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

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 home by himself, and Lucas in Grade 2 has done it several times now without incident or angst on my part. Not only do the boys grow up, but the parents do, too. 🙂

I am standing at the fence as I do every day, waiting for the bell to ring and the tsunami of energetic children to come spilling out of the school. I brace myself, as I do every day, for Simon’s enthusiastic hug that will one day knock me clear off my feet. Tristan too still hugs me, but in a more reserved and shy way that leads me to believe that while third graders still bestow public hugs upon parents, I’d best be prepared in case fourth graders do not.

WalkingWe’re headed toward the car together when Tristan stops. “Mom, can I walk home by myself?” he asks. We’ve talked about this a few times before. We live exactly 0.9 km away from the school, down one reasonably quiet and safe street with a sidewalk and two very quiet streets with no sidewalks. We’ve walked it together on many occasions, and I know Tristan prefers to walk. Most days, however, we have to drive as I make it to the school from work with barely a few minutes to spare, and we still have to drive over to pick up Lucas from daycare a couple of blocks in the opposite direction.

I take a searching look at his face, weighing in my mind the walk, the traffic, the buses, the snow, his relative trustworthiness, how long it will take me to pick up Lucas and make it home, and my mother’s reaction if and when she ever hears that I’d let him walk by himself. Another part of my mind is busy admiring the fat snowflakes caught in his gorgeous eyelashes and how his gray-green eyes mimic the stormy clouds above us. He looks so grown up to me in that heartbeat of a minute, pleading his case not with words but by simply returning my gaze. It’s the briefest of exchanges, and yet it resonates with me as a milestone in progress. I can trust him or not, trust the world or not. The choice is mine.

“Are you sure you know the way?” I ask. I make him describe it to me, each corner and turn. We’ve walked it a dozen times and driven it a hundred — I’m pretty sure we could both do it blindfolded. I briefly wonder if we should ponder this more, hold a family council and debate the pros and cons, but in this moment I trust my instincts and acquiesce.

“Okay, but you go straight home,” I tell him. “And if you get lost, I want you to step back from the road and just sit down on someone’s lawn, okay? No wandering around. If you make a wrong turn, stop moving and I will come and find you.” It’s less than a 10 minute walk with three intersections. There is really so little chance of him being lost that I can only laugh at myself and the lasting impressions of the time I got lost the first time I walked home by myself from a new school back in 1975. Remember that one, Mom?

As expected, Simon also wants a piece of the deal once it’s brokered, but I’m having none of that. First, being older must come with some privileges, and second, I think walking home is enough of a test without being responsible for minding your little brother at the same time. Simon, who generally prefers driving to school over walking anyway, is easily persuaded that walking alone is more of a second or third grade sort of activity.

As we pull out of the parking lot, I scan my rearview mirror for signs of Tristan and can see him bobbing along in the stream of children burbling down the sidewalk. It takes me only a few minutes to retrieve Lucas, and although respect all traffic laws regarding speed and full stops, I do forgo the usual end of day chat with his caregiver in my haste to pack him up and get him out.

We pass by the school, and I begin scanning the sidewalk and snowbanks for Tristan’s blue snowsuit and black watch cap. There’s no sign of him on the way home and as I pull in to the driveway I catch sight of him, swinging gently and patiently on the porch swing, with not even a self-satisfied grin on his face.

The next day when I meet them at the fence, I expect Tristan to ask to walk home by himself again. I’m secretly pleased when he does not. He may have trod a few more snowy footprints on the road to independence, but I’m glad he still knows I’ve got a warm car standing by for those most bitter and blustery days.

World Diabetes Day: Dylan’s Story

In 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing a charming extended family on a farm just south of town. It was truly one of the warmest, most fun days of portraits and play in the five years I’ve been in business, and since that warm summer day on the farm, I’m happy to have become friends with them as well. Through Trudy and her family, I’ve learned a lot about Type 1 Diabetes, as their youngest son has T1D. Rarely do I open up the blog for guest posts, but I wanted to share my platform with Trudy today on World Diabetes Day, because I really had no idea how a family struggles with T1D, and I wanted to help raise awareness. I also hope that some future family facing the diagnosis and frantically skimming through search results finds this post and finds hope and optimism.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and November 14th is recognized as World Diabetes Day.

