Idol no more

With the news of Ellen De Generes' departure this week and the prospect of Jennifer Lopez taking her place, it's official: We're so finished watching "American Idol."

Idol's downfall was sealed when Simon Cowell announced he was leaving the show.


The Swagger Wagon

This comes from our friend Gina ... Yep, we totally own a swagger wagon.


Well, these last 72 hours have been a lot better than the 72 hours before that.

On Friday morning, after three nights in the hospital, the doctor gave us the OK to check out. He wrote us a couple prescriptions, we signed the paperwork and we were on our way by about 11 a.m. ...

And watching Phoebe running and jumping and playing over the weekend -- aside from the bandage that still dominated her neck -- you'd never guess what she'd been through.

As of tonight, I'm pleased to report, the bandage has been reduced to a couple Band-aids.

Kates took Phoebe back to the hospital this morning for a follow-up with the doctor, and he found nothing of concern. (Had it been the other way around, I might be coming to you tonight from a hospital in Kansas City.)

As for the infection, the blood work and cultures from last week have provided no answers confirming Phoebe had a staph infection, or anything else for that matter. And at this point, we may never know what happened.

To celebrate tonight, we walked with Phoebe to the Dairy Queen at the end of our street. The doctor suggested we get some ice cream for Phoebe, and Grandma and Grandpa H. happened send her a $2 bill for exactly that ... Pheebs clutched her $2 bill all the way to the restaurant and then personally handed it to the girl at the counter in exchange for a cup of vanilla ice cream.

Minutes later, we ended up at the park with Phoebe taking turns on the swing and the slide. She's going to be just fine.

Now, we're just counting down the days until we can be free of the 1 a.m. doses of medicine.


Mad Men madness

The new season of "Mad Men" starts tonight... Can't. wait.

"Lost" is gone. Other former favorites are fading (I'm looking at you: "Grey's Anatomy," "The Office," "How I Met Your Mother" and "30 Rock." Some faster than others: Ahem, "Glee."). Some I can't stand to watch anymore (That would be you "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters.").

But "Mad Men," my new favorite ... Kates and I have been looking forward to this week, well, pretty much since the moment the third season ended. It's a great thing when a TV show induces such pleasure.

You will be dearly missed, "Lost."

Here are some good "Mad Men" reads and links ...
aBack to Work for ‘Mad Men’
aThe women of Mad Men answer fan questions
aPaste Presents: The Mad Men Takeover

* * *
Speaking of "Lost" ...

Here's some good stuff I've collected since the show ended in the spring ...

a'Lost' map: Explaining the Island. Sort of.
a'Lost': The Essential Reading List
aExclusive First Look: How 'Lost' should have ended

* * * 
As for "The Office" ...

I've rooted for Ricky Gervais to replace Michael since early reports of Steve Carrell wanting to leave the show surfaced ...

Please, lord, don't let them replace Michael with Dwight. I'm so not a fan.



Well, our last 72 hours have been interesting. How about yours?

We begin today's episode on Thursday evening as Kates and I were preparing for her parents' arrival. Kates noticed a bump on the left side of Phoebe's jaw. It almost felt like a marble embedded under her skin, and she squirmed and cried every time we tried to touch it.

On Friday, Kates took her to see a doctor, who sided with our theories that Phoebe had a swollen gland, which likely was a byproduct of her double ear infection a week earlier. The doctor prescribed some medicine, and I made the run on Friday night to pick it up.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about Phoebe's behavior. She was slightly more fussy and whiny than usual - and she woke up screaming around 11:30 Saturday night - but for the most part she was her usual, happy, playful self.

On Monday, Kates returned Phoebe to the doctor for a followup. Seeing no improvement, the doctor referred us to an ENT specialist in nearby St. Joseph and warned then that Phoebe might be admitted to the hospital.

So Tuesday afternoon, the three of us made the 45-minute trek to St. Joe and met the specialist. Things started happening fast from there, but none of it was completely unexpected. By 5 o'clock we were being checked into the hospital's pediatrics unit with surgery likely in the morning.

Phoebe's utter adorableness, by the way, was fetching her stickers at every turn. ... Seriously. The girl has been racking them up. Thomas the Train. Scooby Doo. Tinker Bell. And the whole gang from the Hundred Acre Wood. We've got a stack about an inch high sitting on the ledge.

