Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes you're the windshield

I'm fairly certain that everyone has bouts of depression and funks that seem to just smack them down like good nails in cheap wood.

I wish it weren't so, but I don't know anyone who's escaped the hammer completely. This week, I had more than my fair share of pounding -- and it wasn't the good kind, if you know what I mean...

The good news is, this week, I'm the windshield, not the bug. This week, I'm the Louisville slugger, not the ball. The hammer is going back in the tool box.

When I'm depressed, I usually get snarly and mean and take my frustrations out on the lawn, the trees and bushes and Jeff. Not necessarily in that order.

But this time, I had Jon, Tina and Lisa drag me back to sanity Saturday morning over Mexican brunch. Team Vielee added a little more to the dosage Saturday night, and Jeff, Ali, and Team Ogden topped me off today.

And in one of those moments that rarely happen in real life but are the backbone of the situation comedy, I have a little bit of unexpected documentation to bring my weekend, and this post, to a tidy little close.

Alison's take-home folder yielded the gem to the right of your screen. I know it's a little cheesey, but nothing beats the sincerity of a person who's not quite 4-feet-tall.

So I'm borrowing Alison's little medal of honor as thanks to all of my heroes -- this week and all the weeks before. You know who you are.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Long, lazy weekend

Alison's written another book -- last year's involved a spider. This one involves missing food on an island nation run by a president called Billy Bob, if memory serves.

It was all revealed last Friday at an Author's Tea hosted by the Christ the King Second Grade smack dab in the midst of the Angie's List Annual Derby Day, a great party cleverly disguised as a team building exercise that actually works to bring people from across the company's departments together. You work together to come up with a theme, a plan and use no more than $75 to create a wheel powered car.

Teams are graded on creativity and speed. My team developed the USS Angieprise and we went to work as Star Trek characters. I was the white Uhura. Sadly, we won neither in speed nor creativity. The Flintstones beat us out for creativity and I cant' remember who won for speed.

While my fellow Listers were either careening down a sloped parking lot/race course or cheering on those crazy enough to trust the hay bales would save them, I was elegantly perched on a cafeteria chair listening to books written by second graders. It was quite the shift in events, but a sweet way to end the day.

(I'd had just enough time to wipe off the make-up and sweat and change before heading to the school.) Ali had helped me with the costume but asked, gently as she could, if I could wash my face before coming to school.

It was OK to wear the short skirt, boots and Star Trek badge if I ran out of time, but the make-up had to go.

I don't think I embarrassed her.

The rest of the weekend was a blur. We stayed home, but the weekend still seemed to fly by. Amer's race party was its usual success and we had great times catching up with old friends.

Ali collected another young boy's heart -- this time young Eli Thompson, who at 2-years-old fell ass over tea kettle, as Jen Reed would say, for the red head.

Most of Team Meyers Thompson was over for a small cookout, and Ali took charge of Eli. She was delighted to boss someone around, and he was delighted to follow.

It was fun to watch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back at the Speedway

Angie's List is sponsoring the in-car camera on Sarah Fisher's car for the Indy 500 this year.

Way cool!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reed's Rules for the Summer

I have new rules for the summer.

If you're coming over to the Reed house for a party, a couple of beers or even just a short visit, you can't come unless you follow these rules.

1. You must be happy with the fact that I'm not going to clean for you.
2. You must be happy with the facts that kids are supposed to get dirty, scream and have fun that stops only when someone bleeds.
3. You help cook, clean, serve and supervise as needed.
4. You must have fun.

I'm happy to report that both Team Ogden and Team Vielee not only followed these rules, but they helped define them tonight. We had a great, impromptu cookout that involved 8 kids, 6 adults, 18 assorted sausages and a dozen hot dogs or so.

It was great and so little work it was almost magic. Even the older kids helped out. Alex took care of the chimenae, the older girls helped find things we needed and set up, and everyone else chopped, cleaned, fire-up and opened assorted bottles. We started early because we all have homework and baths to deal with, but my backyard was full of squealing kids and laughing adults from start to finish.

