Saturday, July 30, 2011

Smarty Pants

Anna June was coloring in the kitchen while I was cleaning up this morning. She found the "Recipe Book" that came with her cupcake apron. She decided she was going to write a recipe in there. She asked me how to spell chocolate chip cookies. I told her to work on writing a "C".

She came back and told me - as if a light bulb had gone off over her head - that if we were to bake little chocolate chip cookies, they would not take as long to bake. This made logical sense to me, and I was more than amazed that she came up with it on her own.

Then, I realized she wanted to bake them. Right now. So, a quick Google search led me to this recipe for mini chocolate chip cookies. AJ had a great time measuring and dumping. We tried to follow it exactly, but it wasn't our day. The cookies came out well done, and one batch was too crumbly...I'm reserving it for future ice cream topping.

They were actually delicious. I asked AJ what she would say about them, and she said, "Well, they taste good."

We have a full agenda for the rest of the weekend, but for a change, I am glad we skipped Zumba and spent a little time baking cookies together.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Be Prepared



Anna June's class has been having Show and Tell on Fridays, and it has honestly been harder than you'd think. The first week, she was instructed to bring something beginning with the letters A, B, or C. The second week, it was D, E, or F. Then, we went with the pattern and assumed G, H, or I, but they turned out not to even have Show and Tell - I guess because people were preparing for the Independence Day holiday, and there was either low attendance or the teacher's head just wasn't in the game. The following week, they dropped the letter pattern altogether, and AJ brought her beloved Hello Kitty.

The week after that, I was recovering from the Steve Earle show, and, although we had packed ahead, I didn't actually take AJ's Show and Tell item out of her bag she'd brought to her Nana's house. I got all the way to work and then remembered about Fairy Barbie. (She can be seen in AJ's right hand in the first picture above.)

Fairy Barbie came to us through a Happy Meal. I am not proud to tell you that we have quite a few Happy Meal toys in our home. We did read good news this week that the Happy Meals are going to include apple slices so you don't have to choose between apple slices and fries. I will admit, though, that I already knew you could substitute, and I frequently do: AJ gets hers with apples and milk instead of fries and Sprite, if I have anything to say about it. Actually, the last time we went to McDonald's, I ordered her some chicken nuggets and small fries, intending NOT to get a Happy Meal to avoid the toy. But they still gave us one. It may have been cheaper, or they may have been stupid. Regardless, we're the proud owners of a new Strawberry Shortcake figurine, that AJ really wanted to bring to Show and Tell this week, until she had a change of heart this morning.

Back to Fairy Barbie - once I realized I had forgotten her, I called the school to see if they were still doing Show and Tell, and, if so, at what time. I still had time to make it...it wasn't until 10:30. So I sent my group an email at work saying, "I need to take my 'lunch break' now…I forgot to hand AJ the doll she was bringing to show and tell and I need to get it to her. I have my cell if you need me. "AJ was glad to see me. I thought it would be a problem trying to leave again, but she was totally fine with it.

And speaking of being totally fine, last week, I was really busy and completely and totally forgot about Show and Tell. When I got to school, I discovered that AJ had just picked up her Sleeping Beauty sunglasses (also pictured above) out of her cubby and told everyone all about them. I've just gotten new prescription sunglasses and AJ is now big on wearing hers everywhere. "To protect my eyes," she says.

Last night, AJ was having trouble getting to sleep, so she asked me to get her soft ladybug down from her closet. (As opposed to her hard ladybug, which is a nightlight) Since it was still out this morning, AJ decided that Strawberry Shortcake could wait and she could bring her ladybug. She also had the impression she'd be able to nap with it if she brought it along. She also brought along another blanket, as she claims that the blanket we sent with her nap mat this week is "too little" for her, which it probably is. She's tall, and I think she grows another inch every week. Or at least her hair does.

Maybe the growth spurt has been the cause of the wardrobe-related outbursts. She claims everything is uncomfortable. Some of it really is too small, and as soon as I spot those things I am culling them from the pool of possible outfits. But some of it is just a power struggle, pure and simple. Ben had AJ last night and worked with her to find an acceptable school outfit, including socks and shoes, and she laid it out with the understanding that she was not allowed to suddenly change her mind. I was somewhat surprised at her choice of socks and tennis shoes, but we've come to learn that in the school indoor playground, she's allowed to remove her shoes if she's wearing socks, but if she's not, she has to keep her shoes on. At last! Incentive not to wear inappropriate shoes to school! But she has her own take on the matter...yesterday, she wore socks with her sandals.

So there was no outburst related to her clothes. At some point, she saw my water bottle and asked if she could bring her water bottle to school. I saw no reason she couldn't so we got it out and filled it up. She did NOT like that I didn't fill it all the way up to the top. She screamed that she hated water and she hated water bottles. She did not want to go to school, and she did not want to take her water. Good grief. When it came time to leave, though, she decided she did want it, after all.

