Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
But in this post, I'm not talking about AJ. I'm talking about me.
My name is Laura, and I like to drink water.
I gave up caffeine in 2000 over some health concerns, and since then I've been noticing that there are few options for those of us out there who don't like the basics: Coke or Diet Coke. (Or, in some cases, Pepsi or Diet Pepsi.) I would also accept caffeine-free diet options, such as Lite Lemonade, CF Diet Coke or Sprite Zero, but the more I read about artificial sweeteners, the more I'd rather just have water.
Ben loves Dr. Pepper, and recently, he made the switch to Diet Dr. Pepper with his own health concerns.
We have been known, even as recently as this week, to make dining out choices based on what we knew them to serve, with Diet Dr. Pepper serving establishments getting the highest marks, and those with Coke Zero coming in second.
Some restaurant owners, like Rusty, offer a good variety of options in their self-serve soda fountains. Rusty's serves Pepsi products, and, in Birmingham, this includes Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper. Rusty also does not treat water drinkers like second class citizens, giving them the same cups, lids, and straws afforded to those drinking soda. Rusty's gets an A+ in the drinks category from Ben and me.
McDonald's at UAB, however, gets an F.
There are many restaurants that have tried to curb soda stealing at their establishments by offering clear cups to those of us who request a cup of water. There are places that use smaller cups. There are places that have smaller cups without lids. (And to those people, I ask, is it really cheaper to clean up the mess when I - or someone else - tip over my water cup? Do you want my kid to dump water on your floor?)
McDonald's won the prize for being the most discouraging water experience I've ever had. The water was self-serve in an Igloo cooler in front of the cashier (you have to break through the line to get there). But the worst part was these miniscule cups. At the most, they were 4 oz. Even AJ can drink that in a couple of gulps.
The other items are shown in the photo for size reference. Slightly bigger than the ketchup cup, way smaller than the sundae one. They sell sundaes for 99 cents. They sell Dasani bottled water for $1.49. I fell for that once; this time, I wouldn't be pressured. The City of Birmingham prides itself on its clean water - it is good enough for me, really. I think it tastes fine and I often can't tell a difference in it and bottled water, usually obtained from other equally clean municipal sources.
And keep in mind, it is 100 degrees outside.
I know that McDonald's has to keep their bum population to a minimum and on their thin margin, they cannot afford to be giving things away. But they probably also don't want people passing out in their dining area. Good thing they're across the street from the hospital.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Here are some of the highlights.
We took a ride on the Incline Railway. Ben thought the price was a little steep (pun intended). We did not know that the first incarnation of this was built in the 1890s. The area is so beautiful and the view is breathtaking. Of course, at the bottom (if you look straight down) you see the scenic Bi-Lo parking lot. But the viewer at the top showed us all over the city. We took a walk down to the entrance of Point Park and decided it was too hot and we were too hungry to visit the historic military monuments, so we went back down the mountain.
We got a recommendation for lunch from one of the souvenir salesmen to eat at Mojo Burritos in the St. Elmo area at the bottom of the incline. The food was pretty good. I loved that they focus on local ingredients. We did not love the punk kids serving or the hip-hop music playing. I also didn't love that there may have been a rat on the patio. (I just overheard a conversation - it may have been about something else entirely.)
The kind folks at our hotel allowed us to check-in a little early, and we took a long nap. It was possibly the best part of the trip. No one got up earlier than they were supposed to and no one started barking (though it was a pet-friendly place, we didn't hear any as nuisances). Bliss.
(By the way, I have decided that my official hobbies are napping and bathing. Also eating, but I'm trying to give that one up in favor of Zumba or walking.)
My one requirement for the trip was that we celebrate our anniversary at somewhere "fancy". Somewhere with a wine list and no kids menu. No drive-through or animal mascot. A place that required wearing pants. I pored for days over menus and locations, reviews and gut instincts. I finally narrowed it down to a couple, and we chose Back Inn Café. We dressed up - I wore heels and Ben wore a tie. We asked for a table with a view, so we were seated near the window and could look over the Tennessee River. We were in the heart of the Bluff View Arts District, and there was a nice sculpture garden. Our meals were fantastic. Ben ordered the shrimp and grits and I ordered the stuffed fried eggplant and penne pasta. The goat cheese/eggplant combo was delicious, if I do say. Our waiter was in training - he looked like Justin Beiber. Evidently I couldn't hear the other waiter he was shadowing very well. I asked twice for the name of the wine he recommended. I was sure he said it cost "a hundred dollars a bottle" but Ben, who never hears as well as I do says he said "under twenty dollars a bottle," which was more in line with what they charged me for a glass. Either way, it was a delicious rosé and they were the only restaurant in Chattanooga to have gotten a shipment this time around. There were a couple of drunk girls at a nearby table who told the other waiter he looked exactly like Ed Norton, whom he had never heard of. A family of five (3 adults and 2 kids) showed up, complete with stuffed animals. It made us wish for a second that we had brought AJ along. The ambiance was, as you've guessed, slightly less than expected. So this is probably the last fancy dinner I'll request from Ben. After all these years and dragging him to all these places, it makes him so uncomfortable that I will defer. But I still think he looks good in a tie.
Another highlight of the hotel was the swimming pool. We went for a dip after dinner. It was cool and would have been relaxing except for all the kids. They were having a blast, though, so it was hard to begrudge them. There were several groups in our hotel, including Vietnam Veteran Marines and a few family reunions. They took up the whole lobby night and day, but at least they weren't up all night partying, that we could hear.
On Saturday, we hit the (crowded) hotel's breakfast bar, and then went back up to bed for a nap. Actually, Ben napped and I read. We often do this on weekends, but without AJ or Radar begging for my attention, I read a lot of my book and had time to straighten my hair. Again, it's the little things.
We went out to the Chattanooga Choo Choo property, where there is an adjacent parking lot for the free electric shuttle. While the downtown area isn't huge, it is a long way to walk in the heat. It got up to 100 degrees on Saturday, and we were grateful for the free rides to get us where we needed to go.
