Monday, December 31, 2012

Some shots

Anna June has been spending lots of time with me since I've been off work and she's been out of school. Here are some shots of one of our girls-only days.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Worn out

Anna June is worn out from this holiday break, although presently she still has more energy than her parents.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Sometimes, Anna June knows she's doing something cute and asks to have her picture taken. I present the unedited version of one of those occasions, from last night.

One day, I'll read some of those tips about how to take pictures of animals without the glowing eyes, but for now I will just enjoy that Radar and AJ were snuggling and just being their usual, well-behaved, adorable selves.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Anna June is finally asleep after a great day of eating, shopping, visiting, playing games, and watching a movie at home.

I'm exhausted, too, though not as tired as last night when I literally fell asleep while blogging.

So here is a picture of Radar in his sweater from Granny. I'll try to post something more interesting tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Ups and Downs

Oh, Anna June had a great Christmas. She got many wonderful gifts she'd wished for, and spent a great day during which she saw 4 grandparents, 2 great grandparents, 2 cousins, 4 aunts (some great), 5 uncles (some great), and various others.

But the day itself didn't go so great for me.

I got woken up twice to be told I was snoring, in addition to all those other times I woke up. AJ slept great, despite a 6 pm unplanned nap. By 6 am, Ben, Gary and I were all awake and waiting for AJ to get up. The video camera wasn't charged. The regular camera had no batteries. Moments were lost, but when she finally did wake up she was so precious - filled with wonder, awe, and excitement. She got the gift she most wanted: a whoopie cushion.

I cooked breakfast, but my sleep-deprived husband had to nap. We got ready to go to Kym's house, and as we gathered up our packages and bags, Radar escaped, upset that he wasn't invited and that he'd been duped into coming into the kitchen by a piece of bacon. Half an hour and about 6 3-point turns later, Radar was home and we were on the road.

It was a foggy morning, but at least there was no traffic. We made it there fine.

AJ tried out her whoopie cushion on Uncle Ken and he flopped down it - and it broke! We saw Teygan's Santa haul and visited briefly. Then, we had to get back to town for the Tucker Christmas celebration.

Ben went to shower. I went to use the bathroom. Seeing one flush was insufficient, I flushed again. The toilet overflowed (or, overflew, as AJ said). I screamed - Ben brought towels, and held his nose while he scrubbed the floor for the second time in 4 days, because, of course, I had volunteered to fix broccoli salad. Of course it was not prepped, even though I should have at least cooked the bacon when I was making bacon, eggs, and biscuits for breakfast. Of course, I ran out of mayonnaise.

AJ was bossing the barking dog around. I did eventually see it as a blessing that they played so well, but I shushed her.

Better turn in - good night

Monday, December 24, 2012

Email from Santa

Santa sent Anna June an email again this year. Like many old people, Santa calls her "Anna" instead of "Anna June".

Here's the email video.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bah Humbug

Anna June is doing great. She is well-behaved, if a little hyper, and very sweet. On Saturday morning, knowing her Grandpa would arrive in a few hours and the house was a wreck, AJ ran into my room when she first woke up and declared, "Let's get to the cleaning!"

She's great, but I'm once again suffering from insomnia. This is not good - I'm supposed to be spreading holiday cheer in a few hours. Bah humbug.

Here's a picture of the cookie basket Granny sent to put us in a wintry mood. Happy winter.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hey Santa

Anna June may not have wanted to talk to Santa Claus when we visited him at the mall, but she has no problem adding last minute things to her list! Two days ago it was an Easy Bake Oven, yesterday it was a Nintendo DS, and this morning it was walkie talkies! Good thing Santa is magic! Also, she knows she won't get everything on her list. But it doesn't hurt to ask, she thinks.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

You Never Know

Anna June doesn't understand what I mean when I say that something is outside of my skill set. So when she told me that she wanted me to bake Angry Birds cookies for her class Christmas party, I said OK.

I keep trying these projects, and I keep failing, but I promise I learn something each time.Like that icing spreads. Or that AJ is a way better artist than I am.

Although "Angry Birds" didn't scream "Christmas" to me, I thought that it was a reasonable request. Here are the results:

Pretty sure I'm going to see this picture in one of those "Nailed it!" memes.

Variations on a Theme

Anna June often is looking for something to do in the car, and I've given her permission to access my blogging journal that I carry around. Here are a couple of things I found when I went to write down some ideas:

I think the first one was written while the car was in motion. Not too bad. You can still tell it is her name, and some sort of protest. "Anna June Gallitz. I don't want you ..."

The second one, due to the neater handwriting and my contribution, must have been we were sitting somewhere. You can tell that after her famous sentence, "I have the dog!" She wrote "Pes" first before asking me how to spell it, which I demonstrated as peace. Not too bad. She'll get the hang of this reading and writing thing soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Getting in the Christmas Spirit: Part 3

Anna June has been busy lately, and somehow, it is getting me all in the Christmas Spirit, slowly but surely. Here are some more things we did.

December 11: Avondale School Christmas Program. AJ did very well. She looked beautiful and stage-appropriate in her sparkly red headband. Ben also had a Christmas lunch at work, and my version of Gooey Cake was a big hit - you've got to love a recipe your mom can recite from memory in a doctor's office waiting room and includes the instructions "bake until it doesn't jiggle anymore."

December 12: This was our night off. We received some sweet Christmas cards. We have the best friends with the most adorable children.

December 13: I volunteered at the PTA's Secret Santa Shop. It was sweet to see kids picking out gifts for their loved ones. Then, I read to AJ's class: In the Desert One Christmas Eve.

December 14: We made a second attempt to watch a Christmas movie, The Search for Santa Paws. Anna June got upset when the plot thickened, and we sent her to bed instead. I read her some Christmas books as a bedtime story.

