Last weekend we gathered with friends and family up at Millerton Lake to celebrate one of our brightest stars: Aliya. We spent two nights camping and one full day hanging out lakeside, enjoying the water and the sun, and marveling at the six-year-old before us. The fact that so many of the people close to us were able to make it made the day even more special.
Every birthday is a reminder of how amazing life is. There are so many variables in being created and born and making it through each year of life, that when a birthday comes around, it deserves a day of fun with those you love.
I could write more but I think the video and photos speak for themselves…
It’s been almost seven months since I wrote Babe-in Forever, just before Aliya’s third birthday, and I’m happy to say, Babe-in is still going strong. Not just as an amazing little person, but with her nickname as well. We’ve been wondering on and off how long it will be before she forbids us to call her that, but so far, she’s more than happy to keep the name going.
Our reluctance to let the nickname go, and us hoping she won’t make us stop calling her Babe-in, points to a sort of deeper issue: she’s our baby. The last of three. The only kid in the house left that still has a little baby fat and that way of talking that is so adorable:
She still refers to herself as Babe-in.
She makes up stuff like “Huna Scala” which we have no idea if it has meaning. She’s used it as a name like, “Huna Scala Mama.”
She still has very little concept of time, and it’s getting better, but if you say, “Why don’t you go pee before bed, Babe-in,” she’ll respond, “I went pee last night!”
She still drops her Ls and Rs sometimes, “Riving Woom” for “Living Room.”
I don’t want Aliya’s birthday to always be about her dramatic entrance into the world followed by a recount of the emergency plane ride to UCSF’s NICU and her week-long stay there. I don’t want her birthday to become some sort of quasi-joyous occasion with the shadow of how she got here always looming with looks of concern or pity around the room. Yet, as much as I don’t want that, it is part of her story and it’s part of what makes her life with us, now, so amazing. And maybe because it’s a story with a happy ending, it’s a pretty damn exciting birthday story to have.
How she got here aside, every day she grows and develops into a less and less tiny bundle of the best of both of us. Just like her sisters before her, she amazes us with her brilliance, wit, agility, creativity, ferocity, sweetness, and just plain kick-assery. I mean, if “kick-ass” can’t be used to define three, what can? What else is there to say? Happy Birthday Aliya. You’re three and you earned it.
There are no words to describe our love for Aliya, or “Babe-in” as we affectionately call her—a name Maia came up with for her based on their Cousin Olivia calling her dad, “dad-in”. If we call her anything else besides Babe-in or Aliya, she ferociously corrects you, saying, “I’M NOT [insert other name], I’M BABE-IN!” She also refers to herself as “Aweeya” which is, of course, heart-melting. In fact, there are many, many things that she does on a daily basis that remind us how lucky we are to have her on Team Hokama.
She makes us laugh. I mean, she is genuinely funny. She has great timing, but also has some depth to her humor. She makes hilarious faces and knows exactly when to pull them out—sometimes in defiance, sometimes to lighten the mood. She also uses her whole body and voice as well, mimicking someone else’s voice, but higher or lower, or distorting or muffling it as if she had a mouth full of grapes while trying to talk. One of her favorites is burping (or pretending to), and with a very demure face and high pitched voice say, “Escuse me.” She’ll do the same thing in her deepest voice the next time, just to switch it up. Where does she get this stuff?
Despite her amazing sense of humor though, she is fierce. It may be just because she’s the third sister, but it may just also be her temperament. She will shout and throw elbows if you interfere with her process or crowd her. She and Maia play really well together 90% of the time, and other 10%…watch out. They’ll be spitting and yelling at each other at the drop of a hat. There’s not too much hitting going on, but I’ve seen Maia drop her fist on Aliya’s head like a hammer and Aliya was more heartbroken than hurt. She’ll also be reduced to a crumpled, crying heap at the slightest sternness in your voice. See, that’s the thing, she’s fierce but has thin skin. Maia’s like that too, but because Aliya is more open and generally happy-go-lucky, her ferocity and sensitivity is more striking. We have yet to see a more burning “mad-dog” in the under 3 age category.
Today I took all of them to drop off Keana at school, and while Maia was sort of hiding behind my arm, almost reluctantly walking even though it was her idea to go, Aliya was skipping and trotting along in her “fwip-fwops”, waving, smiling, and saying, “Hi! I’m Aweeya!” to whoever would make eye contact. A lot like Keana was at almost three.
