Monday, March 7, 2016

The End

This is my last post on this blog.

I am very sad to let it go, but hear me out.

Anna June turns eight years old today. For eight wonderful years, you have let me gush on as if my wonderful, beautiful, brilliant and amazing child has been the most interesting subject in the world.

To me, she is.

I want to know everything about her. I want to know how her day was. I want to know what she learned at school. I want to know about her grades. I want to know who her friends are. I want to know what she thought was funny, sad, outrageous, interesting, and cool. I want to know her thoughts about dinner and God and how school really is and life and chores and the color blue.

And I want to share all of that with you.

But now Anna June is eight years old.

She has become her very own person, who has thoughts and feelings and ideas and passions and fears and preferences. You know, a personality.

She is a person, and not a character. This is not The Truman Show.

As her own person, she has developed this wonderful introverted personality. She is honest and good and caring and loving. And she has asked that I stop blogging about her.

She is embarrassed.

Before I make it worse, before there are boyfriends and first dates, before there are entrance exams and standardized test scores that mean something, before there is awkward DIY makeup and hair, I am ending this blog.

My plan is to publish all 1500+ posts in book form, and to give a hard copy to each of her grandparents (plus one for us and one for her). Once this is done, I will leave this blog up as an archive until the end of the year, and then, I will take it down.

Obviously, there's nothing on the internet that's ever truly gone, but I want to try to make it slightly more difficult for future friends or enemies to know exactly what days she threw up when she was an infant, for example.

This girl has so many wonderful things in store for her life. I cannot keep doing this if I think there's even one chance it is holding her back, even a little bit.

When I started this blog, AJ was a baby. She could not speak. She could not read or write.

But now, Anna June can do all of those things, very well. If you want to know what is going on with her, ask her. Give her a call. Set up a Google Hangout or a Skype session if you're far away. Spend time with her if you're not. She loves her family very much and would love to see you. She is old enough now that she gets to learn how to build relationships all on her own, without me grabbing on one aspect to write about and then having you feel like you need to start from there.

She has her own stories to tell. I will let her tell them.

I will still be writing, but I will mostly be keeping it to myself. I have a journal and I am hoping to use it. I will probably be writing angry letters to politicians and helping Rusty with his blog. Maybe I'll even be guest posting somewhere or working on a book. But this blog is closing.

Thank you for a wonderful eight years.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Out of Order

Our life right now is like this: school, work, PTA, baseball. Repeat.

Sometimes we get that out of order, but that's mostly it.

Since my last post there have been some changes.

Baseball - schedule has not yet been set. Uniform colors have been chosen unofficially but not confirmed officially. The Blue Jays will (likely) wear blue jerseys and blue hats with white pants, a royal blue belt and royal blue socks. Ben has ordered a new-to-him glove, as the old one has still not shown up and it was coming apart anyway.

PTA - the Bake Sale went really, really well. We put out a jar for "fat-free" donations and our grand total was $1217.86 - a new record! Now on to the next million things to do.

The banner that lives in the trunk of my car but is ripped and sticks to nothing. It fell seconds after this photo.

I totally spilled their mom's coffee. And then they stepped in it.
We had customers. And AJ has Star Wars socks in her hair. See below.

Official "making children work before they've had breakfast" photo

Work - For me, work has been busy. Ben has been doing a training course from home this week, saving him the early morning commute. He's not looking forward to getting back to the 5 AM wake-up time on Monday. 

School - School's going great for AJ, but it is kind of driving me nuts. First of all, the Math Derby has been postponed yet again, for another week. AJ hasn't really been practicing, so I guess that's OK but now I need to re-do my time off request. 

This week has been "Read Across America Week," which is an annual event to coincide with Dr. Seuss's birthday. Volunteers from the community came to read to the children on Wednesday, as they did in many other schools. AJ's school was visited by the Mayor of Birmingham, William Bell. 

This year, it also brought a week's worth of special out-of-uniform days. 