So leaving this morning, she was wearing her sunglasses, had on her socks and tennis shoes, took her bigger blanket, her giant ladybug, and her water bottle. She was definitely prepared. I usually don't send AJ to school with Ben carrying that much paraphernalia, but she requested that her dad drop her off today. Happy Friday, indeed!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birthday Madness




The first birthday party Anna June attended this month was for Mallory, my friend Tara's niece. This one was a princess (and prince) party at Mallory's grandparents' "castle". There was face painting, in addition to balloon animals, by Magic City Face Art. Since the birthday girl selected to have her face painted as a mermaid, so did AJ, but in a different color palette. Mallory's parents made the princesses magic ribbon wands, and there were swords for the princes. Mallory's grandmother, whom she calls Cookie, baked the cake. (Her grandmother's real name is Teri Smith, and she catered our wedding years ago!) The new four-year-old had four parts of her castle cake, all in different flavors. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Arrgh


On Sunday, after the great dress meltdown of the weekend, Anna June attended John Clarke's Pirate Birthday party. AJ has been to three kid birthday parties this month, and this was probably the cutest.

John Clarke's mom, Shelley, is extremely talented. After college, she attended culinary school to get some official training in cooking, which she has always loved to do. She made the pirate cupcakes pictured above. I am extremely impressed! She also made serving pans for the themed snacks into treasure chests and paper bags into goodie bag booty. There were also pirate hats for boys and girls, in pink and black, respectively.

And they had a balloon lady there, who made all sorts of impressive balloon animals and characters, including Disney princesses and Muppets. While our friend Olivia ended up with Elmo and John Clarke had Cookie Monster, AJ got a ladybug hat. Then, she refused to wear it. She also refused to have her picture made, which is why Ben took a picture of me wearing it instead...it was too adorable not to capture.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Girls' Night In

Anna June and I had a special mommy-daughter night last night, even though on the surface it probably didn't seem so special. I picked her up from school, we went to the gas station, we went home and took the dog outside. She wanted to know if we had any more interesting mushrooms in our side yard - we've had some really big ones lately with all the rain. We didn't spot any mushrooms but we came around the corner of the house and AJ spied the big crepe myrtle. "Flowers!" she exclaimed. It really is gorgeous, although a recent storm has pruned it a bit for me.

She then asked if we could blow bubbles on the front porch, which we haven't done in ages. I told her we could after supper.

For our dinner, we had leftover "tacos" (which is what we call nachos or taco salad...chips, meat, cheese, salsa, sour cream). It was AJ's idea to have ourselves an indoor picnic in my room, complete with the green place mats. She wanted to make sure I sat next to her, not across from her! It has been a little while since we've done that, too. Her chosen dessert? A piece of bubble gum.

I knew AJ was tired from spending the night with my parents the night before, so I told her that yes, we could blow bubbles, but we'd have to set the timer for just ten minutes. "No!" she said. "OK," I said, "How about nine minutes?" "OK," she agreed. Pretty soon, she'll figure that one out. But for nine very nice minutes last night, we blew bubbles over Crestwood. For a change, it was dry enough, and since I remembered the bug spray, the mosquitoes mostly left us alone.

She watched Curious George while I cleaned up the kitchen, then she had some candy while I ran her bath. It must have been an educational episode, because she told me, "An elephant's habitat is in the forest!" While I have not checked the accuracy of that statement, I was interested to know she knew about habitats. We discussed the natural habitats of penguins, tigers, cats, birds, and people.

In the tub, she grabbed a sponge and started scrubbing the tub, singing "Sing Sweet Nightingale," just like Cinderella. I certainly wasn't going to stop her!

She got ready for bed and we got all her things ready for today's water day at school. She was pretty excited about it all. This morning we showed the teacher all the stuff we'd brought in preparation, and I apologized for being so unprepared the last Friday - I totally forgot Show and Tell! I honestly forgot to ask whether the new teacher would be continuing the Show and Tell on Fridays thing. AJ did not miss a beat - she showed and told about her sunglasses. She has been very interested in wearing sunglasses "to protect my eyes!" ever since I got my new prescription ones last week.

The picture above is of AJ eating her candy. You will notice she's wearing her monkey t-shirt and shorts. I had to get a picture, because she's about to outgrow this, and she probably won't let me put it on her again. Miss Jackie, God bless her, did dress her at school yesterday after the adorable outfit we had selected was "uncomfortable." I have been worried about how AJ has been doing, but the teacher says that AJ has been very well-behaved. I'm just going to have to trust that!

I am sure that AJ and I will be on each other's nerves again soon (there was quite a bit of "No!" "leave me alone" and "don't talk to me" coming from her this weekend) but it was nice to spend a quiet night together after having been apart for a day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Shows


Anna June loves music, and so do her parents. And even though this is Anna June's blog, this is my forum, and since I'm not an actual music reviewer and have no other venue for my commentary, this is my review of two great concerts that Ben and I have just seen.

How We Got There

A few months ago, I saw an email circulated by the Alys Stephens Center announcing that Steve Earle would be here, live and in concert. Ben and I had never seen him, although I have loved his music since I first heard "Copperhead Road" sometime before I could drive. I emailed Ben to ask what he was doing for Bastille Day, and, if we weren't busy, if he'd like to go see Steve. We were excited. We asked my parents if AJ could spend the night. I didn't buy the tickets just yet - I was really, really swamped at work right about then.

