Sunday, August 18, 2013

Finding Peace in the City

We have been on a quest to find places that the whole family, dog included, can get away from the city feel and enjoy some of our favorite activities: hiking and wandering the beach.  For the past 3 weekends, we have taken day trips, all within an hour's drive or ferry ride, to explore new areas.

First up was Rodeo Beach, in the Marin Headlands, after I ran the USCG Station Golden Gate Heritage run.  Which was pretty difficult, by the way.  The whole first mile and middle mile of the 7.5-mile race were entirely uphill, to get from sea-level to Golden Gate Bridge level.  Whew.  But I did it, and didn't finish last, either.  Back to Rodeo Beach.  It was nice to bring the dog for his first California outing.  But the beach, on the Pacific just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, was rocky and windy.  We managed a quick hike, and Midas was happy to be allowed off his leash.

Last weekend, we made good on our promise to take the kids to the city once a month.  We took the ferry over on Saturday morning (which we easy!) and went to a Filipino parade and festival, Chinatown, North Beach, and Coit Tower. It's amazing how small San Francisco actually is.  It feels very much like Boston, only with more hills.  We rode the streetcar from Pier 39 to Market Street and walked the whole rest of the day, and we were done and heading home on the 3:15 ferry.  We didn't take the dog, because he is not allowed on the streetcars, but we plan to try to take him along sometime soon.  The kids had a blast.  They both tried dim sum in Chinatown (none of us were big fans), had pizza in North Beach, and counted all the steps down Telegraph Hill (343, give or take a few).

Today was, by far, my favorite day.  We drove to Half Moon Bay, with our new book about hiking with dogs in the Bay Area in hand.  We took the scenic route, over the Bay Bridge and along Hwy. 1.  We are having a bit of a heat wave, so the morning fog burned off early at the coast.  Our first stop was the Grey Whale Cove Trail, where we hiked about 2 miles along the bluffs.
View of Grey Whale Cove

Grey Whale Cove Trail
Being surrounded by open space and able to see out into the ocean does my soul good.  Thank goodness we have found this place!  We had a picnic lunch in Half Moon Bay at Blufftop Coastal Park and then ventured down to the beach.  The kids were so excited (and a little confused) to see soft, warm, white sand.  The dog was happy to get his feet wet (and so was his sister).  After we were sufficiently sandy, we tool a walk on Main Street in Half Moon Bay.  Our favorite stop was the Feed Store.  That's our kind of place!  Live chicks, pet supplies, and a bull moose mounted over the door inside.
Blufftop Coastal Park, Half Moon Bay
We only have one week left until the kids start school.  They were really busy last week.  Ava finished up her final week of sailing camp, where she sailed an Opti by herself, went on a field trip by boat to Ben & Jerry's in jack London Square, and finished the week by finally learning to swim unassisted (although we are are still working on her confidence level when doing so).  Emerson went to Kung Fu camp all week, where he was the youngest camper and got to go to a different playground in Alameda for lunch each day.  It did him good to get a break from his mom and sister after 3 months of togetherness.  This week, we have lots of fun in store.  We were able to get free tickets to Monday night's Red Sox/Giants game at AT&T Park, thanks to Operation Care and Comfort.  I'm planning a surprise trip to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield for the kids later in the week.  Next Sunday, we are headed to Sonoma for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix, which we also got free tickets to thanks to the Heroes in Our Community Program.  The kids don't know it, but the race is preceded by an air show with the Patriots Jets.  It's so nice to have community organizations include the Coast Guard in their special military events, as it doesn't always happen.

This area certainly has kept us busy so far!  We have to remind ourselves to stay home once in awhile, but that will happen more once the kids are back in school.  Second grade and kindergarten...eeek!

Friday, August 2, 2013

City Living

"Mom, look!  A Smurf!  A giant cheese burger!  A motorcycle!"

