Monday, February 5, 2018

Extraordinary Ordinary Week

The last week, and two weekends, were nothing out of the ordinary. There were no vacations. There were no parties. Sumie even had to work on Saturday. And yet, looking back over the past nine days, they were oddly rather great. It's a bit baffling, though in retrospect, I think I have the kids to thank for making our little adventures - nothing more than 20 minutes from home and most of them taking part in our family room or back yard - memorable.

Two Sundays ago, we decided to head out Tennessee Valley Road in Mill Valley for a short hike to the beach with friends. Mari, noting the sunshine before we left, prepared herself.
It's rather astounding that after four years in Marin we'd never taken this roughly two mile hike out to a gorgeous, secluded beach that is only 15 minutes from our home. We'd been missing out. The trail was even, easy, and smooth enough for our little stroller. Reaching the beach, we came across a swift stream that had cut its way through the sand to the ocean. This was a perfect playground for the more adventurous among us. It's amazing how cold simply does not matter when you're presented with a beach... and you're seven.
As Mimi gamboled in the sand and water, Kuri and Mari huddled under their jackets, snacking on the sandwiches we'd prepared and spilling goldfish crackers everywhere. 
The beach really was a stunning sight - one which my pictures do absolutely no justice. We'll be back soon, with sand toys and kites.
Back at home, and bathed, we prepared for the week ahead. It would be a standard one. Sumie would work, the kids would have school, and I would continue my role as the child wrangler / chef / mr. fix-it. There were a few fun surprises throughout the week, though. Kuri spent an afternoon lining up his cars - showing off his ocd side. He was quite proud of the final presentation, though also rather devastated when Mari destroyed it.
Mimi is becoming a better big sister each day. In the midst of preparing dinner, I stepped into the family room to find that Mimi, unprompted, had decided to guide Kuri through a color-by-numbers workbook. Over half an hour of no arguing and no screen time. That's priceless.
On another night, Mimi and Kuri took inspiration from Mari, who likes to wear her favorite blanket as a cape, and they all became superheroes. Mimi, as she is wont to do, took the imaginative play a step further, forming a superhero school, complete with jumping off the couch exercises that would make your cape flutter in the breeze like a Teen Titan.
The weather, which had been a bit cold, finally swung back to traditional Marin February: sunshine and highs in the mid 60s to the low 70s. And that meant bubbles in the back yard (though not for Mari - I can only take so much mess).
The week done, we headed for Saturday. Sumie had a work conference in Berkley, and Mimi, as always, had Saturday school. Mari, Kuri, and I pottered around the house and then packed up for a trip to the small farmer's market at Larkspur Landing. There we bought some incredibly fresh, sashimi grade fish and some smoked salmon. After returning home, and a nice long nap for Mari, we then set out to retrieve Mimi in San Francisco. All morning, Kuri had been badgering me for a trip to the park. Upon our return home, I obliged.
I can't help but think of "A Hard Day's Night" when I look at this picture (and remember all the running around and rolling down the hills).
Mimi, continuing her big sister development, took Mari down the slides and pushed her in the swings.
And we all went down to explore the creek, our favorite part of the park. Sadly, it was still too cold to jump in the water and hunt for fish.
Earlier in the week, I made stuffing for gyoza (Japanese potstickers). On Tuesday, after Sumie came home from work, she gathered her helpers...
...and together they constructed 50 gyoza as their papa cleaned up in the background. 
We only got through about half of them for dinner that night, which worked out perfectly for our Saturday dinner. Hamachi (yellow tail), Sake (salmon), Maguro (tuna), and fried salmon skin paired with rice and gyoza. The only thing we were missing was miso soup.
For once, the kids ate all their food.
Sunday, our only genuinely free day, started out right with our monthly papa-son outing to Cars and Coffee. Mimi declined to go with us this time, saying Mama and Papa's bed was just too warm. It was definitely Kuri's lucky day at C&C. A Lamborghini afficionado, he was overjoyed to find there were no less than five there that day.
While a massive Lambo fan, Kuri definitely didn't turn up his nose to the Ford GT we saw...
...and he even appreciated the symmetry of our parking space. Two 911SCs sandwiched between a trio of BMWs. Not bad.
That afternoon, the whole family headed down to Tiburon to walk along the water at Blackie's Pasture. Mari and Mimi took a photo on Blackie's memorial statue...
...but Kuri just wanted to sit on a rock.
At least his sisters eventually agreed to join him! 
All told, it was two weekends and a full week remarkably like any other, but also remarkably memorable. Again, I know I have these three to thank for it. I just hope they're as well behaved this week. We'll see.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Scoring Dad Points

