Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Interesting Conversation

Sometimes I forget what a different world it is that Anna June is growing up in. I was her age mere blocks from here, but what a difference thirty years makes.
I have not paid attention to the amenities of new cars before. In our new car, though, we were checking out the features.
"Hey," I said. "This car doesn't have an ashtray."
AJ asked, "What's an ashtray?"

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Surprise

Anna June's cousin Teygan turned 4.

On the day of her birthday party (a day before her birthday), we had a very busy day.

First, it was Birmingham's Hazardous Waste Collection Day. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but we've been debating about what to do with all the paint left under our house for eleven years. That's more than a decade of procrastination. I think when we bought the house, the Hazardous Waste day wasn't invented yet. Hoover had one, but it was only for residents (strictly enforced). Since AJ came along, it hadn't been a priority, but something had to be done.

So we went out to Legion Field and dropped it off. Then, we high-tailed it a back way (that I knew existed!) to West Homewood Park where she had a make-up tennis lesson. We arrived right on time, despite our late start due to an unplanned exit by Radar. He heard us loading up stuff and, well, he wanted to go!

After the lesson, we went straight down to Teygan's party, and we made it there about 15 minutes late, which, considering AJ had to change from her sweaty shorts outfit into a dress (yes, I am that mother), I thought it was pretty good.

We pulled up and saw a car with a Wisconsin tag. Knowing how big Kym and Ken's families are, and knowing I hadn't actually talked to them in a while, I commented that it could be anyone. When we walked in the door, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw it was none other than AJ's Grandpa and Grammy! So excited! We were so shocked it took me quite some time to actually notice the decorations and beautiful cake. It was a true surprise.

It was a beautiful party. The theme was Frozen! Here are some of the best photos:

This photo does not do it justice. It was an awesome cake, built by Kym and her friend Kat. The fondant was mint flavored. Fantastic!

 Teygan got an Elsa dress. Her friend had an Anna dress.


 We made these two promise not to do that again.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Happiness Days 22-28

If Anna June had been in charge of this project, it would have been done better. That girl is task-oriented. She even asked me to print her out a math worksheet the other day.

Dropped off pop tabs at Ronald McDonald House. #100happydays #day21 #walking #VitaminD #gifts
(Correction: this was day 22)

My daughter wove this for me. #100happydays

Baking all the things. #100happydays

Today's numbers at my Benevolent Fund campaign event. #givehelpgivehope #100happydays #som #dopm #uabbenevolentfund
Got to hang out with this guy at work today for a bit. #100happydays #uabbenevolentfund #handinpaw #hip #corgi
This one didn't get an Instagram post, but I did put it on Facebook. This made me pretty darn happy, I've got to say. I guess this would be Day 27

Riding the carousel never gets old. Again, I didn't post this, but it would have been Day 28.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Happiness Days 15-21

Anna June is even in some of these: Here are my Happiness posts from Days 15-21.

Vegetarian enchiladas - a big hit! Thanks to Liz for sharing the recipe! #100happydays #day15 #meatlessmonday #deliciousdinner #leftoverstomorrow

The happy faces on these frog jammies make me smile, as does the kid in them. #100happydays #day16 #pajamas #purple #frogs

I got a gift of clover today! #100happydays #day17 #wildflowers #backyard #sweetestkidever

Hunting Spring Eggs at #UUCB #100happydays #day20 #Easter #Spring
Got yesterday, but didn't photograph until today #100happydays #oops #skippedaday #day19 #Easter

Wait. Skipped 2 days? Oh, forget it. I was happy about lots of stuff on Thursday - lunch with a dear friend, meeting a deadline, etc. Didn't take a picture of that stuff, though. Bought flowers today. #day18 #inconsistency #thankfuleveryday #100happydays #terribleatthis

Easter Monkey came. #100happydays #familytraditions #crestwood #tuckers

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happiness Days 8-14

Anna June hasn't reminded me too much, so I haven't been very good about my #100happydays posts. Nevertheless, here are some of the ones I did do.