We walked around the area of the Tennessee Aquarium, a destination we'll definitely visit on a subsequent trip with Anna June. Then, we walked across a bridge to the Coolidge Park neighborhood. On the day we visited, several food trucks were out. We had lunch at the one for Southern Burger, which was delicious. We ate in the park under a tree. We walked around and saw the Delta Queen, which is a boat that has been made into a hotel. The adjacent Coolidge Park has many things for kids, including a splash pad and carousel.
We walked to the nearby shops, and had soda from Pure Sodaworks. I had a delicious honey lime flavor and Ben had the old-fashioned root beer. It was fabulous! We visited the used bookstore next door, and then ran an errand across the street at Walgreen's. We were impressed by how walkable these neighborhoods seemed to be.
We walked some more across the pedestrian bridge to the Hunter Art Museum. We saw the "Sound and Vision" exhibit of rock n roll photography. Some of the pictures were the same as the exhibit we saw in Birmingham ("Who Shot Rock N Roll?") but some were new. It was great - it was also fun to see so many different eras of American art. I was surprised (but shouldn't have been) at how many Alabama artists were featured in the collection, like William Christenberry and Thornton Dial. I also really liked the free lockers so I didn't have to lug everything around with me.
After a quick (and air-conditioned) visit at the museum, we walked across the glass bridge to the Ice Cream Show. You can pick chocolate or vanilla, and then pick your mix-ins. Looking at a list of staff recommendations, I picked chocolate with peanut butter cup and pretzels. It was delicious. Again, I'm glad we picked a local place over a chain, although there were several of both just about everywhere we turned. Catering to tourists looking to cool off seems to be good business sense.
To kill time before our final tourist activity of the trip, we rode back down to the Choo Choo area and looked around. This property is impressive, with several restaurants and shops on its campus. We were too early to eat dinner there, so we went next door to the Terminal Brewhouse. It was not a mistake. We enjoyed a mushroom pizza, which we decided AJ would never have let us order. We also really enjoyed our beer order. Ben got a Belgian beer and I got a Scottish ale. I enjoy beer, but don't have the vocabulary of a true connoisseur. Let's just say this - it was good!
Eventually, I finally declared that I definitely wanted to ride on a boat. We picked a sunset cruise on the Southern Belle. It was a fine idea. If you're 80. It was hot and crowded, and we chose the less expensive (and not sold out) upper deck instead of the inside dinner cruise. It was a very nice ride, covering quite a span of the river. We saw all kinds of birds as well as a raccoon taking a drink. There were jet-skiers, water skiers, stand-up gondola paddlers (with dogs, of all things), folks in kayaks and canoes, swimmers and fishermen, and boats large and small of business and leisure. We got great views of the bridges, both before and after the lights came on for the night. But the included dinner cruise entertainment was pretty much on our nerves. Tony, from Mentone, Alabama, played keyboards and sang. His partner played the saxophone. Because there were no drums or bass guitar, they used the drum key on they keyboard. It pretty much made each and every song sound the same. Ben asked if they sold earplugs at the bar, and, miraculously, the sound turned down and then off soon afterwards. Of course, an elderly passenger asked if the volume could be turned back up after he realized the "problem". Evidently, he didn't want to miss someone singing "Chattanooga-Choo-Choo" that sounded exactly like the "Marine Corps Hymn," which Tony played twice for our hotel-neighbor veterans. Too bad those guys endured the enemy only to be saluted with such lackluster talent all these years later. After seeing pictures of rock greats just hours earlier, including everyone from Elvis to Bruce Springsteen to the Who and Bob Dylan - our expectations were perhaps too high.
Overall, it was a great trip. The drive was pretty and uneventful. Traffic was good. It was a pretty short drive, about 2 or 2.5 hours. It was lovely to see man-made and natural attractions. It was fun to do things not in our normal routine. It was great to have the time to sleep late, even if I did not have the capability. It was wonderful to know that AJ was in good hands while we were gone, and my obsessive phone calls, texting, and facebook checking let us know that she was having a good time without us. We learned a lot - and it was great to have the ability to talk to each other without interruption (even if, at times, we didn't have much to say). It was very nice to sit down to dinner and not have to get up to ensure that someone else's butt was properly wiped. It was nice to be able to read more than one page before falling asleep from pure exhaustion.
It was also really nice to get back home and hear everyone else's stories about all the fun things that AJ did like play on the trampoline, go to a gymnastics meet, visit the farmer's market, make pizza and pancakes, and watch movies and cartoons. This was the first time both of us have ever been away from her for two consecutive nights, and she did much better than we expected. It is just a reminder of how fast time flies, and how she's growing up.
Maybe by next year we'll be ready for another weekend off!
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
Here's the updated album for January, when I got my phone. You've probably seen most of these, but for archiving purposes, here they are.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Here is one scenic vista from our trip so far.
AJ had a concept in mind. First, she wanted me to print a picture of Ben and Grandma Gallitz to frame. Then, she decided she had rather draw it. She got this far, and then abandoned the effort at drawing. She kept coming in the gym asking me how to spell things. She made me spell out "Dad and Grandma Gallitz" for her.
Then, thinking about our plans for the rest of the day, she asked me how to spell, "Do you want to go to church or do you want to stay home?" Then she kept coming back in the gym to ask me about my handwriting. Needless to say, I didn't get my most focused, intense workout that day.
AJ asked me not to share these drafts with her dad. So I'm not. I'm sharing them with other people. AJ is going to hate me for this blog* when she gets older anyway, so I decided to post them. They are just too cute to pass up.
*And then, of course, she'll appreciate it when she's much older, right?
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
But, no, he will not fix your computer.
So far, his company has reimbursed him the expenses involved in the tests. If he keeps taking them, they may change their policy.
We are very proud of him, though, and relieved that after he finishes each one, he can be more present in our home life, as studying takes up a lot of energy and time. To his credit, though, he has always done whatever he could for us, even if he was swamped.
