Monday, September 28, 2015

"Oh, I know Ali Reed..."

The Captain caught a little bit of my Alison-is-growing-up-melancholy last week. She'd opted to go to bed instead of stay up to watch "Doctor Who" with him.

For a few years now, they'd bonded over their love of British TV. He's loved every second of their time in front of the big TV downstairs and I don't blame him. Sure, I know it's important for them to have their own thing. And it's fun to listen to them nerd out, as all good Whovians do on occasion.

I also know how hard it is to see her slip away into her own, singular interests. Parenting, right?

Now that I've dragged you down into our hole of discontent, let me lead you right the hell out. Yesterday was the annual fundraiser for Young Actors Theater, the group Ali fell into thanks to Hannah Ogden. Karin and I -- and by extension all of the family members we can get to help us -- were on board to help pull off the food, the drinks, the chocolate fountain and the candy buffet.

Jeff was manning the lemonade stand and a young lady named Eleanor was assigned to help him. He introduced himself as "Ali Reed's dad."

"Oh, I know Ali Reed," she said.

He was surprised as Eleanor looked to be college-aged. "Really?" he said. "How do you know Ali Reed?"

"Well she's the reason my little brother went to Christ the King," says Eleanor. "She was my parents' tour guide when they went to the Open House and they loved her so much they wanted him to be just like her."

The beam from my husband's face would have powered the electrical needs of a small country, I'm sure. But wait. There's more. This story is a great 'guess what's great about my kid' story but it gets better.

Back when we were scouting Kindergarten for Alison, we went to a number of schools, among them CKS. They have their 8th graders perform the task of taking prospective students' parents around the place, telling them this and that and talking about their time at Christ the King.

Some of the schools we looked at were public. Some had higher, some had lower tuition than Christ the King. For two public school graduates, the idea of paying for elementary and/or high school was a new thing. We could handle it, sure, but it wasn't something we'd considered an automatic part of getting her ready for real life. But that afternoon we strolled around CKS solidified it for the Captain.

"No matter what it costs, if our kid can turn out like those kids, it'll be a great investment," he said. "I want her to be like that."

So, Fantastical 2015 is in the record books. A good time was had by all. We raised some money for YAT scholarships and we solidified some new and old friendships. And I'm deeply sorry to whoever has to get the chocolate stains out of the fountain tablecloth. The photos below are the before. The after was just a minefield of candied popcorn, chocolate drippings, M&Ms, and sticky candy. I hope the vacuum survived.

Midway through the event, I had to de-clog the chocolate fountain of debris that had come unskewered and left with as much chocolate on me as some of the treats. But I've had worse things under my fingernails than chocolate. Other than that, I don't think we had many issues. Jeff's signature cocktail was a hit with the bartenders, which warmed his little mixologist-wannabe heart.

Afterward, kids were hoping they could fill up cups of the remaining chocolate. Karin's mom, Joan, served as Banana Lady, cutting up the fruit a small pile at a time for dipping so it would be a pile of brown mush. When she heard the request for cups of chocolate, she shuddered a bit. Someone asked her what the ratio of snot, saliva and other kid-nastiness might be in there.

(Note to anyone thinking a chocolate fountain is a must-have for their next event: it's a Sisyphean task to keep kids from using their fingers and double dipping into a chocolate fountain. IM-possible. You can try, but I don't advise trying to save the chocolate at the end...)

I'm off work today recovering from the whole thing, cleaning and putting away all the dish and glassware we used. My big goal is to plant the last of the tulips bulbs I have in the shed and to find a way to keep the squirrels from digging them up and hoarding them for deep winter snacks.

I guess tulips and little girls are a bit alike. You just never know what's going to come of that seedling. All you can do is do your best, hope for the best and, as my friend Karin reminded me: "When I expect great things from my kids, they always deliver. YOUR kid is a great kid too. And she always delivers."

That Karin Ogden man, when she's right, she's really right.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

As Ali nestles deeper into her teenage years, I've been a little sad that she's not always a chatterbox with me anymore, relaying the days news, her hopes and dreams and random facts at the drop of a hat. Our car rides home from school generally start with a greeting and end quickly with her plugging in her ear buds to escape my country music.

I'm was pretty sure it was the music and not me she was fleeing until I started turning off the radio and quizzing her about this and that. It's not that she's sullen; she's just growing up and I know better than to push too hard. But I AM curious and I was hoping for more communication in the car. At home. You know, anywhere.

When she was little, we used to recite passages from our favorite books -- Go Dog Go! at stoplights for example -- or just talk about whatever was going on. We'd play the ABC game or remark on stuff we saw along the way. So I was encouraged when she brought back a classic car ride game the other day.

Until my arms started hurting, that is.

We play a modified version of Slug Bug. It's the same game where you slug your co-rider whenever you see a VW Beetle, calling out the color, but we also count any car painted yellow -- you just call out "Tweety Bird" instead of "Slugbug" of whatever color.

And woe be unto the driver with weak vision and traffic on her mind if she mistakes a convertible MG with a convertible VW. That's a double punch from the offended competitor. As you might guess, Alison Reed has a quick eye and a quicker, harder punch. Damn those years of Tae Kwon Do.

It's been kind of fun arguing over whether a bronze or brownish-gold counts as yellow. In case you're ever brave enough to get into a car with her, construction equipment doesn't count, but taxis that are primarily yellow do. People wearing yellow shirts but on bicycles do not. The pedal-powered trolley does not. Dumpsters do not, even though flashes of them when you're moving makes it seem like they're moving too.

She usually rules in her own favor and pretends great frustration over confusion.

"Mom. It's not that hard. No school buses because Dad outlawed them. Orange is NOT yellow. But that car counts because it's like that mustard he has that looks like it comes in a paint tube."

"That's brown mustard," I say. "Brown does not equal yellow."

"It's mustard. OK? Mustard is yellow. It counts."

Why we let her decide the rules is beyond me. Also, how Jeff managed to ban school buses mystifies me. It's not fair. I can ALWAYS see a school bus. Ali knows every hidden drive harboring a yellow car between Broad Ripple and 16th Street.

My arms haven't hurt this much since I ran into Kelsey Taylor at the Angie's List gym and she made me start working out in the weight room.

This afternoon, we're road-tripping to Worthington to see my family. If you have just a speck of affection for me and you know anyone with a Beetle or a yellow car, please keep them off I-70 or anywhere in southwest Indiana after 1:30 today. I'll be forever grateful.