Thursday, December 15, 2016

All I need to know I learned (not) in Kindergarten

We've been watching Supernatural on Netflix for what seems like forever as we're trying to catch up to the current season. Homework and everyday life gets in the way of all three of us gathering around the television like families used to do.

We are deep into season eight and recently saw "Remember the Titans," an episode that drops in on modern day Prometheus, Zeus and Artemis. After waxing poetic about a number of facts about Greek mythology, Jeff revealed his deep well of knowledge is rooted in his deep well of familiarity of Marvel comics.

"I learned a lot from comics, Norse legends, ....history, religion..."

Alison gave him the stink eye. "I had to go to catholic school to get that. Your way was more fun."

I didn't tell them that I learned proper grammar from my grandmother's soap operas and how personal relationships worked from my mother's Harlequin Romances.

We all have to learn the important stuff somewhere I guess.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Thanksgiving Day Heist or Three

I'm a fan of pumpkin roll. So much that I never buy it and I try really hard to avoid it when we come face to roll.

I was so good at Thanksgiving!  I avoided the scrumptious treat altogether but rewarded myself when it came time to pack up, bringing home three slices to get me through the weekend. I had leaves waiting so I was pretty sure I'd work it off.  Jeff is a pecan pie man and Alison hates pumpkin. So I took my three slices and a big container of Lori's cranberry relish, which is almost as good and three times healthier.

Thanksgiving was super fun ... once we finally got there. We went to Aunt Shirley and Uncle Larry's latest home. They're in search of a place since they sold their Columbus house but haven't found the perfect spot yet. I had it pictured on the other side of Worthington than it actually is, so we were later in arrival than intended but no one seemed to mind. That much.

Jimmy -- Aunt Shirley and mother's cousin -- always brings the pumpkin roll. He's gotten it for years from a church group of women who've been rolling out the pumpkin (and other treats I'm sure) longer than many of us have been alive.

We ate. We laughed. We ate. We played cards. We laughed some more. And finally we cleaned up and headed for home.

Friday afternoon as I Ali and I decorated the house for Christmas, the pumpkin roll slices disappeared. I started out with just one, but decorating is hard work and before long, all three were gone. In another hunting trip through the fridge, though, I stumbled across a plastic wrapped something that hadn't been there previously. I hadn't put it there. Sure enough. It was an entire pumpkin roll.

We stared each other down for a while. I thought I might be dreaming. Then Jeff came home and noticed the missing slices. We discussed that travesty for a while and I asked him about the extra roll. I thought maybe he had talked with Jimmy and had worked out a deal.

Nope. Ali wandered by and breezily admitted that she'd snatched it. She knows how much I like it. It looked sort of left over, she said.

My sister, Diana, happened to be in town for the annual Monument Circle holiday ceremony. I texted her to see if I could bring it to her so she could return it to its rightful owners.

"Hell no," she texted back. "Rachael and Aleasha got out with chocolate cakes. That's what it's about. Proud of Ali! Remember Grandma's strawberry pie? Dave stole one each year until she made him his own!"

The things I never knew. Apparently we have a tradition of stealing dessert from family gatherings.

"Anything done in the name of love is legal," avers my sister Diana.

So now I have a whole pumpkin roll calling my name from the fridge. Seems like it would be a slap in the face not to have some, now wouldn't it? I guess I've earned my holiday mug.

In other Thanksgiving news, our annual Friendsgiving with Patrick and Patricia Jackson was just as magical as it's always been. We've been having dinner the Friday after Thanksgiving since Ali was 2 or 3 and it's only been this year that I've realized they don't really come here to see Jeff and me.

I don't think you could tear Ali and Patricia away from each other with a crane. It's a super special thing to watch. I'd better warn her not to carry around any pumpkin rolls, though.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Soul sister?

Alison was reminiscing this morning. We were talking about the likelihood that we will play euchre today after our Thanksgiving feast.  She suggested that we convince everyone to bet on the games. 

Jeff reminded her that we don't really do that at my family gatherings. She was disappointed but hasn't given up on the idea because she thinks she has mad card skills.

"I once won a kid's soul," she said.

I just looked at her.

