Exploring Science and Tech

by , on
October 23, 2017

I grew up in Ottawa and I have vivid memories of visiting all the city’s museum – and since we’re the capital we get a few. Science and Technology was one of my favourites – the trains, the crazy kitchen – and I took my kid there a couple of times before the museum had to shut down for renovations.

It’s not a great picture, but that is her impressed face

When we were given the opportunity to go and visit the re-vamped kids’ zone before the museum officially re-opens on November 17, I jumped. You see, my kid loves science and math. She wants to be a science teacher when she grows up (for now). I will do anything to foster this love.

We almost didn’t get there, but in the end I forced the family into the car and across town, and we had about half an hour to explore the new space. During that 30 minutes the kid and I both proclaimed many, many things to be cool.

The whole space looks cool.

The zone is wide open. There is lots of room to run around and everything is hands on. Kids can literally climb the wall. There are things to build and things to play with, there are things to be active with. They can use every sense they have.

Actually, no, I didn’t see anything to taste. Though some of the younger kids will probably be tasting anyway. They did build scents into a wall you can actually climb and some of them smell pretty tasty. But the listening, touching, seeing stuff was all very cool.

When you go there, this picture will make a lot more sense

The kid didn’t like oregano though. I thought it smells like freshly baked pizza.

As we were walking back to the car the kid expressed her excitement at seeing the whole museum next time, and having more time to spend. I’m very interested to see it all too. And we’ve missed the science demonstrations – kid wants to learn more about chemistry and there’s only so much I’m willing to try at home.

We’ll start the countdown to November 17 now.

Building a gear train with Daddy

Spinny colourful things she declared very satisfying

Taking An Opportunity

by , on
October 10, 2017

My husband went out on Friday night and the kid was feeling restless. I wanted to just lie down and read my book, but she wanted to do this or that. Finally at around 6:30 pm I started googling and I decided we would go on an adventure, the kid and me. I picked out some warmer clothes for her and didn’t tell her anything, just to bring her iPad and headphones.

There are almost always things going on in Ottawa. We are the capital of the country, after all, and this year the 150th has brought a whole bunch of celebrations to our sleepy little city. I considered Mosaicanada, which closes on October 15, but we didn’t have time to get there before it shut down for the day. I considered Mìwàte, the illumination at Chaudiere Falls, which just started this weekend, but I wasn’t convinced I wouldn’t get lost trying to find a parking spot.

And then one of the lists of things to do I subscribe to reminded me of Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village.

Pumpkinferno is a glorious display of carved pumpkins, lit up in all colours. I knew it would be beautiful, and I hoped the kid would think it was magical.

Unfortunately, our adventure turned into a bit of a debacle, and I will now offer advice to anyone going to Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village:
1) Buy your tickets online in advance (there were two lines and the one for ticket holders was much, much faster)

2) Get there early. It took us about 30 minutes 2 km down Upper Canada Rd. And then we had to find parking, walk to the front, find the end of the ticket line and wait again. I think if we had gotten there before the 7 pm start it all would have been much smoother.

3)Bring provisions. I would have brought more water and snacks if I had realized just how long we would be out.

4) Bring entertainment for the kids. If she hadn’t had her iPad during that crawl to the finish line things would have gotten ugly.

Overall, Pumpkinferno was very cool and Joe said the kid was 80 per cent positive when she told him all about it the next morning. But seeing a Chinese dragon carved our of I don’t know how many pumpkins, walking through a pumpkin forest, seeing the classics and looking into space, was pretty freaking magical.

Still, the debacle – which is a great word, by the way – made me hungry to experience a little more hometown tourism. I have heard so many things about Mosaicanada that I didn’t want to miss it, but I also hadn’t taken the opportunity to just go at any point during the summer. We were going to be downtown adjacent this weekend, so I decided that’s what we would do Monday morning, since we celebrate Thanksgiving on Sunday.

And then we woke up and it was raining. But I said screw it, we won’t get another chance, let’s get dressed appropriately, get down there and see what the weather is like.

The weather, it turned out, was very wet. But when what you’re looking at is a bunch of floral art, wet is pretty much okay.

Both of these little day trips were a little bit about Canada, a little bit about Indigenous peoples, a little bit about art and celebration. Two very different mediums used to make magical things.

I get the feeling we should not miss some more can’t miss things in this great little city of ours.

