Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chestnuts Roasting and all that crap


Call me Bad Luck Schleprock.

Today was the last day of my vacation. I had plans. Ali and I were going to restock the pantry and the fridge, I was going to buzz by Target to buy a rug for the entry way and we were going to pick up the Ogden kids so I could de-Christmas my house with great efficiency.

It started off at 6:03 when Alison came into my bedroom trembling from a bad dream where some stuffed animals had come to life, chased and killed us all. I don't think they were her own menagerie; I think they were strange stuffed animals. Regardless, they were hungry and we were lunch.

After a while, we went downstairs so she could show me her Webkinz estate. Bleary-eyed, I was happy when she decided we needed to watch TV instead and I could doze through it.

At 8, I went up to ensure Jeff was awake and preparing to return to work. Once he was off, I left Ali downstairs and started gathering holiday decor.

By 11, we'd had breakfast and dressed and were ready to go Krogering. We bundled up only to find the car protesting the winter weather. The battery was on sabbatical. Back we went, happy we'd picked up a gallon of milk and that there was Ramen in the house.

I called Dale to tell him we couldn't pick up the kids, but if he'd bring them over, we could still have a play date. I talked him in to Taco Bell -- our plan for lunch -- and he delivered that, too.

After lunch, the kids were occupied with comparing Christmas loot and destroying the basement. I was tired of working so I decided to build a fire. I laid down to check the flu, wiggling the lever thing until I thought it was open.

I got the wood, the firestarters, the paper and followed the directions my Mainer husband had given me a few weeks ago. I'm a real girl. I can build a fire.

While it took a while for the logs to catch hold, all went well for at least a couple of hours. When Dale came to pick the kids up -- about 20 minutes before Jeff got home -- the fire was down to embers. I looked up from my book and it seemed a little smoky. But it hadn't been at all earlier so I decided I was wrong.

By the time Jeff came home, you could see the haze and taste the air. It was not the welcome home he had expected.

He decided the flu wasn't open enough and that, combined with damp logs and the fire down to embers, created the smoke bomb. He wiggled the lever thing some more.

We had to open the doors, put on the fans and turn off the heat. We told Ali to stay downstairs and went out to address the car situation. It didn't take long to hook the Subaru up to the Honda and voila: we had two cars again.

I managed to scrape dinner together and Febreze the hell out of the upstairs. Ali emerged smoke free and we had dinner in front of the smokeless fire.

I'm hoping work will go better.

Oh, Christmas itself was great. When I recover from the smoke inhalation, I'll tell you all about it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday sacrifices


Ali and I were shopping yesterday, looking for the perfect gift for Alex Ogden.

She settled on a Nerf gun with something like a gazillion foam bullets what appeared to be a Gatling gun function.

Thinking of Karin, I said, "Oh, Ali, are you sure about this?"

"Oh yeah," she said, eyes gleaming. "And you know what?"

"What?"

"It's Christmas, so I'll sacrifice myself and let him shoot me as much as he wants. Anything to make the kid happy."

So, to paraphrase the redhead, our 2009 holiday sentiment for you: "Anything to make you happy."

Sincerely. From our house to yours.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peef

Alison and I re-read Peef the Christmas Bear the other day. It's a book her Aunt Lois gave her a few years ago, and we've read it many times.

Peef is a bear Santa Claus makes one day and while you could interpret it that the Saint had actually created a little slave for himself, the general viewpoint is that he was lonely and wanted a friend: a friend who did all his errands, managed the elves, kept up with the office paperwork, including maintenance of the all important list, and served as co-pilot on that all important night.

To be fair, Peef also got to share a cup of tea at the end of the work day and was Santa's best friend. I suspect he snuggled a bit on those cold nights, too, but I don't think it was that explicit.

Anyway, after several years of this involuntary servitude, Peef wised up and started noticing how children loved their bears and played with them. They cuddled them and hugged them and generally showered them with affection. These bears had no discernible chore list.

Perpetual youth and neatness, including instanteous healing of any seam ripping, stuffing or button loss were part of the benefits package at Claus & Co. But after a while, Peef thought he might just trade his brand new image for a chance at grubby love.

But he couldn't leave Santa for fear the old elf would become more lonely and less jolly. So Peef toils away for a few more holidays, longing with all his heart for a change, but keeping silent out of devotion to Santa.

Finally, Santa takes pity on the little guy and contrives a way for him to become a real toy. Their separation is the saddest page of children's literature outside that damn forest fire in Bambi. (Or, well any of many Disney stories where they off the mom.)

But joy returns on the very next page and it's a struggle to decide whether to be sad or happy.

While I generally don't like to see Ali cry, knowing she gets the meaning of a story like Peef makes me a little bit happy. I have some years before I explain that Santa should really have been paying Peef a living wage after his creation, and that the elves might need a little union representation.

I'm not sure she's going to read Peef again this year. She might be at her limit for the sentiment of the season. Jeff remastered the children's DVD he'd made for her last her. Her copy was skipping and she had some ideas about which versions of certain songs she'd rather have and I think she even asked to replace of few songs she'd never really cared for.

I convinced Jeff to include "Santa, I'm Right Here," a Toby Keith song about a man finding a letter to Santa from a little boy whose family was freshly homeless and who was worried that Santa might not find him.

He doesn't ask for toys, he's hoping Santa could hire his dad to replace the job he lost, and his mom needs a new coat. It's a tear jerker of a song -- mostly because you know there are lots of people who truly are struggling -- and for many of them, it's not a situation of their own making.

Alison, heck, we all could do with a reminder that we've got it pretty good, and that we need to help others who aren't so fortunate. Ali gets it, mostly, but she still just a little ticked that her Dad had spoiled a perfectly happy, upbeat and rockin' collection of Christmas songs.

"That song is TERRIBLE! It's SAD!" she exclaimed.

Upon questioning, she admitted that she doesn't hate the song at all. It's just that it makes her sad and she wants to go out and help that little boy. So she and her little Ogden friends spent some time with me shopping for our Giving Tree items last week.

We might have to go again if I listen to that song again....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Homework


One of the many fun things about having a child is that you get a second chance to remember great books and fun things you learned in school. Of course you have to struggle -- again -- through boring stoopid stuff you learned in school, too. But sometimes homework is fun.

This week, Alison has been reading Sarah Plain and Tall and coming home with worksheets that ask her to interpret parts of the book. I remembered the movie with Glenn Close more than the book, but what I had forgotten was that Sarah was from Maine and she said "ayuh" instead of "yes" and had some mannerisms that I see in my Maine family.

Ali was struggling over a particular question that asked why Papa had forgotten the words to the songs he'd sang with their mother. (She died in childbirth. He was struggling to raise two children and Sarah answered his newspaper ad for bride. She traveled from Maine to the Great Plains because her brother had married and she was out of a job. It was back in "olden times." These days Sarah would have taken over her brother's business, kicked out the floozy and become a gazillionaire by the sea.)

But anyway, I was trying to get Ali to come up with the answer of why Papa didn't sing anymore, though he'd sang all the time with Mama, and it just wasn't working. So I tried personalizing it.

"OK, Ali. Just think about it this way. If I died, would you want to make cookies anymore?" I asked.

We were at the kitchen counter sitting on bar stools. She'd been fidgeting in her chair, laying across it and hanging like a sloth, looking for any diversion available to the homework. She looked up at me, horrified.

"Mommy! I don't want you to die!" she gasped.

"I'm not going to die, honey. But if I did, do you think you'd want to make cookies and decorate them anymore?"

Her eyes watered up. "No!" she said, ""It would make me too sad." Her little voice broke when she said sad, and she scrambled up and over to hug me.

"So why do you think Papa doesn't sing anymore? Didn't he used to do that with Mama?" I asked.

She brightened up and loosened her stranglehold just slightly. "I get it!" she said and set to scribbling.

"Ayuh," I thought, just a tiny bit weepy myself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Alisonisms



Ali was a great little trooper this weekend. We'd planned to go to the movies, make cookies, decorate the tree, shop a little, get our nails done.... but I got seriously sick and was in bed the whole weekend. I thought I was recovering and tried to help her with the cookies but thought I'd lose mine. It was terrible. But she didn't complain.

Jeff had planned to focus on a big case he's got, but he ended up helping with her -- a lot -- and taking care of me. They were both troopers.

