Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Box Tops for Education

Anna June has a great school. The teachers and principal at Avondale work constantly for the students. Sometimes, the school has to raise money for "extras" not provided by the district. Sometimes, the extras are not enough, and that's where the PTA steps in.

One ongoing fundraiser for our PTA is through Box Tops for Education. The idea is simple - when you buy a product that has a Box Top label on it, clip it out. We then send these to a teacher volunteer at our school, who sends them to the company. The school (or in our case, the PTA) gets ten cents for each box top.

We keep a baggie on our fridge to collect them.

I wouldn't suggest that you buy items just because they have a Box Top on them - they are all name-brand products and sometimes, we don't need to be that fancy. But if you happen to buy one and you happen to see it has a Box Top, please clip it for us! Our PTA has earned hundreds of dollars from these things. We've used the money on things like Teacher Appreciation Week.

I have been known to dive into trash cans if I see them. I shared this once and found I was not the only mama doing this. It is free money!

This year, the class that sends the most Box Tops in wins a popcorn party. Thanks to contributions of friends and family (and one special restaurant that happens to use a lot of products with Box Tops on them), AJ's class won last year. Possibly, they won the year before, also, but we don't remember.

In any case, thanks for the contributions, and please keep them coming. If it's not feasible to mail your Box Tops to us (i.e., the postage would cost more than they are worth), then please donate them to your local school. Don't let money end up in the trash!

Monday, February 16, 2015


On Groundhog Day, the kids in Anna June's grade were supposed to watch the weather that morning to find out what the groundhog predicted.

AJ was sick that day, but I still had her take in the answer in case she could still get credit.

She claims she just had to tell the teacher the answer, but I wanted it in writing.

AJ loves cold weather and any time snow is predicted, she is excited. I cannot share this enthusiasm.

The groundhog is not a great predictor, but today, it seems like he is correct. We have very cold rain and snow is possible later in the week.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Take Me Out

This week has been busy and weird for everyone, including Anna June. Today, Ben took her for the talent evaluations for Southside Baseball.

Today, the high was in the 40s, so they tried to keep things running smoothly. Besides a jacket, Anna June wore her turquoise velour sweatpants, a white long sleeved t-shirt, and her pink Milwaukee Brewers jersey (Granny had "LUCROY" stitched on the back). She used her new glove and wore her Atlanta Braves hat. AJ checked in and was assigned a number. She reported to the 7-8 year old group, as she'll turn 7 during the season. For this age group, the coaches pitch to the batter, but there is still a player assigned to be pitcher for fielding purposes. During the evaluations, She ran, fielded grounders, tried her hand at different positions, and took a turn at bat. There were 4 other girls who showed up to play. The point of the talent evaluation is to make sure the teams are balanced fairly - you don't want a team with only All-Stars or a team that never wins. At the moment, we are anxiously awaiting team assignment. AJ knew several children from school, so I am sure she'll be comfortable with whichever team she gets. This video starts as a slideshow of all the photos Ben took, and ends with a video of her at bat.

Anna June - Baseball Talent Evaluation Day from SRG on Vimeo.

We are looking forward to living at going to Avondale Park for the next few months.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Yesterday, Anna June and I baked a cake. We were scheduled to attend a Mother-Daughter Teddy Bear Tea Party at her friend Lily's house. We were to bring a "sweet treat" to share.

As usual, I started by asking AJ what she thought we should bring.

She wanted to dye marshmallows with food coloring. I did some research and found out how to do it. I had marshmallows. I had food coloring. We were set.

Closer to the time of the party, the hostess asked what I was planning to bring. I told her that we would bring marshmallows, but she asked if there was something else we may want to bring, since they already had marshmallows. Hot chocolate AND chocolate fondue were on the menu, and, well, they had regular old marshmallows for those things. We didn't need more.

So I did a little more research. I showed AJ an idea I had pinned a long time ago for a heart shaped cake.  It looked do-able to me, and cute to her, so we looked for (and found) more specific instructions. I liked this recipe. I made a list and got the needed supplies on my weekly grocery run. (Confession - I go to the grocery store more than once a week. The bag boy remarked on my new purse yesterday. I go all the dang time, OK?)

AJ and I baked the cake. We frosted it together, too, despite some disagreements about the placement of the sprinkles.

After dinner, I had a text from Lily's mom that they needed to postpone the party, due to her husband's illness.

But what to do with the cake?

I weighed my options: I could eat it all. I could take it to work. I could cut it up and serve it at coffee hour after church. I could take it to my mom's house. I could take it to my grandmother's house, where several of my relatives were staying. I could take it to the waiting room on the cardiac floor, or I could take it to the nurses, who were taking such good care of my grandma. So I called my mom for advice.

