Ah, me boys

It has been a good long while since we’ve had a cat picture around here, hasn’t it?

Tristan and Willie

Both the cat and the man-child are growing up. Lucky for me, while the cat remains averse to cuddling, the man-child is still open to the idea of a hug every now and then.


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I was poking through my archives looking for information about Blog Out Loud Ottawa (did you know BOLO 2016 is this weekend?) and came across this post, which I read at the very first BOLO in 2009. It made me laugh, so I thought I’d share. This is pretty much my whole parenting life in one anecdote!

It seemed like a straightforward question. On the enrollment form I completed on the first day of Tristan’s first day-long day camp: “Can your child swim 25 meters unassisted: yes, no, I don’t know.”

25 meters? How long is 25 meters anyway? That seems kind of far. So I checked “no”.

Then I thought of Tristan bounding off the diving board and dogpaddling happily the length of our friends’ pool, and his success in swimming lessons, and scratched out my “no” and checked the “yes” box.

Then I paused, and reread the question. And I had visions of Tristan foundering in the deep end of some lake-sized pool, alone and far from safety, going under for the third time. And I quickly scratched out my check in the “yes” box and circled the previously scratched out “no” box and drew a little happy face beside it.

Then I paused again. Suddenly, I was picturing Tristan sitting dejectedly on the pool deck in a life preserver as the rest of his camp mates splashed happily in the pool. I pictured him at 35, in his therapist’s office, describing how a childhood spent in a protective bubble ruined his life. So I drew a squiggley line through my circle around the “no” box and scratched it so definitively out that I bled through the paper. And I put a big X on the happy face, too.

I hovered my pen briefly over the “I don’t know” box. I tried to imagine in which universe a skinny, pimply-faced teenager with no investment in the future social and mental well-being of my oldest son was somehow in a better position to make this decision than I seemed to be capable of, and didn’t check that box either.

In the end, I redrew the little box above the “yes” and ticked it off. For good measure, I pointed a few arrows at it and wrote the word “yes!” at the end of the question, and underlined it. I think maybe I was trying to sell the answer to myself.

At the end of the day, I grilled Tristan with the usual questions about his day, and he answered with the usual dreamy inexactitude I have come to expect. He told me about his art class (it was an arts camp) and the monster he was creating in a distracted sort of way. I asked about the pool.

“Oh yeah!” he said, snapping awake into the story, eyes bright with the memory of it. “It was great! I jumped off the highest diving board!”

I paused to digest that. “You mean the one closest to the ground, right? The low board? Not the one that you have to climb up a ladder to get to?” Surely to god my six year old who only learned how to jump off the diving board in the last year was not jumping off the 3m (10 foot) board.

“No, Mommy, the big board! I climbed up the ladder, and the first time I was scared, but then it was a lot of fun so I did it a bunch of times! And it was great! I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and do it again!” At least, I assume that’s what he said. I think I died of fright somewhere around the first exclamation point.

Six year old Tristan on a much more appropriately-sized diving board!

Six year old Tristan on a much more appropriately-sized diving board!


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Easter then and now

by DaniGirl on March 28, 2016 · 3 comments

in Ah, me boys, Photography

I was looking through some old Easter photos and couldn’t help but notice that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I find it fascinating that the photos I chose to keep are so similar in composition and pose, and focus on the same aspects of their personalities.

Tristan, age 7 and age 14:

Tristan old and new Easter copy

Simon, age 5 and age 12:

Simon old and new Easter

Lucas, age 3 and age 8:

Lucas old and new Easter

Well, at least one thing has changed: my mad photo skillz are clearly improved!


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I couldn’t tell you whether it’s me or the boys who more love decorating Easter eggs. They all have a lovely artistic streak in their nature, and I’m delighted to have them trapped in a room doing an activity together that’s delightfully photogenic. Wins all around!

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I always start going for documentary-style shots of the activity and their interactions.

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I try to catch their different personalities.

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And then I just had fun with the shapes and colours.

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It might be an early and icy Easter, but it’s definitely a colourful one!


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Photo of the day: Sunshine smile

by DaniGirl on March 19, 2016 · 0 comments

in Lucas, Photo of the Day

I wanted to capture that delightful gap-toothed smile before it was gone.

Lucas smiling

I hope the sparkle in his smile is always there.


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A love letter to Tristan, Age 14

by DaniGirl on March 8, 2016 · 0 comments

in Tristan

My sweet, funny man-child: Tristan, today you are 14.

T drawing

As I write this, you are busy sifting through books, papers and Lego sets to replace an older, smaller bookshelf with a larger one we filched from the curb last night. It’s a great metaphor for where you are in your life – trading in Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton books for a growing manga collection, giving up some little-boy toys to make room for teenager stuff. The best part, though, is that YOU are doing it, organizing your stuff to your preference, while I tap away up here on the computer.

