Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don't Despair

Did you ever have that moment when you wanted to pin a note on your child as they headed off to school / child care that said
"This child dressed him/herself"
in order for all to know that you are neither a negligent, half-blind mother nor living under a bridge?

At this point in my life I could pin a note that says
"These jeans were squat tested in the change room at the store" or
 "This T-shirt was purchased without Mom approval"
except that the note would be shredded before leaving the house and teen discontent would set in and that....that is not something we wish on anyone.

It was the same, sometimes, with homework or projects.  I wish I could have sent a note saying
"This child did all his/her own work without hours of assistance from his/her parents"  
I am pretty sure I never did send that note .... pretty sure..... but I did shudder once or twice as some scrawly document was handed in or some poster project with barely recognisable drawings was submitted.

Not that my children didn't try...... they did.....but presentation and artistic skills are not high....or not a priority.  Both my kids have rebelled at seemingly meaningless projects. 

A poster on "What you did during Spring Break" may have lead you to believe we had been at some substance induced zombie rave, next to a lake, that was surrounded by dwarf trees, while giant predatory birds circled overhead. 

When, in fact, we were at Disneyland.

So when David had to do a huge research project called "Homeland" which the teacher stressed had to not only be good ..but... also look good on a poster presentation board... and ...would count for a large chunk of his mark for the term..... I got a little sweaty.

I knew the research would be no problem.  David was fully "into" his chosen topic of South Africa.  I was also sure we had lots of stuff we could help with.  But being a parent who has never done their children's homework I hung back and watched and waited.  David is also very clear about how he thinks things should go and and friendly advice, such as a mother, from South Africa, might give, is not always.....welcome.

I was requested to get the Poster Board and I also bought some letters for titles and a border....just in case it would be helpful.   I was getting maps for our upcoming trip to South Africa so I got a small one for David just in case it would be helpful.

As he colonised our living room and dining room and  I saw the project starting to emerge my concerns started to subside...... it was looking good.....

Miracle of miracles David actually asked for and took some advice and though he got pretty close to the wire to get it done it looked amazing and I am very proud of what he produced.

And curious again about how when we engage children in work that interests them and give them time to explore their curiosity we see amazing work.

Also Google images is a BIG help :)

Well done David! 

No need for me to send a note with this one. 

But if I was going to it would say
"Give this boy an A".

Just saying.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I am not artistic.

I don't do any art.

I am not a huge fan of art galleries although as the years advance I find myself more tolerant of them, especially special exhibitions.

In fact one of the highlights of my trip to Dallas a couple years ago was the afternoon I spent at the Dallas Art Gallery.

I think a lot about art as it relates to the opportunities we give the children in our centres to express themselves in many different art forms.

At work we do an annual Art Auction of childrens and professional art.

One of the things that makes me feel very "grown up" is owning some original art pieces.

I like what I like but I am a hacker.....I could maybe pick out a Group of Seven piece, or a Monet, Degas etc but my art knowledge is superficial.

SO when, last Fall,  I was asked to sit on a Public Art Selection Panel I was mildly panicked.

I knew I was there because one of our centres is smack in the middle of the development in which the art will be situated and our fence etc could be part of the installation.

The other people were not hackers.  They knew their art and their public art and local and international artists.

Our first job was to come up with a list of artists for consideration - we were tasked with bringing 3.  I did a lot of googling and looking and researching and found one guy I thought was fantastic.

Turns our he was also recently deceased.

Which of course everyone else knew.

In my defence to this day his website has no mention of his demise - I guess he died with his password?

Not a good start.

I began deferring to the others with slow nodding of my head hoping to denote my sagely thinking. I tried to squint at what others had written down.  I used my iPhone to hurriedly look for images.

We  They ended up with a  short list of 4 artists.

On Friday they each presented their vision/concept for the Public Art.

All but one did a truly remarkable and inspirational job.

Their ideas were incredible and all so different from one another.  So fascinating to see how they approached the project and where that took them.  I was touched with how they all considered the children in their designs.

It took all day and I got to know my fellow panelists a bit better.

I learned so much.  Was so humbled by the talent and creativity.

It was a tough decision but I voted with my head and my heart - not leaning on the others for direction.....and I am excited to see the completion of the project later this year.

I wish I could tell you more specifics but I signed a non-disclosure and  contracts have yet to be signed but I promise when it's all up I will take you on either a real or virtual tour.

