Friday, November 30, 2012


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

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

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

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

I know phonics & how to read

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

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

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

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

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

String beads
Trace a straight line accurately

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Big Girl Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28. Naps, when they happen.

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brainwashing, But in a Good Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Have Been Asked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She has been pretty good, after all...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simple Fun

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

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

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

I will report further adventures!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

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

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

I hope your day was as great as ours was!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Very Pinteresting

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, November 19, 2012

Shower Time

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

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

Connie made the punch and everything else.

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Downtown Girl

Anna June wanted to see the new Clifford the Big Red Dog exhibit at the McWane Center today, so we focused our attention on that. After a great time, we were eating lunch, and AJ declared she wanted peanuts from Peanut Depot, so we left in just enough time to get there before it closed.

After running to get my car (new front tires), we did some things at the house, including playing with sidewalk chalk. It came time to walk Radar and where did AJ want to go? Back downtown to Railroad Park!

It's been a lovely day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Calm in the Storm

Anna June is being extra good today.

I don't know why, except we're reading her Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and in last night's chapter, Ramona and her sister decide they may get out of trouble with their parents by being extra good.

She got up early, got dressed and ready to go, was exceptionally helpful and played quietly when she was done.

It is a good thing, because I'm a little freaked out this morning.

Last night, I ended up working late. It was because I hadn't turned in some reports on their due date on Wednesday, and got what one of my faculty members likes to call a "nasty-gram" email from my supervisor. I know that I deserved it, but in the past little bit I've had a dentist appointment, AJ's sick day, a PTA meeting that I skipped to get work done, Thanksgiving lunch at AJ's school, a meeting I had to skip to drive one of my single faculty members home because she got sick at work and didn't feel safe to drive, a Benevolent Fund seminar where I was asked to give an impromptu pitch (with broccoli in my teeth) and other various reasons for not being at my desk.

After I finally left the office, I made my way to my parents' house, where everyone was eating tacos. It was nice to have a dinner I didn't have to cook or obtain, and nice to see my family. Cold beer didn't hurt, either, honestly. I am truly grateful to Ben for being able and willing to pick up AJ, pay her after school care, take the dog out, and take AJ to see her grandparents like I had planned.  He also ended up driving my granddad home and helping mom move some things out of her car. After we got home, Ben did her bath and even her hair while I did some other things, like run an errand and play with Radar.  Annie and Gary, it's a fine man you raised, and I don't know what I'd do without him.

Ben has a potluck lunch today, and I had volunteered to make broccoli salad for the event. After we put AJ to bed, I went to cooking bacon and chopping broccoli. By the way, every time I make broccoli salad, which is by now my signature dish, I think of Dana Carvey and his ballad spoof, Choppin Broccoli.

And then some insomnia struck, so when I finally needed to get up, I couldn't. A little bit of panic set in at all that I had to do, most of which I usually prepare the night before. And then there was the splitting headache.

First, I had to iron AJ's uniform. Usually, I do all the washing and ironing on Sunday nights, but this week, with the holiday on Monday, I gave myself the night off. Big mistake! I've been meaning to catch up all week, but have been ironing daily instead. I tried to sneak into AJ's room to hang it up, but I think that's what woke her up.

And there was Radar to take out. I was a little worried, since he ate half of a grease-soaked paper towel last night, but I couldn't blame him. I would have probably eaten a paper towel soaked in bacon grease, too.

Then, I had to sign AJ's folder, indicating I saw that her behavior yesterday was good. This was a relief, after Tuesday. But in her folder were several papers, one of which requested our preferences what to bring for the Thanksgiving meal the class will have on Tuesday. AJ requested sweet potato casserole as her first choice, canned cranberry sauce as her second, and pumpkin pie as her third. More cooking!

Then, today was the deadline for ordering her holiday pictures. We had a hard time deciding the packages and the background and whether or not to order the copyright release. Basically, I mentally respect copyrights, but not in practice - I just had to scan this to show it off. I love her Christmas dress that I found at a consignment store for less than $8! It is perfect for this, and there are no snaps, zippers, buttons, or sashes, and it is not drip dry or dry clean. Hooray!

So I signed the folder, wrote the check, made the food preferences, and then, oh, yeah, today's the day AJ's class is going to the book fair. AJ went yesterday and picked out 6 books she wanted. We had to narrow it down to three, in hopes that Santa will bring the others. We sent cash and a note with her preferences. I told Mrs. D it was fine if she wanted to change her mind, but she selected SilverliciousThere's a Fly Guy in My Soup, and
Barbie: The Princess and the Pop Star - Best Friends Rock. I told Mrs. D. that we decided to skip our normal Scholastic order (also due today) since AJ was buying things at the book fair. This solution was also, in part, that I had moved the Scholastic order form somewhere inconvenient and couldn't locate it at the moment.

And then there was a snack to pack: applesauce, which, luckily, we had. And vitamins to take. At some point I showered and dressed, mad that I had to wash my hair and waste precious seconds in the shower.

And then I had to shove the Christmas dress, tights, and headband into her backpack, because she'll need to dress at After-School Care for the Christmas Tree Lighting we're going to in Forest Park Village tonight. Normally, I'm opposed to anything Christmas-y before Thanksgiving, but the merchants of Forest Park already have established the Third Fridays as big event nights, and if they wait until the third Friday in December, they'll miss most of the shopping season. The children from Avondale are performing at 6:00 or 6:15, and they're supposed to be there by 5:45, dressed warmly in Christmas colors. Many of the merchants will also be selling holiday cards with artwork designed by Avondale students, which will benefit our PTA.  (You can also buy them online!)

And it was trash day (Ben to the rescue again). AJ helped me pull all the small trash bags and replace the liners.

We texted the yard man and left his check- by the way, I am thinking of calling him our gardener, because it sounds more sophisticated, but in the South, we have yard men. He needs to come once more before the winter to cut grass and trim the bush that keeps attacking my car on the driveway.

Ben's comment, "Wow! 'Real' school sure does have a lot of stuff that comes with it!" Exactly.

I never got good marks in "uses time wisely." AJ doesn't, either, but how can I fault her?

This morning, though, she was a gem. She did everything I asked, cheerfully and without complaining. She did her own hair and brushed her own teeth, getting dressed including shoes and a sweatshirt without a peep. She went and fetched, she toted, she minded. It was blissful. She was, like I said, extra good, and this was the calm in my storm.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cutie Patootie

Anna June is a typical kid in a lot of ways. Right now, she thinks everything having to do with underwear or farting is hilarious.

Last night she actually was talking to her own butt, asking it to become "un-fart-able." I asked what that meant and she told me she wanted it to stop farting.

She also drew a picture on her chalkboard: underpants. She asked how to spell underpants, stinky, and P.U. (pee-yew? I don't even know.)

This phase is really funny, but I hope she learns to be ladylike in public with it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Making it Work

Anna June has a great example of a hard worker in her Dad.

Right now, work is tough. Ten on a scale of 1-10, he says. (Mine has been rough lately, but not in comparison.)

AJ had a terrible day, too, exhibiting bad behavior at school and not getting a sticker at the end of the day.

We retreated to Chick-Fil-a for dinner, seeking comfort in MSG-laden chicken.

We arrived and found AJ's friend Dorothy. AJ asked Dorothy if she'd like to play on the playground after dinner. Two things to note: AJ asked the other kid to play (this has been an issue at school - AJ would accept, but not make, offers to play) and she said "after dinner" implying that she knew the rules.

The girls played and played. I got a chance to ask Dorothy about what happened at lunch, when the co-conspirators were caught playing with the wrapper from AJ's juice box straw instead of exhibiting good lunchroom etiquette. AJ's story matched Dory's : they were playing, and they got in trouble.

While the partners in crime ran off some frustration in the indoor playground, Ben and I talked about work, a subject that usually bores AJ. It was good to watch them have fun while we talked over things that are decidedly not fun.

We're hanging in there. We're making it work. We're taking it one day at a time.

