Sunday, May 26, 2013

Room with a view

Back when I was pregnant and convince i was going to give birth to a boy, I suggested to Jeff that we paint the nursery with a baseball theme.

We called the baby "Fenway" and I was so sick and disgusting-looking that I was 100 percent certain only a boy could cause me such grief. My good friend Jim Hester had the opposite viewpoint. Under duress -- it wasn't that hard to get it out of him -- he told me his theory.

I'll never forget it. We were walking down a tunnel from the Statehouse to lunch in the mall. Jim was a linebacker back in the day and still had the imposing physique to prove it. My pre-natal majesty dwarfed him. I was huge. Not in a good way. And unfortunately, I'd not grown taller. Just wider.  

Anyway, I was pestering him to tell me why he was convinced that I was having a girl. I pushed my stringy hair out of my sweaty eyes and puffed out the words: "But why, Jimmie. Why a girl?"

"Well," he said, his eyes a little wide and edging away from me.  "When a woman is having a boy, she glows. Her hair is beautiful. She just has this beautiful look about her."

He skittered to the far wall. "You," he said. "Are having a girl."

I remember laughing out loud. 

A few months later, we had to rename Fenway.

We hadn't painted the nursery to replicate the Red Sox' ball field. Jeff wasn't as convinced about the gender as Jim was, but his rationale was that he didn't know what this kid might like. So we shouldn't force a princesses or sports theme on it. Instead, we had each of the formerly paneled walled painted a different color and coordinated the bedding (hand made by Aunt Donna) and such to flow. 

When Ali was 5 or so, we put up a flowery kind of border and switched out the curtains, rugs and quilt. She'd had Nemo stickers before. Later on she decided she needed a new look but was in a "green" phase. So she recycled her dum dum lollipop wrappers and had filled up most of the southern wall with them. Adhered with Scotch tape, they didn't look bad.

But in essence, for 12 years, the basics of the room haven't changed. We're spending a good portion of this weekend changing that. The room is now coated in white primer. We spent most of the day Friday sraping off that pretty little border. About 57 hours into it, I remembered the instructions as if I was Sheldon Cooper with his eiditic memory. I swear I saw the words on the paper: removes easily with water.

It went faster after that.  I let Jeff take over with the power sander yesterday. I tried to convince Ali that wallpaper will work just fine, but she's enamoured with the idea of painting.  

It's been a fun project, with more than a few walks down memory lane -- bringing her home; listening to her cry at night and Jeff insisting that it would be better NOT to bring her into our bed (yes he was right but that was hard); rocking her and reading her little books to her; Grammie settling into those spots and snuggling; setting up the crib; the toddler bed; the real bed; the bunk bed; measuring her height (we may have to re-create that timeline that's just hit 5' 1"; the first time she shut the door and asked if she could just have some alone time. 

A lot has happened in that little space.

Today we might get a couple of the walls with color. She's sticking to the different colored walls, but adding chalkboard paint to one so she can write notes to herself. She's got zebra sheets and a blanket and I might have to get that rug from Target when we're done.

We were all working away late yesterday with the first coat of primer when she said, "You know, this is kind of cool."

"What's cool, honey?'

"Us. Doing this together," she said.

And another little spot on memory lane was born.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What a mother

There are moments in any parent's life when you wonder if you're doing anything right at all.

-- When you find -- again -- the room a mess.
-- When you've asked 25 times for something to be put away, yet there it sits.
-- When you are bone tired, hate everyone at work and you just want to watch the Housewives and you've actually gotten a TV to yourself only to have the little one come in, switch the channel to Good Luck Charlie to see an episode she's seen 247 times. And present you with her feet to be rubbed.

Hopefully if you are a parent, you're like me and those "Calgon, Take me Away!" moments come few and far between. I have them more than I'd like, but if I were to be honest, I rarely care that the channel got switched. I may not be the best or longest working masseuse, but I do like those moments when we're just hanging out, not necessarily focused on each other but in the same room and sharing the occasional snuggle.

Alison is one short year away now from her teen years. We're getting deeper into adolescent issues that aren't as easily solved as her problems in the past.

She's been having some issues for several months with a friend at school who's not been behaving much like a friend. She's fretted over whether to distance herself and how and what might happen if she did.

As she was sorting the thing out a while ago, she mused out loud that she'd been best friends with Jenna Tokash since they were born "and Jenna never treats me like this." You could just see the wheels turning as she said out loud something she'd been working toward for a while about this friend, but didn't want to admit, "I don't think she's really my friend."

We've talked for a while now about how what being friend requires -- stuff like being supportive, recognizing there are challenges that might make a person not fully understand he/she is being hurtful, and trying hard to help where you can whether that's with homework or basic human kindness.

The issue came to a big head at her school birthday gathering when the girl in question didn't appreciate Alison's "well at least now you can move on" comment when the girl's would-be love interest declined her bid.

This girl claims to be Alison's best friend (among the school friends that is: no one puts Jenna in a corner.) They've shared a lot. They've had a lot of great times, sleep overs and they're always together at lunch and Aftercare. 

