May 2009


by DaniGirl on May 29, 2009 · 12 comments

in Editorial asides

After I published my last post, the formatting on the blog got all farked up. Is it displaying properly for you? For me, the post about Papa Lou’s 65th appears in the sidebar and the sidebar is down below.

Not sure what happened, let alone how to fix it… gah! I wasn’t even in the template, just published an ordinary post. Might be IE6 problem. It’s the 365 post that seems to be causing the problem, doesn’t quite display right on the individual post page, either. I’d appreciate your comments — is it displaying correctly and what browswer are you using? Thanks!

Edited to add: Aha!! Found an errant div tag and I think that’s what was messing up the display. Sheesh, what a lot of fuss from one little tag. But, I’m still fussing over the display and am curious — do you see one sidebar or two and what browser are you using?


Project 365: the magpie’s eye

by DaniGirl on May 29, 2009 · 7 comments

in Photo of the Day

Before I had all of your most excellent suggestions on how to carry on finding interesting pictures every(!) single(!) day(!) I was relying on some of the Flickr groups I’ve joined for inspiration. One of them is the monthly scavenger hunt, where they give you 20 clues or categories and you have the month to find suitable pictures. You can take a new picture for every category or, if you’re a little bit lazy like me, mine your archives for padding in a few choice places. I played last month, too, but only got 16 out of the 20 categories done before I ran out of month. But last night I took the final picture to round out my first complete monthly scavenger hunt!

May monthly scavenger hunt -- done!!

(You’ve seen most of these already, I know, but the only ‘prize’ I get is the satisfaction of gloating that I finished, so I’m milking it for all it’s worth! If you click the mosaic, the image on Flickr has a list of the categories and a clickable link to the images everyone else used for that category, too — if you’re curious! And Roz, I had to laugh — I had the picture of the wrought-iron fence around Parliament Hill in the camera already when you made your suggestion. Great minds!)

This one from last Friday was for the scavenger hunt clue “one in a million.” Tristan won one of those “guess the number of jellybeans” contests at our local comic book store at a Webkinz Extravaganza day, winning not only the jar full of jellybeans but a Webkinz gift pack as well. I figured the image worked well on a couple of ways for the theme, both in the sheer number of jelly beans (anyone want to hazzard a guess?) and in the odds of Tristan winning. The colour balance on the picture is off, but I think that’s largely because I have to calibrate our monitor.

123:365 One in a million

You saw most of my pictures from the Gloucester Fair already, but I like this one so much that I’ll include it here again!

124:365 At the fair

(Funny how I took two dozen photos at the fair and had a hard time choosing just a few because I liked them all so much, and other days this week I took a hundred or more pictures in a day only to have not a single one worthy of the project. Dammit, I have to choose a less fickle hobby one of these days!)

I called this one, “Yeah mommy, as a matter of fact I AM about to eat this rock” but Beloved things I should have called it “My kung fu is better than your kung fu!” I like it because you can see the devil in his eyes. This child will be the one that snaps my will like a twig.

125:365 Yeah, mommy, as a matter of fact I AM about to eat this rock

I’ve been reading Byran Peterson’s book People in Focus, which talks a lot about the psychology of approaching and interacting with strangers for photography. Feeling emboldened, I approached this lovely woman this morning at about 7:15 as she was readying her ByWard Market stand for the day and asked her if I could take her picture.

“Oh, just a minute,” she said as she hustled behind the stall, “and I’ll get some more water in my watering can.” Isn’t she lovely? She made my morning. The only problem is that I was so flustered by the time it came to actually taking the photo, I didn’t catch the shade/sun line running right through the middle of the picture and the background was so ugly I had to fudge the depth of field in Photoshop to blur it out a bit. Oh well, at least she was sweet about it, and I do love the result.

126:365 Morning in the market

This is one of those times that a lovely new flower in the garden saved my project at the end of a long day. After more than 100 photos that I didn’t like, I snapped one of this new iris that had just bloomed in my front yard and called it “good enough.” You can totally see why Georgia O’Keefe eroticized flowers in this, though, can’t you?

