And now we have a kitten

It was a dark and stormy night.

And at 12:15 a.m. today, Kit Kat became a momma.

Things started happening yesterday evening after Kates and Leah arrived home from an afternoon at the spa. We had pizza for supper and played outside for a while.

When we returned inside and started getting the girls for ready for bed, we noticed Kit Kat fussing about something. She had enough food and water. She didn’t show much interest in playing. She was pacing around the living room. Something was bothering her.

I did some Internet research and found this article. Kit Kat was showing all the behaviors, and I told Kates I thought we were pretty close to something happening.

At about 9:30, Kit Kat was in the upstairs bedroom pacing outside Phoebe’s bedroom, so I went to bring her back to the living room. As I reached under her belly to pick her up, I felt a drop of blood on my finger.

It was go time.

I led her the rest of the way to her nest in the garage, and Kates and Leah followed to be with her.

Kates was awesome through it all. While I returned to the living room to watch a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert on TV, Kates was committed to staying in the garage and keeping Kit Kat company. Leah stayed with them until turning in for bed around 11:30.

At 11: 55, Kates texted me to come out and relieve her while she took a bathroom break. Kit Kat was burrowed in her nest behind the blanket-towel-sweatshirt bedding we laid out for her. She was breathing heavy and pushing, and it was obvious it wouldn’t be long.

After a few minutes, Kates returned to the garage, and I returned to the living room.

Several minutes later, a hair-raising yowl came from the garage and I bolted there to see what was happening. Kates was sitting next to Kit Kat, who appeared as calm as could be under the circumstances. Simply, she was working through the process.

Bemused by what was happening and the shattering of my No Pet Doctrine in a matter of weeks, I just laughed and said to Kates, “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

Eventually, I headed back inside again. There were three or four more yowls over the next several minutes. Then, at 12:15 a.m., came this text from Kates …

When I got into the garage, Kit Kat was busy cleaning the newborn, which appeared to be in good health and softly meowing. Everything progressed the way God intended it, and it was pretty amazing.

Then, after a while I headed back inside while Kates stayed in the garage to keep an eye on the cats and wait for any others to be born. In the meantime, the thunderstorm we’d been anticipating all day had finally kicked up. Bright lightning flashed and the thunder crashed loudly outside.

I figured Faye and Phoebe would be up at any moment. Faye came down first, rubbing her eyes and clutching her stuffed pink bear. After a failed attempt to get her back to bed, she ended up falling asleep in my arms on the living room couch. Phoebe appeared a bit later and resisted going back to sleep, too. … So it provided an opportunity to show them the new kitten, but they were too worried about the storm and sleepy to show much interest. Finally, I convinced them to take care of each other and sleep in Kates’ and my bed together. That worked and they went back to sleep.

Back in the garage, Kates was still waiting for another kitten or two. Our research suggested we could expect two or three kittens, but by 2 a.m., Kit Kat wasn’t showing signs of giving birth to another any time soon. So Kates gave in, and we headed to bed.

This morning, we awoke around 7, and still had just one kitten. The kitten appears to be nursing well and Kit Kat is proving to be an excellent mother, protecting the kitten in her nest and keeping it warm.

It’s a little funny how, all of a sudden, my research and Pinterest scans have turned from cat tips to raising a newborn kitten. It turns out that one kitten, while not common, is not extremely rare for a cat of Kit Kat’s age and a first pregnancy.

After we got the girls to bed tonight, Kates and I finally were able to get a closer look at the kitten, which we now know is a male. He barely covers the palm of my hand and has beautiful orange and black striped hair. Seriously, he looks like a chipmunk.

We haven’t named him yet, and want to run some options by the girls. Some of the frontrunners include Butterfinger – because, Kit Kat – and Daniel Tiger, which would be a tribute to the resemblance with his stripes – not to mention Faye, who idolizes Daniel Tiger and watched a Daniel Tiger videos on my iPhone while I put her to bed tonight. Other options are Tiger or Tigger.

Stay tuned.


Phoebe takes the stage

Well, she did it.

Phoebe made her stage debut this weekend with our children’s community theater company, and Kates and I could not be more proud of her.

Ten years ago, our friends Vanessa and Pat founded this little theater company – “on a wing and a prayer,” they say – as a way to expose local children to the arts and the experience of putting on a full production. That little theater company is not so little anymore and has grown into something of a little summer phenomenon in The ‘Ville. This summer, more than 190 children from four states in grades two through nine are participating.

