April 2009

The tooth fairy has started to visit our house. Last August – on my birthday, in fact – Tristan lost his first tooth. He lost the second one later in the fall, and the third one popped out a couple of weeks ago.

You know, I have a pretty strong stomach, and I like to think I’m generally not the squeamish type. I’m fine with blood, and for at least as long as it takes to get the job done, I can handle most of the products of the baser bodily functions – puke, snot, poop, whatever. Lucas peed on my leg yesterday and my only consternation was that it was my last clean pair of jeans.

This whole tooth thing, though? Ugh. The loose teeth make me feel more than a little squeedgy, and the tooth removed from the mouth makes my stomach do an unpleasant little roll. Blech. Teeth belong in mouths, firmly rooted to bony jaws, not hanging by (*gulp*) bloody little tentacle-like threads.

So once the tooth gets out of the mouth, it goes directly into a ziploc bag where nobody has to run the risk of touching it, especially of touching the (*gulp*) gutty parts where the roots used to be. The ziploc bag goes under the pillow, where it usually takes about three nights for the tooth fairy to magically transform that tooth to a shiny $2 coin. (Lucky for us, Tristan has been very accepting of the fact that the tooth fairy is more than a little overworked, and it’s not unusual for her to forget be so busy taking care of other kids that it takes a couple of nights for her to get around to everyone on the list.)

The first time he lost a tooth, after groping around under his pillow in the morning gloaming on the second day the tooth popped out, I managed effect the swap of tooth for twoonie and slip out of his room while he was still sleeping. I could hear him stirring, though, and knew it wouldn’t be long before he woke up. I froze once I hit the hallway, ziploc-sheathed tooth pinched distastefully between thumb and forefinger, flummoxed.

Now what?

I hadn’t thought the plan through past the tooth-to-twoonie alchemy. What the hell do I do with this decaying bit of human remains? I can’t just throw it out. (Could I *be* any more ridiculously sentimental?) Certainly not with Tristan about to walk into the room, anyway. So I did the first thing I could think of — I stuffed the entire ziploc bag, tooth enclosed, into the bottom drawer of my jewellery box. Where it remained, untouched and unconsidered, until the next time Tristan lost a tooth.

After three days of utterly and completely forgetting to effect the trade of tooth-for-twoonie, I found myself in the Exact Same Predicament: gnarly bit of discarded bone in hand (well, in ziploc in hand) and no idea what to do with it. So I stuffed it unceremoniously in the jewellery box with its mate.

Well, you can guess what happened with the third one. There has been just enough time between the loss of each tooth for me to completely forget to consider the problem of how to divest myself of the discarded baby teeth.

So now I have three rotting teeth stuffed in the lower drawer of my jewellery box and I have no idea what to do with them. I can’t bring myself to simply throw them out, especially now that I’ve taken steps – however rudimentary – to preserve them. Sheesh, they’re not even very good teeth – both of the big boys have already had cavities that need filling.

With three kids that will lose an average of 20 teeth each (Tristan actually has an extra one up front, just to add to my vexation) I’m facing in the neighbourhood of 60 teeth over the next dozen years or so. If nothing else, I’m eventually going to need a bigger jewellery box. And I no longer wear any of my jewellery because I’m beginning to feel vaguely squeamish every time I get anywhere near my dresser. Pretty soon I won’t even be able to get out any fresh underwear and that can’t end well.

What do you do with the teeth your kids lose? Surely if there are regulations against dog poop in household waste there must be some prohibition against decaying human remains? Do you flush them and release them to the wilds? Bury them in the backyard? Save them and present them in a velvet lined box to his future wife the night of the rehersal dinner? Help!


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It was a rainy Saturday morning, and we were on the way to the library. “I think the new door is finally ready,” I told the boys.

“Wow!” replied Simon. “This is the BEST day of my LIFE!”

(I don’t know where they get their tendencies to hyperbolize. Ahem.)

The new door is a construction project that’s been underway at the Barrhaven branch (more formally, the Ruth E Dickenson branch) of the Ottawa Public Library since some time last summer. Before, you had to go up to the second floor and across the length of the community centre, go in through the main door and then go down to the children’s library. The new door gives parking-lot access directly to the children’s library.

