Graduation day

Today was Graduation Day at the university.

It was my fourth since moving here last winter -- that's two spring commencements, a summer and a winter -- and, for me, these days are fast becoming the most anticipated of each term.

The buildup to them can be as exhausting for me -- with writing the news releases and speeches and making arrangements with the media -- as it is for the students trying to study and pass their final exams.

But the exhilaration of the ceremonies is a whole different experience. With each ceremony, I feel the chills run down my spine at the sight of the graduates processing into the arena, and during the singing of my alma mater. All of it reminds me of the significant history and utter pride I have for the institution.

There's the president's address, part of which I'm responsible for researching and writing. There's another feeling of pride and exhilaration hearing my words being read at the podium. But I also develop a unique attachment to the successful students he calls out, having interviewed and learned about their college journeys in the weeks leading up to their graduation. And when his or her story is told in front of that jammed arena, and I catch the student's loved ones beaming with enormous pride -- my eyes almost always well up with happy tears for them.

Then there's the students themselves. ... I love being able to mentor and have an impact on young people; that was another big reason for wanting to make this move. I get to interact with them by speaking in their classes, interviewing them about and publicizing their accomplishments, or working with them on projects in our office -- now some of them are caring for Phoebe at preschool and church, too. As I invest more time at the university and get to know more of the students, I'm finding that each ceremony holds a bit more meaning than the previous one.

There's special sentiment and pride in seeing off those students to the next chapters of their lives. And today it came in Quentin. Molly. Katie. Gaby. Nichole. Beka. Keaton. Linda. Emily. Whitney. Devon. Ash. Abhi. and Anthony.

It's interesting. The memories of my own college graduation seem to blur more with each passing year. I remember the thrills of sitting next to my closest friends and crossing the stage, shaking the hands of some of my mentors, and the excitement of having Kates and my family travel hundreds of miles to support me -- even though I denied it was a big deal at the time. But the images don't stick with me as if it happened yesterday.

Now, I think I enjoy the experience far more as an observer. It also offers some reassurance every few months that I'm here for a good reason. I'm making an impact, and this place is having one on me. And I need to keep working toward the goals I've set for myself here.


Wedding day

So today was the big wedding in London.

I half-heartedly pledged to get up at 4 a.m. so I could witness the spectacle. But I failed to reset my alarm. And the bed just felt too comfortable to wake any earlier than my usual 6:30 a.m.

Kates and I woke up and began getting ready for our work day routines as usual. Kates dressed Phoebe for preschool, prepared her morning milk and powered up the TV for "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," as usual.

But today was a different day. Initially when I asked Phoebe if she wanted to watch the royal wedding, she would have none of it. But she soon came around, and said in her little voice, "I wanna watch the princesses." ... That's what repeated viewings of "Enchanted" will do.

I turned the channel in time for us to see the crowd filling the street and moving swiftly toward Buckingham Palace to see Prince William and Kate Middleton's first kiss. As we soaked up all of the camera angles and commentaors' descriptions, Phoebe stood mesmerized at the end of the coffee table. "Where's the princesses at?" she kept asking.

She's coming, Phoebe, we kept saying. We just have to wait.

Finally the couple appeared on the balcony, and their first kiss was, of course, underwhelming. They kissed again for good measure ... And yet, the indelible image from the moment may be the pouting flower girl.

It wasn't much. But it was a worthy break in our morning routine.

The Super Bore

It's NFL draft time again.


All foolish hype and speculation ...

Spare me. I hate it, actually.
When some guy that some team drafts with whatever pick in the first round is proving his ability in the NFL by tearing up the league and helping whatever team on a championship run, then the talking heads can preach to me about his draft value. 

For now, I couldn't care less and I refuse to put any stock in the draft.


The Big Disconnect

I'm catching up on some reading tonight ...

And this one cuts right to my thoughts and The Onion story I referred to a few weeks ago.


An Easter weekend

The house is quiet tonight. It's somewhat of a relief and a little weird.

