comments

in Ah, me boys,Photography

Beloved asked me, as I was mixing the dye for the eggs with the water and vinegar, if I’d still be taking photos of the boys colouring Easter eggs when they were in their twenties.

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Easter eggs 2014

Of course, I replied. That’s the point.


This blog post is part PSA and part rant.

The PSA part is that the city is planning to update the play structures at George McLean park in Manotick. (Thanks to the Manotick Village and Community Association for the notification on this one!) According to the MVCA parks and recreation page:

The City is replacing aging play structures in George McLean Park, and would like community input as to the type of new play structures it would like to have.

The city has advised of the following mandatory play equipment changes:

1. The sand will be removed and replaced with wood chips
2. The little merry-go-round/roundabout will be removed for safety reasons.

The city has asked residents to provide their comments on replacement options and if possible to also complete this questionnaire..

Comments and completed questionnaires should be sent to secretary@manotickvca.org.

The deadline for feedback to the City is April 11; removal and replacement of the structures is expected to begin in August.

(I know the deadline was last Friday – I’m hoping we can get a bit of an extension for comments.) So families, if you are interested in what happens to George McLean park, please take a moment to express your opinions.

Here comes the rant.

The city wants to remove the roundabout for “safety” reasons. This makes me crazy. That roundabout was our hands-down favourite feature of that park. Look!

Easter family fun

It’s old, I know. My attachment may be purely nostalgic. Maybe there is a perfectly good reason for this gorgeous retro roundabout to be removed – but I suspect there is not. I fear the safety issue is not in its construction or durability but in its inherent design. I fear that what we are facing is not a safety issue but a liability issue. We are not protecting the kids, we are protecting the city.

Yes, kids will go flying off the roundabout- remember how much FUN that was? Did you ever get one of those metal bars to the cheekbone? I did – and I learned to keep my face out of the way the next time. And I learned about centrifugal force at the same time. Fun + learning = learning that stays with you!

I’m not the only one ranting about disappearing roundabouts. Check out these articles from Free Range Kids and KATU media in Portland, Oregon, both published within the last few months on this subject.

I fear, however, that I am waging a lost battle.

If you have a few extra minutes to spare, please read this brilliant article from the March 2014 edition of The Atlantic entitled The Overprotected Kid. This is exactly what I am afraid we are denying our children when we coddle and overprotect them:

[Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education at Queen Maud University College in Trondheim] began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper called “Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Children, she concluded, have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.

This last one Sandseter describes as “the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

And here’s a fascinating and relevant set of statistics about just how little of a difference our endless safety standards are having:

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which monitors hospital visits, the frequency of emergency-room visits related to playground equipment, including home equipment, in 1980 was 156,000, or one visit per 1,452 Americans. In 2012, it was 271,475, or one per 1,156 Americans. The number of deaths hasn’t changed much either. From 2001 through 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 100 deaths associated with playground equipment—an average of 13 a year, or 10 fewer than were reported in 1980.

In other words, we’ve taken away all the fun, all the learning, all the exploration and adventure, and in exchange we’ve gained — nothing.

Speaking of statistics, check out this link from the Royal Society on the Prevention of Accidents. The leading causes of accidents on children’s playgrounds are swings (40%), climbers (23%) and slides (20%). Roundabouts come in at a measly 5%! And nobody is talking about taking away the slides or the swing. (Thanks to Jane at the MVCA for the link!)

If you’d like to have your say about what happens to the George McLean park play structures, please complete this PDF questionnaire from the city. (If I can get my hands on an electronic version, I will share it.)

And while you’re at it, please put in a kind word for our roundabout. Some things are worth saving!

Got anything to say on the subject of the modernization of retro playground equipment? You know I’d love to hear from you!


Imagine having the power to light the fire of inspiration in the hearts of 16,000 young people, and then sending them back into their homes and communities thrumming with the idea that they can be a powerful force of change in the world. Imagine the ripple effect of that empowerment and positivity. That’s what happened this past Wednesday at the National We Day event here in Ottawa.

