Friday, March 27, 2015


Anna June perused and perused the Target website in the weeks before her birthday, and could not come up with any toys that she had any desire to own.

Except one - The Wubble.

It's a ball you blow up like a bubble with its own battery operated pump, (batteries not included). I am certain this was advertised on television, as AJ had absorbed information about it and just absolutely wanted it.

So my granddaddy got it for her for her birthday. Because great-grandparents will buy things that parents cannot understand.

After baseball practice on a particularly nice Sunday recently, she found her friends in the park and gave it a try.

They all loved it. They pushed it up the playground slide and rolled it back down. They tossed it to each other. They rolled it around. AJ tried to blow it up to make it bigger, but I had visions of it popping so I stopped her.

While grownups may fail to see the appeal, AJ discovered you can make the battery operated pump into a personal fan.

Bonus points and rave reviews from the 7-and-under crowd. Maybe they'll be in the next commercial.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Parade

Anna June gets to do a lot of neat things - they're happening quicker than I can post them, obviously.

On Friday, March 20, the first official day of Spring, the After School Care kids held a Spring Parade! After such a yucky winter, we are all actually pretty glad to see Spring arrive.

First, they sang how glad they were Spring had arrived.

WP 20150320 17 13 04 Pro[1] from SRG on Vimeo.

AJ was a "cheerleader" for Spring, and they jumped for joy.

WP 20150320 17 15 23 Pro[1] from SRG on Vimeo.

All sorts of creative crafts were made for the special occasion.

Here's a closeup of the mask she made:

AJ also ended up with some real Mardi Gras swag - beads and a choker (or a dog collar for Radar) emblazoned with MUSES, which is an all-female Mardi Gras krewe in New Orleans. Pretty neat!

Huge thanks to Ben for taking the photos and video - I was still at work.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Southside Pirates - Opening Day

Anna June is a proud member of the Southside Baseball 7-8 year old Pirates!

The coach told us that he's coached Pirates for the past several years, and the families really get into the theme. The stands are filled with those dressed like pirates, carrying signs, or at the very least, in Pirate colors.

AJ made us a sign to carry.

We also found her pirate's hook and all had fun playing with it.

These Pirates, by the way, have red uniforms with gold letters. They wear the MLB Pittsburgh Pirates' cap. We didn't get the shirts and caps until we arrived (early) at the ballpark. I was pleased to find out that a local restaurant, Post Office Pies, is their sponsor. It's a pizzeria located in an old post office. We went there once - and looking around at the young crowd I determined I was the only one present who actually remembered when the place was a post office!

Both kids and parents have team t-shirts.

Anna June started the game in right center field (they have 10 players at a time on the field, so there's Right Center and Left Center). The coach pitches, but there is still a player in the pitching position.

The games are 75 minutes each. However, they have what is known as "The Mercy Rule." If one team is ahead by enough points (10? 15?), they call the game.

On Saturday, the Pirates lost to the Red Wings 17-2, invoking The Mercy Rule.

However, the game went as well as it could have for AJ's first attempt.

She got only one at-bat in the game, and she got a base hit! It was a very close and exciting play.

WP 20150321 13 31 49 Pro[1] from SRG on Vimeo.

On the next play, she was thrown out going to second base.

The coach subbed her out right after that, so she stayed in the dugout the rest of the game, giving others a chance to play. Actually the person who went in for her in right center was the other girl on the team. We are glad there are two of them. As the coach says, "Girl power!"

The weather was yucky - it was cool and rained lightly off and on. 

We look forward to playing the Red Wings (which someone may or may not have called the Chicken Wings) again soon.

Overall, we're glad to be on the Pirates. The coaches are great, and the parents are enthusiastic. There are even a couple of other first graders from Avondale on the team.

To get them excited and focused, the coach has them yell a chant, "1, 2, 3, Gooooooo Pirates! Arrr, Arrr, Arr!"

You can find the rest of the pictures in our March 2015 album here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Funeral: A Review

The day was mostly a blur for us, from my Mom to Anna June. But on Valentine's Day, we buried my grandmother Hazel.

The service and interment were at Southern Heritage in Pelham, AL.

The place itself is formidable. It's visible from I-65.

Inside, there's a nice chapel and several other rooms. The family met early to eat. We then received guests.

