Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Report is in

Alison got her report card today. I knew it was coming, but I'd forgotten about it by the time I went to pick her up from school. She was playing on a computer when I got there and I had to get her attention.

She looked up, worried. "Mommy, today I got my report card," she said.

Unconcerned, I said, "Yeah. I bet you did great."

"Well," she said. "There's something I need to tell you."

She was so worried, I got concerned.

"There's one part I don't understand," she said. "Do you know what ginder means? Maybe it's genfal. I can't remember what it is, but Mommy, there's an "F" under it."

She had the exact demeanor she has when she has to confess a conduct cut and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what she was talking about. "Gandalf? Gimlet? Grasshopper? WTF???!!!"

We sat down right there in the hallway and opened up her backpack. You're probably smarter than I am and figured this out already.

There, on the top line above the columns that listed out her "A's" for schoolwork, her B+ for conduct and her B for handwriting, was her identification. Student: Alison Reed. Grade: 2. Gender: F.

I wanted to laugh so much, but she was near tears, fearing she'd failed something she couldn't pronounce. She was much relieved to add to her vocabulary. I'm sure we'll laugh about it soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scaring up the place

We're going to host a small gathering on All Hallow's Eve this year (that's Friday night, October 31) that will include a haunted back yard and a "Table of Terror" for kids too young to brave the haunting.

Alison and the Ogden kids are working on some decorations right now; Ali and I made cupcakes and cookies yesterday; and Hannah, Ali and I made a marathon shopping expedition for other supplies. This evening, Helen and Ali and I carved up some pumpkins, so we're getting close to ready.

Last night we had the Ogdens, and deep in the Halloween spirit, I picked up a $5 copy of Gostbusters, thinking it would be a fun flick. They didn't last beyond the librarian scene before they begged for something lighter.

Tonight with Helen snuggled on one side, Ali on the other and Jeff on the other side, we tried again. We go to the part where the EPA shut them down and all the ghosts escaped. I remember that movie being so much fun -- could I have been older when it came out? Or are our kids just wusses?

No matter. We have four days till H-day. I'm sure we'll be doing something each night after school to prepare for the party. On Thursday night we'll meet Aunt Donna and pick up Alison's super spectacular Halloween costume --another Donna special. Ali is going to be a witch -- she's been in training for a while.

Alex and Alison Vielee are in charge of the haunted back yard on Friday. A primary feature will be a werewolf who's been locked up in this killer crate I scored from work. Whoever is inside it will rattle and moan (and possibly emerge) hopefully right when some unsuspecting kids walk by. Alex hit up his Grandpa with a little spooky seed money that I slipped him, along with the family discount, for other stuff. So I think our yard will be full of mummies and monsters, dripping blood and moaning up a storm.

I was hoping to have an apple bob into a clear bowl full of live goldfish and a few apples, but Karin has forbidden that, lest the fishes leach out bacteria. (I know! I can't believe I've caved and let the idea go...) Also on the potential list is taking off the blade of our chainsaw and having someone chase the kids. I think Jeff's lawyer-side will kick in for that one, but a girl can dream.

If you hear screaming (and I hope you do) from our neck of the woods on Friday, don't call the police. Just bring some beer and come on by to witness it up close. Set your expectations low; this is our first time out of the goulish gate.

We'll start the haunting after the younger kids finish trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.

It should be fun. There should be no real blood and any buckets that seem full of guts will actually be something that just looks and/or feels like guts. No animals or humans will be harmed in preparation or execution of said haunting.

Everyone's welcome, but given that most of this will be done under cover of darkness, if your kids are coming, please attend with them and be on hand should anything untoward be frightened out of them.

Happy Halloween!

Just because I'm a habitual eavesdropper, I'll leave you with words from the paint crew on the back porch:

"Hey, let's pretend that I'm the boss of all of you," Alex says.

"But you're working on a project," the redhead points out.


"Well bosses don't work. They just tell people what to do," she explained...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You CAN go home again

Last night I blew out of work early to go down to my old stomping grounds, Shakamak High School.

Micajah Green, my teenage friend and daughter of my cousin Howard and his wife Cheryl, invited me to speak at the induction ceremony of the newest members of National Honor Society.

In addition to being a knockout with a crazy temper, Micajah is president on NHS, editor (2nd year running) of the school yearbook, member of the local volunteer fire department and a former Miss Flame. (I think she can earn her college tuition if she sold a calendar of just that photo. It's from her senior picture montage. I'm not going to share my senior picture ever again.)

I was nervous, I have to admit. It had been a long time since I'd been home to see anyone other than my siblings, and the last time I did anything close to official at the school was when I was still a student there. But I like Micajah, and it turns out my nephew Daniel was one of the inductees.

