Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen

Anna June is a person who knows what she wants (most of the time). A few weeks ago, we were up on a Saturday morning and watched my friend Shelley do a spot on the local morning program called "Kids in the Kitchen." It's a fairly regular segment, and Shelley was involved through her work with the Junior League of Birmingham. She appeared with one of the kids from their YWCA program, and they made English Muffin Pizzas.

AJ was pretty excited, and wanted to make what they made. I bought the ingredients, and AJ helped me make the pizzas. She wanted me to prep the toppings just like Shelley did, in cute prep bowls. Mine don't match, and my pan isn't exactly TV-ready, but AJ enjoyed it. Ben and I both had made English muffin pizzas as kids, so we were looking forward to it. As it turned out, neither AJ nor Ben appreciated the whole wheat muffins. But AJ did like splitting the muffins open by perforating around the muffin with a fork, just like she had learned on TV. I immediately sent Shelley this picture, and she was tickled.

AJ really has been a big help in the kitchen lately. Last night she made instant pudding as a surprise for her dad. Before we could get to the pudding, we had some counter-space clearing to do, and I had to fix dinner. AJ declared, "Helping is so hard!" Whether she likes it or not, helping in the kitchen is going to teach her a lot of things she needs to know.

"Plus," I told her, "I like your company."

She groaned.

I'm not sure when she thinks she became a teenager. But I do know that when she's actually a teenager, she'll know how to fix her own dinner, even if it is just English Muffin Pizzas.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hijinks

Anna June and her Dad got to spend a little quality time together last Tuesday, when I went out to dinner with my friends from my former aerobics class.

AJ ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner, and had a "Bunny Teeth" sucker for dessert. Yes, we're still working through the Easter candy, and yes, as far as I know, we've stuck to our resolution not to buy any more candy until Halloween.


It looks like they had fun, too.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Little Shopper

Anna June and I shopped until we dropped yesterday. We went to Dollar Tree in our neighborhood (twice -the first time she needed to pee and they aren't forthcoming about their restrooms). There she got a new toy: an easy return yo-yo. It lasted 3 seconds, then smashed on or tile floor. Tears came. I had to explain to her the concept of "cheap crap". I know this will be hard for her, when I buy things there myself. Today's haul included napkins, greeting cards, and spices. I am sure they are inferior quality, but who can really discern the finer notes of onion powder in a dish? Not me!

After quiet time, we did the thrift store, where we found some helmets for our emergency kit and a (possible knockoff, slightly vintage) Kate Spade purse priced $2.99. AJ also got a pair of sandals, but already hates them and we haven't even gotten them out of the car yet. More importantly, we donated more than we came home with, I think.

Then we went grocery shopping. AJ claimed that she had never before eaten a Twinkie, so, of course we had to get those. A random old lady patted her hair and hugged her. This happens frequently.

We also went to Michael's after dinner at Rusty's. She thoughtfully shopped for gifts, which meant that every other minute she was picking up something else. "What about this?" or "Look at this!" I'm glad we didn't have more time or she'd have convinced me to bring home a lot more. As soon as she learns to read the word "clearance," we're doomed!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Weekend Curse

Anna June has changed my life in many ways, but the fact that I routinely wake up before 6 am on the weekends is one of the major alterations in my life. She probably won't be up until 7 or so, if we are quiet. By "we," I mean Radar and me, because Ben is so tired he may sleep until Thursday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Prediction

The weatherman came to Anna June's school this week. When I went to pick AJ up, I asked, "How was J-P Dice?" She said, "Can we talk about this in the car?" I was taken off-guard. I wondered what in the world happened that she didn't want to discuss in front of her teachers and friends.

She said she enjoyed the presentation. She also asked, "Can we get a weather radio? He said that if we don't have one, we should get one."

At first I said, "We'll see," but as any kid can tell you, that means "NO."

Ben actually had a weather radio at work and recently gave it to his co-worker. The co-worker confirmed that it does what every other person I know who has one said: the thing goes off constantly, all night long.

Later, we explained to her that the weather apps we have on our phones can do the same thing that a weather radio does. Now I just need to check that "notifications" setting...

As a side note, the UAB "B-Alert" system saved many lives on the morning of January 23, when tornadoes rolled through our area. I think it was already in the works, but it rolled out after the 4/27/11 tornadoes. It woke people up and got them to their safe places. In some areas, sirens had not yet sounded. Go technology!

Regardless, we discussed his other recommendations, including building an emergency kit, complete with helmets (another thing we've discussed before, but haven't done). Mr. Dice also suggested wearing shoes when one goes to his/her safe place. A good point.

We rarely watch television news. It's not on at the right times and it's usually not good. Plus, if it interferes with watching Caillou, AJ is opposed. But he showed pictures of a radar. I asked if she told him she had a dog named Radar. She said no. I wondered if it was because she had never seen or heard of an actual radar instead of the canine version. I also wondered if it was because she was embarrassed to talk to a celebrity. No, that wasn't it at all. She actually asked a question in the Q&A - we had prepared her by giving her a couple of examples to ask. Earlier in the week, we had to go inside when it started thundering, so I told her to ask why we have to do that. She basically told me that he covered that in his talk, so she skipped that question. Ben offered another question, that she did ask:

"Why is it so hot in Alabama?"

Mr. Dice, award-winning, innovative meteorologist that he is, according to Anna June, said, "I don't know."

AJ was also impressed that he's a part-time pilot and owns his own plane. The only planes she's ever seen, she says, have been at the Birmingham and Milwaukee airports. He had always dreamed of flying a plane as a little boy, and now he can do it, since he practiced and practiced. 

We may work on the emergency kit this weekend. I found this via Pinterest and it is a good list, although I have no idea where I'm going to put all this stuff. Another site suggested adding to a kit little by little so it doesn't break the bank.

