Sunday, October 26, 2014

That's testosterone for you

As miracles go, it probably won't rank up there with fishes and loaves or turning water into wine, but around Chez Reed, it was pretty profound: Jeff did yardwork yesterday.

He'd come home sick from work on Friday and like a good Ebola carrier, immediately quarantined himself from us. Once on the couch downstairs, he didn't move. He barely watched TV. Apparently he needed the rest.

I'd taken the day off so was able to get most of our chores done before getting Alison to the salon for her historic hair cut. Ali went to a concert with her friend Nick and his family. Lilly and Madeline Jurkiewicz are  soon to become global phenoms and they had a concert in town. I had Bunco, and Jeff had the couch. 

But Saturday morning, he was dressed, up before Alison and talking about chores like a squirrel who'd feasted on fermented acorns. The switch from near-death to weekend warrior was remarkable.

"That''s testosterone for you," Alison said.

After she got dressed, she discovered him on the roof and decided elevation was far more exciting than the laundry waiting at basement level.

In the 90 minutes she had before Young Actors Theater, she'd swept out gutters and helped trim a scraggly fir tree that was clogging leaves at the corner of the house. I wasn't sure I'd get her down, but I lured her with Ramen.

I generally work out while she's acting, and we also hit the grocery. So it was nearly four hours before we got back home. We pulled in the drive to find a bunch of distended lawn bags at the curb and all the debris that had floated down from the roof was gone.

"I think he mowed the yard," I said. 

"Wait. Dad did yardwork?" she said.

We looked at each other. Jeff bounded out of the house to us, enormous grin on his face, recounting all the outdoor work he'd done and reaching into the trunk to lift out groceries. "Who are you and what have you done with the Captain," I asked.

Now married people, I have a riddle for you. Alison had a sleepover planned, and her pick-up was set to occur within 30 minutes of our return. He'd not only done yardwork, and cleand up, but he'd spoken with the shed guy who we've been planning to contact for about three years now.  It's on schedule to be done before Thanksgiving. And, he'd scoped out movie times for "The Judge," which I'd said I wanted to see.

What do you think that grin was all about?

For the record, I'm a fan of testosterone.

That's my girl

Throughout my pregnancy I worried. 

Would we make it to term? Would he/she be healthy? Would I know what to do with it once it was home? 

How would it affect our marriage? What if I couldn't do it. What if he/she got my legs and Jeff's arms and had to walk around like a chimpanzee?

Beyond the health concerns, my most common fear was if we would like each other.

My experience with newborns and infants wasn't great. I only really liked kids once they were able to communicate with words, if not complete sentences. I preferred those that could handle their own bathroom needs.

Thirteen years later, I still worry. The list is different but one from the past is missing: I really like her. And mostly she really likes me.

I'm not sure I've ever been more proud of her than I am right now, though. Folks who grew up with me know I've been surrounded by redheads since forever. Having her emerge with red hair was a shock to everyone, though. And her hair has been a remarkable feature since it grew in. My siblings and parents represented every shade from deep auburn to orange-y to Deb's mix of copper and gold.

Alison got the best of it all. Deb's color with wave and curl that you see in shampoo commercials. My stylist, Julie, did her best to match my "enhancements" to Alison's natural color but it's just not something you can recreate with science. 

One day we were heading home for a visit and stopped in to the Plainfield McDonald's. Alison was about four, I think, and wanted to order herself, so I gave her money and she marched up to the counter to make the transaction. In the car heading southwest, we unpacked the white bag to find an extra toy in her Happy Meal.

I wondered how that had come to be. She didn't even look up from sorting her nuggets in the back seat: "It's the hair, mom."

On Friday, for the first time in 13. 5 years of growth, those firey gold and red tresses got more than a trim. Ten inches or so of them were tied off into eight pony-tails and chopped. They're headed for Locks of Love. It was totally her idea, fully researched and planned out.

Our friend, Nicole, at Ado handled the cutting. No drama, other than me sneaking photos.

I'd worried that such a severe change in her look would be too much all at once and Nicole had joined me in counseling her about maybe going halfway and seeing if she was OK with it. Days earlier we were talking about it and she asked me if I was OK with the plan. 

"You know, Mom, I'm more than my hair," she said.

At the salon, she politely informed me that she didn't need me standing by the chair. In the few minutes it took me to relocate to the drying area, put down my purse and return with the camera, Nicole had gone to town and there was no going back.

