November 2010

It went something like this.

*ring, ring*


Hey, Universe, it’s DaniGirl again.

DaniGirl! Delightful to hear from you. How’s that new house of yours?

We love the house, Universe. We truly love it. It felt like home from the day we moved in. I still keep pinching myself, I’m so amazed that we’re lucky enough to live in this gorgeous neighbourhood.

And the boys are getting settled in their new school and with the new caregiver?

Yep, that’s all working out fine. More than fine, actually. That, and the amazing sense of community here, are giving me reasons to be grateful every day. Did you notice a few weeks back, before it got cold, that Saturday morning when the big boys disappeared from the breakfast table and played outside for nearly THREE HOURS, just rambling about in the yard, the treehouse and the porch?

I did see that. They have a lot more freedom here than they did in the old neighbourhood, don’t they?

And last week, when one of the neighbours invited me over for a street hen-party to welcome a new baby to the street, that was just amazing. The whole street gets together for social occasions — this is the kind of neighbourhood I’ve been dreaming of for years and years.

So what’s on your mind then, DaniGirl? You seem troubled.
[click to continue…]


Simon and the Sparrows

by DaniGirl on November 29, 2010 · 15 comments

in Mothering without a licence

I‘d heard through the parent council that the boys’ school had a special music instructor, but I didn’t know much about it other than he was in the school each Friday, and that he spent time with each of the classes. The boys talked about the tick-marks they got for good behaviour, and some of the instructor’s antics that kept their attention. I’d figured it was similar to the music programs I remembered from my own school days — jingle bells, rhythm sticks with ridges, sand blocks and folk songs.

Then one day a few weeks ago at dinner, the boys started comparing notes (ha! pardon the pun) about their experiences. I was impressed when they started talking about works by “Mr Beethoven” and was gobsmacked when Tristan opined that while he liked the first and second movements of Moonlight Sonata, he definitely favoured the third. I nearly fell off my chair when Simon asked if we could put “Mr Beethoven’s” Rage Over a Lost Penny on his MP3 player. My six-year old wants Beethoven on his music player?!

And then they burst into a harmonic version of Jubilata Deo. They have beautiful, soft singing voices and while they were not perfectly in tune, the spontaneous burst of sacred music at my otherwise chaotic dinner table shocked me into fat, proud tears. What wormhole has opened up and deposited me into an alternate universe?

Simon came home a few days later with a permission slip that said he has passed the audition to the Sparrows choir, an extension of the music program. He could find his place in a sheet of music (no small feat for a Grade 1 who can barely read a handful of words) and could differentiate between whole, half and quarter notes and rests. I was delighted until I found out that the choir practice was outside of school hours. Simon already has skating one night a week, and another evening of rushed dinners and hustling out into the dark evening did not appeal to me. However, Simon was keen and so I said we would try it for a month.

The first practice was this past week, and I was enchanted. The maestro, Uwe Lieflander, from the Sacred Music Society, seemed to place equal import on music and discipline. The children were made to queue up outside while the parents settled in the library, and then they filed quietly in and sat down around the piano in a semi-circle. When the maestro waved his arm, they rose quietly to their feet. The maestro wasn’t quite satisfied, and they did it all over again. He then played a few bars of music and paused, and 30 excited hands shot up begging to be given the chance to name the music. I don’t know if I was more surprised by their enthusiasm or the fact that a gaggle of six and seven year olds could differentiate between Mozart and Chopin.

And then they sang. High, sweet voices, a little ragged and out of time, perhaps, but simply beautiful nonetheless. I could detect an audible improvement by the end of the first session, too.

Simon loves it, and I’m still in awe that my kids have a program like this in their school. And, to be honest, given the choice between a cold bench in a dank ice rink and a warm library full of singing children, I’ll take choir practice over skating lessons any day!


O Christmas Tree

by DaniGirl on November 23, 2010 · 35 comments

in Consumer culture, Happy holidays

Okay bloggy peeps, here’s another debate that started on Twitter but simply needs more than 140 characters to be fully explored.

I am in the market for a new Christmas tree. I have an ‘artificial’ tree that is one of the last surviving remnants from the practice marriage. It’s nearly 20 years old (holy crap, is that true? OMG, it is. Oh my sweet lord, I am getting older faster with each passing year!) and it is a gorgeous tree. It’s just over seven feet tall, full and bushy and lovely. Every year I looked forward to putting it up — it was truly one of my most treasured holiday heirlooms. And, if you’ll remember, last autumn it was infested by rodents. And by infested I mean I found small amounts of mouse turds in the bottom of the Christmas tree bag that the mice had chewed their way through, and shredded bits of the festive red bag woven into some of the branches.

