Tristan

Today’s entry on the (never-ending) list of things I never expected to do as a parent: ordering Kool-Aid packets off the Internet so I could dye my son’s hair.

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It never gets old, this parenting thing!

It’s not that I didn’t want Tristan to colour his hair, or even that I didn’t want to pay for it. Last March Break, he had a single foil of red put into his hair at his bangs. He quite liked it, and it faded nicely to a copper before disappearing entirely around the end of the summer. In the interim, I had my own hair coloured at a salon for the first time ever, adding all the colours (because really, why limit yourself to just one?) and over the year learned everything I never knew about caring for colour-treated hair.

This spring, I picked up a couple of tubes of semi-permanent colour in cyan and magenta, and we tried to add a little colour to the bottom inch or two of Tristan’s hair at the nape of his neck. First we tried the cyan, which came out more of a murky green on his dark golden hair, and was virtually undetectable pretty much from the first day. A few weeks later we tried the magenta, leaving it on longer, but to the same result. In fact, you could see the magenta dye in my cuticles longer than you could see any trace of it in his hair.

He didn’t want to commit to bleaching his hair as he quite likes his natural colour, but still wanted to have a little pop of colour. And that’s when my brilliant Facebook friends told me about Kool-Aid dip dyeing. Did you know that’s a thing? Maybe it wasn’t on my radar because I never dreamed of colouring my hair until I knew I could have all the colours, but I’d never heard of it before. I poked about for a while on Google, and it seemed simple enough: a packet or two of unsweetened Kool-Aid, some hot water, and 15 minutes of your time. Sure, that’s worth trying.

Problem: did you know they don’t sell those little enveloped of unsweetened Kool-Aid mix in Canada anymore? When did that happen? I have clear memories of buying it for the kids when they were toddlers, but they have no memory of ever drinking it. (I picked up the closest equivalent I could find, those pre-sweetened singles that you add to a glass of water, and they gobbled them up like crack. But – don’t use those in your hair. You need the UNsweetened mix.)

You know you’re down the rabbit hole when you are reading Facebook posts lobbying Kraft to bring the unsweetened envelopes back to Canada, and you are really past the point of no return when you decide the best course of action is to actually order some from the Internet. (I found this site to be reliable and quick, should you also be looking for a source.)(Not a sponsored post – more of a PSA!)

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Getting the Kool-Aid was definitely the more challenging part of this adventure. Actually colouring Tristan’s hair with it was surprisingly easy!

I read a few tutorials online to get a feel for the process. (I swear, I will read a 10,000 word blog post before I will watch a three-minute video. I am old skool, give me words, please!) It seemed I had two basic options: mix Kool-Aid in boiling water and dip the hair in it, or mix Kool-Aid with conditioner and paint it onto the hair. I wanted the path of least resistance and most intense colour, so we went for the dip dye.

I put a cup of water into a pot and brought it to a simmer, then added two packages of (unsweetened) Kool-Aid. Tristan chose the Strawberry flavour because we were aiming for more pinkish than red. It was, as you can see, quite red.

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I let it simmer for a few minutes, but because we were on a tight timeline, not for too long. I imagine if you let it boil down a bit, the colour would be even more intense. While it was boiling, I pulled Tristan’s hair into a little ponytail at the base of his neck.

This is where you have to be careful. You want the mixture to still be hot, because heat opens up the hair cuticle so the colour is more fully absorbed. On the other hand, you do not want to scald anyone. I poured the mix into a small mason jar, but a juice glass or mug would also work. Be careful – it will be hot! I let it sit for three or four minutes.

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I sat on the sofa and he sat on the floor at my feet with an old towel on his shoulders. (Important! Kool-Aid may stain your towels and clothes!) I carefully dunked his ponytail and held the jar in place for about five minutes. I think it may have been closer to six.

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And that’s all there was to it! I pulled the ponytail out of the dye mix and carefully squeezed the excess out of his hair, and then released the ponytail and towel-dried the ends of his hair. He let it air dry and this was the result.

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It was a little sticky, but he left it overnight (with a towel for a pillow case!) and rinsed it with lukewarm water the next day. The colour is AMAZING! So much more vivid than the tubes from the beauty supply store! It’s been a few days and I haven’t seen much fading at all. By some accounts I read online, it should last at least a few weeks. Others said it just grew out.

Have you ever dip-dyed your hair? I hear it was quite the thing to do circa 1995, but I totally missed it back then. This was fun, and we still have quite a few packages left over. Heck, maybe I don’t need to go back to the salon for my rainbow touch-ups???

self-portrait of Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders


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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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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 well in the running events in last year’s meet, but struggled with the field events.

As track season rolled around again, Tristan came in first in his grade in the tryouts for 100m and 200m, and other races. Through the year, he had said that he was not interested in doing the pentathlon again this year. “I don’t so much like to throw things. I like to go fast!” As they worked through the high jump tryouts, it took days of patience as the other kids were slowly eliminated and Tristan kept clearing the bar at 115cm, 125cm, 130cm. (For comparison sake, at 5’8″ I am just over 170cm tall.) Despite this, I was still surprised when he came home and said he agreed to compete in the pentathlon again. He’d only had one long jump practice, and hadn’t even touched a shotput during his school tryouts.

The track meet was blustery and cold for a June day, and Beloved and I huddled in layers of clothes and blankets to cheer him on. He warmed us to the core, though, when out of the gate he won his heat and came in second overall in the first event, the 100m race.

Tristan winning

See that face, on my boy in the outside lane? That face says, “Hell yes I just won this race!”

In the end, he didn’t place in the top three in the field of 16 or so competitors and didn’t get a medal. He did what he said he would do, though. He went fast. Really fast! If he can just show up with no practice and run like the wind, I can’t wait to see what will happen if he follows up on his idle idea of going out for track in high school next year and actually putting some training behind him. Stay tuned – I’m guessing though this is the last elementary track meet for Tristan, it might be only the beginning of his running career.


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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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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.

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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.

East Point and Basin Head-10

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


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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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Photo of the day: Jumping out of summer

7 September 2015 Photo of the Day

Sigh. I like autumn with it’s new faces and new schedules and new friends, but I’m always sad when summer ends. Happy end of summer, y’all!

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Revisiting Thunder Cove

6 August 2015 Ottawa to PEI 2015

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 […]

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Photo of the day: Tristan’s big race

12 June 2015 Photo of the Day

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 – […]

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