127:365 Iris

I finally caved and bought myself an infrared remote for my D40, because I had been thinking about taking this image for so long and couldn’t think of a better way to do it. It won’t be long before these moments are gone and I wanted to capture the peaceful serenity of rocking Lucas to sleep at nap time.

128:365 Naptime

I think I actually like this one better, though! The shot above is closer to what I’d originally planned for the shot, but this test shot I did to check the focus and the composition caught an unexpectedly sweet moment of its own.

128b:365 Naptime

The other mothers standing at the fence waiting for the bell to ring were giving me odd looks as I stood taking pictures of the umbrella being spun on my fingertips, letting the rain spatter on my bare head, but I was intrigued by the play of colour in this. Not the greatest shot in the world, but some days just cry for “good enough.”

128:365 Spinning brelly

I really wish I could find some sort of coherent narrative or even common thread in these pictures or what I’m drawn to, but I can’t. I have a magpie’s eye for bright and shiny things, and that’s about the only consistency I can see. But this week’s images to tell the story of this place in my life reasonably well, for whatever that’s worth.


You don’t have to read too deeply into the blog to know I’m a daddy’s girl, though and through. When I was growing up, my mother would often comment that though I look just like her, I’ve got a LOT of my dad in my personality. I’m not sure what she meant; I mean, the only thing we really have in common is the the sense of humour. Oh, and the stubbornness, and maybe the optimism. Oh yeah, and that ridiculous need to be loved by everyone. And the obsessive tendencies, the temper, the loquaciousness, the gregariousness… okay, maybe I can see her point. πŸ™‚

My dad was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, on May 29, 1944, just before the end of the second world war, the only child of Maria Katarina, a German, and Henry Donders, a Dutchman. He was born when my grandmother was 41 years old. When he was still very young, the family moved to Tilburg, Holland. Post-war Holland was not a very friendly place for a Germans, and my grandmother told stories of people throwing rocks at her while she was pushing my father in his pram.

My father loved music from an early age, and formed a pipe-and-drum band while he was still in elementary school. When he was ten years old, his family emigrated yet again, this time to Canada. He arrived in London, Ontario speaking not a word of English, and his family lived at first with his uncle and his family.

By the time he was attending Catholic Central High School, he had bought his family’s first car. It wasn’t the most reliable of vehicles, and on more than one occasion he fed it an ice-cream cone to keep it from overheating. His stomach was also rather unreliable due to an ulcer, and the nuns who were the teachers at Catholic Central were vexed by his standing permission note to leave class any time to go for a milk shake to settle his burning stomach. The nuns were already unimpressed with my dad, though, because by the time he was in high school he was playing music professionally in night clubs — even though he was far too young to drink. While in school, he traveled with his high school band back to Europe, where he was greeted by the members of the same pipe-and-drum band he’d formed as a child!

Catholic Central was also where he met Frances, the woman he would marry in 1966. The first day he drove her home from school, she repaid his courtesy by reading a letter from another suitor the whole way home! I guess stubbornness as a family trait has come in handy a few times.

My dad has had a variety of careers, many of them while struggling to supplement his career as a drummer. He was a taxi driver; he had a printing business that printed the menus for McDonalds; he sold encyclopedias door-to-door. He was good friends with Daniel Lanois (yes, that Daniel Lanois, the one who has produced records for Peter Gabriel and U2, among others) and his brother and used to hang out in their Hamilton recording studio. Eventually, though, he and Danny parted ways as my dad had a young family to support. Musicianship gave way to salesmanship in the 1970s, and my dad took on a career as a professional fund raiser.

Looking back, I can see where I get my stubborn tenacity and obsessive tendencies. Once my dad turned to sales and fundraising for a living, he applied himself with a vigour that led to him being salesman of the year several times in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Once my dad decides he’s going to do something, by god he does it and he does it well! I love this about him.

As many of you know, he got sick in the early 1990s from Hepatitis C, from the ‘tainted blood’ scandal. He had a liver transplant in 2001, and when they removed his liver they found it was riddled with cancer. I still shudder to think about it.

