All posts by Papi

Taking Her Time

In all the excitement of Keana starting first grade, I don’t want to lose sight of what Maia’s been dealing with this week: her second year in preschool. Last year was a bit of a roller coaster. She was almost three when she started, which felt a little young, and some days were easy, but almost an equal amount were hard. Even in May there were some mornings she just did not want to go. We left her anyway, two days a week, and there was the occasional day we had to peel her off and just head straight out the door, hoping her sadness at our departure would quickly fade once we left.

We began this year hoping it would be easier now that she was older and knew what to expect. In some ways things are definitely better. Both Tuesday and today she started out excited about going; excited about the process of getting ready for school, picking out what to wear, packing her lunch, etc., but once it came to us leaving her there, she got very sad. But on Tuesday, she came home exclaiming, “Daddy, I love school now!” and then basically the same today. So it is similar to last year, but one thing she’s warmed up to is playing with friends which makes a big difference I think. I got the impression that much of last year she played by herself or with minimal interaction with her friends at school. By the end of last year, she had definitely made a couple friends she hung out with, but nothing solid. This year, two friends in particular are pretty close, and I can tell it’s much easier and more fun for her to really play with them and she feels more comfortable in the school environment.

The first week is almost done and we’ve survived. There is a lot going on for each kid and it is amazing to see how much growth Maia (and the other two) have had over the summer. I think we’re all really feeling the lag of shaking off the free-for-all of summer, and I think Maia will really settle in this year. Of course she will always be different than her more happy-go-lucky sisters, but I think as Maia matures, all these social things outside of the home will get easier and easier.

One Day Down

Well, Keana’s first day of school didn’t end in her running to us, excited about coming back tomorrow. Yes she bounded off full of all the enthusiasm in the world at 7:45 a.m. and came back sunken at 3:45 p.m. It was a hard first day. There were good parts, and she did make a few new friends, but the rules were strict and she was hot and thirsty and she missed her family. The day was long and she was tired. Then she had homework.

That’s the way it goes sometimes and I think it’s good to realize that she’s not always going to come home happy, eager for more. We have to get rid of our own expectations as parents so we can see clearly what the actual situation is for her at school, and see the things that are working and the things that aren’t. Then we have to evaluate what we can do and what we can’t, and in all this, we have to give things time. It’s hard to see our baby have a tough first day in first grade. We’ll wake up tomorrow though, and try it again, and then again the next day and the next until we see things clearly.

Big Time

So it begins: another school year. It’s kind of weird saying “another” since we’re really only in our third year of “school-age” kids, but wow, tomorrow. We’re a little nervous. Last year was a big step for Keana going into “real” school (kindergarten). And for Maia too, her first year in preschool. We had all our worries about how they would do with the new environment, schedule, teachers, other kids, and the usual things on the list for parents when they send their babies out into the “real world”. Maia did about as we had expected—starting out excited then settling into a roller coaster of resisting getting there, loving it while there, then not wanting to talk about it till later—and we think this year will be a little easier in her Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Keana’s jump to first grade though feels like a big one.

Her school is an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program charter, a program we’re still pretty excited about. However, the academic intensity of it is still something we struggle with, especially for these young kids. Keana’s day will be 8 hours long with a 15 minute break in the morning and 30 minutes for lunch, so the breaks seem a little short compared to her academic day. Plus they often have quite a bit of homework. They do get PE every day in the afternoon though, as well as special sections of art, music, specialized PE, and Spanish. Also, what makes this curriculum so cool is that much of the learning is hands-on, interactive, and collaborative, so they’re not just sitting at their desks memorizing stuff. Sounds like I’m talking myself down, doesn’t it? Maybe I am…a little. She is so excited though and she got the teacher she was hoping for, so I think she’ll do great. As a parent I’m constantly reminded of how important it is not to overlay my own experiences, fears, and emotions on whatever our kids are doing. They get to have their own and we’re just here to guide and support them.

Today we had a family meeting too to get our own household rules laid out and agreed upon before starting this new adventure. We all sat down together, with homemade peach muffins, and all contributed to defining what we though respect and communication were, and what logistical rules were reasonable (like chores) and what the consequences were for not following them. It was a little abstract for Maia, but I know she understood what was going on. Even though she pretended to play games and check out, the amount she did chime in was a giveaway as to what she was soaking in. Keana struggled a little too, because I think it was all overwhelming with the big first day of first grade looming, but she warmed up to it, especially when we let her write down the ideas being thrown out. We also made it clear that these were rules that mama and papa had to follow, with the same consequences, and I think that was a little surprising to them (in a positive way). I know Keana is super-excited to bust my ass when I fall out of line, as well she should be. Sarah and I needed these rules as much as the kids did. So we put them up on the fridge and I think it was a great first experience defining some boundaries in our home, together.

