November 2009

W are in the midst of getting laminate installed on the main floor of our house. This has caused considerable, in the words of Sir Topham Hat, Chaos and Disruption.

The decision to even have the horrendously ugly sky-blue-faded-to-murky-grey carpets replaced with laminate was itself fraught with peril. The current home reno tax credit helped push us along, as did the unmistakable smell of doggy feet that seems to emanate from the carpet when the house has been closed up for a while. After three boys with serious reflux issues, the carpet is could likely be classified as some sort of bio-hazzard, in fact. So really, tearing up the carpet is long overdue. But the idea of living for a week or two while transitioning from carpet to laminate — the transition period — was almost more than I could handle. Where would we put half a household worth of stuff? What would we do with the kids when we couldn’t live on the main floor? How would I coordinate it with work, and how could I ask the nanny to work within the inherent chaos? Like so many things in my life, though, the worrying was largely for naught and we’ve muddled through to the half-way point of the project without incident.

As much as I’d like to think we are the type of people who can easily tackle a project like installing laminate ourselves, there are two realities that shatter my idyllic illusion of Beloved and I working side by side, thumping Groove A into Slot B to create a beautiful new floor of our own doing. The first reality is the fact that much as I like to consider myself handy around the house, we have trouble installing picture frames and curtain rods without the anchors pulling out six-inch chunks of the wall. The second reality is the fact that on a given day it takes two and a half adults to wrangle the kids. Since we’re already half a man down, there are simply no spare arms to dedicate to this kind of task.

Besides, my mother has taught me well: there are those who do, and those who are smart enough to contract it out to those who will do it better.

When the first estimate came in for the purchase and installation of the laminate, though, we balked. The first quote we got, sitting in Home Depot one Saturday afternoon back in September, was in the neighbourhood of $2000. Not bad for two large rooms, but still a huge expense. But by the time they came in and measured and evaluated the space and padded where they could, the revised, final and actual estimate was closer to $3000, a 50 per cent increase that I just could not justify. So Beloved and I agreed to shave off about half of the increase by doing some of the work ourselves. We would move all the furniture (to where was a good question) and tear up the carpet and underpad. The best of both worlds, right? Professionals to do the fussy bits, and our own hard labour to do the messy bits.

Honestly, I had no idea how messy it would be. Tearing up 15 year old carpet that has been barfed on, pooped on, and spilled on more times than I can count? Gross. Really, it was so bad that now I want to tear up the carpet throughout the upstairs, too, just so I can get a fresh start. I can barely walk on it, thinking of the dust that we tore up with the underpad.

The actual removal of the carpet and underpad was easier than I expected, though, and only took us one extended afternoon nap on Lucas’s part instead of the two days we were anticipating. Moving all the furniture was more troublesome than I expected. We now have stacks of boxes and books in every room of the house, and the installers won’t even arrive until Wednesday. Because we simply must use the main floor of the house (how you people do six-month renos of your houses is beyond me!) we’ve torn up the underpad, pulled out all the staples and carpet tack, and relaid the carpet back down again so we’re not walking on bare plywood.

You can imagine how much fun this is with Mr Curious, the not-quite-two-year old.

With any luck, by Thursday we’ll have a shiny new laminate floor in, if I remember correctly, “apple wood” which steals heavily from the look of knotty pine. And of course, now that we’ve moved all the furniture and left the rooms bare, all I can see are the flaws in the paint that I now feel the need to touch up. And the TV stand is going to look a little shoddy next to that fancy new floor, we might need a new one of those soon. And because the boys spend the vast amount of their time on the living room floor instead of on the furniture, we’re going to have to invest in an area rug of some sort. And the computer table may not survive the trip back down the stairs. I didn’t realize how close to falling apart it is.

Funny, when we first started talking about getting laminate, I was worried about the boys and the dog slipping on the shiny surface. Turns out there was an entirely different slippery slope I should have been worrying about!


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This? May be the best justification I’ve ever seen for the existence of the Internet.

The Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody:

Lucas watched this four times end to end before the spell was finally broken. Between this and Bohemian Rhapsody being on Lego Rockband’s song list, the boys will have a decent appreciation for one of my all-time favourite bands. Pure awesomeness!


