Friday, August 30, 2013

Late Report: Vacation Bible School

As I sort of mentioned before, during the first week of summer vacation, Anna June attended Vacation Bible School at Avondale Methodist Church. She had a wonderful time. The pastor there is the treasurer of our PTA, and his little boy is a grade ahead of Anna June.

A bunch of her friends joined her in this free, half-day summer activity. I was so thrilled that she'd get to participate in VBS, as it was just about my favorite thing ever when I was a child. I looked forward to it every year, and, when I outgrew it, I looked forward to serving however I could, song leader, snack server, baby diaper changer, etc. Our church has grown too small to have a VBS of its own, so we were glad AJ could go somewhere where she had many friends. She learned a lot and I am glad that she had such a good experience.

Here's the video of the closing program. AJ is towards the bottom on the left. She was not exactly singing, but she did the motions.

VBS program Avondale Methodist Church from SRG on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Remember Anna June's patriotic Arts Night program? Yeah, me, neither.

I found some video on my phone and needed to make room, so I'll be posting these as I get to them.

Here's some song I had never heard of using the older kids on the instruments. Enjoy. And ignore the parental singing.

School program from SRG on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fairy Tale Ball

On Saturday, August 24, we attended The Fairy Tale Ball, benefiting Childcare Resources. Our friends gave us the tickets they couldn't use, so we were thrilled.

Preparing for the ball itself basically took 24 hours. First, AJ and I went to Collage consignment boutique in Vestavia on Friday night, where we found a cocktail dress for me to wear. The salesgirl was very helpful and actually found the dress for me. She gave her honest opinion about what looked best on me, and it worked out great.

Then I took AJ on Saturday morning to Vestavia Nails. This was her first professional manicure and pedicure. I chose this place because I knew they had kid chairs. She chose a robin's egg blue for her fingers and gold for her toes. I went with pink and pink. That took a while, since I'm pretty sure that was the first professional nail treatment I had since the week before AJ was born. As predicted, she loved it, and it wasn't even a whole day before she asked to go back.

We went to look for Ben some new dress shoes. He found a pair at Burlington Coat Factory and also found a new tie on clearance for $1.98! What a great shopper.

Then, we had to go get AJ's Belle costume from the last place she'd been seen with it - Nana's house. 

Then I needed a nap. AJ chose not to partake.

After showers and baths, it was almost time to go. It took us a while to get the accessories right. And remember the tickets. Leaving, for us, takes a while.

I can see why Cinderella's fairy godmother took care of all this stuff.

We arrived at the ball to realize this was worth the wait!

A balloon arch greeted us. A mad hatter station sat to our left where kids could decorate their own hats. Alice and the White Rabbit wandered around, while kids climbed on the larger-than-life mushrooms.
Inside, there was a magical world waiting. Jugglers on stilts walked through the crowd. Balloon shapers made wild creations.
Characters in vignettes from their stories met the kids. There was Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the Fairy Godmother. Then Ariel and Ursula. Pirates with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Aladdin and Jasmine (who sang!)

Star Wars. Indiana Jones. 

Near Hansel and Gretel's house, there was a "candy bar" for the kids to fill up bags of candy. There was tons of food and a bar for the grown ups. There was a giant Lite Brite to play with.

 Giant screens showed Disney movies. The cover band Nationwide Coverage kept us all dancing.

We saw many friends, including AJ's friend Guthrie. In hopes of getting Ben to myself for a dance, I got AJ to ask Guthrie to dance. They were so cute we had to just take pictures of them instead of actually dancing.
(This photo courtesy Chris Holmes, Guthrie's dad)

But later, we danced and AJ photographed us.

We also visited the professional photo booth and the caricature artists. Although AJ was overwhelmed by the people and number of things to do at first. 

But in the end, she didn't want to leave. 
Our neighbor works for Childcare Resources, and she's been trying to get us to go for years. I stand by my decision that until now, she was too young. But I think she was just the right age to have a really fun night.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not As Bad as I Feel

I mentioned Anna June being left behind at school. One post can't do it justice, so here is more.

