Summing up 2008

Looking back on my favorite memories and posts of 2008 ...

It's safe to say most of them can be summed up with one word: Phoebe. ... Nearly every thought, every action, every conversation leading up to and after her April arrival occurred with her on our minds ...

We bought a new car. We re-did rooms and made treks to IKEA. We played the names game, while secretly hoping for a daughter. And had conversations with the baby before she was born.

There was an early hospital run in February ...

But when she finally arrived, with some frustrating complications, our lives were injected with a whimsy of love and laughter we'd never known before ...

We developed nicknames for her. We got to know her tendencies, and giggled when she showed her tough love, or fell into milk comas. We got hit with exploding poop and she covered herself in poop. We danced to rock n' roll music and rocked her to sleep with some favorite lullabies.

We got a good start on introducing her to our world. We took her to a Harley parade. We camped in Minnesota and took her to her first baseball game. We drove to Kansas City. We spent an afternoon at Wrigley Field. And then a day touring Chicago. We took in the beauty of The Farm. And headed back home once more, by plane, to Lawrence, Kan.

But having to take her to daycare, we thought, was just unfair.

And as the year closed, she was hitting a new milestone every time we turned around.

* * *

I had some other cool, lucky moments and days, too ...

I got to fly in a KC-135 Stratotanker. Tour Chicago's Smart Home. Tour the new Harley-Davidson Museum. And I got to interact with art ...

And in July, I got to spend a weekend with some of the real-life All-American Girls.

* * *

There was the weather ...

We had tornadoes in January that provided some unforgettable images and entertaining soundbites.

By the time winter was finished, we'd had a record amount of snowfall dumped on us, including a one-day storm that gave us 22 inches. A winter so historic, we almost didn't want it to end.

We survived flooding, too ...

* * *

There was a historic presidential campaign that had us getting up-close with Hillary Clinton ...

Mourning Tim Russert ...

Laughing at John McCain ...

And finally reveling in the change for which we'd hoped ...

* * *

Our favorite movies of the year included "Juno" and "Once" ... And a high-speed chase nearly kept us from seeing "WALL-E."

* * *

There was the music that filled our year ...

The Weepies, Ingrid Michaelson and Mates of State got a lot of play in our stereo ...

As for the year in concerts, I missed Matchbox Twenty ... But I managed to catch Counting Crows less than 24 hours after Phoebe's birth.

I made it to see Stevie Wonder, Dashboard Confessional, Polyphonic Spree, Gin Blossoms, OAR, Ingrid Michaelson, Jason Mraz, The Hush Sound, Spill Canvas and OneRepublic and Death Cab For Cutie, too.

* * *

On TV ...

American Idol ruled our spring and gave us personalities like Alexandrea Lushington and Danny Noriega, Jason Castro and David Archuleta, and Chikezie. In the end though, it was David Cook.

Kates got me into "The Next Food Network Star" ...

And "Saturday Night Live" tickled us with appearances by Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, and Sarah Palin. Fred Armisen did his best Obama, and we said good-bye to Amy Poehler ...

Once in awhile, we caught some good commercials, too.

* * *

In sports ...

The Summer Olympics dazzled us ...

The Packers fell just short of the Super Bowl, which turned out to be one of the greatest Super Bowls in memory -- David Letterman loved it, too. ... Then Brett Favre retired -- and un-retired.

The Mitchell Report was the lightning bolt felt throughout baseball ... which also had one of its greatest games in memory.

I saw my first White Sox game at Comiskey Park and CC Sabathia pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers ... Then we watched CC pitch the Brewers into the playoffs, and Carlos Zambrano pitched a no-hitter to help the Cubs win their division ... Although neither of them made it far enough to that quirky World Series, which happened after I slept through one of the greatest games of the postseason.

And then there was that memorable April night that I cried happy tears -- not because of Phoebe. ... The tournament that started with me submitting a bracket in the baby's honor, the tournament that had me hiding under blankets, and then relishing one of the greatest college basketball games ever and its aftermath.

Best of all, the world didn't end.


'Twas The Day After Christmas

Got this from a friend. The author is unknown ...

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house, Every creature was hurting -- even the mouse.

The toys were all broken, their batteries dead; Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor, while upstairs the family continued to snore.

And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans, went into the kitchen and started to clean.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.

The driver was miling, so lively and grand; The patch on his jacket said "U.S. POSTMAN."

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox, then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.

Bill after bill, after bill, they still came. Whistling and shouting he called them by name:

"Now Dillard's, now Broadway's, now Penney's and Sears! Here's Levitz's and Target's and Mervyn's -- all here!

To the tip or your limit, every store, every mall, now chargeaway-chargeaway chargeaway all!"

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work. He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.

He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road, driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer, "Enjoy what you got ... You'll be paying all year!"

Stuff Journalists Like

My friend Matt sent me this blog today about journalists, for journalists ...

So good. So true.


Christmas tour 2008

We’re home. A whirlwind of a Christmas. But we’re home. And ready to wind down 2008.

Our Christmas this year didn’t exactly start the way we had imagined …

For Christmas Eve we figured on spending a relaxing day together at home, making last-minute preparations, wrapping gifts, watching movies. We planned to go to church, with Phoebe in a beautiful red Christmas dress we’d bought her -- complete with a bow tied around her waist and a white sweater to go over her arms. Afterward, we were going to make our Christmas Eve feast, featuring my favorite -- steak.

None of that happened.

On Tuesday -- Dec. 23 -- Kates woke up feeling nauseous and looking pale … By mid-morning she was breaking for the bathroom and bent over the toilet at least once an hour. I quarantined her to the bedroom and put on my Super Daddy outfit; I would spend the rest of the day watching Phoebe and waiting on Kates.

Though she didn’t call for me much. She had no urge to eat. All she wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep. All things I would soon discover on my own …

Unable to leave Kates and Phoebe alone, I called my office -- I was scheduled to work that night -- and told my editor I was taking a sick day -- which really pained me to do. There were projects I was supposed to have finished before the holiday weekend, projects I had planned to finish Tuesday and Wednesday. I felt awful about being unable to go into work.

