San Francisco is <3 (a very late post)

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Because of my blogging hiatus I was unable to share our most awesome vacation to San Francisco. This chilly winter day seems appropriate enough to look back (in Filipino: balik-tanaw) at our happy time there.

We didn’t really take a vacation last summer so when C&C invited me to their fall wedding, and friend MM offered for us to stay in her apartment, I decided the stars were right for a Nanay and Katie adventure!

I used Delta miles for my ticket and paid for Katie’s which cut down on a lot of the airfare. I bought each of us a San Francisco City Pass ($84/adult, $59/child) which gave entrance tickets to 4 attractions and unlimited rides on public transport including the famed cable cars. I also borrowed a Frommer’s San Francisco guidebook from the library and downloaded a Lonely Planet app. Once there, our host told me to also download a Muni tracker app. I relied on both apps extensively on my phone to get around as I have very poor navigational skills.

It’s a good thing we had those passes because Katie’s absolute favorite part of the trip was riding public transport particularly the cable cars. We must have ridden them at least 6 times! Without the pass it would have cost $6 per ride or $72 for both of us– eep!

Aside from the fact that they are a technological marvel, I liked using the cable cars because they were slow enough so i could almost always tell where we were or at least find where we were on he map or phone . We also learned to skip the turnaround and ride 3 stops ahead so we didn’t have to get into the loooooong lines to board.
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At the Powell Street turnaround with Fakecheese the turtle and Slither the snake

Out Citypass allowed us to visit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (5 stars! so much to see and do inside and within the park), take a scenic tour via boat (Blue and Gold Fleet– 5 stars and Katie’s favorite), and see the sharks at the Aquarium by the Bay (meh: 2 stars, go to Monterey Bay instead). We were unable to visit the Exploratorium, a hands on science museum for kids, because it was closed on Mondays (darn!).

We were able to do quite a lot of sightseeing in 4 days. Katie was able to ride 2 of the 3 carousels in the city. San Francisco was very accessible by public transport (bus, train, streetcar and cable car) and the weather in late September/early October was gorgeously sunny and cool. No fog until our last day there although it was scarf and hoodie weather off and on. The city had a nice laid back, chill and feel good atmosphere. We definitely would like to make a trip back someday.

Katie’s picks: the playground and carousel at Golden Gate Park, eating Doritos with hot chocolate at Ghirardelli Square (and getting free samples at their 3 stores), cable car rides and the Cable Car museum, carousel at Pier39, riding the F street car, boat tour via Blue and Gold.

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Nanay’s highlights: meet ups with former classmates and online friends, Union Square particularly the Dewey Memorial (Philippines reprezent!), fortune cookies made by hand in Chinatown, fun wedding (with childcare) at the Fairmont Hotel, riding down the crooked Lombard Street and quality time with Katie of course.
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We both liked: eating! Particularly these jumbo shrimp.

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We both did not like: the noisy sea lions

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Piano update: 8 months

Katie decided not to do dance this year so she can sleep in on Saturdays. Her remaining activities outside of school have been piano and Faith Formation.

Piano has grown on us. Katie loves going to lesson and has acquired some skill in sitting still for the 15-20 minute class. I have acquired skills of my own (aka bribery) to make sure this is the case. Regular practice is still a struggle but I have heard this is the case for many young piano students. Katie also sings in her school’s chorus and am feeling mighty pleased with all this music that is becoming part of her life.

Once Katie knows a piece well enough, she can play it in a duet with her teacher. They average 2-3 pieces learned per week which I think is excellent. She has been taking lessons for 8 months now. Yes it isn’t Mozart, but I like to see and share the progress 🙂

In the video, Katie and her teacher are playing “Lemonade Stand” in the Faber Piano Adventures: Primer Level lesson book.

Yellow means go slow

An ex-roommate and very good friend once told me that setbacks are allowed by God to give us a chance to pause, reflect and warn against a bigger danger. Getting sick is a way for the body to replenish and renew. Vacations rejuvenate and change perspective. In short, waiting is good and has its own purpose.

