I thought we’d get some time to relax after Christmas…and we have…sort of. We’ve had some time to play games together and the girls have really been enjoying all their Christmas gifts—oh, and today we built and decorated a birdhouse that’s been on the shelf since summer—but it’s been kind of stressful for me (and of course when I’m stressed out, it’s not all bubbles and cookies around these parts). I may not have had reasonable expectations as to how much time I’d need to recover from Christmas and visiting with family.
The biggest thing I’ve been struggling with is that it seems that nearly every activity includes some amount of complaining, fighting, disappointment, and/or crying. Soooo, maybe I’m not the only one that needs a recovery period. We sort of tumbled into Christmas break—recovering from being sick, finishing the crazy Nutcracker week, me back from a work trip—into a trip to Sacramento to visit my family and time around here with Sarah’s family. Now we’re floating in non-structured time on a sea of expectations.
It’s hard not to have expectations about what vacation should be: it should be fun, we should have lots of time together, we should enjoy said time together, we should get to sleep in, we should get out town, we should all be more relaxed and rested, and on and on and on. The reality is…something not quite like that…and I’m struggling with accepting this. Yes, there is some fun and maybe a little more down time. Maybe we can get out of town to the mountains for a day, but we really can’t afford to go away for a night or three. I miss the beach, a lot, but maybe that’s not in the cards. Air quality is shitty right now so there are actually large chunks of the day where we need stay inside.
Basically, this is life and I need to get over it—we all do. Tomorrow morning we’ll have a little family powwow and see if can regroup and figure out how to make the rest of this break a little more fun and relaxing for everyone. And I’m going to take an acceptance pill tonight and have a better day tomorrow.
Like just about everyone else, the holiday season is always busy for us. This year, though, it seems even more so. Maia’s birthday has gone on for what seems like weeks now. We celebrated it here at the ned of November, on the day of, quietly, then up in Sacramento with The Petersons after Thanksgiving. Then again, yesterday, with her friends from school. Oh. My. Lamb. We had a house full of about 10 kindergartners and their lovely parents. Throw in a cousin and a couple more from ballet class, and you have the energy for an actual whirlwind.
Well, it wasn’t easy, but we did it. And we brought Tia and Cousin Olivia with us. After a night and morning scrambling to acquire snow gear and pack it, our caravan headed up to Shaver Lake to play in the snow.
We weren’t exactly sure where to go, but luckily Sarah remembered there was a snow park up the hill from the lake. Just when we thought we had gone too far, it appeared. The only catch was that we didn’t buy snow park permits when we were in town. We considered rolling the dice, but decided the $94.50 fine was too much to gamble with. (And yes, where the hell do you come up with a fine of that value? $94.50? Not $90 or $95. So. Silly.) So I ran back to town to get our $5 permits so we could play without worry.
In general, the kids had a blast. I think Aliya had a little sledding wipeout with Sarah that made her a little weary of the snow, but she was also tired. In fact, she fell asleep in Sarah’s arms and they hung out under a pine tree while we played. Keana and Maia handled a little hill on their own, helping each other up it and sailing down with Maia in front (see video below). When I got back from getting our permits, I took Maia and Keana on a bigger hill and had so much fun sledding with them. Now that they’re older we can do more daring things, which I love. And to be out in the crisp, fresh air, surrounded by beautiful, snowy scenery—it was really what this vacation needed.
One of the hardest parts of being a parent is acceptance. Before getting there, I’ve found myself trying and trying, over and over, to control or change the outcome of everything from the daily schedule to who eats what, when. And every time I try to control, I fail miserably. And it’s tough as a parent because on the one hand you sort of have to provide this safe infrastructure for your kids to thrive, but on the other hand, you have to just let go and let them be. Not my strong suit, but I’m learning.
This vacation has been another great example. There have been many days of the last two weeks we’ve had off when Sarah and I have looked at each other and said, “Is this really a vacation?” We found ourselves coming into it emotionally and physically exhausted from all that followed my uncle’s sudden death, and on top of all that, the kids have been on a rotating wheel of sickness. We think it’s been two different viruses: the first with a sore throat and runny nose, the second starting with a barking cough, followed by insane amounts of mucus. Lovely, yes? It has definitely made it difficult to go out and do fun things and has seriously limited some of the fun visits with friends we hoped to have had by this point.
