Theo

Five years worth of happy

In today’s edition of all my kids are growing up too quickly, Theo turned 5 and I don’t know if I’m ready for it.

Has this boy gotten all grown up or what? I know I should be used to this by now, but this is hard, y’all.

Remember when he was this chubby little baby who loved egg tarts and cakes and green things and bugs as much as he loved hugs?

He ain’t a baby no more but 5-year-old Theo is still a pill of happiness that I get to take every day. If we all had a happiness meter, this kid’s happiness level would be off the charts. He’s the most drama free, easygoing, happy kid who is an optimist through and through. He’s the kind of kid who loves unreservedly and extravagantly just because.

The great thing about having 5 kids is that they’re all so different and I get to enjoy all the very best parts. Like when I’m having a rough day, all I have to do is take a dose of Theo’s hugs and I always feel better.

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Theo’s all about family.

He loves being part of the tribe and he makes it known often. We’ll be having dinner together and he’ll suddenly pause his eating and announce, “I like this happy family” like the thought meant so much to him that he had to immediately share it.

His favourite moments are playing together with all his siblings in the room before bedtime. It can be a dance off or an elaborate stuffed animal wedding ceremony or a pokemon battle and Theo will be all in. He will beam so wide that it lights up his whole face and it makes my heart turn into a puddle right there.

Occasionally when we’re out with all the kids, one of the methods we use to herd the kids along is to be all like “let’s go kids, you’re going to get left behind.” After 3-4 rounds of this, I’ll finally say, “bye guys, if you decide to stay here, we’ll see you when we see you!” This is usually the cue for them to drop everything and get going.

All the kids (including Hayley) know that there’s no chance of us ever leaving anyone behind and they will play along like “bye [whichever kid wandering off/usually Finn], see you next time!” but not Theo. When it comes to the possibility of losing any of his siblings, Theo takes no chances.

STOP, DON’T GO!!” he’ll yell and then run back to grab whoever is left behind.

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He may be the second youngest kid around here but on the inside, he’s got the fearlessness of a big kid.

One time while we were all at a water playground, Finn was getting shot in the face by a much bigger kid wielding a water bazooka. Poor Finn was a little helpless, trying to run away and dodge as the other kid kept shooting. I was about to intervene when Theo sprinted over from across the park towards the kid who was doing the shooting and told him off sternly, “DON’T SHOOT AT MY KOR KOR FINN!!

The big kid who was at least 11 or 12 took a look at Theo’s face and then basically backed off meekly.

Theo then ran to Finn and stayed next to him for the remainder of the day.

Another time at a different playground, Finn’s balloon sword was swiped by another kid and in usual non-confrontational Finn fashion, he pretty much let it go and went off to play with something else while keeping an eye on his toy from a distance. Eventually, Theo came across the other kid with Finn’s balloon and you can be sure that he wasn’t quite as non-confrontational.

Um hi, this belongs to my brother,” he told the kid. “Can he have it back?” Just like that, Theo valiantly returned the sword to his big brother and they resumed playing happily.

All I know is that when I grow up, I want to be as confident as this kid.

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At 5, Theo still comes into my room for a cuddle every morning and I’ll ask him if he will be my baby forever. His answer is always the same. “Forever is a long time but I’ll be your baby today.

I’ve done this long enough to know that I only get to baby these babies for a short time before they get all big and have no use for babying anymore. I’ll figure out what to do with my heart when all of the todays run out but for now, I’ll take today for as long as it lasts.

Kirsten

Happy birthday to the raddest 10-year-old in the world

Once there was a girl who at first glance, seemed like any other 10-year-old. She didn’t possess unusual ability, nor was she considered to be a child prodigy by any means.

She wasn’t the sort to seek out the limelight; even though she would smile when the occasional praise came her way. She wasn’t driven by the achievement of an audacious life goal as precocious kids often are. When asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, her response would be a shrug, accompanied by an “I don’t know yet…something good that helps people.

She was bright, considerate, down to earth (perhaps a little too much?), had a fantastic sense of humour, always wanted to do the right thing and was generally a delight to be around. I suppose all of these qualities made her blend in even more, which suited her just fine.

Sometimes, she would wonder what it would be like to be someone special. “That would be really cool,” she thought, “if I were a princess or a president or a movie star.” But those thoughts didn’t stay for long, because then she would think, “I’m just me, and that’s kind of okay too.

What she didn’t know was that it was more than kind of okay. People couldn’t quite put a finger on it but everyone who met her would leave feeling…different. They smiled a little wider, skipped a little as they walked away and felt the sun shine a little brighter. She had a way of bringing that extra bit of joy to the those around her. If she wanted, she could be a princess or a president or a movie star, but she didn’t need any of those things to be special because she already was.

