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!

seaglass wrapping FB live

We’re coming under increasing pressure to host Facebook Live events at my day job, and I need to test-drive the technology. Freshly back from PEI and still thinking about my newly acquired sea glass wrapping habit, and idea was hatched.

One of our favourite activities during our PEI vacation this year was combing the beach for sea glass. (We have a long family tradition of enjoying the hunt!) We collected a lot (no seriously, A LOT!) of sea glass, and by chance toward the end of our trip I stumbled upon a woman offering affordable sea glass wire wrapping classes, so all five of us tried it out.

seaglass collage

And a new addiction was born. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s something productive to do with the metric tonne of seaglass we currently have stashed all over the house. Must! Wrap! All! The! Seaglass!

So I’ve been having fun with it, and I guess it was at the back of my mind this week when I was back at work and thinking about how I might test out Facebook Live with a broadcast that was both straightforward for me and not mind-numbingly boring for the viewer. I had great feedback from friends on Facebook about the sea glass wire-wrapping…. and here we are!

Here’s the plan: I’ll be broadcasting live on Postcards from the Mothership’s Facebook page on Friday, August 5 at 1:30 pm EDT. A Facebook Live is basically an interactive webinar. You watch the video feed, and you can interact by typing comments on the page. It will be very, very informal. I just need to get a better understanding of how the technology works in real time, and I’d be super grateful for any comments you can post during the actual broadcast so I can see how it works. If you do participate (during the Live event only, not after it’s just a recorded video), I will enter you into a draw for a custom made piece of wire-wrapped sea glass. They’re quite lovely, if I do say so myself, and you’ll be delighted at how easy they are! (Shhhhh, don’t tell!)

Fun, right? Two birds with one stone (erm, piece of glass) and a shiny bit of wire. Win!

Edited to add: I don’t guarantee that I’ll keep it up forever, but for now you can view the archived broadcast on Postcards from the Mothership’s Facebook page!


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I’ve always taken articles about the dangers of posting photos or personal stories about children online with a grain of salt, and any perceived risk seemed infinitesimally remote, especially when compared with the vast richness that the blog has brought to our family’s lives. That’s why I was taken aback when a few bloggers with whom I came of bloggy age back a decade or so ago have reacted to a New York Times blog article titled “Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say” by saying it moved them to delete their old parenting blogs entirely after reading it.

The article quotes a study that found that children aged 10 to 17 were three times more likely than their parents to think there should be rules about what the parent posted about the child on social media. It goes on to say,

With the first babies of Facebook (which started in 2004) not yet in their teens and the stylish kids of Instagram (which started in 2010) barely in elementary school, families are just beginning to explore the question of how children feel about the digital record of their earliest years. But as this study, although small, suggests, it’s increasingly clear that our children will grow into teenagers and adults who want to control their digital identities.

While some of the bloggers who have chosen to remove their blogs wrote in a style that was perhaps more raw than mine, I think the early success of the blog was largely due to the personal anecdotes rich with intimate details. Even as I occasionally cringe at how there was nothing too personal or too mundane for the blog back in the early days, I don’t think I could bring myself to pull the whole blog down. There are so many beautiful memories bound in its archives, and one of my favourite things about the blog is coming across an old post in the archives that brings me instantly back to a moment in time that would have otherwise been lost forever.

header history collage

That’s not to say that the blog hasn’t been at the root of a few awkward moments. There was the time last year when my eighth grader casually mentioned that they had had my blog up on the smart board in his class that day. As I asked for a bit of context, I frantically scanned my minds’ eye back on the previous three or four months of blog posts for possible perils. How exactly did that come to be? His English teacher asked if anyone kept a blog, and he casually piped up that no, he didn’t have one, but he was IN one, and provided my URL. And as a class, they examined it. One of Tristan’s friends casually mentioned the next time I saw him how much he likes my photographs. Then there was the time a few years back when the principal called me in to the office to have a discussion about what she perceived as a slanderous post about rain pants. And of course there was the whole creepy thesis debacle. Every now and then I do a search on the boys’ full hyphenated names, and I am always relieved that Google has generally failed to connect them to the blog. Not that someone with time on their hands couldn’t make the connection, but at least it’s not too easy. Until they put it up on the smart board in front of their classmates, at least.

