Sunday, March 29, 2009

Break, already, Spring!

Sunday mornings are just about my favorite time of the week. The whole day stretches out with no real chores (usually) and the walk to Matt the Newspaperman's shop awaits for whenever we get ourselves out of pajamas and into sweats.

Today it was just too dang cold to brave the elements. I felt sorry for my brave little hyacinths popping up in pink and purple clusters in the front yard, declaring an end to winter. There they were, minding their own businesses bringing warmth and color to a bleak world only to be buffeted first by a chilly wind, then freezing rain and finally snow flurries that disappeared as soon as they touched the ground. It was as if winter wasn't ready to pack up for the year.

I watched the seasons fight it out through the front window, curled up on the living room couch, nestled under a blanket with a good book and the NY Times.

I wasn't the only lazy Reed today. Jeff didn't have basketball and he and Ali were downstairs most of the day puttering at computer games, reading and watching cartoons. I think they may have gotten a little Wii action in, too.

Jeff spent most of Saturday with his fantasy baseball friends, leaving around 9 a.m., so he was missing the little redhead a little bit by the time he strolled in around 8 p.m.

She and I were snuggling on the couch by then, and it was clear she'd had enough of me. Jeff had stretched out on the floor using the bean bag as a pillow. He'd found Johnny Quest on some cartoon network and was telling her that she just had to watch it with him because it was his favorite show when he was a little boy. Like a flash, she was gone.

"Hey!" I said. "Where'd you go?"

Busy stretching out on top of her dad and making sure she could see the screen, she didn't even look at me. "Hey, this guy needs some love, too," she said. The two of them didn't move for an hour.

She later confessed that she liked Johnny Quest OK, but she'd watched a few episodes and noticed that Race Bannon often pushed the same rock down on his enemies. Seems no matter the enemy, Race was alwasy wearing the same clothes and in the same weather when he found that rock...

It's almost always fun to watch Ali with Jeff. She loves him, and just loves teaching her stuff. She's getting to be more and more like him every day. He showed her cheat codes so she can whizz around Club Penguin like a hacker. He taught her how to make his iPod work this morning. He was home with her for the first day of Spring Break, on Friday, and he taught her how to "lay a patch," when braking. Apparently she left behind quite a lot of her tires at the practice lot.

But every once in a while I see tiny, little bits of me in her. She loves to read and can get a little obsessive with her favorite authors. Right now, Dave Pilkey is ruling her world.

But Friday at dinner, she really made my heart sing. Apparently, her teacher had a pile of homework that she truly expected the kids to get through on Spring Break. I'm all about the importance of learning, but geeze. There's a reason they name it Spring Break.

I was all ready to complain about the burden when Jeff said, "No listen."

So I looked at Ali who told me that she'd used up all her free time during the school day and made a special point at After Care to plow through ever single stinkin' bit of Spring Break homework she'd been given.

"I'm free! Free I tell you!" she said. "No homework for me."

I love that girl. Nerd that I am, I would have done the same thing. We celebrated Saturday at the book store buying up a bunch of Ricky Ricotta books for Ali and the rest of the Christine Feehan Dark series for me.

So, even if spring doesn't kick winter's butt as quickly as I'd like, we have plenty to keep us occupied over the break.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Parenthood is hard

I saw something in a gossip rag the other day about how Kim Kardashian had sincerely claimed she wasn't a spoiled brat, and neither was her sister. I'm ashamed, frankly, that I know who Kim Kardashian is, and if I have to explain to you why it's nearly tragic that she can't see how spoiled she is, well you're just a better person than I am.

Suffice it to say that she and Paris Hilton are contemporaries.

I was thinking about Kim Kardashian the other day when I was talking to Karin about how our children are not always as grateful and selfless as they could be. Now all of them are far closer to saints than sinners, but I had a moment this weekend when I thought they were little ingrates. I was more annoyed than angered, but after a day of fun, they were slow to perform a simple little task for me, their happy benefactor.

So I asked myself, "Self, what's wrong with these little rats?"

