31 May 2009

Empty nested

Today, we delivered Yoko's mom to the airport ending this leg of the family in the UK part of the summer. There is much more to come: my parents will be here in a couple of weeks, but for now, the house is quiet with all the women asleep and I have two days of paternity leave without obligation, so I am going to make the most of it.

Two girls = No new clothes

30 May 2009


My brother, sister-in-law, and son have now been delivered safely to the airport and, if everything went as planned, they are now somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, soon to arrive in the Windy City. Yoko's mother will be returning back to Japan tomorrow and suddenly, our house will be very quiet again. I then will be going to Amsterdam on Wednesday and by the time I get back on Saturday, we will be making preparations for my parents coming on June 20th.

I had my deadline for my research proposal (the first three chapters of my dissertation) extended to June 15th, which gives me a little bit of breathing room, but I'll be honest about how worried I am about it. I am quite worried. My writing is simply not getting to the level that my supervisors expect, and though I am a little frustrated with their expectation that I be writing at a PhD level when I am supposed to be completing an MA dissertation, I am sure that it will be worth it, provided I can find the voice I need.

We had a really good time this week — all over London again and inside some of the stuff that I haven't seen yet (including the Tower of London) and we had a good time in Oxford. The weather and the children co-operated more or less. It was a good week, but I need to get focused again. Back to work in a serious way.

20 May 2009

Seriously, I've been busy

There's so much going on. I need to take a little paternity leave before I go to Holland. Can't take the pressure. Visas, passports, passport photos, proofreading, part-time work, school, and back again. Oh and family.

17 May 2009

What a coup!

I woke with the strong feeling that I needed to go to the office if I was ever to get any headway on my work this week as Monday-Wednesday, I got baby stuff to work out. I went to the OU around 8:30 with my flash disk full of comments on my lit. review from my supervisors. Sixty one comments on 3000 words, which I figured was one comment for every five words although this is, apparently, wrong.  I got to my desk, hoping to clear out about half of them, the easy ones, and work on my strategy for the rest of them. If you follow my tweets, you know that I was not happy with the comments I'd read so far and was feeling like sending a nasty email, although I had not yet send such an email and thought I would take a little more time to work on it before I shot myself in the foot.

I started working through them, and it turned out that they were actually quite good and although I would have liked a little more encouragement, I was feeling like I was understanding and seeing the problems they were seeing. I hacked and cut and thought and deleted and replaced and worked through all but nine of them, leaving me with some more restructuring to do and rewriting, but I made some headway.

I went back to the apartment at about 12:15. Our apartment is small, but it's even smaller when there are three adults and two kids in it. I have been telling people that the only place I can be alone right now, where I can lock the door and no one will fuck with me in the bathroom at school, although even that has its limits. Needless to say, I've been a little crazy.

I was supposed to take my mother-in-law and Naomi to church, but the plan got changed, and instead of being sent to sit through the whole service, I had to take Yoko's mom and then go to the supermarket to get some supplies. This left me with about 45 minutes to myself at McDonalds, where I enjoyed cheap coffee, free Internet, and a little bit of freedom from the women in my life.

On the bad news front, igetting Mei a visa is going to cost 465 GBP, about five times more than Naomi's, because we're going to have to apply from within the country. I'm going to see if this is in fact the case, but if my interaction with the home office up until now is any hint as to how things will go, I am guessing the message I will get is, 'All the lines are busy now. Goodbye.' Seriously, no stay on the line and we'll be with you in three hours. It just hangs you up. Well, we'll see. The good news is that Mei will have claim to British citizenship when she turns 10, provided we stay in the country until then. She would then have three passports and be the envy of all her friends, I'm sure.

Finally, singing to Naomi 'Get on your boots, sexy boots!' when it's time to leave backfired today when she repeated, 'Seki butsu!' No, sweetheart. I'm sorry. I'm just a bad father. Stop calling me Stephen.

15 May 2009

Today is in my way

I haven't been able to make any headway this week, but today is Naomi's second birthday and hopefully things will get better.

