Christmas Vacation: Part I

Months of planning and anticipation culminated this weekend. After hosting our first Thanksgiving last month, Kates and I hosted our first Christmas this weekend.

My parents, aka Grandma and Grandpa H., arrived late Wednesday afternoon. We did the usual catching up on our lives, work stuff, family goings-ons, and before long we were mulling what to do about supper. We ended up Carson's, a popular sports-minded bar and grill on the downtown square, dining on burgers and club wraps. The food was delicious as always.

Back at home, Phoebe entertained us with her dance moves. We watched a little TV. And we called it an early night.

* * *

The next morning, Thursday the 22nd, I was awake and heading to work at 7:30 while the rest of the household was just getting up.

At the university, earlier in the week, we’d named a new director for our business and technology center but initially decided to hold the announcement until after the holidays. Yet, when the elements I needed fell into place Thursday morning, we decided to go ahead with the announcement before Christmas. So, for me it was just another work day filled with writing news releases, announcing major university hires, the usual stuff. So much for the easy-going morning I’d planned of cleaning out files and packing things away for the holiday break.

At about 10 a.m., I saw a tweet from Stephanie that she, Joel and their brood were passing through Kansas City, which meant I had about an hour or so before I needed to be home to meet them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t break out of my office until about 11:20. I headed down our street toward our house, hoping I’d beaten them. Then I spotted Joel’s car parked in our driveway. “Shoot!” I said as I pulled into our driveway. They’d beaten me to our house by mere minutes. I lost.

As the afternoon passed, the kids were up and down the stairways, carrying toys and setting up camp on the living room coffee table, while “Tangled” and others from Phoebe’s DVD collection played on our TV.

The rest of us grazed on the snacks filling the kitchen table and counter space -- including the finest cheese and sausage from Wisconsin -- and kept up our usual family discussions about life, work and politics.

We agreed to allow Mom in our kitchen so she could make a ham for our evening dinner, and at about 5:30 we were seated around our table -- all nine of us -- enjoying a Christmas meal together. It wasn’t extravagant -- ham, mashed potatoes, corn and crescent rolls. The fact that we were together mattered most, especially to my mother, who exclaimed repeatedly that this was “the best Christmas ever!” After all, as our family has expanded and branched out and relocated over the years, we figured it’s been a good eight or nine years since we’ve been able to celebrate Christmas together without having somewhere else to rush off to after dinner or unwrapping gifts.

Once the kitchen was cleaned up and the dishes were away, the gift unwrapping began.

Now, Phoebe has known for months what she wanted for Christmas. Every time anyone asked her what was on her list this year, she was amazingly consistent. And specific.

A “Cars 2” movie
A Rapunzel doll
A potty for her baby doll
A microphone
A Buzz Lightyear
And an orange teddy bear

On Thursday, she checked off one of those things from her list: the Rapunzel doll, compliments of Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Joel. Phoebe has watched “Tangled” incessantly since we first saw it in June and then purchased the DVD for her -- although, technically, it was a birthday present for Kates -- in July. The deal for the doll was sealed in October when we spent a weekend with Joel and Stephanie, and cousin Sophia had a doll of her own.

Phoebe also got a Barbie doll, with camping accessories that included a tent. And Sophia got a Barbie doll and a car to go with the new dollhouse she got earlier this month for her birthday. Cousin Freddie got a Fischer-Price car set, and he was set for the rest of the night, playing with it in the corner, oblivious to anything else happening around him.

It certainly gives us a whole new perspective, watching the kids open and love their Christmas gifts. To them, every new gift is the best gift ever. And then, as the festivities drew to a close, we watched the kids began to crash, one by one.

By 11:30 Thursday night, everyone was tucked into their beds and the house was quiet.

* * *

Friday turned into a mild, sunny day. So good for a late December day in the Midwest that we contemplated heading outside to play. But we never followed through on it.

Kates and Stephanie took off for a day of shopping, while the rest of us stayed back at the house, talking, playing with the kids and enjoying each other’s company. And, of course, watching another showing of “Tangled.”

By the time the girls returned, we were discussing supper plans and decided on ordering takeout from A&G’s, another popular local establishment. Joel, Dad and I picked up the order and we enjoyed one more meal together before Joel, Stephanie and their kids loaded up to head back to Ozark country.

* * *

Christmas Eve for us was as calm, quiet and low-key as the day before. Mom and Dad headed into town to run some errands in the morning. I headed out on my own, picking up some last-minute items for Christmas day and making sure the Forrester was ready for our drive to Wisconsin on Monday. In the meantime, Kates and Phoebe made peanut butter cookies for Santa, before heading out to run some errands, too.

By late afternoon we were getting ready for the 5 o’ clock church service. Somehow all of us were buckled in the car by 4:45. Being Christmas Eve, we expected having trouble finding seats at church -- we had contemplated leaving as much as a half hour before the service -- but to our surprise the church parking lot was hardly full when we arrived. Our family was one of the first seated in the sanctuary. It turned out our timing was right because the sanctuary was full a few minutes later.

This was our first Christmas Eve service in The ‘Ville, and -- Kates and I may never live through another Christmas Eve without comparing it to the epic “sickly” one of '08 -- it was a good one.

Our church service was a wonderful mix of Christmas scriptures, carols and special music sung by some of our congregation’s most talented members. We shared communion, too, which I’m not sure I’ve ever done during a Christmas Eve service. And the tradition of sharing candlelight while singing “Silent Night” at the end of the service never gets old. Although I did miss hearing the Manheim Steamroller arrangement of “Silent Night” played in church this year.

Afterward, we found ourselves surrounded by friends as we exchanged Christmas greetings with the Walkers, the Schrags, the Parsons, the Bradleys, the Fergusons and others. In one happy exchange, Mrs. White turned to Kates and said, “Well you’re looking very pregnant this evening!” So many moments tonight were reminiscent of Christmas Eve ‘07 when Kates was carrying Phoebe. … As usual, we were one of the last families to leave the church. The hugs and greetings and Christmas wishes were warm, cherished reminders that we are in the right place for this time in our times, truly living a new chapter in a new home.

Back at our house, as Kates finished the preparations on our Christmas Eve dinner, Mom, Dad, Phoebe and I sat in the living room. Phoebe cuddled up with her blankets on the love seat and began playing a game with the rest of us. She was closing her eyes, pretending to go to sleep and begging the rest of us to close our eyes, too. Eventually, she closed her eyes and went silent for more than a few seconds, a signal that she was no longer pretending, but that she had truly fallen asleep.

Phoebe was out for the night. A couple days of no naps and non-stop running and playing with her cousins had caught up with her. The rest of us ate our dinner while she stayed sleeping on the couch. We tried waking her a couple times, but to no avail. And soon, there was nothing we could do but carry her to bed and lay her down for the night.

