June 2009

I’ve taken to calling Lucas “Sir Edmund Hillary” because there is nothing that he won’t try to climb. Why? Because it’s there.

I’ve gotten quite laissez-faire about chasing him off the stairs. I don’t rush to take him off the kitchen table any more. (But I do keep the kitchen chairs stacked on the opposite side of the kitchen from the table to discourage him just a bit.) And I’ve completely given up on trying to dissuade him from his “climb onto the end table, over the arm of the couch, crawl or lurch the length of the couch and then roll off the other arm” loop that he’ll happily run five or six times in succession.

We were at the playground yesterday, and he gave me quite the piece of his mind when I pulled him off the ladder (at a height of about five feet) on the big-kids’ play structure. He’s fearless, and relentless. It’s a terrifying combination in a third child!!

But man is he smart! Of course, I’m completely unbiased, but he seems to understand an uncanny amount of instruction for a 16-month old. He will get his own shoes or diaper if you ask him to, and although he hates to be interrupted from his adventures for a diaper change, he will settle down if I explain to him that it will only take a moment for a diaper change and then he can continue playing.

I don’t remember the other boys being so obsessively persistent. He has actually whacked me with a book as I type fiercely on the computer, trying to get something done, when he has decided it’s time for me to read the Busy Little Spider RIGHT NOW. (He’s also tried to push me away from the sink while I was washing dishes and has reached over to pull the camera away from my face. The boy knows his own mind!

My favourite thing about Lucas right now, though, is how he loves his toys. He will sit and play quite happily with any kind of action figure, but he loves Bob the Builder the best. He’s discovered Simon’s superhero figures, though, and it’s rather adorable to hear him say “Ba-Man” and “Spi-Man”. (He doesn’t, mind you, say Tristan or Simon yet, but he’s got his superheros down cold.

And let me tell you, there’s going to be hell to pay if that child says Wolverine before he says Mommy!


Is it me, or have the people down at the weather office taken to drinking in the afternoons? Or maybe in the mornings? I mean, I know weather forecasting is more art than science, and that there’s a reason they deal in probabilities. But seriously? They’ve been wrong more often than they’ve been right in the last month.

This one takes the cake, though. I was checking the forecast for Canada Day and the upcoming week this morning when I saw this:

snow joke!

That’s right, they’re calling for snow. On Canada Day.

I’m going to hope they’re wrong on this one. But maybe I should dig out my red and white scarf just in case?

P.S. Snow aside, isn’t that just about a perfect vacation-week forecast? Sigh. If I had even the least bit of confidence in their prognostication skills, I’d be annoyed.


Project 365: summer beauty

by DaniGirl on June 26, 2009 · 6 comments

in Photo of the Day

I think I might have taken nearly a thousand pictures this week. There have been days during my 365 project that I didn’t even feel like picking up the camera — this week did not contain any of those days! Everywhere I turned there was beautiful warm light, cute kids and interesting photo opportunities. Every week should be this easy!

For instance, last Friday we had our annual staff picnic, but instead of the traditional picnic we went on a boat cruise on the Ottawa River. I *could* post the pictures I took of my colleagues doing a mid-afternoon conga line (!) but instead, I’ll share this relatively unique perspective of the Chateau Laurier and the Rideau Canal locks (the bit that looks like giant concrete steps) where they dump into the Ottawa River. Doesn’t it look like something out of a fairy tale?

151b:365 Chateau Laurier and locks

The Chateau Laurier pictures was actually my alternate shot of the day. This dock lead down to the Gatineau River, near where the cruise was docked, and I liked the contrasting purple and yellow (complimentary colours really make a photo pop) and the shapes in the shadows.

151:365 Crazy coloured dock

Does anything say summertime better than after-dinner popsicles on the porch swing? (Yep, we collected an extra for this picture. She matches my set nicely, don’t you think? Sadly, her folks won’t let me keep her. I think that if I could guarantee she’d turn out just like this, I could easily convince Beloved to have a fourth child!)

152:365 Summertime on the swing

I spent more than half an hour on Sunday morning, watching the gorgeous warm light bathe Lucas as he played contentedly with these Bob the Builder toys. I took at least 60 shots, trying to capture the quiet peacefulness of the moment, and ended up having a hard time choosing just a couple of favourites.

I liked this one because of the way Lucas’s profile is in shadow but bright yellow Scoop is fully lit, and the way you can see Lucas’s profile so cleanly against the wall behind him.

153c:365 Scoop and Lucas

I liked these two because the little hands could have belonged to any of my three boys. I love to see those chubby fingers at play!

153a:365 Scoop and Bob

In the end, I liked this one the best, I think because you can see the whole of Scoop and because I moved a bit to eliminate the distraction of the door frame that’s in the picture above.