We got the flier and the call on Monday night. Tuesday, we had to be at school early for the Bake Sale, so AJ didn't get photographed properly. She did wear a bunch of different socks simultaneously. And then, she decided to put socks in her hair as well. So here's the best

Wednesday was Wacky. AJ put on her tie-dyed shirt, inside out and backwards, over her striped tights and striped shorts, completing the look with her polka dot boots. Fortunately, it was Wacky Wednesday at lots of schools, so I didn't feel that bad when my mom picked up AJ as a surprise to take her birthday shopping. (Although AJ did feel bad when she first saw Nana at school, unannounced - she thought something must be wrong!) Nana and Granddaddy took AJ to Target to pick out some toys and clothes, and this wouldn't have been very remarkable except that it was my dad's first visit to Target ever. How many times did my dad take me shopping for clothes when I was a little girl? Zero. Wacky Wednesday indeed. A very exhausted AJ did not want me to photograph her so I got her from the back. You get the idea.

Thursday was more "fun" with Character Day. AJ decided to be Sally from The Cat in the Hat. The Sally on TV (The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That) is dressed slightly differently than the one in the book. But AJ made the best of it and wore a pink sleeveless dress with a white shirt underneath, white tights, black flats, and a red bow in her hair. She said people knew she was Sally. Works for me.

Friday was pajama day in honor of The Sleep Book. This is the third pajama day of the school year if I am counting correctly. This was also a fundraiser for the yearbook sales offset I've mentioned before, but this part was not well-publicized. I hope they made some money.

Monday, which is AJ's birthday, they'll wear hats. She is considering making something elaborate out of newspaper.

Monday through Friday of next week is Career Week. You would not think this involves dressing up, but it does. 

They've even gotten the careers all picked out for the kids.

Monday - entertainer; Tuesday - sports; Wednesday - lawyer; Thursday - medical; Friday - politician.

So now she has to be an entertainer wearing a hat on her birthday when I should bring something to share with the class and now I feel like my weekend is ruined and I have a headache. But the thrift store is having half price day tomorrow, with a special appearance by the Easter Bunny. I haven't even thought about Easter yet.

I realize that all of this is OPTIONAL and I shouldn't stress myself out. There have been, on occasion, times when AJ just doesn't want to participate. And that's OK. But something tells me if she can be out of uniform, she will be.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What's Up?

This past week was a whirlwind of activity.

On Tuesday, it was 60's - 70's - 80's day. AJ chose to dress up in the style of the 1980s. This is the best we could do with short notice. AJ did her own hair and already had all the jelly bracelets.

(Photo by Senora Blurry Cam)

All week, there were Black History events going on, including a "Motown Live" program on Wednesday and a "Wax Museum" on Thursday. AJ participated in the Black History play on Friday. The teachers wrote a very moving play focusing on the lives of some influential African Americans: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama. Each scene began with an a capella spiritual, with accompanying dancing by "Serenity" the school's dance group. Selections included "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Wade in the Water," "Motherless Child," and "Amazing Grace." Then, the entire 5th grade (broken up into sections) presented their own poetry. They all began with the prompt, "My Black is Beautiful because..." and each student came to the microphone and said why they thought they were proud of their heritage. "My Black is beautiful because of my curly hair." "My Black is beautiful because I own it." "My Black is beautiful because of my loving heart." Although there are not many, there are students who are not Black, and those students began their sentences with "My Hispanic is beautiful," "My White is beautiful," "My Multi-colored Race is beautiful," and even, "My Hawaiian is beautiful." It was, actually, beautiful.

Moving on, there was a scene where kids acted out part of the famous person's life and contributions, and then the narrator segued that into a song that kids danced to. AJ, as a praise dancer, was in three of these numbers.

I took video, but it is unusable. I am sorry. If you come visit, I can pull it up on my phone and you can zoom in on AJ. You can't do it on a computer.

First of all, let me just say that AJ has rhythm and knew all the steps. Many teachers and parents commented on how good she was. She was more inspired than several kids, leading me to say that, well, maybe the Holy Spirit got hold of her. She still does not want to take dance lessons but she is interested in performing in plays, so there's that. Maybe drama camp in 2017.

She took it very seriously and "put feeling into it" as she said. It was a joy to watch, and I am glad that she did this, even though the kids had to give up some recess periods to practice.