Wanting to celebrate the Easter weekend, and a little more than that, we hosted my family for the weekend. My parents. My brother and his two little ones. ... The plans came to be on something of an impulse. We wanted to show off our new house, and I felt badly they couldn't spend time with Phoebe for her birthday like we did the last two years -- on top of my lasting guilt for moving their granddaughter hundreds of miles away. We pushed the idea, and initially they weren't keen on spending the gas money; plane tickets were out of the question. But when my brother agreed to join us, it gave my parents the extra motivation they needed and we had all the makings of a joyous family reunion.

So the parents arrived around 3 p.m. Friday -- earlier than they planned and just as Kates and I were only halfway finished with our house-cleaning. Typical. ... I caught up with  my parents while I finished washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen.

Joel and his kids arrived a little after 5. He called me saying he didn't have directions to our house, but he was driving by the football stadium because he remembered me saying we could see the stadium from our front door. Kates and I looked out the front door just in time to see his car whizzing past our house. "You just passed us," I said into the phone as I tried to wave him down. He then spotted us waving in his rear view mirror, made an illegal U-turn and headed back toward the house. As Phoebe, would say Silly boy.

The fun began instantly. Joel was cracking us up with his humor. Sophia and Phoebe were running around the house and doing their little girl things. And Mom scooped up Freddie: The World's Happiest 14-Month-Old.

When Uncle Joel presented Phoebe with her birthday gift from him and Aunt Stephanie, the fun really began for her and Sophia. The gift: a play tent. ... Joel and I wasted no time setting up in Phoebe's room. Phoebe and Sophia took to it immediately and made it their (not so) secret hiding place from the adults.

Dad, Joel and I headed to Dairy Queen to grab a quick supper for the clan ... Afterward, the girls were itching to go outside to play in the sandbox. The rest of us followed. ... But while the girls only played for a short time before returning inside, us men stayed outside for a marathon session of shooting baskets, aka my sanctuary. Taking turns with the basketball, we talked careers and family and politics. We were still going strong when the sun set and I flipped on the outdoor lights -- a la "Field of Dreams" -- so we could see the basketball goal. I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Friday night, and it was past 9 before we finally turned it in.

The next portion of the night, getting the kids to bed, was a marathon session all its own. They were so riled up neither was in any hurry to call it a night. ... Phoebe, naturally, put up the greatest fight and it ended with an explosion of screams and tears. It was nearly 1 a.m. before we calmed her enough so that she fell asleep on her nest at the side of our bed.

* * *

As the sun broke Saturday morning the house was alive again. For it was a big day in The 'Ville: The Annual Easter Egg Hunt.

We got to the park just in time for the 10 a.m. start. Parents and their kiddos, sorted by age groups, stretched along the foul lines of four separate baseball diamonds. A couple of men directed us to the diamond for the 4 and under age group, and we found some open space down the left field line. Phoebe and Sophia once again played BFFs, holding hands all the way while carrying their baskets in their free hands.

We waited patiently for the start and tried explaining to the girls what to do when they got the signal to go. Then the whistle blew and it was 30 seconds of mayhem, as if finding one egg among the sea of dandelions in the outfield wasn't challenging enough. While I jogged alongside her, Phoebe actually got the hang of it quickly -- at one point she even pulled an egg from another squatting toddler's hand -- and had four eggs in her bucket when it was all over. ... Filled with pride, I added another mental check mark to my list of cherished father-daughter experiences.

Next up, the dying of the eggs. We fitted the girls with a couple of my old T-shirts, laid a sheet of plastic down on the kitchen floor and went to work. ... I only have vague memories of dying Easter eggs as a kid, and I wouldn't have known the first thing to do. Kates had all of the supplies and everything planned, from the rainbow of colors to the stickers they used to decorate their eggs.

Trying to keep the kiddos occupied during the afternoon, we took a walk to the playground on the university campus. ...

And we eventually ended up on the football field -- kicking a ball, flinging a Frisbee and doing some good old-fashioned running around. When we weren't looking, Phoebe and Sophia took off and were gleefully running the perimeter of the endzone.

