Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Princeton Recap

Now that I've caught up to last week, this week's exploits await recounting.

After church, I hopped onto the Sarnia Express Minivan for Princeton. Four of us played the surprisingly engaging car game "Canada Flag" (wherein one points and says, "Canada flag" whenever they see one - schools and hotels are ripe for the picking).

We overnighted in Scranton, Pennsylvania only a few days late for Hillary Clinton's big show (her grandfather lived there, you know). I prepared for the approach of summer with my standard shearing with a twist. While away from church and children, I had my roommate help me sculpt a mohawk.

We met up with some Canadian Presbyterians for the final leg of our travel to Princeton. It was a cool, grey and rainy day as we drove into New Jersey, registered for the conference, had lunch and got settled into our hotel rooms.

The balcony of Miller Hall, location for worship and keynote presentations, had been taken over by Canadians and I met up with them for a momentary reunion before heading into our separate streams.

Life in American churches is markedly different from Canada. The hierarchical system of Senior Pastor ruling over all Associate Pastors and Youth Directors is a mystery to me. Everyone (well, almost everyone) reveres and covets the title of "Senior Pastor". Seeing that I am a Senior/Only Pastor, and being the contrarian that I am, I sported a clergy collar and my haircut to try and explode a few perceptions.
Sr. Pastor

A Princeton tradition has been the Canada vs. America floor hockey game during the mid-week session of free time. It's the only time I play hockey, it's the only time I don't loathe and despise the sport.

I learned that I am not dextrous enough to handle a differently-curved stick and that I am not as young as I used to be. A trip/check from a North Minnesotan behemoth rendered me winded (although I did manage a devastating hipcheck on an up-and-coming American scholar) and my twinging calf muscles warned me that it was time to quit. While I'm seldom one to dwell on outcomes, Canada won.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The 3rd 5th Birthday Party

In preparation for her extended family birthday party on Saturday, Rei had her toenails painted with red nailpolish. Kai, not wanting to miss out on anything joined in the fun.
I think you can see the results of their grooming.

Both sets of grandparents, an aunt, a couple uncles, a great grandma and an adoptive great aunt joined us, relegating the kids to the kids table.
family birthday

It was a very crafty birthday for Rei, with Princesses and Polly Pockets well represented. Good times.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lets [sic] Groove 2008

Reiko's dance class performed to "Splish Splash" last Friday night at the grand year-end recital. The picture is blurred but I suppose this protects the anonymity and identity of her classmates ... she's the 3rd from the left.
splish splash blur
Kai did very well to sit through the two-and-a-half hour extravaganza although he did ask after every single performance, "Is it time to go now?"

We've bought the DVD so we can relive the entire evening at our convenience.

Plumbing and Late Nights

The week that was, was a blur.

After turning on the water shut-off valve to the outside backyard tap, we noticed a leak in our basement ceiling. We turned everything back off, mopped up as best we could and waited for the morning to ask around about plumbers and to call our insurance agent for some ideas.

With the advice from our neighbour, I made some adjustments to the bleeder valve on the tap and hurray! that seemed to do the trick.

We celebrated Reiko's actual birthday in a low-key fashion: presents in the morning, some more cupcakes in the afternoon, and a visit to a friend's dance class in the evening.

The next night was the dress rehearsal for Rei's recital, (and pick up her soccer team uniform, #8 of "The Acclerators"), whereupon she got home at 8:30 and very tired.

We've been attending the Family Math program in Forest which runs on Thursday evenings, so by the time we all got home it was another late evening for the kids.

More stories about late nights (and Rei's dance recital) to come.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Party Pics

Rei hurries to deliver birthday cupcakes to her guests.

Kai waits.

Other Obligations

Reiko had some friends over for a birthday party today. Of course, this relegated her younger brother to the role of "monster" chasing the shrieking girls around the house.

It wasn't all fun and games and cupcakes today. I had a graveside service in the afternoon so I left just after lunch and hustled back for the end of the festivities.

This morning, while taping up streamers and blowing up balloons, I got a call from one of the nursing homes asking if I could come in for a palliative pastoral visit with a client and the family. After explaining my situation (that I was already missing my daughter's birthday party for a funeral service) and expressing my regret, I made a phone call to see if any of my local colleagues were available.