Nicky Byres - Public Art Tour Guide....... who would have thought!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend by the numbers

1 Amazing homemade dinner #yum

2 workouts - a 5 km walk and a jazzercise class but no run.....frustrated by that but life got in the way. #iwanttorun

3loads of laudry #ugh  .....   also the goals against in the cup soccer game David played today playing a team in the next tier up #greateffort (they won on Saturday in North Van)

4 tickets to South Africa paid for and ready to be booked #dreamstoreality

4.5 hours with the two P's  - Penelope and Parker - delightful and fun (except for a 40 minute stretch in the middle ;) #2preciousp's

5 items of clothing purchased - 2 for me and 3 for Lindsay #ihateshopping (oh and 2 items for little peeps - don't know how that happened or why I love shopping for them so much more than for me!)

6 photos I found of Penelope on my iPhone #dontleaveatoddlerunattended

7  hours sleep last night #notenough

8 cups of coffee #idonthaveaproblemwithcoffeeihaveonewithoutit

9 people who asked stupid uneducated questions about Africa at Missions Fest today. Especially loved the guy who pointed to Uganda as the country he wanted to work in but thought it was Rwanda. #getaclue

10 hours spent one-on-one with my daughter #grateful

11 times I got Spanner to retrieve on command (slightly less on getting him to drop it in the bucket) #gettingthere

12 times I replayed our close encounter with a stupid driver trying to mow us down in a crosswalk #drivesafe

and many other delightful and amazing moments in the midst of busyness...... like bumping into friends at the Mall, seeing several friends at Missions Fest, crocuses popping through the soil, Friday night take out, kids cleaning their rooms, playing with a toddler who cracks me up, the fascination of a baby with a puppy, bacon, riding the Canada line, sunshine after rain, the smell of the BBQ, Instagram fun, Foursquare wars with Lindsay, a few quiet minutes after the alarm, holding hands with my Beloved, a travel agent who is on the ball, my credit union, watching my Dad do what he is best at, just enough time to blog before my head hits the pillow and Monday rolls around!


Thursday, January 24, 2013


I was at my first RMT (Registered massage therapy) appointment a week ago and answering the standard "getting to know you" questions.  It was an hour long appointment as the therapist tried to prise my vice like neck and back muscles into submission.  I also found it very hard to relax....I actually had to work at it ....and unlike most of his patients who are practically asleep after 45 minutes I was wide-eyed and chatty. 

Toward the end of the appointment Rod said " Well Nicky I think you are one of the most driven people I have ever met".


I felt immediately uncomfortable with that characterization of myself.

Busy - yes.
Type A - yes.
Passionate - yes.
A tad crazy - yes.

But driven bothered me. 

I have been pondering about why that would be so?
Or why when describing my life someone would come to that word?

As I was out running in the rain on the dyke close to our house late yesterday.....noting I was the only person out there...... having just worked a full day - dashed to the grocery store and home, made sure dinner was in the capable hands of my daughter.   I was about to get home, shower, eat dinner with the family and then host a Study Group with a group of colleagues in my field until 10pm.  Is that driven?

Hmmm..... I wondered......why am I out here running in the rain?  Making this old, out of shape body the rain?  None of the right gear on, wet feet, no music.....just an app telling me my pace and distance.....maybe....maybe...... I am driven.  Maybe there is a drive deep inside me that keeps me moving forward on this run and in life. 

I don't have to do this - I chose this.

I don't have the answer.......I still don't think driven is the right word.......  How about focused?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekend Food and Fitness

Boy oh Boy ....... where did the weekend go?

We had vague plans to go out on Friday night to celebrate Allan's first "new" paycheck  after finishing his degree......but honestly we were all just so tired.  And I had to teach on Saturday all day so I wanted to go over my notes one more time.

I bought a couple of maps of South Africa to start orienting the kids and we spent hours pouring over them and looking up places to stay on the Internet - we talked about our hopes and fears and dreams.   David is currently doing a very in-depth project on South Africa so this is all coming together nicely for him... and us.

We were up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday  - another icy morning - we have had such a run of cold, clear, sunny days (hence the icy mornings) and I fear they are coming to an end this week as the rain returns......but there is no doubt the days are getting longer a few minutes everyday.

Anyway back to Saturday.  I went off to teach and the boys went to Soccer and then Allan and Lindsay went off to an Asian cooking class at Terra Nova Farm with Chef Ian Lai.  They had a great time learning about various doughs for steamed buns, dumplings and spring rolls. David had a lovely afternoon and as he said "some really great conversations" with Gaga (my Mom).  I got home around 4:30 after a great day of teaching and learning with my students (who are a lovely bunch) and by 5:30pm we were headed back into Vancouver to our newly discovered "favourite" pizza place.

