Sunday, May 31, 2015

I should have been more patient

Since Alison has been about three months old, I've been fairly faithful about a weekly message of her (and/or my) development.  It started out as an email for my mother-in-law so she, in Maine, could track progress of her little Hoosier.

Somewhere along the way Lisa Vielee convinced me to turn it into a blog, and now it's mostly seen on FaceBook. That means, what? 716 or so weekly missives?

Turns out, I should have just waited for 8th Grade graduation. We were given the placemats the kids do each year for use when they have lunch with the principal. His cheatsheet, if a principal is allowed such a thing...

Here, in mostly her own words and art, is Alison Renee Reed K-8. 

Notes: the last photo is the first photo from the first Photoshoot Sunday.  

In 5th grade she had great brand recognition, not just of Angie's List but also Holiday World. I would be remiss as a proud parent to forget she earned high academic honors in each of the four years they track such stuff and won Outstanding Art student at CKS. Not a bad record to start high school. 

Crossing all my parts that it continues to be this great.

6 words

It's easy to roll your eyes and think that 8th grade graduations are just another example of today's parents being too quick to exclaim over every "miracle" their children accomplish.

I'm excusing this one because A. CKS is a K-8 school so it really is the end of something and B. It's my kid, dammit. 

Special thanks to Karin Ogden for helping arrange the little gathering after a later-than-expected graduation service and to Jenna, Alex, Hannah, Miss Amy, Aunt La, Duane and Kirsten for joining us for the big night. It's timing wasn't ideal for traveling -- hence the shortage of blood relatives, but then again, it was 8th grade.  

So yes, Alison successfully matriculated through the little catholic church we chose for her because it was close, safe, had a great academic program and when we went to tour, was described to us by very well spoken, polite and smart 8th graders.

"I want her to be like that when she's in 8th grade," Jeff said of our little prospective CKS Tiger. They accepted her in despite our heathen status and we haven't regretted it. The school has some awesome teachers and Ali has learned a lot about a lot of things.

Part of my desire to send her to a catholic school was to give her a look at organized religion and doctrine so she could be informed rather than just shoved into the religion of her parents. She surprised me by electing not to join the church. I was prepared to go along with her. But she didn't feel compelled and I didn't force it.

She has some really great friends at the school but she's never gelled with who,  in fourth or fifth grade she described as "sassy girls." She was more of a tomboy and got a little lost when the kids started into the hormonal years. Not that it was ever horrible. Most likely it was a more gentle rite of passage than some others experienced. Certainly it's not been a harsh life for the little redhead.

Her pivotal year was 7th grade when, after years of being scared to even give a speech in class, she decided to try out for the class play. Everyone in the grade had to do something, but that could have included stage work, something behind the scenes. She landed the role of Genie in "Aladdin" and the reviews were tremendous. That led to Young Actors Theatre and the solidification of her self-confidence.

One of the last assignments for 2015 graduates of CKS was to write a six word memoir about their years at the school. Some of the kids were funny; others didn't really take the assignment to heart.

Alison wrote: "Was scared. Got up and sang."

Donna Aragon is the school music teacher and 7th grade play director. She made cast decisions. When Jeff told her about the memoir, she cried. 

Whatever happens in Ali's life, I'm sure she'll credit her Donna with being a big part of it. Which is funny because I have two Donnas in my life that helped me in the same way. My sister and Donna Gorby, my journalism teacher. I'd be living in a rusty trailer with 12 cats had they not helped me.

So here's to all the Donnas in the world. Whatever their names or professions.

And congrats to Ali Reed on her graduation. Herron High School is next. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Back to Life...Back to Reality

II don't exactly feel like I've been on vacation but I've certainly not been at work. At least not my normal kind of work.

I'm not sure I'm ready to get back to real life. It's still May 2015, though, so we have a little bit more pomp and circumstance to get through.  Alison graduates from Christ the King School on Thursday, and that will be the end of this crazy, busy month.

If you are my FaceBook friend, you may have gone with me on the #CKS8thGradeTrip to Washington DC. Sadly, @POTUS stiffed us but we still had a great time. Logged 20+ miles hiking in and around the city, including a trip out to Gettysburgh where we learned we've been pronouncing it wrong all these years. I think I calculated that I got approximately 15 hours of sleep during the three-day-tour.

We made up for it a bit on Saturday but we made time for Amer's race party and spent a fabulous Sunday at the QueenLynn lakehouse.  

Today, we rested. Hope you had a great holiday, too. 

Highlights from the back seat on the way to/from the lake:

Alison, Bre and Alex were deep into "remember when..." stories.

Alison: "Remember when Alex puked and kept it in a jar?"

"That never happened," Alex said.

"You know, it was orange. In a jar."

"Nev. Er. Happened. Never happened." 

