Monday, January 26, 2015

When the Personal is the Universal

Anna June made it to school, barely on time, this morning. We're having kind of a rough day, but everything is fine. Here are some recent pictures and updates.

Monday was MLK Day, and we were off school and work. AJ made a list of things she wanted to do, and we did most of them: walk the dog, dust the furniture (she dusted some in my room and hers), clean the windows (she cleaned the window in her room), rake leaves, watch TV, play games (we played Sorry Sliders, one of her Christmas gifts), go to the park, etc.

Here she is at the park. I've probably talked about it before, but the diversity of our neighborhood strikes me sometimes. I thought going to Crestwood Park on that particular sunny Martin Luther King Day was quite appropriate. When we went, there were lots of people there of lots of different races. Everyone was peacefully doing there own thing. Kids were playing - some black kids and Arab kids played soccer against each other in an impromptu game while their moms chatted with their friends. I spoke to another Avondale parent about the wonderful kindergarten teachers while AJ and her little boy did various things to impress each other on the playground. There were big and small dogs, and big and small people. Different snacks were being eaten, different languages were being spoken. We still have a long way to go, but at that moment, athletes were training and parents were taking pictures, and we were all welcome to be there together. To me, that was better than a service project or a prayer breakfast. We were all enjoying the afternoon, in peace.

That night, I made a creamy tortellini soup from my new cookbook. I enjoyed it, and it was easy! 

On Tuesday, Ben picked AJ up after school and they visited the brand new Steel City Jump Park, located in The Edge movie theater. They jumped for an hour and had a fantastic time. It was the one thing on her list from the day before that didn't get done. She would love to go back soon.

Wednesday through Friday passed pretty quickly, with a school meeting and other miscellaneous happenings. My grandmother left the hospital and went to a different rehab facility to recuperate. Various relatives have been in town to help and to visit.

On Saturday, after running some errands, we went to a baby shower for my friend Shelley. It was an excellent party, filled with homemade Indian food among other delicious things. AJ had fun playing with her friends Mallory and Anna.

Saturday was the day AJ had been waiting for patiently - she had Lily over for a play date that evening. The girls mostly played with dolls, pretending that they were going to the beach. We had AJ's chosen menu: cheese quesadillas, rice, and carrots, with strawberry shortcake for dessert.

After eating, the dolls "went to the movies", so the girls watched Alvin and the Chipmunks, making sure to get up and dance excitedly during every song. Lily's mom arrived just as the movie ended.

Yesterday was a day of visiting family, in person and by telephone. AJ and I made a chocolate cake to contribute to mom's dinner, only to be outdone by Rusty and Beth's excellent pound cake.

Today, first grade is celebrating the 100th day of school. Each student had to bring in 100 of something that would fit in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. AJ chose jellybeans, and she got them counted out on Saturday.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another Digest Update

Anna June is watching TV while pacing, as my old pedometer has found a new owner. She will definitely beat my step count for the day.

But this gives me a chance to blog for a minute. I've been doing better about sticking to my goal of not writing at work, but unfortunately not meeting the goal of blogging more. Balance is so tricky.

Ben and I have mostly recovered from our colds, although he's still coughing. Anna June is fine, showing no symptoms of anything. Grandma Hazel went to rehab briefly before returning to the hospital. It is hoped she will go to a different rehab this week.

Anna June's teacher uses an app called Class Dojo. It's a way to give parents an at-a-glance update as to how their student was performing (behaviorally) at the time the teacher performed the check-in. They can get positive or negative feedback. AJ's feedback has been 100% positive. We figured it would be, since she usually gets stamps, stickers, or stars on her daily written report from her teacher, indicating she had a good day, but she is still on target now that they are tracking with this app.