A man is so much more than his day job, though. In my humble opinion, the true measure of a man is in the lives he’s touched, and especially those he’s shaped by influence and by example. I look at my brother, who is one of the finest examples of mankind I know, and I see my father’s best work. I see the love between my parents, even after 43 years of marriage, and I am in awe of the endless expanses of true love.

Growing up, I always knew I could count on my dad. He dedicated himself to his family, and I’ve defined my role as a parent on the foundations I learned from his example. When I look back on my youth, I remember the simple joy of spending time with him — sometimes driving the countryside as he took me along to the various schools he was working with, sometimes on the little boat we had when I was a teen, sometimes just sitting on the back deck watching the sunset. My dad has been my safe harbour, my sounding board, and my inspiration. A lifetime ago, at my first (I call it the ‘practice’ marriage) wedding ceremony, we danced to Bette Middler’s Wind Beneath My Wings because I couldn’t then and still couldn’t think of a song that better describes our relationship. Except that maybe we’d be jostling each other for that spotlight. Hey, I come by my love of attention honestly!

And yet, of all the gifts my father has given me, the one I most treasure is the genuine warmth and affection that defines his relationship with my boys, and with my brother’s children. Is there a greater gift than unconditional love?

Happy birthday, Papa Lou. You are loved beyond words.

Papa Lou turns 65!


I get a tonne of traffic googling Ottawa’s new water park. Next summer promises to be a wet one as there are not one but TWO water parks opening in the capital. In the east end, there’s Calypso, which promises to be Canada’s largest water park — cool! And in the west end near Barrhaven, we will have Alottawata off Moodie near the 416. Both are scheduled to open in June 2010.

Edited to add: Alottawata Park has now delayed their opening until June 2012, but you can see pictures from my special sneak peek preview of Calypso Water Park or read about our visit to Calypso park the first week it opened. Fun! And check my “Ottawa Family Fun” archives for more suggestions on great things to see and do in Ottawa!


Congratulations to Rebecca of A Little Bit of Momsense, winner of the HP Photosmart Wireless Premium Fax All-in-One!

Thank you for all your suggestions — some of them made me laugh, most of them inspired me, and some of them I’ve already done! If nothing else, they’ll keep me thinking through the next 240 or so days of shooting!

Thanks again to Hill and Knowlton Canada and HP for sponsoring this contest!


At the end of April 2009, the Senate of Canada released a report titled Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps. I printed it out and have been lugging it around with me (it runs more than 200 pages) for the better part of a month. If you are at all interested in the issues of daycare, child care and early childhood education in Canada, and how Canada compares to the rest of the world, I highly recommend you make yourself a copy and find the time to read it. If you’ve never read a Parliamentary report, you don’t know what you’re missing! And if you can’t quite find the couple of spare hours you’ll need to polish it off, fear not, because I am going to break it down for you and share the highlights over the next little while.

When I read the Executive Summary, my first reaction was eyeball-rolling disappointment. The main recommendations are (spoiler alert!):

1. That the Prime Minister appoint a Minister of State for Children and Youth, “with responsibilities to include working with provincial and territorial governments to advance quality early learning, parenting programs and child care” and to research early childhood development and learning.

2. The Minister should be advised by a new National Advisory Council on Children, on matters of “how to best support parents and advance quality early learning and child care.” The Council would be populated by “Parliamentarians, other stakeholders, community leaders and parents, with appropriate representation from Aboriginal communities.”

3. That the government call a series of multi-jurisdictional meetings to establish a “pan-Canadian framework to provide policies and programs to support children and their families” and establish a “federal/provincial/territorial Council of Ministers…to meet anually to review Canada’s progress with respect to other OECD countries and to share best practices.”

4. The government should establish “an adequately funded, robust system of data collection, evaluation and research, promoting all aspects of quality human development and in early childhood programming, including the development of curricula, program evaluation and child outcome measures.”