There are two stories I want to share and they seem to conflict. The first story is the one I tell my young son. People with Type 1 can do anything. The other story is about what happens behind the scenes when a person has Type 1 Diabetes. That story is reserved for adults (family and friends), policy makers, school personnel, babysitters, reviewers of insurance claims and processors of requests for disability tax credits.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an auto-immune disease – for some unknown reason your body destroys the insulin-producing (beta) cells in the pancreas. When you have diabetes, you no longer produce insulin so you have to inject insulin (exactly the right amount each time, based mostly on food and activity) with a syringe or pump infusion, for the rest of your life. Only 10% of people with diabetes have T1D. Most people, including myself and family members, knew little about T1D. We even missed the early symptoms which are warning signs. We are grateful for an informed daycare provider who shared her observations of extreme thirst and frequent urination. We know a lot more now!

Meet my son Dylan, now 7 years old. He was diagnosed at CHEO with Type 1 Diabetes at age two.

Photo courtesy of Dylan's family
Photo courtesy of Dylan’s family

We remind Dylan and his friends there is nothing anyone can do to prevent T1D and nothing you can do to cure yourself from T1D. That’s the one line I hope you’ll remember. Individuals with T1D can accomplish anything and generally speaking, they can eat anything. Dylan is an active young boy and a terrific athlete: he is a skier, he plays hockey, he has won a golf championship and he spends the summer swimming, fishing and paddling with his dog Gracie. He dreams of playing in the NHL, just like Max Domi, who has T1D and started in the NHL this year with the Arizona Coyotes.

Photo courtesy of Dylan's family
Photo courtesy of Dylan’s family

Behind the scenes is the second story, the one about the medical devices and decision making process that comes with management of a complex chronic condition. Some days our kitchen table looks like we’re analyzing air traffic control patterns. We download data from a continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump. These two devices, inserted beneath the skin and rotated to new locations every few days, do not speak to each other. People often believe a pump automatically gives you the insulin when you need it but that’s not how it works. It is based on careful review of logs and records ofr meals/activities/illness/unusual circumstances. You need lots of data to make good decisions. The past data informs future attempts to keep blood sugar in range. It fluctuates every hour around the clock. We are constantly monitoring and making adjustments daytime and nighttime. We calculate insulin to carbohydrate ratios and then figure how many carbohydrates are in an apple, a chocolate chip cookie, a bag of popcorn or mom’s homemade chicken soup with brown rice and quinoa. The number of carbohydrates and factoring in the planned activities is what primarily informs the dose of insulin. There are other variables such as hormones, stress, adrenaline, illness and even weather that mess with our data and make getting the right dose of insulin several times throughout the day and night a real guessing game. It’s hard work to be an artificial pancreas! Insulin will save your life but it can also cause death if overdosed. It requires constant vigilance and we are up several times each night to monitor blood sugar levels.

IMG_4390 Pump site

T1D is considered a disability in Ontario. I didn’t even know that for the first three years we managed our son’s disease! The Canada Revenue Agency explains the eligibility based on Type 1 Diabetes requiring more than 14 hours of Life Sustaining Therapy on the part person with Type 1 Diabetes (or a parent.) This will be for life.

How did I not know? Was I in denial? I was determined to make sure our lives would not change and focused on what was possible, which is everything. That’s still my starting position. Everything is possible with good communication and supports in place. The disability is invisible but requires careful management to keep him alive. In speaking with other parents, I came to understand the meaning of disability and the link to human rights and accommodation; perhaps a few extra minutes is required to take a blood sugar reading in the middle of a provincial school exam or being allowed to treat a low blood sugar by eating a snack that is kept in your emergency kit at your desk when it is not yet recess or lunch time.