We had such a laid-back dinner there - tried 5 kinds of pizza including the dessert pizza and chatted to the chef all through about all sorts of things - he is from Steveston like us so we had lots to chat about.  It was blessedly quiet as most in our town were sucked back into Hockey after the recent lock-out but we are still in protest mode over the hockey players and owners millionaire whine fest.

We were so full but so relaxed and we drove home and by 9:30pm we were all ready for bed.

Sunday we were up for church and then Allan and I headed to COSTCO while the kids were in youth and did a whirlwind shop and then had time for a quick brunch before we picked them up.

Then Allan and I both had fitness assignments.  Our soon-to-be coach wanted us to do some distances and time ourselves so she has a baseline from which to work.  So Allan set off for a 20km bike ride while I headed off on a 5km run.  We were both pleased with our results - Allan more than I but as ever I had higher expectations than my skill (or lack thereof) would indicate.  I am happy to have done it and ready to start improving on my time and pace and gait and so many other things. 

 We somehow all ended up in the kitchen and Lindsay made dough for Asian BBQ pork buns and also made cranberry maple scones.  Our good friends came over for tea and we had a lovely visit.  While Lindsay assembled the buns I made leek and potato soup and we had a lovely food fusion dinner.

It was a busy but fun weekend with lots of laughs and family time and friends too.

 A busy week ahead  and a busy weekend next weekend quickly we get back into the groove after holidays....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BIG news

I think it would be fair to say I am an over-reactor enthusiastic embracer of life.

I have pretty big emotions that sometimes get the better of me (and sometimes make the world a better place ;)

So when there are things to celebrate, or be mad about, or to rage against, or to be anxious about I am ALL there.  I can whoop and holler for even the smallest thing, for anything and I was the mother of the toddler chanting political protest chants at childcare.

I am also a "catastrophic thinker".  

If there is a scenario connected with what I am going through or dealing with, I have thought through every possible scenario associated with it....usually at 2am.  

The furnace stops working properly and I lie in bed imagining it is something catastrophic that will cost $5000 to fix, that maybe it is leaking gas into the house and the house is in danger of blowing up....I know I am not alone in this (Leslie , Jennifer....)....I know many people, often women, often Mom's, do this.....we are a secret sisterhood of worriers in the dark.  

I prefer to think of it as a valid coping mechanism - Nothing that could possibly go wrong will surprise me as I will have already imagined it (and often solved it).  

I am your girl in a crisis - always prepared!

All this to say that I have been trapped between these two sides of myself for a few weeks now as two BIG decisions had to be made, were made (sort of) and I have been having the following 2am thoughts lately....

1. We are being charged by a rogue Elephant and the jeep won't start
2. I trip on my shoelace at the start line and fall flat on my face
3. I see a shark fin in the wave
4. The rental car breaks down in an "undesirable" area
5. I am the last one to finish
6. I can't move for a week
7. Finances won't match expectations
8. Spanner will become delinquent or ill or injured in our absence

SO before you and I both go mad (or madder in my case obvs) are the two sources of my current desire to whoop and holler and imagine all sorts of catastrophic scenarios.

1. I am going to run a half-marathon. (there I said it out loud - gulp)

Allan and I met with the lovely and knowledgeable Erin Lee of 337 Multisport yesterday about how to start this odyssey (Allan is going to do a sprint triathlon) and it went well.  We have some gear to get and preliminary work to do and then Erin will devise plans to move us forward.  Our goals are distant....neither of us are in a rush but we want to start towards something.  I think Allan will join a group as his training will be more focused and I will pound the pavement solo on my non-Jazzercise days. Unless YOU want to join me?

I am VERY excited and completely terrified.  I hope soon to stop imagining myself tripping and limping and imagine myself crossing the finish line strong and happy.

2. We are going to South Africa in December. (deep breath

S o u t h  A f r i c a...... people.  

That is far, far away (aka expensive) and its been a long time (20 years) since I was there.  We are taking  our 2 Canadian teens who will experience culture shock and  35 degree heat for the first time.  We are primarily going to see Allan's family (cousins will meet for the first time) for Christmas but also to tour around as much as we can in the 3.5 weeks we are there.  And then home via a few days in Europe (hopefully).  Tickets have to be booked next week is VERY soon. There are SO many details/finances to sort out.  Super exciting, super scary, super overwhelming at the moment.

A few weeks ago I had no notion that 2013 would bring all this.....and BOOM... just like that we are planing and doing BIG things.  

Life is so interesting.

So although these great things are whoop/holler/catastrophic/terror inducing I hope to report from the other side of them that all went well.

And that no one was eaten by an elephant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekend WOW's and woes

The gift of a relatively unscheduled January weekend is not lost on me.

Add sunshine to that.


