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November 2019
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Christmas 2014: The year according to…

The year according to Jo:

Last year we were very bad at writing our letter, and it was February before we got it sorted. Hopefully this one will make it before the end of the year. We’ve also realized that we’ve been very bad at keeping our blog up to date this year. I guess that will have to be one of our New Year’s Resolutions for 2015…

2014 has passed by in quite a blur for us. In March, Doug suffered a concussion, which has sort of taken over the family activities for the rest of the year. And before you tell him off and blame his hockey antics…he was nowhere near the ice at the time! It actually happened indoors, when he hit his head on a decorative piece of metal hanging from a staircase. Unfortunately Doug has the Balmer stubborn streak in him, and he refused to stop working, which delayed his recovery significantly. He only really started feeling better after a week-long canoe-camping trip in September, when he had no phone, iPad, computer, TV, etc. As a result, we’ve hardly done anything on the house, and so next year’s list is getting longer by the day. I haven’t faired much better. I found out this year that I has been suffering from a hereditary form of arthritis in my knees  for the past 10 years or so, and have only 10% cartilage left. In addition, Millie had to have surgery in September to remove a lump from her leg – she was looking forward to not being able to do anything for a while, until it happened…within an hour of her being home she was bored! No ringuette for 3 weeks was really hard for her…and for us too, as we had to cope with her frustrations. Sophie has been the only healthy one of the family this year!

As far as work goes, Doug’s bridge project finally came to fruition mid-year, when the Canadian Government announced their plans for their new bridge to replace Montreal’s Champlain bridge and finally showed the world the design. He could finally relax, knowing that none of the designs had been leaked prior to the announcement. I have continued to travel between Montreal, Toronto and St John’s. One of the highlights was seeing the icebergs coming down the coast of Newfoundland in May. They’re truly spectacular. The downside was arriving back in Montreal in January at 7am, after a 3 hour flight, to find that the gate was frozen in place and we couldn’t get off the plane!

At Easter, we finally managed to get to New York. Whilst Doug and I have been there many times with work, Millie and Sophie have never visited, so we took advantage of the long weekend and drove south. We did the touristy things like Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, Times Square…and the M&M shop!

Over the Summer, we decided that we needed to get away from everything to try and help Doug’s head and so we booked a cabin in Georgian Bay for two weeks. We stayed in the beautiful village of Killarney. Unfortunately, the cabin was less than beautiful…more like a house of horrors. We knew that there was “livestock” on the walls…but really weren’t prepared for what we found. Doug and Millie thought it was amusing, having zebra legs as lamp bases, and moose hooves as ashtrays…but Sophie and I were horrified. The place smelled like something had died there…maybe it had. The best thing, though, was being on the edge of Killarney Provincial Park, and we had some wonderful canoeing.

On the subject of canoeing, Doug has decided that the girls need to get out more and experience real Canadian living…so he took Millie on a weekend canoe-camping trip. She came back totally hooked…so next year he’s taking Sophie, hoping for the same result.

In November, Millie and Sophie went off to Boston on a 3-day school trip. Doug and I took advantage of the time and went off to Mont Tremblant for the weekend too. Sitting in the outdoor spa with snow falling around…just heaven!

I’ve already mentioned that Doug hasn’t played much hockey this year, but one thing we did manage to do was to get to a Stanley Cup play-off game. We went to game three of the Montreal Canadiens vs Boston Bruins series. Wow! You really can’t beat the atmosphere in Centre Bell, and the rivalry between Montreal and Boston really puts Blues-Villa to shame.

Now we are back to winter, our lives are once again revolving around ringuette. This year we are having to deal with not only two teams, but two associations. Millie is playing for BK as usual, and has made the Ben B team. Unfortunately, after being bounced around three different BK teams, Sophie took the decision to take the place offered to her from the rival Pointe Claire association, and so we’re juggling our time between the two. It has made for some “interesting” family dynamics, and one I hope we don’t have to go through again, but the girls, to their credit, are making the most of the opportunities that have presented themselves. Who knows what will happen going forward. For now, we’re just happy that both girls continue to play the sport they love, and didn’t let the politics of BKRA ruin that. Having resigned as Tournament Director too, it now means that we might actually have a proper Christmas. I managed to write cards this year, might find time to buy a present or two, and actually let the girls enjoy their birthdays during the tournament for a change.

Looking forward, we have a fun 2015 to look forward to. We will be back in Solihull at some point in the summer for both sets of parents’ Golden Wedding anniversaries. Steve and Claire will be visiting us in Montreal for the first time in September, and then we may have a visit from Pigs and Linda for Christmas. After that? Well, we applied for Citizenship in September, so sometime in 2016 we hope to sit the exam and become dual citizens…but that is way off.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy 2015.

The year according to Doug:

It is good to be able to end the year more positively then it might have appeared in the middle. The main reason being the impact a concussion can have not only on myself but also on Jo and the girls. For 9 months, I was suffering with the after effects of a concussion and not able to play hockey or do any physical exercise or work. (That last point being a great excuse not to do jobs around the house!), but I’m sure some of my frustration rubbed off on Jo and the girls.

I was thoroughly enjoying playing hockey last winter, and that came to an end, and with it a certain amount of fitness, so this year will be a case of losing the weight I put on and getting fitter so I can get back to playing hockey. The one saving grace from an activity point of view was that I could go canoeing.

