Sunday, July 29, 2012

Good morning campers!

We got her back! And she hasn't tried to escape once since leaving the utopia that is Flat Rock River Camp.
It's just a bit more than 60 minutes from the camp to our driveway. We talked nonstop for at least 45 minutes, took a couple of breaths and went back in. Among the best tidbits:
"Mom, when we get home, can I have Ramen for lunch or can we stop at Taco Bell? I have had nothing but home-made food for an entire week. I want something that comes from a package."
"So there was this boy who came up to me and touched my hair and said "It's so sexy." (Alison says he was 18 and among the Spanish contingent, which had departed for their own damn country before we arrived. Which was good timing.)
"Did you dance with this boy at the dance?"
I asked, outraged, prepared to find out if she came within a centimeter after this exchange.
"No! Geeze Mom. It was sooooo embarrasing," she said.
(I'm shaving her head before she goes back next year.)
There were no days of having to eat fruit and salad all day, though apparently Jenna had beans every day. Each cabin has a special sound they use to round up the inhabitants in a big group. The Osage cabin's sound was the "Caw! Caw!" of a crow until Miss Tokash, the delicate flower of the group, repeatedly emitted odor.
"Jenna was a gas tank," Alison reported. "She farted every day."
The cabin call quickly became "Fart!"
Everyone had a great time. Alison got distracte one day, put on her cowboy boots but forgot to get dressed so she went rope jumping in her pjs and boots.
This was the first year for Alison to have more than one friend at the camp going in. Helen has gone every year, but this year they weren't in the same cabin. Alex and Hannnah went, as well, but were also in other cabins and they were in different activities. So they got to see each other at meals and the occasional joint event. >br /> Jenna and Ali were joined at the hip, as you might expect, and they're already signed up to return. Drew's going to go, and we're hoping it will be another full contingent. It's not that we don't want to meet new friends, but we're happy with the friends they have. Newcomers will require vetting...
It's really a great camp. While I struggle a bit with the idea of Alison growing up at warp speed, It's a wonderful experience for everyone. Amy and I are trying to find a way to get to go ourselves. You can see photos at Jeff and I acted like we were on vacation. We drank more champagne and wine and dined out more than we probably have done all year. We stayed out way too late on a school night drinking more wine that we should have with John and Lisa; we saw Cheryl Gonzalez live and in the flesh for the first time in too long; and we ended the week with Team Beache and a three-hour dinner in Broad Ripple.
We ended the weekend last night with a great family outing in Columbus where we got to see cousins and siblings and got schooled (again) by Aunt Shirley and her rapier wit. At one point I remarked that even on the phone, using only silence and vibrations, Aunt Shirley can let you know she thinks you're a dumbass.
"Hmmm. You must have more experience with being a dumbass," was my sister's rejoinder.
It's tough crowd, my family. But I'll keep 'em.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Alison is counting the minutes until she's back at Flatrock River Y Camp -- where she'll be bunking with a few of her oldest and newest friends, free from her parents and firmly in control of her destiny for 7 long days and nights.

We can email and writer her letters, but short of an emergency, she can't reach out to us. She's just fine with that. I, however, am betwixt and between.

She's 11 now, listening to Maroon 5 and rappers, hoping for a pair of shorty-shorts and wishing she needed a bra. All I can see is her going off to college thousands of miles away where she'll drink and experiment with boys with no thought at all of me. Or, gak!, she'll actually complain about her out-of-touch mother who she can't relate to.
You laugh, but I truly have long moments of panic over those days that are coming. I hear them in the distance like a midnight train riding country rails straight to my door
I can fret for days over her happiness level, what the sassy girls are school are doing to her, if she has enough food in her lunch and whether she'll be safe at whatever sport or activity she's involved in.
I try to hide my obsessive worry, and I think I do a fairly good job of it -- at least from her perspective. She knows I worry, but as a general rule, she's off finding pictures of cats or learning a new cupcake trick, and playing video games or being silly with her friends.