Well, I better sign off and get some sleep for the big day, but first I think I’ll draw a little “we love you” note for Keana’s lunch tomorrow. Big Zoob is going Big Time and truly, we are excited.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Keana lost her third tooth 8/17/11 to kick off this sure-to-be exciting school year. Beat that!

Off the Clock and Outdoors

Whenever I talk to people about where I live, especially people from other states or countries, I can’t help but brag that in California, we have it all. Beaches, deserts, mountains, forests, you name the environment, we have it. And although it was really hard leaving the bay area and being close to the ocean, being in the central valley is, well, very central, to all the different environments Cali has to offer. For vacation this past week, we hit just about all of them.

To start things off, we made a brief appearance at the annual family campout. Sarah’s been attending this campout with her family and friends pretty much her whole life, so when I came on the scene, it became my tradition too. Keana first went when she was 4 months old, Maia when she was 8 months, and Aliya has never been since she had just been born when it happened last year. Usually we attend this soirée for a week, but the time off didn’t work out this year, so we just went up for the day on Saturday, the day they have the big potluck. The girls loved playing in the river and rock-hopping, even though it was freezing and pretty full due to this year’s crazy snowfall. We enjoyed having the day to catch up with everyone who was there, and even though it was about a 2.5 hour drive each way, it was definitely worth keeping up with the tradition.

I have to say, our family is happiest at the beach though. So just a day after coming down from the mountains, we headed over to Santa Cruz, our old stomping grounds. Sarah and I both attended school there, and met a year after we graduated, in August of 2002. There is nothing quite like Santa Cruz in the summer. The days often start out foggy and chilly, but about noon or one, it burns off for pretty much perfect weather. Sunshine, temperature in the seventies, and a mellow beachfront vibe is pretty irresistible. The first morning there everyone slept in except Aliya, so I bundled her up, put her in the car, and we went cruising along West Cliff drive, along the ocean. I remembered back to many-a-thought-filled time spent along that path, often unwinding from the stresses of academia or past troubles of love and relationships. And on this day, I got to share it with my youngest, who fell right back asleep, allowing me to take some liberty down memory lane.

We spent our first day at the Twin Lakes beach with Sarah’s brother Michael, and all had a blast playing in the ocean and building a sand castle. Keana loves running in and out of the ocean and rolling in the sand, and just like her big sisters before her, Aliya was fearless. We had to really watch her as she took every opportunity to run, walk, crawl, and tumble toward the crashing waves. Even as she shivered and got super sandy, she squealed with delight. It was almost too much for Maia though, and we lost her to a late afternoon nap under the umbrella. Even Aliya was laying her face down straight in the sand from exhaustion. After leaving the beach, we walked back to the hotel and grabbed dinner at the taqueria next door and finished off the night with Kung-Fu Panda, which, I have to say, was filled with awesomeness.

The next day we spent a little time downtown, had breakfast at Zachary’s, then it was back to the beach. Sometimes I wonder why the beach is so important to our family. Maybe it’s our history there, or the perfect blend of chaos and predictability, or just having sand, wind, ocean, and sun, whilst having your nostrils filled with salty, seaweediness—I don’t know. What I do know is it is necessary for our health and sanity, and therefore always at the top of our list for vacations. That night, being so close to the ocean, it was also necessary to get some good sushi at our favorite spot in Santa Cruz, Shogun (also the location of our very first date). Michael and his girlfriend Laura joined us, and although we were all very tired, it was a great last dinner in SC.

As all good things come to an end, so must the visit to Santa Cruz. Maia especially did not want to leave the hotel, but lunch and a pot of chocolate (literally) at Chocolate (shitty website, great food), helped things a bit. Almost uncomfortably full of richness, we packed back into the car and headed home.

