October 2006

I am, at the best of times, driven by impulse. Very rarely does an impulsive synapse fire in my brain that does not lead to some sort of indulgent action on my part. There is something in the pregnancy hormones that obliterates any sort of resistance I might have otherwise been able to muster. I am a walking whim.

And that probably explains why I went into Farm Boy the other day seeking only four litres of homogonized milk and a loaf of whole wheat bread, and came out $42 later with: a crate of mandarin oranges, salsa, cherry tomatoes, Florida oranges, gouda cheese, hot rods, mini blueberry muffins, garlic bread, and a coconut.

None of this was on any list, mental or otherwise. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.

It’s been years since I’ve bought a coconut. So long, in fact, that the Internet was not a part of my standard modus operandi for approaching any new task the last time I tried to pry one open. But I knew the boys would be tickled by the process of opening it, and would probably love the coconut itself as much as I do. A learning opportunity, and yummy too. What more could one ask of a lowly fruit?

Who knew there were so many schools of thought on how to best liberate that sweet coconut meat? How those people on Survivor ever managed to open one of these things using only a machete is beyond me. Suggested techniques on the Internet range from securing a stake, pointy bit up, and slamming the coconut onto the tip (!!) to baking it for 15 minutes at 400F before opening it to loosen the flesh to holding it in your hand and whacking it with the dull side of a cleaver along the seam. Perhaps luckily for us, we own neither stakes nor a cleaver.

I decided in the end that power tools were called for. For once, the rechargeable drill was actually at full charge; although I might not have needed it as the bit sank satisfyingly into the eye of the coconut before I even had a chance to pull the trigger. After watching the coconut water drip at an excruciatingly slow rate for about as long as I could tolerate – maybe 90 seconds – I remembered the suggested to drill a fourth hole at the top of the coconut to let in air and speed the process. Which is when I snapped the drill bit in half.

So I shook it like a maraca for long enough to dribble out maybe 15 ml of liquid (over about five minutes) before my shoulders started cramping and I asked myself what exactly I was going to do with the coconut water anyway. If I was any sort of a cook, maybe I’d use it in a curry, but mostly I was going to impress the boys with my ability to get sweet milk out of a coconut like some sort of magician. And since they had been watching the whole process with the kind of careful awe you usually reserve for crazy people on the streetcorner, I figured I had already blown that opportunity.

The method of coconut extraction that most appealed to me involved a hammer, a towel, and a very firm surface. Beloved was surprisingly reluctant to actually hold the coconut for me while I swung wildly at it with a hammer, but he did stand a safe distance away to oversee the operation. The first two blows were glancing, but the third one connected solidly with a gut-wrenching crack that made both of us cringe. The sound of a coconut shell being shattered by a hammer is entirely too reminiscent of the sound of a cracking skull, we agreed.

A few more therapeutic whacks (therapeutic for me, not so much for the coconut) and the formerly spherical tea-towel-wrapped coconut was looking decidedly lopsided. I had cracked it in half on a rather jagged equator.

Luckily, one half of the shell relinquished its meat without resistance, but the second half was more challenging. I took a paring knife and started prying chunks away from the shell, which resulted in several near-misses between said knife and the fleshy tips of my fingers. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t wait until Beloved’s return from the corner store to continue, and loosely calculated in my head the amount of time it might take my parents to arrive should I slice through a major artery – even as I continued to use said paring knife as a combination lever, spoon, and cutting tool.

It took a lot of patience and arm strength to pry reluctant bits off the shell before I had liberated enough of the meat to consider the operation a success. I did leave an inch or two in the pointy end of the shell, but since that was the end of the shell I had pierced with a drill-bit that I hadn’t even contemplated wiping off, let alone sterilizing before use – the drill bit I inherited used from my grandfather, no less – I decided it was not a great sacrafice to let some meat be discarded. Besides, I was now more than 45 minutes into Operation Coconut, and was fast losing interest in the project.

The last trick was to scrape off the thin inside shell from the coconut meat. Again, thanks to the Interwebs, I had read that a potato peeler will do this job nicely. Myself, I tend to use a paring knife to peel potatoes, but having so far eluded cutting myself, I didn’t want to push my luck, so I rooted through the utensil drawer to find the seldom-used (and regrettably dull) potato peeler.

