Sunday, April 27, 2008

Green beans and yard work

It's been another weekend of hard labor out in the yard thanks to the grace of Amy Tokash who loaned me Jenna again on Saturday.

The girls kept each other entertained while Jeff and I scraped the last leaves from the flower beds, gave the shrubs a way overdue haircut and bagged all the debris. I even climbed up on the roof to get to the tops of the scraggly fir trees.

Jenna and Ali were playing on the brick wall when Jenna noticed me on high. Her eyes got huge and she said, "Ali! Look at your mom." Alison was less impressed. "Yeah, we're good climbers," she said. "Tag! You're it!"

Jeff, who hates yard work, even planted some mint in the backyard. It's a transplant from John Vielee's yard and their pet project. They're determined to have enough mint to keep us in Swampwater and Mohitos through the summer.

So my back is aching but the neighbors may hold off on calling the Mayor's Action Line to report us.

By the time we'd finished cleaning up, neither Jeff nor I was interested in cooking. So we forced the girls to tear themselves away from the TV and headed off to the Super China Buffet. I took the girls for their first round and all was right with the world. Then came seconds and Mr. Reed took charge, insisting that Sleepover Rules or no, vegetables would be eaten.

Jenna had six green beans on her plate, which doesn't seem like many. But Jenna doesn't really like green beans. She and Mr. Reed have a history with dinner time rules, with vegetables playing a big role.

In 2003, she hoarded a bite of cheeseburger in her cheek for nearly an hour after he'd insisted on her finishing her plate. In 2006, it was The Great Asparagus Incident of 2006. It's a wonder she'll have meals here.

To cut the story short, he wanted her to eat all six beans. She got five down but the sixth one came back up. That was the end of dinner and the Dairy Queen dessert that had been dangled. While she claimed an upset stomach, it was gone before the DQ sign had disappeared from the rear-view mirror and all was good again.

At about 1:30 that morning, Jenna woke up and had an unusual bout of homesickness. Jeff, the night owl, took pity on her and snuggled a bit on the couch. She'd forgotten all about the green beans and was back to bed pretty quickly.

We made pancakes this morning, took our walk to the newspaper stand and ended up at the park. They sang made up songs while they swung and ended up deep in the sandbox.

"We took off our shoes!" said a proud Jenna, like Ali, still wearing her socks.

Amy snatched Jenna back this afternoon and Ali hit the friend jackpot when Team Ogden came over and Karin and I snuck out for pedicures.

All in all, it's been a great weekend. I'm not anxious for Monday to dawn.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mother of the Year

So there I was in the middle of yet another crazy morning at work today trying to write a speech before it had to be given and battling 27 different battles for other things that had to be done too. I'm on the phone when my cell phone rings. I don't recognize the number, so I send it to voice mail. Then my desk phone rings with the same number -- yeah, it's a fancy phone and I can see that kind of thing.

I put my current call on hold, annoyed that I'm being stalked by an insistent stranger, and pick up the other line.

"Cheryl? This is Chris Williams, I'm the school nurse today and I have Alison here."

Gulp. Chris Williams. Super Mom. When she's not taking care of the medical needs of Christ the King's student body, she's one of the Brownie mom triumverate. I'm already in trouble with them.

"I'll be right there," I say.

I shut down, shout instructions and run out to my car only to remember that I'd ridden to work with Karin that morning so we could work out at dawn at the downtown YMCA. I had her car, though, and the plan was that I'd pick her up at 5, we'd get the kids and hang out as both our husbands were going to be out that evening. Crap! I don't have a car and haven't gotten the speech written and I have 27 other things to do.

I may have uttered some curse words. Who can remember such detail? I get in Karin's car, calling her as I peel out of the parking lot, knowing she'll understand my thievery. I give her the scoop. We agree that we'll figure out her way home later.

Alison was suffering the symptoms that Karin's son Alex had experienced just two days ago, so she was feeling guilty that Ali might have picked up his virus. I didn't and still don't care about that. She's due no guilt at all. Kids get sick, and those two will be comparing vomit and diarrhea stories as soon as the can.

But I'm getting ahead of the story. As I change lanes and gears, I keep an eye out for cops and call Jeff to apprise him of the situation. He agrees to figure out Karin's ride home.

