Friday, July 21, 2017

Dear June - I apologise

I know, I know - I had a spat with the craziness that June delivered.  

To be fair - it was A LOT.

But the first two weeks of July...

So June - you crazy old bat - sorry I judged you.  Please allow July 1-15th to join you on the podium of .... whirlwind wackiness.

At this very moment I am home with Spanner.  A rare moment of quiet save for the hum of the dryer.  It's overcast - a rare thing too lately.  I am slowly sipping on my tall, long Americano, much needed after I was at my desk at 6:30am this morning following the early rise of my fisherman. (fishing pun!)

The house is a bit of a mess. 

A week ago today it was spotless and tidy.  

Because I was in full party prep mode. 

For the above mentioned Fisherman's big backyard BBQ bash for his 50th birthday. 

I do love planning a big bash and this one was long in the planning.  

And a magical night it turned out to be.  

My tribe of helpers were incredible.  David bussed home (5 hours each way) to surprise his Dad.  Lindsay introduced us all to her boyfriend Joel who stayed with us over the BIG crazy weekend.  Smart guy to meet all the friends and relatives in one fell swoop - wondering if we will ever see him again though :)

Our friends Fil and Emily did a masterful job of a) distracting Allan with a fishing trip and b) feeding me lunch and helping decorate.

And so the evening started and so many dear friends came in.  

Soon the kitchen was full and folks spilled into the backyard on a perfect summer evening.

I have long wanted to host a long table dinner and this was my chance.  I love how it turned out and the happy chatter, the munching on catered bbq, the clink of glasses and soon the glow of candles as the evening crept in.  

As we fell into bed around 1am Allan and I agreed, again, that we are so blessed to have such a great community around us and to have them gathered was such a joy. 

It was a full weekend in terms of activity but also filled our hearts right up.  Most especially for me having my little family home even for 1 night!

Much of this summer was planned up to this point - July 15th - and now that it has come and gone it marks the end of a very, very busy phase in every sphere of my life, family, parenting, school graduations, work, gardening, university planning and the general busyness (often fun busyness) that the summer months often bring.

And a hectic self-imposed gym schedule of 3-4 times a week.  Loving it but frustrated with how long it is taking me to get back in shape ... but working through the disappointment and trusting results will come.

It has mostly been really wonderful but I find myself a tad weary.  I have some vacation days booked and Allan and I intend to do some of the things we have been meaning to do for ages, hikes, beach days, finding new coffee places, booking a restaurant we have long wanted to try, and catching up with each other and ourselves before the pace ramps up again in late August and our big kids have us running in opposite directions. 

I am ready.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017


There are 5 more days in June 2017.

5 more days. 

And in those days David has Prom and then flies to Kelowna for the summer.  

By the end of Friday, June and I will be done with each other and I will declare that June has won again.  

If by winning we mean taken me for a ride of multiple highs and lows at breakneck speed and in a permanent emotional spin cycle.  And tired. 

In a family of students and teachers June is always a crazy month.

But this June was especially so.

This past week we declared "Byres Boys Week" 

David had 2 graduation events - in one he gave a valedictory speech and in the other he won a scholarship.  For us, his parents, it was over 6 hours of watching this boy of ours and his peers stand in that tenuous space between school and whatever comes next, between childhood and young far from when we sent him off to Kindergarten and Grade 8 but still so young.  So much growing still to do.

It is in these moments one lives the reality of how ones heart can be so happy and proud and so sad at the very same time. A happy sadness. 

I am dreading him flying off on Friday.  I am going to miss my sweet, smart, sassy, kind boy SO SO much.  He will only be home for 4 days between working and heading back up to Kelowna for University.  And by then Lindsay will likely have moved back to Victoria.

So on Friday night after a busy day of party preparation after a busy week of events, we sat, the 4 of us, under a darkening sky and in the cooling air, in the backyard, drinks in hand, chatting, reminiscing, recalling vacations we took when they were little, talking about plans for the future, laughing.