Canoeing is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities I’ve found. This year I was fortunate enough to get into the depths of La Verendrye and Algonguin. Canoeing and camping miles from anywhere, with just lakes, trees and wildlife for company – no wifi/phones or computers – Yessss! In July, Millie and I headed 4 hours north of Montreal for a weekend of canoe camping. It was a simple trip with only one portage, but it was a great introduction for Millie, and she loved it. It has now given me an excuse to go out and renew some outdoor equipment so trips to Mountain Equipment Co-op have become a bit more frequent. In order to try to find a way to relax and beat the concussion, I joined a six day trip around a small area of Algonquin in September. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even with the rain and very cold nights. On the Thursday night it took me three hours to get the fire going in a torrential storm and with soaking wet wood to get some hot water to cook with! We camped in some wonderful remote locations, and paddled each day. 2015 will be a year where I introduce Sophie to the wonders of the outdoors, and canoe camping. After our canoeing experience in Killarney, I might even get Jo to join us.

Millie and Sophie are now teenagers, and a lot more independent than before. Ever since starting at College de Montreal, they have taken responsibility for getting downtown each day, and ensuring all their homework is done and up to date. It does amaze me how conscientious they are with regards to getting homework done. We still have some challenges getting help around the house, but they are learning slowly. My main challenge is to get them to see there is life away from the ipad – hence the canoe trips!

Ringuette still dominates the winter months. I’m helping to coach Millie’s team, but with Sophie now playing for Pointe Claire, I can’t help coach but will support her anyway I can. Millie is having a lot of fun on her team. A few weeks ago, I took her to Ottawa for a tournament, where her team played well, winning one game 12-3. Jo was with Sophie at the Pointe Claire tournament, where Sophie played for two teams, and by all accounts played really well in goal. It is good that Jo resigned from organizing the BKRA ringuette tournament, because with her work commitments, it was quickly swamping her.

My work has been incredibly busy throughout 2014, leading the preliminary design team of the New Bridge for the St Lawrence (Champlain) project, a new 3km long bridge in Montreal. It has demanded long hours, but has been a very enjoyable project working with the Government of Canada. We have just bid to be involved in the project until 2021, and hopefully in the next few weeks we will know if we have been successful. At the same time, I have been helping to lead our new office in Montreal, and to grow the office, and set down long term roots. So far, we have delivered all our projects profitably, and have at least tripled in size, so we just need to continue that. My challenge remains to improve my French, which does not come naturally. I can talk using technical French, but day to day conversations are still a challenge – just need to practice more.

We’ve got away a few times this year. We finally took the girls to New Year, and enjoyed seeing the sights for a couple of days. I really enjoyed going to the Guggenheim, the girls enjoying as a result of Mr Popper’s Penguins! But getting a chance to be in New York, and not having to work was nice and more relaxing. Killarney was an experience, the cottage we got was in a great location, and some stunning scenery. Jo and Sophie didn’t like the animal heads on the walls, but it wasn’t that bad, and really didn’t bother Millie or I. Jo and I had a relaxing weekend in Tremblant without the girls, whilst they were in Boston with school. It was nice to be able to get out and walk along the river, and then enjoy the outdoor pool in the snow.

I think that about wraps it up from me, so it just goes for me to say have a great Christmas and New Year. This year we will be thinking of the growing family throughout the world, with the arrival of George to Melinda and Ben in Denmark, and Toby to Lizzie and Melv in New Zealand.

Millie –  your turn….

The year according to Millie:

Sophie and I are currently half-way through Sec 2 at College de Montreal. Last February we went to Quebec city, with school and had a lot of fun tubing and visiting the aquarium. We also went to Boston early in November, once again with school, and had lots of fun. We went to the science museum, went on a duck tour and tons of other fun things.

Last year with school I entered a math competition called Opti-Math, I came second out of all of the sec 1s and 2s at school. Then I made it to regionals of Montreal and I came 63rd out of 230 people.

In the summer, Dad and I went canoe camping with some friends for 2 days, it was lots of fun swimming in the lake and having a water fight against Dad. We also went to this amazing cabin for two weeks, it had tons of stuffed animal heads on the wall and animal feet as lampposts, it was so cool. I don’t know why mom and Sophie didn’t like it.

This year, I am still playing ringette and I made it on to a higher team, Ben B. I had a tournament in Ottawa a few weeks ago, so Dad and I went and had lots of fun messing around. We lost our first game 6-4 but we should have been able to win that game. The second game we lost 6-0. Then finally, at the last game, we win 12-3, our first win of the year.



The year according to Sophie:

This year has been quite fun. Millie and I are in our second year at College de Montreal. We got put in the same class for the first time since nursery, this year. We have nice teachers even though 4 have left us because of being pregnant. Ringuette is ok. I have ended up playing for Pointe-Claire which is so cool. Better equipment, which is awesome. I got some pretty nice pads. I was playing for BK but they just messed up everything this year so I went to Pointe-Claire.

We went to New York at Easter. It was fun. We saw the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, which was cool. Then in the summer, we went to Killarney for 2 weeks. The cottage where we stayed was horrible and disgusting. It had dead animals all over the place. It was infested by mice and was just plainly gross. But it was fun to be with Mom and Dad with them not working all the time. The rest of the summer was spent going to the pool, on bike rides and meeting up with friends.

So Merry Christmas everyone!