August 2016

Didn’t everyone learn to make dessert by starting with Rice Krispie squares? I tried to stay out of the way so they could do it themselves, but I did want a few photos of the action. Part of my new “day in the life” series.

Making squares (1 of 4)

Making squares (2 of 4)

Making squares (3 of 4)

Making squares (4 of 4)

(He’s not glaring at me, I swear!)

Looking at them again, I’m second guessing myself for not going with black and white. Hmmm. Still, I love having these simple stories to store away. They’ll definitely last longer than the Rice Krispie squares will. ūüôā


{ 0 comments }

This will be my seventh year on our elementary school council, and my third year on the intermediate/high school council. I don’t see any reason why I will not continue to be on the high school council right through Lucas’ graduation in 2026, which means that by the time he’s done school I’ll have logged a full SEVENTEEN YEARS on school council. In fact, I’ll have been retired from my day job for two years before I retire from council.

I didn’t join the school council at the boys’ first school, where Tristan attended JK through Grade 3 and Simon attended Kindergarten before we moved to Manotick, mostly because I was shy and a little bit intimidated. I thought you had to be part of the “in crowd” of moms, the ones who all seemed to know each other at the school fence, who made coffee dates and attended zumba class and didn’t generally talk to me. I thought that because I worked downtown during the day, I wouldn’t be able to participate. I thought you had to be one of those hyper-involved moms with boundless energy and community connections, entirely unlike tired, barely-holding-it-together, socially awkward me.

When we moved to Manotick, though, I thought maybe joining school council would help me get to know our new school and our new community, so I put on my brave girl pants and showed up for the first meeting of the year. The first person who befriended me remains a friend of the family to this day (hi Debra!) and all of the myths I’d assumed about council were dispelled. I didn’t need to commit to hours of activities during school hours, but I did need to commit to monthly meetings. Joining the school council has been great for making friends, occasionally exasperating, an excellent way to make community connections, and one of the best things I’ve done to feel connected to the place where the boys spend so much of their formative years.

Here’s five reasons why you should join your kids’ school council.

1. You will know what’s happening at school

The pre-teen’s monosyllabic grunt in response to “what’s new at school?” may be the least informative mode of human expression. This becomes, in my opinion, an even bigger challenge in middle school and high school. Schools try very hard to ensure parents are informed and have many channels of communication, but being on council has been the single most effective way for me to know not only what’s going on with school events and activities, but what challenges the school is facing, what victories they are celebrating, and to get a feel for the culture of the school.

2. You can voice your opinions and contribute to decisions

From fundraising to parking lot conflicts to lunch programs to technology in the classroom, being on council gives parents a meaningful voice in school life. Knowledge is power, and council offers an insightful window on the challenges your school is facing (from funding to enrollment to infrastructure) and what changes are being considered. I can think of a few occasions where the school admin have approached council with a contentious issue, listened carefully to feedback, and implemented a solution based on what they heard instead of what they were originally planning.

3. Builds relationships with staff and community

Through council, I’ve met many great people and made friendships that have extended beyond the school walls. Equally valuable, I’ve had the chance to get to know the school administration and many of the teaching staff. On the very few occasions when something has come up that I’ve needed to talk to the school about a sensitive or troubling matter, it’s been great to be able to rely on an existing relationship to smooth the way. It’s also great to be able to put a face to the names that come up in conversation with the kids, and to feel connected to their school lives.

4. Give back

It’s important to me to be able to give back to my community, and to set an example of community service for the boys. This is a pretty small commitment in the grand scheme of things, and a self-serving one, given the reasons outlined above. Still, it does feel good to be able to volunteer a couple of hours each month to make the boys’ school a better place for them and for their classmates.

5. It’s not as much work as you might think

I think this was my biggest fear about getting involved in council. What kind of purgatory am I signing up for? I’ve found through the years, though, that you can take on as much or as little as you are able. There are indeed some parents who can and do volunteer at the school on a nearly full-time basis, and there are others like me who try to weave it in to the fabric of working and parenting and everything else. If your council has voting positions, you need to commit to attending the monthly meetings so quorum (having enough voting members present to pass motions) can be achieved. Some years, that’s barely all I could achieve. Other years, I’ve been secretary, which requires only showing up and keeping a record of the proceedings and managing the agenda. This past year, in a fit of delusional enthusiasm for Simon’s Grade Six graduation year I was foolish enough to take on the yearbook. I nearly drowned in the 100+ hours it ate through May and June and I learned to sit on my twitchy-to-volunteer hands through forthcoming September meetings. Most councils are open-door, so even if you don’t want to commit to a voting position, you’re still welcome to sit at the council table and listen and contribute to the conversation. This is a great way to find out about other volunteer options, through council sub-groups or school activities like lunch programs and social events.

apple on books

Councils, like schools, each have their unique personalities. I need to mention that we live in a high-privilege community, and the chairs around our council tables are always full, but I have heard that there are schools in Ottawa who struggle to get even a few regular volunteers for council. I imagine this makes things a lot more challenging, as each person has to take on a larger share of the work.