Into Nature

by , on
March 20, 2017

We spent part of the March break at Montebello, which was my idea. I took the kid there once before and we rather enjoyed ourselves, and I thought it a great place to get away, but not too far away.

Turns out Montebello is quite popular during March break, and they appreciate the business so much that they plan activities around the break week. I knew we would spend time at the pool, and probably in the games room and the bounce house they set up, and I hoped to hang out fire-side for a while (which we did, with board games and tasty drinks and snacks). I didn’t plan on the skating, curling or dog sled ride.

Enough activity that we could do it all again next year and not get bored. And even add things on like skiing or snowshoeing, because they’ve got all the stuff there for you to borrow. And even invite other families members to join us, because the place is big and there’s stuff for everyone. Even my mom who would probably sit by the fire and read.

And also partake of the spa.

Kid’s a natural

In fact, we did all of the above on our one full day there. And also had a delicious breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast buffet: Maple crepes. No more needs to be said on the subject.

And not only was it a lovely getaway just the three of us, and not only was it relaxing, and not only was it fun and activity-filled enough for the little one… I also got the opportunity to remind myself of a few things I love.

I love being outdoors. I went for a bit of a walk and felt the cold air and smelled the campfires and took a bit of care. I am perfectly able to exercise. We went swimming twice, and walked around and took part in activities and I was fine. Tired, but in the best way. Tired because I had done things with my body.

That I do enjoy spending time with my kid – with my family – and interacting and having a bit of fun.

This is not a sponsored post for Montebello, but we did have a wonderful time, I do recommend it, and if they want to sponsor a stay in the future I would be totally on board with that. Just FYI.

#MFO16

by , on
October 10, 2016

My daughter has reached an age where she still has many questions, but she is exhausting the ones I can actually answer. This is why I’ve started using outside sources and calling in favours. Last year I planned on taking her to Ottawa’s Maker Faire but things didn’t work out (I think we all ended up sick) but this year it’s on the list again, because the makers at Maker Faire can expose her to a bunch of cool stuff that I never could.

I told her there will be inventors and computer scientists and artists. And when she wasn’t sure after that, I told her BB-8 is going to be there.

Though she’s nervous about the crowds we could find ourselves in, I fully expect to be following her around as she exclaims “cool!” and learns all about new and different ways art, technology and creativity intertwine.

What will she love most about Maker Faire? The fact that she’ll be invited to touch, feel and play with a lot of the cool things she sees there. And also that some of the makers are not that much older than her.

I anticipate that she will be inspired, and when we get back home she’ll want to make a few things on her own. Hopefully I will also be inspired, because crafty, artistic me hasn’t had time to come out and play recently. And there’s an exhibitor called Tint and Twist who seems to sell geek-inspired yarn to knit with. I’m just saying.

You can find more information on the event, which takes place at the Aberdeen Pavillion on October 15 and 16, here and tweet about your trip to the event using @MakerFaireOtt and hashtag #MFO16. You can also win tickets through their Twitter account or Facebook page.

Any excuse to see my friend K-9

Any excuse to see my friend K-9

About the Event

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker Movement.  It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.

Makers range from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers. They are of all ages and backgrounds. The aim of Maker Faire is to entertain, inform, connect and grow this community.

The original Maker Faire event was held in San Mateo, CA and in 2015 celebrated its tenth annual show with some 1100 makers and 145,000 people in attendance. World Maker Faire New York, the other flagship event, has grown in four years to 600+ makers and 80,000 attendees.  Detroit, Kansas City, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Orlando, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Silver Spring, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Hannover, Oslo, Trondheim, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Newcastle (UK), Shenzhen and now Ottawa are the home of larger-scale, “featured” Maker Faires and over 120 community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires are now being produced around the United States and the world.

 

 

A Giant in Sport

by , on
August 21, 2016

When the kid was still a baby I made a mistake. I signed her up for gymnastics at eight months. I did it because I have always loved gymnastics and I had regrets that I never really tried doing them.

I never really tried to do any sports, and so the kid had tried many, many sports in hopes that she would find one that she loves. And she has. She loves gymnastics.

And that is my fault. I put her in gymnastics before she could walk and she’s never stopped. The problem is that she’s only six years old and she’s already over four feet tall.

The tallest gymnast to ever compete at the Olympics? Svetlana Khorkina was 5’6″. My daughter is unlikely to make it to her 16 birthday before exceeding that.