At any rate, AJ says that the weatherman told her that it was going to rain on Friday. At 3:00. So, we'll see if the prediction comes true.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Know That

Anna June learns everything we show her, whether we want her to or not. Ben and I often have disagreements or differences of opinions, and many of our conversations show both sides of an argument. We usually keep it civil. Often Ben will establish his case, and before my counterpoint, I often say, "Well, I know that, but..."

AJ, of course, has taken "I know that," to be her signature phrase.

Because most of the time, she does know the fact in question.

I am trying to tone it down, so to speak, because I know that she's just hearing the "I know that," part and not the rest of the argument.

In the meantime, though, I've had a talk with her about it.

I told her that to me, it sounds incredibly bratty to say "I know that." I've suggested that, instead, she simply say, "Oh, I know that mama." It's all about the tone. She can still let me know she's aware of the fact/situation/ridiculous thing I've just pointed out. But she doesn't have to be obnoxious.

Since I pointed it out, she's caught herself, and made the correction.

A couple of times, she's said it and hasn't caught herself, and just say, "Less bratty, please" and she restates.

I'm hoping for divine intervention on helping me not say it in a bratty way, either, so that she can find reform that much easier.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For the Occasion

A special guest speaker is coming to Anna June's daycare today. Meteorologist J-P Dice is scheduled to appear. I'm not sure how excited she is about it, but she picked out this new dress for the occasion. I've been trying to get her to wear it for ages, but today, I guess it just seemed like the right time to her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Uniformity

Anna June is to begin school on August 20th, although that may change at today's Birmingham Board of Education meeting. It has been suggested by the Alabama Board of Education that the start of school be delayed by a few days. This is to implement personnel changes that will come as a result of the adoption of the State's financial plan, which incorporates adjustments for some personnel rules peculiar to our city. Nevertheless, the day is coming. As many schools don't offer Pre-K, uniforms in AJ's size are sometimes hard to come by, but so far we've acquired three with no problem. One of them is thanks to my mom, who happened to be out shopping for something else and snapped up a small-size uniform for AJ. Whether you agree with wearing uniforms in public schools or not, you have to admit she's adorable in this. And it's probably more appropriate for a school environment than a halter top with Daisy Dukes and go-go winter boots.

AJ's face is still a little pink from crying, as the button-all-the-way-down shirt was "uncomfortable" but she's going to get over that soon. I hope.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sugar

Anna June is a junk food junkie, and she comes by it honestly. But right now I can't help but indulge her sometimes, as she's so creative with it. Yesterday I was making chili* and AJ wanted a snack, though she'd already had one. She looked in the pantry.

"Do we have any vanilla wafers?" she asked.

"No," I said. "I'll get some the next time I go to the store."

"What about cool whip?"

"No," I said. I was starting to feel guilty about hampering her creativity. "We do have that whipped cream in a can..."

In a flash, she had decided what she wanted: a bowl of fruit loops with whipped cream on top. And then, of course, she had to have a cherry. And then, after she was eating it, she decided she needed milk, too.






May your day be this sweet!

*I previously listed two things that Ben likes that I know how to cook. The list has blessedly been expanded to three things (baked fish being the third), but since I had time and it was the weekend, I fixed chili, which takes 2 hours, instead of tacos, which takes 30 minutes. Yes, I realize it is still July in Alabama.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New Skills

Anna June demonstrates her bike-riding skills. This post demonstrates how I can take, upload, and post video from my phone. Updated: Just kidding. I can't post it from my phone, because Vimeo only plays nice with WordPress blogs instead of Blogger platform. Here's the video. Enjoy.
AJ on a Bike from SRG on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Look at Her Go!

After Zumba, Anna June and I decided to go back to the house and get Radar for a walk before it got hot or started raining. AJ asked if her scooter was along, but I told her it wasn't. All we had was her bike, but if she wanted to ride it, I told her, she was more or less on her own, since I was responsible for Radar. I got out her bike, handed her the helmet, and before I could turn around, she pedaled right past us!

This was really the first time she's biked solo. It was so much fun to watch her go!

All kinds of metaphors went through my mind, but I'll just leave you with this: many times, I feel guilty that I'm pulled in so many different directions and can't give AJ the attention I want to give her. But there's so much she has figured out on her own, or with minimal instruction. I just hope I don't stand in her way as she goes along on her own.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Focus

Anna June loves her afternoon teacher, Ms. Rita. Here's a drawing Ms. Rita did of Anna June yesterday.

For comparison, here's the photo of what AJ was wearing yesterday, again:

Cute, right? My photo didn't get the brown winter boots, but you get the idea.

With all the bad news I've been getting this morning, I thought I should focus on this. Only a few more hours until the weekend, folks!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gathers

It always amazes me what Anna June puts together in her head. She receives the information gradually, but like a sponge. Then she comes out with new ideas and articulated thoughts that simply blow my mind. I know it has been happening all along, but AJ is suddenly a big kid and not a baby or even a toddler.

Last night she came up with three things that were pretty cool. Of course, the first one is about food.

When we returned from our Tennessee vacation, we picked AJ up at my parents' house while she was eating lunch. She had homemade cheese pizza, and there were blueberries, so she decided to try to make "blueberry pizza". She said she liked it. Last night when we were adding a couple of toppings to the grownups' side of a frozen cheese pizza, AJ pointed out that she wanted to put blueberries on top of the pizza. I told her we'd go ahead and bake it without them, and she could add them when it was served. "Oh, I know that, mama. You don't want to cook the blueberries or else they'd be blueberry syrup." The disclaimer here is that she's seen blueberry pancakes being made, so she has seen the properties of blueberries as they are heated. But I asked, "How did you know that?" Her response was, "I just figured it out in my four-year-old brain!"

