Happy Halloween

... Kates finished Phoebe's costume with only a couple hours to spare (Never mind I found Phoebe's little bone, painted it and had it finished weeks ago). There were tears shed. But we made it ...

We took Phoebe on her first trick-or-treat outing this afternoon ... and oh, what fun it was ...

Phoebe went as Pebbles Flintstone ... Kates and I went as Phoebe's parents.

We only went to a few of the neighbors' houses, but Phoebe got enough KitKats, Twix bars, Hershey bars and gummy candies for Kates and I to snack on tonight ...

Here's a few images from the day ...

(A sweatshirt she got from her daycare ... )

(Kates doing Phoebe's, er, Pebbles' hair ... )

(At first, she wasn't so sure what was happening and why people were walking around the neighborhood dressed as colorful superheroes and Muppets ...)

(But she soon got the hang of it ... Back at home, the first thing she did was sit on the kitchen floor and check out her stash ... )


We survived

... I got this passage forwarded to me the other day by a friend, which is interesting because I had been thinking about it a couple days earlier. I've received it a few times, and it always fascinates me to read because it's largely the memories I have of growing up. And, of course, it's not the way things are today...

Like a lot of these things, I don't know where it originated. But I wanted to share it here ...

So for all of you born between 1930 and 1979 ...

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads. As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes made with Lard, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Flavor Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. Why?

Because we were always outside playing ... that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OK.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

We had friends and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping pong paddles, or just a bare hand and no one would call child services to report abuse. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law.

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. What can kids today do besides push buttons.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If you are one of them, congratulations.

The ABCs of TLC, GSN and A& E: Niche networks skew younger to avoid ending up MIA

This is hooey.

From today's Washington Post: The ABCs of TLC, GSN and A& E: Niche networks skew younger to avoid ending up MIA.


Grading with Kates

So Kates and I were watching the World Series last night while she graded a government quiz she recently gave her fourth graders ...

Here are some of their actual answers to the questions on the quiz ... and some of our reactions in parenthesis.

Give the NAME of as many people as you can that are important in our government. Get an extra point for each name if you can tell WHY that person is important!

... Brock Obama. He is important because he is the president (This answer sent us into a giggle fit coming up with urban ways to say/spell the president's name ... B'rak Mmmbama!)

... Bill Clintent. He is the vise president and he helps the president.

... The president. He tells what's going on or something he would like to change.

What is the Bill of Rights?

... A list of rights
... It says we can do this (To which Kates wrote in her red pen, Do what?)
... A list of what is right in the world such as clean up and respect stuff.

Name ONE amendment to the Constitution. Tell why it is important.

... No slavery because people were getting very hurt.
... Slavery. It's important because it's an amendment (It's like milk. It does a body good.)
... Amendment XI is the emgemt of congress (... The what of congress?! The image? The management? The merger? The emergency?)

The Executive branch _______ the laws.

... follows
... excuses (Oh, you shot someone? That's ok. You're excused!)

Finally, after reading yet another comical answer, Kates just burst out laughing, sighed and said, "I can't."


A night with Ingrid Michaelson

It took us four weeks, but Kates and I finally took some time out to celebrate our wedding anniversary last night ...

With a night on the town and a concert, featuring Ingrid Michaelson ... If The Weepies were our soundtrack for 2008, Ingrid Michaelson has been our soundtrack for 2009. We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate.

We left Pheebs with Grandma and Grandpa for the night and ventured into downtown Milwaukee ... The weather couldn't have been more perfect, the scenes more gorgeous. The air was warm and the trees along the riverwalk were bright gold ... We stuffed ourselves with a dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery and marveled at the way the Bengals were pummeling the Bears on the TVs overhead ...

Soon it was off to the show ...

Last night's concert venue was the Turner Hall ballroom, a new one for us but a pleasure to take in, nonetheless. Classic architecture. Hardwood floors that sloped left and right. And a creaky staircase that carried us to the ballroom. ... Inside the ballroom, tables and chairs were arranged into cabaret seating, each of the tables capped with candelight. Kates and I claimed a table in the second row, in line with centerstage. We were set.

* * *

Matthew Perryman Jones opened the show, playing to the mellow vibe that came with the venue and the mostly adult crowd. ... The whole time I could hardly stop thinking about how familar his voice sounded and yet I couldn't put my finger on how or why it sounded so familiar. Like Ingrid's music, I also couldn't stop thinking about how well his music would fit on "Grey's Anatomy." (After further review, it turns out we have heard his voice before; a couple of his songs are in our music library and he has been on Grey's.)

