September 2015

The idea that I’m forty-six years old still sort of freaks me out. In my head, my mom is still 46, and I stopped aging somewhere in my early 30s. Neither one of those compute from a biological let alone mathematical standpoint, but I suppose it’s better to be feeling a decade younger than I am than a decade older, right?

The good great news is that I’m in better physical shape than I’ve been in decades, if ever. Thanks to weekly hot power yoga, 10,000 steps most days and learning to cook and eat whole instead of processed foods, I reached my goal weight in early summer and am still here in early fall. It’s only when I see myself in the mirror at yoga class that I think I could maybe lose another five or ten pounds, but in general I’m stronger and healthier now than I was in my 30s.

The signs of aging are present, though. When I had my most recent annual (sort of, more like triennial) physical, I had a laundry list of irritants. Since then, I’ve had physio for my knees, cortisone injections into the tattoo that continues to react to the red ink a year later (not so much age as pure bad luck to choose a colour to which I am allergic, I suppose), frozen nitrogen sprayed on the bridge of my nose to arrest a per-cancerous spot developing (oh freckles and endless summer sunburns), and follow up to my mammogram five years ago.

Ear trumpetThe last on my litany of system checks was a hearing test. I’ve suspected for years that my hearing is sub-par, and that’s only gotten worse in the last year or so. Any sort of foreground noise, like a running faucet or the microwave makes it nearly impossible for me to hear something further away. In places like crowded restaurants, I can only make out the conversations of the people sitting on either side of me or people talking directly to me. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve bellowed to someone elsewhere in the house “if I can’t see your face, I can’t hear you.” Beloved seemed convinced for years that it was selective hearing, but it has come to the point that I am constantly asking him to interpret: “What did Lucas just call from his bedroom about the pineapple and the escalator?” And I’ve passed through yelling at the TV for mumbling and just resigned myself to hearing only about 2/3 of most TV shows.

My inner hypochondriac was both validated and alarmed to find out that in fact I do have some hearing loss in both ears, mostly around the higher frequencies of the human vocal range. It’s not significant, and I have no difficulty understanding conversations in a normal setting. Add in any background noise, though, or face away from me, or drop to sotto voce and I’ll probably start to lose you.

I learned a lot of interesting factoids as we discussed the results of my test. Vowel sounds are made in the voice box, deep in the throat, and are therefore generally of a lower frequency than consonants, which are generally made at the teeth, lips and with the tip of the tongue, and are therefore higher in frequency. I tend to have trouble distinguishing those rather than difficulty hearing outright, so while it may seem to me like someone is mumbling or failing to enunciate, it’s really a perception problem on my end. (Except with my teenager. He definitely grunts instead of elucidating actual syllables.)

There’s apparently not much that I can do to accommodate my hearing loss, either, which makes a diagnosis both validating and rather pointless. I’m not “yet” (sigh) at a place where a hearing aid would be beneficial, and the audiologist said that they are often more trouble than people anticipate. I remember a relative with a new hearing aid mentioning that suddenly being able to hear background noise that was previously filtered out was more of a trial than something to celebrate. We do have a baseline for future tests, at least, and it was suggested that I go back in two years or sooner if I notice a significant decline. The rather constant buzz of tinnitus is also apparently part and parcel with the hearing loss – he said something about the brain striving to fill in the noise it thinks should be there but can’t detect, which causes the faint ringing. Bodies are weird, yo.

The only part of the exam and diagnosis that really took me aback was when the doctor referred to reduced hearing as a “hidden disability.” A what now? I mean, I guess it’s no worse than needing glasses and not happening to have them on your face – my blur is around my hearing and not my eyesight – but I was still sort of alarmed to have it contextualized that way. My hearing is less than ideal and won’t ever improve. Hmmm. I’ll have to stew on that one for a bit.

Speaking of eyeballs – at least they haven’t let me down. While I’m needing to hold things further and further away to get my eyes to focus properly, I haven’t yet run out of arm. I have, though, suffered the great indignity of handing a medicine bottle off to a nearby youngster recently with the rather cross demand that they read the label for me.

How are you aging, my bloggy peeps? There’s a cohort of us that are in this together. Now that we’re approaching the end of our extended warranty period, how are your internal and external systems holding up?


When you have two shedding pets, three messy kids, and two adults with questionable attention spans for domestic activities, you get pretty excited at the idea of a simple tool to help stay on top of everyday tidying. That’s why I was more than a little excited when the fine folks at Hoover offered to send us a 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum for review.

