February 2010

Tensely clicking through various websites looking for info on the tsunami off the coast of Mexico for reasons I will more fully discuss in a few days, and I came across this. Via tweetstats, a wordle of my tweets.

Completely and utterly useless? You betcha. And yet, kinda cool nonetheless. And quite frankly, a welcome distraction. Now back to CNN I go…


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Surely you heard the twitter-storm that turned into a media frenzy last week, about the wildly exaggerated rumours of the death of Gordon Lightfoot. But did you know it was an Ottawa woman and mom of two, nothing more nefarious than a biologist, who was the catalyst for the rumour? Read the full story from her perspective in this Globe and Mail article. Best line in the whole piece? “Thankfully, Gordon Lightfoot didn’t believe the radio, or he wouldn’t have made it to his dentist appointment.” *snicker*

I’m just glad I wasn’t the most infamous person on the interwebs last week — for a while there, it was beginning to feel that way!


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We’re thick in the midst of birthday party season at our place: all three boys have birthdays in a five week span. Over the years we’ve mostly contracted out the birthday party, largely because the idea of avoiding 10 caked-up boys drunk on adrenaline on the loose in my house is worth just about any price! As such, I thought it would be nice to share our perspective on some of the various birthday party options for the school-age set in Ottawa.

Our perennial favourite has been Starr Gymnastics. They have two locations, one east and one west. I’ve never been to the Lancaster location, but have only good things to say about the west-end location. We’ve done four, maybe five birthday parties there, plus taken a couple of years’ worth of gymnastic lessons and even done a week of summer camp there. Starr gets a gold star in our book!

We tried Cosmic Adventures one year when Tristan was wee, I think it was his third birthday. It was fun, but the location is not convenient to Barrhaven, and we’ve never gone back. The boys have been to parties at Midway and Fun Junction, neither of which are convenient to Barrhaven although the boys had a good time.

One year we went with a few friends for an informal playdate at Playtime4Kids before having cake back at our house (that was the year Simon turned four and I was eleventy-hundred months pregnant with Lucas — we were looking for simplification that year!) and I was not really impressed with them at all.

This year, we did Simon’s party at A Gym Tale in Barrhaven, and we were extremely pleased with everything. The package included nearly an hour of free play on their indoor playground (very clean and very safe for toddlers), then a half an hour “adventure” led by a hilarious party helper. The kids did an obstacle course, and then the leader dressed up as an alien and let the kids pelt her with balls — the kids thought it was fantastic and the grownups watching couldn’t help but laugh. Then we had the standard 30 minutes for cake and presents in a private room. All told, I was highly impressed by the value and quality — another gold star!

375:1000 Happy Birthday Simon!

We’ve considered parties at the Agriculture Museum and the Museum of Science and Tech — would like to get around to those one year. Last year, we did Tristan’s 7th birthday at Merivale Bowling Centre, and I found that to be another excellent value that seemed to be a lot of fun for the kids. We toyed with a Cineplex party, as the kids have enjoyed attending parties there in the past, but there were simply no good movies on around the kids’ birthdays this year. And speaking of movies, did you know you can rent a movie theatre at the Colliseum to play Xbox on the big screen? How awesome is that! We’re *so* considering that for next year!!

But I don’t think any year will top this year’s party for sheer awesomeness, at least in Tristan’s mind. This year, I am so delighted by finding the perfect personality-theme mix that I am even willing to risk hosting it in my own house. Next month, I’m inviting five 8-year-olds (plus a nephew and two little brothers) to a Lego birthday party for Tristan. We’ve contracted “The Lego Guy” to come to our house for the event. You might have heard of him, he does a lot of Lego workshops around town. Here’s what he offers for birthday parties:

My party starts of playing the LEGO Creator Game, then building machines and structures using LEGO Technic pieces, example projects are amusement rides, hand drills, paper crinklers, etc., most of the projects can be motorized. The last part of the party is spent building LEGO robots using NXT Robotic System, and then do some sort of activity with them such as Sumo Wrestling and / or exploring with sensors to make the robots react to their surroundings.

Isn’t that perfect for a kid who lives and breathes Lego? And lookit me go, instead of dollar-store invites, I made personalized Lego invites with my mad photoshop skillz:

395:1000 Lego birthday invite

Fun, eh? The mini-fig is Tristan’s own representation of himself, made from this awesome “create yer own minifig” site. (If you’re doing this with the kiddies, make sure you use the kid-friendly version *without* cigarettes and handguns available!!) Of course, there will be a full report after the fact. Wish me luck on actually having the kids in my house!!

Now to see if we can find an alternative to loot bags (hate them!) that the kids loved as much as their personalized birthday CDs to give away!

