March 22, 2009

Nous sommes Marquette!

We are...Marquette!  Even in Canada where we still have snow on the ground and another dusting last night. Aller Marquette!

March 21, 2009

Things not seen in the U.S. #4

Adding to our Things not seen in the U.S. blog series, this handy Puck Pack was an obvious pick. Since we're well into our 40s and can handle glass bottles, we avoid canned beer at all costs, unless absolutely necessary (or desperate). But Paul had to buy this Puck Pack of Molson Export. It's a lot more entertaining than your typical suitcase of canned beer -- this has 18 "canettes" as they call them in French. Classy. The Kirstein Family from Naperville will be coming to our home next weekend for their spring break. They're here in time to attend the Blackhawks/Canadians hockey game on the 31st. So, Mark Kirstein, this Puck's for you.

March 19, 2009

A Canadian invented basketball???

Basketball is on our minds. We’re ready for some March Madness. Each year we look forward to Marge Madness – an online recreational basketball pool created by Paul’s brother Dan and his wife Margie in 2000. There’s always a timely theme ranging from Survivor, Lord of the Rings, American Idol and more – all with a basketball twist. This year the theme is Slumdunk Millionaire. Participants submit fun photos with their picks and this year we added a Canadian theme with these photos – all enhanced with Danielle’s knowledge of Photoshop she has learned at school. Dan and their dog Walter Peyton Pisani have continued Marge Madness since Margie passed away in October 2007. It’s the best tribute ever to Margie – after all -- she would want us all to have Marge/March Madness parties, play along and have FUN. Of course, we’re cheering for Marquette (Dan, Margie and Paul's other brother Jim are also MU grads).  Our Blackhawks flag out front will be replaced with the MU flag for Friday’s game. We’re bringing a little Marge Madness to Montreal in the coming weeks – starting today!

Back to the basketball trivia….this spring Louis did a project at school where he had to research a Canadian inventor. He found out that the inventor of basketball was actually a Canadian! James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor, invented basketball in 1891. He was born in Almonte, Ontario and educated at McGill University and Presbyterian College in Montreal. He was the physical education teacher at McGill University (1887 to 1890) and at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts (1890 to 1895). At Springfield College (which was then the Y.M.C.A. training school), James Naismith, under the direction of American phys-ed specialist Luther Halsey Gulick, invented the indoor sport of basketball.

In Springfield, Naismith was faced with the problem of finding a sport that was suitable for play inside during the Massachusetts winter (something we can relate to) for the students at the School for Christian Workers. Naismith wanted to create a game of skill for the students instead of one that relied solely on strength. He needed a game that could be played indoors in a relatively small space. The first game was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets used as goals. Naismith joined the University of Kansas faculty in 1898, teaching physical education and being a chaplain.

First College Basketball Game
The first ever college basketball game was played on January 18, 1896, when the University of Iowa invited student athletes from the new University of Chicago for an experimental game. Final score: Chicago 15, Iowa 12, a bit different from the hundred-point scores of today. In 1963, college games were first broadcast on national TV, but it wasn't until the 1980s that sports fans ranked basketball up there with football and baseball. 

We're ready for some Marge/March Madness in Montreal!

March 15, 2009

A Special (Olympics) day

What a great day at the Special Olympics Provincial ski championships. Ten weeks ago Louis could barely stand up on skis without falling and yesterday he was racing. Our family spent most every Sunday of our winter traveling two hours each way to volunteer by working with other athletes and to watch Louis improve each week. If you ever want to get inspired...spend some time with these determined athletes and this great program. Our ski hats are off to Danielle who also gave her time on these Sundays. Many teenagers would be happy staying home and Facebooking or hanging out with friends, but she was a great partner for a 15-year old girl named Jessica. For those of you with family or friends with special needs, you know how important it is for these extraordinary kids and adults to have an extraordinary friend. We will miss our Sunday ski days.

