Monday, May 22, 2017

Everyone is good at something

Everyone is good at something - so the saying goes - therefore it follows that every family is good is at something.  

Our family (yes I am dragging the whole lot down with me in this) is good at many things and "not yet meeting expectations" in several others. 

Some things we have been good at for a long time and some things we are newly good at - as a group anyway or at least 3/4 of us.

It is apparent to anyone hanging around this space on the internet that this family is very good at food.  We love it, we cook it, we bake it, we prepare it and ... we eat it! 

In my clan of amazing cooks and bakers I am the Appy Queen.  By which I mean I can assemble other peoples amazing food on a platter and look good.  This weekend I upped my game thanks to some Instagram inspiration sent to me by Lindsay B.  Even I was impressed not just with the incredible meats and cheeses I purchased but my presentation was skookum.  It was one of 3 appy platters I assembled this weekend. 

One of the other things we are good at is, despite all attempts to avoid this, we are the masters of ridiculous sunburns. I blame the scottish/british genes and the damn UV that persists in these northern climes even when it isn't hot.  This weekend was so pleasant in the backyard but hardly hot and yet I have a ridiculous sunburn everywhere my tatty gardening shirt didn't cover.  Allan was out on a boat and his sunburn covers everywhere his windblown hair did not.  And let's not forget the time Lindsay burned her eyelids in the sun and I will never forget burning the back of my knees - Ouch. 

Currently we are the family that gyms together.  Also the therefore the family that aches and moans and laments together over various pains and strains.  If we had a team sponsor it would be Advil or Ibuprofen.  But continuing to workout we will and like it we will and fitter we'll get.

We are also a family who works hard together - loves to entertain - joke - listen to music.  We are trying to be better at gardening and cleaning the house - but honestly Byres #5 Mr Spanner thwarts us with his incessant hair loss.  

At a moment today I was upstairs and the other 3 were in the yard fixing the sprinkler system and I stopped for a moment as they chatted and problem-solved and worked together - and I was delighted at least some of us can fix things and make things work.  I have recently figured out the remote and that may be the apex of my technical abilities but as long as a couple other Byres are around I should be ok.

Byres Brain Trust

Mostly what we are best at is being Byres.  4 quirky individuals that somehow make up this little family that I love so much.  Today I am just reveling in us all being here and bumping along together, doing life together for these few weeks we are all at home.

xoxo Byres4

And Spanner.
Maui memories

Sunday, May 14, 2017

An ordinary weekend

In the work we do with young children we seek to identify what we call "ordinary moments' ... and then we observe them carefully and see the deeper meaning of what is going on in that moment and we try to make meaning of it.  It truly is a joy to see an 'ordinary moment' unpacked by an Educator showing a depth of creativity and development going on in the most ordinary moments.  I love reading their accounts of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.  

They have to be paying attention though...or the extraordinary ordinary moment will be missed...and with it both a wonderful story and the opportunity to have uncovered something special.

This weekend was expected to be ordinary. 

Events, chores, family time, down time, gardening....ordinary.

On Friday night my peeps headed off to U2 - an historic kick off concert for their world tour.  And by all accounts neither Mumford and Sons or U2 disappointed. 

I expected to go home to a quiet house and cozy up with Spanner and if the planets aligned I would actually find the right remote to make the TV work - the couch and I were going to be friends.

But then I got the delightful summons from the Crab Master that conditions were perfect to head out on the water and check the crab traps.  After a stormy day the clouds were magnificent, the sun warm on our faces, the water calm and some of my best people aboard.  I was struck by just how beautiful, how extraordinary it is to be on a boat, mountains and islands around us...AND THEN we saw a stellar sea lion napping in the water ... I kid you not ...he was out cold - Captain Fil cut the engine and we glided quietly close to him and witnessed him awake from his snooze - give us a salty sneer and disappear under the water.  I don't know what you did on Friday but I saw a sea lion wake up from a nap - totally extraordinary!

And then Captain Chief  pulled up the crab traps he again miraculously found in the depths of the ocean and there were some very large ones...currently being made into crab cakes for dinner :) 

We boated home watching a rainstorm over Vancouver that produced a huge rainbow.  Truly a blessed way to end a week!

