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…
A couple weeks ago Keana turned seven. Of course she’s been turning seven for a while, but the nice thing about birthdays is that they give you a reference point; a point around which a whole bunch of changes and events can gravitate, their orbits getting looser and looser every year, but still clustered together into “mini-systems” in our lives.
Seven seemed like a big birthday. Maybe it’s because Keana suddenly seems way more mature and sophisticated. She’s taller, stronger, faster. Maybe it’s just one of those numbers that just sounds big. She’s on the final stretch of first grade, well into her formal schooling and that’s big too. Last weekend, she learned how to tie her own shoes—I showed her once and now she’s a pro.
To celebrate, Sarah, Maia, and Aliya made cupcakes and I delivered them to her class. They just do a small celebration at the end of the school day. After school and homework, we went out to sushi, Keana’s favorite. We debated going out due to cost, but just couldn’t deny her her favorite meal on her special day. Afterward we surprised her with a new bike, and although she was a little skeptical at first (see the video below), she’s been getting more and more excited about it since.
The following Saturday we had the “open birthday” with extended family and friends at Storyland. It was a dress-up party and [shocker] Keana requested it to be “princess themed”. It was a lot of fun, having a little castle to ourselves and the kids had a blast running around the fairytale-themed surroundings, then hopping over to Playland where there are a few amusement rides. It was perfect weather and although it started out stressful (as these things often do), it ended happily ever after. Every day we appreciate what a ray of light Keana is in our lives, and it was a lot fun being able to celebrate that.
It’s never easy sharing your birthday with a holiday, but this year I think it really worked to Maia’s advantage. We celebrated her fourth birthday the day after Thanksgiving and I think it was pretty special, at least I hope it was for her.
It’s hard to say why this particular birthday felt like such a big one. As always, I have to check myself and see if I’m projecting some of my own stuff onto my kid’s experience, and in this case I sort of was. For me, turning four was a really big birthday because it marked the beginning of my constant memory. What I mean by that is that I remember bits and pieces of my life before four, but after turning four I remember just about everything, with few holes. So I think that’s part of why this seemed like a big birthday for Maia. Plus, Keana and Aliya have really been getting a lot of attention lately, so it was finally Maia’s turn in the spotlight.
The usual suspects were there for an early afternoon party—Tia, Cousin Olivia, Uncle Ryan, Grandma Jennie, Grandpa Robert and Nana Cin—but there was one special guest this year who came down for Thanksgiving and stuck around for Maia’s birthday, and that was my brother Peter. All the guests are special of course, but we see Uncle Peter far less, so it was a particularly special treat.
One really cute thing that happened that day was after waking up with Maia snuggled next to me, I said “happy birthday little Maij!” and she said, “it’s not my birthday yet! Not till the party!” I tried for a moment to explain, but then just smiled and let it go remembering having the same thought myself many years ago.
Maia’s favorite “special” meal is Chinese food, and she really had her heart set at going out to eat for dinner. Aliya was super tired and we didn’t think we could all go, so Sarah stayed home with Aliya so I could take Maia and Keana out to her favorite spot. It was kind of sad splitting up the team, and I knew it was really hard for Sarah to sit one out, but it was more important that Maia got her special wish on her birthday. I don’t think I had ever been out to dinner with just Keana and Maia, but it was fun. They are both so old and capable now, that it was really easy and we were able to all relax and have fun. The girls mostly played with the new toys while we waited for our food, and I just sat quietly and admired my amazing daughters, especially my big four-year-old.
And that was that. Maia turned four. It was great, we had fun, few regrets, and as always we’re left slightly out of breath, still amazed at the passage of time and all the wonderful things it brings along the way.
…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.
This last weekend we headed back to the bay, back to the birth place of Keana and Maia, for a special reunion of sorts. Our home birth group, which we met when Sarah was pregnant with Keana, had our sixth birthday. None of us believed our instructor six years ago when she told us that many groups stay in touch long after the class ends, and some even vacation together. Low and behold, here we are, even separated by hundreds of miles now, still connected.
