Sunday, August 31, 2008

Family Fun is no labor

We've started off our Labor Day weekend slowly -- in part because on Friday, Amer tipped me off to the fact that the Stephenie Meyer book we've been waiting for has been put on hold because the author's manuscript was leaked onto the Internet. She's so angry about it that she posted her most current version of it on her Web site and is asking folks to read it there rather than the pirated version.

So rather than do something fun for everyone Friday, I sat glued to my computer to hear what Edward had to say in the Twilight series. Jeff and Ali didn't seem to mind, and I got my fix. (Thanks, Amer.)

On Saturday we headed down for a too-long-awaited trip to Columbus to see Uncle Larry, Aunt Shirley, Lori and Allyssa. When I reminded Ali Saturday morning that we were making the trip, she looked up from her Mac where she was playing a Webkinz game, frowned and said, "Do they have technology?"

I didn't spell out for her that no, she wouldn't be playing computer games on our visit, and when we got there, it didn't matter. She attached herself to Allyssa like a chimpanzee. Thankfully, 'Lyssa didn't mind and even seemed to like the company. Between the ribs, playing in the country grass and hanging on Allyssa, Alison had a great time.

We did, too. I discovered that rather than being named after my Great Aunt Ann (a woman we'd never been close to and who busted Lori and me every time she caught us being bad at Grandma Bickel's house) I was actually named after Shirley Ann -- my mom's younger sister. Yeah, I'm 44 and discovering this now, but hey better late than never.

Lucy Edelman married Don Bickel and had six other children before me in 1964. Shirley Edelman (Lucy's sister) married Larry Bickel (Don's brother) and had Lori in 1965. So Lori and I are double cousins and just 11 months apart.

Many of my childhood memories are of hanging out with Lori, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Larry. Our cousin, Beth, who's even closer to me in age, was with us a lot, too, but her family moved to Columbus before Larry and Shirley left, so Lori and I had more time together as little kids. Plus, I'd get to go along when my Grandma Iris (my mom's mom) visited Shirley after they'd movedto Columbus.

I was 16 or so at their house when Lori and I returned from the movies one night to learn that my Dad had had another heart attack and was in the hospital. It was at least 10 o'clock, and I wanted to go right back home. Larry insisted on going with me. It was the first and last time he'd driven with me.

You can't really get from their house in Columbus to my hometown except on twisty, two-lane country roads. Apparently I took liberties with the speed limit. I remember him sitting there, holding on to the door like it was moving, chain smoking and saying, occasionally, "Kid, you might want to slow down."

We got to the hospital. My dad was OK, but Larry swore he'd never ride with me again. And he 's been true to his word.

Shirley has always been the aunt who smacked me around when I needed it or hugged me when I needed that. So to find out my middle name was for her was really special.

Anyway, we ate great food, laughed at each other and had a great time. Makes me ashamed of myself for staying away so long.

You can tell I had had too much wine because I was quizzing Larry and Shirley on their early years.

They'd grown up about 4 miles apart, he in the country and she in town but I knew they'd gone to different schools that later consolidated with yet another to form the school we all went to.

My mom and her sisters grew up in Jasonville, so they were sophisticated city girls whereas my dad and his brothers lived out in the country.

Come to think of it, Uncle Ed married a town girl too...something about those country boys liking townies, I guess. Uncle Bill brought Aunt Gudrun back from Germany, and I'll have to find out the rest of that story one day...

In the photo above, my mom is on the left (pregnant, of course, Grandma Iris, Aunt Shirley and Aunt Jiggy are beside her.)

So back in Aunt Shirley's dinner table, in between the ribs and pie, I continued my look back in time. I took another swig of wine and said to my aunt and uncle, "So how did you two actually meet?"

I don't know what I was thinking -- except that I was having this image of a teenage Larry bumping into teenage Shirley at the movies (Jasonville actually had two movie theaters back in the day; it only went to hell in my generation) and getting dazzled by the red-headed beauty.

They both just stared at me like I was an alien. Larry couldn't even speak. Shirley said, "Well, duh. Think about it."

"Ah, yeah...." I think they were 5 years old when they "met" because my parents were dating and then married. Have another drink, Cheryl.

Shirley claims Larry was a mean little boy, and it's believable. He and Uncle Ed used to steal dynamite and blow stuff up and jump on the train for trips to Terre Haute. You can see why the ladies liked them later. But as little boys, they were probably little David Whittamores in training.

In the photo to the left, are my dad, Uncle Ed, Uncle Jack, Uncle Bill and Uncle Larry -- lookers, aren't they? I think James Dean must have used that picture as inspiration...

I'm also including a hunting shot of my dad, Jack, Larry and my Grandpa Layman Bickel for two reason. 1. I think it's another bad-ass kind of picture and 2. My city friends will freak out a little bit to see the prize and the evidence of the hunt that's staining clothes, car and gear. Plus, it's fun to see my Grandpa looking just like I like to remember him -- tall, kind of scary but an incredible story teller who you just want to be around. (If you click on the photo, it'll enlarge.)

Anyway, it was a fun trip to Columbus. Today I think we're going to take a long bike ride along the canal tow path. I'll be sure not to drive off into the abyss this time.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, August 22, 2008

2nd Grader

Alison started second grade yesterday with nary a problem or a bit of reluctance to leave her silly, sentimental mother.

It was actually a lot of fun. She's abandoned her pink backpack for an LPS special that her Aunt Margaret bought her. She loves it, and it's the perfect size.

We rode over to school on my bike and her tandem to find the parking lot full of uniformed kids happy to see each other. In addition to seeing her classmates again, we got to welcome Helen Grace Mansfield to Christ the King. She'll be next door to Alison, in first grade this year.

Fletcher rounded out the Team (John) Vielee CKS continent, starting kindergarten today.

It's good to get back into the school routine, but man did summer go quick.

Happy Birthday!

It's funny to me how differently people look at birthdays. When we were growing up, I don't remember a big emphasis on birthdays for any of us. Consequently, the Bickels don't do much for each other come birthday time, though we do think about each other and send the occasional card or pick up the phone.

I do remember when I turned 13, though. My sisters Debbie and Nancy made a big deal of it, setting the table with Mom's Depression glass and inviting some of my friends. (Donna and Diana had long fled the coop by the time I hit my teens or I'm sure they'd have been in on it.) My birthday is in the summer -- it was Friday -- and usually just before the school year started. We lived out in the country, so getting friends together was kind of tricky.

My parents gave me a box of books that my dad had scored at an auction. I still have them; a nearly complete set of books written by Carolyn Wells and copyrighted in 1916. I just found a blog about the series and I might have to see if I can fill in the holes I have.

The books are about a rich young girl named Patty -- an only child -- who cavorted around New York City doing good deeds and enlightening her world. I totally wanted to be her. She was Paris Hilton but without the sex, drugs and with panties. OK, so maybe she wasn't Paris Hilton. Hell. It was 1916. Today, she'd be a pantiless slut hanging out with bad boys.

Generally, our birthdays were small affairs celebrated with cake and family. One of my sisters took this non-event status to an extreme. She used to just look at the return address on birthday cards before throwing them away without ever opening them. She just didn't care about her birthday, and just the knowledge that someone cared enough to send a card was good enough for her. She liked getting them; opening them was a little bit too much effort, though. She's mellowed in recent years. She opens them and actually reads them now. Don't worry, Donna, I won't 'out' you.

While I still don't seek a huge party or a lot of attention, I'm touched beyond description when people give me a call or send a card or email to note my steadily increasing age. I have kept every birthday card I've ever gotten. I make fun of Jeff for his box farm, but he rightfully points to my collection of cards. I don't know why I keep them, but they're great to stumble on when I'm rummaging for stuff. Makes me remember how many great people I have in my life.

Anyway, once I moved away from home, I discovered that some people make a huge deal of birthdays. One of my friends always takes that day off from work. Others celebrate the entire month of their birthday and force everyone around them to celebrate, too. Others take trips.

Jeff's family is great about remembering birthdays. Jennifer and Peter presented me with an early gift last week, one that my sister Debbie was immediately jealous of when she called today: a very subtle Harley tee-shirt. I'm going to have to get some leather now.

I make a big deal out of Alison and Jeff's birthday, but can't seem to generate the energy to push them to do the same for me. It's not that I don't want to be celebrated -- it's just not something I'm used to, so I forget to ask for it.

My actual birthday was very low key but great. My friends at work decorated my desk and brought in a light-up tiara to wear. I put it on and wore it for while, but it kind of dug holes in my skull, so I had to give it up.

Another brought in a yummy birthday cupcake, Jeff took me out to lunch, and my Bunconians blessed me with a series of truly raunchy poems. I'd share them, but this is a family blog...

Alison made me a beautiful butterfly card and worked with her dad to get me some earrings I'd wanted for a while. My mailman is cursing my name after hauling in all the lovely cards, and I might be over my minutes due to my yakking with great friends and family.

Oh! I have a lovely new necklace from my BFF, Karin, too. It came from Global Gifts, a great shop that buys stuff from third world countries and sends some of the profits back to the people who really need it.