Anyway, here's a collection of Alisonisms:

We were putting up the tree tonight (finally!)and Alison, still a believer, turned to me and casually informed me that Jimmy Vielee doesn't believe in Santa Clause. "And Jordan believes in the postal service."

***

I was combing through Alison's snarls, I mean curls, and I suggested that maybe we do something different with her hair. Lately she's wanted the "wild" look, which is no barrette, no even partial pony tail or braid. "No way, Mom." she said.

I asked her why -- she'd let me do whatever I wanted to before.

"I was more reasonable in the 1st grade," she said.

***

Ali came home with lots of papers in advance of our trip to Camp Tecumseh. On the last one, she added a little editorial note for me: No snaks. (translation: no snakes. She does love me.)

Speaking of snakes, we were struggling through some homework the other day. She didn't really want to do it and wasn't focused and couldn't come up with an answer as to why the author of Coyote Magic had wanted readers to learn from little Charlie's (I don't remember his name) angst about dogs and how the story had helped him.

I suggested that maybe Charlie had been so intrigued by the story of how the coyote had stolen fire for the villagers that it made him like the coyote a little bit, and that when he met the coydog he thought maybe it was a little bit like the coyote he liked and that when the coydog was soft to touch and wouldn't hurt him that maybe he'd learn to like all dogs.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"I think maybe you could learn a little lesson about how to like snakes," she said.

***

And finally, Alison had been totally freaked out about having to perform when she had to pretend to be a saint and give a little performance in the school gym as people walked around. She overcame it, though, with some great help from Miss Lawson, her teacher, and little support from home. She did just fine as Saint Elizabeth Seton.

A little while later, the Awesome Miss Lawson (Ali LOVES her and we do, too) asked me if I thought she'd be ok to do a speaking part when Class 3B led the Mass. I said I thought we should try it out.

She did it today, and Miss Lawsom reported that she'd done fabulously. Ali and I had talked about it for about a week and this morning, I asked her how she was feeling about it.

She wasn't worried at all. I asked her why she wasn’t – compared to the museum piece. She said, and I quote:

“Three reasons. 1. It’s a million times shorter; 2. I can read from this piece of paper right here; 3. I’ve done it before.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nachos for Thanksgiving


I was seriously hoping to have nachos for our Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday. It seemed so easy. We all love nachos. We make them as healthy as they can possibly be (not very)and there's like no mess.

It's the first year that we stayed home, just the three of us, and I was really excited about the low-key, no travel, no make-up opportunities. Thanksgiving has always gone to my side of the family, and we have a starch fest, generally. Mashed potatoes with noodles on top, Donna's yeast rolls, sweet potatoes, and turkey, of course.

Alison doesn't like turkey. And she prefers her mashed potatoes to be covered in Heinz chicken gravy. She doesn't eat chocolate, any kind of pie or cake or pudding. I'm sure that will serve her well later, but it used to bother me at family feasts. I've learned that she'll find what she'll eat and be able to make it through the holiday just fine, but it amazes me.

So nachos seemed like a great idea.

But then Karin and the kids came over Thanksgiving morning and I ended up at Kroger with her. She was picking up last minute things for her family's traditional feast. She uses fresh cranberries to make some sort of gelatinous goo -- they all love it.

I bought cranraisins thinking I might make stuffing or salad. the cranberry thing just sounded dangerous. Apparently you know they're ready when they explode.

I was inspired, but not stupid. I can blow up a stove all on my own doing regular stuff. I didn't need to introduce exploding fruit.

So there I was: ready to put on an apron and make a real Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Did you know Kroger only sells turkeys are frozen rock solid and need 24 hours to defrost? That's not really helpful to last-minute chefs. It was 9:30 before she came over, and we didn't get home until after 10.

So I picked up some turkey breasts, some gravy, an enormous sweet potato, and some green beans. Later, I decided we needed a pumpkin roll and Ali and I drove all over Broad Ripple looking for one.

There were no pumpkin rolls anywhere on Thanksgiving morning, but we did find an unfrozen turkey breast at Marsh. Ali said she'd prefer KFC, but she settled for March fried chicken.

Jeff loves tiramisu, so we bought that in lieu of pumpkin roll or pie. (No, I never thought about trying to make a pie or pumpkin roll. The turkey was intimidating enough.)

It all seemed to come together; nothing blew up, and I forgot about the cranraisins. We had garlic bread instead of Donna's rolls. I even set the table with our fancy Fiesta plates.

Jeff and Ali cleaned up. I hit the couch. And not 10 minutes later, I started hearing funky noises coming from my stomach. I was sick all night. Freezing cold. Sweating bullets. It has not been my finest hour.

Ali and Jeff are fine, so it appears that I poisoned only me.

I knew we should have had nachos.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hunt


As I recovered from too much rum at Bunco last night, Alison entertained herself this morning. She can running into my bedroom telling me that she had a grand plan for when Jeff came home from basketball.

"Last week he said his feet hurt and his back hurt, so I have something to take his mind off of all that," she said.

All on her own, she'd come up with a scavenger hunt that featured a bunch of dimes from her money collection. Jeff collects dimes like she collects every other kind of currency she gets her mitts on.

She'd drawn a map of the house and hidden dimes and scraps of paper with clues underneath different things in various rooms. Her spelling suffered a bit as she worked to be sly and poetic, but she had a great time planning it all out. I got to pretent to be Jeff for a dry run.

She was crazy excited waiting for him to get home.

With help from Alison -- who tends to give away secrets more than she keeps them, he got through each of the eight steps. His reward: a cookie we'd made earlier in her Easy Bake Oven.

1. Go to the Work Room (my office)
2. To find some more treasures look behind, a special place that tells time. (under the clock in our bedroom.)
3. You've found the dimes I hid, I see. Now look where you would freeze. (refrigerator -- she's a tricky one)
4. You have looked in the right place. Now look ware I like to race. (living room)
5. I have found you very smart. Now look were I do wall art. (her bathroom)
6. Congrats! You've got the clue. Now look where I'm stuck like glue. (bean bag chair in front of the television)
7. You have found the place. Now look ware I decorate. (her bedroom)
8. Congrajulations you've found them all. But now find the best one of all Hint: it smell like cake (cookie next to the Easy Bake Oven)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The List

I've been telling Alison, "That sounds like it should be on your Christmas list!" everytime she asks for something new lately.

So, voila: The List arrived today. In recent years, I've had to supplement her list, or prod her to add to it. One year all she wanted was "A Bug's Life" DVD, and it was the highlight of the holiday.

This year, she has 23 must-have items, she informed me. One of them is a Pokemon: Platinum Arceus.

"Is that a stuffed animal?" I asked.

"No it's a card," she said, looking at me like I'd suddenly turned stupid. "There are only one or two of them in all of existence."

I looked at her. "Hmmm. I don't know if I'm going to be able to swing that one if it's that rare."

She chuckled and I'm sure thought to herself, "Oh, you silly mom."

"That's OK. I'm asking for that one from Santa," she said, confidently moving through the rest of her list.

I mumbled something about how Santa might not be able to fulfill all of her wishes.

"Well, I might ask for some things from my family," she said, still reciting.

And, she pointed out that a few of her requests aren't really for her at all. They're for her lonely stuffed animals. Apparently some of her Webkinz have paired off -- and two of them have even produced an offspring.

But her tiger, Stripes, and her gecko, Luky, are unmatched and in need of a friend, she said.

"Although I have noticed that some people don't seem to need a husband or a wife," she said. "Maybe Luky would be ok alone."

Strips, apparently, though is needy. He gets scared at night when she goes to sleep and she thinks he might need two lady friends to keep him happy.

I think she's got life pretty much figured out.

I share this list with you only because I love to see her spelling when she doesn't have to make it correct.

Wish me good luck with the shopping gods.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Patience of a Saint? Me? Not so much.


Even at my advanced age, I'm probably too old to be a curmudgeon. I don't even know if girls can be curmudgeons. It seems a male kind of category to me, but I don't want to be a crone or a hag. So I think I want to be curmudgeon.

Or maybe I'm just cranky lately.

I took Alison to a birthday party today at Chuck E. Cheese. I don't mind the place; it's actually kind of fun, and the amount of fun it brings Ali makes it all worth it.