We drove down Saturday morning and spent the day in downtown Berkeley, checking out the wildlife, shopping, and eating ice cream. We were all pretty beat by dinner time, but we braved a new restaurant (which actually sucked), and headed back to the hotel for the nightly excitement of “how are we going to get the kids to sleep, and once we do, how long do they stay that way”. Surprisingly it wasn’t too difficult getting them to sleep, with the exception of Maia, who didn’t even protest as much as she could have. We splurged for a suite (which was only $30 more than double anyway) and it was definitely worth it. Throughout the night we rotated beds and children, but pretty much woke up refreshed and ready to go.
The home birth picnic-party started at 2 p.m. We had selected three different picnic areas to try in Tilden, and I thought it was going to be a nightmare syncing up with six other families, especially with no cell reception, but everything fell into place. We passed one other family on the road (our former neighbors actually) and followed each other to the nearest spot on our list. It happened to be free, even though it was a gorgeous Sunday in a very popular park. One by one, the other families found us and the festivities began.
The amazing thing about this group is that we’ve been through so much together, that no matter how long in between seeing each other, we just fall back in place. We’ve had first babies together, second, and thirds. We’ve all had our share of hospital scares, sick children, and even one death. Families have moved and grown and changed but our first-time-home-birth-parent bond has kept us together and strong over these last six years. The oldest kids just played and played together all afternoon and I think the socialization of school has really helped them to grow. Whereas some kids wouldn’t always find their place in the past, all six of them seemed to play well together all afternoon; some forming small groups and partnerships for a minute, then coming back together for a rambunctious group game of soccer/tag/fairies/warriors/wizards/whatever else.
The food was amazing as always and there was plenty of time for us all to catch up. The two families that were there first, ours and our former neighbors down the street, were the last to leave. As the sun set, we lingered a while after the cars were packed, the kids especially not wanting to say goodbye. The only thing that pushed us apart was our looming drive back to Fresno, and the warm thought that we would be reunited soon, and when we were, it would be as if no time had passed at all.
Today we celebrated Keana’s 6th birthday and I have to say, we did it up (for us at least). I actually got up on time and made her and Maia a pancake breakfast to start things out right. Today happened happened to be the day I volunteer in her class, and even though I go every week, even that seemed special. Sarah and Maia made cupcakes while I was gone, then Sarah, Maia, Aliya, and I brought them to celebrate with the class. It was so sweet and fun and to see Keana in her element and get to share in that celebration with her peers and teacher.
After she got her homework done, we did a video chat with Grandma Linda and Grandpa Sam and they got to see her do a little treasure hunt (complete with map) to find the gift they had mailed. And to top it all of, we had Grandma Jennie, Tia Iana, Uncle Ryan, Cousin Olivia, and their dog Bella all over for barbecued burgers, gifts, and cake. At the end of it all, Keana declared that, “It was the best birthday ever!”
Sure that feels good to hear, and we’re thankful for everyone that contributed to make the day special for her, but in the end of it all, we are just in awe of our first born. We’re growing up together and the fact that she’s the one who’s broken us in is something special. No more or less than Aliya and Maia, just different-special. She burst into the world as the firemen and paramedics burst through our bedroom door and no one who’s ever met her has been the same since. Keana was our “shmoop” then our “zooba” and somehow today she’s magically different and transformed into who-knows-what-next. She’s six. She’s a big girl. She’s meeting her life head on and loving every minute. Put simply, she’s beautiful in every way and we love her.