As her comprehension and communication skills develop—not to mention how tall and physically capable she’s becoming—it’s easy to see that she won’t be our Babe-in for long. When will the “wollipops” and “ban-bades” transition to “lollipops” and “band-aids?” Or when will she just be jumping out of the car instead of gingerly placing her hands and feet in just the right places? Right now, tonight—and maybe it’s me just being hopeful—I hope she’ll always just be “The Babe-in.”
Today I had an opportunity to slow down, be in the moment, and experience joy—and I’m happy to say, I took it. The thing is, I don’t always take these kinds of opportunities. As crazy as that sounds, there are many times I choose to be annoyed, overwhelmed, burdened, frustrated, and even angry. Sarah had an appointment and while Maia and Keana were at school, I still had Aliya to look after. Sarah wasn’t sure if I was going to try and work while she was gone, so she had turned on the TV for Aliya to watch. I admit, there are times I take advantage of the electronic baby sitters, but today was a day for a walk.
“Aliya, how about a walk?” I asked, and immediately she said, “Sure. I turn the TV off,” and popped up off the floor to do just that. Then she said, “My boots are in the bucket,” so we got them out, put on her socks—one on the outside of her pants and one with her pants tucked in it—and we headed out.
We walked at her pace and showed each other things along the way. I noticed a weird, gelatinous blob that we both poked with a stick and a hummingbird way up high. She pointed out a smashed snail and asked, “What’s that?! Yucky?” We ventured up Christmas Tree Lane and got up close to all the decorations to investigate. She narrated and asked questions almost the entire time.
“Who’s that?” she’d ask and I would reply, “Santa Claus,” and she’d repeat it. Then she said, pointing to Mrs. Claus, “Grandma?” I loved it when she pointed to snowmen and asked, “Who’s that?” She also decided at some point that she wanted her picture taken with only some of the scenes, and she had particular poses and placement in mind. You can see by the photos below that some weren’t exactly conventional.
She would hold my hand while we walked from scene to scene, then let go as we approached it so she could explore on her own. Lately she’s been refusing to hold hands on walks, so this particularly made it special for me.
The whole walk took about an hour and she insisted on walking the entire way, even after admitting, “I’m tired!” about 45 minutes into it. She balanced on curbs on the way home and and when we reached our driveway, stopped for a second and said, “Ready. Set. Goooo!” and took off running to race me the rest of the way.
So today I’m happy to say I took an opportunity with Aliya to stretch, feel the sunshine, notice everything, smell the crisp air, and even the “yucky poo-poo” too. I took the time to be on Aliya’s schedule and at her level—just for a little bit—and it helped me to ditch my resentments and accept joy. That walk today was a gift—one I don’t always accept—but my hope is that the more I do, the easier it gets. I’m fortunate because I have these opportunities every day and they are truly life-changing…as long as I’m willing and open.
When Aliya utters these words, watch out. Whether she’s standing on top of something, hanging on to an edge, or just standing still on flat ground, when she says, “Two, two, two…GO!” she is going. Of course this comes from “1,2,3…Go!” but she has her own interpretation, as she does with just about everything. Unique in every way, from the very beginning, our Aliya just turned two.
Our kids’ birthdays are always emotional for us, but Aliya’s, so far, have been especially so. As her birthday approached this year—and as it did last year—I thought back to how scary, difficult, heart-breaking, and in the end how awe-inspiring her birth was. On her birthday this year it wasn’t hard at all to be instantly transported back to the sudden change of events during labor two years ago, the 911 call, transporting to the hospital, waiting, trying to breathe, crying, holding, sending her off to the air transport to UCSF, leaving, driving, talking with doctors on the phone in transit, arriving, waiting, crying, trying to breathe, over and over, and all the while trying to also stay connected to and support Keana and Maia as well, 180 miles away from home. Aliya’s birth was tough and the outcome of her health was uncertain, but here we are, two years later, blessed with another perfect girl.
It’s hard not to overdo any birthday but we kept it all in check this year, enjoying the fact that this was probably the last year we could keep things simple and low key. But Aliya loves singing Happy Birthday and knew exactly what to do when we brought her her bowl of ice cream with candles on top. Thankfully the grandparents provided gifts because we didn’t (and I think that was just fine). It was a celebration, the five of us, just enjoying being together. Aliya’s birth may have momentarily torn the five of us apart, but it brought so many people together, rallying to support our family. I’m pretty sure every birthday we enjoy with her will serve as a reminder of how precious, fragile, and unpredictable life is, and how fortunate we are every day we spend together.
Aliya: you are our third little light and we can’t imagine a world without you. Happy Birthday Booshki!
There are stretches of time when I stop for a minute (or sixty, on and off over a few hours) to update our records of Team Hokama—whether it’s the blog, photos, or videos—when I realize there is more happening than I can possibly keep up with. Yet I continue endeavoring on. So. Time to write some stuff down.
