Friday, May 8, 2015

I. Can't. Even.

Anna June has had a great school year, overall. She's a model student of first grade. I have yet to hear a complaint about her academic performance or her behavior. She's doing great.

As a parent towards the end of the school year, though, I feel I'm limping towards the finish line.

I read it a couple of years ago, but it's been making the rounds on Facebook, so I thought I'd share this article by Jen Hatmaker about the end of the school year slump. It's funny, I promise. Best of all, though, I am evidently not alone.

Yesterday, AJ told me I had to check her backpack, because there were, "a lot of papers in there." There were SEVEN fliers/handouts/notices, and that's just one day.

It happens to be Teacher Appreciation Week. We got this note on Monday night. 
Even though the PTA provided lunch from Rusty's BBQ one day this week, evidently the administration wanted to put some guidelines on what we may want to bring to show our personal appreciation to our teacher. There was something suggested to bring in every day this week, including the day we got the note. We do appreciate AJ's teacher, so here is what we did:

Monday - nothing, obviously
Tuesday - I told AJ to pick out something from her candy stash. She pulled out a bite size (not even fun size) Snickers from Easter. Good enough, I told her.
Wednesday - AJ made a star from colored popsicle sticks, and she stuck the words "Great teacher" where they intersected like a crossword puzzle out of sticker foam letters we happened to have. I assisted her with how to spell "Great" and how to intersect the words, but the results were, forgive the pun, less than stellar. I didn't take a picture. We also sent her the last apple in the house, to make up for Monday.
Thursday - AJ made a card (on regular paper - she had no use for my card stock) with one of her trademark butterflies. She wrote something very sweet, like "You're the best teacher I've ever had. I will miss you over the summer. From: Anna June." She was still coloring in the car, and vowed to finish during free time. I hope the teacher received the card. I helped with spelling. We had baseball practice Wednesday night. It was seriously the best we could do.
Friday - Teacher Survival Kit. Thursday night, AJ had a baseball game, so I thought we'd handle it in the morning (since I am doing so well at this). Then, she had a nightmare and ended up sleeping on our floor. So I got up and made this myself, from 100% "recycled" materials:

Mints from party favors from AJ's golden birthday parties. Jar from party favor from AFWC event. Ribbon recycled from previous gift. Tag from paper from one of the dang notes they sent home yesterday. Inspiration from Pinterest, probably from this post.

And today was the day to turn in school picture orders. I ordered them! Even though it looks like she's sitting on an invisible stool!

And today was an Out-of-Uniform day. If kids paid $2 for a fundraiser, they could wear the shirt and hat of their choice with uniform bottoms. On a serious note, the older girls' running club, Girls on the Run, was raising money for the family of the kindergartner who was struck by a car on his way to school. He is out of the hospital and doing well, but the kids wanted to do something to help.

This is AJ from this morning. Photo by Dad, because Mama ain't got time for that.
You will notice the shorts/boots combo. This is because we are missing her other sneaker. Somehow, in a quick change scenario between the car, the baseball field, and home, it is missing.

Have you seen this shoe, Avondale?

She's also wearing her baseball belt, which I did not pack for last night's game, but was somehow easier to find than her school belt, which was in the toy box. But she didn't want to change.

And the shirt from the giant box that arrived from Granny yesterday. Thank you, Granny!

This is madness. We've had madness all year, but it is being compounded.

In the next 20 days (counting weekends) until school is out, there will be Field Day (bring Popsicles!) and the End of the Year program (show up!) and who knows what all else - not even counting baseball. (Two more games! Two more practices!) And regular life: birthday parties, church, family gatherings, holidays, and, oh yeah, my high school reunion. It does not look like I'll have time to get a new career or lose 50 pounds, so I'll just settle for trying to show up.

My lofty goals of leaving home dressed impeccably with dry hair and at least minimal makeup have been dashed. It is a wonder we leave the house at all. AJ and I have an ongoing battle about going to the bathroom first thing in the morning - I have no idea why, but she just doesn't want to go. I told her we weren't leaving the house until she went. She told me we'd have to stay home all day. I told her that was fine with me - I have stuff I have to do.

If you were to ask my child where her mother likes to eat breakfast, she may say, "the car." My head hangs in shame, but I handed her a cup of yogurt and a plastic spoon and said, "This is your breakfast," as she buckled herself in.

