Friday, May 28, 2010

Operation Madera

Yesterday I rode the train up to Fresno to surprise Sarah for her birthday. About half an hour outside Fresno, however, Kathy calls me and says that Sarah is going to Madera to hang out with maybe I could just ride the train up to the Madera station and get off there? I agree that this is a good idea, hang up, and start to plan.

The problem is that the conductor has marked my seat with an F, meaning I must get off in Fresno. He even comes around as we're coming into Fresno, looks me straight in the eye and says "you get off next stop". I smile and nod as if there is no doubt that I'm getting off in Fresno, all the while worrying about how I'm going to make it to Madera without getting caught...especially now that he's marked me.

Since I ride the train back and forth from Santa Barbara fairly often, I have a pretty good idea of the conductor's route through the bus as he takes tickets, and I think I know how to avoid him. In fact, I've planned this out before, just never had a reason or the guts to try it. But all sorts of possibilities are starting to worry me: I think there are two conductors...what does the second one do? What if instead of going back to front, this time he goes front to back? What happens on the lower level of the train? Will he recognize me if he sees me again?

I keep these concerns in mind, but try not to stress too much as I plan out my every move for the 30 minutes between Fresno and Madera.

Step 1- I remain in my seat for the 5 minute stop in Fresno. If the conductor does happen to walk by, I'll start slowly packing up my stuff so it looks like I'm getting off.

Step 2- Once the train starts to move, I have to get out of car 2. It's a dangerous place since a) too many people sitting next to me know that I should've got off in Fresno, b) the doors of cars 1 and 3 don't open, so my options to escape are limited, and c) right around the time we get to Madera is when the conductor will have made it to car 2 to collect tickets. So, I put on my backpack and start walking towards the back of the train. I have to try and make it all the way to car 4, since that's the next nearest place the doors open. It's risky to move backwards (since the conductor is moving forwards) but if I can somehow avoid him seeing me as we cross paths, then the rest of the trip will be relatively relaxed.

Step 3- I get to car 4 (I assume he's still taking tickets in car 5, but he'll be heading my way any time) and stow my bag in a luggage rack. I grab a long-sleeved shirt, and go change my appearance in the bathroom in car 4. I decide that taking my hair down and putting on a red shirt might make me look just different enough that the conductor wont recognize me if we do cross paths.

Step 4- I spend the next 15 minutes in the bathroom. Once I decide that he has probably passed by me now, I cautiously walk up to the top level...the coast seems clear. I go grab my bag and wait by the door, so it looks like I'm waiting to get off at Madera.

Step 5- I step off the train...and am almost face-to-face with the conductor! Luckily, I had a kleenex in my pocket just in case this happened, so I quickly grabbed it and blew my nose while making sure it covered half my face. I walk right past him and he didnt even recognize me.

So, Sarah and Beth came to pick me up at the Madera train station, not the Chowchilla police station. I would call that clandestine success!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Georgia On My Mind

When I found out that our next move is to Atlanta, GA, I did not take it with as much grace as I should have. In fact, there was actual crying, which is rare for me. As soon as I recovered from the crying phase, I moved into the bargaining one and nailed my list of demands to Chris's church door. My requirements:

1. We go home for the holidays at my discretion.
2. I get to take a Spanish class.
3. As soon as we can afford it, I get to buy a new couch. And a piano.
4. We never voluntarily go to the 'World of Coke', unless there is some situation where refusing to go would be incredibly socially awkward.

The World of Coke has become kind of a flashpoint for me about what's wrong with Atlanta. Mostly it's the way people say it, when they're trying to reassure me that Atlanta is going to be great. It goes like this:

Me, not enthused: We're moving to atlanta.
Cheerful person, who is not, themselves, moving to Atlanta: Oh, I hear Atlanta is great. They have, they have...don't they have a big aquarium? And they have the World of Coke!

Like somehow a building where I could go and pay money to learn about a soda is going to make my life better in ANY way. And a city where one of the major attractions is museum about a soft drink has never, ever, really considered the Sierra Nevada mountains. I'm just saying.

But I started thinking about that little clause- the one about awkward social situations. Just who would want to go there that I couldn't refuse? So far I've only come up with two people:
1) My mother-in-law. Not that she would want to, but if she ever DID come to visit and ask to go there...well, I would go. For so many reasons.

2) Jimmy Carter. I'm pretty sure that everyone in Georgia must think of Jimmy Carter as their adopted grandpa. And, being new in town, I can't just show up and start dissing people's grandpas. So if Jimmy Carter ever asks me to go to the World of Coke with him, I will do it.

But the rest of you can forget it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Top 5 Signs Your Interview Is Going Well

5. Purely by coincidence, your interviewer went to the same study-abroad country that you did and you spend a good part of the interview just talking about that.

4. After the interview is over, the two of you just hang around for awhile chatting, talking about good books and other things you have in common.

3. Your interviewer mutters something about you being 'in a different class than all these other schmucks I've been interviewing', and then looks a little taken aback when she realizes maybe she shouldn't have said that out loud.

2. You interviewer asks if you'd consider being the godmother for her unborn child.

And the #1 sign that your interview is going well:
1. Your interviewer calls you a 'kindred spirit' at the conclusion of the interview. Seriously, how often does that happen?

Of course, it's also possible that Rachel just had an interview with someone who does it the way Beth would..."oh, that is a fantastic answer. Well, you're totally off base, and we'll never be able to hire you... but in a really really good way! That's just the way I would have answered wrong myself!"

Nice work, Rachel.

