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A Graduation or Two and Babysitting

May 22- June 9, 2016
Written May 28+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

So here is yet another story for our own record.  The last diary ended in the first week of May and this one should end about a month later.  Ideally, we would have done tons of remarkable things in a month, but that's just not the way it usually goes, not this month and probably not most months.  Safaris and other long trips are still a ways off as we do OK with less exotic and less dangerous destinations.

Our initial social activity was a high school graduation celebration for Daniella, courtesy of neighbors Gloria and Steve.  This was a very warm celebration for various folks who have made Daniella who she is.  Marianne and I slipped into the included group by being part of her neighborhood, even for only a couple of years.  Most of the guests had seen Daniella grow from a little girl to a gifted and beautiful young woman so, as new-comers, we felt privileged.
Mom, dad, boyfriend(?), early teachers and many friends were wishing Daniella well as she heads to Cal Berkley to (initially) focus on international relations.
Our neighbors were there in force, as much force as we can manage anyway.
The setting was special too, a ball room in the old San Joaquin Power and Light building.  Even Fresno is dressier in the dark!

Next, we headed out to our Monte Sereno babysitting and dog sitting duty.  The plan is for a few days of babysitting Ava and Sam (always fun), a week dog sitting mild and mellow Zoe and young Charlie, definitely not mild and mellow.  We will complete the stay with Sam's "graduation" from pre-school.  A cap and gown operation unlike anything most of us had as his age!  Stay tuned.

d160526_02_cherries.jpgWe left Fresno in wonderful weather, not chilly and not too hot. This is also the start of local cherry season, so we HAD to make a stop at one of the farm stands we always pass.  I expect we will have another batch on our return in two weeks.  After that, it will be a string of San Joaquin Valley fruit: peaches, apricots, pears, grapes, and just about anything else that grows on trees.  Something to look forward to as we expect 100F heat to start when we get back -- and continue for at least three months.

d160526_04_guarddog.jpgOver in Monte Sereno, we were greeted by Charlie, the new puppy; cute, but much more work than good, old, Zoe.  From there it was full-time grand parenting.  Sam and I built some of the toy-kits he had just received for his fifth birthday.  I know I am prejudiced, but his Lego skills are really quite good - inherited from his mom, according to Gabby.  His bike skills need more practice, but with just a couple of days under his belt, he is doing fine. He and I also had to play "traffic", one of his favorite activities since he was a two-year-old.  He lines up all his little cars, and then proceeds to crash everything.  I think it is practice for later driving.

Ava is getting older too and now takes over the bedtime reading duty.  It's all good.

d160527_04_offtomex.jpgFriday (27th) started with a trip to San Jose Airport for the kids' mom and dad.  They would enjoy a Memorial Day Weekend down in Mexico, their break and our delight to have the kids to ourselves.
The kids' day starts with a good breakfast, including a green something-or-other drink and vitamins camouflaged as candy.  For the most part, this is about all the candy the kids get.  Mommy is pretty tough.

d160527_08_samschool.jpgThe rest of the day was mostly school, with normal activities for pre-school Sam and a field trip for Ava.  After we picked up Sam, Gigi and I took him out to a pancake breakfast, a treat for lunch for sure.  That's what grandparents are supposed to do.
Gigi picked up Ava after school and they did the grocery shopping for our taco dinner.  Meanwhile, Sam and I worked on more assembly toys, with a bit of basketball and gardening thrown in.  Even chores are fun together.

The plan is generally to start slowing down activities before dinner and we use the TV babysitter to help.  On this Friday, both kids were tired enough to just gaze at the screen, as quiet and cute as can be.  This too is time we value.

After tacos and a bit more TV, it was book reading and off to bed.  Never a complaint from these two.  (Well, maybe not "never", but certainly not the norm.)

d160528_02_gym.jpgSaturday started with my visit to the Fitness Evolution gym.  This is a branch of my Fresno gym, so I felt at home.  Tired, but comfortable.  Afterwards, I worked on this diary for a couple hours.  (Yes, this stuff does take some time!)

