Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mall Rats

After a bit of a stressful week at work, I was really looking forward to the weekend.

It got started off right with a bit of community service. No, we weren't wearing orange, and we weren't chained to each other. Instead, we stood outside Lucas Oil Stadium and asked Packers and Colts fans to give a little bit up for Claire's Comfort for Kids.

It's a great program inspired by Claire Helmen, daughter of Jeff's boss and sitter of Alison. Claire has curly red hair, is long and lean, and when she Alison out and about, everyone thinks they're sisters.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm the worst person to ask to raise money regardless of the good cause. If I ever find myself on a street corner with a cardboard sign, rest assured I'll be dead of starvation in a week. It's just not my thing.

Joanne Joyce, another volunteer, on the other hand, is a pro. She was taking her collection bucket into the lines waiting at security, loudly implying that the Packers fans were showing up the home crowd.

Jeff and Ali were at one spot and I was at another with another woman and two boys who put me to shame. Their exuberance got me to at least call out to the crowd. When I took Ali off to a bathroom break, we were stopped by some scalpers trying to get us to buy tickets, and I got a buck out of each of them!

Further inspired, I went to work at my station. When I joined back up with TeamReed, they weren't doing too well. So I got Ali to follow my lead. "Wow, Mom, you can get people to do stuff!" she said.

I almost choked and told her I'd been shamed into by the boys. Instead, I told her she could do it, too. She's claiming to be shy these days. But with only a little push, she gave it a try and lo and behold, the dollars started coming her way. The more she collected, the louder and braver she got.

By game time, we were tired, but our buckets were much fuller. We'd collected some phones for domestic violence victims, too. We did so well, I thought we deserved a reward and the captain decided it would be to have Dairy Queen (gasp!) before dinner.

With Saturday came a pool party courtesy of one of Jeff's co-workers and then a sleepover for Ali, and dinner and a movie for Jeff and me. We almost pulled of a P.Jackson-squared dinner, but couldn't make the times work.

Sunday, while the East Coast was pounded by Irene, it was a beautiful, clear summer morning in Indiana. Karin took the kids to see the Keystone Towers implode. Jeff and I watched it from bed. And then I tackled the back yard and finished up my front yard chores.

Around noon, Ali came home and we got to keep the Ogdens for a little while. They would watch TV and play the Wii 24/7 if you let them, but I thought they needed time outside the house. Our healthy outing ended up being the Castleton Mall.

Ali had let her ear holes grow back -- I was more focused on her braces, I guess and had forgotten about the ears. So back to Claire's we went.

As we walked into the mall, Alison started channeling a drama queen and fretting over the coming pain. She was holding onto one of my hands and one of Hannahs and trying to find a way to hang onto Alex. Then she started squeezing.

"You do know that's my credit-card signing hand," I said.

"Quick, Ali, use both of mine!," Hannah said.

The redhead moaned and fretted and whined about the pain from the parking lot through the food court. At the main mall hallway, I debated aloud whether to turn left or right.

"It's this way, Mom," she said, pulling me toward the earring shop. Yeah. She's scared. So we go there in fine shape. Hannah kept a watchful eye over the care of my right hand.

Before it was over, we caught up on a late birthday gift for Hannah at Hot Topics and found an early one for Alex at the Lego store.

Thank goodness they took such good care of my right hand...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yard work

For a good 30 minutes today, Captain Reed had a rival for my affection.

I was out in the yard preparing to take advantage of Alison going to Godstock -- yeah, don't ask -- by declaring war on the weeds and the specter of a sweet gum tree. I told Karin Ogden, who was taking Ali to church and the aforementioned Godstock event, that I was communing with God outside. I think He'd see it my way.

Anyway, I had most of the tools I would need but I'd forgotten the spade. I heard Alison outside and asked her if she'd come help me. Silence from the smaller redhead. But this from the sweetest boy I know: "Did you need something Mrs. Reed?"

Alex Ogden had stayed over the night before in anticipation of the church event. He came trotting out to me, happy to help. In the past, he's been my No. 1 sympathizer/defender/protector against snakes, threats of snakes and sightings of snakes. And lately, he's just been extra helpful and just plain a joy to have around.

"I don't know where Ali is. I think she's hiding," he said before going off to get my spade for me. I'm pretty sure he'd have done whatever I'd asked -- even if I wanted him to pull weeds with me. I love that Alex Ogden.

A part of me is sad that he has no romantic interest in my daughter. But as she has none in him, it's a good thing. They are, instead, the very best of friends. The sleepover was in jeopardy when Karin discovered he'd not finished his homework, but we promised to do it before bedtime.

