Tag Archives: dancing

First Trip to the Ballet

Today was Keana and Maia’s first trip to the ballet and what was on the bill? None other than The Nutcracker. It was Grandma Jennie’s Christmas gift, and we were all excited. Sarah hadn’t been since she was a kid (to that very same theater), and I realized that I had never been to a ballet before either.

Sarah got the girls dressed up in their holiday finest, and we dropped Aliya off at Grandma’s house. It was weird leaving our fifth member behind, but there was no way she was going to go. So it was a little sad but also kind of special just being able to focus on Keana and Maia.

Maia was hating her stockings and shoes all the way to the William Saroyan Theater, but once we got out of the car and headed towed the large building, she was immediately distracted. The theater is really nice and we got there with plenty of time to hang out and enjoy the experience. The girls were very anxious to get inside and see what it was all about.

We found our seats and I noticed right away that there wasn’t a live orchestra which was really surprising and also pretty disappointing, but I tried not to let that soil my experience. The girls were buzzing with anticipation, and Maia especially liked the self-folding seats. The lights dimmed, the music started, and the curtain raised. Show time.

Throughout the show I looked over to see what the girls’ reactions were, and they were pretty engrossed, for the first 30 minutes. Then the hunger and tiredness kicked in a little. Surprisingly, they had very few questions. We had sort of prepped them with what to expect, so maybe that helped. By intermission though, Keana was sad with hunger and Maia really needed to be close to Sarah. I tried to get them to go to the bathroom, but they insisted they didn’t have to go. The lights dimmed, the music started, and Act II began.

Maia was definitely having a harder time paying attention, but there was more action and more frequent cast changes, so they were pretty into it. The Russian dancers were almost more B-Boy than Russian, but were still really impressive and got the audience pumped up (and gave the girls a little jolt). They even had a dude in a wheelchair doing stands on his head, wheelchair lifted straight in the air. Crazy. I felt sort of bad for the other dancers in the other segments, because I’m sure they were doing really impressive stuff, but the crowd reacted much more boisterously to the Russian dance crew.

15 minutes to the end Keana started complaining about having to go to the bathroom really bad, but I convinced her to hold it telling her it was almost over and I didn’t want her to miss the end. The Pas de Deux at the end was really well done and you could tell the principals were quite talented. I couldn’t help but think they cut the orchestra to pay for better dancers, but it was a ballet, so that’s probably a good thing. Still, I was bummed the girls did ‘t get the live orchestra experience too (of course, they had no idea). Anyway, when all was said and done, the lifts were amazing and so was the footwork (or whatever it’s called). The bows at the end were fun and the size of the cast was really impressive.

The girls also enjoyed catching glimpses of the cast in their costumes in the lobby, but were pretty much ready to bounce at that point. When I asked them which were their favorite sections/dancers, they both replied “all of them”. So there you go, the first trip to the ballet. I’m really thankful we could go as a family and I’m looking forward to future performances. Now that Keana and Maia are a little older, these sort of excursions are becoming possible, and today was a really nice taste of what’s to come.

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Yup, another nickname is taking hold for Aliya: Booshki. 1.5 years old. Crazy. Funny. Strong. Talented. Smart. Sweet. And it doesn’t need to be said, but I’m going to anyway: just cute as hell. We still call her Bo-Bíj and Keana likes to call her Li-Li, but Booshki has been one of my personal favorites lately. It really seems to capture her cuteness and sweetness, but has that edginess that is really starting to come out in her too.

The Girl is a climbing machine. She’s going to be our little rock climber if any of them are. This morning she had one leg up on a dining room table chair—which had been too high for her to climb not that long ago—and a tiny vice-grip on the very narrow edge of the table. There was some huffing and puffing and grunting, but she made it up. This wasn’t the first time, but it was a really good example of her strength and shear will. Then of course, she proceeded to try and climb up on the table, which she can easily do too. Luckily her sense of heights and caution have kicked in too, but she still is clumsy enough that she’s fallen off the couch and definitely has to be supervised. I mean, shouldn’t we all when we’re climbing on the table?

