Monday, October 31, 2005

Oh yeah, it's Hallowe'en...

While we undertook our usual night time routine of rotating duty for baths and bedtime, the rest of the world tricked and treated. While Rei would be very cute and adorable in her as-yet-unworn pumpkin costume, her sensitivity to new situations (walking up to strange houses in the dark while wearing a gourd suit, being such a scenario) precluded any candy-seeking excursions this year.

As Shelley mourns, "the pumpkins are still in the patch". Chances are Rei might still fit into her pumpkin costume next year. Not so for Kai; we predict he'll be a Happy Bee.

Here's hoping they'll be more gracious than the masked pre-teens that came to the door tonight asked "Only one?" as I offered the bowl of mini-chocolate bars. I agreeably replied, "Yes". As they turned to leave, there was a sarcastic, "Thank you, sir." Punks.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Momentous Occasions

The acquisition of the laptop wasn't the only grand event in our family circle this week. For as long as I've know him, Shelley's dad has talked about retiring. And now he has; with the latest contract buyouts between Ford and the CAW, he is on permanent vacation.

Although he was put quickly to work again, as we all helped Shelley's sister move into her new apartment this afternoon. There were some epic struggles with a peaked-back couch and doorways, some anecdotal mishaps with the U-Haul trailer, and box-filled rooms by the time we were through.

In other important news this weekend, Reiko got some underwear (Winnie the Pooh & Lion King; Dora was too $$) for when she wants to try using her potty. Here's hoping the longer we wait until she's ready, the shorter the actual training itself will be.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

*Crunch* Pip

That sound is the sweet upstart of a little Apple laptop beginning its computing life with me. Please join me in welcoming "Pip", a hardy 12.1" G4, to my lap. Reminiscent of a stalwart hobbit, it's small but will get the job done.

I called a couple stores in London seeing what package might be put together to attract my business. (Because if I wanted to pay retail, I'd order online; and I wanted to support a local small business: these were the lines I fed to the sales folks). Understanding that the markup on Macs is so low that dealers cannot negotiate prices, I held out for throw-ins or add-ons.

Following Urs's advice regarding negotiating consumer relations ("know what you want") I managed to convince Randy to give me a wireless, Bluetooth Mac Mouse instead of the 50%-off an iBook protective sleeve/case he initially offered. Mind you I had to pay cash, giving up a tantalizing 94 AirMiles, but I had my deal.

The snag at the counter came in the form of a daily withdrawal limit on my bank card. So I motored over to the nearest TD Canada Trust, personally withdrew many hundreds of dollars, placed into a plain brown envelope and hustled back to the store. It reminded me of a time 10 years ago when I used a few different accounts to pay for an engagement ring.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Grandparent Tour

A gorgeous fall day, perfect for a drive. We hit the road to see my "adoptive" grandparents in the stonetown of St Marys. We briefly saw them during Rumiko's wedding, but they left soon after the service so they didn't get a good visit with the kids. It's taken us a while, but we finally got over there for some quality time.

Seeing as we were in the area, we popped into see my folks at the farm. We had lunch, Rei impressed her grandparents by informing them that "Sometimes monkeys eat bananas". Mom headed into work and we headed home shortly after.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Great Pumpkin

The highlight of Reiko's day was buying a pumpkin from a roadside stand. In the falling rain, she warily selected the one closest to her, dropped her $3 into the jar and cheerily told us all the way home, "I bought a pumpkin!"

Her enthusiasm does not translate to the pumpkin costumes we have for her and Kai. Chances are unlikely of having a Matching Pumpkins concert at the manse this year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


After dropping Shelley and the kids off at their respective destinations this morning, I drove back under a thickly cloud-shaded sky. Amid the pouring rain came some tiny white flakes, bouncing off the windshield hard and fast. The first sighting of snow this season came at the corners of Arkona Road and Union Street; more to come later.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Picking Apples

Harvest season is drawing to a close in the Little Apple that is Arkona and I'm going shopping.

It has been my personal practice to put all the honoraria I receive for funerals and weddings into an RRSP. Checking my balance, there's a fair chunk that has yet to be invested ... so the purchase of a 12.1" iBook is in the offing. It's not so much a switch as a supplement; the PC desktop will have to handle the bulk of our gaming, and much of my PowerPoint backgrounds come from PC-based software.

I figure its portability will allow me to work more from the church office rather than the manse study, so has to help me define my work-life balance better -- different physical spaces for different frames of mind, plus moving some clutter out of the house (and just finding a new place for it in the church). Bare basics and no frills should help it be more of a work machine than a plaything. Yeah, right.

I'll pay back my RRSP over the next few months instead of making interest-added payments to Apple or our line-of-credit. Because retirement isn't that far off: only 33 more Easters to go!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Turning over a new leaf

Not for the last time, I'm sure, I present to you Rake-O.
rake, oh
Yes, she is saying, "Cheeeeeeeeeese!" How did you know?

Hi, Chair

It took a while for Shelley and I to assemble, but it all came together. A chair fit for a king, or a king-sized baby, at least.
Kai high chair
Here we see His Excellency, dazedly surveying his minions.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sitting on the Fence

I'm not sure who to cheer for in the World Series. On one hand, there are the Houston Astros, of which, and for reasons unknown, my brother Keizo has been a long-suffering diehard fan. In fraternal support I could root for them; and something about Biggio and Bagwell winning it all has appeal to me in a sporting era of free agency and hired guns.

On the other hand, there are the Chicago White Sox who have been plagued by the spectre of the 1919 Black Sox who threw the World Series (spawning two wonderful baseball movies - I once based a class project in high school on "Eight Men Out"). More than the thought of expunging that stain from history, and releasing one Chicago team from a baseball curse, is the appeal of second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. If baseball's America's favourite pastime, why are the Japanese so good at it?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Packing up and Catching up

I guess it's official: winter is on its way. Today I packed away the air conditioner, the hammock stand, my golf clubs, and cleared room in the garage for the car. I've conceded the passage of warm summer weather and the seasonal permanence of cooler weather. Although the barbeque is still primed and ready for further action until the snow flies.

As I settled back into work life and got reacquainted with my calendar, I see that I missed my Mom's birthday (yes, I am a negligent son). Sorry; belated birthday wishes - isn't it Japanese bad luck to celebrate a birthday in advance? So observing the occasion after the fact must be good luck ... right?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Check ya later..."

Despite the fact that the lovely and accommodating Hotel Parsons-Sheldrake is awash with wireless connectivity and Internet possibilities, I did not take advantage or pay due diligence to my blogs this past week. A series of days beginning at 4 a.m., some downright embarrassing and uninspiring worship services, and a household of 4 energetic children, the oldest of which is 3 years old, left me with too much to blog about and too little energy to do so.

After a mildly uneventful journey home today, we're back in Arkona, not doing much of anything. Although I know an accelerated worship preparation process is in the offing. I also know a piecemeal recap of the our time in Kingston, with our friends, during my conference will occur in the next little while.

Stay tuned. Or not. I'll be here regardless.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I ♥ Kingston

Church this morning turned out well by all accounts. The meeting after was civil and productive.

The 6½-hour car ride was generally good. It could have been a lot worse, there was only one or two episodes of backseat wailing, in stereo.

We arrived in Kingston, under a gorgeous full moon. Apparently, our hyping of our visit had its desired effect on Rei. As we were stopped at a light, she commented, "I like Kingston". By the time we had picked up some Treatsa Pizzas for our gracious hosts, she was declaring, "I love Kingston!"

Here's hoping she loves all the restaurants that we'll be re-visiting in the next few days.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


As for Saturday nights, this one seems a bit busier than usual. Apart from the ordinary finishing of sermon, liturgy, children's time, there was planning for an after-church discussion of when we worship, time-wise, and negotiating such change between two different congregations. I think I've put more thought and planning into that meeting than my sermon this week...

Also, we head for Kingston tomorrow for a few days as I visit my alma mater for a conference. So there was some packing and preparing for a road trip with two young children. We'll see the Parsons-Sheldrakes and Rachel soon enough and Rei can show them her new tricks: today she whistled for the first time; she learned the word "palm" as related to our hands; and made a song request for her ocean song (which I made up especially for her - "My Reiko lies over the ocean ...").

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Final Round?

With the weather being so lovely today, I took it upon myself to get out for a quick round of 9 holes. (And they were quick, I was back home within 90 minutes - two different pairs waved me through).

The sunny afternoon and the turning leaves provided a gorgeous fall backdrop to a decent game (shooting 60, my best this season), notwithstanding all my mulligans. I conquered my nemesis, Arkona Fairways' hole 9, with a drive that landed within 8 feet of the fairway and not anywhere near the green for hole 1, which is my usual.

This may have been it for the season; until next time, hole 4, until next time.

Identity: confirmed

Our 2½-year-old is a very self-aware individual. An episode of sensitive tempers arose in the play room as I wondered aloud if anyone wanted to play with Mr. Potato Head. She forcefully stated that she wanted to play with said toy.

I asked (and I tease because I love) if she was Miss Independent; she replied, again with much force, "No. I'm Reiko!" Shelley had to turn away so as not to laugh in our daughter's face.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Double duty

The past couple nights, Kai has woken up crying, soaked, requiring new diapers, sleepers, blankets.

This evening after one of his brief dozes, as I tried to re-settle him for a longer slumber, I felt his diaper and noted with alarm that it felt quite large and full. Wanting to avoid a wardrobe change, I was determined to get him into new gear post haste. As he wailed, I scrambled to collect new diaper, wipes, and zinc cream.

I quickly unwrapped his blanket burrito and opened up the velcro stubs to find underneath the surprising (to me) dry diaper was another dry diaper. It was then that I remembered earlier today Shelley wondering about doubling up his nighttime diaper to prevent any leaks. Sweet dreams are made of these...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

So it begins

I arrived home this afternoon from a workshop on screening procedures for volunteers within the United Church to great excitement. Rei was jumping and bouncing around, eager to show me her new, uhm, "toy". I followed her to the bathroom where she proudly showed me her potty. She sat on it, still clothed, demonstrating her technique and pointed into the potty where the poop and pee would be.

On a totally unrelated note, I cast a few thoughts towards Winnipeg today as the CCS Learning Circle begins. While I miss the companionship of the group and the opportunities for learning and the damningly intentional mode of existence, I am quite happy to have completed my spin through the cycle. And so I send them my happy thoughts: Suckers ... er, I mean "draw the circle wide" sisters and brothers!

4 months

Sibling bliss, what a way to celebrate 4 months of Kai!
4 month kai & rei
(and Happy Birthday Uncle Keizo!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Urs, Circles, Presents

Our Ursul-tastic week of good company, gaming and chillaxing concluded as we dropped Ursula off at the train station. We'll continue to live her Sex in the City life vicariously through her blog as she chums with Maya Angelou (potentially) and jetsets around Europe (indefinitely). And we'll manage to get together for some Carcasonne online.

After the train station, we circled around to King-Wah, an Asian food store, for ramen noodles, no-rinse short-grain rice and Pocky cookie sticks. Then I returned some books to the UWO libraries as Shelley circled around campus with the kids. Then onto her folks for Thanksgiving, Round 3: turkey casserole.

As they clean house for the permanent move to the cottage, we took home a set of dishes to replace our chipped and cracked wedding-presented ones. We also brought home our Christmas present microwave and promptly proceeded to make some popcorn. (I had initially typed "poopcorn" - what a slip that is!)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Thanksgiving and Retail

Turkey: round two was replaced by pork chops at my parents' farm. It was a pleasant family gathering, despite the absence of our working mom and gas-less brother. Urs got to talk hockey some more and Rei delighted in the attention - once she warmed up to everyone.

My brothers have been taking second jobs to fill their time and bank accounts: Daisuke at
HomeSense, discount decor and furnishings; and Keizo at Best Buy, electronics and gadgets. My sister had already worked at Banana Republic. One of the motivating factors for their ventures into retail is the employee discount. Maybe they're onto something ... does the LCBO give employee discounts? Perhaps I'll look into SportChek, or HMV, or Chapters/Indigo, seeing as I only "work one morning a week".

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Happy, Merry, Thanks-Christ-giving-mas

We had our first, and last, Thanksgiving-Christmas supper hybrid at Shelley's childhood home.Her folks have sold the house and will be trailering through the States come Christmas time. They hosted Thanksgiving supper and added the family Christmas with the cousins.

The pedometer I got for Shelley's dad was on sale so I had a bit of money left to spend on him; can't go wrong with a pound of assorted licorice candies. In return, I received a wooden carving of a smiling Buddha and a puzzle book of the latest UK-Japanese craze, Sudoku.

Round one of the turkey tour: completed.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Games Galore

Even though we're sitting in the same room and a perfectly operational board game of Carcasonne is in our possession, Urs and I are seated at our respective computers playing online. It saves us having to keep score, draw tiles, speak to each other; you get the picture.

This, after many days and games of Carcasonne and a night of Blackjack. It reminds me of a saying, something about a good thing and too much ...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hola amigo!

The church phone rang this morning and I, as always, answer it with a professional, "Hello, Kenji speaking". Those who know me would proceed with the conversation; those who don't - telemarketers, people wanting my services for marriage or baptism - ask for the minister. It gives me a quick gauge on the situation.

To my great delight, the answer on the line was a cheery, "Hola!" meaning it could only be one household: the irrepressible Bellsworths of Orleans. "Hola" became our standard greeting after our time together in Nicaragua (you might try to trick me, but I'd catch on pretty quick that you weren't Molly or Stephen). We whiled away the morning catching up on each others' news. As is so often the case, the months slip by, despite best intentions, and we lose track of our friends.

