August 31, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.31

It's hot. With the heat index in the 40s -- that's metric for all of you down south -- it's quite warm. Just last week we were enjoying the windows open and imagining a low power bill. Now, we have the windows open and will have yet another low power bill because we have NO AC or no freon or a part broken or something lost in translation that won't be fixed until Thursday or Friday. And that will be just in time for the heat wave to break.  I know heat is relative to friends and family in say Texas or Arizona, but we're Canadians now, we can't take the heat!

Either can Duke...he's made himself quite comfortable in front of the only fan we own.

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 8.31

Today's word word of the day...

coup d'état  

Technically it means "state blow"or overthrow of the government.

Not to be confused with restoring honor or anything. But here in Canada, this is what Paul felt like doing Sunday night, or technically Monday morning at 1 am when Canadian Customs would not let Paul into the country with Louis for fear that Louis was being abducted. He was pulled aside, baggage checked and they had to call me at home to verify that Paul could bring Louis to Canada....where we LIVE.

So after confirming this information and being asked a few more questions on the phone I suggested to the Customs agent that perhaps she take a closer look at the passports and she could see that they have traveled TOGETHER a half a dozen times across the border. The irony? He was not asked any of these questions while traveling back to the US when technically we are currently Canadian residents. He was trying to go home -- to Canada!

After the agent had confirmed that Louis was not being kidnapped, I asked "So, what exactly should we do to avoid this mess in the future? Let me I need to go to one location and fill out paperwork, pay a fee, then go to another location to get a stamp, then come back to customs and give you the paperwork?" See, all too often we have to do a lot of that, I think it's called job creation. I digress...

She says "No a simple word document from your computer will be fine. You just have to sign it."

I say, "and get it notarized or have a witness I assume?"

"No, that's not necessary," she says.

That's comforting.

Last year of Cramps

Danielle left this morning by train, metro and city bus into the city for her last year of high school at Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramp"s high school. We're so proud of what she has accomplished in the last two years. Pulling a teenager from friends and teams in 9th grade to move to a new city and country was not the easiest. And, keep in mind the first class she stepped into at her new school in Montreal was a history class taught completely in French. She could count on one hand the number of words she knew in French.

Today she can carry on conversations with her friends and when she needs to speak French in Montreal. It's safe to say she is darn close to being fluent and certainly will be by the end of the school year. She's worked really hard.

In grade 11 the girls wear a blue oxford shirt. Danielle was also appointed a House Official (think Hogwarts) which means she wears a special clip on her tie. Fortunately, she's one of the heads of the House of Edgar which means her sweatpants and shirts say "Edgar." If she was in the other house her spirit wear would say "Cramp." She's also editor of the yearbook -- it's hard to see in the photo, but the yearbook is titled the "Beaver Log." That's not a typo. Hey, the school is 100 years old and has a lot of traditions.

August 30, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.30

Meet Barley. He's the neighbor's cat and Duke's nemesis. Duke and Barley have a stare-down each morning. Duke doesn't mess with Barley. He just stares. This cat is the Clint Eastwood of cats and is all "Go ahead, make my day you dumb dog." In English or French, the feline message is the same.

The boys are back in town

Paul and Louis spent a whirlwind weekend in Chicago visiting family and friends and happily attending two White Sox games. Frank Thomas -- Paul's all-time favorite Sox player -- was being honored on Sunday at the game. They went for that celebration and so Louis could spend some time with his best buddy Liam and see his other "old" friends. One of the hardest parts of moving from Naperville was leaving a secure friend situation for Louis. We have to admit though that the kids here in Montreal have been fantastic to Louis.

Liam is someone special for all of us. It's been "Liam and Louis" for over ten years -- Liam and Louis have known each other since they were two. In fact, when they were younger, they were often mistaken for one another. Our families have become good friends over the years and we've been fortunate to spend vacations and holidays together.  We don't have to be on guard when we are together -- in other words -- we can yell at our kids, roll our eyes at meltdowns and generally not feel self-conscious if we lose our shit. Not that we ever do, of course.

