Saturday, February 22, 2014


Anna June was out of school for Valentines day. We did a lot to celebrate the holiday anyway.
Even before February started, AJ began to work on her classroom Valentines. I bought in bulk last year. She would have had enough to go around, but she messed up a couple and we had to hit up Wal-Mart for some more.  Luckily, they had some dog and cat themed cards to go along with the dog ones we already had.
As soon as the month began, we trekked to Dunkin Donuts for heart shaped donuts. AJ had seen them on TV.
First, she made Valentines for the special people in her life. She painted this big heart several days earlier, and it was a valentine for Uncle Drew. She made one for her Granddaddy at church. She made one for her Nana at after-school care.
On Thursday, instead of going to school for her party, we had another snow day. Ben and I had to work a half day, so she got to deliver valentines to the Tuckers a day early.
On Friday, AJ woke up at 5 AM to deliver the valentines she had made for us. We each got a regular valentine and a different card. She gave me some artificial pink roses (my favorite) and a small heart-shaped box of chocolate (also my favorite). She gave Ben a bag of pistachios with a tag she made (that I thought of) which said "I'm still nuts about you."
We made heart shaped pizza for dinner. We made heart shaped cookies for dessert. (These were possibly the most successful cookies I've ever made. I used the Southern Living recipe for sugar cookies and The Joy of Cooking's recipe for royal icing.)
The next morning, I still wanted to continue the celebration, so we went to Chick-fil-A for some heart shaped biscuits.
There is more, but it will have to be later. My valentines are awake and hungry.

Big Machines Day

Last Saturday, Anna June visited the McWane Center for Big Machines Day. The kids got to climb into big machines like cranes and dump trucks while volunteers from Crane Works got to explain what the various levers and buttons did. AJ was a natural.

She liked one of the smaller digging machines best, where the gentleman assigned took more time to explain the different handles and so on. She was not afraid of any of these, and I think we visited all of the ones parked on 19th Street (Birmingham police shut down a block for this exhibit).

I enjoyed running in to other parents we know. The place was packed - we had to park around the corner. AJ enjoyed getting a pink "hard hat". What a fun afternoon!


When we were on the way to the McWane Center last weekend, Anna June was testing out the cameras on my phone, and took this self-portrait.

I like it because it's not an expression you see memorialized in photos of her very often. She poses, sometimes even when there is no camera around. Here she is serious, thinking, and not at all staged. This must be what her teachers see when they ask her a tough question or give her an assignment she's never tackled before.

You can see how grown up she is getting. She had lost most of her baby fat in her cheeks, and her hair, by her own admission, is pretty much totally brown now. It is getting straighter, but it will almost certainly always have some degree of curl.

This big kid, whether she thinks she is or not, is ready to figure out lots of new things, solve new problems, and go new places.

Bring it on, world.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Something new

Anna June told us recently that she wants to become a vegetarian. At first, I wanted to just say no. She cannot be a vegetarian in our family when her uncle sells meat for a living. I was sad, thinking I would lose the convenience of school lunches. I was kind of mad, too - I did not want to do the math required to make sure she was getting enough iron, protein, etc.
She has so far been OK with where meat originates, although she recently has made more of a connection. She simply claims she does not like the way it tastes. I'm going to go ahead and declare she takes after her dad on that one. Thinking back, I can see this is true.
She also recently saw a news story about Chick-fil-A altering their iconic chicken sandwiches. She tried to tell me about it, citing pneumonia and ammonia, but it actually has to do with antibiotics. Maybe this got her thinking.
After a talk where I mentioned she was going to have to learn to love beans a lot more than she does now, I suggested that we start by having Meatless Mondays and seeing how it goes. She selected a recipe for tomorrow (Midwinter Minestrone from Rachael Ray's Look and Cook Book), and she promised to help. I'm already preparing her lunch twice a week - now one time will be on Monday.
We'll see how it goes.
In the meantime, I will continue to try to do my best at raising a real-life Lisa Simpson.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Phone

Anna June wanted to be the subject of the first photo I took with my new phone. I played with the cropping and editing. Here's the result.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow What

Anna June has heard adults express how quickly time flies, and now she pretty regularly expresses it herself. I apologize that once again, time has flown away from me.

