Tuesday, April 14, 2015

After Dinner Art Show

Dinner around our house is always an... um... how do I say this... an interestingly challenging affair. Kuri tends to eat well - especially if there's apple sauce (which there invariably is) - but only after he sits down. That's the primary challenge. He hasn't quite figured out the use of his food tray, nor has he realized that combining stuffed animals and fresh food results in his furry friends taking a trip to the washing machine.
He also loves to eat independently now, which is great, but not always advantageous, again when it comes to laundry volume. Tonight, we had a rare reprieve from extreme mess when Kuri decided he'd let Mama feed him his yogurt.
Mimi and food have a love-hate relationship. She'll either attack what's on her plate or completely ignore it. Tonight I served leftover quesadillas and udon (I know, not the most traditional meal, but that's what we had). Mimi tore through her quesadilla, but when it came to her udon, she ignored it with a fervor that I can't help but feel she'll use on overweight, acne-ridden middle school boys (I know that look).
Protests from her father were to no avail.
Despite Mimi's dinner performance, we still took some time to go through some of the pictures she had composed over the past few days. Mimi seems to have a little talent, which is a bit of a shock for Sumie and me as Mimi has already surpassed our less than meager artistic gifts.

Like most little girls, Mimi is obsessed with princesses, princes, kings, and queens. As such, there's always a lot of royalty showing up in her drawings. Here's a queen...
...and here's the "Midori Love" princess.
Over the weekend we watched a Japanese music show featuring "NyaKB" - an offshoot of Mimi's favorite group, AKB48. It is a group of about ten girls who sing in frilly skirts and kitty ears (after years of exposure to Japanese culture, I  sadly no longer find this kind of behavior odd or even surprising).  I think Mimi's take is rather good!
Our favorite drawing of the night was Mimi's public service poster. Why she decided to create a public service poster, I have no idea, but traffic safety must have been weighing heavily on her mind. Take a look at the poster below.
You most likely made out a girl, a car, and a big "X".  Under that is written "da-me," which is "don't" or "not allowed" in Japanese. In short, Mimi's public service message was "Don't hit girls with cars." Now I know... and, as we all remember, knowing is half the battle.

You may have noticed that Mimi's PSA was folded. That's because I'm hiding my favorite part of he message. Mimi, being the modest little girl she is, decided to sign her work.
Right there, in the middle of the poster, Mimi had penned "Created by Mimi." My little girl likes to be recognized for her work.

Sadly, and rather unfairly, by the end of the night Mimi had still failed to recognize the excellent contribution her udon could have made to her dinner. Poor udon. You were good, but you end today unloved. Even Sumie and I cannot eat you. We've already had far too many "second dinners" this week thanks to our fickle little girl.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Anatomy of a Meltdown

Saturday Morning:

Sumie had already left for the hospital, this being a call weekend, and both kids, uncharacteristically, snoozed until about 8:30. "There's hope," I thought. "I might just make it through this."

I was taking Mimi and Kuri to a birthday party at Pump It Up, a bouncy house gym in South San Francisco, and we had to be there by 10:30. Of course, 10:30 is Kuri's normal nap time, but with both kids sleeping in, there was a chance I might just get away with missing it. I was feeling confident as we prepared for the outing. "Right now I feel I can take on this whole birthday party myself!" But much like Dak, the short-lived gunner from "The Empire Strikes Back," my confidence was but an ironic prelude for what was to come.

Breaksfast, diaper changes, and even getting dressed went well. The only minor hang-up was Kuri's unique take on fashion.  Perhaps you can spot it.
Michael Jackson was known for wearing one white glove covered in rhinestones. Kuri insists on one yellow boot, covered in buses and taxis.
Two bridges and three freeways after departing home, we arrived at Pump It Up, just one minute late. We signed our release forms and entered the first party room. Kuri was a bit overwhelmed, but soon found a ball and all was well. He'd make it through the next two hours with this same ball. He has quite the death grip for an 18 month old.
Mimi made for the giant slide and was soon barreling down at breakneck speed.
 She even kept up with the boys.
Kuri was a bit intimated by the slide itself, but he loved falling over on the crash pad beneath it.
Kuri and I tried out one of the quieter bouncy houses, which resulted in some smiles from my normally cautious little boy.
By the end of our session in the first room, Kuri and Mimi were doing great. I was a little worn from hefting a toddler around - even up and down the big slide a few times - but definitely hanging in there. As we entered the second room, I was still feeling confident. "The kids really are holding up," I thought. "This is pretty amazing. Rather proud of them today." Well, as we all know, pride comes before a fall.

