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This just in. . . Phoebe is a walker. Actually she ripped off this fantastic journey Wednesday night while we were at Cannon Mine for open mic night. The staff at Take-A-Break told me she had been walking all over the whole day, and Jess and I had been trying desperately to get a little video all week, so I was pretty excited when this opportunity came about.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

It was this cold for several days in the past two weeks. Phoebe's day cae, and all of the locals schools, were closed due to cold temperatures.
It was this cold for several days in the past two weeks. Phoebe's day care and all of the local schools were closed due to cold temperatures.

I’ve never been one to miss an opportunity to reference David Bowie, and this one seems to really fit the last few weeks. We’ve a lot of fun to report on and have barely updated the Gribblog since Christmas. It has been a pretty mild winter in Colorado, with a lot of days in the 50s and even some 60s, but we’ve had a few sub-zero days in the past two weeks as well.

Last weekend we hosted our 11th annual Super Bowl party. We had one very small gathering in Boston (OK, technically we lived in Brighton right between BU and BC on the green line), and we’ve now hosted 10 Super Bowl parties in Colorado. Five years ago, we had a tough choice, but we decided that we should still have a party despite the Steelers’ (Dave’s team) participation in Super Bowl XL. With all of the cooking and small talk and related hosting responsibilities, we didn’t get to “watch” as much of the game as we would have liked, but we did get to share the fun of victory (that was the one for the thumb) with a bunch of friends. Three years later we were faced with the same conundrum, but the decision was a no-brainer and again we got to celebrate with some friends (Rob excluded, as he was rooting for the Cactus Wrens).

This year's version of a Steelers cake. Jess is getting pretty good at making hypocycloids with icing.
This year's version of a Steelers cake. Jess is getting pretty good at making hypocycloids with icing.

This year the decision was a bit more complicated as we had not only a Steelers appearance but also little Phoebe running around. Ultimately we decided we should still hold a party, but we made a smaller than normal guest list. In another attempt to make things easier on us, we prepped a fajita bar so that we wouldn’t have to do any cooking during the party. On Saturday afternoon, we dreamed up a large 3-D helmet cake concept (clearly the result of watching too many weird shows via Netflix like Cake Boss) featuring the Steelers on one side and the Packers on the opposite with a yellow stripe down the middle. We weren’t sure how to make an edible facemask (or black and green fondant for that matter) so we bailed on the massive concept cake and made a chocolate Steelers cake and a separate yellow Packers cake instead. By now we all know that the Steelers came up just short of pulling off the comeback. While the start was a little rough, the game was close in the last quarter and turned out to be pretty enjoyable. I guess we’ll have to wait another year or two for the 7th Lombardi Trophy. The attendance was great, but we should have kept the same no-holds-barred invite list from years gone by. . . on several occasions we wondered where some of our friends were only to remember we snubbed them.

It turns out that a Packers logo uses less yellow icig that we remembered.
It turns out that a Packers logo uses less yellow icing than we remembered.

Sorry to everyone; next year you’re all invited, so unless there is a prolonged lock-out that whacks Super Bowl XLVI, mark your calendars and make your travel plans early!

Since the Super Bowl let-down, Phoebe has accelerated her learning processes. A couple of days ago we were certain that she knew what the wall was, and she would reliably point to it during dinner when prompted; however, in the intervening days, she’s really taken to clapping (which is super cute) and will clap enthusiastically when we ask her where the wall is. I guess she’s currently a one-trick-at-a-time pony.

Speaking of tricks, her newest one is “walking” with just one hand. This one was revealed just yesterday. Phoebe and I were walking around in the children’s section of Borders when I let go of her left hand. Previously she would have immediately sat down, but this time she just kept on walking along. It was so cool, we had to wobble back to the cafe where Jess was busily working on Phoenix stuff to show off the new skill. Jess was amazed, and later that afternoon Phoebe took one little step completely on her own before immediately sitting down and crawling off. It won’t be long until she’s running all over the place. Jess already thinks we’re in big trouble.

Another fun change—this one is still somewhat in the works—will be a new banner and theme update for the blog. It seems it’s about time to add miss Phoebe to the picture at the top of the site, so we’ll be unveiling a new concept in the coming weeks. Keep on the lookout and let us know what you think when it arrives. Of course there are a bunch of other fun new things to report, but I’ve got to leave something for Jess to write about.

Christmas Blog

Grandpa Hazelton and Mommy help Phoebe work through her stocking.
Grandpa Hazelton and Mommy help Phoebe work through her stocking.

Technically Grandpa Hazelton’s post is older than this one; it’s been almost impossible to find a minute to write with the near-constant Phoebe wrangling, but I didn’t want to top-post our first ever guest blogger less than 24 hours later. In truth, we’d welcome Grandpa back in a flash; Phoebe requires constant vigilance now, as she can get into just about everything.

