October 2009

Okay, seriously? I am so sick of taking pictures. Really, really sick of taking pictures. So unbelievably sick of looking for pictures, finding pictures, taking pictures, processing pictures, posting pictures, talking about pictures, thinking about pictures, and the endless 24-hour loop of it all.

And I still have three months to go. Save me!

The theme this week is, not surprisingly, autumn leaves. I mean, it’s not even like taking a good picture is difficult these days. There are gorgeous colours and shapes lying on the ground just begging me to take a picture of them! Like this picture from earlier this week — I just walked out of the office, pointed my camera at the York Street steps, and snapped. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel!

278:365 Leaves on the York Street Steps

And this one, also courtesy of the downtown trees. (Who knew that fallen leaves could be so very colourful? Every primary and secondary colour save blue appears somewhere on the leaves in this picture!)

281:365 Fallen leaves

In fact, all these fall colours might be making me a little bit lazy. I was on the way home and realized I hadn’t so much as clicked the shutter all day (did I mention “so very sick of taking pictures”?) so I snapped this one of the bench in our front yard. Even a rusty old bench looks kind of snazzy with a background of leafy bokeh to set it off!

279:365 Rusty bench

I know I’ve already shown you my pictures from our Lime Kiln Trail hike on the weekend, but I wanted to point out this picture in particular again. To me, this picture represents that despite the inevitable ennui and frustration of the 365 project, you can’t help but improve your photographic “chops” by taking a picture every single day.

Each time we’ve fed the chickadees over the years, I’ve tried to get a good shot of them eating the seed out of my or the kids’ hands, and have been mostly unsuccessful. The little beggars move so fast that it’s surprisingly challenging to get all your photographic elements in line — in focus, good composition, decent exposure, etc. But this weekend, even though I had my manual focus 50 mm lens on the camera, when this chickadee hopped up on my cousin Mike’s hand, my reflexes kicked in and I got a pretty good shot right off the bat. If you look at it large, you can even see the details of the individual feathers around its face, even though its eye is just a tiny bit too dark to resolve. And the chickadee is set off by a bright area of the background, nicely lit from behind. Instinct + reflexes + luck = good photograph!

277:365 My little chickadee

This picture of the sunrise over the Byward Market — not even the best of the week, IMHO, let alone comparable to some of the really great shots I’ve taken lately — has nonetheless made it into Flickr’s Explore. I suppose this mollifies me somewhat on the fact that I have to continue to commute downtown each day…

276:365 Urban sunrise

And no, I haven’t lost my fascination for through-the-viewfinder photography, I just find carrying my TtV contraption around with me a little bit tedious in the merciless drizzle of late. Did somebody mention autumn colours?

280:365 Indian corn and acorns

And there’s no doubt in my mind that this week, I’ve definitely saved the best for last. Speaking of inevitable improvements — I think I’m finally making some progress on my portraiture skills! This may be my favourite picture of Lucas ever. Don’t you just love the expression on his face? Of the hundreds upon hundreds of times I’ve pointed my camera at him over the last 20 months, this is the first time he’s ever gazed directly into the lens!

277:365 My littlest one

Okay, so the 365 project may be a little tedious right now, but when it works, the rewards are worth it!


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I must be getting a little bit blasé about talking to the media these days, because I actually completely forgot to check this morning’s Globe and Mail after one of their journalists interviewed Beloved and I earlier this week until one of my colleagues commented that he’d seen the article. Sheesh!

Anyway, there is a nice little article on the front cover of the Life section of today’s Globe and Mail about the decision we make as parents whether to vaccinate our kids for the H1N1 flu. I think the journalist gave a really fair representation of our conversation and our feelings on the subject.

Oh, and after this I think we will be able to move on from all-H1N1-all-the-time and return to our regularly scheduled programming. Probably.


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Dear nurses, paramedics, city staff and others who were staffing the Walter Baker H1N1 vaccination clinic yesterday:

Thank you.

I tried, as I was moving through the various stations and lines yesterday to say thank you personally to as many people as I encountered, but from what I’ve seen, each and every one of you should be applauded.