Along with climbing has come her thirst for speed (which isn’t exactly new either). Maybe it’s a push to keep up with her two bigger sisters, maybe it’s for the joy of it, or whatever, Aliya is ready to run. It’s the cutest thing to watch her get her motor going with her short, chubby legs moving as quick as they can as she swings her arms side to side, slightly bent at the elbow. This is all accompanied by a huge grin and an occasional squeal of delight. Just tonight in the kitchen, post-bath with her Elmo towel as a cape, she was copying Sarah as she said, “Ready. Set. GO!” and would take off racing to the edge of the tile, then return to position to do it all again. Aliya loves to chase too. You just have to give her a certain look and she peels off in the opposite direction, sometimes spinning too fast and tipping over. She actually corners pretty well, almost losing control, but somehow sticking it just as you prepare to cringe and look away. She’s fast and she’s pretty tough.

Speaking of tough, Aliya is working on her scowl. It’s hilarious. She squints her eyes a little, furrows her brow, and looks you dead in the eye. She doesn’t back down either; she holds the intensity. Also, when she’s wronged somehow, like a sister takes a toy from her, she stands there, still, head slightly down towards the ground, panting slightly with either indignation or indignant rage, brow furrowed and a look that means business. After all, she is the third girl in a line of strong little ladies. Aliya’s going to be sweet, but I don’t think she’s going to stand being crossed. It’s really interesting to see this side of her developing and somehow feels like she’s becoming more emotionally complex, even though I know she has been already, we just haven’t seen the spectrum like we are now.

I guess you can’t have complex facial expressions and emotions without a more complex vocabulary and Aliya’s working on that too. She often says things that almost sound exactly like a familiar word or phrase, but she doesn’t incorporate it regularly enough to be considered “learned”. Like I said though, tonight she was clearly saying “Ready. Set. GO!” with just the slightest baby accent. And even though she may not be able to say full sentences or anything, you really can ask her almost anything she’s familiar with, and she’ll give you a yes or no answer. It’s really cool to be able to ask her, “Do you want this?” or “Are you hungry?” or “Are you ready to sleep?” and get the answer without having to put all the other clues together. She of course goes on and on in her own language, practicing, which is always fun to listen to. She even puts in hand gestures like she sees us use to match the tone of her little speeches.

Along with her speech she’s also developing her musical ear and singing. We have several “team” songs that are call and response in nature, and she’s singing right along with Keana and Maia on the responses, often nodding her head to the beat and swaying her shoulders. Aliya loves to dance, just like her sisters, and she will get down when the mood (or music) strikes her. We could watch her all day. Even if she’s strapped into her chair at the dining table, she’ll start swaying and swooping back and forth like Stevie Wonder when she’s feeling the music, sometimes with a hand in the air as if she’s been to a rock concert. Genetic memory?

The last thing I want to share tonight is her fierce independence. Aliya is ready. Period. If she sees it done, she wants to do it. It’s very difficult sometimes because she’s just not quite capable, but she will throw a fit to try. We try and let her have a chance as often as is safe, but it is a real test of patience. Decorating the Christmas tree was pretty crazy. Keana and Maia are able to help out now, Maia maybe a little less, but Aliya was chomping at the bit to put glass bulbs six feet off the ground and was literally trying to climb the tree to get there. Same goes for running at the park, riding bikes, eating, and just about anything else you can think of. We know it’s an important step in development and definitely something we want to support, but with the demands of Keana and Maia on top of a lunging, screaming baby, it can definitely be tough. It’s one of those “good problems” though. It’s good to have a kid who is ready and willing to try new things and has that insatiable drive to learn and grow. She definitely falls more than the other two, even more than Maia did, which I guess is just the natural progression as you have more kids. I don’t think it’s due to our neglect, because after the way her birth went, I feel like we may even been more cautious with her. It’s just not possible to protect her every move like we did with Keana and Maia, and I think that’s probably a good thing.