We drove to Jenna's house right after to get their take. Jenna had really wanted to be with us but the girls' Fall Breaks didn't coincide and Amer wouldn't let me spring Jen early. Amid the squeals and gasps from Jenna, Amy, Lynda -- even Tom --  and me, Drew walks in. 

"Nice hair," says the 15-year-old.

No better compliment could have been laid down. She'd expected the girls to be ooh-y and aah-y. But Drew's understated remark sealed the deal.

I'm biased, of course, but I think the cut is really cute, too. Although now I'm worried that it's too cute. "I feel like I'm in college," she said. (Oy vey.)

I hope the new look and product that had to come wiht it means she'll actually want to style it a little bit. Even is she doesn't, the shortened snarls will be easier to tame. 

It doesn't really matter, of course. The hair will grow back or we'll keep it short. She'll do something with it or it'll be a shorter rat's nest.  What's important is there's a little girl out there who's lost her hair to cancer or some other terrible disease who needs a little boost of confidence. 

I hope she wears her new hair to a McDonalds and scores a pile of toys and extra french fries. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014


Alison is getting aquainted with frozen peas in a new way. She usually uses them to cool down and nutrition up her Ramen noodles. This afternoon they iced down her ankle, victim of her other ankle and the full weight of her body.

The CKS Tigers Cadet B Squad is 3-0. Alison was only one of the girls who got hurt today. They were all injuried by the other team, however.

She's doing fine. Kind of enjoying her time of the couch if truth be told. Jeff's liked it, too, because she finally watched a bit of football with him.

I've been helping her a bit with the laundry this weekend because even before she rolled her ankle, she'd been coughing more than I like. She's been having her meals on the "sick person's tray" in her room as often as she can. At 4 p.m. I decided she probably needed to give a little back.

So I brought her a couple loads of the latest dried clothing.

"Uh. Mom," she reminded me. "I'm injured." 

I reminded her that folding requires no use of the ankle.

In other news, she also got cracked on the head at a Halloween party. There was a little blood and there's a scab, but it didn't keep her down for long.

She's been on a roll of sorts, lately.

We were in the car and she was outraged by a commercial playing on the radio that featured something about the family turning to the mom for dinner because they were somehow unable to feed themselves.

"As if Moms are the only ones who cook," she said, full of feminist passion. "I mean, like, you NEVER cook."

I glanced at her. "I cook," I asserted.

"No you don't," she said.

"Do too."

"Do not."

"I do, too!  I make killer lasagna and sausage & peppers. I make soup practically every week," I said. "And meatloaf. I make meatloaf."

"You have never made meatloaf," she scoffed.

"Do too. You and your dad don't like it so I don't make it very often," I said.

"I LOVE meatloaf. I have it at Miss Amy's with mashed potatoes," she said, rubbing her stomach.

I stopped talking. Amy also has white bread. Jeff DOES cook most of our meals. I'm more famous for take-out, salads and cereal. And pancakes. I used to make pancakes a lot. 

I got a little freakes out at parent-teacher conference when one of the teachers volunteered that Ali is blunt, calls it like she sees it, and that it sometimes gets her in a little social trouble.  I cringed.

My lack of diplomacy wasn't wasn't among the things I wanted to pass on. My Facebook friends have talked me off the ledge, but I'm still hoping I can temper my thoughts better. And that there's time for Alison. Once  she gets off the couch, of course.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Scratch that

We went to the wedding of Josh and Cassie Lee on Saturday and it might have been the most fun wedding we've been to since 1998. 

Let me qualify that statement. We've been to some super fun weddings. This one gets special consideration because we went in thinking we'd know only the bride and groom, so it would be a bit awkward.

Annie Strahla, particularly should take note of this. And maybe you, Niki: there's much to tell your fellow wedding-planning addicts.

First, it was outside on a horse farm and deceptively simple. The backdrop was the farm, of course, which was gorgeous. So picture rolling hills with fenced in pastures, a small lake, a large and a high-roofed, open shelter in front of a gatherin of wooden chairs. Behind us was a beautiful old barn and surrounding us more pastures and hills. Overhead, an amazing, October sky that finished with a spectacular sunset.  (I stole this shot from Cassie's Facebook page.)

