Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
This is the story of our big Spring job: ten days of babysitting. Gabby and Mamal headed off to the British Virgin Islands with friends for sailing and we have been willingly drafted to take care of Ava, Sam, and Charli - that's two not-babies-anymore and one not-puppy. I'm not sure why I continue to refer to this as BABYsitting.
The day-by-day details of this diary may be too much for casual readers, but I am hoping mom and dad appreciate it. I know we will.
The drive from Fresno to the South Bay was as uneventful as possible. Highway 99, my least favorite part, was filled with trucks, one of the reasons this may be the most dangerous highway in America.
Turning off on Highway 152 was not much better, but soon enough we reached Los Banos. Two stops were required: first at Ferro's Produce, a seasonal cherry stand that is a regular sign of Spring. Today's offerings were OK, but not as good as they will be later, I'm sure. The second stop was at Eddie's for breakfast. The sign proclaims "Best Breakfast in California". Good, but best?
Farther west, we stopped to check out the San Louis Reservoir. The view of lake, hills, and windswept trees called for a picture. A few weeks ago, we passed by and the lake was at the very top but now it is down, waiting to be refilled with Spring runoff from melting Sierra snow.
The balance of the drive was completely unremarkable. Pacheco Pass, Highway 101 in the South Bay, and the cut-off over to Los Gatos-Monte Sereno were all as empty as we ever see them. This is always a question, because trips on these commuter highways can double, triple, or more in travel time. Short today, a good sign.
We arrived at our "work" location and settled in. Gabby had printed out a three-page set of daily work instructions: school times, baseball and tennis times and locations, emergency numbers. It's nice to have an employer so organized. For on-the-job training, we drove five minutes to school to pick up the kids. This is going to be EASY.
Back home, it was pool time. The solar water heater had warmed up the water, but the air was still pretty chilly. The kids didn't seem to mind. When Mamal got home, he managed to squeeze in a swim with the kids before he changed into travel-to-the-islands clothes.
By 6 pm the rest of the boat crew had arrived and drinks were poured for the limo ride up to San Francisco Airport. It seemed like everyone was apprehensive about the trip. Maybe it was the prospect of an overnight flight to Philadelphia, then a morning flight to St. Thomas, followed by a hour ferry trip to Scrub Island and the harbor where the sailboat waited. I'll admit I would have been even more anxious.
Finally, Marianne (=Gigi) and I (=Opa) could get down to our own work: entertaining grandkids. We started with a session of Pop-a-Shot, the current favorite indoor activity at the Rahimi household. Ava was best, Sam next, then Marianne. I was clearly the least skilled and will need lots of practice!
The reward for all this activity was a round of chocolate Easter bunnies, just ears, dipped in Cool Whip. Grandparents can serve whatever they want.
The day ended with Gigi reading a book, something that is pretty traditional with our visits.
Friday - Day 1 of work
On our first full day of grandkid-sitting, we had a pretty easy schedule. Task one was getting the kids ready for school and I am happy to report that they got prepared, on-time, with very little insisting on our part. Even Sam, who can be a slow starter in the morning, was dressed and ready before eight o'clock blast-off time. Congratulations!
With the kids at school, Marianne and I did something, but, two days later, I can not remember what that was, except for care and feeding of Charli. She's a nice not-puppy, well-enough behaved, and never grumpy or aggressive. Maybe a little too affectionate perhaps, but that's hard to complain about.
By 2:30, we were back at school, picking up Ava and sending Sam on his way to a birthday party. Gigi used the time to show Ava the ropes on the new piano. Well, it's not really new, since Mamo bought the instrument decades ago, but it was just installed in the Rahimi house a few months ago. Ava still seems enthusiastic about learning, a good sign.
When Sam was delivered back from the party, we heard all about the go-cart races that were the party highlight; that and cookies and sweets and time with his buddies. Ava added to the discussion with a created story or two. She manages to create stories to fill in any dead space.
Then the four of us had dinner and the kids worked off any remaining energy with more pool time.
After all the day's active entertainment, we finally managed a round of "Ice Cool", the game recommended by Brian and Jen in our last Colorado visit. It remains a hit in the Rahimi family and a nice way to end a late-because-it's-not-a-school-night evening.
Saturday - Day 2
Weekend days for couples-with-children are much busier than for those without, but at least our required events were late afternoon. This gave us a chance for a breakfast out, where we ran into four cousins and uncle Arash. Los Gatos is a small town after all.
