Monday, July 28, 2008


Jeff is clearly a better parent than I am, and Alison and I are both lucky we have him.

She's been sneaky lately, and it's getting out of hand.

While I was engrossed in one of my new books this weekend, Alison was wandering around looking for a playmate. I played a game of Trouble with her, but pleaded for time to read. I told her she could get some books and we could read together. She did, for a while, but then got fidgety, and I said she could go in my room and watch TV. (Bad parenting example No. 1)

What I didn't know was that Jeff had banned her from TV that afternoon. When he came upstairs to find her happily sprawled on my bed glued to the set, he was less than thrilled. He brings her out to the living room (where I am) for a chat. I started to defend her, telling him I'd sent her to TV.

"Alison, you knew Dad didn't want you watch TV, didn't you?"

"Yes, dad."

"And you watched anyway, didn't you?"

"Yes, dad."

He talked with her a little bit about how she was 7 now and knew very well that she should have told Mom about the rule. He sent her to her room.

I sat there, looking over the cover of the book, thinking, man. I caused some of that. But he was right and she needed "to go think about this." Plus, I still got to read.

Later, he decided they should go practice her biking without training wheels and when they ot back they'd go swimming. All was well until he saw her swimming bag, which had doubled as an overnight bag. She'd asked if she could take a container of gum to the sleepover/birthday party she attended Saturday. He'd said no. She snuck it in anyway, and the evidence fell out of her bag.

Man was he furious. Back to the couch. Longer lecture on honesty. No swimming. Back to her room to think things over. The first time, she was chastened, hid her head and was slightly sorry. This time, she cried. She'd really disappointed him, and she knew it.

He came back from his police escort to her room, sat down on the couch and we just looked at each other. Parenting is hard. I'm glad he was more focused this weekend than I was.

He was so good with her. I would have been disappointed, and I would have lectured her. But when I found out that she shared all of her gum with the other girls, I was less unhappy with her. Being so generous is a good think, I'm thinking. But she did flout the directive. And she was sneaky. Jeff holds his ground better than anyone I know, but he wasn't a jerk about it.

I contributed a tiny bit to Alison's pain by making her come with me to get my new books. She really wanted to play computers at the library, but she was "on punishment." At the bookstore, she sat with me and read a bunch of books and really wanted a couple. But she was "on punishment."

She took it really well and behaved really well. She gets it that she's on thin ice. I think she may have learned a lesson. Me, too.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Speaking of books, Amy Tokash has me hooked on the Twilight Series, whose premise you wouldn't think a Vacation Bible School teacher would dream to read, let alone push on the unsuspecting. This from the woman who tried to shield her kids from Harry Potter!

Just check it out. It'll make you ignore your family and skip meals.

Jeff and Ali, as I type, are off on their own. He's trying to get her to embrace the idea of riding her bike without training wheels. I've just finished the book and am thinking of heading down to the library to see if the second one is in. If it's not, I may have to go to Barnes and Noble. All of this while my New York Times sits in pristine, unfolded condition on the kitchen counter. Thanks, Amer.

And speaking of Alison, she's been on a disappointing tear lately, and I fear to leave her alone with her father. She agreed to T-ball but didn't fall in love with the game. She didn't like the noise of tap dancing and she's trying to escape ballet now. On the way to class on Saturday morning, she kept telling me that she didn't really want to go.

"What don't you like about it," I asked, mentally tallying up the cost of the lessons thus far, plus the recital fees and costumes, not even flinching at the time I've spent trapped in a small room with crazy mothers whose stories nearly drove me insane.

"Well, there are all these rules."

"Like what?"

"Well, you can't play on those bars (yeah, she means the barre). You can't hang on them or climb on them even if all you want is to look out the window," she said.

"Well, Alison, there are rules in every thing you do. You need to learn them and follow them," I reasoned. "Isn't there anything about ballet you like?"

"I like seeing Jenna. But we get in trouble when we play and don't listen to the teacher."