But then, I saw another email from the Alys announcing that Josh Ritter would be coming back to Birmingham, too. I called Ben - email would be too slow. I asked a very important question: since the shows would be only ten days apart, which one would he rather see? It was a tough call for both of us. Josh Ritter is probably our favorite singer together. Sure, we still have our own all-time favorites, but Ben "discovered" him for us after we were married and has played his CDs so much that Anna June now considers his song "Change of Time" her very favorite. We had seen him not that long ago at Workplay, and that sealed the deal of him being one of my forever faves. He (and the rest of his fantastic band) just had so much fun up there. It was really a fun show.

Ben picked Josh Ritter over Steve Earle. I knew, because JR would be playing in the smaller Sirote theater, about the same size as Workplay, that the show would sell out. So I called to ask a question: would it be cheaper to order tickets online, in person, or by phone? They said it was cheaper either in person or on the phone (same price), but more expensive on line. Since I had them on the phone already, I booked it. Mind you, this was just hours (if even that long) after the show had been announced. So we got great seats. On the third row. In the middle.

Then, I got lucky. Or had good karma. Or something like that. We were having Employee Appreciation Week at my office. I am on the Employee Activities Committee, and we are charged with planning fun things for our 200+ employees. Most of the activities, of course, have to be free or cheap, since many of us work on federally-funded grant projects, and there is no company fund for extracurricular activities. Last year, we were able to raise enough money for a nice employee appreciation lunch from Rusty's BBQ from the faculty and supervisors, but, considering the economy, our director decided it would not be prudent to ask for money again. We had to get creative, and we did. We came up with a tiny amount of money and threw a nice self-serve breakfast. At the breakfast, we had prizes donated by some of the folks in our group...our administrator procured some tickets for any show in the Summer Series from Alys Stephens Center where she used to work. I didn't really think I'd be eligible to enter the drawing, since I was on the committee. But I entered, and I won! It made the trip to Sam's, the organizing, the meetings, the cookie baking, the emails, and all other stuff I did that week seem very worthwhile! I told my friend that I was really hoping to win, so we could see Steve Earle as well as Josh Ritter, and it worked out!

Literary Dudes

As it happens, both Josh Ritter and Steve Earle have just published their first novels. I read them both, hoping to have a better experience at both shows. Earle's debut, I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive, was a compelling story of a disgraced doctor, who just happened to be the last person that Hank Williams, Sr. ever saw alive. This fictional tale of this musical history footnote was very dark and gritty, just like Steve Earle's music. Without spoiling much the doctor is a junkie who is haunted by the ghost of Hank. Sometimes I think Steve Earle may actually be haunted by Hank Williams' ghost. I checked the book out from the library - it was definitely worth the read.

Ritter's debut, Bright's Passage, is every bit as strange as his songwriting, too. It is like he started writing a song and couldn't stop. Henry Bright is just back from WWI and is influenced greatly by an angel who saved his life "over there". Per the angel's direction, he claims a wife (who happens to be his cousin, but this is set in West Virginia!). Their child is born, the wife dies, and Henry sets off on an arduous journey. It is also a pretty compelling and well-drawn read.

I would expect no less from either of them. Although, I must confess, I have heard that you can't get a book deal these days unless you're already famous. Seeing as how I bought Bright's Passage on the name alone, I can see where this would be true. Both books are worth checking out. After Earle's concert, there was a book signing, and we would have stayed if I had bought the book! We were banking on a similar arrangement after Ritter's concert, but to no avail. I guess I hauled the big purse around with the hardcover in it all night for nothing.

The Alys

If you've never been to a show at UAB's Alys Stephens Center, you are missing out on a treat. I have never seen a disappointing popular show, and even the one (mostly amateur) show that I have seen there was so well-done you can hardly fault the venue. For both of these shows, there was a dinner available on site for a per-plate price. Before Steve Earle, Yellow Bicycle, the mobile catering unit of The Fish Market, provided a delicious dinner of salmon, chicken, salad, cheese, and bread. Our only criticism was that one plate was not really enough food! Before Josh Ritter, another local BBQ restaurant was providing the food. I couldn't stand the thought of supporting them (and, don't I get enough barbecue?), so we ate Dad's homemade jambalaya instead.

The thing the Ritter concert had going for it was the beer. Good People Brewing Company sponsored the show, and included with the ticket price were two beers per person. They served their Pale Ale in adult sippy cups. With this deal, for the first time ever, drinks of any sort were allowed in the theater. The cups, unfortunately, as Ben pointed out to me, resembled giant urine specimen cups! Also, Ben doesn't love Pale Ale, so in addition to my two, I sort of drank most of his two. The show was so good, I didn't really mind having to pee. The entire time. I do commend the Alys on trying something new with this partnership.

For Openers

Steve Earle didn't really have an opening act, although during the cocktail/dinner hour beforehand, (where they ran out of imports, and I ended up drinking Miller Lite - note to the Alys...country/Americana fans like to drink, even on school nights) The Jason Bailey Trio performed. They were pretty good, although Ben wasn't hip to their form of instrumental jazz.