They’ve done a lovely job not only of adding in a new door, but of making the library a cozy place for kids to visit. There is a small area with chairs and tables bathed in the light from a wall of picture windows, a stack of board games and some toddler toys, brightly-coloured throw rugs and computer stations. What more do you need to keep kids happy on a rainy Saturday morning? When I praised the librarian for the great job they did, she turned all the praise to our city councillor Jan Harder, saying without her the changes never would have been made. Thanks Jan Harder! We love the new library!

Have you seen what’s new at the library lately? It’s not just about the books anymore! I don’t know how it is in every city, but here’s some of the cool stuff the Ottawa Public Library has going on.

  • Looking for a great free program for the kiddies? The Ottawa public library offers some excellent baby-time and toddler-time programs. (Simon, Lucas and I used to haunt the 4 – 6 year old story time at our branch last fall, before I went back to work. Stories, crafts, circle-time — it was really great, and completely free.)
  • Want to get out on the town? You can “borrow” a pass to the Museum of Civilization, the Science and Technology museum, the Nature museum, and other Ottawa attractions. Or, if you’re feeling the need to just get out and walk, you can borrow a pedometer!
  • They’ve compiled a great list of Web sites for all aspects of life in Ottawa.
  • The online card catalogue and request-a-book features are favourites of mine (they’ll call you when the book is available), or you can download audiobooks and ebooks directly to your devices (and they’ve overcome the recent problem of not being able to download to iPods)
  • They even have a dedicated section with “e-books for e-kids.”
  • I used to love pulling out the little drawers and just flipping randomly through the cards in the old card catalogues (am I dating myself if I admit they were still using them when I started university? Hard to imagine now!) but I get almost the same sense of serendipitous discovery clicking around in the virtual reference library.
  • Interested in genealogy? It’s amazing what’s available! (Scroll down for the research databases and Web links.)
  • Two local branches are even setting up Wii video game consoles in an effort to draw more teens into the library!

The library has always been a part of my life — I remember haunting the bookmobile with my mom when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I read every single title in the astronomy section of our local branch when I was a young teen. I’m so happy to be living in a community that cares enough about its library to offer such amazing services and resources. Thank you, Ottawa, for this wonderful gift that I promise I will continue to share with my family for many years to come! (And I promise I’ll take care of those library fines really soon, too. Could you maybe work on a self-returning library book, or one that at least crawls out from under the bed or behind the curtains a few days before it’s due?)


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I was just settling into the comfy chair with Lucas, preparing for our regular bedtime routine. He’ll nurse for a few minutes and then I’ll cuddle him to sleep – the third child truly is spoiled rotten. I’d just pulled him in close when I realized I’d completely forgotten to give him his after-dinner bottle. (I blame Granny and Papa Lou for their scintillating after-dinner conversation.)

I looked down at him and said, “Oh no! We forgot to give you your bottle! I’m so sorry!” He looked up at me with his beautiful brown eyes and said, “Bottle.” Clear as day! He’s got a dozen or 20 words, but I hadn’t heard that one before. What really shocks me, though, is how much he understands of what we say to him. Unbiased as I am, I truly think he’s ahead of the curve in comprehension.

I laughed and started pulling up my shirt to offer him a boob, figuring even though he’d be down a couple of ounces of milk because we’d skipped the bottle he’d survive and it was too late to bother now. He looked at my breast, looked at me and pointed quite clearly to the shelf in the kitchen where I keep the baby bottles, which we could see from the chair, and said, “Bottle.”

“Okay,” I said, laughing again, “I’ll give you a bottle. But you have to drink a little bit of this first.” The nursing is staggering to a halt, but I’m doing what I can to prolong it. He took about four cursory slurps, popped off the nipple and pointed at the kitchen. “Bottle.”

This is the same child who last summer would pop off the boob randomly to suck on his own toes. It’s a good thing my ego is not fragile, I tell you. Apparently toes and cow’s milk are both preferable to whatever I’m brewing up.

So I brought him into the kitchen, where he giggled in delight as I poured the milk into a bottle. He pointed at the microwave and said, “Bottle!” while it warmed, and proceeded to snarf down all six ounces. For good measure, as I was finally settling in to cuddle him to sleep, he arched his back to look at the empty bottle on the end table where I had placed it.