There’s a really good song by Simon and Garfunkel called Feeling Groovy. The first few lyrics go

Slow down you move too fast
You gotta make the morning last

Who does that, though? My every day is filled with the desire to catch up- with reading, cooking and cleaning, getting to places on time, work and laundry. It’s a frenzied no-mistakes-allowed-self-imposed miserable cycle. So suddenly a wrench gets thrown in the well oiled but overworked machine and you can either curse at your “bad luck” or you can embrace it.

I am proud to say I’ve gotten better with every wrench thrown my way and see the bigger ones, in retrospect of course, as blessings. From the time I had 3 months to get back on my feet after a nervous breakdown, to Katie’s stomach bug/flu/pinkeye mega week after Christmas, to the surprise flat tire that led to needing 4 new ones, all of these were a message.

Slow down.
Make the morning last.

The latest bump in the road came in the form of a traffic citation. I was in a hurry to pick Katie up from a friend’s house after work. It was kinda foggy and darker than am used to on my commute home. And I had a big bite of summer roll in my mouth (the other half was in my hand) and wasn’t paying attention at a non busy intersection when the lights came on. Turns out eating counts as impedimented driving and so I was cited for that on top of failure to stop* for a whopping $140. Incidentally, $140 is what I spent at Market Basket for the next 2-3 weeks of groceries so the fine is a really big deal.

Except it’s not.

Because I have been getting cocky on the road and speeding here and there. I guess I needed the reminder to be more damn careful. The citation also made me think of having Fluffy’s (my car) brakes checked and sure enough they do need to be changed ASAP. To be honest I haven’t seen the silver lining of an impending $430 brake job yet but see? All about attitude.

As I dropped her off at her Nana’s house last night, Katie told me “Enjoy the break”. Last week I started planning a vacation am getting really excited about. Tonight am going to my friend Mrs. R’s house for girl talk. It’s a lot of slowing down am not used to but it’s all good.

Here’s to moderation and slowing down in 2014.

*Incidentally, my mother taught me to drive. And she taught me that when the light turns yellow you have to go faster so you are through it before the light turns red. My citation above can totally be blamed on a lack of commitment and a moment of indecision due to prioritizing food. But that is a whole other post.

In search of Samantha

Santa is my weakness. My parents made Santa so magical for me that I am compelled to do the same for Katie. I remember the awe of coming back after late night (not quite midnight) Christmas Eve mass to find presents under the tree. Santa always seemed to know what I wanted and later on, I would write letters to help him out. He never disappointed.

Now Katie has never been a fan of Santa or any mascot in costume. Take for instance my attempt at a Christmas photo with Santa in 2009:
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However, Santa did give nice presents so I guess from a distance she was able to deal with him.

Two Christmases ago, Santa brought K her favorite toy: Magnatiles. It was quite miraculous, not only because the delivery was magical but also as it required going halves with my ex-husband because I couldn’t afford them on my own (awkward but chalked up to “for the good of the child”).

As early as December 1, K already knew what to ask for
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American Girl. I never understood how dolls could be so pricy and I had hoped that we would be able to dodge this bullet because K prefers stuffed animals over dolls. Apparently they are all the rage in elementary school starting 1st or 2nd grade. Splitting with the ex was out of the question (“Oh, hell no!”) so I was going to be on my own.

K initially wanted Samantha, the orphan girl who grew up with her grandmother, befriended a kitchen maid and stood up for child labor in the 1900’s. In the looks department, she was cute (as long as you got over the, um, creepy eyes and rabbit teeth) and had brown hair and eyes like Katie. I scoured eBay for a used Samantha in decent condition ($70+$20 shipping) and by mid month was all set. After a quick trip to the Natick/Boston store doll spa for a cleaning ($5) and hairdo freshening ($10), the previously unavailable retired doll was ready to go under the tree. Of course at some point in December K had also switched her choice from Samantha to Saige (2013 girl of the year who fought to have art classes funded in her school despite having stage fright and being quite shy –$119 in store) but Santa had already depleted her budget and didn’t want to get stuck with 2 dolls.

The result was magical (<– link to video). And as always, worth the effort. P.S. 3 weeks later, she is still playing with Samantha every day. That is totally a win.

Merry Happy Holidays from us!
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