Ah, me boys

We are a family that loves routine, and the highest elevation of a routine becomes tradition. There’s few traditions more sacred to our family than the annual trip out to Thomas Tree Farm to get a Christmas tree – and the photographing of said trip!

Christmas tree picking 2016

This year, Lucas got to make the first couple of cuts. My babies are all growing up!

Christmas tree picking 2016-2

Christmas tree picking 2016-3

Christmas tree picking 2016-4

I love how Lucas has his own bough slung over his shoulder.

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I didn’t realize until we got it home that the tree is nearly as wide as it is tall. It’s got a little junk in its trunk!

Stand by, there is a very good probability of a tree decorating photo essay in the very near future!


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I had heard about Pianos in the Park, but didn’t realize until this week that they had installed a piano right around the corner from us at our favourite place. The Ottawa version of Pianos in the Park (apparently it’s an international movement) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing pianos to local parks. They’ve got them downtown, in Carp, Barrhaven, Riverside South, and about a dozen other location, including one right here in Manotick. This is in the gazebo at AY Jackson park.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

As soon as Tristan heard about it, he wanted to check it out. He’s been teaching himself to play piano from YouTube videos using Synthesia (not unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero) on our electronic keyboard, but he doesn’t get a chance to play on a real piano very often.

Safe to say, he quite enjoyed it!

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

And so did Lucas, though he was more inclined to discordant banging than any actual harmonies.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

I was intrigued, so I did a little digging to find out more about the project. Founder Nicholas Pope launched Ottawa’s Pianos in the Park in 2014, modeling it on Play Me, I’m Yours, a project started in Britain that now has more than 1,300 pianos in 45 cities around the world. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Pope said all the local pianos will be painted with Ottawa-specific themes, and that they take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours to finish. So the Manotick piano is in place but not yet painted – although I did notice it smells of fresh varnish.

Amazing, right? I love this so much that I joined the Pianos in the Park group on Facebook, and found out about THIS amazing project being cooked up as a tribute to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, a traveling piano set to go on tour across Canada this October.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Have you been to any of the other pianos in Ottawa parks? I’m thinking it would make a fun adventure to tour them all before they’re packed away until next spring.


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One of our favourite seasonal markers is our annual trip to a local orchard to pick apples. It looks like it’s been a great growing season, and when we visited last weekend, the boughs were heavy with ripe Lobos, Paula Reds and MacIntosh apples.

Apples (2 of 5)

Apples (1 of 5)

Apples (4 of 5)

Apples (3 of 5)

As usual, we picked more than we could ever eat. Beloved has pie crust dough chilling in the fridge to make delicious use of the extras!

Apples (5 of 5)

Though apple-picking is definitely an autumnal activity and I feel like summer has not yet released us from her sweaty embrace, we were all shocked to consider that in just a few more weeks we’ll be picking pumpkins, and picking a Christmas tree just another few weeks after that.

Time keep flying by quicker and quicker, doesn’t it?

Tristan and Simon, apple-picking in 2005!!

Ancient history: Tristan and Simon, apple-picking in 2005!!


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Only time for a quick photo today. This is from Basin Head – of course.

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”  ~ Terry Pratchett

I love this quote and how well it goes with this photo. It’s from Hat Full of Sky, a wonderful Terry Pratchett novel featuring the debut of the Nac Mac Feegles. You should read it! And, you should dance joyfully in the sea, whenever you can.


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I am a big fan of traditions, and one of my favourite is the annual first-and-last day of school photo. Did Tristan even get a haircut during this school year? I’m honestly not sure!

First and last day of school 2015-2016

I’ve been making them for a while now!

First and last day of school!

first & last day of school

First and last day of school

First and last day of school 2011-2012

188:365 First and last day of school 2010 - 2011

Next year, all three boys will be in different schools – one in elementary, one in middle and one in (gasp!) high school. But first — bring on the summer of awesome!


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One of my favourite features on Facebook is the “On This Day” app. There’s something wonderful about dipping into the minutiae of years gone by. It got me thinking that I now have enough years of content that I can look back and see in (occasionally painful and cringe-worthy) detail exactly what was happening in our lives ten years ago.

