From the category archives:

Ah, me boys

This might be one of my favourite Christmas photos of the boys ever. My friend Henry on Flickr gave this one an alternate title that I also really like: we’re going to need a bigger wagon!

My Name is Donder

Fun, right? The expression on the reindeer slays me. That’s a Donder face if there ever was one.

This one almost went sideways on me right from the start. The idea was to have Bella pulling the wagon, and I was going to put some reindeer antlers on her in the style of Max the dog from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Except as I was getting the boys settled on the wagon, she managed to find a pile of poop in the front yard and roll in it. We don’t actually allow her to poop in the front yard, so I have some other neighbourhood dog to thank for that gift. And we were quickly losing the light, so we had to improvise.

This was the original shot:

My Name is Donder - before

I loved the expressions on their faces. The dog was a bit blurred though, and even with a few other poses to choose from, it just wasn’t working out to be what I imaged. The boys had been good sports and adorable, though, so I wanted to make it work.

I started by cloning Bella and Beloved out of the image and editing it for exposure and white balance. I found the perfect reindeer, but he was too big for the canvas, so I extended the edges of it upwards and to the right. I positioned the reindeer and tweaked him a bit so it looked like he was standing in the grass. He was already wearing the red harness, so I took Bella’s leather leash from one of the other poses I hadn’t used and painted it to match the harness, then stretched it to fit into Lucas’s hand. And I painted a bit of a shadow for the reindeer. I had to play a bit with the colour and contrast of the reindeer to look like he was actually standing in the same light as the boys, and then I tweaked it a bit more overall for the bright and contrasty look.

What do you think? It makes me chuckle when I look at it, which makes it a win in my books!


I‘ve seen a lot of photographers using an edit that darkens the background and makes for warm, rich tones. I had my handsome model pose for a portrait so I could have a play. Here’s the final edit:

Tristan after

Here’s the image straight out of the camera:

Tristan SOOC

I think his face might still be a little too warm/yellow, now that I see it here. It’s a clean edit in raw in Lightroom, although my white balance might be a little too warm, and then a lot of layers in Photoshop – a bit of radial blur, masked off of him, and a couple of levels layers. One layer darkens the midtones in the background, one gives it that reddish golden tint, and I popped the contrast around his eyes a little bit. I need to figure out how to make his freckles pop more!

What do you think? Do you like the clean edit or the more creative edit? I always struggle to find a balance between the two. I love the creative edits, but wonder if people don’t find them too heavy handed. It’s still fun to play!

(Also? Pre-teen – SMILING FOR THE CAMERA!!! #win)


This year represented a pretty significant milestone for us. Like so many parenting milestones, it was begat not of careful thought and extended discourse, but by poor planning, chaotic lives and the lack of any other options.

This is the year I let Tristan carve the pumpkins. Well, two of the pumpkins. I’d cut off the top and gutted them and done a rather half-arsed and pathetic job translating Lucas’s illustration on to one of the pumpkins before running out of time (and perhaps enthusiasm) so Tristan may have been willing to take on the job just so I didn’t do any more damage to other unsuspecting pumpkins who deserved a better fate.

I’d like to tell you that he used one of those blunt and kid-safe pumpkin carving kits. I’d further like to tell you I hovered him, watching carefully how he handled the sharp paring knife.

Nope. I pretty much handed him the knife, warned him he’d have to clean up the mess if he cut off a digit, and went on making dinner and overseeing homework and unloading the dishwasher and keeping Lucas from terrorizing the dog too much and all the other insanity that usually happen between five and eight pm each evening.

To his credit, Tristan did a great job, and all ten of his fingers are still attached. He started small with a tri-force on the smallest pumpkin on the left in the photo below. (A tri-force is “something created by three different goddesses who created all the world and represents power, courage and wisdom.” It’s from the video game Legend of Zelda.) With elevated confidence, he took on a more complex design for the larger pumpkin. It’s the one on the far right.


In case you’re not well-versed in the lore of the Zelda video game, you probably don’t know that’s the pattern on Link’s hylian shield. You should, however, note that the same design appears on the shield in Tristan’s costume (also hand drawn and coloured by Tristan). He’s also carrying a wooden sword we rescued from the garbage (boy after my own heart) in much the same way Arthur drew Excalibur out of the stone, except Arthur’s sword didn’t need a good sanding and a coat of paint.

I’m pretty proud of all three boys for coming up with pretty much all the elements of their own costumes this year. Simon is “the Shadow” and Lucas is Wolverine. Lucas probably had the most help, but when gluing silver-painted popsicle sticks onto gloves is as hard as you have to work on a Halloween costume, it’s a good Halloween indeed.