But I didn't stick around for the 2-hour treat the oversized rodent can bring. Instead I went for a quick shopping spree. I didn't see any dresses I liked, and I didn't find any boots that fit, so I went to Half-Priced Books. Size doesn't really matter there, and everything's a bargain.

I found a bunch of paperbacks and still had an hour to kill. Instead of parking myself at Borders, I just went back to the Mouse House, parked with the windows down, unbuckled, leaned back and grabbed a book.

Before I was two chapters in, the occupants of the car next door came back. The kid wanted to extend the day's events with a jaunt over to the movie theater. Her companions were loudly annoyed. To the extent that I wanted to put the windows back up. They didn't notice me but set about berating the kid, who yeah, was a bit of a brat, but geeze; who hasn't wanted a little bit more of paradise? I wondered how they treated each other at home behind closed doors.

Finally, they left; the elder two still talking at high volume about the lack of gratitude their shorter friend was displaying. "After she done spent $40 on you, you want to go to the movies, too?! Shii-iit. You didn't even say thank you yet. You'd better be saying thank you. blah, blah, blah..."

I settled back into my book only to be interrupted again. This time by a screamer. The kid did not want to go home. And she didn't care who knew. Just seemed to think if she wailed loud enough someone one would take pity on her and save her from the mean parents she'd been cursed with.

A little before the appointed hour, I went in to get Ali. I was afraid of who would be parking next, and I didn't know if I'd be able to hold myself back from smacking the kids or the parents, or both.

Happily, Alison was wrapping it up, didn't whine for quarters or tokens or cry that she'd hand't gotten enough plastic crap for her two hours of video gaming. She even used her good manners to thank her host before we left. Maybe some of her St. Elizabeth Seton acting from school sunk in deeper than I'd thought.

She'd spent the weekend playing with the Ogdens and a new little friend who we've just met. Her father lives across the street and she's informed us that she'll be coming over every Wednesday and every other weekend.

She's sweet and about a year younger than Ali. At one point Alison asked about her parents.

"Are they divorced?

"Well, they never actually got around to getting married," I think I heard her say.

"Oh. Well. How does that work?" she asked.

I cringed, thinking we were going to have to have that sex talk early after all.

"Like, do you have to pack up all your stuff every time you move from one house to the other?" she asked.

"Yeah. Kind of," Maddie replied.

"Huh. I think they could make it easier. What if you had two sets of all your stuff at both places and you didn't have to pack so much stuff around."

"Yeah. Maybe we'll do that," Maddie said.

I'm not sure how long the parents have been apart. Seems like either it's recent or Maddie's presence in her father's life is new. I don't really want to know too much. I have enough friends and can't keep up well enough with them to qualify as a good friend half the time.

Plus, two of the closest neighbors are already fueding, and one of them is mad at Ricky (Maddie's dad) whose girlfriend was mowing the yard last week around 9 p.m. Debbie (the other neighbor) was pacing the edge of her lawn, glaring through the darkness at the woman (Chris)as she went back and forth across the lawn. I don't know if Debbie ever approached Chris or if she thought glaring would short out the mower. She tried to drag me into her outrage of this after-hours activity but I resisted.

There's an adults-only neighborhood party sometime this month. We haven't RSVP'd. I'm really thinking that I'd rather stay in.

Does that make me a curmudgeon? A recluse? Or smartly discriminating?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Like Cheese on Pizza

Anyone who knows me knows that I have no artistic ability. But check out this pumpkin Ali and I concocted. She was the director. She found an example in a magazine and asked if "we" could make it.

"We" really means me, although she did help a little. If you don't see the magazine layout, you might be a tiny bit impressed.

We used other magazine art to make brides of Frankenstein, skeleton cupcakes and some other treats. We're getting better at them, but we're no where close to the magazine pictures. I think those people have special tools. Or talent, maybe.

We were lucky enough to convince Gary to come visit us for Fall Break and Halloween, and it really livened up the holiday.

He got into the spirit and was a great pirate/escort for a gaggle of trick-or-treaters. In true pirate form, he set a bad example for them, though, when he and his witchy friend, aka Lynn Sinex, fled the group before they'd tired of begging for candy. Witch and pirate claimed they were cold, but some of us noticed they made a detour to the bar on their way to the fire...

While everyone who either saw him again or met him for the first time thought he was a hoot, here was his best review:

"He was great! If I were single, I'd be on him like cheese on pizza."

But Gary beat a quick path out of town and is home safe in Maine this evening.

In other news of the love lorn, Alison is apparently having a relationship problem, though she appears to be oblivious to it.

Last week, her new friend Anna informed her that they were best friends. Ali quickly informed her that Jenna is her first best friend. If you ask her, though, Alex Ogden is her next best friend. Jenna will forever edge everyone out because they were friends long before either actually emerged from the womb.

But Saturday, Jenna was tricking her own neighborhood and Ali had Dominic (her friend from school who declares his love for her early, often and loudly, much to her dismay) and Alex.

Dominic was insisting -- in front of Alex -- that Alison declare her intentions. Dominic was confident that Alison liked him more than Alex.

Alison, frustrated with the situation, said, "Look. I like you both equally."

So Dominic's unrequited love went unqueched. But Alex got more than a little bit ticked off.

Alex and Alison have no romatic interest in each other. They've been buddies since preschool and had Karin and I known each other and Alex was a few months older, he might have given Jenna a run for her money. But they've never had a love connection.

Alex, in fact, is in love with another little girl and has been busy planning their wedding for a couple of years now. But given his long tenure attached to Ali's hip, he expected to come out ahead of "that clown," according to his mother.

Alison has a small clue, but not a real one. "I think Alex is mad at me, Mom," she said in the car when I picked her up after she was at his house for a couple hours today. "I think he's made that I didn't let him put a hole in the middle of the leaf pile."

"Well, I think he'll get over that," I said, only momentarily thinking about telling her what his real issue is.

"Yeah, probably," she said, pulling out a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book and settling in.

In other news, my meniscus is apparently what's ailing my right knee. It still hurts, but it seems to be getting better -- especially if I just sit around and don't walk much...:) If it's not better in two week, my doctor says we'll go down the route of Xray, MRI.

I'm hoping to avoid both of those things. Which means the keister isn't going to be shrinking anytime soon...:(

My friend, Jackie, is on the prowl trying to determine what kind of surgery and drugs she can talk me into. It's a good thing it's a virtual war. She'd be able to overpower me right now and drag me to the doctor...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ice Ice, Baby

Ice is nice.
It's cold to hold.
When it gets hotter.
It turns to water.

I stole that poem from my friend Annmarie who penned it as a child. It's been on my mind lately. Yes, I'm very cultured.

I do like ice, though. Especially the ice in the Angie's List Firehouse ice machine. I like it so much I go down four flights of stairs, up two and back again to get to that damn ice machine just about every day during the week.

But after spending all day yesterday and this morning with ice snuggled in tight around my right knee, I'm starting to reconsider.

I went zip lining at a place called Dagaz Acres Leadership Center Friday on a work trip.

Here's how much fun it was: I wrenched my knee on the first of about 7 zip line trips through parts of a southeastern Indiana forest. I heard this squishy pop and thought I'd been shot in the knee just as I stepped into thin air and was whisked across a small ravine. On the other side, I had the option of taking a footpath back to the shelter or toughing it out and flying some more.

I kept going.

It was stupid, I know. If I was smart or even responsible, I would have gone back. But it was a lot of fun to fly across that ravine, and most of the leg work (I thought) was behind me. Plus, my friend Betsy had a flask of expensive Irish whiskey and she kept me supplied with courage.

So, supported by the whiskey, great co-workers and a staff of great guys who kept a check on me, I hobbled through the forest, flying occasionally through the trees like a super spy.

I even made my landings -- one legged -- without ever once landing on my butt. I was less muddy than most of my team until we got to the "Burma bridge." The bridge is a cable that crossed a high ravine with a creek that ran with ice-cold water, twisting like an anaconda on the prowl at the bottom.

Betsy kept telling me that I could hop across the wire on my good leg. After a few more swigs, I considered it. While I should have considered whether Betsy's judgment was impaired by the whiskey, I'm pretty sure I had flashbacks to my childhood where if I didn't keep up with my siblings I would have been left in the woods to make my own way back. Or not.

