Anna June did have a good birthday celebration earlier this month. In between her parties, she attended her friend Cuddy's party. I had a blast visiting with the other parents, and AJ loved playing the games. Here is the one photo I got of her, with Chuck E. himself.
Anna June was on Spring Break this week. She attended a day camp at McWane Center, which was even sort of her idea. On Monday when it was time to go, she was nervous, but she came home very excited...practically dancing. In the morning, they studied art. She made a self-portrait with pastels, painted a Pollock-inspired piece, did a Mondrian-style collage, and made a sculpture from a flour and water plaster. Then, in the afternoon she studied fish, and came home with a piece of glow-in-the-dark artwork as well.
Tuesday saw us discussing whether or not she should keep her jacket with her, as the high was only 55 and she would be walking with Ben to his parking deck after camp. The staffer at the front desk agreed to keep it for her, and I even emailed Ben to make sure he would get it when he picked her up.
When he got there, AJ complained of being cold. It was cold, to us. We talked to her about being a better advocate for herself...she should have asked the counselor to get her jacket for her. Ben felt terrible about making her walk to the car with her complaining the whole time.
Dad called and invited us over for dinner, which sounded better than cooking, so we decided to go over, despite AJ's apparent bad mood. She really was cold, so I brought along some instant hot chocolate and let her warm up before dinner. Drew had a new puzzle and she wasn't interested. She didn't demand to watch something better on TV. She wasn't particularly forthcoming about what they did at camp that day - in the morning, they studied music, and she came home with a tambourine, drum, and trumpet. In the afternoon, they studied dinosaurs, and her souvenirs included a dinosaur footprint and a painting she made with dinosaur stencils. She didn't even want to talk much about the diet coke and Mentos volcano demonstration...she said they did that at UAB Camp last summer anyway.
Despite Dad's best efforts to shake AJ from her funk, she still would not eat or talk very much. I thought she must be tired after such a busy couple of days.
It was time for her bath, and she was reluctant to get up to get in the tub. I decided to check her temperature, just in case. It was 101. I was so upset. I was mad at myself for not checking sooner - like Ben had asked me, even though she did not feel hot when he asked. I was mad that our plans for AJ to spend the morning with Liz and Wesley fell through (I had waited too long to register her for camp and the Wed morning session was full, so we went to a fun - and generous- Plan B). I was mad that she was sick for the second time this month. I was mad that I would have to stay home from work even though we had paid money to avoid that. I was mad that we had exposed my family to whatever she had...the last thing a person with a broken leg needs is to be sick on top of it.
Anyway, she stayed home on Wednesday. Ben took the morning and I took the afternoon. As she had a temp of 102 during the night, Ben took Thursday as well.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, her temp was nearing 103. We decided to take her to the doctor.
The doc admitted that AJ's throat didn't look too bad, and she didn't have many other symptoms, but they would test her for strep anyway.
Boy, am I glad I was not there.
It took 3 people to hold her down to get her throat swabbed. She also had a finger prick. A bit later, the doctor called them back to her office and she delivered the news that AJ had strep throat. Again.
This is the third time in five months, in case you are counting.
The doctor said we are not yet to the point of discussing a tonsillectomy.
We discussed whether or not to send her back to camp, as she had been 24 hours without a registered official fever and had received a few doses of amoxicillin (God bless antibiotics that are flavored to her liking and are free at Publix pharmacy), but her behavior was still off and she woke up with awful an night terror-style outburst, finally cured by a trip to the potty. She took the pushing fluids thing very seriously, I guess. We decided to keep her home.
On Friday, Ben had already scheduled a vacation day to take care of some school work, so I came home after a couple of hours of things I couldn't get out of and relieved him so he could write. After lunch, AJ and I snuggled and played video games. We also read books. The power went out for a couple of hours, so we were glad it was daylight enough to read and we were also glad Ben had enough battery life to work on his laptop. It was actually quite productive.
By evening, we declared her no longer contagious and we went about our normal business. We played games (she won at Pick Up Sticks, we tied at Memory). We changed her toothbrush, which is something I always mean to do but can never determine when she is well enough, and then forget.
Maybe this weekend will make up for her lousy past few days of break.
