Christmas vacation: Day 9

We departed The Farm Saturday afternoon for my parents’ – aka Grandma and Grandpa H. – home.

I had stayed up past 2 a.m. the night before working on a puzzle we started when we visited last summer. Never had a puzzle taken us so long to finish at The Farm, but this particular one was a doozy. Not only was the wilderness scene it depicted dark, but the puzzle was loaded with pieces that appeared identical to each other. The closer we got to finishing it, we began to find several mismatched pieces that didn’t belong in the holes in which we’d placed them. And then, to top it off, there really was a duplicate piece, which can be seen alone to the left of the puzzle in the picture below …

Just before we left, Phoebe also got her wish fulfilled by convincing Grandpa S. to take her sledding …

* * *

Our stays at my parents’ home contrast from our visits to The Farm. For starters, we’re not forced to “find things” to do like we are in the rural, old-fashioned environment of The Farm. It’s not long after we arrive at my parents’ place that Kates and I are plugged in and checking email – trying to catch up on any news we missed in our few days of being out-of-range at The Farm – and we’re enjoying the cable TV right along with my parents. Phoebe doesn’t have access to the Disney movie library or toys she does at The Farm, so she’s left to enjoy the toys we bring for her, or in some cases my mother will pull out a special game and some things for Phoebe to do. This time, Phoebe had my old Chutes and Ladders game waiting for her, along with some crayons and paper for her to draw with.

We arrived at my parents around 6 p.m. Saturday night. It’s about an hour drive from The Farm and both girls slept for most of it.

Quickly we settled in. Mom had some of her signature barbecue sandwiches ready to go for supper. We watched TV and caught up on the latest family news and headed to bed shortly after 10. … Now with Faye, who sleeps in the Pack n’ Play when we’re traveling, there’s no longer enough room for Phoebe to sleep on the floor of the guest bedroom. So, after much discussion – mostly it was Phoebe’s waffling on where she wanted to sleep – it was decided that I would sleep on the futon in the porch, while Phoebe and Kates would sleep in the guest bed and Faye in her Pack n’ Play with them in the guest bedroom.

At about 7 a.m. Sunday, Phoebe startled me awake, standing in front of me at the futon and whispering loudly, “Daddy, Mommy wants you to take Faye.” Long story short: Faye had not slept well, and Kates wanted me to play with and take care of the girls, who were now wide awake, so she could get some more sleep. I got out from under my cozy blankets and followed Phoebe back to the guest bedroom where Kates was standing and holding Faye out in front of her. “They’re all yours,” she said as I took Faye and Kates closed the door between us.

Kates slept for a couple more hours. Meanwhile my parents joined me and the girls for some play time in the living room.

* * *

That afternoon we headed to my Aunt Dana’s home for a gathering with my dad’s side of the family. There, we dined on soups, meatballs and other goodies while catching up on eachother’s happenings.

Before long, to my delight, the discussion turned to our family history. My ancestry research going strong for seven months now, I recently finished mapping out our family tree on a sheet of paper that extends beyond your standard kitchen table, and I brought it on our holiday travels just for this occasion. So I rolled it out on the table and let the others study it. In no time, they were recounting their memories and drawing realizations from the names on the sheet of paper before them. It’s a shame none of us thought of trying to gather more of our family history and ancestors’ stories 20 years ago, we said.

At another point, someone mentioned that it seems like it’s been a long year. To which my aunt replied, “When you think of all we’ve been though this year, it has been a long year.” And now that I think about it, it has been quite a year for our extended family, with a college graduation, a new baby, job changes and my Grandma H’s declining health, beginning with her stroke last January, which has prompted a whole series of episodes and decisions families must deal with when such things happen.

Eventually, by mid-afternoon we said our goodbyes and were on our way. Kates and I agreed to take the long way home, partly to give the girls another opportunity for some nap time during the 30 or so minutes it takes to get from my aunt’s place to my parents’. We drove through the old downtown and up the hill to my old neighborhood and past my childhood home, past the hill that Joel and I used to spend entire afternoons sledding down during the winter months. Then we drove past the lake and the cottages-turned-to-mansions, and past Grandma H’s house, which is now vacant. With the trees that lined the streets covered with a fresh snow, the refurbished downtown and the restored Victorian homes, the city never looked so beautiful and picturesque to me as it did today.

We arrived home in time to settle in for the second quarter of the wild Packers-Vikings game (… Had the Packers played better during the first half, they would have won that game … I’m not sweating it though; they still won the division and clinched a playoff spot).

Mom made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for supper. And we found “The Lion King” – one of Phoebe’s favorites – on TV.


Christmas vacation: Day 7

We were up and at 'em by 7 a.m. Wednesday. Kates was awake ahead of me and already busy packing in Faye's room when I got out of bed. I packed my suitcase and took the car for an oil change.

On this day, we were heading out for our 9-day holiday excursion to Wisconsin.

We left at 11 a.m., one hour later than we planned. And, miraculously, we didn’t make our first stop until 2:30 p.m. at a Culver’s in Newton, Iowa; both of the girls slept for most of the first leg of the drive – a welcome change from our summer trip when we were stopping at least every two hours. We were back on the road in 30 minutes.

Ben Folds took over the iPod for the afternoon and we went with The Weepies for the evening hours. And even though, Phoebe asked how much longer the drive was going to least every 30 minutes, she was surprisingly content during this trip with watching the passing scenery. She only watched one of her DVDs.

We didn’t have to make another stop until we passed the Iowa-Wisconsin border around 6. Although, at this point, there were two within 15 minutes – first, when Phoebe needed a potty break and then another when Faye started crying for a bottle. So we made a stop at a McDonald’s so all of us could eat.

* * *

As we drove through the Wisconsin countryside, the moon was bright and nearly full. I always love the way it reflects off the snow and lights the land. It got better as we drove further north through the bluffs and the abundant snow coated the trees. Like a painting.

Then it got worse as we tried a shortcut. Kates’ family suggested it, and she convinced me to take it. Even though I hate taking shortcuts I'm unfamiliar with. And everything I could have predicted in my head happened.

The supposed shortcut took us on treacherous county roads. And we got lost, making it hardly a shortcut at all. And we lost cell phone surface, so we couldn't call anyone to ask for some redirection.

If we followed the logic Phoebe offered during one of her random thoughts earlier in the drive: “If we get lost, then we have to go home.”

But we pressed on and arrived at our first official destination, The Farm, around 9:30.

Grandpa and Grandma S., Orrin and Kelli, and Chloe and Kitty, too, were all there to greet us.