"It was Alex," she confessed, speaking of my favorite of her friends who are boys. "We were playing BS and he said he'd bet half his soul, but I won. So then I asked him if he wanted to bet the other half, and I won again."

I swear to you, her eyes sparkled and her grin glowed with evil as she intoned: "I own him."

I love Alex Ogden for many reasons. He and Ali met at Day Nursery and they were three or four when we met the parents. After an initial hesitation on Karin's part, we soon became fast, platonic friends and Ali and Alex did, too.

Once he tried to save me from a terrible, awful prank that almost got us killed. Alison has zero regrets for putting that plastic snake on my shoulder as I drove them somewhere. 

Alex, though, he knew then (if not before) that she has demon blood. He was -- and remains -- a valiant champion of Mrs. Reed, even if he lost that particular battle.

I'll find a way for her to return  his soul, but he'll always be in my heart.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Reason for Optimism

It's been a difficult couple of weeks. Sure the national election didn't turn out like I wanted. Like more than half the popular vote wanted. The state election went south. We had great stress at work and a lot of folks I really love are no longer in my 9-to-5 life.

But the sun came up on Wednesday. The millennial map gave me hope for the future. I have confidence that my friends will find wonderful, new opportunities. And I got to witness my friend, Kirstin Jasheway,  and 137 other people born in more than 30 different countries take oaths to become U.S. citizens.

It was a somewhat surreal capper to a contentious election and I couldn't have been more proud to be at the ceremony. We sprang Ali from school early so she could be there too.

Like many of the liberal kids at Herron, Ali was deeply unhappy with the election. There were so many tears at school on Wednesday, one of the teachers opened her office for one-on-one counseling and Alison cried one of her contacts out. It was lost to the world and I didn't even care. I like her passion and I understand her concerns.

My advice to Alison is to be the best person she can be; to represent her generation so well that skeptics will be convinced they're really all OK and to be ready to vote when the next presidential election comes along and she'll be eligible.

It's a good -- and really, really hard -- life lesson. You don't always get what you want. But the system is the system. You respect the office and you go about working to achieve the outcome you want next time. You don't give up. You don't concede your principals. You  keep your core values and you plan.

The first election I remember was when Jimmy Carter ran. Our living room at home was a polling place. My dad was a Democratic precinct committeeman. Indiana went red almost at 6 p.m. and I turned to my father, aghast. "But I thought we were Democrats," I said.

He laughed. I will never forget the day I first learned there were people with different ideas than those I'd been surrounded by.

Other than the election, Alison is doing really, really well. She competed in her first-ever high school swim meet and posted up some really competitive times. Her school won the meet, too, we found out today.

Better yet, she's loving it. And not complaining at all about all the practice. She is eating like a mad woman.

Tonight at dinner, we were having a rather spirited discussion. It might have included a double flip off and an eye roll or two between my esteemed spouse and myself. That might have inspired a roar from the Captain. All the while, Alison was trying to tell a story and kept saying to the both of us, "Can I finish? Can I finish? Can I finish my story?"

Alison's reaction to t he whole thing: "I love my family. These are my favorite kinds of dinners."

Oy vey.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Redefining the Breast Stroke

For the past few weeks, Alison has been focused on her efforts to join the Herron High School swim team. She was two-years-old when she first started swim lessons and she's always loved the water, but she's never been trained for competition.

So I was concerned that she would be disappointed. The coach had said this would be the year the school would focus on true competition, so you had to really make the team. Ali supplemented her conditioning and practices with the school to trips to the gym where she worked on the strokes she'd been perfecting and/or learning.

I, of course, was her transportation and she'd ask me each time if I wanted to swim with her. I wanted to but as many of you know, I pay a lot for my hair and I didn't want to either diminish the sheen or encourage gray -- or green strands. So I worked out in the fitness area while she swam in the pool across the wall.

But I really wanted to swim with her and this week bought a swim cap so I could.

My own swim lessons started early, like Alison, but they were more a survival lesson than instruction from professional swimmers. My actual memories are sketchy, probably as a result of oxygen deprivation. My siblings told me the lessons started when they decided to build a boat one summer and wanted to test its float-ability.  Donna was still home then, so I was probably five or six.