It’s a tainted tree now, even though I put it up and decorated it last Christmas and it was indeed lovely. After I shook the (literal) shit out of it. But ever since the mousecapade, I’ve just lost that lovin’ feeling for my beautiful tree.

I’ve been perusing trees in stores, online and in flyers, but none of them are as lovely as mine once was. I’d actually intended to sanitize our tree by leaving it out in the blazing sun for a couple of days this summer (did you know UV rays neutralize hantavirus?) but alas, I never got around to it. Sigh.

And then this week, it occurred to me that there was another option entirely — a (formerly) live tree.

You can see that I struggle with nomenclature here. Some people call formerly live trees “real” trees, but I can assure you that my plastic and metal tree is entirely real. And I can’t bring myself to call them live trees because, well, they’re well on their way to dead the moment you hack through their trunks. Hmmm, let’s go with “natural” and “artificial” for the distinction. Does that work?

I have never had a natural tree at Christmas. In fact, my father (never to be confused with an environmentalist at the best of times) used to say “In the spirit of Christmas, let’s kill a tree!” I have no idea how to care for a natural tree, and really know nothing about them except that people seem to complain a lot about the mess of getting them out of the house.

I asked the Twitterverse for their opinions on natural versus artificial trees, and got nine responses. Six were enthusiastic promoters of natural trees, one considered switching to a natural tree until she saw the amount of accessories that would have to be acquired, one happily switched from natural to artificial and never looked back, and one lamented the year when the natural tree was knocked over four times, spilling water over the hardwood each time.

Water to be spilled? Oh dear. Three rambunctious and curious boys and we’ve never yet knocked down a tree — but then, we’ve never had gorgeous new hardwood floors, either. You just know that those floors will be a magnet for water to be spilled.

So I’m making a list (and checking it twice) of the pros and cons of each kind of tree.

Natural trees:

Pro : lovely scent of evergreen in house
Pro : can make a family expedition out of acquiring one (insert romantic visions of red-cheeked boys, sleigh rides and Rockwell-esque winter scenes here)
Pro : don’t have to store it in the garage where mice can poop in it
Pro : apparently eco-friendlier than I would have thought, as they’re grown particularly for harvest. Nobody laments the harvesting of carrots, right?
Con : must buy a new one each year
Con : you can’t predict what you’ll get with a natural tree (I like sameness, remember)
Con : have to get (potentially wet, snowy, dirty) tree onto the car (insert comical vision of Beloved, several meters of rope, and the roof rack of the Mazda here) and then into the house
Con : natural trees require maintenance and must be watered regularly
Con : gigantic PITA to get it out of the house without a forest of dropped needles everywhere
Con : sad to see discarded trees at the curb, waiting for garbage pickup
Con : have to take down tree according to garbage-day pick-up schedule

Artificial trees:

Pro : flexible schedule – can put up in October and take down in April if I am so inclined
Pro : one investment now should last 20 years or more
Pro : having the same tree year after year has strong nostalgia factor
Pro : no need to be at the mercy of capricious weather for acquisition of the tree
Pro : artificial trees come packed in tidy boxes that fit handily in the back of my car
Pro : no open containers of water waiting to be spewed onto the hardwood
Pro : less needly mess
Con : needs rodent-free off-season storage space

What say ye, bloggy peeps? Natural or artificial and why?


On daycare, again

by DaniGirl on November 22, 2010 · 4 comments

in Working and mothering

The day after we saw and fell in love with our new house, I posted an online ad looking for child care. That’s before we’d even put a formal offer on the house, before the building inspections, before anything. Because? Quality, affordable child care is that important. And, that hard to find.

I got one promising contact and we chatted back and forth through the long process of listing and selling the old place, and moving and getting settled in the new one. But even though we started the big boys in their new school from the beginning of September, I dragged my heels on transitioning Lucas to the new care provider. She seemed nice enough, but I was content with our existing caregiver. More than content, I adored her. However, the 15 minute drive back and forth to Barrhaven was getting inconvenient, especially for Beloved trying to get all three boys out and get to work himself at a decent hour. After putting it off for several weeks (classic denial — if you ignore the problem it goes away, right?) I finally made arrangements to have Lucas start with the new caregiver last week.

I was practically sick with anxiety. Lucas is not as clingy as he once was, but he is still very shy of strangers. Even though he’d been with our most recent caregiver on and off for six months and I know he loved her, he’d still fuss when we dropped him off some days.