He moved from ballads to slow rock jams, playing all of them solo on an acoustic guitar. He also played a lovely cover of Patti Griffin's "Top of the World." And there were some amusing interactions with the audience.

He introduced "When It Falls Apart," a song he co-wrote with Katie Herzig by explaining that it included some hand-clapping -- but nothing fancy like Ingrid does, no double-claps or anything like that ... Then, he stopped halfway through the song to give the crowd a "heads-up" and explain a change in the hand-clapping. Afterward, he called it "the best clapping involvement this whole tour."

He introduced "Until the Last Falling Star" by explaining "there's just not enough melodramatic love songs out their in the world ... this is my contribution." ... Before playing his last song he encouraged the crowd to buy on of his CDs and to keep in mind that all the proceeds go to "a child in need." Then he paused, added, "That child in need is my daughter ..." and drew much laughter from the crowd.

Here's his set list ...

1. (Unknown)
2. "Letting Go"
3. "When It Falls Apart"
4. "Rain or Shine"
5. "Refuge"
6. "Top of the World"
7. "Until the Last Falling Star"
8. "Save You" (performed with Chris Kuffner and Allie Moss)

* * *

Ingrid Michaelson and her band took the stage shortly after 9 and promptly offered a hint of what was to come with a cool guitar jam to open "Soldier" and begin their set.

For the next hour and 40 minutes the band served up a healthy dose of music spanning Michaelson's mounting catalog -- from her breakthrough "Girls and Boys," to her latest, "Everybody." (We have 'em all.)

Michaelson's songbook is long on quirky songs dealing with melancholy feelings of lost love, relationships gone wrong and wishful thinking. But Sunday night's show had few hints of such sadness ... One moment did come after the band left the stage and Ingrid went solo on her keyboard for "Sort Of." After finishing the song, she fought off a lump in her throat and said, "Mmm, that's a sad song." A couple songs later, remaining solo, she performed her cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love," and let the crowd take over each time she came to the chorus. The crowd's soft singing was so lovely and moving, it sent chills down my spine.

Mostly, though, Michaelson and her band engaged -- and entertained -- the crowd with upbeat sing-a-longs, humor and cool pop rock songs. As expected.

There couldn't have been more than 500 people in the ballroom. The whole thing felt like Miss Michaelson and her band mates were guests in our living room. It felt as though they were sincerely interested in giving us the best show possible -- not just playing another show in some city along the way to selling a few more downloads.

That's part of the appeal of Ingrid Michaelson, I think -- that she engages her audiences with raw emotion and personality. And, in just that hour and 40 minutes, she has you thinking that just maybe we could be good friends.

The band moved effortlessly from slower, yearners like "Die Alone" and "Giving Up" to rocking jams -- like "The Hat," "Be OK," and "Everybody" -- powered by steady, thumping drum beats and loud electric guitars. Since we last saw them at Summerfest, clearly, the band has grown -- which is a sure product of their hard touring.

The arrangements, the sunny harmonies, snaps and hand claps -- all of it sounded tight and polished. The group huddled around the mic and stamped their feet for the cute and fun "You And I." They added a country twang to "Giving Up" and "Men of Snow" featured an accordion.

And yet, it was evident in their playfulness on stage that the band doesn't it take itself too seriously. That's part of that appeal thing again.

Rather than having to disappear from the stage and make the crowd applaud for an encore, Ingrid explained, the band was just going to hide somewhere. So they did: Allie Moss behind a stool; Ingrid behind the drum set; and drummer Elliot Jacobson in clear view but holding a skinny drumstick in front of his face.

In the midst of going solo for three songs in the middle of the show, Ingrid told the crowd she had come up with a new slang word -- scrubs. Then, she explained, she came up with the phrase "no scrubs" and thought it was so cool that she wanted to write a song about it ... The little story led to her playing a baroque-styled cover of TLC's "No Scrubs," complete with Ingrid doing the vocals like an opera singer -- or better yet, like Ana Gasteyer's Bobbie Mohan-Culp.

The band also performed a hilarious song about their love for Mexican food, which I can only guess, judging from the chorus, was titled "We Love Mexican Food." The music was exactly that of "Maybe," but the band changed the lyrics and included a chorus that rattled off their favorite Mexican meals.

On the rollicking "Locked Up," -- arguably my favorite of the set -- the band invited the crowd into a call-and-answer segment after the bridge. Band members took turns singing the "ba da da, ba da da" and having the audience repeat it ...