When we returned to the house, Phoebe wanted to watch "Enchanted." I was surprised to learn Joel and his family hadn't see it and, thus, was happy to introduce them to it ... For the last couple months we've stored it on our DVR. But as luck would have it, Walmart had it for 10 bucks. So, during our subsequent run to the store for brats, buns and other food supplies, I picked up our very own copy of the DVD.

I grilled brats and hamburgers as it started raining. We ate supper. Cleaned up the kitchen and the rest of the night passed quickly. It had been a day full of activity. All of us were tired, and my parents and Joel had long drives ahead of them. ... While the others went to bed, Kates and I hid an assortment of candy-filled Easter eggs throughout the living room ...

* * *

The house started stirring around 7 Sunday morning.

The kids were slow to figure out the whole Easter egg hunt concept again, but eventually did find all of the eggs. And they proceeded to gather around the coffee table and dig into their goodies.

An hour later, Joel and his lot were loaded into the car and heading back to their home. ... The rest of us headed to church for the Easter service. And when we returned home, my parents loaded their vehicle and began their trek home, too.

If only the time didn't pass so quickly and the circumstances were more pleasant ...


Not this time

After a week of speculation, a test confirmed it on a Friday morning.

Immediately, we implemented the low-sodium diet. We bought a book for fun. I began contemplating the playlists. We began the early planning and talked about how our lives would change. We began fantasizing about the creative ways we should share the news. And we found it funny that, just like the last time, all at once several of our most admired celebrities, closest friends and acquaintances were making their own announcements.

But on Wednesday afternoon a doctor told us it wasn’t meant to be.

We walked the rest of that day in a daze. Barely speaking. Questioning what we did wrong. And where we go from here.

This afternoon, we knew it was over.

It’s a terrible, indescribable feeling.


Turning 3

We officially completed Phoebe's birthday celebration today.

With no family in the vicinity to celebrate this year, we kept it -- aside from some Skype calls to the grandparents on Tuesday evening -- to the three of us. Simple. But oh, so sweet.

Tuesday night, we took her for dinner to our neighborhood Applebee's. We figured she might think the wait staff singing to her is pretty cool. Not to mention the dish of chocolate cake and ice cream she was sure to get with the song. ... Although, she played coy when the time for her birthday song came around.

When we arrived at home, Phoebe was chomping to get Grandma and Grandpa H. on the 'puter so they could watch her open presents via the webcam. Technology's great.

Among the birthday gifts were some Erik Carle books, a pair of pink sandals, and a little stuffed white dog from Uncle Orrin and Aunt Kelly, which Phoebe has named Bella. She also got a Lowly Worm doll, which she slept with Tuesday night.

But the big ticket item was Phoebe's equivalent to the Red Rider BB Gun -- a classic pink Radio Flyer tricycle.

Not that we thought she was going to shoot her eye out with her new toy -- we did buy her a pink helmet, which we're going to have to exchange because it's too small -- but it was something she wanted badly ... Ok, so maybe Kates and I enabled her emotions a little bit by talking it up, too.

Kates and I spent last Friday night looking long and hard for the perfect trike. Both of us had a vision of exactly what we wanted for Phoebe. But all we could find were souped-up, multi-colored models. Some were pink and red; what kind of color combination is that?

Having no luck, we went to the interwebs late that Friday night, found the model we were looking for and bought it. Problem was it wouldn't arrive in time for her birthday. So we printed a picture of the bike and presented it to her Tuesday night as the grand finale of her gift-opening. Her giggles and cheers were so pronounced she probably would have been happy carrying that picture around for weeks.

When the box arrived Thursday night, I slipped it up to our bedroom and hit it when Phoebe wasn't looking. Then, after the Goo Goo Dolls concert last night, I took on the fatherly task of putting together my daughter's first set of wheels. Only the beginning. ... Truly, I took great pride in placing every wheel and tightening every bolt.

When I was finished, I carefully carried the bike to our living room and arranged it at the foot of the stairs, so it would be there, shining, as the first thing Phoebe saw when she ventured out of her bedroom this morning.

And when she did discover it this morning, it was like Christmas morning. Phoebe wasted no time boarding the tricycle and trying to figure out how to make it work. It took her several minutes to get her little legs working the pedals, but she didn't give up.

