May 2011

Daycare.

Sigh.

I really hope that our struggles to find consistent, affordable, quality daycare have been the exception instead of the rule, but I fear otherwise.

As you may remember, I found out in early April that the caregiver taking care of Lucas is getting out of the business so she’ll have more time to care for her aging parents. Perfectly understandable, but that leaves us searching for daycare. Again. For the eighth time in just over eight years.

I could wail and gnash my teeth – I came very close – but *shrug* that won’t help find new daycare. So I sent the word out on every network I could think of, and while I’ve come up with a few options, nothing is yet settled. This is Lucas’s last week with the current caregiver, but since Beloved will soon be home for the summer, we won’t need care until mid-August. The week before our caregiver announced her pending retirement from the business, I had registered Lucas in 3-days-a-week nursery school, so we’ve been hoping to find someone who can shuttle him to and from nursery school two days a week and care for him the rest of the time. Not likely, I know, but we got lucky on this count once before with Simon.

A friend recommended her former caregiver, but I nearly choked when I heard the rates: $57 a day. (!) The most I’ve ever paid per-child is $40, so that was a bit of a shock. We met, though, and after talking to her I was very nearly sold and ready to sign on. I had some concerns, but liked her style and philosophy well enough to swallow them. She runs an intensive educational-type program with scheduled activities, circle time, crafts, things like “letter of the week” and show and tell — it sounded much more like preschool and nothing like most of the home care we’ve had. At $969 a month for part-time, it was a big pill to swallow, but truly, what cost is too high to know your child is safe and happy? Oh that nefarious parental guilt.

She wanted to be paid for statutory holidays, which I understand (even though I don’t get paid for them as I work part time), and a couple of weeks of paid holidays each year. Again, okay, but the costs were starting to mount up. When I mentioned in passing that Beloved’s school year is done in May, she told us her school year runs until July 1st and we’d have to pay to that date to keep a spot for the following fall, and then in the days before we signed the contract, a few more issues presented themselves. It wouldn’t work out.

The next thing I looked into was the Manotick Montessori. I know a few people who have had wonderful things to say about the Montessori program, so I looked it up. Yikes! They charge $1400 per month, more than I was paying to have a full-time live-out nanny to care for all three boys. Scratch that option.

I got our names back on the centralized waiting list for Ottawa, and am waiting to hear if we can get a spot at the Rideau Valley child care centre. I’d still have to pay full-time rates, but I’d have the flexibility of a spot available any day of the week should we need it, and their hours of operation are more accommodating to the potential early mornings Beloved may face. They’re $881 per month for full time, which I don’t mind paying, even if I’m paying for the Wednesdays I keep Lucas home with me. I have some concerns about a day care centre as we’ve never gone that route before, but since Lucas is so ready for school (oh how I wish I could enroll him in JK this fall!) I’m sure he’ll take to it. The chances seem fairly good that we’ll get a spot, but once again we’ll have to quit the centre for the end of May and hope there is a spot for us again next August if we want the summer off — or suck it up and pay for three full months of care we won’t use.

And, I’m still running down options for in-home care in the neighbourhood, but after a month of beating the bushes, nothing has come to fruition on that front. Anyone know a daycare in Manotick with spots for a precocious but adorable preschooler?

Sigh.

The fact that I know I’m not the only one jumping through these insane hoops on an annual basis doesn’t make me feel any better. Daycare should not be this complicated, irregular patchwork of solutions. It’s easiest for me to complain about the money, but really, I wouldn’t have a problem paying $1000 a month for 100% reliable, quality care. I can’t imagine how hard it must be on families that have extra complications like shift work, or only one parent, or less money to throw at the problem.

We’ll get through this, and I can see the light at the end of the daycare tunnel for us. The boys’ school has before- and after-school care on site, so really, I just have to get through the next three years, tops, and we’re done. But after eight years of fighting an uphill battle, of posting ads and reading flyers and conducting interviews and trying to glean from first impressions whether someone is worthy of entrusting to them my most precious treasure — I’m tired, really, really tired of this.