The house was decorated for Christmas, and the stockings were hung near the chimney with care.

* * *

Overnight, Grandpa apparently made arrangements for Santa to come back to Wisconsin because when we awoke Thursday morning the base of the tree was covered with gifts.

The excitement wasn’t nearly as dramatic as our Christmas morning, but Phoebe again didn’t waste any time getting into the spirit.

Phoebe received a copy of “The Lorax” book, accompanied by the film on DVD. She got “Brave” on DVD, and that was accompanied by a Merida doll (See: Watching “Brave” below). And her crowning moment was receiving the LeapPad2, a learning and gaming system, decorated in pinks and purples with a Disney princesses theme. Phoebe was in her glory. … She received additional books, jewelry, clothes and a small pair of binoculars – or as she says, “bernoculers” – which stemmed from her fascination with Grandpa’s binoculars whenever we are at The Farm.

For Faye, there was the Fisher-Price “Love to Play Puppy” and the Baby Einstein Octoplush. She also received clothes and teethers, along some neat baby-sized vinyl books that are perfect for her to chew on.

Kates got several gifts for the kitchen and home. We got a couple DVDs – “Rent” and “Eat Pray Love.” … And (insert angel chorus) a backyard firepit.

* * *

After the gift-unwrapping party died down, I retreated to the porch to finish a borrowed copy of Tina Fey’s “Bossypants.”

Besides the fact that I’m a notoriously slow book reader, it took me awhile to get into “Bossypants.” It didn’t help that I dove in with high expectations and found the first half of the book, during which Tina describes some of her experiences growing up and theater adventures during her youth, underwhelming.

Once the book moved into her years with The Second City and “Saturday Night Live,” however, I couldn’t put down the book. My favorite section, hands-down, is her telling of her adventures impersonating then Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, while trying to convince Oprah to appear on an episode of “30 Rock,” while trying to plan her daughter’s third birthday party. It was interesting to read Tina’s reflections on “30 Rock” and its evolution, too. … Funny how I thought “30 Rock” was awful and would never survive when it debuted, and now it’s one of our favorite shows (Alec Baldwin). And I recall watching those 2008 election episodes of SNL like they happened last year. Glorious times.

Nevertheless, Tina remains on my lists of celebrities with whom I think I could be really great friends and with whom I'd like to have lunch.

Kates laid Faye on me (Baby Whisperer) as I was getting near the end of the book. And when I finished reading, we took another good nap together.

* * *

Last night, we gathered ‘round the TV to watch “The Lorax” – it’s still good. … Then, we got the girls to bed with plans to watch one of the numerous adult movies each of us received in our stockings. When no one could make a decision, I pitched “Rent.” The idea was accepted and we popped it in, but only Orrin and I remained when it was over. At least I still think it’s good.

Today was Kates’ mom’s (aka Grandma S’s) birthday. Uncle Rod and Aunt Helen came over with Kates’ grandmother (aka Great-Grandma P.) for the festivities. We feasted on lamb the usual assortment of side dishes – including garlic green beans, corn casserole and mashed potatoes. Then, Kates’ dad (aka Grandpa S.) served the cake he made with Phoebe’s help, we strapped on our party hats and a good time was had by all.

Tonight we gathered ‘round the TV again, this time to watch “Brave.” Truth be told, we knew nothing about this flick other than it was another installment in the Disney-Pixar adventures and Phoebe had fallen in love with the girl with the long, curly red hair and wielding a bow and arrow, thanks to a strong marketing campaign this past summer that featured the girl on everything from Subway bags to billboards (and no overt depictions of any grizzly bears). Every time Phoebe saw the image, she would point and say in an awed voice “Braaaaaave!” Really, that’s all we knew about the move. For all we knew, the girl’s name was Brave. Blame Kates and I for failing to do our parental research.

As it turned out, the girl’s name is Merida, and she has never been one to abide by the customs of her Scottish kingdom. So one day, she seeks help from a witch, who casts a spell on Merida’s mother that turns her into a grizzly bear. It all ends happily, but the film is quite a bit scarier than any of us had anticipated, especially for little Phoebe.

Here's a good review of the film at Slate.


Movie nights

With the fall semester complete and a lull in my school year, Kates and I have been busy piling on the movies and clearing off our DVR these last couple weeks. It’s been great fun.

A few weeks ago, we caught “Up” on TV and recorded it on the DVR for a time that all of us could watch it together. It’s a movie that everyone who’s seen it seems to promote, and we had always wanted to see it. … Now? We think it’s overrated. The first 15 minutes of the film and the touching story of Carl and Ellie growing old together is wonderful. Then the film gets weird and feels like it doesn’t really know what direction it wants to go in. I'm not sure I'd recommend seeing it.

Last weekend, we wanted to introduce Phoebe to “White Christmas,” and I was sure I had it somewhere on a VHS tape. I headed to the basement to search the boxes we have stored of VHS tapes … I never did find it, but I did have a good time getting reacquainted with all of the great movies and classic TV episodes I recorded during my college years of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. And I found – I forgot I had this – a tape with the series finale of “Boy Meets World.” Score.

In light of recent events, I couldn’t help but watch it, and I was more than pleased that Kates and Phoebe actually joined me. … And when the tape kept rolling, we rediscovered “The Parent Trap” – the new one, “introducing Lindsay Lohan.” Phoebe seemed to enjoy it – and oh, the memories it brings back for Kates and I. … After spending the summer together, our long-distance relationship had just begun, and she was visiting me in Kansas for a few days before we both headed back to our respective colleges. We had seen the previews for “The Parent Trap” during our movie excursions earlier in the summer and wanted to see it. So when she visited we met up with some of my high school friends and saw “The Parent Trap” at the Great Mall of the Great Plains. Classic.

On the same video tape after “The Parent Trap” was “American Beauty.” It’s one of my favorite films of all-time, but I think we can all agree that’s one Phoebe won’t be seeing any time soon.

And tonight, Kates and I watch “The Hunger Games.”

Kates has read all of the books. I haven’t and I knew very little of the story going in. But I was still intrigued and interested in seeing the film, based on the trailers I’d seen.

The movie was beautifully shot. And I loved how it played to the senses – from Katniss’ disorientation after a fall and multiple bee stings to the ringing sound after an explosion. There’s a lot of action and, even while knowing Katniss’ fate, it definitely kept my heart pounding once the games were underway.

But …

I found the whole premise just sick and wrong. And disturbing – kids fighting to the death, while adults behind the scenes control the game and manipulate it at every turn. From lighting the woods on fire and tossing fireballs at Katniss to making the sky go dark and inserting some kind of mountain lion to hunt Katniss and Peeta.