At Bears training camp in 2005 when the moms decided to take a day trip -- this photo was taken just before all hell broke loose between the four kids...just like siblings. There was a lot of yelling going on.
I was talking with Jackie (Liam's mom) yesterday on the phone after the tornado of two boys and two dads left her house with luggage, tailgating necessities (no sunscreen of course, we are talking about dads) and White Sox gear to head to the 1 pm game. We were talking about what their relationship would be like if we still lived there. We both agreed they would still be close. We also agreed that as the boys in the neighborhood get older, kids tend to go in dozens of directions. However, at the same time as kids with special needs get older (Liam is autistic) these kids with special needs tend to spend more time together at school as the gap between "typical" kids gets bigger. In elementary school Liam and Louis were always separated by classrooms. They never had classes together because as one teacher said "they are a bit physically intimidating." Ya think?  Plus, they are so comfortable together it would be like having siblings in the same class, something that is not often practiced.

What could possibly be "intimidating" about these boys in the classroom? It was fun going through old photos...they've played many sports together. This Colts photos was their first football game on the same team and they were appointed captains for the opening game. circa 2005.

The Louis/Liam relationship is something special. It's important that we get the boys together a few times a year and  both families have made it a priority. The Kirstein family came to visit in 2009 and it meant the world to us.

Later that year we met up in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It's always been interesting to watch the two of them communicate. Louis' speech has improved a lot over the last couple of years. Of course, it's not at all "typical" and likely won't be. But Liam has always been able to understand Louis, to know what he's thinking, and often to communicate for Louis (teachers really love this) when he couldn't communicate well himself. We could often overhear the two of them "chatting" or more often yelling cheering at a game on TV or in person. But sometimes they would just be silent, yet still communicating.

Siblings of special needs kids share an important bond. Danielle and Gen have become good friends too during the year. They have the same energy and look out for their brothers. It's really cool. 
Seeing the boys together is priceless...

At the recent White Sox game

August 28, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.28

With the boys of our house (except Duke) gone for the weekend, I had a little dinner party with some ladies. Of course when there's food on the table, Duke is there. And, one of these ladies is not particularly fond of dogs. Of course, he later chose to hang out at her feet, under the table.

The intention was not to take a photo of the dog, but get one of those "everyone smile at the dinner table photos" and there he was...

August 26, 2010

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 8.26

Today's word of the day...

eau de toilette  

Which translates to "toilet water." Obviously, toilet in this context is not the same as the commode, but instead is a mellow perfume.

Speaking of real toilet water and all things about that Dr. Laura? She's not well liked in Canada whatsoever. Canadians are cool about free speech and all. Seriously, they can even yell in Parliament.  But that Dr. way. Zero tolerance. They had that hag broadcaster banned from the Canadian airwaves in 2000. Seems Canadians could not tolerate her discriminatory rants way back then. Seriously, it was the Canadian Broadcast Standards office that said she was "abusively discriminatory" and her views "fertilized" the ground for brutality.

I tend to agree. Seems I'm feeling more Canadian each day.

the Daily Duke 8.26

This dog absolutely loves peanut butter, or beurre d'arachide as we have learned to call it. Even the Wal-Mart brand will do, he's not picky. Friends and neighbors know to drop off their empty jars at our house as a treat for Duke. It makes him very, very, happy. And it makes me happy because it occupies him for at least an hour. Are we talking about a toddler or a dog? Some days I wonder.

August 25, 2010

Class of 2015

Louis starts high school next week. His Naperville friends are probably thinking, what the? High school? And what do you mean? We're the class of 2016!

Here in Quebec, high school is grades 7-11. They don't go by freshman, sophomore, etc. It's Grade 7, Grade 8 and so on...or Sect 1 -- which is Louis. So technically, he'll graduate a year ahead of his Naperville classmates. Sort of.

