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Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mobile Command Center

Well at one time I had tried every kind of double stroller you could buy in the market, even bike strollers, wagons, tandem (super heavy hard to steer) but not side by side though.  These are all the options we've tried.  Regardless, we seem to move faster if they are all strapped into the convoy. In any case you need the stroller to carry the gear and jackets.

Whereever we go, whether kids are strapped in or someone is holding on to the stroller on the side, I feel like an army tank commander.

I bought a Graco double stroller, tan coloured listed for $120 on craigslist. When the women delivered it and I made a face like I wasn't sure if I wanted it, she sold it to me for $80. I used it during the fall 2008/ winter 2009 to get Maggie and AJ to church.  It was very heavy to lift up and down from the trunk, heavy to push and very hard to steer. I eventually sold it to someone at work for $80, grandparents for taking the grandkids to the park. They didn't seem to have a problem with it.

It was pink and purple. I drove out to Gatineau in the Fall 2009, $50 from usedottawa.  However, we used it more like a double stroller that you push forward like a jogging stroller or chariot.  It was in fair condition, a little dusty but it worked well for bringing Maggie and AJ, like an all weather all terrain vehicle. Even in the Fall 2010 their babysitter prefered this model for bringing them to the playgroup at the community center.  I eventually sold this for $80 on usedottawa. Funny because one lady bought it from for $50; she didn't like it so she returned it the next day. I cleaned it real good, and wiped away any visible rust, oiled the moving metal pieces. I even learned how to smoothly transform the unit from a jogging stroller to the bike hitch function so I could demo this. The next day, the new buyer came and gave me the full asking price.
What I found the most useful for going to the park was having Lincoln in my ergo carrier and the two kids in the wagon (to pull) or bike stroller (push).  Purchased from Zellers using gift cards from Jon and Alicia. The wagon has a detachable canopy; the handle can fold under to make it smaller for transporting in a trunk. However when Lincoln was about 11 months old and I let him ride in the wagon to Owl Park for a swim, he was leaning forward too much and he pulled the restraints right out of the fasteners. Anywayz it's easy to fix but we haven't used it since.

This summer I found a Sit and Stand and so it fits all three: Lincoln in the front with the five point harness because he was the only monkey who ever tried to escape from a stroller. AJ and Maggie both sit on the toddler seat in the back; occassionally one will agree to stand on the rolling platform while the other one is seated. Ideally this unit is only for two kids not three, but it works.  If the seating arrangment in the back cannot be resolved, I end up carrying Lincoln in the carrier. Basically a carrier and a double is ideal.

We have a single stroller that came with a hand me down Travel System.  A carrier and a single stroller works well too if the third person agrees to walk. Sometimes I end up placing Maggie and AJ in a single-stroller seat. They would rather be squished than give up their seat to walk.

This is the only stroller that now fits into the MDX trunk with the new car seat setup. It folds up very small almost like a big umbrella stroller. However there is not much storage space.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Whatz Yo' Mamma's Name?

In most cultures, you're not supposed to call your mother by her name. Obviously as a kid, you're still supposed to know what it is.  AJ and I had a little conversation before bedtime.

He calls me momma but it sounds like Grandma in Chinese so we both laugh. I correct him, and he says ah-MA-ah. Then he asks what's my name (I know he wants me to say, Deborah) but I answer -mother. He asks what it is in French, I answer "ma mere".

And it's not quite the answer he's looking for, so he clarifies. "What's your name like, TANG DO WA (that's his Chinese name which translates to, Tang Generation Jehovah).
Now I understand he wants to know my Chinese name, so I tell him it's NG KAY WING (translates to Ng Family Smart). He just has a big grin on his face when he asks, "Ng Kay Wing like chicken wing" I had to laugh along, even though it was already late and I don't want to laugh at my own name. More significantly, this shows he can make a multi-lingual joke

Anywayz I am very glad that my parents did not put that Chinese name into my official legal name. It's funny enough when I have to give my middle name for something official, and  I have to spell Kay as K-A-Y.  I probably wouldn't want to endure being called Chicken Wing.
On the topic of nicknames, here's a collection of one's I've been called from time to time. Growing up, I used  to go by Debbie and no one ever poked fun at me... Oddly, but in a good natured way, it was my close friends in my church youth group who came up with these.  In Chinese Debbie sounds an awful like "DI BAI" which means very large thighs.  Army-Barbie is not too bad, because I used to be in the army and I liked playing with Barbie dolls. In my bible tour trip to Egypt, Israel and Jordan.  I was the lone anglophone on a bus full of native Cantonese speakers from Canada and Netherlands; I do like the name they gave me which was Miss Canada.  That's a compliment.

Well I told my husband about the Chicken Wing conversation and he had a good laugh, and warned me he might starting calling me that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How do I hire a nanny?

I'm writing this as an FAQ because I get this question alot and I figure it will be a good rapid response for someone.  Please note that this is the procedure for Canada only, for hiring in the "Foreign Live-in Caregiver Program".

Even if she is someone already in Ottawa and already holding a work permit with another employer family, she will still require a work permit with you. In order for her to apply for a work permit, you need a positive LMO.