The next day we headed up to North Fork to stay at Sarah’s dad’s “cabin” which is near Bass Lake (where the amazing movie The Great Outdoors was filmed). We spent the afternoon at the lake and the girls loved the fact that the water was cool but not cold, and the mellow waves created by motor boats was just right. Keana is getting braver and braver in water, going in up to her chin and Maia slowly overcame her anxiety around the water. I hate to say that she got her papa’s comfort level with water. That night I barbecued tri-tip out on the deck and we dined outside with a great view of a monstrous “hill”, or little mountain, that’s covered with pines and granite boulders. The next day Sarah’s sister Iana, and her offspring Olivia, joined us at Bass Lake for more sun, fun, and general silliness.

The funny thing that I notice every time, and maybe it was even more striking since we had just been in Santa Cruz, was that there are two types of people: ocean people and lake people. Lake people are just slightly more rugged, maybe a little rough around the edges, and definitely more, how should I say…patriotic. Nevertheless, they are always friendly and we have yet to encounter any drunken-yahoo-badness. On the other hand, lake people are more down-to-earth and tend not to live in a spoiled fantasy.

Saturday morning was spent with Grandpa Robert and Nana Cin, and it’s always great to visit with them. The girls love performing for them and asking and answering a hundred questions. They especially love to help bake something in the kitchen with Cin so they were not disappointed there (Grandpa helped out too, especially with the logistics associated with shortness and counters and ovens). The car ride back to town was a sleepy one, the kids being totally worked from all our adventures.

So it was to the mountains and rivers, over to the beaches and oceans, and back up to the mountains and lakes for our last bit of summer vacation. Overall a really great week off, mostly outdoors, full of great weather, great smiles and laughter, and some great, and pretty classic, memories.

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Furry Baby

A few weeks back we went to a friend’s birthday and they were a foster family for a local cat rescue ranch. There were five kitties that had been abandoned in a dumpster and of course, they were adorable. And of course, Keana and Maia spent the day in the room in the back of the house, with the kitties, just in absolute tiny-furriness-heaven. And of course, they desperately wanted to take one home. What surprised me though, was how thoroughly Sarah had fallen in love with one of the little sruffers too. (Sarah was the one that was adamant that after our current cat, Miko, died, there would be no more animals with Team Hokama.)

We left the party with excited discussion about the possibility of actually getting a new kitty, one that was the girls’ very own. Once I saw the look in Sarah’s eyes when she said how much she liked one of them, I knew there was no debate. On Friday, July 22nd, after jumping through a few hoops, little tiny Kira (a.k.a. Fluffy) joined our team. She was sweet and cuddly and affectionate right off the bat, and we were all in love.

Over the next two weeks we slowly introduced her and Miko. Kira had her own room, with everything she needed, isolated from Miko. Then we introduced them just by scent at first for the first 5 or 6 days, then through a cracked door. Over the course of the next several days we allowed them to each explore each other’s spaces, but not together. Then, eventually, they met face-to-face. Kira hissed and growled and Miko looked at her cautiously but patiently. Only once have they had a little sparring match, but really only Kira got passionate about it. Miko has really been a kind big brother for the most part, which is good, because he could basically eat her. Now, Kira is mostly free to roam about the house.

Keana and Maia adore her, but Keana especially loves her. I think now she realizes though the work that goes into raising a cat, and has grown tired of Kira’s constant need to play. Keana and Maia have even become a little afraid of her tiny, but fierce play-attacks, and Maia often can be heard screaming for help when Kira stalks her. Aliya enjoys grabbing her tail and pulling on her skin, which we try to avoid of course, but that baby is quick and sneaky sometimes. Sarah’s basically been taking care of Kira’s food, litter box, and water, and I think she may be her “person” now. Kira loves to nap with Sarah and cuddle with her in the later evening hours. Of course during business hours, she loves to walk across my keyboard and sit on my shoulder, or steal my chair when I get up. And what is it with cats and power cords?

The last thing I’ll say is that choosing her name was a bit of a battle. The foster family had named her Fluffy, which Keana loved, but we just couldn’t bare to keep that name. So we talked and talked and talked about it, and tried letting the kitty choose her own name by putting 3×5 cards on the ground with possible options. But finally Sarah and I just had to choose the most popular “normal” name, explaining to Keana that she can still call her Fluffy. The ironic thing is that we called her Fluffy for so long, now we’re having a hard time calling Kira. So we’ll see. Maybe in a month or two we’ll revert. But for now, our newest, cutest, furriest member is Kira.

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I cannot believe…

…that I didn’t write a blog post about Aliya’s first birthday in June! #@$%!!! I just realized this today. I took lots of photos, you should check those out, but how did I drop the ball on not putting up a blog post?

