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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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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At home in the streets of Boston

Today was a perfect day to go to a sprinkler park. We made a day of going to Downtown Boston with best friend Wubby, them in swimsuits and me in my trusty summer hat. The girls were a cheap date. We took the T ($2), played in the Rose Kennedy Greenway Rings fountain (free) and had ice cream from Emack and Bolios ($3/kiddie cone) while looking at seals in the New England Aquarium (free). The girls decided to walk to the Frog Pond for more water play (free) and a carousel ride ($3) with the caveat that we would rest as needed. Rest turned out to be Dunkin Donuts (munchkins for them, dark roast iced coffee for me) and Bath and Body Works for personal sparkly hand sanitizer ($1.50 with case).
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How refreshing it is to explore the city with children. They donned their sunglasses and sashayed like they owned the place. They took turns looking for the “red brick road” aka Freedom Trail that would lead us to our destination. They tried not to chase the pigeons and waited for me to cross the street with them. Wubby was more genial than my daughter, chirping a bright “Hi!” or “Hello” to every tourist, baby or dog that came our way. Inevitably, we met people for whom the streets have become home. And before I could stop her, she was already talking to a girl who looked like she was in her 20s.

Wubby: (reading from sign) Every bit helps…homeless. (To lady) What does homeless mean?
Girl on street: It means I don’t have a place to live.
Katie: Why?
GOS: I lost my job so I can’t pay for a place to live. But I am looking and hopefully soon I can have a home.
Wubby: My family is moving to another house but you can’t live in our apartment because the people downstairs are having twins so they are moving upstairs.
GOS: That’s ok. If they are having twins they must need the space more than me.
Wubby: (pointing to backpack) What’s in there?
Katie: Is that ALL of your stuff?

We try to shield our children from the unpleasant, and the ugly, and hope they will never have to deal with these things. Avoidance makes it easier to tune things out and pretend that all is well but we lose the opportunity to teach tolerance and compassion. The reality is that the world is not all pink and fluffy, but black and white and infinite shades of gray all of which our children deserve to know about, if not experience. In their innocence, neither girl was uncomfortable discovering the harshness of life.

We resumed walking and I answered more questions. I stopped myself from telling Katie that we were homeless too, once, and that Wubby’s parents had been one of those who had offered us a place to stay. I held their sticky hands when what I really wanted to do was give them a big hug.

“Peng, how come some people can’t have a place to live? Why isn’t there work for everybody?”

“I wish me and Wubby could be fairies and unicorns with magic so we can give her a home.”

“If me and Katie were giants or Martians maybe we can give that lady a job and we can MAKE her a house.”

Thank you Katie and Wubby. You are hope for the future.
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P.S. While chatting, we found out that our new friend had worked with animals before she lost her job. I was able to tip her about applying to my old workplace. I hope she finds work soon.