June 2013

Five is a funny age, especially when you have big brothers. You have one foot stretching two steps up the growing-up ladder, trying to keep up with your older brothers by playing video games and board games way more sophisticated than they did when they were five years old. And on the other hand, you are still easily engaged by “baby” toys — as long as you don’t actually notice they are supposed to be baby toys.

That’s what I found out with the latest shipment of fun toys from our friends at Fisher-Price. As soon as I saw we might be able to get the Imaginext Gotham City set, that went straight to the top of my list. I may have raved about my love of the Imaginext toys a time or two before. And it’s no secret we are superhero junkies around here. So I knew this toy would be an instant favourite with all the boys — and I was right!

FP Batcave

The official description from the peeps at Fisher-Price says: “Imagine a world of action and excitement where you decide what happens next! This time, it’s a trip to Gotham City with The Joker and Bruce Wayne. There’s a working elevator that reveals a Bat Emblem when the figure reaches the top of the tower, a bank with a blast-through wall (just turn a figure on the disk!) that gives you an entry into Wayne Tower, a jail cell (for The Joker, of course!) and lots more! Includes play set with foldout stairs, launcher with projectile, The Joker and Bruce Wayne figures with accessories to turn him into Batman™. Whatever world you travel to, it’s a whole new adventure every time you play!”

Mom says: “It’s great for fine motor control, big enough for several kids to share, and encourages imaginative and creative play.”

The kids say: “It’s awesome!”

Put this one at the top of your list for superhero fans from ages 3 to 8, according to the Fisher-Price website — but our 11 year old thought it was pretty cool, too!

The next toy in the box was a little bit of a gamble on my part. Lucas is a crafty kid and spends a goodly percentage of his waking hours drawing and doing puzzles. At age five, he’s also young enough to really love his stuffed toys. He’s not very rigid in his assessment of boy toys or girl toys, but I figured when he saw the Doodle Bears he would either love them at first sight or dismiss them as too girly.

Guess which impulse won out?

FP Doodlebears2

Much to my delight, Lucas LOVED the Doodle Bears. LOVED them!! In fact, I had to open both boxes the very day we received them, so he could set to work colouring his bears. Have you seen the Doodle Bears before? They’re popular enough to have their own microsite on the Fisher-Price website, but they’ve been off my radar before now. Each bear comes with washable markers and stamps or stencils, and you simply toss them in the laundry machine when your little Picasso is done to clean the slate (erm, bear) so the artiste can get back to work on a new design.

How much do I love this self-satisfied look?

FP Doodlebears3

And they really do come completely clean in the wash. I threw mine in with a load of towels with a bit of a cringe, wondering if the marker would come completely off (the box does suggest washing the Doodle Bear sooner rather than later) or transfer to anything else in the load of laundry, but I was pleased on both counts.

The last two toys in the box were definitely baby toys. I was originally going to partner up with a friend who has toddlers in her daycare for this part of the bloggy toy review, but like so many of my schemes, this one kind of fell apart at the seams. But when Lucas saw the Laugh & Learn Smart Screen Laptop (for ages, ahem, 6 to 36 months) he was instantly captivated.

FP laughnlearn

It has buttons! You can push! And they’re colourful! I swear, if I could make green beans electronic with beeps, we’d have a lot less arguments at dinner time every night. 🙂 I have to admit, for such an inexpensive little toy, the Laugh & Learn Smart Screen Laptop packs a lot of fun activities into one little toy. It has nine big colourful buttons, and teaches letters, numbers, counting, shapes, colours, objects and opposites, and it has a dozen lively little songs that are not too grating on the nerves. What more could you ask for from a toy less than $25? This will be my go-to toy for the preschool birthday parties this season, and I’m not usually one to give a battery operated toy.

Last but not least in the box was the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Storybook Reader. Would you like to review this? I’d love to share it with one of you! It looks like a great way to let your drooly little one play with your iPod or iPhone safely. From the Fisher-Price site: “Open up a world of storytime for baby! This sturdy case looks just like baby’s favorite book and will protect your iPhone® or iPod touch® from dribbles, drool, teething and sticky little fingers. Download FREE story apps so baby can enjoy interactive storytime experiences. Just open and close the case cover to turn pages, or touch the screen on the device for fun responses!” Sounds like fun, eh?