I mentioned the article to Beloved and the boys, and the boys affirmed that they actually like having their stories online. Both of the older boys have used Google to search within the blog to find family photos for school projects, and even Lucas in Grade 2 has used Google to find pictures of him with Willie and Bella. I was particularly surprised by Beloved’s reaction to the idea – you might remember that Beloved almost DID pull the plug on the blog many years ago after the first time a blog reader recognized him and the boys in Costco. We were talking about the idea of the boys’ stories being their own, and he said “yes, but their stories ARE our stories.” Similarly, the article talks about how parents connect and find solidarity in sharing stories online about the challenges of raising children, saying:

But that kind of sharing — about food issues, potty training and tantrums — is exactly the kind of sharing that can be valuable. “Children benefit from the community created when parents have the ability to share their stories,” said Ms. Steinberg. Those posts about picky eating might have helped my friend find solutions, or a fresh wellspring of patience for a behavior her child would eventually outgrow.

When parents share those early frustrations, they don’t see themselves as exposing something personal about their children’s lives, but about their own. As a society, says Ms. Steinberg, “we’re going to have to find ways to balance a parent’s right to share their story and a parent’s right to control the upbringing of their child with a child’s right to privacy.

There are many ways to be protective. Some parents don’t use names, or don’t post pictures with recognizable faces. Some blogs are completely pseudonymous. It’s just a little bit too late for me to consider any of those options, so we’ll muddle through together. I try to think of as many potential audiences as I can while I am writing a post (the boys’ peers, their teachers, my peers, my boss, potential photography clients, the boys’ future bosses, Beloved’s colleagues, and people who might wish us less than well are only the short list of various audiences that make me wary) and I usually ask at least the older boys to read blog posts with references to them to make sure that I’m not overstepping my limits. I admit that the posts I struggle with the most are their annual birthday love letters – it is increasingly difficult to express in unself-consious and fully Google-indexed detail the wonders and peccadilloes of their personalities and my infinite love for them. I almost didn’t post Tristan’s last year, and this year I only posted it when he specifically asked if I’d written one. I only published it after he’d read it and given me explicit permission.

I truly feel that the many gifts that the blog has brought to us, from tangible goods to career paths to the simple archiving of memories, far far outweigh the potential perils. In the end, I’m reasonably confident that I’ve found a balance that works for our family, and that’s the most important part.

For those of you who have blogged about your children in years gone by, have you left the archives intact? Do your kids know about and read your blog? Would you want them to? Have you ever had an awkward moment when something you posted online was taken out of context? As always, I’d love to hear what you think!


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Can you believe the blog is TEN YEARS OLD this month? I’ve been blogging for a decade.

header history collage

And that’s not the only milestone anniversary I’m celebrating in 2015. Mothership Photography is five years old this summer. In March, I’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary (!!) of my first day of work with CRA and Beloved and I will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the day we met. That’s a bonanza of things to celebrate, so I’m hoping to do a whole series of retrospective posts in the next little while. I figured I’d launch it with this little meme I first published in 2005 and revisited in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012 – heh, I have always been a little guilty of repeating myself.

So, here’s the 10th anniversary edition of the time traveller meme!

25 years ago today I would have been:

  • Still in the “practice marriage” to my first husband
  • Just moving back to Ottawa after a failed attempt to move back to my hometown of London, ON
  • Unemployed (for the only time in my life) after having quit my job as a cashier supervisor at Zellers in hopes of getting a job with the government. I’d quit university to work full time at Zellers a few years before.
  • About to move out of my in-laws’ house to an apartment in Vanier

15 years ago today I would have been:

  • A newlywed, coming up on our first anniversary and our infertility diagnosis
  • Freshly graduated (magna cum laude, no less!) from the University of Ottawa
  • Living in a tiny condo townhouse off Hunt Club
  • Working on assignment with Industry Canada in my first comms job in government

10 years ago today I would have been:

  • Just coming back to work in public affairs at CRA after my maternity leave with Simon
  • Wondering how I’d ever balance work and life with two toddlers
  • Living in a townhouse in Barrhaven
  • About to launch Postcards from the Mothership

5 years ago today I would have been:

  • Finishing up my first year of working part-time four days a week, and (temporarily, as it turns out) working with Army News on web and social media
  • Just about to move from Barrhaven to Manotick
  • On the cusp of launching Mothership Photography

1 year ago today I would have been:

  • Starting my “one decade to retirement” countdown but still enjoying my work as the social media lead for CRA
  • Scouring the internet for PEI cottage rental information
  • Finding out about my photo being used on the first of three book covers last year

This year I am:

  • Super excited to have booked not one but TWO weeks in PEI later this summer
  • Pretty much obsessed with PEI
  • Celebrating 25 years since my first day of work with what was then Revenue Canada Customs, Excise and Taxation
  • Still in love with my camera, and blogging, and social media in general