Later, on the road to Nineveh, the closest town to the lake, were were remembering Veggie Tales when Jeff took a hill fast and our stomachs jumped into our throats. "Oh, no. I have to pee."

So of course he took the next hill faster.

"I'm just gonna pee in a jar like Alex."

Oh no, I'm gonna pee on Bre."

"I had a pee story but I got distracted."

Photo Higlights:

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's May in Indy and you know what that means...

It means it's time to plant the Angie's List garden!  Oh, and if you're extremely lucky or you devote your life to Indy car racing, there're a few activities out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway you can go to.

I'm extremely lucky. Not only am I a charter member of the Angie's List Garden Club, I work for Angie's List and got to go along on a quarterly reward trip to IMS.

The trip was for Fast Friday, and it was a super fun day. It was more fun for me because I was with some folks who were really fun to hang out with. One of them made the mistake of saying it might be fun to get a photo with a driver.

That driver happened to be Gabby Chaves, who Angie's List had sponsored in the Grand Prix. So iit was nothing to me to ask a staffer there to go ask him to come out. That's what staffers do. And of course he came out.

Never mind that it was also bike to work day and I looked just like I'd biked to work. 

Regardless of the fact that I was a sweaty mess, were were set us on a course of me asking for photos from celebrities who were strolling around the garages at the Speedway or doing their day jobs inside their garages. At one point, we had a group of Indianapolis Colts rookies going by. I got two to stop, not knowing who they were. Thankfully, I had Jared Hay around to both alert me to folks to bother and then tell me who they were.

Turns out one of the Colts players is our No. 1 draft pick. It was super fun and all of the celebrities were so nice.  

It was a fun day. It had started out great, too, with me picking up my friend Lori Kaplan who pointed out a rainbow on the way down. Friends from work stopped, too, and we almost made it to work before the rain started.

As I biked home, I took one more look at the Angie's List Garden, hoping some magic had happened and the weed fairies had been by. Turns out they'd spent the day at the track, too, and the beds were still full of weeds less than 24 hours before planting day. It looked almost tropical.

I hadn't planned well when I set an appointment for Ali and me to get our hair cut Saturday morning. Not keeping that appointment would mean keeping my gray. So I made the supreme sacrifice to get up early to weed before the appointment.

Let's just say I'm really sorry I haven't kept up with my upper body work-outs. About an hour after I'd been there working, Kelsey Taylor came by. She's not just our personal trainer and Fitness Director; she's the Chief Garden Gnome.  

She saw my pile of weeds, commented on my heroic efforts and said, "I'll bring you bags so we can bag those up."

I'm sure I was gracious when I declined to bag up the jungle I'd deforested. Hell. I may never pull another weed in my life. If I'd had matches I might have tried to burn them. My arms were barely able to move the steering wheel on my drive home. 

I'm glad I did it, though. I've never missed planting day since we planted that damn garden. So even though it was a stealth move and I starred in my own episode of The Lone Weeder, I'm glad I still got to contribute.

It's true that I grew up in the country and my grandparents, my dad and some of my sisters are/were huge gardeners, I didn't inherit their green thumb. My grandmother's garden was a thing of beauty stretching for what seemed like a mile perpendicular from the gravel road outside her house. She had flowers by the road, then strawberries, potatoes, melons, beans, corn, peppers, which we called mangoes for some reason. If it could grow in Indiana, it was out there. The garden ended behind the barn and chicken house and across from that was the orchard where my Grandpa had bees, apples, pears and peach trees. There was even a grape arbor.

My dad's gardens were across our road and between he barn and chicken house. They and my sisters need  tractors to till the soil, their gardens are so big.

I concentrate on ground cover and flowers to cover the patches of moss that came with my house. I usually will have some containers for basil and oregano. Maybe peppers and tomatoes. But  I mostly rely on the work garden for vegetables.

People assume that because I grew up in the country, I know stuff about growing vegetation and I let them think that. I have such a great con going, my neighbor who was prepping his yard for the season asked me to come help him decide what were weeds and what were flowers.

I told him what I'd learned from a Greene County farmer once when doing a story for the paper about corn detassling. (I was a terrible detassler for Pioneer. I coudn't reach the tassles so I just walked through the corn all day. I should send them a check for the three days I endured that terrible summer job.)

"A weed," that farmer said, "is any plant that sprouts up in the wrong place. It could be an orchid or a soybean. But if it sprouts in a cornfield, it's a weed."

It's a very freeing philosophy when you're the Lone Weeder and you look back at your pile of greenery and gasp, wondering if some of that stuff was perennial and the Chief Garden Gnome is going to kick your ass for digging it up.

In my defense, I did stop ripping out the cilantro after it's lemony aroma nearly knocked me on my butt.
Plus, it WAS planting day. Ergo: the beds should have been emptied and anything in them was a weed. Right?  Right.

