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Family Reunion

Friday, June 30, 2006
It's family reunion season, so I guess it's only fitting that I've been hosting a family reunion of sorts via the blog.

If any of you who aren't related to me have ever wondered where I got my unique blend of humor and sappiness, the family reunion that is taking place in this thread should give you a few clues. It's definitely in my blood.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:31 AM

The Father of All Philanthropists

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Philanthropy has always been good for business, but Warren Buffett's now legendary donation to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is remarkable in so many ways that I simply haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I first heard the news coverage a few days ago.

I admire Warren Buffett's humility (the fact that he was willing to merge his fortune with someone else's because he felt that their foundation could accomplish more good in the world than he could on his own) and the fact that he wasn't willing to give his adult children the world on a silver platter (something that would have happened by default had he not made a decision to the contrary). I also admire the fact that he speaks up for what's right, even when his views aren't popular amongst his fiscal peers. (He's in favor of estate taxes and life's other great equalizers -- something that doesn't exactly score you a lot of free drinks at the country club.)

When you read about his humble beginnings, his stellar business career, and the principles that have guided him every step of the way, it's pretty awe-inspiring stuff. As the Christian Science Monitor noted in its tribute to Buffett: "In the end, it truly is a billion-dollar heart, not wallet, that makes a difference." And Warren Buffett certainly has that.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:54 PM

The National Post Bedsharing Story

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The National Post is running an interesting series on sleep. Today's installment zeroes in on the always heated bedsharing debate.

You'll find me quoted at the end of the piece, commenting on how heated and emotional sleep issues can become -- particularly at 3 am.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:13 AM

Saturday Round-Up Kind of Post

Saturday, June 24, 2006
I've been mentally blogging for days. It's time to actually put my fingers on the keyboard. Blogging in your head gets exhausting after a while. Besides, this will help to distract me while my oldest drives herself and her boyfriend into the city so that they can go to the Nine Inch Nails concert at Ontario Place. It's a big step for her and for me. I am just trying to imagine a posse of Toronto parents out there sprinkling mom and dad karma throughout the city, making the city safer for other people's kids.


Okay, on to the much-needed distractions.

  • The New York Times reports it received "an extraordinary outpouring of letters" responding to that article I blogged about last week ("Breast-Feed or Else"). Hardly surprising, given how passionately most mothers feel about the subject of infant feeding, and how polarized the debate can become when either side takes an extreme position or tries to shout down the other team -- what seemed to me to be happening in this case.

  • One of my sisters called to say that Canadian Living has given Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler: The Ultimate No-Worry Approach for Each Age and Stage a nice thumbs up in its July issue. "Your Kids" columnist Cheryl Embrett, describes the book as "a fun, informative no-guilt guide that will help everyone in the family rest easier." CanadianLiving.com is featuring some excerpts from the book on its website: The Secrets of Sleep-Savvy Moms and Top 12 Sleep Solutions for Parents of Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.

  • I've been playing with online toys again -- specifically a Trumba Calendar that feeds an upcoming events box at the bottom of this blog as well as on some of my other blogs; and I've been having fun playing with my del.icio.us tags, too, as you'll see if you check out the new bookmarks feed in the sidebar.

  • I've been doing a lot of thinking this week. Thinking, organizing, answering emails (yep, some people have been surprised to get replies to very old emails), getting random thoughts and worries out of my head and on to my to do list (like productivity guru David Allen suggests; and otherwise catching up, restrategizing, and doing all the things I haven't had a chance to do for a year. This is the mode I intend to be in all summer and it feels great. I highly recommend mental housecleaning (as opposed to obsessive white-glove real housecleaning, unless, of course, that's what puts a bounce in your step).

| posted by Ann D @ 1:36 PM

Sound Advice

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I've been paying extra attention to sounds ever since I heard yesterday afternoon's CBC Freestyle interview with Aaron Ximm, the fellow who came up with the idea of the one minute vacation. (Basically, it's an instant audio vacation you take by downloading a sound clip.) This inspired me to experiment with the recording software and built-in microphone in my laptop. I made this recording of the sounds on my cottage deck earlier this afternoon. If you listen to the clip, you'll hear the wind rising and falling, the wind chimes sounding, and the odd bird sound or chipmunk noise.

