Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where's Mama?

Rai, did you know that your Mom is a card-carrying member of the Golden Gate Mother's Group? Through her membership in this well-established parenting support group, your Mom has hooked us up with a group of parents of infants in your age bracket and, a few times already, we've taken you out on a 'play date'.
Pretending to meet with the intent of having our babies 'play' together, these meetings are nothing more than a chance for new mothers to get out of the house and talk all about motherhood with a bunch of ladies going through the same thing. It's really a 'play date' for adults with infants. I mean, let's call a spade a spade here. On both play dates so far, you've had virtually no interaction with the other babies. Sure, you all may have given each other a passing glance, but interaction it was not. All you babies were more interested in all the adults chatting it up around you, then in meeting and playing with each other.
With all these mothers around I worried that you'd get confused. Which one's my Mom again...?
But, my worries were unwarranted. You know your Mama. You love your Mama. What's not to love? There's no better Mom than she!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Image is Everything

At 5 months, Rai, you have a personality. You are no longer the unexpressive, quiet, little bundle you once were. You know what you want and you know how to tell us. We can already pick out personality traits that we know will grow over the months and years to come.
With this new ability to express your individuality, you've become more aware of the clothing we put you in. Realizing that you're a stakeholder in your appearance, you have taken a keen interest in choosing your wardrobe and accessories. One thing you've noticed is that lots of folks around you wear sunglasses outdoors. Hey, it may be conformist, but you can no longer be caught outside without shades of your own. You demanded, we delivered. You now have a pair of sunglasses that may look more like swimming goggles than sunglasses but you're satisfied.
Now that personal style is on your mind, it's a good thing that you've got your Aunt Nikki on the sidelines. Ms.SF Stylephile herself came by the other week to take a look at and consult you on your wardrobe. She even brought by a gift for you: a furry little sweater that says 'cool' like few other shirts you have do. 'Cute' you've got down, but 'cool' items are a tougher find so this is a good start. So, as you delve further into the world of fashion and personal style, don't be too worried about making the right decisions -- your personal image consultant will never be too far away.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekends in Markleeville

Rai, it was difficult for all of us to say "no" to your grandmother. What she wanted was to get a cabin. A cabin? Maybe. "Oh, no. It's not for me or for us. It's for Rai," she told us about a year ago. How could we say "no" to that. It's for you, after all.
Your Grandma's dream was to have a place in the woods. A place where we could build years of memories and experiences with you. A place where we could instill in you a strong reverence for nature. Ultimately, we all caved in. How could we say "no" when the cabin was for you?!

This isn't the time to be buying, but your Grandma has always been lucky with real estate. As a child, your grandmother grew up in Park Merced in San Francisco, spent much of her childhood biking along Lake Merced, past Ocean Beach and all the way to the Legion of Honor. As a young girl, she always took the same route and admired an Arts and Crafts style home on 40th Avenue. By the time she was 25 years old, she purchased that home (it was her third home in the Bay Area!). It is the same home your Uncle Sters and I grew up in and where you are spending your days. The owner of the home took such a liking to your Grandmother and felt strongly that she was the person who was meant to live there that he sold the house to her for $30,000, even though he had put the house on the market for $70,000. As you probably can guess, the home has appreciated greatly by the time you arrived! To say that your Grandma had made some smart real estate decisions as a young adult is an understatement.

Even with this in mind, we all questioned your Grandmother's decision to get this particular cabin for you. Rai, your cabin is in.......Markleevile. Where is Markleeville, you ask? We wondered the same thing. Markleeville is located strategically right in the middle of nowhere. We pointed this out to your Grandma who opened the atlas and ponited to
Markleeville. She questioned if we were able to read a map. She swiftly circled Markleevile on the map with her index finger and began listing off all the places it was near to. It is five minutes from the famous Grover Hot Springs, walking distance to waterfalls and creeks, great hiking, a few miles from stunning alpine lakes, a half hour from the breathtaking Mokelumne Wilderness (the wild flowers there are spectacular!), Kirkwood Ski Resort and forty-five minutes from South Lake Tahoe. We still weren't convinced but, we went along with it anyway. It was for you, after all.

The cabin your Grandmother picked out for you was in pretty rough shape. Over the past half year, the cabin was completely gutted and renovated completely. It was the area Grandma wanted you grow up around, not the cabin itself, that was important.
Two weekends ago, we moved in and this past weekend, we were able to enjoy time together in the cabin as a family. It only took us about a nanosecond to fall in love with the cabin and the surrounding area. Your cabin is surrounded by beautiful pines, a creek, a State Park, is near the end of a dead-end road, and, while there, one truly feels isolated in the most perfect way. We spent the weekend laying by the fire, eating and relaxing on the deck, dancing, singing, hiking, watching squirrels and coyotes run around in the forest. We took you on a tour of the area on a wagon, and had a fabulous family get-a-way. You even slept between Dad and I in bed, gazed at the stars from our bed in the middle of the darkest night you've yet experienced. After cuddling next to me all night, you woke up smiling and laughing.