Nothing was wrong with the little rats. They were having fun. Being kids. But it occurred to me that you must have to actually teach children to be grateful -- much like you have to help them to walk and read and brush their teeth. If all you do is give them stuff, they'll expect to be given stuff all the time. And who could blame them?

I was likely a little heavy handed with my debut of Gratefulness 101, but I'm going to refine my instruction. I think it's important that kids have fun and goodness knows my husband thinks I'm too quick to indulge. But I think it's just as important that they understand why you say please and thank you and why you should be grateful for life's pleasures.

I'm pretty sure I'll need an advisor myself along the way. This parenthood thing is hard, man. You've got to be on your toes all the time!

I suspect Kim Kardashian didn't take Grateful 101. And that's a shame.

In other news, Alison's friend Dominic came over for a play date last week. He's the boy who declared his love for her publicly last year at school, embarrassing the heck out of her.

While I worked in the yard, they worked the Wii. Jeff came home to find us and was horrified that I'd left them alone. "Geeze. They're 7 and 8. What could they possibly be doing? If we can't trust them now, when can we?" I asked.

Silly, silly, misguided me.

After we'd taken Dominic home, Alison and I were chatting. She got all shy, ducked her head and said she wanted to tell me something.

"What is it? You can tell me anything," I said.

"Well, Mom, Dominic told me he wanted to ask me something," she said.


"He said he wanted to kiss me."

I know I screamed really loud in my head. But thankfully I kept it there.

"What did you say?" I said.

"I told him I thought it would be inappropriate touching," she said.

I nearly got down on my knees and thanked God and Christ the King. But I maintained my cool.

"Well, I think that was a good thing to say," I said. "Did you want him to kiss you?"

I held my breath. She ducked her head, then suddenly looked right at me, suddently intent on knowing the answer to one, burning question.

"Mom, is it true that when I'm 8 years old I don't have to sit in a car seat?"

"Uh. Well, maybe," I stuttered, suffering deeply from whiplash.

"Dominic says he doesn't have to so maybe I won't have to either," she said.

"Uh-huh," I said. "Maybe. Hey, I have an idea. If you wait until you're 8 to not have to use a car seat, how about you wait until, oh, maybe til you're 10 to let a boy kiss you?"

"That sounds about right," she said.

I think I lot 10 pounds in sweat. The adrenaline has yet to abate.

Parenthood is hard, man....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Once upon a time, In a galaxy far, far away

Alison and Hannah had a big day Saturday -- their first gymnastics revue.

They've been going to the local park community center to take a weekly class, mostly to determine if they like gymnastics. Alison dumped ballet after about 2 years. She'd gotten tired of it and I figure if I have to devote part of my Saturday to carting her around and watching, it should be an enjoyable event for both of us.

After having to almost literally drag her sorry butt to ballet for the last six months of it, it was a shock to have her push me out the door so we won't be late for gymnastics.

She'd lingered in ballet because she took that class with Jenna, who has been her best friend since before they'd each emerged into the world. We do miss seeing Jenna, but it was time to explore other options. (Jenna, by the way, is an incredible dancer who lights up the stage. I'm sure she misses having Ali around but there's nothing going to stop her from performing.)

Alison seems to have that same love for gymnastics. She does handstands around the house every chance she gets and she's trying hard to perfect her cartwheel. I don't know that she has competition on her mind, but she loves what she's doing now and we'll see how it goes.

Hannah likes it, too, and we've gotten into a good Saturday morning groove. When we're lucky, we hang out after and Alex gets into the mix after his basketball game. Yesterday, we did our gymnastics thing, then watched Alex's last game of his season and then Karin and I worked out a bit. It's been beautiful weather and I hope Spring has actually sprung.

We ended the night at the Ogdens at Alex's Star Wars party. He'd dreamed it up and was thrilled when we said we'd come over. He told Dale that he was so excited about the party that he didn't know if he could actually play basketball.

We had themed food and watched the movie in heaps on the floor, couches and chairs.

