Friday, July 30, 2010

The Randall Museum

In her 25 years of service to the people of San Francisco, the zoologist, and San Francisco's first Superintendent of Recreation, Josephine Randall had the dream of creating a museum for youth that would be "a place that would foster a love of science, natural history, and the arts." The realization of this dream was the Randall Museum which sits at the base of the steep, rocky hill that is Corona Heights Park. Today, the main room in the museum is a sanctuary for rescued wildlife; the perfect place to bring all our little ones.
And, with its panoramic views it offers quite the view over modern San Francisco, an incredible change from what the landscape once looked like, right Rai?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zeum

Ever since I moved to San Francisco, Rai, (which is quite a few years now) I have wondered this: What is the Zeum?
Zeum. The word itself, so simple, so smooth, yet unlike other words that pass unnoticed through one's mind, this one lingers. Zeum. See? Your mind stopped, thinking over this word, trying to dissect and categorize it, didn't it? Zeum. What could it possibly mean?
It looks like the marketing folks at the Zeum, San Francisco's Children's Museum did a fine job. All they did was shorten 'museum' into this hip, ebonic version of itself and, voila, without ever visiting the museum, the name of the place floated at the front of my mind for years. Really, it did.
Finally, the waiting came to an end. Using a handful of free tickets, we all made it into the Zeum the other day and, after some initial stage fright (we did some live performing in front of the museum staff), we all let loose and had a great time. The results of our 'hands-on' activities can be seen in the short video medley that follows...

video

Another Potential Home for our Growing Family?

Contractor Special!
Fixer needs a major renovation!

Those were the opening words on the advertisement for one of the 120 homes currently for sale in our neighborhood. Since any homes that have been renovated and modernized are hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond the maximum price we could ever dream of paying for a home, these words rang loudly and clearly in our heads.
Fixer? Needs renovation? That's the home for us! After all, folks who haven't done anything to pretty up an old home and do nothing to hide the fact that it needs to be renovated couldn't be asking too much for it, right? Umm... wrong. The house is on the market for $800,000.
Yikes! Even a fixer-upper is half a million above a price we'd even consider paying.
If that wasn't shocking enough, the photo included with the advertisement just about knocked me out of my seat. There are all kinds of ways to live in San Francisco (see the photos I've attached).
Now, take a closer look and see if you can find the $800,000 fixer upper.
Yes, that's the one.
There is something very wrong with this world.
How could someone be expected to put a decade or two worth of earnings into that structure? Fixer upper?! That must be the understatement of the century! That house doesn't need to be fixed up, it needs to be built!
Pondering over the ridiculousness of the real estate market, the article we've linked to below explained much. If you're thinking that the world has gone mad as we are, check out the article to feel better. We did.

patrick.net/housing/crash.html

Foreign Invasion on the Kingdom of Rai

You may still be in shock, Rai.
The other day, new (at least they seemed new to you) people started arriving, one by one, and taking up residence in Grandma and Grandpa's house. All of a sudden, there seemed to be a new face in every spot you had, until then, called absolutely your own. Who was that scooting around on your tricycle in the house? Who was that sitting up in the top bunk in your room? Who were those faces around the breakfast table? You spun your head, taking in everything, taking in nothing.
The worst of it was that it didn't look like they were just passing through. All these new people looked pretty comfortable, a sign that they would be here for a while. Yes, Grandma's and Grandpa's house, a place you could once, not long ago, call your very own, a place in which you reigned without any competition, had been overrun with visitors from who knows where!
This was all a bit tough for you to take in. You stomped in frustration, you made sour faces, you flopped to the ground, you cried. All in all, on a few occasions, you put on a pretty good show and, I have to admit, for a little while I couldn't help thinking about what life will be like in our place once the second baby arrives. Will you consider that arrival an invasion as well?
All this acting didn't last long. Very quickly, you got accustomed to all the visitors. Now, we could re-introduce them all to you. There were Uncle Sterling and Auntie Nicole with their daughter Gabby and there was Maryalice with her son Devon. Family from Hong Kong and Champagne, Illinois who had come all this way to visit. Not that many of them in all, but it sure seemed like it when they all stood around you in a circle, didn't it?
Now, you're making up for your initially inhospitable reaction by putting in your latest nights ever. You know they won't be here for long so you're staying up 1, 2, or even 3 hours past your bedtime, trying to squeeze in as moments as you can with your cousins, uncles and aunts. We may not see them again for a year so make the very best of it, Rai!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Secret Garden Adventures

