Monday, May 26, 2014

A pretty good year so far...

I give myself a pass on the diet and exercise plan for most of the month of May. While I join the nation in saluting the troops, past and present, it seems like there's no end to non-service related celebrations. There's high school and college graduations -- congrats to Annie, Kaitlyn, Aleksey and all the other grads. 

We also had Alison's birthday, which stretched throughout the month due to interruptions with her play practices and performances, which meant lots of nights out for her parental units.

And then, of course, for those of us in Indianapolis, there's that race and the Pacers are still sort of in the play-offs.

So June might see me hitting the zero-point soup pretty hard, but I'm OK with that.

The Friday before Memorial Day is Derby Day at work, which is a lot of fun but not a diet day. It also coincided with Book Club for me that night, so a day of excess finished with even more. 

While I was off with my friends, Jeff and Alison saw Godzilla. The movie must not have been as great as book club because I've talked a lot about my night but I've heard little about the Asian monster.

Jeff did say that Alison held his hand while they did a little post-movie mall ratting and told him that she was having a great night. He'll carry that high for a while, I suspect.

Saturday started with Angie's List garden planting for me and then a marathon session at Carribbean Cove. The indoor water park has been the venue for many a birthday gathering. Chlorine and children's squeals and screams are heavy in the air there, and I really didn't think it would hold the girls' attention long. 

"We'll stay as long as you want to," I made the mistake of saying. Jeff took the first tour while I gardened and did yard and house work. We switched off and he took care of Saturday chores.

Nearly seven hours after they first dipped toes into the water, I finally lured them out of the water with talk of Flying Cupcake. Jeff fixed burgers and brats and they decamped to the basement. It seemed like an OK thing to accept the neighbor's offer of a beer across the street and a few minutes of the Pacers-Heat game. 

Unfortunately, one of the parents came by while Jeff and I were off-site. If I got the story right, the dad walked in to the house and was talked into taking another drive around the neighborhood before the daughter had to go. I didn't notice him until that second pass so I hot-footed it across the street, thinking the second girl wouldn't be lingering much longer. I never made it back to the neighbor's.

Personally, I think leaving 13-year-olds unattended while you are just across the street isn't a terrible parenting moment. Yes, I'm preparing my defense in case that family was aghast. It was a dad pick up so I think I'm probably OK. 

We'd planned to head over to Amy and Tom Tokash's annual race party after we were down to just Jenna and Ali. Turns out, we'd have arrived to a played out bash, so it was good we stayed home.

We spent Sunday at Lynn Sinex's lake house with Team Vielee. It was great weather and drinks and food and company. 

On one pass tubing, Jenna claims she hit a wave just right and was flung 8 feet into the air. Another fine parenting moment. But she liked it. She wanted to do it again. Really. 

I might have Jeff on the cusp of being ready to seriously think about the possibility of having our own little get-away. Anyone who helps me get him over the hump will have an automatic invite down.

We dragged ourselves home smelling like trout and cordite from a short fireworks display. 

I showered and I made Jeff shower too, but the girls dropped into bed like stinky stones. As they weren't sleeping with me, I didn't care. And they were too worn out to care much. They were pretty stinky, though. 

Our last non-sleepover girl had left around 11 Saturday night. Knowing they had a day of lake water ahead of them, I thought they'd be OK not to shower off the Carribbean Cove chlorine fest. To say they were ripe by Sunday night would be a kindness.

They showered for a long time this morning before our fancy brunch out with Aunt La, which I could see becoming an annual tradition. It was a great end to a fabulous weekend. 

The other day Alison said 13 was shaping up to be a pretty good year for her. I'm going to have to agree. Cross your fingers that it stays this way.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Make Way for (not Ryan) Goslings! And wolves. And Maybe a Man Cub.

We got to have breakfast with Eric Yocum and Traci Wiseman, this morning. They're friends of Jeff's since law school. Back in the day we traveled together, spending more than a few nights in Mexico and New Year's Eves hung over at each other's houses. 

But then we had kids and apparently the four-hour distance grew bigger. We are terrible friends to them and haven't worked hard enough to see them as often as we should.

But they were in town for legal training so we met for breakfast at Cafe Patachou where I again caved to the amazing cinnamon toast. Jeff had some kind of broken yolk sandwich, so we both waddled out of there.

I'd meant to go to the gym but got sidetracked in the yard. The sun kept breaking out so I suggested a bike ride. I meant to have a bike ride. You know, a pleasant pedal on the Monon Trail where we'd get a little sweat on, but nothing crazy. We are, afterall, old. 

