Monday, August 31, 2009

Sequoia Grove Merchandise Now Available

Most 'free' websites find a way to make money sooner or later and ours is no exception. It's time that we are rewarded for our 'one post per day' effort. The Sequoia Grove now offers merchandise for sale. The first item available is a lovely teddy bear wearing a green 'Sequoia Grove' sweatshirt. This high quality teddy bear bearing the Herrington Bears label is nearly the size of a 4-month old infant.

Price: $19.99 + shipping.
$3.00 discount for those who have left comments at this site.

Place orders by adding your comment to this post.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Feel Alive and Comfortable

Rai, I feel old. This morning, I was proof-reading a personal essay that one of former students wants to submit as part of her college applications. Near the end of the essay, I read this line: "I believe that old songs can make adults feel really alive and comfortable."
On Friday and Saturday nights this past weekend, I found myself listening to old songs and feeling really alive and comfortable. It's funny, I wouldn't call the songs old necessarily. They're just from the early to mid '90s, but it's not my opinion that counts. If I asked that student, I'm sure she would not only call songs from the '90s old, but maybe even ancient. I guess that means that I'm an adult, and old.
The second annual Outside Lands Music Festival is on in Golden Gate Park and the final bands on Friday and Saturday nights are bands that would please most of us 30-something old, adults
out there. Pearl Jam played the main stage on Friday night, digging all the way back to Ten and Versus, they certainly played a lot of 'old' songs that were a big hit with us geezers. Saturday night, Dave Matthews Band, another band with a lot of old songs, took the stage. Both evenings, I clung to the fence, huddling with the hundred of other folks who hadn't bought tickets, opting to instead listen for free from the outside.
On Friday night, Rai, you were there and hours before Pearl Jam hit the stage, you were loving Tom Jones. We were celebrating a fellow math teacher's birthday and there's no better way than by grooving to Tom Jones. Your Mom told us how when she was 15 years old, Pearl Jam had
played a show in the very same spot and that she and some friends had jumped the fence to get inside. After the sun set, and your Mom took you home, the rest of us, inspired by your Mom's heroic tale, briefly considered jumping the fence but decided against it only because of the controversy that would follow the absence of three of us at school on Monday were we to end up in jail.
The next evening, I was back for Dave Matthews. All those songs brought back memories of my high school and early university days, good memories all of them. I felt very alive and comfortable and was left wondering if my student
had simply observed adults happy when listening to the music of their generation of if she really understood the power of song to bring one back to another time and another place.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Family Web Grows More Confusing

Looking at a photo of his Mom and her two cousins as babies, we asked your cousin Eryk: "Did you know that that's your Mom in the middle?" He showed no surprise or confusion so we followed-up with, "who do you think the other two babies are?" hoping he'd throw out a "my Dad!" or, even better, the correct answer, "Mac!". He gave neither answer, instead confidently shouting, "me!"
We laughed, enjoying the Twilight Zone-esque notion of a mother seated as a baby next to her own baby.
This was at the end of a great evening when you met your Dad's cousin and her baby for the first time. And, just when you thought that you were making sense of all the names given to family members connected in different ways, this meeting made things difficult again. You've mastered Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle but what to call this lady known as Dad's Cousin and her child? No, she's not your Aunt. She's your second cousin and her baby is your first cousin, once removed. Clear?
We took a walk through the Park and ended up at the Outer Lands, a restaurant we've wanted to try for a few months. It was one of the best homemade type dining experiences we've ever had. This cousin, like your others, was fascinated by you and so gentle and sweet.
I can only hope that you'll have more opportunity to spend time with Eryk than I had with his Mom. After those first few years, my cousin and I didn't meet again until we were 16. It's a good thing that Portland isn't too far away.