“Bottle!” he announced, pointing to it and grinning at me with a look of self-satisfaction that clearly said, “I am the cleverest baby who ever lived, and aren’t I devilishly cute, too?”

Somehow, I think I’m going to spend a lot of this child’s lifetime thinking, “It’s a good thing you’re so darn cute…”


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The nice folks at Hill and Knowlton* sent me an e-mail the other day, asking me if I’d like to take a new HP Photosmart Wireless Premium Fax All-in-One printer for a test drive. No need to blog about it, they said, but we saw your posts about your 365 project and thought you might like to try out one of these printers on a four-month trial basis.

Huh, I thought. How about that? But, we already have a printer that we practically never use anyway. And Beloved had actually bought me a little Canon photo printer for Christmas that we ended up taking back on Boxing Day, because we figured it would be cheaper to just print out the photos at the local big-box store. Could we really use a printer like this? What do I know from printers?

So I flipped the e-mail over to Beloved and asked him what he thought. He e-mailed me back two words: “Yes, please!”

When the box actually arrived last week, Beloved spent a while setting it up and testing it out. (I have absolutely no patience for that sort of thing.) When he realized what a really nice printer it is, not just a printer but a fax and scanner, too, with wireless and bluetooth capabilities, he had what he endearingly termed as a “technogasm.” He’s really quite pleased with it. My eyes started to glaze over a bit when he went on about duplex printing and printing on CDs and ethernet connections, but then he handed me a photograph he’d just made from one of my pictures on Flickr, and I said, “Oh, well, now you’re talking my language!” I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between the photo that came out of the printer and one I had developed at a photo counter. I put it in a frame right away.

So then came the challenge of figuring out where to put it. It’s wireless, so we can stash it just about anywhere in the house. I suggested the basement family room, on a nice shelf far away from climbing toddlers and the other mischief-seekers in the house. Beloved, infatuated with his new favourite toy, had other ideas. No sense hiding this beautiful piece of machinery away in the basement, according to him.

I vetoed this idea.

HP Photsmart around the house (2 of 3)

And this one.

HP Photsmart around the house (3 of 3)

And this is definitely not going to work.

HP Photsmart around the house (1 of 3)

We’ll have to keep negotiating this one, I think. The nice thing is because we have WiFi, we can pretty much stash it wherever there’s an outlet.

This give-a-blogger-an-all-in-one-printer campaign is a part of HP’s new focus on the impact of the digital age on moms and families. Another facet of the campaign involves its new Moms for Simplicity site, built with the idea of bringing moms together to discuss how technology can be a big help in simplifying their lives, and HP is offering YOU the chance to win a $5000 “technology makeover”:

To do this, together with champion Olympian swimmer and mother of one, Dara Torres, HP has just launched the Moms for Simplicity micro site and photo mosaic contest. HP and Dara would like to hear how you have used technology to make your life easier (in about 200 words and with a photo to add to our mosaic.) Submission is really easy and along with your contribution to the Moms for Simplicity photo mosaic- you are automatically entered to win an HP technology makeover worth $5000 and a trip to watch Dara swim at the US Nationals!

Pretty cool, eh?

Edited to add: sorry, I didn’t realize that the technology makeover contest is only open to residents of the US. The e-mail for the Moms for Simplicity site and the printer e-mail came from different people, but I assumed they were part of the same campaign. I’ve asked to see if anything can be offered to our Canadian readers. Sigh.

*(I like Hill and Knowlton. They really “get” blogger relations, and I don’t just say that because they give me free stuff. Well, it helps, but it’s not the only reason I like them! They said I didn’t have to blog about the new printer, but it only seemed right that I do. Besides, it’s not every day I get a chance to work a term like “technogasm” into conversation.)


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In the 95 days that I’ve been working on my 365 project (to take and post a photo every day) there were a few days near the beginning where I almost forgot, but for the most part, I haven’t come close to missing any days or thinking about throwing in the towel. Until this week. This week, I almost quit.

