Archive for May, 2008

Organizing digital photos – Works for Me Wednesday

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I read Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst (he writes the Good Experience blog) recently. He shares many good ideas for managing all of the bits and bytes we must work with every day. The chapter titled “Managing Photos” is what motivated me to read the book and it offered clear and simple guidance:

1. Take many photos to increase your chance of getting a great shot.
2. Keep only the fabulous shots and the best one of near-duplicates. (This is the part of the process with which I struggle. I have trouble deleting pics of Reid looking cute or sad or thoughtful or whatever.)
3. Store those that make it past the rigorous vetting within a 2 level hierarchy of [year] and [month number - descriptor], for example, in a folder labelled 2008 there might be subfolders titled 01 general, 01 grandma joyce, 02 daycare, 02 general, 02 winterlude, etc.

The text that explains the method that I’ve summarized will motivate you to finally delete and organize your photos and then keep up with it. Hurst’s perspective on tagging photos and the complexity that we sometimes introduce in our quest to organize had me nodding.

Bit Literacy also covered managing emails, to dos, media, and a variety of file handling tasks. If you take the time to read the whole book, you’ll have quite a few other ideas of things that will work for you as well.

View more Works for me Wednesday posts at Rocks in My Dryer or look at my previous Works for me Wednesday entries.

Paper Bag Princess retold and anniversary

Monday, May 12th, 2008

I took Reid to daycare today, since Ken is in Kingston, it was me or no one. Reid asked what there was to do by the time we made it to the first traffic light. After a big trip, when stuffed animals, markers, stickers, toys and treats come out of bags at unpredictable intervals, the drive to daycare is awfully mundane. I suggested that Reid could talk to me, count schoolbuses or yellow cars, watch for motorcycles … the possibilities are endless. Reid asked me to tell her a princess story.

I know the general outline of the traditional princess stories but Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel and the other usual suspects all depend on princes to resolve their problems. The worst might be the princess with the pea problem is a whiner and I praise Reid’s toughness and discourage any behaviour that would require a visit from the “wanhh-mbulance”. (Word compliments of Uncle Roger to deal with whiney kids.) These stories, then, were off the table. Rumplestiltskin might have been acceptable, if I remembered more of it than that a funny name and a spinning wheel figure in there somewhere.

I settled on a retelling of The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. I think I first encountered this story when I was in university – Munsch has Guelph connections – and I have loved since then. I tried reading it to Reid a year or more ago but she wasn’t as enthralled as me. Maybe she sensed how badly I wanted her to love it. I gave the princess Aunt Pam’s name. I don’t think that is accurate, though. The prince’s name was Ronald. I remember vividly the line, “Prince Ronald you are a bum.” I told about the dragon attacking the castle and the kingdom, not mentioning the fate of all of the people, other than Prince Ronald. Prince Ronald, as you may know, was captured by the dragon and taken to the dragon’s lair. The princess finds him and tricks the dragon into using up all of its fire-breathing capability and energy. Once the dragon is asleep, the princess attempts to rescue Prince Ronald but is rebuffed. He can’t accept her as she is, with messy hair and a dirty face and dressed in the paper bag that she’d managed to salvage in lieu of a dress. Reid was happy with the story.

The next request was for a prince story. I hope the story I made up about Prince William who met a frog in the forest who convinced him that playing in the water was fun and squishing mud between his toes would feel good. The king and queen were glad that he had thought to take off his fancy prince clothes and offered him play clothes for the next day. Getting dirty is important for kids, you know, even for princes. Reid seemed to like this story, too, or at least I think so since she asked me to tell her another. I was saved by our arrival at daycare.

It’s much harder than you would think to be creative without advance notice, in the middle of rush hour. Okay, the drive from our house to daycare isn’t bumper-to-bumper but there are many unpredictable drivers to worry about. It’s best not to be one of them.
When I got to daycare, the Scholastic Book catalogues were on the counter. As I flipped through, I noticed that The Paper Bag Princess – 25th Anniversary edition was available. “What a coincidence!” thought I. Then I thought, was it really 25 years ago that I first read that book. I worked out the math, with much greater accuracy than yesterday when I thought I was celebrating my 3rd Mother’s Day as a mother. So, no, I wasn’t in university 25 years ago. Not even 20 years ago, for that matter. The Paper Bag Princess is still well worth the read. Robert Munsch will even read it for you if you download it.