December 15: Decided to skip going to Zoolight Safari and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in favor of a date night to The Outlet Shops of Grand River. Anna June ended up spending the night with her grandparents, which allowed us to continue our tour of the Wal-Marts of the greater Birmingham area. I think we hit 3 for a total of 4 trips in a 24-hour period. Possibly a personal record, but certainly not a world one.

December 16: Wrapped a bunch of Christmas presents. AJ enjoyed writing the to-from tags to stick on each one. Radar ate approximately 4 candy canes while he was briefly unsupervised. We came home to the whole house smelling like peppermint.

December 17:  AJ brought home an ornament to hang on the Christmas tree that she made at After-School Care. Recently, her After-School Care teacher pulled me aside to tell me that AJ has made HUGE progress in ASC. She participates in all the activities and interacts with the other kids. At the beginning of the year, she was very shy and didn't do much of anything. Now, she's the life of the party, evidently.

December 18: AJ gave me a snowflake tumbler for my birthday! It keeps ice cold!

Here are some scraps I had in my car of AJ's ubiquitous writing projects. You have to look hard, on the bulletin, but there are lots and lots of letters on there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Note

Anna June loves to write - I wonder where that comes from? She can almost always be found with a writing implement in hand, and asking me how to spell something. The inside of this card is a thank you note to Granny (which I promise to mail, eventually). On the inside, she asked me how to spell almost every word and wrote them on lines that she drew. She colored a picture, and then, turned it over and wrote her very own sentence. This is a remarkable achievement for a still pre-literate four-year-old. She wrote, as you can see in the picture, "I have the dog."

Too bad what may be her first unique, independent looks like the beginning of a ransom note!

I posted this, along with the above observation, and I believe I may have set a new personal record for number of "likes". She is the funniest, best kid around.

There is no doubt about it, I love her being this age.

And I love being my age, too: 35 years old, as of today. This is going to be a great year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Volunteer Day

On Thursday morning, Anna June witnessed a strange phenomenon: neither of her parents were going straight to work. It just so happened that we had both signed up to be out of our offices to volunteer that day.

First of all Cadence Bank is sponsoring two Habitat for Humanity houses. Ben joined the Cadence team for a day of painting in the new space. He got to meet the new homeowner as well. It was a great experience, which left a few clothing articles paint-splattered in the process. Ben was glad to have the chance to do something for others (that his company not only approved of but encouraged). It also served as a good reminder that he a) hates painting and b) is glad for his office job!

I went to Anna June's school for the PTA's Secret Santa Shop. In an effort to do something different and fun for the children while raising money, the PTA decided to host this Santa shop. The merchandise is all on consignment and the school makes 15% of the proceeds. The kids came by class to shop for their moms, dads, and other loved ones. There were lots of fun toys intended for siblings, and it was my hardest task of the day to keep the children on track to buy gifts for their families instead of for themselves.

After the shop closed, I ate lunch with Anna June's class, and then we went back to her classroom for story time. I read them the children's Christmas book that my grandmother and Aunt Eunice wrote, In the Desert One Christmas Eve. It was a great experience - the kids were very engaged and interested. I asked them questions, and they wanted to tell me all about their own Christmas trees and lights (and none of them had a cactus for a decoration).

The day left us exhausted, but full of good cheer. I hope you have the opportunity to serve others this Christmas season.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Thing We Did

Last Saturday morning, Anna June woke up at 5:55, so excited she couldn't stand it. It was her dad's 34th birthday.

After being asked repeatedly what he'd like to do that day, he decided that he just wanted to play it by ear.

We took him literally, and we got him a keyboard for his birthday gift.

We then got dressed and took him out to breakfast at Jack's. Who would have thought he'd order a sausage gravy biscuit, but my goodness they were good. AJ ate pancakes so buttery she didn't even use syrup.

We went home, rested, played music, and showered. Then, it was time for lunch.

We asked the birthday boy where he'd like to go, and we ended up at the best restaurant in the area, Rusty's. Mom, Beth and Rusty all happened to be there, and Beth brought us out red velvet cupcakes. They didn't have the whole crew come sing to him, much to his disappointment.

Then, we were off on an adventure. We went downtown to the Birmingham History Center. Ben and I both have a love of Birmingham history, and we happen to know a bunch of people who have been involved in this relatively new addition to our city's cultural offerings. It is a small place - just a few rooms. There are some absolutely wonderful items on display, though. There are two real historic buggies in the front of the museum, fully restored. It looks like you could just hitch them up and ride down to the opera house (pictured above, in a later incarnation) or church.

The rooms are filled with local memorabilia, and there are several interactive exhibits as well. My favorite seasonally appropriate piece was the hand-written sheet music to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," penned by Birmingham's own Hugh Martin. A great article about the song and its author can be found here.

We hope the museum can expand its holdings soon, as the experience was slightly underwhelming. But they managed to cram the past century or so in a few small, significant objects: mining gear, medals from war heroes, bottles, and drawings. It's got a lot of potential.

We then took Anna June to my mom's house to help her and Grandma Hazel decorate the Christmas tree. We were glad to have a "date" afternoon, although, as usual, after a little while we ended up running errands. It was nice, though, to spend some relaxed time together.

Then, we were off to dinner, and we ended up at Chili's in Trussville. Yes, this is the famous Chili's where we contracted the stomach bug of doom back in 2008. We've finally forgiven them, and we enjoyed hanging out together.

It was a nice day, filled with love, laughter and music. Here's hoping the rest of year 34 will be just as good.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More and Less

I'm sure Anna June has no idea what a New Year's Resolution is, but she sees me start ideas with new resolve constantly. She is my most enthusiastic supporter, and I love sharing my goals with her, because she can be helpful at keeping me in line.