By the time this afternoon rolled around she was riding like a pro. The weather is cold and crummy this weekend, so we've allowed her to keep riding inside. ... And she's riding in circles. Seriously, the way our new house is laid out, she can ride in circles.

The fun doesn't end.

Going Goo Goo

Two things about our great adventure have had a deeper impact on me than I anticipated. The first is the distance from our family, and the second is my concert attendance, or lack of it.

In K-town, we lived in a mecca for entertainment. More than a half-dozen top-notch concert venues within 45 minutes driving time. I lived for -- first, the concert announcements, and than -- those concerts. I find few things more exhilarating than hearing a musical act I greatly admire performing live just a few yards in front of me. Not that I ever took that for granted.

I just underestimated the possibilities in The 'Ville. Now, the quality concert venues are a good 90-minute drive and they're not as accessible. The acts that do come to this region don't rise to the quality of those that tour through the northland. I was spoiled, I guess.

I still shudder every time I see an announcement about a concert in the old neighborhood that I would make if we still lived there. Oh, this last year has been agonizing.

Last night, I got a bit of redemption.

The Goo Goo Dolls performed live on our small campus. 

When the announcement was made on the campus radio station one night in January, the university's social media pages lit up with excitement. On the morning that tickets went on sale, students skipped classes and the line stretched far down a hallway and out the door.

I got my hands on a ticket of my own a couple weeks later -- $14, baby -- and last night, as I watched the band perform, I could hardly believe what I was watching. The Goo Goo Dolls were playing live at my alma mater. Not to mention mere blocks from our house.

* * *

Doors to the arena opened at 6 p.m. Show started at 7:30 ... Before the show, our group hit up a popular bar and grill, where it was Greek night. ... I'll tell ya, nothing puts you in the mood for a rock concert than some loud Greek music.

* * *

Vedera opened the show ... A four-person band with a female, Kristen May, taking the lead on vocals. I'd never heard of them, but I liked what I heard. A sweet-sounding balance of pop and rock.

I couldn't put my finger on any good comparisons, though, which I suppose is a sign of either their uniqueness or my inability to keep up with the music landscape lately. Given that my mind has been stretched insanely thin the last couple months, I'm thinking it's the latter. ... The best comparison I could come up with was Avril Lavigne, or the Cranberries, but I think that's stretching it.

That said, I counted eight songs in a span of their 40-minute set. And near the end, all of the songs started sounding the same. For me, the only stand out was their slow cover of the Beatles' "Taxman." Sweet.

* * *

At around 8:45, the Goo Goo Dolls took the stage and broke into "Sweetest Lie," a classic rocking tune from their new album. The all-ages crowd was instantly engaged and the atmosphere was electric.

Initially, I was nervous the band was going to load the show with new songs to promote their new album. Instead they pleased the masses with a healthy dose of their hits and the strongest cuts from their latest album, "Something For the Rest of Us."

The lighting was spectacular, while the backdrop reflected an illusion of the band playing against the rock wall of a cave.

Here's the night's set list ... With a few video clips.

  1. Sweetest Lie
  2. Big Machine
  3. Slide ... John Rzeznik looked at the crowd and said, "Here we go." Then he delved into the opening guitar riff, and the crowd roared.

  4. Dizzy
  5. Here Is Gone
  6. Smash
  7. Another Second Time Around
  8. Can't Let It Go
  9. Black Balloon ... Arguably my favorite Goo Goo Dolls song. The crowd batted black balloons for the duration of the song.

  10. Home ... Haven't been able to get this song out of my head for weeks. I like it a lot.
  11. Better Days
  12. Stay With You ... See "Home." Ditto.
  13. Now I Hear 
  14. Tucked Away
  15. Name ... Ah, the one that started it all, and the song that always makes me think of my high school marching band days in the fall of 1995. ... Before launching into it Rzeznik leaned into the microphone and asked the crowd, "Are you happy?" to which the crowd shouted, "Yeah!"  Rzeznik answered, "That's great 'cause this next song is really f***ing depressing!"

