Tag Archives: development

It Ain’t Summer Yet

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.

“Thank youuu, Mama.”

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.

Seven and Still Sassy

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.

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Tell Me All Your Thoughts On God

We had just left Great Grandma Bev’s lake house, driving into the setting sun, when we heard from the backseat, “How did Jesus die?” The only reason I wasn’t totally floored was because Sarah had shared with me another time this happened. At the exact same point in the road, a week or two earlier, Keana had asked that exact question. At that time, Sarah wasn’t sure how much to say and worried about getting in a little over her head, so she punted, telling Keana she should ask me since I probably knew more about that. Lucky me. The conversation that Keana and I had after that first time was pretty brief; she was ready to move on to something else by the time she got home.

It would all be easier if Sarah and I didn’t question religion ourselves and went to church every Sunday, and if I just spouted off the classic, generally acceptable answers and stories within the Christian faith. I’ve spent so much time in church or church-related activities that I’m practically ordainable, but it’s only recently, after many years away from it all, that I’m beginning to come back to my childhood faith. Sarah and I have always wanted to provide our kids with a broad understanding of many forms of religion and ideas of God, hoping that when they were really curious and ready, our kids could embark on their own process with a good foundation—a process that wasn’t biased or misinformed. What we’ve come to realize lately though, is that in an attempt to be open, we may actually have been depriving our kids of the opportunity to develop any sort of faith.

So, back to the car. I thought for moment and chose the most direct answer. I explained he was crucified and the basics of what that entailed. I opted to leave out the public ridicule, beatings, crown of thorns, and stabbing—crucifixion seemed like enough. Keana (of course) asked why that was done to him, and I explained that some people don’t like to hear things that are contrary to their own beliefs or way of thinking, and unfortunately, it can and has resulted in some pretty sad and horrible outcomes. That seemed to go over relatively smoothly with the kids—and Maia was actually already drifting off to sleep, being exhausted from the day—which was probably good because Keana’s next question was, “How come you go to a bad place when you kill yourself?”

Yeah. Wasn’t ready for that one.

I think it’s safe to say that Christianity, and going to church regularly, is a pretty big thing in our current town of Fresno. It’s common enough that I’ve been asked on many occasions if I knew so-and-so through [the kids’] school or church. The church option never came up in the Bay Area. Also, a big population of Keana’s school are Mexican/Latino, so Catholicism is pretty prevalent I think, too. This is all to say that after the suicide question, I was pretty sure she was getting all her info from her friends at school.

Holy shit. Suicide? Hell? For first graders? Really people? These are the foundations of faith you’re sharing with your kids? On behalf of parents that are trying not to scar their kids and raise them in fear, I thank you. I calmly went on to tell Keana that there are different flavors of Christianity and in some of those, they believe bad things happen to you when you do certain things. I quickly followed it with the fact that Christianity is really based on love and that is the core principal to pay attention to. Sarah stepped in (thankfully) adding that it’s okay for everyone to believe whatever they want, but it’s important for each of us to make our own choices and respect others’.

The conversation continued for the full 40-minute-ride home and in the end I was a little worn out, but thankful that we could have a talk like that, in that way, as a family. Although there are many things that point to Keana’s maturity and growth, it’s conversations like that that remind me how much she (and all kids in general) pick up on, and how important it is for them to not only be able to talk to their parents or other adults about it, but to be met with an openness that encourages their own thinking and questions, and allows them to explore safely. At least I hope that’s what we did. Damn. That was weeks ago and I’m still processing it; great practice for what’s to come.

Keana Goes to the Aquarium

Yesterday, Keana took her first big field trip. In kindergarten they went somewhere local for a play, but yesterday the first graders hopped on charter buses and headed to Monterey Bay. We had thought about taking the rest of the family and meeting them there, but work and other factors prevented such a plan. As the field trip day got closer and closer, more and more parents were asking me if I was going. It was funny because I got the sense that the parents were more nervous than the kids. The kids were excited (or at least all the ones I talked to). It was almost as if the parents were checking in with the group to get a read on where everyone else was at with letting their kids go on this faraway adventure from home.