In all the commotion about my guest post this week, Anna June asked me why I had never let anyone guest post on my blog. I asked her if she would like to be the first. So she agreed. Ladies and gentlemen, here's Anna June's first very own blog post -
Today my mom and I tied in a game of Scrabble Junior. We played a game before and I won it.
Anna June's public school experience has not been perfect, but overall, I would say that she's gotten a great education. After reading a blog post and some comments on a local blog, I made my own comment.
The blog owner then asked me to guest post.
So here's the link to my very first guest post. Whether or not you agree with me, I hope you'll take the time to read it.
Anna June's Uncle Rusty's restaurant, Rusty's BBQ, is in a Facebook competition for Alabama's best BBQ ribs. They are in a March Madness style brackets against the legendary Dreamland. We would really appreciate your vote! Immediately! Voting ends at 10:00 AM on Sunday, March 23. As in, tomorrow.
If you have a Facebook account, please go to Alabama Food's page and vote. Or try to paste this link into your browser: http://poll-en.herokuapp.com/alabama-bbq-bracket/polls/tldlxr/forms/13106739/thankyou#_=_
Unlike last year, we are not able to see live results, so we have no idea who is ahead.
We appreciate the support in this David vs. Goliath competition. A vote for Rusty's is a vote for local, independent, small business.
And these two would appreciate a vote for Uncle Rusty.
Anna June was very pleased to win her very first blue ribbon this week.
A few weeks ago, Anna June's teacher sent home 2 pages stapled together. At the top was written "Please practice for the Math Derby. Anna June." AJ was not that enthusiastic, but I was. Although she had been thinking about the talent show, I had heard of the Math Derby last year and I was interested because I thought AJ would be good at it - it's like a spelling bee, but with math questions. It also took me back to some of the most fun I had in school with the academic competitions that I was in and practiced for: spelling bee, geography bowl, math team, and best of all, academic bowl. I hoped AJ would fall in love with the idea that someone would be asking her questions to which there were right and wrong answers, and she could win just by knowing things she was probably already supposed to know.
On the first sheet was about ten math vocabulary questions. On the second sheet was a table of essentially the same questions over and over, with sums adding up to ten. Evidently, this is all the children are expected to know by rote in kindergarten, at least for Math Derby. I thought, "We can handle this."
Then we started to practice. I sat down with AJ at the table and after a few questions, she declared it was boring and she didn't want to do it anymore. Later that weekend, on the way to Rusty's, I sat in the back seat next to her so she could hear me, and we did about ten problems and she again declared it boring and she was done. I did not know what I was going to do, until the answer occurred to me like the answer to "1+1": outsource.
You may recall that my brother Drew is laid up with a broken leg. He has moved back in with my parents and can't do too much other than sitting or lying down. He's also a math genius. He has a degree in accounting, but he has a head full of numbers. He can remember what he paid for a piece of furniture years ago, or batting averages for obscure baseball players. He's also one of the most competitive guys I know, and he happens to love AJ. All of this added up in my head and I sent him a text message and asked him to be AJ's coach.
Luckily for everyone, he agreed. I dropped her off on a weeknight after school, and they practiced the problems. Then, I took her back on Sunday afternoon for an extended session. Both times, my dad was on hand to help, too. Dad took calculus as an elective in college, perhaps more than once. He gave AJ her first word problem: "If I'm traveling 60 miles per hour and I go for 2 hours, how far have I gone?" With Drew's help, AJ arrived at the answer by adding 60 + 60 = 120. Then, he gave her another one: "If I am traveling 60 miles per hour and I drive only half an hour, how far have I gone?" It did not take AJ long to come up with 30, half of 60.
While I was enjoying my break from AJ, I knew she was in better hands than mine. Not that I couldn't teach her 4+6, it's just that she wouldn't enjoy it as much. I'm also the one who has to teach her to put her clothes in the hamper and to brush all of her teeth. We're not used to doing so much intense academic work together.