After putting Phoebe to bed, I went outside to clean the latest 4 or 5 inches of snow that had fallen that day, and I shoveled the rest of the snow I was too tired to deal with the weekend earlier. After that, I returned inside, got showered and settled in. I did some writing. And finally decided I should head to bed …

It was past 1 a.m. when I pulled some blankets from our chest and parked myself on the couch, thinking it was best I spend the night away from Kates and resist catching whatever she had …

I didn’t sleep well that night … And at around 6 a.m. Wednesday -- Christmas Eve -- I woke with a need to get to a bathroom. I started breaking for it, and halfway there it hit me -- I was going to throw up. Hurl. Blow chunks. Regurgitate, whatever you want to call it. I made two more trips in the next hour and a half and it was not pretty.

By 7, I’d called in sick to work for a second straight day. And at 7:30, with Phoebe rustling in her crib, I stumbled to our bedroom and gently woke Kates.

“How are you feeling?”

“OK,” she sighed.

“I’m sick,” I said, as Phoebe continued crying. “And somebody needs to take care of Phoebe.”

“I’m on it,” Kates said, springing out of bed like she’d been healthy the whole time.

Within minutes we had traded places. Now I was the one who would be lying in bed all day, and Kates would be taking care of Phoebe … My chest and neck ached and burned from my bouts in the bathroom. I couldn’t hold my head up for more than 30 seconds without feeling light-headed …

I spent the entire day sprawled out in bed. Falling to sleep in between an endless search for something to cheer me up on TV … I did catch a glimpse of “Love Actually,” one of my favorite movies of all -time -- I caught the ending, actually, which made me well up, of course, and forced one of the day’s few smiles on my face …

But eventually, I got so sick (… ha ha! Sick! Like I wasn’t sick enough already … ) of flipping channels and seeing commercials that I asked Kates to bring me some of my old VHS tapes. I watched “When It Was A Game,” and slept through much of it.

Finally, by 7, having been out of the bathroom for several hours now, my dimness started to lift. I was able to get on my laptop for a few minutes before my heavy head forced me back onto the pillows …

And then the “A Christmas Story” marathon began on TBS. I watched gleefully and made it through about an airing and a half before turning off the lights …

My food intake for the day: Three crackers and several glasses of water.
* * *

When Kates and I awoke on Thursday -- Christmas Day -- somehow we both felt as if Tuesday and Wednesday had never happened. We felt 100 percent better …

The “Christmas Story” marathon was turned on again, and we kept it on all day, throughout breakfast, our gift unwrapping and the packing for our weekend on the road. No matter how many times we’ve seen it, there was absolutely nothing more worthy or entertaining. That film is a classic on so many levels …

Kates made eggs for breakfast, and then we got on with our first Christmas celebration with Phoebe. … Though it was a subdued one. Our tight budget had a lot to do with that, along with her age. We had decided early on it was unnecessary to lavish her with toys and goodies when she’s too young to comprehend or remember the day. On top of that, she’s already got gobs of toys we received before and after she was born, some of which we’ve yet to introduce to her …

We did buy an adorable set of pajamas that we dressed her in -- a red suit with a Santa and reindeer and the words “My First Christmas” stitched over her chest … Kates and I also gave her a book -- “Quack Says the Duck!” -- which had been one of her favorite toys until we lost it somewhere in Midway Airport last month; so this was a replacement. Santa, meanwhile, brought her a colorful little learning phone that plays music, sings the ABCs and recites numbers …

The most fun came watching Phoebe open the gifts. As much as she loves playing with and ripping paper, we figured she would have no problem tearing open the wrapping paper. But she froze on Christmas Day, not really knowing what to do with the gifts and instead just turning them over in her hands … When we finally did open them for her, she went right for the tissue paper and started waving it in the air.

Short and subdued, sure. But still so memorable.

* * *

After racing around the house on Christmas afternoon and trying to pack our suitcases and cooler for 3 ½ days on the road, we were off to our first family gathering with Kates’s extended family in Sheboygan … With several members of my mother’s family also living in Sheboygan, it’s a drive my family routinely made each Christmas while I was a child. And during Thursday’s drive I remarked how -- after so many residences and changes in my life -- surreal it was that after 29 years, I was still driving to Sheboygan on Christmas Day …

That night, our table was filled with tasty turkey and dressing and the smoothest sweet potatoes you’ve ever laid eyes on, among other goodies … Phoebe was the center of attention … At 90 years old, Grandma S. wowed us with her ability to recite a classic poem about a child’s Christmas stocking -- from memory … I got several books, Kates got a new pair of cooking skillets … The conversation and laughter was plentiful …

We drove through a snowstorm late Thursday night to get to Kates’s parents’ suburban Milwaukee home and spent most of Friday, the 26th, lounging in our pajamas … Phoebe played on the floor … Kates’s dad and I went out and did battle with the post-Christmas shoppers, looking for deals at a classic record shop and a used book store … We tried to watch “Chariots of Fire” later that afternoon, but Phoebe was talking over most of it … We feasted on ribs for dinner and traded more gifts that evening … We capped off the night by watching “The Holiday,” which I loved; two thumps up!

On Saturday, we again took to the roads -- dangerously foggy roads -- and met the extended members of my mother’s family in another Milwaukee suburb … Controlled chaos is one way of describing these gatherings. With spouses, girlfriends and now babies coming into the fray, our already large family seems to grow exponentially each year … We got to see my parents, as well as Joel, Stephanie and Sophia -- who rightfully took some of the attention from Phoebe and dazzled the crowd with her somewhat focused wandering around the premises … Brett Favre and the Milwaukee Brewers dominated conversations … The spread on the table, as usual, included an array of cheeses, sausage, chips, veggies and dips … There’s so many people to see and catch up with, but too little time and space to do it.