We need to sweep pretty much every day. For years, I’ve been using one of those semi-disposable stick vacuums but over the last few years I’ve been increasingly unhappy with mine. For one, I have to replace them about once a year and while they are cheap they are not inexpensive. For another, the battery never seems to hold a decent charge anymore. And finally, I did not love the chemical-laden disposable pads. So, I was already optimistic that the 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum might solve some of those problems. In fact, it seems to have solved all of them and quite a few more.

Disclosure: not me, not my fashionably neutral house.Here’s the official schtick on this stick:

This 4-in-1 stick vacuum uses a Cyclonic Filtration system, creating powerful suction that can cut through any mess. The Vac+Dust Tools capture heavy dirt and debris, while the SWIPES™ micro-pads eliminate all traces of dust. Just snap on the Crevice Tool and extend your cleaning reach to swipe dust and debris from book shelves, curtain rods, ceilings, cupboards, and everything below. The Pivoting Extension Tool gives you precision and control when cleaning areas that are out of sight and reach. Likewise, the Powered Stair & Upholstery Tool adjusts to clean every part of the step, while the 27 foot cord allows you to move easily from room to room. With the detachable hand vac, hard jobs like cleaning the car interior are made easy! Powered with value, Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum includes a budget-friendly reusable Quick-Rinse Filter.

Ha, did you see that bit about cleaning the car interior? So maybe this will never happen again?

Beloved was the first to try it out. In fact, he had it out of the box and was vacuuming with it before I even got home from work. Can you tell which one of us is more domestic? He was impressed, but I reserved my opinion until I could try it out myself. Ahem, about a month later. Hey, he was doing such a great job, I didn’t want to take his toy away!

It’s a zippy little thing, WAY more powerful than the battery-powered one I’ve been using for years. In fact, one of my only quibbles when reading the description was that it was corded and not battery powered. However, with a 27 foot cord I can reach the entire main floor from one of two outlets and cord management was never a problem. (Talk to me sometime about how I feel about cord management for my electric lawnmower. THAT is a whole other issue.) And best of all, I never again have to find myself with 2/3 of the house swept and a battery losing its charge.

Photo 2015-09-25, 2 53 15 PM

It does a FANTASTIC job on everyday debris. It has strong enough suction that pet hair gets pulled in from a decent distance, and it was strong enough to pick up peanut shells, coffee grounds, and bits of dry cat food. It actually sucks up the dirt and pet hair instead of just pushing them around, and I love the idea of the washable, reusable mop head. I did find it a teeny bit on the heavy side, but not uncomfortably so.

image006It has several attachments, including an extension wand so you can use it for small spaces or as a normal stick vac. There’s a mop attachment for hard-floor dusting and vacuuming, a crevice tool, and a stair and upholstery attachment. There’s even an attachment to clean the ceiling fan. Are you supposed to clean the ceiling fans? (Aren’t they by design self-cleaning, flinging the dirt off every time you turn them on?) I had a field day bopping around the house cleaning off the top of picture frames, window blinds and other surfaces that might have possibly been examined last when we moved in.

What this isn’t is a replacement for a heavy duty vacuum for carpeting, but it is an excellent alternative to semi-disposable battery-powered sweeper sticks. I’m keeping mine in the hall closet where the boys can easily find it now that I’ve added vac-sweeping the house to their daily chores.

In sum, I liked Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum for quick everyday cleaning, and sweeping is about the ONLY domestic cleaning, besides dishes and bed making, that I’ll be convinced to do every day.

The Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum is good for:

  • people with hard surface floors
  • people who don’t rely on centrifugal force to keep their ceiling fans clean
  • people with steps
  • people with pets
  • people whose spouse kids swipe the crumbs from the table onto the floor when they think nobody is looking
  • people with several road trips worth of snack food ground into the upholstery of their car

The Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum is NOT good for:

  • people with wimpy wrist strength (it’s not toooooo heavy, just heavier than I was expecting)
  • people who hate the environment and prefer to keep using chemical laden disposable sweep pads
  • people who like crumbs stuck to their bare feet and dust yeti lurking under the bed
  • people with wall to wall shag carpeting (but seriously, what are you doing with shag carpeting in the kitchen anyway?)

This little vacuum is the perfect solution for our main floor, but our canister vac just this weekend beat its final bar. Any recommendations for a good canister or upright vacuum that will live in harmony with my new favourite cleaning tool?

Disclosure: I was offered a free Dirt Devil’s 360 Reach™ Bagless Stick Vacuum for review, possibly because the nice folks at Hoover realized I needed a domestic intervention of some sort. I genuinely like it, though!


This photo was taken at the tail end of summer, but doesn’t it have a lovely fall feel to it? Perfect to celebrate the first day of autumn!

