Friday, August 31, 2012

A Death in the Family

Anna June has met many of my relatives in her short life, but she doesn't remember many of them that she doesn't see very often.

My dad's cousin's husband (i.e., cousin, as we'd call him in the South), Mac Smith, passed away a couple of weeks ago in Montgomery. AJ doesn't remember him.

Although I wasn't able to attend the funeral, I hear it was packed. And I hear there were funny stories. I bet Mac would have liked it.

The first thing I remember about Mac is that he was old. I don't mean elderly, but he was a generation older than Deborah, dad's cousin, and they were soon to be married. I was a teenager, after all, and I couldn't believe that someone my parents' age was marrying someone with kids nearly as old as she was. I am sure I am exaggerating. I knew these types of relationships existed, but I had never seen such.

As soon as I got to know Mac, though, I loved him. He was, first and foremost, funny. I thought he and Deb were a great pair, because, after all, no one laughed in our house the way they laughed when Deb came to visit. For some reason, that side of the family is hilarious.

Mac had been around and accumulated a zillion funny stories. Many were self-deprecating. Many were tall tales. But he always made us laugh.

At Mac and Deb's wedding, there was a skydiver who I believe was dressed as the Budweiser mascot, Bud Man. After such a memorable reception, I don't remember too much about the wedding. I remember I went with Dad and Grandma Annette, and that was my first introduction to their beautiful estate, Shiloh. The "pond" is gorgeous and their house is exquisite. As Deb got a chance to decorate, it got better and better. The place was a great setting for a nice, small wedding and reception.

Mac was an anomaly in our family. He did things that we thought were weird. First of all, he was into scouting, even when he didn't have to be (i.e., when his kids weren't in it.) He was in it because he loved it, and he loved the kids. He was praised for his knowledge, endurance and leadership. Us city cousins still can't understand why he'd routinely go off in the woods when his house was already out in the country! But that was fun for him.

He did other strange things like go skiing. In Europe. He ordered boxes of things from LL Bean. He was an extra in the movie Big Fish. His real, actual, first name was Mac, but his family called him Buddy. Of course.

But one thing he did have in common with our family, besides the funny stories, was music. He played the banjo. He sang. His voice was not the best, but you could tell he enjoyed it. One year, he invited Grandma Annette, and Drew and I went, too, to go visit his Sunday School class in Montgomery for a sing-a-long. It was pretty amazing, as I recall. How many people get treated to a multi-generational rendition of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in Sunday School?

He wasn't perfect by any stretch. We also remember that time when someone had cleaned the sliding glass door a little too well and he walked right into it. Alcohol may have been involved.

Almost exactly three years ago, AJ and I went down to Sprague, AL to visit Mac and Deb at Shiloh for a "fishing party." Some of the pictures are here. That's when the above photo was taken. When I think of good times on that side of the family, I will certainly remember gatherings like that one.

Mac suffered from a variety of health issues in his later years, including Parkinson's Disease. This month, he had a brain hemorrhage, and never recovered. It was his wish to be taken off life support. He was 76 years old. He had a good life.

All I know is that our family Christmas will be a little bit dimmer this year, and a little less funny. The number of drinks will be the same, but that may be to help us forget the people we're missing.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guilty Dog


Anna June did something accidentally this morning that threw us all off. She paused in the doorway on our way to the car, and Radar escaped. We finally "tricked" him into getting into the car with us, asking him if he wanted to go "bye-bye." And sure enough, he did.

I want to be able to use this trick again, so I decided to bring Radar to school with AJ and then run back to the house to deliver the naughty little one (the one with four legs). This was a good idea, but it pushed me back later than I wanted to be.

Sad when I have to try to break out psychology tricks on the dog.

He's a fast little guy, and, luckily, this morning, he stayed in our yard. We've spent many mornings roaming the streets of the neighborhood in search of our dog who WILL. NOT. come when he is called. Oh, he hears us, but he knows he's in trouble. I can't blame him for wanting more freedom than the kitchen affords him. He hates being shut in there. But it's the best we can do. It's the biggest room in the house, and he has to stay there so the alarm system will work. We don't have any other options.

On the way to school, I talked to AJ about how she absolutely HAS to let us know when she's opening the door and once she goes out, she has to shut it right behind her. No lingering on the threshold - that presents the opportunity he's looking for. AJ agreed.

We'll see if he stays home, or if he liked school so much he wants to go again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pride

First of all, if you want to know another Mom's take on Anna June's school, please visit Magic City Made. AJ is in the very same class as Grey (a.k.a Sweet Pea) and she is having just as much fun as he is.

I am very proud of Anna June for taking a step forward and overcoming some tough obstacles this week. I know it may be a phase. It's all a phase, I keep reminding myself. I read once that at any given time, your child may be exhibiting about 5 behaviors that you can't stand. But they grow out of them.

Anyway, the first and biggest thing is her clothing. Her aversions to certain clothing items are well-documented. Even though she knew for a fact that every one of the 500 kids in her school has to wear a uniform, she screamed every single day the first week.

Sunday night, I shed some tears of my own, admitting to Ben that I just couldn't take it anymore. After dealing with the tantrums, I get to work exhausted, feeling like I've fought a hard battle.

On Monday morning, though, I asked her to get dressed and she told me that, "I am going to throw a fit." That did it for me. It clicked. She's just been pushing my buttons all this time. If she had the emotional control to predict the fit, I said, she had it to prevent it. So I walked her into her room, and talked to her while I was putting the clothes on her. Now, I realize a 4-year-old should be able to dress herself - and she is!- but bear with me. I was telling her something funny, she thought, although I can't remember what it was, and the clothes went on without incident. When she was dressed, she commented, "I didn't even cry!" Yeah, I noticed.

