Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You call that dancing?

Can I just say that I knew going in that it would be a challenge. How I let Amy Tokash talk me into taking a dance class, I don't know. And that rat hasn't even shown up for the last two weeks.

I'm a white girl. While I can spell rhythm, I have none. I'm so far away from having rhythm that I can't even hear its echo. As for grace? I have a fish named Grace, and she's only recently entered my life.

I once got out of high school gym class because it was 6 weeks of dancing. I hated the gym teacher, and she hated me right back. So I remembered that my parents were fundamentalists -- strict Pentecostals. And dancing is a sin if you're Pentecostal. I got religion real fast and spent the 6 weeks in study hall, far away from the horrid Ms. Stroud.

Looking back on it, I guess it wasn't my best decision. At least rhythm-wise. It was good to have some distance between me and the shrew.

It's possible that I may have learned something back then, though, that would have helped me out tonight. I am in this class with women who have danced since they were children. They're really sweet and supportive, but I'm like a hippo in a room full of butterflies. They're lucky I haven't trampled any of them.

Know anyone who might like to join me in the back row? I'd buy the first round after, and I'd probably pay your entry fee. You don't have to have overcome a fundamentalist religion. But those with rhythm need not apply.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bobby and Helen make Sunday paper -- no mugshots

Check out Bobby and Helen Small's kitchen featured in the Indy Star. It's the lead story in the Living Section yesterday. That house is truly amazing, and the reporter wouldn't have been given room to tell all of the stories.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guilty Mom Club

At a work lunch the other day, I blurted out a comment about how I could never be a stay-at-home mom and that I have job so I won’t be around my child 24/7. It didn’t come out right, and it wasn’t in context, and it seemed to scare a couple of newly married women who are eager to join the Mommy Club.

I realized I’d sounded a bit harsh when the ladies’ jaws dropped down as far as their eyes went wide. They dropped their forks and looked at me as if I had suddenly morphed into Joan Crawford.

Guilt dropped down, fast, and heavy as a brick house. “What I mean is, I’m a better mom because I’m not with Alison all day long. I’m more patient; I listen; we have fun. If I was with her all the time, I don’t think I’d be as attentive and I’d be crankier more often. It’s just not my nature,” I stammered. But I’d lost my audience. I wore the Cruella Deville label the rest of the day.

And just when I was feeling good about myself, too! I’d heard on NPR last week that kids who have highly structured play dates and go from ballet to soccer to music lessons and never get the chance to anything but follow orders are losing a very necessary skill: "imaginative play. " As I listened to the report, I was struck by all the things I was apparently doing right. Finally! Validation. I won't have to join this club I'd just read about called the Guilty Moms Club!

In case you missed the NPR report, the buzz words "imaginative play," describe what we all used to think of as your basic childhood. Apparently getting your toys to talk to each other, playing unstructured games and entertaining yourself is what helps you later in life make decisions on your own and solve problems that come along.

So our parents were masters of imaginative play and they were smart enough to never share that knowledge with us. Remember when you had to play on your own because your mom told you to “turn that TV off and get outside and play right now!” She didn't want the TV all to herself. She didn't want to hear herself think. She was making sure you had problem-solving skills. Skills you'd need later with your own kids.

I talked about this with Karin today as we laid around her house reading newspapers and gossiping while the kids engaged in some “imaginative play.” I told her about my faux pas at work but we’d both heard the NPR bit, so we decided we’re both OK as parents. Even if we do work and even if we were reading the paper and gossiping while the kids minded themselves. I mean had their imaginative play time.

After a while, we decided we’d been too lazy to continue to qualify as good parents and had to get the kids outside. So we took a walk to the library. It’s not far from Karin’s house, and the kids had a blast on the way playing in what was left of the snow and sliding down the one hill there is between Karin’s and the library.

I thought for a minute that it was a bad idea: we did have to walk back and they were getting wet. But they were having fun.

As we were leaving the library, sweet little Alex wasn’t nice at all to his mother. God love her, Karin decided he would have to (gasp!) carry his own books home. It was a shocker to Alex, who is normally a very well behaved kid who adores his mom. He was not at all happy about his literal burden, and the walk back wasn’t nearly as fun as the getting there had been.