Rai Loves Bedtime

Rai, it's clear that you're a mellow baby with a relaxed temperament. We've been reminded countless times about "how lucky (we) are to have such a chill and calm baby". We know it.
Even bedtime has been an easy affair. No fussing, no commotion, no complaints or crying. You know when you're tired, we know when you're tired and we always agree on the best time to put you in your crib. You drink a little, then drift off to sleep quickly and quietly.
To be completely honest, you really enjoy those few minutes before bedtime. You laugh and smile so much when we're putting on your pajamas and you love when we zip up that sleeping sack of yours.
Then again, I would be happy and excited too if I knew that I could wake up as many times as I want and each time have someone answering my slightest whimper or sigh, a bottle in hand, and an arm to lay in. Four and a half months into this and we're still responding to your every call during the night. Some advice warns us that this is the time to begin to ignore some of your requests despite the crying that may follow. All we ask is six hours of uninterrupted sleep. Can you do it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stop... Sequoia Time!

Everything old is new again. That not only applies to the ridiculous, vintage shirt that your Dad got away with wearing today, the second day back at school, but also to the music world.
Back in the 1990, MC Hammer let the world know that the '90s were going to be a different kind of decade. With the release of 'Can't Touch This!', he became an overnight success and household name. Ten or fifteen years later, he was remembered as a one-hit wonder and had faded almost perfectly into obscurity.
But, like fashions, music goes through cycles and the Hammer's songs have enjoyed somewhat of a comeback and a strong cult status. Now, even the newest of generations, is reviving an interest in the great works of MC Hammer. Little Rai threw on some 'Hammer Pants' and, even if just for a brief moment, managed to almost perfectly capture a Hammeresque dance move.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Goodbye, Morning Walks...

Alas, all good things come to an end.
The summer holidays, Rai, are over. The free lifestyle we've been leading for the past two months comes to an end tonight as we get ready for the first day of school tomorrow. It's always a bit shocking for us teachers when the summer holidays end. Probably no other job has such a tough transition from holiday time back to work time. The sheer length of the holiday combined with the unfortunate fact that we have to start fresh, with a whole new set of students we have to discipline and win over makes it tough to get back into work mode.
If it's hard for us, it's even harder for you, little Rai, because you know no other life than a life with both your parents around. It must be a bit of a shock for you to go from this ideal scenario to one where we both disappear early in the morning and don't show our faces until later in the day. It's a good thing the teaching day ends early.
I may be unnecessarily concerned about your ability to adapt to your new routine. We did a trial run with you spending the full day with the grandparents on Friday, and everything went fine -- more than fine, in fact. You were smiling wide when we came to pick you up and, I don't think I'd be mistaken to say that you hardly noticed that 10 hours had passed since we had left you there.
For me, I'll miss those daily Rai walks in the morning most. Forever, our mornings in Golden Gate Park, at Ocean Beach, and walking the cliffs of Land's End will be the symbol of our carefree summer together as a family, and the first 4 months of your life.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

4 Months Old Today!

Rai, it is the 22nd of the month so we celebrate the end of your fourth full month in the world. Today, you are 4 months old! Happy Birthday!
Normally, we measure birthdays by year and each birthday brings a time we can reflect on the previous year with the person who's birthday it is -- the times we've shared and the changes that have occurred.
The remarkable thing is that each month with you has felt almost like a year. We really can't believe that you've been with us for just four months. In this short period of time, you've shared so much with us. Those years without you are fading faster and more completely. I can't imagine what celebrating your "real" fourth birthday will feel like.
To celebrate your 4-month birthday at the Sequoia Grove, I've put up photos of you at each month birthday starting with one from this morning and moving back through the months to month 1 and then even to day 1. Wow, have you changed!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Red Pocket? Yes, Please!