March 12, 2009

We're defrosting...

Kish and the kids are defrosting in Arizona for March break as it's called in Canada -- instead of Spring Break. We're back at the end of the week. The good news is we used Southwest vouchers, bad news is that we fly and and out of Albany, New York and have a four hour drive. We figured out it would be easier to fly to India. The warm weather, time with family and the beautiful Arizona scenery has made it worthwhile.

March 5, 2009

Things not seen in Canada #2

After being in Canada for several months now, Kish and the kids were obviously surprised to see this large advertisement while changing planes at the Las Vegas airport.

March 2, 2009

Semi-quarterly report on life in Canada....

We've been temporary residents of Canada for almost five months. Some days it seems like five years - not in a bad way. It's just that our life has changed so much since October. In an early post we wrote about things we missed in the U.S. We've gotten used to life in Canada. Here's some random thoughts from the past five months...

• We can survive with two ice trays and no icemaker. We’ve made it this far. In a pinch, snow works - -as long as we’re certain to get it from a place Duke does not frequent.
• Winter is much more tolerable when it’s pretty outside and lots of activities like skiing. It is a long winter though.
• Canadians seem to know more about U.S. politics than most Americans.
• They don’t hand out good grades here – they are earned. An average mark is truly average. Where we came from it seemed like a “B” was average and everyone was on honor roll. Not the case in this part of Canada. Some exams are even sent to the Ministry of Education to be graded! Canadians say “marks” not “grades” and they “write” exams instead of “take” exams.
• We’re spending more time at home, which is good. Although, if the kids were involved in hockey, it might be a different story. Water polo four times a week and basketball for Louis is nothing compared to the schedule we kept in the U.S.
• We assume a business is closed over the weekend, unless it’s a major retail establishment. The bad side is, we have to be very patient when it comes to getting things done. We’re still impatient Americans.
• We're used to no drive thru ATMs and getting to know the people in the bank.
• Skiing has become a big part of our lives and we’re really enjoying it. We’ve had the opportunity to ski a lot here. The kids have moved from “pizza” to “French fries.” For skiers out there you know that’s moving from a snow plow to parallel. 
• We eat a lot less fast food because it’s not convenient. The only drive thru restaurants are the American ones like McDonalds, BK and Wendy’s. And they are few and far between. We love Tim Horton’s though.
• Canadians take the time out for meals. That’s a good thing. They sit down and eat rather than eating on the run – for the most part anyway. This likely accounts for the limited drive thrus. They really do take a lunch hour. Louis has a full hour for lunch and can home if mom wanted him to.
• Speaking of lunch – the kids both go to peanut free schools. When they’ve eaten PB&J for years, this has been a challenge. But we’ve found great alternatives and they have healthier lunches. Danielle’s school has a soup everyday and that’s it – everyone brings a sandwich. The PTA at Louis’ school offers Subway or pizza once a month. We refill a thermos and other containers rather than juice boxes and disposable bottles. Can’t think of the last time we purchased a water bottle.
• We’re much better about recycling.
• We’re getting used to military time.
• Kish wishes she paid more attention to those “metric system” math classes.
• Montreal police are as (un)friendly as Illinois police. But, they’re more fun to look at because they are supposed to be on strike and they wear these bright camo-type pants. Interesting. They don’t have a sense of humor either.
• A stop sign in the neighborhood is not just a suggestion according to the Montreal police. Kish found this out the hard way.
• While the economy is not that great in Canada either, most people seem to have been fiscally conservative all these years so it’s not affecting them as much. You don’t hear a lot about bank foreclosures here because they were not handing out wacky loans. The paperwork we had to deal with to buy our home was unbelievable. Yet, several banks reported profits recently. Imagine that…profits and no bailouts. Ironically, the economy in Canada really got dicey at the beginning of October -- just when the Pisani's arrived. How's that for timing? 
• Canadians tolerate taxes. High taxes. They don’t know any other way.
