Gribble Family Vacation 2017, Part 1

On Saturday, June 24, Dave, Phoebe, and Benjamin were driven to the airport in Cherry Blaze by our good friends Brenda and Michael. On the way, Brenda learned that Phoebe has exploding hiccups—something Dave and I didn’t know and still don’t understand. Team Gribble flew from Denver to Cleveland, where Grandma and Grandpa picked them up, took them home, and fed them hot dogs. The kids got to run around a bit; then they piled into the Ottmobile (which Phoebe named, but I can’t for the life of me remember what) and drove to Pittsburgh, where they spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa Gribble. We had shipped a few items there in advance, so Benjamin, who’s potty training, had a nice new potty seat and a very fancy potty watch. Phoebe, our little reader, had a new reading timer. Because I was in Chicago, all of these events are hearsay, but I’m led to understand that after some time at the park and lunch, Team Gribble got back into the Ottmobile and drove to Ephrata, PA, the longest driving leg of the trip. I’m sure the kids played there, too, and went to bed. On Monday, I was still at my conference, but Dave and the kids got to go to the Strasburg Rail Road and ride the train to Paradise and back. After that they went to the creamery for ice cream! After the kids went to bed, Don and Dave drove to the Harrisburg airport to pick me up; I’d flown directly from Chicago.

On the train.
Locomotive changing from one end of the train to the other.
Locomotive taking on water.
Looking out the window.
Phoebe didn’t want her photo taken!
Phoebe and Grammie are ready to go.

On Tuesday, we all got up at a reasonable time, ate breakfast, and drove about an hour and a half to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. We met Erika, Heidi, Genevieve, and Cordelia there; Phoebe and Genevieve were holding hands within about two minutes of laying eyes on each other. Lake Tobias is a fascinating place; its basically domesticated animals come up to the open-air buses you can tour in and eat snacks from your hand. Our tour guide was so enthusiastic about the animals, in particular Emma, an elk who came up the steps of the bus to get a corncob!

Some sort of cow. That corrugated pipe is the wall of our vehicle, a chopped-off school bus!
These animals are NOT shy.
Dave looking back at us from the middle of a crowd of cattle.
Pappy and his special kiddo, Cordelia.

As we were leaving Lake Tobias, we realized that Benjamin was missing his new potty watch. We even went back to the fast-food restaurant where we’d made a potty stop, but it was nowhere to be found. We assumed we’d hear it playing its song if it were in the car, but no one heard anything. Finally, as we were pulling into Grammie and Pappy’s street, Dave said “isn’t that the potty watch?” You’d think it would have been easy to find, but after an extensive search, I finally found it WAY under the driver’s seat. Phoebe stuck her skinny little arm down there and fished it out. Adaptive technology: only adaptive if it stays on the body!

Wednesday, June 28

Wednesday morning, Don, Dave, and I drove to a terrific trail about 30 minutes from Ephrata in Mount Gretna. Don and Dave went on a bike ride (Dave had shipped out his pedals and helmet ahead of time), and I went on a run. Instead of being sweltering and muggy, it was an extremely pleasant morning. It was fun to run in the trees at sea level. So much oxygen!

The bench at the halfway point of my run. I thought it was so nice of them to have that lovely flag!

When we got back, we found that the ladies and Benjamin had had a nice morning.

Grammie reading to Benjamin while he sits on the potty.

The kids spent the day playing, including a fun trip to the next-door neighbors’ above-ground pool, which was freezing. The kids could barely take it! Still, they loved being in the water with their cousins. The girls spent some time teaching Pappy about Monster High; he was a great sport.

The girls are teaching Pappy about Monster High.
Looks like he finds it pretty entertaining!

It turned out that neighbor Mike loves Spider Man, so he put on his outfit and came over to surprise Benjamin, who was terrified. After twenty minutes of hiding, Benjamin did manage to peek out the sliding glass door to see if Spidey was still around.

Spider Man came over to meet Benjamin, who was scared half to death.

By bedtime, everyone was worn out and ready to crash. The girls were sharing a room, which was a fiasco the first night and no problem at all after that.