AJ was intrigued by the selection at the buffet - they advertise over 300 items! But on this particular weeknight, the food wasn't stellar. We chowed down on a variety of our Asian favorites, but AJ selected an almost monochromatic plate: Rice, a spring roll, won-ton chips, apple slices, and canned pears. She passed up American staples like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and even broccoli.
She had broccoli at school for lunch. While she usually cleans her plate, AJ only tasted the school broccoli. She didn't like it because it was served with a cheese sauce. She likes mine (plain) better. But she didn't want the buffet's. Or their corn, or their beans, or any of the veggies she'll normally eat. Her reason? They were too hot.
We finally bribed her to eat an actual vegetable (carrots) with some ice cream.
The thing that was remarkable about this dinner is that Ben and I finished about half an hour before AJ. Usually, when we're at home, we can excuse ourselves and move on to other activities if AJ is still eating. In a restaurant, we have to plod along. She even asked me to feed her the rice, which was scattered and hard to get with her fork. It seems she's in a phase where she's extremely slow at everything. I have no idea where that is coming from...we used to be so tired just chasing after her. Now we have to prod and rush, which is also exhausting.
We have a busy and fun remainder of the week coming up. Hopefully AJ will get with the program and get over her slow phase soon.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Ben and I are notoriously indecisive, especially about what we eat. We both have issues. We often go out to eat so that we can each have what we want. Anna June loves to stay home, both to eat and to play. She likes to help in the kitchen, and will probably end up having a far easier time in the domestic realm than I do. She'll probably tell her kids, "I grew up in restaurants. They're nothing special. I can make anything a restaurant can make, and healthier and cheaper."
AJ has often been our tiebreaker in decisions of where to eat and, even when we're dining at home, what to eat. She has some good ideas, but recently she's been having creative ideas.
She decided that we needed to eat "Apple and Banana Sandwiches" One night last week, AJ and I made these sandwiches, and Ben opted to go obtain dinner elsewhere. :)
Here is her recipe:
Apple and Banana Sandwiches
2 slices bread
4 thinly sliced apples, skin on (which is way too much, by the way. 1 apple will be plenty)
1 thinly sliced banana.
Decorate bread with apple and banana slices. Make sandwich. Eat.
My mom and I both commented that the sandwich would have been much improved with peanut butter. One night last week, AJ and I made these sandwiches, and Ben opted to obtain dinner elsewhere. :)
This morning, after I listed off all the things in the pantry, refrigerator, fruit bowl and breadbox, AJ did not want any of them. Instead, she invented a new recipe: Peanut Butter and Butter Sandwiches.
Peanut Butter and Butter Sandwiches
3 slices bread
Meticulously* spread peanut butter on one side of a piece of bread. Flip over and meticulously spread margarine on the other side. Top each side with the other piece of bread. (Actually, AJ just ate the one piece with peanut butter and butter on it, in the interest of time.)
Lest you think that AJ is so grown up now, she then played with the peanut butter which of course landed on the plate when she put the butter on. She spread the peanut butter around into designs with her finger. When I sent her to wash up, she washed her hands but skipped her face, which was predictably spread with peanut butter.
I asked her if I should post her recipes on the blog. Yes, she told me, you should do that! So, ladies and gentlemen, I am pretty sure those are the first original recipes ever posted on this blog.
And not to be outdone by my four-year-old, here is the recipe for the cake** we baked for our Father's Day family gathering. I had said I wanted to contribute a dessert, and I asked AJ what we should bring (cake, cookies, or brownies). She said cake, so we asked Patrick (our host) what kind of cake he wanted, and he suggested yellow cake with chocolate icing. AJ and I squeezed in cake-baking on our Saturday agenda. She has gotten really good at cracking eggs, and she used the hand-held mixer for the first time. It was fun but messy, and the results were delicious. We used store-bought frosting, which AJ also selected. Unfortunately, the cake got too hot in the car during church on the way, and the top layer slid off and broke. I repaired it, and it turned out OK, especially since it was served a la mode.
Here's to freedom to learn and invent, in the kitchen and other places. May we continue to reap the scrumptious rewards.
*AJ does not know the word meticulously, but she should. We let her fulfill her own recipe, and, if it were up to her, we'd still be sitting in the kitchen, watching her spread the peanut butter over every teeny-tiny bit of the bread.
**Ben really doesn't like cake. We should have asked him, but he wasn't around. We'll make him a different dessert sometime soon. He doesn't like roast, either, so it wasn't a good Father's Day menu for him, but my father and grandfather appreciated the roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, Vidalia onion souffle and rolls that were served.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Over a year ago, I got a smart phone, and, surprisingly, I liked it. I didn't ever really get to know it like I should have - I mainly used it for talking (who does that anymore?), text messaging, pictures, and Facebook. After it was stolen, my fear of lack of time got the best of me. I requested that I get the exact same phone so I wouldn't have to learn new equipment. Ben pleaded and begged me to get one with more memory, but I refused. He ordered it, shaking his head.
I then spent the next six months out of love with my smart phone. Facebook eventually got uninstalled, as did Words With Friends, Maps, and other programs that needed more memory than I had. I complained about slow data. I complained about lack of signal. "I just want it to work!" I kept saying. AJ didn't like my phone because it didn't have the same fun apps that daddy's phone had. I knew that I was paying for what I got, since I was with the pre-paid carrier, Virgin Mobile. But the idea of spending only $25/month was immensely appealing to me.
Eventually, I decided that there was no point in having a smart phone if I couldn't actually use it the way I wanted. So, since going back to a "dumb" phone wasn't really an option for me again, I decided that I'd go with the iPhone.
Ben did the research and told me what it would cost, even with my UAB employee discount. He made a Verizon vs. AT&T spreadsheet. Yikes. I was floored by having to switch from paying $25/month to nearly $80. That's a lot of Chick-fil-A. Then, he told me about Straight Talk from AT&T. It's available at Wal-Mart. I was against it - I don't want Wal-Mart to get any more of my money than is evilly necessary. But then he told me that I could do it online, and it was settled. $45 a month plus the cost of the phone and SIM card. He ordered the card and started shopping.