153:365 Scoop and Wendy

For the next image, it’s the story as much as the photo that makes it the picture of the day for me.

It was hot and sunny, just the kind of day I like best, but I was overheated and cranky and really not feeling well as I finished a long 10 or 15 block loop on my lunch hour. I’d snapped a few pictures, but nothing was really capturing my eye and I wasn’t even enjoying the walk much. I went to turn down a street that would lead directly back to my office, one I’d trod a hundred times before, when I realized if I stayed on straight I’d walk down a block I’d never been down before.

Shortcut or new ground? I debated for a minute, thinking it unlikely I’d see anything worth photographing on such an uninteresting stretch, then decided to walk the new stretch anyway.

Half way down, I came across this young lady sitting at a table selling lemonade and busking with her ukulele, raising funds for a trip to Scotland. I was completely and utterly charmed by the combination lemonade stand-ukulele show. The picture is not terrific — the money jar blocks the head of the uke — but I was a little distracted by chatting with her as I composed the shot. She was so sweet and the idea so charming that I couldn’t *not* have this as my picture of the day! (I passed on the lemonade, but I did give her a few bucks toward her trip.) It’s also #3 in my 100strangers.com project.

154:365 Scotland or bust

On Tuesday, I had a lunch date with the inimitable Andrea, and rather than sit on a patio to enjoy the sunshine and a cold beverage, we ate a quick Budawich on a park bench and wandered the Market with our cameras on a little photo safari. It was so nice to have some company on one of my lunch-time wanders! I didn’t get many pictures in, but great conversation with a good friend is a balm for the soul, isn’t it? I did find these fuscia blooms dangling out of a basket to be particularly photographable, though.

155:365 Mystery flower

I’ve learned that flowers are an excellent choice for an easy photo. They stand still, they’re bright and colourful, and I just can’t resist them! I particularly liked these daisies. I have a soft spot for daisies – I wore them in my hair when Beloved and I got married, and they featured predominately in the wildflower bouquet that I carried and the centrepieces on the picnic tables at our reception.

157b:365 Daisies

The problem with never relinquishing the camera is that you end up with photographs of everybody and everything *except* you. When I started my 365 project, one of my self-imposed rules was a self-portrait every month. I don’t think I’ve managed more than a few so far, but yesterday I caught sight of myself in this reflective window in the Market and thought the bright busyness behind me would make a neat selfie.

157:365 Reflective

These are my favourite photos of the week. We had an old fashioned ice cream truck rumbling around the neighbourhood this week, complete with tinkling music and soft-serve ice cream cones. I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid in the 1970s. (I remember the one that used to come through our neighbourhood would moo like a cow, and our dog would tremble and hide under the furniture every time it went by!)

I love this picture because of Beloved’s smile (and the way that Lucas looks like he’s going to eat the cone in one giant bite!) but I’m not overly fond of the highlights on Lucas’s face. The contrast is too strong, I think.

156b:365 More ice cream

I love this one the best. I coloured it with a light sepia because I think it’s such a classic photo. (My favourite bit is how Lucas is holding onto Beloved’s fingers!)

156:365 Ice cream

I do love them so – and I think this photo captures that. I think of the many ways that Project 365 has inspired me and improved my mad photographic skillz, this is the one I most appreciate: that I can capture not just an image, but the mood or moment in its entirety that caused me to pick up the camera in the first place. Well, at least some of the time!


A happy day for the sandwich generation

by DaniGirl on June 25, 2009 · 4 comments

in yay day

You know what? We haven’t had a “yay day” around here in ages. On a sunny blue morning, it seems like a fine day to be grateful out loud.

My biggest “yay” today is for my mom: she retired yesterday. Yay for retirement! Well, she actually retired a while back, but her last day of work was yesterday. I think she’s still dancing with glee today!

Funny aside: Way back when she was in high school in the early 1960s, the nuns tried to refuse my mom entry into the business stream of classes because she was at the time already seeing my dad, and they said the business classes would be wasted on her because she was just going to get married and have a family straight out of high school. My grandfather raised a storm and she was eventually allowed to take the classes. Turns out the nuns were right — she did get married and start a family, and then she only put those secretarial and accounting skills into action for the next 45 years or so. (*insert eyeball roll here*)

You know what’s really weird? On the path I’m currently on, I’ll be eligible for fully-pensioned retirement in just 15 years. (!!) I’ve already got almost 20 years under my belt — that makes me more than half way done my career. Hard to imagine that Lucas won’t even be done high school by the time I’m eligible to retire! Of course, with two in university and one just getting ready for university, I might not be able to afford to retire!