Special note to Gary (You are far too generous and I'm still a little teary after reading your card.) His generosity was quickly invested in even more jewelry today at a Premiere Designs Jewelry party hosted by Lynda Ruble.

My investment helped Lynda increase her jewelry collection because it was one of those "the-more-guests-buy-the-more-free-stuff-the-hostess-gets' deals. Some of the proceeds also go to help ministries around the world, so Gary's gift to me actually got spread around as gifts around the world.

The celebrating was extended to Saturday when Jeff took me out for drinks and dinner and to see my all time favorite Bravo TV host, Kathy Griffin. (I'd agreed that he could play poker on my birthday, which apparently has won me great kudos from his poker buddies. I got Kathy Griffin out of the deal, so it's not like I suffered.)

Ali was with the Ogdens who took Dale down for his annual dig of a southern Indiana cave. They spent part of the time crawling around the cave, which isn't open to the public but has been a sort of Indiana State Museum work-in-progress for the past 20 years. They had a blast.

Kathy Griffin rocked. She even had Jeff laughing out loud. He barely tolerates my fascination with her, so it was extra fun to hear him spitting out his drink when she got particularly snarky. She was riffing on Paula Abdul, who apparently once complained that she wasn't being treated as" the gift" that she is. We laughed and laughed, but I've totally taken that over now.

And it's just occurred to me that my birthday was really a global gift itself. Karin bought me a gift that helps third world countries; Gary's gift bought me jewelry that helped Lyn get more baubles and helped poor women around the globe; and Kathy Griffin helps anyone who can get her more PR.

I am a gift to the world! I should totally make a bigger deal of my birthday....Maybe next year I'll celebrate for a week. Imagine all the good I can do. Mark it on your calendars!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reed East meet Reeds West

Team Reed of the East came West last week and it was so much fun I can't even begin to describe it.


From James: "There is no "i" in team, but there is a "u" in suck." (I don't remember the context, but I'm sure he's aimed it many, many times at deserving weasels.)

From Jen: "Fat people are hard to kidnap." (Sure, she read it on a tee-shirt at the Indiana State Fair, but she remembered to repeat it.)

From David: "There are fewer fat asses in Indiana than in Maine." (I think he can't have been paying attention because he said it at the Fair and there just had to be more here than there, including my own. Thanks for introducing me to the fried cheese, Lyn.)

The fun got started Thursday afternoon. Jeff had a softball game so James and David (new the city but hardy travelers) were assigned to airport duty for the rest of the gang. I had to take Ali to dress rehearsal so it was a bit tricky getting everyone together for dinner.

To say the dress rehearsal was a disastrous would be too mild. Amy and I kept looking at each other in horror as the practice dragged on and on, getting worse instead of better. I gave everyone from out of town a free pass if they didn't want to sit through the real dance recital on Friday.

Gary was a real trooper and went along with us, though, and lo and behold, the dancers were actually quite good. Amer and I aren't sure what happened overnight, but when the lights went up and there were people in the theater, everyone literally stepped up their game.

Afterward, we all met up at Mama Corolla's for a late dinner. So late, in fact, that my ballerina didn't make it to dessert. It was not one of my finest parenting moments, but the food was great and the company even better. Jeff and James took turns lugging her home. I'm pretty sure she played possum for a while just to get the mile-high rides.

We all threw caution to the wind and broke the law to walk the Monon Trail back home. No one was robbed, murdered or otherwise molested. That I know of. Peter and Jen were walking together and out of my sight...

We did very little but laugh, eat, drink, and walk around the city looking at fine art, huge pigs and the fun little village of Broad Ripple. Peter braved crazy long flights (not to mention four straight days of Reed after Reed) to even get here and then helped save my dead disposal without even one complaint. David saved Alison's goldfish from certain death, shaming Jeff into not using live bait to teach Ali and me a lesson about how to properly care for aquatic life.

The fish nearly died but then lived while Jen, Ali and I got our toe nails polished. Alison had initially balked at getting a pedicure and is apparently too young for the full treatment, has pledged to return and this time get "that hot tub" treatment Jen and I had.

We spent most of Saturday at the fair, with Ali cajoling James and her father to ride those crazy rides with her. Grandpa took a turn on the Tilt-a-Whirl before deciding that the harness racing was more attractive.

We patronized quite of few of the local eateries before Jeff broke down and grilled for a final gathering Sunday night. Again, the food was great. Farm fresh tomatoes, peach crisp, tenderloin and a bunch of other treats washed down with gallons of Swampwater, beer and wine. Thinking back, we may have gotten a little carried away.

