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?