"Well, yeah, Ali. You're there to learn to dance. Don't you know that ballet will help you with everything? Even football players and basketball players take ballet to improve their game. I never took ballet and I wish I had. It helps you know how to dance to any music. It will make you be graceful."

"But Mo-om. I don't want to be graceful," she exclaimed. "I want to be extreme."

"What's extreme?"

"Oh, you know, roller coasters and skateboard and running and tag and doing things you make up on your own. You know, no rules. Extreme," she said, serious as she could be.

"Well, Ali, those extreme sports guys who do tricks, they first learned how to do it right. They know the rules so they can break them. And you know, I don't know any extreme sports stars who still ride bikes with training wheels."

"Well. I don't need to be that extreme," she said.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jaime Weir (soon to be famous)

I can't even express how proud I am of Jaime Lynn Bradbury Weir. She's a published author and illustrator! (Good thing she's not relying on a softball career....)

You can even order her book if you want. It's called "Out of Bed" and it stars her daughter No. 1, Rebecca, who has, well difficulty getting out of bed.....

You can find it on, and Just put in "Out of Bed" in the search engine, and it should come up. You may have to scroll past some other, inferior books, but it's worth your hard-earned dollaroes!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Strange bedfellows

After 10 years of marriage and two years of dating, Jeff and I finally made a commitment to be together: we bought a new mattress.

This is a more serious matter than you may think. When we got together we did what most people do when they combine households. We compared who had the best dishes (me) towels (me) pots, pans and kitchen gadgets (mostly Jeff), tools (Jeff) and ditched what we considered inferior.

Jeff's furniture got to live upstairs while most of mine ended up in the jungle gym downstairs. He also claimed to have the most comfortable bed on Earth. While this was true, it was also the mattress he retained from his inferior marriage (the one not to me.) This meant, of course, that there was still the hint of other women within its coils.

Now mattresses aren't cheap, and I'd long put the spector of the other companions aside in deference to the almighty buck. But even the best mattresses don't live forever, and when Jeff started complaining about his back, we started looking around. Vera Wang is making mattresses now. How crazy is that?

Jeff did most of the shopping. OK, he did all of the shopping. I just wanted a new bed. He actually went and test dozed a fairly large selection. Experts say you're supposed to spend at least 15 minutes laying on mattresses to properly comparison shop. I'm sure the sales clerks love that. I'd fall asleep and drool on the things if I laid there that long.

Thank goodness Donna & Crew were here this weekend and that Costco had a great sale going. Jeff borrowed her truck to bring home this 12-inch memory foam thing that came stuffed a box roughly the size of a large dog crate. Donna and Jaime and I had gotten the really bad mattress off the downstairs bed and replaced it with our former bed. So I guess those other women are still with us and we'll be back among them the next time the tornado sirens go off. Oh well. They're next to go.

We got the memory foam mattress out of its box and heaved it onto the box springs. Almost immediately it started moving as if it were stretching out. It had had the life sucked out of it and when it was released from its plastic, it was almost creepy to see it take back its original form. It's a little taller than the old mattress, and when you climb onto it, you sink in a little bit, but it's firm, too. I highly recommend you try one.

Alison wasn't much interested in the purchase, a lthough she did find the box out on the porch where wer're keeping it and all the baggage until we're sure we like it. Ali really wants us to like it and has been asking her dad if we're going to keep it.

Is she worried about the quality of our sleep? The wonder of finally starting off our life together with our very own, brand-new mattress? Uh. No.

"Can I have the box, Mom?" she asked. "It would be a great clubhouse for my Littest Pet Shops."

She's already played enough in the box to probably make a return at least a little bit difficult...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Softball Shame and Squirt Gun War

So my sister, 2 nieces and three grand nieces (I'm not old; they start young in the country) were here this weekend and we had a great time.

Jaime and Annie (the nieces) played in a statewide, womens' league softball tournament in a nearby town. I was excited to see them. I'm a bad aunt and never get down to see their games at home anymore.

Jaime (mother of the grand nieces) was a softball phenom in high school and Annie just finished up her phenom high school career.