Saturday night took us to my parents’ place in suburban Madison … We neglected the few gifts under the tree for as long as we could. These days we could almost do without them and would rather just soak up each other’s presence. All of us being together is rare nowadays … Phoebe and Sophia played together; actually Sophia kept stealing Phoebe’s toys, though Pheebs hardly seemed to notice or care. We conversed about our recent activities. And Millie the Dog pranced around us. For a few moments I caught myself soaking up the scene and its heart-warmth. I captured a short video of it for posterity.

After a good workout on the Wii Fit Sunday morning -- Joel beat me in the Homerun Derby, but I got my revenge in a tennis tournament -- and a family photo session, we headed to meet the extension of my father’s family … We visited Aunt Esther and introduced her to the girls, before heading to Grandma H’s … Since last December, four babies have joined the family, which also has a 2-year-old. Upon entering, one of my cousins surveyed the room and remarked, “Well things have changed a little bit since last Christmas, haven’t they!?” … Lunch included the trademark ham sandwiches and cheesy potatoes … We partook in our annual gift exchange, but added a twist this year: If you wanted to steal a gift you had to play Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. We came a way with a DVD of “The Karate Kid.” Nice … The afternoon was another case of too many people to catch up with and barely enough time or space to do it. Complicating matters, I was too focused on Phoebe, who hadn’t had her nap, and trying to keep her out of trouble … I was tired, too, and ready to be done with Christmas … We took part in the customary family photos in front of Grandma’s Christmas tree and then started the process of packing up, warming cars, putting coats on screaming babies and saying our good-byes …

Phoebe was asleep before we turned off of Grandma H’s street …

So the whirlwind of a Christmas breaks down like this …

Sick days: 2
Hours on the road: 8
Miles traveled: 400
Total number of people at gatherings (including family members, girlfriends, babies, babies still in the womb): 66
Dogs who joined the festivities: 6
Nights spent sleeping on futons: 3
Christmas gift exchanges: 6
Favorite gift:Ben Folds Live” … on vinyl!
Toy phones Phoebe received: 2
Mountain Dew intake: Just one can … miraculously.
Memories: Priceless.


About Me: The Christmas edition

A Christmas questionnaire ...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Depends on how much time I have ... I'm not very good at the wrapping, so ...

2. Tree: Real or Artificial? Artificial ... The notion of a dried-out tree and the lights starting the thing on fire freaks me out.

3. When do you put Christmas tree up? Usually the first weekend of December.

4. When do you take the tree down? As soon as we can after the New Year. Sometime it takes a couple weeks for us to get to it.

5. Like egg nog? I don't think I've had a cup since a girlfriend introduced me to it in high school. Never really liked the stuff.

6. Do you have a nativity scene? Yep ...

7. Favorite gift received as a child? Probably my very first Cabbage Patch doll, circa 1985 -- the family pictures of that moment and me jumping four feet in the air are legendary. The Nintendo game system was a pretty good one too ...

8. Hardest person to buy for? Kates ... She always does so well buying gifts for me that it amps up the pressure a bit.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My brother ... gift cards!

10. Worst Christmas gift? Um ... I think I'll just keep that one to myself.

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas Cards? For us, it was always mail ... Until this year, we made a decision to save postage and e-mail. Except we never got around to doing that ....

12. Favorite Christmas movie? A Christmas Story ... Period.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever the spirit moves me.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Oh yeah.

15. Favorite food to eat on Christmas? It's almost always ham.

16. Clear or colored tree lights? Definitely clear.

17. Favorite Christmas song? I'm a sucker for a good version of "O Holy Night," but I really love Manheim Steamroller's "Stille Nacht."

18. Travel during Christmas or stay home? ... As much as I would love to spend a Christmas at home, I couldn't imagine not traveling.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Ah, no.



So the weather people are saying we’re already nearing 30 inches of total snowfall for the winter …

Ugh. … And it’s not even Christmas yet.

Still, I don’t feel like it’s phasing me as much this year as it has in past years. I’m pretty sure after the 17-inch dump two years ago and the 22-incher last winter I’ve been numbed down to accept that this is what I get for living where we do.

On Friday, we got 14 inches. I was scheduled to stay home with Phoebe anyway, but Kates’s school shut down, too.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the snowblower we inherited had worked better. That’s right, we now have a snowblower … Kates’ dad pulled it out of the family barn and had it fixed up for us, but let’s face it -- it’s no Cadillac. It’s a small, older model -- and worst of all, it’s one of those where you have to mix the gas. Ugh.

When I got outside to clean up the snow, the snowplow had left a mess at the end of driveway that rose to my hips. Then, I couldn’t get the snowblower started -- of course. I ended up shoveling barely half our property before my back gave out.

Then, we got more snow overnight, and Sunday was frightfully cold. While I stayed home with Phoebe, Kates dared go to church. She told me later the temperature gauge in the car read 30 degrees when she started it in the garage; she watched it tick downward all the way to church and by the time she parked the car in the church parking lot, the gauge read: -2 degrees.

The cold temperatures continued today, and it’s not looking any better for the rest of the week.


Sunday reading

A collection of reads that caught my attention during the last week or two ...

Have fun.

Sports ...
a Taking another look at instant replay
a Baseball salaries should outrage, but don’t
a Unconventional wisdom: How to improve Hall of Fame voting
a Baseball Hall of Fame Needs to Change 5 Percent Rule ... I think I agree more with this philosophy then the one floated in the story above.
a It's the offseason of hope
a From the Phillie Phanatic, a Family of Mascots
a Chris Ballard reads athletes blogs
a Watching Favre From Baghdad Evokes Memories

Music ...
a Carly Smithson's post-'Idol' blues
a Hootie And a Hollerin':Rucker Finds Unlikely Success In Country Music

TV ...
a Role is a Joy for Jaime Pressly
a Denny Ghost Story Twist Revealed
a Leno decision shows retreat from 10 p.m. dramas
a Jay Leno to prime time: Why NBC is doing it

Politics ...
a On weekend before Jan. 20 inauguration, Obama to arrive in Washington by train ... Very cool.
a Games by Gov. Blago ... Yes, Rod duped Illinois. But if I remember correctly Judy Baar Topinka wasn't exactly a solid public official either.
a The Rules, Washington Edition
a Chicago's Karma
a Friends Say Kennedy Has Long Wanted Public Role
a The Young Know Caroline’s a Kennedy, but Which One? ... A good read about the different perspective people have of the Kennedys.
a Between Obama and the Press
a For Obama, Job First
a The Obama Speechwriter: Helping to Write History