I decided to brave the bridge. I took a step toward the cable and the screaming from my knee was finally loud enough to override the whispers of the whiskey, Betsy and my past. I started down the ravine on my feet but after a couple more steps where I thought my bones might be trying to find the light of day through my skin, I decided I wasn't too proud to slide on my butt through the leaves. Survival isn't always pretty.

I was covered in mud, but it was easier than either walking down or crossing the cable. Above me, my friend Michelle fell and was dangling from her safety rope like a fallen angel. I decided my slide wasn't the worst thing that could have happened to me.

When I had a signal on my phone again on the way back home, I called the doctor. The nurse who called me back quizzed me about the various sounds, sensations and pain level and prescribed rest, ice, and elevation over the weekend. If I'm not feeling better come Monday, I have to face the doctor.

The four flights of stairs that stand between me and my desk seem a little intimidating at the moment, though I am feeling better. Once you get past the pain of the ice, the numbness is actually kind of nice. I've actually graduated to two family sized bags of frozen peas. The ice kept leaking and the water wasn't at all hot.

I can't imagine how I'd ever convince myself to slip into an ice bath like athletes do, though. I'm not sure it's worth the millions they earn.

So Annmarie, I will agree with you that ice is nice. And it's definitely cold to hold. But it takes too damn long to get hotter and turn to water.

I would send you a photo of me looking pathetic and propped up with my ice pack. But the camera and the PC that lets me send it to you are both downstairs. And I'm not going down there.

I was actually more than half-way convinced that the ice/pea treatment had cured me until John and Lisa dropped by with horror stories of what happens to people who try to let their bodies heal themselves.

John has promised to ridicule me if I let it go and end up with a cane and access to those motorized shopping carts at Target. I think John might need a little leadership training...

In fairness to Dagaz, they did warn you not to go zip lining if you were having joint issues, and my knee has been giving me trouble for a couple of weeks. I highly recommend the place -- and zip lining in general. But if you go, here's something else I learned (in addition to how you should pay attention to warning):

Don't take a banana in your pocket if you go zip lining.

It was raining on and off during the whole trip so I was wearing my LL Bean rain jacket. Other than my butt and my feet from crossing the stream, I was bone dry. But when I got back and was packing my jacket in my backpack, it felt a little heavy on one side.

The banana that I'd put in there in case I got separated from my team and had to survive on my own (thought I was joking about my childhood and being left behind, didn't you?!) didn't survive the trip.

It had the consistency of gourmet baby food. The good news is my fancy rain jacket kept it confined to my pocket. Dragging it out wasn't pretty, but I guess I could have still survived on it in a worse case scenario.

So maybe you shouldn't skip the banana. But we may need to invent a banana flask. The whiskey did just fine...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm afraid she's a Republican

Once again I fear my child is a conservative Republican.

My evidence:

Case 1

I've been fully embracing my country roots and playing WFMS when tooling around.

"Hey Mom. You wanna know what I think?" she calls from the back seat.

Of course I bit: "What do you think?"

"I think those people who sing those songs are telling everyone about their PERSONAL BUSINESS, that's what I think," she said, clearly disapproving.

(I couldn't help but wonder how she reacts in Amy Tokash's back seat.)

Case 2

We were at the Fashion Mall shopping for an upcoming birthday. We went past a store where the window display was, well, displaying.

"Well that's inappropriate!" she exclaimed. "Those are boobies!!!"


Case 3


We went out this morning for the Sunday paper and, in deference to her wishes, added a stop at the vegetable stand so we could find the exactly right sized and shaped pumpkins to fulfill her wish to reproduce some examples in her National Geographic Kids magazine. (Like that doesn't spell disaster right there. Next to Martha Stewart, the NGK has the most complicated jack-o-lanterns I've ever seen.)

"Got your money?" I asked.

"Nope," she said, on a direct and unyielding straight for her bike.

Case 4

"Hey Mom," she said the other day.

"Yes?"

"Do you think I could add a little bit to my allowance in the next few weeks?"

"Maybe. How exactly do you plan on making that happen?" I ask.

"Well, I was thinking about raking up some leaves. Think that'll earn me some extra bucks?" she asked.

I told her I'd talk to her father, but I thought we could work something out. Did she have a specific expenditure in mind?

"No. I just like having cash laying around," she said.

And the 5th and final nail, I mean case:

We're gearing up for Halloween and are making cookies -- sugar for her to decorate later with a new friend (gasp: a girl!) from school and pumpkin chocolate chip for her dad.

We rolled out the sugar cookies, got them in the oven and she was cleaning up the utensils. She started to escape to TV in the basement as I turned to the next batch of cookies.

"Hey, where are you going?

"Well, I'm not going to eat those cookies, so I didn't think you'd need my help," she said.

I just sighed and let her go. Not only is she displaying signs of the GOP, she still doesn't let chocolate pass her lips. I'm not sure exactly where I went wrong. She is a fan of Hilary Clinton and President Obama.

But clearly, I need to do more.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weird Science



We've had quite the chemistry inspired morning. Ali, Alex and Hannah got out the chemistry kit, starting in the basement. I monitored from the kitchen, safely upstairs.

They made some diaper dust and oohed and aahed a while then moved upstairs where they mixed baking soda, vinegar and water. They learned they could suspend a bubble right over their mixture.

"Awesome!"

"So this is how you make a volcano..."

"Cool!"

I'm guessing it lasted no more than 30 minutes. No explosions. No burns. Good thing Jeff didn't find Borax at the store yesterday...

One other Ogden-Reed highlight:

Last night they were pretending Alex was a dog and the girls were taking care of him. At some point along the way, the dog was choking.

"Do the Heimlich manure!"

"The what?"

"The Heimlich manure."

"Oooh. What's that?"

"I don't know but people do it all the time."

"Sounds stinky."

"Yeah."

The puppy, had it lived, would have expired by the time they rejected the cure...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No lions, no tigers, but bears???

The annual Christ the King 3rd Grade Camp Tecumseh overnight sleepover is coming up. It's a two-day trip that promises to take the kids back in time to learn about pioneer days, nature, surviving alone and all that grimy, furry stuff.

Ali is trying to talk me into letting her go trick-or-treating alone -- as in with her friends by no parent. So, when this camp came up, I immediately thought about dinner and a movie, maybe a bubble bath. Who could say?! Romance was lurking right around the corner.

So on the evening when I had to go learn about what the children would do on this wilderness overnight, I carefully failed to lead my witness.

"So, Ali, you know Camp Tecumseh is coming up, right?"

"Yeah, mom."

"So, you want to go, right?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Did you, um, want to go by yourself and have a little independence, or did you want me or Dad to go along with you?"

"What? You mean I can go By MYSELF????!!!"

"Well, there would be your class and your teacher and probably some parents," I said.

"But I could go without you?"

"Yeah. If you wanted."

She thought a minute but didn't answer. I prompted her.

"Well, Mom, I don't want to hurt your feelings."

I advised her that she couldn't hurt my feelings and if she wanted some time without her dad or me bossing her around in the woods, that would be OK.

"Well then, I think I should go by myself," she said, clearly relishing the idea of a truly wild couple of days.

"But Mom," she said.

"Yes?"

"Is there any chance I could die out there?"

"Die out there? What? Why would you think that? It's a camp, honey. There will be other people and cabins and stuff."

"Yeah. But will there be BEARS? Bears could kill me. And if there's any chance of me getting eaten by bears or killed, I'd want you to be there with me."

I told her I'd check but I was pretty sure Indiana's bear problems were long past.

So, with romance blooming in my head, I trot off to Camp Tecumseh information night, leaving Ali working on experiments with her dad, using her new Icky Sticky Foamy Slimy Ooey Gooey Chemistry kit/book.


"Oh, you HAVE to go!"

"It's the best trip of the whole school year."

"I'll go if someone like you goes." (I'm still trying to figure out what that meant...)

Romance officially left the building. I'm on the list for parent counselor.

While I'm not ruling out some fun, I am starting to research that bear idea....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Alison-isms

We're gearing up for Halloween at Chez Reed. The decorations are out from storage, if not all perfectly arranged, and Alison is busy planning her spooky menu for what may become our annual party.

If you're around, you should stop by. But be prepared to brave the elements. You may have to fish around the brain of a mummy or drink some witch's blood before you earn a treat...