Late Sunday after everyone had gone, Jeff, Gary and I were sitting in the dark, savoring the silky evening and the good company. Marian's birthday was to come two days later, and we'd all been thinking of her throughout the weekend. Gary mentioned that he'd gotten teary and we all agreed how much she would have enjoyed the time we'd all had.

Talking later about it with Alison, we agreed that she was really there all along, and that we knew she was looking down, laughing along with us, shrugging her shoulders if anyone noted that we were being too silly or indulging a bit too much.

The weather was amazing for August in Indiana and while I'm glad of that, I did sort of think the Mainers deserved to feel at least a few moments of a real Hoosier summer. But there was no scorching heat, and just enough of a breeze to discourage the mosquitoes. Jeff built a roaring fire in the chimenae to keep them fully at bay, and while he nearly roasted his father, the flying varmints didn't feast on any of us.

So it was a good trip. Some of our friends got to say hello again or meet the East Wing of the Reed family, and that made it all the more special.

David, I need your photos! I didn't get everyone, and I want to show you off.

We miss everyone already and can't wait for Christmas.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Camp Reed

I've had such fun the past two days. I'm on vacation, and it's been Camp Reed, so on Monday, I had Hannah and Alex Ogden, along with Alison. Today, Hannah had a sore throat, but she also had her favorite (OK one of her favorite) aunts in town, and I suspect she may like Lori more than she likes me....

We spent some time just hanging out here and then we went up to (gag) Carmel for laser tag at a place creatively called Laser Flash. The kids had been there through their summer camp, and were excited to go back. Besides the laser tag, where they get to shoot each other, there's an arcade.

We got to the place about 30 minutes early, so I made them take a walk down the Monon Trail where we found a fountain, some flowers and plenty of running room for hyper kids.

Alison and Alex just couldnt' stop talking about th ecoming adventure. Hannah and I had a little girl talk, but inevitably, we got sucked into the Ali-Alex talk. ?W hen I agreed to give them asawbuck to play with at the arcade. You would have thought they'd died and gone to Heaven.

"I'm so excited I'm tingling inside!" Alex confessed.

Alarmed, big sister Hannah asked, "Is that good?"

"Oh yeah," muttered Alex.

So they get in there and go crazy. I made them give me their tickets for safe keeping before the shoot out. I had a small mountain of redeemable cash before me. About 20 minutes later, they emerge. Hannah is the victorious top scorer for the team she and Alex had been on.

"I shot Ali! I shot Ali even after she was dead!!!!" exclaims Hannah.

"Hannah and Alison have a frenemy relationship. Karin swears its because they both are alpha dogs and can't stand to be bossed by the other. (Alex doesn't mind being bossed; he kind of thrives on it) Because they can't help but be bossy -- oh, excuse me: I mean be leaders -- they sometimes experience friction. But they do love each other, and I'm certain they'd each back the other up if anyone happened to attack their little coven.

We had a agreat time, and capped it off with a trip to the Super China Buffet. Camp Reed Day 1 was an unparalleled success.

Day 2 was a bit more rocky. I had only Alex and Ali because Hannah was home sick. We hung out here waiting for the Carmel (ugh again) water park to open. Their Web site sucks, by the way.

According to the site, the park opened at 11 a.m. I thought it best to feed the little monsters first, so we didn't get there until about 1 p.m. At which time we find tha thte oudoor area doesn't open until 4 p.m. We're already there, and there's an indoor pool we can splash around in, so we decide to stay.

Alex must have asked 700 times whether it was time to go outside. Finally, it's 4 , so we pack up and head to the sun. That's when the lifeguards out there tell us it's really 4:30 that they open. Crap!

So we just park ourselves out there, warm up and wait. The kids snarf down some stale goldfish crackers and we ait. And Wait. And Wait some more.

Finally, we get to splash around and test out the slides. We spent five hours there. Near the end, I went to the bathroom to change out of my swim suit. Alex was polishing off the crackers and an apple while Ali was still (according to Alex) floating down the lazy river.

Apparently, it was about this same time that Ali decided to look for me. I wasn't to be found, and she had a momentary panic attack much like the one I had when I went to the rive to get her, only to find her missing. Once reunited, we were happy campers. Alex was nonplussed. He apparently knew we'd find each other, plus, he was hungry.

We were all starving so we set out for Taco Bell where I asked them what they thought of the water park. The water play had cost me less than just the arcade from the day before and I was thinking that I'd found a great bargain.

"It was kind of lame, Mom," Alison says around her double decker taco.

"Huh?" asked, reminding her that she was the last one out of the water.

