Wednesday, December 17, 2008
She became a Jew last night after discovering a package at the back door from her Aunt Margaret. Now Margaret is a great aunt. She's always thinking about Ali and she's always very creative. Knowing that we're about a week away from leaving for Maine, she asked if it would be OK if she visited Alison's all-time favorite retailer (the Dollar Store) and got her something to open each day before the trip.
Sure. I said.
So Ali unearths the package of packages and reads Aunt Margaret's note.
"Mom! It's like we're Jewish and we get to celebrate Hannukah! I get to open one package every night!" she squeals.
I got Margaret on the phone to let her hear over speaker phone. Because the package was a day later than expected, Ali got to open two presents last night. She was crazy thrilled with a miniature set of Rudolph ornaments and a two-pack set of pretty erasers. One holiday themed; one flower power.
"I get to celebrate "Hannukah" AND Christmas this year!" Alison said, thrilled with her dual citizenship. "Thanks Aunt Margaret!"
This morning, after Karin and I got back from the gym, I returned to a sleeping house. I piddled a bit because I didn't work from the office today. I thought I'd let Ali sleep in a little bit.
But I heard her stirring and went to find her already up. "I"m so excited that it's Wednesday!" she said.
"The school play is tonight. It's pizza day. Is that why you're so excited?" I asked.
"No, silly," she said, pulling out her box of "Hannukah" gifts. "I get to open my Wednesday gift from Aunt Margaret."
Pink silly putty. Oy vay.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Alison and I spent all morning decorating the cookies I'd spent most of yesterday afternoon baking. We planned to give them to our neighbors as little holiday treats. We've done it for the past couple of years.
Our neighbors to the east routinely bring us fresh produce from their farm; our neighbor across the street has a daughter who sometimes babysits, and our neighbor to the west has a little girl Ali plays with sometimes. They're all pretty nice -- and we should probably send out cookies to a greater swath of neighbors. But making cookies is hard work, man.
And cleaning up is even harder. But it's fun and we like to do it. It's an annual tradition at Auntie Jen's in Maine, too, so it's sort of a trial run.
This year I found some festive little plates at Kroger to use, too. While the cookies are fun, I like having that little token, and when you find a bargain, it's really not that much.
Karin and I went shopping today, and she asked if Ali could play with Alex and Hannah while we were gone. It was an event that demanded a plate of cookies.
On the way home, though, Alison had a bit of a bone to pick with me.
"Um, Mom, did you know that you gave away a perfectly good plate with those cookies?" she called from the back seat.
"Yes, I did know that," I said.
"Well I think you should ask for it back," she said.
"But it's part of the gift," I said. "Don't you think it's a pretty plate?"
"Yes, I do. In fact it's such a pretty plate, I think you should ask for it back," she said.
"Well that would be kind of mean, don't you think? To ask for them to give their gift back?"
"Well, I don't think they'd mind. I mean, it's a real plate!" she said.
What the heck do you do about this? I'm hoping she'll forget. We do still have a few of the plates. I can just see her knocking on the neighbor's doors asking for the plates back.
If you happen to be one of our cookie recipients, please keep the plate. No matter what the little red head says.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
So now I'm remembering that you're supposed to be careful what you wish for.
Alison has been asked out to a birthday party for a friend at school. That's not so unusual. What's unusual is that its' Ali and three boys. They're going to dinner and a movie.
Also last week, while the kids were all visiting the Secret Santa shop at school, Alison dutifully spent her money on gifts for her parents, Grandpa and aunts and uncles. Caleb, turns out, bought Alison a ring. A big ol' honkin' ring. And no, Caleb isn't one of the three other boys she has a date with on Saturday.
"It was only 50-cents, Mom," she said, downplaying the importance of getting jewelry from a boy.
What' s a parent to do in a situation like this? It was only a couple weeks ago I was batting back my Bunco friends who were chastising me (again) for telling Alison more adult things than they think she know. I responded somewhat wickedly to that, secure in the knowledge that Alison would go in the world where boys meet girls forewarned and thus forearmed.
I didn't expect her to be dating at 7. And then with three boys at once.
She is a clever girl, though.
When she got home from her Secret Santa excursion, Jeff asked her how much of her $30 budget she'd spent.
"Just $22, Dad," she said.
"Well where's my change?"
"My change. You know, the $8 left over from your shopping. That's MY money," he said, conveniently forgetting that it was actually me who'd fronted her shopping spree.
"Uh, well, Dad. It's actually my money," she said.
"How do you figure? I gave it to you to buy Christmas presents with."
"Yes. I went shopping with it. So it's my money."
"No, it's my money. You shopped; but you didn't spend it all. You give the money that's left over back to me."
"But you gave it to me."
"I only gave it to you to shop with. Now hand it over."
She considered this. "How about we split it?" she countered.
At this point, I'm sure he wavered, he was so proud of her negotiating skills. But he ordered her to go get her backpack, dig out the change and return it to him.
"OK Dad," she sighed. "Hey, Dad, guess what?"
I don't know what came after the "what?" but it was enough to distract him. He was recounting the coversation to me as I started to recover from my sickbed that night. It must have been about 11 o'clock, and I was drifting back to sleep. But I was alert enough to inform him that he'd been had. She'd never gone to the backpack and he was still short $8. Or I am.
"That thievin' little cow!" he said, marveling at her skill. He didn't actually call her a cow, but this is a family blog and I'd prefer she not know what kinds of words her father uses when she's not around.
To the best of my knowledge, she still has the money. He wrote himself a note to remind him to get it back the next day, but I don't think he ever followed through.
Maybe she should date three boys at a time. Maybe then they'll have a chance...
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I have a love/hate relationship with holidays. They're great. You get to pretend you live the life of Riley. You don't have to brush your hair. You can look at those chores and keep on walking. You can hang out with friends like you did when you were in school. You can go to the movies or surf the 'net for stuff you don't really need to know. You don't have to shower.
But then comes the last day. The day that when it ends is the beginning of another work week. And suddenly it's all over. You're a grown-up again.
It could be worse. We might not have jobs to go to. And then when the next holiday came around we'd have no money to enjoy it. So no more moaning.