Later, we got into a conversation about school, as an event we were discussing was going to take place in September, which she learned was after school starts back. (We think. Things are uncertain with the school calendar, and will hopefully be resolved tomorrow.) Earlier in the night, I had told her that her Nana had called because she was out shopping and saw some school uniforms, although they were scarce in AJ's size. She offered to pick one up - a navy jumper with a white shirt. So when we were back on the topic of school, AJ declared, "I am SO EXCITED to go to Avondale!" I asked why. She said it was the uniforms. She also then went on a long tangent about how she loves to write and draw, and is looking forward to having homework and so on and so forth. I hope the excitement doesn't wane.

We then talked about clothes, and I mentioned I'd be dressing up for an event at work today, wearing this year's go-to dress. "The purple one," I said. AJ asked, "The one with the gather?" Yes, I told her, that was the one. She determined she also had an article of clothing that was gathered. So we both wore them today. AJ took a picture of me and I took one of her.


I hope you all have a good day, regardless of what you're eating or wearing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Instead

Anna June went to school in a blue halter tunic, white bike shorts, pink striped socks, and black "high heels." Then she added a sweater in case she got cold, which was white with fur cuffs. She would not let me take a picture of her in her get-up, so here is a picture of Radar instead.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Culinary Instincts

On Sunday, Anna June wanted a snack. I suggested smoothies, as I had recently frozen a bunch of fruit for this purpose. We went all-out and had blueberry mango orange banana smoothies made with vanilla yogurt and milk. It was just delicious. Ben really missed out.

Because of all the fruit, the smoothies were really the consistency of a triple-thick (or maybe thicker) milkshake. AJ had watched me add more milk to try to thin it out, but my impatience led me to just go ahead and serve the darn things once the chunks were incorporated.

When we were sipping our smoothies, AJ said, "We should have added some water. It would have made it more smoother."

She's right, you know. Just from watching me, she figured that out. I think that's a very important culinary and scientific principle.

Or else it was just a cutely disguised criticism of my own kitchen skills.

We'll go with the former and ignore the latter.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Real Time

Anna June was scared around 2:45 am, and after repeated tries to get her calmed down, I allowed her to come in our room. This is what the scene looks like at our house at the moment. Ben and I aren't much further along. Can we get to work/school on time - in less than an hour? Probably not.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Maddie is 4

Anna June's good friend Maddie H. (yes, we know 4 Maddies) is turning 4, so we enjoyed her birthday party yesterday. It was hot, but there was a pool and slip n slide in addition to the bouncy house and swing set. The girls had a blast playing with Maddie's friends, classmates, cousins and grandparents.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fig Picking Party

When Ben and I planned to drop Anna June off for our date night, we had no idea she'd be going to an impromptu party.

My granddaddy was over at my parents' house, and it looked like they were getting ready to can. They'd planned to make some preserves/jelly. We didn't stick around.

AJ ate her dinner of hamburgers and potatoes, then dessert of brownies and ice cream. She played with the dogs, singing giant Maggie a lullaby while getting wet Labrador kisses. She dusted the patio table. She rode around on her baby toy car.

Then, they took a little excursion (a big two blocks away) to Aunt Connie and Uncle Tim's house, to help them harvest the (almost too) ripe figs. AJ ate them right off the tree.

It started to rain, so AJ took refuge on the porch. There, she had an ice cream sandwich. She had a ball.

They went back to Nana's and AJ took a bath, erasing all the yard dirt and the remnants of Popsicle Day at school.

It was late when we got home, but AJ didn't argue when it was time to go to bed. I'm trying to let her sleep, so I'm typing on my phone, trying to be quiet.

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post and the last. I hate that I didn't get to experience AJ's first fig picking, and that there were no photos. But I love that she gets to have these great family experiences, with or without me. How great for a city girl to be able to have a memory of pulling fruit off the trees with her grandparents. Thanks to everyone involved.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Shocking Revelation

Although Anna June is four years old and I haven't breastfed in years, this post is about breastfeeding, so if you're not interested, it will not hurt my feelings if you skip this post.

Ahem.

AJ, like most kids, loves hearing stories about when she was little. This morning, she asked if she slept through the night, and I couldn't remember. I am pretty sure she woke up once and that's why I turned the hall light on. The more I think of it, the more I think it is true. But she knows I always complain when she doesn't stay perfectly, quietly asleep all night, and she hadn't yet heard complaints from me this morning.

I told her that she must have mostly slept through the night, which is a vast improvement over just a few short months ago. I told her that, when she was a very little baby, she woke up just about every 45 minutes, and then I felt lucky for when it got up to two-hour intervals.

"And then you'd have to get up," she said, acting like she'd heard this story a million times, which she probably has.

"Yes," I said. "Because you were hungry."

"And then you'd have to go to the kitchen and get a bottle," she said.

"Sometimes," I said, knowing that was not at all true. While AJ was fed a combo of breast and bottle from day one (much to my chagrin, because I was under-producing for my ever-so-slightly jaundiced baby), I always, always breastfed her at night, because I could.

I decided it was time to let AJ know that breastfeeding exists, because she has no memory of this time.

"Actually," I said, "Wanna know something weird? Mommies can feed their babies from their boobies."

She laughed and looked completely intrigued. I don't blame her. It is kind of awesome.

"Yeah," I said. "Just like cows. Moms can put their babies up to their boobies and they'll suck milk out of them."

I made sure to tell her it was healthier for the baby than regular bottles. I honestly believe this.

I have no idea what kind of playground conversations this will lead to today, but I'm glad I decided to have this talk.

I told her that some ladies are embarrassed to do it in public. I was, at the beginning. I was terrified. I wouldn't let anyone in the room when I was doing it at first, especially in the hospital. I was so (foolishly) nervous.

While I was still on maternity leave, I had my mother and grandmothers come to my house (and my aunts came, too) and they did laundry and took care of the baby while I dealt with problem after problem, including cracked bleeding nipples (gross, I know) and had to figure out my frenemy the breast pump. I gotta say, after that, I loosened up a little. If people wanted to look while I was feeding my baby, I didn't care so much.

