Friday, June 26, 2009

Redwood Hike

Half Moon Bay, like Pacifica, is a coastal community south of San Francisco that took us some time to discover. For a few years, all I knew about Half Moon Bay was that it was the forgettable part of Coastal Highway 1 where the highway, unfortunately, veered inland, away from the beautiful cliffs and beaches along the coast. While passing through Half Moon Bay, I was always waiting to get out of town in order to get out of the 35 mph zone and back to the scenic route right at the Ocean's edge.
Then, one day, we decided to actually get off the highway while passing through Half Moon Bay. "Just because the highway goes inland doesn't mean there's no coastline here," we thought. We took the first right turn we came to and arrived at the coast. Sure enough, there is good reason for this town's name. A beautiful, (could you have guessed?) half-moon shaped beach of golden sand and orange cliffs stretches for miles along the Ocean side of this community. We were immensely impressed and never miss stopping here when going north or south along Highway 1.
And, again just like Pacifica, we first discovered the coast and later discovered the beauties that lie further inland. No more than 3 or 4 miles inland from Half Moon Bay, along a simple and easy to miss country road, is an incredible valley of redwoods. Since we first visited Purisima State Preserve for the first time, we've been back many a time. Much closer than the famous Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Purisima is a great alternative but that is not to say that this Preserve itself isn't amazing in its own right. The loop hike we do takes us through a gulch with one of the most impressive grove of redwoods we've yet found.
Rai, today, we took you to that very spot, right in the heart of Soda Gulch, a spot where a short ravine ends and young, but giant redwoods stand tall and plentiful on three sides while a quick stream gurgles under a rustic wooden bridge. As if to tell us "Stop, sit down and enjoy this beautiful place," you gave us a shout to let us know that it was time to feed you. Thank you, Rai. We've been here dozens of times and yet we've never stopped for more than a few minutes in this favorite spot of ours along the entire 6-mile long hike. You took your time feeding making sure that we would linger and soak in the grandeur of this place completely.
We've said it before, but thanks again for slowing us down and giving us the chance to fully be in the moment. We thought we were showing you something new today but it turns out that you were the one re-introducing us to this place. Thank you, son. video

What's for Lunch?

Little Rai, you finally got to try out your antique high chair this morning! Did you know that your Mom, too, ate countless meals in this wooden relic? And your Grandmother or someone else's grandmother before that. This chair is old!
You immediately made yourself at home in your chair and quickly gave me that "What's for lunch, Pops?" look. When I put your bottle in front of you, you gave me another look: "Milk in a bottle again?!" So, I tried pizza but you looked more scared than anything.
Lucky for you, there IS a middle ground and it looks like it's never too early to stock our cupboards with apple sauce. But why stop at apple sauce? These days, you can get pureed anything in a jar. I should know -- at your baby shower, blindfolded, I had to guess six or seven different flavors while family and friends gathered around and laughed at my expense. Don't worry, we won't laugh when you have your first 'pasta dinner in a jar' (yes, that's a real flavor!). Like me, you'll probably spit it out thinking "this tastes NOTHING like a pasta dinner!" So many good times to come, little one. Excited?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rai's Biggest Journey Yet

Today, Rai, you took your stroller out for your longest journey yet. Our destination was a place your Dad visits every Thursday without fail. In fact, the only time he hasn't been there on a Thursday in these past 3 or 4 years is when we've been out of country or when we unexpectedly found ourselves in the hospital for a week (ie: your Mom was in labor with you, little guy!). And what is this place that your Dad finds so important that he'll make sure that he visits every single Thursday?
Isotope, the Comic Book Lounge. Your Dad's comic shop of choice. Thursday is new comic book day. Since we made the move out to "the Avenues", there are at least 4 comic shops that are closer to us but, what can I say, I'm loyal and I like the proprietor at the Isotope so I'll keep going there for my weekly fix of Batman adventures even if your Mom tries to get me to cancel my account there and move my loyal business somewhere closer to home. Hey, once you've got a good dealer, it's tough to trust another.
Today, we decided to make the momentous journey to the Isotope Comic Book Lounge by foot. Well, WE were walking. You, as usual, were reclining in your super comfy stroller made even more comfy using a very soft blankie. So, as you lay back and enjoyed the view, napped a little, we walked the entire length of Golden Gate Park (yes, all 50 or so blocks of it) and then another 20 blocks to go over the Fell Street Hill and down into Hayes Valley where the shop is located.
It was well worth it. I got my two Batman graphic novels for the week (yes, they're 'graphic novels' not 'comics' Auntie Kate). You, anxious to find out the latest happenings in the Batworld, woke up and looked mighty excited to see all those mint condition books lining those stainless steel shelves. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America, the X-Men, the Hulk, and more. Who wouldn't get excited? You could hardly contain yourself. Actually, you couldn't contain yourself -- you wet and soiled your diaper simultaneously. We had to leave a little ashamed that we had added that unwanted fragrance to the 'comic book lounge' despite your Mom's pleas of, "Why can't we just change his diaper on one of the shop's couches?"
And after that embarrassing episode, it was straight home for us where you got a bath so that we could again enjoy you in a super cute nightgown. Yes, you were 'Just Duckie' and ready for bed.

