Anna June has kept us busy since we've been home. There are lots of things to post about, but not enough time. Instead of detailing our insane weekend just yet, I thought I'd just quickly post this pair of funny faces.
AJ doesn't really have the attention span for it, but we like to call our out-of-town relatives with Skype. Each time we call Grandpa, he usually signs off with a funny face, and AJ does, too. Yesterday was no exception, and it reminded me of this picture, where they got to do it in person while we were visiting Grandma Gallitz. AJ's silliness and, of course, her beauty, is probably still being discussed at the nursing home.
Ever since we announced Anna June's birthday party would be at an indoor bouncy playground, her Grandpa has been saying that, when we got up to Milwaukee, he'd take us to one up there.
We had a little derailment in plans.
On Sunday afternoon, after visiting Ben's grandmother Gallitz and a huge breakfast, AJ was ready for her nap. I couldn't blame her. The kid who does not love sleep asked me, while we were in the car, where exactly we'd be taking her nap: Grandpa's or Granny's? I told her I figured Granny's house, after we got to the "big surprise" bouncy place and wore her out.
I should have known something was up when she asked about sleep. She was zonked out in a matter of minutes. I had Ben, who was driving, change our route to go to Grandpa's instead, so we could visit and she could continue sleeping.
Unfortunately, she woke up when we arrived, and she threw and absolute meltdown-hissy-fit-tantrum, because we were definitely NOT at Granny's. She didn't like the covers. She didn't like the bed. She didn't like Ben or me for bringing her there. I asked if she'd like it better if I laid down with her. No. If Daddy laid down with her? No. If we BOTH laid down with her? Yes. So, just like that, the three of us took a two hour nap, in a bed with very nice, comfortable covers and room for all. It was fantastic, regardless of what she said.
So the next morning, we resumed our quest for the bounce place. (We had originally thought that the afternoon would be good, but then thinking about the nap or lack thereof made us change our minds.) Through the magic of the internet, we discovered another place, closer to where we were, which had a featured a morning "free play" (i.e., not related to a birthday party). It was Bounce Realm, and in a lot of ways, it was better than Birmingham's iJump.
First of all, while iJump has a parents' room with comfy chairs and televisions, Bounce Realm has more practical seating around the inflatables, so you can actually watch your kid play without having to be in the way. Bounce Realm also featured a massage chair for parents, which, alas, was not working at the time of our visit. But it is a nice feature, nonetheless.
On the other hand, iJump has bigger and probably better inflatables (although one inexplicably - momentarily - deflated during AJ's party). Bounce Realm was more open and had less going on, which, in my opinion was a good thing. There were still plenty of arcade games, but there were no go-karts and rock walls to distract the kids that were too little to play on them.
As for the arcade games, AJ played air hockey with both her Grandpa and Dad, and beat both of them. She played Skee Ball, too, but didn't fare so well. There was a machine where you spun a wheel, and had the opportunity to win a lot of tickets at once. Ben won 50, Gary won 40, and AJ won 100! It was so many that the machine ran out of tickets! Fortunately, the friendly employee replenished the stock and all was well.
In the end, AJ had amassed 250 tickets. She picked out a wide variety of toys, trinkets and candy. She also selected this handy disguise. Can you tell it's AJ?
As much fun as we had on our trip, I can tell Anna June is glad to be home. After four nights of "I'm scared," and crying out in the middle of the night, last night she slept the whole night. She claims she wet her bed a little and woke up to put a blanket over the wet spot, but if she didn't wake me up in that whole process, she must have been OK.
Last night she helped me with dinner, which I thought would inspire her to eat better (and more) but instead, my attempt at this pasta dish was deemed "yuck" by AJ and "tasteless" by Ben. AJ did, however, make some instant pudding with so little help from me that we declared she made dessert all by herself. She also put the frozen garlic bread out on a cookie sheet for me. It is really strange that she's turning into a big girl - she's actually helping and following instructions instead of making bigger messes for me most of the time. I rewarded her help after dinner with an episode of Caillou - well-deserved in my opinion, and just long enough for me to wash the dishes.
The picture above is from when we recently visited Red Robin on a girl's day adventure. I'm sure they were trying to use up old stock, but they handed AJ this winter-themed coloring page. She didn't get it, either. "A hamburger radio?" she asked. I explained they were earmuffs, not headphones, and the burger was cold because it was winter. It still didn't make sense, but she colored it anyway.