Wind Chimes on My Cottage Deck in June (.wav)

Wind Chimes on My Cottage Deck in June (mp3)

[Note: My Internet connection speed is too slow to let me test that these are working properly. I'm connected via dial-up at 24000 bps! So hopefully one or both will work for you. They work fine offline, but that doesn't mean a lot.]

Right now, I'm enjoying a wonderfully rejuvenating mini-sabbatical at the cottage by myself while my youngest is on a school getaway at camp. (I know. The freedom is positively intoxicating.) I plotted out an entire novel last night. It came to me in a flash so I thought, "What the heck. I'm writing this down." It may sound like utter crap when I re-read the notes in future -- or not. Parts of it have possibility. One part of the plot stinks. I'm going to play with it some more and see if I still like it -- or if it leads me to something I like more.

I like having time to mull things over, with no time pressures whatsoever. Right now, I'm downloading mail on the only phone line in, so no one can phone me, fax me, or otherwise communicate with me. (Gosh, that sounds awfully hermitesque, doesn't it? But when you're in a really creative frame of mind, sometimes you really want to get away from every distraction on the planet. That kind of begs the question: why I am I downloading my email?)

I'm totally alone up here: there's not another soul on the entire lake. The only companion I have to keep me company is the squirrel (or mouse or rat -- I'm thinking squirrel) that keeps dancing in the ceiling of the cottage. (My husband has asked me to try to figure out where it's getting in. I did a brief, very brave walk around the cottage, waiting to be dive-bombed by a rabid rodent. I figure that covers off my obligation.)

Just had my lunch -- at 4:30 pm. (Yes, I'm going crazy with the freedom. Or should I say a little squirrley?) Think squirrels, not mice. And certainly not anything yuckier. That is my mantra.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:54 PM

Because Mondays Can Sometimes Be Less Than Inspiring....

Monday, June 19, 2006
....I wanted to pass this along. Dive in. Be inspired. Come up with your own list of 52 Projects.Or 51. Or 53, if you prefer. Jeffrey would definitely approve.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:27 AM

Mealtime Solutions Baby Food Diary Now Available

Sunday, June 18, 2006
cdn parenting bookThe Baby Food Diary (.pdf) which has been designed to accompany Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler: The Ultimate No-Worry Approach for Each Age and Stage is now available.

| posted by Ann D @ 5:49 PM

Hallmark Doesn't Have a Card for Every Dad

I always have a hard time finding a suitable Father's Day card for my Dad. I always end up buying one for him, but, it never quite captures the things I want to say about him. (I guess I'm asking a lot from a $5 greeting card.)

When I was growing up, Dad was much more than a Dad: he was the briefcase-toting superhero who arrived home at the end of the day, ready to deal with whatever was waiting on the other side of the front door: a wife who might be surfing the crest of a bipolar high or being dragged out to sea by the subsequent low; plus four daughters who were counting on him to help them to weather the turbulence. It was only when I grew older that I realized the complexity of Dad's superhero moves -- everything that he had to take on behind the scenes to help my Mom. (My Mom did her best, but her illness was really severe and she really struggled.)

Not all marriages are able to survive the hurricane that is bipolar illness, particularly when the illness is as severe and relentless as what my mother experienced. The fact that my Dad also supported my Mom through three very difficult battles with cancer (every illness becomes more complicated when you throw a severe mental illness into the mix, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond) -- including the one that took her life three-and-a-half years ago -- makes him even more of a hero in my eyes. Add to that my Dad's strong sense of justice, his wacky sense of humor (pun-ishingly bad, if you get my drift), and all the other things that make him who he is and you'll see why i've yet to find a greeting card that says what needs to be said about my Dad.