I was also glad, then, that it just so happened that AJ would be spending Tuesday night, the night before the Math Derby, with my parents. For Valentine's Day, Ben had given me tickets to see the Indigo Girls. We'd be out late. And, it just so happened that I had a breakfast meeting at work at 7:00 AM (honestly, the one night we go out!) and Dad would have to drop AJ off at school that day. So I wouldn't even see her until Math Derby time. Maybe this allowed her to get in "the zone."
When I got to the school and signed in with the other parents, I decided to go on up to the library as I had been instructed instead of stopping by AJ's classroom to say hello. I am glad I went this route - the children were distracted enough.
I have to give credit to the Math Derby team at Avondale. This competition was designed very well. I am sure they've had many years to perfect their setup, but it was one of the things that I have seen at the school that was laid out in an ideal way. Each grade has its own Derby, with its own time slot, so all the parents don't have to be there at once, which was great. The big kid winners get to go on to the city-wide competition.
First of all, the school was able to watch the Math Derby on their closed circuit TV channel. That's right - their school has it's own TV studio - the big kids do the news every morning. The competition was held in the library (where the studio is a little room adjoining it), and the teacher in charge of the TV studio pulled the camera to its doorway to film the competitors.
Just like in a spelling bee, the students stood in a line, and walked up to the microphone when it was their turn. There were five students chosen from each of the five kindergarten classes - that meant 25 of the 100 kindergarten kids were competing. She was already a winner just for being there.
The judges sat with their backs to the cameras and facing the student. The parents sat behind the student competitors. This way, parents couldn't give the answers, or even make their kids more nervous by looking anxious. The other kids who were eliminated sat on another group of chairs at a 90 degree angle to the parents. Here's a picture of the kids sitting there before the competition.
There was a practice round, so the students all got a chance to see what it felt like to speak in to the microphone while facing the teacher who was asking the questions, the camera, and the three judges. One had the timer. Each student was allowed 8 seconds to answer the question before the timer beeped. They even let the timer run for 8 seconds to show the kids how long that felt like before the practice round. They read the rules so everyone would understand how it worked. It seems like they thought of everything.
They didn't really send home the rules, though. I had no idea if AJ would be fast enough. But Dad had invented a game over the weekend where he would ask SIRI on his iPhone, a math question, and see if AJ could respond before "she" did. (Dad: Siri, what's 1+7? AJ: 8 Siri: Let me check on that. The answer is 8.) So we had the time thing covered.
I was sitting on the front row of the parents. Because I hadn't seen AJ all night, I ran over and gave her a hug while she was picking up her name tag from the table. She didn't look nervous. I tried not to look nervous for her.
The competition finally began, after the office made the announcement that it was time for all the classes to tune in to watch.
In the first round, many students were eliminated quickly. You could tell the children that had really practiced and the ones that hadn't. I have to admit that these kids, only 5 and 6 years old, were pretty adorable. Some of the kids counted on their fingers, which was allowed. It was brave of them to stand up and answer the questions, even if they were way wrong (like the little girl from AJ's class who answered that 1+2 was 12). Each time AJ got to the microphone, I was holding my breath until she said the answer. She thought to consider each answer, but she never hesitated or said it in an uncertain way. This girl knew her stuff.
They did mostly problems, but then threw in a round of vocabulary. Other kids were asked rectangle, triangle, and circle, but AJ happened to get the question that asked "What is a six-sided polygon with equal sides and 6 corners." She confidently answered, "hexagon." I was so proud. When it got down to 5 kids, they shortened the length of time allowed down to 6 seconds. This made it more challenging and, pretty quickly, we were down to 2 contestants.
AJ and the other little boy, Drayden, were informed again about the rules when it is down to two kids: They keep going until one misses a question. The other child has to answer the missed question as well as a second question of their own. If they can't answer both of the questions, the competition continues.
Two words: nail biter! AJ and Drayden went head-to-head for several rounds, and then, our celebrity judge, Alabama's Teacher of the Year, Dr. Allison Grizzle, who seemed to have done these many times before, said that they needed to move on to the more challenging questions: sums up to 20. My heart beat faster - I had no idea if AJ had practiced sums past 10, so I was a little worried. I'm pretty sure this is how it played out: Drayden got the first "hard" question right. Then AJ got hers right. Then Drayden missed a question, which AJ got. Then, AJ took too long, so it was Drayden's turn again. Then he missed his question, and AJ came in with the save. Then, finally, she answered her second question, and it was over. It seems the answer to all the "hard" questions was 11. I wish I had recorded it, but I didn't even think about it.