• A student can attend McGill – a university many say is on par with any Ivy League school – for around 3K/year. Hence, the high taxes. But still a good deal. We may look into Canadian citizenship for Danielle.
• In Quebec, all kids have to attend a French school unless they can prove they need to go to an English school – like in our case. If one parent was not educated in English, in north America, then the kids have to go to French school, regardless if they speak French or not when starting the school.
• In high school kids only take Quebec history in Grade 9 and Grade 10. In Grade 10 they take a written exam before they can move on to Grade 11. This year the class is only offered in French at Danielle's school and she's hanging in there. Fortunately, after a lot of parents complained, it will be offered in English as well next year. Hopefully if Danielle ever goes on Jeopardy there will be a Quebec history category. 
• Canadians don’t understand how the heck the U.S. manages without a universal healthcare program. We’re starting to wonder too after talking to people from different “first” world countries. Recently after a visit to the doctor with Louis, Kish waited in a long time at the receptionist desk to “check out” only to be told that there was nothing to check out – it was covered by medicare. While “free” it’s not really free, we know.
• Property taxes do not go toward school – that’s all covered by the federal and prudential government taxes. Property taxes and mortgage interest rates are not tax deductible. That's not good.
• You don’t see many big cars on the road.
• Canadians take vacations – and nice vacations. Most medical clinics have a traveler’s clinic where they can get vaccinations prior to going to “the islands.” At a recent physical, the doctor was surprised that Kish didn’t know when her last Hepatitis vaccination was. Apparently it’s a common vaccine in Canada because of “the islands.”
• Americans can go to Cuba via Canada. You can simply ask the Cuban customs guy to not stamp your passport. Canadians love Cuba – it’s supposed to be beautiful. We’re going to think about this trip…we’re adventurous but not that much. Plus, we have those passports with a chip in it – our luck we would be detained. But then again, that’s closed, right?
• Girls’ rugby is a big deal in Quebec. And the school team gets to go to places like New Brunswick for tournaments. Did you know they don’t wear pads or helmets? Yikes. 
• Most cars keep those car-top carriers on all year long. We found out recently it’s for transporting the stinky hockey gear – because they don’t have big cars and well, it’s stinky.
• We have not seen grass since early December. The snow just keeps accumulating.
• Very few people we know in Quebec go to church.
• Snow tires really are a good thing. Annoying to purchase and switch out, but a good thing.
• We’ve given up on finding good pizza. We have found awesome large pita though so we make our own. When in Quebec, do as the Quebecois do.
• It’s interesting checking out the curling scores and ratings in the paper.
• Crime rates are creeping up in Canada. Some attribute this factor to the number of guns making the way into the country. Legally owning a gun in Canada -- mainly for hunting -- comes with a lot of paperwork.
• Canadians are critical of their politicians too. We’ve learned a lot about politics from the Canadian comedy shows. It's confusing because there are so many parties. There's even a Pot party.
• We don’t know of any teenagers with cars. They all take public transportation. We have a bus route through the neighborhood and a train station walking distance away. It’s too bad more US cities don’t have this plan.
• Drinking age is 18 in Canada. It’s no big deal here, really. Kids can’t get a learner’s permit until they turn 16. Most don’t bother with driving until later anyway because of the other transportation options.
• There’s a province called Labrador in Canada. We want to go there just to say we’ve been. And take Duke

March 1, 2009

So Canada....

An outdoor skating rink in the neighborhood is so Canada. We had a break from our regular Sunday ski day and stayed home to enjoy things around the house. Last week Louis got to skate at school for Winterfest -- his school is next to this rink which is two blocks from our house. On any given day or night -- the rink is full of kids and dads practicing and having fun playing hockey. You'll notice the kids in the background are all equipped and seem to know what they are doing. In case you're wondering, Duke did jump over the wall when he was finished causing interference with hockey game and when he realized walking on the ice is not much fun.
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