Yesterday, she asked me to distract her again. Well, she didn't use the word "distract", but she asked me to tell her something funny. So I asked her a hypothetical question: What would happen if I just stopped cooking? The answers were pretty thoughtful, and basically she decided I wouldn't be able to stand it and I'd do it again. Today, I asked her what would happen if I dyed my hair purple. Somehow, this worked for distraction and I was able to get her dressed with no problem.

She still doesn't like the uniform idea, and I respect that. Last night we needed to run an errand and we went to pick up dinner. Her uniform was pretty dirty from her time on the playground, so I asked if she wanted to change. "Yes," she said, "Everyone doesn't need to know that I go to Avondale."

Her navy shoes are still a good fit and she seems to like them. They'll be torn up by the end of September, but she has plenty of others.

She has a drawer full of socks, mostly white. The dress code doesn't seem to address socks, so I am sure she could get away with her Tinkerbell socks and such. But when we were in Chattanooga, we bought AJ some socks from a side-of-the-road vendor because one of us forgot our socks when we packed and we happened to be in the market for a few pair. AJ loves these particular socks. They were irregulars, I think, from JCPenney. I can't find more of them, although we briefly considered going back to Chattanooga. Therefore, we're living with the three pairs she loves, washing repeatedly. This is not actually a problem - again, I wouldn't buy socks for her again without her trying them on first. She even hates the ones she picked out new at the store. Crazy kid.

Anyway, besides our newly discovered fight-free dressing time, AJ has surprised me for the past couple of days by getting up before her alarm. This morning, she had a great idea. She asked if she got completely ready early enough if she could watch an episode of Curious George. Usually, my objection to TV in the morning is that it makes her do everything too slowly. But as a reward, I have to say I'm not opposed, especially since she's eating breakfast at school. So this morning she got dressed, brushed her teeth, got her hair done and had time to watch George and color a picture. Having her snack packed and backpack ready the night before really helped - and I think she can see the wisdom of it. Now if we can just repeat the success...

The other thing I'm proud of in relation to school is that she's really in love with learning. She has asked to do worksheets at home (not from school) each of the last three nights. She has already done her homework for the rest of the week. Again, I'm not counting on this lasting, but I'm trying to enjoy it while I can.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Feel Like A...

I have no idea how it started, but Anna June has been telling us how she feels each day using a descriptive metaphor.

Last week around this time, she told us she felt like a rock star.

A day or two later, she felt like a ballerina.

By Friday, she felt like a maple tree.

Yesterday, she felt like a brick wall. I was hoping she'd feel a little better than that, because she got this swell bag of books from the Success by 6 program. She's to get two more bags at different points during the year. The theory is that kids do much better at reading when there are LOTS of different books around their environment, so United Way's program is interested in providing them to the area's 4-year-olds. We love this idea.

I told AJ this morning I hoped that she'd feel more like a rock star than a brick wall. She reminded me that she feels like something different every single day.

She predicts that today she'll either feel like a blue sky or a raindrop.



Monday, August 27, 2012

Almost

Anna June had a great weekend playing at home. She's started up a runny nose and a slight temp, but nothing that should keep her home from school just yet.

That being said, I feel better.

Part of why I feel better is that I stayed home. I tried my best to stay in the house. But if you know me at all, you know that when I set a goal, it is rarely accomplished.

Saturday started out great. I stayed in my nightgown for most of the day. I napped. I even sent Ben on a shopping run to avoid the impending dog food crisis. But as night was coming on, I realized that I wanted soup. And we had just finished off the last can of soup, which wasn't that disappointing to me, because I wanted a certain soup: Chicken Orzo from Zoe's Kitchen.

I've loved Zoe's for years, and, when we had AJ, some friends brought us a family dinner from there that kept us going for days. The food is good, healthy, fresh, and, in my opinion, restorative. It's a chain, but it's Birmingham-based, so I feel OK about that, too.

So we piled in the car - yes, I did shower first - and made our way down to Crestline Village. Despite having seen the signs all over town, I completely forgot that the annual Boiling and Bragging fundraiser was taking place in the very same parking lot.

The event volunteers were helping inflate the bouncy house right next to Zoe's patio. It appeared not to charge admission to the bounce castle, so I promised AJ she could bounce after supper.

She bounced. And bounced. And bounced. She bounced until her face was bright red. She outlasted many families who had to pull their kids out because it was time for dinner. A nice lady from Children's Hospital was manning the bounce station and she and I had a lovely conversation. She asked if I was connected to Children's or to Rotary, the sponsor of the event. I told her no, but it was my understanding that Rotary is, in connection with the United Way's Success by 6 program,  helping to fund the Pre-K classes at Avondale, so she had my sincere thanks. I finally confessed to her that we didn't have armbands because we were not staying and we had just been eating at Zoe's, which, understandably, was not crowded for a change.

Because Boiling and Bragging had a tailgate theme, there were tents and reps from a bunch of different colleges in the region: Alabama and Auburn were represented, of course, but there were also teams from as far away as Mississippi State and Georgia Tech. Most importantly, UAB was there. There were the predictable numbers of folks in crimson and white, and orange and blue, but there was also a pretty good showing of green and gold. We heard the mascots were coming later, but as we strolled to our car, we HAD to stop by and see UAB's Golden Girls. AJ was interested in getting her picture made, but not without me. (I was pretty upset since I hadn't felt like messing with hair, makeup, or wardrobe, but even if I had, I still would have looked like crap next to a bunch of adorable 19-year-old dancers!)

We're looking forward to our REAL tailgate party on Saturday. Go Blazers!



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Imagination

Anna June's imagination is in full bloom. I wanted to stay home yesterday to finally shake this mild but annoying illness that has plagued me all week. AJ was delighted. We had cereal and kiwi for breakfast. We had apples and frozen pizza for lunch. She watched Spot Goes to the Farm and the Disney short film The Prince and the Pauper. She also spent time with her invisible friends.