I want every party/get-together this summer to be like this -- the planned ones as well as the unplanned ones. It was so relaxed I didn't even take one stinkin' picture. I attached these two to illustrate how I'll be acting for the next few months.

So consider this your warning. I want you to come over, but I'm sending up the flare. I've already warned my co-workers and friends at work that this is the summer for Fun Cheryl. No more serious face. It's going to be fun.

As long as we all follow the rules....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Facts of Lice

Alison had a Brownie backyard camp out last night. It's the last event for the troop this school year, and all the girls were excited. They had an option to bring sleeping bags, but it was only a three-hour-tour, so we decided to leave Ali's at home.

Of course when we got there, everyone else had a sleeping bag already in the tent, but Ali didn't seem to care. We were on 'smores supply duty but I was not necessary to the equation, so I slunk away home to recover from a great quarterly work trip out at the Speedway and from bike-to-work day.

I set alarms in case I passed out from either the muscle fatigue or beer consumption (Jeff had poker night) and I actually got back to the party a little early. I went in anyway, and was greeted by three little Brownies (none my own) with huge eyes and an even bigger tale to tell: "Three of the girls have lice," they reported, pointing to a corner of the house where three other bandana-ed girls lurked.

I never actually learned which of the three were stricken. I'm sure they told me, but it took me only a little while to learn the bandanas were not the scarlet letters of lice. I may have staggered a little bit.

"Seriously? Um, where's Ali," I ask, wondering how I'd just walked past two Brownie moms without hearing even the whisper of lice, and how I hadn't gotten a phone call for early dismissal.

"Yeah. One of them starting itching their head and my mom looked at her and then they started looking at everyone," a huge-eyed Brownie tells me.

"Where's Alison?" I ask.

"Oh, she didn't get the lice. She doesn't play on the Allisonville team," I'm told.

So I learn from the little ones that the lice may be traced back to a softball team and shared helmets.

I collect Ali, send up a prayer of thanks that she ditched softball, that it wasn't a sleepover and that she didn't take her sleeping bag. I make a beeline for the door. In some small defense of the Brownie moms, both seemed to be a little bit in shock, mostly the hostess who still had some lice carriers still in her fully carpeted home. The night had started up beautiful, but it rained, and I'm sure the girls spent most of the time inside...

On the way home, driving fast and wondering if I have a magnifying glass, I ask Alison about it. She was unconcerned.

"Mom, I read The Facts of Lice every time I go to the nurse's office," she said. "It keeps me entertained while I wait."

"The facts of what?"

"The Facts of Lice. It's on the wall. First I read all about that and then I read about all the parts of the human body and the skeleton," she said.

"Does your head itch?"

"No, mom. I don't have lice," she said. "It was the other girls. But you know, my head does itch sometimes and then I scratch it like this," she said, demonstrating. "I had a tick in my hair once. I think that's why I itch sometimes."

I don't care about the tick. She was 3 then. I'm focused on their smaller, more evil, and more potentially present cousins.

"Did you play much with the girls who have lice? Did you go into the tent and lay around on the sleeping bags?"

Even as I said the words, I felt terrible. Clearly I am no Mother Theresa. I don't know what I would have done had I been hosting. I hope I would have gone to the little lice-ridden girls and helped them, but I'm not sure. I know I wouldn't want to be one of them -- segregated and pointed at while tiny little bugs started keeping house in my hair.

"No. I didn't even really notice," she said. "I was playing with Maria and Sarah."

I slowed down a little.

By the time we got home, I was mostly calm. I went through her hair and saw nary a bug.

"Do you see any small, white balls?" asked Alison, hunched over on a bar stool under the kitchen light.

"No," I say, wondering if she's again lost focus on the Great Search for Lice.

"Good. Those are the eggs," she said, apparently reciting from her Facts of Lice. "The lice will be kind of yellowish-golden with huge teeth."

I swallowed hard but kept looking. "What else do you know about lice," I ask.

"Oh, not much," she said. "You have to get special shampoo to get rid of them if you find them," she said calmly.

So far, there's been no hint of lice. We're probably going to get some shampoo just as a pre-emptive measure.