As Rachael (grandniece #2) informed me just before the first game began, there are only two softball parks in their region untouched by one or more of her mother's home runs. Between that and the legendary stuff of Annie's career, I was prepared for greatness. I settled in to watch the mayhem.

Unfortunately, the mayhem was metered out by the other team. We were, quite literally, crushed. But onto game two, I said. Annie had straightened Jaime's hair the night before. She was probably having trouble getting used to it. They'll come back. I was sure of it.

While Jaime and Annie both had some pretty spectacular plays, they were few and far between. And the next team's shortstop couldn't seem to miss a ball. Jeff Reed couldn't seem to miss her, but that's another story...

Neither Annie nor Jaime were in stellar moods, but dusty and bloody in Jaime's case, they limped back here to Chez Reed and we had a fine time once the play-by-plays were done and the girls had put their softball shame behind them.

By Sunday, Annie was crowing that they weren't the first team bounced from the tournament. "Uh, how exactly is that?" I asked. "You played back-to-back games and it was double elimination."

"We had a bye," she chortled. "So there was a team out when we'd just lost our first game."

It's amazing how a night's sleep can help you spin...

The little girls and Jeff had big fun with squirt guns. It's amazing how much fun you can have with a little water on a hot day.

After dinner, we managed to take a walk to the new Fresh Market grocery around the corner from our house. I'm not sure what I was expecting. Yes I do. I was expecting a grocery store. It was all the news because the former occupant of its space was an old grocery that was a Broad Ripple institution. David Letterman bagged groceries there and old timers in the neighborhood will tell you stories of how the owners of it would let you take your groceries home and come back with your wallet those times you ran off without it and other great folksy tales like that.

I was just happy to have a place to pick up milk on the way home from work. I'd been meaning to check it out when it opened, but I just hadn't. So we walk in.

The entry way -- like the rest of the store -- has wide planked hardwood flooring, and classical music is drifting on the air-conditioned wind. It's like you walked into a miniature greenhouse with beautiful cut flowers everywhere.

Beyond that, you walk into an array of produce and candy and wooden barrels filled with all sorts of flavored coffee beans. Fresh fish and meats shimmer off in the distance. A rainbow of produce spills out from bins in between.

"Oh, Mommy, look!" says Alison, grabbing my hand and leading me down the candy aisle.

It's like the Olson's General Store from Little House on the Prairie meets Nordstrom-for-food. Gumballs and jelly beans and all kinds of hard candies are laid out with the own little scoops, just begging kids to dive in. Somehow Alison restrained herself, although she inspected each one of the candy jars, looking for her favorites.

"We've hit the jackpot. We should shop here every day!" she said.

Donna checked out the prices. I was afraid to. Sprinkled in between the fancy brands of dark chocolate and imported whole Portuguese almonds covered in white chocolate were some Pepperidge Farm cookies that retail for $3 or so at Kroger. Here, they were $6.

I don't think we'll be shopping there every day. We're going to have to really like you to buy dinner there.... Although it is beautiful.


Jeff borrowed Donna's truck for a Costco run this morning and has fallen in love with it. It seats six easily and apparently has more room than even his long legs need. It also has XM radio. I'm not going to tell her that he nearly wrecked about 7 times while tinkering with the thing...

"It had six baseball stations. Six! And that's just when I stopped counting," he said.

Maybe when gas comes back down to $3 a gallon he can have one of those beasts...

We did a really bad thing

While Jeff and I talked a big game about remembering Jennifer Lynn Reed's birthday this year, we failed miserably to deliver.

We talked about it before, during and after, but, as Jennifer has no doubt deduced, we didn't actually do anything about it. When I confronted Alison about her need to create a birthday card, she suggested we use the Internet instead.

"That way, it will get there -- zing! The mail takes longer," she reasoned.

Ali already sent her note. So expect something FABulous this week, Jen.....


The Losers

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bickel gathering in FL in October 2008

I got a great call from Brian Bickel over the weekend. While we stopped in to visit him and his family him only a few times when I was a kid, he made a great impression on me. It was on a Brian-sponsored fishing trip that I caught a baby hammerhead shark. My art teacher at home stuffed it and displayed it on a piece of driftwood. It was in my room for years. The kids loved it.