I do have excuses, good ones too. First of all, I was celebrating her special day with her and reflecting the night before and all that day, what a blessing and miracle it is that she’s with us and she’s doing well. I spent most of those two days writing the first part of her birth story with intention of posting it here. Well, writing, then crying, then breathing, then writing, then crying, really. I can’t decide if I want to wait till I finish the whole thing to post it here (after all, it is a novel), or if I’ll post Part I now and the rest later? I’ll ruminate on that and confer with the Mrs., but I just felt compelled to “officially” put something down here, in this space, to at least recognize that I failed to post a blog post on Aliya’s special day, so that years from now, I have proof that it wasn’t totally forgotten, I did remember (albeit really f-in late). But no, we could never forget our little miracle child, and not having a blog post on that special first birthday certainly doesn’t diminish her importance in our lives.

Now, go check out the birthday pics and enjoy Little Miss Aliya in all her birthday glory, sucking the marrow out of rib bones and feasting on cheesecake.

Aliya Walks!

I’m just going to say it now: I’m a bad PR papa. Aliya’s been walking a month (well, almost a month, July 1 was the day actually) and you’re just now finding out about it. Sure, maybe you’ve been here and seen it or “heard” me say it online or over the phone, but if not, you’re getting the news a month late. Okay, go ahead and have your angry moment or cry or whatever…

…feel better? Now, how about some celebration! WoOhOo! She did it. She’s a walker. Aliya has joined the ranks of the bipeds. You’ll see in the video below she started out tentative and small as all little humans do, and now she’s moving around pretty good. She has a little shuffle she does that definitely gets her around the house, and she’s even navigating bumps in the road quite well. She also loves to carry things with her. Today as she cruised around she had a book in one hand, a toy in the other, and a measuring cup in her mouth, held by the handle—quite the multi-tasker.

Anyway, without further ado, the early moments, caught on flash card:

Six and Sassy

Keana is six and sassy and not always in that cute, confident way. You ask her to do something and she does the opposite. Examples:

  • Keana’s bothering her sister and I can hear Maia scream “Stop! Stop!” over and over, yet Keana persists. I know she hears us tell her to listen to Maia, and knows herself what “good” choices are, but she continues just a little bit longer.
  • She picks up Aliya and swings her around, and Aliya thinks it’s fun the first time, but of course the second and third time she’s not so sure. We bring Keana’s attention to Aliya’s signs that she doesn’t like it, but she does it again, a minute later.
  • She says she wants to do something like turn on the TV. You say it’s not a good time, that she’s already watched enough, and even as you’re talking, she walks away towards the living room to turn it on. Oh man. That one really gets me.

I get the sense it’s because she needs attention and/or she’s trying out the boundaries of her own power, but we’ve still struggled with how best to handle it. I find myself echoing what I was told growing up: “keep your hands to yourself” and “if you can’t do a good job listening, there will be consequences”. In these moments, my best examples and logic eventually feel like threats, and at the end of the day I worry about what I’m really teaching her. At the same time, of course, we need to keep everyone happy and safe.

Maia is now old enough that we’ve been able to have them work things out between the two of them, with one of us facilitating the discussion. We make sure they both get to talk and tell the other how the conflict made them feel and think of ways to remedy the issue together. It’s definitely going to take patience and discipline to work at this higher level, but I know the payoff will be much greater. The really tough times though, are those moments when Ms. Thang pulls her power play at the end of the day, when everyone’s tired, you’re cooking dinner, holding Aliya, and trying to mentally and emotionally wrastle with her.

I really need to get that book, How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, and How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk. I’ve been saying that for years to myself, but I think it’s finally at the time where I need some back-up. And of course it’s especially difficult, because most of the time Keana is a brilliant, sweet angel, so the contrast in behavior is striking and therefore harder to handle at times. We’ve come to trust and expect a lot from her and maybe that’s part of the problem too. Then there’s always that part of any situation with all of us, really, that we can chalk it up to development. We are all learning and growing, not just the kids, but Sarah and I too. For me though, labeling it as “normal behavior” sure doesn’t make it any easier to know how to deal with it. Basically, I guess, there are just going to be these challenges as a parent, and I really do need to just keep at it with everything I’ve got to avoid falling into bad habits, complacency, and handling these difficult situations with my own damaging behavior.

