The Month of April Plus a Little Bit of May

April 9

Phoebe drew tattoos on her stomach and enjoyed putting some fizzy colors into her bath.
Phoebe drew tattoos on her stomach and enjoyed putting some fizzy colors into her bath.
Maybe he's going to be a blanket baby?
Maybe he’s going to be a blanket baby?

The second week of April, the four of us flew to Chicago. I was attending the Midwest Political Science Association conference at the Palmer House Hilton downtown. Dave, Phoebe, and Benjamin didn’t have anything too concrete planned except for going to the planetarium. We arrived on Wednesday after a nice flight—the kids were terrific on the plane and in the airport. We set up the booth in the afternoon and then went to Cafe Iberico for dinner with my coworker Karen and ex-co-worker Claire, who lives in Chicago.

My parents arrived on Thursday afternoon; it was so fun to come back from a conversation with a potential author and see them standing next to the Lynne Rienner Publishers booth! They went to the planetarium with Dave and the kids, and Grandpa took Phoebe swimming. I spent the whole time working—and coughing. All four of us coughed during the whole trip.

The Lynne Rienner Publishers booth at the Midwest Political Science Association conference.
The Lynne Rienner Publishers booth at the Midwest Political Science Association conference.

On Saturday night we headed home. Phoebe enjoyed taking every possible conveyance: train to the airport, plane, bus to the parking lot, car to get home. A totally amazing thing happened on the airplane. I was half asleep when Phoebe asked me if the bag in the pocket was for throwing up. I assented. Apparently she asked Dave the same thing. As the plane descended into Denver, I woke up to the sound of vomiting. I looked over, assuming Dave was helping Phoebe. In fact, he was waking up too, and Phoebe was throwing up all by herself, right into the airsickness bag. Incredible!

Sunday was very pleasant. We attended church in Longmont because the Women’s Gospel Ensemble from our church was singing and Dave was accompanying them on his sax. Benjamin was coughing a lot and cried during the sermon, so I left Phoebe under the watchful eye of the singers from our church while I took him into the back. Then I left him sleeping on the pew while Phoebe went potty. She’s really got the hang of the potty; accidents, once frequent, have become much less so. Good job three-year-old! In the afternoon, I turned over all the dirt in my little community garden plot. I knew it was supposed to snow, so I was hoping to plant my cold-weather vegetables, but I ran out of time.

Monday morning I took the kids to daycare. I dropped Phoebe off and asked Benjamin’s teacher if she was comfortable having him, since he was still coughing and seemed very uncomfortable. As she held him, I could tell he was struggling a bit to breathe. I decided that if I left him, they’d just call me a few minutes after I got to work, and I’d have to drive all the way home again to take him to the doctor. Better to make the doctor’s appointment first, I thought, and then go into work. I called the doctor’s office, and they told me that they didn’t have any appointments available until 2:15 p.m., and, based on his symptoms, I couldn’t wait that long. I guess I already knew that he was headed back to the hospital when I saw his labored breathing, but I didn’t really believe it.

I called Dave to let him know that we were going over to Children’s Hospital, which has a north campus about 5 miles from our house. They’d taken good care of Benjamin there in January when he was hospitalized for RSV. I put a few things in the diaper bag for me, including my computer, but I didn’t run back upstairs to get the power cable, which was still lying on our bedroom floor after our trip to Chicago. The delusional (hopeful?) part of me thought that they would do a deep suction on Benjamin’s little sinuses and then we’d be able to go home. He definitely didn’t sound as bad as he had in January.

The hospital was déja vu all over again. They didn’t like his color when we arrived, so we were taken quickly to a room, and he was put on oxygen. Nurses and respiratory techs came in and out. He had deep suction to clear the sticky snot out of his nasal cavities. They gave him some Albuterol, which he’d responded to in the past. He had a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. Then things started to spiral out of control. A doctor came in and got worried that he was dehydrated, even though I kept telling her that he was still having wet diapers. (It’s true that he couldn’t nurse as well as usual because he couldn’t breathe through his nose.) She put him on high-flow oxygen that was being bubbled through water, to give him some extra moisture. Then she told me that she wanted to send us—by ambulance—to the main campus in Denver. I wasn’t worried about the snowstorm outside; the roads still seemed clear. But I didn’t want to be so far from Dave, Phoebe, and home, for what seemed to me to be no reason.