Captivating stuff, isn’t it? The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Techonology took nearly three years to issue a report that calls for — more bureaucracy.

Because this is a topic dear to my heart, and because I think it’s important for every single Canadian to know at least a little bit about this issue, and because I like to think I have at least a moderate ability to translate government-speak into a language people other than the bureaucrats can understand, I’m going to take an in-depth look at this report in a series of posts over the next little while. By the time I finished reading it — and I read every single word because there is no end to the things I will do for my bloggy peeps — I was more or less in agreement with the Committee’s recommendations.

This Committee’s report was inspired by a 2006 report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that ranked Canada dead last of 14 countries participating in the OECD’s Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care. As noted in the Senate report, “the 50 reports that make up the OECD’s review of education and care services for pre-school-aged children comprise the largest body of comparative policy research to date in the field” and “allowed Canada to evaluate itself against international peers and provided a unique opportunity to drawn on best practices in early learning and child care policy and delivery.” Did I mention dead last? Ouch.

The OECD highlighted strengths and weaknesses in Canada’s early childhood care and education system. The strengths included the one-year parental leave, Quebec’s early education and child care policies, a well-established kindergarten network for children aged five years and older, and “efforts of provincial administrations to maintain ECEC services ‘despite a withdrawal of Federal funding and a climate of suspicion of public services’.” The areas of concern included:

  • weak public funding of ECEC services, especially for children under five years;
  • the separation of child care from early education;
  • limited access to affordable child care services and particular issues related to access for Aboriginal children;
  • the quality of child care, e.g., very poor accommodation, child care workers’ protective and interventionist approach, lack of direct access to outside space;
  • the apparent predominance of unregulated care; and,
  • staff qualifications and training and other issues related to their recruitment and retention, e.g., absence of federal and provincial/territorial guidelines and low wage levels, and lmited tradition of professional development.

A few more statistics that I found both enlightening and alarming: among the OECD countries under review, Canada ranked in the top 10 in the following categories:

Wealth: ranked 4th in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita
Cost of child care: ranked 4th in amount paid by parents for early childhood services
Child Poverty: ranked 7th overall
Proportion of “working” mothers: ranked 7th overall for mothers with children under three years old and 8th for mothers with children under six years old.

Further, Canada came in 14th out of 20 for early childhood education attendance for children ages 0 to 3 and last out of 20 countries for early childhood education attendance for ages 3 – 6. We came in 15th out of 20 countries on spending on social programs as a proportion of GDP and last of countries compared in spending on early learning and child care services.

It’s not a very pretty picture, is it?

And that’s only skimming through 20 of 200+ pages of information. In the next couple of posts, we’ll take a look at what other countries are doing, why early childhood education is so important to every single member of our society, and what Canada should do next.


The Family Photographer?

25 May 2009 Editorial asides

So I had this idea while I was in the shower. (Some people do their best thinking on the commode. Me, it’s on the shower. Something about cleanliness and fresh starts, maybe?) Actually, it’s the evolution of an idea I’ve been toying with for a while. You guys seem to like my pictures and be […]

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Fun at the Gloucester Fair

24 May 2009 Ah, me boys

I love the fair. I’ve been going to the fair, whether London’s Western Fair or Ottawa’s SuperEx, for as long as I can remember. I love the fair so much that I even love those little mini-fairs they set up in the parking lot of the strip mall, with half a dozen rides and a […]

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Win an HP Photosmart Wireless Premium Fax All-in-One

22 May 2009 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Remember back at the end of April, when I blogged about the nice folks at Hil and Knowlton sending me an HP Photosmart Wireless Premium Fax All-in-One printer? C’mon, you remember this, right? And remember there was a second HP promotion going on that I mentioned in the same post, called Moms for Simplicity? It […]

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Project 365: Are we there yet?

22 May 2009 Photo of the Day

I’m beginning to think this whole Project 365 thing was a tad too ambitious. How’s about we settle for a Project 183 and call it a day? Not that I’m not enjoying it, but there have been days lately when I looked forward to taking another picture about as much as I look forward to […]

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