I made it to the couch with take out dinner and a glass of wine and Spanner and I got the TV remotes working and watched 4 episodes of Border Security interrupted from time to time with video snippets of U2 rocking the arena.

I crawled into bed at 11pm a very happy lady. 

I woke up at midnight and texted to find out where my peeps were.  On their way ....ahhhh.  Then a friend texted me and asked if he could call.  I was awake so I said sure and I am sure glad I did.  My friend Graham also just off the train from the U2 concert had been so moved by the way women were honoured at the show and he wanted me to know he wished I had been there - and he offered me his ticket to see them in Seattle on Sunday - he said a bunch of other lovely things - I was too overwhelmed to make any decisions but I promised to consider his generous offer.  When the call ended I lay there wondering if I had just dreamed this extraordinary moment?  A beautiful call, beautiful amazing offer. 

Shortly after my family came in - a happy crew but ready for bed.  They hit their pillows while I lay awake for a while pondering how the expected ordinary evening had been so very extraordinary.  I fell asleep with a very happy heart.

I was, of course, up before everyone on Saturday morning and with a twinge in my upper back  preventing further rest, I headed downstairs to make some tea.  I greeted the puppy and we assessed the weather together while the kettle boiled.  I texted with Emily (my early morning best buddy) and then opened Facebook.  My heart skipped a beat as I began to read a post I was tagged in by my friend who had called late the night before.  I will post it here - I was beyond humbled - A completely extraordinary way to start a day I can tell you! 

The other Byres eventually awoke and we had a family breakfast, Jack Johnson playing, lots of chatter, bacon - a morning that makes me SO happy but is now more extraordinary than ordinary and to be treasured.  We made lists of groceries and chores and things to accomplish and made a game plan!  David had plans but Allan and Lindsay and I set out to grocery shop, fill growlers, do a little shopping, deliver ice-cream to friends who were moving (as one does) .... it was a lovely, productive, connecting kind of day - I loved it.  Lindsay made thai curry for dinner and we emptied the Brassneck Brewing growler.

I went to bed nursing my sore back. 

Early stirring in the house this morning and a delicious breakfast of waffles, bacon (you see a trend here) strawberries and a pile of gifts and beautiful cards.  SO much love.  So lucky I am. 

Church and a couple errands and the family came home to start preparing a feast.  I strolled into the village, wandered around, got a coffee, visited a bakery - oven warm croissants - flowers for the table and a stroll home to a kitchen in full swing.  A visit to the garden this afternoon to beat back the weeds and marvel at the growth of things planted!  Extraordinary! 

The table set, flowers arranged, sunshine, good kitchen smells, tea.... 

And my own Mama - so lucky to have her as a role model and a friend and a guide.  An extraordinary Grandmother too.  And a feast. 

I do see the food theme here - it's clearly our love language!  

And so a perfectly extraordinary / ordinary weekend wraps up.  I am sure I missed some moments but I think I caught enough ordinary moments and stored them in my heart - I am so so grateful to my tribe for all the ways they made it so. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hearts divided

"They" say "Home is where the heart is" and I suppose that can be true but only if the heart is divisible into many parts. 

Because if the heart is one single entity and if the saying is true - then the heart is only home in one place.

And this I know not to be the truth.

My own heart resides in a few places - South Africa, Canada, Steveston, Maui... and frankly a piece of it resides anywhere my beloveds are - McMath, Victoria, Richmond, Edmonton, PMB, Alaska, Australia,.... 

Tomorrow our daughter comes home for the summer. 

For sure she comes home to a place her heart can rest easy and will be loved and cared deeply for but I also know she leaves a bit of her heart in her new home in Victoria - a place she has come to feel more settled in this past university year, a place she is learning to be in wholeheartedly instead of transiently. 

She came home to our home much less frequently this year for that very reason and she knows so much more of and about this beautiful place - its best sushi, coffee, hikes, views, craft beers, wing nights and much more.  In many ways it will be for her the place where she became an adult and spent those pivotal late teen early 20's.

But there is, at least, one other reason she'll find it hard to leave tomorrow.... one Mr. Joel. 