We had intended to show up around 1:15 pm to line up for the clinic that was scheduled to open at the Walter Baker Centre in Barrhaven at 2:30 pm, but I noticed on Twitter around 11:30 that someone said they had already received their numbered bracelet, so I hustled my 20-month-old and five-year-old sons out the door by a little after noon, making arrangements for my mother to pick up my seven-year-old from his school at 1:15 as I’d originally planned.

We waited in the first line up at Walter Baker to get our numbered bracelets for maybe 30 minutes, maybe a little bit longer. My only suggestion would be that you put someone near the end of that line to explain to newcomers what to do and what to expect. When I asked the person handing out the bracelets for one for my seven-year-old son, whom I understand is outside the priority age group but whom I really wanted to have vaccinated to save me a third and fourth trip to the vaccine clinics, he said no but when I asked to speak to a higher authority (politely, and stepping out of the line to do so, so that I wouldn’t keep others waiting unneccesarily) the public health nurse flagged us through before I even finished my request.

We were given our bracelets and told to return at 4:30 pm. I can’t tell you how impressed I am by your system and its relative efficiency, and how grateful I was to spend the waiting period with the baby napping in his own crib and both boys in school where they belonged, rather than trying to engage them for hours on the community centre floor. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When we returned at exactly 4:30, they were already calling our numbers into the queue for registration. There was some confusion as to where we should stand and how we could obtain the necessary paperwork, but it was fairly easy to resolve. Despite the fact that they must have been exhausted from dealing with frustrated, stressed and not always pleasant people all day long, everyone who directed us was unfailingly pleasant and obviously trying to make the best of the situation.

We waited nearly an hour in the registration queue, a good portion of which was taken up by me completing all five forms. Once our paperwork was checked, we didn’t even have to queue in the secondary waiting area for our shots — we were brought directly to an available station.

The majority of the stations seemed to be staffed by paramedics when we were there, although we saw a public health nurse. She was pleasant and efficient, although even then it probably took her at least 15 minutes to work her way through all of our injections. While they were waiting, the big boys entertained each other by finding the children at other stations who were making the biggest fuss. When it was their turn, my seven-year-old didn’t even flinch, the five-year-old fought back tears, and the baby howled blue murder for about a minute. And we were done.

In all, we waited half an hour for our bracelets in the morning and were in and out of the clinic in 90 minutes in the afternoon. I know many, many people will complain about how poorly run things were, how inconvenient it was, and a litany of other complaints. In fact, one woman tried to get a bracelet when I was getting mine by jumping the queue, saying she was diabetic and needed one but needed to get back to work. She was told to wait in the queue, and she refused. We ended up riding the elevator down together, and she looked at me and shook her head and said, “Isn’t this ridiculous? What a mess!” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Actually, I think they’re doing a pretty good job.” She looked at my kids, my stroller and the bag full of activities I’d packed expecting an all-day wait and said, “Well, some of us WORK for a living.” I grinned my least pleasant grin and told her that I too work for a living — I’d just prioritized this and planned ahead. She stalked away without another word.

All that to say, I have no doubt that you will hear numerous complaints, both legitimate and otherwise, about how the city of Ottawa is running its H1N1 vaccine clinics, but my family would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who contributed to the clinic at Walter Baker Centre yesterday. You did a great job.

Sincerely,
DaniGirl

P.S. I have less than pleasant things to say about OC Transpo, but I’ll save those for another day…


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I think I’ve discovered the most beautiful place in the entire city of Ottawa to have as a setting for a family portrait! On the weekend, the big boys and I, together with my cousin and his son, took a hike that I’ve been meaning to check out for years, the Lime Kiln Trail off Moodie Drive.

May I please take a moment to say how grateful I am to live in a city that offers such an extensive and impressive and — best of all, FREE! — well-tended hiking trails? I love Ottawa, and what the hell, I love the National Capital Commission, too!

The Lime Kiln Trail is part of the Stony Swamp conservation area in the west end of the Greenbelt. We’ve hiked the Jack Pine Trail with Simon’s preschool (another lovely walk that I’ve been meaning to revisit) and I’ve always wanted to check out the ruins of the old Lime Kiln on the other side of Moodie Drive.