The kids register to participate in the spring. Those who are interested in lead roles audition for them. All of the kids receive books and CDs and are responsible for learning their lines and music on their own – and they’re expected to know it when rehearsals start during the last week of May.

They rehearse every afternoon Monday through Friday for two and half weeks. The curtain annually goes up the second weekend in June, and the production is a high-quality one that rivals some high school productions I’ve seen.

This year’s feat: “Peter Pan.” It’s the company’s biggest production, yet – complete with flying.

So Phoebe and Kates have attended the shows together every summer at the university’s performing arts center since we moved to The ‘Ville. Last summer, Phoebe became eligible to participate, but she declined despite our gentle encouragement.

This summer, knowing Phoebe would benefit from the experience if she just tried it, Kates and I signed her up without her approval. We signed her up and told her a few days later when it came up in conversation. As we might have suspected, Phoebe burst into tears and stormed to her room to process the whole thing. … Knowing our struggle to convince Phoebe to participate, Vanessa relayed the reaction in her house when they received Phoebe’s registration. Her husband, monitoring the names online as they came in, said, “We got Phoebe!” Vanessa replied that, no, they had Kates and I.

But Phoebe did come around. The next day, in fact, she realized one of her school buddies also was participating and came home from school that afternoon bubbling with excitement. Phoebe was assigned to the pirate chorus. And it’s been all good since.

As the school year wound down, Kates played the CD for the girls while they traveled to and from school each day. I loaded the music on Phoebe’s iPod, too.

Even Faye got into it, begging Kates to stay to watch when they dropped off Phoebe for rehearsals. Faye learned the songs just as well, and Kates would tell me each evening about how Faye literally sat on the edge of her seat, watching the young performers as they rehearsed.

When rehearsals began, Kates took Phoebe each afternoon, and I picked her up on my way home from work, often catching the last 15 minutes or so of the rehearsal. I can’t even describe how joyful it was to see Phoebe on the stage, rehearsing and listening to the director’s instructions. Even the daily communication from the company – which, I should mention, is all volunteer-based – in emails, texts and social media posts was exciting to read and view.

This weekend was the real deal. The entire cast and their families were invited to a company picnic to coincide with the final dress rehearsals Friday evening. Then the company performed at 2 and 7 p.m. yesterday, and again at the same times today.
Though Kates and Faye had seen the whole show in rehearsal a couple times, Friday night’s dress rehearsal was my first time to see it in its entirety.

It was amazing. … After watching Friday night’s dress rehearsal, I said to Kates, “I could watch this a couple more times this weekend.”

The joy and pride of watching Phoebe aside, the lead cast was so charming and talented. That includes the actors playing Wendy and Peter Pan, with whom we attend church and have had the pleasure of watching them grow and develop their talents. And the diminutive third grader playing Tinkerbell was an adorable scene-stealer.

When they flew, it took our breaths away. In Friday night’s dress rehearsal, after the big scene when Peter Pan teaches Wendy and the boys to fly, and the music crescendos and the audience breaks into applause, I leaned over to Kates and just said, “Wow.” I get chills thinking about that moment again now. It was so magical. And during Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances, the scene made me well up. … In the run-up to the show, Vanessa had expressed her anxiety about the technical aspects of it all. They had professionals come into work with the kids and totally pulled it off.

After Friday night’s rehearsal, Kates, Faye and I headed for the wings of the performing arts center to meet Phoebe. When she came out from the dressing room and spotted us, she was beaming and fell into my arms for what goes down as the most memorable hug I’ve shared with her to this point. It was a wonderful moment.

To mark Saturday night’s big performance, we met Phoebe’s request for a Subway supper. And we enjoyed a family treat of Sonic limeades and slushis afterward. … On Sunday morning, Kates had to teach Sunday school but I ceased getting ready for church when we decided to let the girls sleep because we exhausted them the night before and they showed no signs of waking up. Phoebe woke around 9:15, and Faye stumbled out of her room at around 9:45. Church started at 9, Sunday School at 10.

At the conclusion of each performance, the house lights came up and Vanessa joined the kids on the stage for some recognition of the company’s volunteers, sponsors and the kids. On Saturday night, each child received a certificate and participatory medal – when Phoebe’s name was called and she accepted her certificate, Vanessa looked at her and exclaimed, “You did it!” Another cool moment in all of this.

After the final performance Sunday, the tears were flowing. Vanessa’s parting words to the cast were this: On your worst days and lowest moments, don’t forget about all those people out there who were cheering for you and clapping for you. Remember that you are loved and you make a difference in other people’s lives.