And for sure a bit of her heart is staying with him in Victoria.

I met Joel when I was there last week  - a charming and smart young man we look forward to getting to know.

And while my heart will feel somewhat whole to have all 4 Byres under one roof for a few weeks I count it as a privilege and blessing that my family and I have so many places our hearts feel at home. 

Welcome home our sweet girl.  We love you.

Monday, April 24, 2017


"Mom I need your credit card please"

...a not often heard but not completely unfamiliar request. 

I trust my kids and I usually had it over readily.  For concert tickets, camp registration, online donations etc. 

But I handed it over with a heart-tugging mixture of emotion to Mr David last night.

He needed it to apply for housing at University. 

After a fairly torturous few weeks of weighing options he was 'lucky" to have - he, and we, came to  the same conclusion based on a host of factors and many prayers.  

Our David will be heading to the University of British Columbia -  but at it's Kelowna campus - a 4 hour drive over the mountains to the east of Vancouver.  

Just to remind you our daughter is a 4 hour drive-ferry-drive to the west of us. 

We are very proud of them both and they will be both be getting a first class education at amazing universities but, as is now apparent, neither will be home in the Fall.  

In fact they will only briefly be home for 5 weeks in May/June before David heads to Kelowna to his summer job and then on to University in late August.

I am off on Thursday to move Lindsay out of her apartment and into a rented storage locker (not Lindsay but her stuff) until she secures new housing for her 3rd year - hopefully with a friend or two.  

And so this curious journey of mothering older teens continues - Lindsay turns 20 in May.... How in the actual heck did that happen?  

I am at once so proud of them as they grow into smart, caring adults and wishing they weren't going away so soon.  That whole "roots and wings" saying sounds so lovely until they start to use the wings and fly!!

David will transfer back to Vancouver UBC in his 3rd year if all goes to plan but who really knows what the future holds for them or us. 

So Allan and I face a new kind of Fall.  A new way of being in our house.  I'm finding myself a bit nostalgic about when they were little, all the great vacations we've had, the fun family adventures.  I am sure there are more to come (all fingers and toes crossed) but we are in new territory now.

Such cuties 

A Portland moment - one of many

My achy heart is happy, proud but achy, excited but achy.... I think that's pretty much as it is for mothering at this stage.  

I'm ok. They will be ok.  We are ok.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Restoration!

Easter hops all over the calendar (see what I did there?) and is sometimes swallowed by Spring Break but it was later this year and I have so enjoyed the break of these 4 days. 

For one, Spring has finally arrived and graced us with 4 mild, sunny, blue sky days.  The thermostat could go a little higher but I am scarcely about to complain as we emerge from grey, rainy days on end!  There is something about the sunlight, blue sky and the touch of warmth on my skin that restores my spirits in an amazing way.

And I had very little on my agenda other than a little slower pace, some workouts, church and Easter dinner for 8. (I should have filed our taxes but all I did was make a half-hearted start to collecting all the paperwork for 4 returns!)  
Allan is capitalising on his couple weeks of break in courses to catch up on fishing so he was on a body of water somewhere for a couple of days and when not fishing it seems tying flies was the order of the day.  It's good to see him relax a little and not be tied to his desk and computer.

Our Lindsay girl is 2 weeks from finishing the Second Year of her degree and so elected to stay in Victoria to study.  She was lovingly hosted for two Easter dinners but she was missed at our table for sure. 

David and I had a little time to hang out but he has a technical glitch with an online course and had to spend many, many hours redoing a lot of work.  It's a french language course so he could be heard muttering away in French for hours recording his answers. 

And so as the weekend draws to a close I have had many hours to myself.  I have spent a couple at the dojo working out (loving how my body is starting to change!), cleaning the house a my own pace, sorting, folding laundry, cleaning out cupboards and doing some baking and cooking and shopping.  Ok maybe I ate some chocolate.

I had the time to go to church on Good Friday for the first time in many years and it was wonderful and then to celebrate Easter Sunday, the pivotal day of our faith, was joyful and affirming.  I'm so grateful for the community of our church.

I loved having the time to slowly set the Easter table and was happy it came together as pretty well as I hoped.  Having family and dear friends around the table, blessed with delicious food, was simply lovely and filled up my heart.  