Mother’s Day – take 3 (make that 4)

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

It’s amazing to me that I’m marking my third fourth* Mother’s Day as a mother today. It seems like no time ago at all that Ken and I talked about how it would be bad luck to celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when I was still pregnant – a mother-to-be I certainly was but not yet entitled to the full festivities. And yet, Reid is a big girl of almost-four-years and yesterday Grandma Barb made a cake that had “Happy Mother’s Day” on it and listed my name along with Lisa’s, Grandmama’s and  hew own. It’s a day for spending thinking about what it means to be a mother, I suppose, but also a day for being a mother – two activities that have trouble co-existing in my life. Reid and I went out for breakfast this morning and then for a swim and some time in a hot tub. She has given me many kisses, one specifically for Mother’s Day, and wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I’ve been chosen as the line leader, an honour to be sure and allowed to use the card to open the door to our hotel room. It’s clear I’ll be pampered today.

If we were at home, I’d head over to the Farm (Canada Agriculture Museum) and if we make it back to Ottawa in time, we just might go there. Of all of the Mother’s Day activities that I wrote about on Thursday, seeing mama and baby farm animals is my favourite. If you’re in Ottawa and looking for other things to do today, check out the newly-updated Ottawa Events with Kids page.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

Edited to correct my math. (There is a reason I pay an accountant to do my taxes ;+)

Advice to Daddy before he goes on a course

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Ken will be in Kingston on a course until next Wednesday night. Reid was talking about his “vacation” Wednesday morning and so I told her that Daddy was going to school for a week but that we’d see him over the weekend. Scheduling a course Thursday, Friday and then Monday through Wednesday is kind of silly but at least Reid and I will get a weekend in Kingston out of it.

Ken kissed us goodbye in the driveway, Reid told him she loved him and to have a good day. I told him I loved him and to enjoy his course. At which point, Reid piped up from the back seat, “Listen to the teacher.” She is the one with the most recent and prolonged contact teachers, after all, and it is good advice. Ken told Reid she should do the same and she answered, “I will” only it sounds like “I wool.” No one told me to listen to anyone. I figure that I’m free to ignore whomever I choose ;+)

Tulip Festival, 1st weekend

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Reid and I went to the Canadian Tulip Festival on Sunday. We went twice, in fact, since we made it all of the way downtown before I realized that I’d left my purse at home. Reid’s eyes were fluttering when we left home the second time and I encouraged her to close her eyes so that she could get her nap out of the way. She actually followed my suggestion and was asleep in moments. I took the Aviation Parkway, being careful to set our newly-installed and fixed cruise control at exactly 60 kph. I saw many daffodils in bloom on the way downtown. There were only a few tulips to be seen until I got to Colonel By Drive and then especially near Dow’s Lake on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. It was kind of cold and grey and so tulip watching from the car was just right for me. Reid missed all but the last few tulip beds due to her efficiency in napping early. The official bloom index was about 60% but I’m not sure which beds are included or what constitutes “blooming”.

As we drove, I pointed out that we were driving beside the Rideau Canal and that the same place where we skated in February was now home to boats. Reid smiled and commented, “It’s named like me!” We talked about the similar sound, how she likes to be called “Reidie” but we could call her “Reid-o” and what letters were the same and which were different. Reid focussed on the Rs being in the same place and was less interested in the reverse of the “eid” and “ide”. Reid sees a lot of signs in this part of the province for companies with “Reid” in their name and is getting used to the reflected glory. Now, she has a canal, too.

We parked under the National Arts Centre since the route to the Byward Market was blocked by the Battle of the Atlantic Sunday ceremony at the National War Memorial. I think I managed to find the parking spot located at the greatest possible distance. Next time I’ll know that parking in section “A” is far better than section “S”. (Obvious when you think of it ;+) Reid opted to ride in the umbrella-type stroller that I’d brought to help us tote our snacks, coats, camera, etc. I hope that I’m not dooming Reid to sedentary life but I have to confess that I still find the stroller to be useful for hurrying her along and for carrying supplies.

