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Christmas Letter 2012

Where, oh, where has the time gone? Has 2012 been shorter than all previous years or is it just our imagination? We’ve finally found time to sit down and start to reflect upon the past year. So apologies if this is later than planned but hopefully you can make sense of our ramblings…

Millie and Sophie at the Arboreatum

Millie and Sophie at the Arboreatum

So today is Christmas Eve, there’s a foot of snow outside the window, Jo has the Christmas music playing in the kitchen as she ices the cake, the fire’s lit and Grandpa is busy writing a script for the puppet show that Millie and Sophie will help him put on in a day or so’s time – Christmas is happening on time even if we’re trying to catch up.There is a reason for the slight sense of panic. We’ve just moved house again, the only difference is that now we have bought our first house in Canada. Doug’s assignment was coming to an end at the end of 2012 and Arup would no longer be paying the rent on our last house. So we decided that as our future was in Canada it was time to sell our house in the UK and buy one in Canada instead. We managed to sell the old Links Drive house in June (we were sat on a house boat in the middle of a lake on the Rideau Canal when the call came through). Then Jo spent many hours searching for suitable houses on MLS, until we found the one for us. We took possession in October and then the fun started. Jo painted the whole house, and we then had a new kitchen fitted, which was finally completed last Monday – just in time for Christmas. In the meantime, Doug reconverted the garage back into a 2 car garage. Jo gradually packed and moved box after box of our possessions from one house to the other before we got a van and, together with our good friend Stephane, Doug moved the bigger furniture. (Note to selves – this is the last time we are moving our house by ourselves – we don’t know why in hindsight we thought it might be a good idea)

The house is starting to look good, the kitchen has worked out better than we expected, and we really like the way we have opened it up so it is open plan between the kitchen and dining room. The family room is a great size, with plenty of room for a big Christmas tree. The basement will get sorted after Christmas, when we hope that the boxes will be emptied and gradually some order will be returned. There’s a number of other jobs to do, but most will now wait until the snow has gone and it is warm enough to go outside and do them. Photos will probably be in the next installment of the blog.

On top of moving house, Doug had an extremely busy time at work, with the A30 highway opening on time. It has been part of our lives for over five years, and it is good that the project is nearly complete, and the road is open to traffic. Doug’s also inherited another major project in Montreal, and is embarking on the challenge of setting up the new Arup Montreal office with a few colleagues – even more busy times ahead! Jo has continued to make and sell some cakes for friends and friends of friends in and around Beaconsfield, but it is far to say that the task of moving house has taken far more of her attention than cake making.

Sophie making a save against Pierrefond.

Sophie making a save against Pierrefond.

Moving house would be easier if we weren’t trying to fit around the girls’ Ringuette games and practises. We might have moved sooner but we went to Gatineau for a Ringuette tournament. We stayed in Ottawa, and the girls had a great time playing Ringuette, partying with their friends, and swimming in the hotel pool. They have a great team this year, and have ended up moving the the Benjamine age group – mainly so there was the opportunity for Sophie to continue to play as a goalie. It has been a good move and the girls are still thoroughly enjoying playing Ringuette. Doug is one of their assistant coaches this year, which he loves. It is a real treat to see the girls develop and grow with each game, and when you start to see some of the things we have run through in the practises happen on the ice during games, it is nice to see. Jo has moved on from managing the BK Ringuette Association website to helping to organise the annual tournament which is a major undertaking. Around 90 teams will compete during the week, with many coming from outside of Montreal and Quebec. Unfortunately Jo has been unable to play Ringuette so far this year, as she damaged her achilles tendon while kickboxing during the summer (we’ve since found out there’s a tear). There’s some frustration that doctors don’t seem to know what to do to help the situation, and physio has not really helped it so far. We hope that early in 2013 there will be a change that enables Jo to walk without pain, and then to return to her kick boxing and Ringuette.

Jo on the Rideau Canal houseboat

Jo on the Rideau Canal houseboat

Doug has continued to play hockey throughout 2012, even managing to score a few goals. Must be the new skates last year that made the difference! He currently plays twice a week, and there are definitely signs of improvement – at least he can skate more than at the beginning of the year! As was mentioned at the beginning of the letter, time has raced by so Doug hasn’t found time to get out in his canoe or to go fly fishing or go cycling as much as he would have liked throughout 2012. We joined the Beacon Hill community outdoor pool in the summer, which was fun. Doug got to swim before work most days. Millie & Sophie got to swim with their friends and have swimming lessons most days. Jo got to relax by the pool. We also enjoyed the social events at the pool as well. The summer was so long and hot that we enjoyed swimming in other places as well. We swam in the lakes on the Rideau Canal back in June whilst on our summer holiday, and we swam in our pool and our friend’s pools when we needed to cool off.

2012 was also a big year for us all as we gained our Permanent Residency status in Canada. We’re not fully Canadian yet, but are now only 18 months from applying for full residency. That said, getting the permanent residency was a big step as it freed us from the demands of a work visa and meant we have a legal right to live, work and go to school in Canada. As mentioned in one of our blog posts, this brought challenges when it came to watcing the olympics, with split loyalties to Canada and team GB.

Millie on a snowy day

Millie on a snowy day

One by-product was that Millie & Sophie could no longer legally attend an ‘English’ school in Quebec, but instead they had to move into the French school system. Luckily we had decided last September to move Millie & Sophie to St Remi – a move which proved to be a good one for all of us. The girls thrived on a style that was more academic and disciplined and their french improved significantly. All this meant it was easier for us all (except when it came to helping with homework). This September saw us having to think about a high school for the girls. (High School starts a year later in Quebec than the UK.) Millie & Sophie sat entrance exams (in french) for a couple of schools and have now been accepted at ‘College de Montreal’. The college is in downtown Montreal, so it will mean a 40 minute train ride each morning to get to school for 8am each morning! Our family also expanded this year, with Mr Jinx and Scarlet joining us. A couple of scardy cats who we’ve bearly seen since we got them a few weeks ago. We got them from a rescue centre and hope that over time we can give them a good home and that they become less afraid of us. For the moment Millie and Sophie are taking well to litter tray cleaning duties – long may that continue!

Sailing at Tracy and Maxx's cabin back in May

Sailing at Tracy and Maxx’s cabin back in May

So 2013 beckons, one senses there will be some more changes and challenges along the way. Jo will be thinking seriously about whether she stays at home, finds a job or sets up a business herself. Millie and Sophie will get closer to being teenagers with all the joys that will bring. They will also graduate from elementary school in the summer. Doug will be seeing how it works out with Arup in Canada, and enjoying as much life outdoors as possible and trying to get fitter.

So by the time this gets posted Christmas will have been and gone, so we hope, that everyone had a great time with friends and family wherever they are.

Here’s to the New Year, and may it bring something for everyone.

All the best,

Doug, Jo, Millie and Sophie