We have quite a bit to adjust to living the city life.  Billboards are a new favorite around here.  Especially the electronic ones.  After last week's too-many-rules pity party, this week we are focusing on all of the amenities that we can take advantage of while living the city life.  And the kids choose billboards as their favorite thing. Although I could do without the 4-lane, no-shoulders freeway that pass them by, I have managed to navigate my way around (with no thanks to Mandy, our Tom-Tom GPS who has taken to telling us that all exits are coming up in two miles when in fact they are about a half-mile away).

There are so many activities for the kids to try out here that it's hard to choose just one or two.  Now I understand how parents can slip into the running-around-like-crazy mode with extracurricular activities every day of the week.  We are using the summer to try out several, with the intent of each kid settling on their favorite one to continue when school starts. So far, both kids have completed several sessions of swim lessons at Aquatech.  Ava even moved up a level, which is huge for her.  Emerson still refuses to put his ears under water, so he may be stuck at the beginning for awhile longer.  In addition to weekly soccer class (which the kids have fun with but probably won't continue until next summer), Emerson has started Kung Fu and Ava is surprising us all by loving sailing camp.  I admit, I wish I was able to go to camp with her.  In the first week, Ava learned to tie knots, put together an Opti, and even had a field trip--by water, of course-- to visit America's Cup sailing Team Artemis headquarters.  Since sailing is only during the summer for kids her age, she has chosen ballet as her one after-school activity.  She loved her class last year in Homer at the Harbor School of Music & Dance.  This year, she will be trying out Dance/10, where her new babysitter (yay!!) is an instructor.

Starting off in an Opti without a sail

Proudly sporting her Team Artemis hat after a morning on the water

Brand-new white belt at USA Kung Fu Studio
We are also appreciating the conveniences of city life.  Like driving just 8 miles rather than 75 to get to a fabric store.  Emerson and I went to Jo-Ann's yesterday and were both overwhelmed by the selection and size of the store.  I think he was even more excited that I was.  Now to find time to finally get my sewing machine plugged in to make some pillows for the living room.

We are in the sweet spot with TriCare (our military health insurance) in that we live over 50 miles from the nearest military medical facility that accepts military dependents for treatment.  That means we get to see civilian doctors and don't have to pay any co-pays.  Ava saw a pediatric ophthalmologist for the first time ever about 3 weeks ago.  With a small tweak in her prescription and new glasses (which have zero coverage by our insurance!), her vision is now better than it has ever been.  We went for a checkup yesterday and the doctor ruled out having to patch one of her eyes to treat a slight amplyopia issue (one eye stronger than the other) because the new prescription did the trick.  Hooray for not being the new kid in school who has to wear an eye patch like a pirate.

Last weekend we checked out the Berkeley Kite Festival and the Alameda Food & Wine Festival.  The kites were much better than anticipated, but the art was a bit of a disappointment.  We did enjoy wine, beer, and lumpia while listening to some great live music, though.  We are planning to go to the Sausalito Art Festival on Labor Day weekend in hopes of seeing more artsy things rather than crafts and business vendor booths.

Octopus kites at the Berkeley Kite Festival

After telling my husband that I just wanted to find some "wild" trees rather than landscaped ones (which are all that exist around here because it does not rain.  All.  Summer.  Long.  Lawn irrigation necessary), I found one lone "weed" in the Shoreline Park at the end of our street.

This weekend, I am running in the USCG Station Golden Gate Heritage Run on Coast Day (August 4).  It is a 12K across the Golden Gate Bridge and back from Sausalito to San Francisco.  It's not going to be easy.  I have had a hard time adjusting to running here.  Even though it doesn't get much above 70 degrees during the day, that's still about 20 degrees warmer than I'm used to.  And I suppose that the bridge will include at least one hill in each direction, but I've been training in flat Alameda.  As my first race in a really long time, my goal is just to finish and enjoy the unique scenery.  Afterward, we are taking the kids and dog (yes, dog!) to Rodeo Beach, where dogs are allowed on the beach and some of the hiking trails.  This is a very rare find for the area.  On the way home, we are going to stop at Marin Brewing Company (also dog friendly!) to add to Mike's growing repertoire of microbreweries.  The day should include a little something for everyone: trees for me, sand for the kids, and beer for Mike.  Now if I could just find a coffee drive-thru...