Back for More

Just four days after your first visit, you were ready to hit the Haight once again. I know how it is, Rai: when you find that perfect neighborhood, you've just got to keep going back for more.
San Francisco is one of those cities that has a neighborhood for everyone. Yuppies, hippies, transvestites, clubbers, drinkers, gourmets, hikers, shoppers, city slickers, surfers, rockers, you name it, there's a neighborhood in S.F. that is made by and for you.
When I first came to San Francisco, I knew that this city was a match for my personality and when I discovered the Haight I was happy to know that even though the city itself was right for me, that there was also a neighborhood that was even more perfect for me. Maybe that's why our first two apartments were in the Haight.
You enjoyed your second visit to the Haight checking out all the colorful and creative window displays for all those funky shops. You even kept your eyes open for more graffiti that could be used as inspiration for our home improvement project.
We're just glad to see that you are gravitating towards the same neighborhood your Mom and I love and, when we saw you lined up with those motorcyles along the curb, we knew that you fit right in!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Late Night Dance Party

Rai, whereas the late evenings used to be a time of relaxation, eye-fluttering and short power naps, you have now become a little party animal! Recently, you have brought the energy that you love to show off in the morning to the evening hours. What that means is that now, when the sun goes down, you like to spend a few hours hanging out with us.
Although you just started making all kinds of sounds in the past week you already are a master conversationalist. You make some noise, we mimic it, you go again, and so on and so on. Tonight, one 'conversation' like this went on for a good ten minutes.
But tonight's late night party didn't end there! You also decided to show us your dance moves. First you threw your hands up in the air and waved them around like you just don't care. Then, you did a bit of a breakdance finishing off with one of those poses with where your head rests on your arm. We were impressed.
And just this very moment, as I write this very sentence, your eyes are rolling to the back of your head and your eyelids are getting heavy, very heavy. Just one moment... and.... yes, you're fast asleep. Just like that.
Hey, with fall asleep time that is faster than a Ferrari doing 0-60, we welcome all that chatting and dancing if it is what you need to do to get all your energy out before retiring for the night. Sure you woke up when we changed you into your little night dress, looked irresistibly cute for a moment, but again, just like that, you passed in the wink of an eye. Keep it up, little Rai!

Our Little Angel

The other day we took you out for a wonderful organic and raw lunch.
As is often the case at restaurants hippie enough to serve raw and live dishes, the conversation naturally went to extraterrestrial life and other realms of existence. And with agreement that there are all kinds of little understood forms and stages of life, it was easy to come to the conclusion that you, little Rai, are a little soul from another realm, an angel.
When we took a photo of you with some of your angel friends, you seemed to disagree about our observations. In fact, you toughened yourself up and ended up looking kind of like a Russian gangster (just watch the movie 'The Code' to see what we're talking about). Now, when your Mom looks at this photo she gets a little worried that your future may include employment with the mafia. Later, wearing your little straight jacket-esque sleep wrap, you once again looked unquestionably like a little angel with wings spread wide. Not to worry, Mom!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home Improvement

Son, we have a knack for selecting apartments that do not have the most attractive exteriors. We are currently on our third unattractive apartment. The good news, however, is that although they may not look like much on the outside, each place has been wonderful on the inside and each quickly became a beautiful and comfortable home for us.
Our first apartment was in NOPA (north of the Panhandle), an up and coming neighborhood which gave us quick access to the Haight when we felt like it but also the peace and quiet that comes with being separated from the Haight by the Panhandle Park. Although the building was a Victorian, at some point it had had some ugly, permanent siding put on it and was painted all one color. A new paint job was all that kept it from fulfilling it's potential for Victorian beauty!
Our second apartment was just blocks from our first (what can we say, we love the neighborhood!) but, this time, it was on the Haight side. Yes, we lived in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. This building also had some style but, again, the paint job undermined any charm it attempted to exude. Still, this building was much, much better maintained than our first.
Now, we live in a box. Our current flat is perhaps, from the outside, the most uninspiring of the three. However, as you know, it's beautiful and spacious on the inside and its location near the Ocean and Park is hard to beat! Oh, and did I mention those sunsets from from deck?
Well, as you can see, we are lucky to have one full side wall exposed in the new place. This is a rare privilege in a city where most homes are built wall to wall. I've been thinking a lot about how this current home can be made to look better from the outside so that our streak of 3 ugly exteriors can be cut down to 2. My inspiration came from a building we saw back in the old neighborhood when we went to the Haight on Father's Day.
Check out the graffiti art mural on that building! Looks great, right? Now, imagine that bare side wall of our home with something similar on it! Great idea, no? Yes, I'm full of good ideas. Actually, we could emulate that building in the Haight identically putting our own 'RAI Care Center' sign up top just like theirs...
Our great landlord who lives in the flat above us didn't want us to paint the interior walls when we moved in. Still, I'm sure he'll be onboard for this exterior beautification project!
Whatever happens, no matter how ugly the facade, our home will always be a home on the inside and thanks to you, it is now an even more beautiful and welcoming place!

