Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's in a Name?

Anna June's class is doing an "All About Me" unit. Each night, homework is a discussion topic between the parents and child.

Last night, the discussion was supposed to center around the origin of the child's name.

The short answer is, we were thinking of baby names, and when one of us said, "Anna June," we knew that was the one. We loved it instantly, but we did not tell our family - something needed to be a surprise.

There is a much longer answer about where she got her name.

Starting with the basics, we wanted something that was definitely feminine. We are feminists, but wanted a name that was unmistakably for a girl. Androgynous names can be deceiving.

Next, we wanted something that was easy to pronounce. Shenandoah may roll off our tongues, but not everyone's. Don't get me started on how people pronounce Gallitz, either.

Finally, we wanted something with a standard spelling. Although both Anna and June have been spelled other ways, we are happy to go with the traditional versions.

We bought the baby name books. We discussed names we loved and hated. We wanted something that was simple, but not incredibly common. The combination of the two names worked for us, although I still remember my friend Leigh-Anne saying, "Bless her heart, you've double named her." I knew it would be challenging to get everyone to call her both names, but, well, it just fits. I once even posted about it when she was small - we call her AJ or Anna June.

It is nice that Anna is in the Bible, but that wasn't a real requirement. The origin of the word June is pretty ancient, too.

Anna June was actually named after five different people. First and foremost, she was named for her Granny, Annie (Anne) and my Grandmother Annette (Ann). Annie was named for her grandmother, Anna. My mother's first name is Diana, although she has never been called by it. Finally, my brother Drew's initials' are A.J., and he was called that sometimes. I told AJ it was good she was named after 5 people, since we're only planning on having the one kid.

June is just melodious, and it comes from a variety of places. We were married in the month of June, as were my parents. It is a beautiful (if hot) time of year in Birmingham. The roses (my favorite) are blooming, as well as the hydrangeas, unmatched for color, and the gardenias, unmatched for fragrance. School lets out. Beach trips begin. It's a great time to be alive - even if you weren't born in that month, which many people think AJ was. I have a friend named May who was born in July, so I don't think you have to name a kid after their birth month.

Besides the calendar, we drew inspiration from the John Hiatt song, "Everybody Went Low" off his 2001 release, The Tiki Bar is Open. If I remember correctly, we actually went and bought that album on the day it was released, September 11, 2001, thankful to be alive and uncertain of America's future. "Everybody Went Low" is the story of a conversation that tanks, and the hostess, Junie, revives it and everyone is alright again. Or at least that's my interpretation.

"So you're saying I was named for my great-great grandmother and a John Hiatt song?" Anna June asked.

Yes, that's what I am saying.

So each time someone says, "What a beautiful name!" I just smile and take the compliment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Give a Fig

Anna June is a good helper. After the water balloon party a couple of weeks ago, we went to Aunt Connie's house to harvest some figs - they were just ripening in her orchard (six trees).

The reason we went then was to meet our cousin Judy, who also loves to pick and eat figs. But this year, she's recovering from a broken arm and couldn't pick them herself.

Judy wrote, "Since I was a very small child, I have loved figs.  It goes way back to the days when Big Boy (i.e. my granddaddy) always had a fig tree in our yard.  No longer having a tree, I rely heavily on friends and family for some of that delicious fruit.  Well, spending almost all summer with my arm in either a cast or a brace made picking figs impossible even when there were trees available for me to 'rob'.  Good old A.J. and her Aunt Connie to the rescue.  I brought home a huge bag full of the most delicious ones ever on August 10.  I thought of making preserves, but the figs disappeared before that could get done.  Thanks, A.J. and Connie and Laura, they were so much appreciated."  

We are glad to have helped! Although we didn't take any home from this trip, we ate more that came from my granddaddy's tree. Glad to know we're carrying on a generations-old family tradition. 

This was actually my first time picking figs, but something AJ has done for several years. I learned you pick them when they are squishy because they don't ripen further afterwards. They're pricey at the grocery store, so it's good to know our family will share! 

(Photos courtesy Judy Smith)

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I took Anna June for her 6-year-old checkup before school started. Yes, I realize that she turned 6 in March, but on her birthday she had a stomach virus. We've certainly been to the doctor frequently enough.

When I called to set up the appointment, I asked to be sure, "Have I brought her for a well visit since she turned six?"