While this was all happening, a team of nurses was trying to start an IV to hydrate Benjamin. I told them that I’m a bit squeamish, so they put me in charge of the lights in the room (they were using a red light to light up his little hand so they could see the veins better). Meanwhile, I asked to see the doctor again. The nurses eventually gave up on the IV, deciding to let the ambulance drivers do it. Benjamin had at least four prick marks in his chubby little hands. The doctor came back. I asked when the ambulance was coming. “12:15,” she said. It was noon. I tried to explain the complexity of having only one car, five miles from our house, with Dave in Boulder and Phoebe at school in Lafayette. In a snowstorm. Nobody seemed to care. And, certainly, if Benjamin’s health had been in grave danger, I wouldn’t have cared. But the oxygen and deep suction were the only remedy for his illness, and they could handle those fine at the north campus. How do I know? Because he’d been well cared for there two months ago!

I told the doctor that we weren’t happy about this. That I felt that Benjamin was only being sent to Denver because she was the doctor that happened to show up. She told me that they didn’t have the high-flow oxygen bubbler available in their overnight rooms at North. I said we’d be happy to stay in our room as long as necessary. She said she wanted him to be near the ICU if his condition got worse. I asked if she was saying that was likely because he’d had bronchiolitis in the past. She said no. (Remember that detail.) As I was talking to her, the phone rang. I had left a slightly panicky message on our friends Brenda and Michael’s answering machine, saying that I was trying to reach them but would try a different method. After seeing Children’s Hospital pop up on their caller ID, Brenda called the hospital looking for me! Boy, was I glad to hear from them. Especially because they could go pick up our car and drive it to Take-A-Break, so Dave could easily get Phoebe after school.

The ambulance drivers arrived. They were very nice but also failed to start an IV. They loaded tiny little Benjamin onto an enormous gurney and put him in the truck. I sat in the front and declined to change the radio station. The ride to Denver was uneventful, despite the snow. The driver had just gotten engaged the day before. They took us the back way up to our room and we got settled with a variety of nurses. First, they declined to start an IV…they didn’t think he needed it. Then, they decided not to put him on the high-flow bubbler (which was on a wheely pole. Surely the North campus could have a wheely pole bubbler or two?). When a third person said “wait, you were at North? Why are you here?” I felt equal parts vindication and fury.

Our two-night stay was uneventful. I’d brought a bunch of snacks left over from the conference in Chicago, so I had something to eat. I even had the curried chickpeas I was going to eat at work before I decided not to go in. There was abundant decaf coffee at the family nourishment station. If only I’d brought my computer power cable! The charge on my Kindle lasts forever, so I could read and read and read, but I wanted to check my e-mail and work on the Parish Visitor. On Tuesday, Dave stopped by in the evening with some clothes and other useful things, including the cable. Benjamin was probably happy to put on something less poop-stained!

Sick baby relaxing.
Sick baby relaxing.
Cute, even when hooked up to oxygen.
Cute, even when hooked up to oxygen.
Benjamin in his crib at the hospital.
Benjamin in his crib at the hospital.
Our room at Children's in Denver.
Our room at Children’s in Denver.

On Wednesday, they discharged us in the morning with a canister of oxygen. We knew the drill. The kids happened to have their 3-year and 6-month doctor’s appointment scheduled for Thursday, so I took Benjamin into work with me Thursday morning, and then Dave and I took the kiddos to see Dr. Terpenning in the afternoon. Phoebe is hearty and healthy and can do every single thing on her thirty-six-month checklist. She’s exactly three feet tall and weighs thirty-five pounds. Benjamin is still delayed, but he’s making progress, and it’s all the sweeter because he’s had such a tough time. He’s exactly two feet tall and weighs fourteen pounds. (For the record, I’m exactly five feet tall!)

Taking a nap after coming home from the hospital.
Taking a nap after coming home from the hospital.

Oh, that detail you’ve been remembering? After logging a complaint with the person who called to ask about our hospital stay and follow-up care, my concerns were sent two people higher up the chain. The patient representative in charge decided that the care was appropriate because it’s dangerous to have a bronchial virus so quickly after having another one. Huh.

The rest of April was uneventful, thank goodness! It actually felt good to spend a couple of weeks at work. Benjamin stayed on oxygen for two weeks, but on Friday the 26th, his lungs sounded good. His ears, on the other hand, still looked crummy after two rounds of antibiotics. His doctor prescribed two sets of antibiotic shots and sent us back to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Benjamin will almost certainly need ear tubes…but we’ll be pleased to keep his ears as clear as possible so that we can be sure he’s hearing as well as he can.