We're having another girl's night tomorrow night, but it will likely be a girls' night in! I'm hoping for leftovers, a better nail polish experience, and an early bedtime.
Anna June experienced a phenomenon we've never experienced before. While in Wisconsin, we saw all of Granny Annie's Wisconsin-dwelling siblings AND their spouses. There are 9 kids altogether, and 7 live in WI. In all my years of being in this family, I don't think we've ever stayed long enough to accomplish this on one trip. It was pretty amazing, actually! It makes me want to visit Colorado and Florida, just to say we've seen them all in one year.
On our last night in town, we went to Papa Luigi's in Cudahy (that's pronounced Cud-a-hey, y'all). Ben's Aunt Lori works there, and her husband, Uncle Chris (also known as Uncle Kitsy) came out and treated us to dinner. We went in search of a traditional Milwaukee fish fry, and we found it. Beer-battered, deep-fried fish fillets greeted us, and we enjoyed the experience. AJ ordered cheese pizza. She thought she was all done with dinner, but Aunt Lori surprised her with a special cannoli.
After her delicious dessert, AJ got a private tour of the restaurant's kitchen. She went on to the back with Aunt Lori - the grownups weren't even invited! She had a lot of fun and turned a lot of heads. She was quite adorable dressed up for her big night out.
We tried to get some pictures before we left, but AJ was being camera shy. Then, Aunt Lori told her about a trick they used to use in her family when they didn't want their picture taken: the kids would put their fingers up their noses, thinking an adult would not want to waste film on a kid picking her nose. So, they laughed and laughed over this, and I didn't get a single photo. It was kinda worth it to see them so happy.
While Anna June loves to color, we're getting a lot of pictures like this.
I think this particular piece was done during her pre-vacation adventure Friday, also known as Take Your Sort of Sick Granddaughter to Work Day.
After the sickness follies on Wednesday and Thursday, AJ was actually well enough to go to school on Friday - she had only run fever very early Thursday morning, and therefore would be clear for daycare. Thursday night, though, when it was time to go to bed, I told her to get on to bed so she would have the energy for school the next day. It was going to be the annual Teddy Bear Tea Party, and I knew she wouldn't want to miss it. But since my parents had generously volunteered to keep her, as she was delaying sleep, AJ called out, "I don't want to go to school! I want to go to Nana's!"
Too stressed to argue, I took her to my mom. She agreed to have their own Teddy Bear Tea Party. AJ selected teacups with dragons on them, of all things. They had tea-juice. Then, they went to Rusty's for lunch, mostly so my mom could help them through the lunch rush, as they were understaffed. It was a big, long rush. AJ colored this picture from her Veggie Tales coloring book. She went to the counter and ordered her own lunch. She visited with all three of my brothers, who happened to be there (but not too much with Rusty, who was quite occupied). She hung out with my dad, and then left the restaurant with him to go "help" at the auction house.
Eventually, Mom got away and picked up AJ. They returned home and took a nap. Then, they had to go back to the auction house, as the sale was starting at 6. We picked her up from there, and said our goodbyes before we left for Milwaukee.
In all the excitement, AJ never did finish this picture.
When we returned from our trip, AJ's teacher had saved up some worksheets the kids had done while she was gone. Last night she did one of her pieces of "homework" while I washed dishes in the kitchen. If this is any indication of how real homework is going to be, then I will need a prescription for Valium, please. AJ did great at the objective of the worksheet, which was following directions. There was even a checklist at the bottom and she liked checking off things like "color the little bear's tie red." But to get her to concentrate, sit down, and complete one task was not really that fun for me. After each part, she kept jumping up to go show her dad, which was cute. Then, she'd take a ride on her scooter which was in the kitchen for some reason. Then, she'd ask a question. Then, after being asked yet again, she'd color for about 30 more seconds. Repeat. No wonder she was late getting into bed.
When she finally did get in bed, I was trying to wrap up a few things before I tucked myself in. I was hanging laundry when she came running in to tell me, "I'm scared!" She had ended up in our room two nights prior (an expected bump in reentry from vacation) but I was not going to fall for it again. I told her, "Well, if you can't sleep, you should clean your room and at least be productive." AJ thought this was a great idea.