Approximately 1 in 300 children have T1D and children under the age of five are the fastest growing segment. Because T1D is pretty rare, we often feel alone. Our school had no record of any previous student with T1D. It was all new. We connected with other families though social media. Children spend close to half of their waking hours at school, underscoring the importance of ensuring that students with T1D are safe and well-managed. Support for students with T1D remains inconsistent across Canada. There are discrepancies in resources and policies across the country, even among schools in the same jurisdiction. A huge advocacy effort is still needed to raise awareness and also to request funding for research.

Our family is well supported by family and friends and this makes a big difference. We are grateful that everything seems possible. We try to lighten the load for others who are on the same path. We participate each year in the JDRF Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes, volunteer with JDRF, meet with policy makers and influencers. With other parents, I helped to create www.sosdiabetes.ca

Team photo 2015

Insulin was discovered by Canadians in 1921. We’re hopeful a cure for diabetes will be discovered by 2021!

Until then, T1D looks like Dylan! Remember both stories. The visible face of T1D and believing that anything is possible and the behind the scene efforts required to manage this disease.

In which she fights the urge to wrap her boys in bubble wrap

Help me navigate this one, oh wise and experienced bloggy peeps. I’m trying to be free-range relaxed, but my inner helicopter parent is screeching for control.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ve signed Lucas up for soccer. He’s loving it and to my great surprise, so am I – so much so that I regret not caving in to Simon’s requests back in the day. Because this is Lucas’s first year, however, and because he is a child of Beloved and me, well – let’s just say that he’s no David Beckham. He’s getting pretty good at actually paying attention to where the ball and game play are, but there are kids on his team who have two or three years of experience already, and he’s no match for them with his extensive three weeks of drills behind him.

Soccer star

So here’s the thing. This is the first year the teams in this league have a goalie, and they take turns rotating playing goal. (Do you call it a goalie in soccer? Or do you play goal? I am so clueless. Can we talk baseball instead, because I can absolutely wax poetic about the infield fly rule and other baseball arcana. Soccer – not so much. Before I dredged the David Beckham reference out of my subconscious, the only soccer player I could come up with is Pélé.) The coach has asked them if they want to play goal and apparently every kid has said yes, so he made up a schedule and circulated it to the parents, saying “here’s the night your boy will play goal, please let me know if you or he decide that he doesn’t want to play goal.”

Ugh. I don’t particularly want Lucas to want to be the goalie. I don’t want him to play goal partly because even at seven and eight years old, those kids kick hard, and I’m not sure Lucas is ready for that. Every game, there’s at least one kid in tears over an injury of some sort. I can’t help myself – I just don’t want him to potentially get hurt.

Moreso, though, and I feel great shame in having so little faith in him, but I don’t want him to lose his love for the game if he gets trounced in goal. I absolutely don’t care about whether his team wins or loses, and I think losing is an important lesson. They don’t actually keep score at this level, but every kid knows whether they’re winning or losing. I just don’t think he has the focus or experience to even see when the play is coming toward him, let alone the game skills to know how to block the goal. You can shake off a ball to the face or a hard but misplaced kick – but being the kid that let in eleventy goals takes longer to heal.

And so there’s my struggle. I don’t want him to be hurt, physically or emotionally, and I personally don’t think he’s ready to take on the responsibility of goal keeping. But I don’t want to be a bubble-wrap mom either. Lessons are learned best when they hurt. A little bit, anyway. I don’t want him to play goal, but I don’t want to be the only mom who says ‘I don’t want him to play goal.’ And I don’t particularly relish either the conversation where I explain to Lucas why I don’t want him to play goal OR the sleepless night before and endless hour of anxiety the day he actually does play goal.

Ugh. What do you think, bloggy peeps? Any of you with more experiences as soccer moms and dads care to offer any insight?