Early sitting up with the Boppy.
Early sitting up with the Boppy.
Look carefully to see "Pho" written backward. Normally she writes it forward, so I think it was written for the squirrels that frequent our deck.
Look carefully to see “Pho” written backward. Normally she writes it forward, so I think it was written for the squirrels that frequent our deck.

I bought Benjamin this John Deere ear of corn that vibrates when you bite it, but his bite isn't strong enough yet.
I bought Benjamin this John Deere ear of corn that vibrates when you bite it, but his bite isn’t strong enough yet.
Phoebe set the table outside all by herself!
Phoebe set the table outside all by herself!

May has started out on an exciting note…Benjamin is summoning his energy to learn to sit. He’s concentrating so hard he’s not sleeping, but he’s really enjoying being pulled into a sitting position and then using his arms to balance a bit. Phoebe is entertained by watching him. She’s having symptoms of being three—stubbornness, excessive chattiness, willfullness, flights of fancy. It’s really fun to hang out with her!

Snow for May Day!
Snow for May Day!
Conked out after a trip in the baby carrier to the grocery store.
Conked out after a trip in the baby carrier to the grocery store.
Phoebe made this cool...thing...for me.
Phoebe made this cool…thing…for me.
If you look carefully, you can see that her feet aren't on the floor. She looks like the figurehead on a ship!
If you look carefully, you can see that her feet aren’t on the floor. She looks like the figurehead on a ship!

Practicing his sitting!
Practicing his sitting!

Being Benjamin

January was an exciting month: some of the excitement was good and some wasn’t. The second week of January, Grammie and Pappy arrived to watch Benjamin for a week while I went back to work. It was great to see them again! It was Pappy’s first look at Benjamin, and they got along just fine. Since it was just a couple of weeks after Christmas, we waited to celebrate together. Pappy is usually looking forward to eating at a couple of his favorite Lafayette restaurants, and he did manage it, though he was the first casualty of the Colorado stomach bug we passed around to all our guests.

Grammie and Benjamin.
Grammie and Benjamin.
Now that's a comfortable baby!
Now that’s a comfortable baby!
The best part about Olivia is the book hidden inside her jumper!
The best part about Olivia is the book hidden inside her jumper!
Watching Phoebe inspect Mommy's new butter dish.
Watching Phoebe inspect Mommy’s new butter dish.
Getting excited about the photo coasters.
Getting excited about the photo coasters.
Hey, I know Olivia!
Hey, I know Olivia!
Checking out Daddy's new coins.
Checking out Daddy’s new coins.
Is Benjamin watching TV while Pappy poses?
Is Benjamin watching TV while Pappy poses?
Pappy with his little thumb-sucker.
Pappy with his little thumb-sucker.
Our sweet little monkey.
Our sweet little monkey.
Reading an NSS News to Phoebe--again!
Reading an NSS News to Phoebe–again!
Snuggled up with a new bunny blankie.
Snuggled up with a new bunny blankie.
Are you taking my picture?
Are you taking my picture?
Guys! I got a camera of my own!
Guys! I got a camera of my own!
Baseball cap and fuzzy booties make for a comfortable baby.
Baseball cap and fuzzy booties make for a comfortable baby.
Benjamin wiggled his thumb out of his little mitten.
Benjamin wiggled his thumb out of his little mitten.

Benjamin’s baptism was scheduled for Sunday, January 13th. My mom and dad and Dave’s dad arrived on Friday the 11th, and Aunt Martha came on Saturday morning. We enjoyed hanging around the house on Saturday, spending time with the family we see so infrequently. Sunday morning we all had to be at church early; Mom was preaching, Dave was playing his sax, and Benjamin needed to get into his baptismal gown and the little Luther cap/baker’s toque Mom made him to go with it. (Phoebe’s bonnet was a little too girly, though when you’re accessorizing a long gown, that point is debatable.)

Benjamin started out the day by peeing on the tablecloth in the social area at church. (I guess Mommy should’ve taken him into the bathroom to change his diaper!) However, a new tablecloth was quickly rustled up and we made it into church in time for the service. Mom’s sermon on the Lutheran rite of baptism was well liked, and Benjamin was a model baby during the baptism itself. Unfortunately, Grandpa Gribble got the stomach bug that morning. He made it through the baptism like a real trooper.