Here's hoping today will be better, with no notes from school and no headaches at work.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Death of the Nap

Let us pause for a minute to remember our best friend, Anna June's nap time. Sadly, she took her last one yesterday.

AJ has never liked napping (or sleeping of any kind, for that matter). Nap time has evolved to "quiet time", where we hope she'll drift off to sleep. Even quiet time is often a fight. On Saturday, I badly needed a nap, and she kept asking me if her quiet time was up and poking me to wake me up. To be honest, I had to leave her with her daddy while I ran a couple of errands to just get away for a few minutes. I love her, but in my not-quite-asleep coma, the pokes in the face were not well-taken.

Yesterday, AJ was out of school for Veterans' Day. Since the bank was also closed, Ben stayed with her most of the day, with my mom keeping her while he went to the dentist. After that, the pair decided to go bowling, shopping, and out to lunch.

When they returned from their outing, they were very tired, so they napped for a couple of hours. At first, we thought this was a good idea.

Then, it was bedtime.

We bathed AJ, got her ready for bed, had family story time and got her in bed on time: 8:00 sharp. This never happens.

We were excited that, with her in bed, we could focus on paying some bills and folding some laundry. We got done, and it was 9:45. Surely, she was asleep. NOPE. Still awake. Still fussy. We tried everything: music, talking to her, loveys, etc.

I have no idea what time she finally drifted off, but it was probably after we did.

This morning, she was fussy and irritable. Tights weren't working for her, and neither was her pants/socks combo. She hated everything, from the way I brushed her teeth to the potential snacks for her lunch box.

Based on bedtime's late arrival, we had already decided that yesterday's nap would be her last. But this morning's tantrums sealed the deal.

We'll try to shoot for earlier bedtimes on non-school days, and just hope that she actually rests during rest time at school so she can make it to 8:00. I know lots of kids who've already given up their naps by AJ's age, but since she stays up so late (sort of by our choice, since we don't get to see her much during the day), we decided to keep trying. She so obviously needed them.

But at this point, it is no longer worth the fight. We'd rather have her a little fussy in the afternoons and then actually go to sleep at bedtime - even if she puts up a fight - rather than to have her lie awake for 2 hours and get our day off to a rotten start.

Goodbye, nap. We will miss you. May you rest in peace.

(Sorry, that was terrible.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Doll

Anna June wore a new dress to Aunt Liz's baby shower on Sunday. Her cheeks looked a little red, although she didn't feel warm to me. I asked if she felt hot, and she said she did. It was a warm and beautiful day, after all.

I suggested that she go change into a t-shirt and shorts, as we'd decided to stay home the rest of the night. Dinner was almost ready, so I went to check on her.

She had pulled out the blue smocked dress I had been trying to get her to wear for months. Once, in a weak moment of wardrobe negotiations, I offered to pay her if she'd wear it. Of course, she refused.

I told AJ that I didn't think this dress was the best choice to wear for dinner. Visions of chili stains danced in my head. But then she reminded me I had promised to pay her if she wore it. I explained how I'd be happier if she planned to wear it out of the house, but I sighed and buttoned it up for her.

Since I wasn't sure I'd get her in it again, I snapped a picture. She told me I should put it on Facebook, so I did. She then told me she hated the picture and, "You are bad at photography." You can't argue with that sort of informed opinion.

She ended up liking the dress, because it made her look like the character Madeline, even without her straw hat. Ben said it made her look like she was in Little House on the Prairie. Our neighbor said it reminded her of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Our friend said she looked like a doll, or a character from vintage Little Golden Books. I was just glad she wore something with buttons and (mainly) smocking, which is likely handmade, and therefore special. She like it because the skirt twirled.

She played "Madeline" with her dolls until it was time for a bath,

I will now start scraping up change to pay up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lucky Charm

Anna June wore this awesome outfit yesterday. It was hand made by Aunt Beth's mom, Cheryl. We are blown away by how well it fits, how great it looks, and how special it is.

While none of us actually went to the game, AJ's granddaddy wants her to wear it every time UAB plays - they won yesterday!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Boyfriend

On Thursday, Anna June had her first suitor.