So they built this boat from scrap wood, dragged it up to the top of the pasture and put me in it. They shoved it into the middle of the pond where it quickly sank. Which gave them an unexpected second experiment: What was my float-ability?

Like all good scientists, this test was repeated more than once as they tried to fix the boat. It never floated, but I never stayed down.

Always the tag-along, I was apparently more hungry for inclusion than scared of the next test.

I also remember a summer where we took swim lessons of a sort at Shakamak State Park. Most summers, my mom would drop us there in the morning and return when the lake closed in the late afternoon. My memory is overhearing two lifeguards talking about me. "What's that stroke that one is doing?" one asked. "I dunno," said the other. "But it looks like she can really move."

Between the lake, our pond and creek and various pits left behind by surface coal mining, I was in the water a lot as a kid. Like the lifeguards from 100 years ago, Alison was puzzled by my mobility when we finally swam together at the Jordan Y.

She channeled the Captain with her coaching. "OK. We're going to 500 meters, no break. Go down freestyle and back backstroke, OK?"

"Wait a minute! How long is one length?" I asked, not sure I could finish a lap, let alone however many laps 500 meters would be.

"One trip down is 25, so you need to do 10 times up and back. No break," she said, preparing to start.

She saw my face. "OK. Let's start with five times," she said.

I took a deep breath. Now, like all good parents, we've equipped Ali with all the stuff she's needed for the various activities and sports she's taken up over the years. From dance to Tae Kwon Do to softball and acting. She has two Speedo, one-piece swim suits, goggles and a swim cap.

I was wearing a Target suit that has seen probably six or 10 seasons and my hair-protective cap. I borrowed her spare goggles.

The freestyle portion was fine. Sure, my muscles started protesting after a while, but I was chugging along really well. The backstroke was good, a little soothing at first. I got through the first test just fine.

I was coasting back to the edge when she nudged me. "What are you doing?"

"What do you mean?"

"That is not a stroke," she said. I'd stopped actually lifting my arms out of the water for my backstroke and was sort of propelling myself like an otter. Apparently that's not "real."  "You have to do the actual stroke," she tells me.

She tried to show me the breast stroke. It's a lot harder than it looks and requires a coordination I'm not sure I've ever had. She showed me the butterfly but agreed before I voiced my concern that this was a lesson for another day.

We focused for a time on just using legs. Then just arms. Have you ever swam 50 meters in a pool with your legs dragging behind like dead weights? "Uh. Mom. It's not time for a break yet," she said.

I sighed. Back to the grind. Thirty minutes in, I was kind of done. "How about you just focus on freestyle and backstroke?" she said.

Hurrah. Except this was about the time I noticed a wardrobe issue. I was fine with the freestyle stroke, but when I flipped to the backstroke, my suit with its shirred front and three-seasons-too-long fit had taken to drifting with the waves. I'm not sure how long I was exposing myself to whoever might be watching, but it was frequent and at times fairly flagrant.

I had felt like the lifeguards were fairly vigilant for a pool where there were only four lap swimmers and two parents with their kids. I'd initially thought they were checking Ali out, which isn't at all unlikely as she's getting a bit buff as she swims so much.

Then, I'd wondered if they were pondering how long I'd flail around before they'd get a chance to use their rescue gear and  fish me out of the drink.

But once I realized I'd been flashing the world every time I practiced my backstroke, I had a few different thoughts:

1. These boys must be truly bored to think a 50+-year-old nipple or two is worth their time, 
2. I flashed back to the time two snooty teenage girls in the same gym's fitness area telling me  I couldn't wear just my exercise bra when working out. I had to cover my midriff with either a bigger bra or a tee-shirt, and
3. OMG. I'm a flasher.

That's about the time I called it a day. I'd made it 45 minutes.

Besides the obvious criminality of the endeavor, every muscle in my body was shaking. Ali was still going strong. I climbed out of the pool like some primordial goo, pulled up my top and headed for the women's locker room hot tub, careful to avoid eye contact with anyone.

Oh. Alison made the varsity squad. She's super excited. I'm going to buy a new swimsuit. Maybe switch gyms.