"Well, I didn't lose my mom at the arcade, and there were lots of prizes and shooting," she said.

"Yeah," chimes in her little cohort. "It was kind of lame. Coco Key (our trip in the spring) had lots better equipment."

"Yeah, Mom," Ali continued. "Kids don't like just little baby equipment. We like bigger slides and pools you can actually swim in. And water toys you can climb on and well, extreme things. Not just little kid stuff."

"Yeah. Extreme stuff," Alex said, eyeing another taco.

I gave up. I mean, I don't like going to Carmel. It's just too perfect for my taste. But the park was nice enough. It's no Holiday World, but for a city park, it's pretty nice. The pools where you get dumped after sliding are just dumping grounds, though. Ali and Alex like to swim, and they wanted to hang out a bit. We never did find an outdoor pool where they could play a good game of pool tag. The pools for toddlers were immense. There was even a big sand lot, complete with showers for when they kids stagger out of the pit and back to the pool.

The timing of the openings was annoying, though. And you could tell summer is over: there were more lifeguards than customers.

So we finish up at Taco Bell with a little conversation that just reminded me how much I like it that Alison found such a good friend in little Alex. They were talking about how in Heaven if someone tried to cut your head off, the knife would just slice right through your body because you're an angel. (Why they think Heaven allows be-headings, I'm not sure. but nevertheless...)

"Alison, if I was in Heaven and you weren't there with me, I would be sad," said Alex.

Ali instantly teared up. "I would be sad, too," she said.

"If you were in Heaven and I wasn't, I would be in my room crying. A Lot. A really Lot," Alex said.

"Me, too," said Ali. "But you're a whole year younger than me, and I will be up there all alone!!!!"

"Alison I can tell you're really sad about this because your eyes are all wet," Alex said.

"Yeah. I cry sometimes when someone tells a bad story," she said.

"Hey!" said Alex, brightening. "Maybe something will happen. You never know. Maybe something will happen to me early, and you wont' have to be up there all alone so long."

"Thanks, Alex. But we we don't have to think about this for a long time," Ali said, wiping away her tears.

And then they started playing tricks with their straws.

Chip off the ol' block

I must have been 7 or 8 when I chipped one of my front teeth at the Jasonville City Park. I remember it clearly. We were there watching my brothers play baseball. In those days, if they were lucky, girls either got the privilege of being a "bat boy" (yes, they were "bat boys" regardless of gender) for their brother's team, or just went out and played in or around the park until the game was over.

I was playing on the bleachers and somehow flipped myself from the top seat to bang my mouth on a steel pipe that served as part of the support structure. I must have cried a lot. I remember my mother shouting over the din to my dad that it's "one of her permanent teeth."

While it must have bothered them, the chunk of my DNA was left forever on the ground at the city park. It wasn't until I'd graduated from both high school and college that I got it fixed. Yes, that's me and my mangled smile my senior year. Just take a close look at that and wonder how I stayed a virgin so long... Between the thug brothers, the hair, the glasses and the chompers, I was lucky to have boys even talk to me face-to-face.

I've often wondered if my parents didn't get my teeth fixed as an experiment in character development. Maybe it was just one of those things everyone got used to and forgot about, like a leaky faucet in a bathroom you don't use.

Plus, my parent had seven children to feed, clothe and get through life. Cosmetic dentistry shops hadn't yet popped up like Starbucks. Heck, we didn't even have Starbucks yet. Let alone the money to afford a latte.

Anyway, I tell you this because Monday night while having her bath, Alison was busily coloring herself up with the new bath paint her Aunt Nancy gave her when I heard a wail. It was one of those serious ones. Not one where she'd taken the last scrap of color from the jar and wanted more knowing there was no more to be had.

She'd sneezed, and in so doing had knocked her teeth against the edge of the tub. The tub came with the house, which means it was probably manufactured around the time I was knocking my own tooth against an immovable object. That tub is probably steel wrapped in 25 coats of enamel.

Sure enough, a little chunk of one of her front teeth is literally down the drain. She was more worried about the pain than the loss of tooth, though, and so was I at first.

No blood, just a lost sliver of tooth. It's not as noticeable as mine was. Her tooth just looks a little jaggedy on the bottom. I'll get her in to see Dr. Marshall, but I imagine he'll tell me to wait until she's grown a bit more and then he'll file it down or something. If a big chunk was gone, I think I'd be more insistent.

Take a look at her next time you see her and tell me if I'm under-reacting. While I was sitting in the dentist's chair trying to explain why I'd waited so long to have my tooth fixed, I swore I'd never wait to fix my child's teeth if they happened to need repair.