I have no interest in seeing the sequels.

Christmas vacation: Day 4

Our Monday began – as it does on every day that Phoebe doesn’t have school – with Phoebe coming to the master bedroom and asking if she could watch TV. The difference was instead of going to Kates’ side of the bed, on this morning she came to mine.

It was fine. It was 7:20 a.m. and I needed to get out of bed anyway so I could get Faye dressed and take her to daycare. Kates and I didn’t want to take Faye to daycare, but when we’re forced to pay even though we’ll be out-of-state for most of the next two weeks, we might as well get what we can out of their service. Besides, it gave Kates and I little more freedom to do other things.

“Purple striped onesie with purple pants,” Kates told me as I got out of bed, her eyes still closed.

So I dressed Faye. Strapped her into her car seat, and off we went. After leaving her at the daycare, I intended to run a few errands that included finishing my Christmas shopping. But as I was walking down an aisle at the grocery store in search of a specific gift for Kates, she called to tell me she had called the doctor’s office to ask about getting Faye in to have her ears checked. The receptionists said one of the doctors could check her if we could bring her right away. … So I purchased the gift and headed back to the daycare to pick up Faye and take her to see the doctor. We got in, the doctor checked her ears, they were fine, and I took Faye back to the daycare again.

Back at home, I joined Kates in cleaning the house. Actually, I joined Phoebe in cleaning her play area. Now is a good time to share this video, which I recorded – unbeknownst to her – a couple weeks ago while she was looking for a missing piece to one of her trinkets. The pile of toys she left during the making of this video had yet to be put away …

* * *

At around 2:30 Monday afternoon and I picked up Faye, because the daycare was closing down at 3. And when I returned, it was go, go, go. Kates showered while I took care of the girls. When she finished, she put them in the tub for baths while I showered. Kates dressed Phoebe. I dressed Faye. And we had just enough time to snap some pictures before heading to the 5 o’clock Christmas Eve service.

The service was wonderful. Partly because our family – of four! – was involved in it. We got a phone call from the pastor late in the afternoon during which he asked if, one, we would light the advent candles and, two, if Kates and I would read scriptures. We agreed, and as soon as Kates mentioned we were lighting the candles, Phoebe, who apparently pays attention in church after all, shouted, “I want to light the pink one!”

After a hymn and an opening prayer, it was time for our family moment. I carried Faye to the alter area and stood to the side of the advent candles while Kates led Phoebe to retrieve the candle lighter. Phoebe lit the candles with Kates’ help and we were finished. Success.

Back at our pew, Faye was barely staying awake, absorbing the family sitting behind us. And a few minutes later, her eyes were too heavy to hold out any longer. She closed them and fell asleep in my arms again … She did the same thing in church Sunday. I’ve become so good at calming her and getting her to fall asleep that Kates has begun calling me the “Baby Whisperer.” … I passed her to Kates when it was time for me to step to the altar to read my scripture. Then Kates passed Faye back to me when Phoebe said she needed a potty break. Faye stayed sleeping through all of it, not waking until the worship service was finishing.

And Phoebe sang the hymns! She learned “Away in a Manger” and “Joy to the World” in Sunday School while practicing for her Christmas program. But it never occurred to her that the songs would be sung during a worship service. To see the smile on her face and hear her singing the songs with the rest of the congregation was pure joy.

* * *

Our plans for the rest of our Christmas Eve included making a homemade pizza and settling in for some movies and family time.

Instead, the pastor’s wife invited us to their home, where they also were planning a meal of homemade pizza. The youth pastor’s family – which includes a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy in Phoebe’s preschool class – joined us, too. The kids – minus Faye, who was content sitting on the floor and playing with a couple of her rattles and teethers – played with toys in the basement, while the adults sat around the table conversing about the news of the day (the Newtown tragedy remains on everybody’s minds and was part of our conversation … ), church stuff and family Christmas traditions.

Perhaps the highlight of the night was watching the kids decorate a chocolate pan cake that was designated as a birthday cake for Jesus. They pressed so many candles and paper decorations into it that the chocolate frosting was barely visible when they finished. Lighting the numerous candles later created a definite fire hazard – but only a couple paper decorations were destroyed in the blaze.

* * *

The Christmas Eve gathering ended around 10 p.m.

We were smart to stop off at our house and change the girls into their pajamas before heading to our pastor’s house. But before they went to bed, we wanted to make the preparations for Santa we didn’t quite get to do last year because Phoebe fell asleep too early.

This year, Phoebe was well aware of the magic of Santa Claus, believed in it deeply and couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities – and as parents it’s great fun for us to watch and share in. Phoebe insisted we put out cookies for Santa, and she picked out a variety – peppermints to ginger snaps – from a cookie collection Kates brought home from school. To my surprise, as we were preparing the plate, Phoebe also remembered that Santa didn’t eat all of his cookies last year (As I recall, we put out three and he ate 2 ½.). So she scurried to her play area, asking for a piece of paper and grabbing a crayon. She proceeded to write on the paper in big letters:


(… When I asked her if she knew how to spell Santa, she replied, “Yes. Remember I sang it in my Christmas program [To the tune of B-I-N-G-O]. S-A-N-T-A.”)

Eat all of it (... For the record, she asked me to write this line.)
Phoebe Faye ( … Underlined.)

Here’s the photo proof.

After setting the note by the cookies, we had to put the magic key out for Santa and spread the reindeer food. Without coats – Phoebe in her pajamas – the two of us went outside. I lifted Phoebe to the mailbox outside our door and she dropped the key inside. Then we spread the reindeer food – a concoction of pine needles and grass inside a paper bag – on the front lawn.

Once the girls were in bed and asleep, Kates and I performed our parental duty of populating the space underneath the Christmas tree. Then we headed to bed.

Our tradition of watching TBS’s “Christmas Story” marathon lasted about 10 minutes this year.

* * *

Christmas Day began around 8 this morning with the pitter patter of Phoebe’s feet across the hall. We always know when she’s coming.

“Today's Christmas! Get up,” she shouted, appearing at Kates’ bedside.

“It is?” I shouted, acting surprised.

“I'm going to go downstairs to see if Santa ate all of the cookies!”

More of the pitter patter of Phoebe’s feet as she scurried downstairs to the living room.

A gasp.

More pitter patter as she returns to our bedroom.

“He ate all of them! Even the peppermint.”

”Wow!” I said. “Are there a lot of presents under the tree?”

“Uh, I’ll go check!”

Pitter patter as she returns to the living room.

Another gasp.