While I’ve found council sometimes frustrating (oh humanity) and occasionally exhausting (when you get up at 5:30 for work, a meeting that runs until 9:30 on a cold February night can feel interminable!) in general my experiences with both the elementary and high school councils have been far more positive than not, and I would recommend that anyone who has an interest in their kids’ school lives consider signing up or at least attending some of the meetings.

What’s your experience? Have you volunteered for your school’s parent council? How did you find the experience?


{ 5 comments }

I‘m standing in the hair products aisle in the drug store and I finally lose patience trying to read the label on the deep conditioner (%$#@ tiny print!) and I stomp over to the cheapie reading glasses and find the +1.25 that my optometrist recommended a few weeks ago for a back-up pair. I also have a prescription in my purse that I just haven’t been motivated to get around to filling because while I know my eyesight is deteriorating, it’s mostly fine and probably not worth the hassle of glasses. Hah.

I stick a pair on my face and first look into the smudgy little mirror and laugh at how owlish my eyes look, but then I glance down at the deep conditioner in my hand and actually say “holy shit!” out loud because of how clear and legible the print is. I have to take them on and off a few times to confirm the difference is as dramatic as I think it is. It is. I walk over to the books and I can’t believe how crisp everything is, and how sharp the edges are, and how IN FOCUS everything is. I don’t have to zoom my arms back and forth to find the fine plane of not-as-blurry-as-otherwise or hold things angled toward the light or any of the other tricks I’ve been doing completely unconsciously.

So I plunk down the $10 for them and now I’ve been walking around the house marveling at all the things – my Blackberry, the newspaper, a can of club soda, OMG my computer!! All the things have an astounding lack of fuzziness that I just can’t get over – as long as they’re closer than arms-length, that is. Any further than two feet away with the reading glasses on and everything is even more blurry than the up-close stuff is without the glasses.

The real test comes at bedtime. I turn on the lamp, crawl into bed, grab my Kindle and slip the glasses on. Usually, I turn the Kindle on and wait patiently for a few minutes while my eyes struggle to resolve the text, and then once I get the first few words resolved I can plunge on and make out the rest. I’ve already boosted the font size a couple of times and if I make it any bigger, I’m only going to get about four words on a page. I glance at the text and am gobsmacked all over again. I can read it right away!

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.29.28 AM

Damn. I honestly had no idea how bad it had gotten. I can barely wait to see how things will look through actual prescription glasses now! If you need me, I’ll be wandering around the house, examining everything from a distance of 45 cm or so to see what I’ve been missing all this time.


{ 1 comment }

What better way to save and remember a fleeting moment in time than photos? This family is leaving behind a home they loved for a new adventure, and wanted a custom photography session to document their affectionate memories of the home where they were married and started raising their young family.

The morning was grey and drizzling rain as I made my way to Hintonburg. It didn’t rain while we were shooting, but the humidity and slightly muddy ground did not do much for the look of the photographer – good thing I was behind the camera. However, the muted light from the morning overcast made for some lovely, contrasty portraits.

At home in Hintonburg

See that yellow dump truck? The mother laughingly mentioned that it was like a fifth member of the family. Watch how many times it appears in the photos.

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

Did I mention three-year-olds are AWESOME? (No irony or sarcasm intended – I seriously love the personality in this photo.)

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

Speaking of personality:

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

I have a soft spot for the in-between moments, too.

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

While this looks scripted, most of it came together organically. I was posing the grown-ups and the kids were just being kids in the foreground, so I stopped and grabbed my camera. The kiss was just a lucky capture. I think that’s where my favourite photos come from: a little bit of direction, a lot of personality, one eye on the composition and the other eye on the light, and a whacktonne of serendipity.

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

And just like that, a morning of memories of a favourite place, a moment in time, and a beautiful family full of love.