If you’d like to take this for a test drive and you have a sufficiently drooly, sticky kidlet aged 6 to 36 months, leave a comment below. It will be yours to keep in exchange for a couple of paragraphs about how you and your little one had fun with it, and maybe a photo or two. I’ll leave the comments open until end of day July 3 and then choose one reviewer at random.

So now I know – the age guidelines on the box are mere suggestions that I promise I won’t take too seriously from here on. 🙂

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


I seem to be getting a little lazy with the photos of the day and the blogging thereof. There’s too much life in my life sometimes! But I have still been taking pictures and some of them are quite lovely if I do say so myself.

Take a look at these porch portraits from a couple of weekends back, for example. Taking pretty pictures is a lot easier when you have a gorgeous, happy family to work with.

Pretty in pink family (2 of 2)

I love the expression on the baby girl’s face in these. She was tolerant of me, but not much more. I was seriously considering offering up a trade – maybe two boys for one girl? Just for a week?

Pretty in pink family (1 of 2)

The following weekend I had another porch portrait session. I have to tell you, I was a little worried about this one going in. Julie had helpfully e-mailed saying “oh and just so you know, my husband photographs like this” – and attached one of the “Chandler and Monica” photos from the episode where they get their engagement photos done. I dunno, I think he’s pretty darn handsome and Julie is simply gorgeous. What a couple!

Porch portraits with J and two Ms

We’d had to cancel our original session date due to rain, and the sky was rather glum and overcast – but look how gentle and soft that cloudy overcast sky can be!

Porch portraits with J and two Ms

And this little fellow made me work for it but I think I finally got his personality captured in this one.

Porch portraits with J and two Ms

Hmmm, it’s not just girls I want to add to my collection. This one would have fit in with my passel of boys just fine! 🙂

Speaking of boys, in between torrential downpours, there was a little bit of this going on recently:


Most evenings after dinner, you can find us in the back yard trying to tire out the dog!


I found this on my iPhone from our May visit to Amherstberg and had somehow forgotten to post it before now. #latergram


And last but certainly not least, an end-of-school-year tradition: the first and last day of school photo collection. This year:

First and last day of school

Last year!

First and last day of school 2011-2012

And the year before last. Who are these wee baby boys??

188:365 First and last day of school 2010 - 2011

And that, my friends, is why I take photos. 🙂

{ 1 comment }

Found in the Wild

by DaniGirl on June 22, 2013 · 1 comment

in Mothership Photography

Although I post them fairly regularly on Flickr as I find them, I don’t think I’ve ever written a blog post to show you some of the fun and quirky uses I’ve found for the photos I’ve licensed through Getty Images over the last couple of years. Some are lovely, some are delightful and some are just a little bit odd. Here’s a few of my favourites!

My little puddle jumper gets around! I’ve shared with you the use by a bank in the UK and the water colour painting inspired by Lucas and his puddle, and here’s another lovely story to add to this photo’s awesome karma. Apparently the Honest Toddler peeps saw my photo on Pinterest and they tracked me down to ask my permission to use it on their Facebook page. As always, I pointed them toward Getty Images, as I’m not allowed to grant any rights for photos represented by Getty. They bought a license that day and replied within the day to show me how they’d used it. How’s that for a lovely story of a company who respects copyright and integrity? Apparently they really are the HONEST company. 🙂

And Beloved is chuffed that a company owned by Jessica Alba likes this photo of his kid. 😉

Found in the wild - The Honest Company

I have to tell you, this recent one made me laugh out loud. I can’t take any credit for the Mike Duffy part of this composite, but that photo of snowy Parliament Hill in the background is definitely mine. I was especially delighted that this was the photo to go with a Scott Feschuk column in Macleans. 🙂

Found - Macleans illustration

(This is actually my second appearance in Macleans – remember this one?)

Proud Canadian

The Parliament Building shots are popular. Microsoft Canada used this one (bottom left image) on their Corporate Citizenship page but they put their own weird colour filter on it.