  16. As I Am
  17. Iris

  18. Notbroken 
  19. Broadway ... Rzeznik opened it by singing the chorus a capella. The band also included a sax solo.
The music was tight, and I could not have been more pleased with all of it. This one far outdid the night we saw them in a pouring Chicago rain with the Counting Crows. I'd say I got my money's worth.


A test

So I just took this personality test ... which is perhaps the weirdest, most mind-boggling test I've taken ...

Here is my diagnosis ... 
Handy in the real world manipulation of objects and events, you are easily enthused by practical projects. You often ignore or conveniently forget rules and boundaries that limit your freedom. This need for freedom extends even to the personal sphere and though you are kind and gentle, you will often be hard to pin down to a monogamous lifestyle. Because you tend to verbalize so seldom, you can be seen as phlegmatic or impassive. In moments of high tension you can often surprise those around you with a lighthearted or humorous remark. Because of your facility with the physical world, you are often engaged in sports that require dexterity, such as motorcycling or hang gliding. You will rarely have time for flights of fancy or unproductive discussion. Constraints on your freedom will be regarded as a personal attack.
I'm hardly a fan of motorcycling ... But the rest of it is pretty accurate.


Speaking of Phoebe

Continuing my posts in honor of Phoebe's birthday ...

Some of the best things about Phoebe these days are the things that come out of her mouth.

Simply, she's a chatterbox. She come up with the most creative and imaginative stories, out of the blue. Often, her stories carry multiple themes and she's spills them in one breath. And they make no sense. Seriously, they're hilarious.

Perhaps the highlight of my weekdays are the period of time I spend getting Phoebe ready in the morning and driving her to preschool. Between her fascination with the sky and the things she observes as we drive, that's when she produces some of the real gems.

Here are some of greatest bits we've collected during the last few months. ...

That's crazy! (This is her catchphrase. She picked it up from me)

Me: Phoebe, can I have a hug?
Phoebe: No, I can't.

(Phoebe, while looking into an opening for a buckle in her booster chair) There's something in there, so it goes in there.

(Phoebe speaking to me, all in one breath) Mommy went poop on the potty! She did a big one, so she gets a sticker. You don't get a sticker.

(After a bath) My hair's wet so we can all touch it.

Phoebe: Daddy, I pooped on my shirt a little bit.
Me: You did!?
Phoebe: Yeah, I did.
Kates: No, you didn't.
Phoebe: Daddy, I peed on my shirt a little bit.
Kates: No, you were helping Shelby clean and you got a little wet.
Phoebe: Daddy, I got wet on my shirt a little bit.

Phoebe: Daddy, the sky has snow on it!
Me: No, Phoebe, that's fog.
Phoebe: Fog?
Me: Yep.
Phoebe: Oh, well we need to wipe it off so the sky is blue again!
Me: (laughing) Oh, Phoebe, well you get to work on that, ok?
Phoebe: Ok.

Phoebe: You wanna play a game wit me Dad?
Me: Sure.
Phoebe: Ok, Come on! (as she takes my hand and pulls me to the couch with no regard for what I'm doing)

Mommy, turn the light on. I can't see my eyes!

Me: Phoebe, c'mon it's time to eat.
Phoebe: (all in one breath) Not yet. I'n still coworing (that was coloring). I'n not wanna talk wight now.

Phoebe: I wanna go to Wal-mart.
Me: Ok, what can we get?
Phoebe: Um, cucumber? Apples? Corn? Might have canned corn? I wan some!

(All in one breath) It’s snowing! We gotta put our coat ons! We gotta put our hood ups!

(Referring to an afternoon of playing in the leaves with Kates) I played in it and it was big and it swallowed me up.

(All in one breath) You have your over dere so you eat yours. I’m workin’ on something.

Get out Daddy, so I can cwean da kitchin!

Phoebe: We can walk outside and I can poop outside.
Kates: No, Phoebe just doggies do that.

The big 3

So Phoebe turns 3 years old this week.