Other than Jeff and Alison's occasional cat-induced sneezing, it was a fabulous way to end a great day. We watched the episode where Carrie Fisher wears a bikini. Jeff and Dale could have recited the whole thing -- especially the parts where she wriggles around in that two piece...

Alison hangs around with boys all day at school and claims to love violence. When she's not upside down doing a handstand, she's trying to karate chop anyone who comes past her. But she wasn't really enthralled with Star Wars.

"It' s not really my kind of violence," she said. "My kind of violence is the kind that doesn't look real."

I guess I'm OK with that. Way more OK than when she told me she didn't have time for dinner Tuesday night because "I have a meeting with three boys, mom."

"Um, what?" I said.

Her "meeting" involved getting online at Club Penguin at 6:30 p.m. Three boys from her class were to get online, too, and they were going to be able to virtually play together -- or "meet" as Alison described it.

While the explanation mollified me a bit, I still haven't told Jeff that she's hanging out with boys -- online -- after school. I'm not sure he's ready for that....

A flock of seagulls, a few falcons and other assorted singing birds

After several months of hot pursuit, 1.5 years of dating, a kick-ass wedding, a beautiful, funny, sweet daughter, and 11 years of marriage, my husband rolled over in bed Friday morning, caught my eye, smiled and said. "This has been the best week of my life."

I won't sicken you with the details of my currently highly happy marriage, I just felt the need to brag. Of course, it's not bragging if it's true.....

Jeff is suspicious of this somewhat sudden return to the hey days of our courtship. He suspects that my recent obsession with Christine Fehan's GhostWalker series is contributing to it.

While I'm not trying to dissect whatever it is we've done lately to be so in sync, I would bottle it if I could. I'd even give it away to anyone who needs a little jolt. It's not that we've been on the brink of trouble -- we've just had more moments where we irritated the hell out of each other in the 12 months than either of us want.

We have been working harder to really partner on dealing with the vagaries of life; getting Alison off to a good start in life, including keeping her clean, fed and out of CKS Detention; and keeping the house a little less grimy. I've been putting effort into making time for me and me alone rather than taking on more than I want to do and then unfairly complaining about it. (Yes, I know I can be a highly-toned bitch.)

I struggle with my penchant for domestic martyrdom, though, and I blame that damn Pentecostal church where I spent too much of the first 16 years of my life. It's probably not a totally accurate recollection, but there were few remarks hurled at me from the altar that I can't seem to shake. It was a real fire and brimstone kind of church, and we all got singed a little bit over the years.

One of the take-aways from the whole thing (again, it might be my personal twist) was that even if you're a rotten person, if you put others first you still have a shot at the upward pull instead of the downward slide to Hell. If you step in front of a bullet for someone, it's a guaranteed shot straight up.

I've got a lot to answer for. So I'm always looking for a loophole.

Right, now, in addition to making time to read trashy novels, I'm remembering other lessons from the church. Those about being good to others and getting your priorities in order. I'm pretty sure the priority they were talking about was a little red brick church in the country and the Almighty.

Me, I'm thinking about my family and making it work. And that means doing a little bit more for me, which makes the time I spend with them that much better.

My new focus has the birds singing ahead of the official start to Spring. There must be something to it....


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dancing Queen

We had the good fortune to spend Saturday night watching while two of our favorite people in the world got married. To each other. John Vielee and Lisa Sirkin are now officially Mr. and Mrs.

It was Alison's first wedding, and it was made extra fun because we really like John and Lisa's families, and we got to hang out with Jonathan Swain, Tina and John Noel (Lilly and Jack, too!) as well. John the groom asked us which side we were going to sit on, and it was a real problem.

Once Alison learned the wedding rule of choosing between the bride or groom's side, she decided that we should spread across the aisle. We ended up siding with Lisa because we've known her longer, but it worked out OK because Jonathan joined us and Team Noel was across the way, so we ended up with equal numbers on both sides.

