Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just slightly ahead of our time

Like most people I've had more than a moment or two of silly indulgence thanks to my credit card, and Jeff can shop for days on end. But for the most part, I've always thought of us as fairly frugal people. We don't get carried away with clutching coins, but we don't toss them in the streets either.

I like the reduction in stress that not living outside my means brings me. I live in fear of reverting to my early years of living on Tab, tater tots and Cheerios, or worse, having some prolonged catastrophic bad luck that that will land us living in the Subaru trolling for spare change in public fountains.

This week, I learned that we're not frugal at all: we're just lazy.

My evidence:

1. Yes, we bargain shop for just about everything we buy, but we're still vulnerable to impulse purchases, good food and fine libations.
2. We try to remember to use the coupons that come to us in the mail but we don't scour the Internet sales flyers or find ways to double up or get free stuff. CVS will never have to shell out free stuff to me because I will never keep the receipt to cash in on that silly racket they have going.
3. I will buy overpriced hair care products at Kroger rather than taking the time to drive to a separate store and it was a happy accident of being below the E there one day that led to my discovery of discounts on gas if I used my Kroger card at the Kroger pumps.

But here's what shoved our laziness in my face. Jeff stumbled across the operating instructions for our microwave. It was copyrighted in 1984. The tag line Panasonic was using back then was "Just slightly ahead of our time."

Just for fun, we flipped through the booklet a bit. We learned that the Panasonic ANE0003X80AP will zap your food with a mind-boggling 600 watts of power. Standard today? 1,000 watts or more.

The operating instructions admonish users not to try to make popcorn in this model. You need the 18450 microwave corn popper for that. But there's amazing change on the horizon: "... special microwave popcorn is available in some ares of the country. This popcorn pops in its own package and does not require a microwave corn popper. It may be used in this oven."

Jeff acquired the microwave when his parents remodeled their kitchen. I don't know how long they used it, but he/we've used it for more than 15 years. The machine works just fine. Better, in fact than the dishwasher and refrigerator that came with the house. They're probably half the age of the microwave.

But they all work , see. And as long as they work, I'm not going to have to replace any of 'em. That's frugal, right?

Nope. It's lazy. The devices are probably all leaking more energy than the windows we had replaced last fall. But until they stutter or groan or start spoiling our food, we'll probably keep them around. Imagine the research we'll have to do to find the best reviewed and priced models. We might have to remodel the whole kitchen to get all the new stuff that'll come with the new appliances. We'll have to learn how this century's wattage affects food. Who has the energy for that?!

In other news, we had a great Easter gathering yesterday at Shakamak State Park where my sister Debbie and I would have won the first annual Easter Duck Scavenger Hunt but my nieces cheated. Damn kids.

Despite the drizzle, we had tons of fun. Alison's determined to spend a week with her cousins this summer, and it may be the week after we spend time in Maine that will work out for her. She wants to do that and go back to Flat Rock camp this summer.

"But Alison, that would be two whole weeks without your parents anywhere around you at all," I said.

"Yeah!" she said, dreamily.

While she was concerned that her braces would make this holiday "The worst Easter ever!" she ended up with some hard candy and lollipops she could actually eat. Coupled with two small new animals, her very first wristwatch, some Grandpa cash and payola from the cousins, she managed.

She also found this card for her father. Hilarious on some many levels. Hope your Easter was a good one, too!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Man, those cheetahs run fast

Alison, Jenna, Amy and I spent a little time with Tony Stewart today.

We were at the Indianapolis zoo and I don't know where the Nascar hero was in person, but in voice and life-size poster, he was outside the cheetah exhibit. The girls and I spent 50-cents each to race the cheetahs as our friend Tony coached us.

"Man, those cheetahs run fast," he said about 75,609,890 times while we were there.

Amer, an Indy car stalwart, was so sick of hearing him speak that I wouldn't have been surprised to hear of a vandalism report. But I think we got away safe. Neither Jenna, Ali nor I were able to outpace the cats. Suprise, I know.