Maybe I should go back to making my own cards, like I did 40 years ago. Sometimes cut and paste collages or spray-painted macaroni say it best of all.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:47 PM

Reading Between the Lines

Friday, June 16, 2006
There's the public persona and then there's the private persona. Which one is the real Caitlin Flanagan? That's the question Jennifer Lawrence poses in her insightful and daring profile of Caitlin Flanagan, over at LiteraryMama.com.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:56 PM

More Smart Parent Brains (These Ones Belong to Dads)

I don't know about you, but I'm totally hooked on all these scientific studies about smart mom brains, smart dad brains, etc. It's sure a refreshing change from those annoying "placenta brain" jokes of days gone by.

If you want an excellent roundup on the latest news on this front -- particularly the mounting evidence that becoming a dad makes a guy smarter -- you won't want to miss this piece from ScienceCentral.com.

Print it out and use it as gift wrap for that special dad in your life on Sunday morning.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:11 PM

Chew On This

Thursday, June 15, 2006
It's kind of surprising that KFC would decide to go ahead with this Today's Parent email blast campaign targetted at families tonight, given the bad press it received earlier in the week when a joint Globe and Mail/CTV investigative report spotlighted the high trans-fat levels in some of its foods.

The menu -- which the company is promoting as the perfect menu for "the dinner table, the picnic, the family reunion, or Father's Day" -- features fried chicken, fries, "traditional salads" (the photo shows macaroni and creamy coleslaw), gravy, and brownies.

The nutrition information (.pdf) available on the main KFC website doesn't contain trans fat data, but it still makes for very interesting reading, particularly if you're fascinating by the anthropology of food. (Popcorn chicken. That is practically guaranteed to find its place into the anthropology books, don't you think?)

For more on fast food, see Diane Peter's article "Weighing In" in Today's Parent's ongoing "Fat Action" series -- a series designed to encourage Canadian families to make healthier choices when it comes to feeding their kids and to otherwise tackle the Canadian childhood obesity crisis.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:44 PM

Making a Living as a Canadian Writer

Wondering whether that "starving writer" myth is, in fact, a myth? If so, how do you reconcile that image with those reports of blockbuster book deals?

Suzanne Boles and Carolyn Gibson -- the newly elected president and vice-president of The Professional Writers Association of Canada -- talk about what it takes to make a living as a non-fiction freelance writer in Canada in this interview with London, Ontario, journalist Jim Chapman of Jim Chapman Live.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:10 PM

A Newborn Starbucks

I happened to be passing through Leaside twice in the past few days, so I got to visit the new Leaside on Laird drive (in that new megastore development just south of Vanderhoof -- the one with the Best Buy and the Home Depot) twice in the past few days. The store only opened last Friday.

The people who work in the store are really nice. They had some extra sandwiches left last night close to closing time and I hadn't had dinner yet, so they gave me one for the road. (I had to drive home after a day of doing media in the city as part of a promotion for Movies on the Go: I was asked to offer summer travel tips for families and to create a summer craft/activity kit that families could take on the road to keep school-aged kids happy/entertained.)

I'm probably going to be visiting this location on a fairly regular basis because it's near my sister's house, my Grandma's retirement residence, The Ella Centre, my favourite Winners -- and it will serve as a perfect coffee pitstop before I hit the highway for home when I'm leaving T.O. I am so happy there's now a Leaside Starbucks. Woo hoo!

| posted by Ann D @ 9:28 AM

This Book

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
This Book is going to be great.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:25 PM

Liquid Gold

Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Breastfeeding is the optimum method of feeding a baby. It delivers huge benefits to both mother and child. That's indisputable. But until the social supports are in place to make it possible for every woman to obtain proper assistance troubleshooting any breastfeeding problems (a lactation consultant is an unaffordable luxury to many women, after all) and for every woman to take a reasonable length of time off work after the birth of a baby (12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave is all that US employers are required to provide by law, and many mothers in both Canada and the U.S. -- including many self-employed moms -- don't qualify for maternity leave at all), is it really fair to lay the mother of all guilt trips on moms who are unable to measure up to what has become the new gold standard of mothering?