The past week+ has been tough. We were cruising along, having a great Mother’s Day, and just after a really nice brunch of belgian waffles and eggs benedict for the adults, Keana starts throwing up. And it doesn’t stop. For 7 hours. Yeah, nasty. At least it stopped by the time bedtime rolled around, but when things like this happen, especially with two other kids, I just wait anxiously to see who’s next. I was really proud of us though, because Sarah and I managed Keana and were still able to enjoy what we had planned for the day. It was a true tribute to Sarah on Mother’s Day.
Throughout the week, Sarah got a milder version of what Keana had, then it hit me pretty hard Thursday night. Luckily, Maia and Aliya seemed to have escaped it, though Aliya has been a little sensitive lately, possibly due to fighting this thing off. It’s just one of those things about having kids and it can, and does, derail things. I think we’re learning how to roll with it though and are a little better about taking time for ourselves if we need it. Half the battle is just staying in the moment and dealing with what’s actually happening and not getting carried away with what might happen. It’s funny to write all this, now over seven years into this kid thing, realizing that I’m sure I wrote those exact words after the first year of having one kid. Cycles of realizations and revelations?
So life’s been busy. Keana and Maia have been enjoying ballet since mid-January as something “extra”. Keana is pure muscle, tall, and poised. She watches the teacher like a hawk and doesn’t miss anything. Her execution is of course strained at times, but she is a joy to watch. Maia is definitely a natural. She’s only four yet her moves are crisp and precise, then graceful and smooth when they need to be. She makes it look like she doesn’t have to think much about what she’s doing. They’re preparing for their dance recitals, which will be happening in the beginning of June. They both have some apprehension about it, as can be expected, but they also have no idea what to expect, so we’ve been balancing listening to their fears and trying to give them a little supportive push at the same time. Another challenge as a parent: let your kids do what they want and what they enjoy, but still push them to try new things so they can figure out what those things are.
Last Thursday Keana had Author’s Night at her school which is where all the kids gather outside to share the books they’ve written and illustrated with parents, friends, and family. This starts in kindergarten and goes through fifth grade. Just like last year, we were really impressed with Keana’s story, how well it was written, and of course, the amazing pictures she came up with to go along with it. It’s really such a cool tradition at this school. Imagine having a book that you wrote each year of elementary school? What a gift. I have to admit that this year Keana had enough plot twists in her story that I’ll have to read it again to be sure I catch all of it. As the school year winds down, Keana is definitely struggling with the long, eight-hour day. She’s struggled with it on and off, and that, coupled with 30-45 minutes of homework each night has really been tough. This morning I told her she just had to stick with it through the rest of the year and we’ll reevaluate this summer. Nothing can’t be changed I told her. So we’ll see how that all plays out.
Maia has really been growing up fast too. She is just more and more mature every week, with how she relates to and helps Aliya throughout the day; being more open to what she wears and eats; and just generally handling things that used to stress her out. She tells amazing stories and plays really well on her own, mostly taking care of her babies or animals. She can often be seen flitting about the house, gathering things from each room, each item necessary for the best possible care of her clients. She loves taking care of us too. For instance, when I get back from a run, she’ll often grab a towel to dry me off and help cool me down. For how fiery she is, she is really sensitive and sweet. She is such a joy day in and day out, and I know Aliya really enjoys having her to play with. They like to run around the house playing together, making up various adventures, and yelling, “C’mon Aliya, c’mon!” and Aliya will scream back as she runs, “Okay Sissy!” We feel really fortunate that they get along so well and have so much fun together. The real bottom line with Maia is that she knows what she wants—or doesn’t know—and will make that clear either way.
And Aliya. Oh, little miss Aliya. Since the last post featuring her, she’s just progressed on that path of talking up a storm and being her own little, opinionated, feisty, happy self. She’s filling in her sentences more, sometimes with gibberish, but definitely trying more complex word formations. She has fits of silliness that crack us up, like changing the way she walks as she sings a little song or chants something. She’s fearless when bouncing on the bed and runs like a little daredevil, barely slowing down as she turns a corner. She’s definitely territorial and if she even senses a threat to something she has, or even something she sees that she wants, she screams, “It’s minnne!” Having two older sisters will do that to you I guess. Keana and Maia are mostly pretty good about sharing, but they are bigger and faster and swoop and pounce on things a bit quicker—for now. Aliya loves stacking things and will run into the room and motion saying, “C’mon Papa, c’mon!” then run to her stack of blocks to show it off. She love racing too, often counting off, “Two, two, two, GO!” Lastly, she, almost more than anything, wants to be doing exactly what everyone else is doing. She’s stopped sitting in her baby chair at the table. She clears her plate just like her sisters; loves to brush her teeth and even taps the water off the toothbrush just like we do. She wants regular glasses, puts her own shoes on, wants flip-flops, you name it. She is two going on five. What a brilliant little independent child.
