Monday, September 30, 2013

Leadership

Anna June is exhibiting extraordinary leadership skills.

At school, she sits at a table with her friends from last year, C and J, and a new girl, N. They all play together. AJ brags about how her table behaves the best and does the best work.

I wouldn't expect any less.

AJ has taught them a cheer. They all put their hands in and say, "Go, Team Table!" I asked if the other tables had a cheer. Evidently, they do not.

But the other day, J got in trouble for, if I remember correctly, swinging on the swings on her stomach. The teacher repeatedly told her to stop and she didn't. Soon, she was in time out.

Anna June reported that she then, "called an emergency meeting."

She got C and N together, and let them know that J was in time out. They discussed the severity of the situation and how it affected Team Table.

I tried to listen to this with a straight face. I pictured a pint sized damage control meeting on the pebbled playground. How could Team Table protect their status as the best when one of their members was in time out?

This kid is going to be President of something.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The F Word

"S- is fat," Anna June told me on Wednesday morning.

It rang in my ears. There was a matter-of-fact statement. I didn't know the girl, but I knew she was in AJ's class. I have no idea if it is true or not, but AJ doesn't usually lie.

"Well, does SHE say she is fat, or do YOU say she is fat? " I asked.

"I guess I say she's fat. But I wouldn't tell her that."

Whew. At least there is that.

I told AJ that some children gain weight first and then grow taller, and then they're not fat anymore. I reached deep into all of my magazine-reading wisdom and said, "It doesn't matter if she's fat. It matters if she is healthy. Do you think she is healthy?"

"Yeah," AJ said.

I asked if she plays with the other kids at recess. AJ said yeah.

"But she doesn't eat healthy food," AJ said. "She eats chips, not applesauce."

Side note: I know applesauce isn't the most healthy thing ever, especially the kind with the added sugar and preservatives, but at least it originated as fruit, partially, right? And we like it.

Yikes. Childhood obesity is on the rise. You know it, I know it, the scientists know it, and the public health messengers like First Lady Obama know it as well.

I was mentally filing for an intervention grant to fight childhood obesity in school, but AJ changed the subject slightly. AJ pointed out that when S hugs, she hugs so tight that the recipient of the hug is squished. I am assuming it's from her girth, but it could also be just from her personality. AJ told me she asked her not to hug her anymore, which I think is sad.

We quickly realized it was late, and got moving.

I packed AJ some applesauce. I should have packed an extra one for her friend.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What a Doll

If you think this coloring is not up to Anna June's normal standard, you are correct. Her doll, Heather, "colored" this (with a little help from AJ's hands).

AJ has been loving playing with her dolls and toys lately. Maybe it's because we've removed some to make room and she can actually see what she has now. Maybe it's because we just don't want her parked in front of a TV or Kindle all the time. Maybe it's because her imagination is blossoming. Either way, it's adorable.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Where You At?

Anna June has some great stories, and I love to tell them. Here's where I'm at right now:

My blogging has become less frequent for many reasons, most of which involve work. I got an upgrade to my computer, which means my very own scanner had to go away because there were no drivers to make it compatible with my PC. Also, my image editing program went away - because it's for personal use, I couldn't have them load it and I don't have administrative rights to load it myself. So, if I scan something on the office's scanner, well, it looks how it looks, until I learn how to use some other program I may have. I'd really like to figure out how to blog at home, but here's my schedule.

Get up
Get ready
Get everyone else ready
Get AJ to school
Get to work
Get AJ home from school
Get home
Get dinner (make or buy)
Get AJ ready for bed
Get ready for bed
Get to sleep

On weekends, substitute work and school for menu planning, grocery shopping, and laundry, not to mention church, visiting people and doing things we'd like to do like swim lessons, trips to the library and date night. So my breaks at work were when I was blogging. I'll work on squeezing more in at home, but right now, it is what it is. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today's Tidbit

Anna June loves to create art, and she loves to do it any time and any where. I believe this one was from this summer, and she drew it in church.



Afterwards, she told me this story to go with it.

Once upon a time, there was a dinosaur. He lived with his daughter. he got the chicken pox. His sister sent a dress to the daughter, her niece. But the daddy dinosaur thought the dress was for him, so he put it on. It had flowers on it. He looked really funny, even though the dress fit!

The end.

(I think she started making up a story at Liz's house at some point, and got obsessed with drawing dinosaurs for a while. I think she's over it now. I just wanted to share the story before the paper got tossed.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When You're Too Cute for Your Own Good

Anna June, like many other children, has to attend After School Care because both of her parents work. We're not complaining. Last year, AJ had a very good experience with ASC and we enjoyed that she got to experience some enrichment activities that she'd not have been exposed to otherwise, like tennis, dance, and a storyteller who came every-other-week.