It's possible we made a parenting misstep

But I'm not willing to concede that point. I am, however, preparing my response to Child Protective Services should word of our week reach them.

It all started innocently enough. We have a long history of actually answering Alison's questions when she asks them. I contend -- though Amy Tokash and Jeff Reed have each disagreed on occasion -- that I have always presented said answers in an age-appropriate way.

For example, when she asked how babies get out of there, I gave her an edited but truthful answer. It was totally not my fault that she informed Jenna of the facts at a McDonald's where the girls (probably around age 4) and Amy were munching on fries next too a really pregnant lady. "Look! A deer!" was Amy's response when Jenna's jaw dropped and her eyes eclipsed her little face. 

Jeff wasn't happy a couple years earlier when Ali suprised him as he strolled by her open bathroom door saying, "Hey Daddy. Wanna see my bagina?!"

But mostly, it's been fairly routine. She asks. I answer. Information is a good thing.

So when we she turned 14 and had a couple of years of theater under her belt, we thought she was ready for Spotlight, an annual AIDS fund fundraiser that Jeff and I have attended for years. Our friend Lisa Vielee does PR for the IN Health Foundation. It's a night where a bunch of artists donate their day off to give the crowd snippets of amazing art ranging from the symphony to children's dance and voice to drag shows, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, etc...

It's dressy and fabulous and on a school night so a huge treat. Plus, it's a really important fundraiser for a really important cause and we are happy to both support it and talk about its importance to Ali. 

So the night progresses. Lisa strangely doesn't sit beside me. I think nothing of it. Ali is between Jeff and me and enthralled with the early performances. She cooed at the young dancers. She guffawed at the riske jokes from the cross-dressing magician/comedian and listened intently to the one-woman chat with the unseen, discarded old boyfriend.

She was slightly embarrassed when a couple of Speedo-clad young men carried a cardboard automoblie for a Car Wash act. This isn't unusual. From a young age, she's been vocal about the need for people of all genders to cover up in public.

So the evening is nearing its end when Dance Kaleidecope is due up. This contemporary dance troupe is amazing. I'm  not qualified to describe what they do. It's a mix of ballet and modern dance that makes you just marvel at the human body in top condition. You're blown way and jealous all at the same time. We never really know what to expect, except to know it'll be amazing.

Let  me repeat that. We never really know what to expect. Lisa Vielee, however, always knows what to expect because she works with the event. Remember where she sat? Not by me, right. Not by Ali either.

Because the performance was, in the words of one reviewer, "as if the entire audience received a collective lap dance."

Or in the words of Alison Renee Reed when the extremely buff dancers walked out in the smallest Speedos in the history of Lycra carrying kitchen chairs: "Sweet Jesus, what have you brought me to."

For about six seconds, I channeled Amy Tokash and almost pointed out the deer in the room. I didn't pick up my jaw from the floor though because I might have missed something. It WAS amazing.

Appropriate for a 14-year-old? Who can say? She's had the sex talk and the sex class. I don't think either was as clear on the actual anatomy of the male form as DK was. After the initial shock, I leaned over and told her, "Your dad dances like that after you go to bed."

She choked a bit before realizing I was joking. Later that night, he waited until she came in to say goodnight and then walked into the bedroom with a kitchen chair.  She fled.

The important thing to remember here is that she's aware of lots of different forms of art and she knows we all need to work together on important public health issues.

I followed up one dressy/school night event with another one that did not involve dancing but was also fabulous: a tribute to Judy O'Bannon and her amazing contributions to the state of Indiana. It was a reunion of folks from the Bayh-O'Bannon-Kernan years. Super fun. Super appropriate. 
I truly became a better person for my association with Frank and Judy O'Bannon, Cindy Athey, Lois Stewart, Bobby and Helen Small, Jonathan Swain, Tina Noel and a list of people too long to name.

I'll never forget how gracious the governor was to my father; how Bobby helped me through my dad's funeral; how Lois tried to make me be more of a lady. So many great memories made sweeter because we've not lost touch through the years. 

If even one person thinks of me the way I think of my FOB family, I will consider myself a successful woman.


We ended our artsy week activities with the second production of Time Machine by the YATkids. One more today and that puts an end to this session. Ali will have to take a break for a while due to summer school but we'll be back in the fall I'm sure.

Oh! we also put the final capper to Ali's birthday celebration. Her party got pushed back by YAT but we finally got it all in with a trip to Incrediplex. If you're in Indy and you want a fun place to hang out, you should check it. Bowling, laser tag, basketball, soccer, arcade, even a bungee jumping thing.  Well worth your time.  Even a bistro.

Next week is the CKS 8th grade trip to Washington DC. I'm a chaperone. The teachers are asking all the chaperones to do exactly what Ali fears I'll do by nature: yell at the kids if they misbehave. She thinks I'll embarrass her.

I'm pretty sure I covered that on Monday.