Mostly September

This will be our 300th published blog post! That calls for a little celebration and a big thank-you to anyone who’s still reading us after all these years!

Here are some photos from the very end of August and from September.

August 25

Pretty end-of-summer flowers.
I pass these on my way to work.

August 26

The Post had a little brew fest, so we went over at the tail end. Dave and I had a beer and the kids did a few of the kids’ activities.

Relaxing at the Post beer festival.
Hey, she’s good at hillbilly golf!

September 3

Benjamin was playing trucks all day; he spent a ton of time describing who was driving around in them. I managed to capture a bit of his imaginative play on video.

September 6

All the fires in the West blew smoke our direction, so we couldn’t see the mountains—or the sun—for a few days.

All the fires in California, Wyoming, and Montana made smog so thick we couldn’t really see the mountains.
The smog made a lovely sunset!

September 9

We drove into Boulder to hang out for the afternoon, which started with some delicious gelato.

Licking gelato out of a cup balanced on a cone.
Benjamin’s dark chocolate gelato must’ve been yummy!
Happy boy!

September 10

Benjamin has homework this year; he has to put the numbers from 1–10 in order on top of a picture, and he also has to learn the letters and sounds of the alphabet. Here he’s working on his numbers.

Working on some numbers homework.

We decided to replace the crumbling, sun-faded flooring in the front room with new vinyl tiles, the kind you can grout.

We finally decided to replace the crumbling vinyl tiles in the front room.
Hey, it looks pretty nice! (This is before the grouting.)

September 11

On picture day we took a white cake with chocolate frosting over to our church friend Clint, who had turned 59 that week. Phoebe did the decorating.

Phoebe decorated Clint’s birthday cake: “Happy 59th Birthday Clint Yay Clint”
She did a great job!
…and she ate some blue icing.

September 14

I looked over, and there was Benjamin riding the vacuum.

Riding the vacuum cleaner.

September 16

I did a sprint triathlon in Morrison in the morning. I was really nervous about the swim because I’d had so much trouble with the swim last year. This year, not only did I do a much shorter race, I also rented a wetsuit. It was the thick kind they use for scuba diving, and when all the other women in my wave were freezing waiting for the race to begin, I felt pretty warm. I ended up being happy with my performance all around! Unfortunately for Dave and the kids, it was a chilly day—great for exercise but tough on the spectators.

Waiting for the race to start. Everyone but me is freezing!
I’m just a few minutes from getting into the water.
Finished the swim…on to the bike.

September 18

Phoebe gets a weekly report card from her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Marshall. Things are looking good at the beginning of the year!

We love to hear that she’s an awesome role model and a voracious and fluent reader! (She does talk too much in class, and she did forget the first math homework of the year…but we’re still so proud of her!)

September 19

King Soopers had some key limes, which I’d never seen before, so I made this pie, using stale molasses cookies for the crust. It was delicious!

Homemade key lime pie with molasses cookie crust and homemade whipped cream.

September 22

We got new chairs for the conference room at work. It was really fun to put them together! It was a project that could actually be finished, for a change.

This is what work actually looks like (occasionally). Putting together new chairs for the conference room.

September 23

Benjamin is enjoying one of his three raincoats.

I’ll smile! Cheese!

September 24

Remember Clint, our church friend? His wife Carolyn turned 59 a couple of weeks after he did, so the kids helped make her a spice cake (with spice frosting!).

Making a birthday cake for Carolyn (spice cake with spice icing!)
Phoebe did much of the work herself. She’s getting very handy in the kitchen.

September 25

We dropped off Carolyn’s cake a few days before her birthday. Again, Phoebe did a great job with the decorations.

“Happy 59th birthday Carolyn”
Happy kiddo.
Wooo! I decorated the cake!

September 26

Benjamin’s fifth birthday! It was a busy day. I volunteered at Laps for Lafayette, Phoebe’s school’s annual fundraiser. The kids run laps around the field for 45 minutes. Then we all went to the dentist, ate burritos for dinner, opened presents, and stopped by the library to get Benjamin his own library card. He had a wonderful birthday!