I went in her room to supervise and put away some clean clothes, and she picked up all her toys. If I had to go out of the room, she'd follow me, asking me where to put certain things. She asked me things I couldn't answer, like, "Why is this [plastic] bag in my room?" She asked me to go put her tricycle and helmet back in the trunk of my car. Together, at almost 10:00, we finally finished putting things away. And we haven't even touched the entire suitcase full of new toys we acquired in Milwaukee.
This morning, after she was dressed and ready to go, I had asked her to finish coloring another picture to send to a sick friend, but she was too excited to show her daddy her clean room. She even made up her bed this morning before he took a look - she didn't want it to be unfinished.
Anna June had a great time visiting Milwaukee. In fact, we all did.
One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Anna June's very first Major League Baseball game at Miller Park.
Before we went, I had scoped out that there was an early day game on Thursday, so I thought that would work best for us. While AJ can sometimes skip a nap, she pretty much goes nuts later in the evening, and visions of meltdowns in such a crowded place made me freak out a little. I thought a day game would work great for her.
We left early, which was wise. We picked up Grandpa and brought him along. We parked and made it to the stadium in plenty of time. This was a good thing, too, because we're pretty sure that our ticket seller misheard our request for 5 tickets as 4. Of course, we did say "4," but that was in the answer to the question, "How old is she?" He may have thought she could sneak in, but our kid is so tall there's no ticket taker in America who would have believed she met the 2 and under age requirement. Luckily, it was half price day for Milwaukee County residents, so Aunt Nonny bought our tickets! (Thanks, Nonny!)
I was also thankful that Miller Park, unlike the old County Stadium, is a retractable dome. Therefore, the cold wind did not bother us during the game. This was a good thing, because this trip had me doing an experiment that failed.
You see, since we were staying so many days this time, I decided that we should pack half as many clothes as we needed and just take advantage of Annie's washing machine and do some laundry. That would save us about a suitcase worth of space. It was a good idea, but I went to bed Wednesday night with clothes in the wash, and there was not sufficient time to dry them before we left. Therefore, Ben braved the ballgame in shorts. I was - and still am - upset about this turn of events. We'll probably over pack for every trip from now on.
We enjoyed the ballpark food (well, honestly, we've had better, but we enjoyed the fact that there was food!) Brats, hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, pizza, licorice ropes, and coffee. We were impressed that the ballpark's security let us in with full (unopened) bottles of soda and water, and no one checked me for candy, which ended up keeping AJ occupied for a bit.
Also, luckily, our seats
were near Bernie's Clubhouse, an indoor playground. As soon as AJ got a
little bored with the game, Gary and Nonny took AJ to Bernie's, and, for
a couple of innings, we got to watch the game uninterrupted. I was so
AJ got to see Bernie Brewer slide down his slide at the beginning of the game, and fireworks went off inside the dome then. Unfortunately, no Brewers hit home runs, so this was not repeated on this visit.
About the time the sausages were about to race, we let AJ know she needed to head back to her seats from the playground. Grandpa got AJ a slushie. According to his report, she ordered it herself, "I would like a red slushie, please." He was pretty impressed at her skills and manners. I'm glad she remembered her training. She was back in her seat in plenty of time to see the race - the bratwurst won.
In the bottom of the 8th inning, AJ had finished her slushie, and leaned over against her grandpa and fell asleep. There were 30,000 people in the stands, and the game got pretty intense. We were all yelling and cheering, but my child slept right on through. The Brewers, though, ended up losing.
Wanting her to get at least 45 minutes of napping in, I decided we would stay in our seats after the game ended. The usher, of course, didn't like that, so we had to move along, out into the (much colder) Milwaukee afternoon, and, sadly, the rain. I'm glad we had the foresight to bring along a blanket, because this proved an invaluable tool as we walked briskly from the stadium to the car. Because AJ was so sleepy and because it was so far, I carried her. This was probably the only exercise I had the whole trip. My arms were sore for a few days afterwards, but it was worth it. AJ got to see her first game, and her Dad and Grandpa (and Aunt Nonny and me, of course), were so glad they got to do it with her.
I wondered, for security reasons, if I should let everyone know we're currently on vacation. Since this is a protected blog, though, and I'm pretty sure everyone who actually reads this knows anyway, I figured I'd just go for it.
Currently, I am awake and no one else is. I can tap out a post on my phone with minimal noise, so I decided to go for that. AJ stayed up until past 10 with her Granny, who was sleep-deprived from working (night shift).