Ben found a used iPhone for me on Craigslist. He and a friend from work went to meet some guys in a parking lot to get it. Sound shady? Why yes, it does. It had a really nice case on it, though, and Ben was impressed. He got back to work and took off the case, and, sure enough, the back was shattered. Ben and I were pretty upset, too. Wait - you mean people on the internet would be less than honest? A person who would only sign his emails with an initial instead of a real name had the possibility of unscrupulous? What kind of crazy world is this? Ben even called AT&T to make sure the thing wasn't reported stolen. It wasn't.
Anyway, Ben went to the Apple Store and had them fix the back. For $30, my phone looked new. We still felt conned, but at least it didn't look like someone had pulled it out of the trash.
We spent some time downloading things and getting set up. There are lots of things that are different from Android - some I like, some I don't care for. In the first full day of use, I missed three calls and a text because I forgot to take the ringer off silent after a meeting. On Android, I had an app that could schedule the ringer to go back on. I miss that. And I don't like the ringtones as much, but I'm not paying extra for another one. (Can you tell there's more than one cheapskate in this marriage?) Ben says he can help me make one from a song, but it's a 15 step process. The defaults are sounding better and better.
This is the first picture I took with my new-to-me phone, of the man who made it happen.
In case I don't get around to posting this Father's Day weekend, I want to wish all the dads a Happy Father's Day. AJ has a good one, and we're lucky to have him.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
But on Monday night, she wanted something that we did not have.
AJ and I are big fans of the Llama, Llama series of books by Anna Dewdney. We have three titles:
Llama, Llama Red Pajama
Llama, Llama Mad at Mama
and Llama, Llama Home with Mama
In the original, Llama, Llama goes to bed but completely freaks out when his mom goes on and does the dishes. He screams and pitches a fit. I have no idea why this resonates with me.
In the second one, Llama, Llama goes to the "Shop-o-Rama" (which I like to think of as Wal-Mart, or, Hell on Earth) and throws a tantrum when the whole experience gets to be too much. Luckily, I haven't experienced this one to this extent. I know our "dates" to Publix are not particularly romantic, but shopping without a kid in tow has its perks. I have a feeling that if AJ had to come with me every single time, she'd have these sorts of epic meltdowns.
In the third one, Llama, Llama has a sore throat and stays home, only to realize that he has passed it on to his mom. They're both sick, but at least they're together. This one also strikes a chord.
But there are other books in the series. AJ has evidently been exposed to Llama, Llama Misses Mama. She was calling it "the one where he goes to school." Thanks to Amazon, we figured out what she was talking about. But AJ was absolutely certain, at bedtime on Monday night, that we did indeed own a copy of this book.
We are certain we've read (or at least tried to read) each story on her bookshelf, and neither Ben nor I could recall this one in particular. In fact, we were pretty certain. I told AJ that, yes, I am prone to forget things, but I wouldn't forget this. I then proceeded to read her ALL the titles of EVERY book on her shelf, and the aforementioned fourth llama book was nowhere in sight.
Big tears fell. Big screams came forth. She was throwing a llama-worthy tantrum. The irony was not lost on me.
We looked at the existing books we had. We looked at a photo of the author. We looked at her name on the cover. I asked AJ to read her first name. "Anna," she said. (At least one good thing came out of this - she can read a word!)
She followed me into the office, where I showed her on Amazon that a "new" copy could be ours. She seemed satisfied, until I told her it would arrive in 4-14 days.
"That's not soon enough!" she wailed.
Ben, in the other room, pulled up a YouTube video of someone reading the story. He went into AJ's room and they watched it on his tablet. Ahh. Problem solved, or so we thought.
AJ then went back to wanting the real book, so I did place the order. Sorry, honey, it wasn't eligible for Prime shipping. The llama doll was, but she wasn't interested in that. Just the book.
Then, she just would not shut up. We comforted her. We talked to her. We made sure she had all the tools necessary for a good night's sleep. She kept screaming.
I told her that I wasn't going to talk to her any more that night.
She proceeded to scream the word "Mama" approximately 175 times, which probably corresponded to my blood pressure. I didn't respond. Interestingly, she never called for "Daddy." Just Mama. Just like Llama, Llama.
I wonder what was going through her mind. Here's my best guess as to her thoughts...
Mama! - I want my mother.
Mama! - Perhaps she didn't hear me.
Mama! - Maybe if I keep calling she'll respond.
Mama! - I know she said she wasn't going to come back, but...
Mama! - Maybe just this once.
Mama! - This is getting tiresome.
Mama! - If you would just come in here, I wouldn't keep screaming.
Mama! - Unless of course, you like screaming.
Mama! - If you like screaming, here's some more!
Mama! - Seriously, I'm getting hoarse.
Mama! - What is your deal, woman?
Mama! - You usually come by now.
Mama! - Can't you tell that I NEED you?
Mama! - And by need, I mean that I think you should sleep on the floor beside my bed.
Mama! - It would really make me feel better.
Mama! - Can't you hear the tears in my voice?
Mama! - What kind of person blatantly neglects a crying child?
Mama! - I mean, I'm obviously in distress.
Mama! - You know, this is the kind of thing I will bring up in therapy.
Mama! - If you would just come in here, you would see the very important thing I'm calling you about.
Mama! - No. I didn't wet my pants. I didn't hurt myself.
Mama! - No, I'm not actually sick, but my throat is starting to get a little raw.
Mama! - I am sure I was calling you for a very important reason.
Mama! - If I change the inflection, will you come faster?
MAMA! - Seriously? That didn't work?
MaMA! - What about that?
MAma! - Now?
mama! - Is that more like it?
Mama! - What do I have to do to get some attention around here?
Mama! - I just need another good night hug, even though you've given me three.
Mama! - And I could use some water. Tonic water. With a lemon wedge. I hear it is good for throats.
Mama! - I wonder if I have set the record yet.
Mama! - Seriously, have you called Guiness? I bet I have set it.
