It’s going to be 100 degrees today. It was almost that yesterday. I can’t think of a clearer signal that summer approacheth. Around here though, the weather is a little ahead of the game—there’s still lots to be done before we can officially say Team Hokama is on summer break.
The kids have 13 days of school left, but they’re not really into “the countdown” yet in this stage of their schooling, though I know they’re ready for a long break. As usual, we don’t exactly have our summer planned out, but I’m sure it will all come together. The only definitive is our friend Adam is getting married in Medford, OR at the end of June, so we’ll be trekking up there for that. And we’ll be camping—somewhere, sometime—so that’s the “plan” so far.
I’m not sure how to put this, exactly, but…we survived our first Nutcracker. Way backin September, when it was still hot and Christmas seemed like a life-time away, Keana auditioned for the Nutcracker. It was her first real ballet audition and low and behold, she got a part as a “little mouse.” This last week was the culmination of many hours of practice, driving, fundraising, and preparation, with four performances in the Central Valley’s Nutcracker.
Sarah helped out behind the scenes throughout the week and I did a couple drop-offs and pick-ups as well. It really was a big time and energy commitment for the whole family, and Aliya and Maia were on the single-parent schedule most of the week. Add to this that we were all sick with a cough/cold, and you have a pretty rough week. Keana was a little nervous, especially not knowing what to expect for dress rehearsals and adjusting to staying up late for the rehearsals and performances. She became good friends with the other three little mice though, so they kept each other entertained backstage. After her final performance today she said that she wished there were more, so I think that’s a good gauge as to how the experience was for her. She’s also excited to audition again, so there you go.
9:58: Woke up this morning a little before 8 and everyone was healthy! Maia made it through the night without being sick. Quick breakfast today: cereal. Really nice having minimal prep/clean-up, buuuuut, 10 minutes after finishing, Keana says, “I’m hungry, I need a snack.” So it was really a breakfast of cereal, salami, cheese, and crackers.
After breakfast, while Sarah and I sat looking at the ocean from our “front porch,” it hit me (again) what a huge strain it is having just one sick child. Maia’s part of our team and we need her in the line-up! Aside from having to do extra care and cleaning when she’s sick, her presence amongst her sisters is really an important factor in harmony for the whole family. So while we were talking, Aliya came over and said she was tired and wanted to go in the tent. She was distracted throwing rocks for a minute, then started brushing her teeth and headed for the tent. Sarah’s in there with her now and I think she really is going back to sleep. Now to see what adventures Maia, Keana, and I can stir up…
Then my friend Luna came and wanted to play. We said after lunch. I had some bread and honey. Then we headed up to Luna’s camp. We climbed on rocks to the creek. Then we decided to go to the beach. We climbed back and asked if we could go to the beach. They said yes. Luna put her swim suit on. Then we went to our camp and put our swim suits on. We went down and set up our towels. Then we played sharks. Then we went to the beach. We played on the castle rock. Then we ran in the waves. Then we started to collect seaweed. Soon, a girl named Ania joined in a became my friend. As soon as we collected a whole pile we decided to do a fashion show. We dressed myself up in seaweed first. Then we dressed Ania in seaweed. Then we made a hole called a toilet.
Then we buried Lunda’s brother in sand. Then we laid down and a big wave got us and Lunda’s brother. Luna’s brother was unhurried and taken care of. Then we decided to go river climbing. When we were climbing I fell in. Then we went back and played in the ocean for a while. Then we decided to rinse off in a secret pool. Then Ania and her mom went back to camp and Luna came with me to my site. She went to her camp site to get ready. Then I took a shower. Then I sat on a rock and waited. Then I made quarter stacks and had a snack. Soon later Luna and Ania came. We carried Maia up by making a chair with our arms. Then Luna had to go so me, Maia, and Ania went to camp site 17 to explore. On the way we saw a snake. Then we planned a surprise picnic for Luna.
I journaled during our camping trip using an app on my phone (sans internet access) for most of our trip, however, this first day I didn’t have time to get down. So this is a post-adventure recap, but the rest that follow were written while on our trip.