Alex was at the dining room table working away, research on the Aleutian Islands on the laptop beside him, the marker basket spilling all over and paper ready to be filled. Homework-free Ali had snagged my iPad and was watching funny cat videos.

When Alex had finished his flag, he moved on to his list of 10 facts and enlisted Alison in the exercise. They synchronized technology so she could help him find interesting sentences. I guess it was too much to think they could share the laptop.

They were using the New World Encyclopedia. At one point, I'd looked over a shoulder and saw a rather long paragraph on agricultural products. I thought that would be a good sentence to use.

"We don't want to use that one. Those people's sentences go on forEVER," Alison said. "But we like to use this site because they use big words and we think the teacher will like that."

Alex was writing about the archipelago and laboring with a stubby pencil and short-term memory loss. "Okay, now tell me how to spell that again," he called out.

"Dude. You were just here looking at it!" Ali said, but relented quickly. "OK. Are you ready?"

It was fun listening to them call factoids and spelling back and forth. The homework probably took about an hour longer than it should have because periodically, Alison would burst out in laughter, call Alex over and they'd double over watching silly cats.

It was hilarious.

So after the kids had gone off with Karin and her mom to church, I turned to face down the weeds. It's been a long, hot and dry summer and I've not been as attentive to it as I should have. Plus, sweet gum sprouts have nearly displaced the moss and crab grass throughout the yard and I've been needing to get at the remaining roots of that tree since we took it down last year.

A couple of hours into the project, I was filthy, my arms were aching and my thighs felt like I'd played catch for 16 softball games in a row. There were roots and weeds and sprouts and clippings piled like death pyres all over the place.

Jeff had emerged, roamed around a bit and then read the sports page. He hates yard work. Hates it. Hates it. Hates it. I like it, so I don't mind doing the majority of it. Usually.

I did enlist him to help me with a big root that wouldn't move for me. A few minutes later, he came out with his fancy ladder and decided he'd try to fix a leaky gutter we have.

I kept digging and bagging. Alison was supposed to be home at 12:30. She'd left at 10. I thought she'd be a good alarm clock, signalling an end to the yard work.

Jeff had finished his work, put away the ladder and his tools and I was nearing the end of weed work, dreading the idea of now having to actually mow the damn yard. I'd made a few passes to the back yard and noted that it was just as overgrown and in need of some love as the front. I'd managed my work stations by moving to a different chore when I couldn't stand the pain of squatting or pulling anymore.

I was back on my knees when I heard the dulcet tones of a lawn mower. Jeff was nowhere to be seen and the house was blocking my view but I could have sworn the noise was coming from my own back yard.

I displaced a few hundred crickets and two enormous, wriggly earthworms, but the mowing continued. I shook my head. Jeff hates yard work. He'd done his handyman duty already. Must be the neighbors, I mused.

I pulled a root, which fought back and sent me slamming down on my butt. I heard more mowing, closer to me. "Nah. Can't be," I said.

But yes indeed, God had rewarded me for my morning worship at the church with the open roof. A miracle had happened and Jeff Reed was captaining the lawn mower. He did the front and back yards both!

This unselfish, unsolicited act bounced Alex right out of the No. 1 spot in my heart.

And yes, I am fully aware that I'm channeling Rosie O'Donnell -- you know that scene in that awful Exit to Eden movie? She's undercover looking for criminals on an island getaway when a manservant in a speedo tells her he's there for her pleasure. That he'll realize any fantasy she could possibly think of. "Go paint my house," she says.

Anyway, there's more than labor that factors into my love of the captain. He's a great dad. He's a great cook. He mixes a mean cocktail. He does laundry. He grocery shops. And he'll rub my feet sometimes without asking.

I am poking a little fun today, though it's true I do love Alex Ogden. But I got super lucky when I met Jeff Reed. I still tear up a little bit when I think about our date last Saturday. I do some of my best thinking in the yard.

While I was sweating in yard today, I realized a few things. We weren't in real danger Saturday at the Sugarland concert, but we were on the cusp and we were witness to true horror.

And while I was in a daze trying to figure out how to respond and if we could help, Jeff took charge and got us to safety.

That, my friends, is what my father would say a real man does. I know it's a bit of a throwback. I've not lived my life waiting to be rescued, and I'm not raising my daughter to be a shrinking violet, either.

But sitting there in the dirt, with my sweat-soaked shirt and grubby face, hands and knees, I realized that I was totally "the girl" last weekend.

Good thing for me, my date was on it.

I guess Alex didn't really have a chance afterall.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

School Daze

After 10 years of embracing her curls and the wild look, Alison wanted to straighten her hair for the first day of 5th grade.

Maybe a decade is too strong. It did take her a while to actually have hair. Anyway, she's been accepting her femininity in fits and starts lately. Sometimes I want to help her get there. Other times I want to keep my innocent tomboy just as she is.

Fifth graders wear either skirts or uniform pants rather than the jumpers she's had since kindergarten. Last year she declined to wear her jumpers in favor of pants, and while I insisted she get one skirt, she's starting off this year in pants, too. She's still putting off a trip to the hair salon for a real hair cut, and she's now a brown belt at taekwondo, so she's more tomboy than girly girl. At least this week.

She said she wanted straight hair mostly to give her classmates a shock her first day back at school. Another tomboy kind of thing, right? I pondered what else was motivating her, but decided to just let it lie.

Then, she suggested she might need another spray tan like we'd gotten for Jen's wedding, but darker. Yeah. I think she's been watching a little too much iCarly or something. She wants to look cute!!!! That's a GIRL THING, dammit!

She doesn't ask for a whole lot, though, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. I always take the day before school off work, and we had to start our day with a visit to the orthodontist. That first day of braces tightening is painful, so the idea of a spray tan and some bona fide girl time seemed like just the way to bounce back from that.

We had an opportunity to swim at the Riviera Club with a bunch of her school friends, too so that was just icing on the cake -- albeit icing that ate into my carefully orchestrated plans. You can't spray tan and then swim or you lose all your color. I'd planned for the spray tan to be sandwiched between the orthodontist and lunch.

But Ali's mouth was really hurting, so she had some Tylenol, tomato soup and TV at home while I took care of a bit of work. We didn't get to the pool until after 1. It was 5 before we left, and the salon closed at 6:30. So we dashed home, we got her showered and I slathered her hair down with straightening solution.

We got her sprayed down and then came home to blow out the hair. Then out came the flat iron and another straightening product. An hour later, it was like we had a different little girl. She didn't seem quite so little. And she seemed way more girl than I'm used to.

I did take the opportunity to actually see her hair to trim it up evenly. When it's curly, it's like trying to measure a barrel of snakes. Not that I'd have any part of that, but still, it's hard. The only good thing is that it's so curly that you can't tell how raggedy it is.

School got off to a good start. Everyone oohed and aahed. Not that I got the full scoop -- she was a little too cool to really dish with her mother.

This morning, she wanted to snuggle on the couch and watch TV and read. I might have gotten to the couch before she did. We got caught up in Cake Boss and that led to wanting to make cookies. Then she decided we should make one for every kid in the 5th grade. We cut out boys, girls and school bells, but she was the decorator, and she wanted to make each of the kid shapes to match her classmates.

At one point while she was decorating, she ran in to show me she'd started one for Jordan. It already had hair, eyes and a mouth. Sht told me she was going to use chocolate icing to show his skin tone. I remarked that she maybe should have started with the skin first.

She shrugged, trotted off and said, "Eh, live and learn."

It's going to be a good school year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


When you're in a situation where people die or are hurt and you are not in danger yourself, pretty much anything you have to say is meaningless. But here I am, still reeling from watching that stage rigging collapse at the Sugarland concert. And I can't seem to stop thinking about it.

Going to the show was my birthday splurge. Jeff spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money getting seats that would make it great: not in the Sugarpit because I wanted to wear big-girl-shoes and wouldn't want to stand that long in them; not in chairs on the ground because I'm too short to see over anyone standing in front but not so far away so we couldn't see anything. Being old, short and lazy were good things last night.

We were in Section 5 -- nearly dead center and just 18 rows up. We were actually 17 rows up but another couple was in our seats, so we agreed to take theirs, one row up. Then, the couple next to us at the last minute, found a way to go lower so we actually had four seats on the bleacher with a railing in front of us. Room to kick off my shoes and dance around if I wanted. There was a fence between the grandstand and the track, with the stage beyond that.

We were close enough to see everything but the detail work on Sara Barellis' dress (opening act) but far enough, as it turned out, to be out of danger. We were also out of reach to get through to help after the steel fell.

Jeff noted the lightning off in the western distance before I did. I was hoping the weather predictions were wrong and refused to acknowledge it at first. I love Jennifer Nettle's crazy big voice, and I wanted to witness Jeff coming into the fold. Kristian Bush is an amazing guy and it's always a happy surprise to hear his voice because he's great, too, and I think people sometimes forget that.

The stage was huge. I counted at least six semi-tractor trailers that were parked behind the set up along with buses and other big vehicles. Just the carriers took up huge room. We talked about how elaborate it was and how much work it would be to set it all up.

Anyway, we were waiting, me less patiently than Jeff, for the band to take the stage. Jeff was watching the weather. I was watching the Indiana State Police guys who seemed to be on patrol. I idly wondered if they were looking for some criminal because they seemed on edge and watching for something. But I knew I had no outstanding warrants, was pretty sure Jeff didn't, and I was focused on the band.

There was an announcement that bad weather seemed to be coming and they were hoping the crowds would wait out the rain in buildings nearby should it come down. People all around us in the grandstands were filing out to try to stay dry. No one down on the track seemed to care. I think those of us who stayed were all just hoping so much to hear the band that we ignored our good sense.

The nice man left the stage. The lightning got closer. The sky darkened to a color that was deeper than indigo but not quite purple. There was a slight breeze, which was nice after the heat. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn't.

We watched as what we thought was a wall of rain come whooshing at us. But it was dirt from the track, not rain that was blowing at us with the force of a freight train.

We saw the rigging tilt to the east. I remember grabbing Jeff's shirt and saying, "Jeff, I think that's going to fall. Those people there." And then, as if we were stuck in a silent, slow-motion movie, the rigging creaked and kept tilting until it all crashed onto the ground.

Jeff grabbed me, told me to get my shoes. He dragged me down the bleachers, skipping the walkway 28 seats to our left. It wasn't chaotic as much as shocked in our area. No one shoved or screamed or was crazy. We all made room for those in wheelchairs, and everyone exited in the ways we'd come in. As we came to the stairs down -- away from the track, I looked over for a way to go left and get down to help hold up the rigging as I could see folks on the ground were doing.

But there was no way to get to the track. In my head, I knew we'd be in the way and that a barefoot, short girl wouldn't be much help even if we could have gotten down there. But I wanted to.

Instead, thanks to my taller, stronger, smarter husband, we got out of the way and didn't add to the confusion. As we ran for our car, parked on the infield behind the staging area, the wind kept blowing. I think I have State Fair dirt embedded in my scalp. It was like being in a sandstorm in the Gobi.

We live only a few miles from the fair and I've been in and out of that thing for years. But I don't think I could have gotten us out of there. The phone lines were jammed. The one thought that did get through was that Alison was at the Ogdens and she might see news coverage. We were headed there when Jeff's phone went through.

If Ali has a bad dream, it's usually about Jeff or me dying. She worries about it a lot. We talked with her on the phone, she said she wasn't worried anymore but had wanted to hear our voices. After we talked, she was OK and wanted to keep with her sleepover, so we went home.

It was hard to settle down. Liquor helped a bit. But as the news coverage of the collapse rolled out, our fears were confirmed, and it just got more and more sad.

My heart goes out to the families of those who lost loved ones, and to the Sugarland family, too. I was at the gym this morning, cycling away and listening to the Incredible Machine album. I heard Jennifer Nettles sing, "Stand up, stand up you boys and girls. Stand up and use your voice." and I had to fight back tears. It was so awful.

I just kept pedaling and telling myself "There's no crying at the gym. There's no crying at the gym." But it's so sad. So awful.

Thank you for all the check-in phone calls and posts and texts and tweets. We are so thankful to have been out of the line of danger. But so terribly sad for those who weren't.

Oh. Deep breath. Keep Indianapolis in your hearts, everyone.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Ack! Ack! Ack!

Amy Tokash, deep into the night Saturday is waxing poetic about something and digs deep into the jalapeno peanuts I brought home from Scottsdale. Mild taco sauce is a walk on the wild side for Amer. There are brands of ketchup too zippy for her. Remember that scene in Big when Tom Hanks tries caviar and then tries to clean his tongue with a napkin? I thought Amy was going to rip out her tongue. Hilarious.

You Might be a Redneck...
Waiting for Denise McFadden at the Elbow Room, I'm next to a bunch of overweight white guys on their office break. One of them says to his friends: "Yeah, they told me at work I can't bring my gun anymore. But you can betcha I've got it in my car. Heh. Heh. Heh." Dude: this is not Kabul. It's Indianapolis. You work in an office and lunch at the Elbow Room. Idiot.