I could say Where has the time gone? But everyone says that. And I know exactly where it's gone -- from tummy time, to stacking blocks, to walks to the park, to playing with baby dolls, to epic dance parties.

Perhaps it's more appropriate for me to say The time goes so fast. People say that all the time, too. But, in the context of children, the statement has only started to make sense to me. ... For much of the last three years, I've shrugged off the so fast lines because, in all honesty, our best times with Phoebe have seemingly played out in slow motion. We've managed to live in the moments and soak them up. We've also managed to record some of them on videos, which we've been watching a lot of in recent months -- at Phoebe's request.

Only recently have I realized she's growing up faster than I'd prefer. Though the seeds of her character were apparent from her earliest days, she's becoming increasingly independent, social and curious about the world around her. Oh, the curiousness.    

As she's grown, I find myself cherishing every cuddle and hug a little bit more. I love it when she walks up to me, looks up, arms outstretched over her head, and says, “I want up.” I love the way she runs to me when I pick her up from preschool or the way she shouts “Dad-deeee!” when I arrive home from work at night. I love the way she prompts me to hold her little hand when we walk somewhere together. I love those moments because I am more aware now how precious they are and that they won't last forever.

After all, she's 3. And she still has a lot to learn. ... She can fill our hearts with pride one minute and drive us completely nuts the next.

She's come a long way from those first few weeks of her new daycare after we moved to The 'Ville last summer. ... She can spell her name. She's got her colors down. She knows her ABCs, and sings them constantly, too. And she knows more silly songs than Kates and I can keep track of. It's not uncommon to catch Phoebe singing a random song while she's strutting around the house.

She's potty-trained. That came fairly easily during a week in January. Though some occasionally accidents are expected, and they're most likely when she's having too much fun playing to take a break.

She's making friends, and at night it's not uncommon for her to share the day's gossip with us about who hit who or who wasn't listening at daycare. 

Rarely a day goes by that she's not a mess when we pick her up because of some hard playing on the playground equipment. There are days when her clothes, arms and face are so dirty that I've started calling her Pigpen. For now I suppose it's a good thing that she's not preoccupied with the way she looks.

Although, those days are coming. She's taking increasing interest in her hair, and almost out of the blue she learned to put her hair in a pony tail. Now she can pull her hair through a hair band so easily and fluently, it blows my mind ... She's also entered the dress-up phase. If she's not trying on several pairs of her shoes, or swinging around one of her purses, she's pulling on a princess dress from the bag of costumes some friends gave us a few months ago.

Her spongeyness continues to be strong, and yet we can't help but laugh when she surprises us with another mannerism she learned from Kates or I. Or a word or phrase she picked up from something she saw on TV -- like when she told Kates, "C'mon, Mommy! Let's kick it!" after repeated viewings of "Enchanted," or we overheard her mutter "good grief" after a run of repeatedly watching "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." ... On the other hand, it melts my heart when I overhear her singing along to "Little Einsteins," "Veggie Tales," "Sesame Street" or one of her other beloved children's shows.

She thinks it's fun to wake me up and literally pull me out of bed on Saturday morning. "You Wake up, Daddy!" she'll say as she yanks on my arm or leg and pulls the covers off of me.

She begs to wash the dishes with me after dinner, which I think is great ... And I hope it continues for years to come.

She's also fascinated by time right now, though she doesn't comprehend how it works or or what differentiates yesterday from today or tomorrow from next week. She often recalls things that happened a week or more ago as if they happened yesterday.

When it comes to playtime, coloring, puzzles and playing with her baby dolls and stuffed animals draw most of her attention. She's got a wild imagination, and the tender care she gives her dolls and animals is pretty impressive, not to mention the conversations she holds with them. She's tightest with her big dog Woody, a smaller dog Bella, a walrus Kim, a sock monkey Pinky and a small gorilla she named Gorilla. Her beloved yellow Blankie, however, remains most important of all.