I am moaning a little bit, though. Yesterday Ali and I went to Climb Time with Tina and Lilly Noel to try our hand at rock climbing. It was a lot of fun, but at one point when I jumped down from my climb, I landed on my heels in between where the padding of two sections met. It's wood over concrete down there.
My poor heels. While they do carry my fat ass around all day, they don't generally have to bear all of my weight plus the force of it all coming down in a blur. I think I owe them a pedicure and maybe a day off from the pumpkin roll that somehow came home from Aunt Shirley's house.
(Bickel family update: It was a great time. Everyone seems happy and healthy. Chris and Cory Lehman (Beth's sons) are heartbreakers and way fun. Allyssa is on the swim team and has really cute scrunchy hair now. Julie and Diana actually behaved themselves (as far as I could tell) and everyone had a great time.)
We also had Jenna for a little while this weekend, which was way fun. Jeff had Drew, Jenna and Ali while Amer and I went to the Twilight movie on Friday afternoon. It was great fun for us -- and it forced me back on the couch to re-read the books. Yes, I saw the movie already, but Amer introduced me to it, and we needed to see it together.
We decided to keep Jen -- Drew was aching for some male bonding with his own friend by the time Amer and I got back here. Ali and Jenna decided they wanted to decorate the Christmas tree, so I started dragging the bins. They did a great job of helping sort the artificial branches (they're tagged by letter) and sticking them onto the pole. They oohed and aahed over some of the ornaments and argued over whether there were too many reds or purples in one area of the tree.
Along the way, Jen finally mastered how to blow a bubble. Alison has been trying to do the same thing for a few good months.
She took one look at Jenna's bubble and decided she she didn't really need to learn how to blow a bubble anymore. Suddenly, it was beneath her to try. (She's not always a gracious hostess.) Jenna didn't care, though. She was thrilled beyond words and just kept getting better at it. While it was killing Alison that she couldn't do it, too, she found a way to channel the little green monster that clearly would have easily taken her over. She started showing off her hand-standing abilities. There was a time when I think she might have been in danger of blood trauma she was upside down for so long.
Jenna was was too happy with her bubble-making ability to care. Finally, she declared, "This gum tastes nasty!" and spit it out. Ali came up for air and they trotted off. "Miss Cheryl, can we take a break from decorating?" I didn't see them again for hours.
We got to spend a little time with Patrick and Patricia Jackson, which was way fun. Alison has finally found a restaurant that rivals the North Side News grilled cheese: Cafe Patachou. Most people swear by the cinnamon toast, but Ali is a grilled cheese connoisseur, and she's found it an acceptable 2nd place to Matt the Newspaperman's GC.
Speaking of which, it's time for our Sunday walk. Wish me luck in wresting the redhead away from her PopTropican island game...
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I've never been able to wait -- until this year. The weather had been too nice, and for most of the fall, I've been able to mow it all up. But then the mower -- now in it's 10th year -- stopped starting on me, and I need Jeff's help to get it going. Funny how busy a guy who hates yard work can be when his wife wants him to help her get the mower started.
So today was the day. There are still a few leaves hanging on for dear, desiccated life up there, but our front yard was pretty much buried. A few of my Bunco sisters came by and I think Amer was afraid she'd get lost in a leaf bank trying to get from her car to the house.
Bunco is a story I need to tell, but I'm surprised my fingers are still working. They're still connected to my arms, which are connected to my back, and none of those parts are speaking to me. They're screaming, actually, and none of it's good. So the Bunco stories will have to wait.
Ali and I sent Jeff off to basketball and then tackled the yard. She was a pretty good helper for quite some time. But then she needed a break, so I told her she could take 5. She started climbing the Magnolia tree while I kept blowing leaves into a small mountain.
It's hard to hear with that thing blowing, but finally I heard the "Mommy! Mommy! I'm stuck."
This I'd heard before, and generally it's just Ali with a momentary hesitation. "Seriously?" I shout back, turning to look. And there she was. Higher than she'd ever been, clinging to a tree, unable to land her feet anywhere.
A neighbor happened to be out in his yard. We'd never officially met, but his wife is a nurse at the clinic we all go to, so we nod and wave.
I know he's heard me question her, but as I look up and over, he starts over, shouts that he has a ladder and disappears. I go up the tree. Alison is starting to get really frightened, and the guy -- my new best neighbor, John -- comes running with the ladder.
I get to her, but can't get positioned to actually grab her independently. I have part of her, and we tell her to swing over to the ladder. "I've seen plenty of cats up trees, but never a little girl," John says.
Ali sees no humor in it. But after a while, she agrees to put her arms around his neck and they skinny down the tree.
She was a little bit embarrassed, but remembered to thank him once her feet were planted on terra firma -- with no prompting. He disappeared as quick as he'd come.
Later, while I was back to work and Ali was looking for another break, she decided we should go inside. I said we could in a little while.
"Do you remember that story about the grasshopper and the ant?"
"Sure," I say.
"You know, where the grasshopper didn't work but the ant worked all summer?"
"Yeah. I know the one," I say.
"Well, do you know the rest of the story?"
"Uh, no Paul Harvey, I don't."
"Well, turns out that the grasshopper played and played and even got to enjoy himself in the snow when winter came," Alison said. "And the ant, well, the ant froze to death."
"Yeah. And you know what that means?"
"No. What does it mean?"
"It means that Moms and Dad shouldn't work all the time or they'll have no time to play with their girls and boys," she said.
So we agreed that she could go inside and that I'd join her soon. Jeff came home, I threw down the tools and we took our walk to Northside News, then he and I finished the front lawn. Later, the Ogdens came over and we played Yahtzee and Payday.
I don't know if I can ever fully embrace my inner grasshopper but it's good to let it leap out occasionally.
Friday, November 21, 2008
- Getting stuck in traffic (for nearly an hour on 86th Street)
- Missing dinner; and
- Having to eat cold vermicelli and chicken in the theater (thanks to Kate for smuggling for me.)
Amer and Lyn couldn't go tonight so I'm likely going to have to see it again....poor, poor me.