Some of the things we’ve enjoyed though are more leisurely mornings, the magic and wonder of Christmas for the girls, lots of great food, some visits with family, and of course the endless moments of pure cuteness that are just part of the territory with youngsters. Aliya’s definitely changing from a toddler to a little kid, losing much of her baby fat and slimming down to a spritely little sparkplug. She continues to be a huge mischief maker, often denying verbally what she’s doing physically. “I’m not climbing on the table,” as she has a leg up to climb on the table. All the time inside with her sisters has allowed her to work out any remaining kinks in her “I am mad as hell and will eff you up” face. Seriously. For a two-year-old, she’s got a mean mug. She also throws a decent punch for the smallest member of Team Hokama, something her older sisters don’t really do much. Of course she’s mostly bubbles and cookies, but she will throw down if necessary. We’re especially going to miss those last vestiges of baby talk and behavior. For examples:
- Saying with pure excitement, “It’s Chissmass!”
- “My kitty! My kitty!” as she chases Fluffy around the house, trying to hug and lay on her.
- After turning out the lights for bed time saying, “I can’t see my eyes…I can’t see my nose…”
- As she hugs Sarah, “You’re my best friend.”
- A new one I just noticed today, “Jus’ a minute,” as she continues to play when you’ve asked her to do something else.
- Last but not least, a hold over from Halloween, every time she sees a pumpkin she calls it “my pumpkin patch!”
Maia is definitely changing too, maturing daily, and even gaining some muscle weight. On some levels, she’s getting more reasonable—with eating and sleeping for example—but she still struggles with both. Being sick has made sleep especially hard because her runny nose and coughing has been driving her nuts in the middle of the night, which we can’t really fault her for. Now that the sickness is tapering off though, we’re happy we set up those appointments to see an occupational therapist to work with her on some of her sensory issues. They seem to think 6 appointments, every other week, should dramatically help her deal with being hyper-sensitive to stimulus, like clothes that don’t fit a certain way, being distracted at meal time, etc. She and Aliya continue to have a blast playing together, often playing with each other while Keana’s off in her own fantasy world. I love hearing her shout, “C’mon Babe-in!” followed by an, “Okay Maia!” and two sets of footsteps sprinting off to the next play station. But Maia definitely still enjoys playing with Keana too, taking full advantage of having her sister home full time for the break. Their ability to play together also shows how fast Maia’s growing up, especially since Keana is getting older by the hour it seems.
And what a delight it is to have our Zooba home. She’s really been missing her social outlets, but still gets lost playing endlessly with her toys and paper dolls. This was the first Christmas she’s really enjoyed building Legos together and I can’t say that bothered me in the least. She doesn’t really need help, but likes to have someone there with her to chat with while she works. We finished the first Harry Potter book together at the beginning of the break and are halfway through The Chamber of Secrets. It’s my first time reading them too and I’m thoroughly enjoying being excited about a story with her. This second book though is about at the maturity threshold I’m comfortable with, so we’ll be taking a break from Potter soon. But Keana’s comprehension of more complex life stuff and her ability to communicate it, are really giving us a preview of what’s to come. More and more we can converse like equals and I have to explain less and less. A really fun side effect of Keana’s maturing is her deepening sense of humor. She understands a lot more humor and is really starting to get sarcasm as well.
We did take a somewhat spontaneous trip up to Bass Lake today and even found a little patch of leftover snow on the shore to play in. We didn’t stay long due to threatening clouds, but still, it was good to get out and do something different. We saw one rainbow while we were there and another on the way back. Maia had fallen asleep but once Aliya spotted it, she started yelling, “Maia! Maia! A rainbow! Look!” I responded, “Shhhh, Aliya. You’re going to wake her up.” To which a groggy Maia replied, “She already did.”
We have one more week of vacation left but I already feel the tightening grip of responsibilities and schedules. Even when there’s no school or work-work, there’s always keeping the house in order, appointments, laundry, and the seemingly endless chore of feeding these munchkins. It really is all about acceptance and maybe someday I’ll stop fighting it. Keana reminded me just last week (after I released what I guess was a really long sigh), “Well Papa, this is the life you chose. Are you going to make breakfast now?” And there you have it.
I have a lot of interesting stories, quotes, funny kid moments, and development news, but I’m going to be a big tease and just say I have it, it’s in here (points to head), but you’ll have to wait till I have the energy to write it down, sorry:-)
In other news, for the record, here’s what’s been happening this holiday season…
The kids are out of school from December 20 through January 7, and I’m taking this whole time off too, so that’s really good. I’d say three weeks is just about enough time to handle the holidays, get the house sort of back into shape, and maybe, just maybe, get a little extra rest. Of course all three girls have been sick, starting with Maia, then moving on to Keana and Aliya on the 21st. It’s Aliya’s first Christmas and first time getting sick, but she’s handled both like a champ.