Media & the Internet ...
a 20 years in the making ... I sent a resume to The Onion a few years ago. Never got the call.
a CNN Ticker, 2001-2008 -- R.I.P.
a ESPN Strives to Eject Clutter From Its Site ... 'Bout time.
a News About News, in 140 Characters ... I've been slow to get on board with the whole Twitter thing (I don't have that much time on my hands ...) but the site described here is really great ...
a Mr. Obama’s Internet Agenda
a Life on Blago's enemies list
a Advertisers Face Hurdles on Social Networking Sites
a MediaNews Sees Bad Timing on Newspapers, Not Bad Bets

Life & other stuff ...
a To Teach, They Reach For Obama
a Plane hits cow on emergency landing ... From my friend Raechel, with accompanying video.
a Sometimes, Fists Fly at Chuck E. Cheese's ... Also from my friend Raechel.
a Dad afraid his daughter will be Drew's next wife ... From the 'You've got to be kidding me!' file ...
a Wait a second: 2008 gets extended by timekeepers
a When Mommy takes the hit


Holy poop!

So Phoebe had one hideous poop tonight …

One minute Kates, Phoebe and I are watching the Muppets Christmas special. The next minute, Kates is getting Phoebe ready for bed. And the next minute after that Kates is shouting for me to “Come here, quick!”

Inside the door to Phoebe’s room I see Kates holding Phoebe up by the armpits. Phoebe’s entire back side is covered in brown slop.

I got one glance of it and whipped back the other way with my eyes closed and trying to forget the awful sight.

Phoebe had been wearing a sweater over her onesie, So we had no way of knowing the stuff was sloshing up her back and saturating her shirt. She hadn’t made a peep about it.

I got a hold of myself. And went back into Kates’s aid.

By this time, Kates had it all over her hands. It was getting all over Phoebe’s arms and she was practically eating it.

Kates and I gingerly pulled Phoebe’s onesie over her head. We got more of it on the back of her neck and head. And Phoebe burst out crying, now apparently frightened by the mess she’d made for herself.

And, boy, did it smell. Like raunchy cheese.

Kates watered down Phoebe in the bathtub, while I rushed the stained onesie to the washing machine.

Ah, the joys of first-time parenthood. And I thought the flying poop episode was as traumatizing as it would get.

In other Phoebe developments since last week

She’s now discovered how to clap. Kates and I are enjoying playing a game during which she claps a string of beats, and we try to echo her. She lights up and when she really gets going, we can play the game for several minutes. Fun times!

She’s also rolling over … finally! Now when we put her on her tummy, it barely lasts a couple seconds before she’s landing on her back. … Though, it’s interesting to note that she hardly uses her arms when she rolls. Instead she strains her neck in the direction she wants to go, expecting the weight of her big head to pull her over. Watching it makes me think that she thinks it’s some kind of superpower – like when Hiro Nakamura closes his eyes to time travel, Phoebe bends her neck to roll over.

And she’s now got some friend named “Bob.” … Last week, almost all we heard from her mouth was “Ma-ma. Ma-ma.” Well, this week she’s moved on -- to “Ba. Ba. Ba,” with a “Bob” occasionally mixed in. Thus, Kates and I have begun asking Phoebe where and who this “Bob” person is. We believe it’s the name she’s chosen for her favorite zebra rattle.


Heroes & villains

... So I watched last night's "Heroes" during my lunch break today ...

Man, what a bloodbath that was! ... If you've read anything about this fall's TV, you know "Heroes" has been limping along -- and the show killed off a whole lotta dead weight in last night's episode.

Knox, Flint, Doyle, Meredith, and supposedly Sylar -- gone. And yet it seems like I'm forgetting others ...

Then, in the final moments, the show basically pulled a "Desperate Housewives" totally dumping the storyline we've gotten used to over the last 2 1/2 seasons and turned the heroes into fugitives being hunted by the government -- at the request of Sen. Nathan Petrelli, who, it seems to me, is setting out to do what his father couldn't ...

Intriguing, indeed.

But for now, I'm glad to take a breather from "Heroes" until after the Super Bowl.


A day in the life

Out of bed at 6:32 a.m. The bathroom’s vacant, I shave. Retrieve the newspaper from the front porch. Pour a bowl of cereal. Eat cereal while skimming the paper. Stop eating cereal to give Phoebe her bottle. Finish eating now soggy cereal.

Turn on Sportscenter. Watch the top stories. Put Phoebe to play in her saucer. Brush teeth. Get in the shower. Put on some pants and a T-shirt. Put in contacts. Check on Phoebe. She’s smelly, change her diaper. Sit her on the bed while I finish dressing.

Take Phoebe to kitchen. Strap her in hi-chair. Give her rattle. Make her rice cereal. Feed her rice cereal. While keeping an eye on Sportscenter. Phoebe finishes cereal.

Take Phoebe to her room. Take off her pajamas. Put on fresh clothes as she twists and turns and struggles to reach the stuffed letters on her wall. She says “Ba … Ba … Ba.” I sing “Barbara Ann” to her. Finish dressing Phoebe and move her to living room. Set her on floor. Put on her shoes. Put on her coat. Set her in car seat and strap her in. Put on my own shoes. Put on coat. Grab Phoebe’s lunch bag from the refrigerator, put it in toy/clothes/diaper bag for daycare. Fill mug with water. Make sure I have cell phone and iPod. Grab my bag, Phoebe’s bag and mug. Tell Phoebe I’ll be back for her and go to garage. Dang, it’s cold outside. Push button to raise garage door, but bottom of door is frozen to ground and I fear bracket is going to snap as I watch it bend to lift door, yet for some reason I keep pushing button until finally the door breaks free on my fourth try. Put bags in car. Start car. Go back inside to get Phoebe. She’s crying and I realize I hadn’t given her a pacifier. Make sure house is secure and carry her to car. Place her in car. I get in car, turn on radio and drive to daycare.

