December 27, 2008


I've been sucked into twitter. Very recently, so I don't have much up there yet, but if you are on twitter and want to keep up that way, I am andrea_mcd .

I know some of you are up there but I can't find you, so please find me!

Posted by Andrea at 5:23 PM under Web
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December 20, 2008

A good time to say goodbye

I'm working on a new blog. I've decided to embrace the bloglines glitch and use it as an opportunity to build fresh. I haven't really been enjoying the mommy-blogging or personal blogging thing for a while now, and yet when you have a lot of effort invested into a particular community and audience it's tough to let it go. Then I lost it anyway. Might as well put some thought into what I really want to do, and direct the effort there instead.


1. Can be tough to get gigs in journalism when you are personal blogging under your own name. Some places won't hire you. They like their writers to have a pristinely objective public persona.

2. Have been through the wringer enough times to be aware of all of the downsides of turning yourself and your life into entertainment. Most of the relationships formed are not friendships. They're not antagonistic or anything, but it isn't reciprocal for one thing, and for another, it's entirely too dependent on trauma.

3. Getting sick of talking about myself.

4. Getting uncomfortable talking so much about Frances.

(Neither of those are new, I know.)

5. Putting a lot more effort into writing for which I might actually be paid. (Yes, I know I could put ads on the blog, but the chances of that turning into a steady income stream are next to nil and totally out of proportion to the level of effort required--not to mention that those efforts aren't intrinsically rewarding to me.) This reduces my rumination time on personal matters to basically zero in any case.

6. I'd like to blog, if I'm going to, on subjects related to what I'm writing about for pay. a) good practice, b) good promotions.

7. You would not believe how shocked I was to discover the extensive and largely detrimental effects blogging had on my writing style during the first month at school. I'd get assignments back (it never struck me as I was writing) and see them as lazy, sloppy and snarky, mostly because the form of writing I'd been doing every day--personal blogging--rewards such characteristics. Maybe other people are better at separating it out than I am, who knows. At any rate, it no longer seems as harmless as it did.

So, anyway. This blog will be dying a natural death over the next little while. I'll continue to read blogs and comment--I'm not divorcing myself from all of you--but I will no longer be posting here, probably after about January 1. Instead, I'll be blogging here. The first post is something I'd drafted in the summer for this blog, but it never seemed to fit.

My plan for the new site is to write about the Toronto environment: local species, both native and invasive; interesting goings-on--new projects, environmental assessments, policies and legislation, conferences, etc.; eventually interviews, links to published articles, bits of research that I can't use in published articles; and playing around with on-line journalism (the occasional bit of audio or video, maybe, or flash if I can figure it out). "Zoopolis" means the integration of nature into the city, a coexistence of the human and non-human in our urban spaces. I'll write about the future we want, not the future we want to avoid.

I know a lot of you won't be interested in this venture, and that's fine (but of course anyone who wants to follow me over is more than welcome to). If you'd like, you're free to write to me by email (mcdowella AT sympatico DOT ca), friend me on facebook, or even old-fashioned paper letters if you're feeling adventurous. (I love mail.) I'd be happy to keep in touch with anyone who wants to, and I'd be bereft to lose anyone I have become friends with over the years. Thanks to everyone who's followed me on this journey. I can't believe I've been blogging here for five and a half years!

It feels right to be making this change on the longest night of the year, at Yule, which is so meaningful to me as a period of transformation. Happy Solstice, Channukah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Kwanzaa, and all the rest. I wish all of you and your families the best for all the years to come. Let's hope they get brighter and happier in every way that matters.

Posted by Andrea at 4:43 PM under Friends and Others , Me , Web
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December 16, 2008

Strike Update

The strike is still on-going and the university administration has confirmed that classes will definitely not resume before Jan 5, making the strike at least two months long and probably longer, but I have every confidence that it will be resolved quickly at that point, and here's why:

The strikers are sitting.

That's right, administration! Eat your heart out!

Sometimes I get the feeling that the grad students just really, really wanted to have gone to school in the 1960s. They're stepping up tactics by staging a sit-in. The scrooge-like university administrators are surely quivering in their fur-lined boots now.

Why yes, I am disgusted (and though it doesn't show in this post, I'm disgusted with both sides). The Students, they keep talking about--The Students, as some amorphous, homogeneous mass. The Students, who are all presumed to have RESPs, parental financing, or at the very least OSAP. The Students, for whom summer jobs are a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. The Students, who shouldn't mind foreshortened courses, dropped material or missed classes so long as their grades are unaffected. The Students, who aren't also in the position of trying to finance a university education while paying Toronto rents, Toronto grocery prices, and supporting dependents who may or may not require daycare. Both the administration and the union are talking about what The Students need and how the strike will affect The Students--all of whom are, apparently, twenty-year-old trust fund babies.

As The Star said on the weekend, a pox on both their ivory towers.