It was ten years ago this month, for example, that we were beginning the last of our infertility treatments, having “frostie”, our little frozen embryo left over from our IVF, thawed and inserted into my uterus. Also ten years ago this month, we had two-year-old Simon and four-year-old Tristan baptized: “Father John was kindly and patient didn’t seem to notice that Simon squirmed and wriggled incessantly and Tristan sang under his breath through most of the readings. Simon provided comic relief with his ongoing query of “We go now?” and by excitedly hopping up on the little stool in front of the baptismal font and declaring, “It’s my turn now!” after watching his brother being baptized.”

Ten years ago this month, also wrote this sweet tribute to Simon, my quirky two year old. I thought I’d share it in its entirety:

Simon is becoming more of a character every day. Inasmuch as ‘character’ means mostly adorable, occasionally insufferable, and often hilarious. He seems to develop a new peccadillo every week, and I’m writing this as much to capture them for posterity as for entertainment value.

For instance, he’s picked up a couple of phrases from the bigger kids at daycare, and I’m by turns mortified and amused every time they come out of his mouth.

The first is a very blasé ‘That’s BORing.’ Any time he doesn’t want to do something, wear something, eat something, it’s ‘BORing’. Imagine it uttered with all the disdain a teenage girl could muster, multiply it by three an infuse it with a world-weariness unprecendented in your average two-year-old.

The other is a very staccato ‘No way!’, as if whatever you’ve suggested is the most idiotic thing he’s ever heard.

“Simon, would you like a banana?”
“No way!”

Or:

“Simon, could you please let go of the dog’s lips?”
“No way!”

He’s also exhibiting vaguely alarming tendencies to hoard things, and to depend on rituals. Bedtime has become a complex series of arcane protocols – first books, then the story of his day, then soothers (three, always three, and he will cycle through them looking for just the right one. If one is not to his liking, he will pull it out with a very lispy “Too small,” and repeat until he finds just the right amount of suction and resistance. And yes, they are all the same size.) I’ll push play on the CD player to start the lullabies, place him into his crib, and start the blanket ritual. He must have at least three or four blankets. It can be February or July, but if he sees a blanket you haven’t put on him, he will hector you for it – he’s kind of like a reverse princess and the pea, except he’s the pea. And then there’s the de rigeur rounds of “Hey, you! Put your feet down” as you place the blankets. And he needs companionship as well. Just now, I put him to bed with three blankets (it’s 25C in his room), Gordon, Percy, Scoop, Wags the dog and Dorothy the dinosaur. There’s barely room for him in there.

I have this image of him, twenty years in the future, in a bingo hall somewhere. He’s about 6’5″, 300 lbs, and you’ll loose a finger if you touch the collection of treasures arrayed out in front of him with his bingo daubers. Either that, or he has to touch the doorknob five times before he leaves, tap the glass twice, turn around once, and walk to his car without touching any of the cracks in the sidewalk, with one eye closed and his finger resting against his right earlobe.

If only I could argue with any conviction whatsoever that he doesn’t get it from me.

IMG_3320

That quirky little toddler still sleeps in a bed so full of stuffies that there’s barely room for him, and he graduates from grade school this week.

Who, me? No, um, it’s nothing, I just have something in my eye…


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Photo of the day: Tristan winning

11 June 2016 Photo of the Day

You might remember that Tristan has turned out to be quite the track star. Out of the blue in Grade 6 he showed a previously unrevealed talent for sprints, and in Grade 7 was asked to compete in the track and field pentathlon: 100m and 800m races, shotput, long jump and high jump. He placed […]

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Lucas and the dandelion bouquet

28 May 2016 Lucas

Lucas and I are walking home from school on a brilliant, warm late spring afternoon that feels more like mid-summer. As we come up the hill to our house, I notice the elderly lady from down the street and think that in the nearly six years we’ve lived on the street, this is the first […]

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Photo of the day: Barefoot on the beach

20 May 2016 Lucas

Nothing says summer like road trip, family, nine hour car ride, and then watching the sun set into the Great Lakes on a warm evening. Hello, summer, how I have missed you!

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Photo of the day: Catching a falling star

12 May 2016 Lucas

We have driven past this monument in the Half Moon Bay section of Barrhaven many times, and I’ve always been curious about it. Last night after swimming lessons, Lucas and I decided to head over to check it out up close. There’s a placard that explains that what I thought might have been a starfish […]

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