That said, we couldn't be more pleased with the nurses and our doctor. Kates' initial impressions of the doctors Phoebe saw weren't great, and we were missing the staff we'd grown used to seeing in K-Town.  The staff in St. Joe immediately took to Phoebe; they have been so gentle and caring and wonderful with her. Our main nurse reminds me a lot of dearly-departed "Grey's Anatomy" doc, Reed Adamson.
Once we were settled on Tuesday night, Phoebe delighted in walking around the floor and seeing "the big doggie" -- a tabletop in the exam room that rests on a large Scooby Doo-looking dog. It didn't take long for Pheebs to find the toy room either ... The favorite she brought back to our room is a motorized baby Mickey Mouse that crawls and plays a lullaby when you touch him.

But that was about as happy as things got for awhile ... No matter how gentle the nurses could be, the imminent poking and prodding were torture. Phoebe screamed at the feeling of the blood pressure monitor squeezing her arm. She really screamed when the nurses had to set up an IV for her antibiotics. And going through the CT scan and having x-rays done late Tuesday night was pure terror for her. Kates and I were by her side the entire time, but I'd never wish those screams on any parent.

After the scans, I drove back to The 'Ville to retrieve overnight bags. By the time I returned about two hours later, Kates and Phoebe were fast asleep. Kates claimed the foldout chair, but the cot we requested for me wasn't available. So I rolled out my sleeping bag on the floor at the foot of Phoebe's bed.

* * *

Shortly before 8 on Wednesday morning, the doctor arrived and prepped Phoebe for her surgery. The scans revealed an abscess on Phoebe's jaw line. The doctor wanted to make a small incision on her neck and drain it. Phoebe would be given anesthesia. Short, minor procedure, they told us.

I carried Phoebe down to the operating area and we were taken to a private waiting room, where more nurses and doctors breezed in and out to introduce themselves and explain their roles in the whole shebang ... By 8:30 it was go-time. Nurses wheeled Phoebe away in a bed -- with her precious yellow blanket and baby in tow. Phoebe let out a little cry for Mommy, but we knew we could do nothing but trust Phoebe was in good hands.

In the waiting area, we were handed a pager and a card that had Phoebe's patient number and information. Monitors were set on the wall like an airport terminal, and they allowed us to follow Phoebe's progression from the operating room to the recovery area.

Shortly after 9, a nurse arrived to tell us that the doctor was almost finished, and a few minutes later the doctor pulled us into a room for some explanation. During surgery, he found two abscesses along Phoebe's jaw and drained both of them. But the findings had him thinking now that Phoebe acquired a staph infection, and it could have happened any number of ways, he said.

Eventually, a nurse called Kates to the recovery room to be with Phoebe when she woke up. Then I got the word that I could go back to our room on the peds floor to meet them. They were coming off the elevator just as I was stepping onto the floor, and Phoebe had a big white bandage around her neck that looked as though she was wearing a neck brace. As uncomfortable as it looked for her, she seemed perfectly content in Kates' arms, for the time-being.

* * *

Next phase: recovery.

The remainder of Wednesday morning wasn't easy. Phoebe was extremely fussy and clearly uncomfortable.

As if lying in a hospital bed and stuck to an IV wasn't hard enough, the IV was bandaged to her right arm (she's right-handed) and we've been in a constant struggle with her to keep the arm straight so the line isn't agitated. Whenever she moved the arm too much, tones started going off and Kates or I were reaching for our call button so a nurse could reset it. At the worst, the nurses have had to take off the bandaging and completely refit the line, which leads to more terrorized screaming.

The doctor has her on two antibiotics -- all I know is they both end with "iacin." The nurses have been drawing blood and running all sorts of tests to make sure the surgery was successful, in addition to trying to confirm that it was indeed a staph infection ...

Meanwhile, our best hope for keeping Phoebe distracted, somewhat happy and comfortable has been the endless supply of movies from the peds collection. We've been watching the same Barney videos over and over and over and over -- along with a few showings of "Pete's Dragon" mixed in. (If I'd seen it as a child, I don't remember it ... For good reason. What a cheesy, dumb movie.)