I don't remember much interaction with my mother or feeling like she had anything but random thoughts of me. Of course she had seven kids, a Pentecostal church and an Avon route to deal with. I should forgive her for her scant attention. Probably I will one day.
I wonder what's worse: benign neglect or hidden worry? Does every mother worry this much? Why can't I just be one of those people who don't worry about what's coming next? They seem to live perfectly happy lives and bad stuff doesn't happen to them very often. Maybe this week I'll figure out how to do that.
Right now I'm focused on pushing back the worry over whether Alison will fall of her horse at camp and have to be Lifelined to Indianapolis and then live life from a wheelchair. Or fall off the Alpine Tower and suffer the same fate, or worse. Or get bitten by an exotic snake that's escaped the local wackjob's farm and slithered off in search of fresh meat. Or bring home bed bugs. Or fall in love. Or smoke pot.
The possibilities are endless. I'll worry about most of them. Jeff's going to have to ply me with lots of champagne this week. Or I'll just work a lot. Maybe both.
In my head, I know my worrying will likely be for naught. She will have big fun. Jenna is going to be with her for the first time so the worst thing that will likely happen is they'll get in trouble for giggling too long after lights out. And she'll have Helen and Hannah and Alex on the campgrounds, too. Plus all the well-trained, well supervised staff. It's a safe place. A good place. I really shouldn't worry at all.
Alison's worst day at Flat Rock was the day they served biscuits and gray for breakfast (she hates biscuits and gravy so she had an apple and a bananna instead); PBandJ for lunch (she hates peanut butter so she had salad instead); and chicken pot pie for dinner (she hates chicken pot pie so she had salad again.)
"Ugh. It was the healthiest day of my life. It was AWFUL!" she reported.
Uh-oh. It's time to go. I'm going to drive slow...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's good to have friends

Yesterday at work, I was a sweaty mess, climbing the stairs to my office when I ran into my CEO.
"Hey," he said. "Your friend John Gregg says to tell you, 'hi.' Said he's a friend of yours."
I smiled. Bill and I do not share a political tent, but we have a lot in common and he is actually one of my favorite Republicans. We've had a few discussions about the upcoming gubernatorial race. We each worked with governors (opposite parties of course) and we have some interest in the race.
"John is my friend," I admitted, happy that he'd taken time to let the opposition know of our connection.
And I've been thinking about John Gregg ever since. I've been on a political sabbatical for a while and while I'm happy to share my opinion on, OK, on any subject that comes along, I've been publicly quiet lately when it comes to politics.
But I do like John. He is my friend even though we have different viewpoints on some things that are very important to me. For example:
I wish he supported gay rights as strongly and comprehensively as I do. I wish we agreed on reproductive rights. I wish he agreed with me that the 2nd amendment didn't foresee the invention of assault weapons that would be used by civilians to settle scores and that maybe, just maybe, a little work to control the wackjobs is in order.
But he's a good man. An honest man. And I give him credit for not pretending to be an advocate for the rights I want but which he disagrees with just to get my vote. And I like it that he doesn't assume he has my vote just because we grew up in the same general neighborhood, have shared a few laughs over the years and have a D attached to our political psyches.
He and I had a conversation a while ago about reproductive rights. He knows my position and he could have taken the opportunity to soft-sell me or try to weasel around it.
He didn't. And a couple months later, I ran into him at an annual Planned Parenthood event. Did his appearance mean he was pandering to my ilk? Nope. To me, it meant he was willing to be seen with a crowd he's not in lockstep with and that he just might listen instead of acting blindly.
John cares about Indiana. He cares about helping people when they need it. He was always, always nice to my father. He understand the political process in its reality and can work effectively within it. He's way smarter than he wants you to know. And he's hilarious.
Personally, I want a governor who can sit down with anyone and have a good time. He isn't really just a good ol' boy from Sandborn anymore but he he isn't so far removed from it that he has forgotten what rural Indiana needs. He's seen enough of the other side of the state to know what the urban areas need, as well.
A hundred years ago I was working in state government and at a meeting with a bunch of high-ranking, well-respected, smart and tough leaders. We were focused on doing great things, of course, and somehow at some point someone invoked the name of the currently sitting president of the United States, George Bush. Something was said about Mr. Bush being our president.
"He's not my president. My president is Jeb Bartlett," muttered one my colleagues.
We all laughed ruefully because who wouldn't want a fictional character who leant our way and could solve national crises in 60 minutes once a week? Jeb Bartlett was great fiction. But he was fiction. No candidate is all things to every voter. Nor should he or she be. Anyone who believe a candidate can fix all the ills of the country as soon as he -- hopefully she one day -- steps into office is just fooling themselves.
The best we can hope for is an honest person who wants to do what's best for everyone as often as he or she can. And who will actually work hard to do more good than bad.
John and I disagree on some points. Important points. But he's for Indiana through and through and he's my friend. So he can't be all bad.... :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