"Cars and Popcorn." Two great things that go great together. Wait. What? Cars and coffee, sure, but cars and popcorn are a terrible combination. Just ask any parent who has handed a bag of popcorn to his four year old in the back seat. Maybe, maybe at a drive-in theater, but those basically don't exist anymore. So, why on earth is my daughter directing traffic to "Cars and Popcorn?" Well, it all comes down to "Dad Points."
Being a stay-at-home dad, I have to find ways to perk life up a bit for the kids, and for me. It can't all be laundry, cooking, and Pokemon. I call these little perks "Dad Points." Chances to make the mundane just a little more fun (and to hopefully win a little compliance from the kids). A few examples of scoring dad points are...

Taking three kids in a sports car to get milk and mayonnaise...
...teaching Mimi about logic in coding using her own little computer...
...building a massive train set that contains another train set that contains a gas station as a means of simply cleaning up all the train track on the floor...
...and, of course, taking the kids to Cars and Coffee so Mama can rest.
These are all great ways to score some dad points while getting some important errands, cleaning, or teaching done (and ways to pad out a blog post because I haven't taken many pictures lately). This past weekend was going to need some serious dad points. Well beyond the norm. Not only was Mama on call, she was feeling a bit ill. The kids and I would need to keep the house clean (particularly the counters), get through all our meals, let Mama rest, and have a bit of fun. On Saturday, with Mimi off at Japanese school, Mari and Kuri needed to get to Marinwood park to burn off some energy (and stop destroying the house).
 
Mama and Mimi back home, it was time for Sumie to get a little rest and for the rest of us to start scheming for Sunday. We'd have a whole day together, just the four of us, and we needed to be prepared. As I cooked, and Mari wrote all over the couch, Kuri and Mimi hatched a plan. If I helped them enact it the following day, I'd definitely score some dad points.

Kuri had been fascinated with the idea of holding some kind of sale in front of our house for some time. The problem was, though, he wasn't interested in selling lemonade. He wanted something more interesting, more boy, more him. Soon, he found his hook: cars. He carefully sorted through his (now considerable) collection of Hot Wheel and Tomica cars and came up with 24 vehicles he would be willing to part with. The selection complete, Kuri looked them over and said, "I hope some other boys will like these."

Sunday morning, Mimi insisted that we needed something else to pad out our sale. We headed over to the pantry and looked up and down. Ah, popcorn! We'll sell cups of popcorn! We spent the rest of the morning drafting signs for our sale, collecting change, and figuring out the pricing: 50 cents per car and 50 cents for a cup of popcorn. Tax free, of course.

Around 11:00 I put Mari down for her nap and Mimi, Kuri and I moved our "store" out to the driveway. Kuri would handle the car sales and Mimi, she was the popcorn scooper.
The first 30 minutes were rough. Not a single person walked by and not a single car stopped. Kuri was getting discouraged. Why weren't people coming to his sale? Didn't anyone want his cars? Wasn't anyone hungry for popcorn?
The kids noticed that most of the cars they saw come down the street were turning at the corner just below our house, sadly missing our sale. The direct-to-consumer shouting of "Cars and Popcorn," though tremendously loud (and occasionally aggressive), simply wasn't working. Mimi decided we need a motion sign. Papa went in and drafted one. Mimi then ran down to the corner to direct traffic while Kuri manned the store.
Business picked up. Papa would eventually pop three more bags of popcorn. One of these was eaten entirely by Mari, who had woken from her nap and did not seem to understand the concept of selling. Just eating. Kuri managed to sell four cars, but sadly, not to any little boys. He wisely summed up the strategy for our next sale, "Papa, we need more boys to come."
And, just in case the sale wouldn't score enough dad points, while it was going on, I smoked two racks of ribs.
The sale lasted about three hours and closed as the wind began to pick up, blowing popcorn everywhere. We all ended up having a great time. And it was a great way to pick up some dad points. Not quite as great as driving Mimi across the Golden Gate in the Porsche with the top off, but still, pretty damned good.