The response was, "No, you haven't brought her for a checkup since 2012." So I missed the 5-year-old checkup completely. I'll be over here waiting for my mother of the year award.

Anyway, she is fine.

Here's the update.

1. She is TALL. She measured 49.5 inches. This is still "on the chart" as Dr. Walley said, but she is in the 97th percentile.

2. She is not heavy. She weighed 49 pounds. This puts her in the 75th-95th percentile.

3. If she catches strep one more time before Thanksgiving, she will be referred to have her tonsils out. Four times in six months was rough. Please continue to pray, along with AJ, that she does not get it again any time soon. The doctor was not optimistic about this.

4. They don't have the flu mist available yet, but it is coming soon. She will get it when they have it. Flu mist, Dr. W says, is better than flu shots. AJ doesn't have to have any other vaccines (besides annual flu mist) until she is going in 6th grade.

We should continue annual checkups until she's about 12. If I remember.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Missing Tooth

Anna June met me at the door last night with a very loose tooth. It looked like this.

It was gross, but not as bad as the blood all over her brand new white uniform.
After I declined, Ben started to pull it, but was afraid of hurting her.

After I told her it may need to wait, she pulled it herself.

Dancing and congratulating ensued, as did phone calls to some grandparents, which I had to stop because it was bedtime. An exciting moment, for sure.

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Monday, August 18, 2014


Anna June and I went to church yesterday and found some redecorating had gone on. In the new look, they no longer had room for this painting done by my grandmother. I got to bring it home and do some redecorating of my own.
Four years after she died, we are still overwhelmed with little reminders here and there of her incredible life.
Just the other day, Aunt Connie ran across this quote, attributed to Winston Churchill: "Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip." That reminded us of Grandma, for sure.
Anna June was two when Grandma Annette died. She remembers crazy things like finding a Milk Bone dog biscuit under her bed while she was on hospice.
Sometimes when I am singing, I hear her voice in my head. I cry because I miss her so much, but also because I will never be that good.
I see her friends online or in person, and it seems so unfair that they carry on with their club work and their grandkids and she is gone. I hear her reciting the Club woman's collect, "Keep us, O Lord, from pettiness...and let us not forget to be kind."
Today would have been my grandparents' 62nd wedding anniversary. I am the one who got the flowers.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Recap: Week 3

On Week 3 of her summer, Anna June attended Zoofari Camp at The Birmingham Zoo. This was the most expensive camp of all, but I thought it would surely be worth it. AJ loves animals, and she loves the zoo.

They also not only went all day but had before and after care available. This meant I could actually work the whole week without having to run and pick her up to take her somewhere else to just go back to work. Worth every cent!

One of AJ's friends from school went the week she attended. They were in the same small group - The Bobcats.

The only trouble with the zoo in mid-to-late June is the heat. It is DANG HOT here in Alabama. The children had a lot of fun, but it was so hot it was physically draining.

When I got AJ each night, she was exhausted. The first night, she cried all the way home.

She had fun, sang songs, danced the Chicken Dance, played games, and made crafts. She learned about various "Animal Oddities" (the theme) but mostly, she was hot. They got to ride the train and/or carousel each day, but they only got to take advantage of the splash pad on 2 of the days. This was truly unfortunate, as they could have used some cooling off.

On Friday when I picked her up, AJ asked me to hold her belongings and then dumped the remaining water in her water bottle over her head. "I've been waiting all week to do that," she told me. Evidently, the counselors caught other children doing this and told them not to.

The camp was very well-organized. The counselors were friendly and knew exactly what to do when it was time to come or go. It was easy to register online and we were on the list, even though I must have made it in right before that week's registration deadline.

You could not bring any peanut products to this camp. We bought a lot of "Lunchables" or the generic equivalent. These days, Lunchables come with a sweet treat, so I had to avoid the flavors that had fun size Butterfingers and Reese's cups. Poor AJ ended up with a "nachos" one and a "pizza" one. I was glad to make her a turkey wrap one of the days and a turkey sandwich the other (although she was not thrilled).

The good and bad thing was the kids were given 2 t-shirts to wear to camp. They were asked to wear them, but the staff said, of course, it wasn't mandatory. But I had heard a rumor (via AJ) that another one of her friends once got lost at zoo camp. So I made her wear the t-shirt, making sure to do laundry at least every-other day.

