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

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 last year on “People In Your Neighbourhood” he chose our vet Heather Ann to profile, and every time I see a cute kitty video on Facebook, I make a note to save it and show it to him. We support the Ottawa Humane Society already as one of our preferred charities, and so hosting a birthday party there was an easy choice – all profits beyond the direct costs of the party are invested back into the OHS.

They did an amazing job with the party. All we had to do was show up! They provided decorations, cups and plates, napkins and cutlery, and even candles. Our party leader Stephanie was patient and knowledgeable, good with kids, and just the right personality to wrangle a few boys who might have been a wee bit overexcited. She introduced us to her friendly pet rat Phoebe, who was a definite hit with party-goers big and small.

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

First, we decorated our treat bags (Lucas looked up at me and said blissfully, “I didn’t know there would be art at my animal party!” as his worlds of happiness collided) and then the kids made doggie treats out of oats, flour and peanut-free nut butter. We chose the dog treat activity, but could have also made cat toys or hide-and-perch boxes for the shelter cats.

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

Then we went on a tour of the shelter, where we saw the animals waiting for adoption. There was a beautiful malamute that very nearly went home with Granny and Papa Lou, had his papers not said he would prefer a home without other dogs. I was really pleased that the kids got to go “behind the scenes” to learn about what the OHS does, and how they take care of the animals that come to the shelter. The highlight of the tour, though, was being allowed to pet the cats waiting for adoption.

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

I have to tell you, I was secretly pleased at how few animals we saw at the shelter. We’ve visited a few times before to pet the kitties, and always found dozens of cats waiting for homes, but there were just a few this weekend. In fact, while we were there two kittens and one dog were adopted. What a great lesson for the kids! What I didn’t point out to the kids was the family who were obviously surrendering their pet, as they brought in armloads of pet gear and left empty-handed and in tears. It must be heart-wrenching to work with the shelter, and I have so much admiration for the staff and volunteers.

After our tour, we had the usual party fun: cake, presents and loot bags. A giant cookie cake, in fact, baked at Lucas’ request by Beloved.

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

I can’t say enough good things about the Ottawa Humane Society or the party they helped us host for Lucas. He loved every minute of it and has already said that he wants his ninth birthday party to be at the OHS, too. And did you know they have camps for PD Days and March Break, too?

A birthday party at the Ottawa Humane Society

Happy birthday, Lucas! Thanks for having a birthday so we could have fun visiting the OHS!

A love letter to Lucas, Age 8

My sweet funny Lucas, you are eight years old today!

French River, PEI

Lucas, you are kind, thoughtful, clever and silly. You are warm and affectionate and love to laugh. And you are charmingly oblivious to the sort of social conventions that require you to actually say hello back when somebody speaks to you, although I’m no longer sure I’d call you shy. You are effusive with your affection, and your teacher has commented on your natural charm on more than one occasion.

Winter walk on the Jack Pine Trail

You love art and games of all kinds, from board games to video games. Since getting Charades for Christmas, you pester us endlessly to play it with you. You’re always up for a game of Mancala or Blokus or cards or Scrabble or Clue, and you’re now big enough to hold your own playing any of these games – although Charades is occasionally a little elusive for you.

Ottawa Family Fun: Artissimo at the National Gallery

You are a talented and prolific artist. You were delighted that we signed you up for a drawing class, though I’m sure your skill level was miles beyond what they’d usually see in a second grader. When you don’t know what else to do, you love to pull out your art supplies and start creating. Drawing, painting, sculpting with play dough, building Lego creations and papercrafts – if it’s a creative pursuit, you can’t wait to do it. “What should I draw?” is always the beginning of a creative adventure for you.

Lucas in the dandelions

Speaking of adventures, we had a great adventure this past summer when we signed you up for soccer. It didn’t take you long to catch up with the boys who had been playing in the house league for years, and every single week I was impressed by your energy and enthusiasm for the game. You also love swimming, and this summer you loved being able to (finally!) jump off the diving board into the deep end of the Manotick pool to your heart’s content. You’re still not very interested in biking on two wheels or skating, though.