Care to share your experiences? Any suggestions for fun kids’ parties in or around Ottawa? What has been your kids’ favourite or most memorable party experience?


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The Creepy Thesis Hangover

by DaniGirl on February 22, 2010 · 28 comments

in Meta-blogging

Leave it to Marla to come up with the perfect final word. By the time I’d gone to bed last night, I was feeling that vaguely hangover-y, regretful way she describes in her comment. You know, that guilty and indulgent way you feel when you’ve eaten too many chips or wasted too much time on the Internet when you could have been doing more productive things with the real people in your life? Not that spending a couple of hours with y’all is a waste of time, and anyway, I was already feeling tired and cranky for reasons that have nothing to do with the Internet and everything to do with a toddler who thinks he’s a newborn and wakes up 4x a night now, so I didn’t mind sitting on my ass tapping away and not washing the floor for a couple of hours.

And it was a really interesting conversation, wasn’t it?

So here’s the thing. Today, Theryn sent me an e-mail to say hello. Theryn, aka Heather Lyn, the author of the thesis, who is still a regular reader and even a blogger herself. Look, she even said hello on the comments, and I’m not sure anyone noticed. And here’s the big lesson of the day, one I should have known better: she’s a real person, not just the two-dimensional author of some obscure (less obscure than last week, though!) thesis. And whatever we might have collectively inferred about her academic abilities, turns out she’s pretty nice, too. Certainly she’s got a thicker skin than me, and bore all of our criticism and commentary with grace and good humour.

As I told her in our e-mail exchange, I’m still not sure how I feel about her thesis — but I do regret bringing down a hailstorm of unsolicited and occasionally savage criticism on her head. And so Theryn, I’m sorry that you had to endure a verbal assault on your work that would have brought me to tears, thin-skinned and praise-needy as I am.

Funny thing, this Internet. Even for someone like me who lives and breathes it, who prides herself on hosting fair and respectful discussions, it’s easy to forget that there are people behind the keyboard, people with feelings and biases and opinions that are different. I can’t say that I regret my original post, because I wrote it in good faith and I think it resulted in a truly fascinating conversation. I haven’t changed my mind about thinking that Theryn crossed a line in her assumptions, and that she took my work out of context. But I do regret that I was naive enough to think that Theryn wouldn’t see the commentary if I didn’t explicitly name her, and frankly I regret that she did see it if only because I would have been hurt by those criticisms if there were directed at something I’d invested a lot of time and energy and myself into.

Ironic or what?


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For those of you not on Twitter at 10:00 pm on a Saturday night (what, you have a life?) you might have missed the latest gossip. Turns out some woman at SFU wrote a masters thesis about called “Works in Progress: An Analysis of Canadian Mommyblogs.” In it, she examines in minute detail the writings of eight Canadian bloggers, and uses that fodder to make egregious assumptions and inferences about their income, their marriages, and their children, among other things.

Mine was one of them.

In fact, it was me who stumbled on the thesis yesterday afternoon. I was googling my own name of all things, for an upcoming post that I’ll get around to finishing once all this settles down. I was bemused at first: “Oh look, someone referenced my blog in an academic paper.” But the more I read, the more it creeped me out. This woman spent what must have been days poking around in my archives, copying and eventually analyzing several months’ worth of writing. Analyzing several month of my life. And then she starts making assumptions, and that’s where I’m no longer impressed. She makes inferences and assumptions about my marriage, the division of labour in our house, my income, my job aspirations — about my life.

By the time I’d finished reading, I felt — violated. It’s a strong word, used intentionally. I felt that someone had taken what I put out into the Internet and used it for a purpose I neither intended nor approved. It’s not even the real me, it’s an unauthorized repackaging of the avatar of me that I slip into whenever I sit down at the keyboard.

Now, I have never been shy about sharing the most intimate details of my life online. Back in 2007, Chatelaine magazine (who has a much larger readership than this thesis ever will) wrote a feature piece about Beloved and me that looked at our reproductive history — infertility, miscarriages and all — in intimate detail. We’ve been on CBC TV discussing infertility twice. Neither one of those bothered me in the least, because there’s two key differences here. The first is that the MSM took the time to contact me and ask my permission first. The second is that the MSM seem to understand the fact that what’s on the screen is only part of the story, and doesn’t assume otherwise. They ask questions to get to the real truth, not the one that gets packaged for Internet consumption.

For the first time ever, I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself and the blog when I finished reading this woman’s thesis. I thought, “Is that what I’m putting out there? Is that how people really see me?” And then I realized that that’s exactly my problem with what she did — she stripped my words and thoughts and ideas of their context and used them for her own purposes. (For example, she seems fixated on posts where I comment about potty training and take out, cross-referencing them extensively.) She treats my writing as a factual rendering of my daily life and completely ignores the fact that I am writing to entertain, so of course I am exaggerating some details and omitting others.