Quick, change the tablecloth!
Quick, change the tablecloth!
Are you going to be okay in that hat, sir?
Are you going to be okay in that hat, sir?
We did it! He's fully attired for baptism.
We did it! He’s fully attired for baptism.
So tell me again why I'm wearing this?
So tell me again why I’m wearing this?
Benjamin and Grandpa Gribble share a moment.
Benjamin and Grandpa Gribble share a moment.
Baptism cake at church.
Baptism cake at church.
Grandpa has his turn with the little chef.
Grandpa has his turn with the little chef.
The actual baptizing.
The actual baptizing.
Dave playing "I'm Going on a Journey" with Jan Osburn singing.
Dave playing “I’m Going on a Journey” with Jan Osburn singing.
The Gribbles in various states of disarray with Bill Renfer in the background.
The Gribbles in various states of disarray with Bill Renfer in the background.
The Gribbles with Grandpa and Grandma Hazelton.
The Gribbles with Grandpa and Grandma Hazelton.
The Gribbles with Aunt Martha.
The Gribbles with Aunt Martha.
The whole family: Grammie, Pappy, Grandma, Benjamin, Grandpa Gribble, Jess, Phoebe, Martha, Dave, and Grandpa.
The whole family: Grammie, Pappy, Grandma, Benjamin, Grandpa Gribble, Jess, Phoebe, Martha, Dave, and Grandpa.

Mom and Dave had to stay for the second service, so the rest of us came home to get ready for the party. We had a wonderful group of friends and family here to celebrate with us! Thanks to everyone who made the day so special for us. Grammie and Martha worked some magic on the fruit and vegetable trays, leaving me to relax. At least I learned something from trying to make five different quiches at once for Phoebe’s baptism party!

Three generations of Gribble men.
Three generations of Gribble men.
Phoebe was teaching school to this motley collection of students.
Phoebe was teaching school to this motley collection of students.
Phoebe and Pappy work on Uncle Matt's monkey puzzle.
Phoebe and Pappy work on Uncle Matt’s monkey puzzle.

The next morning we said goodbye to Grammie and Pappy. An hour later my parents arrived at the house with their luggage, ready to stay and help out for a week. (They’d been staying in a hotel…even crummy hotels have better accommodations than the Gribble guest room/office!) It was a luxury for me to go to work those two weeks, knowing that Phoebe was happily at school and Benjamin was in expert grandparental hands. My dad managed to pick up a case of the crud while they were here. Phoebe got to celebrate her third Christmas; lucky duck! My mom had hoped to read some Peter Rabbit stories to Phoebe; their last night here, Phoebe was finally comfortable enough to allow it. Grandma and Grandpa Hazelton left Saturday morning, so we spent the weekend trying to remember how to take care of the kids without help!

Grandma with the two munchkins.
Grandma with the two munchkins.
Grandpa and Phoebe in her owl pajamas.
Grandpa and Phoebe in her owl pajamas.
Grandma and Benjamin.
Grandma and Benjamin.
Benjamin relaxing on a sunny day.
Benjamin relaxing on a sunny day.
Comfy with his new farm blanket from Uncle Matt and Aunt Erin.
Comfy with his new farm blanket from Uncle Matt and Aunt Erin.
Everyone compliments the sweet baseball hat Grandma Hoot made!
Everyone compliments the sweet baseball hat Grandma Hoot made!

The next two weeks of January were going to be Dave’s paternity leave. In mid-January, Benjamin’s pediatrician got worried about his development, which seemed a bit delayed. In particular, he wasn’t responsively smiling, looking for the source of sounds, or paying much attention to faces. She scheduled him for a brain ultrasound (which we did on Christmas Eve), a visit to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and a visit to an eye doctor. All were instructive. They didn’t see anything to worry about in his brain. The eye doctor discovered that he’s significantly farsighted. The ENT doctor saw fluid in his ears and wanted to put in ear tubes. Since we also needed to do a bone conduction hearing test, that could be done while he was under anesthesia for the tubes. (We knew that his hearing was compromised, but we didn’t know how much.) His urologist (who keeps an eye on his kidneys, since one of them is non-functioning) wanted to do a minor surgery on his penis to straighten it out. We were going to wait until he was 6 months old for that surgery, but fortunately, we were able to schedule all of it at the same time.

The surgery was scheduled for Tuesday the 22nd. We had asked our friend Big John to sleep over and take Phoebe to school that morning, since we had to be at the hospital in Denver at 6:00 a.m. John agreed, but that Monday Phoebe came home from school with a fever and cough. John, our personal saint, agreed to stay at our house with her until we came back from the hospital. The scariest part of the surgery was that Dave and I weren’t allowed in there! (I wouldn’t have gone, but I would’ve liked Dave to be there.) We had to wait outside, so I brought some cards to write to try to keep my mind off things. As you might guess, it didn’t work. Fortunately, it didn’t take very long. The ENT doctor came out first and told us that she hadn’t had to put in tubes, because the fluid was gone from his ears. (Hooray!) She said that the audiologist found that Benjamin had normal hearing in his right ear, but essentially none in his left ear. Then the urologist came out with a pre-drawn picture of a penis to say that the surgery had gone well. We just had to wait for our little guy to wake up.