Soccer star

You love animals of all kinds, but you especially love baby animals. You love to watch the funny animal videos we find on the Internet, and you know all the neighbourhood dogs by name because you love to stop and say hello to them. I’m not sure you’d recognize our neighbours’ faces, but you surely know each of their pets by name! You and Bella have become good friends, and she is as happy to cuddle with you as to have you play with her and her toys. Every dog deserves a boy!


School seems to come easily to you, while focusing on a task at hand does not. You’re a day dreamer, and sending you off to get dressed can be a multi-hour experience if you are left to your own devices. You brought home not one, not two, but THREE A+ on your final report card for Grade 1, making your dad and me very proud and pleasantly surprised.

Pumpkin picking 2015-2

Once again this year, you were separated from your close friends and I was heartbroken for you. You, of course, handled it better than I did, and it seems that recess has provided sufficient connection for you to maintain your friendships with David, Chris, Matthew, Cole and Owen, and this year you’ve also invited a few girls from your class to your birthday party. Because you so love animals, a party at the Ottawa Humane Society seemed like the perfect choice for you.

Last of the Parc Omega photos

Lucas, you truly are my sunshine. From morning “coffee and newspapers” to reading together at bedtime, and all the adventures in between, every day with you is a day full of joy. You are growing up so quickly, and I can’t believe how responsible you are, walking home by yourself some days and always taking care with your school assignments.

East Point and Basin Head-11

We love you endlessly, my sunny boy. Happy birthday!

Photo of the day: Lucas and the chickadee

Here’s the latest fad in winter fashion: chickadee seed hats. All the cool kids are wearing them!

Lucas with a chickadee

Feeding the chickadees in winter is always more fun. They’re hungry and more willing to come a little closer to even the twitchiest human to get some bird seed.

(Don’t you love Lucas’ adorable red tuque? It’s cute even without the optional chickadee attachment.)

Photo of the day: Walking

I‘ve got two big photographic learning projects this year: learning to make beautiful black and white photos, and conquering the use of flash. I didn’t need any flash with this one, what with that big flash bulb in the sky, but I am happy with the tones and shapes in this one.


I sort of wish his head weren’t directly in front of the play structure, but I think the rim lighting around his head gives it just enough separation to make it work. What do you think?

Photos of the day: Lucas’s baptism

You know how it is when you let something slide, and then you r-e-a-l-l-y let it slide, and then it’s too late and you’re embarrassed about how horribly you’ve let it slide and you’re past the point of redemption, so you lie awake agonizing about it but can’t bring yourself to do anything about it during daylight hours, so suddenly seven years have gone by and you STILL haven’t had your seven year old baptized? Yeah, that.

Once I finally (finally!) confronted my shame and talked to the church, I found them wonderful and welcoming, and not once did anyone scold me for letting Lucas reach the age of seven un-baptized. In fact, the only thing even remotely like castigation was the priest gently patting my cheek and saying, “come back to Church, child” when I confessed to him at our school’s summer picnic.

Since Lucas will be receiving the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation and first communion this year, and Simon will be receiving the sacrament of confirmation, we’ve been going to church a lot this year. You know what has really surprised me? How much I’ve grown to like it. I find attending mass with the boys a time of peace and calm in the week. I like the singing, and the time to reflect, and the sense of community.

Lucas’s baptism was a delightfully low-key and yet spiritual. The people I love most in the world were there, and there were several other families who also missed getting their kids baptized as infants. (Had I only known, I would have agonized a lot less!) And Lucas so loved the idea that he was dressed and ready for church before half the family was up, and took special care to wash his face and comb his hair so he’d be clean for Jesus.

Both our parish priest and my friends and family are quirky and have a healthy sense of humour, and the day was the perfect mix of community, sacred, and joyfulness. There were selfies with his godparents:

Lucas's baptism

But there were also more solemn moments.

Lucas's baptism

And do you know how you’ve chosen the two most perfect people in the universe to be your third child’s godparents? When they gift him with, I kid you not, a Minecraft version of the bible, old and new testament.