In my defense, I think I was hung over from my night at the annual Gathering of the Goddesses, an event created by my good friend Betty Cockrum to benefit Planned Parenthood of Indiana. I think I've been every year since it started, and this year's was way fun. Tina Noel and Monica Brase and I were a threesome and there were so many of our friends there it was like a high school reunion.

Someone described its a progressive prom, and that's probably more accurate because it was a dress-up affair. We skipped the dancing in favor of a stop at the Red Key Tavern and it was almost Cinderella time when I walked in the door.

Morning came pretty fast. I couldn't even tell you what Ali and I did after Jeff left and before Amy came to get us. I think laundry was involved. And this horribly complicated under-the-sea puzzle. I should have been napping, I'll tell you that.

But the zoo was fun and it was good to get out and around. While we can't run as fast as the cheetahs, I swear those girls are growing faster than the speed of light.
Jenna got her puberty lecture at school the other day and asked if Alison had seen it yet.

I considered saying, "Hey, look, there's a deer!" but instead, I said, no, not yet.
Poor Jenna was ready to talk but had no audience.

"Yeah, I really don't want to see it," said Alison, who shuns romance but loves fart jokes and has developed an unnerving fascination with private body parts.

Alison pointed out a baboon's "doodle" and there was much talk of their upper torsos. On the way to the zoo, we passed the American Cancer Society, which was draped in a string of brassieres to celebrate the annual Race for the Cure.

"Ewww! Look at that! Why are they all right out there?"

Amy explained the significance. They agreed to accept it as decor because there were no actual nipples also hanging out in the open. I can't say the same thing for the two of them when they were hanging upside down on the playground.

Sadly, they noticed it, too. Long gone are the days when they'd pull up their shirts to show their chubby little bellies. They still played, though, and skipped and squealed and were just plain silly.

Then again, that might have been Amy and me. I was hung over. I can't be trusted to accurately report...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last night at dinner, Alison was telling us about her day. It involved Greek mythology and was delivered as Jeff was telling me about the wine he'd suggested for us.

"Hey Dad, did you know there was a Greek god who liked to drink wine and get drunk?"

He said he was familiar with Dionysus, could that be the god?

"Yeah! And there was this other guy, too. Pan. He was a mix of a guy and a goat or a horse or something."

"Right! I think it was goat," said Jeff.

"Yeah! We saw a picture of him and guess what?! They had put in his doodle!"

"His what?"

"His doodle."

"His what?"

"You know. His thing. His AREA. His junk! You could SEE his JUNK!"


Later, she was trying to tell us other stuff about her day and she was telling us that at church the story was a parable about Jesus and a blind man.

"Yeah, so Jesus healed the blind guy," she said, apparently feeling that her summation told the whole story. Her father was hungry for more.

"So then what happened?" he asked.

"Uh, the blind guy could see," she said. "Period. The end."


We've been back home a full week now and we're still talking about how much fun our Spring Break trip. On our after Sunday dinner walk, Ali said she'd had a great time and would go back in a minute, but this was even better than Turks & Caicos.

"Here? Why? Because it was 80 degrees today?" Jeff asked.

"No. Just 'cause it's home," she said.


Speaking of home, as we were coming back, Alison was talking about how she was missing her house and her bed. "Hey, Mom," she said. "Do you think when we get back we can call Jenna?"

"Sure," I said. "Of course we can."

As the girls have grown up and gone to different schools, we haven't seen so much of Jenna. We've missed her and really enjoyed the times we've gotten to have her. So I called when we got home and it turned out that she could come over. It was so much fun.

Friday night, we had Bunco and Jenna hadn't been spirited away yet by her father and brother. They were planning a great night watching the national hockey playoffs. "Let's call Captain Reed and see where they are," I said.

Being the great dad he is, Jeff came over and swooped them up. Jenna stayed with us and then Ali went with them. They came back wearing best friend tee-shirts and hoping for another few hours together.

I was thrilled to have them together again, and so were they.

I can't help but keep thinking that when Alison was having her little home-sick episode, when she thought of home, it meant three things: her house, her bed and her Jenna.

I hope that never changes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just a few days in paradise

This blog is dedicated to Gary Reed, father, father-in-law and Grandpa Extraordinaire who decided last year to invest in some family memories.

And boy did we make some when TeamReed, both branches, spent a week together in paradise. Literally.

White sand like powder. Breezes softer than the petal of a fresh-bloomed rose. Temps hot enough to warm the cockles of Ebeneezer Scrooge (or scrape the first three layers of skin from an insufficiently sunblocked Mainer). Amazing food and drink around every corner. The only shortage was enough hours in the day when you could stay awake to enjoy it all.

It was enough to make you want to immigrate. 'Course we'd have had to find a way to stay at the resort as guests rather than dishwashers and none of use did that. But I'd bet a gaggle of geckos that we each thought about it at least once.

It was amazing. If you need a break, skip Southern California. Miss Mexico. Meander past Miami and go to Turks & Caicos.

I turned off my phone when we boarded in Charlotte and didn't turn it back on until we got back to that airport. On none of the intervening days did I pine for its ping. I checked email a few times, but that was it. It might have been the most relaxing vacation I've ever had.

We sighted nearly 200 geckos if you trust Alison's counting; seven cats (I think there were actually three that we saw multiple times; apply that phenomenon to the gecko count if you're into accuracy...) and an egret or two.


We saw one tiny gecko that appeared to me to have been the victim of a hit and run housekeeping cart.

"No, Mom. It's guts would be right there if was dead. I think it's sleeping," asserted Alison.


Jeff and Jen ran on the beach most mornings. It took her only one morning to learn to run into the wind when starting out rather than coming back. Peter and I stuck mostly to the gym where he showed me a squat I'd not been doing. I'm contemplating how to return that favor...


We met a couple from Chicago who had two daughters. The wife had a couple of attributes that kept the Reed males hoping she'd come back. After Ali had disappeared with the girls to the water park, Jeff volunteered to go check on "the girls."

"I'll make sure Ali, Sophie and Olivia are OK, too," he said.


Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter took Ali to dinner one night so Jeff, Gary and I could go to the adults only French restaurant. The service took a lot longer than we expected. At some point she decided the night was over and informed Jen that it looked like she was having a sleepover. She assessed the bed options and said, "You guys can have that big bed and I'll take this little one over here."

By the time we stopped in to pick her up, she was fast asleep in the trundle.


Like all good Edens, there were swim-up bars everywhere you looked and when we skipped the pool for the beach, we parked ourselves with the sea to our front and a bar just behind us. We drank our way through bushwhackers, margaritas, mojitos, pina coladas, drinks of the day, various flavors of daiquiries and of course the island beer.

In the water park area, there was no alcohol served. Ice cream, however, was in plentiful supply. I thought Alison would never leave. "Mom!!!! You can have ice cream RIGHT IN THE POOL!!!!!"


Grandpa skipped snorkling, but the rest of us spent a good portion of Wednesday afternoon with our backs to the sky and faces pointed underwater. We saw a family of squid, sea turtles, a lion fish and various other sea creatures.

We were with a group and it was really hard to stick together. You could find Alison fairly easily if you just listened to her squealing and grabbing the closest body to point out a new find.


Ali and I met the Chicago family when she and I parasailed. Jeff had done it before and not found it amazing. Alison and I had the opposite experience.

"Mom. This is the best day of my life," she said. And that was before she got her gecko tattoo and spent the afternoon in the water park with her new friends.


There was music everywhere none of it country.

"I think you can take a break for a week," proclaimed my rock-n-roll daughter.


Coming home, we reflected on the best parts of the trip. It kept us talking for quite a while and as she often does, Ali summed it up best.

"We have the best Grandpa," Alison said.