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This week, I went a little crazy with the through-the-viewfinder (TtV) shots. Five of seven days, in fact, the picture of the day was a TtV shot. This is largely for two reasons: first, I’ve been running out of ideas, and I think the TtV shots give things a fresh perspective. Second, I’ve been running out of daylight and too lazy to haul out my lighting gear, and the brightest room in my house, the kitchen, can be the least photogenic. TtV seems to be a lot more forgiving.

This set of pictures of Lucas, for instance, was taken in the kitchen.

309:365 Playing with trains TtV

This portrait of Katie was taken in the kitchen, too. I didn’t, but I could have called it “Portrait of an unimpressed yellow dog in a yellow room.”

308:365 Katie TtV

(It still makes me chortle when I look at it. Poor ol’ Katie, she puts up with a lot, as that look in her eyes clearly tells you.)

This one wasn’t taken in the kitchen, it was taken last Friday in my new office on my second day of work. On Flickr, I described it like this: “I really, really love my new job, from the people to the location to the tasks to the way the light streams in my window onto my happy little corner of the world.”

307:365 @ work

These two pictures I took because the big excavator caught my attention and it was Sunday so there was nobody around to tell me to get away with my camera. (After three boys, i’ve developed a fascination with large construction equipment I might not have otherwise cultivated.)

306:365 TtV digger

I like this one in particular. I think it has an otherworldly, post-apocalyptic quality to it that’s grown on me over the week.

306b:365 TtV digger scoop

Speaking of post-apocalyptic (how often do you get to make that segue?!) I took these stark pictures of bare trees reaching into a cloudy sky because I was trying to capture the bleakness of November before we move on to a December that I hope will be populated with warm holiday shots, bright Christmas lights and — sooner rather than later, I hope! — lots of shots of fresh-fallen snow. But I’m quite pleased with how these ones turned out.

310:365 November TtV

So much so that I really couldn’t decide which of these two was my favourite. At first, I designated this one as the shot of the day, then I switched it to the one above at the last minute. I like the way the branches fill the frame, and the absolute lack of colour — even though I didn’t adjust the colour or saturation on these at all, they’re pretty much straight out of the camera, save for cropping.

310b:365 November TtV alternate

In (ahem) stark contrast to the bleakness from yesterday, last Saturday I was delighted to find an actual flower to photograph. Well, it’s actually a weed, but a flowering weed nonetheless. See?

305:365 November flowers!

And finally, my other non-TtV shot of the week. This one is another in the series of shots that ended up being far from what was originally intended. In fact, I was going to take some macro shots of the typewriter keys, but I was having a little too much “help” and this is what I ended up with.

304:365 Touch typing

I think this is a lot better than a macro of the keys would have been, anyway. And now I can save the macro-key idea for another dark, dreary day’s last-minute shot!


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My name is DaniGirl, and I am addicted to Tim Horton’s coffee.

*hangs head in shame*

Not just Tim’s coffee. I like my own a lot, too. But I am a coffee snob and not just any old brackish brew will do when I need my fix. Which is, for the record, regularly. To the tune of three or four large to extra-large cups a day.

*blushes in embarrassment*

I know. It’s insidious, really. You don’t realize how much you’re drinking, or how much you’ve come to rely on it, until your routine is upended by something like, say, starting a new job. You realize that the coffee on the way into the office is fairly easy to integrate into your routine, but that midmorning fix, when you get up and stretch and wander two blocks over to the Rideau Centre to get your second XL with three milks — is no longer really accessible when there isn’t a Timmy’s around the corner. Oh, I can get in my car and drive to one of four nearby Tim Hortons, or I can take about 20 minutes to walk to the nearest one about half a kilometre away. But it’s just not, you know, convenient anymore.

And, for the record, simply doing without? Not really an option. Not if I want to stay vertical and coherent for the rest of the day, anyway. Not only am I addicted, but I have no desire whatsoever to become unaddicted.

That’s not even the worst part, though. The midmorning coffee can, in fact, be rather easily acquired by either driving over to Tim’s myself, or coercing one of my new team members, likewise addicted to Canada’s favourite java, to pick one up for me on the collective morning run. But my previously-established routine also included one last large coffee to get me through the afternoon. Slipping out one to get a coffee each day seems reasonable; slipping out twice makes me feel surreptitious and guilty. “Who me? No, I’m, erm, just going to the bathroom. With my coat on. It’s cold in there, yanno!”

