Last week, Kate and I spent every evening at the Vacation Bible School at our church, St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw. It was called "God's Big Backyard" and the theme was serving. If you're involved in children's ministry, I'd recommend checking this program out--it was wonderful! People could even sign up their children online and/or sign up to volunteer. Each night revolved around an example of a person in the Bible who served someone--the Good Samaritan, Miriam, the friends of the paralytic man, Zaccheus, and the disciples Peter and John.
We began each session with music--lots of great, catchy tunes, all with hand motions. Check out the link above to hear some of the music. It appeals to both kids and adults!
Funny and thoughtful skits
The children then separated into various age groups, and rotated through different stations: Bible story, games, snacks, crafts, and community corner. Some of the volunteers acted as crew leaders (I was with the preschoolers) and some stayed at the stations to help each group. Here's Kate's group at the snack table eating Crisscross Dippers. Another snack we made was Funny Friend Faces using English muffins, cheese, and vegetables.
Follower's Flip-Flops. Other crafts included Miriam's First-Serve Kit, sand art, Helping Tree trash cans, and a Sweet Pea gate planter.
In "The Community Corner", each group met with Reverend Denise under this mural in the sanctuary.
Each evening, she had a different service project for the kids. Here Kate's group is picking up trash around the church. Throughout the week, they also helped decorate bags to be filled with toiletries and given to a home for women and children in transition, made cards for residents of nursing homes, and cleaned various sections of the church to help out the janitor.
What a great week! The kids learned a ton, had a blast, and came away understanding more about what it means to serve God and others.
Here's a yummy and easy recipe! And I got to use some of my tarragon!
Ingredients: 2 cups peeled baby carrots (or regular chopped carrots) 1 pkg (8 oz) mushrooms, each cut into quarters 1 small onion, chopped 8 small bone-in skinless chicken thighs (I used boneless) 1 cup chicken broth 3 Tbsp.cornstarch 1 tsp. dried tarragon or 2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves Salt and ground black pepper 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1. In a crockpot bowl, combine carrots, mushrooms, and onion. Place chicken on top of vegetables. In 2 cup liquid measuring cup, with fork, mix broth, cornstarch, tarragon, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper; pour mixture over chicken and vegetables. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook as manufacturer directs on low setting 8-10 hours or on high setting 4-5 hours. 2. With slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to serving dish. Skim and discard fat from cooking liquid; stir cream into cooking liquid; heat through if necessary. Spoon sauce over chicken and vegetables. Serves 4.
A friend of mine made the news in Scotland! Abi and I were in the same childbirth class, and then her son, Albie, and Kate enjoyed playing together in various baby/toddler groups. This Scotsman article features Abi, Albie, and her baby daughter. According to the article, the National Health Service is now recommending mothers breastfeed their babies for 2 years. I know the World Health Organization has been recommending this for some time, but I am surpised it would become an NHS recommendation. Hopefully, it won't make mothers feel pressured--it's great to breastfeed that long, but any amount of nursing is very valuable!
Here's a great article about the benefits of nursing for various lengths of time (even a day is beneficial)!
Our permanent residency application was sent off yesterday by registered mail to the Canadian consulate in Buffalo, New York. What an elephant off our backs! Here's what we sent:
*4 small photos of each of us (excepting Will, who is already a Canadian citizen and is not included in our application). *A money order for $2230 in Canadian dollars, which includes the application fees and the eventual right of permanent residence fees (the latter fees are returned to people who are denied permanent residency). Fortunately, Briercrest will reimburse us for these fees and then consider it a 3 year forgiveable loan. *The application forms--general application for Eric, further background info for both of us, and additional family information for both of us (info about our parents and siblings). We needed to account for every address where we've lived since age 18, and every period of time since age 18 (work, school, etc.) *Certified copies of our passports, visas, birth certificates, and marriage certificate *Copy of the nomination letter from the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program *Letter from Briercrest detailing Eric's employment here *Police certificates from the FBI, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Scotland, and Kenya *Checklist specific to the consulate in Buffalo, including a question about where we would prefer to go for an interview in case it's required (we chose Seattle).
For anyone reading this interested in immigrating to Canada, keep in mind that we are provincial nominees, so Eric has already proven to Saskatchewan that he has enough points (education, work experience, funds, language ability) to work here. Also, he is applying in the Skilled Worker category. Check the CIC website to see what immigration category would suit you, and whether a provincial nomination program is the best path for you or not.
Hopefully we will receive a letter soon saying that our application is complete. If it is, and is eventually approved, we will be directed to get medical exams at that point. If those are satisfactory, we will have to leave Canada and reenter as permanent residents. I have no idea how long this process will take. This chart indicates that provincial nominee applications processed at Buffalo generally take between 5-8 months.