As I mentioned, there was a good little twitterstorm going last night, and most people seemed to agree that not contacting the bloggers in question was a significant ethical violation. (You can scan the conversation by clicking on the #creepythesis hash tag.) If she had, I think she would have had a much more interesting and well-rounded thesis. And she would have had my permission to quote me, something that she didn’t bother to acquire. By the way, the other blogs in question are Cheaty Monkey (Haley-O and I discussed this issue at length yesterday), The Writing Mother, Cheaper than Therapy, Adventures in Motherhood, Hypergraffiti, Chaos Theory, and Momcast. There’s also quotes from a lot of the other players in the Canadian momosphere, from Mad Hatter and Veronica Mitchell to Her Bad Mother. Go ahead, use the search feature and see if she quoted you without permission, too!

Now, I haven’t totally lost my perspective on this. I do realize that there are inherent risks in putting so much of my personal life out onto the Interwebs, and I realize that the “wrong” that has been done here is relatively minor. But I am offended by this, and I do intend to follow up with both the writer and SFU. In fact, my first impulse was to include her name along with a long list of accusations of ethical wrong-doings, because while I may soon forget how violated I felt in this moment, Google never will. (Figures. Now is a hell of a time to develop a sense of discretion!)

So, bloggy peeps, I’m willing to bet you have thoughts on this. Am I being overly sensitive, feeling as I do like a bug on a microscope slide? Or should I be flattered that anyone paid that much attention to my writing? Would you be creeped out? Would you act on it?

Me, I gotta go to church. *sigh*


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The big boys are at an age where they can really enjoy the Olympic Fever that’s sweeping the nation. They had a whole week-long build up at school last week, and we’ve been watching events throughout the week. In fact, one of my prouder moments as a parent was last Tuesday morning. I was just on my way out the door to work at 7:00 am when I realized they were watching the rebroadcast of Alexandre Bilodeau’s gold medal podium ceremony. I explained that they had to stand for the national anthem (Beloved teases me that I insist on this!) and choked up when they began to sing it out loud. It was a great little moment.

All that to say, this is what Olympic fever looks like at our house:

389b:1000 Go for the gold, Canada!

389a:1000 Go for the gold, Canada!

393:1000 Olympics, baby!

(I swear, I did *not* dress him in that outfit. That was entirely his own doing. No, really!)

Beyond the Olympics, we’ve had remarkably pleasant winter conditions around here. Sunlight and shadow on snow is a surprisingly hard combination to manage, though.

388:1000 Tree shadow on snow

This one was a near-miss. I’m having issues with the colour levels on my laptop (it’s on my to-do list) and I thought that’s what made this one look a little less than crisp in focus. Turns out it was just out of focus! Oh well. (The point, btw, was mardi gras beads for Mardi Gras. And no, I’m not telling you how I ‘earned’ these!)

392:1000 Mardi Bokeh

And finally this week, did you know raspberries come in yellow, too? This colour filled me with longing for spring and summer far more than an ordinary pint of red raspberries might have!

390:1000 Yellow raspberries


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Facebook fan pages?

17 February 2010 How I love the Interwebs

Oh wise and worldly bloggy peeps, riddle me this: do I need a Facebook fan page for the blog? Please argue the pros and cons. (Caveat: I am not a huge FB user and would not I would not otherwise consider making a fan page, except I’ve been asked to investigate the concept at a […]

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In which she comes to doubt the reliability of Google Map’s suggested routes

16 February 2010 How I love the Interwebs

I was playing with Google Maps, trying to show the boys the distance from Los Angeles to Hawaii. It found LA with no problem, and I asked it for directions to Honolulu, Hawaii. I was perplexed to see it suggested driving up the western coast of the United States, but absolutely tickled when I realized […]

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A new perspective on the Canadian War Museum

15 February 2010 Ottawa Family Fun

We were watching the Olympic mogul races (Go Canada Go!) the other day when one of the boys started talking about how Germany was evil. I don’t know whether it was something they’d been watching on TV or something from school, but it led to a long talk about heritage and ancestry (Papa Lou was […]

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Five warm and frost-free indoor places to visit on Family Day

13 February 2010 5 things

The weather forecast for Family Day in Ottawa looks just about perfect for Winterlude’s outdoor activities, which means that the entire population and half the tourists will be skating on the Canal or zooming down the ice slides at Jacques Cartier Park. Had enough of outside? (If you haven’t, here’s five ideas of free things […]

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