I get to the school. From a corner an office away from where I am, I spy a really sad looking redhead staring wanly from her seat on the nurse's office. Of course I can't get back there because some random delivery guy was standing between me and the sign-out book. After about six hours of trying to get around his massive frame, I scribble my name and head in to get her.

Nurse/BrownieNazi Williams brings my girl to me and tells me that she'd thrown up while I was en route. "Oh, I know how hard it must be when you work," she says.

I grab Ali, try to take Chris' words at face value, thank her and get Alison home. I put her on the couch, set her up with hugs and kisses, water and a remote and dash into my office and get back to work.

Work crap ensues while the cartoons roll. I'm starting the speech when I hear, "Mommy?"

She starts to retch. I run in to her. We deal with the vomit. She curls back up.

I go back to the desk. Thirty minutes or so later, "Mommy?"

I go in. She crawls on my lap, pitiful and really sick. And experiences her first bout of diarrhea as a young girl. Oh yeah. She's still on my lap.

It was a fun afternoon. I got the speech done, but there are still at least 25 things on the plate despite the valient efforts of the team back at the office, vomit and diarrhea-free but stressed out from having to totally reprioritize their day.

But hey, that's what they pay us for, and in the end it will all have been worth it.

As for Ali, she went to sleep at 5, finally. Just in time for me to have to get Alex and Hannah under the plan Jeff had devised. I run next door to get my neighbor to watch Ali sleep while I get Team Ogden. I give them the scoop. Alex cops to potentially being the carrier after Hannah puts the facts together.

"But I threw up and had diarrhea!" he says, bragging about his time with the disease.

Initially disappointed to know she'd equalled him in the gross department, he perked up at the thought of comparisons.

Later, Ali woke up nearly 100 percent healthy, and pondered what had done her in. I told her about Alex and reminded her that she'd had a sleepover at his house two days after he had had the virus. "Viruses are tricky, you know, and I think maybe it snuck up and got you in you while you were there."

She frowned and disagreed. "But I don't sleep with my mouth open."

Jeff got home about 8:30 and asked how she was feeling. "Did you get any Gatorade?" he asked.

"No, but I did get some diarrhea," she said proudly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Everyone Needs an Aunt Donna

Alison has decided that she has the best Aunt Donna in the whole world, and isn't it a shame that every child doesn't have an Aunt Donna like she does.

Her infatuation stems in part from a package she received from said Aunt Donna containing a "hand-made!" set of sheets embroidered with characters from the Littlest Pet Shop line. I was driving home when she opened the package and happened to call Jeff. He handed her the phone. She was talking so fast and at such a high pitch I thought for a minute I was talking to Lynda Ruble.

All I could make sense of was "LPS!!!" and "my Aunt Donna" and "and even Tiny is on there!" amid the blur of words and squeaks.

"Honey, slow down," I said.


She's never going to let me take those sheets off the bed...

TBall started yesterday and Alison is ready to go. New team (White Sox) new bat, new helmet and best of all, Alex Ogden on the team, too. The first game started with a drizzle but ended up sunny. It was a hoot to watch. Both Dale Ogden and Jeff got to help out.

Ali's still dancing during the game, but she's got a tiny bit more skill this year. We'll see how it all works out.

2-Step Stress Buster 100 percent guaranteed

Everyone at least occasionally suffers from a stress overload, whether it's from work, friends, family, all three, or even if it's self-induced. I tend to internalize stress because I don't want my inner bitch to emerge. (It's not my prettiest side.)

I tell myself if I hold in my instinctive response when stressed, I'll be more adult when I address the situation. Unfortunately, the usual result is that I end up fighting with the inner beast, which gives me wrinkles and stomach aches. Invariably, the inner bitch sneaks out anyway and I end up feeling like I've turned into Linda Blair and spewed green vomit all over a priest.

So far, I've kept a firm grip, but only because I made liberal use of this 2-Step Stress Buster, which I highly recommend to you if you have even a fraction of my issues. Yeah, I should probably find a therapist. But this remedy works. And it has to be cheaper.

Step 1. Attack the yard instead of friends, coworkers, family or the random stranger who knocks on your door trying to sell you something you don't want, need or welcome.

You need good weather for this, of course, and I was lucky enough to have it. In a pinch, you can clean the house, but the yard fights back more, which helps speed the recovery.

I spend more money on flowers than I thought I should have Friday, only to determine this morning that I want more. In addition to planting annuals in the front yard, I raked out all of the backyard flower beds and moved around a few perennials that had gotten too big for their borders. After 3-4 hours non-stop with rake, shovel and spade, I had killed a battalion of dandelions, reordered the borders and hopefully improved the curb appeal of our little house.