We went to an orientation last night and it was no different from what we experienced at Danielle's orientation at Neuqua Valley in Naperville, except for the mandatory French class every day which is required for every student. Louis was happy to see some friends, although only 60% of his classmates go to Beaconsfield High School. The rest of his classmates are spread out between French and English schools and public and private. He got his schedule and he's ready to go for the first day of school on August 30. Only one complication -- somehow he is signed up for drama. Louis in drama class would be quite a scene (or lack thereof) -- which incidentally is the same in French with an accent-- scène.

the Daily Duke 8.25

It's difficult to take photos of Duke doing things other than sleeping or playing with a ball. He's enjoying our front porch. We've had some great weather in Montreal and we're thankful our air conditioning has been off for an entire week now....we're actually looking forward to seeing the next Hydro Quebec bill.

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 8.25

Who knew I knew so much French?

The word of the day....


I went to the Coupe de Rogers -- the early afternoon session, as in matinée --  with my Canadian friend Anne and we saw some great tennis. I'm reading the program draw sheet, I mean the Programme Quotidien, and see the word matinée on Court Central and I'm all...duh! We stayed to watch a bit of the en soirée or the evening session for those of you who aren't so fluent!

August 20, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.20

This dog is pathetic when it comes to tennis balls. Seriously. There's lots of chatter in the house because Kish is out the door soon to go to the Rogers Cup tennis match again today. Or, shall I say Coup Rogers?

Photo taken by Louis with the bad ass Nikon. Not too bad, eh?

August 18, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.18

Oh yes he will...he will jump over the couch and out the screen door in an attempt to catch a squirrel. Those yard rodents really get on his the same way that Glenn Beck gets on Kish's.

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 8.18

Today's word....


We all know that word, of course. Sometimes I wish I lived on one. But, the literal translation is...  "bottom (butt) of the bag." I prefer dead-end street to butt of the bag. That's just me.


August 17, 2010

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 8.17

Little did I know that all those years of ordering a coffee I was speaking French when I said....

Cafe´au lait
(Yes, I know the accent thing is supposed to be right over the "e" but I have not mastered punctuation in French on my computer)

....which obviously translates to coffee with milk.

And here I thought it was a fancy Starbucks drink. And in Canada, it's more expensive too...close to 5$.

the Daily Duke 8.17

Duke, can I get you anything? A cafe au lait perhaps? Some Timbits? A belly rub?

Wanna go to Cuba?

The on-again, off-again news that the US may soon ease up on travel to Cuba is encouraging for temporary Canadians like us. Most everyone we know in Montreal has been to Cuba at least once. They love it for the pristine beaches, un-American-ized commerce and lots and lots of all-inclusive and very affordable resorts.

When we first moved to Canada and would hear someone say"we're going to Cuba" it made us go "huh?" Sort of like being in the States and hearing "we're going to vacation in Des Moines." (sorry Jeanne). Our Canadian friends have shared their Cuban rum, readily available at the SAQ. And they don't need to hide cigars before returning from vacation because they can walk into any cigar store at home and buy them. Again, a strange concept since growing up in the States Cuba was such a bad word. Unless of course it came to importing good baseball players or a really great black bean recipe. And then of course there's Gloria Estefan.

Americans can get to the island in different ways and on flights from Canada. We have heard of ways tourists can go by quietly asking the customs officials in Cuba to not stamp a passport. Did you know that from time to time US customs officials really look at those stamps on the passport...I mean...really look? We have thought about going to Cuba from Canada and then heard something about a chip in our passports and with our luck Homeland Security would come and scoop us off a beach and give us a $10K fine. Plus, there's the whole work permit thing and then there's this blog where I just said for US government officials to read we would like to go to Cuba. Think we'll lay low for a few more years until the island is taken over by cruise lines and all Disney-fied.

Here's an older post about Cuba

August 16, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.16

This is what happens when Duke is surrounded by four girls and a bottle of hot pink nail polish. He gets many complements when we are out and about. Although I think he's getting a bit annoyed when people keep thinking he's a girl.

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 8.16

It's another new installment of the Canadian Pisani Adventure blog. I actually have a follower who asked a question about how we are coming along with our French! A real in someone who is not a member of our family or one of our friends who follow our blog because they are being nice.