My brother took time out to help my daughter figure out the rainbow loom. #100daysofhappy #day8 #rustysbbq #outsourcingparenting #victory

Oh no! I skipped a day! My cup for water makes me smile - my daughter picked this out for me, and I picked a very similar one out for my BFF. Then my husband got one for my daughter. We use our snowflake cups year round. #100daysofhappy #day9 #makeup #do-over #gifts

My husband finished his MSISA from Western Governors University today. We are so proud! #100daysofhappy #day10 #wgu #msisa #masters

Flip back lunch on Birmingham Mountain Radio - Grateful Dead today #100daysofhappy #day11 #latergram #bmr #flipbacklunchwithdru

Polka dot pajamas. Gift from my MIL. Husband hates them. #100daysofhappy #day12 #unsexy #bestclothesiown #comfort

My daughter wanted to try some nail art on her own. She is six, so her results were not up to her standards. I gave it a shot and she was delighted with it, even though she hasn't quite mastered the distinction between horizontal, vertical, and diagonal. If she's happy, I'm happy. #100daysofhappy #day12 #bluewithpinkstripes #nailart #kids

When AJ hangs out with her friends, I get to hang out with their parents. #100daysofhappy #day13 #32degreesyogurtbar #birthdayparty #crestlinevillage

At the Easter Egg Hunt in historic Avondale Park. #100daysofhappy #day14 #bigkids #AvonUMC #PalmSunday     

Monday, May 12, 2014


Anna June had to come along with us when she was very small and we needed to buy a car. I had hoped she wouldn't have to endure the process again until she was much older. I was hoping it would be later, but she got to do it at the age of six.

Several times.

Because I cannot make up my mind. And when it comes to making a very large purchase, I have an even harder time.

At first, I had one dilemma. AJ's bike is too big for my Spectra, so if I wanted to get a different car anyway, maybe I should look at a station wagon or an SUV (at least a crossover) to fit it inside. As it stands now, if you fold down one side of the back seat, it fits in the Scion XB (Ben's car), but just barely.

We went to Carmax, hoping to find good deals like we've found there in the past. Call us crazy, but we brought along the bike.

It didn't fit in a single thing that we liked. We got frustrated and put it in the back of a Chevy Traverse. AJ loved the car. We hated it.

Ben and I disagree on many things, but we agreed that we did NOT want a full-size SUV.

So we just started exploring our options.

First, while Grandpa was in town - since he insisted that we not change our plans on his account - we test drove the Mazda 5 at Med Center Mazda. It was a great car. Ben and AJ went to Serra Mazda the following Monday (when school let out early due to the threat of tornadoes), and took the bike with them. If you folded down both the third row and half of the second row, the bike barely fit. We would be no better off, then, than the Scion. Mazda is about to stop making this car, and it was a really good deal. But I didn't want that much car to drive if we couldn't fit the bike.

Then, we drove the Ford C-Max at Adamson Ford. This is a hybrid vehicle, and was a quiet ride. We really liked it, but it was more than I wanted to spend. We talked about a used one. There was a plug-in version, but it wasn't available in Alabama. So we explored other options.

Ben went and test drove a Dodge Dart at Benchmark Chrysler Dodge. He liked it so much we went back on our date that night and I drove it. I liked it, too, but it was a little smaller than I had hoped. AJ will be tall and needs the legroom.

Then, we checked out a Chevy Cruze from Hertz's rent-to-buy program. This is a neat idea, but the execution at the Birmingham location was questionable. First of all, there is not currently a downtown Birmingham location, so we had to go to the airport, which was closer to our house. The Hertz outpost had a guard shack and those spiky tire puncturing things, so we proceeded to the terminal to the counter there. After parking and waiting in line, we were told to go back to the freestanding office. We parked outside of the gate to walk in, as we were terrified of the spikes. We found the manager, and he gave us the Cruze. After a short drive home, AJ and I had pretty much decided this was not the car for us. Ben drove it and found that the huge blind spot was a true deal breaker.

We were back to the drawing board. I had emailed Ben my list of requirements, in order of importance. He wrote me back and said, "You forgot the unicorn." Point taken. I am picky. I was also having a very hard time with knowing that my paid off car was going to have to go away. There were expensive problems that I was not sure could be fixed. Better safe than sorry.