And so as the rain returns and is falling outside this evening and promises to do so for the next few days - I am feeling content and refreshed - ready for 2 short weeks - this one 4 days and next week only 3 work days before I head to Victoria to pack up Lindsay and her apartment, store things in a storage locker, clean carpets etc.. Looking forward to some Lindsay/Mama time and to meeting a new important person in her life! 

Spring break was amazing - we had such a great trip but I was getting over a nasty illness and I ended up well-travelled but not well-rested.  This Easter break was the what my heart and body needed  - I am really getting better at slowing down and enjoying the moments that come my way. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Boy Day

Today is owed to some pretty awesome guys I share my life with.

Allan and Fil are best buddies and fishing friends of note.  Fil crabs and Allan is a pretty good second mate.  Until today I was the only person in the clan who had not been out on the boat. 

It is possible I whined a bit about this. Once or twice.

So today I was offered my chance.  

In very overcast, showery conditions ( but no wind!! ) we headed out to the crab traps.  The first part of the journey is through our harbour in Steveston and although I lived here almost 18 years I have never been out on a boat on this part of the river - it was so fascinating to see the view from the water!

Then we  - and by we, I mean Fil - navigated the channels and hit the open water.  

I loved being out on the ocean, wind in my face, lungs full, salt spraying... everything was varying shades of grey - grey, heavy skies, grey water rippling...It was poetic and peaceful.

A needle in a haystack has nothing on a crab trap in the middle of the ocean!  Wow - we stop and boom we haul up the two traps - pure magic -  and lo we found 2 allowable crabs and a couple of little ones we threw back - and by we I mean Allan and Fil.  

The crab traps were cleaned and re-baited and thrown back to their secret spot on the ocean floor.  I doubt they'll ever be found again frankly. 

And we turned for home - seal, sea lions, herons, ducks, seagulls, geese.

It was so much fun!  

And then they made me touch the crab. Yikes! 

Tomorrows dinner is now resting in the fridge :)

A quick shower to thaw out and then I hit the road with my boy David.  

First up, brunch, on the way to Simon Fraser University.

This univeristy is one of David's options for next year.  Great option, affordable as he could live at home but a 2+ hour transit commute each way each day seems daunting.  We are trying to work through all the pros and cons of this and his other choices of UBC in Kelowna (4 hours inland - so more expensive as he'd be in residence but a world class University) or a local community college on a University transfer in Year 3.

We feel sort of surprised to be wrestling with this - we and he really hoped he'd stay home but that may not be the best choice now.  My heart is feeling a bit battered. 

But before we decide we are looking at all the options.  

SFU is at the top of a mountain so we wandered around in the mist at this architecturally unique campus.  It was quite peaceful today and it felt good.  We walked and talked for a while and he graciously posed for photos. 

On our way home we did some shopping for Mr D - getting geared up for his summer - which he will spend in Kelowna anyway at his beloved Green Bay Camp as he did last year. 

He made me a cup of tea when we got home as I attempted a pizza base made with cauliflower instead of flour!  We invited his best bud Erin over and we had a lovely dinner as Fil and Allan returned from fishing all afternoon in the sunshine that finally appeared. 

And now the kids are off - the fishermen are having Pho together and I have the boy dog sleeping at my feet. 

It was a wonderful day.  I'm grateful for these guys and their love and patience with me. 

Now I am going to figure out how to turn on the TV all on my own (maybe) and watch Border Security and not think about the possibilities for September in our house. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

23 stairs

There are 23 stairs between my office and the staff washroom.

How do I know?

I know that after two weeks of a fitness challenge at an actual gym, with actual trainers, because there is pain in every one of those 23 stairs today.

But the "good" kind of pain.


This 47 year old body is getting a much needed wake up call but not all of the muscle groups are best pleased with this turn of events.

In fact some have been dormant for so long that they are protesting this new regime in the very strongest of terms.  

No pain, no gain, right? 

In all honesty I wasn't so sure there was any "core" left but ... I can ASSURE you, buried though it may be - it IS there - crying angrily at its rude and repeated awakening.  While I was well aware the derriere needed "work",it too is unhappy... which makes me happy in a perverse way.  Get lost gluteus maximus - no more junk in the trunk!!