Kates and I had all of these fun plans for Phoebe to write a note to Santa, lay out cookies for him, spread reindeer food on the deck and hang a magic key for Santa on the door. … Instead, Kates plated three of the peanut butter cookies she and Phoebe made that afternoon. I wrote a note to Phoebe from Santa and ended up eating two of the cookies, leaving the third as a special treat for Phoebe from Santa.

With Phoebe in bed, we turned on the “A Christmas Story” marathon on TBS, a Christmas Eve tradition in our house. I watched it three times before finally heading to bed at 1 a.m.

* * *

And today is Christmas Day. I was awake at 6 a.m. Mom and Dad came down around 6:30, and Phoebe stumbled down just a little before 7. Her face lit up when I showed her what was left of the plate of cookies and explained that Santa must have been at our house. Then she snuggled into me as I read her the note from Santa and Kates appeared at the top of the stairs.

The gift-unwrapping began a couple minutes later, but Phoebe never has been one to rush the process. The first gift we revealed to her was a new baby doll that uses a potty; a little pink seat was included with the doll along with a bottle to feed her. Of course, Phoebe was delighted and begging us to unpack the doll before we could unwrap any other gifts.

Kates and I also got her a copy of “The Polar Express” -- Phoebe recently saw the movie for the first time -- and a Disney Princesses "Look and Find" book. There was a neat moment after Phoebe unwrapped those books, and she shuffled right into Kates’ lap, asking her to read both books. Phoebe sat contently in Kates’ lap for the next 10 minutes or so as Kates read the books aloud to Phoebe, first “The Polar Express” and then the princess book.

As the gift-giving recommenced, Phoebe unwrapped the 'Cats cheerleading outfit I got her since she's taken such a liking in watching the cheerleaders at the football games. And Kates got her some clothing accessories, including a sparkly red headband that Pheebs will probably wear non-stop until it snaps. We also gave her a pink plastic cup with a straw -- the reusable kind that are popular right now -- because she'd seen Kates and I with ours and had been asking for one of her own.

Finally, from Santa, Phoebe got the microphone she wanted, along with an instrument kit that no doubt will provide her with endless musical fun for the next few months. She's also working on her conducting skills; Watch this video from lunch ...

And here we are tonight. We just finished watching the Packers game, a sound 35-21 win over the Chicago Bears featuring a stellar performance by Aaron Rodgers.  I actually pulled out my Wisconsin Badgers Snuggie -- a Christmas gift last year -- for the first time.

Tomorrow, we embark on the second half of our Christmas vacation with a road trip to Wisconsin.

It's Christmas!


President Obama meets with Nickelback fans

So my office cohorts and I have had an inside joke about Nickelback's power to repress and annoy people -- I say it's a miracle they remain relevent in the media -- since a couple months ago when our university photographer posted a football highlight video set to a Nickelback song and viewers overloaded the video's messageboard with disdainful comments.

My friend Mallory delivered the latest punch line this week by forwarding this photo, which has been circulating around the Internet for some time with the caption:

President Obama meets with Nickelback fans.


One player’s missed dunk is another player’s highlight

Not bad ...

Christmas cheer

Saturday Night Live, you did it again ...

After a sub-par year season last year, you've reeled off several cheer-worthy episodes in a row. Kates and I watched Saturday night's Christmas episode with Jimmy Fallon (and Michael Buble, among many others) on our DVR tonight, and it was indeed a good one. EW smartly called it "joyful and triumphant" and "an instant classic."

Check out some highlights ...

(This, Fallon's monologue, after a couple nice surprise appearences by Rachel Dratch and Amy Poehler in the opening sketch.)

The Buble Duets ... Hilarious.

The Christmas Treat ... Classic. So good to see all these guys doing this skit again.

The Weekend Update Joke-off ... Legendary.

And finally, Tebow. ... Believe what you want, but this was funny.


Cubs buy McDonald’s property across from Wrigley Field

Well, that headline caught my interest today ...

For me, the McDonald's across from Wrigley is as much an institution as the stadium itself. None of my visits to the stadium are complete without a stop at the McDonald's for a Big Mac.

It won't be the same if the Cubs move to demolish it.


SNL: Katy & friends

So Katy Perry hosted Saturday Night Live over the weekend ...

Mostly, her performance was a disappointment.

My favorite skit proved to be a Weekend Update bit featuring Bill Hader playing Stefon ... I watched the show live on Saturday night, and the bit had me laughing out loud then. But when I played it for Kates tonight and thus saw it a second time, it had me laughing so hard my side hurt and I nearly fell to the ground.

My honorable mention for the episode goes to the Digital Short, featuring Matt Damon and Val Kilmer ...


Hit me, Baby, one more time

It’s been a long time coming. There have been a lot of twists and turns and stops and delays. 

But, if all goes well, Phoebe's wish for a new brother or sister will come true in late May.

Kates and I -- and Phoebe -- are expecting Baby No. 2 on May 27.

We’ve been holding this secret since the end of September. Given some bad luck last spring, Kates and I proceeded with caution this time and agreed not to tell -- ok, barely told -- a soul.

Finally, Nov. 30, we headed to the doctor. There was a heartbeat, and Baby appeared healthy on the ultrasound monitor. Doctor said that at this point, we’ve got little to worry about. … We were ecstatic.

* * *

The next step, of course, was telling Phoebe. We’d been dancing around the topic for weeks. Not to mention all of the other family discussions we’ve had about the possibility. And we've been dealing throughout the fall with Phoebe’s tendency to tell her teachers and other caretakers that’s she’s going to have a baby brother -- or sister -- without fully understanding what that means, or even whether there was any truth to it. … For days during those first weeks of classes, we got questions from people. ...

“Are you … Because Phoebe said … ”

No. We’re not, we’d say.

Then, as the fall progressed, there were the gentle nudges from the teachers and co-workers.

“Are you going to have another one any time soon? … Phoebe really wants a baby brother or sister.”

When we know, we’ll be sure to tell you, we’d say. … The truth was, We think we are. We’re just not ready to tell you.

So after getting confirmation, we developed the plan to tell Phoebe last weekend. After decorating our Christmas tree and after tucking Phoebe into her bed Saturday evening, I placed the ultrasound photo into a small frame, put it in gift wrap and placed it under the tree.

Surprisingly, Sunday morning she didn’t speak a word about the lone small package that had appeared under the tree overnight. Although, I’m sure she noticed it because at one point I caught her looking curiously at it. It had her name on it, after all.

Later, when we returned from church, we told Phoebe we had a surprise for her. We sat her on the couch with us and handed her the gift-wrapped picture frame. She unwrapped it and then, with her trademark giggle, she asked, “What is it?”

“It’s your new baby brother or sister,” Kates told her. “You’re going to be a big sister.”

Phoebe continued giggling, not really sure what to make of the news.

“There’s a baby growing in my tummy,” Kates said.

Then, the classic line we'll repeat years from now when we tell this story: Phoebe asked Kates, “Did you eat it!?”