For a moment I felt like I was standing looking at the 4 of us, the lights casting a warm glow over us and I wanted time to sloooow down.  I wanted to capture the moment in my heart knowing it will be a long time until a moment like this will happen again. 

I didn't take a photo of us - they all refused - but I will have that mental picture of us and that feeling of being together as a family in my heart for a long long time. One of those unexpected, beautiful moments that make life rich. And happy/sad.

And if that rollercoaster ride wasn't enough - Mr Allan Byres finished all his course work AND assignments on Saturday and is now a free man!  With an M.Ed.  It is truly amazing that these 2 years of study and papers and reading and collaborating are OVER.  A relief but also some sadness at the end of the journey with colleagues and friends.  I am so proud of not only his incredible academic record but also his perseverance and sacrifice to get it all done.  He loves to learn and he embraced this opportunity to the full and it has been a wonderful experience.  

We had a party to celebrate their journey and it was great - a house full of people, lots of chatter, lots of food, a hot sunny day - Team Byres in top form hosting. Entertaining like that is so much my happy place - I love it.  Happy to have a couple more big events and a BIG birthday party still to come this summer.

So while today was about quietly cleaning up, some needed time off my feet, it is a very temporary rest before the week of Prom and packing and all the other last week of school things. Lindsay starts her summer job at Terra Nova Nature School doing day camps with kids out on the land.  Allan wraps up another year in the classroom and prepares for a fishing trip with his bestie at a lake that is special to them - a greatly deserved few days of recreation. And I'll do some work, a lot of driving, more entertaining and doing my best to be present, to sort out the emotions, get to the gym and put June 2017 to rest. 

Maybe, in the end, I was the winner of the bout of June 2017 vs Nicky Byres - I got to live another month of memories and events and experiences with my nearest and dearest, summer arrived,  the garden is bursting with abundant harvest, the dog has recovered, we had much to celebrate.  

On July 1 Canada turns 150 and I am getting up very early and escaping for 2 days because no matter who won June I am tired and I need to take some deep breaths of sea air and slow down and rest my heart and body.

I can't wait.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Perspective from a Puppy

Last Sunday night I had one of those moments that fills my heart with so much joy. 

We had a beautiful family evening at the beach. 

I used a gift card for takeout.  We found a perfect table.  I used my trusty red check tablecloth.  We ate yummy food. We went for a long walk under a warm evening sky.  The light was perfect.  The dog ran and caught his ball in the ocean and we all laughed at his antics.  We walked back two by two - David and I and Lindsay and Allan.  We chatted about important things. 

It had been a challenging week and a busy weekend and it was a perfect way to start a fresh new week.

It was, I knew, one of the last family beach walks we'll be having for a while. 

We came home, bathed the dog, settled into the family room with ice cream and were content together. 

By Monday night the boys had been rear-ended by a texting driver and the dog was clearly in a lot of medical distress. 


Without even time to shower after the gym we were dashing to the emergency vet in Vancouver knowing pretty well that things were "not good". 

Many of you already know the rest of this story did not go well.... vet hospital admission, emergency surgery, another night in hospital.....

And yet... and yet it went very well.  We got great care, Spanner is well on his way back to his usual self and we're pretty sure our pet insurance will cover 80% of the 4.2K bill.  
The cone of shame? The daisy of dismay? 
I found myself back and forwards between guilt and relief.  Guilt that we could be so invested in a dog both emotionally and financially and relief that we could help this creature that has brought so much joy to our lives.  Also relieved beyond measure we opted for pet insurance - such a first world decision in itself. 

I have shaken my head many times this week that I may have become that "dog person" who talks to their pet as if they might answer, who really is emotionally attached to that dopey eyed head tilted look he gives me.  I know this is not a disney movie, I know he doesn't "love" me but... I readily signed the papers and swiped my credit card to help him. 

And I'll probably do it again.

I guess what I have struggled with is perspective.   