So I get down there, practicing what I could say along the way. Under the best circumstances I'm a bad driver. It's a good thing traffic was light on I-70... I stopped off at my sister Nancy's (mother of said scholar, Daniel) and had some soup. It was really good, and the fact that I was worried it wouldn't stay down wasno reflection at all on the chef.

I get to the school and not much had changed. The chairs in the cafeteria were different than when the Infamous Hot Dog Incident had occurred. But the principal's office was still in the same place. (Oh, yes: I knew it well.)

I saw a lot of people I remembered from school. They were mostly my age and younger. Now in Jasonville, there's not that much to do, but you generally aren't so desperate to spend your Monday night at the NHS induction ceremony. We do have TV, you know.

No, these people I'd grown up with (and more than a few who came after me) were there because their children were being inducted or were already in NHS. Yeah. Their kids are getting ready to graduate and mine is 7. I felt like one of those 60-year-old women who have babies.

I saw Lori Bitz Smith, too. She graduated with one of my sisters. Back when Jeff and I were dating we were in Jasonville for homecoming and I introduced her to Jeff. She looked him up and down and wondered aloud "How did YOU get HIM?"

I saw my friend Cheri Yeryar's parents, who I've always loved. And Barbara Miller, a lovely woman who was sort of our neighbor and who told me she missed my Mom and Dad, too. The Dormans who now own the local newspaper were there, too. The were there for their grandson. Yep, I used to hang out with their daughter Beth, the kid's mom.

I saw Mr. Monday, the legendary SHS science teacher who had seen my older siblings through biology and chemistry and who had gotten mad at me when I decided to work on the school newspaper instead of taking Chem II. I'd taken Bio I and II with him, but the newspaper was calling my name. He thought I was taking the easy way out.

While I give him props for pushing me to acheive in school and life (and I am grateful for that) he was wrong when he thought I'd chosen poorly.

Clearly I do not belong near chemicals. (How he missed it I don't know) It wasn't that long ago that I inadvertently mixed up something akin to mustard gas while cleaning the toilet with my own combination of ammonia, bleach and vinegar. Thinking I was clever, I'd poured the concoction into the bowl, then closed the lid to let it simmer.

I remember opening the lid to check on things. When I came to, the air was hazy and Jeff was yelling at me. (OK. That's a slight exaggeration. I didn't pass out, but my eyes watered and man did Jeff yell at me...)

As for biology, I'll just remind you of the time I was driving my fun little, red two-seater convertible to my folks home for a summer family dinner when I came across two turtles crossing the road. I stopped and put them in the car thinking the kids would like to play with them.

They were snapping turtles. And none to happy to be in my car.

They tried to escape and got under my feet while I was trying to drive. Snapping turtles got their name because they snap at you and bite when they can. (Maybe they should all be named Stitches, Amer.) I don't remember how I made it home that time.

I'm not sure the world of journalism needed me, but I needed it. Can you imagine what might have happened to the world with me in a science role? Ugh.

But back to the NHS speech. Part of why Micajah asked me to speak was because I was a former NHS member myself. (I'm not sure how, either. Maybe it was easier to get into back then...) Anyway, I rattled on for a while and didn't get dragged off the stage with a hook, so I guess I wasn't the worst speaker ever.

Once it was over, it was fun to see everyone. Howard and my sister Donna got there after I'd spoken, which is great. I love Howard. But he's tall and loud and I'm fairly certain I would have forgotten how to speak at all. It was much better to hang out after...

Amer and Stitches

Amy Tokash and I have been power walking while Alison and Jenna have their 1-hour ballet class on Wednesday. A couple weeks ago, it was a beautiful fall day and we were huffing and puffing along the residential streets near the Fox Hill Dance Academy.

The neighborhoods around the dance studio aren't bad, but there are some areas where we go quicker than in others. As we rounded one corner, we saw a bunch of little boys playing in the street. Turns out they were chasing a dog. I thought they were playing but when we realized they were chasing the little mutt just ahead of us, we offered to join in.

Amer got to the little dog first. She crouched down and cooed to the little fella.

"Hey lady, know what our dog's name is?" the kids say to me.

With the crouching Amer in my periphery, I say, "Nope. What's your dog's name?"

"Stitches," he says.

"Huh," I say, not really caring about the dog and wondering just how long my work out is going to be interrupted while Amy fawns all over the fleabag.

"Know why we call him that?" the kid asks.

"Come on Stitches, Come her fella," Amer croons.

"Cause he bites," says the kid. "And people have to get stitches."

"Uh, Amer," I say, reaching out. "Back away from the dog."

"Huh?" she says, annoyed that I'm stretching on her shirt.

"Back. Away. From. The DOG!," I say, through gritted teeth. "He's a biter!"

"Ack!" she says and nearly falls down trying to get away.

