Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There's Brave and there's brave.

So we were away for the weekend and I didn't take any pictures. It was a great weekend. We were at lake house with friends and Alison spent more time in the water than anywhere else.

Jet skis, tubing, and just hanging out in the lake with her two new friends was a great way to enjoy the start of summer.

But before we got wet, we went to see the movie, Brave. It's a great movie and you should go see it. Jeff's hoping I get a girl's night out soon so he can take Ali back to it.

I'll try not to spoil the whole movie for you, but there's one scene when Merida, the young heroine, is super frustrated with her mother, who is insisting that it's time to give up her tomboy ways and find a boy to marry so she can become the next queen.

Merida has no interest and ultimately seeks out a way to escape her fate. She inadvertently ends up cursing her mother instead, which, of course will change both their fates.

I have to insert here that I am beyond thrilled to see the Disney folks finally letting a mother survive a fairy tale movie, albeit in a more hairy form that anyone would like. I've long thought Walt Disney had mommy issues. Bet you can't name three Disney films that focus on a girl whose mother has not met some horrible end.

I almost didn't make it through the first 10 minutes of Nemo. Remember the barracuda and Nemo's mom?  Why is it always the Mom they off?! It's just not right.

Anyway, Merida turns her mom into a bear. It's dead quiet in the theater and Alison turns to me, grabs my arm and blurts out, "I don't care how mad I get at YOU, Mom. I won't just turn you into a bear. I'll talk to you first!"

Bless her little heart. I hope she remembers that in a few years. I won't make her marry anyone but I'm sure we'll find ourselves at opposite ends of something. For now, I'm her hair stylist and lunch maker, so she needs me.

She asked me to straighten her locks again this week. "Could you make it so my bangs are curved in?" she said. "That just made me look adorable."

Yeah, I might need to teach her what modesty means.

She DID look adorable with her sleek, straight hair. But I have to admit that I like her looking a bit more like Merida. And I'm not at all ready for her to think about a steady boyfriend.

Maybe when that day comes, I can turn HER into a bear...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Angels, Demons and Fathers Day

So the tiramisu and the whole Fathers Day deal is in the bag and I'm not ashamed to say it was a home run. At least for me.  Alison is in the doghouse a bit.

When we were shopping for Jenna's birthday gifts, she'd run across these $28 shoes she wanted at Claire's. I reminded her that we we shopping for Jenna and asked if she had $28 on her.

Yes, she knew Jenna was the priority and no, she didn't have $28. But she was sure she had some cash in her room she'd been hoarding in the form of coins.  I had inside information that in lieu of a gift bag, Amy was going to give the girls shopping money.  (Best idea in the history of birthday parties, btw.) So I said if she could come up with $10, I was sure she'd be able to get the shoes before the weekend was over.

So we bought Jenna a couple pairs of earrings. But wait! It was buy two get one free. Surely we'd be irresponsible not to get a third. For Alison.

Then it was off to the hot-store-of-the-moment: Justice. It's always 40 percent off there. But wait! The perky sales girl asked if we were on their mailing list or had their coupons in hand. It was ANOTHER 40 percent off of certain merchandise. At 80 percent off, we'd be irresponsible not to get an outfit for Alison, too. Right?

Ugh. Yes, these were conversations I had in my head and agreed to -- all knowing she'd be bringing home a set of new shoes, too. (This is why the captain thinks I'm a pushover. But still: free and 80 percent off? That's hard to beat.)

So we get home. She rifles through her room and sure enough comes up with $12 in coins she's been squirreling away.  This is separate from her actual bank savings account and the heart-shaped tin where she's keeping her Christmas, folding money.

For Jeff's gift, we'd gone to the Apple store for a gift card. He'd been very clear that the computer he's been eyeing to replace our 10-year-old laptop or his nearly as old PC was too expensive to qualify for a Fathers Day gift. So we got him a card to help pay for the whole thing later. Alison had hidden it in a real apple, tied with string. 

At the store, I had her tell the clerk what we wanted and how much.

"Wow. You can do that much?" she asked me. I offer to let her chip in. "It's not like he's my father," you know, I say. She informs me that she's  comfortable with me carrying the freight.