In response to what Ali thought was good advice, this friend slapped Alison across the face. At her birthday gathering.

Alison didn't hit her back. She didn't run upstairs to tell us what had happened. She decided peace at her party was more important and just stayed away from the girl for the rest of the sleepover. She didn't tell me about it until Monday after school when the girl asked Ali if she (Ali) was mad at her (the girl.) Then proceded to deny that it had ever happened before reminding Ali that she'd apologized.

"Why did you apologize if you didn't do it?" retorted my little cross examiner in training.

I try hard to let Alison handle her social life. But this has been a long time coming so we talked to the parents. Alison has distanced herself from the girl at school and we're letting her decide if that distance will remain.

She's been slow to take this step, in part, because she didn't want Jeff and my relationship with the girl's parents to suffer. She knows we like them a lot, know they've had their hands full for a while and that they're doing a far better job of parenting their child than this saga might imply. There are challenges involved that they're not responsible for, and I admire the hell out of them for giving so much of themselves.

I hope the girl can learn from this and be more respectful of others. I truly do. But I'm not going to put Alison in a position to continue to be mistreated.

I'm grateful that Alison -- so far -- is healthy in mind, soul and body and I don't take that for granted for a second.

But I can't decide if I am all that happy about how she handled the slapping incident. No, it wasn't a gentle tap. Yes, they horseplay a lot. That's not what this was.

-- A Bravo Housewife would have screamed to high heaven, thrown the girl out of the house and filed a lawsuit.
-- A Southern belle would likely have found a discreet way to poison the kid and then express great sorrow when she had to go home early.
-- I might have hit her back. And then pushed her down. And then stepped on her.
-- Other pre-teen girls might have burst into tears and turned the night into high-pitched drama.

But Alison wanted to continue having a fun party. The other two guests hadn't slept over here before and her friendships with them seems to be growing nicely. She wanted to protect our parental friendship. And I'm certain she was stunned. She's never been slapped in the face before. If I have anything to say about it, she never will again.

So we're talking to her -- a lot -- about standing up for herself, but we're also talking about how she can do that in a way that's short of arrest-worthy but still effective. Her father's suggestions have carried a little more liability than mine have, which is funny when you think about his profession and my history.

I'm certain Alison will forgive her friend soon. I have purposely failed to teach her one of my best skills: how to form and hold a grudge. Whether she likes her Religion class or not, she's got a good grasp on the concept of forgiveness. We've got our fingers crossed that the friend will change her ways.

So we may have over-reacted a little. Maybe Alison handled it in exactly the right way and we need to just relax and let it be what it will be.

Clearly we are on Ali's side in this. We're biased, but we think Alison is pretty special.

And we're not alone. in fact, on Thursday we were among a dozen or so other parents who got to have lunch at school with their kids who were selected "Students of the Month."

I asked Ali what she'd done to earn this distinction when we got the letter. She shrugged and disavowed all knowledge. We didn't find out until the lunch when the school principal read the nomination letter from her home room teacher. One kid from each grade earns this award, which is given 9 times a year. The classes are small at CKS, but they're not that small: this isn't an "everyone-wins" kind of participation award.

Now, remember that Ali goes to a Catholic school. We're not Catholic, and she chose not to become Catholic even though 95 percent of her class are cradle-to-gravers. She has long decried Religion class as super boring "because it's all about a bunch of dead people." Her home room teacher is also her Religion teacher. He's about to marry a woman who teaches Religion in a Catholic high school. He's pretty serious about Religion.

While his letter didn't mention piety, He did credit our little Student of the Month for being curious, having a strong work ethic and great concern for her academic performance. She's a good communicator, is adjusting well through the rigors of middle school and is consistently well prepared for class. She's respectful, a good listener and participates.

It's a full, 8.5x11 sheet of high praise. Plus a catered fried chicken dinner and seconds on cookies.

Not a bad way to end a week that's had its low points.

Might be the best Mother's Day present I ever get.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


And so now, she is officially 12.One year short of a teenager officially, but definitely there if you believe the marketers and the YMCA, both of which have lumped 12 out of "tween" and into "teen."

Alison is thrilled.

As her mother, I have to say I"m inordinately proud of her. She's funny. She's smart. She's brave. She stands up for her friends. She eats her vegetables. She still hugs her parents. She says thank you without being prompted. And even though she's an only child, she shares without hesitation.

We've done a few things right.


I've had a little wine so I might be a little sentimental.

We ended the weekend with a dinner with just Mom and Dad -- her favorite meal prepared by her father: grilled steak. Creme brule will be her dessert when she's ready.

The wine, by the way, is somewhat medicinal. I needed it to thaw aout after watching Jenna's soccer game in the frigid, if not frozen tundra of some place way the hell west of Broad Ripple.

We had to follow Amer because the place where Jenna plays is so far dep into bumf$#@k Egypt that directions are unable to be translated. Once there, a fine drizzle, two degrees short of sleet began. And the wind. Oh the wind.

We were like penguins on the outer circle of Antarctica during the nesting season. And after we spent about six hours there, Jenna's team lost. The loss was due in large part to some beast named Gabby who hipchecked her way across the field and prompted Alison to ask repeatedly if she could beat her up after. Amer was no help in curbing Alison's antipathy and has now been banished as a role model.

