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!


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!


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…. 😉


Facebook turns 10 — and Blog turns 9!

by DaniGirl on February 4, 2014 · 4 comments

in 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 users – and how much do I love that it’s the same age as Simon? Truth be told, it’s hard to imagine life before either of them! It was a little over three years later that I “discovered” Facebook and signed up for my own account just a few days after Tristan’s fifth birthday: March 16, 2007. I must have had some time on my hands that day to collect shiny online baubles and logins, because I also signed on to Twitter for the first time that very same day! Until today, I had completely forgotten that I’d signed up for both on the same day.

And a few years before that, on February 2, 2005 (nine years ago this past Sunday!) freshly back to work after my maternity leave with Simon, I caprciously launched into the cyber-ether my very first blog post. Nine YEARS of blogging, peeps!

That’s 2,405 blog posts, 27K blog comments approved, 21K tweets, and let’s not even talk about the hours lost to Facebook, shall we? (Oh, and since we’re taking inventory: more than 4,600 photos on Flickr, too!)

A short list of things I did not have nine years ago when I created this blog:

  • three kids
  • a career in social media
  • a digital SLR
  • a house in Manotick
  • a photography business
  • a smartphone
  • a four-day work week
  • two cars
  • grey hair

Funny how little of the above I could have prognosticated back in February of 2005, isn’t it? While I’ve always had a penchant for waxing nostalgic, I’ve never been very good at looking forward and setting long-term goals. Looking at this, I don’t feel so bad about that – so many of the things that make my life a wonderful adventure were not even on my radar screen nine years ago.

I still like this paragraph from my very first blog post:

So what would I blog about? Well, my kids of course. What else is there of significance in my universe? So does the world really need another soccer-mom wanna-be sending dispatches from suburbia, trying to strike a voice somewhere between Erma Bombeck, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby, but in the 21st century, not Jewish, not male and not black? And potentially not really funny?

Well, why the hell not?

It perfectly captures the capricious serendipity that has been the lietmotif of my life for the last decade. I think it’s equal parts alarming and delightful that so much of my life hinges on that single question: why the hell not, indeed! I can hardly wait to see what the next decade has in store!

When did you succumb to Facebook? Or have you managed to resist the siren song all this time? And what is your social network of choice?

Edited to add: Clearly I’m not the only one looking back and feeling nostalgic. Facebook has a wonderful little gift for you to celebrate its 10th birthday – a little highlight reel of what Facebook thinks are your best moments in your FB history. See yours here: I absolutely adore mine and only wish FB had some sort of mechanism to share yours with everyone or embed it outside of Facebook. Oh well, you’ll have to trust me that mine was lovely. How was yours? 😉

Re-edited to add: Yay Facebook! Lookback videos are now shareable! (If it doesn’t display, you can also see it on Facebook!)


Hey! Did I mention I’m doing a presentation at Social Capital Ottawa this year? I am so excited about it! And it’s a topic that is becoming more and more dear to my heart – how to find and use images for your website, blog and social sharing without violating copyright and getting sued in the process. It true that I have a vested interest in this issue from a photographer’s perspective, but I also think this is something that should be of interest to anyone who blogs, has a website or has ever shared a photo on Facebook or Pinterest. Here’s the session description:

Royalty-images aren’t free: finding and using images online without getting sued

There’s no doubt that images make web content more compelling. Studies show that content with imagery generates more social shares, more comments and more interaction. But what if it’s not your photograph? How do you find great images you can use, legally and at low or no cost? Can you use photos from Pinterest, Flickr or Google Images on your site — without the permission of the photographer? Can you get sued for doing it? In this session, we’ll answer these question and more.

Here’s a few more questions we’ll examine in this session: Does providing a link or credit to the source allow you to use a copyrighted image? Why aren’t royalty-free photos actually free? What is “creative commons” and how can you use it to find photos you can use? Can you use a photo if you digitally alter it? What do terms like fair use, public domain, attribution and copyright really mean for bloggers, Facebook page authors and website owners?

In this session you will learn strategies for finding great images that you can use on your blog or website, and how to protect yourself from serious legal consequences from running afoul of copyright legislation.

