Ah, me boys

The boardwalk at the Chapman Mills conservation area near Barrhaven has always been one of our favourite places for a wander on a summer day. I have dozens of photos of the boys on the boardwalk going back to when we had Katie and before Lucas was even in the picture, so to speak. When I’m going places that we’ve been many times before, I find taking along a different lens lets me see things in a new light, and yesterday felt like a fish-eye kind of day.

Chapman Mills walk-5

Chapman Mills walk-4

Awesome tree, right? This one and the one below were amazing.

Chapman Mills walk-3

(Sigh, not a toddler any more.)

Chapman Mills walk-2

Chapman Mills walk

That last one is the inverted reflection in the water. I wasn’t actually thinking about cropping it and flipping it like that when I took it, but I liked it after I played with it.

Anybody want to go for portraits down at Chapman Mills? My models were patient enough, but I had way more more ideas than they had patience. Sometimes I wonder what their future selves will think of these childhood family adventures where my camera is like the fourth needy child. To their credit, though, they are generally patient with the obsessive picture-taking. So far. šŸ˜‰

{ 1 comment }

Although we’d had a loose idea of what we planned to do pretty much every day of our epic PEI trip, we awoke the morning of the final day with no clear plan. We chatted as a family to make sure we’d done just about everything we’d wanted to do, and discussed how we wanted to invest our last precious hours. The forecast was rather grim, with grey skies and thunderstorms pending in the afternoon. The boys wanted to visit a Cows store for ice cream and souvenir t-shirts, and I wanted MOAR BEACH. The choice was clear: Cavendish!

The boys got their t-shirts and stuffies and browsed the kitschy shops on the boardwalk, and I looked speculatively at the heavy grey clouds, which seemed to want to disappate. We debated various beach options: Cavendish is right there, and we had not yet visited it on this year’s trip. Basin Head, our hands-down favourite, was a good hour and a half away. Brackley? Greenwich? Nope. As occasional peeks of sun broke through the clouds, I checked the tide tables. If we leave RIGHT NOW, we should arrive at Thunder Cove well before the tide climbs high enough to cut us off from the arch and teacup yet again.

As we drove, the peeks of sunlight grew in intensity, the clouds thinned, and by the time we pulled off on Thunder Cove Road, the forecasted thunderstorms had given way to unexpectedly sunny skies. Beloved and Simon found a comfy spot to park our blanket and sandcastle building tools, while Tristan led Lucas and me down the beach the 800m or so toward the rock formations.

As we got closer, I began to suspect that we were to be thwarted yet again. The waves, considerably calmer than our last visit, were nevertheless lapping gently at the foot of the cliff we had scaled. Tristan had already scurried up and over the rocks when Lucas and I arrived, and I tried to convince Lucas to walk through the seaweed-choked water to go around the rocks that we couldn’t climb over last time. Lucas took one look at the seaweedy waves and abjectly refused. I couldn’t say that I particularly blamed him, but there was no way that I was going to have come all this way not once but twice and be kept from the rock formations yet again. I’d even checked the tide tables! I was unsuccessfully trying to convince him to hop on my back for a piggy-back ride, and simultaneously trying to discern whether there were any jellyfish or sharks or killer whales hiding in the seaweed-tossed waves, when Tristan called to us from a ledge above.

“Come up!” he called. “There’s a path!”

Right. A Tristan path and a mom path are not the same. Mom paths are wide, have directional markers, and are maintained by the province. Tristan paths have scree, toe-holds and vertical drops. Regardless, turning back was not an option (oh you stubborn woman!) and the waterward option was less than palatable. Up we went to inspect Tristan’s path.

We started off where we ended our adventure last time, on a ledge that wraps around the edge of the cliff but becomes narrow, scree-filled and entirely inappropriate for seven year olds and those on the eve of their 46th birthday.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

I scowled and began to protest, but Tristan said, “No, look, we can go up and over.”

Oh good, higher is the direction I wanted to go. Not. But up we went, and to his credit there was a path, an actual path for humans and not just billy-goat kids, through the marran grass.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

What goes up must come down. Tristan skipped down, Lucas scootched down, and I eased down, one tentative, baretoed step at a time. Tristan coached me on each step.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

And then – success!

