Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Away From it All

Rai, if you had the ability to speak then you may have asked us a few months ago: "Mom? Dad? Do you consider a visit to the family cabin a vacation?" Our answer, then, may have been, "Well, definitely a getaway, but not necessarily a vacation."
'Vacation' implies not only time off, but a trip to a place that is different than that one calls home. So, for us, a vacation would mean traveling to somewhere that offers a change from life in San Francisco, an interesting and even exotic place that could, for even a short time, forget completely our daily routine back here in the City by the Bay. All this seems to imply flying off to some distant place.
To get to the cabin, we don't need to fly, we just drive a few hours, getting no further than 200 miles from our home here by the ocean. Traveling to the cabin, we haven't even left California. Finally, we are surrounded by nature here in our part of the city so the natural setting is nothing new either.
Rai, nothing is permanent, not even opinions. Today, we have to change the answer we may have given to your question. We just spent the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday at the cabin and the experience was not just a getaway but a vacation in every sense of the word.
While there, we were completely disconnected from our life back home. The lack of television and internet at the cabin solidified this isolation, allowing us to enjoy the place completely without any reminders of life outside the valley.
The snow that fell on Thanksgiving Day showed us just how different the place is too. Mountains powdered with snow, pine trees shaking white mist through the air, crisp walks in snow that crunched under our feet, endless rows of tall pines, and evening dips in the nearby hotsprings while gazing at a sky full of stars made us realize that the nature fix we could get at the cabin is nothing like that that we get in the city and along the coast.
The main difference however, and the main reason that we now see a visit to the cabin as a vacation, is the lack of people. All the other cabins in the Shay Creek area were unoccupied, and we didn't see a soul for our entire stay except during our visits to the hotsprings. It's been a while since we've had a reminder like this one that getting away from humanity and the city to a place that remains vastly untouched and natural is a powerful and revitalizing experience.
So, Rai, as we spend weekends and holidays at the cabin, we want you to always remember that these aren't "just another trip to the cabin" but that each visit is a chance to get away from everyday life, a chance to experience something different, a chance to forget everything and live simply and in the moment. Keeping this in mind, you'll have more vacations in your first few years than many have in their entire lives!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Precious Baby

Rai, you are the most precious little baby we've ever seen.
That is a completely objective observation. At moments like the one captured in this photo, our hearts just melt with love for you, little guy.
Bundled up, warm and cozy, we wonder what it is that you're dreaming about...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wanting for Nothing

Rai, tag-teamed by us on one side and your Grandparents on the other, you are left wanting for nothing. I'm not saying that you're spoiled exactly because we're trying our best to avoid the 'little Emperor' syndrome, but you certainly have not experienced any period in your short life during which you've needed or wanted anything that hasn't soon after magically appeared in your room or in our home.
As of late, you're getting a bit bored with the toys you have. Watching you interact with them, we see that you've discovered and understand most of their functions. If there was a flap to flip or a knob to twist, you've done it. Your eyes and your patience tell us that you're seeking something new, a new toy or activity to challenge; something new to discover.
Hmm... surrounded by all those exciting toys, you still need something more? Can we say spoiled?

Unafraid of Anything!

Rai, you really are fearless!
First, you showed unwavering courage when confronted by bears. Okay, bear suits, but close enough! And now, you showed complete fearlessness when approached and surrounded by a much more formidable beast.
A dragon showed up recently on the chair in your bedroom and, although you noticed it immediately, you showed no reaction other than curiosity. More, you were actually excited about his appearance. In minuties, you had actually tamed the beast.
Unbelievable, Rai. Is there nothing in this world that you fear?

Twilight

Rai, something terrible happened this past weekend. A new box office record was set. Twilight: New Moon, amassed the highest one-day box office total ever recorded!
I enjoy box office records, but this one is not one that I wanted to see beat. The previous highest one-day record was held by The Dark Knight, last summer's Batman sequel to Batman Begins. How could a teeny-bopper vampire picture beat a dramatic, heroic tale like The Dark Knight?
Still, by the end of the weekend, I was vindicated. Despite its incredible opening night, Twilight was unable to maintain its momentum throughout the weekend. The Dark Knight remains the best ever opening weekend! Just remember that, Rai. No one can beat Batman -- not even a bunch of vampires and werewolves!

Alive!