One of the main things I wanted to do was to buy a brand that had a dealership in downtown Birmingham, as it is close to where we live and work. Many makes have moved out of the city, which is fine for them, but not fine for me. Simply getting to Gardendale to have my Kia serviced was one of the major drawbacks to owning the Spectra. It was still under warranty when we bought it, and that was the closest dealership. Even though another location opened (possibly closer), we went back to this one repeatedly as they didn't completely fix our problems - and we had to keep trying on their dime as often as possible.

This left Ford, Chevy, and Nissan.

Because he had been studying this problem non-stop, Ben came up with the idea of the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle. The more he talked about it, the more I liked it. It never had to go to the gas station, and it never had to have an oil change. There was a federal tax rebate.

Later in the day on Sunday, after we returned the Cruze, we stopped by the end of the Eco-Wheels event at Railroad Park, sponsored by My Green Birmingham. We talked to various dealers about their environmentally friendly options. Nissan was not there, but there we learned about a rebate from Alabama Power as well. It was looking better and better.

We had already taken the Spectra back to Carmax for an appraisal, but were delayed in selling it to them because we had JUST mailed in our registration renewal and the new tag hadn't shown up yet. 

We were ideal candidates for an electric vehicle. We have another internal combustion engine car already, and it's really no problem to share a ride if we'd like. We usually don't go very far - my round trip commute, including picking up and dropping off Anna June, is about 10 miles per day. Some people I know have to drive 10 miles before they even get to the interstate to drive in. 

On Monday, we test drove the Leaf at Serra Nissan in Center Point. Our salesman was a pro. He made us a great deal. There was one big problem - the car was white.

Did I mention I was picky?

When I began to think about my new car, I looked around my floor of my parking deck. As I got out of my silver Spectra, there was a silver SUV on my left and a silver minivan on my right. The whole entire side of the deck was either silver, black or white. I felt like I needed to inject some color in the high side of floor 2. I wanted a red car. For the record, blue would have also been acceptable. If cars only came in purple...

So on that Wednesday, Ben got me a red car. We had to drive to Tuscaloosa to get it, which is just barely inside of the range it can go on a single charge.

The car is very quiet, even though it has to make a noise when it backs up. It has 4 doors and cloth interior. It plays CDs and has enough cup holders. It is cayenne red.

Meet our 2013 Leaf. It is last year's model, but it is brand new, and as next year's models are about to come out, we got a good deal.

I can't stress enough how excited I am that Ben did ALL of the legwork on this, from reading (and memorizing) Consumer Reports to negotiating with several dealerships in Alabama to advocating for a better deal on our trade-in. He's dealt with the power company and the electrician, as we're about to upgrade our capacity for quicker charging times. Times like this are when I am really thankful to have such a competent, wonderful husband.

When we got back to Birmingham to pick up AJ from my dad, AJ said, "Thanks for making my dream come true." We asked if she had always dreamed of owning an electric car - it has always been an incredible impossibility in my mind. She said, no, that wasn't it. "I was just hoping that I wouldn't have to keep going to car dealerships every night!" Whew.

The dealership, Townsend Nissan, took our picture and put it on their Facebook page. Here it is, used without permission.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

Anna June and her father gave me a wonderful Mother's Day.

We went to the zoo and I was showered with cards and gifts. We had a family lunch at my parents' house and dinner at Rusty's.

I had drafted a post about how it is nice to be pampered and I have the best mom and grandmother ever, but I was sorry for how society kinda says to women who don't fit the traditional mom role, "Too bad, this day is not for you." Then the app on my phone crashed. 

But I just read this post and it said everything I wanted to say, anyway.  So it's a blessing my post didn't work out. 

Code Blue

On Easter Sunday, Anna June and I experienced a few of the holiday's great traditions.

The Easter Bunny visited AJ. She was very, very excited and could not sleep. After over 30 minutes of being awake, we let her up to see what the furry guy left for her. In her new, blue camouflage Easter bucket (her choice!), she got a bunch of candy, including a chocolate bunny, Cadbury eggs, jelly beans, Reese's eggs, and Blow Pops. She got an origami kit and a pair of pajamas. She was very, very excited. We made her go back to bed.

We had Sunrise Service at our home church, and breakfast afterwards. AJ's favorite part? Donuts, of course.