Later, we headed to Bass Pro Shops, a sporting goods store that doubles as a playground.  The kids started with boat test drives and moved on to quads.  Sam visited some fish too.  There's only a few pictures, but believe me they were bouncing from one "toy" to another for almost an hour, before we tried lunch in the bowling alley - noisy.

Boat Drivers
Quad Drivers
Fish and lunch
d160528_22_snack.jpgWe followed up this expedition with a swing by the frozen yogurt store.  (We still remember our last visit, when Sam was just three and he managed to drop his cone on the floor within two minutes.  I think the drop is still a trauma for him and for us!)

By now it was time to go home and settle in to watch the Warriors play a do-or-die game against Oklahoma City.  After trailing most of the game, the California team created one of their classic last-quarter wins and they will return to Oakland for the series deciding game on Monday.  Whenever this season ends, I will miss their drama!

d160529_02_welcomeplan.jpgOn Sunday we started with normal morning activities: a little breakfast, some diary-writing, and Ava's welcome back sign for her family.  (I promised not to send this to mom before she would see it in person, so don't tell Gabby about it.)  Ava likes Gigi and Opa, but REALLY likes mom and dad!

Heidi came by to rescue Charlie for the day, since it was clear the young puppy would not like being left alone for the day and we had a full day ahead.  Heidi's offer was a great favor!  Thanks!
Our big day was a visit to Gilroy Gardens, one of Ava's and Sam's favorite destinations.  We had been there once before, on an off-season weekday and, while we worried a bit about Memorial Day Weekend crowds, the worries were unfounded.  GG Gardens manages crowds well, and Ava and Sam were so enthusiastic about everything we could not let a few line waits to dampen our mood. 

Here's our photo record:
These are the required walking-in pictures, everyone smiling and cheerful.  Truth be told, five hours later, the smiles and cheer were still there!
The first and one of the last rides were carousels, one small and the other full-size.  The last time we were here, Sam wasn't too sure of either, but by now he was a big guy and loved it all.
The Ferris Wheel was our first big ride.  Ava rode with me and Sam with Gigi.  The view from on top was pretty good, with the little people below us and the green park stretching out toward Silicon Valley.
Sam's first roller coaster ever was the mine transport ride, bumpy and exciting.  (The area around Gilroy Gardens was originally a mercury ore mine, so there is some history connection.)
The second roller coaster ride was inside a giant rattle snake.  By now, everyone (except me) was being brave, with their hands in the air and screaming!
For a less-exciting break, we jumped on the green monorail and moved through the butterfly house and over other gardens.  The steam train ride was only a bit speedier, but it also had nice views of the gardens and water falls.
The kids enjoyed the small car ride, but we need to go on the bigger cars next time.  (The Memorial Day crowds had long lines at the more interesting rides.)
Finally, a ride in a giant strawberry.  Our three riders all said the swinging around almost made them dizzy, but I have my doubts.  It looked pretty tame to me!
d160529_80_food.jpgThe afternoon included a real meal, where Sam wanted to eat part of everyone else's order: hamburger, quesadilla, fries, and mac and cheese.  He will be tough to keep full as he gets older!  Ava was more cautious, since she had already negotiated the right to a snow cone for dessert.  Sam had a chocolate ice cream cone and finally declared that he was full.  Seven hours after we left home, we were back to bedtime preps, including a glass of wine for Gigi and me.  Babysitting is wonderful, but it is a handful. 

Monday was our last day of full-responsibility and we almost regretted mom and dad coming home.  Clearly, Sam and Ava were excited!
Welcome Home!

Tuesday was a return to the normal family routine, school in the morning and plenty of after-school activities.  Tennis lessons were organized, but swim and dance lessons were impromptu.  All fun.
Returns were pretty good, helped by the grimacing faces no doubt.