Friday, May 14, 2010

you were lucky!

So syd is going to her 3rd grade field trip today. Monterey Bay Aquarium! i am driving her to the school at 7am this morning, just her and me. all she has with her is a sack lunch. we are talking and i say, "do you want to take anything else? a book or a toy or something? it is a 3 hour drive."

she says "o no, i'll be fine. i have this rubberband on my wrist."

then she proceeds to show me 101 things you can play with a rubberband: shapes you can make, pretend it is a hula hoop for your finger, stuff you can flick, even a tiny version of jacob's ladder (remember that string game?).

i love that kid.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Six Rings To Rule Them All

A few years ago we had sister rings made. There are six of them, all the same, with our birthstones around the outside and the Ashby family values engraved, ghetto-style on the inside. Mine is one of my favorite possessions, and I was looking at it today. I started to think about what would happen to it after I's not like I can really give it to anyone, because who could wear a sister ring from someone else's sisters? No, it seems to me the only person I could give it to would be another Ashby sister.

And then I had a vision. A vision where I get very old and just before I die, I press my sister ring into Rachel's trusty hand. And then Beth does the same, and then Sarah, and get the picture. Finally, Rachel, the last surviving member of the Ashby sisters must discharge her sacred duty. Clutching the rings in her wrinkled hand, using the last ounce of strength in her teetering legs she climbs the the top of a seething volcano and flings them into the boiling lava where they vaporize into the eternities.

You guys have any other ideas?


The pictures of Puerto Rico will end soon, I promise. But for now...

The US Military used to practice on Culebra, and they left behind some of their stuff. Push harder Lucy!

Flamenco Beach- supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The water was amazing.

I like to call this picture "Happy Mother's Day, Carrie."

We found a spot under some palm trees. Theo, who knows a good thing when he sees it, curled right up and went to sleep.

The aptly named Flamboyan trees are in bloom right now. It's almost enough to make you love this place.

Friday, May 7, 2010

what the lawrences are up to lately.

our first baby potato.

jack gets $ for being stinkin' cute and three yrs old.

our beautiful baby boy.

and here is eric being VERY BRAVE.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I was thinking again about how exciting it would be to go to a launch at the Kennedy SpaceCenter. I love that stuff. The launch scene in Apollo 13 makes me cry every time. Reading through Krissie Cook's blog and looking at her pictures made me remember the last time our family went there. I know I've told this story before, but I want to record it for posterity...

Lucy was only about 9 month's old, and had spent the previous day eating sand at the beach. As we parked at the Space Center, we realized that the last tour of the day would leave in about 15 minutes, and we could just make it if we really hustled. In a blur of efficiency, Chris picked Lucy up from the stroller and I moved to fold it up... only to be distracted by a large puddle of grey, grainy stuff in the bottom of it. "Hmm, what's that?" I remember thinking, and then the wheels in my brain clicked. Everything went into slow motion as I reached out for Chris who was just snuggling her up to his chest "NOOOOoooooo!" But too late, and as he peeled her away from him, I distinctly remember the baby outline imprinted in sand poo on his T-shirt.

Of course we had no change of clothes, so as Chris stood there holding her at arm's length, I sprinted into the gift shop. I found a new shirt for Chris, and started scanning around frantically for baby stuff. Unfortunately, the only thing they had in baby size was this:

What could I do? With Chris in his new NASA T-shirt and Lucy in this, I've never felt like such a geek. I could see people pointing and whispering. "Look, that family loves space so much they dress their baby up like an astronaut!"

But hey, we made the tour. I wonder if they sell these in size 6, for when we go to the launch this fall?

Saturday, May 1, 2010


sleep in socks/hat/two pants,
eat brownies for breakfast,
stay up way too late,
don't brush teeth (because we remembered AFTER we got them in bed),
wake up freezing,
dirty dirty dirty,
and pee outside.

these are the reasons jackson says "camping is CRAAAA-ZZZEE!"


She's been a fine car, but today she drove away with Santiago, and it's time to say good-bye. So, in honor of our trusty Suburu, some facts and statistics:

Year built: 1999. Year purchased by Gregory family: 2002
Final mileage: 205,146
# of states (associated free or otherwise) lived in by car: 3. Colorado, California, Puerto Rico.
# of Ashby sisters who were primary drivers of car at some time: 3. Carrie, Claire, Rachel.
# of Gregory kids driven home from hospital in this car: All.
# of dents on TOP of car: 1, inflicted by Claire's roommate Liz somehow. (???)
# of dents in bumper: 1 (caused by sliding backwards down snowy hill into tree)
# of years a sunglasses case was stuck in the dashboard: 3 (until Claire got it out)
# of years clock remained unset: 3 (until Claire figured it out)
# of times engine totally replaced: 1
# of times Sarah drove to Chowchilla to rescue us while engine was being replaced: at least 1
# of life forms supported: 2,000,405 (4 Gregorys, 1 young plant growing out of wheelhub, 400 cockroaches and approximately 2 million mold spores growing on the backseat)

Did you know that Suburu means 'Pleiades' in Japanese? And that's why the Suburu symbol is seven little stars, just like the constellation.

Here are some pictures from her final day with us.

Last day. Appropriately, hood up.

I wasn't kidding about the plant.

Here you can see where we super-glued the mirror on about a year ago.


Santiago says that he's taking her to his farm, where he's planning to cut the roof off and turn her into a Suburu tractor to haul hay for his horses. I don't know if he was just telling me that so I wouldn't cry, but I sure do hope that's the truth. Roll on, green Suburu.