Portrait of a family walk

I had a great time working with this fun family on a portrait session in the park. They wanted a mix of candid action shots and informal posed photos, but wrangling a preschooler and a toddler who had their own ideas proved to be an adventure all on its own. When that happens, all you can do is roll with it – literally, in this case with my trusty wagon. Luckily, they had a great sense of humour and we all ended up having a fun play in the morning sunshine.

Aren’t they a beautiful family?


There’s no greater honour than a repeat customer. This fellow came to visit the porch last year when we was barely old enough to sit up on his own. A year later, he can sit up, walk, and run away like this every time he saw the photographer coming to pester him again!

unhappy baby

That may be one of my favourite outtakes ever!

Poor guy, we had to work hard to make him comfortable and find ways to pose him, because he did not want to be out of reach of his mom. Finally, we found ways to compromise.

Holding on to mom

Don’t you love those soulful brown eyes?

Ah toddlers, you make me work so much harder – and the results are always worth it!

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You might remember that I had the chance to see the debut performance of the National Art Centre Orchestra’s new concert master Alexander Shelley last spring. I was intrigued and charmed by his playfulness and joie de vivre, and felt a curious connection with him that made me want to follow his career with the NAC Orchestra.

Dear Life, Opening Night at the NAC

You can then imagine my delight when I was offered tickets for the upcoming opening night for the 2015 – 2016 season of the NACO coming up this week. It wasn’t until I started reading about the performance that I realized what an incredibly ambitious production it would be, and how it would weave several threads that have always been dear to my heart.

In addition to more traditional pieces by Mahler and Elgar, the opening night performance will feature the world premiere of a new score commissioned by the NAC and based on Dear Life, the short story by Alice Munro. It will be a multi-media piece featuring the photography of Larry Towell, the first Canadian Magnum photographer and known for his work featuring the same southern Ontario landscape that Alice Munro weaves into so many of her stories, the same southern Ontario landscape where I grew up, and which drew me in to Munro’s short stories in the first place.

So wait: a new concert master at the National Arts Centre, conducting a newly commissioned piece based on the work of one of my favourite authors, featuring world-class photography of images inspired by the people and places where I grew up? A photographer who published a body of work called “The World from My Front Porch”? How could I not be giddy with excitement over a performance like that?

Intrigued? You should be – I’ve only scratched the surface of the incredible ambition of this uber-Canadian performance. Read this article in the Citizen for more: NACO’s cutting edge: Dear Life leads the way into a new form of musical presentation . If you don’t mind the spoiler alert, you can even read the adaptation of Munro’s short story, Dear Life, in the program notes for the performance (opens as a PDF). And of course, tickets are available through the NAC website for performances on September 16 and 17.

Disclosure: the NAC is my longest-standing bloggy sponsor, and I was offered complimentary tickets to this performance. However, this post was predicated on nothing more than sheer giddy enthusiasm. The more I read about this performance, the more excited I get. I can’t wait!


Oops! I accidentally saved this as draft and then wondered why it didn’t post!

Here’s my wee babies, all grown up on the first day of Grade 2, Grade 6 and Grade 8.

First day of school

Handsome devils, eh? They get that from their father. 🙂

So far, the year is off to a good start. Crazy to think that next year, I’ll have one in elementary school, one in middle school and one in (gasp!) high school!


Don’t just hang your photos: Make wallpaper out of them!

8 September 2015 Mothership Photography

When a colleague got in touch to have photos done with his husband and son this spring, I was a little bit anxious. Okay, that’s a fib. I was REALLY anxious. It wasn’t so much the photo session that worried me as it was what he planned to do with the photos that sent me […]

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Photo of the day: Jumping out of summer

7 September 2015 Photo of the Day

Sigh. I like autumn with it’s new faces and new schedules and new friends, but I’m always sad when summer ends. Happy end of summer, y’all!

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Flashback faves: Back to school

5 September 2015 Ah, me boys

Found this in the archives, published on this day back in 2007: Tristan starting SK and Simon in preschool. Where HAS the time gone? They’re starting grades 6 and 8 next week! Last night was “meet the teacher” night at Simon’s nursery school. They had an open house, and everyone was invited to drop in, […]

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Ottawa family fun: A voyageur canoe trip on the Rideau Canal

1 September 2015 Ottawa Family Fun

Great news: I have a most excellent new suggestion for an affordable family activity that involves fresh air, exercise and a fascinating and fun lesson in Ottawa history. Not so great news: the season is over until spring, so you’ll have to wait until next year to try it out for yourself. As I’ve mentioned, […]

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