From the category archives:

Ah, me boys

A love letter to Tristan, Age 13

by DaniGirl on March 7, 2015 · 3 comments

in Tristan

Wait, what? I have a TEENAGER in the house? How could my sweet baby Tristan possibly be 13 today?

Tristan after

Tristan, it has been a great year for you. So many big changes, so many big moments, and so delightful to watch you grow from a little boy to a man-child.

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

And when I say you’re growing up, I really mean UP. I’m still a meagre inch or so taller than you but not for long, and your feet are already well bigger than mine and almost bigger than your dad’s. You like being as big as the high school kids, though you don’t seem to use your size for nefarious purposes. Yet.

Hockey day in Canada-9

Your spring was filled with adventure as you discovered first that you love to ski and then that you had a talent for running and competed on the school track team for the first time. Who would have ever pegged a child of mine for an athlete? “He runs like the wind!” your proud vice-principal confided to me, an undertone of amazement in his voice.

My track star

And then you left grade school behind and graduated from Grade Six! We couldn’t have been more proud to see you earn the Creative Arts award, and even if we didn’t quite understand your teachers’ inside joke about you and not wearing your shoes, your class certainly found it funny.

Grade 6 grad

This year you moved to middle school – a big transition for all of us, but one you seem to have taken in stride. You’re doing well in all subjects, but you seem to be enjoying math and English in particular. Mr Peters assures me with enthusiasm, “Tristan is a math guy!” and Mr Ireland mentioned how much he enjoys your quick wit and that he’s never seen such a dry sense of humour in a Grade 7 before. That’s my boy!

Red riding hood bubble boy on the way home from school

You absolutely have a quirky sense of humour and you take great pride in not following the crowd. You covet weird things like boots up to your hips and a sword and shield and an ocarina, which you got for Christmas. You seem to like the Legend of Zelda and Minecraft in equal measure, but you are also always up for family game night. I loved introducing you to Dungeons and Dragons this year! And you love to express yourself in art, either with a pencil or a set of fabric markers on a t-shirt or with PicCollage.

You are becoming very particular in your preferences. You prefer wooded trails over city sidewalks, cheese pizza over pepperoni, individualism over conformity and comedy over drama. You don’t understand why there are “rules” like boys don’t wear skirts to school. You like to question authority but are not particularly compelled to rebel against it, and you have a strong sense of justice and what is ‘right.’ You’re an irrepressible daydreamer and a bit of a scatterbrain, but you’re also easy going, kind and thoughtful. You are developing a delightful appreciation of beautiful sunrises and picturesque scenes.

Cumberland Heritage Museum

You have a lovely gentle touch with animals, and they seem drawn to you. Willie, with whom you share a birthday (happy birthday Willie!) sleeps on your bed most nights, and Bella likes to sleep on you when we watch TV. You loved having Sir Charles the Hedgehog and his Ratty friends visiting us during the March Break last year as much as I did, and you often ask about adding another cat to our menagerie.

A boy and his hedgie

Your friends seem to be the same gang as always: Sophie, Theo, Carter, Owen, Ethan and Oreo, and you’ve added a few new ones this year at your new school. The gang will be here today to help you celebrate your birthday, with Monty Python and board games and Super Smash Bros and pizza. Or, as you called it, “just an ordinary day in Tristan’s life.”

Pups in a pile

In a year filled with awesome moments and milestones, I think my favourite time with you would still be our evening walks with Bella. Your legs are almost longer than mine and I have to work hard to keep up with you, but we have an easy peace between us on those walks that I enjoy more than I could explain. I love chatting with you about your day, telling you stories from my own school days, and exchanging opinions and insights. You’re a clever, quirky and sublimely funny guy, and I’m glad you’re my friend as well as my son.

A visit to Rideau Hall-9

Happy birthday to my sweet, silly, smart and funny Tristan! I hope this year, your first as a teenager, is full of adventure and discovery and laughter. We love you!


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A love letter to Lucas, Age 7

by DaniGirl on February 8, 2015 · 0 comments

in Lucas

Lucas, my baby boy, today you are seven years old. Not so much a baby anymore, I guess!

Souris and Basin Head PEI

Lucas, you are warm and affectionate and curious and stubborn and an incredibly talented artist. You love nothing more in life than a blank page and the time to fill it, and I continue to be blown away by your natural artistic ability. Not only do you draw well from your own imagination, but you can mimic just about any style you see and you can easily reproduce posters, book covers and video game boxes. When I recently took up learning to draw myself and found the process rather tedious, you assured me “it’s a great start Mom! It was hard for me when I started, too – just keep practicing.”

