Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Man Rules

I'm having too much fun in Maine to download my photos -- so in lieu of that, I thought I'd share a slightly edited version of an email my sister Donna sent me. It's making me think I might have a little more testosterone in my system than is considered girly...

Among my faves: 4, 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 22. And as for No. 7, I can BE sympathetic, but I would apply the caveat of No. 4 to it...

The Man Rules

1. Men are NOT mind readers.

2. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

3. Sunday is for Sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

4. Crying is blackmail. Blackmail is illegal. The law should be violated only for a very good reason.

5. Ask for what you want. Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

6. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

7. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

8. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become Null and Void after 7 Days.

9. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

10. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one

11. Whenever possible, PLEASE say whatever you have to say during commercials.

12. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

13. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

14. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing", we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

15. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

16. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine.... REALLY!

17. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football or motor sports.

18. You have enough clothes.

19. You have too many shoes.

20. If it itches, it will be scratched. Learn to deal with it.

21. Similarly, farts are fun. They just are. Learn to deal with that, too.

And finally, 22. You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done. Not both If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home for the Holidays


Many times in the past few months I've wondered if Alison is channeling Eddie Haskell.

I don't think she's ever seen Leave it to Beaver, but sometimes she's just so stinkin' sweet that I have to question her sincerity. Especially when she's trying to get something already denied her or when she's trying to get out of doing something she's been assigned.

I'm fully aware that I'm the soft touch in the house. I'm OK with it, and despite what the Captain may believe from time to time, I do put the hammer down on her occasionally.

But when she comes home from school with this assignment in her backpack, what's a Mom to do?


WHAT I LIKE MOST ABOUT CHRISTMAS IS: decorating the tree.
(She and I usually do this Thanksgiving weekend with Jeff's Christmas CDs playing in the background. She's set the theme since she could make the decision and reach a branch. For about three years, we had a tree full of her stuffed animals; lately, she's focused on the candy ornaments her Aunt Donna started supplying her with as comfort when her father curtailed her real candy intake.)

ONE WAY MY FAMILY CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS: going to Maine.
(Alison has no intention of ever spending Christmas in Indiana -- it's a holiday exclusive to the State of Maine, and it comes with cookies, nuts & bolts, and quality time with her Reed family.)

THREE IMPORTANT SYMBOLS OF CHRISTMAS ARE: the tree, the cross, and the lights.
(It WAS a Religion assignment -- I'm glad she managed to get at least one religious reference in there...)

THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO ME ABOUT CHRISTMAS: being with my family.
(Eddie Haskell be damned. I think she really means it!)

December swim


What is it about little girls' giggles that makes you want to freeze time or bottle the sound and energy so you can pull it out later?

Alison and her cousins, Rachael and Aleasha, have been with us since Friday afternoon and it's been a riot. I'm sure they'd be happy to stay in the basement as long as the TV and Wii didn't stop working and as long as the snacks and food kept coming.

We dragged them out of the house at 9 a.m. anyway on Saturday for Alison's second advancement test in Taekwondo. She'll be awarded her green belt on Tuesday. One kick, again, was all it took even after Master Park switched her out for a thicker board. This does not bode well for the teenage boys in her school -- which neither Jeff nor I am worried about one bit...

After the test, the girls and I headed off to Caribbean Cove for six hours of indoor water parking. I have to say that one of the best parts of my day was noting the sweat running down the back of my swimsuit while walking past a window that looked out over a snow-covered parking lot. I like swimming in December in Indiana....this could become a tradition.

Sweat box though it can be, Caribbean Cove is not a place for an adult work out. I managed to say no to pizza, hot dogs, chips and candy. I did, however, eat all of the healthy snacks I'd actually squirreled away for all of us to share, and I stole some ham from Rachael's unfinished sandwich. She and Ali eventually snarfed down the remains of it -- it had become cold cheesy bread, and even that was looking good to me. It was a good thing they'd come back hungry for their break from the slides and lazy river.

The girls spent some time at the Jordan Y play room while I worked off the ham, fruit and nut mix. Then it was home, pizza and movies. Aleasha crashed fairly early, but Ali and Rachael were still going strong at 11. They ended up crashing where they lay -- the couch and bean bag.

It's 7:30 now and I've heard not a peep.

I'm supposed to return the girls today. But I might have to have car trouble....sure they have school, but the last two days before Christmas break aren't exactly academic, now are they?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another step away

Alison is becoming more and more independent. It's one of those things about her that I hate and love with equal passion.

OK. That's a lie. I hate to see her growing up. Hate. It. Every stinkin' day it seems like she's moving closer to the day she'll really be all grown up. I remember back when she was really little and she was just learning a new trick.

"I can DO it by MYSELF!" she would insist whether it was gluing a decoration on a homemade Christmas card, cutting out cookies, or putting together an ensemble of mismatched socks, underneath wildly patterned tights, a striped shirt and a flowered dress.

This weekend it was putting together the CKS 4A Class goody bags for the Christmas party on Friday. "Mom, I'd like to put the bags together myself," she said. "I mean, alone. By myself."

In years past, she and I have sat on the floor together, sometimes with other little friends, surrounded by stickers and glue, beads, markers, paint, construction paper and ribbons. We've made holiday cards and crafts for friends and family and treats for classmates from day care through third grade.

We'd make a huge mess and find bits of paper and paint in our hair, but it was fun. Not being especially gifted in the crafting skills, I've always been happy to team up, hoping my deficiencies could be attributed to her burgeoning fine and gross motor skills.

We've made some pretty horrendous crafts over the years. The Christ the King Secret Santa Shop pretty much put the kaibash on our gift-making. Jeff and I provide the cash, but se selects, buys and wraps the gifts at school.

I've made my peace with that. (It helps that she always blabs about what each gift but mine is.) I did think we'd always have joint assemblage duty.

But I swallowed hard, nodded, handed over the bag of supplies and walked away.

Oh my gosh. You should have seen her work. She did everything but put on a manager's hat and whip out a clipboard. She got the school handbook out and made a list of her 20 classmates so she wouldn't inadvertently leave someone out. She organized the goodies with all the precision of a surgical nurse setting out instruments. She tailored each bag to each student, and she double checked to be sure everyone was treated equally.

"These are some extras we can just donate to the class," she said, pointing to erasers and pencils. She had different plans for the extra candy. I reminded her of the Advent pledge she'd written on a test this week. "I will pray for the misfourtonet (sic) every day. I will also stop eating so much candy."

"Oh. If I did write that -- and I'm not saying I did -- then Mrs. Zinkan must have made me," she said. "I'm pretty sure she made me."

I made her wait for lunch before she got to devour the leftover Peeps. Chances are that had we been a team, she might have been able to nibble throughout. Hmmmm. There's a thought...

A reason to believe

Remember when the phrase, "It takes a village" wasn't the punchline in a political joke?

I'm still a believer in the sincerity of both the woman who brought that phrase to the forefront and in the power of the phrase itself.

For all you nonbelievers, take a look at the Arsenal Tech Cheer Team and how Central Indiana is responding to what Coach Dustin Wyman is doing for the kids on that team.

In short, a beautiful young man who's suffering from brain cancer, has taken a group of kids who social experts would describe as "at-risk" due to their economic and geographic circumstances and turned them into champions. Whether they win at the cheerleading championships in Orlando next year is almost irrelevant. These kids have already won.

They've won because:

* They've seen that they each have options beyond their neighborhood
* They know they have to work hard to make those options happen
* They're starting to dream of what can come next.

We've all won because businesses like Angie's List and ESCO, and hundreds of people across the city are pitching in to help Coach Wyman watch over the seeds he's planted.

Of course there are no guarantees for a bumper crop of great new leaders. There never are. But there's a whole lot of hope growing over there on the near-East Side and it's being nurtured by a whole of people from a whole lot of different walks of life.

