Posts filed under ‘General Ramblings On’

Fundraising for School Yards

I spend a significant amount of time in coffee shops. If you worked at home with your husband, you might too.

On each local coffee shop bulletin board I see flyers for local public elementary school fundraising initiatives for school yards (right now I see three in my area including Lil D’s school and just saw a tweet for another Otown public school).

So far the fundraising goals I have seen are all 100K plus. Lil D’s school needs $250K for the current phase of the project. The school yard needs renewal. In fact, the whole school badly needs renewal, but let’s just talk school yard.

There are just under 800 students at his school. That is a fundraising goal of $312.50 for each student, FOR THIS PHASE. The government is going to kick in $7,500 or 3% of the total. We know that not each family has the means or the willingness to participate so the burden falls to the few and the community.

This is a public school.

We wrote a cheque. Not for $312.50, but we wrote a cheque. The yard needs renewal.

Local businesses are being solicited but there is some controversy over how they prominent the logos will be displayed in the yard – you know, public/private partnership controversy. And are businesses to bear the burden of all the school yards in the local community?

I find this whole thing so wrong.

Am I the only one who considers the yard part of the school and thus the responsibility of the school board and Ministry?

I apologize for the brain dump, but I wanted to put this out there. Here is a link to an article about the initiative at Lil D’s school.

Thoughts?

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December 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm 2 comments

Tico Tuesday: Moving Through the List

It’s been a whirlwind month. We just returned from a birthday trip to Disney/Florida for my dad’s 65th birthday. Yes, a 65 year old man wanted to celebrate his birthday at Disney World with his grandsons. It was fantastic! And today is my dad’s actual birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!!

We insisted he wear this pin for a day.

Everyone, from street sweepers to bus drivers to servers, wished him a happy birthday. I found it funny. He “lost it” the next day.

And now that we’re back we have just about a month to prepare for the trip (and the holidays). I met with a very nice woman who spent two years in Costa Rica with her family. She gave me lots of great insights on life there and information on various day-to-day life things that will make things easier for us – ways to get internet shopping items to us, local medical care (it’s good!), pharmaceuticals, driving, school meals, social things… it was great info.

To-Do List Progress: I have removed all the completed items. You can see those here:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property (still waiting for quote)
  • Spanish lessons/babysitting for boys before we leave 
  • Purge our household contents; feeling the urge to pare down (solid wood crib, Ikea futon, small fake Christmas tree, etc… anyone, anyone?) – working on this
  • Pack up house for renters
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher; buy other resources
  • Spanish lessons for Derek and I – not gonna happen until we’re there
  • Make all billing paperless (pretty much done)
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house
  • Organize direct deposit of business accounts receivable payments through our banks; apparently, if they don’t do electronic funds transfers, we can get our customers to send their cheques directly to our bank for deposit – how convenient!!
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Family visit to travel clinic for all boosters, vaccines (booked for this week)
  • Flu shots for all
  • Optometrist (booked early Dec)
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical (booked for early Dec)
  • Allergy retest for Lil D  – this deserves a separate post and it’s not good news
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Investigate luggage limit for air travel – we’ll have to pay $40 for each extra bag… not too bad
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to renew tourist visas – looking like Nicaragua
  • Register Derek and me for Spanish school – I’m registered. I’m still figuring out what Derek would like to do.

Hope everyone is getting through the dark days of November; Disney was in full holiday season mode. It will be here before we know it!

November 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Tico Tuesday: November Purge

Yesterday my mom made a comment about not being sure we’re coming back at all from our extended stay trip in Costa Rica (she wasn’t going to buy me a funnel for my kitchen which I needed to pour the spaghetti sauce into the freezer bag because we “might not come back”).

While I can say with 100% certainty we will be back, there is a slim chance that we might fall in love with life there and just come back to regroup before a more permanent move. But that is definitely not the plan at this point in time.