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

We made it to, and through, the arch, and on to the teacup.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

My trophy photo. In two weeks of grey skies, I love that we a beautiful blue backdrop for this one!

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

And then, back up and over we went, some of us more quickly than (ahem) others.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

For Tristan, the final descent back to the beach was as easy as one big leap.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

Then he climbed halfway back up to hold my camera for me while I scootched and slid and picked my way down one careful step at a time. Lucas was half way down the beach by the time I got down.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

And look at that sky, that cloudless perfect blue sky. One could weep for all those grey cool days, but instead, we celebrated the sun by playing in the waves.

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

Revisiting Thunder Cove, PEI

And so the tide begins to turn on my relationship with Tristan. I never would have made it up and over those sandstone cliffs if he hadn’t been there. It was partly sheer stubbornness (if he can do it, I can do it!) and partly his genuine conviction that of course we could get over the other side that motivated me. I see a sea change here, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Is there anything better than an adventure and exploring on a sunny summer day? Of course there is – when you share it with a friend!

{ 1 comment }

We’d been at the ceilidh for about 10 minutes when I leaned forward and whispered in Beloved’s ear: “Okay, so maybe not ALL my ideas are good ones.”

A ceilidh, pronounced “kay-lee”, is part dance, part social gathering, part kitchen party, and PEI takes its ceilidhs seriously. On any given night during the tourist season, you can choose from up to seven or eight different ceilidhs on different parts the Island. Being part Scottish myself, and loving east coast music, attending a ceilidh was high on my list of things I wanted to do during our time on PEI.

I was expecting an evening of sing-along Irish folk music, maybe a little Stan Rogers, a sea shanty or two, some fiddle music and a grand call of “Sociable!” In other words, what we’d come to love at a night out at a pub like the Heart and Crown. Maybe there are ceilidhs like that on the Island, but the one we stumbled into was an entirely different kettle of lobster.

While I’d understood them to be family affairs, I asked anyway at the table set up at the entrance whether kids were welcome. The lovely white-haired ladies at the table clucked and cooed over the boys and said there would be no charge for Simon nor Lucas, but they did charge the adult’s admission fee of $4 for tall Tristan. We entered the darkened hall and I had my first inkling that maybe this wasn’t the show for tourists that I had anticipated. We had arrived just as the musicians were getting ready to play, and the hall was full enough that we had trouble finding folding chairs enough for all of us. I could spot maybe two other obvious tourist families (the hoodies and shorts were a dead giveaway), and the rest of the hall appeared to be filled with locals, not a one of them younger than 65. As we sat and waited for the music to start, discussions flowed around us about who was spotted speaking to whom and whose house needed a little paint on the porch and who was looking a little tired tonight and oh my goodness but did you see Debbie wearing that red blouse, she knows she can’t pull off red, what in tarnation was she thinking?

And then the music started. Well, it was mostly music. The fiddle made occasional and unfortunate screeches of a most unmusical nature. I like to think I have a fairly broad, if not eclectic, knowledge of many genres of music, but there was not a single song that I recognized. I can assure you that they were not something that Alan Doyle will be covering on Great Big Sea’s next album, of that I am sure. The best approximation I could offer would be early Pasty Cline mixed with the very whiniest type of “my tractor’s got a flat and my dog died and my wife ran off with my uncle Joe” western twang. After a few songs, new musicians would take the stage and clearly the evening was part dance and part talent show, 50 years after grade school ended.

And didn’t the dance floor just fill up with all those grey-haired locals? Couples danced, women without menfolk danced with each other, and each song they switched partners. Beloved nailed it when he called it a box social at the senior’s home. It was equal parts weird and delightful, and I couldn’t help smiling at how much everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Everyone except the boys, that is. While I can certainly appreciate the joy of the dancers on their social outing of the week, you can surely appreciate the torture that the evening wrought on their teenage souls. To their credit, they clapped politely after each song, but I could see plainly on their faces that they’d rather be trapped in the car through endless hours of New Brunswick highway than endure two hours of sitting through this. That’s the point at which I leaned over, laughing, and whispered in Beloved’s ear, “Okay, so maybe not ALL my ideas are good ones.” I think Lucas was actively sliding off his chair onto the floor as I said it.