Back home, Sam resumed his game-playing on his iPad. I think he plays a younger version of the war his cousin Adam wages down in Monterey. We might worry about both, except they are also very active with real sports. And school work is OK. It would be hard to control screen activity in any event.
Meanwhile, Ava came up with her own activity: spa treatment for Gigi. Young Ava's imagination is always working and, of course, Gigi was perfectly willing to be the customer.
Next in our busy day was a bit of shopping. I had wanted to get some Golden State Warriors gear to help celebrate the basketball team's current success. We all went to the official team store, where Sam got a sweatshirt and I opted for a bright yellow t-shirt and a blue and yellow cap. Ava and Gigi passed on anything new.
Back home, the kids jumped in the pool to try out the new giant yellow floating see-saw. Fun.
In the late afternoon, we got around to the more serious play: tennis and baseball. Gigi took Ava to her practice session at the Los Gatos Swim and Racquet Club, organized but not high pressure. Ava is doing well, with a great serve. I think she has a real tournament next week, so practice is good.
At the same time, I was over at Blossom Hill School watching Sam play baseball. I took scores of pictures, concentrating on Sam (of course), Uncle Ali (coach), and cousin Reef. The Phillies did OK, after the first inning when they allowed five runs. Coaching problem? It was all fun.
Whew. That was a lot of exercise.
After exercise, Gigi prepared a special Saturday dinner: chicken tacos. This do-it-yourself meal works for everyone.
After dinner, Ava disappeared for twenty minutes and came back announcing the evening's entertainment. First, she drafted Gigi as a dance partner. They went behind stage and practiced for a few minutes and then came out to put on a real show. Even Sam got into the theatrics. More fun.
Sunday, Mother's Day
Sunday, Mother's Day, started with a couple of happy faces wishing Gigi everything good for the special day. Truth be told, just the happy faces would have been enough, but Sam and I also brought back yellow tulips from an early morning run to Safeway.
In the afternoon, Mamal's mom Zohreh came by with a fruit bowl and was convinced to stay around for dinner. It was all very festive, the way (Grand) Mothers' Day should be.
The rest of the day was mostly home-centered activity. The kids started early with a half-hour of trampoline work. Ava's gymnastic lessons showed. Sam joined in, but specialized in looking threatening. Sorta.
After that, it was more pool activity. I can't really say it was "swimming", more like surviving in and around giant floating toys. Plenty of exercise though.
The afternoon activity was a bike ride down to the playground at their school. This was Sam's first real outing on his new bike, but he seemed to manage the bigger machine just fine. Charli started out with the crew, but could not settle down and I had to take her back home. We later learned the secret: She's bred as a sheep-herding dog, and insists on being at the head of her pack while traveling. We'll try that next time.
All and all, a nice, active Mother's Day.
Monday - Back to School
Monday was another good start. Both kids were up on time, fixed their own breakfasts, made beds, brushed teeth, and were ready to leave at precisely 7:55. After the five minute drive to school, Gigi and I went out to breakfast at Starbucks. We use lighter items on their menu to counter otherwise caloric morning treats.
After that, it was shopping for a few hours in a huge local mall. Wow, fun. Actually, I did nothing except walk past every shop window while Marianne was more productive and bought a few items. We joined up again for lunch at Nordstrom's, more calories than Starbucks and definitely pricier, but good food. I'd almost even recommend the place.
At 2:30 we picked up the kids at school and moved directly to planned activities. First, it was more tennis for Ava. She and two of her buddies had an hour-long class on serving from Coach Jeff. There is a future Serena Williams in there somewhere.
While Ava was learning to serve at Los Gatos Swim and Racquet, Sam was learning to hit at Sirious Baseball, a nearby set of batting coaches and cages. Photos behind the netting were tough, but I could see with my own eyes that it was a good half-hour lesson. Now he just needs a few thousand hours of practice.
After the organized physical activity, it was back home just in time for Ava's math tutor session. Mr. McCullough (sp?) stretched Ava's head for a whole hour. Sam and I headed for the pool, and promised Ava we would wait there for her to join us. We didn't make it that long, because the water was only somewhat warm and the air was too chilly.
Dinner was a Gigi stir fry and rice combination. She liked it. I liked it. But Ava and Sam were less enthusiastic. Sam made do with two helpings of rice and a no-thank-you bite of the chicken. I think Ava had just small nibbles of both. Nevertheless, they understood mom's rules: if you don't eat what's prepared, there is nothing else. They survived.