With the big announcement settling in Phoebe’s brain, she clutched the frame and studied the grainy black and white photo. Then after awhile -- just as Kates and I might have predicted -- she walked away with the frame and said “I’m taking this to my room so I can put it on my dresser!” Where it will no doubt be displayed until Baby arrives.

That afternoon we attended Phoebe’s dance recital, and celebrated the Packers run to 12-0 on that incredible fourth-quarter drive against the Giants -- though with Aaron Rodgers, was there really ever a doubt!?

That evening we shared the good news with my parents via Skype, and we did the same with Kates’ parents the next night. We had discussed holding our secret until we could tell them in person during the Christmas holiday … But Kates’s belly is getting bigger and something had to give.

On both Skype calls we started the conversations with some small talk. Then, after a few minutes, we gave Phoebe the cue that she had “a very special surprise” -- it took some good sweet talking to keep Phoebe from blurting it out the moment either call began -- she pulled her picture frame out from underneath her and we held the ultrasound photo up to the camera to let our parental units figure it out.

They did, and it was a really sweet moment both times. During the call with my parents, my mother asked Phoebe, “Are you going to be a big sister?”

Phoebe shouted, “I already AM a big sister!”

Fast forward to today, and we had this conversation at lunch

Phoebe: Am I a big sister yet?
Kates: No not until the baby's born.
Phoebe: Is it coming yet?
Kates: No, it's growing in my tummy.
Phoebe: Is it ready to be born now?
Kates: We have to wait until May.
Me: After your birthday.
Phoebe: Ohhh ok. I'm sorry.
We shared the news with our extended families and co-workers as the week went on. Phoebe took her ultrasound picture to her preschool sharing time on Friday, and that was her way of telling her teachers and class.

Funny, last weekend, Kates found a bargain on a Graco crib online. She ordered it to have it shipped, and it arrived Wednesday. I was the first to arrive home from work Wednesday evening, and when I saw that big cardboard box propped on our front stoop and the word "GRACO" stamped on the box, I thought, Man, if anybody drove by our house today and saw that, it's no secret now. It turned out when I told our news to my team of co-workers Thursday, one of them had indeed driven by our house, seen the box and was on to me.

We made it official on Facebook earlier today, which always makes for a good time to watch the comments and "likes" coming in from all eras of our lives.

* * *

So now the next phase of questioning begins …

How is Kates feeling?
Not great. She’s dealt with bouts of nauseousness since day one, and she’s pretty beat after a day of teaching her squirmy fourth graders and chasing Phoebe. Given her condition during labor with Phoebe and the days after that, we’re keeping pretty close tabs on her blood pressure, too.

Me? I’m just trying to keep up with making sure Kates is ok, in addition to doing the house chores and keeping the home fire burning.

This was a conversation we had in October, during a weekend that she was cooped up on the couch because she wasn’t feeling well
Kates: Let’s just fast forward two months, ok? 
Me: How ‘bout we hit pause, so I can do all the work that I need to get done, then we fast forward to months?

Kates: Hitting the pause button wouldn’t make me feel any better. 
Me: Actually it would. Because if I hit the pause button, then you’re on pause and you wouldn’t know how you’re feeling. While I’m running around doing all the work, then I fast forward two months and -- bam! -- all the work’s done, you’re doing ok, and you didn’t miss anything.
Is there anything Kates can’t eat? Has she begun to have cravings?

Dairy products, she’s learned, are a big no-no. Which is tough for a family that comes from Wisconsin and typically has multiple dairy products on the table with every meal.

As for cravings, there was a day in October when I had to make a lunchtime run to Taco Bell to feed one of her cravings. … I went to the drive-thru and placed the order. But when I got to the window, their computer was down, and they were only accepting cash. So I had to make a run to the bank for cash and then headed back to Taco Bell for the nachos Kates requested.

Yeah. That was a fun day. And I’m happy to report there have been no cravings since.
Are we going to learn Baby’s gender this time?
Yes. We had the whole “we don’t want to know” experience with Baby No. 1. This time we want to have the experience of learning the gender from that ultrasound and preparing for that boy, or that girl, ahead of the due date. Plus, we’d kind of like to know if we need to start buying some more boy things, or we’re good to pass down some of Phoebe’s things.
Notice all of my gender references refer first to the possibility of a boy. Here’s hoping. Although Phoebe seems pretty sure it's a girl. When her teachers asked her more about the baby, she told them, “It’s going to be a girl. Mommy and Daddy don’t know it yet, but it’s a sister!"
Are we going to share the gender with other people when we know it?
That’s still being debated. I’d prefer to keep it between us.

So here we go again. ... I've got five months to finish the baby's room, which needs more work than Phoebe's room did at this point in the cycle. Kates and I have some ideas for names, based on the list we compiled for Baby No. 1, but there's sure to be more debating this time. And I've got to start working on a new lullaby playlist.

Should be fun!

Say it ain't so

This weekend has been as close to perfect as they come in the middle of December in The 'Ville. ... The only thing that could have improved it would have been a semifinal football game yesterday featuring our 'Cats. But we lost that opportunity last weekend. 

Friday night, I had my last graduate class of the fall trimester. I was dreading it because of the teaching assignments that are part of each class session. It's not that I don't like teaching; it's the fact that we're thrown a chapter from our textbook at the beginning of the class period, given 30 minutes to prepare a lesson about it and then have to teach it to the class -- and a simple straight forward lecture with the pre-made PowerPoint slides that come with each assigned lesson doesn't cut it. ... In the end, I had nothing to worry about. My friend, Angel, and I were assigned to teach the chapter about leadership ethics, and we rocked it.

Thankfully, for the next four weeks there will be no text to read and no papers to write. Best of all, I can now say I'm a quarter of the way to earning a master's degree.

* * *

Saturday, we slept late. Spent an hour at the church for our Christmas play rehearsal. And spent the rest of the day preparing for the office Christmas party we hosted last night ...

We had a full house. It was one of those great nights where the adults hung out in the living room and kitchen, and we left the kids to terrorize the downstairs play room (We had to break just twice for a crying child. But none of them left with broken bones, so that was good ... ) ... Best of all, there were many, many moments I found myself nearly laughing to the point of tears or laughing so hard I was having trouble breathing. It was a good time.

My world was perfect. Until ...

* * *

As Kates and I started getting ready for bed, I switched on the TV in our bedroom and turned to ESPN. Sportscenter was on, and the anchor had just spoken a set of words I never expected to hear in my lifetime ...

Ryan Braun reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

My heart sank.

Since Ryan Braun came up from the minors in 2007, there is no baseball player I've admired more. There's no athlete I've admired more, although Aaron Rodgers comes close. ... On the surface, Braun has always appeared to play by the rules. He's been one of the truly good guys in the game.

So the news that he may have broken the rules, especially after the summer of fun he and the Brewers served up this year, really stings.

For now, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Reports coming from sources other than ESPN seem to be pointing fingers at the behemoth sports enterprise for jumping the gun on the story without all of the facts. And Braun's side appears to be staunchly protesting the ruling, in a sense that I didn't get with previous accusations ... Even ESPN's reporting last night did seem to have some holes.