In which she capitulates to being a soccer mom

We are not exactly, if you haven’t yet noticed, a sporty family. I’ve made great strides (pun intended) this year to lead a less sedentary life, though, and have been encouraging the boys to be as active as possible as well. So when Lucas expressed an interest in soccer for the second year in a row, I didn’t feel like I should keep dodging the ball. And really, isn’t it some sort of parental rite of passage to sit huddled on the sidelines on a late spring evening that feels more like March than June, with skies threatening rain and mosquitoes the size of sparrows? Okay, so I’m not exactly falling over with enthusiasm, but for Lucas I will persevere.

100:365 Future NBA career

(I don’t have any soccer pictures yet, so this one circa 2011 will have to suffice as our baseline. He’s got a lot of room for growth, right?)

I post this to solicit your best tips and tricks for surviving the summer soccer seasons, oh clever and experienced bloggy peeps. All I can think to bring is a lawn chair, some bug spray, an umbrella and of course my camera. What else do we need to survive our first game – and the rest of the season, too? What are your best soccer-parenting tips?

Is fruit juice bad for kids?

This is timely. I was just thinking about writing a blog post about kids and their drink choices when I came across this article in the Ottawa Citizen about how fruit juice may be dropped from Canada’s food guide as a healthy choice. The article illustrates two sides of the argument: on one hand, fruit juice does contain certain vitamins like vitamin C, folate and potassium, which makes it perhaps a better choice than straight soda or fruit punch. On the other hand, drinking a couple of cups of juice every day could comprise a quarter or up to half of a child’s caloric requirements – with questionable nutritional benefit.

I know from my own ongoing research into the healthiest food choices for myself and the family that you should in general try to avoid drinking your calories. There’s no doubt that eating an orange is a better overall choice than drinking a 125ml box of pure orange juice. But is it reasonable to ask kids to drink mostly water? And is an apple going to quench thirst like a cup of apple juice?

4:365 Club soda

I’m not too worried about the amount of juice the kids consume. A juice box in the lunchbox (gasp! I know, but I’m picking my battles) and a half a cup of apple juice at dinner don’t seem to be too unreasonable to me, even if they will add 100 or so “empty” calories. But as the boys get older, what I’m wondering about is the choice between sugary pop and the chemicals in diet soda. We’re aiming to be an ‘all things in moderation’ sort of household, so I don’t want to ban pop entirely, and I want the boys to (a) make reasonable choices and (b) be able to choose things that they find yummy and satisfying sometimes. While I don’t love the idea of them drinking 150 calories of sugar in a can of soda, I think the aspartame and other crap in diet soda could be worse for their growing bodies. Personally, whenever I can I avoid aspartame in everything except chewing gum, which usually means I’m choosing the full fat and full sugar versions of any product over the “lite” low calorie or low fat options. Sugar may be evil, but I’m convinced that artificial sweeteners are worse.

What do you think? Given a choice between the evils of sugar and the evils of artificial sweeteners, which one do you think is more harmful, even on an occasional basis?

Our newest sponsor: Manotick School of Music

It is with great bloggy enthusiasm that I welcome our newest sponsor, the Manotick School of Music.

We’ve had the boys enrolled in lessons at the Manotick School of Music for quite a few years now and I’ve always been pleased with the school and especially the wonderful teachers. Tristan took a couple of years of guitar lessons (one of my favourite blog posts from that era is Five reasons why guitar lessons are better than hockey!) but his interest – and practicing – waned after a couple of years and he’s on a musical hiatus right now. Simon took a year of piano, took a year off, and asked specifically if he could start up lessons again this year.

It’s an exciting time for the Manotick School of Music. As of a few months ago, the school is under new management. The owner and director of Manotick’s Musical Thought Studios is taking the school in new directions, and they are offering lessons in piano, guitar, voice, drums, violin, woodwinds and brass. They also offer piano parties, workshops, ensemble quartets and recitals, among other things, and they’re developing a youth musicianship program in the coming months. You can even take lessons on the gorgeous grand piano in the director’s home studio – how awesome is that?