We'd established that at breakfast when Jeff wore a Rods and Cones tee-shirt he'd unearthed last week. (I thought I'd hidden his old concert shirts better than that.) He and Eric had spent many a law school night at the Patio listening to that and other bands, so it was a fun flash back.

Five hours later, I was regretting the cinnamon toast and had decided to pedal some of it off. We decided to take the less traveled Fall Creek Trail instead of our usual path, the Monon. I'd been on the other trail with Karin a few weeks ago and wanted to show it to Jeff.

As you might suspect, the trail is much like the Monon except it winds alongside Fall Creek, a nice enough creek that we don't often pay much attention to. We pedaled upstream, and early into the ride, I noted to Jeff how high the creek was. We pedaled on. I noted the current was kind of strong. 

"Wow. Look at that. The water is almost up against the trail."

Then, up ahead, we noticed the duck swimming. On the trail.

At first it was easy to coast through the small puddles where the creek had overrun the trail.. Later, it got deeper and longer and reminded me of Eric and Traci's story of trying to drive their SUV through deep water on vacation in Gulf Shores. They were doing fine until the hit the dip in the driveway and stalled out their vehicle.

I was midway through the longest puddle when I started praying there wasn't a dip. It did get deep enough to soak my sneakers, but the bike held up fine. The water cleaned of some of the mud we'd slid through. Or so I hope.

We ended up taking the trail to its end near Shadeland Avenue. There seemed to be another trail across Fall Creek Parkway, which was almost in our friends, the Beaches, back yard. 

That trail led to a nature preserve and then ended at a padocked gate somewhere west of civilization. We squeezed through an opening in the fence and looked at each other, hoping the other knew the way home. Fun as it was to ride through water, I think we were both more chllled than excited about working our way through the goose ponds again.

It wasn't so much that we were lost. It was that we weren't exactly sure of the best way home. We decided to just go west, and happily, we got our beariings in Jon Larramore and Janet McCabe's old neighborhood. We found our way to Allisonville Road and home, soaked, muddy and tired. But it was a good ride. And might have nullified some of the extra calories from our breakfast.

Tomorrow is Alison's last performance in Jungle Book.  Jenna and Amy saw the debut and Aunt La will be there for the finale.

Alison had a tremendous Friday night with our friend Cheryl Gonzalez and Team Jurkiewicz in the audience.  That night, she was still wearing her Mother Wolf face paint as she put the flowers Nick had given her in a vast.  She looked up and said, "You know, 13's been a pretty good year so far."  

I stopped myself from reminding her she was only 11 days in and instead, just wished with all I have that she can maintain that spirit.
While her 13 has plenty of days left in it, her play does not, and I think she'll be sad to see it all end.
So will our local gas stations and few Mass Avenue bars. 
Getting her to and fro for all the practices and performances has been a bit of challenge. We've releived the stress with more than our usual number of visits to some fancy downtown cocktail establishments while we waited out the actress.
More reason to get back on the bikes. But first, we'll have to dry out.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's a jungle out there. Happy Mothers' Day!

If you are to fully understand how a 42-count box of lawn and leaf bags is a great Mother's Day gift, you'll have to understand that we are possibly not your normal American family.

Today is, in fact, Mother's Day. The day many families celebrate the matriarchs in their midst with breakfast in bed, fancy brunches, dinners, flowers, gifts and at least 12 hours of richly deserved R&R.

At my house, Jeff is playing basketball and Alison is finishing up her birthday thank you notes and getting ready for her stage debut at Young Actors Theater production of Jungle Book. It's at 2 p.m. downtown. So you have time to get there. Two more shows will occur Friday night and next Sunday. She's Mother Wolf in the adaptation. 

I am recuperating from a weekend that started with a great visit from Debbie & Steve, Annie & Justin and Leigh, who were in town for Annie's graduation from Butler University's pharmacy program. We'll miss her party on Sunday, so carving out time ahead of the festivities was huge for me. 

We're immensely proud of Annie. She's crazy smart and beautiful with a goofy streak that makes you like her despite her size 2 figure and athletic abilities. We'd planned to go to the Indians game but rain threatened so we ended up at our house watching the Pacers and playinng Big Bang Theory trivia.

At one point during the game, someone (I think it was Debbie) cursed about something and immediately looked at Ali and apologized.

"It's OK," Ali said, delighted. "I'm 13 now. I get to stay in the room!"

She then smoked us all at BBTT. She softened the blow by making bracelets for all the ladies with her Rainbow Loom. 