Step 2. Rent a kid to play with yours and then sit back and listen to the back seat chatter. Drive extra miles if you need to. Even with today's price of gas, the return on investment is in triple digits.

I rented Jenna this weekend. Like always, it was hilarious and a great help to my peace of mind.

Excerpts from the Alison-Jenna show:

As they get out of the car, Jenna finds a piece of Alison's artwork from school and picks it up.

"Hey, who's the guy on the cross?"

"Uh. That's Jesus, Jenna," says Ali.

"Oh yeah. Right. "

Later, while serving as my personal shopper, Jenna redeems herself and drags me over to look at a display of the Holy Family.

"Who is that anyway," I ask.

"Well that's the baby Jesus. That's his mommy and that's his daddy," she say.

"I think you're right," I say.

"Well, that is why people go to church," says the suddenly pious one.


"Hey, Miss Cheryl: what's that?" Jenna asks, pointing to my yard-work reward: a Mike's Hard Liquor pomegranate lemonade.

"That's a grown-up drink," I say.

Following Alison down the stairs, Jenna calls back, "When I'm grown up, can I have that drink?"

"Yes you may," I say, taking a swig.

"Hey Jenna, I bet I'll get to have that drink before you do," says Alison, a full 42 days older.

"Yeah probably," says Jenna.


Somewhere along the way, a bug crossed the girls' path.

"Kill it," said Jenna, progeny of the bug-hater Amer.

"It's not bothering us, Jenna," said Ali, she of a more liberal, live and let live home.

"Just. Kill. It," said Jenna.

This went on for a while. So long, in fact, the bug escaped.


Alison is keeping up pretty well with her fish responsibilities. I measure this by the fact that Grace the Fish still swims. The girls were returning her to her room after we cleaned her bowl.
Ali was carrying the bowl.

"Be careful, Ali. There's a fish in there," Jenna said. "You drop it, she's dead."

Alison, a bit offended, informed her: "I'm very used to this, Jenna!"


After dinner, I parked the girls in front of a movie and took a little break myself. At 10 o'clock, they were still going strong and Jeff decided they needed to go to bed. Every once in a while I would mute sound on the television just to hear them giggle. I didn't need to know why they were laughing. The squeals alone were pure therapy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I had to laugh at Amy Tokash today. She's always complaining that I tell Alison too many facts of life. She seems to not care at all that Drew and Jenna will enter high school still believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Poor Drew will never masterbate: he'll be in mortal fear of blindness.

But I digress. Tonight I was talking to Amy and she was warning me not to tell Alison a small secret we have for fear that she'll tell Jenna this weekend when we're having a sleepover. And when I confessed that I'd almost slipped, she called me, and I quote, "Mouth."

Amy Louise Reed Tokash called ME, "Mouth."

That's sort of like the Grinch calling Cindy Lou Hoo "Meanie."

So of course I protested, and as a result got this story:

Drew, who just turned 9, asked his parents for a $200 hockey stick. Amy demurred and said they just couldn't justify the expense. Disappointed, Drew was sad for a moment. And then he perked up. "I know!" he said. "I'll ask Santa!"

The truth will set your wallet free, Amer...... and it'll save Drew and Jenna a world of scorn.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Read this and save your self!

I'm not a raging feminist, nor do I go for those self-help books that pit women against women or women against men or women against the world. I tend to push through it all, not asking for help or saying no and just dealing with whatever comes along.

But I just read an article that just may save my life -- or get me through the week at least. If you ever feel overwhelmed, you might want to read it, too.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bitchy Brownie Moms, Sean Connery & one really sweet moment

It's been quite a week. Getting back to work after being off for 10 calendar days was painful. It wasn't that I didn't want to be there (one of my more freaky traits is that I actually like to work) it was just that I couldn't get to the backlog because of some really great stuff we did and it just seemed like the opportunities kept growing.

I'm pretty sure my sunny disposition got rather cloudy as each day passed by busier than the next. After buckling down yesterday and getting through most of the backlog, though, I think I can actually accomplish "real" work tomorrow and in a better mood, too!

