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First Family Visit(S)

February 14-18 and 19-25
written February 17 and later
Dear Friends and Families,

Of course the major reason we have for trading Pommersfelden for the Tower District was to be closer to family.  On the weekend following Valentine's Day, we started benefiting from that closeness.

On Saturday, Gabby, Ava, and Sam came to stay a day at Mamo's house.  The great grandkids bring a huge amount of energy with them, particularly after being belted into car seats for three hours.  The noise and activity in Mamo's normally quiet and orderly home is a change, one that she very much enjoys.  So do we.
After a quick pizza dinner at Mamo's, Marianne and I went to the Saroyan Theater for a performance by the Fresno Philharmonic that combined "cirque" acrobatics with classical music.  Russian acrobats and Russian music dominated the show, with the acrobats commanding more attention than the orchestra, I'm afraid.  The theater is part of the downtown Fresno Convention Center and on this Saturday night the place was filled to overflowing with three diverse attractions: the philharmonic/acrobats; "Valentine's Super Love Jam", a huge dance with nine bands; and "559 Fights", amateur cage fights.  We could tell we weren't in Pommersfelden anymore.

On Sunday our little crew descended on the new house.  Ava and Sam were quickly at home, enjoying the toys pre-staged in the house, patio, and play house (otherwise known as the art shed.)  Once again they filled the place with fun for everyone.  A good reason for moving across the world.
After breakfast, it was a full day of playing for the young visitors.  The most fun place was a pile of dirt.  Ava built "houses" while Sam pushed dirt from one mountain to another.  This may not be the most sanitary playground, but the kids seem none the worse for it.  I think they have been exposed to germs before!
Babi and Reuben joined us for a bratwurst dinner.  The not-too-cool February evening was great for sitting out on the patio.  This dinner did point out the need for a good barbecue grill, something for the next visit.  

On Monday (17th), we shifted play spots.  It really is fun, enjoying February sunshine with family.



After Oso Park, it was lunch at Wild Chicken Wings.  This was the first and last time for us, because the service was so slow we  had to skip afternoon naps afterwards.  The consequence of THAT, was an early-to-bed evening for the kids -- not a bad solution for the adults.

On Tuesday, Gabby, Ava, and Sam headed off to Lake Tahoe for skiing, hoping there would be snow.  (There wasn't.)  The family packed the giant black car-truck with supplies for the five-hour drive and left us with a quiet house, too quiet.

On Wednesday, Marianne and I headed out early for a flight to Colorado.  Leaving from Fresno was a lot easier than from Pommersfelden or Frankfurt!  The taxi ride was short, the airport lines almost non-existent, the gates fewer, and boarding quicker.  The flight itself was fine, although the pilot had worried us about possible bumpiness arriving at Denver, bumpiness that didn't happen.  The Colorado mountains were snow-covered, unlike our California Sierras.
Jen was there at the airport to meet us and drive us up to Longmont.  Thanks.  After lunch with Brian, we unpacked a bit and waited for Rich to get out of school.  Even though we saw him just last summer, I swear he's grown inches.  I guess that's something 11-year-olds do.

We enjoyed a Chinese dinner and, afterwards, Brian took us on a tour of "TinkerMill", a co-op for folks doing all sorts of techie hardware experiments.  He showed us the 3d printers, the laser cutters, the automated sewing machines, and the lock-picking kit the members play with.  Don't ask me about the last one.  I had read about such places and it was interesting to see one in person.
Most of our stay here will be relaxing, since Brian, Jen and Rich all have their normal schedules.  We will enjoy the break from house-settling activities. 

On Thursday, I took some time to look at the local damage from last September's flooding.  The scene along Left Hand Creek, just a block or two from the family's home, is peaceful now, but still shows scars from last Fall.  We understand that the scenes are more dramatic up in the hills, but we'll probably pass on too much exploration.
Last September and today.
Crooked walking bridge and old debris.
Later, Marianne and I went Christmas shopping.  Pearl Avenue, downtown Boulder, has plenty of interesting shops and we managed to complete our long-overdue task.  In the evening we enjoyed the gift exchange.  Now we are caught up!
Friday was another quiet day, except for a visit to Rich's school.
Burlington Elementary was a cheerful place, with lots of art on the walls.  Friday's special activity was "Celebretea", when 5th graders get to present reports on their choice of celebrity.  Lots of imagination!
Rich chose Jim Hensen, inventor of The Muppets.  He and his classmates were enthusiastic answering questions about their own celebrity.  Lots of smiles.
Saturday started with more being lazy, but by mid-day we had enough energy to go to the local Butterfly Pavilion, one of Rich's favorite spots and a good cold weather stop.  There are three general areas, covering butterflies and moths, small aquatic animals, and bugs and spiders.  Guess which one Marianne did NOT like.
Rich led us through the butterfly house.
He also explained all the little sea creatures.
Kids are fascinated by bugs, adults not so much.
After our education, we headed to Boulder and a gathering with one of Marianne's old school colleagues, Sharron.  She came with husband Dick, daughter Katie, and grandson Nathan and we all enjoyed a couple of hours of laughs and good food.  We vowed to meet up again, in California or Colorado or?
Sunday was even more unplanned than Saturday, except for "the boys" (John, Brian, and Rich) going to see the new Legos movie.  I'll admit I don't go to many films, but attending one with lots of energy, in a theater of excited kids, is a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Monday was the flight home, after an hour drive down to Denver International Airport.  Everything was pretty nominal and uneventful.  I did over-exercise my little camera on the flight over, but this is one time where I liked being on a window seat.
Denver Airport and the city and foothills out.
Roads and ski slopes.
Cold and canyons
Sierras, reservoir, and central canal
Now we are home again in Fresno, but that's another story.

John and Marianne


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