In the second room was a new collection of bouncy houses. Kuri was not a fan of any of these, unfortunately.
He ran around the floor instead, still clutching his ball, and giggling he head off. Eventually, even this began to wear thin. He needed something to bring the experience up a notch, to push it over the cliff, to take it to 11.
As you have probably guessed, what he needed was another ball.
In the new room, Mimi was addicted to the climbing house. She had set herself a mission of placing her yellow flag at the very top of the tower. Sadly, she could only ever make it about 1/3 the way up.
This caused a bit of frustration. There weren't any tears, but that lower lip of Mimi's was beginning to extend into pout mode. My confidence was still high, but I was noticing a few chinks in the armor. By the end of the session, Mimi and Kuri were still smiling...
...but Kuri was getting introspective...
 ...and Mimi was also a bit more contemplative than I would've liked.
Still, as we entered the party room for pizza, presents, and cake, I thought we'd be able to make it. They both love pizza and I was armed with apple sauce, milk, and other snacks. We had half an hour to get through. They could do it.

I wish there were pictures to document the last half hour of the party, but much like for the evacuees from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, taking pictures really wasn't a priority.

In the post-crisis debriefing I held with Sumie later that night, I think I finally pieced together how it happened. The party room held two long tables, one for kids and the other for adults. At the head of the kids' table was a giant inflatable throne with the birthday girl perched on top. I didn't realize it then, but I think that's what initially triggered the eventual meltdown. Mimi wants what Mimi wants, even if what she wants is the birthday girl's, and not hers. Mimi decided to protest the unfair throne occupation by refusing to sit at the kids table.

I poked, prodded, and encouraged her to sit with her friends, but to no avail. After five minutes, I sat down with Mimi and Kuri at the adult table. They both nibbled on their pizza, Kuri in his stroller and Mimi beside me at the table. I eventually stood up to get another slice, and that's when Kuri began to wail. Papa was not allowed to be out of sight. Papa was also not allowed to carry him. He had decided that he needed to be out of the stroller, on the ground, in a tiny room filled with 40 people. As I chased him around, Mimi grew more sour, but was still keeping her cool. And then came the balloons...

Mimi had her eye on a mylar one with a yellow flower on it. But because she wasn't sitting with the kids, someone else snagged it first. This was the core breach for Mimi. She'd had enough and could take no more. Massive tears streamed down her face and he chest began to heave in sorrow. No regular balloon, though many were offered, would do. She wasn't even jealous enough of her brother to ask for one after I tied a red balloon to Kuri's wrist.

As Mimi sobbed inconsolably over ice cream cake at the table, with me attempting to get her back on track, Kuri decided to tear into the garbage. I called out, "No, Kuri! Come back here." And that, of course, was when Kuri lost it. He began to screech - violently protesting the crowded room, the lack of a nap, and the unfair denial of access to garbage. I bundled Kuri into the stroller, picked up Mimi - who was by then dry-heaving sorrow - and made my ignominious exit.

Sumie and I had a very serious talk with Mimi that night. She knew she was in big trouble on the way home in the car, but I think she was surprised to find that Mama, who hadn't even been at the birthday party, was upset as well. Of course, Sumie and I both know that tantrums happen, but this one really bothered us. Mimi even refused to say goodbye to her friend when we left. That is simply unacceptable.

To be fair, though, even before our talk with her, Mimi attempted to make amends. As soon as we got home, she began drawing pictures and "I love you!" cards for her friend. I think she'd realized that she'd messed up, and that is, at least, a step in the right direction.

By the end of the afternoon, life was pretty much back to normal. Kuri got a little rest and quickly traded his squalling for a pair of sunglasses and a smile...
...and Mimi returned to her normal, caring self. She looked after her little brother that evening, never even showing a hint of jealousy that Kuri made it out of the party with a balloon and she didn't. That's the girl I know.
Saturday's meltdown definitely wasn't the first and I'm sure it won't be the last. I am hoping, though, that it was a step forward for Mimi. She still has a long way to go, but she has a good heart, and it always seems to win through in the end.