Today I:

  • Am proud that I’ve also learned in the past year or so how to cook and eat real, whole foods and cut processed foods out of our family’s diet almost entirely
  • Am cooking recipes for dinner I learned from Chef Michael Smith
  • Met my activity goal of 10,000 steps
  • Feel like I’m pretty much on track on this whole “lead a good life” thing – and am so grateful for that fact

Next year I hope:

  • That my life has more PEI, more photos, more gratitude, more family joy, more home cooking – and maybe five less pounds 😉
  • And — maybe a kitchen reno, finances willing

In five years I hope:

  • To be within four years (gasp!) of retirement
  • To have nurtured the blog and photography business to greater successes
  • To have taught myself graphic design skills I can use for both the photography and blog businesses

And speaking of time travel, you know what else is significant about 2015? It’s the year Marty McFly visited when he and Doc Brown visited the future from 1985. We just watched Back to the Future parts I and II with the boys over Christmas – speaking of revisiting, if you haven’t seen them lately, they really do stand up to the test of time! Turns out that’s what I was doing 30 years ago – watching Back to the Future for the first time in theatres as a shy, awkward, boy-crazy dreamer who only wanted to get married and have babies. If only I’d had the faintest idea how much more awesome life would turn out than I could have imagined back then!


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A new year, a fresh start

by DaniGirl on January 4, 2015 · 2 comments

in Editorial asides, Meta-blogging

Some people head to the gym in January to work off those extra cookies. Some people put away the Christmas decorations and use the opportunity to clean house and purge. Not this girl. Nope, I spent hours on my arse staring at my computer this weekend – but I’m pretty darn happy with the results!

First, I overhauled my Mothership Photography site. That’s a task I’ve been meaning to take on for years, almost right from the time I launched in back in 2010 or so. My graphic design skills have improved immensely in the past few years (did I mention I even toyed with the idea of going back to school part time for graphic design?) and I love the bright clean new look.

Here’s the before and after:

new website banner for Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Much improved, right? And how much do I love the little camera logo that Beloved sketched out based on an idea I had but couldn’t quite pull together? I love it so much that it may just be my next tattoo! 😉 I’d love it if you took a little tour around and let me know if you see any problem areas or if, yanno, you just want to heap me with lavish praise for my mad web design skillz.

And speaking of mad design skillz, the bloggy header had started looking a little stale to me a while ago, too, so while I was at it, I freshened that up too. I think it’s much cleaner and I like that the two sites have matching fonts. Here’s the new headers:

Worth the investment of six or eight hours on a snowy January weekend, right? Now I’m ready for a terrific 2015. And about that neglected house cleaning…. 😉


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Aside from the Reindeer Rant, this post from last year is probably my holiday favourite, and definitely worth sharing again!

If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember I spent some time working with the Canadian Army. When I was there, I was lucky enough to work with Captain Jennifer Stadnyk, and long after I left we stayed in touch over mutual interests in photography and social media. Capt Stadnyk has since moved from Ottawa to Colorado for what I think is an incredibly cool job – she’s the public affairs officer for the North American Aerospace Defence Command, aka NORAD. Peeps, she works with NORAD’s Santa Tracker team! How awesome is that?

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve always loved the NORAD Santa Tracker program. I remember the sense of wonder and anticipation that was torqued by watching NORAD’s Santa Tracker updates on the evening news when I was growing up in the 1970s. Now the kids and I visit the Santa Tracker website frequently on December 24 to track the Big Guy’s progress around the world.

I gotta tell you, when Capt Stadnyk was kind enough to grant me an interview, I kind of froze. Oh the pressure! What should I ask? How to strike the balance between hard-nosed journalist and fawning fangirl? In the end, her answers totally redeemed my questions – and I’ve been giggling like a schoolgirl in my excitement to share them with you.

DaniGirl: I have been watching NORAD’s Santa tracker as long as I can remember. Tell me a little bit about the program?

Capt Stadnyk: NORAD Tracks Santa traces its roots all the way back to 1955, when the local Sears-Roebuck in Colorado Springs took out an advertisement in the local newspaper inviting children to call Santa’s private line on Christmas Eve. The ad that was printed however, had a misprint and the number given was for the Continental Air Defense Command. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, answered the phone to a child’s voice asking if he was Santa. Once he realized what was going on, he played along, giving the child information about where Santa was and instructed his officers to do the same. Thus an annual tradition was born! NORAD continued the tradition when we replaced CONAD in 1958, and still each year, we track Santa around the globe and tell children where he is and when he’ll be at their house!

