Friday, March 29, 2013

My Driver's Licence Saga

I am finally a licensed driver... again! What a loooong journey this has been. I'll start at the beginning. Growing up I never thought I would be able to drive. I started having seizures as a baby and they plagued me for most of my life. When I was 25 I got my drivers licence. I took a driver's education course and got cleared to get my licence with the condition of getting medical clearance every year. That meant that I had to pay approximately $100 annually to renew my licence. It was expensive, but it was a privilege to be able to, so I didn't worry too much about it at the time. Then insurance. In Alberta you pay to insure the driver not the vehicle (like we do here in Manitoba). As a driver with a medical condition my insurance rates were really expensive. So, in the spring of 2005, I decided to give up my licence. I still needed photo ID, so I traded in the licence card for an ID card. It's illegal to carry both.

(after getting my MB learner's licence)

Fast forward to last March (2012). I have been seizure free since November 2007 (a miracle! - I've experienced pretty much all the old triggers over the years and still no seizures!) and with 2 littles and one more on the way, it became more of an urgency for me to pursue my licence again. It helped that our insurance here is not so costly as to have to sell my organs to cover the cost. Due to the fact that I hadn't held a valid licence for as long as I had, I needed to start from scratch. A bit of a pain, but not the end of the world. I studied for my learner's exam and took the test. I aced that, but walked away without a learner's licence. It turned out that in the country wide computer system that keeps records, there was no record of my ever having a class 5 (full) licence, but there was a record of the medical restriction on my class 7 (learner's) licence. In order to proceed I needed two things: clearance from a neurologist and a confirmation letter from Alberta Motor Vehicles Branch stating that I held a class 5 licence in Canada.

In order to get neurologist clearance, I first need a neurologist in Winnipeg. It took me a month to get into my family doctor who then needed to refer me to a neurologist. I got an appointment 4 months later. The neurologist happily cleared me to drive without conditions. Hooray! Step one, finished.

The confirmation letter I could take care one of two ways. I could have a notary signs off on my ID and a request letter which would then be sent to Alberta and into archives, or I could go to a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) in Alberta (in person) and request one. We had a wedding to go to in August, so we chose to wait and do it in person. This ended up being cheaper and faster. We almost forgot to take care of that and ended up stopping in Medicine Hat, AB on the way home. Step two, finished.

I exchanged the letter and the neurologist clearance for my Manitoba Learner's licence. Practice. I hadn't driven in about 8 years and knew I needed to some time behind the wheel. In January of this year, much later than I had anticipated, I booked a road test. The first time I went, our car was rejected as inappropriate due to a burnt out brake light. I was under the impression that that light wouldn't work and had never worked in our car and so began the task of finding a car to borrow. I re-booked the road test with a friend's car. I had several people help me out, from picking up the car and taking me to my road test to looking after our littles. It was tricky lining up all the help I needed at the same time. It actually took 5 re-bookings to make it work.

Road test one: the car I borrowed is an American car and thus the speedometer is in miles not kilometres. I didn't realize until after I had automatically failed my road test for speeding. The examiner seemed sorry to have to fail me and told me that it was obvious that I was a confident and competent driver and that I'd be sure to get it next time. I was embarrassed and frustrated, but "it could be worse, I could NOT be building character." Of course, you have to wait two weeks to try again, not to mention working out the help I needed again.

The second road test, I found myself a nervous wreck. I felt so desperate to pass. I didn't want to put anyone out anymore and I was feeling so tired of being reliant on others. I didn't signal enough. I failed. I was so demoralized and devastated, not to mention humiliated. "How much character does one person need?!" I had passed my road test in Alberta first try with one minor issue, so this felt so awful. Everyone was encouraging and supportive, but it almost made it worse (for awhile).

In the meantime, our car had stopped working. What good was a licence going to be without a car to drive? We had no working vehicle for two months. Then, after several friends stepped into help (another long story that I'll skip for now), our "Lady Blue" started and the brake light got fixed. That meant that I could take my road test in our own car (one I was confident in) and would then have a car  to use when I passed. Phew!

Take Three: I passed! It was the same examiner as the one who failed me for not signalling and he still found things that I did wrong, but I passed!

In order to completely skip the graduated licensing program, I would have had to had my Alberta licence for a minimum of three years. I had it for just over two and a half. That means that I have an intermediate licence until August of this year. That is no big deal as it just restricts me to driving alone from 5:00 am until Midnight and needing a licensed driver with me after midnight. I can't imagine needing to be driving in the middle of the night, so we're good.

I've been able to have an evening out by myself, take my Dolly out on a date (just the two of us) and go to Ladies Morning Out without needing a ride or having to transfer car seats. What a journey. I'm still not sure why it had to be such a fight (it tool a whole year), but in the end, it's done and I have a new found freedom. I am ready to party now!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Checking In

We're still buried in snow, but the sun is shining and there is hope of spring. That also means that spring break is coming! Although, that makes a financial dent in our lives, I'm sooooo thankful that we get to have my David home for a whole week! We hope to take a little day trip to go scope out some property for some of my family, I have my (hopefully last) road test booked and we plan to spend some great family adventure times together. Let's get to what's been going on:

  • Micah is 9 months! I can hardly believe it. He's cruising (slowly) around my furniture these days and he's so proud of himself when he pulls himself up that he gives a little giggle. So cute.

