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A Visit to Sam and Ava and Others

January 21-25, 2016
Written January 22+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Time to make another record to remember by.  The last diary was pretty simple, reflecting how the year started, but now we hope to get things going.  We will start with a trip to visit grandkids and friends and then have a couple days in our local park: Yosemite.  In early February, we will visit one of Marianne's school buddies in Carson City Nevada.  Somewhere along the way we may use the new snow chains.  (Speaking of snow, I will try to get some pictures from Geoff about the weekend snow disaster back in the DC area.)

So, first, the Sam and Ava trip. (Thursday, January 21)

d160121_02_homeplay.jpgd160121_04_avaproject.jpgI suppose we are visiting more than just Sam and Ava, but that's where we always start.  It's worth the three-hour drive from Fresno for sure, and it warrants taking more pictures than we really need.  On arrival, we were quickly drawn into regular activities.  Sam insisted I join him in playing "traffic", play where he lines up a few dozen toy cars.  He has been doing this for more than half of his four years and never seems to tire of it.  All I needed to do was watch.  Easy.

Ava was working on a school project, cutting 100 pictures out to glue on a heart.  I'm not sure of the point, but it was done well!

From there, it was off to haircuts, a cute event.  Sam managed, barely, to sit still enough.  Ava enjoyed the whole beauty treatment.  She is getting so old.
d160121_40_bedstory.jpgDinner was at home and then bedtime stories.  Nowadays, it's Ava who does the reading, part of getting old.

Struggled to do the rest of this diary.  Sometimes there aren't fun pictures or there isn't time to write or I just don't want to.  However, after the fact, I do appreciate even a not-too-exciting record.  Certainly that matches our life nowadays!

d160122_02_grammas.jpgFriday (22nd) was a school day, so not much grandkid time.  At least Marianne had some time to visit with her friends Adrienne and Rita and THEIR grandkids.  All grammas are justifiably proud of their grandkids.

I spent my morning shopping, one of my least favorite tasks.  I need shoes and figured San Jose would have better pickings than Fresno, but still came up empty.  Admittedly, I have a very specific brand and model in mind, but stores nowadays don't stock much.  They just fall back on: "We can order it for you."  Fine for hardware, not so for things that have to fit right.

d160122_04_buddies.jpgd160122_06_sands.jpgAfter lunch at "Flames", a mid-50's coffee shop showing its age, I went home to hang around with Sam.  Meanwhile, he was entertaining his friend Scotty, so it was pretty quiet.  I suppose these young guys get tired in pre-school and like to rest just like anyone else.

d160122_10_mands.jpgMarianne and I went out to dinner with Malinda and Scott, friends we met on an airplane several years ago.  They have finished their house remodel in Redwood City and it was nice to see a job well done.  Their big project lately, however, has been to start up their son's downtown Redwood City  restaurant, The Striped Pig.  I was fascinated by the complexity of designing and opening the place.  The menu focuses on "small plates" and "designer cocktails", lots of imagination and good tastes.  We would certainly recommend the place even if Scott and Malinda weren't so nice to boot.

d160123_02_ammovie.jpgSaturday started with early movies for the kids and moms.  From there, it seemed like the day was dominated by birthday parties.  Sam went to one and Ava went to a pair, including one that extended to an overnight stay at her best buddy's.

Gabby and Mamal took the babysitting opportunity to have a night out while Marianne and I took Sam out for pizza at Willow Street, one of his favorites (and mine, to tell the truth.)  For the record, and to be able to blackmail him when he is a teenager, I will note that Sam was a real pistol and a handful for his babysitters.  Just testing.  It's a stage.  The fours. Etc.  We love him anyway!

d160124_10_gaitherspile.jpgd160124_12_seanburied.jpgI started Sunday following the big snowstorm back east.  Geoff and his family were in the heart of "Jonas", the biggest mid-Atlantic storm in history by some accounts.  Halfway through the snowfall, their picnic table looked pretty buried.  By the time little Sean got out to help shovel snow, he almost disappeared.
d160124_16_va_snow.jpgWe also checked in with Peter and Chin, whose Northern Virginia driveway had it's fill of snow too.

We appreciate all these snow disaster pictures because it makes Fresno look so pleasant.  Sure, the summers are hot, but the roads stay clear.  (Actually, we are getting rain this year, and snow in the mountains, but that's as it SHOULD be.)

d160124_02_sanddaddy.jpgd160124_04_concentrate.jpgMeanwhile, Mamal had gone out early for a golf tournament.  He said he started poorly but finished well.  Sounds encouraging.  Once home, he immediately took Sam out for some T-ball practice.  They take this practice pretty seriously, which for Sam means concentrating with his tongue firmly clenched.  Cute.

From there it was more birthday parties for the kids, lunch and shopping for the moms, and NFL playoff tv for me.  A separate day but everyone gathered back in the kitchen for the pizza Mamal brought back.  Not good for the diet, but family fun nonetheless.

On Monday Gabby and Marianne delivered the kids at school and then they joined me for breakfast at one of our old hangouts.  It is the type of place where the waitress remembers babies from past years.  Nice start of the day.
From there, it was another trip across the San Joaquin Valley.  Not exciting.
d160125_02_windowview.jpgAlong the way, we stopped at the San Louis reservoir.  The water level there serves as the real measure of how much rain central California has received so far and it was encouraging.  At the visitor's center, the docent said they had added a foot a day to the lake since the beginning of 2016 and hope to keep filling at that rate through March and even April if the rain and snow continues.  The view is much different from our last pictures here.


On Tuesday, back home, we had a hand-holding session with our financial planner as we expressed concern about the 10% drop in stocks over the last couple of weeks.  Not something retirees like to see, but they provided reasonable-enough stories, so we will go on with our lives by packing for a two-day stay up in Yosemite.  The next story.

John and Marianne


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