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It has been a very exciting couple of days for Mothership Photography!

Remember the I Heart Faces photo challenge I entered? My picture of Lucas jumping into a puddle came in second out of nearly 450 entries! How cool is that?

And!! As if that weren’t exciting enough, I got a note from the office of our city councillor Scott Moffatt, asking if they could use one of my pictures in an ad for Dickinson Days, Manotick’s annual summer festival. The ad will run in this week’s Manotick Messenger – my first print photo credit! Wanna see a sneak peek?

Manotick Messenger Ad featuring Mothership Photography

Isn’t that fun? I took the pictures last Saturday, a perfect and highly photogenic early-summer morning in Manotick. I liked how the collage came together so much that I’ve ordered myself a wall print, even before the councillor’s office asked to use it in the ad.

Here’s the original. (This is the leftover from my weekly Project 365 post, the one that I said needed a post of its own!)

149:365 One morning in Manotick

And speaking of Dickinson Days, the party starts on Friday with a parade, a midway, and fireworks. Through the weekend, there’s all sorts of family fun to be had, including a kids’ fishing derby, a craft market, tours of Watson’s Mill and Dickinson House, live entertainment, and on Saturday afternoon Manotick Main Street is closed to traffic so the local merchants can step out and feature some of their best stuff. I’ve been looking forward to this all winter!

If you’re looking for a family-friendly celebration of summertime fun, Manotick is the place to be next weekend! (Please let the rain abate by then!!)


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Usually, I do most of my processing in Lightroom (love Lightroom madly and deeply!) but this week I’ve spent a good deal of time in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. I’ve learned a lot of fun and simple new tricks, and learned how to improve a couple of old ones.

One of the things I worked on was developing a new watermark for my pictures. I went through a watermarking phase a couple of years ago, but found them more trouble than they were worth. Nobody seemed terribly interested in stealing my pictures, and it seemed a pain to keep both watermarked and non-watermarked digital prints on file as well as keeping the original digital negative. Plus, I’m always concerned that a watermark might interfere with the image somehow, make a distraction of itself. But, in the end, I decided that I’d give watermarks another go.

That left me with the problem of designing a watermark. I’ve also been toying with the idea of hiring someone to design a logo for me, or at least coercing my graphic-design-trained husband into doing it for me. But I got to playing one afternoon during nap time on the long weekend, and came up with this:

I’m particularly fond of the little shooting star! So I’ve been using it this week as a watermark on my images, and eventually I’ll turn it into a banner for my portfolio site. One of these days.

Here’s something else fun I learned how to do this week! I found these frames on the Coffee Shop Blog, and thought they’d give a little pizazz to this picture of apple blossoms.

150:365 Blossoms

I was in the mood for something silly when I started playing with these vintage Fisher-Price toys we picked up at a flea market a couple of weeks ago. It was only when I started thinking about making a picture that I realized the mini-bus contains a family of five that could be ours if one of the boys would only grow his hair a little bit longer. 😉 I call it “Road trip!”

155:365 Road trip!!!!

I told you the long and convoluted story of cutting the grass on the long weekend, but I never did get around to telling you about my epic battle with the lilies of the valley. I spent Monday pulling more than 500 of the invasive suckers out of the front garden. The first foot and a half, I dug down and pulled out the root system, too, but I lost enthusiasm with another 20+ feet to go and started just yanking and tossing. This bouquet was really only an afterthought, created from fishing through the bin of discarded plants. Hey, good enough for Kate Middleton is good enough for me — they do smell pretty good, and I’ve still got another (sigh) 600 or so still left in the garden!

154:365 Evils of the valley

This picture was one of those moments when I came around a corner, saw how the light was illuminating his ridiculous hair, and instinctively reached for the camera. One shot, real quick before he moved, and this was it for the day!