According to AJ, she has a thousand invisible friends and they all live in a giant house together. The house is invisible to me, but AJ can see it with her binoculars.

I believe there really are a thousand they have new names all the time, including Kayla, Melissa, Erica, Jacob, Michael, and more. Yesterday they went to Alaska in a helicopter. They worked out in our hallway and AJ won 64 races. They played princess. AJ read them stories.

Any time I tried to play along, for example, by accepting that our kitchen was Alaska, AJ would tell me that it was not ACTUALLY Alaska. In case I needed clarification.

She also pretended to be Radar's sister, a dog named "Merigol" (like marigold, minus the d). This has carried on over several days. We have given her "doggie baths" like Radar gets and she even had me take her out on a leash. Thank goodness it was in the backyard and the neighbors didn't call DHR.

Marigold is just one of her alter egos. There's also April Robot. She likes it if we play along and are Mommy and daddy robots, too.

She's also named some small toys she used in the bathtub. The names change, but the most consistent ones are Shiny the Horse and Bernie Scarney (or Scarney Bernie).

It is really fun to watch this phase in her development. The best part is she's having fun!

Friday, August 24, 2012

It Takes a Village

Anna June is one of the luckiest kids I know, but I'm also one of the luckiest moms. When we were told at the last minute that 4K would dismiss at 11:30 the whole first week of school, I panicked.

But my family immediately said they'd take care of it.

On Monday, AJ went to my parents' house. She went with my mom to the bank, where she was entertained by a banker (that I happen to know) while Mom completed her complicated transactions. It must have been a good conversation. "I didn't know that would be so much fun," AJ said. She also helped Nana ship packages at the post office.

On Tuesday, she was back at Nana's, but this time with Aunt Liz. Liz needed to go over to do laundry anyway since their plumbing was having issues. AJ watched SpongeBob and even had a long nap!

On Wednesday, I picked her up. I know this was her least fun day. We tried but failed to nap. We went outside for her to run, since she was running in the house. She put down her jump rope as the finish line and hollered, "on your marks...get set...go!" over and over. She saw a worm in her sandbox and refused to play. We went and got her flu vaccination and bought school supplies. She went back to her grandparents' house, where Drew and my dad kept her while we went to a parent meeting and out to dinner.

Yesterday, AJ was with Liz again, but this time they didn't stay at Nana's. They went to Chick-Fil-A, because evidently pregnancy cravings lead there - they were spotted by our pregnant pal Laura, in for a milkshake. Then they went to get paint samples for the nursery. My nephew's room is going to be adorable, by the way. AJ took a nap and got to jump on the trampoline. She complained of boredom but I don't believe her.

Today, AJ will be with Aunt Beth at our house. She's kind of relieved, and so am I. It has been an exhausting week.

I can't tell you how grateful I am for my family. I've watched the other moms juggle the play dates and babysitting swaps and days off work. Next week should be lots calmer.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Backpack, Backpack!

We're not sure what she's going to put in it, but Anna June is pretty excited about her backpack. It arrived Wednesday. We tried to get it on our mega-trip to Wal-Mart on Sunday, but they were sold out. We had to order it online instead. We will know for next year to shop early!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mamas Don't Get Sick Days

Anna June is having a great first week at school. Her teacher is lovely and nice, and the kids are sweet and adorable. She likes the food.

Since I had already planned to be off all day, I am off work today, even though my plans have changed. I have had a low-grade fever for a few days, and I decided that if I'm sick enough to admit it, I'm sick enough not to go to work. Of course, since I decided to be off, I've gotten a million ideas about what I should be doing other than resting.

Right now, though, I promise I'll take a nap. School lets out half a day this week, so I'll have to pick AJ up at 11:30. That's soon!

I am sure that moms who stay home always wonder what life would be like if they worked. I can certainly tell you that most working moms wonder what it would be like to stay home. On every sick day, though I'm reminded that I'd love to have the option to stay home, I probably wouldn't. The stresses are different. Also, there are no sick days. I have been home with AJ when I was sick before, and, to be honest, it is no fun. She basically gets to do whatever she'd like because I haven't the strength to tell her no - wait, I can hear you ask, how is that different from any other day?

I would apologize for posting twice in a row with no photo, but I won't. Our computer went kaput and I haven't gotten around to installing Picasa on this laptop. Also, I can't work our new scanner just yet. Maybe tonight there will be pictures, but probably not - we have a Parent/Teacher meeting tonight. My list of questions is a mile long. We'll be lucky if we get dinner.

AJ suggested that I get back in my same pajamas that I wore last night, because if I put on clean ones that would be a "waste of pajamas".  I think I've taught her something, after all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Can't Sleep

I can tell we may need to bring back the sticker chart for Anna June, because bedtime is such a struggle.

Based on the "compact" we signed with the school upon registering, we are to read to her 20 minutes per day. We discussed this the other night and she seemed ok with it. We implemented this instead of her usual 3 stories at bedtime, but as soon as the timer went off, she said, "Ok, now I want my Bedtime stories!" We let her know that it was smart of her to find the loophole, but, no, she couldn't.

Last night she got out of bed about a dozen times, which may be more than the night before, when we thought she'd never get to sleep!

She did not nap after being up late the night before, so to say the threats of no desserts for the next day, time outs, etc. caused a meltdown is an understatement!

It seems, said Ben, that she cries from the time she wakes up until she (blessedly) goes to sleep. She's already cried out twice tonight and woken up once. She told me she woke up because her "bottom tickled".

Despite the fussing when she's with us, she's really sweet when she's not with us, we hear.