Finally, we got to go back to the recovery room, where a nurse looked delighted to be holding Benjamin. He looked so little and vulnerable! I sat down with him in my arms and he made sweet cooing noises. After a few minutes I fed him, and he ate hungrily. He did so well that we only had to be there about an hour after the surgery. We took him home, where he snoozed most of the day.

Recovering after surgery.
Recovering after surgery.

The next day, Wednesday, I went to work. Dave watched Benjamin all day and then picked up Phoebe and met me in town. We got some dinner. By the time we got home, it was clear that something was seriously wrong with Benjamin. He was wheezing and breathing really fast. I called his pediatrician’s office; the doctor on call told me to hang up and count his breaths. If he was breathing more than 50 times a minute, we should take him to the emergency room. I counted 72 and called back to find out which hospital they recommended.

Fortunately, there’s a branch of Children’s Hospital about 5 miles from our house. The triage nurses counted 66 breaths per minute and admitted us. First a nurse sucked a bunch of junk out of his sinuses with a fabulous wall-mounted vacuum device that attached to tubes that she threaded way up his nose. Then a respiratory therapist came to check on him and ended up trying Albuterol, which worked pretty well to calm his wheezing. They x-rayed his lungs to see if he might have pneumonia. Then they said we’d be spending the night. I was already exhausted, and we were fortunate to get the last room available. I called Dave to let him know we wouldn’t be home. It was such a relief to lie down, even in my clothes, and get a few hours of sleep. Thank goodness for the nurses coming in to check on Benjamin! I was able to call them when he needed to get more mucus sucked out of his nose or another dose of Tylenol because of the surgery.

On Thursday, Dave took Phoebe to school by bike and then rode his bike over to check on us and bring me my computer and a change of clothes. It was clear that we weren’t going to need the car, so Dave rode back to get it later. We ended up staying in the hospital all day Thursday, all night, and most of Friday. Poor little guy! We had a few scary moments that weekend, when we couldn’t decide if he needed to go back to the hospital. On Monday, Dave took him to the pediatrician, who wanted him on oxygen. They stopped by work with Benjamin hooked to a portable oxygen canister. After several days with a mix of portable oxygen and a concentrator, he was able to start using it only while he slept. But then the doctor decided he should be taking Albuterol for the wheeze!

Caterpillar fits perfectly.
Caterpillar fits perfectly.
Wearing a sweater that used to be Daddy's.
Wearing a sweater that used to be Daddy’s.
Phoebe said "take a picture of me too!" We're...where else?...at the coffee shop.
Phoebe said “take a picture of me too!” We’re…where else?…at the coffee shop.

Benjamin was supposed to start school on Monday, February 4, so I took him in after the doctor’s appointment. They were comfortable doing the oxygen and Albuterol nebulizer, but the main teacher was leaving halfway through the day, so I ended up taking him into work for the afternoon. Tuesday I showed his teachers how to work all the equipment for his true first day of school. Wednesday he had a “routine” renal ultrasound. Wednesday night he had to wear a pulse oximeter for a test of his sleeping oxygen level. Thursday the doctor finally took him off oxygen entirely and allowed us to take out the middle Albuterol treatment. On Friday, Benjamin and I drove down to Englewood (45 minutes from home in south Denver) to see the otologist recommended by the ear, nose, and throat doctor. We learned that Benjamin has severe conductive hearing loss in his left ear, though his auditory nerve works close to perfectly. He’ll be fitted for a hearing aid next week, and he should hear almost normally with it!

This was supposed to be the super-cute first-day-of-school photo, but Benjamin didn't end up staying at school that day.
This was supposed to be the super-cute first-day-of-school photo, but Benjamin didn’t end up staying at school that day.
Close-up of the stickers that held on the oxygen tubes.
Close-up of the stickers that held on the oxygen tubes.
I'm so cute!
I’m so cute!
The true first day of school. Phoebe insisted that she and Benjamin (who was screaming) sit on opposite sides of the couch.
The true first day of school. Phoebe insisted that she and Benjamin (who was losing it) sit on opposite sides of the couch.
Phoebe asked me to take a picture of her with Benjamin. Note that he's ready to go and she's still wearing pajamas.
Phoebe asked me to take a picture of her with Benjamin. Note that he’s ready to go and she’s still wearing pajamas.
I'm going to learn to smile one of these days!
I’m going to learn to smile one of these days!
I'm almost there!
Okay…I’m almost there!
Phoebe is communing with Benjamin in her Thomas underpants.
Phoebe is communing with Benjamin in her Thomas underpants.
Tummy time turns out to be a great time to suck your thumb and relax.
Tummy time turns out to be a great time to suck your thumb and relax.
Napping on Daddy at the coffee shop.
Napping on Daddy at the coffee shop.

