February 2006

The bright side

by DaniGirl on February 28, 2006 · 26 comments

in Uncategorized

There is, I have recently discovered, an advantage to a minus 33C (minus 27.4F) windchill.

When you find yourself catastrophically pushed beyond your ability to cope with the relentless pressures of work and you find yourself melting down rather spectacularly, you can go for a walk outside and blame your streaming cheeks, running nose and glowing red eyes on the wind.


Picture this

by DaniGirl on February 28, 2006 · 27 comments

in Uncategorized

Our grocery store has a dry cleaner, a café, a tobacconist and a women’s gym on site. They have a portrait studio as well.

Each time I’m in there, which is about three times a week, I stand in the checkout line and admire the oversized portraits of cheeky babies posed with adorable props – fluffy white teddy bears, giant daisies, stainless steel tubs. And I look at those pictures and wonder why I never get around to getting professional portraits done of our boys.

My sister-in-law brings my 14-month old nephew in to her local version of the same grocery-store/portrait studio every few months, and we have a series of exquisite photos of him, from sleeping peacefully on a pillow (barely a days hours old) to sitting proudly on a rocking chair (his one-year-old portraits.)

One day, all the tumblers clicked into place, and I had an epiphany. My boys are plenty photogenic. They are growing like weeds. They have sweet dispositions and are natural hams. We are in the grocery store every two days anyway – while we’re in there, we should get some portraits done! (cue ominous music)

For weeks, I was excited. Despite a complete lack of foresight on my part, the portrait sitting happened be the week before my mother’s birthday. What grandmother wouldn’t love a framed 8×10 of her beauties as a gift?

I spent idle hours minutes considering which outfits the boys should wear. I made sure all the laundry was done so we would have my first choices plus full back-up outfits to wear. The day of the sitting, I waited until 15 minutes before we went out the door to dress them, to avoid any potential unpleasantness with half-chewed goldfish or mashed-banana bits. We made it to the grocery store with just the perfect amount of time to spare – not late enough to be frazzled, not early enough to have to spend excessive effort corralling idle preschoolers.

And that’s when the dream of the perfect family portrait began to fade away like raw images exposed to bright sunlight.

The session before ours ran late, so we waited in an alcove in tantalizingly full but unreachable view of the toy section. Oversized babies leaning on giant blocks looked down on us as the boys went from disinterested to impatient to agitated in the span of minutes. Simon heard the voices behind the black curtain and became obsessed with getting into the studio. Tristan whined that it was taking too long. The oversized babies began to look less cherubic and more sanctimonious with every passing moment.

After a tense quarter hour of waiting, which included some of our lesser moments in public parenting, we were finally allowed into the studio. The photographer was a seasoned professional, likely old enough to drive but certainly not to drink. Which was unfortunate, because I could have used a drink by that point.

There were no giant daisies, no rocking chairs, and no big steel tubs. We chose the fake rock as a prop. (We could have gone with the paint-chipping-off wooden blocks. Maybe there is a reason professional photography studios charge more than $24.99 a package?)

Naïvely clinging to the idea that the picture-taking itself would go smoothly, we had Tristan lean on the (fake) rock while trying to entice Simon out from behind the curtain, where he was playing peeky-boo with himself. Tristan discovered that the (fake) rock was not level, and in fact could act as a catapult, should an unsuspecting brother be placed near it.

Neither boy would look anywhere in the vicinity of the camera.

Tristan was suddenly and chronically afflicted with an inability to smile in anything other than an ironic grimace.

Simon would.not. sit. still.

Eventually, Beloved and I hopped into the picture, hoping at least to confine the boys within boundaries of the frame for the length of a shutter-click. We poked, we begged, we implored, we ordered, we tickled. Finally, regretfully albeit successfully, we made fart noises.

After what seemed like mere moments, our session time was up. Beloved shepherded the boys back out into the alcove while the photographer (I am making air quotes around the word photographer as I type – I can’t help myself) showed me the scant few images she had deigned to capture.