The Toy Factory at New Glascow

Tristan, you continue to be creative, funny, clever and adventurous. You love to make things, in the digital world and in the tangible one. You are currently using Minecraft to create pixel art of your favourite manga characters from inspiration you found online. You’ve come a long way, and yet not so far at all, from your endless days at the table with crayons and paper.

driveway sliding-7

Speaking of manga, it seems to be your new passion. From Sword Art Online to the row of manga books on your new bookshelf, you have a growing fascination with animé, manga and Japanese culture. You’ve watched so much animé on Crunchyroll this year that you’re starting to recognize some Japanese words, and your new favourite snack food is Pocky. You’ve also become interested in cosplay, and see no reason why you shouldn’t wear at least some parts of your Kirito costume to school occasionally. You continue to be disappointed that I won’t buy you the expensive thigh-high boots you covet to complete the look.

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

You still love to play Minecraft and the Wii with your brothers, and you watch way more YouTube than conventional TV. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw you choose the big screen over the smaller one of your various devices, although you do like to watch the Amazing Race and Masterchef with the family. You do more than just mindlessly watch videos on YouTube, though; I’ve been fascinated to hear you teaching yourself complex video game scores on the electric keyboard based on YouTube tutorials you find online.

Diefenbunker 2016

You have a quirky, subversive and truly delightful sense of humour, and I adore your dry, droll delivery. You see no reason why you should follow the crowd or subject yourself to meaningless societal conventions. You have a keen sense of justice and are quick to call an outrage, but your temper itself is even-keeled. It’s often very difficult to tell what you are thinking, and you must be a mystery to others who know you less well than we do.

Basin Head beach, PEI

You are always up for an adventure, or a walk. One of my favourite memories of our soggy, grey vacation in PEI this year was the long, rambly, rain-soaked hike we took to explore the land-locked lighthouse and beach at St Peter’s Harbour. You still choose to leap, climb, slide and zig-zag rather than walk a straight line. Despite spending some time in physio for patello femoral syndrome in your knees, you continued to hone your skills as a runner this year. You participated in both the cross-country meet and track and field, where you competed in the pentathalon and won your heat in the 100m race.

Tristan's big race

Because you are a renaissance man, in addition to art and athletics you continue to do well in the academic world too. Your grades are solid across all your subjects, and you seem to have a natural affinity for math and science. You and I had an insightful chat not too long ago in which we discussed the grades you are able to achieve now without really trying, versus the potential you could achieve with a little bit more focus and attention to detail. You picked courses this week for your first year of high school, which led to poking around potential fields of study for university, and you are showing interest in computers and technology as a future path.

End of summer jump

For your birthday this year, you chose the same laid-back party format you chose last year: to invite your friends over to spend a few hours hanging out, doing things that Tristan likes to do. In this case, that comprised Wii U, pizza, charades, hanging out, Magic the Gathering, and a rogue game of Settlers of Catan. The same old gang showed up, and their affection for you is obvious through their quirky, handmade cards (fine art, a short story, and one written in code with a key for decoding on the back of French homework) and gifts that show a surprising and heartwarming amount of thought and insight into your personality. You have chosen your friends well, and they are always welcome here.

Tristan's birthday

Tristan, there is so much more I want to say about what makes you so delightfully YOU at 14: how you wear that infernal blanket around the house like a cape, how much Willie loves you, how you lean in for a hug that doesn’t actually involve your arms, how you stereotypically communicate in a teenager’s monosyllabic grunt, how you love to chop the vegetables for dinner so you can play with the big knife, how you carefully maintained a spreadsheet of your allowance so you could save for your own PS Vita, how much I love our inside jokes and daily routines and the simple pleasure of your company.

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Happy birthday, my man-child! Know that your family loves you beyond measure.


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In which I not only stalk Chef Michael Smith, but convince him to FaceTime with the boys

25 February 2016 Ah, me boys

It’s been nearly two years since I first wrote about stalking my culinary hero, Chef Michael Smith. Since then we’ve been to his Flavour Shack in Souris several times, and for my birthday dinner last year we splurged on an incredible family dinner at his new FireWorks restaurant at the Inn at Bay Fortune. And […]

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Photo of the day: Biggest! Snowman! Ever!

22 February 2016 Ah, me boys

It’s the off-season for my photography business, which means two things. First, I’ve got a lot more time on my hands, so I’m teaching myself new tricks and being inspired by seeking out photography tutorials and workshops. Lately, I’ve been thinking more about creativity and storytelling in my photography. Second, I’m positively twitchy to take […]

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Flashback Faves: This is how they grow up, quietly and quickly and right under your watchful eye

11 February 2016 Flashback faves

Thanks to Facebook, I know that five years ago today I wrote this post. Tristan is now in middle school and safely walks to and from the bus stop without incident. What I find charming is that he was in Grade 3 when I wrestled with the idea of the risk of letting him walk […]

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Photos of the day: An amazing birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

8 February 2016 Lucas

We’ve had a LOT of birthday party experience over the years, from bowling to trampolines to movies to art to Lego. Our new favourite party by far, though, is one hosted at the Ottawa Humane Society. We all love animals, but Lucas has shown a real affinity for them. When he did a school project […]

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