But when it came to bassist Chris Kuffner's turn, he went off on a scat that the audience couldn't possibly have recalled. The audience and the band burst into laughter (It was hard to tell if the rest of the band knew he was going to do that, or the band was simply laughing at Kuffner's spotlight-stealing effort.). ... Then! -- to seal the song and all the goodness of its rocking climax -- the band suddenly stopped playing and Ingrid shouted, "Switch!" On cue, all of the band members traded instruments. Ingrid landed on the drums, counted off the beat and the band finished the song.

The banter with the crowd was never lacking. Throughout the show she commented about the unnerving slope of the stage, saying at one point, "Seriously, guys, you could put a marble on here. It'll roll right down."

Before singing "Once Was Love," she asked about the crowd's age range. When an 11-year-old girl was pointed out, Ingrid sighed and said, "OK, good to know," before fidgeting and figuring out a way to appropriately explain the song. She began referring to the love interest in the song as a beloved doll whom you love and "sleep with a lot." But then one day, Ingrid explained, you decide you don't love that doll as much as you used to and it's best to take that doll to the thrift shop, go out and get a new doll.

By the time she got to her most recognizable tune, "The Way I Am," it seemed like an afterthought. Surely by now she's sung the song to death and the band seemed to breeze through it so fast that it probably wouldn't have been missed. ... "Keep Breathing," her breakthrough "Grey's Anatomy" anthem was absent from the set. And that was OK.

Here's Ingrid's complete set list (with videos of some of the highlights) ...

1. "Soldier"
2. "Die Alone"
3. "Once Was Love"
4. "The Hat" (This video includes Ingrid's fun scolding of the audience for their poor singing. Also keep in mind as you listen to her "story" that by this time the 11-year-old girl had been pointed out to her.)

5. "You And I"

6. "Be OK"

7. "The Chain"

8. "Sort Of"
9. "No Scrubs"
10. "Can't Help Falling in Love"
11. "Giving Up"
12. "Mountain and the Sea"
13. "Everybody"
14. "Men of Snow"
15. "Locked Up"
16. "The Way I Am"

17. "Maybe"
18. "We Love Mexican Food"
19. "Far Away"


Rally cries

Thursday night's playoff game between the Yankees and Angels wasn't necessarily a classic, not if you need your classic baseball games to dare perfection. No, this was a big, bold, beautiful, tense, ugly, quirky, odd baseball game. No one was quite sure if the game was made up of comebacks or blown leads, clutch hits or mistake pitches, brilliant timing or managerial blunders. No one was sure about anything except the umpires (who blew their requisite calls), the Angels rally monkey (back on the scoreboard to inspire) and the last inning, which left everyone breathless.
-- Joe Posnanski (more)
Breathless is an understatement.

I had watched the game from start to finish ...

Starting with Phoebe doing her usual living room play romp and me thoroughly enjoying the Angels' first inning romp on the base paths -- especially after the Yankees' route on Tuesday night. The Angels kept swinging and all of a sudden -- bang -- they put four runs on the board before the Yankees could score an out.

Then Phoebe went to bed and Kates joined me for the later innings ...

We lamented as the sixth and seventh innings passed that the Angels hadn't been able to score since the first, and that their 4-0 lead hardly seemed safe against the Yankees.

Sure enough. The Yankees came back. ... No, they didn't just come back. They put six runs on the board, all after Mike Scioscia pulled John Lackey because he got into a jam late in the seventh inning. What was Mike Scioscia thinking when he pulled John Lackey!? I said. If there's anyone on the Angels' staff who you want on the mound, it's John Lackey!

Fortunately, Vladimir Guerrero's game-tying single in the bottom of seventh saved the Angels' season and possibly Scioscia's job. Then, good ol' Kendry Morales drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the seventh.


But the game's not over 'til it's over.

After having gotten ready for bed, I stood watching that harrowing ninth inning in our bedroom, beating my head against the dresser and groaning with every walk Brian Fuentes gave up. ... The Angels got outs from Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira. Then Alex Rodriguez: intentional walk; Hideki Matsui: walk; Robinson Cano: hit by pitch.


Finally it came to this: Angels leading 7-6, the bases loaded with Yankees, two outs and a 3-2 count on Nick Swisher.

Swisher, thankfully, popped up the ball. It was caught and the game was over.

Relief. And hope. The Angels still have a (slight) chance to come back.