Cautiously navigate the icy roads. Arrive at daycare. Carry Phoebe inside. Take her out of car seat, say good-byes and hand her off. Back out to car and begin driving to office. I hold my breath as I approach a stoplight at one of the city’s busiest intersections and begin sliding, but my car comes to a stop just in time. I begin driving forward again when the light turns green. Past the intersection the car that had been behind me swerves into oncoming traffic. “You are not passing me,” I say. The car passes me illegally. “You idiot.” I continue toward the office. A few blocks later I approach another slippery intersection as the car that had passed me illegally swerves into my lane and nearly hits me. I shake my head in disgust. When the light turns green, I proceed and watch in my rear view mirror as the car that passed me illegally and then nearly hit me makes an illegal right turn. I arrive at my office. Park the car. Carefully walk inside without slipping on ice.

Arrive at desk. Greet editor who’s back from vacation, which he tells me was awful. Turn on computer. Check personal e-mail. Check office e-mail. Submit requests for police reports. Check Facebook. Scan national newspapers and read top stories of the day. Resume work on story about rock band playing concert this weekend. E-mail Kates with message that I plan to work late tonight and she should let the baby-sitter take care take of Phoebe while Kates rehearses with children‘s choir. Take phone call from man whose girlfriend stabbed him last week with scissors and is upset that I published his name in story. I remind him he also was arrested for his involvement in the fight and explain to him it’s a matter of public record and policy. Venture back into freezing outdoors. Go to fire station to check fire calls. Go to police station to check police and sheriff’s calls and uncover most amusing report of the day: A 60-something man who was arrested at Mass yesterday for shouting profanity and shoving ushers.

Drive home for lunch. Heat up leftover chilli. Resume watching DVR recording of ESPN’s “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Enjoy about 30 minutes of relaxation. Grab Mountain Dew, thinking it will put me at ease and help me through afternoon. Leave house and drive back to office.

Make scheduled phone call to member of rock band. He doesn’t answer. I leave message and request for him to call me. Begin transcribing notes from police reports. Write follow-up story about investigation into death of a jail inmate. Rock band member calls me about two and a half hours after our scheduled interview time. But my focus is on other things, interview goes horribly. Resume work on story about death investigation. Kates calls from choir rehearsal, wonders where I am. She didn’t get my earlier e-mail outlining my plans. Frustrated, we both hang up phones. I finish my story about death investigation. I’m mentally drained and have lost remaining focus to work on other stories. Leave office.

Cautiously walk to car without slipping on ice. The air is still freezing. Thankfully car starts. Cautiously drive home. Arrive at house. See Kates isn’t home yet. Park car. Go inside. I’m so exhausted/frustrated/ overwhelmed/anxious I want to cry. Take off coat, drop bags in kitchen. Change out of work clothes into sweats. Begin unloading dishwasher. Kates arrives with Phoebe, whose sleeping soundly in her car seat. I help Kates through the door and take Phoebe as Kates puts away her things. I adoringly watch Phoebe continue sleeping.

Kates and I briefly talk about the day. I resume unloading dishwasher. Kates wakes up Phoebe. We giggle as she grunts, stretches and reorients herself to the surroundings. I begin washing dirty pans and baby bottles. Kates begins feeding Phoebe. I put some Norah Jones on the iPod. I finish washing pans and bottles. Kates finishes feeding Phoebe. I help Kates get Phoebe ready for bed. I read Phoebe a story as Kates starts making supper. I put Phoebe to bed. I work on paying some bills. Phoebe refuses to go to sleep, we decide to keep her up and let her play on the living room floor in hopes that she’ll tire herself out. Kates and I sit down to begin eating supper: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. My brother calls to discuss Christmas plans. I get back to eating my supper as we watch a DVR recording of the Nightly News. Kates puts Phoebe to bed, for good.

I clean up the kitchen. At 8:52 p.m. we begin watching DVR recordings of “Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men.” Get some much-desired laughter. Kates grades school papers. I check e-mail and news alerts.

We watch 10 o ‘clock news. Get ready for bed. Begin watching Letterman. 10:52 p.m. and we’re going to bed.


Sunday Night Recording

(Updated 12.15.2008)

... Kates and I just finished watching the latest episode of our "Sunday Night 'Saturday Night Live.' "

... And I have to say ... Last night's SNL might have been the best all-around SNL I have seen in a long time. (Mo Ryan disagrees.) I had good, hearty laughs on multiple skits (Which I don't recall happening during the Tina-Fey-as-Sarah-Palin Era). I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show ...

From Jason Sudeikis playing the foul-mouthed Blago in the opening sketch, to the return of "Bronx Beat" to a Weekend Update that nearly had my side hurting ...

And this weekend we really did have to say good-bye to Amy Poehler ... I'm not sure if I missed something, but we swore she was done when she had her baby a few weeks ago. Then, she popped up on last week's show (HA-larious! by the way ...), and the word was that it was a one-time deal. Then, she popped up again last night -- and we cheered briefly that she might not be going away, only to watch her choked-up farewell at the end of Update ... We'll miss you Amy ...

In case you missed it, here's the opening sketch ... (And here's what Phil Rosenthal had to say about it. I get his point, and OK, the accent didn't work ... But I still thought SNL's take was funny ...)

Here's Weekend Update ... (Apparently people didn't like the take on David Paterson either. Again, I get their point ... But it's SNL. And it had my side hurting ...)

And while I'm at it, here's my favorite bit from last weekend's SNL -- Obama: Cool. (Kates and I were actually singing this around the house after we finished watching last weekend's show ...)

* * *

In other news tonight ...

Kates was putting Phoebe to bed as I caught this on the Nightly News ...

So amusing to watch I called Kates back to the living room ... and we watched it probably three or four more times ...

Sunday reading

OK ... So my Bearcats didn't put on a very strong performance yesterday.

Sheesh, if they would have played as well the rest of the game as they did in the fourth quarter, they would have been golden ...