But what a good example of good parenting! Karin gave him his books and just set off, not giving in to his pleading, and not making Hannah carry all of her books just to even things out. “Hannah wasn’t mean to me,” was all she said in answer to his notation of the discrepancy.

I’m guessing that Alex won’t be snotty to his Mom for a long time, and I wonder if I’d have made such a good decision and kept to it. So yeah, I’m still trying to get out from under the load of guilt bricks.

Speaking of guilt, I did escape another huge pile brought on by my not being organized and missing Keri McGrath’s baby shower. I called to apologize and beg forgiveness and learned that little Oscar has arrived. I'm going to see him soon. Pictures are allegedly making their way to me, and I'm making the road trip to Anderson.

For those of you who know and love Keri (infamous for her love of Granny panties and horror films) she’s doing a great job. Burger is jealous of the baby, though… I’ll share the pix when they arrive.

Lights, Camera, Jeff Reed!

Jeff Reed has hit the airwaves in Philadelphia, and he may be appearing in Miami, Columbus, Cincinnati, Scranton and Dayton soon, too. You can see him in two segments, one on ticket brokers and the other on whether to go DIY or call in a pro. He's not the star, but you know even George Clooney started out as an extra. (I totally made that up. Don't tell George. Or Jeff for that matter...)

While I think he's excited about his TV debut, it was a lot of work and a big favor for me for Jeff to putter around and let us film him for Angie's List segments. He does love to get out his tool box.

Jeff joins a long list of friends who've let me use their homes as backdrops for our TV partners. Jonathan Swain, who I followed to Angie's List, started this tradition of calling on friends to help with the segments. (I wonder if it was my kick-ass performance on a Channel 8 segment on wedding that got me this gig...?) I keep thinking we should just buy his house here and use it as a set, but that wouldn't be as much fun for me.

"Using" friends essentially means I get paid to hang out my peeps. So far, Bobby Small, Peggy Boehm, Karin Ogden, along with Margaret, Jim and even Daisy Burlingame have helped us out. If you're not on this list, your time is coming. (This is your only warning: if I call you during work day and you pick up, I'll assume your answer is yes.)

Uh-oh, I've got to run. Ali just popped in to say she's conducting an experiment to see if plants will grow in her Moon Sand. Photoshoot to follow...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Return of Propeller Boy, and 10 Years In

Originally uploaded by TeamReed
Ten years ago as Jeff and I were unwrapping the last of our wedding gifts, we came across three presents from people we didn’t know. We’d had cleverly disguised gifts from other friends – a set of cook wear wrapped in paper designed with frogs, for example – but had no idea who had sent us a crocheted toilet paper cover, a doorstop goose and a hand-painted ceramic statue who came to be known as Propeller Boy.

Turned out it was our friend Ed Kaufman playing a little trick while unloading some unwanted family heirlooms. Five years after that, Ed bought a new house and his housewarming gifts included Propeller Boy. So when he approached Jeff at work last week bearing an anniversary gift, the gag was up before the wrapping fell away. Somehow I think PB will find his way back home again…

(Just to be silly, I added a few pics from 2-14-98. They're on your right. It's a small sampling to either take you back or join me in regretting that we didn't know you yet, for you surely would have been with us that day.)

We had a great VD lunch with Bob and Kathy Johnson. Bob was gracious enough to put aside his nerves, become judge for the day and officially send us into the bonds of wedded bliss. B&K threw us a great engagement party, too. For last week’s occasion, they presented us with a print they’d found in NYC a year ago that reminded them of us. (In addition to being absentminded, they’re shop-a-holics. We haven’t encouraged them to get cured because we like it when we benefit from their affliction.)

Some people go to Paris for milestone anniversaries. Some have elaborate parties. Others inexplicably follow that Hallmark rule and actually give each other gifts of tin and aluminum. We stayed home.