Excerpts from the Jenna and Alison show:

Going into dinner last night at GT South's, a barbeque place, I told Jenna the place was full of pigs.

"Ooh! Are they real?" she squealed.

"Uh. No," I said, pointing to the stuffed, drawn and inked renditions.

"Ah," she said.

On the way home, I muttered out loud my thoughts on the night ahead when I knew they'd dump me to rule supreme on their own in the family room, "I'm going to take a bath."

Signs of disgust from the back seat. "TMI," said Alison. "Why would you say something like that out loud?"

"I have to poop," said Jenna.

"Now THAT's TMI," said the captain.

"I thought we were sharing!" said Jenna.

On the way home from the local produce stand where Alis and Jenna love to get "old timey" soda, Jenna took a swig and had foam go up her nose. This prompted Alison to shake her bottle up so it foamed onto the Monon Trail.

"Look! Science!" she chortled.

On my roller blades, I glided back to remind them that I'd just laid down the cash for the soda.

Listening to their giggles, I decided the investment was worth the yield and skated on.

We'd spent the morning on the kitchen floor -- a long time playground for toddlers Jenna and Ali. Together we must have painted at least a few towns in years past. They've been long past the finger or brush painting now for years. So I was thrilled to open Jenna's gift of tie-dying and to get the artwork out.

Our handiwork is in the dryer now. It turned out pretty well. We'll send Jenna's home in the mornign with the captain to give to Amer. Ali will return a leftover cell phone to a school friend.

All in all, an awesome birthday weekend according to the birthday girl.

Oh damn. I have to remind her to take off her nail polish. Finger nail polish earns you a detention at her school. We talked about whether to risk her getting nailed for the infraction. I was ready to ignore an infraction -- that's a note home to the parents. Two strikes, though, and you get a detention.

"I don't know, Mom. A detention?" she said. "I think I'll just take it off. I took pictures."

Ugh. Rules.

Good thing one of us is growing up.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Package

Back in the last century, a young and childless Jeff Reed reported for duty in state goverment where he practiced utility law, defending ratepayers against unfair rate hikes and other actions taken by electric, natural gas, water, sewer and telecom companies.

After his first hearing, a couple of wayward court reporters with a bird's eye view of the underside of the tables where the lawyers sat as they tried their cases sat, dubbed him "The Package."

But that's not the story I'm going to tell you today.

Today I'm ratting out the Captain who allowed his young daughter to open her birthday present -- a massive package that arrived Thursday afternoon -- a full day before the clock ticked over to declare her 12 years old.

This is signficant only because he's railed at me for years about being too permissive with the child, for being too eager to give her gifts as soon as possible, for spoiling her. (Thank you Aunt Lois for your words of wisdom in Ali's birthday card: "it's not spoiling if you deserve it."

The truth of the matter is, he picked out the gift and was as anxious to see her open it as she was to discover what was in the box, which stood about five feet tall and looked able to house a slim refrigerator or a folded up pony.

"This is her hat rack," he admitted, reminding me of another sin he'd committed with this present.

A few years ago, I bought him a hat rack to organize all his random baseball caps I kept tripping over. It might have been Father's Day. It might have been his birthday. It might have been just a "I love you honey, you're so fabulous I bought you a gift" gift. I don't remember the occasion. All I remember is he did not appreciate it. At all. He actually returned it and bought something stupid. I don't remember what he bought and I don't care.

All I know is he bought Ali a gift for her birthday that he really wanted AND he let her open it early.

I'm in such a great position right now.

Oh. The gift. It's a Yogibo ( What's a Yogibo?

It's a glorified bean bag. Oh, sorry. It's a new age version with super cool microbeads and memory and stretchable fabric. They found a Yogibo store at The Maine Mall back at Christmas and Alison had really hoped to find one under the tree. They spent half an afternoon at the store. A bromance blossomed between Jeff and the salesman, who I met when they dragged me down there to check them out.

And yes, Alison loved the thing. Much more than he loved his hat rack. But yeah. It's a bean bag that has them both more giddy than a school girl crowned queen at her first dance. They were both squealing and jumping around this morning as they tore through the wrapping and then pounced on the thing.

It was actually a lot of fun to watch. It's been a great birthday so far, and I'm not really unhappy about the Yogibo. It's going to mean I can finally get rid of the papasan chair that Jeff's had since before he first earned his nickname.

We actually started the weekend on Friday when I picked Ali and some friends from school up shortly after the bell rang to end the school week. They had mani-pedis and then Huddles yogurt before they took over the family room and stayed up until midnight talking about boys and school and silliness.

Today it's the Ali and Jenna show and they're currently sweating up a storm at the local Sky Zone, trampoline center. We'll go home later and try our hand at tie-dying, something I've never done. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't end up with another cupcake experiment. They'll be sleeping on the Yogibo, I'm certain.

That's if Jeff doesn't beat them to it. Although, thinking back to those early days, and the fact that it was a damn good nickname, he might have another assignment to fulfill.