A 10 photo essay on pumpkin smashing

Aside from drawing, you love to play games. Uno, Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan, Dungeons and Dragons, mancala – you are always the one most willing to play a game with me. You also love Lego and hexbugs and Sonic the Hedgehog and superheroes, and of course you love video games like Minecraft and Super Mario Bros, just like your big brothers. You’ve discovered watching videos on the tablet, and you’d do that for hours sometimes if we let you.

Two on a swing

You love to play outside, and you are always willing to go for a walk with Bella in the evenings, even when it’s wintry and cold outside. You also love to go on walks in the woods or to feed the chickadees. In the summer, your favourite place in the world is in the swimming pool – diving off the diving board and swimming in the deep end.

Winter walk to feed the chickadees

I have been sad to see you in a different class this year from your friends Owen and Cole, but I think you are finally starting to get comfortable with some new friends. This year you have invited Owen and Cole, along with Matthew, Hudson, Adam, David and Chris, to your birthday party. You insisted on a party at your house, so we turned it into an art and cupcakes party. You, of course, can hardly wait!

Sir Lucas

This year, you started grade one. In just a year, you have gone from reading your first complete book (“If you give a pig a pancake”) to reading dozens and dozens of books. You are reading way above your grade level, but you seem to like math and French in school as well. You have a quick and curious mind, and you absorb new information like a little sponge. You have a bit more of a tendency toward mischief than I’ve seen in your brothers, but I think that may be partly from boredom. I still wonder if I didn’t do you a disservice by not pushing harder to get you skipped ahead a year in Kindergarten.

Catching snowflakes

Your favourite foods are peanut butter, just about any fruit, goldfish, pizza (but with the cheese peeled off), edamame, and tacos. You’re still a bit of a picky eater, but I have confidence that you’ll come around soon. You also love to help, whether it be setting the table, putting away the silverware or acting as my sous chef.

Adventures in PEI

Lucas, you are a delightful little boy who loves to laugh and who brings joy to us every single day. I enjoy our “coffee and newspapers” mornings and silly games like “pee race” more than you can guess. I hope this is your happiest birthday and best year ever.

Birthday cupcake

Happy 7th birthday, my sweet boy. We love you!


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For his birthday party this year, Lucas was insistent on an at-home party. Really, I asked. Are you SURE? I am always willing to throw money at an on-location party, partly so someone else will have to deal with the mess and the noise and the chaos, and party because I am just not the most organized person in the world sometimes and planning a party is a lot of work.

But Lucas was sure, and that’s how we ended up with seven very excited six and seven year olds in the house this afternoon for an art-themed birthday party. If you know Lucas, the art theme isn’t much of a surprise. You know what? It was noisy, and it was messy, but it was also a lot of fun. What sweet, funny kids they were.

I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough to keep them occupied, and my clever friend Sarah had suggested all sorts of fun party games to keep the kids busy and engaged. In the end, things went so quickly and so well that we didn’t even have time to play them.

So here’s how to host your own at-home party for seven year old boys without losing your sanity.

Step one: a board game. A Lego board game, to be specific. We picked up a copy of the Lego Creator game after Tristan’s awesome Lego birthday party a few years ago, and the boys played in teams of two.

Lucas' party-2

They loved it, but we ran late and had to hurry a bit toward the end.

Step two: make-yer-own t-shirts. Tristan got a set of fabric markers and a couple of blank t-shirts for his last birthday, and since then the boys have had fun making their own t-shirt designs. I picked up a handful of small plain white tees and bought a new set of fabric markers. I was afraid that boys so young wouldn’t take to it or take more than a couple of minutes before they were bored, but they really got into it.

Lucas' party-4

Of course, I probably should have seen this coming. (Sorry moms!)

Lucas' party-3

Ah, boys.

Step three: decorate your own cupcake. I picked up colourful sprinkles, silver dragees, gummy worms, smarties, skittles and gummy frogs at the Bulk Barn and Beloved baked up the most delicious cupcakes ever and frosted them in rainbow hues.

Lucas' party

I was going to put out little bowls to share all the decorations, but then I thought about seven sets of dirty fingers and virus season, and decided to make each kid his own plate with a wee bit of each of the decorations. I am getting smarter with each party, I tell you!

Lucas' party-5

And all that sugar had pretty much exactly the effect you’d expect.

Lucas' party-6

Step four: sing happy birthday, and have fun trying to blow out a sparkler.

Lucas' party-7

Step five: while the kids are opening the presents, stash each boy’s t-shirt in his loot bag with a Kinder egg, a box of mini-pencil crayons and a treat-sized playdough for the easiest! loot! bags! ever!

Lucas' party-8

Step six: hand off sugar-crazed children to their parents and enjoy the relative peace and quiet.