I am so, so grateful to have a group of PTA members and teachers who help keep us informed of what is going on, whether it is by text, email, Facebook, or in person. We could not do this without each other. Especially since we're all just getting by.

I booked all of AJ's summer camps and activities on time, so I did achieve one goal. But packing lunches and swimsuits may be worse. At least there's no counselor appreciation week.
And yes, I have booked our beach trip.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The $22 Sandwich

Anna June says she no longer likes grilled cheese sandwiches. But her father and I still like them.

There's a couple of grilled cheese restaurants in town, but we usually don't go to those places, since they're kind of pricey.

Ben was reading the newspaper online the other day and saw this recipe for Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Mushrooms and Honey Chive Butter.

He wondered how it would taste.

So, in the spirit of trying new things and having Meatless Monday, I decided to find out.

First, I went grocery shopping. The ingredients did not seem outrageously priced individually. Ben had expressed concern that there were too many ingredients and it would take too long. He was not wrong. But he didn't say anything about cost, so I ran with it.

I already had butter, honey, thyme, salt, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. But I bought:
Sourdough Bread 3.99
Chives 1.99
Gruyere cheese 9.29
White mushrooms 3.69
Shallots 1.89
Tax in Birmingham is 10%, even on Groceries.
$22.94 for the total.

The recipe makes one sandwich, so I had to double it.

But I wouldn't have been able to buy a smaller quantity of anything, except maybe the mushrooms.

This makes the $10 sandwich from the grilled cheese place look like a bargain!

AJ would not touch it.

My review: it was messy, but it was absolutely delicious. I think it was worth the effort.
Ben's review: "It was a little too exotic for me." 

Friday, April 24, 2015

The End of an Era

Anna June outgrew her sandbox. I knew it was going to happen, but it happened so gradually, it was like we didn't notice, really.

But the lid got kind of knocked off, and it rained and rained. I am sure there were animals who thought it was a litter box and there were definitely things growing in it.

Recently, we decided to have some landscaping done. I asked our friend the landscaper if he knew anyone who wanted a sandbox. "No," he said. "People are always trying to give those things away.

So I cautiously posted this picture of it on our neighborhood social site asking if anyone wanted it. And a little while later, a mom who lives close by asked if she could have it. She had recently taken her 15-month-old little girl to the beach, and decided that she needed sand to dig in at home, as well.

So Ben and I bailed all the water and sand out, and hosed it down a little, and a couple of hours later the sweetest lady came to get it. It has been given a wonderful new home and we now have space for the workers to work on that side, rebuilding the little retaining wall and more.

We were sad to see it go, but glad to have the memories. Thanks again to Granny for this gift that kept on giving.

Here's one of my favorite old posts about it, from 2012.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Anna June is pretty good at reading and writing. She has access to plenty of things to write on and with. One morning, evidently I asked her what she wanted for breakfast and she said, "Nothing." Then she wrote it down to make sure I got her point.

I don't even remember this day, but I do remember that the note, and the embellished writing, made me laugh.

I am also sure that I made her eat something for breakfast.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to be a Hero

Anna June, like most little girls, probably considers her dad her hero.

This is good, because he's probably my hero, too.

Yesterday, I was working in our office with the door closed so I could concentrate. AJ was watching a TV show on her Kindle. Ben was napping.

I took a break to fold some laundry, and I spotted an empty plastic dental floss container on the floor near my bed. From the teeth marks on the container, it was clear that Radar had thought the "mint flavored" floss was a treat. AJ brought me a flashlight and we searched under the bed, not seeing a shred of floss.

We guessed he had probably eaten the entire roll whole. But what to do? All things must pass, I told myself.

Ben searched the internet and found the formula for inducing vomiting in dogs: 5 mL hydrogen peroxide (the 3% household kind) per 10 lbs of dog. I was not excited about this plan. We were having yet another thunderstorm and Radar was scared. To make him hurl and keep him from hiding under the bed would not help matters.

But Ben persisted. His mind had already jumped to where I dare not go - thoughts of Radar's little stomach or intestines being blocked or tied tightly and painfully with floss. We discussed the possibility of expensive surgery, or worse.

I got the hydrogen peroxide.  I brought Radar in to the kitchen, insisting that AJ come along with us so Radar would not feel isolated.