This year, our program has a new director. We met her at the open house, where there was a table for people to pay to register their children. I completely forgot about their cash-only policy (which must be a school district-wide thing), and I told her I'd catch up with her later. We were told that her boss, the supervisor of the ASC programs of several schools, would be back on a certain day the first week of school, so I made sure to be there.

When I met the big boss, I had my $25 registration fee, but she told me (though she didn't have access to records with her) that I had probably paid my registration fee at the end of last school year - a $15 early bird deal. This was fine, I said, but if we weren't sure, please apply the $25 towards tuition. I got a receipt. She agreed.

As I mentioned before, the first week of school was hectic and AJ didn't attend ASC because she was let out half days. When I went to pick AJ up from ASC on her first day, the new director was stressed and confused, and she came off pretty abrasively to me - and she asked me for AJ's tuition. I asked if the registration issue had been resolved. She didn't know. I asked her to check and indicated I would pay the difference once I knew how much I owed. She indicated that I would have to pay, or AJ couldn't come. We worked out the difference the next day or so.

Because of the kind of hostile reception I got, I figured I would make sure that they got the tuition the instant that AJ arrived downstairs for ASC. I sent the money in an envelope with Anna June. She gave it to her group leader, who gave it to the director. Easy, right? Well, the director indicated that there was an ASC staff member who also worked at the school, and it would be good to give it to her instead if I was sending money to school. Fine.

So the next week AJ had a substitute all week. I knew it would be risky, but I sent it in a clearly marked envelope. I even made a cute envelope with a printable label I downloaded last year, that showed where I needed it to go. The sub gave the envelope back to AJ at the end of the school day, AJ gave it to her group leader, and then the leader gave it to the director. You would think this process went OK. It did not.

I arrived and the director asked me where the money was. I questioned all the steps where it could have gotten lost. Maybe the sub still had it. Maybe AJ had lost it. Maybe the leader hadn't given it to the director. I was sure it would turn up. Then Tuesday I got questioned again. And Wednesday. By Thursday we were all frustrated and I couldn't stand it - we were at the school for a meeting and we went in to AJ's classroom, tore up the place looking for it and came up empty handed. The principal was concerned. I went on Friday morning to talk to the sub, and she had the same memory as AJ. The group leader remembered giving it to the director. We were wondering what happened. The director even mentioned that another person's money had gone missing. Was their a thief? Was one of these ladies secretly a drug addict or something?

During all this, she referred to payment for "Anna," and I snapped back, "You know we call her either Anna June or AJ." She didn't know. AJ had been too shy to say, I guess. It was almost insult to injury. I'm probably not going to win any awards for my behavior, either.

We were annoyed at the lost money, but worse, we felt like the director was treating us like we hadn't paid. Maybe it was the bad first impression from open house where I didn't have cash on me. So I called the big boss. She said it would turn up, or it wouldn't, and we wouldn't be responsible for it. I used the opportunity to complain about the cash-only policy. We wouldn't have had a problem with a check. She is implementing debit card service, but not yet. Furthermore, I said that I didn't think it was fair that she was treating me like a habitual non-payer when I was certainly not - there hadn't been enough weeks of school to establish anything about us!

Anyway, a few days later, I went to ASC to pick up AJ, and the director met me with a smile on her face. She said she went back to the office and found it at a bottom of a file drawer. She had held the envelope out, because it was so cute, and she wanted to show it to the big boss. Seriously? All that grief because of a cute envelope.

We did learn a lot of lessons. First of all, we cleared it with her that we could pay her ourselves, at the beginning of each week, and not have to involve transport by child. She would not kick us out because tuition had not been paid by 3:05. Secondly, she sent a note home to all the parents to minimize confusion - payments were only to be made to her, or one other person (the one who is also a teacher). Third, everyone is going to try to get along. If they don't have a good relationship with the parents, they don't have customers. Finally, I'll save my cute envelopes for the homeroom teachers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Go Blazers


At the Leeds Folk Festival, AJ had her face painted as a UAB football player. She may still be a little green today.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Make it Fun

Anna June decided to pretend our tub was a swimming pool. Whatever works.

Monday, September 16, 2013

50 Years Forward: Weekend Review

Anna June had a pretty good weekend. It started out similar to others: breakfast, play time, swim lessons, lunch, grocery shopping.

Then we came home to regroup briefly. AJ was "questionable," as they say in sports, for afternoon activities since her runny nose had given way to a grumpy disposition. We decided to soldier on, though, and went to Linn Park to the International Street Fair. We visited Aunt Connie's jewelry booth, and enjoyed a spicy pineapple popsicle, pork egg rolls and a snow cone.

Then, we walked over to Kelly Ingram Park to attend a historic event. There was an unveiling of a statue in tribute to the four little girls killed on September 15, 1963, in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. This 50-year anniversary has been marked in Birmingham by many events, but this one seemed the right one for us to attend.