USA TODAY exclusive: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills

Well, this is interesting ...
"Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers – who say he didn’t pay them for their work. ... 

(H)e has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others."

Meanwhile, the Democrats are coming together and digging in ...

Kit Kat's back!

Well, Kit Kat returned to us after her little altercation. And she’s part of our family now, in a big way.

To recap the last couple weeks, we saw not a hint of Kit Kat – who, we now know, is between 10-12 months old – for about 24 hours after the epic fight with Blondie. Weirdly, a couple hours after the fight, Blondie returned to our yard and took a position in the middle or our yard – but a much larger, much fluffier version of Kit Kat, almost like a future version of her, showed up, too. This other cat came right up to the screen door to our deck and circled Kit Kat’s food bowl and bed. This other cat’s mannerisms were so similar to Kit Kat that initially we did mistake it for her.

Kates and I went to bed that night mystified about what happened to Kit Kat and where the third cat came from. We haven’t seen Blondie or the third cat since. So I like to think that maybe Kit Kat actually did win the fight and Blondie gave up on trying to take our yard.

Well, the night after that fight, Faye and I were playing outside when we thought we caught a glimpse of Kit Kat peeking into the yard from behind our shed. But it was hard for me to tell from across the yard if it really was Kit Kat or the fatter, fluffier lookalike we saw the night before. And Faye tried to chase her down and scared her away before I could try to get to her myself.

After we put the girls to bed, though, Kit Kat finally appeared back to her spot on our deck. I was washing dishes, while Kates was near the screen door and heard her meow. We were elated and immediately checked her for any injuries. She was fine, and now with a litter box and all of our necessary cat supplies on hand – and another storm brewing that night – we immediately made the decision to move her home into the protection of our garage.

And that brings us up to the news of the day: Kit Kat’s going to be a mother. We’re having kittens.

So my No Pets doctrine has been obliterated. In a matter of weeks, we’ve gone from no pets, to adopting a kitten, to a cat who’s having kittens.

We found a local vet on the recommendation of some of my colleagues and took her in on that Saturday morning after moving her into our garage, determined to get things – a spaying – settled once and for all.

Her check-up went as well as we had hoped … except for the vet’s hunch about the kittens. Doc left open the slight possibility that it was worms, gave us some medicine and told us to come back today to check her out again.

Yep. She’s having babies. Confirmed. Check. Didn’t get her to the vet fast enough to prevent our worst imaginings. Good ‘ol nature.

Doc says we have about three weeks.

It’s all good, though. Really. We are in a good place now as a family. Financially secure with a good home, and the girls are grown enough. Kit Kat’s disposition is sweet and she is about as perfect as a cat as I’ve ever imagined. The time is right and I’m totally comfortable with this turn of events.


The day I taught Phoebe to fish

I finally took Phoebe fishing this morning.

I had wanted to take her out for weeks, ever since we gave her the pink fishing pole she wanted for her birthday. All of our end-of-school activities made it hard to find a time, though. With nothing on our schedules this morning, I was determined to take her.

So I mentioned it to Phoebe last night while we were getting the girls ready for bed and told her we could go as soon as she could get herself out of bed and ready in the morning. … That happened around 10 o’clock.

This was a monumental event for me as a father that triggered so many fond memories of fishing days with my family in our canoe.

Phoebe and I headed first to the bait shop downtown and bought a $2 container of fresh worms. As we returned to the car, she insisted that she hold them and I obliged.

We drove to one of the small lakes 10 minutes north of town. It was a perfectly gorgeous Saturday with barely a cloud in the sky and a bit of a breeze.

But I was surprised to see the field surrounding the boat landing packed with cars as we pulled up. Surely, fishing on a Saturday morning isn’t THAT popular of an activity in The ‘Ville, I thought. It turned out, the local radio station had sponsored an overnight fishing competition at the lake that was concluding within the hour. As Phoebe and I walked from the car to the lakeshore, we passed a handful of seasoned fishermen and women waiting in line to weigh their catches and holding fish that looked so large they might as well have been sharks.

Not intimidating at all for a guy taking his daughter fishing for the first time.

We walked the grassy shoreline and she picked out a spot to fish from about 100 yards from the boat landing. As we set up, I quickly realized I had made a mistake by not preparing her pole and testing it prior to our adventure. But I proceeded, stringing the new fishing line through the guides and attaching a hook and bobber.

I happily and fairly easily taught Phoebe how to cast a line. She let me demonstrate once and declared she was ready to try on her own. She cast a couple lines and reeled them back. A quick learner, she was doing well.