In other news, because she needs to be able to see in the pool, Alison has a trial pair of contacts. We'll make sure they're the ones she needs before she gets a full supply. We took Jeff out for a late birthday dinner. He'd celebrated much of the day with his buddies at their annual Purdue football game outing on his actual birthday last week.

You might have noticed that I've not said a ton about the election of late. I don't think there's anything left to say. Whatever happens after Tuesday, I hope we can regain some sense of mutual respect and acceptance of the outcome -- whatever that outcome is.

I'm thinking that our country isn't much different than that boat my sisters and brothers kept trying to build. It's still an experiment, but we can get to shore and try again.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Facebook and other flashbacks

Love it or hate it, Facebook is a fun tool. It helps you remember people's birthdays; it keeps you informed of your distant friends and families and it offers you up flashbacks from time-to-time that are hilarious glimpses of days gone by.

It's also possible that you learn more than you want to know about your co-workers (or friends and family); can get into political or current events fights with people you don't even know; and I'm sure there are the times when those flashbacks aren't so much fun.

But I had a good Facebook week.

I got a flashback to a  photo of Ali, Jenna and Bree from their Day Nursery where they wandered over to see a good friend: Governor Joe Kernan. They were 2 or 3 in these shots. JEK, of course, is timeless.

Joe is actually the third governor Ali had held hands with. Frank OBannon, of course and Judy knew her from the start. Mitch Daniels got charmed with her one day when she was with Jeff in tunnels between the state office buildings. (I'm still conflicted about that) I'm hoping she'll be just as tight with our next governor: John Gregg.

She'll be able to vote for him when he runs for re-election.

I was also  reminded by Facebook that on October 27, 2011, Alison Reed informed me that "When I grow up and am allowed to curse freely I am going to create an alphabet of curse words and post it on YouTube."

She was 10 then. At 15, she tries to hide her profanity but I'm certain her school mates believe her destiny will include a berth on a ship on the salty seas. I'd like to distance myself from this particular habit of hers, but I fear I am partly to blame. She just scored straight As on her benchmarks -- a mid-semester kind of check to gauge how the students are doing.

The photo below is of her with some of her HHS friends at the homecoming dance. The event started at 7 Saturday night. Shortly after lunch, she and I were in the family room catching up on Chrisley Knows Best when her phone started blowing up.

"Man, some of these people are starting to get ready," she said, snuggling into her couch. "That's just crazy."

I woke her up from her nap about 4 p.m. "Hey there. Do you want to think about getting ready?" I asked, knowing her outfit but thinking she would want to shower and shampoo.

"Nah," she said. "I still have time." She looked super cute in leather pants, slightly heeled suede black boots and a camisole under a men's vest. She borrowed my velvet bow-tie.

She demurred posing for me, though, so thanks to her friends who took pity on me and sent me this.

In other non-Facebook reminders, Jeff got a photo from an old law school/judge advocate general corps with a few gems when he was a twenty-something. He's the one in red shorts looking at the ball.

"Mom! Dad had a six-pack," Ali exclaimed. "He should work on getting that back."

 Here she is with me. I had a Halloween work event. She was dressed for homecoming week. It was a 4-day week with each school day a different theme. Her Black Widow had Jeff wanting to keep her home. Her Slytherin Quidditch player scored me a new broom and her Genie unearthed her 7th Grade Play production. She wore flannel for spirit day.

I wore a hat and Ginny Reed's gifted, glitter witch shirt. Not exactly the same effort but fun nontheless. Yeah. I know it's sideways. The damn thing wouldn't cooperate.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Arachnophobia - Leg 2

So we've established that Alison doesn't like spiders, right?

She's been on Fall Break and as all good mothers do, I took some time off to hang out with her. So of course she wanted to clean her room.

Which of course gave me time to do the work I'd left behind. So there I was at the kitchen counter, working away on my laptop when I hear a terrible scream and then a series of bam! bam! bams!

I cocked my head and listened again. Her room is steps away from the kitchen. Bam! Bam! Bam!

I sighed. Saved my work and stepped closer to her door. "Argh! Ick. Bam!"

I open the door. There she is, baseball bat in  hand, pounding away on the floor. Emboldened by my appearance, she pounded harder. "Die! Die you evil spawn of Satan." (or words to that effect.)