We got dressed up and went to church, and then we went to Aunt Connie's for the big family dinner. We brought broccoli salad, a dish sped up by the "donation" of leftover bacon from Crestline's breakfast. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

AJ was ready to get out of her Easter dress and into a pair of shorts for eating. Lunch went well, and Ben got tired, so I took him home and came back. By then, our cousin Judy had arrived, and we enjoyed spending a little time with her.

I changed AJ back into her Easter dress, because there was still one relative we had to go see.

My grandmother Hazel was in the rehab unit at Trinity (Montclair) Hospital. I figured there were only a few people in the area who really, really wanted to see AJ in her Easter dress, and Grandma would be one of them.

The week or two (?) before, on Sunday night, Grandma fell in her bathroom, with her leg hitting her cast iron tub. She waited until the next morning to go to the emergency room, in a lot of pain. Her leg is fractured, although the doctor at St. Vincent's described it as "smooshed." When they were going to release her to rehab, we were very fortunate to get a spot in Trinity's small unit.

The rehab unit at Trinity is called "Easy Street." It is a very cute but practical place - they have all sorts of real-world items simulated, so those learning how to walk with crutches or use a wheelchair can get some good practice. There's an ATM, a car with a gas pump and working doors, a grocery store and a vet's office. The waiting room for the floor is an exact replica of an Applebee's. Getting in and out of a booth or navigating a room full of chairs is a challenge patients must learn to handle.

So, we went to visit Grandma and, the nurse informed us that Grandma was in the restroom and we'd have to wait. We went over to the chairs and started watching TV. I heard the nurse trying to get Grandma's attention. "Ms. Robbins? Ms. Robbins? Ms. Robbins?" As her voice got louder, I was more and more alarmed at the lack of response. The nurse called to me to call the nurse, so I hit the call button on the wall and found the one on the bed. It wasn't fast enough, so the nurse with Grandma asked me to run down to the nurse's station to get someone. AJ and I ran, for sure. The nurse came quickly, and then told another one in the hall to bring the crash cart. The nurse from the desk told us to go to the waiting area, as there would be "a lot of people coming." Nothing sounded stranger in the moment than the lady saying, "Go to Applebee's!" I knew what she meant, though.

As we went into the room, we heard over the loudspeaker, "Code blue, room 1114." I was terrified. AJ was, too. We just held each other and prayed together. We saw a bunch of doctors and nurses rushing by. I called my mother, who had just laid down for a nap. Fortunately, my parents live about 4 blocks from the hospital, and Mom was there as soon as she could get the car parked. Soon, we saw the doctors and nurses heading away from the room, and we either knew that everything was OK, or else there was nothing more they could do.

I feared the latter. That morning, while Mom had her phone off and we were at Sunrise Service, Grandma experienced sudden numbness in her hand. After an MRI, it was tentatively determined she had a TIA. This is not really the first time, and given her cardiac history, frankly, scared doesn't even begin to cover it.

Eventually, the chaplain came to "Applebee's" with AJ and me. He was able to tell us that Grandma was OK, and had regained consciousness. Mom soon arrived. Then, the nurse supervisor and the nurse came in turns to explain what had happened and that she was OK. The nurse told us that they did not have to shock her or give her anything to wake her back up, but she did lay her on the floor and begin chest compressions.

Once they got everything situated, we were allowed back in the room. Rusty and Beth came, and brought her a plate of leftovers from our dinner. We were all just so relieved.

AJ and I came back home, and I put on some sweatpants and told Ben to just take us to the Waffle House for dinner - I could not do one more thing that day. I had had enough.

Although at the time she kept calm and quiet, AJ just kept repeating, "That was so scary. That was so scary." And it was.

Those nurses actually made me think about resurrection in a whole different way.

So, most of Easter was great. That last little bit was awful.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

But First, An Apology

Anna June is growing like a weed. She gets taller and prettier every day. She is looking more like a big kid and less like a little kid every time I blink.

I am very, very sorry for not blogging for the past few weeks.

We've had some life-changing events around here, and they have seriously sucked out my energy. Work has been a beast, and I'm unable to blog from there anymore, anyway.

I promise to report on everything.

I really am sorry.

Here's a picture of AJ while you wait.