Today I hope to take it easy. We've had two weekends full of fun and I'm in need of a day on the couch. I'm not inspired with any great insight today, so I'll leave you with this:

Coming home in the car she was telling me that she had the perfect movie for Jeff and me when our next wedding anniversary comes along: Sponge Square Pants' Single Cell Anniversary.

She asked how long we've been married. I told her we got married in 1998 and it was going to be 2010 when our next anniversary came would come along. She figured out that we're coming up on a dozen years.

She asked how long we were married before we had her. We did a little math to determine that it was a little more than 3 years.

"Wow. Three years without me. That must have been hard," she said.

***

This morning she'd started one of the hardest puzzles known to man. It's 500 pieces and is a platter of donuts -- many identical. We got in years ago while on vacation with Eric and Traci and repetition has not made it easier.

What hasn't changed over the years is that we start craving donuts as soon as we get one of the darn things put together. We've resisted....so far...


She and Jeff went out for a bit this morning. I wasn't feeling like leaving the house. Ali got ready, lured by the famous Northside News grilled cheese sandwich.

"I'll be interested to see your progress when we get home," she said, patting me on the head.

***

We had dinner with new friends last night and Ali opted to spend her evening downstairs. At one point she came up and asked if I'd come downstairs with her. Clearly something was the matter.

I assumed she'd spilled or broken something. But no. She'd found a baby spider and smashed it flat with her Littlest Pet Shop tool box. Used to be, we'd usher our unwanted guests out the back door on a piece of paper. She's learned to despise spiders lately; I'm not sure why.

As she'd dispatched the bug, I wasn't sure what the trouble was. Apparently she's OK killing bugs; she just couldn't bring herself to touch the carcass.

"I had to smash it 5 times!" she said. "It wouldn't stop moving so I sat on it for a while. That worked."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wild Kingdom



Castle Row has been over-run with rodents. They're everywhere! Well, there's one less now, but I had nothing to do with that.

I was sitting on the couch in the living room, reading the (heavy sigh) last of my new Anita Blake novels when I was pulled away from the supernatural. A squirrel was peering at me through the picture window.

OK. It wasn't really looking at me. I happened to be in its range of vision, and it was apparently just scanning the yard for the three other fluffy-tailed rats that were scampering about. And then, two chipmunks joined in the fun.

We've seen a bunny in the back yard, but like the rodents, he/she is usually a blip. They catch sight of us and they scram.

Today it was rats gone wild. I don't know if they'd sensed the start of squirrel season or what. They were everywhere you looked, both in our yard and the neighbors'. At one point, I counted four in our yard (not counting the 'munks), two next door and I saw more than one in yards down and across the street.

One of them was trying out one of my lawn chairs. Others were jumping from trees to the roof to window boxes to Alison's favorite brick wall and just hanging in the yard. It was a little spooky to tell you the truth, but then again I was deep into a book that was heavy on vampires, shapeshifters, and a vampy necromancer.

They weren't approaching the door, so I shook my head and went back to the book.

I was brought back out of it by a squirrel that just would not shut up. I look up. A gray cat has joined in the mix. Oh, no. The cat had crashed the party. I swear to you that the squirrel was trying to warn the chipmunk to go to cover. The cat was not giving up.

In my hands, I had a fairly compelling chapter, full of two rouge vampires and a werewolf needing rescue from torture. The werewolf's calvary, sadly, proved more effective than the chipmunk's.

Ali was at the kitchen counter at the laptop. I called to her thinking she needed to see nature in action. She ran outside and caught a glimpse of the cat trotting home with dinner still wiggling in her mouth. The rodo-cide silenced the squirrel chatter.

"Ick," said Ali.

"Yeah, well, I guess it's dinner time for that cat," I said.

She paused for just a few seconds. "Can I have some Ramen?" she asked.

Murder, apparently, does not diminish Alison's appetite. I think she's been reading my books behind my back...

In less bloodthirsty news, Sleepover Part Deux was fun. The kids bounced until they were just exhausted. We relaxed with Harry Potter before they went out to sleep in the tent. Jeff had decorated with glow sticks so it wasn't scary at all and once they'd gotten settled, we didn't hear from them until after 8 a.m.

Best excerpts from Sleepovers 1 and 2:

I'm at the kitchen counter drinking coffee and reading the paper when Alison comes up with a half-gallon container of milk with maybe a quarter cup of milk left in it.

"Mo-om. I wanted a drink of this and Drew grabbed it and took a big swig!"

I smile, thinking of growing up with six brothers and sisters. "Do you want a cup?" I ask.

"No thanks. It's got Drew slobber all over it now," she said, stalking off.

Note to Amer: If you punish him for this, I will SMACK you. Hard.

***
I was in the garage, gathering tools to trim bushes and trees when Alison tracked me down and asked if I'd help her turn on the fan in her room. She had a can of Febreze in her hand.

"Why do you need the fan on?" I ask.

"Alex stunk up my room with his burps. I sprayed the fan with Febreze and now I want to blow all the stink away."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sssst

We've launched the first of two sleepovers this weekend. Tonight it's Alex Ogden. Tomorrow it's Team Tokash.

All was going well until we went out the door to dinner. Jeff is playing poker, so it's just me and the kids.

"Mommy, is it true that parents give you stuff and not the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy?"

She's 8. I've been expecting this. But I wasn't ready.

"What?" I say.

"My mom said," Alex jumped in. "She said the parents give you stuff. We don't believe in anything anymore. Except Santa Claus."

I sensed an out.

"Why do you still believe in Santa Claus?"

"Well because last Christmas I got a D-Rex. It's a robot. And I know my mom would not have spent that kind of money," Alex said.

At this point, we're in the car and I'm pondering my next move. Ali and Alex are strapped in the back sitting next to each other rather than leaving the middle open. I think it's kind of sweet.

"Mom, I think you have something on your shirt," Alison said.

"I'm approaching the stop sign at the end of our street. I glance at my right shoulder. And scream, scream, scream to all that's holy because there's a snake on my shoulder. Had I not been braking I would have driven right into my neighbor's front porch.

I realized -- not instantly, because if it were instantly I would have recognized the piece of reptilian plastic her friend Dominic had just given her that afternoon -- that it was not a real snake. But I couldn't stop screaming.

I wasn't the only one sounding like a broken record.

"Oh, mom. I'm really sorry. I'm sorry. I wanted to see if you were really afraid of them like you said," Alison kept saying from the back seat. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Alex kept saying, "Oh, man, Ali. I don't think you should have done that. I don't think you should have done that."

And then, from the rotten red head, "Am I in trouble?"

I stopped screaming. I didn't punish her. I think we were all punished enough. Plus, I think all of our ears are still ringing. They're next door right now getting some early bouncing in on my next-door neighbor's daughter's birthday entertainment. I might just let them sleep there.

Here's hoping that Sleepover No. 2 will be less exciting...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

PhotoShoot Sunday


The photo portion of the PhotoShoot comes from our Labor Day trip where Alison spent her time dressing up and going out on the town with her cousins while Jeff and I did other stuff. Ali had her hair straightened -- she really liked it and thought it was fun to dress up and wear high heels ("Have you ever walked in high heels for two hours, Mom?! It is painful.")

She's with Rachael and Aleasha in the top photo. Older sis Rebecca is included below. They're Jaime's girls, Donna's granddaughters.

By the time she returned to us, just in time for fireworks, it had started to sprinkle and her curls came right back.

Because I'm still uninspired (and I have another Anita Blake book calling my name) I leave you with samples from conversations this week.

Jeff hosted his fantasy football draft Tuesday night. Ali and I were debating whether we'd hang out at home or go out during the event.

"Eight boys and two girls? I say we go out!" Alison said.

So out we went.

***

In the car, Ali was discussing her hope to be a ninja for Halloween this year. She wants only her eyes to show and she'll go around karate chopping anyone who gets in her way - Hai-yah!

"Did you run that by your Aunt Donna?" I asked. "I'm not sure she's ever done a ninja. Aren't you at least a little bit concerned?"

"Nope," she said.

"Why not?"

"Well she hasn't had one problem with any of my costumes yet," says the girl who never sees the process, just the fabulous finished work.

***

Jeff had cooked out and I hadn't made it all the way back to the grill to put up the grill utensils. They'd made it only as far as the table on the sun porch.

So when I sat down in my chair out there to read the other day and displaced Carrot, the VIP LPS (very important pet; Littlest Pet Shop variety) as I snuggled in, the stuffed rabbit ended up on the table on top of the utensils.