I interrupted to inform her that whatever she was killing was dead already.

Mysteriously, she remained on her bed, which was minus its coverings as she'd really been cleaning her room.

"Oh my God, mom. That thing was in my room. No telling how long it was there. It was there while I slept!" she wailed.

I considered asking her if she'd checked for eggs. But she was in fine form. So I let her go on for a while. She wound down after a while and I asked her if she was going to clean up the spider guts she'd spread around or collect the legs that had gone their separate ways.

She just looked at me. Safe on her mattress. I sighed and got a Kleenex. She's still kind of freaked out about it and has attempted a few times to brag about her prowess with a bat. Against a speck of an opponent.

Other than the spider, it's been an uneventful Fall Break. Good, though. She ended up making plans for a sleepover, which I thought was well timed when I thought Jaime and Lee -- and only Jamie and Lee -- were coming up and staying over while they visited Becca, our current Butler University student.

But Jaime and Lee brought the cousins and a few extras. We had a great time when their Saturday night plans fell through. The girls and I played cards and games while Jeff, and I quote Lee Weir here, "seduced him with bourbon."

The "men" were in the kitchen. We were in the dining room. So we could hear each other easily if we wanted to listen.

At one point, Beth (Lee's sister) leaned over and said to me, "They've been talking for two hours. About alcohol!"

An hour later, she said, "They're still doing it!"

Beth and Allen (her husband) went home about 11. Lee and Jeff kept it up until after midnight. It was actually a ton of fun. The only regret I have is that I didn't plan very well and Ali missed it all.

But at least her room is spider-free.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Alison and I have been trying to time our arrival home so well that I can glide the car into the garage without having to brake.

Her job is to get the door up in time. My job is to turn onto the driveway at a slow enough speed to get there smoothly.

It requires the top to be down, of course. We have a couple more days of unseasonably warm weather to give us a few more tries.

Today, I thought we had it but chickened out at the last minute, braked, and waited for the door to rise more fully.

Alison lost it. "Come on! We had it! We could have done it! I can't believe you chickened out!!!!"

She got out of the car, just ranting. "I can't believe we're in the same gene pool!"

The word coward was invoked right about the time she went to push the garage door button to close the door. And saw a teeny, tiny spider.

To say she screamed like a little girl is to do a disservice to little girls. She quickly tasted the irony.

I, of course, burst out laughing and inquired as to who, exactly, was the coward. She has long despised spiders and while I roll my eyes at her squeamishness, I do understand that people have phobias and they're real. 

Also real is the fact that I live with the Captain. And the day I have to explain to him that I crashed into the garage door is a day I don't care to experience. That's not cowardice. That's plain, old-fashioned smart decision-making.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Feeling bruised

A few years ago, Jeff and I were volunteering to build the Angie's List garden. It was early days and we had to use a motorized post-hole digger to install the raised beds that have been the best idea we ever had for that garden.

If you've never used a motorized post-hole digger, I invite you to try. It's harder than it looks and if you don't pay attention, it will whip you around like a bathtub in a tornado instead of bore into the Earth. No there is no video. But I'm pretty sure I hadn't felt so whip-lashed since I was a baby and toppled into the washer.

Jeff saved me from the post-hole digger. My sister Diana (I think) rescued me from the washer. I don't actually remember that. I just know the story.

My one and only daughter was laying on the living room couch recovering from a sore throat when the motorized lawn aerator got hold of me today. She said she'd never laughed so hard in all her life.

My neighbor, Jason, called me this morning saying a friend  had loaned him an aerator and wondered if I wanted to use it, too. It looks a lot like a roto-tiller. He said it looked pretty easy to operate.

So this afternoon, I put on my lawn sneakers and headed across the street. He was mowing but told me I could go first. He'd never used one either, and gave me a duplicate of the lesson he'd had that morning. I offered to do his yard as I was grateful for the loaner but he demurred, looking forward to the challenge.

Like my mower, it had a bar you push down to propel it. I couldn't get the damn thing to go down so he did it and then sauntered back to his mower. So off I went. Except the machine kind of took off without me. Before I knew it, I was clear across the yard and had murdered two of my ceramic pumpkins.