At the reception we learned that Alison is a dancing fool. She vogued. She twisted. She did a few handstands. She got really carried away once and jumped up into John's Dad's arms. I don't know if she thought she was jitterbugging or if she just wanted to leap and he happened to be there. He's Irish and she's a red-head. Maybe it was that. I'm not sure he's recovered yet, and I'm certain Jeff hasn't: he spent most of the night tormented by thoughts of Alison's future, which he fears will involve a stage and a pole.

At one point, she came by our table for a breather and a drink of water. The music had slowed and Jeff asked if she'd like to dance with him. She looked at him, gestured to the dance floor and said, "I don't think so Dad. That music is too slow."

He looked askance at her. "What?"

"I prefer rock and roll," she said.

She did dance a little with him to the B-52's Love Shack and I bounced around a little bit, too. But she really didn't need a consistent partner. She was wearing her black leather boots, little zebra skirt, pink tights and pink shirt with the zebra-patterned heart on it. For bling, she wore the oversize rink Caleb gave her a while ago and a necklace we brought her back from the Dominican Republic. She took it off about six songs in, complaining that it was banging around too much on her chest.

When we got into the car to go home, she flopped into her seat and said, "That was some party."
She was asleep before we got home.

We were in a rush so I didn't remember my camera, but I'm sure that I'll be able to steal from Lynn or John or someone soon.

Before the wedding, Ali and I got to hang out a bit with Hannah Ogden. The girls take a gymnastics class together, and sometimes we get to keep Hannah after. This weekend, we did errands and ended up at the library. Along the way, the girls got to chatting in the back seat and for some reason Alison called up to me that she was suprised that I was so weird.

Hannah and I have a special relationship. She's a delightful little girl and I love her a lot. I wasn't surprised at all when I heard her react to Alison's remark.

"Alison!" she said in her most school-marmy voice. "I can't belive you've lived with your mom this long and just now learned she's weird."

I considered dumping them both out right there on the street. They're smart enough to find their way home, though, and both of the little rats would have squealed on me...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More apologies to R.E.M.

We were getting ready for dinner the other night, when Jeff put on R.E.M.'s "Automatic for the People" album.

I'm not sure why Ali was in the kitchen and we were at the dining room table, but we were a house divided. Her voice drifted in and out as she cartwheeled her way around the other room.

"That is one weird song," she said.

"What?" asked her hearing-impaired but musically defensive father.

"That song is weird," she repeated, landing a round-off and coming back to the table. "Everybody burps sometimes? Weird."

We managed not to shoot spaghetti out of our noses, but it was a close call.


Alison and I spent most of Saturday out of the house, so I left Jeff in charge of her and snuggled on living room couch with a new paperback At 10 o'clock or so, I wandered downstairs to see why he hadn't gotten her up to bed.

He was hard at work laying plans for his fantasy baseball league. The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack (not my favorite 'toon) was blaring on the television and Ali was curled up on the papasan chair with the television remote and my laptop, snoozing to beat the band.

Well, actually, she was playing a mean game of possum but she was so into that I didn't disturb her. She likes to get a few things over on the 'rental units from time to time and I didn't want to disappoint her.

If she could sleep with that laptop every night, I know she would.


My friend Cindy alarmed me the other day with an email she sent entitled, "My Private Part Died."

In mortal fear for her pokey (as Amer would call it) I read further to find this gem:

An old man, Mr. Wallace, was living in a nursing home. One day he appeared to be very sad and depressed. A young nurse asked him if there was anything wrong.

"Yes, Nurse Tracy, my private part died today and I am very sad," he said.

Knowing Mr. Wallace mixed a little bit of forgetfulness with a shot of crazy, she replied tactfully, "Oh I'm so sorry, please accept my condolences."

The next day, Mr. Wallace was walking down the hall, his private part having fully escaped his pajamas. He passed Nurse Tracy, his head, at least one of them, held high.

"Mr. Wallace," she scolded. "You know good and well that you can't be walking down the hall like that! Please put your private part back inside your pajamas this minute!"

"But Nurse Tracy, I can't," he said, with a gleam in his eye. "Today is the viewing."