Creepy or Cool?
Alison went to a birthday party at Xsite laser tag. It's a fun place with a small arcade where you play games, win tickets and redeem them for stuff your mom ordinarily wouldn't want in your house. We are over-run with plastic frogs here at Chez Reed. Anyway, I go to pick her up and she's still trying to use all of her tokens. We're on a schedule so I urge her to finish up.

The kid at the redemption counter must have just gotten high, laid, or was on his last day of work before school kicked in. Ali was coveting a lava lamp labeled 2500 tickets. She had 700+ tickets. He asked what she wanted. She told him, but admitted she didn't have enough tickets. "Heck, you really want that?" "Uh-huh." "OK then." And home she trots with a lava lamp. Best goodie bag ever, though. She's been trying to filch Jeff's lava lamp since he got it.

Last week, we picked Ali up from Camp FlatRock. Among the highlights of the week was climbing this monstrosity. It's 50 feet at the top. I thought Jeff was going to vomit just looking at the thing.

Some of you may remember that coming home from Greene County a while ago, we ran over a snake on a two-lane country road. I was a passenger, so my admittedly over-the-top reaction of horror was mostly funny and not a danger to anyone. No one believed me that there are ways those things can get into the vehicle and that running over them doesn't necessarily mean they're flattened. They might be wrapped around the frame, plotting for their invasion. But now, I have proof of the wiliness of the serpent. How these folks kept the vehicle on the road, I don't know. Regardless of the seat I occupied inside this vehicle, there would have been mayhem. Possibly death. Certainly a multiple-care pile-up on the interstate.

Wanna see what I've got?

We've had a great long weekend with James and David here. I'm not even dreading Weight Watchers Wednesday, it's been that much fun.

They got in Thursday afternoon so Jeff and I took them to Santorinis for lunch where the portions are huge, the food is good and the service is great. Jeff had doubleheader softball so Ali and I took them to Pei Wei for dinner. Did we need to eat again? No. Was the food great? Yes.

Friday, it was opening day at the Indiana State Fair, and we got to take Jenna with us. We love Jenna, and it's always a blast to have her. This move, however, was high strategery because Alison loves fair rides and even with four of us, we knew we needed a ringer.

We got to the air before the Midway opened at noon so we saw a fair sampling of the animals. We even saw dog racing, a sport I don't normally condone but these were tiny dogs, there was no gambling and the guy running the show was a former champion frisbee dog guy. So he's got to be a nice guy who's good to dogs, right? I hope so.

We invested in all-you-can-ride wristbands for the girls, and before we left in the 5o'clock downpour, the ISF was paying them to ride.

If you are waffling on whether the wristband is a deal, we missed the super bargain early purchase opportunity so paid $25 a piece. We tried for the $17 version but our store was out by the time we got there. By my count, we would have used 92 tickets had we paid by the ride. The tickets, bought in the bigggest increment were $60 for 55.

For the first time ever in our fair-going history, we had two ride delays for vomit clean-up -- none from our group.

Before we could have any fair fun, we had to break Jenna out of her summer day camp. As always, the girls quickly took up where their last conversation had left off whether that be months or days apart. And just as quickly, they lost interest in me as anything but a chauffer. So I did what any normal mother would do: I turned off the tunes and eavesdropped.

From the backseat:

"Ali, did you watch a gross tape in 4th grade?"


"I did. It was gross."

"Oh. I think we have to see that in 5th grade."

"Do you know what it was about?"

"Yes," says my daughter who disdains personal conversations even with her best friend who revels in them. "You don't have to say the word."

"You mean puberty?" asked Jenna.

"Oh. No. I thought you were going to say 'sex,'" says Alison, opening the door.

"We see that one this year. Last year, the girls and the boys watched the puberty one separately. This year, the boys will watch the girls' tape and the girls watch the boys' tape."

"Aaack! What kind of school do you GO to? I do NOT want to have to see boys' junk. And what kind of BOY wants to see a GIRL'S junk? Blech."

Jenna dissolves into giggles. "I know! Right?"

We get home a few minutes later.

"Hey, Jenna. My Uncle James and Uncle David are here. Want me to show 'em to you?"


Off they trot. I heard later that proper introductions were made, but the novelty of having her uncles in did not diminish. The next day, Amer came at dawn to drag Jenna off to soccer practice. Ali comes out to say hello.

"Hey, Miss Amy, my Uncle James and Uncle David are here? Want to go look at 'em?"

Amy held herself back until that evening when everyone was upright.

I hope the boys had as much fun as we did last night. All our friends are ready to move to Maine just so they can hang out with them more.