I might be saved from that obsession by my new one: I joined Facebook and now I'm all caught up in looking up old friends. It's a good think I can't drink.......
Sunday, November 16, 2008
His latest injury involved the opening of a coconut.
Hours after he'd gotten bandaged up and was licking his wounds in private, Alison and I harvested the coconut. She didn't like it much. I, however, am a fan. While Jeff was off on a business trip in Las Vegas, Alison and I were laying around like puppies and I had the container of coconut at hand. It was one of those nights when I was feeling lazy so we had Taco Bell.
Had Jeff been here, he would have insisted on something more healthy. But he wasn't. I was lazy, and it was Taco-ville. Except that I was still a little hungry, so I kept dipping into the chunks of coconut. There's a reason coconut is most commonly consumers in tiny shreds, mingled amongst sour cream or stuffed into chocolate or cookies.
Short of a person stuck on a desert island with nothing to offer but a palm tree for shade, I'm willing to wager that no one has suffered like I did the night I had coconut for dessert.
It was awful. It was painful. And well, let's face it: it was deserved.
Jeff's hand is on the mend, but today marks week 2 of no basketball. He's not really whining much about the pain he's still in, and he'd dutifully swallowing his lime-green antibiotics. The air travel has, however, temporarily deafened him. So now when he reminds me I wasn't a hugely supportive spouse during his time of injury, the whole neighborhood hears him.
Oh well. At least neither of us will be tempted by coconut again.
In Alison news, we've mostly hunkered down as Indiana has taken a decidedly wintery turn. Ali had an unexpected sleepover at the Ogdens, so Jeff accompanied me on the walk to the newspaper stand. Matt Elliot, aka Matt the Newspaper Man, claims he, too, has skewered his hand in search of fresh coconut meat. Men!
In the early afternoon, I went over to get Ali, Alex and Hannah for a walk from their house over to the library.
On the way back, it had started to spit snow and the kids tried to catch snowflakes in their mouths. It was fun, but we were all a little frostbitten by the time we wandered back to Chez Ogden. Once we got back in, we stayed inside.
Karin thinks I'm working out with her at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow. Wish me luck that I make it...
The picture is a sampling of Alison's fashion sense. Today she paired her favorite pink camoflage pants with a patterned pink top, my pink argyle anklets and her sneakers. I made her wear her winter coat and pink gloves for the walk. A good two inches of long leg peeked out, but she didn't complain of the cold. Any price for fashion, aye?
I'm thinking about my Dad, partly because Johnny Cash reminds me of him. Not that my Dad was a crazy drug-taking, alcoholic, philanderer saved by his Christian wife. My dad's tribulations came mostly from his health, his wife and his kids -- but he and Johnny Cash were hard scrabble Christian men with simple rules.
Plus, Johnny Cash sings my favorite line of all time in his song about a boy named Sue: "kickin' and a gougin' in the mud, the blood and the beer." Yeah, it's a little vengeful and violent and I don't know why that rhyme sticks in my head. It's ultimately a song about redemption, doing the right thing and forgiveness. And, I bet you don't know this, Shel Silverstein, acclaimed children's author, wrote it.
Which brings me to my point: doing the right thing.
Whatever faith you subscribe to or have recently rejected, all religion comes down to those four words. Hell, even the atheists and Wiccans subsribe to that thought.
So I'm sitting here reflecting on an issue currently roiling my siblings; recent news that people across the country are talking about the need to assassinate Barak Obama because he had the temerity (as a gasp, black man!) to run for elective office and win; and legislation banning the right of some people to marry.
What's wrong with us? How hard is it , really, to do the right thing?
My Dad had a pretty simply philosophy about how to behave. He never pushed his Pentecostal faith on people -- other than his children. But when we were old enough to drive, he pretty much let us make up own mind about religion. My Dad went about his life doing what was right rather than preaching about it.
He gathered up food for the poor and distributed it -- even once in the middle of either Christmas or Thanksgiving Dinner (which royally ticked off my mother.)
He visited the local jails, offering a friendly face and a talk if it was wanted. (I don't think he ever ran across my brother there, although chances were sometimes good.)
He didn't seek out controversy, hoping always that people would work out their own differences first -- but he'd give advice if asked.
And if he or his kids did something wrong, he tried to make it right. My mind is foggy on specifics, but I know that I didn't fear anything more in my life (still don't) than disappointing my Dad -- falling short in his eyes. He would forgive you anything if you tried to make up for it, though.
So when I screw up -- and you know as well as I do, that I do it early and often -- I try to make it right. It doesn't always work -- but as long as I still try, I figure I'm not a total shit.
Let's hope these idiots talking about assassination just shut up and consider that people are people. I don't think that "in his image" thing ever said what pigment came with the ability to stand, speak and reason. I think it would be hilarious if God turned out to be a strong black woman. Wouldn't that set some heads to reeling?
For the heteros who think it's OK to deny gay couples rights like hospital visitation, the ability to make health care decisions when they can't and even basic insurance coverage, I just wish they'd examine the divorce rate. And then I wish they'd evaluate whether they qualify for the institutional rights their little trips down the aisle gives them. Maybe we should limit everyone to one marriage per lifetime. Anything more, you don't get the rights and perks -- would that do it? (I'm not saying people shouldn't get married as often as they want; I just think anyone who wants to do it should be able to.)
As for my family's issue du'jour, I shouldn't get too specific. I'm sure to offend someone -- if I haven't already. Let's just please do the right thing. WWDD, people?!
But back to Johnny. I don't know what the Man in Black would say about the state of our country today. But he sang once about why he wears black and essentially it was to represent all the people who didn't get a fair shake in life. Until things got better, he'd wear black.
Sadly, I think he'd have no need today to change his wardrobe. Here's your song for the day:
The Man in Black
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.
Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.
Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I've been less than sympathetic to her occasional complaints of hitting the milestone. Partly because I have climbed that particular hill and partly because she's the size of a twig and looks like she just graduated from college.
We met up with John, Lisa, Lynn (Lisa's Mom) and two new (but way cool) friends -- Kierstin and Ken Cincinnati. (I don't remember their last names, so I'm pulling out a Margaret Burlingame trick and naming them after their city of residence.) After the champagne at the Conrad, we went to Fogo de Chao -- aka Adkins Diet Heaven.