How did we ever think our house was noisy with just three boys in it? ;)

In the end, the cost was almost negligible – the most expensive item was the fabric markers, and I got 40% off those with a coupon (and bonus, Lucas can keep using them on future t-shirts.) The t-shirts came to about $15, maybe $20 for cupcake decorations, chips, fruit punch, and about $3 per kid on the loot bags. There were no tears, no breakage, and no cupcakes smeared in to the sofa. And I’m pretty sure my ears will stop ringing any time now.


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A love letter to Simon, age 11

by DaniGirl on February 1, 2015 · 1 comment

in Simon

My dearest, darling one and only Simon, today you are eleven years old!

Eleven years ago today, it was Super Bowl Sunday when you burst into the world with one hand over your head. Today to the rest of the continent it might be Super Bowl Sunday again, but in our house it is Super Simon Sunday!

March Break on the Rideau Canal

Simon, you are funny, smart, argumentative, opinionated, thoughtful and goodhearted. You are the first one to notice when someone needs a hug, and the first one to notice a new haircut or a piece of rearranged furniture. In a household of daydreamers, you are the one with both feet rooted in reality who pays attention to life’s little details. Your attention to detail means you are the one I ask to help me remember things. You’re also the one who knows all the gossip, in our community and in the wider entertainment world. “Simon, who sings this song?” “Simon, who’s the girl who’s in that movie with the guy and the thing?” “Hey Simon, who’s that tall guy over there with the blue shirt?” If anybody knows, it will be Simon.

National We Day in Ottawa 2014

We had a fun year together, Simon! You enjoy our family adventures, even if it takes a bit of cajoling to get you away from the computer screen. You like to know things: where are we going, how long will it take to get there, is it the place we went last time or the time before that? Oy, the questions you ask – you do keep me on my toes. Your love of knowledge shows in your grades though – you continue to do well in all your subjects, but you say your hands-down favourite subject is math. (Yay!)

Apple picking 2014 1

You may be eleven, but you’ve been a teenager for years. You’re the one who pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone with your online explorations. You love Instagram and Minecraft and YouTube – especially when you can stack them up by posting Instagrams of screen caps of Minecraft games being played on YouTube. You’re often at the centre of a massive online Minecraft skype playdate. You like things offline too, although you’d play online eight hours a day left to your own devices. You still like to play board games like Uno and Apples to Apples, and this year we’ve started playing Dungeons and Dragons, too.

Easter eggs 2014

You are also interested in food and cooking, and love to watch the Food Network. You know more about cooking techniques at eleven than I did at 35! You like to help make dinner and have even made a few meals on your own. I look forward to seeing your culinary talents develop along with your palate, and I’m delighted to see that vegetables are no longer your enemy. You are still not much of a sports guy, but you do love your new brazuca soccer ball, and you embraced skating, skiing, floor hockey, swimming and biking this year to varying extents.

Father's Day in Perth

You have a tight gang of friends, and I’m always happy to see how loved and respected you are. Your buddies include Mason, Dylan, Ben, Jacob and Nathan, among others. Your easy and friendly nature seem to make it easy for you to see almost everyone you meet as a potential friend – I love that about you. In addition to Minecraft and Nintendo games, you also love pop culture and reading. It’s you who got me reading the Divergent series this year, and you continue to influence my iTunes playlists. You have a strong streak of romanticism in you, as well. I think you have loved discovering exploring the world of Anne of Green Gables this year as much as I have, and when I thought your attention may have waned in the sea of characters and details, you have surprised and impressed me in how much you relate to the story written a hundred years before you were born.

Souris and Basin Head PEI

You’ve got a finely tuned sense of responsibility as well. You remember permission slips, homework assignments and obligations with little prodding from me. When you decided you wanted a tablet of your own and it wasn’t something we could afford as a gift, you simply started saving up for one. I’m very proud of your determination and discipline!

Christmas tree quest 2014-10

Simon, it’s not easy being the middle child, but you always manage to shine. You are witty, thoughtful, playful, warm, smart and adorable. I could go on for hours about the sheer joy you bring to our lives. I wish you every happiness on your eleventh birthday, and I can’t wait to see what amazing things your second decade has in store for you. Happy birthday, my sweet Simon. You truly are my sunshine!


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In celebration of 2015′s anniversary-palooza and 10 years of blogging, I’m revisiting some of my favourite blog posts ever. This is from the spring of 2005.

header history collage

We had some friends over on the weekend for dinner. No no, we didn’t have them à la Hannibal Lecter, we had the grilled chicken fajitas you told me I couldn’t have on Friday when I had to have takeout. Did I thank you for that yet?

So we had these terrific friends of ours over, and they brought their baby daughter. Okay, I can see it’s going to take me forever to tell this story, because I already have to correct myself again. What really happened is, we really really wanted to see, hold, cuddle, play with and otherwise fawn over their beautiful two-month-old baby daughter, and since she isn’t getting out much without a chaperone these days, we had to invite them along for the ride.

