Monday, January 28, 2013

sydney's art project

we are very proud of sydney!  her and her art teacher planned out and practiced this for 3 weeks.  i told them basically what i wanted and gave them some of my left-over paint to use...

she has a very cool artists signature.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

a lawrence update

 sydney and eric getting along and re-enacting a scene with pip and merry from lord of the rings:

an electric hog came to visit one saturday:

in a post-christmas downer/frenzy, i repainted my house:

and bought some new art:

i've been cooking in my beautiful pans, thanks to my mom and sisters:

watching tv and getting drunk on christmas joy:

and going to the river with dad:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Scenes From A Birthday

 A poet and a gentleman- Theo, age 5.

A young Stephen Hawking?

 The 'Transformers' cake that just kept on giving.

 Trick candles- blow, Theo, blow!

And now for the main event:
 Moment of truth.

I love the strings of syrup coming off of his elbows.

Thanks to Rachel and her new camera for documenting the event so well!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

sarah is a good date

so sarah (and mom's money) wanted to take me shopping for my birthday.  so we meet at costco.  not my favorite place to shop, but after a walk thru the frozen food section, we wandered around a bit.
sarah reaches into her purse and hands me TWO FRESHLY BAKED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!! and i know they are fresh  cuz they are STILL WARM!!

 i am so happy at this point.

we found a giant box of BEAUTIFUL pots... i only needed a soup pot.. and a small pot (mine warped so you had to rock it back and forth to heat it even).  ok and a frying pan (my "non-stick" was sticking).   we had a choice between stainless and alluminum.  a quick call to chloe to find out which was better wasn't immediatly returned, and they were so expensive... i was going to pass but sarah said i was worth it and grabbed the most beautiful one while i was still deliberating!!

can you tell which are my old pots and which are my new ones?!  hint- the new ones have lids.

i am so happy at this point.

because costco can be dangerous, sometimes you just gotta "potifer's wife" it out of there.  we were both a little stunned at the money we just spent, so we RAN for our cars.  
we went to RRRROSSSSSS!!  oh man, i have forgotten how much i love that place.  we went past the shirt section and picked practically the first 3 shirts we saw and took them with us to try on.  then we went to the home decor section, cuz i just painted my house (all the insides of the main area) and i was in need of stuff like this:

i am so happy at this point.

we WERE on our way to the front, with the full intention of leaving, when we started going thru the $9-$18 dollar dresses.  sarah was awesome.  "try this one", and "darcy would like this one", and "oh! you should cut this top off and make a long skirt out of it!"

we went to one of my favorite place in fresno...
we shopped
with two carts !
and no kids !
and birthday permission
to buy what i wanted to !
for my birthday lunch
that i am cooking for my fun friends on wed!!
and i will wear my new shirt
and cook in my new pots!


(all this on top of the best present of all - watching colin for 2 days so i could be by myself)

sorry about all the exclamation points, but sarah is a champ and i am a lucky girl.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Top 10 Signs that Gordon is good to Claire

When I was in California last week, I got to see for myself just how cute Hal is.  I also got a little insight into just what a champion husband Gordon is being:

10. He listens while Claire tells him the funny things that happened on Family Feud that day.

9. He brings her ice cream with just the right amount of milk in it.

8. When Claire gets up in the night to feed Hal, Gordon moves over into her spot to keep the bed warm for her.

7. He does all of the cooking.

6. He does all of the laundry.

5. When I offered to get up with Hal in the night,  Claire said, "Sure, you can take Gordon's shift."  Wait, Gordon has a SHIFT?  Every NIGHT?!

4. When Claire says, while looking at her feet, "Hey, this isn't the way you usually tie my shoes!"

3. For Claire's birthday, Gordon made the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted.  Even Beth would have liked it.

2. When Gordon was bringing Claire some soup to eat on the couch, he made an extra trip back from the kitchen to clarify which size of spoon she would prefer to eat it with.

1.  After Gordon brought her a piece of the cake that he made for her, Claire pointed out that her wedge of cake was wider on the bottom than it was on the top, causing some displeasing asymmetry. Gordon hurried over and quickly evened it out before anything really bad could come of it. Phew!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


A week before Christmas a couple of boxes were delivered to the front porch of our house. My daughter Carrie bought gifts for us online from Atlanta and had them shipped directly to us. She had alerted us and I figured these were from her. I put them against the wall in the living room even though they weren't very festive - cardboard boxes. They were pretty standard shapes- nothing to cause serious curiosity.

Three days before christmas, Carrie called and said i should open her presents before the family christmas party on december 23. I've always had a little deal about opening presents early but she assured me the item would be good to have for the party. We agreed to have a video chat the next day so she could watch while I opened the present.
'Good for the party?' I thought. We have the party at our dance studio. Hmmmm. Maybe it's a disco ball. No, that would be dumb. Ah-ha! I know - it's a laser light display machine!
I set the macbook up with the camera facing the coffee table. I got connected with Carrie on video chat. Which box first? I automatically pick up the big one but she says no, the smaller one. Very light weight,,,,, it 's a...a...a.....flying shark?!?! Oh, wow. I'm.... surprised. Carrie says she was at a party where one of these was flying around and it was very cool. "ok," I say. "thanks!" then she adds, "If it's too hard for you to put together maybe you could get Rachel to help you ." Heeyyyyy?