And people say baseball is boring.


Phoebe speak

Earlier this week, I told the story of Phoebe's baseball recognition, or her word -- "bae-bol."

She's got these words down pat: no, potty, mommy, daddy, on, off, Elmo, Ernie, baby, up, away, bye, cheese and doggie.

But we're still working on the right ways to say other common words ...

Here's a look at some of the other words in Phoebe's vocabulary these days ...

die-da-go ... time to go

huck ... hug

all-rye ... all right

ra-ros ... Cheerios

ah da-baum ... "I dropped it" or just da-baum when she's referring to an object that fell

he-wo ... hello

hoe-wee ... Chloe (Grandma and Grandpa's dog)

ma'ama ... Grandma

a-pa ... Grandpa

na-ma-nae ... watermelon (her word sounds more like lemonade, but ok)

pees ... please (which she signs by practically putting her neck in a choke hold)

appo ... apple

ah-duh ... water

joo ... juice

ott dog ... hot dog

ma ... milk

mo ... more (which she signs by hand-clapping)

aw-duh ... all done

National treasures

So I finally, finally! finished watching Ken Burns’ “National Parks” documentary this week …

It only took me a month … To get through all 12 hours and six episodes worth. At times, I had to work hard to keep watching over Phoebe’s shouting, or crying. There were other times where I simply couldn’t stay awake. There were parts of the documentary I had to watch three or four times because I missed things and I wanted to make sure I saw it all.

But it was worth seeing it all.

I have a good friend from high school, Ali, whose life long dreams include seeing all of the Major League ballparks and all of the National Parks … The ballpark idea I can relate to completely, of course. And now, finally, I get her motivation on the national park idea.

Sure, I knew some of John Muir’s and Theodore Roosevelt’s histories with the parks.

And I’ve always been fascinated by the pictures I’ve seen of the Redwood forest and Old Faithful and Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. They’re all on my list of places I want visit before I die.

But, after watching Burns' documentary, they're on a list of places I must visit before I die … Along with Yosemite, the Everglades, Crater Lake and countless other national parks featured in the documentary. Places I had no idea were so hallowed, or were even protected as national parks. I had no idea the country had so many national parks …

Burns' film serves up a rich lesson about the controversies and fights to preserve our national parks, along with the people and personalities who fell so deeply in love with them along the way ...

When the last picture of the last episode faded last night, I let out a deep, satisfied sigh. Having just watched some of the park historians tell their personal stories of visiting national parks with their children, I moved to the kitchen where Kates was making dinner and patted her on the back.

"Some day," I told her.

Good reads ...
a Anyone watching Ken Burns' 'National Parks,' the most beautiful show on TV?
a Pride and preservation Ken Burns’s ‘Parks’ a vast undertaking
a 'National Parks': Camped Out, But Trailing Off


Phoebe & her shoes

I've mentioned Phoebe's fascination with shoes on this blog a few times ...

This week, we finally got some video proof ... She could do this for hours if we let her ...


Worldwide ebb

The Washington Post has an interesting read this week about Facebook that questions what's next for social networking ...

The story raises some excellent points.

But I'd rather not fathom -- being one who generally resists change -- a day when Facebook is passed over and nearly forgotten ...

After all of the time us Facebook-ers have logged catching up with lost friends and cultivating our profile pages, can't we, for once, keep a piece of technology or software for more than, say, seven years before it becomes useless or out-of-date and we have to start from scratch again?

Watching some bae-bol!

If it’s the only thing I teach Phoebe in life, I’m content.

She’s successfully learned to say and recognize "baseball."

Only she says “bae-bol.” … So, OK, we have some more things to work on, but it's a good start!

Kates and I caught her saying the beloved word last weekend as we were watching the playoff games … Then, yesterday afternoon, we arrived home from the daycare. I unpacked our belongings and set her on the floor to play. I grabbed the remote, turned on the TV and switched on the Yankees-Angels game.

Phoebe immediately skipped in the air and pointed at the TV, shouting, “bae-bol!” She knew exactly what we were watching.

“Yes, Phoebe! It’s baseball!” I shouted back … I can’t explain the pride that filled my heart. After all, she did sit on the couch with me for a whole hour the other day while I watched a ball game.

And how ‘bout them Angels! … After watching them freeze their butts – and their bats – in New York for games one and two, yesterday’s game was a much more thrilling, enjoyable affair.