Yes, I know, in the world of addictions, a couple-three coffees a day isn’t too dangerous. But the change in my routine is showing me how deeply integral to my day those coffees have become! And if I don’t get them? You’ll find me face down on my desk, snoring, by lunch time. Probably not the best way to make a good impression on my new team.

Coffee is definitely my addiction of choice. What’s yours?


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Did you see these news items from yesterday? Over one million cribs recalled, and a world-wide ban on drop-sided cribs. Wowza!

We don’t have a Stork Craft crib, but we do have a drop-side one that has served us well through three boys. It was made by a little mom and pop outfit in Quebec, as I recall from one desperate scramble to find a missing part after we moved in 2003. I won’t be scrambling to get a replacement crib, nor will I be moving Lucas to a bed any sooner than I’m he is ready. I figure we got about another year, if we’re lucky.

In fact, just this morning I had to explain to Tristan that though I greatly appreciated his fraternal assistance, could he please *not* lift the baby out of the crib by himself in the future? I see a lot more risk in the 60 lbs not-quite-eight-year-old hauling the 35 lbs not-quite-two-year-old over the raised side of the crib than I do any inherent risk in the construction of the crib itself! I might find a way to weld or otherwise permanently attach the drop side, though. We don’t use it and haven’t really used it at all for Lucas. In fact, I’m not even sure we raised the mattress from the lower level when he was born — I think we just left it the way Simon had it when he made his way to a big-boy bed in 2006. (Oh my, I really have been blogging for a long time — and I really do love that I can poke back into the archives and find these gems that might have been otherwise lost!)

Ahem, anyway, all this prattling on about cribs has given me the opportunity to brazenly brag about mention the fact that after almost a year of hand-wringing and angst about sleep training, it’s been about a month since the day that Lucas sleep-trained himself completely without any intervention from me. Huh. Didn’t see that one coming!

As you might remember if you’re as long in the tooth around here as me, I am not opposed to letting a baby cry himself to sleep, within reason. The parameters of reason including being close to one year old or older, knowing your baby’s temperament well enough to know he can handle it, knowing you and your spouse and other family members can handle it, and never letting a baby cry longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Those were my personal yardsticks. Sleep training Tristan took about a week; Simon a little longer. Both were between 10 months and a year old.

Lucas’s first birthday came and went, and he was still falling asleep the way he had since birth — in my arms, usually while I sat in the living room far from the going-to-bed chaos of the big boys upstairs. It would take between 20 and 45 minutes for him to drift off, considerably less at nap time. And no matter how much I favoured the idea of sleep training in principle, no matter how much I yearned for the freedom of simply being able to put the baby in the crib and kiss his fuzzy head and walk away — I just couldn’t do it with Lucas.

And then one day last month, I thought he was asleep when I ported him upstairs but I realized as I lay him into his crib that he was watching me. So I did exactly that — kissed his fuzzy head, said goodnight, closed the door and walked away. I went in to kiss the big boys goodnight, gave them a little cuddle and paused outside Lucas’s door. Silence. Hmmm, how curious. So I shrugged my shoulders and walked downstairs, waiting for him to bellow.

Silence.

About half an hour later, I couldn’t resist any longer, so I went upstairs and peeked into his room. He was, to my everlasting astonishment, sleeping. Imagine that! So the next night, just like I have done every other night (because I know from reading every baby sleep book ever written the importance of routine) I told him the story of his day, gave him a little cuddle with his precious “blanky and soo”, and when he was calm but still awake I brought him upstairs and put him in his crib. By the time I had said goodnight to the big boys, he was standing in his crib hollering for me — I tell you, I was almost relieved! — and so I walked back in, tucked him back under the covers, told him I loved him and it was time to go to sleep and walked out again. And — he did!

Giddy with success, three days later we started putting him in his crib awake at nap time too — and do you know what? That worked too. Right from the start. I swear, nobody was more shocked than me.

Now, one of my favourite parts of the day is bedtime, when I put Lucas in his crib, tuck his blankets around him, and sing a couple of verses of my perennial bedtime favourite, You are My Sunshine. I can’t quite keep from laughing as he calls out the last word in every line to “sing” along with me: sunshine, happy, grey, dear, you. Really, it’s way too cute.