So Much Fun

Aliya is so much fun. I mean, not much else is expected in Team Hokama, but really, we have a blast with her. It hasn’t just been go-go-go since she started walking July 1, it’s been a blossoming of her little personality and her amazing sense of humor too.

She loves to dance. Yes, the girl has the dancin’ gene. It’s that adorable, kind of stiff, knees slightly bent, bouncing baby dance, and she’ll often put both arms in the air and bounce them too. One of the newest things she’s been doing too, mostly while sitting at the table in her highchair, is this cute little swaying motion to ballads or classical music, showing off her lyrical sense. Aliya also has this other new move where she’ll squat down, bend at the waist, shake her arm side to side, all while displaying the hammiest, squinty grin you’ve ever seen. The other day she walked right into the kitchen where Iana was, bent down, boogied down, and walked away. Perfect timing and Iana just had to laugh out loud. What a show off.

She’s a perpetual, earthly satellite. She orbits round and round the house, picking things up, checking in on her people, dropping things off, and on and on and on. Occasionally she’ll even work up to almost a trot, especially when her sisters chase her or she’s captured some treasure from them and tries to make a “run” for it. Her balance is still a little nerve-wracking, but mostly, she’s quite stable.

Aliya is a water girl. She loves to be in the spray of the hose, and often orbits around the yard, transporting water from one location to another in whatever tiny vessel she can find. Often she dumps half of it down her front while scooping and doesn’t flinch—she just rolls on. And when she takes a bath, and she thinks you’re going to pour the water over her head, she puckers her lips and begins taking quick breaths to prepare. She doesn’t really mind the water pouring down her face, though she does seem a bit surprised at first, but she never fusses. I wonder if this will last? Keana was like this too I think, tolerating water on the face, but Maia, oh no.

Aliya just loves to connect with people. She’ll wave at you, hello or goodbye, and if she doesn’t smile at first, she keeps her eyes in contact with yours until she’s got her assessment. She’s cuddly and she’s so solid and squishy at the same time, it is the best to give her a little squeeze or just hold her. She’s also recently started flirting by turning her head so her chin touches her shoulder, tilting slightly down, and giving the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen.

As far as language goes, Aliya has been trying out different syllables and sounds, still saying “mama” and “papa” and “bye-bye”, and enjoys call and response, especially in the car when she can’t see you. She’ll call out “maaaa-maaaa” and we call back “aliiii-yaaaa” or “baaaa-beeee”. So sweet.

There are just so many things that she’s adjusting to and figuring out, making day-to-day things so much easier (not that they were ever really that hard with her). Everything from getting dressed to getting in her car seat to communicating what she wants to eat. I was really impressed tonight when I was taking her jumper suit thing off for bath, and she stepped out of it, one foot at a time, like a real pro. She still does several big nods “yes” when she wants something or is doing something she likes to do, and shakes her hands in refusal in front of her when she’s done with something or doesn’t want it. She’s been squealing more and more with joy and disappointment (usually when here sisters steal something from her), and she’s definitely been showing that she’s not going to let her place in the line-up go unnoticed.

First Dance

A little over a week ago (2/18) Keana and I attended our first Father-Daughter Dance at her school. The flyer came home a week before that and I have to say, I was a little shocked (for lack of a better word) when I saw it. I don’t know why exactly, but I hadn’t even thought about father-daughter dances and certainly not this early in the game. A hundred emotions and questions came over me and I didn’t even know if this was something I wanted to participate in. Keana was so excited though and couldn’t wait for us to go, so any reservations I had were instantly eliminated.

The dance wound up on the Friday of the week we had all been sick, so we were all still reeling a bit from that experience, but there were no excuses, we were going. On the night of the dance Keana said she had to get her best “rock star” outfit on, and chose a black top with rhinestone accents, stretch pants with hearts on them, and her Keens (her favorite shoes). Sarah pulled her hair back into a ponytail with one side wisp hanging down for a little whimsy I guess. She looked great and more importantly, she loved her outfit and was comfortable. I wore a standard black shirt and jeans and we were set to go.