But she loves it. She dreams of going to the Olympics in gymnastics.

Actually, quite often she just dreams of going to the Olympics. And I believe that there is a sport out there for her to excel in. She is so strong, and seems to always be getting stronger. She loves to move, she always has, she loves to run.

I just don’t think it’s gymnastics.

She’s mentioned that she loves soccer, I know she loves to swim. Those are sports she can do for the rest of her life. She could get a summer job as a lifeguard, she could coach her own kid if/when she has them. Because as fit and strong as she is now, I want her to stay this way for the rest of her life. I want her to love being active. I want her fitness to never hold her back. I want her to have fitness as a tool to help her get through tough moments.

It is something that I wish I had. That I wish I could go back to.

When I was in high school I started walking regularly, listening to my music, clearing my mind after school. It took me half an hour to get home and I always felt better when I got there. But I wasn’t an athlete as a child, and fitness slips in and out of my life. I want better for her.

And I want her to have the confidence to push through the awkward years.

IMG_9977 (1)

I want her to not stop swimming because she doesn’t like her body in a bathing suit. I want her to not stop running because she’s suddenly grown breasts and her body doesn’t feel as comfortable as it once did for her. I want her to have a team of strong girls around her who will support her while they all go through puberty together. I want her to go through her life being as brave as I know she can be. Whether that bravery comes in the gym, the pool, on a bike, on the field, or flying off a dying board.

20160713_155615

 

Hey Ladies

by , on
August 1, 2016

It’s a holiday Monday – I believe officially Colonel By Day in Ottawa? – and that means everyone is off, which means that the kid got to attend the RedBlacks game on Sunday night. It’s her first one in a while. It’s too much to take her to a game and then send her to gymnastics or soccer first thing the next morning.

Second down

Second down

She loves the games though. She specializes in yelling DEE-FENCE DEE-FENCE when it’s time. She’s a sports fan all around, this one. She has informed us that she wants to go to the Olympics in soccer and gymnastics. I think she probably should have chosen one summer and one winter sport, but she points out that you age out of gymnastics early.

We’ve taken her to hockey games, baseball games, football games. We still have to get her out to a soccer game. I took her to the national figure skating championship. We watch the Olympics together. She loves watching athletes do their thing.

And that’s why the first time the guy behind me at the football game tonight mockingly called the football players “ladies” I glared at him. I did it again the second time. And at the guy further down the row who called an injured player “princess.”

Because I should not have to explain to my sports-loving six-year-old future Olympian that what these men mean is that women are less than men, and not as good at things. Or at least that’s what these stupid men think because they can’t come up with any more creative way of heckling the other team.

I hate that she hears these things. I hate the idea that she’ll internalize it. That she’ll grow up to learn that men think it’s funny to insult other men by referring to them as somehow female. That’s she’ll grow up to know that female athletes are “worth” as much as their male counterparts.

I hate that we’re still doing this. I hate that we still have female ‘firsts’ in this day and age and I hate that men get to use us to debase their friends. It hasn’t changed in my lifetime, will it change in hers?

Because she’s a woman

by , on
May 20, 2016

So a thing happened in Ottawa this week. It was handled badly.

The facts are this – Our Prime Minister strode across the floor of the House of Commons, grabbed the Opposition Whip by the arm while said Whip told him to let go, told the third party leader to “get the fuck out of the way” according to reports, and in doing so accidentally elbowed a female MP in the breast. Which, by the way, is something that can really hurt. I won’t compare it to getting a shot to the testicles because I have no frame of reference for that, just like cisgendered men have no frame of reference for getting shoved into a test and elbowed in the breast.

So this happened. The Prime Minister had not reason at all for his actions beyond the fact that his temper ran away with him. No reason. If the Opposition Whip was having an issue it would be the job of the Speaker or even the Opposition House Leader to deal with that. There was no delay to the vote – as both the current and a former Speaker have said – the Chief Government Whip had taken his seat and the vote could be called.

Instead the PM took it upon himself to lay hands on another member of the House.

He has since apologized twice. Once for the accidental elbowing of a fellow MP and once for not holding himself to a “higher standard.” These apologies have, I think, been accepted.

And yet.

The Prime Minister is being defending online, the Opposition Whip is being congratulated for how he handled the situation and the woman who was standing in what happened to be, completely by chance, the wrong place at the wrong time, is facing abuse.