There are no admission fees for the Tulip Festival this year; it’s a “festival without fences” in this way. I don’t actually know who coined the term, I think it’s linked to the Célébridée event that is also happening and it’s a cool expression. In any case, the volunteers at the gate gave us a brochure and didn’t ask me for cash. The International Pavillion has areas of handicrafts, foods and other information from a range of countries, 24 in all. It was a sort of a bazaar more than exhibition booths, of the sort one sees at the Canadian National or Pacific National Exhibition. Reid seemed to find it a bit overwhelming, between the colours, noise level and crowds and the fact that she had only recently woken from her nap. Had she been up and active, though, I think I’d have been grumpy that almost everything came at a price. We paid $10 for a decorative representation of Reid’s name from the Chinese area – once we went to a bank machine off of the festival grounds since I’d grabbed my wallet which had lots of plastic but no cash – and took pictures with larger-than-Reid mascots for the Beijing Olympics. I didn’t spend much time looking at crafts since I wasn’t planning to purchase anything.

The Library and Archives Canada had a booth that offered a pencil sharpener, pencil and a “Give Me 5 Generations” work sheet for capturing 5 generations of a family tree. They advertised an exhibit on the Treaty of Paris and also one to mark the 100th Anniversary of the first Anne of Green Gables book. Veteran’s Affairs was promoting its remembrance programming with some colouring/activity sheets, Canadian flags – so popular with Reid, even if she thinks that they’re Sens flags – and some tattoos. The German embassy was giving out flower seeds embedded in cardboard sticks (like an over-sized matchbook), German flags and tattoos. The China exhibit had tourism brochures from a variety of areas. There was a UNICEF table with an ethical gift catalogue, but only in French, and a display from Holland with information about planting bulbs. Otherwise, I didn’t see free information or take-aways. I know the Tulip Festival folks are struggling to stage the festival but I don’t think this year’s exhibits in Major’s Hill Park quite hit the mark.

While we ate our lunch, we saw dancers on the stage set in a hollow square formed by the international pavilion tent. The first group were Turkish (I think) folk dancers. Reid was greatly impressed by their costumes and athleticism. She had many questions and I did my best to answer. I’d have drawn a parallel to highland step dancing as our cultural tradition but I doubt she has ever seen step dancers and, really, a square dance would probably be more relevant as a “traditional” dance for my family of origin.

There is a vintage 1930s-era carousel in the park, as well. Reid was excited about riding on it from the moment she spotted it. We had to wait until near the end of our visit, though, as a man was working on the motor when we first checked on the carousel. Tickets cost $3 a ride, which seemed steep until I considered the cost of tickets for rides at the Metcalfe Fair or other local fairs. I’m pretty sure ride tickets cost about a dollar a ticket and most require at least two tickets. I’d expected to have to pay for myself as well but they let adults on at no cost. At $3 for both of us to ride, it was a good deal. The parents spending $9 for their three kids might not agree. I gave my ticket to one such family and walked away feeling good for having lightened someone else’s burden.

Reid enjoyed her carousel ride on a white horse. It was a valiant steed and provided her a good seat from which to grill me on the carousel’s motor, the mirrors along the top of the interior housing and the motives of the other patrons. The most baffling thing to Reid was the father who sat in the “wagon” behind his daughters. It didn’t go up and down at all! She didn’t believe my explanation that some people like to go around without going up and down.

At one point Reid and I visited a wheelchair-accessible porta-john. It was so nice to be able to drive the stroller right in and not have to worry about which things needed to be carried in. And not having to do the shimmy-shuffle in a small enclosure with Reid was a joy in itself. I’ve made a mental note to look out for such facilities at other festivals. You might want to as well.

On our way back to the car, we stopped to peek through the decorative wall of the Plaza Bridge, beside the National War Memorial, down at the canal. We even tried to take the stairs down to see the canal up close but the barricades were still up from the summer. At least I hope that they were left-over snow safety fixtures rather than permanent barriers. I promised Reid we’d go exploring another time. It’s been far too long since I was in the Bytown Museum and they have an exhibit of childhood this summer, as an added incentive. Being at the Bytown Museum will put us right at the locks as well. They’re small but will still impress Reid. Ken is waiting for a repeat visit to the Welland Canal.