Trey, a young lad from her class, informed her that she was his girlfriend. It was such a big deal to Trey that he told his big (8 year old) sister, Sophie. Their mom, Christine, reported it to me via facebook.

So the couple is, of course, "facebook official."

I emailed this information to Ben, who did not immediately have a heart attack.

At dinner, we asked Anna June about it.

"Anna June, do you have a boyfriend?"
"Well, this afternoon, Trey said I was his girlfriend."
"How did that make you feel?"
"It made me feel silly."
"OK. Well, if you don't want to be his girlfriend you can just tell him that your parents said you're too young to have a boyfriend," I said. I thought putting the blame on us could get her out of an awkward social situation.
"I know. You've already told me that," she reminded us.
I mentioned that we would probably still think she was too young, even if she was thirty.
 "You aren't allowed to have a boyfriend until after I'm dead," Ben declared. 

Later that evening, Anna June was in the bathroom and called out for her dad.

I mentioned he was in the other room, and I asked what she wanted.

"I just wanted to ask him when he is going to die," she said.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Halloween Part 2: Trick or Treating

I posted the other day about Anna June's Halloween costume. Now I want to talk about what we actually did on Halloween night.

First of all, I got off work early, as it happened, because Ben and I refinanced our house, and we closed that day. (Let the people all say, "hallelujah!")

So, I picked up AJ from After-School Care, and she had a bunch of candy with her from her classroom. The teachers and other parents assembled goodie bags for the children. Our school was "focusing on academics" on 10/31, so no one wore costumes or had parties, but the day was still marked with candy and other assorted treats. Very fun and cute.

We went home, had a hot dog, and got her in her costume. We were just getting ready to leave when three trick-or-treaters showed up at our door. We had Batman, a fairy, and something else I couldn't discern under his coat (it was cold)! After that, we set the bowl of candy outside and ventured out on our planned route.

Because our hill is very steep, and because we have so few children in our neighborhood, many years we don't have any trick-or-treaters. This year, I decided to let our neighbors know we were coming, so we wouldn't end up with random pudding cups or other treats that let us know they weren't really anticipating us (like we got last year). I went on our group, a social neighborhood network, and announced AJ would be trick-or-treating. The response was outstanding.

First to write in was Aunt Connie, saying she'd already talked to AJ and AJ wanted M&Ms. Our next door neighbor, Matt, was worried he wouldn't be home in time so I assured him we'd go uphill first and end up at his house. We are glad we did. Matt had made homemade haystacks (just for AJ!) and also gotten her two jewelry making kits. She was over the moon. Meanwhile, our neighbors down the street knew they'd be at their church's trunk-or-treat event, so they not only left a bowl of candy on the porch for all trick-or-treating kids but they also left a special package for AJ with her name on it. She got a glow stick and some other neat candy. Other neighbors had packages made up, and some singled out the best treats for her. Our neighbor Stella said she'd been waiting for AJ. She dumped her whole bowl of fruit snacks into AJ's pumpkin and said she was turning off the light when we left. Sandy up the street dressed up as a mad scientist and had special fruit roll-ups for our Little Bo Peep.

I really wasn't intending such a big deal. Of course, there were some surprises. There were at least two houses where we rang the bell and got an, "Oh, sorry, we're not handing anything out this year." And of course a few people didn't answer. But mostly, AJ was a big deal.

We also got a birthday party invitation to the first birthday of the twins across the street, Gabriela and Charlotte. That's another post, all by itself.

I wasn't anticipating that my mom's neighbor would beg us to come down, or the guy who works for Red Diamond coffee would ask us to stop at his house (free coffee samples in addition to vending machine treats!)

It took us over 2 hours to hit up all the stops, and we didn't even make it to Crestwood Blvd, where our presence was also requested.

We did have a great time, though.

By the end of the night, AJ was Little Bo Pooped.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Winning Graciously.

Anna June has been following the Presidential race, as it's been a hot topic around our house. Since this is my blog, I don't mind sharing that I supported the President's re-election.