Then my worst fear came true. On Phoebe’s third cast, the fishing line somehow got knotted inside its housing and the spool stopped working … The longer I sat in an attempt to fix the problem, Phoebe’s disappointment began to boil. Without the proper tools on hand to fix it, I told her, we needed to go home. “We’re never going to be able to go fishing!” she cried as like she stomped away and I gathered our belongings.

All the pride I had as we left the house had been bombed.

And then the couple fishing next to us saved me. The woman came over to me with an extra fishing pole, ready to go with a hook and bait, and offered it for Phoebe to borrow. I breathed a sigh of relief and gladly accepted.

When I called Phoebe back, she didn’t want to fish with the borrowed pole because it wasn’t hers. But we talked through it for a minute and, once it sunk in that there was no other way for us to continue fishing, she took the pole and started casting again.

Then, the male half of the couple next to us came over and asked if he could try fixing Phoebe’s pole. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes, please!” The man – an older gentleman with dark hair and a shaggy beard who was clearly a seasoned fisherman – took a seat next to us and went to work on the pole.

As the man’s female companion came over to lend a hand, I turned my focus back to Phoebe who was continuing to cast …

All of a sudden, her bobber went under the water, and she had a fish on her hook.

She reeled it in and we all shared the joy of seeing that fish on the end of the pole. … For the record, I have no idea what kind of fish it was – my best guess is a crappie. And we didn’t think to measure it, but it wasn’t large enough to keep.

And just like that, the man had Phoebe’s fishing pole fixed.

We exchanged the poles and Phoebe began casting again with her own pole. It worked like a dream and we didn’t have any issues for the remainder of the two hours we spent at the lake. I couldn’t thank the man enough.

Eventually we moved to a new fishing spot on a concrete pier next to the boat landing. The fishing contest had ended and most of the crowd that was there when we arrived was gone.

Phoebe continued to improve with her casting, and it helped that we moved to the pier, where she could cast and reel in her line freely without the tall grass and weeds in her way.

She got a lot of nibbles and her bobber went under several more times, but we couldn’t hook whatever was circling her line. We went through four or five worms.

We were starting to talk about calling it a day when she finally did hook one more. Phoebe reeled it in, and it was another small fish, similar to her earlier catch.

Phoebe could hardly contain herself. She caught two!

I took the obligatory photo of Phoebe with her two fish. Then, I explained to her that the right thing to do was throw them back into the lake, but she wanted Kates to see her haul – and I wasn’t going to fault the girl for being so excited about her first time fishing. Seeing the smile on her face and hearing her thank me for taking her was priceless.

So I put the fish in our bucket, we packed up our belongings and headed home.

Back at the house, Phoebe proudly carried her bucket of fish inside to show Kates.

Tonight I buried them in our back yard.

Paul Ryan, what are you thinking?

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Paul Ryan as a person and politician. I had the privilege of hearing him speak and interviewing him a few times during my newspaper days in southeastern Wisconsin and was always struck by how genuine he could be and how well he connected with constituents.

So I was disappointed by Thursday’s news that he was endorsing Donald Trump.

I get it. It’s all politics and it’s an attempt to unite the Republican Party.

But seriously. Paul Ryan, what are you thinking?
“So Ryan’s singular act of appeasement in the face of the Trump juggernaut sends a loud and clear message about the kind of rhetoric that Republicans are willing to accept in trade for hanging onto the House of Representatives and securing their thin margin in the United States Senate.

Instead of breaking with other establishment Republicans, Ryan, threw in with a man who has pushed what used to be racist, dog-whistle language from the darkness where it belongs, to the center of our civil debate.

Ryan has thrown in with a man who, with his support for a travel ban on the members of one of world’s largest religions, has cast aside the very religious freedoms that Republicans claim to staunchly defend.”
There’s this, too. A Donald Trump presidency would threaten the U.S. rule of law.

(Updated 06.09.16)

Here's more: Donald Trump does not have a campaign

And more: Poor Paul Ryan

"So in his efforts to placate the right wing of his right-wing party, Ryan just sold out the principles of the Republican Party to a reality TV show host and ethically challenged businessman.

Now Ryan can no longer separate himself from Donald Trump and his dubious positions and policies. Ryan can step back from or criticize some of Trump’s positions, but he won’t be able to do that every day or his endorsement becomes a total joke. We had many months and many debates to watch and learn who Mr. Trump is, so we can assume that Paul Ryan knew what he was doing personally and what he was doing to the Republican Party when he made his endorsement. Now, for the next five months Paul Ryan has to live with the consequences."