They performed to "Imagine Me" by Kirk Franklin, "Shackles" by Mary Mary and "It's Working" by William Murphy. These Gospel songs were not particularly historic, and but they were woven into the story in such a way that they were relevant. And before anyone complains about Gospel music in the public schools, this was a history program, and the African American community has had such a complicated relationship with the church. Where it was once a force of oppression, it is now a source of empowerment.

Also this week, we found out AJ has been assigned to the Southside Blue Jays. She is on a team with one other little girl. There are 7 teams, and at least one other team has one other girl. Her coach is one of her coaches from Fall Ball. There's another dad involved who was from Fall Ball as well. On her team is one kid from the Angels of Fall Ball (that goes with the dad, obviously) and one other kid from the Pirates last Spring. So she knows a couple of the other kids already, which is nice.

Then, yesterday, the coach emailed Ben to ask if he'd be an assistant coach, at least temporarily, so he accepted. Now to find his glove...

Tomorrow is the PTA Election Day (for real this time) Bake Sale. We are setting up at 7:00 AM! I put the word out via Facebook that I was looking for help baking, and my friend got me 8 baking mixes that she just happened to have. So my from-scratch baking I had planned got shafted, because I was determined to bring these donated mixes to life. I asked on our PTA facebook group if anyone wanted to help, and I had a couple of takers. So on my Saturday errands, I went out to deliver a Sam's Club-sized box of peanut butter/Hershey's kiss cookie mix to Christine and a pack of sugar cookie mix and a pack of oatmeal cookie mix to Meg. Yesterday afternoon, since I had no other takers, AJ and I made 2 different packs of brownies with walnuts, a pack of Snickerdoodle (cinnamon and sugar) cookies, peanut butter and chocolate bars, and gluten free chocolate chocolate chip muffins. We used lots of eggs and butter! It was fun but exhausting. I can't even imagine that Mom does this all day long at the restaurant. We're hoping for a good turnout.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Some Updates

The Math Derby has been rescheduled to March 9, for no reason discernible to me. In the meantime, Drew has taught AJ how to play Blackjack, so she can now add and subtract numbers 1-21 very quickly. Also, when she asked for more vegetables at dinner, she said, "Hit me."

This is the kind of stuff I do at work. Yes, I have plenty of work to do.

Dear Xerox Demo,

I know we were only together for a short time, but I can’t stop thinking about you.

My love for the Konica has faded so. He doesn’t even authenticate me anymore. But you, you recognized me with the first swipe. It’s very validating that you see me for who I am.

I miss your cute staples. I miss your speedy output. I miss your secure print jobs.

I thought we made such a good team.

I want you back for good.



PTA stuff is keeping me very, very busy. Ben said, "PTA is taking over your life," and then two days later, AJ said, "PTA is taking over your life." We sold $7,000 worth of candy (we get to keep $3,500) so there have been lots of candy selling, meetings, bank trips, candy sorting, and candy distributing. And then, coming very soon - Tuesday, March 1 are the primary elections and Avondale School is a polling place. 

Did I ever tell you about our Erstwhile Election Day Bake Sale in November? Usually, the second Tuesday in November is an election day, and we planned over the summer for our bake sale. But it turned out that, for the first time in decades, there was no election. We decided to still have the sale, but move it to another, more visible location. My friend, local artist and fellow PTA mom, Bethanne Hill, made us these signs. They are currently in my office as the only of her original pieces that I currently own, but I hope to rectify that this year.

So we will be baking this weekend. We hope to do blueberry muffins and bread, but we are not sure what our social calendar will allow (sorority alumnae meeting plus birthday party). 

We recently learned that our school can't make copies for our PTA so we got a copier donated by a local business that was moving. We have to provide the toner and paper, but this will save us from late night runs to Office Depot. 

There's lots more but these are the things that occupy a lot of real estate in my brain. Fortunately, AJ gets along really well with the kids of the other board members. And she's good at selling cookies and sorting out candy bars. Real life skills, people.

The last 5 pictures in my phone that I haven't shared yet:

1. Picture day is Wednesday. Another Avondale mom on Facebook asked, "When is picture day?" so I took a picture of the note. It was quicker than retyping it. I wish the teachers all sent home notes on the same days. Also, I wish it were by email so both parents would see it and not just the backpack-checking parent.