AJ has decided not to go back next year, but I am very grateful that they had a slot open this time, and that she got the experience.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Take Two

Anna June got a second back-to-school sundae last night. Why? Because her dad missed the first one. It was my fault, yet somehow I got a second sundae as well.

Somewhere, there is a mom who had everything ready for the first day of school. She had new uniforms bought and ironed. She had groceries bought with healthy snacks prepped and in the lunch bags the night before. She had a dinner menu planned and things in the crockpot ready when she got home. She had kids who slept well and long as they dreamed of future successes. As much as I envision this person, I don't actually know her.

I don't have my act together, but maybe that's because this is not an act. AJ is a real, human kid who has a lot of varied needs, just like her parents.

Fortunately, I think he school year is going to go great. She likes her teacher and has declared that first grade is fun - she could not wait to go back today. At the same time, she was a little overwhelmed, and either never wanted to go back, or go back immediately. It's hard to process these feelings.

Mostly, she let them out by jumping her way through the grocery store and hanging on me to the point where I had to tell her to quit so I could walk. We did buy some healthy snacks, including fruit, which I did wash, cut up, and put in snack size baggies. She did get her (old) uniform ready for the next day. We did come up with a plan for dinner for some of the nights this week. We want the year to go smoothly, after all.

I'll keep looking for that perfect mom. But in the meantime, I will know that I'm doing alright if AJ is relatively healthy and happy. She's learning and likes going to school - she didn't even want me to walk her to the classroom.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

First Day of First Grade!

Anna June woke up before 6:00 AM today, in anticipation of her first official day as a first grader.

She decided she didn't like the uniform I had gotten ready for her (too big), so it is a good thing we saved the ones from last year. We'll work on it later. In Pre-K and K, I was kind of obsessed with how things would go, but now, I realize that school will happen even if I do think her backpack is grubby (although she thinks it is fine and doesn't need a new one). We did the shoes, the haircut, the eye appointment, etc. but the learning will happen with or without those things. Sometimes sanity is better than brand new clothes.

Here's the official first day picture:

You can compare them to the ones from Pre-K and Kindergarten taken in the same spot.

And here are a couple more, which I took against her will:

This year there are desks! And spelling words! Homework! A locker! We get to bring things like headphones instead of things like paper towels.

You can't see it in the photos, but the little "thing" Granny sent in a package we got yesterday is tied to the zipper of her backpack. The "thing" is to remind her that she is loved.

While we were eating our granola this morning, she said something I wish I had written down. It was something like, "I feel excited, and there's nothing anyone can do about that."

Watch out first grade - here comes Anna June!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Last Day of Summer Break

Anna June did not get assigned the teacher she wanted. Yesterday, this was a disaster. We went this afternoon to meet her teacher, Mrs. Punzel, and AJ's attitude has changed. She can't wait for tomorrow.

We are celebrating at 32 degrees with frozen yogurt sundaes.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Anna June had a great weekend, and part of that was Sunday's giant neighborhood water balloon fight, the 2nd Annual Great Water Balloon Jollification.

The back in the winter of 2012-2013, Crestwood North's neighborhood president posted that he was going to pick a day in August, when it would likely be very hot, and have a giant water balloon fight. We were not able to attend, but I saw the pictures, and it looked like fun.

This year, the event grew into an even bigger deal, with an estimated 500 neighbors in attendance. This was way better than the block party potluck we had a couple of years ago, I have to say.

On the grassy area near the tennis courts at Crestwood Park, an elaborate water balloon filling apparatus was set up, including PVC pipe with spouts for the purpose. Volunteers began filling balloons about 10:00 AM, under the six tents. They then used baby pools to contain the filled plastic bags of balloons.

Shortly after the event began at 2:00, games started. First, there was a bucket toss. Then, there was an old-fashioned water balloon toss. I got sidetracked and lost count of all the fun games. There were lots of prizes from local businesses featured.

In the area, there was a table handing out body paint and some paint-filled balloons. There was a bake sale and lemonade stand. There was a DJ spinning family-friendly tunes. There was a dunking booth!

