Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our Cousin the Astronaut

Nick has a couple of cousins who live less than an hour from us here in the bay area.  Gracie is twelve years old and is practically a full-time gymnast.  Yesterday, I took the kids to meet up with her and her dad at a gymnastics meet while Nick did homework.  Bethelle, my little dancer, practiced the moves as she watched the girls compete.  Rigby kept telling me that he was going to be an astronaut just like them when he grows up.

So here she is, Gracie the astronaut.  I'm no expert, but that looks like Olympics material to me.
Back in our part of town, we wandered looking for food inspiration, and found it at Sear's Fine Food.
Did I say that Mel's was good last week?  It was terrible compared to this!  Oooh, so good!  Their sign out front says that they specialize in "little pancakes," so that is just what the kids had for dinner.  The adults had more grown-up fare, but secretly we all kind of wanted the pancakes, too.

Bethelle insisted on topping it all off with ice cream.
The kids really took to Gracie.  Especially Curie, who tends to be a Momma's girl.  Come back soon!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Word About Kindergarten

Bethelle's favorite aspect of life before we left Bainbridge Island was kindergarten.  When we discussed the move and our options before coming to California, I told Bethelle that the schools were different here and that she would not be enrolled until we came back home to Washington.  She concluded that she would still rather be with her daddy than stay in school.

Why no school in San Francisco?  For one thing they are very poor performing.  Bethelle was not getting much academically out of even her "good" school so what would be the point at a bad one?  In SF, the enrolled children are part of a lottery.  They are expected to attend whatever school around the city that they are assigned to in order to prevent the segregation of neighborhoods to penetrate the schools.  I would not consider putting her on a bus in any downtown and sending her across the city to a terrible school.  What would she learn on that ride?  Those lessons can wait a decade or two.

It is a commonly accepted truth here, regardless of political preference, that the schools are terrible.  The moms talk about it at church, at parks, in grocery lines, everywhere.  The wisdom is that you enter your child in the school lottery while keeping a private school or a home school plan in your back pocket.  If you are lucky enough to get an acceptable school, you dump plan b.  This approach means that those without means for private school or for an at-home parent end up with no options and an unfortunate education.  This is a sad commentary on the area and one of the worst strikes against San Francisco that I have encountered.

And so Bethelle does not go to school.

She can read, write, add, and subtract.  These things have come as a fairly natural result of who she is and who I am and not any formal stretch.  She makes friends easily and I make sure she gets interactions with other children.  She loves to craft and wants to be either a scientist or an artist.  At her age, I wanted to be a bus driver.  Recently, we sat at home for a couple days straight and I began investigating formal homeschooling options.  Then we started getting out of the house and exploring the city more.  I believe that this is a sufficient education for her for now.  I am no longer looking at formal programs.

Bethelle has always been very involved in whatever I am doing.  She has never really been overly interested in spending time with her toys.  Weird, I know.  She seems to prefer doing laundry with me.  The point is that she learns and asks questions and does.  Tonight as I began to blog, she asked if she could type for me.  I don't have anything impressive to say about her words per minute, but I let her type.  I spoke the words one at a time.  Bethelle typed and Rigby hit the space bar between each word.  Here are some of the words she typed, as she typed them without help:
   impressiv   (impressive)
   thouhgt      (thought)
   stockt         (stocked)
When I said the words, "which" and "to," she asked me clarifying questions so that she would spell the correct form of the word.  What?!  What kindergartner knows that stuff?

Well, I meant this to be about kindergarten, but it sounds like bragging about Bethelle.  I just wanted to pen my thoughts and reasonings on this stage and decision.  And to document how impressed I was with her spelling tonight.  I am so thankful for my special little girl and I feel that even without school, her progression continues.

Salted Pig Parts

Tuesday brought our cousin Charlotte!  Accompanied by my brother and sis-in-law, of course.  Holly wanted to meet up at the farmer's market at the ferry building.  Packed up and ready to go, I saw that the market was only a little over a mile away.  I could walk straight to it or navigate my car through the one way streets, find a (parallel) parking spot, pay for it, and end up still walking a quarter mile.  We walked.  Or rather, I walked, pushing a stroller laden with three kids.  This seems to be a comical sight to most city dwellers. 

The farmers' booths impress.  Had I thought to bring cash, we would now have a well stocked fridge.  The stands were quite like Seattle's Pike Place Market, but with a California flair, which is still exotic to me.  They sold persimmons and mandarin oranges, not to mention that they had anything at all for sale in the middle of winter!  I know the selection will just get better as the weather improves.