All this preparation has given me a huge desire to get rid of “stuff”. I have been bringing “stuff” daily to the donation bins, listing on Kijiji.ca, and dropping off at a children’s consignment shop. Each time I take another “something” out of the house it makes me smile. I’m still going through the obvious too-small, never-wear-that, kids-have-outgrown-that-toy, tired-of-looking-at-that stuff, but sometime soon, I’m gonna run out of that and I may start divesting myself of anything that’s not nailed down.

If you happen to be in the market for anything at all, or happen to be at my house and notice something you might like, feel free to ask; you might be making me really happy by taking it off my hands.

The nice byproduct of this fear of packing (which is really what it is), is fall/winter shopping has been pretty much non-existent. I broke down and bought Lil D a new fall coat and bought the boys some extra gloves, but otherwise, I keep telling myself that we’ll only wear new stuff a handful of times before we leave and upon our return it’ll be too small for the kids.

As for me, I know I can easily get by with what is in my closet.

I may have ordered a few warm weather items which I “need” for Costa Rica, but I am not revealing that secret until I see the package contents; I’ll be sure to share if it’s worthwhile.

To-Do List Progress: I have removed all the completed items. You can see those here:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property (still waiting for quote)
  • Spanish lessons/babysitting for boys before we leave (maybe?)
  • Purge our household contents; feeling the urge to pare down (solid wood crib, Ikea futon, small fake Christmas tree, etc… anyone, anyone?)
  • Pack up house for renters
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher; buy other resources
  • Spanish lessons for Derek and I
  • Make all billing paperless (pretty much done)
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house (this is the first they’re hearing of it)
  • Organize direct deposit of business accounts receivable payments through our banks; apparently, if they don’t do electronic funds transfers, we can get our customers to send their cheques directly to our bank for deposit – how convenient!!
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Family visit to travel clinic for all boosters, vaccines (booked for late Nov)
  • Flu shots for all
  • Optometrist (booked early Dec)
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical (booked for early Dec)
  • Allergy retest for Lil D (booked for this week)
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Investigate luggage limit for air travel
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to renew tourist visas – looking like Nicaragua
  • Register Derek and me for Spanish school
  • Continue to plan for friends/family visits
Why are these lists getting longer?
Since my If Not Now, When? post, four separate individuals have told me they realize from my post and our family plan, that they too can make this happen. At least a dozen more have expressed interest, though they are just at the “sounds interesting” stage.
I am going to continue documenting my experience (not all here), from the preparation, to the to-do lists and checklists, to our to-dos and to-don’ts, so when it comes time for you to make your move, just let me know and I can share it all with you!

November 2, 2011 at 12:58 am 4 comments

Tico Tuesday: If Not Now, When?

When I was two years old, my parents took me to France to live for a year while my dad did his fellowship. My mom and dad have many fond memories of this time and I also have a couple. If there were a family memory book, that year would fill a significant section.

I always imagined that when I had my only family, I would live abroad with them for a period of time. When Derek and I went on our honeymoon, we fell in love with Costa Rica, a peace-loving, warm population in a physically beautiful land with many ecological treasures and micro-climates. We visited a couple more times since then, each time envisioning ourselves living there for an extended period of time. We visited the school closest to our favourite town, we checked out some real estate, and we investigated the internet coverage.

Our children are getting older and as they get older, taking them out of their Canadian school with the intent to bring them back will become more difficult. So, as we planned a longer one month vacation for this winter with a plan to go for a year in the future, we looked at each other and said, “WHY NOT NOW?”, and really, if not now, when?

I have heard different reactions to our choice to travel, from  “How?” to “I’m jealous”, to “I don’t even like to travel out of Ontario”, to “You guys are unconventional” to “Are they asking for people?” (that last one from my paternal grandmother, imagining the call for people to cultivate the land in pioneer days).

We have arranged our lifestyle so that our work life is as flexible as possible. We have taken (very calculated) risks, made tough choices and made certain sacrifices to design this life for ourselves. It would take many many blog posts to describe this path (I’m actually considering it in a separate blog). But here we are.