Tuesday - More school plus Baseball
Another good start to the day. The kids got up on time, fixed breakfasts, got dressed, and were ready to go. They even made their beds without prompting, earning a "bonus point" on the bulletin board Gigi had created. (It's the school teacher in her.)
The school drop off routine was straightforward, as required. Almost all the kids at Dave's Avenue Elementary School arrive by car and the process of approaching the school, entering the driveway, stopping at the sidewalk, kids jumping out, and cars driving back out into traffic, is a practiced dance. Besides, if any parent- or grandparent-driver fails to follow the rules, yellow-vested guards and teachers will quickly reprimand.
Done with school duty, Gigi and I returned home for a few chores. There are ALWAYS chores in a household with kids. I really don't know how moms get everything done. (Dads too, except home chores still fall disproportionately on moms.)
One of my chores was to walk Charli, getting her exercise and my own. We have a nice neighborhood to walk in, with plenty of fancy homes to survey. I look at the houses while Charli looks at the green lawns and bushes. To each his own.
While we were out walking, Marianne joined friend Adrienne in a trip over to Santa Cruz. They visited with another fifty-year friend, Rita, who had just replaced a pair of older family cars with a schnazzy, hardly-used, bright red Mercedes. Looks good, and it is always nice for Marianne and decades-long friends to chat and catch up on families (and politics, I suspect.)
Back in Los Gatos, I picked up the kids at school and, after snacks at home, we headed over to another baseball game for Sam. Once again, I took a zillion pictures, and show a fraction below.
Ali planned, while Sam and Reef warmed up.
Lots of early action, some by the Rahimis.
Sam got a hit in about the second inning and was hit in by a teammate.
Sam's fielding was great! (Unbiased opinion from Opa.) My photography only caught the very end of his double play on the right. He caught a pop fly and then tagged out the runner. Note Ali's shock.
In the end, time ran out with the score tied and the players and coaches finished off with the standard hand-shaking parade and a coaches debrief. Everyone had fun.
While brothers were playing baseball, cousins Ava and Ryder joined a pack of kids playing on the jungle gym. After two hours of this, I think Ava got more exercise than baseball-player Sam.
While we were at the game/playground, Gigi had gone off to buy a pair of pizzas, another favorite treat for kids. The calories are normally off-limits for Gigi and me, but we sacrificed for our babysitting duties.
Take-home pizza was a requirement because the Golden State Warriors were playing in the evening and we all needed to sit at home and watch as much of the game as could be squeezed in before 8pm bedtime. The game was half finished, when the kids were sent off to shower, brush teeth, and hit the sack. Even the next day, Sam did not want me to say who had won, hoping to finish watching the game in suspense. Unfortunately, his buddies at school could not wait to talk about the Warrior's victory.
Wednesday - A little school plus meals out
Wednesday started out rainy, unusual for California. Weather reports from Fresno say it is wet even there. I guess I should have turned off the irrigation. Too late.
The morning start was routine, as we have come to expect, kids ready on time and delivered to school promptly. Gigi and I returned for diary-writing, laundry-washing, and other required duties. Our adult time was cut short, because Wednesday are "minimum days" at school, and we had to return for pick-up at 12:10.
Our first joint activity was lunch at Sweet Peas. The kids had their favorite: Nutella crepes. Gigi had a caesar chicken wrap and I had a burger. Everything was tasty and it is fun dining with this crew. Lots of laughter and stories.
Normally on Wednesday, Gabby arranges for a series of lessons: horse riding for Ava, reading for Sam, tennis for Ava, and golf for Sam. We were spared the horse riding lessons because it was deemed as a complication amateur babysitters could not fit in. Golf was canceled for rain. Everyone seemed thankful for the extra time.
Tennis lessons for Ava were NOT canceled. By the time they were starting, the courts had dried and coach Jeff was ready to go. The lesson today was "rallying" and Ava's friend Coco joined her hitting back Jeff's volleys. Gigi and Sam enjoyed the show, I enjoyed taking pictures, the trainees enjoyed Jeff's enthusiasm, and the rain held off. All good.
After tennis, Sam and Gigi threw old tennis balls to give Charli some exercise. The rain had returned, so even the dog's exercise pattern was upset by the California-unusual weather.
Pretty soon it was time for dinner. Originally, the plan had been to have golf lessons for Sam and Ava followed by dining at the Rinconada Golf Club. Rain canceled the lessons, but we still wanted to enjoy the club dining room.
I think these may be my favorite of the regular dining spots we enjoy with the Rahimi family. It's a warm setting and, especially in the bar or on the patio, a comfortable ambiance. The staff know the family, even the kids.