Josh Ritter did have an opening act. The Yellow Birds performed a brand of California Surf music, which was kind of strange, considering they were from Brooklyn. After skipping the opening act before Steve Earle, we sort of felt like we were just biding time waiting for the main event. Although I think if I had heard these guys in a different venue, I may have liked them more.

The Music

Steve Earle and Josh Ritter both put on phenomenal shows.

Steve Earle is married to Allison Moorer, and she has joined his band, cleverly called The Dukes. Now, it is called The Dukes (and Duchesses). Ben has been a fan of Moorer since her song "A Soft Place to Fall" appeared on The Horse Whisperer soundtrack. The chemistry between Moorer and Earle is nice to see, although we will not talk about either of their previous marriages. They have a one-year-old son together. She is from Alabama, and is the sister of Grammy-winner Shelby Lynne. She is also very talented and beautiful, and the night of the show she wore some of the sexiest, most interesting lace-up boots I have ever seen.

Earle and Moorer are not the only husband-wife team in the group. The Mastersons both play, well, masterfully in the ensemble. It was a real treat to see them all together. They played some of our favorites, "Jerusalem," "The Revolution Starts Now," "Christmas in Washington"and more. OK, those songs all have political roots, but "Days Are Never Long Enough," his duet with Moorer, was really sweet. And there were lots more songs that I hadn't paid attention to yet, but were really great live. Ben and I both like his new album much more now. A better review can be found at our friendly neighborhood music critic's Birmingham News column, found here.

Josh Ritter's set was also outstanding. Each of the musicians in the Royal City Band are extremely talented and could carry a show on their own. Again, seeing him live brought some of the new tracks to life for us and we can now appreciate them more.

That being said, I think we liked the last show of his that we saw a little better. Maybe it was because we hadn't seen it before. I did not like his new choice of facial hair...we agreed it aged him quite a bit. Which is a shame - he's only my age. I did like his red socks.

Josh also knows what the crowd likes, and he played all of our favorites, including "Thin Blue Flame" and "Kathleen". Ritter plays, as I have heard him describe it, "rock 'n' roll with a lot of words." Somehow, this suits Ben and me. (I just looked at the length of this post...looks like someone else uses a lot of words, too! Sorry!)

We like both artists because of their ability to take an idea (like, for example, war is evil) and come up with such different routes and arrive at similar conclusions. They can both be bold and humble, inspirational and inspired. I hope to see both of them again someday. But not in the same fortnight.

Wardrobe Malfunction



It is no secret that Anna June is very particular about what she wears. It still seems that, overall, although she showed signs of maturing last week, her preferred attire is a sundress with no sashes, buttons, zippers or snaps. She doesn't really like to wear shorts or pants. She would rather wear sandals than any other kind of shoe, because she does not have to wear socks.

She has been driving us crazy lately about her clothes. I've documented some of her tantrums here, but not all of them. Here is a smidgen of what we've gone through lately.

First of all, these pictures are from Independence Day. I had some kind of crazy hope of getting a picture of all three of us wearing red, white and blue. Since AJ did not wear this dress as I had hoped for her school's red, white and blue day, I convinced her to put it on. As soon as this picture was complete, she took it back off, ruining my plans for what she should wear to the pair of Fourth of July parties we were attending that night. It's OK - you can still be patriotic and wear purple.

Last weekend, Granny sent AJ a box of stuff, including an adorable dress that, she thought, would fit all of AJ's requirements. Plus, it twirled. But as soon as AJ got it on, she started screaming and crying, telling us it was "uncomfortable!" It had a back cut out on it, and AJ has another dress she refuses to wear for this reason. She has no trouble baring her arms, but her back is another story. I get that it probably feels strange to her.

So, we went to TJMaxx to return it. Surely, we could find something else in her size that she would wear. Her first selection was a skimpy, too-small Tinkerbell costume. After that was vetoed by both her parents, she found a top with a built-in belt. She loved this option, as she had been wanting a belt like her friend Amber's for a long time. Unfortunately, the top was "line dry". I refused to buy it as well - it is hard enough to get AJ's laundry done. If I have to pick out what can and cannot go in the dryer, let's just say that some things will be shrunk. So we kept looking and found a pair of size 4 blue jeans that came with their very own brown belt! She was so happy!

The next morning, though, she tried on the pants and after we buckled her belt for her, she had to pull the pants up a little, and, BAM! They were deemed "uncomfortable!" I retrieved the tags from the garbage - she had JUST tried them on the day before! Right before we bought them! I will be returning the pants, belt and all, although she's made a plea to keep just the belt. Not gonna happen.

So, yesterday, when she didn't take a nap for the second day in a row, I let her dad stay up with her and I fell asleep. She woke me up by asking me, now that her quiet time was over, if I could take off her pajamas for her. Our afternoon plans included John Clarke's second birthday party, so she naturally picked out a fancy dress. I zipped it for her. This was the same dress we'd had her picture made in the day before. She freaked out, claiming it was too small. I knew this wasn't the case, but I decided to lie in bed for a few more seconds. She returned, asking me to button the next dress. I wouldn't have chosen that one, either, since it is more of a fall thing, but I thought if I could just get her out of the house I wouldn't care what she wore. I buttoned it, and, sure enough, it too wasn't just right for Goldilocks. So, she did this twice more. On the fourth (or maybe fifth) dress, I told her that if she took that perfectly nice dress off, which fit her JUST FINE, she would be subject to wearing the shorts outfit of my choosing.