Kids 5th place and up all got ribbons.
And they got their pictures made with the celebrity judge
Dr. Grizzle told AJ that she was really impressed with her, especially since she had high school students that probably wouldn't know the term "hexagon." As the library cleared out of others, the librarian, who had served as one of the judges, asked AJ, "I'm just curious to see if you know this. If you have 100 and you take away 50, how many do you have left?"
"Fifty," AJ said, without hesitation. Granddaddy had taught her this while playing Monopoly.
The librarian was so impressed - she told all the other teachers around. Evidently, they could have asked AJ "harder" questions and she still would have won.
Her teacher ran upstairs to hug her. AJ got half a dozen "Gotcha" tickets, which is the school's currency to buy things in a prize store at the end of the year. She got the coveted "real" blue ribbon. She got lots of hugs and pats on the back from other students, parents, and teachers. She was the star, and she accepted this graciously. She shook hands with the other top winners.
When it got quieter, we called Uncle Drew first. Then her dad. AJ was so proud when she told them, "I won the Math Derby!" Then, she wanted to go back to her classroom.
Downstairs, she was further treated as a celebrity. Her class had watched and they were so proud that someone right from their very own classroom took first place. I hope they all learned a little math on the way.
As I went back to work, I called Drew again to recount the whole thing. He told me that AJ knew her sums up to 12, for sure, front and back. They had worked with dice. In teaching, I believe that's called a "math manipulative" something you can see and touch to learn math concepts. Whatever he did, it worked. and you can bet I'm signing him up for next year.
Then I called Ben, and my dad and my mom. I got back to UAB's campus and I told everyone that AJ had won. My bosses, people I saw in the elevator, the girl at the coffee shop (PS: Drew, Kate at Lucy's Coffee says hi and congratulations on helping AJ win!) I posted her photo and the news that she won on Facebook and it got more than 80 "likes".
It was a great day.
We let AJ pick where she wanted to go to dinner to celebrate - she picked IHOP. Our waitress saw AJ's big blue ribbon and also wanted to honor her with a "prize" of her own - a free tube of strawberry yogurt. We got home and AJ had to call Granny, too, to tell her the good news.
We made sure to let AJ know that we were so proud of how hard she worked, and not just that big blue ribbon. We would have still been proud if she had been knocked out in the first round, but it does make it more fun to win.
Anna June's teacher sent me a text this afternoon. She asked if I could come pick AJ up early, as she was very upset.
Evidently, at talent show practice, AJ got a major case of stage fright and started crying before the music even came on.
I never even truly encouraged her to sign up for the talent show, but she wanted to do it. She couldn't decide which talent to showcase, but she decided she would do a dance, which she would choreograph herself. Again, not my idea. She chose a blessedly short song, and we rehearsed a few times. She selected a costume. She attended school rehearsals. We sent her music, properly labeled, to be downloaded to the official talent show laptop.
The worst that could happen, I thought, was that she would go on stage and be adorable for 2 minutes, get applause for the effort, and then it would be over.
Instead, she freaked out and dropped out.
She said she was so upset because she thought I would be mad at her for quitting. (Astutely, she claims she knew her dad would understand.) I told her I had nothing invested in this. Now I don't have to go, which is good since my schedule is nuts this week. I told her the point was to have fun, and if it wasn't fun for her, I did not want her to do it.
But I don't like quitting. It doesn't fit with what I am trying to teach my child (although I seem to quit things all the time). Resilience and effort and courage are what I want to demonstrate for her, and see her adopt.
It is universally accepted that the dance lessons I took were quite good for me. I would have loved a talent show. But AJ has had a completely different childhood than I had, though life is being lived in more or less the same place.
She is only six. I don't want her to feel like she has to drag her introverted self up to the stage and dance when she has nearly no formal training, and would not listen to my suggestions at all when it did come time to practice. The endeavor was doomed from the start. But I hate the idea of an un-honored commitment.