Rai, although you've received a two or even three 'red pockets' in the past, let's just say you weren't quite aware enough back then to fully comprehend what was going on. So, a few days ago when your Great Grandma Wu disappeared into her bedroom and emerged again wielding a little red envelope, you got pretty excited about it!
Your eyes got wider than usual (is that even possible?) and you smiled profusely. You giggled as she brought the red pocket closer to you. When it was finally right in front of you, you looked at it intensely. Ooohh.... red! Gold! It was an object worthy of endless wonder and fascination.
The beauty of your innocence is that this fancy little red and gold envelope was enough to excite you and make you happy. You didn't even know that it is merely a vessel for gifts of money. The envelope was gift enough for you. We'll know that you've awakened to the harsh realities of this world when instead of admiring a red pocket, you tear it open to see how much money you made instead.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anything to Keep you Entertained

Rai, if someone told me a year and a half ago that I would one day tie a whoozit (an infant toy) to my head using a swaddling blanket and then proceed to growl and bark like a dog while feigning attack on a 4-month old infant, I would have told them they're crazy.
Today, I tied a whoozit (an infant toy) to my head using a swaddling blanket and then proceeded to growl and bark like a dog while feigning attack on a 4-month old infant (you). Well, no one told me that I'd one day do this but, if they had, I guess I would have to eat my words.
And why did I do this, you may ask? The answer is simple: to entertain you, my little boy. You've always been very curious and alert but, we've noticed that in this past month, you've really taken a big leap in your ability to observe the world around you. You are so anxious to check everything out around you that the patience that you once had for laying on your back quietly has virtually run out. Nowadays, you want to move around and interact with everything and everyone all the time.
The best part is that you let us know. If we lay you down, a moment later you're talking up a storm, a string of gurgles and half-yells that clearly state: "Pick me up right this minute and entertain me!" Hey, we like that kind of 'I know what I want' panache. Keep this up and all kinds of doors will open for you, little Rai. Everyone appreciates a little gumption.
And so, the never-ending search for things that entertain you has begun. What will I tie to my head next?

Some Ideas for your Wedding, Rai

With all this talk about your arranged marriage to Lalima across the street, Rai, you must be getting a bit stressed out. Not about the fact that you will marry her and you have no choice in the matter, but nervous about that fact that you will be involved in a wedding and, frankly, you have no idea what a wedding is and what it entails.
Rai, we can understand your anxiety perfectly. Lots of people get stressed about the planning of their wedding. That's why there's a whole cottage industry of wedding planners built around it. We're a 'do it yourself' kind of family, though, so we'd prefer if you kept the planning of your wedding to Lalima up to us. Besides, you could spend all that money that you'd have to put aside for a wedding planner on a great world trip honeymoon instead!
Just to get you started on the wedding plans, we took you to a wedding last weekend where we expected you to take some copious notes. That didn't happen but we're sure you made some mental notes on the details that went into the wonderful wedding of your Aunt Marisa and her now-husband Max.
In case you didn't note all the important details, here's a summary of the logistics behind the event. Venue: Isis Oasis, a hippy-ish, commune-ish, temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis type of place up in the wine country. There's plenty of villas and country homes to rent for just this type of occasion up there. Fancy rental hall? Not necessary. Ceremony: s simple affair co-officiated by the brothers of the bride and groom under a 600 year old tree and guests seated on lawn chairs and blankets. Church and priest? Not necessary. Dinner: Buffet style, serve yourself type. Expensive catered affair with servers and cooks? Not necessary. Music and dance: fiddle, acordion, guitar trio. Dancing on the grass, under the stars. Wedding singer, elaborate sound system? Not necessary. Let's not forget the extras: a lion dance to celebrate the union, a 5-tier (home-made!) cake, and volunteers serving up refreshments all night long.
Well, there you have it. A wedding done simple, memorable, and heart-warming. I'm sure Lalima is looking for the same thing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wait a Minute... ANOTHER Uncle?