Brian seems to be just as fun and silly as Bickel boys should be. It was fun to hear from him.

He called to say the Florida Bickels are thinking about having a family gathering in October, and he'd like for the whole clan to descend on them. I told him I'd do my part to spread the word.

Brian's email is and his phone is 386-7520975. He'll have details soon, so please let him know if you want to take in a little sun and sand before the winter chill sets in. I told him that Thanksgiving is in Columbus this year, so he should feel welcome to come up, as well.

If you're a Bickel, please pass this news on. If you're not a Bickel, well, I'm sorry about that.... :)

Chatter from the Back Seat

The following is a condensed version of two days of chatter from the back seat. It begins with one inspired by the imminent trip to the vet for a puppy named Tucker who lives next door to Team Ogden. The kids do a lot with the puppy, and Hannah is often anxious to get home so she doesn't miss going along to obedience school (for Tucker, not the kids.)

The cast: Alex Ogden, Alison Reed, Jenna Tokash and Hannah Ogden.

"Hey Hannah, are you going to Bark Tudor with Tucker tonight?" I ask as we get started.

"No. Tucker went to the vet today to get neutered."

"Oh." I immediately turned on the radio.

"Mrs. Reed," pipes the voice from the back, drowning out the voices from NPR. I ignore it for a while but it doesn't quit. "Mrs. Reed. Mrs. REED!!! MRS.REED!!!!"

"Yes, Alex."

"What's 'neutered' mean?"

Heavy sigh. I mentally calculate time vs. distance, which is hard for me because I'm a wordsmith, not a numbers junkie. But even I can do this math: I have too much time. I speed up and reply,

"It's something people have done to their pets to help with their behavior."

"Oh," says Alex. I breathe a sigh of relief. It's one thing to be frank with Alison; another to expose Karin's kids to the unvarnished truth.

"I thought it had something to do with having babies," piped up Hannah.

"Yeah!" said Alex.

I increase the acceleration. "Well, yes, that's part of it, too," I say.

We get home with no more talk of Tucker. Day 2, Jenna joins the crew.

"Mrs. Reed, did you know that Tucker is still sick?"

"No, I didn't."

"Yeah. He might not get neutered because he's throwing up."


"Yeah. It's been really bad," says Hannah with Alex piping in telling us of Tucker's travails.

Jenna: "Alex, I hope you feel better soon."


"I hope you feel better from your sickness."


"You know, from getting neutered."

"Jenna!," exclaims Alex with exaggerated hand gestures and vocals.
I didn't get neutered. Tucker is getting neutered."

"Oh. What's neutered?"

"It keeps you from having babies."


"Mrs. Reed? Mrs. REED! MRS.REED!!!!!"

"Yes, Alex?"

"I know being neutered has to do with not having babies. But Tucker is a
boy dog."

Heavy, heavy sigh from the front seat.

"Hey, did you know we're having ice cream at the ball park tonight? And, hey, I think your mom just called and said you guys were doing something fun, too. I wonder what it is," I babble.

The next day, Jenna and Ali are alone in the back seat, chatting as young girls do.

"Ali, do you know what the happiest day of your entire life is?"


"It's the day you have a baby."

"What? I don't think so. I think the happiest day of your life is when YOU'RE born."

"No. It's when you have a baby of your
own. Do you want to have a baby, Alison?"



"No. I don't want to have a baby. They cut you open and there's blood and stuff. It has to get
out, you know."



"Hey, Ali."


"The happiest day of
my life was when you were born. You are my best friend, you know."

"Yeah. Hey Jenna! Do you know what molecules are?"

"No. What are molecules?"

A miles-long dissertation of what molecules are ensues. It ends in the driveway with, "And when you die, your molecules get transformed and you're either a slave to the devil or you're an angel."

"Why do you think I could be a slave to the devil?
I'm not going to be a slave to the devil. I'm going to be an angel!" retorts a highly and righteously indignant Jenna.