But the quads - oh the ever loving quad muscles - they are screaming the loudest.  

But even they bend to the power of the bladder and so the 23 steps had to be conquered several times today.

And through the pain I am thoroughly enjoying the experience.  

It helps Allan and I go together, although, of course, Mr-almost-50, had levelled up and moved ahead of me (although in no less pain!).  It helps its very low key and friendly while being very demanding.  It helps we missed a week in NYC - kidding....kidding.  

The exercise and our version of clean eating (WHAT? No potato for over 10 days - my Irish ancestors are freaking out)... reduced sugar, carbs and quadrupled veggies and more nuts and seeds than I had imagined... the pants are feeling just a tad roomy already. 

Make no mistake - I have a loooong way to go.  These muscles are going to be protesting for a while yet but I think its safe to say I have found my new fitness regime.  

Now if I can just get up off the couch I think I have earned a fry or two, maybe a beer....Happy Friday!

Also a heads up - I am getting up early tomorrow, in the rain and "light" wind to go out in the ocean in an open boat with two crazy dudes to find crab.  Slight chance of a good story and few photos if I survive. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Tonight is the last night of my last Spring Break as a parent of a school going child.

14 years...

Tomorrow starts the last term of high school for my last child ... granted this will be a more substantive statement when my sister makes when her 7th child is at this point.... but nevertheless ... I am feeling nostalgic for all the spring breaks we have had over the last 14 years. 

So many years we bolted for the sun of California - LA, Orange County, San Francisco, Oregon coast, Disney, surfing in Monterey..... and twice in the last 3 years I have headed to New York to take my beloved Grade 12 of the moment for a trip to the Big Apple. 

This time Mr. David with dreams of Broadway shows and United Nations and the Guggenheim and cool photography.  We dragged Allan along and while it was not a story of NYC love for him - he did love the shows, the Hi-Line and the architecture.  

For this Mama - revisiting NYC was wonderful and although the snow did complicate things - I loved NYC again for all the reasons I loved it before and for seeing David tick some important things off his bucket list.  

By this point in her year Lindsay was already registered in the program of her choice at the university of her choice but David has had a less clear journey.  While in NYC he was accepted to Simon Fraser and since being home her has been accepted to UBC Okanagan (but not his first choice of UBC Vancouver) and so we face some complicated and important choices over the next few weeks.   

So for him, and for us, this week was a little hiatus from reality.  Allan did well to set the Masters aside for a few days despite being at a pivotal point and relentless emails and texts from his group as they gear up to present their "thesis" in 2 weeks.

I did everything I hoped and the 3 Broadway shows we managed to go to exceeded all our expectations (and our budget) but will long stay with us in our hearts and minds. I was only just recovering from a nasty strep infection and so the 78 kms we walked stretched my energy and that added to a delayed flight home getting in at 5am has vaulted my napping ability to new heights! 

That may also be helped by Allan and I having taken an important and well contemplated leap into a 35 day challenge at a local gym.  Not just very good gym instruction and exercise but also a renewed commitment to better, cleaner eating.  We are both really enjoying the challenge and finding muscles we didn't know we had.  When the alarm goes off we check to see who can move what and if we can get down the stairs unassisted!  And while the new eating regime was daunting we have done super well and are both feeling great.  We doubled our veggie intake and reduced the carbs and sugar substantially.  We have a ways to go to get these middle-aged bodies back to optimum health and wellness but we are well on our way. 

And so as this evening draws on, our girls brief visit is over, the celebrations of my dear Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary is over - as wonderful as it was... as the boys and Spanner are zoning on the couches pretending tomorrow won't come... I am grateful for all the Spring Breaks we have had as a family, for all the memories and experiences we have shared.  

And I am ready for a new rhythm of spring breaks to come when me and my sweetie will likely enjoy adventures with just the two of us!  

So here begins the last term of the school year, the last term of my life as a school mum... it is always a sprint to the finish and we have lots of decisions, lots of grad events, a girl about to be halfway through her degree and making summer plans, a masters to be completed and so, so, so much to be grateful for.