We won’t be in the city for the next 2 weekends of the Tulip Festival. We haven’t been to the Dow’s Lake site in years for anything more than a drive-by of the tulips. Maybe we’ll make it next year.

I noticed on the way home today that the tulips in the middle of the roundabout in front of the Governor General’s residence has the sunshine yellow tulips with petals that “flip out”. They look just like the tulips I draw – or like upside down bells. The tulips in front of the main Foreign Affairs building are the most vibrant orange-red that I could imagine. Tomorrow I’ll have to make a point of noticing the tulips on Parliament Hill. There really are a startling range of colours and shapes within the “tulip family”.

Mother’s Day Activities – Thursday Thirteen

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

With Mother’s Day this weekend, I thought I’d offer 13 things to do to celebrate.

1. Go to a farm and see the mama animals and their babies. The Canada Agricultural Museum offers free admission to mothers. I bet a lot of places do as well.
2. Go to a tea room for fancy sandwiches and a nice cuppa. I went for tea to Zoe’s at the Chateau Laurier with a nephew who was  about 13 – at his suggestion since I’d taken his sister – and we had such a lovely visit.
3. Visit a park or conservation area and look for spring flowers.
4. Check out your local museum for special Mother’s Day activities. Ottawa City museums have quite a few. I’m sure other cities do as well.
5. Make an appointment at  a “paint your own ceramic” studio, like the Mud Oven, and take mom along. If they’re booked or you can’t arrange it in time, make a gift certificate and give it instead.
6. Play hopscotch. I just love it. 
7. Think about gifts that you gave to your own mother when you were small. Would they be suitable for you/your wife? I gave my mom pansies and the like. They always died.
8. Try a new restaurant. Wear a dress and even a hat. It changes the experience.
9. Fingerpaint with your kids. You can all make something for your respective moms.
10. See if there is a soup kitchen that needs help on Sunday or do something else that will help the moms in your city who need help just getting by.
11. Get family pictures taken – the more generations in the shots, the better.
12. Make a video and send it to your mom – webcams are fabulous – or maybe just keep it for yourself. We keep our video cameras on the shelf too often, waiting for a “special event”. Is there an event more special than Mother’s Day?
13. Hug your kids and your mom. Heck, hug your mother-in-law.

Happy Mother’s Day!

View other participants in Thursday Thirteen or look at my previous Thursday Thirteen entries.

Generation gap

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

I was looking at what I’d written this time last year and came across the reasons that I’m glad I’m raising in the digital era. It juxtaposes with a conversation that Reid and I had recently. We were discussing what we would do on a particular day and I said that we needed to know what the weather would be before we could decide. I said, “I’ll just check the weather site” and turned to my laptop. Reid, a girl of action, walked to the front window, looked out and reported that it wasn’t raining. Oh, well, that is a non-digital way of getting some information.

Girls are tougher

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

The family change rooms at Reid’s swimming lessons were outrageously hot and humid last week. Ken and I concentrated on not melting while we got Reid changed into her swim suit. After having sat through the half-hour lesson in the heat and humidity of the pool deck where there was at least some air circulation, going back to the change rooms was a challenge. I took pity on Ken who was more warmly dressed and suggested he wait in the hall. Reid, on the other hand, was chilled from the pool and wanted to lay on the bench under her towel to warm up. I was questioning the sanity of people who voluntarily go in steam rooms. Oh, and I was also hurrying Reid to get her pajamas on. When she was finally dressed, Reid asked where Ken was. I told her that the heat had made him feel sick and he had gone to wait in the hall. Reid said, “You and me are only a little bit sick because we’re girls. Girls are tougher.” Reid’s daddy is plenty tough, though, and I told her so.

Reid on relationships

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

I reminded recently Reid that we would be going to Grandma Joyce’s house later this month. I must not have said “Joyce”, though, because she asked , “To see my grandma with no grandpa.” I agreed that was one way to describe her and mentioned that Poppa Howard’s picture hangs on the wall by the stairs. Reid knows this, we talk about Poppa Howard relatively often. She asked Ken where the picture of his dad is. Ken managed to answer without saying “He’s not dead.” I guess it might be time to get some pictures printed *and* framed *and* hung on the wall. (It makes me tired just to think of it ;+) Maybe I’ll set her up to look at a slideshow of photos on my computer.