Rai, there are only a few restaurants in this city where one can dine and feel alive. Or, is that, where one can dine on live food? What I mean is, there are only a handful of places that specialize in raw (live) food.
Alive is one of those restaurants. We rarely go there, but when we do, it's an experience we remember for the weeks that follow. Last night, Alive had their annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner event. The seven course set menu included two salads, three pies and cakes, a soup, and a main course. Everything was raw, uncooked, living food.
The atmosphere was relaxed and homey. Everyone wore name tags, shared tables and new friends were made at every turn. Even on a normal day, this is the kind of atmosphere you can expect to find at this tiny, but welcoming restaurant with its amazing garden patio in back.
The courses came out very slowly and, only at the 4th course, we found that we had been there for more than 2 hours already and your bedtime approached quickly. We let the staff know and soon after, left with the final 3 courses packed up for us to be finished at home.
The mild cold I had felt coming on had miraculously dissipated, knocked out by all those enzymes and bacteria in that living food!
So Rai, when you want to eat out and get more than just a meal, when you want to feel alive, just let us know and we'll let you know where to find those wonderful raw restaurants scattered around the city. Hopefully, by the time you're looking to eat out, there'll be more than just a few of them...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

7 Months Old Today!

Rai, our favorite day of the month is here again! On this 22nd day of November, we celebrate your birthday again. Today, you are 7 months old!
Each month, we can reflect on just how much you've grown, changed, and developed. At 7 months, it's hard to even remember what you were like even a month ago. You met a 3 month old baby the other evening. More than you even, we were intrigued by the tiny, virtually immobile bundle of a baby. Without this chance meeting, we would not be able to comment today on just how far you've come. Is it possible that just a few months ago you were also a delicate little blob with unexpressive eyes and floppy limbs? We think so, but can't quite remember.
Today, at 7 months, you are almost fully a little person already. You are very active, your eyes are extremely alert and alive, your face super expressive and your arms and legs are your own -- they do what you want them to do and that is a lot.
You can hardly sit still. Your post in the corner of the couch is no longer good enough. We've expanded your play area to a large piece of the living room floor where, seated on a carpet of blankets, you sit, spin around, and lean in every direction, reaching out for and playing with the piles of toys that surround. You've figured out every knob, switch, fold, door, and noise maker on each and every toy.
Besides all this, our favorite aspect of your development is your face. With those wild eyes of yours, you look in all directions, soaking in everything around you. Most rewarding is that look in your eyes and that smile on your face when you see us enter a room. You make solid eye contact, your lips twist up in a smile, and you usually let out a little chuckle when you see either one of us. We know that you could recognize us in months past but it's now, at 7 months, that we really feel that you are interacting with us in a very meaningful way.
To celebrate your 7 months, we began the day with a bath and, as you leaned back on Mom, crossed your legs and lay in the warm water, you said, "this is exactly what I needed. Thanks, Mom and Dad."
At the same time, we continue to think: we could never imagine the joy you would bring our way. Thank you, son, for 7 months of unforgettable memories and enough happiness to last a lifetime. We love you too much.

Quality Time with Lalima

For some, an arranged marriage means only one formal meeting before the wedding itself. Essentially, the parents of the bride and groom to be spend more time together than couple does. As we're more progressive thinkers, Rai, we're making sure that your arranged marriage doesn't turn out that way.
Meeting your wife only once before the wedding day? That's pretty tough, isn't it?! We're not the type of parents that will impose our will on you. You'll enjoy lots of freedom in our home. So, your arranged marriage won't go down that way and we're making certain of that already. You've met your wife-to-be at least a handful of times already and we'll keep setting up these meetings so that by the time the wedding rolls around, you'll actually know her quite well and, hopefully, you'll actually be in love with her too! If not, love can always wait for after the wedding, but, seeing how your eyes follow Lalima around the room when she's here, I think you're in love already.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Captain Awesome

We've made lots of references to you as a superhero, Rai. Not only that, we've also written lots of stories about the destiny that is implied by your name, and all our hopes for you and your generation. I guess it's time we balance all those expectations with the simple message that as long as you're a passionate, hard-working and compassionate being, we will be proud of you. You'll always be awesome in our eyes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Teeth Have Arrived

Rai, you have been teething for a few months now. Finally, you've been rewarded for all the pain that comes with sharp, little teeth piercing their way through your tender baby gums. The reward: two, cute little teeth that show themselves every time you smile or laugh (which is often).
And, the reward doesn't end there. Now, with your newfound capacity to chew and tear foods, you can enjoy your new favorite food: pickles.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last of its Kind?

