Category Archives: Info and Guides

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Family Destinations Near San Francisco – Just a Few Hours but Worlds Away from SF

The San Francisco Bay Area offers so many great family activities and unique spots to explore, why would anyone ever leave?

But maybe, just maybe, your family decides to get away for a change of scenery, perhaps to be in a different climate or just take a break from the daily routine. If so, we’ve got some recommendations for you: some of our favorite spots within a half-day’s drive from home.

Monterey: About two hours

You could easily spend a full day enjoying the many exhibits and animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It also provides an excellent foundation for future explorations along the California coast. After our son learned at the Aquarium about the sea otters’ habit of floating on their backs in kelp beds, he searched every visible one on the rest of our coastal drive, spotting hundreds of otters in the wild. “Edutainment” at its best!

Our son Baltazar kayaking in Morro Bay

Our son Baltazar kayaking in Morro Bay

Morro Bay: About four hours

Morro Bay is another coastal family favorite and a good home base for a visit to Hearst Castle.  The beautiful bay is capped by giant Morro Rock rock that gets larger and more imposing as you approach it. We took our son for his first sea kayaking experience on the calm waters of the bay and were delighted when a seal swam along side us for a portion of the trip!

Sacramento: Less than two hours

Heading away from the water, Sacramento is much more than a fast-food stop on the way to Tahoe. Visiting the state capitol is a must-do right of passage for kids, and they’ll learn a bit of history at the California State Railroad History Museum. Plus, the Sacramento River offers opportunities for boating, fishing and swimming. You can also head towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a family rafting trip on the American River.

Lake Tahoe: Three to four hours

Of course, Lake Tahoe is a great all-season resort for families with skiing in the winter, hiking in the spring and fall, and swimming and boating in the summer. You can choose from different types of resort properties here—many with mid-week and off-season discounts—as well as a huge supply of comfortable vacation rental homes. We like to relax, read and play games for by the fireplace on chilly nights.

Yosemite: About three and a half hours

It’s hard to think of a more awe-inspiring place than Yosemite Valley. While this popular national park can be crowded during the summer, it’s a great place for a spring or fall visit. Enjoy a stay at the historic Ahwahnee Lodge or in one of the tent cabins at Curry Village.  It’s hard not to notice and appreciate the many different ways the sunlight illuminates the canyon walls throughout the day. And even if it rains, you’ll be rewarded with brilliant waterfalls afterwards. If you visit in summer, take a day to explore the less-visited Tuolumne Meadows area (closed in the winter).

Sequoia: About four hours

While many visitors to Sequoia spend just a few hours seeing the highlights, we recommend spending at least a night or two there, either in the Lodgepole Village campground or in a cabin at General Grant Grove. Doing so will give you more time to walk and play among these gentle giants, and to explore some lesser-known sites in the park. We visited with our son and nephews on a summer weekend, and the Crystal Cave tour was a big highlight. The half-day adventure included a short hike into the cave, using flashlights to explore the dark parts, and walking on boardwalks above a running stream once inside.

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Costanoa: Less than two hours

Finally, closer to home, the Costanoa Resort north of Santa Cruz is an incredible family-friendly spot to get close to nature while enjoying a few vacation comforts, including a restaurant featuring organic local foods. There’s a wide range of accommodations, including lodge rooms, cabins with fireplaces, and comfortable tent cabins. There are no TVs at Costanoa—and the cabins have shared bathhouses—but really nice ones with fireplaces as well! The beach is a short hike away, and you’re far away from the crowds and noise of Santa Cruz’s boardwalk. Once on a spring visit a few years ago, we sat mesmerized for nearly 30 minutes watching a sea lion tend to her newborn cub while waves crashed around them on their rocky perch.

Former Californians now living in Austin, Texas, Steve and his husband Carmine have an adopted son Baltazar (18). The great family travel memories they’ve built together inspired Steve to start gayfamilytrips.com, a website devoted to the topic of gay family travel.

 

5 Pride Pro-tips for Pride-Rookie Parents

Polly at Pride

Polly at Pride

If this your first Pride with your family, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get through the day with your good humor — and your wee charges – intact. And for good reason!

The downside of pride-as-a-parent: it’s not the same as when you were a footloose, fancy-free non-parent. The parade route covers nearly a mile and a half, which amounts to a half-hour walk on hard pavement even before you factor in the pre-parade wait and the stop-and-go of parading.

The pride-as-a-parent upside, especially if you march with the OFC contingent: it’s nothing short of transcendent, walking up Market Street with your whole family, watching your children be cheered on by rainbow flag-waving strangers like they’re astronauts returning from the moon.  The supply of pride from that s/hero’s welcome lasts a year, and is well worth what you go through to enable your kids to experience it.

If you make it to the Family Garden (or go there directly), you’ll be greeted by a veritable sea of our families, safely frolicking inside our very own playground.  We’ll have healthy snacks and beverages inside there, plus our own port-a-potties (not to be underestimated!). Also: balloon animals, face painting, story time, and play structure fun.

So! For all pride-rookie parents, here are five essential things to remember:

  1. Bring food and water.

  2. Bring wheels, if you can.

  3. Remember sun protection.

  4. Attach an ID to the little ones.

  5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.

