Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's good to be king

Jeff demanded that we not make a big production of his birthday this year. I'm not sure if it's that he doesn't fully embrace this particular one or if he's just so preoccupied with work that it wouldn't matter which birthday it was.

We've had mini-celebrations here and there all month. Jeff and I went to a couple of concerts -- Matthew Sweet on on a school night (!) and local bands, The Love Me Nots and the Vulgar Boatman -- earlier this month. Matthew Sweet played his "Girlfriend" album, which turns out to be the album every divorced or ditched man in America (JMR included) has used to get through the rough patch.

The LMN and Boatmen also have a connection to the former Mrs. Reed. She introduced him to the boys in the band. Interestingly, Jeff has maintained great friendships with them all, and they all seemed happy to see him at the venue.

Said former Mrs. Reed was at the last concert. I have never met her, though based on all the stories, it seems appropriate that it was October when I caught my first glimpse.

She was not friendly. I was prepared to be polite. OK. I was prepared for a cat fight in the bathroom and a little disappointed that I didn't even get a chance to miaow.

I will admit that I was never so glad to fit into single-digit jeans than I was that night. I had new, high-heeled boots on and I might have also had good hair, but I'm never sure about that. All I know is she hugged a table all night and I, well, let's just say I had something more malleable in my hands...

With those same two hands yesterday, I made Jeff birthday brownies. they are anywhere from 4 to 5 points. They would have been three, but I added Ghiardelli chocolate chips and walnuts. It is his birthday... and no, I didn't have one.

Ali described him alphabetically and with art. He is: "Amazing, Best, Creative, Dangerous, Entergetic (sic) Funny, Great, Helpful, Independent, Jeff, Kind, Loveable, My Dad, Nice, Outstanding, Protects Me, Quite (not), Really Awesome, Stupendous, The Best, Under 60 Years, Very Cool, When does he not help me never), X-treme, Y so Tall, and Zany."

Sadly, Jeff spent most of his birthday at work yesterdy and he's there again now. It'll be this way for a couple more weeks, so we might celebrate some more if we can remember what he looks like by then.

It has, for the milestone that it is, been a bit unspectacular. Until Andy came by and made my sporadic mini-celebrations fade to a dim ember, that is.

Jeff is now the Bourbon King.

So I guess it was a successful birthday celebration afterall. Long live the king!

A Tip re: Hats

We were killing time at Marshall's waiting for Justice for Girls to open.

I spied a display of hats and asked my stylists for their opinion. They're not ones to sugar coat it.

Ali: "No offense, Mom, but no."

Jen: "Heh. Heh. Uh. No."

"What if I put on some lipstick."

"That's not gonna help."

Once in Justice, where they were hoping I'd open my wallet for them, I tried again thinking their desire for new stuff would outweigh their discerning eyes.

"Uh. I don't think so, Miss Cheryl."

Alison slunk to the other side of the store.

Would you buy this book?

If only I had Jenna more often. The book -- I'm considering this title: "Why Mothers Eavesdrop" -- would come much faster. We snatched her for the first day of Fall Break. Her father wanted her for the second or we would have kept her.

While they do have their own little world, which means I lurk in the corners a lot, I am still needed for snacks and shopping money. And, in a stroke of great luck, they asked me to play with them in the pool for a while. You can bet I jumped right in.

Best quotes of Fall Break 2011:

Ali and Jenna discussing allergies. Ali rattled off dandelions, nickel and cats. Jenna had nothing until: "Well I don't know, but I certainly HOPE I am allergic to broccoli."

Ali, Jenna and I were on our own for dinner. I suggested Mexican. "Nah. We've farted enough today."

Packing for a day trip the next day to visit my aunt and cousin 90 minutes away by car. Ali: "I'm gonna need another bag. Like you said, it's gonna be old people. I will need entertainment."

Jenna, a dental asst and I were talking about how Ali is tall and we are short. I said good things come in small packages. Jenna: "I'm not that good. You know me."

Ali: "When I grow up and am allowed to curse freely I am going to create an alphabet of curse words and post it on YouTube."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

No means no!

So last week there was near universal agreement that I am a sleep-over pushover.

I'll take that. It's true.

I don't know if it's the idea of last week or what but I was much less agreeable this weekend. Ali had a sleepover Friday with Amanda, and they switched it up Saturday to be at our house.