It might have been a record getting out of town, only 30 minutes later than we planned! We packed the Thule skybox the night before so we were halfway there. It’s amazing how all the little things add up to a lot of time when trying to get out of your house for the week—last cleaning of the cat boxes, fresh water, food; taking out the garbage/recycling; closing all the windows/doors/garage; instructions for the person watching the house—doesn’t sound like a lot, but I swear just those little things add at least an hour.
But we got on the road and spirits were high until just outside Paso de Robles. That’s when Maia began feeling sick. In the back of mind I worried that we had finally reached the point when one of our kids started being car sick on long rides. Then again, Sarah, Aliya, and Keana had just had a nasty stomach bug, so…we pulled over once going over the hill to Cambria, stopped in Cambria, then just after the windy part of the road started, Maia lost it. I’d have to say that kids puking in the car is one of my worst nightmares. Hate. It. But she did pretty good and sadly threw up a few more times in the last 45 minutes of the car ride.
We (luckily) got an “overflow” site at Limekiln though, right on the beach and under the bridge, and got to work setting up camp. It was definitely one of the least stressful camp set-ups in Team Hokama history. And since we got there so early in the day, we even had time for the beach, though it was a little foggy.
As dinner approached, it was clear Maia was not just car sick. She had gotten whatever bug her sisters had the week before. I was also feeling a bit nauseous, but attributed it to having to deal with cleaning barf pans (though Sarah handled handled most of the hands-on stuff in the tent).
So, unfortunately, the exciting start to our camping adventure was clouded a little by poor Maia not feeling well. We went to bed hopeful that it would pass quickly so she could start having fun with the rest of us.
Keana also wrote each day to capture her adventures, so I’ll be including excerpts from her writing as well. Here’s a little something from Day One:
I woke up tired today. As soon as I got used to it I tried to wake up Papa. He said, “Give me till 8:00.” So while I waited, I played horses. Then I played with Aliya for a little, then finally, Papa got up. I got dressed and went outside. Papa put on the bacon while heating the water. Then I had a piece of bacon. Then Papa put on the pancakes. Aliya got half a big pancake and I got the other half.
Until last weekend, our sleeping arrangements had been off for over a while. Two weeks ago Keana got a virus and a nasty bacterial infection in her lungs—yeah, ended up with walking pneumonia. She missed nine days of school and sadly, also missed Authors Night—where the kids read the books they’ve written and illustrated in an after-school event. Anyway, Aliya was already in her own room and we let Maia sleep with us to reduce the risk of infection. Thanks to her first-ever dose of antibiotics, Keana’s infection went away and our plan worked: Maia and Aliya didn’t get sick! Truly a miracle. It was time to get back to the regular sleeping arrangements, but we took the opportunity to explore a new arrangement: bunk beds.
These bunk beds are not new. Oh no, they are quite old in fact and I think I’ve built them and taken them apart at least two other times. We bought them a couple years ago thinking they would be great, then realized Keana and Maia wer too young. Then when Aliya came along we tried again. Nope, still not time. Too many worries about falling kids, messing around on the top bunk, etc. So, they’ve been stored in the garage, just waiting for the appointed hour. And I think it’s come.
It seemed like Maia wanted her own space but not her own room, and Keana was finally ready for the top bunk, so we brought them in on Saturday and put them together. Of course, when Aliya caught sight of them, she did not want to stay in her boring old room. With the extra space in Keana and Maia’s room, there was a place for her little bed, so we made a deal that they could all sleep in the same room as long as everybody actually slept. Yeah, right. But actually, it’s going well so far. They’re so sweet with each other and they really enjoy all being in the same room. Mostly. Maia had a moment when she wanted to kick Aliya out, but now by the fifth night, I think they’re settling in.
There’s something really special about having them all in the same room, sharing the “lights out ritual”, and waking up together. They love it. And I can’t quite explain it, but Sarah and I love it too. Maybe it’s because we’re pack animals and having them all together and closer to our room just feels right. And Aliya always wants to be doing whatever her big sisters are doing and thankfully, they almost always want her along, sharing their experience. PLUS, if all goes well, we’ll have a free bedroom for my office and guests. Yes! (insert fist pump).