As I mentioned last week, Simon and I were invited to attend We Day by national sponsor TELUS. Tristan also attended, as he earned his way in to We Day by working with his school’s Kids Helping Kids club throughout the school year. If you missed it, We Day is a series of events held across Canada and internationally to inspire youth to create change in their communities and around the world. You don’t buy tickets to attend, though – you earn your way in through acts of local and global good will.

Let me tell you from first-hand experience, it’s not just youth they are inspiring and empowering! I don’t know anyone who comes away from exposure to We Day without being changed by the experience.

We started our day at a pre-show media briefing with Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger and two of the days’ speakers, 11 year old Hannah Alper and the inimitable Spencer West.

My favourite quote was from Craig himself, who said in speaking about how We Day affects and empowers the youth who participate, “I’m confident there’s a future prime minister among our We Day attendees.” Spencer West also spoke about the upcoming launch of his 10-week cross Canada road trip to talk to inspire and motivate Canadian students in the We Create Change Tour.

We Day got underway with a powerful address by Martin Luther King III, son of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He had all 16,000 participants in the Canadian Tire Centre chanting “Spread the word, have you heard, all across the nation, we will be a great generation!”

Last year’s national We Day focused on the issue of clean water; this year’s theme was education. Through the We Create Change initiative, participants are encouraged to collect coins to raise funds to build 200 schools and improve access to education in developing communities around the globe. $20 buys a brick, 500 bricks builds a school. That’s what I love about all the We Day messages – each grand goal is tied to achievable, empowering small steps. No contribution is too small. Last year through We Create Change, kids collected 140 million pennies. Stacked in a pile, those pennies would reach the International Space Station – SIX TIMES! Those pennies are like the choices we make every single day in our lives. They might seem insignificant on their own, but together they can make a huge difference. Pennies – never underestimate the power of the small.

One of my favourite moments of We Day was watching the boys’ school getting a call out for their actions through the Kids Helping Kids club. Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza and players Chris Neil and Chris Phillips presented autographed jerseys to a few of the schools in attendance, and one of Tristan’s best friends went up on stage to accept the jersey on their school’s behalf.

We Day has no shortage of celebrities on the stage from across the celebrity spectrum. From activists like the Kielburger brothers and Martin Luther King III to political figures like Queen Noor of Jordon and the one-day-into-his-job ambassador to the USA to TV and sports stars to rock bands like Simple Plan and Neverest, there are plenty of famous names and faces. However, the stage gives equal exposure to seemingly ordinary people who have made their own lives extraordinary in big and small ways. Spencer West is a great example of this, as is Molly Burke, who spoke last year. Ottawa’s own Fahd Alhattab spoke of growing up poor in our very own city – he’s now one of Canada’s Top 20 under 20.

But I have to say, I was most deeply touched by the simple eloquence of Toronto teen Ashley Murphy, who was born HIV positive and was not expected to live more than a few days. The dynamic young teen, adopted into a family of 10 children (eight of whom are disabled or have special needs), is now vice president of her school’s student council, member of a rock band, and an incredibly talented speaker. She said adversity is not something to be overcome in life, it IS life. She told the rapt audience that you don’t need to be liked by everyone, you just need one good friend and to be able to look yourself in the mirror every morning. But it was this that resonated most with me. She said, and I swear I want to print this out on a card and keep it in my wallet: “These are the facts of my life: I can’t change them, I can only control how I live with them.”

During the lunchtime “red carpet” media interviews, Simon had the chance to take this “selfie” with the eloquent and extremely kind Canadian rap star Jason Harrow, known as Kardinal Offishall. I love this photo because it’s super cute, but also because you can see genuine kindness in the interaction between a 10 year old boy who sees everyone as an equal and a celebrity rapper who obviously does, too.

If you’d like to read more about We Act and We Day or better yet, if you’d like to get your family, school or company engaged in this movement, visit the Free the Children website. You can also download the amazing We365 app, a free mobile app and website that enables young people to track and verify their volunteer activities for school, as well as provide the tools needed to fundraise, take action, and amplify messages for thousands of different charities. Youth who participate in We365 challenges will have the chance to be rewarded with TELUS grants and scholarships. Further, through We365 TELUS will engage with kids via Earn Your Way challenges throughout the year, giving kids a chance to win exclusive opportunities like a hike with Spencer West or a day trip with Craig Kielburger. Challenges could include sharing a photo of one small act of change through the We365 platform. These actions will also be amplified through other social media platforms as We365 activity can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter.