Saturday started early with a Mexican breakfast for the graduate followed up with a couple of hours helping prep the Angie's List garden for planting next weekend. 

Ali went along. She's been helpful in past years but we had record turn out this year. Alison's plan to work on homework ended up with her napping in the spring sunshine while the rest of us weeded and filled beds with fresh compost.  

While we'd been downtown, Jeff was doing the recyling and grocery shopping. Driving back home,  Alison woke up enough to say she was glad we don't have a "normal" family.  I asked her to expand on that.

"Well, you know, in most families, the mom cooks all the time and you hardly ever do. Dad does most of our cooking and I do most of our baking."

I cleared my throat. "I don't seem to be coming out too well in this scenario. Let me help you out a bit. Do you mean that while Dad cooks a lot and you do some baking, Mom also cooks sometimes, does most of the cleaning and almost all of the yardwork?"

She thought about that. "Well, I mean that we each do the kinds of things we like. One person doesn't have to do all the work. We all kind of pitch in where we like it best."

She catches on fast.

The AL garden work morphed into three more hours of my own yard work while Alison tackled her chores.  Our yard looks really good maybe three times a year -- covered in snow, in full summer when the black-eyed Susans and the day lilies are in bloom, and in the spring when the flox is in full bloom. The color distracts you from the mossy spots and sparse grass. I'll get to that one day.

Yesterday, I was lucky to escape the yardwork with my life. For the second  (possibly the third) time in my landscaping career, I cut through the fully power electrical cord that had poweried up my leaf blower. Times prior involved shearing it with the electric clippers. If you've never been showered in electrical sparks, you're missing a show. My sister Debbie can relate. She was actually struck by lightning once. Sure, hers wasn't self-inflicted, but I like to know we share more than a blood bond.

My most recent brush with electrocution had it roots in my own laziness. Jeff bought a bright yellow electrical cord to replace the last one I'd cut, thinking its color would keep me grounded and shock-free. But it's really long. I have a shorter green cord. Unfortunately, it was nestled in the ornamental (green) grass that needed shearing. It was there because I'd planned to blow out the clippings with the leaf blower once I'd evened them up. It seemed like a good plan at the time.

And by my standards, the spark wasn't much, and I didn't even get knocked down this time. So I guess it wasn't that big of a deal. The severed cord might argue that point.

To recover, we took Ali and her friend and fellow actor, Will, on a short bike ride with Brics ice cream in the middle. After Alison went off to a babysitting gig down the street, Jeff and I indulged in champagne and snacks far too early in the evening to take full advantage of the night. It did, however, give Jeff time to go shopping.

Before he left me on Mother's Day morning (with my full blessing) Jeff made me coffee, brought the paper, offered to bring fruit, and then he and Ali showered me with gifts.

The shower included a card from Alison thanking me for the many stories she'll have to tell her therapist later in life, a beautiful card from Jeff and the aforementioned trash bags. (Proof of yesterday's work in the yard is encaged in a series of kitchen trash bags becauseI was out of yard bags.)

What I've failed to tell you is that Jeff had already purchased tickets to see my anti-hero Eric Church in Louisville later in the year. They're my real Mother's Day gift and I wouldn't trade brunch or dinner or champagne for them. The yard bags were just a hilarious addition.

I'm pretty sure Eric Churc will give me an electrifying show. I'm hoping that one does knock me down.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Four days before her 13th birthday, Alison came running into my bedroom, flung herself on the bed, chest heaving, tears falling.

Yes, it was the Captain.

She had been minding her own business, passing through the kitchen when he captured her in that unteachable, indescribably wonderful hug only fathers can give. 
He made the mistake of giving in to our mutual dismay/delight at her progression into young adulthood. 

"Oh I miss the days when you were my little tiny girl and I had the right answer to every question you had," he said. "I used to know what to say no matter what had happened."

She's a sentimental little thing, unwilling to totally let go of her stuffed animal friends but hoping to become a regular shopper at Victoria's Secret. She's still not entirely sure she wants to know what that boy-girl thing is all about, but she's curious. And no child has ever loved a father more than she loves Jeff. Even when he's in full captain mode, dressing her down for not having better table manners, cleaning her room or finishing her chores.

She was crying not because he'd done anything wrong but because she didn't want him to feel bad that she was growing up.

Thirteen!  That age you want to reach so bad you can't stand it and then in the middle wondering if you're going to live through it. Or if you want to.

