Friday, March 17, 2017

A Bit of Life's Blind Luck

Contemplating the "luck of the Irish" (of which I'm a quarter) on this St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd look back at the role it has played in my life to date. While most of the life my family shares can be ascribed to careful decision making and hard work, there have been moments, instances of blind luck, that genuinely changed our lives and, in at least one case, actually set them in motion.
There was luck in my childhood, but it was of the typical kind. I had parents who looked after me and provided for me. I was able to go to school. Perhaps the most uniquely lucky aspect of my first twenty years is that I met a group of friends (15 or so) that still get together every year, despite living all over the country. Odd that so many strange souls who would call me a friend lived in the same town, but this bit of luck was nothing compared to what happened in college.

The greatest piece of luck I have ever experienced was being hired as a music librarian for my work study job at UC Davis. I felt I was lucky to have the job from the beginning, but it would take a year and a half to discover just how fortuitous my hiring had been.

In my second year, a beautiful woman entered the library. I'd seen her before. She handed me her student ID in exchange for a CD that she was going to listen to in preparation for a concert coming up. She was part of the student orchestra. Two minutes later, she came back to ask me how to work the CD player (this being her second visit, it was the second time she'd asked for help). When she finished, we ended up talking. And we're still talking twenty years later. If I hand't gotten that music library job, chances are I never would've met my future wife and experienced all the adventures that have come with it. In recognition of this, I still ensure that all our audio equipment is overly complicated so that she still needs to seek me out to get it going. It's my little insurance policy.
That music library job led to meeting Sumie and, three years later, resulted in the next stroke of luck. Sumie had come to UC Davis in the middle of getting her law degree in Japan. She finished her school work in California, and then, instead of just staying here in the US, she decided to finish up her degree in Japan. As a result, I ended up having the best year of my life teaching English to a wacky group of kids.
Before I left for Japan I had some very close friends, but they were all on the west coast. After a year in Japan, I came back to California with life-long friends from all over the world. That decision to live abroad had the lucky impact of opening up the world and helping me to take chances. As a result, I wouldn't stay in California for long.

Another instance of luck was that Sumie was accepted to study medicine in New York. For a while, we were looking at living in Hershey Pennsylvania. I could very well have ended up working as a chocolate historian. But as things worked out, we ended up moving to what would become our favorite city in the world. We discovered our first apartment that we actually lived in together on the Upper West Side...
...and fell in love with a tiny apartment, the first real estate we ever bought, on the Upper East Side.
We even had a little girl along the way.
After ten years on the east coast, we thought we'd be there pretty much forever. But then luck stepped into our path again. Sumie was set to sign a contract with a nephrology group back east, but the contract had been delayed by the group's attorney. As a result, when she was contacted by a medical group out here in California, we thought we might as well at least hear them out. Five days later, we'd decided to move to the Bay Area. Virtually blind luck again, but what can I say, it's been good to us.

That little girl in New York has now grown into a toothless 1st grader...
...who has interesting ideas about hats,
but can work hard when she wants to. She recently graduated Japanese Kindergarten.
Over the years, Mimi has been joined by Christopher, our little Kuri. He's the only three year old who can pull off a bomber jacket with shorts and strawberry rubber boots.
He's also very good at looking tough hanging out the top of a 911.
And lastly, there's Mariko, who though only a year old, already has complete control over the entire family. She is the puppet master.
Somehow, amazingly, all of this goes back to that random day when someone thought I'd make a decent music librarian. And, as such, though it paid the least, it will always be the job for which I'm most thankful.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy First Birthday, Mariko! (I think...)

Three hundred and sixty-four days ago, we welcomed our third child, little Mariko, to the world. The challenge for the past week, though, has been just how to celebrate her first year. Mari was born on February 29th. I've argued for March 1st as the special day, but Sumie has been a hardliner for the 28th. Given that this post is coming to you on the 28th, you can guess who won. But I suppose this argument is all slightly irrelevant as we celebrated her birthday on the 26th.
Our baby with the unique birthday has provided us with an equally unique year. Somewhat hard to believe that we began prepping for her arrival well over 12 months ago. With two kids already in place, there wasn't much we needed to procure. The primary work to be done was prepping the kids for a new attention taker-awayer and toy disrupter. Mimi was excited and offered to test the bassinet.
Kuri wasn't quite as interested in helping, so his Papa spent some extra time with him. He even let him drive the Porsche.
The kids were pretty much ready, and by February 29th, so was Mari. She arrived healthy and, thankfully, not quite as loudly as her older sister.
Mimi was excited, but Kuri, despite all the extra trips and time spent with Papa, still had his doubts. He didn't quite know what to make of this very tiny person.
As with any newborn, sleep was at a premium for the first few months.
But there was plenty of cuddling to make up for it.
Mimi quickly got into the role of looking after her baby sister.
For the first month or two, Mariko was our little monkey...
...but she soon started to develop a mischievous personality... appreciation for being surprised...
...and even a sense of wonder.
Despite only being a year old, Mari is already rather well-traveled. She's been all over California with us, including sites like the Jelly Belly Factory.
But her biggest, and earliest trip was to Japan. That required booking tickets before she was born (something rather difficult to do when one of the passengers doesn't yet exist) and getting passport photos done at the ripe old age of 5 days.
Reading has always played a large role in our family...
...and as the kids have gotten older, they're reading more and more independently.
 But that hasn't stopped them from taking some time to read to their baby sister...
...though sometimes a book is just too good to share and the baby has to play on her own.
And how has Kuri done when it comes to accepting his baby sister? Well, he's done a full 180. She's one of his favorite playthings, especially now that she can crawl. Except for the occasional destruction of his train set at her hands, he loves having her around.
Now that Mari's a bit older, we can do a lot of things together, like shopping at Costco...
...where Kuri works hard to protect his baby sister whenever there's any danger, like rain.
Even little trips up the road to Petaluma are special with these three.
The best times, though, are usually spent just hanging out at home, be it on the living room floor...
...or on Mama and Papa's bed.
And they really love to plan how to make Mama and Papa's lives a bit more, um, interesting.
It's been a wonderful first year. Mari may not be a walker yet, but she's crawling pretty much everywhere, though our slippery wood and tile floors often reduce her to a belly crawl, which at least helps to keep the floor clean.
One of our favorite things about little Mari is her amazing ear for language. She has a number of words now, including all the members of her family and, unfortunately, "no." She loves to babble with us, often taking part in full conversations. The only thing keeping her back from saying more than she does already are those two middle fingers on her left hand that constantly end up in her mouth.
Happy First Birthday, my little Marichan. I had no idea just how much you'd change our lives and how consistently you'd make us smile.