Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'm not bossy...I'm a leader

When Alison was two-years-old she spent most of her daylight hours under the tutelege of Miss Debbie, a mountain of a woman whose size was outmatched only by her attitude. We ALL did what Miss Debbie told us to do. One day, she observed Alison playing with a group of other toddlers and apparently taking direction of whatever they were doing. "Alison, are you being bossy?" Miss Debbie enquired, no doubt with hands on her hips looking down from on high. Ali looked up at her, shook her head and said quite firmly, "No, Miss Debbie. I'm not bossy. I'm a leader." I did not witness the exchange, but did get it straight from Miss Debbie herself. I'm not sure she was as proud of her as I was, but I'll never forget how she was just shaking with laughter as she informed me of the day's events.
Flash foward to this week when I'd asked Alison to be in charge of collecting sentences, including a sentence diagram, from the kids in her 5th grade class. The sentences were to tell Mr. Feeser why each student thinks he's awesome. She then was to place them in a big card we'd gotten him for his birthday from all the parents and kids in his class and give it to him Friday. We got the card and she lost a day of getting the notes collected. On Thursday, we were leaving the school and I asked her how she was progressing. "Well, the kids weren't paying attention so I asked Mr. Feeser to step outside for a while," she explained. I tripped a little bit on the parking lot. "You did what?" "I asked Mr. Feeser to step outside for about 15 minutes so we could do something," she said, unconcerned. "You told your teacher to leave his classroom?" "Yeah." "Did he do it?" "Well yeah," she said, finally looking at me as if I was a dork. "So then Sarah and I gave everyone a card and had them write their sentences. We helped some of them with the classification (that's what they called sentence diagramming now.) "Where was Mr. Fesser?".
She shrugged. "I dunno. So anyway, Ryne was NOT paying attention and that made everyone else not pay attention. Mr. Feeser did open the door and tell us to quiet down once." "So did you get them all done?" "Yep." Now, I'm 100 percent sure that Mr. Feeser was standing outside the classroom door the entire time, probably eavesdropping on what was going on. But how cool was that? She kicked her teacher out to get her little chore done. I think middle school is going to be quite the adventure.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Drill Baby Drill!