AJ is having a blast. So far, we've spent a lot of time visiting family members, which was the point of the trip.
Saturday we flew into Chicago and rented a car to drive up to Milwaukee. We stopped at Gurnee Mills, IL and ate at the Rainforest Cafe. It was a total tourist trap, but a lot of the features were really neat and the food was pretty good. We see ads for this chain daily, as they are proud sponsors of Curious George on PBS. We managed to escape without anything from the gift shop, but AJ and I rode the carousel and she rode a little mall-ride car. She'll be too big for those things soon!
A couple of hours later we made it to Milwaukee. We ate hot dogs under a canopy in Granny's newly renovated backyard. The weather was perfect! Ben and I walked down to the local grocery store/deli for supplies. I am sure I wouldn't go often in the snow, but the idea of a (flat) walkable neighborhood is so appealing to me.
This may be the end of what I can type in one sitting with one finger. I'll try to do more later.
On Wednesday, Anna June's school called to let us know she had thrown up and had a fever. Sorry to lead in with that disgusting fact, but it was true, and caused some consternation on our parts. Mostly, the trouble was this: I didn't have my cell phone with me, and no one could get in touch with me for over an hour. I was at a meeting in a different building and had to walk back.
Meanwhile, Ben had the situation in hand. He picked up AJ and got her situated with TV shows, sips of water, and a just-in-case dish tub.
Thursday, it was my turn to stay home. I canceled everything and went into sick-day mode. After breakfast of dry toast and a few episodes of Curious George, I deemed AJ well enough to do other in-home activities that didn't require a lot of physical activity. I decided to do our nails.
I was actually pretty excited about this. On Saturday, I did something I have never done - I bought nail polish at a salon. AJ and I had painted our toenails on Friday night, and I decided to wait until closer to Easter itself before I did my fingernails (and, of course, AJ's) because we're both notorious for messing them up. I had selected a shade of pink to coordinate with my dress, and AJ asked me if we had any white polish to match hers. We didn't. But when we got our haircut, and we were checking out, there was a new OPI collection, and wouldn't you know, it had white polish in it. It was called "Don't Touch My Tutu," which goes with their NYC Ballet theme.
Thursday morning, I retrieved our new polish and gathered our supplies. I started to file down some of my nails, and AJ decided she would shake up the bottle. I have shown her how to roll it between her hands instead of shaking it up and down to avoid bubbles. She did. But for some reason, the bottle jumped out of her hands and shattered all over the tile floor.
I screamed in horror, involuntarily. While I admire nail polish colors constantly, I almost never buy salon brands because I so seldom make time to actually paint my nails. I don't think I've ever paid $8 for polish before, although I've certainly paid more for a manicure! (But not since AJ has been born - it has been a strict rule of mine not to let AJ know that there are such things as nail salons. If she figured out one could get a better manicure than the one I've been giving her, we'd be at the nail parlor every week. Maybe one day, but no time soon. Seriously. No time soon. Maybe when she's six. Or ten.) I keep thinking if we do our nails at home my skills will improve, but so far, they haven't.
Anyway, poor AJ started crying immediately. "You embarrassed me!" she said. She then calmed down and apologized over and over, "I'm so, so, sorry, Mommy." I immediately shut Radar out of the kitchen, and then began picking up glass. AJ got a rag and tried to help me mop up the polish - which was better than when she found the cap/brush and started trying to get it up by painting. I eventually hit upon the idea of putting her back on the sofa and setting her up with a movie. This was good, but she wanted popcorn. Then she wanted butter. Then she wanted more butter. She spilled the popcorn. She wanted me to watch the "scary" movie, Puss in Boots, with her. I changed it to Caillou instead, not able to leave the disaster site for long.
I spent the rest of the morning cleaning the kitchen floor. The optimist in me says that it needed to be cleaned anyway. After I got the glass up, I swept, and then I went over the effected tiles with nail polish remover. Then, I scrubbed the whole floor for good measure. I had to throw away my rag and change clothes.
The kitchen still smells like nail polish! But I think we got most of it up. If I were a stay-at-home-mom, I would need a full-time staff to clean up after us!
While Anna June had a good Easter, she also had a good day before Easter. After running some errands that morning, she and I had a girl's day, which included shopping, haircuts, and lunch. I even got her to admit it was fun.