As I said, kind of a hard month. But Benjamin is eating well, growing, and sucking his thumb like a champ. He has a sweet personality, very laid-back, and he makes us very happy when we’re not worrying about him! Phoebe is doing superbly, as always. She recently skipped ahead of all her classmates to enter preschool (still at the same daycare). She’s always been verbal, so she was ready for it. She loves puzzles, books, and playing pretend with her stuffed animals. She and Benjamin both sleep well (thank goodness!), though Phoebe gets up three or four times every night before she falls asleep (for water, different music, a trip to the potty, or just general interest in what Dave and I are doing). She says “What you guys talking about?” all the time, which is totally adorable. And she’s learned to like Benjamin pretty well, telling him good night and occasionally bringing him an animal to snuggle.

Oh, Dave and I are fine too. You were wondering, weren’t you?

Catching Up

The most recent exciting event in the Gribble household was Halloween, which I’ll tackle in my next post. But let me start by sharing the good news that Benjamin now weighs 8 pounds, 2 ounces: almost exactly what Phoebe weighed when she was born. He’s been eating well and growing up! Here’s a photo from October 24, when he was four weeks old.

Wearing Phoebe’s “coming home from the hospital” pajamas.

On October 25, we had our first real snow of the season. We got about 4 inches—of course it melted away within days.

Phoebe checks out the first snow.
I had to scrape the snow and ice off Luna two days in a row!

When it snows and you’re home all day, it’s time to do some baking! I remembered that I had a package of yeast, so I decided to make some bread. (We’re rarely home long enough to bake something that has to rise.)

A Challah bread that turned out beautifully.

It’s a good thing Benjamin and Phoebe don’t look anything alike, or these photos would look like repeats from when Miss P was an infant!

Awake under the jungle gym.

Aunts Heidi and Erika sent Benjamin an adorable motorcycle sweater. Now I just need a sidecar for the kiddos!

Relaxing on the Boppy in a big-boy outfit.
October 26 close-up.

If I ever found Dave sleeping like this, I’d think he was possessed!

Crazy baby-sleep hands.

Phoebe’s Big Weekend

This was a pretty exciting weekend for our little peanut (who emphatically prefers to be called “Phoebe.” She says “not little peanut!”) On Saturday morning we went to the hospital for New Baby Day Camp, which was a one-hour class for big brothers and sisters to be. Phoebe felt really shy at first, but she soon rallied and consented to hold one of the doll babies. She really liked the extremely silly video about siblings. And an older girl befriended her during the tour, so the two of them held hands as we looked at the recovery rooms. I ended up reading a Thomas the Train story to both girls before we could leave the hospital.

After the class, we drove over to Anna and Aaron’s house for a play date with a bunch of ex-Rowman & Littlefield friends of ours. The five kiddos range in age from 3 months up to 3 years. They had a good time with Micah’s toys, and Phoebe, true to form, took every book off the shelf and flipped through every page. It’s always fun to hear parenting stories and catch up with old friends.

Saturday afternoon, Phoebe and I set out to go swimming, but the rec center was closed for renovations, so we went to the Wow children’s museum instead, followed by the grocery store. She likes to use the cart with the car attached and then ride the one-cent horse at the end. I like to get the shopping for the week done on Saturday!

On Sunday, we went to church and then drove to Centennial (past Denver) to go to Ikea. I’d never been to an Ikea, and I found it ridiculously intimidating. It was like Disneyworld! Families with kids were streaming in, the aisles were clogged with people, and you had to follow a predetermined route. Sure, there were maps, but you couldn’t use them to get to the area you were trying to find. They were more like maps of buried treasure: pass this, this, and this, and you’ll eventually get to kids’ furniture! My brilliant idea to make the whole place more…well, American!…was to have a meandering lane and a fast lane on the path through the place. It was driving me nuts to try to get around people. I think, though, that the Ikea folks would rather force shoppers to look at everything.