We were in Los Altos for Peterson Christmas the 20-21 at Great Grandma Jacquie and Great Grandpa Vic’s, and they were gracious hosts as usual. We had our now-annual game of hide-and-go-seek with the cousins (McKenna (for a short time), Cassidy and Riley (for the whole time)), and it was a lot of fun as usual. We played a brief game of tag too, but those girls are actually getting too fast for me. For the record, in an all out sprint I think I could still take them, but for short distance tag, they got me whooped. But it was great to see the great grandparents of course, Grandma Linda and Grandpa Sam (out from Texas), Great Aunt Janet, Great Uncle Vic and Aunt Kristie, and Uncle Peter (and we met his boyfriend DeAnthonie for the first time as well). Maia, Aliya, Sarah, and I slept in Aunt Janet’s old room upstairs, and Keana tried to hang with the big girls campout-style downstairs, but some time in the middle of the night snuck into bed with Sarah. The next day was not-so-great, with Keana throwing up at the grandparents’, in the car, then again at home, but luckily it didn’t last. I think I earned some major dad points that day by catching several throw-ups before they hit the ground, and one even in my cupped hands. That’s right, you heard me. In. My. Hands.
Christmas Eve we spent with Grandma Jennie, Tia, Uncle Ryan, Cousin Olivia, and Great Grandma Bev and it was short but sweet. The girls love their cousin Olivia, who is now walking, so even twice the fun. Christmas Day we went over to Jennie’s house and enjoyed a nice brunch, with more gifts, and returned home for a little rest before my mom and Sam showed up, fresh (or nearly) from their visit in Folsom (with the family out there, not the inmates). Mom and Sam stayed till the 28th, and we basically lounged around, rested up, put them to work doing dishes, grocery shopping, and baking. Sounds like work but I think we would all agree it was really nice hanging with them, especially since we rarely see them since they live all the way out in…aghem…Texas.
And now we’re basically here. Right now. Eve of New Year’s Eve. In about 8 hours we’re heading up to North Fork to visit with Grandpa Robert and Nana Cin. We were hoping there would be snow, but I don’t think it will happen yet. I’ve considered seeing what the girls think of a new year, 2011, but I think we’ll just skip that conversation this year. They live in the present. Minutes and hours are sort of a concept now, but weeks, months, years…no, they don’t matter. What matters is what we’re playing with right now, what we’re talking about right now, and I like that. Something I think we all could work on. Maybe in 2011? Wait. What’s that?
Is it too late to say Happy New Years? I can’t believe that was almost a week ago! We headed to Fresno on December 26 and planned to leave “early”, but got on the road around 11:30 a.m. As I was saying in one of my recent posts though, Maia is really getting used to our world, and it showed in this road trip. She slept for the first hour-and-a-half and then hung out peacefully in the car until we stopped for lunch in Los Banos. Then we preceded to have a relatively mellow ride the rest of the way. Until this point, we hadn’t had an extended car ride like this where Maia wasn’t screaming the saddest sobs you’ve ever heard for almost an hour. We had a great afternoon with Grandma Jennie and Uncle Michael, and finished out the day by watching Pixar’s Wall-E. We’re probably some of the last people on earth to have watched this movie, and we all thoroughly loved it. It was amazing how much of story could be told with almost no dialogue, something that really appealed to Keana.
The next day we had Christmas, opening lots of gifts and enjoying a generally mellow day, followed by a great turkey dinner, courtesy of Grandma Jennie. Aside from being with family, one of the best things about traveling to someone else’s house for events is not having to worry about food. I feel like many of our days just consist of planning meals and eating, interspersed with sleeping. So with Grandma on all the meals, we actually had time to relax and just play and visit; it was great! Both the girls absolutely love playing with Grandma and Uncle Michael, and Michael is still in school up at Evergreen, and we rarely see him, so it was a treat indeed.
The next day we headed over to Grandpa Robert and Nana Cin’s to keep the Christmas cheer flowing. They are always very hospitable and we can always depend on amazing food and plenty of it. It was great to catch up with them and the girls had fun running around and playing while we visited. We probably could have used a couple more days in Fresno to spend with family there, but we had to hit the road once more for our last stop: Los Angeles.
Getting out of Fresno proved harder than we thought. MIchael took off early for wisdom teeth removal, so we had the house to ourselves to pack up and attempt to find everything to pack. We did pretty good packing and decided to just get breakfast on the road, and as we were putting the kids in the car, Sarah realized she locked her purse in the house and we didn’t have a key. So we called Jennie and luckily she and Michael were almost done, so we went to get a quick bite to eat and gas. Of course the guy at Starbucks forgot one of our sandwiches, so once again, as we got the kids strapped in the car, we realized this and I had to run back in to get the missing sandwich, which hadn’t been made, so it was five more minutes, which is about 2 hours in kid time. During this time Maia had decided this was all bullshit and began to cry. And at this point, none of us blamed her. We headed back to Grandma Jennie’s house and got the purse, and miraculously made it out of Fresno. This did not bode well for our 4 hour trip to L.A. But actually, it was another miraculous day of travel for Maia. She and Keana slept for a couple hours and we made it all the way to Crenshaw without having to stop. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed the rest of the way Seal Beach for Hokama/Uno/Yoshimoto Christmas.