Improves?  It's 69 and sunny out there!  I would be scared of a scalding summer, but San Francisco stays temperate year round; a little cooler in the winter, a little warmer in the summer.  Beautiful all year, if you can handle some fog.  Not that we've seen much of that yet.
I think this will become a weekly excursion for us.  Despite the two and a half mile walk, this trip is easier than taking the kids to Safeway.  With its skinny aisles, crowded commotion, and urban shoppers who have never before seen children, Safeway is asking for trouble.  The open air and ample space of the market suits us much better.

Inside the ferry building are the higher class, deeply rooted stores/booths, like the one below.  Be sure to read the smaller words under the store name.  Yes, this is an entire store dedicated to the sale of tasty salted pig parts, complete with a bar counter for those of you who must consume those tasty products on the spot.
And a whole store of mushrooms in all their varieties and preparations.
The ferry building (with market) is behind Charlotte and Bethelle in this picture.  Yes, that is a homeless man right by my lovely daughter.  He was actually a little farther than he looks.  There are a LOT of homeless people in San Francisco.  The temperate weather breeds them.  I find them to be pretty polite and to mostly keep to themselves.  There is a certain harmonious coexistence here.
Street signs can be so helpful.  This one was spotted as we walked from the ferry market to Pier 39, one of the more touristy spots in the city.
Seeing the sea lions was on my checklist.  We pulled out our PB&Js here and just stared for a while.  Curie was particularly enthralled.
Speaking of enthralled, Bethelle really wants to go to Alcatraz and always spots it first.  Should I be worried?
When lunch was over, we chewed on salt water taffy and watched a pirate street performer.  The jokes were corny and I couldn't see the connection between the magic tricks and the pirate theme, but the kids enjoyed it and the moms got to sit for a few minutes.

After an adventurous morning, the crew headed back to our apartment by way of our closest park.  We started with Yerba Buena Gardens, which we had not been to yet.  It is a delightful place to bask and relax, but since kids don't really let parents do that, we continued to the play circle.  Bethelle and I had recently seen a garden maze behind our park while on Google maps, so we went on a successful maze hunt, followed by running through the maze itself several times.
We ended the night with a few strokes of bad luck including some terrible restaurant service, but at least the poor performance resulted in a sit-down dinner and dessert for eight for under 40 bucks.  Sometimes bad luck is good luck, I guess.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Escape from Alcatraz!

Chrissy Field, Chrissy Field.  Another great San Francisco location.  It is a fantastic beach somewhere between the bay and the ocean, and just under the Golden Gate Bridge.

We spent a beautiful Saturday with Jeff, Allison, Vivian, and Eleanor, our friends from Nick's program.  It was January and we were on the beach in the sunshine.  I am still happy to be going home in May, but I can see how California can grow on a person.  Everything is just a few minutes from our apartment, including this:
 While there, a prisoner seemed to have emerged out of the ground (pictured below), presumably escaping from Alcatraz, just across the water.
She was relieved that her calculations were correct and her tunnel was just the right length.  She is cute, so we took her home with us.

Golden Gate Babies

I know I'm posting a lot lately, but when you live in a new place and every single thing you see is exciting, you really should document.  And so I do.  Even with all the posting I have been doing, I am several days behind.

We took the kids back to Golden Gate Park, but this time we saw the main playground and also spent time just walking and looking.  I loved it!  You could take a one week vacation just to that park without getting bored.  Someday, I would like to do just that.  There are playgrounds, museums, gardens, lakes, a music conservatory, a buffalo preserve, a carousel, memorials, frisbee golf, trails, and even the Pacific Ocean across the street!  I just read that it is 1000 acres, compared with Central Park's 800 acres.  We have much, much more to see.

At the playground, the climbing structure caught our eyes first.  I really wanted to scale it myself, but I stuck to baby watching, as usual.
 Rigby didn't feel like going too high.
 Curie is being spotted.
 Bethelle told the web who was boss.
 And, though not pictured, Nick managed to do his baby watching from the top of the ropes.
 We were there on MLK Jr. day, so the park was crowded.  I am anxious to see it on a Tuesday morning.  I seem to have twice the number of children other San Franians have (yes, I know that's one and a half kids for others), so I prefer the smaller crowd for safety reasons.  But the numbers did add a nice vibe to the air.
 It was a beautiful January day.  I hear it snowed back at home recently.  I could stand a few more Januaries like this.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just San Fran

Can you believe that I live here?  This was taken very near to our home.  I've always been such a country mouse!
 I love this little sign.  It says "Love Specialist Psychic."
 You've got to love a ward family.  The cars below are not driving.  That is a parking lot.  Those cars are parked.  And this is about ten minutes after church ended.  The lot is designed for about 20 cars.  I'd say almost 40 cars park there.  After church, you just wait until enough cars have moved for you to be able to get out.
 We try to park deep so that no one is waiting for us to gather kids, change diapers, put coats on, etc.  We'd rather wait for them to move.