Ben shared this clip from The Simpsons, though, and AJ and I saw it. Take a moment. Laugh. It's funny.

Since seeing it, AJ has been giggling over "Ba-roccoli Obama" and "Meat Romney." She says "Rom-uh-nee." It's pretty hilarious, actually.

But on election day, I wanted AJ to understand about winning graciously.

First of all, a big thanks to Nana for watching AJ with her pinkeye while I took a walk and voted on each separate of the 11 Alabama Consitutional Amendments in addition to a bunch of judicial races and, oh yeah, the President. There was no line in the middle of the day when I went, but I heard it was busy early and late.

Anyway, on our way home from voting, AJ was asking about the election, and I told her we wouldn't know who won for a while.

I also said that whoever wins worked very hard to get that job, and both guys were really smart and would be a good leader of our country.

She mentioned that whoever won would probably still tell a lot of jokes.

I told her that was true, and it was also true that jokes would be told about him. As I told Anna June, we are very blessed to live in a country where we can say silly things about our leader and not get in trouble - just one of the many freedoms we have that some others do not enjoy.

When she woke up on 11/7, I was happy to tell her though, that President Obama got to keep his office for 4 more years and that also Angus' uncle Jim won his judgeship. So in our immediate life, things are pretty good.

I'm sure I can't spare her from the nastiness of partisan politics forever. But I wanted to teach her that winners should be gracious and that people can work together to get things done, no matter who we supported in the race.

I hoped the message soaked in.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Anna June has some strange parents. In Alabama we stand out: we do not believe in hunting, we are not huge college football fans (not saying we don't like it, but we don't bleed crimson or orange), we didn't shy away from living in the city, and we don't have cable. That's right. No cable TV.

We do have Netflix streaming, and we can watch many cable shows on demand. But we don't really get the Disney channel.

Evidently, this has stunted AJ's social growth. She knows Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy, but she's not a devotee. Kids her age report their favorite shows that we've never even heard of, much less tried.

A friend told her last year about Disney on Ice. She asked me if she could go this year, so I agreed.

Eventually, I got the tickets - at a discount - Thanks BJCC for your offer to Birmingham City Schools students!

We saw one of the shows now touring -  Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove. The show was extremely well done. The skating was superb. The choreography was interesting. The costumes were colorful. The show was exciting and moved from story to story in short time, keeping the attention of little ones. The crowd was really into it, many little girls having dressed as princesses. AJ opted for a church-appropriate new sundress with a sweater to go over it. We had to hustle to make sure we got to church, lunch and the matinee in time.

They did scenes from movies that AJ hasn't even watched yet: The Incredibles, Alice in Wonderland (she's seen all but the end), The Lion King, Snow White, Peter Pan. I haven't let her watch some of these films because she'd be too scared, but maybe now she's old enough. Who knows until we try, right? (Hint: DVDs as gift ideas?) There were some familiar favorites, though: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and at the end Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella made an appearance. She has seen Tangled and The Prince and the Frog, but I haven't.

But as someone who can't even say Disney correctly, ("Dis-uh-nee," she calls it) AJ was only moderately impressed.

Actually, she said she loved it. She got us to buy her a souvenir light-up cup containing a red snow-cone. I won't pay for cable, but I will pay for Tide Pods - the red came right out of her white sweater! And I have already broken the light up cup - I washed it and now it won't turn off. Sigh.

I am not sure we'll go back next year. Honestly, I am sure Ben will not return. The crowds, the little girl kicking the seat behind him, the exorbitantly priced concessions and parking, and the fact that he's not that big of a Disney fan, either, will keep him home.

I asked if AJ wanted to go next year. She said, that no, she'd rather just go to Disney World.

I think we may have a convert on our hands.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sick Day, or Live Blogging from the Bathroom

Note: this failed to post this morning. Read as if it's 11 AM.

Anna June woke up at 2 or 3 AM and cried, "I can't open my eyes!" With all the gunk and subsequent lack of sleep (for me), I decided to go ahead and call it pinkeye and declare a sick day.

We called the pediatrician, who doesn't want to see her, but is calling something in.