When I was in Dr. Desmond's car, I checked my phone and it was noon, a full half hour after I was to be at the school for pick-up.

The Pre-K and K have half days the first week. I knew this, and had told everyone this, but I got very caught up in a big event. I had no idea it would take so long, or that my brain would temporarily shut off.

As soon as I realized it, I called the school. Because I was not the one driving, and we were on the top floor of a crowded parking deck, I had plenty of time to make phone calls.

First, I called the school. The buzzed the teacher who confirmed that, yes, AJ was still there. I told them I was on my way. I then called Ben. I told him, but he was baffled as to why I was calling him if I was going to get her anyway. I called my parents' house, too, but my dad basically said the same thing. I would have let either of them pick her up, but I needed to take her to Liz and Patrick's house and, at that point, I just needed to see Anna June. I sent a text to Liz and I was so frantic, I didn't even use punctuation. As further punishment, Wesley would be asleep by the time I got there, so there would be no consolation with slobbery baby kisses, either.

I just needed to hold Anna June in my arms and apologize. I didn't really forget her, you see, but I just got tied up in a huge thing at work. Where I work, to do good in the world. But I didn't feel particularly triumphant at that moment - I felt more like gum on the bottom of a shoe.

Evidently, every parent goes through this at least once. I told an abbreviated version of the story on Facebook, and friends all had a story about forgetting or being forgotten. Drew even remembered the time when I mistakenly told our ride he had Scouts after school and wouldn't need a ride. So, evidently, I've done this before. All friends mentioned that they and their kids survived.

Mrs. B was not mad when I picked up AJ. She had gotten the message 17 minutes ago, and of course, sees this sort of thing all the time. They hadn't even tried to call. (How long do they wait? 30 minutes seems long for a 5 year old)

The good news is that there aren't more half days for a long while. AJ goes to after school care on the regular days, and we pick her up after work, just as we have been doing since she was 2 months old. We're back in the groove and everything seems to be going alright. 

On the way to Liz and Patrick's house, AJ complained of not feeling well. She does this every day, when she is tired or hungry. I told her it was impossible to feel worse than I did at that moment. She didn't understand. 

I was able to wait until I dropped AJ off to cry. I was pretty much a basket case the rest of the day. Everything had been temporarily discombobulated, with the boxes everywhere at home from the redone floors, to my computer at work being installed, to being out of the office he day before. Things have settled down. AJ and Liz made me some banana nut muffins, and I began to feel better. If she was going to get left, getting left on a day that school was still in session for the big kids and all the staff were there was a pretty good choice.

Monday, August 26, 2013


On Friday, August 23, Anna June experienced being "forgotten" at school for forty-seven whole minutes. I am deeply sorry for my error, and vow to do better.

But Friday was also a special day at work for me.

We had the grand reopening for the Wallace Tumor Institute, a building we refer to as WTI, which houses UAB's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

First, I walked down (5 blocks) to get to the event, with a group of folks from our office. We're in Preventive Medicine, and one of the things we're trying hardest to prevent, of course, is cancer.

I also worked in that building, and with the group of people who are now re-homed in that building, for many years. It was actually fun to attend and see the many faces I rarely get the chance to see, being five whole blocks away now.

It was a banner day. Including complete media coverage, the Governor of Alabama, Dr. Robert Bentley, and the Mayor of Birmingham, William Bell, made appearances and speeches, as did UAB's new President, Dr. Ray Watt. I was impressed with all of them, but not as impressed as with our Cancer Center Director, Dr. Ed Partridge, and the cancer survivor who spoke, Ms. Mary Anne Harvard. All were inspiring, and very, very excited that the building, after so many years, is finally complete.