2.  Radar looked so adorable like this I zoomed in to get this shot. He looks guilty. I can't imagine why.

3. Easter is more than a month away, but I got a small pack of these at CVS to tide me over.
4. Do you want to build a snowman? AJ's writing exercise from a while back at school. I had it hanging in my office.

5.  Have you ever wondered what to wear on Presidents' Day? I don't anymore. Thanks to Granny for these socks!

Monday, February 22, 2016


This weekend was a blur, not unlike many other weekends.

While AJ played in her room and Ben rested, I went to run errands: delivering candy bars from the PTA fundraiser, returning books to the library, dropping a coat at the cleaners, going to the grocery store.

AJ chose our lunch spot: Taco Bell. This proves how much I love my daughter. Note: The Quesalupa is pretty good for Taco Bell but not as good as their cantina bowls.

Then more stuff to do: laundry, etc.

To ward off the gloomy day, we read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Then watched an episode of Cupcake Wars on Netflix. While neither of us likes frosting on our cupcakes (i.e., we like muffins) but it is interesting to see what people will do with certain ingredients and it's fun to guess who will win.
AJ was still a little bored, so I asked if she'd like to do an activity we had seen on Pinterest: Bathtub paint.

She noted that last time she did this, it was a different recipe.  It was 4 years ago - I barely remember.

The recipe we used this time was just shaving cream and food coloring. The link is here.

AJ did this all her self.

First, she made the paint.

 Then, she discovered that the muffin tin floated.

Then, she painted. And then, the muffin tin turned over in the water, leaving all her "paint" mixed together an ugly green color. But she painted anyway. ALL over the shower. This is part of the work in progress.

We had leftovers for dinner.

Ben worked on the dishwasher, as our dishes were not getting clean. Earlier in the week, he cleaned out a very disgusting trap at the bottom of our dishwasher. This weekend, he took the whole unit apart and checked to make sure the jets were firing. The second round of washing came out much better, but we are still wary and may end up with a new one.

This was the second home improvement project of the day. The first was to re-anchor the hooks in the kitchen. Now my purse and other bags can be hung and not just thrown in the floor. I am very happy and relieved! Our junk was blocking Radar's toy box, and though he didn't complain, that was unfair.

Sunday found us with more laundry and errands. I'm not sure I showered. We had Burger King for lunch (did you know they're going to have hot dogs there soon? Interesting). AJ had baseball evaluations and did alright for not having picked up a glove all winter. I think the coaches are aware of her focus and enthusiasm so I am sure a good match will be made. Also, I saw no other girls in the 7-8 league, but she is OK with this. Several of her friends will be playing, and I enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces at the ball park.

We delivered more fundraiser candy bars and stopped by to see Nana and Granddaddy for a few minutes. Then we went to the grocery store (again) because I had forgotten eggs and Diet Dr. Pepper. One of these items is essential to life in our house. If we have Diet Dr. Pepper and dog food, we can get through anything. And in a pinch, Radar can eat table scraps.

We baked banana nut bread, which, AJ opined was not as good as last time.

Then, I baked some chicken and had potatoes au gratin (from a box) and a broccoli medley (from the freezer section) for dinner. More effort than usually goes into Sunday night dinner! (Rusty was out of town.)

Sunday night scrub down (including my wiping down the rest of the "paint" from the tub), more reading, and then it was bedtime for all of us. I wish I could say bedtime was going well, but it is not. I hope to have a cheerier update on that subject soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Be My Valentine

This year, Valentine's Day was on a Sunday, so we ended up celebrating the whole weekend.

On Friday, I came home to two dozen roses.

I brought home a half a dozen cookies for my two Valentines. I got Oatmeal Raisin from Insomnia Cookies, and I didn't even eat any when they were on my desk still warm from the shop.

Here's a closer up picture.

For balance, I made Roasted Tomato, Asparagus and Black Bean tacos. Pretty good, especially with some cheese thrown on there.