That, my friends, is a village. And today I'm pretty happy with the village I'm calling home.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leftovers

It's been five days since I went to work. I'm not sure I'm going to be happy to see the sun rise tomorrow. Frankly, I'm not really able to focus on much right now. Jeff's at the Colts game, Ali beat me at Monopoly and then we watched a Cats & Dogs movie. Now she's watching some awful Fred movie and I've retreated to my PC.

Some Thanksgiving leftovers:
1. Alison's teeth will start 2011 ensconsed in metal. I'm thankful we've put enough money away in the old HSA to cover it. It will almost equal a year's worth of school tuition by the time we're done. Ali will be thankful circa 2013 when they come off.

2. We spent Thanksgiving at Aunt Donna's and had a fabulous time. I'm thankful Rachael was my euchre partner. We ruled. Until that last game when her father cheated.

3. We caught a break and got to see my cousin Howard Thursday, too. He's the guy on the Indiana highway crew who wears a cowboy shaped hard hat and gets marriage proposals from random women commuters on just about every job he works. They cat call and hold up signs as they drive by. Really! He's kind of a legend. That's Howard's wife, Cheryl. She doesn't seem worried.

4. We've done some real home improvement over the past couple of years: we took out a nasty tree in the front yard; had the driveway, back stoop and front walk replaced; and had all the windows replaced. Professional jobs, all. Jeff's been jealous every time the boys with their toys showed up, so we capped off the weekend with a little DIY, re-installing the drapes. Jeff is thankful he got to play with his power drill. I'm thankful that when the dining room drapes fell on me, I didn't get a black eye --only a nasty scrape. (Note to self: DIY sucks.)

5. I'm thankful for my Bunconians, too. We really know each other, sins and strengths alike. But we love each other anyway, which if you ask me, is real love.

6. I'm just going to take a leap and say that Jeff is thankful for Victoria's Secret. I finally agreed that I'm probably as small as I'm ever going to get and cashed in a Christmas gift from last year. I'm back in full touch of my A-ness and needed to resupply my lingerie drawer anyway. He got full run of the store (including the dressing rooms) on Black Friay, and my girls and I got the royal treatment. We came away with this contraption (among other more pedestrian equipment) that addes two cup sizes. I would never have bough this thing on my own or when I was single. It's too much like false advertising, if you ask me. Can't you just picture the big reveal? But don't tell anyone: it's a (Victoria's) secret...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bamboo duel

video
A couple of weeks ago, Alison took part in a Kum Do Workshop, put on by her Taekwondo teacher and some grand masters from Chicago.

It's essentially the first step in sword play. They used bamboo sticks instead of swords (thank God!) Short of Kill Bill, I had never seen anything like it.

Alison, of course, loved it. Jeff was there for the whole thing and shot some video. I came in half-way through and could hear the grunts and smacks from the sidewalk.

At one point, the grand masters -- outfitted in what sort of looked like baseball catchers' gear but more of it -- told the kids to whack them right on the head with their bamboo swords. And of course they did it. Later, they whacked the masters on their torso.

I got a headache just watching it. But Alison had a great time. I pity the first boy who tries to go somewhere she doesn't want him...
video

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Workin' it in the yard


On what may be the last beautiful day of fall, I spent some time in the yard. Picture it, if you will: eye-glasses on, hair scraped back in a ponytail, red capri sweat pants that used to be too tight and an old, yellow long-sleeved shirt that was the first thing I found in the closet. Finishing out the ensemble, crew socks and sneakers.

I was about 2.5 hours in. It was sunny, but cool, so I wasn't a sweaty mess, but I'm sure I had leaves and twigs in my hair and dirt on my red face. At one point, I'd knocked my glasses off into a bag of leaves, so it's likely they were askew on my face. I'd shoveled up dirt with some of the leaves, and I'm sure I'd swiped my forehead a time or two with my dirty gloves.

A guy pulled out of the driveway across the street as I was bagging leaves in the front. I don't know him, but he made eye contact and smiled as he backed out onto the street. It didn't register, really, until my neighbor then came out of the house and stopped to chat.

"Man, whatever you're doin', Cheryl. Um. You, ah, you look good," he said. "I mean. Like, well you know. You look great."

Now Jason is often affectionate and a little inappropriate after some beers. And I guess he and his friend might have been lighting up a few. But he was driving, so I'm guessing he wasn't as far gone as I've seen him.

'Course, if you think back to that picture I hope I drew for you, maybe I should have taken his keys...

In any event, it made the rest of the work go faster.

For the record, I'm closing in on 40 pounds gone. Sadly, some of those lbs have fled from my upper torso area. The girls might need a little help if I'm to keep catching the neighbor's eye...

P.S. Alison's day spa is open for business to those outside the family now. Appointments in the evening, post-homework, please. She's still offering free dum dums, but if she has to go to you, you'll have to pay a dollar extra.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Porcupines and other sticky wickets

Alison was pretty upset Thursday when I picked her up from school. Seems one friend had told her that another friend had called Alison a name -- a hyper dork to be exact -- and Alison was some ticked off.

"I'm going to talk to Mrs. Zinkan about this," she said. "(She-who-should-not-be-named)is kind of a teacher's pet and I bet Mrs. Zinkan will be pretty interested in this kind of behavior."

"You think that's the best way to handle it?" I asked. "Tell me more about it."

It turns out said slur could have occurred anytime in the past two years, covering the time Mrs. Zinkan had completed her tour of 2nd grade duty. She's got the class back for their 4th grade year. Alison is sure the slight happened because she can always tell when her informant is lying, "And she's definitely not lying about this."

I suggested that perhaps Mrs. Zinkan didn't need to be called in, given that the slander had happened so long ago. Maybe it would be better to just talke to She-who-should-not-be-named.

"I think I'll have (the informant) with me for backup," Alison strategized.

Good idea. So the confrontation occured Friday. She-who-should-not-be-named denied the whole thing. The informant stood by Ali, figuratively and verbally. Alison had decided not to involve Mrs. Zinkan, though she's certain that she-who-should-not-be-named has flaming pants.

Flash forward to Saturday afternoon. The doorbell rings. Two neighorhood girls are at the door. "We have to talk to Alison," says Maddie from across the street, who tends to visit when she's on her father's weekend. With her is Melanie, from down the street, a full-time neighbor. Both are younger than Alison, and sometimes that matters more than others.

I direct them downstairs where the redhead awaits. I hear a bit of a commotion and go to the top of the stairs. I can hear them but they can't see me.

Turns out, Maddie has informed Melanie that Alison said Melanie cries a lot. They've come to confront her. I gulp. I want to go down there, but seems like the sauce is being served and I want to see how the gander deals with it.

"Well, you said it too, Maddie," I hear Alison say.

"Did not."

"You did, too! I was standing right there!" says Ali, who sighs heavily. "Look. Melanie. I am so sorry. I did say it but I just want you to know I had had a really bad day that day. My friend had been getting in trouble at school and I was trying to help her not get a conduct cut and it was really stressful. And then you two came over and you stubbed your toe or something and you cried. A lot."

"I'm sorry," Alison repeated. "But I was having a bad day that day."

"Did you get a conduct cut?" gasped the formerly injured Melanie. (Each girl attends Catholic school, but different ones. They all must follow the conduct cut discipline plan, though.)

"No, I didn't, but Madison did. She got four that week!" Alison said.

"Wow."

"Yeah. OK. Well, see you later."

"See you."

I scooted out of the way as the two girls came back up. "Bye!" they said. "See you tomorrow!"


Alison popped upstairs a while later. I asked her what that was all about and she related the details blow-by-blow. I told that while I didn't want her to hurt anyone's feelings, I was proud of her for not lying about the statement that started the whole thing.

***

Last night, Jeff was putting Ali to bed and he leaned in to kiss her.

"Da-ad! Kissing you is like kissing a porcupine!" she exclaimed, trying to get away from the whisker burn.


"Oh, sorry, honey. I'll shave these off tomorrow," he said.

"That's OK, Dad. I love porcupines," she said.

The Spa


While I was at the gym and grocery shopping Saturday, Alison was busy setting up her latest enterprise: a day spa in her bedroom.

She started out with the idea that she'd raise money to buy a television for her room. She's been coveting one for years. Her friends Breanna and Dominic have had their own televisions for years (yes, they're all only 9) and Ali has wanted one forever.

So I come in the door laden with grocery bags, still sweaty from the gym.

"Mom! Mom! You have to come see what I did!" she exclaims, bursting out of her room to catch me in the kitchen.

I put down the bags and go in. "It's a day spa!" she says. "Would you like a massage? There's a bargain price just for today! And if you buy a full body massage, I'll do your neck for free."

She'd put together a spa station on the lower bunk. She'd priced an arm massage at a quarter (per arm). Each leg would set you back 50-cents, but a full body massage was available for only $1.

I told her I would be happy to be her first customer, but first, I'd put away the groceries and shower so she could work on a clean body. She agreed that was a good idea. Jeff helped put the groceries away while I washed away the sweat.

By the time I got back, she'd expanded into a mani/pedi station and later, she added a make-over area. I'm apparently a silent partner as it's my mani/pedi tools and supplies that make up the most of her inventory. The make-up station is wholly hers, though. Angel dust glitter is her featured make-up product.

So I ended up spending $3.80 total for my day's worth of spa service -- I sprang for the lotion with my mani/pedi and I even tipped her. Done with me, she convinced her father that he needed some pampering. I think he opted for the pedicure because he doesn't exactly fit on her massage table. Both your feet and head are cushioned by a stuffed animal pile, which makes it easy to find a way to breathe when you're face down.

She's even drummed up a little side business from Hannah Ogden, who stopped in for a bit and will come back tonight.

My bet is that Alex Ogden won't indulge in a pedicure, but you never know.


She's open all day if you're in the market for a little indulgence. She accepts any form of cash, including coins she's spied laying around in your car. I'm sure she'll be working on electronic payment as soon as she thinks of it.

Any type of service comes with a free dum-dum, but you have to actually eat the lollipop on premises. She'd like to keep the wrapper for her collection. She's decided to re-wallpaper her room with dum-dum wrappers. If she gets tired of the design, she says she'll cash the wrappers in for a new DSI.


She's also decided the television can wait. She's saving up for a real fish tank now. Filtered and self-cleaning. A businesswoman has no time to actually clean a fish tank, you know. (I'm glad she came to this conclusion AFTER she'd already done her Saturday chore of changing Cody's water.)

Her entrepreneurial spirit is affecting more than her ability to complete her weekly chores. She's on the hook this weekend for spelling, starting a diarama depicting the Delaware Indian tribe and studying for her Religion test on Wednesday. Early in the evening, I mentioned that we should get started on some of that.


"Mom, I've just been so busy organizing my spa, I don't think I'll have time for any more of that," she informed me.

Today should prove interesting...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooky PhotoShoot

Ali and I spent most of the day recovering from our annual Halloween party. Other than taking care of the Ogden cats (who actually cooperated with us this time) frogs and fish, and cleaning Ali's fish bowl, we pretty much laid around like dogs.

I did manage to feed her, but we reserved most of our energy for trick-or-treating. I chose to escort Shaun White and Mario around the neighborhood this evening while Jeff stayed home to dole out the candy.

Alison insisted on taking a pillowcase to collect her bounty tonight. She didn't complain about carrying it. Dominic complained a few times when she turned it into a weapon and whacked him with it. We only made it about two blocks before she was asking me to carry her snowboard and Dominic was complaining that his legs hurt.

I'm pretty sure I could see my breath on occasion, but at least it didn't snow like it did in Maine today. Brr.

And what's up with the people who left their lights on but still wouldnt' come to the door? One woman actually walked past her open door, looked at the kids and kept on walking to another room, never answering the door. I'm OK with people taking a pass on the Halloween candyfest, but turn your lights out, man. Follow the rules. It's just mean, and you're inviting tricks. Don't think I didn't make note of the house number of that, um, witch.
As I type, the annual candy negotiations are underway. It's like Malta up there. Jeff is offering non-chocolate treats to shore up his chocolate goodness collection. I'm hoping he takes it -- along with the rest of the pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies to work with him tomorrow.

I had two bowls of zero point soup and some bran cereal, trying to stave off the lure of the candy bowl and cookie jar. Somehow four of the cookies still infiltrated my boundaries. I'm hoping to make it through the night without succumbing further.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catching up


After some glorious fall weather, a bitter wind blew in this week, and I didn't like it one bit. The weather folk are offering glimmers of hope for a milder trick-or-treat weekend, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Before the cold snap, Ali decided to turn a Halloween decoration into a baseball pinata of sorts. We've used a softball to anchor a huge spider that we drop on the unsuspecting Halloween party goer from time to time.

Ali reversed it to use the ball as a pinata of sorts. She used an old broom instead of a bat, and tried to smack the ball from up in the tree. She'd do really well for a while then she'd get all tangled up.

It kept her occupied most of one afternoon, but involved a series of rescues from me first, and then Jeff ultimately.

Alison's been living her routinely large lifestyle. Aunt Margaret started it off, stopping by last week to drop off some sugar cookie seasonal treats that made Ali the envy of the CKS lunch crowd. She's had and will have more friends over, and she's cat sitting for our Ogden friends.

I say friends. I'm not sure we'll be friends come Monday if one of their cats escape again.

Alison's allegedly in charge, but when Cat No. 2 fled the premises on our first cat-sitting-visit, it was me who had to chase it down. Ponza and Alto are identical evil twins, if you ask me. I'm not sure which one was the flight risk, but they're both incarcerated now.

I'll be on extra vigilant guard today when we go check them out again. I'm thinking of confining them to Dale and Karin's bedroom rather than giving them the full range of the house. Ha! That'll teach 'em. Oh, wait. I think I want them to trust me.......Dang!

PS to Hannah. You were so right. I don't if the frogs will survive, either... You guys might want to hurry home.

We're hoping to have some fun tonight for our annual kid-focused Halloween party. I have about 10 hours to turn Ali's plastic play house into a haunted something. She'll be impersonating Shaun White this year -- her first costume without Aunt Donna and Jaime's careful tailoring. We'll see how this goes. I have a feeling we'll be begging the aunts to help us out again next year...

We celebrated Jeff's birthday yesterday by shopping around town for an extension ladder he's been wanting. I was against it as a gift, arguing that it's a household necessity and therefore a needed purchase, not a gift. But I capitulated and he seems thrilled with it.

I did stop off at the Sun King Brewery so he wouldn't have a totally practical birthday, and our friend Andy came by with a gift so super cool I'm telling anyone what it was because we want to steal it and use it for others at Christmas. But you want to be nice to us for the next few weeks if you're a fan of fine spirits.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My phone is smarter than I am

Jeff and I had dinner at Zest Friday night, and the food was so amazing it wiped out every bit of the stress that had gotten me down earlier in the week.

It was a beautiful fall evening; crispy enough to need a sweater, but not so cold you could see your breath. I knew I wanted to go some place within walking distance. (I'm trying to use those phantom 35 "extra" points Weight Watchers claims I can consume and still lose weight, but I wanted the tiny bit of exercise just in case.)

I really had Mama Corolla's in mind. It's a right turn for us rather than a left to get to Zest, but we've had pasta many times. We'd only managed to get to Zest once before. The line was long at Mama's. So down the street we strolled.

I may never go Italian again. It was that good -- and while it wasn't cheap, it's not over-priced, either. I even had a couple of glasses of wine. If I gain weight next Wednesday, I'll skip the wine but still have the food...

Anyway, I'm trying to focus on that lovely, lovely time because my new Smart phone is killing me. Really KILLING me. I know somewhere in my heart that I'm not stupid. But this thing is annoying. And it did me no good to read that toddlers are playing with iPhones like they're rattles and squeaky stuffed toys. (In my defense; the children aren't customizing the damn things -- they just like the lights and colors. But still.)

Lucky for me, Jeff likes technology and likes negotiating. At this point, I'm not 100percent sure he still likes me, but he made the time to find phones and a deal that will keep us at about the same price for smart phones that our old dumb, no-text plan phones were costing us. We test drove models for a week, and I was figuring out the Blackberry when I decided at the last minute to switch to a phone that has a bigger keyboard and screen. It's some sort of evil, touch-screen/Blackberry hybrid.

I'm pretty sure that we, as a society, have crossed that line where technology is already ruling the world. I suspect that some of it has jumped the divide to actually think on its own. This I know: my phone doesn't like me at all. And I, quite frankly, don't like it, either.

I want my dumb phone back but am afraid to tell Jeff. Plus, nearly all my friends and family persist in sending me texts all the time even though I think they all know I don't have a text plan or text-friendly phone. Like a dope, I read and answer them at some ungodly price per-text.

Not having a text-savvy phone was making me feel that person who held out against TV because she liked to imagine the pictures herself from the old radio shows. Or that guy who wouldn't even consider trading in his horse for a model T. Hell, even Amy Tokash is a texter and she hates change worse than I do. My eldest sister got her iPhone more than a year ago.

Old. I felt old. So old I didn't think it was possible to feel older.

We went together to the store last night to take advantage of the clerks who would transfer all the data from our dumb phones to the smart one.

While we were there, I managed to figure out the basics. I inadvertently started the voice mail set-up process with Alison's DS noise on one side of me, Musak overhead, and the sales crew and Jeff chattering on the other side. The recording was awful and I was trying to re-do it when the damn thing turned on me. That led to one of the clerks snickering at my feeble attempts and I was suddenly done with the whole endeavor.

Before we left the store, I did a superfiical check to see that all my contacts were there, and sure enough, when I got home, I had no contacts from D to W.

I started hand entering the missing info this morning because I just didn't want to face the kid in the store again. I probably was something to laugh at, but I'm not quite ready to admit that.

But even my manual entry got all fouled up. The keypad is pretty sensitive, I guess, and apparently I still have finger weight to lose.

After whining and cursing and frowning and just being a huge brat, Jeff decided to take my phone back to the store to see why neither he nor I can't get my email to recognize my password or to grant me mobile access to email and Facebook. Yeah, it wasn't just me. Jeff couldn't make it work either.

I read the damn book. I followed the instructions. I swear. Is it possible that I did something really wrong and messed my self up? Oh yeah. It might even be likely...

Ugh. I'm going to start thinking about Zest again.

Oh, Ali got her yellow belt. The photo is her and the formidable Master Jay Park.

I bet his phone is smart enough not to torture him like mine is me...

Also, if you don't hear from me by text or voice for a while, it's because I'm still tracking down your phone number. Apparently my smart phone doesn't like you either...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

1 kick; 4 pieces

In all her 9.5 years, I don't remember a time when Alison has been more proud of herself.

She's impressed herself, sure. She's done well in school. She's created some killer moves on the monkey bars, and she's had some super sweet belches.

But Saturday, she passed her first taekwondo belt test with flying colors. She broke her board with her right (and injured) foot on her first attempt. It flew apart in four pieces a precisely the moment my camera batteries died.

I think her smile could have powered the camera if I had enough McGyver in me to figure out how to harness it. Jeff's smile was just as huge.

She'll get her yellow belt this week. She's pretty sure she'll stick with it long enough to earn her black belt. We'll see about that, but right now, yellow is looking pretty good.

***

Speaking of yellow, Alison's injury to her right foot was actually to her big toe. She was wearing flip flops last weekend and helping a little girl from across the street climb the magnolia tree in the front yard. It was wet from a short, but intense rain storm, and she slipped and fell out of tree onto a metal container I salvaged from my parent's house.

She put a pretty big dent in the container, and it rewarded her with a huge bruise on the back of her thigh. I think her toe got caught up in the sandal. In any case, she was some upset and hurt. I don't think she'll be climbing in flip flops anymore.

***

She and I were in the car the other day, and I mentioned a boy in her class. His name is Sammy Kacius, and I always pronounce it with a hard "a," which is wrong.

"Mom. It's Kascius," she said for perhaps the 1,098th time.

"Man, I hope you don't marry him. I'll never get your name right," I said.

"Dude," she replied. "If I marry Sammy Kacius, he's changing HIS name."

***

Today we spent part of the gorgeous and unusally warm fall day getting pumpkins and carving them up. We caught up with Dominic at the vegetable stand and he came home with us. The two of them fight like an old married couple. He's the male version of Jenna, although Jenna's actually tougher than he is.

He's a sweet boy, though, and he's the one who introduced Ali to taekwondo. So I guess we'll keep him in the family. He also advanced belts this weekend. A couple weeks ago, he was threatening to quit the sport. Master Park can be rough on the kids, and one night when Dominic wasn't as focused as he should have been, he had to do push-ups and practice a particular kick over and over and over.

I think he'll stick with taekwondo as long as Alison does. He did, you may remember, profess his love for her in front of the entire first grade. Unrequited though it may be, Dominic is nothing if not hopeful.

The couple that kicks together may very well stick together for all I know...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Your focus needs....focus


Sometimes I think Alison has a little too much of both of Jeff and me in her.

She was at taekwondo class the other day, and it had been a particularly hard hour. What I know of martial arts comes from the movies, and even then, I've watched under duress. So I know I don't know a lot about it.

Her instructor, Grand Master Park is Korean. Combine his accent with his stern demeanor and ramrod straight posture, and toss in a little frustration and you've got yourself one scary Grand Master. Even at his most worked up, even Captain Reed's got nothing on the Grand Master.

The kids are supposed to talk only when spoken to -- and then they're to say "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" or whatever words he tells them to repeat. They are to sit quietly and with crossed legs when they're not practicing on the mat, and woe be unto the student who forgot to pee before class. The parents who watch aren't supposed to speak, either, and yes, he's called us on it.

Master Park claims that he's a kinder, gentler master now. Back when he started, he claims the only thing he let students do beyond study taekwondo was to breathe.

So anyway, Alison's focus was apparently not as focused as it could have been and she got more than one earful about it.

She wasn't the only student that night who had Master Park worked up. After he'd had enough of it, he had them all to sit down. There was dead silence as they all sat there, wondering what new torture he had in store and hoping they wouldn't be the one to suffer it. Finally, he asked if anyone thought Master Park was too hard on them.

A lone hand shot up. Yep, it belonged to the redhead in the room. And while no other hands went up with as much vehemence, it stayed up. And then a few other hands joined in.

Now I want Alison to tell the truth and be forthright. But I have to say that I've often been too quick to voice my opinion and if I'd just kept quiet I might not have gotten into trouble or earned enemies quite so quickly. Jeff can be quick with a "helpful" comment, too. It's no coincidence that the U.N. has never asked either of us to help out in diplomatic circles.

Happily for all concerned, I think Master Park isn't holding Alison's quick and committed criticism against her. Instead, he took his time, making eye contact with everyone and reminding them that he was there to help them succeed in life and that if they listened to him, sharpened their focus and paid attention for every minute of their hourly lesson, they'd be able to whatever they wanted in life.

Last week, he told me he was sure she'd advance to yellow belt and had some really nice things to say about her. When I picked her up at school on Friday, she was teaching some other girls some taekwondo moves.

On the way out, she told me that she was frustrated that Madison and Amanda weren't learning as quickly as they should. The kindergartener who'd joined in was learning faster, she said. "It's SO frustrating!" she said.