It's a Brazilian steakhouse where the waiters walk around with skewers of roasted meat looking for what look like red paper coasters on the tables. You start out with a green coaster, which you keep green as long as you're grazing on the salad bar. When your internal carnivore kicks in, you flip it over to red. And the meat doesn't stop until you go back to green. Or fall over dead in your chair.
I think Jeff may have eaten an entire calf, and Ken finished off its mother. I don't know about the rest of the crew: I was too mesmerized by the "bring it on!" comments from across the table. It was amazing. It's an experience you should try, but don't eat for a couple of days before you go. And don't even hint of your plans to any of your vegetarian friends. I'm surprised there's not a standing PETA picket outside this place.
When the boys couldn't choke down another bite, we said goodby to the gauchoes and headed back to the hotel for more drinking and a visit by night owls Tina Noel and Megan Garver, fresh from a bash we'd had to skip: a Democratic gathering hosted by Judy O'Bannon. It was partly in honor of Jonathan Swain's great work helping Barak Obama turn Indiana blue for the first time since I was born (literally) and partly just an excuse to get good friends together. That party turned out to be a hit, too, and we were sorry we missed it. But Lisa's only turning 40 once, and we hope Indiana will be blue for many years to come.
Saturday I spent most of the with my sisters and niece in Brazil, IN. We met up to show our respects to Richard Monday, whose mother passed away. Mr. Monday (why is it that 20 years later you still think of teacher by their title?) teaches biology and chemistry at Shakamak High School. He was in his third year there when my sister Donna came into his class. He taught all of us, and now he's teaching my nieces and nephews. He's always lived in Terre Haute and commuted down to teach three counties away. It added to his mystique. We all considered him a big city sophisticate.
I remember one year thinking I'd take psychology instead of geometry. My first day of class, Mr. Monday and Mr. Weir, my algebra teacher came to the door to chat with the phsycology teacher. Funny, I can't remember her name but I do remember that you could sometimes see through her dresses. Anyway, they dragged me out of there and sent me off to geometry, having decided I shouldn't waste my time outside math and science. The next year, I chose newspaper over chem II. While it ticked Mr. Monday off, I didn't give in, and it sort of worked out for me.
I've thought for years that he'd harbored a grudge about me dumping his class after spending three years with him. I don't see him often, but he never, ever recognizes me. He always knows everyone else in my family -- of course, he sees them or their kids every day.
When I saw him a few weeks ago when I went back to Shakamak to give a speech (I think I mentioned this earlier) it was as if time stood still. The kids still loved him and called out to get his attention, and he always gave it. I introduced myself and after a while, he agreed that yeah, I was me.
I had this passage in my speech about how success means different things to different people at different times in their life and how definitions change over time. After seeing him there, I meant to add a line something like success doesn't have to mean you leave your home town. It might mean you're a science teacher in a small town who finds a way to push kids to work hard and do their best. But of course I got nervous and forgot my impromptu tribute.
At the funeral home, we were among the early arrivals, and you could tell that the line of visitors would be long. Mr. Monday was trying his best to be stoic, but he was really shaken. I was last in line, and watched as he spent time with Nancy (who's teaching at the school and sees him often,) Annie (who graduated just last year) Donna, (one of his all-timefavorite students.) He was very emotional, and you could tell that he was happy to see them.
And then he got to me, and in the midst of his tears and the day he had ahead of me, he said, "Cheryl! I just saw you just a few days ago. You did great that night."
I'm 44 years old. I haven't sat in his class for 27 years. But he's still got the ability to pump me up. And he's still such a great teacher than in the midst of what has to be among the worst days of his life, he takes the time to make a positive point to a student.
That's a great teacher. Shakamak is going to lose a great asset when he packs up his chalk.
Today, we just hung around the house. It was really cold, and after our walk to the newspaper stand, Ali and I decided we'd break open a coconut I'd bought a while back. I'd forgotten exactly how to crack open the thing. Alison suggested a chainsaw.
I told her I didn't think we needed to go that far, but we got distracted, and left the coconut on the counter. Jeff came upon it and decided to take charge. He thought he needed an ice-pick, but we don't have one.
A screwdriver seemed the next best thing. Now if you know Jeff at all, you know he should be no where near screwdrivers. Unless they're drinkable.
But he insists on being handy, so we have all kinds of screwdrivers and drills and other manly items. So he gets out the screwdriver, planning to poke through one of two little holes that had to be the inspiration for the first bowling balls.
I was in the living room, minding my own business reading when I hear the commotion. Rather than pushing through the coconut, the screwdriver had managed to find itself in the webbing between Jeff's pointer finger and thumb. Made a pretty big hole, tool.
Now Jeff has hearing issues. He talks loudly anyway, but his hearing loss sometimes makes him lose all sense of volume control. When he's in pain -- or sees it approaching -- he tends to "go to eleven" if you know what I mean. With Ali in the room, he managed not to curse but the decibel level was pretty extreme.
I think he's OK now. There wasn't much blood. He declined to visit the E.R. And he eventually wandered back to the coconut and got it open.
I'm going to hide the screwdrivers and never buy coconut in its natural state again.
Alison helped do laundry and switch out summer clothes for winter. In the midst of it, she decided that one of our laundry baskets could have a dual purpose. She spent most of the afternoon in it and wanted to sleep there, too. Somehow her better judgment took over.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
"Mommy, do you think we should have picked up my costume before tonight? What if it doesn't fit or something is wrong?"
Now this would be a perfectly reasonable question if A.) we weren't talking about Dona and B.) she didn't have a flawless track record.
"Alison Reed! In six years, has your Aunt Donna ever done you wrong?"
She pondered. "No, but....."
So we pick up the costume and have a wonderful dinner. On the way home, I asked Ali if she thought Donna had done OK this year.
"Oh, Mommy. It's the best costume I've ever seen in my whole life," she said. "It's better than anything she's ever done before."
She's been bragging about her costume ever since. And I can't blame her. Every year, we think it can't be a better outfit, yet it always is. I'm including two shots of the outfit so you can see the detail. The spiderwebbing put it over the top.