For a moment, I was afraid the damn thing would aerate its way right through the picture window but I wrangled it down. It took me a while, but I thought I had it under control and headed around the yard.  I got back to my point of origin and meant to turn to make another pass.

Let me just say that the thing doesn't corner. I had one foot on the curb as I pulled heaved to get it to make a turn. Victory was within inches when it lurched forward like a gazelle who's just smelled the crouching lion. I went tumbling down the street, ass over tea kettle.

That's apparently when the young redhead glanced up from the couch.  Jason had moved on to his back yard. I laid there, dazed for a bit. I don't know how long. I don't wear a watch. Probably just a second or two. I really don't know. At the time, I thought I'd escaped notice.

I scrambled up, dusted myself off and stared down the still rumbling, spawn of Christine. I opted to continue, but this time, just made wide circles in the yard. No more corners.

Did I aerate my yard effectively? I guess we'll find out next Spring. There are plugs of dirt all over it. When I was done -- OK I might have given up -- I still couldn't get the damn bar to move. So I left it snarling in my yard and went to get Jason. He was a little surprised I was done so quickly, and I felt compelled to warn  him that the device might be demonic.

A few hours later, I got a text from him. The machine, he said, "that aerator is very aggressive and has a mind of its own."

I rubbed my backside and agreed, silently happy no one had witnessed my exposure to said aggression. That's about the time I ran into Alison, who was still chortling.

I'm raising a demon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sometimes you have to wear pants. Sometimes you don't.

A dozen times this week, I've asked Ali if she wants to go somewhere with me. Options ranged from Petite Chou for onion soup to Target to the gym, even just a casual walk in the neighborhood.

The weather was amazing for the most part. The top was down on the car. The sky was the limit.

Without variation or hesitation, her response was a dead stare look and "Does it require pants?"

It's a good thing I embrace solitude. And generally am already wearing pants.


Back in her younger days, when Alison got together with friends, it was with kids I'd known since they were in diapers, or at least through elementary school. Drop-off usually involved some fun at the parent level while the kids scampered off.

These days, she wants to be dropped off at various malls or other places to meet fellow teens who I know by first name and whose parents I don't know at all. She usually rolls her eyes when we insist on her actually connecting with said friends before leaving her alone.

Meeting a new friend in an unfamiliar part of town this weekend, she glanced around and said, " Uh, it's OK if you wait for me to text you that she's here."

Yes I laughed. Out loud and long. Evil-like. And waited for the text.


Jeff spends at least two nights a week during the spring and summer playing softball. His basketball leagues take the summer off and, much like a young puppy, he needs to run off some of his excess energy, so I've always been good with it.

We're long past the idea of me (or Ali) actually going to watch him play. It seems fair to me. I don't ask him to come watch me huff and puff on the machines at the Y. Anyway, around 11 p.m. one night this week he came home with hardware.

Gracious wife that I am, I even recorded the moment.  


I've been hanging out with my Bunconian friends since the 90s. Our most recent gathering was at Jeph's new digs yesterday. As always it was a night punctuated with laughter only dogs could hear, great food, and those conversations where you only have to start a sentence to have people dissolve into fits or to finish the story for you.

I'm grateful for people in my life who love me in spite of my many flaws. And who forgive me when I drop the ball. :(

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Infinity Walls

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, my house will never stop talking. The chatter might be interspersed with a little crying. A little sighing. But mostly, I think, laughter will take center stage.

Take this gem I unearthed today. It's at one of Alex Ogden's birthday parties. Karin had strung up Hostess donuts on a line, planning to have the kids compete to eat them off the line, no hands.

Ali was mesmerized by the donut. Alex, used to the game, was just happy. Hannah and Natalie were happy being silly.

I have been struggling with how to keep/display our Paris photos so I've trashed the living room with photos, frames and matting for weeks. I've been slow to get Jeff's collection from his phone and debating where - or if - to hang them up.

I managed to get them off the floor today. We'll see what happens when I print the others. My guess is they'll be on the mantle for a while.