Here's to a better day today.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Day of School







Anna June had a great first day of school today! They got out at 11:30, to let the little kids adjust to school. AJ is doing well and really likes her teacher. I will have more to report as the week goes by. Right now, she's with her Nana. They had some errands and a nap planned.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Her Kind of Day

Since it was the last Saturday before school starts, we decided to have an Anna June-centric day.

First, we had breakfast at home. She chose granola topped with kiwi, honey, and milk.

After watching an episode of Curious George, she worked on straightening up her room. I told her we need to start the year on the right foot.

We went for a haircut at JCPenney, where they just so happen to be giving free haircuts for kids in the month of August.

Then, after browsing around Penney's and Academy Sports, we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. AJ has been asking to go ever since we left last time. She recognizes the logo on billboards and talks about it often. She left giving it rave reviews, although she had chicken tenders and fried apples, which we didn't consider super special.

She was too excited to nap.

After we worked more on her room, we read some books and headed to the library to get more. We had to return the DVD of Mary Poppins, and she selected the Mickey Mouse version of The Prince and the Pauper. We'll see if she likes it.

Finally, we went to Chuck E. Cheese. So did about 7,000 other people. We got $5 worth of tokens and let her play. We spent her tickets on candy and left. She was disappointed that we didn't stay for pizza at The Chuck, but if we had stayed there another minute her dad would have cried. Picture the most crowded, loud place you can, then add in kids jacked up on birthday cake. It may have been Hell's waiting room.

At Hardee's, across the parking lot, it was much quieter. The service was great and there were no lines. While AJ was still sad, we took her mind off it with an Oreo ice cream sandwich.

She came home and played with Radar and some invisible friends. Evidently, they're in a singing group. Melissa is the youngest, she tells me.

In a way, I wish every Saturday could be like today, where a kid can be a kid- yeah, I said it. Knowing that we try to do "fun" things for her every once in a while makes me feel good. We're blessed that we're able to do these things, because soon she won't want them.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Last Day of Daycare

We had quite a time getting ready for Anna June's last day of daycare. We wanted something to give to the kids and to the teachers. So this is what we came up with.

For the kids: we bought cupcakes at Publix. We ordered vanilla cupcakes with pink icing, with some edible glitter thrown on top. Aunt Beth ensured our order was correct. We coordinated with Maddie's mom and Amber's mom, because today is their last day, too. I could envision getting 36 cupcakes for the 7 remaining kids, and it wasn't pretty.

Also for the kids, and somewhat for the teachers, we made goodbye cards. I actually thought up this idea all by myself, but I see so many things on Pinterest that I'm never sure if my ideas are completely original or not. Ben executed the idea. There's no way I could have the technical know-how to lay this out. Furthermore, it was discovered, after the cards were ready to print, that our printer just was not going to work. Ben went out and bought a new multifunctional printer, and I think we're going to be really happy with it. We can even print using wireless technology from our phones. This will save me some steps.

On the left side, it has a picture like this, with the caption "Call me!"

On the right side, it has our contact info and "We'll miss you" and "keep in touch."

The cards were a pretty big hit - we stuck them in the sign-in book at daycare.

For the teachers, I baked these cookies, without decorations. Anna June decorated bags and punched holes for ribbons. Somehow in the process I may have burnt out the motor of my hand mixer and I lost the top to the hole punch that holds in the punches. Oh well. Each of the 5 teachers got a half-dozen cookies. It's the thought that counts, right?

For the ladies in the office, we picked out a bouquet of flowers at Publix. They've helped us for more than 4 years - they deserve something, right?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daddy/Daughter Date Night II



Amidst the headline-dominating controversy, we had already made plans for Ben and Anna June to attend the Daddy-Daughter Date Night at Chick-fil-A, so a few weeks ago, they headed out for their big evening.

Even though Ben was in the middle of a major project and had to work that weekend, he told his boss that that particular night was off-limits.

It hasn't been a whole year since they did it last, but we were pretty excited about it.

In case you were wondering, I spent my "free" time grocery shopping at Publix. I will have to plan better next time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hump Day

Anna June was tired this morning, and even letting her know that it is the very last Wednesday she'll be at McElwain did not help.

It seems that the more we rush her, the slower she goes.

She had laid out her clothes last night, but even so there were issues with actually getting them on.

I mean, how can a girl not want to go to the breakfast table when there are chocolate-covered donuts? And milk, of course.

Regardless, here are some highlights:

1. AJ got to talk to Granny on the phone last night. The new joke, courtesy of Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist:

"What color is a burp?"
"Burple!"

2. AJ really does love her books. She stays up for a while each night perusing the books beside her bed. Sometimes, she'll get more from the shelf and it will look like a mini-book avalanche has occurred. I actually think this is a good pre-literacy move, but I wish she wouldn't stay up so late. If she weren't so scared of the dark, I'd set a timer on her night-light.

3. She still loves desserts, but will consider a small piece of candy a complete dessert. I am enjoying this while it lasts. I have sworn not to buy more candy until Halloween. There's no way we'll eat all this before Halloween. I will have to start giving it away. Who wants last Halloween's candy in August? Any takers? The chocolate, somehow, is all gone.

4. She's getting pretty opinionated about the volume of the music in the car. "Please turn it up," she asks, then, later, at a crescendo, screams. "Why are you screaming?" I ask. "Too loud!" she says. I turn it down. "I can't hear it," she complains.

5. We got "bow bombed" yesterday. An Avondale mom made purple and gold tulle bows for the houses of kids going to Avondale. So if you're driving through Crestwood/Eastwood/Forest Park/Avondale and you see a bow, know that their parents are proud of their kids. AJ didn't like the way we hung the bow on the mailbox. We may revisit its position later today and take a picture.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dogs, Prayer, and Social Networks

Anna June is fine. This post is not really about her.

