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!

At Long Last!

Fans of the Gribblog can thank my mom for asking once again (politely) for photos of Benjamin. I’ve been collecting things for this post, so here it is! After Halloween, I wasn’t satisfied with the photos of the two kids together, so I dressed them back up in their costumes and took a few more photos. They were good sports, although Benjamin was a bit peeved that he had to be fussed into his pumpkin sack again.

Our “standing up pumpkin” next to our “lying down pumpkin.”
I think her costume turned out pretty well, considering my limited sewing skills.
Happy pumpkin!
Benjamin was dwarfed by his pumpkin costume.

There are few things as rewarding in life as a parent/baby snooze.

We’re tired!

I thought this photo was so cute, I took it 5 or 6 times to make sure the frame was filled by the sweater.

Comfy baby wrapped in Daddy’s sweater.

The things babies have to put up with!

Mom, I’d be more comfortable lying down!

I realized Benjamin is always on his back, so photos of his hair are rare.

Check out that dark hair…and his bald spot.

We were having some fun with the self-timer one afternoon.

Self portrait with baby.

Here she is…Miss Toddler Phoebe!

One toddler plus one sucker equals one big mess!

I suspect these will be easier to take when Benjamin is tagging behind Phoebe. Right now, she doesn’t deign to hang out near him all that often.

A rare photo of our two sweeties together.

I have the fortune of spending half my maternity leave working two days a week with Benjamin in the office with me. Nice to be back among my colleagues without having to put him in daycare yet! (He gets lots of love and walks this way.)

First desk job…two days a week in the office with Mommy.

I took so many photos of Phoebe in this thing, it’s a good thing the kiddos look so different.

Checking out the animals in the baby gym.
So cute and bright-eyed!
There’s a spoon levitating just out of the frame…
Benjamin with his new friend. The whole family has fallen in love with his octopus! (Thanks, Karen W.)

We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We drove to Michigan…a long trip. Very long! It took us 24 hours on the way out, mostly due to potty stops and a couple of traffic jams. Fortunately, the weather was excellent. The kids were excellent too. Lots of sleeping and no bouts of uncontrollable crying! Phoebe was awfully excited to be going to Michigan because she has a Michigan onesie (thanks to Big John, an alum). How she remembered that, I’ll never know! We arrived at Grandma and Grandpa Hoot’s house in time for dinner and spent the early evening together. Then we got back in the car to head to Jennifer and Lee’s house near Saint Joseph.

Grandpa Hoot takes a turn with the baby.
Phoebe rediscovers Grandma’s bunny.
Grandma Hoot entertaining Benjamin.
Hoot family photo: Dave, Jess, Grandma, Uncle Brian, Benjamin, Aunt Vickie, Phoebe, and Grandpa.

We had a great time at the Ott home. Phoebe is old enough to play with Alexander, so we did lots of kid-friendly activities, including the playground and the kids’ museum. We reconnected with Jennifer and Lee over wine and movies in the evenings while the kids slept (though Phoebe kept getting out of bed and calling down “what you doing, Mommy?”). Thanksgiving dinner was delicious, and I got to go to Bob Evans, my special midwestern treat.

Two guys napping.
Lee reading to the kiddos in the morning.
A little girl and her daddy.
Alexander playing Don’t Break the Ice.
Jennifer with baby Benjamin.
Kaitlynn, no pants!

Alas, the holiday ended and we had to drive home. We attended Kaitlynn’s baptism on Sunday morning, had lunch, and got on the road. It took us only 21 hours to get back, so we were able to head straight to work/daycare on Monday morning. A very successful road trip! I’ll finish up with a few random photos and videos. Then I’ll go take some more! Benjamin is growing fast–he’s at least 10 pounds now, and Phoebe rarely stops talking.

Relaxing in the carseat at Mommy’s work.
Little tongue.

Benjamin hanging out at Mommy’s work.
Phoebe likes to build herself a bed out of sofa cushions.

Grammie gave Phoebe a Cheerios cookbook; we made the chocolate chip muffins. Phoebe is wearing a sweater Grandma Hoot made. Here’s a video!

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!

Merry Christmas

Hi All! I’ve noticed that it’s been yet another month without any update on the Gribblog. Something about a road and good intentions comes to mind, but as it’s Christmas, I thought I’d just add a quick post. We’re currently nearing the midpoint of our grand travels to all points (at least it seems like it) east of Colorado, and everyone is having a great time. To date, we’ve driven well over 1,400 miles (sorry Luna), and visited Phoebe’s great grandparents in Michigan and some of her granparents in Ohio. We’ve got a few more stops before the fun wagon returns westward, and we again embrace the mundane reality of work and parenthood in the coming new year. We’ll get some fun Christmas pictures and perhaps a video or two of Phoebe tearing open presents with American zeal onto the blog soon.