This new installment is called "I'm almost fluent." Well, I'm all. With several glasses of wine I'm better though. After being here almost two years, I find myself paying more attention to words and phrases in a way I didn't before. Because I'm STARTING to understand a lot more. For example, there's this radio station called CJAD AM here in Montreal. They are similar to a big AM news and information station in any large city. So for the two years I've been listening, the traffic as been sponsored by "Lakey Pur" store. For the life of me I have not been able to figure out this it pur or fur? Is it a fur store? Lakey-fur? Wow, they're putting a lot of loonies into buying ad space for furs when you could likely find one for 100$ on Craigslist these days. It wasn't until just the other day for some reason I GOT IT. It's L'EQUIPEUR! A clothing store in Montreal, one I pass on the road all the time. It only took two years to figure this word out. It's a difficult language, really it is. Can you understand how when they say L'EQUIPEUR on the radio I could have thought it was "Lakey-Fur?" Or "Lakey Pur?" All this time I was too embarrassed to ask. the I'm almost fluent word of the day is....

Which means...vacuum cleaner. Prior to "learning" french I only knew an aspirator as that bulb syringe I use (and sometimes still do) to suck the snot out of Louis' nose. Now, I have a real French word I can use for vacuum cleaner. I suppose that means I need to actually use the vacuum cleaner, or I mean...aspirateur.

August 15, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.15

Duke was not very happy when I pulled out of the driveway on my way to the Rogers Cup tennis tournament with a friend for the day on Saturday. He tends to have this "I'm going to make you feel guilty" reaction whenever I leave the house. The Rogers Cup is a great professional tournament held each year in Toronto and Montreal, alternating years with women in one city and men in the other city. Louis and Kish went last year and had a great time.(Rogers Cup Last Year)

Photo by iPhone

August 13, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.13

Duke enjoys a cool Montreal morning sitting in the sun at the front door. No doubt he smells the remnants of skunk odor still present in the foliage in the front yard after he was "skunked" on a beautiful summer evening last month when all the windows were open. Had there been an emergency slide available that night, Kish would have used it to leave the house. The smell of skunk leads Kish to have flashbacks of a childhood in Arizona bathing two Great Danes with tomato juice on hot summer days. For the record, tomato juice does not work and Kish is now thinking her parents sent her outside to keep her busy for hours on end with large cans of tomato juice and a hose. After all, this was pre-computer, Facebook, cable tv, DVR, CDs, iPod, DVD, iPad, texting and all those time-sucking activities occupying kids today.

  • Photo taken with an iPhone and tweaked using the Plastic Bullet app
  • I found a good remedy for skunk other than tomato juice. Kish has never been able to enjoy a Bloody Mary thanks to her childhood Great Danes.

August 12, 2010

the Daily Duke 8.12

Here's a new twist to our blog -- the Daily Duke. In an attempt to take photos each and every day,  and since Duke is always at my feet or within 5 feet of me, so he's an easy subject. He has decided to take his morning nap (his third) right here...the walkway between the family room, kitchen and the rest of the house. A place I navigate through dozens and dozens of times before noon each day.  He doesn't even move when I walk over him, unless of course I go more than 5 feet away. While he's there, why can't he take care of the dust bunnies under the table to the right, and organize the games and books on the shelf to the left. Why not?

Ahh...Summer in Montreal

Photo by Danielle

While we enjoyed our travel this summer, we're so happy to be back in Montreal for what's left of it. I was talking with some fellow American women yesterday, some have been in Montreal for many years, and we all agreed that Montreal is a wonderful place to live.

Walked downstairs this morning and Paul had already opened the house letting in fresh, cool air in mid-AUGUST. In our 20-something years together we have lived in places where the summer climate is not that appealing....Louisiana, Kansas City and yes....Chicago can be unbearable in the summer. We were watching the White Sox game last night on TV and started to have sympathy sweat. Montreal? Not so much. Yes, we can have a heat wave where the temps are in the 30-somethings, but just when you've had enough -- the weather changes.