"I didn't say
you were going to be a slave to the devil, Jenna. I don't think you'd be a slave to the devil. It's just you're going to be one or the other when your molecules transform."

"Oh. OK. But I'm
not going to be a slave to the devil, Alison. I'm going to be an angel."
"OK. Jenna. OK."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

3 Nights of Fireworks

I spent the afternoon on the couch, nearly comatose, recovering from three nights of kabooming and kapowing as we celebrated the nation's birthday all across south-central and south-western Indiana driving a Subaru Forrester so loaded down with fireworks that I'm sure we violated some sort of law. It's a good thing we didn't have any collisions because we'd all likely be in pieces floating somewhere around Evansville right now.

It all started with a day of hooky and a night at the Sweetwater Lakehouse where Jeff gave Team Vielee-Reed a sampling of what was to come. It was a fun day at the lake where Alison dove right in -- clothes on-- playing mostly with the boys at the new beach and going down the dock slide about 750 times.

We'd planned to make it to the Linton, IN 4th of July parade but between a late morning start and rain that just wouldn't end, we didn't make it. We did, however, make a few stops at fireworks stands along the way. Not that Jeff cheated on Tom Vielee -- we just had to shop the wares....

Friday found us at another lake -- this one in Greene County and the property of my cousin Howard's brother-in-law, Jeff Blanton. Jeff is also the brother of one of my best friends from school, Lea Anne (Blanton) Stone. It was my second visit to the place -- the first last year for a high school reunion-ish party where Jeff made the mistake of telling me we could come back anytime. The gathering was a mix of friends and family -- much like the whole town of Jasonville is. I'm pretty sure we'll be there again...

My sister Nancy's daughter Acacia is now best friends with Lea Anne's daughter Karetta. (I know I'm spelling that wrong.) I can only hope they have as much fun as Lea Anne and I used to have. Jeff and Howard were the fireworks kings, and they managed to limit us to only one near miss. They were firing across the lake when one tipped over, skipping straight at us across the water like a perfectly flat stone. The water saved us.

Saturday we were at Donna's house for another huge collection of friends and family. Brother-in-law No. 1 Jim Bradbury fixes beans over a wood fire in a black witch's cauldron every year, and he was in fine form for it this weekend. Donna made (from scratch) three kinds of bread, 6 pies and laid out an assortment of fruits and veggies that must have cleared out the produce aisle of at least one supermarket.

There was talk of home-made ice-cream but Debbie was in charge of that and it mysteriously disappeared. Becca and I tried our hand at a pineapple upside down cake, but I mostly kept close to my specialty: cleaning up. You can't really poison anyone cleaning up, and it's a chore that needs doing.

Jeff, who'd worried that he'd not blasted enough fire the night before, fretted all day Saturday thinking he didn't have enough. He managed to keep us looking skyward for at least an hour. With no water to shield us, the fireworks seemed to be exploding right on top of us. (Some claimed shrapnel drifted down on them, but no one lit up.)

All in all, it was a mighty fine 4th of July Weekend. I'm glad I had that extra day...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It's nice not to be Bob

So I just have a terrible day at work. It started with forgetting my cell phone at home and then forgetting that Jeff had been nice enough to deliver it to me. (I was lucky that I ran into him on the sidewalk as I started off to handle Issue No. 1)

It was one of those it's-never-going-to-stop ones. I can't get out the door, I'm later picking Alison up than I want, I'm not ready for the weekend, etc...

But then I pick her up, ask how Day 2 of Camp Ogden was, and my day got way better.

"It was OK. We found a caterpillar."


"Well. Really, Natalie found a caterpillar and everyone was happy because we could replace Bob."

(Bob was a caterpillar that Hannah and Alex had been keeping. It was actually a cocoon that apparently had failed to launch.)

"But then Natalie said that because she had found it, it was really hers and she should take it home and then they all got into a big fight. Hannah said we'd have to play rock, paper, scissors to figure it out and be fair and so there's be no one crying their eyeballs out if they lost."

"So what happened?"

"Well, Alex won. And Natalie cried her eyeballs out."

My day was better than that. And way better than Bob's....