September 2007

My baby brother

by DaniGirl on September 30, 2007 · 14 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

When I posted last week about being a lifelong Rush fan, kgirl asked if I had a cool older brother, because it’s been her experience that girls who are Rush fans usually have cool older brothers.

Nope, not me. I have a cool younger brother.

Sean is five years younger than me, and despite the fact that he rarely makes an appearance in the blog, he’s one of my best friends as well as being my brother. It’s actually a bit of an oversight to not mention Sean here more often, as I think he as much as anyone in my life has had an impact on my sense of humour and how I see myself in the world. He and his wife Nat and their two kids – the beautiful, bald, blue-eyed girl who appears in my Flickr photos is his daughter – live outside of Toronto, so while we don’t see them as often as I’d like, I think about them all the time.

I wasn’t always happy to have a brother. Does this look like the face of a girl who is happy to cede her place at the centre of the universe to a baby brother?

Five years and a gender gap is a lot to overcome when you’re a kid. Sure, we played together sometimes – he was great about sharing his awesome collection of Star Wars toys – and we were always happy to have each other, but when I left home he was only 13 years old. And then I lived in another city for his formative years, and it wasn’t until we were both adults that we finally discovered that not only do we love each other in an obligatory sibling kind of way, we like each other as well.

Funny thing is, now that we’re adults it’s me who looks up to him as a role model. He’s my touchstone, my source for what’s new and cool, and my favourite euchre partner. It matters a lot to me what Sean thinks, and he has a huge influence over me – perhaps more than even he realizes! Not only is Sean way cooler than me, but he’s indoctrinated me on everything from music to wine to popular culture. He’s clever and kind and hilariously funny, and now he’s a wonderful father as well.

Happy birthday, baby brother! I love you!!


It seemed like a great idea. A couple of friends from work with boys the same age, getting together for an afternoon of apple-picking. We found a date that worked for everyone, the weather forecast called for sunshine and mild temperatures. The only problem? No apples. Thank goodness somebody thought to call ahead the day before we went! I guess with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, all the pick-yer-own orchards have been picked clean. After checking with a handful of places, we decided to try Cannamore Orchards because not only did they have some pre-picked apples available, but they advertised a bunch of fun activities for families.

And that’s how we discovered another of Ottawa’s hidden treasures: Cannamore Orchard.

Cannamore pumpkins

It’s about a 40 minute drive south-east of the city. Personally, I’d never heard of it, but then, we’d always done our picking at Kilmarnock Orchards. While Kilmarnock is gorgeous, Cannamore offers some great stuff for kids to do other than just picking apples: a play area with a brightly-painted wooden train to climb on, a rope maze, a goldfish pond, several “finger mazes” and the “dark maze”, an enclosed and pitch-black maze that made me very, very happy I allowed the kids to choose running shoes with flashing lights on them! (Tristan led a group of kids AND parents fearlessly through the surprisingly long and surprisingly dark maze.)

There are a few animals on site, and a sheltered picnic area with a snack bar. There’s also a gift shop with fudge and fresh pies (I forgot to ask if they were baked on site, but the one I bought was still warm on the bottom!) and inexpensive hallowe’en decorations and pumpkins and… what else? Oh yes, APPLES!

And what better way to end a day of fun like this? A wagon ride, of course. The “Spooky” wagon rides don’t start until next weekend, but the 20 minute loop through the forest and orchard and around the aviary featured a preview of the spooky bits to come, and was plenty of fun for our gaggle of boys.

Who would’ve guessed you could have so much at the orchard when all the apples have been picked? If you’re looking for an inexpensive and entertaining way to spend a few hours enjoying a gorgeous autumn day – not to mention the freshly picked apples and pumpkins – I’d recommend checking out Cannamore Orchards. (There are, of course, more pix on Flickr.)


Revenge of the Rideau Centre

by DaniGirl on September 28, 2007 · 14 comments

in Postcards from my uterus

I’ve been noodling a post in my head for some time now about how sick I am getting of the Rideau Centre. For those of you unfamiliar with Ottawa, it’s the largest shopping mall in the city, and I traverse it daily from my bus stop to my office and back again. And then, of course, the magnetic draw of the food court pulls me back in a few more times a week. In the nearly three years since the end of my last maternity leave, I must have passed through that damn mall more than 2500 times. I’m truly and fully sick of it.

But the mall must have been listening to these unfavourable thoughts percolating through my brain, because yesterday, the Rideau Centre took a pre-emptive strike. One minute I was getting off the escalator and striding purposefully past Club Monaco toward the bus stop, and the next minute my right knee and outstretched hands were slamming forcefully into the tile floor. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to lock my elbows, or else I would have ended up in belly-flopping on the ground. I was so shocked by the impact that I actually held the pose for what seemed like quite a long time as I ran various mental system diagnostics to make sure all the parts were still functioning. My first thought, of course, was for the baby, but although it was a jarring landing, my knee and shoulders took the brunt of it and I was reassured to feel the baby moving just a few minutes later.