I'm fairly certain I'll keep that promise, but feel free to prompt me if you think I'm delaying too long.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Could Have Danced All Night -- and some did

Alison and Jenna were on stage at the Indiana State Fair again this year, and they were knock-outs, as usual.

The show was its usual chaos. Call time at 5 p.m. to endure the end of some lederhose-wearing geezers happily tromping around in a polka/clog/square dance that seemed to go on for 17 days. They seemed happy about it, so you tried to be patient, but man they danced for years.

Finally, our dance troupe goes on. six hours later, Jenna's first tap number comes up. A day-and-half more and both girls perform their ballet to "I Could Have Danced All Night." Then another two decades to one more tap and then an eternity to the finale.

Thank God and Lynda Ruble for deep fried potatoes.

So I might have exaggerate the time it took, but only a little bit. Then it was off to the Midway for some rides and games. Alison won two goldfish after tossing $5 worth of ping pong balls at little fish bowls. She named them Alison and Jenna, of course, and the two girls kept admonishing us about how to properly hold the little swimmers while they dashed about.

Some fried cheese, ice cream and corn-on-the-cob later, Ali and I staggered off to find a fish bowl for the two new family members. Our first store didn't have anything useful.

On the way to Target, I hear from the back seat: "Oh no! Jenna's dead."

Sure enough, she was a goner. The non-gilled Ali was sad, but not despondent, and finding a tank cheered her right up. So far, both Alisons are still doing well.

We got a surprise visit this afternoon from Jenna, Ginny and Amer. I was a little wary of how the original Jenna would take the news about her namesake, but she handled it just fine.

I think she's plotting a way to get her own set of fish twins when she gets back to Fair with Grandma...

The Kid Yard Sale

Alex Ogden bounded out of bed this morning as excited as he could be. "I've never had a sale with someone before," he exclaimed. Hannah was just as excited. Alison was asleep when I left the house in search of donuts for the crew -- that's standard fare for election workers, so it seemed worthy of young yard salers as well.

Man did we start out with a lot of junk. I mean merchandise. As some of you will recall, the kids had the sale to raise money to replace toys stolen from them at summer camp. They were so excited. And man did they push people to buy!

It was fun to watch. And watch was what I did, mostly. Poor Karin and the kids were left to transact business while I just chatted with friends and neighbors in the yard. Thanks so much to the hordes of you who came and especially those who left with some of the, um, stuff, that needed to leave the houses of Ogden and Reed.

I finally got to meet Oscar Happe. What a beautiful child! And Kayan Sherwood Drake, too. It was a veritable reunion of great friends who I hadn't seen for far too long.

The first customer (not counting the skulker who showed up the night before and left with a mattress we'd been holding for heavy trash day) arrived at 7:34 a.m. even though we weren't planning to open until 8. By 12:45 or so, we'd packed up. By 2, we'd cleaned up, carted off the remains to Goodwill were counting out the cash.

And then Karin and I got into a heated argument. Well, it was as heated as two moms can get when they're whispering and jerking their heads and using sign language so as not to alarm the kiddos. We'd planned to deduct expenses from the gross, but I didn't think they'd made enough to make giving them just the net very fun.

"But that was our agreement!" insisted Miss Particular. (I'd sold her on the conomics lesson

"Oh come on!" I silently shouted.

I was feeling a little guilty for giving away a full box of bagged goodies for just $1 when if I'd let the lady sort it out, we may have gotten as much as $2. But that would have left us with more stuff to cart to Goodwill. I reached back to my dad's auction days when there was always a box for a dollar, contents sight unseen. He could never resist those boxes. And the lady seemed happy...

"No you come on!" she silently shouted back. I think she tried to kick me but the table leg got in her way.

They'd grossed $104. Between the cost of the ad in the paper and the money Karin had fronted for change, we'd take more than half of it if we made them fully repay us. We agreed to $20 a kid, splitting the difference of the remainder between Karin and me. They were thrilled. And so ready to head to Target to spend it all.

But then, we (it was Karin's idea; she's so much nicer than me) we reminded them about just how lucky they were and how less blessed other children in the world are. We asked them if they thought they'd want to share some of their generosity with someone who needed help. Animals, the environment, the homeless.

"But will we have enough for Webkins, too?" they asked, as any children would.

"Yup." We said.

"Sure!" they said, and set to discussing how best to invest some of their money. They agreed to 10 percent (I'm sure my Dad smiled at the biblical implications.) And they decided to help IPS School #14 -- an Indianapolis school with a disproportionate number of homeless students.

I like those kids.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame

Jeff Reed isn't the only man who loves baseball, but he's got to be among an elite group of men who truly love it.