So yay for retirements, current and pending! And more stuff to be grateful for: it’s the last day of school! Yay! I remember last summer I was dreading everyone being home, and then I cried in September when everybody went back to school. So yay for being stuck with your family all summer long! I can hardly wait! (And I’ll try not to be bitter while Beloved AND the boys AND my folks are all off and I’m still trudging to the office. There’s another yay — for 20 years worth of accumulated vacation leave!)

And yay for excellent report cards! Tristan’s lowest mark was in (snicker) gym, where he got a B-, but he got As in both math and reading. Math! My boy!! And he doesn’t get it from his father, either! Since both of his parents need to take off their shoes to count beyond ten, it must be a genetic throw-back. And while they don’t get letter grades in junior kindergarten, Simon is progressing well in all areas but excelling in (snicker) communication. My Simon, who could talk the feathers off a duck. Hmmm, that must be a genetic throw-back, too.

So today is an excellent day for the sandwich generation. I’m proud of my folks, and proud of my boys. The sun is shining, and it’s going to be my favourite kind of summer day.

What’s making the sun shine in your world today?


Once upon a time, I had a crush on an altar boy. I used to go to Saturday evening mass just because he was there, and then we’d head out in a noisy, happy gang to do whatever it is teenagers do on a Saturday night. In fact, he was the boyfriend of a good friend of mine. They were “the” couple in our high school, the inseperable ones, the ones who were together so often that you really started to think of them as a single entity.

I’d known him since grade school, but it wasn’t until half way through high school that our social circles started to intersect regularly. We became friends, and soon the three of us — he, his girlfriend, and I — were spending a lot of time together. One March Break his girlfriend went off to Florida and he and I spent the whole week together, not quite bold enough to do more than hold hands discreetly when we knew no-one was looking, but there was no mistaking the mutual attraction between us. I was 16 and desperate for affection, but not desperate enough to be disloyal to my friend.

She came back from Florida and I’m pretty sure she was oblivious to what had almost happened in her absence. We went back to being the Three Amigos again, but it was never as comfortably fun as it had been in the months before. I didn’t exactly pine for him, nor resent his girlfriend, but felt a kind of melancholy sadness over what I knew would never be.

A few weeks later, I started seeing a boy who lived out of town. I drifted away from my friends, as often happens in high school (and for that matter, even now) when a new boyfriend comes into the picture. Our social circles still intersected, and I saw them occasionally. In fact, it was less awkward being a threesome with an invisible and out-of-town fourth than it had been before. Just a few days after graduation, though, I moved across the province to live with my new boyfriend. In the adventure of new love, I left most of my best friends behind me like discarded possessions.

Through the years, I thought often of my altar boy and regretted losing touch. While I’d managed to keep in touch with the dearest of my high school friends, my altar boy seemed to drop off the map after graduation. I knew he and his girlfriend had broken up, but nobody seemed to know what had become of him. Through the years, I’d idly check online directories and alumni lists, but his name was nowhere to be found. He’d disappeared – but I never stopped wondering about him.

He was, in many ways, the one that got away. I wouldn’t change the path that my life has taken for any sum of money, but he’s the one that I would wonder about, late at night, especially when things were in turmoil. What if? What if? What if I hadn’t had that ridiculously overdeveloped sense of loyalty, that long ago March Break in 1986? What if I hadn’t been so desperate for attention and affection when the new boy swooped into the picture?

The fact that he disappeared so utterly and completely after high school only elevated him to nearly mythic status in my imagination. I imagined him doing some sort of foreign aid work in third-world countries, or planting trees in the Amazon rain forest, or riding his bicycle across the country to raise awareness and funds for some obscure disease. Of all my friends, he seemed the most likely to do something like that.

And then one day, I found him. On Facebook. I was perusing the ‘friends’ list of another friend from the same high school social circle, looking for familiar names. (Do you do this? I scan the list, see names I recognize, and then do nothing about it. Why do I bother if I’m too shy to reach out? Facebook brings out the strangest bits of me.) When I read his name, I’m quite sure my jaw dropped open in surprise. I know for a fact my breath caught in my throat. Could it be the same person? Of course it was, but I had so elevated my altar boy to the stuff of legend that to find him in such a pedestrian place — stumbled on to in a Facebook account of all things — seemed so unlikely that at first I simply stared at his name in wonder.

At first, I was so surprised to find him that I did nothing. I clicked back into Facebook a few times, just looking at his name. His icon was nondescript, a blurry photo that could have been just about anybody or – for that matter – anything. I agonized over how to make contact. Whether to make contact. Countless scenarios spun out in my imagination, not least of which would be him replying to my query saying he didn’t remember me from high school. (After all these years, it’s rather alarming how close to the surface resides that crushingly insecure fourteen-year-old girl I was.)

