September 19, 2009

It happens in Parliament too

Now that the "You Lie" dust is sort of settling, we thought we would show our American friends and family what can happen in Canadian Parliament. Outbursts are not uncommon and we have to admit, are more entertaining. You'll have to excuse the written commentary in the video -- it could not be removed. But if you listened to the Canadian political debate daily you would understand.

And for a greater understanding of how the Canadian government works, watch this video from the Rick Mercer Report on CBC. Another great comedy show where we learn quite a bit about life in Canada. (MP means Member of Parliament, not Military Police)

September 9, 2009

Tennis anyone?

Louis has a new favorite television This summer Kish and Louis had a chance to go to the Rogers Cup, or the Canadian Open tennis tournament, held in Montreal. On three different days we watched amazing tennis matches on the big courts, practice on the smaller courts and got a few prized autographs. Kish quickly learned that a tennis tournament in Montreal is not quite like a White Sox game in Chicago -- really -- at noon and no one is drinking a beer?

A quick study, Louis has picked up all sorts of tricks and uses them when we hit some balls at the neighborhood park. He has the Roddick sweat thing going while using his shirt to wipe his forehead and the "uh" grunt mastered as he hits each ball...sort of sounds like Monica Seles though.

Louis after getting Roddick's autograph. We like to think it was the chocolate covered
"Phelps Phan" t-shirt that got Andy's attention

Watching Roddick enter the stadium

Could he look more American at the Canadian Open?

September 7, 2009

Baseball is over and Paul didn't get deported

Louis and his teammate Elliot at the last game, which started in the afternoon when it was sunny, then turned into rain and a half hour delay and ended at night for a total of 11 innings

Louis' baseball season officially ended last weekend. After a rain delay, coming from behind and ultimately going five extra innings, they lost the last game of the regional championships. While everyone was bummed out about not being in the Quebec championships this Labor Day weekend, we were also happy to have the weekend free and ended up with a fantastic team party on Sunday. What an amazing group of boys and parents. We asked some of the parents at the party if all teams were this cohesive and they all responded that we were lucky to have found such a great team. We are thankful.

Paul enjoyed his first season as one of the assistant coaches. As soon as he opened his mouth, most knew he was not from Quebec and he quickly earned the nickname "USA." While taking a few plays from the Ozzie Guillen management playbook, several times we were thankful he didn't get ejected from the game, or as one parent said, "what are they going to do, deport him?" Everyone enjoyed the American influence from Louis and Paul. The opposing coaches and fans, not so much. More than once we're certain he was called a "F%#$&! A*S^)#@ in French. Every once in a while he would ask one of his coaches what that person said and more often than not they would say, "you don't want to know." In all seriousness, Paul was always sticking up for the boys and we have to all agree that there was some crrraaaazy officiating going on during some of the games. We like to think it was lost in translation.

Here's a video we put together with some highlights from the season. While there are some differences in Quebec, for the most part, baseball is baseball -- in the US or Canada. Except for the French part of course.

September 1, 2009

And they're off...

Yesterday was one of those "I know I'm supposed to be sad, but I'm really happy" days. Both Pisani kids have officially begun the 2009-10 school year in Canada. Last year Danielle and Louis started school in Naperville and we moved in early October. It was good for them to begin the year fresh and experience all that comes with the first day of school excitement. Last August was bittersweet, knowing that we were going to be moving and all.

So, Louis is off to Grade 6. Many have asked how the special education program in Quebec compares with what we were receiving in Illinois. Basically, there are good and bad points. In Illinois, we had loads and loads of paperwork and calculations of "minutes" of therapy, consultations and more. Louis had a full-time aid and was integrated into the regular classroom and pulled out for one-on-one teaching and therapy. It was a good system, yes. He received 90 minutes of speech per week and lots of other services. We don't miss the lengthy, political I.E.P. meetings, Paul especially. We do miss the kids at his school and the familiarity of Kendall Elementary, as it was also Danielle's elementary school.

Here in Montreal, Louis also attends our neighborhood school. As you can see from the photo above, we walk through a small forest to get to his school, which happens to be called Sherwood Forest. It's about half the size of his Illinois school and only two classes per grade. We do like the size. It's what's called an "English" school, however, it's confusing since half of his day is in French as well. He's integrated into the regular classroom and only has an aid a couple of hours a day. We're realizing that quantity of services is not always quality and he seems to be getting a good education. He's picking up quite a bit of French, probably more than we realize. In a way, many of the French words are easier for him to articulate than English. It's safe to say that Kish and Louis are probably on the same level and it's supposed to be Louis' job to come home and teach Kish some words each day. He seems to have adjusted well to school and his new surroundings, made some nice friends (boys are WAY easier) and has never once complained about school. He receives speech therapy at school and has a lot less "help" with his work which is both good and bad. There's a lot less paperwork as well. Also, while the school year is longer, going until the third week of June, they do have a full hour for lunch and recess and an additional recess during the day. That full hour break seems to work well for teachers and the kids. Kids can come home for lunch, but most parents pay the extra fee to supply the lunch supervisors and keep the kids at school for that fun time. Elementary school goes until Grade 6 in Quebec and then the kids move on to the high school incorporating grades 7-11. We'll likely be looking at a private, special education school for Louis next year.

This year we will be supplementing his speech outside of class and getting a tutor. But thanks to a 48% tax rate, what is not covered by our private insurance (we have Medicare and an outside employer-supplied company) is tax deductible. Even the mileage to and from these appointments can be deducted from taxes. The same nice tax deduction applies to all of his medical appointments, assessments and basically anything related to his disability. Yes, Canada has high taxes. But, with that comes a lot of services for those in need AND just as important, the family. We recently learned about a government program we will be eligible for after living here for 18 months. Basically it's a stipend, open to anyone with a child of a disability regardless of income level. Today we learned that we can also apply for this stipend for Danielle because she is the sibling of someone with a disability and the funds are to be used for counseling or anything that benefits her well being. As we've said in previous posts, it's shocking to look at the numbers, but in return we believe we're getting more than our "fair" share in return. Canada puts a lot of emphasis in health and family.

Speaking of health -- Canada also has a $500 tax deduction, per child, as a "Child Fitness Credit." When in enrolling in any qualified sporting activity -- hockey, soccer, swimming, karate, whatever -- parents receive a receipt and can take up to a $500 deduction. They encourage sports and exercise and give parents a nice incentive. Might be good for the U.S.?

So, while it's been a fantastic summer, with lots of family time, everyone is excited school and getting back into a routine. Even Duke seems to be enjoying the quiet house. He knows it's the calm before the storm when the kids come home, throw backpacks on the floor, complain about homework, need something signed now, need a check for something, grab a snack and need to be driven someplace. Just like the U.S., eh?
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