On Thursday, I left work early to go meet AJ's friend H at our house. Her mom was out of town and her dad had to work, so I said that for just this one day, I could sacrifice a couple of vacation hours to keep her after school until late in the evening when her dad got off work. AJ was ecstatic that her friend was able to come with me to pick her up from after school care. They had so much fun. We started with a snack of homemade banana milkshakes (yes, I had to look up a recipe, because I am terrible with proportions) - this recipe was just enough for 2 little girls to split. Then, the girls played while I made dinner: spaghetti, garlic bread, fruit salad, and green beans. They had a dance party while I washed dishes. They ate Popsicles for dessert. We did clay masks in our pajamas. They asked for a "midnight snack" (at 8:00 PM) of apples and graham crackers. They were getting ready for bed when H's dad came back - they were very disappointed she had to leave. We'll have to have a proper sleepover another time.

I bought AJ a pair of dress shoes from Kohl's online, and she actually likes them! She's worn them now, so no returning. I lost count of how many pairs we returned, or tried on and did not buy. Hallelujah.

The roof got fixed. We will see if it stays that way. I am very disappointed. It just goes to show that when your friends and family offer advice, you should usually take it. (We didn't use the roofers we were told to use.)

After playing all week, I won only one more game of Words With Friends- up to 28. I did win a step challenge on my fitbit network, so all those meetings out of the building paid off. We ate at home 4 nights out of 7 this week, which is an improvement for us.

When my parents rescued their dog Maggie, she was starving. As a Tucker, she was fed very well for many years. She passed away Monday night, hopefully knowing how much she was loved and how much joy she brought to the family, especially the grandkids.
(Photo courtesy Drew Tucker's facebook page)


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Digest Update

Anna June is really bored right now, but I'm still letting her play solo because I haven't blogged in over a week. A lot has been going on, and that's an understatement. Here are the headlines:

Ben started battling a cold and/or sinus infection around Wednesday or Thursday. I was fine until I got a sore throat late last night. Today, we have stayed in and laid around. AJ has been cleaning up some, but we've mostly been watching the Packers and resting. So far, AJ is fine, and thankful she's been able to stay in her nightgown.

(This is a card AJ gave me a different time I was sick. She has since learned how to spell better.)

Anna June got her report card, and received another 9-weeks of ALL A's! We are very proud to have a little girl who works so hard and is so successful. 

Also, there's a chess club starting (AJ thinks it is every-other Friday morning) during school, so she's learning to play chess there as well as each Wednesday in After School Care. She has been watching videos and practicing with Ben, too.
My grandmother has been in the hospital all week, having received a pacemaker on Monday. It's been a rough time for her - we are hoping she'll be released tomorrow. I appreciate everyone's prayers and thoughts, especially for my relatives who have been traveling back and forth.

This week, both Wesley and my dad had birthdays! Dad's celebration was Wednesday night with tacos at his house. Wesley is 2 now! We celebrated Saturday with a ball-themed party.

AJ built a cardboard magic sleigh that can go anywhere, which is called the Puppa-Woofer 3000.

Surprisingly, we had dinner at home several nights this week. The new thing I tried was 8 Can Taco Soup. To me, it tasted like Chick-fil-A's Chicken Tortilla Soup, which they offer seasonally. Dumping things into a pot and stirring them was almost as simple as going to Chick-fil-A, which of course we also did this week. 

Despite a long trip to the outlet mall and buying a few things online, AJ cannot find anything she wants to wear. I am over it. Hooray for uniforms!

This place is a disaster, as we've been in and out and inundated with new gifts from Christmas. Worse than just having a mess, though, we discovered a second leak (water spot, not a downpour) in our brand new roof. We are beyond disappointed.

Ben got me a fitness tracking watch for Christmas, but, sadly, it did not work. I did some research on the fitness tracking trend, and decided I wanted a Fitbit Flex. (That's the bracelet style that Rachel wrote about here) Ben found one on sale at Target (shhh - someone probably returned it) and I've since been letting it track my steps. I have friends with Fitbits, so maybe that will help me get to my goals of eventually starting to run but at least walking more, once I shake whatever this sore throat business is. Even just laying around the house, I've taken more than 3,000 steps!

