reunited

Now that Zara has settled into Kindergarten I spent a week in Beijing supervising remastering efforts for Pixar’s latest film Monsters University. I’ve long wished to spend time in China and this first glimpse didn’t disappoint. My work was a huge success & I enjoyed ample time beyond formal commitments to explore the city & surrounds. Can’t wait to go back. Maybe I’ll visit Shanghai one day too!

domGreatWallChina

Shortly after this China trip I spent 10 days in Amsterdam attending a conference while navigating the bureaucracy of my work visa, satisfying our immigration status here in the USA. The day after my return Zoe, Willow & Beatrix traveled to Australia with Ah Kong for 4 weeks & have just returned to Berkeley with Ah Mah who will stay with us for 3 weeks.

zaraDirndl

While the house was quiet, Zara & I had a thoroughly nourishing & relaxed month together. My work schedule was sedate & Zara’s kindergarten has been wonderful. We represented the family at a local wedding, took weekend trips to science museums, hung out with friends and relaxed into a luxurious, domestic steady-state without the need to compete for each other’s company.

ZaraBeatrixWillowTotoroHalloweenCostumes

Halloween 2013 was a blast. Zoe sewed amazing costumes for all 3 girls paying homage to the movie “My Neighbour Totoro” which Zara (Satsuki) & Beatrix (Mei) had recently seen on the big screen in Berkeley. Willow completely nailed the role of Totoro - tubby profile, absent speaking lines.

willowTotoroHalloween2013

Trick or treating with friends was also adorable. In contrast to last year, the kids actually appear desirous of the candy they collected ….

totoro01

Now that we’re all back together again I’m really looking forward to the festive year-end & the simple, cosy excess of family & friends in hearty celebration of each other. We are together. I’m humbled & blessed.

-D

the final countdown

nickSleepingFace

This past week, our our brave soldier (17 year old bengal kitty Nick) shared his final days with us before passing into the next world. After losing quite a bit of weight this year, in the wee hours one morning his breathing became shallow and he rapidly lost his balance so we rushed him to the emergency vet but by 3am his time had come & we said our last goodbyes.

zaraNickStethoscope

We shared a family’s quota of kleenex with the girls when they awoke later that morning. Zara remembered the positive turning point (pictured here) when Nick finally trusted her sufficiently to fall asleep & purr as she patted him.

nickSleepingZara2011

We’re privileged to have shared his final years. On his last night, Nick made his rounds of the neighborhood (was very eager to get outside) then returned to the house & jumped onto Zoe & my laps for a cuddle. We’ll miss you kitty cat, it’s not the same without you.

nickBeatrtixWillow

After strutting home with 4 band-aids adorning her puny shoulders, Sulky McWeeperson [Zara] posed a question over the dinner table this evening;

"Daddy why did I get 4 injections today?"

Bub, I'm very proud of you …. you didn't even cry! These last 4 injections contain medicine for your body to help it stay healthy, so you & all the other children at school don't get sick.

"I was sick last week."

Yeah, but this medicine stops you getting really bad sicknesses like measles & mumps.

“ha haa! [snort]….Mumps! …. [snort] …. Mumps isn't a real word daddy!"

Sure it is bub, mumps is the name of a disease.

[solemn]“What happens when you get mumps?”

Well, you feel really awful, your cheeks swell up like a chipmunk, and your body hurts

“Daddy, I had 4 injections this morning … my body hurts already"

zaraSchoolMorningBackpack

The school year in Berkeley commenced this week and Zara’s first day of kindergarten was Wednesday.

Her first three days were spent sampling amongst the three kindergarten classes at her school while the teachers determine the ideal mix of students for each classroom, ensuring a balance of capabilities & personalities in each room.

Zara’s school is a 1 mile walk downhill from our house which eases the logistic burden, despite the 7:50am drop off. We’ve been spending 20 minutes with the class each morning reading before the teachers shoo misty-eyed parents from the room.

3girlsSchoolMorning

A new backpack (matching her lunch bag) eased the first morning’s trepidation (which was brought about mostly by the early wakeup) and despite a little nervousness upon arrival each morning, Zara is handling the transition to “real school” wonderfully.