Holy crow; the littlest Gribble is 5!
Phoebe coming outside to start Laps for Lafayette.
Marching with purpose.
Here she goes!
Phoebe ran 3.75 miles!
Running with her teacher and her friend Ellie.
Glowing in the fresh air.
“Benjamin’s” mocha cupcakes with espresso frosting. (He doesn’t like cupcakes, so I made them for the rest of us.)
The kids play with birthday balloons.
Paw Patrol lunch bag and new light-up Woody cowboy boots! That’s a happy Benjamin.
At quarter till closing on his birthday, Benjamin got his own library card! (My friend Karen said he’s downloading the information straight into his brain.)

September 29

As we waited for Dave to meet us at the coffee shop after school/work, Phoebe drew tattoos for the three of us.

Phoebe giving Benjamin a spider tattoo—with web!
Working hard.
This is a trapezoid with a pig-cat zoid inside. (Trust me!)
Phoebe drew herself a cat.
That tattoo looks pretty boss.
I’m delighted with this one Phoebe came up with for me!

First Day of Kindergarten!

Benjamin missed yesterday because of the eclipse, so he started kindergarten today. He and Dave made his lunch last night, and he and I walked to school while Dave dropped Phoebe off and met us at Sanchez. Benjamin was both excited and nervous on the playground, but he lined up and made it into his classroom to put his lunch in the laundry basket marked “Mrs. Rothman” and adorned with a picture of a ladybug. He hung his backpack on his hook and disappeared from our view.

Just before leaving our house to walk to Alicia Sanchez International Elementary School.
Here he is on the playground getting ready for his first day of kindergarten.
He’s hidden by his friend Alejandro (with the red backpack; they were in preschool together), but he’s headed into the classroom with the other new kindergartners!

After school we learned that he’d had a good day. Congratulations, little boy! You’re truly getting big.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

We had such a great weekend! A year ago, we were camping with our friends the Gawenuses, and Kevin was telling us about a total solar eclipse that was coming in August of 2017. He said we’d need to get a hotel room almost immediately. It sounded very interesting, especially to Dave, our amateur astronomer, but also very far away. The year flew by, and after all that time waiting, the weekend finally came!

After considering the hotel option, we instead planned to camp somewhere in the zone of totality, because our home in Colorado is only a few hours away from the total eclipse. As the date neared, we poured over maps of BLM land and tried to figure out just how packed the highways were truly going to be. About a week ago, Lisa Gawenus mentioned a new plan: her mom and dad live in Dix, Nebraska, which is about 2 hours from here and only 1 hour from the zone. What if we camped in the Hochstedler backyard and drove up to Alliance, NE, or thereabouts on Monday morning?

A brilliant plan! We were able to spend Friday night NOT scrambling to get out of town. In fact, Dave and Phoebe went to a talk up at the Berthoud Observatory while Benjamin and I did the grocery shopping for the coming week. Saturday morning I went for a run, we had our usual burritos at Cannon Mine, and the kids and I strolled around the Lafayette Peach Festival while Dave got a haircut.

The kids pose in front of the pattern they made in the huge Connect 4.
Benjamin inches his way down the bouncy slide.
He’s much more comfortable climbing up!

We packed up the camping gear plus a load of astronomy equipment and drove off after lunch. After an uneventful drive with nary a spot of traffic, we beat the Gawenuses to Dix and introduced ourselves to John and Dorothy, Lisa’s parents, who welcomed us with open arms. We set up our tent, had some dinner, and put the kids to bed. It was very civilized to brush their teeth in the bathroom! We four grownups stayed up drinking wine and beer and chatting, gazing up at the clear Nebraska skies.

A wind farm in Wyoming. Note that we’re busy passing someone while I take the photo.
Lisa’s parents’ house.
Lisa and Fritz playing frisbee.
Benjamin had to take a 3-water-bottle shower after a dinner of spaghetti.

Sunday we spent the day lazing around the yard. We went to the playground, and Kevin flew his drone with the kids.

Video of B on playground:

Kevin and the big kids flying the drone.
Enjoying the afternoon outdoors.

We ate tons of food and made a slightly amended plan for the eclipse, based on the weather. The Internet informed us that the Scottsbluff area was going to be better viewing than Alliance, so we planned to leave for there by about 6:45 a.m. We were on the road right on time.