Jeff and I had gone out Friday (after a Tuesday night date) again to Radio Radio for a concert. It was fun, but as we all know, I'm pretty boring and two concerts in the same calendar year, let alone week is way beyond the envelope for me.

Saturday, Ali had a belt advancment test at taekwando, I had a baby shower in the afternoon and Jeff had to work. That evening, I had a surprise birthday party and a last minute opportunity to see good friends who'd gotten sideswiped by summer and kids. Then, we had a request to have another child over on Sunday.

So I started the weekend a little bit worn out. The threesome of Alison, Amanda and Dominick is a good one, though it is generally fraught with sporadic fights and appeals to a higher being. And demands for candy. Lots of demands for candy.

Jeff had to work. It was a lovely Fall day, so I left the kids to the Wii and television and mowed the back yard. They had zero interest in seeing the Prodigal Sun.

I'd gotten the front yard done on Saturday and had no gym time at all, so I was happy to get outside. Afterward, I built a fire in the chimenae and settled in for a cozy read.

Two chapters in:

"Mo-om, can we go to Snappers?"


"Can we go to a bounce house? No! Laser Tag!"


"Mo-om, can we play in the car? We're bored. There's nothing to do."


Somehow Alison ends up in the car. Amanda and Dominic pound on the windows. "Miz Reed, will you unlock the car?"

In my head, I'm shouting, "Reading here!!!!"

In my voice, I say, "Alison, get out of the car."

The alarm starts blaring. I sigh. I go save the neighbors' hearing.

"Mo-om, can we roast marshmallows?"

"Sure. Go get them and the skewers."

"Where are they? I can't find them. Mo-om."

"Miz Reed, where are the skewers. Can I have some water?"

Then a game of tag ensues with the marshmallows as the prize. Finally, they start roasting. Which was hilarious. Many marshmallows were sacrificed.

I give up on reading. I suggest a walk into Broad Ripple to feed ducks.

"Nah. We don't want to go outside."

I leave them to their Pixos, TV, lap top and Wii. I check the paper. I check Facebook and email. I check on why Amanda suddenly fled to Ali's room, left Alison to referee the fight between the other two and denied requests for candy.

Later, bored again, they decide that walk would be a good idea afterall. I see them in the front yard and check downstairs. I force them to return to the family room, turn out lights, the TV and pick up three or four hours worth of crap and dirty dishes on the floor.

I grab the loaf of bread intended for the ducks. Alison wants to carry it. Dominic whines that he wants to have it. Sixteen steps onto the Monon Trail, Dominick informs me that it's too heavy. Could I carry it?

"That would be a negative," I say, shooing him along. He has one hand on the bread and the other holding up his pants. I shake my head. A third of the way there, I make him switch with one of the girls. They fight over who has to take it. Then, they fight over who gets to have it last.

Three-fourths of the way to the ducks, Amanda asks me when it's my turn to hold the bread. "That would be never," I say.

We get to the ducks. Dominic is afraid of the geese. Alison claims she'll protect him. Dominic eats some of the bread. Then says he needs some water. I tell him he can hold out til we get to Kroger. There's probably a water fountain there. (Turns out there isn't...)

We get to Kroger. They ask if we'll buy candy. Can we rent a movie? Can we get doughnuts? No. No. And no.

"What do you want for dinner? They shop. Dominic can't decide. I tell him the clock is ticking. We buy sweet Italian sausages for grilling. Dom is still pondering his culinary fate. I inform him that I can take him home and he can have dinner there.

Dominic discovers there's no water fountain. The girls try to hide from him in the store. Which means I can't find them either. I hate that game.

I get just enough food to feel my muscles flex. We set out for home. Dominic remembers that he left his jacket with the ducks. I sigh. We go back to the canal, retreive the jacket.

"Do we have to walk all the home?" he asks.
"Can we have sno cones?
Can we go to BRICs?"
"No. We're going home to have dinner, remember?" I say.

"Will dinner be ready when we get home?" Amanda asks me.

I took a deep breath, swung the bag of groceries that contained most of said dinner.

"Remember when we went to Kroger and we decided you'd have sausages and we bought them and put them in this bag right here?" I ask.

"Oh. So it won't be cooked, I guess," she said.


Actually it was a fun afternoon. They're more hilarious than they are annoying. And I was happy to have them here. In between the piles of boredom, they seemed to have a good time.

I, however, am exhausted and will soon be finding my bed, my book and a remote. Should anyone want anything else from me, I have one word...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hoark vs. Hike: you be the judge

Alison greeted the weekend on or about 12:30 a.m. by puking up our pasta dinner. I found her in the middle of the hall between her bathroom and bedroom. I encouraged her to get to toilet but she looked up at me, mewling, frozen there in the glow of her nightlight.

I'd rushed to the sound of her crying so I didn't have my glasses on. When she continued to resist my efforts to get her next bout contained in porcelain, I squinted a bit to see she was surrounded by vomit.

Yep. Puke to the left of us. Puke to the right of us. And more bubbling to the surface.

It was, shall we say, a tricky manoever to clear a path without succumbing to it all.

Jeff got up and helped with the clean up, but she spent the greater part of a couple of hours with pillows and a blanket in the bathroom. About 3:30 we moved to the couch. At 7:30 Jeff traded me spots.

Ugh. I'm glad that's over. Sunday dawned bright and warm and all traces of Saturday were done. She did a little gymnastic routine on the kitchen floor to convince me we could talk to the Ogdens and voila, a hike was born.

I have to say the end of the weekend was way better than the beginning.

Thinner but Boring

So I'm at a crossroads in a part of the country where I never thought I'd be and I might need some guidance.

Weight Watchers says I've reached and maintained my weight goal to the extent that they gave me a little gold key and pronounced me a Lifetime member.

I don't know quite what to do with myself now. I wonder if mountain climbers who reach the peak get up there and say, "Well, hell. What now?" like I'm doing right now.

I know it's not enough to reach this level. I have to stay here. I know full well that I have the capacity to backslide into the culinary sins of fried food and full-fat ice cream faster than a felon just released from prison where he discovered Jesus.

I'm tempted to set a new, lower goal because I've gotten used to my somewhat restrictive diet. I've perfected my whine. I am so used to trying to lose that the idea of maintaining scares the, uh, pumpkin out of me.

Most people at work don't even try anymore to convince me to try the yummy treats they bring in. (For this I am deeply thankful.) Jeff's been great and for the last three weeks has been a WW believer. He's so into it now (dropped 10 pounds in three weeks) that he's teaching me stuff and shopping for low-point stuff like a lo-cal champion.

Don't tell anyone, but Weight Watchers is not all that restrictive once you get past the desire for foods that, truth be told, aren't really all that great.

Sure, it's nice to think about pie and chocolate cake and piles of ice cream. Pizza. Lasagna. Al Fredo sauce. Pumpkin rolls.....ahhh pumpkin rolls... Donna's yeast rolls and butter. Bread sticks...

Sorry. Got distracted there for a minute. Sure I fantasize sometimes and breathe deep when someone's having fried chicken. But there are few things I've learned from my 22.5 months of Weight Watchers membership.

1. I like being thinner way more than I enjoy chocolate. I know! I wouldn't have believed it myself two years ago. But it's true.

2. While I will occasionally indulge in a Dexatrim when I will be faced with great temptation (parties, traveling, vacation) chemicals aren't the answer. There's no quick fix. It's eating less and exercising more until you get to a point where you don't dread shopping for swim suits or when you finally get to the point where you're just not going to go up another size.

3. I've never been addicted to drugs or alcohol but I do think sustained weight loss has got to be something close. And like other addicts, no one can make you decide to really kick the habit. You have to do it. And you have to do it for yourself.

4. The gym is not a torture chamber. Well, if it is, it's at least one you emerge from better than you when you entered. And once you get to a point where you don't flinch when you pass the mirrors, you're home free. Don't tell Kelsey Taylor but I get cranky when I don't get to go to the gym.

If I can just stay in my WW world and focus on eating, or not eating, I don't have to work on other areas of my life that could need improving. So here's where your guidance comes in.

I might be thinner than I've ever been in my life, but I'm B.O.R.I.N.G. and I need help to overcome it.

I need to develop an interest in something that will energize all of us in the TeamReed family, not eat into the gym time and not expose me to too much culinary temptation.

Temptation lies in bars, wine festivals, beer gardens and street fairs where there's more grease per square inch than oxygen. (See why I'm boring?)

It's getting colder, so hikes and bike rides will be getting scarcer. While I can drag Alison with me, she's even less inclined than I to brave the cold. She has inheirited, I fear, my exultation in the couch, a book and snacks.

Music is great. But it usually comes with beer. Maybe I start there. I'm taking Jeff to see Matthew Sweet this week for his upcoming birthday.

Maybe we should go to a concert every month. My smart friend Angela has season tickets to the local theater. It forces a date night. Maybe that? Both will involve wearing grown-up clothes and makeup, getting a sitter, a little 5-hour-energy.

I think I need an after-hours coach. I'm good with school stuff, work stuff, yard work, working out and getting through the dinner hour. It's the prime-time viewing hours and the weekends when I want to stay home and veg out.

If this keeps up, I'll be a thin old lady with no friends who's only activity is running out to catch the leaves when they fall on the lawn.

Is there a class for boring people?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sleepover Weekend!

We had an all-Jenna-all-the-time-weekend, so it's taken me a little bit of time to get things back in order. We got her Friday afternoon and reluctantly gave her back on Sunday evening. We would have LOVED to keep her longer. Although I'm not sure I could keep up the pace.

Sleepover Itinerary
* Friday pickup at school -- Jenna first so Ali could show her off at CKS.
* Ali was waiting in the 2nd floor window overlooking the parking lot when we got there.
* One block from home, I let them stand up in the car and poke their heads out the sun roof. You would have thought they were Princesses in the Indy 500 Parade.
* Papa John catered, Roderick from the Wimpy Kid amused and there was no need for me in the family room.
* Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful for Jenna's soccer game. We attended. Jeff paid attention and gave Tom a great play-by-play text, complete with pictures.
* It's possible that Alison and I might have read during times when Jenna wasn't on the field. It's been a while since Saturday and my memory is foggy.
* Sadly, the Azetecs were felled by the Falcons which meant we had all afternoon to play together instead of one of us having to focus on a white ball and all kinds of confusing rules.
* On the way home, we stopped in at the Farmer's Market and come home with pulled pork BBQ, mums, apples, pear tomatoes and pumpkins.
* We get home, snarf down the BBQ and some apples.
* We get on the bikes to feed the Broad Ripple ducks and visit Broad Ripple Ice Cream (BRIC)for dessert.
* Jeff makes us bike to 86th Street before he'll give the girls ice cream.
* On the way to ice cream, we spy a school of fish as we cross the river. At one point I thought they might actually have been rocks, but they did move around. We even saw some turtles splashing around and a hawk overhead. It was a brilliantly blue fall day -- the perfect temperature, Jenna claimed, for bike riding.
* We get home, just in time to get dressed again to visit the Jordan YMCA for swimming (girls and Jeff) and a workout for me.
* Jeff visited Kroger after I rescued him from the pool.
* The girls and I set a record tossing her giant tennis ball without dropping it --
171 catches. The lifeguard was not impressed.
* Back home again to find dinner and Harry Potter.
* Girls crash on the couch and don't move until Sunday morning dawns.
* Jeff trots off to basketball. Ali and Jenna are head to head on the couch watching something horrible or obsese cats on the laptop. Breakfast is unnecessary.
* I have coffee, read the paper and plant mums.
* Breakfast gets taken care of without me.
* By noon, we're back on the bikes bound for BR Nails and a pedicure courtesy of Miss Amy's suitcase surprise. "Are you sisters?" the pedicurist asked. "No. We're friends. Well, we're best friends."
* Properly pampered, we go back to the ducks with leftover cookies to share. To escape an aggressive goose, we move downstream. Our plan goes awry and inspires a mass migration from the flock when they figure out there are still cookies to be had. (Go west young duck!) The sky was full of feathers. It was pretty spectacular; well deserving of another visit to BRIC.
* Once home, the girls break out the paint and glitter and set about turning their pumpkins into a vampire and a black something or other.
* After lunch, the girls decide they need one last swim.
* When informed we'll be making another trip to the Y, Jeff informs me that we are not compelled to grant their every wish. I'm still mystified by that. It was a sleepover weekend! Someone needs to explain the sleepover rules to him, I guess...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

And now we breathe

A hundred years ago, I was a news reporter covering the cops beat. Sometimes I had to go ask people questions after tragedy had struck, and it was the worst thing ever. More for them, I'm sure, than me.

