Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
This is a family story, mostly. The plan is for a weekend with Sam, Ava, and associated cousins and grownups followed with Monday of testing as part of our Project Baseline medical study and a Tuesday lunch for Marianne with her buddies. Not all that interesting, I suppose, for non-family, but it is part of our life that we want to have documented, so years from now, we can remember way-back-when.
The three-hour drive over was weekend normal, not as many trucks as a weekday, but an extra load of cars. Those cars filled up Highway 101 in the South Bay, but we had no schedule to meet, so even stop and go traffic was stress-free. It has taken aging for me to be comfortable, no matter the crowds on the road, age and avoidance of appointments.
In Monte Sereno, Gabby and the kids greeted us as usual too, always a nice routine. I was tired from the drive, so Sam suggested I take a nap in his room. Sounded good, so I settled in while he played with his cars, showing me the cars he'd been using for years and the few new ones. This is also a long-established routine that I cherish.
Meanwhile, Ava kept busy with drawing, aided by a program on her iPad/iPhone. Programs like this remind me to not be too critical of "screen time", but to see just what is on the screen. Drawing instructions: good. Mindless "social" browsing, not-so-good. I do wonder what the future course will be as she and her brother continue to get older. (Which they are doing too quickly!)
Late Saturday afternoon, Gabby and Ava headed out to a wedding shower for Sherine, Mamal's cousin. This may have been Ava's first wedding shower, an invitation she and cousin Layla both earned by being chosen to be flower girls.
While the women of the extended family were talking about the upcoming wedding, the boy cousins all came to "our" house for tacos and fun.
The guys started outside play with a soak in the 90F hot tub. It's just a lot easier getting used to warm water than the cooler pool.
But the pool is more fun. Mamal and I got our exercise by throwing boys and they got their own exercise by jumping from the hot tub into the pool and then climbing back. Mamal and I lasted maybe a half-hour, but the four cousins continued for two or three times that.
After all the excitement, Mamal and Arash left for a friend's birthday party, leaving Marianne and me babysitting four boys, four tired boys. Actually, the real babysitter was a television movie, in a time-honored trick of parents and grandparents everywhere. It worked fine, and we could report back to the dads that everyone was "perfect". We'd do it again.
On Sunday morning, I was awake far earlier than anyone else, a normal occurrence, especially after Ava and Gabby's late shower and Sam and Reef's late movie. Marianne slept in on principle.
My routine on mornings like this is to go to the fancy Starbucks on Blossom Hill Road and catch up on photos, diaries, and the news. On weekdays, the place fills with early workers and then school kids, but on Sunday, there's just us a few senior men, awake before their families.
When I got text-mail news that the crew was stirring, I returned with coffee and chocolate for everyone. For breakfast, Mamal sponsored us at the Rinconada Country Club, an elegant but friendly favorite.
On the way out, Gigi and Ava walked hand-in-hand and I was struck by how tall our little granddaughter has grown. Both kids are growing up nicely, but parts of us want them to remain little kids for a few more years. Not going to happen.
Writing this diary several days later, I have to admit I don't remember how we spent the rest of Sunday. That frequently happens when I don't take enough pictures. I do remember it was a quiet day, with kid play, kid-grandparent play, and time for the adults to chat a bit. We would like more Sundays like this, even if specific memories fade quickly, the positive sense remains.
On Monday Marianne and I headed out early to the Project Baseline clinic in Palo Alto for our annual exams. PB is a medical study we are part of that measures all sorts of health parameters for a large number of "average" people. The Stanford group now has 1,000 participants, some, like me, in the third of a planned five years. Other locations have another thousand or more, on the way to a total program goal of 10,000 participants.
This time around, we had three (Marianne) or four (me) hours of testing: a couple dozen blood samples; biom swabs from ears, cheeks, nose, and gums; health questionnaires; strength, agility, and movement tests; eye exam (me only); and ECG (again, me only). In our first year, we had also had chest and heart imaging as well as treadmill stress tests.
It has been an interesting process and, although we do not get many of the experimental test results, we have learned about state-of-the-art health monitoring and the possible future of individual medicine where a person's tests will lead to customized medical treatment. We are not there yet, but ambitious studies like Project Baseline will provide "baseline" information. Stay tuned.
I have no photos from the rest of Monday, so I have no memory, but Tuesday was different. First there was the Gigi tradition of Hungarian crepes ("palascinta") for the growing school kids. Ava tried to beat her record by eating eight, but fell one or two short. Sam is still back at four or five, still more than I can manage.
With the kids off to school, Marianne left to join friends in Santa Cruz for a chatty lunch. I was feeling guilty for all the eating we have been doing this weekend, so I went to the Fit Republic gym affiliated with my Fresno exercise spot. The San Jose operation was quite a bit bigger than mine back home, but the equipment was identical, so I could ignore the same machines I normally avoid. Honestly, I only use 15% of all the available torture gear. Good enough.
After exercise, I killed time with window shopping (sports gear) or actually buying, at Books Inc, a real book store. It felt like a vacation!
After school, Gabby suggested a golf practice session over at Rinconada. Well, they would practice golf, but I would practice taking pictures, starting with an action shot from the golf cart. (Sam was on my lap and almost fell out as Gabby zipped down the path.)
Down at the driving range, the three golfers did their thing and I observed and took pictures. Observation: they each have nice, smooth, swings.
For Sam and Gabby, I shot their whole golf swing using my "sports" camera (Canon D7II) at high speed. The shots were OK, but I ended up with over a hundred pictures to pick through, a drawback to "high speed" shooting.
After time on the driving range, the golfers went up to the chip-and-putt area. Again, I was impressed with the skill even eight-year-old Sam showed. Mom was good too.
However, Ava clearly won points for style.
The final activity was a chip and put contest. I think Gabby won this round, but that may not be how the other two remembered it.
School, shopping, chatting, golf, and work (Mamal) over, we moved on to good use of the Rahimi resort facilities. Sam and I played in the pool and hot tub. Since it was just the two of us, I had to act like an eight-year-old buddy, not such a stretch. Gabby, Mamal, and Gigi enjoyed conversation and wine around the fire pit, while the dinner chicken was cooking on the barbecue. (No pictures because I was in the water, after all.)
After dinner, Gigi taught Ava how to make coconut-flavored chocolate ball sweets. Sam supervised. Gabby just laughed at the kitchen crew and reminded them that cooks need to clean up. And they did and then the school kids finished their busy day and were sleeping by 8:00.
As for me, I just enjoyed one last evening at the resort.
On Wednesday, we sent the kids off to school, enjoyed breakfast at Southern Kitchen with Gabby, and hit the road.
The three-hour drive to Fresno was as boring as expected, actually a good sign because it means there were no problems.
Now we start our home time, with no new activity on the horizon, but that can change.
John and Marianne