It’s happened. Team Hokama is now five strong. When Maia was born I coined the term Quadripod because there were four of us and we were a pod, like a heard of sea mammals, or tripod but with, um, four legs (plus I just thought it sounded cool). Now of course we’ve graduated to Pentapod status. Aliya Nakine Hokama was born June 18 at 7:41 a.m. via emergency c-section at Fresno Community Regional Hospital. Unfortunately there were some complications with a prolapsed cord, and just four hours after birth she had to be flown to UCSF Children’s Hospital to undergo a 72 hour cooling therapy to prevent damage to her brain. I drove over right behind her and was met and supported by family until Sarah could get there on the following Monday (June 21). That Monday, at 4:30 p.m., they began warming her up slowly, half-a-degree an hour. She was very sleepy at first, which was expected, and her MRI on Tuesday showed a perfect, healthy, little brain. Of course we have to do some follow-ups down the road and keep an eye on her, but so far she is the perfect, fifth member of our team.
Sarah’s family primarily took care of Maia and Keana while we were at UCSF, until we returned home on Thursday, June 24, just less than one week after Aliya was born. My mom Linda and brother Peter had driven down the day before to help out as well, so it was quite a reunion.
We are slowly getting used to being home and being altogether, but Keana and Maia are overjoyed to have their new sister present and healthy. I’m in the process of writing the full birth story and will hopefully have that up here soon as well. And of course, with my time off, I hope to catch up on all the other amazing things Keana and Maia have been up to as well. In the mean time, be sure to check out Aliya’s gallery, and we’ll get her photos and video up on this site soon too.
We want to once again send out our greatest appreciation to our family and friends that have shown so much support and love during this, how should I say, exciting time.
1. In my last post I said I’d let you know how Keana’s birthday party went, so here it is. Let’s just say it turned out better than we imagined. For one, we thought that only one friend was coming, but it turned out that the other two girls Keana invited showed up at the last minute; we were probably more excited than Keana was in some ways. As a parent you can start to see all those social perils unfolding, even at this young age, of who gets invited, who doesn’t, who shows up, who doesn’t, and what that might mean as far as whether or not they like you, etc. And in this case, there were competing birthday parties that day, so we weren’t sure the best way to explain that one. Keana seemed fine with just having one friend there, but I think deep down inside she was disappointed and Sarah and I felt especially bad because maybe if we had sent out the invite sooner the outcome might have been different. Luckily, in the end, all turned out well. The girls, even Maia and the other 2-year-old, all played really well together and enjoyed our little treasure hunt and piñata. Sarah had to give it a good bashing first though, cause there was no way these five-year-olds were going to even make a dent in that thing. I sat video-taping and laughing wondering how many parties in the world had the same unbreakable piñata. And of course, The Cake. The Cake was amazing. Grandma Jennie picked it up from La Boulangerie and upon request, it was chocolate, and not too sweet, but still rich, moist, and overall scrumdiddidlyumptious (as we say in our house). Our guests stayed from 11-after3 and we were exhausted, but Keana was happier than ever.
The next day, Keana’s actual birthday, was pretty mellow. Keana went to school, though she did try and talk me out of it. They do a special celebration though, and I knew she would be upset if she missed it (all the special attention in front of her peers), so I persuaded her to go. I took the day off work though, and after school we enjoyed some time as a family, followed by Keana’s favorite dinner, roast chicken, and some of that awesome left-over cake. It was a little hard for me to relax because I knew the next day I would fly to DC for NWP’s annual Spring Meeting (where our teachers lobby for funding from their representatives). This trip was also a longer one- I got back March 28 in the afternoon- and when I returned, Iana and her baby Olivia were visiting. Keana had the week off school for spring break, so she and Maia got lots of good time with their little cousin. Olivia is really starting to grab things, roll around, and smile, so I think it was especially fun for the girls. And I’m not going to lie, it was pretty fun for Sarah and I too. Olivia adores Sarah and has the biggest smile whenever she sees her (and a cheerful squeal or growl isn’t uncommon either).
