My Birthday, Her Birthday and All That Collective Age

My daughter knows I’m in my thirties and now says she’s in her “fivees”. We’ve been celebrating our birthdays for a month strong now, both of us wanting to keep celebrating and acknowledging and revving up for the next big part of being older (Okay, maybe just her).


I’m an end of August birthday; hers is mid-September. We’ve been going on, colliding like this for a while, both of us clamoring for a piece of the proverbial cake. She says, August 23, day before my birthday, that she ought to get the bigger slice of pizza, or taller glass of water, or first pick at a candy, to honor her approaching birthday. Even though mine was the very next day. That little shmoo even beat me to blowing out my own candle.


Looking a bit haggard at Disney

We’re a little bit competitive.

I never just let it go, but point out these things and say, “And by the way, where is my card?” and “Sing me my birthday song!” We chase each and I am realizing that I’m a bit of a child! (Snort, ya think?) Maybe my inner child is six.

Now that my birthday is sadly, officially over, I’m fashioning giant cardboard FIVES  into piñatas. I’ve got the whole couch littered with great big piles of birthday. There are pink and purple polka dot napkins, cups, tablecloths, mini canvases for her friends to squash their chubby little hands down in a FIVE with paint. It is a house of loot.


Turns out our Sunday party in the park will most likely be rained-out which bring us to our Plan B: the house. Hello, cleaning. Hello, 24 hours of Kon Mari and stashing every odd thing in the dog’s room. (Maybe not Kon Mari at all. Nope). It will be a house crawling with five year olds and soon to be five year olds, plus baby and big kid siblings, and parents, too. If it’s really raining hard, we will bust open that FIVE piñata in our living room. Because we love birthdays and hitting stuff. And stuff flying out.

It will be a house ringing with the sounds and squeals of Japanese, the parents from our children’s hoikuen, or preschool, asking me to answer questions I still cannot articulate, all to celebrate our girl. I am bracing myself, trying to clear shelves and feign organization. I’m bracing myself for upper thirties and a five year old girl, all of the changes that come and make me want to just sing over her in the night, make me want to take out all those baby pictures and pregnant belly photos and even her dried-up umbilical cord they preserve here as a gift when a family goes home with their newborn infant.

My International Birth in Japan Post on Best of Baby

Here we go. I’m already seeing her taller, leaner from riding her new training-wheeled bike. She is already parting her own hair, making her own pigtails and braids. Her new thing is voluntarily bringing us glasses of ice water with each together meal. She already launched into a talk about how she should be able to marry her preschool friend, because “It is my life, why should you care or get to decide”, she has already said, at still four years of age. She is a sweetie and a pistol. A Pippi Longstocking, Punky Brewster, me, and my husband, all braided up in one strong, hilarious, sometimes, mouthy thing.



Here we are, at what already feels like a precipice. She is almost 5 years old, going on twelve or fifteen.

Does that make me 30-something going on fifty? I don’t know, but it’s not a bad thing to like birthdays. Not in this house, anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes.

A Real Sweet Tooth

You know how in the moment, in some magic epiphany, you say, “Yes. I shall remember this; I shall remember this moment”, the distinct words coming right towards your soul? Those are the very words I’ve forgotten these past weeks, this past month, or four. I’ve been slow to post from my girl’s birthday party and some wonderful insights surrounding the event seem to have floated away.


In forgetting, I was reminded that it is the writer who knows, absolutely KNOWS that magic is performed rollerball pen in hand, cap unsheathed, paper spread out and ready for black marks. If I had stopped what I was doing mid-oatmeal spoon to my gap-toothed, three-bowl-a-meal son,…if I had roused myself after dreams. If I had stopped everything for a few small lines, I’d see from where I came. Because in the life of a family, no, in the life of people, we change. Or maybe change wraps around us, one or two hair strands at a time until we are changed and in the subtle or catastrophic fight, we become different. I want to record all this static, chemical, physical change. I want to always remember where we were, where we went, and how we became. Fitting that all this surrounds FROZEN, or what happens when you compress molecules, when you change the most basic of elements.

These are glimmers of my girl’s party. She rocked the house down. All the way to the ground. Singing, dancing, hugging, tearing it up, basically. She turned four and sent three out the door, didn’t even let three pack up. K became a big, gorgeous, hilarious, sassy girl.


imageHer brother was there, on hand, to help with entertainment. He also hammed it up and has been singing, I kid you not, FROZEN. He has been singing every syllable, recognizable even by his daycare. He could be on the Late Late Show doing his thing.


See? Proof of not much sleeping. I crafted Olaf from lanterns and made enough snowflakes to deck Antarctica.

No joke. An event comes around and suddenly I’m having to pull crazy late-nighters like I’m cramming for a final exam. I really am laid-back and have no need to try and be perfect or create “the MOST amazing party”. All those little details like pinata making and goody bag filling and princess dress ordering from goofy Japanese translated sites takes time!

And as far as any need to keep up with the Jones’/er Yamaguchis’, that point is fairly moot. Okay, I’d like these same hoikuen/preschool moms who see me flailing about managing kids, shoes, my bike, sheets, school/parent communication logs/general life skills, to see me doing pretty okay in my “home environment”. I would like them to say, “Oh, even though she is a nerd in our culture, she can sing the Frozen song in English pretty okay. She sure loves her kids and look, she even wore stockings.”

So maybe that was part of my motivation. But just for five minutes.

I was mostly just in awe of my girl and our family.



Sister & partner-in-crime, Kenzerina. She is the one who makes Pinterest boards & ices the cake.

K with her first ever friend, Miss Miya. Miya’s mum, Anna, took this and many of the best shots in this post. Thank you, lady!!

Below, my gift of a Mom-in-law, Fumie, is helping Jude & his sweet bud, Sara. What lovies, right?!


It is easy to enjoy such a sweet party, even as the hostess. We also happen to have some wonderful family friends, much to do with K’s down-to-earth neighborhood hoikuen, or preschool.

It is not so “pressurey” throwing a kid’s birthday party in Japan because…Japanese people don’t. Turns out, making a big hullabaloo with kids’ friends and their parents and big sheet cakes and/or cupcakes, games, ponies, bounce houses, Pinterest-planned and obsessed theme parties are American. And European or whatever else. The point is they are not Japanese. Every year, I am the only one doing this. You can surmise that we don’t get a lot of birthday invitations. Try none. They aren’t clogging up the bulletin board at the door or anything. The good news is that it’s not personal (gosh I sure hope not); the kids are just partying it up with the grandparents at home or in a restaurant, just the family.

Wait til they get our Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations! Ha.

Incidentally, I learned (or remembered that) my husband and I are mic hogs. What are they gonna do? Throw us out? It’s our party! Who’s the keeper of goodie bags, huh? You’ll wait, thank you very much! 😉




There will be one more picture. My girl received a bouquet of flowers from her friend who wore a BOW TIE. Isaac made them re-enact it for the shot.

It’s coming, along with more words. More looks back to how one simple party seems like a line in the sand for our jazzy songbird daughter.

K back to back


xoxo, Me

and that Open Dooooooooor, yeah love is an open doooooooor.