”Mommy! Daddy! You gotta get up and watch me open all my presents!” Phoebe yells from the living room. “Get up!”

Then we hear more pitter patter and see the light go on across the hall in Faye’s room.

”Faye, it's Christmas! You gotta get up!” Phoebe says to her.

Those few moments alone made this Christmas one of the best ever.

Kates and I agreed to mark two of the girls’ gifts – the best ones, we thought – as being from Santa, and the rest would come from us. This year’s Santa gifts were, for Phoebe, the “Magical Learn & Go” from Vtech and a new set of pots and pans to add to her play kitchen. In contrast to last Christmas, Phoebe was very general about her wish list this year. Basically she wanted anything that had anything to do with princesses.

Faye got the “Move & Crawl Ball” from Vtech and a stuffed giraffe. Faye’s gifts were inspired by her daycare play. She has a giraffe like the one we gave her in her daycare crib, and the crawl ball is one of her favorite toys there. So we thought, If she enjoys them so much there, why not have them at home, too?

We milked the gift unwrapping for a solid hour. Then, Kates made pancakes and apple-stuffed sausages for breakfast. And we caught the end of the Disney Christmas parade on TV.

Both kids were enthralled and playing with their news toys at the foot of the tree. It was just the four of us. In our own house. And we had nowhere to go today.

Best Christmas ever. … And I’m not even thinking about the fact that our washer broke this afternoon.


Snow days

Let our Christmas vacation begin!

With the way the holidays fall this year, we’re taking advantage of a full two weeks away from work.

Although, Kates and Phoebe got their holiday breaks started two days early thanks to the snowstorm that blew over Wednesday night.

The weather forecasters had predicted a big storm – but like most storms, I refuse to believe it until I see it. … Wednesday night, we watched the thunderstorm from our dining room windows as we ate supper and thought, “There’s no way this is turning into a snowstorm.”

But when I was turning out the lights on my way to bed late Wednesday night I peeked out the windows, and – lo and behold – the ground was covered with white powder.

At around 3:30 yesterday morning, my phone was ringing and we were implementing our emergency procedures at the university, calling for a late start. Kates' school district, meanwhile, canceled the school day entirely. Needless to say, Phoebe was pretty upset when we broke the news to her yesterday morning, because the school was supposed to have its holiday parties.

The school district canceled school today, too. So the holiday parties will have to wait until next month – after the holidays.

Now, the amount of snow we got was nothing compared to what we were used to when we lived in the great north. We got maybe two inches yesterday. Nothing.

I still hate snow, though. And I hate winter.

I took Phoebe outside with me yesterday morning so she could jump around in the snow while I shoveled the driveway. I finished the job in a matter of minutes.

Still, Phoebe loved every minute of it. And just for that reason, I can stand having some snow on the ground for a few days.

Here’s Phoebe making a snow angel.


Sunday blessing

Phoebe made it through her church Christmas program this morning.

After another bit of stagefright as I escorted her to her Sunday School classroom -- that included holding on to my leg like her life depended on it and begging me to stay -- another mother helped her with her angel costume and diverted her attention. ... I was able to slip out of sight peacefully, and the next time Kates and I caught her big brown eyes, Phoebe was dressed in a piece of white fabric with a circle of gold-colored garland attached to her head and stretching her body as far as she could to wave to us from across the sanctuary, grinning widely.

After weeks of practicing "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night" together at home, she sang every word. We could hear her voice loud and clear. And it was wonderful.

The reminders of our children's innocence and the senseless violence in Newtown Friday were spread throughout this morning's worship. Through prayers, scriptures and the children's program.

And last night as Kates and I settled in our living room to watch "Saturday Night Live," the chills ran up and down our spines as the New York City Children’s Chorus performed the cold open. ... Well done, SNL. Well done ...


Numb for Newtown

I'm writing this today at our church as Phoebe rehearses with the dozens of other children for their Christmas program tomorrow.

Aside from the usual annoyances of Phoebe hanging all over me and refusing to put on her costume and Faye waking Kates and I much too early for a Saturday morning, it's been a good day so far. I grudgingly rolled out of bed about around 6 to rescue Faye and ended up cuddling with her on the couch; she went right back to sleep in my arms. The morning continued with Phoebe and I playing a game of hide and seek and us piling on Kates in our bed. Laughing and enjoying our time as a family.

And through it all, reminders of the awful tragedy in Newtown. Twenty children taken away from their parents. Seven more adults killed. Their lives changed forever. They'll never again experience the kind of morning I've had the privilege of having.

Yesterday was our winter commencement day at the university. I was settling into the press box of the arena around noon and preparing for the ceremony when I learned of the tragedy. I had logged onto Facebook -- because that's where we get all of our news these days, of course -- and saw a colleague's post ...
As I just left a bell ringing for a student who was tragically taken 3 months ago today because of a senseless act of violence and read the horrific reports out of Connecticut, all I can say is "why?" Praying for comfort for so many people right now!
She was referring to the bell ringing ceremony – a tradition carried out when one of our students passes – we had yesterday morning for the September death that is still affecting our little community.

And then another post ...
Following the news and I could throw up. Praying for all the families - I can't even imagine.
What the heck is going on?

So I logged onto Twitter to start putting the pieces together. A school shooting in Connecticut. The details were still somewhat sketchy, but my heart sunk deeper the more I read.

Words like awful, sick, evil, heartbreaking, shock, horror, unspeakable and unimaginable kept appearing. And so close to Christmas.

Within minutes, the arena was filling with joyous the family members and friends of our students, eager to watch the graduation ceremony. Traditionally, commencement day is one of my favorite days of the school year. But the news of the shooting changed my mindset completely. It was surreal. … In my mind, I compared the emotional toll it was taking on me to the emotions I felt amid the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I kept thinking of Phoebe, and Kates, and their school, and how devastated I’d be if they were taken away from me so suddenly. … As morbid as it sounds, I’ve seen and experienced enough trauma in my news reporter career and beyond that the thought, “What if I never see them again?” passes through my mind every morning as we say our goodbyes and I see Kates and Phoebe off to school. Or when I leave Faye at the daycare. I always try to make sure I cherish those last giggles and never take anything for granted.

I had trouble paying close attention to the ceremony once it was underway, instead paying closer attention to the social media updates scrolling across the screen on my TweetDeck.

There were posts about President Obama tearing up during a news conference addressing the shooting

And reports that the shooter first murdered his mother, a staff member at the school, before targeting the children …

And more social media reaction by friends and colleagues …
The fact that someone wiped an entire classroom off this earth is sickening. We live in a cruel world. I'm going to hug my son a little tighter tonight, count my blessings and pray for those in pain

I feel physically ill right now trying to imagine my babies being taken from me. My heart breaks for all of the families in Connecticut.