Following this presentation, participants will know how to find quality imagery to augment their blogs and websites, both for a fee and for free. Participants will have an understanding of some of the legal and illegal uses of imagery on blogs, websites and social sharing sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Participants will also have a greater understanding of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) the risks and consequences of violating copyright law in Canada.

I won’t steal my own thunder by replicating my presentation here. That would also presume, incorrectly, that I was ahead of my usual procrastination curve and had the entirely of my presentation ready for public consumption a whole week ahead of when I’m supposed to hand it in. I did, however, want to dazzle you with my mad infographic skillz. I’ve got a vested curiousity about infographics as I’d like to start seeing us use them at work, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to see how easy/difficult it would be to pull one together. (Verdict: difficult to organize the information in my head ahead of time and figure out how I wanted to lay everything out but fairly simple to actually create the infographic. I used Piktochart for this.)

Feel free to pin and share – I designed this one for sharing!

SoCapOtt infographic

My first infographic. I’m so proud! 😉

As we get closer to the conference (it’s June 1, have you bought your tickets yet?), I will leak share a few morsels of the content, and I’ll probably write it all up in a bit more detail afterward. I’m saving the good stuff for the conference, though, so you might as well come!


A lament for comments

by DaniGirl on July 27, 2012 · 11 comments

in Meta-blogging

Sigh. I just tried to post a comment on a large and popular blog-gone-commercial. I had a long and thoughtful comment typed out, and then I tried to post it. The site wanted me to sign in with a user-ID and password I probably acquired back in 2006 or so, the last time I was motivated to comment on this particular site. Um, long gone from my scabby little memory.

My other options were signing in through a myriad of social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, etc. But in order to do that, I’ll need to authorize an app to access my other social media accounts. I’ve always been kind of leery about this. Or I have to sign up for an account through the proprietary commenting service. Another set of user-IDs and passwords, and another source for spam. Ugh, seriously?

I hunted in vain for the simple, old-fashioned “name, e-mail address and your web site” options but alas, they are no longer available. So unless I want to allow an unknown and potentially unreliable site to have permission to access my social media accounts, my opinion doesn’t count and nobody wants to hear from me. I simply paged away without being able to post my comment.

It makes me sad.

I’ve been blogging a l-o-n-g time, I know. I’m a dinosaur. But I kinda really miss the old days, when you bent over backwards to get comments and when comments were the lifeblood of your blog. I remember how I agonized over capchas and hated that there was that last hoop to jump through. I’ve thought about installing some of the new fangled comment systems that allow you to “like” specific comments, or reply in threads to individual comments. But I always fear they’d make commenting more difficult, and I never want to do that.

The commercialization of blogs doesn’t bother me. The fact that everyone who has a keyboard now has a blog doesn’t bother me. But this one bothers me. Comments are gold and should be treasured; you shouldn’t have to work so hard to post one.

What do you think? Should I stop whinging and just post through my FB or Twitter accounts?


Get your 2012 BOLO on!

8 May 2012 Life in Ottawa

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know one of my favourite events of the summer is the annual Blog Out Loud Ottawa event organized by the irrepressible Lynn. She has managed to make this event better every single year since its inception in 2009, and I can’t wait until this year’s edition. We […]

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Happy Bloggy Birthday to Me!

10 February 2012 It IS all about me

So February is definitely birthday season in our house — Simon last week, Lucas this week, and my mom a couple of weeks from tomorrow. But there’s another birthday squeezed in there — SEVEN years ago last week I wrote my first blog post. Who could have ever guessed where it would lead? I can’t […]

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Something I’ve been meaning to say…

20 January 2012 Meta-blogging

Mommyblogger, a photo by Dani_Girl on Flickr. Cuz yanno, sometimes a picture does say it so much better than a thousand words could.

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Monetizing Mommyhood – coming this weekend to a radio near you

4 January 2012 Meta-blogging

When I was in Toronto for the Blissdom Canada conference, I had the chance to speak to CBC’s Ira Basen about mom blogs, sponsorships, advertising and working with brands. It was an interesting conversation, especially as I tried to mentally juggle my relationship with Fisher-Price and Mom Central Canada (the sponsors who brought me to […]

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