Monday, December 22, 2014

What's Cool These Days

Yes, I am scheduling my posts, as my time with Anna June is limited. So this is not necessarily a holiday post even though we're in the thick of it right now.

I've been checking out what AJ thinks is cool these days, and, let me tell you, the simplicity will surprise you.

First, there's this.



We went to visit Ben's office on Black Friday, and surprisingly, this may have been the highlight of the day. He let her make a copy of her hand. Mind you, she could have done this at our very own house, but she never has been encouraged to - why would we ever think of that?

Next, there's her dolls. One day I woke up from my nap time to see this:

She has two dolls named Hawaiian Punch and Olivia. I do not know which one is which, but I did teach her how to spell Hawaiian after this.

Finally, she did an easy Christmas crossword puzzle, and proclaimed her love for them. So I downloaded this one, which claimed to be for third graders. She did it quickly and easily - in pen. There was a word bank, so don't get too excited, folks.


This is just a smattering of all the cool things that are going through her head.





Sunday, December 21, 2014

Birthday Party

On Saturday morning, Anna June opted to stay in her pajamas rather than get dressed, no matter how I bribed her with computer time. I feel her pain. Ben was sick and up most of the night (fever, chills) so I didn't want to get out of my jammies, either.

So I decided to write about my birthday party.

My birthday was a special day. Ben fixed breakfast of my choice: whole wheat bagel toasted with plain cream cheese, fruit, and juice. At lunch, 3 of the 5 faculty members I support took me to lunch at a fancy new place. We had a lovely party at our house that evening. I made chili and Ben got an ice cream cake. Mom, Dad, Drew, Liz, Patrick, Wesley and Grandma Hazel all joined us. Liz brought a jalapeno bacon cheese ball and Grandma brought goat cheese crostini with apples - both were delicious!

We didn't get any pictures of the cake with the candles, or the gifts, but Liz did get a picture of Wesley pretending AJ was a horse.


 It was a lovely night with my family! I'm so glad everyone had a good time.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Goals for a New Year

This morning I asked Anna June what I should post about. She wasn't interested. She didn't want me to write about Pajama Day at school, or that her teacher sent a sub yesterday. She didn't want me to write about anything about her.

She told me to blog about myself. So I will.


I made myself 37 goals for while I'm 37. They are tall, personal orders.
1. Lose enough weight to fit into regular clothes.
2. Finish watching the series Parenthood.
3. Go to the gym at least once per week.
4. Stop dwelling on the loss of UAB football – it is not my personal fault.
5. Keep Family Game Night and Family Movie Night as regularly as church and weekly trips to Rusty’s.
6. Find replacements for my leadership positions with the Benevolent Fund, & Alpha Phi Alumnae
7. Develop a family budget, having a set amount to give to charity.
8. Get new passports so we can travel out of the country if we get around to it.
9. Purchase and learn to ride a bicycle – will need to get a bike rack, too.
10. Read at least one book per month.
11. Make plans and follow through with date night, even if we have to *gasp* hire a babysitter.
12. Give up soda for good.
13. Give meditation and prayer more of a chance.
14. Get allergies under control, with shots or drops, even if it means finding a new ENT.
15. Get a raise or a promotion.
16. Remember that the sooner it gets done, the sooner you can have fun.
17. Be diligent about weekly grocery shopping and daily dishes/laundry.
18. Blog more than last year – but blog less while physically at work.
19. Go to bed on time and get up on time.
20. Do not wait until the last minute to plan activities for AJ’s spring and summer breaks.
21. Less Facebook and more actual face time with real live people.
22. Get to 50 wins on Words with Friends.
23. Attend my 20th high school reunion.
24. Be the best PTA treasurer-elect/treasurer I can be, but identify a replacement.
25. Bring my lunch to work at least once per week. Make Meatless Mondays a reality.
26. Run a 5K in May – the Color Run – with AJ.
27. Keep my lunch breaks to an hour and be on time for work more often.
28. Visit both of my grandparents at least once per month.
29. Stop piling junk on the kitchen table and island. If it is not food, it doesn’t belong there.
30. Use the fitness watch I have and track steps/calories.
31. Use the Xbox or fitness videos we have more often.
32. Write and mail thank you notes promptly.
33. Stop leaving the house with wet hair. "Better to arrive late than to arrive ugly."
34. Take better care of my car.
35. Take better care of our house.
36. Take better care of our family.
37. Take better care of myself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Candyland!