Here's a picture of the ribbon cutting. I was standing on the stairs behind all the action. I'm not in the picture.
(Photos courtesy Dr. Renee Desmond)

After the ceremony and during the reception, I saw so many friends I wanted to talk with that I told the group walking back to the office to go on without me (mistake!). I was still touring the office space, marveling at our previously windowless space that was now awash in natural light. You cannot even tell you're physically in the same geographic location. The transformation took seven years, and weathered a bankrupt construction company that stopped work (and traffic patterns), but it's finally done.

I was getting ready to head back when a delegation of folks from Montgomery's Alabama Department of Public Health asked if I could show them where the cyclotron was. I knew it was in the basement, so I set out to lead an ad-hoc tour of a place I didn't know we'd be exactly welcome. Luckily, some VIP tours were in progress, and we hooked in with one of those.

This is me in front of the cyclotron. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In a few weeks, it will be closed off behind its lead doors and people will not be allowed in there.

After a successful visit with the ADPH folks, Dr. Desmond and I got our picture made in the lobby of the director's suite.

After some questions, some more touring (we saw a lab where people work on brain tumors), and an attempt at conference room scheduling, we got in the car to go back to the office. It was 12:00!

Poor Anna June! Next time I'm engaged in networking, or hobnobbing, whichever you choose to call it, I'll make sure my child care situation is taken care of first!

Friday, August 23, 2013


Anna June is loving school so far. The first week, the K kids are going half days, so this gave me a good excuse to take a day off and schedule work at our house.

We have been talking about getting new flooring in the den for ages, and we finally made the move. We had laminate floors installed in the den and hall. It is fantastic. Here are some photos of the work in progress. I was texting Ben all day as the work went on. Next project, it will be his turn. :)

Radar is scared of the new floor.

Old, gross carpet

Furniture moved out of the room

Underneath the carpet and pad, we found, as expected, plain old plywood. Patrick found hardwood under his. Dang it.

The tacks they use to hold down the carpet are sharp!

This is the waterproof pad, or "underlayment" they put under the laminate.

It's pretty thin, but it's standard to what this company uses. We'll trust their judgment.

First strips of flooring installed. Getting exciting!

When we were shown samples, Ben and I were both drawn (after a minute or two) to this color. I like it.

Putting down the "quarter round". Ben thinks the grains of this don't match the floor, but I'm not as picky.

Steve, finishing the baseboard work in the den

Strips just glued down to get to the bedroom. AJ and I thought this part was cool. The strips definitely match.

Finished and swept

Great dancing floor!

Monday, August 19, 2013


We've been getting her ready for weeks, and now, Anna June has officially started Kindergarten.

First, there was registration. We stopped by the school, mainly to get the school supply list, but also to make sure that there wasn't any thing else needed that we didn't turn in at preregistration. There wasn't. I felt like I needed some sort of award, or Mommy merit badge.

We bought a few things at the grocery store, and a few more on our trip to take Grandma to Wal-Mart. Note to self: do not bring a person who needs a wheelchair to Wal-Mart on a Saturday, especially one right before school starts. Our final trip was to Office Depot, to find the elusive pack of construction paper of a single color (AJ chose white). I knew exactly where to go, since we faced the dilemma last year in Pre-K.

With all of that done, we faced a couple of critical back-to-school annual appointments. AJ got her eyes checked on Thursday, and afterwards, we went immediately to the pediatrician's office to get her annual dose of FluMist vaccination. So now there are two things I don't have to take her out of school to do.

At some point, we had to tackle the uniform situation. Last Sunday morning, I pulled out her old uniforms and we held a quick fashion show. She got tired in the middle of it, so I decided I would make some executive decisions. Almost all the uniforms we bought last fall had to go, but the ones we bought for winter could stay (they still fit for now, but by the time it gets cold, they may not). I then went online and arranged to give away AJ's old clothes to another mom in the PTA, and went to Walmart's website and ordered almost everything else. We picked out her backpack online - it had to be mesh or clear, so we went with hot pink mesh. We have enjoyed getting the packages on our porch this week - much better than standing in line.