One childhood memory that your Mom often shares with me, Rai, are the secret garden adventures that her family used to have. As you know, Rai, your Grandma loves gardens. She loves them so much, in fact, that her own incredible garden isn't enough to satisfy her. She needs to experience other people's gardens as well.
Out on family walks, your Grandma would often lead the family into people's gardens. Sometimes this would be by request, a "chance" encounter with a person watering some flowers would turn into an hour tour of their garden. Other times, these garden visits would be without invitation, without the knowledge or consent of the homeowners at all. Somehow, the family, led by Grandma, would end up in someone's backyard garden, taking a closer look at the landscaping and flowers, secretly, of course. Your Grandma's justification, "If the gate's not locked, then everyone is welcome," or "all garden's are public property!"
Now, your Grandma continues this tradition with you. While walking the streets of S.F. the other day, we meandered through several gardens. Lucky for us, even today, most gates remain unlocked, a simple latch and silly cultural norms related to private property rights are the only obstacles between us and some exquisite landscapes. Other gates remain locked. Unpassable? I don't think so, we just have to find a more creative or clandestine approach. Your Grandma will find a way!
Writing this, I have to reflect on the blessing that it is to have your Grandparents in your life. They bring so much to our lives and the times we all share as one large, extended family, are the best. They give you so much love and support Rai and all you have to do in return is to continue doing what you already do: keep giggling with joy when you see them, keep running into their arms, keep cuddling and clinging to them and never forget that you're surrounded by love on all sides.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Aunt Melody

Your Aunt Melody is in town, Rai. Her wonderful heart and peaceful nature make her every visit a beautiful experience. Hopefully, this is one aunt that visits often because we'd love for you to grow up with her in your life.

The World in your Own Backyard

There are many famous quotations about travel. Some of the best are ancient Chinese proverbs. One says: "Walking ten thousand miles is better than reading ten thousand scrolls." Of course this isn't to be taken literally and says much more about the difference between experience and knowledge than it does about travel itself. Still, over the years, I've gravitated to dozens of quotations like this one to inspire, justify, and validate the travels that monopolized several critical years of my life.
Like any conventional wisdom, there is always a similar expression that expresses the exact opposite sentiment. Not long ago, I came across another Chinese proverb. "He who has never left home is wiser than he who has traveled thousands of miles." That proverb hasn't left my mind since the day I heard it. It's often that way with things that are completely contrary to your beliefs and way of life. It's like the very words attack the very things I have held as most important in life. The Buddhist in me, however, easily relates to these words. A life spent in simplicity, the inward journey, is much more powerful than any voyage of diversions and attachment to the fleeting wonders of this world.
The message of this post, however, was meant to be much simpler, Rai. What I wanted to say is that you are lucky to live in a place like San Francisco where you do not have to travel more than a few miles to experience the wonders of cultures thousands of miles away. Right here, in your own backyard, you have things to experience from all over the globe. Enjoy it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer's Almost Over!

With our summer holidays winding down and just a couple weeks to go before we're back in school, we were feeling the pressure to see some friends before the vacation slips away entirely. No more lazing around the house, right Rai? Let's get out there and see some people! In just one weekend, you got to see your Mom's old friend Alexis and her little girl Lucia, your Uncle Neil and Auntie Kate, and Karen with her son, your math buddy, Ben. What a weekend!