It's supposed to be about cookies, milk, construction paper, and naps. Not being gunned down just for being there.
About midway through the commencement ceremony, Kates texted me with the news that Faye’s daycare called to report she wasn’t feeling well. Kates picked up the girls and took Faye to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with an ear infection. … The silver lining in that news was that it got Kates and I out of attending her school’s Christmas party last night. Given the day’s turn of events, suddenly the last thing I wanted to do was go to a Christmas party surrounded by elementary school teachers where a main topic of conversation was bound to be what occurred din Connecticut. I wanted nothing more than to be home with my family.

The commencement ceremony ended and I waited for the platform party and graduated to file out of the arena. Then I packed up by things and headed back to my office. I worked as fast as I could to draft our news release about the commencement ceremony, gather all of the related multimedia and uploaded it to our website, finally leaving my office around 6 last night.

As I pulled up our driveway and drove into the garage, another wave of emotion hit me, and I got the feeling I might break into a sob the moment I saw Kates and our girls sitting just inside the door. … I took a deep breath and kept my composure. When I stepped inside, Phoebe flashed me a huge grin, taking a break from her Disney Junior watching, and Kates was sitting on the couch with Faye.

Several minutes passed before Kates and I were could step into another room and acknowledge the tragedy outside of Phoebe’s earshot. Eventually we settled into our nightly routine of eating supper and getting the girls in bed.

Then, as Kates and I had the living room to ourselves, she asked about watching the news. Being the news junkie I am, I record the nightly news programs and watch them each night before going to bed. Last night, I had no interest in watching the television news coverage – simply because of television’s habit of sensationalizing these types of stories. There was still so much unknown, and I didn’t think I could take the speculation (Ken Tucker's commentary is dead-on … So is The Onion's, coming from a harsher point of view.)

But Kates insisted and we watched the NBC Nightly News broadcast.

At the end of the day, I have no profound opinions or observations of the shooting. And I won’t go off on a rant about gun control or treatment for the mentally ill. Like everyone else, I, too, am trying to come to grips with the whys and hows of yet another shooting spree taking innocent lives.


Concert for the ages

Of course, I watched the 12-12-12 Concert last night.

All of the performances were great. The collaborations were were especially stellar all night long.

But my honors for the best performances go to Adam Sandler's comical "Sandy Screw Ya," Chris Martin and Michael Stipe teaming up on an acoustic of "Losing My Religion." ... And pretty much everything Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and The Who performed during their respective sets.

Rolling Stone has those performances and more in its Top 10.

The New York Times also produced a great live blog that echoed so many of my thoughts on the night ... Particularly the comment about Alicia Keys asking a few times too many for “cellphones in the air.” So awkward.

The only real downfall was the length of the show. The networks carrying the concert had listed as ending at 11 p.m. central time, but it was well over midnight before it closed down. I ended up falling asleep midway though Paul McCartney's concluding set (The Nirvana reunion with McCartney, by the way, with all of the buzz surrounding it on the interwebs yesterday, I considered a bust ...) and woke up several minutes later to see all the performers on the stage together to close down the show.

But I'm hardly complaining given the talent and history jamming all over that stage last night.

Update 12.19.2012
Here's a good read from The New York Times: The Music Is Timeless, but About the Rockers ... Yeah, Roger Daltrey's unbuttoned shirt made me a little sqeamish, too.


Christmas with Mumford and Sons

... I let out a loud, audible laugh when I saw that headline scroll across my TweetDeck this evening. Funniest Onion headline I've read in a long time.

I don't get the hype over Mumford and Sons. Most of their songs sound the same to me ... But I do really enjoy "I Will Wait."


Inside Amazon

Caught this feature about Amazon from last night's NBC Nightly News.

Fascinating ...

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


RIP Twinkies

I love Twinkies.

So much that I used to buy a box or two during every trip I made to the grocery store during my college days.

Until Kates convinced me how bad they were for me. And I ceased buying them out of fear  I would die too young of a heart attack.

Still, it was with great sadness that I read the news of Hostess' financial troubles and the death of the Twinkie.

And suddenly I, too, have a powerful urge to run out and buy a box of Twinkies just to taste that goodness once more before it's gone for good.


Off and running

Well, it wasn’t as dramatic as four years ago (I did miss the ol' newsroom a little). But Election Night 2012 was still a lot of fun.

I voted over my lunch break. Kates voted when she was finished with her school day.

Later, we met at home as a family. Ate dinner. Got the girls tucked into their beds. And settled in for what we figured would be a long night of watching the election returns.

After all, this year’s campaign was one of the nastiest ever. Watching and reading the people who cover news these last few days, the race appeared to be so evenly split. I had begun to believe Romney had the edge. Or we were destined for a repeat of 2000 when we didn't know who won for weeks …

Side note: I was in Washington, D.C., for that election. And I’ll never forget walking the streets the morning after with the front pages of the Washington Times shouting, “NO PRESIDENT YET.” I have a photograph

As always, we tuned into Brian Williams, the crew on NBC, and their painted ice rink at Rockefeller Center. I also kept a close eye on Twitter, of course.

As the hours passed, the returns looked good for Obama. … But I wasn’t taking anything for granted. There were a lot of states left to be called.

Around 10 p.m., I decided to switch to The Daily Show, wanting a break from the straight news talk and thinking surely Jon Stewart and his crew would provide some good entertainment. … Actually, we watched The Daily Show up to the first commercial break, and then I switched to our DVR’d recording of Monday night’s Daily Show, while fully intending to come back to the Election Night Daily Show afteward so we could watch it commercial free.

But around 10:15, a Twitter post flashed that Obama won Ohio and thus had been declared the winner.

It was too early. That couldn’t be true.

Immediately, I stopped the Daily Show and switched back to NBC’s live coverage. Brian and the gang were calling it for Obama, too.

Twitter was flying with tweets now. And like that, this long, bitter, rollercoaster of a presidential campaign was over with Barack Obama retaining the presidency.


Now, there were a lot of races and propositions during this election that Kates and I would have preferred to go the other way, but I’m not going to get that detailed.

I’m glad it’s over.

Another thing that’s over: Phoebe’s sling-wearing.

After last week’s accident the doctor told us she might only have to wear the sling for a week before she’d be running around like nothing happened. But as much pain as Phoebe appeared to be in, we thought surely she’d have to wear it for two or three weeks, at least.