Last year, Anna June went to her friend Lily's house for a Candyland-themed Christmas party. Looking back, it appears that we were so miserably sick I never blogged about it.

Never fear - the same family threw a similar party this year and we were lucky enough to be invited back.


This Candy Land party maintained all the sweet, amazing candy-themed decorations from last year, but went a step further towards the true meaning of Christmas by having a birthday party for Jesus.


Kids were asked to embrace the elf theme - E.L.F. can also stand for Every Little Follower! Anna June selected a costume from Party City at THE LAST MINUTE. She picked this bodysuit, paired with her white tights and red cowboy boots. After copious discussion, we decided she would not wear anything on her head. Mind you, we went weeks before, and she didn't like anything, but when there was an hour or so until the party, we were in the dressing room trying this on. Fortunately, it fit.

The invitation set the mood by inviting us to C.A.N.D.Y.L.A.N.D. - "Come Along Never Doubt You're Loved And Needed Down Here!"

We were asked to bring an appetizer. AJ and I selected this project from Pinterest. I bought the groceries and did the prep work, while AJ handled the presentation.


Do not ask what possessed me to buy "mini" club crackers. Also, I didn't think I had a tray big enough so we used a disposable drip pan that I had from another project. This was a mistake, as it was flimsy and when AJ tried to get it out of the fridge, it buckled and ruined her hard work. We reassembled it at the party, only to leave the bag of extras at the house, sitting unrefrigerated too long to be useable. The Christmas rush gets me every time. Let's take another look at it before it was ruined:



The food was all great. How can you go wrong with spinach dip and hot apple cider? There were also stations for crafts. AJ had fun making a heart-shaped ornament, a circle from modeling clay, a Christmas card for Lily and a thank-you note to Jesus.



We were also asked for the kids to bring a $1 gift to exchange with a child of the same gender. This was much easier than the costume or the food. AJ picked out a gift she would like to receive - a ring embedded in slime.

Because we had to leave early - we had another party to attend - AJ just exchanged gifts with the other girl who was there, Lily.


More children were arriving right as we had to leave. But AJ had a great time with her best friend and celebrating Christmas.

Party photos credit goes to Sylvia Newell. I took the other 2 at our house, but then my phone battery died. Some kid who shall remain nameless played too many games on it that day.






Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spelling Bee

On Friday, Anna June competed in the 1st and 2nd Grade School Spelling Bee. Two students from each class were chosen to compete. As with the Math Derby, it was broadcast inside the school on closed circuit TV.

At first, AJ did not want to compete. Among her excuses (besides being too tired) were that math was more her thing than spelling and that she was too shy to perform in front of others. We told her it wasn't optional, so, reluctantly, she practiced her words. The teacher had provided her two lists - one for first grade, and one for second grade, as the kids would be competing together. With everything else going on around here, it was honestly hard to find time to drill with her.

So we practiced. We practiced at the dinner table. We practiced in the bathtub. We practiced at Granddaddy's house. We practiced in the car. I worried we weren't practicing enough - I made her go through every word one more time the night before, even though it was late.

Then, the big day came. Ben and I took off work to be there for the main event. We were rewarded with this glare.



The room was set up exactly like it had been for Math Derby - with the kids in a line and the parents sitting behind them. This kept the kids from seeing parents' nervous faces and kept parents from cheating by mouthing the answers.

There was no practice round - the teacher got right down to business.

Although the kids had trouble remembering to say the word, spell it, and then say it again, they all did pretty well at spelling.

It was heart-wrenching to watch some kids get eliminated. One, for example, was asked to spell "stump" and spelled "stomp." Sometimes words like that are confused, and he took it hard.