I didn’t really think much of it, but a couple days before the field trip I started asking myself, “Should I be more worried or nervous? Should I try harder to be a chaperone or make plans to meet them there?” This only lasted a second though and then I settled back down. Keana is such a great rule-follower that I knew she would stick with the group and be safe. But then my mind started racing to bus accidents and bad weather and, and, and. Shhhh. Quiet mind. I told myself it would be fine and let it go.

5:00 a.m. came much too soon (as it always does when you have to be somewhere early like that). Keana was so worried I wouldn’t get up, that I knew I couldn’t let her down. So I got right up and started trying to wake her. She was out. Eventually I got her to open her eyes and it didn’t take long for her to get going once she realized that it was finally time for the big adventure to the aquarium. It was still pitch dark outside as we pulled up to the school, and once she saw those big charter buses, she started bobbing up and down and said, “Hurry Papa, hurry! We gotta get on the bus!” I assured her they weren’t going anywhere and hadn’t even started loading yet since we were pretty early. This had zero affect on her. She was ready to go.

It was so much fun to see the kids hug each other upon arrival and jump up and down with excitement. The crowd of parents were almost as excited as the kids but we contained our hugs and jumps. I gave her a hug, said I loved her, and there was no hesitation boarding the giant charter bus and finding a seat. I stuck around to wave goodbye, though I couldn’t tell if she saw me through the tinted windows, but I stayed anyway, just in case.

The day went on and periodically it sunk in that our baby was 150 miles away and completely out of our grasp. I knew she was having a blast though and I imagined all the wonderful things she was seeing for the first time and all the fun she was having with her teacher and friends. I knew this was good for her, good for us, and a really amazing experience for a little six-year-old. It was such a great reminder how important it is to let your kids go sometimes and it was also a very small preview into the future.

When I picked her up from school I heard from her teacher that they stopped at McDonalds and Keana told them she had never been. They were all very surprised of course, and she proceeded to tell them that her papa won’t let her eat there because they chop down rain forests to feed their cattle. One of the kids said that wasn’t true and Keana responded, “Well, my dad is older than you so I think he knows better.” The kids then decided that maybe they should go somewhere else next year. Then of course she went on to say how her favorite food was really sushi and I just had to laugh. What do these Fresnoites think of us? Eh, who cares. It is what it is. She had an ice-cream cone though so that seemed like a good alternative.

When asked what her favorite fish were, she responded with jellyfish, octopus, and sunfish. Slowly, more and more details are coming out about the trip, but it’s clear that she learned lots, had a blast, and truly enjoyed the whole experience: from arriving at school in the dark morning, to riding the bus with her friends, to seeing all the animals in the aquarium, to yes, even McDonalds.

Maia in the Moon

A couple nights ago, in the kitchen and exhausted, I look at Sarah and say, “I’m lost.” She says, “Me too.” and we hug.

We are in the middle of another “how do we get Maia to stay sleep well” phase. Each time I tell myself that it’s just that, a phase, some brief period that we just go through as part of her growing up. But over the winter break I was moving our old blog to this site, and years ago I wrote about pretty much the same thing I’m about to write now. When it comes to Maia getting good sleep, we are lost—again.

It’s on and off. Sometimes this thing works and sometimes that thing works, but we have yet to find that magic formula. Really, since she was a baby, we have experimented with every method you can think of, tweaking things here and there hoping for some solution. We’ve thrashed between being confused and confident, angry and peaceful, despairing and hopeful, and everything in between. And the only thing we’ve really come up with is that sleep is important and we all need more of it. Well, Keana and Aliya are doing pretty good, but sometimes Maia wakes them up with her middle-of-the-night anguish too.

The last three nights pretty much sum it all up:

She goes to bed fine, but wakes up around midnight and can’t go back to sleep.
She has to pee.
She’s hungry.
She’s scared.
She wants Mama.
She has to pee.
She wants Papa.
She has to pee.
She’s scared.
She has to pee.
Finally, at 4 a.m., she falls asleep (and Aliya wakes up).

