My life is so full. That’s code for I’m blessed…and I’m tired. Yeah, I’m blessed and pretty tired and…of course there are times I’m overjoyed…and, honestly, overwhelmed. Actually, there are whole spans of time I’m just overwhelmed.
This is life.
It’s four blog posts in the last year and 3,000 photos to curate. It’s more adorable moments than I could reasonably hope for (or even imagine). It’s brilliant quotes, like Aliya saying, “I think I’ll just quit school.” and Mama asks, “What would you do instead?” to which she calmly replies, “I’ll sleep in and watch TV.”
Yes, we did it. We got a puppy. He’s such a sweet little bundle of joy and…what were we thinking?! I’m going to blame Maia. And Sarah, but mostly Maia. Maia began really wanting a baby pet last fall, and the answer has been no and no and no. But like all barriers over time, our resistance eroded with persistence, and Sarah began to crack first.
On my last work trip in mid-February I started getting texts of adorable puppies who were available on Craigslist and I knew it was the beginning of the end. Then on 2/20, Sarah said (in front of the kids), “Oh Papa, let’s just get one!” I thought for a second and figured it was inevitable, so figured why not. No time like the present. We called the number on Craigslist—one puppy left—so we drove up to the hills, pulled up to the house with the puppy, and before I was even to the dog pen, I heard all four girls squeal, “Awwwww!” And I knew it was over. This was definitely the day we were getting a puppy.
I’ve often thought about how long I’ll keep this blog up. I started it almost 11 years ago as a way to document and share our life with close friends and family. At the time, bloggers were a unique and fairly small community. Facebook wasn’t even a thing yet and Twitter had yet to exist. So the best way to share stories online was through a blog.
As the years have gone on, I’ve wrestled with how much information is prudent to share. Sure, personal info like birthdates, addresses, and license plate numbers are pretty much a given for censoring, but when it comes to parenting and kids, there are a lot of gray areas. I hope I’ve navigated it well so far, but especially as Keana approaches the young adult years, it becomes more and more clear that my role as the storyteller is shifting, and at some point they take on that role for themselves.
Tonight I asked Keana what I should write about, and she replied (as if she was waiting for just that question), “Why don’t you just write about taking us to ballet and picking up dinner?” I thought for a moment and replied, “Huh. That’s a good idea. I think I will.” She was onto something.
Sarah was sick today so I did a little more with the kids than I usually do. I picked Maia up at 1 p.m. from school with Aliya in tow. Aliya was ready to get out, and as I got her dressed to go, I gave her the option of a purple dress with black pants, or a black t-shirt so she could be “all black.” She was pretty excited at the “all black” option and even sought out her black boots to complete the ensemble.
We arrived at school and parked down the street, and as we started down the sidewalk, she said in a tired tone, “I hate walking here.” “Really?” I said, “Why’s that?” “Ugh, I just hate walking this way.” My first reaction was to discount her seemingly strong feelings, but I just kept my mouth shut and said, “Huh.”
One thing we’ve struggled with on the weekends since having kids (especially multiple kids) is finding balance. The balance between resting, relaxing, doing fun stuff as a family, and getting stuff done around the house to keep this crazy ship afloat. Add anything else to the mix, like dance rehearsals or birthday parties, and it all becomes that much harder.
This past weekend was the first weekend without anything extra in a while and we were not prepared. (That’s another thing: after all these years I would think we would be better at this weekend thing.) Anyway, Saturday rolled along and Aliya’s crib had to be switched out for the mini bed we had in the garage, then the flower beds had to be watered since the heat is creeping up now, then the garage had to be reassembled because of course, that bed frame was at the bottom of a delicately layered mountain of camping gear, Christmas decorations, bikes, and old clothes. Then the kids were hungry for lunch (hadn’t we just had breakfast!) and on and on until it was time to make dinner and get them ready for bed. At the end of it I felt, I admit, pretty annoyed that it was Saturday and I was just as worn down as if it had been a Monday, and even questioned the quality of time we spent together as a family.