We all had a lovely Christmas holiday. It was great to have Grandpa visit. Phoebe seemed to start out a little shy, but by the 2nd day or so they were getting along like great friends. This year I tried to get some different stuff for Jess than in previous years. For starters, she’s been jealous of the picture quality on some of our friends’ blogs, so I got her a book on taking pictures of children. I also got her a book on knife skills in the kitchen, ’cause like Napoleon says, “girls like guys with great skills” (works both ways). With Phoebe constantly under foot, it was easy to find a commemorative Christmas ornament for 2010, and Phoebe and I picked out some cute new salt and pepper grinders to replace the broken set that just leaks all over the house.

This stocking stuffer was a hit with everyone, orange face rub for Mommy and a wad of wrapping paper for Phoebe.
This stocking stuffer was a hit with everyone, orange face rub for Mommy and a wad of wrapping paper for Phoebe.

Jess and Phoebe got me a couple of new CDs, some pants (much needed) and a pair of shorts that will certainly come in handy in the near future. I found a new beard trimmer in my stocking from everyone’s favorite bearded holiday celebrity. I tried it out, and it works! I’m sure Jess is as thankful to Santa for that stocking stuffer as anyone. . . things were starting to get a little rough.

As Grandpa Hazelton mentioned in his guest blog post, his pile of gifts wasn’t massive, but we managed to find him a 6-out-of-6 puzzle that looked pretty easy (so we knew it would be a brain melter). The object was to remove two nuts from a bolt and reverse them so that they read nut-case instead of case nut. I feel stupid now, but it took me a little while to figure out why there was a smaller nut rattling around inside the contraption. . .think about it. He also got a neat new headlamp for his walks from Santa. That dude with a beard really knows what everyone needs.

Really Santa, baby wipes, you're killing me!
Really Santa, baby wipes, you're killing me!

If Grandpa had the smallest stack of gifts, Phoebe had the largest. Her stocking was stuffed with awesome utilitarian gifts like wet-wipes and socks, and she even got a bottle of sweet potato puffs. We all tried them and determined that they’re too sweet. I think we prefer the plain Cheerios, which seem cheaper and healthier. Grandma and Grandpa Gribble sent her a book called Bubble Trouble which features a character named Gribble (Not Dale) and more rhyming than a Dr. Seuss classic. It’s actually a bit difficult to read, but fun at the same time. They also got Phoebe a rideable locomotive that seems to make as much noise as the real thing. She was a bit weary of it at first, but had a thoroughly enjoyable play session the other day. She also got some fantastic new outfits that you’ll all be seeing in pictures over the coming year.

Last night, Jess and I celebrated the new year together at home. Phoebe was snuggled in bed, and we pigged out on fancy cheese and split a bottle of Avery’s Mephistopheles Stout. It was too yummy for Jess, so I finished her glass. We also made some bacon-wrapped jalapeños and split part of a dark chocolate with orange candy bar. Unfortunately, the first (and last) snow storm of the year stopped our friends from making it out to Lafayette from Boulder, but we stocked the fire and made the best of things.

Our New Year's Eve celebratory spread of non baby friendly (i.e. yummy) food.
Our New Year's Eve celebratory spread of non baby friendly (i.e. yummy) food.

We’re looking forward to a new and exciting year of watching our curious little daughter grow and learn. Best wishes to all of you for an exciting and happy 2011. Enjoy the rest of these fun holiday pictures.

Phoebe opens up a cool new stuffed penicillium from Aunt Laura and Uncle Nathaniel. Hopefully it helps fight ear infections, because it sure tastes good.
Phoebe opens up a cool new stuffed penicillium from Aunt Laura and Uncle Nathaniel. Hopefully it helps fight ear infections, because it sure tastes good.
Santa Phoebe with her new tongue twister of a book.
Santa Phoebe with her new tongue twister of a book.
Phoebe acting equal parts Casey Jones and Christopher Robin.
Phoebe acting equal parts Casey Jones and Christopher Robin.

Catching Up

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.

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Go ahead and nap Mom and Dad; I'll just engage the cruise control and take a turn driving for a while.

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.

Step Climbing

Just a quickie to show you a video from this afternoon. Phoebe, Dave, and I were at Barnes & Noble in the kids’ section. Phoebe was able to climb up a step! It was a fun afternoon. She was so sleepy she let me read her a whole bunch of books…some I remember loving (The Fire Cat, Danny and the Dinosaur, Sammy the Seal) and some good new ones (Fancy Nancy: Poison Ivy Expert, The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat).

We’ll have to get back to our blogging and show you some photos and video from swimming class, Thanksgiving, and more of Phoebe crawling around (she can go a long way as long as it gets her to a place where she can pull up). See you soon!