I'm praying it's a case of bad reporting.

(Updated 12.13.2011) Good reads ...
aBaseball turned upside down by Braun allegations
aBraun's reputation at stake
aSource: Braun didn't take PED
aBrewers slugger, who won 2011 NL MVP, is appealing finding


Video of the week

I meant to post this video weeks ago, but it slipped off my radar until I saw it this morning and was reminded of it.

I fell in love with this song during my first play of Sara Bareilles' "Kaleidoscope Heart" months ago, and the video stands up well against the other videos off the album, "Uncharted" and "King of Anything."

Although, I'll admit the whole dancing-in-a-grocery store concept does feel a little bit like a ripoff of Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet."

Either way, that Sara Bareilles is a charmer. I've got a crush.



Good night, Moon

My sister-in-law, Kelli, shared this on Facebook tonight ...

Beautiful and way cool.


Mates of State: A tiny desk concert

So I caught this post on NPR today about a nice unplugged gig featuring Mates of State.

Their take of "Sway," which is one my favorite Mates song these days, sort of makes me cringe; it just doesn't work when it's stripped down the way it is here. On the other hand, the soft and sweet "Desire" is a heart-melter; it reminds me of something that could have appeared on Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours," and I can't get enough of the album version ... "My Only Offer," I think, sounds good in any setup. 

The opening paragraph of the accompanying story summarizes the music well ...
Mates of State's music isn't the stuff of unplugged busking in subway stations, or of singing listeners to sleep. It's big, broad and bold — voices shouting in unison over arrangements that swell and billow. In short, it may be too expansive to fit behind Bob Boilen's desk, let alone find an appropriate showcase at noontime on a fall day with lots of natural light.
In part because of the night I had a few weeks ago, I'm on such a Mates of State kick right now -- I'm obsessed with "Mountaintops" -- it's getting to the point of rivaling 2007 when I spent nearly half the year listening to little else but The Shins' "Wincing the Night Away." ...

After all, Paste recently named "Mountaintops" one of the top 50 albums of the year. An even better review of the record appears at Sputnik Music.


Mugger chooses wrong victim

My favorite Tweet of today came compliments of RedEye ...

Mugger allegedly attacks man. Man is an ultimate fighting champion. Mugger probably sorry he was ever born.

Read the full story here.


Ho ho hum

So we decorated our house for Christmas this weekend.

For the last few years, Christmas decorating has not been something I’ve looked forward to. Because it means pulling heavy boxes from the back of a storage closet. Untangling lights. … And Kates and I always end up bickering about what ornaments should go where on the tree, or how certain decorations should be arranged on the shelves. Don’t get me started on some of her Christmas tins and her affliction for snowmen.

Just today I made three separate trips to Wal-mart for extra lights and storage containers.

It also didn’t help that our Bearcats lost to one of our biggest rivals. We had the game streaming on the internet as the decorating commenced, and when the Cats went up 10-0 in the first quarter, it looked as though it was going to be our team’s day once more. But the opponent outscored us 7-41 the rest of the way. Season over.

On a side note: I broke for my second trip to Wal-mart during halftime of the football game. To my delight, the store’s sound system was broadcasting the game. The same was true when I stopped across the street a few minutes later at the grocery store. It was one of those “You know you’re in The ‘Ville when …” moments. It’s pretty special to have the town embrace the team to that degree.

We actually set up the tree Friday night, and Phoebe -- as always -- was all about helping me. In fact, it couldn’t have been a better project for her. With each of the branches coded by letters and colors, Phoebe was all over it. First she followed my directions to separate each of the branches by their colors. Then, when it was time to assemble the tree, I called out the letters I needed and she brought them to me with gusto. I enjoyed every minute of it.

By Saturday evening the three of us were cheerfully decorating the Christmas tree together …

We also got out an old videotape of children’s television specials my parents handed down to me shortly after Phoebe was born. The tape starts with “A Chipmunk Christmas,” and Phoebe was enthralled … It goes on with “The Christmas Toy,” a live- action, Jim Henson-produced Christmas story about what happens when toys’ owners are not in the room. Or as I like to call it, the original “Toy Story.”

So another year of decorating is complete. … In a few weeks, the taking down of the decorations.


Ups and downs

This has been a week of extreme ups and downs.

And some days, when the entire world seems to cut you down, a little laughter never felt so good. After all, they say laughter is good for your health.

Thank god for the TweetDeck flashing gems of great, random thoughts at the bottom of my screen every few seconds.

Today I enjoyed some laugh-out-loud moments thanks to these tweets ...

From one of our journalism students who tagged the one and only Overheard in the Newsroom ...

ME: guys it's our first christmas in the new newsroom!
GIRL PUTTING UP DECORATIONS: i'm jewish. @OHnewsroom

Accept/Except - Except for skilled ninjas, HYDRA is not accepting any new agents.
And from the always amusing and often funny AwkwardTweet:

The awkward moment when you're laughing so hard that no noise comes out, so you just sit there clapping your hands like a freak seal.

Ok, it's journalism/social media humor. But it was funny to me.


B.J. Novak Admits to 1997 Prank on Museum of Fine Arts

I love a good, clever, harmless prank. To imagine B.J. Novak pulling this off makes it even more worthwhile. This story had me laughing out loud as I read it ...

In case you're curious, here's a link to the original article from The Boston Globe.


Thankful for the Muppets and more

We said goodbye to Kates’ family about 9:30 this morning and capped a weekend of much joy, celebration, togetherness and thanksgiving.

We filled the rest of today with cleaning, watching Toy Story movies, and naps.

As I write this, Phoebe is napping in our bedroom closet. At about 4:30, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her carry a stack of blankets up the stairs. I figured she was doing something with her dolls in her room, but after 10 minutes of quiet I went looking for her and eventually found her cozied-up in our closet. “Dad, close the doors. I’m trying to take a nap,” she whispered. So I did, and Kates found her snoring away about 10 minutes later.

* * *

After Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day to Remember, we all got a good night’s sleep and rolled out of bed one by one. We treated Friday as we would have treated Thursday. The ladies took to the kitchen to prepare the Thanksgiving meal, while the men pitched in with the food when needed, between reading and romping around with Phoebe, inside and out.

The meal was served around 5, and it just might have been the best-tasting -- or at the least my favorite -- Thanksgiving meal of all time. It was Kates’ first-ever turkey, and she cooked it to perfection. The meat was tender and we loaded our plates with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn bread stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, almond-covered green beans, fennel salad, cranberry-orange relish and crescent rolls.

The men took care of the kitchen clean-up -- very efficiently, I might add -- and we settled in for the night cap. Phoebe put on her concert for the girls in the living room (In addition to “Deer in the Headlights,” she’s now added “Fireflies,” “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” and “Now” to her repertoire.). Then Grandma S. got the honor of reading her bedtime stories and tucking her in.