{ 0 comments }

We’ve been meaning to do something about the sofa for quite some time now. Funny, not too long ago I came across the blog post I wrote in 2008 when we bought it. It’s been a great couch – oversized and slouchy, with plenty of room and plenty of tolerance for being at the hub of a busy life full of boys, dogs, cats, visitors, and a lot of spilled coffee.

blog Ikea old pillows and sofa

While it’s a comfy couch, it’s starting to look more than a little bedraggled. How did I let the pillows get to this state of threadbaseness? Life is busy, yanno?

blog Ikea old pillows

Also, I have to admit that the green and red colour scheme has worn almost as thin as the pillows. Since the first year we came back from PEI, I’ve had in my head that I’d like a “sand and sea” colour scheme in the living room. There’s no room for geometric green and red in my sand and sea vision.

A new sofa is simply not in the budget for now, though. As long as the existing one (and its durable chair-and-a-half companion piece, not shown) continue to do their jobs of keeping our collective toushies off the floor and are not visibly leaking stuffing or aggressively poking us with springs, we’ll tolerate the barely noticeable central sag in the frame.

We’ve been spending a LOT of time in IKEA this summer for a fun new project which will be announced anon. Part of that project was the rolling out of a beautiful new MARSLEV rug which DID match my vision of a sand and sea colour scheme, but which definitely did NOT match with the red and green cushions. You can see it peeking out under the “before” picture above. A new couch was not part of the project, nor were cushion covers. However, when I was perusing the Ikea website and saw not only that they had cushion covers that would fit both the large back cushions and the smaller cushions, and that they had them in colours that were within the realm of sand and sea AND harmonized with the new MARSLEV rug, I could not resist.

Originally, we were going to replace the red and keep the green to harmonize with the new blue cushions, but it was altogether a bit too cool. Instead, we kept the red for a bit of a PEI sandstone flavour, and covered the large green back cushions with a pair of deep turquoise SANELA cushion covers. We also covered the embarrassingly raggedy smaller throws with a pair of light blue SANELA covers, and kept a hint of green and beige with a contrasting OTTIL cover on the third one.

Whenever dealing with IKEA projects, I build potential exasperation with non-standard measurements into the plan. However, to my delight, each pillow fit snugly and exactly into the cushion covers. They were snug enough that I had to work to get them in, but that tautness makes the pillows look fresh and full.

Voilà, a brand new sand and sea colour scheme (and an end to those awful, threadbare cushions!)

blog Ikea new pillows

Total project cost: $62 in cushion covers, 10 minutes of effort. I’m so thrilled with the results! We’re now well on our way to that sand and sea colour scheme, AND we’ve averted the need to even consider browsing for new living room furniture for at least a year or so. That’s a huge double win in my books!

To my delight (and, let’s be honest, surprise) the colours pick up beautifully on the re-upholstered IKEA dining room chairs that I fixed up the last time I was feeling crafty. (Hey, I’m half Scottish and half Dutch; if I can extend the life of an existing piece rather than dump it in the landfill and buy more stuff, I’ll do that every single time!)

Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about my new IKEA project soon!

(By the way, this was not in any way a sponsored post. I have been working with IKEA, but it was simply proximity to their products – and a lifelong love of IKEA – that inspired this instant-renovation.)


{ 4 comments }

I was poking around in the archives looking for something and found this story from 2009. Given that we’re creeping up on back to school time, not to mention the enduring family fascination with Pokemon, I thought it would be a good story to re-share. Heading into high school next month and he’s still a Pokemon fan!

PokeTristan

Way back in early summer, Tristan saw a Pokémon backpack at Walmart, and every time the subject of back-to-school came up this summer, Tristan pined for that Pokémon backpack. He was due for a new one, as his Disney Cars one had held up remarkably well through both Senior Kindergarten and Grade One, so I had no problem with him getting a new one this year.

I was picking up a few things back-to-school items at Walmart (I do try to avoid it, but sometimes the siren song of convenience and cheap are hard to resist) one day, and saw the backpack with which he was so enamoured. I reached out to pick it up, and knew the moment I touched it that it was crap. It was thin, plasticky, and looked like it would fall apart in a hard rain. It was only $10, though.

For a few minutes, I played out possible scenarios in my mind. I bring home the backpack, and Tristan is ecstatic. It would definitely help overcome any potential back-to-school blues. The boy is seriously obsessed with Pok√©mon — not a day goes by that he doesn’t crank out two or three or eleven Pikachu and Tristan-the-Pok√©mon-Trainer drawings. $10 is easily worth that much joy.