Long before we actually dated, Jeff and I established that we don't really work well together. I was at work at the Utility Regulatory Commission one day back in the last century. He was at the agency allegedly doing client work. I heard him coming down the hall en route to the Records Room. I smiled, but kept to my task. A few minutes later, wadded up paper comes sailing over the short wall. I ignore it. More paper missiles come my way. I grimace. I look up, prepare to spare him a few minutes. He was prepared for more. Time. It was my time he wanted. "Uh, working here," I say. Dumbfounded, he groused that I was too focused on work when it was break-time. My co-workers agreed. I will confess that I sent him on his way. It's a wonder he ever came back. Years later, I decide to tear out the ingrown pavers that once created a nice little path to our door. I'd been thinking about it for a while. Finally, I decide to act while he was at basketball one summer Sunday morning. He came home to find me with a shovel and a slim idea of what I really wanted to accomplish. The 7,000 or so pavers I'd dug out the ground were scattered around. Dirt was flying and had there been rain, it would have been a muddy slog to the front door. "That's not going to work," he says to my sweat-soaked, dirt-encrusted, blistered self. "Did you do ANY research?? Now, it is true that through the course of this project I would go to get new pavers only to have the hardware store clerk look from me to my Honda del Sol to my stack of pavers about a dozen times before he found a way to ask, without laughing in my face, "Uh, how are you gonna get these home?" (His good efforts didn't last. He laughed and brought friends every time I came back to get more, sparks flying one time when I over loaded and nearly bottomed my little car out in the parking lot.) No. I HAD NOT done my research. I'd just spent hours digging out a path to make our home look a little better. BY MYSELF. With just a shovel and enough obstinance to power the city. Jeff eventually joined in to help me set the pavers and it was after this marital adventure that we agreed we'd never again work together lest the temptation of divorce or murder grow too great for either of us. Thus, our happy marriage was born, struggled and survived. But on Friday, he tells me that his plans for working all weekend had fallen through. "Great! You can work with Ali and me in the Angie's List garden," I say before I really thought it through. His silence was mighty. "Uh. Well. I could," he said. We chatted a bit. The flashbacks came roaring back and I suggested he go car shopping instead. But Saturday dawned and he decided he'd go along for the ride. We'll be done by noon, right? There should be a big crew to finish building the 30 or so raised beds, dig the holes to secure them in the ground and get them in place. We arrived at 9:30. At one point we may have had a dozen people. It was cold. We get started. Last week, we'd started before we got rain and lightninged out. We'd been able to get the wood cut and a few beds built. The hardest work (for me) was hanging on to a gasoline powered auger that we'd turned to after the hand post-hole digger just wasn't going to work. Our garden is built on a plot of green in the heart of the Angie's List campus. It's been home, we're all sure, to parking lots, homes, probably a fall-out bunker. There are rocks and bricks and tons of stuff that laughs when shovels hit it. This auger is a two-person device. You stand across from your new best friend with a gasoline tank a motor similar to a lawn mower between you. You grasp the handles, someone pulls the cord and you hold on for dear life as you have to push down to encourage the auger to bite through the hard Earth. It sounds like the auger and combustion engine does all the work, but trust me. That thing will take you for a ride if you're not careful. There were times I thought I was the Tasmanian Devil spinning around in the dirt. We didn't get all the holes dug before the weather broke, so we had more to do this weekend. Without discussion, Jeff and I went to separate parts of the work space. He joined the driller/builder crew while I headed to the dirt. We dug out some of the early holes before the auger arrived and then it was drill, baby drill. We all took turns on the thing. Everyone toted lumber here and there, placed the beds and helped wherever we were needed. Alison and little girl -- about 4 -- were the only little ones on the job, but they helped out with some toting and fetching. They babysat Diva the dog, too. Having them around was a good influence. Well, at least on me. I kept the cursing to a minimum and tried to set a good example. They picnicked on the healthy snacks I'd brought. It was all good. Alison will be 11 years old in two weeks. She'd been to a friend's sleepover Friday and hadn't gotten to bed until 6 a.m. She came back to us a little grouchy, with wild hair and lipstick covering her lower face. This is just two days after our human sexuality class last week, she and two friends (one her boyfriend!) and their parents and I went to dinner. Ali was telling him a secret when I told her that was rude and should share with the table or keep it to herself. She looked at me, pointing back and forth to Ty and herself, excusing her social lapse saying, "We're in a relationship!" I thought the parents side of the table were going to fall out of our chairs. But we made it through. Later in the wee, we had talks of bodily changes, plans for her birthday and her strong desire (which will go unfulfilled) to get an iPhone. Like me, Jeff's trying to hold on to her somehow -- they've spent some good bonding time in search of that big-girl bicycle and sharing rock-n-roll music. She did admit to him that she likes SOME country music, too. But back to the garden... Jeff and I got along amazingly well. I think he was high on power tools and the chance to play with them with other boys. He and even partnered up on the auger for a little while. It's a hard job, made easier when your height and strength matches up. I had a couple more Tasmanian Devil moments, but we managed to drill a few more holes. Six hours later, the beds were in, the mess cleaned up and the auger was dismantled and on its way back to the hardware of hell from whence it came. I don't know if it was the general spirit of the day, Jeff's electric-powered euphoria or the fact that we were among new friends, but we got through all the chores without even one disagreement. OMG. Could we have become emotionally mature adults? More likely, by the time the auger came between us, we were too exhausted to do much more than hang on and hope for the best. Yeah. We're older, but we're no more mature than we ever were. We're just parents....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On wheels -- but not in a wheelchair ... yet!

Alison is looking at her 11th birthday here in a bit and Jeff really wants to buy her a big girl bike. One with gears and hand brakes that fits her leggy self.

She's had a nice little bike for a couple of years and it's too short for her, has a pedal brake, and until the first bike ride of 2012, had a little white wicker basket, butterflies and noise makers on the wheels.

She thought she'd outgrown the girly little things, so off they came.

So anyway, she and Jeff went bike shopping today and when they got home, he had her try out my bike. She's going to be taller than me, but she's not quite there yet. She is 4-feet 11-inches to my 5-4.