High stakes at summer camp

On the way home from their summer day camp, Alison, Alex and Hannah were updating each other on how they spent their day. Hannah, nearly an adult, is in the teen camp. Alex and Hannah took Safe Sitter this week. All three are now graduates and fully trained in the art of sitting with babies. But that's not where their education has ended. "Alex and I were playing cards and he bet half his life he could beat me, and then he bet his other half  that he could beat me. Now I own him." "What were you playing," Hannah inquired. "BS." "I was playing that once with my grandma and I didn't think it was appropriate so I told her it was called Tuna Fish," Hannah said. You could feel the eye rolls and gestures from the back seat as the card sharks tried to pass off the name of the game without getting into trouble. "It's called Baloney Sandwich," Alison volunteered. Sounded like BS to me, but I didn't issue any punishments. I was too busy thinking up ways to use Alex. I mean if Alison owns him, surely we can make him do chores or something. I mentioned the high stakes game to Jeff as Alison, Alex and I were leaving an Indianapolis Indians' game last night. He's also pondering what we might be able to do with Alison's newest acquisition. Jeff asked if maybe Alex might like to gamble with him. Proving that bluffing is not his forte, Alex, demurred. "Alison already owns me," he said. BS, by the way, is a game where you divvy up the deck and then try to get rid of all your cards by successively offering up what you have in aces, ones, twos, etc... If you don't have any of the number that you're on, you still have to contribute. Should someone call you on your BS, you have to pick up all the cards save the ace of spades that gets things started. I am the BS winner in the two games we played this morning here at Chez Reed. In this house, that's saying something.

Monday, July 9, 2012

At all cost: protect the taco

I woke up at 4 a.m. today realizing in a panic that I'd forgotten my sister-in-law's birthday. I love my SIL. Despite her height and legs that go on for weeks, she's great. She's good to my kid. She laughs at her brothers with me. We lament the state of our A-nesses. (when I was chubbier, I had ambitions on a B-cup; she's never been that greedy. Or blessed.) Regardless, it's 4 a.m. and I wake up with Jen on my mind. I was possibly sleep deprives because Alison's been hacking with her annual summer cold, but regardless there it was: pre-dawn and I was wide awake. So I lay there a while debating the potential ways to make it up and hoping I'll sleep again. But no. So I write myself a note against the chance that I will forget again and check on the girl. Part of my unsettledness was the fact that I'd given her probably too much children's Nyquil, hoping to settle her cough. So, when she wasn't coughing, I was sure I'd killed her. Or at least put her in a Nyquil coma. Still can't sleep so I read a bit. Putter a bit and finally get back into bed. Alison's coughing again, but at least she's not dead. So I send Jen a note only to discover I'm early on her birthday. It's her first wedding anniversary I've forgotten. Happily, she and Peter have revisited their honeymoon suite so they shouldn't be bother anyway. Right? So I make a note to call the doctor to get real meds. I call at 8 sharp and wait all day long for a reply. We've been to this show before. I know what I need. I just need help with the pharmacist who, after all these years of faithful service, still refuses to recognize my medical degree. I have one thing after another at work, with a capper at the tail end that will have to wait for publication. I go get my child and Team Ogden, per our July agreement with summer camp -- they deliver; we pick up. It's a great deal. We need tacos for dinner because we get to keep the kids. In the drive up late, I forget my wallet is in the trunk buried under three sets of backpacks, wet towels, lunchboxes and swimming suits. Jeff calls, asking about the doctor and contemplating his order. It was a Calgon moment, let me tell you. But we carry on and get home to unload. "Anyone who isn't carrying food is on gets something from the trunk," I say. Alex has taken charge of the food. Alison and Hannah mutter something about favoritism and seem ready to toss Alex's stuff his way. Truth be told, Alex is my defender nine times out of 10 when something evil lurks in the minds of the trio. Plus, he'd sat shotgun with tacos on his lap. He even turned off his a/c vents for fear of cooling down the Mexican treat. "Hey! Protect the tacos! Geeze!" he shouts. Mission accomplished, they're downstairs with TV and tacos. They have no more need of me. I am useless to this equations. "Well, you did drive," offers Hannah on her way downstairs. Notes from the weekend: Ali spent Wednesday night thru Saturday with her cousins in "the country" as she calls it. "Hey, you know that place where the cousins live. Hymera? It's in a drought," she informed me. "Really?" I said. "Yeah. And that's bad because that's where most of my food comes from!" she said. "Oh really?" I inquired, thinking of my Kroger and Zeng Garden bill. "Well. Except for Oreos. You can't grow those," she said. She also told her cousins how lucky they are that there are three of them. Numbers are important when it comes to chore distribution, apparently. Seems she's getting ripped off having to do it all herself here at home... I think I'm going to co-opt the Ogdens.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