Now I'm in the completely opposite camp, bordering on exhibitionist. I completely respect any mom breastfeeding any kid when he/she needs it, any time and any place. I've even signed petitions to the fact. I can't believe I wasted so much energy trying to be discreet. Using a blanket didn't work for me, and the clever "hooter hiders" I've seen seem equally awkward. I fed AJ in parked cars and bedrooms all alone, hiding when I could have been still enjoying adult conversation. Not that the baby didn't enjoy the quiet, but she often fell asleep while nursing. Which led to the not being full, and the not sleeping habit that we still enjoy the effects of today.

If AJ had continued to not sleep, I would have kept nursing her at night. One blessed night right after she was 10 months old and I had stopped pumping at work, she slept all night and that was the end of our weaning. She was done, and I was, too. There are lots of moms who go further, and sometimes I wish I could have. Yeah, breastfeeding until the kid can ask for it by name, verbally, is a little much for me, personally, but I respect the moms that go by the health recommendations to do it as long as they're comfortable.

I have a friend who is a gynecologist. She has practiced in a rural, regional office setting and now is on the outskirts of Birmingham in a hospital. She loves a lot of things about her work, but she finds that one of the biggest challenges is the lack of support for breastfeeding in the patients' families and jobs. She tells each one of them that, even if they are going back to work very soon, they can still do it. "Your President did this for you," she says when she tells them that your employer HAS to give you breaks to pump in a private, locked room. Many still won't even give it a shot - it's not on their radar. And she's working to change that, which I wholeheartedly support.

Oh, I know there are some people who try and can't do it. A pre-parenting educator told us that it's a choice, like Coke vs. Sprite. I know that like all decisions in parenting, the recommended guidelines don't work for everyone. In other words, I really don't judge. But I promise I will do my best to be supportive of women who choose to breastfeed. Like most things that are healthy, it can be REALLY hard. I promise, I know.

A co-worker of mine just had a grandson. "Is he eating well?" I asked. "Oh yes," she said, "He sucks down those little two ounce bottles just great." My heart broke a little, because I know her daughter is a capable, healthy young woman. But since her mom didn't breastfeed her, it was probably not on her radar. Even though her mom is a breast cancer survivor, and even though I believe that the research has positive correlations to breastfeeding moms faring better in that arena.

So that is why I introduced AJ to the concept of what we lovingly called "boobie milk." It nourished her for the most of her first year. I had to lug around that dang pump all over campus to the lactation room and back, and, when my office moved and I had to again share space, the only requirement I had was that I have access to a room to pump in - and it was given to me with not so much as a blink. Even if they didn't have to by law, they would have, because it is the right thing to do for employee wellness, and we're all into that here. I had to keep the liquid gold refrigerated, and yes, I cried when it spilled. Because (as we discussed yesterday) we don't plan for AJ to have any siblings, I wanted to introduce her to this concept so that she will grow up thinking it is normal, like I did. I hope, if she chooses to have babies, that she will not have any doubts in her mind about whether or not to breastfeed. I hope that by then, seeing nursing babies out and about is a normal thing and that women don't feel that they're alone in trying to give their children a healthy start.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

50 Random Things about Me

Based on Lei-Lei's post yesterday, I decided I would try to follow suit. I should probably do 50 Random Things about Anna June, since this is a blog about her, but as you know, as soon as I claim something about her, she changes. Maybe that's another post for another day.

1. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, at St. Vincent's Hospital, just a few miles from where I live now.

2. We chose to have our baby, AJ, at St. Vincent's, carrying on the tradition.

3. I am the oldest of four kids, and the only girl. This explains a lot about me.

4. Though I will continue to say that God's plans are bigger than our plans, my husband and I do not plan to have anymore children. This explains a lot about Anna June.

5. I was not a kid who dreamed of being a mommy. I was a kid who babysat. I retired from babysitting when I graduated from college, because, at 21, I could see that visiting a kid once a week or so may fulfill any maternal urgings I may have, and, therefore make me not want to have any kids if I got married one day.

6. I am a terrible procrastinator, and am putting off making a phone call right at this very moment.

7. I have always been a writer. I studied creative writing at Emory University and English at UAB. I took a journalism class in high school and worked on the newspaper, and I helped edit the literary magazine there as well. I took a college class after college about magazine journalism. I wrote a piece once in an online magazine for a friend. And this blog has over 1,000 posts. So yeah, I still write.

8. My husband was also on his school's literary magazine. He's really a writer, too, but he doesn't write very often.

9. I recently took a StrengthsFinder class at work. My identified strengths are Adaptability, Communication, Input, Harmony, and Intellection. I'm pretty sure they made up the term "Intellection." I'm also pretty sure that if you think that, too, then it must be one of your strengths.

10. I am scared of things with weird heads, which is the main reason why I don't love Star Trek.

11. I studied French in high school and college, but I have a hard time stringing together a sentence. I bet if I studied it more it would come back to me. I have a friend who lives in France who is returning with her kids later this month, and they don't speak English. That's going to be one interesting play date, mais non?

12. I have been to Paris, France and Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. That is the extent of my international traveling.

13. While I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, my husband lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We met in Palm Desert, California.

14. We did not tell anyone the name of our baby ahead of time, partly to foster excitement and suspense, but partly in case I changed my mind. My great aunt Eunice had the name Cynthia picked out for my cousin Andrea, but when she was born, she said she just didn't look like a Cynthia.

15. We did have to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. In general, we like to have time to think about things (that's that "intellection" thing coming up again) and we didn't want to be completely surprised. Plus, it gave everyone more time to come up with AJ's awesome wardrobe.

16. I pledged Alpha Phi in 1996, despite my protests that I didn't want to be a sorority girl. At Emory, we weren't typical Greek girls. What can I say? I've done lots of things I thought/said I'd never do. I don't regret most of them.