With every solo home run the Yankees hit yesterday, I was becoming less optimistic of the Angels’ chances … My hope was redeemed when Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run home run to tie the game in the sixth inning … And then I lost it again in the eighth inning when Jorge Posada hit a home run to tie the game at 4-4.

As we watched the game over dinner, I was musing to Kates about how much I'd like to see the Angels take the series, but the more recent Angels teams just don’t have the same post season fight that epitomized the 2002 team I adored. They don’t have that Rally Monkey spark …

They don’t have the Troy Glaus, the Tim Salmon, the Darin Erstad, the David Eckstein, the Bengie Molina, the Scott Spiezio, the Garret Anderson. And the pitching of Jarrod Washburn, Brendan Donnelly or Troy Percival.

Nowadays, it seems, Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero are the only sparks.

And yet, when Abreu overran second base on his leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth and got thrown out as he dove back to the bag – I was ready to throw in the towel. … Seriously, I was pacing in front of the TV with a dish towel while I tried to wash dishes.

Still, as the game moved into extra innings and Kates moved to get Phoebe – who was happily playing on the living room floor in front of us – ready for bed, I prodded her to let Pheebs stay up a little longer.

A few minutes later, it happened. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Jeff Mathis ripped a shot to the left field wall and Howie Kendrick sprinted all the way from first base to score the winning run.

With the three of us standing and huddled around the TV, I pumped my fists in celebration. And before I realized it, Phoebe was bouncing beside me, her little hands in the air, shouting “Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!” … I whisked her in the air as we laughed and shared high fives.

I’ve created a baseball fan. (Yes!)

Can’t say we shared the same excitement over that Dodgers-Phillies game

I started dozing off in the sixth inning and, with the Dodgers clinging to their 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, I turned off the TV while saying a little prayer that they held on.

Apparently that didn't happen. ... My heart sunk when I saw the score scroll by this morning on ESPN's bottom line: Dodgers 4 Phillies 5. ... That blasted Matt Stairs!


Sleep eating

Phoebe never got her nap on Saturday afternoon.

Kates took her grocery shopping in the morning. But by the time they got home, they were an hour behind Phoebe’s regular schedule. We fed her lunch and tried to put her down for a nap … But she never fell asleep. And when we could no longer stand her cries, we rescued her from her crib to let her play.

As the afternoon rolled on, Phoebe got more crabby. Every toy that was out of place or didn't work the way she wanted resulted in a meltdown.

At around 5 we had her buckled in her hi-chair for supper … And this video shows the result …

Phoebe was in bed last night by 6 – about two hours earlier than usual – and we didn’t hear a peep from her until 7:15 this morning …

(My apologies for some of the shaking in this video, but I couldn’t stop laughing!)


Saturday morning

We're setting up for a relaxing day around the house, amid the dreary winter-like weather outside ...

But, hey 60s and 70s with sun to start next week, right!? I'll believe it when I see it.

Phoebe is bouncing around the room and playing with her baby doll and blocks. Kates is getting ready to go shopping. And I'm doing some reading before I get started on the honey-do list -- fixing a light bulb, paying some bills, cleaning the bathroom ...

I just read two interesting pieces in The New York Times ...

The first from Bob Herbert, "Pricing the Kids Out," about the costs of going to a sports game these days. ... It makes me sick.

The second piece is ‘Mad Men’ and the Thrill of Other People’s Misery in Sour Times ... The show continues to fascinate Kates and I each week, and there's some truth to this story and the idea that the show is a glimpse into our predecessors.


18 months

Phoebe turned 18 months old this week. A whole year-and-a-half old.

Our ball of energy just keeps growing. Literally and figuratively.

At 34 inches tall, she’s in the 90th percentile in height, making us wonder what hidden genes she got from two people that have historically short families.

Climbing and jumping on furniture continues to be one of her favorite delights, and one of our biggest fears. Along with running wherever there’s a clear path … Once all of us were home together yesterday afternoon, Kates and I watched for about 10 minutes as Phoebe ran up and down our hallway repeatedly, shouting “Go!” every time she took off. Our hallway was like her own little running track.

Last night, as Kates and I were preparing supper in the kitchen, we were discussing that we needed to be on alert for the time she starts climbing on kitchen chairs and trying to reach counter tops … Then, for the first time, within minutes of that conversation – right in front of Kates and I, as if she’s been doing it for months – Phoebe sauntered over to the dining table, nonchalantly pulled out a chair and started climbing up to the seat. It was stunning to watch, and yet a little hilarious in the no-problem way she approached it.