Heidi and Cordelia have a moment for a snuggle.
Phoebe reads Ivy and Bean to Genevieve.
Dave reading Benjamin’s Lego character encyclopedia.
Grammie and Pappy had plenty of work to do in the kitchen with ten of us in the house!

Thursday, June 29

On Thursday morning, I wanted to check out a running path just .7 miles from Grammie and Pappy’s house, so I went out around 7 a.m., which wasn’t early enough at all. I ran four miles in the sweltering, muggy heat and felt like I’d gone fourteen. At least there was a neat floral display along the path to take my mind off the run for a few minutes!

An amazing display along the running path near Grammie and Pappy’s house.
The enchanted forest cottage, home of Nibbles T. McGibbles.
The enchanted forest chapel.
Sherwood Florist. So cute!

More playing for the cousins, and that evening, Don, Erika, Heidi, Dave and I got to go to a brew pub in Ephrata called Saint Boniface Craft Brewing Company. We owe Grammie big-time for that field trip, since she had to watch four kids and still managed to make dinner and do a bunch of packing for their Labor Day trip to Rehoboth Beach. Of course, we were sorry to have our time with everyone end, but we were ready to move on to the next round of visits.

Cousins being silly.
A great photo of Grammie and her kiddos: Cordelia, Genevieve, Phoebe, and Benjamin.
Family photo. Pappy, Grammie, Dave, Erika, Cordelia, Benjamin, Genevieve, and Phoebe.

Early June Plus the ALA Annual Convention

We’ve been back for a week from our luxurious two-week vacation. I learned a few things while we were gone: I really like spending time with the kids, I don’t get enough sleep during our normally scheduled life, and if you don’t do any work for two weeks, there’s a TON to do when you get back!

First, a few preliminaries.

June 1

Benjamin had been taking out his hearing aids and chewing on the molds, so he needed a new set. His terrific audiologist suggested that we get molds made in Batman colors, so we chose black, yellow, and blue. (The yellow ended up coming out sort of green, but they’re still really cool!)

Benjamin’s new Batman-colored hearing aid molds.

June 3

My favorite time; just back from the library.
A lovely dress my friend brought Phoebe from Cancun. Phoebe suddenly fell in love with it.

June 4

Working together to make kale chips. Benjamin is wearing his Spider Man swimsuit and Phoebe is wearing her peacock fairy Halloween costume.
Swimsuit and big sister’s dress shoes! That kid has always loved shoes, the sparklier the better.

June 11

Engrossed in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, borrowed from Fritz and read in a day.
Ah, childhood summers! Books, water shoes, and a baseball cap.
Helping wash Daddy’s car.
Phoebe works hard when she puts her mind to it.

June 12

Phoebe took golf lessons last summer at Broadlands Golf Course and really enjoyed them, so we signed her up for two more weeks this summer.

First day of golf for the summer; back to chipping!
Miss Christina gives some pointers.
Practicing driving.

June 16

Snapdragons love the sun!

June 23

Friday, June 23, I left on a 6 a.m. flight to Chicago for the American Library Association’s annual conference. My old friend Bill Schroeder picked me up from the airport, and we spent the day driving around and chatting, catching up on our adult lives. It was really fun to see him. The opening reception in the exhibit hall was from 5:30–7 p.m. that evening, so I checked into my hotel and changed into professional clothes. It turned out that the McCormick Convention Center is 5 miles from the hotel where we were staying, so we had to build in almost an extra hour to get there on the shuttle. After the reception, I went out for a drink and dinner with my colleague and new friend Cleta; she was working in the Santa Barbara main office, so we’d only met once before. Unfortunately, a recent company reorganization laid her off, so we had to make the most of our time together.

The view out my window at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile.
Selfie: ready for the ALA opening reception on Friday night.
ABC-CLIO booth.
Hey, I bumped into Shakespeare!