I tied her sash and, predictably, she fell apart. Ben and I had just been having a conversation about how if we give her choices, we're screwed, and if we don't give her choices, we're also screwed. I decided to stand firm on my decision: It was either she let me re-tie her sash on her perfectly fine dress, or wear the shorts. She refused both options. We were at a standoff for an hour. (Wherein we paused to clean up her room, including her entire dress-up trunk and all the dresses she'd rejected.) After many tears, much screaming, and a time-out, she chose to keep the dress on. We were late for the party, but I was prepared to skip it altogether if necessary - I refused to back down, explaining that whether she liked it or not, she had to mind her parents.

She spent the night with my parents, and my mother even ironed the outfit AJ had selected. She claimed instantly that it was uncomfortable. I told her that she had to wear it - we had no other choices along. I even mentioned we could give it away after she wore it today, but she had to wear it. She was OK until she remembered her spare clothes at school. She asked if she could change when we got to school. I told her no. When we got to school and she saw her bag, she asked again. I told her that I'd be even later to work if I stopped to change her clothes. Her teacher offered to do it for me, and I agreed. I decided not to stick to my guns, only because poor Miss Jackie would have to deal with the aftermath, and not me.

I hope the rest of this week provides more sleep and emotional stability, and fewer wardrobe malfunctions.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Peas in a Pod


Anna June's dear friend Drew is moving to a new school, and today is her last day at McElwain. Of all her friends, Drew has been with AJ the longest. Like all children, they have their conflicts, but they are still the best of friends. In fact, they are really two peas in a pod. I've always wondered what these two will grow up to look like - I have an image of these tall blonds vying for Miss Alabama or something one day.

Drew is so sweet and adorable - I will miss seeing her around the school. Even more, though, I will miss her amazing parents. Dawn and Darren have been fantastic friends to us...the girls are so similar in so many ways, they have reassured me that I was not crazy and that they're going through the same things we are so many times. I know they're not leaving town and we'll make it a point to get together, but I also know that it will be a big change from seeing them on a daily basis.

AJ made a card for Drew this morning, decorating it with stickers and "signing" her name. She wanted me to make sure I put Drew's WHOLE name on it.

When I gave Drew a hug this morning she said, "You are going to miss me!"

The June Bug is going to miss Drew Bug something awful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Noah's Ark




At Anna June's school, they've been studying Noah's Ark this month. It is appropriate, because we've been awash with rain, it seems, for a month! Today, to celebrate their studying, they're having a Noah's Ark Party! The children were instructed (via a posted note at school - I don't know why they didn't send a note home!) to bring their favorite stuffed animal and dress as an animal, too.

Back in October, AJ had a last minute change of heart and decided to be a cat instead of Dora the Explorer. This decision did not stick, and she went back to being Dora after all. Unfortunately, the mind-changing set a bad precedent.

All week, we've been talking about how AJ was to be a cat, and this seemed OK. We already had the stuff, after all. This morning, though, after Ben left for work, we went to get her dressed. She got her black tights on - which I admit were a smidgen too small even though they had fit on Halloween - and AJ broke down. She did NOT want to be a cat, she did NOT want to go to the Noah's Ark party!

To calm her down, I told her that, in truth, she didn't have to dress up if she didn't want to. This broke my heart. As a child, I really enjoyed special school days, where we got to wear something unusual or do something the teachers had deemed fun for us. I believe I even won a contest on "Ugly Shoe Day" in middle school, but I digress. The anticipation and planning for the special events has almost equaled the events themselves, in my book, and evidently, it has done the opposite for Anna June. It made her overwhelmed. She couldn't take it.

I made AJ lie down on her bed to calm down. Tears streamed down her face. I remembered the advice of my older colleague, who has told me that she doesn't ever tell her kids anything ahead of time, or they'll get too excited and end up having a meltdown. She's been known to put them in the car and say anything from "We're going to the dentist!" to "We're going to Disney World!" I like to tell AJ ahead of time what to expect, but now I am thinking I will have to tone it down a notch.

I pulled every single dress of AJ's that had any sort of animal or insect emblem on it: everything from Minnie Mouse to butterflies. She said she'd only wear a dress. We went over them all - this one has a horse! This one has a ladybug! This one has a butterfly! No deal could be made. I headed back to the top rack of her closet in search of short sleeved shirts with more animals. I found dogs, a monkey, and yet more butterflies. But right next to all of those stood our Plan B: the bumblebee swimsuit! Thank you, Granny! Anna June was very, very excited to have something she deemed suitable (pun intended) to wear to the party. I wonder, now, where Noah kept only two bees on the ark so as not to bother the other animals. Did he bring flowers for them to dine on?

AJ and I had also come across her dilapidated bunny ears from Easter, and I told her we may need to bring them along, in case one of her friends forgot to dress up - I could see how this could be done seeing their lack of parental notification. The things they post around the school often go unnoticed...I had to call them up, yesterday, because there was suddenly a notice about a McGruff the Crime Dog program that would be taking place at their school today - they'll be making pictures and fingerprints to sell to parents for security purposes. I told the director I did not want my daughter having her picture made when her face would be painted like a kitty! So they rescheduled - McGruff will be next Thursday. Obviously, I was excited about the Noah's Ark party. AJ even asked if I was going to attend, but I declined as I have a prior work commitment. Again, digressing!