With Alison on a two-day bender with Helen, we had the place to ourselves, and I just couldn’t justify the expense, time and trouble it would have entailed to leave the state. We’d opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for dinner with Ali on Valentine’s Day proper. She drank her water from a champagne glass and we clinked glasses all night before descending to the family room for another game of Monopoly. We’d given Ali some Valentine Littlest Pet Shops and they were anxious to play. I discovered that the game is vastly improved when combined with champagne. And at the time, the Veuve was among my favorite champagnes.

Friday, after saying "So long!" to Ali, we uncorked that bottle of Dom Perignon we bought two years ago at a Kahn’s champagne tasting and paired it with our reception fare: King Rib and cheesecake. It was just like our reception back on 2-14-98. Except we had incredible champagne, I wasn’t wearing white and we didn’t have a couple hundred of our closest friends with us.

Somehow we managed to have fun – although we did reminisce about that day, how much fun it was and how lucky we were to have had such a great time – and to have it memorialized by our favorite photographer, David Cowan. (I scanned some of your shots, David: don't sue me.)

And now a word about the champagne: I was too cheap to go out of town, but was happy to sip some of the most expensive champagne you can buy. Here’s my justification: the stuff is crazy good. And apparently (based on Jeff’s long discussion with his favorite wine consultant – yes, they exist and Jeff found one who’s invited us over to dinner. I think he’s reeling Jeff in slowly and I’m trying to find a way to snip the line before the net comes out – who said 1998 (our bottle’s born-on date) was one of the best years for the bubbly. It was a good year…

Last night, we went to Sullivan’s Steakhouse and had an amazing meal, and then we just hung out again. The whole weekend has been great. It was just like when we were dating, but more fun in a way – no exes or wannabes hanging around looking for an opening; no worries about whether it would really work out; no anxiety over where we’d both end up at the end of the night, etc...

In short, and to spare you any other details of how else we celebrated (You’re welcome, Jen.) we had a great weekend. The birds are hoarse from all their singing. (You’re welcome, Amer.)

Ali’s weekend

Our friend John Vielee has many things in common with Jeff Reed. He’s a disciplinarian but a softie underneath and one of those people you would trust your life to. He and Lisa were in charge of Alison and Helen for most of the weekend. Their other children were with other parental units. At one point, Lisa had made turkey sandwiches for lunch and John was convincing Alison that she should try some of the turkey, in addition to the bread. Alison had already explained that she didn’t like turkey, but, gamer that she is, she bowed to John's wishes and downed the turkey. And then promptly threw it up.

“She really doesn’t like turkey” he said later.

On the way to the China Buffet for potstickers, Helen and Ali got to talking about Helen getting her ears pierced. She has to wait until she’s 7, and she’ll have to agree to keep her ears clean once she has the jewelry. Someone offered up that if she’s going to wear earrings, Helen would probably have to start wearing makeup, too. Alison who has no interest in getting holes poked anywhere on her body and only a passing interest in make-up may have tried to dissuade Helen from growing up too fast.

“Yeah, my mom has to wear 13 layers of makeup to keep her ears clean,” Ali confided.

I’m off to catch up on all the housework I ignored earlier in the week. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Will you be my valentine?

Alison got a Valentine's Day card from her Auntie Jen today. As always, it was signed with Jen's love, along with the love of Grendel, her four-footed friend.

Alison, who like all kids, loves getting mail, opened it, read it, sighed and said, "Grendel picks out the best cards."

She was jumping up and down earlier in the week when cards from Grandpa and Auntie Methyl arrived with gifts she's already earmarked for more Littlest Pet Shops.

Aunt Margaret may have taken the cake, though. She sent a Valentine Smooch from our favorite pooch: Daisy.

Happy Valentine's Day! (I'm sending mine out early because I plan to be busy on the big day and maybe even for a few days after...)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

PhotoShoot Sunday Feb 10, 2008

If it's possible to have a hang-over from having too much fun, Alison has one. Jeff and I went out Saturday night with the Ogdens and a bunch of other people, leaving the kids with our sitter, Delaney. As a former way-fun babysitter, I'm happy that the kids just love her. As the mother and keeper of the house, I'm sometimes less-than-happy, though.