One of Zara's imagined creations (a car carier) from her tegu blocks


She’s socially & academically advanced for her age and will hopefully make many new friends amongst her peers.

willowGymPlay

Ah Kong is again with us in Berkeley, easing the logistic load of the household & spending precious time with his granddaughters.

willowAhKongTable

He’ll travel with Zoe, Willow & Beatrix back to Australia for a month after I return to Berkeley from Amsterdam.

-D

B3

Beatrix celebrated her third birthday today, chocolate cake & presents with the family close @ home together.

beatrixThirdBirthdayCake
She has a trip to Australia planned in about a month with Zoe & Willow. We’ve been slowly introducing the idea to Zara (it’s Beatrix’s third birthday trip ….) who will remain behind with me during her first weeks of Kindergarten.

beatrixGardenSquashHallway

Bix is a happy, robust, bold, easygoing kid. Exploring her “terrible threes”, she’s hardly adept at getting anyone offside for more than a couple of seconds before her cheeky grin melts all frustration around her. She loves her sisters, and is a proficient nap-ninja.

beatrixEatingThirdBirthdayCake

Love you Bix.

beatrixBalloonsZarasBirthday

-D

celebrations

2013 has been a year of celebrations for our humble family.

January set the stage with the arrival of our third daughter Willow. She’s an easy child; healthy, alert & communicative. Adored by her sisters and everyone around her.

willowDinnerTable55months

Though teeth are only recently emerging, she loves joining us at the dinner table and eating cheerios and sucking the juices from meats. In the garden she’s a voracious consumer of our most tender strawberries.

willowPreCrawling5point5Months

In April, Zoe & I marked the 10th anniversary of our wedding. I organized a surprise pickup for the girls from Pixar’s daycare center, and a 9am sitter for little Willow (thanks Amy!) then took a day off work to whisk Zoe away to the Napa Valley for a special meal & a relaxing day free of kiddos. The restaurant only takes reservations 3 months (to the day) in advance so planning was crucial …. with my calendar reminder set & after depositing the (then only 2) girls at daycare I set to acquiring one of the coveted reservations. 308 redials later we were (secretly) booked!
It’s also one of the 2 occasions I’ve had this year to dress up. The restaurant’s website notes “Jackets are required for lunch & dinner service”. The menu is unique every day & we certainly weren’t disappointed.

beatrixHallway

Recently both Fathers’ and Mothers’ day were also celebrated with beautiful hand-made gifts from the girls & some chocolate surprises! All hail Chocolatier Blue.

fathersDayChocolatierBlue

At Pixar daycare Zara is in the graduating class (affectionately named “Colette’s Room” - each of the age-grouped class rooms are given a name of a character from one of Pixar’s movies). In early June Zara and 7 cohorts participated in a pre-K graduation ceremony, mortar boards and all.

zaraPreparingGraduationCeremony

Though I readily admit snickering incredulously whenever I’d previously heard of 5 year olds undertaking a graduation ceremony, it turned out to be a touching celebration into which the children, teachers & staff at the center poured their hearts.

zaraSignLanguagePracticeDaycare

There was a sign-language performance (alphabet song) by the entire class which the children had obviously practiced enthusiastically. Each of the graduates signed their names when accepting their certificates and much food, singing & merriment was shared by the families on a wonderful afternoon.

zaraSigningLetterAGraduationCeremony

Pixar’s latest film Monsters University released in theaters last month. It has been generally well received by the critics & continues to perform favorably at the box office. The wrap party which Zoe & I attended was amazing and marks my second occasion to dress up in 2013.

zaraYellowBalloonYellowDress

Zara’s 5th birthday party was a blast. We nailed the logistics, occupying tables early morning at a local park (& bringing a spare table for good measure), hanging decorations and two piñata from the trees while supplying the necessary Sunday morning caffeine & bagels for the adult crowd.