We did finally get to the furniture; we wanted to buy Phoebe a big-girl bed. She had a blast trying out all the beds while I got more and more frustrated. Everything was in Swedish, and it seemed like everything said “Len” on it. I thought that if I knew I wanted one item called “Len,” I should be able to choose other items called “Len” and they would work together. Instead, I kept finding pieces that didn’t match the sizes of the pieces we already had. Finally, when my energy was almost completely drained, we had chosen a bed frame (with separate slats), a mattress, mattress protector, sheet (only the bottom one—apparently Scandinavians sleep under the duvet cover with no moderating sheet in between), duvet, and duvet cover and pillowcase (which Phoebe picked out). Dave had put several items back and found the correct sizes. We had to go to a different section (textiles) for a pillow that would fit the pillowcase. When we got back to the car, Dave realized that we hadn’t bought the slats for the bed frame, so he had to go back while Phoebe and I sang verse after verse of Old McDonald. Did you know that Old McDonald has a cell phone? He’s quite the modern fellow.

Some friends were coming over for dinner on Sunday evening, so I raced to the grocery store to rent a carpet shampooer. We were reorganizing Phoebe’s room to fit her new bed, so it was the perfect time to clean the carpets. I finished that just in time to start cooking Indian food (chicken and potatoes) for dinner. In the meantime, Dave and Phoebe put together the bed. Our friends left around Phoebe’s bedtime, so we read books, brushed teeth, and then watched her climb happily into her new bed. She was clearly ready for it—no sadness about the crib, and she told Dave the next day that her new brother or sister could use the crib. We’ve been talking about the big-girl bed for so long that I was almost used to the idea! (Her growing up is much harder on me than it is on her.) She did wake up around 3:30 a.m. that first night, confused and crying, but she went right back to sleep when we accompanied her back to bed. The next night she slept all the way through the night (and didn’t want to get up for school!)

First night in her big-girl bed!
Reading in bed plus a photo of the rearranged room.

On Monday morning we started Phoebe’s potty training countdown calendar. She puts a sticker on a calendar for 30 days, and when the countdown ends, she stops wearing diapers. Her teachers at school recommend this system, so we’re delighted to try it. She’s already been going potty quite a bit, but she’s not reliable at all. Fortunately, the teachers are on board with this program, so they’re willing to change underpants and clothes until it works. We’re a little nervous about the affects of a new baby on potty training, but we can always start over!

Here’s a video of Phoebe adding her second sticker to the chart.

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A few random things, too. My friend Christina gave me a little plant with a few leaves. It grew to be a humongously tall plant with many leaves, and once a year it makes a gorgeous flower with a really strong fragrance (not entirely pleasant). The flower lasts only 24 hours. And we managed to get a few photos!

One weekend ago, we camped out in the backyard because we hadn’t been camping in too long. Here’s a photo of the beautiful sunset we saw one night as we headed out to the tent to put Phoebe to bed.

Here’s our big girl getting ready to go to church on a Sunday on which Dave was playing his sax. (Usually we’re not early enough to take photos!)

Phoebe likes to walk around the long way (by herself) to get into the building. Here she goes!

After the early service, Phoebe and I went to the playground.

Finally, the Noodle’s due date is sneaking up on us. Hard to believe we’ll have two kiddos before too long!

Self portrait, 33 weeks pregnant.

Vacation in PA

Last week we took a nice vacation trip to Ephrata, PA, to visit with Phoebe’s Grammie and Pappy. My sister Erika was also there part of the time with Phoebe’s cousins Genevieve and Cordelia (unfortunately Heidi was stuck in Pittsburgh working). For most of the family, the trip started early Tuesday morning when we woke up and hopped into the car in order to make our 8:30 a.m. flight to Philidelphia, but I got a jump on Jess and Phoebe by taking Monday off to escape the blazing summer heat by doing some mountain biking. Dann and I left Lafayette at about 6:30 a.m. and headed up to the Copper Mountain ski area. We found some parking and made the out-and-back ride along the Colorado Trail to Searle Pass. It was pretty brutal in my current (activity-challenged) physical state, but the views were amazing and the downhill run back to civilization easily worth the pain. I can see why it’s a highly regarded ride.

This was some of the nicest singletrack on the ride. We climbed gently up a long valley meadow before eventually getting up to treeline.
Here’s the view we were rewarded with for all of the effort to reach Searle Pass.
Here I am on the way back down next to a little mountain stream. The stream was a couple of hundred feet below the pass and just above Janet’s Cabin.
Here’s a shot of Dann from earlier in the ride. Look how much energy he still has!

