August 2009

This was one of those weeks that interesting subjects practically hurled themselves at my feet, begging to be photographed. (thank goodness!) I think I could have taken enough pictures to last well into November, if only I could save them up and use one each day.

Sadly, in November we won’t have any of these beauties standing regally in the sunshine, waiting to be admired:

218b:365 Sunflowers

(I loved how the sunflowers turned out so much that I turned it into a blog banner on the spot. Sunflowers used to be a motif of mine, back in the day, and I’ve always had a soft spot for them.)

These beauties grow to a height of six or seven feet in my mother’s garden. The black border and square format mimic a photographic technique that intrigues me called “through the viewfinder” or TTV. In real TTV, you take a picture through the viewfinder of another, usually antique, camera. I haven’t found the right camera for actually TTV yet, but I faked this one in Photoshop. (Yet another way you can use post-processing to add a little zip to an otherwise humdrum photo, IMHO.)

219:365 Fake TTV daisy

I ran into an old friend on the weekend who happens to be a professional photographer. We both had our cameras with us (of course!) but his was a D80 with an intriguing-looking lens on it. His kind offer of “go ahead and play with my camera, if you like” was barely out of his mouth when I had it in my hands, and it wasn’t long before I figured out his 28-105 mm lens nicely fit on my D40 as well. It doesn’t auto-focus on my camera (I’m running into more and more limitations with my entry-level dSLR these days) but it still takes a fine macro picture. Covet, covet, covet!!!

214b:365 Coneflower macro

We’ve now concluded the “Nature is beautiful” portion of today’s presentation, and will procede with our “Ewwww, what was nature thinking?!” theme.

Take this spider, for instance. Please. (My apologies to Julie and any other arachnophobes out there. If it makes you feel any better, I can hardly look at the screen myself, and I’m not even particularly squeamish about spiders!) We found her on our back deck this week, she’s about the length of my thumb, and yes, that’s her *shudder* egg sac she’s sitting on. Filled with *shudder* up to a thousand itty bitty baby *shudder* spiders. She’s a ‘black and yellow agriope’, if you wanted to know, and she looks even more freaky large and up close, if you dare!

217:365 Garden spider and (*cringe*) egg sac

(Shortly after this photo was taken, Beloved scooped her and her egg sac up in a jar and we relocated them to the field across from our house. I simply would not have been able to sleep without nightmares of thousands of tiny spiders streaming in through every crack and crevice in the house! Did I mention *shudder*?)

And continuing with the “ugly is beautiful” theme, meet Winnie. She’s a pug, easily the snortiest, drooliest, gruntiest excuse for a dog I have ever met. Of course, I adored her on sight! She belongs to a friend of ours, and spent one night of her three-day vacation at the Humane Society after slipping out the door unnoticed. Luckily, she was reunited with her family the next morning.

214:365 Pug

(The boys were also enchanted with Winnie. The day after we met her, we took the boys to the SuperEx, and when Tristan won one of those water-squirt games — at a full table, nonetheless! — he chose a Pug Webkinz as his prize.)

Speaking of SuperEx, here’s another trio of adorable creatures. How many kids get to feed a lion cub her breakfast? She’s about seven months old — and apparently, she was starving! The boys held her for at least 10 minutes, and I think I’ve got about 35 versions of this picture in my camera. Thank goodness I brought the telephoto lens for a nice close-up!

215:365 Lion cub

Of all the photos from Papa Lou’s Excellent Hot Air Balloon Adventure, I finally chose this one as my favourite. I like the perspective that Granny and Lucas add to the giant balloon (I took this lying on my back!) and the way my Mom’s white jacket and pants compliment the red-green-blues of the balloon, the grass and the sky.

216:365 Granny and Lucas

I particularly liked this one as well. I like the triangle created by the balloon, the watchers and my shadow — how cute is her body language, waving to the balloon? — and the way all the shadows point toward the balloon. (The triangle was intentional, the shadows are just a lucky fluke!)

11 Goodbye!

This is my favourite photo this week. It’s not the best exposure, and even the composition is a little off — but, you have to move quickly when you’re taking a picture of Lucas in action! IMHO, though, the standing-up hair is priceless, as is the expression on Tristan’s face as he comes down the slide behind Lucas.

218:365 Hair-raising slide!

Years down the line, these are the pictures that will matter. Sometimes, the best pictures make up for in joy what they lack in artistry.


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Who me, paranoid?

by DaniGirl on August 27, 2009 · 5 comments

in It IS all about me

When my doctor and I reviewed the results from my annual physical, I was feeling pretty smug. Because I turned 40 this month, we did the big baseline reading thing: TSH, cholesterol, iron, etc. Turns out my risk score is zero… bad cholesterol is good, good cholesterol is not bad but could be better, thyroid is dancing in the low end for normal but within the healthy range, and while my haemoglobin is fine my iron stores are on the low side. All excellent results, so much so that we joked I had a little bit of room for misbehaving.