On Saturday we go to the bank. She makes her transaction and gets $11.50 back. "Um. excuse me, " she says in her best grown-up voice to the clerk, without even checking with me. "But shouldn't I get $12?"

The clerk checks.  She, the woman paid to count coins for a living, is sure she's even. I suggest Ali go back to the car to see if she remembered each of the rolls of coins she'd rolled so painstakingly the night before. She skips out and comes back to fork over the forgotten pennies. Twelve dollars even.

I send her off with the birthday girls, letting Amer and Aunt La in on the idea that Amer was going to subsidize the shoes. It's OK, I said. She can buy THE SHOES. Just the shoes. That was our deal.

When I pick her up, I learn she's asked Ginny (Amy's mother and a beloved member of our extended family) to "float" her $3. To be clear, Alison was desperately seeking Amy to ask for the loan but Amy was busy and Ginny stepped in. And floated her $3 to buy the earrings she just couldn't resist. Yes. On top of the shoes.

The earrings were a set of one devil and one angel. Could that be more freaking appropriate?

Seconds after she presented her "apple" to her father, she takes me aside and whispers: "What did YOU get him?"

I have a terrible. TERRIBLE. habit of floating Alison money. Sometimes I remember to get it back. Sometimes I don't. But this one is totally on me.  But I do not ever expect her to ask for this floating privilege from anyone else. Maybe Dad. He almost always negotiates some high interest and makes her repay him.

So on the way home, we talk about this issue and I tell her that she's going to have to forfeit her entire $5 allowance to me next week to make up for the $3 float and in punishment for going beyond her agreement. Thirty dollars on shoes! After a new outfit and new earrings!!!!!!  Oh. I was not happy.

So a time goes by. She's not sulking but she's quiet. I ask her what the best part of the birthday weekend was. "Well. It wasn't when my mother didn't trust me not to ask people for money," she said.

"But you DID ask people for money!" I exclaim.

"Well," she starts, then sighs. "Yeah. I guess."

I tell her that I don't mean to be too hard on her and that I know the Tokashes are special people to us and I understand why she'd feel comfortable asking them to float her. They're family. We love them and we know they love us.

So I give her an example of a situation where an older girl was (in my assessment) not respectful or loving or nice to her mother and that my lectures and rules were designed to keep her from turning into an ungrateful, selfish and hateful teenager.  She reflected on that a bit and agreed that she could live with the terms and understood the deal

Flash forward to Fathers Day dinner. We've fed and feted Dad. She's clearing the table in anticipation of surprising him with his tiramisu. I fill him, the financial (and other) disciplinarian, telling him that among my discussions with her was that part of my bringing down the hammer was part of my deal with Dad to co-parent on helping her learn about responsibility, personal and financial.  I sit back and wait for the reaction.

He is concerned with her spending spree, as I expected. But he says, "I think you think you've just gotten her out of a lecture from me and I'm not so sure you've succeeded. "

I sigh. I talk a bit more. She brings out the tiramisu and a wineglass of milk for him. He and I continue enjoying the amazingly complex $6  (but 89 point-rated) wine we're trying out.  He sighs.

"You know, this might be the best Fathers Day ever," he said. "You know I love good food. You know I want to buy a new computer. You guys worked really hard to make this dinner, to make the tiramisu and to put together my gift. You worked really, really hard to make this a really special day. Thank you."

"Yes, I did!" Alison agreed, as she cleared the last of the dishes.

I close my eyes. Jeff  takes a bite of his home-made tiramisu. He sips his wine. He looks at her as she disappears into the house.

"The next lesson I'm going to teach her," he said. "is modesty."

If a tree falls in a front yard, will it ever die? (and other tales from Team Reed)

Jeff had to work this morning so our Fathers Day hasn't really been celebrated yet. But we've had plenty of time to plot and plan. Which was good because it's been a killer week.

Alison had two camps this week. One that went from 9 to noon and then she finished out at her normal camp. Both are north of Downtown where both Jeff and I toil during the work week.

Normally, he'll drop her at her camp and I do pickup. The transition took it's toll on our desk time, but it worked out. Ultimately.

We got lucky midweek to get to snag Jenna for a couple of sleepovers. One was planned to help Amer who was out of town. The other I sort of sneaked. It's like a national holiday around here when we get Jenna. Everyone loves having her so we try every chance we get.