AJ also chose, naturally, her ladybug rain boots. So I suppose she's a bumblebee-bunny-ladybug! In the end, she was very pleased with herself. I suppose that I'm never going to get her to be anything other than herself. She may not be the kid who gets excited about the wear red day or the funny hat day. She may be more like her dad and not want to be the star of the show. The week-long anticipation may be too much for her...I don't seem to know where to draw the line between letting her know what to expect so she's not freaked out and freaking her out by giving her expectations.

The other kids I saw when I dropped her off were also adorable. I met a tiger, two bunnies, a bird, and more. (And I may have had time to photograph them, too, if it hadn't been for the time consuming temper tantrum!)

In all the excitement, I forgot to bring her stuffed animal. She had decided to bring Hello Kitty. I told AJ that I feel confident that cats were on the ark, but I did not tell her that I'm pretty sure that the white cartoon variety was not represented. I mentioned to her teacher that I forgot it so she can find her something around school to use instead.

I am anxious to hear tonight how the party actually goes. I'm also eager to see if she stays in her "costume" all day. I packed her a spare outfit: one that has a monkey shirt!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back to Her Old Self


Anna June had a much better night last night. We did all the things we had planned to do on Monday, now that she was back to behaving appropriately and wearing comfortable shoes. She got a new teacher on Monday, and all the excitement of that and the fact that it was Puppet Day made her not able to take a nap. Which we didn't know, because the new teacher didn't have the daily sheets for us. That issue was resolved, and AJ handled the CFA+shopping+skipping her bath like a pro.

Changing the subject, I'd like to say a word about AJ and her outfits lately. I have been trying to convince her that she doesn't have to wear a dress every day. In fact, back in May when we went to Olivia's birthday party, I told her that she absolutely could not go if she did not wear shorts. Of course, other girls showed up in dresses, spoiling my point, but she complied and wore this orange outfit. When Maddie told her that her party Saturday would be a "gymnastics" party, AJ went to her drawer and pulled out this same getup. I was just happy she was wearing shorts. Her memory sometimes astounds me. I'd have to go back and look at the photos to see what I was wearing at Olivia's party, but AJ remembered exactly what she wore! It is now her gymnastics outfit! Although I did tell her that most gymnasts wear leotards. We haven't gotten that far yet.

I have also told AJ that if she wants to take soccer lessons in the fall, she is going to have to start wearing shorts when it is warm and pants when it is cold on days when she's going to play. Soccer players, I told her, do not wear dresses on the field. She seems OK with this - for now.

I even got her to wear shorts twice in the past week - I basically picked out the outfit and she didn't complain. This is very unusual. I wonder if she's starting to mature a little.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Night of Meltdowns

Anna June had an epic night of meltdowns last night. She began by informing me that her sandals were uncomfortable. This was possibly because they were a little damp, but I am pretty sure this is because she saw her ballet flats in her see-through bag. I brought them home because she began the day by asking where they were. They were in her bag we leave at school for those just-in-case moments.

So, she put on her pink flats. I told her to put socks on with them. She refused. Her sweaty and possibly damp feet didn't really want to go in her flats. But Ben and I needed to go to the grocery store (together, for various reasons) and we decided we'd stop for fast food this one night in hopes of eating at home the rest of the week. I even told AJ if she came along with us willingly, we'd skip her bath. She was enthusiastic, until she tried to put those stupid shoes on.

We'd have to hurry if we were to eat and shop before bedtime. I told her that she had to wear the shoes, and we had to go. She whined. We got in the car. She kept talking about how her shoes just "fell off by themselves". I told her that regardless of how she felt about the shoes, she was going to have to wear them, or we'd not be able to go in Chick-fil-A or Publix. She disagreed, and lobbied for one of us to carry her so she wouldn't have to wear them.

We tried to take her out of the car. She cried. We brought her into CFA. She screamed. We turned around and walked out, hot, hungry, tired, and a little embarrassed.

We discussed our options. We could go through the drive-through to get food, but that wouldn't solve the grocery store, and she was in no shape to go anywhere. (She was still screaming.) I mentioned we could see if anyone was at my parents' house to watch her while we got the groceries. She stopped screaming and voted for that option. I decided no, that would be rewarding her for bad behavior.

So we headed for home. AJ pleaded, "But my shoes are UNCOMFORTABLE!" I responded, "Let me tell you a little secret. Lots of ladies wear shoes that are uncomfortable!!!" Ben added that they don't scream about them in public, usually.

In the end, no groceries were obtained. I had a long talk with AJ about how we are to behave in public, even if things are not going our way. I also talked with her about how when she goes shopping with me, and she picks something out, and we buy it and bring it home, she needs to actually WEAR it! Including these shoes, which she's worn maybe once. After intense questioning, she told me that they were too tight across the top. This is certainly possible, with her high arch. But it is my opinion that these size 10 shoes fit just fine! She still thinks they are pretty, but she wanted to give them away. Ultimately, I agreed with her. They are certainly not worth another night of meltdowns.

