Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All Our Babies are Growing up so Fast!

Way back before you were born, Rai, we joined the Golden Gate Mothers Group and were promptly assigned to a group of eight or nine moms who were expecting about the same time as your Mom. Within months, we were all new parents with babies ranging from a week to just a few weeks old.
Once we had all overcome the sleep deprivation and euphoria that is the first month, we started meeting once every few weekends for 'play dates'. Over the course of a year and a bit, we've become a close-knit group. It has been a joy getting to know all these mothers (and sometimes fathers) and watching all these precious little infants turn to crawlers, walkers, and toddlers.
Last weekend, we met up for the first time in a couple months. It was incredible to see how much all those babies have grown up. You and your buddies, Rai, are infants no more. Incredible and heartwarming. It even almost brings tears to our eyes as we wonder where our little babies have gone. Just look at the comparison photo below showing each of your buddies last December compared to today -- what a difference! Time, it does move too fast.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Castles Made of Sand

Rai, I took a "sick" day off of work today to be with you. With the sun shining, there was only one place we could go: back to Baker Beach. There, we played in the sand and built a sand castle. Those richies up on the cliff may have their mansions, we thought, but we have our castle on the beach. As the tide came in, however, our castle made of sand was washed away. With that we learned a valuable lesson about the inevitable destination of all our worldly ambitions.

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Where's the Nearest Place we can Get Some Perogies?

Yesterday was Ukraine Day. A series of powder blue and yellow balloons lead us through Golden Gate Park to the bandshell where the Golden Gate Park Band played Ukrainian folk songs to hundreds of festive Ukrainians dressed in traditional outfits. The clothing, colorfully embroidered reminded me of Polish folk costumes. In that moment, too, I felt transported back to Winnipeg, a city of thousands and thousands of Ukrainians.
And then, Rai, in perfect unison, your Mom and I, "Let's get some perogies!" It's impossible to think Ukraine and not think of perogies too. Having unsuccessfully searched for perogies in San Francisco before, we approached a lady that looked like she knows her perogies.
"Are you from San Francisco? Do you know where we could find some good perogies?"
She was an out-of-towner, but a friend of her's, speaking only in Ukrainian, jumped in, telling us about a few blocks on Geary where good perogies could be found. Soon after, we were in the car, driving along Geary's Eastern European cultural corridor. In search of the perfect perogie, we stopped at three delicatessens: a Russian one, a Ukrainian one, and a Polish one. We got a little from each place, ready for a taste test. The sauerkraut and mushrooms perogies from the Polish deli were best, but the Russian bakery had a good fried, mushroom perogie. As I ate the leftovers for lunch today, Rai, I thought: "Yes, we'll be back again soon."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

There's a Baby on the Way

Rai, it's hard to tell if you understand or not that you'll soon be a big brother. We make sure to tell you every day. We explain it in detail whenever your attention seems fixed on Mom's belly or when you're around other toddlers or infants. "Soon, a baby will come out of there and look just like that," we tell you, pointing from Mom's belly to the nearby infant.
Still, you've given us very few signs to let us know that you've caught on to all those hints and connections we're trying to make. Even when hanging out with our friends' tiny newborn, you seemed to understand little of what we tried so hard to tell you. "A baby that small will join our family really soon, Rai!" Nothing. No reaction. No gears turning inside your head.
Now, we've had to resort to extreme measures. It is said that people learn best by doing, through experience. So, we decided that having you go through mock "births", by recreating your own womb and birth experiences, we could somehow get you to understand that another baby will soon make that same journey from the womb to the outside world. The plan was simple. First, make you feel like you were back in the womb. That was easily done using a transparent hemisphere at the playground. Next, to recreate your own birth, we trapped you in a box, and allowed you to push your way out. By thus re-creating your womb and birth experiences, you can now fully understand when we tell you about the baby-to-come's life in the womb and fast-approaching birth. Now, you get it.... right?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Capoeira

Inspired by a Capoeira performance we saw in the streets today, Rai, you decided to try a little capoeira yourself. Obviously you couldn't face a challenger more than a foot or two tall so you approached the first like-sized opponent you could find: a dog.
Before the dog knew what hit him, you had him by the tail. Then, a finger in the eye, followed by a slap to the back. Sure, those may not be true capoeira moves, but you didn't care. Your arms, like the legs of the performers we had seen, were a blur of motion, moving this way and that. Honing your skills, you tried it on the next three dogs we saw too, finishing with a deadly routine on a dog at least twice your size. Now, that's courage.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two Months to Go!