With every passing image of painfully forced smiles, blurry toddler escapes and maternal hairy eyeballs (nobody should have to look at a picture of themselves giving the hairy eyeball), I felt my standards lowering from perfectly composed, beautifully realized portraits that captured the complex but ultimately sweet essence of their personalities and the magic of being a parent to one marginally acceptable pose that didn’t feature someone with a finger up his nose or looking like (s)he had been recently lobotomized.

And then I saw these.

(Oh, and the bit about the fart noises and that throbbing vein over my clenched jaw muscles? Let’s just keep that as our little secret, okay?)


A Monday Blog Game

by DaniGirl on February 27, 2006 · 48 comments

in Uncategorized

Ack, here it is Monday and not only am I drawing a blank on what to write about this morning, but I’ve drained The Vault of all my ideas-to-be.

So, in the absence of anything meaningful from me, let’s play a game. I saw this over on Michele’s blog on the weekend. It’s called One Degree of Separation. (Tangent: has anyone ever played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? If you haven’t, it’s kind of funny – there is virtually no one in the celebrity world who is more than six degrees of separation away from Kevin Bacon. I forgot to mention him in my celebrity crush list the other day. Wouldn’t it be fun to analyze the blogosphere, to see if anyone is more than six degrees away from anyone else? Sorry, my brain is not big enough to figure out how to do that today ever.)

Ahem, so, back to the game. I will start us off with the name of an actor. You comment with a movie that this actor was in. The next person comments with an actor from the movie in the previous comment. And the next person comments with a movie featuring the actor in the previous comment. Get it?

Let’s launch this with: John Cusack.


In a rare exception to my (patent pending) ten-pages-in book review, today’s review comes after I have voraciously consumed and thoroughly enjoyed the entire book.

Today I have the great honour of hosting a stop on the blog book tour for Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined. This book is an anthology of small works of fiction, literary non-fiction and poetry that have appeared in the Literary Mama e-zine and have been lovingly assembled by editors Andi Buchanan and Amy Hudock.

Remember the book review I did last week, where I complained that the book was sterile and devoid of emotional impact? I said it lacked any insight into the act of mothering. This wonderful collection is the antithesis of that. It teems with emotion, with meaning, with – with – well, with motherness. In every single piece, I found something that resonated with me. The essays moved me – some to tears, some to laugh, many to think.

Here’s how much I liked this book: Andi was nice enough to send me a courtesy copy for review, and while looking for it earlier this week to put a few finishing touches on this review I realized that my copy had disappeared. Gone. Last time I saw it, it was dangerously close to the pile of mostly-digested weekend newspapers (which are now consumed over the course of days instead of hours). I suspect it got recycled. But I’m going to buy myself a copy, because I liked it that much.

Anthologies are perfectly suited for busy mothers who love to read. Dipping in and out of this collection was like snacking on indulgent little treats, rather than sitting down to the full meal that is a novel. I stole 15 minutes after my shower one Saturday morning to read Cassie Premo Steele’s charming fiction vignette Chocolate, about a mother navigating the minefield of teenage sexual curiosity while making a cake with her daughter. I was moved to messy public tears on the bus while reading Heidi Raykeil’s Johnny, an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir about losing her infant son. After enjoying Jennifer Eyre White’s essay Analyzing Ben one Sunday afternoon at the tail end of naptime, I was compelled to read parts out loud to Beloved and couldn’t get through them without snickering.

I could go on all day drawing your attention to this morsel or that throughout the anthology. I usually find myself only skimming poetry, partly because I am intimidated by it, but I am haunted by Megeen R. Mulholland’s Miscarriage of an English Teacher and have gone back to it several times. The sense of struggling for control, of insisting on the importance of the mundane, of breathing in tiny irregular breaths because you can’t open your lungs enough for a full breath – it’s exactly how I felt after my own miscarriage.

This book makes me want to write. It has inspired me. And I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic way; I just mean that it makes me want to find the time and to really try my hand as a writer. It sure satisfied the reader in me!

By happy coincidence, my friend and bloggy mentor Ann Douglas is also hosting a stop on the LM blog book tour today. It was through Ann that I was first introduced to Literary Mama last year – and for that I am deeply grateful.

You know what this book is? It’s a perfect Mother’s Day gift. No, scratch that – it’s the perfect gift for a mother, just because.