We tried to give it to him in a dish, because I thought the interesting smell would entice him. Evidently, being repulsed by hydrogen peroxide is an inter-species trait. I sometimes have to use it for my teeth and it is gross.

I held Radar while Ben took a medicine syringe we used to have to use for AJ and filled it twice with the disgusting stuff. I held Radar's mouth open and Ben squirted it in. I took a small hydrogen peroxide bath as Radar fought it with all he had. Good thing he's only 20 pounds!

We waited, all staying in the kitchen and keeping Radar on the easy-to-clean kitchen tile floor. He coughed and sputtered. He walked across the room and sat on the rug by the door, looking at me accusingly. "I don't even know what to think of you anymore," it felt like he was saying. I apologized profusely, but he was still mad. AJ got the newspapers. I sat near Radar's blanket, in case he wanted reassurance.

About ten minutes later, as we were wondering if the vet on the internet could have been wrong, Radar threw up. Sure enough, there was the floss, most of which was tightly wound in a ball.

"He could have died," AJ said. 

To us, Ben is a hero.  He may not wear a cape, but he saved the day through his levelheadedness and persistence. Even though we worked as a team, he led us through this scary and disgusting time. He even cleaned the floor.

Sometimes being a hero looks like dog vomit.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Does It Mean to Be a Writer?

Anna June is not impressed by my work. I'm an office secretary, pretty much. I help a lot of people, every day. One of the things I help them with is their writing. When people ask me what I do, I say that I am a secretary. But I have always thought of my profession, my true occupation, as writing.

Currently, I'm working on a freelance project - proofreading a 350+ page textbook. Working with the writing of others is both freeing and intimidating. Remind me not to freelance again.

So what is a writer who does not write?

Someone who gets overwhelmed by their thoughts, evidently.

Every day, in the shower, I think about what I want to blog about that day.

But then as soon as I open the bathroom door, reality sets in. It is much later than it should be. Nobody is awake. Socks have disappeared and my child has suddenly forgotten how to tie her shoes.

I get to work and remember the day's blog topic. But by the time the elevator brings me to the sixth floor, I'm already running in to co-workers complaining about the weather and then a faculty member who needs something right then and a hundred and fifty seven emails in my inbox, which all require me to DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW about their problem with red exclamation points.

If I am a writer, why can't I find time to write? Shouldn't I make time for reflection, and writing, and try to make sense of it all? Shouldn't I have a break from the madness to process it?

A couple of bloggers I admire both posted the same advice recently: don't blog about something personal until you're on the other side of it. So far, I'm right in the middle of a lot of things. Not stuck, just going through a very intense and busy season of life.

All through the day I'm taking pictures, saving scraps of paper, and taking notes, hoping that I'll have time to write what I started in my head in the morning. But it hasn't been happening lately.

Back in January, my great Aunt Eunice emailed me to ask if I could correct a description of an Amazon sales listing. Someone was selling a used copy of the book she wrote with my grandmother, In the Desert One Christmas Eve. They didn't have all the facts exactly right, so I wrote in. This December, I read this book to AJ's class. I read it to her Pre-K class as well.

I was thinking about my grandmother - she was incredibly busy with her family, her own business, her volunteer career including both directing a choir and leading a whole entire state of volunteers, and then, of course, as a writer.

I don't think she would have thought of herself as a writer first and foremost. But she did write. She wrote a book and she sold the heck out of it. That book basically built a house. But it started out on a steno pad at the kitchen table. I know because I was there to see it happen.

One of the many things my grandmother left to me was the example that it can be done. If she could do all that she had to do, then I can probably do all I have to do.

I've set it as my goal to have 16 posts in the month of April. If I do one per day for the rest of the month, I will reach it.

A writer is someone who writes.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Anna June is a great helper in the kitchen. Back during Christmas break, when I had the day off, AJ and I tried our hand at bread baking. It's something I've always wanted to do, but have always been scared of, because, well, yeast is alive.

We were inspired by this post. And my brothers can do it, so I thought I would try it.

It's alive, people!

This made three loaves of bread. I did not intend for them to look like Mickey Mouse.

Here is the little baker herself!

We were so proud and happy. We cooked a real dinner to go with it and gobbled it all up.