I know that small, measurable goals work best in being able to say, "Yes, I achieved that!" when one looks back on the year. But to heck with that.

Here are some goals I have for the new year for me personally and for us as a family, in no particular order:

See my Zumba instructor more and my pharmacist less
Go to the park more and the doctor less
See my family more and my co-workers less
Say no more and yes less
Stay home more and go out to eat less
Smile more and frown less
Give away more and buy less
Pray more and worry less
Problem solve more and whine less
Go to the farmer's market more and the grocery store less
Shop local more and big box less
Read more and watch less
Exercise more and eat less
Tea more and soda less
Hug more and yell less

What are your resolutions?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Night In

Anna June has been dragged hither and yon a lot recently. Last night, we finally had a night to just stay home. It was delightful.

I wish I could say I made a gourmet meal. Instead, we had frozen spring rolls for an appetizer, thanks to Ben, my sous chef. We had meatless whole wheat spaghetti (sauce from a jar - but I did splurge on a block of real Parmesan cheese to grate on top!) frozen garlic bread, and salad from a bag. I realize the preservatives, sodium, and such in the bags of bacon bits and croutons and the bottles of salad dressing are not good for us, but they can't be worse than drive-thru, right?

After dinner, AJ wanted to make smoothies to use a mushy banana. We ended up with a banana-cherry-orange smoothie. I suggested we drink from the special milk-flavoring straws Granny sent. We chose the strawberry, because AJ informed me that the chocolate tasted like poop.

The smoothies were great. I asked AJ to help clean up afterwards, and she said, "This is terrible!" "What's terrible?" I asked. "We only have one more strawberry straw!" I assured her we could get more - there's a display of them right up front at Publix. Whew! Drama averted.

Other than that, we had a nice night at home. AJ did her homework and then, because she wanted to, she wrote the whole alphabet on both sides of her new easel. She was having so much fun she didn't want to go to bed, but she finally did.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Outsourcing Content

Anna June's school had their Christmas Program last night. I also had to visit the grocery store, bake a cake, do laundry and dishes. And, oh, yeah, I have "allergic rhinitis" which means I still have a cold, but my doctor gave me drugs this morning.

So some things didn't get done. Pictures and video didn't get uploaded, etc. Today's content, then, is outsourced.

Luckily, though, the Avondale PTA's treasurer uploaded some pictures of the Tree Lighting ceremony that was held in Forest Park last month. Here you can see Rev. Harris' pictures of the event. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Getting in the Christmas Spirit - Part 2

Anna June's December has been busy! Here's an update on how we're celebrating the season

December 5 - we didn't end up seeing Santa that night, because AJ backed out. But we did hang up some Christmas-y artwork AJ has been producing and then we continued reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I think it is still hilarious, after all these years.
December 6 - saw Santa.
December 7 - I started addressing Christmas cards. Some have pictures of AJ, and some don't. If you don't get one and you want one, please let me know. I never know what to do with all those random pictures of friends' kids after Christmas. It seems wrong to toss them, but it also seems wrong to keep them. AJ also decorated our kitchen window with the festive winter gel clings that Granny sent.
December 8 - Ben's birthday! AJ was so excited she couldn't sleep. We did manage to listen to Christmas music and ate a snowflake cookie from the cookie bouquet Granny and Aunt Nonny sent from Cookies by Design. Beautiful and delicious! AJ also spent time with her Nana, Grandma Hazel, and Uncle Drew, decorating Nana's Christmas tree while we went out for a bit.
December 9 - This was a very church-centric day. First, we went to morning worship, where AJ dressed up in a fancy dress because we had been asked to light the advent candles. AJ actually lit them herself (from a candle that was already lit), with minimal instruction. Then, after lunch, we bought candy canes for our Christmas tree, and AJ hung the ones that weren't broken. Then we baked banana chocolate chip muffin/cupcakes for the reception following the Church Christmas program. Surprisingly, AJ did NOT want to take off her fancy dress, but did don an apron. Then, we had what was supposed to be a dress rehearsal. We did go over the whole drama, but not the whole program in order, which caused some confusion in the end, but it was OK. Then, we came home for a bit and then went back for our performance. AJ did very well and miraculously learned all the words to the first verse of "Silent Night," her assignment. She sang with our friend Francie, and they were very cute and did very well. AJ applied her own lipstick, but that is not my biggest regret of the night. It was adorable and everyone loved it. The cupcakes were good, too, if I do say so myself. My solo was pitiful, but I blame the laryngitis I contracted on Friday. I credit my recovery between rehearsal and performance to Organic Throat Coat tea and a concoction recommended by Ben's Aunt Renee: 8 oz. warm water + 1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar + honey. It worked as well as anything else. Water and Ricola cough drops were about the only other things I tried. I still don't feel great, but I toughed it out. It's over for another year, at least.
December 10 - Took a sick day, but finished addressing the Christmas cards. We finished reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and found that our neighborhood theater troupe is doing a performance of it running now. We may take AJ to it this weekend. Ben announced that he was already Christmas-ed out!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some Pictures

In anticipation of Anna June's performance of "Silent Night" at the church Christmas program, I decided to spend some quality time with my real camera. Not the iPhone, for a change. I spent some time organizing the photos I have managed to take via Picasa.

Because I have no memory and not a great deal of time to go back through my archives, I will say that I don't THINK I did anything to the picture albums prior to June, but I am posting the links to all the photos just in case. I may have moved them from where they were, so if links in earlier posts no longer work, please let me know if you run across them. Otherwise, I trust that you don't have time to browse my archives, either.