We prepped throughout the day by telling AJ the story of what happened, and playing different versions of "Birmingham Sunday".

Side note: I don't like this song for many reasons. I believe that the intentions were good - I am glad that the event was memorialized in folk music, as so many important events in American history have been. I think it's poorly written. First of all, and of course, I wasn't there, calling it "Birmingham Sunday" is ridiculous. It's as if only one Sunday happened in our long history. Indeed, there were other churches bombed here on other Sundays. Yes, this is the one that got the most attention, and was the turning point in many a heart when it came to civil rights. Yes, it was the deadliest and the most tragic. But before and after, there were lots more key Sundays in Birmingham's history. If they'd just said, "In Birmingham, Sunday," as if it had just happened the Sunday prior, I think I'd have liked it better. Also, it is not likely it was "cold".  It may have been cool here in mid-September, but "cold" is quite a stretch. Furthermore, the killers, though they took four lives, had no particular pre-destined four people selected - either they intended to kill or intended to scare, but they didn't select Addie May, Carol, Cynthia and Denise as victims.

But it was important enough to include in the ceremony, so they did.

Here's a picture of the church and the statue before it was unveiled.

Many dignitaries and other people involved in the project were present to speak, including Sena Jeter Naslund, author of the novel Four Spirits, which deals with the incident. Ms. Naslund is a dear friend of our friend Nancy Moore., so I've had the opportunity to meet her a couple of times. Here's a picture of her, reading an excerpt of her book. The group selected the name for this project from the title - it was fitting that she attend. Out of the three authors that spoke, hers was the only book I've actually read.





After an hour of speeches in the hot sun, we saw the statue unveiled. Well, when we got closer, we saw about half of the statue. We will return to take a tour of all the monuments in the park one day soon, perhaps when it is not blazing hot.

Here are some more pictures of the church, the crowd, the statue, and the park.

It is our hope that AJ will be able to go past that statue and remember that she was there, when, 50 years forward from that terrible date, our community had a moment of reconciliation, and people of all ages and races were able to hold hands and sing "We Shall Overcome," not in an ironic way, but because of all that we have overcome, and all that we still have to overcome in the future.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Three Out of Five Stars

(Photo by Jeremy Burgess, found originally here.)
Anna June's day yesterday started out great. Her class has a substitute teacher that AJ adores. They went on a field trip to the Birmingham Children's Theater and saw a play that they all enjoyed. They got patriotic ribbons (stapled to their shirts?) for Patriot's Day, a celebration of 9-11-01. This week they're having a writer's workshop in After School Care and they're writing a book. Uncle Drew came over for dinner.

And then, Drew and I went to see The Black Crowes. Every time I see them, my most favorite band in the whole entire world, I wonder if it will be the last time. We're all getting older, pursuing other interests. I may have missed a show or two, but I think I've seen them about sixteen times.

We were supposed to do this on Tuesday, but then Chris and Rich Robinson's dad, Stan, passed away in Atlanta. They came to Birmingham for this sold out show in a smaller venue. 1300 fans really appreciated their effort on what must have been a really hard day for them. The show was, in my opinion, one of the best. Their energy was great, the music was great, and it was the smallest place I've ever seen them - making it more intimate and exciting. I got close enough to really see the band. I was there with Drew, but we met up with many of our friends. When I saw my dear friend Tara, she said, "I just was wondering where you were!" though we had not talked about it beforehand. As if I would miss them on purpose.

There was no opening act, and the show started at 8. I was home by 10:30.

AJ, however, didn't have such a great time. Ben said everything went smoothly until it was time to go to bed. Then it was "I want Mama!" and a lot of screaming and tears. Ben did every thing he knew to do. He sang to her. He read to her. He let her play with the light. They prayed together. Still, she claimed to be scared. He let her sleep in the floor in our room, then her room, then, finally, at wit's end after nearly two hours of this awful, teary mess, she finally got in the bed with him and he let her. I probably would have done all the same things. So I moved her back to her bed when I got home.

At 3 AM, she woke up, scared again. She's been having nightmares nearly every night lately, but usually I can comfort her quickly and she'll either go right back to bed or will come make a pallet on our floor. But last night, she went through the whole rigmarole with us all over again: her bed, the floor. She kept trying to get in our bed but I wouldn't let her. Crying. Screaming. I want mama. I want to go home. Over and over and over. I went to take Radar out, who was also wide awake by this tantrum, and then when I came back, Ben was tucking her in to the pallet on the floor on my side of the bed. Whatever works, I say. It was 3:30. Needless to say, I was a little late this morning.