In fact, one of the third place kids, after he got eliminated, went over to his mom and all was fine for a second, but then, the child SCREAMED a huge scream. "AAAAAAAAAAH!" It rattled all of us - we were not expecting such an outburst in the quiet library with everyone focused on the outcome of the bee.

Just then, we were down to two finalists - AJ and another little boy, Christian (also a 1st grader). Again, it was like the Math Derby where the winner had to get 2 answers correct in a row. Christian missed a word, and AJ got it right. Then, AJ was asked to spell "judge."

"J-U-D-E" she said.

Christian got it right and was then asked to spell "power," which he did, correctly.

Too bad. We congratulated him and took pictures.


"My legs were shaking so bad I couldn't say the G," AJ told us.

We understood - we were a little shaky ourselves. I realize parents shouldn't get so worked up. But it was a big deal! She was one letter away from victory! And she never missed that word in practice - I checked the ones I had circled. It was on the 2nd grade list!

Therefore, I have decided to note that she is the best FEMALE speller in all of first and second grade.





Monday, December 15, 2014

School Christmas Program

Anna June performed in her school Christmas music program on Thursday night.

The 1st grade performed with the Pre-K and Kindergarten Students. They sang, "Must Be Santa" "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Ben and I met up at home to carpool, trying to get there by 5:30 but making it there at more like 5:40. By the time we collected AJ from After School Care and got her changed, the kids were already warming up in the music room. This threw AJ off just a little. She was overwhelmed by her excited classmates standing in neat rows, dressed in Christmas colors instead of their customary uniforms. It was dinner time and show time, so there was no chance to hand her the granola bar we'd brought along.

Because of our tardiness (although we were there in plenty of time to see the program), we had to sit in the back. There was no way I was going to get a decent picture.

Here are a couple that Ben snapped:








AJ is on the back row, as usual. It's one of the bad things about being so tall. Also, it's a good thing if you are shy, like AJ.

Also, the 2nd and 3rd grades are standing on the floor to one side, and the 4th and 5th grades are on the other side of the floor. The Pre-K, K and 1st are on the stage. Obviously, not everyone was there, but I thought it was a fairly good turnout.


I tried to take a picture afterwards with her Nana, but this is what I got:


After that, we let AJ pick where we'd eat dinner. To our chagrin, she picked IHOP. Her mood temporarily improved due to having pancakes for dinner. Ho ho ho.
 If you'd like a flashback to her previous school programs, here are links to:

where I mentioned her Pre-K program and the one from Kindergarten

And just for good measure, here's where we mentioned her Pre-3 and 3 year old daycare programs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

After a long day, Anna June got some downtime on Saturday night. She chose to make a craft. She did not ask for help or for input, other than assistance in locating a glue stick.

She made a snowman for her teacher.



Materials: Coffee filters, construction paper, glue stick, and markers. One of the markers was permanent.



We've got to work on preparing the work surface before these projects!

Still, I think it turned out very well. A quick search for "coffee filter snowman" turned up several projects, none of which were as cute as this one. I'm proud of my big girl!

Monday, December 8, 2014

#FreeUAB

Anna June is confused at my disappointment that UAB has canceled its football program. Being that I JUST SAID that I don't love football anymore, what difference does it make?

Here are my thoughts:

When my dad was an undergraduate at UAB, a football team was only a dream. By the time I was an undergraduate there, it was a reality. It seems that by the time AJ is in college, it will be only a memory.

Our university was founded as an extension of the University of Alabama. Much ink has been spilled in the past week about the history, the rivalry, the complications, and the politics surrounding the two schools and their shared Board of Trustees.

I won't rehash these stories. I will tell you how it makes me feel.

First, it makes me feel sad. It is very disheartening to know that an institution can make drastic changes without the input of those it affects. Of course, I know this all too well. I have seen folks coming to escort employees from the building when there are layoffs. It's not you - it's the budget.