[big sigh]

Cold Springs Campground: True to its name

WARNING: This is a long-ass post. It does not delve into my philosophy on the importance of nature for kids, and getting out of the damn city (but I think you’ll enjoy it if you want to know how camping with three young kids was for us). ALSO: There are a bunch of photos at the end if you want to just skip to that.

Day 1: We found out about the Cold Springs Campground in Sunset and figured it was worth a try. Every year we have to balance convenience for camping with small kids and really trying to get away from civilization and crowds. The elevation and location in Sequoia National Park made it a likely candidate for crowd avoidance, and the presence of a picnic table, bear box, and fire ring sounded like the convenience factors we were looking for. Of course then we had to worry about temperature and weather, and taking a chance on how serious the bear threat was (which is always a fun gamble when you have three little bear-bait nuggets).

Packing is always stressful. I, on the one hand, am still trained for backpacking: where you only bring the minimum necessities. While Sarah respects that, she has her own idea of what’s necessary. Over the years we’ve met on the middle, but every year, including this year, we had our annual argument of what to bring or not bring. This year was unique too, because it was our first time camping with three kids. We had brought babies before—Keana’s first trip being at 4 months and Maia’s at 8 months—but adding a third kid in the mix is definitely a game changer. We hashed it all out though and found a compromise, one of those being bringing an extra tent (which I foolishly fought, as you will read about later). We also ended up buying a really warm, snuggie suit thing for Aliya, in case it was really cold. Again, it seemed a little a extreme, but better safe than sorry.

Packing took practically a whole day: shopping and some packing Sunday afternoon/evening, and packing up the ice chest and the rest into the car on Monday morning. We got on the road around 10:30 a.m. on 7/11, which was about the time we were shooting for. The campground was only about 100 miles from where we live, in the southern-most tip of the park, but we knew there was a good stretch of mountain road that was going to require some slower driving. Unfortunately, we missed the turn for our campground, but caught the mistake soon enough that it only added about an extra 30 minutes. It was no wonder we missed it though, because it was an obscure, residential road that lead into some serious backcountry just outside the park. We climbed up a very narrow, winding road through the mountains, and if we hadn’t double-checked the map, we would have seriously doubted we were headed the right way. Many parts of the road were barely wider than our SUV, with no guardrail, and a thousand-foot or more drop on one side. After about 45 minutes on this road, and over several very bumpy dirt roads, we finally arrived at our campground. It was 2:30 p.m. and the kids had just awoken from an afternoon car snooze.

The campground was quite beautiful. All the sites were surrounded by pines and ferns, and many of the sites were along the Kaweah River. One thing we didn’t like right off the bat though, was the presence of cabins across the river from some of the sites. The campground was pretty empty though, and we found a site by the river that was pretty secluded. When we got out of the car the air was fresh and the river was roaring, and we set to work immediately.

There’s very few moments of peace with three kids at any time, anywhere, but camping is special. While the outdoors absorbs some of the kids energy, there’s just more to do. But once the tents were set up, the fire was lit, and dinner prep was under way, there was a moment when I breathed deep the crisp, smokey air, took in the forest, rocks, and sound of the river, and found a moment of quiet and deep satisfaction. Our first dinner was a tried and true favorite from childhood: pocket stews. Hamburger, onion, carrots, and potatoes wrapped in foil and set directly in the fire. I salt and pepper the hamburger, embed a few hunks of onion in the patties, and place them on top of the vegetables. As it cooks, the meat juices drip to the bottom and surround the vegetables in animal dripping goodness. A hearty meal for hearty appetites at the end of a tiring day, and almost no clean-up.

At this point, our neighbor from two camps over approached and offered us some of his firewood. He had noticed we didn’t have much of a fire and felt the need to share. We happily took him up on his offer, and found out that he had been camping at Cold Springs for over 50 years. He was two when he first came, and he saw Aliya and told his wife, “That was me, 52 years ago!” His kids were now grown, just out of college, and I think he was a little more than a little nostalgic looking at our family.

Of course, to kick things off, we had to roast some marshmallows too. I prepped the dessert and Sarah put Aliya to sleep in her portable crib. When she rejoined us, and as the sun set and the temperature dropped, we finished up the s’mores, then brushed teeth. Maia said, “Okay, I’m ready to go in the tent now!” so we all headed to bed, Sarah, Aliya, and Maia in our 6-person tent, and Keana and I in borrowed tent. As I mentioned earlier, it was really good Sarah pushed for that extra tent, because “6-person tent” only applies to 6 relatively small adults in sleeping bags. Not two adults, two small kids, and a port-a-crib, plus clothes. No way. We are definitely a two-tent family at this point.