Monday, it seemed, went to the dogs.

With my new-week resolution to exercise more (basically, I have the same resolution every week), I decided to get up early and walk Radar. He was already up and barking. The target of his barks was our next-door-neighbor's dog, Brody. No, not Moby, the big white boxer. This one is Brody, the Jack Russell mix on the other side of our house. Brody is full of personality, but he also doesn't like fences. He digs out as soon as his owner fixes it. Other neighbors have noticed him in the street or complained of having him in their yards.

So when Radar and I went out for our walk, Brody decided to join us. At first, he was on Radar's nerves, but I decided to fight my instinct to just go inside and hide and to press on. I didn't want to ring my neighbor's doorbell at 6:01 AM. I had returned him on Saturday, and Ben returned him on Sunday. We walked, then, to the top of our street, as that's the way Brody wanted to go. After all, he was our guest. Radar seemed to be getting along with him and kind of enjoying his company. But when Brody kept going astray, into people's yards, all I could do was to call and try to entice him back to our route. Eventually, he ended up eating from some tin foil on someone's porch and I knew if I waited it would be all day, so we went on and said goodbye. Just when I was thinking about what to say to Jane, our neighbor, I heard a horn honk behind us. A neighbor in a minivan was getting Brody out of the way so she could go to work. I redoubled my efforts to call him and got him headed home with us.

We walked up to Jane's house just as she was opening her garage door. She admitted that she's looking for a new home for Brody, as she can't handle his escapes. We would take him if we had the fence, but, sadly, we do not. He darted in and out of the garage, but Radar and I said goodbye and went on in the house.

Then, in the afternoon, my mom called, upset because her dog, Jesse, was very sick. The only reason she even called me was to ask me to cancel her dentist appointment, because she'd be going to the vet instead. We've known Jesse was ill for a while. He's lost a lot of weight, and the vet suspects cancer. He sent slides to the pathology lab in Auburn, but we hadn't heard the results yet. I've been thinking about him and worried, but when we saw him last, he was still chasing balls and acting pretty normal. When it started thundering and he wouldn't come inside, Mom knew something was wrong. That dog is terrified of storms.

Since I didn't know what else to do, I reached out. On Facebook, I asked for "Prayers, please." Within thirty seconds, my brother called and my best friend emailed to ask what was wrong. The support that technology affords is pretty amazing. I know that some people don't think that praying for animals is important, and I respect that. But I have prayed for Radar so many times and it has helped. So I asked my 354 friends to please take a moment and say a prayer.

I was asking for prayers for Jesse, but at first, with my non-specific request, I was also asking for prayers for the following things occupying space in my mind and heart at the moment:
1. For a healthy and safe remainder of the pregnancy for Liz (and Patrick). It was revealed that they are having a boy! We couldn't be happier.
2. For Dad's cousin Deb's husband Mac, who has had a brain hemorrhage. He is in intensive care.
3. For my friend Leigh-Anne's dad, who is recovering from pneumonia. He has COPD.
4. For recent victims of shooting violence, which seem to be everywhere from Alabama to Colorado to Wisconsin to Texas. 
5. For the Birmingham School System. The superintendent still has his job, but the children are beginning school on Monday. There are many things that are unknown, and I pray that we're given a patient and loving spirit to handle all of the miscommunications, mishaps, and misdirections. 
6. For stress at work - I'm part of a team competing for a multimillion dollar federal contract that, if we don't get, will cost several people their jobs.
7. For Ben's stress at work - lots of changes are taking place and he's so busy all the time.
8. For my grandmother, whose blood pressure is evidently out of whack.
9. For my grandfather, who is having sinus trouble.
10. For Anna June, starting school, who doesn't manage change well, and that she will wear her shoes and uniforms without incident.

At this time, I still haven't heard about Jesse. He had a seizure and the vet sedated him, and hopefully we'll know more this morning. Although we're trying to be optimistic, we're preparing ourselves for the worst. We've only told Anna June that he's very sick, which is all we know for sure. She loves playing ball with him and petting him. He's a gentle dog that will choose play over anything, including food. He was rescued by a friend who couldn't take him, so Dad said that he would. He's had a pretty good life, going on adventures with his brother Hank through Crestwood, and catching a lot of tennis balls. He could even get up to three in his mouth at once. He's been a great part of our family for many years. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Steel City Pops

Anna June had a busy Saturday, but her favorite part of the day was that we stopped at the Popsicle cart while we were out shopping. She got the last Raspberry-Lemon pop.


You can't tell from the picture, but these pops are much larger - and, in our opinion, much more delicious than your grocery store variety. I didn't get a picture of Ben's face, but it was pretty horrified, knowing that I had just spent a fortune replacing my broken iPhone, and then went on to spend $3 each on some pops. I got the creamier Peanut Butter pop - it was DIVINE, and I'm not just saying that because I've been trying to cut back on sweets lately.

You can read other rave reviews and see better pictures of Steel City Pops here, here and here.  And Laura Kate's brief review and endorsement is here.

We could have sold AJ's popsicle about ten times in the time it took to eat. They were also sold out of the evidently extremely popular Watermelon flavor. That cart was hopping!

After eating, AJ looked like she had been seriously injured with all the red drips running down her arm. If I carried her into the adjacent shops to ask for a restroom, I envisioned someone screaming to call 911. Instead, I spied Bath and Body Works. I knew for a fact they had a sink where one could try out their soaps right in the showroom, so we calmly walked in. "Look," I said to AJ, "This scent is called 'Cherry Blossom'" and I squirted it on her hands. When no one was looking, I rinsed her face off. We browsed around for a second or two, then headed out the door to our next errand. At least we got her un-sticky enough for Target.

