Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day - Now Times Three

This Father's Day was a special one. It was my first with all three kids, the first at which Kuri could talk, and the first for which Mimi decided to make as many cards, crafts, and packages for me as is humanly possible.

Later that night, after watching the Warriors somehow lose the championship, I got nostalgic and started looking through photos of the past several months. Already, in this short time, there have been a lot of changes.

The biggest have come, of course, with our little Mariko. Now nearly four months in, Mariko is no longer an infant, she's a full-fledged baby. She's smiling, giggling, getting used to the bottle, and always entertaining Mimi and Kuri. She's also become her Papa's little girl. With Sumie coming off maternity leave and my job winding down, I've been transitioning into the stay-at-home dad role again. About a month ago, you could find Marichan and me playing together at home each day. Of course I loved Mimi and Christopher dearly the first year of each of their lives, but they were both completely devoted to Mama. It wasn't really until they were each at least a year old that I really began connecting with them. But with Mari, she's actually taken to me. After a week, Sumie could really see we'd bonded. Mari would look for me, talk with me, and even giggle on cue. It was fantastic.

Mari has been the first of our kids who can just sit back and relax with me...
...and the first to give me a huge smile at every diaper change.
She's curious...
...and, like her brother and sister, can only take 30 seconds of tummy time.
Perhaps this is why the tummy time pillow tends to end up on Mimi's head.
When Sumie went back to work, there was about 2 weeks during which I'd stay home with Marichan before she switched to daycare. The reason for the wait was that she was taking Kuri's place. He's staying home with me throughout the summer to work on speaking, reading, and using the potty. With Mimi having graduated from kindergarten...
 ...Mimi and Kuri have had lots of opportunities to play together.
They ride their bikes in the back yard and up at the school.
They go on adventures to mysterious old train tunnels...
...and bravely venture through them together.
And, of course, they read...
..and read.
Now that Mimi can read on her own, she's taken to reading to the entire family.
Even Mama.
Naturally, all our time isn't spent entirely in tunnels and books. There's a little TV time in there, too. In addition to the Japanese shows the kids watch, Mimi has become addicted to the new Voltron show on Netflix. It's actually quite good. A huge improvement over the original. But there was one problem when we first started watching it. Mimi wasn't quite sure how the five lions made Voltron. Luckily, I just happened to have 5 colorful lions sitting in a cubby above the TV.
And when they all got together, they just just happened to form Voltron. Lucky, that.
Now that she has a little extra time, Mimi's upped the number of activities she has. She's still doing gymnastics once a week, but now tennis lessons are in there as well.
She's small, and hitting it over the net is still pretty tough...
 ...but she absolutely loves it when she connects for a winner (which, at this point, is anything over the net.)
Of course, the unstructured activities continue, with searching for lady bugs and rolly-pollies being a top choice.
There have been several major events since the last post. With Japanese school on Saturdays and Sumie on call every 4th or 5th week, it can be hard to fit them in, but we do our best. The most critical was pulling off Mimi's 6th birthday at our house. 10 kids, plenty of parents, way more food than we needed, games, and lots and lots of sugar. Sumie came up with an "Ice Cream!" theme and devised a station where the kids could make their own sundaes. She even baked cupcakes in ice cream cones for Mimi's cake. Sadly, very few pictures of any of this survive due to parents flying back and forth and kids mainlining sugar.