Here she is holding the basket she/her teacher made from a tissue box (covered with colored paper), and the eggs she found in the school egg hunt on Thursday.
Anna June had a very good Easter. As soon as we returned from the (casual) Sunrise Service at our church, she was eager to go ahead and get dressed in her Easter outfit. I told her that was OK, but she'd have to spend a few hours playing quietly, and sitting in her special Princess chair instead of on the dog-hair covered sofa. She reluctantly agreed, knowing she wouldn't be able to eat any more of the candy from her basket, either. There was one little misunderstanding about how one should wear lacy socks, but besides that, AJ was a perfect angel until we got to church.
She would not let me take any more pictures of her once we got there. She insisted on rolling around on the floor beneath the pew. I told her to stop, and then she whispered to me, "Please don't make me wear this dress again." I asked why, and she said, "Because you won't let me get on the floor."
So, there you have it. Most of the time, I prefer to let a kid be a kid, and let her get as dirty as she wants most of the time. But, with a dress as great as this - thanks Granny! - I just wouldn't let her.
There are more pictures forthcoming from others who snapped them at the family gathering. Then, after the pictures were done, off went the nice dress and she was back in shorts and a tank top. Much more comfortable!
After I put Anna June to sleep last night, I was focused on how long it takes her to get to sleep. Oh, she was tired all right. She kept getting up for things like needing more books, and wanting me to reposition her night light.
Little did I know that my facebook feed would soon be exploding with activity from my friends who are parents in our school zone. For reasons I still can't determine and can only believe are political - possibly in response to a proposed tax increase - an emergency meeting has been called for 5:00 PM today (Good Friday, a holiday) to discuss the contract of Dr. Craig Witherspoon, our schools' superintendent. In other words, the person that has been working with us personally to create a second Pre-Kindergarten classroom for our neighborhood school - might be fired.
I read this article to Ben while we were getting ready to leave the house. He was as outraged as I was. As one neighbor put it, this seems to be straight from The Wire. The situation has put us in a bad mood, to say the least. Let's not even get into the poor subject-verb agreement in the board member's interview. We and our neighbors noticed it and pointed out the irony that the particular member seemed to be focused on athletics rather than academics.
Many of our neighbors have planned to attend the meeting, although we can't - it's a HOLIDAY today, and our child care plans are such that we cannot go. This is really a huge effort on their part, as doing such a thing on short notice may require expensive alternative child care plans or canceling things they really wanted to do today, like maybe going to church this evening. But each of us believes in this cause. From a sociology perspective, it has been very interesting to see the immediate impact of social media - while our kids were asleep, we were getting messages about articles written in immediate response. The Weld article is here. The local NPR affiliate's article is here. Southern Education Desk's version is here. Two petitions have started up: here and here.
Laura Kate's article is here. If you're the type of reader that clicks on all the links in my blogroll, you'll remember she recently profiled Dr. Witherspoon here. I'm not saying he's a saint, but I will say that he has personally responded to each and every email I have sent him. If the Board is indicating he has a communication problem, it's not with the parents or the community.
It just so happens that our particular School Board representative, Virginia Volker, may have one of the deciding votes. As soon as I got settled at my desk, I wrote the following letter:
Dear Ms. Volker,
are writing to let you and your colleagues know that we stand in
support of Dr. Craig Witherspoon retaining his position as
superintendent. We'd like to point out that Dr. Witherspoon was not
elected, but the Board was. Because you represent us, we are asking for
your help and serious consideration in this matter.
If you will
recall, I wrote to you recently asking for support for the creation of a
second Pre-Kindergarten classroom at Avondale Elementary. A group of
interested parents from the Avondale school zone has met independently
and with Drs. Curry and Witherspoon, and we have been convinced that
Avondale is a good school where children are learning academics and the
arts. We also believe in the importance of Pre-Kindergarten. Study after
study has shown its link with children's success - academically and
Dr. Witherspoon came to our first meeting - even on
short notice. He wanted to emphasize to parents who will potentially
send their children to this school that he is willing and able to listen
to their concerns. He shared his goals for the system and for Avondale.
He returned to a second meeting - where even members of the community
without children attended - and gave us more details about how he plans
to aid the district in growth and retention. We think the IB schools and
the career academies are a very good start.
When it made the
news that he was asking for a 3 mill tax increase, we supported this
idea, knowing that there must be more funding for programs like Pre-K to
increase. It is a vision that we share with Dr. Witherspoon that Pre-K
should be available in every elementary school in Birmingham, and that
lotteries would be a thing of the past.