DaniGirl: You are a soldier in the Canadian Army. How did you end up at NORAD?

Capt Stadnyk: It is funny, most people think that NORAD is solely Air Force, however there are members from all elements of both the Canadian and American militaries. I definitely feel blessed to be down here and be a part of this incredible program during the holiday season!

Army Maj. Gen. Charles Luckey, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Chief of Staff, prepares to do a media interview via satellite from the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center Dec. 24, 2012. Dozens of interviews were conducted with NORAD leadership to get the word out on how NORAD tracks Santa every year. (U.S. Navy photo by LCDR. Bill Lewis)

DaniGirl: What kind of technology do you use to track Santa?

Capt Stadnyk: We are definitely well-equipped to track Santa, being the bi-national command responsible for tracking and keeping airspace over North America safe! We use the same satellites, radars and fighter jets that we use year round to track Santa. He knows we’re tracking him and often coordinates some of his plans with us! We also have “Santa Cams” strategically placed around the globe so that kids can catch a glimpse of the jolly old elf!

DaniGirl:: How many people are involved in the operation?

Capt Stadnyk: Well, along with our 55 corporate partners, we have over 1,250 volunteers (Canadian & American military, civilians, and members of the local Colorado Springs community) who donate their time on December 24th to answer calls and emails. Planning starts early in the spring of each year in order to ensure the event is a success.

DaniGirl: Have poor weather or other obstacles ever prevented Santa from getting to any locations?

Capt Stadnyk: There have been a few times over the years where Santa has had to adjust his flight path due to poor weather, but he has always been able to make it to every house! He has been flying for centuries, so little snowstorms have nothing on him!

Marine Staff Sgts. Hugh Wood and Randall Ayers, NORAD and USNORTHCOM, take calls at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center Dec. 24, 2012. Wood and Ayers came to the operations center to collect toys for the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program and took a break to participate in NORAD Tracks Santa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)

DaniGirl: Does Santa need permission to fly over Canadian or American air space?

Capt Stadnyk: Santa travels faster than starlight, so if he wanted to, he could fly over our airspace without letting us know, but we have a close relationship with him, having worked together to keep the Christmas spirit alive all these years. He always coordinates his travels with us, although he may not tell us his exact route. Each year, Canadian fighter pilots are chosen to meet Santa as he enters North American airspace to say “Hello” and escort him across the Great White North. This year, Lieutenant-Colonel Darcy Molstad and Captain Sébastien Gorelov from 3 Wing Bagottville will meet him over Newfoundland and pass off the duties near the Ontario-Manitoba border to Captain Rich Cohen and Captain Brian Kilroy from 4 Wing Cold Lake.

DaniGirl: Now that you’re seeing it in action from the inside, what’s your favourite part of the Santa tracker program?

Capt Stadnyk: It’s incredible to see what a large operation the NORAD Tracks Santa program is. There is so much magic involved in Santa’s journey that I kind of expected tracking him would be a piece of cake. Not so much! Tracking Santa becomes our main effort around this time each year, and we all work together at NORAD to make sure we continue to share the holiday spirit with the young, and young-at-heart around the world!

Awesome, right? I KNOW! Even better than a conversation with the Universe, eh?

Want to track Santa with NORAD this Christmas Eve? He’s multimedia – check it out!

On the web: http://www.noradsanta.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noradsanta
Twitter: @NoradSanta
Phone (starting 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve): 877-HI-NORAD
Email: noradtrackssanta@outlook.com

Thank you, Capt Stadnyk, for the exclusive scoop and for making me a cool mom this Christmas in the eyes of three little boys! Warm wishes and thanks to you and and everyone at NORAD for the great work you do with Santa!


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Bloggy gratitude

by DaniGirl on December 8, 2014 · 2 comments

in How I love the Interwebs

There are a lot of needy things in my life, and I’ll be the first to admit that blog has slowly slid down the hierarchy of things that get my attention. Facebook steals all my short-form content and impulsive commentary, and while I still love to write for blog, finding the time to get all my good ideas out of my murky brain and into the computer in anything that even remotely resembles a coherent narrative is proving more and more challenging as the years go by. Poor old blog is sort of like the third child in the family these days. It’s no less loved and no less deserving of attention, but it sort of has to learn to fend for itself in the cacophony of all the other needy things making endless demands on my shrinking attention span. And, like the third child, I’m always surprised and delighted when it manages to thrive despite my best intentions stewed in a cocktail of love and benign neglect.