I was deep into vampire lore when I hear Alison gasp. "Mom! What were you thinking?!"

"Huh?" I tear myself away to find her clutching Carrot against her chest.

"Mom. Carrot is a rabbit. You put him on top of a spatula and tongs. She thinks you're going to cook her.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friends to the end


Amy Tokash (she of the tongue)has a million "mother of the year" stories designed to prove her severe lack of mothering skills. To them all, I offer this as proof that she's a huge liar.

Amy usually shares the weekly PhotoShoot with Jenna and Drew. Jenna's reaction to seeing Ali in her new glasses last week was to exclaim "they're purple!" as if that would be a shock to anyone...(Ali and Jenna have shared a love of the color purple since before they were born, I think.)

When the kids heard Alison's tale of woe about her classmate's initial reaction to her new look, they reacted like little lions protecting their fellow cub. Amer took the opportunity to talk to them about what true friends are and how it's not nice to make fun of people.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: I know it's a life lesson both Amy and I (and most of you) could all spend some time relearning, but in our defense we hardly ever laugh at people so they can hear...

Anyway, Amer used Jenna's experience this summer when a friend poked fun at her and hurt her feelings when she was trying to speak clearly around a retainer-like device. Like Ali, Jenna had been excited to get the device and was thinking it was cool until the little brat laughed at her.

I didn't know about any of this until Thursday night when the mail arrived and in it was a purple envelope addressed to Ali Cat Reed.

"I know who that's from! I wonder what Miss Amy is sending me," said Ali, who has been faithfully wearing her new specs. She's not thrilled about them, but they're becoming as familiar to her as her hair tie.

She opened the envelope and looked up at me, eyes filling with tears."Mo--om!" she wailed. "You showed them my picture."

I sat down with her, pulled her into my lap and opened the card back up."What are you talking about? Honey, I never meant to embarrass you. Let's see what it says."

She started giggling as she finished the first sentence from Jenna. Drew's reference to smacking anyone who makes fun of her "in the kisser" nearly put her on the floor.

Her embarrassment was gone as if it had never been.

Amy said the card came to be when they were all at Target and Drew, God bless him, suggested they buy Ali and card to make her feel better. She'd left the kids alone to write their own messages.

Not bad for a 3rd and 5th grader -- if you don't mind a dash violence with your heapin' helpin of love. I'm from the country: It's a seasoning we'd miss if it were to disappear from the recipe.

I love those kids. And in my book, Amer is definitely at the top of my list of contenders for Mother of the Year.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I can see clearly now...


The inevitable has come to Alison Reed. Cursed with sight-challenged parents and a gene pool rife with poor vision, she failed her first "real" eye exam last week.

The folks at Downtown Eye Care have been taking care of me since I moved to Indianapolis, and Jeff since he married me and thus secured good health insurance, so I knew they'd be good with Alison. She'd had vision tests in day care and at school, but this was her first visit with a professional.

She was a little leery of some of the fancy equipment, and I don't think realized how poorly she was reporting the little letters when she sat in the big chair. Dr. Habig kept telling me how healthy her eyes were and he even had me doubting whether she was ready for glasses. So finally, I said, "Are you saying she doesn't need them yet?"

"Oh she needs 'em," he said. "Her eyes are healthy; she just can't see well."

Alison had a great time shopping for frames and was excited about getting her glasses. But when she told some kids at school that she was going to get them, her arch-enemy (name withheld to protect the catholic guilty) laughed at her.

Quick as that -- before they'd even arrived -- she didn't want to wear the glasses.

When they arrived, I picked her up early from school, and she was excited again. Lori, the senior optician, is really enthusiastic, and her energy level helped. On the way home we played the game of "can you read the letters on that sign" and Ali was intrigued by the idea of her improved vision.

Nearly everyone I know who had glasses as a kid remembers that moment when they put on their specs and realized that trees had individual leaves. It's kind of a strange discovery because even people in new subdivisions know of trees and leaves, but that's the first discovery newly speced people seem to make.

I was outed when my brother and I were playing the A-B-C game coming home from Linton one day. I couldn't see the letters on the trestle that used to cross the highway near Midland. I was in 5th grade and I'd never found a vowel on that old train car bridge, but I was so used to not seeing well that it never came up in conversation before. I think I had doubted David's discovery of a much-needed letter and may have called him a cheater.

Everyone else in the car could see the letters, but I insisted they weren't there. I was bespectacled a few weeks later. Brownish octagonal wire frames. Every year my lenses got thicker. In high school Jeff Miller dubbed me Fearless Fly because of my huge plastic frames. (Believe it or not, that was one of the least horrible of my nicknames...)

Anyway, I've been watching Ali like a hawk, thinking if we correct her vision quicker, she might not need the Coke bottle lenses that I have. She doesn't have to wear her glasses all the time; just when she reads and does classwork.

Jeff made a big deal of the glasses, and we talked a lot about putting them in her case and not losing them, and being careful with them. She seemed OK with wearing them again when we set off for school the first day she had them.

I asked her how it went as we drove home that afternoon. "Not so good, Mom," she said, sadly.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I put them and everyone at my table laughed at me. One kid said they made me look idiotic. One asked me if they were mine and when I said, 'yes,' she said, 'take them off!'" Ali reported.

She said she took them off and put them in her desk and never took them out again.

"I sit close to the board, Mom, it's OK. I don't really need them," she said.

My immediate reaction was to go right back to the school and knock a few 3rd graders around, but I don't want to be that Mom. Plus, most of the kids in her class were already gone for the day. I tried to be reasonable, not go overboard with soothing her bruised ego.

I also tried to remember that Alison sometimes has a flair for the dramatic. I asked if her teacher had heard any of the comments. Ali said no.

I quizzed her a little more, and it was clear that she believes the class thinks she looks bad in the glasses. Never mind that Dominic (who still pines for her love) wears glasses and that at least half a dozen of her classmates wear them. It's a new look for her, and it's getting a reaction.

When I met her teacher, Miss Lawson, at back-to-school night, she wasn't aware that Ali even had glasses.

So I'm pretty sure whatever has really happened, it's been a limited event. Miss Lawson is aware of the need to wear them now, and I'm pretty sure if the class erupts into titters, that she'll smack 'em down. (Jeff made me promise not to enlist help from the teacher or address the little brats myself, and I haven't. But I want to.)

I think she looks cute in them, Team Ogden gave her a boost when they saw them, too, and I'm going to have her watch this great segment on CBS Sunday Morning . What nice timing...

We've had a good weekend. Alex came over Friday for a sleepover and they tested out the bunk bed.

Saturday, Karin came to get him. When she told him it was time to go, both Ali and Alex hesitated like they always do. Usually when they leave each other they trade a toy or two. Karin told Alex, "You can take one thing, so look around this whole house and decide what that one thing is."

He glanced around the family room. "I choose her," he said.

So they had a second sleepover at the Ogdens last night.

Glasses or no glasses, Alex is Alison's good friend. I love that boy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Addicts R Us



I'm battling addiction today. It's the day after my birthday. I was blessed with everything on my list, calls and emails from more friends and family than I deserve and and more: the entire collection of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. I'd asked for it, but didn't expect to get all 16 books. I also snagged new music and the first season of True Blood.

I've not yet seen True Blood, but I have the collection of the books it was based on. (Yes, I read them obsessively.) Two of my office friends are loyal to the HBO version. They've been as anxious as I have for me to actually get a peek at the live action version.

So my trouble wasn't whether to serve an addiction. It was which one to serve.

Yesterday it was an easy choice. I wasn't near a DVD player so True Blood stayed in the package. Plus, it was daylight and we were celebrating the passage of my youth with John, Lisa, Lynn and the rest of Team Vielee at Lynn's lake house. I'd read most of the first Blake book by noon, when we got in the car.

I want to savor the books, not read myself silly (like I did with Twilight and Harry Potter) so I drove down to the lake rather than read in the car. We were serenaded by Billy Currington and Kenny Chesney.

While Ali played with the kids, including three from next door, I finished the book at the lake -- in my defense, Lisa had a book, too. We had a good time, great dinner, fantastic wine and some unexpected fireworks.