So why is it that even perched over a large bowl, flecks of peeled coconut skin felt the need to launch themselves to every corner of the kitchen? I wondered this as I also wondered why exactly I chose today of all days to execute this task, a scant few hours after the cleaning ladies have been through on their bi-weekly tour. My formerly spotless kitchen had coconut husk threads all over one counter (from when I took the plastic off), coconut milk splatters all over the backsplash, shell particulate all over the counter where I unwrapped the tea-towel, and flecks of skin just about everywhere. Who knew a coconut would be even messier than a pomegranate? (Ha ha, I just noticed that in that post, I talked about opening a coconut with a screwdriver. Apparently, I never learn.)

In the end, it took me over an hour to liberate the coconut from the shell, and another ten minutes to restore the kitchen to a semblance of order. It was within a few minutes of bedtime when I proudly called the boys into the kitchen to share in the fruit of my labours, as they had long since tired of the spectacle of me opening the damn thing. The coconut pieces were in a fresh bowl (the other four bowls used in the process already in the dishwasher), and I even thought to run the milk through a coffee filter to get out the vast majority of the crunchy bits. They regarded my proferred offerings for a suspicious minute before saying, “No thanks. Coconuts are gross,” before running back to the television.

So I gulped down the coconut milk and ate enough of the fruit to give myself a righteous belly ache. And you know what? From now on, I’ll just buy the baggies of dessicated coconut to satisfy my cravings. There’s a lot to be said for convenience foods.


This just in – Motherlode photos!

by DaniGirl on October 30, 2006 · 0 comments

in Photography

As if I didn’t have enough reasons to love and admire Andrea: smart, witty, crafty, an excellent wordsmith, a wonderful road-trip companion, and an awesome photographer to boot.

Check out her collection of Motherlode photos. Aren’t they great???


You know how when you’ve been looking forward to something for a reaaaaaalllllyyyy long time, and the closer it gets the more excited you get, until after a year (literally, a year since we first started talking about it) of planning and talking and thinking and speculating and wondering, when the morning of the event actually arrives, you are so excited that nothing could possibly live up to your expectations?

This wasn’t one of those times.

This time, even though my expectations were torqued unbelievably high, everything exceeded my wildest dreams. The five-hour drive on the way down passed in the blink of an eye, or more accurately, the wag of a tongue. I don’t think Andrea and I stopped chatting for more than a quarter of a kilometer at a time. She is a perfect road-trip companion!

It was just after one o’clock when we arrived chez Marla. Marla is *exactly* like she appears in her blog – kind, quirky, smart, and side-splittingly funny. She is also an amazing hostess, and she makes, no joke, the best chicken noodle soup that I have ever had in my life, complete with hominy and avocado (really, I was a little hesitant when she offered to put avocado in mine, but it was DIVINE!)

And Josephine – it was hard not to just scoop her up and stuff her in my suitcase and take her home with me. On Saturday morning, I was just rustling myself out of bed when she wandered tentatively into the guest room. She reclined against the fluffed pillow, the grey morning light bathing her blond tousled hair, and my heart melted. She’s exquisite!

So then we had this panel thing to do. Oh yes, the conference!

We arrived a healthy 30 minutes or so before we were scheduled to start, and I was extremely nervous. I hadn’t had nearly the opportunities to practise my talk that I would have wanted, and I was antsy with so much time to kill. Luckily, the extra time gave me a chance to finally meet in person some people I’ve been admiring online for so long that it was almost surreal to finally meet them in person: Miche, Andrea Gordon, Kate, Nadine/Scarbie Doll, and even one of the editors from the Citizen. Very very cool people! I was starstruck before I even began talking.

The audience was very friendly, and when they laughed at my first joke (“Blog itself is short for ‘weblog,’ which is short for ‘we blog because we weren’t very popular in high school and we’re trying to gain respect and admiration without actually having to be around people'”) almost all my fear evaporated and I really enjoyed speaking.