Have I also mentioned that she loves playing with bowls of beans? That behavior began last summer when Kates’ parents were visiting, with Chloe, and we noticed Phoebe was fascinated with using the measuring cups and pouring Chloe’s dog food into her bowl. ... So Kates bought a couple bags of dried beans, several bowls and a pack of measuring cups and gave them to Phoebe, who loves filling the measuring cups with the beans and then pouring them into the bowls. Similarly, I suspect the sandbox that came with our new house is going to be a big draw this summer.

She's definitely a creature of habit and routine. And any deviation from it aggravates her. ... She still prefers her milk warmed, which confounds Kates and I. We've tried blindly giving her cold milk to drink but always to sway her and a fit usually ensues. ... With all of her playtime rituals and the sole attention she's grown used to with Kates and I, a sibling is going to rock her world.

In a lot of other aspects, not much about Phoebe has changed since the fall.

Just when Kates and I think we have her greatest interests and talents pegged -- which is terribly foolish, we know -- there's another discovery to expand her mind ... There are nights when Kates and I just sit watching her play and we wonder out loud with a laundry a list of occupations we could see her doing. A musician, an engineer, a gymnast, an athlete, an actor, a pastor, an artist, or maybe even a president. The thing is she has so many interests. ...

Her world is limitless.


Playing hard

We've been blasting Adele's new album throughout the house today. The weather has been gorgeous this weekend. And we've got most of the windows open ... With the way our house is situated and the way the breeze is flowing through it, it almost feels like we're in an open-air structure. Like our kitchen is outdoors. Bliss.

Friday, our friend Gina took Phoebe for the night with some friends -- they went to Pizza Hut and saw “Hop -- while Kates and I hit the shopping circuit. Kates took me to Chili’s for dinner (Gina instructed her to take me out for a nice dinner because I’ve been working so feverishly the last few weeks; Kates paid, too, even though the funding really comes from both of our pockets.) … We went from Target to Wal-mart in search of birthday gifts for Phoebe -- with stops at Borders and Home Depot in between. At Borders we helped them clean off their shelves, literally. With the store going out of business we loaded up on CDs and books as much as 70 percent off. At Home Depot we picked up some things for the house, including new toilet seats. Woo hoo!

* * *

Saturday I spent most of the day working in the yard. I felt like I cleaned five years worth of leaves and twigs from the flower beds. … Saturday night we went to the spring football game and took Phoebe to the park. 

There she is falling face first down one of the slides. … Afterward she paused. Said “Whoah. And got up to run to the slide again. Typical Phoebe.

It's a little blurry ...

* * *

Sunday, we played hooky for church and stayed home to get some more housework done. We finished off Phoebe’s room. And my friend Darren came over to help me build some storage shelves in our garage. Huge.  ... Now we have extra storage space, and I could actually clear a path to our water heater, which badly needs to be replaced.

Slowly, we’re getting to where we want to be.

When I wasn't looking tonight, Phoebe zonked out in chair as she was watching TV. We played hard this weekend.


Championship madness

Somehow, some way, after all of the upsets and chaos, and with my bracket shot, I was excited to watch the NCAA championship game last night. Something I don't think I could honestly say the last couple years.

But those Butler Bulldogs have some charm. After coming oh so close last year, and their remarkable run through the tournament this year, I really thought we'd be calling them national champions this morning.

That, and I was rooting for my doppelganger, Brad Stevens.

Seriously. Since Butler grabbed the national spotlight last year, I've had friends from miles around mention the resemblance. Take some of the comments, I drew on Facebook last night ...

My status: Rooting for Butler and my doppelganger Brad Stevens.

We were JUST saying that you look just like him!!! AMAZING! Go Butler!

I totally said that to someone the other day! He is!

Just asked my wife when you left NW to coach for Butler!!
Too bad the game was awful.

That the score was a measley 53-41 is evidence of how ugly the game was. Butler shot 18.8 percent and had more fouls than baskets. Yikes.

At least CBS brought back Luther Vandross's "One Shining Moment."


Bombs away

Sheen bombs on opening night of 20-city stage tour.

Really, people, are you that surprised he bombed?

His rants weren't funny in the first place. There was never a doubt in my mind Charlie's tour would be a train wreck, given his behavior, and spending any money to see him would be a waste.

My two cents. For what it's worth.