After moving to North Van in September, this became quite obvious to me, especially since we were living up here for only 5 days when Jeff left for 2 weeks on a business trip to China. So, the boys and I tried to keep busy. I signed them all up for skating lessons, Max up for soccer, enrolled Callum in a youth band and got him started in Cub Scouts. In any extra time, we went to the Aquarium, Science World and explored various playgrounds around the North Shore.
After Jeff returned from China, we planned a visit to White Rock for Simon's birthday party, which he shared with his buddy, Heidi. Then we also focused on spending some quality family-time together.
It really didn't take long for both Max and Callum to make friends at their new school, not that I was surprised. Max, who has always been Mr.Social and a fun kid, actually had a little harder time than Callum. He was the one who came out of class at the end of the day with a frown on his face, asking to go straight home instead of playing on the playground with the other kids, and they definitely made comments about liking their old school better. Generally, though, they have been very brave and patient. They managed to have a few offers for Halloween plans, so we started the night at Callum's friend Murray's place, then we took Max and Simon trick-or-treating with Max's friend Nola and her family. We learned that North Van seems to take Halloween a bit more seriously than in South Surrey, with decent fireworks all over.
Jeff managed to get another alpine climb in with our old neighbour, Thure, up to Mt.Shuksan over Remembrance Day.
While the weather was decent, I managed to get to know the North Shore trails quite well, enjoying many great trail runs in Lynn Valley Canyon, Capilano Park and plenty in between, especially along the Baden Powell. The Lions are always a nice treat to see.
Ok. Well, there is my general summary of September to December...except completely avoiding the topic that was constantly plaguing mine and Jeff's minds the entire time! So, for my own records, I will write a few things down.
When the kids got into the French Immersion at Cleveland Elem., we re-adjusted our sights to finding a house in that area. Unfortunately, that is the Edgemont Village area and is considered a "nice" neighbourhood to live in. "Nice" means basically means more crazy expensive than the regular crazy expensive on the North Shore. Tear-downs within walking distance to the school were listed at $1,488,000. This was not our ideal starting price. It didn't take us long to realize that buying a house near the kids' school was a long shot, since buyers were winning bidding wars in that area by offering $200-$300,000 over asking price. During October and November, we bid on 5 different houses - all lost to higher bidders (and there were between 4-8 other bidders on each house). I was coming to accept the reality of driving the kids to school from whatever house we ended up buying, at least 15mins one-way. So, we started looking further east, hoping to at least stay west of Lonsdale Ave, or close to it.
Jeff and I managed to handle the stress by the fact that we didn't particularly like any of the houses we bid on. When we lost the bids, we just shrugged our shoulders and thought, "Meh. Back to the hunt". The last house we bid on, actually, we weren't even sure it was a good idea since it had no backyard and the creek running behind it could have been rather dangerous for the kids. We ended up only losing that one by $10,000, so it was pretty frustrating, but it pushed us to the idea of buying even further east, closer to Lynn Valley. At least in Lynn Valley, the list prices of houses were closer to actual selling prices, so we could better gauge what we should offer.
The week that I had a bad flu, we bid on a house in Lynn Valley, and we got it! I admit that I felt confused about whether I was happy or not. The hunt was over and we were going to be able to afford to fully renovate it or even tear-down to build a dream-home! But, it was far, far away from the kids school. Sigh. It occurred to me, now, that I should probably try to switch the kids to a closer school. So, the stress of buying a house was over, but the real work was just about to begin!
My first discussions with the North Van School District gave me little hope that my kids could switch and remain in French immersion. The fact that Simon starts Kindergarten next year certainly complicated things. However, I calculated that my daily commute to Cleveland Elem. was at least 1.5 hrs a day (minimum 17mins there, plus drop-off/pick-up time from parking to school = 45 mins there+back, twice a day). This isn't the kind of lifestyle I had in mind when moving up here. I decided to use some assertive language and persistence with the NVSD to transfer the kids to the closer French school (which is only a 3minute drive from our house or a short bike ride), but in the end they could still only get Callum and probably Simon a french spot, while Max maybe/might be allowed to get back into the french next fall. This might not seem like a big problem to many people, but my mind became fixated on this dilemma. I won't dwell on the hours spent contemplating and the tears shed doubting by my indecisiveness on this matter, but I believe we, as a family, have decided to switch schools after Christmas. PHEWPH. So, we'll start all over again, beginning to establish another new social circle, as school begins again on January 4th (then we leave on the 10th for 2 weeks to Mexico! Ha ha ha ha ha!)