I should mention here that I have serious dance anxiety. I have never enjoyed dancing. I’m naturally clumsy, and have no sense of rhythm whatsoever, and while I am incapable of ceding the lead to my partner I am not a strong enough dancer to lead. Beloved, on the other hand, is a wonderful dancer, which makes me feel even more clumsy and wooden and anxious. Watching the dancing couples filled me with joy, though, and I knew it was up to me to make the best of what I already thought was a rather delightful memory in the making. I asked Beloved to dance, and I managed not to break any of his toes in the process. More importantly, though, the boys watched us with interest. Another song passed, and when I asked Tristan if he would like to dance, he blushed and hesitated long enough that Simon jumped in for his opportunity. And then this happened.

At the ceilidh

At the ceilidh-2

At the ceilidh-3

And then Simon wanted to dance again, and Lucas wanted to dance again, and the other families were dancing, and some of the local men asked the young daughters of the tourist families to dance, and it was the sweetest, most charming evening. There was one fellow in particular who looked alarmingly like Mike Duffy to me, and he was having the time of his life. He jigged and stepped and kept his handkerchief in his pants pocket to wipe the sweat pouring from his bald brow as he danced with every lady in the room. He was adorable, and I harboured a deep fear that he’d make is way around to asking me to dance by the time the night was through – thankfully, for the sake of his toes and mine, he did not.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, the floor cleared for a square dance of sorts. It was really a bit of a disaster of couples, and every turn seemed to leave someone standing awkwardly out of place, and people bumped into each other and there were really only two or three folks who seemed to have any idea of their way through the chaos. One fellow in particular, I’m going to conservatively put him at 80 years old, seemed to know what he was doing and I so enjoyed watching him that when we happened to bump into him on our way out, I had to let him know how much I enjoyed watching him dance. His brogue was so thick that I could make out only about half of what he said, but the gist of it was, “I used to teach square dancing but there’s only so much one man can do. I can’t teach the whole bloody floor!” The disgust in his voice was priceless and worth the price of admission alone.

As we made our way out, several of the locals stopped us to wish us a good evening, or to tell us to stay. “We’re about to put out the lunch, you can’t leave now!” Lunch, at 9:30 pm, was being laid out as we left, and of course it comprised sandwiches on white bread, cut into triangles. While we didn’t stay for lunch, we were charmed by the kind words from the locals, complimenting the boys on the dancing and speaking to us as if we showed up every week and would be back the next week for more.

So while not all my ideas are good ones, some of them turn out for the best despite my intentions. Our ceilidh adventure was nothing close to what I’d expected, but I’m willing to bet the boys will never forget it.


Remember a few weeks ago when I asked you if I was crazy for not wanting my sweet little baby boy to play keeper for his soccer team? And to a one, you told me yes, I was being crazy, and to get over myself and let the child play keeper, for the love of soccer?

You win this one, oh wise bloggy peeps. You were so right!

Lucky for me, Lucas had some clever, experienced parents giving him good advice. My friend and guide to the world of soccer parenting Lesley told me that if I were to tell him one thing, it should be that he is allowed to use his hands in goal, so don’t be afraid to grab it. That was better advice that what I’d come up with, which was an encouraging grin masking a flinch of nerves.

Lucas had his turn as keeper in the second half of the game. They’re not exactly the best team in the league, and it’s not unusual to see teams run up goals against them, but I was pleased to see that on the night Lucas was scheduled for keeper, at least they weren’t getting trounced. He’d been in goal, I kid you not, about 90 seconds when the other team’s best player sent a hard boot at him from about six feet away – and Lucas took it full in the face. It was exactly my worst fear, and of course it hurt and of course he cried. He came off for a few minutes, went back on, flinched away from the ball as it came toward him and came off again, not quite done feeling the sting of the shot. The coach was great, told him as soon as he was feeling better he’d put him back in goal, and another mom had an ice pack handy.

Best of all though, was my brother Sean. Sean, whose kids have been through a couple of years of soccer between them, had come along with the big boys and his son to cheer Lucas on, and he came over to make sure Lucas was okay. Sean coached Lucas to stand in a bit of a crouch with his hands up in front of his face to protect it.