If you asked her mom, she’d tell you that this is straight up the best 10-year-old girl she ever knew and there’s no other kid quite like her.

Also, special is great and all but more importantly, she was loved.

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Kirsten just turned 10 I’m not sure how I feel about this – I didn’t expect so many feels with this development, to be honest. I’m here watching this baby become a grown up human being and it scares me a little. She’s only 10 but in her exceptionally grown up moments, I’m already seeing glimpses of the person she would be in 10 years time. I’m so proud of the kid she’s grown up to be and excited for what she has ahead but also a little sad because this means I’m already done with 10 years of hardcore parenting and at some point in the next 10 years, I’ll just get to sit by the sidelines and watch her be her own person.

Right now though, she’s crushing it as a 10-year-old, being all responsible and thoughtful and making amazing big kid decisions in life. She’s always been emotionally mature and thoughtful beyond her years, but I think being 10 has really worked for her.

One of the underrated things she’s exceptional at is reading situations and knowing what needs to be done and then doing it without being asked to. In basketball terms, she’d be the player with a rock solid defence, who hustles for every loose ball, goes in for the screen, has the highest steal record, and is basically the real MVP even though she doesn’t score the most.

In this family, she’s the one who immediately steps in whenever I need an extra pair of hands. Like when I’m on the phone and one of the babies is yelling for grapes or a snack, she swoops in and is all like “What do you need, Theo? I’ll get it for you, mom is busy right now.” When we were in Tokyo and Hayley was suffering from severe separation anxiety, the baby would only feel better when Kirsten was with her. “I want jie jie to sleep with me,” Hayley would announce every night. Even though she wasn’t accustomed to being kicked in the ribs by a demanding baby throughout the night, Kirsten took her babysitting sleep duties very seriously those 10 days.

And she does all of these things so seamlessly without any prompting that it’s easy to not even notice. Sometimes, I’ll suddenly realise that my life has gotten significantly easier – like the yelling has stopped in the background while I’m on the phone, or that something I needed to attend to was already done – and it’s almost always because of this amazing kid and I’m just so pleased that I get to be her mom.

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There was this time where we were trying to come up with an affectionate nickname for Kirsten. Truett has been Tru since he was a baby, Finn is Finny/Finn Finn/Fiiiiiinnnnnn (depending on the situation), Theo is Yoshi (don’t ask), Hayley is Hayley bun (probably not for much longer) but Kirsten was always Kirsten.

Tru suggested Kiki but she didn’t like it much. “How about Kir kir? Kit kat? Cookie? Curtain? Kirstenator?

I think just K will do,” she said. Somehow it suited her, it’s not fancy or too much; if there was a kid who could do with a single consonant, it was probably Kirsten.

I love this kid so much sometimes it feels like my heart can’t take it. Happy birthday, K!!

travel

A week in Tokyo

Just got back from a week in Tokyo with the husband and I think it was straight up right there in the top 3 most amazing trips we’ve ever had.

We’ve done Tokyo twice before with the kids; it’s one of our favourite cities in the world. Tokyo checks all the boxes for a good time – delicious food, all the desserts one could possibly want to taste, bizarre but delightful experiences, lots of shopping, efficient transportation and warm hospitality. Even though I only know like 5 Japanese words, I always feel at home in Tokyo. Maybe not necessarily my home I suppose, but the home of a favourite aunt who fills your plate with the most yummy food.

This trip, I was looking forward to doing all the things we normally would not be able to when we’re traveling with kids. I love them with all my heart but when there are 5 babies all up in my face telling me they’re tired or bored every 2 minutes, it can be very difficult to perform basic human functions in a city like Tokyo. Even easy things like shovelling food into my mouth took tremendous effort – I remember having to stand outside the crowded izakayas to tag team eating during our previous trips.

Here are some of the memorable things we did this time around:

1. Bike tour around the city.

I’ve developed a bit of a love affair with bike tours. It’s in that sweet spot between a bus tour (where you cover a lot of ground but always feels impersonal) and a walking tour (which is more intimate but you get to see much less).

We found Soshi’s Tokyo Bike Tour after checking several reviews and had the most incredible afternoon cycling around the city. Soshi took us on a super chill 3-hour bike ride starting from Ginza shopping district across the Nihonbashi bridge, through little alleyways to a quaint shitamachi (like a Japanese old town that used to house Kabuki theatres years ago), stopping by at Ryogoku sumo wrestling stadium, across Akihabara tech city, around the Imperial palace and finally to Hibiya park. We got to visit some very charming little alleys that we would never have explored on our own, and the cherry on top of this amazing cake was hearing stories about these places from a local.