Lights remain a fascination for her … along with shoes. She'll sit on the living room floor for lengths of time, getting immersed with trying to put her shoes on. Though she hasn’t figured out the process entirely, she can get her toes into the shoes – although not always on the right feet – and then points to them and says, “On!” … And if she ever sees my shoes lying outside of a closet, she’s quick to bring them to me, saying “shoes!”

The real delight though was having her cuddle up and sit on the couch with me last night for an hour straight while we watched the Dodgers-Phillies game. Sure, she was playing with her shoes again, but I was just happy to have her sitting still with me.

Her bedtime call to me has become a rite of passage … Each night I retreat to our den while Kates gives Phoebe her bath. But when they’re finished and Phoebe is ready for bed, I can count on hearing Phoebe’s pitter-pattering across the upstairs floor and her calling “Daaaaaaaadeeeeeeee!” from the top of the stairs. That's my signal that it's time for me to help tuck her in to bed; it melts my heart.

Phoebe has her very own Ernie doll now …

Recently it seems she’s developed a little crush on the fun-loving, orange-skinned Muppet. We noticed she was constantly flipping through a large Sesame Street book and pointing to “Ernie!” So after a few nights, I pulled my Ernie doll from a shelf in Phoebe’s room, which Kates and I had loaded with some of the favorite stuffed animals and dolls from our childhoods. When I handed that Ernie doll to Phoebe, her smile and eyes got as wide as we’ve ever seen. She held it tight and carried it everywhere for as long as we’d allow.

However, that Ernie doll is nearly as old as I am. My grandmother re-stitched its middle a million times, and one of its ears is hanging on by a thread. It’s pretty worn, and I couldn’t bare to see any further damage to it.

So while Kates and I were doing some errands over the weekend, and strolling through the toy aisle at Target to get some Christmas gift ideas, we spotted an Ernie doll. We had no choice but to get it for Phoebe … She held tight to it all the way home.


TV watch

Streaming from my consciousness on recent TV …

“The Office” wedding was fantastic. … The mental picture taking was adorable. I loved the way Jim took a scissors to his tie to make Pam feel better about ripping her veil. Andy's unfortunate tearing of his, shall we say, stuff was totally uncomfortable and funny. And the opening scene with the chain-reaction barfing all over the office was one of the most HA-larious things I've seen in awhile.

And the spoof on the infamous "Forever" wedding dance! ...I watched the "Office" version again this morning, and nearly cried again. I also laughed hard again at the sight of Dwight kicking that bridesmaid in the face.

I think we’re going to be deleting “Hank” and “The Middle” from our DVR lineup. “Hank” is just lame and contrived. And “The Middle” meanwhile has so much potential with its cast – Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Eden Sher (who I enjoyed watching in “Sons & Daughters” a couple years ago), Atticus Shaffer and Chris Kattan, who is one my all-time favorite SNL alums. ... But their quirks (A kid who refuses to wear pants? Come on.) just aren’t funny. All of the mishaps and drama they have to go through are the kinds of over-the-top storylines I said I wanted to get rid of this season.

Which leaves us with …

Accidentally on Purpose.”... Never thought I'd be saying this, but it's arguably my favorite new show. It’s cute and it's the only show I’ve caught myself consistently laughing out loud.

Modern Family.” The other entry for best new show on television. Excellent cast. Amusing storylines. Great writing. Perfect.

Cougar Town.” I don't think the recent episodes have lived up to the laugh-out-loud pilot, but OK.

FlashForward.” I’m hanging on, but losing interest.

And “The Jay Leno Show.” I only watch when there’s a guest I’m interested in. It’s had some entertaining moments – including Jennifer Garner reciting the Boston Red Sox starting lineup (while wearing a backward Yankees cap), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss enduing a tarantula on her arm, and the Green Car Challenges – but mostly I just fast-forward through the monologue, watch the guest interview and then delete it.

I told you we’d only stay with a couple new shows.

Oh, and there’s always “Glee.”


The light in her eyes

So Phoebe's latest fascination is lights.

Every time she sees a light come on -- in the car, in the house, anywhere -- she points to it and says exuberantly, "On! On! On!"

And she doesn't quit until one of us acknowledges her. "Yes, Phoebe, the light is on."

Yesterday, Kates was leading Phoebe out of the house for their morning run to the daycare. Nowadays, it's still dark out when they leave, and this week we've had some clear skies with a bright full moon ...

Phoebe looked to the sky, pointed and said "On! On! On!"

She thought the moon was a light in the sky.