Friday night’s antics pushed us to rearrange her bed, moving the mattress to floor (her idea).
She goes to bed fine, but wakes up around 1 a.m. and can’t go back to sleep.
She has to pee.
She’s hungry.
She’s scared.
She doesn’t want Mama (because Mama makes her have to pee).
She wants Papa.
She has to pee.
She’s scared.
She has to pee.
I am so frustrated with her that I lose it.
I ask her why she can’t just sleep like a normal person.
I ask her why she’s such a problem.
I tell her I’m going to put her in a box and ship her to the moon.
I feel horrible.
I tell her I’m sorry and frustrated and she’s not the problem, but her not sleeping is the problem.
I tell her I won’t put her in a box or ship her to the moon.
Finally, I lay with her in our bed and she asks in a whisper, “Papa, if you ship me to the moon, what will I eat?”
I feel horrible, but muster, “In your box there would be a magic fridge with whatever you wanted and a little bear would help you.”
“How big is the bear?” she asks.
“About as big as Miko [our 20 pound cat].” I reply.
She snuggles in and falls asleep.
I’m not sure how early or late it is, but I know Aliya will wake up soon. And she does.

She goes to bed fine and starts to fuss around 11:30 p.m.
She has to pee.
She’s hungry.
She just wants to be held.
I take her back to her room and ask if she wants me to sleep with her.
She nods yes, we snuggle in, and we fall asleep.
I wake up at 2 a.m.
I have to pee.
Maia’s fine.
I go back to sleep.

What happens next? We have no idea.
We’re researching.
We’re asking lots of questions.
We’re listening.
We’ll stay patient.
We’ll stay open.
We’ll stay loving.
Sometimes as a parent, that is the only magic formula you have.


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.

Maia Turns Four

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.

A New Way to Start the Day


This morning was quite unique. We awoke as usual: Aliya woke up first, crying for “Mama”, just before six. Not long after, Maia began to stir, snuggled in next to me as lately, she’s found her way back into our bed in the middle of the night. Then “stomp stomp stomp” went Big Zoob’s (Keana) feet, eager and excited to get ready for school and get the day started. It was cold though, so Keana crawled into bed with Maia and I as Maia complained about the kitty crowding her. Keana said “Papaaaa! Get up! We’re going to be late!” and I had to reassure her there was plenty of time—several times. But finally, after the snoozed alarm on my watch went off for the fourth time, I dragged myself out of bed as the kids and kitty dropped to the floor around me and took off running.

And it was like that, business as usual. Aliya joined us and wondered around, being busy as only walking babies can be with all sorts of little baby projects, scrounging occasional bites of bagel from Keana, Maia, and I when she was in the vicinity. As we ate, Keana began to talk about all her loose teeth—there were five—and said this particular one on the bottom was annoying her. Then, much to my surprise, she asked me if I would pull it out. I laughed a little nervously, asked if she was serious, and then said “sure.” Keana got very excited and started talking about how excited she was going to be to show Ms. Daigle and her classmates, and I realized that losing teeth was social currency in first grade. It was exciting, different, and a sure sign that showed you were growing up. Missing teeth, especially freshly lost ones, got you attention and Keana wanted her some of that this morning.

I tore off a little piece of paper towel, folded it around the tooth, and began to pull straight up, gently, just as I had done many years ago on my own teeth. I had a method in my youth and once I got my fingers around the tooth, it all came back to me. Maia and Aliya looked on with excited curiosity. I watched Keana’s face for signs of discomfort but she was all good. The paper towel soaked through, so I got another little piece and tried again, this time applying a little more pressure. I saw Keana’s eyes close and a concentrated calm came over her. The next second I felt the root of that little tooth pop free and Keana and I both laughed with excitement. I think was as surprised as she was. Maia jumped up and down and declared, “It came out! You’re so big sissy!” and Aliya squealed and turned in circles, not knowing quite what to do. We all examined the tooth briefly and Keana ran into the bedroom where Sarah was to share what we had just done.