17. I took about a 20-year hiatus from eating fish and seafood. I have resumed eating fish but stop short of shellfish. The main reason for trying fish again is that I didn't want AJ to see me not eating something that can be good for her.

18. I like to go to new places, especially if it is in our city. I love being the person who knows about stuff. Even if it is knowing which places have terrible cupcakes. Yes, they do exist.

19. People at work know that I like to know about stuff. As recently as today, a faculty member (not even one I support) was asking my advice about a traffic accident where he was rear-ended and the person who did it's insurance papers were either forged or grossly incorrect. They also come to me when they need yellow highlighters or Sharpies.

20. I did not want to go to law school because I'm not tough enough, and also because I didn't want the responsibility and blame if the advice I give is no good.

21. My late grandmother held out hope until the day she died that I would see the error of my ways and go to law school. She was happy she had a great-grandchild and a grandson-in-law, but she wanted me to have the briefcase and JD, too. Plus, I look good in suits. She was also disappointed that Hillary Clinton didn't become President.

22. I have not slept through the night except on very rare occasions since 2000. It is likely that I have sleep apnea. I am not telling my doctor, because I am terrified of the CPAP. It is also likely that I have a small bladder and a dog with one, too.

23. Almost everyone in our church is related by marriage. I once drew a diagram about it.

24. I just made the phone call I was putting off. I couldn't stand it any longer.

25. I am terrible at all things domestic, mostly because consistency is not one of my strengths. Practice makes perfect and I start but can't finish my projects.

26. I have a job I really like, which can be exciting and challenging but it can also be boring and easy. It just depends on what day it is.

27. Some perks that make me really like my job: I have my own office with a couch, my own bathroom, and a window, although there is no view. I have access to in-building parking, which is rare as hen's teeth on UAB's campus. Plus, I really like the four research faculty members I support. They're really, really nice and awfully good at what they do.

28. I like baking more than I like cooking.

29. I've declared Zumba as my hobby, although as any mom knows, my real hobby is bathing.

30. I am short and nearsighted, so I always sit (or work out) in the front of the class.

31. Ice cream is my favorite food, which is why I need to do my declared hobby more often.

32. I took ballet from ages 2-12. I have rhythm, but not grace. You can't teach that.

33. AJ's current school offers classes in basketball, soccer, computer, gymnastics, and, starting next year - chess. I don't know how to do any of those things well. Maybe I should have been doing that stuff instead of ballet.

34. I experienced cheerleading, Brownies, Girl Scouts, piano lessons, band (clarinet) and softball when I was a kid. I wasn't good at any of these things either, but I was enthusiastic. I can't wait to see what AJ will want to do.

35. I cannot ride a bike. I had one when I was about 7. I never practiced and my bike rusted. In my defense, my birthday was in December and who wants to ride a bike when it is freezing outside? Also, we moved to where there were more hills, and then moved again to where there were even more hills. Mountain bikes have a hard time in the hills of Crestwood.

36. I took swim lessons three times: as an infant, as an older child, and as an adult. I can save myself from drowning, but laps are probably never going to be on my agenda.

37. If I am running, something is chasing me.

38. I like to sing, and I miss being in a choir.

39. Birthdays are very special to me, as mine is so close to Christmas. The idea of having one day to celebrate each person is so wonderful to me.

40. I should pay more attention to politics and policy, as 65% of my salary is paid by federal and private grants.

41. AJ kicks things around a lot with her feet, often "exploring" with them. This drives me crazy. She can pick things up with her toes like her father.

42. I have texture issues with yogurt and oatmeal, though I try to like both of them. Mix-ins help. Pudding, though, I have less of a problem with.

43. The week of church camp and the week of Vacation Bible School were the highlights of every one of my summers from first grade through twelfth. I hope that AJ will get to experience both of these things, even though they're not offered through my church anymore, really.

44. I have lived in 5 or 6 homes within the city limits of Birmingham. I have lived close to suburbs, but never in them. I'm a city girl, and I have an irrational fear of living too far away from a hospital.

45. I wish I had spent more time enjoying each phase of my life instead of always wishing for the next one. Currently, I am wishing for a phase when AJ no longer screams out for me in the middle of the night. But I am trying to focus on being who she needs me to be instead of wishing she were someone else. This is perfect for right now. Really.

46. I don't drink caffeine but I do drink alcohol.

47. My mother and I once entered a mother-daughter look-alike contest.

48. When I was a child, I would put myself to bed at 8 pm. I wish I could still do that, but my kid won't go to bed by 8 pm for love or money.

49. My favorite band is The Black Crowes - ever since 8th grade or slightly before. No matter what lineup, no matter what album, no matter what song - their music still grabs hold of my soul like no other band, even though they were influenced by so many others and continue to influence so many others today. I've probably seen them 15 times, beginning in 1991 with my parents at the Alabama Theater. Some parents take their kids to the symphony and the opera to make sure their children appreciate culture. My parents took us (and sometimes still do) to rock concerts. They have my eternal thanks. As soon as AJ is old enough, we'll take her, too.

50. Tonight, I am baking brownies for the UAB Benevolent Fund's service project at the Woodlawn location of Community Kitchens of Birmingham. I won't go to the service project since it would interfere with our busy birthday party schedule, but I'm sending brownies instead.

You read all of that? I'm impressed!  We'll be back to AJ's adventures tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dealing with Disappointment

Anna June did great at the optometrist yesterday, but when we got to school, we had missed both music class and water day. AJ was pretty mad when she had started changing into her swimsuit only to be told not to bother - the class was done with water play. She was angry with me for the scheduling snafu, although I explained to her that the school is the one who changed water day to Tuesdays instead of Thursdays. And I do stand by that it is better to schedule preventive medical appointments first thing in the morning, to avoid long wait times.