We had a potato sack race...
...which Mimi was actually able to win!
 Lots of cupcakes and hugs...
 ...and plenty of presents.
Even Marichan wore a special birthday dress.
Later that week, on Mimi's actual birthday, we braved taking all three kids to a genuinely nice restaurant for a celebratory dinner. We all made it home, none of the other guests ended up with pasta on their heads, and we were never overtly asked to leave, so we'll call that a win.
Another major event was the sports day, or undokai,  for Mimi's Japanese school. Unfortunately, Sumie was on call, so I loaded all three kids into the Pilot around 7:30am and we made our way to San Francisco.
Mimi competed in several different events, including a sprint. She didn't quite win, but was definitely giving it her all.
She also performed a dance right before the lunch break. Though she'd missed one of the practice days, she remembered all the words and moves.
Marichan, Kuri and I were camped out on the field along with all the other parents. We had a 3 foot by 5 foot rectangle on the grass in which I had to pack two kids, a stroller, lunch, drinks, diaper bag, and myself. Sadly, I forgot my chair. This would result in consequences later.
Amazingly, all the kids did really well. Kuri was manageable, Mari was a sweetheart, and Mimi had a blast. The only friction came from Mimi's new backpack that she got at the end. As I packed up, Kuri insisted that the backpack was his. He started pulling, and pulling, and pulling...
 ...and continued pulling, then screaming, for the three blocks back to where I had parked the Pilot. Despite the unpleasantness, and a scream from Kuri that perhaps permanently damaged my right eardrum, we'd made it back to the car. Now all we had to do was pile in and drive home in time for a nap. Now, where's that key? No, seriously, where's the key? You have got to be kidding me. This. Is. Not. Happening. WHERE THE F**** IS THE F***ING KEY!
The key to the Pilot, as you've probably already guessed, was never found. It's probably buried somewhere near our little camp, which you see pictured above, having slipped out of the pocket of my shorts. Had I remembered my chair, this probably wouldn't have happened. Sumie had to make an emergency run to pick us all up, drive back home, and then back to the city.
I had walked the kids back to the car at 12:00. We finally arrive home, for the final time, around 5:00. I texted Sumie this pic above to let her know we survived. Mari was amazing. She never complained. Actually, all the kids were troopers (despite Kuri's one meltdown). I was quite proud of them, but rather annoyed at myself.

Later that night, after Sumie had made it home and the kids were in bed, I decided to take a drive out Lucas Valley Road in the Porsche. I'd just gotten new tires that I hadn't tried out, and I needed to clear out my head. I had a brisk and very enjoyable run and was on my way home, with about two miles to go, poking along at 40mph in a 45, when a bobcat on crack bounded across the road causing a tremendous "thunk" from the very middle of my front bumper. I barely had time to move my foot to the brake. The car was OK, as was I, but the bobcat, well, the score stands: Porsche 1, Bobcat 0. When I arrived home I told my wife what happened. She just looked at me and said, "You've had quite the day. You've graduated from incompetent father to murderer."

The following weekend, with lost keys and reckless wildlife banished from memory, we made our way up to Tomales Bay for a picnic on Chicken Ranch Beach. It's a great little getaway. Only about 30 minutes from our house, the beach is relatively tucked away. The bay water is warm (for the north bay) and the beach is shallow, so kids can really get out and explore.
For some reason, Mimi kept striking poses.
The picture below sums up the day perfectly. Mimi, in the background, with a massive water cannon looking mischievous, Kuri off in his own world of sand, and Mari and Sumie kicking back in beach chairs (which I made sure to remember this time).
A few weekends later I took a rare day for myself. Friday night, after a fresh oil change for the Porsche, I taped up the fog lights (having noticed one was cracked), and cleaned out the car for racing.
Saturday morning I left the house far too early for a man with children and headed out to Stockton. There I met two of my friends from college for a day of autocross out on the empty parking lot. I'd always wanted to give it a go, and it was an absolute blast.
And yes, I was slow. I could chalk it up to the car being one of the oldest and least powerful ones there (though there were older cars that were significantly faster than me), but I'll just be honest. I have a lot to learn before I can really begin to wring the performance this little old Targa has to offer. I'm looking forward to the next session and hopefully continuing to improve my times. I'm not, however, looking forward to another massive sunscreen cleanup that will assuredly be needed following my next return home from the autocross course. Curse this pale body.
This last weekend, Father's Day, was an absolute godsend. We kept things simple, with breakfast at home, lunch out, and plenty of cupcakes. Despite all the ups and downs of being a parent, Sunday reminded me just how special it can be, and just how lucky I am that these three kids call me Papa.
The day ended bittersweet. I'm tremendously lucky in that I have a fantastic and supportive father-in-law (Sumie's Dad) who has always been there for us, as well as a wonderful stepfather in my mom's husband Randy, who is Grandpa to the three kids. But still, thinking back on how special this father's day had been, I wish I could've shared just a bit of it with my own dad. Just a chance to say "thanks" for helping to make what I experienced that day possible.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Part 3 - Japan Family, Friends, and Akiba