I wasn’t laughing too loud this morning, though, when I read this front-page anxiety-stoking article that trumpets those highest at risk for severe complications from the H1N1/Swine Flu epidemic are: healthy 40 year olds. Gah!!

(I’m also a little twitchy because she found a swollen “nodule” in my left breast that was of enough concern to book me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I’ve been carefully not thinking about it for three weeks, and my mammogram is booked for tomorrow. Stay tuned for yet another post in the continuing stoooooory of my vexatious breast…)


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Ontario proposes IVF funding

by DaniGirl on August 27, 2009 · 37 comments

in Infertility

My jaw dropped open in surprised delight when I heard yesterday that the province of Ontario is considering funding up to three attempts of in vitro fertilization (IVF) through OHIP. Hello (Ontario Premier) Dalton McGuinty? Between this and the all-day kindergarten thing, I think I love you.

I haven’t had time to read through the entire report yet, but I will and I’ll write an informed summary and analysis when I do. (Um, I still owe you that second post on the Senate Child Care report too, don’t I? It’s on my list, I swear!)

Anyway, here’s what I think of the recommendation at first glance: yippee!!!, with a healthy side of “It’s about farking time!” As most of you know, my first son Tristan was conceived through IVF in 2001, so I admit to a strong bias on this. But you know what? Given the horrible amount of misinformation and misconceptions (snicker) that swirl around the issues of reproductive technologies, people who have been there and done that truly are in a better position to evaluate the proposals.

I find it rather ironic, in fact, that (assuming the recommendations are implemented) our reproductive years will have fallen smack dab in the middle of the decade and a half during which IVF was not funded through medicare. Up until 1994, IVF was funded in Ontario, and continued to be funded for women with two blocked fallopian tubes. I’m quite happy with how things turned out for us, though, and wouldn’t change a thing — but I sure would love to know that other families don’t have to abandon their dreams of having a family simply because they can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.

Here’s why I think IVF should be funded not just in Ontario, but in all provinces and territories.

As the media has noted, one of the driving forces behind the recommendation to fund IVF is the idea of reducing multiple births. Multiple births are expensive on the health care system — there are higher incidences of premature births, c-sections, and intensive neo-natal care. One of the conditions of public funding would be that Ontario’s 14 fertility clinics would have to agree to stricter controls on the number of multiple births, which they would do by making more stringent the rules about the number of embryos that are transfered during an IVF cycle.

(I’m a bit removed from the latest clinic culture these days, but in 2001 when I was 32 years old, they would not allow me to transfer all three of our surviving embryos. We were allowed to transfer two and elected to have the third one frozen. So the clinics haven’t exactly been irresponsible to this point in time anyway. I’ve always been a little bit shocked to hear stories of clinics – largely in the US – that would allow the transfer of up to five or more embryos for a woman undergoing her first cycle, who is young and otherwise healthy.)

The idea, then, is that the amount that would be spent to fund up to three attempts of IVF would be offset by the reducing the costs to the system that result from currently high percentages of multiple births. What’s not mentioned, IMHO, is the value to the system of us creating all these little future taxpayers. Aren’t we all wringing our hands about declining fertility rates?

One other argument that I don’t see in the current media coverage is this: currently, Ontario does provide funding for other fertility treatments like Clomid and intrauterine insemination (IUI). I’ve never used Clomid (a drug that essentially causes you to ovulate more than one egg, thus increasing both your chances of conception and your chances of multiple births) but we did try two cycles of IUIs with superovulation, meaning they used drugs to torque my reproductive system into producing multiple eggs, took a sample of Beloved’s junk and ran it through a gyroscope-thingee (really!) to filter out all the poor swimmers, and had the surviving sperm squirted into my uterus.

The difference between IUI and IVF, then, is a much higher rate of control of the number of conceptions that occur. With (currently funded) IUI, multiple rates are much higher and completely out of the clinic’s control — millions of frisky sperm seek out up to half a dozen fertile eggs. With IVF, the conception occurs in the labratory instead of the uterus, and the doctors place one or two embryos into the uterus, hoping they will implant and grow. It’s the difference between using a calligraphy pen or a bucket of paint to dot your i, if I can make up an analogy.

As an aside, as many of you know, though Tristan was conceived through IVF, Simon and Lucas (and the babies we lost in 2000 and 2006) were conceived naturally. Beloved had an OHIP-funded surgery on his bits in 2001, while I was pregnant with Tristan, because he was in considerable discomfort. (You have to be in a lot of discomfort, I think, to have elective surgery down there — spoken as someone who will never know!) As a consequence, his fertility improved dramatically and obviously. So we might have been able to avoid the whole cost of the infertility treatments had the fertility doctors recommended this OHIP-funded surgery before the IVF.

You know what I would even consider as a reasonable compromise, for those of you who feel that taxpayer dollars should not be funding fertility treatments? Fund unsuccessful treatment cycles. Including two IUIs, a cycle of IVF with ICSI, four years of frozen embryo storage, and the costs to thaw and transfer Frostie, we easily spent $10,000 or $12,000 to overcome our infertility. I think you’ll agree that my darling Tristan is worth every penny times a thousand. We’re lucky that we never had to face the unimaginable agony of an unsuccessful round of IVF treatments compounded by the idea of spending all that money for naught — just try to imagine spending everything you have, financially and emotionally, and coming away empty-handed.