So for Fathers Day, Alison wanted to surprise Jeff with home-made tiramisu. You may remember that we did this, but we failed to use espresso, and we had a bit of an issue with remembering that the egg whites needed to beaten to within an inch of their lives to properly make the custard. We ended up with a batch of batter that didn’t quite make the cut, but we saved it, thinking we could try again.   So, after her Thursday Tae Kwon Do lesson, Alison and I decided to surprise Jeff after his softball game. On the way home from her TKD,  we stopped at Target and got a fancy hand-held mixer. We had a great debate over which one to buy and involved a Target worker for advice. We settled on slim, futuristic looking stick instead of a hand mixer or the fancy one with a bowl and a ton of attachments.   I get some espresso and marscapone from the shops near our house. When we got home, we found Jeff with dinner ready and waiting for the next installment of our Harry Potter movie marathon. He’d also chilled a bottle of chilled champagne, which disappeared almost like magic.   As soon as he left for softball, we scram up the stairs, pull out the stuff and I start whipping our leftover mix six ways to Sunday.   No good.  Turns out we needed a  whisk attachment for our futuristic mixing stick. I sigh. And reach for the hand whisk. I swear it cringed when it saw me coming. I set to whipping but sent Alison to the neighbor’s to borrow a regular hand mixer.   Alison comes back right as the carpal tunnel was setting in. She has a beat up old mixer and a story that the neighbor had told her. The mixer was the neighbor’s mother (who we know and like) who it turns out has had a stroke and now doesn’t recognize her daughter (our neighbor.) Why would the neighbor tell such a tale to my 11-year-old daughter? Can’t say. But I can tell you that it’s been bothering her now for days.   “Mom. I feel really bad for Miss Debbie. Her mom doesn’t even know her now and she lives alone with Chelsea, who needs a lot of help,” Alison said.   It’s true that Debbie has some tough challenges. We help when we can, and I’m glad to see Alison have some compassion. But there’s only so much you can do.  I make a mental note to check on her and go back to the tiramisu.    Turns out the mixer is older than dirt. It gives out a few half-hearted coughs, rotates 6 and a half times and just whines at me.   I pick the hand whisk back up and send Alison to the neighbors on the other side of our house. Just as I was losing feeling in my arm, she returned, telling me that Mark and Jerry were rolling on the floor laughing. Turns out she regaled them a story of how wild-eyed I was trying to turn eggs into mountains of foam. Apparently Alison thought there was foam coming out of my mouth. I make a mental note to avoid Mark and Jerry for a few weeks.   It’ s true that the kitchen was a mess with discarded mixing implements laying around like dead soldiers on a battlefield, white, stringy foam dripping from their failed tines. I may have been sweaty and red-faced from exertion and frustration. I’m pretty sure I looked more  like June Cleaver than  Old Yeller, regardless of Alison’s first-hand account. Anyway, the new mixer worked. Well, it spun and whirred. It did not, however, turn my egg whites into mountains of the required light foam.   After about 17 hours of alternating between mixer, whisk and mixing stick, I silently told myself to, uh, forget about it. I folded in the cheese and egg yolks. Alison was pounding the hell out of lady fingers and soaking them in espresso in anticipation of the custard.   Three-quarters of the way through, we ran out of espresso and cookies. At this point, I may well have been wild eyed and edging closer to the dog than June. We used coffee leftover from the morning, and I sacrificed Alison’s Japanese cookies. They had some kind of cream inside but they were the right color.   We filled the cups with the custard, the cookies and the  coffee, sprinkling the layers with the cocoa powder – the only ingredient left standing.   “Mom. Are you OK?” Alison asked me.   “Sure I’m OK. Why?”   “Well,  your eyes look kind of crazy. You know, kind of like when you were talking about that tree that won’t die and you got all crazy?” she said. “ It’s kind of freaking me out.”   I don’t know where she gets her flair for the dramatic. All I know is we put a dozen or so cups of our near-tiramisu in the fridge about 10 minutes before Jeff got home from softball.   They hadn’t set up by midnight. I no longer care. I hate tiramisu. The next time we make it, it’s going to be in a pretty little container with a Fresh Market sticker on the bottom.