Alright Rai, we just went through the semantics of the word 'uncle' a few stories ago so I won't repeat them here. All you need to know is that 'uncle' is a blanket term for any number of adult men in your life. So far, you've met one blood uncle, one uncle by marriage, and a handful of other friends of your parents who have gratefully taken on the persona of uncle in your life.
So, let us introduce you to yet another blood uncle, your Mom's brother. Your Uncle Sterling lives in Hong Kong but was visiting San Francisco over the past week. You spent a lot of time in his welcoming arms. His animated behavior and kid-friendly speech patterns were a big hit with you. Getting you to smile was easy for Uncle Sters.
The big news, however, Rai, is that in Sters we may have found that elusive fourth player for our family game nights. From that first time you played a board game with your Mom and I (when you slept in my lap during a round of Lost Cities), you were hooked. We knew then, that when you are ready to sit up on your own and that when you can sufficiently grasp and move objects you will be a dependable third player for our game nights. Sters joined us for one evening of games (a great new one: Pandemic) and was back the next evening for more.
Now that we've got a reliable and excited fourth player we just have to find a way to get your Uncle Sters and his family to move from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Rai, you're the man for the job -- your charms are irresistible.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Update on Rai's Marriage

Not too long ago, Rai, we let you and the world know that fate and destiny are alive and well despite the prevailing illusion the personal freedom and self-determination determine the outcomes of our daily lives.
Although some may consider it an intrusion on your personal liberties, we announced that when you come of age, you will be married to your neighbor across the street, Lalima. Back when we first wrote about your fated union, you had only caught glimpses of your bride to be as you each sat by the window of your respective home.
The other day, however, you were lucky to meet your future wife. As we returned home from a day out with your Uncle Bart, we saw Lalima sitting on her front porch. Your eyes locked and we knew that the fate we had set in motion for you was truly meant to be. Soon, you were sitting on the porch together. There was an awkward silence as you gave each other brief, shy glances.
Next, we will consult an astrologer to set the most auspicious date for your wedding.

$60 Doesn't Buy What it Used To

I know that I'm risking sounding like a grumpy, old man when I write this, but I'll write it anyway. This is a right you earn with age, Rai, especially when you're as old as your Dad is.
In MY day, $60 was a lot of money. For $60, I could enjoy at least two summer weeks of movies, snacks, slurpees, arcade games, and meals out with friends. For $60, I could buy a few t-shirts, a pair of pants and some nice shirt.
If $60 could buy me 4 or 5 articles of clothing then it could certainly supply a baby with 10-20 outfits, right? I mean, baby clothes require just a fraction of the fabric of a teenager's clothing and the patterns are usually quite simple.
I couldn't be more wrong. Not about the amount of fabric or simple design, but about the cost of baby clothes. We have been warned, though. Baby clothes are expensive. Many friends told us. I didn't realize just how expensive they are until the other day when we bought a huge stockpile of new clothing for Rai as he has almost outgrown a lot of his 0-6 month old outfits.
In the photo is the pile of 57 (yes, we counted them) separate items that we bought for the bankrupting cost of $60. Can I say it one more time? $60 just doesn't have the buying power that it once did. And don't even ask how much that jumping toy thingy in the background cost.... Well, okay, if you must know. It was $15.
Wait a minute! I think I've got this story all mixed up. $60 today buys so much more than it did when I was growing up! The world is changing. More sharing and recycling is going on all around us. With websites like craigslist and freecycle around, we may never have to buy anything new ever again. This is the new consumerism. Today, items that were once discarded when no longer useful for one person are now passed on and on and on until they have been used to their full potential.
We get everything on craigslist (including this bounty of baby clothing for that low, low price). Raising a baby may not be as expensive as it's made out to be (I still haven't found used diapers on Craigslist, though). And, although Rai is crushing our Lonely Planet: The Travel Book as he jumps in his jumping toy, our travel dream need not be quashed since we're saving all this money.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Lost Coast