Apparently it is her fault. She has been told she should resign, that she’s a disgrace, that she wasn’t in fact hurt at all. That she is “playing the victim.”

This is fascinating, because as far as I know Ruth Ellen didn’t say anything about the issue at all until she had to stand in the House to explain missing the vote. In fact, she still has only said that she was hit and it did hurt.

I’d like people to take a step back and ask themselves how a stupid decision by the PM became the fault of a woman who just happened to be there.

Politics and political people

by , on
April 25, 2016

Sometimes I meet people who tell me that they are not interested in politics. It’s fairly rare in Ottawa, giving how affected many of us are by government changes and decisions, but it still happens. And I find myself not believing these people. I am firm in my belief that anyone can be political, you just need the right issue.

Telling yourself that you’re not interested in politics is telling yourself that you’re not interested in your daily life. Seriously. Your daily life is affected by municipal, provincial and federal politics. Assuming you put out garbage, use the streets and sidewalks, send your kids to school and have deductions off your paycheque.

Politics is not just about the big, wide-ranging issues – though you probably deal with some of those every day too. You might have people in your life who are gay or trans and you happy to think they should have the same rights as everyone else – being human beings and all.

You might have a child with autism in your family and you think the delays in getting them programming they need is despicable.

Chances are at some point in your life you will find an issue – or have an issue thrust upon you – that you will be passionate about. (Take Amanda, for instance).

I read the news today, oh boy

by , on
January 20, 2016

I have been feeling sick to my stomach almost all day.

I took a nap this morning and when I woke up there was a message from Joe asking whether I had seen what was going on at Postmedia. Mergers, layoffs. Very bad news.

You see, I stopped being a journalist a long time ago. Well, not really – once a journalist, always a journalist. I stopped trying to work as a journalist but I still have a passion for journalism. I was raised on journalism. Both of my parents studied it, it was all around me. People with great respect for the trade and its product.

This is devastation.

And my biggest fear is that a majority of people don’t know what they lost today.

You see, I don’t believe in citizen journalism, and I don’t believe good reporting can be done for free. Just because you have a police scanner app on your phone doesn’t mean that you have access. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you’re a reporter.

Good journalism, real journalism, is a very special skill. It’s access and instinct. It’s time spent digging. Talking to the right people and asking the right questions.

Too many people don’t understand the real value of great journalism. They want it for free and they think it will be the same.

I have been feeling sick to my stomach all day because a lot of people lost their jobs today, most of them hard-working people who were dedicated to jobs that have bad pay and shitty hours because they saw the promise of what good journalism can do.

I don’t know how we reverse this trend, but we would all benefit if we could figure it out.

Supporting Youth in the Toughest Years

by , on
November 18, 2015

I have a vivid memory of sitting in the corner of my family kitchen sobbing. I was in the midst of one of my worst ever bouts of depression. I was lost. I had graduated college with high marks but couldn’t find a job. I didn’t have any friends in town so I had gone from being social every day to be alone most of the time. I sat there sobbing and hoping someone would find me and help me before I spun into the void even more.

I had been on anti-depressants before. My father knew I was in crisis, had considered suicide at 16, he threatened to tell my mother if I didn’t talk to her. So I did, through uncomfortable tears, and I went to the doctor and she gave me a prescription.

YSB_12percentofgirls

I got out of that place, but not fully away from that problem. I suffered from postpartum depression, I’ve had struggles since. But I survived being a teenager, and that was probably the hardest part.

So now I turn to those who are still trying to survive the hell that is high school with a mental illness.

ysb_10-20percentofyouth

 

Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau is creating a tool to help teenagers going through what I went through. When I was approached to support the project I jumped at the chance. The Youth Services Bureau has launched a online chat tool (chat.ysb.ca) as part of their #RealLifeMatters campaign to help kids in crisis reach out and talk to someone where they are most comfortable.

The chat, which was designed after research found that a lot of teens would be more comfortable communicating the problems they are facing that way, is available Thursday to Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm. The bureau also has a walk-in clinic and telephone crisis line.

The chat line is a safe space for teens to express themselves and talk openly about the tough things they’re going through.

They’re also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so check it out and share with youth in your life who might need it or might know someone who does.

(Furthermore, right now the Youth Services Bureau is running a text to donate campaign for emergency shelters for youth in need in our community – Text YOUTH to 20222 and you will be prompted to select how much you want to donate).

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