My co-panelists did an amazing job as well. I’m so proud of them for their hard work, their great style and their terrific presentations! Andrea will be posting everyone’s essays on the next edition of The Whole Mom in a couple of weeks, and although we did digitally record the whole thing, we haven’t quite figured out if and how we might podcast it.

To me, the highlight of the presentation was the question and answer session afterward, for a couple of reasons. First, I was afraid no-one would say anything. I needn’t have worried! We not only had a fascinating discourse, but we went over our alotted time by half an hour, and I’m sure we could have continued on for two hours more. It was during the QA that I realized that two of my all-time favourite bloggers, among the first friends I had made in the blog world, were in the audience. When I realized who it was, I’m sure I literally gasped, and I turned to Ann sitting beside me. “Is that… is that… is that Emily and Cooper from Been There?” I asked, incredulous and reverent at the same time. “It sure is,” Ann replied, “and I got to hug them yesterday!” I was so excited I could barely stay in my chair for the rest of the session.

I was still reeling from the surprise of finding Cooper and Emily in the audience, so I was barely prepared for the next shock of recognition. There had been a woman in the front row who had been obviously paying close attention to what I was saying, nodding encouragingly and with agreement through a lot of my presentation. I didn’t know who she was, but she seemed very receptive to what we were saying, and her manner relaxed and encouraged me. In making a point during the QA, she made a reference to “my book Mothershock” and again I nearly swooned with celebrity recognition. Again I turned to Ann, probably not to sotto voce as I should have been, and gasped “Is that – Andi Buchanan?”, to which Ann only smiled and nodded, her eyes bright with laughter.

After the QA officially ended, we had a few more minutes to chat in small groups and catch up. An ongoing theme of the weekend emerged: we have so much to say, so little time, and really, we could go on like this for hours. I also had the chance to meet Her Bad Mother oh so briefly as well – she also did her own presentation at the conference, and through a fluke of scheduling, her talk was at the same time as ours. So many bloggers, so much so say – and so little time!!

Into the rainy night we hustled to our next destination – Jen’s place for dinner and an old-fashioned hen session with a decidedly intellectual bent. I want to write a whole other blog post about some of the themes we covered, especially the differences in raising girls and boys (we were loosely basing our discussions on the books that Andi Buchanan edited, It’s A Boy and It’s a Girl) and how we mother according to how we were mothered. Fascinating! I only wish it could have gone on for about six more hours… I really think we could have all talked that long.

Back to Marla’s place where I fell exhaustedly into bed, and Andrea was kind enough to relinquish the guest bed to me and take the new comfy couch for herself. I slept in until 7:30!! That alone would make a noteworthy weekend! Lattes and conversation and Josie’s antics warmed us into a rainy grey morning.

And then (pause for breath) we met up with our co-panelists and Andi and Sue Allan from the Ottawa Citizen to have a little post-panel debrief over coffee and diner breakfast. More fascinating conversation ensued, and I got to meet the lovely and charming Frances, daughter of Andrea.

We rounded out the morning with some intensive retail therapy at the Mecca of all Winners. You’d think with this crowd, our arms would be bursting with handbags and shoes and accessories, but no – I had to laugh when the vast majority of everyone’s purchases were made in the toy section. Even when you take the mother out on the town, you can’t leave the mother behind. The boys loved the Play Dough (or, as Simon says, Play-day-doh) alphabet set, and for $6.99, it was a steal to ease my maternal guilt at leaving them behind for the weekend.

We had to leave too early in the day for my tastes, as I really could have spent another day chatting and wandering and shopping, but the weather was threatening to turn bad, and I had promised my boys we’d be back for bedtime on Saturday, so Andrea and I passed another agreeable if not slightly more mellow couple of hours in the car on the way home.

Oh, and that little conference thing of ours? Turns out at least somebody was paying attention, given the fact that my new hero Jen was quoted extensively on the FRONT PAGE of the weekend edition of the National freakin’ Post!

I think I’ve officially run out of superlatives. What a weekend!