When health officials make statements like "Our message is that breast milk is the gold standard, and anything less than that is inferior" as Dr. Suzanne Haynes of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does in today's New York Times, will mothers make the distinction that it's breastfeeding -- not them -- that is being judged. Or will that message get lost along the way?

| posted by Ann D @ 10:30 AM

Food Art

Friday, June 09, 2006
Holy cow. These are amazing. Ditto for Marla's culinary piece de resistance.

I realize I'm a bit late to the fun art party, but it's never too late to ogle over this kind of creativity....especially if, like me, you think you're gifted if you can make a happy face using banana slices.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:23 PM

Mug Shots

Thursday, June 08, 2006
I've had more trouble getting Blogger to work in the past few days than I have in the entire time I've been blogging. Every time I've gone to put up a post or to comment on another blog that's hosted by Blogger (like this one, for example), I get a friendly little note saying that the engineers are working on the problem and I should go and make coffee or something. (Well, that's what I read into the message anyway.)
And speaking of coffee, now that I've finally learned how to use the photo-taking ability in my cellphone and to transmit photos from my cellphone to my email, I can show you a photo of the very cool vintage coffee pot that Marla gave me during our most recent rendezvous -- the one at The Fox and Fiddle? Isn't it too cool for words?
I also want to show you the newest mug in my collection: my mug from The Mom Show. (You did know I got into this book-writing thing for the TV show mugs, right? It's all about the free mugs.)
Anyway, I taped an episode on Monday that will air sometime in the fall. In addition to hosts Catherine and Laurie and a lovely mom named Jasprite who was there with her little guy, I was on with Maureen Dennis from WeeWelcome, Sara Bingham from Wee Hands, and Karyn Gordon a.k.a. Dr. Karyn. It was like "old home day!" (I was on the show talking about my latest books.)
Speaking of The Mom Show, producer Jay Armstrong is looking for a guest for Monday's taping -- someone who's school-aged child has struggled with stress, anxiety, or shyness. Contact him directly if you'd be willing to share your family's experiences.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:10 PM

Stalking Supermom

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I keep bumping into Kathy Buckworth (a.k.a. Supermom) wherever I go these days. First it was BabyTime. Then I bumped into her someplace else during my Toronto media tour (can't remember where). Then she showed up at the same TV show I was at yesterday.

I swear Kathy is going to start thinking I'm stalking her.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:27 PM

The Mother of All Immunization Tracker Tools

You guys know what a sucker I am for cool tools that make moms' lives easier.

And how I've been shifting into this organize and work smarter mindset for a while.

Pretty soon I'll be launching a new website that ties a lot of this together. But what's really amazing me is how some of the projects I've been working on with other people are starting to really fit into the "mother of all solutions" theme.

For example, I was recently asked to consult on Prevnar's new website for Canadian parents. The result is a really useful immunization tracker tool that allows you to sign up for immunization reminders and to keep an electronic backup of your child's immunization record (handy if the original happens to get lost or -- worse -- to go through the washing machine).

The tool is designed to provide immunization schedules that can be customized for each Canadian province and territory. The moment you enter in your child's age and immunization record to date (information that is fully secure and confidential), the immunization tracker tool tells you if your child is falling behind in any immunizations or due for any immunizations in the near future. You can sign up for electronic reminders (or not, if the last thing you want in your life is more email). It's a handy and versatile tool designed to make your life easier as a parent. And you've got to love the name. Because the website contains excerpts from The Mother of All Parenting Books (Canadian edition) (revised to ensure that all immunization information remains current), the tool is known as The Mother of All Immunization Tracker Tools.

I hope you will enjoy using this tool and find it helpful in keeping track of your child's immunization schedule and record.

Note: Wyeth Canada is simulaneously launching The Mother of All Immunization Guides, a booklet that blends immunization-related information from The Mother of All Parenting Books (Canadian edition) with additional information about immunization, including customized immunization schedules for each Canadian province and territory. The guide is being distributed through daycares, family recreation facilities, and other family-friendly organizations throughout Canada.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:57 AM