Posted by Andrea at 10:22 AM under The Supposedly Mature Student
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December 10, 2008

a milestone, of sorts

I haven't written about Frances's size much recently; ironically, that's because it's more of an issue than it used to be. Frances is known by everyone at her school, in every grade, because she is small. As we walk down the hallway I hear older kids say behind her, "Frances is so cute. She's so tiny." And older kids and even bigger kids in her s/k class will give her a big grin and reach out a hand to ruffle her hair or tell her how adorable she is, as if she were the class gerbil instead of a fellow student, and it drives me nuts but Frances says she likes it, and maybe right now she does. In any case, her size is becoming known to her and known to her peers and relevant to her relationships in a way it wasn't before, and so it's becoming less my story and more hers, and I don't want to write about what it means or why.

Maybe one day she'll start her own blog and write about this stuff. Or maybe she'll consider it completely unimportant.

In any case, today we went shopping for new winter boots because the size sixes were too small. We ended up taking home size eights, and a bundle of socks size 4T. Her jeans and shirts now are size 3T. And while she's still way below the 1st centile line on a standard growth chart, I wasn't expecting her to be this big yet. I expected that, when she was five and starting kindergarten, she would be wearing size 2T or 24 months.

It's complicated to think about, let alone write about. She would be equally valuable, equally loveable, no matter what size of clothing she wears. But she's growing a little bit faster than the experts thought she would, which means an easier time buying a bike and learning to drive and finding clothes when she's older.

I may be the only mother I know who celebrates when her daughter outgrows a size.

Posted by Andrea at 2:11 PM under Being Small
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December 8, 2008

Sick Day

DSC_0026 (2).JPG

I don't know why I call in sick for Frances, ever. Sure, she has a bad cold with a nasty cough. She is also bubbling over with energy and I can barely get her to sit still long enough to watch Rudolph for the 92nd time this season.

(Superstitious Aside: This is our first significant cold of the season, though, and it's December! Hallelujah. That immunity thing is kicking in at last. Now, to appease the angry spirits, I will ritually knock on the wooden table while turning in a circle three times and humming.)

My memories of my own sick days as a child consist almost entirely of lying down on the couch, watching TV or reading stacks of novels, doing jumping jacks in bed to try to drive up my temperature before my mother appeared with the thermometer. It bears no resemblance to Frances's sick days.


She took out the Ed Emberley Christmas drawing book and did a few pages of reindeers, santas, and sleighs. She opened the princess art set she got for her birthday and did a few watercolour paintings using stencils. She opened the window clingers package and started a picture of a lamb. She made a few christmas cards, used specialty scissors to cut a few other cards into interesting shapes, and made a new shirt for baby eloise out of green construction paper, metallic crayons and sticky tape. She used snowflake stamps on the cards and scrupulously cleaned each one with the stamp cleaner. And she practiced her running stitch.


A couple of months ago I bought a cheap cushion form from Ikea ($5), brought it home and let it sit on the couch while I thought about cushion covers. I could buy one (for 4x the cost of the form) or make one. I had plenty of fabric. I chopped up a bunch of old t-shirts but none of them yielded big enough pieces for the cover, so instead I took out some scrap faux suede from a skirt I made a couple of years back and whipped up a quick cover with a flap-back. Then I told Frances to draw me a butterfly, transferred it on to the front panel of the cushion cover and back-stitched over it with wool yarn, and filled in the dots with seed stitches. When I was done Frances and I had a collaborative cushion which we are both very proud of. (That's the cushion at the top of the post, along with Frances's sketch and my tracing paper transfer. I wish I could take credit for the idea but I got it from Amanda Soule's The Creative Family.)


It took me probably about five hours to stitch the butterfly on to the cushion cover, and during that time Frances sat beside me, on the couch, sewing. I got her a scrap of plastic canvas, a big blunt plastic needle and a bit of tapestry thread. And we ended up with something like this.

Fast forward to this weekend: Greg and I made a pile of christmas cards, and I took the opportunity to dig out all of my christmas magazines. I also had a couple of sneaky card ideas after he left that had me digging through the cross-stitch mags, and since then I've been spending a couple of hours stitching up santas and snowmen. Frances was not going to be left out, so she picked up her plastic canvas again and I taught her how to do a running stitch


I even let her graduate to a metal 22-gauge tapestry needle and a bit of aida cloth (made for cross-stitching) and perforated paper. And look!

Running stitches! Nice, even, brightly rainbow-coloured metallic running stitches. She learned how to undo mistakes by going back through the hole she'd just come out of; and when I congratulated her on this, she said: "Mummy. It's just practice."

My bunny.

OK, so it's hard to see--look at the bottom of the beige perforated paper. That slightly darker dotted line is the running stitch. And yes, she did it all by herself.

But I don't care how wholesome and productive we've been today. Tomorrow, she's going to school.

Posted by Andrea at 5:17 PM under Beanie Baby Brags
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