I saw on Twitter earlier this week that the blog had been nominated in the Best Family and Parenting Blog category of the Canadian Weblog Awards, and I was so touched. Here I feel like I’ve been dialing it in for the last little while, and (at least?) one of you still loves the blog enough to take the time to nominate it. Thank you! “They do still love me!” I thought to myself. I clicked through and took a peek to see who else had been nominated, and saw there were more than 100 other amazing blogs that had also been nominated – really a who’s who of the best of the Canadian blogosphere. I smiled and sighed and got distracted by something shiny and pretty much forgot about it.

And then Saturday morning, I was playing on Twitter and nearly fell off my chair when I saw a tweet saying the blog had been shortlisted to the group of five finalists not only in the Best Family and Parenting category but in the Life category as well. Whaaaaaat?! For reals?? I was gobsmacked, not to put too fine a point on it. Shortlisted – twice?

2014 Canadian Weblog Awards nominee 2014 Canadian Weblog Awards nominee

There were over 100 blogs nominated in each of these two categories, lists comprising many of the best blogs in Canada. I am truly and absolutely shocked to have made the top five in either, let alone both. I’ve always liked the Canadian Weblog Awards because they’re very inclusive – anyone can make a nomination – and they’re a juried competition. Real people visit each blog and make notes and give scores to create the list of top five nominees in each category, and then they do it all over again to determine the top three. I looked at all the other blogs who made the top five in each category and I gotta say, I’m genuinely honoured to have made the cut. The winners in each category will be announced December 15 after another round of juried review, but I’ve already won this one in my heart. I don’t need a first- or second- or third- place ribbon, I am truly honoured to have made it this far.

You probably know by now that your affection and interaction and adulation (too far? I always push it too far) are the fuel that runs this blog. I tried doing it for fame and for money, but in the end I can’t help coming back to doing it for love. In fact, I’ve struggled this whole post between referring to the nomination in the third person (you nominated the blog) and in the first person (you nominated me) because they are so inextricably intertwined.

I feel pangs of regret every now and then that I haven’t devoted more attention to the blog. Sometimes I feel like I’m mired back in 2007, and there are all sorts of interactive gizmos and fancy widgets I should be installing to make your experience more modern. Is it a complete anachronism to worry that the blog is getting old fashioned? Sigh. I’ll have to rely on the content and not the flashy packaging to keep you coming back!

All that to say, in a rambly way that absolutely lacks both flashy widgets and a coherent narrative: thank you. Thank you to Schmutzie for continuing to support the Canadian Weblog Awards, and thank you to the lovely peep(s) kind enough to nominate the blog, and thank you to the jurors who screened the blog through to the top five. But mostly, thanks to all of you – the new readers and the ones who have been reading and commenting and kibitzing and making this such a fun place to play for the best part of the last decade. You’ve inspired me and delighted me – and now I’ll never shut up. :)

Edited to add: hey, wow, lookit that! I’m number two!!

2014 Canadian Weblog Awards winner

Silly old blog placed second overall in the “Life” category. Yay! This makes me very happy, and very proud. Thank you!


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If you know, have known or have been a pre-teen girl…

19 June 2014 How I love the Interwebs

… you must watch this video. I laughed so. hard. It’s like a sequel to “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret” for Millennials and their mothers. Let’s call this reason #152 I’m glad to be living in the house of testosterone. 😉

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In which Wil Wheaton wins the Internet, and my heart

31 March 2014 How I love the Interwebs

I heard this clip on CBC Radio on the way home today, and to my great surprise, I cried. Okay, maybe not so much surprise. It’s all over the Internet right all of a sudden, but if you haven’t seen it, you *must* watch it. This is Wil Wheaton at the Denver Comicon, replying to […]

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Hey Blogger, did you declare that free soup on your income tax return?

1 March 2014 How I love the Interwebs

So this is kind of interesting. Bloggers, photographers, Facebook business page owners and anyone who earns even a couple of dollars from the interwebs, you might want to pay attention to this. Up-front disclosure – this is not tax advice. Also, as you may know, despite having failed income tax returns in high school (true […]

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Facebook turns 10 — and Blog turns 9!

4 February 2014 Meta-blogging

It’s the heart of the birthday season at our house. Simon last Saturday, Lucas this Saturday, Tristan in a couple of weeks, my mom just before that. For some curious reason, late winter is also social media-versary season for me. As you might have heard in the media, Facebook turns 10 today with 1.23 billion […]

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