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Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Jack has one of those small area rugs that is imprinted with a road and racetrack. We were on the floor playing with cars on the rug and Stella was nearby, wanting to be with us.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stella Bella

During our trip to Boston, Stella stayed with our friends and her breeder, Joe and Jaime. Stella loved to snuggle for naps with their kids and enjoyed lounging on the couch (a luxury she is not afforded at home).

I missed her so much and it felt good to have our family back together when we got home.

Here are some recent pictures of our girl from her daily group dog walks. Sometimes they head to the beach,  the shady forest, or a park.

Playland at the Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers was a sprawling dilapidated white structure with broken windows when I first moved to San Francisco. Several years ago it was gloriously renovated inside and out with gardens and a huge lawn for lounging in front.

Inside it is amazingly dense, lush, humid, and tropical. There are trees, plants, and flowers from the floor to the ceiling. And beautiful stained glass that casts rainbows across the foliage.

The Conservatory is currently running a new exhibit that celebrates the legendary Playland, a bygone seaside amusement park that was located along San Francisco's Ocean Beach area. Playland started at the turn of the century and its heyday was in the 1940s and 1950s. With declining attendance in subsequent years, it was finally shut down in 1972.

Jack and I visited with our friend Sarah and her two-year old, Harper.

Rainbows cast on the floor by stained glass ceilings
The exhibit had miniature model trains and trolleys that winded their way past a miniature Playland and its famed neighbors the Sutro Baths and Cliff House. (The Sutro Baths are an interesting side story of a complex that housed several swimming pools on various levels on the rocky cliffs at Ocean Beach. It was built in 1896 by eccentric mayor Adolph Sutro and nestled under Sutro's other attraction, the Cliff House, which he transformed in that same year into a 7-story Victorian chateau, now an overpriced tourist restaurant albeit with stunning views of the Ocean). Real memorabilia and photographs from Playland including a bumper car (with simulated sounds and bumps), an original Playland sign, a fortune teller booth the spits out your fortune, and fun house mirrors were also part of the exhibit.

Jack couldn't get enough of the bumper car while Harper gravitated to the resident turtle. Watch Jack press the pedal to the metal and ride the bumper car:

As in past years, these replicas are all creatively crafted from recycled and repurposed materials.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Snow in San Francisco? Yes! Well sort of.

The Cal Academy of Sciences (San Francisco's science museum) ran a special holiday exhibit for the second year called, ’Tis the Season for Science.

Indoor snow flurries occur twice an hour to Christmas music and there's a mini-planetarium (inside a huge snowman) that plays a short movie on the science of snow and snowflakes. You can view taxidermy specimens of the real birds mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” including swans, geese, colly birds, hens, doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. And there are even two reindeer outside to visit.

There is also this cool outdoor sculpture that's sort of like a wooden cone with a movie playing in the center. Jack and I laid down in there for a while. There were few people visiting because it was New Year's day and the weather was sunny and mild so it was fun to have nearly free reign of the museum.

CLICK HERE for more pictures of the snow and our New Year's day.

Christmas - season of changes and challenges

Jack with his Lola
I had every intention of purposely slowing it down this year during our Christmas vacation to Boston. I wanted some peaceful downtime and was homesick so I envisioned we would have no plans and lots of time to play. I managed that for the first couple of days of the trip, but alas, I don't think it's in my nature and I feared that Jack and I wouldn't have the luxury of this extended time together again to visit with everyone in Boston that I'd like to and that would like to see us. So, we went into high gear for the rest of the trip.

This was the first time I had flown with Jack by myself so I was nervous. How would I navigate 2 heavy pieces of luggage, a huge carseat, and 2 carryons -- in addition to making sure that Jack stayed near. Would my back give out while carrying a shoulder bag full of small toys, a DVD player, snacks, and extra clothes while simultaneously bending down to tightly hold onto Jack's hand? Would Jack get tired from the long treks to the gates and make me carry him, my bag, and his own carryon filled with his blanket, lovey, bunny rabbits, cars, and books? How would I manage entertaining him for 6 hours on the plane?

Enjoying a Christmas cookie
I get antsy about two-thirds of the way through a 6 hour flight, so I can imagine how Jack felt. He didn't love his seatbelt and I had a hard time explaining why he couldn't go past that thin curtain that separates Coach from First Class. Though, he was generally a good boy and was never THAT kid on the plane. We stayed entertained for a while by the new crop of small toys that I brought especially for the trip.

Mom met us at the airport and helped with getting the luggage then loading and then unloading it all onto the shuttle to get the rental car. Thankfully she's fit as a fiddle and just minutes from the airport. We lugged everything up a flight of stairs and we were finally home!

Jack still doesn't fully understand the meaning of Christmas or the idea of Santa. But he does understand presents. And there were plenty to open along with Christmas stockings. Jack and I are very lucky to have such generous family and friends.

Xmas Eve: surprise, it's pajamas!
For Christmas Eve, we let Jack open one present - a pair of Cars (the movie) pajamas. This is a tradition that I grew up with and decided to pass down. On Christmas night after being cooped up all day and playing with our toys, we went out for dinner in Chinatown which was extremely crowded (since nothing else is open, especially if you're celebrating Hanukkah.)

Many of my friends are having kids in their 40's and I was happy to be able to visit with two of them. Carolina and her husband Chris, now have a 4 month old. We had our first look at their daughter, Zoe, and introduced them to Jack for the first time. We also visited with another old friend, Maggie and Scott and their daughter, Lola.

We also had fun visiting with my Mom's family in Maine, Dad's family in the Boston area, old friends the Costa family, and a good high school friend Eileen.

I was especially looking forward to revisiting my Dad's urn for the first time since he passed in April; I found it profoundly sad and comforting to be "close" to him again.

By the end of the week, it would have been nice to squeeze in another few visits but Jack was very worn out and tired from all the shuffling around and so was I. Still, the beauty and familiarity of my hometown, and being surrounded by the love and support of family and old friends was hard to leave even though I have made a life in San Francisco for the past 14 years.

When we got back to San Francisco, Jack woke up at 3-4am every day, ready to play trains and cars. He finally settled back to his normal 6am wake up time a week later - thankfully!

Maggie and Mindy
I can't say that I am looking forward to the new year that will introduce new changes and challenges for our family as we try to establish a new norm. But such is life and I hope to teach Jack about surviving adversity someday by having a strong belief and understanding of yourself, by being able to give and receive love through words and actions, by being empathetic, and by finding joy in life in the present. This next year or two will be a roller coaster ride - I just need to do my part with the time I have with Jack to keep him and myself safely strapped in for the duration until we securely reach the other side. And I know we will, whenever that is.

CLICK HERE for more pictures of our visit to Boston.

One of Jack's favorite presents was a Superman t-shirt complete with a little cape that velcros at the shoulders. Here he is pretending to fly like Superman:

The playground and basketball court up the street from my Mom's was barren one cold wintry morning. We took the opportunity to play Red Light, Green Light:

It was so fun to watch Jack play with all of his cousins from my Dad's family. When we arrived to the house, all the cousins were excitedly calling him and pulling at him to play. Jack literally got his lovey and curled up in the fetal position in the corner. Then after a few minutes, he was under the dining room table playing fort and playing cars in the long hallway. It made me sad that we're so far away with no opportunity to move back. We know so few kids and his cousins are near his age and they play together so well: