Wednesday, January 19, 2011

F is for what?!

The very first time Alison got a report card at Christ the King, she greeted me with tears in her little Kindergarten eyes. She'd gotten an "F" she confessed, trying hard not to cry.

I remember dropping to my knees in the hall outside the school cafeteria, which doubles as the Aftercare nerve center. I held her close and said, "Oh that just can't be."

"It's right THERE," she said, pointing to it and just starting to wail. "Under gender!"

I didn't laugh at her, but I know I smiled as I explained how to properly pronounce 'gender' and what it meant. I hugged her tight.

Fast forward to today and 4th grade. I picked her up tonight and she was despondent.

"Mom. We got our reports cards today and I just don't know what that woman expects of me," she said.

"Uh, what?" I said. I'd lost track and hadn't realized it was report card day. "Did you get another 'F' in gender?"

She did not smile.

"I just don't know what she expects. I pay attention. I listen. I do my work! Dad is gonna KILL me."

She'd gotten a 'B' in Social Studies. It's one of her best subjects, and she'd dropped from a 97 to an 88. I don't know about all schools, but these days, you have to earn a 95 (out of 100) to get an 'A." Ninety-one to 94 gets you a 'B+.'

Back in my day, 90 and above got you to that stellar level. I told her not to fret and that we'd look more into it.

"Maybe your teacher made a mistake," I said.

The expression on her face made it clear that she had no faith that a miracle like that was headed her way.

We got home and after a momentary panic, I remembered that I'd put the code to look at her grades online on my pantry door so if I ever needed it, I'd have it right there. Either Jeff or I review her work every night, so I'd never used the online monitoring system.

I couldn't remember a time when Social Studies had tripped her up. She likes the subject and she recently even stepped outside her little box to lead a skit performed IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS!!!! (She's bossy; but prefers to lead from behind the spotlight...)

Turns out, she'd been given an 'F' in presentation. It sat right there on the screen. A big, fat 'F', screaming at us.

We stared at it in shock. We looked at each other and started talking about at the same time. If she's weak anywhere, it's in Religion class and I know I should push her more there. But hell, she got a 96 in Religion this term -- up from a 90.

We talked about it. She was devastated. Just couldn't figure it out.

After thinking it over a bit, I sent a very reasonable note (not helicopter parent at all) to her teacher asking if there could possibly be a mistake, thinking all the while that a 'B' isn't the end of the world. Sadly, I think I would have accepted it in Religion. Even Conduct, maybe. But not English or Math or Spelling or Science or Social Studies!

Now here's where I have to say I LOVE Christ the King School. I hadn't expected an answer tonight. Ali's Social Studies teacher is out on maternity leave and I didn't have an email for her substitute. I sent the note to the new mom/teacher and copied Ali's homeroom teacher, thinking she'd pass it along in the morning.

Within an hour, the sub, Katie Zimmerman, replied that not only had she gotten the email, she called Mrs. Marciano (yes, the one home with a newborn) and discovered that....drumroll.... there was a MISTAKE!!!!

Alison scored her usual "A" in Social Studies after all.

You should have seen her face. It was priceless.

I'm going to start putting more emphasis on Religion class...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Doing the math

So it's been a year since I buckled down and joined Weight Watchers.

The short story is that I'm 40 pounds lighter and have dropped down to a solid size 8, though my new best friend, Ashley at the Portland Maine bridal shop, claims my measurements make me a 6. (I'm pretty sure she's even more math-challenged than I am.)

I'm proud of myself for finally shedding the weight. But I'm also kind of ashamed that I let myself get so out of hand in the first place. It's so easy to ignore that extra size that sneaks up on you or to think that a little extra here and there "since the baby" isn't such a big deal.

I was kind of a Nazi about the weight loss in 2010. I really tried hard to keep to the good foods and stayed away from the booze. I think my buttprint is permanently embedded in one of the staionary bikes at the Angie's List gym. I'm sure I sweated enough to fill at least a koi pond.

This year, I'm trying not to get all crazy about a pound here or there. But I know I can't eat pizza and chocolate and real ice cream like I want. Ever. It's the "like I want part" of the equation not the pizza, chocolate and ice cream. And that's something I don't know will ever go away. I have 540 months of bad habits to overcome, and only 12 months of good habits in.

I blame Religion for most of my issues, and this one is no different.

My parents were Pentecostal, a religion that sucks the fun out of life like a family of leeches on a femoral artery. A good Pentecostal doesn't smoke, drink, swear, dance or think lustful thoughts. Otherwise, you're on the express train to Hell.

All that's left to the Pentecostals is Bible study and food. Even masterbation (not that we were taught that word) was a sin, too. Sex had to be sanctified, which is why, I'm certain, they all got married so frickin' young.

Admit it: if you were Pentecostal and lived in fear of Hell like I did, you'd turn to fried foods, too.

So it's no wonder my eating habits were a bit off. But truly, growing up, if my dad or brothers hadn't shot, caught and skinned it, and my mom hadn't fried it to within an inch of its former life, in Crisco, we probably didn't eat it.

But I'm more than 20 years away from that lifestyle, so I can't fairly blame the size of my ass (formerly) on anyone but me and my bad habits.

I've kicked most of them. I did fantasize about liposuction and plastic surgery as I trudged over to the gym, though. It just seemed like it would have been so much easier. I'm too cheap for that option, though.

There were also moments when I considered taking up smoking because I thought it might curb my hunger. Under the same premise, I also considered cocaine (I'd heard good things) and either crank or crack. I can never remember which is what, and one of them makes you really crazy and messes up your skin. But I'm too chicken to buy or do drugs. First, I'd shoot myself if I ever got arrested for anything, let alone drugs. Second, I know I'd be an instant addict. It was hard enough to give up chocolate.

Instead, I followed the plan and hit the gym a lot. I might be boring now, but I'm thinner than I've ever been, and better, I'm actually healthier than I've ever been.

The only real downside to losing weight is you don't get to choose from when is falls. For instance, my calves are smaller, but still not normal-sized and my rings fly off if I'm not careful. But I also had to restock my lingerie drawer.

I miss the cleavage. I have a new magic bra that will let me pretend if I get really lonesome for the girls, but I'd rather have kept that and lost some more of my calves.

But I'm not complaining. I worry that I can't keep it off. I'm afraid to trust that it's real.

But I have a beach trip coming up in March and a family wedding in July. Jen will kill me if I don't fit into the dress, so I should be in this general shape at least another 7 months at least. I'm supposed to lose 10 more, and I'll keep trying.

I'm officially a fan of Weight Watchers, even with its new Points Plus plan which is something of an adjustment. I'd just gotten used to living within a certain limit only to have them expand it. I'm not sure I can maintain (or lose those last 10 pounds) and actually eat more, but I'm trying to trust them.

Like most things, it's a simple solution: Eat well + exercise = the right size for life.

Even I can do that math.

The prude

The first full week back from vacation is always hard, and by Friday, man, I was TIRED! Ali had a sleepover with Jenna planned and Jeff and I were going to go to dinner.

I ended up taking a bubble bath with my first delivered copy of People magazine and champagne delivered by my date, who took advantage of the time to finish some baseball stuff. We met up later to watch Cyrus on demand. It was one of the best date nights ever.

Yesterday, Jeff and Ali dropped me at the gym and went to grocery shop. On the way back to get me they saw a jogger. Nothing odd there except he was shirtless and in shorts. In January. On a snow covered Monon Trail.

Alison was aghast.

She's against nudity to begin with, but "He was half-naked in the middle of winter!" she exclaimed.

Jeff was helpful. "Uh, honey, did you take a look at the cover of the book your mom was reading at the gym? That guy doesn't have a shirt on either."

"I am NOT looking at that," she said. "Mom. That's just wrong. I am not looking at that."

Later, she was so afraid she'd mission 10 seconds of iCarly that she brought her pjs in into the family room. Standing in front of us, she wiggled out of her pants and flashed a little bit of moonlight.

"Ahem," her father said.

She just giggled and refused to acknowledge her indiscretion.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Play date excerpts


Ali and Jenna claim they became friends while Amy and I were pregnant with them. We all like that idea, and while the girls attend different schools, we try to get them together as often as we can. No matter how long it's been, every visit is just like coming home. Jenna plays soccer and only recently gave up dance. She's considering Taekwondo now and Ali was happy to give her lessons.

At one point when they were together, I think Jeff had attacked Ali in the hallway. "I'm not that good, but I'm her sidekick," Jenna said, launching herself at Jeff and kicking the heck out of him. It was hysterical.

Later, they were wearing their matching pajamas (Alison's Christmas gift idea) and standing together. I said, "Oh no! How am I going to tell you apart?"

Jenna giggled and lifted up a chunk of Alison's rat's nest of curls. "Her hair!, Miss Cheryl. Just look at her hair!"

I'm kicking myself for not grabbing the camera right then but I didn't. Guess we'll have to get them together again so I can capture another moment. But I love this one from the summertime in 2007...


On the way to a play date with Amanda, who was new to school this year, Ali and Dominic were in the back seat sorting through the dozens of Gogos Ali had gotten for Christmas, talking trades and plotting strategies for swaps with other kids at school. While the three kids have become great friends since they met in August, we'd never been to her house.

"Wow! Amanda lives in a mansion," Alison said as we pulled into the drive.

"My Grandpa lives in a mansion," replied Dominic, who had also remarked on the house as we pulled in.

"Really?" Ali asked.

"Don't you remember? The pool?" Dominic prodded.

"Oh yeah," she said. "Mansions rock."

The house is very nice, and the Beaches are very nice people. The kids were off in a flash to explore.

For a time this spring and summer, Jeff was making noises about moving. I'm just too lazy. Our house is perfectly sized for our space needs, and I just have no interest in having to clean another square inch of space, but Ali and I had poked around a little bit at available homes in our area. I also love our area and school. It could be my small town roots, but I like knowing the layout of the grocery stores and the faces of the people who help me at the bank, the post office and the pharmacy.

Anyway, after a few houses, Alison declared that she wouldn't move. Unless it was to a mansion. We checked out a couple "mansions" and while she liked the visit, she's decided that, like me, she's quite happy with her own house.

Her definition of mansion, I think, is based on size and number of floors. You can have a second story and not have a mansion. Also a must: a laundry chute. She rejected a sweet home with amazing landscaping, crazy cool kitchen and an Italian tile roof in a fairly ritzy neighborhood because it had no laundry chute. "It has an upstairs and a basement Mom, but there's no laundry chute. We can't live here," she said on her way out the door.


Alison and the Ogdens have been friends for almost as long as she's been friends with Jenna. Ali and Alex and Jenna were in pre-school together. In a legendary argument, Jenna and Alex were arguing over who was Alison's best friend.

"Oh yeah?" Jenna said. "Well I will ALWAYS be her FIRST friend!"

Ali, Hannah and Alex are playing the game of Life downstairs, a continuation of the process that began last night. After snuggling a bit with me, they decided they needed some alone time downstairs.

I went down to bring them breakfast and was informed by Hannah that Alex just lost his job. "And he was a DOCTOR. $100,000 a year. And he LOST his JOB!!!"

"Dude, he's RIGHT HERE!" Alison said, trying to assuage Alex's hurt feelings...

I left them to their gamesmanship and returned to my post from which I'm shamelessly eavesdropping. I'm starting to think that maybe I do need an extra day off after all. They don't really need to go back to school, do they?

Snow days

On the last day of what has been a spectacular vacation, you'd think I'd be sad, unhappy at the prospect of returning to our routine of work for Jeff and me and school for Ali. But I'm not. The time off has been so good that I know if the fickle gods of fate figure it out that they'll smack me a good one just to keep me in line.

Ali and I went dress shopping in Maine because we get to be in my sister-in-law's wedding this summer. It was such a great time. I love Jen, and I'm beyond thrilled that she's asked us to be part of the ceremony. I have four sisters and I love them all, but none of us had a say in our relationship. Jen doesn't have to do anything but tolerate me a couple of times a year but she's great and I wish we lived closer to each other.

We spent some quality time with all the Reeds in Maine. I always toy with the idea of moving there. It's easier to come back home to Indiana when we visit at Christmastime because it's almost always colder and snowier there than here. Jeff and Ali went sledding on a particularly windy and frigid day when I didn't want to put a toe outside. I went on the day the sun came out and the wind abated. We ran into a group of kids who'd put a couch on skis. Ali and I cadged a ride down the hill on it. It was tremendous. You don't see that kind of snow ingenuity back home...

This morning, as the coffee brewed, I looked out my window to see the NY Times sitting in the middle of my perfectly poured, unbroken driveway! After a 60-degree Friday, it's back to being winter here and while I might have tried to convince Ali that a walk in below 30-degree weather would be great, it would have been struggle for both of us.

Since we've been home, Alison has had a series of play dates and sleepovers and the house is still echoing with their giggles and laughter. She's starting to want "alone time" either with her friends or just herself, but she will still crawl into my lap and snuggle, and she'll still hold my hand. Even in (gasp!) public.

And even when I'm annoyed with him, I recognize that I stumbled into a bunch of luck when I met Jeff Reed. He's been reading my Weight Watchers cookbook to help keep me on track and still indulge his need to be No. 1 Chef at Chez Reed.

Finally, the prospect of getting back to work isn't bothering me so much, in part because I like to work, and I like my job. But there's more to it than that. My friend Jim, from work, posted on Facebook the other day how the company gym and policies about being healthy have been the primary push behind his great weight loss and fitness this year. He's dead on it, too.

Sure it's work -- as in there are daily pressures and the stress that goes with any j.o.b. -- but there's more than a paycheck at Angie's List. I know I wouldn't have been able to keep at my own fitness plan without the job, the convenience of an on-site gym and more importantly, the push to use the thing.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl. But keep it on the down low. No need to remind anyone in any position of power and the ability to mess with me that my life is good....