1. Bring food and water. This one’s close to a parental no-brainier: it’s a warm, sunny June day, and even in the most minimalist of scenarios you’ll be out in the elements for hours plural. We’ll be distributing some water at the contingent gathering spot, but even so, be sure to bring enough water to hydrate yourself and your little ones. Plus do bring easy-to-carry healthy snacks to curb the hunger pangs.  We’ll be selling healthy snacks and smoothies at cost in the Family Garden, so just hold it together ‘til you get there!

2. Bring wheels, if you can. The only thing nearly as important as food & water are wheels, any wheels, whatever wheels you’re able bring to the parade site & schlepp back home: stroller (no big kid is too big if they can jam into it!), wagon, scooter, tricycle, skateboard, roller blades, bikes: whatever conveyance you can bring that will ease the mile, bring it! I even saw a family with a custom rig: someone attached wheels to the bottom of a crib, and they rolled that ’til it gave up the ghost half-way up the street.

3. Remember sun protection. It’ll be sunny, and sun protection of any & all sorts is in order: wide-brimmed hat; sunglasses; sunscreen. Again: it’s going to be hours in the sun on a fine June day. Don’t overheat or burn.

4. Attach an ID to the little ones. Whether you go low-tech and write your name (not the kids’ name) and cell phone number on their little forearms, or you affix one of those ID wristbands on ’em, or you somehow securely attach a laminated card to your kid’s person, be sure there is a super-clear way for someone to know to contact you in the unlikely yet very upsetting event you’re separated.

5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.  Talk together as a family about what to expect from Pride, and how much is going to feel like enough. Reading through Gayle Pitman’s fantastic new book This Day in June would be fantastic prep; she’ll be in the Family Garden this year reading from the book and hanging out with families. Agree in advance how you’ll decide when it’s time to go, whether it’s the grown ups or the kids who are supersaturated. It’s a thrilling day, but for years, my own family simply marched up Market Street and then dropped down into BART at Civic Center, as full as we could manage. One of the key tenets of dog training is “End on a good note!” so that the most recent memory is a positive one. That goes for Pride, too.

Together we can make this the Best! Pride! Ever!

By Polly Pagenhart, Family Programs Director at Our Family Coalition
Polly also blogs at Lesbian Dad

What Domestic Partners Need to Know About Applying for Health Insurance Under Obamacare

Post by Shae Irving, legal editor and writer

Healthcare-Reform-Act-queeredWhen registered domestic partners or civil union partners apply for coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, there’s one question that almost always arises: Do we apply based on our separate incomes, or must we include all the income we make as a couple?

The answer depends on the state where you live.

States other than California, Nevada, or Washington. In almost all states, registered domestic partners or civil union partners who apply for insurance via the state’s health insurance exchange must do so separately. Each partner includes only his or her separate income, and this amount determines health plan costs and eligibility for cost-saving subsidies. It works this way because domestic partners are not considered married for federal tax purposes.

Gay marriage bandsCalifornia, Nevada, or Washington. The exception to the above rule is for the few states that extend community property laws to registered domestic partners — California, Nevada, and Washington. In these states, domestic partners must usually apply using half of the partners’ combined incomes. (We confirmed this with the legal department at Covered California after repeatedly receiving conflicting information from representatives staffing the exchange’s customer service phone line.) This is because IRS rules require that domestic partners registered in these community property states report half of their combined community income on their federal taxes each year.

Sometimes, this reporting requirement will have the unfortunate effect of rendering a lower-earning partner ineligible for health insurance subsidies.

Example: Caroline and Susan are registered domestic partners in California. Caroline makes $80,000 per year and Susan earns $30,000 per year. When they apply for health insurance at Covered California, they will complete separate applications but must each include $55,000 of community income (half of their combined community income of $110,000). Neither partner will qualify for premium-lowering subsidies, which are generally available for individuals earning less than about $46,000 per year. If Caroline and Susan were able to apply separately, Susan would have qualified for premium assistance in the form of tax credits.

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The only case in which domestic partners registered in community property states would not apply based on combined income is that in which the partners signed a valid pre-registration agreement (like a “prenup”) before registering, in which they opted out of the community property system by agreeing to keep all property separate.

The Bottom Line

In short, how you apply for Obamacare depends on how you file your federal taxes. If you include community income when you report your earnings to the IRS, you must include it when seeking health care coverage as well. If you report only separate income to the IRS, you will include only separate income on your health insurance application.

For More Information

To learn whether you are required to purchase health insurance under Obamacare, see Do I Have to Get Obamacare in California?

To find out how Obamacare’s cost-saving subsidies work, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare.

If you’re ready to apply, see How Do I Sign Up for Obamacare in California?

Also be sure to check out Our Family Coalition’s Understanding the Affordable Care Act in both Oakland and San Francisco!

Oakland
Registration
: Click Here!
When: Wednesday, January 29, 6-8pm
Where: BANANAS, 5232 Claremont Ave, Oakland

San Francisco
Registration
: Click Here!
When: Thursday, February 6, 6-8pm
Where: SF LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market St.