Once Phoebe was asleep, we thumbed through our movie collection and broke open the pies -- apple-cranberry, pumpkin and pecan -- for a late dessert. “Juno” proved to be the popular movie choice, and it turned out that Kates and I were the only ones who had seen it. I certainly didn’t mind watching it again, and it got a thumbs-up all around the living room as the end credits rolled. … Afterward, we flipped through the TV channels in search of another good flick. We landed on “The Shawshank Redemption” and watched some of it before each of us headed for our beds, one by one.

* * *

The house didn’t begin stirring until after 8:30 Saturday morning. After breakfast, we bundled up -- the gusty winds made the 50-degree temperatures feel like 30 -- and we headed outside for a walk and tour of the university campus.

By the time we returned to the house around 12:30, the ’Cats football playoff game had begun. I got the game going on the radio, and we unloaded the refrigerator of Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch. … After that, I took Orrin and Kelli for a driving tour of The ’Ville, as we continued to listen to the game on the car radio.

About that game. Last weekend, the ’Cats played from behind for most of their first round game until the defense recovered a fumble at the opponent’s 8-yard-line and ran it in for what proved to be the game-winning score with eight minutes left in regulation. So this weekend, the ‘Cats headed to Texas, where they took on the No. 1 seed in the region. Again, they found themselves behind, by as many as 18 midway through the second quarter.

But as they’ve done again and again, the ‘Cats clawed back and tied the game at 31 apiece with under five minutes left to play. With 10 second left in the regulation, the ‘Cats got new life once more when their opponent missed a 27-yard field goal attempt into the wind and sent the game to overtime.

In overtime, the ‘Cats wasted little time scoring a touchdown and went ahead 38-31. That meant their opponent got an opportunity to match the score … It came down to a fourth down and a pass attempt. When the dust settled, the radio announcers shouted that the pass was incomplete and the ‘Cats had won, our house erupted. … Not that there was any doubt the ’Cats would win it. On to round three next weekend to avenge that loss at Arrowhead Stadium a couple months ago.

Once the excitement of the ‘Cats game died down, we turned our attention to the Wisconsin-Penn State game, which the Badgers won handily. … Better yet, I learned later that my high school alma mater, Olathe South, won the state football championship yesterday.

Before the Badgers game was over, everyone in the house retreated somewhere for a nap. The house was quiet until 5:30 p.m.

* * *

Finally, it was the show we’d all been waiting for: The Muppets. Aside from our Thanksgiving dinner, it was the most anticipated event of the weekend. But the plans were thrown into doubt when things went south Thanksgiving Day. Kates, Phoebe and I were readying to head out the door to see it Thursday night when Kates’ parents called with the good news that they were going to make it after all.

We saw it as part of the local movie theater’s dinner show series. Kates prodded me Friday night to make reservations for the showing, and it was a good thing because the place was packed. … The wait staff wasn’t exactly on their game either, which was an annoyance. First, we waited more than the average time for our food. Then, they brought the appetizers with our main course, and they messed up Kates’ dad’s pasta order by putting cheese on it, which he can’t eat.

The film, on the other hand, was pure movie magic. Whether Phoebe was sitting in Kates’ lap, Grandma’s lap, or Grandpa’s lap, she sat mesmerized, wide eyes staring at the screen, for most of the show. Interestingly, she never did make the connection of Amy Adams’ Mary character in the Muppets movie to Adams’ Giselle character in Phoebe’s beloved “Enchanted” -- which by the way, we also watched after we returned home last night.

The movie was a delight to watch from beginning to end. Jason Segel nailed it, and the casting was perfect, too. My biggest beef may be that I wanted more out of the cameos -- particularly Neil Patrick Harris and John Krasinski, who were relegated to pretty much answering phones. On the other hand, Jim Parsons as the human version of the newest Muppet, Walter, was pretty great; and when Emily Blunt appeared as Miss Piggy’s assistant at Vogue, you could hear whispers across the theater as people leaned into one another to acknowledge Blunt played the assistant to Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

There were moments the film dragged, but the plot always picked up with “gags like the “travel-by-map,” montages and other Muppet zaniness that helped make the puppets so popular in the first place. The movie also produced several smart and ironic one-liners that were easy to miss if your mind was wandering. (Mary, early in the movie after the quest to reunite the Muppets appears to be finished: “This is going to be a really short movie.”)

Of all the reviews I’ve read, Entertainment Weeky’s seems to align to closest with my thoughts. They gave it a B+.

Good reads ...
a The New York Times:
a The Kansas City Star: ‘The Muppets’ make a triumphant return
a Boston Globe: Pure fun, no strings attached: ‘Muppets’ revels in ingenious absurdity
a USA Today: Jason Segel's green with admiration for 'The Muppets'


Tom Wicker and John Kennedy

I read this morning that Tom Wicker, the journalist who covered John Kennedy's assassination, has died.

The story in The Times includes a link to Wicker's original reporting on that day, which I just finished reading.

Wicker's story provides a fascinating lesson on spot news reporting. Straight facts. To the point. No fluffy language. And a wide range of sources.

Young journalists take note.



Well, this will go down as a Thanksgiving to remember.
The anticipation had been building for weeks. Kates’ family accepted our invitation to The ‘Ville for the holiday, and we were so excited to be hosting for the very first time -- not to mention showing off our new home. And after the big move in March, we had yet to complete all of the unpacking, organizing and general settling in. So this event finally pushed us to get it done.

We’d spend the last few days unpacking the remaining boxes, and removing any clutter left stacked in the corners. I gave the garage a good cleaning, and reconstructed a shaky shelf that was bothering me. We finally put our 40-year-old water heater out of its misery, and had it replaced with a new model Tuesday, which is a story in itself. We reorganized a couple rooms. We finally decorated our walls.

Phoebe was as excited as anyone. Grandpa S. sent her a letter a few weeks ago that included a November calendar and some stickers, with instructions for Phoebe to add a sticker to the calendar every day and count the days until they would be here for Thanksgiving.

Last night, Kates and I went into a furious cleaning mode. Laundry. Dusting. Vacuuming. Preparing the guest rooms. We let Phoebe run wild around the house, thinking it would be good to let her stay up late and hoping she would sleep in late today. … We received confirmation from Kates’ family that they were on their way, and we anticipated their arrival around 2 a.m. I was planning to stay up and wait for them.

Just as Kates was settling into bed around 11 last night, I received a text from Kates’ mother. “Trouble in Tiffin! Stopped for gas & now the car won’t start! Tow truck is here - more when we know something.” … About an hour later, she called me with an update. The tow driver couldn’t determine the problem. The best they could do was check into a hotel for the night and hope to get a rental car in the morning. They were still about 4 ½ hours out.

This morning, we awoke and checked in with the Kates’ family for another update. They reserved a rental car through their insurance company, but there was no one at the rental outlet to release the car. All they could do was camp out in their hotel room for the day and get the rental tomorrow morning. Totally not the Thanksgiving any of us had hoped for or planned.