That fourth quarter was going so well, I was having visions of those "Cardiac 'Cats" making another legendary comeback ... Then -- don't even get me started on that botched call after the onside kick.

So now they've lost four straight championship games. Never mind the fact they've been there four straight years (on top of winning two straight in '98 and '99).

Bring on the awkward comparisons to the Buffalo Bills.

Some of the reads that caught my interest during the last week ...

Sports ...
a Cubs fans denied ... again.
a Baseball Executives Face the Odds
a As Money Tightens, Scaling Back On Jobs and Fun
a Red Sox unveil new club logos and uniforms ... Not a fan of the change.
a From the Phillie Phanatic, a Family of Mascots
a Oklahoma case shows system isn't OK

Music ...
a Letters to Cleo reunion blasts from its past

Politics ...
a Obama Worked to Distance Self From Blagojevich Early On
a The Real Obama: A Centrist? No. A Transformer
a Two Cheers for Rod Blagojevich

Media & the Internet ...
a Pressing the Question
a YouTube Videos Pull In Real Money
a Advertisers Face Hurdles on Social Networking Sites
a Governor sought to withhold Wrigley Field funds unless Chicago Tribune fired editorial writers critical of him, complaint says ... Sickening.

Technology ...
a Apple's iPod Problem ... As my iPod continues to run smoothly -- knock on wood -- I've often pondered the notion of this story.
a The day TVs die

Life & other stuff ...
a Publishing books about the Great Emancipator is a recession-proof business
a Surviving the dark winter solstice


CC, Blago and the slow death of newspapers

What a week, huh.

CC Sabathia went ahead and signed with the Yankees for a gazillion dollars. Dang, I was sure he had found a home in Milwaukee ...

Newspapers are continuing their slow death ... The Detroit newspapers are cutting deliveries. The Rocky Mountain News appears to be in serious trouble. And the Chicago Tribune is filing for bankruptcy.

Oh, and Rod Blagojevich is the laughing stock of the country ... As I told one of my editors this week -- we've been hearing all the talk of corruption and a possible indictment for months. But of all the things they'd get him for, we never expected it to be for selling the senate seat.

... Good thing I have another D-II National Championship game featuring my ol' Northwest Missouri State Bearcats to cheer me up.

Here's some reads about the Tribune's plight ...
a Tribune Co. Mulling Bankruptcy
a Downturn creates drama at NBC
a Roger Ebert: Trib bankruptcy a Zell of a deal
a Keeping calm about the Tribune's bankruptcy
a Tribune Co.'s crisis has been years in making

And here's some good stuff about Blago ...
a The indictment
a Tuesday was a great day in Illinois, a thrilling day, an exciting, hopeful day; one of the few happy days we've had lately.
a Portrait of a Politician: Vengeful and Profane
a Shakedown plot alleged by feds: U.S.: $50,000 sought from hospital chief
a Happy birthday, Guv — How about a little self-exam?
a Governor Blagojevich, resign
a Chicago Tribune withheld publishing at U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald's request
a Blagojevich sought firing of Chicago Tribune editorial writer in exchange for Wrigley Field deal
Also, it's been super-amusing to watching guys like David Letterman and Jon Stewart make fun of his hair and stumble over the pronunciation of his name. It's not that hard to say, people!

a Jon Stewart: Illinois graft 'nothing new'
a Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show": "Blagojevich is a [parental advisory here]."
a Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report": "It's going to take a huge bribe to get him out of this one."
a David Letterman on "The Late Show": "One count of Blagojeviching."


Grab on and hold tight

Phoebe turns 8 months old today.


Washing baby bottles when I come home from work is as much a chore for me now as getting her fed and dressed and off to the daycare before I go in the morning. (When our office had a breakfast catered last week and a group of us scurried to be among the first in line, my childless cohort Joe stood by and mused “Don’t any of you eat breakfast at home?” … As the door closed behind us, I retorted “We all have kids.”)

Kates and I also have been caught humming or singing to Enya songs after many, many, many nights letting her fall asleep to the Irish songstress.

And yet, I’m quickly beginning to understand the feelings parents have about wanting their children to stay small. With the milestones being reached almost daily now, Kates and I erupt with glee every time she develops a new mannerism or blabbers a new sound -- and my heart breaks a little every time we realize she’s grown out of another outfit. She’s growing out of babyhood and into a little girl more and more every day.

On Monday night, Kates and I were working in the kitchen when, almost out of nowhere, Phoebe started saying “Ma-ma. Ma-ma.” And she hasn’t stopped since. All week, almost all we’ve heard from her has been “Ma-ma. Ma-ma. Ma-ma …” It’s her new favorite word, and Kates and I have hardly been able to stop laughing when Phoebe gets going on it…

Last week, we discovered her bottom front teeth are coming in. Kates was just about to feed Phoebe her supper when she felt inside her mouth and called me over to do the same. We both burst into excited laughter after feeling the jagged little things … We had been anticipating the event for awhile, especially when she awoke out of her deep sleep at 10:30 one night a couple weeks ago -- screaming! We had never seen her cry tears so big.

Still no crawling, though. Which is sort of baffling us … She whimpers a little when we put her on her belly, and she refuses to roll over. But she’s steady as an oak tree when she’s sitting up. And she loves to stand with us holding her by the waist, adding new meaning to the phrase “bouncing baby girl.”

She loves hopping and swinging and stretching to get things -- which has us thinking that when she does finally start crawling, watch out.

She has a thing with contorting her body and twisting and turning and doing whatever it takes to reach for what she wants. She does it so well that Kates and I think: gymnast.

And when she sleeps now, we almost always find her stretched out on her back, hands behind her head like she’s napping in a hammock under a shady tree.

She also remains so curious and observant of everything. We may turn around and there she is just watching us with those pursed lips and puppy-dog eyes. Or we’ll catch her gazing at her outstretched hand as she moves her fingers. Or when we’re holding her over our shoulders, she bends and maneuvers to look beyond.

Recently, we went through a phase where we couldn’t feed her without her grabbing the spoon and holding it from her mouth. So we got around it by giving her a separate spoon she could handle while we fed her.