Of course, she feels fine. We've already colored a picture done all the dot-to-dots in several activity books and watched the beginning of a movie. By 9:30, AJ asked to make a craft.

Luckily, I have several ideas. She rejected many, but when I showed her the bathtub paints from Pinterest, (, she was sold.

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but haven't had a time when AJ could spend an hour in the bath. Today, though, it seemed like a good idea.

AJ loved the mixing. I loved that we had all the ingredients: corn starch, baby shampoo, food coloring, and water.

She is still in the tub, with no signs of losing interest. "This is so fun," she just said. It has been over 40 minutes, and she's having a blast covering the tub with colored, bubbly paint and then erasing with various things.

Since AJ is not big enough to be trusted solo in the tub, I have been in here with her, thinking of all I should be doing, including blogging. So I decided to do it now while I have time, though the messy activity isn't yet finished.

I bet you've never had anyone live blog your bath, right?

Here are some pictures I managed to take.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween: The Costume

I've gotten a lot of questions about how Anna June's Halloween went. In a word: fine!

While I really like Halloween, we were all preoccupied with other happenings in our lives, so planning for it was almost an afterthought.

Actually, AJ had several different ideas about her costume, and, from experience, I was afraid it was going to happen like this - despite her best ideas and intentions, she'd hate all of them the night before Halloween.

First, she wanted to be a ghost. A traditional, white sheet ghost. We went to the thrift store and bought a full-size white sheet "as-is" for 99 cents. I drew the eyes, nose and mouth and cut them out. I guess that AJ had not anticipated how a sheet would actually feel on her body. She hated it and it lasted 30 seconds.

After the craft bazaar and the acquisition of butterfly wings, we hoped AJ would be a butterfly. She has a leotard and tights, and I thought the wings and a couple of pipe cleaners on a headband for antennae would be perfect. AJ, of course, did not like the way my antennae looked. Therefore, she did NOT want to be a butterfly.

So, on October 30, we were at a crossroads. We could dig deeper into the dress up box and our creativity, or we could go store-bought. The only problem with buying a costume, of course, was that the costumes were all picked over. If we shopped at Party City, we envisioned a mob scene of procrastinating moms and exhausted, bratty kids. If we went down to Wal-Mart, we suspected we'd be in line for an hour. So we went with K-Mart, which, thank goodness, is still in our neighborhood.

At K-Mart, they had all the Halloween costumes right up front. And there weren't very many. In fact, in AJ's size, there were just two. The K-Mart line of Halloween costumes, Totally Ghoul, is terrible. They had "wicked" everything, even for children. I was pretty upset. But one of the two choices was one that AJ liked:  "Wicked Bo Peep." Luckily, she can't read yet, so she didn't know the "Wicked" part. It was half off. We bought it.

I decided it needed some help in the un-wicked-ing department, so I proclaimed that Little Bo Peep would need a shepherdess crook to go along with her outfit. I cut one out of cardboard, and Ben wrapped it in ribbon to add a decorative touch.

I had once seen a Bo Peep costume with little lambs attached to the back, and I dug in AJ's closet until I found her little lamb rattle stuffed animal. I tucked this into the sash at the back of her dress, and instructed AJ to ask, "Where are my sheep?" while turning around. Not surprisingly, she is a good actress.

I also made a "Lost Sheep" flyer, but in the end, with the crook and the candy bucket, it would have been too much to carry.

I had to assist her with the fingerless gloves and the sash/sheep combo, but she did everything else herself, including her makeup.

Here are the pictures I have of the night. I will post later about our trick-or-treating adventures and goodies.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sometimes We Wonder

Anna June is getting a great education, and she's working very hard at learning to read. I have no doubt she will be more successful than our local K-Mart employees. We spotted this travesty the day before Halloween.

We wonder what swim googles are. Will internet searching make one a better swimmer? And also, who is mark? And what is his price? We can guess that would determine the price of the swim googles.


Pumpkin Patch, Part II

Here are some more pictures from my real camera from Anna June's trip to the Pumpkin Patch.