It is possible that AJ would have had a hard time going to sleep without my absence. It is possible that she'd had a day so filled with activity that she couldn't unwind, no matter how great our going to bed time went. But it sure did make me feel guilty. How could I go out without my husband? How could I leave AJ on a school night in schedule upheaval? This is not the first time this has happened. Shouldn't I know better by now?

So, like the reviewer for The Birmingham News, I give the evening three out of five stars. I get a star for having dinner prepped and in the oven and on the table as planned. I get a star for having fun with my friends and relations. I get a star for a great band playing wonderful music that connects with my soul every single time I listen to them. (I think that I've said that before.)  I don't get a star for leaving my house in upheaval to the point that we were all awake at 3:15, when I explained to AJ that I really didn't care if she went back to sleep, but she had to be quiet or I wouldn't be able to sleep. I don't get a star for leaving Ben with the burden of our sweet, beautiful little girl who can do everything well except for go to bed.

Maybe next time I won't set out to have fun. Maybe this was the last time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Weekend Review

Anna June had a great weekend.

Friday night, we skipped our usual pizza for sushi. It was delicious. AJ enjoyed spring rolls and clear soup, although later she agreed that my special dish (the "mini Godzilla") was pretty wonderful.

We walked down to Bargain Hunt, because I had seen on Twitter they were having a half price sale on rugs. We went, and in the back, Ben found a red, beige, brown, and black geometric patterned rug set for less than $30. That's less than $10/rug. One was just the right size we were looking for, and the other two are a nice addition.

Then, we watched Hugo on Netflix. It had come highly recommended to us. We were not disappointed. AJ still has trouble dealing with intense situations (and, honestly, I do, too) but she liked it anyway.

On Saturday, we celebrated AJ's half-birthday. After five AND A HALF years, she is still just as precious as on day one. Except now she can talk and we don't have to change diapers. As for myself, I like this phase better.

To celebrate the event, and just because it was cool, Ben got her a color-changing, remote controlled, light bulb for the lamp in her room. She called it "awesome" and told us she couldn't wait to go to bed to try watching the colors change to relax her.

We hung out at home in the early morning, and then we went to swim lessons. AJ was excited to be there - we even got there early! We'll be doing Saturday morning swimming until mid-December.

Afterwards, we went to the library. There's more about the library in another post coming this week. I hope.

Then we went out to the Gallitz Formal Dining Room for lunch.

We came home and looked at AJ's library find: a kid's cookbook. She wanted to make something for dinner, so she chose a tuna and bean salad. We then went to the grocery store for our weekly trip, and AJ made sure we had all the things listed in the recipe - she wanted to do it exactly by the book. We chilled it in containers and moved on to the next thing.

For AJ, the next thing was her artwork. She made a necklace and then painted a picture and drew another picture for Nana.

Then, we took AJ to Nana's house. We had a free Redbox rental we had checked out and it was due by 9, so I dropped AJ and some tuna salad off at Mom's and raced back grab dinner and to watch 42. The movie was predictable, but I thought it was well-done. How can Harrison Ford be bad?

Meanwhile, AJ would NOT even TRY the tuna salad. Not a bite. I thought it was a stretch, since she normally does not like tuna, but Mom ate it anyway. AJ had cereal. They baked a pound cake with farm-fresh eggs, which smelled heavenly as I walked in the door to pick her up.

On Sunday, we tried to relax most of the day. We went to church. We did a ton of laundry. We went to my parents' house for brunch - hey, did anyone know it was Grandparents' Day? Me, neither. Wesley and AJ both got to see their Tucker grandparents, though, so I guess we celebrated. Wesley napped most of the time we were there, watching the Falcons lose to the Saints. We got to eat the cake. Then, most blessed of events, I got to take a nap. AJ and Ben Skyped with Grandpa Gary, and then I woke up after the Packers game was on. Meanwhile, AJ had watched TV, made me a necklace, painted a painting, and drew a picture for me. I helped her open some new art supplies (as if she doesn't have enough) and she drew some more pictures for me.

We took Radar for a walk and went to Rusty's for dinner, where we finished watching the game. We went to Dollar General to get all the non-food items on my shopping list. We came home and AJ managed to get the paint off her body, although I was less successful with her outfit. I did more laundry. We prepped for the week: lunch money, folder, homework, etc.

It was, by our standards, fairly uneventful, but really, that's what we needed. We thought about going to a concert, to the art show downtown, to go shopping or to somewhere "fun".  But we made our own fun. We rested, which we needed - a short week can sometimes feel like a long one.  Now time for a new week.

Friday, September 6, 2013

More Pics

Anna June did have some fun this summer. Here is the album for May and June. We hope to update it more and I'll post a new link then.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Just Can't Stop

Anna June has been keeping us really, really busy. I have a bunch of posts in my head right now, but until then, I'll just have to show you some pictures.

Here's the album from August. There are more to add, but for now, it will have to do.