She did a great job with it. It's a tiny bit too big for her, but it's next progression. The sad fact is that one day my bike will be too short for her. But she was living large on her practice runs.

So as we were finishing up dinner tonight, Jeff suggested a bike ride to Bric's instead of her standard vanilla cone at home. She readily agreed and opined that she could ride my bike.

I smiled and said, "Uh, and how will I get there?"

She looked at me and said, "Mom, there's really nothing you will have there, is there?"

I said, "I AM going with you."

"Oh." she said, resigning herself to her little bike.

"Hey! How about I roller blade and you guys ride?" I suggest, thinking that I'm not just a cool mom, I'm an unselfish and creative mom.

She frowned. "YOU know how to rollerblade?"

"Sure," I said.

"I don't think this is a good idea," she said, following me around like a little hen as I unearth the roller blades, which came from the previous millenium.

Now, it's true I haven't had my roller blades on in, oh, at least a decade. They've been living in the garage. While I didn't let on, I WAS a little concerned that I could:

a.)get upright
b.) stay upright and
c.) make it the mile and back to the ice-cream shop.

I had, you see, already ridden my bike and worked out for more than an hour that morning. Then, I'd spent a few hours planting some lilacs, relocating some flox and weeding the last of the flower beds. I mowed the back yard and relocated some bricks and rocks that border the flower beds.

I had worked out more than enough. But there was no way I was wimping out now. I got the roller blades out, shook out the decade of whatever had crawled or fallen in there and said prayer of thanks that I wasn't squishing any mice babies when I crammed my feet inside the little booties.

I wondered if the wheels would even turn. I got up and windmilled down the driveway, Alison trailing my every move. "Are you sure about this?" she inquired.

Still a bit wobbly but recalling the basic balancing moves, "I panted, "Why are you so worried about this, Alison?"

"Well, I have known you for ALMOST 11 years now and I have NEVER seen you on roller blades. I don't want you to fall down and get hurt," she fretted.

I told her to get on her bike. I was heading north and she and her dad could catch me.

"Are you sure you can go uphill?" she called.

I get up the hill and start north on the Monon with her at my heels. We get on our way and damned if Worry Wart No. 2 didn't come by carrying my bicycle helmet. I put it on and shooed him to catch up with Ali.

We get to the ice cream store. I go to Brics with them, but the diet selection is non-existent. So I usually wait until I get home to have my ice cream on these trips.

I tell them to go in and I'd snag a table. "Bring me something chocolate. Full fat if you have to, I don't care," I said.

Jeff almost fell down.

Ali had her standard vanilla in a cake cone. Jeff had some new concoction of chocolate-covered pretzels in vanilla ice cream in a pretzel cone. I do not approve of salt in ice cream. And the only thing I want in my chocolate is more chocoalate.

He did not disappoint, and it was goooood.

I'm going to roller blade more often.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Of Sex and Shamrocks

Back when we learned that Alison would have a sexuality lesson during her 5th grade year, Jeff and I offered to talk with her beforehand. We could do it at home, just the three of us, or just she and I. Whatever she wanted.

She looked me dead in the eyes and declined, saying, "Look. I only want to have to learn that stuff once."

Well, once is upon us.

We had actually braced ourselves for the lecture yesterday. Alison and I were going to attend. A parent is required. Two are optional. We opted for me, and Alison was a little worried. "Madison says they're going to show us how to make a baby!" she reported on Monday.

On Tuesday, she "OMG, Mom. We had better not have to sit in the same room with the boys. I do NOT want to have look at their junk getting hair on it, and I'm pretty sure they don't want that either."

On Wednesday, I didn't work out and pick her up as I generally do: in sweaty sweats and sneakers. I had on slacks and a sweater set, fully prepared to face down the sex teachers. The lecture starts at 6:30 so we'd planned a quick snack and then something fun after it ended at 8. I was sure I'd need a drink. I'm pretty sure Ali was thinking ice cream.

Turns out we would have been a week early had we gone, a fact we learned before we actually drove over to the off-site sex center. Frustrated, Alison said, "Let's just go now and get it over with."