The wedding party stood in front of the structure.  and a small arched, trellis with a few sprays of grape vines and baby's breath. Three beautiful hand-made quilts hung from one wall of the open structure as a back drop for Cassie, Josh and the minister. It was stunning.

The men walked in from the right. The bridesmaids from the left. Cassie's dad drove to the back of the crowd in her grandfather's pick-up truck. She stepped out in a swirl of blinding white and the slight wind took her veil, which if you know Cassie, had to be a work of art. 

She laughed. He laughed. He caught the veil, tossed it in the truck, took her hand and brought her forward.

The ceremony was lovely. The music perfect. 

Inside a large white tent next to all this was the reception. As you entered, guests were asked to sign quilt blocks that will later be assembled for the couple, and to also take Polaroids of their partyto leave behind. You got your table assignment in exchange for the photo.

There was an open bar, as well as gourmet popcorn to tide you over until dinner. The decor was lovely but the thing that really got people buzzing was the fact that each of the few dozen tables was dressed held a different, guest-made (or Cassie-made) pastry.

There was flour-less chocolate cakes, 6-layer red velvet, a layered chocolate fudge, apple, spice, carrot, bundt, apple pies, large cupcakes, peach tortes, something that looked nutty. An amazing array. And of course, Alison's own brown-butter, butter-sugar mini-cupcakes topped with carmelized creme brule sugar sprinkles.

Ali and Cassie bonded early over their joint love of baking and along with our invitation to the event was a special request that Ali be among Cassie's friends who would contribute a dessert. How sweet is that?  You don't have to do much to make me your friend for life. Being good to my kid will do it. I can't describe how special that invitation was to Ali.

Reports back were that her cupcakes didn't just fit it; they were a huge hit. No hint at all that they were done by a 13-year-old who doesn't even have a Pinterest account. 

There was a traditional, but small, wedding cake, and there were other bits of lovely decor. But the shared dessert idea was brilliant. It didn't just give people a way to be personally involved in the wedding, it was an incredible ice breaker. Perfect strangers, long-time friends and family were trading treats back and forth, table hopping and sharing the night as if they'd all grown up together.

We did run into one couple friend there, and weren't seated with them --or Ali for that matter. But we made great friends with the people at our table and we fully expect to see them in real life out side of the Mr. and Mrs. Lee connection. One couple at our table turned out to be someone I'd worked with years ago so it was way fun catching up. 

In short, we went to the wedding because we love Josh and Cassie, and their inclusion of Alison was beyond sweet. But we didn't really expect to have a fabulous time. You've been to those weddings where you enjoy yourself but you're not really deep into the mix and it gets a little long. This was not that.

I need to introduce Cassie and my friend Niki. Niki is a wedding expert who dabbles in doling out advice and moderating conversations on a wedding planning site. It was amazing on so many levels.
I can't believe I didn't snap some photos. I just was having too much fun.     

Alison put a lot of work into the cupcakes and had rejected a bunch of ideas of what to make. Her work is all from scratch, of course, and she's got a bit of stuff on her plate already. 

In the midst of the wedding project homework, cheerleading, play practice and basketball for her, and  general work stuff and Book Club for me, we got late word that desserts were needed for a school fundraiser that was occurring on the night of the wedding.

We'd already offered to loan our cornhole board for the school event, and sponsored a team in our place. I asked Ali if she wouldn't mind doing an additional baking job, which I'd make easier by using a box mix as the base.  She looked askance at the box mix but given our general state of busy-ness, reluctangly agreed that this was a the smartest way. She baked the school cupcakes Thursday before basketball practice. 

There was no discussion about me making the things. Desserts are strictly an Alison job at our house.

I'd asked if I could just use excess wedding project icing for the school cupcakes to disguise the less-than-our-personal-best cupcakes.  

"Uh, no," she said.  "And if you don't mind, I would rather that you don't tell anyone I made these," she said.

I inquired as to why.

"Mom," she said. "It's a box mix. I don't want my good name tarnshed."

I informed her that she was a snob. A confectionary snob.

She loudly disagreed to the snobbery but stands by her baking standards. In exchange for her help with icing them, I agreed to let it go. And take credit for the school cakes. We further agreed that I'd buy icing for them.

Friday was wedding baking night for her; book club for me and, as it turns out, a spontaneous work fun thing for Jeff.  He had the Subaru and wasn't going to be home in time to get the cornhole boards to school. I had Book Club.

