Our friend Katie commented that Phoebe sure is fast, in response to Jess’s recent Step Climbing post, and she’s absolutely right. Too fast in fact for her poor parents to keep up with all of her new tricks. Yesterday was my, gasp, 34th birthday. I got a bunch of wonderful presents. Jess and Phoebe decided to go with a couple of pairs of well selected socks (Phoebe picked, see the video below for an example) instead of the jazz CDs I received last year. Although Phoebe seems to be enjoying music reasonably well, and she sat through an entire band concert in the afternoon without a peep, I think it’ll be at least another year before she can assist in proper CD vetting.
I also got a cool new bit of Apple bling. Jess got me one of the new Apple TV things so that in addition to streaming Netflix straight from the Internet, we can pull up videos and photos from the desktop upstairs—visitors be warned! I also finally broke down and ordered a cheap wall mount for the TV from Amazon, so next weekend’s project will be a mix of Christmas preparations and now long-overdue baby-proofing. I’m hoping that with the TV firmly mounted to the wall, at least one small fear will subside.
In the interest of keeping everything in proper retrograde motion, I’ll proceed to our recent Thanksgiving trip. As many of you likely know, we have a bit of a tradition where we trade off with our friends Jennifer and Lee (and Alexander of course) traveling for the holiday. We started the tradition almost a decade ago, and it’s still going strong. A couple of years ago, it was Jennifer and Lee who got to experience the joys of traveling with a little baby; now this year it was our turn. We’d been monitoring the airplane prices for a couple of months, but since we got a new car back in July, I think both Jess and I were itching for a proper road trip (Phoebe, perhaps not so much). Being as it’s a long drive from Colorado to Michigan, we knew our only hope of success would be to drive all night when Phoebe is generally asleep anyway. As an added benefit, she’s still at an age where the car tends to knock her out, so we weren’t too apprehensive.
Just before hitting the road, I met Jess in Boulder to pick up the car after getting some new snow tires installed. Of course we left this task to literally the eleventh hour, but it all worked out just fine. We got to daycare in time to pick up Phoebe and ultimately hit the road at about 7:00 after getting the little lady fed and changed. She fell asleep almost immediately, and we settled in for a long car ride. Despite some bitter cold temperatures and some wicked wind across Nebraska (A.K.A. nothing unusual), we had lovely, clear, empty-road driving all the way to Chicagoland where we picked up some heavy rain. We also managed to avoid any close encounters of the law enforcement kind this time around. The drive was a bit longer than usual due to some extended out-of-car-seat stops, but not too bad.
We had a lovely, albeit short, visit with the Ott family. Alexander is a little ball of energy, and I think he has more toys than an F.A.O. Schwartz. We missed all of the parades and most of the football games, but we weren’t exactly excited about any of the match-ups anyway. Just after arriving, dinner was ready, so we pigged out and then goofed off a bit in the basement until everybody crashed.
After just a little over a day of hanging out with our friends, we piled back into the car and headed towards Coldwater, Michigan, for a quick visit with one set of Phoebe’s great-grandparents. The Hoots hadn’t met her yet, and seeing how close they are to Saint Joseph, it seemed a perfect opportunity. We decided to grab a sub for lunch with Jennifer and Lee (Alexander doesn’t care for them yet) and stopped at a nearby gas station along the way. When we fired up Luna again after the refueling, the check engine light came on and the cruise control indicator began to flash. Needless to say, this was not a reassuring sight! It also made for an unpleasant and nervous lunch. Jess and I both had BLTs from the Jimmy Johns and Lee explained how to get onto the highway heading towards South Bend. After lunch, we said goodbye and shared a round of hugs. Alexander didn’t want a hug, but I grabbed him from behind and gave him one anyway. He laughed, so I think it was all good.
Back in the car, the various indicator lamps all acted up again when we started the engine, so we discussed our options as we made progress towards the great-grandparents. Neither of us was keen on driving all the way back to Colorado with the prospect of imminent automobile failure (Taco was more than capable of providing us with those kinds of experiences and, quite frankly, the reason we had to get Luna as a replacement). After a few different sections of the manual were consulted, we learned two interesting things about the Subaru. First, a check engine light pretty much indicates an issue somewhere within the emission control system, and second, the issue can be as simple as a loose fuel cap. We pulled off to the side of the road, and I hopped out (after turning off the car) to check the cap. Honestly I couldn’t tell if it was on properly or not, so I removed it and replaced it just to be sure. Of course, the lights all came back on or flashed repeatedly as had been the case, but I was willing to drive to Colorado if the only issue was a little loss of fuel efficiency and a wee bit more CO or NOx emissions. The manual also mentioned that it might take a few trips before the lights stopped illuminating after tightening the fuel cap, but somehow we’d forgotten that aspect. Jess fixated on the alternative suggestion that you could turn the key to ACC and then re-start the engine to clear the error messages. When we stopped briefly a few minutes later to use a restroom at one of the Indian Tool Road’s rest areas, I appeased Jess by doing precisely this and, wouldn’t you know it, the error messages disappeared. Now we’ll never know for sure if it was the ACC position or just waiting long enough for the gas cap tightening to be noticed by the internal sensor. Regardless we were much happier.
On an interesting side note, an earlier glance through the Subaru manual educated me to the unusual procedures recommended for dealing with flat tires. According to Subaru, in order to avoid damaging the symmetrical all wheel drive system, you must never tow the car (this might be why there are so many flat bed tow-trucks in Colorado), and when deploying the spare tire, you must place it on one of the rear wheels (which can mean a lot of extra jacking and lug-nutting if the flat is in the front,) and pull the all-wheel drive fuse to disable the system before driving. I’ve mentioned this to several long-term Subaru owners and it’s been news to all of them. I guess I’m the only loser reading car manuals.
After a little over an hour, we arrived. It was great to get to visit with everyone. We were able to get some video of Phoebe with both of her great grandparents and everybody seemed to have a great time. We had a nice dinner and then relaxed for a couple of hours. We were grilled over our choice of a foreign automobile, but we explained that a Subaru is a requirement for living in Colorado. Somehow that seemed to help. Although a very short visit, it was a good distraction before heading back to Colorado, and dinner allowed us to fully de-stress from the automobile false alarm. The ride home was as uneventful as the trip out, with a similar dose of wind across Nebraska, but much nicer temps. We even arrived home with enough time to relax and take a walk before getting ready to return to work and going to bed.
Going yet a bit further back in time, Phoebe recently started “swimming” lessons. I say “swimming” because splashing or even floating would be better descriptions, but that’s not what they’re calling it at the Burger center. I went to the first lesson in order to get take some photos and shoot a little video of Phoebe’s first time swimming. In general it was pretty fun, but Phoebe and several other little swimmers were getting cold by the end of the half-hour lesson, and Jess was a little apprehensive of the ping pong ball they were supposed to toss out and let the babies “swim” towards and grab. I must agree that it would make a pretty spectacular choking hazard. Happily nobody choked on anything and Phoebe seemed to have a great time except for a brief moment when she lost her balance from a sitting position in the extremely shallow end and slipped underwater. To her credit, Mom was fast, and I’m not sure Phoebe even knew what happened.