Saturday, January 30, 2016

Life Size

To show how big the boxes are from Amazon Pantry, here is a picture of my kid in a box.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Clowning Around

Anna June is learning to juggle. She doesn't have it down yet, but at least she has a costume.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Candlelight Vigil

Anna June's school let out for Christmas break on Friday, December 18.

On the evening of Saturday, December 19, a horrible accident near Birmingham killed three people and injured the other two passengers. Among the dead were two 8-year-old boys, Cardell Coachman and Jakobe Johnson. Jakobe attended Anna June's school and was in Mrs. Martin's Third Grade Class.

Anna June did not know Jakobe but we do know several children in that class. Even so, breaking the news to her was an unreal experience. A couple of days before, this Lego-loving little boy had been enjoying pajama day, just like AJ. Then, suddenly, he was gone.

Our PTA board organized a candlelight vigil at the school. Many of our community, including students, teachers, parents, family, friends, Birmingham Board of Education members and the superintendent came to support each other through this devastating news. 

It was the first time I'd ever been to a candlelight vigil. AJ and Ben decided to stay home, so I, as one of the PTA volunteers, bought some lighters and met our president at the school, who borrowed the candles from the church where she works.

I hope I never have to go to another one, especially another one for a child. It was devastating. I made my way through the crowd, lighting candles and encouraging people to share their light with each other. It was raining, and the wind under the carport where we had all gathered made it difficult to get the candles to hold the flames. I had to re-light a lot. I had to maneuver my way into holding the lighter just right and my hands just so the wind wouldn't completely negate my effort. Soloists sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children." A pastor prayed. The superintendent, principal and teacher spoke.

The accident was caused by a drunk driver, who is now in jail and charged with the three murders. The man's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

It has been more than a month since the funeral. There are photos of Jakobe up at the school's front door. It touches me every day I drive up to the school or walk in that way. What a tragedy.

We've all been wanting to "DO SOMETHING!" because of this completely avoidable, nonsensical, awful loss of life. First of all, the teachers immediately got together and sent the family gift cards, money, and food. Then, the PTA headed up a school-wide effort to collect money for the family, and I believe we raised enough to pay for the remaining funeral expenses. It was clearly the saddest thing I could hope to do as a treasurer. This was on one of the envelopes:
The text is from John 11:33 and 35, when Jesus is mourning the death of his friend, Lazarus. It moved me so.

For myself, I can only say that the thing that I am doing is to stop joking about alcohol. I am online constantly, and there are so many hilarious jokes involving drinking. I previously jokingly sent a funny meme to the PTA officers that said we could raise a lot more money if the "Box Tops for Education" program extended to wine labels. But for me, the time has come to stop glorifying drinking. I am not likely to stop drinking, but I can stop making it seem like beer, wine, and other things that literally numb you are to be honored. It won't change our culture, but this loss has changed me. I have started thinking about families who have been victims of crashes such as these, and even those in recovery who are trying to do better. If I re-post that joke about opening a store called Forever 39 that sells wine and yoga pants, what am I telling our kids? Especially the one that looks over my shoulder?

Regardless, I hope that each of these children at Avondale, all of Jakobe's friends, becomes like those candles - struggling against the wind in such darkness, but overcoming the night with the help of the flames from those around them. May God have mercy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Was Your Weekend?

This weekend we packed more in than usual, even for us. Here's what we did:

Friday - AJ's school and Ben's work let out early, and I worked the afternoon from home as we had the threat of inclement weather. It was snowing, but the ground was too warm in our area for it to stick at all. There were many other areas near us with much more snow, but we just missed out. We had dinner from a bag: salad and chicken. We watched The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. I totally fell asleep. AJ tells me she liked it.

Saturday - Swim lesson! Ben observed while I walked on the track. AJ did all kinds of strokes: breast stroke, back stroke, freestyle, and more. She was exhausted afterwards. We had lunch at Chick-fil-A because we had gotten a sample of their new Superfoods Salad (it's a kale and broccolini salad) and Ben really wanted more. Then we went home to get ready for AJ's play date with Lily. This was their last play date before Lily moves away this week. AJ will miss her B.F.F.