The visitation consisted mostly of distant relatives thinking I was my mother.

Then the family had a prayer and we went back for one last viewing before we closed the casket. It was so, so sad. It was as if the last month of illness and decline had never happened. It was like she had just dozed off while all dressed for church.

So the program was like this:


1. Song "Amazing Grace" - Rhenda Majors sang this a capella. This solo was by my grandmother's best friend's daughter. It was fabulous. I agreed with her ahead of the service that she did not need to sing all the verses, but she added on an ending that made it a little non-traditional.

2. Welcome, Prayer - Dr. Carter. Dr. Carter was the minister at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where the Robbins family attended, and Grandma continued to attend until her health no longer permitted. My uncle Scott had kept in touch and he agreed to come, as he knew her and the current ministers did not.

3. Special Reading - Laura. I read Psalm 121. It only has 8 verses. I did not cry at the podium, and now I am ready for my Academy Award.

4. Song: "Whispering Hope" - Marliese Thomas. Marliese is a cousin of ours - her dad Eric is Grandma's cousin. She has a voice like an angel - I happened to be in high school choir with her one year. She was supposed to have an accompanying track, but it didn't work, so she just sang without it. This song was played at my mom's father's funeral as well - he died when she was young. But many people there remembered that.

5. Message - Dr. Carter. The message was fine, but he did call her Hazel Morris several times. Morris is the last name of my Aunt Vicki's first husband. We are not sure why he called her that, but of all the names in the family to choose from, we were disappointed he made that particular error.

Every funeral makes us think about what we want when we die. We have various wishes, but my Wish #1 is that I have someone leading the service who knows me well enough to know my name and pronounce it correctly.

From the message, one thing he said about losing a loved one stuck with AJ. "They're not lost if you know where they are."

6. Closing Prayer. - Dr. Carter.

7. Funeral Director's Dismissal - The dismissal itself was fine, but the time between the dismissal and the "Committal Service" was WAY too long.
This is not meant to be a bad review of Southern Heritage. The staff were very sweet. We didn't have much of a choice: everything had been prearranged by my grandparents many years ago. I remember talking with them about it and feeling so sad, but as it turns out, it was a very wise and caring thing to do.

We did make fun of the yard signs on the way out reminding visitors of services offered there. We found that a little opportunistic, but hey, the best advertising is to your target audience. Whatever works.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Out of Order

Anna June is seven, so she's part big kid and part little kid. Sometimes, she can say the smartest things but sometimes, I'm reminded that she's still a baby.

The other day, I was getting her to help out around the house by giving her micro tasks. My dad used to do this with us. While he was busy with something in a generally static location (like making dinner in the kitchen), he'd instruct us to go and do one thing (like put away our shoes) and then say, "When you're done, report back to me." I do this with AJ, too. "Do this and come RIGHT back," I say.

I noticed she was not coming right back. I told her I was once a kid, too, and though I didn't sneak off to a Kindle, I always had a book or something that was more interesting than what my parents told me to do. So did my brothers.

I told her this form of disobedience was not new, and I was familiar with this trick.

After a while of putting away her hair accessories, clothing, books, and toys that had been in the kitchen, she was growing weary of this project. She expressed her fatigue with her body language.

Suddenly, she pretended to be a robot. "OUT OF ORDER," she declared.

I stopped and asked her what it would take, exactly, to get her back *in* order, as her help was still needed. I didn't have time for a broken robot. What did she need from me, I wondered, to be able to focus and continue being a helper?

She said, with very little time to think, "A computerized jet pack, an unlimited supply of pencils, and a nap."

Of course, I let her stop. I had to go and work on where to get a jet pack.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Tribute to Grandmother Hazel

On February 11, 2015, Anna June lost her great-grandmother Hazel Robbins. She died peacefully with my mother at her side. Our family lost its matriarch, and the world lost an outstanding human being.

I've been trying in my mind every day since then to write this post, and every day I have felt like it's not the right time. Maybe I'll feel more like it tomorrow. Maybe there will be some distance to where I won't cry so hard or miss her so much. How could I cram my whole lifetime of loving my grandmother into one blog post?

But today is her birthday, so I am finally posting, as the only type of birthday gift I can give her now.