On the drive home from the Canadian Tire Centre, Simon and I were chatting about the day’s events. I asked him, “What did you learn you could do at We Day?” His answer, without hesitation but with a huge smile: “Anything!” And that, my friends, is what We Day is all about.

Thank you so much to National We Day sponsor TELUS for inviting us to be a part of National We Day 2014 and to all the amazing organizers and volunteers who made We Day possible.

Hanging out at We Day with Neverest and the TELUS crew

So what will YOU do to change the world?

{ 1 comment }

Next Wednesday, 16,000 students and educators from 420 schools throughout Canada will be gathering at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to mark Canada’s National We Day 2014. For the third year, TELUS is partnering with Free The Children as National Co-Title sponsor of We Day, and they’ve invited Simon and I to attend the celebration again this year. (Well, they invited me and one guest, and I’m thrilled that Tristan has earned his own ticket to We Day through participating in the Kids Helping Kids club at school for the last year!)

You might remember we had the priviledge of attending Canada’s national We Day last year as well. Watching the boys meet and be inspired by Craig Kielburger was truly one of the best moments of my year, and the lessons we learned at We Day last year have inspired our actions ever since.

National We Day in Ottawa - St Leonard shout-out

So what is We Day? It’s a series of events held across Canada and around the world to inspire youth to create change in their communities and around the world. You can’t buy a ticket to get in, though – admission is free of charge to those students who earn their way in through service. Students commit to take action on at least one global and one local initiative of their choice as a part of the year-long educational intiative called We Act. You might remember how proud I was last year when the boys’ school got a shout-out from Craig Kielburger himself for their amazing achievement of raising 170,000 pennies in support of Free the Children through the We Create Change program.

It’s truly wonderful to see the growth of We Day in just one year. Last year, there were 4,000 attendees at Canada’s National We Day and this year will welcome FOUR TIMES that number of participants. Attendees will be inspired by an incredibly diverse array of speakers and performers, from Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan to Martin Luther King III to National Chief Shawn Atleo. Craig and Marc Kielburger will be there, of course, and the hugely inspirational Molly Burke and Spencer West will be returning as well. If you read my post last year, you’ll remember that I was particularly inspired by Spencer West and I have been following him on Twitter ever since. I’m delighted to see he’ll be not only speaking again this year but engaging in a epic 10-week cross Canada road trip to talk to inspire and motivate Canadian students in the We Create Change Tour.

National We Day in Ottawa - Spencer West

I’m especially honoured to be invited to We Day this year because I’ve seen the effects of the We Act program in our family and in our school throughout the past year. Tristan joined the Kids Helping Kids club at school and worked throughout the year on projects like raising awareness and making and selling duct tape crafts to raise money for We Create Change. Through We Create Change, children are encouraged to collect coins to fundraise for Free The Children’s Year of Education initiative to build 200 schools and improve access to education in developing communities around the globe. The We Create Change philosophy is simple, and I’ve seen it on kid-made posters hanging in the school: $20 in change = one brick. One brick = the cornerstone of education. Education = change for the world. Over Lent, the whole school is engaging in raising funds by doing extra chores around the house, and I can’t wait to see what the final tally is.

You’d be vastly underestimating the real message of We Day if you thought it was just about fundraising, though. What We Day is really about is education and empowerment. That was my take-away from being blown away by last year’s We Day event. You’ll pardon me if I quote myself from last year:

The definition of “changing the world” has changed for this generation, for the children we are raising today. When I was a child, it meant that you grew up to be an activist or someone in a position of power, or you were one of those extraordinary young people like Craig Kielburger himself, who drew global attention to a cause he was passionate about. What I’m realizing is what our kids seem to know intuitively, and what We Day is promoting: you don’t need a megaphone to make a difference, and you don’t need to be famous or powerful or have a lot of resources behind you. Social justice isn’t about petitioning on Parliament Hill and letter-writing campaigns, it’s about the choices you make and the way you live your life every single day.