Mrs. Greene, the teacher who accepted AJ's tearful resignation, met me at the car when I came to pick her up and said gently, "Maybe next year."
On the night before Anna June's birthday, she went to bed with a full tummy and excited for the plans for the next day.
Besides it just being her birthday, a Vocabulary Parade was planned for the school as part of Read Across America week. Each kid was to select a word and fashion a costume illustrating the word. AJ had chosen the word "mail" and had been working on her costume. Besides listing details on a poster such as the child's name and teacher, they were also supposed to feature the word, its part of speech, its definition, and a sentence including the word. She wanted to use the word mail as a verb. She was going to dress up with a sort of letter carrier theme. First, she fashioned a mail bag out of a cardboard box and some ribbon. However, it met an untimely demise, as one of her parents thought it was garbage, accidentally. So we found a blue bag of mine that she could wear cross-body, and I printed out the USPS logo to tape over the conference info printed on it. She took a color-your-own T-shirt and turned it inside out, and wrote the word mail on it with her washable marker. She picked out some black leggings to go with it. I tried to talk her into a military-style jacket but she pointed out it would obscure the word.
We made the poster to look like an envelope. At first, she was excited about this idea, until she tried to execute it herself and wasn't happy with the results. She cried the whole time I was putting it together. I knew I still had to go to the grocery store and prepare for her party, so I was in no mood to have her do it herself. After all, the note home asked the parents to help the children with the costumes. A Kindergartener's handwriting is not always legible from far away. I hereby promise I will not be one of those parents who does their child's work. Hold me accountable for this one, folks. I can't take the tears.
Earlier this week, there was a major meltdown because I attempted to make a hat for AJ out of tinfoil to make a Hershey's Kiss. The one I saw online is here. The big mistake was that I was doing it the morning of hat day before rushing out the door. However, the bigger mistake was that I was doing it instead of AJ. She has observed my well-known craft failures. She has no faith in my abilities. Ben and I thought it was pretty cute, but you can't see a picture because she destroyed it. Then she didn't like the one she made, either and wore her snowman hat.
By the way, when your kid has to turn down several ready-made choices for silly hat day and then rejects your homemade attempt, it kind of stings. I mean, what kind of perfection is she looking for if hats resembling an elephant, a block of cheese, an ice cream sundae, a cupcake, a monkey, and other things are not silly enough?
So, I, for one, was going to be pretty glad to get Read Across America Week out of the way. Thursday morning didn't start well, because AJ had a substitute, and in the excitement of the week and day, she had forgotten about it. Lily's mom messaged me to let me know AJ had been crying her eyes out. Good grief.
Besides all of this, I was going to send fruit to AJ's class, since that was her request. I was just back from the grocery store, making lists and major mental notes of all the things I needed to do while washing the just-purchased (totally not in season) fruit. I was worrying about the blueberry-to-grape ratio when AJ called out "MOM!" from her room.
Not another nightmare, I thought. "I'll be right there," I called, hoping not to wake Ben.
When I got to her room, she was halfway sitting up, having just vomited. I will spare you further details of the ensuing repeat performances and subsequent cleanup, but Ben and I both were not expecting this at all.
Maybe we should have taken the meltdowns as a sign she was getting sick. Maybe I should have looked at the calendar and realized she had this same throw-up thing (at school last year) around this same time. I totally forgot about this but that is why I have this blog - because I have absolutely no memory.
She slept on the floor of our room, close to the bathroom, the rest of the night. In the morning - her birthday - she didn't even want to stand up to see the flowers, card and candy I had left for her on the kitchen table. She stumbled to the sofa and had me read the card to her there.
A few hours later, though, she was fine. We watched a DVD of Olivia, and then some of Princess Party (a DVD we bought for her birthday party the year we did a princess theme) because Netflix was down. Then, Ben came home because he had split a hole in his pants (which AJ later confessed to me was, "pretty entertaining.") and he fixed our connection, so we watched Snow Buddies. AJ and I have watched several of these films, and she declared this one the best so far.
After I ate lunch and she started work on a puzzle, she was already complaining about being bored, which is how I knew she was back to normal.