Here is the first 11 months of our year, in review.


I hope to snap some pictures in December, as well.

Happy viewing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Desk

Anna June wants a desk in her "new" room, but if she gets one, I really hope she takes better care of it than I take of mine. I have a full-on clutter problem at my desk at work and my desk at home.

I set the ambitious goal of having my entire desk (the surface, not the trays) cleared off by December 21, when our office closes for the holidays.

I have a long way to go. I basically have the left side of my desk as work things, roughly or neatly separated into piles, and the right side is a disaster of all manner of personal papers. I have a tote bag I bring back and forth to work, but unfortunately when I decide to clean it out, it just ends up being a big pile. I have all of these piles all over the house, too, but my work desk is my stated goal.

Here are some pieces of AJ's artwork/school work that I have uncovered. I have no idea when they were completed, or where, exactly. 

This last one does say "hugs and kisses" in purple, but I'm not sure what else it says, or what it depicts.

Here's one I meant to post in October:

Other interesting things I have found on my desk that may be worth a mention.

1. A new library campaign called Geek the Library. It's a fundraising campaign - it may have come from a Shelby County library rather than through our Jefferson County ones. On the site, many people talk about what they "geek" over. It's kind of neat. I have some stickers, a bumper sticker, and some bookmarks that ask "What do you geek?" If you want one of these, let me know. Incidentally, the Birmingham Public Library has a wish list of things they want - you can contribute directly towards toys, a bulletin board, or other cool things needed by the libraries in our system.
2. Thirty-one gift catalog. This home-based party-style business is one of my new favorite things. I keep buying gifts from here. I actually have a rep already, but my friend at work just became a rep. If there's anything you need (or want to buy for me!)  I would suggest visiting the websites of these two lovely ladies:
Leslie Hughes Nuss or Dawn Fizer. I like everything.
3. A flier for a Yoga for Stress Management class at the UAB Resource Center. I can't make it - it's at the same time as Zumba! - but it offered this nugget: "This yoga class is all about the unique being that you are." That's sounds pretty awesome.
4. A flier for the Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis walk. The walk in Birmingham will be June 1, 2013. Ben and I each have a cousin suffering from Crohn's. Consider joining the walk or making a donation. 
5. A business card from Alabama Grief Support Services. This agency provides free grief support groups in the area, and I believe they do very important work.
6. This recipe for Farmer's Market Vegetarian Quesadillas.
7. A generic letter of appreciation from my division director. It has a food stain on it, so it's getting tossed.

Thanks for letting me get that off my desk.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Seeing the Big Guy

On Tuesday night, on our way to get Ben's birthday and Christmas presents, I asked Anna June where she'd like to go for a quick dinner, just the two of us.

"Can we go to the mall?" she asked. I wanted to know why she wanted to go. "Is Santa still there?" she asked.

I was floored. She had previously said she did NOT want to see Santa. Years past have brought her to tears at the mere thought. Peer pressure, I assumed. Surely other kids she knows have been to see Santa.

I probed deeper. She vowed not to cry, to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas, and to sit on his lap for a picture.

Never trust a 4-year-old.

Tuesday night, I explained we didn't have time, and I put her off until Wednesday. Wednesday night, she went to change out of her school uniform and ended up in bike shorts and t-shirt. Her daddy vetoed the outfit, and that was all it took to cause a meltdown. She declared that not only that she didn't want to go right then, but she NEVER wanted to go.

I should have trusted my four-year-old.

Thursday night rolled around, and there were two HUGE boxes from Granny on our porch. We let AJ open just a few things - we needed to run an errand and didn't want to wait for AJ to open every wonderful thing. She pulled out some dresses. When she got to a green velvet one that she loved, I casually mentioned that it would be a perfect dress for a Santa visit. She agreed, and rushed to put it on.

Since she was interested again, we wanted to strike while the iron was hot. She seemed like she was excited.

When we got there, there was no one in line. AJ got closer, and turned back into her shy and stubborn self. She did NOT want to talk to Santa. She did not want to sit on his lap or beside him. She would not talk to him. She answered, "nothing" when he asked what she wanted for Christmas, although I supplied that she wanted a whoopie cushion, hoping that silly thought would make her smile. It did not. Basically, the picture is awful and overpriced, and AJ is not even smiling, even though both Ben and I are doing our best.

Santa tried, but AJ wouldn't even take a candy cane from him. On some level, I think I'm supposed to be proud that she didn't take to a strange man with candy.

Anyway, we ran into my cousin Laurie in the food court afterwards, which was way more fun than our actual trip to see Santa. Her kids, Tyler and Ava, gave Santa their lists, and they were both adorable and very into it. These pics are infinitely better and more special than the ridiculous one with the old guy, anyway.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

That One Day!

So far, Anna June has only been absent from school one day, because she had pinkeye or something like it, and she was tardy once this week for a dentist appointment. Besides that, her attendance has been stellar.

However, the ONE DAY she was absent, a group from the local Rotary Club showed up at her school to take a tour of the Pre-K. They are major contributors to the United Way's Success By 6 program, and they are basically funding AJ's classroom. The one day presented a great photo-op, and of course, made it to the school's website.

So if you were ever wondering what a group of local philanthropists (including Mrs. D's Dad), a school board member, a program administrator, AJ's teachers, and the rest of her class look like, you can find it here. It's a link to her class website. I hope that better and more pictures will be posted soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Getting in the Christmas Spirit - part 1

Anna June is showing us that she loves Christmas as much as I do. I am so glad. It is my favorite time of year, although I keep telling myself that I can't do everything! Here are some things we've done so far to celebrate the season.