I'd probably pitch a fit if Ali or Jeff had left so much stuff littering the floor. I think they're giving me a pass only because they infected me with their stupid summer cold. Plus, the two of them are blessed/cursed with the gene that doesn't allow them to recognizing when it's time to clean the house.

The other day I came back from somewhere to have Ali inform me that she'd mopped the kitchen floor. "How'd you know where to find the mop?" I quipped, somewhat in shock.

"It was so awful, Mom, even I realized it needed cleaning," she said, declining to take up the job full-time.

Framing photos is a project that's been in progress before Ali ever arrived on the scene right up until our last family outing. I keep photos and framing supplies in a box in the basement so it's easy to get back to work when the spirit moves me. Every time I get back into it, I consider refreshing the gazillion frames already cluttering up my walls but it's hard to let any of them go.

Ali's oldest friends are used to them, but as she brings new people around she cringes a little bit for show as they take a look around.

She gets back at me for her baby shots by sending them to find the one of me holding a dead squirrel. Or my high school graduation photo. They're equally ridiculous.

Jeff's teenage years are there, too, along with weddings and parties and beautiful shots of loves ones gone too soon.

 I guess as long as I have space, I can chronicle our lives. They're just one more reason I can't see myself ever moving. When Ali has to pack up the place, she'll probably curse my name. But I bet she'll take her time and get lost a bit like I do.

One of my all-time favorites is Ali at 4. Wild-haired, wide-eyed.  It's a "Get ready world, I'm coming" kind of shot. If the house ever burns, that's probably the one I'll risk my life for.

I keep it by the front door, just in case.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stormy weather, but we're still together

It's hard to complain about rainy weather and the shrill of repeated tornado sirens when our fellow Hoosiers up the road had devastation and folks in Italy lost lives in that earthquake. Our neighborhood lost a bunch of mature trees; sustained damage to others and were were without power for a while.

But just branches down at our house, and our Jasheway friends, who had a mature tree snap about 30 feet up, had very little damage to their porch. So more an inconvenience and additional chores than anything for us, thank goodness. It was kind of amazing to see our streets in water deep enough to paddle board on and to watch garbage cans float down Carvel Avenue.

Somehow in between the sirens and the clean up, we managed to have a fun night out with Rebecca Weir, our favorite Butler freshman. (That'll teach Alison to make plans with her friends.) We saw this awesome art exhibit along the downtown Indianapolis canal and had an amazing meal at City BBQ which advertises the convenience of "pig up and go." We pigged up and stayed and were lucky we didn't have to roll ourselves along the canal.

My photos of the art aren't very good, but it was pretty awesome and a celebration of the 100th year of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, which does pretty awesome things in and around Indy. Typical of their mission, they shared their celebration with the city, free-of-charge, and it was a packed canal.

Becca and I loved the coral reef. Jeff was fascinated with a guy who somehow made music with water, and we all loved the lighted up dresses that a series of girls were showing off as they strolled along the canal.

Saturday morning -- remember we had no power -- found me prepping for a TV interview on how to avoid storm clean up scams at my favorite pancake house - Lincoln Square. I skipped the food but was in desperate need of coffee and a charging opp for my phone and iPad.

Ali had a surprise party in the afternoon and a separate sleepover that night. Normally those Sunday mornings after a sleepover are slow pickup dates, but Jeff had to go get her for me as we'd committed to the Mommy Mile -- a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House. I had to be there early to help. Jeff and Ali, along with Karin Ogden (a sick Alex stayed home) Lisa Vielee and Lynn Sinex. My friend Vicki Burdick, her daughter Audrey, and I were helping out Michelle Study-Campbell and a bunch of others for the event. We even got lucky and snagged Angie Barnes to do the warm-up. 

Ali showed me a few stretching moves and then I made the mistake of telling her I was going to lap her on our 5K. She took off with Karin and I didn't see her for a while. As she dragged "Miss Karin" along, Alison was chattering away. Karin said, "Hey, what would you think about calling me just 'Karin',?"

Ali tried it out. "Uh, no. That's weird. I'll still be calling you Miss Karin when you're 80."

I played pick-up-sticks in the yard while Ali did laundry and Jeff went over to help Duane cut his fallen tree down to size. Ali and I snuggled while J&D went to another beer tasting. Rumor has it that they may need a ride home.  I may not be their best bet.