On with the day.

Kates made us some delicious egg sandwiches for breakfast. And afterward, we had a Skype session with my parents while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on TV. … Mostly, Phoebe couldn’t care less about the parade, except when she saw a balloon character that she recognized; Buzz Lightyear, Ronald McDonald and Snoopy drew the biggest cheers from her.

After the parade, we turned to the pregame show for the Packers-Lions game. … Phoebe stayed content playing games and coloring. … One of her favorite things these days is to climb the step stool in our kitchen so she can reach the Post-it notes on our refrigerator. She then draws on them and attaches each uniquely colored Post-it to the side of the refrigerator. At one point I stepped into the kitchen, and she held up one of her latest creations -- a Post-it she colored completely in black. Said Phoebe, in her trademark way of speaking several thoughts in one breath: “Dad, does this look like a mouse? I think it does. Oh, I need to add a tail!”

The Packers kicked off at about 11:40 a.m., and Kates made up some nachos with turkey meat for our lunch time snack. The big turkey and all other Thanksgiving-related menu items officially had been delayed for a day.

By halftime Kates had retreated for a nap, and Phoebe followed. … I enjoyed watching the Packers put the game away in the third quarter dozing off myself and missing the final 11 or so minutes of the game. Fortunately, the Packers held on for the win.

When all of us rose again, we decided we needed to get out and planned for a night at the movie theater. We’d hit the dinner theater and see the new Muppets movie, and have a grand time. …

Right about that time, Kates’ mother called with this news: Miraculously, the car started, and they were on their way! Praise the lord!

So, we put the kibosh on the Muppets movie and decided to save that for later this weekend with the larger family, as we’d originally planned. … But we still wanted out of the house for while. We cruised Main Street to see what was open -- I was hoping for Kentucky Fried Chicken -- but the only places open were Taco John’s, McDonald’s and Applebee’s. Pheebs chose McDonald’s, and we picked “Winnie the Pooh” out of the Redbox kiosk as an added bonus for the night; we watched it a full two times before our visitors finally arrived. And we worked in a second Skype session with my parents, Uncle Doug and Great-Grandma H.

Shortly after 9 p.m., just after we'd embarked on a third showing of “Winnie the Pooh,” Kates spotted the van coming up the driveway. They had arrived, and great celebration ensued. For all of the hugs and happiness shared when they came through the door, it was as if they had been lost and driving for weeks. It was a day of many ups, downs, twists and turns to say the least.
And yet, all things considered, this was one of the most peaceful and relaxing days I’ve had in a long, long, long time. “Maybe it was a blessing that we got to spend the day together, just the three of us,” Kates said tonight.

And for that I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Classic 'Cats

With the success of last weekend’s ‘Cats football game, our team lived to see the playoffs. … And Phoebe wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

While Kates stayed home to clean for our Thanksgiving company, Phoebe wanted to travel to the game with me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this scenario 10 years ago, and this father couldn’t be more proud.

About the football. … This was week one of the playoffs. After an unbelievable start, our team squeaked in as the fifth of six seeds in our region. It appears they’ll play all of their games on the road. If they win all four, we’ve got a ticket to play in the national championship game for the sixth time in seven years.

We’ve got a long way to go, but some might say we have a team of destiny on our hands. They lost two games this season -- by a total of six points. Both were the result of a fourth quarter comeback by the opponents. … But this team has a way of playing at another level in the playoffs. No matter the deficit they will find a way to overcome it. And don't forget this season has an added meaning.

This weekend we were going against our bitter rivals to the south. Think of it as our version of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry in college basketball. We’re close in proximity and we hate losing to each other. One of our two regular season losses was to them. ... Just walking on to their campus today made my skin crawl.

Pheebs and I arrived at the stadium and met friends Mallory and Matt at the gates. Our team’s fans had already packed the sideline bleachers, so we ended up in a set of bleachers behind one of the end zones … I bought Phoebe a box of popcorn, which I think is the real reason she loves going to the games, and we set in for what was sure to be a classic.

It started rough for the ’Cats. As in ugly rough. … On the first play from scrimmage, one of our guys fumbled a lateral that led to a score. Then, an interception that led to a 58-yard-field goal. Then, a second interception for a 55-yard touchdown return. And -- bam! -- our team was down 0-16 just four minutes into the game.

At halftime, we trailed 7-22. … You could say it was déjà vu. Last year, we trailed the same team 0-17 at halftime in the first round of the playoffs. We won that game 28-24.

Anyone who’s come to know our team as I have over the years knows it’s not over until the final second ticks off the clock. In our fans’ minds, we always knew we would win that game today.

So in the second half, our boys tightened their play and -- voilà -- we trailed 27-29 at the end of the third quarter. … At this point, it’s worth noting that our marching band plays the fight song after each of our scores. After one of the scores, I got distracted but snapped out of it to catch Phoebe, who never ceases to amaze me, shouting the university cheer that comes at the end of the song. She knew exactly what to do when she heard that song.

Closing in on eight minutes left in the game, our kicker missed a 26-yard field goal into the wind that would have given us our first lead in the game. … But in the wake of our letdown, something happened and the next thing any of us saw was one of our defensive linemen carrying the football into the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning score. It turned out the opposing quarterback fumbled the snap, and a two-point conversion put us up for good, 35-29.

The defense held on. Time ran out. And our students stormed the field when it was over.

As the celebration settled, I boosted Phoebe on to my shoulders and we joined the team and remaining fans on the field for the customary post-game gathering.

My friend Gina sent me a text that read, “That my friend is closure.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Division I can deal with it’s money-grubbing corporations and host all of the dot-com bowl games it can come up with. It’s a travesty that Division I doesn’t have a playoff system, and it’s reason numero uno that I, try as I might, just can’t take Division I football seriously. D-II is where it’s at, my friends.

Back at our car, I flipped on the radio for the post-game show and marveled with our team’s analysts at yet another classic ‘Cats comeback.

It took us the entire post-game show to get out of the parking lot. … When it was over, I honored Phoebe’s request for the “I Walked By and You Caught My Eye” song. … She was snoring in her car seat a few minutes later.

Another good day.


A night with Mates

I’ve just finished my graduate paper for this week. It’s been a relaxing, but extremely productive day. Now as I wind down for the night I can finally get to more pressing issues …

Reflecting on last night. Dreams came true … 

It started with a Paste magazine sampler sometime in 2006. I fell madly in love with “Fraud in the ‘80s.” I wanted more and downloaded their entire catalogue up to that point. I grew more fond of them when I learned they got their start in Lawrence, Kan. Then, I saw them backing Feist, on what is arguably my favorite musical performance of all-time on the “Late Show With David Letterman.” Then, I got hooked on Kori’s blog. Then, I bought “Re-Arrange Us.” And “Crushes.”

Yes, Mates of State were near the top of my list of bands to see live for a long time. When I bought my ticket in August, I could only hope and pray nothing blocked me from making the trip.