I rushed in late, gave Ali the sushi she'd asked for for her lonely dinner, along with ingredients she needed for her wedding icing and the store-bought icing. I'd planned to shower before Book Club but the shopping and work had put an end to that. 

My Book Club is great. They'd let me slide in stinky as long as I had wine, I knew that. So I collected my wine and other Book Club stuff, double checked my directions and set about stuffing the cornhole boards into my Mustang. 

They fit -- barely -- into my car by leaving the trunk open and squeezing my front seat nearly to the dashboard. We said our goodbyes and I puttered to the school in a light rain with stuff hanging out of my car.

It was only as I started out that I realized I hadn't wrapped the cupcakes, just asked Ali to toss them in disposable pans. I should have known she'd get them in there and not think about preservation. Even as she disdained her association with them, she did make them look pretty. Unprotected, but pretty.

It all worked out. I hope. We'll hear back today, I'm sure, at the football game where she'll cheer before heading out to basketball practice.

Somehow I have no pictures of any desserts or even the wedding. We had a great time though. Cornhole would have been fun, too. But I hear some of those desserts were store-bought, so we made the right choice.

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, October 5, 2014

My new daily affirmation: "At least I'm not a sister-wife."

The slide into self-doubt and depression is as easy and familiar to me as tugging on a pair of blue jeans and wishing I hadn't had that extra slice of bread last night.

But thanks to my latest Book Club book, and a random selection from the library, I have a new defense against the darkness: At least I'm not a sister-wife.  Now, I'm not one to poke fun at religion. Actually I am. I sincerely respect, even envy, those who are true believers and who live the faith they preach. It's the hypocrites who get me going.

It should be noted that "The 19th Wife" and "The Dead will Tell" are books of fiction. But the first is deeply grounded in actuality,  and it's easier to find a religious leaders gone wrong than for me to pull on my blue jeans. Each book deals with terrible actions by leaders in the Latter Day Saints, Amish reglions and splinter groups of each, and they talk a lot about the lives of the followers. 

I don't think I'd make a good sister-wife. I'd be even worse as the offspring of a sister-wife. Not sure I'd be good at the Amish way of life, either. But that's not the point. The point is that when I get down on myself, I'm going to remember a few things to make it better. You can too, should the mood strike you:

1. I'm not a sister-wife.
2. I'm not a sister-wife's kid.
3. I'm not going to jail like Theresa Guidice (she's a Housewife of NJ -- so this is not so much a stretch from my point.)

In other news of the week, I cut my hair. Not because I was rebelling against fundamentalists' love of long hair on women, but because it's approaching Halloween and I didn't want to be mistaken for a practioner of the earthly arts. I'm witchy enough naturally; I don't need to look the part, too. 

Plus, I had to move a hair appointment and my usual stylist, Julie, was unavailable to me.  Nicole is not wise to my penchant for buyers' remorse and she cannot know how hopeless I am at dealing with my rats' nest of hair. Plus, she knows Julie will have to deal with me next time.

Monday morning should be interesting. If I can style this mess after I have to break down and wash it, I'll be starting the work week off in stellar fashion. If I can't figure it out, I might have to call in sick until it grows out enough to pull back.

Speaking of Halloween characters, I ran across an old photo of Alison wearing a pirate-witch costume -- one of Donna's finest -- and it really sent me back. Ali can't decide if she wants to trick-or-treat this year.  She also kicked me out of the kitchen (with a kiss but still) because she wanted to go solo in finishing her cupcakes for cheerleading. This includes clean-up so it's not a bad deal for me. Plus, she scampered in asking a half-dozen questions throughout so I ddn't feel entirely excommunicated. (which is what you get if you can follow along with the LDS or Amish.)

Check out this incomplete reel of Alison's Halloween costumes. 


In order, she was a chicken (the store-bought outfit that prompted Donna to step up); a ladybug, Ariel, Nemo (hand designed, architected and made by Donna and Jaime); a fairy, a butterfly, a white tiger (so she could better cuddle with her tiny Beanie Baby Allahs); the pirate-witch (a pattern Donna used multiple times for multiple girls all of whom totally rocked it.); a ninja, Ginny Weasley, Sean White, a vampire, and last year's brush with puns, a slice of gingerbread.

I'll survive this year if she doesn't dress up, I suppose. I mean, it's not like I'm a sister-wife...