Among the byproducts of a busy work week (both for me AND Jeff) was that we totally forgot that she had a big Brownie field trip Friday. I ran off to work early and Jeff dropped her off at school as usual. Around 5:45 p.m., I was working hard on giving a guy at the Today Show reason to have Angie on next week. The potential "get" (wish me luck) was landed by my colleague and friend Jackie really late in the day, so Brooke (another colleague) and I were working with Jackie to supply him with enough great stuff that would convince him to have her on.

I'd had to ask Jeff to pick up Alison (usually my job). At 5:45 or so, he calls, slightly panic-stricken that he couldn't find her at the school. "She's not been checked in to After Care and none of the other 1st grade girls are here either," he said.

I think I may have cursed as I immediately realized that it was the trip to Bounce Planet and I was supposed to have had her keep her car seat for the trip. I'd paid early, but the car seat was key. Plus, they weren't to return back until 6:30, so Jeff hadn't needed to rush. No worries on his end though, he went home, changed, probably checked on a game and went back to get her.

Here's where it gets bitchy.

He apologized profusely when the Brownie moms showed up and explained that we'd been unusually busy. One of them -- and I don't know which one -- says to him that we'd created quite an imposition and liability in taking her along without the car seat. He apologized again and said he just hadn't know about it.

"I guess you didn't see any of the 6 e-mails we sent, either," she sneered.

Now we all know that Jeff is a kinder, gentler soul than me. Had it been me in the parking lot I think I would have smacked her hard. But he apologized again and collects Alison. I get home and get the story -- and then see that Alison has what looks to be the beginnings of a shiner under her right eye. "What happened there," kiddo?" I ask.

"Oh, P.S.," she said, "One of the teenagers punched me." "P.S." has become part of Alison's every paragraph. She'll be rattling on and want to add something, so she'll say, "P.S. blah blah blah." Or sometimes, she'll just toss out a one liner, started by, "P.S."

I wasn't so much charmed by the "P.S." this time as enraged by what had followed it. Yeah. One or more of the Brownie moms brought older kids along on the field trip and one of them was in a hurry. He tells Ali to get out of his way and he punched her in the face when she didn't move fast enough for him!

It's all I can do to not call up each of the Brownie Moms until I found the bitch who spawned that kid and then didn't tell us about what had happened when we picked her up. (OK JEFF picked her up.) And no, there was no intervention, no punishment for the punk, either.

This posting may be saving Alison's Brownie career and keeping me from jail. I'm still so mad!

Anyone have an idea for what I should do? Ignoring it seems so........mature.

Anyway, we got through Friday night and spent most of Saturday shopping. We ran into John and Helen at Costco -- who we hadn't seen in ages -- and arranged for Helen to come over to play. I was going to the Gathering of the Goddesses and Jeff and Ali were on their own. While I was drinking (WAY too much) with Tina Noel, John and Jeff were sampling wines and having steak while the girls played.

The Goddesses event is one of the funnest events of the year. It's a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, but it's also an event supported by a lot of the folks from the O'Bannon and Kernan administrations. So it's kind of old home week. Glenn Lawrence blocked for Tina and me when the ladies room line got too long. And Janet McCabe introduced us to Sean Connery.

It wasn't really Sean Connery, but it was a guy she works with who people think looks and sounds like the actor. She dared us to approach him later and ask whether he was SC, and of course we did. It was silly. But fun. Had I not been slightly tipsy, I would swear that he thought we were serious for about 15 seconds.

At some point during the evening, John was looking for Helen, who was no where to be found. Jeff stopped Alison as Helen came around behind him and said, "Hey! John's looking for his daughter -- can you help find her?"

John and Lisa (Helen's mom) are engaged, but not yet married, and he has two daughters of his own. He was watching Helen while Lisa was on a weekend trip, and it's clear that he and Helen adore each other.

Helen's face when she hear Jeff describe her as John's "daughter" was priceless. And John looked pretty pleased as well. It was a really sweet moment.

P.S. I still hate the Brownies.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Heaven is a bit more fun today

I was really sad the other day when I heard that Harold Thomas had died. Harold was one of my father's oldest friends, and he's been at every major family event that I can remember. Harold pastored the Friendly Grove Baptist Church. My grandparents literally helped build the Coalmont Church of God where all of us were raised. Back in the day, the Church of God folks didn't think you were getting to heaven unless you spend some time on those uncushioned pews at the Church of God. Harold was always the exception to that harsh edict.