Here, you can see us after the clean up, with legs and shirt still sticky but at least she didn't look wounded.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Funny

Anna June has finally learned to tell a joke. I saw one online and told it to her, and I'm sure it's going to be a household favorite:

"Why did the chicken cross the playground?"
"To get to the other slide!"

We were talking about telling time and I wanted her to take note that it was 8:00, and her bedtime. I asked if she could see the small hand on the 8 and the big hand on the 12. "The big hand is on the 5," she said. No, I told her, that's the second hand, and it goes tick, tick, tick each second, so that's not one of the two we're talking about. She said, "If that's the second hand, then where's the third hand?"

Crackup!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Some Tidbits

We all had kind of a strange day yesterday, Anna June included. She woke up and told us about a weird dream she had: Logan, her friend from the 4 year old class, was standing in the library in nothing but his underwear. We all laughed about how silly that was, but I'm going to go ahead and confess that it made her daddy uncomfortable that she's already dreaming about older men.

Her school day went fine, and she and her dad had dinner out at the Irondale McDonald's, where, since AJ ate a good dinner, was entitled to a strawberry sundae. She claimed this was her very first strawberry sundae, and kept proclaiming how "delicious" it was! When she says something is yummy, or thinks something is yummy, she will lick her lips in a circle. This is fine when she's just thinking about food, but when she is doing it with food in her mouth, it makes quite a mess.

Speaking of messes, Ms. Brenda told me this morning that when AJ came into school yesterday with a chocolate pop-tart, afterwards, she went to the bathroom. Then, as reported by AJ, AJ told herself when she looked in the mirror, "I TOTALLY have to wash my face! I have Pop-Tart ALL over it!" So at least when she's talking to herself, she makes sense and it is constructive.

AJ received her Blaze's Kid's Club shirt in the mail and is getting excited for football season, except the shirt, which is too big for her, is uncomfortable. It took a long time to get her ready, then, since she didn't really have another outfit prepared. Eventually, we did leave the house. With another chocolate Pop-Tart. Correction: Those were hot fudge sundae Pop-Tarts. When asked, she said they taste nothing like hot fudge sundaes.

And, anyway, I think she now prefers strawberry.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Play Date

This past Friday night, Anna June had a play date scheduled with her friend Julianne. We'd tried before to meet up at the zoo splash pad, but Julie's little sister was sick and it didn't work out. We planned to go to the zoo again, but then, suddenly, it was storming.

A change of plans brought us to Julie's house, and her quick-thinking mom had some paints and large easel paper. AJ and Julie painted with paints and brushes. This is what AJ ended up creating. It's too big to mail.

AJ has no concept of space, and she gets that from me. She painted her "A" first, but with no room, painted her "J" in front of it. She's not really June-Anna, and she didn't steal Julie Anne's paper, it's just her.

The kids also played with some toys, had some snacks and played Animal Bingo, which AJ loved the round she won and hated the round she lost.

I wish I had gotten pictures of the kids, but instead, a picture of the picture will have to do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waiting Out the Rain

Last night, Anna June and I attended our street's block party in honor of National Night Out. We made "refrigerator cookies" on Monday night, and AJ was really excited about taking them up there. She had been talking about it all day at school, and, as it turns out, her teacher Ms. Rita (who also lives in another part of our neighborhood) was hosting the block party on her street.

Then, it rained. It was pouring when I picked AJ up. There was a slight break in the rain when we got home, just long enough for me to take Radar outside. Then, it started raining again. My plan to help the hostess set up tables was foiled. We had nothing to do but wait.

While waiting, AJ wanted some snacks. We each had a cookie, of course. She also wanted a piece of candy (gum) and then she wanted Rainbow Goldfish. I dished her out a generous handful, and she got another one for herself. I was picking up around the kitchen, rotating artwork in the gallery and feeding the dog, etc. I looked over and she was playing with her goldfish, instructing them in something I couldn't make out. Then, she ate them by color, leaving only the orange ones. Before I knew it, she had lined them all up in a neat row. If she was bored, at least she was finding an interesting way to pass the time.

The rain was still coming down at 6:30 when the party was supposed to start. We called our hostess, and she said the grill was lit and ready; just wait a few minutes and it would pass over.

So we donned our rain jackets and grabbed our umbrellas. AJ put on her polka dot rain boots. We grabbed our chairs and the cookies and marked up the hill.

Slowly but surely, all the neighbors started to show up. Some drove up our monstrous hill. Some walked. Some brought dogs. I really hope someone took pictures for some kind of Crestwood brochure, because it was a truly diverse group: old, young, black, white, Asian, gay, straight, single, married, and of course, a kid. There are some other kids on our street now, but they are babies and their families were probably dealing with bedtimes as well as not braving a crowd, the rain, and our monstrous hill. AJ got the attention of everyone. She was shy at first, but ended up having conversations with grownups all over the cul-de-sac. She has plenty to talk about, as did I, since school is starting in less than two weeks! She also spent some time following Chip the chihuahua and Bremen the Yorkie mix. She politely thanked everyone who commented on her beautiful curls. She ate a hot dog and lots of other things, including a delicious fruit salad she raved about. (I don't really do fruit "salad" - I cut up fruit, or, more often, buy it already cut. I don't put any sauce or dressing on it, because I think fruit tastes great as-is and I don't like it getting mushy. AJ has no such qualms, it turns out. The sweeter the better.)

I honestly had a great time. We saw a former Altamont teacher, a new restaurant owner, and some police officers who came by to chat.

We left when it was definitely past AJ's bedtime and started getting dark. She carefully held my hand and took the inside next to the curb, as, she told me, that was safer.

