Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

Glen Park Ghouls
The glorious weather we’ve been having belies that Halloween is right around the corner, but the macabre decorations appearing around town have been a constant reminder. Aside from the occasional grand gesture, the best show of spooky spectres I’ve come across is a Dead Man’s Party front yard ensemble located on Chenery Street, in the sleepy hollow of Glen Park.

Oscar’s Urban Education at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

For the best annual family-friendly event in San Francisco, I’ll put my money on Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.This year–yesterday and today– was the sixth in what I hope will be a longstanding venture. What makes this event so swank? It’s in Golden Gate Park; it’s free; the music is swell; the food ranges from corndogs to jambalaya; and the people-watching is hard to beat. We missed out on Billy Bragg, Gillian Welch, and Kelly Willis yesterday, but made it to T-Bone Burnett & Iris Dement today.

Farm Hands

We spent Labor Day weekend at Emandal farm near Willits, about a four-hour drive from San Francisco. This is a fabulous three-day trip for families in the Bay Area. It’s a working farm, where the kids get to pet the animals, watch during feeding time, help gather eggs, and even milk a cow. Each evening there’s a campfire. Our first night was perfect–starry night and campfire songs. The food is amazing, most of it grown right there on the farm, suited for discerning Bay Area taste buds. On Saturday, for example, we had burgers made with fresh-baked rolls, huge heirloom tomatoes, and a homemade sauce. The sweet little delicious beef patties were the sideliner, the tomatoes being the real star. On Firday night, there was homemade pizza, with fresh ice cream and berry pie for dessert.

Children’s Fairyland Turns 56, applies for medicare…

Nestled in a wooded grove not far from the gangs of ducks & geese that troll Oakland’s Lake Merritt is Children’s Fairyland, a haven for lil’ people and the lucky parents & guardians that can accompany their kiddies. Tomorrow it just so happens is Fairyland’s 56th birthday, and although the wee ones still smile whle riding the train and eating a corn dog, one can see the wear and tear that the years & over 10 million visitors have brought upon the park. Proposals to use public funds are currently ciculating that hopefully can restore some areas of the park like the creepy & currently closed Thumbelina Tunnel to it’s original opening day shine.

Considered the first theme park exclusively for children in the country,(if not the world), it was built with $50,000 raised by various local organizations and business donations. 6000 people were admitted on opening day, admission being from 9 to 14 cents, depending on your age, and your guides were apparently a glamorously garbed Munchkin-esque couple, (actually two local married midgets). Children could even mail a letter postmarked at the Fairyland Post Office.

fairyland entrance
Lore has it that Walt Disney himself soon came through Mother Hubbard’s Shoe and picked up some ideas and inspiration for his much more ambitious theme park that opened in Anaheim a few years later. But there’s no doubt that Oakland’s came first, and was definitely still in Walt’s scheming mastermind when in April of 1952, he submitted his first vague plans for a similar Souhern California ‘Fairy Land’ to the California Parks and Recreation Commision.

Today, Disney is of course a diversified multi-national conglomerate, while our humble Children’s Fairyland is run off donations to a struggling local non-profit. Even with no marketing budget, the site consistently features a multi-cultural mass of happy kids scrambling up and down the many paths, and the concrete stairs of it’s numerous attractions from 10 am until at least 4pm daily, (a lil’ later on weekends). Located in Lakeside Park, it’s a neighbor of the beast at 699 Bellevue Ave, Oakland CA. Look for the big shoe… and keep on clicking if you’d like to help out or learn a lil’ more history of this jewel with it’s on Jolly Roger pirate ship, in an oft overlooked urban oasis of the East Bay…

A Step Out of the City, #1


Welcome to the first installment of an occasional series titled, “A Step Out of the City.” Though MetroBlogging has a dedicated cadre of intrepid reporters outside the San Francisco city limits, I want this series to reflect places a city resident can visit by a short (usually) trip over a bridge or down the peninsula.

On the occasion of a friend’s son’s first birthday party today, my family drove over the Golden Gate into Marin. In twenty minutes we were in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais at the newly renovated Eastwood Park, a short distance up Highway 1 past the Tam Junction.

Back to School!

This week, we registered Crystal in the first grade. Many people seem to think that this is an involved process. The truth of the matter is that it’s really quite easy. If you are ever in the position of having to register a kid for school in San Francisco, don’t listen to Pacific Heights soccer moms going on about waiting lists and whatnot — just go down to 555 Franklin Street and do it.

While it’s true that San Francisco has shut some public schools down, this was done for a good reason — the remaining schools benefit from bigger budgets. A large number of kids in this town go to private schools that the average person cannot afford, and this seems to be the reason that public schools are having fewer enrollments. I believe that public schools hit rock bottom last year from my experience working at the now-defunct Bejamin Franklin Middle School.

We enrolled Crystal in Rosa Parks Elementary, right next to Japantown. This school has more than a fresh coat of paint — it appears that the entire summer was spent doing a tremendous renovation and add-on. Past performance numbers for this school are low, but I am interested to see what the increased budget and new teachers do for the school. We also put Crystal on a waiting list for Spring Valley elementary — not because we didn’t have faith in Rosa Parks, but because it’s close to mom’s workplace. Spring Valley has some of the highest elementary school test scores in San Francisco, and it’s a science magnet school.