I’m tucking this into Blogger’s capable hands the day before the Motherlode conference in Toronto. This is the presentation as I originally wrote it, but then I cut it down to just the key words and key points in my own speaking notes, so who knows how it will actually turn out. When I’m back from Toronto and have finished smothering my left-behind men with kisses, I’ll post links to the rest of the presentations, too. And of course, through the next week you’ll be subjected to a painfully detailed blow-by-blow analysis of the presentations in particular and the weekend in general.

But for now, here’s what I intended to say:

  • Hello, and on behalf of my friends up here with me – welcome! My name is Dani, and I write a blog called Postcards from the Mothership. I’ve been blogging for almost two years, which almost qualifies me as old skool. I’m also the mom of two boys, ages two and a half and four and a half.
  • Before we get started, I’d like to ask how many of you have ever heard of a blog before today?And how many of you have read a blog?And how many of you have blogs of your own, or have ever kept a blog?
  • So the first thing I’d like to do is beg your indulgence while I take a minute to give you all a little “Blog 101” lesson. What is a blog? I recently found this definition on the Web site “Wired” and found it sums it up nicely. (slide with this quote on it) “Blog” itself is short for “weblog,” which is short for “we blog because we weren’t very popular in high school and we’re trying to gain respect and admiration without actually having to be around people.”
  • You laugh, but I find it almost embarrassingly true. Ahem, at least in my case.
  • A blog is, for our purposes here at least, is a little bit like an online journal, or a diary. It’s on the Internet, so it’s usually public. Individual blog entries are called posts, and the most recent one usually appears first, so when you read down a page you’re reading backwards in time.
  • Most blogs have a few features in common. First of all, there’s usually a comment feature. Most bloggers love to get comments, and the feedback you get on something you write can be very validating. Most blogs also feature a blogroll, which is a list of blogs that particular blogger likes or respects or visits often. And for the truly obsessive, you can install a hit counter that lets you know how many people are visiting your blog, and where they are coming from.
  • People who aren’t familiar with the idea of blogging always ask me what I write about, and my answer is always along the lines of “everything.” I write to tell the stories of my two young sons, of being pregnant with a third, and my thoughts and opinions on being a working Canadian mom in the early part of the 21st century.
  • Blogging to me is often like reading the best bits of the Saturday paper out loud at the breakfast table. It’s my way of saying, “Hey, did you see this? Did you hear about that? Isn’t it wonderful / outrageous / hilarious? What do you think?”
  • When I blog, I put my thoughts and experiences up on the Internet, and other people who are inclined to read them can do so – and then they can add their own thoughts via the comment box. Or maybe they get inspired, and write about a similar topic on their own blog. And so the community begets a conversation, and that conversation is public and just about anyone can join in.
  • So what does blogging have to do with mothering?
  • Let me tell you about why I think blogging is such a perfect medium for mothers.
  • A friend of mine who is an amazing scrap-booker once said she sees herself as the ‘family historian’, and I immediately loved this idea. In blogging, I’m able to chronicle the minutia that is the fabric of our lives at this point in time. It’s a huge part of blogging for me, sharing in words and pictures and even video clips the little moments that might otherwise be lost… and I don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy paper and funky scissors to do it! Marla will talk a little bit more about blogging as art, and the telling of stories.
  • That’s on a very personal level. But blogging can be a very public act. Blogging, and especially mommy blogging, is about community, and about conversation. And those are two things that mothers, especially mothers of very young children, are often desperate for.
  • We don’t live in a society where mom or an older sister grandma or Auntie Agnes is right there in the house, on site to offer advice and guidance in the scary business of raising a child. We’re largely on our own, often quietly terrified and sure we’re the only ones who feel lost, afraid and alone. We’re desperate for some sort of support system, some kind of external validation, and someone to say, “oh yes, that happened to me, too. Here’s what I did. And we survived.”
  • As I said, I’m a working mom to two small boys. Often, the only time I see parents of kids my age is at the park after dinner. I’m on a ‘hey, howareya’ nodding acquaintance with a lot of them, but I can’t say I’ve ever swapped potty training tips with any of them, let alone admit to having a particularly hard time of it. Even when my nipples were cracked and bleeding and I thought I was going to die from the stress of breastfeeding my newborn, I couldn’t actually tell anyone that face-to-face. Someone would ask me how I was doing, and I would grit my teeth and say “fine” and suffer in silence.