Since I last posted, the most significant event in our lives has been the snow storm. On Tuesday, January 28, our area was hit with snow, and it was not predicted for our area. Lots of great stories have been written about the event.

Here are some of the best ones.

The Gizmodo piece
Our NPR station's story, including a mention of my pal Alison
Our friend Sharron's story
Local blogger Erin Street's story
Pastor Layne of Church of the Highlands' opinion

As for our family of three, here's how God blessed us on that particular day.

It was the 100th day of school. Anna June was already looking forward to this day with nothing but trepidation. She remembered the 100th day of school from last year, and I did not. I couldn't get it out of her what she did, so I referred to my blog post here. Last year she had a big old meltdown at school. I think she was just scared she'd mess up again, and she psyched herself out.

On this particular day, her regular teacher was out, and a certified substitute teacher who also happens to be an Avondale parent (and someone I know from PTA) was there instead. They went through their regular schedule just fine. It started off well, with the kids doing their recommended worksheet, writing numbers 1 to 100. They had PE, but AJ did not get to play with the giant parachute like she wanted. They had snack time, but her snack (a cup of Jell-O with fruit), fell on the floor. There was a lot of excitement/stress/worry/confusion in the air, because it had started snowing and no one had announced that school was letting out. Evidently, this, coupled with AJ's already present anxiety and lack of sleep (don't get me started) produced so much stress that her stomach started hurting. She cried. The sub called me and let me talk to AJ some time around 9:30 or 9:45. I told her I would leave as soon as my boss' meeting was over at 10, to let him know I had to go.

It was 10:02 when I finally just sent an email, as the meeting was still going, so I let everyone know I had to go. I drove carefully in the snow, which was already starting to stick to the ground but had not yet produced traffic problems. I stood in the office at 10:25, and the secretary looked relieved to take a break from the incessantly ringing phone. Every parent wanted to know if school was closing. At that time, a decision had not yet been made.

Anna June came bopping down the hall, filled with excitement that it was snowing. I was filled with everything but joy at that moment. I was worried that the roads were getting bad, but I was more worried that I had to hand off an important assignment, and that I may have inadvertently set a precedent of AJ calling me to pick her up when she wasn't really sick.

We drove out of the parking lot OK, even as parents started to arrive to pick up their kids. We turned left out of the parking lot, and at the stop sign at the bottom of the hill, well, we didn't stop. We made our way through Forest Park all right, but for some reason I did not choose to go around the neighborhood and went straight on up 58th Street. I slid almost constantly and it was a miracle we did not hit any parked cars or wreck.

As soon as we got home, I called Ben. Cell systems were overloaded, so it took us a while to get through. He reported a traffic jam in his parking deck, so he decided to stay and eat lunch where he was. After lunch, he started home. It is normally a 15 minute commute, but it took about 1.5 hours.

We started hearing stories of people stranded everywhere. I started to worry. I was glued to my tablet, computer and phone. AJ wanted to play in the snow, but I would not let her until her dad was home safely. It may have looked pretty on the grass, but it was becoming deadly on the roads.

AJ asked if we could pray for her dad. We certainly did.

Eventually, Ben made it to our neighborhood. He was unable to safely drive up our hill, so he parked a couple of blocks away in a cul-de-sac.

If AJ had not called, I may not have left my office until 11, and would have been stuck in traffic. Either she would have had to walk to my grandfather's house (probably with some other families who live on that street) or she would have had to spend the night there. About 28 kids had to stay the night - she would have been in good company. About 30 people had to spend the night at my office. Ben's office was packed as well.

In case you were wondering, AJ's temperature was 99 on Tuesday and Wednesday. I gave her Tylenol. She seemed fine. I think she literally made herself sick by having a bad day.

Once we were home with one another, we were stuck. As all the stories of stranded motorists and parents separated from their kids started to come in, we were helpless to do anything. I had almost no gas (another miracle that we got home in no traffic). Our cars are not all-wheel drive, and we couldn't even get one of ours home, so we certainly couldn't go out again. I felt terrible when a friend asked if we could pick up her kids, and we literally could not. I took AJ to play in the snow while Ben napped, and we all went out together afterwards. Ben still had snow boots from when he lived in Milwaukee, and I had some from our last January visit - thank you to whomever handed them down to me. It made it much more bearable.