Dave being Dave

Turns out Dave was wrong when he said he didn’t plan to say anything more about his affairs

I couldn't help but wonder how this would affect his monologues and interviews from here on out? He can’t exactly be straight-faced telling jokes about Bill Clinton or Mark Sanford the way he used to. And will guests decline to appear on his who because of this whole thing?

The Boston Globe produced a good Top 10 list of “David Letterman’s top 10 regrets.” ... The one that has kept coming in to my mind since this whole thing started, No. 7: “Being so hard on Bill Clinton in the 90s.”

Then I watched Monday night's show ... And I caught myself smiling at the warm applause and cheers he recieved from his studio audience. And in another instant he was doing his monologue and turned his jokes on himself.

"Didn't this weekend just fly by," he deadpanned. "I'll be honest with you folks, right now I would give anything to be hiking on the Appalachian Trail."

It was just Dave being Dave. And I have a feeling he's going to be just fine.

It also helped that he issued a heartfelt apology to his wife on Monday night's show. ... And Steve Martin -- who was hilarious by himself and then going side-by-side in a surprise appearance by Martin Short -- opened his spot in the guest chair by sympathizing with Dave and reminding us that he's a "human being."

Here's some interest reads ...
a Craig Ferguson defends Letterman, his boss
a Letterman's Latest Late Night Act: Contrition
a Let's Remember That Letterman's a Clown, Not a Cleric or Congressman

Feeling Minnesota

I was sprawled out on the floor and once again on the verge of a heart attack last night.

Thanks, Detroit Tigers.

Although, after what I've officially dubbed "The Lost Season," it's nice to finally have some gut-wrenching baseball to watch ... All summer long, I've whined about my early mornings and early bedtimes, which kept me from watching a lot of baseball the way I used to. And of what I did read and watch, the Brewers were dissappointing and the Cubs just plain stunk. Beyond that, I couldn't find a single compelling story, and there certainly weren't any compelling pennant races ...

Well, except for the Tigers and the Twins -- which led us to last night's wild one-game playoff.

That 4:05 first pitch at the Metrodome couldn't come fast enough for me. (I will say this, our visit to the Metrodome last summer and having seen the quirky stadium firsthand has made it a lot more interesting to watch Twins games on TV.)

I, of course, was pumping my fists with every run the Tigers scored. And burying my head with every run the Twins scored.

In the bottom or the 10th inning when Ryan Raburn dove and missed that fly ball, giving up the no-out triple to Michael Cuddyer, I ended up with a dish towel over my head. Then there was the one-out double-play ball that slipped under Placido Polanco's glove, allowed Cuddyer to score the tying run and sent me collapsing on the floor in agony. And my whooping and hollering when Raburn gunned down the potential winning run to end the bottom of the 10th was enough to get Phoebe -- who should have been asleep -- shouting "Daddy!"

The drama continued for two more innings. The Tigers had their chances to win ...

But they broke fans' hearts again. The Twins won it on a walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th, almost five hours after the game started.


A month ago, the Tigers had the A.L. Central in the bag. They were going to be my top team this fall ... Then, the Sports Illustrated cover jinx struck again.

At least now I don’t have to worry about them getting trounced by the Yankees in the playoffs.

In my dreamworld, I'd love a Dodgers-Angels World Series ... In my real world, I predict Phillies-Yankees. Blah.

Here's some good baseball-related reads ...
a A Cloudy Crystal Ball
a A Pitcher Comes In, and a City Holds Its Breath
a Angels thinking forwardly
a Best time to play memory games
a Baseball’s Postseason Field Is Rich With Recent Playoff Experience

* * *

Monday night's Packers-Vikings game was almost as compelling as the Tigers-Twins game -- for the first half, at least.

Then, in the second half, Brett Favre started playing like Brett Favre, and the Packers offensive line couldn't protect Aaron Rodgers ... As much as I hate to admit it, it was fun to watch Brett up his legendary status some more. Maybe he's going to get the Vikings to a Super Bowl after all -- maybe.

Here’s a good read about Brett. And here's a good read about the game's (huge) impact on TV ratings.



In our newsroom today ...

My cohort, Laura (singing): Bless the beasts and the chil-he-dren.

Me: Ok, that's enough Karen.

My cohort John: Yeah, go eat something.

And in a fire station I was visiting today ...

A firefighter: Hey, do you know why Chicago didn't get the Olympics? ... Because Chicago doesn't win anything in October.

Ha ha.