Monday, July 18, 2011

iJump

There's been a lot going on with us lately, but Anna June seems to have an endless schedule of birthday parties to attend. On Saturday, she went to her friend Maddie H's party at iJump. That morning, AJ seemed apprehensive, but I showed her the video online of all the place had to offer, and she was all in from that point on. You can sort of see her (she's wearing orange) in this picture climbing the rungs to go down the slide. The thing was huge. She had to go on it by herself, too. The first time she tried climbing up she chickened out and came back down. Then she saw her friends doing it and she made it. Then she couldn't get enough of the slide!

One thing they have in their favor (as well as against them) is that unlike their competitor Pump it Up, they don't close off the facility just for the party...general admission customers are there at the same time. Which is nice if we ever want to bring just her on a Saturday. But I don't think I would dare - this place was nuts. It had several party rooms and ours was a bit too small. There was no time to open gifts or spread out. It was fun, though. AJ really enjoyed it, although there were a few tearful moments, which I attribute to her lack of napping. It was fun to see all her friends from school somewhere else, though. AJ really perked up when she saw them and they were able to play together.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dining with the Queen

Anna June is working on her manners, table and otherwise. But yesterday, she suddenly started eating her Berry Cheerios with her fingers. Here's a bit of the conversation we had:

Me: Please eat with your spoon.
AJ: Why?
Me: Because you need to have good table manners.
AJ: Why?
Me: Because what if you are asked to eat dinner with the Queen? She wouldn't want to eat with you if you don't have good manners.
AJ: {Blank stare}
Me: Hey, Princess Kate was just in America. What if she stopped by our house for dinner? It could happen.
AJ couldn't talk, she was laughing too hard.

In the same morning, AJ told me that she planned to be a helper to her teacher but not to me, because she didn't like me. Maybe she thinks I'm holding her back from having dinner with the Queen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Before and After


Anna June had a haircut on Sunday afternoon. After about two months, her hair had gotten scraggly again. Unfortunately, she'd had on a headband prior to the trim, so her hair is sort of mashed down. I promise I watched our stylist take the yucky ends off AJ's hair - but in these pictures, it is difficult to tell which one is before and which one is after. It really does look better now!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birmingham Moment

While waiting for my optometrist to open, I saw the guy from the Peanut Depot putting out some breakfast for the birds.
Note the cobblestone on Morris Avenue.


Monday, July 11, 2011

To a Point

(AJ's breakfast did NOT look as fancy as this!)

Anna June is having a hard day. This morning, she woke up fine, and was alright until I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. She asked for biscuits, which I said took too long. I tried to narrow it down to two choices, "Toast or cereal?" I asked. She said toast, and as I made for the breadbox, she said, "No, I changed my mind again. I want waffles."

I didn't cut the waffles up in enough pieces for her. She did not want milk, she wanted juice. I didn't push her chair up to the table just right. She didn't want maple syrup. I decided to unload the dishwasher so we'd have a place to put her sticky plate, and she wanted to stop eating and help me unload. I told her no, that I didn't need her help - I just needed her to eat! I think I hurt her feelings, and the morning deteriorated from there. She did go wash up like I instructed her, but she didn't like either of the outfit choices I made for her (of brand new clothing!). It was my fault because we got home so late I didn't make her pick out her clothes. I told her we HAD TO GO so she had 4 seconds to pick out her own dress. She tried to run to her room, but burst out crying because I didn't get her hands dry enough. Three times. Then, she refused to take her pajamas off, which, at this point, earned her a spanking, I am not proud to report. I really can take her being three and testing limits up to a point. But it went on...she complained that her shorts-as-bloomers were too long, and that I wouldn't let her brush her teeth on her own.

I did make it to work on time, but only because Ben volunteered to take her to daycare, as he wasn't sure I'd have enough nerves left to handle it. Thank God we're raising her as a team - without a partner, I would certainly not be able to deal with a three-year-old.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So Tired

Ben is currently trying to help Anna June's grandparents figure out why they haven't been able to log into the blog for the past few weeks. Don't feel too sorry for them, though. Despite their desire to read my not-particularly-compelling writings of late, they get to see AJ all the time. They kept her Friday night while Ben and I had a good dinner (courtesy of a nice gift card from Granny Annie, by the way. Thanks so much!) Of course, AJ was having fun entertaining everyone and we didn't leave until way too late. The only thing that convinced AJ to leave was the promise that she can spend the night on Thursday.
On Saturday, we went by their house to check on the dogs, but we didn't actually see Nana and Grand da Day. Then, tonight, we went over for dinner which included one of AJ's favorite people, Aunt Liz's sister Grace, visiting from Tennessee. Last week we saw them on Thursday, Sunday and Monday. Not that I'm keeping track or anything. 
I know how lucky I am to have such fabulous parents, and I know how lucky I am that they do so much for AJ, Ben and me. I also know I must pawn my kid off on them too much. This morning when AJ was playing with her baby doll, she informed me that I was the Nana, and the baby would be staying with me - she brought me diapers, wipes, and a hairbrush. She kissed baby Leigh goodbye and told me she'd come get her in the morning.