Alas, they don't teach sex 24/7, so we have another week to wait. In the interim, I've been informed that it's not a dressy affair.

"Can you just wear a Billy Currington tee-shirt and jeans? None of the other moms will be fancy," she asked.

I agreed. I really do want to make her as comfortable as possible. We haven't decided yet if I get to sit WITH her or if I'll be shunted to the back row. That'll be determined on-site, after she gets the lay of the land. For sure, neither of us will be anywhere near anyone with different body parts, hairy or bald. That much is clear.

So last night, ran an errand that Jeff would have done while Ali and were off being educated. That left he and Ali to take a walk. (It was chilly. I was happy to be in the car with a heater and a radio.) They took a small ball, as is their good weather walking habit, to entertain themselves with along the way.

Alison has recently been watching a lot of the aptly named, "Annoying Orange" online show that features animated fruit who take part in highly annoying and often inappropriate antics. One of the recent episodes that has gotten repeat play features a leprechaun whose delicate parts are abused. "Oooh! Me Shamrocks!" he'll exclaim, sending Alison into giggle fits that last for days.

During the walk, Jeff got smacked with an unexpected bounce. So of course, he doubled over and cried out, "Oooh! me Shamrocks!"

Alison doubled over too. But in laughter. Minutes later, she, too, fell victim to an errant bounce.

"Oooh! Me Shamrocks!" she exclaimed.

"Alison, you don't have any shamrocks," retorts her father.

She immediately doubled over again. "Ooh! Me pot of gold!"

I'm not sure she needs that sex class...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hot Chocolate

So the other day, my good friend Kirsten gave me a bag of chocolates, which I've been studiously ignoring for a week.

Alison, however, asked for two of them. No, she didn't want to eat them. She's still firmly in the "anti-chocolate club." (I don't understand it either.)

But she wanted to take them to school. I thought she wanted to give them to her friend, Ty, who like most normal people, does love chocolate. When I picked her up, I asked her how he liked them.

"Oh, I didn't give them to Ty. I raffled them off at my lunch table."

I almost stopped the car. At Christ the King, the kids aren't allowed to trade food. If someone forgets his or her lunch, the kids are allowed to volunteer stuff they don't want from their own lunch to the hungry kid, but otherwise, it's keep your lunch to yourself.

"You did what?" I asked, bracing myself for the conduct cut to come.

"I raffled them. I had each of the girls give me stuff from their lunch for a chance to win them," she said. "Madison won."

I forget what all she got, but it involved Skittles and hard candy, I think. She said she even convinced Madison to shave off parts of the truffles to share with the other two girls at her table.

"Why didn't you just share them with everyone to begin with?" I asked. I didn't have to look in the rear-view mirror to see the eye-roll. Her amazement at my naivete filled the interior of the car like one of her father's flatulent episodes.

"Duh. You get more stuff if you raffle."

I fear my little liberal is turning Republican. Please send help. I think there's time to save her.

PS: The photo today is of Jeff wearing a tee-shirt Alison made when she was about 2and still a staunch Democrat. See how her little green handprints have grown? She'll be 11 in a few weeks. I'm still liking her even more with every year. I might still like her if she changes political affiliation, but I'm going to try to get her back to my side before it comes to that.

I don't know if you've ever noticed, but Easter is a very chocolate holiday. It's hard to find stuff for Alison. Her basket contained some Peeps, (not that her braces really allow her to have them) a couple of iTunes gift cards, jelly beans and a musical card, along with a little cash hidden in some plastic eggs.

She forked over her folding paper to settle a prior iTunes debt with me, and later in the day, she helped Jeff with our annual Indians ticket distribution to earn more money, shaving off one week of her iPad debt to her father. She's been paying him off for her portion of the Christmas gift with her allowance. (This, of course led to her indebtedness to me.)

She has two more months to go to pay off her iPad. She's been on the installment plan since the morning of December 25. Her birthday will get her a little more booty, so don't feel bad for her. Come to think of it, her grandfather sent her a 10-spot with her Easter card. She didn't volunteer to pay me back until Jeff reminded us of it this morning. I haven't seen that ten-dollar bill since.

Ooooh. She IS a Republican.