When I rolled out of bed this morning, never did I imagine I would be extracting a tooth. That’s just life with these crazy kids though: moment to moment, adventure to adventure, big, and small.


One of the most enjoyable parts of being a parent is seeing your kids’ personalities emerge. Even six years after our first, and two more later, witnessing our little people turn into, well, little people is such a surprise. There are some similarities amongst our girls—like their great senses of humor, their musicality, and their love for dancing—but really they are all quite unique and very much individuals.

A week ago, we went to the Intermountain Nursery for their fall festival. We’ve gone every year since we moved to Fresno, and it’s always a lot of fun to see the local arts and crafts, sample some great food, and hear a variety of live music. And this year what I really noticed, and loved watching, was how each of our girls’ personalities shone in different ways in that setting.

I was mostly on Aliya duty last Sunday and she never stopped. She’s been walking for about three months now and is steady enough and confident enough to head out on her own adventures. In fact, she’ll often give a little scream when you pick her up when she wants to be on her own two feet, so I just let her go. I did run a little interference for her in more dense crowds, but for the most part, she chose her own path and made friends along the way. “Shy” is not really a part of this girl’s personality at the moment. She walked straight up to groups of adults who would be talking, looked each one in the eye, smiled, then moseyed on. I watched stranger after stranger just be immediately charmed by her independent, cute-as-hell smile and felt humbled and proud at the same time. She even walked right up to this older man and put her arms out, requesting to be picked up. He asked if it was okay and I said it was fine. I knew Aliya’s sense of who is safe and knows what they’re doing was good enough to trust, and I asked him about his kids. They were grown now and he told me the saddest day of his life with them so far, was the day he couldn’t pick them up any more. I could tell that having a minute with Aliya was pretty special for him and Aliya was right at home, even in this stranger’s arms. When she was ready she leaned over, he set her down, and away we went. We did that for hours, literally.

Now Maia on the other hand, she’s a little more reserved in social settings. She sat in the stroller much of the time, and only ventured out for short periods. She got out to say hi and be with Cousin Olivia at first, then was out for little bit to dance in Grandma Jennie’s arms, but then went back into her little chariot, content with observing things from in there. When one of their friends showed up later, she of course got out and wanted to be in among the little tribe of kids, but in general, it seemed Maia needed some space between her and the crowd and had no problem asking for it, which I thought was great. I want her to be comfortable even if it’s a little anti-social. When she’s ready, she makes her presence known. In fact, it was really interesting watching how much other people were drawn to her, even though she really wanted nothing to do with them. Maybe it’s because she’s stand-offish, or maybe it’s because she’s so petite and cute, I don’t know. But if you think you’re going to make Maia you’re friend, you will be set straight. Maia really likes things on her terms.

That leaves Little Miss Thang, Keana. She and Aliya seem similar personality-wise, because I remember Keana, even as a baby, charming the crowds and being open to just about anyone. Still, they are different. Aliya has a little bit more edge in her outgoingness, whereas Keana is still our little happy-go-lucky. People everywhere have described her simply as “a light”, and that pretty much sums it up. There could not be a more loving little girl. It doesn’t matter how old you are, younger or way older, if you’re ready to play, Keana will be right there with you. She also loves to dance and she didn’t let her slight nervousness stop her last Sunday. There really weren’t many people dancing, and really no other kids, but Keana was right up front, busting out all her moves. It was really cute watching her assimilate some of the moves of the older people around her. She danced as long as music was playing. She admitted to me later, “Papa, I was a little scared to dance. But I just like dancing so much I just did it anyway.” I have much to learn from Keana.

That’s really what it is: noticing, appreciating, supporting, and learning from these kids as they grow into who they’re going to be. Watching Keana, Maia, and Aliya is a constant reminder to me that I’m still growing too and that who I am is exactly who I am supposed to be. When I remember this, it helps me with them. It is such a gift and such a joy to be a part of this.