We had to go to the border to renew Eric's work permit and our visitor visas, so we decided to make a little trip out of it. We headed to southwest Saskatchewan, and went to one of the stations at the Montana-Saskatchewan border. We had a bit of a scare when the border guard told us it's only the station at North Portal that approves work permits. Fortunately, he was able to get approval from them over the phone--they have a file on us there. You can renew a work permit through the mail, and in fact, that's what they encourage. But we have American friends who experienced quite a delay and ended up in a visa limbo when the current permit ran out and the new one hadn't arrived.
Next stop was Cypress Hills! This is a beautiful and hilly interprovincial park--two sections are in Saskatchewan and one is in Alberta. We stayed for one night at the Cypress Park Resort Inn. We'd like to go back in the fall and stay for a couple nights in one of their cabins. Here are some photos of the trip:
Kate playing on the beach
Will about to go down the slide
Eric found the trip very relaxing and rejuvenating
We enjoyed hiking through the pine forest
Fallen trees. A sign explained that they were so close to the water that they failed to develop deep roots. Then when they grew too tall or there was a storm, they could not stand. I think there's a counseling or pastoral illustration here!
We have lots of fun summer festivals in our area! Here are a few photos:
Will in the petting zoo at the Wakamow Valley Children's Day, Moose Jaw
Kate riding a pony at the Saskatoon Berry Festival, Mortlach
She always loves to jump in a Bouncy Castle!
Kate and I went to a really cool international festival in Moose Jaw called Motif. For a small prairie city, Moose Jaw is a pretty international place! Here's a young girl doing Scottish Highland Dancing. Kate said, "Mommy, I want to go up on the stage!"
Doing a craft at Motif--a helmet and sword--is this in honor of the Viking culture??
There were many different booths, featuring ethnic foods, crafts, etc.
Kate enjoyed the music at the Liberia booth
The Metis are a First Nations group--they had many buffalo dishes on offer
We got a yummy rice dish and spring roll here, followed by a taco at the Latin American booth, and some cheesecake from the Irish booth!
Here's a helpful book for any Americans interested in moving to Canada. The introduction gives an overview of Canada's history, stats, health care, taxes, and government. The authors then go into great detail about the immigration process and what is required. There's a chapter for newcomers to Canada, including info on finding a job, opening a Canadian bank account, and saving for retirement in Canada. The second half of the book is devoted to profiles of the various provinces and major cities.
Macleans had an interesting report this week, comparing Canada and the US. Each country has its strengths and weaknesses--here are some things that stood out:
Wealth (all in US dollars): *Median family net worth: Canada =$122,600. US =$93,100 *Median household income: Canada =$44,325. US =$46,325. *Per capita personal debt: Canada =$23,460. US =$40,250. *Average size of a one-family house (in sq. ft). Canada =2000. US =2520. *Percent of household expenditure spent on housing. Canada =19. US =34
Leisure: *Average number of hours worked per week. Canadians-34.6 vs. Americans-37.9 *Vacation days taken. Canadians-16. Americans-11. *Percent of parents who have dinner at home with the family every night: 40% of Canadians and 28% of Americans *Percent who consume alcoholic drinks at least a few times a week. 27% of Canadians and 19% of Americans. *Percent of citizens with a passport. 50% of Canadians and 30% of Americans. *Percent who say that religion is very important to them: 28% of Canadians and 60% of Americans.
Marriage and Children: *Average age at first marriage for women. Canada-28.5 and America-25.1 *Average age at first marriage for men. Canada-30.6 and America-26.7 *Americans get married at almost twice the rate of Canadians but also have a higher divorce rate. Canadians are more likely to cohabitate. *Fertility rate (children per woman aged 15-49). Canadians- 1.5. Americans- 2.1 *Percent of births to unmarried women: 25.6% in Canada and 38.5% in the US
Health *Life expectancy for men. Canadians-77.8 years. Americans-75.2 years *Life expectancy for women. Canadians- 82.6 years. Americans -80.4 years. *Infant deaths per 1000 live births. Canada- 5.3. US -6.8 *Public and private healthcare spending per person each year in US dollars. Canada = $3326. US = $6401.
Crime: *Guns per 100 people. Canada =30. US =90 (really???) *The US has a lot more gun murders and robberies, but Canada has more auto thefts, break and enters, and arsons.
Today is Canada Day! And it's also my birthday. Of course, in the US, July 4 is the big day, not July 1, so I'm not used to celebrating my birthday on a national holiday.
From Wikipedia: Canada Day marks the joining of the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on July 1, 1867. However, though Canada is regarded as having become a kingdom in its own right on that date, the British Parliament at first kept limited rights of political control over the new country, which were shed by stages over the years until the last vestiges were ended in 1982, when the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution. Canada Day thus differs from Independence Day celebrations in other countries in that it does not commemorate a clear-cut date of complete independence.