Thursday, January 29, 2015

100 Square Feet per Person: Christmas in Marin

It is January 29th and, with a month fully past, I think we have recovered from the holidays. It was a wonderful time, filled with friends and family, but it was also beyond busy. I modest home was host to 16 people, all under the same roof. Sumie's entire family was coming to stay, so we had to get ready.

Thankfully, we had two elves to help us with the housework. Kuri took to sweeping.
By the time he finished, the area behind the couch was quite clean, but not much else. Such are the limitations of a one year old who cannot walk.
As Sumie and I cleaned, Mimi and Kuri kept us entertained with their antics.
Naturally, their animated play lead to the occasional head bonking, which neither particularly enjoyed.
Early on Christmas Day, we met Sumie's brother's family at SFO and then headed to the Dumpling House. Not a traditional Christmas breakfast, at least in my household, by any means, but very tasty.
Mimi and her cousins, Shuhei and Asuka, approved.
Sumie's parents arrived later that afternoon. By early evening, we were all back at our place, where the kids discovered the Christmas surprise: a trampoline!
The trampoline was a wonderful addition to the back yard. With up to 8 kids staying over at the same time, we needed something that would contain them and their energy.
Even Obachan and uncle Genta got into the spirit, though the kids were quick to ask for their turn back.
Given that our home is a Japanese household, there's a no-shoe policy. As such, the door out to our back yard looked like this for days.
Everyone slept in most days, but when it was time to get up, the energy was flowing. Even the kids helped with cooking breakfast.
And with the extension, we were somehow all able to fit around the dining table.
After a day with just Sumie's brother's family and the grandparents, Sumie's sister brought her family up to join in the celebration.  Nana and Shuhei, the two oldest cousins, took turns playing the piano.
 That night we had present time. It was complete mayhem.
I have to say I was quite proud of Mimi, though. She waited quite a while to open her Christmas presents. In fact, we didn't get to all of Mimi's gifts until January 6th or so!
There were some quiet times with everyone here. The girls cuddle up to watch movies...
and Sumie's sister Kae counseled the children on the trampoline, looking vaguely like the Dalai Lama (at least from a distance).
Grandma and Grandpa also came by, while the whole family was here, to take part in the fun. Here Mimi is enjoying a story with both Obachan and Grandma.
Eventually, most of the family transferred to Sumie's sister's house, and we took a day to decompress. Mimi and Mama relaxed in the December sunshine on the now relative tranquil trampoline.
Of course, with Mimi, there's never really any such thing as quiet time. Even without her cousins, she was keeping us busy.
It was a wonderful holiday. Sadly, many of us were sick during this time, and after, as a massive flu-like cold rampaged through the kids (and their valiant parents), but that didn't dampen our spirits. It was truly special having the entire family under one roof. I was also proud of our little home. It is, indeed, quite modest, but it housed us all and kept us comfortable, making for a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

It's been a busy January, but hopefully, now that everyone is healthy and back on track, I'll be able to keep up with all that's been going on. A happy belated new year to you all!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Seeing Yourself in Your Kids: Things for which to be Thankful

There has been a great deal to be thankful for this holiday season. So much so, that it's been nearly a month since my last post. The last month has been a time for family, which has also been the main reason for the delay between posts. This is, of course, the main blessing I'd like to recognize, but that will take a major post for which my brain, sadly, is not quite yet prepared (look for it soon). As such, tonight's post will deal with smaller topics. Specifically, the happiness I feel when I see my own kids taking an interest in the things I love.

The first love regular followers of this blog might readily guess: cars.  This Sunday, I snuck away, while most of the family and our family guests were asleep, to the January gathering of Cars and Coffee in Marin. For the first time, I took Kuri with me. I wasn't sure how he'd do, but he had a fantastic time. I met lots of dads there with their sons, usually 6-12 years old, but my little boy was only pushing 14 months. Yes, I'm starting early. Here he is with the car that brought him there.
We saw a ton of amazing cars, but the one that really stood out was the original, unmolested, 300SL Gullwing. Kuri approved.
Although the car had numerous cracks and imperfections, I could already tell that Kuri deeply appreciated the original patina of this timeless classic. He was so blown away, in fact, that he couldn't even look at the front end of the car. It was just too much.
Mimi has also taken an interest in cars. One of her favorite things is to help Papa wash the cars in the driveway. Here she is cleaning up the BMW for our family visitors who would arrive the next day.
I'm also amazed by Mimi's creativity. Already, at 4 years old, she likes to dress up like Elvis Costello...
...and re-enact favorite fairy tales like "The Princess and the Pea." This last pic occurred following a family visit when we'd stacked all the bedding we'd used in Mimi's room. She couldn't resist reaffirming her princess status.
When I think back to before the kids were born, and what I'd hoped they'd love, three topics arise. The first, of course, is cars. As we've seen, this has already occurred (hooray!). The next is reading. While both are a bit young for this, they both love having stories read to them. My chance for introducing books for them to read on their own (at least for Mimi) is just around the corner. The last is music. It was my hope, and perhaps a vain one, that Mimi and Kuri would appreciate some of the same bands that I loved as a kid and continue to cherish now. To date, Mimi has a passing interest in The Beatles, but, I am quite thankful to report, she has become a genuine fan of They Might Be Giants.

I first discovered this band from my cousin John, who had a tape of their single "Don't Let's Start" when it first came out. I heard this and absolutely loved it. I was all of 9 years old. I've followed their career ever since. It is virtually impossible to explain how excited I am that my daughter, before the age of 5, loves the same song.  Of course, she calls it "Donut Star," but that's part of the fascination.

So far, she's enjoying the classics. "Minimum Wage" is one of her favorites. She likes to act this one out in particular.
When playing TMBG the other night, Mimi surprised me. As anyone who has been to a TMBG show knows, as soon as "Birdhouse in Your Soul" kicks into gear, you start jumping. Innately, Mimi knew just what to do. She was a bit obsessed with trying to get her little brother to play along, but she definitely had the right idea.
Lastly, Mimi is beginning to show a capacity with complicated lyrics. A capacity her father possesses and one her mother quite egregiously lacks (I love my wife dearly, and while she can remember the melody to countless tunes, she cannot access the lyrics to even the most common song outside of Happy Birthday). However, while bouncing on the trampoline the other day, Mimi spouted off the following:
     The sun is a mass of incandescent gas,
     A gigantic nuclear furnace.
     Where hydrogen is built into helium
     At a temperature of millions of degrees.
Yes, "Why the Sun Shines" (slow version, for now) is her favorite TMBG song. I never really expected this to happen, but perhaps that's why I'm so thankful for it. Even so young, I can already see my daughter taking enjoyment in, and having an affinity for, the same kind of wordplay that I have always loved.

It's been a great start to the new year. More to come on the adventures of the past two weeks with friends and family. A happy New Year to all!