Second, it makes me feel regret that I did not do more personally. Could I have scheduled my life around football?  I thought the last home game was just going to be for the season, but it was forever.

I feel disappointment that UAB did not get a sympathetic invitation to a bowl game, despite eligibility. Six wins and six losses may not be good enough for a bowl game, though.

The situation also makes me feel angry. Like the students who have been protesting in the streets, I feel anger that the decision was not transparent. But, then again, how could it be?

In some ways, though, it makes me feel proud. I am proud of the students for protesting and speaking out.

I also feel old. I feel like the students need to focus on their finals. There is life after football, especially if you're not one of the players. Get ready for it by graduating.

I feel horror at some of the outcry. Some of the students have reacted with harsh words to our President. A guard has been posted at the Administration Building, causing me to avoid going there. I am scared about emotions getting out of control at graduation. Students' families deserve to see them walk across the stage with no protests or shouts.

I do feel some hope. I feel that this energy and passion for UAB Athletics needs to be channeled. I'd love to see the outpouring of support for our other sports.

I hope that the same fervent feelings are stirred up in the hearts of these students when they see other injustices. I hope that they keep up with the news. I hope that they attend other faculty senate and city council meetings beyond this controversy. I hope that they continue to think about the impact that they have on the community.

I do still feel that the time is right for UAB to get its own Board, whether or not the time has passed for us to have our own football team.

Finally, I feel selfish. When Dad, a former season ticket holder, told me that he only stayed for half a game because the bleachers were hard on his back, I thought a new stadium seat would be a great Christmas present. When I looked at my Christmas shopping list, I cried for the loss of my really great idea. And for what could have been a really great football team.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

'Tis the Season!

Anna June and Ben had some bonding time yesterday while I went to two different ladies-only events in Birmingham.

First of all was the biennial AFWC State Headquarters Open House. Jackie Clark is the President of AFWC this 2-year term. Her President's Project is supporting the Ronald McDonald House. We had a representative from the house come to sell cookbooks as a fundraiser. We were very blessed to have women from all over the state come to Birmingham for this fun event. In addition, the tree was decorated in the Ronald McDonald theme. It's not a great photo, but if you look closely you can see Ronald's trademark striped socks and big shoes at the foot of the tree.

I also finally got to meet my online friend Mandy in real life. She's a fantastic young book blogger and is in library school. 

Then, I drove up the mountain to The Club. It occurred to me that when Aunt Connie and Uncle Tim got married, we also went straight from the AFWC Headquarters where the ceremony was held to The Club, where the reception was held.

This time, though, I wasn't heading to a wedding reception - just a holiday luncheon for the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa Chapter of Alpha Phi Alumnae. I was glad to see all my friends, young and old. It was a great turnout!

Here's a picture I snapped towards the end of a few of my friends. I wanted to get this gorgeous tree in the Vulcan Room. It was worth it for the view and the tree, that's for sure! (And the orange rolls, of course.)

These ladies all do so much for their communities. Merry Christmas to all my sorority and club woman friends! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tree Lighting

As she has done for the past two years, Anna June participated in the Forest Park/South Avondale neighborhood tree lighting ceremony last night.

It was dark and hard to get a good picture, but Aunt Connie took this one.


The children from Avondale Elementary sang "Jingle Bells," "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Anna June did well singing along with the group and the CD with the backing tracks. This casual affair was not big enough to have a band! They even did some hand motions to "Holly Jolly Christmas," which were adorable.

We are grateful to Aunt Connie and Uncle Tim for coming to the event! Silvertron CafĂ© had hot chocolate afterwards, which was nice, but it was so warm out that we didn't even need it. 

The owner of Silvertron, Marco Morosini, has been a big supporter of our school. He also took this photo, which may soon be appearing on the Forest Park South Avondale merchant's association website.



Unfortunately, the event was planned at the same time as the All-City Christmas Music Festival, so our school's music teacher was at Boutwell Auditorium with the choir students from fourth and fifth grades. Mrs. Miller, a first grade teacher and leader of the school's dance troupe, stepped in to lead the kids in his place.