Instead – after our sleepless weekend – something changed Sunday.That evening Phoebe shouted to me, “Daddy! Look! I can move my arm!” And there she was, flapping it like a bird.

So, as scheduled, I took her to the doctor this afternoon for a check-up. The doctor removed the sling from Phoebe’s arm, felt the bones and had Phoebe move her arm. Phoebe moved it freely without pain. … The doctor made a call to an orthopedic doctor for some consultation, and when she returned she gave Phoebe the all-clear.

Phoebe jumped and danced all the way out of the doctor’s office, flinging her arms above her head and singing, “No more sling! No more sling!”

We’re off and running again.

Good reads ...
a How a Race in the Balance Went to Obama
a How Obama Won Re-election
a President Obama's Six Keys to Victory
a Networks tread lightly to avoid 'Dewey defeats Truman' flub
a From Frustrated to Nervous, Television Networks’ Moods Explain Results
a Election night review: TV news announces Obama re-elected; analyzing the analysts
a On TV, broadcasters search for a drama that never materialized
a Election 2012: From Brian Williams to Jon Stewart to Shep Smith, how each network covered the election
a Rove holds Fox News hostage, is ultimately defeated by those traitorous statistics he once loved so much
a Twitter reaction to Obama win: Trump goes on tirade, RuPaul tells Romney to 'sashay away'


Some nights

Well, this weekend will prove to be more memorable than we anticipated.

Phoebe’s fall on Thursday has made our lives a bit more interesting. And our precious sleep hours have diminished further the last two nights.

The worst part for the ever-energetic Phoebe is having her arm in a sling that prevents her from moving the way she wants to, and she’s very uncomfortable. The fact that she can’t sleep the way she wants is torture.

Between Faye waking up every couple hours to eat and Phoebe waking up every couple hours, crying in pain, we got little sleep during the Thursday-Friday overnight hours. Last night was worse.

Phoebe would wake up. Kates or I would settle her down. Return to bed. Faye would wake up, crying. Kates would take care of Faye. Phoebe would wake up again. At one point, they were both screaming. Kates headed to Faye’s room, and I went to Phoebe’s.

I got up around 1 a.m. to answer Phoebe’s crying and spent the next hour at her bed side, trying to calm her down while she pounded on her bed – with her good arm – in frustration. We read stories and sang songs. Finally, I agreed to sleep in her bed with her. But that ended abruptly when she started complaining I was taking up too much room. … At around 2:30 a.m., Phoebe started crying loud enough again that it woke Kates. A few moments later, she appeared at Phoebe’s door, we switched places and I headed back to our bed.

It went on like that the rest of the early morning hours. And when daylight broke, Kates and I looked at each other in despair. “O-M-G,” Kates sighed.

“MOM-my,” called Phoebe from her room across the hall. And we got out of bed to officially begin our Saturday.

We had anticipated the memories we made today stemming largely from today’s homecoming festivities at the university.

With Phoebe not doing the dance thing this year, last year’s dramathankfully – was absent. We dressed and were ready to go in plenty of time this year. We buckled Phoebe into the stroller so she didn’t have to walk and could rest easy with her arm, and Faye went in the Baby Bjorn with me. (Yes, the Baby Bjorn, which I discovered a couple weeks ago in what was probably the last box left unopened since our move. Don’t ask me how I missed it this past summer when we wanted the Baby Bjorn for Faye’s first baseball game.)

We walked up to College Drive, on the parade route and found an open spot on the sidewalk, near the alumni house and the president’s house, which is one of the hot parade-watching spots.

Soon enough the firetrucks, police squads and other emergency vehicles rolled up the hill to signal the parade’s start. There was the usual collection of colorful floats. The community groups walking in the parade or waving from trailers. The variety of marching bands. And this year we had the added bonus of political groups pushing their candidates for Tuesday’s election – including two people dressed and wearing masks depicting the likes of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Faye had fallen asleep before the parade was over. And Phoebe ended up with a nice pile of candy on the tray of her stroller.

When the parade ended and Kates and I started the walk back to our house, Kates and I looked at each other, smiling. Our sleepless night aside, the morning had been a success. The kids were happy, and smiling, and a good time was had by all. “That was a lot of fun,” I said.

After some lunch, Phoebe and I headed back to the campus for the afternoon’s big football game. It was a gorgeous afternoon for a football game.

Our beloved Bearcats went into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation. The opponent was ranked No. 20 and had led the conference for most of the season. … The game was no contest. Pheebs was ready to go midway through the second quarter, and I obliged. We walked home and I watched the rest of the game on the TV at home. Our team won, 55-10.

It was  great day. Now let's hope we all sleep tonight.


Disney acquires Lucasfilm

When I saw the first tweet pop up, I shrugged it off as some kind of joke.

There's going to be a Star Wars Episode 7. The lights just went out on your childhood.
Then more appeared, and soon after it was confirmed.
Breaking: Disney acquiring Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion; deal will give Disney ownership of the "Star Wars" franchise, more.
In short, I love the Star Wars films. Like almost every other American boy who grew up in the '80s, I always have. And I pray that Disney doesn't scar the franchise.

I also hope the new films build on the heritage and stories of the previous six films. Some appearances by the original actors would be awesome. ... I wince at the reports of Disney making the films with entirely new storylines.

All we can do now is hold our breath for 2015. ... As always, EW has it t covered and is all over the speculation game.

(Updated 2.22.2013) Good reads ...
a The Paste Guide to Star Wars VII Rumors
a Harrison Ford open to idea of Han Solo role
a Mark Hamill Reacts to Star Wars VII
a Mark Hamill weighs in on the future of 'Star Wars'
a Carrie Fisher Wants to be in Star Wars: Episode VII
a Who should direct new 'Star Wars' movie? Christopher Nolan? Joss Whedon? J.J. Abrams?
a 'Star Wars' sequels: Think of the children
a ‘Star Wars’ flashback: Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia audition tape
a George Lucas Talks Future of 'Star Wars' and Lucasfilm
a Mark Hamill on 'Star Wars: Episode VII': 'They're talking to us'

Oh, Sandy

So Hurricane Sandy made big news this week. ... Check out this video of the hurricane rolling in.

New Jersey is practically gone.

The presidential campaign is in flux. ... Mitt Romney had no choice but to follow Obama and pull off the campaign trail, or look like a fool. And yet, Obama, in a way, is still very much continuing his campaign as he responds to the crisis, as he is expected to do. He and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are suddenly pals, and all the momentum Romney had in these final weeks is dissipating thanks to Sandy.

Then, there's the story of that dangling crane.

Still, amid the chaos, there's two side stories that I may remember most ...

