Saturday, July 11, 2015

Perpetually Exhausted, But Always Worth It

I think it's safe to assume that any couple with younger kids lives in a mixed-up state of elation, exasperation, and exhaustion. Of course, only the exhaustion is perpetual. With both of us working full-time, it can sometimes be hard to get in the activities and outings that make life fun, but we try our best. And when we come home - both kids and parents well worn-out - it's always worth it.

A few weeks back I put a considerable burden on Sumie when I left for a week-long business trip back east. I was worried for her the whole time, but she handled it like a pro. And the kids really stepped up to help, particularly Mimi. She even managed to wake herself up and get dressed every morning (the morning after I got back she, of course, reverted to form).

The kids were so good, Sumie even let them play in the pool in the afternoon.
 Yes, it's not much of a pool, but the kids don't seem to mind.
The kids also took some fashion shots while I was away.
Although I was able to Facetime with the family every night, I really missed them. I think it gets harder when they're this age. Happily, I think they missed me, too. Sumie sent me a picture Mimi had drawn for me. It's of a hotel, and you can see me in the window. It was the best drawing I've ever gotten from my little girl and completely cheered me up though I was 2500 miles away.
I returned just in time for Mimi's preschool graduation. She gave a speech at the ceremony, which she'd spent several weeks memorizing. We were so proud of her.
Naturally, it wouldn't be our life if Sumie didn't immediately have to go on call the day after I got back from my trip. That meant I was on weekend duty. I braved taking both kids out, on my own, for brunch. Amazingly, it worked.
Thank God for restaurants that provide crayons and drawing paper.
The kids took pity on me that Saturday and even Mimi went down for a rare nap. Yes, there were a lot of stuffed animals to clean up, but it was well worth the midday slumber.
The next day we attended a birthday party in SF. The special guest was the San Francisco bubble man. Mimi had a great time until she became so drenched in bubble solution that I had to wipe her down with about 50 wetnaps.
Kuri got into the fun as well. He couldn't really make any bubbles, but being a boy, he was perfectly happy simply swinging a stick around.
The fascination with bubbles persisted when we got home. I'm still not sure how Mimi pulled of this giant bubble in her hand.
Every year our county fair is around the 4th of July, and they set fireworks off every night. On Friday evening we decided we'd spoil ourselves and have a rare night out to eat, followed by fireworks. We went to a local ramen place which was, um, OK, but definitely not Japanese. One sip and we knew. Sumie and I are such snobs. Still, the food was good and the kids had fun.
Mimi even decided to turn her drink into a superhero.
Our viewing location for the fireworks was a local park that overlooks the Marin Civic Center. As Kuri and Sumie waited down at our viewing station below, Mimi and I hiked the hills for a better view. "This is the best adventure ever, Papa!" she exclaimed when we reached the top. I was so excited that she actually enjoyed hiking. We'd revisit the activity soon enough.
On the 4th, Sumie and I were invited to a wedding of a friend from Sumie's medical school. It was a chance for me to bust out one of my suits (one I actually wore at my own wedding).
The wedding was held at a beautiful winery in Sonoma. Without kids (thanks, Grandma!) we could've partied the night away, but instead our whole table got sleepy once the music started pumping. I guess I am getting old (Though, as some of you may know, I'm not exactly a fan of wedding dancing and music. Sumie and I didn't even have a dance floor at ours!).
After the wedding, the normal weekly pace resumed. Getting kids ready in the morning, working through the day, jumping on dinner, and, before you know it, bedtime. It's fun, but we always have our sights set on the weekend. Mimi is still enjoying her gymnastics. Today she nearly reached the top of the knotted rope.
And Kuri, well, he's still quite good at looking cute in his stroller.
To give Mama a bit of a break, Mimi, Kuri, and I came home from gymnastics and I then set to work putting Kuri down for his nap. Once he was out (he went down like a stone, thankfully), I put the childseat in the Porsche, took the top off, and Mimi and I headed out for another hiking adventure. We went to the same spot and marveled at the views of the bay...
...and of the Civic Center and Mount Tam. Mimi's definitely becoming a little hiker.
She's also following a bit in her father's footsteps when it comes to cars.
This was the first time we headed out "fully open" - top off and windows down. She loved it, but was just slightly annoyed that she had to hold on to her hat so tightly.
Not to be outdone, Kuri is also taking an interest in cars, as well as trucks, trains, planes, and basically anything that moves. He loves to point out Mama's car and Papa's cars in the morning before school. And he's also getting good at badge identification. So far he can spot Jaguar, Ferrari, and Fiat. Perhaps he'll end up with an Italian car someday.
These two kids have not been without their trials and tribulations, but with each week it becomes harder and harder to fathom just how lucky Sumie and I are to have them in our life. Watching their personalities come out, and seeing our family evolve with each milestone these kids pass, has been the best experience of my life.
Now if only Kuri could hit that milestone of coming off diapers, we'd be set.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Fistful of Family Events