We went for two practice visits at the new caregiver, just dropping by before lunch for a wee visit to meet the other kids and let Lucas get to know her a bit. The first time went well, but on the second visit I looked down at Lucas as we approached the porch and he had tears streaming down his face — even though no mention had been made of leaving him, nor did I have any intention of leaving him. For whatever reason, he sensed that change was afoot and didn’t like it.

And, I must admit, I was anxious about the new caregiver myself. She seemed nice enough when we met, and had great experience, but I fretted nonetheless. For the last several caregivers, one of the big boys had been home with the baby most of the time, which provided a security that worked both ways — I could get a full report from the more verbose big boys, and they could act as a human security blanket to Lucas. But with the big boys now both in school full time, I’d be sending Lucas off by himself. I haven’t send a child solo to day care since my eldest was one year old!

In the nights leading up to leaving Lucas with the new caregiver, I lost many hours of sleep worrying over the transition. Maybe, I thought, we should just make the “commute” to Barrhaven work. After all, wasn’t a stable and loving environment more important than a few minutes of inconvenience and extra driving each day?

The night before his first day, I made sure my work calendar was light and told the new caregiver that if he was too miserable she should call me and I would come and pick him up. I castigated myself for not making a longer transition period for him. I counted my family leave days. I broached the subject carefully with Lucas, telling him what to expect the next day and nearly weeping when he began to object, mollified only by the idea of a half-finished puzzle he had started on one of our preparatory visits.

And you know what? Beloved dropped him off that first day and he went happily into her house without a backward glance. No tears, no fuss. He’s been happy as a clam ever since. He loves his new caregiver, and especially loves her 13-year-old daughter, who seems to return the favour.

So I ask you this: when am I going to learn to stop working myself into a lather over things that turn out to be absolutely nothing?

And if you’re keeping count, that’s seven caregivers for our family in seven years — and ours seems to be a story of success and stability compared to many I’ve heard. We’ve been blessed by some truly wonderful caregivers, and only had a few bad apples in our lot. But of all the challenges we’ve faced in raising our three boys, finding accessible, affordable, quality child care continues to be the most daunting.

We’ve been so lucky, and I’m grateful for that. But something as important as child care shouldn’t be left to the caprices of good fortune. Here’s hoping our luck holds out. I think this one’s a keeper.


As I mentioned yesterday, one of the highlights of the day was the arrival of a REALLY BIG BOX. And yes, as Julie guessed in yesterday’s comments, this box did have something to do with our ongoing PC Holiday giveaway.

I was expecting a box of President’s Choice products. I wasn’t expecting the bonus of three million packing peanuts and an entire rainy day worth of entertainment. I also wasn’t expecting a replay of the delightful fun we had last year when the fun peeps at Hill and Knowlton gift wrapped each product individually with tags specifying which package had to be opened on which day. Guess what? They did it again!

The first thing I pulled out of the box made me laugh, because I’d been idly fingering them literally minutes before at the Independent around the corner. After deciding that I’d already invested a little too much in decorating my festively-festooned porch (a story for another post!) I decided that I couldn’t splurge any more. And there in my gift box was one of these adorable (and, trust me, affordable!) evergreen PC Holiday Wreathes.

PC Outdoor Holiday Wreath

We were a little behind schedule, so after the wreath we had two more packages to open to catch up. Lucas helped!


Yesterday’s gift was a really clever idea: a set of gift loaf pans made out of lined paper. The idea is that you can bake a little loaf of something yummy and then wrap it up in the enclosed red ribbon for gifting. Simple and brilliant. (But better if I could find them on the PC website! Didn’t I kvetch about that last year, too? Grrr.)

Today’s gift was instantly coveted by Lucas, Tristan and me.

PC The World's Best Jumbo Cashews

YUM!! The cashews are gigantic and meaty and salty, oh my! I’ve hidden them in the cupboard so I can ration them out. One for you, five for me. One for you, sixteen for me. I’m smacking my lips just thinking about them!

Thanks to the clever and kind folks at Hill and Knowlton, and to President’s Choice. This is a great new holiday tradition that our whole family loves!


A day that starts with fire trucks in the driveway is a pretty exciting day for a toddler. When you get to the part of the day that has a boy-sized carton filled with packing peanuts? You’ve hit Nirvana. Such is the day Lucas is having today.

It started innocuously, and early. It was just before 7 am. Lucas and Simon were watching TV, Beloved and Tristan were still sleeping, and I was two sips and four pages into my morning coffee and newspaper routine, when I heard the chirp. I cocked my head, listened to the silence for a minute, and then went back to my paper. When it chirped again. I let it chirp two more times before I finally resigned myself to tracking it down.