2. Robot restaurant.

Tokyo has some of the most bizarre experiences one can possibly try and it’s characterised but an evening out at the Robot restaurant in Kabukicho. While planning the itinerary, just looking at photos of the place online was enough to trigger seizures I never knew I had. I can only describe this as an insane take on a Disney parade but with too much acid or speed or ice. I don’t know what it says about me that I really enjoyed it. It was so committed to being campy and absurd and outlandish and just so much fun.

*The only thing I’ll say about it is that while they claim to be a family family establishment, I definitely would not bring the kids till they’re much, much bigger because their little brains will explode from this much visual stimuli.

3. Creepily awesome arcade at Kawasaki.

In line with the theme of bizarre but wonderful experiences in Tokyo, we also visited the Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki, a creepy dystopian Kowloon themed arcade that redefines hardcore. I wasn’t sure about this one at first because haunted houses are not my idea of a great time.

Turns out that this measures very low on the haunted scale and as far as theming goes, is a solid 10. Whether you’re a fan of Hong Kong’s gritty Kowloon Walled City, this arcade is nothing if not completely dedicated to providing an immersive experience, which was surprisingly fun.

4. Eat all of the food.

I don’t even know where to start with this. There is so much delicious food in Tokyo that you’ll definitely find something that speaks to your palate. We had gyozas in Harajuku, yakitori at Memory Lane, sushi at Tsukiji, street snacks at Asakusa, ramen + soba everywhere, and the desserts…good heavens, the desserts were unbelievable.

If I had to pick one favourite meal though, it would have to be Satou steakhouse in Ginza. I’m not a fine dining type of girl and my favourite meal back home is a hearty $2.50 ban mian which I would be happy to have every meal for months. But I do love a good piece of meat and the matsusaka beef from Satou is unquestionably the most delicious thing I’ve ever put into my mouth. It’s pricey for sure but for a special night out, this was from start to finish a most delightful experience. All of the courses were a home run and the staff were warm without being intrusive.

We didn’t actually eat at this yakiniku bar, but if anyone asks, this shall be my new motto in life. Hashtag no meat, no life.

5. Go for drinks.

One of the benefits of being without kids is being able to go out for drinks and spend the night talking. We had sake tasting at Kurand Sake Market and whisky/cocktails at classic Japanese bars like Zoetrope.

6. Massages/Onsen.

I didn’t think I’d love Japanese onsens this much but I do. The first few seconds of stepping into a geothermal hot spring (springs?) feels like you’re being cooked, but totally in a good way. And then after a while when your body acclimatises, you start to feel your problems wash away in the relaxing warm water. There was a very decent hot bath at our hotel (Hilton Shinjuku), but we also visited Oedo Onsen Monogatari at Odaiba. It’s admittedly more touristy and crowded that I would have liked but the place was big enough to still be relaxing. Also, Japanese massages are pretty amazing.

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We got to do some really fun things this trip but what made it special was getting to spend a whole week with the one person I like most in the whole world. There’s something magical about getting away to a different city that lets you discover the side of yourself that had been locked up and stored away in a dusty little box back home.

We’ve spent so much of the past 11 years being solid, responsible adults who had to take care of the kids and bills and homework and chores and healthy meals and more bills and work stress that it was necessary to let go of the spontaneous, free-spirited, super fun part of ourselves. I mean, it’s hard to put on the hot and exciting wife hat when I’m wearing my boring make-sure-the-kids-are-fed-and-home-is-in-order wife hat all day, every day.

I tell myself that I’ll get to that box again someday but then a year passes and then another and then another and years later, that box is still there, now hidden behind all the other boxes of lost toy parts and old books and leftover craft supplies.

I’m grateful for the life we have and I wouldn’t trade it for anything (and also, I missed my babies every moment till my heart hurt) but it was a treat to spend a week feeling like kids again. We held hands and walked for hours under the stars like teenagers; the way we used to when we first fell in love. We stole kisses on escalators and on sidewalks. We did a lot more than steal kisses but you probably don’t need to know that. We talked and laughed and talked some more until it felt like we would run out of words, but that would have been okay too because just being together in silence was good enough for me.

It’s hard to imagine that we’ve been together for 18 years and married for 12. It’s both the easiest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. At the same time, this feels like the only life I can remember, waking up every morning next to this wonderful man.

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We’ve only been back home for 2 days and being able to hold my babies again makes my heart complete. It also suddenly feels like the trip was whole lifetime ago because that box is back up on the shelf again, this time displayed a little more prominently so I get to glance at it from time to time as I go about my day.

I’m happy to do all the boring grown up stuff with this man and for however long that box remains on the shelf, it makes me smile to remember that we’ll always have Tokyo.