This morning, Jeff had a marathon fantasy football meeting, and Alison was thrilled to spend her time with her books, computer and TV. We'd gotten home too late for me to watch True Blood last night, but I didn't want Alison to wander in to see the graphic footage Brooke and Jenni have been promising me. So I was forced to finish the second Blake book.

I tore myself away from it to feed Ali, grocery shop and do a tiny bit of office work. She and I biked to NorthSide News, which means I've now added the NY Times to the mix of literary drugs.

Worse, my compulsions have been passed down. Alison was so engrossed in Scooby Doo even the bribe of a fresh donut couldn't get her to go with me to Kroger. She had done her chores already, and even finished her homework early with not having to be forced, so I let it slide. I did force her to bike with me to the newsstand.

I'd asked her if she'd bike longer. It was cool, but a nice day.

"Sorry, Mom. I really want to get back to Scooby Doo," she said.

So I took a deep breath, set both the book and newspaper aside; left the DVDs alone on the table and went to check email, Facebook and to record this blog.

Jeff has yet to move from his seat. That's not really true. He moved from my PC to his Mac. On her mad dash back to the TV, Alison grabbed a banana and is still hanging out with Scooby.

We're all addicts. Maybe I should give up the books and just search for a cure.

Imagine what we could do if we could use our obsessive focuses for good. As long as we're not using it for evil, I'll let it go...

For now, I have a book or newspaper to read...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Does anybody really know what time it is?

Among the many issues I have with my mother is that she made me be in the school band.

I wasn't musically gifted, and the hand-me-down instrument thrust into my unwilling hands was my sister Donna's clarinet. Mom made each of her five daughters play in the band. Diana had the trumpet. Nancy got the trombone. Debbie: the flute. The boys somehow got a pass.

The clarinet's nickname is the licorice stick. I don't like licorice. And my first band instructor hated my older sister, Nancy, who was in high school and tormented him in class and out. I remember him as tall and thin and consistently impatient and cranky. I don't remember his name.

Nancy and a friend really didn't like him. They once tossed trash into his yard in the dead of night. I never knew why. I just remember thinking that he took out his anger for her out on me. It's possible I remember it wrong and that he was a fine instructor who maybe just didn't like ungifted musicians. All I know is I didn't really take to his fundamentals, and never fully embraced the instrument. Which is really funny if you consider some of my other talents.....

Anyway, I could have lived with the clarinet and maybe even advanced in the chair position, but as I aged band grew from a class within the school day to marching band and concerts, which required after hours practice.

That first instructor had been replaced by a team of others; Shakamak just didn't attract long-lasting music teachers. My annoyance with the actual music took a back seat to a new issue: nine times out of 10, my my mother would forget to pick me up from practice. I'd be that kid sprawled along the sidewalk waiting and waiting until finally the last adult standing would take pity on me and ask if I had a ride home.

I always swore that among my parenting missteps, failing to pick Ali up on time would not be among them.

So there I was, toiling like a demon at work today, Day 1 of third grade.

The day had not started well. I had a ton of work to do at the day job, and Alison had first woken at 4:44 a.m. After that, she had a nightmare and I was in her room from about 5 a.m. on. The alarm by my bed was set for 6:30 as usual. I wake past 7 when Jeff comes in to wake us up. He'd turned off the alarm because, well, because he was sleepy. We made it to school in time, but it just wasn't the start I'd planned.

In the midst of work frustration, I was also fretting a bit about being able to leave on time so I wouldn't leave her as the last kid standing at AfterCare. It's open til 6 p.m. but I like to get her by 5:30.

Anyway, it was 1:30 p.m. when my cell phone rang. The display said CKS (Christ the King School) was calling. How odd, I think.

Then I'm informed that there's no AfterCare today. And it was early dismissal. School had ended at 1 p.m. I'm downtown. CKS is not.

As I sped north, passing cars right and left, cursing at slow drivers and fast lights, I had flash backs about those long hours spent outside Shakamak Middle and High Schools. I'd sit there, ticked off and embarrassed, waiting for that dusty Impala to arrive. After what would seem like days, it would swing into the parking lot, full of Avon bags destined for cosmetic-starved housewives in rural Indiana; powered by a surly mother of 7, who may or may not have felt as bad as I did.

It was awful. Probably contributed to my out-of-tune band career. But that which does not kill us makes us stronger, right? Maybe it just makes you bitter. I don't know.

Regardless, I get to CKS, and Ali is waiting on bench inside in the a/c. Miss Becky is smiling at the door, impressed I hope at my arrival time. "Don't worry about it. There's always one. This year it's you!" she said.

If she'd hoped to make me feel better, she failed spectacularly.

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry," I said, rushing through the door. "I didn't know there wasn't After Care."

Alison put down her Geronimo Stilton book and smiled up at me. "It's fine, Mom. I didn't know either," she said.

She honestly wasn't troubled. And Becky said she'd been a model citizen. It would have been prime time for her to wheedle her way to an ice cream cone or new Pokemon pack, but she didn't even ask. We headed back to work and she was a dream there, too.

At one point I looked over at her quiet little self and said, "Alison, did you know you're my favorite daughter?"

She didn't look up. She just said what she always says when I utter that phrase: "Mom. I'm your only daughter."

I told her of the only other time I'd failed to get to her on time. I was in a meeting with the governor and it had gone long. Ali was maybe 4-months-old, and I was new to Day Care. Someone in the meeting mentioned the time and I yelped. She was just across the street, but the meeting was still going strong. My friend Cindy, the governor's scheduler and AKA Aunt Cindy, offered to get her for me.

Apparently Alison was expecting me and nobody else but me. Cindy told me later that she'd screamed the whole walk back and that she would NEVER pick her up for me again.

A few hours after I told Ali that story, she asked me about it again. "Mommy, did Aunt Cindy really say she'd never pick me up again when I cried so much?"

"Yup," I said.

Crushed, she said, "Not ever?"

I reminded her that it was Aunt Cindy. She had quickly forgiven her, even though she had cried like a little baby.

"But I was a baby!" Alison protested.

"Exactly," I said.

I'm probably never going to make Alison continue on with an extra-curricular activity she doesn't like, and I hope I never screw up about pick-up time again.

While she took her neglect well today, I have to wonder if there's a three strikes rule for parental pick up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Splash down


Due to what Alison has taken to calling "the injury" we had to cancel our plans a few weeks ago to take her and her Ogden pals to Holiday World. Alex had gotten a bad rap from a comment that he'd allegedly made during the previous weekend when they were fighting boredom in our basement.

He was alleged to have said, "Well if you hadn't gotten hurt, we'd be at Holiday World right now, Alison!"

When confronted by his displeased mother, he said, "Mom! Why would I say something like that. She's my best friend. What I said was, I said, what I said was, Alison, if it wasn't for that fire pole we'd be in Holiday World right now."

She's all healed up and got the OK from the doc, so we took an abbreviated version of that original plan this weekend, driving down early Saturday. We spent six hours on the Splashin' Safari side of the park, leaving just 30 minutes before they would have sent us packing anyway.

It was crowded and after our first few rides, we had to (gasp!) wait in line a little bit. Invariably, we'd see the incline of a roller coaster and watch as carts of crazy people braved the heights. Like clockwork, Alex would say, "Yeah, I'm not going on that."

We actually spent more time at the wave pools than we did on rides or waiting for them. Those kids are insane and wanted to be right up at the front where the waves start. Problem is, it's six-feet-deep there and it gets a little tiring treading water and playing human raft when the short ones need a breather.

Straggling out, we were all prunes, but thanks to the sunblock stations, no one was burnt. In the 20 minutes it took us to get to the hotel in Jasper, two of the three were already passed out, the fun and sun had sucked every bit of energy right out of them. A little Chinese food revived them long enough to eat and giggle their way through shrimp and lo mein.

We'd originally thought to spend two days at the park, but the Ogdens are already in school so they needed to get a little down time before Monday rolls around and frankly, I was pretty sure if we spent two days at the park, they'd have hounded me into a roller coaster ride. I don't like to vomit, and those things just do me in anymore. So I was happy to compromise with a hotel that had a pool.

So we had a little swim time this morning (no lines) and set up north on Indiana 231 to see a little bit of Indiana on the way home. The interstates might be quicker, but I thought we needed a little taste of the bucolic, so off through the hills and dales we went.