Mind you, I was tired and cranky and feeling overwhelmed in general, and I might have been considering throwing in the towel on a LOT of things that particular night, but the 365 was the one I was most frustrated with. Much like blogging, the damn project has taken on a life of its own, and much like the kids, demands way too much of my attention.

When I started out, I was simply taking pictures and uploading them. The picture-finding was the stressful part; once I had one, or sometimes a couple, that I liked I’d simply upload them directly to Flickr and into a few groups and I was done. Very occasionally I’d do a little crop, or a little adjustment after the fact, but rarely.

Then in March I discovered post production, and every photo was hauled in to Photoshop for adjusting of levels and curves and brightness and exposure. I started reading a couple of Scott Kelby books and figured out how to paint with light and use textures for layers and was blown away by how much fun I could have manipulating a photo. Then in early April I started shooting in RAW, and I was taking dozens, sometimes even hundreds of photos each day — all of which had to be reviewed and sorted, and then a couple of them selected for more labourious adjustments in Photoshop.

It was too much.

For one thing, I just don’t have that kind of time every single day. For another thing, I was getting extremely frustrated with every shot. I was suddenly aware of what my photos *could* look like, if only I could pry open Photoshop’s inscrutable tools and force it to do my bidding. But of course, I simply don’t have time to stop and learn how to do it properly. What I’d been doing — skimming through Kelby’s books and plucking out the occasional tutorial — works to a certain extent, but not when you’re trying to find the time between hauling your pre-toddler off the bookshelves he’s just scaled and empting the dishwasher and feeding the dog and, well, you know.

The other main reason I was getting frustrated is because I have made friends with some supremely talented people on Flickr and quite honestly, found my own work suffering by comparison. Beloved kindly pointed out that most of them are, in fact, professional photographers (and some very very talented amateurs!) and I am, at best, a dilettante. At least last time, when I was feeling anxious about getting my pictures in Explore, I could step back and see how ridiculous it was to be pining for esoteric bragging rights conferred by some random set of online intergers. This is more fundamental — the central question of whether my pictures are “good enough” and how to make them better. How to make them better without neglecting everything else that’s important in my life, that is.

Sigh. It’s been a lifelong motif for me: I’ve decided I want to do something, and now I want to be very good at it. Right now. Immediately. Why is it taking so long? Oh, and I must be good every single time, too. And I wonder where Tristan gets his perfectionist anxieties from?

So in the end, I didn’t quit. I’ve scaled back where I can, though. I’m back to shooting in jpeg for everyday, and I’ll switch to RAW on days when I know I’ll have more time to play. I’m trying to limit the post-processing and stick with whatever comes SOOC – straight out of the camera – wherever possible. And mostly, I’m trying to get out of my head and stop being so hard on myself.

This is the picture I took the day after I decided to quit and then not to quit. It’s a picture I’d been toying with in my head for a while, and frankly, I think it’s great. Nothing like success to buttress a faltering ego. It’s another try at shaped bokeh – the little music notes are actually just white LED Christmas lights in the background, and they have that shape because I’m holding a card with a music note cut out of it over my lens.

93:365 Musical bokeh

(Of course, it made me a little twitchy that this one didn’t garner enough attention to possibly be recognized by Explore, because I think it’s actually better than the one that did make Explore, but I was mostly able to repress that line of thinking and just enjoy the fact that I took a pretty picture.)

This next one was for the monthly scavenger hunt. The expression is priceless, but the colour is really messed up. Our laptop is set too bright, and all the manipulating I’ve been doing with the RAW images looks great on the laptop but looks awkward on other screens. Another reason to get back to basics, I guess.

91:365 Bitter!

(After that first face, by the way, he loved the lemon. No babies were harmed in the shooting of this picture!)

Here’s the rest of this week’s photos — kind of uninspiring, IMHO, but there’s always next week.

88:365 Suburban sunrise

89:365 Gears

90:365 Hogsback Falls

(We were at Hogsback Falls on Sunday afternoon and there were two maniacs KAYAKING down the falls, from the bridge right over the main drop. And I thought Project 365 was a harrowing hobby!)

92:365 Baby blankets

94:365 Flower vendors in the Market

So it seems like every week I have some new issue I’m sorting out with regard to this project. Are you guys at all interested in these philosophical ruminations on my motivations, or should I just put up the pictures and get out of the way, and keep my nouvelle-artiste angst to myself?