Mama! - You worked so hard to get me sleeping through the night.
Mama! - I appreciate it. I really do.
Mama! - 8:00 bedtimes are for babies.
Mama! - If this is the only way I can stay up until 10, I will say your name 1,000 times!
Mama! - Mwah! Ha! Ha!
Mama! - Terrorist starts with T. Isn't that what you and Daddy call me?
Mama! - I know you need to go to sleep now, but I'm fine. Really.
Mama! - I'm not tired.
Mama! - I'm not a bit tired.
Mama! - You keep saying I'm tired, but I'm not tired.
Mama! - Why do you think I'm tired every time I don't do what you say?
Mama! - Why do you automatically assume that if I'm up past my bedtime that you'll be late for work?
Mama! - How is this my fault? You're the one who is non-responsive to your only child.
Mama! - For real, I'm glad I'm an only child. You are not good at this parenting bit.
Mama! - A good mom, for example, would have been here by now.
Mama! - I'm telling you, I am not tired.
Mama! - For the last time, I am not tired.
Mama! - ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
(Yes, it's June. Yes, that's a winter scarf on my dog. If you are going to ask questions, you are not a parent.)
Anna June has been looking forward to Radar's birthday since his last birthday. Though we planned it early and celebrated it early, I'm blogging about it late, because I was so disappointed I found it hard to process.
Last year, AJ was sick and we had other things going on, so even though she and I had been tossing around ideas about having Radar's birthday at the dog park, it didn't happen. I promised her we'd do it this year.
I figured I would wait until about two weeks ahead of time to invite Radar's friends. After all, not as much planning should be involved for a dog's party.
In the meantime, AJ got invited to our friend Nathan's birthday party. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure we've been to all of Nathan's birthday parties. We wouldn't want to break our streak, and, he's always thrown awesome ones! There have been two pool parties, one with a giant water slide, and one at his school with inflatables that happened at the last minute due to rain.
Enough about the humans, though.
Since the kid party trumped the dog party, but AJ had been looking forward to it, I got a crazy idea: Let's just go to the dog park and see who is there, and let them all be our guests. We could hand them out dog treats as party favors.
With the idea approved by all, we went shopping. AJ picked out an indoor dog house for Radar's gift at CVS. Actually, she picked it out last year and has talked about it ever since. He will not set foot in it, but AJ seems to like it. He probably would have liked the new collar and toy AJ also picked out, but Ben decided (and rightly so) that Radar has plenty of collars and toys. Just like a kid, he can't have everything in the store, even if it is his birthday. We did get some swell treats and canned dog food, though.
We've ventured to the George Ward Park Dog Park only once. It was OK, but AJ got knocked down and Radar, also being an only child, wasn't really that into playing with random strangers. It has been quite some time, so I didn't remember their rules.
One of these rules was: no food, either for dogs or humans.
This truly spoiled our fun, as AJ and I had spent a lot of time planning Radar's dog food cake and that we'd hand out treats to the other dogs as party favors.
We decided to see if the other dog owners were cool. They weren't.
First off, one came straightaway to tell us that her dog was not kid-friendly. One of the other rules, I would like to point out, is no aggressive dogs. If you have a dog that can't be around everyone, why bring him to the dog park?
After that little shocker, we told them it was Radar's birthday and we'd like to celebrate by sharing his dog food cake with them.
In unison, they all said, "No." Not only was it a posted rule, some dogs get territorial over food, I was informed curtly. We explained we had brought separate bowls in which to dish it out, but were still rejected. I tried another angle: could I hand out treats as everyone left? "No," they chorused again. It was in general a bad idea.
Meanwhile, one of the dogs started sniffing the bag that I had the contraband in, and as I was trying to convince these adults not to crush the dream my 4-year-old had held for over a year, the dog ate a hole in my bag.
Ben courteously whisked it away to the car while I sat down.
I'm not afraid to admit it - I cried. I cried because the adults were not willing to bend the rules even a teeny tiny bit for a beautiful and charming little girl. I cried because I had put off taking Radar to the dog park, waiting until his birthday so it would be special. I cried because Ben had said yes to the idea (see: not wanting to crush a little girl's spirit, above) but also informed me that it sounded like a bad idea in general. I also cried because it wasn't even that hot outside and I had skipped Zumba so we could get there early and it wouldn't be hot. I even remembered to put bug spray and sunscreen on AJ and it wasn't even sunny. As an innately lazy person, wasted effort upsets me. I thought of the huge novel on my bedside table and how I'd rather be anywhere else. Even the grocery store, and that's saying something!
I am as crazy of a dog owner as the next person. In fact, I have even had my dog treated by an allergist for his evident food allergies. I made sure the canned dog food matched the brand and ingredients of his normal dry food. AJ and I made the number 6 on top with dry dog food pieces. (It didn't look like much. This particular brand's canned version is more stew-like than paté-like.) I still don't understand why the other dog owners, though, couldn't even be conciliatory about it. Not a one of them came over to speak to us after the incident, going on in their mid-park conversations as if we hadn't even reached out to them. Not even a kind smile for the crazy lady and her family. Not even an inquiry about how old the birthday dog was or what breed. Jerks.
Being 4, AJ understands rules. She did not expect them to be broken for her, even though we had gone to a lot of trouble. She had woken up at 3 AM that morning and asked me if I had packed the bag for the park yet, and asked why I hadn't when I told her no. She was literally so excited she couldn't sleep.
On the plus side, though, Anna June and Radar still managed to have a good time. Radar sniffed butts and watered trees, although he wasn't interested in chasing the tennis ball. AJ made sure he had water, and poured water into separate bowls for his new friends.
We left to go home, and somehow, the cake got a little lopsided. It leaked out all over the bag. As soon as we got home, even though I had planned to sing happy birthday and take pictures, etc., I did it as quickly as possible and spent the rest of the morning getting dog food gravy off of all of my belongings, including my camera bag. Radar ate the whole cake in a flash, and, the next day, he had a serious tummy ache.
I could chalk the whole thing up to one bad day. Literally nothing I planned that day turned out right. AJ's play date to the McWane Center became mommy-daughter night since Maxwell couldn't make it, after all. At the event, there was lots of food, which made us regret having quickly stopped by Subway and wolfing down dinner ahead of time. AJ refused to talk to Dora and Diego or smile. Even the Packers shirt I was wearing drew a "Go Giants" from another parent in the elevator.
I guess AJ knows by now that people are not always nice. They do not always act how you think they should act. And, I have shown her that I don't always react the right way, either.
I'm glad to note, though, that even though I was upset - mostly because I know how much effort went into it, even just conversations and planning - AJ was actually pretty cool with the whole thing. All that mattered to her was that Radar got to have fun. It was his day.
We're already planning to have his doggy friends on our street stop by for a play date next year. Unless we get new carpet before then, in which case, we'll just have to come up with another plan.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I have a couple of posts brewing about Anna June, but I'm not ready to finish them yet. So instead, I will write quickly about what I found in my purse this morning.
Recently, I was at a work event and our outside travel agency (that acts as UAB's travel agency) handed out notepads. During church, AJ declared she was bored and I handed her the pad and a pen. Being that she likes to write all the time, on everything, she decided she'd copy down what it said on the pad. So, AJ's new ad for ADTRAV, which used to be called Adventure Travel. Who knows - maybe their business customers didn't want to be seen as having adventures when they traveled.
Monday, June 11, 2012
I'm so glad all of AJ's maternal-side aunts and uncles could be present for the special event. I'm also glad that AJ came along, so we could make use of the alley's bumper feature, which significantly reduced the number of gutter balls. At first AJ didn't even want to come, since she had done X-box bowling before and got "a lot of gutter balls". Even with her poor score on the virtual game, she beat me.
When it came time to bowl in real life, AJ had a blast. For the record, her first game was a 69 and her second game was a 67.
As predicted, AJ loved the attention and the immediate gratification of the ball hitting the pins. And by immediate, I mean eventual. We had no idea how long it takes a ball rolled by a tiny kid to get down the alley.
She also loved the snack bar, which was a huge selling point when we were talking about going. In fact, it was probably her favorite part. She got ice cream, I got a pretzel, and Ben got cheese fries.
Her least favorite part? The shoes.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Anna June is sleeping and I am trying not to make a sound. She didn't fall asleep until after 10 PM. It was a miserable night until then.
We had a good day, I thought. We got up and she played happily while I made room for and put away all of her new clothes. She got her dad to make the box they arrived in into an igloo, or, more specifically, an igloo clubhouse. AJ wrote "sign in" with her markers. Later, when I came and wrote "Mommy" on the box, she gave me a big hug and welcomed me to the club. I admired how they decorated the box, with drawings inside and out. Daddy contributed a cave-drawing style dog, which AJ claimed was not enough like Radar. AJ drew snowflakes. It is adorable.
Later, we went to the library where AJ won a prize for having read 5 books (Cheetos). Then we went to Nathan's birthday party at Pump It Up. Now that we're kid party connoisseurs, I'd have to say Pump it Up has less to do, but it is more structured and contained than iJump. If we do another jumping party, it may be here, even though it is out in the boonies. The only kids on the inflatables are the kids at your party. It made it much more enjoyable for the parents.
Afterwards, we stopped to get our car washed, expertly, I might add, by the Trussville Boy Scouts. I was so glad. My hood was still dirty from where I laid AJ's alligator pool out to dry on Memorial Day.
Then we came home for quiet time, and, lo and behold, we mapped for 2 hours. AJ claims she did not sleep, but there was no way she was that quiet without sleeping. It may have been that the cloudy skies helped.
I've been mourning the apparent imminent death of her naptime to anyone who will listen. I explained to her teachers that when she gets tired she misbehaves and has meltdowns. It ruins our night, often. On Thursday, they moved her cot toast darker corner of the room and, surprisingly, it worked. For 1 day.
So, after nap she played solo for a while, attempting to make a mask but melting down when my help was no help at all. I suggested a snack and a different productive activity, coloring her Dora shirt. She warmed to the idea, and ultimately finished the shirt she had started ages ago. But she mentioned that it is difficult to color on fabric, which I suppose is why she put off the project for so long. May God help her, the kid is as lazy as I am, and doesn't like things that are hard.
After that, it did begin to rain, so we went to Mama's house to let the dogs inside. Then, we visited the auction, where Ben was busy typing up tickets as items were sold. It is one of the hardest jobs there, in my opinion, and I hear he did a good job. Hopefully, though, the regular employee will be back at work the next sale - we missed Daddy all day!
We enjoyed catching up with AJ's favorite auction customer, Ms. Susan, AJ's former teacher. AJ was acting shy, though, and would not get off my lap or Mom's lap, or hugging Granddaddy or Unless Drew. I hope she's not getting sick - she was very clingy.
We ate dinner at Rusty's and got to visit with him and Beth, as the crowd had slacked off. We ate Rusty's "dump cake," which we used to have all the time back when the auction house had a real concession stand. It is named for the cans of fruit one dumps in the pan. Sounds awful, tastes buttery and delicious. It's not on the menu at Rusty's, but you can order it. Tell him I said you could.
After dinner, we had one more stop to make. AJ has frequently been rejecting her adorable hooded towels. I am not sure if they make her feel claustrophobic or what, nut she has rarely let me put their hoods on her. Now, she doesn't want me to use them at all. I promised her that if she could wait for the weekend I would take her to Anna's Linens and let her buy any towels she wanted. We decided on 6, since her new monkey towel from Granny has no hood, one for each day of the week. She picked 3 pink and 3 brown. I pointed out a stack of cheaper ones (also smaller, of course), she easily put the first ones back and got new ones, still 3 pink and 3 brown. I have no clue if these will work out or not, but I'm ready to transition one more thing from baby to big girl status if she is.