I figured it was a smoke detector, but when I followed the aural trail, I ended up in the furnace room. I looked all around for the smoke detector with depleted batteries I was expecting to find, but saw nothing. Well, nothing except the 19 year old furnace and the five week old hot water heater. I watched the flashing LED on the hot water heater for a while, and tried to decode the rather unintelligible translation of the signal. Greek. So, I picked up the phone and called the gas company who installed the hot water heater on the day we moved in to the house.

The attendant I spoke to was perplexed. “There’s nothing in the manual for a chirping alarm,” she told me. We chatted as I walked around the hot water heater, trying to figure out exactlly what was emitting the sound. She was just reassuring me that it was likely nothing of concern and getting ready to book a service appointment when I looked up from my squatting-between-the-furnace-and-hot-water-heater-in-my-pyjamas position and saw it.

“Hang on,” I told her as I peered at it, trying to read the writing beside the red flashing LED. I had to stand on the tool box to resolve the label. “Um,” I said, “it’s not the hot water heater that’s chirping. It’s a carbon monoxide detector.”

“Oh,” she said, and in that syllable I heard a complete about-face in her demeanor. “Well, that’s a bit of an emergency, then.” Before I knew it, she had me conferenced-called in with the fire department, and the fire department and the gas company were on the way, and we were supposed to ventilate the house and go wait outside. My first thought was for my coffee, waiting patiently on the side table. My second thought was for Beloved, still snoring in blissful oblivion.

And then we were all five of us outside, sitting on my grand verandah, watching the fire trucks pulling up. Cuz nothing says good morning like fire trucks in the driveway at 7:07 in the morning. The boys, of course, were delighted with this spectacular break from our morning routine. Me, though, I’d begun to feel a little uneasy. The adrenaline rush of, “You must evacuate your family from the house” had begun to wear off, and I had a niggling little worry I was trying to suppress.

Sure enough, when the rescue truck driver did his walkthrough of the basement, he detected no measurable levels of carbon monoxide. He did, however, detect a detector with failing batteries.

Yep. The fire department and the gas company came for a pre-breakfast visit to help us change the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector. In my defense, it was actually the gas company who called the fire department. Had I not been on the phone with them and panicked by the sudden onset of their sense of urgency, I would likely have thought to test the batteries before calling in the civil authorities.

Heh. At least it makes for good blog fodder, right? My humiliation for your entertainment.

And THEN! As if that weren’t enough excitement for one day, a REALLY BIG BOX arrived mid-morning. I’ll save the story of what was in the box for tomorrow, but look how much enjoyment a curious toddler can derive from one box and a whole shitload of packing peanuts.

“Hmmmm, what are these things?”

Lucas and the packing peanuts - 1 of 6

“Hey! This big box is FULL of them!”

Lucas and the packing peanuts - 2 of 6

“They squeak when you walk on them!”

Lucas and the packing peanuts - 3 of 6

“Get these things out of my box!”

Lucas and the packing peanuts - 4 of 6

“Wheeee, I’m upside down!”

Lucas and the packing peanuts - 5 of 6

“Yeesh, who’s gonna clean up this mess?”

Lucas and the packing peanuts - 6 of 6

And at naptime I carefully picked up each damn one of those styrofoam peanuts and put it back in the box to save for another day. If you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas this year, you might want to check the packing supply aisle in the post office!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about what was inside the box!


Loblaws Holiday Giveaway 2010

15 November 2010 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

You know what I love about the holidays? Traditions. And what are traditions but simple repetition? With that inelegant introduction, I give you the President’s Choice Holiday Giveaway 2010. We did this last year, too. Remember the advent calendar of individually-wrapped PC products? And the nearly 200 people who made it one of the most […]

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A Weekend Glow Crazy Giveaway

13 November 2010 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

You know how sometimes you see a toy and you think, “Wow, I’d’ve loved that when I was a kid. Heck, I’d like to play with that today.” Glow Crazy caught my imagination like that. I heard about it through an e-mail pitch, and the Glow Crazy folks were kind enough to send us one […]

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Brothers in the school yard

12 November 2010 Mothering without a licence

So here’s an interesting situation that I did not see coming. The boys have been discouraged from playing together in the school yard. Apparently, a Grade 1 student is not supposed to play with a Grade 3 student at recess, even if they are siblings. In their old school, we would have been facing a […]

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The newest member of our family

11 November 2010 Consumer culture

I adopted a new coffee maker this week. This is a momentous occasion in our household, as the coffee pot is often the last safety rail between me and the gaping maw of insanity. I don’t just like coffee. I need coffee. My name is DaniGirl, and I am a java junkie. We got our […]

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