There are certain things that society expects from us, and sometimes our peer group as well. I sometimes find myself embarrassed to tell people that I don’t love my day-to-day work (it’s tolerable), but that having to do it for only a couple of hours a day from just about anywhere in the world, makes it worthwhile. I also derive satisfaction from watching the business grow, setting goals, watching our ideas (mostly Derek’s) thrive or fail and working as a team, knowing that as a family, we have designed a life for ourselves via this (these) business(es).

It is common for people to define themselves by their work, but we (Derek and I) define ourselves by our lifestyle and life experiences. Our children are not obstacles to those experiences, but they are part of the reason we gather them. We truly believe their lives will be richer for it.

I often find myself apologizing for my work being below my education level and work experience. It is not what people expect from me. When I explain our business to people, I see eyes glaze over. The business is not going to change the world, and the day-to-day tasks are mundane, but the fruits of it give us the freedom to pursue our dreams… and those dreams are limitless.

October 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm 9 comments

Style Tuesday: Part II

Part II: Lifestyle

So, ya, about that second reason not to buy investment fall/winter boots this year…

Well, as I may have written about before, Derek and I work together running an online business. We can work anywhere, from our local Starbucks or Bridgehead, to remote hotel rooms hooked up to satellite wireless internet.

Sometimes, a vacation with the kids will not be a vacation after the kids go to bed, as Derek and I pop open our laptops and power through emails and work tasks. It is nice to be your own boss and have flexibility, but it’s impossible not to take your work home (or on vacation) with you.

This year, on our trip to Maine, we realized how efficiently we worked when we were disciplined about our leisure time. During certain hours we were not allowed to work (essentially from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm) and then, during the hours we were left with we powered through the work. We prioritized well and we communicated better (i.e. not at all while the other was clearly deep into a task).

Well, with this flexibility and a pact to be disciplined about leisure, we have decided to take our children to Costa Rica for six months. The kids will go to school. We will work. We will be disciplined about leisure. Derek will learn to surf (tee hee; I’ve seen him try a couple of times), and I will improve my Spanish.

We’ve decided to take an idea by the horns and run with it. Since the first time we visited Costa Rica seven and a half years ago, Derek and I have toyed with the idea of moving there OR vacationing there OR raising our children there OR retiring there.

We’ve visited a couple more times since our first trip and our yearning to be there for an extended period of time persisted.

Ma familia sin mi a la playa: Dito, Cito, Derek, Abuela y Abuelo - walking to town along the beach (faster than the road)

We leave after Christmas and come back at the end of the school year.

We have the main plan worked out, but lots of little (and not so little) details to arrange.

There will be lots more on this to come as it all unfolds.

Oh yes, and that’s the second reason I didn’t try anything on in the shoe store. I’m trying to avoid fall/winter fashion altogether since I’ll only be in it for three months. I’m telling myself I can work with what is already in my closet. Or at least maybe I can hold out until the sales start…

I don’t know what is with me this week, but I’ve got at least two more blog posts here and one on another site, so stay tuned. Apparently I’ve got a lot to say.

September 20, 2011 at 7:11 pm 8 comments

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

I have been contemplating educational choices for my two sons these past few weeks.

I believe in public education; I’ve always believed in public education… but then my older son got ready to go school and I started wondering if the cookie cutter approach to education would work for him. Isn’t that how it goes; you ideologically believe in something until it’s about you?

So, ideology aside, and pros and cons of private versus public education aside, I decided I need to be prepared and informed and I started checking out my options.

I went to visit one private school – gorgeous facility, excellent program but expensive and not bilingual. Then I went to visit an elementary Montessori school. The philosophy and learning style is amazing but there would be little to no peer group – not an option.

So I have an appointment booked to visit a bilingual non-profit private school. My visit is in October.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a new hair stylist’s chair, and the woman beside me started talking about her older teenaged sons. She was giving me life lessons on raising sons and then she told me that her sons went to the aforementioned school that I have an appointment to visit, and then they went to a different private school for grades 7 and 8.

She told me about the experience and gave me a very very different perspective. In a nutshell, she felt they got a similar quality education to those in public school and ultimately, the end product was probably neutral or even negative.