But I'm on guard. And I can't get the theme song from "The Facts of Life" TV show out of my head.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Girls before Swine

I knew I was in for it when Jeff quarantined himself in the basement Monday afternoon with swine flu. We'd gotten through Alison's birthday party on Sunday, and I thought the sweat was from his exuberance with the laser tag ames. But Monday dawned badly for him, and he went downhill (and downstairs) fast.

I felt bad for him, but there was a whole of stuff going on last week: Alison's actual birth day, Hannah Ogden's (and 799 other IPS musicians) concert, Katy Seiwert's big 1-0, my friend Jenni's college graduation party and all the regular stuff required of a working mom. So I called down the stairs fairly often to see if he was still alive, we blew him kisses and we thought good thoughts for him.

But mostly we left him alone. The swine flu is nothing to, um, sneeze at, and neither of us wanted any part of it.

OK. He didn't really have the swine flu, but that's been my story and I'm sticking to it.

He recovered just barely in time for Mother's Day or neither one of us would have survived.

On Tuesday, the official day Ali turned 8, he managed to snuffle up the stairs to greet her big day. We kept a little distance, but got to do the parental thing before our day got started.

As we started off to school, she tossed her backpack in the back seat and cast a baleful stare at her booster seat. Our eyes met in the rear view window.

"Hey!" I said. "You're 8-years-old. You don't have to sit in that thing anymore, do you?"

"Nope!" she chortled, tossing the chair in the way back. Her grin was as wide as the car. It was as if she was riding on the back seat of a convertible, wearing a tiara, in a small town parade.

Jeff's not thrilled, but Johnny Law says 8 is the limit for booster. And Alison is so tall, the strap hits her perfectly without the boost.

She's thrilled to be 8. And thrilled beyond words with all the booty being 8 has brought her. She's awash in Laffy Taffy, LPS, gift cards and cold hard cash. She's planning to put most of her money in the bank -- they'll give her extra money if she does, you know, but she's already spent her Aunt La's cash on a new Club Penguin book that's yielding secrets and virtual coinage.

Today, she spent a lot of time helping clean up, both in the house and out. Having kicked the pig disease, Jeff make it through basketball and came home where he fell prey to the urge to trim the magnolia tree. There were a couple small dead branches that he went after with a small saw.

But then he put his weight on a big branch, which cracked -- an indication of just how dead it was. So out came the chain saw. The tree does look better. That, and parts of my Mother's Day presents helped improve the look of the lawn.

It actually was a great day that started last night with dinner and led into a day where I really didn't have to do much. And it ended with a snuggle beside the firey chimenae.

Moms can't really ask for much more than that.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Joke's on You

Inspired by Ginny Reed, who every day put a little note in her daughter's lunch box, I've been sending notes with Ali's lunch since she started Kindergarten. I can't remember if it was late in first grade or early in second that she said to me, "Mom, can you stop sending notes? It's kind of embarrassing."

I stopped, but I wasn't happy about it. "Stupid boys at the lunch table," I grumbled.

A few months ago, she asked me if I could start up again, but this time, maybe it would be better if I sent jokes instead of notes. So of course, I complied.

She has hot lunch at least once a week, and sometimes two, so she doesn't always bring her lunch, and I don't have to come up with a joke every day.

Still eschewing peanut butter and every sandwich sans cheeseburgers and hot dogs, Ali usually takes pizza, pizza rolls or chicken nuggets, along with a container of applesauce and a dessert.

She sometimes has pot stickers or tacos and she's usually the envy of the cold sandwich crowd, including the three boys she sits with. Sometimes, she confided the other day, the boys purposefully forget their lunch because they know she'll share with them. One day this week, she took one slice of leftover pizza and one leftover Taco Bell taco. The boys nearly went wild.

But I digress, a couple of weeks ago, Ali asked if I could put a pencil in her lunch box, along with the joke, because, "you, know, I might want to tell you something about it."

"You want to give me feedback?" I asked.

"Yeah! 'Cause, we'll, no offense, but today's just didn't make any sense," she said. "No offense."