Typically by this time in August, I'm ready for the kids to get back to school, because, well, I'm done. Now that we have teenagers, it's a bit different. For those of you who know us, Louis has always been an early bird -- as in -- he would be able to beat the "time to make the donuts" guy into work. As in, rarely did he wake up when the sun was UP...typically he was up when it was still dark which lead his parents to go through the last 12 years in a sleep-deprived fog. I used to hear him at the crack of ass dawn and think "so help me, if he's a teenager and I have to throw water on him or let Duke into his room to wake him up, I'm going to put my head in the oven."

Those days are here. It's okay though because it's summer. And the best news for the new school year? Louis will attend the public high school and they are smart -- the school starts at 9 am.

August 8, 2010

Une visite de la famille de Flynn

We were so happy to have the Flynn family (Leo, Mary, Leo B., Emily, Meghan and Maria)  from Elmhurst, Illinois at our home for a visit! It was such a treat and they are very easy house guests. As in....we walk in the door from an eight day vacation (actually nine including flight delays) only to have them arrive just a few short hours later with all of our laundry in the foyer and Kish greeting them with "Come on in! Sorry I have not showered in two days and I still can't find my toothbrush, but welcome!" We did, however, have Molson in the fridge.

Actually, due to some scheduling mix-ups, the Flynn family stayed at our house for a couple of days while we were in Colorado, then they ventured up to Quebec City to take in the really, really French culture. They stopped back by our house on the way home.

Paul missed out on our visit to Olympic Park since his flight was ALSO delayed by a day. We always enjoy showing people the city we have grown to love.

Paul has another name for this structure in the background, but it is part of Olympic Park commemorating the 1976 games.

After the visit to the park, Leo, Mary and Kish dropped the kids off in Westmount and Danielle took them around to get a taste of the city from the teen perspective. They went to lunch and had Poutine...a well-known, not low-calorie, dish from this area. It's french fries, gravy and cheese.

Emily Flynn is not eating a worm, it's Poutine

The kids walked around, did some shopping and took the train home. During this time, Leo, Mary and Kish caught up with Paul and the adults went out for an early dinner at our very favorite French restaurant in the village of Pointe-Claire. It was so much fun to catch up with them and feel at ease with our kids riding the train home from Montreal. After some debate about whether to pick them up at the train station or not, we opted for a second bottle of wine and they walked home. Hey, they're young. When we were their age...never mind. It was really good wine though.

While the visit together was short, it was sweet. They had to leave the next morning for the long journey home to Chicago. We were sad to see them leave. We've known Leo since we were 17-18 and the kids have all grown up together.  Good times.

Any doubt these two are Marquette fans?

Duke LOVED the Flynn's and jumped in the van to go back home with them

Great to see you all! Sorry for taking your photo right after you got out of bed and loaded the car for the long ride home. 

Until next time...bon voyage Flynn family!

August 7, 2010

Back in the saddle

We are back in Montreal after a whirlwind visit to Colorado and New Mexico which included spending time with Kish's brother John and his family, a wedding in Taos, a Rockies game, several very delayed flights, a western party, a visit for Danielle at University of Colorado/Boulder, a damaged rental car, horseback riding, a trip up a ski lift, an unexpected visit with Uncle Dan in Chicago and many, many margaritas. Just a typical Pisani vacation.

Although Paul was not able to be with us for the entire trip, it was a nice getaway for us all. As it turns out, we missed the heat an humidity wave in Montreal while we were away.

The kids were so excited to meet their new cousin Hannah (John and Stephanie's beautiful daughter). Danielle jumped right in helping out Aunt Stephanie.

John and Stephanie are very busy with sweet baby Hannah. With a cleft palate and a few other soon-to-be-resolved health issues, having extra hands around is most helpful. She's the sweetest, most determined baby EVER. We can't wait to watch her grow up. And Paul likes to remind Hannah that he is the "nice" Uncle Paul. We know he's just joking of course.