Rai, the two month countdown to the arrival of your little sister or brother has begun. It's true that Mom looks like she could deliver tonight yet, the baby somehow needs another 50-60 days to gestate and grow. We've been calling Mom a whale for a while now so, obviously, she's yet to go from beluga to great grey whale.
Two months. We can hardly wait. Having met a friend's newborn just the other day, it seemed like the fact that your little brother or sister will be with us so soon just became real for us. Until now, it has seemed like some kind of dream. So, as we wait for the baby, we can enjoy life with our beautiful whale, Mom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The End of Innocence

Some say innocence ends when children realize that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren't real. Others think it ends when you have your first love or your first broken heart. In our home, Rai, a very different milestone has marked the end of your innocence.
This afternoon, searching for the source of an awful smell in our living room, we came upon an unexpected sight. Hidden amongst your myriad toys was a little turd. Yes, your very own poo was secretly stashed in your play area. Searching for the source of the stink, I discovered your poo meticulously stuffed into a small, open-topped, toy cylinder. It looked like playdough. I knew it wasn't playdough, however, because first, you don't have playdough and second, even if you did have playdough, it probably wouldn't have chunks of corn and bean in it.
So, you are no longer our innocent, little boy. You have handled your own poo. You are now a man. We hope that this doesn't herald in a new era of treasure hunting in our home. I'm sure that Grandma will be excited to know that these little treasures may soon be found around their home too. What we know for sure is that we won't let you run around naked ever again!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Special Year

A few months ago, I wrote about a special day that comes but once a year in San Francisco. That is the one day of the year when three environmental conditions come together: the temperature is high, the winds are low, and the fog is non-existent. These conditions may be common in the east part of the city, and one of these at a time may frequently occur in the west end, but to have all three by the Ocean is very rare indeed. That day came a few months back and I wrote about how the masses converge on both Ocean and Baker Beaches to enjoy the heat and sunshine.
Well, this must be a special year because that day has come again... twice. The last two days have been incredible here in San Francisco. Temperatures today rose to above 100 F, something that is almost unheard of. While we and our students cooked in our 40 student classrooms, sweating in the stifling heat, we all had the same thought on our minds: let's get to the beach! So, as soon as we got out of school, we raced down to pick you up, Rai, and drove over to Baker Beach. Parking was tough, but we know the 'secret' locals only access to the Beach so we were okay.
Down on the sand, you enjoyed playing in the creek that cuts across the Beach to the Ocean. Even more interesting for you was people watching. There were hundreds out in the sun and a walk down the length of the Beach showed us that the nude end of the Beach was no exception. Plenty of folks were showing off their goods shamelessly. Hey, we have nothing against these naturalist ways... our thoughts went back to Lake Bohinj in Slovenia. Another life.

Monday, August 23, 2010

They Might Be Giants

Rai, you're a people person. Naturally gregarious, you love crowds and love even more to get into other peoples' business. Yesterday, we got to observe you at your "mingling with strangers" best. We were in Stern Grove for the final concert of this season's Stern Grove Festival series. An old favorite of mine, They Might Be Giants, were on stage. While the Giants played, you walked around thinking, "all these people around me... they might be giants but, no worries, I'm sure they're friendly." You've yet to meet someone who doesn't turn friendly and welcoming at your approach.
It doesn't take much to give you the green light. A simple "hello, little one" or "what's up, little guy?" is always enough to draw you in and make you believe that you're one of the group. At the concert, you spent a good two hours, moving from group to group, making yourself completely at home on their blanket, eating their food, and taking whatever kids' toys were around. Basically, you thought that you owned the place, VIPing your way about the crowd, claiming anything you spotted as your very own. One day, your bubble may be burst but as long as you're cute, small, and continue to show those pearly whites, this streak of good fortune may continue. Meanwhile, the band played Mom's favorite song, "Meet the Elements" (yes, it's about the Periodic Table).

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweet Sixteen

Today, Rai, you are 16 months old.
Your sixteenth birthday, a major milestone.
The classic 16th birthday gift is a car so we took you out to take a look at some classic Chevies this afternoon. You liked all the different colors and all the chrome but you just couldn't decide on the one you wanted to take home. Take your time, Rai. There's no rush in getting a new car. If I have it my way, we'll just pass on our car, a car your Grandpa thinks is already too old, to you when you turn 16. I think it still has 14 or 15 good years in it. One day, the '97 Nissan Sentra will be the '67 Chevy of our era, I'm sure of it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My City

With parents like us, Rai, it was only a matter of time before you became an S.F. expert. Already, you have an intimate knowledge of the city, the famous spots and the lesser known gems -- secret lanes, trails, staircases, neighborhoods, parks, and cool local spots. Even at a mere 16 months, you can call already call 415 "my city"!