"Hmmm," I said. "I guess maybe you understand a little bit about how Master Park feels sometimes."

She's still giving that some thought.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Girl Power



Ali and I were watching Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief today when she turned to me and said, "Mom, I think there's something really wrong here."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah! Dude! Do you see all the dudes? Like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter and all those movies. There aren't any girl heroes. It's so totally not fair."

"You're right."

"And there's NEVER been a girl president," she informed me.

"Maybe YOU can be the first girl president," I said.

She pondered that a moment. But she has other plans. She wants to invent a chemical you can take that will let you age to about 50 years and then stay alive but never get any older and always stay healthy.

It's all part of her plan to keep Jeff and me around and healthy because she doesn't want to go through the heartache of losing us. She's also planning to invent a new way of eating that everyone -- even hoboes --can afford so no one will ever go hungry.

She spent part of the afternoon Saturday hanging out in back of the Subaru. She's got another idea of inventing a car that will have magic amounts of room so if you lose your job and have to live in your car, it won't be so bad.

These magic cars will be available on a sliding cost scale: a dime for hoboes or other down on their luck and millions of dollars for the rich, who don't really need the cars but will want them because they're going to be super cool.

She claimed hanging in the Subaru was part of her research. I tried to tell her that people who actually live in cars don't have laptops, books and snacks in there with them, but she wasn't to be dissuaded.

Continuing on with her plans for the future, she tells me, "And the only way to die will be from getting shot or murdered."

"If you can invent something so great like that chemical and those other things, can't you find a way to stop murder and crime?" I asked.

"No, Mom," she said, firmly. "Some things you just can't fix."

I'm going to start an account for her post-graduate needs right now. It can easily be turned into a campaign fund. The way I see it, she's destined to do something great regardless of what she decides on. Let me know if you want in....

***

Jeff spent the last two weeks negotiating with a replacement window salesman. I stayed as far away as possible because whenever Jeff gets going, we always get a fabulous deal but I want to slip his poor victim some money, or at least bandage their wounds. Jeff hit another home run and we finalized the deal on Saturday.

Within a month, the American WeatherTECHS crew should be breaking out the windows that were installed back in 1951 when Herr Gelb built our home. I'll submit a consumer report on Angie's List when they're done installing our fancy, energy efficient panes.
So far, the experience has been good. Well. It's been good for TeamReed. I do feel sorry for poor Dave.

I was telling Jeff's dad about the negotiation process and Ali overheard me. She grabbed my arm and said, horrified, "Did Dad really torture a man and make him give him his baby?"

I had some 'splanin' to do...

***

I saw a bunch of old Statehouse Press Corps friends this week. It's been more than 15years since I toiled in the basement during the legislative season. I had one of those moments when you see folks you haven't seen for a while and you wonder how it came to pass that they got so much, uh, more mature... And then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the elevator doors and you realize that you fit right in...

It was great fun, though, and I wish my friend Mike Smith only great things as he steps away from feeding the beast every day...

Well, the Colts have won, most of my fall decorations are up, we managed to get in one bike ride amidst our couch laying this weekened, and we're powering down to prepare for another work week. Have a great one!

***

Oh! I almost forgot. I've finally managed to drag my sorry butt across the acceptable weight range for my height, according to Weight Watchers. Cross your fingers that I get closer to the middle and can soon stop hanging on the outside railing like a first-time roller skater...

Once that's accomplished, I can go about trying to figure out how to stay there. Ugh. It'll be a never ending battle.

But with nearly a full 9 months in, a trip to the Bahamas in the spring and Jen's wedding in the summer, I have incentive to stick to it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Great Weekend: could I have another?

We had Book Club Friday. The book was "One Day" by David Nicholls. At the risk of sounding like a chronic crank (we were united on this one) don't buy this book. It's awful. The characters are awful and their relationship is even worse. Another $16.95 and six hours I'll never get back.


But Book Club itself was way fun. Kate and I got into a giggle fest that brought me back to high school. Remember when you and a friend would laugh about something and then you just couldn't stop even though whatever sent you off the first place wasn't that funny? I swear I earned an activity point just from laughing.

Ali came home from her Friday sleepover early Saturday afternoon only to be absconded nearly immediately by some neighborhood girls. They flitted from house to house until our neighbor's little girl's birthday party, after which I came home with two extras.

With Ali gone Saturday morning, Jeff and I wandered around the Broad Ripple Farmer's market for an hour. It was beautiful weather and we ran into Duane and Kirsten, so it was even more fun. We finally got back to our happy threesome this afternoon some time.

Growing up in the country like I did, there weren't that many homes with kids my age nearby. Yeah, I was overrun with siblings, but the girls were too much older to really want to hang with me and the boys were, well, boys.

This weekend, I could hear and sometimes see Ali and the girls, all within a few years of each other, as they giggled and joked and ran around like gerbils from this house to that house to back to that one again.

Jeff and I did a little more yard work Saturday, but today the only real activity was a short evening bike ride.

Along the way, I made Weight Watcher's zero-point soup, cleaned the house a bit, did the usual chores and even started a closet purge. Not sure when that project will end. I'm going to call in Jeff for an ugly check.

The way I look at it, I'll have a better chance of keeping the weight off if I have to buy a bunch of new clothes. The guilt (and my cheap gene) will keep me on track if nothing else will...and whether I like to admit it or not, Jeff has a way keener sense of fashion than I do. So I'll end up with a more attractive wardrobe even if I don't buy anything new.

My favorite fitness trainer, Kelsey Taylor, claims she saw some muscular definition in my arm last week, and I could swear one day, also last week, I saw a thigh muscle overtaking a wad of fat in my thigh. I could be wrong. It's not like I'm actually familiar with real fitness yet.

My point is, I'm on the upswing. Maybe. We'll see what Weigh-in Wednesday brings...

Monday, September 13, 2010

My leg needs something to kick


Alison got off the couch the other day and started repeatedly kicking out her left leg.

She's been taking Tae Kwon do lessons, she had been watching an Invader Zim marathan for a few days in a row (it seemed to me) and she's sometimes fidgety, so it wasn't that unusual.

Then she said, "Hey, Dad. My leg feels like it needs to kick something."

He'd been equally stationary for most of the afternoon deep in replacement window or fantasy football research, depending on when you asked him.

"Oh yeah?" he said, in a fog.

"Yeah. It's been a while since I kicked your butt in Mario Kart."

And it was on.

It had, actually, been a long while since they'd taken a break from their racing addiction. Ali had a long, long record of besting the old man. But she was confident. Some might say cocky.

When he won the first race, she was suprised. When he won the second, she was annoyed. By the end, she was wishing she'd stayed on the couch.

Yesterday morning, I heard noises from downstairs early, but I ignored them and rolled over. Then, I decided I'd go work out rather than laze around and when I came back, they were at it again.

"She practiced," he said glumly.

And so she had. The crown is back on the red head. And they're back to the races.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Saving Susan(s)

Mother Nature is a bitch and worse, she thinks she is the boss of my yard.

I spent a good portion of the past three days reminding her that there's plenty of greenspace left in the world and she can just keep her nose out of mine.

It's the neighbors' fault, really. Mark and Jerry are going to take down most of the brick wall that separates our yards on the east side of the house. It's leaning. (The wall; not our house.) I wonder how much of that can be blamed on small red head and her gang of assorted fellow urchins who may or may not have used it as a tower to jump from, a balance beam to walk on and a "betcha can't do this" platform.

I'm trying not to wonder so much that I offer to pay for a portion of rebuild. I'll probably just blame Mother Nature. The wall is old. It was here long before we arrived. I'm sure it's not our fault...

Anyway. I have a bed of black-eyed susans that have basked in the shade of that wall for a few years now. Mark warned me that the wall crew comes this weekend. To save the susans, I had to dig them up and move them.

