Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ten years ago today...

Today is the 10th anniversary of my father's passing. It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed already, and although my grief is more bearable today than it was in the first years following his untimely death, my heart still aches for him many days.

I wish he could have met his grandkids. He would have loved to see how smart and cheeky they are. I think of his stern face and how mine must look when I discipline my kids. And I remember the special and unforgettable moments that still make me smile, and hope to create similar ones for my children, for it is those memories that live vividly in my heart.

My dad comes to me in my dreams quite often, and he is always smiling. It's as if to reassure me for the guilt I feel when I think of how much more I could have done for him in his lifetime, especially as an adult. I wasn't the easiest child to raise, and quite often it was his stern and severe side that I would see growing up. Once his job of raising me was done, though, he turned into a real teddy bear. :)

Here is the last photo taken of our little family, all together. This was in the summer of 1998:

I miss you, Papa, and I thank you for your wisdom, your strength, and your charisma. Thanks to you, a fiery temper, a big laugh, and musicianship will continue along for generations to come!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kira Kira, Ballerina

Before I gave birth to Kira, I always imagined having a little girl who was a little bit of a tomboy. I'd put her in soccer and hockey. She'd always be dressed sporty with pigtails and her ball throw would be the envy of all girls. Well, Kira was born dainty and has remained wired with "girly" from a young age. We knew this from the first time she closed her eyes and dodged a ball, despite our efforts at every opportunity to get her engaged more in sports. She's always been cautious, artistic, and dainty. And so in the great Nature vs. Nurture debate, I must say that in Kira's case there seems to be a big argument for the Nature side...

Kira started to show an interest in ballet most recently, and having placed her in part-time preschool for the past year, I felt she would be ready to take a class without mommy present. She loved her costume from the moment we bought it. All pink, including the tutu.

Her teacher Megan is young and full of energy and enthusiasm. The classes are 45 minutes long, and there are 5 children in this pre-dance class.

Most recently, we were invited to attend Kira's dance class open house, where we could see how they had progressed from the beginning to year's end. Grandma, Grandpa, Mommy, Daddy and Calvin all went to cheer her on! Here is Kira stepping across the room in great form:

And a few more photos from the open house:

It was such a joy to see Kira with her classmates in this little presentation. We're so proud of our daughter, and if she decides to pursue ballet or any other girl-associated discipline or sport, so be it. What is most important is that whatever she does, makes her smile and have fun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

mmm, apple butter

Whenever I'm in the kitchen Kira asks me if she can help. There was a frantic week recently when I wouldn't let her near me as I worked hard on preparations for an Epicure demonstration (see 2 posts ago) a cookie exchange, and to get some goodies ready for her preschool fundraiser. However, I caved at the end as I made apple butter, since I was using the apples she and Calvin picked earlier in the fall and that I had kept for this purpose.

Once a year, the apple peeler comes out and Kira helps me turn the crank on the peeler to get the apples ready for 3 hours of simmering with some yummy spices. Here's Kira with a peel taller than her!

And our delicious apple butter. This batch made 8 jars which apparently, were sold very quickly at the preschool bake sale. :) They raised $1500 in 2 days - awesome!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First snow

Well, I don't think it was actually the first snowfall of the year, but at the end of November we woke up to a wintery-white ground outside. It quickly melted, but it put Kira in such a great and happy mood that morning when I took her to school. All she wanted to do was touch it and play with it.

I took Calvin out to play with the snow as well, but he wanted nothing to do with it. "CO-O-OLD!" was all he could say as he shivered and whined. Just wait. He'll be on a toboggan and featured in one of my posts soon! :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spices and cookware, anyone? Selling Epicure Selections

I've saved this post for quite some time, mostly for lack of photos. I always try to have photos to illustrate my posts! :)

My days and nights are full as a stay-at-home mommy and while I don't have the urgent need to make a salary, I felt that I should keep busy with something that is just for me, and that could reap a little financial reward to boot. This also saves me from having to pay for Mark's gifts on his credit card, haha!

I had researched several options and even tried a couple of ventures in the past couple of years, including a stamping supplies business (retail), and a line of botanically based beauty / health products. Neither was a match to my lifestyle or expectations.

In January of this year, I decided upon Epicure Selections. I had been a customer of the product line for a couple of years and enjoyed what it represented: a woman-owned, family-operated, Canadian business selling spice blends that are without preservatives, low-sodium, and with a full range of products and resources for healthy living. The product line is sold through home parties or catalogue orders placed by individuals / groups. And, I'm happy to say that it is good quality stuff, that my family uses it all the time, and that I've received positive feedback from so many customers already!