Anyway, that’s how we sleep trained Lucas. Or he sleep trained us. I have a suspicion he’s wanted us to just put him in his crib and leave him in peace for months, but he just didn’t have the words to tell us! One of these days he’s going to tell me how he really feels about my singing, but that’s a post for another day.


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Photography book review: PhotoJojo!

by DaniGirl on November 23, 2009 · 0 comments

in Books, Photography

Dear Santa, Of all the photography books I’ve read this year (and hoo-boy, I’ve read a LOT of them, maybe even ALL of them) the one that I’m asking for this Christmas is the PhotoJojo book. Yes, I know, I already read it once from the library. But it was so fun, so funny, so full of great ideas, that I simply must have my own copy to turn to and flip through and be inspired by at random points through the year.

I’ve been a fan of the PhotoJojo Web site and newsletter for quite a while now. In fact, together with CBC’s Spark podcast, they were the main inspirations for Project 365. I’d seen that they were coming out with a book, but since I’d been subscribing to their newsletter for more than a year, and had spent many fun hours plumbing the depths of their archives, I didn’t think I needed to pick up what they called “the convenient dead trees edition” of their Web site. Then one day to my delight I found it on the express shelf of the library and took it home.

I got about half-way through when I realized that not only was this one of the most delightful photography books I’d ever read, but that I needed a copy of my own.

So what is PhotoJojo? It’s a whimsical, fun and occasionally brilliant set of, in their own humble words, “insanely great photo projects and DIY ideas.” Some of the material has been recycled from their newsletters, but the vast majority of the content was new to me.

There are two parts to the book. The first section talks about things to do with the photos you’ve already taken but are languishing, unloved and unappreciated, in your hard drive or in a shoe box somewhere. The second section is called “have more fun with your camera” and provides ideas and inspiration for all the fantastic photos you are about to take.

You can see why I love it, right? The ideas run the gamut from the silly (how to build a harness for your dog to create “the amazing doggie cam” or how to make a hidden jacket camera) to the sublime (a disposable camera chain letter, and the most inspired take on the hoary old photo calendar idea I’ve ever come across.) It has fun projects like making snow globes and photo cupcakes, and practical projects like how to turn a water bottle into a monopod. And it’s threaded through with the geeky sort of humour that makes me snicker out loud as I read.

Photographic meets crafty, with a bent sense of humour and a penchant for whimsy: seriously, what’s not to love? Oh sure, you can do what I did and check out a copy from the public library, but if you’re a photo junkie like me, trust me, you’ll want your own copy too!

But wait, wait, I can’t be done the book review, I haven’t told you about the “everyone who comes to visit you photo wall” or the “photo lampshade” or “how to turn your SLR into a pinhole camera” or “how to build a fish-eye lens out of a door peep” or…


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The “Moms fight the flu” blog tour

21 November 2009 Mothering without a licence

When I was approached by Mom Central Canada to participate in a blog tour promoting the H1N1 information provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health, I was more than happy to sign on.* As Mom Central noted in their original pitch to me, “The Ontario Ministry of Health is the reliable source for up-to-date information […]

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Project365: 300 days and more than 10,000 shutter clicks!

20 November 2009 Photo of the Day

Can you believe I’m already past day 300 on my 365 project? Two months from today I’ll be done! And just the other day, I noticed that my Nikon is using the same file numbers it was assigning to pictures back in March, which means I’ve taken more than (gasp!) ten thousand pictures in a […]

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The power of positive thinking, or Good things are worth waiting for

19 November 2009 It IS all about me

Guess what I’m doing today? *impish grin* I’m starting my new job!!! Yes, that job, the one that appeared out of the blue to land on my lap like a gift, then broke my heart when it disappeared due to budget constraints. The one with the excellent team, the cool social media factor, the 2-hours-less-per-day […]

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Strollers on buses revisted

18 November 2009 Life in Ottawa

Today, OC Transpo is issuing new guidelines on the management of the priority seating on buses. The guidelines will no doubt be both controversial and divisive, because the gist of the proposed guidelines include a new “stroller policy” that “limits the size and number of open strollers on board at at any one time, while […]

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