So Phoebe and I were out a little late last night at a party with our friends Raechel and Shaun ...

I guess Phoebe was still a little wasted from it this morning. I gave her some lunch and went to the sink to wash some dishes. When I turned around, this is what I saw ...

Letterman's doings

I'm not sure how to feel about this whole Letterman thing.

On one side, his admitted affairs are objectionable ... On the other side, I am sorry for what he's had to go through and for having little choice but to publicly admit his wrongdoing because some jerk wanted his money.

And still, I find David Letterman one of the most interesting and fascinating characters in the public consciousness. I've long said he's at the top of my list of people I'd most want to meet.

Kates and I agreed last night: You have to smile, at least a little, at the way he handles himself in these situations. ... He goes on his show and tells it his way, weaving in cutting jokes; his delivery is amazing.

And then that's it. He doesn't talk about it further. He doesn't do interviews. He's done it again and again, and the furor over his misguided Palin joke earlier this summer played out the same way.

Some interesting reads ...
a Leno, Fallon among those taking shots at Letterman
a Letterman Extortion Raises Questions for CBS
a 'SNL' zings David Letterman's difficulties


Rude awakening

So Kates and I had our first experience with Phoebe throwing up this morning ...

As usual, Phoebe woke us at around 7:30 with her cries of "Mommy!" and "out!" -- meaning she wants out of her crib.

Kates and I sighed at another Saturday morning of rising earlier than either of us would like and walked across the hall to Phoebe's room.

As soon we entered, something didn't smell right ... And then, there it was all over her sheet and blankets. The remnants of yesterday's tomatoes, grapes and carrots, in all their mushy, half-chewed glory. And Phoebe's cheek, which had been lying in it for who knows how long, was crusted and burned from unstuffed food.

In parenthood horror, Kates immediately pulled Phoebe from her crib, stripped her and prepared a bath, while I pulled the sheets from her bed, gathered all the blankets and stuffed animals involved and made the gag-filled march to the laundry room.

The sight and smell was so foul as I rinsed the blankets and sheet under hot water that I gagged a few times myself. One time, I gagged so hard I thought it was over, I was about to blow some chunks of my own.

I survived, though, and got everything in the washing machine without further damage. Back upstairs, Kates finished giving Phoebe a bath, and we spent the first couple hours of our Saturday washing stuffed animals, wiping down Phoebe's crib and, yes, even a wall that wasn't left untouched by the flying food.

Phoebe's fine, of course, and is now waltzing around like nothing happened.


The Fourth City

So Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Olympics today.

And those of us in this region who for years lived and breathed -- and hoped for -- Chicago's bid are speechless.

We had been counting down to this day for weeks. And the anticipation during the last few days was overpowering ... We watched as tons of big name athletes came out. Oprah and Michelle came out. And when the President announced he was flying to Copenhagen to pull for the games in his hometown Chicago, we were as hopeful as ever.

Sure, we'd heard the questions about whether Chicago could finance the games. And the public support wasn't as high in Chicago as it was in other candidate cities. But we didn't care ...

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! we thought. Who wouldn't want to have and experience the Olympics in their backyard!? If it happened, Kates and I were ready to start booking our plans tomorrow.

We had imagined what it might be like taking an 8-year-old Phoebe, and maybe another child by then, to the games and taking in the Olympic atmosphere. Seeing the sights and venues and interacting with people from all over the world. Maybe catching an event or two.

This morning, the atmosphere in our office was unlike any other Friday ... We were eagerly making plans for one of those big stories that only comes along once in awhile. The local reaction, the coloful design and all that comes with it. Right up to the time that the IOC's vote began, we were making phone calls, securing quotes and perspective from leaders on how the games in Chicago would impact our community.

We were swept up in the moment. Observers were calling Mayor Daley's push for the games this morning the speech of his life. As buzz kept building we were more optimistic Chicago would be the host.

And then Chicago was out. It was done. All over. ... Chicago hadn't secured enough votes to make it out of the first round. It happened too fast to comprehend any of it.

The collective gasp in Chicago blew up to our office. We gathered around the TV, mouths agape in silence. All we were left to wonder then was What went wrong?!

In an instant, all the air and whimsy was knocked out of the room, and it was like any other day again.

UPDATE: The morning after ...
a Too Much Burden for City of Broad Shoulders ... An interesting perspective on the role TV dollars might have played in the decision.
a Chicago loss means hard times ahead for USOC
a Daley not second-guessing Olympics bid as he returns to Chicago