Rai, in the last story, we wrote about the downsizing of the S.F. Recreation and Parks Department, its programs, its playgrounds and community centers. The interesting thing is that even while San Francisco may be losing manned playgrounds, its physical playgrounds are undergoing a serious modernization.
For several years now, we've seen those old, wooden-beamed play structures that your Mom and I grew up with, being torn down in parks all across the city. Each is being replaced with a modern play structure of metal, plastic and bright colors. Gone are the monkey bars, the rickety swinging, wooden bridges, and wooden towers. We've watched this transformation occur in every single park that holds a play area for children.
However, one play structure remains untouched and shows no signs that modernization is on its way. Pretty soon, it may be the last of its kind and, for nostalgics like us, we hope that somehow, it continues to fly under the radar. It's nice to know that with all those fancy new play structures out there, this rustic one remains available, almost secretly, for us to use.
The good news is that this playground is close to home. Down the hill, into Golden Gate Park, past the chain of lakes and towards the Sunset District we walk. All in all, less than 10 minutes from us is this great play structure, built on sand in a beautiful forest knoll. The swings, the slides, the steps and bridges are all of aging wood. Even more fun is the centerpiece: a giant boat sailing in the sand of the playground. At one time, each playground had something unique like this that made it stand out from all the others, a landmark to distinguish each particular playground. Nowadays, they all look the same so, little Rai, even though this may be the ghetto of the playground world, we'll keep bringing you here so that you can have one place to call your own, a playground you'll always remember as 'the playground with the boat!'


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Are we Near the End of Something Wonderful?

Back in the '70s, the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department had more employees than the entire National Park Service of America. Reading that in a National Geographic, Rai, a smile came to my face. Here we are living in a city that has made parks in the city and recreation programs a fiscal priority. A city with policies like that is one we can be happy to live in.
Your Grandma, Rai, was part of this great organization. For 37 years, your Grandma was a Director for Parks & Rec, giving several generations of youth, adults and seniors the gift of nature, hiking, camping, and community. Her dream of being a Park Ranger was not realized but, in the end, she was able to give so much to so many people through the work that she did.
These days, however, the S.F. Rec & Parks Department is shrinking. As your Grandma's generation of employees retire, fewer and fewer are re-hired. The Department is not what it once was and with it comes the loss of so many great programs and the closure of playgrounds across the city.
Last week, Rai, we took you to one of the least known, but most amazing Rec & Park mini-parks in The City. The park, Cayuga Park, is way, way down in the very south end of the city, a tiny space of green wedged between a couple highways and right under the elevated transit rail. Every few minutes, the BART train passes overhead, screeching loudly as it does.
This park, however, is the product of the kind of love, care and devotion that your Grandma and so many others put into their community service for years and years. The Rec & Parks employee who once managed this tiny park and playground was also an artist. He worked with wood and logs. Today, dozens of his amazing carvings, painted in vibrant colors, fill every available space in the park. What once began as the work of one man is now a community project; many artists have continued to add carvings to the park over the years. Hidden away in the lush greenery that fringes the grassy open space are two trails that wind through the trees and foliage. At the beginning of one trail, a sign hangs from a gate made of twisted branches and ivy. Garden of Eden, it says, and walking along the meandering path, finding totem poles, carvings of angels, and expressive figures along the way, it certainly feels that way.
The art filled park is a gem yet virtually unknown. A Mom we met there that day told us that she's been coming here regularly for years and usually finds her herself alone in the park. You'd think that such a unique spot in the city would have made it into some guidebooks or city info brochures but it hasn't. It just sits here under the freeway ready to welcome any curious soul who values a green escape from the concrete of the city, a wanderer looking for inspiration, a citizen looking to be reminded of what the people running this city once believed was most important.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Think Green

This past weekend was the San Francisco Green Festival, the nation's largest such event. So, I put on my green pants, you put on your green hat, your Mom put on a green hoodie, and we hit the event ready to see the latest in green products and businesses.
Three hours later, we emerged from the event full on free samples of organic, fair trade chocolates and carrying bags of free items and brochures. Of course, we also couldn't resist buying a few things. Your Mom and I bought matching stainless steel lunch canteens made of three containers that snap together with reusable bamboo cutlery and a great carrying strap.
Also, somewhere amongst that hall full of booths we came across an older gentlemen who was teaching anyone who had a moment, how to play his 'green' board game. We were immensely impressed with the beautiful, wooden gameboard and pieces, and the theme of the game: protecting the earth's forests. It turns out that the game (Paradice) is a highly strategic game (not unlike Chess and Go) but has an element of chance built in as well. Naturally, we bought the game and tried it that very evening. We also found some great t-shirts and re-usable whiteboard markers perfect for minimizing waste while teaching.
The entire event had a hippy-ish feel that we really appreciated and throughout our journey from booth to booth, you, as always, were a big hit. Excited by the festival, you walked away with preservation, conservation, and sustainability on your mind. You were so inspired, in fact, that you decided to work towards greening our home that evening. Rather than waking up twice during the night as you have for many months, you slept (for the first time ever) for 9.5 hours straight. Last night, you repeated that feat. Clearly, you're interested in saving energy. No need for us to turn on those lights at night anymore, right?
We're hoping that this ushers in new era of restful nights for us. We've completely forgotten what it's like to get a full night's sleep. Nice work, Rai -- keep it up!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Still Working out that Bear Issue

Rai, months ago now, a story appeared on this site which told of your Dad's overwhelming fear of wild bears. Back then, it was mentioned that you are doing all you can to help your Dad overcome this irrational fear.
Since birth, you've had several different outfits which effectively transform you into a cute, little bear. Having your Dad associate you with bears is a great psychological approach. If you can successfully get your Dad to think 'Rai' when he sees a bear, you'll have accomplished something incredible. And so, you recently found a jacket and hat combination that may seal the deal on this treatment.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So, So Happy!