153:365 Lucas in the morning light

This is another found photo. Ya gotta catch ’em being cute! I love the body language, and the fact that the two of them together are occupying one butt’s worth of space. The ISO was set really high because they were fidgeting and I was getting a lot of motion blur, and I was kind of surprised how much noise there was — but the pose is plenty cute enough to overcome that, I think!

152:365 Whatcha doin' big brother?

This one was all about the light. We desperately needed a new dining room table — we can barely fit the family around the ancient Ikea table we’ve had for 10+ years – and I’ve been coveting one since we moved. We found a place that makes harvest tables out of reclaimed wood, and I’ve been biding my time until we could afford one. It’s a little darker than I was expecting, but I love the character of it. Lucas thinks we got the bigger table just so he would have more room to colour.

151:365 Colouring

Lovely, no? And I have one more picture from this week, but it’s got enough of a story to it that I’m going to save it for it’s own blog post! Stay tuned!!

In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts on watermarking in general and how I’ve applied the watermark to these pictures.


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I like cutting the grass. It’s a reasonably mindless chore that takes physical but not mental effort, and you can do it outside. When you’re cutting the grass, it’s just you and the lawnmower and the great outdoors, and nobody is yanking on your leg asking for a cookie or to wipe their bum.

We moved in to the new house in mid-October last year. I’d ordinarily mow the lawn up until November on a every-week-or-three basis, but with the move craziness and 400 metric tonnes of leaves to rake up, cutting the grass was simply not much of a priority. Through the winter, I’d ponder the lawn, wondering how long it might take to cut it (the guy we bought from said an hour for the front and an hour for the back, but he’s deceived us on enough things that I wasn’t willing to take his word for it) and looking forward to it with a bit of a sense of adventure. Don’t laugh now, it only gets worse from here.

As it rained and rained and rained through April and May, the grass grew unfettered, and I played with my computer researching cordless versus electric versus gas mowers. I started out thinking we would invest in a cordless, but the more I read about them the more they seemed designed for the postage-stamp-sized suburban lawn we’d left behind in Barrhaven, not the 1/2 acre of wilderness that comprises the lot in Manotick.

129:365 Dewy [Explored]

By the time we had a three-hour interval with no rain, I still hadn’t made up my mind about which kind of lawnmower we needed to acquire (and was still balking at the $500+ price tag for a cordless mower) so I hauled out our old electric. The 50 foot cord wasn’t going to come close to giving us full coverage, but my dad scrounged up a manky old cord from his collection and brought it over for us. It had only a few places where the insulation had been worn through to expose the wires inside, and since it was a good 100′ or more, I deemed it only moderately unsafe and thus entirely good enough.

Remember last Thursday, that day when right around 4 pm Mother Nature said, “Oh, you want summer? Here you go!” and turned up the heat and the sunshine? Yeah, that day got me all excited, so right after work/school I hauled out the manky cord and the electric mower with blades that hadn’t been sharpened since we got it five years ago and set to work. Except the manky cord had this weird coupling that didn’t fit into the protected end of the lawnmower cord, so I had to get out the 50 foot cord and attach it to the lawnmower, but then attach the other end to the manky cord so I could mow beyond two rows in front of the porch, and while there was a feather of concern about the elevated risk of electrocution it was quashed by the anvil of stubborn determination to mow the goddamn lawn before it reached the height of my knees.

And so, abused lawnmower tethered to the house by not one but two manky cords, I gripped the dead man switch and pressed the button and off I rumbled down the first row. Little did I know that my right hand would eventually atrophy into a hideous claw around that dead man switch. But I’m getting ahead of myself and really, we’ve only barely begun. (Wait, don’t go, there’s more!)

So the first row went okay, and the second, but as I moved away from the garden in front of the porch and toward the road, the grass got thicker, and thicker, and thicker, and the lawnmower started complaining. Despite the fact that my rows had narrowed from nearly the width of the lawnmower to half the width of the lawnmower to the width of the inside wheel of the lawnmower, its little engine chuffed said, “Please, could you go a little slower? I’m having a spot of difficulty in keeping up.” So I slowed my pace a bit, and a bit more, and a bit more, until I was moving at a pace that was only a little bit slower than continental drift, but I still had to stop every row or so when the lawnmower choked up completely.