To date, I haven't demonstrated at many home parties. I've focused on open houses at my own home (where I feel I have the freedom to prepare more than the average demonstration), and have taken batches of goodies to the various social groups I belong to. A few individuals have been kind enough to accept samples to pass along in their office lunch room / cafeteria. I've also had the opportunity to participate with several other Consultants at the Montreal Women's Show, a huge venue with thousands of passersby.

This Christmas I made a few gift baskets using the Epicure products. Sorry, this photo is a bit dark...

Most recently, I had a table of my own at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre of Montreal's annual Craft & Bake Sale. I spent a week preparing for it, and here are the results in pictures. Thanks Martin, for taking these pics!
What do you think? Anyone up to hosting a tasting party? I'll make it worth your while, and I'll be so thankful to you for giving me a bit of time out of the house.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Butterfly birthday bash - Happy 4th, Kira!

My days are numbered where I can actually have any input into the themes of my kids' activities. By next year I'm quite sure that like all other kids her age, Kira will be wanting to have princess-themed everything! So, I wanted to try a theme party that was girly but not sponsored by Disney or Nickelodeon. Kira loves butterflies, and it's even part of her preschool's theme song ("Papillon bleu"). I also thought back to last year's beautiful butterfly cupcakes, and immediately thought of putting butterfly wings into each girl's loot bag. Voila, a theme was born!

Now that Kira is starting to make real friends through playgroup and preschool, making a guest list was a real challenge! We wanted to invite everyone, but ended up narrowing it down to just girls. Otherwise, there would have been 20 kids invited for sure! With the 8 girls who arrived, plus their siblings, plus the parents, we had 25 guests in our house. Wow!

The party was scheduled to last only 2 hours (it actually lasted 3), and I wanted it to be action-packed! As the girls arrived, they started up a tissue paper butterfly craft.

Food was served from early on, beginning with simple hors d'oeuvres and ending with a buffet of: lasagna, 4 choices of homemade pizzas, chili, chicken nuggets, mini hot dogs, salad, and drinks. Mark worked on the incredible menu - what would I do without him? This is the only photo of the food I could find, which hardly does the feast any justice:

I hounded our local party store for 2 weeks to make sure I could get a butterfly pinata. Haha, I know you're thinking "psycho party planning woman!" Well, could it be more beautiful and colourful than this? Success! The kids loved it, although it was seemingly impossible to break...

until finally the loot poured out and it was a grab for candy, chocolate, stickers, and confetti! Too slow with the camera... here is the end of the pinata grab. I'm still finding confetti around the house 10 days later.

Have I mentioned my friend Antonietta lately? She designed and made this gorgeous cake, all chocolate inside. Seriously, she is the best cake maker this end of town! Everyone helped blow out the candles.

We rushed through the gift opening and then let everyone hang out and play until they were ready to leave. Here's an impromptu princess parade that made its way up the stairs, led by mom Penny. Gotta love these moments!

Thanks to Ly-na, Karen and Heidi for sending me photos. I didn't manage to snap too many on my own that day. Here's an awesome shot of the gorgeous mommy and daughter pair, Karen & Kailyn.

Hey, would you believe that when I ventured downstairs to clean up after the guests left, the basement playroom was tidy? You moms rock! Thank you!

Whew! Made it through another year. I hear that from the 5th birthday onward, the parents drop the kids off and pick them up at the end of the party! Yikes! Gotta start planning! :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baby Calvin is no longer a baby! Happy 2nd!

I had to change my blog description the other day because I no longer have a baby and a toddler. They are a toddler and a preschooler! The days are long, and yet whenever a milestone hits, it seems like the time is just flying!

Calvin celebrated his 2nd birthday a day before his sister's 4th, but his party was the following week (after the dust settled from Kira's birthday extravaganza). The party was held during a weekday when Kira was at preschool, so I could focus all my attention on the birthday boy and his guests. We had four 2 year olds and their moms over for the glorified playdate, which included hanging out, playing "together" (actually, ignoring each other while playing with their respective toys - haha! Gotta love 2 year olds), and eating. It was also an excuse for me to hang out and see the moms, some of whom I hadn't had a chance to see in awhile, or to talk to for longer than 3 minutes at a time. Since Calvin didn't have a clue that it was even his birthday, I didn't feel the need to organize a big bash. So instead, I selected kids who were all within weeks of Calvin's age - cool, dontcha think? ;)

Oops, I didn't snap any pics of the kids playing. All these shots are at the table (the only time they were all in one place, really). Daddy made a special guest appearance when he dropped in during his lunch hour. A definite perk to working 5 minutes from home!