Of course, it was late and we skipped her bath. We read long stories and she played with her balloon from the party. After tucking her in, she reappeared in our room to ask if she could sleep in her igloo club. I denied the request. She returned to ask again. When I turned her down, she started crying. She came back to ask if she could sleep in our room. When I said no, tears turned to hysteria. Ben came and calmed her down, but she freaked out when he tried to leave her room. Finally I agreed to sit in her doorway until she fell asleep. This was ok until Radar (and the rest of us) heard some noises. I had to take Radar out anyway, so we went outside to investigate. We didn't really see anything, but when we returned he started barking again. I looked out the window to see a guy having trouble with his truck. The upset dog did not help the upset little girl. Eventually, everyone settled down and went to bed, but things were quite tense for a while. She's still sleeping, but I think I'll let her.
Friday, June 8, 2012
I honestly can't tell if they are dancing or skating, but this is sort of what having a good time looks like.
Also, AJ was dancing in her booster seat this morning when I put some music on in the car. Everyone is very glad it is Friday.
Yesterday, there was a car in traffic that caught my attention: a man and a woman were evidently listening to music. We were stopped at an intersection, and they were right across the street from me. They were "car dancing" in their seats. They started waving their heads back and forth. Then, suddenly, they started rolling their hands, synchronized*. It was like they had a routine for that particular song.
I have no idea who those folks were, why they were in the UAB area, or what they were doing. But for that moment, they looked like they were having fun.
I hope that each of you has that much fun this weekend!
*I am just now realizing how difficult it is to explain movement in words. For some reason, even music is easier to describe than dancing.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
After AJ got into her Dora the Explorer swimsuit on Memorial Day, and after she got into the polka dot tankini the Saturday before, Ben and I noticed the same thing: Anna June has grown considerably since last summer, and those suits were too small.
So, in anticipation of Water Day today, on Sunday we made a trip to TJMaxx and found Anna June a suit-able (pun intended) one piece bathing suit. It features Hello Kitty, pink gingham, and watermelon slices. It's actually pretty cute for a character-themed piece of clothing. And, more importantly, - to me, anyway - it was not princess-related. [For the record, AJ is starting to claim she does not like princesses, possibly after hearing my disdain for having every thing in our home emblazoned with a Disney princess. Also, I don't like them because so many of them do not have good parent role models. Most recently, the same day she told me she didn't like princesses, she asked for princess bedtime stories. So, we're not there yet.]
Now, I want to stop here and tell all our readers who don't know already that AJ's Granny Annie has been almost entirely responsible for her wardrobe since (before) day 1. She may or may not have started buying clothes for her before we were married. She combs thrift stores, rummage sales, hand-me-downs from relatives, and the clearance racks. It is kind of amazing, actually. But, aside from the bathing suit mentioned above, I have bought AJ only a few items of clothing in her life. And when I say "a few," I mean fewer than 10. I remember sending Ben out to get something green for her first St. Patrick's Day (when she was less than 10 days old), buying her jeans and a shirt at Carter's in Georgia, and begging Ben to buy her a new pack of underwear once when he was out shopping and I was home. We bought her Halloween costume when she was Dora. Santa brought her an Elmo nightgown once. Ben - chime in here please - I can't think of anything else, can you? AJ spent her own money on a dress once, and we've bought her shoes and sometimes socks and tights (only because she epically hates everything) but that is seriously all in four years. We've exchanged some things at various places, but they've all been from Granny, so that's all courtesy of her.
Not even a week after our shopping triumph with the bathing suit, I came home yesterday to find a 49+ pound box near our back door. I called Ben to see if he would be coming home any time soon - I didn't want to lift that sucker!
After I went to my meeting and dinner at church and retrieved AJ from her (much more exciting) dinner with Nana and some special guests, including AJ's friend Morgan, I told AJ that there was a box from Granny at home. She was beyond excited. She told me that Granny had told her that there was a bathing suit in that box, too. She was sure that was the "special surprise" that Granny mentioned.
There was not a bathing suit in that box. There were SEVEN bathing suits. Seven. As in one for every day in the week. I wish I could picture a vacation where we'd be gone so long AJ would need seven bathing suits, but for now, I will just express my gratitude that her suit does not need to be perfectly dry before she swims again.
Here's a picture of her opening the box.
The special surprise was a sno-cone machine with all the accessories. AJ wanted to try it out right then, but seeing as how it was an hour past her bedtime, we decided to postpone it.
AJ went to school wearing a new-to-her outfit and packing a new towel in her bag with the Hello Kitty swimsuit.
Granny, we cannot thank you enough for all the clothes, toys, and other stuff. AJ has spent a lot of time shopping with us, but I can't even begin to think how much more she would have had to have spent doing boring things like shopping for clothes instead of doing fun things like playing. It has been such a huge blessing - especially because I work full time - to have clothes, shoes, hair accessories, purses, jewelry, toys, and more, simply arrive by FedEx. I've always been able to postpone laundry however long I wanted, and I never had a moment's worry when she was potty training or in that rough spit-up phase that she'd not have enough clothes.
We are overwhelmed. Just wanted to let Granny - and everyone else - know how much we appreciate the abundance.
We love you!
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The program was celebrating a large (in size) piece of Avondale's history: Miss Fancy the elephant. The librarians read three stories about elephants and talked a little about Miss Fancy herself. Avondale Park was the first home of the Birmingham Zoo, and when you visit the park today you can still see remnants of this early incarnation. Miss Fancy was the zoo's elephant, acquired from a circus that came through town.
Ben was interested to see, from a historian's perspective, what information the library staff would be sharing with the children. In college, Ben wrote a paper about Avondale Zoo, featuring Miss Fancy. What they said last night was mostly historically accurate. In his research, Ben uncovered several myths and untruths in the "histories" of the area, including that Miss Fancy was won in a poker game.
Miss Fancy is also the mascot for one of my favorite local businesses, Avondale Brewing Company, located right down the street. The legends have it that Miss Fancy liked to have a drink every now and again. Also, if the librarian was correct and Miss Fancy's keeper used to walk her around Avondale, it is likely she walked right past what is now the brewery. Their slogan is "Trunks Up!"