Back home we finished off the day with our routines. Ava and Sam added to the grade sheet Gigi had created to allow the kids to keep track of what to tell their mom and dad on return. Then it was showers, teeth brushing, and jumping in bed. These days are so full there hasn't even been time for reading bedtime stories!
Thursday - School start and finish
OK. We are getting into the routine, at least the morning part: Kids awake at 7 (Sam a little slower to actually move;) simple breakfasts; gather school work in backpacks; jump in the car at 8 (no child seats anymore); five minutes to school; five minutes in line; jump out; back into traffic and home. We've got this.
As for what the grandparents did on Thursday, I forget. Hard to believe I am writing this less than 24 hours later. Must be some sort of senior moment. Oh well, we are what we are.
School was a short day again this day, because the teachers needed to prepare for the annual Open House. This is the big PR event for schools where they put all the best stuff out on display and the children guide parents through a year's worth of school products. It definitely was something Gigi and I were looking forward to.
Before that, however, we had a complication with Ava's tennis lesson. The plan was for her to start her "team" lesson at 4:30, squeezed in just before Open House. However, it had rained on and off all day, so the whole thing was uncertain.
At about 3:30, Gigi called the tennis club and they said they were squeegeeing the court and the class was on. Ava was disappointed. I think she was looking forward to some free play time, but she went along with the program. On the drive over to the club, the skies opened again and she suggested we immediately turn around. I insisted we continue, just in case and to make sure she earned "show-up points". She said there were no points. We did go to the club, park, get the gear out of the trunk, go to the office, and learn that the class had just been canceled. Ava had been right, as she reminded me about a dozen times. Right's right.
Back home, we all enjoyed a healthy dinner of super nachos. OK, it's not vegetables, but cherry tomatoes were offered too, for the more conscientious. We won't tell mommy.
Daves Avenue Elementary School was swarming with kids, parents, grandparents, teachers, and administrators. There were so many people we had to park three blocks away.
We started with Ava's fourth grade class. To make sure students would lead the adults to all their work, we were invited to a "scavenger hunt". I think we successfully checked off all 11 attractions, from the displays of California Mission history to the art associated with growing crystals. Gigi and Opa were impressed, Sam not so much.
Sam's second grade, Room 18, was also very welcoming. Even without a checklist, Sam made sure we saw all of his work: lots of writing and colorful art work. Exceptional, in the opinion of objective grandparents.
Whew! That was a lot of grandparent duty, all fun.
Sam and Opa ended the day by watching the second game of the second playoff round for the Golden State Warriors. Our home team won again, in the last few minutes, again. Next game: Saturday from Portland. Good luck.
Friday - School and Zohreh dinner
The morning is now completely routine: Kids up, fed, out, delivered. Gigi and Opa back home for chores. For Opa, that includes walking Charli for an hour. When this trip was being planned, I had figured I could go to the gym at least half the days, but no such luck. There just has not been time, but Charli walks are better than nothing.
At 2:30 the students were picked up and returned home. No kid-specific events this afternoon, so it was just a little relaxing before dinner. Charli got a bit more of her exercise in a wrestling match with Sam.
Then it was time for the drive over to Manou and Zohreh's for a family dinner. The food was mostly Persian favorites and all were tasty! And the dinner time provided plenty of time to catch up, something much easier to do with a half-dozen at the table instead of the more-frequent dozen-and-a-half with the full Rahimi family.
The drive home was unusually quiet. I THINK Ava and Sam were faking, but real sleep or not, it was a peaceful 30 minutes.
At home, it was end-of-the day routine: Ava and Sam showers, PJs, Gigi reading a story or two, and bedtime hugs and kisses. Gigi and I will both miss all this.
Saturday - Rainy day fun
This promised to be a quiet day. No school, so the young students could sleep in and extra hour or so. They have both been good about getting up on a school schedule, but they do take advantage of slower weekend mornings. Gigi also had time to make pancakes, another break in routine.
After breakfast, Sam and I played catch. I had brought my old-but-not-much-used baseball glove and tried catch with Sam. It has been decades since I threw or caught a baseball very much so it was good that Sam could scramble to get my throws. He thought I was just testing him.
By 10am, rain had started and all activity had to go inside. California weather is very strange this Spring, with winter-like rain storms passing through, one after the other. Out in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley, we celebrate the extra water, but here in the Bay Area it's not so popular. We have already lost a baseball practice, two golf lessons, one or two tennis lessons, horse-riding practice, and lots of swimming fun.