After a little bit of driving around, we stumbled on Lake Minatare State Recreation Area in Nebraska. We ended up on a road that led out to a peninsula and an old lighthouse built during the WPA era in the 1930s. There were dozens of people there, but not a crowd, and we were right on a lovely lake. After a bout of morning fog, the sun was shining like crazy. We walked along the beach while Dave set up his equipment and played some of what Benjamin calls frisbee ball. It wasn’t too long before C1 (the first contact of the edge of the moon with the edge of the sun). We alternated playing games with putting on our eclipse glasses and gazing up at the ever-shrinking sun. I’ll leave Dave to tell you about all of his filters and wedges; suffice it to say, we had all the cool gear. Phoebe had brought a notebook and wrote a report about what was happening (of her own volition!)

Our eclipse setup.
Kevin and Benjamin watching someone put a boat in the lake.
Our telescopes with the lighthouse in the background.
The perfect spot along Lake Minatare, NE.
A small crowd. Benjamin was ever ready to throw this great frisbee Fritz gave him.
Phoebe checking out the moon’s progress.
Writing a note in her eclipse journal.

A motorcyclist from California who was eager to check out our setup.
The motorcyclist has been all over the world!
Reliable bike with lots of capacity.
Phoebe checking out the view through the filtered telescope.

The wind kicked up. The sky got darker. We watched the bite out of the sun get bigger and bigger. We met other folks watching the sky. We ate snacks. We were all more excited than we thought we’d be, and then the moon slipped directly in front of the sun. Later, we all agreed that the 2 minutes went by in a flash. It was beautiful and spectacular. It was far more moving and powerful than I expected. It was worth every minute of the preparations and more. Just like the eclipse chasers on NPR said, once you’re seeing it, you’re watching in awe while wondering how soon you can see it again. We could see Venus clearly, and the sky looked like sunset. It was dark! And the edges of the sun slipping around the edges of the moon were glorious and otherworldly. It’s so hard to understand how powerful the sun is, but seeing how bright our sky is with most of the sun obscured was a great object lesson.

The eclipsing sun through a filter.
Almost gone…
Here you can see the eclipsed sun and Venus together.
The lighthouse with the eclipse.
It’s just after 11 a.m., but it looks like sunset.
Wow. Look at those coronal flares!
Total eclipse.

While we waited for Dave to photograph and view C4, we climbed up in the lighthouse, which was really neat.

A photo of Kevin taking a photo of Dave’s phone attached to the telescope.
Benjamin learning how to look through the special glasses.
Toward the end, Benjamin got interested and started looking up with his big sis.

What a perfect day! Great friends, the perfect place to have a stunning experience, and a pretty reasonable amount of traffic. We were home in time to eat a pizza and get Benjamin ready for his first day of kindergarten tomorrow.

Dave and Benjamin reading together the night before his first day of kindergarten!
Fire in the Forest, a favorite Lego book.

Gribble Family Vacation, Part 3

Monday, July 3

Our final destination was Jennifer and Lee’s house at Buckhorn Lake. We had a great time there two years ago, so we’d all been looking forward to going back for more than a year! We arrived in the afternoon, got settled in, and headed down to the lake to get acclimated. The kids were a bit timid, but that wouldn’t take long to overcome. On our way through Millersburg, we’d seen a sign for a brew pub, so we decided we wanted to go into town for dinner that evening. It would be the only meal we’d eat out the entire trip! The Otts were happy to join us, but it turned out that the brew pub was actually two separate things, and the brewery was closed. The restaurant was open, so we had some dinner and headed back for bed. Benjamin had decided he wanted to sleep in the pack-n-play, but in the big kids’ room, so all five kids planned to sleep together in two bunk beds plus a pack-n-play. As always on the first night with new sleeping arrangements, it was a bit chaotic, but they eventually fell asleep. Dave and I watched a movie while Jennifer and Lee taught online courses. (I can’t remember the order, but we watched Logan, Edge of Tomorrow, and Lego Batman: The Movie in the evenings. I slept through almost all of all three of them.)