Sorry for the delay, but here is the third and final installment of our Japan trip. In this section, I'd like to cover the primary reason for our trip: time with family. Sumie's parents had recently moved from New York back to Tokyo and the kids had missed them. And Marichan had yet to meet them! After all our adventures, we spent our final few days relatively quietly. Marichan hung out with her Obachan...
 ...Kuri was attached to the couch (note the foot) to keep him from bouncing up and down on the floors (an annoying the family below)...
...and Mimi, well, she was delving into the dark world of Swedish crime drama.
During naps for the younger kids or errands, Mimi and I liked to visit the shrine in Shinagawa. It had great views (and a playground).
It also had some cherry blossoms still in bloom.
As Mimi wrote in her report for school (yes, she had to miss some school days for us to pull this trip off despite going over the spring break), her favorite part of the trip was playing with her cousins, particularly Asuka.
Hand-in-hand wherever they went...
...the two were inseparable. They even decided to wear their matching Kidzania wallets when out on the town.
One night, Uncle Shu loaded all the kids (as well as Sumie and I) into his wagon and we headed over to Tokyo station to see the "character street," which is filled with toys. We got a great view of Tokyo Tower along the way.
On one of our last days, we got to hang out with 3 of Sumie's college friends. Sadly, I don't have any pictures from this as juggling three kids at a party is a bit nuts. After that party, we got to have dinner with one of Sumie's high school friends, Rie. Somehow, the kids were remarkably well behaved, despite us sitting down to eat around 8pm.
Mimi and I ran off on our last day to visit Akihabara - Tokyo's Electronics town. We stopped off at Yodobashi Camera. I had told Mimi about this store. "It's like 5 Costcos combined into a large building that only sells electronics."
I love this store because they have an amazing headphone selection. At least 200 headphones are on display - with prices ranging from 10 dollars to 2000 dollars - and they can all be tested out. I selected an excellent pair of inexpensive JVC headphones in black (folding, for travel) and Mimi picked up the neon orange version.
She was quite excited about them.
And even Kuri, who didn't get a pair of headphones that day, got into the spirit.
We had a very special evening our last night. Shortly before we arrived in Japan, Aunt Kayo and Uncle Shu welcomed their fourth child to the world. We went over to their house, with Ojichan and Obachan, for a celebratory dinner. I was on baby duty for a while with Marichan...
 ...and later, thanks to my recent practice, had a chance to hang out with Fumikachan as well.
But both babies had their favorites in Ojichan and Obachan.
Toward the end of the night, we gathered around to share a cake...
...and take a family picture.
It was a really memorable evening. Sumie and I hope we'll be able to host the family (perhaps everyone the next time around) at our home here in California sometime soon.

Our final morning, we finished packing and waited for the Limousine bus with Obachan and, of course, the family sheltie, Harry. Mimi and Kuri waved frantically out the window as the bus pulled away.
At the airport we prepared for our flight with a meal at Fujiya. Mimi and Kuri took the obligatory picture with Pekochan...
...and by the time the plane reached cruising altitude, both were sound asleep (for a little while).
Our 2016 trip to Japan was a tremendously special one. We look forward to our next journey across the Pacific, which Marichan will be able to play with her cousins, perhaps share some words with her grandparents, and stare in wonder while her brother and sister go nuts at Disneyland.