2. On Friday we had a Rogers’ get-together up at Sarah’s Grandma Bev’s house that overlooks Millerton Lake. In attendance were Great Grandma Bev (of course), Great Uncle David (who the girls don’t get much chance to see, but something we’re going to work on), Grandpa Robert and Nana Cin, Tia, and Olivia. It was a lot of fun, but the car ride home was NOT. About two minutes into the 40 min. ride, Maia began screaming and crying and nothing would comfort her. In order to not let the screaming disturb my driving and/or drive me totally insane, I often try to focus on a piece of music or some other train of thought. This particular night, I was thinking how it was Friday night, and once upon time that meant something. It meant around 5 or 6 you would start scheming the entertainment for the night. Who’s around? What’s the dinner plan? Would it be live music after? A movie? A bar then some dancing? Maybe even a night trip to the outdoors somewhere? Now it’s a mad-dash home before the kids melt down, and on Friday, it was already too late. Kid was melting down. Poor Maia was just plain pissed off. After what seemed like hours, we finally arrived home and both kids were hungry, of course. We fed them some left-over hamburger that we brought home and some yogurt, and put them to bed.
3. Then, not long after we got Maia and Keana to bed, Keana called out. I went into her room and she looked worried. Something’s wrong with her throat she said. I began to worry she was having an allergic reaction to something and attempted to assess whether or not her throat was sore or if it felt like it was closing up. I called for Sarah, then had her stand up to see if it was just the position she was in. In the span of three seconds, I saw The Look in her eyes…I grabbed her to move her to the toilet…and…projectile vomit spewed forth on my shoulder, arm, leg, and cascaded onto the cat, who unfortunately happened to be rubbing up against my leg at exactly the wrong moment. The nastiness continued to flow onto the rug, her toys, then eventually all over her little toilet we keep in her room for night-time convenience. Like waves of disgusting it seemed to just keep coming and coming. Oh man oh man. Luckily, after that one blowout of the decade, Keana calmed down and appeared to be completely fine. Sarah and I got to work like a machine, trading off cleaning up the worst mess in recent memory and sitting with Keana to be sure it wasn’t going to happen again. Long night doesn’t begin to define it.
4. Saturday Morning Keana was fine though, and we prepared to head up to “the round house”, a small round house up in the hills near Friant/O’Neals. It’s actually where we got married, so it holds a special place in our hearts. Anyway, Jacque (our current midwife) and Frank Moschella own it, and host an Easter celebration every year there. I guess it’s usually a two-day affair, but this year we just did Saturday. It was great to see all the old family friends and I think Sarah especially enjoyed catching up with everyone and showing off her pregnant belly. Tia (Iana) and Olivia left first to head back to Long Beach and it was almost a teary good-bye. I have to admit, I got a little misty looking at the little chunk-a-munk Olivia, thinking of how much she’ll have changed and grown before we see her again, and how seemingly small and vulnerable she and Iana looked heading out the door to the open road. Anyway, we tried to enjoy ourselves and be conscious of the time, having just endured the same car ride with Maia screaming the night before, and wanting to avoid another terribly long one. Ten minutes down the road, it began. Again, Maia screamed bloody hell practically the whole way home. I put on Kind of Blue and she screamed through So What and Green on Blue (it was on shuffle) before finally falling quiet to Flamenco Sketches. Sarah had to hold her hand too, a deadly combination with the subtle stylings of Miles.
And today. Well, today was not a picture-perfect Easter. Maia was awake from 1 a.m.–3 a.m., followed by Keana waking up between 4 and 5. Needless to say, I awoke pretty grumpy with zero coffee to be found. Maia and I hung out though till 10, which was fine/fun, when Keana and Sarah got up, but Maia and Keana instantly began fighting over Easter bags they got yesterday. Papa growled, apologized, then had to head out for coffee before things deteriorated any further. We finally had our “special breakfast” of Belgium waffles and sausage around noon and the girls went out to look for the baskets that Grandma Jennie had carefully assembled for them, and that I had hid in the backyard. Sarah and I did not rally for Easter this year, so we were especially thankful for Grandma’s collaborative efforts with The Bunny. Sarah and Maia went down for a nap around 1:45 p.m., and after prepping the chicken with rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper, Keana and I followed and had an amazing nap. This amazing nap was followed by an even more amazing dinner. Although the day started rough, with a little help, I think it was still a special one for everyone and we’ve certainly ended on a positive note.