We were told that it
would take approximately $100,000 to fund a second pre-K class for
Avondale: this would pay the salaries and benefits of a teacher and an
aide. For the $200,000 that the Birmingham News reports that it would
take to terminate Dr. Witherspoon's contract, we could fund 2 Pre-K
classrooms, and educate 36 more kids. As I may have mentioned
previously, it is very important to the system as a whole for families
to get involved in their schools early - if we send our kids to private
school, we may stay there. In fact, the inefficacy of the Board may be
the final straw that sends us to private education for our daughter.
are very shocked that Dr. Witherspoon's job would be on the line,
especially since, as we understand it, proper evaluations have not yet
even been conducted. In our professional experience, leadership changes
have very seldom cured problems in the organization - in fact, it may
create them or delay their resolution. Will firing a leader buy
textbooks or hire teachers? We don't believe it will.
certain that Dr. Witherspoon is not perfect. But I would encourage you
and the Board to go back to when he was originally hired. What were his
goals? What promises did he make? Please hold him to those standards and
expectations - but allow him the rest of the time of his contract to
work on those problems. If, as the article we read suggests, he doesn't
communicate with the Board well enough, please set some guidelines and
hold him accountable. If he's not communicating well with principals and
teachers, then, by all means, suggest some ways to foster that
dialogue. But, please, let him do his job.
We know that the
schools have a long way to go. We know that improvement can be made in
just about every area. We are asking that you, The Board, find a way to
work with this leader for the sake of our children. They are depending
Sincerely, Laura and Shenandoah (Ben) Gallitz
In the time it took me to write this post, a lot has happened. A pro-Witherspoon press conference has been planned for Linn Park, across from the BOE at 4:00 PM today. An unconfirmed list of board members' cell numbers has been circulated so we can text them. An editorial has been published, which was even better than the one published last week.(By the way, I've also written our city council members, just in case they want to know what their constituents are thinking!) The state board of education has stepped in and asked that the meeting be delayed. One commenter online pointed out that this may violate the open meeting law, which may also be true, and that, as a matter of fact they voted to delay evaluations of Witherspoon until later in the year. How can you say you'll evaluate someone and then fire him?
The take-home message is this: there's something going on that we think is wrong, and we're doing what (very little) we can to try to make it right. I joked to the parents' group recently that I had no idea that having a little one would make me into a political advocate, but, honestly, the adage that the personal is political (and vice versa) is true. It is not a foregone conclusion that we will not participate in the city schools if Dr. Witherspoon leaves, nor is it a certainty that we'll be involved if he stays. Anna June will be fine in any school, public or private. But this is bigger than AJ - it is about all the families in the greater Birmingham area, whether they have kids or not. Education has a direct impact on our community, and we are interested in having (and keeping) a leader that can continue to make improvements.
Anna June gets dragged into shopping a lot. A few weeks ago, when our dryer broke, her daddy fixed it, but then messed up our ridiculous vent. They went to Home Depot to find a new one. He couldn't decide which one to get, so he got two. The other one sat around and finally, Sunday, we returned it. While we were there, we thought we'd take a look at some new lawn equipment. Unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to use a riding lawnmower on our small, steep lot. Even if we could get one, we'd have to get a new shed first, which we also investigated.
AJ thought these were pretty cool, anyway.
At her request, we exited through the "flowers" also known as the garden department. A trip to the Botanical Gardens will happen soon, as she's suddenly interested in these things called flowers, which I cannot grow. We hit up the rose garden at Avondale Park on Monday night, and we were delighted at all the blooms already at the height of their color. Hooray for Spring!
This morning, Anna June didn't like my pants. "They look too boy," she said. Even though sometimes she claims to now love Spiderman, Power Rangers, and all superheroes, she is pretty pleased with pink.
Several months ago I took things to be mended to our friend Nell at Finishing Touch. Ms. Nell has had breast cancer and was unable to work for a long time. Recently, she completed her treatments, moved out of her son's house, and returned to her shop. Last summer, AJ was wearing this adorable nightgown, but the lace had come loose, and I stuck it in the pile for the seamstress to repair. When I finally got around to retrieving my order there, I had quite forgotten what was in it. AJ was surprised and delighted, too, that I came home with her pink silky nightgown again.
