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Summer fun and chores, chocolate, cars, and fish

The first Tuesday in August is National Night Out. I seem to recall it was held at the BART station last year, and we stumbled upon it accidentally while passing by the setup earlier in the day. Now that I’m more hooked into the local parent groups, I’m starting to discover these activities quite a bit earlier, so this year I actually made plans to meet up with our friend (and sometimes caretaker for the boys) Rebeca at Lake Chabot for the edition of it this year.

They had police horses that Aaron gathered the courage to pet, firetrucks that Aaron could climb up in, all while Adam explored the large grassy fields, marina, and generally enjoyed being outdoors in a park we haven’t spent a ton of time in.

Another evening Adam was rummaging around in my stuff in my home office (hey!) and found the Linux license plate that Compaq gave out back in 2000. I wasn’t the original owner, but it has been kicking around my office for some time without a home, and he excitedly told me that we should hang it up. Sounds good!

We did.

We wandered around the house replacing light bulbs and batteries another night, and the air filters for our HVAC system and air purifiers another. It actually turned these chores that had been piling up into a more fun and present experience. Instead of the boring manual labor of doing this tedious around-the-house work, I had a couple pint-sized helpers who would follow simple instructions like “bring me the screwdriver” or “bring me that trash bag” and enjoyed doing it.

One evening while out in the yard I even fixed the irrigation sprinklers. We had a monthly gardener for a while last year and on one of his visits he clipped one of the sprinkler heads and caused it to crack, which made the whole system unusable. Now, we don’t actually use it, so fixing it seems a bit silly, but the heads are less than $3 each and replacement is easy. Why not fix it? Plus, it was hot out, so it might be fun for the boys to play in the sprinklers!

Well, I quickly learned why we don’t use pop-up irrigation sprinklers with little kids. The damage a gardener did once was nothing compared to what a soggy kid who wants to clean his Cozy Coupe will do to a sprinkler head. I started with one broken one, and ended up replacing three. Oops. Though I guess I should be grateful that it was so easy to fix and they didn’t break anything more severely.

One of the reasons I’d been so eager to get out on a weeknight, or have more activities like fixing things, was that Adam hadn’t begun TK yet, and we had a (wonderful!) babysitter filling in while we were between au pairs for a few weeks. Unfortunately, due to the large price tag of hiring an hourly babysitter for what was effectively full time, we had her precisely cover while I was at work, not a moment more. That meant I had a bit more time with the boys than usual on weeknights, and that meant coming up with more activities to keep them engaged. At 2.5 and 4.5 years old, both are maturing in the direction that they can do solo play for longer stretches, so I’ve been able to get more chores done while still caring for them (and sometimes a little more work), a fact I was especially grateful for while juggling so much each day.

The week we matched with our new au pair, we went out to a local book shop to pick up some locally themed gifts and discovered the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Factory Outlet over in San Leandro. Having played tourist in San Francisco many times at the founding location that isn’t actually a factory now, it was a lot of fun to park in the lot for the actual current factory and enjoy their new ice cream parlor that opened up inside. The boys and I shared a brownie sundae.

Afterwards, we had dinner at The Original Mels Diner just down the street, which is the cousin of Mel’s in San Francisco, which we used to go to relatively frequently. The boys got their dinner in little paper cars, which I was pretty envious of until the amazing cornbread that went along with my turkey dinner arrived.

The first full weekend our new au pair was here turned out to be quite an eventful one. First was the Castro Valley Cruise Night. The town doesn’t shut down roads like for some of our annual festivals, but the boulevard is packed as people from all around the area make loops down the road in their classic and exotic cars. “Cruising” is frowned upon in most places, illegal in others, but for one night a year it is fun to get out with the rest of the community and enjoy seeing cars.

The next day we went up to San Francisco and showed our new au pair some of the classic tourist spots. Earlier that week we had ventured up to the city to check on some things at our condo, and ended up at Fogo de Chão where we made the surprising discovery that kids eat free there (though only Aaron was really into the whole experience). Our weekend visit was a much more exciting one though. We started off doing a near round-trip on the California Street cable car!

We got off near Grace Cathedral and walked down to the Cable Car Museum, which I was a bit worried would be too loud for my sound-sensitive kiddos, but Adam surprised me and spent the rest of the day asking to go back.

After the museum, we did the steep but thankfully mostly downhill walk down to Pier 39 where we had lunch and visited the sea lions. The big adventure for the afternoon though was visiting Aquarium of the Bay. Aaron loves fish and other swimming things, so I’ve been wanting to take him to an aquarium for months. With our half off discount via the Oakland Zoo membership, this was the perfect opportunity, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s not a huge aquarium, but it has some wonderful fish tunnels and overall Aaron had a blast there.

Our final stop was to to the Musée Mécanique, which was quite crowded and everyone was getting tired at this point. I think the boys would have enjoyed it more if the circumstances had been different, I’ll have to keep it in mind for the future. From Fisherman’s Wharf, we hopped on a vintage street car and made our way back to BART to go home. A fun day, and a successful one of showing off how the Clipper cards and public transit around San Francisco works to our new au pair.

Living in beautiful-all-year California, the end of summer is kind of a vague thing, but with work getting busier, Adam going to TK, and generally some things changing in our household, these adventures actually did feel like a close to summertime.