It's kind of funny - every Christmas and birthday I struggled to find something perfect to give her. What could one still want or need after you've reached a certain age? She always acted like we gave the perfect gift, even if it wasn't. I gave her a green polka dot teapot once - she collected them, green was her favorite color, and the polka dots would remind her it was from me. I gave her a big straw hat to keep the sun off her face while gardening. She loved plants and had about a hundred in pots at one time. She hated the bamboo that grew uninvited behind her house. There was a black cardigan, because she was always a little chilly. I gave her a nightgown that she really liked - and I got one very similar because it looked so cozy. I wore it last night. I wish I could be out searching today for a last minute thing she would really like.

Speaking of gifts, I've been seeing little reminders here and there all through the house. A bracelet she gave me years ago that I've been meaning to have repaired, AJ's pink sparkly purse, a favorite hairbrush, a figurine, the scarf I bought with my birthday money from her.
She was doing so well at my birthday and Christmas. She came to the parties and looked fantastic. But a couple of weeks later, her heart beat was incredibly slow. Doctors installed a pacemaker and by their accounts, she was doing as well as could be expected. But her kidneys were barely functioning. She suffered from nausea and pain. After a couple of tries at rehab, she returned to the hospital for one last time.

I remember in 1995, I had just gone off to college at Emory University. Grandma suffered her first heart attack. She had not yet retired and was still young. I felt so upset and scared, not able to come home and help or visit, although she pulled through just fine. She lived for 20 more years. That's a testament to her determination and will. She wanted to be there for her family.

She had a large family. Grandma was married when she was 18 to her first husband, C.P. They had my mom when she was 20, and then Chip and Heidi followed. Then, C.P. died unexpectedly of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a disease that was not treatable at that time. Later, she married my Granddaddy Elwyn, whom she met in a doctor's office waiting room. He had two children from a previous marriage, Vicki and Larry. Together, they had Scott. It was a yours, mine and ours situation, to be sure. She claimed all of us, though. All told, there were 6 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. Before she died, she also got to know about the 3 more great-grandchildren who are on the way (All boys - none are mine, in case you were wondering). I said recently that I don't know how heaven works, but if their former spouses are up there and everyone's reunited, it might be a little awkward!

In preparing for the funeral, we went through lots of wonderful photos and it brought back so many good memories. I remember Grandma taking us out to her mother's house (my Nana) in Shelby County. She took us for ice cream so many times! She came to baseball games and other important events. We'd spend the night with her sometimes, exploring the cool books and toys she still kept around for us. She let me talk on and on about everything and nothing.

When she broke her leg last year, I had the privilege of being her Friday night helper while she was living with my parents. I know she was frustrated by having to use a wheelchair, then a walker, then a cane. But she told me that she was glad that she had gotten to know Anna June so well during those weeks, some of them overlapping with AJ's summer break. AJ watched TV with her, read to her, played cards with her, and just visited with her. That was, of course, her favorite thing. I got to hang around after AJ's bedtime and we watched the Hallmark Channel together.

When we asked about it, she loved telling us about her family history. We asked her more often about food. She was an incredible baker, and I don't know if she was more known for her perfect homemade pie crust (especially for chocolate pie, or chicken pie), or her caramel cake. She baked a heck of a pound cake, too, which is my favorite. Mine is never as good as hers. I'm pretty sure she discovered the recipe for corn casserole in a magazine, and it's now part of our family's canon of sacred holiday foods. She gave me instructions on how to fry okra, and once I nearly burned the house down trying it, I decided to leave it to the expert.

When I think of a stereotypical grandmother, mine certainly comes to mind. She was born to be a grandma, that's for sure. When I got to be an adult, she finally confessed that she didn't like to be called "Grandma" but would have preferred "Grandmother." It was too late. My cousin called her "Muh" (short for Mother, what she heard her mom calling her) and it caught on with the other, younger cousins. She didn't always like to meddle in our business, but when asked, she gave wise counsel. She gave me one piece of advice that I remembered and, incidentally, followed. She told me she thought that everyone should be married for five years before having children. I think that's pretty wise.