But — the thing is going to fall apart inside of a month. Will he be heartbroken? Will we have to duct tape it back together on a regular basis, so that by December it’s more repair than backpack? Will we be able to negotiate an acceptable replacement? Will his homework be strewn all over the playground on a regular basis?

I decide on a carp√© diem kind of approach, and figure we’ll deal with whatever repairs or replacements are required later. I pick the backpack up and put it in my cart, and that’s when the wave of chemical smell hits me. The thing *reeks* of that plasti-vinyl PVC stench that you just know must be toxic. (Oh look, it really is toxic. Lurvely.)

I put it back on the shelf. I can’t expose my kid to this. He’ll carry this every single day — and keep his lunch in it. I look at Pikachu. He’s been coveting this backpack all summer. Am I that mother, the one who denies her kid all the funnest stuff because of her personal agenda? I pick it up with the intention of giving it another sniff, but I don’t even have to get it up to my nose to smell it. I put it in the cart and pace around the store a while.

Eventually, I decide that I’ll buy it but not show it to him. I’ll look around online and in some other stores and see if I can find a Pok√©mon backpack that’s somewhat less nuclear than this one. I shop around a bit, but can’t find anything similar. I do find a really nice red and blue Roots backpack (I have a pathological addiction to Roots products, I’m not sure why) and buy that one too. It’s really nice, with lots of pockets and hooks and places to stash a seven-year-old’s treasures — but it’s not Pok√©mon. When I get in the car, I can actually smell the PVC smell from the bag sitting in the hot car, it’s that strong.

The whole way home, I agonize. I really, really don’t want him to have this particular backpack, but he has had his heart set on it for months. I can always tell him that they don’t carry them, that I couldn’t find them, but we’ll likely run into the problem all over again next time he’s in Walmart. He’s getting too old to trick. I get home and leave all the packages in the car. I surf eBay and a few other online places, all the while wishing (for the first and likely only time) that my computer had smell-O-vision so I could sniff the various wares for sale, but I don’t see anything remotely enticing.

Finally, I decide that I’ll leave it up to Tristan to decide. I’m not sure if I’m empowering him or chickening out. Maybe both? I tell him that I looked at the Pok√©mon backpack, but that I really thought it was a piece of junk. (He gets that his mother has quality issues. “It’s a piece of junk” is a frequent reason for being denied something shiny that has caught his eye.) I explain my concerns about the chemicals, and the smell, and the quality. I cross my fingers and tell him that I did find a backpack that I thought was really nice, but not Pok√©mon. I’m watching his face pretty closely, and have watched comprehension and disappointment flicker through his eyes. Now his face brightens as I suggest that maybe we can get a Pok√©mon keychain (see previous comment re: junk) to decorate this bag.

“Oh yeah,” he says, and enthusiasm lights his face like sunshine after a storm. “We can get some stickers, and I can draw some pictures.” And just like that, we’re good. I’m so relieved and so proud I want to cry.

The next morning, I notice the new backpack sitting by the front door. It has a Pikachu keychain dangling from one zipper, and a few other Pok√©mon tied to the straps with long bits of string. A fresh picture of Pikachu and Tristan-the-Pok√©mon-Trainer has been scotch-taped to the front, and there is a Pok√©mon trading card tucked in the mesh bottle holder. It is, by far, the most lovely Pok√©mon backpack I’ve ever seen.


{ 0 comments }

Photo(s) of the day: Backyard shenanigans

13 August 2016 Mothership Photography

When Liz got in touch to book for family portraits, I knew we’d have fun working together. She had been looking at her backyard to see which time of day had the best light. Yay! The only thing photographers love more than fun, friendly subjects is fun, friendly subjects in awesome light. There may have […]

3 comments Read the full article ‚Üí

Photos of the day: Ben and Melanie at the park

6 August 2016 Mothership Photography

When people ask me if I photograph weddings, the answer is usually a tentative “sort of.” I love love love the idea of weddings, but I find them a dizzying mixture of touching, terrifying, inspiring, exhausting and amazing. It’s such a huge honour to be invited to document such an important day, but I fret […]

2 comments Read the full article ‚Üí

An invitation: Come see my sea glass wire wrapping tutorial Live on Facebook!

3 August 2016 How I love the Interwebs

Let’s try something new! Would you like the chance to win a piece of custom made sea glass jewellery and to see a live demo of the sea glass wrapping techniques I learned while we were on PEI? Join my Facebook Live event on Friday, August 5 at 1:30 pm EDT! We’re coming under increasing […]

0 comments Read the full article ‚Üí