The first time it happened, I carefully unplugged the cord (Elmer the Safety Elephant says ‘Safety First!’), turned the lawnmower over, and disgorged three bales’ worth of grass from its guts, then carefully uprighted it and plugged it back in. With each subsequent time it happened, I took less and less care, until I was flipping the damn thing over like a coin, cramming a stick into its inner workings before the blades had even come to rest.

Did I mention the broken handle on the mower? We lost a bolt maybe a year or so ago, and so while the handle holds together mostly pretty well, it has the alarming habit of collapsing randomly, just when you’re not expecting it to.

And so it went, for about half an hour, until I got to *insert ominous music here* — the culvert.

I’m such a suburbanite, I’m not even entirely sure that culvert is the right word. I suppose “drainage ditch” is another good term for it. In the winter months, I thought it was grand when it provided the boys with our own private tobogganing hill:

4:365 Frontyard sledding

In summer months, however, it turns into a yawing green canyon of death. I tried running the mower the length of it, but came precariously close to tumbling over sideways when the slope approached a near vertical. Eventually I had to resort to hunkering down a few steps down from the apex and easing the lawnmower down to the bottom of the ditch, then yanking it back up again as I scrambled to keep my footing and clamber back to the top of the slope, all while maintaining a death-grip on the dead man switch with one hand and frantically swiping the manky cord out of my way with the other. I only slipped and fell once, but I did let the mower tumble into the ditch a few times when gravity had the upper hand and I needed to sacrifice the mower’s momentum to save my own. And there’s a slight chance that I may have flung it into the ditch in exasperation, just once or twice.

It was, to say the least, not pretty. What had seemed like a glorious early summer day had quickly deteriorated into a humid inferno. The only thing thicker than the grass were the mosquito swarms, but the grass was SO thick at the bottom of the ditch that I had to contort the (shifty) handle down flat to the ground beneath my feet (while trying not to lose my balance on the slope and fall ass-over-teakettle into the ditch) so I could give the blades a bit of air so they’d keep turning. And I worked my way methodically up and down that godforsaken ditch that way, cursing lawns and lawnmowers and manky cords and broken handles and mosquito and the sweat running into my eyes in increasingly colourful language. What knocking a tree into the neighbour’s pool during a windstorm did for my introduction to the back neighbours was nothing to the impression I must have made on the front neighbours during the debacle that was my first attempt to cut the lawn.

Eventually, I had to stop as I had a meeting scheduled with a new caregiver (a story to be told another day) but Beloved had wisely ordered pizza and fed the kids as I’d cut and cursed the grass. After two hours of sweaty labour, I’d mowed only two-thirds of the front lawn. Jesus wept, and so did I.

I won’t bore you with the sweaty details of the subsequent session of lawnmowing that weekend. Here’s the highlights: I started cutting just after lunch on Saturday afternoon, picking up where I left off (and falling into a wretched heap when I realized that the grass had grown enough to need recutting in just TWO DAYS) and finishing just before dinner. By the time I was rolling through the last few rows in the back yard, I felt like a marathoner crossing the finish line. I was shaky and weepy and clean out of curses. It had taken me FIVE hours over two days to cut the whole lawn.

I spent the evening on Saturday nursing my aching biceps and back and trying to massage some feeling into the hand that had permanently taken on the shape of the dead man switch on the lawnmower handle, and researching new electric lawnmowers. I’m still afraid of gas mowers and we can’t afford a lawn tractor. I read that a cordless mower holds a charge for 30 – 45 minutes at a go and guffawed; surely the environmental and financial impact of a shredded cord or two each year is considerably better than that of the five or six lawnmower batteries we’d need to get the job done.