So after Jazzercise and cleaning the kitchen (me) , babysitting (Linds) and soccer (the boys) we were ready for an adventure.

In sunshine and with snow on the door step and beautiful vibrant cities all around us....our choices were vast.  We call this the paradox of choice" in our house (since Allan read that phrase while studying)... so many choices paralyze decisions.

In the end we decided that the desires of all could be best met at our favorite destination of Granville Island with a swing  by the English Bay beaches on the way home for a bit of photography at sunset.

Oh...and we were taking Spanner.....our first public, family outing with hound in tow.

We spent some time looking at recipes before we left and had a list so our market time would be efficient seeing as Mr. Spanner is not welcome inside. 

We headed down and made our first stop at a coffee shop in Railway Alley, finding a table outside in the sun (it was very cold at 2-3 degrees C).  I was standing waiting for our order and in walked my parents.  What a surprise!  So we had a little visit over coffee!

We then set off to walk around the sea wall at Granville Island to give Spanner a good walk. 

It was quiet and peaceful and so lovely to take the time to enjoy this area without rushing. 

Eventually we headed into the crazy busy market and got our food.  I have to say that inside today it was too busy to really enjoy.  Maybe if I wasn't on a mission and was just wandering but when you are trying to shop a list it was just frustrating.

Laden down with goodies we headed to the beaches as the light was softening. 

Winter sunsets and sunrises are some of my favorite times to photograph.  The light is interesting and can be washed out or very intense from one minute to the next.  I love the big blue skies as the colours of the low sun start to wash across and I am always a sucker for water.

You can stand on those beaches at Spanish Banks and see it all...... the ocean, the mountains, the snow, the City...... It is truly so remarkable. 

I had a lot of fun with my new iPhone olloclip lenses ( a Christmas gift from my beloved).

Not one of these photos do the actual scene any justice.

We drove home with a couple more photo stops to an amazing dinner made by Allan and mug desserts by Lindsay  - all so tasty and delicious and enjoyed with candlelight and good music and lots of chat and laughter.

A truly WOW day that satisfied my soul in deep and sustaining ways.  I went to bed very grateful.

The rest of the weekend was a bit of woe for me after being very ill through the night Saturday (an allergic reaction I think) and feeling fairly flattened on Sunday I did little more than move around the house from couch to couch..... blah! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Working kids

Here in Canada a lot of teens get jobs really early - 14, 15, 16 years old.

For some it's a necessity. 
For some it's for experience.
And what teen doesn't like having some of their own cash?

I have long puzzled over what to think about this. 

Our children don't need to work.  School work is our priority as well as team sports, dance, family time etc. I don't want to spend my life driving them to minimum wage jobs.

But I do like the the notion of responsibility and experience it would give them in the real world.  I didn't have that growing up in South Africa where there was (shamefully) plenty of cheap labour and white kids didn't work when they were at high school.  I could have used some experience.

When driving the school girls rugby team to a game last year something in our conversation caused a very impassioned little speech from one of the Grade 11 girls to my then Grade 8 girl to not work.  She said if you don't have to work don't - you get 5 summers in high school and then real life will kick in and you will never have that time back.  I was impressed with her conversation and Lindsay and I chatted about it afterwards.

This is all brought to my mind now as Lindsay will have worked nearly 9 hours this week.  And regularly works 6 hours a week.

She did the St.Johns babysitting course in Grade 6 or 7 and has been babysitting since then.  In many ways the perfect job but one that is often undervalued.

Lindsay is a very mature girl and she is super clear about her strengths and her limits.  She will ask to meet you and the children together before she babysits.  She has a list of questions.  She listens carefully to what you want.  She asks things that will keep her and the kids safe.

To some people she may be "just a teenage babysitter" but she takes her job very seriously, especially the profound responsibility of being in charge of caring for little children.  She cares about your kids.  She will buy them birthday and Christmas gifts out of her own money.  She will bring a book to read them she knows they will love, or a seasonal activity.  She will miss family events because she won't cancel on you (so don't cancel on her at the last minute).  She will be clear about her limits.  If she says she won't bathe your infant be thankful she is being honest.  She stays up late waiting for you (and often does her homework) so be home when you say you will.  And drive her home safe.

She loves "her kids" and loves being in their lives.  She is great fun and she has great fun.  And she loves having her own little income with which she is very generous.

I am pleased this job fits so well into her schedule and that these families have found what a gem she is.

I think she has found the perfect balance.

David is also a fantastic babysitter with his St.Johns certificate and he is less booked up than Lindsay is..... but really....and not just because I am their Mom ...they are both wonderful teenagers who love kids and a great job looking after them.