We got Phoebe to sleep a little bit in the afternoon ... Dinner was grilled cheese and sloppy joes, but Phoebe had no interest in drinking anything but milk. By about 8 last night, she'd drunk about five or six cartons since her surgery -- so much it caused her to throw up ... There was more poking -- and terrorized screaming -- last night when the nurses moved her IV to her left arm ... I made what's becoming my nightly trek back and forth on ol' Highway 71 to retrieve things for the next day, and I spent Wednesday night, thankfully, sleeping on a cot.

* * *

Today's story is more of the same.

Although, there have been spurts of Phoebe acting like the little girl we're used to. She's been smiling a little more, talking a little more and eating a little more. During lunch, she ate a small bowl of pears and nibbled on some pizza before devouring a bag of chips and a chocolate chip cookie. During supper, she devoured another bag of chips and gleefully downed a small bowl of ice cream -- while watching another round of "Pete's Dragon."

Best part of the day: Watching her sleep, cuddled up with Kates this morning. Phoebe was out for three hours straight and nothing any nurse did could wake her up.

Now it's time for me to get some sleep. On my cot. I'll be dreaming of going home tomorrow. I hope.


Family weekend

We said goodbye to Kates’ parents this morning, four nights after their much-anticipated arrival to visit us in The ‘Ville … After all, it was our first face-to-face visit with anyone from what we’ll call our “outside world” since The Move. And, unlike my folks and brother, Kates' parents had never been to The ‘Ville, so I was eager to show off the surroundings.

Phoebe was so excited she busted out her party hats within moments of their arrival Thursday night.

We wasted little time taking them out on the town Thursday evening. First to A&G’s for dinner, The ‘Ville’s only upscale restaurant and a must-visit for all out-of-town visitors. Then for a driving tour of the city, through the square, past Kates’ new school, Beal Park with its outdoor aquatic center and little league fields, through the neighborhoods where we’ve been eyeing houses and past my old apartment.

The county fair was up and running all weekend long on the square, full of carnival rides and food stands. But we never did make it there, in part because of the wretched heat.

On Saturday morning, we walked the campus and I gave them one of my special tours. But the heat, which seemed to affect everyone but me, became too much and it ended up being an abbreviated tour.

Good thing we did it Saturday, too. On Sunday morning, I got my first 3 a.m. phone call since taking my new role …

We’ve have had some monstrous storms this summer, and another wicked one rolled in around 2:30 Sunday morning. The thunder was so loud and the wind so violent that Kates and I were listening for the tornado sirens to go off at any time; the power did go out for about an hour. Luckily Kates and I were sleeping on the air mattress in the hallway outside Phoebe’s downstairs room. Kates’ parents were sleeping in our bedroom upstairs and told us later they seriously considered joining us downstairs.

So around 3, as the storm was starting to pass, my phone rang. It was our emergency coordinator calling with the news that the campus sustained considerable tree damage, including a large tree that fell and took a light pole with it. Text messages were exchanged throughout the next hour or so as the damage was assessed …

We got our first look at the storm’s remnants as we drove to church Sunday morning. Barely a yard was left unscathed; there were huge limbs down everywhere … I said, That's what happens when nearly everything in this town is more than 100 years old.

We hit the buffet at the local Chinese buffet for lunch -- awesome -- and then I took a bike ride to campus to survey the damage. On my way, I rode past several more yards with severe damage, including a huge uprooted tree that crushed a metal trailer and toppled a chain link fence.

The center of campus looked like a war zone … The campus, I should note, is the state arboretum with more than 1,300 trees and 125 different species; those of us who study and work there take great pride in the landscape and grounds. Sunday morning’s storm killed nine trees and damaged about 200.

Last night, we celebrated Kates’ birthday with a home-cooked meal, chocolate cake -- and the party hats.


The Decision

I didn't watch the ESPY's this week ... Haven't watched in years. Not worth it.

But this -- if you paid any attention to LeBron James' 'decision' -- is worth watching ...

Tweet Less, Kiss More

Words to live by from Bob Herbert this morning ...

(I've been pretty vocal about my disgust for texting while driving ... but watching DVDs while driving!? Seriously? It was only a matter of time ...)