But the reason I'm telling you this is to say that AJ seems to be getting a handle on the frustration thing. She was definitely disappointed, but she did not even cry. Instead, she focused on the cause (my making her late) and simply said she wished it didn't happen. She groaned a little, but there was no meltdown, especially since I promised her a run through our sprinkler at home at a later time.

She's just getting so grown up!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Eyes Have It

I took Anna June to her first eye checkup today, and she did great! Her eyes are perfect. This is what she picked out to wear.

Other trip highlights included getting peanuts at the Peanut Depot and visiting Daddy's office.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Anna June had another great weekend, except for the not napping and not sleeping enough parts.

On Saturday, we slept in a bit and then had fresh fruit and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We skipped another birthday party - don't worry...everyone feels fine. We instead spent the entire day together, not doing anything particularly special, just doing stuff we needed to do. After breakfast, we watched Being Elmo, a documentary about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who made the little furry red guy come to life. It was actually a compelling story - Clash is a great talent who literally grew up wanting to be a puppeteer like on Sesame Street and, through a journey that included meeting the right people - he went straight from high school to New York City to live out his dream. AJ was interested for a few minutes, then ran off to play by herself. She claims she doesn't even like Sesame Street anymore. Whatever. It's the best show on television.

We went out to lunch and then to Home Depot, where we had to buy some flea fogger. We were not excited about bombing our house, but it seemed like it needed to be done. Last weekend, we bathed Radar with some flea shampoo (that claimed to kill both adults and larvae/eggs). We hoped it had worked and there weren't more fleas on our poor itchy doggie, but we wanted to ensure that there wouldn't be any on us, either.

We also picked up a new mop, and to hear AJ, you would have thought we had bought a new toy just for her. She was very, very excited to help me mop. I was glad for the help, I think.

We went by the library, where AJ was able to get rewards for her summer reading (or in her case, summer listening) and participate in a scavenger hunt around the children's department. It was very exciting and yielded her a sucker.

Then, we had dinner at home. I made delicious tuna melts and AJ made herself a peanut butter and butter sandwich. After some room-straightening and a bath, we let AJ watch Shrek 2, a treat from the library. We all stayed up way too late.

On Sunday, we got up early to execute our fumigation plan. First, we bathed Radar again. Unlike last week, we didn't find any fleas jumping off of him. He's still itchy, but we agree it has calmed down some. Then, we gathered up all the things we'd need for two hours out of the house with the dog and took off. We dropped off Ben's car to have the oil changed at Firestone, which may be the only place on our side of town open on Sundays. Then, we went to Sonic, because I had heard that it was dog-friendly. They didn't kick us out, but I wonder if their screwing up our order had anything to do with their being distracted by our little pooch. We ate, as we were leaving, AJ needed to go potty - again. (I had just taken her, and, nothing happened - except someone banging on the door. When we got out, no one was around to be seen, so we assumed they'd take their turn as soon as they could. I did not want to be the lady taking up the bathroom a second time, so we decided to leave.)  Normally, we'd just have gone home, but our two hours were not up yet, so we decided to visit my parents to take advantage of their potty instead. I'm so glad they live close by! Then we headed to Triangle Park in the Forest Park neighborhood.  We were there long enough to fill up a water bowl for Radar and put sunscreen on AJ when suddenly she had to go potty AGAIN. She vowed to hold it, but only a couple of minutes later, she said she could not.

We called my Granddaddy, who lives a couple of blocks away, to let him know we'd be dropping in for a quick but urgent visit! Again - thank goodness for family close by. We talked to Granddaddy for a few minutes, but we couldn't leave Ben and Radar in the car for long. Though it wasn't even 10 am, it was starting to get really hot really fast. By that time, Ben's car was ready, so we picked it up. We then just decided to go on home and wait until time to go inside. Ben took the opportunity to hop up on our roof to clean it off and trim some tree branches, and AJ took the opportunity to eat the snacks I'd stuffed in the cooler, squeezable strawberry applesauce, cantaloupe, and frozen watermelon. Radar, we've discovered, liked the frozen watermelon. It was a good way to cool off on a hot morning.

We left Ben to put everything back together while we dashed off to church, and then went out for Chinese food and a little shopping afterwards. AJ wanted to pick out some "fancy" hand soap, and Big Lots offered lots of choices. She chose a watermelon scent, and it was only $1.00. Score!

We tried having quiet time, but as I reported yesterday, AJ was not interested in being quiet.

Afterwards, it was time for John Clarke's 3rd birthday party. His mother Shelley outdid herself once again with a fireman theme this time. There was a bouncy house and this water table for cooling off after one had bounced oneself sweaty (and it was also good for the younger set). She had Twizzlers as "fire hoses" and puffcorn as "fire fighting foam". There was also hummus and pita chips (perhaps fire roasted hummus?), and a red-and-yellow themed fruit salad. We all enjoyed hot dogs, complete with Sneaky Pete sauce. There was a delicious chocolate firetruck cake, along with fire helmet cupcakes. AJ, being the opinionated eater that she is, said, "I wish there was ice cream." Fire helmet cookies were the favors. It was lovely, but it was HOT! We needed a real fire hose to cool us all off, but that and the ice cream were the only two details lacking.

I thought we were doing great, getting AJ to bed a little early, but to no avail. She hollered about being scared until she finally fell asleep. We've determined that since she's unable to identify the source of this fear, it's either some sort of generalized anxiety or it's that she wants attention. Either way, she was back up at 4:30 AM being scared again, and nothing would do except her lullaby CD and my sitting in the hallway until she fell back asleep.