If you have a child in schoo in San Francisco, one of the best tools you could have at your disposal is the San Francisco based website GreatSchools. We researched the schools after our visit to 555 Franklin on this site, and it helped us out a lot with our questions.

On a TOTALLY UNRELATED NOTE: Any and all are welcome to come to my Beach Bonfire tonight at Ocean Beach starting at 6pm, Stairwell 16. Look for the Octopus on a Stick.

Kid Friendly San Francisco

This week, I am in charge of a six year old girl named Crystal. Yesterday we walked all the way from Bush St. to Fisherman’s Wharf, where her mom works in the old c|net building.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is how unfriendly San Francisco is for children. As with everything, it’s mostly people that screw it up for us all. There are plenty of public parks and playgrounds in the City, and it all depends on where you go. If you go to a playground in the Tenderloin or even the one at City Hall, you’re going to have urban problems like used needles and sketchy characters hanging around. Luckily for us, the closest park is across from Grace Cathedral on top of Nob Hill. Not only is it one of the cleanest parks I’ve ever seen, it usually has a lot of children playing there.

Yesterday we went to one of my favorite kid friendly places, the cable car museum. Not only is it free, I haven’t met a single child who doesn’t adore the cable cars. Crystal was astonished that this was the place that powered every single cable car in San Francisco, and if we hadn’t been on a schedule she would have asked to stay there all day.

There are a lot of child friendly restaurants in San Francisco. The unfortunate part about this is that they are usually in the parts of the city that are heavy tourist areas — and this means they are expensive. Last night’s meal was courtesy of the Rainforest Cafe. A really big surprise at the Rainforest Cafe was Sunshine the Clown, a local San Francisco clown that specializes in balloon animals and speaking almost entirely in rhyme. I’ve had dealings with Sunshine before, when I helped out with an event that she was hired for. Sunshine is easily the shortest person I know, being about 1 inch taller than the legal definition of a “little person”. She’s a wonderful person, even if clowns are a little bit scary to me.

Flashbacks at the library rock concert

All the librarians at the Redwood City Library this weekend tie-dyed themselves to the core for Bookstock. It had the great small town feel of a lot of the stuff that happens in Redwood City – a little rock concert meant for families, with the psychedelic cover bands The Sippy Cups and The Fifth Grade Dads on stage. Sun-smell, face-painting, hot dogs from a cart, little kids dancing in circles like tiny muppets while clouds of bubbles floated from the grassy park into the baking hot asphalt of the parking lot next to the train tracks. Usually this pocket-sized park is a quiet amalgam of transient guys or just-released prisoners, old ladies walking chihuahuas, city council members eating bag lunches, and moms with strollers. Today it’s carnival heaven!

Chuck, mild-mannered children’s librarian, head-bobbed to the Sippy Cups with such hippiesh authenticity that I wondered if he was stoned. My mohawk was spiked up a foot and a half, and I had two little kids with me. A couple of moms asked dubiously if I was the nanny. (That always happens!) Another mom approached me to ask half in Spanish, half in English, if I knew anything about the “darketas” in Mexico. She was worried about her young niece. I spanglished my ignorance. “Probably it’s like being a goth? G√≥tica? A punk, punketa, sort of obsessed with vampires.. vampiros? Es una cosa de moda, fashion – y musica, creo que es bastante inocente.”

Chuck beamed with joy as he surveyed the crowd. “Oh good! The Beatles! I love this song!”

“What are you talking about, dude, ‘Dear Prudence’ is Siouxsie and the Banshees. I know not this ‘Beetle’ of which you speak.”

The library itself is built in an old fire station on what used to be an island and is now the center of downtown Redwood City. I’m going to teach a free blogging class there in the fall with Julie Meloni, author of “Blogging in a Snap.”

Goodies, For a Good Cause

Friday, the 18th, there will be a drive-up bake sale, 10am to 2pm, at “The Fairmont San Jose” 170 South Market Street, San Jose. Executive Pastry Chef, Fernando Arreola is baking up goodies to trade for donations that will benefit The Children’s Musical Theatre of San Jose.

Pull your car up to “The Fairmont San Jose” curbside and the hotel staff will deliver: Cookies- – oatmeal, sugar, and peanut butter. Brownies and Blondies. Biscotti to Rice Krispy Treats. Pastries…

Cash donations, or checks made out payable to: The Children’s Musical Theatre of San Jose.

Donations will help support the young talented artists, and the theatre.

* Photo courtesy of: ibison4

Is SF Kid-Friendly?


A while ago, this article came out about how kids and families are fleeing the city. “Child Population Dwindles”. I’ve always been a fan of raising kids in the city because my own experience in suburbia was boring, with a capital B. City kids got access to so many things without having to drive, they had a huge well-stocked public library, lots of diverse people, and specialists in anything they happened to be interested in, at their doorstep. Suburban kids were “safe,” but protected in a cocoon of dullness and with no access to anything. With all of the weirdos in my middle class neighborhood, I didn’t think it was “safe” at all, either.

My comments on a weekend with kids, after the jump.

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