Only-Child Myths

So I just returned from a whirlwind tour of The 'Ville, attempting to fill Phoebe's latest prescription ...

Now it's a swollen gland -- an effect of her double ear infection earlier this week. Kates and I discovered the small bump on her jawline last night and immediately started thinking, "Great, she has cancer!" The nurse Kates called this morning only fostered our fears when she told Kates, "Yeah, that doesn't sound normal ..." Thankfully, the doctor said it was nothing to fret about; he wrote a prescription and sent us on our way.

Which led to my jaunt around town tonight. I arrived at the Walgreens pharmacy at 8:10, only to learn it closed at 8. So I headed across the street to the Walmart pharmacy, just in time before it closed at 8:30 ... I dropped off the prescription, and then had about 20 minutes to burn until it was ready.

I ended up in the magazine aisle, scanned the racks for something interesting and the TIME cover caught my eye: Only-Child Myths Persist As More Parents Choose One Kid. (Unfortunately, that link is the online abridged version. You'll have to find your own magazine to read the entire article.)

I won't deny the one-child conversation has come up a couple times in our household, for all of the reasons mentioned in the TIME story. The desire to build our careers, the freedom to travel -- and, in these tough economic times, lower living costs.

I'm in no way suggesting that having one child has become such a burden that we've become cold on the thought of having another one. I'd start by telling you that PJ is so gosh darn delightful and fun (most of the time; she is 2 years old after all), that I get nervous thinking, What if the next one isn't so perfect? -- something I'll bet every first time parent has considered at some point. I like our little trio, and sometimes it's hard to envision another little person sitting around our table.  

Having just one child is something I never would have considered before Phoebe was born. In the pre-child days, I was set on having at least two, and having them close together ... Since then, Kates and other personal factors -- like our recent transition -- have convinced me that spacing our children a few years apart suits us better.

Then again, Kates and I each have one younger sibling, and there's no denying the major roles they've played in our lives. The camaraderie and the comiserating can't be matched. Siblings do and share things that parents don't seem to understand -- and sometime never know ... For me, that sibling relationship always conjures up the lyrics in Baz Luhrmann's prophetic "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)": Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

There have been, after all, a growing number of instances that I've watched Phoebe playing and thought, it would be great for her to have a brother. I also long to have a boy with whom I can build that father-son bond -- teaching him how to fish, coaching his baseball team, participating in the Boy Scouts ...   

That, and a certain unscientific study Kates took said that we were due for one more child, and it's going to be a boy.

One never knows.

Chicago blues

There's a few stories coming out of Chicago the last few days that have me missing the ease we enjoyed of hopping in the car -- or on the train -- and spending a day in the big city ... 

This weekend, a set for the next Transformers installment has taken up residence on a section of Michigan Avenue ...

Then there's the giant eyeball, which isn't a new story, but I'm reeeeeally wanting to see it ...

And now this: How unbelievably cool would it be to spend 30 days living in the Museum of Science & Industry!?!


Baseball's first half

Congratulations to the National League for finally winning an all-star game last night. It was a fun game to watch.

Of course, there are the naysayers today who say the game still lacks meaning, and I'll agree the all-star game isn't perfect ... The in-game replacement player rules are ridiculous.

But it seems to me the league has put together a nice string of exciting games since the 2002 debacle in Milwaukee. In recent years, the managers haven't been cramming every single player into the game (Last night, Alex Rodriguez, of all players, didn't get into the game, which by the way was completely fine by me). The games have been close and there seems to be at least a sense that the players are putting forth some effort. Ryan Braun's diving catch in the fourth and Marlon Byrd's on-the-money throw from right field to cut down David Ortiz at second base in the ninth inning were game-saving plays for the National League.

The pitching was pretty great, too.

Good reads ...
aRyan Braun is a fan favorite for good reason ... Sept. 28, 2008. That was a great day. Though, I was a big  fan of Brauny's long before that.
aBernie Bytes: Home Run Derby? Yawn
aBernie Bytes: The Real NL All-Stars
aWhy the rosters keep growing, and more All-Star game thoughts

* * *
As for the Home Run Derby Monday night ...

I called Prince Fielder's win last year ...

And I predicted Corey Hart as the winner this year ... After a hot start, our beloved Brewer fell just short. David Ortiz won it all instead.