In time, my father came to believe that you could get to Heaven even if you were a Baptist. He even embraced the Catholics and the Muslims and pretty much anyone who believed for real. I'm not sure the Church of God went along with that, but I'm glad my father escaped the severity of the church that I remember while somehow holding on firmly to his faith. Harold probably helped with that.

Other people who loved Harold called him Pastor Thomas. He was always "Harold Thomas" to us, which wasn't disrespectful at all. It was just what my dad called him, and so we did, too. He was more than a family friend. He's married and buried my family since I can remember. He was there at the hospital when any of them were sick, and he celebrated anniversaries and weddings with us. He married a few of my siblings more than once, and I remember at least one of them worrying if he'd find them worthy to do it again. He always did, though I think he was secretly glad for the worry for it meant we weren't totally without shame yet and therefore still salvagable.

I have a healthy disregard for organized religion. There are just too many people involved who don't live up to the ideals they force on others. My father and Harold Thomas stand apart from that. They were true believers. And they believed that if you lived your life like you were supposed to, you'd find yourself young and whole and happy again in Heaven, reunited with all who loved you in life and God and Jesus there to explain all the things you trusted them on all those years when it wasn't easy.

At my father's funeral, Harold Thomas told us things we'd never known about our dad -- back when they were kids. And while it was a truly awful day, Harold made it better for giving us that gift.

I wondered then, as I wonder now, who could possibly eulogize this man. Small in stature, humble in demeanor but long on compassion and genuine caring for others. The Tribune Star carried his obit today, but no printed piece could do Harold justice. They're offering a chance to send a note to his family. If you knew him, I hope you'll do that for them. It seems like a small thing, but I believe it will help them through this dark time.

If my dad and Harold Thomas were right (and I hope with all my heart that for at least those two men they were right) they're sitting around a table drinking black coffee with Doc Eccles and laughing about the trick they'd just pulled or the funny thing their kid did. Or they're young again out hunting for squirrels or mushrooms in the hills or meeting their wives for the first time again. Or they're just walking around taking it all in, talking with God about all the things that didn't really make sense back then.

Whatever they're doing now, I hope they're happy and at peace. If you never knew my dad or Harold, I'm sorry: you missed something special. If you did, aren't you glad you had them for a while?

PhotoShoot Sunday 6April08

We've had a ton of fun this week. Between water parks and hotels and eating out, road trips with candy, movies and side trips to small Indiana towns, it's been a good week to be Alison Reed, Hannah and Alex Ogden. And not so bad for Karin and me, either. Sadly, Jeff and Dale had to work for most of it, but they've had their share of fun as well, I'm sure. Some, we'll never know about...

Back when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my cousin, Lori, and summers with cousins Christina and Beth when they came for summer breaks. While we'd have great fun for days on end, there would always come the conversation between my mom, Aunt Shirley or one of my Grandmas: "I think the girls are getting a little tired of each other. Maybe we should separate them for a while."

So I'd get the boot and go back home for a few hours or a day and then it was back at it at either my house or one of the Grandmas.

Karin and I hit that point with Alison and Hannah on Saturday afternoon. During our road trip, we'd declared it Solve Your Own Problem Day in an attempt to get the "Mo-oms!" down to single digits per minute. The object was to let the kids work out their traumas over who got which pillow, who got to decide what snack, who would sit where and just who was the boss of whom. It resulted in multiple exclamations of "What day is it today?" and "SYOP, baby!"

On the way back home, while trying to ignore the backseat bickering, Karin and I had talked about how funny it was to hear Alison and Hannah going back and forth at each other. "They're both used to being in charge, and they like to be in charge. Alex? He's never in charge of anything, so he just goes along."

On Saturday, I'd gone to magically remove a few gray hairs and the kids were at the Ogdens. I had them that evening while Dale and Karin went out and Jeff was still hanging with his fantasy baseball boys. Dale and Karin pulled up and the banshees tumbled out.

I can't remember exactly how she put it, but Karin warned me (with Dale shaking his head in agreement) that I might have a bit extra on my hands. Seems Hannah and Alison were getting a little tired of each other...

It turned out to be fine. I left them largely to their own devices after dinner, and they seemed to have a good time. This morning, they'd gotten their own breakfast, cleaned up after a fashion, and were playing a Littlest Pet Shop video game when I came down to check on them. Hannah hadn't been able to spend the night. Alex and Ali were having a grand time on their own, taking turns and deciding how to spend their virtual dollars on the game.

