Cogeco Home Phone – One Month Later

2011 October 21

One month in and so far we have no problems to report. We have the Basic Line package, a no-frills phone with no features, not even Caller ID or voice mail. No issues with service or quality. The few times the power has gone out, the cable modem switched to the built-in back-up battery and phone service continued without interruption.

The only problem we had was when Jeremy unplugged the cable modem to recharge his Nintendo DS. A quick lesson with Jeremy resolved that issue.

Based on our average monthly Bell Canada bill, we will save at least $1,440 over the next 24 months. That is a nice chunk of change.


Goodbye Bell Canada

2011 September 15

Today is Day 2 in a partly post-Bell Canada world. Yesterday, we switched from a Bell Canada phone land line to Cogeco Home Phone. We chose the Basic Line package which is a land line and nothing more. No additional features or options.

This package is regularly $29.99 per month – much cheaper then the $50 we paid monthly to Bell Canada. Since we have two other services with Cogeco (TV and Internet), that is reduced by $10 to $19.99 a month. More savings, yeah.

Right now, Cogeco has a promotion that will knock off another $19.99 if you sign up for 24-months. With the Basic Line package that means a monthly charge of $0.00 for 24 months. We will save at least $1,200 over the next 24 months. That’s a nice chunk of change.

The installation was free since this was a bundled service. The technician replaced the smaller cable modem with a larger cable modem that has a built-in battery and replaced an existing phone jack with a dual socket phone jack. A phone cord runs from the cable modem to one socket in the new phone jack. This connects our internal phone lines with the cable modem. We had an existing phone in this part of the house, so that phone is plugged into the second socket in the phone jack.

Everything works like a charm. Cordless and wired phones work the same as before. The battery back-up provides up to 8 hours of stand-by time. This isn’t too much of a problem since we have three cellphones in our household.

Long distance via Cogeco is 7  cents per minute anytime to anywhere in Canada and the United States. We currently use a Walmart Prepaid Calling Card that gives us a rate of about 3 cents per minute. Cogeco has a deal with Gold Line where you can buy preset dollar amounts with no contract. Rates for Canada and the United States are 2.5 cents a minute. The Gold Line plan requires you to call an access number. You can also use other long distance providers.

With the Basic Line, additional features such as Call Display are only $4.00 each per month.If you want two or more features or want included long distance minutes, you should look at the other phone packages that Cogeco offers.

So goodbye Bell Canada land line. No more paying $10.95 for Call Display. No more paying a $6.95 network charge. No more paying $2.80 for touch tone service. That’s $20.70 for those of you keeping track. We pay just a bit more than that for a cellphone with Bell that includes Call Display, Message Centre, unlimited evening and weekend minutes, unlimited incoming minutes, unlimited text messages and 250 local minutes (plus the system access fee and 911 fee are waived).


Mid Summer Musings

2011 August 1

Summer is flying by. It’s August already.  After a wet spring (who knew Windsor can get that much rain?), it has been a good summer.

We signed up Jeremy for soccer and the first quarter of the season was a dud due to all the rain. At one point, three games in a row were cancelled. Now, over a 20-game or so season, that’s not a big deal, but Jeremy was going to miss a bunch of games because of camp and cottage. He managed to get a few games in before heading to Camp Winston for his first camp experience.

He missed the last week and a half of school – he didn’t seem to mind that. Once we arrived at Camp Winston, Jeremy was off with one or two of the counsellors. Tina waited in line at the office to complete paperwork and submit Jeremy’s meds (all one of them). I went over to J’s cabin in the Jean Lodge. It was located right between the Nature Shack and a temporary zoo (After picking up Jeremy, he did mention that some of the animals were noisy and would wake him up in the morning. Ha ha ha).

Jeremy had a great time at camp. He did everything. Ropes course? Check. Kayaking and canoeing? Check. He definitely wants to go back.

Corbin’s camp session was after Jeremy’s, so it was a crazy weekend of packing, unpacking and so forth. Corbin was on the maintenance crew again and loved being at camp.