Friday, July 8, 2011

All the Bases Covered


Either because of the holiday or because her teacher forgot, Anna June's class did not have show and tell last week, even though AJ was prepared with her horse. We got a note that there would be show and tell today, although it was not letter-specific like the first two were. I asked AJ what she'd like to bring, and she picked out Hello Kitty. I told the teacher this morning that if they were actually doing letters G, H, and I today like I thought they were doing last week, this would work, filed under "Hello" but if we've moved on to J, K, and L, then it would work as "Kitty". I don't think that AJ was thinking about either of those possibilities - she just likes it. Hello Kitty ate breakfast with AJ this morning, and was promptly tucked away in her cubby as soon as we got to school. I hope her "presentation" goes well - I reminded her of key facts about HK, like her foot says "March" and Aunt Nonny sent it to her because her birthday is in March. We'll have to see how it all turns out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In a Blur


This Independence Day weekend went by in a blur! Friday, I picked up AJ a little early from daycare and we went shopping at the dollar store. She ended up with Powerade, but was sad that it wasn't Bug Juice, her new favorite thing from our local quick mart. Saturday morning, we went to Railroad Park. We also went to my friend's yard sale out in Bluff Park. After getting some cheap books and movies, I turned onto Shenandoah Drive, where there was a lemonade stand! Yum!

We then went to run an errand for me at Hancock Fabrics. No, I am not planning on sewing, but AJ pointed out that the buttons on my cardigan looked bad (they were "pearls" that lost most of their pearly paint) so I needed to get new buttons. Naturally, this took longer than it should have, as I had to have a salesperson help me figure out the size and shape that would work. We were hungry so we walked across the parking lot to McDonald's for lunch. AJ refused to order. She was excited about the playground, but we told her she'd have to eat first. So she did. We went outside to the playground, and she either couldn't or wouldn't figure out how to get in the play structure. So we asked her to put her shoes back on so we could leave if she wasn't going to play. We left with her in tears! Eventually, she fell asleep in the car. We enjoyed naps, then went to the library and out for pizza before letting her splash in her pool outside.

On Sunday, we went to church and were joined by Granddaddy's cousin Judy, who was visiting since someone stole the air conditioner from their church! After lunch and nap, we went to Patrick and Liz's apartment to visit with Liz's family visiting from Tennessee, and to swim in their swimming pool. AJ had a blast. She is getting more and more confident in the water. She spent the whole time on a fish float, arms wrapped around and legs kicking. My homemade brownies were sort of a bust, but served warm with vanilla ice cream they were sort of like a chocolate sauce.

Later, we went to AJ's Nana and Granddaddy's house for dinner. We had hamburgers. AJ had the most fun playing with Liz's sister Avery. They dressed up and tidied up Anna June's "room" afterward. We were all impressed.

On Monday, we went to Rusty's BBQ for lunch. In the absence of a big family gathering, we didn't think it would be right to spend Independence Day without Rusty or barbecue. So after our fantastic lunch, we went home for a nap. It poured rain all afternoon, but I can't complain - AJ napped all three days of the weekend! A miracle!

Later, we went to Uncle Tim and Aunt Connie's for more hamburgers. AJ enjoyed petting their cat, Daisy. Then, after we dropped Ben off, AJ and I went to my friend Tara's house for the Thunder on the Mountain fireworks party. Our city's fireworks display is shot from the statue of Vulcan atop Red Mountain. There is a clear view of the giant guy from Tara's front yard. The fireworks were nice, but AJ had the best time with the children, especially Tara's niece Mallory. They danced for everyone and enjoyed the fireworks show sitting on a blanket together.

The weekend passed in a blur. Later, when we were talking about fun things to do in general, I asked AJ what her favorite thing to do was. "Stay at home," she said. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beating the Heat

On Saturday afternoon, we tried a new location for Anna June's swimming pool. It did not work - it was too steep. The alligator ended up with a deep end and a shallow end. The good news is that AJ enjoyed herself anyway. Her love of water is growing, and so is her attention span. I foresee many days in the pool beating the heat!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

What a Day!

Anna June has been tired, hot, and cranky pretty much all week. She's had trouble listening and has spent a lot of time being corrected. I have to say the long weekend looked bleak. But when Ben and AJ,  independently asked if we could go to Railroad Park for this morning's family activity,  I agreed. Ben took AJ and I took Radar, buying myself some exercise and a mental break from our ongoing contest of wills. I spotted these rare Cahaba lilies by the park's water feature. I made Ben come look at them on our way out - there's a movement to save these beauties, which I do not recall ever seeing in person before. I've read enough to recognize them, though. Beautiful in person!


Friday, July 1, 2011

A Horse is a Horse

According to our calendar, Anna June's class has Show and Tell again today. Going by the pattern set in the last two weeks (although there was no note to remind us this time), we assumed to bring something beginning with a G, H, or I. AJ decided to bring her hobby horse. We had to make a special trip to Nana's last night to collect it, but they didn't seem to mind. Previously, we had referred to the horse as Clip Clop, but I don't think he still has that name. I asked if she would name him Mr. Ed. She said no.