June 23

Saturday morning, I was ready to catch the shuttle 45 minutes before the exhibit hall opened at 9. I had great conversations all day and enjoyed spending booth time with my colleagues, none of whom I see on a regular basis. After work, I got the chance to have dinner with Kevin Hillstrom, the reference editor for politics and issues. He and I have only met twice, but each time we’ve enjoyed a long conversation. We had great food at Pinstripes, a restaurant/event center Kevin scoped out the weekend before while he was in Chicago with his family for his daughters’ volleyball tournament. I had gnocchi with a tuna ceviche on top and a salty, intense sauce next to it.

I had a conversation with this robot, Oscar. He asked to share my coffee. To be frank, it was creepy.
My wonderful author Kathy Barco stopped by to have her photo taken with me!

June 25

The highlight of Sunday was getting Phoebe a signed copy of Bridge to Terabithia! Katherine Paterson was as gracious and charming as you’d expect. I also had plenty of conversations with possible authors. That evening a couple friends and I went to meet my friend Bethany (a professor of political science at Roosevelt University) at the tail end of a motorcycle and music festival. What a great time!

My great success story of the trip: a copy of Bridge to Terabithia, signed for Phoebe.
A potential author let me take a photo of her brand-new tattoo.
One of the motorcycles at the motorcycle/rock festival a professor friend invited me to.
Motoblot. We got there for the very tail end and still had a great time.
Supposedly, this is her grandma’s bathing suit!
The styles were all over the map, and everyone seemed to be having fun.
Love the all-metal chopper.

June 26

I finally got out for a morning run on Monday, the last day of the conference. It’s always a treat to run in a new place, especially a new place with tons of oxygen! Work finished at 2 p.m., and I had plenty of time to take the “el” to the airport for my flight to Harrisburg, PA, where Dave and Don picked me up to begin two weeks of family vacation!

I passed this magnificent building when I went out for a run on Monday morning.
The city from the esplanade.
Another author, Nichole Shabazz, stopped by to talk about her project. She’s the Cleveland Public Library’s youth outreach and programming director.

Two Graduations and a Camping Trip

May 3

Photos from a bike trip over to Peak to Peak Charter School (about 100 yards from the house).

I want YOU…to go on a bike ride with me.
Phoebe is Mistress of the Monkey Bars.

May 5

Three orange cars. Three orange cars. Don’t they look great? Don’t they look great?

Benjamin wanted to ride his “new” green Strider (thanks, Brinkmans!) to Alicia Sanchez, and Phoebe, who had been scared off her bike by an accident at the Valmont Bike Park last year, suddenly decided she wanted to ride too. She got her legs back pretty fast!

Benjamin loves his hand-me-down green Strider!

Look, ma! No hands!
Phoebe finally has her “bike legs” back after an accident at the Valmont Bike Park last season.

May7

May 8

Hey, there’s a top tooth missing!

May 11

Ready for the playground.
Getting so big, he can swing by himself.

May 12

I’m sure Mrs. Miller appreciated this note Phoebe wrote for teacher appreciation week!

May 13

We went shopping, played at the “train park” in Louisville, and worked in the garden.

May 17

It was kind of fun to have a late-season snowstorm with hail!

The back deck was covered in hail.
Benjamin was delighted to hold some of the hailstones.
Hail in the driveway.
It was really coming down for a while!
Winter in Lafayette, CO; summer in Sagamore Hills, OH.

May 19

Benjamin was only able to participate in Take-A-Break’s preschool program on Mondays, when he didn’t have BVSD preschool, but he spent the afternoon at daycare every day of the week. Take-A-Break always has a really cute graduation ceremony. It’s usually outdoors at a park, but we had snow!

Holding a “graduate” owl balloon.

Feeling bashful.
D’Arla, the director of Take-A-Break, announces the graduation proceedings.

The room was decorated for graduation.
The preschoolers, including Benjamin.

May 20

I tried a new route for my Saturday morning run; it was really good for my brain to do something novel, and the scenery was terrific.

I stopped partway through my Saturday morning run to take a photo of this gorgeous scene only a few miles from the house.
It’s not too bad to be a mama cow on an idyllic day like this.