Swimming.  Jumping in a cold pool is always the hardest part.
After the swim, Ava organized a dance lesson for Sam.  It took him some time to get it, but he finally did some moves.  By then, Ava was ready to move on. 
As if this wasn't enough exercise, Gigi, Gabby, Sam, Ava, and Charlie went on a long evening walk.  (8,000 steps according to Marianne's FitBit!)  I stayed home and loafed, so there are no pictures of the excursion.  By the time they all came back, Ava had banged up her knee and Sam was past the point of exhausted.  Nothing a good night's sleep wouldn't cure.

Wednesday would be our last day with the family before they headed off to Hawaii, so we wanted to make the most of it.  Our first organized event was a visit to Ava's end-of-the-year school party in Bachmann Park.  The teachers and a few parents (including Gabby) had organized all sorts of activities and fun food.
d160601_02_poolfun.jpgd160601_04_poolguest.jpgAfter school, I entertained Ava and Sam in the pool, a great distraction from the 90F temperatures.  That's warm for the Bay Area, but mild compared to the 105F that Fresno had at the same time.  Glad to be away for this first hot spell.  Zohreh, the kids' other grandmother, came by to visit before their trip.  She will miss them, as will we.

Dinner was at the local country club.  Gabby had managed a table on the veranda and sitting in the warm evening was wonderful.  Dinner service was unusually slow, but it was a good time for wine, chatting and playing. 

d160602_02_packed.jpgThursday started early.  The family was packed and out the door, on time, before eight am.  Gabby runs a tight ship!  (Learned it from her mom -- not.) 

d160602_04_pose.jpgd160602_06_walk.jpgEven the trip to San Jose Airport was uneventful, not always a given with local traffic.  We dropped everyone off, had the required leaving pose, watched the troupes head to Alaska Airlines, and returned to our resort-with-dogs.
d160602_08_sit.jpgBy the time we got to the Rahimi Resort, we had received a picture of two kids, sitting in airplane seats, excited to be on the way.  We will miss them.  (Puppies are not a substitute.)

The rest of the day was quiet routine: Breakfast at Stacks in Campbell, a little gym time, grocery shopping, minor house chores, including dog-tending, and dinner while watching the Warriors win the first game of the NBA championship.  And time in a very quiet house.

With the kids gone, our life at the Rahimi Resort slowed down dramatically!  As I write this on Monday, I can't hardly even remember what we did, if anything, on Friday.  I do have record of visits to the gyms, and a  lunch at Zona Rosa in Los Gatos.  Nice, light, food.  The temperature was in the mid-90s, a full ten degrees cooler than back in Fresno!

d160604_02_resortmorn.jpgSaturday started early, as days always do with two dogs that need immediate release from the house after a night inside. It's not too bad, since the back yard and pool are peaceful and all I need to worry about is following dogs around.
(Meanwhile, the Rahimis sent back a family picture from THEIR Hawaiian resort.)

The rest of the day was routine, except for preparations for a dinner BBQ with friends.  Just like at our regular home in Fresno, having guests over forces quite a bit of arranging around the house, in addition to the meal.  (BBQ steaks, corn, and bread as well as mango coleslaw for salad and a fruit dessert.)
Malinda and Scott are among our favorite guests, because we seem to be able to talk for as long as we have time and few stories repeat!  While they live locally, they also have an apartment in Bavaria that they offer to us, an offer that we will take up just as soon as we can travel again.  Nice people and they even made a good impression on our little dogs!

d160605_02_zoeresting.jpgSunday started normal enough, with an early breakfast at Los Gatos Cafe, a town landmark that has been popular for a couple of decades, at least.  This gave Marianne and me time to talk about a complication that has arisen with her mom, back in Fresno.  It seems there is another mini health crisis, so we decided I would stay down here on dog-sitting duty while she would return to Fresno to help Mamo.  Marianne packed up and left after breakfast, leaving me with a very quiet house.  Even the dogs were not budging from their pillows.