I'm happy to report that little Alex found a way around Alison's 24/7 Alpha Female routine.
Some could say that he caved in again, but I contend that he did so only after making his point.

"Let's buy a gecko!"
"No, I don't want a gecko. Let's buy a skunk."
"No, I want a gecko!"
"No, Alex. We're buying a skunk."
"No! I want a gecko!"
"Don't make me unplug it, Alex!"
"You unplug it, I'll tell your Mom."
"Please, Alex? I really don't want another gecko. Please? Please?"
"Oh, alright. But I get to choose the next one."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring Break Fun

I've discovered the secret to great vacations: split it up so you can rest in between. We've gone a little crazy with Spring Break this year, but it's turning out great. Thursday and Friday, we spent at the local indoor water park, Caribbean Cove with Jenna and Breanna as special guests. It was a blast.

Friday, we'd planned to pick Grandpa Gary Reed up at the airport at noon and head for Chicago. Unfortunately he was severely cursed by the Travel Gods (or Continental Airlines, we're not sure. All we know is he was smacked hard.) Due to flight delays blamed on both weather and maintenance issues, he didn't get into Indy until 9:30 p.m. It was not a great day for him. The bourbon waiting on him back here at Chez Reed may have been the only good thing about that day.

So we went to Chicago bright and early Saturday morning. The trip up was fun. Ali declared that Grandpa should be her backseat buddy and off we went, four Reeds and about 20 Littlest Pet Shops who were eager to see the big city, too. We stayed a couple blocks off Michigan downtown at the Hampton Inn Suites . While it won't likely be the backdrop for any major motion pictures, the service was great, the rooms were nice and it let us go a little crazy on dinner. If you're heading to Chicago and you like Chinese food, you have to go to Ben Pao. It was across the street from us but apparently is considered among the best in the city. Alison, a potsticker afficianado, said her dinner (potsticker heavy) was the best she'd ever had in her whole life. She's even taken up using chopsticks. She was fiddling with the sticks that come standard when the waiter noticed and brought her some kid-friendly ones. She's been using both pairs ever since. She event used one to eat her frozen yogurt the other day. "It helps it last longer, Mom," she explained.

At our friend Jackie's advice, we also stopped in for dinner at Harry Caray's. You'll need to take out a small loan to pay the bill (or stay at a hotel off Michigan) but man was the food good! I'm not sure why Alison started saying "Holy Cow" a few weeks ago, but when she saw the real holey cow that lives inside the restaurant, she got more than a few giggles. Jeff, of course, surrounded by baseball memorabilia was having a great time. The food was really amazing, though. It's well worth the week's pay.... (thanks, Jackie.)

We also stopped in to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. I'd been vain and wore shoes with heels because you know, we were going to Chicago. I don't always put on makeup for the Fashion Mall, but for Chicago, I thought I should make the effort. I'd forgotten that we'd walks 17 miles for each outing, and my dogs are pretty sore at me. But I looked a tiny bit less like the Hoosier country girl. Well, maybe. You can only do so much...

The highlight of the trip for Alison varies between the mummy in the Pyramid at the Field Museum, the white Beluga whale pooping right in front of us as she glided through the water, otherwise graceful if not alien-looking, being shrunk down to less-than-insect size and burrowing underground, and the massive amounts of gummy bears she scored.
It was fun having Grandpa along, too. He was a sport and played Pet Shops with her during our down time. (I was rubbing my feet.)

Today, Jeff's back at work and Gary's back at home, but still cursed by the travel gods. His flight home was delayed, too. I think he was nearly 3 hours late, which meant that he missed his Italian lesson. He'd stashed more bourbon in his suitcase (The great state of Maine doesn't have as wide a selection as we have here.) and I'm betting that he had visions of breaking into the baggage hatches to snatch at least one bottle out. If his luck held, they just made him wait in the plane, strapped in with no offer of food or beverage. I hope he's still speaking to us.

Alison and I are heading out this morning with Karin, Hannah and Alex for CoCo Key, an indoor water park near Columbus, Ohio. It should be just as much fun -- if not more than Caribbean Cove. I've already packed the beer and decided not to bring the laptop. Other than the cell phone, I'll be incommunicado. I don't know if I can stand being out of the digital loop that long, but I'm going to try. I may have to scout out a library.....

Wish us luck: I'm driving.................