The first wheel barrow full of flowers went to the fence that separates us from the west side neighbor. They'd originally come from her yard years ago, and they've proliferated like crazy in ours. They grew so well, she actually got a little jealous, so a couple of years ago, I dug some up and gave them back to her, planting them alternatively on her side of the fence and then mine, thinking they'd poke through the pickets and be pretty for both of us.

They don't seem to like her yard as well as ours, so I've had gaps on my side this year. It's really been annoying.

I don't have any gaps any more.

The second wheelbarrow of black-eyed susans went to another flower bed across the yard, under the back porch windows. It's the crime scene where my backside was stung by a bee this summer, so I was wary. but I filled in some holes there, too.

On Saturday, I started working on the third wheelbarrow full of flowers but got distracted by the state of my front yard. My good friend Pamela planted some flowers and plants for me after I had Alison. It's filled in nicely, but it's all sort of at war. I moved the Lamb's Ears, which had been languishing as the flox, spikey grass and ground cover tried become lord of the range. We'll see how it does out in the open away from the battleground.

The spiky grass has been bullying the flox from Day 1 but I haven't ever really put the hammer down on the grass. I introduced the ground cover, thinking it would sneak in and choke out the spikes. I spent a good three hours digging out spikes. I relocated a little bit but bagged most of it.

I eventually relocated some flox across the walkway to fill in the areas left bare by the spikey grass eradication. It was bumping up against some other flowers in that bed. Why can't they all just get along?!

Today, I went back to the brick wall and got a third wheel wheel barrow full of susans and put them under the magnolia, and along the shorter end of the brick wall in the front yard. (That end is in good shape and won't be dismantled.) Then, I had to move some ferns that had overrun the stepping stones Ali follows to climb the magnolia.

In between all of that, we made time for a couple of walks, a bike ride along the tow patch and a trip to Lowes where I spent all the birthday money I'd gotten from my Maine family on nine new perinneals to fill in the bed along the driveway.

I told Jeff I was stopping at noon today, but it was probably after one o'clock before the tools were returned and the debris picked up. I stopped counting activity points, but I did allow myself some wine with and after dinner tonight. (I walked during that last glass, so I'm pretty sure I evened it out...)

Earlier, I'd made the mistake of noticing that the lilies of the valley that came with the house were encroaching again. Those things have more crazy roots than I do 5 1/2 weeks before my date with Julie at Ado Hair salon. And like mine, they refuse to stop coming back. It's maddening.

I ended up with four lawn bags full of crap, dead tree root and the remains of the tiger lilies and irises to show for my work.

There are still dozens of black-eyed-susans still along the back yard wall. I think I'm going to see if they can survive the great wall demolition and reconstruction project.

Jeff, who hates yard work, was a great help. Alison not so much. That's not really true. She makes a pretty good waterer, when she's not trying to water me. She even brought me an unsolicited cup of ice water this morning.

She's recently been allowed to subscribe to Moshi Monsters. Actually, seconds after I'd said yes, she'd found my credit card and was subscribing herself. It's been occupying a lot of her time, lately. I'm telling myself that it's educational...

I'm tired of the yard. As for Mother Nature, I think I'd remind her that I saved a bunch of susans this weekend. Surely she can find a better place for all the plants I don't want to see spring up next year...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

An apple a day...

Biking home from Taco Bell the other day, Alison informed me that she was kind of glad that Eve ate the apple.

"Oh really? Why is that?" I asked my daughter, whose last diatribe about Eden was to cast doubt on the whole theory of Creation.

"Well, after she ate the apple, they put some clothes on," she said.

We're having a quiet weekend. Alison's getting a cold and we're trying to stave off the respiratory issues that usually follow her sore throats and coughing. She slipped into bed with me Friday night before Jeff got there and didn't get out until the next evening.

She spent all day in just her pj pants. (It's OK to go shirtless as long as you're INdoors in your OWN house: Alison Reed Rule #1).

I checked in with her in between chores, reading a book while she watched TV. At one point, she seemed to be enjoying herself and dreaming that maybe she'd be sick on Monday and get to miss school. So I brought her homework in. She claimed sitting up to copy her spelling gave her a headache.

She decided a little later that she didn't really like being sick all that much, afterall. I know she's really sick, though, because she hasn't asked for ice cream or candy, and she IS coughing and a little warm. Ramen usually shoots her into recovery, but it hasn't worked its magic yet.

She perked up when Kirsten and Duane stopped by to replenish her gum ball collection. She put on a shirt when she knew they were coming over and she might be seen.

She's still not sleeping well. She slept downstairs last night, and Jeff ended up with her after a midnight incident. So far this morning she's made it to the downstairs couch and still hasn't eaten.

I haven't yet informed her that she'll be finishing her homework. Or taking a walk.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Club -- critique No. 1

I didn't make it to Book Club Friday night. I know you all wanted to hear what I had to say, though, so here it is. I might have to do this every month...

Book Club Book:
The late, lamented molly marx
a novel
Sally Kosklow


This is a Target Club Pick billed as "Delightful, comic, romantic, a page-turner from the word go." It is none of these things. Target should stick to retail therapy, stop supporting homophobes and give us better, cheaper books. If your book club is considering this production, you'll be wise to reconsider...

My assessment: Blech. Not even worth checking out at the library.


I do not lament the late Molly Marx. Frankly, I'm glad she's gone, think she could have gone sooner and I wish she'd shut up about her self-absorbed, selfish, utterly wasted life.

Her sister, Lucy, now she's a girl I might want to spend some time with. I cheered her kidnapping attempt and was pissed that the parents never seemed to support her (or even like her) as much as they did her sister.

Or Brie -- now there's a best friend anyone would be lucky to have. (Although I should point out here that her given name is Sabrina; therefore her nickname should be Bri.) I liked it that she tried the other team but send Isadora packing. I loved it that she (and Lucy)gave it to Molly straight.

Molly deserved neither of them -- nor did she deserve Luke. What she did deserve was Barry. If you ask me, Sally Koslow has a lot to answer for -- her nickname spelling the least of it.

I suffered through this terrible piece of fiction because I felt like I owed it to Book Club to finish. It was supposed to be a fun and witty read.

There's nothing funny about a four-year-old whose mother dies. (While Molly Marx is a pinhead of a main character, she did love her daughter, which may be her one redeeming quality.)

Among the flaws in this insipid novel.

1. A newlywed who finds her husband screwing a guest before the cake is even cut should not join said husband to cut said cake. She traded her soul for money and status. Dead or a live, she learned nothing and contributed little to the world.

2. Didn't Hiawatha Hicks have any other cases? Even the worst NYPD detective would have closed the case and moved on to another (more deserving)corpse within a month. The department would never have flown him to Chicago, and if one failed case sends him to law school, I bet he's a shitty lawyer, too.

3. I would have flipped to the end to determine who offed Molly and end the drivel if it wasn't against my own, personal book-reading rules. Frankly, I didn't care who killed her. And it was no surprise to find the jewelry was for the girlfriend. It was not all that surprising to learn who did the deed.

4. The only moment of intrigue was when she had Luke at the park, too. But it was too little, too late. And wouldn't he have gone out searching for her after a while? It's not like he didn't know where she was going...

5. Truth be told, we may owe Stephanie a silent thank you. Sure, murder is never a good thing and she paid for it the end (sort of), but we don't know that she meant to kill -- only that she didn't do anything to save Mollythe biker after she went over the edge. Anyone would could feel so passionately about a schmuck like Barry can't be trusted as a rational being anyway, so she would have gotten off anyway. And for Molly to snidely point out that Barry's money made it easier for Stephanie to deal with things -- hello pot: meet kettle.

6. Three hundred and three pages and we don't know who was charged with the murder? I could live with that had she not tried to tie up all the other loose ends.