But the part that really surprises me is that not one person even looked at me, let alone stopped to see if I was okay. We’re talking the Rideau Centre in midafternoon – it makes Grand Central Station look deserted – and here’s an obviously pregnant woman on her hands and knees, tote bag splayed out at her side… and nobody did so much as a double-take. So I wobbled back to my feet and lurched on toward the bus stop, determined not to miss my bus despite my throbbing knee. (This morning, it’s sporting a lovely purple bruise most of the size of my palm… and wouldn’t you know it, that’s the same knee that’s been aching with a pregnancy-induced recurrence of my latent patello-femoral syndrome. Ouch.)

Damn Rideau Centre. Of all the things I’ll be happiest to leave behind on a year of maternity leave, it’s at the top of the list.


Speaking of pregnant, and further to the post earlier this week about cool photos at 21 weeks gestation, I was looking for something entirely different when I stumbled across a story from earlier this year about a baby who was born at 21w6d – and survived. And by the wickedest of chances, the day I found this article I too was – you guessed it – 21w6d gestation. I keep thinking of the baby I’m percolating as some lime-sized amorphous blob at this point, but sheesh, that’s a real baby I’ve got growing in there, and aside from the fact that he’s white and she’s black, I’m guessing he probably looks a whole lot like this right about now.

Click to embiggen. Photo courtesy of UK Daily Mail.

So while I found that story both touching and reassuring, I found the story (hat tip to the lovely Brown Eyed Bex, for sending it to me – haha not so funny, Bex!) of the Russian woman who just popped out a 17 lbs baby girl (!!!) a little more worrisome. You have to click through to the article, just to look at the photos!!

Seriously! Seventeen pounds! I mean, I’ve always been absurdly proud of having birthed my 9 lbs and 10 lbs boys, and have joked that I’d better not continue the pattern this time around… but SEVENTEEN pounds? And it’s her TWELFTH baby, no less. The mind boggles. But the part of the article that truly chilled my heart was where she said to the reporter, “I ate everything, we don’t have the money for special foods so I just ate potatoes, noodles and tomatoes.”

Um. Potatoes? Check. Noodles? Check. Tomatoes? Like they’re going out of friggin’ style. (Check.)



Have you noticed that my posts are getting longer, and longer, and longer? I mean, they’re barely posts anymore, they’re friggin’ chapters… and there’s no sign of relief today, either.

First, something rather disturbing. Through Babes in Blogland, I came across this story about how some users of Orkut (a social networking site similar to Facebook or MySpace, but owned by Google) are “stealing” images of kids from Flickr to create fake user profiles. You can read about it on SaraSmiles’ Flickr account (over 1200 comments in three days… at least people are paying attention!) While I find this distasteful and kinda gross, I’m not going to be pulling my photos off of Flickr anytime soon. I will be following the story, though, and I thought you might like to know about this, too.

On a lighter note, I have to tell you that I scored a victory for slacker snack moms everywhere last week. We had “meet the teacher” night at Tristan’s school, and all the junior and senior kindergarten parents were brought together for an information session. They gave an overview of the curriculum, spoke briefly about some new procedures, and then brought up a few “housekeeping” items. One of them was a plea – really, that’s the right word – from one of the teachers to please, please send simpler snacks for the kids. “When they have three or four items to choose from, they get overwhelmed,” she said. “We really only plan for 15 or 20 minutes at snack time, and we’re only here for a short time. The kids are bringing these multi-course snacks and it takes them half the afternoon just to eat them.” Yes!! Slacker moms unite, we have scored one small victory in our inherent laziness.

And finally, this is way cool. As you know, I’ve long been a huge fan of Cooper and Emily from Been There, and the BlogHers Act initiative, and The Motherhood. Head over to Been There to read about how yesterday, Emily was not only live-blogging the Clinton Global Initiative, but she got to ask a question – to Angelina Jolie!! Click on over to Been There to read Emily’s great question about what mothers can do, and the terrific response she got.

I may be saving the world from overenthusiastic snack moms, but Emily’s content to just save the world. Isn’t she lovely?

Edited to add: Wow, issues with photos are everywhere today. Dutch at Sweet Juniper blogged today about the inappropriate use – okay, theft – of a photo of his daughter by the online magazine Babble, and daysgoby pointed out a a post at Joy Unexpected about how her photo was used to sell a product – without her knowledge or permission. Maybe it’s time to start at least watermarking my photos?



by DaniGirl on September 26, 2007 · 9 comments

in Postcards from my uterus, Uncategorized

My mom and I were chatting about images from the Internet and pregnancy, and how some of the coolest images you see are actually photoshopped and fake. Somehow, that made me think of the image I’d seen a long time ago, one that I knew was real, of a surgeon performing in utero surgery on a fetus.

I went looking for it to show my mom what I meant, and found this image of Baby Samuel.

Baby Samuel was 21 weeks old when surgery was performed to correct something arising from spinal bifida. According to, ” In this particular surgery, the baby’s hand poked out of the incision in its mother’s womb and Dr. Bruner says he instinctively offered his finger for the baby to hold.”