A flying shark? Not a blimp or a fighter plane or a helicopter? Then I see on the box , it says 'air swimmer.' That makes a bit more sense. I sign off on the video chat and put the box aside. I trust Carrie's judgement about what is cool so i make a mental note to get it to the party. Oh, and the other, bigger box was a small tank of helium gas. I didn't know you could send that by Fedex.
The day of the party I'm checking down the list of what I need to do and I think about the shark. I get the box and open it. The assembly instructions are 4-5 wordy pages and lots of diagrams. I see that the inflated shark balloon is over 4.5 feet long. There are many parts - fins, rubber bands, adhesive pads battery housing, remote control, gear things.......oh man I don't have time to study all that now. I'll give it to Tim and he can figure it out while I'm setting up the party. Who needs
Rachel when you have Tim?
Tim is a clever son-in-law who I trust to do anything well. Tim's eyes get a little big when I throw the box at him and say "get this set up." A half hour later the party is happening and I glance across the room and see a large shark filled with helium straining to break free. While everyone else is starting to eat, he and a couple of kids are still working on it. The instructions are laid out and moving parts are being added to various locations on its body. I can tell by the look on Tim's face it's a challenge. I'm pleasantly surprised by the size of the fish and the graphics on the shiny nylon body. At your very first glimpse it looks sort of real.

The next thing I know the thing is swimming around the room as if we were having a party inside a large aquarium. People stop what they are doing to watch this shark learn how to swim. The little boys have exploded with excitement. Tim gradually figures out the controls and silently swims the shark up behind my sister Gail and bumps her on the back of her head while she is eating. Very entertaining.
I put down my plate and ask for the remote. One rocker button swishes the tail back and forth to create forward motion. The other button moves a weight toward the front or back to climb or dive. Pretty soon I have it under control and I feel great moving this big fish around the room. The little boys chase and taunt the fish. I finally threaten to throw them out of the party if they touch the fish again. The fish is mine! "DON'T TOUCH THE FISH!!" I give them my best grandpa snarl. I let some of the other men operate the fish and everyone gradually gets used to the idea of a predator at the party. It comes time for organized activities and the shark is put in the storeroom. The electronics are turned off.

After the festivities the shark comes out to swim a little more. As the party breaks up I consider taking him home to play with, but he's so darned big. He's also kind of strong. The instructions said to put enough helium in to stretch the wrinkles out of his skin. Wow. We added a bit more. Even the kids were saying, "That's enough!! That's enough!!" and covering their ears as they watched him swell and make popping noises as he seemed to over-inflate.
As I closed up the studio to go home I went to turn off the lights in the back room. There he floated. Tim had tied him to a heavy piece of metal on the countertop. I wondered if that was necessary. I was afraid we had used up the batteries and like most balloons he would be floundering near the floor by the next time I saw him. Well, it was fun for one night. I hope Carrie didn't spend too much money for him.

Pre-christmas activities consumed my time and it wasn't until two days later on christmas morning that I went back to the studio to get some chairs for the christmas dinner table. Whoa. There he was - strong and ready. I wanted to play but didn't take the time. I turned off the lights and left him - sleeping, I imagined. It was two more days until I returned to the studio to teach tango class. I went to get the big dust mop for the dance floor. Oh, he's still there! Still strong, moving gently with every current of air. Ok, let's do it. I untied him. I switched on the controls and the red lights came on bright. I wrestled him through the door into the studio space and let go of the string. He responded right away. He was ready but it took me a minute to relearn the skills of air swimming. He wanted to head for the floor. I took out a little bit of weight. He seemed happy. When the first student showed up for class she found me and a shark moving around the dance floor. She is a professor of construction management. She giggled at what she saw. Ok, ok. Time to put my dance shoes on. I squeezed him back through the curtain and didn't take time to tie him down.

After class i started to close up the studio for the night. I went to turn off the lights in the back room. The shark wasn't there - where i had left him?! Oh, he had made his way past the rack of chairs and the storage shelves to the back door. I brought him back and tied him to the top of a broom handle in the corner but he pulled right off. I tied him to the top of the folding chair rack. The first knot didn't hold. I understood why tim had tied him down. "Oh good," I thought, "He's still going to be fun at the new years eve party."
Some family members actually inquired about him during phone conversations the next few days. Most everyone agreed he was the hit of the party. I showed the shark to everyone who came by the studio over the weekend. During one demonstration he acted very strange. He could hardly swim and would drift sideways for a while, then make another weak effort. I considered the idea that he was worn out. I finally realized that I had the heating system on and the fan-forced air was too much for him. He was very sensitive. I would make sure the air was turned off at the start of the new year's party.
He was magnificent at the party. "Where did you get that !?" "My grandson would love that!!" I put a little weight back in his ballast so he would come off the ceiling and float right.  As more people arrived he got too big for the room. I finally had to put him away after some lady punched him hard on the nose. Hey!!! Easy on the fish!! I turned on the heater.
After most of the party people left I got him out again and gave the controls to some young men who hadn't seen him earlier. I turned off the heater. They couldn't believe how he moved. I thought surely the helium would go flat by the next party so I let them play with him while I cleaned up. They finally left and I was more than ready to go home. I turned him off and pushed him into the back-room. We had cleaned up the kitchen and the tables and chairs but left all the sound equipment, computers, projectors and light strands to be put away later. I turned off the lights, armed the alarm, locked the doors and went home.