7. The chapter where she wraps everything up was just stupid. After all the intrigue, cheating and lying AND being fingered as Molly's murderer, Luke gets to play Annabell's uncle? Why would either Barry or Stephanie allow him to see that little girl, let alone let him become so close he gets to be godfather?! Hicks becomes a rich attorney partnering with rich Brie? No mention of Kitty's demise? How could she not have three sentences to spend on that horrible woman? And the long-suffering Luke doesn't get a break and get to have even a schmear of happiness? Molly Marx is not worth mooning over for 20 minutes -- let alone 20 years.

8. Tabloid coverage? A made-for-TV movie? Puh-leeze.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mother of the Year -- again...


So last year, I didn't realize that Alison didn't have aftercare her first day of third grade.

About 1:15 or so, the school called to alert me that school had ended 15 minutes ago. I work about 20 minutes away, downtown.

I scrammed out of work, sped like a maniacal demon up College and across Kessler, remembering all times I seethed, feeling embarrassed and neglected as I waited for my own mother to look up from her Harlequin Romance and remember I was at band practice and needed a ride home.

I arrived in record (if not safe) time and found Alison sitting patiently on a bench at school, reading a book and not even remotely mad at me.

Becky Mueller, the fabulous woman who serves as the CKS traffic cop greeted me with a smile and shrugged off my apologies. “It’s always someone. This year it’s you,” she said. I’m certain she didn’t think another thing about it. I, however, relegated myself to the bottom of the Worst Mothers of the Year gob pile.

I apologized 20 times and promised Alison that it would never happen again. I’m sure I took her home and stuffed her full of candy and ice cream trying to make up for it.

This year, I remembered the early dismissal. Not that anyone gave me credit. Lisa almost called me, but silently sent me vibes to remember. Shortly after noon, my boss checked on me at my desk to see why I was still at work. (I'd arranged for afternoon care, thank you very much.)

While summer was great and I didn’t want it to end, I was ready for 4th grade. I was so ready. We’d tried on all her uniforms and cleaned up her backpack. She’d even gotten a hair cut at a real salon where her wild ends were evened out after a year or so of my hacking at her in the kitchen while she squirmed.

I'd bragged to all my friends who were running madly here and there, checking flyers for sales and picking up each item on the classroom list of school supplies. CKS, superior school that it is, has a service that for a price, those tedious items are delivered on Day 1. No muss. No fuss. Just a check.

I was sure I'd written it. So when I picked Ali up on Day 1, I was prepared to hear all about the wonder of 4th grade. Instead, I was greeted with, "Mom. I'm very disappointed in you."

The school supply service wasn't offered for this school year. Yeah, there were no supplies delivered to any CKS desk this year. None. As in, no pencils. No notebooks. No crayons. No nothing.

So yeah. Alison was the only kid who went to school that day with an empty backpack.

I am so stooopid.

We spent Thursday night running here and there picking up the 25 different items on the list of things all fourth graders need. We had to go to three stores to find erasable pens. (erasable pens? WTF is that all about anyway!?) She really wanted a notebook with GIR on it from Invader Zim. So, just like the candy last year, we went to Castlton to find the closest Hot Topics and a folder with GIR on it. I'm not going to tell you how much it cost.

Just like last year, she'd forgiven me for the oversight before I even arrived. She's a good egg like that. As we drove across Hell's Half Acre shopping for supplies, we spent a good amount of time remembering how we’d stuck our noses up at the Back to School section in every store all summer because we knew we were ahead of the game. We wondered how it was we (as in I) had missed the memo of no supplies at the desk thing.

CKS starts almost two weeks after the other local school bells ring. Guess how many school supplies remain in the bins after school has started...

When we finally struggled in the door, laden like pack mules with 17 different bags, we still had homework. She started in as I unpackaged the pencils, erasable pens, index cards (and pink lock box to hold them) markers, crayons, folders, and notebooks. I got her lunch for the next day started. (CKS has no cafeteria and the delivered hot lunch doesn’t start til September, that I’m sure of.)

Her homework was to assemble a "Me bag" -- 5 items of things that told a story of who she is -- and to decorate the outside of the bag. I printed out some things for her, got her paint and a glue stick from last year. We’d strategized in the car and we finalized our ideas for just how to accomplish the mission. She’s out to earn the full 30 points possible – five for each item and another five for her bag design.

Her Me Bag included the following items: a Wii remote, a glob of pink to represent her favorite color, a stick of bubble gum (we were out of gumballs), a kitty Webkinz and a book mark.

God bless her, she worked away, tongue sticking out a little bit as she concentrated on clearly writing her name and gluing down a photo of herself and clip art of her favorite Mario Kart game and the Facebook Happy Pet and Aquarium games.

I checked on her progress as I sorted trash from recyclables from the shopping spree and assembled piles for backpack packing.

She looked up and said, "Mom, you make my heart warm."

"Yeah? What makes you say that?" I ask.

"Well. You’re a good mom. You get my supplies and you make my lunch and you help me with my homework. You make my heart warm."

I love that girl.

Next year, I'm not going to screw up her first day of school.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

No offence, Mom



I've been semi cranky all day. Jeff could argue the semi-ness of it, but I'm sticking with semi.

I don't know if it's because a high school friend's brother died and I'm thinking about her, her family and my brother, David, or that a current friend's mother died and I'm thinking about her, my parents and my mother-in-law.

Or if it's that Ali goes back to school this week and she seems to be slipping more away from me toward her own self-ruled life every day. Or if I'm going back to work tomorrow after play-acting at being a stay-at-home mom.

Or if it's because not only did I find my old bathroom scales during a cleaning frenzy but I made this horrible discovery in the same week that I slipped up big time on the diet. And yeah, I've been stepping on the damn thing like a closet smoker sneaking out to the garage so the family doesn't find out she's back on the nicotine.

Whatever it is, I'm ready for it to pass. As in now.

Alison is off at a sleepover with her friend Dominic. She'll be there for part of the day tomorrow and then she'll try his tae kwon do class while I attend the CKS Back-to-School night for parents. If she likes it, she'll go every Monday and Wednesday night.

Dominic and Ali are members of a club they started in first grade. It's Ali and a bunch of boys dedicated to Pokemon and Mario. They used to play Total Drama Island at recess. Ali brought the marshmallows for a while. They used them to vote people off the island -- the one without the mallow got booted. They had to stop due to some issue with there not being enough marshmallows for everyone or something about the confection being contraband. I don't remember why they mallows got banned, only that they did.

During a short playdate Friday, Alison and Dom were talking about how they would get the gang together again - the one thing she's admitting to looking forward to come Thursday and her first day of fourth grade.

It might be good to get everyone back on a regular schedule. Summer's been great - the last few days especially.

Excerpts from a couple of hours of the Alison and Dominic show.

I was driving them somewhere and I said something in response to Dominic. It was hilarious but only I got the joke. I informed my seat-mates of my comedic genius.

"Mr. Reed is funnier," Dominic informed me.

"No way," I responded.

"Way."

"No offense, Mom, but he’s funnier," chimes in the light of my life.

"What?! Prove it."

Dominic came up empty, as I knew he would.

But Ali, without hesitation, says, "Remember when I was at camp and he was taking care of my Facebook pets and he wrote and said my dogs were all sad but he didn’t know if it was because they were hungry or if you were making them listen to country music? That was hilarious."

Dominic, not to be undone, chimes in, "It’s true, Mrs. Reed. He’s way funnier than you. No offence."

"Yeah, no offence, Mom."

***


They were playing some video game. "Hey Alison, you won. Congratulations!"

"Thanks."

"Of course you only beat me by 3 feet."
"Uh. Dominic don’t you ALWAYS win that game?"

"Yeah. I always play it on easy…."

***

Leaving the Jordan YMCA, Alison accidentally shut the door on Dominic as we were leaving. "It’s all good, dog."

This may not seem as funny to you reading this as it was to me hearing it from an 8-year-old, who was absolutely not trying to be funny.