Found - Microsoft Canada site

And this is kind of fun: I went downtown and took a picture, which I licensed through an international corporation, and it was used by a business right around the corner from my house in Manotick. Small world!

Found - Parliament tulips

So my most popular themes are my puddle jumper, the Parliament Buildings… and Willie the cat.

Found in the wild - Misbehaving Willie

Found in the wild - Willie in Good Housekeeping Magazine!

Screen cap - Getty sale

(Such a cheerful animal, isn’t he? Just radiates love and sweetness! I’m still tickled by the headline “cutest slideshow ever”.)

The less cuddly creatures are popular photos, too:

Found in the wild - Caiman sale

found - snake

This is one of the more unusual uses I’ve found – someone turned my photo into what I *think* is a scrapbook. Any native Japanese speakers care to offer some insight? 😉

Found - Japanese scrap book

This one is an academic journal.

Found in the wild - Multi-Mom

There have been some big-name publishers, too. Businessweek.com:

Found in the wild - Businessweek

Global News:

Found - RCMP fueling up Global News


Found - LonelyPlanet.com

And the Times of London:

Found in the wild - The Times of London

It’s neat to see them being used, eh? I have over 100 unique photos that have been sold, but most of them have sold more than once. (My biggest seller is still puddle jumper with eleven sales!) But I’ll only ever see the ones that end up on the web in one form or the other – I figure this represents maybe 10% of the sales.

If you’re curious, here’s the set of photos that have sold and another set of all the ones I’ve found online.

{ 1 comment }

We are old skool Thomas the Tank Engine fans. We have Thomas Lego, Thomas books, a Thomas ride-on trike, Thomas stuffies, Thomas t-shirts, and two really big bins of wooden tracks and engines. Tristan received his very first Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train for his first birthday a decade ago, and we’ve been hooked ever since. One of my favourite family adventures ever was taking then three-year-old Tristan on a road trip to see A Day Out with Thomas in 2005. He still talks about it!


It’s not quite the same as A Day Out with Thomas, but this weekend the Thomas & Friends Live Show is coming to Ottawa! If you’ve got wee fans in your house, you won’t want to miss this one. Thomas & Friends Live will be at the St Laurent Centre on Saturday June 22 and Sunday June 23.

Take a ride to the island of Sodor when Thomas the Tank Engine rolls into town! Sit back and enjoy, or get up and dance to the wonderful songs and music of Thomas & Friends™! Catch Thomas & Friends™ live on stage at St. Laurent Centre – admission is free! There are two shows daily at 11am and 2pm.

If you’re not in Ottawa, here’s a complete list of the Thomas and Friends Live tour dates and times (click here for a bigger version):

thomas live schedule

Don’t forget, you can get a new personalized Thomas e-story every month on the Start Making Tracks website. Lucas still loves these – and they’re free! (And I spent a little too much time on this site watching Thomas’s eyes follow my cursor. Just a wee bit creepy, IMHO!)

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


I read this story in the Ottawa Citizen this morning and I cannot stop thinking about it. It’s about an in-school daycare in Hunt Club – a regulated, licensed, let me repeat IN SCHOOL daycare – where two daycare workers were fired after “three or four” kindergarten kids were TAPED TO COTS with masking tape when they didn’t settle down at nap time. “It is unclear how long the children were restrained with the masking tape or exactly where it was applied but the parent who contacted the Citizen said mouths were taped and that it happened on more than one occasion.”

I need to take a deep breath every time I read that. Holy hell, if that were Lucas? You would have heard me bellowing all the way downtown. How on earth does that happen in a licensed daycare in a public school? It would be horrible and totally unacceptable in a private home daycare, no doubt about it, but seriously – in a school? And these people were accredited early childhood educators, according to the story.

I’m just about done my daycare years. In fact, except for a week at the end of this summer, we’re pretty much officially done with daycare. After a long decade laced with wonderful caregivers and horror stories, we’ve finally made it through the other side. Normally, I’d take this opportunity to rant (again) about our collective need for more licensed, regulated daycare spaces but that’s exactly what this was. As if finding decent, affordable child care was not one of the most difficult challenge a modern Canadian parent faces, now we have to worry about this sort of thing?