On this night, everything fell into place -- even amid a mini-crisis at the university in the morning. … I retreated from my office shortly from 5 and joined Kates and Phoebe for dinner (Chicken pasta!). Shortly after 7, and after filling the Little Green Machine with some gas, I was cruising toward Kansas City.

We’re approaching the two-year mark of this “adventure,” and -- Kates and I have said this a lot during the last year -- it still blows my mind to think that we’re living in the Kansas City area. The Milwaukee-Chicago corridor was so ingrained in our lifestyle for seven years that so many scenes and experiences in this new life strike us as surreal. Driving down Highway 169 and crossing the Missouri River over the Broadway Bridge, lit up in red, with the Kansas City skyline illuminated in front of me -- and Mates of State’s “Technicolor Girls” playing on my iPod -- was one of those moments …

Another “moment” occurred when I pulled up to the venue, the Record Bar. It was in a strip mall with an Ace Hardware, a Dollar Tree and a used book store, among other small shops. This was clearly a long way from the Chicago Theater, Turner Hall or The Rave. For a couple minutes I started to wonder, after driving two hours, what I’d gotten myself into.

The anxiety didn’t last long. I joined the line of people waiting to get inside and was pleased to see the crowd was mostly young adults. I got the feeling most of them were serious music fans, too. That was confirmed when the girl behind me started talking to her female companion about seeing a recent show in California and purchasing tickets for the next edition of Bonnaroo. Serious.

The Record Bar was indeed a bar, with a small stage set up in a corner. The whole room wasn’t much larger than our living room, and I knew then I could be in for something special. It was amazingly intimate. … I took a position just off the stage left corner. Just before Mates of State went on, I glanced behind me and there was Kori Gardner, just a step away and chatting with someone in a doorway. I was so close to the stage I could have reached out and tapped Jason Hammel’s drum if I wanted.

The New Orleans-based Generationals opened. I’d never heard of them, but I was impressed enough by their sound that I plan to search for more of their stuff. They played for about 40 minutes and must have buzzed through nearly a dozen songs during that time. To me, their sound reminded me a lot of Foster the People’s “Pumped up Kicks” with its reverb and groovy hooks. I liked it.

Mates of State took the stage at 11, and the crowd had grown thick. … As the band members set up, there was a charming moment when “Break My Stride” played on the bar stereo and Kori broke into a dance.

Moments later, they broke into “Get Better.” And it was good. So good

They moved seamlessly from song to song, playing a healthy dose of fan favorites spanning their entire catalogue. About half of their set consisted of songs from recent albums -- “Re-Arrange Us” and “Mountaintops,” which I downloaded just a couple weeks ago and it was love at first listen. But they also pulled out some oldies I’d lost track of, including 2000’s “Proofs,” which drew a good cheer from the crowd, and when they burst out with that opening line "It hardly matters!" -- so great. Hearing some of that old stuff again had me gaining a newfound appreciation for it; I refreshed my iPod tonight, giving new life to those songs that were buried in my music library.

About midway through, they asked the crowd, “Old or new?” “ ‘Like U Crazy’ or ‘Parachutes’?” They took a crowd vote by a show of hands, and “Like U Crazy” -- to my pleasure -- got the win. They never did play “Parachutes.”

Looking back now, it’s hard to pick a favorite from the night. I would have liked to hear “Fraud in the ‘80s,” but in the end it didn’t matter. All of the music sounded so good and fresh. There were moments I thought to myself, I can’t believe I’m actually here and seeing this!

The only downfall of the night, seeing them in a small venue: The music was loud. And my ears are paying for it today.

Nevertheless, Hammel makes playing the drums look so effortless, and watching Gardner shuffle her feet and jump around at her keyboards kept me smiling. Their already uptempo music had even more energy in its live forms.

Further, they're the kind of a couple that, in another life, I'd like to think could be some good friends. They don’t take themselves too seriously. Their cheerfulness is infectious, they have a remarkable chemistry. Every album is better than the one that precedes it. . They appear to be having loads of fun, and a band that does all of that will get me every time.

I'm reminded of a brilliant Mates of State bio I first read a few years ago that described their "cute" factor.

Another bio takes it a step further ...
It's “pure pop for adults who haven't quite grasped that they're adults yet.” And while it's certainly pop, it's pop in the same sense that the Beach Boys and the Beatles but also the New Pornographers and of Montreal are pop – they're stretching the limits of what the term means, of how to make music that is just as interesting as it is accessible.

Yep. The Beatles and The Beach Boys were the musical benchmarks for my childhood years, and Ben Folds Five and Toad the Wet Sprocket set the musical benchmark for my adolescent and college years. Now, it's Mates of State, Guster, the New Pornographers, The Weepies and Ingrid Michaelson doing it for me as an adult.

Today, I took a vacation day from work to recover and accomplish some things around the house. I’ve had Mates of State going on the iPod all day, and they’ll be playing for the foreseeable future. I'm enthralled with their music.

So here's a highlight video I made. As usual when I try these types of things, the sound quality sucks. But at least it gives you a good feel of the scene and vibe. And if you're a fan, it may be fun to just hear these snippets.

Here’s last night’s set list (links to official music videos/album versions)…
1. Get Better
2. Maracas
3. For the Actor
4. Unless I’m Led
5. The Re-Arranger
6. Think Long
7. You are Free
8. Sway
9. Goods
10. Ha Ha
11. Whiner’s Bio
12. Like U Crazy
13. Basement Money
14. Now
15. True Love Will Find You In The End
16. My Only Offer
17. Proofs
18. Palomino


Saturday (and Sunday) Night Live

So I just finished watching this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" -- for a second time ...

Best episode I've seen in years. At least since the glorious 2008 campaign run. The sketches felt fresh and varied. Admittedly I don't much about Emma Stone, but I was impressed with her range ...

Here are my favorites ... Starting with the news reporter Herb Welch, who, arguably, may be my favorite current SNL character. This one had me laughing so hard (see the bit with Kristen Wiig) my stomach was hurting ...

This was the last skit of the night, which is almost always the throwaway of the episode. Not the case last night as the last two skits were perhaps the best of the show ...

And this one, the second to last sketch, gets the prize as my favorite. Adele and her music has seemingly been everywhere this year. SNL hit the mark ...



So we had our first snow of the year Tuesday night. I caught on when I saw a student tweet a request for a snow day on Wednesday. … I headed for the sliding glass doors at our deck and -- sure enough -- the ground was already covered with about an inch of the white stuff. As much as I hated to admit it, it was a pretty snow.

It was even sweeter Wednesday morning, as I was getting ready for work, when Phoebe came bounding into our bedroom, shouting, “Daddy, you wanna see the snow!?” … She then took my hand and pulled me across the hall to her bedroom window where she pointed out the window. “See!”

For a few moments I gained a whole new appreciation for snow.

* * *

We went to our last ‘Cats football game of the regular season. A 62-21 win.

But the best part for me was spending it with Phoebe.