In a way, I feel like maybe we were meant to wait, so this lovely day could unfold as it did, because I really can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate Lucas and our family’s fledgling reacquaintance with the church. Huh, who would have guessed it? 🙂

#TBT: These are the things I want to remember

One thing I really, really love about having had the blog all these years is finding these little morsels of joy. I wrote this for me six years ago, and I was right — I had forgotten almost all of these things, and each one of them is exquisite and worth remembering. For #TBT (throwback Thursday), here’s a treat from the archives – October 2009.

Lucas in the land of chalk drawings

These are the things I want to remember about life with 20-month old Lucas. I write them here because they are ephermal, because they’ll disappear in the blink of an eye or the beat of a heart and I won’t even notice they’re gone, and someday I’ll be sad that I didn’t capture them a little bit better.

I want to remember how he says “Yeah!” with such enthusiasm when you ask him a question, like “Do you want to wear your Bob the Builder jammies tonight?” and he says it so that you cannot mistake the exclamation mark at the end.

I want to remember how he grabs me around the neck and squeezes hard when I pick him up, often crushing his face into mine in a sweetly aggressive sort of mashed-up kiss, as if he has just a little bit too much love for an ordinary hug and kiss to express.

I want to remember how even though he is perfectly capable of saying “Nimon” he calls both of his brothers “Tittan”. He started out calling them “Ninon” and “Ninnan”; now, they are the two-headed brother monster with one name.

I want to remember how he begs for whatever bit of tasty treat you’ve got not unlike a labrador puppy might, by standing as close to you as he can making obvious eye contact with you, all the while encouraging you to share with a musical “Mmm hmmm! Mmm hmmm!”

I want to remember how he must be just like his big brothers in all things, and how he loves to draw when they draw and play with lego when they play with lego. I really don’t think it’s occured to him that they are any older or any different than he is.

I want to remember how he loves certain videos and how he asks for them by ‘name’. Bob the Builder is of course “Bob!” (always with the audible exclamation mark) and Blues Clues is “Puppy!” The Muppets episode with Mark Hamill is less easy to convey; he gargles in the fashion of Angus McGonagle, the Argyle Gargoyle who gargles Gershwin. I’ll need to get the new Flip video camera out for that one, I think.

I want to remember how he loves for us to sing “Old Macdonald” in the car, and how when we pause to allow him to name an animal, he says “Cow!” each and every time, over and over again. (And yes, the exclamation mark is audible on that one, too. I think like any new skill that gets acquired by a toddler, he’s busy incorporating the exclamation into his repetoire through fierce and constant repetition.)

I want to remember how hard it is not to laugh when he is vexed and falls to the floor in a disappointed heap, not exactly throwing a tantrum but utterly exasperated by being denied the whimsy of his desire.

I want to remember his good ear for mimicry, and how he can repeat several words in a sing-song of sounds even though he’s only stringing together a word or two at a time. He will stack up a couple of blocks and then look at me and say, “Don’t you do it!” daring me not to knock over his tower the way he knocks down the ones I build for him. And he is pitch-perfect in capturing my tone as he climbs up onto the table and then scolds himself: “Git DOWN!”

I want to remember the way he chortles with glee and relief when we say it’s time for “Blankey and Soo” the bedtime duo. “Banky Sooooooo” he repeats.

I want to remember the way he looks solemnly into my eyes each night as I tell him the story of his day, agreeing with “Mmm hmm” to the key points, around his mouthful of soother.

I want to remember how utterly beautiful, and exasperating, and exhausting, and fulfilling it can be to parent the ball of curious and relentless and lovingly adorable energy that is Lucas at 20 months. It’s so hard to believe some days that it won’t be like this forever, that it might not be like this next month…

I cried when I read this again. Wasn’t this just yesterday? And how, how, HOW had I ever forgotten how he called both brothers by the same name? Even now, he refers to them as “the brudders.” And how he used to gargle when he wanted that Muppets movie – priceless.

I think maybe I’d better get to work writing a post that captures the boys at 7, 11 and 13, before the wonder of now is lost to the rushing sea of time.

I listened to you and let Lucas play keeper. You won’t believe what happened next!

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.

A love letter to Lucas, Age 7

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!