Saturday, March 31, 2012

On the road and back

Alison was watching the Simpsons today. She discovered them at the Ogdens recently and has been DVRing like a rabid beaver.

She laughs out loud and says, stuff like, "Oh, that gets me every time," and, "Now THAT is funny." She sometimes laughs like the bully: "Ha-haaa."

It's hysterical just listening to her. But today the episode she was watching involved Bart's wish for a little brother and got a little close to home on how that actually could be accomplished. I remarked that maybe she should cut back on her time with her newfound friends.

"Mom. Do you think this is where I learn words I can't say? You should listen to boys practicing football at Aftercare," she said.

"What do they say?"

"Stuff I can't say. And I would NEVER say," she said. "And a lot of it. But that's not where I learned the most stuff."

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and dared to inquire further.

"In that canoe with Uncle David and Uncle James," she said, hearkening back to a canoe trip we took down the Androscoggin River a couple years ago. "I learned 7 new words that day. Seven!"

I did not ask for specifics.


Profanity aside, I think she was thinking of that trip because we canoed a bit in Florida over Spring Break. It was a great, great trip, made even more special with the addition of Rachael Weir, the cousin closest to Alison in age. They're great travel buddies, and buddies in general. They're both avid readers, Harry Potter fans and ice cream afficiandos.

Rachael may be the most easy-going kid you'll ever meet. While generous with her things, Alison is a serial clothes borrower and a terrible bed hog. Neither of these foibles seemed to annoy her cousin. Rachael has two sisters at home (one younger, one older)so Alison's encroachments are apparently a refreshing change.

Rachael is also a great softball pitcher and a big STL Cardinals fan, which went over really well with Team Johnson -- Bob, Kathy and Millie -- who we visited a bit on the trip. Bob is also a Cardinal fan and he took great delight in giving Rachael tips on how her Uncle Jeff was not entirely trustworthy given his allegiance to the Red Sox. She soaked it all up.

Rachael was missing some of her school days to go with us (date mix-up among the mothers) and had to make a daily journal entry. One day I asked what she was going to say about the day and Jeff offered himself as a worthy subject.

"Why?" we asked.

"Because I'm so awesome," he said, matter-of-factly.

"You're not THAT awesome," Rachael retorted. "You're not even a Cardinals fan."

He tried again: "I am super-awesom. I drove you to get ice cream that you said was the most awesom, best-ever ice cream you had ever tasted."

"No you didn't. BOB drove us the first night," she said, a wicked gleam in her eye. "And, YOU pushed me into a cold swimming pool."


We had started our trip at Disneyworld, ventured to Universal's Islands of Adventure for a visit with Harry Potter, drove down to Fort Myers to see the Johnsons and get Jeff and Bob to a Red Sox game; us all to the beach; and the girls and I to a little canoe adventure.

The time just flew. We stayed on the Disney property, and I thought I'd arranged for unlimited park visits, but we learned at 8 p.m. or so that we were limited to one park a day.

It was outside the Magic Kingdom we learned this, and Rachael had been regaling us with all the rides that awaited inside. We'd spent the morning in the Animal Kingdom where we rode her favorite ride -- Everest -- and had a little R&R at the resort pool in between trips to the parks.

We had four hours of Magic Kingdom time to spend. Or so we thought. For a mere $129 a ticket, we could have tapped the magic, but it just didn't seem worth it when we had Universal waiting the next day. We debated. The price came down to $59 more per ticket. (Yeah. Funny, that.)

Jeff and I looked at each other, mentally prepared to fling down the extra cash. But Jeff presented them with the situation and offered the option of skipping the Kingdom for the chance to visit Hogwarts.

"Harry Potter?!" they squealed. We reminded them that that meant we wouldn't go into the Magic Kingdom. "That's OK. What can we do instead?"

Rachael suggested Downtown Disney and off we went. They were happy as little clams, and we had a fabulous time there, not getting home until midnight. Price of admission: $0.

I just love those girls. In seven days, we had not one instance of bad behavior. Well, I almost hoarked on a trip to Mars, and Jeff did push Rachael into that pool. But the girls's behavior was A-plus.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


It's a two-wheeled world right now with the warmest March I can remember.

The flowers are blooming, the magnolia is bursting out all over and vacation is within sight. We usually leave a frosty Indiana behind when we take off for Spring Break, but I'll be OK leaving for a while regardless of the balmy weather here. A break will be good for everyone.

I was fortunate to have a quick start to the weekend, which was good because I rode my bike to work Friday morning and was able to make it a leisurely return trip and still pick Alison up from school on time. Saturday, Ali and I rode north while Jenna and Amer rode east. We met in the middle, which just happens to be Huddles, home of our current favorite frozen yogurt. After a little lunch and mother-daughter fun, the girls and I rode south with a little side trip in Broad Ripple.

We'll have to return Jen this afternoon, but it'll be another bike transfer so it will still be fun. We'd keep her if Amy could bear to give her up, but we've tried that before. There seems to be little interest in a full-time, one-girl trade from Team Tokash to Team Reed.

When they were small, we all used to play together, but I'm becoming increasingly unnecessary to their good time. They get plenty of time alone, but I still try to infiltrate their twosome when I can. I have discovered that my success rate skyrockets when my credit card is showing. Or if I have food. This morning I bribed them with a walk to Good Morning Mama for breakfast with a soda chaser from the vegetable stand across the way.

"I like to get these old-timey bottles," says Ali as she worked the bottle cap opener. "I take off the label and let people think I'm drinking beer."

Jenna's bottle was stamped with Cocoa-Cola Light so there was no disguising it. But the novelty of it all wasn't diminished at all. Ali had talked up the soda possibility on the walk in, telling Jenna that my favorite soda of all time -- Moxie -- was available there.

"What's it taste like?" Jenna asked.

"Gasoline," I said, delighting in her gasp.

"Gasoline?! What does gasoline taste like?" she said, horrified.

"Terrible," I said.

"Why do you love it?"

"Oh I don't. I just like the fact that it makes me think of Lisbon Falls, Maine, where Ali's Uncle James lives."

"Oh. Is he the tall one? I remember him."

That led us to a discussion of the word "moxie" and that got us all the way to the restaurant where all things breakfast were devoured.

I kind of hogged the girls while Jeff did most of our weekend chores and may have dabbled a bit in his baseball draft preparations. He managed to get tennis and basketball in, so I don't feel too bad about his weekend.

I've done little to prepare for vacation, but Alison is already packed. I'm going to have to get on that. Right now, though, I'm going to eavesdrop on the girls.

Last I saw them they were sharing a container of raspberries, and I heard this from my almost daughter: "Look, Ali! They have little hairs. They're going through puberty!"

Oy. I can only imagine what I'll learn.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Up a creek

I don't know if it's because I have been reading The Hunger Games, I've become a nicer person or it was just that spectacular of a day, but I found myself taking the time to marvel at the world today.

Alison had gone to church with Alex. Jeff was playing basketball. So I got my bike out and hit the Monon Trail.

With Tim McGraw crooning in my ears, I pedaled to the trail, passing geezers holding hands on their morning walk, new parents with scratch- and stain-free strollers, and disaffected youth who hadn't remembered to put their sneers on yet.

It was a great morning ride. I'd planned to pedal up to the Jordan Y, jump in for some weight work and then pedal back home before noon. Karin had reminded me of our last trip on the trail as she came to collect the kids for church. I remembered that she hadn't wanted to go fast. She remembered that I felt compelled to loudly, verbally enforce Trail protocol.

Karin is a really nice person. She doesn't yell at people. I still contend that I was spreading needed messages to people who let their dogs cross both lanes of the trail while still holding onto their leashes; gaggles of women who couldn't bear to not walk 4-abreast, thereby blocking anyone trying to get around them; and a whole flock of people who seemed to have a common mission of holding me back.

There really were a lot of miscreants out that day. It's possible that I wasn't always polite as I dissemenated rule reminders. Karin hasn't ridden the Trail with me since.

This morning, I enforced no rules and smiled at anyone who tried to make eye contact.

I smiled at the couple whose pre-schooler was running ahead hearing the sentence that ruled Alison's Trail life at that age: "Stay to the right of the red line!"

I waved at the infant strapped in so securely that the only movement allowed was the flailing of her plump little arms.

I think I even braked for a squirrel.

When I got to the gym, it was shortly before its 11 a.m. opening. I was No. 13 of a line of 14 at the main door. I don't know how many people were at the back door. But it was quite a collection of eager exercisers.

They must have Karin-trained because if anyone was irritated (other than the front desk clerk) no one voiced it. In fact, they waved each other through the line as the two converged.

Afterward, Karin and the kids (including the fabled Corbin who I'd heard about for years but never met) and I took a little hike in Marrott Park. We crossed a creek bed on a huge, downed tree and found another one later on. The boys crossed. Alison crossed. I crossed.

I didn't remember that Karin was afraid of heights. She chose to scoot over like Alex had and as she debated her dismount, Alison went back up, reached out and said, "I'll help you Miss Karin."

Cheers erupted when she got down. But we quickly discovered there was only one dry way back over the water. It didn't take long for Ali and Karin to gauge the depth of the stream. The boys and I chose the tree; Karin and Ali splashed, hand-in-hand. In March.

"Oh my gosh. I think I have hypothermia!" Alison chattered.

We all made it back through the woods just fine. Karin headed off to a date with her husband. I hit the couch where Jeff was setting an excellent example of how to celebrate a hard work out, and the kids hit the basement. Other than knowing the Wii and the iPads were involved, I neither know nor care what they did for the next two hours. I'd delivered them tacos and pointed them to the Dr. Pepper. My work was done.

Between the work out, the hike and my effort at being the nicest person on the trail, I was exhausted. My camera in my phone seems equally tired as it won't give up the photos I took. So sorry about that.

I think I'm taking my phone to the couch. We both apparently need more R&R. Hope you had an equally lovely day. And that this weather holds.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Friday night lights (out)

I remember now how I came to be so boring. Staying out all night is exhausting!

Back in the day, when I was young and crazy, I routinely joined all the other fun people by going out on Fridays to blow off the work week. I used the next two days to recover. Sometimes (gasp!) I even went out both nights and embraced Sunday like the bouncy life preserver it was.

For a few -- OK several -- years now, a Good Friday has meant either:

--Carry-out, wine, a book or TV
--Cereal for dinner, wine, a bath and People magazine
--Family movie on TV rented from the couch, popcorn, TeamReed snuggle

You get the picture. But I've been trying not to be so boring, and Ali had a sleepover with Jenna on Friday. So, even after a great but exhausing week at work that's still going on, Jeff and I went out to dinner and a country music show at the 8 Seconds Saloon. Jerrod Niemann was playing.

If you like country music even a little bit, and you haven't checked this place out, you should. The venue partners with one of the local country music radio stations to bring in great national acts, which, unfortunately for people like me, are on Friday nights.

But like a good party girl, I had a shot of 5-hour-Energy and was fully prepared to wring the last drop of fun out of the night. The first band went on around 9 p.m. (during the week, this is the time I put Ali to bed and assume a prone position in bed or on the couch with the essentials at easy reach: drink, book, TV remote, iPad and phone.)

But there I was, in heels and a top that flirted with my poor excuse for cleavage, standing near the stage. Yes, thank you, Eric Church, I had a drink in my hand. Jeff, sport that he is, was right there beside me wearing the only flannel shirt he owns and a fully blown case of cowboy hat-envy.

We'd been greeted by his friend who manages the place. A girl named Stephanie had tried to pick Jeff up while he was on a beer run. I think I had been invited to be a young lady's special friend outside the ladies' room. We'd also been treated to a video display of the mechanical bull and its many victims that gives the place its name.

Some of those people had no business being on that bull, although the girl wearing the mini-skirt and the sky blue thong was well-received by the good ol' boys. And probabaly that girl by the bathroom, too.

Jerrod Niemann didn't go on until about 11. By then, I'd had another drink, chatted with a man who probably could have sired me but was still clearly on the prowl; talked to a girl who was fleeing the dance floor where she'd bumped into a man whose girlfriend took offense; and was starting to think my energy drink's claims were about as virile as the geezer who'd found me charming.

I'm sad to say that I did not make it through the full act. At one point, I think I fell asleep leaning against Jeff. It wasn't Jerrod's fault. He was great. I am just that lame.

I'm telling myself that had we gone out on Saturday instead of Friday, and if I'd gotten in that nap I'd planned, I'd have made it to the last set. I'll test that theory in future days.

On a more serious note, please give a thought or a prayer to those who are dealing with storm follow today. Indianapolis is cold and windy this weekend, but we were not in the path of any of the storms that struck here and across the midwest. There are some awesome stories of people who acted to protect/save others and some tragic ones where the efforts couldn't overcome the storms.

Be grateful today if you're safe and with those you love.