We had big fun with the top down. We got pizza and a RedBox movie and then spent some time in Kroger ruminating over what lunch should be the next day. We settled on popcorn chicken (ketchup for Jen; bbq sauce for Ali), Oreos, applesauce, Gushers, Quakers (Jen) and Ruffles (Ali) and got it all assembled. It was bedtime before Jenna remember for us that it was a hotdog cookout the next day and they didn't need lunch at all.

Turned out the cookout wasn't very good and they were happy they had alternatives.

The next night, the girls raided all my closets and swished around the house in dresses and heels before deciding they needed to switch hairstyles. So I straightened one and curled the other. Jenna's hair is stick straight and I knew was going to normalize by morning.

I was going in extra early to make up some time, so I crept downstairs at dawn and started putting hot curlers in the side of the head I could get at. She woke up about 15 minutes in and turned over for me. I gave Ali's an extra session with the flat iron and left them to their own devices.

I didn't get to work quite as early as I'd wanted but it was worth it. At one point I was telling them about a road rage incident my friend Niki had reported on and Jenna said, "Have you ever ridden with Aunt La?" It was hysterical. Lynda (aka Aunt La) will one day have her window down and someone is going to actually hear her expletives and anger that spews pretty much from the time she leaves her driveway and encounters other traffic until she parks her car.

Jenna was pretty sure Aunt La wouldn't have celebrated her road rage with her children (as recounted in Niki's story. "Every time, she says, "sorry Jenna," reports Jenna.

Tom decided to pick them up early from camp on Friday and it turned out that Alison went straight from her first camp to his car and their neighborhood pool where they spend 4 straight hours.

All of this fun and silliness occurred before Saturday, Jenna's 11th birthday/sleepover/pool party extravaganza. But it was perfect timing because after her delight with her curls, we added her own set of hot rollers to her gift basket

I picked Ali up this morning. Part of Jenna's surprise was a trip to Claire's to get her ears pierced and Alison ended up with a new pair of shoes that look like Chuck Taylors but lace up her leg like boots. She is over the moon for them. I think Aunt La is hoping to get her own pair when her birthday rolls around...

Once we got home, we took advantage of Jeff's absence to make him tiramisu, his favorite dessert. Alison had seen a cupcake version but we decided it would be better to do the real thing and make it look like the cupcake.

 I have long eschewed the need for a hand mixer because I don't bake that much and I can handle mixing cake batter by hand. Did you know that the key to tiramisu is to whip egg whites into a mountain?

Neither did I.

I know we made it before, but we had to have missed this step. It better be worth it. I had sworn off working out on Sunday because my second attempt to kill that sweet gum tree with ax and shovel had done a number on my back.

After an hour or so, I gave up on getting the stump and big roots out of the ground, but I had severed their connection in a few places, and I did manage to unearth another few feet of arm-sized chunks of root. I'm sure the neighbors wonder why I'm taking the ax to the yard, but I'll get that tree if it's the last thing I do.

So my back hurts from wrenching it on ax swing number 7,987 or so, and my right arm feels like it should look like one of Popeye's arms after beating the hell out of the eggs.  Alison did a little bit, but she quickly opted for other tasks once she realized what we had to accomplish.

I tried to switch off whisking with my left hand,  but I'm a rightie and I just didn't get the speed I needed. There for a while I was hallucinating with the pain of my repetitive one-hand mixing and I thought: "Man, I need Jeph Slaughter."

I won't spell out why Jeph would be great at beating egg whites. But he would. And now I'm wondering why his arms aren't lopsided. He might be ambidextrous. But I digress.

We have the dessert done. Next up is the grill, the home-made mashed potatoes (Ali's job) and the corn on the cob. We have fancy bread. I'll think of something green.