By the way, I never did get around to blogging the follow-up to my conversation with Lucas’s school about skipping him ahead to Grade 1 or keeping him in senior kindergarten for September. After meeting with his teachers and the principal and reflecting on all your comments (thank you so much!) we decided the best choice for Lucas would be staying the course and keeping him in kindergarten. The reason I mention this now is that the whole idea of the imposed afternoon “quiet time” for naps or resting was my last bone of contention.

Not only do I think Lucas is way beyond needing a nap at this point, but if one were imposed upon him he’d be up half the night. The teachers, who happen to be parents of young children themselves, are sympathetic to this and promised that no naps would be forced on kids who didn’t need them. I have heard of other full-day kindergarten schools, however, who send home “tsk tsk” notes when kindergarteners do not settle down and sleep during the afternoon rest period. Never in my wildest dreams, however, could I imagine something like taping the children to the cots!

So usually I’d end a post with a question to invite your comments like “what do you think” but I’m pretty sure I know what you think on this one. I mean seriously, the question I would really like answered is “how does this happen” and “how do we make sure it never happens again”?


These past few weeks have redefined the word “busy” for me. There have been several presentations for work and outside of work, class trips, celebrations, BBQs, meetings, and everyone in the family has been taken out by one illness or another. I kept taking pictures through most of it, although I think I did miss a day or two, but I’ve entirely forgotten to blog about them. Here’s a couple of my favourites in a catch-up post.

Considering the number of family portraits I produce in a year, you’d think I’d be better at cranking out one or two of my own family every now and then, eh? So I made sure to snag the opportunity when I had everyone (more or less) cleaned up for our dear friends’ wedding anniversary recently to get this photo of the five of us. I do love it!

"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts." ~ author unknown

Speaking of wedding anniversaries… you know the kind of friends in your life who are the very first ones you call when something goes wrong and also the very first ones you call when something goes right and you can’t wait to share the news? These are those friends for me. We’ve all been friends since high school and they are so deeply woven into the fabric of my life that they are definitely more family than friends. And they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary this week (how is that possible when we’re all still 17 years old?) by renewing their vows. How wonderful is that?

Todd & Yvonne

We’ve discovered a new favourite path for family walks along the Rideau River, so whenever we get a break from the rain we try to get out for a wander.

Family walk

Speaking of rain, at least it has been good for the flowers. These are columbine in my mother’s garden.

Columbine (I think)

And also speaking of rain (oy, the rain), when I saw this guy in Starbucks on a rainy morning, I kinda had to take his photo. I’m not usually one for surreptitious street photography but I love how this came out!

Lounging in Starbucks

I know people spend a lot of time trying to get rid of dandelions, but I think they’re lovely, especially when they seed.

Make a wish

(Sorry neighbours!)

Is it summer vacation yet?


Curse you, Michael Pollan!

11 June 2013 Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

When I read Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto in 2008, it radically changed how I thought about food and eating. I took to heart then and still try hard to live by his simple prescriptive advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Every time I visit the grocery store, […]

16 comments Read the full article →

Ask the audience: Internet safety

8 June 2013 Mothering without a licence

Im doing a presentation to a group of parents next week on Internet safety. I’ve got my information all pulled together and I’m putting it into a powerpoint slideshow. I’d love your input on either things that worry you or actions you’ve taken at home to make sure your kids can surf safely. We’re mostly […]

4 comments Read the full article →

Parenting question of the day – split classes and skipping grades

5 June 2013 Mothering without a licence

This question inspired by Lucas, my precocious junior kindergartener. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was dancing with glee at the idea of him benefitting from all-day kindergarten. I knew he was more than ready, and I wasn’t sad about not having to pay one last year of daycare for mornings. Alarm bells […]

27 comments Read the full article →

Royalty Free Images Aren’t Free: Finding and Using Photos to Use Without Getting Sued

1 June 2013 My 15 minutes

Have I ever mentioned that I won our school district’s speech competition when I was in Grade 7? I have always loved public speaking. I’ve been really lucky in the last few months in that I’ve had a terrific number of opportunities to do what I call my “blog and pony” show to internal GoC […]

2 comments Read the full article →