Honey Vanilla White Chai Tea - Celestial Seasonings

  • I won another blog giveaway! Thanks, Heather for providing the pattern and thanks Make IT Snappy for hosting the giveaway. I am looking forward to giving it a try. Interested in your own? You can find the pattern here.

  • We filed our income tax on Monday and we'll be getting a decent refund. Some of our plans include to replace our printer (it will be here tomorrow - yippee!), build a triple bunk bed for the littles, cover financial baby step one and begin our snowball! It's pretty exciting!
  • My blanket is on pause. I purchased yarn on sale (BOGO), but I don't like the colours with the ones I've already used. No yarn budget right now, so it might be awhile. It thrilled me to bits, though, when my Malachi "demanded" a snuggle with the blanket. He was so cute, playing with his toes in the holes and saying things like "hey, green! Hey, purple!" etc.

  • I have 9 small all in one diapers that I didn't need. Two were finished, but seven have two more steps to be finished. I've decided to finish them up and sell them. I'm just waiting for my supplies to come in. It would be nice to make a little cash and to actually have them used instead of sitting with my fabric (taking up valuable real estate). 

  • I have another mei tai on my sewing desk, no, not to replace my lost one, but for a new baby.
  • Abby goes downstairs most weekdays after lunch to play. My friend and neighbour looks after two boys after kindergarten for a couple of hours and invited Abigail to join them. Every time she hears a sound from downstairs she blurts out "Is that the boys?" Abby has grown to really look forward to her times with "the boys". Here they all are sitting on their snowmen.

  • Abby picked out a card for me last time she ran errands with her Papa. It had to be a musical card! It was so sweet of her, she insisted on the card for the song and didn't realize that she got me a baby congratulations card. Abby, by the way, wants another brother and a sister. No comment.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Freezer Cooking - Month One

I say "month one", because I am completely sold! I haven't cooked in two weeks and I'm LOVING it! There are a whole bunch of blogs with step by step tutorials for freezer cooking, so I won't bother to go into that much detail, but I'll give you my basic run-down of what we did. Did you see that "we"? That's because my David was a HUGE part of the whole process. So, here's what we did...

  • I mentioned that I joined a freezer meal co-op. Basically a friend emailed me and a few other ladies linking this site and the idea that we would each prepare 2 recipes enough for the five families and then swap. The plan was to meet together and prep meals together. I, however, did our once-a-month grocery shop a week and a half earlier and didn't want the fresh ingredients to go bad, so we prepped and froze our recipes ahead of time. I went and pitched in with the vegetable cutting for the other ladies. This co-op was the catalyst for my menu plan. I had wanted to try freezer meals and this was just a good way to "guarantee" that I'd actually do it.
  • I spent a day creating a meal plan and grocery list. I have a Pinterest board just for freezer/slow cooker meals and I found a few new recipes that I wanted to try. We have our grocery budget in the middle of the month, so I made my plan from February 16 - March 15. I do not have a freezer meal for every single day, we like some simple meals like waffles or grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, so I left a few days for simple dinner nights.
  • David, Micah and I went grocery shopping. My list was very detailed and we stuck to the list. By having a meal plan there is no temptation to buy things you don't need or the need to guess. My grocery list wasn't strictly for the meal plan, but also included lunch supplies, breakfast and other incidentals. I don't plan 3 meals a day for everyday, breakfast and lunch are simply decided on the spot. My littles prefer certain staples and we tend to stick to those things.

  • When we came home with all the groceries, we threw everything in the fridge/cupboards to be dealt with the next day.
  • Naptime proved enough time to prep the 10 meals that were part of the co-op plus separate all the frozen meat, cut all the vegetables, make supper and cook some chicken for a couple of casseroles. Surprisingly enough, there wasn't even that much mess.
  • Naptime the next day gave us enough time to cook the hamburger and prep 7 casseroles, 2 tinfoil meals, cook supper, soak enough beans for 4 more recipes and freeze the rest of the cut vegetables to use later. 22 meals in two days. It felt pretty amazing, I can tell you. 
  • In the end we had enough ingredients to make 3 extra meals, great for the unexpected!
  • The cooking night for our little co-op was great fun (I may not like cooking, but hanging with my friends I really enjoy). It was a bit surprising how heavy all those freezer meals ended being.
  • Discovered that I also REALLY enjoyed cooking with my David. What a great couple of afternoons I got to spend working with him.
Girls, why didn't you tell me I had my hat brim flipped up all night... what a dorky looking thing that is!

Are you interested in what we cooked? Here's the list of the co-op meals:

And here's the list of meals we cooked at home:

Here are the meals I have planned to cook on the day of the meal:
  • Tacos (though I grated and froze the cheese)
  • Waffles/Pancakes
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Soup
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • Fish & Chips
  • Pan Scrambler (My David makes the best scrambler!)

Some of the best benefits of once a month cooking...
  • little to no clean-up daily
  • little to no prep at the "crazy" hour
  • so much less time needed in the kitchen
  • fewer daily dishes
  • no stressful "what's for dinner?" moments
  • take-out is a whole lot less tempting when we have a plan and meal ready to go!
  • I only have to grocery shop once a month!
Did I mention that I'm sold on the idea? S-O-L-D SOLD!

My friend, Jen, left a comment on my last post about her system... great ideas! Go check it out.