Obviously, after such a weekend, we are all over tired! But it was fun and we'll have another hot and busy week this week. I hope we all keep our sanity.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Quiet Time

Anna June doesn't always take a nap, even when she's tired. Instead, we have quiet time. Today she has left her room twice to pee, plus once to beg to get up now, each time ending with tears as I instruct her to return to her bed and lie down. Now she's playing with a music box. Today's quiet time has not been quiet!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Secret Taco

As I've mentioned before, we tend to use Anna June as a tiebreaker in some decisions, often in the decision of whether to eat at home or go out for dinner. There is a very short list of things that I make that Ben actually likes to eat and this is pretty much it:

Tacos
Chili

Occasionally, he'll eat something somewhere else and say, "Yours is better," and I know he really means it. I should add those things to the list.

My chili, relative to my other dishes, is pretty time consuming - and it's hot outside, so we haven't had it in a while. But we have tacos pretty often.

Last week, AJ and I visited the grocery store sans Daddy, so we picked out ingredients for tacos, knowing they'd be appreciated.

The next night rolled around, and I was trying to solicit some help from the den. I started talking about making tacos, and AJ piped up with an obvious solution - she wouldn't have to help if we went out. "I think we should just go out to eat."

We told her no, and were met with resistance.  I considered her suggestion. It wouldn't be the first or last time I've had to stick meat in the freezer, or, just as likely, forget about it and let it go bad. Ultimately, the thought of leaving the house again in the heat, and forcing Radar back to his place in the kitchen was unappealing. We stuck to the plan.

Ben decided to give her some incentive to stay. "What if I make you a SECRET taco?"

"What's a secret taco?" AJ asked, very interested.

Ben, actually, had no idea. He has many strengths, but thinking on his feet is not one of them - which he will tell you.

He came in the kitchen and started assembling. Over my shoulder, I heard some rustling and rattling. He came up with an awesome-looking dessert taco, which looked like this:

If I recall correctly, there were mini marshmallows, strawberry syrup, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries - in a flour tortilla. It was basically a sundae with no ice cream.

Don't tell me all the culinary genius comes from the Tucker side.

AJ was absolutely delighted when she saw it. Ben told her that the secret part was that she had to eat a real taco first before she could eat her delectable dessert taco.

So she did.

The verdict? Messy. We didn't get a picture of her, afterwards. She was pretty much red from the waist up, skipping the tortilla and going straight for the sweet stuff.

Hope your weekend is this sweet.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A New Tradition?

Anna June loves to play, both with and without us. While she likes going to playdates and parties, she also lets me know that she loves spending time at home. I do feel guilty for taking her out shopping so much - I wondered the other day if she's been to the grocery store more than a hundred times in her short life, and I'm pretty sure she has. I make her do things like visiting relatives and going to church, which, quite frankly, aren't always thrilling to a little kid.

After reading an article the other day about how people need idleness and downtime, I was further convinced that AJ's request to "stay home" on July 4th should be honored. Especially since it was in the middle of the week, and no further vacations are in sight for us.

Staying home is hard for us. Ben loves to shop and explore, and I have an endless list of errands to run: gifts to buy, groceries to obtain, pieces of projects to aquire, things to be repaired, giveaways to drop off. While AJ spent the day basically singing to herself, playing in various ways (which also means trashing her room), I had a bunch of things I wanted to do around the house, and I felt quite accomplished by the time the day was over.

The first thing we did, after the pancakes, was put on our bathing suits and go outside for a water balloon fight. In the large box of things from Granny, there was also a Water Bomb Factory, containing 100 balloons and a gadget to attach to the hose to inflate them. If you want to see what it looks like and how it works, you can watch this video (there is no sound - your computer works just fine). While the tying mechanism seemed like a good idea, it was incredibly tricky, and Ben and I ended up tying several by hand. Really, though, I can take no credit. Ben filled up all but a couple of the balloons.

We used, I think, about 1/2 or 2/3 of the pack. Several buckets full! I am sorry I didn't take pictures or video, but I am glad that the camera didn't get wet in the melee.

AJ had so much fun launching the balloons at us. Even before 10 am, it was definitely hot enough to enjoy this outdoor activity. Of course, then, we had to pick up all the detritus. I was then reminded why, in general, I used to hate water balloon fights at church camp - the clean up was never worth the soaking you got.

We wonder if this will be our new Independence Day tradition. AJ was still talking about how cool it was. Eh, maybe by next year I'll forget about freaking out about my fear of our neighborhood songbirds choking on a forgotten piece of plastic. Or maybe the one that chokes will be the woodpecker that has ruined the eaves of our house. I digress...

Through the course of the day, AJ took on various other projects.
1. Playing with her dogs and Radar's doghouse
2. Drawing (and cutting out) a picture of a kitty cat, including asking how to spell it.
3. Watching Star Trek V with her dad, which she declared to be "scary".
4. Playing Dora Dominoes with me. (By the way, the instructions to that game are not at all helpful - I had to look online) AJ won two games, I won one, and one - before we had clarified the rules, was won by no one, but AJ says she won that one, as well. She's competitive, but not a good sport. We're still working on it.
5. Changing clothes. If my count is correct, she wore 5 outfits over the course of the day, not counting pajamas. Many outfits were accessorized to the hilt. She was even distracted by the plastic iPhone in her purse.
6. Not napping
7. Being in charge of keeping Radar off our bed. (He came home from boarding with fleas, and we're trying to keep the situation under control.)
8. Giving input into her meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner - peanut butter and strawberry jelly
9. Packing for the fireworks party, thoughtfully: blanket, toys, American flag
10. Filled Radar's water bowl

I did:
1. Cook
2. Dishes
3. Laundry (I may have set a personal record for number of loads in one day)
4. Finished a book. This seldom happens these days.
5. Filed a stack of receipts and paid bills
6. Posted to the blog
7. Cleaned up after various AJ projects listed above
8. Get AJ to and from the fireworks viewing party, despite horrendous traffic

Ben:
1. Cleaned up after Radar, who vomited a couple of times. We think he's been scratching/grooming his flea bites so much that he's swallowed a lot of hair. (We also think he's part cat.)
2. Watched Star Trek V with AJ, and generally kept an eye on her
3. Played frisbee with AJ in the heat
4. Opening AJ's new* doll (have you seen the number of things you have to cut to get a Barbie open?)
5. Napped
6. Cleaned up in our office, including working on the computer

I'm immensely grateful to Ben for doing what he did so that I could do what I did. I was pretty pleased with seeing the bottom of the laundry sorter for the first time in a while. It was a good reminder that if we'd just stay home, I may not feel so behind. AJ has already done so many exciting things in her young life...maybe she just needs a little time to play with her baby dolls and color instead of planned activities. Of course, there's always the need for balance - if I don't plan things, I worry she'll/we'll get bored, but if I plan things, I worry that she'll be overscheduled.