So I give you a sample of jokes from Mom and feedback from the Ali Cat. Remember, she's 8, so the jokes are geared for 8-year-olds, and I've not corrected spelling:

1. Why was the baby ant confused?
Punchline: Because all of his uncles were ants!
Ali feedback: "ant that funny!"

2. Where is the ocean the deepest?
Punchline: On the bottom!
Ali feedback: Huh?

3. How do rabbits travel?
Punchline: by hareplane!
Ali feedback: "Halairius!"

4. What do you call a funny book about eggs?
Punchline: A yolk book.
Ali feedback: "That's a funny yolk!"

5. Why was the broom late for school?
Punchline: It overswept.
Ali feedback: Funny!

6. What do lazy dogs do for fun?
Punch line: they chase parked cars!
Ali feedback: Ha Ha Ha

Got any great jokes suitable for 2nd grade? I have a month of school left...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shot to the heart

Thursday night, Jeff came home and said he was thinking of going to an Indians baseball game with our friend Ed Kaufmann. Nothing odd about that, but when Ali heard of his plans, she asked if she could go to.

I thought Jeff was going to fall down dead. Happily dead. But dead. You know he's near deaf, and so does he.

"What did you say?" he asked the light of his life, his hand on his heart.

"Can I go to the baseball game, too, Daddy?" she asked.

Jeff has lamented loud and often that his greatest pain in life is that Ali doesn't love baseball and the Red Sox as much as he does. She's definitely a Sox fan and knows the Yankees are evil SOBs, but she can take baseball or leave it. Her earlier reasons for going to the Vic have been to play on the bleachers, to get ice cream and to play those silly games as you come through the gate.

"Honey, why do you want to go to the game?" he asked, hope clearly breaking through even as he fought it down like a gladiator facing a hungry lion. "It's kind of chilly and it might even rain."

"I just want to be with you," she said.

Now I'm not sure what game Alison was really playing at, but she toppled Captain Reed with those seven words. I'm not sure he truly fell for it or if he was as suspicious as I was, but he swooped her up and said, "OK."

My knee's still bothering me, so I stayed home. They came in less than two hours later, chattering like old pals. The game had been cancelled due to wet grass but they'd managed some lemonade and ice cream and apparently had a great time.

I don't know that they would have had as great a time had they sat through more than a few innings in a drizzly April rain, but we'll never know. Jeff was over the moon. Ali was happy, and all was right with my world.

Saturday morning we all went to church for mass, which featured most of Ali's class receiving communion for the first time. All year long, she'd gone through the instruction with them but was firm in not wanting to actually become catholic. On Wednesday, she springs it on us that she wants to go to the service.

"I have been practicing all year long, I don't want to have wasted all that time," she explained.

I had to ask the teacher if she could, if she needed a white dress, what do we do, where do we go? I was a mess. We got the dress Friday after school and made it through just fine. It was really sweet. All those kids -- even David Whitamore -- scrubbed and polished. Looking like fresh little flowers.

Ali wore pink and looked as sweet as can be. She and Dominic (the boy who asked if he could kiss her) were the only heathens to show. They got to pass out programs, and they got a blessing instead of communion. I think they had fun just sitting together and watching the show.

We hightailed it out of church in time to pick up Alison's shiny new birthday bike. It's hot pink, but not frilly, and we don't yet have its basket put on, but she's had it out and is pretty good on it. Stopping is still a bit of a challenge, but she's getting it.

Jeff grumbled a bit about never having gotten a birthday present early when he was kid. But she was happily pedaling away yesterday anyway -- taking advantage of what could be a break in the weather. We're forecast for several more days of rain, which was his rationale for breaking out the bike a tad bit early. Her birthday is Tuesday, so we had her party this afternoon. Getting the bike early didn't seem like a big thing to me.

Her party was at Laser Flash, and one of her little friends was a no-show. That meant we had an opening, and Jeff took full advantage. Little Ty came out, eyes glowing, hands in the air declaring it "awesome." Jeff Reed was only slightly less effusive. He's planning on going back with friends from the office.

Unless Ali asks him first...