We had a great Halloween. The centerpiece was the performance of Alex Vielee who climbed inside a wooden crate, stayed silent until they got close enough to reach for the candy on top and then yelled and jumped until they screamed. My neighbor is still shaking after we sent her to the box to get some candy and Alex scared the bejesus out of her. Frankly, he scared me more when he showed up in a John McCain mask -- but that would scare anyone.
John, Jeff and most of the kids were responsible for the decor, spreading spider webs and bugs, rats and creepy stuff. They even rigged up a spider they would drop on people as they wandered around the yard. Lisa and I worked in the kitchen getting the Table of Terror and the food set up. Our cupcakes may not have looked exactly like the magazine, but they were pretty good.
The Table of Terror -- Alison's concept thanks to Geronimo Stilton -- was a hit with the smaller kids. Expecially when John and Jeff went through it.
We had pretty much eviscerated a witch to develop the terrors. We had bowls of her eyeballs, her guts, her brains and her fingernails, along with a bucket of blood. To get through the challenge, you had to dig deep into each one while blindfolded. The real winners munched on an eyeball before ripping off the blindfold.
There was an unfortunate incident when some of the witch's eyes inadvertently got spattered on Helen, but overall, we had more shrieks of fun fear than real terror. Out front in the box, we did scare the fluid out of one little boy, but we'd warned his father, so any nightmares that ensued are on that guy.
Hope you had a great time, too. See below for the entire crew. And a look back at costumes past.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
She looked up, worried. "Mommy, today I got my report card," she said.
Unconcerned, I said, "Yeah. I bet you did great."
"Well," she said. "There's something I need to tell you."
She was so worried, I got concerned.
"There's one part I don't understand," she said. "Do you know what ginder means? Maybe it's genfal. I can't remember what it is, but Mommy, there's an "F" under it."
She had the exact demeanor she has when she has to confess a conduct cut and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what she was talking about. "Gandalf? Gimlet? Grasshopper? WTF???!!!"
We sat down right there in the hallway and opened up her backpack. You're probably smarter than I am and figured this out already.
There, on the top line above the columns that listed out her "A's" for schoolwork, her B+ for conduct and her B for handwriting, was her identification. Student: Alison Reed. Grade: 2. Gender: F.
I wanted to laugh so much, but she was near tears, fearing she'd failed something she couldn't pronounce. She was much relieved to add to her vocabulary. I'm sure we'll laugh about it soon.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Alison and the Ogden kids are working on some decorations right now; Ali and I made cupcakes and cookies yesterday; and Hannah, Ali and I made a marathon shopping expedition for other supplies. This evening, Helen and Ali and I carved up some pumpkins, so we're getting close to ready.
Last night we had the Ogdens, and deep in the Halloween spirit, I picked up a $5 copy of Gostbusters, thinking it would be a fun flick. They didn't last beyond the librarian scene before they begged for something lighter.
Tonight with Helen snuggled on one side, Ali on the other and Jeff on the other side, we tried again. We go to the part where the EPA shut them down and all the ghosts escaped. I remember that movie being so much fun -- could I have been older when it came out? Or are our kids just wusses?
No matter. We have four days till H-day. I'm sure we'll be doing something each night after school to prepare for the party. On Thursday night we'll meet Aunt Donna and pick up Alison's super spectacular Halloween costume --another Donna special. Ali is going to be a witch -- she's been in training for a while.
Alex and Alison Vielee are in charge of the haunted back yard on Friday. A primary feature will be a werewolf who's been locked up in this killer crate I scored from work. Whoever is inside it will rattle and moan (and possibly emerge) hopefully right when some unsuspecting kids walk by. Alex hit up his Grandpa with a little spooky seed money that I slipped him, along with the family discount, for other stuff. So I think our yard will be full of mummies and monsters, dripping blood and moaning up a storm.
I was hoping to have an apple bob into a clear bowl full of live goldfish and a few apples, but Karin has forbidden that, lest the fishes leach out bacteria. (I know! I can't believe I've caved and let the idea go...) Also on the potential list is taking off the blade of our chainsaw and having someone chase the kids. I think Jeff's lawyer-side will kick in for that one, but a girl can dream.
If you hear screaming (and I hope you do) from our neck of the woods on Friday, don't call the police. Just bring some beer and come on by to witness it up close. Set your expectations low; this is our first time out of the goulish gate.
We'll start the haunting after the younger kids finish trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.
It should be fun. There should be no real blood and any buckets that seem full of guts will actually be something that just looks and/or feels like guts. No animals or humans will be harmed in preparation or execution of said haunting.
Everyone's welcome, but given that most of this will be done under cover of darkness, if your kids are coming, please attend with them and be on hand should anything untoward be frightened out of them.
Just because I'm a habitual eavesdropper, I'll leave you with words from the paint crew on the back porch:
"Hey, let's pretend that I'm the boss of all of you," Alex says.
"But you're working on a project," the redhead points out.
"Well bosses don't work. They just tell people what to do," she explained...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Micajah Green, my teenage friend and daughter of my cousin Howard and his wife Cheryl, invited me to speak at the induction ceremony of the newest members of National Honor Society.
In addition to being a knockout with a crazy temper, Micajah is president on NHS, editor (2nd year running) of the school yearbook, member of the local volunteer fire department and a former Miss Flame. (I think she can earn her college tuition if she sold a calendar of just that photo. It's from her senior picture montage. I'm not going to share my senior picture ever again.)
I was nervous, I have to admit. It had been a long time since I'd been home to see anyone other than my siblings, and the last time I did anything close to official at the school was when I was still a student there. But I like Micajah, and it turns out my nephew Daniel was one of the inductees.
So I get down there, practicing what I could say along the way. Under the best circumstances I'm a bad driver. It's a good thing traffic was light on I-70... I stopped off at my sister Nancy's (mother of said scholar, Daniel) and had some soup. It was really good, and the fact that I was worried it wouldn't stay down wasno reflection at all on the chef.
I get to the school and not much had changed. The chairs in the cafeteria were different than when the Infamous Hot Dog Incident had occurred. But the principal's office was still in the same place. (Oh, yes: I knew it well.)