It was pouring that night so we ran from the car towards the cafeteria from which we heard the blaring pop music. It was a pretty good turnout, maybe 40 or 50 duos. Keana made a beeline for the cookies and water, and after having finished her first cookie, was ready to dance. There were lots of dads standing around the perimeter as their daughters danced with their friends, and I sort of felt bad for them (even though I think they were all secretly relieved). Keana has some great moves though, often ranging between action-hero-esque punches and kicks, hip shaking, and twirls. It wasn’t long before she wanted some Michael Jackson, so we went up on the stage where the DJ was and made the first request for MJ. Keana has been on a big Thriller kick, so that’s the song we requested (and the crowd went wild).

We danced on and off, taking breaks for cookies and water, and a little later for pictures. Only three other girls from her class showed up, but two of them were up in the front by the speakers and it was way too loud for Keana there. I think my experience loud music and my own hearing damage made the sound level tolerable, but for her sensitive ears, it was too much. So we spent the last 30 minutes or so in the hallway, while she and her friend Nailah played under the awning as the rain poured down around us. I got to know Nailah’s dad better and we had a great conversation about the area and music. Turns out he mixes music for reality TV shows like Project Runway and Desparate Housewives, so it was cool to hear about his experience with that.

We went inside for the last dance and after she said goodbye to her friends, we headed to the grocery store for a late sushi snack. I think we both had a lot of fun, even though the music was too loud. It was just special to go out and do something different, just us, Papa and his first born.

Afterwards I realized that it was one of those experiences where all of your own memories, preconceptions, and emotions are edging your child’s feelings out. This dance triggered my memories of school dances and made me fast-forward to Keana being 12 and going to her first dance and all the wonderful and terrible things that conjures in a dad’s mind. Also I couldn’t help but lament the fact that some day she won’t be excited to have time just the two of us. But once I was able to settle all that down, all I could see was my five-year-old, excited about dancing at school with the other kids, and excited about getting me to herself for two hours.

Who needs a petting zoo?

Tonight, after we went to the park, I was trying to make dinner and hold Maia and she got a hold of the lettuce bag. I was too tired to fight it so I just sat down with her and let her play with it. She proceeded to grab little handfuls of lettuce and shove them in my mouth (along with her whole hand). Maia sure gets a kick out of feeding other people, and as I sat there, I realized feeding other people is kind of like feeding the animals at the petting zoo. What little kid doesn’t like that?

In other news, we celebrated Sarah’s 30th with a surprise party in the garage last Saturday. It was a blast and Maia was my party sidekick, sleeping most of the night in the sling, strapped to my shoulder. Keana ran around and played chasing games with various guests, and around 9:30 p.m., she and Grandma Jennie went inside to mellow out and ended up watching Disney’s Robin Hood three times until I came inside around one in the morning, and we put Keana and Sarah to bed. Although many of the guests provided the fun and helped decorate, Grandma Jennie, Tia, and Uncle Ryan were a big help all weekend, especially for clean up on Sunday.

So the week has pretty much been recovering from that. Some new Maia developments include head banging while walking as well as almost running. She can say “tickle-tickle” and a loud “Mmmmm!” when she sees you get some food out she thinks she might like. Maia is our little athlete and is an aggressive little climber and bouncer. She loves climbing on Keana’s little chairs and often insists on standing on them. Just today too, she danced in a circle with her arms up as Keana sang the theme to Sleeping Beauty.

Which brings me to the Zooba. She is amazing. Her latest, most articulate phrase is, “I’m three but I’ll be four in March.” She has continued to struggle sharing with Maia, but it’s interlaced with some of the sweetest sister moments you’ve ever seen. Tonight Maia took a water bottle over to her and Keana wanted a kiss, but Maia shook her head “no”. So Keana said, “No? Okay, I’ll just take a sip of water then.” A few minutes later Maia cashed in on that kiss. Keana can also pick Maia up and uses her special powers to help keep Maia safe—which is really sweet—but sometimes we have to stop her from scarily hauling her sister around for no reason (who, by the way, weighs half as much as her).

That’s the latest and I think we’ll be using the three day weekend to catch up with our lives.