We came as close to jogging as the pair of us will ever get. Stitches and his band of little brothers went off in search of another victim.

I think I lost 10 pounds on the way back laughing at Amy.

Tomorrow night, we're taking a different path, though.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sox Rule?

It's been a bit tense this week. Jeff's worked himself down to the pits of hell and has knocked on the gates of Heaven as his beloved Red Sox have suffered and soared. I'm upstairs right now and can monitor the score just from the noises that slip up the basement stairs.

Even if you don't follow baseball, you have to admit this has been an amazing series.

Yesterday, we drove down to our friend's lakehouse for a little Fall Break R&R. Ali went down early with John but I had a hair appointment and Jeff was waiting on delivery of our new stove. The old one, which had come with the house, had finally died. Jeff was willing to skip his Sunday morning basketball game but was planning to watch the game after dinner. While he trusted Lisa's word that the lakehouse had a Dish and of course would offer the game, he still prevailed upon Godfather Bob for a way to watch online should the Dish fall off the deck.

That morning, Jeff had pulled the stove out, planning to make the stove swap as quick as possible. You'd be amazed at the amount of stuff that can live under a stove. It may be that we live like pigs, but it was disgusting. Jeff started the job, but I ended up finishing it, using nearly a whole roll of paper towels, ruining a sponge and removing a coffee can full of grease and crumbs from the stove, the floor, the cabinets and the wall behind the stove.

I can safely say our kitchen is cleaner than it's ever been. I missed the actual stove swap, but I'm hoping the deliver guys when home and told their wives about the incredibly clean house they'd been to today. I deserve to be the stuff of legends in the appliance delivery world, man.

So we get the stove all squared away and get down to the lakehouse. It was a beautiful day with the leaves turning and the sky full of nothing but blue. It couldn't have topped 60 but Ali and Fletcher had already taken a dip.

It was a long drive for dinner but well worth it. Well, there was a glitch: turns out the Dish didn't carry TBS. Jeff watched the game online. He was a trooper and didn't complain. Mostly because the Sox pulled another one out. Ali and I ventured out for a little grocery/Halloween party shopping but otherwise just hung out at home.

Our Halloween bash should be fun. We've enlisted Alex and his friends to haunt the backyard. You should come by if you're in Indy October 31. I'm contemplating buying some live feeder goldfish for the bobbing for apples bowl -- wouldn't that be a hoot? I'm worried about what to do with the fish after -- I wonder if you can return them?

Uh-oh. The Rays have tied it up and just sent the Sox back to the field 3 up; 3 down.

The basement has gone silent. I'd better go check that Jeff hasn't offed himself.......

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Weekend

Sunday always sneaks up on me. I'm never ready for the weekend to end and yet the sun comes up every Sunday morning and there I am: one day away from another week at the salt mines. Actually, judging from the news, I'm lucky to be getting to go to the salt mines these days.

We started our weekend with Ali and me on horseback at Fort Benjamin Harrison on Friday afternoon. Yes, I played hooky. It was a Brownie trip, and I think those Brownie moms are starting to grow on me. All except one, maybe. There's always one...

So I was feeling good Friday evening. We were only on the horses for about 40 minutes, but it works muscles you don't often remember you have. I wasn't in pain at all, and it had been fun.

Then Karin calls and asks us to join her for a 5K walk Saturday morning. Sure! I'm in good shape. Jeff even decided to go, and it was a lot of fun.

Ali and Alex didn't even notice the miles ticking away as we walked downtown along the canal. Afterward, the kids wanted to get their faces painted, so Karin and I did, too. We looked marvelous.
Afterward, Karin and Dale took Alison to play for a while. Karin and I promised to do all of our Saturday errands without wiping off the makeup.

The lady at my dry cleaners didn't bat an eye. No one was around the recycling area to gawk at me, but at Kroger, a few people made comments. Lots of them were amused.

When I got home I found a 70 percent off postcard for Harold's at the Fashion Mall. I go to Harold's only for sales. It's a great little shop but wicked expensive. The clothes are well made, so when they're way on sale, they're good to buy. The ladies at Harold's were not impressed with my makeup artists, and the clothes were not impressed with my little adventure with exercise and Alli.

Jeff was with me, and I think he cursed the experience when, as we walked in, he recalled our first (and only) shopping venture together at a new store called Bebe.

We'd never heard of it, and I was looking for a dress to wear to his hoity-toity law firm Christmas party. That was before Alison. Back in my thin days. I was cocky. We went into this store and I quickly learned that what I'd taken to be mannequins were actually human beings who's last meal was back when their moms were spooning it in.

The loved Jeff. Unaware of the angst to come, I was ushered quickly to a dressing room. She swooshed that curtain closed, spun on her stiletto and started cooing at Jeff. I didn't care. I was confident in my relationship and my sveltness. And then I tried on the size Medium glittery dress.