Her fascination with the remote remains. The moment she sees it, that black device with the colorful buttons has her undivided attention .

Her other fascination: an orange mini fly swatter we gave her to play with. If she isn’t chewing on it, she waves it in front of her like a magic wand.

Here’s a few of the “Phoebe Moments” we’ve caught during the last month …

Playing Peek-a-Boo on Thanksgiving Day ...

Playing with the remote ...

Talking to her pacifier ...

And trying to drink from a cup ...


When it rains ... it snows

It's snowing today.

I don't need to say anything else.

(Ok. I hate it. The whole far-reaching slushy mess. We've only got a couple inches, but it's the worst slop you've ever driven in and the roads have been turned into a giant skating rink)

* * *

I was driving Phoebe to the daycare this morning when the news was announced on the radio ...

In unison, myself and the morning show hosts I was listening to let out a long "Whooooooooaaaaa."

I think we spoke for the state of Illinois and all of Chicagoland.

* * *

I've been on a pretty good Ingrid Michaelson kick this week ...

Part of it stems from downloading her new album a couple weeks ago. It's a wonderful and beautiful collection of new stuff, acoustics, covers and live takes -- a lot of which we were lucky to hear when we saw Ingrid last summer. "The Chain" is one of those songs that will melt and warm your heart all at once; I remember loving it at her show and it's great to hear it on the album.

Reason No. 2 for my Ingrid kick: I can't get "Be OK" out of my head ... along with the Borders video she did for the song. So cool!

I played it for my friend Laura last week, and a couple minutes later she announced, "Yeah, now I can't get it out of my head."


Sunday reading

... My Bearcats are heading back to the National Championship game for the fourth year in a row after a thorough whumping of North Alabama yesterday ...

... My favorite song of the week is Jem's "I Wish;" Kates, Pheebs and I danced our hearts out to it in the kitchen last night ...

Good times. Now, if only the termperature outside this weekend wasn't so darn cold ...

Here's some of the reading material that caught my interest during the last week ...

Sports ...
a First NFL game in 3-D fumbles, then recovers
a Sabathia Is Keeping Yanks’ Offer in His Pocket ... You go, C.C. I will always respect the player who goes where he feels comfortable, not where the money is. If he feels comfortable in New York, fine. But I'm not getting that's the case; I'm a strong believer he could still end up in Milwaukee.
a Now, Red Sox fans can prove their undying loyalty ... Another crazy marketing scheme, and I'm sure Cubs fans won't be far behind.

Politics ...
a I'm Really Gonna Miss Systematically Destroying This Place ... By George Bush, from The Onion
a Trading The Talk for The Walk? Host's Political Hopes Put MSNBC on the Spot
a The Real Bill Ayers ... By Bill Ayers
a Obama has the 'Look' ... Kates and I were just talking about this a couple weeks ago. With John McCain, it was 'My friends ...' With Obama, it's 'Look ...'
a No messing around when it comes to Obama motorcade ... fascinating stuff.
a Oogedy-Boogedy in the Bloxicon ... By Kathleen Parker
a Kennedy and N.Y. Governor Discuss Clinton's Senate Seat
a Performance artist has 530 messages to give to Obama
a Tapped Out ... My thoughts exactly. I get the e-mails, too.

Internet & the Media ...
a Puckishly Conquering a Facebook Pinnacle ... No one should have 5,001 friends on Facebook.
a Facebook Aims to Extend Its Reach Across the Web
a Amy Jacobson's story: The tale of the tape
a Live, From Carnegie Hall: It's the YouTube Symphony Orchestra ... So cool!

Music ...
a Chicago band uses digital savvy to promote album
a The Kennedy Center Honors: Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend ... A well-deserved honor for the boys. The Post also provided some interesting outtakes here.
a College Radio Maintains Its Mojo
a Neko Case talks farm, Middle Cyclone

Entertainment ...
a Jennifer Aniston: A Fresh Start With 'Marley & Me'
a What Tina Wants ... Man, I admire Tina Fey ...

Life & other stuff ...
a American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers ... Laugh out loud funny, from The Onion.
a One that didn't get away yields long-lost ring ... From my friend Raechel.
a A day they'll never forget: Few remain to mark 67th anniversary of attack on Pearl Harbor
a In Hard Times, Is Best Buy’s Best Good Enough?
a Christmas miracle in the works
a Hey, Detroit: There is a right way to jet set ... great read.
a College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S. ... depressing read.
a I-PASS user takes on tollway over erroneous 30-cent charge ... You've got to admire this woman.


Seattle mess

Kates and I watched Thursday's “Grey’s Anatomy” last night

Come on. Five minutes in, and I was totally turned off …

Lexie and the whole lip reading thing at the beginning of the episode was, yes, totally “bogus.” And dumb …

And then the idea of the Chief sending Lexie to break the news on who got the solo surgery? Even worse, the show pulled some kind of stunt by having Lexie point her finger at the winner, but not show who she was pointing at? Come. On.

Eventually, we found out Christina was a unanimous choice to get the solo surgery … But, oh wait, she was deemed ineligible, so the Chief once again fails to show any leadership skills, cops out on another major decision and puts its on Christina’s shoulders to decide who should get the surgery. And thus we were forced to watch the Grey’s gang kiss up to Christina and gush about how each was the most qualified …

Sexie Sadie. Yeah, she sure made a quick recovery after nearly dying at the hands of the interns’ cutting club.

And why, oh why, oh why! is Denny still around!?

And why is Dr. Dixon still around for that matter, too? After she told off Bailey a couple weeks ago and spouting off about how uncomfortable she was around the Seattle Grace staff, we were teased into thinking she would never show her face at that hospital again. Crazy me for actually believing the show couldn’t bring Dixon back, because it never happens that way when Grey’s Anatomy introduces a new character.

Stupid show.

That I continue watching for reasons I can’t explain.

At least the music’s consistently rocks.