After a brief conversation, I decided I could take it to Mom's, where AJ, Mom, and I could have a small piece. Then, Mom could take it up to the hospital when she went, since I wasn't planning to go today. There were lots of people visiting Grandma - we had about a dozen at one time yesterday. After everyone got a piece, mom told the nurse she was going to give it to her for the nursing crew.

"You're an angel," the nurse said. Mom is probably used to being told that (or she should be), but that wasn't the whole story. The nurse went on to say that there was a new arrival to the floor, right next door to Grandma. It was actually his birthday, and he had been asking for cake. No one had been able to get him any yet, and this was an opportunity to make his day. So they cut him a piece, and carried it in and sang happy birthday!

I had no idea that an idea I had pinned a couple of years ago plus box of cake mix and a tub of cool whip would become so important today. I'm not saying that I'm glad that a friend may have the flu, but I am saying that the cake that I wasn't even planning to bake was for a higher purpose, and I am very, very glad.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Postponed Due to Illness

Anna June had a good week, but then a rough weekend. My Monday morning blog posts were starting to become a regular thing, but yesterday, it was not happening. Here are some updates.

First of all, the week itself went pretty well. School was good - AJ's behavior and grades are still reported as stellar.

On Thursday, our roofers came back to further investigate - we had yet another water spot. They discovered that the furnace vent pipe was not connected to the vent they had installed. In fact, the pipe is several inches too short. After some discussion, it has been decided that they will pay for our furnace company to install additional pipe. Hopefully, the water spots from the condensation will stop.

While they were here, Radar did not like that I was leaving to take AJ to school, so he decided to take the opportunity to try to run away. I decided to take him to school with us, so AJ would not be late. She took a picture of him in the car.

I had hoped he had outgrown such nonsense, but at least it didn't take us long to convince him to go "bye-bye" in the car.

On Friday, Ben picked up AJ from after school care and they went shopping for a new baseball glove at Romeo's Sports in our neighborhood. They also ended up buying a "safety ball," which is the same size as a baseball but a little bit softer. AJ practiced with her dad on Saturday morning and her granddaddy on Saturday afternoon. The scouting report is that she has a good arm, but throws off the wrong foot.

Friday evening, my grandmother called me from the rehab facility, needing me to sit with her since she was very sick and my mom had to be at the auction. My other aunts and uncles have returned to their respective homes elsewhere in Alabama and Florida, but they plan to return soon. She was in a lot of pain. After I left, she ended up going back to the ER and being admitted to the hospital. That's the 3rd time this year, I believe.

I probably shouldn't confess it, but on Saturday night, Ben and I had a long-awaited date night. We took AJ over to my dad extra early and we stayed out extra late. We went out to dinner at a restaurant with real silverware and no drive-through. We shopped for a while, and then we went to a movie! In a theater! With popcorn (and butter)! Ben and I had both read the book Gone Girl and we wanted to see the movie in the theater while we had the chance, even though it's available to rent. (Incidentally, the whole experience of enduring the crowd, paying so much - even at the budget theater - and having so much popcorn we couldn't eat it all was kind of a reminder why we usually stick to Netflix and Pop Secret.)

AJ was not feeling well when we picked her up. She woke up around 1:30 AM vomiting. We slept off and on, with several episodes through the night and morning. By Sunday night, she was holding down water and Sprite. She ran a fever, so I stayed home with her on Monday. She watched some TV and worked on a craft. She made herself some Kool-Aid. She almost wrote a blog post, but got bored with it. She was going to blog about her new baseball glove.

Fortunately, she felt well enough for school today.

Monday, January 26, 2015

When the Personal is the Universal

Anna June made it to school, barely on time, this morning. We're having kind of a rough day, but everything is fine. Here are some recent pictures and updates.

Monday was MLK Day, and we were off school and work. AJ made a list of things she wanted to do, and we did most of them: walk the dog, dust the furniture (she dusted some in my room and hers), clean the windows (she cleaned the window in her room), rake leaves, watch TV, play games (we played Sorry Sliders, one of her Christmas gifts), go to the park, etc.