After a lazy new year's day I knew I had to get over to the studio early the next morning and clean up before we resumed our regular schedule of classes. My slow-start morning was jarred at 7:50 am by a ringing telephone. Caller id on the phone screen was vague but I decided to answer. "Hello, this is Hoffman security. Our monitors are showing movement in the studio front room. Is there supposed to be anyone there now?" 'No' I said - my mind was starting to try to think. "I'll go over and check," I told them.
I jettisoned my house robe and pulled on levis and re-applied my slippers. I grabbed a shirt and a coat and took off into a very frosty morning. It takes less than 5 minutes to get there but that's plenty of time to picture the worst. The security system has activated several times since we installed it. Sometimes it was human error, a few times for real.
I thought about all the equipment I had left out and all the strangers who had come to the party, and how tired I was when I left after 1 am two days ago. Had I locked the back door? It doesn't latch all the way sometimes.......
I pulled in and stopped the car near the front door. I could hear the alarm's annoying sound inside. No windows broken. No one would stay around this long if the alarm was going off. I put the key in the lock and opened the front door. Guess what? The shark was staring me in the face. It had found it's way out of the back room, through the partly-opened curtains, across the dance floor, into the dining room then through another door into the front reception room. As the sun began shining in the windows the shark began setting off the motion sensors. I laughed as I thought about explaining this to the security company or the police. I grabbed the string and led him back to his little lagoon. 'What are the chances he would get all the way out there?' I thought.
I went home for coffee and real clothes. I enjoyed telling Kathy the circumstances of the alarm. I returned to the studio to finish the party clean-up. A lot of the stuff had to go back in the storeroom. What a force. He was still very full of helium and dominating the storeroom. He kind of made me nervous. Hmmm. Time to take him home. I read how to deflate and store him. No - I decided to take him to Tim's shop. Tim had been so good at putting it together and I thought Tim really understood the shark. Tim could entertain his customers for a day then take the shark home. His house is a good one for a large ocean creature. There is open space and a high ceiling. There are also children still out of school for christmas vacation.
I also had the van, so there was plenty of room to transport the thing. I got the shark and explained he was in for a change of scenery. I took it out the back door of the store-room to the van. I opened one of the back doors but I needed both doors open to fit him in. He floated in the cargo space. I slammed the doors shut. I got the remote control and the extra batteries and threw them on the front seat.
I went back in to put a few more things away but when I happened to glance outside I saw the shark floating free at my eye level, just outside the studio door. He had escaped the van through the side door. The morning air was very cold and heavy but still he was rising very very very slowly. I sprinted around the folding chair rack and out the door and made a leap for the dangling string. I was stunned that i barely left the ground. A few years ago I might have got him.
My hand disturbed the air enough to push the fish up and definitely out of reach. I actually wailed - nearly a scream 'ohhh noooooooo!!!!' Kathy came running out. It was above our building roofline now gaining altitude and drifting. Pure panic!! I got in the car thinking it might come down in the fitness center parking lot next door, but no. It was heading due north, up Maroa avenue. It stopped over the intersection of Maroa and Shields and did a little circle 100 feet above the ground. My car was beeping at me because i didn't have my seat belt fastened and I had stopped in the middle of the street to get out and watch. The shark was very stable and headed straight north again. It was a shark, swimming through central Fresno. I drove two more blocks up Maroa and pulled off the street by the canal. I fumbled for my cell phone to take a photo but when I looked up he was gone. I drove around for a few minutes. It's been a long time since i felt so heartbroken. I started to cry. I couldn't think of anything sensible to do. I hoped for a walt disney ending. I thought of the stories I had heard from fellow glider pilots about the strange things they had seen in thermal rising air at high altitudes. When I returned to the studio Kathy told me she had grabbed the remote control from the van as I sped off in the car and pointed it at the fish in an effort to turn it around. Maybe that's why I thought I saw the tail move as it went over the canal.

I was disappointed that I was the only one to see him go. People were driving and walking and bicycling unaware. He was quite a vision. Big, strong, confident. He didn't look back. I got sad thinking about how to tell Carrie and Tim. I felt like I had lost something important- but he had been determined to go for several days. I decided to calm down, get ahold of myself and consider things from his point of view.


Remember when Jax looked like the Hunchback from Notre Dame, and Theo looked like Jack Nicholson, and Levi looked like Superman?  Well, Hal wants into the club: