6 days of Faye

We are home. As a family of four.

And life is good. Very good.

Here are some happenings and observations from our first six days with Faye …

* * *

Grandma and Grandpa S. arrived late Thursday night and spent the ensuing days with us, assisting around the house, cooking meals, and playing with Phoebe. They left this morning, and we just finished cleaning and turning over The Hotel, aka Our House, for the next set of guests. Our good friends Ray, Leah and Audrey are en route from suburban Chicago and will spend the next two nights with us.

After spending most of the day at the hospital Friday with Kates and Faye, the grandparents, Phoebe and I headed back to the house mid-afternoon. I spent the remainder of it sleeping on the couch while Grandma played with Phoebe.

“I can’t wake up,” I texted to Kates at one point.

“Me, either,” she replied. “We need the sleep!” … After all, I had only one hour of sleep the night before, and Kates had only a couple more.

Around 6 p.m. Friday, Kates called me back to the hospital. The doctor had given the ok for her to be discharged. After one day. Barely 36 hours after Faye was born.

When I returned to her hospital room, Kates was packing our bags. I took them to the car. A nurse arrived to have us sign the discharge papers. She inspected our car seat, helped us put Faye into it and escorted us out of the hospital.

That was it. It was a miraculous turn of events considering the last time Kates gave birth. We could not have been happier with the way things turned out.

* * *

Faye slept wonderfully during her first night in the hospital. But the first night at home wasn’t so great.

She cried and cried as we struggled to get her to sleep. Finally, around 3 a.m., we got her calmed down, and Kates and I could rest.

I slept until nearly 11 a.m. Saturday. As I arrived in the kitchen, Kates’ mom handed me a fresh plate of pancakes, which I took straight to the dining table without breaking a stride. It was almost like a scene out of a sitcom -- me appearing zombie-like from the stairs and the mother-in-law handing me fresh pancakes right on cue. Classic.

* * *

Even after a week, Phoebe remains pretty much in love with her new sister.

Every time she sees someone else holding Faye, Phoebe wants to hold her, too.

She also likes to shower Faye in kisses. “Sissy kisses,” she calls them.

Some of the best moments continue to develop from Phoebe’s statements, thoughts and questions about this time of our lives.

The other day in the hospital, Phoebe was holding Faye and sitting in the hospital bed with Kates, when she said, “Mom, I’m not really comfortable with you being up here.” … To which, Kates gave her some extra room and muttered, “Pretty much. I’m just chump change to Phoebe now.”

At another point – while she was holding Faye – Phoebe looked at Kates and asked, “Mommy, when are you going to have another baby?” Kates laughed and said, “Let’s wait until we have this one for awhile, ok, Pheebs?”

And slowly, Phoebe – in her own little 4-year-old way – is understanding how much patience and commitment it takes to raise another child. … The other day Kates told Phoebe that she had to feed Faye, to which Phoebe replied with a big sigh, “A-gain!?”

* * *

As a gift to Phoebe, Grandma and Grandpa S. brought a copy of “Annie,” which charmed her immediately.

Already, she’s probably watched it 10 times.

That musical has resulted in a lot of fond childhood memories for me, not to mention the production Kates and I saw a few years ago. ... I'm glad Phoebe's discovering the musical now, too.

* * *

We surprised our church family by showing up with Faye at worship Sunday morning.

We were running a little late and entered the sanctuary just as our dear friend Marjean, who was filling in for our vacationing senior pastor, was giving the morning announcements.

As I carried Faye’s car seat and led the family through the back of the sanctuary, Marjean exclaimed, “Oh, and we have a new baby joining us this morning!” She offered a brief blessing and the congregation applauded.

It was a special moment. That it was initiated by Marjean made it mean even more.

Afterward, friends greeted us and offered more congratulations. But half the fun was hearing people’s reactions to us being at church, just three days after Faye’s arrival. “Nah, they won’t be there today!” one friend told us, recounting a conversation with her husband earlier that morning. But we were!

* * *

I returned to the softball diamond Tuesday night.

I went 3-for-4, including a line drive I smacked – beautifully – over the shortstop’s head into left center field for a double to lead off the game.

The best part, though, was having Phoebe and Grandpa S. at the game. It was a 9 o’clock start, but we agreed to let Phoebe stay up for the occasion. ... Lord knows she might still have been awake when I returned home anyway.

They arrived just as I was taking my opening at-bat and took a seat on the front row of the bleachers. Phoebe clapped and cheered throughout the game, shouting “Daddy!” and waving at me whenever I took the field. It was adorable.

* * *

Throughout this first week, we’ve enjoyed looking back at pictures taken when Phoebe was a baby and comparing those with the new images of Faye.

In some of the photos, it’s difficult to tell the two girls apart if you don’t know better …

The answer: That’s Phoebe on the left, and Faye on the right.


Introducing ...

Faye Alice.

Born at 6:53 a.m. today, weighing in at 7 pounds, 4 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long.

We think she shares a lot of resemblance to Phoebe after she was born, except little Faye has a full head of hair. Phoebe did not.

She’s spent most of the day sleeping, and we’ve heard barely a peep out of her, aside from little squeaks here and there as she stretches and moves to get more comfortable. We may nickname her Squeaky.

She seems content as can be and quite laid back. We’re definitely going to keep her.

* * *

So here’s how we got to this point …

I arrived home from work last night, and Phoebe and I promptly headed outside to play together, as we’ve done every night this week. From kicking a ball around the back yard to dribbling a basketball and shooting hoops, our nightly playtime together has created some awesome daddy-daughter bonding time. Something I’ve tried to emphasize especially these last couple weeks with the big changes afoot in our house.

We had one of our epic dance parties, bounding around our family room to La Roux’s “Bulletproof.” Then I retreated to work on my graduate studies, while Phoebe joined Kates on the couch to watch whatever was showing on the Food Network.

At about 9:30 last night, Phoebe was zonked out next to Kates, who called me up to carry her to her bed. Her world would be forever changed when she awoke.

Kates headed to bed not long afterward, while I stayed up until about midnight, continuing to work on my graduate studies and touch base on a few other projects. Any other night, I might have pushed myself to stay up longer, but something told me last night that I needed to get some rest.

Then, at about 1:15 this morning, I was awakened by Kates sitting up in bed. Just the way she sat up told me something was happening. It wasn’t her usual I’m-getting-up-to-use-the-bathroom movement. Her water had broken.

I phoned the hospital to let the nurses know we would be arriving within the hour and then scrambled to make contact with our friends Gina and Jeff, who we lined up to care for Phoebe whenever this moment arrived. Finally, after what must have been a half-dozen attempts, Jeff picked up and said Gina was on her way. I packed the car with our bags and by 2 a.m. we were heading to the hospital.

As labor progressed, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the events of Phoebe’s arrival. But we’re totally ok with that.

By the time we were settled into the delivery room, Kates was 7 cm dilated and the medical staff was forecasting a fast delivery. Kates' doctor --  Doctor M. -- was on her way, Kates’ blood pressure was stable and the labor was progressing well.

At around 4 a.m. Kates received the epidural. Which pretty much put her legs to sleep and had her flying nearly as high as kite. She said she could barely feel a thing.

Around 6 a.m. the labor process had stalled a bit, however. Kates remained at 7 cm and it was beginning to seem like we might not see Baby 2 for at least a couple more hours. In the meantime, we had settled into a “Brady Bunch” marathon on “Nick at Night.” In this morning’s episode,  “Katchoo,” poor Jan had come down with a serious allergy and the Bradys worry that one of them is the culprit.

Then, at around 6:30, the room began stirring with nurses. Kates was fully dilated and Doctor M. said, “Let’s have this baby!” Everyone took their positions, and after a few rounds of pushing, Faye arrived. Phoebe arrived after about 11 hours of labor; Faye arrived in half the time.

Kates was so cool and calm throughout the whole process. Doctor M. and the nurses have commented repeatedly since this morning how well the delivery went. We had classical music playing in the room. The nurses and doctors were amazing cheerleaders. It was a beautiful thing that could not have gone more smoothly. … Better yet, Kates is up, walking around and her pain is minimal.

As the morning continued, we began communicating the good news to family and friends, snapped our first photos, and got to know little Faye. We ordered breakfast from room service and watched a little “Live with Kelly!” with this week’s guest host Seth Myers.

Back at our house, Phoebe had awakened and was having her fun with Gina. As told to us by Gina, Phoebe awoke this morning and walked into our bedroom, as she usually does, but she didn’t find us. She then headed for the living room, where she found Gina on the couch. Phoebe giggled and said, “My parents were sneaking on me.” Gina explained to her why we weren’t there, and with that she ran to give Gina a hug and flopped onto the couch, ready to eat breakfast, watch TV and commence her morning routine.

Around 1 this afternoon we finally got moved from our delivery room to a recovery room. Turns out there’s a little baby boom happening in The ‘Ville right now. The maternity wing of the hospital is booked solid, and we couldn’t move until one of the families was discharged.

After getting settled in the new room and some burgers for lunch, we were ready for Phoebe to meet her little sister.

* * *

Kates and I have anxiously awaited how Phoebe was going to accept a new person in the house. For the last four years, our world was her world. The way she reacted the day we shared the news of a new baby with her was a good sign, but these last few months we’ve remained cautiously optimistic about the adjustment, often discussing how a new baby would “rock her world.” Then again, she’s asked some really sweet questions the last few weeks about what she will and won’t be able to do with the baby.

After I led her into the hospital room this afternoon, she asked almost immediately if she could hold Faye. We obliged as Phoebe took a seat on a couch in the room. Kates laid Faye gently in Phoebe’s lap. And Phoebe was immediately smitten. She didn’t want to let Faye leave her sight and her protective, big-sister spirit was firing on all cylinders.

Phoebe stayed with us through the evening until I took her home to put her down for the night. She was so tired out from all of the day’s excitement that I skipped her bath, read her a story -- The Berenstain Bears' New Baby,” appropriately -- and tucked her in.

Kates’ parents are en route and will stay at the house with Phoebe tonight. Once they arrive, I’m heading back to the hospital to spend the night with Kates and Faye.

* * *

So here’s an explanation about the name …

As I wrote Saturday night, Faye’s name wasn’t the easiest to decide. But when it came to us, it clicked.

A bit of research informed us the name is a variant of the Middle English word faith and the Old French word fay, meaning loyalty, or belief. Everything about it felt right, and we liked the way it fit with the middle name we’d chosen. … As for the answer to my hint of the character in one of our favorite movies, which was released in 1996: That would be Faye Dolan in “That Thing You Do!”

Faye’s middle name, Alice, is my grandmother’s first name. Having borrowed Phoebe’s names from Kates’ family tree, we planned all along to incorporate my family tree in our second child’s name. Phoebe’s middle name, Joanne, is Kates’ mother’s name, and we had hoped to have a son with the middle name Daniel, after my father. ... When we learned we were having a girl, we chose Alice, my father’s mother, as her middle name.

We’re proud of our choice.

For the record, since we never revealed it after Phoebe was born, the boy's name we selected at that time was Noah Daniel. That wasn't the name we had as our backup this time in case Faye turned out to be a boy -- a name that I'll hold a secret for now.

Here's a look back at some of this journey's highlights ...
a The announcement
a It's another girl
a Getting ready
a Not this year, Baby
a Extremely hot and incredibly uncomfortable
a Mother's Day
a The baby's room
a This, we weren't expecting
a The names game
a The waiting game


Playing games

Man, I’m having fun with this softball stuff.

After our awful showing last week, our team played flawlessly tonight.

I don’t know what the final score was, but I know we won by a comfortable margin.

We hit the ball solidly and kept scoring runs. … Better yet, barely a ball got through our infield. I played a perfect third base, notching four putouts myself, including the first part of a 5-4-3 double play to end the second inning.

At the plate, I went 1-for-3. I lined out to short and then flied out to left. In my last at-bat, I singled on a liner to center field and eventually scored.

Our team got together for a practice Sunday and I think all of us could agree it jumpstarted our play tonight. I know it made a huge difference for me to get in some lengthy fielding practice and, after all of my years of facing hard-throwing baseball pitchers, I’m adjusting to the slower pace of a soft, underhand pitch.

The ball was flying off my bat during our practice Sunday. Despite my small frame, Coach says he’s impressed with my bat speed. He says I’m like Alfonso Soriano, but I play better defense.

I’ll take it, I guess.

* * *

Meanwhile, the waiting game for Baby 2 continues.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that D-Day isn’t for another five days. But we were sure she’d be here by now.

Instead the anxiety is growing. Kates is more uncomfortable by the minute.

At dinner tonight …

Kates, with a sigh: “I’m ready for this baby to come.”
Me: “I am so ready.”
Phoebe, with a more dramatic sigh: “Me, too. I’m super-duper 100 percent ready.”

Phoebe’s questions are getting more inquisitive, too

Tonight, to Kates, as we drove home from my softball game ...
“How will you get the baby out?”

As Kates left for her doctor’s appointment the other day ...
“Is it time for the baby to come out?!”

Of course, we’ll always remember the classic that started it all ...
“Did you eat it?”

Although, seeing Phoebe’s response to every new development makes me glad we timed the arrival of her little sibling when we did. It’s fun to see her love for her little sister already developing with the way she kisses and hugs Kates’ belly. And it’s fun to witness her responses to our random baby discussions.

One of her recent memorable quotes as she played in our living room ...
“M-O-Q-H-I! What does that spell?! Baby!”

When Kates returned from her appointment yesterday and reported that the baby had dropped and the doctor was able to feel its head, Phoebe responded with a high pitched ...
“Are you serious!?”

And on Saturday, as Phoebe was deep into another one of her pretend cooking sessions, she walked around, stirring a bowl and saying ...
“I'm just dilating stuff.”

This stuff never gets old. Soon, God willing, we’ll be having double the fun.


Saturday night love

Throughout this season of Saturday Night Live I've often found it interesting that, whether I intend to or not, I've watched a lot of the shows live from beginning to end. ... I told Kates this weekend that I've been keeping late hours lately because I'm in training for the feedings and diaper changes during the wee hours of the morning.

Last night, I was especially glad I stayed awake for the end of SNL.

I didn't expect a lot out of this week's host, Mick Jagger. With all the buzz going into last weekend's Will Ferrell-hosted episode, it was easy to be mistaken into thinking that was the season-ending episode.

Nevertheless, Mick was a worthy host -- with his turn as Kevin, an insurance salesman, at a karaoke bar as my favorite sketch of the night. Fred Armisen's Jagger-singing-"Start-Me-Up" impression was classic, and the real Jagger's sad, lonely "Satisfaction" at the end was pretty great, too ...

But the best part of the night -- perhaps second only to the end of the show, but I'll get to that -- might have been that we got three -- three! -- performances from Mick Jagger and bands that included Arcade Fire, the Foo Fighters and Jeff Beck.

First, "The Last Time" with Arcade Fire ...

Then, a sweet medley of “19th Nervous Breakdown” -- easily in my top three all-time favorite Stones songs -- and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” with the Foo Fighters ...

At the end of the show Mick began introducing this season's "graduates," and with Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis sitting smack in the front row, it wasn't hard to figure out where the bit was going. The rumors of those departing SNL have been swirling for months, although Sudeikis' future on the show apparently is still uncertain.

I've enjoyed watching Wiig over the years, but, truthfully, I've always thought she was slightly overrated. I'd take Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer or Cheri Oteri over her any night. ... Nevertheless, the goodbye to Kristen was a bittersweet tribute to another great cast member who's brought us a lot of laughs over the last seven years.    

Thanks to it, I've also had "She's a Rainbow" in my head all day.

Like last night's show, I didn't expect a lot out of this season of SNL, but from Emma Stone to Katy Perry, to the returns of Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph, to the musicality of Gotye  ... it was a decently memorable one.


The names game. Take two.

Well, it turned into a monumental task. But at this hour, on this day … We have a name for our second child.

Like Phoebe’s name, it’s a name we’d never considered until the time came to make a decision. And like Phoebe’s name, at least part of the name is derived from our family tree.

But unlike Phoebe’s name, this one took a long time to come to terms on.

I’ve told this story many times: Almost as soon as we learned Phoebe was on the way, we began brainstorming names over dinner at a café. Phoebe was the first name we wrote down and we fell in love with it immediately. We liked that it was a name from the Bible, and it was on Kates’ family tree.

This time around, once we learned we were having another girl, we thought That’s great! There’s a ton of girls names we like! … Since Phoebe came from Kates’ family tree, the plan all along was to select the name for our second child from my family tree, boy or girl.

But picking another girl’s name, it turned out, wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be.

With Phoebe, we might have set the bar a little high. Because this time around, we also felt pressure to come up with a name that is as unique.

We were quick to agree on the middle name for Baby 2 after someone in my family. But the challenge was finding a first name that complemented the middle.

We discussed and ruled out Ingrid, Gretchen, Greta and Amelia. We also discussed Lydia and Naomi, but decided against those because of people in our circles with those names. We considered Sarah, but ruled it out because Kates has a cousin of the same name.

There was a fleeting moment when we both liked Rachel. Then we decided the whole connection to Phoebe and Rachel on “Friends” would be too weird.

Nor will the baby's name be Anna, Elizabeth or Emma.

There was a stretch when Molly and Clara were serious contenders. But their stock eventually dropped.

We pored over our family tree, looking for any name that might trigger something. And with that Ancestry.com has become my new obsession … In the last few days, I’ve mapped out nearly my entire family tree, going back five generations. Fun stuff!

The more time that passed without us coming to a decision, the more we began to worry we might have to settle on one of Phoebe’s suggested names: Baby Bear Rapunzel, Rainbow Rapunzel, Rainbow Barbie Rapunzel, or her most recent suggestion Rainbow Marshmallow.

And last weekend, when our pastor talked about Moses' mother, Jochebed, in his sermon, Kates and I looked at each other with thoughts of At this point, anything's possible.

Finally, last night, as we continued our name discussions over a relaxing dinner on our deck, Kates mentioned a name that recently appealed to her. I sat back in my chair and smiled. It worked. It clicked. I liked it. … We slept on it. Talked about it more today. And agreed tonight that it’s the one.

So here are some hints. The first name is a one-syllable name derived from Middle English. It’s not on our family tree -- as far as we can tell -- and it’s not in the Bible, although it has something of a religious origin. Rankings show the name is almost nonexistant today, with its popularity dropping significantly in the 1970s. However, it is the name of a character in one of our favorite movies, which hit theaters in 1996.

And for good measure, just in case the ultrasound reading was wrong and we’re surprised with a boy, we’ve got a boy’s name on standby -- and it‘s different than the boy‘s name we had picked out had Phoebe been a boy. This time, our boy’s name is derived from a Latin name with wide use in Germany. It’s a name Kates liked early on, but it wasn’t until I found it on my family tree that I started to warm up to it. It’s not a Bible name, but it’s a great, venerable name with some strong nickname possibilities.

So there you have it. We’ll provide you with answers to these questions and more when Baby 2 arrives.



So I played my second softball game tonight.

It was our team’s fourth. I’ve missed the last two because of my Thursday evening graduate classes and Phoebe’s illness Tuesday night. … Apparently, we didn’t play well in either game and lost both by one run.

Tonight’s game didn’t start any better for us. We played terribly during the first half; we looked a lot like our opponent in Game 1.

During the first couple innings we were booting the ball all over the infield or just plain letting it bounce past us. We were down 15-0 after two innings, and we dodged the 15-run mercy rule that would have ended the game only after we managed a single run in the bottom of the third inning.

Then we came back.

By the sixth inning we closed the gap, down 19-17. I went 2-for-4 on the night, including a well-placed ground ball that traced the third base line and skipped beautifully between the bag and the third baseman to score an RBI and keep our fifth-inning rally going.

But it wasn’t enough. We lost the game and our record falls to 1-3.


This, we weren't expecting

Well, today didn’t go the way we planned it. And it had little to do with the baby we’re expecting.

Although Kates’ latest checkup yesterday afternoon revealed she’s now 5 cm dilated. Baby 2 could come any day, and we’re still two weeks from D-day. Kates wasn’t even half this far in the days before Phoebe was born -- two days past her due date.

Our episode began last evening after I picked up Phoebe from preschool. I drove her home and she was her usual jovial self. We began unpacking her backpack, and when Kates arrived home a short time after us Phoebe greeted her with the burst of excitement she typically shows when one of us walks in the door.

But as we were preparing supper, she became restless and whiny. At one point I picked her up and she was practically burning. It was a little strange, but Kates and I didn’t think much of it. It had been a hot day and we figured Phoebe was just overheated from playing hard during her after school program.

A short time later she was curled up on the couch with Yellow and Lamby, and she was fast asleep. She was still burning up, so Kates put a cold wash cloth on her forehead. Something wasn’t right.

Before bedtime Kates took Phoebe’s temperature. It was 100.2. We gave her some ibuprofen and decided then that she wouldn’t go to school today. … Kates wanted to stay home with her and reserved a substitute teacher for her classroom. In a way, it was a good thing because Kates' grade was taking their students on an outdoor picnic today. With temperatures in the 90s, Kates had no desire to spend the day supervising 20-some kids in a park at 38 weeks pregnant.

Fast forward to this morning. None of us got a good night’s sleep, and Phoebe woke us up at 6:30, crying, “Mommy, I threw up!” With that, Kates and I were out of bed, tending to the child.

It got even better. As I was preparing myself for work, Kati waddled through the bedroom, looking as though she’d never been more uncomfortable. “Oh, I’m feeling like I could have this baby any time,” she groaned.

That statement sealed my decision to stay home, too. My schedule was clear for the day and I could easily work from home. I was in better condition to care for Phoebe, and if anything happened related to Baby 2, I’d be home to move into action.

So at 9 this morning, I was taking Phoebe to the doctor. We feared strep throat, but a test came back negative and the doctor diagnosed it as a good old-fashioned stomach virus.

The fun continued around 12:30 when Phoebe had a vomiting fit. As she was sitting on the couch watching TV. And cuddling with Kates. Apparently the Wheat Thins weren’t such a good idea. … I scrambled to clean up the mess, got Phoebe into some new clothes and threw the soiled ones in the laundry. Meanwhile Kates changed her own clothes because she had been in the projectile zone. … And at that point I was having flashbacks to Christmas 2008 when Kates was sick with the flu and I was flying solo with the infant Phoebe.

Not long afterward, Phoebe was resting on the couch by herself. She fell asleep quickly and was out for most of the afternoon. When she awoke, her fever had broken and she was smiling for the first time since I’d picked her up yesterday afternoon.

Besides seeing Phoebe so sad and uncomfortable, the big downer in all of this is that her illness kept her from participating in her end-of-the-year preschool concert tonight. Phoebe and her class had been practicing the songs for weeks, and Kates and I had been nervous that a trip to the delivery room might keep us from going. Not an unfortunate stomach virus.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.


Baby 2's room!

After months of thought and a little work, we have a completed Baby 2’s room.

It was a tough decision, but keeping our budget and future expenses in mind, we decided to stick with a lot of the décor and themes we used in Phoebe’s original room.

Although, there are also a few things that make Baby 2’s room unique in its own right.

Here’s a look at the transformation, starting on the left with the way the room looked when we moved in a year ago  …

I removed the wallpaper, pulled up the carpeting to uncover the hardwood flooring and painted the walls a Peppermint Vinca.

And here are the results ...

We moved the curtains from Phoebe's original room with us from K-Town because we liked them so much. ... And like the dresser we placed in Phoebe's room, this dresser has some special meaning behind it because it came from my grandmother. I painted it white to match the wall trim and the crib. ...

Once again, we've included a shelf with some of the beloved stuffed animals from Kates' and my childhood years. And a shelf with starter books. ... The Peek A Boo block on the book shelf was a good find by Kates, and she gussied up what had been a plain white lamp shade with a pair of wavy green stripes.

The crib is brand new, from Target, and we couldn't resist resurrecting the colorful globes above the crib, although we positioned them differently this time and doubled the number of them.


Mother's Day

HAP-py Mother’s Day!

We started the day by going to church. With trying to get ready for Baby 2 and our Financial Peace course on Sunday afternoons, it was the first time in several weeks that we’d been to a worship service. … And boy did Kates turn some heads when we walked into the sanctuary and people saw how pregnant she is. Needless to say the questions -- “How are you feeling?” to Kates, or “How is she feeling?” to me -- are getting old.

Back at home, we presented Kates with our gifts. I gave her a card with an elegant-looking cover and the words: “Motherhood, a summary.” Then, just when you think you’re going to open it to find a heartfelt poem, the inside reads ...
“Holy crap! It’s hard. The End  
(Happy Mother’s Day to someone who makes it look easy.)”

Usually I’m all for the sensitive, sentimental cards. But this year, I thought that one was appropriate and couldn’t pass it up.

As for Phoebe. Well, she presented Kates with a terrifically adorable painting featuring her handprints and some words of love that could have only come from Phoebe’s mouth. One of her preschool teachers told us Phoebe’s painting was one of her favorites in the class, and Kates can hardly wait to put it in a frame and hang it on a wall.

We spent the afternoon relaxing. And tonight, we cooked burgers on the grill and shared a supper on our deck. For dessert, Kates made a dirt pie with strawberries sprinkled on top.

As we sat outside and enjoyed the gorgeous evening, I couldn’t help but sit back, smile and say aloud, “Life is good.”

* * *

What makes this day even better is that we’re finally ready. Ready for Baby 2 to arrive any day she wants.

Although Kates is seriously determined to finish her school year -- which ends Thursday. Her feet and ankles are so swollen that every school day she gets through is a miracle, and she's got the entire school abuzz.

When I took a day off from work Wednesday with the intention of catching up on some projects at home and dressed in an old T-shirt, shorts and ball cap, I bet Kates that morning that Phoebe's preschool teachers were going to think we'd been to the hospital because of the way I was dressed. ... Sure enough, when I walked into Phoebe's classroom to drop her off, one of her teachers raised her eyebrows and said, "You're dressed pretty casually, today!" and inferred that I might have been coming from the hospital. I called it.

I'm digressing.

The hospital bags are packed. The car seats are installed. The room is ready. All of the baby clothes are laundered and put away. We have childcare standing by for Phoebe. I spent part of this afternoon tying up the loose ends and clearing off the rest of our Baby To-Do List. The baby bouncer is reassembled and stationed in the baby's room, and the swing -- which Phoebe has temporarily claimed for her stuffed animals and a blanket -- also is reassembled and ready to go in a corner of our living room.

Ok, so we’re still coming to terms on a name for this baby, but I’m optimistic we’ll get there.

Going through this process again these last few weeks has brought back so many memories from our first go of it. Assembling and setting up all of the equipment for the first time. Buying and receiving the baby clothes ...

And then, to recount a conversation I had with a colleague a couple weeks ago, to think about all of the changes, and growth, and ups and downs, and people who have come in and out of our lives during the last four years since Phoebe was born. Back then, we were of the mindset that we’d be happy to spend the rest of our lives in K-Town and raise our family there. …

To look back on all that’s transpired since then ...



Going soft

Well, tonight was fun.

Eager to get back into some sort of organized recreational activity, I have officially joined a softball team in the city league this summer. … It’s a team comprised of a bunch of guys from our church and the college. A few months back, a wife of one of the players told Kates they were looking for some players and asked Kates if I might be interested. Kates told me about it and the next day I asked the husband about it.

He was thrilled to hear I was interested, and I was thrilled just to be playing any kind of ball again. I was in!

So we play every Tuesday and Thursday night, and tonight was our first game.

Our team name is Arghhh! And our mascot is a pirate. Go figure. ... I couldn't find my Pittsburgh Pirates hat tonight -- it remains buried somwhere in one of my unpacked boxes from our move -- but I did locate a box with some of my old little league hats. I pulled out a well-worn navy blue mesh cap -- which matches our team's yellow and black T-shirts -- from my very first season of little league baseball. With Setz Motel & Cottages in 1988. I played with the team for three years, and my dad as our coach, but I know the year of the hat because I wrote the years in permanent marker on the bills of all my little league caps. And it still fits like a glove.

Coach started me at shortstop and batting second tonight.

Our team played the field first, and I got my first chance when the third batter hit a hot shot to my right side. I moved toward the ball and tried to backhand it, but took it right off my wrist. … That’s going to leave a mark tomorrow.

I bounced right back, though. Two batters later, I got another ball hit my way. I fielded it cleanly and threw to second base for the put out. We were out of the inning, but gave up one run.

It was all us from then on.

We batted around nearly three times in the bottom of the first. I singled and scored all three times I stepped to the plate.

And because of a 15-run rule, the game was over after the top of the third inning. The game lasted barely a half hour, and the final score was something like 19-3.

We won.

I can hardly wait to play some more.


Graduation Day

Today, Kates and I are graduates.

Graduates of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, that is.

Now, I’ve largely been the caretaker of our finances, dutifully entering every receipt and deposit into our Microsoft Money records. I keep watch on our bank accounts like a hawk, making sure payments are clearing and always watching for questionable activity.

Have we always been fiscally responsible and avoided financial risks? Heck no. … Kates and I agree, arguably one of the biggest regrets of our married lives is a financial mistake we made several years ago, and we’ve learned from it.

Still, I’d like to think we’re more financially stable that most people.

The last 13 weeks, however, have showed we still had a lot to learn.

For the last few years, our church has offered Ramsey’s Financial Peace program to interested families. It sounded ok, but I had no interest in giving up two hours of my precious Sunday afternoons for 13 consecutive weeks. And to sit in a room and listen to other couples’ financial issues and ideas while we shared our own like we’re in some kind of support group -- yuck. No, thank you.

But in January, when the invitation came to join the new class forming for the spring, Kates pushed the idea of trying it.

I’m deep in graduate coursework, the responsibilities of my job are heavy, and my Sunday afternoons are precious. Financial Peace would be another addition to my already heavy plate. … But, clearly, we are not rich -- not that getting rich was the point of this exercise. I conceded there were things we could be doing better. And with another baby on the way, now was as good a time as ever.

Today, we completed the course. We have a certificate and piggy bank to show for it. And yes, I’m glad we did it.

The class sessions weren’t so bad and typically went like this: We’d spend the first hour or hour and a half watching a DVD of Dave giving a lecture to a huge auditorium of people – a lecture that was part serious teaching about financial behaviors and part comedic relief. If you’re not familiar with Dave Ramsey – I was not – he is quite funny. … We spent the remainder of the class sessions discussing Dave’s lecture either as a class, in small groups or as couples. Every week was a different topic – from credit cards, to 401ks, to insurance policies to budgeting to college planning.

Kates and I have a whole new outlook on handling our finances. Rather than me doing most of the work, Kates and I are doing it together. We have a better understanding of our insurance policies and will look forward to righting some of our wrongs in that arena in coming months. We’re policing our spending habits better by keeping a monthly budget, and we’re building equity.

Most fun of all, we’re on a path to becoming debt-free within the next year. … Perhaps our favorite lesson was the one about credit cards. After that one, Kates and I went on a hardcore credit card cutting binge – calling all of our credit card companies, closing whatever accounts we had open and documenting all of it on a handy dandy spreadsheet provided to us in the course. We canceled nearly 20 credit counts, about a dozen of which we forgot we had because they hadn’t been used since shortly after we were married. At the next week’s class session, Kates and I joined other couples in cutting the cards and dumping the remnants in the big glass jar.

Seriously, as grueling as it was to drive to the class some weeks, there were a lot of weeks that Kates and I got back in the car to leave with huge smiles on our faces, excited by what we learned that afternoon and pumped to implement the lesson at home.

In addition to our little graduation ceremony today, we celebrated yesterday with a class garage sale to get rid of some unneeded stuff -- and to make a little extra cash, too. Mostly, it was household stuff and clothing we wanted to part with. … And a lovely antique desk that Kates bought for her first apartment after college. We moved it to her second apartment, and then to our first apartment, and then to our first house, and then to our duplex here in The ‘Ville (… those were some days.). Its final stop with us was in our new home, in the guest room that is now being transformed into Baby 2’s room. We hated to see it go, but it was time. We no longer had room for it. … When the sale was over, we made $42, and what we didn’t sell went to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

After our successful sale yesterday afternoon, I spent most of the day working outside in our yard. We grilled burgers and corn on the cob for supper, and then I was determined to take a family drive to the lake and watch the supermoon rise. … Frankly, I didn't think it was so super, and it looks way more cool in some of the photos the media outlets are posting today.

Nonethleless, it was worth the drive and making a fun family memory. Once we got to the lake, we found a place to park, with the moon rising over the lake in front of us. Kates didn’t feel like hiking anywhere with her baby weight and stayed in the car. In the meantime, Phoebe and I walked through the 100 yards or so of tall grass to get to the lake shore and get a closer look at the moon.

It was great daddy-daughter moment. And the moon, though overrated, was pretty awesome rising over the lake.

After a few minutes, Phoebe and I ran as fast as we could back to the car, laughing all the way. ... We made the 15-minute drive home, and Phoebe was snoring by the time we pulled into our garage.


One year later

As much as I admire Brian Williams and NBC News, we've only tuned into Rock Center once or twice since it began airing last fall. But I had no intention of missing tonight's program.

A year ago, we sat here stunned at the news that special forces had killed Osama bin Laden.

Tonight we watched Rock Center's "Inside the Situation Room," an unbelievably fascinating breakdown of the events and decisions inside the White House leading up to and during that night.

The piece is filled with so many mind-boggling decisions and strategies, with the ways members of the administration went about their planned activities that weekend without giving up a hint of what they'd been planning. President Obama, of course, attended the now infamous correspondents' dinner. And perhaps my favorite part, Hillary Clinton attended the wedding of one of her daughter's friends.

During an interview in the anniversary piece, Hillary says ...

“It was so ironic. All these smart young people who work in all kinds of enterprises, one of them came up and said, ‘Do you think we’ll ever get bin Laden?’  I said, ‘I don’t know. I have no way of knowing, but I can tell you this, we’ll keep trying.’”
Here's a good read from Rolling Stone: #RIP: The New Media of Celebrity Deaths


Extremely hot and incredibly uncomfortable

For the most part, we’ve been playing this whole Baby 2 thing pretty low-key.

People say that about the second time around, don’t they? That parents don’t show as much concern as they did with the first child, right?

The timeline for our preparation pre-Phoebe is a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure we were well ahead of the pace we’re on this time around. Life wasn’t so hectic and complicated for us four years ago as it seems to be today.

Take Baby 2’s room, for example. I pulled up the carpet and had a good painting spurt a few weeks ago. But the room sat largely untouched until a couple weeks ago when I got a whim of inspiration and set up the crib. And there’s been no progress since.

Now things are getting interesting, however.

Kates’ latest visit to her doctor yesterday resulted in this revelation: She’s 3 centimeters dilated. Doctor said Baby 2 could arrive any day now.

Wait. What!?

She’s in Week 35. Kates wasn't that far along at this stage with Phoebe. D-Day isn’t for another month. May 27, to be exact. And we’ve still got plenty to do before we’re ready.

The news didn’t come as a complete shock. In fact, we expected to hear something similar at Kates’ previous appointment a few weeks ago -- after days of Kates and I looking at each other and thinking, This pregnancy seems to be progressing a lot faster than the way we remember it going the first time around.

Then again, there was a time we thought Phoebe was going to arrive early, too. But that came and went. And Phoebe arrived two days past her due date.

Still, Kates does seem to be more uncomfortable at this stage. Her ankles have been swollen for well over a month now, and she spends the bulk of her time at home on the couch with her feet propped up. Many people have commented that she doesn’t have much room left in that belly of hers.

It also doesn’t help that temperatures are warming and we hit the 90s last week.