All of the falsehoods being passed around social media as the storm was brewing and in its aftermath, particularly the image of guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns. (For the record, I didn't bite on any of the false images. ...C'mon, people, do your research before you retweet that stuff.)

And Monday's Late Show With David Letterman. ... One of the weirdest, eeriest television experiences I've ever had. To see Dave on his set, doing a show and surrounded by a skeleton production crew, and a theater of empty seats. Here's EW's recap. ... And here's another, along with some of Jimmy Fallon's shown, on which he also played to no audience.


Hello, iPhone

So I think my iPod is showing its age. A thick black streak showed up on the screen a few weeks ago, and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. … It was only a matter of time. I’ve worked the little white device hard during the last – let me think about this – seven years, playing it for hours almost daily in my office and home.

Remember when I was so obsessed with simply owning one?

And that brings me to the newest addition to my gadget family. …

I am now an iPhone user.

Remember when I hated the idea of a cell phone being more than a device to simply call people?

The fact that I’m now equipped with an iPhone came about from a lucky turn of events connected to my work. I had been working the last three years with a Blackberry Curve … Yes, some days I fantasized about having an iPhone, but the Blackberry was working just fine for me. I didn’t know anything different, and the thought of trying to type on the iPhone’s touchscreen intimidated me.

Nonethless, I was awarded an opportunity to work with an iPhone – an iPhone 3 – on a trial basis and see how I liked it. … I liked it all right. And, after about a week, through another lucky turn of events, I was upgraded to a brand spanking new iPhone 5.

Cue the angel chorus.

I received it during the morning hours and refused to remove the packaging before I had all of the accessories. I’d seen so many of my colleagues traipsing around with cracked screens that I wasn’t even going to try using my new phone without protecting first.

So, during my lunch break, I went on a search for a case and eventually ended up at the AT&T store, where a perky young woman came to my assistance. I picked out a case I thought would work and the woman offered to put it on for me.

She seemed to share my lust for the high-tech phone. Though I suppose she’s paid to do that.

“Ooooh, you haven’t even taken it out of its packaging yet,” she said.

“No, I wanted to make sure I had it protected first.”

“Absolutely!” she said as she removed the plastic wrapping. Then she began bathing the screen and encasement.

“Have you had an iPhone before?”

“Yes,” I said, totally not acknowledging that I’m still an iPhone newbie and I had just been transformed from being a loyal Blackberry user.

“Which one did you have?”

“An iPhone 3.”

“Ooooh, you’re going to like this!” the woman said.

Having experienced some of the outdated-ness during my trial run with the iPhone 3 and having some knowledge of the upgrades in the newer models, I didn’t doubt she was right.

I smiled. “I can hardly wait.”

Fast forward to a few weeks later and – yes, yes, I am liking it.

I feel like I have my whole world in my hands. Literally.

I can access my email – work and personal – with the touch of the screen, no matter where I am. And all of my social media accounts. I could only access Facebook on my Blackberry.

I can blog on my iPhone.

I can access all of my favorite news and sports sites. At lightning speeds.

I can get instant weather updates with the Weather Channel app.

I can snap pictures and upload them immediately to my Flickr page, or Facebook – although I much prefer Flickr. … The photo part is a good thing because my digital camera had begun showing its age recently, too. Most of my pictures came out blurred on the left side, no matter the lighting or settings with which I was working.

And I have officially joined the Instagram community. …Yeah, Instragram. I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. …

(Why must people take every photo with Instragram and run those same photos through one of the vintage-styled, sepia-toned filters so that you can suddenly pretend to be some hip, artistic photographer? I believe there are certain times and places to use Instagram. Not all the time. There are photos that are perfectly captured and displayed in their array of colors and don’t deserve to be diluted by Instagram. Respect the art of photography, people.)

Sort of like the love-hate relationship I have with Facebook photo albums …

(Why must people post every blurry, out-of-focus, close-up they take to Facebook? Delete the poor photos, people! And no matter what you post, they all seem to end up in a disorganized mess, never to be looked at again – because you’d have to spend hours trying to figure out where they ended up. Seriously, good luck finding those photos from that one night you and your buddies went to the corner pub that one summer.)

Which all goes back to my preference for Flickr, its ease of use, privacy settings and wonderful ability to organize and display photos.

I’ve digressed.

Now, with my iPhone, I can listen to any radio station I want, wherever I want. … One weekend, I was doing some work in Phoebe’s room and wanted to listen to the Bearcat football game. I downloaded the Public Radio app, and – bam! – I could listen to the broadcast loud and clear on my phone. Later, I downloaded the app for WTMXthe Chicago radio station that Kates and I have faithfully listened to for a decade now; we've regularly accessed it online since moving to The ‘Ville. … And just think about the possibilities from there! I can restore my summer pastime of working in the yard while I listen to Cubs game on WGN or Brewers games on WTMJ, or classic rock on WDRV.

When we made our move to The ‘Ville, Kates and I discussed one of the advantages being that the world was becoming a smaller place and becoming more mobile. But I never imagined this!

And then there's the access to my music library. After a couple weeks of using the iPhone, I warmed up to the idea of testing how it could work with iTunes and my music library. That night, I was walking through our house with the sounds of “Abbey Road” echoing through the hallway. And the next night we were dancing around to Fun. In our kitchen. … My music library grew beyond the capacity my iPod long ago, but I’ve figured out the iPhone has nearly double the capacity – not that I’m going to load my entire music library on the iPhone. Only the really good stuff will go on the iPhone; the iPod remains my preferred music listening device.

I’m just skimming the surface here. But life is definitely good with the iPhone.

The fracture

Last night, everything was grand.

We took the girls trick-or-treating at the residence halls on the university campus, and Phoebe filled her Halloween bucket with enough candy to get us through the next year. It’s a Halloween tradition I’ve been wanting to try since we moved to The ‘Ville, and it was totally worth it. Some of the students really decorated their rooms for the season.

Then, before calling it a night, we went to visit our friends, Jeff and Gina, at their home, where Phoebe received yet more candy. And there was Phoebe, rough-housing and wrestling with Jeff on the floor.

The girl has no fear. ...

Until  …

I was hard at work in my office today, pumping out another piece about all that is good about our university when my phone rang at about 3:30 p.m. It was Kates.

When I answered the phone, Kates was on the other end but distracted. I could hear crying in the background and Kates was asking, “Where does it hurt?”

After a couple seconds she noticed I had answered the phone call and said, “Phoebe just fell on the playground.”

I sighed a quick sigh and flipped my mental switch into crisis mode. This was bound to happen sooner than later.