Dec 1 - attended a Christmas party
Dec 2 - put up our tree, practiced for the Christmas program at church
Dec 3 - ate Christmas cookies from Icing on the Cookie. They are participating in a fundraiser for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center this week called "Sweet on a Cure" where local merchants donate proceeds from dessert sales. AJ watched The Polar Express at school - They got jingle bell necklaces, the teacher punched their "tickets," and they had cocoa and cookies.(AJ declared the movie was certainly different from the book)
Dec 4 - took AJ Christmas shopping for her Daddy's present. After a quick dinner, we stopped at Whole Foods (another Sweet on a Cure participant) and AJ had candy cane gelato (I had orange fig.) Magnifico! At school AJ watched "Elf on the Shelf". I'm personally very anti-elf (I believe there is evidence on the internet that I recently wished to beat up the ladies who created this) but whatever. I'm trying to honor diversity!

I wonder what we'll do today that could possibly top that. Unfortunately, homework and laundry and regular life goes on during the Christmas season. We're doing our best to get in (and stay in) the spirit. Have a holly jolly day!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Weather or Not

Anna June is ok at getting dressed for school. Sometimes, she'll even ask me what the weather will be so she can dress appropriately.

This weekend, though, it was warm. She picked out her "best dress" to wear on our shopping excursion. It is trimmed in faux fur and is a great holiday piece. I wore my culturally-appropriate Bama sweatshirt. We were both burning up!

Later that night, we changed, and AJ picked out a sundress. I couldn't blame her - we were still recovering, running the a/c in the car on our errands. "I like the coldness," she declared.

Luckily, I brought a sweater along for her, because the nights get cool! It's hard for her to decide what to wear when it changes so quickly!

It's so confusing in December when is warm. It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it feels like early fall. We think we should change the lyrics to "Let it Snow" for something that better fits Alabama's climate.

"Oh, the weather outside is perfect..."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day Planner

Anna June's friend Francie gave her an old day planner to play with that once belonged to her grandmother. AJ doesn't have a planner or a diary that she really uses, but if she did, her entries for this weekend may have looked like this.

Eat strudel
Play at home
Make hostess/Christmas gift for John Clarke's family
Get Mom to download more apps for me on her phone.
Out to lunch
Pile up sticks in backyard with Mom
Visit the library for more books
Shopping with parents
Football/Christmas party at John Clarke's
Spend the night with Nana

Breakfast with Granddaddy, Nana and Mom
Snuggles and playtime at home
Choir practice
Lunch at home (leftovers!)
Put up Christmas tree and decorations
Finish homework
Phone grandparents
Dinner at El Cazador with Maddie

As you can see, we had a busy weekend lined up! AJ picked out these swell boots while we were shopping. Santa has been notified.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rock Star

Anna June practiced some guitar this morning.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Yesterday, Anna June got her next mid-term progress report. As expected, it was very good to good.

I grabbed her old one (given out after the first 4.5 weeks of school) for comparison. She did get another "report card" at 9 weeks, but the categories are not the same, so I had to go back to compare the actual mid-term reports. (Working for statisticians has made me inclined to compare only apples to apples, after all.) These are my findings:

She has improved from "Good Progress" to "Very Good Progress" in the following areas:
Matches basic shapes and sizes
Able to copy numbers
Enjoys school and is usually happy
Skips in rhythm
Work on the computer
Hold and uses scissors correctly
I know what State I live in
I know what City I live in
I know months of the year
I know my left from my right

She has improved from "-" (which I assume means N/A) to "Good":
Bounces a ball & catches it

I know phonics & how to read

She has improved from "-" to "Very Good":
I know How many stars on the American flag
I know how many bars & stripes on the American flag

Other changes:
"I can write my first name" changed to "I can wrote both names"

There were no categories where she did not stay the same or improve.

There are still no "excellent" marks, but for now, I am very, very pleased with the improvement in 16 of the 53 categories (30%). She has 42 "Very Goods" and 6 "Goods" and 4 "-". I'd say that's, well, very good!

The other "Goods" not mentioned above are
Identify five senses

String beads
Trace a straight line accurately

So of course, we know where we need to make progress, but I'm glad that she's come up in the "enjoys school" category. She loves her friends and her teacher, and she's doing well.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Big Girl Room

Anna June cried out a few times last night, only because in her sleep she had moved to an awkward position and was up against the foot or rail of her bed. She's growing out of that toddler bed. It got me thinking about her room redo.

We're planning to redo her room (notice I didn't say redecorate - she can decorate it herself)  in March, near her 5th birthday. Let's pause for a moment while we all deal with the fact that she'll be 5.

I didn't paint her room before she was born. I had a theme, but didn't go too crazy with it. Now, the princess bears are starting to look babyish.

Here are some things we (she) want(s) to do:

Paint walls pink
Get yellow curtains
Get twin bed
Get pink polka dot or sherpa fleece bedding (I hope to use this to tie the pink and yellow together)
Get a small desk

We'll likely have to lose:
One chest of drawers
The rocking horse
Some toys
The vanity
All remaining princess bear stuff (wall hangings, valance, hamper). We'll keep the shelf until we replace it with another one or an appropriate place for all her stuff.

I'd love to display some of her hats and bags, but this may be too cluttered-looking.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Anna June knows that we are thankful for many things. Right before Thanksgiving, her class was polled on what they were thankful for. While other kids were thankful for their grandparents or pets, AJ's answer was "lunchboxes, and toilets (so we don't have to use the bushes)."

I will take responsibility for that one. I remind her sometimes that it wasn't that many generations ago when our ancestors did not have indoor plumbing. The outhouse would have been a cold place to be on a day like today. I am a huge fan of modern conveniences.