I think that's when I learned to compartmentalize. I'm pretty sure the mental health professionals would say it's not a good thing to do. But I'm a black belt at it now, and I'm too old to stop putting fears and tears and thoughts of foreboding into their own little closets in my head.

Take the last couple of weeks, for example. Jeff had hurt his knee playing basketball and had finally gone to the doctor. I suspected a muscle or meniscus tear. Something painful but fixable with time and frozen peas. "Baby," he said, calling me after the doctor. "Don't freak out."

So of course I freaked out. Silently, because I was at work. But yeah. The loop was thrown.

"There was a strange shadow on the Xray. It could be nothing. It could be cancer. I'll need an MRI to know for sure."

I'm not exactly sure that's what he said because it all went to Charlie Brown's teacher speak as my mind spun into how Ali would deal with being half-an-orphan, how I'd deal with widowhood and whether he'd be buried in Indiana or Maine.

I mumbled something I hope was comforting as he ended the call saying we'd talk more at home. I shook my head, built a new mental closet with a really big lock and slammed the door.

I dealt with an employee resigning from my already too-small staff. I dealt with last minute details with my upcoming work trip that would end the day the MRI was scheduled. I might have talked to my boss and co-workers. Hell, I might have been interviewed by CNN. Who could say?

I'm not sure how Jeff made it through the next few days. He apparently has a few closets of his own.

Long-story short, the shadow turned out to be a bone spur. Probably has been there since his little bones first formed. That news was clearly delivered and received. Can we all say, "wahoo?"

So anyway, it's Sunday, we're all as healthy as we can be. I've deconstructed my latest mental clost -- no need for that box of worry to take up any more space.

Ali and Dominic are upstairs, waiting for Jeff to get back home with Amanda in tow. I'm downstairs.

I hear the creaking of the floor underneath my husband's heavy tread and his booming voice. He's home. My daughter is squealing as her friends surround her.

My little world is perfect.

Model Behavior

I was sitting on the couch the other day, minding my own business and occasionally wondering where my daughter was. We'd been joined at the hip since I'd gotten home late Tuesday night from a 4-day work trip that had robbed us of our weekend, but all of a sudden, she'd put down her book and disappeared.

Then, I heard a clunking noise coming at me. I looked up to see the child formerly known as Alison coming at me. "Hey, Mom. I've been in your closet. What you do you think of my look?"

When she was a toddler, Alison was forever wearing her dress up clothes, which consisted mostly of frilly skirts and silky tops with my cast-off heels and maybe even a hat or two. She'd drape herself in beads and trip around, more often than not forgetting that you could see her Dora the Explorer panties under her sheer net skirt. She'd dress up to go climb the tree in the front yard.

She's had had an interest in my jewelry closet for a while, but mostly as storage space for her collection. This was her first actual foray into my things.

I was, in equal parts, horrified and over-joyed.

I love my little tomboy.
I'm not sure I'm ready for a real girl, certainly not one who is so close to actually being able to wear some of my stuff.

Several of my heels fit her perfectly. The length on some of the skirts and dresses was actually nice. Unlike some of her girl friends, adolescent hormones have given Ali only a passing glance, so none of the dresses or blouses were form fitting. "If I don't hold on tight, you can see my junk," she said.

Wearing a little black dress with a bit of a plunge, she said: "Mom, why are their fake, uh, things in here?" she asked, clutching at the bodice.

"Well, sometimes a girl needs help," I said.

She's been wondering when she'll see some development, but the idea of "help" resulted in a big, "gak!"

She ended up calling a halt to the dress-up when her little Ogden friends called offering a sleepover. Jeff had gotten home by then and his reaction was 100 percent appalled.

"You know she's not that far off from actually wearing stuff like that," he said, as if he was a Navy Seal revealing government secrets to al Queda.

"Yeah. I know," I sighed. Happily for us, she returned in torn blue jeans and tee shirt, happy to kick a ball around in the yard with Alex. She hit the friends-over jackpot when Dominic called, so she's been tearing around with him for a couple of hours. Soon, Amanda will be here and I'll be needed only for food and drink.

But it'll be fun to hear them being silly kids. I'll get her back later and I'll snag every second I can.