She had nothing negative to say about the school itself. She just wanted me to consider that there are so many aspects to a child’s education and socialization that the financial investment could be better spent in other ways to achieve my goal (which is having them develop to their full potential academically, emotionally and socially).

It was really enlightening.

I told a friend who knows my inner struggles on this matter; she said I sat beside that lady for a reason – Fate? God? Coincidence?

Whatever it was, I’m glad I got that perspective. I’m gonna work harder within the public system. But I’m still keeping my appointment to check out the other private school. If there’s anything my momma taught me, it’s to never close any doors unnecessarily.

So, any thoughts on public vs. private… or thoughts on divine intervention or fate? I’d love to hear it all.

September 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm 2 comments

Style Tuesday: First Day of School

September 4th 1979: I woke up early and looked around my room. I glanced at the colourful patchwork quilt on my bed and the huge red styrofoam letters spelling my name on the wall above the headboard. I had a feeling this was going to be a big day – but what was it? Ah yes! Today I was going to begin Grade One.

My mom had set out my clothes the night before. I dressed in my navy polyester pants, skinny belt, and short-sleeve light blue pin striped blouse with a white collar. I went into the bathroom and brushed my straight brown bob, brushed my teeth and headed downstairs to find the table set for breakfast.

My mom and I soon headed out the door for the 10 minute walk to school. She would walk with me the first few days and then I would walk with my neighbour who was in Grade Two for a few weeks until we were all confident that I could do it on my own.

We lined up outside the school. My mom asked the girl in front of me in line what her name was, and introduced us. I knew at that moment that we would not be friends. I was right. Funny… even at that age you know if you’ll “click” with someone.

The bell rang, I gave my mom a kiss, and we marched in two rows into the school. My teacher was Jacqueline. She had a cute bear that we took turns holding during storytime on the big rug at the front of the classroom. We were given five tokens each morning which we got to keep if we spoke exclusively in French. If we were caught speaking in English, we lost a token. Every Friday, we would get to “buy” things from the prize bucket with our tokens. This was no problem for me. I had spent a year in France from the age of two and half to three and a half. French was almost my first language. I had gone to a private school for all-day Kindergarten and we spent half the day (?) in French.

But the kids in the French immersion class spoke French with interesting English accents. And I didn’t want to be too different.The year went on and my spoken French got worse…. until my exchange to France in Grade Ten (but that’s a story for another day).

First Grader

September 6th 2011: Lil D begins Grade One. He too will be in French Immersion. He went to a Montessori where he had one year of really solid core French, not French immersion. He had to be tested to get into the French Immersion program. If you didn’t read it, here’s that story.

Today he will put on the outfit we laid out for him yesterday: long navy board shorts (my choice), and a graphic navy long sleeve tee with a goalie mask on it (his choice). He will eat his breakfast, and we will take his brother to his school. We will then return home and walk the 160 m to the bus stop (I know the distance because the bus company told me exactly how far it was when I asked them to move the stop to somewhere I could see from my front window). His dad and I will watch him board the bus and we’ll wave as he drives off down the street.

And then we’ll get in the car and speed off after him. We’ll park at my aunt and uncle’s house a block from the school and we’ll rush to make sure he gets off the bus and into the right line up. We have no idea who his teacher will be, or where he needs to go. I don’t get to tell the teacher myself that he has a nut and peanut allergy – I have to trust that the school will have conveyed that information from his registration form to the teacher.

We will then watch Lil D walk bravely and blindly into his new school. He will be spoken to only in French (theoretically). He will make new friends and see old ones he knows from preschool and summer camp. Soon (as my friend Stef reminded me last night), he will be comfortable, confident and running the show again, but this morning, he is an anxious and excited boy who has no idea what to expect.

Do you remember the outfit you wore on the first day of first grade? I can pretty much remember each of my first day of school outfits. A particularly strong memory is the grey jeans with matching long grey jean vest layered over a red sweatshirt with a pharmaceutical company logo (conference giveaway billed as a present from a trip) that I wore on the first day of Grade Six.

September 6, 2011 at 10:53 am 3 comments

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