Tristan

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!


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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!


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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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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)


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Tristan’s grade school graduation

by DaniGirl on June 21, 2014 · 1 comment

in 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.

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 mass. The lovely teachers wrote a few personal thoughts about every single graduating child to share as they received their diplomas, and every time I managed to stop the tears that were freely running down my cheeks, one of the teachers on stage would start crying and set me off anew. It was truly a lovely, memorable affair.

When I was looking for Tristan’s first day of school photo for this post, I laughed out loud when came across the blog post I wrote on his first day of school back in 2006. I wrote:

Tristan occasionally tends toward the stoic, and when I peppered him with questions about his day, he answered my excitement with a casualness bordering on blase.

Did you have fun? Yep.
Was the teacher nice? Yep.
Did you play with the other kids? Uh huh.
What did you do? Oh, you know. A craft. I made a school bus.

A school bus. He made a school bus. My son, the artist.

My son, the artist indeed. Guess who won the Creative Arts Award for his graduating class?

Grade 6 grad

My son, the artist AND the graduate. You read it here first. :)


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A love letter to Tristan, age 12

by DaniGirl on March 7, 2014 · 0 comments

in Tristan

My dear darling Tristan, today you are twelve years old!

Tristan, you are a curious, creative, thoughtful boy with a delightfuly dry and wry sense of humour. You are warm and affectionate, shy but loyal, and full of deep thoughts. You are always a wonderful companion and I enjoy spending time with you.

Tristan's birthday

It seems you grow an inch every time I look at you lately, my son. You grow taller, your voice grows deeper, and the shadows of facial hair on your uppper lip are more than just peach fuzz now. It’s okay if I still think of you as my baby, though, right? Even though we may literally see eye to eye by the end of this year?

Birthday cupcakes

Your best friend continues to be Simon, whether you admit it or not. The two of you have an insular world of imagination woven from Minecraft and Pokemon and YouTube that comes replete with its own set of idioms and concepts impenetrable by your parents. It’s almost like a secret language of twins. And you continue to show great patience with Lucas, who adores you in ways to which I’m pretty sure you’re oblivious. You have a sweet circle of friends for whom you care deeply, and they clearly feel the same way about you. Especially one in particular. šŸ˜‰

New treehouse-2

This year, your favourite things seem to be Minecraft, meatballs, that silly cat, Minecraft videos on YouTube, any artistic endeavour, Pokemon, Chinese food, family movie nights, animals of all sizes, and your dad’s baking. You are still my adventurer and my explorer, the one most receptive to my proposals of a walk in the woods or a ride on our bikes. This year we discovered a love of skiing together, and it was a wonderful adventure to share with you.

First ski day!

Tristan, you continue to show an amazing talent for art. In addition to sketching and drawing, you have lately taken an interest in digital artwork and your PicCollage app on your iPod. You made your own birthday party invitations with it, and you’ve lately taken to creating online avatars not just for yourself but for your friends as well.

Backflip!

You see yourself as a non-conformist, but you strive to make others happy. Given the opportunity to choose between two types of cupcakes to bring to school to celebrate your birthday, you sent around a poll to make sure all your classmates and teachers had a chance to vote for their preference. I read just a few days ago an article called 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently and I saw you in so many of the points. Daydreaming, observing the world, taking time for solitude, seeking new experiences, viewing life as an opportunity for self-expression, losing track of time, seeing things differently – all the things that make you ocasionally challenging to parent or manage in school, in other words. It makes me look forward to see where you are going in life.

Learning to knit

One thing in particular I’ve enjoyed this year is our evening walks with Bella. Although the long winter nights lately have been cold for walking, our chats have been a great way to get to know what’s going on in your life. You’ve shown an interest in astronomy and I’ve been happy to talk your ears off in sharing what I love about the stars and planets.

This is what a perfect Mother's Day looks like (4 of 4)

This has been your last year of primary school. Next year you will move on to the challenge of a middle school embedded in a high school, but for now you have enjoyed being among the kings of the school. You have very much enjoyed participating in your school’s morning “radio show” and dressing up in the school mascot costume – two of only a few of the rewards of being a sixth grader.

Winter walk to feed the chickadees

These letters get harder and harder to write as you get older. I’m no less proud of you, no less charmed by you, no less delighted by your company – but I feel like I can’t be as candid about my affection or your personality and interests as you grow older. Your stories are your own now, crafted more and more by your own motivations, passions and dreams. With each passing year, you become more in charge of writing the story of who you are and where you are going with your life, and I’m only along for the ride and the companionship – and maybe to take a photo or two along the way.

IMG_3769

You may be bigger, my man-child, but you’ll always be my baby. Happy birthday, my sweet Tristan! We adore you!


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In which the boys launch their movie careers at the Apple Store (alternate title: more free family fun this summer!)

17 July 2013 Fun for kiddies

This is a shameless but absolutely unsponsored plug for a great summer activity for kids aged 8 to 12. It was Beloved who noticed the ad for free kids’ camp on the Apple.ca website a few weeks ago. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it “camp” as the sessions are only […]

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A love letter to Tristan, Age 11

7 March 2013 Tristan

Happy Birthday, my handsome fellow. Today you are ELEVEN!! Oh Tristan, where to start? You, my big boy, have had a very good year. You seem content and confident, and you are a joy to be around. You love movie nights and game nights with the family, caesar salad with bacon, reading, Minecraft novelty versions […]

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Now appearing on Today’sParent.com

26 June 2012 How I love the Interwebs

When I started this blog a million years ago, one of the dreams I held was that I might some day have my writing published in a major glossy magazine. My storytelling focus has wandered from my keyboard to my camera over the years, but I have never lost my love of telling a good […]

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Tristan’s first blog post: A Phineas and Ferb Giveaway!

4 June 2012 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Over the last decade, I’ve watched a LOT of kid TV. Most of it is to be endured rather than enjoyed, but I have to admit, when the boys are watching Phineas and Ferb, I get sucked in every time. It is by far my favourite cartoon, narrowly edging out Peep and the Big Wide […]

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