I'm thinking sweet gum leaves and roots might make a good salad...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Of Sweet Gum Trees and Ghosts

So one of my neighbors had a paranormal investigation team out the other day. Seriously. I know this not because I'm Mrs. Kravitz but because I was on my front porch enjoying the early summer evening when the team came over to say hello and ask if I'd noticed any ethereal activity. I haven't. But if there were paranormal activity at my house, I'm blaming the sweet gum tree we thought we'd taken down a couple of years ago. It was a fine tree, and I admit that I occasionally feel guilty about it, but the burrs that it dropped seemed to be multiplying every year, and if you've ever stepped on a sweet gum ball with bare feet, well let me tell you: it ain't sweet. And whoever littered our neighborhood with them has a lot to answer for. We had only the one and it was in the front yard. Since it was relocated (to our fireplace and wood pile) my front yard has blossomed with pretty flowers as the sun can actually reach them now and we can cavort barefoot without fear of our feet coming up bloody. But the root system of that tree is immense! I am constantly pulling up little baby sweet gum sprouts. It's like whack-a-mole but not as fun. They're sneaky little bastards, too. They hide in my yet-to-bloom plants, blending their sharp, green leaves with the softer, rounder greens of the flowers. Or they'll hide under a bush, hoping I won't discover them. Yesterday I got out a sharp shovel, determined to dig up the roots. "How hard could this be? The tree's been gone for years!" I ended up having to get the axe, too. I'm sure the neighbors were thinking I'd gone off the deep end as I hacked away at the ground. At one point, I think I was hacking at the remains of the stump. It was either that or a huge hub where the roots departed for their network under the lawn. I eventually got up about six feet of roots, some of them as big around as my arm, and I left a big mark on the stump. I have new respect for lumberjacks. Swinging an axe is hard! It was quite the wrestling match, and I'm afraid it's just Round One. I'm fairly certain I can take the thing down, finally, as long as it stays within the physical realm. But if it goes metaphysical, I might be toast. Wish me luck. In other news, Alison has decided to switch from cookies to cupcakes. She was responding to a Duncan Hines TV commercial advertising flavor packets you use with vanilla cake frosting to get a whole host of other flavors from one can. So we go off to the store, and I sent her to the cake aisle while I did other things. I didn't notice until we got home that while she'd caved to the marketing genius of DH, she'd bought Kroger brand supplies for the mix and frosting. I inquired as to why. "Well, I looked at the prices for Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines and I could save a lot of money with the Kroger brand. And it was a dollar a can on the icing!" she reported. What of the risk as to quality. "Mom. It's Kroger brand. I bet it's good. But I guess we'll find out!" I love that girl. Oh sure, she'll waste a bit of money with her wild decorations. Last time I checked on her, she had her candy stash (there's stuff in there from three Halloweens ago) and was decorating her little miniature cupcakes with everything from Red Hots to Nerds to marshmallows to Japanese tiny cookies and mint leaves. She was going to use sugar cubes but I did convince her that was a step too far. She has a grapefruit out. I'm hoping she forgets that one. I hope the kids at camp like these things. I've already had three. Like the sweet gum tree, there's not room enough for the two of us on my current astral plane.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The long and winding road

or, Part Doh! On the way home, we saw a sign that said, "Free Dirt" which caused Jenna to giggle in the extreme. "Free dirt? Who wants dirt?" she said. "My mom likes to garden and sometimes she actually PAYS for dirt, so I think she would like free dirt," Alison said, thoughtfully. "Why wouldn't she just go to Walmart. It's just, like, $5, isn't it?" Jenna asked. "Yeah. But why pay $5 for dirt if you can have free dirt? I think free dirt is better than $5 dirt," argued my bargain shopper. "But maybe the $5 dirt is better dirt than free dirt," Jenna reason. "Hmmm. Maybe. But I think I still like free dirt," comes the reply. Fast forward. Literally. We're in the car. Their hair is flying. Their hands are up and they are squealing. "Hey, Ali. When you get home do you want to play a game?" "Sure." "Let's play vet." "Um. OK. But who has to be the animal?" Giggle. "We'll use your stuffed animals!" "Oh, then yeah!" "Do you want to be the assistant or the vet?" "I'll be the assistant." "Lucky! You get the easy part. The vet has to hold the animals down." I almost took the long way home just to prolong the conversation.