Reports started coming in of work and school being canceled on Wednesday, as temperatures would not rise above freezing. A state of emergency was declared. Wrecks were everywhere, blocking roadways. On Wednesday, seeing little improvement, they canceled work and school for Thursday as well.

How did we fare at home for so many days? Here's more divine provision: we had electricity, water, food, phone service, and high-speed internet. We watched streaming movies. We made hot drinks. We played games.

On MLK weekend, we were so busy I never made it to the grocery store. This seems like a small thing, but it wreaked havoc on our little family. Not having the right dinners and snack foods lying around was a big problem for us. Eventually, on Thursday night January 23, I took AJ straight from school and we went grocery shopping while Ben attended an after-hours work event. We made up for lost time, and I bought about two weeks worth of dinners, snacks and other things we lacked. I spent a ridiculous amount of money, knowing it would be justified when we eventually ate it all. When the unexpected snow hit, we had enough toilet paper, dog food, and meals to cook for all 3 meals a day. Some of the meals were even healthy. A true blessing, indeed.

On Thursday, as the snow began to melt in earnest and businesses opened up, Ben was able to get to Chick-fil-A. He left on the still-kind-of-icy streets with my blessing, as the one thing I didn't buy on my big grocery run was Diet Dr. Pepper, and we were out. He made it there and back safely, and was able to retrieve his car without incident.

Beyond our immediate family, here's what was going on:

Mom and Drew were safely at home, as were Liz and Wesley. Wesley even got to play out in the snow, looking adorable and fun-loving as usual. My grandparents were fine. They know a little about preparedness, and both of them have enough canned goods to last weeks. Plus, they can actually cook. Next time, I'm getting snowed in with them.

Dad was stuck at the auction house with Wim. They were able to walk to the grocery store to get provisions, and lived off bologna sandwiches and microwave-cooked scrambled eggs. They spent Tuesday night together, and Wednesday Wim left to go home, but Dad stayed. There was no way to get into Crestwood - card were wrecked all over the road.

Patrick was able to get off Highway 280 and abandon his car on an access road, then walk to his gym where he spent the night. Our friends Kathy and Jordan were able to get him the next day and bring him home, so he didn't have to spend a second night there.

Rusty was off that day, so he was safe, but his staff kept Rusty's BBQ open and actually helped the community a whole lot that day. Rusty told them to go home after the lunch rush, but they had so many customers they couldn't close. No one expected this, and there were so many wrecks, people had no where to go. Eventually, around 6 PM, they took the remaining food to Leeds Elementary, where several kids and teachers were stuck overnight. This earned Rusty some good publicity here and here.

Aunt Connie wasn't able to get up her hill, so she parked at the bottom and walked. Then her car got hit twice. We are all thankful that she was safely inside when that happened.

They canceled school (but not work) on Friday as well. As AJ slipped and fell on the ice on the ground right outside our door that morning, I see that was a necessary call. We all had cabin fever, so we scheduled an Avondale play date at Off The Wall (formerly known as iJump Crestwood). More than 20 kids showed up, and some of us went to eat at the new Mexican restaurant in the same shopping center. AJ and I had to attend a funeral afterwards, and were able to get there safely on flat, well-traveled roads.

The weather warmed up considerably, and we were able to go out for pizza on Friday night, and play outside at the park on Saturday. In short sleeves.

So what does all this mean? Since I have been back at work, I've been listening to stories of how everyone made it - a husband came to stay here with his wife, a PhD slept on top of flattened cardboard boxes in his office with his jacket as a pillow, a friend slept at her friend's office and then at the friend's house the next day, someone stayed at the outlet mall on the food court floor, someone stayed at an employee rec center in Homewood serving as a shelter. Others walked miles in inadequate clothing to get home. I am so incredibly grateful to God that our little girl, who doesn't like change so much that she can't handle a substitute teacher, was able to be with both of her parents during this time of uncertainty. I am sure that emergency planning and preparedness will be strengthened through analyzing what happened. I am also sure that some Alabamians who used to like snow no longer think of it in the same way. I wasn't a huge fan, by the way, but I'm even less so now.

And because it has been so long since I posted a picture...

I'm in the middle of changing cell phones, so I don't have easy access to my pictures from last week right now. Instead, here's a picture of AJ from a shopping trip last night, trying to blend in.