Maybe next year the one-year-olds will venture out and come up the hill. Until then, we'll look forward to it, regardless.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not a Model

When we went shopping on Sunday, we found ourselves in Wal-Mart, where they seemed to have the largest selection of uniforms in Anna June's size in our neighborhood. I don't like Wal-Mart, but I also don't like driving out of Birmingham to buy clothes that Birmingham schools require. Why give our tax dollars to Homewood or Hoover? Sometimes it's necessary to go there, but since we had luck right here in Eastwood Village, we went back for more.

Ben opted not to go with us. However, he was in the market for some socks, and I saw some that he might like. I took a picture to text to him to make sure they would work, as the only thing worse than shopping at Wal-Mart is trying to make a return at Wal-Mart. AJ served as the reluctant model.



Unfortunately, he was asleep and didn't respond right away, so we went on and finished up our shopping. But I'm sure at some point, we'll have to go back. I always swear it off, and then I always go back.

On the subject of uniforms, we now have 6 appropriate school uniforms, in a variety of light blue, white and navy tops, with navy and khaki bottoms. We have jumpers, skorts, and one pair of shorts. Everything seems to have come with its own belt or equivalent, except the one pair of shorts. This will take us through until it starts to get cold. AJ swears she will not wear the long pants, so we'll be subbing long-sleeved shirts for the short-sleeved ones, and we'll find navy tights and keep on going.

We had already bought white socks, although it is questionable as to whether or not AJ will wear them. Even if she doesn't, I think we will be OK with ones we already have. Same for panties: we bought new ones in a bigger size, as I was noticing the little red elastic marks around her waist. But even if she doesn't go for the new ones (Rapunzel from Tangled, if you must know, size 6), we still have plenty of the old ones that will work.

And as for shoes, well, we tried these on at the Gymboree outlet on Sunday, and since their shoes run big, we saw that a 12 wasn't going to fit AJ. (She measured an 11.5 by the patient folks at Shoe Carnival.) So, since they weren't available online anymore, I have ordered them through eBay. They should arrive by next week, hopefully in time to get used to them before the first day. They buckle (not Velcro), which will take a tad longer, but I think she's up to the challenge. She liked them, at least, which was more than I could say for shoes everywhere else. The athletic type shoes, or shoes with enough padding for me to feel like they'd be suitable for running, made her feel, she said, "like a rocking horse." Sigh.

Technically, though, now she'll have a pair of brown, black, white and then navy shoes that will fit her, plus two pairs of tennis shoes. Even if she only wears the navy ones, I will be happy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Oh, What a Night!

Anna June had a great day on Saturday. It started out with a play date at the Gardendale Splash Pad and ended with spending time with Nana and Granddaddy. While their night included watching the Olympics and a steak dinner, our date night was not as much fun.

It all started on Thursday, when I sent Ben an email asking if he'd like to go with me to the movies and dinner on Saturday night. Mom and Dad had offered to keep AJ. I figured if I planned ahead enough, we would maybe get to go on a real date as opposed to a drive-through + grocery store kind of date.

Complicating the equation, I wanted to go to the movies at the Rave Vestavia, as we had Rave gift cards that someone gave us for Christmas 2010. We've been to the movies since then, but not at that theater. So, I narrowed my search. I knew the date, the theater, and the approximate time.

I settled on Moonrise Kingdom. We've seen several of Wes Anderson's films, and they're all quirky character studies, as Ben put it. They have some memorable characters, and Anderson likes to use some of the same actors. He managed to make a movie without either Owen or Luke Wilson, somehow, but it still worked.

I didn't read much about it. I knew I'd probably like it.

I KNOW that I pulled the drop-down menu to Saturday. I know I selected the right theater. I determined the 5:30 start time would work better than the 7:40 one, so I decided we'd go to the earlier show, snack on popcorn and eat dinner afterwards. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

After nap time, it took some convincing. A lot of convincing. But we ended up taking AJ on a tedious uniform/shoe shopping expedition. She clearly did not want to be there, and, in retrospect, we could have skipped it. Ben thought we were going to the movies by our house, but we were not. We'd be rushed.

We dropped AJ by Mom and Dad's, then ran back to the house, because I'd forgotten the gift cards. Then, we raced down the highway. I parked in an inconvenient place. And I had to go back to the car for the gift cards. Finally, we arrived at the theater around 5:20. Whew, I thought.

The ticket taker said that the time was no longer on the board because it had already "started," but the actual movie would not begin for another five minutes. Just enough time to get popcorn, we thought. So we scooted inside.

We bought a medium popcorn to share, a large soda for Ben, and a GIANT bottle of water for me. The water cost five bucks. I swear I'm not a cheapskate, but I think it's a problem when establishments won't hand out (much less sell) tap water. Really - they're going on my list.

We get to the theater, only to see on the marquee next to the name of the movie that the showtime was 4:50. This means, with a generous 10 minutes of previews, that the movie had started at 5. So we missed the first HALF HOUR. I was furious. And a little lost.

The last hour of the movie was fantastic. It was beautiful, well-written and had plenty of charm. The two young actors were convincing as their wise-beyond-their-years characters, and I loved the script. It had some hilarious moments that we related to as parents.

I should have gone to the manager and explained the situation, asking to at least sit through the beginning of the next screening, if not get passes to another free movie. But I got really stressed out, because I had no proof. I had no recourse. Ben hadn't even heard what the ticket taker said. And we didn't really have time to stay.

Yes, these are our actual ticket stubs. No, we did not see Ted, although we hear it is really funny. We were nowhere near the theater at 11:55 AM. This place is just screwy.


 

It would not be a spoiler to tell you that weather plays a major role in Moonrise Kingdom, and when we left the theater, it was a torrential downpour. When we went in, there was not a cloud in the sky, so I hadn't thought to put an umbrella in my purse. Ben offered to go get the car, but I decided I'd go with him and make a run for it.