Shortly after getting off the phone, the nursing home called back saying that "Things were covered. " So I then followed up my own phone inquiry to relay the same message, only to discover that a curt message had been delivered that "She had already passed".

So even if I had been available, I would not have made it there on time. My colleague and I vented a little at the expectation that clergy had no life apart from sitting around waiting for the phone to give our cloistered lives meaning. Good thing we have Sunday mornings to plan for or else we'd have nothing to do. Except celebrate birthdays, that is.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pit Stop

Shelley's folks returned to the province after a winter in Florida. After parking their trailer in the local Wal-Mart parking lot, they stopped in for a visit before they resume their northward migration to their summer home tomorrow.

The kids were giddy to see Grandma and Papa again. Shelley and I were glad to see them too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Enchanted Evening

April is a crazy month with Shelley working Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Reiko's birthday celebrations and dance recital, and me being away for two extended trips out-of-province. Kai's amiably going along for the ride.

Tonight was photo night for Rei's dance class, as well as some church meetings for me. The plan was to have supper (no hitches there), take the kids to the dance studio for the photo shoot (Rei became rather clingy and resistant to the idea of picture-taking), pick up the babysitter (half an hour late, plus Rei feeling sick to her stomach, pulling over and getting her out of the car), drop the kids and sitter off at Early Years where Shelley was working (get Rei to the bathroom there), and hustle to my meetings (on the way out of town, a couple kids yelled in my direction, "Hey! It's a China man!" By the time I decided between having a dialogue with them or flipping them the bird, they were out of range and I was still late).

Who would have thought that I would find refuge and sanctuary, order and structure, in a church meeting? God's ways are mysterious indeed.

I got home late that night to see the realtor's minivan in our neighbour's driveway (presenting an offer?) and the heavy duty fabric cleaner was stationed by the front door of our house. Sure enough, I learned that Rei had thrown up a few times on the way home from Early Years with Shelley.

There's a church hymn/anthem titled "All in the April Evening". I don't think this is what the writer had in mind.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The car that I drive has been sputtering of late. I arranged to have it in for service today and prepared to settle into a morning of church work at the dealership. It turns out they were able to find a loaner car for me (albeit a Taurus station wagon that was approaching 200K km) and I got to Office Hours at Appin only a little late.

Turns out we needed a couple of new spark plugs (yes, Shelley guessed right; I was wondering if it was the fuel filter ... is there such a thing?) and the cost was about half of what I had dreaded which goes to show that expecting the worst pays off.

And our neighbour on the other side of us has a For Sale sign on her lawn.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Party Crashers

The boy next door had a birthday party this afternoon. Kai and I were out playing when he was attracted by the sound of mirth and commotion in the adjacent back yard.

Like a shot, Kai was off to investigate and ingratiated himself into the group project of making "squirrel soup" in the sandbox. We get along well with our neighbours, otherwise I'd have been rather mortified. Outdoor play was followed by an offer of birthday cake and an improvised treat bag. I left for a few moments to get Rei from the school bus and she joined in the antics.

I give thanks for generous and gracious neighbours. Speaking of which, there was a realtor's mini-van in front of our house this afternoon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Return of Daddy Day

To make up for my absence from the kids, and with Reiko not having school, it was time to get reacquainted. The morning was spent at Early Years, we played outside and downstairs and watched some shows.

I'm tuckered out - early bedtime tonight. Sunday worship have to come together tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Scallops and Starbucks

The morning session was quite constructive with some report-writing strategies and sabbath revisioning. From there it was a quick tidy and pack-up before heading to the airport. I rode in a rental car that smelled a little too new and ended up sleeping to avoid the car sickness.

Who knew that Starbucks had such a cultic following in the ranks of the Fair Trade conscious United Church? Some people couldn't get to the airport fast enough for their fix.

While others went on ahead through customs, I waited with someone who had a later departure time, browsed the seafood concession and picked up some scallops for Shelley. The flight and drive home were fairly uneventful (if you don't count almost running out of money to pay for the airport parking) and I'm back where I belong.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's the Church for?

In preparing my recent "Sex & the Church" sermon, I found myself spending a fair bit of time on the question, What is the church for? Why does it have to make proclamations about sex and sexuality and why do we let it?

During these days of trying to envision a future for youth and young adult ministry amid a practise of sabbath, we're coming to that same question: what is the church for?

Certainly times are changing, people are busier, there are more conveniences and more competition for attention spans. How can the institution compete against the church of Oprah? Is the youth focus, that has been identified as a priority of the United Church's energy and resources, misplaced? What of the impending "silver tsunami" as the babyboomers age?

There was much soul searching, and the expected frustration and outrage, but also a genuine desire and wonder about how the youth and young adults might fit into the institution instead of always railing against it?

Oy vey, this is where the church gets bogged down in its immensity. It was a dense and sloggy day, and I had the honour of offering an evening worship/theological reflection on it all.

In the end, we commiserated and communed at Big Al's Acadian Beverage Room and rocked out to some more SingStar. Who knew The Offspring's "Self Esteem" could be so cathartic? (Apologies to all those who were trying to sleep at the time).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

SingStar Starship

Given that we're relatively isolated from the hip and happening hot spots of Nova Scotia, it was up to us to make our own fun. (Not that watching Kansas come back and win over Memphis wasn't fun last night! In the end, my NCAA bracket had the only answer that mattered. Plus I got to whoop it up with national church staff!)

Tonight, we powered up the Sony Playstation 2 and plugged into SingStar, the engaging and embarrassing sing-along for all ages and abilities. While we enjoyed picking and choosing our selections (I fear my rendition of "Ice Ice Baby" might find its way onto the Facebook), things really got rollicking when we launched into an 8-player team showdown.

There's nothing like competitive karaoke for community building. For some reason, we all thought that we could sing Starship's "We Built this City" better than the Sony PS2 thought. Marconi played the mamba; Listen to the radio ...

Trespassers W

I could go on about the "joys" of governance processes in a national church but I will choose to use my blogging powers for good.

During a little afternoon break, we piled into a couple cars to check out a nearby waterfall that is picturesque beyond description. I'd describe it for you, but the handscrawled admonitions and warnings to the public about trespassing and the running, barking dogs convinced us that the property owners really were not receptive to sharing Creation's splendour with us.

Onto Plan B which was a local winery for some sampling and purchasing. How's that for sharing Creation's splendour?

Eastern Sabbath Practices

After a day of travel, I'm settled in for a few days in Nova Scotia at Tatamagouche Centre. The Year of Sabbath discernment team is meeting and assessing and visioning in the way for national youth and young-adult ministry.

I'm not sure we'll be seeing much of the province beyond the village of Tatamagouche, but it's still nice to have some time with friends and colleagues.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Blogging in Bulk

Another busy week that was ...

Sunday: a cooperative worship service shared by United Churches in the area and a concert for the Foodgrains Bank that evening.

Monday: Reiko woke with a hoarse, barking cough and feeling out of sorts. We kept her home from school but did see her teacher in the grocery store that afternoon.

Tuesday: Zonked again, the newly-replaced satellite receiver is acting up again - showing the same error code, only making a squeaking sound as well.

Wednesday: introduced Rei and Kai to Peter Gabriel's live show antics by playing the concert DVD of his song "Growing Up" which features him climbing into a giant plastic ball, bouncing and rolling around the stage. Also - first barbeque of the year!

Thursday: had a consultant (salesperson?) from a multimedia company in London survey the sanctuary for projector screen possibilities. Had a phone call from Ursula! I'll continue investigating what accreditation I'll need to perform a wedding in BC, or California, or Las Vegas.

Friday: the husband of a former colleague succumbed to his cancer this week. I went to the visitation in the afternoon. 49-years old, 3 kids, sometimes life makes no sense.

Saturday: installed the new satellite receiver for the TV and had to haggle pretty forcefully with the customer support line for some recompense and managed a $20 credit. Where's the justice? At least things were up and running in time for some Yo Gabba Gabba and Kansas U's advance to the Final Four finals.