I'm up to 27 wins on Words with Friends. It's good to know I'm at least working on one goal consistently.

We did get a date night to go to my friend Ruth's house - she bought a lovely new home a while back and we finally made it over for chili and brownies - my kind of night! AJ enjoyed spending time with her grandparents and staying up late.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Recap

Anna June can jump really high on her pogo stick. Really, really high. She wears her helmet and is safe on flat paved ground, but she is still jumping super high. So far, her record is 53 jumps without having to jump off. It's truly impressive! This is what she wanted me to write about.

After such a busy Christmas, we had a low-key New Year's celebration. On New Year's Eve, we went out to dinner at our local Chinese buffet. Then, we celebrated by watching an early countdown on Netflix and toasting each other in the crystal champagne flutes with sparkling red grape juice - very festive. AJ went to bed, and we followed soon after watching some TV. Exciting, right?

On New Year's Day, we took it easy. I walked the dog, and Ben fixed bacon for breakfast. Anna June was bored. She built a fort.

Here's an unedited tour of her fort:

She chose from the fun box and built an obstacle course inside the house.

She worked on her pogo jumping ability. She finished the third of three Lego creations that came in her kit she got for Christmas. We colored a giant picture. We went out to lunch at the local Mexican place and ran a couple of minor errands.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Christmas Recap

Anna June and the rest of the family had a wonderful Christmas. I thought I would focus on telling the story of our holiday season in terms of our Christmas traditions. Inspired by my modest success in NO-vember, I said no to a bunch of stuff. Basically, if it was a community-oriented event that we weren't starring in, we didn't attend. Everything else was personal, which helped keep us focused on each other.

Christmas Eve Eve - my parents had their 26th annual party, complete with 72 guests despite the tornado watch in the area. AJ and I spent parts of Monday and Tuesday helping get ready. Lots was done ahead of time. We just had the touching up to do, which was not as strenuous as some years. The prep is more about being together with a common goal than the actual work, anyway.

Christmas cards - We sent actual cards and not photo cards this year. Anna June helped by signing most of them. We received cards back from 11 different states. Fun and educational!

Christmas movies - We watched my favorite, Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas, which I require that we watch annually. We had talked about going to see a holiday film at the Alabama Theater downtown, but could not work out the timing. Instead, we watched Home Alone and Ernest Saves Christmas. Both were fun nights for us.

Decorations - We put up a tree, wreaths on the doors, and green electric candles in the windows. I don't love outdoor decorating, as it is expensive, time consuming and difficult. But as we drove around looking at over-the-top lights displays, I could tell it may be something we do in the future (decorate for ourselves, not go looking at lights).

Baking - AJ and I made my mom's famous M&M Cookies the night before the big party. I also made a couple of batches of cinnamon sugar pecans for both of our offices. All were well-received.

Music - We didn't play too much Christmas music around the house, but I did listen to the Indigo Girls' Holly Happy Days several times and Josh Groban's Christmas CD.

Santa - We did not visit the big guy at the mall. AJ insisted that she was too shy and didn't want to. However, he did send AJ a video message via email for the third year in a row. He told her she was on the nice list, in case she was worried. Then, on Christmas Eve, AJ wrote him a note explaining her choice of goodies to leave for him. She left a marker and space on the page for him to reply. Incredibly, he took the time to write her back! What a great guy!

Gifts - Santa also left AJ a whole bunch of toys. She got two Baby Alive dolls (one that poops and one that wants her teeth brushed), an Easy Bake Oven, board games including a new chess set, books, candy, and something called Thinking Putty. She also got a lot of other things she wished for, including an Elsa dress, a pogo stick, legos, a knot-a-quilt set, and more. Ben got me a beautiful enhancer for my diamond solitaire, and I got him a Nest thermostat. Everyone's wishes came true.

We skipped some parties (sorry Shelley and Michele)! We missed some events that I'd like to take AJ to one day, like The Nutcracker (at least 3 versions were playing around town). But overall we had a low-key, successful holiday filled with friends and family.