I saw a lot of people I remembered from school. They were mostly my age and younger. Now in Jasonville, there's not that much to do, but you generally aren't so desperate to spend your Monday night at the NHS induction ceremony. We do have TV, you know.
No, these people I'd grown up with (and more than a few who came after me) were there because their children were being inducted or were already in NHS. Yeah. Their kids are getting ready to graduate and mine is 7. I felt like one of those 60-year-old women who have babies.
I saw Lori Bitz Smith, too. She graduated with one of my sisters. Back when Jeff and I were dating we were in Jasonville for homecoming and I introduced her to Jeff. She looked him up and down and wondered aloud "How did YOU get HIM?"
I saw my friend Cheri Yeryar's parents, who I've always loved. And Barbara Miller, a lovely woman who was sort of our neighbor and who told me she missed my Mom and Dad, too. The Dormans who now own the local newspaper were there, too. The were there for their grandson. Yep, I used to hang out with their daughter Beth, the kid's mom.
I saw Mr. Monday, the legendary SHS science teacher who had seen my older siblings through biology and chemistry and who had gotten mad at me when I decided to work on the school newspaper instead of taking Chem II. I'd taken Bio I and II with him, but the newspaper was calling my name. He thought I was taking the easy way out.
While I give him props for pushing me to acheive in school and life (and I am grateful for that) he was wrong when he thought I'd chosen poorly.
Clearly I do not belong near chemicals. (How he missed it I don't know) It wasn't that long ago that I inadvertently mixed up something akin to mustard gas while cleaning the toilet with my own combination of ammonia, bleach and vinegar. Thinking I was clever, I'd poured the concoction into the bowl, then closed the lid to let it simmer.
I remember opening the lid to check on things. When I came to, the air was hazy and Jeff was yelling at me. (OK. That's a slight exaggeration. I didn't pass out, but my eyes watered and man did Jeff yell at me...)
As for biology, I'll just remind you of the time I was driving my fun little, red two-seater convertible to my folks home for a summer family dinner when I came across two turtles crossing the road. I stopped and put them in the car thinking the kids would like to play with them.
They were snapping turtles. And none to happy to be in my car.
They tried to escape and got under my feet while I was trying to drive. Snapping turtles got their name because they snap at you and bite when they can. (Maybe they should all be named Stitches, Amer.) I don't remember how I made it home that time.
I'm not sure the world of journalism needed me, but I needed it. Can you imagine what might have happened to the world with me in a science role? Ugh.
But back to the NHS speech. Part of why Micajah asked me to speak was because I was a former NHS member myself. (I'm not sure how, either. Maybe it was easier to get into back then...) Anyway, I rattled on for a while and didn't get dragged off the stage with a hook, so I guess I wasn't the worst speaker ever.
Once it was over, it was fun to see everyone. Howard and my sister Donna got there after I'd spoken, which is great. I love Howard. But he's tall and loud and I'm fairly certain I would have forgotten how to speak at all. It was much better to hang out after...
The neighborhoods around the dance studio aren't bad, but there are some areas where we go quicker than in others. As we rounded one corner, we saw a bunch of little boys playing in the street. Turns out they were chasing a dog. I thought they were playing but when we realized they were chasing the little mutt just ahead of us, we offered to join in.
Amer got to the little dog first. She crouched down and cooed to the little fella.
"Hey lady, know what our dog's name is?" the kids say to me.
With the crouching Amer in my periphery, I say, "Nope. What's your dog's name?"
"Stitches," he says.
"Huh," I say, not really caring about the dog and wondering just how long my work out is going to be interrupted while Amy fawns all over the fleabag.
"Know why we call him that?" the kid asks.
"Come on Stitches, Come her fella," Amer croons.
"Cause he bites," says the kid. "And people have to get stitches."
"Uh, Amer," I say, reaching out. "Back away from the dog."
"Huh?" she says, annoyed that I'm stretching on her shirt.
"Back. Away. From. The DOG!," I say, through gritted teeth. "He's a biter!"
"Ack!" she says and nearly falls down trying to get away.
We came as close to jogging as the pair of us will ever get. Stitches and his band of little brothers went off in search of another victim.
I think I lost 10 pounds on the way back laughing at Amy.
Tomorrow night, we're taking a different path, though.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Even if you don't follow baseball, you have to admit this has been an amazing series.
Yesterday, we drove down to our friend's lakehouse for a little Fall Break R&R. Ali went down early with John but I had a hair appointment and Jeff was waiting on delivery of our new stove. The old one, which had come with the house, had finally died. Jeff was willing to skip his Sunday morning basketball game but was planning to watch the game after dinner. While he trusted Lisa's word that the lakehouse had a Dish and of course would offer the game, he still prevailed upon Godfather Bob for a way to watch online should the Dish fall off the deck.
That morning, Jeff had pulled the stove out, planning to make the stove swap as quick as possible. You'd be amazed at the amount of stuff that can live under a stove. It may be that we live like pigs, but it was disgusting. Jeff started the job, but I ended up finishing it, using nearly a whole roll of paper towels, ruining a sponge and removing a coffee can full of grease and crumbs from the stove, the floor, the cabinets and the wall behind the stove.
I can safely say our kitchen is cleaner than it's ever been. I missed the actual stove swap, but I'm hoping the deliver guys when home and told their wives about the incredibly clean house they'd been to today. I deserve to be the stuff of legends in the appliance delivery world, man.
So we get the stove all squared away and get down to the lakehouse. It was a beautiful day with the leaves turning and the sky full of nothing but blue. It couldn't have topped 60 but Ali and Fletcher had already taken a dip.
It was a long drive for dinner but well worth it. Well, there was a glitch: turns out the Dish didn't carry TBS. Jeff watched the game online. He was a trooper and didn't complain. Mostly because the Sox pulled another one out. Ali and I ventured out for a little grocery/Halloween party shopping but otherwise just hung out at home.
Our Halloween bash should be fun. We've enlisted Alex and his friends to haunt the backyard. You should come by if you're in Indy October 31. I'm contemplating buying some live feeder goldfish for the bobbing for apples bowl -- wouldn't that be a hoot? I'm worried about what to do with the fish after -- I wonder if you can return them?