And I could argue both sides of this.  

In the end, as he sighs deeply at my feet right now, I am grateful more than anything. 
Spanners Mama and other distant relative sent wishes - SHB = Spanner Hudson Byres

Not just that he is well but that the people in our life cared for us as we cared for him.  If you rolled your eyes at my FB status I totally get that, I really do... but ... if you reached out and showed your concern, brought wine, checked in on the mutt and on how we were doing... I am thankful.  Deeply thankful.

In the end, as is always the case, these moments are greater than themselves.  This moment was greater than a sick puppy.  It was a moment of vulnerability for us and our tribe had our back.  We met some amazingly caring vets and veterinary nurses, we learned a thing or two about dog anatomy and pet insurance forms, we worked together to make decisions and care for Spanner and each other and we felt held up by people near and far.  

The truck has a dent but the people are fine.  The dog has some stitches but he lives to pee again.  The other big things that happened at work and in our lives and in the dental surgery and in the Masters went as we hoped they would.  And if insurance pays before the credit card comes this will be another one of those Byres Legends we'll tell for years - "remember when Spanner had 500 stones in his bladder.....and everything was fine."

Deat Tribe - we love you!
Dear Spanner - we love you too!

PS: I am not going to worry about this week - whatever it dishes... we got this...right?

Sunday, May 28, 2017


Our beautiful Lindsay turns 20 today.  


2 decades.

Every cliche in the book runs through my mind about how fast this happened.  

But my heart has a longer, more intimate memory.  

My heart remembers the weight of that 7lb baby girl in my arm as well as on my heart. 

My heart remembers how totally inadequate I felt to be her mother. 

My heart has felt that many many times.  

My heart remembers the midnight feeds, the dinner time tantrums, the defiant 3 year old looking me in the eye and saying "count me Mama, just Count me" rendering the 1-2-3 warning method of parenting utterly useless.  

My heart remembers the mixture of fear and excitement in her eyes but the square in her shoulders as she entered child care, Kindergarten, Grade 1-7, High School, University.

My heart remembers her kindness with those left out or being bullied, her sense of justice and her courage at standing up to injustice (she sure knows how to protest!)

My heart remembers how it swelled with pride at dance shows, swimming badges, soccer games, rugby game survival, valedictory.

My heart remembers the busy times, the quiet times, the picnics and walks and canoe rides.  The lake swims, the surfing, the crazy NYC taxi rides.

My heart remembers the chats, the laughs, the notes on my pillow, the arguments, the tears over fickle friends, the excitement of travel and new adventures. 

My heart remembers all the times we walked hand in hand, the cuddles, the companionable moments shopping, cooking, baking, gardening, reading. 

My heart remembers all the moments in between these ones.

And even with all this in my heart - all these myriad moments of mothering and connection I am feeling an odd mixture of amazement and bewilderment that my girl, my precious, precious girl who has taught me so much, is 20 today. 

We have walked this journey together.  

I imagined it would be rockier, with more steep slopes, more slippery slopes but, with much Grace, we have managed to walk a mostly even road, not without bumpy sections, but with no major detours. I am so grateful to her for forgiving my shortcomings, for laughing with me and at me when I needed to lighten up, for her wit that makes me gasp and smile at the same time. I am in awe of the skills you have in so many areas of your life and while your fierce independance is fantastic - I appreciate that every now and then you know this Mama needs a hug and a chat. 

Lindsay Erin Elizabeth Byres - my heart burst open with an inexplicable love today 20 years ago when you calmly lay in the bassinet and then in my arms, looking at me with those big brown eyes.  I could not have known then that today, as you hike along a mountain path before me, curls "flatted" into
a bobbing ponytail, that I could love you even more.

But I do. 

I am sure you will tackle this 3rd decade of your life with all the maturity, humour, intelligence and love you have done everything so far.  And no matter where you and I are on your 30th birthday... I will love you.


Happy 20th Birthday Lindsay Lou.

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.