Why the cowboy hat? The wedding of our friends Mickey and Brady Ryan took place in the beautiful town of Taos, New Mexico, just a four hour drive from Denver. Mickey is a friend of John's from high school and became a friend of our family when he lived in Chicago and we called him our "son" when he came "home" to do laundry, have dinner, sometimes babysit our kids and even helped out with jobs around the house in Naperville. This wedding was absolutely beautiful and it was a weekend of a western party, the wedding, the reception at the stunning El Monte Resort, a wonderful breakfast the next day, and lots and lots (and lots) of green chile and carne asada, margaritas, Mexican beer and laughs.

Stephanie and Hannah leave the beautiful church

Stephanie, John and Hannah at the reception

Brady the Bride kisses Hannah before Danielle and Louis began babysitting for the evening so Uncle John and Aunt Stephanie could enjoy the reception!

Montreal Cowboys and Girls and the western party the night before the wedding

New Mexico is beautiful country. We took one morning to venture up to the Taos ski resort to do some walking around in 10,000 foot elevation.

The groom, Mickey Ryan and John the day after the wedding at brunch

Horseback riding in Angle Fire, New Mexico was a great way to end our trip in New Mexico. The country is beautiful...rain or shine.

Louis forgot his chaps

Back in Denver...unfortunately Paul had to leave for a meeting so Kish and the kids took in a Rockies game with friends. It turned out to be a beautiful Colorado evening, despite the weather forecast. Good times. 
Kish and college friend Jeanne Cheslik Gregory...just like old times!

Danielle with the spirited Anna Hunt at the Rockies game. When Anna was annoyed because her 7 month old baby brother was bugging her, Danielle's advice was "get used to it."

We also took the opportunity to check out University of College at Boulder for a potential college option for Danielle. What sticker shock! Wow...taxes in Canada don't seem so bad since Quebecers can go to McGill for under $5,000 year. 

Besides seeing friends and family and having a bit of a US vacation, another reason we went to Colorado was to check out the new building and business of Casa Bwana Properties. Here's the new home office of Alpine Log and Timber Finishes. Kish's brother John and his employees and Colorado family have been very busy during the last year renovating the inside and outside of this business just off I-70 outside Denver. It's really beautiful and the craftsmanship is outstanding. To follow the progress or to find out more about environmentally friendly building products and services, check out the website here.

Plane travel these days is not without drama and our trip home was no exception. A three hour delay leaving Denver meant missing a connection in Chicago for Kish, Danielle and Louis. Fortunately Kish knew enough to call American Airlines directly and have them book a later flight to Montreal from Chicago on any airline. This meant staying the night in Chicago and we were so lucky to have Uncle Dan nearby to pick us up at the airport at 9:30 pm, take us to get our fix of Chicago pizza, give us beds to sleep in and arrange a ride back to O'Hare at 5 am...all while our fellow passengers were still waiting in line figuring out where to spend the night. It was a super quick visit but we figured out that Danielle got to see her two godfathers in two states on the same day. The next morning we felt like we were going home when we approached the Air Canada ticket counter.

What a civilized airline.  Even the American Airlines person on the phone the night before commented on how nice it was to arrange travel with Air Canada. Early the next morning we were happy to turn over our "carry on" suitcases (FOR FREE) which caused trouble the night before when the American Airlines personnel tried to make us check them in at the gate which meant waiting at baggage claim in Chicago when all we wanted was pizza. Waiting for luggage in Chicago is as much fun as waiting in line for a driver's license. So, Kish managed to keep walking on to the delayed American flight while saying "it WILL fit" to the attendant, and attempted to cram the suitcase into the overhead compartment. When it indeed did not fit, she proceeded to unzip the suitcase with dozens of people waiting in the aisle,  and pull out baseball mitts and cowboy boots, tossing them at Louis already in the seat and force the bag overhead, thus avoiding baggage claim on the other end. Yes, we were *those* travelers, but we didn't care. We wanted to see Uncle Dan and have some pizza. We felt like the Griswold's.

So our departure the next morning on Air Canada was a bit delayed because our flight attendant overslept and was late for the 7 am flight....hopefully due to enjoying a fun night out in Chicago. We got on our plane, got our FREE ear phones and individual TVs and enjoyed a quick ride home. There's no place like home and we really felt like we came home this time.
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