September 28, 2011

Hannah comes to Canada

Five days...two provinces, three major cities, a little league baseball game, an historical tour, lots of meals out, discovering a new house, tolerating a neurotic dog and keeping an aunt, uncle, two cousins and a mom and dad on their toes...that was our wonderful visit with our beautiful niece Hannah. And of course her parents. We like them too. It was awesome to watch my baby brother, whose diapers I once changed, be a dad. We are so proud of John and Stephanie. While their 16 months with sweet Hannah has not been typical and they have faced hurdles that would make many parents crash and burn, they have taken Hannah's difficulties, focused on her abilities, (which there are MANY) and have become the best parents a child could ever ask for.

We love it when we have visitors. It's a great chance to see the place we live through new eyes. And this was a particular monumental visit since Hannah was traveling to Canada for the first time. For us it was enlightening to watch a 16-month old and her time flies. Hannah has some respiratory issues so we were quickly taken back to our days with Louis and nebulizer treatments every few hours. It's good for us to see how far Louis has come. And for Louis it was a great time to hang out with his Uncle John who happens to be one of his favorite people. He was thrilled to have his uncle at his baseball games and took some pointers from John, while Hannah was entertained and watched with enthusiasm.
We spent a day in Ottawa at Louis' baseball game and walking around the city. I love this city. It's very regal and a mix of old and new. Danielle joined us for the day.
A quick night at home was followed by a road trip to Quebec City. As many of said, this is the closest to a European feeling and we have to remind ourselves we are in North America. We had a great time walking the city, eating, embracing ourselves in history for a tour (Louis got to play hooky, Danielle had to stay behind for school). It was a wonderful time. Hannah was a rockstar! John was most entertained by the rude, aggressive drivers we experienced while trying to leave the city at rush hour. He opened is window yelling "douche bag" to one driver. I had to laugh when I told him that there are some things that just don't translate and in French, douche means shower, so he just called that dude a shower bag.

Our last day we spent quickly touring Montreal...with drives to the schools to show Uncle John and Aunt Stephanie where Louis and Danielle get their Quebec education. While in Montreal, John was quite patient when an old French guy gave him hell for not speaking french when he asked John a question and he responded with "no hablo fran-say."

We had some time at home and an adult dinner out which was appropriately capped off with Duke getting sprayed by a skunk at 10 pm. For John and Kish, it was just like old times in Arizona.
We had an amazing five days and can't wait to see the Colorado Schmitz family again!

September 24, 2011

the Daily Duke 9.24.11

We are so enjoying having my brother John, his wife Stephanie and our precious niece Hannah visiting from Colorado. Duke is very interested in Hannah, especially her toys. Who needs dog toys?

September 20, 2011

the Daily Duke 9.20.11

Duke didn't get the memo that it's Fall here in Canada. This didn't stop him from taking a dip in my friend's pool. But then again, he doesn't have an issue with cold water.

September 14, 2011

Bikes and sangria

We are fortunate to have a wonderful network of bike paths in and around Montreal. Today's 30KM ride to Old Montreal was so much easier with a pit stop for a pitcher of sangria at an outdoor cafe. It was a beautiful day....

When you have three combination bike locks and have no idea what the combinations resort to finding a cafe where you can BYOB...bring your obnoxious bike. 

September 11, 2011

Ten years later

It's hard to turn on the radio today without hearing non-stop coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9-11. It was such a difficult day for the U.S., and we were so absorbed in the events that I didn't take into consideration what it must have been like to hear the news from another country. Now, being in Canada for all the anniversary coverage makes me think of the impact it had on Canadians.

Because it likely won't make the news in the U.S...I thought this letter from President Obama to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was worth sharing....

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
It has often been said that the United States and Canada are great neighbors, trading partners and the best of friends. Friendship gives us comfort and it gives us strength, but can be tested in difficult times. In one of the darkest moments in our history, Canada stood by our side and showed itself to be a true friend.
On the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days by opening their airports, homes and hearts to us. As airspace over our two countries was shut down, hundreds of flights en route to the United States were landed safely by Canadian air traffic control in seventeen Canadian airports from coast to coast. The small city of Gander, Newfoundland, population 9,600, received 6,600 diverted passengers, while Vancouver received 8,500 people. For the next 3 days — before our air space was reopened — those displaced passengers were treated like family in Canadian homes, receiving food, shelter, medical attention and comfort.

Ten years later, we continue to be grateful for Canada's friendship, and for the solidarity you continue to show us in our shared fight against terrorism. The United States is fortunate to share a border with a country that understands, in your words, "There is no such thing as a threat to the national security of the United States which does not represent a direct threat to this country."

On this anniversary, we recognize all the gestures of friendship and solidarity shown to us by Canada and its people, and give thanks for our continuing special relationship.
Signed Barack Obama

September 8, 2011

the Daily Duke 9.8.11

We're enjoying some beautiful sunny days. Although, it's easy to tell that fall is in the air with cool mornings. Duke is loving the dog park. It's hard to believe that in a matter of months this place will look like this.