0) Go the CRA website and apply for a Business Number. You need this item first before you can apply for the LMO.

1) Go to the site and search caregiver, there you will find the first link for the application of the LMO (Labour Market Opinion). You will need a "positive" LMO document in your hand in order for your  nanny to apply for the work permit.

2) There is document checklist and the complete procedure on how to do it. There were big
changes since I've done it three years ago, as of April 2011.  You will need the Long Form Birth Certificate for all your children. This was not a requirement previously, so I totally had to scramble and get these for my kids this time around.

3) You must advertise this job on Job at the hourly rate of $10.25 per hour. There are already templates and job descriptions.  This part is easy. Just be prepared to receive applicants from Hong Kong, Peru, Columbia, Africa and pretty much everywhere but Canada LOL. You will get a few from Ottawa but I have a mixed opinion about them (like the Mr. Manager from McDonald's who wanted a nanny job with my kids??  He did have CPR and First Aid and some experience working at kids camp)

4) Previously, I had to prepare a Recruitment Report to accompany the LMO application, but I don't remember seeing that in the checklist this time around, but I wrote one anyway.

5) Later when this is all sorted out, you can use the CRA online payroll calculater to figure out how to deduct taxes biweekly or semi-monthly and how to remit these to CRA.

Apply by mail. DO NOT apply online. I did that before and it was hard for them to merge all the documents that you would send in my mail anyway, together with the file. The agent I dealt with was very nice and she told me to redo the application, print it out and fax it to her. I eventually did the scan/ email thing to send it to her, but she did say it was more complicated than just mailing everything in one go.  So I stress, apply by mail.

Verify the checklist. DO NOT forget anything. If you forget anything your application will be rejected because there is absolutely no way for them to add a document to your file (not impossible but it's not

Keep a signed copie of everything for yourself. The contract, the attestation of identity etc.

I'm a little bit confused if it is possible to get an LMO with or without the nanny's name. I've always had a nanny's name identified.  Previously you could get a blanket LMO and go through your search after the fact.  Presently it appears you have to identify the nanny before you get an  LMO. It's a little bit tricky to meet your nanny, then pick her name and gaurantee her to start at a far future date.... maybe if you go through an  agency? Or if you identified a family in Ottawa and you knew that their nanny would be finished with them for sure in April?

Hint:If you hire directly from the Philipines like I tried, the process takes 18 months+ from the first interview at the Canadian Embassy in Philipines, and that is a long time for someone, they are young they could get married/ have a baby/ change their mind. It's much faster to hire her from Hong Kong; the paperwork would normally take only 4 months!  Other items that the employer must pay for: one way airfare from overseas, three months of health coverage before OHIP kicks in and workers comp (insurance).

I have an update because the worker visa for my prospective nanny is about to be issued. There was a tremendous amount of paperwork I recently completed in the last two months after many months of silence.

Begin February 2011 - LMO and Job Bank Posting

Late Spring 2011 - LMO approved, deadline for her to apply for the work permit by Fall 2011.

September 2012 - She completes forms at the Canadian Embassy in Manilla.

Begin February 2012 - I receive a letter from the Canadian Embassy in Manila that my application for a foreign live-in caregiver nanny is being considered but they need supporting documentation to prove the following:
  • My children's live birth (long form birth certificate. Wow, they didn't even need this to get their own passports)
  • Additional proof that I still have kids (ya know what I mean?) I provided an annual statement for the Universal Child Care benefit that lists their names.
  • Ownership of my house, certificate of title, MPLS property tax assessment, builder floor plan or MLS listing (proves I can provide private accomodations)
  • T4 or CRA Assessment for previous two years of myself and/or spouse (proves I can pay the wages)
  • Description of my work and business hours (proves that I have a job, that I have normal hours so I probably would not make my nanny work too much overtime)
  • Description of children's school schedule and routine
  • Contract with Nanny
  • Description of arrangement with present or previous nanny(s)
  • Copy of one CRA Monthly Remittance Record
Overseas, my prospective employee Vicky had to complete an English proficiency test, a medical fitness test, proof of education (I asked for a nursing graduate) and proof of the certified training in childcare-babysitting, first aid etc.

March 2012 - I was asked to send a final letter to reaffirm that all the conditions remain current

Summer 2012 - perhaps in the next few weeks the visa will be issued and my new nanny will arrive! Time to look for some deals on international air fares.

Fall 2012 - we are a military family, so we accept posting to an air base far from the capital city. We are also expecting a fourth baby! These are both changes in the family situation that I am required to inform the Visa office. However I decide to not change anything to impede the application further for these reasons

1) Vicky is the sister of my first nanny Rose. She has agreed to move with me wherever we go
2) We are moving to a bigger house with more bedrooms, how could the Visa office refuse it?
3) We are having another baby, an even bigger reason to have a nanny.
4) We still own the original property and my mail gets forwarded to me anyway. What's the big deal to anyone anyway?

January 2013 - I send a web form request to the Canadian Embassy in the Philipines for an update, but I get the stock reply, please keep waiting.

Spring 2013 - I am in touch with Vicky weekly, but there is still no indication to either of us when the work permit will be issued if ever...