  • There’s something about the Internet that makes it easy to bare your soul. When your friend asks, “how are you?” and you’re having a terrible day, it’s very difficult to unload your heavy heart on someone you’re meeting at the coffee shop, or over playgroup. Part of it is stoicism, and part of it is simply that it’s not socially acceptable to say you feel like death from the sleep deprivation and you’re afraid you’re going to hurt your baby if she doesn’t sleep more than two hours in a row. Mothering doesn’t lend itself to the long, far-reaching and soul-searching conversations I remember from the pubs in my less encumbered years.
  • I’m fundamentally shy. I’m not so great at making new friends. But the Internet facilitates that relationship-building by taking a lot of the pressure off. The online interface gives you courage, so you are braver about exposing yourself and your foibles and your deepest secrets than you might be sitting on a bench at the park. The face that you present through your blog is maybe a little bit more brave than the you at the park. You have a moment to organize your thoughts, so you can almost sound like a rational person, and on a really good day, even string a few deep thoughts together in a row.
  • As a blogger, you can choose to be completely anonymous and use pseudonyms for yourself and your kids, or you can do like my friend Ann here and use your name in the domain title, or you can choose some combination that you’re comfortable with.
  • Blogging is about connecting with other people, but in a way I never could while pushing our kids on the swings side-by-side at the park.
  • It lets you forge connections with like-minded souls whom you might not otherwise meet in other circumstances, given cultural or geographic or even temporal distances. Blogging crosses boundaries, both social and geographic.
  • So a blog is a kind of an online diary, crossed with a forum, which becomes a community. As a matter of fact, blogging is a natural evolution from the communities created by and for mothers on bulletin boards like babycentre and iVillage. For years now, web-savvy moms have been congregating online in these virtual communities to share information and advice when traditional media like the glossy parenting magazines have either failed them or alienated them or simply failed to address the reality of their lives.
  • Myself, I was a long-time junkie on a board called IVF Connections, because my first son was conceived through in vitro fertilization, and through that bulletin board I met a bunch of moms virtually who became in-real-life friends – and many of them have blogs of their own now, too.
  • So blogging is like a continuation of that virtual community, but it’s centred around a particular person, and as the blogger you can control the conversation and how the story is told. It lends itself to a much more in-depth examination of issues and experiences, with an archive of all the conversations that have gone on before.
  • Now, anybody who has ever tried to have a conversation with a preschooler in the room knows you never really get more than three words strung together in a row, let alone have a meaningful conversation.
  • Having kids in your life makes time an incredibly valuable commodity, and when you finally manage to string together fifteen minutes for yourself, it might just be at the crack of dawn when you’re up anyway, even though nobody else in the house is awake. You can’t call your best friend at that time – at least, I can’t! – but you can boot up the laptop and surf around the blogosphere for a while.
  • Blogging is a perfect medium for the multi-tasking mother with a short attention span. You can write up a post in 15 minutes, maybe even at three in the morning while the baby is nursing and you’re typing with one hand, or you can read a few blogs and leave a comment or two. But it’s on your time, and your terms.
  • That’s one of the first things I loved – one of the things I continue to love – about blogging: that it could be “all about me.” Keeping it has been an indulgence, something I make time for without apology. It’s my “me time”, and I value for that. A chance to connect with others, but also to exercise my mental muscles. A chance to keep up my writing chops, but also to have a discourse at a higher level than, “And how exactly did the spaghetti get inside your brother’s pillow case?”
  • There’s a lot of cynicism in the blogosphere about “mommy blogs”. Personally, I don’t get that. Blogs give women like me, women who are maybe shy or maybe geographically isolated or maybe stuck in the house or in an office, a lifeline that they might not otherwise have.
  • You’ll hear a little bit more now from my friends here on some issues that we’re facing in the “momosphere”. But if you only remember one thing about what I’ve said here today, remember that blogging can be a great source of comfort, and of information, for mothers.
    Bloggers, blogging mothers, are having conversations, forging connections, and building communities.
  • When we blog, and by that I mean the writing and the reading and the commenting on blogs – when we blog, we are not alone.