Saturday evening - dinner was baked fish with this copycat Potlatch seasoning, peas, and "roasted red potatoes with garlic." I should have known better when there was no verifiable recipe, just some text in the comment of a photo on Pinterest, but our potatoes did not roast, even though I gave them longer than it said to. Maybe ours were bigger. Either way, that one went in the "don't do again" pile.

Then we went to meet up with Drew and Granddaddy and went to the UAB Men's Basketball game. It was fantastic, and UAB extended their longest winning streak in school history by beating the University of North Texas 78-57. UAB was favored to win, but was losing at the beginning of the game, making it more exciting than you would have thought.

Of course we all cheered at appropriate times during the game, but we all screamed the loudest when the announcer said, "Rusty's Bar-B-Q is a proud sponsor of Blazer Athletics." There are 3 other big BBQ restaurants who sponsor the Blazers, one of which now has a location on campus. It's hard to compete, but it wasn't hard to find us (and our friends 2 sections over) when we were clapping and screaming because of an advertisement.

Sunday - lots of running around, including an extended trip to the mall to exchange something at Macy's, get my rings cleaned and inspected at Kay Jewelers and drop off some old glasses at Lens Crafters. Then, we went over to Samford University's Leslie Stephen Wright Center for the Performing Arts to see Opera Birmingham perform La Traviata by Verdi. Yes, we took AJ. Yes, I knew a little about the story but the company manager assured me that it was "PG" and that AJ would be alright. We knew some people in the show and I thought it would be fun for AJ to see our friends on stage. The story and the performance were fine, but I think she objected to its length: Three acts (and two intermissions) totaling just under 3 hours. Near the end, Ben was muttering, "Just die already!" We agreed that Violetta had remarkable lung capacity for someone allegedly dying of tuberculosis. And Verdi must not have known how contagious it is.

A real, actual review of the performance (the Friday night show, not the Sunday matinee) is found here.

Who else would take their kid to both an NCAA basketball game and an opera in the same weekend? Asked if she liked either one, AJ said no and then went on to describe the two events as "six hours I will never get back." I told her I'd likely ask again to bring her to a ball game next year, but I would leave the opera alone. If she wants to go again when she's older, she can ask.

We took AJ over to my parents' house, where we all had dinner and AJ stayed a while to play with Wesley, who was spending the night. Ben and I took advantage of the time to have what may have been our first date night of the year, which was spent at home watching SNL clips and doing a few chores. Still counts, though!

This next weekend is shaping up to be busy, as well, but not quite as busy. We'll see.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Last Monday, Anna June's school was closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Back at school, there was an opportunity to do some projects and worksheets associated with the day, including this biography timeline. The students cut out facts and then placed them chronologically on the timeline. I don't know if the teacher told her to do it or not, but AJ diligently added in the comma to every date, making it correct.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Things You Find...

I just found a list containing a blog post I meant to write but evidently did not.

More than a year ago, we went camping. You can read about it here.

Around that time, I polled my friends on Facebook to ask what all we should bring with us. As a novice, I was sure that I would forget important stuff. I was right, but their ideas were interesting, at least. Evidently, I have lots of friends who are veteran campers. Here are their ideas, in three categories.


Foam pads/air mattresses (ground is hard)
Fan (it gets hot in AL)
ground cover under tent
Waterproof tent
Poles and rain fly for tent
Sleeping bag
Fleece blanket
Fleece socks (or at least a pair of dry socks)
Cooking apparatus
Eating and drinking utensils
Dry matches
First aid
Backup toilet paper
Hand sanitizer
Bug spray
Rain gear

Sleeping pills
Castor oil
Popcorn and wok
Chocolate (duh - they didn't have to suggest this)
Good salt
Cooked rice
Solar Charger for phone
Fun people

Illegal fireworks
Coffee percolator
Hotel reservation

Friday, January 22, 2016

Keeping that Christmas Spirit

This year's school Christmas program was during the day, so no one from our family could attend besides me. Each grade performed one song.

Second grade performed "Gloria" although it was not a traditional holiday song I've heard before (although the words were familiar). And, no, it was not Van Morrison's "G-L-O-R-I-A" although that would have been interesting, too.

Anna June is standing in the back row towards our left, wearing a red dress.

Without further ado, here's everything you would have seen of the second grade's performance, without the awkward transitions between classes and the long presentation. You're welcome.

Avondale Elementary Christmas Program from SRG on Vimeo.