Rai, let me tell you about a magical place, not too far away where you can find clear, blue ocean waves breaking against tall cliffs covered in evergreen trees. And, the best thing about this place is that there are hardly any people there, no towns, no homes, just pure, untouched beaches, mountains, and forests.
This enchanting place exists where the King Range meets the Pacific Ocean in northern California, just a few hours from San Francisco. Sheer cliffs have made this stretch of coast one of the most inaccessible regions in all of California. No highway has been built, and only a few winding, paved roads give the driver access to this amazing coast. The coast here remains untouched, natural. It has been called the Lost Coast.
So, while hundreds of serenity seekers headed south for the Big Sur coast, your Uncle Bart and I packed up our camping gear and turned the car north instead. We chose the Lost Coast. Big Sur may have looked like this before the coastal highway was built along its wild shores.
We didn't have time to hike the long Lost Coast Trail. Instead, we braved each and every rudimentary fire and logging road in the heart of the King Range, following those that ended at some unwalked beach along the coast. We spent hours driving slowly, carefully, Bart getting out often to guide me as I navigated our poor car over impassable ditches, impossible potholes and boulder-strewn hairpin turns.
We made it and along the way visited some of the most inspiring, rejuvenating beaches I've ever seen. We camped in a horseshoe of a cliff, lit a huge bonfire and enjoyed a night sky of stars possible only in a place like this with no city for hundreds of miles. A meteor shower was on its way the following day and we caught the early arrivals. One meteor left a trail in the sky that glittered for a long moment before fading and showing us the millions of sparkling stars once again. We sat by the fire and talked about how only on a night like this and in a place like this could one feel as alive as we did at that very moment.
Rai, soon, very soon, when you're ready we'll take you camping there or somewhere like it. We'll teach you about the wonders of this earth and the universe. We'll do what we can so that one day you can sit under the stars in some place that has been untarnished by the hands of man and, looking up, you too can say: "Tonight, I feel alive."

[For more photos, see the Slideshow]


Bart's Bridges

It was too early in the morning (and too cold) for anyone to be at the nude beach. So we thought until a man walked up the beach and, after finding a suitable spot, casually dropped his shorts and lay down on the rocks. Good thing you were turned towards my chest and not out while hanging out in your Baby Bjorn, little Rai.
We had arrived prepared, though. The north end of Baker Beach and this beach, Marshall Beach, are known as San Francisco's nude beaches. Whereas, on a warm day, it is normal to find dozens of nude sunbathers and even nude volleyball games on Baker Beach, Marshall Beach, accessed by a trail that crosses over a series of coastal bluffs, is more remote and unknown. We had come here not for nude sunbathing but for a chance to get a closer look at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Rai, up in Winnipeg where your Uncle Bart is from, a new footbridge spans the Red River, connecting downtown to the French quarter, St.Boniface. Most call the pedestrian bridge the Esplanade Riel, but those who know the details of how this strikingly modern structure became an integral part of the Winnipeg cityscape, call it 'Bart's Bridge'.
Yes, that's 'Bart's' as in 'Uncle Bart', little Rai. Your uncle is an engineer and bridge builder. When the bridge was under construction back in 2003, he was one of the key engineers on duty, making sure that the construction team kept to the plans. Without Bart, the bridge would have collapsed by now, and so, we have Bart's Bridge.
As an engineer and bridge connoisseur, your Uncle Bart, naturally, was very interested and impressed with our two great bridges, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. The very evening that he arrived, at 11p.m., we made an evening visit to both bridges on our way home. But, a nighttime visit wasn't enough so we continued to visit both bridges throughout his stay here, getting a close look at them from every possible angle.
This morning, while on one of our 'Rai Walks', we had decided to visit Marshall Beach. The coastal waters had receded noticeably over the past few days so we knew that this often thin, rocky stretch of sand could be more accesible than it usually is. It was. Marshall Beach had opened up entirely.
I've never seen this beach as exposed as it was this morning. On a typical day, rocky cliffs block the north end of the beach. Today, we passed easily and continued walking, closer and closer to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge until we stood right under the giant foundation and web of beams of this, the southern end of the great bridge. We were both amazed and your Uncle Bart was in bridge heaven.