Anyway, there's been a social media meme of listing one thing we're thankful for each day in the month of November. Some people I know started out the month doing great, and then tapered off. Some are still going strong. I didn't participate, knowing I'd easily be able to come up with 30 things in a sitting for a blog post at some point in the month. The month is nearly over(!) so I thought I'd better get a move on.

1. Anna June. She is the sweetest, funniest, smartest, prettiest kid ever. I know all moms think that about their daughters, but, though she's not perfect, I think I could make a case.

2. Shenandoah, A.K.A. Ben. He's also not perfect, but he really is the love of my life and brings a lot of joy and humor into my days.

When I first drafted this post, I listed a whole bunch of family members and all that they contribute to my blessed life. And then I started crying and stopped. You each bring your generosity and love into my life, and I can't thank you for it enough. I will focus on things rather than people for the rest of the list, but you must know that I am so very thankful for each of you.

3. My job, where I haven't gotten in trouble yet for blogging too much. I also have a killer parking space, my (mostly) own bathroom, and a window, with my own couch and ac/heat unit. If Ben ever kicks me out, I'll be in my office.

4. My dog, who is not a person, but thinks he is. Bless his heart, he is by turns the most stubborn and the most patient little critter. He is good at snuggling and reminding me to take walks. He's also a good playmate for AJ.

5. Our cars, which, despite recent maintenance issues, are very reliable and almost paid for.

6. AJ's school, where we feel she's learning new things, meeting kids from all different backgrounds, and becoming a big kid before our very eyes.

7. Our church. While it struggles to get members, it still keeps plugging along, and has been our church home for generations.

8. Decaf tea and soda, providing me with options other than water since 2000.

9. Our lovely king size bed. No, we don't have a headboard or perfect linens, but it is ours, and it's a place where we read and snuggle, laugh and cry. And snore and grind our teeth, too.

10. The new down-alternative sherpa fleece reversible comforter that Ben bought us at an after-Thanksgiving sale. It is my new favorite thing.

11. Nights when AJ sleeps through the night - bliss.

12. Food, delicious and plentiful. AJ has brought both her breakfast AND lunch all three days so far this week, and it amazes me that our pantry has such depth to cover these. I still haven't been grocery shopping.

13. Our beautiful house. As any homeowner, we are slowly making improvements when we can. We love having a place to call our own, even if it won't technically be our own for another 20 years.

14. Marriage. Oh, it has its ups and downs, but it is pretty much the best thing that ever happened to either of us. The institution still has a place in our society. It takes a lot of guts to commit to someone forEVER.

15. Generosity. Others have been so generous to us, we can't help but to be generous to others. Recently AJ witnessed me buying lunch for a girl on a field trip at the McWane cafeteria who didn't have enough cash to cover her lunch (she didn't realize a Subway gift card wouldn't work there), and then days later, saw her dad buy lunch for a guy who asked for money on the street. She's seen us donate time, money, clothes and other stuff to charity and to churches. She's seen us support fundraisers and events for a good cause. I hope that this is instilled in her - we are blessed, and should feel called to bless others when we see a need.

16. Blogging. It is a way for me to preserve memories while writing, which is my first love. It helps me keep AJ close to those far away. It helps me take a step back and say, "Hey, what went on yesterday?" Also, I've met a lot of other bloggers in real life and online, and the community here in Birmingham is pretty fantastic. I've updated my blogroll to show some of them off.

17. The Internet, in general. It helps so many things go so much smoother than they did only a few years ago.

18. My iPhone, specifically. It can be a double-edged sword, because I can't put it down sometimes, but it has brought me such entertainment and joy. And AJ, too. Maybe we can get through one night of dinner without our phones. I though we were going to do it a couple of nights ago, but then I thought of something I needed to know and Ben got up from the table and found his to look it up for me.

19. Clothes to keep us warm. It is cold and we are so very lucky that we have been given almost everything is our wardrobes. Again, we're thankful for the generosity of our family.

20. Memories. I am so thankful that through little things, our loved ones who are no longer with us left us with such happy memories. I am wearing a sweater that belonged to my grandmother. I thought of my grandfather's phrase when I was getting out of the shower, lacking something ("I guess we'll have to do like they do across the river - they do without.").

21. Downtime. Does anyone ever get as much as they think they should? I am thankful for each time I get to sit and watch TV or a movie, or read a book, or have a conversation.

22. Date nights - where many of the movies and conversations happen.

23. Our lawn service. I said I wasn't going to mention specific people by name, but our yard man, Mr. Campbell, is my hero of the year. Our summer (and spring and fall) went so much better this year without my nagging Ben to get up early and cut the grass before it got hot. We have a killer, steep yard. Mr. Campbell and his crew are worth every penny.

24. Zumba. I am grateful for being able to move. I hope to attend more often in 2013. I love, love, love our class, instructors, the location, the price, the childcare, the dances, the music - everything. I am grateful that the teacher convinced me to give it a try.

25. Birmingham's parks. While our city and county have their financial issues, I am so grateful that we've seen the building and renovating of Railroad, Avondale and Crestwood Parks in recent memory. Having nice places to go helps me want to get out of the house more, and let AJ go play like kids are supposed to do.

26. Membership to the zoo. I've been more times since we've been members (even though we don't go often enough!) than I had been in my whole life combined. I love being able to go for just a little while and see just a few things and go home when we're tired.

27. Membership to the McWane Center - ditto the zoo thing. It is one of the best places to go. AJ spent nearly 2 hours just at the Clifford exhibit the other day, and then we ate and came home. We loved it.

28. Naps, when they happen.

29. Restaurants, especially Rusty's, which would be my favorite even if it weren't my brother's place. And Chick-fil-A, of course, where we can entertain kids, indulge in our grease addiction, and meet new people (and occasionally see cows).