14 May 2009

I was never very good at flaming

2009-05-14 21:49:22 - mysonabsalom: GG guys.
2009-05-14 21:50:09 - The Nino: later pussydick.
2009-05-14 21:53:31 - mysonabsalom: Pussydick? Is that a technical term?
2009-05-14 22:01:21 - mysonabsalom: If you think about, 'Pussydick' is sort of an oxymoron.
2009-05-14 22:02:05 - mysonabsalom: It's sort of like you're trying to say, I'm a coward and also rude, but you're not quite sure how to express this.
2009-05-14 22:03:38 - mysonabsalom: Let me help you out, The Nino, Pussy is a degradatory term referring to the female genetalia.
2009-05-14 22:04:03 - mysonabsalom: Dick is also a deragatory term, but it's for the MALE genetalia.
2009-05-14 22:04:26 - mysonabsalom: You see the problem? You've made a silly, meaningless insult.
2009-05-14 22:04:48 - mysonabsalom: But that's okay, you're upset, and you should be upset, really.
2009-05-14 22:05:11 - The Nino: and you're just a moron, so hit the road.
2009-05-14 22:05:46 - mysonabsalom: I mean, I've been ELIMNATED from the game after having tried to WIN the game.
2009-05-14 22:06:07 - mysonabsalom: It's outrageous really. I mean, I should have just quit at the beginning.
2009-05-14 22:06:42 - mysonabsalom: Clearly, this is what you expect of your opponents.
2009-05-14 22:08:01 - mysonabsalom: In the future, to help get your way more expedientally, you should comment at the beginning of all your games:
2009-05-14 22:08:34 - mysonabsalom: 'Hello! I'm The Nino! Listen up, I want you all to lose, and if you don't, I'm going to call you pussydicks! Do I make myself clear?'
2009-05-14 22:09:20 - mysonabsalom: Then everyone will know, 'Oh hell, this guys is serious. Better not try to win. I really, REALLY don't want to be called a pussydick.'
2009-05-14 22:09:35 - mysonabsalom: That would be the end of the WORLD.
2009-05-14 22:10:03 - DaGip: shutup, bitch!
2009-05-14 22:10:30 - mysonabsalom: Anyway, cheers, The Nino, I hope you can work things out with the night manager at Taco Bell, and you are able to get that promotion you've been gunning for.
2009-05-14 22:12:05 - mysonabsalom: Oh DaGip is back with the misogyny! That's actually sort of cute, though. I mean who can stand up against being called a bitch!? It's 10 times worse than being called a pussydick.
2009-05-14 22:13:24 - mysonabsalom [team]: Uh, sorry about that.

13 May 2009

Mei chan looks more and more like baby

Mei's birth

I need to write about this before I forget.

Mei was born on Saturday morning at 4:47 according to her birth letter, although we think there was an error and she was actually born at 4:57. Her due date was today, so she was about five days early.

Yoko's mom came in on Friday evening at about 7 o'clock. Naomi kept saying, 'Baba kita ne!' (Grandma came, didn't she!) again and again. Yoko was feeling fine, and although she had light contractions starting on Thursday and Friday morning, they had gone away quickly. We went to bed on Friday night at about ten, hoping that the baby would be born sometime over the weekend.

Yoko woke me up at around 3:30 on Saturday morning to say that her water had broken, so I called the labour ward and asked them to contact the midwife. We woke up Yoko's mom and started setting up the living room for the birth. Naomi kept sleeping, despite us going in and out of the bedroom.

The midwife called and said it would take them about an hour to get to the house because they were at another birth. We said that was fine, and although Yoko's contractions were about five minutes apart, they weren't really that strong.

The midwives (there were two of them) came at about 4:30 and said they were just going to check Yoko and then go back to the hospital to get what they needed to deliver the baby. We said that was fine as the contractions weren't that strong yet, but when they examined her they said she needed to deliver straight away.

