Oakland, USA San Diego, USA

Holiday Happiness Part 2: West Coast Edition

I snuck in a trip to San Diego before making my way home. We hung out with the Anings first, jumping into their daily routines: pick ups from school, ordering burritos, dressing up and dancing to Whitney Houston. Cole and Nina are bright, imaginative, kind, and giggly sweethearts. I’m so glad Saya got to soak up their attention, and I was able to soak up the parenting pointers from two of my favorite friends.

Tim and Carlyn’s wedding was full on McKellogg DIY which is what this crew does best. Flowers, wedding tent, pre-wedding lunch– even our accommodation was built just two weeks prior by Uncle Ken. He remodeled the laundry room into a mini-airbnb for Saya and me! During the wedding, Saya was watching the ocean waves with Uncle Len or dancing with Grandad, so I was able to catch up with cousins over a couple glasses of wine. Carlyn’s speech welcomed everyone to make the most of the evening…to celebrate and be themselves…anything goes 🙂 Grandma Claire led the way into the memorable evening with a two-step surrounded by her kids.

Once in the Bay, we scheduled all the playdates. Auntie Grandma, Takeo and Erica had us over for lunch, and we had dinner with Carrie and Julie Anne. I met Roux for the first time with Lindsey and Diane, and Brian, Meggie, and Paxton had an open door policy whenever we were walking through the neighborhood. Jen came by after work, as did Eric. Miho treated us to pastries at La Farine. Auntie Jo showered Saya with handmade gifts and frequent visits. I used Cafe Zocolo as a frequent date spot. Krismin and I lunched as moms for the first time. On another afternoon, we set up the inaugural Gosei generation’s first meeting with Cal NSU alum.

On a surprisingly sunny day in the West Bay, my dad and I drove to San Rafael to meet Ginny, Finn, and Uncle Jamie. We drove early to ensure Saya would fall asleep for her mid-morning nap on the ride over. Once we crossed the bridge, Grandad’s eyes twinkled as we drove in the opposite direction from San Rafael. With Saya settled into her nap, he took us on a beautiful drive into Tiburon. I could see we were on a road popular with cyclists, but it felt like only my dad knew the magic of driving this scenic route in a car. What a beautiful showcase of SF in the sun! Having Finn and Saya meet at Uncle Jamie’s for the first time was a great plan. His home was always a wonder to me as a child, so having Saya explore his flat made me smile. Plus, an Indian buffet for lunch didn’t disappoint babies or adults.

December 19th was the start of the holiday extravaganza. It’s Miya’s birthday. It’s also the day the Forrest Ramirez clan and the Scott Bynoe clan arrived into Oakland. We had a semi-surprise, burrito birthday party at Jamie Lynn’s apartment for MFF. Semi-surprise because Miya knew there was an event for her birthday, but didn’t know who was attending, and didn’t have to coordinate logistics with anyone but her family unit.

This 19th also kicked off the birthday celebrations for all December babies, and the family affairs leading to and through Christmas. Daisuke’s birthday tradition is an ice cream dinner at Fentons, and this year, Bachan’s birthday was a dim sum spectacular.

In between play dates, grandkids and grandparents were inseparable. Mamo and Grandad’s circuit consisted of toy bins, Macky dog, feeding the fish, and a couple of Mamo’s musical mornings! Bachan hosted make-believe gatherings with stuffed animals, baking sessions, and fort-building. Books and bathtime were a highlight at both houses!

We stuffed ourselves at our annual Nishi/Diamant Christmas. This year, Madler and Dang were witnesses to how we do family gatherings right with this crew. We also discovered that a Berkeley brewery could be a surprisingly ideal locale for our Cousins Christmas gathering with my dad’s fam.

Christmas eve and day arrived bringing more smiles all around. Grandkids basically ran circles around the adults until it was time to break for food– and then they were back into their games and new gadgets. When I could, I sat back to watch small moments between our kids. I am feeling all the feels during my first Christmas as a mom.

Saya was an absolute trooper being on the road for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas! Upon reflection, I’d pat myself on the back for using maternity leave to the full extent, too. Saya was introduced to the influences that have shaped Corey and me, and we recharged on love and support from our friends and family before heading back to London to start 2020.

New Jersey, USA New York City, USA

Holiday Happiness Part 1: East Coast Edition

No one will dispute it when I say we made the very most of our time on the East Coast. We stepped off the plane and into Girl Car Mania day one. Ok, we had to give cuddles to Uncle Shug and Trina first, but then Girl Car Mania!!! Addie hosted as is tradition, and partners and aunties and babies and bagels were in abundance.