Lucas went back into the game and assumed his crouch, and pretty much stayed that way. To our great amusement, he spent the entire rest of the game with his hands up beside his face – even when the play was literally in front of the opposite goal. Like this:


Zoomed in – the play is nowhere near, but he’s ready and he is 100% focused on where that ball is! Sean joked that Lucas would likely sleep that night in the same crouch, his hands up to protect his face.

defense detail

The very best part was watching him shake it off and actually make six or seven saves. He took one hard one off his hip (he learns, I’ll give him credit for that: he took two hard balls to the ‘nards last week, so he’s learned to protect what matters!) and clearly he listened to Lesley’s advice because he made several other saves by reaching down and plucking the ball out of play. He only let in two goals, which is not bad at all for a team that has lost by double digits more than once.

You were so right, oh wise bloggy peeps, and I was wrong. And the joyful, fierce look on his face for the rest of his night in goal was like a gift. He loved it, when it stopped hurting. I gotta tell you, I had no idea. And that ball to the face was a damn good lesson – he did not take his eye off the ball for the rest of the game!

So we’re driving home after the game, and he’s sparking with energy from game (still a loss, but not a blowout like the past few weeks) and I asked him, “So Lucas, you’ve played offense, defense and keeper. Which one do you prefer?”

Of course he said keeper. Of course he did.


You can pick out more than a few changes from September 2014 to June 2015, not least of which are haircuts, growth spurts, and the fact that mom remembered in June what she forgot in September – to turn on the autofocus!

First and last day of school!

They’re growing up WAY too fast! Simon in the bottom photo is the same age Lucas is now, and if you look close, you’ll see they’re coincidentally wearing the exact same t-shirt. Hand me downs FTW!

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

And just like that…. it’s summer! :)


They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but sometimes it rolls out of the orchard, down the farm lane and clear into the next county.

We were bemused last year when Tristan placed well in the school’s track and field events, as he’d never really expressed an interest in running – aside from never really going anywhere slowly. “He runs like the wind!” I remember his vice principal confiding to me in tones of hushed wonder, and he seemed to have a natural flair for running. We were so surprised and pleased, though, when he placed so well in several running events this year that he was invited to represent his school at the pentathlon (a 100m race, shot put, long jump, high jump and 800m race) that both Beloved and I made arrangements to come out and cheer him on.

We cheered ourselves ragged (okay, maybe that was just me) when Tristan came first in his heat in the 100m race to start the day. That’s him in red, #17.

Tristan's big race

He came in fourth of a dozen in the 800m race (missed third place by a whisker – really less than 3/10 of a second) and came in sixth overall.

As we sat in the stands waiting for the 800m race to begin, I was pretty sure my heart was going to either burst or come to a full stop from a complex mix of emotions covering the spectrum from “be careful” to “run hard” to “no matter where you place on this race, and no matter how big and smelly and hairy your feet might get, you are always my boy and I think you are a spectacularly amazing human being.”

When we teased him about where his speed comes from, he shrugged us off in the way only a teenager can. “I just don’t like to go slow.” I, who have nearly killed myself trying to keep pace with him on our evening dog walks, can testify to the absolute truth of that.

And you know what? He DOES run like the wind!


Simon’s piano recital

2 June 2015 Simon

The boys have given us no shortage of reasons to be proud lately. Lucas has been adorable in his enthusiasm about soccer, and Tristan has turned into quite the track and field star. Today’s post, though, is all about Simon. Simon took a year of piano lessons and then took a year off. Throughout the […]

2 comments Read the full article ā†’

Photo of the day: In the garden

10 May 2015 Ah, me boys

He’s as tall as me, all lanky legs and limbs, and his hair might be a little longer than I’d keep it if I were in charge of the scissors, but he’s still willing to humour me and my relentless camera. I love that you can see vestiges of the toddler he was and hints […]

1 comment Read the full article ā†’

A love letter to Tristan, Age 13

7 March 2015 Tristan

Wait, what? I have a TEENAGER in the house? How could my sweet baby Tristan possibly be 13 today? 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. And when I say you’re […]

3 comments Read the full article ā†’

A love letter to Lucas, Age 7

8 February 2015 Lucas

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

0 comments Read the full article ā†’