I did remember some fuss from last summer or fall because this gown had buttons in the back. This time, I had a strategy.
"Hey, AJ, you have your pink silky nightgown back! And I have a pink silky nightgown, too!"
She took a picture of me, and then I took a picture of her. It's only because AJ took it that I'm willing to publish such an unflattering photo of myself. As you can tell, I don't believe in ironing sleepwear. (For the record, I barely believe in ironing at all.)
So, even if we like soccer, baseball, bugs, and some other things that boys like, we can still be feminine and wear pink.
And, for me, I can wear pink in honor of Ms. Nell, Aunt Connie, my friend Lue and all the other breast cancer survivors we know. They are the real superheroes.
Anna June's "big" birthday party was on March 10. I was pretty stressed about letting AJ pick the venue and guest list, but in the end, I think it was less stressful than a party at the house, where I'd actually have to clear a path for guests. We chose iJump on Highway 280, where her friend Maddie H had her 3rd birthday party.
First, a word about her outfit. Granny sent this adorable embroidered, personalized t-shirt for AJ. I had been wanting to get her something like this. These outfits are immensely popular down here (almost as ubiquitous as the smock and monogramming!) I never could justify the expense, knowing that AJ is very, well, particular about her clothes, and even if she likes something in the store, she may hate it when she gets home. And personalized clothing doesn't work well for hand-me-downs. In any case, I was ecstatic to see this in the box from Granny, and I was pretty excited about the tutu it came with, as well.
I thought we'd have three immediate uses for the outfit: AJ's three birthday parties. The family gathering at Rusty's, the cupcakes at school on her actual birthday, and the party at iJump. The days came, and no amount of bribery or threats would get AJ to put on the shirt. I nearly cried.
Getting ready for the party, AJ refused to wear the shirt. We came up with a different top option, plus green tutu. I declared that AJ would need some shorts or bloomers to go under the tutu, as the theme of the party included jumping. She went to the giveaway bag and pulled back out these size 3 shorts (which still fit her around the waist). With the understanding that they'd be worn under a tutu, I was OK with them.
Then, I took a shower. I don't really know what happened, although Ben whispered to me as soon as I was out that she was wearing the shirt and I shouldn't say a word about it. So I didn't. And she never did put the tutu back on. Which is why she has way too short shorts on. But isn't the shirt adorable?
Here she is with her friends Maddie and Drew. Altogether, there were 10 kids plus the birthday girl.
Here's AJ waiting for one of her friends outside one of the inflatables. You can see how the shorts have made it into Daisy Duke territory.
Here's our friend Mallory, who is nearly 5. She weighed enough to to the rock climbing wall, but sadly, AJ did not. Maybe next time.
Here's the cupcake pull-apart cake done by Publix. Later, Beth told me that they'd actually made the order a week ahead, but had to remake it when she spotted it and declared - No! AJ's party is NEXT week! I wonder who got to come home with the mistake cake. And why she didn't bring it to us! (Just kidding! We had plenty of cupcakes that week!)
Unfortunately, these are the best shots I got. If anyone has more, please send.
Eventually, there will be pictures of Anna June from this weekend. There was the Easter Egg Hunt at church, and a surprise 80th birthday party for Grandma Hazel. There was even a cute picture snapped on a shopping expedition to Home Depot. But I don't have those with me right now.
I did want to talk quickly about how much AJ enjoyed April Fool's Day. We were talking about it first thing in the morning. I admitted that I had been trying to think of something to fool Ben with, but didn't quite come up with anything he'd fall for. AJ immediately thought of her favorite prank tool so far: stickers.
The other day, Ben was napping on the couch and she wanted to give him a sticker. I told her not to, since he was sleeping, but she stuck one on his pants leg anyway. When he woke up, he was genuinely surprised.
AJ and Ben spent a good part of the morning putting stickers on each other, trying to be sneaky about it. They had a blast. I'll have to check their clothes to make sure none of them hitch a ride into the washing machine.
We also spent a long time coming up with possible scenarios of jokes we could pull on others. We never came up with anything that stuck, but we had fun imagining the scenarios. I cautioned AJ to be wary of things for the day, and if they didn't sound right, to ask if it was an April Fool. All day she was saying, "That doesn't sound right!"
I hope none of you got tricked too severely. And I hope that none of you have stickers on your back courtesy of a sneaky 4 year old.
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