Keana was so excited as we tucked into our bags, and asked a hundred questions about camping in general, tents, fire, bears, and how cold it was going to be. Right after the flashlight went off, she said, “You sure were right Papa, it is cold here!” I smiled to myself at the similarities of 6-year-olds and teenagers. Both age groups seem to doubt you, as an adult, actually know anything at all, and seem surprised if what you say actually comes true. But in that moment, I thought it was adorable and I was super happy to be sharing a tent with my seeming-more-grown-up-every-day baby girl. She fell asleep by the third verse of “Hotel California.”

1:25 a.m. FREEZING F-IN COLD. Keana wakes me because she has to pee, and once we get out of the tent we are instantly stung by bitter cold. I do not get cold easily, and I was chilled through in 30 seconds. Once we got back in our bags we shivered, still surprised, until we gradually warmed back up. I was worried. How are Sarah and the two littler ones doing? Did Sarah bring enough bedding to keep them all warm? I remembered that snuggie we had just bought and hoped that it was enough, with the covers, to keep that little baby warm.

Day Two: We all slept in, for us anyway. It was about 8 a.m. and my face was cold. I didn’t want to leave my warm bag, but felt the need to get a fire going. Thanks to our neighbor, we had enough wood for a good morning fire. Sarah, Maia, and Aliya all snuggled together on the air mattress and were able to stay relatively warm, but were pretty uncomfortable. Aliya had to have her snuggy on most of the morning, just to stay warm outside, even with the fire. The pancakes and sausage got us going though, and after Sarah put Aliya down for her mid-morning nap, she and the other two explored down by the river as I sat watch in camp for bears. Luckily the bear boxes were bigger than we thought they’d be, but the rangers were pretty adamant about putting everything in there, even our car seats. The empty site next to us afforded us an additional box, just for our three seats. So, the bear threat seemed pretty real around there and I didn’t want to leave our little Aliya morsel unattended in the tent.

I took Maia and Keana on a little hike up to the ranger’s station to get tag for our car, and we enjoyed exploring, standing on the bridge that was about 50 feet above the raging river, and checking out the huge granite rocks on the way to the station. When we returned to camp, it was time for lunch and we enjoyed some salami, hummus, carrots, olives, and swiss. While the day went pretty well, Maia especially was having a really hard time. I think it was just too much for her to have so many variables. Both she and Keana were really worried about the river sweeping them away, and our vigilance about the bears had made them uneasy about whether or not they really could be bear snacks. All that and a not-so-great night’s sleep due to the cold made for some struggles throughout the day.

Around 2:30 or 3 p.m., everyone really needed an afternoon nap, so Sarah laid down with Keana and Maia to get them calmed, and I put Aliya in our little carrier that basically straps her to my chest. I decided to go for a little hike to the walk-in sites to see how they were, and check out the trailheads to Hockett Meadow and Tar Gap. Five minutes out, Aliya was asleep on my chest. The walk-in sites were pretty nice, just up the hill from us, and I found a stack of wood, from which I took several big logs. It wasn’t exactly easy carrying the wood, Aliya, and a water bottle, but I managed. I also noticed some big clouds rolling in and began to worry about rain.

After about an hour-and-a-half walking around, I roused the sleeping beauties because it was getting late and I wanted to get the fire going. For dinner that night, I pre-marinated, at home, some pork loin. It was basically a beer-brine with brown sugar, and I cut the pork into chunks for skewers. To accompany it, we had corn on the cob, and asparagus to grill. Unfortunately I forgot the skewers, but fortunately I had cut the pork big enough so it didn’t fall through the grill. It was delicious. Maybe a little salty, but so good. Who says camping can’t be a little gourmet? A little extra prep at home made it not only possible, but pretty easy as well. Again, another meal with almost no clean-up.

We had to roast marshmallows again, and once again, right after we finished, Maia was ready to head to the tent. Aliya was already asleep, and Sarah and I made a tentative plan to rendezvous back out at the fire to try and and squeeze in a some alone time after Keana and Maia had fallen asleep. Of course, Keana just wouldn’t go to sleep. I think she knew I was trying to sneak out, and she did not want to be alone in the tent. In my head I was playing out dramatic scenes of two lovers, just missing each other in the woods at night, each wondering if they were too early or too late. But I finally saw Sarah’s light out by the fire, and told Keana I would be back in a little bit. She conceded, mostly because of the extreme cold, and I headed out to meet Sarah. We sat for about five minutes then heard kiddy noises and figured we had better just call it. We decided to see how the night went, but if it stayed as cold as it had been the first night, we figured we had better just head home a little early.