At least this was forecast, so responsible grandparents had plans. Gigi used the inside time to work with Ava on a new bead-stringing kit. They watched YouTube to have new skills explained. This is definitely the new normal for trying anything nowadays: Google and YouTube. I wonder if we will end up learning more, because it's easier, or less, because it's too easy.
Sam and I were less ambitious. We invented a two-person version of Ice Cool. In its normal four-person configuration, each round of the game takes awhile, but with just the two of us taking turns "flicking", we were done before we knew it. Sam won. In fact, I think of the several games we played, Sam won most. I noticed that it was winning that kept his attention. I am tempted to say that's a seven-year-old thing, but it is probably true for all of us.
Meanwhile, Gigi had started cooking the sauce for our spaghetti dinner with Charli keeping her company. Basically, the dog always migrates to people activity. I think she worries about missing something, a dropped morsel or an extra hug. This is one needy puppy.
After beading and flicking, Ava and Sam separated to "independent research". For Sam, this meant playing RobotWar on his iPad. He can do this for hours. (Reminds me of his ten-years-older cousin Adam.) One of the reason weekends are special for the kids is that the school-night prohibition of screen games goes away.
Ava's screen-time of preference is YouTube and music games, but she also needs to keep her own "kids" entertained as well. Even at an "old" ten-years, she lines up dolls and reads to them, but mostly when no one is watching. When she catches me taking pictures, she reverts to an almost-teenager pose. The next few years will be interesting.
Back at the stove, Gigi was finishing up dinner. Ava took the opportunity to practice her waitressing, although as a customer I found the restaurant was a little short on choices the staff was friendly and efficient. Best of all the spaghetti and meatballs were perfect. Awesome, even.
After dinner, Sam and I started watching the third playoff game between the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trailblazers. I enjoy watching the game with the little fan and he is well-informed on all the Warriors players and capabilities. I think he has at least three or four Steph Curry #30 shirts, not to mention the new hoodie we bought earlier in the week.
Maybe because winning is becoming so ordinary for the home team, Sam's attention wandered when Ava came back with reports that, based on the finger-dunk test, the pool water was warm, despite the cool rain. They ran to get on swimsuits. However, when the temperature test moved from one-finger to legs, they discovered how chilly the pool actually was. Good sports, they went all the way in, hoping it would be better out of the cool air, but it wasn't good enough. A few minutes later, they ran out and wrapped themselves in towels and came inside.
They changed from swimsuits and towels to pajamas (on their own, mommy) and started another round of screen time. While their weekends have them enjoying time spent on the iPad and iPhone, there is virtually no television time, other than Opa-prompted basketball. Somehow, I find this reassuring. Television watching is such a passive activity. My view, anyway.
Soon enough, it was bedtime. Mom and Dad would arrive from their trip in the middle of the night, and the next morning would come quickly.
Sunday - Mom and Dad
Clearly, the biggest event of Sunday was hugging mom and dad as soon as everyone was awake. Everyone had stories to tell. Ava and Sam talked about their ten days with us. I think we got a positive review.
Gabby and Mamal talked about a week of sailing and both of them sounded very happy to be home, on dry land, near the kids. It didn't sound like they would try squeezing on a boat in the harsh Caribbean sun anytime soon. They did show us some spectacular pictures of the trip, but I'll admit it did not look like my cup of tea either. Too much of the same scenes and I don't know how much sun and bare beach I would ever need.
During our stories, Sam went off and brought back his own Mother's Day gifts for both Gabby and Gigi, two ceramic projects from school. I'm sure you will be able to see ours on our wall somewhere and Gabby's on an appropriate display table.
From gifts, it was breakfast - a to-go feast from Los Gatos Cafe. Thanks Mamal!
Properly fed, Gigi and I packed up the Jeep and headed back home, sorry that our babysitting gig was over. We would do it again in a minute, but It sounds like Gabby and Mamal will not part with their kids for such a long time anytime soon.
Back in Fresno, it was time for more family. Sunday was our day for dinner with Mamo and we all chose a dinner out at Red Lobster, a regular stop for us in her neighborhood. No sooner had we sat down, than Gabby called with news from Sam: the last of his four top front teeth had finally fallen out. Although it may not have been good restaurant etiquette, he was so eager to share the news on a video-chat, that we could not stop. Even Mamo got to see the new Sam smile.
And with that, our family time was over. Monday would start a new week, with nothing exceptional planned. But, who knows. Stay tuned.
John and Marianne (aka Opa and Gigi)