Oh, and in case you missed it, here are my five reasons guitar lessons are better than hockey:

1. We do not risk growing out of this guitar in mid-season.

2. Guitar lessons do not take place at 6 am on a Saturday, or in damp, dank 12C arenas.

3. There is little to no risk of a concussion in guitar lessons.

4. Other parents do not yell angrily at your child during guitar lessons. (Although the jury is still admittedly out on whether we will yell angrily at our own children in the act of encouraging the practicing of said guitar lessons.)

5. Chicks dig guitar players.

Of course, the same could be said about piano lessons! In fact, I was just reading (yet another) article about the benefits of music lessons. In this case, they found that music lessons early in life protect the brain’s speech and auditory functions as you age, and goes on to say that “children who engage in music lessons boost their attention span, memory, and even IQ.”

It’s a dream of mine to one day have a piano in the house. In the interim, I’ll enjoy Simon thumping out Ode to Joy on our electric keyboard. It never fails to make me smile. He’s having fun AND growing his brain. What’s not to love about that?

If you’re interested in music lessons with Musical Thought / Manotick School of Music, you can see the current teacher availability on the Musical Thought website or contact the director at 613-692-2824.

Disclosure: the Manotick School of Music and I exchanged services for the purposes of this sponsorship. However, I would have fully endorsed the school and its lessons despite our advertising agreement and we have been a client of the school since 2011.

How to host an at-home art themed birthday party for seven year old boys in five easy steps

For his birthday party this year, Lucas was insistent on an at-home party. Really, I asked. Are you SURE? I am always willing to throw money at an on-location party, partly so someone else will have to deal with the mess and the noise and the chaos, and party because I am just not the most organized person in the world sometimes and planning a party is a lot of work.

But Lucas was sure, and that’s how we ended up with seven very excited six and seven year olds in the house this afternoon for an art-themed birthday party. If you know Lucas, the art theme isn’t much of a surprise. You know what? It was noisy, and it was messy, but it was also a lot of fun. What sweet, funny kids they were.

I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough to keep them occupied, and my clever friend Sarah had suggested all sorts of fun party games to keep the kids busy and engaged. In the end, things went so quickly and so well that we didn’t even have time to play them.

So here’s how to host your own at-home party for seven year old boys without losing your sanity.

Step one: a board game. A Lego board game, to be specific. We picked up a copy of the Lego Creator game after Tristan’s awesome Lego birthday party a few years ago, and the boys played in teams of two.

Lucas' party-2

They loved it, but we ran late and had to hurry a bit toward the end.

Step two: make-yer-own t-shirts. Tristan got a set of fabric markers and a couple of blank t-shirts for his last birthday, and since then the boys have had fun making their own t-shirt designs. I picked up a handful of small plain white tees and bought a new set of fabric markers. I was afraid that boys so young wouldn’t take to it or take more than a couple of minutes before they were bored, but they really got into it.

Lucas' party-4

Of course, I probably should have seen this coming. (Sorry moms!)

Lucas' party-3

Ah, boys.

Step three: decorate your own cupcake. I picked up colourful sprinkles, silver dragees, gummy worms, smarties, skittles and gummy frogs at the Bulk Barn and Beloved baked up the most delicious cupcakes ever and frosted them in rainbow hues.

Lucas' party

I was going to put out little bowls to share all the decorations, but then I thought about seven sets of dirty fingers and virus season, and decided to make each kid his own plate with a wee bit of each of the decorations. I am getting smarter with each party, I tell you!

Lucas' party-5

And all that sugar had pretty much exactly the effect you’d expect.

Lucas' party-6

Step four: sing happy birthday, and have fun trying to blow out a sparkler.

Lucas' party-7

Step five: while the kids are opening the presents, stash each boy’s t-shirt in his loot bag with a Kinder egg, a box of mini-pencil crayons and a treat-sized playdough for the easiest! loot! bags! ever!

Lucas' party-8

Step six: hand off sugar-crazed children to their parents and enjoy the relative peace and quiet.

How did we ever think our house was noisy with just three boys in it? 😉

In the end, the cost was almost negligible – the most expensive item was the fabric markers, and I got 40% off those with a coupon (and bonus, Lucas can keep using them on future t-shirts.) The t-shirts came to about $15, maybe $20 for cupcake decorations, chips, fruit punch, and about $3 per kid on the loot bags. There were no tears, no breakage, and no cupcakes smeared in to the sofa. And I’m pretty sure my ears will stop ringing any time now.