The kids spent 6 hours with Delaney, having grapes, pizza, ice cream, candy, popcorn and generally tearing up the place. Someone had the idea of spitting popcorn kernels, and I'm still finding evidence of it. Even though she'd put them to bed, before we got home around midnight, they were all wide-awake like little opossums, eyes shining up from their various places on the bed and on cushions and the bean bag scattered around it.

While all seemed fine -- if a little late -- it wasn't until this morning that Alison complained of a stomache ache. At first I thought she was being dramatic, but when the first wave of vomit came, I was convinced. It's been a little like that party we had years ago at the Home for Wayward Girls that turned into a vomitorium. But without the vodka.

I think Ali's trouble is the combination of all the junk and nothing more, but if she's not better tomorrow, I'll call the doctor. None of the other little partiers is sick.

Life otherwise is pretty good. Jeff played poker Friday and ended up in the top tier, so if he asks you to play cards with him, you might want to find an excuse. He and the boys drank and watched girls while Karin and I and a bunch of other women nowhere close to needing estrogen replacement therapy saw Menopause the Musical last night. It's got its moments. Makes me shudder to think of the fun ahead. Makes me remember that I planned to be dead by the time I was 30. So much for planning.

Ah well. I have a hot forehead to cool down. This, I can manage.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Say What?

Jeff pointed out to me that it can sometimes be tricky for people to comment to the posts. I'm no techno-geek, but I'm guessing that if I can do it, so too can you.

If you're especially moved by a post or want to offer advice, click on the comment line at the bottom of the post. To your right, you'll see a box where you type in your comment, then you'll have to type in the letters the computer uses to make sure you're human. Then the tricky part: you DO NOT have to sign in. I think it's easier if you don't. You can post anonymously or you can give yourself a nickname. Don't hold back!

Monday, February 4, 2008

PhotoShoot Monday February 4, 2008

So I didn't die yesterday, although there were times I may have crossed over. I'm way better now.

Alison came home from a fabulous sleepover with the Ogdens and took it upon herself to help me recover. She had one tip and one remedy.

The tip:
"Laughter is the very best medicine, Mommy."

The remedy:
The Scooby Doo SuperDoo Marathon while snuggling.

As we indulged in Scooby Doo and bed, I asked Ali about something she'd said the previous day after she'd felt a little put upon by the parents. As she sipped her tomato soup, she informed me that she just might run away if things didn't improve for her. I asked her where she thought she would go and she thought maybe Toys R Us or maybe Florida. We talked about some other options, but she got distracted when she remembered something about her pet shops.

So yesterday, in bed, I asked her why she'd suddenly begun talking about running away from home. It was a cartoon character that had given her the idea. I asked her again where she thought she might run to and she had a different answer.

"I'd go to some rich family's house," she said.

Why? Because she could buy more Littlest Pet Shops, of course.

What made her think some rich family would take her in?

She looked at me askance and pointed to her head. "Red hair, Mom. You can't find too many red-haired girls out there."

I think that conversation was the start of my recovery. Laughter truly does have medicinal value. If you ever fall prey to sickness, let me know and I'll send her over.

The photo is from her Crazy Dress Day last week.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Best Laid Plans

Jeff and I had a date last night. It was a dress-up affair -- the biannual Mardi Gras fundraiser at Christ the King, complete with drinks before and bootleg drinks out in the parking lot. Team Ogden had Ali for the night. I'd brought "the girls" out, and I'd even downed some energy drink to ensure perky-ness all around. It was a recipe for an early anniversary night if you get my drift.

Around 9 p.m., I started to yawn. I cursed my Bunco sisters for the late Friday night I'd spent with them and got myself some coffee. I wandered around the room blinking a lot. A bald guy winked at me and a lady with short hair and tight pants gave me a long look up and down. I checked my dress for slippage, but realized I was probably coming on to people with every stroll around the gym what with my blinking and hiding yawns behind my head.

I whispered to Jeff that maybe we could slip out early. I'm fairly certain that my escape labeled me as the lamest girl at the dance, but by the time we'd gotten home, swallowing was painful. (not a good omen for the rest of the night's entertainment...) and I felt like dying wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Jeff's at basketball and Alison is gone. The house is as silent as a morgue. I think someone put a layer of sandpaper in my throat. I have to pee but the floor will be really cold when I get up.