Tuesday and Sunday were mostly lost to travel, but at least the travel was pretty easy. We did have a little bout of road-sickness with Phoebe just as we were reaching the airport, but she did great on the flight out. I, on the other hand, was starting to get nauseated as we landed in Philadelphia. I think one more highly-banked turn and I’d have been a goner. On the return flight, the tables were turned with Phoebe getting a little sick (yes, she actually did get sick on Jess’s leg). Thankfully it wasn’t too bad (depending on who you ask) and occurred right at the end of the flight, so she didn’t have to suffer through too much. In fact, she was so tuckered out from playing with her cousins and having a generally great time that she actually slept about 1/2 the time.

Hurry; let’s get this firetruck to Colorado ASAP!

On Wednesday, Don’s daughters came over and we all had a fantastic cookout. Despite the temps, we were able to lazily sit outside enjoying beer and chatting. Don set up a little sandbox and filled a kiddie pool for Phoebe and Genevieve. They had a great time playing in both, but seemed to especially enjoy putting the pool water into the sandbox and the sand into the pool. Hopefully Pappy will eventually get the sand dried out and be able to use his tub again for mixing concrete and mortar.

Phoebe and Genevieve had a lot of fun playing in the sandbox. In this pic it looks like Phoebe has already decided to fetch water from the pool.
We’re gonna need a lot more water.
Even Cordelia couldn’t resist enjoying some fun in the sun on the 4th.
Wow, look how fast this ball rolls down the hill.
There might be a lot of “plain folk” around Lancaster, but the crowd at the Mennonite church says they still like fireworks (and oldies). Our view was partially obstructed by a tree, but it was still a blast to watch.

Erika, Genevieve, and Cordelia had to leave early (relatively) on Friday morning so that they could get back to Pittsburgh in time for another week-long vacation. Now that’s a tough life! After the rest of us got motivated, we headed over to a nice little petting zoo within a park in Lancaster. Phoebe seemed to like the donkeys and Jess really liked petting the llama. I think everyone liked the pot-bellied pig, but she was a bit protective of her food. When Phoebe got too close, she was effectively backed off by a surprisingly quick and agile snout. After the petting zoo, we moved about 100 yards farther along the road through the park to another huge playground. Phoebe loves to climb around on the playground and had a blast on one of the slides. She’s taken to testing them for temperature (a very good idea) and pronouncing any warm play structure as “hot.” It’s very cute, if a little frustrating at times.

It was a few days early, but we all got to celebrate Genevieve’s 3rd birthday with Grammie and Pappy.
We also got a chance to see the wheat field get harvested. Can you tell where the lawn stops and the field starts?
The girls had a blast playing dress-up with Genevieve’s new costumes.

One of the nicest parts of the vacation was just sitting around and relaxing while the girls played doctor and “cooked” us various foods. We also owe the neighbors a thank you for letting us enjoy their pool. It felt great to cool off in the water, and Phoebe really loves swimming. As the week passed by, we knew it would be hard to say goodby and return to Boulder, but the onset of cooler temps and the Colorado monsoon season helped a bit with the motivation.

Here’s Phoebe telling Grammie and Pappy about the slide.
No wonder she was excited about the slide!
Phoebe and mom checking out the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. You can see that Phoebe was also wearing her new Noah’s Ark backpack. Perfect attire for a petting zoo. I think the pig had the right idea on such a hot afternoon.

Aside from being hot and humid all week, we had a great time on the trip. We even got in a little exercise. Jess managed to go for a jog with Don while the rest of us played with the girls at the playground, and both of us went for a nice bike ride while Phoebe and Grammie enjoyed a walk along a rail trail nearby. Luckily for us Don is better stocked than some bike rental shops, so his ability to outfit us with mounts, helmets, gloves, and (in my case) shoes was handy. We did run into one little snag with a stripped seat-clamp bolt (I’m that strong), but it was quickly remedied with a trip to the nearby hardware store. For us the trail was pretty shady, and the temps didn’t feel at all like the 101°F reality while riding. We also managed to cover enough terrain to rendezvous with a giant root-beer barrel. I hear it was a bit hotter at walking speed in the sun and seriously lacking in refreshment stands. Afterward we all enjoyed some lunch at a neat little pub and stopped for some ice cream on the way home.

The next day, we got up early, pulled our stuff together, exchanged some pics, and headed back to the airport in Philadelphia. It was a great vacation, but it’s always nice to be back home as well.

When we got back to Colorado, Phoebe spotted this really cool bug. It’s covered with about 2.7 million beads. Nice catch Phoebe!