A new high in parenting lows: UK parents send invoice to child for not attending birthday party

I was all fired up to blog about this outrageous story about a Maryland family who were reported to police and eventually had child protective services threaten to take away their children for the egregious sin of letting their six and eight year olds walk a mile or so to a park unattended.

But then I stumbled across this even more rant-worthy story. A mother in the UK sent an invoice to the child’s family in the amount of £15.95, which is just shy of $30 Cdn, when said child failed to attend the birthday party to which he had been invited.


I have more than one problem with this. Ahem. First, if you’re sponsoring an activity for your five year old’s birthday party, does it really need to have a value of $30 per person? What the hell are we doing with these out-of-control birthday party costs?

And that doesn’t even broach the question of invoicing the parents for missing the party. Okay, so let’s back this up. What actually happened?

The parents of a five-year-old schoolboy have been invoiced for failing to attend a school friend’s birthday party and have been threatened with legal action if they do not pay.

Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh found a brown envelope with a £15.95 “no show fee” left in their son Alex’s schoolbag last week, sent by his classmate’s mother Julie Lawrence.

Lawrence claims that Alex’s failure to attend her child’s birthday party has left her out of pocket, and that his parents had her details to tell her that their son would not be attending.

Nash said he had been told he would be taken to small claims court for refusing to pay.

And I thought $25 loot bags were over the top. Yikes!

We’re right on the precipice of birthday season here, with two parties booked in the next three weeks and one more birthday following up in March. (So far, one in home party and one on location party have been scheduled.) In the past, I’ve spent upwards of $200 for a party with a dozen kids and felt we got good value for that – sometimes, no amount is too much to pay to keep the screaming, sugar-jacked eight year olds out of YOUR living room, I totally get that.

Over the years, disasters have happened. The day before Tristan’s sixth birthday party at Starr Gymnastics was the epic snow dump we received in March of 2008, with 60 cm of snow falling in about 30 hours. We shovelled frantically to get out of the driveway and made it to Starr in time for the Sunday-morning party, but only his cousin and a dear family friend managed the same effort. Oh well. I wouldn’t dream of invoicing the parents for the missed party. In other years, we’ve called family friends in at the last minute and offered paid-for spaces at a party to their older children when guests cancelled at the last minute. Stuff happens.

As far as I’m concerned, the money I pay for my kid’s birthday party is a gift to that child. In other years, we’ve bought a gift that was more extravagant than we’d usually consider (eg refurbished iPods) in lieu of a party, and the kids were on board with that. I’m not running an entertainment facility and I don’t charge kids for admission to parties — I pay for parties because my boy has looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and said, “Please can we have a party at LaserQuest again? Last year’s party was the best ever and I really had fun!”

We’ve had terrific discussions about where to host a kid’s birthday party in Ottawa (one of my more popular posts – note to self, you should update that one of these days) and the perils of loot bags (really, don’t even get me started.)

What do you think? Is this or is this not the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard of when it comes to kid parties? Or can you see a justification for this that I’m missing?

An outright ban on toboganning – is that where we are headed?

Remember waaaaay back in 2007 when we had a great conversation about a proposed helmet law for toboggans? Here’s the next iteration of the bubble-wrap-your-kids movement: apparently some cities are banning tobogganing altogether.

Front yard sledding-2

According to this article in the National Post, a ban on everyone’s favourite winter pastime is going viral across US cities. “Dubuque, Iowa, is set to ban toboggans in nearly all its 50 parks. Other cities, including Des Moines, Iowa; Montville, New Jersey; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Columbia City, Indiana, are following suit by restricting certain runs or posting signs warning people away.”