I didn’t know how much I needed one-on-one time with my girls until Ad and Jules met me at my old haunt, Cafe Latte. I could exhale. I could listen with two ears and soak up the intelligence and beauty of these two Capaldi sisters. And I mean beauty shining in sweats and just brushed teeth since they ran out of their apartments and cabbed to meet me from the moment Saya went down for her nap.

Saya was crawling around Uncle Shug’s apartment, curiously examining the rug when I returned from Cafe Latte. What a sweet Sunday morning! As we packed up for New Jersey transit, Shug snapped these pictures of us. It was so nice of him to capture our family in motion.

We arrived in Jersey to Peyton and Avery holding a sign for Baby Saya, welcoming their newest cousin to Maplewood. It was a flurry of hugs and happy tears. Uncle Kyle was limited to stealing cuddles with Saya when Peyton and Avery were at school or taking baths. They were taking cousin love to a new level, and Uncle Kyle wasn’t allowed to intervene if they had anything to say about it!

Kyle and Nadine graciously hosted a Conn College reunion at Ball Terrace! The entire house was alive energy and laughter. We can’t believe everyone fit on the couch for this one.

We had a playdate with the Freeds and relived some of our ‘Bourton-on-the-Water’ memories. We were able to see Ryan and Jared’s new bedroom set up, and stay for quick dinner. We had another evening to visit Steph and Ricky’s new digs, while Tati Nadine held it down with Saya-chan.

It was touching to watch Corey introduce Saya to his childhood home for the first time. It felt good in my heart. It reminded me that I stopped keeping track of ‘Saya’s firsts’ at some point and that this trip would be a good time to take notice again. Lots of “first time meeting ___ (insert wonderful people here)”.

During Thanksgiving, Mama Margaret made magic in her household, hosting people for at least four days in a row with her cooking and her storytelling. Saya’s illness was at its height in Ewing, but no one let that stop them from sweeping her up to give her their love and warmth.

Roll on with our reunions: George School was next. In New Hope, our chosen family gathered and swooned at the next generation playing together right before our eyes. The Noble/Blattner household had toys and games for all ages… yes, including 30-somethings reverting back to their teenage years.

Having all of the cousins for a second Thanksgiving on Friday evening was a treat. We were thankful that both Kyle and Tania made the drive to Ewing so everyone could be together. Corey had to leave early the next morning so it was a sweet sendoff for him, too.

Saya and I stayed on for a few more days with Mama Margaret, and she experienced her first snow on our final morning. She also pulled up to standing for the first time in Mama Margaret’s kitchen! We spent one more day at Uncle Kyle and Tati Nadine’s to conclude Saya’s first-of- many epic East coast trips.

Oakland, USA Renton, Washington

West Coast Tour

Saya’s first longhaul flight to the West Coast was a dream. Maybe she’s got Bay Area chill in her genes? It tickles me to imagine this being the reason she took to the BA baby seat, and why she played quietly for hours sitting between us.

I’m organizing our September tour into three buckets:

  1. Family love in Cali with Corey
  2. Family love in Washington
  3. Friend love back in Cali

Family love in Cali with Corey

Saya met SO many people on this trip. On that first Sunday, Saya met her Bachan for the first time. We gathered at Brian, Meggie, and Paxton’s house with Auntie Marlene and Gary to kick off our West Coast tour. How nice to see the next generation of Kozono/Tonai/Kawakami/Forrest babies meet. Paxton and Saya will be in the same grade once they start school just like Brian and me.

There was a lunch time feast to welcome Saya into the Nishi/Diamant Clan on the following Monday. Barbara (Auntie Grandma), Uncle Corey, Auntie Er, and Takeo hung out in the garden with home grown tomatoes, and then the kitchen playing with ‘honey bears’.

On Tuesday, Uncle Roy, Auntie Marian, and Kristi visited with us at Auntie Jo’s house. Saya was showered with love, clothing and books from her Fresno family. Aburaya lunch was a hit for Auntie Jo’s birthday, and though Kristi had to get back for work the next day, we were glad for their overnight visit.

Uncle Jim swung by Grandad’s next. He said he wanted to make sure to give her a little squeeze before flying out that morning. Auntie Lisa and Uncle Gary also cuddled with Saya on a relaxed afternoon on the back patio.

Grandad and Mamo entertained my day trip to UC Berkeley so that we could show Saya some of the campus, including the Faculty Club where we married a few years prior. We took some family portraits with our new baby bear cub. Then, Auntie Jamie, and Matt, were reunited with Saya-bear to celebrate Mamo’s birthday.