The warm sunshine has felt so good lately. And what’s felt even better is an almost healthy family! I say almost, because I’ve just now gotten over phlegmy-phlegm-phlegm and Sarah is just now getting better from a cold as well. BUT, thankfully, the kids have gotten over the rotating wheel of badness, which has allowed us to enjoy and focus on some other things…
…for instance, Valentines was a lot of fun. Keana hand made cards for everyone in her class. We cheated a little by making one drawing for the boys and just coloring each one, but every girl got a custom picture of themselves with Keana. She had herself dancing, flying, and “going crazy” and no two were alike. I have to say, she did get a little stressed out when she realized the breadth of the project she had taken on. She tends to do that—get stressed out over long-term projects. It’s very difficult convincing her she has enough time and that “it will all be okay.” Right now she’s working on her first report for second grade. They’re studying goods/products and she chose almonds. I think it’s because Sarah’s been in the process of converting them to non-dairy milk (just to see if there are benefits for them, not particularly due to any terrible allergy). Keana really likes the vanilla almond milk, so there you go. Keana’s been literally harassing us about helping her research and type. All the research and writing is basically done and it’s not due until Friday, so for now, it looks like this girl is not our procrastinator.
Maia has been having a lot of success sleeping on her own, through the night, with the help of a tracking chart (with fun stickers). It’s something we’ve tried before, but this time it’s really working. We started out three nights in a row then a small prize, then upped it to four, then five, etc. It’s worked so well, we’ve started using a chart for Keana too, but she’s working on cleaning up after herself, particularly with clothes. I too have chart, and I’m working on not getting angry or being mean, and communicating better by acknowledging when I’m spoken to. The anger thing I’ve been working on for a while but I’ve still had my moments of frustration where I raise my voice. And with three kids talking at once, I have found it easier to just listen and not talk, but when I get busy I tend to not even acknowledge important things even if I do hear them. I’m not very good of thinking of reasonable prizes for myself though (like, an iPad isn’t really a fair prize for 5 stickers), but the chart is really helping me too. I attribute it to my competitive nature. Doesn’t matter what it is, I want to win dammit, fill up those squares!
Aliya’s much less cranky now that she feels better and it’s so much fun watching her learn new things and hearing the complexity in her thoughts and speech increase daily. Yesterday she pointed and called out “O!” in the word “stop.” She’s also been figuring out “how many”, mostly just up to two. Her sense of humor is coming along nicely too and I’m pretty sure she’s going to be cracking us up regularly as she gets older. She already appropriates jokes she hears from her older sisters. That being said, she can switch to serious in heartbeat. If you call her “silly” or some other thing, she’s quick to put on her stern face and say, “I’m not silly, I’m ALIYA!” We still call her “Babe-in” too, so sometimes she refers to herself as that. She mostly doesn’t nap anymore but by the time 4 or 5 rolls around, she’s very tired and does tend to get more needy. But at night, she goes straight to sleep and mostly sleeps until 6 or 7. Her sisters are really good about playing with her and she and Maia, especially, can play around the house together for hours, running from one end to the other, caring for babies, catering an event, or just following some other imaginative adventure. This last week she started calling Maia, “Maia Mama” and looks to her for help and comfort at times. It reminds me of when Maia started calling Keana, “Little Mama” around the same age.
This weekend was the first warm one in a while—where everyone was healthy—so we went to this huge park nearby called Woodward Park and had a picnic, ran around, explored, played chase, danced silly, and climbed trees. We also visited the Japanese Gardens and had fun crossing the bridges and checking out the koi. It was a great reminder of how important it is to get out as a family and be in the sun and just do kid-like things. When there’s sickness and it’s cold and hazy out, and there’s all that stress that goes along with that, it’s hard to remember that it will eventually pass, the sun does come out and warm things up, and better times are always just around the corner.