Four Peruvians Walked into a Japanese Restaurant...

Our old friend Jacek just returned from 3 weeks in Peru and, as always, he arrived bearing plenty of souvenirs and gifts. And, Rai, you really cashed in this time! All the way from Peru, your Uncle Jacek brought for you a tiny little hat with llamas on it and some baby-sized moroccas.
You looked so natural in your little Peruvian hat that we questioned your bloodline for a moment or two. Your Mom even pulled out her old and dirty hat from Peru (yes, it was originally white not light brown) and her beautiful sweater from Ecuador so that we could all match. Meanwhile, I wore a more colorful hat also given to us by Jacek.
And what better way to keep the Peruvian mood alive then to take our little fiesta just one block down the street to Yu-Zen, our local Japanese restaurant. Surprisingly, they didn't have any South American dishes on the menu, but they did have plenty of great Japanese specialties. You refused the amazing tempura, predictably opting for some milk in a bottle instead.
Going out for Japanese gave your Dad and Jacek a chance to reminisce on their year in Japan together. For me, personally, thinking back on that period of my life, I am always left thinking how grateful I am to have had that year abroad and how much I've experienced since. And now, you're part of our lives and we hope to give you the gift of travel as well. But don't expect all our travels together to be like the short 'trip' we took with Jacek to Sutro Park. We carried you in your stroller like a little prince in a palanquin as we ascended that steep and long staircase from the Ocean to the park. Don't get too used to it -- when we travel, it's not the easy way.

video

Walking and Talking Already?!

Rai, now that you're 2 months old, you decided to put your self-development on the fast track. This morning, you were very excited to welcome the sunrise, flailed around wildly and made all kinds of sounds.
On mornings like this, I've found that it's good to give you some exercise by giving you a chance to practice your walking. Now, with just a bit of support, you can stand and then, if I tilt you side to side, you already know what needs to be done with your legs to move yourself forward.
video
Now, what about all that 'talking' that you're doing? Sometimes you'll just lie there and make noise until we give you some attention. Then, you'll look right into our eyes and say a bunch of stuff hoping we understand some of it. We're trying but in the meantime, we've discovered that repeating your sounds is enough to convince you that we are actually have a conversation. And so it goes, back and forth, a series of random sounds and noises.
I did my best to capture all that talking that you're doing. You can produce all kinds of sounds now and most, thankfully, are coming out of your mouth. Welcome to the world of 3-month olds!
video

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Months Old Today!

Rai, you are only two months old and already you have debunked a couple myths I had coming into parenthood.
First and foremost, one myth I held about parenthood was that once you were born your father and I would consciously and vigorously wrap our family in an invisible but impenetrable cloak. This cloak would act as a barrier between us and the world outside. We would create a 'perfect' world inside this cloak while blocking anything negative from coming in. In the process, we would become blind to anything that didn't affect our family directly.
The opposite side of the coin that is this myth is that I would often think that if we didn't have children, that I would be able to spend my time more wisely. Instead of being trapped in my family's protective bubble, I would volunteer, educate myself on important issues and have the time and freedom to go where help was needed. In other words, I thought that I would be a better citizen or even a better person if I didn't have children.
Rai, when you came into our lives, this two-sided myth immediately collapsed. Rather than seeing my world perspective close in, I saw the entire world open up to me in a way I hadn't seen it before. Now, I feel a connection with every person that I never felt before. I see mothers, especially, in a whole new light. And fathers as well. Every child is a miracle, every person is important. I have never felt more driven to help other people and make this world a better place than I do now.
It gives me endless joy to be able to feed you, clothe you and shelter you every day. Those are the basic things that make me a feel like a mother. When we passed poverty stricken, hungry mothers during our travels, I often thought, "you shouldn't have so many children if you can't feed them." With overpopulation destroying our Earth, it was population control that guided my thoughts.
Now, I have become more understanding of the hardships endured by parents around the world. I firmly believe that every mother in this world should be able to feed their children -- it is a fundamental and universal right. The thought of mothers who cannot feed and nourish their babies touches a place deep within my soul. I cry at the thought of it. It isn't right and it is unacceptable to say the least. Rai, you have opened my eyes to the world. Althougth I didn't and still may not proactively get out there to do something about poverty and hunger, at least now, if given the opportunity, I would act on it because of a genuine emotional connection with humanity that you have opened up in me.
The second myth that I held before your arrival was that I thought that parents love their children because their children are, in a sense, little versions of themselves. Children are the genetic combination of oneself and the person you love. Although this view is somewhat narcissistic, it seemed like a natural reason to love one's child so much.
Rai, as with the other myth, you successfully disproved this one during our first few days together. I don't think you look anything like me and your father doesn't think you look anything like him either. In fact, in your father's words you simply “look like a baby.” Even if you did resemble us, that wouldn't be the reason that we love you. Not even close. It's not even because of evolution's hand at making you so very cute either.
We love you because you are love in the purest form. You are pure in your thoughts, whatever they may be. I can see now that a baby's arrival is from a spiritual realm, one called by many names. You have come from a place that is love and in many ways, you offer one of so few real, physical connections that a person can have with the spiritual realm. Whatever spiritual place you believe in, your child comes from there, a beautiful place, and once with your child you get a glimpse of that pure love that is the goal of every spiritual quest. It's incredible, indescribable -- thank you Rai, for allowing me to feel this kind of love, a love that resides in all of us.