domZaraHangingBirthdayPomPoms

The ~50 guests had a rad time. Friends from our “mother’s group”, friends from school, and ex-nanny Sara.

domZaraCupcakingIcing

Leading up to the event, Zara contributed to (with dad) baking 144 mini cupcakes (chocolate & raspberry) & (with mum) her piñata collection (1x caterpillar, 1x butterfly).

zaraPinata

Filled with all manner of “exotic” edible & playable spoils from the Chinese supermarket, the throng of children rushed the outpouring of goodies after Zara decapitated the caterpillar & the contained treats subsequently spilled onto the ground.

zaraDomBalloonInflatingParty

A mail-order helium tank complete with balloons & ribbon brought ultimate happiness to children throughout the park.

birthdayPresentZara

Happy birthday beautiful girl.

-Dom

time flies

Willow is now 4 months old and growing rapidly. The whole family is happy & healthy here in Berkeley though we parents are inevitably tired.

willow4weeksPostBathSunSheepskin

Zara’s school has been assigned and though we weren’t lucky enough to be granted any of our first 3 selections, she’ll be attending a local public school with one of her friends since birth. With luck, they’ll end up in the same class!
The 8am bell will take some getting used to for our late-rising family, but at least the campus is almost en-route to pixar and Beatrix’s daycare.

zaraCatCostume

Omi came to visit us all in Berkeley shortly after Willow was born. It was a real treat to have her close & to share time with the 3 girls.

omiWillow3point5weeks

The garden continues to reward, with daily harvests & bug-hunts!

beatrixZaraZoeWillowBeetsBerkeley

At present (4.5 months old) Willow rarely poops a diaper (we’re using cloth, and moving her to the tiny potty when appropriate) and on rare occasions manages a day completely dry. She generally sleeps for up to 12 hours commencing 6:15pm, allowing us to dedicate ourselves to the evening/bed routine of the elder two.

zaraBeatrixZoeWillowCouchReading

Beatrix has particularly been enjoying Willow’s “company”. The moment she wakes, Beatrix rushes to Willow’s bed, never misses an opportunity to hug & squeeze Willow when she’s brought into a room and loves to interact & make her new baby sister smile by jumping, pulling faces or inventing silly sounds.

Until Willow has her own locomotion sorted, it seems she’s a captive audience for Beatrix.

willowBouncerPlushAudience


willowBeatrixBouncerSmiles

We’re gearing up for a small party in a local park to celebrate Zara’s 5th birthday this coming Sunday with her friends. Zoe & Zara have been hard at work on a pair of piñata. One caterpillar, and a matching butterfly, to be hung from a tree for the violent amusement of small people.

zoeZaraPinataConstruction


A recent delivery of frozen goods included a substantial block of dry ice, which presented ample opportunity for the girls & I to experiment over the course of 2 days.

domBeatrixZaraDryIce

Summer fun approaches….

beatrixCocktail


zaraCocktail


-D

Willow

I'm sitting on the rocking chair in our bedroom as the sun peeks over the horizon, a snoring newborn dozing against my chest while outside, a young family of deer crunch through the blanket of dried eucalyptus leaves in our back yard. In the distance, turkeys call to each other and the owls & doves trade coos & hoots.

newbornWillow2daysOld

Willow Fae Glynn came into our lives last Friday. She's a happy, tiny person who brings contentedness to everyone around her. Her hair & eyes are brown, her face peaceful, her fingers long (cello much?).

Parents are smitten. Elder sisters are infatuated. Everyone’s healthy & we couldn’t be happier!

-D

school selection

For the past two months we’ve been visiting elementary schools with a view to enrolling Zara in Kindergarten (in our local jurisdiction the first six years of schooling starting from Kindergarten are considered elementary school, what we’d call primary-school in Australia). She’ll be at the younger end of the spectrum for her class, with five-year-olds (as of October 1) accepted for the academic year commencing August 2013.

Education is a heavily state-biased institution with curriculum defined at federal, state & district level. The public schools in Berkeley are, put simply, amazing and the mornings we’ve spent observing the teachers & children, combined with the exhaustive information nights for parents of prospective students have not only put our minds at ease, but humbled & inspired us. I’m so excited for Zara to be entering such a diverse, curated and stimulating environment.