As usual, there's no truly legitimate excuse for the extraordinary gap in blog posts. Of course, there were mitigating circumstances. The past two months have been chock full of family outings, trips, birthdays, and sunny weather requiring BBQ. The two biggest events, by far, were a trip to Chicago and Mimi's much anticipated 5th birthday.

Our journey to Chicago was little more than a glorified extended weekend, but it was a welcome change of pace. Neither Sumie nor I had been there before, though I had travelled to the Chicagoland area 20-30 times for work. In short, the city was entirely new territory for us. Thankfully, we had excellent guides in two friends we'd met back in New York, who were also kind enough to host us. Welcoming us into their home for the long weekend, they were determined that we get the full Chicago experience.

Jeremy and Julie, our guides, have two boys - Anthony and Henry. Here they are below with Mimi at one of the city parks.
Anthony and Mimi had met before when they were quite a bit younger. They'd gotten along well, but we could readily see that with the passage of time, Anthony had developed an interest in girls. Well, one girl in particular. He professed his love to Mimi within the first hour. It was really sweet.
He kept with it, too. I have to admire this kid. He has persistence.
Mimi was very happy to have a friend for the trip. Here they are holding hands along the riverfront.
Thankfully for her Papa, Mimi also likes to play hard-to-get. There were times when she'd branch off on her own. Though it was a bit rude, as a father, I can't say I'm disappointed. I want this girl to be standoffish, especially about 10-15 years from now. The better and quicker she gets at indicating rejection, the happier I'll be. Mimi and Anthony had a great time playing together, even if it was "just friends."

One of the most amazing places we visited with the First Division Military Museum in Cantigny. This is a first-class museum with a totally immersive exhibit, beautiful grounds, and a full map of the site that you can walk over.
To top it all off, there are numerous WWI and WWII tanks you can climb. Kuri was particularly interested in the heavy armor.
Mimi and Anthony managed to climb up on one for a photo. Here's Mimi being her usually, self-assured little miss.
Chicago offered a number of other remarkable sites. For the first time in a long while (having only visited NYC or Tokyo for the past five years), we found ourselves tourists in a major city. We visited the Bean...
 ...and the fountains with the video monitors - I'm still not sure if this is awesome or just a little freaky.
The last night we thanked our hosts profusely for their hospitality and then splurged on a hotel room downtown in the city. I have this to say about Chicago - if you're used to NYC, SF, or Tokyo, the hotel rates are a welcome surprise. While downtown, Mimi hit up the Lego store...
...and the whole family got their burger and milkshake fix at the newly opened Chicago Shake Shack.
That last night, Sumie's little brother, Genta, drove up all the way from St. Louis to spend the night with us. We celebrated the mini family reunion at Gyukaku, a Japanese BBQ restaurant that kindly put up with toddlers after 10:00pm.
All of our days in Chicago were unseasonably beautiful and warm. Towards the end of our trip, Sumie was thinking, "I could totally live here." And then, our last day in the city, the temperature dropped and that famous Chicago wind picked up. "On second thought, maybe we should stay on the west coast," Sumie recanted. The kids did their best to stay warm, but Kuri was struggling to hold on to his burp cloth when the gusts of wind came by.
It really was a fantastic, though short, trip. We hope to get back there again soon. There's so much we didn't get to experience, particularly the music and comedy. Perhaps when the kids get a bit older, I'll be able to take them to Second City.