The long road home

Alison goes to her summer day camp this year and she'll start out her adventure with Jenna. We decided to get an early start by meeting up with Team Tokash at Huddles, a frozen yogurt shop that is sort of half-way between our houses along the Monon Trail. The Tokashes come west. We go north. It's about a four-mile trek, so easily doable. As we left, I practiced a little speech I was going to give to Jenna. I wanted her to pledge to me that there would be no spraining or breaking of bones, no blood and no vomit this time. If she didn't agree to my terms, I was going to send her pedaling home. (Like that would have really happened...) She apparently heard my vibe, though, and crashed, instead, just a few blocks from her house along 86th Street. Thankfully, Drew was along, and he stayed with Jenna while Amer made a stop at the local Walgreens for medical supplies. We'd gotten the message of the delay and Alison had climbed a tree to look for the wounded party.
At this point we didn't know for sure who had fallen, but we had a pretty good idea. Drew is an accomplished ice skater and it was too early for Amy to be drinking so we were sure they'd stayed upright. Sure enough, it was Jenna who arrived bloody but bandaged, and Huddles cures all ills. So after a chat between the moms and a little catching up with Drew, my little part of three started off home. I took us all afternoon to get down the trail because Ali and Jen had more muscle power in their jaws than their lower extremities. They also had to stop to, "Aw!" at the 7.6 million dogs that parade along the Monon Trail, discuss their love life (interrupted by the summer for one of them because "long distance relationships just never work out.") "Oh! look at the poodle!"
"Aw, it's a Scottie. It's so cute!" Halfway home, we had to stop for a breather to examine the river. And try to spit at specific spots below (them, not me) and discuss "The Avengers." "Hey, Ali, Do you ever wonder why, when the Incredible Hulk gets bigger, his shirts rips off but his pants stay on?" "No. But I'm glad they do." "I know, right!" "Oh, look at the doggie! It's so cute!" Back on the bikes, approaching the Broad Ripple Ice Cream Store. "Hey Mom, can we stop at Brics? "You just had Huddles." "Oh yeah." We get through Broad Ripple. "Aw! Look at the chocolate lab!" They stop to pet the dog, who turns out to be named Charlie. "Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!" "Right. That's how we named him." "That's so much better than Augustus (Gloop.)" "I know, right?!" Back on the bikes. We turn the corner to the house. "Look, Miss Cheryl! No crashes!" "Hurrah! Let's keep it that way," I say. "Hey, who's at your house?" "That's our new car." "Cool! Have you got to ride in it?" "Yeah. It's fun. You put the top down and go real fast, but it's safe and it whips your hair!" It WAS a long ride home. But it was a great time. I love listening to them. And, as Alison reminded me, at a slower speed, you don't miss the cute little chipmunks or the pretty birds. You also don't whip your hair. I'm about to take them on an errand run with me, so we'll take care of that. Today, there's time enough for both.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fun with duct tape - no I haven't yet read 50 Shades of Grey

So when we remodeled the house to open up the kitchen 11 years ago, we found these fun bar stools. I forget where it was but there were three of them and they were being discontinued. I thought we should buy them all. Jeff thought we only had room for two. I still believe we should have bought three. But we didn't. We've had good luck with the chairs over the years. Oh sure, the random toddler ignored my advice and toppled from them from time to time, but there were no serious injuries. Except to the seats. Over the years, they each had a few tears and rubbed off places. From time to time, I'd think about getting them re-upholstered. Usually after I saw something fantastic project my friend Lesley had done and posted on her Design File Blog. But life would intervene and I'd just push them in thinking about whether to just buy three new ones. Then, while making a midnight run to Target for some last-minute school need, I passed by a display of duct tape. Yeah. Duct tape. It really is the best thing ever.
The display was offering fun designs that you are supposed to use to make a purse. Like that's going to happen at my house... I back pedal, snatch the roll of three up and get home. I know Jeff is either going to love it or hate it. He loved it so much he actually did the work! Voila. I present our DIY project. It takes a steady hand and patience. Which is why I got Ali through her homework and into bed as he did the chairs. Now, if we could just figure out how to make the kitchen outlet play nice with the new microwave.... Oh yeah. We're not just on a spending spree. This spree is on steroids. Admittedly, the stuff we're getting is replacing items older than our marriage but still. It seems excessive. But I think we might be the last person on the planet with a dishwasher that has buttons you push in like a cassette tape deck. And the microwave was seriously ancient. If only duct tape could fix appliances...