We booked two weeks at the “cottage”. It was an wonderful two weeks of clean air, happy kids and relaxed parents. Adam’s mom also enjoyed the fresh air and warm sun. We did a few day trips including Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Midland, the Emlvale Jungle Zoo, the Big Chute Marine Railway, bowling and shopping in Barrie and shopping in downtown Orillia. We had most of our meals at the cottage including home-made pizza twice. We managed to squeeze in a fire before a fire ban was issued (it rained only once and that was in the early morning hours – the weather couldn’t have been better).

Corbin is participating in a soccer league for kids with autism – Special Stars. The league had indoor practices during the winter and early spring. Outdoor games began in June and are played Sunday evenings. The games are about 30 to 40 minutes long with plenty of breaks. Corbin loved it. He thrived and had lot’s of fun playing. He is thinking about playing  next year.

Around the house, the fence guys finally showed up – a year later – and replaced some posts and top boards. I had to get one section completely replaced due to tree roots. It was nice to get that out the way. We bought a small outdoor coffee table from Canadian Tire and added an umbrella that my mom game us. It’s a nice setup and provides just enough shade on the patio.

I finally relocated the computer of Jeremy’s room into the living room. That included relocating the printer as well. The ‘move’ went well and the computer is up and running. Now we just need to move the desk out of there and the rest of the ‘office’ stuff. Slow but steady.

Tina has been busy organizing services and activities for Corbin. We recently changed service providers and feel we are in a much better place in terms of support for Corbin, especially as he heads into his teen and early-adult years. Our primary support worker also feels better about the transition.

Tina also planned an awesome weekend getaway at the Retro Suites Hotel in Chatham, Ontario to celebrate our wedding anniversary. She rocks!

A Huge Update

2011 April 4

Is a lack of updates a good thing, a bad thing or an indifferent thing?

The Szymczak family has been busy over the past three and a half months.

Corbin is in a much better place compared to a year ago. He is doing well at School, expanding his time there from 45 minutes to well over two hours each morning. We were a little skeptical when part of the morning would include French. Fortunately, the French teacher is a past teacher of Corbin’s and they have been able to figure out a way for Corbin to be successful.

Scouts has been sporadic but Corbin still tries to attend each meeting. He is back into organized soccer via a league for children with special needs. Currently they are practising indoors and the competitive season will begin later this spring.

Easter is usually a rough time for Corbin and he has been exhibiting some signs of difficulty. With some help from our support workers, we are slowly making it through this period. One exceptional difference from a year ago, is that Corbin and Jeremy have been playing together much better and for longer periods. There still is the odd OCD moment where Corbin insists that Jeremy play with him, but for the most part they are working things out.

Jeremy is, well, Jeremy. For his seventh birthday, Tina booked a couple lanes at a local bowling alley. Pizza, pop and bowling. The kids had a great time. We were grateful for the gift cards and money that J received – we already have enough toys.

Jeremy is transitioning from Beavers to Cubs and if he can attend three Cubs meetings, he will be promoted to Cub at the season-end overnight camp (hopefully a tornado won’t hit Leamington this time).

He is into skateboarding and cycling – he does need a bigger bike. His little 12-inch bike is a wee bit too small. Jeremy continues to play his Nintendo DS and he has become an Angry Birds expert on the iPad.

For Christmas, we travelled to Brantford to spend time with my mom. We also travelled to London to spend a day with Tina’s family. Other than the $800 repair to my van, Christmas was very relaxing.

We finally got a big flat screen TV for the basement – replacing the old 32-inch tube we had. I picked up a 320GB PS3 with three games and one blu-ray movie at Best Buy. We also upgraded to an HD PVR via Cogeco. The old SD digital box is in our bedroom.

Tina is doing some part-time contract work with Windsor-Essex Family Network and continues to manage all the support workers, Maryvale, CPRI and other agencies and professional for Corbin.

I’ve been busy on a long-term project – new Zoning By-law – and updating all our applications forms and processes. At home, I’ve been busy playing PS3 and watching movies on the new TV 😉

Growing Up

2010 December 7

Yesterday, Corbin and I went to Walmart to shop for new belts. A replacement for me and a first one for Corbin.