And then suddenly, there Mei was, less than a half an hour later. When Naomi was born, I remember being really shocked to see her face, as though all the months of waiting I hadn't actually thought there would be a baby at the end. When Mei was born, I had a much different sensation, much less shock and more competency, like I was playing a role that I had played before and knew all my lines. I held her and knew how to talk to her. It was different, very, very different.

We cleaned everything up and the midwives were just packing up when, at 5:30, the door swung open and Naomi was standing there, looking at everyone suspiciously. Yoko described the look as though Naomi has caught us having  a chocolate eating party without her. Naomi slowly woke up and eventually pointed at Mei and said, 'That's Mei' in an a-matter-of-fact way, like it all made sense to her suddenly too.

The midwives went home--I took the garbage bag full of everything from the birth outside. The sun had come up. And there we were, the five of us, eating breakfast and getting ready for a new day, like nothing had happened.

10 May 2009

Putting my life together

While I haven't been tending to my wife and daughters, I have been piecing my life together with the help of these babies. My £43, 500 gig HD is actually pulling it's weight.

Mei Chan, Day 2

09 May 2009

Unto us a child is born

And her name shall be Mei Kawada Pihlaja (ピラヤ明川田).

Home births are the way to go, kids. More later.

Twittering the arrival

If  you want to follow the birth, check: www.twitter.com/mysonabsalom/ although it might just be 'water broke' and then four hours later 'baby born!'

08 May 2009

Me~i Chan! (^も^)<待ってますよ!

Still no Mei chan. Yesterday, Yoko felt her come down and I went to bed expecting to get up in a couple of hours to mop up baby goo, but nothing happened and nothing is still happening. Yoko went to Mum and Tot's group and I came to work.

I don't think anyone is as interested in my YouTubers as I am. One of the big ones closed his account this week under a cloud of suspicion, but I was trying to recount the story to my brother and I was realizing, I'm not sure that this is interesting to anyone but me.

Have you ever told a lie? That makes you a liar.

Now, my computer problem is more or less solved, I think. The hard disk I got is either broken or it is not, but I can't seem to trust the Apple Store guy about it. Anyway, Lord willing, this will all come together this afternoon. I will be selling my old iMac for parts. Happy bidding!

04 May 2009

My life in three acts

I saw the most beautiful interview with Leonard Cohen on YouTube and it got me thinking about some things. Cohen talked about how he was in the third act of his life, if one looked at life as a three act play in which you are the protagonist. Being a student of, among other things, narrative, and how people take on narrative to make sense of the world, the three act narrative suddenly struck me as an explanation for my life in the last year--a narrative that I can tell myself to understand where I am in life.

If my life is a three act play in which I am the protagonist, I have just finished the first act: the curtain coming when Yoko and Naomi and I stood on the deck of that boat leaving Niigata. The second act, I feel, is just beginning, that this year will likely fall between the acts.

The second act of life, I think, is committed to two things, raising a family and building a career/ life work.

For some reason, thinking of things in this way brings me a lot of peace. Not that things are played out, but that there is a time to do some things and a time to do others.

02 May 2009

You are a wave in the ocean

Today brought Yoko, Naomi, and I to some religious retreat near Willan Village for a concert that Yoko's Japanese choir group was doing. As most of these stories start, I had no idea what exactly was going on, except that Yoko said there was a picnic where we could buy food before they sang — I remember sausages being mentioned. We went out at around 3:30, well past the time the thing was supposed to start, but when we arrived, there were just a couple of people mulling around and no one from Yoko's group, so we went for a walk.

When we came back about 20 minutes later, I found the table where the food was being sold, but it turned out just to be instant coffee and biscuits, and the guy who sold them to me told me that the place we were was an ecumenical religious retreat where they have retreats and some people live. He pointed to a woman who apparently lived there, and she waved at me.