Concert Plans

Maybe it was that I was still soaking in the lingering images and sounds of the Jason Mraz show a couple weeks ago … Maybe it was that my mind is overcrowded with work stuff and holiday stuff and future stuff … Maybe it was that Kates had doled out a whole lotta pressure on me to not go … Maybe it was that winter’s coming on strong … Maybe it was that I was getting that feeling that I’m getting too old for this …

But I had free tickets. Free! Tickets! To see Death Cab For Cutie! The much buzzed-about indie rockers! Ben Gibbard, one of the most talented songwriters of this generation! The authors of one of my favorite albums this year!… I would have regretted it if I didn’t go.

And when it was all over, I was sure. I’d rather just listen to them on my iPod.

I got to the venue a few minutes late, waited a couple more minutes in a line to swap my voucher for an actual ticket and then hiked up the staircase to the ballroom for the show … Interesting that I was back in the ballroom, I thought. Three years of going to shows at The Rave, and I had never set foot in the ballroom. Now, I was there for the second time in three weeks.

The Ting Tings were well into their set … I’d never heard of them. And when I spotted them on stage I immediately likened them to a punked-up version of Mates of State -- except the female half jumps around on stage a whole lot more and swings a mean electric guitar, while the man was wearing a pair of cosmic-looking white shades that would have suited a member of the B-52s. I thought I heard a little bit of a Shiny Toy Guns vibe in them too …

They were loud, too. Really loud. A theme that would last through the night.

The Ting Tings played for about a half hour; I caught about four songs, ending with “Shut Up And Let Me Go.” Katie White pounded a bass drum and then a cowbell like crazy, and I really dug the song … (Watching the video for the studio version on YouTube now, it sounds nothing like the way it did last night. Here’s a live performance of it during a Los Angeles show.)

For the next 30 minutes, my entertainment was the group of douche bags who cut into the last remaining space in front of me. The best part was watching one of them obsessively and methodically run his hands through his shaggy blond do, which was part faux hawk, part mullet. At one point, I thought, Maybe I should lean over and tell him he owes me a dollar every time he runs those fingers through his geeky haircut. I probably would have put an extra $12 in my pocket.

Jack’s Mannequin came on at about 8 and delivered more loud, hard rock … I’d heard of the band and knew they played Summerfest a lot. But I wasn’t familiar with their music, and apparently I was in the minority there …

Most of the crowd seemed to know a lot of their songs well, erupting with loud cheers when the band dove into “The Mixed Tape,” “Dark Blue” and “Bruised” (there's a clip from the show here). And as the band played on, I decided -- like the Ting Tings -- I might be able to get into these guys a little bit.

After their seventh or eighth song, it was feeling like every next song was going to be their last, but they kept going and going and going … I chalked up the quieter “Hammer And Strings (A Lullaby)” and “The Lights And Buzz” as my favorites in their set.

Their set list …
1. “Crashing”
2. “The Mixed Tape”
3. “Spinning”
4. “Annie Use Your Telescope”
5. “Dark Blue”
6. “Bloodshot Eyes”
7. “Hammer and Strings (A Lullaby)”
8. “Bruised”
9. “The Lights And Buzz”
10. “Swim”
11. “La La Lie”
12. “The Resolution”
13. “Mfeo Pt. 2: You Can Breathe”

By the time, Jack’s Mannequin finished, the crowd had swelled considerably. Bordering on claustrophobia and still annoyed by the douche bags, I decided to get out while I still had my sanity and moved to the outskirts of the ballroom … Where, lo and behold, I found a heckuva lot more breathing room and a crowd that was not only more mature but closer to my age (Insert sigh of relief here).

The Death Cab boys came on at about 9:45. And I figured they had to open with something upbeat from “Narrow Stairs,” perhaps “I Will Possess Your Heart” or “Pity and Fear.” Instead, they began their set with a slow, meandering “The Employment Pages” that failed to capture the crowd.

The band ran off six songs before they pulled out one I recognized -- with the cool, upbeat “Soul Meets Body.” … I guess you can’t blame them for bringing out a lot of old stuff. Being more than 10 years old, they have the catalog. And Gibbard did remark at one point in the show that he was “feeling nostalgic and thinking about the olden days.” Still, the crowd’s energy level seemed to spike ten-fold when “Soul Meets Body” came out.

They followed that with “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” Gibbard lost the band, went acoustic and played it beautifully as the crowd sang along loudly. It took about half the song for me to remember, too, that we heard Ingrid Michaelson cover the song -- just as beautifully -- at Summerfest. Very cool!

They stayed on a roll with “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which they began with a great, long intro jam -- making it and “Soul Meets Body” my easy favorites for their set.

But after “Cath...,” and later a good “Long Division,” they were back to the older stuff. No “No Sunlight,” no “Your New Twin-Sized Bed,” no “Pity and Fear.”

At around 10:55, they finished things off with “Transatlanticism,” ending the number with blazing lights, screaming guitars and an ear-piercing, heart-pumping, floor-vibrating roar that seemed to sum up the mood of the whole night.

Death Cab’s set list …
1. “The Employment Pages”
2. “Your Heart Is An Empty Room”
3. “The New Year”
4. “Crooked Teeth”
5. “President Of What?
6. “Title Track”
7. “Soul Meets Body”
8. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”
9. “I Will Possess Your Heart”
10. “Cath …”
11. “Pictures in an Exhibition”
12. “Long Division”
13. “Sound of Setting”
14. (Encore) “Your Bruise”
15. (Encore) “Title And Registration”
16. (Encore) “Transatlanticism”


Snow date

I’ve gotta start marking Dec. 1 on our calendar …

For snow.

We went to bed last night knowing it was coming …

Which meant I slept lightly last night, half dreading that I’d have to shovel and half dreading that I’d have to get up early to do it …

I was awake at 6 and out the door about five minutes later … For my first shoveling spree of this winter.

Luckily we only got a couple inches.

I hate snow.

But I have to pretend to like it. For Phoebe.

I realized later today that it’s snowed on this date for each of the last four years … Last year, I learned from looking back at our office archives, only gave us a couple inches, but it created havoc for cars on the roads.

And 2006. How could we forget that 17-inch whopper.