Family love in Washington

Bachan, Auntie Jo, Saya and I flew to Washington while Corey made the journey back to Londontown. We landed in Renton and were whisked away to cheer on Daisuke in his first futbol match. Jose was coaching, too, so it was a family affair!

On Saturday, Miya and Jose hosted a mega-birthday party for Emiko, Auntie Jo, and Livingston- the September babies! My heart was soaring when Tracy’s family, and Auntie Bev joined as well. Cousins were running around one another, and at times, into one another with all the excitement and happiness this day brought.

Arts and crafts with Auntie Jo and Bachan was a daily activity for Daisuke. Miya’s kitchen was flowing like the Streganona cauldron even with all the kids circling her knees. And Emiko continued to be skeptical of her new cousin who might be usurping her position as the baby girl!

On one of the days, we ventured to visit Eula at Auntie Bev’s house so the kids could have a play date outside of Miya’s house. Another evening, Saya was honored with a special bathtime with her Aunties. I did my best not to turn into a sobbing mess when Daisuke held his cousin for the first time. Each day of this trip made me implore someone to invent teleportation so that the next generation could be together 300+ days of the year!

Friend love back in Cali

Back in the Bay, Ja-Yung caught us at the cafe down the block from my mom’s house. Norio and Liz came by my dad’s house for a quick pre-bedtime cuddle, and then the SL crew spent an afternoon showering Saya with lots of love and attention.

I don’t think I quite understood how important babies are in our lives until this trip. I thought I couldn’t stop staring at Saya because she is my own daughter, but each person she met was also so careful and curious in their own way. Babies bring a fresh hope to our days, and our lives, and we can’t help but have slight sense of awe about them.

Broadstairs, England New York City, USA Quantico, USA Washington, DC

LonSum 2.0 July: Summertime Magic

“You are my only one| Just dancin’, havin’ fun | Out in the shinin’ sun of the summer|
Of the summer….” –Childish Gambino, July 2018

This month filled my cup, both literally and lovingly, with friends and family and football.  The World Cup brought so much energy to each day with football comin’ home, as the Brits sang night after night throughout the tournament.  And flying to the east coast again meant I could refuel on the support and comfort of my people before starting a new role in August.

Like last month, first I want to welcome these three bundles of joy! Lisa & Jared’s first, Erica & Brian’s first, and Susan and Porf’s second.  I’ve yet to meet you all, but Auntie Miko can’t wait for some snuggles!

Corey and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary at a small beach town called Broadstairs, on the Southeast coast of the country.  We booked incredibly last minute, and I think we wound up with the last B&B room in the town.  With the sun shining, and the World Cup in full swing, everyone was getting out of the city and heading to the beach.  There were quirky decorations in the B&B, but the breakfast and garden were completely worth it.  The first meal though had to be fish and chips right before the England match! See below for the reaction after the win!

The two beaches on either side of the main shore were much smaller but less of a circus.  The first evening, we enjoyed a small gastropub, and ended up taking our glasses of wine in ‘to-go’ coffee cups so we could stroll the beach at sunset.

We ate fried eggs, tomato pastries, and grilled peaches alongside a 10 year old and her mom who were away on a girls weekend. So sweet!  The little girl also hipped Corey on how to find crabs in the sand, which was a success.

I’m pretty proud that my plans for this stint of vacation worked out….basically flawlessly.  We were able to see my sister in Quantico, Virginia, reunite with Momma Margaret and The Scott Bynoe family in DC, and then celebrate at back to back weddings in NYC.  The absolute best!

There’s aren’t many tourist attractions in Quantico, VA, but when your sister and brother-in-law and niece and nephews move there from across the country, it is a wonderful place to visit!  They have so much space in their new house, and even when I showed up just 3 weeks after their arrival, they had the place looking like home.  I was so happy to get one-on-one time with Nicole, meet Andrew for the first time (my two year old nephew), and have personal tours of Nate and Abby’s rooms!  You can see I’m in auntie heaven!

When Uncle Corey showed up a day later, he upped the ante on the trampoline, and provided some great laughs at the dinner table.  Nicole and Rob made it feel like real summer with our first bbq of the season.


Our final day we were able to see the Marine Museum near the base, and we had some serious Americana eats at Chick-fil-A and The Waffle House!

The train from Quantico to Washington DC was an easy one, and we were welcomed with the biggest hugs from Marvin, Eula, and Mr Livingston Tyree Scott Bynoe.  Our plans to all meet up at the National Museum of African American History and Culture were actually happening! There was so much to share and too much to smile about.  The first evening was low key with lots of updates about work and family and obviously this little button, Livi.