We saw plenty of cornfields, bean fields and pastures, four Dairy Queens and one IGA Foodliner. We saw water towers that looked like water towers are supposed to and one that looked like a silo on steroids.

Wile the kids read magazines and books and chattered, Jeff and I pondered deep Hoosier questions like:

1. Why did they name it Dubois County if they were going to pronounce it Dew-boyz?
2. How did those early German settlers allow such a delicate French name in the first place?
3. What does Loogootee mean?
4. How did it become La-goat-ee? Shouldn't it be lew-goat-ee?
5. Do they ever let civilians watch the bombs get made at Crane NWSC?

We were looking for a drive-in restaurant for lunch but caved in to KFC and Taco Bell in Spencer. We resisted the lure of the DQ until Mooresville.

Karin came to spirit her kids away not long after we got home. Since then, we've just sort of laid around and reveled in being at home. It's no Holiday World, but we like it.

Alison is still four days from starting school. Her late schedule had caused a little bit of child care issue, but nothing that having great bosses can't fix.

Tomorrow, I'll work from home in the morning. Jeff will take over in the afternoon. We have Claire (THE Clair from Claire's Comfort for Kids) on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, it will be our fourth year of having a Mom and Ali day the day before she starts school -- she's a third grader come Thursday.

I was walking by her room putting things away when I caught sight of the stuffed animals on the bottom level of her new bunk bed. It occurred to me that one day I'll walk by there and she'll be too big for the animals. It was the only sad spot in the sun-soaked weekend.

Why does it have to go so damn fast?!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pole dancer? Doubtful


Let me just say right now that I think adventure is fun. While I can't stomach (literally) carnival rides and roller coasters anymore, I encourage Alison to test whatever waters come her way. Well, within reason. I wouldn't let her go to a shooting range, but if she wants to climb a tree and brave the tallest 'coaster she's tall enough to qualify for, I say have at it. As long as Jeff rides with her.

So when she and the Ogdens were with me for a little while this week at work, it seemed only natural to ask if they wanted to go down the fire pole. One of our buildings is a former firehouse, and it came complete with old hoses and the pole. It's a rite of passage for most of our staff and some of our visitors.

Ali's first trip down went fine. A bit of a hard landing, but we heard the: "I'm alright!" and her steps pounding back up the steps. Trip two would have made the guys on Rescue Me proud. Trip three: not so much.

She bumped her chin, which made her let go of the pole about 1/3 of the way down. When she grabbed back on, she slammed against it and landed hard, more on one foot than the other, and a bit crookedly.

She'd bitten her lip, had a mouth full of blood and was sure she'd broken her leg. I helped her up and she laid herself flat out on the floor and just howled.

"I think I broke my leg!" she said.

I had a moment of panic, but I had the Ogdens looking at me, wide-eyed, for guidance, and a building full of coworkers to deal with. I comforted her as best I could and asked our in-house trainer to come take a look at her leg. After what seemed like hours, Ali was quieted, mostly, and Kelsey declared her break-free, but in need of ice from her knee to her foot. Fifteen-minute intervals, at least two rotations.

Kelsey was great with her, and she's soon to receive Alison's graphic thank you, which you can see here.

Alison's pediatrician said he didn't think he needed to see her unless she couldn't put weight on her leg. After three popsicles and a movie at Karin's, Alison's lip was fine; she was hopping around just fine on the leg and even attempted a handstand.

I'd apologized to my coworkers for the noise and gotten a whole bunch of really nice comments (everyone, God bless 'em, was far more concerned about her than about her tears affecting their sales calls.)

So I get home, get her settled in and we spend most of the evening just collecting ourselves. It wasn't until we were getting her ready for bed that I discovered another injury. I won't go into detail because it's of a most personal nature. I think everyone has slammed down on their bike at least once in their life -- male and female. Let's just say she took that to a new level.

But all is well now, after two in-person doctor exams and one phone consultation with a specialist. She's limited from strenuous activity for a week and that means no swimming or biking, too.

She was really bummed about it until we went shopping today. I'm looking for new basement/family room furniture, but somehow we came home with the bunk bed she's been pining for. It's no Holiday World (the weekend we'd planned) but even with the medical bills, it's probably been cheaper -- and more tangible.

Holiday World will be there next summer. She's having lunch with me again tomorrow, but she has little interest in wandering the campus other than to find Kelsey to deliver her note.

Thursday, she'd declared: "I never want to see that fire pole again in my life." Tonight at dinner, she said she might be ready to try it again in a month or two.

Frankly, it'll be over my dead body that she goes down the pole again. My friend Andrew, who is the unofficial sentry of the pole, said Ali had made history by being one of the few who've ever been hurt on the journey. That's a good enough adventure in my book.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm not bossy: I'm a leader



Alison and I got on our bikes this morning about 10:30 and didn't wheel back home until 1 o'clock. In between, we bought my Sunday NY Times, pedaled into Broad Ripple, over to the Keystone Target, back to Northside News for lunch and over to the Fresh Market.

It was a great time, during which we pondered many things. Among them, Alison's favorite flavors: bubble gum, grape, cherry, banana, mango, blueberry, green apple and strawberry.

"One day, Mom, I got a hold of some watermelon Laffy Taffy," she said in a voice of doom. "It was THE worst flavor. Ever. Ugh."

I could almost see her bike tremble as she shuddered.

We moved on to Pokemon cards -- Pokemon was the inspiration for her trip. She's been having a $5 week, and she and her dad had lost out on their eBay bid for a huge cache of Pokemon cards. She's been pining for a Regigias -- and it was within the eBay collection. Since they lost the auction, she's been itching to spend her allowance on a brand new box that offers Regigias as the headliner.

On our way to Target, she was detailing the virtues of different Pokemon and her dreams of having more full evolvages for her favorite characters. She and her buddy Alex (and Hannah to a less passionate level) play Pokemon a lot, but they don't exactly follow the rules. (oh, yeah: there are rules and it's a huge, convoluted crazy set of 'em, too.)

She was telling Jeff the other day how at camp, she'd traded a little girl a Raquaza for a Rhyperior, Level X. She'd given the girl an Evie and got back her Raquaza.

"That was one sweet deal, Dad," she said.

I was about to launch into a discussion of being fair (regardless of the commodity, getting fleeced is getting fleeced and I'm not really trying to raise a con artist) when Jeff launched into a discussion of why this card was more valuable than that card and maybe the girl had understood the game better.

"Well, Dad, it's true that some people actually read the fine print and follow the rules," she said. "But me and Alex? We don't play that way."

For the uninitiated, each Pokemon card tells you the power its character holds. So if you have one with a power of 30, it'll be toppled by one with a greater power. Apparently the fine print tells you what the character gives up when using it's power. So, a character with a power of 90, who loses 40 points if he/she engages in battle, really has a power of 50.

If, of course, you bother with such nuance as the rules of the game.

"But Ali, what if you play with someone who actually takes the time to read the rules and follow them?" asked Jeff, who has actually read more than a sentence of Hoyle's rules.

"Well, I just tell them that this is how I play and if they want to play, we follow my rules," she said.

"Do people ever refuse to play by your rules," I ask.

"No," she said. "No they don't."

How do you compete against that? Shouldn't you have to learn and follow the rules before you decide how to work on the edges? Is she learning skills that will let her succeed in whatever path she chooses? Or is she going to be the next Bernie Madoff?

Maybe Catholic school will save her.

Love Bug or Thug Bug?


I grew up in the country, but that doesn't mean I know much about nature. I remember running into the house once, all in a dither, yelling for my dad because the Tom turkey was beating up one of the lady turkeys.

He didn't get out of his chair.

It took me longer to figure out why he wouldn't help than I care to tell you.

But suffice it to say that neither of my parents were much into telling their offspring about the birds and the bees. (See what that philosophy gets you, Amer?!)

Anyway, this morning, Ali called me off of the porch "to get a load of this!"

"It's the biggest bee I've ever seen," she said.

Sure enough, there was a member of the bee family doing God knows what to what appeared to be a dead cicada. At first, I wondered if I had a little cross-species, um, pollination going on, if you get my drift. Then, I thought, hey, maybe it's a case of bug murder.

Now, I'm wondering what the hell wasps eat. Because whatever happened to send the cicada belly-up, the wasp was taking advantage.

I'm as clueless as I was back with the turkeys. Any country folk out there to shed a clue?