At the very least, this proposal levels the playing field just a little bit for people facing infertility. This editorial, written by a couple who have filed a discrimination complaint at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, outlines some of the ways in which the current system of funding for reproductive technologies in Ontario are discriminatory. Two blocked fallopian tubes? You get three funded IVF attempts. Testicles fried from the radiation to treat Hodgkins disease? You’re out of luck. PCOS? So sorry. Low ovarian reserve? Too bad. Poor sperm motility or mobility or count? Yer on yer own, buddy.

Anyway, I’m all over the place here. As you can see, even after all this time I still react passionately to stories about infertility and reproductive technologies. (Hal, if you’re reading, now you know why infertility is one of the metatags on my blog!) I am beyond delighted to see that Ontario is considering funding up to three cycles of IVF for eligible families, and applaud the province of Quebec for its forward-thinking policies in this area. Once I read the report, I’ll come back with another post and try for a more detached tone. (Anybody want to take bets on how long I’m able to maintain that illusion of detachment?)

What do you think? (And yes, I’m open to dissenting opinions, so long as they are expressed with respect. And you realize that there’s nothing you can say that might change my opinion on this one!)


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New header images!

by DaniGirl on August 26, 2009 · 10 comments

in Editorial asides

I stole 30 minutes from Lucas’s nap this afternoon and tweaked some of the old header banners and added five new ones. Refresh a couple of times and let me know what you think! I think my fave is the sunflowers — they were a motif of mine for quite a while, and we found some lovely ones to photograph at the Farm today.


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Beloved is a college teacher, and so each semester we are at the mercy of the administrative sadists assistants who generate the school’s timetables. This year, they’ve got him teaching late three nights out of five, so from now through December on three nights a week I’ve got to cover the after-work through bedtime parenting shift on my own.

Not bad enough this comprises the making and serving and cleaning up of dinner, but also the supervising and checking of homework, the emptying of school backpacks and packing of lunches, the monitoring of school paperwork and communications, and the wrangling of Lucas the Menace. Plus all the other myriad chores that comprise the second shift after my day-job ends. Three nights a week. I have no idea how single parents do this all the time!

I’m not at my best during the arsenic hours in the best of circumstances. My body rhythms and brain functioning reach a peak somewhere around 10:00 am and then it’s just a long, slow descent toward bedtime from there. I’m at my lowest energy ebb between 4 pm and 7pm — right when the day gets the most intense.

I’ve gotten used to Beloved running interference with Lucas while I make dinner, so that’s where I’ll be missing him the most. Any thoughts on how to make these days run a little smoother? I don’t mind ordering takeout once a week or so, but I think three times a week is a little excessive. I can even task the big boys with some of the interference-running and some simple tasks like helping get things ready for dinner, but they’re like me — not really their shining selves in the grumbly hours between school and dinner.

The good news is that Beloved will at least make in home in time to help cover off the kids’ bedtimes. And I’ll be crawling blearily into my own bed about 10 minutes after they all go down!


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I got this request from my friends at CBC radio:

I’m wondering if you happen to know anyone who’s taking their kids to the “Walking with the Dinosaurs” show this week. We had the idea to have a couple kid “reviewers” on the show — kids who are old enough to have an opinion–maybe ages 8 to 12 or so, roughly, and who are pretty chatty.

My folks are bringing the boys to the show on Saturday, but they’d like someone who sees the show on Wednesday or Thursday to participate in a kid-review on All in a Day on Friday. I said I’d be happy to put the word out on the Ottawa parents’ network and see if anybody else might be interested. Let me know if you are and I’ll pass your coordinates on to the folks at CBC radio!


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Sing it, sista!

25 August 2009 Mothering without a licence

Yep, I agree with just about every word of Danielle Crittenden’s 40 reasons to have kids in today’s Full Comment National Post blog.

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Papa Lou’s Excellent Hot Air Balloon Adventure

25 August 2009 Ottawa Family Fun

“Hey Dani, you blog a lot about affordable adventures for family fun in Ottawa. But what do you recommend if I’ve got a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket and a need to see the city from a different perspective?” How about a sunset trip over the city in a hot air […]

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Ottawa SuperEx 2009

24 August 2009 Ottawa Family Fun

Looking for something fun to do with the family this week? We never miss an opportunity to visit the Ottawa SuperEx. This year, we went early in the day, gambling against a forecasted 60 per cent probability of precipitation. The rain stayed away, the lineups were surprisingly short, the sun warm and bright, and the […]

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Project 365: Shiny bits, old bits, and kids eating stuff

21 August 2009 Photo of the Day

This week, I spent a lot of time wishing I was less stringent with my own damn project rules. I took dozens of great pictures on two days this week, and spent the other five in a mild state of panic trying to find the shot of the day. NEXT time, it’s going to be […]

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