Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Rare Celebration, Sans Kids

Our first birthday date. I was twenty years old and, somehow, I'd gotten a second date with the most beautiful woman I'd ever met. It had to be low-key (didn't want to push too hard), but celebratory. It was her 21st birthday, but given that she didn't drink, I wasn't 21, and I was a poor college student, options were slim. Yes, believe it or not, getting a sundae at the local Lyons (a glorified Denny's) was how we made the most of this monumental turn of age. Not particularly impressive, but I somehow managed to sneak another date out of it. And, with a little more persistence (8 years or so), a marriage.

For the first 12 years of our relationship, Sumie and I ate out at least once or twice a week, particularly in Manhattan. Dates were regular and our quest for food took us all over the city. All this changed with the arrival of our oldest. Over the past six years we've had perhaps 12 dates, on our own, in total. As such, they've become quite special. With another monumental birthday coming up for Sumie, I wanted to do something memorable. Lyons was not going to cut it.

Sumie's birthday fell on a Saturday, which meant we'd actually be able to head out together sans kids. I secured the very kind participation of the grandparents (the kids were excited to have us gone, quite frankly) and then prepared a nice birthday dinner to celebrate the occasion with the whole family Friday night.
After a full Saturday watching kids and taking Mimi to Japanese school, the two of us gussied up (I can't remember the last time I wore a suit that wasn't for a wedding) and headed into San Francisco (it was Sumie's 7th time in a row, so I drove). We braved the rain, which eventually broke as we found parking around the corner from our restaurant, La Folie. Here are a few highlights from what was a relaxingly decadent, three-hour respite from regular food and real life.

The restaurant was small, relatively quiet, and understated. A perfect place for the two of us to reconnect and, perhaps, even share a few snippets of conversation that didn't involve our kids. Sumie looked fetching before a charred leek salad, stuffed with sauteed leek and mushrooms in a dressing that made you question if you'd ever be able to count calories again.
This was followed by a large octopus tentacle, tremendously tender, and lobster in a butter sauce that ensured you'd reach your daily recommended fat content for the month.
For main course, Sumie had the best duck breast we'd ever experienced. She gave me a piece off her plate and I, immediately, set aside the skin and said, "I'll save this little beauty for last." In return, I shared my ribeye with the woman across the table.
We closed out the meal with a series of candies...
...and a special dessert, complete with candle, for the birthday girl.
It was a rare, wonderful, and much deserved night out, but the best surprise was still waiting for us. As we neared home around ten, we received word that Mari had gone to sleep at her regular time, but Mimi and Kuri had just been put down. They obviously heard us opening the door, because seconds later we heard the frantic patter of small feet and were quickly smothered in hugs. Getting out just the two of us is tremendously special not only for the precious time we can spend together, but also for how well it reminds us of what we have here at home. All-in-all, I think Sumie had a wonderful birthday, and one that was a big step up from that first we shared at Lyons in Davis all those years ago. But like that one, I hope this last one leads to many more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Adventure, 1920! The Mixed-up Mind of a Boy About to Turn Three

There's something magical that goes on in the heads of kids when they're two or three years old. They're imprinting and integrating just about everything they come across into their own, often deeply twisted and esoteric, world views. Of course, the same goes for Christopher. 

Every night we read stories together. And while he can't read, he has taken to sharing his own stories with us, quite passionately. Two nights ago, he picked up and pencil and, channeling the voice of a 1930s narrator, shared the following epic with us.

Adventure! 1920!
The guys went into mountains.
They saw Bulbasaur. "Pokeball, go!"
Team Rocket, blast off speed of light.
Somebody died.

The other night, for my sister on the phone, he provided the abridged version while using a baby monitor as his mic.

Adventure! 1920!
Everybody died.
Tomorrow is Christopher's 3rd birthday. Our little Kuri has come a long way, but he's still, definitely, half baked. For his first year, he was a pretty awesome baby. He slept through the night at 2 months. He didn't care much for strangers, but he also didn't cry very often. He kind of kept to himself, and we weren't quite sure what he'd be like in the years to come.
His personality really began to come out when he was about 1.5 years old. He also started to get impatient. The terrible twos were beginning and he was just starting to talk with us. As such, he'd become tremendously frustrated when we couldn't repeat back what he said (this, occasionally, still happens, especially when he sees a car he likes). Thankfully, this has been balanced by his obstinate, irrepressible goofiness.

Kuri is the only child I know who can have you tearing out your own hair one minute, then falling on the floor laughing the next. As time has moved forward, he's begun to use this talent for his own nefarious purposes. It's become a lot harder to put him in time out when halfway to the time out chair you're trying not to crack up.

I still have no idea how this boy's mind works. He's definitely a sponge, but his system for cataloging what he takes in seems completely devoid of logic, order, or scope. As such, facts, stories, words, emotions, requests, and endearments come out when you least expect them and in such a way that makes you think, "What the hell? Where is this coming from?" Perhaps this is why I'm falling over so much when he's around.

Here's an example. Kuri knows what it means to smile. He knows how to smile. He knows that you're supposed to smile for pictures. However, when you ask him to smile for a picture, this is his first inclination: eat the seatbelt.
Kuri also tends to have an agenda. Two weeks ago, Mimi was Star of the Week in her class. Her job was to take the special bear around and take pictures so she could show her classmates what a normal week is like. We took the bear to Japanese School, where we were going to take a picture with a giant fish. Kuri saw the bear on the fish and this, I suppose, must've have been going through his head, "Mimi put her bear on the fish. I must put my burp cloth on the fish. All my life has been leading to this. Putting a burp cloth on a fish. Once this is done, I will be victorious. All will be right with the world. Nothing must stand in my way." As we tried to take the picture, Kuri ran for the fish and began shoving Mimi and her friend out of the way. We had no idea what he was doing. We though he just wanted to be in the middle. His agenda wasn't clear until the bear flew off the fish and was triumphantly replaced with the burp cloth.
As with most kids his age, Kuri's desires change quickly. The day I went on Amazon to order his Halloween costume, he was sure he wanted to be Pikachu. By the time the costume arrived, he had decided the world would end if he wasn't Bulbasaur. Hence his reaction to his new "surprise" costume.
Mimi was able to make the most of the situation, though, as her baby sister looked on. She's six years old and can still wear a toddler's romper costume.
Although Kuri's mind is a bit of a mystery, there is one thing we can count on: he looks out for his baby sister. Mari loves sitting in her bumble chair playing with her kitchen and munching on pieces of plastic road. Sometimes, however, even this delightful pastime can get a bit boring for her. Kuri noticed this and built her a track with Thomas. It absolutely made her day.
Unfortunately for his father, Kuri is not as entertained by the track layouts he creates. As such, I often come to the rescue. We spend half an hour devising a new layout and my reward is, "That's so cool, Papa!" And then he runs off and demands chocolate milk.
For some reason, Kuri is an excellent shopper. He tends to behave in the cart.
But then again, I guess he always has.
Unlike with his little sister, Kuri doesn't always enjoying sharing with Mimi. But like Kuri is with Mari, she's very patient and caring, and I think he knows it. After all, she's been looking out for him since the beginning.
I may never fully understand the workings of this little guy's mind, but he's an amazing part of this family. Sometimes he's the glue, providing the middle ground between Mimi's busy schedule and Mari's feeding and food throwing. Sometimes he's the pressure valve, causing us all to crack up when we're frustrated or distracted by something that, in hindsight, is quite trivial. And sometimes, quite simply, he's the guy who wants nothing more than to go to Cars and Coffee with his Papa.
Happy Birthday, Kuri! I can't wait to see where the next year takes you and and where you take all of us.