Choose organic and local produce. Choose to hold a door for someone rather than let it slam. Choose to donate a bag of used toys to charity rather than dump them in the trash. Choose to spend 20 minutes of your time promoting a cause rather than playing a video game. Choose to turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and turn off the lights when you leave the room. Choose to speak up to defend someone rather than stand mutely by and watch bullying happen. Like the pennies collected by the boys’ school, each small act on it’s own may seem so insignificant as to be worthless. However, when you start stacking them by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, they have unmistakable, undeniable worth and value.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Look at these results! Since 2007, youth involved in We Act have raised more than $37 million for more than 1,000 global and local causes, have collected more than four million pounds of food, and have volunteered more than 9.6 million hours for global and local causes.

But here’s what’s equally, and perhaps more important: We Day inspires, engages and empowers youth to lead through service, building compassionate communities and transforming participants into active global citizens in the process. Independent third-party research shows that 98 per cent of youth participating believe they can make a difference after attending We Day, and 80 per cent of We Act alumni report volunteering more than 150 hours each year.

National We Day in Ottawa - meeting Craig Kielburger!

If you’d like to read more about We Act and We Day or better yet, if you’d like to get your family, school or company engaged in this movement, visit the Free the Children website. You can also download the amazing We365 app, a free mobile app and website that enables young people to track and verify their volunteer activities for school, as well as provide the tools needed to fundraise, take action, and amplify messages for thousands of different charities. Youth who participate in We365 challenges will have the chance to be rewarded with TELUS grants and scholarships. Further, through We365 TELUS will engage with kids via Earn Your Way challenges throughout the year, giving kids a chance to win exclusive opportunities like a hike with Spencer West or a day trip with Craig Kielburger. Challenges could include sharing a photo of one small act of change through the We365 platform. These actions will also be amplified through other social media platforms as We365 activity can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll be live-tweeting from Canada’s National We Day next Wednesday, April 9. Follow along at #WeDay, and watch the live stream at www.weday.com.


I heard this clip on CBC Radio on the way home today, and to my great surprise, I cried. Okay, maybe not so much surprise. It’s all over the Internet right all of a sudden, but if you haven’t seen it, you *must* watch it.

This is Wil Wheaton at the Denver Comicon, replying to a little girl who asks him if he was called a nerd when he was growing up and how he dealt with it. I have two favourite bits: the part where he says you should never make fun of someone for something they didn’t choose, and the part when he talks about how much better it gets once you get out of the school ecosystem. That might be the bit that made me cry.

Trust me, it’s worth the 3 minutes, and then some.

{ 1 comment }

The boys and I were in the car, on the way to swimming lessons in a snowstorm (seminal Canadian childhood experience, right?) and we’re listening to Michael Enright on CBC Sunday Morning. He’s talking about this National Post article by Sarah Boesveld, about a New Zealand school that “had stopped reprimanding students who whipped around on their scooters or wielded sticks in play sword fights” in the playground, giving kids more freedom to play in an active, creative, energetic way. The article goes on to say,

[The principal] knew children might get hurt, and that was exactly the point — perhaps if they were freed from the “cotton-wool” in which their 21st century parents had them swaddled, his students may develop some resilience, use their imaginations, solve problems on their own.

It’s such a good article. Go read about what happened when a boy broke his arm on the new “unsafetied” playground. Wait, I’ll save you the click. The parent of the boy who broke his arm on the playground confronted the principal and said, “I just wanted to make sure you don’t change this play environment, because kids break their arms.”

533:1000 A tire swing is more fun when shared with a brother

I love this idea. LOVE it. And what I loved even more was that it gave me a chance to talk about it with my boys.

DISCLAIMER: this is not a criticism of any school in particular. This is defintely not a criticism of our school. This is just a discussion of a topic that I find interesting, and relevant, and important. Please don’t bother reporting me to the principal over this blog post. Again.

Ahem, as I was saying, this gave me a terrific opportunity to discuss this issue with the boys. I knew they had been listening, and we have talked about this very issue before.

“So, what did you think about that,” I asked them. “Do you guys have a lot of rules about safety on the playground?”

They said they wished they had more freedom to do things like climb trees and play tag. “Yeah,” one sighed. “There’s a lot of rules. I can kinda see the point of some of them. But there are so many rules that all we can do at recess is sort of walk around.”