In the afternoon, there was a Fairy Festival at Festival Plaza in Lafayette. Phoebe went on a fairy quest and participated in a unicorn race.

Getting ready for the unicorn races.

On your marks…
She’s on her way back.
Look at her hair flying in the wind!

We had friends over for dinner; you can hear the grownups chatting in the background while Phoebe makes these home videos.

May 20

And now the big one: Benjamin’s graduation from the school district preschool program! It’s hard to believe it, but our little guy has completed two years of preschool. It was held from 8–11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays at our neighborhood school, Alicia Sanchez, during the school year. He loved it, and he grew up a TON during that time! His teacher, Ms. Maxwell (Ms. Max), is exactly who you would want teaching preschool. She’s tough, fair, kind, and loving, and she treats the preschoolers like the diverse, interesting human beings they are. It was a wonderful two years, and we’ll miss preschool, but Benjamin is going to kindergarten next year! He’ll stay at Alicia Sanchez, which should be a great fit. His delayed development still slows him down a bit, but he’s the sweetest little boy (excuse me, BIG boy!) in the world, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.

Preschool graduation:

Still getting used to the crowd.
Benjamin and Chloe following directions: “Sit on the circle carpet!”
Dancing to “I’m Gonna Catch You.”

Patient and possibly a little overwhelmed.
Waiting for his turn.
Ms. Max choked up as she talked about Benjamin graduating.
What a sweet handshake!
Ms. Maxwell gives Benjamin his diploma.
Most of the kids needed a few stage directions.
Ms. Max wipes way a tear as Benjamin takes his scrapbook.
Ms. Katy hands over his preschool scrapbook.
Ms. Solé gives Benjamin his gift.
Benjamin and his new friend Xavier. “Xavier starts with an ‘X’!”
Ms. Max after two years of teaching Benjamin. Still smiling!
Benjamin wasn’t too sure about the photo op.

May 26

Last day of school.

Now the top 2 are missing!

May 27

Memorial Day weekend. Dave and I left work early so we could toss a few more things into Cherry Blaze (my car) and pick up the kids to head out of town. We were able to pack everything into the trunk and backseat without using the roof box, so that was kind of cool. We must be true suburbanites! By the time we got the kids and got going, it was already getting late. We stopped in Buena Vista at a pretty nice restaurant for dinner; the kids were ready to get out of the car. Somehow, what could’ve been a 6.5-hour trip was…more. We didn’t get to our campsite until 1 a.m. It’s always kind of fun to set up in the dark. (Well, Dave sets up in the dark while I hold a sleepy, grumpy Benjamin in the front seat and Phoebe looks around excitedly.)

When we woke up in the morning on Saturday, we discovered that we had a great site at a really nice campground! The campground was only 7 miles outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dave made pancakes for breakfast, and we discovered that the kids really like to play catch with their baseball mitts, so I was glad we had packed them. The kids played together really nicely, sometimes outdoors and sometimes in the tent. Dave and I wanted to go for a hike, so we walked to the end of the campground road and got on a little hiking trail. Benjamin gave up after a short walk, but Dave and Phoebe went for another 15 minutes or so. Then we drove down to Santa Fe, where there was a little art festival going on. They had put up some art boards with reproductions of famous artists’ work, so it was pretty neat to show Phoebe Caravaggio’s David and Goliath, for instance. We got some gelato and stopped at the grocery store for a few things before heading back up for dinner.

Reading the “Spot It” directions.
A view of our campsite from next to the car.
We had a really nice site right across the road from the campground hosts.
Heading out on a hike.
Let’s fill up with water for our hike.
This looks like a determined little hiker.
I hardly ever get to hold hands with both kiddos at once!
Who knows how Phoebe’s play cell phone ended up coming camping?
I’m chilly. Can I have my hat too?
I can put my hat on by myself!
Got it.
Reading in the tent is a favorite activity.
Building a fire.
Can you tell who organized the fire materials?
Kids checking out the fire together.