* * *
I learned the news of George Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday morning in the form of a breaking news tweet ...

It was no secret his health had been failing, but my jaw dropped and I spoke a soft, "Wow." ... My next thought was, Leave it up to George Steinbrenner to die on the day of the all-star game, so Major League Baseball can devote a ton of attention to his legacy and honoring him -- and stealing the thunder of Bob Shepard's passing in the process.

I was rendered speechless on the subject for the rest of the day, with ESPN's non-stop coverage (analyzing every angle and drawing reaction from everyone from Dave Winfield to Bob Knight to Dick Vitale) playing on my TV.

Good reads ... (Updated 07.16.2010)
aGeorge Steinbrenner, Who Built Yankees Into Powerhouse, Dies at 80
aThe Pride of the Yankee
aActually, there was a lot to like
aWas Steinbrenner Just Lucky?
aIn Dresser Drawer, Recalling a Chivalrous Steinbrenner
aRed Sox Pay Tribute to Steinbrenner at Fenway
aSultan of Swagger
aFor Heirs, Big Test Is Building on Excellence
aSteinbrenner Remembered as Despot and Hero

* * *

There's a new Geico commercial out that features Randy Johnson ... I laughed out loud when I saw it for the first time the other day.

* * *
I applauded thunderously last month when Bud Selig announced Kansas City would host the 2012 All-Star Game. I'm disheartened by the ticket policies (and the possible costs), but I'm sticking by our pledge to be a part of it.

This guy's lack of love for the Royals, and his Red Sox bias, even though he denies it, makes me more proud that Kansas City got the game.

* * *
Finally, speaking of disheartened ...

After all my whining about the music performances I’m missing in Chicagoland during the coming months, one thing I’m not missing -- amazingly -- is the Wrigley Field experience …

To me, it’s no wonder the attendance is down.

I’m not suggesting I’ve turned into a fair-weather fan -- I still and will always love the Cubs -- but their miserable play this year hasn’t helped my attitude.

Not only are the Cubs playing pretty horribly this season, I’m not fond of the flow of not-so bright changes spurred by new ownership that are putting a dent in the experience I've adored for years and years.

Rising ticket prices. The ugly Toyota sign in left field. Plans to completely alter the neighborhood's charm. This week came the revelation that the Cubs have quit playing organ music as the Cubs batters walk to the plate. And they’ve got a friggin' noodle sitting along Clark Street.


Saturday morning

Scrambled eggs and sausages for breakfast. Phoebe is playing with her blocks in the living room. The sun is shining brightly. And the VH1 countdown is on the TV ...

My perfect Saturday morning.

This is the weekend that we finish unpacking our boxes and settle into this home. The "paper-ball" wars have already started.

My favorite video of the day: Sara Bareilles' new one, " King of Everything."


Lebron James: Taking Heat

So LeBron's going to Miami.
Wonderful. Now we can carry on with the rest of our summer.

The whole dramatic hour "Decision" shindig on ESPN aside ...

Seriously? Leave it up to ESPN to promote something so small -- in the grand scheme of life -- to epic proportions, and then draw it out and analyze it to boring bits ...

This from USA Today ...
Long ago, this got out of control, a circus fanned by a communication age that can't pause long enough to tell the difference between perspective and endless prattle. Or understand that some people — a lot of people — don't live and die with where a basketball player's next $100 million will come from. Not live and die 24/7, anyway.
Pretty much.

As I watched my Facebook and Twitter feeds leading up to the decision, at least through the first half of the show, there was a sense that everyone was watching ... Seriously, everyone. My favorite quip of the night goes to my friend Emiko, who wrote in her Facebook status: "hey lebron, brett favre called. he wanted me to tell you to stop being so dramatic."

Back to my original point. Deep down I was rooting for him to stay true to his hometown and stick with the Cavaliers, although I would have loooved to see him move to Chicago. But once he announced his decision to head to Miami, I couldn't fault his reasons.

New challenge. New opportunity. Happiness. ... Not to mention he and his Heat teammates are going to be quite the team to watch next season.

Though I get the arguments that LeBron is trying the easy road to a championship, as Lebron talked about his reasons for the move and the discussion he shared with his mother, I looked at Kates, who was sitting with Phoebe on the couch, and said, We know that feeling.