That night Sarah suggested we make a plan for Sunday so we didn’t have another day that just sailed by without doing what we really wanted. This was another conversation we were quite familiar with, and it was a good idea, but I was feeling a little hopeless. I get this way, especially when the temperature around here starts climbing up into the 90s. I feel like I’m racing nature to get everything done that I want to do outside before the blistering heat and shitty air closes in. That, coupled with an already intense competition for needs and time, is a recipe for an unproductive conversation. Here I was already tired from a “day off” and I couldn’t get past the existing list of house cleaning and grocery shopping that still needed to get done. Plan something fun? Forget about it.
Luckily we were able to persevere through the initial turbulence of this conversation and finish the talk, emerging with a decent plan for a trip to the zoo in the morning, followed by an afternoon (inside away from the heat) doing house cleaning.
And it worked! By God, we had fun and got a lot of shit done! It wasn’t easy of course, and the kids still had a little meltdown (literally) before lunch, but once we cooled off and ate something, the afternoon was fine. I even squeezed in a game of chess with Keana, Maia, and Aliya.
I’m a grown-ass man with three kids and yet I still just want to sleep in and play on the weekends. Maybe some day I’ll accept the fact that that life has packed and sailed (for now), but this one, now, can be navigated well if Sarah and I just chart a course together…before we embark on the journey.
Don’t have kids if you’re not ready to not be ready
or if you want to be in control or
if you don’t want to be completely swept off your feet.
Don’t have kids if you’re not ready to let go of your life
and create a new one, and
if you’re not ready to say I’ve been tired for 7 years
but I’m good.
Don’t have kids if you don’t think you can hold another person as long as it takes
And don’t have kids if you’re not ready to clean vomit off a cat or
sleep on the floor or wonder when it is, exactly, that people learn to blow their own nose.
Don’t have kids if you’re not ready for more screaming and crying
than you’ve heard in your entire life, and
don’t have kids if you’re not ready for squeals of delight
when you walk through the door.
Don’t have kids if you’re not ready to do everything you know how
and still not have it be enough, but also, please,
don’t have kids if you’re not ready for a tiny face to be entranced
by everything you take for granted.
Don’t have kids if you’re not ready to carry someone until it hurts
or feel like the world’s strongest person for doing so.
And don’t have kids if you’re not ready to nurture the most fragile
and resilient thing you’ve ever known.
Don’t have kids if you think eating is easy, or
if you’re not ready to give up your cinnamon roll
because you can’t say no.
Don’t have kids if you like quiet car rides
or quick trips to anywhere.
And don’t have kids if you’re not ready
to lose track of time.
Don’t have kids if you don’t have room,
they don’t deserve that.
And don’t have kids if you don’t want another shadow
(or 40,000 pictures of that shadow)
And don’t have kids if you’re not ready to give
everything you’ve got, every single day, or
if you’re not ready to be annoyed at people saying
“it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love”
(because they’ll be right)
Don’t have kids if you think you’re ready for all this;
I can tell you, you aren’t.
And don’t have kids if you don’t want to end up writing something like this,
or sit here smiling, laughing, and crying at the end.
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.
Last week we went back up to North Fork and had a great time at Willow Creek (which is just down the dirt road from Sarah’s dad’s house) and Bass Lake. Of course we met some more…how should I say…flavorful locals there; in fact we do every time. I mean, I’m open minded, but you really can’t make these people up. They belong in a Cohen brothers movie. But the day at Bass Lake was great and Keana and Maia had a blast playing in the lake and mud, building castles and pretending to claw their way back onto the beach, trying to escape a shark or monster. The motor boats made nice waves so we could almost imagine being at the beach. Almost.
And today was a powerhouse day for Team Hokama. I returned to work after six glorious (minus the whole hospital part) weeks off. The morning began at 5:45 a.m. when Maia decided it was time to wake up. She was hungry, so I got up and fed her toast and milk. I contemplated scheming a way to lay back down, but decided I needed to get used to getting up early now that I was back working and early school days were looming a mere two weeks away. Keana got up a little later at 6:30 a.m., and as they watched Diego on the Roku, I got ready. When I got out of the shower I was greeted by a talking Aliya, babbling away on the bed while Sarah tried to sleep a little longer. Her little coos and peeps are amazing and once again we get to witness the beginnings of speech and formal communication; a privilege indeed.