Look at that, 1176 words. Apparently I could go on forever. And I would, but I have a few more hundred photos to back up and I would like to squeeze in some lushly mellow, possibly brainless, relaxation time with Sarah too. So. I go now.
She’s almost two. Unbelievable. Aliya our littlest, budding communicator. It’s been amazing witnessing her speech and communication develop. I’ve written about this many times with Keana and Maia, and it is still one of the best parenting experiences to watch and hear your child’s speech and communication develop. All their stylized words and adoptions of gestures are so adorable that you can hardly stand it.
Aliya started out a while ago with “Mama” and calling just about everything “samy”. Then, seemingly overnight, she was saying, “Thank youuu, Mama” holding on to the “u” sound a little longer and pausing slightly before “Mama”. She says this still with just about anything you do, from handing her something, to feeding her, to opening a door—everything. And up until just two weeks ago, everyone was “Mama”. She knew who her mama was, of course, but she had gotten so used to using “mama” in her speech, that even when someone else did things for her, it was still, “Thank youuu, Mama”. Now she says “papa” and “sissy” but still sometimes corrects herself, immediately, by saying, “Thank youuu, Mama, thank youuu, Papa”.
Her vocabulary grows daily, literally. The last two weeks she’s really been into saying “Um on! Um on!” for “C’mon! C’mon!” and waving towards herself. Aliya loves company. Even months ago she would sit down and pat the seat next to her to invite you to sit. Just last night she said, “G’night e(v)erybo(d)y” with a soft “v” and “d” sound that made it just the right about of “baby” to melt your heart. She also still says, “Otay!” for “Okay!”, often with much enthusiasm. Of course she says “bye-bye” but also blows kisses, and will always greet you with a hug, even people she rarely sees. She’ll ask about people too, so when Keana goes off to school, Aliya will often roam around the house asking, “Where’s Sissy? Where’s Sissy?” When she asks about something, “Wha(t)’s that?” and you tell her, she exclaims, “Wowww!” even for the most mundane things, and she’s also started to determine if things are gross by saying, “Ewwwww.”
In Other News
The girl loves her outside time, often asking first thing in the morning, “Ou(t)side Papa? Ou(t)side?” She’s’ gotten into playing chase and throwing the ball and now that it’s getting warmer, she’s really been enjoying our water table and small pool, being fearless of the cold water, and often trying to climb up into the water table to use it as a little pool. Thankfully she doesn’t climb on the kitchen table as much, but she still gets her climbing where she can.
Aliya wants to be included in everything and wants to be doing what everyone else is doing. This mostly applies to whatever Keana and Maia are doing, but watches us carefully too. She’ll wipe up the floor if something spills and insists on clearing her own plate most of the time too, even though she can’t reach the counter. She loves to brush her teeth and expects to have you cup a hand with water in it to rinse, though not knowing how to suck it up, just laps it up like a kitty. She’s getting better and better at potty training and goes long stretches in the day without a diaper, being sure to let us know when she has to pee. After taking care of business, she’ll often fill in whoever missed out by running up to them and exclaiming, “I peed Papa!!!” and whisks a finger in the direction of the toilet. Or, if she has an accident, she’ll say the same thing and bring you to it to help her clean it up. And yes, she likes to get in on cleaning up her own mess, which I can respect even though it can sometimes make the task more difficult.
A couple other incidents to give you an idea of our amazing Aliya:
Aliya’s very interested in opening the toilet, using it, putting toilet paper in (thankfully not too much…most of the time), and flushing. She sometimes repeats these steps more times than necessary, but hey, practice makes perfect, right?
Tonight, I was asking Sarah if she knew where my phone was and while were talking about it, Aliya ran off, found it, and handed it to me. I didn’t even know she was listening.
She loves to walk up to her sisters, especially Maia since they spend the day together, and give her hugs, kisses, or snuggles her stomach when they’re lying down. Maia gets very excited and whispers (as if not to ruin the moment), “Look Mama, she’s snuggling me!”
There are so many things that I haven’t mentioned or can’t even put into words. We have photos and videos, but a lot of the stuff I just wrote down just can’t be captured in those mediums for one reason or another. I’m hoping that by at least getting this much down it will help us remember this magical time even better, months and years down the road, because it really is too special to let slip away completely.