Uh-oh. The Rays have tied it up and just sent the Sox back to the field 3 up; 3 down.
The basement has gone silent. I'd better go check that Jeff hasn't offed himself.......
Sunday, October 12, 2008
We started our weekend with Ali and me on horseback at Fort Benjamin Harrison on Friday afternoon. Yes, I played hooky. It was a Brownie trip, and I think those Brownie moms are starting to grow on me. All except one, maybe. There's always one...
So I was feeling good Friday evening. We were only on the horses for about 40 minutes, but it works muscles you don't often remember you have. I wasn't in pain at all, and it had been fun.
Then Karin calls and asks us to join her for a 5K walk Saturday morning. Sure! I'm in good shape. Jeff even decided to go, and it was a lot of fun.
Ali and Alex didn't even notice the miles ticking away as we walked downtown along the canal. Afterward, the kids wanted to get their faces painted, so Karin and I did, too. We looked marvelous.
Afterward, Karin and Dale took Alison to play for a while. Karin and I promised to do all of our Saturday errands without wiping off the makeup.
The lady at my dry cleaners didn't bat an eye. No one was around the recycling area to gawk at me, but at Kroger, a few people made comments. Lots of them were amused.
When I got home I found a 70 percent off postcard for Harold's at the Fashion Mall. I go to Harold's only for sales. It's a great little shop but wicked expensive. The clothes are well made, so when they're way on sale, they're good to buy. The ladies at Harold's were not impressed with my makeup artists, and the clothes were not impressed with my little adventure with exercise and Alli.
Jeff was with me, and I think he cursed the experience when, as we walked in, he recalled our first (and only) shopping venture together at a new store called Bebe.
We'd never heard of it, and I was looking for a dress to wear to his hoity-toity law firm Christmas party. That was before Alison. Back in my thin days. I was cocky. We went into this store and I quickly learned that what I'd taken to be mannequins were actually human beings who's last meal was back when their moms were spooning it in.
The loved Jeff. Unaware of the angst to come, I was ushered quickly to a dressing room. She swooshed that curtain closed, spun on her stiletto and started cooing at Jeff. I didn't care. I was confident in my relationship and my sveltness. And then I tried on the size Medium glittery dress.
I knew Bebe was French. I had assumed the translation of American dress sizes wouldn't be such a language barrier. Apparently, though, "Medium" in Bebe-speak is Size 4 in America. There is no Size 8 in Bebe. I asked for a "Large." It turned out to be a 6. I literally got stuck in that damn dress and couldn't get it off.
Meanwhile, the stick figures were hopping all over Jeff as if he were Hugh Hefner and they were the Girls Next Door. A thin velvet curtain away, trapped in a shower-stall sized dressing room, I was sweating bullets all over the dress and calling for help. No one came. No one cared.
Some parts of the dress may have been harmed as I tore it off, but when I'd finally escaped, I threw it over the top of the curtain and asked, politely as I could, if we could leave that fine establishment. I'm not sure if the dress actually hit Jeff in the head, but I'm sure the stick figures did not approve.
My time at Harold's was much the same on Saturday. I could get into the skirt, at least, but I just wasn't feeling it. And when I looked in the mirror and saw my painted face and stubby legs, it was just over.
I'd forgotten that I had the face paint, and suddenly it made sense why the sales ladies weren't fawning all over me. Then, my back started hurting and I decided I was too old for freakin' horseback riding and 5K walking.
Later that night, we were at a Christ the King 2nd grade parents' party and Diane, the hostess, asked me if I'd been at Costco that day because she'd chased a little red head through the store thinking it was Ali only to find her with an unknown woman. I said, no, but joked that I'd heard a news account of an APB out for a strange woman chasing kids at Costco. Later, she heard me talking about face painting and said, "you know that little red-headed girl had face painting, and so did her mom."
Diane was relieved that she hadn't chased a strange kid, and I was relieved that Karin had looked just as silly out in public as I had.
This morning, Ali and I rode the tadem over to the newspaper stand and then Alison and the Ogden kids practiced riding their bikes at the Glendale parking lot while Karin and I power-walked.
There was an elderly couple there as well. The husband was using a cane. They walk the Glendale parking lot circuit when the weather is good, and today was a good day. They ambled along, happy as could be to enjoy the bright sun, the blue sky and the chance to put one foot in front of the other.
I know I'll never be a stick figure unless I forgo the embalming and a wait a decade or so, but I'm feeling just fine about myself right now.
Maybe 20 years from now Jeff will have given up basketball and it'll be him and me strolling around empty parking lot in the sunshine getting a little exercise. Of course I'll probably have the cane...
Oh! hey, light a candle for the Sox, would ya?. I crashed before the end of the game last night, but Jeff stayed up til the bitter end........He's still crushed. Only the Colts win saved his mood. Alison's soothing, "That's OK Dad. There's always next year," didn't help.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Yesterday was the big breakthrough. This evening, she showed off for Mom in a parking lot that was designed as overflow for Glendale Mall. It's mostly unused. Freshly asphalted, it was a perfect venue for her two-wheel slaloming.
She's perfected the stop. The start is a little shaky, and her turns are smooth and graceful, but wide; hence the empty lot as the perfect venue.
Her legs are bit too long for her bike, which helps with the wipeouts.
Jeff is so proud he's already planning to get her a new bike for Christmas.
Alison is 7, now, and getting to be a bit more modest than her days of streaking through the house with nary a stitch of clothing in sight. She's generally OK with me seeing her in the altogether; less so with her father. She's also been told more than once that when she's demanding, she gets less off what she wants, but good manners go a long way to getting her what she wants. Hence, the following request that came when Jeff entered her room to check on how quickly she was getting into her pjs:
"Now, could you politely get out of my room? I don't want you to see me butt naked," she informed him.
A few of you have asked how the Alli is going, and I'm happy to report that it's going well. I'm eating better for fear of public embarrassment. Whatever it takes, aye? But I won't lead you astray that there are no side effects. While snuggling in bed Alison decided she needed to reassure me of the depths of her devotion. Unsolicited, she declared: "Mom, I love you. Even when you stink up my bathroom."