Mrs Spells arrived the next morning and we had our first day at the museum. It is a MUST SEE!  You experience every emotion on the floors of the museum.  There is so much to take in which is why I highly suggest two things: 1) you need reservations and you have to book months in advance, and 2) book at least two days to visit.  We made our way through two bottom floors of the slavery, reconstruction and 100 years up through the civil rights movement.  You have to take a break after this, and the lunch time canteen is a treat, so take care of yourself.

After lunch, it was Eula’s idea to visit one of the top floors before heading out for the day.  This is another recommendation to add to your list: end on an uplifting note and visit floor 6 (music, culture, and all the influences!) We had another night full of laughter and swapping stories.

On the morning of day two, my second favorite memory at the museum happened on the dark and devastating ground floor.  Mrs Spells’ fingers traced a route on a map of where ships left the coast of West Africa to a Carolina port.  She predicted that one route could be the same her ancestors might have traveled based on where she knew some of her family had settled.  Corey read aloud from the map placard that along these routes, only about 50% of African slaves reached the American plantations.  After slaves were shackled, they walked from their native lands to the slave ships, outlasted the middle passage, and were sold to plantation owners– a miracle that anyone was still alive.  Yet Corey stood next to his mom and shared that he found strength in really thinking about how much it would take to survive through all of that.  That it was a powerful thought for him.

We lost Marvin and Eula much earlier on the ground floor, and the three of us ended up on the fourth floor where my favorite memory occurred at the museum.  The fourth floor is the reference and education center.  The staff member let Corey and Mrs. Spells have the last slot for the day at the ancestry computers.  I peeked over the shoulders of Corey and his mom as they accessed the museum archives to do a search of their family tree.  Through the census and other historical documents, Corey clicked here and there and Margaret pointed out names of cousins and great grandparents.  It was inspiring and sobering to think about how far their family has come, and how much has been lost in the process.  They got as far back as Virginia, to Mrs Spells’ great great grandfather and still couldn’t retrieve any data that would indicate where their roots might be in Africa.

We learnt our lesson from the first day, and ended with the final two floors.  They are full of vibrant history about sports, medicine, academics, fashion and influence. We saw Dapper Dan’s name inscribed in the fashion section, and Mrs. Spells wondered at the old hot combs and hair products.  The records room was well-curated, I had to double back to the room dedicate to Mary McLeod Bethune.  If I’m honest, there really was another day to be had on these top floors!  We left in the rain but it couldn’t bring us down. We had our last meal together at an Ethiopian restaurant, complete with tej!

Two things I forgot to mention: We saw the special exhibition at the NMAAHC museum on Oprah and it was dope.  I learned just how far she’s come and it’s nothing short of inspiring.  Corey and I also took a short trip to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Obama portraits. Yes! I didn’t think I’d want to spend much more time in the Gallery than to see them, but I’d definitely put it on my list when I return to DC in the future.

When we visit New York, we usually split time because we want to see so many people. I caught up with Glenn over a meal at our favorite spot, Thai Market, and Corey met up with friends further downtown.  We spent the following day not surprisingly eating our way through NYC.  Silvana for late breakfast, Hill Country BBQ for a late lunch, and Pio Pio to celebrate Marty and Lizzy’s engagement.

Wedding Weekend!

I got some great one-on-one time with Stabs on the train upstate, and we arrived with Caitlin and Dominic to a hotel that wasn’t quite prepared for how we roll during weddings.  Anne and Chris were married in a picturesque field, and the rain showers stopped just before the ceremony.  The toasts were touching (especially from siblings), the dancing was live, and the doughnuts…were devoured…numerous times by yours truly.

From the farm & country back to the city, we celebrated Peyton and Jamila in Harlem, at a venue called Solomon & Cuff (right next to KIPP Infinity).  I couldn’t spend enough time with the GS fam as there was so much to catch up about.  There were many memorable moments from having Peyton’s mom as the officiant, to Corey and the Maid of Honor’s improv / skit- speech, but really it was Peyton and Jamila’s vows that took one’s breath away.  They were moving and personal, and as guests, we were all a part of their truth.

The best part of both weddings this weekend were that they felt true to the people joining in partnership.  I started this post with reference to Summertime Magic-  it could be the dizzying heat of Virginia, DC, and NYC, but I’d prefer to think of it as the vibes and connections that we get when making these memories.



Oakland, USA

LonSum 3: I’m going going back back to Cali Cali

I’ve got to begin the month of August with some MAJOR shoutouts!

First: Congratulations to all of my parents for starting their retirement this summer!!!  I’m very, very excited for you, and I look forward to hearing about your adventures in this new chapter.