Good luck, LeBron. I'll be watching.

Good reads (Updated 07.11.2010) ...
aCleveland is left at a loss
aJim Gray's LeBron James interview draws criticism for its soft questioning
aMiami Heat fans reach out to welcome new superstar trio of James, Bosh and Wade
aLeBron James's exit strategy leaves much to ponder
aMiami’s Hoops Cartel
aMeanwhile, Back in Cleveland...
aAwaiting the Call Outside an Unlikely Epicenter
aThe LeBron Angle to Everything


Independence weekend

I was watching Phoebe bite into her first cob of corn at lunch yesterday when it donned on me where we were a year ago …

We were in Toledo with Joel and Stephanie, and Sophia was tasting her first corn on the cob. The idea of moving to the Show-Me-State wasn’t a speck in any of our minds. Now all six of us, plus one, are living here, in much different roles. What a difference a year makes.

On Saturday night, we gathered at our new friend Kim’s house … with seven kids ranging from 7 years to 7 weeks old running and jumping and stumbling from one end of the yard to the other. With so many kids in that age range -- and so many toys to share -- there were meltdowns abound.

We downed burgers fresh from the grill. The kids jumped on the trampoline and played wiffle ball. We caught fireflies (At one point Phoebe, who was walking barefoot, accidentally stepped on one and suddenly was walking with a glowing heel).

It was a Fourth of July backyard barbecue at its best.

* * *

Despite our late night and having to deal with a crabbier-than-usual Phoebe, our church experience couldn't have gone better on Sunday morning ...

We ate lunch. And then each of us retired to separate rooms. I landed on our bed, and fell asleep as the Reds pummeled the Cubs.

In the meantime, it poured ... all ... day ... long. The weather forecast on Sunday morning gave a 90 percent chance of rain for Sunday and a 100 percent chance of rain for Monday.
For dinner, Kates cooked up some pineapple teriyaki burgers, which became a huge favorite of ours the night Joel and Stephanie served them up in Toledo last summer.

We had Phoebe in bed by 8. And then Kates and I settled in for a showing of “Independence Day,” completing the deal we made last year ... We actually made an emergency run to the video store Saturday night to get a copy of it because we couldn't find it in any of our moving boxes.

After all these years, I still think it's a classic. Watching the dynamic ensemble cast and the way the character relationships develop thrilled me from the first night I saw the film in a movie theater on its opening night. Ask Kates, I was like a giddy teenage boy all over again Saturday night ... It's the movie that made Will Smith a film star ... Jeff Goldblum's David and Judd Hirsch's Julius is arguably the best pairing of the movie ... Above all, the explosions, destruction and special effects actually appear real -- a far cry from today's money-for-nothing blockbusters. A musing Kates and I shared a couple times while we watched "Independence Day."

* * *

Today, we've soaked up a morning of sleeping in and a day away from work ... We also traveled to St. Joe -- or as Kates calls it, civilization -- for a day of shopping.

Traveling 40 minutes to shop at Target is going be an adjustment.


Old Movie Houses Find Audience

It's good to know people are keeping some of the old, historic movie theaters around ...
In an age of streaming videos and DVDs, the small town Main Street movie theater is thriving in North Dakota, the result of a grass-roots movement to keep storefront movie houses, with their jewel-like marquees and facades of careworn utility, at the center of community life.

From Crosby (population 1,000), near the Saskatchewan border, to Mayville, in the Red River Valley, tickets are about $5, the buttered popcorn $1.25 and the companionship free.
... During the last few weeks I've watched the old movie theater that stood on Main Street in The 'Ville for decades come down. I went there just once when I was a freshman in college -- for "Bean" -- before it closed, and a new, larger, more appealing movie theater opened.

I don't doubt that old theater was well past its prime (Once, in our University archives I came across a photo of students lining up outside the theater to see the premier of "Star Wars" in 1977.) ... But I'll sure miss driving down Main Street, seeing its marquee and waxing poetic about all of the cinema history it had seen.



I couldn't stay awake long enough to watch them on Letterman last night. So you can bet I was thrilled when I saw the video pop up in a link on my Twitter feed this morning.

Ladies and gentleman, The New Pornographers. (If only ... )