Our friends went last year, and they were prepared. They had a cooler filled with their own water balloons and super-soaker type devices. AJ and Cuddy got into the water balloons before the designated water balloon fight time, and, well, they used them all up. Mostly on AJ asking Cuddy to throw them at her.

AJ's favorite part were the two giant tarps turned into slip-and-slides by a real fire hose.

OK, so my photos were not great. Fortunately, there were lots of real photographers there, including one from I refer you to their article, complete with AJ in one of the pictures (number 20 of 27).

After the games were over, there was the actual water balloon fight. I didn't throw any, except one at Anna June, at her request. I did get hit in the eye, enough to knock the prescription sunglasses right off my head. I had a brief Velma moment ("My glasses!") because I was scared of them getting trampled, but I recovered.

Besides worrying over the black eye forming, my least favorite part was picking up the water balloon pieces, but that was turned into a game, too. You were encouraged to weigh in your bag of scraps for a prize. We didn't win top collectors, but won a bag of water balloons!

My favorite part was getting to see a ton of people I know, from various places (work, PTA, friends of my siblings, friends of my parents, neighbors, business owners) all coming together for one reason - to get soaking wet! It was a really hot and sunny day. Here are my tips for myself for next year:

1. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before leaving the house. The lady with the giant gun of sunscreen was actually not that helpful.
2. Fill and bring our own water balloons, immediately before leaving the house, in a cooler that rolls or a bucket with wheels (trash can?). It is a long way to the car.
3. Bring a bag and a beach towel and set up shop in the shade. People can come by and see me. Plus, this way I will not end up carrying AJ's flip flops the entire party.
4. RSVP - that way I can know who is coming and vice versa, hoping not to miss anyone.
5. Bring a wallet, pockets, or a fanny pack - there was a food truck and 2 vendors selling snow cones. I bet we would have liked to have had some, but our money was all the way in the shopping center parking lot. Did I mention it was hot?
6. Wear a bathing suit, even under shorts.
7. Bring a towel, at least to the car.
8. Don't make plans immediately following - AJ had a change of clothes, but I just went wet.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Anna June wasn't in the best mood this morning. She didn't like the shirt I picked out for her - it was blue with hearts on it. She asked if she could wear her Critter Camp shirt, which is bright orange. I told her it was fine. She has that good Gallitz olive skin, and looks great in orange. Neither Ben nor I like the color, which may have to do with sports teams, but I, for one, am like Elaine Benes on the last episode of Seinfeld, screaming that she simply cannot wear that color.

As she came out of the bathroom, I heard her quietly singing, "Rocky Top, Tennesee."

I stopped her in her tracks. She was wearing bright orange and singing the University of Tennesee fight song? I asked her if she was becoming a Tennessee fan. She denied it. I told her father about it. He was also incredulous, and extremely suspicious.

"Where did you hear that song?" he asked. I am betting on a camp counselor, but I asked, "Did Aunt Liz teach you that?"

I didn't truly suspect Liz, as she converted from Tennessee orange to marry in to our family. Also, she taught her son Wesley how to say Roll Tide. And it is the cutest thing. Ever.

In Alabama, as culture dictates, one must choose a team: Alabama or Auburn. While my brother Drew and other relatives have attended Auburn, my parents began dating while they were students at the University of Alabama. So, you know, Roll Tide. Ben and I like Alabama, but we're UAB alumni, and, dog gone it, we have a football team, too. Go Blazers! Do you know one thing Alabama. Auburn, and UAB fans have in common? We all pretty much hate the University of Tennessee!

Ben immediately opened YouTube on his phone and played "On Wisconsin!" for AJ with the sing-along lyrics to try to wash away the orange-coated Volunteer spirit that may have invaded our home.

We will continue to work to combat this blasphemy. We have 22 days until the season opens.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

But First

When Anna June borrowed my phone, she said, "I'm going to take a selfie."
I asked her if she knew what "selfie" was an abbreviation of. I told her it means "self-portrait." She argued that portraits were paintings.
I looked it up - counts for photos, too.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Raising a Reader

Anna June is a great reader. When we went to visit Aunt Vicki in Destin, she took us by the library - she needed to restock her reading arsenal. We love our library very much, and it was interesting to see someone else's. She's a regular there, and the librarians had a lot to talk about with her. My favorite thing was this statue of Mark Twain, so we got AJ to pose with him.