So, on your two month birthday, I thank you for helping me demystify those two myths. I thank you for connecting me to all of humanity and for bringing out in me so much love and compassion.

That's a lot to think about so, to celebrate your day, we went out into nature today to reflect on how you have changed our lives and perceptions of the world.

Happy two-month Birthday little guy! I look forward to how much you will teach me in the coming months and years. You are the greatest gift I have ever received.

Maciej's Note: Rai, your Mom was feeling so 'connected' with the rest of humanity on your two-month birthday that we snuck through someone's yard, down their private stairs and down to a private beach shared by several homes ignoring the (at least) ten 'No Trespassing' and 'Private Property' signs we passed along the way. Private property?! There's no such thing. We're all connected, we're all humans. What's yours is mine. One love! And all this wasn't as bad as it may sound. We had seen this secluded beach in Tiburon using Google Maps and were determined to get there. Along the way, a gardener had welcomed us into that yard and guided us down the staircase.

Father's Day - The Transformation into a Father is Complete

Rai, you won't ever see it by the way your father looks at you, you won't ever feel it as your father carries you or cuddles with you, you won't ever hear it with the stories your father reads to you, you won't ever taste it on your lips when your father kisses you nor will you ever sense it in your father's presence. But, there was a time when I had to convince your father that bringing a child into this world would make our lives better.

Just eleven months ago, as we sat by a waterfall in Shikoku, Japan, I told your father that I wanted to have a child. Your father was surprised and a little taken aback since, for ecological reasons, we had agreed that we weren’t going to have children. Forty-eight hours later, he held my hand and told me, "If you want a child, I will have a child with you. If it makes you happy, I will do it for you." Your father was willing to sacrifice his green ideals and what he called a perfect life (the life we shared together) to make me happy. I was so thrilled that when we hammered out the new terms of our relationship and your father admitted he wasn't into the routine associated with raising a child I gladly took full responsibility, "I'll change his/her diapers, and give him/her all their baths, I'll do the laundry and make the meals!" I exclaimed!

Just a few weeks later, in our final days in Japan, you were conceived. As you grew and developed in my womb your father became more and more excited about your arrival. But, it wasn't until I was enduring the most difficult hours of labor that your father transformed into the father you know today. It took many years for me to witness your father shedding a tear but, once you were born they were the most natural way for him to express himself and his love for you. I can't even count the number of times he cried tears of joy in that hospital room we shared for the first six days of your life.

In fact, your father immediately took such an active role in the raising of you that it wasn't until you were eight days old that I changed your diaper for the first time and your father showed me how. Ironically, it is your father who changes your every diaper, cleans the house, does the laundry, takes you on long walks, writes all the stories on your blog, reads to you, prepares breakfast and even gets excited when I tell him it's your bath time. I don't know what exactly changed in your father the day you were born but, what I can say is that he is an incredible father who has an unshakable bond with you. I look forward to the day when we can both tell him how much he means to us and how lucky we are to have him in our lives. Until that day comes, I will write, whisper to, and hold your father for the both us.

Happy Father's Day, Macius! You inspire me every day with your love, your gentleness, your devotion and your bond with our beautiful son. Thank you for your sacrifice, if it can even still be called that (you're loving every single moment of fatherhood!). Thank you for opening yourself up to so much love. Fathers like you make this world a more joyful place. I love you -- we both love you!