Personally, I’m thinking the best solution is a goat. Beloved expressly forbade me from raising chickens, but he never once said I couldn’t buy a goat…


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I promise I’ll be back with more actual blog posts in the very near future (oy, my life right now!) but in the interim, I’m cheating and copying verbatim this press release from the Ottawa Art Gallery about an awesome new project they’ve launched: The Ottawa Art Gallery Community Art Garden!

I know, I love it too! Here’s the deets:

Will Work for Food Project: The Ottawa Art Gallery Community Art Garden is underway!

May 25, 2011—OTTAWA—Over the next few weeks, the Arts Court lawn at Daly and Nicolas Streets will transform into a lush, colourful, edible, community collaboration.

Jennifer Cook is one of two artists selected by a jury in February after a call went out for artists to propose how they would involve the community in growing food at the gallery. She has drawn up designs for a series of vegetable gardens, referencing culinary themes, colour combinations and the patterns of traditional quilts.

With the help of clients at Operation Come Home, Cook started seeds indoors, and is ready to prepare the garden site into which these baby plants and many different vegetable seeds will be grown.

The intention of Cook’s garden is to provide a site for the public to learn how to grow food, contribute their food-growing knowledge, and work alongside the artist throughout the growing and harvesting season. Workshops will be held during the summer and fall, and will cover both food and art-making activities.

Food from the garden will be shared with individual participants, The Ottawa Mission and Operation Come Home.

Cook is hoping the community will roll up their sleeves and dig in for the first stage of the garden construction – A Community Work Bee.

Community Work Bee – Soil Delivery Day
Friday May 27th

Ottawa Art Gallery (Arts Court)
2 Daly Avenue
9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

RAIN OR SHINE

Come by and lend a helping hand as we mound and shape the soil into garden beds. Bring your tools and gloves—donations of garden implements are welcome.

Food is being provided by the professional kitchen at The Ottawa Mission, thanks to Chef Ric.

The Ottawa Art Gallery is greatful for the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Community Foundation of Ottawa, without whom this project would not be possible.


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IHF Challenge: Yellow

by DaniGirl on May 24, 2011 · 28 comments

in Photography

This week’s theme on the I Heart Faces photography challenge is yellow. I truly love yellow – I think it’s my favourite colour. I wanted to post this picture so I could play along. I’ve been following I Heart Faces forever, but this is my first submission — yay!

125:365 Puddle jumper

To see some really amazing contributions, as well as some great tips and tutorials – or to play along yourself! – check them out:

Edited to add: Wheeeee!! I won!! Well, actually, I came in second place, but with nearly 450 amazing entries, I’m pretty happy with that.


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Project 365: A wet week with a sunny ending

22 May 2011 Photo of the Day

I am on a picture-taking tear these days, so much so that I keep filling up the hard drive on our laptop and have to regularly pull the pictures off the computer and store them in a separate hard drive. And life has been so busy, while I’m finding the time to take the pictures, […]

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Help me choose!

21 May 2011 Editorial asides

You ever notice how people who love to take pictures seem to hate having their picture taken? Couple that with a deeply embedded aversion to change, and it becomes a huge ordeal for me to even think about changing my online avatar. Further, I think it’s good personal “branding” to have one picture across all […]

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A Spring into Summer giveaway from Fisher-Price!

20 May 2011 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Late in the afternoon yesterday, after eight solid years days of rain and clouds, the sun came out, the temperatures shot up, and just like that, it felt like summer. Yay! Summer is my favourite season. Bring on the heat, the humidity, the bugs — just let me get out and enjoy it. I get […]

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147b:365 Drawing together

19 May 2011 Ah, me boys

174b:365 Drawing together, a photo by Dani_Girl on Flickr. Via Flickr: Tristan often copies drawings from his books, in this case a Pokemon book. I was absolutely charmed this morning when I found Lucas had gone into his room and pulled an Elmo book off his shelf to inspire his own drawings, just like his […]

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