AJ still wanted one more jumper with the criss-cross straps - this we found at KMart, same as last year. Here's a picture of AJ in the dressing room.

This weekend, we hit the last things on our list: underwear, shoes, and a haircut, which we accomplished all at JCPenney. Here's AJ after her haircut.

On Saturday night, we enjoyed a back-to-school party with some other families with kids at AJ's school. It was so wonderful. I don't know if they got the idea from Gold Shoe Blog, but it did remind me of this blog post from a couple of years ago.There was even a signature drink for the grownups: the Avondale Cocktail. (Champagne, limoncello and blueberry garnish) The kids played, it was nice and cool outside, and we enjoyed lots of wonderful conversations with our friends and neighbors, each of us has bought in to the same idea - if we want our school to be better, we must make it better. Some new families came and brought their fabulous kids. We all had such a good time - I couldn't stop smiling.

Sunday came, and we went to the Meet-the-Teacher Open House. We were told we could drop off our school supplies, so we did. We got to meet three new kids in AJ's class, and one we already knew. Mrs. Barrett is our teacher. She has more than 20 years of experience teaching Kindergarten and First Grade, so we're excited. We've already discussed the need for AJ to be in an advanced reading group, and she'd already spoken to Mrs. D about how AJ is an excellent reader and very mature (mostly) for her age. The kids had fun reading books, playing on my iPhone, getting to know the room, and having candy. Here's a picture of AJ's fancy outfit before we went.

She did her outfit, hair and makeup all by herself.

Here's a picture of her and her buddy Cuddy reading Goodnight Gorilla, one of her favorite books.

After a healthy dinner at Nana and Granddaddy's, we headed to Sonic for the Gallitz family tradition of back-to-school ice cream. 

Finally, we arrived at the first day of school. As she promised, even though she threw several righteous fits at bedtime, she got up at the sound of her alarm at 6:30AM. She dressed herself, including the extra step of taking the tags off her new shirt. She was completely ready to go, and we ate breakfast together as a family. In Pre-K, the kids ate at school, but in K, the kids either arrive at school early to eat (i.e., not happening) or eat at home. So she enjoyed cereal and a smoothie drink and we enjoyed eating together. After she was done, she was literally bouncing around the house and begging for one of us to take her to school.

We made it there on time. Because of our extended conversations with Mrs. B yesterday, we knew exactly where to go and what to do. AJ hung her backpack and found a seat next to her friend and was eagerly coloring the teddy bear page that said "Welcome to school!" She read the message to me easily, so I was feeling a little more confident about the "summer slide" she's experienced, writing her letters and numbers backwards again, having trouble distinguishing b from d, etc. She is all set. She's got this.

If you want to read about were we were this time last year, go here. It's pretty amazing how different she is one year later. As this morning went so smoothly, I was reminded again of how blessed we are to be in such a wonderful neighborhood school, and how lucky we are to have been able to start going there last year.

Yeah, I sort of wish I'd made her let me do her hair, or if I had slept better maybe I'd have marked her name on her backpack in a less obtrusive spot. And maybe not neon shoes, but, well, everything is neon this year. 

Watch out Kindergarten, we're ready.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Concert Review, Straight from the Heart

Anna June spent the night with her grandparents while Ben and I had a night out.

We went to see Bryan Adams at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, and I could not have been more pleased.

The theater is a small venue, and, unfortunately, it did not sell out. However, even Bryan Adams himself mentioned that this tour hit Birmingham a couple of years ago, and he was surprised that people came back.

I wouldn't have missed it. When I was about six or seven years old, my school held a fundraiser through a magazine conglomerate, and I remember ordering his album Reckless on cassette tape. It was about 1985, and the guy was all over MTV - a short, pockmarked Canadian in a leather jacket with a smoky voice that they could showcase anyway they wanted with shadows and light. For me, this was rock and roll - it clearly stood out from the new wave, R&B, and other genres outside my realm of experience. This guy was young and sexy, and he had something to say, even if it was not the most profound.