Finally, I spent an hour crafting a two line message, imbuing it with as much friendly nonchalance as I could muster. I think I hovered with my mouse pointed to the send button for an eternity before releasing 20 years of “what if” with a single click of the mouse.

For a week, nothing happened. Well, lots happened, but nothing that could have possibly met the expectations pent up in my Facebook account. Just when I was beginning to think I’d been mistaken — mortally, painfully mistaken — I got his response.

We exchanged a few messages in that stilted way that comes with intimacy followed by a 20-year gap. I learned that he had a daughter, herself a teenager now, but no wife. He is a salesman, living in a middling-to-large city that I’d visited a few times. I told him that I’d married, and divorced, and remarried, and that I was happy. He never said whether he was happy, too. Our conversation petered out after just a few messages, with neither warmth or regret. It’s been more than a year since we made contact, and each time I see his name in my list of friends, I feel that pang of lost wonder.

His ordinaryness continues to amaze me.


40 until 40

by DaniGirl on June 22, 2009 · 5 comments

in It IS all about me, Photography

In forty days, I’ll be forty years old. Eep! How did that happen?

You know why I know it’s forty days? Because yeseterday, when Beloved and I went out to buy my combination 40th-birthday / 10th-wedding-anniversary present, I was feeling a little guilty that it was neither our 10th wedding anniversary (July 3) nor my 40th birthday (August 1). But when I realized that it was 40 days until my 40th birthday, I was okay with the synchronicity in that. Twist my rubber arm.

The real reason we bought it yesterday was because it was on sale and I’m just a little bit more cheap thrifty than I am romantic. Ironic, really, because while I desperately wanted it, the last day I’d really need it is on the solstice, the longest, lightest day of the year.

It, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is a fancy-ass flash for my Nikon. Am I spoiled or what? I’ve wanted one in an oblique way for a couple of years, but now that I’m getting more creative and competent in my picture taking, I’ve been thinking for a few months that it would make a really kick-ass 40th birthday present. It’s a bit of an indulgent gift (much as I wish it were otherwise, we’re not $300-birthday-gift kind of people!) but my folks kicked in a bit, and 40th birthdays and 10th wedding anniversaries don’t come around every year, right?

But holy crap, off-camera flashes are a LOT more complicated than they were back in the days I was shooting film on my dad’s old AE1. (Or maybe I was just blissfully oblivious and always had my flash on the wrong setting? Good probability!) It’s much like my dSLR in that you can just pop it on the camera in auto mode and get flashing, but there are degrees of creative control that fill a 100-page manual filled with text that frankly makes my eyes glaze over!

It’s not exactly a featherweight, either. It probably doubles the bulk, if not the actual weight, of the camera. Good for planned semi-studio shots, not so good for toting around with you to the grocery store and the mailbox and all the other odd places to which I bring my camera. Good thing the long, delicious light of summer will be with us for a while!

I’ve become so anti-flash in the last little while that I got curious. When was the last time I used my on-camera flash anyway? Looks like this one, taken March 29, was the most recent one!

69:365 Slinky

And the idea that I’ll be 40 years old in 40 days? Wasn’t bothering me much at all until I kept typing it into this blog post! Why does 40 seem so much older when it’s pixelated in front of my eyes than it does when I try to stretch it out in my brain. How can I be 40 when I’m still 23?

Forty: the decade when she learned to flash. Yep, I think I’m good with that!


Project 365: 150 days down, 215 to go

19 June 2009 Photo of the Day

Holy crap, I’ve been doing this picture-a-day thing every. single. day for 150 days and I haven’t missed one yet. Who’d’ve guessed it? The nice thing about Project 365 in the summer time is that just about anywhere you point your camera there are lovely colours and light just begging to be photographed. Like these […]

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More thoughts on full-day kindergarten

18 June 2009 Working and mothering

I thought it was worth a second post (here’s the first) to link to some of the fantastic opinions people have expressed on the subject of full-day kindergarten in Ontario. In our little corner of the blogosphere Rebecca at a bit of momsense is still on the fence. BeachMama isn’t on the fence at all […]

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The Family Photographer: Composition 1

18 June 2009 The Family Photographer

I have to laugh when I look at the pictures I used to take when I was younger: as soon as whatever subject I was trying to capture was in the frame – anywhere in the frame! – I’d push the shutter button. Don’t get me wrong, it works — but if you take a […]

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All-day kindergarten recommended for Ontario

16 June 2009 Working and mothering

A couple of weeks back, I started writing a series of posts about the state of early education and child care in Canada. The first post was an introduction and summary of the Canadian Senate’s report called “Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps.” I was rather underwhelmed by the Senates main recommendations, which were […]

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