We scurried from the theater to Zoe's for a light dinner, soaked. Not wanting to rely on the giant bottle of water in my hand, I asked if they still carried decaf iced tea. The girl at the counter said no. So I decided to stick with my Dasani. I went to grab some napkins to dry off with, and there I saw the urn labeled "hibiscus iced tea. Unsweet. Decaf." Ben went back to tell the girl and she gave me a cup for the tea, for free. This drink situation was better than Ben's, as their cool drink machine had no ice and was out of nearly everything.

We left there and, at the last minute, decided to make a quick stop on the way to pick up AJ, picking up a beer appropriately named La Fin Du Monde (The End of the World). Then it was after AJ's bedtime and she still had to be bathed, etc. Her refusal to put her shoes back on and subsequent time out only delayed our departure. We did not have time to even drink the beer this weekend!

I maintain that spending time alone with one's husband is even more necessary when the couple has children than it was before. Date nights, of course, are often the highlight of our week, regardless of how much fun we have with Anna June. Next time, though, it's his turn to plan. After all, he couldn't do worse.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dressing Room

Anna June claims to hate the uniforms, but this is a picture I snapped in the dressing room yesterday. She didn't like that the shirt was actually long enough for her. "It comes down to my panties," she wailed. I told her she'd grow and it would shrink. She's so tall she's used to shirts hitting her at the waist.

Regardless, she's still cute.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Round 1

Today did not go as planned. We did have a nice play date and a good nap, but it was all downhill from there.

Ben and I had a memorable - but not good date night. I'll tell you about it when I get back to a real keyboard.

Before that, AJ melted down in public over our first tax-free weekend shopping excursion. She hated all the uniforms, although we bought her one anyway. She didn't like any of the shoes, so we never even tried them on!

We explained how she HAS to wear shoes and the ones she's worn lately have been too small, worn out, or inappropriate for school. Sorry, but rain boots and flip-flops are not cutting it. I explained how her feet are growing and she must get new shoes to accommodate them. Still - tears. Fussing. Stubbornness.

We'll go back out for round 2 tomorrow. Here's hoping for a better mood.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Creativity

I'm not sure if it is just maturity or if it is her new afternoon teacher, but Anna June seems to be exhibiting a little more creativity in her artwork.

While I don't know why this picture of lady sipping tea equates to Little Miss Muffet, I guess the kids were asked to add their own spider to make it look more like the story or something. Regardless, you can tell it is a spider, since it has eight legs. And I don't know if she's been looking closely at spiders or what, but there's a touch of green in there on the spider.

Furthermore, in this picture, AJ has colored in the lines, mostly, in her usual way, but there was something I noticed about this lady: her skirt was striped. The lines printed on the picture have stripes on the top but not on the bottom. AJ added these all by herself. Again, I don't know how much credit to give the teacher, but I'm pretty sure she thought that up alone.

I honestly will not be surprised if she ends up designing clothes.

Today she dressed in all white, except for her pink Crocs, at her own inexplicable insistence. It perfectly offset the cherry pastry filling all over her back, arms and feet.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

All Her Own

Anna June put on her leopard-print shoes this morning without incident, just so you know. Different day, I guess. 

This is what she wore on Sunday to Aunt Connie's birthday party. She knows how to make an impression!

She has a style all her own. I have a feeling her foray into uniform wearing will remind me of this:


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

0 Days Since Last Meltdown

While last week was characterized by extremely good behavior by Anna June, this week has not been as successful. Maybe it's because we're busier, or because she's more exhausted, but one way or the other, Anna June has been living in Meltdown City.

Monday night, it was that her ankle hurt and I gave her the wrong kind of ice pack.

Last night, there weren't many meltdowns per se, but there were about 15 instances of getting out of bed and telling me things that were completely unnecessary, like, "my blanket got in my mouth." Last week, we avoided this with a sticker chart. Now that she has her reward, she decided she didn't want a sticker chart this week, as it is just "too hard."

This morning, there was a meltdown over a cheap Barbie band-aid that would not stick as well as she wanted. She didn't even need a band-aid. She did have a legitimate boo-boo a few nights ago, and did actually bleed and need one then, but since then it has been fine. She wanted to put on an all-pink band-aid, to impress her friend Maddie, who loves all pink things. I was OK with it until she couldn't get it just exactly right. This is what I get for buying things at Dollar Tree, I said. I promised I would not buy anymore, but explained that the reason I didn't want to buy the more expensive character band-aids was that she goes through them like water, and I'm afraid that when she has a real need for one, they'll be gone. She did not care for this explanation.

Then, there were the shoes.

Yesterday was supposed to be water day, but was rained out by some severe storms in our area. Since it was actually raining when we went into school, I let AJ wear her rain boots (similar to these) with the caveat that she change into her more athletic shoes when it was time for gym or the playground. The teacher agreed to this.

But then the teacher forgot. AJ tromped home in her rain boots, and she explained as soon as I saw them on her feet that they had conveniently forgotten.

This morning, AJ asked where her leopard-print shoes were. I told her they were still in her backpack at school. I told her she could just wear the rain boots again and then change into the shoes when she got to school. Ben told me this was a disaster waiting to happen, as they may "forget" again. I declared I would have AJ change into her suitable shoes when we arrived at school.

It could have been because she was still upset about the band-aid, but when we got to school, she was not happy about changing into her shoes. At all. I gave her the option of changing into her OTHER tennis shoes (similar to these), which are in her just-in-case bag at school, but she wouldn't have those, either. We finally settled back on the leopard print ones, and, she was absolutely screaming and in tears over them. I dropped her off in Ms. Brenda's lap and had to PRY her off me. It was pitiful.

We do plan to go shoe shopping this weekend, to get ready for school - which starts in 20 days! Since we tossed the winter boots (finally!) this weekend, I kind of knew this was coming. I hope that we can find something suitable.