My baby is 21 weeks old right now. I can’t stop looking at that image… and smiling.


The neighbours

by DaniGirl on September 26, 2007 · 15 comments

in Life in Ottawa

My leafy suburb is probably one of the most child-friendly in all of Ottawa. And yet, the street we live on has no kids under 10, save for my boys.

When we moved in, we had childless couples living on either side of us. The first couple moved out of the province in the summer of 2004, maybe a year after we’d moved in, and a woman and her three kids moved in. The kids were older – a boy and a girl around 9 and 11, and a teenage boy around 15. The boy was a nightmare, to be honest, and we frequently saw the police bringing him home or coming to get him. He left last summer, and the neighbourhood settled down again.

Last month, the fun young childless couple who lived on the other side of us moved out, too. Laura was quick to reassure us that the new neighbours would be terrific: “She’s a school administrator, and her grown daughter will be living with her.” Well, that sounded pretty good to me, even though I’d’ve preferred a family with kids that the boys could play with.

And then they moved in, and Reese and Candy arrived with them. Candy is a yappy little pug that never shuts up, and Reese is a terrifying-looking Rottweiler with a booming bark that rattles the windows. And he barks at everything that moves. He barks at the kids when they’re in the yard (it took weeks before they were even comfortable going out there, despite the eight-foot wooden fence in between our yards), he barks at the people walking by on the street, he even barks at us when we’re in the house and veer too close to the window.

Now, I like dogs. But big, nasty black dogs that scare my kids and bark like they’re the devil? Not so much. To her credit, the lady tries to control them, and we’re forever hearing her yelling at the dogs: “Reese!! Candy!! NO BARKING!!” If it’s obvious they’ve scared the kids, or if they just won’t shut up, she at least puts them in the house. But still. I’ve taken to walking the length of the fence, just to make sure it’s good and solid with no Reese-sized holes anywhere.

But even the dogs are not the worst part. What are the odds of having TWO next door neighbours, one on either side, who have decided rather than smelling up the insides of their own houses with cigarette smoke, to smoke exclusively on their respective back decks? I mentioned townhouses, right? Every time one of them is out there smoking, it drifts into my house through the open windows. I keep telling myself that the level of carcinogens in the second-hand smoke has probably been considerably diluted by the time it reaches us, but it still lingers in my mind that if I can smell it, there must be some chemical trace working its way into our systems.

By contrast, I love my across-the-back-fence neighbours. They have three kids, maybe 6, 8, and 11, and the dad is some sort of special detective. I think the mom stays home. They’re warm and friendly, and I always enjoy chatting with them. My boys stand on the slide and climber in our yard to be able to talk to the kids, and even the older kids are nice and friendly. Unfortunately, they’re also separated by an eight-foot fence, and it’s about a 10 minute walk around the block to get to their secluded little cul-de-sac. I watch the kids from their side of the fence running rampant through their yard, and wonder about cutting a gate into the fence, or at least setting up a ladder, or something. It really bugs me that there are no kids here in the neighbourhood – the kiddliest neighbourhood in Ottawa, for goodness sakes! – with whom the boys can play.

I love my house, I really do. But I want to live in one of those neighbourhoods where you sit on your porch in the late summer evenings, drink in hand, chatting with the neighbours while the kids run in a pack from house to house. I want to have kids showing up at the door at all hours, looking to play with Tristan and Simon. I want road hockey games in the driveway and tag in the park. Sheesh, we haven’t even been invited (nor, to be fair, have we invited anyone) to a playdate with one of Tristan’s classmates.

Sometimes, even as a grown-up, it’s hard to make friends.


Marketing to Mommy Bloggers

25 September 2007 Meta-blogging

I need to pick your collective brains again. I’ve been asked to speak next month at a monthly gathering of local communications and marketing folks who have a professional interest in the tools of social media from a business and government perspective. They’ve had some amazing speakers this year, from Paul Wells to Stephen Taylor […]

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Parenting questions not covered in the manual

24 September 2007 Mothering without a licence

So I was reading through the operating manual that came with my kids last night (what, you don’t have one?) and I realized that there are a few pages that have fallen out over the years. Or been yanked out. Or been used to draw pictures of Luke Skywalker locked in mortal combat with SpongeBob […]

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Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures – Hogs Back Falls

23 September 2007 Ottawa's hidden treasures

I love the light in September. It’s warm and golden, and instead of glaring overhead it comes dappled through the leaves at a gentle angle. And then, of course, the trees are starting to change colours, green giving way to gold and even scarlet. Every year in September, when the light gets like this, I […]

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I heart Geddy Lee

22 September 2007 Life in Ottawa

I danced. I screamed. Okay, truthfully? When the house lights went dimmed, and the crowd started to scream, and the band came on stage, and the lights came up as Rush crashed into the first few bars of Limelight, and they were RIGHT THERE less than 100 ft from me, my barely repressed inner 14 […]

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