The program was fun, overall. AJ wasn't much interested in sitting in the floor with the kids, so I sat in the floor and she sat on my lap. She warmed up some, and put a "belly button" sticker on the laminated elephant picture, along with 22 other kids, while Miss Eve acted out the story of Bill's Belly Button. They also did the "elephant walk" to Henry Mancini's music. At the end, they served plain vanilla ice cream, with sprinkles, in order to make it "fancy".
My favorite part was the elephant jokes. Yes, they were lame, but it reminded me of one of my favorite books I've ever owned in my lifetime, 101 Elephant Jokes. My grandmother got it at a yard sale for me, and I spent many hours laughing over and telling my elephant jokes. The book fell apart from over use.
The only one I remembered, and told last night (which, as Ben pointed out, was not really appropriate for little kids):
How do you shoot a blue elephant?
With a blue elephant gun.
How do you shoot a pink elephant?
Twist his trunk until he turns blue and shoot him with your blue elephant gun.
Our former mailman told another favorite:
How do you stop an elephant from charging?
You take away his credit cards!
Ben found one online he told:
What's gray and stamps out forest fires?
Smokey the Elephant
Miss Eve's best elephant joke:
How can you tell an elephant has been in your refrigerator?
There are footprints in the butter! [My book said cheescake, if I recall correctly]
How can you tell two elephants have been in your refrigerator?
There are two sets of footprints in the butter, side-by-side.
How can you tell three elephants have been in your refrigerator?
The door won't close!
Miss Cass's best elephant joke:
Why do elephants paint their toenails red?
So they can hide in the strawberry patch. [My book said cherry tree]
Have you ever seen an elephant in the strawberry patch?
No? Then their camouflage is working!
I remembered another one:
Where do elephants go to college?
In Tusk-a-loosa! [Also, Tusk-ke-gee would be acceptable]
I had better stop - the librarians all called these "groaners" and they had them on pink elephant shaped cards in a jar decorated with giant cutout peanuts. They sure were "nutty" jokes.
I am still sort of sad we went out on a school night, though. AJ hasn't been napping at school and by the end of the night, she is exhausted. She woke up several times last night (and therefore, I did, too). We'll likely skip the rest of the series, but it was a positive experience. We checked out several books, and AJ stayed up "reading" them for a while in her bed. This morning she told me that the Lilo and Stitch book we checked out was the longest of them all, and she said it was different from the movie. With her attention to detail, I am sure she'll be reading for real in no time!
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Here, instead, are some pictures of when we went to the zoo on our Memorial Day stay-cation. AJ claims she had been in the Foam Zone before, but I didn't remember it, so I took several shots.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
AJ is playing in her sandbox right now, after relatively brief stints with the ball, soccer ball, Frisbee and umbrella. No, it's not raining, but AJ wanted to play with her umbrella. She has now learned to open and close it on her own.
She's asked me to refill her bucket several times, and to fetch soap and a sponge for her sandbox toy spring cleaning project. It began when she discovered a "dead worm" in one of her cups.
Since I can't tackle any of my chores while she's outside, the most productive thing I can manage right now is this post.
Happy Sunday, everyone!
Saturday, June 2, 2012
(Unrelated photo of Anna June, William, Diego, and Baby Jaguar)
Scene: Thursday AM, on the way to school.
Me: Oh no.
Me: The tire pressure light just came on.
Me: That orange light right there. I went two days ago and got air in all four tires. This means there's a leak in one of my tires, or the light isn't working. I can't decide if I should go to the dealership or to Tire Engineers.
AJ. Dealership. No. Tire Engineers. Tire Engineers.
Me: OK. Should we go tonight or ask Daddy if he can take me tomorrow.
Me: Good (thinking of plans for lunch, Zumba, etc.)
[I went on to explain how I know I need new tires, but I was hoping to wait to buy them.]
AJ: So, you want to wait until you have enough money to buy them?
Me: Actually, we have enough money to buy them, but I just didn't want to.
AJ : (Silence)
Me: I guess that doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?
See, explaining things to a four year old really does help. She assessed the problem needed money, which we have. Therefore, there is no problem.
As it turns out, there was just a nail in my tire, and there was no charge. Thank you, Tire Engineers! That's twice that they've helped us out.
I'm amazed at the things AJ can do, say, and think. Although the baby years were sweet and sometimes really adorable and fun, I think she's actually more adorable now that she can help me - and, by the way, the fact that she's able to wipe her own butt is immensely helpful.
Sometimes, of course, she's more help than others. Sometimes, she tires of being a junior adult and pitches fits, reminding me that she is still just a baby in many ways. But mostly, I am glad that I can talk things over with her, and by giving her real world issues I can help, in some small way, prepare her for the real world.
She made a card for her friend John Dawson, for his last day of school. She asked me to spell out "I love you John Dawson. Thank you." I wasn't sure what she was thanking him for, but it was her card, so I went with it. Thanking him for being a friend, I guess. (She came back in to ask me how to spell "from" - she remembered "to" on her own.)
I love you, Anna June. Thank you. For everything.
Friday, June 1, 2012
Meanwhile, there's a lot going on with us. We're planning our anniversary vacation - we've almost decided on a place. We've had to put my car in the shop for a low pressure tire light that has come on for the second time this week. Radar has a majorly itchy spot that's threatening to become a hot spot needing treatment - we're considering putting him in the dreaded cone. His birthday is coming up, and we're excited about celebrating it tomorrow, along with all the million other things we have to do. AJ still hates all shoes except boots, and most of her clothes. She's convinced she'll hate her new school, which has nothing to do with uniforms. Her friends also seem to be leaving McElwain one by one, including one whose last day is today -she made him a card last night. Ben is especially busy at work, and we're trying to fit in a major shopping trip tonight. All this stuff has left me feeling a little like this:
|These pictures were taken last Saturday at the birthday party for the Lion Cubs at the zoo. Below, you can sort of a couple of them, and their ice sculpture cake.|