Rai, we love your cabin and we can't wait to spend weekends and summers there together for years to come! We may even try to go there twice a month (your Father wants to go every weekend). As a child, we spent many winters at Grover Hot Springs State Park Campground, bundled up in goose down sleeping bags, shivering to the bone and running to the hotprings at 4 a.m. with sleeping bags in toe. Now, we won't have to brave those frigid nights in the tent any longer. We'll just lay by the fire at the cabin and make the 7 minute walk over to the springs whenever we feel like it.
It's true what they say -- Grandparents really do spoil their grandchildren! Thanks Mom (and Dad!) for this wonderful gift for Rai and for our family!






Cabin Slideshow below:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

M-I-C-K-E-Y

A couple weekends ago, Rai, you and I had a 'boys day out' since your Mom was in class all day. Knowing that this would probably be the only strictly father and son day that we would likely have for months (if not years!), I made sure to plan in an activity that clearly says: "I am a boy". And, nothing says 'boy' like Mickey Mouse.
We had been given a special preview pass to San Francisco's newest museum, the Walt Disney Family Museum, by some friends and I knew that there is no more perfect way for you to assert your boyhood than to put on a Mickey Mouse hat and visit a museum devoted to cute, animated characters.
Lucky for you, your Uncle Sterling and his wife Nicole had had a custom Mickey Mouse hat embroidered with your name made for you last time they visited Hong Kong Disneyland. The hat, still a bit loose, was a big hit at the museum. I could see the employees eyeing your hat, likely thinking about the royalties they could collect if they could get the museum to merchandise hats just like yours.
The museum is outstanding, following the entire life of Walt Disney in modern and engaging, hands-on exhibits. The effort put into every display of this big museum in the Presidio is something that adults may enjoy more than kids, but still, you were patient and observant as I slowly wandered from room to room.
Back out on the front lawn in front of the museum while we planned out our next big boy's day out, I marveled at just how much your face can change from one hour to the next. In the morning, your face is bright and energized. You're well rested and eager to get the day started. On the lawn, you were tired and ready to nap and your face expressed your needs exactly. Your eyes were barely open and every muscle in your face seemed to droop in fatigue. There's only so much Mickey anyone can take, even you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Our Big Eater

Rai, you are eating more and more every day.
These days, you request double portions of solid food before going to bed in the evening. It's hard to believe that just over a few weeks, your appetite has changed so much that you can handle so much more food in one feeding.
On the other hand, looking at your face, hands, bib, and pants the other evening, we figure that that second helping of solid food didn't actually end up in your stomach anyway. It looked a little like you had a full bowl of sweet potatoes smeared across your cheeks and clothing.
The funny thing is that this mess is the result of you trying to help us feed you. As soon as the spoon comes within arm's reach, you grab it with an iron grip and pull it towards your mouth. Your intentions are pure, but the result is food splashing everywhere and your hands covered in it, leaving only a tiny morsel for your mouth.
Whatever the case may be, we're glad that you're enjoying solid foods so much. We're certainly enjoying the process of feeding it to you! We'll try some more vibrant colors next!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

5 Months Old Today!

We recently heard someone say on the radio: "When you have children, the days go slow, but the years go fast." Rai, today you turned 5 months old and even after just this short time with you, we see just how true that quote is.
When we're with you, we enjoy every moment so thoroughly that time seems to stop. We are fully in the moment, watching every expression on your face, every move of your arm, every twist of your head, every adoring gaze you give us, and every inquisitive look you give the world around you.
On the other hand, we can't believe that 5 months have passed already. Last month we wrote about how much you've changed since you were born and now, at month five, we can see even more changes in you. You're bigger, you're stronger, and you're much more aware of events around you. Not to mention, you're curious and grab and pull at anything within your reach. Your voice is loud and clear, shrill even. You can sit up. And, finally, you're starting to get some meat on those baby bones of yours!
Happy birthday, son. You can't even imagine the joy you've brought to our lives. We love you very much.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stand, Drink, Sleep

Rai, we're always amazed at how quickly you can transition from one activity to another and since there are only a handful of activities that you can actually do, a move from one of these activities to another is often quite dramatic.
Let's take standing and sleeping. You are a master stander and an even more accomplished sleeper. Considered independently, your prowess at either of these two activities is not too impressive. Taken together, however, it is an extraordinary feat. You can literally go from wide awake, standing on your feet, giggling, laughing and talking to us at full volume to on your back and sleeping soundly in a matter of seconds. Incredible.
In fact, you demonstrate this skill every evening. One moment, we're pulling off your second or third drool covered outfit of the day and dressing you in your pajamas during which you're wired, wide awake and playful. The next moment, you're on your back, sucking loudly from your bottle and, these days, holding your bottle on your own but appreciating our company even if you don't need us to hold the bottle any longer.
Just moments later, never more than a minute or two after the screeching that accompanied pajama time, your eyes are rolling back into your head and your eyelids are fluttering. With one final twitch, you're fast asleep. The entire process: just a few minutes, a remarkable feat.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bat-Mite