(Image via

Fast forward to my middle school days, and "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" was on every radio station and every video channel just about 23 hours of every day. I loved it. I turned up my mom's car stereo and sang along every time. I saw the Robin Hood movie but I wouldn't have been able to escape the song if I had tried.

Around that same time in Milwaukee, WI, Ben was also very much in love with that love song. He was obsessed with the movie, though, and this single shook him into awareness of Bryan Adams' career, whereas my own interest in him was waning a bit. Shortly after the mega-hit and power ballad, Bryan Adams' music started showing up on our local radio station that prides itself in being "not too hard, not too soft". I wondered where all these love songs kept coming from, why he seemed to be only on movie soundtracks, and why there was no more "Summer of '69" - type rock ballads with more story and fewer vocal shenanigans (I'm looking at you, Sting and Rod Stewart).

So when we were dating - or maybe before we were officially dating - Ben went to see Bryan Adams in concert in Milwaukee, all by himself. I lived in faraway Atlanta, and I figured I'd get to see him eventually. Thirteen or so years later, I got my chance.

On our anniversary this year, Ben presented me with this card. (Copyright applies to the design, y'all.)

If you can't tell, the card features lyrics of Bryan Adams songs and a happy anniversary message. It was a "hint" at the present, which I guessed!

I was so excited to see one of the few singers I have loved most of my life in person. It was a gift made even more thoughtful by the fact that our first dance at our wedding was the mega-hit, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You."

When he played that song last night, we held hands and I cried. We listened to the words and it reminded us, just for a moment, of those 20-something kids who completely changed their lives to be together, risking everything on this marriage.

Look into your heart – you will find
There's nothin' there to hide.
Take me as I am, take my life.
I would give it all, I would sacrifice.
Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for
I can't help it, there's nothin' I want more
You know it's true:
Everything I do, I do it for you, oh, yeah.

Luckily, that bet has paid off. 

As for the concert itself, we had kind of obstructed seats. It was the "Bare Bones" tour, and it was just Bryan Adams and his pianist, Gary Breit. Breit was extremely good - I could have listened to just him for hours. Bryan Adams was incredible. He played a ton of hits, as he knew that a different one brought each person there. He was patient and responsive to all the drunk rednecks who occasionally hollered out "We love you, Bryan!" and "Roll Tide!," which he (pretended he?) did not understand. He told funny stories between songs, and I bet he'd have had more if people hadn't been hollering so much. At the encore people were dancing in the aisles at the front of the stage - except us...I didn't want to get crushed.

He closed with "Straight from the Heart," which I thought was completely apt. Even though you could look at his work as a little cheesy or his lyrics a little trite, they are obviously coming from a real place. He was earnest and sometimes humble (sometimes not, as when he described his songs as "pretty") but he was real.

We hated his hairdo, we loved his music.

We had a magical time.

Friday, August 9, 2013

And We're Back

Anna June just got back from visiting her grandparents in Wisconsin. Well, we went, too, but it won't be too many years before we put her on a plane for an extended summer visit. There's never enough time.

Right now, things are slowly returning to normal. We unpacked our bags, went to the grocery store, etc. AJ threw an epic bedtime fit both last night and tonight. It makes me wish we could have stayed in that hotel forever - she was perfectly behaved there.

Radar's eating the tissue she used to dry her angry, tired, and frustrated tears. 

We used today for a play date with friends - we went to their YMCA across town, which has a great pool. AJ's swimming gets better with every practice.

We also had a couple of floor guys come out to measure and estimate. 

While we waited for their arrival, AJ applied her nail art stickers, a gift from Aunt Nonny. Here's a picture of the finished product.

These happened to be blue and yellow, which matched her shirt.

All is back to normal.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Packing Up

Anna June solved the dilemma of what to pack for our trip:

Baggage from SRG on Vimeo.

Crazy kid.