Tuesday, July 4

It’s always fun to wake up whenever you want, eat some breakfast, and wander down the lake…vacation! On the fourth of July, my brother Matt and sister-in-law Erin joined us at the lake house for the day. We all went out on the boat for a while and took turns tubing. Later in the afternoon, Phoebe and I headed back to the house to make deviled eggs and six-layer salad for our cookout dinner. Phoebe deviled a dozen eggs all by herself, making half with paprika and the other half with capers. The others, including Benjamin, went out on the boat some more and Dave, Lee, and Matt did some high-speed tubing. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, and Long Island Iced Teas made with Matt’s clear liquor combo. It was a lovely way to spend the Fourth of July.

The lake from the living room: sunny day.

Wednesday, July 5

On Wednesday morning, I went out for a run—I meant to circumambulate the lake, but I got lost and ended up seeing only one side of it. It was so hot and muggy by 7 a.m.! I didn’t take any photos on the fifth. We spent most of the day down at the lake. Dave got a chance to drive down to Urbana to see his college saxophone professor; we’ve kept in touch with Hap and Mary Ann all these years through Christmas letters. They had a really nice conversation, reminiscing about their time together and talking music.

July 6

Thursday, Phoebe and I got up before everyone else and went down to the lake for our biennial mother-daughter kayak trip. We made it all the way to the playground, which was our goal! I absolutely love to be out on the lake in the morning; we had it to ourselves. Phoebe felt too tired to make it back, and cried quite a bit, but she didn’t really have a choice except to keep going, and she ended up being tougher than she thought. Later in the day, she was talking about how much fun she’d had.

Selfie before Phoebe and I go out on our mother-daughter kayak trip. It’s about 7 a.m.
Ready for the water!
Phoebe took this shot of me getting ready to go.
The sun is just peeking out from the trees.
Still some mist on the lake.
Putting on her life vest.
All right; we should be ready to go.
Phoebe sets out in the kayak.
We pulled the boats up on the dock to go play at the playground.

Every chance we got, Jennifer and I snuck out to the front porch to read. I had started (and am still finishing) a terrific book my friend Karen gave me for my birthday, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, by Bob Shacochis.

A very long game of Monopoly.
Jennifer finds a few minutes for a nap.
I’m reading a wonderful (if dark) book, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul.
Alexis eating a cold hamburger and playing a game on the iPhone.

July 7

Last full day at the lake. We were pretty much done with the boat and tubing, and we’d started to have some afternoon thunderstorms. We still managed an hour or so at the lake, but the kids played inside a lot, especially a car-racing video game. After the kids went to bed, Jennifer and I spent an amusing hour or so looking up people we remember from our Wittenberg days on Facebook.

The lake from the living room: rainy day.
Big Lion and Lion hugging.
Dave in the room that was ours for the week.
This is how you’ll find Jennifer and Lee once the kids are in bed.

July 8

I went running in the morning and was finally able to make it around the lake! We were able to stay at the lake house until it was time to go to the airport, and the weather was cooperating, so we did a bit of swimming and then got everything packed back into the Ottmobile. Jennifer drove us to Cleveland, and we buzzed through security and had plenty of time for dinner before we got on the plane.

Jennifer and me. Hard to believe we’ve known each other for 27 years!
Phoebe, Alexander, and Kaitlynn in a rare still moment.
Benjamin playing Legos on the patio by the dock. You can see his potty watch (shaped like a potty!)
Wet and happy kids. Alexis, Phoebe, Kaitlynn, Benjamin, and Alexander.
Alexis on the dock.
Sleeping on the airplane home.
Lion is waiting for Phoebe to come back.
Flying over Colorado.
Phoebe getting back from the bathroom.
Fluffy clouds!
The train car was practically empty, so the kids got the bench all to themselves.
Following Renee to Cherry Blaze.

Dave and I were so glad to get back to the dry air in Colorado! You can tell you’ve had a nice long vacation when you’re ready to go home afterward. My friend Reneé picked us up in Cherry Blaze, and we got home right around bedtime. We had Sunday to recover before going back to work. It was so great to see family and friends. The kids were terrific, and our vacation was a highlight of a busy and fun summer!