We read a little, and she built a house out of cardboard boxes. She loves building and making things. In fact, when the latest box from Granny arrived, she said, "Yay! I needed a box that size!" Here's a picture of her in the box as soon as it was emptied:
Anyway, I am sure the fruit will keep until Monday, and there will be another vocabulary parade next year. Ben and I probably won't eat lunch with her at school like we planned, but if that's the main casualty of the illness I guess we will be OK.
A few weeks ago, in thinking about Anna June's birthday, I had an idea.
"Do you know where I think we should go to celebrate Anna June's last night of being FIVE?" I asked.
It didn't take them half a second before Ben and AJ both said, "FIVE." Because I'm corny and predictable like that.
I had not ever visited this place, but I pass by it nearly every day on my way to work. I once explained the concept to AJ: they have 5 choices for each thing. There are 5 entrees, 5 appetizers, and so on. AJ liked the idea so much that once, when we were playing restaurant, she wanted to be a knock-off called "six".
Anyway, I had been hoping to go, so I thought this would be a great excuse. Yes, it is a gimmick, and yes, it is pricey for what we're used to, but it was so, so very good.
Once we were seated, we told the waiter why we were being there. We suggested that AJ order a special drink. Of the available ingredients he listed, she mentioned she liked pineapple juice. The bartender shook together pineapple juice and Sprite over crushed ice topped by a splash of cherry juice. It was delicious.
Here's a picture of the drink AJ had. We limited her to one - and switched her to water.
Here is the almost six-year-old with her special treat.
For an appetizer, we had avocado with bacon and shrimp sauce. It was
wonderful. AJ wasn't in favor of it until she got a bite of bacon. This
is now Ben's new favorite appetizer.
The girl and her dad:
I had a pork
chop with Bahamian macaroni and cheese (don't ask me what made it
Bahamian - it was good, though) and a glass of malbec. The good news is
that there are 5 red wines (and 5 whites) listed on the menu - not that agonizing of a
had a cheeseburger with fries. AJ also had a kid's cheeseburger, which
isn't printed on the menu, but it is a thing - a half portion of an
adult burger. Even though we were full and didn't order dessert, we got cookies with our check. That was nice, even though AJ didn't like them - they were toasted coconut tea cakes. AJ claimed that my made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies last weekend were better.
AJ's criticism was that the place was too
dark. It is, first and foremost, a bar. The original Tuscaloosa location
is more known as such. But this place was full of professionals (mostly
women) after work on a Thursday night. It had a fun, upscale atmosphere with giant pictures of Bear Bryant, Dwight Eisenhower and the Beatles on the walls.
I liked it and would go back.
In honor of Read Across America Week, Anna June's school has had a bunch of fun activities scheduled. On Monday, The Seasoned Readers (a subgroup of The Seasoned Performers) came to read to the children. On Tuesday, it was Hat Day. AJ wore her snowman hat.
On Wednesday, it was Wacky Sock Day. AJ wore mismatched socks as she has each time this holiday has come up. But this time, we decided to up our game. In fact, AJ got so excited she woke up at 5:45 AM! Good grief.
First, she decided that two socks would be gloves. We informed her they'd have to come off as soon as she got in the school.
This brought back memories of our childhood, when it always seemed to snow or get cold on the one day we couldn't find mittens or gloves, so we ended up just using socks on our hands. I don't remember if I ever told AJ about this.
She surprised us, though, by calling this improvisation of socks-on-hands "Mississippi Gloves." She claims this was an original thought. I proclaim it brilliant, but with apologies to my friends from Mississippi.
Next, she put her hair in pigtails and tied it with mismatched socks as ribbons. That one was my idea.
Finally, we made a sock scarf by safety-pinning several different socks to each other. I will admit to having seen this on Pinterest. She looked smashing.
This is the only photo I thought to take, waiting in the drop-off line that morning.
Anna June and her friends from hers and the other Kindergarten classes present "A Bus Ride That Made History." In this story of Rosa Parks, Anna June is Storyteller 1, the Narrator that begins and ends the play. It is more of a reader's theater than an actual play, but we are counting it as AJ's stage debut.
AJ Rosa Parks Reading from SRG on Vimeo.
Didn't she do a great job?
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