In the meantime, you may enjoy this video Jess shot of me playing the sax at the Mount Calvary Christmas concert in early December. Gladi Lefferdink is playing piano. The selections are “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. The arrangements were originally piano works by Chuck Marohnic and John Carter that we adapted for piano and sax. The video is a little out of focus (think Monet; unless you’re into hairdos) and Phoebe adds a bit of commentary to the audio track, but as it’s seasonally appropriate, I thought I’d add it anyway. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

A 3-Day Pass in Lake City

The Lake City Ice Park the day after the festival; this is a moderately busy day.
The Lake City Ice Park the day after the festival; this is a moderately busy day.

I feel more than a wee bit guilty spending a long weekend in Lake City while Jess is home with a snuffly little girl, but it hasn’t made the climbing any less fun. In fact, the climbing has been pretty darn good. Andy and Gretchen picked me up on Saturday morning at a little past 7:00, and we were on the road shortly thereafter. Although there was snow in the forecast, we got over Monarch Pass and all the way to Lake City with pretty much dry pavement and arrived by about 12:30. We checked into our room at the Matterhorn Motel (same place Pete and I stayed last year) and grabbed some lunch at one of the two open eateries. By the time we sauntered over to the ice park, things were well underway. The top rope and and lead climbing comps were set up in the same spots as last year, and the ice appeared a bit thinner. Andy and Gretchen walked up to the top to set up a top rope on a short little climb just to the left of the little mixed cave in the park while I relaxed below watching the comp and waiting to give advice (only if necessary, of course) in regards to rope placement. We spent a couple of hours taking turns doing laps on the climb in what was a consistent snow that soaked just about everything we had. Just as we were packing things up, someone got clobbered by a large piece of ice from an adjacent climber. It looked for a while as though he may have dislocated a shoulder, or worse, but he managed to regroup and finish the climb after a few minutes of what appeared to be intense pain. We didn’t end up with any pictures and had to hang up the ropes and gear to dry in the closet, but we had a fun time. Later that evening we made the 2-minute walk down the hill to the Packer Grill for a little ice festival afterparty and some beer. Sadly, there was no live band this year, but they did have the skills competition from the weekends NBA All Star Gala on the tube. Although the Packer Grill might be named for Lake City’s famous cannibal, I tried not to hold the decorations from Wisconsin’s famed football team against them.

Gretchen tearin' it up on our day-two route.
Gretchen tearin' it up on our day-two route.

The next morning we slept in a bit, as things are pretty laid back in Lake City. I made it out the door first and trekked to the coffee shop for a mocha and a bagel. A few minutes later, I was joined by the rest of the team. We chatted a bit with the proprietor before heading back to the room to grab our gear. A few minutes later and we were back in the ice park contemplating our options. This time Andy and I hiked up to the top and we ended up setting up a toprope on what was the lead comp route the day before. Since the climbs are fairly long, we used some cordalettes and a bit of static line to extend the anchor about 40-50 feet from the post glued into the ground until it reached over the lip. It ended up working well with both ends of the 60-meter cord reaching the ground and no rope drag. This was especially nice as there was about 6 inches of fresh snow along the top of the climb.

We managed about 3-4 laps each of the former comp route. It seemed to get easier with each lap despite the growing fatigue in my forearms, so either I was climbing more efficiently as the day went on, finding more of the hooks left from a constant barrage of assaults the day before (quite likely as we were slowly cleaning the snow from the route), or just making more big holes with each ascent. Regardless, we had a splendid time on the ice and thoroughly enjoyed beating ourselves to a pulp. Andy managed to clobber himself in the chin with a decent-sized hunk of ice (there wasn’t really any blood, so it ranks as fairly minor) and I got a little bruise on one knee.

After another night of bar hopping (Lake City has 3 functional bars in the winter), I’m comfortably back in the motel room able to share these pics from the weekend and planning out tomorrow’s climbing. As was the case last year, the festival was a fun low-key weekend in a city full of fun and welcoming people that seemed legitimately glad to have us in town, and just like last year, I’ll be heading back to the front range tomorrow certain that I’ll return next year. Maybe  next year Jess and Phoebe will be able to come.

Andy on the comp route under overcast but snow-free skies.
Andy on the comp route under overcast but snow-free skies.
Here I am shaking out some pump about half way up the comp route. Believe it or not, the routes steeper than it appears in this image.
Here I am shaking out some pump about half way up the comp route. Believe it or not, the route's steeper than it appears in this image.