I'm only awake now because I just had a dream that Gwen Stefani's little baby Kingston had just told his rocker mommy that he would make me some hot tea and help me feel better.

It's hell being me. Light a candle for me this morning.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Apple Never Falls Far from the Tree

Thanks to an early dismissal and parents' picnic lunch with the kids of Christ the King, Alison and I got to play hooky this afternoon. I asked Ali if she wanted to go shopping or go to Blockbuster or do something fun, but she wanted to just come home. She's been desperate to buy the Littlest Pet Shop's Biggest Littlest Pet Shop, but we've told her that she'll have to use her own money for the $38.99 item.

Ali doesn't have an allowance yet, so she's been trying to talk us into odd jobs around the house. Coming home from school, I had a feeling she had a pitch for me, and she didn't disappoint.

"Hey, Mom, got any jobs for me?" she asked.

I told her I'd pay her $5 if she helped me with the laundry and cleaned up the family room. She thought that would be ok, but first, she thought she'd watch some television. One episode turned into three, which was fine with me because I was working in my office while she watched TV. After an hour, though, I asked her about that job and we set about doing the laundry. She helped me sort and load the washer and even fold and put away the load I'd forgotten about from last weekend that was still hanging out in the dryer.

While she allowed that the family room looked just fine to her, she picked up her stuffed animals and watched closely as I showed her how the vacuum worked. She started sweeping as I tried to make some sense of Jeff's desk. His work area takes up at least a quarter of the family room and his filing system is rivaled only by that of Bob Johnson and those people who live in houses with small paths between towers of old National Geographic magazines. I found a receipt from 2006 among his piles and piles of paper...

I look up from organizing Jeff's stacks, and hear her muttering, "This is lame. This is so lame. Have I earned my $5 yet? Man, this is so booooooorrrrrrrinnnng."

"That's why we call it work, honey," I chirped.

After a while, still knee deep in ancient paper, I asked her to go to the laundry room and put the clean clothes in the dryer. After a few minutes, I went in to check on her to find her method was to climb INTO the washer and toss the clothes into the dryer next door.

This is funny for many reasons, chief among them the fact that when I was just old enough to walk, I found my way into my mother's laundry room and climbed up to investigate the noise that big white thing was making. I don't remember this, but based on the family legend, I tipped myself into the working washer.

I think it was a wringer-washer. It must have been because all the washers I know about won't work unless the lid is closed -- right? Anyway, my mother walked into the laundry room to find my little blue body bobbing around in a circle along with my sibling's dirty underwear. I'm not sure how I didn't expire -- good luck and probably she was so scared she pushed the water right out of me when she dragged me out. It was only the first of many near-deaths by water. The others were at the hands of my ever-loving siblings, but those are stories for another day...

Anyway, after working on the laundry, Ali got out the Swiffer and dusted the whole house -- an extra chore not negotiated in our earlier agreement. She proposed that I add a dollar to her fee. Jeff will be unhappy that I didn't haggle a bit, but I thought she deserved it. She's now got $22 toward her big purchase.

And of course she's now resting from her day on the job-- in front of the television, messing up the family room and clutching her six dollars.

I'm going to have to get back to work soon, but was nudged into updating the blog by my good friend Jackie Meyers-Thompson. Jackie grew up in Chicago. She's heard of small towns and country life, but hasn't actually spent much time in either. She's never seen meat outside of a grocery story and has never really believed any of my stories about home. She may be the biggest fan the TeamReed blog has.

My dad would have loved her. He would also have loved to laugh at her. At a recent visit to her in-laws in Appalachia, she was told setting on a tour of the place that everyone on the mountain was kin. When she she met the first relative, she brought out her very best manners, stuck out her hand said, "Hello! I'm Jackie. You must be Ken!"

BillyRayBob was confused, as was Jackie. Jackie's husband just closed his eyes and shook his head. My dad would have laughed even harder than I did when Jackie recounted her story.

Anyway, I'm back to work now. Playing hooky is fun!