September 7, 2011

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 9.7.11

a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
a state or organization governed or managed according to such a system.
the officials in such a system, considered as a group or hierarchy.
excessively complicated administrative procedure, seen as characteristic of such a system : the unnecessary bureaucracy in local government.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from French bureaucratie, from bureau (see bureau, -cracy ).

Now we really understand the origin of the word. 

Change of course

It's been unbelievably stressful in the Pisani household the last two weeks getting Danielle settled into post-secondary education. Since she technically graduated from high school in June (after grade 11) her next step was to go to CEGEP for a two year program.

And then came immigration issues. And miscommunication. And frustration. And tears. And swearing.

Due to the fact that our family is in Quebec on Paul's work permit, which expires on September 21 and is in the process of being renewed, Danielle's student visa was hung up in the incredible bureaucracy of the Quebec government. We're talking frustration beyond belief. The week before she was to start CEGEP -- and couldn't speak to a live person in the international office of her "new" school for direction -- we were told that if she couldn't produce her student visa by September 19, she would be de-enrolled from this school. Even though we were going to be paying over 10K for this school when the Quebecers go for free.

Yes, imagine the frustration. And the language in the Pisani household. Imagine the phone conversation when the Quebec immigration person called Kish one morning. He unfortunately was on the receiving end of an enormous, yet somewhat professional, outburst and, bless his heart, he stayed on the phone and listened to the rant. And the criticism of the Quebec government. However, in between my rants, I thanked him a number of times for speaking English and complemented him on his command for the language.

So, we decided that we needed to research the one and only viable option, and that's what we did. After filling out an application in record time and having an interview, she was accepted to Lower Canada College (LCC) which is a grade 12/pre-university program in Montreal. The only "issue" is that by attending this program, she is no longer eligible to attend a university in Quebec. We weren't too disappointed with that  non-option of Quebec because frankly, WE DON'T HAVE A CHOICE. 

Frustrated yet? Imagine.

So after so many issues with the Quebec government and "public" institutions, we gave a silent middle finger to the system and changed courses to this new school. I was speaking with a friend yesterday and explaining the situation and said that in the big scheme of life events, how fortunate we are because we're talking about education and where we have a choice. And then I had to stop myself because I realized I was trying to maple syrup the situation and make it sweet. However, after the fact, this is a minor bump in the road. 

The good news? She's in an excellent school where the focus is on preparing the students for a university in Canada (not Quebec) or in the U.S. There are only 40 kids (co-ed) in the program and enrollment has doubled just from last year. They have administrators on staff who work one-on-one with the students on scholarships and applications. And I really like that several of the administrators also TEACH a class or two so that they can stay connected in the classroom. Brilliant idea, eh? Ironically, Danielle is one of only a couple "international" students in the program which is saying something about what some Quebec students must be thinking when the really do have a choice.

And, she's enjoying wearing "real clothes" as they have to dress in business attire each and every school day. We'll be sure to ask in December how much she misses a uniform. 

In the meantime, we couldn't be happier with her placement. And most importantly Danielle is happy and she's getting a kick-ass education. 

We're not so happy with Quebec at the moment. 

the Daily Duke 9.7.11

Duke watched by the door as Danielle and Louis each left for school at different times. As he gets older, he appreciates the peace and quiet in the house.

September 1, 2011

Our 8th grader

Something happened this summer. Louis must have grown a foot, his voice lowered by several octaves, he increased our food budget by hundreds of dollars, he craves his independence and he had a great summer. Today was his first day of school. Yes, he had new clothes to mark the occasion but opted instead to wear his old crap. I remember the days when I could set clothes out for the kids and they would just wear them.

So, what did Louis do this summer?
He had an amazing baseball season playing on a "typical" baseball team. (We don't like the word "normal"). He and his team went to the provincial championships, unfortunately losing two heartbreaking and very close games. But, we were fortunate to be with wonderful parents, the best kids and we looked forward to each and every game. It was lots of fun.

He got to go to a Toronto Blue Jays game and sit in the Blue Jays charity box with great friends from his baseball team. And mom got to go too. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we will never forget it.
While at the Blue Jays game Louis came face-to-face with a Frank Thomas photo
He also got to sit in the box for the Katy Perry concert with another great friend. I'm sure he's happy all of his dude friends know he went to Katy Perry. We had a great time and what a way to see a concert!
After Toronto, Louis and mom hit the road and went through Niagara Falls. He was not that impressed. But it was worth the stop. I made him smile in this photo.
We stayed the night in Cooperstown, N.Y. and went to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Absolutely AMAZING. Put it on your travel list, even if you're not a baseball fan. The town is quaint and a great place to visit. We took out a membership because we kept thinking that Paul and Danielle needed to experience it. We're hoping to head there this fall.
After Cooperstown we went on to Portland, Maine to meet up with Danielle who had been nannying there for a couple of weeks. Paul joined us too we had a great time. We love Maine and everything about it.

So, that's Louis' summer. In between this he had baseball camp, time with friends, fights with his sister and lead the life of a typical teenage boy. And for that we are grateful.
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