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I wish I had a lot more time today to write about this subject, because it really fascinates me. There was an article in yesterday’s Citizen about how secondary school students in Ontario are no longer being failed for transgressions as serious as plagarizing. (When I was in university, it seems to me that was grounds for explusion, let alone failing an assignment.) The article notes:

Teachers are saying they are increasingly pressured to make sure students pass. If a student fails to hand in assignments on time, cheats, plagiarizes or doesn’t show up for tests, they can “rescue” their endangered credit. If the student fails, he or she can re-do the assignments they bombed and “recover” a wayward credit. Teachers are, as a result, concerned about “credit integrity” — whether a final mark awarded to a student who procrastinates, plagiarizes and bombs tests should be worth the same as the mark awarded to a student who earned a credit by the books the first time around.

This drives me crazy! It’s all linked to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s new and noble drive to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. As the article notes, “While 68 per cent of students graduated from high school within five years in 2003-2004, the province aims to increase the graduation rate to 85 per cent by 2010-2011. Last year, 13,500 more students graduated from Ontario high schools than in the previous year.”

Well yes, they graduated, but can they write a paragraph? What will they do when they go off to university and have to actually do the work to pass, with thousands of dollars of tuition on the line? And what happens when they head out into the real world and they have a boss who isn’t interested in offering “rescue” or “recovery” options the first time they miss a deadline for an important project?

Call me a hardass on this one, but I think this is yet another way in which we’re coddling kids today and it’s really got to stop! In another article today that I couldn’t immediately find online, Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said, “What we know for now from education research is that failing kids doesn’t motivate [them].” Well, passing them for shoddy work certainly isn’t going to do it, either!

I feel very strongly about this, in case you didn’t notice, but I also feel like the old fart waving her cane at the passing hooligans from her porch rocker. But seriously, I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be to be a teacher working in these times. Johnny failed the test because he was playing his Xbox all night instead of studying for the exam, but he’s sorry now and he’d like the chance to recover his credit, so Ms Teacher can you please redesign another test to give Johnny a second chance? Oh, and make sure it’s equally challenging, make special arrangements for a quiet time and place for him to write it, take extra time to mark it, and then help Johnny catch up on all the stuff he missed while he was taking his second test? Oh, he failed again? Oh well. Go ahead and start making up that third test for him.

I also see this as horrendously unfair to the kids who do try their best and who are going to learn in a righteous hurry that there is absolutely no reason for them to work hard or indeed work at all if the kid sitting next to them committing academic fraud and showing up only when it’s convenient ends up with the same damn diploma at the end of it all.

Am I reading this wrong? Have I got my knickers in a twist over nothing? (Can’t say that’s ever happened before.) Do you think the province is on the right track by mollycoddling kids through high school?


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Blogroll and linky love

22 April 2009 Editorial asides

I’m doing some spring cleaning around the blog, and realized that my blogroll is embarrassingly, dreadfully out of date. So many of you who visit here regularly should be on it — and there are blogs on it that haven’t posted new material since 2007 or earlier! While it makes me terribly sad to visit […]

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Still haven’t found that weight I lost

21 April 2009 Me, only better

I got a really nice comment last week from Carolynn, saying she’s lost a couple of pounds after reading about Calorie Counter online here, and she asked for a Plan B update. Then yesterday, a friend said she’d just called Dr Bishop to make an appointment for herself. Actual requests for topics and the need […]

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Who, me? Addicted to the what now?

20 April 2009 How I love the Interwebs

One of my friends at work (*waves to Sue*) recently sent me a link to an article entitled “Why moms are at risk for Internet addiction.” I have no idea why she sent it to me. (*looks obliquely to the left*) No really, I don’t have a problem. I mean, it did give me an […]

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Some coffee with your sugar?

17 April 2009 Life, the Universe and Everything

Oh my — I just stood behind someone at Tim’s who ordered a medium coffee with three cream and five (FIVE!) sugars. Can you even disolve that much sugar in a medium coffee? Wouldn’t it have the viscosity of fudge? (I’m horrified by the idea of even one sugar in my coffee, so maybe I […]

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