We've had season tickets to the Indianapolis Indians since before they moved from ratty old (but wonderful) Bush stadium to the pristine Victory Field. (We share with a group of folks, and it was Clay Miller who first brought me into the group; I brought Jeff. Clay left town once and left us in charge, and we've had it ever since.) His love of the Boston Red Sox is legendary and the hours he puts into his fantasy baseball league can't be counted.

I remember when we were dating how he'd declined an outing I offered one day so he could watch "the game." I tried again the next day and we was watching baseball again.

I said, "I thought the game was yesterday."

"Baby, there's always a game," he'd said.

I didn't know it then, but I was lucky he agreed to see me after that.

So Saturday, when we went to the game, Jeff took a deep breath, smiled wide, looked around th e ball park and said, as he always does, "I love this place."

He's always hoped that Alison would love baseball, too. She does enjoy going to the games, but it's mostly for the ice cream she gets in the 5th inning. But he keeps trying -- at both baseball and other stuff he likes.

I'd told him about her wish to be "extreme" the other day, so he called her in to watch a little TV with him. It was Thursday, day 3 of the 4-day grounding he'd meted out earlier.

"Hey, Ali, come here, I want you watch something with me," he called.

No dummy, she knew something was up. "Um, Dad you said I can't watch TV," she said.

Ignoring the thought that he was violating his own rules and could confuse her psyche, he set the edict aside. "Well I want you watch with me. Look: you know how you want to be extreme, right? These guys are really extreme. Look what they can do on their bikes."

He was telling her about extreme sports and the fundamentals the people who play them get through first. Culminating, of course, in a request for her to go back to learning how to ride her bike without training wheels.

It held her interest for only a few exhibits. And then, in the words of my loving husband, "she went off to play with some f#@@@ng pet shops or something."

Not that he's bitter. Anyway, this afternoon, as we went to get her from a birthday party, he suddenly blurts out, "Alison hates baseball. She's never going to like it."

He was really sad about it, so I shouldn't have laughed, but I did. I mean, really. She's 7. She'd sat through nearly two full innings before she's started squirming.

"Yeah, because she was eating pizza," he said. "The only time she got excited was when the guy broke a bat."

Not true, I said. She also got excited when she caught a ball thrown by a guest mascot. But he'd missed that when he went to get chicken strips.

I tried to convince him that there's time. I considered saying she loves him. Isn't that enough? But he's despondent. I'm not sure what to do about it.

I did stop laughing, though... The shot above is within her first three months when she couldn't get away from him....

Bug World

I got home the other day to find Jeff, Alison, Hannah and Alex having a hey day on the front porch.

They'd found this huge insect there and were trying to figure out what it was. Jeff thought it was a cicada due in part to the one I'd accidentally murdered while working in the yard under the magnolia tree. I think it's just a big-ass hairy moth. It was a bit freaky.

We'd made sure it was OK and relocated before the kids moved on.

Then on Friday, Alison got to babysit Alex and Hannah's caterpillars. They were dangling from the side of a little mesh tent that came with the kit Karin had ordered weeks before. Team Ogden is on vacation, and one of the cocoons had started to quiver, so they thought the emergence might not be as far off as they'd earlier hoped. We agreed to keep watch and feed the little buggers if they made an appearance.

This morning I woke up to hear Jeff and Ali cooing and gooing in wonder as the butterflies did, indeed shrug off their encasements. It was really cool, and we all lamented how sad it was that Hannah and Alex were missing it. (Karin's already re-ordered, so they'll get their moment. But still.)

It's difficult to get a good picture of them because of the netting, but it's way cool. We've sliced up clementines and put some sugar water in the bottom of the tent so they can eat. Wish me luck that they'll live long enough for Hannah and Alex to get to see them. The CD that comes with the kit claims they'll live four weeks in the tent. We'll see...

Last night on the way to the Indians' game, Alison asked us what we thought she might to be when she grows up. For years, she's wanted to be a paleontologist, but she's gotten away from that recently.

Turns out she and Alex have discussed their futures (they're still adamantly opposed to being thought of as boyfriend and girlfriend.) And much as they sometimes quarrel, they're pretty close. I asked her once why she hadn't gone swimming at camp that day. Turns out Alex had a cold and didn' t get in the pool.

"If Alex can't swim, I don't swim," she said.

So she announces to the car, "When I grow up, I'm going to work at the White River State Park Butterfly Garden," she said.

"Really?" I said -- it was one I hadn't heard.

"Yeah, me and Alex have been talking about it, and it would be so cool!" she said.