Yoko and I sat on a picnic table and I drank my instant coffee and watched the people who were there and slowly arriving and realized the people were mostly hippies and people with mental disabilities. Yoko and I chatted around a bit and people started sitting at our picnic table and finally another person from the Japanese choir came and Yoko went over to see them. A guy who had sat down at the picnic table and who I was trying to ignore said that he had heard me speaking Japanese and his daughter was in Japan and we started chatting.

He was from Central Africa it turned out and at the retreat centre to perform with his group, the Singing B'hais. If you aren't familiar with the Baha'i faith, that makes two of us, so I started asking all sorts of questions about being Bahai and it turned out that this picnic table I was sitting at was all Bahai people and they were all telling me their Bahai testimonies, the most interesting being an Iranian guy who was kicked out of Iran during the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago because he was Bahai. Apparently they took everything from him and his family, and he had to enter Britain as a refugee. They gave me a pamphlet about the Baha'i faith which, from what I could tell, was just a bunch of nonsense about all faiths being the same. They were nice enough.

By this time, there were like 50 hippies, mentally handicapped, Japanese, and Indian people, and about twelve B'hais all mulling around. Finally one of the hippies took the mic and said we were going to start and about five mentally handicapped people shuffled to the front to play the bells, which was nice to watch and reminded me of a News from Lake Wobegon story I'd heard a long time ago.

Then the Baha'is got up and there was like a wall of them, including a bald hippie wearing gray crocs and holding a guitar and apparently leading them. One of Baha'is was hanging back with his camera and I said, 'If you need someone to take pictures, I can do that for you' which made him quite happy and he got up. The bald hippie in the crocs started talking about the Baha'i faith, founded in the 19th century by another hippie it sounded like and how they were all about unity and they were really happy to be there because the retreat centre was all about ecumenical living, and they were ecumenical sorts of people.

So they started singing a song about how we are all living the life of a rainbow or some nonsense, but they were very sincere about it and I was trying desperately not to laugh. Then they sang a song that was 'well, a melody really' of American Indian music that included some dumb lyrics about being waves in the ocean and how love was the light in the darkness. The guy who gave me the camera kept looking at me nervously and I tried to take some good pictures.

Finally they finished up and the Japanese choir got on and sang. Then there were about four Indian girls about 10 or 11 and they did some dance to some Indian pop music that was quite awkward. Then the lead hippie (well, I thought he was the lead hippie because he had really bad dreads and was looking serious the whole time) got up with his band and after checking the mic way too much for playing outside in front of the crowd he was playing in front of, started playing 'No woman, no cry' and I decided it was time to go.

I was going to say something snide here about spiritualism and ecumenicism, but the Baha'is and everyone else seemed so sincere, I guess I can't really hold it against them. I suppose being a self-important hippie is no worse than being a self-important academic. At least I don't have bad dreads anymore. I can't think of any white person I have ever met with dreads that I feel like I could take seriously. Even that red-headed girl at camp that one summer.

01 May 2009

May first, June second

I have a spot on my jacket and, after taking it to the dry cleaners, they said they were not sure they would be able to remove it. I paid them £8.30 for the possibility that it could be done (which, by the way, is outrageous). This is my summer jacket, the one I need to wear in Amsterdam, so I am praying (in a metaphorical way — let's not be unreasonable) that it will come out. I had some clothes from Japan come in yesterday, a nice linen shirt included that I am wearing now. Linen is like wearing nothing, but in a good way.

Still no baby, baby pains, or baby goo, although my cell phone is sitting right in front of me, ready to ring at any moment.

I saw Raphael Saadiq on Jools Holland on Tuesday and I'm really into it. He dresses really well, too. Though this doesn't really apply to the song I have linked here:
It's actually refreshing, then, to hear a record like Raphael Saadiq's unabashedly retro The Way I See It, which doesn't try to "update" old soul sounds to a hip-hop world and a white singer. Instead, the former Tony! Toni! Toné! frontman works under the simple belief that those styles created in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Memphis during the 1960s speak as loudly now as they did then. They don't need to be revived, resurrected, retrofitted, or revitalized. They just need to be played.