Here she is at the park. I've probably talked about it before, but the diversity of our neighborhood strikes me sometimes. I thought going to Crestwood Park on that particular sunny Martin Luther King Day was quite appropriate. When we went, there were lots of people there of lots of different races. Everyone was peacefully doing there own thing. Kids were playing - some black kids and Arab kids played soccer against each other in an impromptu game while their moms chatted with their friends. I spoke to another Avondale parent about the wonderful kindergarten teachers while AJ and her little boy did various things to impress each other on the playground. There were big and small dogs, and big and small people. Different snacks were being eaten, different languages were being spoken. We still have a long way to go, but at that moment, athletes were training and parents were taking pictures, and we were all welcome to be there together. To me, that was better than a service project or a prayer breakfast. We were all enjoying the afternoon, in peace.

That night, I made a creamy tortellini soup from my new cookbook. I enjoyed it, and it was easy! 

On Tuesday, Ben picked AJ up after school and they visited the brand new Steel City Jump Park, located in The Edge movie theater. They jumped for an hour and had a fantastic time. It was the one thing on her list from the day before that didn't get done. She would love to go back soon.

Wednesday through Friday passed pretty quickly, with a school meeting and other miscellaneous happenings. My grandmother left the hospital and went to a different rehab facility to recuperate. Various relatives have been in town to help and to visit.

On Saturday, after running some errands, we went to a baby shower for my friend Shelley. It was an excellent party, filled with homemade Indian food among other delicious things. AJ had fun playing with her friends Mallory and Anna.

Saturday was the day AJ had been waiting for patiently - she had Lily over for a play date that evening. The girls mostly played with dolls, pretending that they were going to the beach. We had AJ's chosen menu: cheese quesadillas, rice, and carrots, with strawberry shortcake for dessert.

After eating, the dolls "went to the movies", so the girls watched Alvin and the Chipmunks, making sure to get up and dance excitedly during every song. Lily's mom arrived just as the movie ended.

Yesterday was a day of visiting family, in person and by telephone. AJ and I made a chocolate cake to contribute to mom's dinner, only to be outdone by Rusty and Beth's excellent pound cake.

Today, first grade is celebrating the 100th day of school. Each student had to bring in 100 of something that would fit in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. AJ chose jellybeans, and she got them counted out on Saturday.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another Digest Update

Anna June is watching TV while pacing, as my old pedometer has found a new owner. She will definitely beat my step count for the day.

But this gives me a chance to blog for a minute. I've been doing better about sticking to my goal of not writing at work, but unfortunately not meeting the goal of blogging more. Balance is so tricky.

Ben and I have mostly recovered from our colds, although he's still coughing. Anna June is fine, showing no symptoms of anything. Grandma Hazel went to rehab briefly before returning to the hospital. It is hoped she will go to a different rehab this week.

Anna June's teacher uses an app called Class Dojo. It's a way to give parents an at-a-glance update as to how their student was performing (behaviorally) at the time the teacher performed the check-in. They can get positive or negative feedback. AJ's feedback has been 100% positive. We figured it would be, since she usually gets stamps, stickers, or stars on her daily written report from her teacher, indicating she had a good day, but she is still on target now that they are tracking with this app.

On Thursday, I left work early to go meet AJ's friend H at our house. Her mom was out of town and her dad had to work, so I said that for just this one day, I could sacrifice a couple of vacation hours to keep her after school until late in the evening when her dad got off work. AJ was ecstatic that her friend was able to come with me to pick her up from after school care. They had so much fun. We started with a snack of homemade banana milkshakes (yes, I had to look up a recipe, because I am terrible with proportions) - this recipe was just enough for 2 little girls to split. Then, the girls played while I made dinner: spaghetti, garlic bread, fruit salad, and green beans. They had a dance party while I washed dishes. They ate Popsicles for dessert. We did clay masks in our pajamas. They asked for a "midnight snack" (at 8:00 PM) of apples and graham crackers. They were getting ready for bed when H's dad came back - they were very disappointed she had to leave. We'll have to have a proper sleepover another time.

I bought AJ a pair of dress shoes from Kohl's online, and she actually likes them! She's worn them now, so no returning. I lost count of how many pairs we returned, or tried on and did not buy. Hallelujah.

The roof got fixed. We will see if it stays that way. I am very disappointed. It just goes to show that when your friends and family offer advice, you should usually take it. (We didn't use the roofers we were told to use.)

After playing all week, I won only one more game of Words With Friends- up to 28. I did win a step challenge on my fitbit network, so all those meetings out of the building paid off. We ate at home 4 nights out of 7 this week, which is an improvement for us.

When my parents rescued their dog Maggie, she was starving. As a Tucker, she was fed very well for many years. She passed away Monday night, hopefully knowing how much she was loved and how much joy she brought to the family, especially the grandkids.
(Photo courtesy Drew Tucker's facebook page)