At the risk of getting Dooced…

by DaniGirl on February 23, 2006 · 10 comments

in Uncategorized

A sampling of files that have crossed my desk this week…


Dear Important and Valued Client,
Hello! I’m writing a speech for the CEO, and we need a short sentence to describe the new service you are launching this fall. Maybe 10 or 15 words, briefly describing exactly what the service will offer to the public. Could you send me something by end of day? Thanks in advance.

Dear Communications Advisor,
Thank you for your interest in our program. In order to release the information you requested, we’ll need the signatures of your director, our director, and our director general.

Dear Important and Valued Client,
Ha ha, that’s funny. So really, when can you send me the information?

Communications Advisor,
Our business agenda is a change driver of significant efficiencies, impact and scope and we are fully engaging our stakeholders in proactively managing this change closely with us to arrive successfully at the desired output.

Yes, I completely understand that. But can you please send me the information?

Comm adv.,
That is the information you requested. Please forward requisite approvals ASAP.


Hello Communications Advisor,
We are making 750,000 CDs to distribute nationally to the public. Someone mentioned communications might be interested seeing a copy before we send it to production. You’ll see that we mention all of our highest profile programs. It’s going to production tomorrow, so I need your comments by EOD today.

Hello Important Client,
Thank you for sending me a copy of your content. I think you might have to delay your production run, as I’m not sure management would approve of the lime green and magenta flashing animations dancing across the screen, nor your replacement of our corporate logo with an animé pirate. Yes, it is true that we are trying to market to a youth audience, but re-writing our mission and vision statement in gangsta-rap might be a bit of a stretch. And may I suggest you run your content through spell-check? I started editing it, but ran out of red ink on page 7 of 258. Before signing off on this $300K investment, I think I should get my manager to take a look at it.

This is why we never bother to run anything by communications. All you do is kill our creative ideas and throw up roadblocks with your rules and approvals. We’ve gone ahead with the project as is. My director will be speaking to your manager about your unhelpfulness, unpleasantness and poor attitude.


Luckily, capricious toddler whims and tantrums have given me some excellent experience in dealing with my clients this week. Frankly, I’ll take the toddlers any time…


If you recognize the quote in the title, you’re going to want to read this. It’s from the inimitable Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Tonight and for the next three weeks, PBS will be running six one hour specials (two each night) called Monty Python’s Personal Best. Each member of the troupe wrote and directed his own episode in the series, with the group collaborating to put together the episode on behalf of Graham Chapman.

Ottawa Citizen arts writer Alex Strachan wrote a great feature on the series this past Saturday (read it, it’s worth the time just to read the Eric Idle quotes). I had no idea, but Holy Grail was funded entirely by the “grandaddies and geezers of English rock’n’roll,” including Pink Floyd, Genesis and Led Zepplin. And Life of Brian was funded entirely by George Harrison. Strachan quotes Eric Idle as saying, ‘It’s still the most that anybody has ever paid for a movie ticket.’ Who knew?

This one will be worth setting the VCR for…


Birthday party angst

22 February 2006 Uncategorized

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be one of those mothers who frets endlessly over her children’s birthday parties – or, in our case, lack thereof. Does a four year old really need a party? Granted, he had a party last year, but does that mean I am indentured to commit […]

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Crushes, crushed and crushing

21 February 2006 Uncategorized

Everyone in the blogosphere seems to be waxing nostalgic lately. On the weekend, Phantom Scribbler evoked the essence of my 1970s childhood with a post that crossed from Darth Vader to Peter and the Wolf; Mililou posted a great quiz on kid-TV from the 1970s, and then there was my own memories of a mediated […]

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Leftovers and half-thoughts

20 February 2006 Uncategorized

Home with a barfy preschooler today, and on about four hours sleep I’m not sure I have much to say today. Nancy asked how the overnight stay with Granny and Papa Lou went – it was great! I knew Tristan would have a good time, but I had been a little worried about how Simon […]

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Going to Granny’s house

17 February 2006 Uncategorized

It’s an exciting day for the family! Tristan will be having his first sleepover at Granny and Papa Lou’s house tonight. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of Saturday nights sleeping over at my Granny and Granda’s house. We had a ritual, where Mom, Granny and I (and probably my brother, but […]

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