30. You. Thank you for reading. Your comments and encouragement keep me doing this each day. I love you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brainwashing, But in a Good Way

Anna June must have been recently reminded that Santa is coming to visit in less than a month. Maybe it was the Learning Express toy catalog that arrived (news flash: she wants everything). Maybe it was casual comments from me. Maybe it was someone at school, or at Nana's house. Whoever it was, those forces have my utmost and sincere thanks.

Last night, I picked up AJ from my mom only to discover that she'd done all her homework for the whole week.

She came home and asked to "play" in her room. She cleaned up the whole room, including making the bed. She also and went ahead and selected her clothes for the next day without being asked - even her sweater. After dinner she made us come into her room for the big reveal. She was so excited and happy to show off her achievements, and I was also happy I wouldn't be tripping on a tea set or baby doll in the middle of the night.

She complied with bath time, even going so far as to starting to run the bath herself (a first). After her bath, no complaining about being "too damp" was heard, and she got herself ready for bed in record time, brushing her teeth and combing her hair. I wasn't even done with the dinner dishes before she ran in and announced, "I'm ready for family story time!"

She volunteered to work on her reading for the first part of our reading time. She is doing pretty well, by the way. At bedtime, there was no whining, fussing, or crying, just a mature request for some water and for me to turn on her ceiling fan. For the record, she slept all night, not even crying once.

This morning, I woke her up, and before I had even showered, she was out of bed, dressed and completely ready for school. Usually, wake-up time involves cuddling and cajoling, trying to think of creative races or reasons she must finally get up and dressed but today, she was like a completely different kid.

She did have one complaint. Because we didn't have to physically get her up and place her on the potty or squeeze her into her clothes, there wasn't a lot of AJ-parent time. She declared, "You haven't even hugged me this morning!" She was right - when she came into my bathroom when she heard me turn off the shower, I was soaking wet, and I only managed to give the big girl a high five. Poor thing. We rectified the situation.

I am not sure who brainwashed my kid, but I am selfish enough to hope that it lasts.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Have Been Asked

Since Christmas is a month away, I've been asked about how big Anna June is now, for sizing purposes.

She is nearly 44" tall, but weighs only 41 pounds or so. She could still wear a 4 in the waist but needs a 5 or 6 for length. In this regard, dresses are easier, since it's not so obvious when they start getting shorter.

Also, please keep in mind that 5 days a week during the school year she has to wear a uniform: navy, khaki or black bottoms and white, blue, or khaki tops (no T-shirts). We have leeway on socks, shoes and hair accessories.

Speaking of shoes, she wears an 11.5, trending towards a 12. We still have some 12s that are way too big. She has long, skinny feet that she did not inherit from me. Currently, she likes her sneakers but is also liking the Mary Jane and T-strap styles we have.

In the uniform department, she could use pants. She insisted that she would NOT wear pants, but now that it has turned cold, she's changing her tune.

Back to hair stuff: she has more than 40 adorable headbands. Her two headband holders are full. I have a hard time culling them because they're so cute. Please don't send more.

I just reread what I've written so far, and I realize it sounds like I'm begging. I'm not. We are very lucky - we have everything we need and more. I have just been asked about her sizes and I thought I'd spread the word efficiently. And I am sure everyone hates returning things! :)

AJ is healthy and happy, and tall. Most folks guess she is 5 or 6, even after talking to her. She's like a lot if kids: she wants everything in the store, but doesn't want to let go of her old stuff to make room. As a result, she's been saying that she wants nothing for Christmas, which I don't believe.

She has been pretty good, after all...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simple Fun

Anna June, now not weighed down by the threat/promise of daily naps, has been a little restless. I went back to a "box of fun" I made months ago this weekend. Basically, I saw a list of 101 fun indoor activities to do with kids. I printed it out, cut it up, and put it in an empty Kleenex box. I was saving it for 9 months, waiting until she was bored and I had time for an adventure.

The first one we drew was "make a necklace from yard, beads, or fruit loops. AJ chose beads, so we headed to Dollar Tree. Who knew you could get 360 beads plus string for a dollar? AJ made me a great necklace.

Our Saturday activity was "give the child a roll of toilet paper and let her make a trail around the house." So fun!

I will report further adventures!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, Anna June had one of the best Thanksgivings ever. She played at home this morning, and then came with me to Nana's to help prepare for the feast. She dusted and helped, and she made this turkey fruit tray with her Granddaddy. (Thanks to Aunt Nonny for recommending it! It was cute and healthy!)

I didn't do too much, but I made cranberry sauce, which was both easy and delicious. I washed some dishes and peeled some potatoes. (We're a little crazy for our carbs: sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and potato salad!)

AJ was very excited when Marcella, Liz and Patrick's other 4 year old niece arrived. The girls played well together, and played Candy Land, Silly Socks, Elefun, dress-up, and football, in addition to sharing our tablet computer. They had a blast. The weather was perfect: highs in the 70s, so it was comfortable to sit and play outside.

We are still adjusting to not napping, and, because we were home and didn't have to cook, we had AJ in bed by 7:15! Amazing!

I hope your day was as great as ours was!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Very Pinteresting

Anna June may not know what it's called, but when she gets a little bored or restless, I show her pictures in Pinterest on my phone. I've started a Christmas list for her there, and it's very helpful, since she's pre-literate, for her to look at the pictures and say, "Oooh, I've always wanted that!"

The trouble is, of course, that the list keeps growing each day.

I tried showing her a picture of kid stocking stuffers recommended by World Market last night during an "I'm-tired-and-won't-eat-dinner" moment. I didn't get past the first item. When I explained what a whoopie cushion was, AJ knew that she had to have one.