So maybe this thing about the kids growing up and learning to do things for themselves isn’t so bad after all. And this parenting by benign neglect thing? I should have thought of this YEARS ago! ;)

How was YOUR Halloween?

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Like yesterday’s post, this photo of the day post is from the weekend. Forgive me, but I think they’re too lovely not to share. And it’s not Halloween yet, so it’s not too late, right?

My babies in the pumpkin patch:

Pumkin Pickers

Eep! When did they get so grown up?

Wait, here’s one more. Can you believe I got all three of them to (more or less, close enough) smile TWICE IN THE SAME DAY?

Pumkin Pickers

Lookit how much they’ve grown up since our first trip to Millers, the year we moved to Manotick in 2010. It’s a Wordless Wednesday and Throwback Thursday all rolled up into one! (Except, not Wordless. And, um, not Thursday. Throwback Wednesday anyone?)

Pumpkin picking 2010-2

In case you were wondering, I have an extraordinary number of photos in my archives tagged with “pumpkins”.

And here’s a gratuitous shot of pumpkins, to show my love for you.

Pumkin Pickers

Because pumpkins.


We stood in line for two hours for our turn. They ran out of hot dogs at the concession stand and I had foolishly not thought to pack any food. And yet, we all agreed – the wait was well worth it. For what? To decorate and then launch our pumpkins across a field to a giant billboard target using a medieval catapult called a trebuchet at the annual Smashing Pumpkins festival at the Cumberland Village Heritage Museum.

First, you decorate while you wait for your turn.

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

Simon’s says, “I have a death sentence” on one side and “Simon wuz here” on the other.

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

Not to be outdone, Tristan’s says “I believe I can fly.” (I do love their senses of humour, my boys.)

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

After almost an entire afternoon of waiting, it was finally our turn!

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

You yank on the cord, which pulls out the pin, which releases the lever that is counterweighted on the opposite end. Gravity works its magic and the non-counterweighted end of the lever flings the pumpkin, tucked securely into a little hammock, to sail across the field toward the target.

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

After each launching one, I let the boys launch mine together.

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

Can you see the incoming pumpkin?

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

Bulls-eye!! (Ahem, this may or may not have been MY pumpkin. We watched probably a hundred pumpkins get launched, and I was thrilled to capture this photo of one of the ten or so we actually saw hit the bulls-eye!)

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

Is that crazy fun or what? Beloved is Googling “backyard trebuchet” so we don’t have to wait in such a long line next year. Sorry neighbours – you’ve been warned!

Disclosure: The City of Ottawa is a sponsor of this blog. This adventure was inspired entirely by our own whims, however, and we bought our own annual membership to facilitate this blog post.

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It was a madly busy but wonderfully photogenic September, and I’m just now starting to catch up. Back a few weeks ago, we went apple picking at one of our favourite places, the Log Cabin Orchard near Osgoode.

I was delighted to capture three very different portraits of three very different boys. Each pose and set-up seems perfect for their personalities. You’d almost think I was getting good at this photography thing, to say nothing of this mothering thing. Who knew?

Apple picking 2014 1

Apple picking 2014 2

Apple picking 2014 3

They’re all so lovely, though, aren’t they? Handsome young men, my babies have become.


Photo of the day: Silly string

27 August 2014 Ah, me boys

Summertime shenanigans in the back yard! I’ve got mixed feelings about the end of summer, but love that I get to spend this last week of it in the sunshine with my boys.

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Photo of the day: World cup fever

11 July 2014 Photo of the Day

About a week or two into the World Cup, Simon came home asking for a soccer ball called a Brazuca. He and his friends played World Cup soccer each day at recess, rotating who would be each country, and he wanted to play at home, too. My suggestion that he play with one of the [...]

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Photo of the day: First and last days of school

27 June 2014 Ah, me boys

It’s the end of an era. Sniff sniff. The last year all three boys will be in the same school together. Sigh. Tomorrow I’ll be happy for summer. Today, I’m feeling sort of blue, thinking that sometimes time runs a little too quickly…

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Tristan’s grade school graduation

21 June 2014 Tristan

Remember this? Tristan’s first day of school. Doesn’t it seem like it was just last week? And then yesterday, this happened: Grade 6 graduation. It was the most lovely day. The school thoughtfully thought to include as many younger siblings in day as possible, so Simon was asked to be an altar server during the [...]

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