So far, so good in California.  This city really has it all.  And I do mean all.  It keeps us on our toes.  Nick just got back from the police station where he went to identify a man he witnessed commit a crime. Ah, the city!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Evening Out

More time with Daddy meant a stroll downtown and some food at Mel's Diner.  If this were a food critic blog, I would tell you that the atmosphere was family-perfect, the seating on a busy three day weekend was immediate, and the food came faster than it sometimes does at McDonald's.  And it was delicious.
 We had our own juke box, and the kids meals came in these covetable blue cars.  Sweet.
After dinner we ordered a big banana split to share.  The scoop of strawberry ice cream was flanked by banana, smashed by chocolate and vanilla ice cream, then buried under whip cream, nuts, and cherries.  Rigby was the first to uncover it.  He got excited and squealed, "Oooh!  I found a smoothie inside!"

Twin Peaks

Just a minute or two from Walter Haas (previous post) is Twin Peaks.  Apparently, this is a Blue Butterfly Preserve.  It is also the highest spot in the San Fran area and gives a great view of... well, everything.
 The vague red smudges in the middle of the above and below are the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.
 And that's our new city.  The spindle sticking out of my head is Market Street and the four parallel pillars way behind Nick make up the Bay Bridge (which looks right out of Gotham City).  We live/work right in the middle of it all.  Not the middle of the bridge.  You know what I mean...
Nick just told me there was a homicide up there last week.  Funny, that's the second time that has been the case (at park we visited) this week.

Three Days with Daddy

The MLK three day weekend came on the heels of a pretty intense week, so we soaked up some Daddy time, starting with Walter Haas park with new friends.

Check out the view from these swings!  It's even better in person.

 Rigby, just being the man.
 Bethelle learning to rollerskate with her new friend, Vivian.

 Curie rode the loop on this tricycle.  Ooh, my back!
We had a fantastic time!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Second Tooth

Can you see how the new tooth is coming up behind the baby tooth?  This little guy has been loose for almost two months now.  Time to do something about it.

(I have made several posts in the last two days, so you may want to keep reading to catch up.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Accounting Class

Exciting title, don't you think?  I bet you are just so excited to read all about accounting class.  Well, you're here, so you might as well.

Nick's first two weeks of training have been an intense accounting class with one of the most respected, awarded, certified accounting professors in the country, CJ.
Isn't he a classic?  Here's what you need to know about the prof.  He plans his wardrobe a month in advance and organizes his closet accordingly.  His tie, "pocket square," suspenders, and lapel pin are unique each day.  He wears a necktie on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday and a bow tie on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.  For the last 15 years.  He wears his jacket until lunch, no jacket after lunch.  His socks are alphabetized by color in his drawer.  And the man recites movie lines like a Hollywood's Greatest Hits DVD.

Apparently he's pretty funny.  One night as we were just laying down to sleep, probably not to talk again until morning, I could feel the mattress shake with Nick's laughter.  And then again and again with some giggles.  When Nick tries to hold in laughter, it comes out as a giggled "tee-hee."  He was thinking about accounting class and one of the funniest men he has met, CJ.

This portion of the five-month training is pretty pivotal, so Nick has had the kids praying that he will do well.  Is this an indication?
To break up the monotony of what some might think is a monotonous subject, CJ interjects useless trivia and song lyrics into his lectures.  If you pick it out and correctly identify the reference, you get a tick mark.  Nick (top left) has the most tick marks for the fortnight and is the official trivia king of bankers.  I'm not sure this is what was meant, but I guess you get what you pray for.
Nick is the handsome one, front and center
The session wrapped up on Friday with an eight hour test.  Not cool.  Nick feels that he did well and I so appreciate his commitment to his work and our family.

Golden Gate Park

I have high hopes for Golden Gate Park.  So far we have just seen a little piece, but I am a fool for swing pictures, so enjoy these.

Curie's sassy personality is developing.  She turned this way:
 And that way:
And then like this:
 But in a moment of weakness, she looked at me.
Here's one more just for Grandma.