She really did like my husband, which was a comfort to me. He always helped her whenever she asked. He was one of her go-to guys for technology, so he helped when she asked with her computer, her television, and her phones. He gained grandparents when he married me; while his were so far away, he took care of mine. Grandma would call me up, and then after chatting for a few minutes, she'd confess she had really called to talk to Ben. She'd repay him by having us over for dinner. She tried so hard to cook things he liked - she treated bratwurst like it was a Milwaukee delicacy, and she liked it, too, serving it often when we came over. 

We never visited enough. We never called enough. She always worried about us. But she was always proud of us, too.  She loved hearing about our latest accomplishments, whether it was in sports or school when we were kids or in our careers as we grew up. Most of us children and grandchildren went to college, which she never got to do. We all work hard, which is certainly something that she demonstrated for us.

She suffered from arthritis, and more significantly, Type II Diabetes. Now, at last, she is no longer suffering. She is in absolutely no pain. During the days right after she died, AJ kept saying, "I miss Grandma," and all I could say was, "I do, too."

I do know this - love is not a defined quantity. All we can do is take the love she gave us and multiply it. Tell your family how much you love them. Bake them a cake. Give them a hug. Water their flowers. Call them up and check on them. Listen to them and shake your head if you have to, and say, "Oh, me..." if there's nothing else you can say.

Happy birthday, Grandma! I love you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Physical Prowess

Recently, I picked Anna June up from school and she had this paper ready to show me:

Her after school care teacher, Ms. Ruby, was testing the kids on these measures.

I had an issue with the way she spelled jumping jacks, but AJ had a more serious bone to pick.

Ms. Ruby had written "a minute" but then later decided to test the children for only 30 seconds.

AJ took her own marker and corrected it to reflect the accurate data.

We might be raising a statistician.

Or we may be raising an athlete. I'm totally impressed by her physical prowess! I had no idea she could jump rope that well.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Anna June turned seven years old on Saturday.

I'm just going to take a minute and let that sink in.

There have been a lot of things happening with our family this past month. I have a page long list of things I want to post about, and now, I can include AJ's birthday as one of them. 

I fully intend to write thoughtful pieces about these things, but here's a brief synopsis of what's been happening - I wanted to go ahead and chronicle it just to get a post up and let anyone who may still check this blog know that I haven't given it up permanently.

My grandmother, Hazel Robbins, passed away on February 11th.
Fifteen days later, on February 26, Ben's grandmother, Maxine Gallitz, passed away.

Grief is strange - it hits you all of a sudden at the most unexpected times. For me, it has been innocuous things like a porcelain figurine or a guest list or a sweater that have started my tears and memories flowing. We have enjoyed looking at pictures and telling AJ memories of our grandmothers. We enjoyed spending the time with the extended family, even though it was under such terrible circumstances. Ben traveled to Milwaukee without us and it was a tough trip, but so very worthwhile to be there. 

On a positive note, there are people in my family who are expecting babies (I am not one of them) and they are all boys.

Anna June's first baseball practiced was canceled due to rain that was to turn to snow. They rescheduled for a Sunday afternoon. The second regularly scheduled baseball practice was also canceled for rain turning to ice/snow. She practiced again yesterday. She's on the Pirates 7/8 year old team. We still don't have a uniform or game schedule, but the coaches seem really organized and, most importantly, excited about getting the kids excited about baseball.

I visited AJ's school in honor of her birthday. 

Her actual birthday was Saturday, March 7, where she turned 7. That's called a golden birthday, so we celebrated accordingly. We had a party at Chuck E. Cheese in the morning and one at Rusty's BBQ in the evening. Both were well-attended and she had fun.

I had both an NIH grant deadline and a progress report deadline at the end of February/beginning of March - work has been a vacuum of time and stress. I took a day off to get a massage.

Ben started a new job in January.

AJ lost her 7th tooth. She had all As on her Progress Report, including several A+ grades.

I got a new phone.

I'm on another committee.

I am so behind on everything: blogging, housework, regular work, volunteer work.

But AJ is fine. She's a source of joy. She sings and dances. She plays video games and pretend. She loves her friends and her family. She can take care of Radar (mostly). She likes to read and build things. She is embarrassed by me and tells me so. She doesn't like being blogged about too much, but it's not her decision.

She did recently suggest I change the title of the blog to "Go with the Flow," instead of "Riding with the June Bug." I don't know if she was giving me life advice in general or not, but it's not bad if she was.

I'll be back when I have time. Until then, I'm going with the flow.