I wonder if the strategy of staying home during the day on July 4th, celebrating our independence by working on independent activities, will become our new holiday tradition. I'm still going to drag AJ to see the fireworks, though - that's one tradition I won't let go of, even if I have a heck of a time getting her up the next day.

*We didn't let AJ open every single toy she got for her birthday all at once - she was blessed with so much stuff! Opening one thing at a time, I think, has made the fun last longer.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America's Birthday!

Anna June is having a great Independence Day. She woke up and told us, "It's America's Birthday!" We then had pancakes, and my little budding culinary star said, "You know what would be good? If we made these blueberry pancakes." So we did.

For lunch, in case you were wondering, she made a triple-decker peanut butter and butter sandwich. At least it was on whole wheat. And she poured her own milk for the very first time. She was so proud of herself, declaring it a "dream come true," and shouting, "Hooray for me!"

Last night, we had a small family gathering at my parents' house - if one sells barbecue for a living, one cannot be off work on July 4th. We said we'd bring a dessert, and AJ helped me pick out "brownie kebabs" after seeing this post on Pinterest.

Despite not giving myself enough time to allow the brownies to cool, they were delicious and a big hit. AJ really did make them almost entirely by herself. She threaded the fruit and marshmallows on the skewers, and stirred the brownie batter. I cut the tops off the strawberries, washed the fruit, and put the pan of brownies in the oven. That's it.

Here's a picture of AJ serving them to her great grandfather.

What a country!

It's snack time now - who knows what she'll think up next?

Celebrate our freedom, and chow down.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Enough with the Pictures, Already?

Anna June is very excited that I may get to leave work a little early today. She's looking forward to some projects we've got going on at home, and our family Independence Day (Eve) celebration tonight.

Meanwhile, she's gotten very interested in what I've been doing on the computer, especially looking at pictures. She asked me last night, "Do you blog every day?" It made it sound like she didn't want me to - she's getting very sensitive about what I tell people. If she does something wrong, for example, she begs me not to tell anyone like her teachers or her grandparents. I was also impressed that she used "blog" as a verb - I'm sure she's heard us say it, but the fact that she's four and she not only understands what a blog is but that one who does it is blogging is pretty impressive, to me.

I let her choose the photo for today. She picked the one of Radar, finishing his birthday "cake". It's almost better I didn't get a before shot - it was pretty gross looking.

While I was waiting for some photos to upload last night, I showed AJ some real (hard copy, old-fashioned, real life) photo albums. She was impressed and liked telling me who it was in each picture. As for me, I saw a lot of pictures of happy times, but a lot of pictures of people who are no longer with us. There were my grandparents, of course, whom I miss every day. But then, there were other people, too, that I miss like crazy as well.

So, while the numbers of pictures that I have may seem a little out of control, I know that one day, they'll be even more special because the people in them will be gone. (Including me, of course.) I'm trying to organize, label and archive them so they'll mean something to AJ when I am.

I updated the June album with some pictures from our real camera, but I know there are more than that - I will have to investigate later.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Party On, Dudes

Anna June had a good weekend, but she is really looking forward to more fun on the Independence Day holiday this week.

Here are some pictures from the month of June. We stayed busy as usual. There are more pictures - I just have to gather them. I promise I will update soon and post links. Hold me to it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Yes, then No

Anna June is playing with her new toy dog, Squeakers. She's letting her ride in her play grocery buggy (also known as a shopping cart, for those not from Birmingham). She's very happy entertaining herself, and, for that, I am grateful.

Last night we were invited to a new friend's swimming birthday party, but, at the last minute, AJ did not want to go. It was so hot (over 100 degrees) that we decided it was OK to stay home. We sent the gift that AJ had meticulously selected only hours before. We borrowed Shrek Forever After from the library, and went to Chick-fil-A, so a new fun family-only night was had.

AJ has met the little birthday girl a few times, and they get along very well. She was excited about it, until suddenly, she wasn't. I will blame part of this on her missing nap. But part of it is because of a conversation we had about swimming.

"I can swim," AJ declared.
"No, you can't." I told her. Usually, I am very interested in telling her that she can, in fact, do anything. I encourage dreaming big and trying hard. But when I was a young child, I myself nearly drowned based on overconfidence in the water, and I don't ever want to have to go through that with Anna June.
"You can't tell people you can swim when you can't," I told her.

I reassured her that she's been learning the foundations of good swimming skills, based on last year. We still haven't been to a pool yet in 2012.

After that little conversation, though, AJ suddenly did not want to attend the party. We think she was simply embarrassed by something she can't do. I feel bad, but, again - I'm not messing around with that particular issue. I do want to take her to swimming lessons, but after the flak we've gotten from her with soccer, kid's Zumba, and, most recently, basketball "camp," we're not sure how she'd react. Spending yet more money for her athletic enrichment only to hear "I don't like it!" again is not appealing, although we do recognize swimming as a vital skill.

She's now having a birthday party for Squeakers, since she had one last night but her baby dolls missed it.

Here's the album for May, updated with my cell phone pictures.

I also added some captions and organization to the April album, as the ones I typed originally didn't save. And here's the March album, in case you missed it.