This was the first time the Japanese side of our family was all together since our wedding, so it was pretty special. Auntie Helene and Cousins Helen, Stan, Riki had never met the girls, and Great Nana and Granddad Hokama (from Hawaii) had never met Maia, so it was a momentous occasion indeed. Grandpa Jon made this all possible by orchestrating the rendezvous, and his wife Susan and their girls Grace and Lilli also flew out from Denver. Of course Uncle Peter came down from Santa Cruz, so with the exception of Auntie Julie, Uncle Lance, and Cousin Sasha, we were all there. Oh, and due to crazy schedules we were unable to see Riki, so that was unfortunate too. But we basically hung out in Seal Beach until New Years Eve when we headed to Disneyland for the Keana and Maia’s first visit to the magical kingdom.
Disneyland was in-sane. By 2 p.m. the park had sold out and you could tell on the inside. Lines for rides probably averaged 60 minutes and you could barely walk anywhere. As you can imagine with a one and three-year-old, there were some stressful times, but as a whole it was a lot of fun. We all had to split up because there was no way to keep 11 of us together in that mess, so Maia, Keana, Sarah, and I set out for kiddy rides. We rode King Arthur’s Carousel, Keana rode the Casey Jr. train and the Dumbo ride with Grandpa Jon and Grandma Susie, then the four of us rode the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Storybook Land. Keana really wanted to go into the whale’s mouth and I think she really enjoyed it. Maia did great and was only slightly scared on Pirates. As the day went on, the park seemed to get impossibly more crowded. Somehow we all were able to get a table at the Plaza Inn for dinner, after which our Quadripod had to head home. The girls were so strung out from Disneyland they couldn’t sleep, so they played around in the hotel room to unwind and we rang in the new year with Uncle Peter. What a day.
On New Years Day we headed over to Great Auntie Helene’s house where we celebrated with Helen and her new husband John, Stan, Great Nana and Granddad, Grandpa Jon and Grandma Susie, Aunties Grace and Lilli, and Uncle Peter. It was a lot of fun and we all got caught up, remembered visits to L.A. that Peter and I had had as kids, and played music together. It was really a great time and made me realize how important it was to me to stay in touch with our Japanese roots. Sarah and I both think it’s especially important we make the effort for the girls so they can know about this important part of where they come from.
On January 2nd we hit the road once more, and it took us about 9 hours to get home. A very long drive but very worth it. And so ended Christmas Tour 2008. It’s a ton of work to travel so much with the girls being so young, but the great time we had with all the various family more than made up for it and we hopefully look forward to much more time with family in 2009. Happy New Year and good night!
Well, it’s almost over. I’d say Christmas day has been a success and it’s still going. The girls eagerly arose this morning, Keana swearing she heard Santa and reindeer last night, and couldn’t wait to investigate for clues, specifically presents. So we all rushed out of bed and headed upstairs. Sure enough, there were plenty of clues left behind by Santa and his helpers.
Last night (Christmas Eve) we celebrated with a super-fine rib roast followed by peach cobbler, and bedtime for Keana was easy for once, with the promise of reindeer bringing gifts as soon as she fell asleep. I know, it’s a little coercive, but hey, it’s fun for her and it works. Admittedly I was useless and fell asleep on the couch as Sarah wrapped gifts. It’s been a rough couple days with our busy schedule and everyone being sick and it made me sleepy, so I checked out. But Sarah saved the day—as only a mother could I suppose—and got it all taken care of for the morning.
So we opened gifts this morning, had a delicious cinnamon roll snack courtesy of Great Grandma Jacquie, followed by our traditional biscuits and gravy. Maia, Sarah, and I took a nap as Keana crept around the house, playing with all her new stuff. After Maia and I woke up, Maia, Keana, and I continued to play as Sarah slept. Today’s a little bitter-sweet as we can’t exactly lounge about since we have to pack for Fresno and L.A. Christmas, but it shouldn’t be too bad.
Laundry’s in the washer, Keana and Maia are running around without their shirts off cause they’re hot, and it’s almost time to heat up the rest of that kick-ass roast. So, Merry Christmas to everyone out there and we’ll see you after Christmas Tour 2008.