I had Corbin try on a bunch of belts and he settled on two designs. I said he could only have one. He chose the studded belt. He was proud of his purchase and even more impressed that he could not only put the belt on, but that he could close the belt.

Clappy hands.

In The Bin It Went

2010 November 8

Early this summer, our detached garage was visited by a family of mice.  I set up some traps and caught a whole bunch the first week. A few stragglers remained. Seems they made a home in the insulation. Great, need to remove the insulation.

An aside. Who insulates only the walls of an insulated garage? There is no ceiling in the garage so it’s not like you could keep the garage warm in the winter. When we bought the house, the previous owner blocked up the two roof vents and all the soffits. The place literally was an oven in the summer. It’s obvious that they used the garage during the cool months, but blocking up all the venting probably took 10 years off the shingles.

Our summers are hot and humid and I didn’t feel like working in that oven, so I put off pulling out the insulation and all the crap that had been accumulating in the garage.

Tina ordered a 20-foot bin which arrived Thursday. When I arrived home from work, Tina and the boys had thrown in a bunch of stuff that was sitting at the side of the house since the beginning of the the summer. It was a good start.

Over the next few days we filled the bin up. I pulled out the insulation and the plastic vapour barrier. Jeremy was eager to help and even Tina and Corbin put in some time. With the insulation done, I proceeded to throw out a bunch of stuff in the garage that we longer needed or used. I had the boys gather any broken concrete or other material from around the yard.

In the bin it went.

Then we hit the crawl space. Everyone pulled out stuff and carried it up the stairs and outside. Tina started grabbing things as she walked around the house.

In the bin it went.

By Sunday, Tina and I were looking for anything to throw out. It was liberating. All my old music cassette tapes. Gone. Tape deck. VCR. Turntable. Old speakers. Gone. Textbooks. Gone. Old toys. Gone. Gone. Gone.

In the bin it went.

With the throwing out phase done, I had to clean up and put the garage back together. After a gruelling afternoon and evening it was done. Clean. Tidy. Organized. I spray foamed some gaps in the window and door frames and some possible mouse entry points. Much of the stuff in the garage was put into two large rough totes. I’ll go through them during the winter and spring. Who knows, I may have more stuff to throw out.

Prologue: In the end, we threw out 1.04 tons of, well, crap. And we haven’t seen a single mouse in the garage ever since.

Under One Sod We Shall Prosper

2010 October 9

It’s official. The backyard is finally looking like, well, a backyard. Strike that. The backyard is finally looking like OUR backyard.

After several years of humming and hawing, the backyard has a brand new layer of grass, courtesy of Advantage Landscaping.

No more weeds. No more dirt. No more crevices. No more uneven ground. No more crappy grass.

Sean and his crew arrived yesterday morning at 8 am sharp. By noon they had torn out the old lawn and levelled out ground for the sod. By 4:00 pm the lawn was done.

The backyard looks huge now, especially with the sandbox, old patio and adjacent flower bed gone. The boys have a straight run of 110 feet now. Just need to water it twice a day for the next 10 days or so. It looks good. I’ll post some pictures when I get a chance.

Today, Tina and I stood on our new patio, drinking coffee and admiring our much improved backyard. What’s left to do in the backyard?

  • Dig up the soil around the AC for a flowerbed.
  • Dig up the plants and put in new edging in the kitchen flowerbed.
  • Put in rubber edging along the new sod and backfill with cedar mulch.
  • New patio stones for the BBQ.
  • Buy a canopy for the patio.
  • Buy a basketball net for the play pad.
  • Buy a chair swing.
  • Dig up the soil beside the BBQ for a future flowerbed/garden.
  • New railings for back porch and new gate between the house and garage.
  • Backfill the gap between the play pad and the fence with stone.
  • Trim the bottom of the wood gate where the play pad is.
  • Install an outdoor light for the play pad.

I hope to get the first two and last three done before winter settles in. Slight chance I may get new railing and gate in this fall. The rest will wait till Spring 2011.

Tina and I are really stoked by the backyard. It finally feels like our backyard.