So anyway, they all three come over for cuddles and fawning and some dinner on the side. They are there exactly long enough for me to serve them each a drink when J (aka the guest who might not want to be named on the Internet) caught Simon with his hand submersed up to his wrist in J’s drink. This is the first of many times I will think throughout the evening that I am incredibly glad these are very good and patient friends of ours who genuinely love our boys and who are on the cusp of some major parenting foibles themselves. So J is pretty good about the whole thing, gets a towel and wipes off Simon’s hand and the drink spilled all over the end table and doesn’t even mention the fact that I totally didn’t offer to get him a new drink. Can you believe I only just NOW thought of that?

Now, you’d think that with the ratio of parents to children rising from 2:2 to 4:3, the odds would be improving in our favour over your average level of household mischief. Not so much. Beloved is so completely enthralled with beautiful baby girl that he forgets he even has boys, let alone that said boys are running rampant through the house. Not even 10 minutes after the Simon-as-stir-stick event, somehow Simon gets into the bathroom, closes the door behind him, and makes his way – in the pitch black, mind you – to the toilet, lifts the lid, and begins washing his pop-soaked hands in the toilet water. Beloved intercedes and washes Simon’s hands, I go back to making dinner, and within five – I’m guessing it wasn’t even three – minutes, Simon was back with his hand up to his wrist in J’s drink. God bless J, who only asked Beloved, “Are you sure you did a good job washing his hands?” And you know what? I honestly can’t remember if I got him a fresh drink even then.

So we have dinner, and it’s the usual chaos of dinner with Tristan not wanting to eat (a blog for another day) and it’s too late for Simon who passed through hungry the previous hour and had arrived at too-famished-to-do-anything-but-holler-and-throw-food, and JJ (as opposed to J) has to leave the table mid-meal to be a meal to her baby girl, and I remember the days we used to have dinner when it was just the four of us and we’d linger over dinner and dessert and conversation for hours. Or was that somebody else’s life?

You’d think having his very own baby in the house for the past 14 1/2 months would have left Tristan jaded on the concept of babies in general, but just the opposite is true. He really had no use for Simon as a baby, but he is fascinated by the new babies in our life, particularly his almost six-month old cousin Noah and beautiful baby girl. Beautiful baby girl is particularly special, however, because she is the only baby girl in any of our lives. My brother has a son, my closest friends have sons, my cousin has a son – even the day care provider has nothing but sons. So you can see why beautiful baby girl is a princess in all of our lives. On the way home in the car from our first visit to introduce beautiful baby girl to the boys, Tristan pronouced (with no prompting from us) that beautiful baby girl is his girlfriend. (pauses to let you “awwwwww” properly)

So anyway, JJ finishes feeding beautiful baby girl while we clean up the kitchen, and of course the next thing on the agenda is a diaper change. Tristan, who hasn’t really moved more than a foot away from beautiful baby girl all afternoon, is ‘helping’ and JJ is extremely patient with him. As she removes beautiful baby girl’s diaper, Tristan begins to howl with laughter, and I am mortified when he exclaims “Look at how small her penis is!”

Needless to say, we won’t be hosting too many more dinner parties this decade. We might even have to hold off until the engagement party of Tristan and beautiful baby girl…


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Our darling old dog Katie arrived in our lives long before any babies did, and I think that’s why she always acted in a very maternal way toward them.

Bella, on the other hand, arrived into a pack of noisy, playful boys, and it’s clear she thinks the boys are her littermates; never moreso than when given the choice, she will choose to lie on top of one of them rather than just about anywhere else.

Like this:

Pups in a pile

I can’t figure out what I like more, the fact that Tristan is tolerating this or the expression on Bella’s face as she looks directly into the camera that says, “What?!”


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(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: 50 favourite photos from 2014

31 December 2014 Ah, me boys

Wow! 2014 was an amazingly photogenic year. I could easily post 50 favourite photos just from our trip to Prince Edward Island alone (yes, I know, I’m on about PEI again – I never really stop thinking about it!) or 50 favourite photos of fun family adventures with the boys. I probably even have 50 [...]

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Photo of the day: My Name is Donder

3 December 2014 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! Fun, right? The expression on the reindeer slays me. That’s a Donder face if there ever was one. This [...]

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Photo of the day: Rich autumn tones before and after

11 November 2014 Photo of the Day

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: Here’s the image straight out of the camera: I think his face might still be a little [...]

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Photo of the day: Halloween 2014 (and Tristan’s first foray into gourd carving)

1 November 2014 Ah, me boys

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 [...]

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