AJ had her party at school, but she only brought home a smidgen of candy, opting to give it to her friends instead. She didn't even bother to take the sweet little cards off the candy, so her friends' parents may wonder why they have cards addressed to AJ!

We spent the rest of the evening cleaning the house, which was an excellent Valentine's gift to each other.

On Saturday morning, we had breakfast at our house for us, my parents and Drew.  Good thing we cleaned up enough to seat them at our table! We even had room for more flowers (yellow roses are Mom's favorite).

As if we didn't have enough sugar, some friends gave AJ these shortbread cookies.

Then, after a PTA errand (that candy bar money wasn't going to deposit itself!) we had lunch at Zaxby's. After that and some laundry, AJ headed out to our appointed fun day: Manicures and pedicures at Vestavia Nails. We were so excited! I got a color called "Gimme a Lido Kiss" (seen in this review article). AJ got a similar Valentines-appropriate red color on her fingers and a gold color on her toes. (PS - No photos of her feet, in case it freaks anyone out.) She waited patiently as they finished my full-service manicure (her nails were just cut, filed, and polished) but I got heated, exfoliated, etc. Even though it is now 3 days later, my nails are still looking pretty good.
(Is it just me, or is there a correlation between making a nail appointment and then having every single nail break?)

On Saturday night, AJ went to Nana and Granddaddy's house so we could have a special date night. They had dinner and baked sugar heart-shaped cookies with red sprinkles. We went to dinner at Silvertron Café. While we didn't venture far from our neighborhood, my requirement for dinner was "a place where they have waiters." I'm so demanding. We tried to watch TV when we got home but I fell asleep. Here's a picture we took of ourselves at home before I crashed.

The light was bad and we were tired. Come to think of it, that could be the caption of any of a number of photos of us over the past 16 years.

On Sunday, we celebrated the big day. I gave Ben a CD that he didn't like, but thought was kind of interesting. And AJ and I got him some powdered-sugar donuts for breakfast(s).

I got both of them cards, featuring adorable dogs.

 For Ben

For AJ

Coincidentally, my friend Elizabeth also sent us a dog valentine.

AJ got me an adorable and useful meal-planning notepad. It is now affixed to the refrigerator and reminds me of my good intentions. Last night, enchiladas. Tonight, fish. Tomorrow night, YOYO (you're on you're own) because I have a meeting.

But the big story of Valentine's Day was the necklace. Ben got me this beautiful emerald and diamond necklace from Jared. It may be cliché to you, but to me it was more than perfect.

 He went to Jared.

Lest you think this gift-giving extravaganza was terribly one-sided (which it was), I got Ben a BlackBerry.

Really and truly, mobile technology is his hobby, and I was terribly afraid that, even though I knew which one he wanted, that I would not get a good deal and he would be upset. So he just got it for himself. It's on the way. We're also getting new pillows, but we have to pick them out together.

We spent the rest of Sunday doing our usual Sunday stuff (AJ playing in her room while Ben napped and I went grocery shopping and ironed school uniforms, making phone calls to relatives, etc.).

AJ made this seasonal bookmark:

We topped off the weekend with a visit to Rusty's for dinner:

We did not get the special - that's a lot of meat!

Yes, our Valentine's Days are usually sweet but this one seemed even sweeter. Last year, on Valentine's Day, we were at my Grandma Hazel's funeral. We all know we are lucky to be here and have each other to love, and we should definitely celebrate that every chance we get.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Guinea Pig Poem

At Christmas time, Anna June kept asking Ben what he wanted for Christmas. He couldn't come up with anything, so he thought of something creative and random. He asked her to write him a poem about a Guinea Pig.

Exasperated and looking for inspiration, AJ went for help. She asked my cousin Morgan and Aunt Heidi to help her come up with something creative. Morgan texted me their draft, which AJ then presented to Ben on Christmas morning.

I was just texting Morgan about something else and found the poem, and decided it must be shared immediately.

Guinea Pig Poem
By AJ (and relatives)

I want to buy a Guinea Pig
Its butt is really big
It will have a lot of hair
Brush it if you dare
We'll buy it at the store
So it'll never be a bore
It has little ears
And will bring lots of Christmas cheers.

PS - AJ does not actually want a Guinea Pig