With the trip to Chicago done, we returned home, collapsed, and the geared up for the weekly grind of work, house cleaning, and the almost countless birthday parties that occur this time of year. One was particularly important: Mimi's. It was her 5th birthday, and she'd been talking about turning 5 since she was 3 years old. It was a big deal. We decided we'd invite her preschool friends up to our house for an afternoon of trampoline, water balloons, cake, and mayhem.

As with any party you host at your own home, preparation was needed. Sumie declared that we needed to do something about the front yard, so the month before I contracted landscapers to redo the front yard, tidy the back, and remove the large, unsightly bush that had become a 30 foot tree and blocked the street view of the house. As with other events we've hosted, company meant a chance for home improvements. I imagine we'll paint the exterior of the house or resurface the driveway for the next major shindig.

As the day of the party drew nearer, we realized that we'd be hosting over 30 people for a BBQ, which meant we had to upgrade the patio furniture. On a Wednesday before the party, I made a trip to Costco during my lunch break. I secured a trolley and, like a man possessed, hurriedly purchased a massive storage chest, an 11 foot patio umbrella, and an umbrella stand. The people at the check-out must've thought there was an emergency BBQ somewhere, and that I was providing support. Amazingly, this all fit in my little BMW 325 wagon, though the umbrella was jammed against the windshield and the rear glass of the hatch simultaneously.  Anyway, the little car saw us through and all was assembled in time for the party.
The kids had a blast playing in the backyard...
...and the girls let loose in Mimi's room.
I did BBQ chicken and ribs for all 30 people (3 hours of grilling done the night before). Once that was polished off, it was time for cake.
 It took Mimi a while, but she did manage to blow out all her candles.
We even had a pinata for Mimi, on which she took out a surprising amount of aggression.
At the end of the day, when all was cleared away and the kids tucked into bed, Sumie and I counted the party a success. We were really thankful to have given Mimi such a fun day.

As mentioned previously, the past two months have been pretty packed. We've had Mother's Day picnics, school birthday parties, school conferences, dental appointments, you name it. But, as always, we've found some time for some random fun. The other day, Mimi decided she wanted some glamour shots. Here's Mimi in her fancy dress.
Not to be outdone, here's Kuri in his tiara.
And here's Kuri in his introspective, emo, toddler phase.
And lastly, here's Mimi being a flirt and Kuri being an samurai in training.
We've had time for lots of reading and plenty of creative projects as well. Mimi decided to take a box from one of her birthday presents and make her own car. Chances are that you guessed she built her own Porsche. Naturally, she knew it was a "Boxster."
The weekend before the party, Mimi and I did some furniture shopping at a consignment store here in Marin. She insisted on trying every single chair in the shop (trust me, this is not an exaggeration). After 45 minutes, she found it. Naturally, looking down at those imploring eyes, I had to get it.
Now both kids and I have our own reading chairs. Mimi has her little Ikea lounger, and Kuri presides over the rocking chair that I once used as a kid to look up at the mantle clock waiting for Scooby Doo to come on.
We've also had some time for hairstyles. Mimi and Kuri both got their hair cut a few weekends ago (I don't know why scheduling something like this is such a monumental challenge, but it is). This, for better or worse, inspired Mimi to give me a makeover.
All told, it's been a busy but amazing too months. Oddly, I think this Japanese soda bottle cap sums our adventures up best.
As the summer sun continues to shine up here in Marin, I look forward to more adventures with these two little ones and their amazing Mom. Naturally, now with sunglasses on.