I killed 20 minutes on the treadmill and about that much swimming.  Walking Charlie took another 20 minutes. That left a few hours of nothing before I could settle in to watch the Warriors win Game 2 of the NBA championship. After that?  More quiet time.  Too much, if truth be told.

On Monday and most of Tuesday my resort life remained quiet, with just puppies to talk to.  I did have a few chores, and thought of other activities, but reverted to just reading.   (Two books finished.  The first about US-Asia 20th Century history - a discouraging story of wars arising from misunderstanding and prejudice.  The second book covered part of Norwegian anti-Nazi activities in WWII - my mom's folks were pretty tough!)

Tuesday evening I met the Rahimi family at San Jose airport and everyone seemed excited, both to be home and to tell stories of their days on The Big Island: turtles, swimming, kids activity "school", and lots of family time.  Their break sounded much more active than mine!  To each their own.

d160608_02_teachcard.jpgWednesday was a busy day!  Despite the three-hour time change, Sam and Mamal both had to start their days on-time.  I didn't see dad before he left, but Sam was a zombie before Gabby trundled him off to this last day at Little Oak Pre-school.  Ava slept in until 10:00, well past her normal!

A few hours later, we were back to pick Sam up, after he gave each of his teachers a thank-you card for their wonderful treatment over the year.  I think I detected sadness in the teachers' eyes, or was that relief?
Celebration lunch at Los Gatos Cafe was bunny pancakes for the kids, and hot chocolate.  Clearly, the best part of the chocolate was the piled-high whipped cream.  Gabby and I ordered a "small" sandwich and soup, a meal showed up that was larger than we expected or needed, but tasty and it all disappeared.

After lunch it was mostly preparation for Sam's late afternoon graduation and the post-graduation pool party. Gabby faced the prospect of hosting as many as two-dozen kids and associated parents with amazing calm.  I think the Rahimi pool and pool house has hosted many of these gatherings. 
My afternoon duty was to take Ava over to Los Gatos Gymnastics School for her weekly class.  From the warm-up lap run to the wall climb two hours later, Ava and her classmates were given a thorough workout.  I asked her if she got tired from all that work and she said "No, I only get tired when I go to bed."  Personally, I get tired much more easily!
d160608b_04_sisbro.jpgd160608b_06_tuckeretc.jpgFinally, the time came for the Brown Bear and Polar Bear graduation ceremony.  Sam and his cousin Reef joined about three dozen excited classmates to don their gowns. An equal number of sisters and brothers and enough parents and grandparents to go around waited patiently in the hot afternoon sun.

The center of the ceremony was "the walk".  All the graduates did their very best to look and behave as formal as five- and six-year olds can.   In fact, the teachers had done a remarkable job of preparing and guiding their little charges.  Of course, it was a very appreciative audience.  Pick your favorite!

Sam and Reef
d160608b_50_pledge.jpgd160608b_54_samcert.jpgAfter The Walk came the Pledge of Allegiance, a song, and no speeches.  (Could be a good precedent for other ceremonies.)d160608b_52_reefcert.jpg
Then, Sam, Reef and all the others got their graduation certificates and a book introducing them to next year's kindergarten.  Time marches on.

After the formalities, it was time for pictures with friends, teachers, and families.
There was a nice BBQ dinner for everyone afterwards, but that turned out to be just part of the celebrations.

To complete a long day of festivities, Gabby and Mamal hosted a pool party for six to eight of Sam's friends from school, their sisters and brothers and, again, enough parents to go around.
Count the kids!
The party lasted until the last kids and parents faded at 10pm.  Marianne and I were not the last to crash, but others had youth in their favor.

Thursday morning, Marianne and I packed up and headed to Fresno.  Ava hadn't even woken by the time we left and Sam just made it at the last minute.

We will see them all just a day later as Gabby, Sam, and Ava come to Fresno to visit Mamo (and us, I presume.)  Another story.
John and Marianne


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