The actual anniversary of Alison's arrival on this Earth is tomorrow, but it will be a challenge to have much time to celebrate as a family. She goes to school at 7:30 a.m.and is usually there until 5:30 p.m. or whenever I can leave work to spring her from AfterCare. With the play performance coming up, practice is stepped up, and she has to be downtown at 5:30 until 7. Jeff's a traditionalist, so we'll open gifts Monday morning and then hope to have a little time before bed.

She'll have her friends over later in the month for a delayed party. She's OK with the delay. She's excited about the play and doesn't mind. Plus, we'll get Jenna for a couple of days so that's a gift in and of itself. (Thanks Ginny! I really mean that.)

Ali has been anxious for the past few weeks to make her own birthday cupcakes for her class celebration on her actual birthday. Once an important co-producer in these events, I have been relegated to sous chef, hod carrier, dish washer. 

"I think I want to do this myself," she said, hesitantly, as she informed me of my demotion.

"But it's your birthday. You shouldn't have to do all the work," I protested.

She shrugged. "Nah. I have this idea I want to try."

This "idea" has taken more than a little advance planning. It's an amalgamation of idea's she's seen in her baking cook book library, YouTube decorating videos and Cake Boss. She's been making as many of the decorations as she can in advance. 
Before she started assembling the parts to the decoration, she worked out her design on paper. There's a map and a code. Seriously.
"These are turning out to be $30 cupcakes," Jeff said the other day as he returned with one ingredient. Besides the made-from-scratch cupcakes and icing, this project will involve Teddy Graham bears, Laffy Taffy (two-flavors warmed and rubbed together then formed into beach towels), mini-chocolate chips (coconuts) mini marshmallows (palm fronds when snipped and rolled in green-colored coarse sugar) Sugar wafers (pounded into sand) Hostess donuts (floats and life preservers) and possibly a shark formed out of Twinkie.

She had three hours of play practice and movie time with Nick yesterday and another three hours of play practice today, with a surprise visit to Aunt La for a special advance birthday delivery.So I had her make the cupcakes Friday night, reserving most of her free Sunday time for decorating. 

When we were plotting out our time, I'd mentioned Aunt La and a midday Sunday visit. She fretted that she had so much work to do and might not have time.  I said it might involve a birthday gift.

"Wait a minute. Aunt La? Aunt La of the "you can't open a gift unless it's smack on the day? That Aunt La?" she asked, grinning.


"OK then. I think we can make time," she said. "I just love Aunt La."

With 40+ cupcakes, she created a beach scene with palm trees, water, sand, a shark and floating or sunbathing little bears on tie-dyed beach towels wearing bikinis and possibly sipping fruity drinks. Other than the cupcake paper, they're entirely edible. (She's learned a lot from food TV...)

Because she's got chores, too, and a busy day, I tried to organize a bit for her this morning. She was highly appreciative, but then said, "You know, Mom. You can just go about your normal day now if you want."


I've stepped in to clean up a bit, but she's got this. Because, you know. She's 13!

I took some solace in eating the cut out parts of the Hostess donuts but that only made me head back to the gym for a real work out where I took my bag of guilt and my Book Club book. Just carrying that thing is a work out. It's about 27,543 pages and it's about the hospital in New Orleans where so many disaster plans fell through and some patients were euthanized rather than be left to suffer.

I was about a third of the way through and had to skip to the end to be sure what I wanted to happen happened. I'll go back to the middle. It's really compelling. It's "Five Days at Memorial" and I'm in awe of the author, Sheri Fink, who's done incredible work in reconstructing the really complex situation.

I can't wait for Book Club to hear what Julie has to say from her hospital perspective, and the others for  their always intelligent insights. I predict we'll need a lot of wine because there's a ton there. Great pick, Niki!

So we'll use the time she's at play practice to wrap her gifts to make the morning manageable. Anything to get a little quality time to celebrate this awful-wonderful milestone.

How did she get to be 13?! I know no one asked me. Before she was born, I worried that we wouldn't like each other, that I didn't know what I was doing, that I didn't deserve her and that somehow I would royally screw this up.  

So far every year has been better than the one before. Veteran parents tell me that's part of the trap -- the first few years are so great it's enough to get you through the terrible teens. And just when you think you'll really kill them, they leave for college, only to return the charming, lovely people you wanted them to be.

I know it's possible that she'll have a period of hating me just because I'm the mom. We haven't hit that yet. I'm still usually the person she runs to when her world gets rocky.

I'm open to suggestions on how to keep it that way. And I'll pay top dollar for a guarantee. :)

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