I knew Bebe was French. I had assumed the translation of American dress sizes wouldn't be such a language barrier. Apparently, though, "Medium" in Bebe-speak is Size 4 in America. There is no Size 8 in Bebe. I asked for a "Large." It turned out to be a 6. I literally got stuck in that damn dress and couldn't get it off.

Meanwhile, the stick figures were hopping all over Jeff as if he were Hugh Hefner and they were the Girls Next Door. A thin velvet curtain away, trapped in a shower-stall sized dressing room, I was sweating bullets all over the dress and calling for help. No one came. No one cared.

Some parts of the dress may have been harmed as I tore it off, but when I'd finally escaped, I threw it over the top of the curtain and asked, politely as I could, if we could leave that fine establishment. I'm not sure if the dress actually hit Jeff in the head, but I'm sure the stick figures did not approve.

My time at Harold's was much the same on Saturday. I could get into the skirt, at least, but I just wasn't feeling it. And when I looked in the mirror and saw my painted face and stubby legs, it was just over.

I'd forgotten that I had the face paint, and suddenly it made sense why the sales ladies weren't fawning all over me. Then, my back started hurting and I decided I was too old for freakin' horseback riding and 5K walking.

Later that night, we were at a Christ the King 2nd grade parents' party and Diane, the hostess, asked me if I'd been at Costco that day because she'd chased a little red head through the store thinking it was Ali only to find her with an unknown woman. I said, no, but joked that I'd heard a news account of an APB out for a strange woman chasing kids at Costco. Later, she heard me talking about face painting and said, "you know that little red-headed girl had face painting, and so did her mom."

Diane was relieved that she hadn't chased a strange kid, and I was relieved that Karin had looked just as silly out in public as I had.

This morning, Ali and I rode the tadem over to the newspaper stand and then Alison and the Ogden kids practiced riding their bikes at the Glendale parking lot while Karin and I power-walked.

There was an elderly couple there as well. The husband was using a cane. They walk the Glendale parking lot circuit when the weather is good, and today was a good day. They ambled along, happy as could be to enjoy the bright sun, the blue sky and the chance to put one foot in front of the other.

I know I'll never be a stick figure unless I forgo the embalming and a wait a decade or so, but I'm feeling just fine about myself right now.

Maybe 20 years from now Jeff will have given up basketball and it'll be him and me strolling around empty parking lot in the sunshine getting a little exercise. Of course I'll probably have the cane...

Oh! hey, light a candle for the Sox, would ya?. I crashed before the end of the game last night, but Jeff stayed up til the bitter end........He's still crushed. Only the Colts win saved his mood. Alison's soothing, "That's OK Dad. There's always next year," didn't help.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Another breakthrough

It's a big weekend for Alison. After months of putting off her father's quest to get her interested in anything athletic, she's tossed off her training wheels and is rapidly becoming a little female Lance Armstrong.

Yesterday was the big breakthrough. This evening, she showed off for Mom in a parking lot that was designed as overflow for Glendale Mall. It's mostly unused. Freshly asphalted, it was a perfect venue for her two-wheel slaloming.

She's perfected the stop. The start is a little shaky, and her turns are smooth and graceful, but wide; hence the empty lot as the perfect venue.

Her legs are bit too long for her bike, which helps with the wipeouts.

Jeff is so proud he's already planning to get her a new bike for Christmas.


Alison is 7, now, and getting to be a bit more modest than her days of streaking through the house with nary a stitch of clothing in sight. She's generally OK with me seeing her in the altogether; less so with her father. She's also been told more than once that when she's demanding, she gets less off what she wants, but good manners go a long way to getting her what she wants. Hence, the following request that came when Jeff entered her room to check on how quickly she was getting into her pjs:

"Now, could you politely get out of my room? I don't want you to see me butt naked," she informed him.


A few of you have asked how the Alli is going, and I'm happy to report that it's going well. I'm eating better for fear of public embarrassment. Whatever it takes, aye? But I won't lead you astray that there are no side effects. While snuggling in bed Alison decided she needed to reassure me of the depths of her devotion. Unsolicited, she declared: "Mom, I love you. Even when you stink up my bathroom."


Jeff was talking to Alison in the car the other day. I don't even remember the subject matter, but he was apparently a bit too generic in his description.

"Dad, could you be more pacific?" she asked.


Just to follow that last one up, Saturday afternoon Ali and I were digging holes in yard planting bulbs and mums and decorating for Halloween. She wanted her own shovel so I sent her into the garage to get a spade. "You know what that is, right?" I said.

"Yes," she said, trotting off, only to come trotting back.

"Mo-om. I said I knew what it was, but I don't know where it is," she complained.