It’s a super-easy hike. In fact, we kept walking right past the ruins, wondering if the trail would loop back, and only turned back after another half hour when the trail got too swampy. It’s so unbelievably gorgeous right now, but I imagine it’s a great hike in just about any season.

The ruins themselves are quite cool. According to the interpretation panels, the Lime Kiln was built in the 1880s but was abandoned and only rediscovered in the 1970s. In 1999, it was somewhat restored. Now, it comprises mostly the stone foundation walls, making for a very exciting discovery for young explorers, tucked deep into the forest and far from the road. (Well, not too far. I think the ruins themselves, comprising a couple of separate buildings, are about a kilometre from the P10 parking lot off Moodie Drive.)

See?

277b:365 Lime Kiln Hike

We completely forgot to bring birdseed for the chickadees, but that didn’t deter them. I swear, these are by far the friendliest, bravest wild birds we’ve ever encountered. We’ve stood for ages on Hogsback with hands outstretched and palms filled with birdseed, and still had no chickadees brave enough to land. Maybe they’re stocking up in anticipation of a long winter, or maybe they’re just more used to being hand fed along the Lime Kiln Trail, but we only had to hold up a hand and be still for a moment and we had birds practically pushing each other out of the way to land on our — and on the kids’ — fingertips.

277:365 My little chickadee

If you go: the P10 parking lot closest to the Lime Kiln Trail is on the west side of Moodie Drive, in between Fallowfield and Hunt Club. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the ruins along a very well marked trail. Follow the blue triangles!


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I read with interest the story in the media this weekend of how the Walt Disney Company is offering refunds on the purchase of Baby Einstein DVDs, after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood challenged the idea that the DVDs were a teaching tool rather than simply brain candy for toddlers.

Okay, seriously? People really thought that these DVDs were learning tools and not just a way to keep the baby entertained for 20 minutes so poor mom can take a shower or load the dishwasher or just gaze aimlessly into middle space for a precious hiatus?

But I was curious and I knew I wanted to blog about this story, so I did my due dilligence — which, apparently, the Ottawa Citizen / CanWest Global did not. The original article I read, which I read in the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday, says refunds would be made available to American AND Canadian parents, but when I went to the Baby Einstein Web site, I found that the offer is — as usual — good in the US only.

So let me get this straight — gullible American parents who feel they’ve been duped can be compensated, but gullible Canadian parents, who pay about $5 more per DVD by the way, are SOL? Nice.

***

The good news is, we should be hearing about the “blueprint” for all-day kindergarten in Ontario today from Premier Dalton McGuinty. I’ve heard that it will be rolled out in a limited fashion within two years but full implementation will take up to five years. Hoping it comes to Ottawa for the fall of 2012, at least!

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I spent a lot of yesterday scanning Twitter for H1N1 chatter. Even anecdotally, I can see the tides turning in favour of the vaccine and in my opinion, rightly so. Even though I heard that the vaccine clinics were a bit of a debacle yesterday — seriously, they have people lining up OUTSIDE for up to THREE HOURS?!? — I am highly, highly impressed with the city for implementing a twitter account that updates the wait times at various vaccine clinics across the city. One of the smartest government applications of social media I’ve yet seen. Bravo!

And here’s a tip for those of you without a twitter account: you can still read the latest update by going to http://twitter.com/ottawahealth. For previous updates, just scan down the page.

I’m pulling the big boys out of school and blowing off nap time (lord help us) on Wednesday afternoon to bring the kids in to get the H1N1 vaccine. Say a prayer to the god of short lineups and patient children for us, willya?

By the way, I was listening to CBC radio this morning, and Kathleen Petty was interviewing a local pediatrician (or maybe family doc) who had just won a prestigious award of excellence. They were talking, of course, about H1N1 and the doctor provided in just a few sentences the information that I’ve scoured hundreds of articles looking for. The main indications of *any* flu are cough and fever, plus at least one of sore joints, runny nose, etc. She said unless you have cough AND fever, emphasis on the “and”, you likely don’t have any kind of flu but if you do have (or, if your child has) both cough AND fever, you should be proactive about keeping your self/child home. Finally, a rule of thumb!