Jeff was talking to Alison in the car the other day. I don't even remember the subject matter, but he was apparently a bit too generic in his description.
"Dad, could you be more pacific?" she asked.
Just to follow that last one up, Saturday afternoon Ali and I were digging holes in yard planting bulbs and mums and decorating for Halloween. She wanted her own shovel so I sent her into the garage to get a spade. "You know what that is, right?" I said.
"Yes," she said, trotting off, only to come trotting back.
"Mo-om. I said I knew what it was, but I don't know where it is," she complained.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Among the latest things I'm celebrating is my friendship with Lois Stewart, who's birthday we gathered for last week at the Cater Me Cafe on the Northside of Indianapolis.
I met Lois back in my FOB days. She instilled some much-needed ladylike skills in me, including instruction on when I needed to wear a slip. She never approved when profanity took over my mouth, but she always forgave me.
She made me a better person than when I entered those enormous double doors, and I'll always be grateful, if not the lady she'd rather I be. Happy Birthday Lola!
We did have a tragedy, though: one of Ali's snails committed suicide by crawling out of his fish tank. She did everything short of CPR but Jeff decided it'd been dry too long and let the snail slip off its mortal coil.
Ever since Ali could decide what to wear on her own, she's shunned blue jeans, deciding they were too uncomfortable. She's flat-out refused to wear them, but encouraged by her dad and the option of earning school "money" she agreed to wear jeans to school for Spirit Day. Now, she can't get enough of 'em. It's about time. For a kid who's as much a tomboy as she is, the skirts and thin pants were doing a number on her knees.
And now, an excerpt from shameless eavesdropping on Alison and the Ogden kids:
"I've know you longer than any of your other friends, Alison," said Alex over pasta and red sauce Monday night.
"That's not true, Alex. I've known Jenna longer than anyone," she said through a mouthfull of shells.
"Nu-huh," he said. "I met you in Day Nursery."
"Yeah, but Jenna and met when we were still inside our mommie's bellies," she said patiently, knowing it was a bit of a revelation.
"What?!" said both Ogden kids. Even Hanna was fully engaged by now.
"Yeah, we were friends before we were even on the outside," Alison said.
"Wow," was the response.
"Yeah, and do you know how we got out of there?"
"We came out from our mommies' vaginas!"
"I know. But it's true."
"Gross. Hey, we came out of our mommy's vagina, too!"
"Yep. That's how it works."
Happily for me, the conversation ended there. Amer is on the edge of her seat wondering what I'll come up with if they ever ask how they got in there. I'm actually wondering that myself...
The photo to your left is what happens when kids making funny faces get carried away. They actually accidentally touched tongues, which freaked both of them out.
They had parked themselves on the roof of Alison's little playhouse and came really close to falling right off.
No desserts were lost in the making of these photos.
I labeled the picture of their tongues as "LikeMothersLikeDaughters." This is why:
Sunday, September 21, 2008
It's been a great weekend. Mostly because my friend Jeph Slaughter is cancer-free again but he celebrated a milestone birthday. He's now officially an adult whether he wants to be or not. We had a great Bunconian birthday bash for him. So great that I left my camera at Lynda's.
Jeff and I had date night at Irish fest and then at the movies. We were supposed to hook up with Lisa Sirkin, John Vielee and company but we only caught a glimpse. They spent three days at the festival of green. I think they should be in recovery as I type.
While Jeff pretended to be a plumber, Alison and I spent the morning biking to the newspaper stand where her current favorite adult -- Josh -- snuck her a piece of bubble gum. She had fallen in love with Matt from the newspaper stand back when she could barely walk and he snuck her her first lollipop. He's now good only for grilled cheese. Josh is her new favorite newspaper man. I fear I'll turn around and she'll be standing around with the boys around the newscounter smoking a stogie and swapping stories about what she did last night.
It's only a matter of time, I think.
On the way home, we saw that the local produce stand has a bumper crop of pumpkins, so we got home, got out the wagon and walked down. $30 later, we came home with three massive pumpkins, some farm fresh tomatoes, potatoes and small gourds. We decorated a little bit for fall, deciding it was just too early to get out the Halloween gear.
It's been a great day in Indiana. Coolish weather, just a few bugs. It's shaping up well.
Ali's next door at a bounce house that's leftover from Chelsea's birthday party. All the neighborhood kids are in it. I'm at outside, just a fence away listening to them argue about who has to be the monkey in the middle. The little one doesn't want to be the monkey and is protesting mightily. (Brings back my days of all-day-catcher in the backyard at home.) I'm on her side.
Hope you're having fun! Thanks to all who are helping with Flat Rachael.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
My little friend, Rachael Weir needs some help from you travelers. (she's the second one in from the left -- one of Alison's fabled cousins.)
She's got a school assignment that takes off on the Flat Stanley phenomenon by requiring the kids to make a drawing of themselves and have it photographed in all kinds of places around the globe. So far, channeling Johnny Cash, she's been to Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and is planning stops in Georgia, the Sullivan County Jail (courtesy of an employee NOT an inmate,) deep in the bowels of an underground coal mine, at Butler University and what's left of Texas.
We'll have her in Maine for Christmas, but they need Flat Rachael to go everywhere, man.
If you're willing, it'll work this way: Jaime (my niece) will send you, via postal mail, your very own Flat Rachael. You take her out and photograph her doing something fun that illustrates a certain setting, and mail the photo back to Jaime. Your could have her:
- climbing up a mountain
- riding a horse
- on a ferry going across the Sound
- at an airport
- in a dentist's chair
- addressing Congress
- getting a massage
- field dressing a moose with Sarah Palin
- getting her nails done
- cheering Barak Obama after he wins the election
- studying corrosion formulas in Boise
- gambling on a river boat
You get the idea.
Jaime promises to send you only Flat Rachael, and not any kind of goofy stuff. She'll also refrain from putting you on "some pyscho mailing list" (her words; which make me wonder if she actually can do that.) She'll keep you posted on all of Flat Rachael's trips if you want, too.