She immediately came home and cleaned the kitchen while I laid down to rest (this no nap thing has taken a real toll on me). I hope St. Nick was watching: she even swept! She was so sweet and the kitchen really did look much better when she was finished clearing away some of the daily stuff that gets dumped on our kitchen table and island.

It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood Yuletide poems. "Jest 'fore Christmas," where the little boy, William, recounts his usual antics but explains that immediately prior to Christmas, he is as good as he can be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Anna June has been bringing home artwork of Indians in teepees, cornucopias filled with fruit, and turkeys. It must be time for Thanksgiving!

Above is what she brought home from church on Sunday: a list of things she's thankful for - including Mom, Dad, dog, and house, bike, food, flowers, sun, and the thing that looks like a flag but she told me was "air." I'm pretty grateful for air, myself.

We talk about why we're thankful on a pretty regular basis. We used to try saying a blessing before dinner, but when AJ objected, we switched to saying one thing that we're thankful for. Unfortunately, we're not the most consistent folks, so when Thursday rolls around, AJ will either have a long list, or else she'll go blank. We've got a couple of days to work on this.

My family celebrates Thanksgiving, but we focus almost entirely on the food and each other. It's very casual - we don't dress up and wear ties. We don't drag out the good china, crystal or silver. There was a small window of opportunity for this before AJ was born, when we were all grown and fairly confident we could avoid smashing stemware, but we sort of missed that. We can't even get through dinner without spilled milk or a major sauce malfunction, so a special occasion in tight quarters is a particular challenge. We are glad we hold more of the Chinet plate/Solo cup type gatherings, where it's OK to be interested or not interested in the football game, the kids are allowed to be loud, and TV trays are a necessity.

We do, however, manage to say a blessing. Sometimes, I am asked to do this, and, even if I know it is coming, I tend to stumble over my words, stammering the phrases I so often heard my late grandfather and grandmother use in their family blessings, "bless this food and the hands that have prepared it," "bless it to our bodies and our bodies to Your service," "forgive us for our sins, whether they are of comission or omission," and more.

I was thinking of pre-meal blessings when I couldn't sleep this morning, and there are some tried and true ones that have been used with kids that come to mind. I am hoping AJ will join me in reciting one of these on Thursday, rather than listening to me say, over and over and in different phrases, how grateful I am for my family and for delicious food.

First of all, when I picture a family saying grace, I picture a whole family bowing their heads and simultaneously saying the word, "grace." I am sure I got this image from TV or a movie somewhere, but it is stuck in my head. Really, that sums up what we're most thankful for - grace, in all its forms. God's saving grace, amazing grace, grace that is greater than all our sins. But also grace in its little moments: when AJ looks at me and says, "I want to snuggle," or when my husband doesn't seem to mind when I forget to do the laundry for the third day in a row, or when my parents say, yes, AJ can come over (again) so you can have peace and quiet. I consider those things grace.

Side note: Anne Lamott, has a book out called Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. I haven't yet read it, but I have read her work before. Her Bird by Bird is one of the best books on writing I've ever read, and my dad recommended it to me years ago. Anyway, just seeing the title of this book makes me want to read it, because that sums up each of the prayers I've ever prayed: help, thanks, or wow.

I hope not to get lengthy, but I do hope that we can muster more than one word. To be honest, a standard call-and-response greeting would also sufficiently show our gratitude:
God is good.
All the time!
All the time!
God is good!

Here is the blessing that my brothers and I were taught when we were small:

God is great
God is good
Let us thank Him
For our food
By His hands
We all are fed
Thank you, God
For daily bread

Again, we're not the biggest on consistency in our family, and sometimes, we'd forget to say the blessing before dinner and go with Granddaddy Elwyn's motto, "The good Lord knows we're thankful!" But I still felt like we SHOULD return thanks, and probably one of the first things I ever made up (i.e. wrote, altered) was this blessing, to be said after the meal:

God is good
God is great
Thank Him for the
Food we ate.

Anna June learned a couple of good ones while she was at McElwain, to be sung.

The first one is to the tune of Frère Jacques:
God our father,
God our father,
We thank you
For our food
Bless it to our bodies
Bless it to our bodies

The second one is to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:
Thank you, God, for our lunch
For our lunch
For our lunch
Thank you, God, for our lunch

Our friend Julianne visited the other day, and her dad John shared a sweet blessing that she had learned at nursery school:

We love the bread,
We love the butter.
But most of all
We love each other.

My favorite one, though, is one I saw on Gold Shoe Blog a while back, while the author's son was still in preschool.

Thank you, God,
For the food before us,
The friends beside us,
And the love between us.

I think I want to use that one, substituting the word "family" for "friends," because everyone who will be there is either actually related to us or close enough to consider family.

For them, and for each of you, I am thankful.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Shower Time

Last Sunday, Anna June's Aunt Connie and Aunt Beth and I hosted a baby shower for her Aunt Liz. Liz is expecting on December 26th! I can't wait to meet our new (first) nephew!

Rusty and Beth did most of the food, including a fruit tray carved into a baby carriage, chicken salad sandwiches on croissants, and a veggie tray. We ordered the cake from Publix, and they did a great job mirroring the invitation and the theme, which was little baby blue footprints.

Connie made the punch and everything else.

I pretty much showed up and greeted people, and took some pictures. 

Anna June helped show guests where to put the gifts (Aunt Connie's wooden crib, handmade by her father, Jay), and helped by handing Liz the gifts. She also encouraged everyone to sign the mat of the framed picture of the baby's ultrasound. She did a great job at her mini-hostess duties.

It was a beautiful day, and a fun event with friends and family. He's not even here yet and I'm already in love, as are his Nana and Granny.