"Is Alex going to work there, too?" I asked.

"No, he's going to work with the monkeys over in the zoo next door," she said firmly, as if it were truly all worked out.

"So, you and Alex, aye? Together all the time, even when you're grown up."

"Uh. Yeah. Of course," she said.

I'm going to have to keep a sharper eye on that Alex....

Saturday, August 2, 2008


So my addiction to the Twilight Series seems to have slightly abated. After my book club met Friday night, one of my club friends, Jennifer Dunlap, and I hung out at Borders waiting for the midnight release of the last book in the series.

I'd badgered the club into reading the first book in the series for our next book club, so Jen thought midnight was as good a time as any to pick it up. She's a great sport, has been my friend since my FOB days, so it was fun to have her along.

I'm not really one of those people who dress up for events and I was afraid there would be a lot of people in character. It was, after all, a Twilight event. So we get there about 11:30 p.m. and the crowd was young, but not too out of control. The book was to be released precisely at the witching hour. Armed with my friend, sugar-free Red Bull, I was prepared to be upright to at least purchase the book. I'd cleared my Saturday schedule and Jeff had agreed to just let me have the day to read. (I love him.)

I was on the list, so I got a wristband and a numbered place in line, so we just sat down and read while we waited, ignoring the festivities. Every once in a while, there would be a screaming outcry from the girls who were in the contests. It reminded me of when Alison and Jenna scream for the sheer joy of hearing their voices. I shuddered, having forgotten that in a few years they'll be doing that again, but at a larger volume. And probably over boys.

Finally, they tell us we have to line up. Jen sticks with me, even though she was officially 100 people back. We figured if we had to line up, we might as well see if they were really checking numbers.

I was No. 44. No. 45 was a young man deep in the prime of inflamed acne awkwardness. I would have thought he was a sweet kid if he'd had a shred of respect for personal space and if he hadn't been chomping on a wad of gum too big for his mouth. It was a close crowd, and we were trapped. When he was pointed at me, his chomping was about 2-centimeters from my right ear.

I was almost happy when he'd direct his gaze at another person in line and try to engage them in theoretical discussions about what would happen next to the Twilight characters, and if that person was going to the movie and if they liked the cast and if they thought they could possibly wait until the December release date. He'd "heard" a lot about both things and was eager to pass on his knowledge.

Superior being that I was, I chuckled to myself when he was confiding how he'd heard things when actually he was just reciting from the author's Web site. I fell right off my high horse when I realized that if I could tell that he was quoting from the author's Web site, I was, um, kind of an obsessed fan myself.

I've made it a mission in my life to never be one of those people who stalk celebrities or go out of their way to meet them. I make fun of re-enactors. I question the priorities of people who camp out to get tickets to events. I was a Harry Potter fan, and I'd set aside hours to read through them as they came out, but I'd never dress up and wait in line for them like my good friend Joyce did.... I made great fun of her when she'd ended up on the news carrying her little wand. Heck. I still make fun of her for that!

But yeah, while I didn't dress up, I can admit that I've visited the Twilight site a few times. I've watched the movie trailer once or twice. And here I was standing in line at midnight waiting for a book that would be available everywhere the next day. Heavy sigh.

Anyway, the kid rattled on and on and on. He capped it off with asking people if they'd ever heard about J.K. Rowlings. "She's written a few books, too," he said.

I almost asked him if he seriously thought he was telling people about a new author they may not have known about. But then I gave myself a mental shake. He was 13 if he was a day. He was excited. He was having a real discussion about authors, not out shooting cats, stealing virtual (or real) cars or stuck in the bathroom with a sopping sock. "This is a good thing. Let him be!" I gave myself a virtual smack.

Finally, the staff wheeled out carts of the new book and we were able to buy it. Jen got to stick with me and we were out of the store.

I got home at 12:15 or so. Jen left about five minutes later. I sat down with the boo, thinking I could at least get through a few pages before sleep would claim me. At 7:14 a.m. , I closed the book, thrilled with the full scoop on what fate had in store for Bella, Edward and Jacob and smiling at the great plot twists and yes, eager to know what comes next.

For fear of retribution from others who haven't either gotten or finished the book, I'll stop with that.

Except to say that I think so much of the writing that I logged on again to Stephenie Meyer's site to send her an email just expressing how much I'd appreciated her effort. I was really disappointed that there's not a way to do that. I didn't want a reply for God's sake. I just wanted to say thanks. Geeze.

If I was really an obsessed fan, I would have tried harder to reach her. Good for me, I can go back to being normal and superior again now that I've finished the book. Well, as soon as I can stop going back to re-read certain sections...