The 1950's are often recognized as a decade of false pretenses, a time when facades of perfection masked imperfect truths that could only be disguised but never eliminated. As with any time when appearances are paramount, censorship was an important aspect of that decade. Even comic books could not escape the hand of censorship when, in 1954, a powerful lobby of parents rallied to create the Comics Code Authority, a censorship board that took any form of vice, no matter how small, out of comic books. Essentially, all the fun was taken out of comic books.
Writers and publishers responded with a decade of comic stories that had to find extraordinarily subtle ways to keep the violence and sex in comics while adhering to the rigid censorship standards. As a result, comics got weird. Science fiction-based stories took over. Humans could not fight humans in comics anymore, but space aliens, and extra-dimensional beasts were fair game. So, in 1959, Batman readers were introduced to a tiny magical creature from the 5th dimension known as Bat-Mite. The tiny imp's idolizing of Batman bordered on worship and so, Bat-Mite would travel to our dimension as often as possible in order to see his hero in action. Bat-Mite appeared regularly in Batman comics for the next five years, but disappeared almost entirely for decades to come.
Today, Bat-Mite is back in the form of a tiny, nearly 5-month old baby named Rai Sequoia! We're not sure where your obsession comes from Rai, but Batman is already an idol of yours. Just like the original Bat-Mite worshipped Batman, you, this century's Bat-Mite, idolize the Dark Knight too! Every time we look for new t-shirts for you, you pick out the shirts with Batman on them. You'll have it no other way.
Even more strongly, you demand weekly that I visit the comic shop to pick up the latest issues of Batman comics. Will it ever be enough, Rai? I mean, we already have 3 long boxes full of Batman comics in our closet and hundreds (thousands?) more in Winnipeg but still, you want more. Hey, but if you in insist I keep buying these comic books for you, then I will. Anything for you, little Rai.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Are Grandpas Always the Favorite?

Rai, I remember my family in Canada telling me that when my nephew and niece were infants, that their Gziadek (grandpa) was their favorite. When Gziadek was in the room, it was impossible to get their attention.
This must be a universal truth because, Rai, your Grandpa is your favorite too. Now that you've been spending days with the grandparents for a few weeks, you've gotten to know your Grandma and Grandpa much better. There definitely isn't an ounce of stress or separation anxiety on your part when we drop you off and leave in the morning. Then, when we return to pick you up at 3:30 or 4:00, you act as if a minute hasn't passed. You look our way, but Grandpa's voice is enough to get your full attention.
It's great to have grandparents, isn't it? Seeing this instant bond you've developed with your grandparents makes me sad that I never had extended family around me when I was growing up. You will certainly share many, many happy times and memories with your wonderful grandparents. This is only the beginning!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Still Your Favorite Toy

It is common knowledge in the teaching profession that kids and teenagers have attention spans that match their age in minutes. So, when planning activities for 8 year olds, plan 8-minute activities. When planning lessons for 16 year-olds, keep the lessons under 16 minutes. If we were to take that rule of thumb further back, we would run into a bit of a dilemma when it comes to you, little Rai.
Let's see: 1 year old = 1 minute activities. What about 5 month old infants? That's about half a year so does that mean that whatever we do with you, it cannot exceed 30 seconds or we'll just lose your attention? Maybe. In some ways, that sounds just about right. We do all kinds of things to get you to make solid eye contact, hold the contact, and smile and communicate with us and we're happy if this 'communication' lasts more than 10 seconds before you lose interest and start checking out everything around you other than us.
We have found a counterexample to the rule, however, in the Jolly Jumper. That toy is still your favorite and when you're in the mood, you can keep yourself entertained for minutes, even tens of minutes in that contraption! You love it and, consequently, so do we!
video

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Solid Food... Make That: Slightly Less Liquidy Food

Rai, over the last 3 weeks, you've gradually been making that all-important transition over to solid foods. Per the standard approach, we began you with a small helping of rice cereal every evening and you love it! Lucky for us, it didn't take you too long to overcome the 'tongue thrust' reflex so we saw you swallowing more than you spit out before your first bowl was done.
The move over to solid food was not only to expand your culinary palette, but also to (hopefully) fill up your stomach so that your first round of sleep from 7pm would last longer than just 3 hours. Since adding rice cereal, we've also added multi-grain cereal which you like even more! "But, wait a minute.... this is not solid!" you protest. Alright, we admit that food gets more solid than rice cereal. We're working on it. Baby steps.
Below, a video of the very first time you ate that beloved cereal.
video

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going, Going... Gone!