This is, of course, a liability issue, so it’s no surprise that our more litigious southern neighbours are more trigger-happy to ban tobogganing than we might be (although apparently some Canadian cities like Hamilton have implemented similar bans.) I would not argue that tobogganing can be a dangerous activity – I ended up in the ER and on crutches for a week or so myself in Grade 9 after trying to surf down a hill standing up on a sled and severely spraining my ankle when I jumped off to avoid a tree, and I was probably six when the sharp edge of a toboggan split open the skin on my nose when I collided with a kid pulling his sled up the hill I was sliding down.

But I would still in no way support a blanket ban like this. I very much agree with the expert doctor cited in the article. Dr Charles Tator, a brain surgeon who works with an injury-prevention charity, acknowledges that tobogganing can be as risky as diving, snowmobiling or parachuting. However, the article says Dr. Tator does thinks rather than banning sledding, cities could take steps to make sledding safer by removing obstacles like trees from designated sledding hills. He also encourages kids to wear helmets.

Winter activities seem more fraught with peril than summer ones. While biking and skateboarding and tree climbing have their own risks, injuries seem both more likely and more severe from activities like skiing (ask me how many times I wiped out on my first runs down the green run last year), skating and tobogganing. Anything that involves hurling yourself across a slick surface is just a little bit crazy, right? But so is living in a climate where we live with ice and snow for so much of the year. On days like this, even going for a walk down an icy sidewalk in -40C windchill is fraught with peril, but we’re not going to ban that, are we? (Ahem, except in the schools, where apparently outdoor recess gets cancelled if the temperature falls to -20C with the windchill. But I digress … that is a post for another day.)

What do you think? Is banning tobogganing the answer? Is the onus on the sledder or the owner of the hill to take precautions and minimize risk? Or should we just hop on a sled and get over ourselves?

Photo of the day: Halloween 2014 (and Tristan’s first foray into gourd carving)

This year represented a pretty significant milestone for us. Like so many parenting milestones, it was begat not of careful thought and extended discourse, but by poor planning, chaotic lives and the lack of any other options.

This is the year I let Tristan carve the pumpkins. Well, two of the pumpkins. I’d cut off the top and gutted them and done a rather half-arsed and pathetic job translating Lucas’s illustration on to one of the pumpkins before running out of time (and perhaps enthusiasm) so Tristan may have been willing to take on the job just so I didn’t do any more damage to other unsuspecting pumpkins who deserved a better fate.

I’d like to tell you that he used one of those blunt and kid-safe pumpkin carving kits. I’d further like to tell you I hovered him, watching carefully how he handled the sharp paring knife.

Nope. I pretty much handed him the knife, warned him he’d have to clean up the mess if he cut off a digit, and went on making dinner and overseeing homework and unloading the dishwasher and keeping Lucas from terrorizing the dog too much and all the other insanity that usually happen between five and eight pm each evening.

To his credit, Tristan did a great job, and all ten of his fingers are still attached. He started small with a tri-force on the smallest pumpkin on the left in the photo below. (A tri-force is “something created by three different goddesses who created all the world and represents power, courage and wisdom.” It’s from the video game Legend of Zelda.) With elevated confidence, he took on a more complex design for the larger pumpkin. It’s the one on the far right.


In case you’re not well-versed in the lore of the Zelda video game, you probably don’t know that’s the pattern on Link’s hylian shield. You should, however, note that the same design appears on the shield in Tristan’s costume (also hand drawn and coloured by Tristan). He’s also carrying a wooden sword we rescued from the garbage (boy after my own heart) in much the same way Arthur drew Excalibur out of the stone, except Arthur’s sword didn’t need a good sanding and a coat of paint.

I’m pretty proud of all three boys for coming up with pretty much all the elements of their own costumes this year. Simon is “the Shadow” and Lucas is Wolverine. Lucas probably had the most help, but when gluing silver-painted popsicle sticks onto gloves is as hard as you have to work on a Halloween costume, it’s a good Halloween indeed.

So maybe this thing about the kids growing up and learning to do things for themselves isn’t so bad after all. And this parenting by benign neglect thing? I should have thought of this YEARS ago! 😉

How was YOUR Halloween?