On Sunday morning, I went for a brutal run uphill 4 miles and then a jarring run downhill 4 miles. I just love running in new places, though, and the weather was perfect! We spent a bunch of time at the campsite, but we also went to town briefly. The kids had found a playground they really liked, so we played there again. When we got back to camp, we went on a great hike to a waterfall. Phoebe was a champ, and I got to spend some very snuggly time with Benjamin—he rode piggyback both ways. (We didn’t have room to pack the kid-carrier backpack.) We had tacos for dinner and got some good sleep—we were all warm enough that night.

Phoebe insisted on playing memory with all the Dr. Seuss memory cards.
Got her mid-smile!
Sometimes you just can’t hold back the chuckle!
This great photo sums up Phoebe’s attitude about having her picture taken.
A close-up really shows the distinguished gray hairs!
This outfit reminds something Uncle Matt would wear.
Tiger is looking tired.
Looking kind of tired after three nights of camping.
Phoebe practiced using the “good” camera by taking a ton of photos of Benjamin playing in the camping stuff.
Tucking in his beanie boo tiger.
Just resting!
Here, Mommy can help you.
We built a garage for Benjamin’s car.
Another in Phoebe’s series.
This is part of my series of individual photos of all the family members.
Phoebe took a sequence of photos of Dave putting on a different shirt.
Is that a yawn?
Whatever he’s sucking off his fingers is probably disgusting.

On Monday morning, we cleaned up camp and got on the road. We had lunch at KFC in Walsenberg and got home with enough time to settle in a little bit before we had to go back to work. What a great trip!

Happy Easter! Plus April

Happy Easter from the Gribbles!

We couldn’t have had a nicer Easter. Phoebe woke up first and went downstairs to see if the Easter bunny had come—and came running back up to report, with delight, that not only had she come, she’d brought a particular Easter basket Phoebe had been eyeing in the grocery store! Plus the regular basket, which had a Beanie Boo in it! (I always thought the Easter bunny was male, but that possibility has never crossed Phoebe’s mind.) I climbed out of bed, took a shower, and made everyone eggs, hashbrowns, and sausage. We got all dressed up and made it to church a respectable five minutes early, where we enjoyed sitting with my dear friend Becki, her daughter Maya, and her mom, all of whom were joining us at Mount Calvary for the first time. The worship service was lovely, and afterward the kids had a great time at the annual Easter egg hunt. Phoebe stuck with Maya and found her friend Julia, and Julia’s big sister Maggie took Benjamin under her wing, as she always does. They came home with plenty more candy, stickers, and little toys.

After church, we cleaned house and did the final batch of cooking for Easter dinner. A week earlier, I’d gotten bummed about not living near family and started inviting everyone else I could think of who doesn’t live near their family. We had a terrific group for our 4 p.m. dinner: Jen and Varis; Katherine, Alex, and Ellie (Phoebe’s great friend from Lafayette Elementary); Renee and Ian; Janice; and Elijah. I got to make all my favorite Easter foods, and I tried a fancy cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated: triple-chocolate mousse cake. It was as delicious as it sounds. Phoebe made 20 deviled eggs from scratch; she even peeled them all herself without complaining! She made half with paprika and half with capers. They were delicious. (She ate four herself!) We opened four bottles of wine and sat out on the deck in the perfect weather. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

April 2

Phoebe’s first-grade class been learning about Japan for half the school year, and she’s fascinated with it. She’s learned many Japanese words, holidays, and traditions. I offered to take her to a Japanese restaurant near our house, Udon Kaisha, for a mother-daughter birthday celebration lunch, but we didn’t get around to it until early April. We had such a good time! It’s fun to spend time with her separately, and she loved the food. She kept saying “This is delicious!” (I agree; I eat lunch there as often as I can fit it into my work schedule.)

Phoebe and Mommy had a lunch date!
Trying her first bite of a California roll.
Look at this amazing ramen!
Using the really big spoon to try the broth.
A taste of the noodles.
Mochi ice cream. We both liked the mango and green tea better than the strawberry.
Ready to dig in!
Selfie with a view of the restaurant in the back.
Selfie up close.