Flashback alert: While I don't recall singing at a tree-lighting, I am pretty sure I sang at All-City about 5 times when I was a Birmingham City Schools student, and I loved every single time. It was so powerful to come together in a room with kids from all across the city, dressed alike and singing together. The high school choirs sounded so impressive and it gave us elementary and middle school students something to aspire to. My brothers participated, too, and probably didn't find it as magical as I did, but I hope that AJ gets to do it when she is older. OK, flashback over.

The music is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I am so glad AJ had the opportunity to sing with her friends.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Leftover Turkeys

As of yesterday, Anna June was still bringing home turkey artwork, so I guess these are leftover turkeys.

Speaking of leftovers, this year I brought covered divided dishes for Ben, AJ and me to select our own plates of leftovers to take home before the food was all put away at Thanksgiving dinner. I said, "I'm so organized today I can hardly stand it!" It was a good thing, too, because I had to leave and take some food to our cousin Judy, who is home bound in Bessemer due to a broken ankle, coming soon after her broken arm was healing.

Like last year, I made the corn casserole, but this year, I brought a second pan. Unfortunately, I was not a very attentive shopper and instead of 4 cans of Mexicorn, I bought 3 cans of Mexicorn and one can of Tex-Mex Corn (which featured black beans instead of onions and green bell peppers). That pan was held for leftover purposes only, as I did not want to ruin Thanksgiving. We are serious about our family recipes.

My only regret is that I didn't eat dessert. But I had no room. Everything was too good.

This second turkey looks a little Christmas-y, so maybe we are ready to move on, after all.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What I Learned from #bloglikecrazy and Goals





Anna June sometimes likes being the star of this blog, and sometimes she doesn't. So today, she's not going to be, although she did take this picture.


As a follower of See Jane Write Birmingham, I tried to get a post up every day in the month of November. It almost happened. I made 28 out of 30 days. What happened over the weekend? Laziness, probably. We went bowling. We watched a little football. We ate a lot of junk food.

Here are some things I learned:

1. Even when trying to be mindful of my commitments, it is hard to sit down at a keyboard and write. I have a lot going on. I have multiple projects started at once, in addition to the cooking, the dishes, the laundry, the "Mama!" responding, and the chore-enforcing. And, oh yeah, a full-time job.

2. A short post is still a post. My main audience is my family. They want up-to-the-minute coverage. Even if I post that nothing happened, they want to know. Usually, if I think hard enough about it, I can come up with something funny or interesting.

3. Just do it. There are lots of days when I posted from my phone, in bed, at the end of the day trying to get something in. This year in November I published 28 posts. Last year it was 12.

4. Asking for help is OK. Although my only guest posts were from AJ herself, I asked her to provide content since she thought my content was no good. Ben also helped tremendously with the photos.

Here are my current goals:

1. Plan what to write about and schedule time for it. For example, I know I want to write about the school spelling bee that's coming up on Friday the 12th. I will need to set aside some time on Saturday the 13th to work on it, even though we have three places we need to be that day.

2. Photos. A) take more of them B) take better ones, like, with a camera and not a phone C) be more selective and D) edit them so they look better. Interesting photos will enhance the content.

3.  Accentuate the positive. Boy, am I a whiner. I whine about my own health and lack of sleep, my kid's lack of sleep and her whining, and just about everything else in between. It's fine to show that everything in the whole world is not awesome, but if I only write about negative things, no one is going to want to read this. AJ is having a wonderful, sometimes magical childhood, and I want so desperately to capture the magic moments. She's a great kid and I enjoy telling everyone about her.

4.  Nix the super-long posts. I am trying to limit myself to 600 words for the post. For November, I did this with only one exception. If I make the time to write, I want everyone to know the whole entire story, and they don't need to. If they want to know more, I can write more. The word limit forces me to focus on what is the most important, like a journalist with a column-inch limit.

In general, I enjoy writing and connecting with family and friends through my blog. In 2015 (and in December if I can manage it), I hope to stick to these goals and give my readers an improved product.