In my last post (a little less than a week ago) Keana was just coming down with a fever and it turned out to be a bad one. She missed the entire week of school with fever, cough, runny nose, and bloodshot eyes. Then, on Thursday, Maia came down with it, adding some good ol’ vomiting in the wee hours of the morning. Luckily it wasn’t chronic throw-up, but still, when things come back up the wrong way, it really puts many aspects of your character to test. And still today, Maia slept half the day, not able to eat anything until now (1:30 p.m.). She seems to be feeling much better now, so I’m hopeful the end is in sight. Somehow Aliya, Sarah, and I have stayed healthy this week and I hope it stays that way.
The thing about sick kids—especially when it just keeps rotating and rotating around over weeks and weeks—is that it just plain wears you out. After night after night of very little sleep and cleaning up nasty thing after nasty thing, I find myself DONE. Yesterday especially, there was really no other word for it. I just wanted it all to go away. I growled, I threatened to eat the children, I squirmed in my skin looking for any way around having to take care of one more thing related to sick kids. And this is where I pay tribute to Sarah for being an amazing mom and partner who, after dealing with exactly the same stuff yesterday, stepped up and even cleaned the litter boxes for her struggling husband at the end of the day.
After a week like the last one, it’s important for me to remember a few things:
Whatever it is, it will pass. Some day, the kids will all be healthy again and the faucets of snot will dry up, I’ll get back to sleeping at least 4 hours at night, and I won’t have to jump at every cough or groan, running frantically with a plastic bucket to catch the impending doom.
However I feel, Sarah is probably feeling it too. We’re both tired. We’re both doing our best and we’re both grossed out. I’ve tried to make it a point to thank her at least once a day for everything she’s done, and remembering it’s okay to ask for what I need too. She can say no, which is fine, but it’s okay for me to ask for help.
Related to that last one, it’s okay for me to say no. Of course I have to do whatever’s necessary for the kids, but there are a lot of things that are optional. Especially this winter, sickness has really been a marathon and trying to be super-parent 24/7 is not possible. It makes me grumpy and mean and it’s just no good for anyone.
There’s nothing like week after week of at least one person being sick to make you appreciate good health and push you to take care of yourself!
(Couldn’t find a pic that fit this post so thought I’d brighten it up with some Aliya cuteness.)
Well, we survived our first week back from three weeks off and have already begun the next. Keana and Maia were quite excited to be back at school which I’m always thankful for. Being back at work was pretty easy too since there was no lack of things to do which kept the tim flying. I also took a work trip to Berkeley for a couple days, so that made the week go by even quicker but also made it feel particularly hectic.
I love coming back from vacation and having a long weekend too. We took advantage of the extra time to rest up and have some fun. I (finally) installed some training wheels on Keana’s bike while she played at Iana’s house and Maia had a playdate with a friend from school. I had resisted training wheels because I know how much Keana struggles with change, and I worried that she would be the only kid in her junior high still riding with them on. I realized my foolishness though and put them on hoping that it would make it more fun for her to at least be a little independent while she gets used to this bigger bike. Although I had a little trouble loosening up while instructing her on how to ride on the road with cars, we eventually had a lot of fun cruising around the neighborhood together. I have to fight that 1950s-style-dad that’s embedded in me somewhere that says, “If you’re gonna learn something, learn it right the first time dammit! I don’t care if it’s not fun at first. Learn it right and it will be fun!” Anyway, I was really proud of her for not freaking out when cars came by and not panicking under pressure. She even had a brush with an accident but somehow saved herself from completely tipping over on a particularly sloped street. Even after that, she had no problem straightening out and getting back on the road. Now she’s begging to ride every chance she gets.
And yes, Maia had her first playdate with a friend from school. She had had playdates with shared friends with Keana, but this was her first having someone over own her own. He’s this little guy from up the street, who’s a little younger than her, and really sweet. They had a lot of fun together building with blocks, running around in the backyard, and generally just being silly together. Maia is really maturing quickly it seems and she’s just a lot of fun to watch. She’s even been having some success sleeping on her own through the night, so we can sort of see some light at the end of the tunnel with things she’s struggled with up until this point.