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Thanks to everyone for your considered and considerate opinions on yesterday’s peanut butter toast post. I think that in the end, I agree with whomever suggested that the restaurant was certainly within its rights to honour the family’s request that no peanut butter be served, but that it would have been better handled had they informed people as they came in the door and not as their food was being served.

Edited to add: Please, if you haven’t already, read this comment from Jody. One of the most reasonable, well-informed comments I think I’ve ever read on the subject of peanut allergies. Thanks Jody!

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I’m just putting the finishing touches on my giant annual list of local Christmas and Holiday parades! I love doing this post each year — and there are some exciting changes to the City of Ottawa parade this year. More soon – stay tuned!


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Peanut butter toast

by DaniGirl on October 26, 2009 · 41 comments

in Mothering without a licence

I would like to ask you all a question, but first a caveat. This is likely to be a sensitive topic with strong feelings on either side – which is why I’d like to examine it. I’d like to make a special effort here to ask you to be respectful in your comments. Not that I really need to — you are all considerate and thoughtful nomatter what the topic — but I don’t want this to seem like a post designed to stir things up, merely to have a chat about something that I found curious.

Having said that…

Almost every Sunday morning, we have breakfast with another family also challenged by blessed with three boys. Yesterday, we were placing our order when a very large group, a group that seemed to be a hockey team or something similar, settled into a long table behind us. Because there were so many of us, and so many more of them, we pretty much took up the whole section of small, pub-style restaurant.

As the server brought out our food, my friend asked for some peanut butter and the server explained to her that the party at the next table had asked that no peanut butter be used in the restaurant while they were there because of severe peanut allergies.

We were, to be honest, very surprised. I am used to allergy concerns from schools and from friends, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of anyone asking an entire restaurant to deny their patrons peanut butter during a Sunday-morning breakfast rush. We complied, of course. We are blessed to be largely free from allergies, and doing without peanut butter through one breakfast is a hardship we are quite able to endure — although there was some moaning and complaining from our, erm, peanut gallery.

On the other hand, we wondered why someone who is so at risk and so sensitive to peanuts would even come in to a restaurant that serves almost every plate with a side of toast.

It must be exhausting to be so vigilant, and I have nothing but sympathy for the parent and the child, but it does make me wonder how far we should be expected to go to accomodate those with these kinds of severe allergies. I honestly don’t mind packing nut-free lunches and snacks, and we managed to choke down our toast laden only with jam. But is it really reasonable to ask an entire restaurant to pass on the peanut butter due to one child’s allergies?

I don’t even know the answer. I suspect if it were my child, the answer would be “hell, yes!” But then, I would also be embarrassed about the imposition. And, to be honest? If it were me, think I’d just avoid going out for breakfast.

What do you think?

Oh, and by the way, a friend of mine has recently been inducted into allergy hell with her one year old and is scouring the blogosphere for information and perspectives. If you know any good blogs laden with allergy-relating parenting perspectives, can you pass them along in the comments? Thanks!


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H1N1 and Halloween

24 October 2009 Life, the Universe and Everything

I’ve finally made my peace with the H1N1 vaccine and decided to get the shots for our family. For what it’s worth, this Wired.com article helped me decide to do it. But I have another question for you. I heard a passing reference in the media the other day (note to self, must get over […]

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The really odd post-script to the missing bra story

23 October 2009 Happy @ home

So I did, in fact, find my bra. It was behind the little end table beside the wing chair, but it had only slid part way down in behind and gotten stuck, so it never actually hit the floor. Aha! The really weird part? This morning, I was at work and went to use the […]

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Project 365: Getting competitive

23 October 2009 Photo of the Day

I’ve reached a funny place in my 365 photo project. I really think a lot of the pictures I’ve taken in the last ten days or so have been some of the best I’ve ever taken. The pictures I’m discarding as not-quite-good enough are better by far than the ones I would have said were […]

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The case of the disappearing bra

22 October 2009 It IS all about me

I may be losing my marbles. I have, in fact, lost my bra. I’m not sure which is worse. Not just any bra, mind you, but one of the fancy ones I bought this summer at Bra Chic. Remember the cherry red one that made me look 10 lbs thinner and five years younger and […]

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