Once again, Antonietta did an awesome job with the cake! I requested car cupcakes, and look what I got! These are CHOCOLATE cars (white chocolate filled with fudge! How sinful is that!?) on top of vanilla cupcakes. I asked for vanilla cupcakes thinking that would make less of a mess than chocolate. Haha, who was I kidding? These are 2 year olds!

Here are some more random shots of Calvin's guests.

Thanks to all of Calvin's friends for coming to our home! I hope you'll all be lifelong friends! And, may this year be one of "terrific two's" (and not "terrible two's") for you and your mommies!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A fall trip to Ottawa

We try to make the 2-hour drive to Ottawa every few months to see my mom, and hope that in between our visits she will come and see us. Considering how close we live to each other, we somehow only manage to see each other about 6 times a year. This is due in part to the fact that my mom makes periodic trips to Japan that last anywhere from 1 to 2 months. My mom adores her only grandkids, and she gave herself the name "Oma". Sounds German, doesn't it? :) Well, my mom hates the word "grandma" or "obaasama" in reference to herself, so she came up with Oma ("oh" means "big" or "grand" in Japanese + "mama" which of course means "mom"). The kids took to it quickly, and although they don't understand much Japanese they love our visits to or from Oma. This is mostly because they are so spoiled by her attention. :)

My mom was never a hands-on kind of active mom. She would colour, read a book, or play Japanese card games with us. But you would never catch her throwing a ball, playing hide-and-go-seek, or even high-fiving us for that matter! So, it's really cute watching her with the kids because I know they're going to try to make her run around, pick them up, sing, etc. She just laughs it off. Here's Oma looking on as the kids colour a bit:

Here are Kira and her daddy relaxing a bit. Kira is watching cartoons on the media player, while Daddy watches his show on his new iPod. Both of them are wearing headphones, completely oblivious of the outside world and Mommy snapping this photo:

During our weekend in Ottawa, we took some time for ohakamaeri (visiting the grave) of my dad. I can't believe this December will mark 10 years since his passing already. His ashes are buried at Beechwood Cemetery, a gorgeous place with a team of botanists looking after a fantastic garden. The walkway leading to my father's grave has a little bridge overlooking a pond (filled with fish in the spring / summer), and lovely scenery in all directions. From my father's grave you can see through the trees to Parliament Hill. The cemetery is so well-kept that it is now an official tourist site, which is a nice distinction to have I suppose, but I also think those spirits living there just want to be left in peace with the occasional visit from their loved ones.

I take the kids to see my dad's grave at least once a year. This was the first year that Kira had questions for me. "Is your daddy in here?" "Is he in Heaven?" "Why did he get sick?" "What's his name?" It was a bit difficult getting into it all and answering all of her questions, but at the same time I was happy that she was curious enough to ask all these great questions about a man she never met. At one point I felt a lump in my throat but when I looked up and saw my mom watching, I found the strength to smile and keep talking about my papa and how he would have loved to have met Kira.

This was Calvin's 2nd visit to grandpa Mori's grave.

On a lighter note, it was my second time taking Kira to see the Wiggles! I didn't manage to snag many great shots, but here are a couple of the stage, and one of Kira in her seat. Quite a production, but then again this is one of the richest entertaining groups in the world. I really enjoy the Wiggles. They all seem like down-to-earth guys, the tunes are cute and catchy, and these are real people, not folks in character costumes (like, for example, Barney or the Backyardigans).

Another quality visit to my hometown!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Coccinelle et diable!

It was a week of Halloween for us. Our house has been decorated since the beginning of October, and Kira has been bringing home Halloween-themed crafts for the past couple of weeks. What a build-up to this wildly popular holiday! The above photo is Kira with her decorated pumpkin from school.

We attended a Halloween party at Home Start (Premiers Pas) in Lemoyne on Thursday, where the kids were treated to colouring, storytime, a pinata, and treats.

Driving home from taiko practice on Saturday, I was apprehensive about whether Kira would get a chance to trick-or-treat this year! The trees were blowing sideways, and it was raining. Oh no!

By 4pm the wind hadn't subsided, so we took the kids to a local mall to trick-or-treat indoors a bit. It was over quite quickly, but at least we could say we went in case the weather didn't improve later on! Here's a pic of the kids going around to various merchants.

Once at home, we shut our lights long enough to eat a quick supper, and then took a peek outside. No more rain, and only a bit of wind, so Kira was ready to go! We went with Kira's 2nd cousins Jillian and Spencer. Kira was so excited and wanted to go to house after house, but once her pumpkin basket was full I insisted we return home. Seriously, she can't possibly get through her loot before next Halloween!

Here are my dressed up munchkins waiting for trick-or-treaters to come to our house. Calvin had an awesome time plopping treats into people's bags. I can't wait to take BOTH kids out next year!