Clerk: Do you have a sister?
Reid: No. (Clearly not interested in the question)
Clerk: Do you have a brother?
Reid: No. (Wondering why the woman isn’t taking the hint)
Clerk: Why not?
Reid: Because my mama didn’t have 2 babies. (I’m pretty sure that Reid was wondering if the lady should be holding those sharp scissors since she seemed less than bright)
Clerk: It’s not too late.
Me: Yes, it is. We have a fabulous, one and only child. (Begin speaking with Reid on another topic entirely)

Why do people insist on involving Reid in discussions around my fertility and family-planning? Remember that lady from Hallowe’en, she should hook up with the fabric cutting clerk. It could be the same person, I suppose. I read a blog post about dealing with inappropriate questions at work this week and they recommended saying something about like, “It’s not in the cards,” when asked about having (more) kids. That seems a bit like an apology or an expression of regret. We have one child because that’s how many we wanted and, thanks to modern medical science we can control, we can cause this to be. Oops, I guess I should get off of my soap box now.

Happy Midwives Day

Monday, May 5th, 2008

It’s International Midwives Day today, though some would say International Midwifery Day. When my pregnancy for Reid was confirmed, I called both the Ottawa Midwifery Collective and the Ottawa Midwifery Group. I was told both practices were fully booked for July. I went with the Ob/Gyn associated with my family doctor. We met when I was 24 weeks or so and then had appointments from 32 weeks and for the rest of my pregancy. The Ob/Gyn was part of a practice of more than 10 and they each took 24 hours at a time. I would have had a less than 10% chance of having her deliver the baby, if she hadn’t already planned her vacation for July. With no other choice, I stayed with the practice. I was treated professionally, if impersonally, and after Reid’s birth, I agreed with my mother that it was the nurses that really mattered. I’m not sure what was the name of the doctor who was in the room when Reid was born. The intern actually caught her. At least, I think so. We were also accompanied by a doula and a doula-in-training. Now, they were important to the process. I should note that one of the midwifery practices contacted me when I was about 3 months pregnant to say that they had an opening. I was too superstitious to take the spot of someone who had miscarried but I suppose it could have been someone who moved away or was deemed high risk. Pregnancy and superstition go together, though, don’t they?

Like most women who consider a midwife, I was drawn to:
* the opportunity to spend more time at the appointments;
* the way midwives tend to involve the whole family;
* the choice of hospital or home birth (though I can’t imagine being confident enough in myself for home birth);
* the fact that midwife-attended births see fewer interventions such as forceps, vacuum and epidurals;
* the continuity of care after birth that midwives offer; and
* the breastfeeding support that midwives provide. (That would have been fabulous, as it turned out.)

Since I can’t share my story of a midwife birth, I’ll point you to a couple of other people’s stories. Dani at Postcards from the Mothership wrote about her son’s birth story with midwife care at a hospital and
Amy at Crunchy Domestic Goddess wrote about her son’s home birth which was attended by a midwife.

I’m a researcher at heart and so I have to share a few basic facts. Between 70-85% of women have low risk pregnancies and would be good candidates for midwifery care.  All the same, only 8% of births in Ontario are attended by midwives. This compares to  4% of births in the US. I couldn’t find the statistic for Canada as a whole. I wonder how much these numbers would rise if there more midwives and, maybe more importantly, more access for them to hospital facilities.

If you want more information about midwifery, check out:
* Consumers Supporting Midwifery Care – an Ottawa-based organization that offers information sessions monthly for parents-to-be and those hoping to be that way and guest speakers for high school guidance and family study deparments. They have an annual picnic coming up on May 25th, too;
* Canadian Association of Midwives – the organization that represents midwives and works to spread midwife care in Canada;
* Midwives Alliance of North America – the organization represents professional midwives and advocates; and
* Doulas of North America – the organization represents doulas, those who supply non-medical birth support. When midwives aren’t an option, it is good to have a doula in your corner when dealing with labour and hospital procedures and the way that they “always” do things.