Throughout the day Maia and Keana really played well with each other. They played chasing games, dressed up dolls, staged various interactions with the dolls, had a stint outside with the kiddy pool, and even had some quiet time (where they basically tore their rooms apart in imaginary play before settling down). I was able to get quite a bit of work done and so was Sarah, amazingly enough. When Aliya would stand being set down or was asleep, Sarah would catch up on the laundry or some other organizing project. Working at home allowed me to make all the meals for the day and waking up so early also allowed me to go for a run and get a jump on the dishes too. The day-to-day stuff to keep the house even a bearable mess is unbelievable.
Tonight while I was barbecuing Keana kept me company outside telling me the story of how her child was born. She was pretending to be Lothina the hunchback, Lothar’s daughter. Lothar is a crazy hunchback character I play where I pull my shirt over my head and limp around like a hunchback chasing the kids with a crazy accent. The kids love Lothar so much that Keana decided to model a character herself after him. She doesn’t have a hunch, but she’s still a hunchback and her name is Lothina. Anyway, her daughter’s birth story was exactly like Aliya’s except when she got to the hospital, her baby flew out of the incision because she was so light and the people in the room had to catch her. Then she had to go to another hospital to be cared for, just like Aliya. It was really good to hear Keana processing everything and it was definitely one of the most enjoyable, but heavy, burger cookings I’ve had.
Of course bath/bedtime was shear mayhem. I wrangled Keana and Maia into the bath and as they played, hustled some garbage outing and backyard clean up. Then I held Aliya as she slept while Sarah got teeth brushed and started story time. As Aliya slept I explained that her sisters are Masters of Mayhem and I’m sure she’ll be a part of it soon enough. Then as Sarah put Maia to bed, I continued a story I’ve been making up for Keana. I started it up in North Fork when we forgot her book, and she’s been requesting it several times a day since. Basically I’ve been combining pieces of The Princess Bride and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. For shorter stories I just throw in “a day in the life of the princess” where she meets wild animals or learns how to make a chariot to be flown by giant eagles. You know, usual story stuff that papas come up with. It truly makes my day to see how into it she is and to look over and see her hanging on my every word during a tense part or to see her smile and laugh at some ridiculous part.
Anyway, now Aliya’s asleep on the couch as I type this and Sarah’s back in the bedroom doing stretches. What a day. I’ve been off so long that I had an “oh shit” moment earlier tonight when I realized that I still had to work tomorrow. Guess it all starts over in mere hours and though the general structure might be the same tomorrow, one can never guess the amazing things these crazy kids will come up with. Looking forward to it.
Today our world changed. Today, with the election of America’s first black president, everyone’s future was made brighter, not just in the United States, but around the world. As I sat with Keana and Maia watching the inauguration this morning, I was in tears. Seeing Obama’s face on the TV, being sworn in, was one more reminder that there truly is possibility in this country. The gates haven’t been blown wide open, not by any means, but the hope that was made real today is immeasurable. And I think I was moved to tears not just because of what that might mean for those that have previously been marginalized in this country, or for what it might mean for me in this new America, but what it will mean for our daughters and their children.
I was joyful that Keana and Maia have a real, tangible example of freedom and opportunity in America. Their example will not only be some document you learn about in history books, or the ideals of America that people say are true, but an actual American president, elected in their lifetime, that represents these ideals. Their example is a man of mixed heritage, just like themselves. A man who doesn’t look like the status quo of power and wealth in America, and one whose background and upbringing are far different from most of those who came before him. Obama not only represents how far we’ve come towards equity in this country, but also represents what might be. If a black man can be elected as president, then why shouldn’t we also imagine that a woman, latino, arab, or asian American might also one day be elected? Why then shouldn’t those who are gay or those who practice another religion also be considered to represent their fellow Americans? We do not live in a world of all one type of person, so why should we be ruled by one type of person? We’re raised to believe that all are equal in America, but it became very clear to me at a very early age that this was not the case. I was constantly reminded that many did not consider me equal because of how I looked and where I came from. And I was afraid, but that was no way to come up in a so-called “land of opportunity and equality”. I feel like today, finally, we can honestly say to our children that what they look like and where they come from does not determine how far they can go in America. Of course there will still be moments when they are affected by racism or some other ill judgement, but at least now, because a black man rose through all the ranks to the White House, they have a very important, real example of what it means to choose hope instead of fear and what that means for their possibilities.