Feeling a little like Superwoman, I made a crock pot pot roast, and it called for a cup of red wine. That leaves a bit of a bottle for the girl who's exceeded her step goal by a lot the last few days...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The ripple effect

Sometimes I worry that I'm the worst influence in Alison's life.

It was from me that she picked up her love of cursing. Something she does -- almost always -- out of our earshot but I know she's a sailor-in-training. I sometimes commit minor traffic violations in her presence, and when it's just her and I and she asks if we can lay around like dogs watching TV with carryout for dinner, I almost always say yes.

I even blew off a parents' back-to-school night meeting to watch the Olympics with her. But I have landed a couple of solids in the good column, too, I discovered this week.

She was waxing poetic in the car coming home, telling me about some friends of hers who were complaining about their parents. One was unhappy that her parent(s) were too busy working and couldn't get her to something she wanted to do. Shopping or movies; something fun. They were terrible, awful people, not able to take five minutes off for their daughter. (Yeah, I know there's more to this story, but this is what I know.)

Alison said she listened for a while and then said, "You know where your electricity comes from, right? Food and water and stuff like that? Your parents have to work to pay for that stuff."

To another parent basher, she questioned the level of abuse they were actually suffering. "I'm pretty sure they're not that terrible," she said, pointing to another friend who was actually victimized by physical abuse. "Is it that bad? I didn't think so."

She shifted to talking about some friends complaining about the pain and agony of menstrual cramps. Apparently it's quite the topic of conversation and Ali herself has commented more than once about a girl who "saved my life" when she shared a chewy, double-chocolate brownie just in time.

Ali used to reject chocolate out of hand. Lately she's been carrying an Altoids tin that she's stuffed full of chocolate chips. Just in case another crisis erupts.  Somehow during the course of this latest hot topic, she turns to me and says, "The first thing you ever mentioned to me about it was that I'd better never try to be a "B" and blame it on my period. If I did that, you said you would have no sympathy for me."

I disputed her recall. I'm pretty sure we talked a lot about puberty and all its wonder pre, post and during. But then she reminded me of the day I'd made that impression.

We were in Target and there was a girl who was just ripping her mother a new one right in the line to the cashier. It was uncomfortable and the mom eventually caught my eye, shrugged and excused the behavior with, "She's on her period."

It was likely then that I whipped around to Ali and intoned the message that she'd better not take that incident as behavior she should emulate. Apparently I was a bit more forceful than I had intended.

I will move Heaven and Earth to keep Ali from being unhappy or in pain. And I know that periods play different levels of havoc on all who suffer through them. But it's not a blank check to be a bee-yatch to your mother or anyone else.

Side note: I'm fully aware that I, myself, am sometimes bitchy. You might try to trace it to a 28-day schedule, but sadly, sometimes I'm just cranky and I fail in my struggle to keep it from spewing like a broken water main.  Or I'm busy and I give my co-workers the virtual or actual hand.

This is a bit of a "do-as-I-say; not-as-I-do" kind of scenario, I know. But I struggle to overcome. If I can keep her from having this challenge in her repertoire , I'll be happy. And possibly make up for teaching her bad words.

Regarding my driving, Ali and I were on our own Friday as Jeff went to a friend's bachelor party kind of thing. I asked her how she was coming with her mission to convince the Captain to let her get her drivers' learner's permit.  She said she was still working on it and I offered to take her out to teach her to drive a bit.

"No offense, Mom, but no way," she said.

As I've been down this road with her in the past, I was not surprised, but I've really been thinking that she'd relent the longer she goes without getting behind the wheel when 16 is coming fast.

"Come on! It'll be fun," I said.

"Mom. You are a TERRIBLE driver. You know it. I know it. Miss Amy knows it," she said. "I really think I need to learn from Dad."

I argued back for a while but she was having none of it.  The ungrateful wench.

In reality, it's probably a good idea that I don't teach her to drive. There may be a few curse words she doesn't know yet. Better to keep it that way...

I leave you with her discovery that she is now the same length as our yoga mat, which is problem. Apparently she can no longer create a human sushi roll. Guess we need a longer yoga mat...