No text necessary.
This time, we'll let the video (make that Rai) do all the talking...
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Rai, the Gamer

Back in the day, a 'gamer' was someone who spent weekends dressing up like an armed dwarf or elf and played Dungeons and Dragons for 36 to 58 consecutive hours. Today, Rai, we're trying to revamp the definition of gamer. Your parents consider themselves gamers and we don't play Dungeons and Dragons.
We have a cabinet in our living room that is now overflowing with games. I don't think we could fit one more game in there. And now that you're more of a social creature, it's easy to get you in on the games. Last weekend, we played some Pandemic with your Aunt Kate and Uncle Neil and you had to join in on the fun. Now, I hope you're not just trying to please your Dad. I mean, are you only pretending to enjoy gaming because you love me so much? I hope your heart's in it because there'll be plenty of games in the years to come!

Friday, November 13, 2009

When's the Next World Trip?

Rai, you've been eyeing that antique globe in our living room for quite some time now. It's obvious that, like me, you're wondering: "When will we take the next around-the-world trip?" I've been asking your Mom that for months (maybe even years) now, Rai.
You've heard a bit about our travels and you know that you too were produced in a foreign land so it's only natural that you have a bit of that travel itch inside of you too. So, I'll just throw out what's been on my mind concerning travel with you. Full disclosure may plant the seed for a tree that may one day blossom.
I strongly believe that travel experiences in one's early years (before 5 years of age) are highly formative. I have no doubt that my own passion for and desire to travel are the result of the traveling and living abroad that my family did before I was 5 years old.
So, I hope to give you a long and influential travel experience before you reach the ripe old age of five. My dream is to have you traverse the Himalaya, seeking refuge in one mountain monastery after another. A few months of mountain vistas, simple living, meditation and life amongst monks will give you an experience that will surely shape who you will be in the future. Here's wishing that my dream may come true.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One Confused Little Baby

Looking around the tiny space filled tight with shelves of junky chips and snacks, you gave us a look that clearly said: "I'm confused." Then, looking over at the counter where tough looking guys in baggy jeans, black hoodies, and backwards turned SF Giants hats ordered giant submarine sandwiches overflowing with shaved meat and cheese, you looked even more confused.
Just a half hour earlier, we had you sitting in a mini-shopping cart, rolling through the aisles of San Francisco's best and largest organic grocery co-operative. The visit to two such different markets in just one hour was the cause of your confusion.
How could your parents take you from the hippiest of the hippiest of markets one moment, a place overflowing with mothers in yoga tights, carrying babies in Baby Bjorns and a bulk bin and vitamin section bigger than most Safeways to a tiny, junk food market serving up meaty sandwiches?
Hey Rai, all in a San Francisco day. We got our week's groceries at Rainbow Grocery and then followed that up with a visit to the Roxie Food Center for some of The City's most famous, locals-only sandwiches. On a typical day, there is a line out the door at the Roxie Food Center. It's sandwiches are known the Bay Area over. One day, Rai, after going grocery shopping together, and when we're not getting burritos, we'll definitely be sharing a supreme submarine sandwich at Roxie's. Can't wait for that!

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The Sunsets are Back!

One of the best things about our apartment, Rai, is the view from the kitchen and back deck. From our position near the top of the hill, we can see the Ocean clearly over 5 or 6 blocks of rooftops. Just one floor lower, or just half a block down the hill and our view would be obstructed completely.
With Ocean views, come Ocean sunsets. Every day, we can see the sky change from blue to orange to red as the day comes to an end but can we actually see the sun itself, dipping below the horizon? Yes and no. As the Earth's position in relation to the sun changes over the course of the year, so does our view of the sunset. For half the year, we can't see the sun set as it is hidden behind the homes that sit even higher on the hill. In the Fall and Winter, however, the sunsets return!
About a month ago, after a summer of no sunsets from our deck, we saw our first sunset! Since then, the sun has continued to move south. Now that the sunsets are back, we find ourselves on the deck after dinner every day. And, now that the sun sets an hour earlier, you've been able to join us.
Yesterday, probably for the first time in your life, you were wide awake during the sunset so we strolled you down to Sutro Park to catch the end of it. Like watching the lights go out, you instinctively knew that when the sky went dark, it was time for bed. Back at home, you were out instantly.