As we were getting ready for the game, she put on one of my team hats and asked if she could wear it to the game. She was so cute in it, I couldn’t say no. I helped her tie her hair in a pony tail, adjusted the cap to fit her little head and then taught her how to put her pony tail through the back of the cap. To my surprise, she wore the cap for the bulk of the game.

As usual, we started with the tailgate. Today’s buffet was nachos. And the band is better with each week. … Phoebe also couldn’t wait to get to the inflatable slide, a popular destination for the kids at this year‘s tailgates.

After the halftime performance … Kates headed home, while Phoebe stayed with me for the rest of the game. As the ‘Cats ran up the score, Phoebe wanted to go to the park adjacent to the stadium. She ran and played for the rest of the quarter and the first part of the fourth.

With a few minutes left in the game, we headed back into the stadium and watched the rest of the game from a fence behind one of the end zones.

When time ran out, we headed onto the field. We listened in on Coach’s post game talk to the team. And Phoebe was delighted, as always, to be on the field. … We walked home, and she held my hand the entire way.

After checking in with Kates, I needed to run some errands and asked Phoebe if she wanted to take a ride with me. It wasn’t my intention when I took her along for the ride, but about halfway through I realized she had been quiet for some time. I looked at the rear view mirror, and she was asleep. … Back at home, I unbuckled her from her car seat and carried her inside to her bed.

Kates and I woke her up about an hour later so she could eat supper and get her bath. Had we left her, she might have slept through the night.

When we did put her to bed for good tonight, I gave her a tight hug and thanked her for the great day. “I had a lot of fun with you today,” I said.

“Thank you, Daddy. I had a lot of fun, too.”

I can’t think of many things better than that.

* * *

Now Kates and I are sucked into “Serendipity.” … She found it on TV and whatever plans we had for the rest of the night were thrown out the window.

Have I mentioned how much we love this movie?

Judge me all you want.


Chiefs, Royals could cash in with new stadium names

Call me a purist, but I've always disliked the idea of naming stadiums for corporations. Now the Chiefs and Royals are talking of giving in.

From a sports franchise's perspective, I get it. The team needs to bring in dollars in whatever ways it can.

But from a consumer's point of view ... I don't care how many impressions that company gets by having its name on a stadium. It's a non-factor when it comes to me buying their product.


Halloween fun

This was floating around the interwebs today. A ha-larious must-watch ... Especially if you have small children.


Three days later

So Tony LaRussa led the Cardinals to a World Series title night Friday night, and Monday he retired from baseball.

Totally didn't see that coming. I figured he had at least another year in him. ... Still, I say, good for him to going out on top. Tony truly did it his way.

Then, there's the Red Sox mess in Boston. No baseball fan will soon forget Boston's collossal collapse in September, ending with that incredible night of Sept. 28. I sat in our hotel room in Kansas City that weekend reading, somewhat bemusedly, about Terry Francona's resignation -- or firing, depending on what you believe. And then The Boston Globe dropped the bomb a couple weeks ago with its story about the Red Sox clubhouse and a few players' cravings for Popeye's chicken. That story doesn't appear to be going away any time soon either.

Good reads ... 
a Francona: John Henry didn’t ask him to stay
a Red Sox Nation is hurting diplomatic relations
a Red Sox’ biggest loss is their credibility
a Riveting drama at Fenway theater
a In ‘04, Bill Mueller's glory was stolen amid Red Sox comeback
a Red Sox’ Jon Lester 1st to admit clubhouse drinking
a Jon Lester’s confession fails to absolve
a Embarrassed Jason Varitek says Red Sox stuck together
a September was a horror show, but it had nothing on these ghouls

Of course, what makes the Red Sox downfall more interesting is ... Theo's in Chicago now!
There are so many things wrong with the Sox at this hour, it’s difficult to know where to start. The manager is gone, the general manager is gone, the owners are in hiding, and the players are a loathsome lot totally unworthy of the money and adulation they receive.

Theo Epstein’s gone. It was a seismic event when he quit in 2005. This time, his departure is lost in the mix as the Sox go from freefall to nuclear fallout. The Fenway lawn is scorched earth.
Seriously. I'm as excited about Theo coming to Chi-Town as every other Cubs fan. But I'm also in no denial that Theo has a lot of work ahead of him if he's going to turn the Cubs into a contender. I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll be able to work his Red Sox magic (which didn't always work out ... ) in Chicago.

Good reads ...
a Epstein says farewell to Boston with full-page ad
aCubs history lesson for Theo Epstein
aTheories on Cubs' failures abound
a Coming to Chicago would bring pressure with it
a Are Red Sox making a big mistake?
a Epstein deserves benefit of doubt
a Epstein introducing 'Cubs Way'
a Changes likely at Wrigley Field?
a Epstein vindicates Cubs fan on Starbucks sighting

And that brings us to the manager search. ...

Dale Sveum and Mike Maddux seem to be the names that keep popping up, and deservedly so. Based on my observations of them over the years, especially with their contributions to the rise of our beloved Brewers, both of them appear to be great baseball men. It was only a matter of time before they got their shots. Now you throw Terry Francona and the St. Louis Cardinals into the mix and you've got three storied franchises gunning for any one of three guys who could be a good fit for their clubs.

My bet is that Sveum gets the Red Sox job and Francona follows Theo to the Cubs, although I could also see Francona turning down the Cubs job and sitting out for a season or two. That would leave Maddux for a shot at the Cubs job, but I'm thinking he sticks with the good thing he's got going with the Texas Rangers. I wouldn't mind seeing Ryne Sandberg in the dugout either, but that appears to be a longshot ... As for who takes the Cardinals' job? I haven't got a clue.

Good reads ...
a Francona is the easy choice for Cardinals
a Hiring Francona, Part 2
a Maddux will make his pitch to Red Sox

As for where Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder land ...

I think there's no way Pujols leaves St. Louis. The city adores him. He's the centerpiece of the franchise. He's had a special kind of success there that I doubt he'll be able to duplicate anywhere else. It would be a blunder for both the Cardinals and Pujols if they seperated.

Now, Prince is a wild card. A lot of the marquee teams are set at first base; teams that are known for throwing money around, like the Yankees or Red Sox, probably won't bite on Prince. And when I look around and see who's left, I don't see a lot of places where Prince would enjoy playing as much as he's appeared to enjoy playing in Milwaukee.

Detroit could be a possibility, but Prince has a grudge against his dad that will keep that from happening. Washington, D.C., could be a possibility but the Nationals are years from contending.

Maybe he'll go to the Rangers, the Cubs or the Angels. But, like Albert and the Cardinals, I think Prince has a good thing going in Milwaukee. To this point, Prince has been careful about his language, and he hasn't exactly shut the door on returning to Milwaukee. In fact,  I wouldn't be surprised if he stayed put.

Let the offseason begin.

Good reads ...
a Dear Prince and Albert, please stay
a Pujols hits free agent market for first time