Day Three: 6:26 a.m., my two-way radio beeps with a communication from Sarah. “Luke, you up? Maia and I have decided, we’re going home.” Yes, another freezing (literally) night. None of us had slept all that well and we all agreed another night just wouldn’t be that fun. As I asked Keana and Maia about it, they were both a little torn. It was interesting to see them struggle with the fact that it was a fun adventure to be out there, but they just weren’t comfortable enough there to fight going home. So we grubbed down and began packing up. It went relatively smoothly, the only real annoyance being the sap that had been dripping from the trees.

At around 11:45 a.m. we were ready to head out, but of course, had to stop for a pee break 15 minutes down the road. That pee break turned into lunch, but once we got that taken care of, the kids were all out for the count. The road back was even more amazing than it had been on the way in. Not only the view was breath-taking, but the fact that it was basically a single lane road for 20+ miles really took a lot of effort. I had the car in 2nd gear most of the way down and I was thankful at every one of the 200-some-odd turns that we had just had our car tuned up.

Amazingly enough, we made it all the way back home without another stop, and pulled into our driveway, tired and smelly, at around 3 p.m. Just a mere 52 hours after we left, we had returned. Our first camping trip with three kids under our belt, I think we all had a much better idea of what was possible and what wasn’t. Still, it was great to get out, get up to the mountains, get tired, get hungry, get filled, get cold, get warm, get dirty, and get smokey.

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The Bo-Bíj

She’s almost one. She’s amazing. She’s a stink-bug. She squeals with pure joy when you return from the outside world. She’s the only silent crier I’ve ever met. She’s not just a leaner but a real cuddler. She’s the sweetest. I’ve said that about all my girls, but really, she’s the sweetest. For reals.

Aliya’s at that stage where she wants to know about everything. She makes a break for that open drawer or that thing you dropped that she’s never gotten to have. If she doesn’t get it, she rarely gets upset…maybe for a second, but there’s so much to learn and explore she just moves on. Aliya gets so excited sometimes, that she has bursts of super-speed in her stink-bug crawling form. Butt up in the air, hands and feet on the ground, she navigates her world. When she’s tired or gets going too fast, she falls flat on her face, literally. It’s heart-breaking. We jump and our insides twist up and I want to just follow her around everywhere she goes to catch her, but I know I can’t. Even as our third child, it’s like she’s our first.

Just a little time with Aliya is like a sip from the fountain of rejuvenation (if there was such a thing). She reminds you what it’s like to be excited in what your body can do. With each tentative stand, she shows how vulnerable we are, but at the same time how capable we are. She squeals when she has somewhere to get to fast. You can lie on the floor and she’ll just crawl all over you, sometimes almost diving over the edge of you to get to the other side. Yes, she’s a diver, a lunger, she goes for it.

Aliya loves sounds. She clicks with her mouth to make a beat to music or just for fun. When she loves a piece of music, she puts both arms up, dancing. When the music’s live, she claps for the performer, no matter what the performance sounds like, because to her, it’s like all sound is some kind of music. Aliya loves call and response. You can say, “Aliiiyaaaaa” and she responds “Babaaaaa”. You can say, “Obawabawaba” and she puts the back of her hand to her mouth and responds, “Obawabawaba”. She is so much fun.

Of course she’s not all about the fun and games. When she’s a little bit upset she has a silent cry. She scrunches her eyes, opens her mouth really wide as if she’s going to belt one out, but it’s completely silent. She follows that up with a pouty lower lip and a scrunched up nose. She can cry out loud of course, but she saves that for when she’s just had a face-plant or she’s been put in her crib for a nap that she doesn’t think she’s ready for.

What can I say? Aliya is just a kid. I mean, she’s just like lots of kids, but actually, she’s not just like lots of kids. She’s our kid. She’s our last child, our third daughter, our baby-baby. She’s the one who made it through some scary odds. She’s the best of both of us with the added benefit of being able to learn from two older sisters. She’s the reminder that we’re all human but we’re all unique. There is no one like any of us in the world, and there is certainly no other girl like Aliya.