This morning Aliya was really surprising me with her aggressiveness. It’s not a bad aggressive, really, she’s just more physical than the other two were at her age. She leaps with reckless abandon across bodies on the bed, not thinking a bit about where she’ll land or who she’ll land on. This is particularly exciting when waking up, first thing in the morning. She’s also found it quite funny to smack people lately and we’ve really had to put the lid on this, especially since it kind of stings for me as an adult, so on the kids, it’s pretty painful. It’s tough though, because out of nowhere she’ll just slap the top of your head with surprising force, and it makes me laugh which of course just makes her want to do it more. Also, this morning I ran into the girls room to sneak a little peace and closed the door, which is very hard to open. I flopped on their bed and I could hear Keana and Aliya banging on it and trying to pry it open, then I heard Keana walk away. Aliya didn’t give up though and with a final bang, busted it open as Keana squealed with delight, “Babe-in got the door open all by herself!” Aliya burst in, crawled up on the bed, and body slammed me, giggling the whole time. I love that girl’s fire.
And now they’re all asleep. Phew. And Keana seems to be coming down with a fever and has sore leg muscles from riding her bike, so she’s pretty uncomfortable. I just pray it’s something we’ve already had because after spending half of December and January with sick kids, I am not ready for another round. Now when’s the next three-day weekend?
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.
Man, it has been a day. All was going pretty good at first: Keana got off to school happy and on time, and even though Maia had a sore throat, she insisted on going to school too. Cousin Olivia was over this morning playing with Aliya, and while each of them had separate falls that brought them to tears, they had an excellent morning playing with each other and being, as Sarah puts it, “turkeys”.
Maia, Aliya, and Sarah headed off to a cranial sacral appointment for Maia in the afternoon, and not long after they left, Sarah called and said the school called her and Keana had hit her head. It was a little unclear what exactly happened—she was conscious and wasn’t bleeding—but I needed to deal with it since Sarah was busy. So I called the school and talked to Keana and they said she had a pretty good-sized knot on her forehead. I explained we only have one car and I didn’t have it, so it would take me about 20 minutes to walk there (Keana’s school is 1.2 miles from our house). The office lady said that was fine, so I headed out. Nothing like walking to get an injured child from school in 100 degree heat.
They were right, the knot on Keana’s head was huge. Apparently she was playing tag and running for “safe” (a tree), tripped on the root and nailed her forehead at the hairline, square against the trunk. Yeah, ouch. I made sure she could see, wasn’t dizzy, didn’t feel sick, etc. and we headed out, on foot, back into the 100 degrees.
It was a good walk, considering the circumstances, and I carried her for a block here and there. I was a little worried about her overdoing it in the heat with that kind of lump on her head.
Then, I cooked a horrible dinner. I mean, it was edible, but the meat was tough (honestly, a rarity for me), the greens were burned, and it just generally sucked. Sarah had something to go to, so I got the kids ready for bed on my own. It was at this point I realized I had worn my shirt inside out most of the day, tag sticking out on the back of the neck and everything. Awesome…had to laugh though. I finally wrangled Keana and Aliya in bed, and Maia’s nose started running and she can not deal. I tried everything I could think of and finally had to just sit in the room with her and work on the laptop until she fell asleep. Phew.
I had just enough time to catch the bottom if the 9th inning of the Giants’ game against the Astros, when Maia started crying out. It’s 8:30 and I had been dealing with bed time for about two hours at this point. Oy. Sarah arrived though and got Maia back to sleep, only to have her wake up again at 9:54. Poor thing doesn’t feel good and I had to catch myself trying to analyze the problem and go down “a list” to solve it. I know that won’t work, but it’s a go-to “dad thing” of mine that I’m trying to quit. Once again Sarah had to step in and be the gentle care-giver.
It’s quiet now but I know that doesn’t mean shit with sick/injured little ones. I’m really focusing on having no fear and no hope (or expectations) for the night (and beyond). It’s just been one of those days and writing it out here has made it all a little better and put me back in alignment.