Rai, your learning curve is incredibly fast. Just when we were getting concerned about your desire and ability to roll over (no, we won't be asking you to shake a paw, next), you have learned and mastered this skill in just a span of two or three days.
I always thought that a big feat like rolling over would take weeks of practice with just incremental advances seen on a daily basis. On the contrary, one day not too long ago, you decided that you wanted to learn to roll over and over a very short period of time, you figured it out and did it on command. You learned every step and muscle movement necessary to accomplish a successful roll in just a few hours.
Now, if we put you on your stomach, you automatically do the much anticipated push-up but, unsatisfied with the simple push-up, you quickly buckle one arm, lean to one side, tuck the arm in, and complete the roll, finishing on your back, laughing all the way.
You're still working on the back to front roll, but we see progress there too. Lying on your back, you're constantly trying the first step of this maneuver too. You'll tuck in your legs and roll to your side but.... that's as far as you can go so far. That's fine with us, though, because we know that crawling follows fast on the heels of you getting on your stomach on your own and we're not quite ready for you to be cruising around the apartment.

Sense of Humor

Rai, if there ever is a time when you think that your Dad is just an old, serious man who cannot relate to you in any way (there will be a time like this), then look back at the photos below to remind yourself that your Dad is a person just like you and no matter how old he gets, deep down, he has a sense of humor. Below are some photos sent to us by a student, taken on the day of my birthday at school that I wrote about earlier this week...




Sunday, September 13, 2009

Walking the Ridge Once Again

Rai, your parents are constantly on the lookout for a new trail to hike in the Bay Area. We've walked the famous, the popular, every well-trodden trail dozens of times. Now, it's the unknown, the overgrown and forgotten, the 'secret', off-the-beaten-track trails that we're after. The good news is, we're quite good at finding them.
Our main technique for discovering 'secret' trails is to use Google Maps and search for large, road-less expanses of land. Those places usually have no roads for good reason: they are impossibly steep or wooded and where there are steep hills and forested lands, there are trails. Then comes the hard part: finding a trailhead. Google Maps' satellite feature has proven useful in this regard, but only for finding wider, more maintained trails which can easily be seen as scars in the land. Often the trails we've found this way begin and end in people's yards or on private lands.
That has not deterred us one bit. Just last weekend, I was searching for trails that access Lake Pilarcitos, a 'secret' lake hidden in the mountains south of San Francisco. My search turned up a network of trails that crisscrosses the mountains from the well-known San Andreas and Crystal Springs Reservoirs right across Sweeney Ridge and to Montara and Pacifica on the Ocean side of the ridge.
There were many trailheads, but we chose the one that gave us the quickest access to Lake Pilarcitos. Less than 30 minutes after completing the research and drawing a rough, pencil map we arrived at the end of a dead-end block in Pacifica, parked our car in front of a two-storey home, and looked to where the street dead-ended at a large horse stable. According to our calculations, the trail began behind and to the right of the stable.
We ignored the gate and private property signs and headed inside. The trail was easy to find; it was the horse trail that led from behind the stable, steeply up the hill. Pushing you in your stroller was no easy task but, finally, we made it up to the top of the ridge, connecting with one of our favorites, the Sweeney Ridge trail, at a point along the trail we'd never made it to.
To our dismay, just minutes down the trail, we arrived at a huge fence and locked gate. This, apparently, was the boundary to a Fish and Game Refuge protected by the S.F. Water Department. We had seen a similar fence near the Crystal Springs Reservoir in the past so now we could see that the huge area surrounding the collection of reservoirs was locked up tight. Somewhere in that locked wilderness lay Lake Pilarcitos, the 'secret' lake that was our destination.
On this day, we turned back, disappointed and, on our way back downhill, we came across a warning sign with a sense of humor. At the ridge top beginning of the horse trail that we had hiked up was a sign that read: Private Trail. Violators will be violated and eaten. Nothing fancy. Just BBQ. We laughed, we were scared but, ultimately, we descended the way we had come knowing that we had an impenetrable defense: you. No one would violate and BBQ a baby, right?
On the way back, we also found a rough trail that seemed to lead off into an abyss of poison oak and thick bushes. Investigating, we found that it was a shortcut that bypassed the main fence and led to a single spot in the fence where a tiny hole had been cut out. Here it was, THE spot where intrepid hikers such as ourselves could enter that gated wilderness in secret.
We vowed to return sooner than later and when we do, you'd better be in the mood for being strapped to one of us, little guy. We won't be pushing that stroller up those 40% grades once again, that's for sure!
video