***

That picture at the top of this post is a self portrait Alison took at her sleep-away camp. Doesn't she look like she's ready to hit the road like some flower power child? She'd been playing in the mud just before that.

I'm going to go weigh myself now. Maybe I'll do sit-ups first. Or run around the block in this still searing heat. Yeah. Probably not...

Dag. And I thought I was past the cranky....








Sunday, August 8, 2010

The birds and the bees and other life lessons

Last week, Alison stopped me in the kitchen, stared me in the eyes and said, "Someone needs to do something about the laundry situation around here."

She was annoyed that she was down to one pair of favorite pants. It wasn't that she didn't have other options, but she'd taken her faves to camp and they were still in quarantine.

I've read enough stories about bedbugs coming home from summer camp that we bagged up everything she'd taken, sucked out the air and left them in the garage to suffocate. Yeah, it wouldn't have been a humane death, and sure, it seemed silly after a week and there wasn't a pile of exo-skeletons lurking in the bags.

But had there been even one, I'd have looked really smart.

Alison wasn't impressed with my bug strategy and I decided she was a little too high on her imaginary horse. So I introduced her to a nice couple named Kenmore.

She wasn't thrilled to expand her skill set, but I think it's going to do us all some good.

It's funny, but she doesn't seem to have an overriding urge to take on any more chores than she already has.

Jeff and I spent more hours than we cared to out in the yard this weekend trimming and weeding and getting rid of a dying bush. We put her to a little bit of work, but we're dangerous enough with sharp objects and ladders, so she was better off in the house.

I'd brought the work on us, but I don't mind yard work at all. We literally, sometimes don't speak the same language out in the yard. Or from the roof, as the case may be.

Jeff was on the roof trimming trees and cleaning gutters when I swear he calls down to me to bring him some loafers. He was switching jobs, and while I wondered why he'd need to switch out from his Keen's, I did his bidding as a good wife should.

I bring him the loafers he's worn to do plumbing (which seems odd to me, too, but hey, he's doing the work...)

"What are those for?" he asks. I tell him, isn't this what you asked for.

"I wanted the lopers," he said. "You know, the long, yellow handled clippers?"

Ah. Lopers. Who calls "clippers" "lopers?"

I was happy to get them because he had the electric trimmer already and was hacking away at a tree in front of Alison's bedroom. It's hideous and needs to go away entirely.

I'd said as much, again, earlier in the week, only to set Ali and Jeff off into eco rages. The tree has an ugly twin and they're flanked by equally unsightly bushes.

They're leggy and evergreen-y and disgustingly healthy. I've been trying to rip them out for years to no avail.

Ali claims birds sing from a nest in "her" tree, which just might be the ugliest tree in America. I bet any birds that sing from it are ugly, too. That, or so dumb or slow-flying they can't find their way to the back of the house where prettier trees with actual leaves grow.

In any case, the trees got a hair cut, the gutters got a bath and the weeds were pulled. We bagged at least 10 bags of weeds and tree and grass clippings. I even trimmed the red bud tree out back.

The only injury of the ordeal was my backside, which met with the stinger of a bee so angry I was in his garden that he attacked until he caught me unguarded. He was strategic and persistent. I had to call in reinforcements, and I think, thanks to a can of killer spray, he might have gone to live with Jesus.

It's a good thing I have other skills or Jeff, who hates yard work almost as much as he hates the Yankees, might divorce me after a weekend like this. I am wounded, though, sort of. I wonder if that will matter...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

She returns




We've had one of those exhaustive, great weekends that makes you wish for a four-day-weekend; one more day of fun than usual and a day extra to recover.

Unfortunately, I'll be doing my recovering at work in the morning...and I have stuff to do there too!

We braved the wilds of Fishers for dinner with Team Vielee, which is always worth the drive. The girls convinced me to try their new Wii dance game. It was fun, though I remain unhappy with the Japanese and their torture chamber. I have less than zero skill at any of their games, and the dancing proved to be at one with the world of Wii. But it was fun.

Saturday, we picked Ali up from her week at camp, which was way fun. Jeff and I did enjoy the week, but it was odd to have just us in the house. I was worried about and happy to see her when she made the daily photo slide show the camp posts on its website. But I felt a lot like Charlie Brown on Valentine's Day every day I went to the mail slot and came up empty. I got a letter about Ali from her counselors and was sure it was because they felt sorry for me that I was the only Mom who wasn't getting a letter from camp. (Turns out they send a letter to each of the parents...)

But I kept telling myself that it was an indication that she was having so much fun she wasn't missing us at all and was simply too exhausted to put pen to paper at night. It's true that I had asked her going in if she wanted to add riding lessons to her camp experience.

She had looked at me, horrified, and said, "No way."

"You don't want to ride horses?"

"Oh! I thought you said writing lessons," she said. "Yes, I do want to ride horses."

So yeah, I shouldn't have been rushing to the mailbox every night and my fretting that she'd hide in the woods rather than come with us were for naught.

We got to the camp as they were all gathered in the chapel in the woods -- a series of benches in front of a stage with the Flat River as its backdrop. She was in the front bench, and we were near the back but to the side. She spied us during the closing events, but couldn't leave. She kept sneaking looks, though.

She sped like a bullet to us as soon as her counselors freed their charges.

Hair was wild and free, she hadn't showered in three days and she was still wearing her pajamas, but she was back with us, whole and happy. She'd written us a postcard but hadn't figured out that she could buy a stamp at the Trading Post.

The only wrinkle -- and it was my fault -- was when it came time to check her out of her cabin, her teenage counselors wouldn't let us have her. Seems we weren't on the authorized pick up list. Thank God Lisa was there to fetch Helen or we'd still be arguing with the YMCA.

In their defense, I'm much rather have had the struggle (caused by me assuming parents were automatically on the list) than have her at a place that didn't put a premium on the safety of the kids. But isn't it sad that the world is in such a state that a summer camp has to have so many restrictions?

We got home in time to power wash the shortest redhead, let her touch her television and remember all the rooms in the house and have some Ramen -- five days without Ramen Agh! -- and then we were off to see Donna, Jaime and the cousins who were at an Indy softball park.

I won't discuss the fate of Jaime's team -- or Annie's (another niece who was in the state softball tournament) but suffice it to say, they didn't go home with trophies. I, on the other hand, went home with four young girls. We had a ton of fun and then went to Build-a-Bear today.

Overheard along the way:

Aleasha: "Rachael and I played slugbug, best-of-two-out-of-three, and I won all three times!"

***

Alison: "Mom, will you get us batteries for Guess Who Extra? I think they go in here. Oh. Hey. Maybe we should just turn it on..."

***

Rachael and Aleasha were arguing over something one of them had done. Alison was apparently sympathizing with Rachael.

"I hate to tell you, but you're related to her," Alison said.

"Well you are, too!" chimed in Becca, taking up for her youngest sister in a left-handed kind of way.

"Am not!" retorts the geneologically challenged Alison, who for as long as she's been aware of the Weir trio has referred to them as "The Cousins."

"Uh. Yes you are," said Becca. "We're your cousins, remember?"

"Ah. Right."

***

We caught a small glimpse of Team Ogden. They dashed by hoping to meet Donna & crew, but had just missed them. We caught up for maybe 10 minutes, then they had to run. Five minutes later, my phone rang.

"Mrs. Reed, did I leave my flip-flops at your house?" asked Hannah.

"Hannah! You weren't here 10 minutes. How could you have left your shoes?"

"I don't know. But I came home without my shoes."

***

Playing cornhole in the front yard, Team Cheryl/Jaime had just defeated Team Jeff/Donna for the second time in a row.

As Jaime and I prepared to bask in our glory, Jeff was setting up again. It would make for a better ending had we actually won all three of our own best-of-two-out-of-three, but sadly, the elder team somehow squeaked out a win.