Edited to ever so briefly add: it was amazing. I do not have enough superlatives to tell you how perfect the last two days have been. Expect much gushing and boasting and heaping of affection on my co-panelists, the cool bloggers I finally met in person, the outstanding hospitality, the adorable toddlers, the surprise guests, the shopping…. AMAZING!!!!!!!


Here we go!!

by DaniGirl on October 27, 2006 · 5 comments

in Away we go, It IS all about me, My 15 minutes

By the time you read this, I’ll probably have already picked up the rental car and my road-trip buddy Andrea to head out for our Great Toronto Adventure.

I can’t believe the amount of excitement we’ve packed into less than 24 hours. Ann, Jen, Andrea, Marla and I will be doing our panel discussion at the Motherlode conference from 5 pm to 7 pm. We’ve been getting some great buzz – check out the poster! Of all the presentations going on, that’s US listed right there in the second slot! – and I think it will be a blast.

But that’s only the beginning of the weekend. We’ll be heading over for a soiree at Jen’s place, and then crashing at Marla’s place for the night. (You really should go over and read Marla’s welcome/warning post. I can hardly wait to finally meet her in person!) There has also been promises of shopping, lattes, and breakfast at a funky local diner. And we will cap off our whirlwind tour by driving madly back to Ottawa in time to tuck our respective babes into bed on Saturday night. (Don’t expect much from me on Sunday!)

Wish us luck! Expect locquacious and lovingly detailed updates next week…


Pregnant thoughts

by DaniGirl on October 26, 2006 · 22 comments

in It IS all about me

I don’t know about you, but I got really, really tired of seeing that picture of a pregnant Brittney Spears wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’ve got the golden ticket” with an arrow pointing to her belly. Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because I couldn’t pull that t-shirt over my leg on my skinniest day.

It got me thinking, though. If I were a maternity-wear designer, here’s what I would print on my fabulous, brightly-coloured and roomy-without-being-tentlike pregnancy t-shirts:

You’d be cranky too, if you spent all day and night
building ears and eyes and elbows.
If pregnancy were a book
they would cut the last two chapters.
(Nora Ephron)
Life is tough enough without having someone
kick you from the inside.
(Rita Rudner)
By far the most common craving of pregnant women
is not to be pregnant.
(Phyllis Diller)
Hey, are you going to eat that?

You can play along, too. Or, how about this one? Not too long ago Marla, the Oracle of the Arcane Corners of the Interweb, sent me this link to the collective names of just about every animal on the planet. Did you know, for example, that a group of magpies is called a tiding? Or that a group of geese in flight is called a skein? And I’ve always loved the idea of an ‘unkindness’ of ravens.
It begs the question: what do you call a group of bloggers?


I’ve gone international! Now appearing in… Florida?

25 October 2006 Life, the Universe and Everything

You’re probably going to laugh at this. You’re going to roll your eyes, and you’re going to try not to laugh at with me, but you’re not going to be able to help yourself. Guess which newspaper I’m in today?Give up? The Tampa (!!) Tribune! Guess which section?The food (!!) section. Guess why?C’mon, guess!Why, candy […]

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Kids at play

24 October 2006 Life in Ottawa

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I may in fact be the most athletic person in my family. And then I’m going to wait for a minute until you stop rolling around on the floor laughing and sputtering and saying, “No, really?” before I justify myself. Because those of you […]

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Twelve week update

23 October 2006 Uncategorized

I’ve just been for my 12 week OB appointment and prenatal screening ultrasound. Baby looks lovely in every way! The ultrasound tech was having a little trouble getting the images she needed because the baby was in an awkward position and seemed to be sleeping. She gave my stomach a jolt hard enough to leave […]

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21 October 2006 Tristan

Today, for the first time, one of the boys helped me with the yardwork and was actually helpful instead of a hinderance! Woot! We have this huge tree in our front yard; I have no idea what it is, but the builders put one in every yard eleven years ago when they were building on […]

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