Rather than automatically assigning “guaranteed” enrollment at one’s closest school, Berkeley divides the district by categories of parent education, income & race then mixes the pot to approach common diversity at all schools. One artifact of this paradigm is that we may (after expressing 3 preferences in a public lottery system) be assigned a school some distance away (in our case, up to ~5km). Buses are provided (yes even for Kindergartners) outside the 1.5 mile radius.

There’s a two-way-immersion (Spanish) language program at one school, gardening & cooking programs, dance, art, drama, music and a host of extra-curricular activities at most. Class sizes are small and a play-based learning approach is frequently promoted.

All of that wonderfulness aside, our first priority is a local charter school featuring a two-way-immersion Mandarin language program. Unlike the Berkeley Unified School District, this charter school also requires uniforms, a 198 day school year & a longer teaching day. There’s a 14:1 application ratio though so our expectations are tempered accordingly.

Now that Zara’s applications are submitted, all that’s left to do is await the results of the lotteries! Exciting Happy

-D

day to day

We are incredibly fortunate. I think of our modest familial, domestic existence & repeatedly come to the conclusion it’s anything but modest. Though our desires & ambitions are comfortable, we are so truly fortunate in our station. Our children & parents are in great health, as are we both.
My beautiful wife, stoic & resourceful is bearing our third child like a pro while studying entrance exams for an MBA at a top-tier US university.
We’re free of financial stresses and our house & garden deliver constant pleasure.

popcornHarvest2012

Beatrix is rapidly expanding her vocabulary. She’s naturally curious and exhibits a keen and constant interest in naming every new thing, place, action, food, or animal she encounters.
She has a great (albeit strict) teacher in Zara & despite constant scolding, still idolizes her big sister, mimicking both noble & less-desirable behaviors.

Beatrix: “Zara, I bent your car!”

Zara:
“It’s not a car, it’s steps.”

Beatrix:
“Zara, I bent your steps!”

Zara:
“You don’t say bent, you say broke.”

Beatrix:
“Zara, I broke your steps!”

Zara:
“Ohhhhhh, Beatrix, naughty!”

teguHouseBuilding

As Beatrix vaults to new conversational heights, we’ll miss her distinctive pronunciation faux-pas’, she’s leaving the cutest behind; “Jamamas” (pajamas) and “Nynosnore” (dinosaur) are my personal favorites.

Her temperament (since birth) continues to reinforce that she’s self-reliant, happy, robust, empathetic and loving.

beatrixYankSingEating

Duck & Goose are her ever-faithful, bed-time companions. Beatrix naps daily for more than an hour and sleeps solidly for up to 11 hours overnight. She’s a voracious diner and gobbles every type of food presented, providing a disobliging role-model for Zara who remains a “string bean” and though of broad palate, left to her own devices eats only tiny nibbles without constant oversight.

christmasTreeOrnamentsOpening

The girls have been sleeping in the same room since Beatrix sleep trained at nine months of age. Three months ago we acquired matching “big-girl” beds and ever since, have enjoyed auto-ablution wake ups, followed by daily, giggly snuggles in our bed as the central heating warms the house.

Somewhat remarkably, it took Beatrix’s self-motivated autonomy after graduating from the crib, to persuade Zara to actually leave her bed instead of calling for a parent to join her in the bathroom each morning. I’m still hoping for a bunk solution for the elder two after kid #3 is old enough to share the room.

friendsGiving2

2012 concluded as a stream of guests and dinner parties (including 3 iterations of ThanksGiving feasts - practice makes perfect) with our closest friends & family. Zoe’s dad stayed with us for 8 weeks through Christmas which was wholly divine & indulgent.

Kim really eased the load around the house, cooking wonderful meals, procuring groceries & playing with the girls who adored having their “Ah Kong” at call for such an extended period. We’re very eagerly anticipating his return, it can’t come soon enough!

family portrait with Ah Kong, December 2012

-D