I totally get that any school administration wants nothing more than to protect kids. I really, really do believe that they have the kids’ best interests in mind, but I also think that in making these policies they have to consider things like litigious parents and school board liability and all sorts of other factors that are in opposition to letting kids be kids. Kids need to play, and as they get older, kids need to take risks – and sometimes, they need to suffer the consequences of those risks. You decide to play pirate swords with that big branch and take a stick to the side of the head, that’s a pretty reasonable consequence to choosing to engage in rough play. And the bump will go down – eventually.

It’s hard, I get it. I drive the kids to the toboggan hill and watch them slide down (albeit with camera in hand) and bite my tongue instead of tutt-tutting when they start going down face first. I walk them to the park and try my best not to look when they sail off the swing when it reaches its apex. I send them out to ride their bikes around the block and restrain myself from peering down the block after them.

I don’t want my kids to get hurt. But I think about the times I visited the ER as a kid (a concussion from flipping over my handlebars and a sprained ankle from standing up on a toboggan come immediately to mind, to say nothing of arriving on the porch after walking home from the park soaked in blood after taking a toboggan to the nose) I realize that those injuries were probably harder on my parents than they were on me. I can tell you this, though – I was a lot more careful racing my bike after that, I never stood up on a toboggan again, and I learned to walk up the side of the toboggan hill instead of across the bit where people were sledding out of control.

The New Zealand school’s experience is fascinating. The principal observes, “The students weren’t hurting themselves — in fact, they were so busy and physically active at recess that they returned to the classroom ready to learn. They came back vibrant and motivated, not agitated or annoyed.”

This story speaks to the core of how I want to parent my children. I don’t want to discourage them from taking risks because *I* am afraid of the consequences. I want them to learn the natural consequences of their actions, and I want them to understand that getting hurt is a natural part of life, not a reason to stop doing fun things. And I would love to see schools in Canada embrace this brave New Zealand principal’s common sense approach to letting kids be kids, even if it sometimes hurts.

What do you think? We all seem to agree that kids are too coddled these days, but how do we break away from that? I know this is something I need to work on personally, too, because I do tend to coddle the boys when there is a risk of physical injury. I think we need to work on our culture of risk aversion at the family level, so we can broaden that into the school community.

I’d love to hear your perspective on this, whether in the context of the playground or just in letting kids take risks in general. How do we help our schools feel more comfortable with this kind of philosophy and how do we get back to letting kids be kids, overlooking the risks in favour of the rewards? And I’d really love to hear your perspective as a teacher or school administrator. What are the challenges from your perspective? What can we all as a community do?


CHEO recognizes programs for children and youth with Healthy Kids Awards

27 March 2014 Life in Ottawa

It’s no secret that I’m an Ottawa fangirl. I love our community for exactly that – it IS a community, filled with kind and courageous people who work to make it a better place to live. Last night I had the honour of attending the CHEO Healthy Kids awards ceremony at Funhaven with the boys [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

Do you restrict what your kids can read?

23 March 2014 Books

Had you told me before I had kids that I’d be reading aloud each night to my kids beyond the age of ten, I’d have laughed. I mean, sure, we’re a bookish family, and reading is sacred – but I would not have imagined that they would still not only enjoy but actively request out-loud [...]

18 comments Read the full article →

Part time work, full time mom: five years later

19 March 2014 Working and mothering

I‘m listening to a call-in show on CBC radio about workplaces making accommodations for parents, and in between grinding my teeth and rolling my eyes I’m repressing the urge to call in myself. Conveniently, I have another medium through which to vent my opinions on this subject, and I’ve been thinking about blogging about this [...]

3 comments Read the full article →

Family Fun Giveaway: Family pass to Kidsfest Ottawa!

17 March 2014 Ottawa Family Fun

Have you heard about Kidsfest Ottawa? What’s Kidsfest? At Kidsfest Ottawa families will enjoy quality, family-fun entertainment including stage shows, interactive animal exhibits and opportunities to meet popular children’s characters, explore over 70 exhibitor booths providing a unique platform for parents to purchase products and services for their families, and have access to fun and [...]

17 comments Read the full article →