I proudly told stories of Rei and Kai, Molly told stories of her daughter, Emma. We compared
Hi-5 stories and expressed relief that our kids weren't the only ones obsessing about that wonderfully diverse quintet. Our conversation has evolved from talking about reality TV (Survivor 11, Amazing Race 8, etc.) to sharing our dislike for Hi-5 Jenn's new look for season 2 or our appreciation for Curtis' haircut.

It's always so good to reconnect with friends (and rule over them in the medieval French city of Carcassonne, right Urs?).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Woke Up this Morning...

I fell out of bed this morning, literally: body slamming into the floor. Our mid-night efforts to help Kai sleep have led to an experimentation in the "family bed" experience. This particular night I was on my side, resting on the edge of the mattress so as to allow for the flailing arms of our baby. Apparently, I tipped too far the wrong way gave myself a rude awakening. Such things didn't happen at the convent...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hoefer Hoedown

Urs arrived today for an extended Arkona stay before her European vacation. While here, as well as some waste-o and wine, there will be much gaming (includeing golf maybe) and crime dramas watched. She'll see her Puppet Jesus at work, be indoctrinated in the ways of Hi-5, and might meet Sue at the post office who sends on the tapes of the various incarnations of "Law & Order" and "CSI" to the Vancouver area. Throw in a couple of family Thanksgivings and it'll be a gay old time.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sibling Rivalry?

This morning at breakfast (maybe lunch, it was a meal anyway) Rei tells me: "Kaede is my best friend."
Unprompted and unexpected it was nice to hear; don't know when, if ever, I'll hear that again.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Boxcar Kenji

The plan for yesterday was: board train at 14h30, meet Shelley and the pajama-clad kids at the station in London at 19h16, back home by 20h00.

The actual play-by-play is too long and involved to blog about in a thorough fashion, but arriving home at 10h00 this morning could be an indicator of all the commotion.

The train was running late as it was (possibly missing my connection) until we were stopped in Oshawa, told of an hour delay due to an incident further along. Well-supported rumours and conjectures said it was a suicide attempt, although I have yet to see/hear anything official to confirm or debunk that news.

After an abrupt departure from the Oshawa station, we pulled alongside the train in question and those passengers loaded onto our already-full carriage. More waiting and the eventual arrival at Union Station, Toronto, two hours after my connecting train to London. Winding our way to the "Special Services" desk, we learned another train, leaving in 5 minutes, would be taking us to our destinations.

Hurriedly, we sprang to the back of the doubled-looped line and waited for the 5 minutes that stretched into 40. Apparently others in line got free Harvey's, courtesy of Via Rail. I did not.

The second leg was mostly uneventful. Two good deeds: asking a McGill TA if he's really in the best mood to be marking students' essays; and, helping an elderly couple relocate their heavy bags to the proper car (which they had managed to miss by 4 doors upon embarking).

Just minutes from London, we stopped again for a long time. No reason was given; I dozed off. Finally off the train and into the station, after long last, I see Shelley and Kai. They'd been waiting an hour-and-a-half. That didn't stop them from smiling at my arrival.

Too late to go home, we spent the night at Shelley's parents' where Rei was soundly sleeping. We got home this morning, I pulled together a wedding service for this afternoon. I should be wrapping up my sermon for tomorrow about now. Home sweet home.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Wednesday Night, II

Following the evening lecture, we ventured into Kingston's night in search of live Maritime and folk music. Having heard that Shores of Newfoundland's Wednesday gig had migrated to "The Merchant" from "Tir Nan Og", we set forth and delighted in our good fortune to hear our news was accurate.

I was surprised and further delighted to see Chris, husband of a classmate of mine, strumming, and squeezing guitars and accordians, respectively. I cast about in a search for his wife, Heather, and to her surprise and delight, appeared at her side. How serendipitous, they had just moved back into the Kingston area that very day. Will the Circle be unbroken indeed!

No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

Wednesday Night

After Sr. Helen's touching stories of men and women abused by the justice system, I was struck by the contrast with ex-con, home decorating maven, Martha Stewart and her re-release onto the TV airwaves. Braving the public microphone to ask her opinion on this, I overheard behind me, "That's
so off-topic, she's talking about murders."

Bristling, I resisted the urge to confront my critics with a triumphant "HA!" when Sr. Helen remarked that violence doesn't have to involve bloodshed. Corporate deceit cheating thousands of innocents of their savings, betraying their trust, is an act of violence.

For the record, my copy of Dead Man Walking is signed "Kenji - Embody the change you seek". Sure she's quoting Ghandi, but that works too.