Kates continued. Phoebe couldn’t move her arm and appeared to be in a lot of pain. Kates didn’t think she could strap Phoebe into her car seat. Without hesitation, I said I would meet them at the school so we could go to the hospital.

I dropped what I was doing and headed to the elementary school. After first heading to Kates’ classroom and then being directed by a custodian to the preschool classroom only to find no one there, I finally found them in a principal’s office. Phoebe was in a kid-sized lounge chair, clutching her arm, which had been placed in a small dinosaur. She was surrounded by Kates, a kindergarten teacher and one of the principals. I walked into the room, Phoebe made eye contact with me and she started balling. She was scared more than anything.

No one seems to know exactly what happened – the playground supervisor didn’t see what happened – but according to the kids, Phoebe was swinging on a bar above a slide when she fell and banged her elbow on the slide. All we knew was our next stop was the hospital to get her arm checked out.

“Daddy, I want you to carry me,” she said through the tears.

I scooped her up and we walked to my car. Kates took her place in the front passenger seat, and I set Phoebe in her lap. Since Phoebe couldn’t and wouldn’t move her arm, we agreed that was the best way to transport her – and, despite her pain, Phoebe thought that was pretty cool that she got to ride in the front seat.

Throughout this adventure, there were a few gems to come from Phoebe’s mouth, but, of course, now that the hours have passed I can’t remember most of them. The best came as we started the drive to the hospital and she muttered, “I hope I don’t have a crooked arm.”

At the hospital, Kates got Phoebe checked in as I continued holding her. And “Friends” was showing on the TV in the waiting room, so that was good. … (Kates and I have had it on a lot lately – TBS runs it non-stop, it seems – so Phoebe, naturally, has taken an interest in it, especially since it has a character with her name. And, no, it’s probably not a show a 4-year-old should be watching, but heck, I was watching stuff like “Three’s Company” and “The A-Team” when I was her age, and I turned out just fine, so I’m not going to sweat it.)

Eventually, a nurse directed us to a room in the emergency wing, where we met a couple more nurses who began checking Phoebe and taking notes about her symptoms. … After that phase of the adventure, I left to pick up Faye from her daycare, which is conveniently located next door to the hospital. I found her wrapped in a blanket and soundly asleep.

When I returned to the emergency room, a doctor was there and explaining the X-ray process. A few minutes later, a couple technicians wheeled an X-ray machine into the room. The tears started pouring from Phoebe’s eyes again, and the technicians gave their best effort coaxing Phoebe to rest her arm on a table so they could get their pictures while Kates stood by trying to comfort her. … It wasn’t as torturous as the night we had to put Phoebe through a CT scan, but that scared cry of your daughter never ceases to tear your heart.

When the doctor returned with the results, there was no definitive diagnosis. He said the X-rays showed something, but nothing serious enough that wouldn’t heal quickly. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “Ok, doc, so what are we going to do about it? Let’s play it safe here. Spit it out.” … Finally, he told us they were calling it a Salter-Harris type I physeal fracture of the left distal humerus. The best thing to do was put her arm in a sling and bring her back to the hospital for a check-up in a week, although she may have to wear the sling for two or three weeks.

Two and a half hours later, we headed home – with a pit stop for Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way.

There won’t be any gymnastics for Phoebe for a while.


The vote

One week to Election Day.

To me, the choice is pretty clear.

Here are some good reads from some good news outlets ...
And for good measure, here's The Onion's endorsement. Or something like it ...
I mean, wouldn’t you kill yourself if the U.S. population felt that Mitt Romney — a man who basically wrote off half the American population as entitled victims incapable of taking care of themselves — was a more viable leader than you? Wouldn’t you take your own life if a massive segment of the citizenry basically said, “You know what, you ended the war in Iraq, you passed health care reform, you saved the auto industry, you repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, you had 32 straight months of job creation, and you killed Osama bin Laden, but sorry, I’m going with Romney?”


The Giants win the pennant

The San Francisco Giants are one of my least favorite teams in all of baseball. But my dislike for the Cardinals runs deeper.

I was so disinterested in the National League Championship Series, initially, that I didn’t even bother watching the first three games. I half-heartedly watched Game 4 and Game 5. But the Giants heart and excellent play in Game 6 moved me, and I was fully on their side for the clincher.

So it was a sweet sight to behold tonight as the Giants crushed the Cardinals, coming back from three games to one and winning Game 7.

When the monsoon arrived over the bay area for the ninth inning I was shouting at the TV, to the pitchers, “Just throw strikes! End this thing and let’s go home!” (Check out this guy's blog for some good photos and commentary of the scene)

The umpires weren’t stopping that game for nothing. And the slowed images of the falling rain drenching the Giants players as they amped up for the post-game celebration were pure art.

Finally, Matt Hollidayof all people – popped the ball to your NLCS MVP Marco Scutero -- of all people – putting an interesting end to the series after the two were involved in arguably the signature play of the series.

After the game, I also spotted this on Twitter, acknowledging another interesting twist considering how the Cardinals beat the Braves and made it as far as they did

That rules. RT @mlbbowman: Cardinals end their season with an infield fly.
Meanwhile, my beloved Prince Fielder, Jason Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Jim Leyland and the rest of my beloved Detroit Tigers are back in the World Series after sweeping the Yankees. ... There's no doubt that series was over the moment Derek Jeter fell hurt. While I hated to see that, I loved every other minute of watching the Yankees' collapse, especially the at-bats involving Alex Rodriguez.

I just hope in this World Series that the Tigers pitchers remember how to throw to first base.

Despite the Yankees' collapse, bravo to Joe Girardi who argued -- very well -- that the timing for increased instant replay is better than ever. ...

"In this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it has to change. These (umpires) are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it's hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than (to) get the call right."

"There is too much at stake, and the technology is available. That's what our country has done. We have evolved technology to make things better."
The Yankees were on the wrong side of a couple bad calls in the ALCS, and I can't help but wonder if the Braves season wouldhave ended differently if that infamous infield fly was reviewed immediately.

Good reads ...
a Giants Rebuilt Nearly From Scratch
a On a National Stage After Years in the Wilderness
a Tigers Have Ace, but Giants Are Resilient
a Led by pitchers like Scherzer, eyes of Tigers on World Series title
a For Yankees, Thrilling Rally Ends Badly
a Yankees’ Old Ways Catch Up to Them
a No Tony. No Albert. No problem.
a What Business Leaders Can Learn from the St. Louis Cardinals
a Andre Dawson emerges from the ivy and into the spotlight ... I do enjoy this commercial.